Assassin’s Creed

Sometimes the hype for a movie can be built up so high that it can’t possibly reach those lofty expectations. There can be many factors that lead to hype: good actors, great premise, and captivating previews among other things. I had built a substantial hype for this movie myself. It has actors that I really enjoy (Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and Jeremy Irons) and was based on a video game series of the same name with a very interesting premise. Even if the movie was pretty good it probably wouldn’t have matched the hype level that had been established.

For those of you that have not played any of the Assassin’s Creed video games, the plot revolves around a centuries long conflict between the Assassins and the Templars. While this movie does not follow the games exactly, the basic idea is very similar. Both factions are in search of an artifact called the Apple of Eden which the Templars want to use in order to control mankind and the Assassins work to keep the Apple out of Templar hands. As the movie opens we see Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) running away from home as a youngster after his mother is murdered and then we jump way ahead to an adult Cal on his way to his execution. He awakens later inside Abstergo Industries and Dr. Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) informs him that he is legally dead but he is still needed for important research at Abstergo. They have developed a machine, called the Animus, which allows someone in the present to relive memories of distant ancestors. Sophia and her father Alan (Jeremy Irons) need Cal to continually enter the Animus and to locate the Apple of Eden for the Templars. They claim to want to use the Apple to rid the world of violence but their bosses seem to have more nefarious motives. Cal does not know of the history between the two factions as he relives his ancestor’s memories. I won’t drone on with the plot too much but its more of the same: Cal enters the Animus, fights some people, exits the Animus and talks with Sophia and the cycle repeats.

There wasn’t an abundance of strengths in this film but there are indeed a couple that keep it from being too much of a train wreck. The set design and the costumes were easily the standouts in the movie. When Cal is using the Animus and is “in the past” through his ancestor’s memories the sets and buildings look great. All the Assassins and Templars all look the part during these “memories”. Another strength here is the action sequences are entertaining when the “shaky cam” doesn’t try to take over. Unfortunately there isn’t much more than that to enjoy.

Where to start on the weaknesses? This movie is flat out boring. I’m not sure how you take such quality actors and mix in some story from an entertaining video game series and end up with almost 2 hours of pure snoozefest.  I definitely dozed off for a bit as did Mrs. Apologist and the movie seemed to go on forever. The acting was a big disappointment which I’m attributing to the poor script since the actors themselves are strong in most of their other roles. The dialogue is unbelievably dry and absolutely wastes the acting talent. The story becomes more of a minor part since most of the movie is used as a method of character development to set up the sequel. The movie feels incomplete and more like a set up for the sequel instead of a standalone movie.

This movie left a lot to be desired. I was very excited to see it since I loved playing the games, the actors are usually very enjoyable and the previews made it seem like a can’t miss blockbuster but Assassin’s Creed is the perfect movie to put on if you need a good nap! Get ready for muddled plot lines, unbearable dialogue, with just a sprinkle of action to keep you from sleeping all the way through. I woke up to give this bumbling adventure 7 Apologies and we’ll wait to see how the sequel does.

-Movie Apologist

 

 

John Wick 2 (spoilers)

Sometimes picking a movie to watch can be a difficult process. There are almost endless selections across multiple formats and it is easy to spend more time searching for a movie than actually watching a movie. Usually when I can’t pick a movie I find myself settling on action movies where there may not be too much of a plot but are still enjoyable because of the badass action. Fortunately for all my action movie fans out there John Wick 2 packs in plenty of amazing action and doesn’t totally ignore the plot. I absolutely loved the first movie so I couldn’t wait to sit down and watch the second one.

The plot does not overly complicate itself. If you have seen the first movie then you know that John Wick (Keanu Reeves) was a retired assassin with a massive reputation who gets pulled back into the game by the actions of a young Russian mobster. Chapter 2 essentially picks up right after the events of the first movie. After John briefly reenters his unique world to get revenge on the people who wronged him in the first movie he receives a visit from a fellow assassin: Santino D’Antonio. He has heard that John is back in the game and he needs to call on John to pay him back on a marker, which is sort of like a blood oath type favor. (A marker is given out between assassins when one needs a favor and it must be honored when requested. If refused then your life is basically put on the line.) John does not want to honor his marker with Santino and is adamant that he is still retired, despite the stories to the contrary. Since the marker was refused, John has now broken the honor code. In order to show John that he is serious in his request, Santino blows up John’s house. Eventually John agrees to hear Santino’s request but he isn’t happy about it. He is tasked with killing Santino’s sister Gianna who has a seat at the High Table: a group of powerful assassins and Santino wants that seat. John reluctantly accepts the assignment to clear his debt and goes about planning and setting up. I won’t spoil the rest of the movie from there but I can tell you it is quite exciting and action packed.

There are strengths galore in this movie. The action and fight choreography are second to none and they are on full display for the majority of the film. If you appreciate action then you will love John Wick Chapter 2. Keanu Reeves really is impressive with his dedication and training for this role. You can see how comfortable he is holding the various firearms and he looks natural in his movements while shooting and fighting. In addition to Keanu, the other actors are all enjoyable in their roles. Riccardo Scamarcio is bit bold and quite smug as Santino and his performance sort of makes you want to punch him in the face but that’s really a compliment to his acting. The rapper Common plays Cassian, one of Gianna’s bodyguards, and he delivers a no nonsense, straight forward tough guy.

Really the only weakness I found in the movie was the character Ares, played by Ruby Rose. She is a deaf bodyguard for Santino and is easily out shined by the other characters. She doesn’t necessarily do anything wrong she just doesn’t do anything particularly great either. She seems to be included in the cast since she was a trending celebrity at the time. I didn’t find anything else to dislike here.

Even though I felt Ares was a weak character it wasn’t a huge detraction from the movie as a whole. It kept me entertained for the entire 122 minute run time and didn’t feel like it was too long. I loved the action and was wowed by the choreography. The actors all played their roles well and worked with each other to keep the story moving along. You really can’t ask for much more from the action genre as this movie stands out from the crowd with a spectacular rating of 0 Apologies. I would recommend this to anyone and everyone, as long as you don’t mind the violence.

-Movie Apologist

The Lego Batman Movie (spoiler free)

There are two things that can be enjoyed by kids and adults throughout their lives: Legos and Batman. Naturally this movie was to be expected after the massive success of “The Lego Movie” and with how the popularity Batman’s character received in that movie it was bound to get a spin off. I was very excited to see this one as Batman is easily my favorite super hero and Mrs. Apologist was equally excited since she is a certified Lego fanatic. “The Lego Movie” set up some pretty high standards for Lego Batman in his standalone movie to follow but with a phenomenal cast and Chris McKay back to direct, it seemed poised to match up nicely.

The plot is pretty standard here. The Joker is on his quest to take over Gotham City and Batman is out to stop him. We see Joker’s diabolical plan to destroy Gotham city thwarted by Batman early on and we also see Joker’s feelings get hurt by Batman since Batman is kind of a loner who does not seem to appreciate the symbiotic relationship they have. Next Bruce Wayne attends a gala for Commissioner James Gordon’s retirement while his daughter Barbara prepares to  take his place. This gala gives young orphan Dick Grayson the opportunity to introduce himself to Bruce and try to get himself adopted. Bruce is very distracted as he seems to be instantly smitten with Barbara until she starts talking about her plans to have the police work with Batman since Batman hasn’t caught any of the major villains in Gotham. Joker has now rounded up all the major bad guys in Gotham and attacks the gala with a new evil plan. Its up to Batman to save the day yet again! I do not want to spoil the movie too much so that’s where we will leave the plot summary at this time.

This movie does have several strengths on its side. They assembled a great cast for this movie just like in “The Lego Movie”. We have Will Arnett back as the main star and he does a fantastic job with his delivery and his tone. Michael Cera (Robin/Dick Grayson), Rosario Dawson (Barbara Gordon), Ralph Fiennes (Alfred Pennyworth) and Zach Galifianakis (Joker) round up the main group of characters and they each deliver their own flair to the roles. Also included in the cast is Jenny Slate, Jason Mantzoukas, Conan O’Brien, Doug Benson, Billy Dee Williams, Zoe Kravitz, Eddie Izzard, Seth Green, Ellie Kemper, Channing Tatum, and Jonah Hill round out the voice stars here. The humor is another standout with plenty of silly jokes for the kids and quite a few jokes slipped in there for the adults as well. It wouldn’t be a Batman movie without some action and the action flows fast and furious throughout, keeping the 104 minute run time lean and exciting. I also really enjoyed the references to all the previous Batman films.

There weren’t too many glaring weaknesses in the movie but it did have a few cheesy or predictable moments, which are to be expected in a family movie. The story was just a bit lackluster with much of the focus was on how Batman is lonely and Joker is insecure. Some of the humor feels a little forced at times which again can be a symptom of movies aimed at children/family. The bar was set pretty high from “The Lego Movie” and Lego Batman just didn’t quite have all the goods to exceed it.

Overall “The Lego Batman Movie” provided enough action and humor to be enjoyable but I’m not sure that there is enough there to warrant multiple views unless you’re under 10 years old. It takes an excellent cast with some quality jokes and action and comes out with a very solid rating of 2 Apologies. You could certainly pick a worse movie for a night out at the theater by yourself or with the family.

-Movie Apologist

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (spoiler free)

There are few world wide movie phenomenons like Star Wars. It generates such buzz and attention from fans and critics alike. Like many Star Wars lovers I got hooked when I was a kid and watched the original movies over and over. Naturally when I saw the trailer for Rogue One I was very excited to see it. Since we are still a year away from Episode 8 and a whole year since Episode 7 came out, this serves as a nice taster to keep everyone from going crazy during the long wait.

There could be minor spoilers from previous Star Wars entries.

The story gives some new information about an old event: the creation and subsequent destruction of the Death Star. Since this movie takes place between the events of Episode 3 and Episode 4 you should know  the basics if you have seen the previous films. Anakin Skywalker has become Darth Vader and his Empire is creating a massive weapon called the Death Star. As we all know at the end of Episode 4 the Rebel Alliance destroys the Death Star using stolen plans. What we don’t know is the story of how they got those plans but that is the story told during this chapter. We do get introduced to some new characters (Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor) and we also get some some familiar characters including the great Darth Vader. The main character we follow is Jyn. She is the daughter of one of the best scientists in the Empire and we get to watch her develop from a young girl into a rebellion fighter. She is tasked by the Rebellion with a mission to find her father and discover more information about the weapon the Empire is building. Not only do they have to confirm the existence of the super weapon but then they have to steal plans and get those plans back to the Rebellion. It is no easy task. As the Rebellion embarks on their plan, the Empire is also steady at work trying to destroy the Rebellion.

This movie is very enjoyable and has several strong points. First and foremost the movie has a slightly different feel than previous Star Wars entries which was a refreshing change as it felt more like a war movie set within the Star Wars universe. The battle scenes are hard fought and feel more real than before. The action is fast paced and fun to watch. The acting here also was nominally improved from several of the previous chapters. Felicity Jones puts forth a wonderful performance as Jyn Erso. Diego Luna portrays a convincing role of a captain in the Rebellion who may not always believe in the cause he fights for. Forest Whitaker puts out a fantastic effort as war hero Saw Gerrera. Star Wars has always been very good about injecting humor into the movies to keep it fairly light hearted and that doesn’t change here. Humor is mostly applied from the new droid character K-2SO and from blind monk Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen). As we have come to expect from the Star Wars saga the special effects are awesome, the sets and scenery are gorgeous, and the space battles are sleek and stylistic.

There aren’t many negatives in this movie and the few that exist don’t detract too much from the plot or the overall enjoyment. As a fan (nerd) watching the previews over and over I couldn’t help be excited about seeing a powerful Darth Vader working to destroy the Rebellion. We do get to see some very cool Vader moments but in my eyes there just wasn’t enough screen time for the coolest villain in the series. Similarly I wanted a little more character development for Saw Gerrera. I really enjoyed him but some backstory into why he was the way he was would have only added to my satisfaction.

In the end, this movie provided exactly what all Star Wars fans needed during the two year wait between Episode 7 and Episode 8. It delivers a quality story (even though its not necessarily a brand new story) that bridges the gap between the new trilogy and the original trilogy and leaves us excited for Episode 8 next December. I enthusiastically gave this movie 1 Apology and will soon be rewatching it along with the Episodes 1-7 with Mrs. Apologist to get pumped up for the next one.

-Movie Apologist

The Accountant (spoiler free)

As we exit the summer blockbuster movie season we can sometimes lower our expectations for entertainment at the theaters. Luckily for us, The Accountant does not allow itself to take advantage of those lowered expectations: it delivers fast paced action, a taut storyline, and talented actors to bring it all together. I never thought I would be excited to see a movie based on an accountant but I was very excited to see this movie as the previews looked excellent! I will try to keep this review as spoiler free as possible but I do recommend treading carefully if you have not seen the movie yet.

The movie starts with a pretty simple plot as we learn that Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is an accountant even though he has a form of autism which affects his ability to interact with other people. Despite his condition he seems to make a very good living uncooking the books for various criminal organizations. A junior accountant (Anna Kendrick) at a medical prosthetic company seems to have found an error in the books with a very large sum of missing money. As Christian takes on his new client we learn that he has been on the radar of the US Treasury Department for several years. Ray King (JK Simmons), Director of Financial Crimes at the Treasury, is nearing his retirement and wants to amp up the effort to identify and capture the man they call “The Accountant”. They have little information about him beyond the fact that he does the books for very dangerous people and somehow manages to survive. But as the Treasury department tries to close in on their target and as Christian dives deeper into his assignment we get more into the story as the mystery unfolds.

I really enjoyed this movie as a whole. It has several strengths to stand on. Most of the actors are excellent. Ben Affleck turns in a very strong performance as an accountant with high functioning autism. He was smart, tough, and funny though sometimes unintentionally. JK Simmons is a well respected actor and delivers a no nonsense turn as Director of Financial Crimes. He does not do anything out of the ordinary but is consistently solid. The action scenes are fast and sometimes brutal but help deliver that kick of adrenaline that helps move this movie along during the story setup. Though the pacing can be a little slow at times, it uses these moments to develop the characters and the story into more of a mystery instead of just a basic shoot-em-up action flick. Though not a major twist, there is a pleasent twist that I did not see coming! They also mixed in some humor to keep the movie from becoming too serious.

There are not too many drawbacks for this film but indeed there are a few. Anna Kendrick does not offer much value as Dana Cummings, the junior accountant who discovers some anomalies in the books at the robotics company she works for. Beyond that one contribution she wears thin on the patience of the audience. I was also disappointed with John Lithgow as I really appreciate most of his work and I felt he didn’t have as much freedom to deliver a complex character that could match his talent level. Even though I enjoyed the story and was surprised by one of the plot twists, I did find it to be slightly predictable at times.

This movie really hit the mark for what I was in the mood to see. The action, story telling and quality acting made this stand out from other standard action movies that rely on over the top action with cheesy lines and no plot what so ever. I give “The Accountant” an excellent rating of 1 Apology and would absolutely recommend it to everyone who enjoys a movie with brains and brawn. This was a very good start to the fall movie season and hopefully it sets the table for many more entertaining trips to the theater for the rest of the year. Be sure to leave a comment with your thoughts on the movie below!

  • Movie Apologist

The Magnificent Seven (2016 spoiler free)

This is a movie that I have been looking forward to seeing for months after the preview sank its hooks into me. It has all the right ingredients: an old west setting, an amazing cast, an accomplished director, and the perfect amount of action in the trailer that leaves you wanting more. If you have read my other reviews (check them out if you haven’t) then you’ll know how I feel about remakes: they are difficult to master and often face extra scrutiny if the original is considered a classic. The Magnificent Seven is a remake of a remake and that original film (Seven Samurai) is widely considered to be one of the best movies ever made. However, the fact that it is a remake coupled with some of the not so nice reviews I read did not manage to dwindle my desire to see it.

If you have seen either of the “original” movies then you should know the basics of the story. There is a small quiet town being taken advantage of by a merciless group of bandits, this time mining for gold. They are led by the ruthless Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) who uses violence and intimidation to get his way. One of the townspeople Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) reaches out to bounty hunter/lawman Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washinton) to help them fight back against their oppressors. Sam assembles a rag tag team of hired guns to battle Bogue and his army of mercenaries. Sam manages to recruit gunslinger Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), former military man Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), his partner Billy Rocks (Byung-Hun Lee), wild man Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), wanted fugitive Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Native American bow master Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). Knowing that they are grossly outnumbered they come up with a plan to defend the town. This brings us to the climactic battle sequence which is fun and frantic and at times very intense. For those that haven’t seen either of the originals I will not spoil it for you.

This movie has a lot of very good qualities to it. As I mentioned before the actors all do a wonderful job with their roles. Bogue is played masterfully by Peter Sarsgaard and his character is just begging us to hate him. Sam Chisolm is portrayed by Denzel Washington who doesn’t really do anything we haven’t seen from him before. He just delivers the rock solid performance we have come to expect. Chris Pratt also does not vary too much from his known style but its not necessarily a bad thing: he is witty, a little smug and sarcastic, but overall very likable. Ethan Hawke turns in one of the better efforts in the movie as Goodnight Robicheaux. He is emotional and very believable. Byung-Hun Lee is energetic in his action scenes as Billy Rocks. Vincent D’Onofrio turned in a surprising role as mountain man Jack Horne. He was hilarious with his one liners and his delivery. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier were both more than adequate in their roles. In addition to the outstanding acting in the film there were many other standout features. The set design and costumes were nearly perfect for creating an authentic old west feeling. The action sequences were all done superbly without relying on too much shaky camera work. I appreciated the comedic touches to break from the serious and sometimes slow moments as well.

This movie does not have that many negatives against it but there are a few. There are some slow moments in between the actions scenes and they happen to seem extra slow making the 133 minute run time seem even longer. The movie introduces many characters with not much back story. With so many interesting characters in this film, it would have been nice to have more background information to learn about why they are who they are. During the final shootout I had an issue with the depiction of the gatling gun being such an unstoppable force of destruction. Since gatling guns are most useful in short range situations (under 100 yards) it seems far fetched, even for a movie, that the gun could be so accurate and deadly at 400-500 yards. That obviously did not make me hate this movie but it was a detractor none the less.

Overall I quite liked this movie. It was a nice addition to the end of summer movie experience. The great actors combined with a compelling story line and fast paced action all added up to a fun day at the theaters. This modern version of a classic western earned itself a respectable 2 Apologies and I would definitely recommend it.

Suicide Squad (Spoiler Free)

For comic book fans and super hero fans alike, there has been such hype generated for this movie in the years since it was announced. But when the movie finally came out, it did not receive the kindest reviews from movie critics. That does not seem to have stopped us fans from flocking to the theaters to see it. Like most fans, I did my best to not let the negative views affect my desire to see this movie and I was still very excited for it’s debut. After seeing it, I can say that the hate it received was not deserved. I want to express what I liked and didn’t like about the movie without giving anything away.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the movie and do recommend comic book and super hero fans to see it and share their own thoughts (please share opinions in the comments section below, but keep this review spoiler free for now).  Suicide Squad didn’t have that same feeling as many other super hero movies: organize super heroes together and have them save the day. The big difference is that the main characters are not heroes, they are villains being recruited to try to do some good.

These villainous characters are the main stars here and they deliver a fun experience. A character is only as good as the actor who is playing them, and lucky for us, we have a really good cast. The Joker, played by Jared Leto, is always an interesting character. The Joker has been played in the past by some very talented actors (Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Mark Hamill) which would seem to leave some big clown shoes to fill. Each actor has played the Joker with a touch of their own flair and Leto definitely adds his touch. He tiptoes down the line of perfect insanity and being too over the top but manages to stay perfectly insane. Margot Robbie does an unbelievable job as Harley Quinn. She absolutely nails the character from dramatic, wild-eye facial expressions to wacky speech to the physical appearance of someone committed. She steals the show and is supremely entertaining to watch with her insanity and spouts of comic relief. I also thought Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag and Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang turned in very strong performances as well.

The action sequences were well done. They did not have that shaky camera work that Marvel seems to love in their films. The plot does follow a pretty standard formula for a hero movie but it is serviceable. While I did enjoy the movie and thought it was an overall positive experience, it is not a perfect movie. There are some drawbacks that I will briefly go over without ruining any of the movie. It is not an overly long movie at 2 hours 3 minutes however it seemed to drag on. As much as I loved certain characters, there are plenty of characters that were weak and forgettable. I don’t want to say which ones at this point so I’ll let you decide that on your own.

I do look forward to the DVD/BluRay release with what I hope will be an unrated/rated R director’s cut. In the meantime we have this version which delivers quality action, some laughs, and manages to exceed the critic reviews.

This movie earned 2 1/2 Apologies. 

-Movie Apologist

Batman V Superman: Ultimate Edition BluRay

I was super excited to see this movie in the theaters. I grew up a huge Batman fan and still find myself watching anything and everything Batman, even with commercials. Everyone knew how negatively the critics felt about this movie, making it difficult to head to the show without having a predisposition.

I came away from the showing pleased, however I felt something was missing to make it even better. I loved the cinematography, it added power to the story. The action was fast paced and reminded me of the dramatic interactions of the Arkham games.

I was impressed by Ben Affleck’s take on Bruce Wayne/Batman even though he received a lot of flack for the role. The bar was set pretty low for him, thanks to the critics and social media, but he was very believable in character. Henry Cavill is one of the better, if not best, Superman castings and is very good in his role. He captured the essence of the movie in his acting and made a fictional character come to life. Cavill and Affleck add tremendous believe-ability to what is otherwise an unbelievable story. Even Jesse Eisenberg gives a commendable, but different, interpretation of Lex Luther Jr. I did find his character annoying during first viewing. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I had to watch twice before I appreciated his character. I was unsure of Gal Gadot’s ability to portray Wonder Woman but she outperformed my expectations, despite her small role. Her performance in Batman vs Superman was enough to make me excited for her own movie coming out June 2017 (at least as of now).

The story feels slightly cramped to be forced inside one movie. There is quite a variety of protagonist and antagonist battles that build and shift among characters making a very elaborate story which was probably not quite enough for two movies, but a little bit much for one. Some of the dialogue could be improved, it didn’t feel as natural as one would hope.

I would give the theatrical version 3 Apologies.

When I heard that the DVD/BluRay release was going to be an unrated Director’s Cut Ultimate Edition, I thought “this must be what I was looking for from the beginning!” Naturally, I preordered the Ultimate Edition BluRay and couldn’t wait to watch it with Mrs. Apologist when it finally arrived. The cut contains an additional 30 minutes of footage, which makes a huge difference in the quality of the story and of the film overall. At 182 minutes run time it is quite the endeavor to sit down and watch the whole thing in one sitting (highly recommend to watch from the comfort of your own home, ample snacks, pause button for bathroom breaks, and a rewind capability for when Mrs. Apology falls asleep), but I enjoyed it more on the second viewing.

My rating for the unrated version improved to only 2 Apologies as it remains an enjoyable movie but still far from perfect. I am looking forward to the other movies in the group (Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League, etc)

  • -Movie Apologist