Saturday, March 28, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW - Get Hard

Kevin Hart and Will Farrell star in the new comedy, Get Hard, that's out this week.

Have you seen any comedy over the past few years?  This is a buddy comedy that is squarely targeted at 18 year old boys, and to them this may be one of the funniest things ever.  What they have done here is cram all the dirty words, phrases, and body part humor into one big movie with a big cast and shove it down our throats.  Truth be told there are some funny moments in this movie but it lacks any originality, and any kind of taste.

Get Hard is the story of James (Farrell).  He is a highly successful and rich investment broker who works for his soon to be father in law, Martin (Craig T. Nelson).  James is then framed for embezzlement by Martin and ends up being sentenced to 10 years in maximum security prison which is in no way ready for.  

So he hires a friend Darnell (Hart), to teach him how to cope in prison all the while James is thinking that Darnell has been to San Quentin and done time there. Which he has not.   But since Darnell needs a ton of money to buy his wife and daughter a new house he accepts the job and tries to prepare James for his prison stay in just 30 days.  And the humor is on,  and you can imagine what James is being prepared to do and not to do in prison.

All humor aside and setting aside the few laughs there are in this, Get Hard is immensely stereotypical in every regard.  No group of people, no matter what their color is is immune from the sting here.  This movie completely reinforces every stereotype there is.  This movie is a great example of Hollywood and their approach to the contemporary comedy.  They write two jokes.  And they tell them over and over again for about 2 hours.  They don't understand that the joke gets old, and a small amount of this is far greater than a ton of it. 

Get Hard is raunchy from start to finish.  The love of the F-word is in full throttle here. Also the love of talking incessantly about male body parts and what to do with them.  Plus, making fun of the gang culture in Los Angeles, that's always fun. To its credit, this movie does have a direction and does move along at a nice pace.  It's just so laden though with unoriginal thought and humor.  Farrell has crossed over into a new phase of his career. He is now the laughable straight man to his funny man's humor. That formula is a nice change over the past few movies, but it's not enough to make this legit.

Hart is a funny guy, but it's a shame for him he is not a bit more discerning of the projects he takes on. He is incredibly versatile and naturally funny, more times than not way funnier than the movies he is in. Here he is funny at times, but the scrawny script cannot save him, or this.

Get Hard. Typical March mediocre comedy.

Monday, March 23, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW - Divergent:Insurgent

Part 2 of the Divergent franchise is a movie that is not going to get a fair shake from anyone involved.

First off, from the paying public that is going to see this. They loved every single frame before they even walked into this. They love the books, they love the idea, they love this kind of formula.  They cannot watch it with an honest eye, and they like it. Not from the national critics either. They are flat out weary from this old and tired formula of the world after an apocalypse, with a young woman and her hunky friends are here to save they mankind. 

For me?  This is just not a good movie.  Great books or not. Tired formula or not. Insurgent just flat out has a lot of problems that it can't overcome.  And it all starts with our star, Shailene Woodley.  Even though this is a poor man's Hunger Games, Woodley is not Jennifer Lawrence.  This series lacks the Lawrence-type star power, and it's starting to take a toll. Woodley has done some really nice work, and I have loved her in other roles but not here.  In this movie she looks 12 years old. She also looks insanely thin and washed out, and basically back-boneless.  She has absolutely no screen presence whatsoever, far less than the first installment.  She is not at all believable as the savior of the human race.  In fact in some scenes, she looks borderline ridiculous carrying automatic weapons and shooting them.

I have no clue what has happened to Woodley and her decline in this role.  But she's not alone. As impressive as some of the sets and effects are here, much of this looks like a bunch of middle level actors playing dress up. The props are silly, and so are many of the scenes. This is a sullen, depressing stiff of a movie that is a huge waste of 110 million dollars. The budget was even higher for this than the first, but the results are far weaker.

But as all the fans know, there is another movie to go.  And we can only hope that it is far better than this one. Also in fairness, many times second flicks are the weak link in a trilogy.  The first one is setting things up, the final brings it all together and many times the second movie just lays there. That's what happens here.  This series is late to the party anyway. Twilight, and Hunger Games have really laid claim to this now tired formula, and Divergent just seems behind.

Divergent:Insurgent.  Fans will love it, and they won't honestly know why.   But this is not very good.

Friday, March 20, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW - The Gunman

Sean Penn leads a real nice cast in the new action movie, The Gunman.  Too bad this really stinks.

Can I ask a question?  What is going on here?  What on Earth is going on in this muddled mess of a movie?  If you choose to go, you may ask yourself the exact same questions.  This is a movie that attempts to show the ramifications of The West, or private companies sticking their nose in the business of third world countries for their natural resources.  But it doesn't work.  This is just about laughable.

Sad part is, this has a real nice cast of Penn, Javier Bardem, Roy Whinstone, and Idris Elba.  Too bad Elba is in this movie for about 4 minutes, and Bardem about 15.  Penn looks tired, and past his prime.  Thank goodness for the wonderful supporting actor, Whinstone.  But he's hardly in this either.  So who is in this? Penn, for the whole agonizing 2 hours this thing that drags on like the sled the draft horses pull at the Wayne County Fair.

This is incredibly hard to follow for a few reasons. There is an assassination in The Congo 8 years ago killing the person in charge of the nations mineral rights.   The trigger is pulled by a gunman (Penn) who is working for, well they don't really make it clear who he is working for.  The country then plunges into chaos as a result of the civil war that breaks out.  Penn has to leave the country, and starts a new life as a humanitarian.

Flash forward 8 years, and someone is now trying to kill all that were involved in the assassination. Who? We don't know exactly.  And how is this all coming together? Well, it doesn't. This simply does not work.  It's boring, it's sleepy, it's agonizingly long, and this entire enterprise is just flat out a really bad idea.  Being honest, it was hard to stay awake for all of this.  Then for good measure, after trudging through this septic quagmire for 2 hours, we get a ridiculous and laughable climax. 

This movie, for all of the good people in it, can't get out of its own way.  It's over cast, it's poorly thought out, and is just not A-list actor worthy.  This story, is a straight to streaming movie at best.  Instead, as bad as this is it ends up being straight to steaming  movie, if you know what I mean.

The Gunman.  Stay home and play canasta.












Sunday, March 15, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW - Run All Night

OK, I know Liam Neeson is attempting to play the exact same character in every movie he makes these days.  And he does again in the new Run All Night.

Run All Night stars Neeson, and Ed Harris.  It is so good to see Harris back on the screen, I am willing to give Neeson a pass on the lack of thought on his role choices.  Harris is one of Hollywood's greatest ever supporting actors. And he's great here too.

Run All Night is set in New York City with Neeson playing a broken down, drunken character named Jimmy Conlon.  He is a retired hit man for a small time mobster named Sean Maguire (Harris).  They were childhood friends.  Jimmy carried out about 18 hits for Sean as an adult, and never faced any arrests.  Sean had infiltrated the police force and had enough friends on the take to keep his illegal activities alive.

Sean's grown, but young son wants to make his mark in the family business, but wants to take it to a far higher level. Sean's balks.  So when a drug deal starts to go bad with some foreign mobsters, Jimmy's grown son witnesses Sean's son murder 3 people.  Then he turns his attention on killing all the witnesses, Jimmy shows up and kills Sean's son just as he is about to kill Jimmy's son.

Then the chase begins. Sean brings out all he has to try to kill Jimmy's son, and eventually Jimmy for revenge.  Also, a dedicated cop (Vincent D' Onofrio) is after Jimmy as he wants closure for all of the unsolved murders Jimmy has committed.  Plus, an awesome hit man (Common) is after Jimmy hired by Sean.  Will Jimmy and son survive the night?  Or will it all be too much to overcome?

This is not fantastic by any means.  This looks like a lot of movies before it, and will become a staple TNT in a few years.  But what this movie does have are a few really good actors.  The scenes with Harris and Neeson simply acting and exchanging dialogue, even mediocre dialogue, are really strong.  It is so good to see great acting, even in a movie that hangs its hat on action and violence. D'Onofrio is great as well, and it is refreshing to see him in a larger role than his past few movies.  The scenes that have a combination of these three simply acting are easily the movies best.

This has a nice story, but not great. There is plenty of gun play and action and that's fine too.  This is suspenseful to a point, but then becomes like 5,000 other movies released in various Februaries and Marches. And that is what you expect. But this does have moments of brilliance intertwined.  The national critics are not being overly kind, but that may not be apt. There's nothing really wrong here, just nothing earth shaking.

Run All Night.  Nothing wrong with this on a cool and wet spring day.  

MOVIE REVIEW - The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Well the first one of these a few years was pretty darn good.  And now, so is the second one.

This is a very interesting idea with an all star, but older cast that really sings a song directly to its core audience.  I applaud this whole idea, as this is one of the few franchises that targets a clearly older demo, and gives them something of real quality that is uniquely theirs. I love it when Hollywood makes movies for all kinds of people.  They make far enough for 18 year olds.

This is the storyline that takes place in India, where a bunch of real seniors from England have found a new life at this wonderful old hotel to begin the newest, and maybe final chapter of their lives.  This wonderful place and idea is the brainchild of a young Indian idealist, who has big plans to expand this whole idea throughout India, and beyond. 

These older folks do find a new life, and are in essence born again in a far off distant land way different than what they have known before. This story is so unique, it can't help score big points with me.  Although this does not speak directly to me, I can see how it can to those in their seemingly golden years. The writing is spectacular, and the performances are as terrific as the first.

This installment takes place a few months after the first one left off.  And the story lines are rolling forward nicely.  This sequel in fairness may not be quite as charming as the first, and does have a slightly different feel to it.  This has a tendency to be a little more direct in addressing in realities that could be affecting these aging characters, in a setting that isn't reality at all.  But for me, this was really strong on story, and lets out character grow with us. You can't make the same movie as the first, that ship has sailed.  Most times franchises don't get that. You can't make the same move again and expect a great reception. 

Being honest, this is a bit too long. Some of the scenes, especially towards the end as too drawn out and could have been made in a more tidy fashion.  This is not a true comedy, but it is funny and fun at times, and this would have been better served at about 15 minutes less, but it's not a deal breaker. 

The main cast again with Judi Dench, Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, and Bill Nighy is strong. But they also welcome Richard Gere here and he is a nice addition, and looks amazingly comfortable here. This is splendidly written, well directed and brilliantly acted by seasoned actors who get it. This is a gem franchise that is set up for more ahead.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  Different from the first, and that is its strength. Very entertaining, real, and fun.

Monday, March 9, 2015

MOVIEN REVIEW - Chappie

There was a world of hype about the new robotic action movie, Chappie that opened up last weekend. Sadly, it was a giant thud at the box office.

Oh, Chappie debuted at number one but with a measly 13 million. Far, far short of what is needed for this to be a success.  All seemed to be in place for a big opening, so why did they stay away from Chappie like they did.  I always say, most of the time when you see a TON of TV for a movie before it opens, that usually spells big trouble.

Chappie is the story that takes place in South Africa, where robots have taken over as the primary police force.  And they are a huge success. Crime is down and things are headed in the right direction except robots are made by people, and they eventually get in the way of the good.

Chappie is a rejected police robot that was slated for recycling when his creator steals him from the gigantic defense contractor to put a new kind of brain in him.  The idea is to create a robot that can think, reason and feel.  So he does, and Chappie is created as an infant in the mind. Chappie is then taken by a band of thugs who want to program him to be a gangster and help them relieve themselves of a 20 million dollar debt. And they do.

Then the creator is after him to save him for the good. The defense company is after him to destroy him, and a rival band of thugs is after them all to try to steal Chappie after seeing how effective he can be. Plus, a jealous defense contractor and fellow employee wants to destroy Chappie so his own invention can be the new Marshall in town.  Lots going on here.

Chappie is a very good idea that falls way short of what it should have been.  First off this is rated R.  It is not a kids movie, even though many think it is because of the name and the packaging.  Chappie is violent, and loaded with harsh language.  Chappie is also very funny at times, and wildly creative. The special effects of Chappie is amazing. Chappie comes to life in an amazing way, and the makers should be commended for that.  This also makes a ton of social commentary, and has a heart for the most part.

But there is something missing here and it's tough to put a finger on it. For some reason, this just does not work as it should. This should have been very good, but instead it ends up looking like another robot movie, and it shouldn't.  They had a great premise, and it fumbled away.  Chappie ends up being very unpleasant at times, repetitive, and draggy. Nice cast with Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, and Sigourney Weaver, but they can't save it from being average. 

Chappie. This is not a bad movie.  But a big, big opportunity to be really different, but instead a big chance wasted. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW - The Lazarus Effect

Man, you better watch this one quickly. The new horror flick The Lazarus Effect is a very quick 75 minutes. There's infomercials longer than this movie.  But as you will read, it's a blessing.

This stars a cast of lesser known actors, but does have the wonderful Olivia Wilde in it. She stars as a young, but talented medical research doctor (Zoe) looking to find a way to bring life back to those who have lost it.  She and her team at a research lab in California are working on a serum that is injected into the brain, and can literally bring back like.

The testing has been not so successful until they have a success in a large dog. The dog comes back to life, but there are problems.  The dog has anger issues, and is acting strangely. The serum is supposed to be expelled from the bloodstream in short order, but remains. More testing is needed. Then, the project has its funding pulled from its backer and it is shut down.  But our team is bound and determined to push on with their research.

As they work on the sly bringing back another dog, there is an accident. And  Zoe is electrocuted and dies on the lab floor.  Her team then swings into action, and decides to inject her with the serum to bring her back to life.  They do, she does, and there are huge problems.

Then what this turns into, is the same formula that has been used for 50 years.  She is a lunatic with a brain full of untested serum, and she goes on a killing spree by knocking off the team one-by-one. Zoe is seemingly possessed by some form of supernatural demon, and doesn't fully know what she is doing. And she won't rest till they are all dead.

Ho-Hum! This movie is supposed to be scary, but it's not.  This is simply bad, and insanely unoriginal.  Why is it they can't figure our some new, and possibly different formula for these kind of flicks to scare us. What kind of formula?  I don't know, that's their job - not mine.  This, in the end, just looks, sounds, and is like 5,000 other movies before it, and 500 waiting behind it, getting ready to be released at some point to be viewed by some poor pack of clueless fans that haven't seen this type of movie before.  

The Lazarus Effect.  Bad, unoriginal, but luckily not too long so we don't waste too much of our time.