Logan: Review by Kenneth Buff

Logan is the latest installment in the Wolverine/X-men film saga. It marks the 9th time Hugh Jackman has portrayed the character of Wolverine, and also serves as his last outing in the series.

The beauty of Logan lies in that it hardly qualifies as a superhero movie at all. Yes, Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman are playing their iconic superhero characters they established on screen 17 years ago in X-Men, but these portrayals of the Wolverine and Charles Xavier are nothing like we've ever seen on screen before. Logan is a burnt out, aging mutant, whose filled with more rage and regret than we've ever seen him with before (this is easily Hugh Jackman's best performance as the character), and Xavier, wow, talk about character evolution. Charles is no longer the wise calming character we've come to know these last 17 years, he's now a confused, scared, and often times angry, old man who's looking for as much redemption as Wolverine. But, putting aside the character defying expectations of Logan, the film does not move like a superhero movie, nor feel like one. Its pacing is slow, and deliberate. Every scene carries weight, developing the characters, revealing motives and traits, while pushing the story forward. It's a film that has more in common with Hell or High Water than it does Ironman. And the movie is all the better for it. Its themes, and tragic story mesh perfectly with the western genre the movie inhabits.

Now, it's definitely worth saying that this isn't a movie for kids. Which I know seems strange, but this is not your summer superhero movie. Logan was not designed to get as many 12 and unders through the door as possible, it was designed to give an emotional gut punch to adults with even a vague sense of who these characters are: a man cursed with immortality, and retractable metal claws, and a powerful psychic who can no longer control his awesome abilities.

All of Logan's parts add up to an intensely entertaining film that satisfies as both the greatest entry in the X-men film franchise, and as brilliant twist on the modern western film genre.

La La Land by Kenneth Buff

5/5 Stars

5/5 Stars

For the last 10 years or so (maybe just 8...who's really counting at this point?) my wife and I have seen a movie on Christmas. The first one I can really remember seeing was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it was the first—anyhow, this year's Christmas movie was La La Land, a modern musical based on an original screenplay by writer director Damien Chazelle, who gave us 2014's Whiplash. Much like Whiplash this is a movie that blends comedy, drama, and does it in a way that feels fresh and fun, while simultaneously being a visual pleasure filled with great performances.

Now, it's almost deceptive to say that La La Land is a musical, even though by definition it is. I say that because there's never really been a movie like La La Land before, not in 50 years. It's not a musical that's trying to emulate the musicals of the 50's (though it does have visual allusions to some), it's simply a modern movie that's been inspired by them, in the same way that Indiana Jones was inspired by the serials of 1930's. It's taken an idea that's been done before, and modernized it, made it fresh. While all the musical numbers are great (and you'll be happy to know that there aren't an overwhelming, nor an underwhelming number of them), the film primarily cares about telling a good story, and the songs serve to strengthen the story above all us.

La La Land stars Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone as the two leads. They play a couple of artists (a jazz pianist, and an actress) trying to make their dreams come true in L.A. Both Stone and Gosling are great. They're committed to all three aspects of the film: the drama, comedy, and the music (Gosling and Stone learned to sing and dance for the film). They're chemistry is also great. We really buy that these are two 30 somethings who happen to bump into one another in the world and fall in love.

Overall, La La Land is a fun flick that's meant to be seen on the big screen. Do yourself a favor and grab some tickets.

Rogue One: Review by Kenneth Buff

3.5 Stars

3.5 Stars

Rogue One is the latest in Disney's new series of Star Wars films, following 2015's The Force Awakens. Rogue One sets itself apart from The Force Awakens in several ways, the biggest being tone and time period (The Force takes place after Return of The Jedi and Rogue One takes place before Star Wars: A New Hope), as well as pacing.

Rogue One opens with an origin story for our central character. Her family is killed before her, and she's left hiding in a hole only to be saved by one of the last Jedi's who we assume will train her into the next bad ass Jedi, a la the Luke Skywalker we've never heard of. From here the movie elapses to the future, and hops from planet to planet showing snippets of stories of various characters who we've never met. This part of the film tries the viewers patience as we're given maybe 2 minutes of screen time with a set of characters before then jumping to another long exterior shot of a planet, then an exterior shot of a location on the planet, and then a new character. It's a lot of world building right up front, and no character building. Character building is a problem that plagues the whole movie. While the supporting characters are all quite interesting and have well defined traits, the central characters Jyn Erso (this movie's Luke) and Cassian Andor (this movie's Han) are not well defined. We're not even sure what it is that drives Jyn, she's simply following the film's plot because, hey, she was asked to do it. We have no idea what drives her, what her goals are, or what kind of person she is. She has no emotional arc in the film, no growth. Cassian, a rebel teammate working with Jyn to do something or nother to help the rebellion, has what almost appears like character growth (he refuses to kill someone the rebellion tells him to kill), but his character is so underdeveloped that this action carries no weight in the story. The plot's also not very compelling, but that may just be because we have no characters with stakes in it.

Now, that being said, the visuals are very much what we all think of and dream of when we think of Star Wars. The film marries practical effects and costumes with CGI to the point that borders on perfection. The filmmakers obviously genuinely cared about the look and feel of the movie. To me, this is most clear in what is arguably the best scene in the movie, in a scene featuring Darth Vader taking on a group of rebels, he wields his light saber slow and direct, just the way he did in the battle against Luke in Return of the Jedi, while also hurling them against the walls and ceiling with just a wave of the finger. During this scene Vader doesn't run, he doesn't even increase his pace by a step, which is exactly the way Vader should behave. He's the most powerful man in the galaxy, he has no reason to run. As simple as that idea is to most Star Wars fans, after seeing the prequels, it's just nice to see a beloved character from the original trilogy appear and not be doing back flips while wielding dull light sabers. 

The pacing is deliberately slow for the first half of the movie. There's one really cool fight between a blind Jedi (who doesn't wield a lightsaber, sadly) and a group of storm troopers, but other than that it's mostly talking and planet hopping. The film doesn't really pick up until the last third of the movie when Jyn and a hand full of rebels decide to fly to Alderaan to steal the plans of the Death Star, which reveals its weakness. It's here that we get epic ground and air battles, with everything from AT-ATs on the beach to TIE Fighters and X-Wings going at it in the space above. These scenes are well done, but again, because there aren't much stakes (we know the rebellion gets the plans, this is a prequel), and because no one has any personal stake in the events of the story, it feels a little hollow, but still looks pretty cool.

All that being said, I did really like three of the new characters, K-2S0, a reprogrammed imperial droid, Chirrut Imwe, the blind sort-of Jedi, and Baze Malbus, a silent soldier type who's buddies with the blind eccentric Chirrut. All of these guys fit well into the movie, and added color and personality to what would have been an otherwise pretty dull experience character wise.

Overall, I recommend Rogue One, but think you should keep in mind that it's really not going to pick up until you get past that first half.

Hacksaw Ridge by Kenneth Buff

Hacksaw Ridge is Mel Gibson's latest directorial effort in nearly a decade. It's being touted by some critics as his "comeback film" as it offers plenty of Hollywood violence as well as family fun. It's a movie that it is so hypocritical in it's message, that it's hard to say if it really has one at all. It's a strange film. One that bounces from religious Hallmark movie levels of corny, to fairly well down WWII action set pieces. It's a strange mix. And even in the action set pieces, there are issues with the sappy script bleeding over. No one in this film curses, yet every soldier refers to the Japanese as "The Japs." Sure, you can argue this is to add some realism to the film, but surely soldiers facing unbeatable odds in WWII wouldn't just say "aw shucks" when they're friends' arms are being blown off. The choice in leaving out foul language is an obvious pander to the family-friendly/religious audience this film is trying to market. This only makes it strange that all the soldiers use the slur "Japs" but they won't say "fuck" or "shit" or any other language a real person in WWII would say. It's as if Gibson wants to dehumanize the Japanese in the film while simultaneously not humanizing the American characters. The characters are one of the many problems with Hacksaw. No one in the film grows. The main character, Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), is a god fearing pacifist who enlists to "serve" but refuses to carry a weapon. The real life story of Desmond Doss is very interesting, (it's disappointing that they couldn't do more with the story) but the character in the movie is never presented as anything other than a saint with unwavering values. Not once does he question his reasoning for joining the fight (despite having a beautiful fiance back home, family, etc.), feel any kind of doubt, or have any growth or struggles that would add to the tension of the story. The Desmond character is perfect from the beginning of the film to the end of it, which gives us very little reason to feel invested in his journey.

There's also some visuals problem with the film that really bothered me as they took me out of the movie. There's nothing worse than seeing the strings of the spaceship on screen to ruin your immersion in a good sci-fi flick, the same goes here. The god-awful CGI battleships that fire on the Japanese looks like something out of a modern Saturday morning cartoon. These scenes could have been completely cut and nothing would have been lost, but here they remain to remind the audience that they're watching a movie where the director only cares if it looks believable when it's the middle of a battle with human beings. There's also quite a few scenes where the set and the way that it's shot resemble a sitcom, or a film shot on a sound stage in the 1930s,  rather than a big budget film shot in the year 2016. Some of this has to do with the way Gibson films his scenes, but it also just looks like Gibson didn't really care how these sets looked. It's as if he sank the majority of the film's resources into the battle sequences, and said to hell with how the rest of the film turned out.

There's also some strange casting choices, as everyone is either Australian or British. The one American actor of note being Vince Vaughn. He plays a hard ass drill sergeant, which works about as well as it sounds.

Overall, Hacksaw Ridge is a deeply flawed movie with some working parts, but none of it is ever strong enough to justify the ticket price at the door.

Central Intelligence by Kenneth Buff

3/5 STARS

3/5 STARS

Central Intelligence is a buddy comedy movie starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Kevin Heart as the buddies.

Central Intelligence gets more of its DNA from The Other Guys than it does Lethal Weapon. The film is primarily a comedy, and uses the action as vehicle to come up with situations and opportunities for jokes. The problem is that very often these jokes are not that funny. I do applaud the film going in a different direction from most modern comedies. The Rock isn't simply playing his usual bad ass "The Rock" character, he has a little more depth than that, and is sexuality is a little more than questionable, which adds something to the mix. Kevin Heart however is pretty much just Kevin Heart, but that's not really a bad thing. He plays well of The Rock, and there are a few decent scenes between the two.

Over all, Central Intelligence is a comedy that never really makes it out of 2nd gear, but the two leads make it watchable.

The Shallows by Kenneth Buff

4/5 STARS

4/5 STARS

The Shallows is a summer shark movie staring Blake Lively as a bikini clad surfer hanging out on an unknown isolated island in a foreign land. Her phone is on the beach, no one knows where she is, and she's trapped on a rock with a killer shark circling the area. This is the kind of summer popcorn movie that makes going to the theater fun.

The most surprising thing about The Shallows is just how much it all works. The plot is simple (a woman tries to survive a killer shark), the setup is too (a young girl's mother dies, she goes to Mexico with a friend to look for solace...the friend stays at the hotel, hungover), but it's all there, building up to the shark attack and the subsequent fight for survival. In the center of this simple story is Blake Lively, who's performance is straight, believable. And the bikini I mentioned earlier is covered up with a surfing jacket through most of the movie—which makes perfect sense when you're laying on a cold rock in the ocean—and wins the viewer (male and female) over much more than a simple move to keep Blake in as little clothing as possible would. And it's not just Blake that's taking the film serious, the director and the rest of the cast are as well. They're buying into the plot of a killer shark, even though it's a stretch to imagine a great white circling a single beach for 48 hour period, that is the only bit of fantasy in the film, the rest feels believable enough for us to buy into and go with the fun of watching a strong woman try to survive.

See The Shallows if you're looking for some summer fun.

The Conjuring 2 by Kenneth Buff

3.5/5 STARS

3.5/5 STARS

The Conjuring 2 is the sequel to 2013 film The Conjuring and is based on the paranormal cases of real life paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren.

The Conjuring 2 is an effective thriller. It opts for slow moving cameras in dark rooms, with strange spooky objects lingering in the background. It's a film that cares more about atmosphere than about graphic images, which makes the scares all the more effective. The strongest aspect of the film is the two leads. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson play the Warrens, and they are both real characters that come to care about, not filler horror tropes that we anticipate biting the dust at some point in the film (in fact we hope very much that Lorraine's premonition of Ed's death doesn't come true!)

Over all, a great little spooky summer movie. Check it out if you're into scares and you want a little heart mixed into it.

Popstar by Kenneth Buff

3/5 STARS

3/5 STARS

Popstar: Never Stop Popping is a satirical comedy about a Popstar named Connor who gets huge over night, only to watch his popularity plummet with his latest album.

Popstar stars Andy Samberg in the title role of the popstar. He plays a well spoken yet oblivious character. He does it well, making us believe in his character, even if the things they do with him aren't that interesting. It feels like a weaker version of This Is Spinal Tap or What We Do In The Shadows. The whole crew is really trying here, there are a lot of familiar faces of comedy on display, but they just don't seem to have anything to say other then "Justin Bieber's an idiot."

Other than a few good gags, and a decent performance from Samberg, there's not much to recommend here. Skip this guy unless you're a big Samberg fan.

The Nice Guys by Kenneth Buff

3.5/5 STARS

3.5/5 STARS

The Nice Guys is a buddy cop movie in the spirit of 48 Hours, and Lethal Weapon (which makes sense, since it's written by Shane Black, the writer of Lethal Weapon). The film stars Russel Crowe as a leg breaker who crosses paths with a private investigator, played by Ryan Gosling. The two eventually join forces to solve a greater crime.

Like Lethal Weapon and 48 Hours what makes this movie work is the actors ability to fill their character types effectively. Gosling is especially good as the goofy and sometimes brilliant PI. His so good they have to be ad libbed squeals really pump humor into the film, which is badly needed with what sometimes feels like a hum-drum plot that's just going through the motions. Crow is also good as the tough as nails enforcer with a hidden heart of gold. It's a good combo, but there's not enough playing off of one another to really live up to the expectations the audience has for a buddy cop movie.

Over all, it's a fun summer film that isn't a sequel, remake, or have a single superhero in it. Definitely worth seeing.

Me Before You by Kenneth Buff

3/5 STARS

3/5 STARS

Me Before You is a romantic drama, in the spirit of The Notebook, Dear, John, and all the other Nicholas Spark movies that have come out since. The setup is typical of this genre. Two people meet that at first don't really like each other, fall in love. There's a dash of tragedy added for flavor (the male character is paralyzed) and will he or will he not plot thread as well (not will he marry her, but will he end his life or will he choose to live paralyzed). What makes this movie unique is Emilia Clarke's performance. She balances funny with serious, making her character believable and lovable. Most scenes she's in she's stealing the show and lighting up the screen. If it weren't for her performance I don't think I could recommend the movie, but because of it I can. Looking for a decent date movie? This could be it.

X-Men: Apocalypse by Kenneth Buff

This movie had a lot of problems. Too many new characters that we don't have any emotional connection with. Sure, this is an X-Man movie, so these characters have a long history in other formats—even in X-Men movies that are still sort of considered a part of this series—but now that these characters have been "rebooted" and are being played by different actors, as a film you have to build those characters if you expect audiences to care. The movie never does.

Another character problem is that we don't have a character at the center, grounding the narrative (Wolverine did that in all the other films accept First Class). I understand the argument that the X-Men universe is full of characters that could be used on film, but you need to have central characters people care about, and none of the characters in the film are very interesting or worth rooting for. This is more a fault of the script than the actors, as it doesn't give any of them anything interesting to do.

Putting aside a lack of interesting characters or general purpose for the film, it's also not very fun, even in a big dumb Hollywood way. It's not as bad as say, a Transformers movie, but it's not that much better either. Overall a subpar film, that doesn't have anywhere to go. Apocalypse is a sequel that's run out of juice.

Keanu by Kenneth Buff

Keanu is the first full length film by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, the comedy duo behind Comedy Central's sketch comedy show, Key and Peele. Now I was never a full time viewer of Key and Peele, but the stuff I've seen from it has been pretty great. The show gave us Obama's Anger Translator, funny sketches on black culture and history, and my personal favorite, Obama in College (it's especially funny to me because I've read his memoir, and it's a little of what I'd imagine Obama's college life was like). Now with such great sketches under their belt, you'd think they'd have one hell of a comedy they'd be bringing to the big screen, and well, while it's much better than many other comedies that have been shoved down our throats (*cough* Melissa Mccarthy) it's still not the action comedy romp the poster implies (go see The Kingsman for that. Surprisingly great action comedy. Spy was also pretty good, despite my disdain for Mccarthy's comedy pictures, Stathom really shines in that one).

So, Keanu's basic premises is two suburban black men accidentally find themselves immersed in the underground world of drug dealing to fetch a stolen kitten. The jokes come from all the drug dealers Key and Peele encountering being hard Wesley-Snipes-in-New-Jack-City black people types, so in an attempt to save their kitten they take on their hard black personas of Shark Tank and Tectonic. They come up with crazy stories of having rival drug dealers take out their appendixes when it comes time to compare scars. The jokes are decent, but they don't come often enough. On the plus side, the jokes are intelligent, and don't make you feel like the movie assumes your dumb, and only find babies puking and taking dumps in people's faces entertaining. This movie is a little deeper than that, and the audience's experience is all the better for it.

 

Money Monster by Kenneth Buff

Here's a movie that has better intentions than it does execution. It's obviously supposed to be a conversation piece for big money's interest in the economy, but it comes off as more a movie about a lone, desperate man willing to sacrifice his life to make a point (we do end up feeling sorry for this character thanks to a decent screenplay and good performances by the three leads—George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Jack O'Connell).

Money Monster is not about the 2008 Great Recession, despite the language being used that resembles so much of what we're hearing today on the campaign trail, instead the setup is there's a big company whose stock is ripe for purchasing because it's always a great investment, so says George Clooney on his television show Money Monster, but then this single companies stock plummets because of "a computer glitch" (which I never could buy that anyone believed that that explanation would work in real life with stock holders. I mean, I guess crazier things have happened, but more people than just this one blue collar worker would be royally pissed if this were the explanation), and costing stockholders millions of dollars. The lone desperate man is one of these investors, he lost 10,000 dollars after listening to Clooney's advice and sticking all of his inheritance in it.

So, that's the setup. The rest of the movie is relatively tense, there's character evolution in Clooney's character, and the plot moves forward at a good pace, ending in a satisfying enough finally. Over all, it's a decent film, one worth checking out if it happens to be playing on a screen nearby, but nothing to seek out.

Sing Street by Kenneth Buff

Sing Street is an interesting movie. Not just in the premise, or in the fact that the music produced in it is was actually recorded by the child actors (the leading of which now has a music contract), but it's interesting in how real it feels. Now, I by no means believe every film should be a reflection of real life, but they should be grounded in something that feels real. This is why Game of Thrones is so beloved—the characters and situations of that show are all grounded in the behaviors of real people. In Sing Street what grounds the movie in reality is the children. Their performances and interactions with one another feel like what I remember from my high school days. Looking to impress girls, but not being sure how. Guess I better start a band. The silly lyrics the band start out with, and the relatable and surprisingly deep ones they end up with by the end of the movie are just one example the screenplay gives to character depth.

The music is also quite good. My favorites being "Drive It Like You Stole It" and "To Find You." All of the songs have an element of fun to them, and show an impressive range in the young actor-musicians' ranges.

It's a well made movie that had a lot of love put into to (and another thing, I love it when movies have great young actors in it I've never seen before. Wish this happened more often. They don't have to be young, but just fresh faces we've never seen before. It's refreshing to see someone we don't know give it their all on screen) and it shows in the final product. Great movie, with an ending that left me wanting a little more, but as the French say, "that's life."

The Jungle Book by Kenneth Buff

Like everybody, I was a kid once, so I of course have found memories of family friendly movies. The NeverEnding Story, The Land Before Time, All Dogs Go To Heaven, etc. For me, part of the greatness of the films listed above are that they don't hold back on what life really is. There is loss in life, there is darkness, so these films seem to work as sort of a guide to get through that, while also being fun to watch in their own right. I feel that most family films made these days (and most of the ones made in the old days as well, the films I mentioned are more the exception than the rule) lack any real depth that adults and children can relate to (though Zootopia and Inside Out were both great films you should check out immediately if you haven't already). That being said, I'm happy to report that The Jungle Book did not fall into that latter category, it does in fact face life's joys and sadness head on, and sends the message that with friends, family, and a little courage you can persevere.

As far as the technical aspects of the film, it looks great, the voice acting is on target, and the leading performance by new comer Neel Sethi is amazing in how natural and believable it feels. So if you're looking for a well made family friendly movie that actually has something to say, put The Jungle Book on your list.

Captain America: Civil War by Kenneth Buff

Captain America: Civil War is the 13th Marvel movie, and the third Captain America movie. So, if you haven't had enough superhero yet, don't worry, this movie, like almost all superhero movies these days, advertises many-many sequels to come.

Well, let me start by saying the only reason I gave this movie three stars is because a little over halfway through we get a battle that is actually fun. And the biggest reason it's fun is the inclusion of Spider-Man. I really wasn't looking forward to a kid Spider-Man, but since he's just a supporting character in a few scenes here for comedy it really works. He shows up to crack a few jokes (the best joke in the whole movie being how Captain America's shield doesn't follow physics at all, summed up the whole movie for me). But on top of the actually funny Spider-Man we have a cool new black superhero named Black Panther, and Ant-Man is back, and he's actually likable in this movie, though not as likable as Spider-Man (the Ant-Man movie was one of the worst movies I've seen in theaters). Those three characters actually make this sequence—the only scene where we get what we were promised, superheroes fighting each other in mass—fun. Everyone else is doom-and-gloom for the whole movie, and honestly rather boring. Even poor Tony Stark has lived past his glory days on screen. There's still the occasional bright moment with him on screen, but it feels like even the writers have grown tired of coming up with interesting situations and dialogue for this character.

The characters and the movie itself seem to be just going through the motions for the first hour of the movie. Nothing really happens. There's some set up for the Black Panther towards the end of this hour, but other than that, it's pretty dull. Another major problem with the first half of the movie is the absent of major side characters who were so important in balancing the main characters in previous movies. Those being Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts and Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury. The Pepper Potts character was really important to giving some humanity to Tony Stark, and to giving him a straight-man to play off of. None of the silly fantasy characters on the avengers team have that same spark with Tony, so the attempted playfulness (which there isn't enough of anyways) feels flat in comparison. Nick Fury was the character who set up the Avengers, and has been in all the movies previous, so it feels strange that he's absent for no apparent reason when something that threatens the fabric of the team's existence is going on, and even weirder that nobody bothers to mention his absence. (Also, where the hell are Hulk and Thor at? Their absence also leaves a hole in the movie.)

So, other than those mechanical problems, there are some moral problems as well. So, there's an argument at the core of the movie of oversight vs. no oversight for superheros. Iron Man is for oversight, Captain America is against it. So I live in the real world where we want oversight for government (let's use Flint Michigan for example), police (think of the recent documentation of brutality), et cetera, so when a movie is pretending to add some seriousness to it, and wants us to take the argument serious, I have to side with the guy who makes sense, Iron Man. The movie sides with Captain America. Now, that would be fine (I mean, the argument to have people running around doing whatever they want as vigilantes is silly if the vigilante's are trying to be poster children for America, like what Captain America does. Batman is different because his character's struggle is that he'll do anything to get the results he wants, look at The Dark Knight and how he takes down Joker) if the movie then didn't make Captain America a hypocrite. So Captain America argues they have the best judgement for deciding when they should go intervene (he says this after a montage of video plays on a monitor of the cities they've destroyed in the last 13 movies), and then later rescues his buddy Bucky, a known murderer, from a police raid on his apartment, and in doing so Captain America breaks the ribs of several cops, and throws them over stair rails. Yeah, this guy seems to certainly have "the best judgment" and I'm glad a movie targeted at children sends the message by the end credits that he's the one they should look up to. The guy who attacks police rather than have his friend face a court of law for crimes committed.

So, overall the film is better than Ant-Man, Thor 2, Avengers 2 and Captain America 2, but that's about it. I can't really recommend it unless you're just dying to see Spider-Man on screen for 20 minutes.

Everybody Want Some!! by Kenneth Buff

Everybody Wants Some!! is billed as "the spiritual sequel to Days and Confused", which is a great way to describe it. It's a comedy about what it was like to go to college in the 80's, but having gone to college in the 2000's, I can say apparently not much has changed, because I completely related to the scenarios and life style presented in the film, which made all of that much more enjoyable and hilarious.

So the film follows a Jake, a college freshman as he moves into a frat house with his baseball team, and adjusts to the college life before school starts. I was really relieved that the main story thread of the movie wasn't about finding yourself and navigating your way through life. That story arch is fine, but it's the one that's expected, almost demanded to be in any decent movie about young people. It's a damn genre at this point, "the coming of age story" is what it's referred, and I was glad that this movie really isn't that. Jake is thankfully already comfortable in his skin, and the few assholes he meets in the movie don't become rivals to him or later get some just desserts to justify their previous behavior. It's an honest movie, that feels very much like real life, from its characters, to the situations and lifestyle young guys experience in college (there are girls here too, but their viewed through the lens of young college guys. Though Jake does find a girl he fancies more than just for sex, which becomes a minor subplot) it all feels real, which adds to the hilarity of it. Honestly, I don't know if I've laughed more at a film in the theater (maybe Whiplash, but that was a different kind of humor). I mean, every scene in this movie is funny. The only thing that's missing is some larger plot to tie it together. The film wonders from one scene to another, connected by the characters, but not by theme. I think it adds to the fun of the movie, not only being different than anything else out there, but it just mimics real life that much more. Life doesn't always fit into a neat package, in fact it almost never does until we force it to later on when we look back on it. Here's hoping Richard Linklater's got a few more of these in him.

 

Midnight Special by Kenneth Buff

So this is a film that was praised by critics, and I'm not really sure why. It was advertised as a sort of modern E.T., but it's no where close to that level of creativity. It's more like its title, a midnight sci-fi movie you'd catch on TV back when midnight sci-fi movies were still a thing (which, I think is the whole point of the movie, only it's not really that much fun and midnight sci-fi movies were...so, yeah). Anyway, Midnight Special is about a young boy with supernatural powers who's on the run with his father and another man, while a religious cult (that worships the boy), and the US government chase after them.

The formula's there for an interesting movie, but the script just doesn't do anything with it. The movie spends its time being moody, having the characters constantly brood over their situation, and doesn't spend enough time exploring the powers of the child, or instilling any wonder or humor into the story.

Batman V Superman by Kenneth Buff

Well, basically everything you've read is true. It's not the Batman movie we've been waiting for since 2008's The Dark Knight. It's a mess. The script is weak, the villain is over the top obnoxious—it's completely unbelievable that he's able to manipulate either Batman or Superman— it's way too serious for a movie about grown men dressing up in costumes to fight bad guys—but it's biggest sin is that it's boring. Above everything else, what matters most is if it's entertaining, and for the majority of its run time BVS just isn't that interesting. I don't care about the characters, I don't even really care if Batman kills Superman or not (which he certainly won't, since this is just a prequel for the real movie: Justice League, I–XXV, and a great way to sell action figures and lunch boxes), but I've gotta admit, those costumes do look great. BVS easily takes the prize for best looking Batman costume to ever be filmed. For once Batman's wearing something that he looks like he can actually fight in, and on top of that it looks like something I would want to wear too when I pretend to beat the shit out of my little brother. It's just a cool costume. It's cloth, it's dark grey with the right amount of black trim. The Batmobile pretty much still looks like the Tumbler from the Christoper Nolan movies, but it has machine guns on it now, so, I guess that's cool?

Speaking of machine guns, there was a lot of extreme violence hinted at in this movie, which was another thing that I wasn't sure how I felt about. I mean, it's so boring it's hard to keep track if the movie is trying to say anything about anything (spoiler alert, it isn't), but when violence serves no purpose, when it's not saying something about the overall theme of the story, or at the very least, pushing the story forward (think T2, or any good action movie from the hay day of action movie-dom) then it just feels empty, which makes the audience feel empty, which makes them once again bored.

There's also some terrible CGI scenes of Cyborg and a few other random characters they threw in to connect it to the Justice League movie that doesn't exist yet. It's really awkward. There's also a dream sequence where The Flash visits Bruce Wayne, which also another terrible CGI scene that feels like they threw it in last minute when they remembered this is supposed to just be a movie to set up that movie.

On the plus side, Wonder Woman was pretty great. The actress does a good job, and minus one shot where you see just how short her skirt is, her costume isn't overly sexualized like Black Widow's (the only other female superhero on the big screen at the moment). Also, I didn't fall asleep, and it was still slightly better than Marvel's Ant-Man and Thor 2. But that really isn't saying much.

Zootopia: Review by Kenneth Buff

Zootopia is Disney's latest animated film, and boy, is it a great comeback (Pixar had no involvement here). It's a film where animals stand in for humans in a world that looks very much like our own, only this one, at first glance, appears better than our own. Predators and prey live side by side now in peace, but the old prejudices of prey being weak animals that should stay on the farm, and predators being hateful bullies, still exist, and affect every part of society.

The film follows a female rabbit named Judy Hopps. She dreams of leaving her small town farm to become a police officer in the big city of Zootopia. She's laughed at by the town, and begged by her parents to not go through with it. She ignores them and embarks on her journey to Zootopia where she meets an assortment of different characters that add to her understanding of the world, and of course, push the story forward.

I really liked this movie. It's one of the best animated films I've seen, probably in at least ten years. I enjoyed Frozen, I enjoyed Inside Out (my favorite Pixar movie after Toy Story), but neither of them has as strong of a message or are as smart as Zootopia. There are so many great adult jokes in this movie, referencing daily dysfunctions in adult lives (um hum, things like the DMV, for instance), race relations, and popular films and television shows (these references to film and TV are much more subtle than what we've come to expect from most cartoons, so keep your eyes open), and it's all appropriate for children. There are no body function jokes (farting, puking, pooping, etc.), sex jokes, or any of the other garbage we've come to expect from a film marketed for children. This is a film that is truly worthy to sit next to The Lion King, The Land Before Time, and the other timeless children's classics on your video shelf.