Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Movie reviews: ‘Free Fire’ falls flat; ‘The Promise’ compels

“Free Fire” (R)

The shoot-em ‘up movie genre gets a welcome unique spin that unfortunately falls flat too soon with “Free Fire.” Set in 1978, “Free Fire” stars Oscar-winner Brie Larson and Cillian Murphy (“Batman Begins”) as part of a group of criminals who meet a gang of arms dealers in abandoned warehouse to make what should be a simple exchange of cash for a cache of high-powered weapons.

But when a fight breaks out between opposing gang members, the fisticuffs escalate into a shoot-out with bullets flying from every which way.

As a dark comedy, we discover in “Free Fire” most everybody involved is a terrible shot, resulting mostly in flesh wounds as the bumbling criminals crawl around the warehouse trying to figure out a way to exit.

It’s an amusing take on the genre at first, but the idea quickly wears thin, making the movie feel way too long, even with a 90-minute run time. Armie Hammer and Sharlto Copley (“District 9”) also star.

Lammometer 5.5 (out of 10)

Listen to Tim’s reviews of “Free Fall” and “The Promise” with Tom Barnard and Michele Tafoya on “The KQ Morning.”

“The Promise” (PG-13)

Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale and Charlotte Le Bon deliver stellar performances in “The Promise,” a heartbreaking historical drama that chronicles the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Turks before the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

The always-great Isaac (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) plays a medical student in Constantinople in 1915, just before the Turks begin to round up Armenian Christians for systematic execution.

Bale is terrific as usual, this time as Associated Press journalist reporting on the horrors of the genocide to the West, while Le Bon is a French-Armenian teacher caught in a love triangle in-between them.

The film is a compelling tale that brings to light a forgotten part of history that the Turkish government still fails to recognize today.

Lammometer: 8 (out of 10)

Movie review: ‘The Fate of the Furious’ way too serious

“The Fate of the Furious” (PG-13)

While it’s not a total spinout, “The Fate of the Furious” – the eighth film in the seemingly endless “Fast and Furious” franchise – seems to have lost its way following the blockbuster worldwide success of “Furious 7.” After an entertaining 10-minute race scene to kick off the film, “The Fate of the Furious” quickly loses the type of self-aware sense of humor that made the last film such a joy; and remains stuck in neutral with a formulaic action movie plot until it miraculously pulls itself out a funk for the third act of the movie.

Diesel is back for his sixth “Furious” film as Dominic Toretto, the cocksure street racer who has evolved over the film series into the leader of a band of international mercenaries whose jobs often find them trying to save the world from disaster. But when Dom is coerced by notorious super hacker Cipher (Theron) to go rogue, he’s forced to turn against his crew in order to secure an EMP device that has the power to shut down a major city and turn the scene into complete chaos. And that’s not all …

Convinced that Dom is taking commands against his will, the crew (including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Michelle Rodri

guez – whose Letty is now married to Dominic) takes up an offer from government shade Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his new right hand, dubbed “Little Nobody” (Scott Eastwood, who appears to be filling the void left by late Paul Walker) to recover the EMP and other potential weapons of mass destruction to clean their crime-riddled slates.

While its far inferior to “Furious 7,” “The Fate of the Furious” isn’t a bad movie – the action in the final third alone will give audience members what they’re looking for with subplot that involved a Russian nuclear submarine. Thankfully stars like Johnson, Jason Statham, Russell and Helen Mirren (who sadly appears for about 5 minutes in a pair of scenes) didn’t wait that long to let you know they’re in the joke.

On the flip side, Vin Diesel and the film’s new villain, played by Charlize Theron, are trying to play it straight throughout  the film; proving that even Oscar winners can’t act their way out of horrific dialogue.

Listen to Tim’s review of “The Fate of the Furious” with Tom Barnard on “The KQ Morning Show.”

A little sense of humor clearly would have gone a long way, and while Diesel attempts to charm his way through the opening scene, playing it straight for most of the way exposes all of the actor’s weaknesses (mainly, that he only knows how to play one type of character – a wiseass tough guy) and he hits a low point as he barely squeezes out a couple crocodile tears.

Theron’s turn is almost more painful to watch, though, as her over-the-top madwoman questing world domination borders on a mustache-twitching villain that revels in evil. Theron, like everybody else in “Furious 7” should have been reveling in the ridiculousness of what the franchise it has become. It’s too bad, because Theron has proven otherwise that she’s an extremely talented actress.

True, no amount of criticism will stop “The Fate of the Furious” from being another worldwide blockbuster (“Furious 7” grossed $1.5 billion worldwide two years ago) out of the gate, but the shift in gears to a semi-serious film (“The Fate of the Serious”?) will no doubt be a drag on the long term prospects of the box office and the films that come after it.

Lammometer: 6 (out of 10)

Movie review: Screen icons bring class to ‘Going in Style’

“Going in Style” (PG-13)

Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin appear together on the big screen for the very first time in “Going in Style,” a funny and poignant remake of the 1979 comedy heist film of the same name starring George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strassberg.

The Oscar-winning film luminaries play lifelong friends who have toiled for decades at a steel mill, and upon retirement, they’re shocked to learn their pensions have been dissolved.

All virtually broke and with foreclosure pending for one of them, the trio hatches a plan to rob the bank that’s involved in the pension fiasco to recoup what would be coming to them if they hadn’t been swindled by their company.

Of course, the whole idea of three guys pushing 80 pulling off a heist in “Going in Style” is ridiculous and a lot of the comedy comes from that scenario.

And while the film is predictable, you can’t help but love seeing the actors (including screen icon Ann-Margret) together in one space – especially when you consider how many more opportunities we’ll get to see them in film. Caine’s 84, Arkin is 83 and Freeman will turn 80 in a couple months, so th

ey needed to strike when the iron when it was hot before they make that sad decision that their time in Hollywood is over.

Interview: Ann-Margret talks ‘Going in Style’
LINK: See Tim Lammers’ archived video and audio interviews, including Denzel Washington, Casey Affleck, Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Hugh Jackman, Francis Ford Coppola and more on his new YouTube channel.

The best thing about “Going in Style” is that director Zach Braff (“Scrubs”) didn’t use the actors as punch lines because they’re up in their years. Yes, comedy does arise because of their age, but Braff never loses sight of the very real situation retirees face in today’s volatile financial climate. Overall, it’s a wonderful combination of real characters in outlandish situations that manages to make you laugh without being exploitative.

Lammometer: 7 (out of 10)

Copyright 2017

Tim Burton Book 2
Click book cover for info on how to buy!

Review: ‘Ghost in the Shell’ hollow; ‘Boss Baby’ rules

“Ghost in the Shell” (PG-13)

Scarlett Johansson tries without success to breathe new life into “Ghost in a Shell,” the live-action version of the heralded Anime manga-turned-animated movie series. Johansson plays Major, the robotic shell that holds the brain of an unknown woman in futuristic Japan. The idea is that with the brain the soul of the person will inhabit its new cybernetic body, but instead the brain’s memories are suppressed as Major is turned into a weapon to track and eliminate criminals.

Listen to Tim’s reviews of “Ghost in the Shell” and “The Boss Baby” on KQRS with Tom Barnard by clicking the audio player above. Also, hear Tim’s reviews of the films with Bob Sansevere on “The BS Show.”

While the visuals are spectacular – the film feels like a combination of “The Matrix” and any number of virtual reality video games – “Ghost in the Shell” is ultimately dull and uninspiring. It’s hard to get engaged by Johansson’s portrayal, since she plays the character devoid of emotion throughout the entire film. If you want to see Johansson truly kick ass, then rent her brain-enhancing sci-fi thriller Lucy, where she shows the true mettle of an action movie star.

Lammometer: 5 (out of 10)

LINK: See Tim Lammers’ archived video and audio interviews, including Denzel Washington, Casey Affleck, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Hugh Jackman, Francis Ford Coppola and more on his new YouTube channel.

“The Boss Baby” (PG)

Alec Baldwin is brilliant as the voice of “The Boss Baby,” an animated feature intended for the kid set that actually plays better for adults. The title character is an infant adopted by a suburban couple with a 7-year-old son, who in secret is a cut-throat businessman who has to carry out a vital plan.

Babies, as it turns out, were at one time considered the cutest thing in the world, but dogs – particularly puppies – are dangerously close to taking that mantle over; especially once the baby’s new parents are scheduled to help unveil a new breed of dog that stays a puppy forever.

Backed by inventive visuals and peppy dialogue, Baldwin pours his all into the portrayal of “The Boss Baby.” Oddly enough, a lot of the smart dialogue will fly over little kids’ heads, and parents will undoubtedly get more out of the film than their children.

Lammometer: 8 (out of 10)

Copyright 2017

Tim Burton Book 2
Click book cover for info on how to buy!