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Friday, December 25, 2015

Movie Review: 'The Hateful Eight'

The Hateful Eight is a torrid, exceedingly violent, and thrilling dance.

Review by Matt Cummings

Depending on your circles, Director Quentin Tarantino is either a brilliant and influential filmmaker or an over-the-top potty mouth who violates every social convention with his exceedingly violent fare. For me, I'm somewhere in the middle, ready to quote Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction but aware that he sometimes goes too far at the expense of his work. If you find yourself standing in the latter corner, you're going to despise The Hateful Eight for its excessive runtime and unnecessary violence. But if that's the case, you shouldn't have bought a ticket to this visceral throwback that's as crass and ugly as anything we've seen this year.

Stuck in a 1880's haberdashery in Wyoming, eight unsavory characters are forced to survive a blizzard, until two untimely deaths open the dogs of war and a bloody battle rages. On one side is the Union soldier-turned-mercenary Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), the bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell), and the felon Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who Ruth is bringing to a hanging. The other side includes the former Southern general Smithers (Bruce Dern), the racist Mannix (Walton Goggins), and a collection of others like Mobray (Tim Roth) and Joe Cage (Michael Madson). As Warren begins his investigation to uncover the killer, unlikely alliances must be formed if he or the others expect to leave the haberdashery alive.

Presented in 'glorious 70mm,' The Hateful Eight is as profane as they get, but it's also a beautifully shot, well-executed affair with so many one-liners that fans will be quoting them as soon as they emerge blurry-eyed from the theater. In the expanded format - available only in certain cities - audiences will be treated to individual flakes of snow and sweeping vistas, while experiencing a pressure cooker of post-Civil War racism and cursing that Tarantino expertly mixes in the confined spaces of both a stagecoach and the haberdashery. Once all the characters have been established, it's time to start killing them off, and of course this is a Tarantino essential, mixing Shakespearean values with exploding heads and plenty of blood. The Hateful Eight is also well-written, stating its character's points on a line in which everyone in the room is at least a little racist, a fact that actually doesn't play a part in the way the film ends. Some might wonder if such an omission ruins the impact of the film, something you'll have to determine should you decide to see it.

But, The Hateful Eight will cause the sharpest debate over three aspects to Tarantino's spectacle. At 3 hours and 5 minutes, it will appear to be overly long; and in many points throughout Act 1, I agree. There's a lot of setup - too much in fact - between Warren and Ruth, as they discuss Warren's Lincoln letter and just how ugly Domergue has been throughout her life. But it's sharply acted by the suddenly resurgent Russell and the always unflappable Jackson. Once the story cranks up, the rest of the affair will seem to fly by. Acts 2 & 3 are like a classic whodunit: who was in what position when someone in the room buys it, and who had what to gain by their death.

The Hateful Eight also sports an incredibly long Overture - nearly five minutes long - from Composer Ennio Morricone. An architect of the Spaghetti Western style (big horns, choir vocals, and Spanish guitar), this Overture is nothing of the sort. It doesn't keep our attention, unlike the last time I remember seeing such a thing, in 1978's Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It's brilliant if they pull it off, but sounds audacious if they don't. But as always, a Tarantino film is usually filled with the n-word in proliferation; here it happens so much that at some point you want to yell at the screen, "Yeah! We get it!" True, Americans North and South referred to them as such, but they also called them Negros, a word we do not hear uttered at all. I get that its use informs us about the time period, but it overuse threatens to derail the story at certain points.

And still, I can forgive all of Tarantino's errors - including his unnecessary voice-over after the Intermission (he just can't help himself) - because the rest of The Hateful Eight is just so damn good. Filled with quotable lines and terrific ensemble performances, it's also beautifully presented in 70mm. If you're lucky to be in one of the cities where the Roadshow edition is being presented, I couldn't recommend more that you see with the Intermission and big-screen aspect ratio intact. It will hearken back to the days when theaters sold programs of their movies (which they do here as well). One performance you might not see coming is that of Goggins' Mannix, whose growth from bumbling, hateful, racist Southern fool to hero is perhaps the most satisfying thing about the experience.

The Hateful Eight is an excessive, exceedingly violent whodunit filled with enough sharp dialogue to keep the audience awake well even with its unnecessarily long run time. But that's Tarantino, and you either love or hate him for it. And while not his best, I will be seeing again, if for nothing else to enjoy a much-needed Intermission that studios ought to consider re-instituting.

The Hateful Eight is rated R for strong bloody violence, a scene of violent sexual content, language and some graphic nudity and has a runtime of 168 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.
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#Deadpool Red & Green Band Trailer

It's Christmas Day, when Deadpool decorates with trailers Red & Green. One that's "nice" and one that's "naughty" (the way it's meant to be seen).

Based upon Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, DEADPOOL tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with his new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humor, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life.



Watch the green band trailer after the Jump...



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Movie Review: 'Point Break'

The visually appealing but illogical Point Break also lacks an emotional core.

Review by Matt Cummings


As a moviegoer, you probably have a unique relationship with 1991's Point Break. You either love it for the over-top-action by Director Kathryn Bigelow or your hate it for Actor Keanu Reeve's now famous 'brah' shtick. Regardless of what side of the fence you ride, it's clear that a remake probably wasn't at the top of anyone's Most Anticipated List. And while sports some of the best real-life action of the year, it fails miserably to set up a believable tale of extreme crime and our growing environmental crisis.

Extreme sports dude Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) quits the game for the FBI after his partner dies. Filled with guilt over the matter, he soon becomes entrenched in a series of extreme sports crimes, one that costs the United States millions of dollars when a money shipment over Mexico is compromised. But the team, headed by the idealistic Brohdi (Edgar Ramirez), aren't committing these crimes to steal: their Robin Hood sensibilities are well-funded and off the books, leading Utah to wonder about their ultimate goal as he infiltrates their gang. As his relationship deepens with fellow athlete Samsara (Teresa Palmer), Utah must separate his loyalties to the mission and from the gang's unique bond before the FBI takes them all down.

Point Break faces a difficult task of replacing a film that wasn't well-reviewed when it arrived but has grown into something far more than it ever was. Given that sort of odd history, the remake makes several illogical moves and never reaches the emotional peak that the original did manage to get right. But that's not to say that Director Ericson Core doesn't turn in a series of high-flying, well-crafted stunts that could be the best since Mad Max: Fury Road. Utilizing what appears to be a mix of GoPros and studio 3D cameras during several stunts, the film looks terrific and feels as visceral as the label 'extreme sports' suggests. These are the real deal, not green-screened to save on cost.

But when the action turns to story, Point Break utterly fails to keep our attention. The reason why the original worked was because the FBI were investigating a series of crimes in the United States. Almost all of the new ones occur overseas, which means the FBI would never have gotten involved. And yet there is the FBI, doing something that not even the CIA would bother to pursue. When that sort of filter is applied, other cracks begin to show as well: who is the meaningless rich guy who supporting Bohdi, and why does his crew suddenly accept Utah, for any other reason than his love for extreme sports? Once doubt begins to creep into a universe you're trying to establish, forget about bringing audiences any further.

Bracey does well enough, but his 'conflict' is really centered around when having sex with Samsara will give him the maximum effect to his investigation, which really is nothing but an excuse to extreme sport the Hell out of things. I liked him better in November Man, but here he's just a good-looking dude with little reason to pursue this case. Reeves really got his rep from the '93 version, but here Bracey is just a one-dimensional lawman. Palmer is serviceable, as is Ramirez who is never quite the baddie we expect. His posse is just a bunch of low-lifes who for some reason subscribe to Bodhi's bullshit about re-connecting with Mother Nature. They just become smears on the canyon wall as their addiction for extreme sports overtakes them.

More importantly, Writer Kurt Wimmer doesn't exactly imbue anyone here with any graying loyalties. The good are good and the bad must be taken down. Things would have been so much better had that gray area been explored, allowing Utah to seriously test his loyalties to Bodhi instead of listening to his boss (Delroy Lindo) complain about Utah's lack of checking in. That's really as deep as we get here, which eventually pulls down even the terrific action sequences.

When one considers that all press screenings for Point Break were strangely cancelled (due to "unforeseen circumstances"), it's clear that DMG Entertainment clearly got cold feet, opting to make reviewers wait for Christmas Day to see it. Don't bother: Point Break looks pretty as does its leads but the story goes in illogical directions before giving up to a wild green-screened ending that betrays much of the visceral action Core had done so well to construct.

Point Break is rated PG-13 for violence, thematic material involving perilous activity, some sexuality, language and drug material and has a runtime of 113 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.
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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Movie Review: 'The Big Short'

The 2007 housing crisis is viscerally played out in this bittersweet, memorizing, and terrific ensemble piece.

Review by Matt Cummings

As a person intimately aware of the 2007 housing crisis, the story behind The Big Short has served as a narrative for too many of my friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Lured by the promise of cheap money that could be refinanced in a over-priced housing market, many lost their homes when the rates became too high and home values began to plunge. The ensemble drama/comedy The Big Short analyzes both the back and front end of the crisis, hoping to finally get people interested in a topic that still demands our full attention.

Set in the years leading up to the 2007 housing crisis, The Big Short follows three stories of investors trying to make money for their clients. The housing market has boomed, allowing literally everyone the chance to own a home. As a result, those who have sought to open the doors to de-regulation have made tremendous sums of money. But it's all based on numbers that can't be sustained, and Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale) can see them like no one else. But rather than pull his clients' money out, he makes a bold decision: get the banks to create a new apparatus to short the housing market. Several teams of investors, led by the imagined Mark Baum (Steve Carell) are practicing a kind of social/economic justice against the banks and sees Burry's methods as a great way to stab back at their draconian policies. Others like the made-up Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) serve as both our narrator and chief instigator to getting Baum and others to buy the shorts. As this large group of rich white men begin to take advantage of the rising defaults in the housing market, their fortitude will be tested as they learn just how devious the banks have become in hiding the eventual crisis and what effect his will have on average Americans.

The Big Short is an angry film, angry at the banks for letting this happen, angry for at people who failed to educate themselves about CDO's, but uses that rage to tell its story with an uncompromising mix of humor, educational accessibility, and high white-knuckled drama. That anger would seem like enough, until you realize that another layer has been added, that of really smart people who understand what's about to happen and pour their assets into it hoping to make money from it.

But, The Big Short is also hilariously wacky. Early in Act 1, Early on, Director Adam McKay (yeah, THAT Adam McKay) plays part of his hand about how this film will be told, accepting that not everyone in the audience is about to understand what they'll see. Instead of delving academically into it, McKay turns us on our ear: "It's pretty confusing, right? Does it make you feel bored? Or stupid?" says the narrator. "Well, it's supposed to. Wall Street loves to use confusing terms to make you think only they can do what they do. Or even better, for you just to leave them the fuck alone. So here's Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to explain." And sits Robbie, sipping champagne surrounded by candles, explaining sub-prime mortgages. Brilliant. Now they have our attention. This happens several times throughout The Big Short, although the subject is still so difficult to grasp, especially as we get to its solemn conclusion.

McKay takes a friendly approach to the topic, surprising everyone by just how focused his work can be. Known mostly for ad-libbed comedy, McKay adapts Michael Lewis' best-selling book with a playfulness that's also matched by a bittersweet message about trusting in something you know nothing about. Moreover, he unceremoniously shows how some profited, allowing Bale's Murray to clean up (eventually) at the betting table. It's not a pretty affair, and after awhile you begin to wonder if anyone we're seeing are the good guys. There weren't many of them back in 2008 when the market began to turn, only people who profited (or were bailed out) and everyone else who got pulled down. That's not a good message to share with a people focused on the Kardashians' every move, but McKay boldly strikes iron and doesn't let up.

Nor does his cast. Most performances here are 30,000 feet - we don't know a lot about Burry or Vennett but is that necessary to understanding the bigger tale here? Many times, I grate my teeth at the lack of character development in a film. Here, it's the story of corporate giants screwing over the economy and how some people tried to make money from it That usually doesn't work, but here the topic is so broad that their characters can also afford to be. Bale is perhaps the best surprise here, although Gosling's narration reminds that although he's our guide, he's most definitely the enemy. Carrell has recently been playing characters with deep-seeded emotional anger, and here he lets the horses run; he's clearly fighting to help people and to right the wrongs left by his brother's suicide. Again, that emotional firecracker works so well, especially as we get near the end. But again it's Bale who perhaps makes the biggest impression, due mainly to his smallish performance. He does the little things here to separate himself from the pack of wild financial animals. His unapologetic attitude, smallish voice, and acerbic nature allows him to disappear into The Big Short to make money for his clients.

The Big Short also reveals that the way a movie is directed and edited can supersede any performance. Editor Hank Corwin's quickly edits this into a sometimes blurry and often visceral experience. There's a recklessness to things, as if you can see the walls crumbling but people are still looking up the Jenga-like skyscraper to see what's wrong. But even Corwin can't keep all the data in check: after awhile of this, the stories outside of people losing their homes, or seeing the market drop during Act 3 gets to the point that you can't tell if Burry or Baum are actually making money for their clients. It all becomes a distraction, and we haven't even talked about the 20-something boys led by Brad Pitt's mysterious Ben Rickert. More visual cues might have helped here, with each act bringing us up to speed on the assets of each holding.

While The Big Short has been advertised as a sort of heist comedy, filled with an Oceans Eleven-like cast, the subject is deafening and anything but hilarious. It's about criminal deception, by an industry that is still around and continuing to misrepresent its clients. And while the comedy is there to help further the story, there is just below the surface a boiling, almost seething anger behind The Big Short. It can't all be trusted, but it's a good place to start when trying to understand all of the dynamics. Seeing all happen again most likely won't bring Americans into demanding action - as the same CDO's have been re-written into a new name - but it should, even if that Christmas present is a giant brick with the word SUCKER spray-painted on it.

The Big Short is rated R for pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity and has a runtime of 130 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.
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Movie Review: 'The Danish Girl'

The Danish Girl is a powerful, poignant frontrunner in a home-hum Oscar race.

Review by Matt Cummings

In a time when transgender and gay rights have taken center stage, a film about an early 20th Century pioneer might seem like someone trying to jump onto the Caitlin Jenner Bandwagon. But The Danish Girl is much more than that, rising to become an instant Oscar frontrunner with its witty and tragic storytelling and awards-worthy lead performances.

The Danish painter Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) are a loving and successful couple whose open sexuality make them something of nuisance to early 20th Century conventions. But hidden deep in the recesses of Einar's mind is the alter ego Lili Elbe, who worries about the reaction society might have if they learn of her existence. When a chance event allows Einar to unleash his doppleganger, Gerda realizes that this is no passing fancy. Struggling to maintain her marriage and her sanity, Gerda enlists the help of a doctor who might be able to help by performing the world's first sex change operation on her husband. But as she soon realizes, the effect could undo her marriage and place Lili's life at risk.

Make no mistake, its subject matter still quickens the pulse; but like any legitimate Oscar contender, you can feel the weight of the storytelling. Here, its message is so powerful that it struggles to break free of the conventional means of telling it. Some will view that message as heresy, while others will walk out because of its in-your-face sexuality (there's serious nudity here). But dig deeper and you'll find a classic story of obsession and sacrifice, wrapped up in some of the best direction of the year. Tom Hooper executes his film with the skill of a master painter, commanding both the pretty landscapes of Europe with the sometimes stark world in which the Wegeners struggle to re-identify themselves. Hooper gets the humanity of what's at stake and lets Redmayne unleash his brilliance, unfazed by the possible consequences of a film that could have become overly dramatic or polished for mainstream effect. As Elnar's true colors begin to show, Redmayne beautifully transforms while allowing Elnar's obsession overtake him. It's such a compelling performance, but not even the best one.

That honor goes to Vikander, who makes a strong case for Oscar consideration. She plays both dutiful wife and victim with charm and loads of sexuality, becoming the brightest light in the room, even when the burden of adjusting to her new world becomes too much. This is as much Gerda's story as it is Lili's: to watch a young, vivacious soul like Gerda reduced to a tragic bystander is heartbreaking, and Vikander makes the most of it. Check out the scene where she plays borderline bisexual dominatrix with just enough sizzle to make a poser in an early scene sweat; it's the destruction of early 20th Century conventions as haven't seen in awhile.

And still, a film like The Danish Girl could be the most controversial of the year: the destruction of a marriage over a deep-seeded obsession, openly gay and sexually-available artists donning 19th Century attire and behaviors, and the idea of doctors labeling homosexual and transgender affiliations as mental illness. It's all there, along with some of the best dialogue of the year. Writer Lucinda Coxon crafts her script (based on the novel by David Ebershoff) knowing that the quality of the tale is more important than the reaction it will receive. She enriches her characters with both witty repartee and tragic regrets, granting even Amber Heard's few scenes with enough energy to almost complete her arc. That's the way a story should be told.

Two camps will inevitably rise from this story: some will cheer Lili's perseverance in the face of unimaginable consequences, while others will deride the destruction of a marriage over one man's self-centered obsession. Whatever side on which you land, one cannot debate the quality behind The Danish Girl and the questions it will no doubt raise.

Beautifully shot and spryly acted, The Danish Girl breaks many barriers on its way to becoming a frontrunner Oscar candidate. It's not big on re-watchability, but with such a poignant and powerful message in its sails, you have to think this story of obsession and sacrifice will be rewarded come February.

The Danish Girl is rated R for some sexuality and full nudity and has a runtime of 120 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.
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Movie Review: 'Concussion'

The NFL head trauma drama is by-the-numbers Oscar bait.

Review by Matt Cummings

It's hard to find a film these days which surrounds a current event: studios spend so much time worrying about lawsuits that many times a 'topical subject' really isn't so. Fortunately, the film Concussion arrives just in time to reignite old anger about a continuing NFL cover-up. Unfortunately, it's paint-by-the-numbers Oscar bait that neither reaches high emotional drama nor tells the whole story.

When former Pittsburgh Steelers star Mike Webster (a very good David Morse) is found dead of an apparent suicide, the pathologist Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) discovers that Webster's brain has been badly damaged through years of hard hits on the gridiron. As he begins to uncover a frightening amount of former players that have also died prematurely, Omalu brands the deaths a result of CTE. But instead of listening to him, the NFL begins a smear campaign to discredit Omalu and those who partnered with him, including the Steeler's former head doctor (Alec Baldwin). As the amount of deaths grow, Omalu must decide whether to fight a corporate giant or bury the evidence so that he and his wife (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) can live a normal life.

Writer/Director Peter Landesman adapts well enough an article by GQ Journalist Jeanne Marie Laskas. He tells the story as it happened, sharply focusing on Omalu's plight. But Landesman fails to ignite his tale and of the NFL's coverup in any sort of gratifying way. It's hard to find that balance between embellishing for effect and letting the story and performances power the film; here, the mix just doesn't work. Sure it's effective at showing how the NFL attempted to discredit Omalu, how he fled to California, and was later vindicated by other high-profile suicides. But there's too many heart-pulling moments that feel contrived, especially the lengthy epilogue by Smith. Then there's the "what happened to everyone" cards at the end that many times are written for effect over matter. The Big Short did a much better job of viscerally painting the housing crisis through its expert camerawork and unique portrayals. Concussion just feels like a paint-by-the-numbers system: insert emotional dialogue here in response to big corporate action there.

Smith is fine as Omalu, doing his best to capture the thick Nigerian accent. He's known lately for these emotional portrayals, but again Landesman doesn't quite get everything out of Smith. He reads the lines, does the accent, but fails to imbue Omalu as much else but a precise and caring person who talks to the dead CSI Miami style. I also recognize the importance of side stories, but Mbatha-Raw takes center stage too often without helping to drive the main issue which is the NFL cover-up. She is ill-prepared for the role and thus fails to deliver a powerful performance. The same goes with Smith's boss played by Albert Brooks, who seems to deliver the same Cynical Whatever film after film. But his scenes with Smith are the best of the film, adding a layer of emotion that sadly didn't extend throughout the picture.

Concussion also doesn't tell a complete story about CTE. There's Boston University's Dr. Ann McKee and her independent studies of 79 players, which found that 76 of them had CTE. And there's also Chris Nowinski, the former player who helped McKee secure many of those brains. The movie leaves out these and other champions including wives of former players, choosing emotion over facts. In deciding to make the story a personal struggle of Omalu vs the NFL, it mischaracterizes the scope of the research that was actually being carried out.

The NFL's complicity in CTE is horrible and disgusting. Fans should be upset. No professional football player should have to go through what Webster did, and no one should have their reputations destroyed like Omalu experienced for doing good clinical work. Unfortunately, Concussion won't go very far in refocusing efforts to shed additional light on a subject that requires our deepest commitment. Like Omalu's autopsies, it's far too clinical in telling its tale. Check out PBS' Frontline - League of Denial: it's far more encompassing (and therefore more powerful) than this.

Concussion is rated PG-13 for thematic material including some disturbing images, and language and has a runtime of 123 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.
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Movie Review: 'Daddy's Home'

Daddy's Home is serviceable holiday gluttony that will make you fatter from consuming it.

Review by Matt Cummings

If 2014 proved that comedies were back, 2015 has almost reeled that statement back in. The Night Before, Get Hard, and Entourage proved that male-lead laughfests were nothing of the sort, while female-driven ones (Spy, Sisters, and Trainwreck) were far superior. The final comedy of 2015 Daddy's Home sadly proves our point.

Brad (Will Ferrell) is newly married to Sarah (Linda Cardellini) and is stepfather to two kids who don't like him very much. No matter what Brad does to lighten their day, the kids don't recognize him as their father. Brad's style doesn't help: on the edge of being labeled effeminate, he places inspirational notes in the kids' lunchboxes, and tears up when one of them reluctantly asks him to the daddy-daughter dance at school. Unfortunately, the arrival of the real dad Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) turns Brad's world upside down, as he's forced to compete with the ex-husband's command of...well..everything. He's ripped, can sing and dance, is great with tools, and sports a giant penis. Forced to be something he's not, Brad enters into a war for his children's affection that sees the boys trying to one-up each other, until Sarah threatens to send both to bed without dinner

Perhaps she should have: Daddy's Home is funny enough, but only attacks the low-hanging fruit of mocking the modern 'man' and engaging in twelve-year-old humor that we've honestly seen performed better elsewhere. Wahlberg was the rock behind the success of Ted, and here he actually steals a lot of scenes Ferrell, who himself doesn't seem quite on the game. He's played this type all year with none of them working entirely well. As Dusty moves in on Sarah at a Lakers game, a drunken Brad heaves a ball at a Lakergirl, bottoming out an experience that still has 30 minutes to play out. And its runtime is only 96 minutes. That's what we get from Ferrell now, an overly-extended ab-libbed scene that's become a hallmark of his recent big-screen failures.

Director Sean Anders doesn't help. Ferrell and others like Kevin Hart need a tight leash on their performances, which isn't necessarily what Anders provides here. Daddy's Home places every character in a box without the possibility of growth. There's Brad's boss (Tomas Haden Church) who's only there for odd analogies of his life's failures, Hannibal Burress as Dusty's new friend who eats his way through unfunny jokes, and even Brad's new dog, who humps everything and loves Brad's ankles. Sarah is the one who keeps this story from completely unraveling: she has to make the choice to return to Dusty or forge ahead with Brad. There's a bit of sexual dominance to Sarah: she's clearly in charge of Brad, and an R rating could have revealed a Dominatrix in Cardellini. In many ways, Writers Anders and Brian Burns handcuff themselves into a lower rating and ultimately sacrifice what could have been a far funnier comedy. Hitting Lakergirls in the face with a basketball might be PG-13, but it's not funny.

Don't get me wrong: Daddy's Home does have its funny moments. The bedtime stories are laced with hilarious sexual innuendo (I hope this is stitched together when the Blu-ray gets released), and a scene with a fertility doctor (Danny Cannavale) reveals just how large Wahlberg's 'charge' is. Honestly it's surprising that particular scene didn't result in an R rating. Daddy's Home straddles that line often but continually aims for the shallow end of the pool.

Daddy's Home could have been the best comedy of the year; instead, it's content to pick the low-hanging fruit of weird sexual innuendo, physical comedy, and Ferrell's oft-times rambling comedy. If that sort of game is your thing, then the slow pace won't bother you either, nor will Wahlberg's hilariously clean bedtime stories. Provided you haven't already seen The Force Awakens for a third time, Daddy's Home can provide the needed filler before returning to the tasty treats of a galaxy far, far away.

Daddy's Home is rated PG-13 for profanity, smoking, and sexual suggestions has a runtime of 96 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.
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Movie Review: Joy

Joy to the world, J-Law has come.

Review by Brandon Wolfe

If anyone deserves to have living sainthood status bestowed upon them, it has to be Joy Mangano, the put-upon heroine and real-life inventor played by Jennifer Lawrence in David O. Russell’s Joy. Joy was told at a young age that she was special and destined for great things by her doting grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd), but every other member of her family unconsciously conspires to keep Joy down. When we catch up to Joy in her adult life, she’s running herself ragged trying to meet the needs of her ramshackle brood, with absolutely no one stepping forward to assist, or even to offer a simple thank-you. Her mother Terry (Virginia Madsen) is a shut-in who sits in bed all day, refusing to tear herself away from her soap operas. Her father Rudy (Robert De Niro) is a cantankerous wreck, always on the lookout for a new relationship to replace whichever previous one he’s destroyed. Her half-sister Peggy (Elizabeth Rohm) makes no attempt to conceal the blatant contempt she carries for Joy. Her ex-husband Tony (Edgar Ramirez) tanked their marriage by refusing to accept any employment that didn’t further his singing career, yet still lives in Joy’s basement two years post-divorce. Add to the pile a pair of screaming kids, a thankless job at an airport ticket counter, a stack of delinquent bills and an increasingly dilapidated house and Joy’s life renders her first name a cruel joke.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Joy was a bright, creative young girl, and was in fact the valedictorian of her high school’s graduating class. Mimi was right, she was destined for great things, and is an avid inventor of nifty household items. But given that her homestead is bursting at the seams with both actual children and glorified adult ones who, in some cases literally, can barely get out of bed without her direct assistance, she has had to put her life on hold and is beginning to fray from the strain of it all. After sustaining cuts from mopping up wine and glass shards from the deck of the luxury sailboat owned by Rudy’s new, well-to-do, widowed paramour Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) and collapsing into a cough-syrup-derived, much-needed deep sleep, Joy awakes with newfound purpose. She furiously begins to design a new-fangled mop, one that consists of a continuously looped coil of cotton, can be self-wrung and with a business end that can be detached for machine-washing. This mop is destined to change the game of housekeeping. Now Joy just needs to build and sell the thing, not realizing the arduous road she will need to walk to realize her vision.


Joy taps into the vein of dysfunctional families and how oppressive and damaging they can be, one of Russell’s pet themes going all the way back to his first two films, Spanking the Monkey and Flirting With Disaster. The first act of Joy, where we watch our harried protagonist go through the paces of dealing with all these broken, self-serving ingrates is exhausting. The frustration of her situation is palpable in Lawrence’s performance, even though Joy herself scarcely ever complains about her lot in life. She is not merely the only thing holding this family together, she’s the only way any of them even manage to survive, so unwilling are they to lift a finger or face down any of their issues. She enables all of them by being eternally patient and dependable, allowing them to take her for granted. Getting a glimpse of how torturous Joy has allowed her life to become engenders a wealth of sympathy for her.

Once Joy is able to produce a prototype of her mop, she gets a reluctant Trudy to invest in the product, yet is thoroughly unable to market or sell the mop at the consumer level, sinking so low as to stage demonstrations in parking lots for uninterested passersby. However, a surprisingly helpful Tony manages to use a connection to put Joy and her mop in a room with Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), a top executive for the burgeoning QVC network, where she manages to sell the disengaged Walker on her product through sheer determination. From there, Joy takes the form of a thriller in which Joy has to navigate the journey of patenting, funding, manufacturing and selling a product, each leg of which is a tumultuous headache. That the film can inspire such heart-in-the-throat tension from something as inherently tedious as patent law is a real feat.


Lawrence is the reason Joy is as winning as it is. Her resilience in the face of constant adversity affords the character a plucky underdog spirit. One cannot help but pull for her because the prospect of watching her fail and collapse hopelessly into debt would be so unbearably sad. The actress has become Russell’s muse (with Cooper and De Niro as co-muses), and it’s not hard to see why. As with her roles in Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, Lawrence is a bit too young for the world-weary character she plays, yet is able to summon a gravity well beyond her years that allows her to squeak by in spite of her youthfulness. De Niro also puts in solid work as a loving dad who simply does not realize how corrosive a presence he can be. Cooper does not have as substantial a role, finding himself stuck in benevolent-mentor gear. But Dascha Polanco as Jackie, Joy’s endlessly loyal best friend, probably receives the film’s only real shaft, never seeming as substantial a presence as the movie lazily insists she is.

Unlike the wonder mop, some of Joy does leave streaks. There are perhaps too many problems that Joy solves simply by forcing her way into a room with a powerful opponent and being an unflappable firebrand. And her family members’ quirks occasionally veer a bit on the cartoonish side, a recurring trait in Russell’s work. Then there’s the Mimi character, who is so angelic that she seems to exist solely to materialize whenever Joy needs encouragement. Yet I found the film much more engaging and satisfying than the dance-your-mental-disorders-away baloney of Silver Linings Playbook or the dinner-theater-Scorsese aura of American Hustle. If you ask me, it’s the director’s third union with Lawrence that actually deserves to mop up some acclaim.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Brandon Wolfe at @BrandonTheWolfe.



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#LootCrate Review: December 2015

Loot Crate's December GALAXY box ends the year on a positive note.

Review by Matt Cummings

The subscription box war is about to take a Christmas break, allowing winners and losers time to collect their dead, assess losses and gains, and consider past choices and how those will impact 2016 boxes. We've witnessed such a whipsaw in terms of quality, with only Marvel Collector Corps emerging as the box of choice. But Loot Crate has one more salvo to fire, and its contents might make an emphatic statement about their philosophy for next year.

Before we get into the details, let's consider an important announcement Loot made a couple of weeks ago: all future boxes will once again contain a shirt. That could signal an important change in the LevelUp program, which required subscribers to pay $14.99 for a shirt, usually shipped separately and continually the wrong size. That change almost made us cancel, but it appears feedback to the company yielded an important reversal. Let's see how that plays out with December.

Remember Loot's promise: a $22 subscription should yield more in value than the cost. Also, year-long steadfasts receive some sort of special gift, a promise we just couldn't keep.

Another heavy box give us hope for excellent contents. Then again, there could be a giant brick in there with the word SUCKER scrawled across.

Popping this bad boy open revealed...wait for it...A T-SHIRT! Welcome back to the tribe, son. This alone made everything else in the box pure profit. It's made of soft cotton, and the ugly-sweater look is just classic Goldbergs. The box features nice interior art as well.
Lifting off the shirt revealed an extremely cool Halo-themed UNSC tin. Score, big time! Not sure if this is big enough to store my XBox 360 games, but I'm sure as hell and going to try.

The magazine this month shows off past 2015, along with an interview with Halo 5 EP Chris Lee. Not bad considering what came next.

A nice addition here is some Halo 5 content exclusive to Loot. Since we don't have an XBox One yet, we're going to hold our thoughts on this one until we secure one. But the fact that it's here is nice.

Peering inside the clasping case, we see yet another wearable and...a new Funko! Pop figure! Man, Santa's coming to a galaxy near you.
If you've seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you know why so many people are loving BB-8. We adored the little ball droid, with his larger-than-life personality fitting perfectly into the glorious return of the franchise. The socks are very nice, although I wonder if my large feet will accommodate them.
Although I didn't like it when it first premiered, Galaxy Quest has grown on me like moss. Known for its sometimes biting assessment of Star Trek: TOS and the personalities which pervaded behind the scenes, it certainly makes sense to have it included in this box. The patch is simply terrific and was totally unexpected. It should find its way onto my messenger bag quite soon.

And then this little gem arrived. So. Damn. Cool. Even though I'm not a Pop! fan, I do appreciate the quality and value. Loot has done a great job partnering with Funko over the past year, and Solo in Snow Gear is straight up awesome. Again, the value and timing makes it the winner for this month's box.

There's also a QR Code on the inside wall of the box. Our QR reader wasn't working at the time of this post, so we'll be sure to update you when we get it working.

Happy Holidays
December's Loot Crate provides quality and the timing of many of its items is excellent. With Marvel Collector Corps killing it this month with Guardians of the Galaxy, it makes sense why we didn't see any of that here. Still, why Galaxy Quest beat Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Stargate is worthy of discussion.

The greatest threat to the future of subscription boxes centers around QUALITY and TIMING. In Loot's case it's been a mess in 2015, something that they'll have to improve upon in 2016. With November's box revealing that our decision to skip it was a good one, we're very worried that cost to produce these will lead to several shitty boxes once in awhile. That is a matter of perspective and tastes I suppose, but would subbers be willing to pay $2 more per month to be guaranteed a shirt and more consistent boxes arrive? That idea is definitely more solid than the stool of November, September, February, and perhaps two more meh boxes in between.

With news that LC will re-introduce the shirt to standard boxes, the remaining questions are simple: can LC keep costs down while delivering great boxes? If not, have they considered the alternating month theme? In the case of Marvel Collector Corps, that was the best idea they could have made. Perhaps LC will eventually follow suit, but it could be awhile until that happens. Until then, celebrate a good month for boxes in general, and we'll be back next year to catalog what has unfortunately become a wild west of sorts.

Want to read our other sub box reviews? We've got them all listed below: MARVEL COLLECTOR CORPS
May
June
August October December

LOOT CRATE REVIEWS
March
April
May
June
July
August
September

GEEK FUEL REVIEWS
October
November
December

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Guy Ritchie’s #KingArthur Gets Pushed Back

Deadline is reporting Guy Ritchie’s untitled King Arthur film is moving to Presidents Day weekend. Warner Bros said today the film starring Charlie Hunnam as the British folk hero will open February 17, 2017. It’s part of a plan to capitalize on kids on winter break holidays — not just here in the States but also overseas, where the title is being prepped to roll out throughout Western Europe. The pic had been slated for July 22, 2016.

After seeing the success of February hits last year like 20th Century Fox’s The Kingsman: The Secret Service, which made $128.3M at the domestic B.O. and another $286M abroad, WB is hoping to emulate similar success with Ritchie’s version of the classic tale. Furthermore, the director’s Sherlock Holmes series has played strongly during the winter months. On its new date, King Arthur rubs up against Sony’s Bad Boys 3 and Fox’s YA trilogy finale Maze Runner: The Death Cure.

Taking King Arthur’s place on July 22 is the newly titled New Line horror film Lights Out, produced by Saw/Furious 7 filmmaker James Wan. The film was pushed from its original September 9 release date to late summer after Warner Bros dated Clint Eastwood and Village Roadshow’s Sully for that date last week. An adaptation of a short by David Sandberg, Lights Out follows a woman who is terrorized by a creature that appears when the lights go out. It will counterprogram a pair of high-profile sequels: Paramount/Skydance’s Star Trek Beyond and Fox’s Ice Age: Collision Course.

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#12DaysofDeadpool @IMAX Poster & Trailer

#12DaysofDeadpool has revealed a new IMAX poster & clip.



Based upon Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, DEADPOOL tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with his new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humor, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life

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Jeremy Renner To Star In #RockyMarciano Biopic

According to THR Jeremy Renner is stepping into the ring for a Rocky Marciano biopic.

The Hurt Locker star will play the famous boxer who held the heavyweight crown from 1952 to 1956 in Undefeated: The Rocky Marciano Story.

Marciano is the only heavyweight champion to retire from his professional career undefeated, with a record of 49-0.

Morris S. Levy, who owns the rights to the life story, will produce the film. The project, written by Samuel Franco and Evan Kilgore, is currently seeking a director.

The film will follow Marciano's life from childhood until his death in a plane crash in 1969.

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First Images From Kindergarten Cop 2

Of all the blockbusters heading our way in 2016, we know the one you're most looking forward to is Kindergarten Cop 2, starring the mighty Dolph Lundgren. So it's with no deficit of Christmas cheer that we bring you this handful of new stills and a new synopsis.

See all the images after the Jump...





It's 25 years since Arnold Schwarzenegger first went undercover at a nursery and yelled at some kids as Detective John Kimble. This time it's Dolph, playing a different undercover cop - Agent Reed - who has to infiltrate a different kindergarten to recover a flash drive containing sensitive information stolen from the Witness Protection Programme. Reed must deal not only with the kids, but also the school's "politically correct environment" as the Albanian bad-guys close in. Damn that political correctness. Curse those Albanians.

This isn't the first time Dolph has appeared in a sequel to a film that first starred a fellow Expendable. A few years ago he also turned out for Uwe Boll's In The Name Of The King: Two Worlds, taking the lead from Jason Statham. Maybe this time he was after some light relief following grimly violent recent efforts like Skin Trade (with Michael Jai White and Tony Jaa) and War Pigs (with Luke Goss and Mickey Rourke). It's good to shake things up a bit sometimes.

Kindergarten Cop 2 shot this year in Vancouver, with Michael Don Paul (Jarhead 2: Field Of Fire, Sniper: Legacy, Tremors 5: Bloodlines) directing from a screenplay by David H. Steinberg (American Pie Presents: The Book Of Love). Expect it straight to video/digital sometime next year.

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EVERYBODY WANTS SOME Trailer & Poster

Check out the trailer and poster for Richard Linklater’s spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused.



Set in the 1980s, the film follows the lives of college freshmen who are also baseball players.

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TRUTH Arrives On Digital Jan. 26 & Blu-ray & DVD Feb. 2th

Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford Star in the Newsroom Drama that Nearly Changed the Course of a U.S. Presidential Election TRUTH.

Also Starring Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss, Bruce Greenwood & Dennis Quaid.

Arrives on Digital Jan. 26 and Blu-ray™ & DVD Feb. 2

Experience an incredible true story that rocked the world of television journalism when TRUTH premieres on Digital Jan. 26 and Blu-ray™ and DVD Feb. 2 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Directed and written by James Vanderbilt (writer Zodiac, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), TRUTH is based on award-winning TV producer Mary Mapes’ memoir, Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power, which chronicles the story of Dan Rather (Robert Redford) and Mary Mapes’ (Cate Blanchett) investigation into a sitting President’s military service. But when doubts arise, sources change their stories and accusations fly, their story becomes one of network news’ biggest scandals.

The TRUTH bonus features further illuminate the events and issues that sent shockwaves through the journalistic community. Exclusive to the Blu-ray are deleted scenes and a featurette, “The Reason for Being,” with Dan Rather, Mary Mapes, Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett discussing the real events upon which the story was based and the important questions the film raises about journalism, political influence and the meaning of truth. Included on both the Blu-ray and DVD is a special featurette, “The Team,” where the A-list cast and filmmakers discuss the journey of bringing the film to the screen; a Q&A with Cate Blanchett, Elisabeth Moss and James Vanderbilt; and a Commentary with James Vanderbilt and producers Brad Fischer and William Sherak.

SYNOPSIS
Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett star in TRUTH, based on a riveting true story of one of network news’ biggest scandals. As a renowned producer and close associate of Dan Rather (Redford), Mary Mapes (Blanchett) believes she’s broken the biggest story of the 2004 election: revelations of a sitting U.S. President’s military service. But then allegations come pouring in, sources change their stories, document authenticity is questioned, and the casualties begin to mount. This dramatic thriller goes behind the scenes to expose the intricacies of journalistic integrity and what it takes to reveal the TRUTH.

Blu-ray & DVD Bonus Features:
· Featurette: The Team
· Q&A with Cate Blanchett, Elisabeth Moss and James Vanderbilt
· Commentary with Director James Vanderbilt, Producers Brad Fischer and William Sherak

Blu-ray & Digital Exclusives*:
· Deleted Scenes
· Featurette: The Reason For Being

*Digital Exclusives only available with iTunes Extras and Vudu Extras+

TRUTH has a runtime of approximately 121 minutes and is rated R for language and a brief nude photo.
Artwork and digital clips are available for download at www.sphepublicity.com.
Visit Sony Home Entertainment on the Web at www.SonyPictures.com.

“Academy Award®” is the registered trademark and service mark of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

For more information about Sony Pictures Classics films and DVDs, please visit www.sonyclassics.com. The website features trailers of upcoming SPC films, high-resolution images, a DVD archive and a special "Press Only" section where press members can access materials for SPC's expansive library of films and DVDs.

SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) is a Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) company. Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Sony Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture production, acquisition and distribution; television production, acquisition and distribution; television networks; digital content creation and distribution; operation of studio facilities; and development of new entertainment products, services and technologies. For additional information, go to http://www.sonypictures.com.

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Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See #TheRevenant In Phoenix

Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See The Revenant on January 6 at 7PM in Phoenix.


Inspired by true events, THE REVENANT is an immersive and visceral cinematic experience capturing one man’s epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption. THE REVENANT is directed and co-written by renowned filmmaker, Academy Award® winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman, Babel).


Make sure to LIKE SandwichJohnFilms on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all your entertainment news and to be to notified about our upcoming Advance Screenings. Also make sure to subscribe and download our Podcast



See how to win tickets after the Jump...

Click HERE to get tickets.

DISCLAIMER: ARRIVE EARLY! SEATING IS FIRST-COME, FIRST-SERVED, EXCEPT FOR MEMBERS OF THE PRESS AND STUDIO VIPS. THEATER IS OVERBOOKED TO ENSURE A FULL HOUSE. THEATER IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR SEATING OVER CAPACITY. THIS PASS DOES NOT GUARANTEE ADMISSION.

Duplicate passes will not be accepted. Screening passes are non transferable. This pass is NOT for resale. Reselling of tickets is strictly prohibited and punishable by law.

NO RECORDING

This screening will be monitored for unauthorized recording. By attending, you agree not to bring any audio and/or visual recording device including laptop computers into the theater and you consent to physical search of your belongings and person have against you. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability (including damages up to $150,000). *This includes, by way of example only, smart phones and your belongings and person for such device. If you attempt to enter with a recording device, you will be denied admission. If you attempt to use a recording device* you consent to your Immediate removal from the theater and forfeiture of the device. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability.

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