Archive for February, 2017

The Nice Guys

by on Feb.26, 2017, under Movie Reviews

the nice guysSet in 1970s Los Angeles (but shot in Georgia ironically) The Nice Guys pays homage to the detective/buddy cop flicks of the same era. Written and directed by Shane Black and starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling you’d think this would’ve been a sure fire hit but the film fell pretty shy of its $50M budget. Let’s see what happened…

Crowe and Gosling play competing PIs who team up on the same missing person case. Crowe is the heavy who mostly has his shit together where Gosling plays the charmed goofball / comic relief guy who’s also a lousy father and brings his daughter to crime scenes instead of getting a babysitter. The story revolves around the death of a porn star and a missing person on the run who knows too much.

While the setup of the story is pretty good and the film has some solid moments, it suffers from a series of “are you serious?” number of moments. One such moment includes a struggle for a gun that results in a neighbor getting killed and there’s no mention of it after it happens. It’s a really bizarre kind of insert into an action scene. I think it was supposed to be funny the way it was presented but it comes off tragic and dismissive. The film has a strange sense of humor sometimes that don’t seem to really hit the mark. Then there’s the believability of the head of the justice department and her motivations. I don’t’ want to give up any spoilers so you’ll have to see the film to see why I question the validity of her intentions.

The production of the film looks great, the wardrobe, sets, cars, everything hits the 70s on the head. It was fun to look at the various marquees and signs to see the listings of that time. The music is fun and authentic too as were the parties featured in the movie. It’s a shame some of the writing and directing is what ultimately kind of hurts The Nice Guys along with too much presence of Gosling’s daughter’s character. She got kind of annoying after a while.

The cast includes Kim Basinger, Angourie Rice, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, and Gil Gerard.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Hail, Caesar!

by on Feb.19, 2017, under Movie Reviews

hail caesarHail, Caesar! is the latest offering from the Coen Brothers who brought us classics like No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Fargo and The Big Lebowski. The film is set in the 50s during the golden age of Hollywood and centers around a “fixer” (which is kind of another name for producer these days) who is trying to keep a studio together while dealing with erratic talent, a kidnapping, and a plot by some disgruntled writers.

The film itself is fun enough but doesn’t quite capture the magic of some of their other releases. In other words, for a Coen film, it’s kinda average which makes it a decent regular film by conventional standards but not a home run. The story itself is ok, with some interesting nods to the paranoia of the entertainment industry at that time as well as to the eccentric behavior that talent is often associated with. However, the dialog and action are not super compelling or exciting but rather run-of-the-mill. There are the occasional unexpected elements here and there but nothing as captivating or surreal as The Big Lebowski. And quite frankly, the ending is sudden and boring.

The actors are fun to watch, George Clooney shows some range, especially when he’s getting pushed around by Josh Brolin. A couple other pleasant surprises include Tilda Swinton playing the smarmy twin writers modeled after Dear Abby / Ann Landers and Channing Tatum showing off his song and dance skills. The film has a helluva lineup featuring Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill, and Alden Ehrenreich.

If you’re a Coen fan, you should probably give this a whirl and see what you think. If you’re not familiar with their work, don’t start with this one, there are better offerings from the Coens.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Cloud Atlas

by on Feb.12, 2017, under Movie Reviews

cloud atlasMultiple intertwined stories from different timelines told simultaneously with numerous actors playing various parts. Confused yet? Yep, me too. I was able to follow along but due to the ambitious nearly 3 hour length of the film, I found myself not caring much towards the end. While clearly an intensive endeavor for everyone involved, they seem to overreach on this one and end up with an exhausting, confusing mess that keeps changing the minute you get a handle on what’s happening only to offer that same formula repeatedly.

Presented by The Wachowskis (from The Matrix trilogy), Cloud Atlas is marked as one of the most expensive independent films of all time. It’s also unfortunately one of the biggest flops as well. It’s a shame, but I see why as while I appreciate the challenge that was undertaken with this project, its delivery is where it falls short of what could’ve been a compelling presentation. I think my biggest complaint is how often it changes from one scene to the other. The problem isn’t just the scene change but the way you change to a whole different character with a different storyline in a different time period, which happens a lot. Every time you connect with what’s going on, you’re thrown off-balance by another scene switch.

There is such a thing as over thinking a film and over-intellectualizing the process in terms of how you deliver it. Cloud Atlas is a perfect example of this (with a $100M price tag). The filmmakers obviously didn’t consider how the audience would experience this and there was a disconnect there that I would guess they’re still licking their wounds from.

The lineup is truly impressive and there are some great deliveries here. However, I saw some instances of what felt like the actors were spreading themselves thin at times. Tom Hanks seemed a little worn down trying different dialects that weren’t always super intelligible. The writing was something that influenced this but other actors played it a bit straighter which seemed to help maintain strong deliveries. Hanks appeared to be trying a little too hard here and there. Halle Berry is hit or miss at times throughout too. The 2 actors I thought were strongest were Jim Broadbent and Hugo Weaving. You have to give credit to all the talented people who played multiple roles here, that’s a challenge no matter what level you’re at. The cast includes Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Keith David, James D’Arcy, and Ben Whishaw.

If you’ve got the endurance and like to challenge yourself, you might want to check it out.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

by on Feb.05, 2017, under Movie Reviews

resident evil the final chapterResident Evil: The Final Chapter (kinda sorta, but not entirely) picks up where the last film left off with Alice as one of the last survivors of humanity left behind to face the legions of undead that have engulfed the planet thanks to the t-virus courtesy of Umbrella. This installment is supposed to be the one that finishes the Alice series with Milla Jovovich as the lead.

The story is ok but more just an excuse to break up the action as there is tons of action. There were some interesting surprises within the final arcs of the characters while filling in more backstory on Alice, Hive and the Red Queen. Wesker surfaces too but he doesn’t play too big of a part in this one. Everything wraps in an average way, which was disappointing, I was hoping they would really go for it but they played it safe.

The action saturates the film to the point where it starts to get routine and predictable even while each scene is trying to one-up itself from one sequence to the next. Another issue is the constant shaky-cam, which is a vehicle used to save money so they don’t have to spend as much of the budget on wider action shots. Unfortunately, it becomes detrimental in many of the scenes it’s supposed to intensify. The use of this kind of camera work is way overused here and becomes a crutch and a distraction throughout the film.

In terms of effects, they’re mostly done well but do look CG at times, especially the larger scale scenes. The series is running out of steam and hopefully this marks the end of the productions just trying to get bigger and bigger. If there’s ever been a series that is in need of a re-boot or re-envisioning, it’s this one. Personally, I’d take it back to its horror roots and strip it down with a strong story and passionate actors.

Speaking of actors, there’s some phoning it in taking place and conventional deliveries with noone offering any surprises or that much heart in what they’re doing. Sadly even Milla looks like she’s posing more than she is coming from any place of emotional authenticity. The lineup includes Iain Glen, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Eoin Macken and Ruby Rose.

Overall, I’m glad that this might be the last one…

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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