2016 US Film Reviews

From late July to December, I have watched nine movies here in Korea in both English and Korean. Out of the nine, I had watched six films from the States. Here are my ratings and short reviews for the films that I have watched, starting with the book adaptions and film remakes. These are all films that you have hopefully seen already.


Starring: Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro, Nazanin Boniadi, Morgan Freeman
Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov
Written by: Lew Wallace (based on the novel by), Keith R. Clarke (screenplay)
Rating: 6/10

A Jewish nobleman and his family is accused of treason by his adopted Roman brother. He is sentenced to enslavement but finds his way back in order to seek revenge against his Roman brother. But instead of this being a revenge film, it ends with redemption for both parties. For those who haven’t seen the original film or read the novel, the advertising for this film would have had you thinking this film was a completely different kind of movie. Ben-Hur is filled with religious and political elements and has two paralleling storylines: Ben-Hur’s and Jesus’.  But, they promoted this film as an action film. Yes, there is action in the film, but it is not quite an action film. Ben-Hur shows the relationship between the Romans and the Jews, the rebellion by Zealots, noblemen and slaves, and the effect that Jesus had on the people in Jerusalem. The storyline of Jesus threw me off a bit, even though they did tie it all in. Even having Esther being married to Ben-Hur was a shock to me, mainly because I know the story of Esther but then I later found out that Lew Wallace had named the character Esther after his mother.  If you are someone who likes religious films, then this film is for you. If you aren’t that kind of person, then I wouldn’t recommend it.


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris O’Dowd
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Ransom Riggs (based upon the novel written by), Jane Goldman (screenplay)
Rating: 3/10

This movie was a great disappointment. I had high hopes for this film and had hope that it would be better than the book since there were a lot of annoying elements. But the film changed key character personality traits, key moments, and pretty much smooshed the books together and rushed the plot. There were no moments in the film that allowed you to become emotionally invested in the story, there were scarcely any moments of character growth, and it was very anti-climatic. The only good things the film had going for it was that it was beautiful, like every Tim Burton film, and Chris O’Dowd playing the character to the T. Eva Green was beautiful and there was so much potential for her character, but because of how the script was written, her performance couldn’t really emulate what Miss Peregrine was all about, but she tried. Samuel L. Jackson was Samuel L. Jackson as he is in every film he is in. His comedic elements might have been the only thing that kept me from being bored and full of disappointment. He is also made a scary character kid friendly. Mostly, the directing of this film was terrible and this might be, and I hate to say this, one of Tim Burton’s worst films. I am a huge Tim Burton fan, but this was a painful movie to watch.


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Dan Fogler
Directed by: David Yates
Written by: J.K. Rowling
Rating: 9/10

Set in the 1926, Newt Scamander arrives in New York City from England en-route to Arizona in order to return one of his creatures back to it’s native home, but he encounters difficulties with the American magical law, a crisis, the New Salem Philanthropic Society, and his own magical creatures escaping from his suit case. This was an exciting film to watch and a great start to the films that will follow. The acting was incredible and the American Ministry of Magic was very American, which was very frustrating. It wasn’t frustrating in a bad way, but in a very accurate depiction of how Americans think, especially during that time period. The film started off very fun, light and playful. There were little moments that foreshadowed some of the more serious moments that crept up later in the film, but this film did something that it took a few of the Harry Potter films to do. It got dark and serious fast but the end did leave us with a bit of happiness in hope to lighten the darkened mood. One of the key scenes at the end of the film set the stage for the next one and I do not expect a really cheery one either.


The Magnificent Seven
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Byunghun Lee, Vincent D’Onofrio, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Written by: Richard Wenk, Nic Pizzolatto
Rating: 8/10

From Seven Samurai to the 1960 version of The Magnificent Seven, the story still holds onto the key plot line: there is a village that needs help protecting themselves from, essentially, thugs. In this version of the film, a widowed woman and her friend seeks the help of a warrant officer who helps recruit six other men to fight against corrupt industrialist, Bartholomew Bogue. Because there were seven main characters, dividing up lines is a difficult process. But, what I liked about this film was that there wasn’t too much unnecessary talking. Each line had a purpose. Even though I thought there was too much focus on Chris Pratt and his character, his did have the most character growth. This western film had a good amount of action, did a great job of introducing the characters and their personality traits, and the film allowed character growth and redemption. The film also gives you the opportunity to become emotionally invested in the town and in the characters.


Doctor Strange
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Written by: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson
Rating: 6/10

We all know Doctor Strange, the arrogant neurosurgeon who gets into a terrible car accident and on his healing journey winds up in the world of mystic arts. Benedict Cumberbatch plays arrogant very well because of his work as Sherlock Holmes. Doctor Strange has a different kind of arrogance that is less forgivable than Mr. Holmes. But Cumberbatch played Strange very well in showing his high and lows, but not letting go of the arrogance that is deep within him. The film was okay and was very slow in the beginning, but only because they had to introduce how he became who he is which wasn’t a problem for me. My problem was with the visual effects. Yes, the visual effects were gorgeous and they did a fantastic job, but Marvel hasn’t quite nailed down how to incorporate real people in these CGI landscapes. I was continuously brought out of “reality” into what felt like a video game. I’m used to watching films that allow the unreal to seem as it is the realest thing on earth. So, watching this film made me very uncomfortable. The only thing that I truly enjoyed was the Cloak of Levitation. It was my favorite character in the whole film and was also the most entertaining.


Star Trek Beyond
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba, John Cho, Sofia Boutella, Anton Yelchin
Directed by: Justin Lin
Written by: Simon Pegg, Doug Jung
Rating: 8/10

The U.S.S. Enterprise and everything it stands for is tested as they encounter a new enemy in uncharted territory. Star Trek Beyond’s aesthetic and story line was perfect along with having a good amount of action and humor. It also played a lot with emotions. The new characters and the engaging story brought everything to a new height that most didn’t expect. Every character had a moment to show themselves and to show growth. The visuals were stunning and didn’t allow you to be bored for a second. Everything in this film was well thought out and didn’t disappoint as being the third installment of the reboot series or disappoint as being the 13th Star Trek film made.


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