By Shane Sellar
The 5th Wave
The easiest way for invading aliens to assimilate into our society is by staging a televised singing competition.
Unfortunately, the enslaved adolescents in this sci-fi movie have no vocal range.
When aggressors from outer space unleash an array of orchestrated attacks on the Earth, including EMPs, earthquakes, plagues and the possession of human hosts, military-trained teenagers (Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Maika Monroe) are tasked by their superiors (Liev Schreiber, Maria Bello) with exterminating the infected adult population, and averting the fifth and final assault.
But when members of the junior militia start exhibiting inhuman abilities, the real purpose behind their formation is revealed.
With its derivative body-snatching script, pedestrian creature design and obvious twist ending, this monotonous adaptation of the YA novel is a much lower-caliber film than its post-apocalyptic counterparts.
Besides, when you send teenagers to fight aliens the hybrid birth rate ends up going through the roof.
Ride Along 2
Telling your kids you went on a police ride along when you were really arrested only works once.
Nonetheless, the makers behind this comedy feel that their audience is less astute.
To get her rookie officer fiancé Ben (Kevin Hart) out of the way so she can plan their nuptials, Angela (Tika Sumpter) asks her reluctant brother James (Ice Cube) to take him along to Miami while he investigates a drug lord, Pope (Benjamin Bratt).
But to bring him down they must team up with a local detective (Olivia Munn) and one of Pope’s hackers (Ken Jeong) who has been skimming money from him.
The needless sequel to the middling original, this second go-round has too many similarities to the original to be worthwhile, including weak action, hollow acting and a serious joke deficiency.
Incidentally, on Canadian police ride alongs you get to sit up on the horse behind the Mountie.
German folktales have to be that much scarier because the country’s history is already a nightmare.
Which explains why the St. Nick in this horror-comedy is a demon.
According to Germanic lore, when children lose their holiday spirit they’re visited by the satanic opposite of Santa, The Krampus.
At the top of his list this year is Max (Emjay Anthony) and his family (Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Allison Tolman, David Koechner), who have forgotten the meaning of the season.
Krampus hopes to remind them with help from his demonic gingerbread men.
While it’s rousing to see this Christmas creature get its due, this loose and laugh-less adaptation of the legend isn’t the holiday masterpiece it deserves. In fact, the ancillary villains distract from The Krampus – whose design is already questionable.
As for how to kill a Krampus, lure him to a Black Friday sale where he’ll be trampled to death.
When attacked by a bear remember to always roll into a ball so it doesn’t have to chew you as much.
The victim in this drama, unfortunately, chose to starfish.
Hunting up north, a group of trappers (Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter) are engaged by natives and forced into the wilderness where a Grizzly mauls their guide, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Left for dead, Glass endures his injuries and pursues those who betrayed him. Along the way, he frees a native girl from her French-Canadian captors.
One of the most gripping tales of wilderness survival, this fact-based account of frontier justice is beautifully shot and brutally told by director Alejandro G. Iñárritu.
But its DiCaprio’s performance, supplemented by Hardy’s, which really brings the humanity to this indescribable tale.
However, due to this incident, European socialites had to wait an extra month to get their beaver felt top hats.
Jane Got a Gun
No one has a problem with women owning guns as long as they’re disarmed before that time of the month.
Mind you, some premenstrual rage might benefit the homesteader in this Western.
Frontierswoman Jane Hammond (Natalie Portman) is forced to defend her family farm from outlaws when her bandit husband (Noah Emmerich) riles up the Bishop Boys and their devious leader (Ewan McGregor).
But to have a fighting chance against the posse, Jane must enlist her ex-fiancé (Joel Edgerton). Their reunion, however, stirs up ghosts that effect their partnership, and the bloody standoff that’s about to ensue.
An overall intriguing oater that unfolds in a fashion unfamiliar to the genre, Jane does deliver a fresh take on stock western archetypes, themes and backdrops; however, the same cannot be said of the film’s gunfights or uninspired casting.
Furthermore, fighting alongside females’ guarantees plenty of tampons on hand to plug-up the injured.
The best part about sightseeing tours to the suicide forest is that the ride back is less crowded.
Case in point, the missing American in this horror movie.
After receiving word her twin Jess has disappeared in a forest at the base of Mount Fuji known as a suicide hotspot, Sara (Natalie Dormer) dashes to Japan.
Along with a guide (Yukiyoshi Ozawa) and a reporter (Taylor Kinney), she retraces her sister’s footsteps. But only the reporter is willing to stay in the forest overnight with her because it’s haunted.
This is later confirmed when a ghost warns Sara’s about her travelling partner.
Inspired by the real Aokigahara forest, this misguided attempt at psychological terror falls short. In fact, it’s less than jarring narrative can never seem to commit to a genre. With haphazard visual jolts trumping the few psychosomatic scares.
Besides, one mammal’s suicide forest is another mammal’s international buffet.
If you’re moving into a densely wooded area don’t be surprised to find dead sex-trade workers on your hikes.
Mind you, the only corpses the family in this horror movie is likely to find are their own.
Relocating his wife (Bojana Novakovic) and child to an isolated Irish village where he’ll be surveying for a future deforesting, Adam (Joseph Mawle) is warned about the local woods’ otherworldly inhabitants but pays no mind.
It’s not until they’re attacked do they take the wee-folk rumours seriously. Adam is specifically intrigued by Changelings and becomes convinced that his son is one.
Eschewing traditional monsters for an ancient but underrated one, this British/Irish co-production not only brings longstanding Irish folklore to the forefront but also does it in a frightening fashion that sets this import apart from its insipid American cousins.
Moreover, who’s to say that the Fay don’t want a Starbucks in their forest?
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Despite its liberation years ago, the Galaxy is once more under the control of a new Sith Lord: Darth Disney.
And while the Dark Mouse doesn’t make an appearance in this sci-fi movie, his presence is felt.
A forager, Rey (Daisy Ridley), befriends a droid transporting the whereabouts of the last Jedi (Mark Hamill) to the resistance General (Carrie Fisher). But an overzealous member of The First Order (Adam Driver) wants the droid too, so Rey must flee with help from an ex-stormtrooper (John Boyega).
Later, they align themselves with a grizzled smuggler (Harrison Ford) with knowledge of Rey’s newfound abilities.
With stunning effects and organic worlds, Disney’s continuation returns the franchise back to basics.
Unfortunately, that also includes familiar menaces, similar plot points and a plagiaristic ending. Not to mention a petulant child posturing as the villain.
Furthermore, where does Disney get off not including any sing-along kids songs?
The key distinction between regular and extreme thieves is that the latter is actually sponsored by Red Bull.
However, the risk-taking robbers in this action movie are against big business.
Tasked with infiltrating a band of altruistic bandits who perform daring heists to fund their extreme sports bucket list, FBI agent Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) passes their intense initiation with ease.
Assimilated, he then helps them execute the remaining ordeals on their list, all the while reporting back to his boss (Ray Winstone).
But when his cover is blown, Utah must choose between his new bros and his federal duty.
Despite its pulse-pounding aerobatics, this pointless Point Break remake may be amped up in its handful of action sequences, but its spiritual laden script is made even worse when articulated by its incompetent cast.
Besides, they’re gonna call the cops as soon as you enter the bank wearing a neon wingsuit.
Concussions are only a problem in sports when the players start scoring on themselves.
Fortunately, the athletes in this drama are somewhat able to find their opponent’s end zone.
Aghast at the drastic brain injuries a former Pittsburgh Steeler sustained throughout his football career, forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) sets out on a self-funded crusade to expose this NFL-wide epidemic.
With help from the Steel’s physician (Alec Baldwin), Bennet is able to publish his findings, which are rejected and buried by the organization until years later when more players start committing suicide.
This shocking true story of the NFL’s calculated cover-up of its countless concussion cases in the early 2000s finds Will Smith at his acting finest, delivering a powerful performance. But however timely the subject matter may be, the overall story lacks artistic impact.
This preexisting brain trauma, however, is exactly why ex-football players should be boxing professionally.
The Hateful Eight
The worst part about being trapped in a cabin with a bunch of cowboys is listening to them drone on about Tom Landry.
Mind you, the cowboys in this western don’t have cheerleaders.
After the Civil War, ex-soldier turned bounty hunter Major Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) hitches a ride aboard a stagecoach alongside a fellow hunter (Kurt Russell) transporting a prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock for hanging.
A blizzard, however, strands them inside an isolated outpost occupied by a cast of ne’er-do-wells (Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern) who may, in fact, be there to intercede on the outlaw transfer.
Taking a typical western narrative and turning it into a gruesome, foulmouthed whodunit with a stirring score, writer/director Quentin Tarantino returns to close quarters’ storytelling with a vengeance and aplomb.
Thankfully, when cowboys are confined indoors today, instead shooting each other, they like to line dance.
He’s a Folk Laureate. He’s the…