By Shane Sellar
What We Do in the Shadows
The hardest part of rooming with another vampire is deciding who gets to sleep in the larger coffin.
Luckily, the sleeping arrangements in this comedy have already been decided.
On the promise they won’t be drained of plasma, a documentary film crew is permitted to capture the night-to-night activities of a group of vampires (Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, Ben Fransham) sharing a flat in New Zealand.
In the shadow of this year’s masquerade ball, the roommates must not only contend with the death of their oldest roomie, but also the arrival of a novice vampire and his human friend.
A hysterical take on the found-footage genre, this Kiwi contribution perfectly captures the idiosyncratic drawbacks and benefits to being undead—and having roommates.
With a clever script connecting the gags seamlessly, this morbid mockumentary has cult classic potential.
Ironically, blood-sucking roommates aren’t as inclined to vacuum as one would assume.
The key to being a skilled marksman is remembering to remove the riflescope lens cap before you shoot.
Thankfully, the rifleman in this drama is that adroit, and much more.
An accomplished shooter since childhood, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) gravitates towards a military career when he’s older.
In post-9/11 Iraq, Chris’ skill behind the riflescope quickly garners him a reputation as a merciless sniper, not only amongst his platoon but also the al-Qaeda leaders he’s been assigned to assassinate.
On the home front, however, his wife (Sienna Miller) struggles to raise their children without a father.
When he is home, Chris’s PTSD keeps him from leading a normal life.
Polarizing for its depiction of war, Clint Eastwood’s adaption of Chris’s biography does dip into hero-worshipping at times, but it also emphasizes the repercussions war has on its returning “heroes.”
Incidentally, post-service snipers have bright futures back home as ticking time bombs.
The worst thing about Internet crime is the culprits typically commit their offences while wearing adult super-hero themed onesies.
Fortunately, the hackers in this thriller aren’t restricted to their folks’ basement.
When computers hackers with a transfigured code tamper with the NYSE and a nuclear plant in China, both powerhouses assign their best cyber-crime specialists (Viola Davis, Leehom Wang) to the case.
But in order to find the party responsible, they will need the brain behind the destructive code: Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), who is currently incarcerated.
Meanwhile, the hacker sets their sights on their next stock market manipulation.
Despite many broad attempts by director Michael Mann to make computer hacking seem like compelling viewing, Blackhat’s abysmal acting, sluggish pace and tacked on interracial romance fails to engage the viewer beyond its topically subject matter.
Besides, the best way to catch a hacker is by sprinkling Cheetos around a leg-hold trap.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2
If you ever get hungry in a hot tub just dump a few vegetables and a chicken carcass in there, and you got yourself a hearty broth.
Mind you, the friends in this comedy are more interested in turning their tub into a cocktail.
In a future he created for himself, hot tub time-traveller Lou (Rob Corddry) is assassinated by an unknown assailant. To save him, his fellow time-travellers (Craig Robinson, Clark Duke) must go back in time.
Unfortunately, their alcohol-fuelled hot tub takes them to the future where the assassin originated.
In 2025, the trio adjusts to their strange new surroundings while trying to pinpoint the location of Lou’s killer.
Five years too late and missing John Cusack, this superfluous sequel is more malicious and homophobic than the original.
Crotch-based comedy at its worst, HTTM2 circles the drain.
Furthermore, a time-travelling sauna would be a much more practical vessel.
The upside to white-collar crime is the offenders smell way better than normal criminals.
However, the art aficionado in this comedy is working on the right side of the law.
An indebted art dealer, Mortdecai (Johnny Depp), accepts an offer from Inspector Martland (Ewan McGregor) to help recover a stolen painting in exchange for 10 per cent of its sale price.
Aided by his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) and manservant (Paul Bettany), Mortdecai uses his connections in the art world to uncover a plot by Russian gangsters to use a hidden code on the artwork to locate Nazi treasure.
The only problem is the painting is still in the hands of the real culprits.
With flat jokes focused solely on the character’s foolish facial hair and embarrassing performances all-round, Mortdecai’s cheeky and quirky nature is misguided and irritating.
Besides, if you want to steal art, just pry it off the motel room wall.
The hardest part of losing your memory is trying to remember the hardest part of losing your memory.
That is why the sufferer in this drama records her thoughts for posterity.
Alice (Julianne Moore) is a middle-aged linguistics professor who suddenly starts experiencing lapses in her thought process.
She later learns that she has a rare form of Alzheimer’s, and that one of her three grown children: Lydia (Kristen Stewart), Anna (Kate Bosworth) and Tom (Hunter Parrish) is likely to have inherited it from her.
As Alice’s health deteriorates, her husband (Alec Baldwin) fades into the background as Lydia steps into a more motherly role.
Powerful and poignant, this well-acted adaptation of the best-seller perfectly captures the deliberate decline in mental and cognitive skills associated with the disease, as well as the toll Alzheimer’s takes on your family.
On the upside, Alzheimer’s does help you forget you have cancer.
Whites didn’t want blacks voting down South because they didn’t want them pointing out all the spelling mistakes on the ballots.
Either way, as this drama confirms, ignorance played a major role.
When Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey) is refused the right to vote through intimidation, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) leads a coalition of activists and parishioners down to Selma, Alabama to protest President Johnson’s (Tom Wilkinson) refusal to enforce voter rights.
While many of their marches are marred by violence, King’s moment gains footing and a white following.
However, J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker) schemes to sabotage King’s marriage and reputation.
An enlightening look at some of the most important moments of the civil rights movement, Selma supports its facts with surprising reveals concerning the effort and its fallible leader.
Incidentally, Selma already had a bad reputation from burning all those witches back in the 1600s.
Black or White
The upside to a white couple raising a black daughter is her not becoming obsessed with going to the tanning salon every day.
The cultural perks aside, this drama focuses more on the disadvantages of a mixed-race family.
When his wife dies, Elliot (Kevin Costner) is left to raise his deceased daughter’s half-white, half-black child Eloise (Jillian Estell).
To help him through this transition, he employs a tutor for his granddaughter and alcohol for his grief.
But when the mother (Octavia Spencer) of Eloise’s real dad calls Elliot’s effectiveness as a father into question due to his race, he must fight for custody in court.
While there is validity to the concerns raised by the story, the over-sentimentality and weak performances undermine the importance of the subject matter.
Besides, when a black family and a white family can’t decide on who will raise a child, it naturally defaults to an Asian family.
Fifty Shades of Grey
Thanks to political correctness, the only place you can spank someone nowadays is in the boudoir.
Or, a sex dungeon—like the one featured in this drama.
During an interview with philanthropist Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), literary major Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) strikes a cord with the reserved industrialist.
A chance encounter reunites them and they form a bond.
Before it goes further, however, Christian presents Ana with a sex contract detailing the acts of BDSM he hopes to inflict upon her.
Hesitant, she eventually agrees and receives gifts in exchange for her submission.
But Christian’s callousness causes her to question if she can ever change her troubled torturer.
With laughable dialogue delivered by amateurish actors this soft-core composite of every female fantasy is as vapid and tawdry as its best-selling literary inspiration.
The Boy Next Door
Before having an affair with your neighbour, first sign an agreement to share the cost of a new fence.
However, property lines are the last thing on the mind of the horny housewife in this thriller.
Separated from her husband (John Corbett) due to his infidelity, high school lit teacher Claire (Jennifer Lopez) raises her son on her own.
Before school starts, she has a one-night stand with her neighbour’s nephew Noah (Ryan Guzman).
When school starts, he’s enrolled in her class as a student.
But when she spurns his advances, Noah starts terrorizing her family and friends.
A contrived contribution to the obsessed ex-lover genre, TBND not only suffers from an absence of overboard antics on the crazy persons part, but also from Lopez’ inability to emote or deliver dialogue in a credible manner.
Besides, first it’s sex, next thing you know your neighbour wants to borrow some flour.
The best part of being your own boss is you get to decide if drinking on the job is acceptable or not.
Apparently, the P.I. in this mystery doesn’t have a problem with being high at work.
After he’s hired by his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) to keep her new boyfriend Mickey (Eric Roberts) from being committed by his wife, Doc (Joaquin Phoenix) is hired by a radical (Michael K. Williams) to reclaim money owned to him by Mickey’s bodyguard.
It’s not until an ex-junkie (Jena Malone) asks Doc to locate her missing husband (Owen Wilson) does the pothead private dick put things together.
Brimming with far-out characters and a career-defining performance from Phoenix, P.T. Anderson’s interpretation of the comedy-crime novel is an instant classic that only cracks under it’s protracted running time.
The downside to a stoner detective, however, is you have to constantly remind them to solve your case.
He’s an Inner Beauty Mark. He’s the…