Bo Burnham's Debut Shines On Every Level
Eighth Grade (2018): An introverted teenage girl tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth grade year before leaving to start high school
Every so often, a movie comes along that blows me away on every level. Films that come to mind include Mad Max: Fury Road, Gravity, Moonlight, La La Land, and Phantom Thread. Now you can add Eighth Grade to the list. The stunning debut from Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade takes you on an emotional rollercoaster as you follow the very relatable life of introverted eighth grader Kayla, played by Elsie Fisher. The film flawlessly executes every level of filmmaking, and I found myself hanging on every word and every scene. I instantly connected with the kind but shy Kayla, and I think many of us unpopular kids will see a lot of our daily struggles play out in her life, with a modern twist to top it off. (You had Snapchat in 5th grade???) Undoubtedly the best film of the year so far, Bo Burnham instantly cements himself as one of the best in the business with the very definition of a perfect film.
Since I have absolutely zero complaints to speak of, let's gush about all the things Eighth Grade does right. At the center of this film is an incredibly grounded and intimate performance from its lead, Elsie Fisher. Her performance was reminiscent of Sasha Lane in American Honey, or Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in Tangerine. Honestly, this entire film feels directly inspired by Sean Baker. Most filmmakers can only dream about making their characters feel as human as the characters of something like Tangerine or The Florida Project. But that's exactly what Kayla feels like. She is subdued and emotional while being awkward and fun. And COOL. She's written brilliantly by Burnham, and feels very human from start to finish. Fisher's performance is right there with Toni Collette’s terrifying portrayal of Annie Graham in another A24 film, Hereditary, for best performance of 2018 so far. However Fisher's performance comes with added bonus of being a debut lead role for the talented young actress, which to me is all the rationale I need to call it the best performance of the year. Kayla is accompanied by character actor Josh Hamilton, who portrays Kayla's father Mark. Their chemistry is wonderful. I feel like it would be hard to sell the awkward father/daughter relationship, but these two pull it off with ease. Additionally, Hamilton has the most emotionally impactful moment of the film in the form of a monologue reminiscent of Michael Stuhlbarg's devasting monologue in Call Me By Your Name that basically comes out of NOWHERE. Even though you're laughing for most of this film, be prepared to rock the ugly cry before it ends. Just warning you now.
This speech is shot flawlessly through the film's incredible cinematography. Most of this film is shot through Kayla's perspective, (which makes Elsie Fisher's performance that much more demanding) which leads to some very claustrophobic and chaotic shots. There's one shot in particular where Kayla is talking to someone and is pacing back and forth, and the shot feels so dynamic thanks to a colorful background and (I think) a telephoto lens. It flawlessly relates the disorienting feeling Kayla is experiencing in this deliriously joyous scene, and it's one of many sequences that convey the feelings of Kayla in any given moment. Mad kudos to cinematographer Andrew Wehde for the flawless execution here. Speaking of newcomers, we have to talk about the experimental score from Anna Meredith. This score is easily the best score of the 2018, and right there with some of my favorites of all time. Honestly I haven't found a score this groundbreaking since Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor’s score to 2010’s The Social Network, widely considered the most influential score of this decade. Meredith’s wonderful use of synthesizers creates a very modern score, and they layer on top of each other brilliantly. The sound design also hammers the amazing score home. The editing is executed perfectly as well, as the film utilizes YouTube videos from Kayla as voiceovers to create something of a modern montage sequence at various moments. Honestly, for a film that utilizes social media as much as this, I was shocked at how fluid the pacing was in the sequences where Kayla is basically looking at her phone. Sequences that so many other films get wrong, but here Burnham handles them with grace and fluidity.
If you haven't picked up on it yet, I love every aspect of this movie, and have every intention of watching it again and again. We've been extremely fortunate these past two weeks at the cinemas between the best summer blockbuster of the year, Mission: Impossible - Fallout and now Bo Burnham's Eighth Grade, so do make sure you check out at least one of them. This film is so good. I haven't even talked about the story to this point, but it too blew me away. The film starts out as a comedy but around halfway through the second act Burnham veers the story hard to the right and turns it into a tearful drama with some gripping scenes. This 90 degree right turn comes out of nowhere, but it works! It works so well. Seriously, for a debut feature film Bo Burnham brings the poise of not just a seasoned vet, but a AAA level vet, akin to a Paul Thomas Anderson or Damien Chazelle, and delivers the very best film of 2018 so far and my first perfect 10 of the year. You want a good night at the cinemas? Try a double feature of Mission: Impossible - Fallout and Eighth Grade. Have kids? Just watch Eighth Grade. Its brisk 95 minute runtime will ensure you don't have to keep the babysitter for very long, and Burnham's flawlessly executed piece of cinema will certainly prepare you for what's to come in their lives. Heck, take them with you! Just as long as you go see it. It's worth every penny. Gucci!
The Critique: Featuring a breakout performance from Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade puts debut filmmaker Bo Burnham on the map with an intimate, relatable, and emotional take on the traditional coming-of-age drama.
The Recommendation: I think you could guess this one….it's an absolute must-see for all. And take your kids too! This is about as light an R rating that you'll ever see. The MPAA really needs to revamp their ratings system when something like this is rated R while something like World War Z gets a PG-13 rating. Seriously.
The Verdict: 10/10 Perfect
A Charming Adult Comedy
Tully (2018): A mother of three hires a night nanny to help with her newborn.
Tully is a beautiful little film starring the wonderful Charlize Theron and reunites director Jason Reitman with Diablo Cody. The two have previously worked on films like Juno and Young Adult, which now creates something of a trilogy of motherhood, with Juno tackling the insecurity of being pregnant in your teenage years and Young Adult tackling coming to grips with leaving your perceived “best years of your life” behind for what's ahead. Tully focuses on motherhood and is a wonderful adult comedy in a space that is sorely lacking some quality content. Is it a game-changing film? No. But it is still a humorous journey that will leave you in a contemplative state of mind. It also happens to be the perfect date film in cinemas right now.
The best part of the film has to go to the breakthrough performance of Mackenzie Davis. She plays the title character and has a glowing persona that was mesmerizing to watch. The presence of Tully is felt regardless of whether she's actually on screen or not, and the level of sincerity Davis approaches the character makes her grounded and believable. If it's not the breakthrough performance Mackenzie Davis needs to really vault her into A-list celebrity status, then I don't know what is. Speaking of A-listers, Charlize Theron is her usual, wonderful self here as Marlo. She is on a roll recently with raw and unpolished roles between this and 2017’s underappreciated Atomic Blonde. Ron Livingston brings it too but his character is (justifiably) pushed to the side in favor of Marlo and Tully's relationship. The writing (until the final 15 minutes) is very sharp and grounded. There's one scene in the middle of the film that is rather tonally jarring, but otherwise the writing never strays very far from the theme, which I appreciated. Until the end.
Unfortunately, the ending of this film also happened to be the weakest part for me. While I think many will be willing to accept what is revealed in the final minutes, the “Sixth Sense” kind of twist that is included felt like nothing more than a distraction to me that detracts from the overall narrative. Does that mean it's bad? No. It just comes out of left field and went against the overall theme of the film in my eyes. However, your mileage will vary, and while the ending prevented the movie from achieving greatness in my eyes, the journey was still enjoyable and funny. It'll make you laugh. It'll make you cry. It'll make you yearn for your younger years while also reminding you to be grateful for what you have now. At the end of the day, isn't that basically what every film sets out to achieve?
My Number: 7/10
I Love You, Daddy (2017): When a successful television writer's daughter becomes the interest of an aging filmmaker with an appalling past, he becomes worried about how to handle the situation.
WARNING: STRONG Language Below. You have been warned.
This is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. If someone wanted to torture another individual with a movie, they would show them this travesty. I'm just gonna say it, because it needs to be said.....I Love You, Daddy is a real piece of s**t. It's sexist, misogynistic, and even racist at points. (Because why not add racism to everything else, right?) It's filled with gender stereotypes and mansplaining and so. Much. Projection. My GOD does Louis C.K. project his thoughts on to the poor female actresses SO MUCH here. I had to pause this.....thing so many times just to clear my head and regain my composure. I had to pause this thing more than I did for Manos The Hands of Fate. And that movie features a man who was high on LSD while it was being filmed! Even if you try and remove the disgusting ties to Louis C.K.'s sexual harassment accusations, you still have a movie that is filled with stereotypes and a character that we're supposed to sympathize with even though HE'S BASED OFF OF WOODY ALLEN. YOU KNOW, THE GUY WHO MOLESTED HIS OWN DAUGHTER. AND LUSTS AFTER YOUNG GIRLS. AND HERE HIS MOLESTATION IS CAST ASIDE AS "Oh. It's merely accusations! So it's ok, right?" WRONG. WHO THE ACTUAL FLYING F**K THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA. AT ALL. Oh, I know! Sexist pigs who think it's ok to pretend to jerk off in a public setting over a women when they're on the phone. (Which Charlie Day does, at one point.) Or someone who thinks it's ok to jerk off in front of people in real life! Wait, it's almost as if that second one may be true....
I have lost a significant amount of respect for all the people who agreed to be in this s**tshow. ESPECIALLY Charlie Day. His character is a f**king misogynist scumbag, and Day plays him FAR too convincingly. And JESUS some of the things that are said in this movie......it's disgusting. Utterly disgusting. The clear projections are the worst of it. There's a scene where Louis C.K. is talking to Rose Byrne about him being uncomfortable that his daughter is dating a child molester, and Byrne is the one telling C.K. that it's ok and trying to justify it. All I could think was "Louis C.K., you tool, you may think that the premise of your ENTIRE movie becomes ok because a woman in the movie says it's ok, but.....YOU WROTE THIS. She's saying what you told her to say! So NO. It does NOT make it ok." GAAAAAAAAAH F**K THIS MOVIE. See this pic of Pamela Adlon from this travesty? That's your RESTING face as the viewer for EVERY. FREAKING. SCENE. (Screams into the void)
Ok. Deep breath. Regain my composure. Alright. Louis C.K. bought the rights back to this film after The Orchard (rightly) decided not to release it, (A bit of sweet justice here-The Orchard did cancel the release of this thing but not before they sent out thousands of awards consideration screeners. Because of course they thought this would be Oscar-worthy! SERIOUSLY? YOU THOUGHT THIS WOULD BE WORTHY OF OSCAR CONSIDERATION? HOW STUPID DO YOU HAVE TO BE? [Screams into the void again]) but I hope we as a society never regress to a point where ANYONE finds it acceptable to release something like this. Don't you DARE try and profit off this, dude. If I was monetizing this blog I'd feel bad just talking about it and making a few pennies off my review. It's that slimy. And don't worry, I didn't spend a dime to watch this, either. No royalties are being made here by any party. It's a travesty that's not funny, and not even that good of a movie when you (try to) take away the blatant sexism. It's overlong, the ending is VERY rushed, and Chloe Grace Moretz clearly does not care. She's in it for the paycheck, and I don't blame her at all. She has no chemistry with Louis C.K., who's also bad, and John Malkovich is..... uncomfortable in every sense of the word. Rose Byrne is charming because it's impossible for her not to be, but all the projecting Louis C.K. puts on her makes her nothing more than a cheap plot device. And the black and white feels like a cheap Snapchat filter and doesn't add anything to the film at all. It has as much depth as when you're one friend who's had everything in their entire life handed to them uses the B&W filter and calls it "art." There are no redeeming qualities to be found here. None. Go watch grass grow for two hours instead of this trainwreck because it won't leave you anywhere near as FRUSTRATED THAT ANYTHING LIKE THIS WAS EVEN ALLOWED TO BE FILMED. F**k this piece of s**t movie. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go and wash my eyes and ears out with soap to try and get rid of this thing's stench.
My Number: 0/10. This sorry excuse for a film does not even deserve a tenth of a point for being in focus.
The Most Culturally Relevant Film of 2017
I, Tonya (2017): Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.
This movie is freaking amazing. While it may not be the "best" all-around movie of the year, (though it is close) it is, without a doubt, the most relevant and necessary film of the year. It's also my personal favorite by far. I, Tonya tells the infamous story of the scandal between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan through interviews of Tonya herself, her husband Jeff, (played by Sebastian Stan) her mother LaVona (played by Allison Janney) and a few others. The presentation of this story is undoubtedly the highlight. Not only does director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers utilize voice-overs so well that it would make The Big Short jealous, but they even change the perspective of individual scenes in an engaging and subtle way throughout the film. More on that later. In addition to telling its crazy and over-the-top story in an amazing way, the film features phenomenal acting, a great soundtrack, and fantastic editing. So let's dive into why I, Tonya is one of the year's best films!
Let's hit that acting first. The wonderful Margot Robbie plays Tonya Harding in what is clearly a labor of love for her. She undergoes a pretty noticeable transformation to play this character, and man is she magnificent. This role solidifies Robbie (for me, at least) as a top-of-the-line A-list celebrity in Hollywood. Not to be outdone by Robbie though is Allison freaking Janney in a role that has earned her a deserving Oscar nomination. (Her first ever) Tonya's mother LaVona is a complex character with no redeeming qualities, and Janney goes ALL OUT to play her. It's hard to believe this is the same woman that played the charismatic and legendary C.J. Cregg in The West Wing, but man do I love it! She's simply incredible. Honestly it's one of the best performances of 2017, period. While these two are the highlights in the film, their male counterparts also put in stellar performances. Sebastian Stan was great playing this complex character that you almost love to hate, and Paul Walter Hauser was HILARIOUS as Shawn, Tonya's.....bodyguard. Hauser is a relative newcommer to Hollywood as this is his first major supporting role, but I can't wait to see what's next for him. He had me rolling on the floor laughing with his delivery and persona. However, while the acting is incredible, it's the style in which this story's told that is the highlight of the film.
The voice-over narration of this film is hysterical. Not only is this film told using, in its own words, "Wildly contradictory, irony free, and totally true" interviews, but it also shoots individual scenes from different points-of-view. I didn't notice this as first because it is quite subtle, but this storytelling style made the film unpredictable and that much more fun-to-watch. One scene, Tonya is clueless and naive while asking her husband if he had anything to do with "the incident" with Nancy Kerrigan, the next she's acting like she's totally in on it. One scene Jeff is beating the crap out of her, and the next scene she's teaming up with him to yell at another character (Jeff's friend Shawn, played by Hauser) for no reason whatsoever. It was utterly fascinating. I think there's a video essay to be had on the screenplay of this film and how it tells its story. It's a damn shame writer Steven Rogers didn't receive any love from the Academy in this year's Oscar nominations. Much as I loved Logan, that definitely did not deserve the nod over this. These perspective changes also sold me on the voiceover narration, which is certainly easy to screw up. In many films voiceovers are a crutch on the story, (and over-explain things) but here they add to it and help us navigate the changing perspectives. Oh! And it's funny! This film is SO freaking funny. It made me bust my gut laughing on more than one occasion, and it even managed to break the fourth wall in a hilarious and not-corny way. LaVona has a joke in this vein about halfway through and it is the freaking joke of the year for film. Also! This movie features a fantastic soundtrack with a lot of smart and savvy musical choices. While it's not Baby Driver levels of great, you will find yourself tapping your foot to the beat and listening to the on-point lyrics that were meticulously chosen for each scene. About the only negative I have with this film is in the makeup and effects departments. Gillespie's team didn't do a very good job making Margot Robbie look 15, which she has to pull off early in the film, but this by no means diminished from the overall viewing experience. They cast Margot Robbie to play the lead character, and Tonya spent most of the first half of the film in her teenage years, so they might as well just use her. And some of the effects are corny, particularly in the slow motion skating moments. But this film had a budget of $11 million, most of which was probably for the actors, so I'll forgive it for having less-than-stellar visual effects.
Finally, I REALLY love the fact that this film never really cares about whether Tonya "did it" or not. That's not the point, and THIS is what makes I, Tonya the most relevant film of the year. (You knew I had to address that statement sooner or later) It focuses more on the fallout and consequences to the incident Tonya had to face, and the adversity she experienced during her brief career because she didn't "fit the part" of a women's figure skater. Figure skating was clearly eager to crucify Tonya Harding because she didn't come from a "wholesome American family" and didn't represent "America's values," and she dealt with adversity her entire career because of it. And now, in 2017, while monsters like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are trying to plot their comeback stories, (if they are "truly sorry" of course..... :( ) I think it's about time we allow a woman to change the image that's been forced upon her. THAT'S the goal of I, Tonya, and it achieves this goal effectively and in a riveting manner. This is one of the best films of the year, and it's absolutely worth your time. ESPECIALLY if you think Tonya Harding is a monster for what she may (or may not) have done. However, if you still think Tonya is a monster after seeing this film...... that's fine. She doesn't care about you anyway. After all, as she would say...... fuck 'em.
The Critique: Featuring phenomenal performances from Margot Robbie and Allison Janney. a unique storytelling style, and an important message, I, Tonya is the most relevant and worthwhile film of 2017.
The Recommendation: You knew this one was coming: It's an absolute must-see!
The Verdict: 10/10 Perfect
An incoherent mess
Downsizing (2017): A social satire in which a man realizes he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself to five inches tall, allowing him to live in wealth and splendor.
These raw thoughts come to you from Darkness Brewing immediately after seeing the film.
That sucked. That really sucked. I wanted to like this film. And somewhere here, there is a really good movie. But it's too long, SUPER PREACHY, and overall just a mess. This film is a mishmash of ideas, and unfortunately barely any of them stick. It's been a bad year for Matt Damon, as i think both this and Suburbicon will find themselves on my “Worst Films of the Year” list.
There isn't much good to say about this film, but the highlight is undoubtedly Hong Chao. She is sensational as Ngoc Lan Tran, a Vietnamese woman forced to “downsize” while in prison. While there are some worries that her character is a racial stereotype, (I believe those complaints are overblown, but have some validity) she still dazzles in her role, providing a glimmer of hope for an otherwise joyless film. Matt Damon is…..Matt Damon in this, and outside of Christoph Waltz, who's at least somewhat charming, the entire supporting cast is pretty lifeless. Why is Kristen Wiig even in this??? Actually, she's part of a bigger problem with this film.
As I said before, this film is a mishmash of incoherent ideas. But it also feels like two films thrown into one, and that doesn't help its cause. The first half of the film features a totally unnecessary “origin story” for the downsizing process, (seriously - the first 15 minutes of this film are completely useless….we don't need to see the origins of the downsizing concept) then we get this uninteresting story of Damon and Wiig deciding whether they should go through the procedure, just to have Wiig RANDOMLY decide to not go through with the process at the LAST possible second. This 180 from her character isn't earned AT ALL, and in the second half she's all but a distant memory. So….why was she such a prominent character early on? Beats me.
Finally in the second half we see Hong Chau's character, which was a wonderful thing because by that point I was really struggling to get through this disaster. For the briefest of moments, I saw glimmer of hope: a love story between her and Damon that made me think of the movie Her: a mismatched relationship with a lot of complexity and depth and heart. But as soon as this glimmer came…..it faded away, and the film morphed into this ridiculously preachy statement on global warming. It felt like “The Day After Tomorrow meets Birdemic” with this abrupt OMG GLOBAL WARMING IS GONNA KILL US ALL TOMORROW SO LET'S ALL ENJOY ONE FINAL SUNSET TOGETHER surrounded by some terrible, TERRIBLE exposition. It was so stupid! Look. I don't mind being preached too about something that's important. But what director Alexander Payne does here is basically stop the entire film to be like LOOK, GUYS. GLOBAL WARMING, AMIRITE? Matt Damon has a decent character arc in the second half, but his “Wow! I can't believe this is happening to me!” mantra gets really old, really fast. It didn't end up mattering how good or bad his character arc was, I just wanted him to stop talking by the end of it. Also, for how good Hong Chau was, her character was not written very well. She has no arc to speak of, she just gets a few good lines. But she is the only redeeming quality in this otherwise disappointing film. See it for Chau’s (likely soon-to-be Oscar nominated) performance, just wait for it to hit Netflix so you can skip the first 75 minutes of it.
My Number: 3/10 Bad
This is why I love Cinema
The Disaster Artist (2017): When Greg Sestero, an aspiring film actor, meets the weird and mysterious Tommy Wiseau in an acting class, they form a unique friendship and travel to Hollywood to make their dreams come true.
Wow. What a film. I think I'm going to be higher on The Disaster Artist than some because I, for one, am hopelessly in love with the movies. If you're anything like me then this film will definitely tug on your heartstrings. (And you'll know it, too) But either way..... I had very high expectations for The Disaster Artist, and man oh man did James Franco and company hit this one out of the park. Yes, it's a film about the making of the best worst movie of all time, (check out my review of The Room here!) but it's still approachable for everyone. Because honestly, this is the story about two best friends trying to pursue their dreams together. Even if they aren't particularly good at said dreams. Who can't appreciate that, right?
Let's start out with the good, which is most of this film. The movie features an all-star cast behind Dave and James Franco, and you can tell that all of them put a lot of care and love into their roles, no matter how small. Ari Graynor's performance as The Room's 'Lisa' was so on point it was kind of freaky. She captured the mannerisms of Juliette extremely well. Josh Hutcherson and Zac Efron are freaking great together, both on-screen and off. Jacki Weaver is wonderful as The Room's 'Claudette.' And of course, we have James Franco with what is undoubtedly his best performance since (at least) 2012's Spring Breakers. His Tommy Wiseau is incredible, and is one of the best performances I've seen all year. His accent, mannerisms, and overall attention-to-detail is fantastic. His friendship with Greg (played by brother Dave Franco in what is their first co-lead performance together) is at the forefront of this movie. Their chemistry is awesome, (as it should be with two brothers) but you find yourself really feeling for them as the movie goes on. Their story arc together is extremely engaging, to the point that the actual "making of" The Room is just something of a sideshow. Additionally, the shroud of mystery that surrounds Tommy Wiseau is still intact here, which I really appreciate. The fact that it was an actual plot point in the movie (at one point Greg is mad at Tommy and asks him where he's from in front of cameras to upset him) is awesome, and further solidifies my point about the mystery of Wiseau being a major reason as to why The Room still garners sold-out midnight screenings to this day.
It's tough for a movie to straddle the line of comedy and drama well, but The Disaster Artist does exactly that. There are some sequences here where I laughed harder than I have in any other movie this year, then suddenly the very next scene the film is tugging on my heartstrings for one reason or another. It does make the tone unpredictable which was a tad distracting, but geez is that a minute complaint. Then again most of my complaints with this film are relatively minute. On that note.... (I know, great segue, right?) It did bother me a tad when Wiseau and co. made the transition from drama to comedy with The Room so quickly, and how quickly Wiseau himself accepts this fact. That "Eight Months Later" intertitle was unfortunate, but this entire complaint can really be summed up as "I want more movie!" If anything, that's a good thing. The movie does only come in at 104 minutes, and I wish it had been 144 minutes, so we could have dived deeper into the "making of" portion a bit more. But, as I mentioned before, this film really isn't about that.
This is why I love The Disaster Artist so much. It's a work of love for all those out there trying to chase their dreams. Films like La La Land also have these themes, and (obviously) I appreciate those too, but I REALLY appreciate The Disaster Artist's interpretation of this because it's a tribute to everyone trying to chase their dreams, regardless of how good or bad you may be at it. Jacki Weaver's character, Carolyn, has the line that hits this point home in the film, and is my favorite moment of the year so far. She's eating lunch with other members of the cast on the set of The Room, and by this point they all know they're in a complete disaster of a motion picture. The mood is somber, but still surprisingly upbeat for a crew that already knows that what they're currently working on will likely be the worst thing they ever put their names too. While they're eating, someone asks Carolyn something to the effect of "Why are you here? Why do you drive 50 miles to work every day?" and her reply is "Because even the worst day on a movie set is better than every other day." If that doesn't inspire you, I don't know what will. This is one of the best movies of the year, (and my "favorite" so far) and it's well worth your time, regardless of whether you have seen The Room or not. James Franco has crafted a wonderful love letter to cinema and all "the fools who dream" (to quote La La Land) with his brother and best friends. It's a marvelous film and worth every second of your time. See it with confidence.
The Critique: A beautiful, inspirational film about chasing your dreams no matter what, The Disaster Artist is one of the best movies of the year thanks to its stellar performances and a spectacular story that successfully rides the fine line between drama and comedy.
The Recommendation: An absolute must-see for everyone! See it with great confidence!
The Verdict: 9.5/10 Almost Perfect
IT's just kind of.....there
Florence Foster Jenkins (2016): The story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice.
So, let me lead with this: I am in the camp that thinks Meryl Streep, while undeniably great, did not deserve an Oscar for this role. Unfortunately, that pretty much dominates my opinion of this film, which is a shame because there are certainly great bits scattered throughout the movie. But there's also no doubt this film was built around Meryl Streep, and I will always have an issue with the Academy giving an actor or actress, even one who is considered by many to be one of the greatest alive, a nomination for its most coveted role when they know this. I don't claim to be an acting expert, but I've always felt it's much easier to play a role that's built around your strengths and weaknesses than it is to step into something outside your comfort zone. So yes. Meryl Streep is great, but it's not an Oscar-worthy performance. I digress. Let's talk about the rest of the film!
Actually, let's backtrack. Might as well get acting out of the way first. Hugh Grant is.....oh man! He is as charismatic as can be in this. He's basically playing himself, but hey let's not forget I love a film like Knight and Day because that film let Tom Cruise play Tom Cruise. Also outstanding was Simon Helberg. Unlike his Big Ban Theory co-star Jim Parsons in Hidden Figures, Helberg is actually really really good! I freaking loved his character here. He basically plays the audience in his role, and he holds his own against the legendary Streep and Grant. Also doing her best, though her character is undoubtedly the weakest part of the story, is Rebecca Ferguson. She's still trying to find her footing after breaking out in Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation, (she tried her best but was crashed in the train wreck that was Girl on a Train....didn't even realize I was making that pun when I started that thought) but I'm confident she'll find a fleshed out role to finally be taken seriously in Hollywood.
Let's talk about that, shall we? Let's talk about Rebecca Ferguson's character in this film, because as I think about it her TERRIBLY written character almost sinks the entire ship here. She plays Kathleen, which is Hugh Grant's....other wife. So first off, she's like 25 years younger than Hugh Grant, and it shows in this film. This age gap is never mentioned, of course. Second off, her character is not at all developed and is basically meant to serve as a plot device. And before you think there's going to be some dramatic scene between Grant and Streep when Streep's character finds out that Grant is practicing polygamy....don't worry! Let me spoil that one for you! IT DOESN'T HAPPEN. No! At one point Ferguson makes a totally ridiculous "it's either her or me" ultimatum to Grant and everyone in the world with a brain knows Grant is going to side with Streep, and when he inevitably does Ferguson just leaves. That's it! No more Rebecca Ferguson. Done. The closest thing we get is one scene Streep visits Grant unexpectedly and we have Grant AND Simon Helberg (don't worry he knows about Ferguson of course and keeps Grant's secret for literally no reason) pulling off these stupid slapstick gags to keep Ferguson (and another girl) hidden from Streep's viwion. This was totally out of place within the film, and when I started this review I didn't think it bothered me that much but given the fact that I just ranted about it for an entire paragraph clearly it did. BAD MOVIE.
Ok! Now that that's out of my system. Let's talk about more positive things. So the film leads up to this performance at Carnegie Hall, which was a shockingly emotional sequence. Heck it may even sneak into my top movie moments of 2016. Not sure about that one yet, but it was a lovely sequence that, in the span of a few moments, threw me from one side of the emotional spectrum to the other. That doesn't happen very often for me. But beyond that, I don't have a lot of positives to talk about here. Hearing her voice for the first time and watching Helberg's reaction was funny! There's one. And, uhhhhhh Hugh Grant is charming oh wait I said that already. Uhhhhhhhh Meryl Streep is great but we all knew that already. Oh! Oh! Costumes! Streep's costumes were fantastic, and there was a lot of care put into everyone's outfits as well. Though Helberg looked REALLY weird wearing a wife beater at one point. Though that may have been done intentionally, however.
Well, I guess in conclusion I'll end with.........this is a cool story, and I'm glad there was a film made around it. And it's charming and good! There's nothing wrong with either. I would probably be much more enthusiastic about this film if I was watching it in August when it came out instead of now surrounded by some of the best movies of the year, but to me this film is just kind of.....there. If you take away anything from this review, it's that: Florence Foster Jenkins is good, but it's just kind of.....there. Alright that's all I got. Time for bed.
The Critique: While a charmingly good film thanks to Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins is a film that can be described as just kind of existing, and thanks to a few major missteps along the way fails to leave any sort of truly emotional punch.
The Recommendation: Fans of Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant will have a lot to like here, as will people who have been waiting for Simon Helberg to be really good outside The Big Bang Theory, but everyone else? There are better films out there worthy of your time.
The Verdict: 7/10 Good.
I had to talk about this movie
Central Intelligence (2016): After he reconnects with an awkward pal from high school through Facebook, a mild-mannered accountant is lured into the world of international espionage.
So initially I wasn't going to review this film-after all it came out way back in June. But I saw it the other day, and given how lackluster this summer was, I couldn't help but talk about it briefly. Central Intelligence is a movie that, on paper, should not work. After all, this film's central premise is that The Rock is actually awkward and not necessarily ridiculously charming and charismatic. Well, it works. It actually works. And as great as Kevin Hart is in this film, it's all held together by The Rock.
Yes, the reason why you should watch this film is for Dwayne Johnson. The man has carved out a nice little niche in Hollywood, and I am so glad that this is the case. He pulls off this crazy character so well, and had me smiling from start to finish. Not to be outdone, though, is his partner-in-crime Kevin Hart. Hart has had a string of not-so-good films, but that string seems like ancient history here in Central Intelligence. And I cannot deny that I love the chemistry these two have. I really hope Hollywood spots the talent they have here and brings these two together again for future films. The supporting cast is pretty minor but still stellar, with the two female leads killing it in their minor roles. Amy Ryan is AMAZING as the mysterious CIA agent. She was funny while simultaneously keeping me actually somewhat in the dark as to which side she was really on. Danielle Nicolet was great as well though sadly her role can be summed up as "the girlfriend." Also there is an appearance from one very familiar actor that had laughing very hard at several points, but I'll leave that for you to discover. Not gonna lie: this certain cameo was arguably the best moment of the film.
Story-wise this film hit its mark for a comedy. There were a few twists and turns I did not see coming, but there were also a lot of holes all throughout. But. The most important part of any comedy is is it funny? The answer here is yes. The only film I've laughed more at this year was Ghostbusters, and that's high praise. Well, and Batman V. Superman. OH! This movie is hilarious from start to finish, but you can definitely say that it's funny more because of the acting than the story. There was one visual joke too! Edgar Wright would be proud. I'm on fire!
At the end of the day, if you're looking for an underrated comedy from this summer, look no further than Central Intelligence. It's also pretty short, coming in at 107 minutes, and it's certainly not a terrible way to spend an evening. That's it. That's all I got. Why are you still reading this? Are you expecting me to say something meaningful? Well.....here goes....................Harambe.
The Critique: A massively underrated comedy to come out this summer, Central Intelligence is held together by two hilarious performances from Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart.
The Recommendation: If you're a fan of comedies, Kevin Hart, or The Rock....then why are you still reading this?
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 7/10 Good.
It's actually pretty dang Great
Ghostbusters (2016): Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.
Ok. It takes a man to admit he was wrong. When I saw the TERRIBLE marketing campaign for this film, it was hard not to go into this film skeptical. But I will also say the vast majority of people who think this movie sucks are also people who are unwilling to admit that they were wrong. They are people who went into this film gunning for it, and so even the best film ever made wouldn't be able to convince them otherwise. But I'm not one of those people. I was wrong. Paul Feig's Ghostbusters is a shockingly good reboot and one that's well worth your time. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Far from it. But I still had a shockingly good time, and Ghostbusters is certainly a film that stands out in an overall weak summer season.
Let's get the negatives out of the way. First off, (and most importantly) the main villain is very lackluster. Not only that, there was at least a little bit of an uncomfortable tie to real world events with this guy, played by Neil Casey. But these scenes are few and far between, and obviously I am in the minority on this since I haven't seen anyone talking about it. In addition, the 4 main characters (plus Chris Hemsworth) weren't particularly fleshed out, and they didn't have much of an arc to them despite their excellent chemistry. That said, did I care that they weren't super fleshed out? Heck no, because I was too busy laughing my ass off.
That's the big plus of this film: if you're willing to turn your brain off and just laugh at 4 EXTREMELY funny women go back and forth with each other and constantly enjoy Chris Hemsworth being a buffoon, you're gonna have a good time. All 4 of these women are hysterical and giving it their all under the direction of Paul Feig, a man who I think is right there with Judd Apatow for funniest director in Hollywood right now not named Edgar Wright. On top of that.....there's Kate McKinnon. Oh boy if this isn't a breakout performance for her something is wrong, because this is one of the funniest performances I have seen in years. Despite being essentially a one-note character, she ABSOLUTELY killed every single scene she was in. I found myself watching what she was doing even when she wasn't the centerpiece of a scene, and she had a sequence in the final action scenes that sent chills down my spine. This film is worth the price of admission for Kate McKinnon alone. And that's not to mention the chemistry of Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy (Edgar Wright can you PLEASE do a film with these two and Simon Pegg/Nick Frost????)
Ultimately, while Ghostbusters is not perfect., (There are a few problems with pacing I didn't mention) it is VASTLY more enjoyable than people are saying it is. And this is coming from a guy who enjoyed the first Ghostbusters, but then only mildly enjoyed the second. I would honestly watch this film over Ghostbusters 2 all day. I want to see where they take this franchise, so I hope it makes enough money to warrant a sequel. (Wow. I haven't felt that way about a reboot since 2009's Star Trek) Go check it out!
The Critique: A shockingly good reboot, Ghostbusters is a standout film in 2016's lackluster summer season featuring a breakout performance from Kate McKinnon.
The Recommendation: I really would recommend to everyone 10 and up. Yes there are a few vulgar jokes but they are actually few and far between.
The Verdict: 8/10 Great
Oscar contention in May?
The Nice Guys (2016): A mismatched pair of private eyes investigate the apparent suicide of a fading porn star in 1970s Los Angeles. (114 Minutes)
Wow where did this movie come from? When I saw the trailers for this flick I thought it looked.....quirky. I honestly wasn't sure director Shane Black could take on this style of film. I mean sure he directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang so I knew he could handle the voiceovers, but could he handle a Wes Anderson level of attention to detail in the set design? Could he handle a Paul Thomas Anderson/David O. Russel kind of storyline? Well, after watching the movie, the answer is.....yes and no. Yay vague answers! So, for starters, he nails the set here. Maybe a little too much so, as there were a few 70's references that felt like references for the sake of references. But the houses, the interiors, and the costumes all screamed 70s. The story....I think I'll say the story was far better than Inherent Vice, but not quite as good as American Hustle. Now, that's a pretty wide spectrum there I know, but honestly to me this is the film that inherent Vice should have been, but the wackiness of the third act here just got to be too much for me. Hence why it's not as good as American Hustle. Ok so now that I've properly confused you, let's dive in!
Let's talk positives. The set design is where I would expect an Oscar nomination. The Academy loves this sort of set design, and for good reason! There's attention to detail everywhere, particularly in Gosling's apartment. Actually, Gosling's character as a whole was a walking 70's cliche and I loved it. Additionally, the hippie scenes were some of the funniest scenes in the film, and the "damsel-in-distress" character was the embodiment of this in the film. She was hysterical. For that matter I laughed a LOT during this film. A lot more than I was expecting to. This film is absolutely hilarious, but the quirky, witty banter we see here has always been a strong point of director/writer Shane Black. Just re-watch Lethal Weapon if you need more proof of that. The acting was also fantastic. Gosling had this weird accent early on in the film that he dropped pretty quickly, but after that he was hilarious, and Russell Crowe was, well, Russell Crowe. The one who stole the show for me, though, was newcomer Angourie Rice. This is only her second major supporting role, and we may have a new Chloë Grace Moretz on our hands here. She is wildly talented as she is asked to basically outact Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. Which she does. I look forward to seeing what she does next because if she plays her cards right (and doesn't start picking films like a Carrie remake and Muppets Most Wanted) we may have a future superstar on our hands. Also gotta give a shoutout to now superstar kid actor Ty Simpkins (Jurassic World, Insidious, Iron Man 3) showing up in this film for LITERALLY a single scene. That was very funny to me because I thought Jurassic World was by far his weakest performance. We'll see if his career is ultimately just that brief.
But in everyone's life some rain must fall. This film is not perfect by any means. There were definitely more 70s references than there needed to be, and that took me out of the film overall at times. However by far the biggest problem with this film is the final action sequence. To me it felt kind of out of place for a noir film, which is ultimately what this is paying homage to, and it had me crossing my arms and shaking my head in disapproval. Shane Black went full Iron Man 3 here and had a HUGE action setpiece that just didn't fit with the rest of the film. That said was the scene still witty and funny and fun-to-watch? Yes. But it definitely felt like a superhero scene (Gosling even pulled his best Captain America during it) than noir piece. I mean my biggest complaint about LA Confidential, (another film starring Russell Crowe) which I believe is one of the best film noir pieces ever made, was the fact that the final showdown was a bit on over rambunctious side, but it's NOTHING compared to what we got in The Nice Guys. Before that I was looking to give this film a 9. Now....gotta dock the score a little bit. That said, this is a heck of a good film, especially for May as we head into summer blockbuster season, and will certainly get some Oscar attention come the end of this year. Go see it.
The Critique: A gem of a film, The Nice Guys is a witty and comedic ode to the classic film noir genre, despite an overzealous finale.
The Recommendation: I'd say anyone would like it, but I think the older generation will enjoy this film a lot more than my age group.
The Verdict: 8/10 Great
Image Credit: http://static.srcdn.com/slir/w1000-h500-q90-c1000:500/wp-content/uploads/nice-guys-movie-review-crowe-gosling-angourie-rice.jpg
Pre-Teen Humor. Pre-Teen humor everywhere.
The Lazer Team (2016): Four losers are thrust into the position of saving the world when they stumble upon a UFO crash site and become genetically equipped to the battle suit on board.
Ok. Most of you won't care about this film. If you have no idea what Rooster Teeth is, then this definitely applies to you. So, let me first address you. The Lazer Team is a b-movie, and a bad one at that. Even though it's a quick 102 minutes, the humor is just lazy. As in it's mostly dick and butt jokes. Such originality! Wow! Never heard that one before! Nestled in between the unoriginal jokes are a few original ones, however these original jokes just aren't enough to worthy a watch for you. If you want to discover what Rooster Teeth is all about, check out their Let's Plays and Red vs. Blue series on YouTube. They are significantly more original. But now, let me address those that do care about this review: fans of Rooster Teeth. And I'll just say this: despite its extremely lackluster script, my fandom of Rooster Teeth came out and I couldn't help but have a good time watching these guys I've spent almost a third of my life with bumble around and essentially be themselves in their first feature length film.
So I think most people after watching this film will think it was ok. I certainly did. On the one hand, I had an absolute blast watching Burnie Burns, Gavin Free, and Michael Jones fumbling through the whole film. Seeing Michael pick on Gavin like he always does was like a trip through nostalgia-ville. The Rooster Teeth cameos were also really fun to watch. Joel's cameo definitely took the cake for me seeing as back in the day he was an actual actor. I just wish we would've gotten more cameos from Achievement Hunter. I waited the whole film to see my boy Ray Narvaez Jr. pop up.....but it never happened. Sad face. The other actors were all over the place, but I guess that is the result of it being a b-level film. Colton Dunn was excellent as.....um......the non-Rooster Teeth employee, but pretty much every other non-Rooster Teeth character in this film was extremely bland, especially discount Chris Evans, aka the "hunk" of the film, Alan Ritchson. Man should that character have been played by Rooster Teeth's own Blaine Gibson. Steve Shearer was also pretty bad, a character that could've been played better by the head of Rooster Teeth and the director of this film, Matt Hullum. If you haven't put two and two together yet, this film would've been a lot more enjoyable had the film used more Rooster Teeth employees. Especially since it's Rooster Teeth fans that are gonna watch this film.
The main problem with this film, though, is the script. Or lack there of. This script is terrible. There's no other way to say it. I expected so much more from Burnie Burns. I mean I get that it's not meant to be anything substantial, it is a comedy after all. But the comedy of this film is not funny either. I mean a few dick and butt jokes are fine, but holy crap that's all this film is. And you know what's worse? The blatant sequel-bait. I mean c'mon, guys. At least act like you care. The sequel bait left me feeling really empty inside after the film and made it resonate even less than it was already going to.
In short, this film is fine. I laughed from time to time, but it was only because I was trying really hard to enjoy myself. After all given how many hundreds of hours of Rooster Teeth content I've watched, how could I not enjoy this film, right? The appeal of this film is definitely only to the already-established fanbase, and just about anyone else will be sitting in as much misery watching this film as they would watching an Adam Sandler film. Rooster Teeth fans: watch it to say you did, then forget about the fact that it exists. Everyone else: stay very far away. There's a lot better ways to spend your time.
The Critique: While fans of Rooster Teeth will find enjoyment in the performances of their favorite RT employees, everyone else will not be able to get past the terrible jokes and script trying to hold it all together.
The Recommendation: Ha. Only if you're a Rooster Teeth fan. Everyone else? This film is pure snake oil.
The Verdict: I'm gonna go with two scores here. One for the Rooster Teeth fan, and one for everyone else.
Rooster Teeth Fan: 5/10 Average.
Everyone Else: 2/10 Garbage.
2015's smartest film
The Big Short (2015): Four denizens of the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight.
Wow. What a film. The Big Short is a bold undertaking. This film attempts to explain what made the financial crisis of 2007 happen in a way that we, the normal plebeian, could understand. Not only that, but it also brands itself as a comedy. So, it attempts to explain what caused the 2007 financial crisis, all while trying to be humorous. That's a tough sell. But you know what? The Big Short nails it, and, with only a few films left to watch from 2015, it just made my short list as a serious best film of the year candidate. So, let's dive into it, shall we?
There's so many things to compliment in this film. Let's first talk about the editing. The editing is EASILY the best I've seen in 2015, and even rivals the incredible editing of the best film I've ever reviewed on this blog, Whiplash. (Which you can check out here if you wish to relive it!) The editing is the sole reason the pacing of this 130 minute film (of essentially a bunch of people talking to each other and nothing else) feels so incredibly brisk. Seriously. These 130 minutes flew by because of this editing. It's amazing what some quick, frantic cuts and syncing your cuts up with music can do for your film. I fully expect this film to win the Oscar for Best Editing if nothing else. The acting is also spectacular. This, too, is a daring challenge: this film features an ensemble cast with no one person in charge. This film tells its story from a few different perspectives, and while each of these "stories" have a main character, no one really stands out as a lead. That's ok, though, because everyone in this film puts in some of their best performances in years, particularly Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell. (Where was this Steve Carell in 2014's Foxcatcher??) Gosling and Carell are the ones who stood out to me, but the Academy decided that Christian Bale deserved the nomination. But he's great too, so that's ok. I am honestly quite impressed with how well-acted this film is, but that's been a surprising norm for director Adam McKay over the years. (Just....don't look at McKay's IMDB page. You'll be too shocked by his repertoire.)
But let's talk about the comedy/subject matter. One of the best things about this film is how it explained to us what was going on. This film did a phenomenal job of breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to us, the audience, and using visual aids and people who weren't even remotely connected to the rest of the film to help explain things to us. Want to learn what a sub-prime mortgage is? Well, here's Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to explain it to you. It's brilliant! It's freaking brilliant. (That one happens in the first 10 minutes and there are several more so I'll leave the rest of these great scenes unspoiled for you.) All throughout the first 90 minutes or so, this film is absolutely hilarious. But, right when the crisis begins, the tone of the film turns on a dime, and it SOMEHOW becomes a great drama, one that left me....angry. This film made me mad at Wall Street for not only letting this happen, but for already starting to do the things that made it happen just 8 year ago. Because of the last 40 minutes, I strongly recommend this film to anyone and everyone, because this is EASILY the best film ever released that tries to explain to us why 2007 happened. And this is coming from a guy who has watched about as much content about 2007 as he could get his hands on. (Even though there's honestly not much out there.) Really the only complaint I have with this film is the fact that despite all its explaining, some of it still went over my plebeian head, but the rest of the film is so great that this fact just makes me want to watch it again. This film is not only the smartest film of 2015, but of all the films released it just might be the one that most deserves your attention. And your outrage. While some of the incomprehensible dialogue is just enough to bump this down from a perfect 10, The Big Short just might be my favorite film of 2015. Least it certainly is up to this point.
The Verdict: One of the best films of 2015, The Big Short is a gripping and hilarious "dram-com" that recants how the 2007 financial crisis came to be better than any film has to this point.
The Recommendation: A universal recommendation. You owe it to yourself to see The Big Short. Please. And schoolteachers? HOLY CRAP THIS WOULD MAKE A GREAT FILM TO WATCH IN A COLLEGE ECONOMICS CLASS. You'll just have to warn your students when the nudity comes cause there is a small bit of that. But the story itself still NEEDS to be told.
The Verdict: 9.5/10 (I never bust out the .5s nowadays, but its truly too good to be a 9 while falling just short of being a 10.)
The Night Before (2015): On Christmas eve, three lifelong friends, two of whom are Jewish, spend the night in New York City looking for the Holy Grail of Christmas parties.
You're gonna hear me say this a lot throughout the review: The Night Before is fine. It's not great, but it's not bad either. It's fine. If you like the actors involved or the James Franco-Seth Rogen comedies we've been getting for a few years now, you'll like this, but if not.....you have no reason to see this. When talking about this film, most people would probably stop there. But then again, I'm not most people, am I? So, let's go into depth on why this film is fine, shall we?
Let's get the elephant out of the room first: where's Rose Byrne in these recent Seth Rogen/James Franco films? She was easily the best part of the last (official) film Rogen and Franco did in 2014's Neighbors, and there was a really obvious role for her here and in the unofficial last film these guys did, (The Interview) but either she wasn't cast for it for some reason or (more likely) didn't want to play it. I mean I still enjoyed watching the still underrated Lizzy Caplan (of Cloverfield acclaim, and I loved everyone in that amazing film) play a big role in The Interview and once again play a major role here as Joseph Gordon-Levitt's romantic interest, but when all I can think as I'm watching this is, "Man, Rose Byrne absolutely killed it in Neighbors...." you know she was brilliant. And missed. Anyway, let's move on to actually talking about this film.
This film is fine. Wait, I said that already, didn't I? I will say it was better than The Interview and just as good as Neighbors, but we are now 2 years removed from 2013's brilliant This is the End, and this crew's recycled formula is starting to get a little stale. But we'll judge this film by itself. So first off, the acting. Seth Rogen is his usual Seth Rogen self, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Anthony Mackie are their usual charismatic selves, and they're funny too. However the man who knocks it out of the park is none of these actors. Michael Shannon is on a freaking roll right now. He just might earn my "coveted" Best Actor of 2015 award in a few months. He was terrifying in 99 Homes (a film which I never got around to reviewing but saw it and absolutely loved it) and now he just destroys it here. This guy has a lot of work lined up for 2016, (just look at his IMDB page) and he has chosen the right time to make it on my "must-watch everything he does" list. Elvis & Nixon is rapidly becoming my most anticipated film of 2016. Get Michael Shannon more work everyone!
As for the rest of the film....well.....there isn't much else to talk about honestly. This film is just lightly edited improv, which is fine, but it definitely leaves much to be desired from a technical standpoint. There were some funny lighting effects that were taken out of the Edgar Wright catalog, but other than that this was a very technically bland film. And that's why it's fine. Because while there were definitely some funny jokes in this film, it made me laugh several times throughout the relatively short 101 minute runtime, Michael Shannon just absolutely destroyed it as Mr. Green, and there are some awesome cameo....there's just not enough else here to make this film truly memorable. I mean it's not like there's a story here or something. Anything resembling a story was pretty ridiculous and predictable, and it wasn't anywhere near engaging enough to make the one supposedly emotional moment of this film feel anything even close to emotional. It's mindless! That's all it is. Mindless humor. Did I laugh? Yes. Was there anything even remotely resembling substance? No. Which makes it a....you guessed it.....fine film. End of story. Bye bye. See ya later.
The Critique: A mindless film, The Night Before is a decent installment into the lackluster genre that is the modern American comedy.
The Recommendation: Definitely worth a watch if you like any of these actors + James Franco. If not, stay very far away.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 6/10 It's fine.
American Ultra (2015): A stoner - who is in fact a government agent - is marked as a liability and targeted for extermination. But he's too well-trained and too high for them to handle.
First off, damn is it good to see Jesse Eisenberg on the silver screen again. It's been a while. For those who don't know, Eisenberg is one of my favorite actors in the business. His first major performance with Kristen Stewart, 2009's Adventureland, is one of the most underrated films of the 2000s in my opinion. The film is a cult classic already, and raised the bar for me as I waited for Stewart and Eisenberg to hit the screen again here in American Ultra. Which made it that much more painful when I watched the very short 95 minute film and discovered it's......a mess. Just a mess. DAMN. JUST SAYING THAT MAKES ME SAD. I wanted to like this film so much, but there are just too many flaws here to make this film truly enjoyable. So, let's jump into it, shall we?
First off, I want to be happy. Let's talk about what this film does right. Eisenberg and Stewart. They are, once again, amazing. Not only is their chemistry undeniable, but they are both phenomenal at what they do. For you Kristen Stewart haters: stop. Just hush up. If you still think Stewart is a bad actress because she did Twilight, you haven't been paying attention to what she's done since. She more than holds her own here, even though her character is SO POORLY WRITTEN....nope. Deep breath. Keeping it positive. Ok. Of course Jesse Eisenberg is once again great. We all knew that he would be. But not only that, there's some decent cinematography here too. The fight scenes are shot well enough, (well enough to be mentioned at least) and there are a few good jokes too. However, this film is ultimately held up by Eisenberg and Stewart. If you're like me and really like Adventureland because of these two, this film is definitely worth watching. Just be prepared for almost everything else to be disappointing. Oh! John Leguizamo is fun as hell too. There's that. But then there's everything else.
Alright. Let's try to get through this in one piece. So! The negatives. The big one is the story. This entire story is ridiculous. Look. I'll forgive a comedy with a bad story when it's funny. But that's the other problem! This film is, well, not funny. Why? It is SO mean-spirited! The best punchline of this film is hey! Let's insult everyone and hide behind the veil of comedy! NO. That isn't funny. That's just mean. Let's talk about Kristen Stewart's character. There's a certain twist that sets her character up to be a female badass character in the second half of the film, but does the film go that route? No. Female power character? COURSE NOT. Just make her a damsel in distress! Shame on you, Nima Nourizadeh and Max Landis! There was an awesome opportunity that was completely wasted, and this certainly torpedoes the overall film. As a result, Stewart's character is sooooo poorly written it's insulting. A huge opportunity missed. Let's talk about the set design. It sucks. That's why I want to talk about it. This set design is so.....lazy! The CIA HQ is the most bland building I have ever seen here, and there's only 5 people who work there according to this film. Oh, and the head of the CIA runs the agency like a drug cartel. That's how it works, right? If you can't tell, I think the CIA in this film is so horribly written that it's almost a joke in and of itself. But not in a good way.
In short, there was potential for this film. Before the entire CIA adventure, I was really into this film. When it was essentially just Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart enjoying themselves, I was loving it. But then Topher Grace came in and ruined everything. There just had to be a story here. You know, I would be totally ok with watching Eisenberg and Stewart going about their daily routine for 90 minutes. Actually, that sounds amazing. You hear that, Hollywood? All you need is a house somewhere in LA, a movie backlot, and a bunch of extras. And suckers, like me, would go see it. And probably love it. But not here. Not this one. Better luck next time, guys.
The Critique: While Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart keep this film from being a complete disaster, American Ultra is a bloody mess.
The Recommendation: While most should stay away, if you liked Adventureland go see Ultra in theaters just to tell Hollywood you want more films with Eisenberg and Stewart together. Because sooner or later we have to get a good film that features these two great stars. Right?
The Verdict: 4/10 Below Average
Yes I know my caption said painfully average and my verdict is below average. Shush.
The Modern American Comedy Done Right
Trainwreck (2015): Having thought that monogamy was never possible, a commitment-phobic career woman may have to face her fears when she meets a good guy.
First off, I need to get something off my chest. Judd Apatow is satan. He is the main reason why most comedies today are visually and creatively lazy, and why most comedies today think they can be lightly edited improv and still be good films. He's the main reason modern American comedy is in the biggest funk we've seen from the genre in, well....ever. Whew! I feel better now. That said, it's good to watch this style of lightly edited improv straight from the source, because Apatow realizes that the improv shouldn't dictate the movie. A good story should dictate the movie, and Trainwreck has a really good story to go on top of some really good and lightly edited improv. So, let's jump into it shall we?
First off, let's talk Amy Schumer. Kudos to her, because in addition to being the lead she also wrote the screenplay for this film. She and Apatow share a connection, one which I really want to see again. Now, my experience of Amy Schumer is very limited. I have not watched her on Comedy Central, short of a few videos on YouTube, however I have watched enough of her in interviews to know she is hilarious. However fans of the series, from what I've been told, will be surprised to see that Schumer is very....restrained in this film. This film is a straight-up rom-com, guys. A good rom-com, but still a standard rom-com. Only this time it's from the female perspective, and not the male perspective. However, outside of Amy Schumer, the female of this film are somewhat limited. Brie Larson does a decent job with what she's given, but she's not given much. SNL alum Vanessa Bayer is completely wasted in her role, and Tilda Swinton is just a, well, a not-so-nice person for no real reason. And Chris Evert shows up in a bit that falls flat on its face when it has absolutely no reason to. Least given the talent that's in that scene. But that's all the female roles in a film who's main target audience is women. Ya sexism is totally dead now, right?
Moving on from that depressing bit, let's brighten our day by talking about men. Yay! Cough cough.... So the men of the film are outstanding. First off, Bill Hader. Another SNL alum, Hader has officially found himself a niche. He was outstanding last year in The Skeleton Twins (he was number 7 on my of Best Performances in my First Annual Awesome Actor Awards last year for this performance, by the way) and he is once again charming as ever here. However, it's Lebron James who steals the show. Yup. Lebron James. And I do not like Lebron. At all. But if anything is obvious about me yet, it should be that I love it when people make parodies of themselves in film. I love it so much aoweiaobnrwertyvq! That's exactly what Lebron does, delivering some of the best gags in the film and almost even stealing the show from Amy Schumer. There are several other cameos, including one that I don't want to spoil that shows up in a film the characters watch which was the greatest thing ever, that are hilarious and beautiful. Ultimately, that's the highest compliment I can give a comedy: it's hilarious!
So, besides for the fact that there's absolutely no editing, or cinematography, or anything else commendable from a technical standpoint, what else does this film do wrong? Well, it's too long. Clocking in at ridiculous 125 minutes, this film could've really benefited from having about 20-30 minutes shaved off. Certain gags go on way too long, and there's just too much fluff in the film to keep the pacing where it should be. That's all the complaints I have, but they're pretty damning. If only directos Judd Apatow and Edgar Wright got together and co-directed a comedy starring Amy Schumer and Simon Pegg, and have Nick Frost be the main supporting actor. Oh. My. God. I am ready to throw all kinds of money at that film. Get on it, Hollywood!
The Critique: While visually lazy, Trainwreck delivers exactly what it should: laughs, tears, and awwwws. 2015's best rom-com yet.
The Recommendation: You hear that, fellas? This has date movie written all over it. You hear that, ladies? Can you say girls night out? Because I sure can. Actually I can't. Because I'm a guy. Riiiiiiiight.....
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 7.5/10 Somewhere Between Good and Great
..........I love Bill Hader.
MacFarlane's fall from relevance Realized
Ted 2 (2015): Newlywed couple Ted and Tami-Lynn want to have a baby, but in order to qualify to be a parent, Ted will have to prove he's a person in a court of law.
This....is sad. It's sad that the only way I can defend a Seth MacFarlane film is by saying it's not as bad as A Million Ways to Die in the West, a film so bad that I struggled through some tears to finish it. Yes. Tears. Why tears? Because I love Seth MacFarlane. He is the number one person in show business that I want to buy a beer and have a crazy evening with. I think MacFarlane is the funniest person in the world. I do. I really do. I have seasons 1-6 of Family Guy practically memorized, and I still quote it with regularity. His brilliant cutaways to something completely irrelevant to the overarching story are, when they work, brilliant. But they add insult to injury when they don't work. Well, they did work in Ted 1. MacFarlane's directorial debut, Ted was hilarious and, despite a messy third act, one of my favorite comedies of 2012. Ted....is seasons 1-6 of Family Guy. A Million Ways to Die in the West was just a mess, like modern Family Guy-no energy, no edge, just a bland convoluted pile of garbage. Well, Ted 2 is not that. Not quite. But pretty damn close. Ted 2 is.....season 8 of Family Guy. You've seen the show go downhill for a season now, and you really hope it comes back.....but it doesn't. Ted 2 is just more of the same from Ted 1. However, it's missing the energy and the edginess its predecessor had. Ted 2.....and it pains me to say this, but.....Ted 2 is cashing in.
Well, what does this film do right? On the bright side, this is the single best performance I've seen from Amanda Seyfried. Mostly because she's asked to be pretty much the smartest person in the room. I feel like Amanda Seyfried is actually an insanely intelligent person. I'm convinced she runs a think tank that's trying to discover the God Particle or something, she just doesn't want everyone to know for fear of us "judging her" or something. Because she always plays the dumb blonde in every film she's in, and she always does it so poorly. Then, she does a smart role, and she nails it! Logic right? Well, she's just about the coolest lawyer ever let me tell ya. Ummmmm what else....there are a few good jokes. One joke was a musical joke so obviously I lost it at that point. I thought the musical joke was the best joke of the entire 115-minute film, but I might be a little biased. However, even unbiased me says....ya. You'll agree with me. It was the best joke of the film. I guess the cameos are good, too. There are a couple of them, including Sam Jones reprising his role (it's in all the trailers so it's not really a cameo) and I won't spoil the big one for you, which occurs early on. However this time, they're just cameos for the sake of cameos. The big cameo is funny, but they ultimately aren't integrated into the plot in any way because of course they aren't. Just gotta check "cameos" off the list, right?
Sooooo let's talk about negatives. First off! Seth MacFarlane is sexist as hell in this film. Every single female character in this film is objectified nonstop. Even Amanda Seyfried is oogled at for most of the film by Ted and Wahlberg's character. This is getting really old, Hollywood. I wouldn't buy for a second that someone who is as smart as Seyfried's character would fall for a moron like Wahlberg, so why force in a love story just so Wahlberg can "get the girl?" MacFarlane: you could've made Seyfried's character like a badass smart lawyer who doesn't have time for guys, and made fun of Wahlberg trying to get her to fall in love with him. That would've been hilarious. But no. Forced love story. Because....yes. And oh! You think it ends there? It doesn't end there. Oh no! The other main female character, Ted's wife Tami-Lynn (lol white trash names but that's a Ted 1 joke) is objectified from start to finish, and basically the ONLY other two female characters in this film AT ALL want to sleep with Wahlberg. Well, ok, there is another female character who shoots down an advance from Wahlberg, but she does it with the ol' "I have a boyfriend excuse." You know. Cause we can't go out on a limb and have her say, "No. Because I'm too good for you." This really has to stop, Hollywood. We saw it in Hot Pursuit earlier this year too! I think in the comedy genre the sexism is far worse than it is elsewhere, because those filmmakers have the audacity to hide behind the veils of humor and say, "well you're not supposed to take it seriously because it's a comedy." NO. Stop hiding and own up to your actions guys. What's even worse is the fact that this is Seth MacFarlane. MacFarlane is a huge liberal, and has, on multiple occasions, used his fame to fight for women's causes. But then he goes and directs sexist sh*t like this? C'MON.
......ok. So that turned into a bit of a rant. Sorry about that. Anyway, that isn't the only thing that's wrong with this film. The third act....is essentially the EXACT same as Ted 1's third act. Mess and all. Except this time, we're at New York Comic-Con instead of Fenway woo!!!! Isn't that a major difference? Doesn't the setting just change EVERYTHING? It even.....it even has Giovanni Ribisi, who is AGAIN massively underused. He isn't as underused as he was in Ted 1, but it's damn close. I guess just this time he pretends to be someone else to gain Ted's trust, which I guess requires a bit more acting than just being the weird guy who wants a teddy bear. But, that's really the biggest complaint I can make about this film: it's Ted 1. It's the same film. Just, with a bit of writing to explain why Amanda Seyfried is in the film and not Mila Kunis. You know, at the time, I gave Mila Kunis a hard time for skipping Ted 2 to be in Jupiter Ascending. Because boy did that film suck. But I got news for you, Mila: you didn't miss much.
This film....this film is the perfect summary of MacFarlane's long hard fall from grace, and from relevance. I really want to see some vintage family guy make a return. I saw glimpses of it here. There was one really sharp satire on modern 24-hour news networks that brought back memories of the glory days of MacFarlane. There's still greatness left in you, my friend. I still want to buy you a beer and get into shenanigans. That evening would still be the greatest evening of my life. But, that buried greatness is nowhere to be found in Ted 2. Someday....
The Critique: Ted 2 is the exact same as its predecessor, minus the edginess and energy that made the original great. While Amanda Seyfried shines, the few laughs in Ted 2 are not worthy of either your time or attention.
The Recommendation: ummmmm if you're a diehard Seth MacFarlane fan it's worth checking out, otherwise stay away.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 4/10 Below Average
The Kit Harrington Film WE've Been Waiting For
7 Days in Hell (2015): A fictional documentary-style expose on the rivalry between two of the greatest tennis players of all-time who battled it out in a 2001 match that lasted seven days.
This film....this film is ridiculous, unbelievable, and even somewhat appalling, and yet.....I love it. I laughed so hard during this short 43-minute HBO film that I almost couldn't control myself. This movie is freaking hysterical, guys. And there's literally one reason this film is as funny as it is. Andy Samberg and Kit Harrington. Well, I guess that's two reasons, but you know. There is an undeniable chemistry between these two actors that made this film one of the funniest comedies I've seen all year. Are the gags ridiculous? Did some have me shaking my head in disgust? Absolutely. For example, when a streaker comes out and starts having sex with Andy Samberg's character, initially I was just shaking my head and not laughing at all. But then, the camera cut to Kit Harrington's reaction and I just lost it. Maybe that's it, cause as I think more about this, Andy Samberg was essentially himself, which is fine because his persona is hilarious, but this is the best non-Jon Snow performance I've ever seen from Kit Harrington. Period. And yes, I cringed through Pompeii last year for him. I've been wanting to see what Kit Harrington can really do, and this film shows it. Finally. This mockumentary is definitely worth 43 minutes of your time just for Kit Harrington's performance. So, for all you Jon Snow fans out there, sit through the sex jokes and the ridiculousness of the film just to see how Kit Harrington reacts to the world around him. It's more than worth it I assure you.
The Critique: 7 Days in Hell is the Kit Harrington film we've been waiting for. While the mockumentary offers little else, Harrington knocks it out of the park.
The Recommendation: If you're asking me this then you know nothing, Jon Snow.
Rewatchability: Moderatly High
The Verdict: Gonna do a double-take here, because this really is all about Harrington with only a bit of humor coming from Sandberg.
With Kit Harrington: 8/10 Great
Without Kit Harrington: 3/10 Bad
Average: 5.5/10 Slightly Above Average
By: Peter Kosanovich
The definition of Underrated
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015): High schooler Greg, who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl, finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer.
Before I start, I want to preface this review by saying this was easily both one of the funniest and one of the saddest movies I've ever seen! The first half to two thirds of the movie you are practically rolling in your seat, the laughs don't stop, but by the end you almost won't be able to stop crying because of how personal and intimate the story becomes.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is an adaptation of the novel of the same name, written by Jesse Andrews. The film differs a bit from the novel, but Mr. Andrews wrote both, so he can do whatever he wants. And with that, let the plot begin.
Described in the opening line of the film "This is the story of my senior year in high school, and how it literally destroyed my life, and how I made a film so bad it literally killed someone." The movie starts with the audience meeting Greg, the "Me" in the title, a self-hating high school senior whose only real friend he refers to as his coworker. That will make sense later. Greg explains through montage and narration that he has figured out the secret to high school, instead of falling into the normal cliques that form - jocks, theatre kids, band geeks, pot heads - get on good terms with all groups, but don't really become friends with any of them. An interesting theory...? We then meet Earl, the coworker, but we don't learn much about him right away. Finally, we meet the "Dying Girl," Rachel. Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia, and through her mom talking to Greg's mom Greg is forced to hang out with her. Yes, I do mean forced. He even tells her that...you can't get much more awkward than a guy telling a girl with cancer that his mom made him hang out with her, and that he doesn't even want to be there. Ouch. Slowly, or maybe not that slowly, the two actually bond, and become very close, hanging out daily as Rachel begins chemotherapy and misses more and more school. After not long Earl begins hanging with them as well and we finally learn that he and Greg make terrible parody movies together, hence coworker. It is suggested to them that they make a movie for Rachel, that that would be the best thing they could do for her.
That's the movie in a nutshell, but it's almost sad to leave the description so short. The movie relies on quirky, awkward humor that will leave you in stitches. That is, until the movie becomes so personal and intimate during the cancer diagnosis that you can't help bug shed a tear. No, seriously, people in the theatre with me literally could not stop crying.
Jesse Andrews and director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon do a brilliant job of tackling a sensitive, and very personal topic for many people. They address it with good humor and tact, never going too far over the edge, and keeping a sense of heart throughout the film. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon also does an fantastic job of making this movie visually unique. He utilizes bizarre and interesting camera angles to help set the tone of the story and overall flow of action.
Critique: I absolutely loved this movie. Jesse Andrews and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon did brilliant jobs, and conveyed the story perfectly. It has humor, and heart, and sadness, and a complete story that is both sad and satisfying. Easily one of the best movies of the year.
Recommendation: I definitely recommend this movie, but it's hard to say for who exactly. I found it amazing and touching, but some people just don't like sad movies, despite how funny and clever it also is. I would probably recommend it to just about anyone, so long as they're prepared to likely cry.
Rewatchability: Also a tough one. The first half to two thirds of the movie I could watch just about any time, but the latter part of the film I would possibly need to be in a mood for. Regardless, I would definitely watch this movie again, no hesitation!
Rating: 8.7-9 It's just so solid, with such unique visuals
Seth MacFarlane at his best.
Ted (2012): As the result of a childhood wish, John Bennett's teddy bear, Ted, came to life and has been by John's side ever since - a friendship that's tested when Lori, John's girlfriend of four years, wants more from their relationship.
I. Love. Seth. MacFarlane. I can quote way more Family Guy than any one individual should be capable of, and I wear this like a badge of honor. So, to say I had extremely high expectations for this film was something of an understatement. However, it not only met my expectations; it surpassed them. Yup. Despite a horrendous third act, Ted was one of my favorite comedies of 2012. The chemistry between Mark Wahlberg and Ted was incredible, Mila Kuns is charming and actually acts, Giovanni Ribisi once again delivers, the score from Walter Murphy is exceptional, and the cameos are AMAZING. So let's begin, shall we?
Let's talk about positives first. The jokes are great. They feel like old school Family Guy, and regardless of how you feel about Family Guy now, you cannot deny that that's a good thing. Old school Family Guy was hilarious. Yes, there are some Hollywood references here that even I didn't get, but I think that's kind of the point with them. And Mark Wahlberg! His chemistry is great, and there's even a fight scene between him and Ted that was exceptional to watch. After all, think about it: he was fighting nothing. That's not easy. Ted really was an exceptional bit of cinema in and of himself, and Seth MacFarlane brings him to life with charm and charisma. As I said before, the score is also exceptional. Walter Murphy is easily the most underrated composer in Hollywood. I wish he did more films. Every time I see his name as the composer I smile, because I know I'm going to get a phenomenal, Sinatra-esque score. And, of course, the cameos. There are several, and they are hysterical. One cameo is a recognizable actor showing up for literally one, non-speaking joke. So they probably showed up on set for about 15 minutes and got a big paycheck for one joke, but it may just be the best joke of the whole film. There are several actors in here from the Family Guy series, as a superfan like myself recognized them instantly. Oh, and Sam Jones is freaking hysterical. That is how you do an '80's reference!
So, let's talk about the third act. So my rule with comedies, very similar to horror, has always been if it makes me laugh, the story doesn't really matter. Well, most of the laughs all but stop in the third act. MacFarlane and company felt the need to force in a rescue mission, which was completely unnecessary, and devoid of any laughs. This, similar to Inside Out from the other week, is the result of a filmmaker not being 100% confident with the premise that is established in their film. I would've had no problem whatseover with a 106 minute story just about Ted and Wahlberg's day-to-day lives and how Mila Kunis fits in to all of it. But instead, we need a very generic, poorly executed rescue story to bring everyone together. Cli. Che. Honestly, this film is 106 minutes long, and it didn't need to be. It would've been just that much better had it been a 90 minute film.
There really isn't much else to say about this film. There isn't a lot of visual humor, which is always unfortunate, but MacFarlane's humor is just so amazing that it doesn't really matter. If you like comedies, you absolutely owe it to yourself to check this one out. It was easily one of the best comedies of 2012, and a recent high point in the wonderful career of Seth MacFarlane.
The Critique: Despite an overly cliche third act, Ted brings vintage Family Guy humor and great acting to the silver screen. One of 2012's best comedies.
The Recommendation: if you like Seth MacFarlane and you haven't seen this film yet..... well, you're wrong.
The Verdict: 8/10 Great
A great, shallow comedy
Spy (2015): A desk-bound CIA analyst volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent diabolical global disaster.
Spy is the perfect summary of what the comedy genre has become today. Is it bad? No. Quite the opposite. This is a great film. It's dialogue is hilarious, it is shot wonderfully, and holds up extraordinarily well as an action film too. The homages to James Bond in this film are great. Melissa McCarthy returns to form with style in what may be her best film yet. She has an undeniable chemistry with director Paul Feig, and can work brilliantly with any actor or actress he puts on the screen with her. Feig and McCarthy have gotten better with each film, and then when you throw in a phenomenal supporting cast? Featuring Rose Byrne (again) and Jason Statham who completely steal the show? This film is easily the best comedy of 2015 thus far. By a country mile.
So why am I not higher on this film? Because this film suffers from the same problems other films of the modern comedy genre suffer from: it's merely a surface-level comedy. As my "film connoisseur" has expanded, I've come to expect more from the comedy genre. I want my comedies to humor multiple senses. Directors like Judd Apatow and Paul Feig have allowed the genre to lose its way. Their films, as a whole, are lightly edited improv. That's it! Or, in the case of Spy, an improv'd action film. In the last ten years, the idea of the visual comedy has been all but lost in Hollywood. The one exception is Edgar Wright. If you watch Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Hot Fuzz, or The World's End, you will see a director using every sense, both visually and with dialogue, to create the funniest and most memorable comedies of the last 10 years. I've only seen Hot Fuzz once, a long time ago, and yet I still remember more about that film than I do Neighbors, which I saw far more recently. My favorite joke in the film Anchorman, other than the crazy cameos which don't count, is when Jack Black kicks Baxter off a bridge. It's a visual joke! Monty Python and the Holy Grail has one of the best visual jokes ever by having someone follow our heroes around everywhere with coconuts to simulate horses. This is just as memorable as having Michael Cera be bad-sh*t crazy in This is the End. And yet.....we don't see any visual humor in so many comedies today, and Spy is no exception. Spy, while funny, is just a silly comedy. Three days later I barely remember the film. I don't remember any of the jokes. I just remember that it was pretty funny. So, I couldn't help but feel a little empty leaving this film. Please, Hollywood, bring back visuals in our comedies! It might take a bit of (dare I say it?) ingenuity and creativity, but it'll be so worth it! This lack of memorability has made me struggle to watch This is the End again after the first time I watched it. Or Neighbors. Or The Heat. Despite having some very hilarious dialogue.
But look. It's not worth focusing on just this, especially when this movie does get so much else right. Spy is a great action film, just as good as any of them. I couldn't help but feel like this film was Paul Feig living out his dream of directing a Bond film. And Jude Law couldn't help but live up his role. His character might as well have been named James Bond, and he's clearly having a blast in it. Melissa McCarthy makes her character a badass, as she turns into a freaking boss once she's out in the field. It was awesome! There were no "Ha! You're fat." jokes to be found. Everyone was terrified of McCarthy, and she made quite a few of the characters in this film look like pansies. Jason Statham was hilarious. Who knew this great action star could be this funny? Well, he does this by making fun of himself, which I love. I love actors that recognize what their persona in films is, embraces this persona, and then proceeds to have fun with said persona. Statham does exactly this. Bobby Cannavale is great, and Miranda Hart is hilarious. But then there's Rose Byrne. Freaking Rose Byrne. I've been singing this woman's praises for years, and she once again steals the show as the antagonist. There are very few actors out there who have as diverse an acting portfolio as Rose Byrne does. And every time I see her, she steals the show. She did in Get Him to the Greek. She did in Insidious. She did in Bridesmaids. She did in Neighbors. She even did it in freaking Knowing! Yes, she was the only good thing about that film I know. Once again, she steals the show, creating a hilarious character that actually has a lot of intrigue surrounding her at first and then becomes even funnier as you start to get to know her. Her exchanges with Melissa McCarthy were easily the best part of the film.
So, what else is there to say about this film? Again, it's great, but it's still lacking memorability. I do not see myself watching this film again in the near future, despite its hilarious dialogue. And good action! Props to Feig for shooting an excellent action film. He doesn't do anything special, but the plot here is filled with twists and turns that you don't see coming. Time was clearly spent on creating an excellent script to go along with the improv moments. But it's still shallow. Oh well.
The Critique: a perfect summary of the comedy genre today. Witty dialogue and good action on the surface, but nothing more to it than that.
The Recommendation: if you wanted to see this film you probably already have. Those who are comedy purists, however, will have to wait until 2016 before getting a decent comedy again. Please don't suck Edgar Wright.....
The Verdict: 8/10 Great.
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