If you ask 10 people that question you may get 10 different answers. Why is that? I think many times it has less to do with the movie than it does with the person viewing it.
We come from all walks of life, with different experiences, and have various tastes and interests. This is true of not just movie goers, but those who create the movies we love (or hate) as well. All of those things come into play with the movie experience.
While there are universally accepted rules, cinema in and of itself is an art form. Similar to a painting or a piece of music; movies are subjective, meaning different things to different people. It’s part of the reason I love movies so much. Two people can sit beside each other watching a movie and have completely different take-aways.
This subjectivity makes for great discussion, but it also makes it difficult to decide whether a movie is worth your time. Honestly, I’ve struggled with this in my movie reviews so far. At first, I did not want to give any type of numeric score, and now I’ve switched it up and decided some type of ranking system is inevitably necessary.
The problem is that giving one numeric score doesn’t comprehensively say everything you need to know about a particular movie. Sometimes, a movie may be horribly made, however it’s still enjoyable to watch. A recent example for me is xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. This movie, on a technical level, is hilariously terrible. However, it is so over the top and absurd that I had a blast watching it. I can’t bring myself just to give it a 3 out of 10 and move on. However, I also don’t think it deserves a high score just because it was fun. There needs to be more of a breakdown.
So here is what I’ve come up with for my movie reviews going forward…at least until I change my mind again!
Feel free to give me your input: what are the deciding factors for you as to whether a movie is “good” or not??
Cinematic Quality – score range: 1-10
Is this a well made movie from a technical standpoint? story, acting, cinematography, music, visuals, etc.
Fun Factor – score range: 1-10
Despite whatever the quality of the movie is, how much fun will you have watching?
Worth the price of admission? – score range: 1-10
Plain and simple; is it worth it to pay good money to see in the theater, wait until it hits second run theaters or just Rebox it?
Re-watch Value– score range: 1-10
Some movies can be watched more than once, while others you wish you could get that time back.
Overall Score – The average of all of the above categories
Many people have been calling Red Sparrow essentially the more adult version of the Marvel comic character Black Widow. However, while there are some similarities, this movie is most definitely its own thing.
Jennifer Lawrence plays a talented Russian ballerina named Dominika Egorova who takes care of her sick mother. However, Dominika’s career is quickly cut short by an injury, and is desperate to find an alternative means to continue to afford her mother’s care.
Dominika’s uncle Ivan, a high-ranking official in Russian Intelligence (Matthias Schoenaerts) approaches her with what has to be the most bizarre offer of assistance from a family member ever. If she will agree to seduce an enemy of the state and switch his phone out for a government provided duplicate, Ivan promises to ensure the medical care for her mom will continue.
She reluctantly agrees, however the State’s real plans are revealed when during the encounter the man is brutally murdered while forcing himself onto Dominika. To eliminate any witnesses, she is soon given a choice by her uncle: death or agree to become a Sparrow. Great family.
Sparrows are government spies that agree, or more often forced, to commit their entire bodies to the State. Their main assignments are usually not to assassinate targets, but rather seduce and sleep with them in order to extract information.
They are trained in multiple areas of espionage including psychological manipulation, infiltration, and weapons training. Her first assignment is an America CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) who knows the identity of a mole in the Russian government.
First and foremost, this movie has a very hard R rating. Not only are there numerous scenes of graphic nudity, but there are some brutally violent scenes; both physically and emotionally. Many critics are even condemning this movie for the light in which Lawrence’s character and others are portrayed.
That being said, while many parts of the movie are graphic and even shocking, it feels like an accurate depiction of what the life of a “Sparrow” would be like. Movies give us the incredible ability to see and examine life from different points of view, even if those viewpoints are sometimes disturbing. The film definitely fails to have any message or deeper meaning, but it doesn’t glorify the lifestyle either. It merely puts it on display and viewers are able to think what they want.
In a bizarre way it was humourous that despite all the brutality of the film, the characters seem able to survive the most extreme of beatings. More than once Lawrence beat the shit out of someone and I was convinced, based on what I have seen in any other movie ever, ” yup, they’re dead.” Only in the next scene to discover; nope, they’re fine, only injured.
The story itself is a very slow burn and only has a few mins of action. Most of the 144 mins are focused on Lawrence interacting with other characters and us trying to figure out which side she’s really on. Honestly, the movie is about 30 mins too long and needs to be cut down. After the first hour and a half, you really start to feel how long many scenes seem to drag on.
There is a satisfying ending that gives a nice “ah-ha” moment. However, especially with the longer runtime, once you know the ending, there’s not enough depth to the story to warrant more than one viewing.
Whether or not you enjoy this movie, Jennifer Lawrence is hands down the best thing about it. Her Russian accent is on point, and she gives an incredibly complex performance which draws you into the character’s story.
This was a bold choice for her, and though it may not be the greatest movie, it is one of her best performances so far. As a side note, she’s worked with director Francis Lawrence (no relation) before; last time on the Hunger Games trilogy.
Everyone else gives the performances they need to for the movie, however nothing you’ll remember a day or two after watching the film.
Red Sparrow is a visceral adult spy thriller that is worth watching for J.Law’s stellar performance. However the shallow story combined with its long runtime and slow pacing make for a “one and done” viewing scenario.
See it in the theater if you’re a Jennifer Lawerence fan, otherwise I would wait for Redbox or Netflix.
I am 100% convinced that if the money is good, the Rock will take on literally any role. Rampage, which is based on the 80’s arcade game with the same name, is a perfect example. Most actors of his level of fame wouldn’t dare get anywhere near a role like this, as the chances of it doing well are slim. Johnson basically said “hold my beer, watch this…”
It is true that Dwayne Johnson’s acting has drastically improved since his WWE days, and he’s had a decent track record lately with making magic happen with whatever movie he’s in (with the exception of Baywatch maybe).
I played Rampage quite a bit as a kid, so this definitely has some nostalgia factor that might also make it easier to overlook its inevitable flaws. In a time where most games had you play as a hero, Rampage gave you the choice between 3 monsters and then set you loose to destroy a city. For a movie based on this type of game, the story seems to make as much sense as it possibly could: science.
The bottom line is: this will not be a cinema masterpiece…not even close. What it does look like is a ridiculously entertaining popcorn flick that not only acknowledges it’s absurdity (“of course the wolf has wings”), but flaunts it while having a good time, that Dwayne Johnson is an expert at providing. He is the modern day action hero.
“Phantom Thread” (Focus Features) Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight) Guillermo del Toro
Best documentary feature
“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” (PBS Distribution) A Mitten Media/Motto Pictures/Kartemquin Educational Films/WGBH/FRONTLINE Production
Steve James, Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman
“Faces Places” (Cohen Media Group) A Ciné Tamaris Production
Agnès Varda, JR and Rosalie Varda
“Icarus” (Netflix) A Netflix Documentary in association with Impact Partners, Diamond Docs, Chicago Media Project and Alex Production
Bryan Fogel and Dan Cogan
“Last Men in Aleppo” (Grasshopper Film) A Larm Film and Aleppo Media Center Production Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed and Søren Steen Jespersen
“Strong Island” (Netflix) A Yanceville Films and Louverture Films Production
Yance Ford and Joslyn Barnes
Best documentary short subject
“Edith+Eddie” (Kartemquin Films) A Heart is Red/Kartemquin Films Production
Laura Checkoway and Thomas Lee Wright
“Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405” A Stiefel & Co. Production Frank Stiefel
“Heroin(e)” (Netflix) A Netflix Original Documentary in association with The Center for Investigative Reporting/Requisite Media Production Elaine McMillion Sheldon and Kerrin Sheldon
“Knife Skills” A TFL Films Production Thomas Lennon
“Traffic Stop” (HBO Documentary Films) A Q-Ball Production Kate Davis and David Heilbroner
Achievement in film editing
“Baby Driver” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos
“Dunkirk” (Warner Bros.) Lee Smith
“I, Tonya” (Neon/30 West) Tatiana S. Riegel
“The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight) Sidney Wolinsky
“Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Fox Searchlight) Jon Gregory
Best foreign language film of the year
“A Fantastic Woman” A Fabula Production Chile
“The Insult” A Douri Film Production Lebanon
“Loveless” A Non-Stop Production Russia
“On Body and Soul” An Inforg-M&M Film Production Hungary
“The Square” A Plattform Production Sweden
Achievement in makeup and hairstyling
“Darkest Hour” (Focus Features) Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick
“Victoria & Abdul” (Focus Features) Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
“Wonder” (Lionsgate) Arjen Tuiten
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
“Dunkirk” (Warner Bros.) Hans Zimmer
“Phantom Thread” (Focus Features) Jonny Greenwood
“The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight) Alexandre Desplat
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (Walt Disney) John Williams
“Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Fox Searchlight) Carter Burwell
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“Mighty River” from “Mudbound” (Netflix)
Music and Lyric by Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson
“Mystery Of Love” from “Call Me by Your Name” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Music and Lyric by Sufjan Stevens
“Remember Me” from “Coco” (Walt Disney)
Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
“Stand Up For Something” from “Marshall” (Open Road Films)
Music by Diane Warren Lyric by Lonnie R. Lynn and Diane Warren
“This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” (20th Century Fox)
Music and Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Best motion picture of the year
“Call Me by Your Name” (Sony Pictures Classics) A Frenesy Film/La Cinéfacture/Memento Films International/RT Features Production
Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges and Marco Morabito, Producers
“Darkest Hour” (Focus Features) A Working Title Films Production
Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten and Douglas Urbanski, Producers
“Dunkirk” (Warner Bros.) A Syncopy Pictures Production Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
“Get Out” (Universal) A Blumhouse Productions/QC Entertainment/Monkeypaw Production
Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr. and Jordan Peele, Producers
“Lady Bird” (A24) A Mission Films Production
Scott Rudin, Eli Bush and Evelyn O’Neill, Producers
“Phantom Thread” (Focus Features) An Annapurna Pictures Production
JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison and Daniel Lupi, Producers
“The Post” (20th Century Fox) A 20th Century Fox/DreamWorks Pictures Production
Amy Pascal, Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producers
“The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight) A Double Dare You Production
Guillermo del Toro and J. Miles Dale, Producers
“Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Fox Searchlight) A Blueprint Pictures Production Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin and Martin McDonagh, Producers
Achievement in production design
“Beauty and the Beast” (Walt Disney) Production Design: Set Decoration:
Sarah Greenwood Katie Spencer
“Blade Runner 2049” (Warner Bros.) Production Design: Set Decoration:
Dennis Gassner Alessandra Querzola
“Darkest Hour” (Focus Features) Production Design: Set Decoration:
Sarah Greenwood Katie Spencer
“Dunkirk” (Warner Bros.) Production Design: Set Decoration:
Nathan Crowley Gary Fettis
“The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight) Production Design: Set Decoration:
Paul Denham Austerberry Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin
Best animated short film
“Dear Basketball” (Verizon go90) A Glen Keane Production Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant
“Garden Party” A MOPA Production Victor Caire and Gabriel Grapperon
“Lou” (Walt Disney) A Pixar Animation Studios Production Dave Mullins and Dana Murray
“Negative Space” An Ikki Films Production Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata
“Revolting Rhymes” A Magic Light Pictures Production Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer
Best live action short film
“DeKalb Elementary” A UCLA Production Reed Van Dyk
“The Eleven O’Clock” A FINCH Production Derin Seale and Josh Lawson
“My Nephew Emmett” A New York University Production Kevin Wilson, Jr.
“The Silent Child” A Slick Films Production Chris Overton and Rachel Shenton
“Watu Wote/All of Us” A Hamburg Media School Production Katja Benrath and Tobias Rosen
I absolutely love going to see movies in the theater…not hard to believe considering I was geeky enough to start this blog. However, it can be an extremely expensive hobby. Tickets range between $10-$14 a piece, depending on your location and type of showing, and then if you want snacks you’re not getting away without dropping another $10 per person. Two people can easily burn $50+ a trip if not careful. By the time you start thinking about taking your family of 4 or more, it begins to get astronomical.
A company called MoviePass intends to solve all that with a subscription service for movie theaters similar to the way Netflix works. While they have been virtually unknown for the last few years, they started gaining serious attention mid 2017. They are the first solid attempt at providing a solution to the high prices of a trip to the theater, and may even breathe new life back into the experience if they can accomplish everything they intend to.
In a nutshell, the service allows subscribers to see one 2-D movie per day, unlimited for $9.95 a month, using a membership card. Sound too good to be true, or maybe like some kind of scam? That’s what I thought at first, however after some extensive research and personally using MoviePass for the last couple months, I am convinced it is the real deal and more than worth the investment for movie lovers…at least for now. How does it work?
Once you sign up for an account, your card is sent to you in the mail. It looks and acts as a debit/credit card, however, to use it, you have to download their free app and link it to the card. The app will list any theaters near your location that accept MoviePass. You simply choose the theater and the show time you want and then “check in” when you arrive at the theater. This will activate your card for 30 mins and allow you to “purchase” tickets as you would with a normal debit card. The transaction won’t go through without checking in on the app (As I found out the hard way on my first attempt at using it).
MoviePass still pays full ticket price for each transaction, so theaters aren’t losing any money when you use the service. Is the value of MoviePass worththe cost?
To answer that question, it’s going to depend on how often you personally want to go to the theater, as well as how much tickets cost near you. The more expensive the tickets, the less trips it will take to “break even.” It also helps to think of the cost over a 12 month period, instead of monthly, as some months there may not be any movies that interest you, while others there may be several.
In Richmond, Virginia, non matinée tickets are on average $11 a ticket now (more or less depending on which theater you go to). 12 months of Movie Pass will cost you $120 per person, which means you’ll need to see at least 1 movie a month on average or 11 movies in the course of a 12 month period just to break even. Any trips after that are gravy. Take a quick look at this list of upcoming movies for 2018. If you can’t pick out at bare minimum 12-15 movies that you’d want to go see in a theater, then MoviePass will probably not be a substantial value for you.
To give some real world perspective, my wife and I joined roughly 2 months ago and have already seen 5 movies using Movie Pass. The tickets on average were $11 a piece, so altogether we would have normally had to pay $110 to see those 5 movies. With MoviePass, it’s only cost us $40 (the monthly fee for 2 people for 2 months). We’ve already saved $70 and will most likely see at least one more movie before the end of the month, bringing our savings to around $90 after only two months of use.
In 2017, we saw roughly 25 movies at various theaters. This year, we’re already on track to see more, as we are not only using MoviePass to watch movies we would have seen anyway, but now we’re also more inclined to go to movies we would have otherwise waited to catch at a second run theater or even after hitting Redbox. You can do the math from there, but we will literally save hundreds of dollars and see more movies this year. It’s a no brainer for us. While all of that is wonderful, MoviePass it isn’t perfect…yet.
There are still some road blocks that need to be fixed and improved. Here’s an overview of both the benefits and current drawbacks:
See one 2-D movie per day, every day for $10 a month per person.
Similar to Netflix, the plan is month-to-month with no contract, and can be canceled at any time.
You can see what theaters nesr you participate before joining. As of right now, most theater chains are. In Richmond, VA, Cinebistro is the only major theater in the area that doesn’t accept MoviePass yet. I was pleasantly surprised to see that even Byrd Theater, an excellent local, second run cinema in a historical theater house was on board.
You can still rack up reward points with any theater membership you have every time you visit the theater.
Some theaters offer the ability to buy tickets online: the app will show which ones support the feature.
The process is fairly secure. Even if you lose your card, it can’t be used unless they know your account login information.
You can’t buy advance tickets with Movie Pass, only same day. You can however buy tickets earlier in the day for a showing later that same day.
While the option to buy tickets online is fantastic, only a few support that feature so far. (None do in the Richmond area at the time of this post).
As of right now the service only offers individual plans, so if you want to use it along with a spouse or family member, each person will have to open their own, separate account. Some type of “family plan” is definitely needed to make the process more user-friendly and accessible. That being said, with just two people, it isn’t a huge hassle.
As of right now, you cannot see 3-D or IMAX movies. I don’t see many movies in those formats anyway, but could be a frustration for some.
Customer Service could be improved. The app is fairly user-friendly. However, there is an option to chat with a representative for help or questions. I have only tried it once so far, but after 10 mins no one had responded to my question. I did find the answer in the FAQ, however the point of having the chat option should be to get assistance quickly, no matter where you are.
Is MoviePass sustainable?
While the service is an obvious value to the consumer, it is fair to ask how in the world the company plans on staying afloat long-term? Mitch Lowe, CEO of MoviePass was interviewed by Wired magazine back in August, where he laid out much of their strategy.
For the short-term, they appear to be banking on an approach that sounds similar to that of gym memberships, by hoping members don’t see enough movies to get the full value out of the cost. Part of this also includes focusing on driving more memberships in areas of the country where ticket prices are under $10. This means areas where it will take more trips to “break even.” While this may work for gyms, with movies there are too many people who will take advantage of the service and use it to its full potential. It’s hard to see how MoviePass wouldn’t lose massive amounts of money and eventually fold if this was the full extent of their business plan. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to be.
Lowe expanded by talking about a vision to grow the company using member’s movie viewing data. By bringing in the data company Helios and Matheson Analytics this past August, MoviePass will eventually make upgrades to their app that will help them have “total ownership of a night on the town.” They’ll seek partnerships with restaurants and other establishments to make their app a one-stop-shop for movie goers:
Helios’s mapping of the area around the theater, and all the different things you might encounter in that area, will allow us to do much more than we currently do. Here’s a great place to park, here’s a great restaurant across the street,” Lowe says. “You’re going to be able to pay for your concessions, pick your seats, and probably be able to pay for things at adjacent businesses and get one monthly bill.
Lowe also envisions a future where they have a direct hand in the success of films. Many times movies flop at the box office because consumers refuse to gamble movie tickets at $11-12 a pop and then snack prices on top of that to go see a movie they’re not sure they will enjoy. Now imagine there’s an army of millions of avid movie goers who no longer feel any negative financial repercussions tied to their movie selection. Using its members’ viewing data, they could strategically put those risky movies in front of the people most likely to be interested. This opens up a world of advertising possibilities that will put money in their pocket, make more movies financially lucrative and add value for subscribers. All that being said, the most difficult, and also most essential step will be building that army, without going under in the process. So how are they doing with that? So far, very well it seems.
By the end of 2016 MoviePass had 20,000 subscribers. As of January of 2018, they have surpassed 1.5 million. Much of that spike began back in August, when they dropped the monthly fee down from $50 to $9.95. They realized they weren’t getting enough bites at that price point. However, the day they dropped the price, their website crashed due to the massive influx of traffic. Now they seem to be well on their way to gaining that army of millions. I’ve noticed myself the uptick in people I know talking about the service, as well as seeing more people in the ticket lines getting their cards out.
All of this sounds fantastic to most, however some theaters aren’t yet 100% sold on the vision. AMC has voiced objections from the beginning, and is seeking a way out of accepting MoviePass. Their argument is that if the service flops (which they see as a matter of time), theaters will be the ones to suffer as members will not want to go back to the old status quo. Ultimately, to be successful, MoviePass will have to find a way to smooth things over and convince all theaters to buy in to the potential.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years. Personally, I hope the company can achieve everything it is setting out to do, as it truly will change the face of the movie going experience if they succeed. However, at least for now I’m going to enjoy the hell out of MoviePass while it lasts, as it is hands down the best deal available for seeing movies in the theater.
If Disney/Marvel made a realistic Black Widow movie, it would be Red Sparrow. Literally, this is spot on.
Jennifer Lawerence plays a Russian assassin/spy (with a very convincing accent) in this film based on the Jason Mathews novel of the same name.
I’m excited to check this one out. There’s a great cast with an interesting premise. A premise that could easily go one of two ways: extremely predictable or the type of psychological thriller that keeps you guessing right until the credits. Obviously, I’m hoping it’s the latter.
Red Sparrow releases March 2nd and is rated R, most likely for everything.
Prima ballerina Dominika Egorova faces a bleak and uncertain future after she suffers an injury that ends her career. She soon turns to Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service that trains exceptional young people to use their minds and bodies as weapons. Egorova emerges as the most dangerous Sparrow after completing the sadistic training process. As she comes to terms with her new abilities, Dominika meets a CIA agent who tries to convince her that he is the only person she can trust.
In just a few weeks, The Last Jedi will be in theaters, and is all you will hear people talking about. Judging from the trailers and all of the promotion, it looks like it will be a fantastic edition to the franchise. How good will it be, exactly? Apparently, Disney and Lucasfilm think it’s incredible. So incredible that they’ve signed director Rian Johnson up to create an entirely new Star Wars trilogy. Wait. What?
A press release dropped this evening, making the announcement: check it out here. While details are scarce, we do know that this new trilogy will move away from the Skywalker saga and, “introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored.” While the news is intriguing, it’s way too early to tell how the new trilogy will be received.
In case you were wondering what else Johnson has directed…it’s an extremely short list. The only film I have ever seen, or heard of for that matter, is the Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt sci-fi movie, Looper. I cannot wait to see what George Lucas’s reaction to this news will be.
Disney is also developing a live-action Star Wars TV show that will air on their Netflix-like streaming service, planned for 2019. Check out the available details here. There are already 2 hit animated shows, so the jump to live action seems like the next logical step. Disney has been making huge moves lately and clearly plans on riding the Star Wars train for a long, long time.
What do you think? Is a new trilogy and live-action show a smart idea or are they destined for a ride with Boba Fett down the sarlacc pit?