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Hate movie spoilers? Good! You'll get straight to the point, quick, and spoiler-free movie reviews to help you spend your time and money wisely on movies. I'll give you the Good, the Bad, the Reason, and the Rating about each movie. ***Please disable any popup blockers***

Monday, August 22, 2016

Hell or High Water Movie Review

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The Trailer:

The Good:
Chris Pine gets a chance to really show some range with his character. As the movie progresses, we get to see multiple sides of his personality and the factors that drive his motivation. If you think you've got his character completely figured out, a small twist will be thrown your way in just a couple of scenes. Furthermore, Ben Foster (who plays the older brother) assists in bringing the more rugged, and sometimes comical, element to the film. Both of the brothers' chemistry is a strong point in this film as it's displayed to have its own complexities.

Right off the bat you can probably get a good sense that this movie is a "Texan movie". The atmosphere of the small town settings and even the type of people all seem to be captured perfectly. If you've never been to Texas, you'll feel as though you at least know about it after watching this film.

When the movie did have some moments of action, they were pretty good. While they may not have been the most intense, they still helped to drive the story and keep you intrigued. My personal favorite was Ben Foster's action sequence towards the end of the movie.

The Bad:
One issue that I had with this film was the one-sided, and lop-sided banter between Jeff Bridges and his partner played by Gil Birmingham. For me, I think that if there are going to be any type of insults or banter that crosses the politically correct line, then at the very least you've got to make it balanced. You can't just have 10 jokes about one ethnic group, and maybe only 1 counter joke. While I can't speak for them, I would probably feel some kind of a way if I were a Native American watching this film. I should also note, that I'm over Jeff Bridges' incomprehensible southern drawl. At some points, it just becomes too distracting.

My other issue is the lack of focus in the attention or direction of the story. It felt like there was a bit of a duality in terms of where the movie was going. On one hand, the film wants you to care about the financial situation that the brothers are dealing with. On the other hand, we're directed to focus on the various characters' relationships and their development. It's not that you get lost in either, I think that both aspects just kind of fought against the other a bit.

The Reason:
If you didn't know, Hell or High Water is written by the same writer from Sicario (Taylor Sheridan). So you can imagine, if you've seen Sicario, a very similar vibe and pacing. I thought that Hell or High Water was a solid movie, but not a home run. I think it'll most definitely appeal to people who enjoyed movies like the Big Short or Sicario. It's well worth the watch, but for me, it's more of a watch at home type of film. However, I don't think there'd be much disappointment if someone were to watch it in the theaters for the matinee price either. Give it a go, if the trailer sparks your interest.

The Rating: 7/10 (Matinee)

My [Loosely based] Ratings scale
10-9 = A Must watch at any cost. 
8.5- 7.5 = Theater worthy 
7-6.5 = Matinee/rental worthy at best
6 = Watchable (If it's free)
5 - below = Avoid at all costs



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Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

GUEST WRITER: Don Shanahan is a fellow Chicago film critic of "Every Movie Has a Lesson." He is an elementary educator who writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. Don is one of the directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Association (CIFCC). Please welcome him as a new contributor to Eman's Movie Reviews.

The Trailer:

The Good:
Laika Entertainment, the Portland-based and Phil Knight-backed stop-motion animation studio that brought you “Coraline,” “ParaNorman, and “The Boxtrolls” have outdone themselves with their newest effort. “Kubo and the Two Strings” leaps off the screen with an original foreign folk tale that employs a rich originality and builds a strong base of emotional connection that rivals its Disney/Pixar contemporaries. Everything about its surface is finely crafted and creatively awe-inspiring.

True to Laika’s high aptitude for unique stop-motion animation, the final product is exceptionally gorgeous and brimming with aesthetic visual splendor. Tracing inspiration from the Edo period of Japan from the 17th-19th centuries, the Tolkien-level wide-ranging geography balances natural-like realism with flourishes of artful exaggeration. Zooming closer from the vistas and settings, the seemingly infinite layers of minute detail constructing each flesh-clad or folded-paper character’s presence, from their textured appearances to their molded movements, are nothing short of a technical and artistic wonder. Words cannot do them justice. Look behind-the-scenes to see the awesome genius of the Laika style.  

The Bad
:

A bruising limitation was warned and now it rears its ugly head at the end. There’s no way around it other than to say that “Kubo and the Two Strings” has to be called on the carpet for its whitewashed casting. It is very understandable to see how names like Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, and Rooney Mara sell tickets. All are excellent performers in their roles, especially Theron, but this is an Asian fairy tale of human characters, not ambiguous animals like the “Kung Fu Panda” series, and the only genuine names of diversity are veterans George Takei and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa in throwaway bit parts. There is a wealth of more-than-capable young and veteran acting talent from the proud nation of Japan that could have given this film an extra measure of dedicated and respectful cultural loyalty and validity.

The Reason
:

The mysticism and homespun mythology of “Kubo and the Two Strings” compose a wholly compelling and beautiful narrative fit for children over 8 and their discerning parental chaperones. The team of debuting director and Laika CEO Travis Knight, story developer Marc Haimes, character designer Shannon Tindle, and screenwriter Chris Butler were the cooks in the kitchen that braised this mature and meaty fable. Every demographic of this film’s audience will be able to gravitate to one or more of its many powerful themes. Ranging from mother-son relationship dynamics and protective parental love to sensitive displays of humanity and mortality, each motif carries purposeful symbolism and could fill its own dissertation to celebrate their profoundness.

The Rating
: 9/10


My [Loosely based] Ratings scale

10-9 = A Must watch at any cost. 
8.5- 7.5 = Theater worthy 
7-6.5 = Matinee/rental worthy at best
6 = Watchable (If it's free)
5 - below = Avoid at all costs



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Pete's Dragon Movie Review


GUEST WRITER: Don Shanahan is a fellow Chicago film critic of "Every Movie Has a Lesson." He is an elementary school teacher who writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. Don is one of the directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Association (CIFCC). Please welcome him as a new contributor to Eman's Movie Reviews.

The Trailer:

The Good:
Any comparisons to the 1977 original favorite end with the names Pete, Elliot, and the notion of a hairy green dragon. Divergent choices are made by introspective and naturalistic director David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”) and his debuting fellow screenwriter Toby Halbrooks to create something that, finally and refreshingly, lives up the “re-imagining” and “improvement” labels with common people, deeper family dynamics, and stronger bonds of loyalty.

From top to bottom, the rustic tone, look, and feel of the film is incredibly prudent and befitting its folk tale transformation into a living myth. The New Zealand locations captured by Bojan Bazelli’s camera are wide and majestic for scope while still maintaining an intimacy to carve out a nestled home for a little boy and his wild companion. The special effects to create Elliot are clean, modest, and never garish. Lindsey Stirling’s electric violin solos back a genteel musical score from composer Daniel Hart. The performances step right in to match the pastoral tone with a constant moral influence. Unlike the trappings of the more glamorous Disney remakes, “Pete’s Dragon” is free of lame sidekicks, loud comic relief, and other wasteful and mismatched ingredients.

The Bad
:

It's awfully difficult to find a major flaw.  If anything, it' is intense for the very young.  The stirring emotions can hit Pixar-level hard, making “Pete’s Dragon” much more suitable for ages 8 and up. Theatre ushers better come with equipped with arms ready for hugs and mops instead of brooms for the puddles of empathetically shed tears that will be waiting for them when the audience departs.

The Reason
:

“Pete’s Dragon.” It is the most poignant live-action Disney film since 2007’s “Bridge to Terabithia” and the closest any Walt Disney Pictures film has come in a long time to matching the signature emotional “Pixar Punch” of its animation brethren. The film stands as an example Disney would be wise to emulate moving forward with their future “re-imaginings” (take note, “Beauty and the Beast”). 

Blooming out of a cradle of artistic and narrative perseverance, it is clear a philosophy of great care and pleasant patience was given to “Pete’s Dragon” by Lowery and company. The film enhances the magical charm audiences remember from the original with newly gained maturity to operate as a loving family drama and touching adventure of friendship. It is a welcome and calming addition of heft painted by that superb idyllic tone. The wonderment never overplays its moments.

The Rating:  9.5/10

My [Loosely based] Ratings scale
10-9 = A Must watch at any cost. 
8.5- 7.5 = Theater worthy 
7-6.5 = Matinee/rental worthy at best
6 = Watchable (If it's free)
5 - below = Avoid at all costs



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Sunday, August 21, 2016

War Dogs Movie Review


The Trailer:

The Good:
Director Todd Phillips recaptures the same feeling and style that will remind of you the Hangover films. Despite being labeled a comedy, this film felt more like a series of humorous moments. Jonah Hill, in my opinion, completely steals the movie. He continues to deliver in various ways through his character's insults, role playing, and banter with Miles Teller's character.

One of the things that I appreciated about this film was the writing. The movie explains the concepts of gun trading so effectively and practically that almost anyone can understand it. (Even if you're completely against the idea of war.) This was especially essential when certain plot points occurred in the story. We're not left in the dark about the impact of certain events.

The Bad:
There didn't seem to be any major standout scenes. While were good, they didn't have much lasting power. Unfortunately for this film, the story was rather predictable. You can see the plot twists from a mile away, and the character telegraph their motivations pretty clearly.

Miles Teller, despite being cast as the lead, never really felt like he stepped up to the challenge. Jonah Hill danced circles around him in terms of acting. Above all that, the movie felt a little long. It's hard to say what didn't need to be there, but I think that the pacing of the film drag the movie.

The Reason:
War Dogs was enjoyable and entertaining in my opinion. It felt like a more serious spinoff of the Hangover, but nevertheless it was a decent watch. Seeing as though this was based on a true story, it may even compel you to do a little research because the ending of the film had many people in the audience literally saying "WTF?!". Give War Dogs a shot, but go in with low expectations.

The Rating: 7/10 (matinee worthy)


My [Loosely based] Ratings scale
10-9 = A Must watch at any cost. 
8.5- 7.5 = Theater worthy 
7-6.5 = Matinee/rental worthy at best
6 = Watchable (If it's free)
5 - below = Avoid at all costs



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Friday, August 12, 2016

Sausage Party Movie Review


The Trailer
:



Movie Critic Reaction: 

The Good:
This movie is so over the top insane, that I'm not sure where to begin. If you have sensitive ears, then brace yourself for plenty of vulgar language that would make a sailor cringe. There was a good amount of laugh out loud moments due to the incredibly crude, raunchy and explicit humor. The dirty jokes were so in your face that even Deadpool would be appalled. (Well, maybe not)

I must say that the writing for this movie was actually pretty brilliant. The movie is a huge compilation of cleverly utilized innuendos. No subject or group is safe in this film either. A wide variety of topics are covered from politics to religion to racial stereotypes.  (Think of how South Park offends so many people that it ends up being fair because every gets insulted equally.)

The Bad:
My biggest issue with this film is that while it does attempt to equally offend all types of societal groups or people, it's not so balanced in its obvious bias against religious believers. As you'll see in the film, religion is a subject that is addressed, but it's pretty obvious that there's an especially heavy prejudice compared to the other topics. When you look at shows like South Park or even Family Guy, they insult and offend so many people that it's hard to really have issue with them. However, if the jokes of a movie or show pay a little too much attention to one group or people, then it can become a little problematic.

The Reason:
Look, I walked out of this movie and immediately felt like Ace Ventura when he made a certain startling discovery. I just felt so unclean. The best way I could describe Sausage Party would be This Is The End + Toy Story + any porno flick.  To be honest with you, I have absolutely no idea how this movie got sanctioned in the first place. The fact that it's rated R is just laughable. Sausage Party was funny, disgusting, entertaining and a whole lot of WTF?! If you can't tell by now, this is NOT A MOVIE FOR CHILDREN! Seriously, I will call CPS if I see parents bringing their young children to this movie. I think that this is theater worthy due to the fact that you'll definitely be shocked and entertained with this film. If you're not a fan of Seth Rogen or his movies, then buyer beware. Don't be surprised if you never look at food the same again after watching this. Now if you'll excuse me, I will be starting my all-liquid diet.

The Rating: 7.5/10

My [Loosely based] Ratings scale
10-9 = A Must watch at any cost. 
8.5- 7.5 = Theater worthy 
7-6.5 = Matinee/rental worthy at best
6 = Watchable (If it's free)
5 - below = Avoid at all costs



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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Suicide Squad Movie Review

Support this site by clicking the pic to buy your tickets.
The Trailer:

The Good:
As you'll probably notice, this movie has a unique style and delivery. The music soundtrack was really good, and there was a dynamic use of colors to really clash with the movie's already dark atmosphere. There was more than enough action to keep you engaged. What I was actually impressed with was how the movie was able to juggle both humorous moments and still have individual dramatic scenes that connected you with the characters.

The strongest highlight of Suicide Squad is the ensemble of its characters and cast. Before I go into the individual characters, I personally believe that no one character really stole the show. The majority of the characters were introduced very well, and each had their moment to shine in their own right.

Will Smith (as "DeadShot") was almost too conveniently cast for this role. It was a walk in the park for him to convey the "bad guy with a good heart" type of character. (I swear he must love any role that will allow him to get teary-eyed.)

Margot Robbie (as Harley Quinn) was quite enjoyable. They didn't shy away from using her sex appeal, but at the same time giving a more personal look into her character. Her character was probably one of the more interesting ones given the fact that she had so many different factors to work with. She was funny, personable, loving, psychotic, and dangerous all at the same time.

Viola Davis ("Amanda Waller" ) was just perfect. Dare I say, she was almost more terrifying than the Joker himself. (I'll get to him next) If you're familiar with Waller's character from the animated cartoons or comics, you know she's a no nonsense type of individual. Davis captured every ounce of that character with her great performance.

Let's talk about Jared Leto. Yes, he's in "The Good" for a few reasons. Rather than trying to be Heath Ledger's upgraded version of the Joker, Leto managed to make his own version of Joker. Rather than being the anarchist he was more of a kingpin mobster. As I said earlier, no one character overtook the movie. In my opinion, the Joker was no exception. He was a "safe" crazy Joker. Rather than that being a negative, the biggest reason why his Joker works is because his Joker fits this specific movie alone. (He's not winning any Oscars though for this.)

The Bad:
In an effort to be more fun like Marvel movies, this film ended up doing exactly what I feared. There were just a few too many jokes or references that felt forced and unnecessary. (ie: Phil Jackson)  The inclusion or continuation of some of the one-liners felt like deleted scenes that were left in as a knee jerk reaction to all the criticism Batman V Superman received for being too dark. Seriously though, I don't think I can take another reference such "We're the bad guys".

I'm not sure what exactly went wrong, but this movie felt like it was going in two different directions. The first half of the movie was great. The characters were developing with intriguing introductions, and need for the team was well established. Then the second half of the movie felt like director David Ayer took a seat and Zack Snyder stepped in. -_-

The movie veers from being a nice grounded film, to being...well....the Ghostbusters splashed with the Mummy. There's just this turning point in the movie where you'll probably be thinking "What the hell is going on?", or "How did we get here?" This ultimately makes the plot feel awkward and misplaced. It of course doesn't help that there are flash backs that may add to some of the confusion as well.

My last issue was the really bad CGI. You'll know it when you see it, but the CGI in with certain characters reminded me of the horrible CGI in the Scorpion King. (Yeah, that movie from 14 years ago)

The Reason
:

This was an entertaining movie that just so happened to have some noticeable flaws.  First half of the movie was fun and energetic (almost like Deadpool), while the second half went almost full Batman V Superman. I may be completely off, but I have to blame Zack Snyder for this. He was the executive producer for this film, and while he may not have directed the film, his overall vision has confined this movie from standing on its own. In other words, because of all the stuff Snyder has set into motion, Suicide Squad had little to no choice to follow suit. (Which is a sad case for a movie that had all the right pieces.)

I almost was a victim of "fanlexia". (Here's the definition) I refuse to get caught up in the over exaggerated, negative hype that other reviews are putting out about this movie. Movies are only "trash" when they have no redeeming qualities. This movie had some solid pro's. It just depends on how forgiving you'll be with its con's. If other reviews or word of mouth are scaring you off, then I'd suggest watching this at least for a discounted matinee rate at your local theater. Be sure to stay until the very end for an end credit scene as well.

The Rating: 7/10


My [Loosely based] Ratings scale
10-9 = A Must watch at any cost. 
8.5- 7.5 = Theater worthy 
7-6.5 = Matinee/rental worthy at best
6 = Watchable (If it's free)
5 - below = Avoid at all costs



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 to join our weekly email list. One email, every Friday, to get my latest reviews. Don't forget to follow me at @SpoilerDashFree