Category Archives: Review

Review: Dude Bro Party Massacre III


Director(s)Tomm Jacobsen,Michael Rousselet,Jon Salmon
Principal CastAlec Owen as Brent / Brock
Olivia Taylor Dudley as Motherface
Patton Oswalt as Chief of Police
Release Date 2015
Running Time103 minutes

Despite what its title would imply, Dude Bro Party Massacre III is not a sequel to a well established franchise. Instead, it’s a criticism of privilege and insulation from punishment, an introspective look into frat culture and the social construction of masculinity, a fun satire of horror and slasher tropes, and is dumb and over the top in the best possible way. You can take out your brain and just enjoy the spectacle or you can have fun with the underlying themes- the movie works well for diverse crowds.

The plot is structured like a VHS tape- with an overarching slasher film and a series of advertisements in between- like someone recorded the movie as it ran on TV. The main story line follows the notorious Motherface, a killer who targets fraternities. The story is absolutely bonkers and goes in places I never expected. I can say with absolute certainty that most of ya’ll haven’t seen anything like it. The ad portions are fun, short, and to the point and never feel like they takeaway from the main movie.The absolute chaos of the movie also keeps repeated viewings fresh. If you like unique and interesting kills in an 80’s fashion, this movie has them in spades. The practical effects are great and I loved the ingenuity behind certain executions. You can tell there’s a lot of love that went into this.

Though the film intentionally tries to fail the Bechdel test, it absolutely feels like a feminist movie. Yes, the main characters are the brothers in the feature fraternity, but the movie makes it painfully obvious that all the members have participated in pretty horrendous stuff, despite how comical it all plays off. Motherface’s journey as such almost feels justified. It’s a slasher movie where you simultaneously for and against the “villain”. However, the movie still takes time to explore the nuance of a fraternity and the ideas of brotherhood related to it. Despite their problems, the frat members aren’t all malicious dudes. Some of them enjoy the experience because it gives them a sense of bonding that helps them feel less alone and isolated. It keeps the movie from ever feeling preachy.

Despite how much I love the chaos of the movie- at times it feels like misdirection for midsdirection’s sake. There are moments that are ominous and meant to trick a first time viewer, but they never feel like they pay off in the themes. So their fun but feel pointless. The movie also kind of drags on in the end. Don’t get me wrong – I love the ending. It’s amazing. But it also had me going why? These aren’t huge issues but I feel like they kind of muddled the point.

Rating

TLDRDespite being too absurd for it’s own good at times, Dude Bro Party Massacre III is a surprisingly topical satire that’s sure to leave you smiling by the end of it.If you want a fun movie to watch with friends put this on (as long as people are okay with gore). It should delight a lot of audiences. It’s smart, unexpected, and feels like a roller coaster in the absurd.
Rating8.8/10
Grade B+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: The Cheetah Girls 2

Promotional Poster

When you watch one you gotta watch em all- once my sister and I had watched the original movie, I knew we had opened Pandora’s Box. Within a few days we were back at again with the sequel. Thankfully, Kenny Ortega takes all the elements that were enjoyable from the first movie and amps them up to the next level. The musical moments are shot better, each of the “Cheetahs” is given more to do, and there’s a more coherent plot which gives the movie more of a punch.

The plot follows the Cheetah Girls 3 years after the events of the first movie. The girls crash Chanel(Adrienne Bailon’s) mothers romantic getaway to Barcelona in an attempt to win a music festival competition. After promising to do their best, the girls embark on their new journey. Each of the characters feels more defined- everyone from Galleria (Raven-Symone) to Aqua(Kiely Williams) gets their own storyline – no matter how on the wayside it feels. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the overall character arc the group goes through. The “Cheetahs” feel fairly similar to their previous incarnation in the last movie except Galleria is less bossy. I wish I saw some growth between the girls proper but everything related to the same feels tacked on or hammy.

Like the last movie- the songs are the best part. Thankfully, they’re shot well and aren’t jumbled and messy like the last movie. I could feel myself actually singing along (as corny as the lyrics were), but this time I could actually look at the screen without being forced to dart my eyes around needlessly.

While the plot makes far more sense than the last movie – it’s still Disney TV movie which means there’s more than one moment that will make you scratch your head. This problem becomes even more prevalent in the 3rd act when everyone acts a lot less intelligent than they really are. There are also some rushed moments and I feel like a more developed 3rd act could’ve given the last musical number more depth.

Rating

TLDR: The Cheetah Girls 2 is fun and filled with bops to nod your head along to. The plot and characterization leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s a jam packed adventure the whole way through.

Final Rating: 6.0/10. The Cheetah Girls 2 brings in all the stuff you loved from the last movie with a more cohesive story and better shot musical moments. If you didn’t like the first one, chances are good you won’t find anything here either.

Review: Uncut Gems

Theatrical Release Poster

Well the hype is real. I feel like my life has changed. Adam Sandler is actually a phenomenal actor. I feel like everything I’ve seen from him up till now has been a prank . Still in awe. Also the Safdie brothers are geniuses and I need to watch everything they’ve done. If you can’t guess by now, Uncut Gems, is one of the best movies of 2019 and this past decade and had me completely floored by the end of the 135 minute run-time.

This movie is an assault on the senses and I mean that in the most literal way. The way it’s directed from the camera movement to sound design is meant to induce a state of panic and anxiety. If you suffer from those issues already, the film may be too much and I genuinely think you should go see it with someone even if you don’t suffer from them. Now that the warning is out of the way- holy wow. I thought I was losing it during the film because of the way sound would keep cutting in. There is auditory clutter that makes it feel like you can’t hear yourself think. It keeps you on edge and tense – you have to focus to get at bits and I felt like the movie was sweeping me along. There’s always something going happening on the screen so it feels like your senses are constantly befuddled. I thought it was perfect – I haven’t been this purely immersed in a film in a genuinely long time. I could feel my heart pumping out of my chest by the time I started getting out of my seat.

All of this synergizes perfectly with the plot which follows Howard (Adam Sandler), a jeweler who has a “bit” of a debt issue and a huge gambling problem. There’s a constant sense of tension as Howard traverses from one deal to another, desperate to keep the antagonistic forces coming for him at bay. There’s also a lot of comedy – from the dysfunction of different schemes playing out differently than imagined or just Sandler exuding persona. It’s a perfect complement to the tension at play. Speaking of tension – a lot of it revolves around the NBA. If you like basketball (or are just a huge Kevin Garnett fan) this movie has a lot of fun moments for you. I remember feeling excitement about games that happened years ago but almost like I was reliving them viscerally because of how the sport is talked about and utilized. On top of all of this, there’s ripe family drama and watching the dysfunction play out is more than entertaining. Watching all these intersecting threads come together is a delight and makes the story feel like a train-wreck waiting to happen.

A story is only as good as its characters and this film has them in spades. Sandler’s performance as Howard is mesmerizing. I was rooting for him the whole film, but the character is scum-bag with a heart of gold(?). However, Sandler adds a depth of nuance to that that makes him far more complex and grounded. He goes from caring father, to inconsiderate lover, to gambling addict. Each transformation feels in place and all of them come together to make one of the most interesting protagonists of 2019. This movie would not work without Sandler – if Howard was unlikable or unbelievable the tension wouldn’t be as profound because there wouldn’t be real stakes.

Thankfully, Sandler is accompanied by a slew of actors (some of whom are acting for the first time) who let him really shine and show off the range of his emotions. If someone told me that Kevin Garnett could act as well as he could play basketball before now I wouldn’t believe it. Now all I want is more movies with him. He’s cool and aloof at one point and fanatical the next – watching him tango with Sandler is immensely satisfying. Julia Fox’s performance injects some much needed levity to the movie – she never takes away from the tension – she just helps accentuate it with proper changes in demeanor. Finally, Keith Williams Richards is absolutely terrifying as Phil. The fact that this is his first movie ever is shocking – he absolutely sold the underlying crime portion of the story and amplified the tension every time he was on the screen. I want to mention everyone but that would be way too many people – literally even minor characters get more characterization in this movie than some primary characters in other movies.

This film is one of the best depictions I’ve ever seen of gambling and addiction. When the thrill is high and the game is at play, we feel like Howard- ecstatic. When he wins, I win – or that’s how I felt as I saw his schemes playing out. However, it works the same way with losses. Whenever something went wrong or could go wrong, I felt tense. Twitchy. Anxious. Since the movie aims to put the audience into the same mood as Howard, every twist or reveal feels that much more serious. It also becomes comprehend how someone could become completely lost in game. This is why the movie worked for me – I feel like I got Howard and wanted him to succeed in spite of himself and the situation he was in and I absolutely should not have felt that way- which is kind of great in a perverse kind of way.

Rating

TLDR: An absolute attack on all fronts – this movie is like a roller coaster that never stops and rarely slows down. Sandler is a tour de force and the Safdie brothers know how to keep the audience engaged.

Final Rating: 10/ 10. I was left speechless after the movie. There are so many beautiful scenes, funny moments, and terrifying

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: The Grudge (2020)

Theatrical Release Poster

I’m a huge fan of Ju-On and it’s first English remake The Grudge (2004). Both movies were formative in fostering my love for horror and scaring me senseless. So when I saw the remake trailer, I felt a sense of nostalgia on top of the impending sense of doom. Remakes usually aren’t the greatest and the January release date only made that sense of dread more palpable. On top of that, the first remake was good enough , so it felt weird to want to try and add something new again. However, that sense of trepidation gave way to slight optimism when I realized that Nicolas Pesce was directing the movie. I loved The Eyes of My Mother and felt that maybe he could deliver a moving remake of a beloved movie. After having just seen the remake, I can confirm that it’s indeed a mixed bag of emotions. The plot feels messy and stretched too thin and the scares feel repetitive and predictable. In spite of this, I found myself thoroughly enjoying some moments. The film has it’s flaws – but it also has cool ideas that I wish it had run with more.

The movie has a main plot and then 3 additional subplots all taking place at different times between 2004-2006. The primary plot follows Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) as she finds herself entangled in the “grudge”- a curse that kills anyone that comes into its proximity. The main issue with the movie is that the main plot is pretty boring by itself until the final few moments and a few macabre scenes in the second act. Riseborough is relegated to being an exposition scene and literally just helps Pesce cut to the other more interesting subplots. Out of the three other ones, only two are given any bearing. It’s funny because seemingly the most important subplot (The Lander family) is only touched near the end of the film. The Spencer subplot featuring John Cho and Betty Gilpin is heartfelt and had me feeling something in spite of the messy plot. The Matheson subplot (Lin Shaye and Frannkie Faison) introduces some of most horrifying thinking and I genuinely wish the film had spent most of the time here. There are some creepy ideas that are kind of toyed around with but never expanded on. Honestly, I wish the movie was just more focused. Cut out the incessant exposition and over explaining and just let the character interactions and ideas out. The movie is at its best in precisely these moments.

Acting in the movie is fine- for the most part. It honestly feels like the actors did the best with the way the plot went about so I can’t fault any of them. In spite of sparse characterization, Lin Shaye stole the scenes she was in. I loved her in all the Insiduous movies and watching her play a different role highlights just how much of a range she has. She gives a lot in this performance and made everything involving her really fun. Cho and Gilpin add the only real emotional weight to the convoluted plot. They do a great job in making the unfolding horrors more tragic and less undeserved.

There’s nothing special in terms of camera vision, but that’s mainly because most scenes are just set-ups for obvious jump scares. It’s always characters walking, then finding something, then looking away ,cue realization of impending scare, look back, then scare . It’s okay the first time but it’s lackluster with how well the scares are executed in the other Grudge movies. The lack of creativity in set-ups wasn’t something I was expecting. Thankfully, the score is engaging. It kept me at least partially invested when it came on. Especially during the last two scenes- it makes them memorable.

Rating

TLDR: All in all – The Grudge (2020) isn’t awful – but it’s definitely a bag of missed opportunities. I appreciate the way it tried to add some new twists to the original Grudge but those attempts fall flat or aren’t pushed far enough – which is a shame because I really enjoyed some of them.

Final Rating: 5.8/10. If you liked Ju-On or The Grudge I think there’s something in here for you. Yes – it’s not amazing or groundbreaking, but it’s certainly not the worst horror movie I’ve seen. The theater I went to was mostly packed and was quite engaged for a lot of the moments I responded to, so I really think some of ya’ll might enjoy portions of this.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Cats (2019)

I’m someone who normally gives pieces a more positive and optimistic shot than most. My higher than normal review scores are indicative of that. I always try and find something good to latch on in a movie and have fun with it. I saw the reviews for this movie on opening day and realized the potential horror of what I was walking into. I held onto some hope, because I loved Les Miserables, and thought that even a bad Tom Hooper musical would be okay. I was wrong. Not just wrong – horribly mistaken. By the time the first hour had passed I was literally just praying for the movie to end. This isn’t just the worst movie I’ve seen this year – it’s one of the worst I’ve ever seen.

The movie follows a series of horrific anthropomorphized cats as they talk about this vague competition that leads to an eventual rebirth. I’ll be the first to say I never saw or read about the Broadway show, and the plot was near incomprehensible to me. I’m someone who likes subtitles, so the fact that most of the exposition in the movie was sung hurt my ability to comprehend the movie. That normally wouldn’t be an issue but the film never takes a break to develop any themes or ideas. It literally follows the same structure the whole time- introduce cat – have song – maybe Macavity (Idris Elba) makes a slight cameo- then repeat. The lack of change in editing makes the whole movie drag on and I felt like I was being forced to endure the length of the film. The whole thing would have felt better 30-40 minutes shorter because at least then the absurdity of the film would stop while it was fresh.

Unlike most typical good bad movies like Troll 2, this film takes its sweet time being subpar so you can’t even laugh at the monstrosity at hand because it never stops or changes. There are few movies that have ever made me want to walk out in frustration – this film has joined the not so prestigious list. It’s not just that its bad- it’s that it won’t stop being bad so you can never laugh at how bad it is because you’re constantly being bombarded by worse elements.

The film goes at a breakneck pace but also feels incredibly slow because nothing meaningful ever happens. The movie could best be described as almost non stop exposition followed by an ending that tries to be emotionally resonant but fails on every note. This is because literally no character arcs or emotional bonds are ever set up in a way that could be conducive to any meaningful development. It’s a shame that the “antagonist” feels like a plot device instead of a meaningful character. I love Idris Elba and seeing him being used in such a poor fashion is upsetting. At least let him give the character some personality as opposed to be being a random bad guy. The only characters that give the movie any personality are Old Deuteronomy (Judie Dench) and Gus (Ian McKellen). The former takes command of the scene whenever she appears and makes the events feel more justified even though they’re just as haphazard as we think. The latter adds some emotional panache that gives the film much needed personality and actually helped jolt me awake near the end of the second act (or third act it’s confusing). The lack of real character motivation or explanation makes the whole movie feel like it’s a series of meaningful unrelated events. It literally feels unfinished.

Tonal whiplash is the name of the game and experiencing the shift from puns/comedic moments to the more serious nature of the competition the movie sets up(?) feels out of place. James Corden and Rebel Wilson are usually funny, but their style of humor and incorporation into this film feels forced and out of place. I can’t take the movie seriously if the characters in it make jokes about it and poke fun at the holes. Normally this tactic would be fine if the movie didn’t take itself seriously – but it does- and worse than that – it tries to be emotionally resonant. That’s a no-no and absolutely took me out of any immersion I had tried to feel.

Honestly, the biggest issue with the movie is how unappealing the film is. Forget a boring plot. Forget the uninspired songs. Forget the fact that most of the movie feels like an exposition reel through song. Hell, you could forget about all of that if the movie was at least fun. But it isn’t fun. It’s hollow and feels like a quick cash grab. The characters are one dimensional and just repeat lines with no personality. No one’s motivation is explored. The CGI looks unfinished and terrifying at the same time. Some of the characters literally look like humans with “cat” like additions which feels at odd with other characters and makes the shoddy CGI more apparent. The characters are also all strangely sexual. Parents please don’t take your kids. The way the cats licked the milk, flicked their tails, and stretched themselves had me cringing not only in embarrassment but also sheer dread at how horny the whole thing felt like. I guess maybe if you’re a furry you could get something from these moments- but that’s a pretty niche market group.

Rating

TLDR: Cats broke me. I used to say “no movie is that bad.” But no – some are. You can’t find something great in every piece of media.

Final Rating: 1.8/10. This movie is hard to positively react to. If you’re a furry maybe you might like it if you can ignore all the awful portions. If you take a shot every time there’s an awful cat pun or a strange sexual moment you might find something fun – but I can’t guarantee anything. Honestly – there’s not a lot here and I’d recommend staying away unless you really like bad movies. At the very least the movie might make influence the zeitgeist so that a future Cats like movie is never created again.

Is there a point in a spoiler section? I don’t think so . Save yourself.

Review: Solo

Theatrical Release Poster

I saved this review till the end for my Star Wars movie journey for a reason – if Episode IX wasn’t what I wanted it to be I wanted to leave my reviews off on a good note- the franchise has meant a lot to me in the short time since I’ve started binge consuming it and I want the love to show. When I first watched Solo, I had a surprisingly fun time. I say surprising because so many of my friends said the movie was a dud. Box office sales and the internet told me it was a disappointment. Thankfully, I saw the film from a different point of view and was exuberant about the whole package. The movie is packed with passion, humor, fun action scenes, gorgeous visuals, memorable characters, and is a movie Star Wars fans and movie fans alike can enjoy.

First off let me say – if I had gone in and saw this movie with no understanding of Star Wars I still would have liked it. That’s not to say it’s bland or unremarkable in any way – it’s definitely a Star Wars movie. What I mean to say is the movie never really relies on having to know or be familiar with anything. Everything obviously becomes more interesting and fan-servicy in great ways if you’ve watched the other movies in the saga, so I felt doubly intrigued by the way everything unfolded. The story expands the lore of the characters we know and love without ever sacrificing the integrity of future moments. It’s meaningful past retconning – it only serves to make moments and ideas in other movies more resonant. There are also cute additions to the lore of the galaxy so that the rise of the Empire feels more grounded.

The acting and characterization of the major (and even minor) players serves to make the narrative more appealing and memorable. In particular, I loved Alden Ehrenreich’s portrayal of Han Solo. He’s more hopeful and optimistic – with outlines of the rogue we got to know in Episode IV. He doesn’t try and act like Harrison Ford, which I love – no actor can ever really copy another so trying to give life to the character is more important. In this case, I completely believed in him as Han, and as someone who didn’t love the character as much as other fans (namely because of his depiction in Episode VI) , I can say without a doubt this movie made me appreciate him more. Alongside Ehrenreich, we have great performances from both Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra and Woody Harrelson as Beckett. The latter came off as an alternative timeline Han and serves as as a great foil to the title character. The former is phenomenal at playing his childhood friend/love interest and brings out a new dynamic I didn’t expect to see. Donald Glover is likable as Lando and feels and acts like how I imagine a younger Lando would act. The biggest surprise of the movie is Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). He gets a real sense of agency in this movie and I feel like I finally got a chance to know him in a meaningful way as opposed to the hairy sidekick. Watching all the pieces come together, play out, and evolve is a treat.

The plot plays out without a lot of surprises, but the few that do come up are amazing. I won’t spoil them, but I do genuinely want to know how Disney plans on following some of the threads from this film. There’s a lot of potentially cool situations that could play out. While the film mostly plays it safe, the execution of a ton of scenes are top notch. the score is absolutely phenomenal. I mean like- wow – I did not expect it to be this amazing in a spin-off movie. John Powell has done an amazing job and making compelling and epic sounding pieces. If you haven’t seen the movie at least listen to some of the music. This section of “Marauders Arrive” should be enough to convince you. Add onto this the amazing action scenes, gorgeous visual effects, and sharp hitting humor (for the most part) and you’ve got a fun, enjoyable romp to a series of interesting locale.

The production issues become slightly apparent near the end of the film . Lord and Miller are hillarious and I wanted to see how they’d play around with the humor revolving L3-37(Phoebe Waller-Bridge). I enjoyed the character and thought she could’ve been used more effectively. Some of the fan service also becomes a bit egregious (never awful but we could’ve done without parts of it). Ron Howard did a great job with the position he was put in and definitely helped preserve a lot of decent moments. There are some strange plot points in the third act that I wish were more fleshed out. But all in all , I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and hope that unanswered threads in this movie get resolved in a satisfying media release in the future.

Rating

TLDR: Solo is a fun movie that adds a lot to the backstory of characters we know and appreciate. I for one, think I’ll enjoy Episodes IV and V more on the re-watch given the way Lando , Han, and Chewie get fleshed out. There are some missed opportunities, slight pacing issues, and a bit of overindulgence in fan service but it never takes away from the fun time at hand.

Final Rating: 8.7/10. I think this is a movie any Star Wars fan can enjoy. There’s something in here for everybody and the story only plays on the elements we all love. The best part? You can show the movie in group settings with people unfamiliar with the setting and they’d still have a good time.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Black Christmas (2019)

Theatrical Review Poster

Earlier this October, I ended up watching Green Room for my horror movie marathon . I loved Imogen Poots performance in the movie (it stood out to me), so when I saw that she was going to lead a fun looking slasher flick, I had to go ahead and watch it. When the movie started I was enthusiastic and don’t get me wrong- I liked a lot of moments. However, I was left disappointed by the ending and the abundance of missed opportunities. This movie had real potential and squanders it by throwing nuance and subtlety out of the window in favor of an absurd resolution that actively hurts the movies themes and renders character arcs dissatisfying.

Poots plays Riley, a sorority member who’s recovering from trauma. The film is incredibly topical and deals with a lot of issues regarding rape culture and the treatment of assault on campuses. The look into sorority life and mixed feelings about what sisterhood entailed are interesting and well established at the beginning of the film. Poots is great and portrays the struggle she faces with a genuine sincerity that makes rooting for Riley natural. Cary Elwes is hilarious in his campy over the top role as Professor Gelson. His introduction is great ( in an awful kind of way) and I liked it. He’s also the only redeemable part about the third act so credit is due.

Early kills are also shot well. Yes, they’re obvious and the set up doesn’t feel unique or awe inspiring, but they’re well executed. The first death in the movie, set my expectations high with how aesthetically nice it was in both the manner of kill and the way the body was placed versus the environment. The deaths that follow are well set up but never reach the same highs as the first one. The film does a great job of establishing the real fear women face everyday. The fear of walking down a street with an innocuous fellow coming down behind you. Even if he’s just out and about and doesn’t mean anything, there’s a palpable fear about the “what if”. Moments like this are littered in the first two acts of the movie and present a horror story grounded in a real kind of feminist critique.

Unfortunately, all this subtlety is thrown away by the third act and the interesting themes about empowerment vs martyrdom vs autonomy get completely sidelined. It’s disappointing because it feels like the movie wants to be and feel “woke” in the most neoliberal way, so it sacrifices nuance to just preach common and boring tropes. This is a topic that requires nuance and subtlety – something I thought the beginning of the movie hinted at, but I was woefully off. To say I was sad with how everything ended is an understatement.

Rating

TLDR: A bag of missed opportunities that settles for being just above mediocre. I didn’t hate watching this movie, but the ending definitely took me out of a lot of it , which is a shame because I actually enjoyed a few moments early on.

Final Rating: 6.6/10. If you want an okay slasher with some nuanced and nice moments , I’d give this movie a check out. The third act is a huge disappointment but I still had an okay enough time in spite of it.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!