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Movie Review Monday

Keeping Up with the Joneses (2016) - The tranquil life of a mild mannered suburban couple is upended when a charming and well-traveled couple moves into their cul-de-sac. Zach Galifianaki, Isla Fisher, Gal Gadot, and Jon Hamm star in this action-comedy. And the entire quartet has a natural chemistry and comedic flare that makes them fun to watch. However, the film feels a bit off balance with a somewhat slow first half where the laughs are sparse and a frenetic second half where the story becomes quite a bit more humorous and entertaining. Still, not a bad film overall. If you’re in the mood for light-hearted comedy with some fun action scenes, you might enjoy this one. I’d give it a 7 out of 10.
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Movie Review Monday (Tuesday Edition)

Blade Runner 2049 (2017) - Thirty years after Rick Deckard’s disappearance, Officer K of the Los Angeles PD begins to uncover clues that could lead him to the former blade runner. There is much to like and even to adore about this neo-noir sci-fi sequel to 1982’s “Blade Runner”. Of special note is the relationship between Officer K and his love interest Joi, which is endearing, bittersweet and at times fascinating. The dialogue is smart and even subtly clever in some scenes. But one of the most impressive things about the film is the sumptuous cinematography. From start to finish, this film is visually gorgeous. The film is not without some minor shortcomings. And with a running time of over 2.5 hours, some may find it a bit long for the story that is presented. But there is enough to enjoy about this film to make it worth the full watch. Some of the best science-fiction films are those that find creative ways to convey what it means to be human, and this film does a decent job at that. In all, it is a worthy continuation to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic. I’d give it a 9 out of 10.
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Movie Review Monday

Collateral Beauty (2016) - Will Smith leads an ensemble cast in this drama about a man perpetually mired in grief after the loss of his child. Have your tissues ready for this one, folks. The cast includes Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, and Keira Knightley, all of whom put in great performances. The story weaves in and out of each character’s lives, highlighting their interconnectedness, all while keeping the focus on Smith’s character. The general story may come across as formulaic to some. But as far as movie formulas go, this one is executed quite well. I'd recommend it to anyone in the mood for a film that will repeatedly tug at the heartstrings. I’d give it an 8 out of 10.
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Movie Review Monday

La La Land (2016) - Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone star in this musical as a musician and an actor striving to achieve their dreams in an unforgiving Los Angeles. Gosling and Stone are outstanding in their performances and are a delight to watch in their musical numbers. There is much lightheartedness in this film, but underneath the elements of parody, there lies both a critique and an acceptance of the realities of life in Hollywood. The film presents a familiar but very respectable story in an excellent and entertaining production. I recommend it to any fans of the film genre. I’d give it a 10 out of 10.
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Movie Review Monday

Valhalla Rising (2009) - A warrior in 11th century Scandinavia joins a group of Christian Crusaders in search for the Holy Land. I unwittingly reached back quite a few years for this fantasy/adventure/drama, as it had apparently slipped under my radar when it was released. The film hits an aptly bleak tone from the very start and maintains it to the end. The entire while, the cinematography provides a mesmerizing feast for the eyes. Despite its bare-bones plot, the film hits powerfully on the topics of loyalty, religion, conquest, and failure. Some may find the pace of the film a bit slow and the dialogue rather sparse for their taste. But I found it to be a fine production overall. I’d give it an 8 out of 10.
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Movie Review Monday

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) - With events that take place before the Harry Potter film series, this more mature fantasy film begins in 1926 with the arrival of “magizoologist” Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to New York City where some of his magical creatures promptly escape. This is a decent film with a nicely paced narrative and amiable characters. What stands out the most is the excellent production quality that was put into the film. I'd say whether you're a Potter fan or not (and whether you're a muggle or not), you'll likely enjoy this one. I’d give it an 8 out of 10.
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Movie Review Monday

Due to a busy schedule, I won't have a chance to write up a movie review for today. In lieu of a new movie review, I give you one from around this time last year. Enjoy your movie watching, everyone! :)
Movie Review Monday

The Danish Girl (2015) - Set in 1920’s Denmark and based on a true story, this film stars Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander as a young married couple dealing with a gender identity struggle. I won't give away too much of the plot for those who don't already know what this film is about. Suffice it to say that there are some excellent aspects to this period drama, from the art direction to the cinematography to the performances by the cast. But of special note is the emotional impact of the story itself. As viewers, not only do we accompany the characters through a painful struggle, but we also get to experience a human devotion that epitomizes the notion of what it means to love. The film isn't entirely devoid of certain shortcomings. But it is a very fine production that tells a very important story. I'd give it a 9 out of 10.
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Movie Review Monday

Tank 432 (2016) - A military squad transporting hostages comes under fire and has to take refuge in an abandoned tank. This horror film is more mystery than horror. From the beginning, there is the sense that some pieces of the story are missing. It's a feeling that grows as the movie progresses. I give points to the film for its premise and for the concept of leaving some of the elements up to interpretation. However, the final product leaves much to be desired. It could have been a film with more thrills and tension, but overall it’s a bit of slog for the viewer without much payoff in the end. I’d give it a 4 out of 10.
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Movie Review Monday

Oceans Rising (2017) - A scientist warns the entire scientific community and the U.S. president about an impending worldwide flood, but will anyone listen? Nooooo! I’ll cut to the chase on this one. This is one of the worst movies I've seen in a long while. Bad script, bad acting and horrible special effects. Just about every single plot point is unbelievable to the point of being laughable. And if you make the mistake of taking this movie seriously, the numerous attempts at character development will be especially painful. This film was so bad that it actually fell off my normal rating scale (in the negative direction) and landed on my cheese wheel scale. Some of you may enjoy lampooning this one with friends over beer and pizza. Lots of beer. I’d give it a 7 out of 10 on the cheese wheel. ;)
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Movie Review Monday

Hell House LLC (2016) - In 2009, a group of friends set up a haunted house in Abaddon, NY, but tragedy strikes on opening night, resulting in the deaths of fifteen people. Five years later, a documentary crew obtains never-before-seen video of events leading up to opening night and of the gruesome events that took place on the tragic night itself. This horror film packs some good scares. It’s shot in found footage style, which to me usually results in a more immersive experience, and which in horror films, can result in more intense scares. However, more and more these days, the challenge with found footage films is in avoiding plots holes. This film leaves some of those holes wide open, and some of the other plot points will tax the viewer’s imagination. Even with its flaws, however, this film does a very good job at the paranormal frights. In fact, I think my days of visiting haunted houses may be over after having watched this film. I’d give it an 8 out of 10.
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