Tomb Raider

This reboot of the classic video game is an enjoyable one, but not as great as I would have hoped it would be. This movie has excitement and action but is missing many of the puzzles and mental challenges that you think of from a Tomb Raider movie. Yes, there are some of those at the end, but for me that was a bit far down the road. The movie offers a really good start for a long stream of movies, but this one has to be successful first, and that’s not a given.

This movie gets a solid 3.5 Icees as I really enjoyed watching it, but I can’t help compare it to the movies staring Angelina Jolie, which I am a huge fan of.  The best way to describe Alicia Vikander’s Lara Croft would be to say that this is a true origin movie, whereas Angelina’s Lara was already developed. What do I mean by that?  Simply, in this movie, Lara Croft doesn’t have the skills, the experiences, and the confidence that was in Angelina’s version of a Lara Croft already established as a tomb raider. Ironically, Alicia (29) is older than Angelina was (25) when playing this character, although Alicia looks much younger and I am guessing she is portraying a Lara Croft that is around 20-21.

As I mentioned above, this is a true origin story. We see the birth of the Tomb Raider in that we see glimpses of the skills that will become second nature down the road.  We see the intelligence, but not the confidence that will come with time.  I know the producers were hoping to kick-start a franchise but based on the critic’s comments (much harsher than mine) I don’t know if this will pick up the steam in order to become a true franchise.  That would be a shame as this origin story sets up Alicia for a promising future as Lara Croft, It will just depend on how many people actually go and watch the movie.  The writers certainly set up the franchise with several references to what could be a follow-on mission.

I thought that the version played by Angelina (again, huge fan) was campy, as a video game movie would be expected to be.  This movie is more gritty, which is one of the things that the professional critics hate about it.  No “fun”. No “comedic remarks”.  That is something that the writers should have done a better job of.  Even with that being said, if you want to watch a movie that is a bit more grounded in reality (such as can be from a video game movie), this one would fit the bill quite well.

No scene during or after the credits.


A Wrinkle In Time

This very odd movie only manages 2 Icees out of 5.  Perhaps this is a left-brain/right-brain thing, but if you’re not an overly creative person I just don’t know how you’re really going to get a lot more than just “eh” out of this movie.  For the rest of us, this movie should have been ironed out before it was released (get it?).

Now I will say that as with all movies based on books, I did not read the book, so my review is based solely on the movie itself.  Perhaps that’s why I just didn’t get many things of this movie.  For example, who refers to their brother as “Charles Wallace”?  Charles, Chuck, Charley… those I get.  Charles Wallace on the other hand makes no sense whatsoever.

It was kind of obvious that this came from a book because it seems that the director wanted you to fill in the gaps (and there were many) yourself.  However, for those of us that did not read the book, this movie was almost impossible to make any sense of.  Again, maybe it’s that left/right brain thing but the acceptance of strange people walking into your home, or just walking into what appears to be an abandoned house… none of that makes any sense.

I have a friend who absolutely loved this movie, and I’m not really sure why (even though she tried to explain it to me).  Reading on it is obvious that most people (critics and audience) disliked the movie horribly and I won’t go that far.  Visually, there was some very exquisite scenes and some of the outfits were beautiful.  Reese Witherspoon gave the best performance of all of the actors (and that’s not saying much in this film) with Deric McCabe (Charles Wallace) doing a much better job than actors his age normally do.  Otherwise the acting was either “odd”, over the top or just plain dull.

I’d recommend waiting until this comes out on Redbox and only renting it if you’re the creative left-brain type.  The rest of us… well, just let this one pass.

No scenes during or after the credits.


Death Wish

This interestingly timed movie gets 3 Icees out of 5.  The idea to remake the 1974 classic Charles Bronson movie was one thing.  Yeah, I could see someone saying that with franchises like The Expendables out there, this remake just might work.  But now?  With all the urban/suburban gun violence going around. This is when you decide to put this out?  Actually, this was scheduled to come out last year right after the Las Vegas shooting but it was decided to push it back a few months (go figure).  Well, I don’t take any of that kind of stuff into account when I watch or review movies, so with that in mind, here we go.

I honestly don’t remember the original when it came out. I mean c’mon, I was 9 years old.  I remember watching it sometime later but one thing I didn’t remember was that there were FIVE movies in the franchise. Five!  I don’t think we have to worry about that with this version.

Don’t get me wrong, the movie is decent enough for a watching, although I would recommend waiting until it comes out on Redbox or Vudu and renting it.  I see that this is one of those movies where the professional critics on RottenTomatoes hate it (15%) but the audience loves it (85%). I fall somewhere inbetween.  I mean, I enjoyed it, but it’s not something that I just can’t wait to own when it comes out on Blu-Ray.

Bruce Willis doesn’t play his normal macho scary self.  He plays a doctor that is dealing with a loss.  The best way I can describe his performance is genuine. He becomes tougher, but still not Die Hard tough.  I actually think he does a good job as a surgeon turned vigilante. The others around him are serviceable in their roles (including Dean Norris in a sterotypical detective role) but nobody really stands out.  This movie is 100% about Bruce.

The movie is full of violence (duh!) and some of it, especially one scene, is really graphic.  Combine that with the language and it more than earns its R-rating. If you enjoy these types of movies, I think you’ll enjoy this one, but if you’re tired of hearing about people arming themselves for defense (or offense) then you might want to just skip on by.

There are no scenes during or after the credits.


Game Night

This surprisingly funny movie gets 3.5 Icees out of 5.  When I saw that this movie was Rated R for language, sexual references and some violence I was worried that it would be overly vulgar (like Bridesmaids or The Hangover).  I just don’t find those types of movies funny.  I’m glad I went ahead and tried it out because it was really funny without that vulgarity.  In fact, I think the studio should have argued that this was really PG-13 and not R, or removed a couple of F-words to get down to a PG-13.  But, they didn’t, so there you go.

The movie isn’t the best comedy you’ll ever see, but it is the best I’ve seen in a LONG time. It is loaded with several moments where the audience (myself included) literally laughed out loud.  Isn’t that what a comedy is supposed to do?

It’s not perfect, as there is one character (Gary, played creepily by Jesse Plemons) that is just too weird, but otherwise the characters are well done.  Jason Bateman is someone who for the most part I’ve enjoyed watching over the years. It’s not often that a child star goes on to do good work after puberty, but he has pulled it off. Rachel McAdams is someone who I’ve only watched a few of her projects (since I don’t watch romantic movies like The Notebook) but I really think she has a knack for comedy and could be really successful at it.  Billy Magnussen is hilarious as the group’s less intelligent member. The other actors did a good job as well in supporting roles.

The basic premise of the movie (gleened from trailers so it’s not a spoiler) is that on a game night one of the members plans a fake kidnapping game for the others to solve, only for it to actually happen.  The movie has some mini plots within it (to detail them would be spoilers) which is nice because sometimes you need a break from the main plot.  These mini plots aren’t too distracting, but fit in nicely within the confines of the main plot. There’s even an unexpected twist or two!

So if you’re looking for a good laugh or a break after seeing Black Panther twice, this movie fits the bill.

There is a scene just as the credits start and another one at the end of the credits.


Black Panther, The

This exceptional movie gets 4.5 Icees.  The only things that stop this movie from getting a perfect 5 Icees is that there is almost too much dialog and it has too much of a political statement.  I go to the movies to be entertained, not politicized.

Now with that said, this movie was awesome!  The action, although less than a normal Marvel movie, was great. The wardrobe designs were fantastic. The cinematography was beautiful. The acting was superb.  With the money that this movie is guaranteed to make, there is no doubt there will be a sequel and I for one am looking forward to it already.

Chadwick Bossman plays the regal new king of Wakanda quite well.  On a side note, you don’t have to have seen all the previous Marvel movies to watch this one as it tells you all you need to know if you listen closely to the dialog, especially at the beginning of the film when they explain Wakanda and vibranium. Okay, now back to the actors. Michael B. Jordan plays an exceptional villain with a decent backstory of his own.  When you listen to him you truly believe that he feels strongly about what he is fighting for. Forrest Whitaker does his normal excellent job as a wise shaman (I guess that is what he is). Lupita Nyong’o is great as is Danai Gurira as a General you don’t want to mess with.  Did I mention this movie has a great cast?  I didn’t even get around to Martin Freeman who continues his role from Captain America: Civil War as a CIA agent. Throw in some Andy Serkis and you have a great group of actors who showed up to make a great movie.

Not only was the movie good itself, but there is a social aspect that must be recognized. This is the first superhero blockbuster to star an African-American actor (and majority of cast) and the first one directed by an African-American as well.  Just as Wonder Woman showed great things that women can do, hopefully Black Panther will be recognized as a shining example of what African-Americans can do.  Wouldn’t it be nice if it didn’t take this long for these types of movies to be made?  Well, the important thing is that they are being done now and hopefully more so in the future.

As I mentioned before, be sure you listen to the narrative at the beginning of the film because it truly sets up the Wakandan nation and explains its technical superiority.  If you like Marvel movies and I believe that even if you don’t… you will enjoy this movie.

There is a scene partway during the credits and one after the credits are done.


15:17 To Paris, The

As sad as it is to type this, I could only manage to give this movie 2 Icees (out of 5).  I really wanted this movie to be good.  After all, it stars the actual people that performed the heroic act!  In addition, the director (Clint Eastwood) assembled many of the passengers from that trip for this movie (except the terrorist, of course).

So when I was getting ready to watch this movie, I only knew one of the heroes, from Dancing With The Stars. Although I was looking forward to this movie, I was concerned that these heroes would not be good actors.  Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case.  Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t winning an Oscar anytime soon, but they were serviceable enough as actors to not bring the movie down.

So what did bring the movie down?  Two things.  First, this exciting event in their lives was the only thing in their lives (and the movie) that was interesting at all.  As the movie showed the trio as kids and then young adults they tried to drive interest by bringing in things like ADD, Christianity, successes and failures it utterly failed as none of that was interesting at all.  Least interesting was their trip through Europe until the events of that fateful day. The second thing? Those child actors were very, very, very bad. Not even close to being decent actors. Their acting was so bad it took away from the story they were trying to tell, which may have been a good thing since it was boring.

The bright spot of the movie? The events on the train. The trio and others on the train say that it was re-created perfectly. It is exciting and dangerous and very well-done.  Unfortunately, the rest of the movie couldn’t live up to it.

There is a scene partway into the credits but no other scenes.


Maze Runner: The Death Cure

This finale to the trilogy comes in at 3.5 Icees.  The first movie was really good, the second seemed to go a little off and this one has some really good moments, but some really corny ones as well.

First, the good. The continuity of the story was great. It flowed well from the second movie to this one, although you had to listen to understand that 6 months had passed. The acting, especially that of Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Newt) was improved.  Even the lead (Dylan O’Brien) was better this time around. The action was pretty good as was most of the dialog.  I also like how they humanized the WCKD leader (played by Patricia Clarkson) and Teresa (Kaya Scodelaro) to show that they did these things to the kids to try to save humanity, and that they actually do have souls.

Now the bad.  Some of the cornyness (is that a word?) was just too much, especially one particular death. Also, remember that “soul” part I just mentioned?  Well, the character of Janson (Aiden Gillen) was one of those things that was just too over the top.  His portrayal was just stupid in some parts (to explain more would introduce spoilers and I don’t do that).  Finally, we are hit over the head with the political narrative (rich people bad, poor people good) and that was just a bit too much for my taste.

This was a good (not great) finish to the Maze Runner series.  If you loved the first and second, you’ll be happy enough with the finale, but know that it is 2hr, 20min long.

No scenes during or after the credits.


Den Of Thieves

Although massive gunfights abound, this movie can only manage 3 Icees.  This heist movie has many redeeming qualities.  Action, twists of the plot and dramatic characters.  Unfortunately, there is too much unbelievability for this to get any higher than 3 Icees. At 2hrs, 20min long, they could have done more with it.

Gerard Butler can play a rough guy all day long.  He also plays strung-out really well too.  However, as the leader of the major crimes division he is too unbelievable as someone who breaks the law (kidnapping suspects and other things I could tell you but it would be spoiler-filled).  I thought the most interesting character was played by Pablo Schreiber as the leader of the thieves. He plays cold well, but also with a sense of honor about him. They have no problem shooting at cops, but will not kill civilians despite the numerous opportunities.

If you can put away the fact that none of this is even close to being realistic, this movie is actually pretty good.  The gunfights are some of the best I’ve seen in a non-military movie. The twists, especially one big unexpected one, are good.

There is a lot of profanity and violence, but if that doesn’t bother you, this would be a decent rental sometime.

No scenes during or after the credits.


Proud Mary

This movie that had so much potential comes in at a disappointing 3 Icees.  I have like Taraji P. Henson since she was on Person of Interest.  I never watched Empire as nightime soap operas just aren’t my thing.  She was exceptional in Hidden Figures and so I looking forward to seeing her in the lead of an action movie.  Unfortunately, the writer(s) of this movie didn’t do her any favors.

The plot is straightforward, with no surprising twists or turn. The dialog is bland, but Taraji pulls it off well, as does Billy Brown.  The young actor (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) however definitely needs more acting lessons before he ventures out too much farther. His lines often were delivered flat and without any emotion to them.  Actually, this whole movie lacked emotion.  There was no character development to speak of.

So with all of that, how did it get “up” to 3 Icees?  Well, the acting of Taraji was a big factor as were the action scenes, especially the final.  There just wasn’t enough action to make it work.  I still think she can pull off the lead of an action franchise, but this one won’t be it.  This one was just… a nice movie… a nice way to kill a couple of hours… after it comes out on Redbox.

There is a scene as the credits start but nothing after that.


Molly’s Game

This exceptional movie gets 4.5 Icees and came really close to getting the full 5.  In fact, I can’t really even argue why it doesn’t, other than to say that there is just something in me that can’t quite go that extra half an Icee.

Jessica Chastain gives yet another stellar performance as a strong female lead, something she has done before in both Miss Sloane and Zero Dark Thirty.  I won’t say she is in Meryl Streep territory, but she’s on the border looking in.  Also, as those that watched Miss Sloane know, this actress can deliver the lines, and she does so here with the same intensity that you have come to expect with her. In this movie, which is based on a book and true story, she plays Molly Bloom, a former world-class skier turned poker maven. She displays her strength and moral character throughout the film.  Since the book was written by the main character, it seems a little over the top, but that may be how it went down.  We will never know.
It was nice to watch Idris Elba in a movie where you get to see him act. Not as some type of hero (Thor and Dark Tower) or someone with a bunch of makeup on (Star Trek), but as an attorney where his dialog in the thing.  He does a fantastic job with this.
The storytelling in the movie was good as well. At first I didn’t think I would like the method chosen, but after a while it just flowed really well and didn’t bother me at all. The movie is done in such a way that you don’t realize that the movie is 2hrs, 20min long until your bladder tells you that it’s time to take a break, and even then you don’t want to because you’re afraid you’ll miss something.
If you are like me and normally watch superhero or action flicks, this is a nice break from that. The story is good and the acting is fantastic, but one word of warning. This is a movie you have to watch and listen to attentively. You can’t be passive about listening or else you will miss something.  You know, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
If you want a good movie, this is one I definitely recommend.  No scenes during or after the credits.

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