2017 Movie Report Card – July Update

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Here are the updated Rated Greg movie rankings for 2017.  I was all ready to stamp the Q2 slate as underwhelming, but Edgar Wright went off and dunked from the free throw line at the buzzer with Baby Driver, single-handedly redeeming the quarter.

I haven’t had the chance to write about Baby Driver yet, but I’ll quickly state that it’s the most entertaining movie, start to finish, since Mad Max: Fury Road.  Trust me, even if you’re not typically into heist movies go see it.  On top of multiple off the chain chase sequences, it uses music like I’ve never seen before in a film.  Also, Jon Hamm finally goes H.A.M.  Seriously, this whole movie made me so happy, I’ve literally been smirking since Tuesday night.

My most anticipated for Q3 are:

  1. Dunkirk
  2. The Big Sick
  3. War for the Planet of the Apes
  4. Detroit
  5. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
  6. Battle of the Sexes
  7. American Made
  8. It
  9. The Dark Tower
  10. Good Time

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The Mummy

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I miss the old Tom Cruise.
Top Gun, so fun Tom Cruise.
Show me the money Tom Cruise.
I WANT THE TRUTH Tom Cruise!
 Film Title: The Mummy
I hate the new Tom Cruise.
So wack Jack Reacher Tom Cruise.
That Rock of Ages Tom Cruise.

Get lost The Mummy Tom Cruise!

Grade: F

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Wonder Woman

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Rated Greg’s Top 5 Superhero Movies This Century

  1. The Dark Knight
  2. Batman Begins
  3. Kick-Ass
  4. Logan
  5. The Dark Knight Rises

65 movies.  SIXTY-FIVE.  That’s how many mainstream superhero movies I counted that have come out since 2002’s Spiderman.  For my entire adult life, the practice of gearing a franchise around a brave individual with super abilities has been the most popular avenue towards blockbuster success for the big studios.  I sure wish they would spread the wealth to the more mature genres, but given the revenues flowing in I don’t see a major shift coming anytime soon.  The main reason I started this blog last year was to talk about movies that I was passionate about, but I’m pretty much fresh out of takes for conventional comic book cinema at this point.  Most are fine, two-hour distractions, but what else is there to say?

A Ringer favorite of mine, Chris Ryan, mentioned that he was “aging out of this shit” on The Watch podcast recently and I have to agree.  Superhero stories just don’t excite me anymore.  The Dark Knight trilogy holds up so well because, other than Katie Holmes’s mysterious ability to shapeshift into Maggie Gyllenhaal, it was fairly grounded.  CGI was kept to a minimum and the plot developments were “mostly” based in realism.  In comparison, the current crop of Marvel and DC films incorporate our heroes literally exchanging roundhouse punches with gods and aliens.  There’s time travel and alternate dimensions, infinity stones and floating battleships.  The stakes are way out of wack as an average of 1.5 bustling cities are completely leveled per movie and yet the heroes (and villains) are basically immortal due to the well known multi-picture deals of the actors.  Sidenote – In the case of Marvel, I also don’t think Disney is comfortable killing off anyone with a speaking part.  That would be off brand for them unless we’re talking about cartoon parents (RIP Mufasa).  

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Because we’ve seen the conventional superhero in 3 arcs story so many times, DC and Marvel films will require other, more interesting elements than green screen action alone to earn higher praise.  I got cised for Guardians 2 (A-) because it was, matter of factly, really fucking funny.  I got cised for Logan (A+) because the director disguised a brutal, gut wrenching, R rated Western as a superhero movie.  But those are the exceptions.  The majority of these films, at this juncture, don’t stray too far from the corporate formula which ultimately limits their ceiling.

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So how does Wonder Woman stack up against the other films?  Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news.  Let’s tackle the good news first.  First off, the titular character is WAY more interesting than the average beefy template in a cape.  WW is only the third of these sixty-five films with a female lead, and the first of which that’s also directed by a woman (clearly Hollywood doesn’t have it’s own Title IX), so it’s no surprise that a different perspective is brought to the table.  What was surprising, at least to me, was how entertaining Gal Gadot is in this role.  She hadn’t shown much in the Fast and Furious franchise previously, but clearly they didn’t give her enough to do.  She’s fantastic.  In fact, on a charisma scale I’d put her well ahead of her Justice League counterparts Ben Affleck (Batman) & Henry Cavill (Superman), but still behind my #1 STUNNA Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn).

The other good news is that this movie’s got jokes.  It’s not one of the best comedies you’ll see all year like Guardians mentioned above, but it has several good bits that hit.  And intertwined within the movie’s lighthearted banter is a moving romance between Gadot and Chris Pine.  Most superhero movies contain love interests, however for some reason they almost always come off as clumsy (Thor and Natalie Portman) or even borderline creepy (Superman and Louise Lane).  This one works.

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Onto the bad news.  It’s one thing for action to be the same old song and dance (Marvel), it’s another thing for the action to actually take away from the movie.  I have the same issue regarding the combat sequences of this film as I did in last year’s DC movies (Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman).  It all looks too way much like a video game or cartoon.  During much of these scenes, you can tell that Wonder Woman isn’t even a stunt double but actual computer animation (at least I think so, maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me).  Anyways, I’m just not a fan of the look.  I will say it’s pretty cool seeing Gadot kick the shit out of a bunch of Germans but I would prefer the use of a more realistic filter.  Also, can we stop it with the whole final boss battle at the end trope, where he explains his diabolical plan to the hero and presents how all-powerful he is?  Haven’t we evolved past that?  Why does this have to happen in every movie?

All in all, Wonder Woman is good.  It’s not great, but very solid and worth seeing, probably on par with the average Marvel movie.  It’s definitely a step in the right direction for the DC universe after a disappointing 2016.  Grade: B- 

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It Comes At Night

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Rated Greg’s Top 5 Scariest Movies

  1. The Shining
  2. The Conjuring
  3. Jaws
  4. Paranormal Activity
  5. It

My rule of thumb when it comes to watching movies is generally the less you know going in the better.  I just think all trailers (and most reviews) hint at jokes, action, and plot points that would have been more enjoyable experiencing first hand without prior knowledge that they were on the horizon.  I would liken it to my current situation watching hoops.  Because I cut the cord and now watch basketball via online apps, most of the games I watch are on a 60-120 second delay.  This may not seem like a big deal, except I can tell when something epic is about to happen because my phone starts blowing up right before a buzzer beater occurs (or something else wild like a Kelly Oubre hip check).  You remember the crazy UNC/Kentucky Elite 8 finish?  I had a strong inclination Luke Maye was going to hit that shot when he put it up given the constant morse code of vibrations felt on my thigh in the minute prior.

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Occasionally though this lack of information on a film prior to seeing it can really throw me for a loop, which is precisely what happened last Sunday.  I knew four things about It Comes At Night before seeing it, and exactly these four things only:

  1. The title was It Comes At Night
  2. It was listed as a Horror
  3. It starred Joel Edgerton (a Rated Greg favorite)
  4. It had a 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes

Based on those factors above, I assumed this was a spooky, BOO!-type haunted house story in the vein of The Conjuring or Poltergeist.  I mean, it’s called It Comes At Night after all.  How could I expect any different with a dumbass name like that?   Once noticing that it got an 86%, it was a no-brainer that I would check it out.  A good scare can be quite fun.

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From the opening frames however I quickly realized that there wasn’t going to be anything fun about this movie.  This is the heaviest, darkest, and most intense film of 2017 thus far.  Of the 91 minutes run time there might only be three, four minutes tops containing lighter fare (definitely not suitable for a fun date night).  It Comes At Night isn’t even really a horror movie despite being heavily marketed that way (more on that in a second).  It’s a psychological thriller about the animal instincts of mankind that can kick in when presented with a possible threat.  I do think it’s a decent movie in the end (first half is a little tough to watch), just so very far from what I was expecting.  The film is professionally well crafted in every aspect, cinematography and acting especially (shout out rising stars Christopher Abbott and my current #wcw Riley Keough), but the material is such a grind to get through.  The primary measuring stick when grading something on the Rated Greg scale is simply how much did I enjoy the experience of watching it, thus I can’t put it higher than a B-.  Grade: B-

  • One last item of note:  Given the 44% public score on Rotten Tomatoes (compared to 86% critical), it looks like I wasn’t the only one surprised by what I just saw.  I went back and looked at the trailer and it is certainly very misleading.  I get why A24 marketed It Comes At Night this way.  Conventional Horror movies make more money per dollar invested than any other genre, so why not try to lure viewers in and win them over.  But it’s a dirty trick.  It’s kind of like those deceptive individuals who only use extremely old photos on their dating profile.

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War Machine

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Rated Greg’s Top 5 Brad Pitt Performances

  1. Floyd – True Romance
  2. Mickey O’Neil – Snatch
  3. Tyler Durden – Fight Club
  4. Lt. Aldo Raine – Inglorious Basterds
  5. Chad Feldheimer – Burn After Reading

Similar to Atlanta’s Harrison Booth, Brad Pitt is one man trapped in another man’s body. Specifically, he’s a character actor trapped in a leading man’s body.  What I mean is there’s a strong correlation between the worst movies of Pitt’s catalog and the films in which he’s the clear-cut star.  Seriously, take a look at his iMDB.  Troy sucked.  Allied made no sense.  World War Z was dumb.  Benjamin Button?  More like Benjamin Butthole.  He’s the Tier 1 asset of each and none of them are any good.  Moneyball is the one exception and you could argue Seven and Fight Club as well, but in each of those he’s more of a 1A or 1B with another star (Morgan Freeman and Ed Norton, respectively) instead of the default top billing.  By no means am I going on a Brad Pitt should hang em’ up hot take, he’s definitely one of my favorites, I’m just saying his best movies are the one’s in which another lead can play the handsome hero role, giving him the free range to get weird.

Pitt’s newest feature, War Machine, only further solidifies this theory.  The Netflix original movie has Pitt front and center for over 90% of the film with little other star power to work off of.  Now granted, this IS one of his weirder roles, playing a naïve real life war general in satirical fashion, but it’s not the good kind of weird.  The cartoonish nature of the character is way too off-putting to be the protagonist of a 2-hour movie.  It’s actually one of the only instances I can think of where Pitt is straight up unlikeable.  His portrayal might have been a little easier to digest if this was more of an ensemble piece, however even then I’m not so sure.  This is a comedy after all and I only laughed once, which didn’t even come from Pitt but from a surprise cameo towards the end.  It’s nice to have another big budget, awards-aspiring feature film bypass the theaters and come straight to Netflix, but unlike 2015’s fantastic Beasts of No Nation, this will not be getting ANY Oscar buzz.  Grade: D

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