Thursday, April 7, 2016

Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, & Jesse Eisenberg
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Marvel's Avengers was written in such a way, that if you'd never read a comic or seen any of the lead in films, you could still follow what was happening, DC was not so forthcoming with Dawn of Justice. Batman v. Superman is a relaunch of the Batman series, taking place long after the events of The Dark Knight Rises, and it's a direct sequel to Superman: Man of Steel. It would be impossible to give an adequate plot description without spoilers, so let me just start by saying this. The beginning of this film, switches back and fourth between Gotham and Metropolis, shoveling in as much backstory as they possibly can on the two characters in an hour. It is this confusing mix of flashbacks, dreams, and current events, that just leaves your head spinning, after that the movie gets pretty enjoyable until the inevitable fight scene, which was just entirely too long, and shoots off in a direction you wouldn't expect it to. If you're not familiar with the characters from previous films and comics, I assure you that you will have no idea what's happening for most of this film. For those who are more familiar, you'll understand what's happening, but will you care? The way they bring these two franchises together is just an utter mess and the cast from Gotham, in particular, don't make things go smoothly. The cast of Superman has worked together before and Henry Cavill was fantastic, his counterpart however, Ben Affleck, was just as horrible as was expected. I've said it before and I'll say it again, he is a terrific Director, but a complete joke as an actor. Batman is a very difficult role for anyone to play, because it requires two personalities, Affleck barely has one, and I was just awestruck by how someone with his reputation actually may have been a worse Batman than Val Kilmer. On the flip side, Jesse Eisenberg, portraying Lex Luthor, was a revelation! Similar to how people felt when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker, people laughed at Eisenberg's inclusion, but I found him to be the best part of the whole film. The bottom line here, DC saw how much money Marvel was raking in with the Avengers and wanted to jump on the bandwagon. They didn't want to go the same route as the Avengers did, but their way was far too confusing for the general audience, and only somewhat interesting to the fans of both series. In the end, I think the second film will clear up the mistakes of the first and will be much more enjoyable, but as far as this one goes, I could take it or leave it.

The Divergent Series: Allegiant

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, & Jeff Daniels
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

If you've never read a book in the Divergent series, you may have actually liked this film, but as someone who read the series, and thought that Allegiant was the best book of that series, I am disgusted by what Hollywood turned in into. Entire storylines and major themes are just ripped out of the story, not to mention character mysteriously vanished without explanation, and where did all this technology come from? The bureau is supposed to be this weakly funded entity, not the premier power in the outside world, the whole thing just made me sick. After the first ten minutes, the film greatly diverges from the book, in a way that is incomprehensible to those who read it. The story, which is the final book but not the final film, takes place as people are racing to leave the city and are stopped by the factionless. Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her group knows that they must find out what is on the other side of the wall and launch a daring escape, which was far more difficult than portrayed in film. When they get outside the wall, the group finds out what the world is like outside of Chicago, and it's like nothing they could have ever imagined, and it's nothing like Veronica Roth described it in the book. I understand that Hollywood needs to fit entire novels into two hour films and inevitably somethings just won't make the cut, but what's missing here are major chunks of the story. Maybe they are saving it for Ascendant, which is due out a year from now, but even then they would be so out of order, that the film series just wouldn't make any sense. If you're a fan of the series, you really need to read the books. Allegiant might be one of the best stories you've ever read and when you see what Hollywood did to it, you'll be as pissed off as I am.

Out of The Furnace

Starring: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, & Zoe Saldana
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I am usually the first of the haters to criticize Christian Bale, as I never really thought much of him, but sometimes it just takes one performance to start to sway your mind in the other direction. Rarely do you see an actor cast in a role, that is absolutely perfect for them, but the lead role of Russell Baze fits Christian Bale like a glove. I have never seen Bale fit more easily into a role or take charge of a story the way he does here. Russell is an ex-con and the shame of his family. As Russell rots away in jail, his little brother, Rodney (Casey Affleck), has to take care of his ailing father, and try to keep Russell's wife from leaving him. When Russell finally gets out of jail, Rodney, an amateur fighter,  finally gets the chance to leave the rust belt and earn some real money. Rodney appears on his way to doing just that, when he disappears in a notoriously brutal part of the mountains, leaving his brother alone to try and do the right thing. Along the lines of Winter's Bone, Joe, & Mud, Out of The Furnace is another dark, rural thrillers, that is all the rage in Hollywood these days, and while there are a lot of wannabes and copy-cats, when someone figures out the correct formula you end up with a gem like this. The writing here is Oscar worthy and the character development is everything I crave in a film. Out of The Furnace is under two hours long, but when it's done, I feel as though I know the characters in the same was as if I'd just watched 100 episodes of some TV show. I felt their emotions, I was empathetic to their situations, and I was on the edge of my seating waiting to see what would happen next. These are all marks of a great film, and while I don't really care for Christian Bale, he really has never been better.

Scarface (1983)

Starring: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, & Michelle Pfeiffer
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

When you watched Scarface as a kid, (assuming you were allowed to watch Scarface when you were a kid), it was thrilling and exciting, with all it's F bombs and gun fights, it's like nothing you'd ever seen before, but watching it as an adult, it doesn't give me the same thrill as it once did. Al Pacino is of course amazing, he's pretty much amazing in everything he does, but as far as the film goes, its centered on this masochistic asshole, who was never happy with what he had. Tony Montana, was never a hero or someone who was meant to be looked up to as one of the greatest characters of all time. As far as Mob films go, Scarface is so much easier to follow then most, as the timeline makes sense, and you're not introduced to new people every five minutes. While Al Pacino is terrific, the mumbled lines and enormous greed leave something to be desired. Not to mention that when you break things down, isn't the film really just business meeting, gunfight, personal life, repeat? After a while the film feels like it's going around in circles and really is kind of stale. People will always remember this film for it's epic finally, taglines, and the great Al Pacino, but as far as stories go, this one isn't something I would consider a classic or a can't miss film. Scarface has it's moments and has to be at the top of the list for action junkies, but beyond that, I found the story to be just your run of the mill mafia tale, focused on a guy, who was too greedy and too stupid to hold onto everything he worked so hard for.

Hall Pass

Starring: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, & Christina Applegate
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

Thanks to this film, the term, "Hall Pass", became part of the modern urban vernacular, and while the term was a big success, the movie was not. For some reason, Hollywood film makers continue to think that Owen Wilson is funny, and maybe he is, but personally, I don't see it. I usually just wind up feeling sorry for whatever loser character he's portraying. In this film, Wilson and Jason Sudeikis play two guys who have been married awhile, and are starting to get bored. After seeing mutual friends of theirs divorce, the couples worry that they're headed down the same path. Thanks to some friendly advice from Joy Behar, the wives decide that the men should get a week off from marriage to do what they want, and the rest of the film, follows their antics in trying to pick up women after being out of the game for such a long time. The premise of the film isn't terrible and usually, Jason Sudeikis is pretty funny, but Hall Pass falls flat on it's face. This is supposed to be a comedy, so why does it take nearly an hour for the story to get to the point? By the time the guys are shopping for dates, I was bored and pretty much done with this film. In the second hour, the film does get a little better, but not nearly enough. Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis are just two very different types of comedic actors and their styles didn't mesh well at all. If anything their antics together were more stupid than funny, and if there's one thing I can't stand when it comes to comedy, it's stupidity that leads nowhere. It was a good idea, but the writing wasn't very good, the actors didn't mesh, and the situations just weren't that extreme or funny. Hall Pass is just another forgettable film that fails to live up to expectations.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Grandma's Boy

Starring: Allen Covert, Doris Roberts, & Linda Cardellini
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

While having discussions about modern comedies, and thinking about which films will stand the test of time, the film, Grandma's Boy is always brought up, and I could never understand why. I saw this film when it first came out and was less than impressed, still I'm constantly hearing about the film and decided to give it a second chance, to see if I was missing something. What I always admired about this film, was that Adam Sandler finally gave his underlings the chance to shine. With experience comes knowledge, and the possibility of being more than just one liners in the middle of one of his films, that was the hope anyway. The story follows an adult game tester named Alex (Allen Covert), who is forced to move in with his Grandmother and become part of her Golden Girls lifestyle. Along with her and her roommates, there are several funny moments, but nothing to write home about. The rest of this film just isn't that funny! Most films about losers, connect to the audience and make you pull for them in the end, but when it comes to Alex, I just really didn't care all that much. In typical Sandler form, there is a girl and some weird conspiracy involved, but the whole thing wasn't even good enough for the man who starred in Jack & Jill, so to call it one of the funniest movies of all time, it isn't even close. It's evident to see what the writers were going for, but the fact of the matter is, that the characters just aren't that interesting, and the film isn't raunchy or slap-stick enough to be anything more than a passing memory.

American Heist

Starring: Hayden Christensen, Adrien Brody, & Jordana Brewster
Rating: 3 out 5 stars

It isn't fair and it isn't right, but in the minds of many moviegoers, certain performers will always be associated with their most memorable roles. For me, Hayden Christensen will always be Anakin Skywalker, and it's strange to see him in anything but a Science Fiction film, but that doesn't mean he's not capable of playing anything else, as he shows in American Heist. Christensen plays James Kelly, an man who became an ex-con, for simply looking up to and trying to help his older brother, Frankie (Adrien Brody). As James is getting his life on track, Frankie is being released from prison and is of course looking for one big score. Now, James has to decide what's more important, keeping his new life on track or saving his older brother. Hayden Christensen gives an admirable performance, once you get passed the initial shock of Anakin cursing and covered in tattoos, but it's Adrien Brody who steals the show. Brody isn't an Academy Award winner for nothing, as his character pulls at the heart strings and has you running the gambit of emotions. Everyone knows someone like Frankie and wonders which way they'll turn out. In this case, there is also the added incentive of finding out if he'll drag his brother along with him, either way. American Heist isn't the best film out there, the story has been done, and at times, it's a little dull. This film is more about the characters and their values more than anything else. There's a fair share of language and guns, but unlike many other thrillers, that's not really the focus here, which in the end, is appreciated.