Entries in Sci-fi (80)

Thursday
Dec222016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story- review

 

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016)

Directed by Gareth Edwards

Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna

Running Time 134 Minutes, Rated PG-13

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

The best ones stay with you.  I came out of Roge One feeling good and feeling satisfied, but the scenes have stayed with me over the past few days.  Something drives this film to another level, one could say that this film has a certain- wait for it…..- force to it (lame).

It’s right there in the title: A Star Wars Story, and that it is.  A story that precedes to the point of exactly right before A New Hope.  A story that deepens and enriches the Star Wars lore and mythology but so much more importantly, this is a story that holds up on its own.  

On imdb the genre listed is sci-fi, but it should be listed as a war film first.  George Lucas didn’t mince in the New Hope that the Imperial Guard was the Nazi regime and Rogue One tells this from the rebel side of a war torn Europe ravaged by it’s evil and it was the Rebels that back in WW2 helped change the tide for victory and that same power is translated to the Star Wars universe.  There is power there in it’s message because this did happen, sure there weren’t lightsabers, but there was a sweeping hate that took advantage of people’s fear and masqueraded as the right way.    

 

If I ever wondered why the Death Star had such a crippling flaw as it does, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” gives you a worthy and plausible explanation.  Without getting into too much detail, Felicity Jones fiercely plays Jyn Erso the daughter of the scientist who created the Death Star, which is now just being completed and is ready to be unleashed on a less than unified Rebel Alliance.  Erso is rescued by a Rebel intelligence agent played by Diego Luna and his trusted by sassy say-whatever-is-on-it’s-mind’ droid K-2SO (voiced by “Firefly” actor Alan Tudyk).  Later the rag tag crew is joined by a blind warrior named Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen who is working on his ‘force’ skills, and I’m pretty sure his common house law scruffy nerf herder looking haired NRA card toting boyfriend Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen); rounded out by defected Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed).

Forest Whitaker has some great scenes as a guerilla warfare leader, and even better Darth Vader returns and his scenes do not disappoint.  Besides a ‘not worth it’ cameo by the “A New Hope” deceased Peter Cushing the rest of the lore doesn’t feel forced.  Kudos also to the ending, not the most Disney way to end it and that’s a good thing.  

Rogue One is a good thing.

Proverbs 17:11

 

Thursday
Dec152016

Arrival- review

 

“Arrival” (2016)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Starring Amy Adams,  Jeremy Renner,  Forest Whitaker

Running Time 116 Minutes, Rated PG-13

5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

Whomever decided to release this film directly after the election is a genius.

Speaking of genius, Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival” is just that.  With how increasingly difficult it is for a world to communicate with each other, even though technology has granted us so many opportunities for it, how cathartic it is for a story to come along that shows immense benefits reaped from such a noble endeavor that is communication.  And cathartic this film is, the heavy hurt of such treacherous communication from this recent election (from BOTH sides) lifted, if not temporarily, but in essence, show how it could be cured.  Film is so beautiful in the way it can do that... if so inclined.

Villenueve’s “Arrival” introduces first contact with extraterrestrial life the same way many of us came to find out about 9/11.  Silently frozen to our television screens watching something of this magnitude start to unfold.  That’s how Amy Adams’ Dr. Louise Banks, an expert linguist, finds out about it, as her students are missing from class glued to the television showing 12 skyscraper spacecrafts that have landed in 12 separate areas of the globe that have no known pattern as to why.  Dread and fear are most people's first reaction, and the longer they hover there with nothing happening only allows the human race to dread and fear.  It’s human instinct to fear what we don’t know because we’re worried that what we have will be taken away from us by the unknown, and so we often feel obliged to strike first as a protection mechanism.

  

Within days of the arrival Dr. Banks is met by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) who recruits her and her top linguistic skills to go to Montana where one of the ships are located and take on trying to figure out why the aliens are here and what their intentions are.  There, Dr. Banks pairs up with physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), and in an absolutely stunning shot of the ship's first introduction, get to work trying to talk to them.  The ‘them’ are two squid-like creatures that Ian names ‘heptapods’ due to their seven symmetrical tentacles.  Quickly, Dr. Banks figures that understanding won’t come from the audio sounds of their language for which we have no way to derive anything from, but rather, the written word which when put down becomes an actual object that can be deciphered.  

The intelligent sci-fi is rewarding, but it’s the human story that amazingly pulls it all together and to the next level.  The film opens with Dr. Banks rehashing her daughter’s life and eventual way to soon demise.  This storyline is more than just a subplot and way more than just a device.  For me it was a new way of telling a story that much like Dr. Banks I had to learn a new cinematic language as the story unfolded, and at times I felt the fear, the dread, but eventually an immense joy of what we as humans are capable of.  You have to be reminded of that sometimes, and “Arrival” not only reminds you but celebrates it.

I was once again reminded of just how good Amy Adams is.  There is such sorrow yet such hope evoked that her character's journey is a spectacular one, one that few actresses are able to accomplish.  

“Arrival” is also a spectacular journey, that very few films are able to accomplish.    

James 1:19

 

Wednesday
Dec142016

Doctor Strange- review

 

“Doctor Strange” (2016)

Directed by Scott Derrickson

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams

Running Time 115 Minutes, Rated PG-13

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

Seriously, what more can I say?  The Marvel film universe has a formula, and it works.  There is a mathematical algorithm, and I am a fan.  You’ve got to introduce a new character by giving a backstory, that involves the magnitude of weaving into 20 other films with similar characters that are all moving to one all inclusive event (Infinity Wars).  We’re never (probably) gonna feel the way we did when the first “Iron Man” came out as it literally changed the game; we have seen “Doctor Strange” before, in a manner, because it comes as another branch sprouted off by Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr.’s creation.

But rejoice, because the powers that be are incredibly smart about tweaking said formula as well as not afraid of getting weird with how much clout the Marvelverse has acquired.  “Doctor Strange” is as weird as the formula would allow, and that is high praise.

 

Oh Benedict Cumberbatch, you unquantifiable English channel dreamboat, you do not disappoint.  Here Cumberbatch goes American accent as Dr. Stephen Strange, the top of his field surgeon whose incredible talents are only outreached by his ego (I smell character arc).  An early PSA for using your phone and driving puts Strange into a horrible accident that cripples his hands and has him reaching the far ends of the earth for healing.  What he finds in Nepal is the “Ancient One”, either fantastic or insulting casting with Tilda Swinton (fantastic), who after convincing from her right hand man Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) lets Strange into her school of, wait for it, magicians.  Not the dove freezing Job type, but those who are trained in both martial arts and the arts of the outer dimension that comes with realizing existence on a different realm.

A realm that comes with benefits.  Where “Doctor Strange” pays off is the action sequences.  Yes, they are heavily inspired by “Inception”, and yes they are a blast.  Running up and down doing battle in an MC Escher acid trip in NYC is killer.  Later, Hong Kong, stole the show for me.  More importantly, they allow Dr. Strange to win his battles not with the martial arts training, but with his smarts.  Oh yeah, there’s a villain.  Mads Mikkelsen (“Hannibal”) is talented and does what he can but as per usual, discounting Netflix’s “Jessica Jones” Purple Man, Marvel bad guys are not that good.

Regardless, there is definitely some magic left in the Marvel tank, and “Doctor Strange” continues that feat.

1 John 4:1

 

Monday
Aug292016

Suicide Squad

 

“Suicide Squad” (2016)

Directed by David Ayer

Starring Will Smith,  Jared Leto,  Margot Robbie

Running Time 123 Minutes, Rated PG-13

2 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

2016.  Yeesh!

Big budget fare just can’t catch a break this year.  As the expensive muck just kept rolling in, I kept “Suicide Squad” as an anchor for hope that all would be redeemed.  Surely, David Ayer’s William Friedkin bullyish style of directing mixed with top tier talent, and even the reintroduction of one of America’s greatest literary characters with The Joker would deliver.  “Suicide Squad” does not deliver and is yet just another movie garbage bag thrown into the dumpster fire that is 2016.  And I am sorry for calling you surely.

Basically, the villains of the DC comic universe, which is getting trampled by Marvel’s regime, are ordered to unite and save the day for humanity.

A whole film filled with anti-hero’s sounds like a pretty damn good idea and with The Joker running amok, it sounds even better, and you know what, this is a fine picture if you can forget the the void of character development, the bipolar tonality that halts any sustained vibe, the gross cliche of faceless bad guy drones to slice and dice through, the action choreography that helps me rest better than my sleeping pills, and just a feeling that so much was left on the cutting room floor that would have made it more comprehensive but still wouldn’t have made it any easier to watch.

Will Smith as never-miss assassin Deadshot gets the most backstory and subsequently is the most engaging character.  I adore Margot Robbie, but there’s something a smidge off about her vexing Harley Quinn that at times works and at others doesn’t.  As far as Jared Leto’s much hyped method approach to The Joker, I was intrigued, I just wish there would have been more.  His character really doesn’t serve much story wise and to my knowledge, what I really like about the character is that he’s supposed to be the smartest person in the room, a psychopathic genius who has contingency plan after contingency plan, but not so much in “Suicide Squad”.  He’s basically just winging it.

“Suicide Squad” feels like it just winged it as well and it sadly shows.

Hebrews 9:22

 

Wednesday
Aug032016

Star Trek: Beyond- review

 

“Star Trek: Beyond” (2016)

Directed by Justin Lin

Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban

Running Time 122 Minutes, Rated PG-13

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

Sometimes I look at a rotten tomatoes score and wonder how in the world the majority of people can admit to liking a film, as is the case with the really awful reboot of “Ghostbusters” which is currently has a 73% favorable score, and then I remember “Star Trek: Into Darkness”.  I gave it a 3.5 out of 5 and 86%, and I will admit that I was wrong about that picture.  I was swept up in my love for all things Star Trek and was simply blinded with a phasers set on stun shot to the eyes with how truly lackluster that film is.  It’s makes me want to shout out “Khaaaaaaaaan!” with how disappointing that film is, if you know what I mean.

I have given the Trek follow-up “Star Trek: Beyond” the same 3.5 score, but in this case, I know deep down in my heart that that score and opinion will stand the test of time and altered timelines as well.

 

Kirk (Pine grasping the character better than ever), is having a quarter life/ measuring up to his dad crisis when a rescue mission becomes a setup for an attack destroying the Enterprise and marooning our cast on an enemy planet.  The crew, now disbanded, must come together against all odds and save the lives of millions.

I really appreciate making Dr. McCoy the true third character in the Trek trinity with Kirk and Spock rather than Uhura, played wonderfully by Zoe Saldana, but it’s McCoy/Bones that is the glue, and the one who keeps both of them true to themselves, a sounding board of cranky wisdom, and Urban has the salty charm in space spades.  

A lot was made about John Cho’s Sulu being noted as gay for this film in a tribute to George Takei from costar/co-writer Simon Pegg to original cast member George Takei.  I thought it was gentle yet decisive, and it worked all for the better in the Trek universe.  

“Fast and Furious” director Justin Lin doesn’t his all the marks, letting the villain played by Idris Elba be a little too distant and one-sided until the end, but he definitely injects some rollicking fun with his talents in the action genre that makes for second time the Trek films have magnificently used the Beastie Boys since the ‘09 reboot. 

More than anything this Star Trek felt like a Star Trek film again, something that J.J. Abrams wasn’t able to focus on and especially lost in Into the Darkness.  

Daniel 12:3

 

Wednesday
Aug032016

Ghostbusters- review

 

“Ghostbusters” (2016)

Directed by Paul Feig

Starring Melissa McCarthy,  Kristen Wiig,  Kate McKinnon

Running Time 116 Minutes, Rated PG-13

1.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

The new “Ghostbusters” doesn’t suck because it’s an all female cast.  I am very much in the camp that if you’re gonna take on the 1984 classic (one of my top 20 favorite films of all time, a classic) then why not shake it up with an awesome female cast.  Their female cast is awesome.  I love Melissa McCarthy, I strongly like Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones, and I’m absolutely smitten with Kate McKinnon who is not only one of the funniest women in the world but also people, place, and thing for that matter.  Love me some Kate McKinnon, but this female cast although awesome, isn’t awesome in 2016’s biggest ecto-turd of the year, Paul Feig’s disastrous “Ghostbusters”.

Here’s why it does suck.

- Feig and writers made both of their leads insanely boring.  It’s like they didn’t want to go too closely to the original blueprint with the alpha male that Bill Murray so cockily played (which both McCarthy and Wiig could knock out of the park) so they made them both Dan Aykroyd’s character, and that made the film so so boring.  

- The villain sucks.  I enjoy Neil Casey, he’s one hell of an improviser, but he’s just an imprint of the sucky villain in Ghostbusters 2 which is the biggest reason why that movie wasn’t good.  But still better than this film.

- Brutally unfunny.  These amazing females don’t come across so amazing, and I was wowed by that.  Chris Hemsworth who takes over for the Annie Potts secretary, is played as super handsome and super dumb, which is funny at first; however, his character is so dumb, and he plays it so broad that it’s a looney tunes cartoon. The first film had their characters rooted, even Rick Moranis’ nerdy accountant, Louis Tully, never played it so far as completely unbelievable, but Hemsworth’s character doesn’t only proverbially slip on the banana peel, he picks it up and uses as a phone, and then mistakes it for it’s long lost brother.   Fine, so Hemsworth isn’t a comedian, but you know who is, THE REST OF THE CAST!  Even McKinnon just comes off stilted and weird, the only one who comes off good here is Leslie Jones who actually gives the film some gravitas.  

 

- The Fall Out Boy/ Missy Elliott wannabe Ray Parker hit absolutely blows.  Fall Out Boy/ Missy Elliott… enough said.

- The special effects are cartoony and stupid.  They are more for spectacle than pushing story forward in any way.

- Most sad of all are the cameos.  They made me cry and throw up a little.  The only thing Feig pulled off with the film’s supernatural theme is how eerily unfunny he made the original icons be.  

Notice the credits where a huge costly dance number was dumped after being cut in a third act that proves your previous query to why it felt so choppy and broken.  Also, notice the credits as your cue to get the heck out of this suck fest as you might be paralyzed with disbelief with how bad this film is.  

Ephesians 6:12

 

Saturday
Jun112016

X-Men: Apocalypse: review

 

“X-Men: Apocalypse” (2016)

Directed by Bryan Singer

Starring James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender

Running Time 144 Minutes, Rated PG-13

2.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

X-Men films do not run well come the third entry.  Bryan Singer’s closure to the resetting of the X-Men franchise, “X-Men: Apocalypse” isn’t anywhere near as embarrassing as Brett Ratner’s “X-Men: The Last Stand”, but regardless, it doesn’t hold up to the other entries.  If “X-Men: Apocalypse” the movie had a mutant power it would be that of muddling something by overstuffing it with bland action and blander villains.

That villain is Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), a would-be god and the first mutant who has been lying dormant since when the Egyptians ruled.  Now back, Apocalypse grabs four mutants, makes them his four horsemen, who all share the superpower of lackluster acting and interest so that they can all clean the slate of normies and take over the world blah, blah, blah.  Here’s a real supervillain power; this film taints not only the filmography of the GREAT Oscar Isaac, but also makes his choices look dunderhead-ish and that’s quite the accomplishment.

 

Here’s what works- Magneto’s storyline.  The combination with a stellar actor such as Michael Fassbender and a truly heart wrenching character arc that gives you insight to why he chooses the path opposite of Xavier (James McAvoy).  Quicksilver’s (Even Peter) speed scene may not be as baller as his last, but it’s still a totally original stamp that is crazy fun to watch.  Wolverine’s cameo (not a spoiler- it’s in the friggen trailer) works, and that’s all I’ll say about that except that Hugh Jackman’s take will surely be missed.  The overall themes of what being afraid of the unknown in a people and the evil that that is capable of being brought out in people (Trump-a-dump-dump) plays strong and very real.

Here’s what doesn’t work.  The whole Apocalypse storyline is dull and used up.  Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique as an unintended rebel, and her whole misplayed love triangle with Magneto/Xavier/Beast never catches hold.  The character Storm has yet to be done right in the films.  The only character in this film that comes off lamer is Olivia Munn’s Psylocke- she is utterly useless in this film (and many others if we’re counting).  The action for the most part is dull.  Also, we’re getting the same argument between Magneto and Xavier that is highlighted with a flashback montage that only reinforces how the story has basically gone nowhere since the first film.  

What I’m not sure about working yet is the new additions, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops and Sophie Turner as Jean Grey do well enough but don’t have well enough to do.  I’m curious to see if the mutant torch being handed off to them will do well enough because this film didn’t.

Deuteronomy 31:6

 

Thursday
Apr212016

Hardcore Henry- review

“Hardcore Henry” (2016)

Directed by Ilya Naishuller

Starring Sharlto CopleyTim RothHaley Bennett

Running Time 96 Minutes, Rated R.

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

“Hardcore Henry” is a first person go-cam video game in film form.  The kind of video game that cruelly kills one mindless bad guy to the next cramming every shoot ‘em up trope you can think of.  At first watching “Hardcore Henry” is as little fun as when you used to have to watch your friend play the video game while you waited for your turn, but eventually I caught up to the films wicked breakneck speed and was able to appreciate it for the legitimate ‘experience film’ that it is.  

Henry comes to being told by his pretty scientist wife that he is now half cyborg and before his voice implant is activated (in true FPS form) his surroundings are ambushed by a Dutch bleached blonde Darth Vader type (Danila Kozlovsky) who wants an army of Henry super soldiers to you guessed it, rule the world.  Henry is separated from his girl and embarks on a very, very violent rescue mission, with sex, drugs, and decapitations galore.  We don’t really get to care for anyone because writer/director Ilya Naishuller never stops for a minute for character development, but the film still pulls through.

 

The action is sweet, yes sir, but the biggest reason why “Hardcore Henry” was saved for me was because of South Africa’s finest, Sharlto Copley (District 9, The “A” Team).  Copley’s acting is man on fire, and literally at one point.  Copley is Jimmy, Henry’s right hand man who helps out in many different forms and accents.  There is an excellent wacky number where Copley does a song and dance routine to “I Got You Under My Skin” manically switching back and forth with all his many of characters.  Worth the watch alone.  

“Hardcore Henry” may not evoke as much as Pauly Shore’s Hamlet, but it is harcore and for this film that’s enough to win the game.   

Psalm 11:5

Thursday
Apr212016

Midnight Special- review

 

“Midnight Special” (2016)

Directed by Jeff Nichols

Starring  Michael Shannon,  Joel Edgerton,  Kirsten Dunst

Running Time 112 Minutes, Rated PG-13

2 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

It’s these type of films that make me want to stop film reviewing.  Not be cause they’re so gosh-darn awful, no, because they ultimately make me feel stupid.  Jeff Nichols is an extremely smart and thoughtful filmmaker who is one of the rare ones who takes the time to challenge the viewer.  Watching his latest, “Midnight Special, a sci-fi heavy on the intrigue and light on the sci-fi, I feel as if this challenge has overmatched me.  I was blown away from both of Nichols’ previous efforts in “Take Shelter” and “Mud”, but in “Midnight Special” I was left more than a tad frustrated as I tried to wade through all the never-ending vagueness that for this viewer, built up to nothing rewarding.

A young boy named Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) is unique to say the least.  Alton wears goggles to keep bay powerful beams of light shooting from his eyes and he can also intercept radio transmissions.  His father Roy (Michael Shannon) has reclaimed him after having him raised in a cult like congregation called The Ranch where the boy is thought by some to be a messiah.  Roy is driven to bring his son a specific place at a specific time that Alton deciphered and that’s all that matters.  Roy has the help of his old hometown friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton) and eventually Alton’s mother Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) but is being hunted down by both zealots from The Ranch and every branch of the government assisted by a green NSA agent played by Adam Driver.

 

Question builds upon question producing curiousness but never evoking substance. When Alton’s powers are elicited it’s definitely neat and puzzle worthy but for what and for why.  I do appreciate a slow burn heady genre piece that is usually littered by morons but when the pieces are put together in a big visual finale I was nowhere closer to understanding why we were putting the pieces together in the first place.   The acting is the film’s saving grace.  Nichols veteran Michael Shannon is his consistently strong self portraying a father who knows his son is beyond him but is relentlessly committing to his parental duties.  Edgerton brings some well needed softness, Driver brings some even more needed flashes of awkward humor and Lieberher holds himself up very well for a thespian of his age.  

The acting isn’t enough for “Midnight Special” to bring out something special.

 

Monday
Dec282015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens- review

 

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015)

Directed by J.J. Abrams

Starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford

Running Time 135 Minutes, Rated 135 Minutes

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

And so we have it; let everyone rejoice, the force has been awakened and J.J. Abrams has pulled it off.  Like the original trilogy, this newest Star Wars is a film for everyone; not just the nerds and the fanboys and fangirls, but the nerds and the fanboys and fangirls that is each and every single one of us- right down to your 100 year old grandmother.   

I’m not gonna bother with plot synopsis, and I’m sure as heck not gonna give any spoilers away.  You don’t have to have prior knowledge to enjoy the 7th film in the series, but even for the people who’ve never seen it (the horror!), they still know of it and its components, so I’ll let you the viewer discover what happens in The Force Awakens with your own two eyes and/or lightsaber.    What I will tell you is what J.J. has so fantastically done is make you feel like you're watching a real Star Wars film and not that Phantom Menace sadness.  

 

The new cast dazzles; with John Boyega (“Attack the Block”) giving a hyperkinetic performance as Fin the ex-Stormtrooper who has found his soul, the great Oscar Isaac using his coolness for the good side of the force as Poe the best pilot in the fleet, and Adam Driver who gives a powerful performance as Darth Vader wannabe Kylo Ren.   But who really steals the show is Daisy Ridley, who becomes the film’s main protagonist, believe me a new star is born and thy name is Daisy.  Even new droid, BB8, who serves a major part in the story is a breakout character, something they tried with Jar Jar Binks but all that succeeded in was making us lean to the darkside.  The old cast is great as well.  Most veteran screen time goes to Harrison Ford wonderfully reprising his role as the Galaxy’s number one cool guy Hans Solo.    

The one knock on the film is that J.J. who wrote the screenplay with The Empire Strikes Back scribe/director Lawrence Kasdan is that that they hit a lot, and I mean a lot of the originals beats.  This can be compared to that and that can be compared to this from the originals to The Force Awakens.  But it doesn’t feel like a Gus Van Sant “Psycho” rehash, but more an homage to what works with enough tweaks to really take The Force Awakens to a great rollicking thrill ride.  

There’s adventure in the stars again and it feels so so good.

There’s “this” in the stars again and it feels so so good.

Psalm 83:10

 

Monday
Nov302015

Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 2 - review

 

"Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” (2015)

Directed by Francis Lawrence

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

Running Time 136 Minutes, Rated PG-13

2.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com


It’s not breaking news but they never should have split Mockingjay into two films.  I’m sure the studio disagrees as they got two films with $100 million opening weekends instead of just one, but I don’t review box office numbers, I review films and Part 2 ends not with a bang but a fizzle.

Too much slow burn from the Part 1 and too light on the action in Part 2 make for a disappointing end to the exhilarating first two films in the Hunger Games series.  I’d take Mockingjay 2 well over any of the rest of the YA garbage, but I’m on record that Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen is one of the most iconic female characters ever put on film, and she deserved a better finish.  

 

We pick back up with Katniss trying to bring Peeta back from his brainwashing handed out by President Snow and the Capitol.  Katniss knows that for the war to end she must kill Snow, and so she’s leads without knowing she’s leading all against the wishes of her rebellion President, Coin (Julianne Moore).  The capitol is creatively Hunger Games-esq booby-trapped up the ying-yang with the likes of boiling oil and zombie like creatures that are never really explained.  While it’s the political overtones that give Hunger Games it’s true strength, I will say I could have used a few more of those action-packed set pieces for Katniss to narrowly escape.  

The end is all too predictable, including loss, treachery, and love.  I’ll always remember the Hunger Games for being an exciting American “Battle Royale”, and the showcase that made Jennifer Lawrence the household name she is today, but if these four films were to be put in a last-film standing competition to the death of their own, Mockingjay Part 2 would be the first to perish.

“This” would be the first to perish.\

Jeremiah 29:11

 

Saturday
Oct242015

The Martian- review

 

“The Martian” (2015)

Directed by Ridley Scott

Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Running Time 144 Minutes, Rated PG-13

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com


“The Martian” actually delivers as an ‘event film’ that turns out to be a worthwhile event to attend.  Optimism is becoming a rare commodity in the Hollywood landscape, but “The Martian” is drenched in it.  That’s something this film’s director, Ridley Scott, doesn’t often partake in, but Scott, along with Drew Goddard’s script from Andy Weir’s upbeat bestseller, and a perfectly peppy Matt Damon, will bring a smile the size of the Milky Way to your face.  

Matt Damon is NASA astronaut Mark Watney, who gets left behind on a botched trip to Mars after his fellow space buddies accidentally presume him dead.  Stuck solo on the red planet, Mark has to learn how to survive for the next four years and devise a rescue mission in a station only set up for 30 days of survival.  Good thing Mark is the ship’s botanist giving him the know how of starting his own potato farm with his own excrement as fertilizer.  That sounds bad, but the true horror comes when he runs out of ketchup.

  

Scott and Goddard do a really splendid job of balancing the film’s ongoing cheeky humor with the tense Robinson Crusoe set piece danger at every turn, and while the script is good, Matt Damon is better.  He is very funny, often complaining in his video journals about how the only music left onboard was that of one of the other astronauts disco playlist (which is a brilliant move in itself, reinforcing the film’s sheer positivity), but when the dialogue doesn’t let him show much despair it’s those moments in between that display the weight of this man’s great survival.  

The supporting cast is just as good (Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Chiwetel Ejiofor) except for maybe Donald Glover (“Community”), who is trying way too hard to pull off quirky genius; instead, he just comes off as the final product of Troy and Abed after they both entered the teleporter from “The Fly”.  Also, I did do a very hard eye roll after one script misstep when Jeff Daniels head of NASA character delivers the obligatory dumb foreshadowing line, “...that’s, of course, if nothing goes wrong”, which is instantly the cue for the something-about-to-go-wrong-scene.

Small gripes for such a crowd pleaser.  “The Martian” is good times with good peoples involved.

“This” is good times with good peoples involved.

2 Corinthians 5:8

 

Tuesday
Aug252015

Fantastic Four- review

 

“Fantastic Four” (2015)

Directed by  Josh Trank

Starring Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan

Running Time 100 Minutes, Rated PG-13

1.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

The latest attempt to bring “Fantastic Four” to the big screen has resulted in a very bad movie, a ‘special’ very bad movie.  These are the kind of movies that instantly earn a spot on the “How Did This Get Made” podcast. Much has been made of this clustermuck; 20th Century Fox throwing shade at “Chronicle” director Josh Trank claiming he was erratic and indecisive resulting with him getting fired from helming the Bobba Fett Star Wars film.  Trank fired back on Twitter saying he had a ‘fantastic’ version of “Fantastic Four” a year ago.  Well, both Trank and Fox have four eggs on their face with this truly wasteful flick.  

 

“Fantastic Four” goes from its sedative inducing intro that takes half the film working on building a transporter to another world to taking a hard left with its bonkers final act that just screams reshoots (just check out Kate Mara’s terrible blonde wig).  Trank went for such a dark touch that it seems that this world has never seen a sunny day, almost co-existing in David Fincher’s “Seven” universe.  Simply put, “Fantastic Four” is on track to be the worst film of the year.

Ezekiel 37:9

 

Thursday
Jul232015

Jurassic World- review

 

“Jurassic World” (2015)

Directed by Colin Trevorrow

Starring  Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins

Running Time 124 Minutes, Rated PG-13

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Seeing Dinosaurs on screen is kind of a wonderful thing.  We’re told of these ancient giant killer creatures, and we were left but to wonder until Steven Spielberg released his exhilarating groundbreaking adventure film, “Jurassic Park”, way back in 1993, we didn’t have to wonder, we had but to take it in and be marveled.  Two limp sequels, including one from Spielberg himself, and one not dampered that marvel, but Colin Trevorrow, director best known for sci-fi indie “Safety Not Guaranteed”, has not only tapped into the original’s entertainment value but also paid high tribute to the original’s legendary director.    

 

“No one is impressed by dinosaurs anymore”, Bryce Dallas Howard’s business centric Claire explains.  This mind of thought is the reasoning for genetically creating the Indominus Rex which is a mix of T-Rex with some mystery elements that make more than the park can handle.  There to clean it up is the ever winning Chris Pratt as an ex-Navy officer who understands why animals do what they do and lets them do what they do.  In the mix of trouble are two kids (much like the original, among other tributes/entertaining plagiarisms).  Pratt is his usual charming self, but he could have been used more.  The film really sinks its teeth in the battle-axe dinosaur finale where we’re most reminded of the original’s strengths, but even though this film is worth the admission, be warned it is just a reminder of the original but that doesn’t stop it from reminding us of the power of those giant ancient killer creatures.    

but “this” doesn’t stop it from reminding us of the power of those giant ancient killer creatures.

Job 40:15   

 

Wednesday
Jun032015

Ex Machina- review

 

“Ex Machina” (2015)

Directed by Alex Garland

Starring  Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac

Running Time 108 Minutes, Rated R.

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

A.I. is gonna happen.  So why not give it some sex appeal?

Alex Garland has a way of using science fiction too not only stretch our intellect but stretch our fears as well. Garland, writer of the excellent “28 Days Later” as well as the superbly but underappreciated “Sunshine”, successfully takes a stab at directing with “Ex Machina”.  Garland always keeps the film’s ‘big ideas’ in front of its effects, and impressive effects at that.  I was guessing all along, as the tense little thriller played out.

I like that there’s very little fat in this film, everything has a point.  In the first 30 seconds of the film we get an intriguing set up as Caleb, played by the up and coming Domhnall Gleeson, is a coder who has won a week long trip to his genius billionaire boss Nathan’s secretive estate.  Nathan is played by the ever increasingly super cool Oscar Isaac and Isaac owns the screen here being able to do this role in his sleep.  Nathan has invited Caleb to perform a Turing Test, i.e. to figure out if his robot has artificial intelligence.  The robot Nathan is testing is the alluring Ava (Alicia Vikander) who among many things is very good at flirting with Caleb.

  

“Ex Machina” is an above average “Twilight Zone”- “Black Mirror” episode that is served well by it’s good writing and good performances.  I will say that the ending isn’t nearly as satisfying as the build up as I left the theater not getting whatever impact Garland was trying to put out.  Regardless, Garland knows how to craft the dark sci-fi thriller and it’s clear that he’s so much more intelligent than me.  But you don’t need A.I. to have figured that out.

But you don’t need A.I. to have figured “this” out.

Romans 12:2

 

Wednesday
Jun032015

Avengers: Age of Ultron- review

 

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)

Directed by Joss Whedon

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo

Running Time 141 Minutes, Rated PG-13

3 Mitch Heads out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com


It’s really not fair.  The first Avengers film was a hefty experiment where a big studio took a chance and said we’ll have all these (so many) different superheroes, give most of them a couple of their own films, and then bring it all together in one massive film to tie in all their previous storylines and then add on top of it.  We all know it now as the Marvel Universe, but that big studio along with director Joss Whedon pretty much pulled off that miracle and pulled it off superbly.  Avengers was critically very well received and also became the third highest grossing film of all time- not too shabby.  My point being that it’s not fair the amount of pressure and high expectations chained to this super sequel’s feet.  But those expectations are unavoidable, and with that, I thought that “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was pretty good, I guess.

 

Basically the lowdown is that The Avengers open the film by taking back Loki’s scepter from Hydra, and before Thor has to take it back to his planet, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner try to make A.I. from it.  Good news is that they succeed, but the bad news is that the A.I. becomes Ultron (voiced by James Spader) who comes to realize that the only way to help out mankind is to exterminate them.  Ultron enlists the help of the ‘enhanced’ Avenger hating siblings Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who is really, really, fast and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) who can do mind control.  Eventually, Avengers come together, Banner goes all Hulk and they almost unband, Ultron wants to make a eastern European city a meteor (the city flies, duh), and a huge battle ensues between good and evil at the end.  This is not your first Marvel rodeo so you get it.

There’s so much going on in this Universe that in Age of Ultron you can feel the convolutedness every time they are referencing something to the past and as they’re setting up something for the future.  More than a few times in this film I needed a Marvel Encyclopedia to keep up with it.  Wait, how many Infinity whatchyamacallit stones are there?  What is S.H.I.E.L.D up to now?  And beside Paul Bettany getting promoted to more than his voice, what and who the heck is Vision?  It can all be a bit maddening, but other times when you’re watching fantastic battle sequences, great CGI work, and awesomely hilarious superhero banter, you realize how simple and great the pleasures are that this film has to offer.  Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye finally gets some character depth and also gets some of the best lines; “The city is flying, we’re fighting robots- and I’ve got a bow and arrow.”  As he tries to enlist some into the Avengers.  With moments that good, I’m onboard till the end.  

With moments “this” good, I’m onboard till the end.

Ephesians 4:16

 

Sunday
Mar152015

Chappie- review

 

“Chappie” (2015)

Directed by Neill Blomkamp

Starring Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman

Running Time 120 Minutes, Rated R.

2.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

I’m not gonna put Neill Blomkamp in the same ballpark as M. Night Shyamalan just quite yet, but I am alarmed by the similarities.  Just like Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense”, Blomkamp bursted onto the scene from nowhere with the super cool and super timely “District 9”, creating a huge box office hit that would be eventually nominated for Best Picture.  Also like Shyamalan, Blomkamp has since regressed with his follow ups, making the very dissapointing “Elysium”, and now the more improved but still unsatisfying “Chappie”.  Where as Shyamalan’s films have become utter garbage, Blomkamp is far from that danger zone and just needs to get his plethora of fantastic ideas to hit the heart harder much like “District 9” was able to.   

In the near future, the world has gotten even more violent and just outright jerky. The South African government leads the technological charge against the violence and crime by enlisting the first robotic police force nicknamed “scouts” to serve and protect over Johannesburg.  Responsible for creating the scouts is developer Deon Wilson (played by Dev Patel, whom I’ve never been that impressed by).  Deon’s real dream is to create artificial intelligence so that his police bots can think for themselves in those on the spot tough job situations.  When Deon cracks the code, he brings this to his boss, played by the criminally underused Sigourney Weaver, she turns down the idea, he says screw it and takes one of the dysfunctional scouts anyways but never makes it home because he gets hijacked himself by some street thugs who need the robot for a big heist.  

 

Two of the thugs are played by the South African rave rap duo ‘Die Antwood’ who consist of the ex-married performers Ninja and Yo-Landi.  The two are billed the same as their rap names and basically just play heightened versions of themselves.  They are not actors, but they hold their own and more importantly its hard to take your eyes off them when they’re on screen, which is an impressive feat with seamless and impeccable special effects on display.  When Deon activates the scout of which Yolandi names Chappie (voiced by Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley). Blomkamp tries to set up the dynamic that Deon is the creator/god figure and that Ninja and Yolandi are the mother and father who are raising Chappie under their faults and misgivings. This doesn’t have the emotional effect wanted especially with Deon’s creator role.   

The third act boils into plenty of gruesome action lead by Deon’s jealous and zealous co-worker played by Hugh Jackman and by Jackman’s mullet.  Blomkamp never really has us emotionally invested into Johnny Five, sorry, I mean Robocop, sorry, I mean Chappie and the supporting characters who are looking for redemption as much as needed.                     

characters who are looking for “this” as much as needed.    

Genesis 1:27

 

 

Monday
Feb092015

Jupiter Ascending- review

 

“Jupiter Ascending” (2015)

Directed by Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

Starring Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Eddie Redmayne

Running Time 127 Minutes, Rated PG-13

2 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

You’ve heard of those famous acting roles in movies that were offered to other actors first but were turned down.  With “Matrix” Sean Connery was first offered to play Morpheus but turned it down, and it eventually went to Lawrence Fishburne. Will Smith turned down the role of Neo and that part eventually went to Keanu Reeves.  That’s enough to make you go “whoa”.  It’s hard for us, the viewer, to understand how someone could say no to something that is so universally considered one of the more influential films of all time, but just as John Candy told Aykroyd and Ramis that he didn’t see “Ghostbusters” working out as he turned down Rick Moranis’ role, Will Smith admitted that he simply didn’t get what the Wachowski’s were going for after he read the script so he turned it down.  

I gotta believe that the agents of Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, and Eddie Redmayne told the same story to their clients warning them not to miss out on the next “Matrix” simply because they couldn’t understand a lick of this bat crap crazy script.  And bat crap crazy “Jupiter Ascending” is.  The Wachowski’s can’t help piling on more and more toppings to their gigantic party sub of a story making for a bloated bonkersfest of grand proportions.  I appreciate their habit of trying to shoot for the stars and beyond, but the way they cram up the screen with superfluous backstory and unneeded additional characters is like how a loved one packs the rented U Haul truck to the gill for a day trip to the beach.

 

Jupiter Jones (played by Mila Kunis with a tranquilizer dart stuck in her neck) is the daughter of Russian parents whose father was murdered trying to protect his telescope.  Now living in Chicago, cleaning toilets, and going to bed every night whispering to her pillow that she hates her life, Jupiter will so and is a major player in the universe’s real estate game.  Turns out, she’s the reincarnation of the dead mother of the wealthy planet royal family Abrasax.  Jupiter’s rise to the throne is very much not wanted by the trio of lecherous Abrasax siblings led by the eldest Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne) who has among other things- some serious mother issues. To keep Balem and fam’ able to live for millennials, they have to ‘harvest’ the unsuspecting populations of worlds who have outsourced their means, and Earth is next on the list.  It’s up to a mercenary albino-werewolf named Caine Wise (Channing Tatum doing his best not to look embarrassed by his pointy ears) to save Jupiter and the rest of us

Much like Oscar favorite Julianne Moore who is also slumming it in this weeks other fiasco “The Seventh Son”, Eddie Redmayne is doing everything he can to blow his shot at the little gold statue as he his raspy diaphragm-less performance is Razzie bound.  Tatum and Kunis do their best to roll with the punches with little success, and there’s no denying that the Wachowski’s have put plenty into the special effects and the world around it, but there’s also no denying that “Jupiter Ascending” is yet another example of the once powerful directing duo’s descending career path.    

there’s also no denying that “This” is yet another example of the once powerful directing duo’s descending career path.

Esther 1:11

 

Saturday
Dec202014

Under the Skin- review

 

“Under the Skin” (2014)

Directed by Jonathan Glazer

Starring Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy McWilliams

Running Time 108 Minutes, Rated R.

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com


“Under the Skin” is an arthouse film that doesn’t have an overly hard meaning behind it but indulges in enough vagueness to allow you to fill in the holes to a very mysterious story for yourself.  Scarlett Johansson plays an alien who scours the coast of Scotland to prey on young single men with her sexuality that will soon bring them to their demise.  

Johansson is impressive turning from blank expression to flirtatious temptress.  More impressive is that the young and very famous actress Johansson had to get many of her scenes shot via hidden cameras in a van that she drove around in.  She improvised as she picked up real unsuspecting non actors that were only told it was a film after their scenes were shot.

Director Jonathan Glazer starts the film off with a very Kubrickian opening and throughout it may feel as if it has been paused, holding onto shots for long periods of time, but worry not there are no technical difficulties.  “Under the Skin” surely isn’t for everyone, if not for most, but the age old story of self discovery is definitely not given the same-old, same-old treatment here and I applaud that.

1 Corinthian 7:1

 

Sunday
Dec072014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 - review

 

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1" (2014)

Directed by Francis Lawrence

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

Running Time 123 Minutes, Rated PG-13

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Why stretch out the third and final Hunger Games novel into two movies when that book is not much longer than the previous two?  Because stretching out to two movies stretches out your wallet two times besides just one.  It’s hard to come away from “Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1” and not be irked a little bit by the obvious money grab, but then again, it’s hard for me to argue that the product wasn’t worth it’s sell.  I felt its bloatedness, but at the same time I also felt the real heart and soul that makes this YA novel so different from its immature competition.  Mockingjay- Part 1 is definitely my least favorite of the three, but I’m incredibly intrigued and looking forward to Part 2.

 

After the heroic Katniss destroyed the games and was rescued by the rebel forces in District 13,  traumatized by the events, and royally pissed off that sweet little Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) wasn’t brought back with her, Katniss is a hard sell to be back full and center as the face of the revolution.  After she sees her District 12 destroyed, she’s pulled back in and agrees to be used in propaganda videos, or ‘propos’ as they call them.  At first she’s like Rocky poorly reading a cue card for his first commercial, but when they get her on the scene her righteous anger spews out, and we’re revitalized with not only how much she means to the fight and cause but just how much the talented Jennifer Lawrence is at bringing to Katniss to such fully realized life.  

The action is light, and overall Part 1 isn’t as compelling with it’s Cold War propos strategy.  The heat inches hotter as the film goes on so that in Part 2 it’ll beautifully boil over and for that you can count me in.  

2 Kings 18:7