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Movie Breakdown: Get Hard (Noah)

March 26, 2015

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

It’s got Kevin Hart in it which automatically drops it down to the very bottom of the list after anything starring Ian Ziering and George W. Bush’s amateur sex tape.

The Reality:

At this point, with comedies of this mind-numbing stature, I don’t even know what to say anymore. Did I enjoy the story of a very rich man (Will Ferrell) who’s sentenced to maximum security prison for money reasons and so believes that he’s going to die in the joint that he enlists his car washer (Kevin Hart) to teach him to, ahem, “get hard”? Yeah, like I enjoy unsalted mash potatoes or, uh, lukewarm bubbly water. Did I think the film bordered on the edge of offensive, and used a paper thin veneer of “social commentary” to just actively endorse the ridiculing of stereotypes? Yeah, sure. At the end of the day would I tell you, the reader, to go out and see this movie in the theater because it’s a redefinition of comedy, a broad new step in the career of Will Ferrell, that it ends with Kevin Hart falling off a building? No, no I wouldn’t. Get Hard plays like a “greatest hits” reel of Will Ferrell’s very Will Ferrell-y comedy – he cries, he “sad dogs”, he acts like a gangster, he plays a sort of sad giant (an Elf with money instead of gifts) totally unknowing of the world around him. It’s enjoyable to watch Ferrell because he’s an enjoyable actor, but you could’ve cut out the ham-handed story, especially the relationship that builds between Hart and him, and just strung the leftover bits together and called it Saturday Night Will and it would’ve been just as enjoyable. Get Hard is the definition of a “vehicle” for two stars – it’s a loose story built around them just doing dumb shit – and though, yes, it will illicit some laughs, you have to sit through the rest of the crap to get to them.

The Lesson:

T.I. is a surprisingly funny actor. You learn something new every day.

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Movie Breakdown: Run All Night

March 12, 2015

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Taken 4: Run All Night sees Liam Neeson on a mission to save his son (played by Joel Kinnaman).  Ed Harris and Common are the bad guys.

The Reality:

Mob stories have been done to death, but every now again a little something slips out and refreshes the genre.  Run All Night is not that something.  Just like director Jaume Collet-Serra’s previous two Liam Neeson-led films – 2011′s Unknown and last year’s Non-Stop – it’s an okay action flick that’s so generic it becomes wholly forgettable the moment the credits hit the screen.  Hell, I’m roughly 98% sure I’m going to end up catching it on TV in a few years and watching it as though I haven’t already slogged my way through it before.  Then I’ll be treated to its paint-by-numbers experience all over again!  I can’t wait.  But seriously though, Run All Night is less bad of a bad film and more of a boring one, and if you were to get out this weekend and see it you’d probably be more inclined to simply shrug your shoulders than frown with disappointment, but does that mean it’s worth your time and money?  I say no.  And frankly, it might be better at this point to stop supporting Liam Neeson in roles like this.  The guy is on the verge of needing another career reboot.

The Lesson:

We have to figure out a way to steal Liam Neeson away from the clutches of Jaume Collet-Serra.  That guy is not a good director.

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Movie Breakdown: Cinderella (Noah)

March 12, 2015

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The Impression:

Kenneth Branaugh has made two of my least favorite movies of the last ten years. Match his heavy, uninspired hand with Disney’s recent need to “reinvent” their classic characters and I’d say this is the least excited I’ve been about a film since I’ve started writing for this blog.

The Reality:

I don’t need to ever see a traditional imagining of a classic story ever again. I never need to see one of our national written treasures – the Hamlets, the Red Riding Hoods, the Grapes of Wrath – portrayed as originally written. We’ve come so far in our abilities to make films and instead of pushing the envelopes of what our films can be, we’ve regressed into making slack-jawed word-for-word adaptations of our prized texts. Cinderella, as directed by Kenneth Branaugh, is the definition of a traditional text being treated as such. This is Cinderella (Lily James from Downton Abbey) as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, scarily skinny, white girl in a blue dress, who with the help of her fairy godmother (Helena Bohnam Carter) must win the heart of her Prince. A Prince (Richard Madden from Game of Thrones) with a granite-jaw, a cod-piece and the bright blue eyes of a serial killer. This is Cinderella where everything you’ve ever seen happen in any version of Cinderella ever happens. It is a moment-for-moment adaptation of the Disney cartoon of the 1940s, and it is both dull and near offensive in its lack of originality. If you want the story of Cinderella that you’ve grown up with, the one with the crystal slipper and the blue dress and the pumpkin cart and mice and so and so forth (which I really do imagine a lot of you do) then this is very much the film for you. If you want a film that looks at our fairy tales and tries to apply any sort of modern context to them, one that uses a term like “classic” to hide the word “boring”, a film that will continue to impress upon your children that the face of a prince and princess are always white – then this is the film for you. I’m not asking for steampunk Cinderella, I’m not asking for manga-Cinderella, or Quentin Tarantino’s take on the glass-slippered starlet – I just want whomever, inevitably, picks up this property next to think, “Maybe there’s a different angle here.” There might be an argument that in a time when irony and snark are so often beaten over our heads, that a film that earnestly approaches its subject is a good thing. I just don’t think that earnestness and interesting and original filmmaking are mutually exclusive subjects.

The Lesson:

I spent most of this film vacillating between a sort of forced hibernation and looking at the little girl next to me who was leaned forward in her chair, head perched on her hands, absolutely loving the shit out of this film. It’s not a film for me, but that little girl was truly enchanted.

The Lesson Pt. 2:

Cate Blanchett is fantastic in this film as the evil stepmother. She’s vicious, wily and seething with evil, and every moment she was on screen I could almost convince myself that I was enjoying the film.

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Movie Breakdown: The Hunting Ground (Noah)

March 11, 2015

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The Impression:

Kirby Dick and company take on college rape and higher education’s controversial methods of dealing with the pervasive problem. Sounds like I’m leaving this one with a stomach full of rage.

The Reality:

Kirby Dick has made a film aimed at exposing the severity of the rape issue on college campuses. More so, he’s made a film that calls bullshit on the absolutely horrifying way that university’s have chosen to deal with the subject. Simply put: rape is a big problem on college campuses, a bigger problem than you think, but the biggest problem is that colleges are protecting their own self-interests by shaming rape victims and purposefully neglecting to report or punish on-campus rapists. It’s a brutal subject and Dick manages to dig deep not only into the stories of a small handful of the women (which is still a pretty big handful) who’ve been victimized, but also the perpetrators of the acts as well as the culture of colleges that breeds what one woman refers to as a “hunting ground.” He points fingers at the universities, the fraternity system and college athletics, all the while showcasing the noxious entanglement of education and finance that promotes the horrifying atmosphere so many women (and men) are a part of. It’s a brutal subject and Dick manages to showcase that. Which is what makes this a good documentary, but Dick is a good director, not a great one, and the film never coalesces into the searing classic it could be. This may seem insensitive, but Dick is actually fairly heavy-handed with the material. You don’t need to play sweeping orchestral music or Lady Gaga’s It Get’s Better time and time again for the audience to know that the horrible, violent rape of our college-aged men and women is awful. Dick doesn’t trust his material though and at the times when you’re ready to throw a brick through the fucking screen because some rich, white man is telling a rape victim to go home and sleep it off, the music swells and all of a sudden it feels a little maudlin. Strangely, a few of the times when Dick isn’t beating you over the head with the topic, he’s gone in the other direction, contrasting terrifying data with upbeat music or almost chipper animation. The disparity between the subject, and the two tones casts the film into an aesthetic limbo. We live in an age of amazing documentaries about subjects broad and wide, inspirational and awful, that are near perfect examples of the melding of tone and subject. And though Dick is a seasoned documentarian (an Oscar-winning one at that) The Hunting Ground finds it subject, but isn’t able to find the film to match it.

The Lesson:

Higher education, you have a lot to atone for.

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Movie Breakdown: Chappie (Noah)

March 6, 2015

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

I was ready to disown director Neill Blomkamp after the abysmal Elysium. After seeing the trailers for his new film Chappie, seemingly about a sensitive robot who learns to gang-bang, I’m ready to start weaning his name out of the human language.

The Reality:

You know, Chappie could’ve just been a film about a rogue, sentient robot named Chappie and the near-braindead gangsters who teach him how to act tough, shoot guns and tear doors off cars and it would’ve been pretty watchable. Instead, to my great surprise, Neill Blomkamp is able to inject the story of, you know, Chappie with a strong message, a beating heart, and some epic bits of robot-on-robot action and to erase my fears about his future output in the process. Chappie, if the setting was different, and the main character not a ebonics-spouting South African cop-robot, could be a film that shows the danger of our upbringings. Chappie, one more time, is a cop-robot set for destruction when his “Maker” (Dev Patel) imbues him with artificial intelligence, just prior to being robbed and kidnapped by two bad haircut sporting South African thugs (Yolandi and Ninja from Die Antwoord basically playing fantastical versions of themselves). The rest of the film bounces back and forth between the philosophical struggle of how to teach a robotic baby how to live, Hugh Jackman (with the fucking worst haircut of all time) trying to sabotage the robo-baby, and Chappie (a marvel of computer graphics) learning how to c-walk. It really could be an awful film but Blomkamp shows the chops that made District 9 so remarkable, and makes a film that’s ostensibly about just how horrible human beings can be. The strongest moments of the film are Chappie learning to be relatively human. His emotional output (as voiced by Sharlito Copley) grows realistically and by the time he’s got a gold necklaces and a gat and he’s robbing an armored truck, you can believe that he’s ended up there. You can believe that the selfish interests of others have forced this blob of moldable robot clay into a sort of thugged-out criminal. It doesn’t all work out. Dev Patel’s character seems overly tacked on, and his presence in every scene takes away from the gangster Chappie story. Sigourney Weaver is barely there and when she is she’s stiff and awkward. And again, Hugh Jackman (though I like his villainous role) has the worst hair of all time. That said, Chappie was a pleasant surprise, Short Circuit with a more skilled director behind the wheel.

The Lesson:

Putting Die Antwoord into your film requires that they just get to play themselves. And that they wear their own merchandise and the soundtrack only consists of their songs. Hell, with a few cuts, this just could be one long Die Antwoord video.

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Movie Breakdown: Unfinished Business

March 5, 2015

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Three guys go on a business trip.  The trailers have done well to make the movie not look funny at all.

The Reality:

If you take a solid look at Unfinished Business, you’ll notice it does have the right pieces.  There’s an accomplished cast (Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson, Dave Franco, Sienna Miller, Nick Frost and others) and a solid premise that follows three guys as they work hard to try and save their business.  Also, the film has a big ole heart.  Vaughn’s Dan Trunkman is simply on a mission to do right by his employees and his family, Franco’s Mike Pancake is a loveable dolt and Wilkinson’s Timothy McWinters is an old man who just wants to find true love.  It’s all so sweet!  And, unfortunately, woefully unfunny.  I’m all for any comedy that wants to stray away from being mean-spirited, but it at least has to be chuckle-worthy, and Unfinished Business just isn’t packing in that department.  I barely laughed at all.  It was good to see a “nice” comedy, but the lack of laughs really made for a tedious time.

If you’re hoping to see something that will crack you up this weekend, your best bet is still Fifty Shades Of Grey.

The Lesson:

Always make sure “funny” is on the list of ingredients for your comedy.

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Movie Breakdown: My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn (Noah)

February 26, 2015

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Nicolas Winding Refn is a weird director. I mean sure, you can watch Drive and just say he’s another stylized action director, but then dig a little deeper, get your nose in Valhalla Rising or Bronson, and this guys got a whole other party raging in his head. That’s what this film is about, that other party.

The Breakdown:

My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn (which from this point forward will be referred to as My Life because I have fat fingers and I get sweaty easily) clocks in at a minute over an hour, and that was exactly the amount of time I could handle living inside of the domestic life of The Refns. I guess that’s what you get when you make the decision to film your famous-director husband in the throes of trying to film his poorly received, art-house, Thai, Gosling-starring action film. It isn’t that this is a bad movie, for what it is it’s actually a pretty incisive, revealing portrait of a director trying not to be defined by just one thing (Refn’s prior film Drive) and Refn (here being filmed by his wife, the director of the documentary) allows honest emotion to be captured for the screen. It’s just that Refn, mostly angry, sometimes sad, a lot of the time full-out depressed, is hard to watch. He comes across as petulant and self-obsessed and though you learn almost nothing about his wife (aside from the fact that she struggles with her professional life in the shadow of her husband) you do learn that living with Nicolas Winding Refn is the equivalent of living with a sad shark, who mopes around all day thinking about his hunger until somewhere someone does something and he lashes out, shiny teeth gleaming. You also learn that Ryan Gosling and Refn have a sort of bromance going on that involves a lot of hugging and talking about emotions. And even though Gosling (the star of Only God Forgives) is only in it for a few scenes, his natural warmth, his genuine sort-of goofy sweetness acts as a mirror to Refn, highlighting just how cold and emotionally withdrawn the director is. Again, it’s only an hour, and the length helps and mostly hurts it. We see Refn in his the thrall of his mood swings, over and over again, but we never get past the emotional pain to see why or what causes this. It ends up painting Refn as a whiny ponce (which maybe he is) but doesn’t give any reason that he’d be angry about his beautiful and lovely kids and big, crazy house in Bangkok. Instead you get just one hour to have one argument firmly slammed home – Nicolas Winding Refn is kind of an asshole.

The Lesson:

Don’t marry Nicolas Winding Refn.

My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn is due out on VOD and in select theaters on February 27.

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Movie Breakdown: Focus

February 26, 2015

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

The romantic crime drama-looking Focus is Will Smith’s first real attempt at apologizing for After Earth.  With him is the beautiful Margot Robbie.

The Reality:

When it came time to scribble down a post-film comment, “decidedly average” was the only way I could think of to describe Focus.  Will Smith and Margot Robbie have good chemistry and the film itself is fairly entertaining, but it’s all nearly buried by far too many twist and turns that aren’t remotely clever or surprising.  Also, the tone of the film is just all over the place.  Maybe it’s because of the litany of double crosses at play, but it constantly ping pongs between being funny, serious, sexy and dangerous like it’s desperately trying to keep you distracted so that you won’t guess what’s going to happen.  Except you’re going to, because Focus telegraphs every single one of its punches.

If you’re willing/able to switch off your brain for a bit, I think you’ll find Focus to be an alright time.  Just know going in that it’s a safe and predictable film that you’ll watch and probably instantly forget.

The Lesson:

Keep on truckin’, Will.

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Movie Breakdown: Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (Noah)

February 19, 2015

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

C’mon, if you saw the first film about four idiots who go back in time to the 1980s to, I don’t know, look at boobs or something, you’re probably mildly interested in seeing the sequel in which they go into the future to, uh, look at boobs.

The Reality:

Now, I want you to understand that when I level the term “dumb” against Hot Tub Time Machine 2 as a criticism, I understand that coming into this film, as a fan of the original, that these films are the definition of dumb, that they mine their humor from playing on the tropes of dumbness, that it’s a hot summer day and dumbness is the delicious, teeth-rotting Kool-Aid of Hot Tub Time Machine 2. That said, this film is dumb in a bad way. Where Hot Tub Time Machine The First used its dumb stick with maybe even a modicum of finesse (context people), Hot Tub Time Machine 2 just loads it in the dumb gatling gun and sprays it around like a 40s gangster. For a variety of reasons Hot Tub Time Machine 2 finds our protagonists, now fabulously wealthy because of their time-toying (shy one John Cusack, who clearly had better things to do…) in search of Lou’s (Rob Cordry) killer … IN THE FUTURE. Cue jokes about future sex toys (the “Dick Hole” device), future drug use (the “ladybug” device), future realities where people are matched with entirely out-of-their-league partners (the “coat check girl” device) and and other, future-y stuff. Amongst all the self-aware riffing (a major drag on this film) and dick jokes, Steve Pink (who so ably meshed stupid with funny in the first film) tries to weave in some emotion, hell even a plot, but it gets buried under layer after layer of occasionally funny potty humor. And this is what kills me about the adventures of Nick (Craig Robinson), Jacob (Clark Duke) and Adam (Adam Scott – far funnier here than in anything else I’ve seen him in) – the dumb has taken over entirely, and this time it’s mean spirited. Sure, it seems like maybe once, a long time ago, these people were friends, but all of them sans straight-man Jacob, are so terrible to each other (hell, just terrible in general) that the film becomes a big, bubbling cesspool of meanness. This is funny to some people, a bunch of dudes fucking with each other, and I think with a more steady hand and a better script this could be funny too, but instead it ends up like watching a comic version of a Tucker Max book but instead of it ending with him shoving coins in a girl’s hoo-ha, it ends with unearned sappiness.

The Lesson:

Alright, just a quick dip in the nerd pool. I understand that Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is not a film predicated on science, but for the amount they talk about time travel (and they do, even if they’re making fun of it), could they at least have tried to make it somewhat, ahem, realistic? It was distracting how little effort they put into making time travel slightly functional, but still spending a million hours describing it and trying to explain why the situation everyone was in worked. Pick a side Pink, you want scientific time travel, do it; you want four stupid guys getting sprayed in the face with semen, do that. But you can’t have both.

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Movie Breakdown: McFarland, USA

February 19, 2015

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Kevin Costner continues his lackluster attempt at a comeback with a role that sees him teaching a bunch of poor kids how to be good at running cross country.

The Reality:

If you’ve seen Hoosiers, then you’ve seen McFarland, USA.  Granted, McFarland, USA isn’t as well made as Hoosiers and its story follows cross country runners and not basketball players, but plot and tone-wise it’s straight up the same film.  There’s a coach with a rather troubled past who finds himself in a complete “fish out of water” situation that seems hopeless, but instead of giving up he molds a group of downtrodden locals into something really special.  Yep, McFarland, USA is totally a “been there, done that” sort of thing and, to make the movie even more appealing, I can also note that it features clunky dialogue, stiff performances (what in the world happened to Kevin Costner’s charisma?) and a slew of incredibly heavy-handed messages.  You know what though?   Despite all of its various shortcomings, I liked it.  The film is a very heartwarming and inspiring experience that’s easy to enjoy.

If you’re in need of a pick me up these days, you could do a lot worse than McFarland, USA.  Grab a tissue or four and matinee it.

The Lesson:

I’m a goddamn sucker for sports movies.

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Movie Breakdown: Fifty Shades Of Grey (Noah)

February 12, 2015

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

The literary opus that is Fifty Shades of Grey was Twilight fan-fic that some “skilled” author was able to rearrange into a campy bit of mom-porn that brought BDSM cat-o-nine swinging into the American popular conscience. The film, perhaps as it should, looks like a softcore porn I would have recorded off of HBO before the internet existed.

The Reality:

At some point in the unending cycle of softcore BDSM, stilted dialogue, and the smug, unmoving face of Jamie Dornan I realized that sitting through Fifty Shades of Grey was equivalent to a night spent getting fleeced in a seedy, edge-of-town casino where there are no windows or clocks and all you can do is watch a paunchy dealer throw down cards and take your money. In the first thirty minutes of this film, as Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) are meeting-cute and falling into some sort of contractually obligated “butt plug” situation, you think, this story has the potential of, if not being good, at least having a story that one could presumably follow along with. Narrative complications are introduced (Anastasia is a virgin! Christian doesn’t like romance!), characters are developed (Anastasia works at a hardware store!), and the idea of this being a movie with the traditional ideas of beginning, middle and end seems almost possible. Yet at perhaps the 20 minute mark after Christian asks Anastasia to sign a contract letting him keep her as his willing sex slave, Christian “rectifies the problem” of her lack of sexual experience and then the rest of the film is a bloated, overlong ode to the most boring relationship ever in existence. Nothing happens in this movie. It’s like a fictionalized version of The Bachelor, except instead of many women trying and failing to fuck a rich dude, it’s one woman and one man, and they pretty much like each other and aside from the dude’s interest in bondage, they have a pretty normal (i.e. slightly fucked-up relationship). You could describe this film as a series of vignettes where a woman gets more comfortable with the idea of being tied up and diddled, but every vignette follows the exact same cues – woman is excited to be in the company of rich man, rich man wants to tie woman up, woman doesn’t want to get tied up, man says relationship is a no go, woman seems sad, they have sex. Over and over and over again. It almost feels experimental, like a Sartre play where you’re stuck in this hellish cable television version of wealth and BDSM and just when you think something is going to happen, you get Groundhog’s Dayed and you’re right back at the grand piano trying not to let some guy tie you up. I could go on and on and on and on about the aspects of this film that fail (nearly everything – especially the awkward approach to representing BDSM in a more mainstream light) but I’ll end on a high note – Dakota Johnson. I don’t know if she’s ever been in anything else, but with the garbage dialogue and shit source material she’s given, she is still charming, sexy, and downright likable. Which makes it almost impossible to believe that she would fall for the wooden board with a face painted on it that is Jamie Dornan. The experience of watching Fifty Shades of Grey is equivalent to what I dream is Hell is like.

The Lesson:

I don’t even know. Egregious nudity alone cannot save a movie.

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Movie Breakdown: Fifty Shades Of Grey

February 12, 2015

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

The immensely popular “erotic romance novel” Fifty Shades of Grey gets adapted for the big screen.  Horny people everywhere are stoked.

The Reality:

Buried somewhere deep in Fifty Shades of Grey is a movie I’d like to see.  Now, that’s not to say director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s adaptation is terrible.  It isn’t.  Far from it, actually.  The film just isn’t particularly good either, though I’m not sure it really ever had the chance to be.  Many of the movie’s faults – giggle-worthy dialogue and sex scenes, a soundtrack riddled with out of place pop artists, a bare-bones story – seem less like questionable decisions and more like unavoidable ones, as there’s clearly a drive to deliver the kind of movie that the zillion fans of the book expect/want.  I get that.  However, the shiny, smutty shallowness demanded by said fans blots out a couple of charged, but nicely layered performances by Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, and it also stomps on what could have been an interesting look at sex, relationships and what you’re willing to do for someone else.  Oh well.  At least now we all know “it is what it is” and that’s that.  See it if you want, but don’t expect to get much out of it other than something to chuckle about with your friends.

One final note, my favorite part about the movie was Christian Grey’s playroom.  Outside of it he’s always in a suit and looking super professional.  In the sex dungeon though, he is shirtless and in … ripped up jeans.  Whenever the couple enter the room, there’s soft music and slo-mo … and Grey’s ripped up, mall-bought jeans.  Surely there had to have been a better pants option to make him look rugged and wild.  I laughed out loud every single time.

The Lesson:

Pay attention to those red flags, ladies.

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Movie Breakdown: Kingsman: The Secret Service

February 11, 2015

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

I have faith in the halfheartedly marketed Kingsman: The Secret Service solely because of Matthew Vaughn.  He’s a fantastic writer/director who has yet to put out a bad film.  Also, he bailed on X-Men: Days Of Future Past for Kingsman, and I doubt he did it just for funsies.

The Reality:

I recently came across a comment from Daniel Craig where he noted that the Austin Powers Trilogy “fucked” everyone’s ability to do campy spy movies, and that’s why his Bond entries have all been so serious.  I guess that’s true.  When I think of spy flicks that have come out in the last decade or so (Goldmember was in 2002), I immediately picture Jason Bourne, Craig’s Bond and other dark, action heavy films.  Hell, even Taken, which I think most find to a be a sort of throwback to the days of bad-but-in-a-good-way spy-centric movies, is only humorous because it’s too serious.  So where’s all the fun?  Not dead, I don’t believe, but definitely buried.  Or, at least it was buried until Kingsman: The Secret Service arrived.

Matthew Vaughn’s latest film is a whirlwind of good times.  There’s not a lot in it that hasn’t been done before (a secret organization uses cool gadgets and sexy agents in an effort to stop an over the top villain’s devious plot), but even with just the status quo to play with, Vaughn’s clear enthusiasm for the material makes the movie feel like a breath of fresh air.  I really loved Kingsman: The Secret Service, and I advise that you see it first thing this weekend.

Two final notes. 1) Watching Colin Firth stylishly kill people is a delight.  2) The success of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack is starting to prove influential. There’s classic hits all over Kingsman.

The Lesson:

Matthew Vaughn is a giver of life.

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Movie Breakdown: Seventh Son

February 5, 2015

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Some guy is the seventh son of the seventh son, so Jeff Bridges trains him to kill monsters and witches.  Or something like that.

The Reality:

If you’re hoping that Seventh Son is one of those funny-bad movies that eventually becomes entertaining fodder for TNT’s 4am slot, then prepare to be disappointed, as it is a giant, generic bore of a film.  I tried to find something quirky or fun about it, but the whole thing is just so damn lame.  Jeff Bridges is once again Rooster Cogburn (True Grit > RIPD > Seventh Son) with a plucky sidekick (this time it’s Ben Barnes looking like a medieval hipster) and he has to “save the world” from witches who occasionally turn into dragons.  I suppose the witch dragons could have been cool. but they don’t actually do anything but hangout in a castle.  They don’t burn any villages or turn people into weird creatures.  Hell, they don’t even actually declare that they’re going to destroy the world.  They just hangout on the top of a mountain in a castle and look at something called the Blood Moon.  If anything, the movie is just one big hate crime.  All those poor witches accosted because some cowboy doesn’t trust them!  How rude.  And I know what you must be thinking, that while the majority of the film is lame, there’s surely some badass scenes where the “seventh son” does something way cool.  Nope.  He is quite possibly the most uninteresting and useless hero of all time.  Just instantly forgettable.  If you see Seventh Son, you will be disrespecting yourself and America.

The Lesson:

Hey Jeff, it’s time to create a new character.

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Movie Breakdown: Jupiter Ascending (Noah)

February 4, 2015

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

The Wachowskis are hugely imaginative and extremely skilled, interesting filmmakers who’ve made some of the great science-fiction films of the last twenty years. This is a big, space opera type of film with warring houses and laser guns and what looks to be futuristic rollerblades. I love futuristic rollerblades.

The Reality:

There was more than a few moments in Jupiter Ascending where I thought, “Maybe this is The Wachowskis big follow-up to the ideas presented in Cloud Atlas, and they’re consciously trying to incorporate every generic idea from every big-budget science fiction film into one super colossal sci-fi almagamation.” And then pointy-eared Channing Tatum rollerbladed through the clouds of Jupiter and the horrifying thought came to roost: this is a very, very bad film. I might be saying that because I’m such an ardent fan of The Wachowskis and just about everything they do. These are two filmmakers who, time and time again, push the boundaries of what a big budget film should look like and, almost time and time again, succeed on both a creative and financial level. Jupiter Ascending fails creatively and, most assuredly, is going to tank hard at the box office. The Wachowskis have formulated a big, strange, Dune-like world, where ultra-rich, immortal, super-elites rule the Universe. Jupiter Jones (Milas Kunis in quite possibly the worst role of her entire career) is an illegal alien (get it?) who scrubs toilets for her uncle’s cleaning company and, surprisingly, is a new heir to side wing of alien royalty. Caine (a dog-eared, half-wolf, gene fighter played by hunk of muscle Channing Tatum) comes to Earth to retrieve her for her newly found siblings (children?) but things go, well, they go romantic. I could, if I wanted to relive the nine years I spent in the theater, continue to dig deeper and deeper into the massive, complex story and world The Wachowskis have created here, but it will only leave us all confused and into a dark state of mental regression. To their credit, the world the creators of this film imagined is big – and absolutely stunning – and has the potential, a thousand times over, to be fascinating, but somehow, it just isn’t. It’s like a buffet in Vegas – everything looks and seems so goddamn good you just want to pile your plate with pot roast and lobster and sushi and bisque, but when you bring it all back to the table, you just want to sip your Coke a few times and go to sleep. Somehow, with all the money and creative freedom at their disposal, The Wachowskis made a pretty sub-par 80s sci-fi action film with too much plot and some of the worst character development of their solid careers. I wanted to like this film, hell I wanted to love this film, as much as anyone, and as Channing Tatum roller-bladed across the roiling clouds of Jupiter and Milas Kunis said something sassy and fell through broken glass one more time, I realized, that no matter how many times Eddie Redmayne screamed like a dying bird, that it was never, ever, going to happen.

The Lesson:

I’m happy because of the range and world building of this film. I’m unhappy because everything else in it is a convoluted, boring mess. Find some middle ground Wachowskis.

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