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T.A. Moreland

T.A. Moreland

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: OZ: The Great and Powerful

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Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a circus magician of dubious character flees a well-deserved beating by an angry "colleague" by escaping in a hot air balloon. Diggs celebrates his triumphant getaway; but his glee is short lived. The balloon is soon engulfed by a Kansas-style twister. He lands in a strange place called Oz where the residents await his arrival. For it has been prophesized that a wise and powerful wizard would arrive, save the residents from the evil witch and would then become king. Along with becoming king, goes riches beyond Diggs' imagination.

But then there's the witches. There are the two sisters, Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Theodora (Mila Kunis); and Glinda (Michelle Williams). Evanora and Theodora warn Diggs that Glinda is evil and must be killed before he can ascend to the throne. But Glinda asserts that it is one of the sister who's really the evil witch. What's a man to do? In this case, Diggs has to prove to the residents of OZ that he is wise and powerful and worthy of their trust - and he has to determine who is actually the evil witch and deal with her.

In reviewing OZ: The Great and Powerful I have to acknowledge that I was never a fan of the classic, Wizard of Oz. So I am not surprised that I find OZ: The Great and Powerful the better of the two.

As would be expected of a Disney film, OZ is visual masterpiece with rich and vibrant colors which are enhanced by 3-D. The story is an entertaining mix of the old from the classic, and new storylines. There is a steady and undeniable sexual tension between Diggs and each of the three witches throughout the film. The cast is strong. Franco does an exceptional job playing the sneaky but likeable Diggs. Rachel Weisz is fascinating as Evanora.

OZ: The Great and Powerful receives a "B" grade for its cast diversity. Bill Cobbs plays a pivotal role as the Master Tinkerer. The diminutive Tony Cox scores big as Knuck.

According to press reports, Oz cost Disney plenty: $200 million in production costs, with another $125 million in advertising and publicity expenses.

On my rating scale of: See It, Rent It and Dead on Arrival. OZ: The Great and Powerful is definitely a See It. Oz is Great and Wonderful entertainment.

It rated PG and is 130 minutes in length.

Hope Springs

Ten Points on the movie: Hope Springs:

After thirty years of marriage, a middle-aged couple from Nebraska travels to New England for an intense, week-long counseling sessions to reignite the zest in their relationship. Steve Carell co-stars as the therapist.

It's good to see story starring baby boomer stars.

Meryl Streep shows why she's one of the great actresses of her generation. While Tommy Lee Jones proffers a solid performance, he is outshined a bit by Streep. Steve Carell is nearly perfect as their analyst.

The film exclusively focuses on Streep's and Jones's relationship and their interaction with their therapist.

It drags hopelessly through the middle portions. It would have been stronger with a stimulating subplot, maybe more involvement by their children – a son and a daughter.

The film has its amusing moments such as when the therapist asks the staid and conservative couple about their sexual fantasies and whether they engage in oral sex.

This is a low budget film, $30 million, (yes, that's low budget by Hollywood standards) which will mean that it won't have to do quite as well at the box office to be profitable.

Hope Springs get's a "C" for cast diversity. The cast is small and not a lot of opportunities to squeeze in many performers of color. But it manages to feature some black performers in bit parts such as the cab driver.

Hope Springs gets a Rent It. Intellectually stimulating and definitely the type of movie that is perfect for a wintry Saturday evening with a glass of wine and popcorn.

It's rated PG – 13 and is just under two hours in length.

Ten Points on Films Rating System:

See It – It's worth the time and expense of going to the movie theater.

Rent it – It has some entertainment value, but wait and see it at home.

Dead on Arrival – Not worth your time!

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