Category Archives: Reviews

The Movie Kit Happy Hour Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’

Put in that mix-tape, strap into your seat because Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 favs Star-Lord, Rocket, Gamora, Drax  and Baby Groot are all returning for another adventure.

Continuing the story, the Guardians are now top-notch mercenaries for hire, and still squabbling like a family does. Except Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) gets a surprise when he finally meets his father, Ego (Kurt Russell), an otherworldly being who has been searching for Peter. There are some other family issues that come up, particularly between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and sister Nebula (Karen Gillam), but they once again must band together to save the universe.

Here’s my review of the fun-filled GOTG Vol. 2!

The Movie Kit Happy Hour Review: ‘The Fate of the Furious’

Vin Diesel and the gang are back for an eighth go-around the track with The Fate of the Furious. It might not be as great as the last few installments, but it’s still just good old summer popcorn flick fun (in April), with plenty of exhilarating car chase sequences, an evil villain (Charlize Theron) and some cheekiness (courtesy of Jason Statham).

Here’s my Happy Hour review, sipping on an F8 cocktail called the Fury. Check it out!

The Movie Kit Happy Hour Review: ‘Ghost in the Shell’

For all the criticism surrounding Ghost in the Shell — and there is plenty — the film pretty much accomplishes what it sets out to do. It’s a techie, visually alerting  live-action take on the classic Japanese manga series, with kick-ass action star Scarlett Johansson, front and center. 

The story revolves around the Major, a female cyborg living in a world where everyone can get enhanced robotic parts, if they want to. She, however, is the first of her kind — a fully formed, very skilled robot solider, who also happens to have a very human brain. The Major is part of an elite special forces unit, operated by Araimaki (Takeshi Kitano), whose job it is to track down mastermind criminals.  When they are tasked to find out who is killing key scientists working for the top robotic company in town (and the ones who created the Major), a can of worms is opened up for the Major when she starts to uncover details to her mysterious past. 

Ghost in the Shell received backlash, even before its release, with the casting of Johansson in a role that could have easily been played by an Asian actor. Calls of Hollywood whitewashing and whatnot dampened excitement about the film, while others accepted Johansson’s casting because of her global box office appeal. 

Either way, the actress knows how to handle the action, even if Ghost in the Shell could have used more of it. The film did what it was supposed to do, in my opinion. Here’s my take, as I sip a little sake for the occasion. 

The Movie Kit Happy Hour Review: ‘CHiPS’

In this week’s Happy Hour review, I’m drinking beer, eating chips and salsa and talking CHiPS, a mindless, raucous comedy loosely based on the popular ’70s TV show.

Suffice to say, the plot doesn’t really matter that much (Shepard is Jon Baker, a former motorcycle racing star turned rookie CHiPs officer, and Michael Pena is Frank “Ponch” Poncherello, an FBI agent going undercover to ferret out crooked California Highway Patrol officers). It’s really about Shepard, who wrote and directed the comedy, and Pena and their fun chemistry.

Watch my review!

The Movie Kit Happy Hour Review: ‘Kong: Skull Island’

In this week’s Movie Kit Happy Hour, I review Kong: Skull Island — a fun, popcorn monster movie — as I sip on my banana daiquiri.  Thing is, I’ve always loved King Kong and feel he’s much more than just an oversized ape, and thankfully, in Skull Island, he’s still just as lovable.

Check out my (slightly inebriated) review!

The Movie Kit Happy Hour Review: ‘Logan’

I’ve taken a little break from my blog, but I’m back with a new video series I’m calling The Movie Kit Happy Hour. In it, I’ll be reviewing a movie with an added twist: Alcohol! Each week I’ll review a movie and sip on the appropriate drink for the occasion.

This week it’s the excellent Logan, the latest in the X-Men/Wolverine canon, which takes a darker, grittier, R-rated look at one of our favorite comic-book heroes. Naturally, this calls for a short glass of whiskey… Watch!

How to Watch: “Suicide Squad”

Suicide Squad

Poor Suicide Squad, getting all these bad reviews when it’s really just a big bowl of popcorn fun. Sure, it has issues, maybe more than a few of them, but Suicide Squad still delivers the big, bold characters, lots of action, laughs, jumps and a desire to see these folks again.

Step 1: How to handle the material. Writer/director David Ayer, who is best known for his gritty crime drama End of Watch, handles the action chores with aplomb, with a pretty action-packed final climactic scene. Ayer thankfully doesn’t shake his camera around or zoom in so close you can’t see who is fighting who. But Ayer may have bitten off a little more than he could chew in the story department, trying to pack too many details into a two-hour chunk. This #Squad, the “worst of the worst,” are meta-humans, who – if you can control their wayward, criminal behavior – would be ideal to take down even more dangerous super entities, ready to destroy Earth. Really? Seems like a big flaw in logic that even the shady government agent Amanda Waller (the always-good Viola Davis), who brings together these criminals, doesn’t entirely believe in. Half of Suicide Squad is spent watching the bad guys bucking against the authority who want them to be good guys.

Step 2: Create great characters. Ayer does his best, though, to bring these folks to life, and there are a few characters that truly steal the show. Much has been hyped about Margot Robbie’s performance as hot mess Harley Quinn, and thankfully, it’s justified. Robbie has way too fun playing bubble-headed crazy with a bat, but there are moments of pathos that cross her pasty white face – and it’s those moments you notice. Will Smith also does a nice job as Deadshot, the hitman with pinpoint accuracy who is conflicted by his work because he’s also a dad to a precocious 11-year-old daughter. You definitely wish more than once that you could watch movies just about these characters. In fact, the whole cast really delivers, including Jared Leto as the Joker. His take on the iconic character is definitely more gangsta and a tad over the top, but you can’t take your eyes off him and are left wanting more.

Step 3: Damn Marvel. You might have to also chalk up the lackluster critical response for Suicide Squad to bad timing. For the anti-heroes banding together to fight a common enemy, we have the superb Guardians of the Galaxy. For sarcastic, raunchy, sticking-it-to the man mentality, there’s Deadpool. It’s like those Marvel people have a better movie for everything. I mean, if we are to compare Marvel and DC Comics and why Marvel seems to have a better success rate, it comes down to tone. Marvel has found their rhythm with the characters, combining humor with action, but DC Comics is still trying to figure out which way they want to go. DC’s universe seems like it’s inherently darker, broodier than Marvel, which is the way Christopher Nolan went with his Dark Knight trilogy, but now DC seems to be having trouble owning that. Most critics are at least giving Suicide Squad the benefit of being a better film than Batman v Superman, but one wonders if things will trend upwards for DC with the upcoming Wonder Woman and Justice League movies.

Step 4: Just have fun. If you are fan of the comic or a fan of having fun in the theater, then Suicide Squad should be right up your alley.

How to Watch: “Jason Bourne”

Jason  Bourne

Step 1: Expect the expected. As the fifth installment in the franchise – and fourth starring Matt Damon – Jason Bourne incorporates all the highly charged action sequences you’ve come to expect, but it seems to lack a bit in the narrative.

Step 2: Feel the retread, to be honest. It starts out with Bourne living off the grid, making cash by street fighting across the globe – and he’s still haunted by his assassin past. He can’t shake it, no matter how many times he fights or tries to disassociate himself from the world. And just when he thinks he’s out, he, of course, gets pulled back in, this time by his former colleague/ally Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). She seeks him out to tell him the CIA baddies are still pushing through the same programs (worse even) that turned him into an assassin monster – and they should be stopped. He doesn’t really want to get involved anymore, he’s done his part (as in exposing Treadstone in Bourne Ultimatum) – but Nicky tells him she knows even more about his past, especially about his father, which ties into it all.

Step 3: Move on. Gaining more insight into his past lures him back into the spotlight – and into the cross hairs of CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and his lackey, the ambitious Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), who may actually be on Bourne’s side (at least it seems that way). Does this sound in any way familiar? That’s the problem. This is territory already covered in the Bourne trilogy, and covered well. The first Bourne Identity still stands as the best of the three because it brilliantly introduces us to Bourne, a man who doesn’t remember he is a trained assassin until he is forced to use his skills to combat those trying to eliminate him. That scene in which he fights and then kills a guy with a pen is just one of the best fight sequences ever. In Jason Bourne, Damon portrays his reluctant anti-hero with the same steely determination and keen street sense as before, now a little older but wiser, but the tortured part is getting tired. It just seems like with the fourth movie, it’s time to move past the issues and explore a new Bourne.

Step 4: Embrace the action, though. That being said, veteran Bourne director Paul Greengrass has outdone himself in the action-chase sequence department. There are three major set pieces in Jason Bourne, with the third one set in Las Vegas being one of the most thrilling, cover-your-eyes car chases we’ve ever seen. This is one of the main reasons to see a Bourne movie, and Jason does not disappoint in any way.

Step 5: Rank the movie. Even with some spectacular action, if we were to rank Jason Bourne in the franchise, we probably put it second to last. The first three – Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum – remain at top, in that order, with the fifth, The Bourne Legacy with Jeremy Renner, at the bottom. Legacy is actually a well-done addition to the franchise, giving us a different perspective of these “programs” and what they do to the men in them, but it doesn’t have Damon – and he’s really the glue in these films. If they do move forward with the franchise (and every indication says they will), it would be cool to see a Renner/Damon hybrid movie. Let’s see if that happens.

How to Watch: ‘Now You See Me 2’

NYSM2

Step 1: Realize some of the original magic has been lost in Now You See Me 2, but it provides a requisite amount of fun when it needs to.

Step 2: Set up the trick. The story takes place one year after the Four Horseman pulled off their big trick and exposed the big bad businessman, Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) for all his greediness, and spread his wealth to the masses. They are now awaiting instructions from the all-powerful Eye so they can come out of hiding and start doing their Robin Hood magic again on stage. Leader Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg) is the one most chomping at the bit and almost ready to just chuck the anonymity and go out on his own. Actually, Henly (Isla Fisher) already did that. She couldn’t wait anymore, and now she’s gone. But hypnotist Merritt (Woody Harrelson) and card-shark Jack (Dave Franco) are still around, and they are joined by quippy newcomer Lula (Lizzy Caplan), who is a breath of fresh air in this quartet. Dylan (Mark Ruffalo) is still working both ends, as a FBI agent trying to keep the bureau off the Horsemen’s trail but also keeping the Horsemen in check with The Eye

Step 3: Watch things go off the rails. When the Horsemen are finally allowed to appear again, this time to take down a tech millionaire, whose invented a chip that can spy on any device or computer anyway, but it turns out they are set up by one Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) who exposes Dylan and wants them to steal the chip. Lots of other twists and turns happen after that, including Daniel’s supposed nemesis Thaddeus (Morgan Freeman) and Arthur’s return, but to give too much else away would spoil it.

Step 4: Get a crew that works. The camaraderie with the returning cast still works, with the pleasant addition of Caplan, who really takes the “female” role in a whole new, spunky direction. Her Lula is a snarky trickster who has a real knack for cutting off her body parts and for proving she’s actually better than the guys – and she unabashedly has the hots for Jack. Also good is Radcliffe as the smart-ass Walter, who fancies himself a magician but isn’t very good at it. He’s a fun sort of villain for awhile, until his path converges with Arthur; then it falls flat. Oh, and Merritt ends up getting a nemesis as well – his twin brother (also Harrelson), wearing a bad perm wig and big teeth. Not sure why this character is even needed in the scheme of things, and Woody plays him embarrassingly over the top.

Step 5: Wonder what’s missing. The true element of surprise that the original delivered seems to lacking in Now You See Me 2. Watching the Four Horsemen pull off their tricks in the original made it stand out as fun, thrilling adventure tale. The characters zinged, and you couldn’t really see the fascinating twists coming. In the sequel, however, the magic has faded and just not as badass. While the characters still connect in a fun way and there are some great scenes of them doing their stuff, the story falters and the twists aren’t that compelling. Unfortunately, Now You See Me 2 doesn’t offer anything really new.