Matilda (2017)

The problem with most recent Adam Sandler movies is they try too hard to be original. Given Adam Sandler’s enormously prolific output as a filmmaker – he produces and stars in at least seven and as many as twenty-two movies every year – it’s no surprise that he has long since run out of concepts worth basing an entire feature-length film upon. Sandler could easily solve this if he deigned to make more sequels and remakes, but aside from the breathtaking Grown Ups 2, he has so far refused to follow this route. Until now.

Credit the budding relationship between Netflix and Happy Madison Productions (Sandler’s production company) for the new direction. Netflix has proven expertise in rebooting older media properties that all but demand narrative extension. And so we are the lucky audience that gets to experience Matilda (2017) in the privacy of our homes.

The remake of 1990s classic based on the book by Roald Dahl stars Sandler as the titular young genius with magical telekinetic abilities. Sandler also plays the film’s antagonist, the pathologically cruel Miss Trunchbull. This is Adam Sandler doing what he does best – cross dressing and playing multiple roles which gives him the chance to do a crazy voice and channel his inner rage into outer shouts and screams. And of course, inhabiting a role of a character who doesn’t fit into the school she is forced to attend is a subtle nod back to the best film Sandler has ever made: Billy Madison. Thus, Sandler breathes new life into a classic, spawning an entirely new classic.

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Matilda (Adam Sandler) and Miss Trunchbull (Adam Sandler) face off in Matilda (2017).

Though this movie is almost totally dominated from start to finish by Sandler’s bravura performance(s), it’s worth taking a moment to praise the talented supporting cast. Drew Barrymore shines as Miss Jennifer Honey. Forgive me if I noticed a spark of sexual chemistry between Miss Honey and Matilda in this version of the story.

Rob Schneider and David Spade are hilarious as Matilda’s gay married parents. All the jokes they make about sodomy and how funny it is for dudes to marry each other show that we are finally ready to laugh at a type of sexuality that was once universally denounced and scorned.

I won’t go so far as to say Matilda (2017) is a better film than its predecessor of twenty years past. It has bigger laughs, but a smaller heart. However, it is refreshing that Adam Sandler has finally made a movie worth watching again, even if the other eleven movies he has scheduled come out this year look like embarrassingly original misfires.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

Matilda (2017) is decidedly better than Just Go with It, How About It, Jack and Jill, That’s My Boy, Hotel Transylvania, Blended, Switched, Men, Women & Children, Pixels, Where My Dogs, The Ridiculous 6, The Do-Over, The Ding Dong Ditch, The King of Space, Minimart Gentlemen, Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, Sandy Wexler, Martin Farter, Behavioral Therapy, Help Me with My Homework, Club Siberia, Everything That’s Wrong, Married to My Mom, Busted My Toe, Went the Wrong Way, You Don’t Know Darren, Are We Done Now, Don’t Drink the Milk, Not Quite Heaven, You Have the Right to Remain Groovy, and The Biggest House. But it’s still no Billy Madison or The Wedding Singer.” – Bevin Reinen, Vox

“The kind of silly, hacky, schlocky comedy that Sandler makes takes a kind of bravado, a kick-me vulnerability that comes closer to the terrifying core of cinematic risk than much of the ‘serious’ acting that passes for good and self-revealing.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker

“Adam Sandler is back, baby, and he’s funnier than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“It’s better than Grown Ups and Grown Ups 2 but much worse than The Dude Upstairs, Shaken, How Far Down Can You Go, My Clock’s Broken and That’s Not All, We’re All Wearing Wigs Now, and The Lady and the Vamp.” – Shahrazad Kablan, Chicago Sun-Times

“What the fuck is wrong with Adam Sandler and Netflix why the fuck are doing this dear god” – Ida Rahayu, ScreenAnarchy

“Way better than the original, and the book as well.” – Pete Hammond, Deadline

Melonmeter® Score:

86% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

The Circle

The Circle is a haunting, disturbing film that will forever change the way you see Tom Hanks. On its surface, the movie follows in the footsteps of movies like The Social Network and Jobs, offering a stylistically slick take on the role of tech companies in our daily lives. But underneath all of that is something much darker. Every minute of The Circle pulses with the torment of sexual obsession, erotic torture, and the far limits of the human capacity for psychological and physical abuse. This movie makes Fifty Shades of Gray look like Disney’s Frozen.

The story begins with Mae Holland (Emma Watson), a young upwardly mobile professional recently graduated from Harvard, starting her dream job at the biggest Internet corporation in the world: The Circle. Mae quickly rises up the The Circle’s ranks and meets Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), the company’s CEO and cofounder.

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Tom Hanks as Eamon Bailey in The Circle (2017).

Eamon Bailey is praised endlessly in the media for his genius and commitment to philanthropy. As Eamon takes Mae under his wing and becomes her mentor, she feels roused and flattered by his attention. Being singled out by a tech visionary everyone adores makes Mae feel special and very horny.

Soon, Mae and Eamon are sleeping together (despite him being 33 years older than her). The sex is hot, wet, and athletic. Trust me, you’ve never seen Tom Hanks’ muscles glisten with sweat like this. The Circle spends a good 10 minutes depicting Eamon’s animalistic behavior in the bedroom. At one point, they’re fucking inside a gland of video screens streaming live video from The Circle’s users. It’s pretty wild.

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Tom Hanks as Eamon Bailey in The Circle (2017).

But the honeymoon of love between Mae and Eamon doesn’t last long. Mae becomes disturbed by Eamon’s demanding and aggressive sexual appetites. And it gives her the creeps whenever he delivers long monologues about his plans to achieve total information awareness using a system of surveillance cameras floating around everywhere in the world.

The turning point arrives when Mae visits Eamon’s house to have a nice brunch. A work-related conversation turns dark when Eamon becomes frustrated and aroused by Mae gently mocking one of his more outlandish ideas to build secret islands off the coast of Oregon. The scene ends with Eamon forcing Mae to drink a carton of orange juice while he watches. He tells her, “I’d like to watch you mow my lawn.” In the next breath, he says that her belt looks awful and she should buy a new one. He slips a $20 bill into her pocket. Then he takes down his pants, and openly masturbates in front of her. She tries to escape the room, but the door is locked.

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Tom Hanks as Eamon Bailey in The Circle (2017).

In short order, their relationship grows more toxic. Soon, Eamon won’t let Mae go to the bathroom by herself. Sometimes, he makes Mae go with him to the bathroom. Eamon calls her names, locks her in a closet, and cuts her with glass. In one scene, Eamon hits Mae so hard he leaves a bruise in the shape of his hand on her. Throughout these acts of harassment, Eamon repeatedly tells Mae that whenever in her life she hears the sound of her own breath, that’s just Eamon whispering to her.

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Tom Hanks as Eamon Bailey in The Circle (2017).

Mae tries to escape this abusive relationship over and over again. But Eamon uses every bit of his enormous power as a billionaire to prevent her from leaving. He has his bodyguards block the exits. When she does manage to escape they drag her back kicking and screaming. He threatens her with lawsuits, public shaming and a vicious campaign of character assassination.

When all else fails, and Mae still attempts to leave, Eamon breaks down crying and begs her to stay. He tells her he loves her and that he can’t live without her. He threatens to kill himself if she leaves. He chokes and his whole body quakes. In a series of gasped hyperventilations, he promises to change and treat her better. When she relents and hugs him, he promises to marry her. She stays.

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Tom Hanks as Eamon Bailey in The Circle (2017).

At the movie’s climax, Eamon’s plans for an enormous fleet of drones armed with surveillance cameras come to fruition. The surveillance drones come online and encircle the globe. Eamon laughs with maniacal joy, as Mae looks on in horror.

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Tom Hanks as Eamon Bailey in The Circle (2017).

Mae dares to speak up to say that the surveillance drone fleet is a bad idea, Eamon turns on her instantly and screams, “I’m going to snap your neck and kill your entire family slowly and painfully. I feel nothing for your life. You are garbage to me. Do you hear me? Garbage.” Then he grabs Mae by the arms and says “You’re going to get more bruises.” But she slips out of his grasp and runs away.

Eamon chases Mae across The Circle’s parking lot, but she gets in her car and locks the door just in time. Even as she drives away, she’s sure the drones are going to trace her location and his goons will come pick her up. But they don’t. She sleeps in her car in an abandoned field.

And then in the morning, Mae goes back. She finds that Eamon left his front door unlocked for her.

Needless to say, I will never again be able to see that charming manchild dancing on a big keyboard in FAO Schwarz when I look at Tom Hanks. Nor will I see the courageous Captain Phillips, or the heroic Captain Sully. I will see only Eamon. And I will shudder.

TL;DR – Do not go see The Circle if you are triggered by sexual violence, psychological harassment, or the sight of Tom Hanks’ entire penis onscreen for many dozens of frames.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“If you knew in advance that Tom Hanks was going to openly masturbate before your very eyes you may think, ‘Oh, well maybe I’m just okay with it. It feels good that he’s so open about it for this role.’ But I had no advance warning. No warning at all. Don’t make my same mistake.” – Ascenet Garza, indieWIRE

“The movie shatters the fantasies of sexual desire and sexual pleasure constructed within the novel on which it is based.” – Rafi Fathonifahri, The New Republic

“Ultimately, The Circle spends nearly three hours depicting a relationship that is bound to fail and doesn’t even seem all that fun while it’s occurring. I would never get into something crazy like that. Never.” – Phen Willet, NPR

“You’ve never seen Tom Hanks like this, and I’m not sure you’re gonna like it!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

The Circle is an absolutely revolting, absolutely necessary portrait of patriarchy.” – Nathaneal However, Guernica Magazine

“A monumentally frightening motion picture.” – Rick Wormeli, New York Post

Melonmeter® Score:

98% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

Goshdarned Cactus

Goshdarned Cactus is the new computer animated feature from DreamWorks (producers of Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Pandas and many other cartoon classics). But this one’s not just for the kiddies, there’s laughs for adults and everyone in between too. And that’s primarily due to Jonah Hill, who provides his hilarious voice to the titular Goshdarned Cactus.

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Jonah Hill lends his hilarious voice to portray Goshdarned Cactus

Out in the deserts of the American Southwest, most cacti live in peace and harmony with each other and with nature and it’s boring as hell! But not Goshdarned Cactus, he’s got a wisecrack for every situation. He dreams of something more than living out his days conserving water and pricking small animals that get too close for comfort.

When the rest of the cacti get tired of all his clever quips and jesting jibes, Goshdarned Cactus is exiled from his home and must go on an incredible journey that will change his life forever. Along the way, Goshdarned Cactus encounters a rogue group of succulents who are planning to stick up a cattle ride. If they can keep their prickly spines out of each other’s guts for long enough, they’re going to steal enough steer to earn the big bucks. So Goshdarned Cactus has to learn to be a cowboy – that’s pretty funny, right?

Goshdarned Cactus also features the voices of a talented supporting cast including Reese Witherspoon as a spunky prickly pear, Christopher Walken as an insane peyote spouting quixotic epigrams left and right, Kathy Griffin as a trash-talking heartleaf maderavine, Paul Reubens as a gasteria who always toots at the wrong moment, Chris Tucker as a street-smart Barbary Fig, and Ken Jeong as a nasty Chinese yam. In the end, Goshdarned Cactus and his new buddies must defeat a merciless cowboy (David Koechner) in a climactic face off that takes place in a spooky ghost town.

You’ll love Goshdarned Cactus for more than just the heaps of gut-busting laughs it provides. This one’s got heart too. I teared up several times when Goshdarned Cactus went a little too far with his japes and hurt someone’s feelings even though he didn’t mean to. By the end you’ll be saying to your honey: “Aw that Goshdarned Cactus, he so sweet deep down inside I wish I could take him home and put him in my garden!”

TL;DR Goshdarned Cactus succeeds on the strength Jonah Hill’s hilarious voice alone, plus a pleasing mix of humor, rollicking cowboy-style action, and colorful animation makes it winning spring entertainment.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Hands down the most visually striking of DreamWorks Animation’s releases, this lively CGI comedy is tailor-made for Jonah Hill.” – Sinyo Andreas, Houston Chronicle

“Walken’s half-mad aphorisms began to grate on my nerve. The plot’s nothing special. But all of its shopworn clichés are part of the joke in this ebullient botanical coming-of-age tale about an arrogant cactus destined for greatness.” Fern Avery, TIME Magazine

“Some of it just seems silly, which is fine for a silly family movie, of course, but there’s silly and then there’s silly silly. Goshdarned Cactus is silly silly. That’s just too much silly. Silly.” – Sigit Haryatno, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Jonah Hill is such a crack up!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“When the kids are happy and I get to watch a Jonah Hill cowboy comedy, that’s good enough for me.” – Pie Corbett, USA Today

Melonmeter® Score:

96% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

Slamma Jamma

A few weeks ago, a movie entitled Slamma Jamma came out in theaters across North America to little fanfare. I missed it at the time, and I’m assuming you missed it too. Yesterday I went to see Slamma Jamma. I have seen every other movie currently in general release, so I really had no other option.

Slamma Jamma is a very unique movie. None of the characters spoke a language I could understand. The main character Marcus says things like “Bamma hamma gramma damma” and his girlfriend Linda replies “Yamma wamma pamma!” I didn’t know know what to make of any of this.

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Marcus and Linda blamma amma samma.

The curiosities of Slamma Jamma don’t end with its incomprehensible dialogue. Nearly every scene takes place on a couch, which isn’t very exciting or dynamic to watch in my opinion. The most interesting parts tended to be when characters would run from one couch to another, yelling phrases such as “Wamma kamma” and “Famma quamma zamma” in each other’s faces.

Hamma bramma damma thamma flamma! Amma samma blamma. Ramma wamma kamma gamma hamma damma famma. Vamma, ramma blamma tramma glamma namma jamma. Bamma flamma dramma zamma Slamma Jamma, gamma hamma lamma. Plamma wramma cramma pramma: lamma.

TL;DR – Wramma camma namma samma tamma pramma, amma famma bamma stamma pramma famma thamma namma slamma damma camma whamma famma ramma namma hamma amma namma thamma hamma vamma.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Slamma Jamma is the bamma hamma of gamma quamma!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“Amma vamma thamma whamma pramma amma Slamma Jamma.” – Soren Barfle, Los Angeles Times

“Pramma, damma blamma dramma hamma samma vamma.” – Lori Lalama, AVClub

“Thamma famma hamma, mamma plamma amma pamma wamma damma lamma namma amma clamma unamma.” – Tunggul Pasirpule, Common Sense Media

Melonmeter® Score:

62% liquid & seed retention –  icon_fruit1-14-512 SUFFICIENTLY JUICY, YET INSCRUTABLE, A HONEYDEW

All the Pizza Men

The Pizzagate controversy that emerged during the 2016 United States presidential election is given the high-powered Hollywood treatment by director Clint Eastwood in All the Pizza Men. This rousing political drama stars Mark Wahlberg as alt-right firebrand Mike Cernovich, whose intrepid investigation into the leaked emails of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta leads to the discovery of a secret child sex trafficking ring involving some of the most prominent politicos in Washington D.C.

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Before seeing All the Pizza Men, I had never even heard of Pizzagate. As a full-time movie buff, I don’t have any leftover energy to follow the news every day. And frankly, I think both political parties are equally crazy, so I just stay out of it for the sake of my own sanity. But regardless of whether you’re a Democrat, Republican or Independent, I think all patriotic Americans can agree it’s wrong to run a pedophile ring out of the basement of a Washington, DC pizzeria. I salute Clint Eastwood for bringing this vitally important story to the big screen, as it really hasn’t received as much media attention as it deserves.

But enough about the politics. What about the movie itself? What exactly makes it so compelling and rich? Well, for starters, the cast is stellar, with Mark Wahlberg delivering an awards-worthy performance as Mike Cernovich, who doggedly pursues the truth at any cost even if it means provoking the mentally retarded Edgar Maddison Welch (Emile Hirsch) to violently investigate the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria with a loaded AR-15 rifle. Gina Gershon shines as Brittany Pettibone, the love interest of Cernovich and spunky alt right activist in her own right.

Of course, a movie like this wouldn’t work without a great villain and I’m happy to report James Rebhorn knocks it out of the park as the oleaginous political operative John Podesta, whose lust for innocent children knows no bounds. As Podesta, Rebhorn develops an elaborate system of pizza-related code words. For example, cheese pizza is a code word for child pornography because both phrases share the same initials. Eastwood wisely takes a cue from The Big Short and utilizes celebrities such as Scott Baio, Jon Voight, and Rob Schneider to explain this complex terminology in a series of brief cameo appearances.

I’m consistently astounded that at the age of 86 years old, Clint Eastwood continues to experiment and take risks as a filmmaker. To solve the problem of how to depict the faceless avatars of 4chan (which play a key role in bringing to Cernovich’s attention the frequent unsettling references to pizza in Podesta’s emails), Eastwood devised the ingenious idea to integrate cute animated characters in an otherwise live action film. These 4chan cartoon characters reminded me of the Minions from Despicable Me, though they have a far more anarchic, adult sense of humor.

The chuckles provided by the irreverent behavior of these 3D cartoon characters are sorely necessary to balance out a movie that primarily deals with the darkest subject matter imaginable: Hillary Clinton’s direct involvement in the sexual abuse of countless children. But don’t worry, the movie has a happy ending: Mark Wahlberg prevents Hillary Clinton from becoming president by sheer force of his indomitable will.

TL;DR – Powered by Clint Eastwood’s sure-handed direction and a gripping central performance from Mark Wahlberg, All the Pizza Men delivers a stirring and vivid dramatization of its real-life story.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“This movie takes out the trash which is exactly what the doctor ordered to help us heal and make America great again.” – Heywood Jay, National Enquirer

“Another home run for Clint Eastwood!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

All the President’s Men. Sully. Lone Survivor. American Sniper. Deepwater Horizon. Patriot’s Day. All the Pizza Men. Who says you can’t make a movie about ordinary people confronting problems of national importance with extraordinary courage? We can make these movies. And we make them all the time. Good for us.” – Don Vertex, Breitbart.com

“Is Trump likely to cancel the constitution, declare martial law, declare himself emperor to be succeeded by his children, nationalize the banks and media, call the National Guard to roll tanks into Harvard Yard, place all communists and other anti-American elements under house arrest, retire all government employees, replace the entire government with the Trump Organization, and begin actually rebuilding America and western civilization? No, but at least he’s not filthy pedophile, and this movie proves it!” – Adam Yoshida, Unqualified Reservations

“I’m concerned about the factual accuracy of much of the content in All the Pizza Men.” – Stephen Coyle, New York Times

“Nothing more or less than a living nightmare.” – Jesus H. Marrero, Deadspin

“An affront to Portuguese culture, as well as many other cultures around the world.” – Matthew Arguello, The Atlantic

Melonmeter® Score:

99% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

Unforgettable (2017)

The problem with most movies is I can’t remember a single thing about them within a week after I watch one. I’ve watched two movies every day for the past seven years and I remember the details of less than ten, tops. Luckily, the filmmakers behind Unforgettable have figured out how to make a movie you’re guaranteed to remember for the rest of your life.

The plot of Unforgettable is simple: a bitter divorcée becomes jealous of her ex-husband’s new fiancé and will stop at nothing to turn the couple’s romantic dreams into the ultimate nightmare. There’s nothing new about this story and if you’re like me, you’ve seen movies with more or less than the same plot a million times before.

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What makes Unforgettable unique is the techniques the filmmakers employ to ensure their movie is memorable. Whenever a character says an important line of dialogue, the actor breaks the fourth wall and turns to the camera to tell the audience to take note of the words just spoken. In this same vein, the most emotionally intense scenes are repeated two or three times in a row, thus imprinting their content deep in your brain tissues.

In an especially daring cinematic innovation, each act of Unforgettable ends with an on-screen quiz intended to test your knowledge of the movie’s plot, characters, settings, and incidental trivia. During these quizzes, theater ushers walk through the aisles handing out Scantron forms. Bubble these in with the No. 2 pencils provided. If you’re like me, just the act of filling out the Scantrons will aid you immeasurably in remembering this psychological thriller starring Katherine Heigl and Rosario Dawson.

TL;DR – Unforgettable may seem like a fairly generic suspense film at first blush, but the movie uses clever tricks that will have you remembering it for many decades to come.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Katherine Heigl is back, baby, and she’s better than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“Everyone must see Unforgettable. You should go to the movie theater right now to watch Unforgettable.” – Turner Barrowman, USA Today

“I know you’re not going to believe me when I tell you something like the plot of Unforgettable actually happened to me in real life.” – Phoebe Bottoms, The Hollywood Reporter

“Playing scenes two or three times in a row may seem like overkill, but you won’t be forgetting the scenes any time soon, will you? Point proven.” – Tapas Gohan, Deadline Hollywood Daily

“You should go to the movie theater right now to watch Unforgettable. Make viewing Unforgettable a priority in your life, and you will be set free.” – Thurman O’Herlihy, Seattle Times

“Rarely has a movie descended on multiplexes across America that felt more like an instructional video, or not quite an instructional video exactly, but rather a cinematic work seemingly intended to indoctrinate viewers.” – Nathaneal However, Guernica Magazine

“If Katherine Heigl is truly meant to lead us to the promised land, Unforgettable is the first sign of the transfiguration of space and time that is sure to come.” – Emerentia Krogmann, IGN Movies

“You should go to the movie theater right now to watch Unforgettable. Please leave the place where you are at present and make haste in seeing Unforgettable before it’s too late and the storm clouds bear down on us with terrifying darkness.” – Brother Fallopian, Unforgettable Protocols of Mother Heigl

Melonmeter® Score:

84% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

The Fate of the Furious Eight

The Fast and the Furious franchise has always adapted to the fashions of the time. When street racing was popular, it was about street racing. When Japan was “in,” Fast and the Furious went Tokyo Driftin’. And after Heath Ledger’s tragic demise made beautiful young actors dying before their time cool once again, Furious 7 incorporated the death of one of its lead actors into the series mythology.

With the eighth film, The Fate of the Furious Eight, the venerable franchise’s producers have clearly noted the success of such movies as The Ridiculous 6, The Magnificent Seven and The Hateful Eight. When Sandler, Denzel, and Quentin all seize on the same idea at the same time, you know it’s a hot enough that Fast and Furious is definitely going to take a ride.

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The Furious Seven before they recruit Hobson Duke (Shia LaBeouf) and become the Furious Eight.

The Fate of the Furious Eight may have upset some fans by ditching franchise mainstays like cars. This is a western, and if it fails it fails with horses. The Rock, Ludacris, Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Mark Wahlberg and Shia LaBeouf portray the Furious Eight, a group of cowboys on a mission to avenge the death of their old friend Brian O’Connor (played by the now deceased Paul Walker who appears only in digitally enhanced flashback).

After a series of adrenaline-fueled misadventures during which countless horses are spooked, the Furious Eight discover Brian’s murder was a plot by his sister Kelly O’Connor (Charlize Theron) to steal land from Brian’s Native American allies. The Furious Eight find themselves trapped with their backs against a wall so they do what they do best: go wild, drink whiskey, and pull out them guns. The result is a firefight that will leave you pissing your pants.

It’s great to see The Rock, Ludacris, Vin Diesel and the rest of the gang all back together again as one big family, only this time the family has gone West and they ain’t coming back. Plus, the addition of Mark Wahlberg and Shia LaBeouf to the franchise is a long time coming. With most franchises, by movie number 4 or 5 you’ve got to add in a little Wahlberg or a lot of LaBeouf to keep the action fresh and unpredictable. But Fast and Furious decided to wait until part 8 before adding both at the same time, a gamble that pays off big league. Wahlberg’s wild antics and Shia’s screaming fevers reinvigorate Fast and Furious movies like no one’s ever done before.

TL;DR The Fate of the Furious Eight inaugurates a new Western themed direction for the franchise, fueled by the same infectious cast chemistry and crazy over-the-top action but without the cars fans have come to expect.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“One word describes what’s made Fast and Furious more exciting than ever before: Shia.” – Walter Gropius, Vulture

The Fate of the Furious Eight provides us with a bracing allegory for the all out race war that afflicted the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century.” – Josef Albers, NPR

The Fate of the Furious Eight fails with horses.” – Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Variety

“Things were looking pretty bad for the Furious Eight until they get their horses back but then it’s riding time, baby!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“The haircut scene left me writhing on the floor screaming for more.” – Lyonel Feininger, New York Daily News

“After seven near perfect films, I must admit with heavy heart that Fast and Furious has finally gotten stale.” – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, USA Today

“As things build toward the long, bloody and by-the-numbers (if ably staged) showdown, it’s hard not to mourn for the film this could have been, considering the assemblage of talent.” – Paul Klee, Denver Post

Melonmeter® Score:

88% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

Smurfs: Lost Village

Before I commence a full consideration of the merits of Smurfs: Lost Village, I want to warn readers that this movie is not part of the continuity of the previous Smurfs films. It is a spin-off standalone addition to the Smurfs franchise. Sony has announced they plan to release movies in the primary Smurfs chronology (Smurfs, Smurfs 2, etc.) every two years with standalone spin-off movies scheduled for the off years. Smurfs: Lost Village is the first spin-off standalone Smurfs movie Sony has produced, and like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story you will enjoy it more if you’re not expecting it to continue the saga of the previous films in the series.

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Smurfs: Lost Village follows Clumsy Smurf (Dane Cook), Dorky Smurf (Demi Lovato), Chunky Smurf (Jack McBrayer), and Pesky Smurf (Julia Roberts) as they embark on a journey of discovery. They eventually encounter the Lost Village which is populated entirely by female Smurfs. The Lost Village provides a much-needed origin story for the Smurfette character who does not appear in Smurfs: Lost Village but is very important in the main saga so it’s good we learn more about her. The Lost Village setting also pays tribute to the original Belgian Smurf comics which were about an all female society of Smurfs ala the legend of the Amazons.

In the final minutes of Smurfs: Lost Village, Papa Smurf (Roger Moore) has to hand the mantle off, now that the world has ended. Though the absence of Neil Patrick Harris and Hank Azaria in Smurfs: Lost Village is deeply felt, I know they will be back in the main Smurfs saga so I didn’t freak out in the middle of movie. If you come prepared, you can avoid having an embarrassing tantrum unlike a lot of other kids at the movie theater I went to.

If the pretty decent quality of Smurfs: Lost Village is any guide to the future of Smurfs movies, I’ll be back for more Smurfs movies every year as long as Sony keeps making them.

TL;DR – Smurfs: Lost Village draws deep on Smurfs mythology while breaking new narrative and aesthetic ground — and suggesting a bright blockbuster future for the franchise.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“This is not a continuation of the previous Smurfs films and once I realized that I started to freak out in the middle of the movie.” – Rex Reed, New York Observer

“There’s no live action characters at all in Smurfs: Lost Village, which sort of makes it like the Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) of Smurfs movies.” – Bastien Sauvage, Premiere

“It’s a pure digital fantasy, with elegant and tactile animation, so it’s more true to the Smurf spirit, and should perform solidly at the box office.” – Owen Gleibermann, Entertainment Weekly

“We finally get to learn where Smurfette came from, which is like a dream come true for me, a human woman.” – Barbara VanDenburgh, Arizona Republic

Smurfs: Lost Village answered a lot of the questions I had at the end of Smurfs 2.” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“I freaked out in the middle of the movie because I realized there wasn’t going to be any Neil Patrick Harris in this one.” – Trim Richulds, Vox

“For the smurfs, by the smurfs, and of the smurfs.” – Dick Clot, Miami Herald

“Wait, is it Smurfs: The Lost Village or Smurfs: Lost Village? Or is it The Smurfs: Lost Village? Hold on, I think I figured it out. It’s The Smurfs: The Lost Village. ” – Giuseppe Garibaldi, The New Republic

Melonmeter® Score:

68% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

Older Dogs

Older Dogs is finally here, and I am thrilled to report this much anticipated sequel is even better than the original Old Dogs. Disney has devised a brilliant way to produce the sequel to Old Dogs that we all deserve even though the original leads (John Travolta and Robin Williams) are now dead: hire critically acclaimed auteur filmmaker Zach Braff to reboot the franchise with an all new cast. The result is one of the funniest and most heartwarming family movies of the year so far.

After giving up their careers to become full-time dads at the end of Old Dogs, Dan Rayburn (Alan Arkin, replacing Robin Williams) and Charlie Reed (Michael Caine, replacing John Travolta) find themselves in serious debt with no reliable source of income to pay it off. So when they reconnect with Terrence Jefferson (Morgan Freeman), their old jailbird buddy from the old days who just got out prison, the best friends decide to turn to a life of crime.  

going-in-style

These old dogs still got a few tricks up their old sleeves!

Dan, Charlie and Terrence must coerce their now grown children to help pull off a series of  daring heists that will yield them millions. “You’ve got help us old dogs out one last time, ok kids?” Dan asks his frightened daughter and son in one especially poignant moment.  Older Dogs is full of laughs and good times, but it’s the heartfelt relationships between the dogs and their families that really make this movie worth seeing.

The best part about Older Dogs is seeing legendary movie stars suit up again for some family-friendly fun. I love that no matter how much great actors age, they never lose their touch. Disney should be proud of their continuing effort to offer starring roles to some of the finest talents to ever grace the silver screen. Who says a movie can’t be great just because it’s about a few very old(er) dogs?

TL;DROlder Dogs is a fitting tribute to the lives and careers of John Travolta and Robin Williams.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

Older Dogs is witless, charmless, and creepy. Every moment of it made my skin crawl.” – Alison Willmore, BuzzFeed

“A worthy edition to the ‘old dog’ subgenre of caper comedies.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker

“The supporting cast of younger female love interests (Kelly Preston, Angie Harmon, Brooklyn Decker) seemed very uncomfortable being pawed at by the very over the hill stars of the movie.” – Ichro Faisyal, Los Angeles Times

Older Dogs is a triumphant return to form for director Zach Braff.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

“I don’t know if it was a remake, reboot, or sequel but whatever it was I loved it!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

Older Dogs is shit in my mouth.” – Nathaneal However, Guernica Magazine

“If it is possible for a movie to be more pointless and horrifying than Older Dogs, I’d really like to see it.” – Nathan Rabin, NPR

Melonmeter® Score:

71% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Ghost in the Shell is one of the most embarrassing misfires of the year so far. I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to set an entire movie inside the shell of a walnut, but that person should definitely be fired or demoted at the very least. Oh, and (spoiler alert) the big dumb twist is that the walnut is actually inside of a chestnut, which is inside of a peanut, and the peanut is actually inside of a pistachio nut. (It’s an all natural white pistachio nut, but who cares.) By the time Major (Mike Myers) and the other good guys escape to the real world through the opening in the pistachio nut, you’ll be yawning as much as I was, trust me.

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I’m especially disappointed with Ghost in the Shell because I was very excited for Mike Myers’ triumphant return to the big screen following a lengthy nine year absence. Though I agree with the internet commentators who say it was wrong to cast Mike Myers to play the young Japanese female lead role, I thought Myers’ unmistakable star power and charisma would win out in the end. Unfortunately, I had trouble suspending disbelief and found Myers’ attempt at a Japanese accent to be very offensive.

Certain elements of Ghost in the Shell are worth praising. The production design was inventive and the fight choreography held my interest. The movie clearly expresses a unique point of view and thematic vision. You get the sense that there’s an overarching metaphor at work beneath all the fast-paced action and dialogue: we are all nuts, or to put it another way, everything is nuts. But the emotional impact of that message is lost because not a single character is identifiably human enough for us to root for or connect with on a deeper level.

TL;DR – It was very hard to connect on emotional level with Major Motoko Kusanagi (Mike Myers) and her friends in their struggle to escape the shells of various nuts nested within one another.

What the rest of critics are saying:

“I’m truly flabbergasted by the ill conceived concept of this big budget sci-fi action movie.” – Dian Maulana Rizki II, Austin Chronicle

“I’m glad they didn’t try to simply replicate the successful elements of the original movie and manga on which [Ghost in the Shell] is based.” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“There’s casting actors against type, and then there’s casting Mike Myers in an iconic young Japanese female role.” – Nono Nono, indieWIRE

“Though resisting the urge to play it safe with a remake is laudable, setting the entire movie within nutshells strained my imaginative faculties too far.” – Walter Chaw, Film Freak Central

“I felt such shame and embarrassment for the entire cast and crew except for Myers. For him, I felt only white hot uncontrollable rage.” – Emily Yoshida, Vulture

“I have so many questions for Rupe Sanders, who apparently directed this very bad and stupid movie.” – Ichro Faisyal, Los Angeles Times

“I thought it was a great idea to bring Mike Myers back in a such a daring, unconventional role far outside his usual wheelhouse of broad, outlandish comedies. Little did I know Ghost in the Shell would turn out to be Myers’ funniest movie since Wayne’s World.” – Legs Lavish, New York Observer

Melonmeter® Score:

14% liquid & seed retention – watermelon-512  ALMOST NO JUICE OR SEEDS AT ALL, BARELY EVEN A CANTALOUPE, DON’T TRUST YOUR GROCER IF HE HANDS YOU THIS™