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Hail, Caesar! (2016)
I'm typically not very enthusiastic about the Coen brothers comedy movies, but I heard this one was about the shenanigans of the film industry in the early days, so I was modestly excited.
So it's unfortunate that Hail Caesar is a bland, unfunny experience with only sporadic chuckles.
The Coen's assembled an A-list cast for this outing: George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum, etc. And outside of the main characters Brolin and Clooney play, everyone else feels...squandered. Wasted in over glorified cameos. Jonah Hill's only scene in the movie was featured in the trailer. And all other members of the cast are involved in plot lines not directly involved with the main story. Like what Family Guy goes with their non sequiturs.
Scarlett Johansson is definitely the weakest link in the cast, donning a hokey and distracting New York accent as she goes about playing an actress who's pregnant during her movie's filming (oh, the irony). It just seemed like an unnecessary part of the film that could've easily gone without.
Roger Deakins is once again behind the camera and once again delivers a stunning visual palate, but it doesn't do much to help the movie from feeling dull and overall a disappointing effort from the Coen's. Though it isn't on the level of disappointing as The Ladykillers, it is far, FAR from being on the level of Fargo and The Big Lebowski.
Hai, Caesar! 5/10
Dumb. And not in a good way.
Let's get the controversial part of the film out of the way: the science is laughably wrong. We will not gain superpowers by using 100% of our brains. With that said, Lucy isn't even an enjoyable mindless action film. It's actually pretty bad.
Lucy is a hodgepodge of concepts lifted from the likes of The Matrix, Akira, Limitless, etc., and manages to not be awesome. The main flaw of the film has to be the main character. Played by Scarlett Johansson, who by the end of the film seems to just not care about actually acting anymore with the robotic nature of her dialogue delivery, the character is one that is meant to be the person you care about the most. Trouble is, I don't care, as she is basically indestructible, and the antagonists are your run of the mill gangsters. No excitement, so sense of danger, nothing.
A scene that rubbed me the wrong way was when Lucy confronts two taxi drivers and kills the one that doesn't speak English. The guy had nothing to do with her dilemma, and she just killed him. It makes me unable to like the protagonist.
The action was fairly underwhelming, which is shocking considering the director of The Fifth Element, The Professional and Taken was at the helm. But it is what it is.
One upside to this film is that it doesn't outstay it's welcome. It ends and you quickly forget you even saw the film
It's mindless, and probably meant to not be taken seriously, but even then, the only time that audiences could enjoy this is if there is absolutely nothing else to do on the day they see this. Lucy is boring, unoriginal and just plain dumb.
A surprisingly uncool remake
You'd think Samuel L. Jackson starring in a remake of Shaft would be the coolest thing ever. Seeing as Jackson and the character are two badass mother-shut yo mouths. But the end result is disappointing.
The plot revolves around Shaft, played by Jackson, seeking to take down the son of a wealthy and powerful man. The son is played by Christian Bale, and the reason Shaft is after him is because he murdered a black man out of racial hate. But he managed to escape prison time and fled to Switzerland. Shaft gets sick,of the injustice and hands in his badge, taking a vigilante approach. His only hope is finding the lone witness of the murder and convince her to take the stand.
Here's the film's main problem. The actions he takes are not protected by the law. The cops are even helping him, and no consequences are paid. True, you want him to win, but you can't overlook he is breaking the law. The original Shaft was more of a lone wolf. Shaft here can't seem to do anything without help.
The films villains are forgettable. As good as Bale is, he's hardly there and is out of the majority of the action. Jeffrey Wright as a Hispanic gangster emerges as the main villain and is utterly uninteresting. A great villain should make you like him, even if you hate him. I don't even remember the character's name.
But I think the biggest downfall is casting Richard Roundtree in a reprisal of his original Shaft role and waste him. He's pretty much a cameo and the film ends with a promise of the original badass mother-shut yo mouth kicking some ass, but we don't get to see it.
The one thing this film needed was to be cool. It's unfortunately not.
The Next Three Days (2010)
Why didn't he just find the real killer?
Trust me, it's an entertaining two hours, but the main issue here is pretty much the main protagonist taking the illegal and hardest possible way to get back with his wife. It's established Banks didn't do it at the end, and during the middle of the film I asked myself out loud: "Why didn't he just find the real killer?"
Russell Crowe delivers what he can, but as the film goes on, you can't help but feel bad as you know this guy is doing a bad thing, especially when towards the end you wonder why he's sticking his neck out for her. Out of nowhere she's snaky with him and makes the escape more difficult.
So many supporting characters enter and exit unceremoniously. Olivia Wilde's storyline never goes anywhere, she just turns up for a convenient person to put Crowe's son on while he plans. Liam Neeson is featured predominantly, yet his screen time barely scratches 5 minutes. Lennie James appears out of nowhere as the main cop pursuing when the two cops who originally arrested his wife were the most suspicious.
The script seems like something much grander, but entered extensive rewrites. This could explain Olivia Wilde and Liam Neeson. They could've probably been cohorts in the escape. Or in Wilde's case, an alternate love interest for Crowe as he realizes the risk is not worth it and his wife tells him to move on. Hell, there was a scene during the admittedly well executed escape where he doesn't go pick up his son from the zoo where Wilde's daughter's birthday was held, making it seem the kid would be in her care. But in the end it didn't happen, and Wilde and Neeson just seem unnecessary.
The Next Three Days is OK, with some good performances and a well done climax. But it's bogged down with a glaring plot hole, and plot points that go nowhere.
The Next Three Days 6/10
Frustratingly straightforward, simplistic and just plain unengaging
When a film doesn't have any form of engaging conflict, its difficult to like it. Chef is your straightforward, feel good, everything works out in the end project that reeks of passion project.
Favreau stars as Carl, a chef who gets the boot from his lofty LA restaurant, and results in him purchasing a food truck to live his dream of cooking his own food his way.
What makes this film so bland and forgettable is that it offers you nothing to view as conflict. If the film was about him getting fired, and opening a rival restaurant, there's a conflict. But here its more of a road trip film, where he travels across the US with his ex- wife, son and best friend.
Chef boasts an impressive cast, most of which is underused or grow irrelevant. Favreau brought in the likes of Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Bobby Cannavale and Dustin Hoffman to fill supporting roles. You can't help but wonder why? Downey and Hoffman boast high grade talents that feel squandered here in their very minimal roles. Johansson's character was underdeveloped and I feel could easily be edited out.
Films like this hit theatres every year, a feel good film that will make audiences swoon, but in repeated viewing will lose its allure. Chef is a knockout bore.
Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson make this the best Marvel film to date
Captain America: The Winter Soldier isn't just a phenomenal sequel, its the best Marvel movie in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Chris Evans is back as Captain America, and I feel we should all give Evans the credit he deserves. He provides the character with a likability that allows you to sympathize with him.
I find the highlight of the entire film is the chemistry between Evans and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. This being their fourth film together, they manage to deliver a believable relationship that evolves from mere partnership to a strong friendship (maybe even romance in future instalments). This is the first Marvel film to have two Avengers actually have a connection between one another depicted fully. Widow is implied to have history with Hawkeye, but we only saw one scene with them actually building in that.
Though the villain kind of serves more as a plot point, The Winter Soldier breaks Marvel's streak of forgettable bad guys (Whiplash, Malekith). He's not even really a villain, but I won't spoil anything.
I'm glad to see more of Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill as she's not been given able time to show off her abilities. She's cunning and quick, and serves more purpose in this film than the trailers would show.
The additions of Anthony Mackie and Robert Redford are welcome ones, with both their characters providing us with a more detailed character arc and plot then we've been receiving in the post Avengers sequels.
If I was to nitpick, I'd say Frank Grillo and Emily VanCamp as Brock Rumlow and Agent 13 were pretty underwhelming. Rumlow appearing as the typical bad guy and Agent 13 only appearing to further the plot and set up the rest of the MCU.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier makes me hopeful that future Marvel movies play out like this one: suspenseful, entertaining, funny at times and overall exciting.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 10/10
Upon repeated viewing, grows into a dull behind the scenes TV movie
I enjoyed this movie when I first saw it in 2012. I'm a fan of the "film about the making of a film" film, as there's a lot of interesting stories in a production.
I saw this again before seeing Saving Mr. Banks, and I didn't enjoy as much as I did. I felt bored. And when I caught it last night, I was asleep come the hour mark.
The main problem I found with this film is it played too much around with the effect the film had on Alfred's life without balancing it out with the making of the film. Besides Psycho being one of the most controversial films for its time, there wasn't anything too interesting about its production cycle that would warrant a movie about it. With Saving Mr. Banks, you see the tug of war between P.L. Travers and Walt Disney over how the film was going to be made, while balancing it out with the childhood of Travers and providing why she held onto Mary Poppins so dearly.
Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren shine as the Hitchcocks, both bringing their talents into this film and making it somewhat worthwhile. But for the rest of the cast, I was never particularly blown away, even when I first saw the film. Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh never felt like a depiction, but rather I always just saw Scarlett Johansson playing Janet Leigh. Same is said for Jessica Biel as Vera Myles. James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins.
There's also a weird and possibly fictional side story where Alfred is seeing visions of Ed Gein, the inspiration behind Psycho. I never understood the purpose of this, it distracted greatly from the main plot and bogged the once meant to be serious biopic into a silly film.
Hitchcock plays with interesting plot points, but never fully fleshes them out. And while the main stars Hopkins and Mirren make the film watchable, its definitely not something that'll blow anyone away.
Don Jon (2013)
A film that muddles it's hard hitting commentary on today's culture with stereotypical rom com fluff
I really wished this would've turned out better. I do. The message it strives to convey is an interesting one on the way people view media, but it unfortunately gets bogged down by corny scenes and underdevelopment.
Levitt, in his directorial debut, plays Joe "Don Jon", a stereotyped version of a New Jersey boy who, after bedding various one night stands, becomes enchanted by Barbara, played, sigh, by a very weak Scarlett Johansson. What is it about her? Her range is just not there. It always seems half assed and never fully committed to any film she does. And though it's cute that she plays a stereotyped version of a Jersey girl, there's no real emotion there to make me connect with the character, and therefore the film suffers. Joe and Barbara begin a relationship, with Joe modelling his love life after the porn he watches and Barbara after the romantic movies she enjoys. Complications arise when their views collide and cause irreparable harm to their relationship.
It spurns Joe to be taught how a relationship truly works by Esther, played by Julianne Moore. The character has a backstory, but there's no real development aside from that. She's just kind of there.
But what really makes Don Jon not work is how, while depicting the exaggerated views people hold, they exaggerate the way people from New Jersey act. A lot of residents from the area were offended when they were depicted as, for males, sex addicted, body building tough guys and for females loud, gum smacking, hoop earring wearing divas. It's inaccurate and unfair towards how life really is in New Jersey.
I once again assure I liked the message it tried to convey, but it's flaws stand out and become too distracting.
Don Jon 5/10
The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)
Scarlett Johansson headlines a major list of reasons why this movie is terrible
Never have I seen such a melodramatic, boring and insulting adaption of the tale of the Boleyn family. A film that substitutes historical accuracy for soap opera antics and loathsome acting.
The casting of this train wreck is wrong, with numerous better British actresses who could've done a better job. Portman manages to hold firm but Johansson's evident disinterest in even being on the set is off putting and her utter laziness when it comes to speaking dialogue or expressing emotion is frustrating. This is meant to be a period piece, there's a certain calibre of acting you need to bring to the table, and she fails to do so, making it clear she was only cast for her A-List status.
Bana isn't very interesting as Henry, popping in every now and then to say "hey, this is still a film based off a true story", as the focus of the film, to it's very minimal credit, keeps centred on the Boleyn's, even if a majority of it was made up for dramatic plausibility. When you have to make things up to make a film that's supposed to recount a real event, then it's clear that it's not meant to be a film.
Perhaps if they told the story with the actual events, a way better actress than Scarlett Johansson as Mary and a lot more life into this dull, tired flick, maybe it could've worked, but considering the choices they decided to make, The Other Boleyn Girl fails.
The Other Boleyn Girl 1/10
Under the Skin (2013)
Pretentious and boring. Just a flat out flop.
It may only be 107 minutes, but it feels like an eternity for Under the Skin, starring the ever so dull Scarlett Johansson as an alien on the prowl for male victims. The film limps through it's runtime, attempting to justify itself with nice artistic shots of it's Scotland setting. Here, we have "Laura", played by Scarlett Johansson. No detail given as to where she is from, or why she's doing what she's doing as she treks the Scottish lands, scouting for loners and hitchhikers to prey on. The film falls flat when the story begins getting put on the back burner so Glazer can give us a naked Johansson and flashy and stylish imagery. That's nice and all, but I don't care.
I've heard critics declare this the role of Johansson's career. She is notorious for being incredibly mediocre and inferior to her fellow actors in just about everything else that she in. So perhaps what they believe is a good performance is really because she hardly says anything outside a flirtatious pickup line. Long dialogues are her downfall considering her voice sounds like it should belong to a prepubescent boy, so it is a very minimal amount of credit to the film for limiting her word count.
At the end of the day, Under the Skin is definitely not worth the admission price or the 107 minutes of sitting. Should you elect to view it, wait for it on Netflix or VOD. Or for whoever still uses a DVD player. Under the Skin 1/10