This week it’s all strange actors and strange movies, unfortunately no Doctor Strange.

Strange Magic
This was a strange movie. The trailers presented a story about an adventuring faerie named Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood). The movie presented a pop musical love story. As per usual, I have to say I was disappointed by this turn of events. I’m sure if I had been prepared for a musical, this movie would have rated higher. It’s an interesting love story and the music is amusing but I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind. Come on guys, stop with the false advertising. Everyone that left the theater with me commented on the music.

Watch it: If you’re interested in an early year musical.
Skip it: If you were hoping for an adventure tale with a strong female protagonist.

For a while, Johnny Depp was king of the silver screen. Willy Wonka, Jack Sparrow, Sweeny Todd, the Mad Hatter but that all seems so long ago. Dark Shadows, The Lone Ranger and Transcendance. Mortdecai is a slight step up but honestly I’m not sure what to expect anymore. The supporting cast with Paul Bettany as Jock and Ewan McGregor as Inspector Martland was the only thing worth watching in this film. The plot was expectantly zany and used mostly to setup for punchlines. While funny, this film left plenty to be desired.

Watch it: If you want to see Paul Bettany shine. Or if you need your yearly fix of Johnny Depp, though you might want to wait for London Fields or Black Mass.
Skip it: If you’d rather not see Depp in another bad role.

This week, I introduce my readers to the word squick.


Well that was awkward. I’d like to think that, as I’ve started watching more movies, I haven’t lost my taste for big action spectacles, sci-fi fantasies and the occasional bad hacker movie. In spite of that, I must say, this bad hacker movie was truly awful. The plot had holes even I couldn’t ignore and the Michael Mann’s direction of Chris Hemsworth as blackhat hacker Nick Hathawy was worse than any plot hole. Squick1: that is the word I would use to describe just about every scene that involves Hemsworth and Tang Wei in the film’s ill-advised romantic subplot. Just as ill-advised; this movie was incredibly boring, and not even because they got those mundane things programmers do right. There really was no thrill. The action sequences were meh. The tension just never seemed to follow the path that it needed to to be satisfying, and the music was irritating. I kept time checking, praying that my two plus hour punishment was over.

Watch it: If you desperately need to see Hemsworth shirtless for a minute (but, you know, you can watch a Thor movie instead), or if you want to see a programmer character actually use legit commands in a movie.
Skip it: Yeah. Just skip it. It’s not worth it.

This went far better that the other two movies this year. Paddington is an adorable jaunt back to childhood, starring a bear most of the English-speaking world is familiar with. Ben Whishaw (Skyfall) voices the titular bear, providing a wonderful performance as a lonely optimist lost in a new world and looking for a home. Paddington is taken in by the Browns, a fraying middle class family, and his antics (and the accompanying music, a mix of a charming score and Peruvian rhythms) play great against the contrast of Hugh Bonneville’s Mr. Brown, a strict risk analyst. Paddington ultimately finds his home with the Brown family, as I’m sure this movie will find a place in hearts of the populace as one of the better kids movies of 2015.

Watch it: If you’re looking for the best movie so far this year.
Skip it: If you don’t need a feel-good kids movie in your January.

  1. Cause immediate and thorough revulsion. 

This week, Liam Neeson returns for one last Taken.

Taken 3

In the latest (and possibly last) installment in the Taken series, director Olivier Megaton and producer Luc Besson break away from the kidnapping premise that’s been so integral to spurring Bryan Mills (Neeson) into action. Instead they go for broke by killing Lenny (Famke Jansen), Bryan’s awkwardly close ex-wife, which sends him on his rampage across Los Angeles. While Neeson performs admirably in a franchise that is clearly flagging, it’s Forest Whitaker as Inspector Dotzler who is the film’s true star. His performance is outstanding and I agree with my fellow Conquistador, Charles, that Dotzler is the best thing about this film. Whitaker aptly portrays an investigator I would gladly put my faith in if I were a suspect for a murder I did not commit. Mills, on the other hand, is mostly a single-minded rampaging lunatic. I understand his need for revenge, I’m just not sure it’s properly channeled by the character or sympathetically displayed by the director. I was mostly disappointed by everyone else in the movie. Maggie Grace’s Kim Mills gained some skills in the last movie and used them ever so briefly, but I wouldn’t mind a larger role for her in the future if they do decide to continue plugging movies into this franchise.

Watch it: If you’re a fan of Whitaker, or Neeson rampaging about.
Skip it: If you’re looking for multiple nuanced performances.