Log in

Baby Boss orders you to go to the movie theater!

It’s bad enough that seven-year-old Tim has a new baby brother that completely saps his parents’ attention and energy, but Tim learns that his sibling is actually not at all who or what he appears to be. The infant, or Baby Boss as he is known, is a plant in their home with a scheme to undermine Tim’s parents’ business activities. Baby Boss sees cute pets as a threat to the appeal of kids. The parents’ employer, a pet selling enterprise, is about to introduce a little creature that is so adorable that tots will seem terrible in comparison. Tim and Baby Boss strike up a deal. Tim will help the little imposter get what he wants in exchange for the Boss wiping their parents’ memory of his ever being there and his returning to where babies come from.

Baby Boss is a thought-provoking story about sibling rivalries and how the fact that many people view their pets as their children impacts our society. However, the subject matter of Baby Boss is likely to go over the heads of the very young. But to keep them entertained, there are some bike chase scenes and toddlers engaging in toy-to-toy combat. Good films can and do entertain audiences at different levels of sophistication. Baby Boss does exactly that.

I am not sure what time period this is supposed to be, the vehicles look 20-years-old or more, and Tim records Baby Boss speaking like an adult on a cassette tape player. The film features music from many decades. There’s the classic from 1935 “Cheek to Cheek”; “What the World Needs Now " from 1965; LTD’s 1977 hit “Back in Love Again”, and from 1979, Kool and the Gang’s “Ladies Night”.

Voices for the characters include: Alec Baldwin as Baby Boss; Jimmy Kimmel speaks for Tim’s dad and Lisa Kudrow for his mom. The voices of Tim are Tobey Maguire as an adult and Miles Christopher Bakshi as a child.

Can an animated cartoon get a diversity rating? ABSOLUTELY! Baby Boss earns a “B”. There are a few babies of color in the Baby Boss’s playgroup.

Baby Boss is much more than a story about infants. You’ll enjoy it no matter what your age. Baby Boss earns a See It!

It’s rated PG for mild rude humor and is 97 minutes in length.

Ghost in the Shell is eerily bad

Set in the future, Ghost in the Shell follows a recently deceased young woman (Scarlett Johansson) who has her brain placed into the latest and most sophisticated robot. Believing that she was killed by terrorists, she targets a powerful and exceptionally deadly crime syndicate for revenge.

This is another one of those cases where a great movie concept, falls victim to inept execution. There are many creative options with a story about a human brain controlling a cutting-edge machine. But Ghost in the Shell is nothing more than a flat story. The screenwriters try to give shape to the film by using a lot of mindless violence and flashy special effects. Unfortunately, at points when this story is on the edge of being interesting, it reverts back to dullness.

The writers are also lazy in how they portray the future. For example, cars pretty much look and operate the same as they do today. However, self-driving cars are currently just a few years away. With all the advanced weaponry displayed in the film, a villain pulls out a knife to defend himself, which is reminiscent of a 1950 James Dean movie. Additionally, the dialogue offers no new words. The American vocabulary expands constantly, for example, blogs, unfriend, sexting, are all recent additions to the dictionary. Certainly, there will be terms used 20 years from now that are currently unknown.

Scarlett Johannsson does her best to carry this story. She has credibility as the mechanical crime fighter from her fit form down to her, I am going kick ass gait.

This film gets an “A” for cast diversity, featuring a wide range of human types and quite a few nonhumans as well.

Ultimately, it’s only fitting that Ghost in the Shell gets our Dead on Arrival rating. As I have said repeatedly, special effects are simply not enough. You need more than a phantom storyline.

Ghost in the Shell is PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content, and some disturbing scenes. Ghost in the Shell probably should have received an R rating for its violence. It’s just under 2 hours in length.

Movie Review: Life

The movie, Life, is Dead on Arrival 

Six astronauts find a life form on an internationally staffed expedition to Mars. They bring the specimen on board their space ship and it finds the conditions on the craft very much to its liking – and grows to be a threat to the crew.

This Life is Dead on Arrival. It simply lacks any originality. First choosing Mars as the destination shows no creativity. That planet has been the focus of film space travel for over 50 years. Then the organism looks and behaves like the ones from Alien. And it thrives on food, water, and oxygen. It must have taken the screenwriters hours, even days to come up with that theory.

Life features a star-studded cast including Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Rebecca Ferguson. But their characters all look and sound like any other onscreen space shuttle crew.

The special effects are routine and unexceptional.

Life does boast a solidly diverse crew with a black actor (Ariyon Bakare) and a Japanese actor (Hiroyuki Sanada). Actor Samuel L. Jackson recently complained about Hollywood hiring black British performers to play black American characters. Bakare is British; but so is the person he plays in the film.

In the end, this Life doesn’t survive film critiquing scrutiny and gets our lowest rating, Dead on Arrival.

Life is rated R, for scary scenes and language and is 103 minutes.

MOVIE REVIEW: Kong: Skull Island

Only the special effects make this island worth visiting

It’s the 70s. The Cold War burns hotly. Bill Randa (John Goodman), a researcher and his assistant Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) use the, we have to do this before the Russian’s do argument to get the United States federal government to fund an expedition to a South Pacific island where strange images have been caught on camera. Not only do they receive the funding, they also get a military escort led by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). To round out their team, they need a tracker and outdoors' man and James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) fits the bill. When the expedition arrives at their destination via helicopters, they are created by a massive, towering ape who swats the whirlybirds away as if they were annoying mosquitos. The team quickly realizes that they are in for more than bargained for.

Kong: Skull Island is a weak story about boring characters, but it still gets a See It! rating because this film delivers the special effects viewers who are fans of this film genre want to see.

The plots are so anemic that you’ll just want another appearance by Kong or some other creature.

The characters all speak with the same tones and vocabulary. But what is a major failure of the screenwriters Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein is the absence of the rich '70s dialogue. Language that young soldiers would have undoubtedly used. There was not a single: Right On!, Funky, Hip, Can you Dig it? or Say, What?

And if you’re a film buff, you’ll definitely see scenes reminiscent of Jurassic Park and Avatar.

Shot in six months in Hawaii, Australia's Gold Coast, and in Vietnam, Kong: Skull Island’s cinematography is a treat for the eyes.

When it comes to casting diversity, King: Skull Island, gets a solid “A”. Blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asian performers have both major and supporting roles.

Kong: Skull Island is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action and for brief strong language. The film is 118 minutes in length. The special effects will not disappoint and that makes King: Skull Island a See It!

MOVIE REVIEW: Get Out this week and see Get Out!

They’re an attractive young couple, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams). She who is white, assures him as they plan a visit to meet her parents, that they won’t care that he’s black. She adds that her father would have voted for Obama for a third term. When they arrive at the Rose’s parents’ stately home in its picturesque, bucolic setting, her father, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and her mother, Missy (Catherine Keener) greet Chris and extend their best efforts to make him feel comfortable. Chris also hears it straight from Dean: he would have voted for Obama for a third term. But after his first night there, Chris begins to realize that there are some occurrences that go way beyond the expected awkwardness of his being in Rose’s family home.

As I left the theater after seeing Get Out, I found myself thinking of the title of the New Zealand group OMC’s hit song, How Bizarre. While the film’s genre is horror, and it contains all the elements of that genre, there is so much more to this story. That’s what makes this film exceptional is it takes a common format and intertwines issues of race in the form of stereotypes about black men and white women, and the physical attributes of black people, to create a truly unique film going experience. And that makes it a See It!

Written and directed by comedian Jordan Peele, who takes viewers on an entertaining journey giving them clues to the underlying mystery and then fits all of the pieces together in some expected and unexpected ways. Additionally, the cinematography effectively enriches so many of the scenes and is a key to telling this fascinating story.

Get Out has some familiar horror film flaws. Chris, like many protagonists in this type of film, is sometimes a little slow to figure things.

There are other defects as well. Chris shares his growing-up experience which is a key to some of his reactions. He never knew his father and lost his mother to a hit and run accident when he was 11-years-old. And at one point he tells Rose, she is all he has. The problem with that scenario is 11-year-olds don’t raise themselves. Further, he’s a fairly polished young man and an accomplished photographer, indicating that at least one if not more adults invested time and money in his development. It’s unlikely that those “investors” would have disappeared from Chris’ life now that he is an adult, resulting in Rose being all he has.

As I discussed in my review of Fences, it is troubling that the ubiquitous portrayal of black families as dysfunctional is a theme often perpetuated by black writers. Peele creates Chris’s story as one with an absentee father, even though Peele’s own father was in his life.

As to cast diversity, Get Out gets an “A-“. When it comes to black and white characters, you won’t find a more diverse film. However, there is only one Asian-American and one Hispanic, each with a small speaking role.

Get Out is Rated R for violence, bloody images, language and sexual references, and is 104 minutes in length. Get Out is a unique film you’ll think about and talk about. And it’s a See It!

Movie Review: A United Kingdom Combines Race, Love, and Politics

A United Kingdom merges the credibility of a true story with romance and international intrigue

In 1947, a young man meets a young woman at a social event. They talk and dance and enjoy each other’s company. He asks her out again. She accepts. Once more, they have fun together. It doesn’t take long for them to fall in love. This a common scenario, especially for that time period. But other factors make this match much, much more complicated.

He is Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) the King of the African nation of Botswana. She is Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a London office worker. He is black; she is white. Their proposed marriage is challenged not only by their families but by the British and South African governments.
South Africa has just introduced apartheid, a series of laws designed to keep blacks and whites separate in almost every aspect of life. And a highly visible interracial couple, especially a black man and white woman, in a neighboring country threatens the foundation of these new laws. The British, heavily reliant upon South Africa’s uranium and gold, doesn’t want to upset its trading partner. Further, there is also a risk of war if South Africa invades Botswana, a British protectorate.

A United Kingdom is a fascinating story that would almost be unbelievable if it weren’t true. And it’s a See It! The story moves quickly through the mutual attraction which overwhelms Ruth and Seretse. Each seems to believe that the other isn’t as serious about the relationship as he or she is. As the story develops, it’s clear that there is nothing political or Machiavellian about their love. It’s pure and natural as any bond between two people. Yet her father disowns her. His uncle who carefully molded his nephew to assume the mantel of power now views his mentee as unfit to serve as king.

A United Kingdom effectively depicts the political atmosphere at that is extremely hostile to a union that in today’s world would cause in many cases, no more than a minor stir. (However, there is a bit of a buzz over Prince Harry’s current, apparently, serious relationship with African-American actress, Megan Markle.)

The dialogue is used as a powerful device to capture the sentiment of each side. Ruth’s sister who supports the relationship nevertheless reminds Ruth of English facilities that post signs: No blacks. No Irish. No Dogs. And Seretse’s uncle delivers a powerful speech besieging his countrymen to reject his nephew as their leader pointing out that the British would have never allowed Princess Elizabeth’s ascendancy to the throne as queen, had she married a Negro.

But filmmaking is about basics. And, A United Kingdom is a love story and it doesn’t work unless Rosamund and David sizzle together - and they do. They worked together before and Oyelowo hand-picked Pike for the project. They create the on-screen bond which convinces audiences that they could withstand international manipulation and hostility.

The film is directed by Amma Asante, who is British, and whose directing credits include the film, Belle. She, a black woman married to a man of Scandinavian heritage said in a recent interview that all interracial marriages even today, are political - or at least viewed that way.

A United Kingdom is Rated PG-13 for some language including racial epithets and a scene of sensuality and is 111 minutes in length. It will educate, entertain and amaze you. And it’s a See It!

Movie Review: Say Hello to The Bye, Bye Man

It needs some work but it’s a nice house, large rooms, furniture comes with it, so the three college students who need a place to live decide to rent it. Elliott (Douglas Smith), his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas), and his friend from childhood John (Lucien Laviscount) move in. Immediately they start seeing things. A tall skeletal man in a hooded robe moves about. And of course, they hear noises. Kim, (Jenna Kanell) a friend of Sasha’s, conducts a séance and realizes that these occurrences are not Elliott’s, Sasha’s and John’s imagination. There’s really something going on in that house. Elliot goes to the college library to research some writings he found in the house and links a mass murder almost 50 years ago to the events going on where they live.

The Bye, Bye Man is a low budget film starring a group of relative unknowns but it just somehow comes together. And it gets our highest rating, See It! First and foremost it’s not predictable. It does have unlikely character responses, typical of horror films. But, The Bye, Bye Man isn’t full of “you’ve seen it all before” plotlines. The stress of living in the house creates some intriguing conflicts between Elliott, Sasha, and John.

I have written before about the importance of writers creating characters that viewers connect with. The screenwriters succeed here; because this is a group that you’ll root for. The Bye, Bye Man actors are relatively unknown but proffer solid performances. Cressida Bonas is not as well-known as an actress as she could be considering a few years ago she drew international attention as Prince Harry’s steady girlfriend.

Veteran actress Faye Dunaway has a small supporting role. (I have to admit I thought she was dead.)

The Bye, Bye Man gets a B+ for cast diversity. It’s very diverse in terms of black actors, including Lucien Laviscount in a leading role, but Hispanics and Asians are non-existent in this movie.

The Bye, Bye Man was shot in Cleveland in five weeks with a minuscule budget of $10 million. Also, it ends in a way that opens the door for a sequel.

The Bye, Bye Man is rated PG-13 (for terror, horror violence, bloody images, sexual content, thematic elements, partial nudity, some language and teen drinking) and perfectly timed at 96 minutes. And it’s a See It!

MOVIE REVIEW: Passengers – Don’t take this voyage.

Passengers is a moderately entertaining adventure starring Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, and Laurence Fishburne

Talk about a long nap, the 5000 passengers and crew on the Starship Avalon are on a 120-year voyage from earth to their new outer-space home. They are put into a state of hibernation for the super long journey. However, due to a malfunction, Jim Preston, (Chris Pratt) an engineer, wakes up after only 30 years. He panics when he realizes that he’s likely to die before the vessel reaches its destination in 90 years. He finds his way around the spacecraft, locating the food and exercise facilities. His only companion is Arthur (Michael Sheen), the robot bartender. After a year, loneliness overwhelms him. He walks among the other passengers deeply sleeping in their pods. After a lengthy emotional and moral internal debate, he decides to awaken another passenger, journalist Aurora Dunn (Jennifer Lawrence). Once awake, she panics just as Jim had done. Also, as he had done, she tries to figure out a way to get back to sleep. But again like him, she eventually accepts her fate. And as would be expected, they fall in love and all is well until Aurora learns that unlike with Jim, her waking up was no accident. It was an intentional act on his part.

Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence talking with a robotic bartender played by Michael Sheen at a bar on the Starship Avalon in the movie Passengers Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures 2Jim (Chris Pratt) and Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) talking with Arthur, a robotic bartender, on the Starship Avalon. Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures 

Passengers is a moderately entertaining adventure and viewers can’t be sure where it’s headed. However, it never reaches its entertainment destination. The writers start with an interesting premise: a young man and woman wake up 90 years too soon on an intergalactic voyage. After that, they just don’t seem to know where to go from there. Another one of the crew members, Chief Gus Mancuso (Laurence Fishburne), wakes up and has a short, strange interaction with Jim and Aurora. The film deteriorates to the point where viewers laugh at scenes and dialogue not intended to be funny.

No complaints about Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. They serve their purposes: eye candy for viewers and are credible in their roles. The special effects are weak compared to the technological marvels Hollywood is capable of these days.

It’s difficult to give this film a Cast Diversity rating, with such a small cast. It would have received a D- accept for the short appearance by Laurence Fishburne with lifts it up to a C+. As Jim walks past the passengers in pods, very few of the inhabitants are people of color; this was an opportunity to add some color to the cast.

Leave these Passengers alone. Just at Jim and Aurora feared about their own plight; Passengers is Dead on Arrival! It’s 116 minutes and rated PG-13 for sexuality, nudity, and action/peril.

Subscribe to this RSS feed