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Movie Breakdown: Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

May 24, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Pirates Of The Caribbean 1 is a great movie.  Pirates 2 & 3 are OK movies.  I didn’t even bother with Pirates 4, but I heard it wasn’t good.  Frankly, I’m surprised (or disappointed, I don’t know) that there’s a Pirates 5, but people gotta eat and get their swashbuckling fix in, I suppose.

Post-Screening Ramble:

To be honest, I don’t even know what Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales was about.  Franchise face Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is around but he’s got half a crew, no ship and is surprisingly sidelined for most scenes.  Series regular Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush) is present as well, but mostly just because he has a shoehorned connection to one of the main characters, a discount Keira Knightley (Kaya Scodelario).  There’s a budget Orlando Bloom (Brenton Thwaites) involved, too, but he doesn’t seem to have any particularly useful skills.  He just wants to bumble about until he finds some magical trident that will free the actual Orlando Bloom from a life of servitude aboard the Flying Dutchman.  Javier Bardem plays a cursed pirate killer who wants to take down Sparrow.  Or all pirates.  I’m not really sure.  There’s a somewhat perplexing Paul McCartney cameo, but it at least made me smile since everything up until then was confusing and one shade above awful.  On the action front, it’s all rather boring.  There are some neat designs, but none of them go anywhere and once the eye candy simmers, you realize you’re watching a bunch of bored actors in a tired franchise.  Seriously, there’s nothing here worth cheering for or remembering (obviously).  Hell, I can’t even call this film a misfire because all parties involved didn’t even bother loading the canon.  I think in most years this is the kind of movie that would kill a bunch of careers, but I guess in sequel happy Hollywood this will pass as solid filler.  What a shipwreck.  Skip it.

One Last Thought:

I’m willing to bet $20 that Johnny Depp was actually drunk during the making of this movie.  I couldn’t understand a damn thing he was saying due to all of the slurring.

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Movie Breakdown: Baywatch

May 24, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Baywatch looks like it was modeled after the very successful (and funny) 21/22 Jump Street flicks.  That’s exciting.  Hopefully it cracks me up.  If it doesn’t, I guess I can just stare at the very pretty trio of Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron and Alexandra Daddario.

Post-Screening Ramble:

There’s not much to like about Baywatch.  Mitch (Dwayne Johnson) is a detective/good samaritan/water lover in charge of Baywatch, a group of … lifeguards who watch over a … bay.  Annually, because previous employees get new jobs (or drown, maybe), his team holds a competition to accept a new member.  The tryout is meant to find ONE new co-worker, but because this movie is cluttered and generally doesn’t make a lot of sense, three are selected to join the crew.  These chosen ones include a bad boy former Olympian named Matt Brody (Zac Efron), the Baywatch-ready Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario) and the all-heart but out of shape and very dorky Ronnie (Jon Bass).  If you haven’t already guessed, Ronnie is the lovable goof, Summer is the moral compass and Matt is the guy who has to get yelled at and shamed a lot by Mitch so that he can learn to appreciate being a part of Baywatch.  They’re all shallow characters who never have a memorable moment on the screen.  Thankfully (but not really), the film has more at play than inter-team dealings, and it’s a whole other muddled plot about a lady (Priyanka Chopra) trying to force-ably attain real estate to build a shopping mall or something.  And she sells drugs, too!  Because why not!  Like I mentioned, this thing is a real jammed up mess.  My guess is that someone made the decision to just throw everything at the viewer to hide the movie’s extreme lack of laugh-worthy bits, but who knows for sure.

Don’t watch this sloppy, hollow, unfunny and eternally long film.  Find anything else to do.  Unless you just really like bad dick jokes, I guess.

One Last Thought:

At some point The Rock is going to have to dial back and go for more of a quality over quantity approach with his roles.  The guy is seemingly in everything, and most of it is forgettable garbage.

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Movie Breakdown: Chuck

May 18, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Since the Rocky flicks seem to have run their course, someone decided to make a movie about the real life guy/boxer who inspired Sylvester Stallone to create the Italian Stallion.  Is this a story that’s worth telling?  Maybe.

Post-Screening Ramble:

It’s 1975, and there’s a top 10 fighter by the name of Chuck “The Bayonne Bleeder” Wepner (Liev Schreiber) who has been given the chance to take on the Rumble In The Jungle winner himself, Muhammad Ali.  Naturally, no one thinks he has a shot at anything but getting KO’d, but through sheer determination (and with the help of a thick skull), he lasts 15 rounds and becomes a hero to everyone in his hometown.  Then, of course, he goes about ruining his life because he’s an impulsive, selfish fool.

Chuck is a fairly brief hour and a half.  You see some lead up to the fight, the fight itself and then the downfall.  I’m sure there’s more story that could have been told, but the film works as is because what’s there is grounded and relatable.  It’s full of real people doing real things, and there’s something oddly charming and warm about the way its generally unfortunate plot unfolds.  I give all the credit to Schreiber, who turns in a great performance on the screen and as the film’s narrator.  He really does well to make you feel like Chuck’s collapse isn’t because he’s a bad person, it’s because he’s an idiot.  And let’s face it, we’ve all been there.

If you want a nice matinee (that doesn’t feature superheros and explosions and whatnot) this weekend, Chuck is a solid option.

One Last Thought:

I’ve always found Naomi Watts to be an alluring presence, but something about her in this film is just intoxicating.  Maybe it’s the red hair.  Or the don’t give a fuck attitude.  Or both.

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Movie Breakdown: King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword

May 12, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

The trailers for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword haven’t been all that entertaining, but I like Guy Ritchie and the cast he assembled, so I’m at least mildly interested in the film.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Here’s the setup for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.  Uther (Eric Bana) gets betrayed by his brother, Vortigern (Jude Law), and this leaves a very young Arthur floating in a boat all on his own.  Eventually he’s found by some ladies of the night and they take him in and raise him.  Whilst Arthur is coming of age, his evil uncle begins building a tower that’s supposed to help him rule the world or something, and – of course – he can only be stopped by the Born King and Excalibur.

I will say this for Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur, it’s different.  Usually, the tale is told in a … well, knightly way, but Ritchie flips that on its head by turning Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) into a sort of back alley street brawler with a fast mouth.  This gives the film a nice edge, that’s for sure, but it makes it difficult to root for Arthur.  He’s essentially a thug and he doesn’t ever come off as anyone that should even be a knight, much less a King.  I assume this wasn’t Richie’s intention and that he actually was just trying to make Arthur cool, but it’s one of two fairly large flaws that keeps the film from being good.  The other issue is its breakneck pace.  This thing barrels along as though it’s a race to the finish, and you’re never really given any time to get to know anyone (outside of the generally unlikable Arthur) or to fully understand what the hell is going on.  Maybe a longer, more patient cut will emerge one day and fix everything, but as things stand now, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a very mediocre definition of all style and no substance.  You should wait and watch this one on your couch.

One Last Thought:

There are enormous war elephants in this film, and they made me roll my eyes.  That’s already been done and done well.  It’s time for another large creature to shine.  Maybe a rhino?  Or a hippo?

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Movie Breakdown: Snatched (Noah)

May 12, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I like Amy Schumer, I really do. And Goldie Hawn? C’mon, is there anyone more likable? That said, this looks/feels a little bit like when Seth Rogan made Guilt Trip with Barbara Streisand after he blew up the world with Knocked Up. And by that, I mean forgettable.

Post-Screening Ramble:

So, even if Snatched was a fantastic movie, I think audiences are going to struggle with the fact that this is a straight comedy about women being kidnapped by grotesque stereotypes of Hispanic kidnappers. Let’s be frank: kidnapping, especially of women in foreign countries is a brutal act that usually involves physical, sexual and emotional violence that often times ends in death. There is, quite literally, nothing funny about it. That said, comedy is supposed to push boundaries to the very edge and if Schumer, director Jonathan Levine and Goldie Hawn had managed to make a film that somehow used this miserable set-up as a vehicle for solid gold laughs, that’d be one thing. They don’t though. Snatched is at worst, a pretty out-of-touch comedy about a mother and daughter (Hawn and Schumer respectably) who get kidnapped while on vacation. At best it’s a mediocre comedy with a few solid lines/scenes from Schumer surrounded by a jungle-like morass of a comedic black hole. The film seems to know it’s not very good, because it flies along with nary a stumble to develop any character outside the most rote of comedic stereotypes (Goldie Hawn is scared of doing stuff, Schumer is, well, Schumer, Ike Barinholtz is an agoraphobic nerd, etc.). It gets where it’s going with the most predictable of moves and then ends neatly wrapped in a boring little bow. And of course, on top of all this, any audience member with even a lick of empathy will have to struggle to watch the film without thinking of the hundreds and hundreds of women who are kidnapped, subjected to torture and then killed each and every year. This is a big misstep for all involved.

One Last Thought:

It sort of feels like Schumer’s on the downward trend right now. I think if she doesn’t develop/star in something great soon, we could see her career come to a short-lived end.

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Movie Breakdown: Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (Noah)

May 4, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Well, I’ve sat through every other Marvel movie up to this point and for the most part (Thor, I’m looking at you) I’ve enjoyed them. And from that pile of spandex and superstars, Guardians of the Galaxy rises to very near the top. So, yes, I’d say I’m pretty excited.

Post-Screening Stance:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 might be, in terms of using the palette of the comic book medium, my very, very favorite Marvel movie. James Gunn has taken his team of lovable losers – Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) – and thrust them into yet another eye-popping adventure with a surprisingly sentimental, if at times overly gooey, core. This time around after a mission gone horribly wrong, and in true sequel fashion, the group splits into teams, each pushed into a side adventure before slamming back together for an action-packed ending. You’ll hear a lot of critics (the magnificent John Laird himself, amongst them) saying this film is exactly the same as the first just with a bigger budget. To some degree, I’m with them. This is, again, the story of a bunch of jerks starting to realize that in the greater context of things, they’re actually pretty good people. Yeah sure, Gunn retreads some of the plot points from the first, and yeah, there hasn’t been a large amount of character growth between films, but, truth be told, I didn’t even notice. Instead, I was drawn into the visually spectacular world Gunn managed to sneak past Marvel studios. This isn’t a film constrained by focus groups, it’s a film that takes the world of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee and Jim Starlin and just blasts it on to the screen. Every scene, every prop, every character is something to goggle at. This, unlike a lot of Marvel’s work, is a rich tapestry of ideas and because of the work done in the first film, Gunn doesn’t have to jam a lot of character development down your throat. Instead, we just get to spend two hours with a crew of rogues in a world pulled from one of the strangest minds in Hollywood. Beyond that, this film is rife with humor and genuine sadness. This is what crowd-pleasers used to look like: spectacles with heart. We’ve lost our way, but hey, maybe Guardians 2 is what will bring us back.

One More Thing:

Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has done a lot of good things, but it’s also created the concept that a film isn’t a film, it’s a vehicle for story/character development. I mean, yeah sure, every good film should have story and character development, but because of the multi-tiered nature of expanded universing, every movie has to move the characters into place for whatever comes next. Sometimes I just want to watch a good movie and not think how Peter Quill is going to fit into Infinity War.

One Other Thing:

You should watch FF8 before every movie. It’s so singularly disappointing in terms of movies and that franchise in general, that you’ll like Sandy Wexler if you pair it with FF8.

And Another Thing:

Drax steals the show in this film. Whomever thought Dave Bautista was funny enough to be in a movie, you deserve a pool shaped like James Gunn’s face.

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Movie Breakdown: Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

May 4, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Come on!  If you’re not hyped for Baby Groot The Movie Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, then you’re probably dead.

Post-Screening Ramble:

The nerd in me really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  The film has a bright, colorful, creative design, and it’s very energetic and loaded with great music.  All of the principal characters are back and in fine form – Chris Pratt is super charismatic as Peter Quill, Bradley Cooper’s sarcastic voice drives Rocket, Zoe Saldana is stoic as ever as Gamora and Dave Bautista is wonderful as the thick-headed Drax.  And then there’s Vin Diesel as Baby Groot.  Oh my.  Expect your heart to melt.  The lot of them, without a doubt, are a great team, and watching them together on the screen again made for a rather enjoyable time at the theater.

With that being said, the critic in me though isn’t quite as accepting of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and it’s because it’s the same movie as the first Guardians of the Galaxy.  It starts the same, it then hits the same beats, and then it wraps the same.  So much has been made of how Guardians of the Galaxy is the best part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe because it isn’t tied to the same plot points as the other films, and yet the second entry in the series does nothing to expand its own story or move its characters forward.  At the beginning of Vol. 2 we find everyone where we left them, and then they’re right back there when it comes to a close.  In fact, there’s only one character that gets any sort of actual development, and it’s not even someone who is a main member of the team – Yondu (the great Michael Rooker).  Otherwise, it’s just more of the same.  Now, as I said up above, I enjoyed the film and didn’t mind the same ol’ same ol’, but I’m not letting writer/director James Gunn slip away without being tagged for essentially making Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1.5.  It feels like he wasn’t really sure what to do, so he stayed in his safe zone and did what worked the first time around.  To some degree, that’s fine, but Guardians of the Galaxy is a series that should stay way out in front of everyone else and take some risks, and there’s just none of that happening here.  This makes it difficult for me to not at least somewhat view Vol. 2 as a missed opportunity.

Should you see it?  Yeah of course, don’t be daft.  I just advise you keep your expectations in check a bit and make sure you’re down with a big serving of re-heated Guardians Vol. 1.

One Last Thought:

I just want to confirm that there are indeed five extra scenes that play during the credits.  I was thinking they’d all be silly, but there’s actually a pretty good mix of jokey bits and important things.  Definitely stay in your seat.

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Movie Breakdown: Unforgettable

April 21, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I’m 100% certain that Unforgettable is going to be terrible, but I’m really hoping that it’ll be fun-terrible.  I’m also very down to watch Katherine Marie Heigl play herself.  Zing!

Post-Screening Ramble:

I thought for sure that Unforgettable was going to be trashy and hilarious, and that didn’t quite turn out to be accurate.  This isn’t to say the movie is good, because it isn’t, but it’s not near as terrible as I was expecting it to be.  Here’s what you need to know about its story – Tessa (Katherine Heigl) is not yet ready to let her ex-husband go, so she sets out to ruin his new girlfriend, Julia (Rosario Dawson).  She does some catty things at first, and then that escalates into some wild, dangerous shit.  Oh my!  Honestly, if you’ve seen the trailer, then you’ve seen the movie.  It does everything by the numbers and in general feels like a Lifetime movie with an actual budget.  There is one bright spot though, and it’s Heigl.  She is absolutely perfect as Tessa, and it’s her intense performance that makes the movie worth anything.  Now, I wouldn’t recommend running out and seeing it just to witness Heigl at peak bitchiness, but in a few years when the movie is on TBS at 1am, maybe give it a bit of your attention.

One Last Thought:

If you’re planning on seeing this movie and don’t want it spoiled, then stop reading right now!

For those of you that stayed, here’s my idea for a different ending.  In the film it’s just simply confirmed that Katherine Heigl’s character has mental issues, and then there’s a big fight that she loses.  How boring!  I think that instead it should have been revealed that Heigl’s young daughter had been her puppet master the whole time, and then Rosario has to defeat them both.  But they’re too much, and she loses.  Then the movie ends with Rosario locked up and the little manipulator on the loose with Heigl as her brainwashed pawn.  Can you imagine?!  That would have been … unforgettable.

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Movie Breakdown: The Lost City Of Z

April 20, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Theaters are currently loaded with The Fate Of The Furious, Ghost In The Shell, Power Rangers and the like, so I have no idea who Bleecker Street is expecting to run and out see The Lost City Of Z, a heavy-looking two and a half hour film about a fella stumbling around in the jungle.  With that being said, I’m excited for it.

Post-Screening Ramble:

The Lost City Of Z takes place in the early 1900s, and it tells the tale of Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), a real life British explorer who made various trips to South America in search of a lost civilization.  Well, he eventually gets to looking for ancient stuff, but first he just goes to help draw borders for a couple of countries on the verge of war.  It’s then that he discovers some busted pottery and decides that there’s no way such things could randomly be way out in the jungle on their own.  This leads Fawcett to forever trying to convince his countrymen and others that there are great discoveries to be had in the Amazon.

I enjoyed this film.  It’s patient, wonderfully shot, interesting and well acted.  However, The Lost City Of Z is definitely one of those efforts that teeters on the edge of pretentiousness, so someone could easily flip that and say that the movie is a slow, thick affair that’s not particularly accessible.  In other words, only head to the theater for this one if you feel as though your patience won’t bow out on you halfway through its heftiness.

One Last Thing:

Remember way back when Charlie Hunnam was all set to star in those 50 Shades Of Grey flicks?  What a bullet he dodged there.  On the flip side of that, I actually feel as though he would have elevated those films.  Probably not to a point where they would have been “good” or whatever, but he definitely would have made them more entertaining.  The guy is a legit talent.

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Movie Breakdown: Free Fire

April 18, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Ben Wheatley (High-Rise, A Field In England) is a buzzy director and the list of actors he’s assembled for Free Fire includes Brie Larson, Arnie Hammer, Sam Riley, Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley and Michael Smiley.  Seems like a winning combo to me.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Ostensibly, Free Fire isn’t a movie with a whole lot going on.  Some shady folks meet up in an abandoned industrial spot to swap some cash for some guns, things go awry, and then they start shooting the shit out of each other.  That’s it.  Thankfully though, writer/director Ben Wheatley’s latest effort features what can be tagged as nuanced violence, and that makes it a lot more than just a film with a bunch of smart-ass goons in a blood bath.  There’s actually something to be learned with each shot – from either a mouth or a gun – that gets fired!  How neat.  And let’s face it, Wheatley could have easily delivered a longer, more elaborate film that takes an in-depth look at who is doing what and why, but instead he allows the characters to quickly show their true selves via how they act in a spontaneous gunfight  – sort of like providing a backstory without providing an actual backstory – and in the end it’s a decision that really pays off.  Expect to have a really fun time picking out little things about each character and then using that to determine who might actually make it out alive.

Definitely go see Free Fire.  It’s violent, really funny and surprisingly crafty.

One Last Thing:

Hollywood really needs to start casting Sharlto Copley in more comedies.  He’d be great as the kooky sidekick for someone, or as an eccentric lead … or really, just whatever in anything that will allow him to ramble about.  He’s so hilarious that I’m sure he could take any comedic role and make it work in wondrous ways.

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Movie Breakdown: Their Finest

April 14, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Once upon a time Lone Scherfig directed An Education, a movie that I still really love.  That’s enough for me to be at least a little excited about her new flick.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Their Finest is a bit scatterbrained, but I liked it nonetheless.  The film takes place in Britain during WWII and it’s centered around a pair of screenwriters, the sweet but determined Catrin (Gemma Arterton) and the dickish but fair Buckley (Sam Clafin), and their efforts to put together a propaganda film to help the country’s morale.  Their mission is aided (or hampered, depending on the person) by Catrin’s out of work husband Ellis (Jack Huston), the pompous actor Ambrose (Bill Nighy), and a whole host of other minor characters.

I’d love to give this film two thumbs up based solely on the its old school vibe, but then I’d be ducking its plot issues.  Unfortunately, director Lone Scherfig never seems too sure about what story she wants to tell.  Is the film about women’s amazing efforts during the war?  Or how crazy it was to try and live during the Blitzkrieg?  Or film-making during the war?  Or is it a love story?  Well, it’s pretty much all of those things, and while some of it works just fine with limited limelight, overall the film feels like butter scraped over too much bread.

Cluttered story issues aside, I actually think you should see Their Finest.  Maybe don’t run off to the theater, but once it hits VOD, cue it up.  It features some nice performances and it has a genuine feel to it that’s hard to not like.

One Last Thing:

I know it’s really early in the year to say something like this, but I totally think that Bill Nighy should get a best supporting actor nod for his role in Their Finest.  He’s so wonderfully ridiculous and charming in it.

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Movie Breakdown: The Fate Of The Furious

April 13, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I just made my girlfriend watch all seven previous Fast And Furious entries (practically in a row) because I wanted her to be fully caught up before we saw The Fate Of The Furious.  That’s how much I love this big, dumb and ridiculously fun series.  Bring on #8.

Post-Screening Stance:

Just as I hoped, the newest Fast And Furious flick is more of the same.  The cars are incredible and fast, the scope is massive, there are overly dramatic soap opera-like moments, a variety of predictable-but-fun twists and – of course – a lot of talk about the important of family.  For all intents and purposes, you’ve already seen this movie.  You won’t care though because the film is so goddamn cheer-worthy that – just like every other entry in the series – it just sweeps you right up and takes you to your happy place.  If you ask me, there’s no better film to kick off the summer blockbuster season with than The Fate Of The Furious.  You should see it immediately.

One Fast Thought:

Charlize Theron’s Cipher is the best villain that Dom’s crew have had the pleasure of going up against.  Also, it’s so super obvious that Theron had a blast portraying the cunning hacker.  Great casting here.

One Furious Thought:

There’s only one thing in The Fate Of The Furious that I didn’t like, and it’s Scott Eastwood.  Even in a movie that doesn’t exactly feature the best actors in the world, he still manages to totally and completely suck.  I hope he doesn’t return for any further Fast And Furious films.  Not only can he not act, but he plays his character like a discount Brian O’Connor and it’s annoying.

One Fast And Furious Thought:

Sorry if you were hoping for more plot details in this breakdown.  Mentioning anything other than the “Dom has gone rogue” bit from the trailers would be pretty spoilery, and I didn’t want to do that to you.

OK, This Is It:

I was pleasantly surprised with how Brian and Mia’s retired status is handled in the film.

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Movie Breakdown: Queen Of The Desert (Noah)

April 7, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Werner Herzog doesn’t always hit his non-documentary films out of the park. This time he’s teaming with the ageless Nicole Kidman for a bio-pic about British explorer Gertrude Bell. It could be terrible.

Post-Screening Ramble:

There are many sides to Werner Herzog, not all of them good. The Herzog we’ve all come to love, appreciate, and weirdly idolize in the modern era, is the man behind heartfelt documentaries like Grizzly Man or Into The Abyss, films that stoke the flames of their subjects with Herzog’s very specific personality. The other Herzog, the less known Herzog, is the director of Queen of the Desert – a Nicole Kidman starring bio-pic about Gertrude Bell, a British explorer who stepped over gender lines to pursue her research of the tribal people of the Middle East. You would think that in Herzog’s gifted hands that a film about stark landscapes, brassy explorers, and dangerous situations would rocket off the page, but here’s the conundrum Herzog fans face – his non-documentary output is muddled, often times bad. Queen of the Desert isn’t terrible, but it isn’t good – it rides that debilitating line of mediocrity where it doesn’t push any boundaries, but it isn’t bad enough for us to mock mercilessly. It is, just a film, one that skirts the tropes of “explorer” films, while trying to make a statement about the treatment of women in the British Empire. It bounces from one event to the next – and one man to the next (Gertrude Bell was quite the 19th century player) – each adding a bit to the lore of Gertrude Bell, and then, when her story ends, so does the movie. Nicole Kidman plays, well, what I believe to be Nicole Kidman – a strong, though icy woman, who perseveres no matter how many Scientologists she marries. There’s appearances by James Franco (whose acting merits get more and more questionable), Robert Pattinson and Damien Lewis – but none make a dent in the flowing sands of boredom that blow across every minute of this film. Herzog is prolific, but prolific means more chances to strikeout. This one goes in the strikeout column.

One Last Thing:

Herzog, you salty old director you, stick with the documentaries. That is all.

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Movie Breakdown: Going In Style

April 7, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Going In Style does not look like a good movie, but I’m signed up because it features Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin.  Also, I’m curious as hell as to why Zach Braff (Garden State) directed it.  Is he super broke?  Did he owe someone a favor?  Is he going to deliver some sort of important social and /or political message via this old guy movie?  I need to know!

Post-Screening Stance:

If you asked me to pick one word to describe Going In Style, I’d go with harmless.  Three retired fellas get their pension unceremoniously taken from them, so they decide to rob their lousy bank in an effort to get every buck that is owed to them.  There’s nothing offensive or edgy that takes place.  Hell, there isn’t even an overabundance of “old people” jokes.  The film begins, some mildly entertaining things happen, then it ends.  I don’t know why any of the actors signed on for it, as none of the roles are interesting or challenging.  There’s not even really a message or moral to be pulled from the film.  It just exists, with its talented cast and director, for no discernible reason.  It’s mind-boggling.  People gotta get paid, though, I guess?

You should skip Going In Style and catch something else this weekend.  It’s not a movie worth paying to see in the theater.  It’s barely a movie that you should watch from the comfort of your couch.  Sure, it’s a harmless little flick, but it’s just filler and you could totally be reading a book or staring at a wall.

One Last Thought:

Going In Style probably would have been pretty good had it been two hours of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin just sitting around and talking.  They each have such great voices.

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Movie Breakdown: Power Rangers (Noah)

March 24, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I grew up watching the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I sat my 8-year old ass down on my bright red beanbag chair with a soda and a stack of cookies and watched 5 color-coded ninjas fight grown humans in rubber suits. Do I think it needs an edgy remake? No. But it’s 2017 and Hollywood’s grinding teeth need more unoriginal material to feed them.

Post-Screening Stance:

For those who didn’t grow up anytime between the early 90s and now, here’s a description of the (Mighty Morphin) Power Rangers: a group of 5 high-schoolers find magic stones that give them access to a rainbow’s worth of ninja outfits, as well as giant animal-themed robots which they use to fight Rita Repulsa and her army of rock monsters. If you are deciding whether you want to see this film or not based on a lingering worry that it might be “dumb”, then I have your answer: it is, by definition alone, dumb. That said, those keen minds in the bowels of Hollywood are trying to reintroduce these plucky Power Rangers (Red, Blue, Yellow, Black and Pink) to a new audience in a new era where kiddie ninjas and their lovable robot friends can’t be targeted at only 9-year olds. Thus, Power Rangers – by Dean Israelite – is the same general premise, shot through with a thick serum of contrast-y grit. A bunch of teenagers live in the small town of Angel Grove; they’ve all been in various kinds of trouble, all are burdened with the particular brand of malaise only a teenager can feel. Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery) is the star quarterback of the football team struggling with his celebrity. He ends up in detention (there are strong shades of The Breakfast Club in this film) where he meets Billy (RJ Cyler), Kimberly (Naomi Scott) and Zack (Ludi Lin). Through a series of circumstances, all four, plus Trini (Becky G.) end up discovering the gemstones that make them Power Rangers under the guidance of Zordon (Bryan Cranston reprising his role) and Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader). Training occurs, a bad guy (Rita Repulsa – Elizabeth Banks) is revealed, and the team must overcome their own weaknesses to learn how to be Power Rangers and kick some monster ass. If we’re rating this film on how well it has managed to do what it set out – to reintroduce the Rangers to a new generation, while staying true to the nostalgic yearning of the prior audience – Israelite’s film succeeds in spades. The director front ends the film with enough character development, lightly revealed exposition, and darkly tinged cinematography, that when someone inevitably yells, “It’s Morphin Time!” and turns into a spandex-clad warrior, it actually, kind of works. It isn’t easy to thread that needle, and applause should be had for the crew (actors included) on this, who are able to craft a movie that feels modern, edgy at times even, but doesn’t run away from the sillier aspects of the source material. There’s issues to be found – all the front-loading makes the CGI-clogged end battle feel rushed and Israelite has a tendency to just omit scenes instead of find a way to incorporate them – but hey, Israelite does the property right and in doing so, he cobbles together a flick that you don’t have to be embarrassed to tell anyone you’ve watched. And with so many shitty adaptations of, well, everything clogging the box offices, I’d call that a success.

One Last Thought:

The swollen river of superhero films have done some serious damage to non-superhero properties. By this I mean, now any film with anything slightly related to a superhero (color-coded ninjas fit the bill) just gets stuffed into the superhero sandbox. Power Rangers has the potential of being a truly weird, truly out there sort of property (and I do believe that Dean Israelite had hopes to make it even weirder), but instead the film ends up like a more colorful X-Men flick, the odd edges of it filed down so it fits in the proper, money making box.

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