Tag: josh brolin

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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Everest

by on Jun.26, 2016, under Movie Reviews

everestThis movie had a lot of potential – visually it’s stunning, there are some compelling characters, the actors are great, but the direction and the story is where it gets muddy…

The movie is based on true events around an expedition going to the top of Mt. Everest. Upon reaching the summit a storm hits that causes the members of the party to have to scramble down the mountain as quickly as possible. Not all the climbers make it and this film reveals the struggle they went through along the way.

The film sort of / but not really focuses on Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) whose story is somewhat of the basis for the movie. Ultimately the script revolves around the party mostly and not so much the individuals. That’s part of the problem here, you don’t have any one character to kind of latch on to or identify with making the emotional ties much more loose without a lot of motivation for sympathy. There are moments where the film does lock in on Beck’s character here and there but he’s not super-likable, in fact he’s kind of a dick. Considering he blew off his family’s wishes of not risking his life anymore and then nearly being killed (and losing some fingers and part of his face in the process), it’s hard to feel bad for the guy given his blatant disregard for his wife and kid’s feelings.

The movie starts with an expedition and ends up being more of a rescue story. However, there isn’t much actual rescuing, it’s more a portrayal of the attempts which are heartbreaking with most of them not ending well. So the movie’s a downer instead of being uplifting. I think that’s one of the primary reasons this film tanked, if they had made it uplifting and focused on one of the characters actually making it, the movie may have found its audience. With the tone going sour in the story about 2/3 of the way in, you don’t really feel too great by the time you get to the end of it. Beck’s survival doesn’t seem to be enough to lift this movie out of the mire.

The actors are quite good and there’s some strong performances here. Jason Clarke as the guide named Rob Hall is compelling and powerful, Sam Worthington stood out as did Emily Watson and Keira Knightley. Jake Gyllenhaal and Robin Wright are both very good too. You can tell everyone worked hard on their roles and played them with passion. The shame is that some of those performances get lost in the storyline and don’t get fully explored.

Watchable, but disappointing.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Oldboy

by on Feb.22, 2015, under Movie Reviews

oldboyIt’s not often I like a reboot better than the original but I’m afraid that’s the case this time. I’m sure some purists reading this will be exploding with rage over that sentiment but phhhhhbbbttttt, I’m entitled to my opinion too…

A quick summary – Oldboy is a twisted tale of revenge, incest and psychological manipulation. Josh Brolin plays Joe Doucett, a bastard who had bad stuff coming to him if there ever was one. And that’s just what happens, his past actions catch up to him with him held prisoner in what looks like a really tacky hotel room that gets one channel and the same things on the menu for each meal. Which doesn’t sound terrible until you realize he’s held there for 20 years and there’s absolutely no human contact with anyone else, ever. His television choices aren’t great either and consist of cheesy exercise videos and a news show that happens to be covering the story of him being a murderer of his own family and where his daughter is now. Joe eventually gets released and embarks on a quest to find his captor of the last two decades.

The story goes down some roads that you may not see coming. As the tale unravels, so does Joe, becoming crazier and crazier as he learns the truth and what’s really happening to him. There are some great unexpected moments that make this story feel original and at times, shocking. For those of you who have seen the original, what I like better about the Spike Lee version is that it doesn’t get nearly wrapped up in the torture porn aspects of the original. There are some brutal moments and we never find out why Joe is suddenly a fighting expert, but hey, gratuitous moments are going to be expected with a film like this.

Lee does an excellent job with the directing tasks. I especially enjoyed the fight sequences which pay homage to the original in terms of style. There is some really interesting camera work being used to create tension as well as sadness and drunkenness to great effect. The interpretation from the original was more dynamic and compelling to follow as well. The first version was more flash where this version feels more about the emotion without the cartoony and extreme exaggerations of the original.

The actors are top notch. Josh Brolin is engaging as usual and has no trouble carrying most of the film. Elizabeth Olsen and Michael Imperioli (from Sopranos fame) are both convincing and passionate. Samuel L. Jackson is tight as a bad guy although his performance is pretty formulaic for him here. Sharlto Copley continues to prove himself a chameleon and plays his character with a style that dominates the screen, even alongside Brolin which isn’t easy to do.

Not for the timid of heart, this movie has some intensely violent and emotionally jarring moments. If you like challenging films that don’t necessarily offer the typical happy ending, you might like this one.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Guardians of the Galaxy

by on Aug.03, 2014, under Movie Reviews

This latest installment to the Marvel movie universe offers a sci-fi action film that you can enjoy whether you’re a fan of the original comic or not. I have to admit, I was aware of the comics and the characters but I never read too much of the original series other than having comics where some of the characters were introduced. I found that it didn’t matter anyway as I knew enough backstory that I understood the in-jokes and enjoyed the movie as a stand-alone as well.

The $170M budget is well spent as the film visually is breath-taking with some very elaborate effects, great action scenes, and beautiful alien worlds. There are quite a few of those worlds by the way as the storyline jumps around a bit both in time and location making the film challenging to watch. It’s a movie I’ll need to watch a few times to pick up on more of the subtleties.

The story is solid with some great dialog that didn’t bog things down or seem out of place. There isn’t a lot of backstory for the characters which is the only weak point in terms of story telling improvements as it would’ve been nice to know more about Rocket and Groot especially. There are some bullet points in here that help fill in a number of the blank spots. Additionally, some nods to the Avengers are in here too with an appearance from Thanos (who’s being put into motion for Avengers 3).

With regard to talent, Chris Pratt does a convincing and fun job playing the lead as Peter Quill (aka Star Lord) with Zoe Saldana turning in an intense performance as Thanos’ stepdaughter Gamora. Bradley Cooper is the voice of Rocket the Raccoon, Benecio Del Toro reprises his role as The Collector, along with Josh Brolin lending his talents as Thanos. The only actor that falls a bit short is Dave Bautista as Drax with a lackluster delivery at best making him look like an amateur. Vin Diesel’s voice work for Groot doesn’t really have any kind of an impact here either. Diesel’s inclusion to the lineup seems like a waste of budget as any actor with a deep voice could’ve played that role with equal efficiency and delivery. The lineup also includes Lee Pace, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, and Glenn Close.

Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely worth catching on the big screen. And if you’re any kind of fan of Marvel comics, do not, I repeat, DO NOT leave before the end of the credits.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Gangster Squad

by on Feb.08, 2013, under Movie Reviews

Inspired by the story of Mickey Cohen and his quest to become the king of LA’s crime world, Gangster Squad portrays a 1949 Los Angeles caught in a war between Cohen and the LA police department.

While it may not be historically accurate (Cohen went to jail for tax evasion, not murder), this film is still fun to watch. In the movie’s defense, it does pepper the film with fact based moments and characteristics such as Cohen being a former boxer (the real life Cohen even got a shot at the champion). The writing overall is well done with some great dialog (which has some one-liner moments but nothing overtly cheesy). The story centers around a police unit that is formed to bring down Cohen using his own guerilla style tactics – destroy Cohen and leave the badges at home.

Aesthetically, the film is beautiful, some great costumes here from the 40-50s era along with at LA backdrop from that time period to boot. My stepfather is a big car guy and he loved the authenticity of the vehicles in the film. The pacing is good with some great moments of dialog. The action gets pretty intense sometimes, especially the introduction scene with Mickey Cohen ending a rival in his mob organization in a not-to-subtle manner involving 2 cars, the victim and some chains.

The acting is top-notch. Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen is a brilliant casting move. He puts in a intense, calculated performance, primo Sean Penn. Josh Brolin measures up nicely as his arch-nemesis and the leader of the squad sent to destroy him. Ryan Gosling plays the smooth friend of Brolin’s character and turns in a too-cool-for-school kind of guy who has some interesting emotional moments as well. The lineup is rounded out by tight performances from talent that includes Emma Stone, Giovanni Ribisi, Nick Nolte, and Michael Pena.

Worth catching in the theaters if you can, if not definitely catch it on video.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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