Make no mistake about it, I’m here discussing Unfinished Business today because of Vince Vaughn. I love just about every comedic role the guy’s ever been in and no way was I staying home and missing this press screening despite the complete opposite of balmy, icy and blistery temperatures we’re suffering through in Austin, TX (I am the Cleveland, OH curse to this town as far as weather is concerned). Given the amount of chuckles the film trailer bestowed upon me within my very first viewing of it I think it was safe to say, without a shadow of a doubt and despite this being of a completely different genre, I did not think I would walk away as mad from this as I did from last month’s Jupiter Ascending. So going into Unfinished Business, at least it had that much going for it, a trailer that hooked me in from the get go and made me laugh out loud. After all, laughter is the best medicine they say. I need all of that I can get in my life currently. And so that’s my prologue, monologue or whatever the heck you want to call it. I digress. We have a movie to discuss here! Continue reading ‘‘Unfinished Business’ Rides Coach (Movie Review)’
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Writer/director Neill Blomkamp’s latest big screen project is a film that tackles the ideas of artificial intelligence and the big questions that come from creating a machine that thinks. It is set in Johannesburg, a few years in the future, and finds the lead characters dealing with robots and their effectiveness in a world where criminal activity and the lines between beings that are different from each other very much matter. It is basically another Blomkamp movie, which should inspire more good faith if one were to only judge him off of his ambitious first film, District 9, the 2009 Best Picture nominee that twisted an apartheid allegory into a sci-fi/thriller. Unfortunately, after the step down that was Elysium, a film that dealt with economic turmoil and healthcare, wrapped up in the guise of a sci-fi/thriller, Chappie feels like another step down. The film has some ideas and certainly looks good (as one would expect), but is all over the place and lacks much coherence, beyond honest intentions.
Leave it to director David Cronenberg (The Fly, A History of Violence) to spend decades making studio films outside of Hollywood, only to finally shoot a film in Hollywood that looks to take it down. Of course, it would help if this acerbic, satirical take on Hollywood culture was a little more attuned to the world of today, but that does not mean it isn’t fun. Maps to the Stars is an entertaining drama that follows a few privileged individuals, as they deal with the culture they have thrived in, with lots of setup for disastrous results. There is not a whole lot to take from the punches supposedly taken from the skewering of said culture, but there is enough in the way of the performances and odd touches that made it worthwhile in a weird, Cronenbergian kind of way.
Focus is solid entertainment that puts its audience back into the world of con artists, as there have been many of its kind before. It is an easy way to have people both root for the leads, while also feeling intrigued by the sort of shadowy world they live in, but generally remains exciting due to these sorts of characters masquerading in lavish settings. First and foremost though, Will Smith is back! Regardless of one thoughts on Smith, he is one of the most charismatic actors in the world and while his leading roles have been fewer and further in between as of late, Focus is a film that does a fine job of both showing how effective of a performer he can be and how he has evolved for the better as an actor over time. While there are plenty of other aspects of this film one can focus on, it really is nice to say that Focus is sharp and good-looking film, with a very good leading performance from the always watchable Will Smith.
Disney is Disney because nobody does what they do like them, and ‘McFarland USA’ is the perfect example. Set in the agricultural center of California in 1987, ‘McFarland USA’ is formulaic and predictable, but in all the right ways. A white teacher hilariously and literally called Jim White (Kevin Costner) with a rough past moves to McFarland because it’s the only school that will take him. Threatened by the “gangster” culture and alien community, he wants to leave immediately, but after he begins teaching at the predominately Mexican school, he finds a home in the community. He sees the potential in his students when he watches them run through the dirt on their way to pick fruit and vegetables in the fields, and starts a cross country team that helps propel the boys (and the community) to a better life.
In 2010, I was excited to see a film that sold me on Craig Robinson looking into the camera and spouting the words “Hot Tub Time Machine.” Given that the film had such a ludicrous title to begin with, the cast going the extra mile to make something so silly it came back to being pretty funny again just in the way of the premise was enough to have me excited. The fact that the film delivered on being more than just a silly title is what left me impressed. The film was a gross-out comedy with a sci-fi twist fitting of the 80s body switching craze. It also had a solid cast and a mix of clever and absurdist humor to make it more worthwhile. Now we have the sequel, with its existence seeming as perplexing as the concept of time travel. The lack of the charm and some of the same stars did not help, as this film left me wanting to get out, dry off, and mingle with a different crowd.
Fifty Shades of Grey is one of those movies that will end up being credited more for the hype around it than what is actually seen in the film. This is a film based on the first book in a trilogy of bestselling erotic romance novels that seemingly aspires to be placed in the same territory as something like Sex, Lies, and Videotape or Body Heat, but is far too bland in execution, which seems like the presumed result of Twilight fan-fiction come-to-life. I imagine there could be plenty to say about a potential blockbuster film based on a novel by a woman (E.L. James), adapted by a woman (Kelly Marcel), directed by a woman (Sam Taylor-Johnson), and featuring a female lead (Dakota Johnson) who takes charge on a man who masks his inadequacies with a certain kind of appearance and use of dominance behind closed doors, but it comes more from what the viewer ultimately needs to extrapolate from the film, rather having a film that more effectively conveys proper purpose in a story like this. The only caveat I can provide at this early stage is that I have not read the book, but I doubt the many giggling women at my screening have read it either.
After last week’s dismal screening of Jupiter Ascending I was just about ready to write the remainder of this month off from both attending and reviewing movies. My experience with that film was that bad. I was embarrassed by that $175 million dollar effort, even though I really had nothing to do with it. However, there were two things that sold me on this past Tuesday night’s screening of Kingsman The Secret Service, that infectious Rob Zombie song (one of my favorites from his newest album) employed in the trailer and the positive words of praise from WSB reviewer Aaron Neuwirth, whose full theatrical review of this film can be found here. Continue reading ‘Kingsman The Secret Service Thrills and Titillates (Movie Review)’
The Spy Who Loved Me is one of my favorite James Bond movies. It is easily the best of the Roger Moore entries, but also a fine example of how strong the more cinematically over-the-top versions of the world famous British spy can be. Kingsman: The Secret Service essentially functions as one of the more outlandish James Bond entries, albeit made up of different characters and stemming from a graphic novel world, with a style and tone fitting of the millennial age. Director Matthew Vaughn, along with his screenwriting partner Jane Goldman, clearly had fun developing and filming the sort of R-rated madness taking place in this self-aware action-comedy, but it also has some of the dry British humor and sensibilities that make it more than just a new take on the ‘spy spoof’ for regular movie goers and a series of in-jokes for the filmmakers and movie geeks invested in the entertaining work of filmmakers like Vaughn. It is more than that, which comes in the form of a smart script that services most of its principle characters properly and is also a lot of fun.
After months of speculation and curiosity, countered by delays and implied bad buzz, things have unfortunately not tipped in favor of Jupiter Ascending, the new, original sci-fi/fantasy film from the Wachowskis. I really wanted to like this movie and all of the right elements are certainly there, given the fairly game cast, the production design, the visual effects, the score, and more. Ultimately though, the general wonder and wackiness that comes with the ambitious world-building effort is not enough to help the chaotic story being told, which is both too repetitive and too impersonal to have garnered more connection to a film that tries really hard. Even worse: I can no longer say I have loved everything the Wachowskis have done.
Seventh Son is a mess of familiar ideas, talented actors, and competent (but mostly ugly) visual effects; all brought together into one horrible movie. There are various ways to approach a review for a movie like this, most of which involve making fun of it, and honestly, this is the kind of movie that has been lined up to be made fun of. Having never looked all that engaging and finally being released after a two-year delay, it is not as if I expected something truly memorable. At the same time though, Seventh Son is a film so blinded by the thought that looking expensive equals awesome movie that it makes any admittedly cool sight, such as a warrior with four arms, completely devoid of the charm one could find in similar hack-and-slash medieval adventures of yesteryear. Simply put: this film is awful.
If I was completely ignorant and judged Jupiter Ascending by its cover, I’d be staying the hell away from it even though I love science fiction. The trailers for the movie looked absolutely horrible. When they pulled it from its former release schedule last year I have to be honest with y’all, I was hoping this would’ve been shelved for a long time, preferably long after I passed from this Earth. However, that wasn’t the case. What we had last year was just a minor speed bump and presumably to allow additional time needed to complete over 2,000 special effects shots of the film and prepare an effective marketing campaign. I’m sorry, but I just had to laugh out loud at the effective marketing reason. You can’t polish something that looks like a turd. You have to completely paint over it, but I digress. Continue reading ‘‘Jupiter Ascending’ Is Wonderfully…AWFUL! (Movie Review)’
It is a bit strange to go into detail about a movie such as The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, but given that I was once a big fan of the series (and still chuckle when it comes up), along with being a big fan of the first movie, I almost find myself at odds in what is so clearly the thing to judge about this film. The fact is, ‘Sponge out of Water’ is the exact cliché of modern sequels, it’s not only bigger and louder, but also darker and grittier than the first film, and even features a villain who had planned to get caught the whole time, during the second act. Additionally, as opposed to the first film, which had a mix of the humor the series is known for with some kid-friendly morals, this sequel is more about anarchy and keeping a level of good-spirited fun amidst the constant craziness on display. With that perspective in mind, I had a good time watching this movie, even if it is more of just a random adventure, than something significant.
Jason Statham has plenty of talent. Best known as an English tough guy, Statham may not have what some want to call range, but he does know how to direct his energy and inherent charisma into different shades of somewhat similar performances (the dichotomy between The Transporter and Crank is a perfect example). It is promising to learn that Statham took on Wild Card as a personal project, in which he could utilize the skills that he has, putting them into a character drama, which happens to have some action. Unfortunately, too much of this film is dull and plodding, with some questionable performances, and a lack of cohesion, given what the film eventually amounts too.
Project Almanac feels like the result of producer Michael Bay taking the film Primer and throwing it into a room where the MTV Films scientists could poke, prod, analyze, disassemble, and reassemble it into a time travel film that could appeal to teenagers of today. That is not inherently a bad thing, but it also does not mean this film will have much lasting appeal for the future, compared to other time travel films or other films that also utilize the ‘found footage’ format to better effect. So with that in mind, despite some clever ideas and an energetic sense of momentum, Project Almanac is only so much fun, if you don’t think too hard about it, but innocent enough to work for what it is, with the target audience likely willing to have enough to enjoy.
I already know what you are thinking. It’s the month of January. This is the month where movies that studios have no faith in go to die. You don’t need to tell me that. I know that all too well. However, there are four main reasons that actually managed to convince me to check to see this one. First up, I wanted to check in on my home girl from the block, J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez). I never hated her or anything so I just wanted to see how she was doing post Marc Anthony. Second, this one is directed by Rob Cohen and he has “some” clout, don’t you think? Third, it’s Rated-R! Hell yeah! And last but not least, there’s a certain list titled “The 20 Greatest Things About This Amazing ‘The Boy Next Door’ Trailer” over here that had me in stitches. That’s enough reasons, right? Continue reading ‘J-Lo Gets Jiggy With ‘The Boy Next Door’ (Movie Review)’
At its best, Mortdecai is an adult-skewing drama that uses its big-name cast to its advantage, as everyone does their best to show how much fun they are having, while being moved along by the comic zip of director David Koepp’s direction. This is not a sentence that I can apply to the whole movie, unfortunately, but Mortdecai is by no means the disaster that would be suggested by its January release date and lack of much publicity, beyond the basic marketing via trailers and posters. Really, it is a globetrotting adventure with fairly low stakes and a lead performance from a very game Johnny Depp that you will either enjoy or find irritating. Fortunately, the film does have other actors also doing their part, even if the film is fairly minor in every sense. That in mind, this is far better than The Tourist or whatever the hell Steve Martin was doing in those Pink Panther movies.
There was a time when I used to say I was not a fan of submarine movies. I have since found that to be inaccurate, given how much I appreciate the ones considered to be the best and even some of the more average attempts. I believe it to come down more to whether or not the film is effective in getting across the key idea of what works best in a submarine movie, which is effectively building the claustrophobic tension that comes from having multiple characters stuck with each other in a narrow enclosure, deep below the ocean’s surface. Black Sea manages to do this. It takes the premise of a heist film and combines that with what you can get from a submarine thriller, making for a unique sort of drama held together by some solid performances and an interesting play on what these characters actually desire most.