Movie Review: The Nice Guys

In the last moments of The Nice Guys an antagonist yells to Holland March (Ryan Gosling) “Why’d you have to bring the goddamned girl!” which is exactly what I was thinking as I watched this film!

Writer/Director Shane Black has a penchant for putting know-it-all asshole kids in to his movies, and in that, The Nice Guys doesn’t disappoint. With more than a few showing up to say the darnedest things…for comedy or levity…or something. More often than not, it lands, but with March’s daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) it’s starts to wear thin as you notice that she’s more or less crammed in there to provide unnecessary stakes to the proceedings.

However, that’s not nearly an issue as the movies turgid pacing in between excellent action scenes.

The Nice Guys is a buddy cop movie that Shane Black could do in his sleep, and as such it kind of feels like he was dozing a bit as he pads out action scenes with supremely dry “detective” work and clue sniffing, all in the hopes of it all tying together in the third act.

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“Greetings precocious teen, may you guide us to the next plot point? Oh my, you have such a potty mouth…how cute!”

 

I’m loathe to admit that I bought in to the hype of what The Nice Guys could’ve been. I mean, look at that trailer; it sells a pretty epic movie. But it’s in the watching where the film gets mired in all the puzzle pieces floating around, coming together just so, but in the end, not really meaning much of anything.

In interviews, Shane Black sold what the world of The Nice Guys was to be: a dirty, seedy late 70’s Los Angeles with all its dirty people and filthy smog. A noir of some sort, with two broken men just trying to do right. Moreover, it’s in the movie, but it gets crammed way down to facilitate Holly being mixed up in the shenanigans and “Oh you kids!” nonsense that started to take me out of the movie immediately.

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More often than not Holly felt like more a plot propulsion device rather than a fleshed out character worth caring for. To be cornered by antagonists only for Deus ex machinas coming out of nowhere to reset the plot to focus on two men trying to solve a case. The more I reflect on this film, the more I don’t care for it.

The late 70’s Los Angeles is talked about being a character in the various Shane Black interviews, but you couldn’t tell outside of the obvious overtures the film makes in loudly proclaiming the movies is set in the 70’s. With the cars, garish clothes, television (Hey, The Waltons was huge then!). Nevertheless, outside of that, it doesn’t matter what period this film was set it as it doesn’t take advantage of any of it. It’s feels more like Shane Black thought it would be cool to set a film in the 70’s and that was that.

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“Some lengthy, plot thread tying expository dialogue would go nicely here, thank you.”

Outside of some of the best movie action sequences in a long time, the lone bright spots in the film are Russell Crowe and Ryan Gossling as the leads. Both have great chemistry, which is vital for a buddy cop movie. Nevertheless, they’re stuck with two characters living in a movie that doesn’t quite fit them. The whodunit isn’t nearly as engaging as it tries to be, with the big bad kind of being a no brainer and you’re not really sure why all of this is such a big deal in the first place. The only thing I can think of is that it’s narrative justification to escalate to bigger, meaner action sequences. Which is fine in-and-of-it-self, but it starts unmooring itself from the gritty, grounded world that the writer’s have established.

With his work on Iron Man 3, Shane Black proved that he was and still is the master of action movies. The Nice Guys proves that maybe his lesser tendencies need to be corralled a bit more and he still has a long way to go as a director. His camera hangs preciously on almost every scene, as if they have much more importance than first glance. For a noir type film, that certainly could be used effectively, but in this film it only goes to slow the pace down to a constant watch glancing crawl, where you just want the next action scene to pop up, if only to be punished with more turgid meandering clue work afterwards.

Perhaps The Nice Guys will be better as an edited for time cable movie that cuts a lot of the fat off the films run time. I’d say start with the Holland March family house rebuilding C-story, as it really does nothing for the film. At almost 2 hours the film is just too damn long, and is in desperate need of more editing.

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Movie Review: The Nice Guys

Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War

Let’s get this out up front: I don’t care for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I don’t like the MCU birthed onslaught of the worse mouth breathing, talking-during-the-entire-run-of-the-movie fan boys (and girls) that make watching these movies such a chore. I wish the movies in the MCU could stand on their own. I would really like to be able to get up and exit the theater after the movie without stepping on those same mouth breathers who are glued to their seats in sweaty anticipation of a couple of post-credits scenes that “set up” other MCU bullshit.

That being said, I like the Captain America movies, and am quite fond of Iron Man 1 and 3. I think of all the MCU nonsense those movies stand better on their own than the rest. I made the mistake of reading reviews that asserted that knowing what happened in Avengers: Age of Ultron would go a long way in enjoying what happens in Civil War. Of course, they were wrong, I should’ve boned up by re-watching Winter Solider. And we wonder why no one listens to critics anymore?

Sure, Civil War takes place about a year after the events of Age of Ultron, but the only continuing action from that film is the destruction of Sokovia having dire implications to how the world views the actions of the Avengers. Coupled with a bunch of other cataclysmic events both seen and unseen, it is decided to reign the Avengers in. Iron Man/Tony Stark thinks this is a good idea Captain America doesn’t…CIVIL WAR!!!!

To keep with this faux Avengers sequel notion, I’d like to note that I’m glad the Russo brothers are helming the next Avengers movies. While I respect the effort Joss Whedon went through in helming the previous Avengers movies, he just doesn’t do the superhero movie justice like the Russo brothers have shown with their Captain America movies.
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Ostensibly, Civil War is a mini-Avengers movie set up inside of a Captain America vehicle and the Russo brothers are seemingly dealing with a veritable boatload of characters to service. The previous Avengers movies would always grind to a halt in order to deal with characters and the various underlying issues/plots. Did we really need that protracted Hawkeye’s family bullshit in Age of Ultron? The Hulk and Black Widow nonsense…and on and on. Civil War includes tiny characters moments, especially furthering the Vision/Scarlet Witch romantic subplot…but it doesn’t bog down the film. In fact, a lot of elements that would’ve ground down lesser comic book movies, are more the aperitif of the film instead of a monstrous side dish of distraction.

Unlike Whedon, the Russo brothers are experts in staging fight sequences with too many characters and making it work. The problem I had with both the first Avengers movies and Age of Ultron was that the fight scenes were either too busy, or  more often felt like a calculated “What is Character X up to…let’s see!” checklist, instead of feeling organic and fluid as it does in Civil War. It could be argued that perhaps the vaunted Marvel Studios malfeasance was to blame in that, but one could also argue that Civil War was met with a similar stick and turned out a better product for it.

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After watching Civil War, I’m more prone to fancy the idea that Marvel just starts utilizing a cadre of directors for their films. This committee of directors would “direct” all the MCU movies and they would be much better “products” for it. Even though his action direction is a bit sub par, Whedon does play the smaller more “comic book” elements of the movies better than others do. Get James Gunn to round out all the films in that odd, fantastical element that resides in the comic books as well. Since the fear of any of these movies failing is becoming farcical at this point, why not?

They’re already doing something in Civil War I’ve long been asking for: dispensing with the character origins. They introduce Spider-Man to the MCU; they cover what he’s all about in a little less than ten minutes. They introduce Marisa Tomei as the new Aunt May and throw him in to the mix. This same economy of plot is given to introducing Black Panther, I’m sure they’ll go a bit more in depth with these two characters in their respective movies, but Civil War itself gives these characters just enough motivation to pick a “side” in the conflict, but not grind the film to a halt in doing so.

Contrary to many critics, Civil War is indeed a Captain America sequel. On top of this, it goes a bit farther in filling in the gaps in the past with both Cap and Iron Man with the respective Winter Soldier tying the two together in even further Civil War-ing in the revelation that he killed Stark’s parents.
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If this was indeed an “Avengers-lite” sequel as we are led to believe, I think we would’ve gotten a bit more of Iron Man’s motivations and thoughts to the proceedings, but we are not outside of a broad stroke “Tony Stark feels bad because a woman was all ‘You guys killed my boy!’ to him one time.”.

Speaking of Tony Stark feelings, a lot of praise has been heaped on Robert Downey Jr’s performance in this movie, as if he wasn’t the entire catalyst to the MCU having any respectability?! Being a good actor was the entire point of having him in Iron Man, and thus lending the notion that these Marvel comic book movies were going to be different from past comic book movies. That Marvel Studios was going to do the work in making this MCU thing something great. They have used a philosophy to great success. It’s why these Marvel movies have attracted such a wide variety of mouth breathers to their gates, it simply cannot be ignored.
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All that being said, Downey Jr’s acting is the least important thing in the entire movie. That’s MY biggest problem with all these MCU movies: they’re fine. There’s nothing so great about them, they’re filmed competently, acted competently, but they don’t take risks. Say what you will about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but at least Zack Snyder tried something with the DC characters. It’s biggest problem, critically speaking, was that it wasn’t like the MCU movies or some shit. And to me it was readily apparent critics were just waiting to shit on that movie, regardless of quality.  Parlaying their general feelings of comic book movie fatigue on to a perceived “lesser” movie, moviegoers be damned!

Captain America: Civil War is a good movie and a great way to kick off the summer movie blockbuster season. We can only wait and see if the next Marvel property based movie Dr. Strange can keep the whole MCU ship upright.

Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War

Movie Review: Deadpool


It seems that in order to get a movie about Deadpool made a Faustian deal occurred: The Marvel Powers That Be (along with apparently all X-Men Universe rights owners Fox) will only deign the right for this movie to exist if it’s couched in the safest of origin stories, sands off all the characters rough edge’s, has no other notable comic book character or actor from myriad other properties, and be saddled with what is comparatively an indie budget compared to other comic book movies especially those based in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (that name is still the stupidest).

Against all odds, Deadpool works! Then the torrent of caveats that always follow any comic book movie. It’s lacking a lot of what makes Deadpool a great comic book character and things should’ve seamlessly transferred to the silver screen nicely.

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The eponymous character in question…being Deadpool

On top of this, there has to be a collective weariness from moviegoers about the half-a-dozen or so comic book movies that they have to endure every year. Deadpool does alleviate quite a bit of that weariness by proving, in parts, that you can produce something original and fun to watch without strapping it to a continuity anchor like MCU and all its unnecessary ties from one movie to another. Since 20th Century Fox apparently owns the X-Men, Deadpool doesn’t get to play with the others, and that’s probably for the best.

The underlying problem with Deadpool, as with most comic book movies, is that in the transition to the big screen it has to lose the elements that make that character stand out. The character is homogenized just enough to be recognizable to comic book nerds, but palatable to the average moviegoer. Which by this point has to be proving fallacious, as all of the comic book movie homogenization has just made more comic book nerds moviegoers and vice-a-versa? Marvel sells more Deadpool merchandise; Fox makes a bunch of money and earns a new franchise to beat mercilessly in to the ground. Everyone wins.

And while the movie pokes fun at it’s severely limited budget, bland bad guy, and lack of A-Team X-Men, it doesn’t mask the fact that Deadpool is a very SAFE comic book compared to what it could’ve been had the studio trusted the creative team behind the movie and let Deadpool rip. Perhaps the sequel, which will have that vastly expanded budget can expound on that and deliver a truer Deadpool experience (whatever that is). And maybe get rid of the whole “fiance origin story” humanizing nonsense?

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See look, he’s actually a GOOD GUY! Drink your cancer slowing juice drink!

The constant need to maintain a “safe” quality of the film is to make Wade Wilson/Deadpool a truly good person that just happens to believe he is an antihero. Early on in the film, Wade Wilson is shown scaring a young pizza delivery boy in to refraining from stalking some girl. Said girl hired Wilson’s “services” in the matter who uses the opportunity to do a little freelance work for a guy that owes some gambling debts. This continues with Wilson’s relationship with Vanessa Carlysle, to the point where the two are engaged before he is dealt a cancer diagnosis.

This seeming terminal diagnosis and need to do “what is best” for Vanessa leads Wilson to undergo nasty treatments to unlock latent mutant powers. Where he just so happens to run in to the boilerplate (and boring) villains of the movie and essentially annoys them in to being his enemies. Classic Deadpool!

Some reviewers have copped to this notion that the lack of Deadpool himself is what makes the film work. Upon watching the film myself, I don’t really buy that. It appears as though the studio bought Ryan Reynolds and was not so keen on keeping him hidden behind a mask. So there are lots and lots of unmasked Ryan Reynolds in this movie, both pre-and-post mutation. The reason why Deadpool fails to return to Vanessa is that he thinks she’ll find his disfigured face abhorrent, lending a certain vanity that I don’t think the comic book character actually possesses.

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British bad guy “Ajax” or Francis Freeman if you prefer (spoilers: he doesn’t like being called Francis)

Deadpool vaguely earns its R rating via mostly cussing and very little else. A boob here, a shadowy shape of a dick there, but nothing that wouldn’t find itself in a comic book these days. It is far less clever than I think the writers thought it was at the time.

This R-rating also belies the notion that this movie is aimed a teen aged boys, and from some reason that is a determent to the film. This had to be patently absurd, is this movie not deriving itself from a comic book? Which are predominantly marketed to pubescent boys and man-children? What, now that comic book’s are transitioning to film they suddenly have to “grow up” to be taken seriously as a medium?

 

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Oh…here’s an X-Men…but it’s Colossus…Boo!!!!

Deadpool, like many comic book movies, just does enough to justify its existence: to entertain “average moviegoers” and not let it “true fans” down. Once again, comic book nerds are falling in line behind this movie because “they didn’t fuck it up”.

Shouldn’t we be demanding more from our comic book movies? Especially now that we’re deep in to this perpetual comic book movie cycle? While not all of the comic book movies are going to be winners, most of them (at the very least) tend to make their money back. This is a genre of film that could use a lot more imagination and creativity, especially if we have umpteen years of this bullshit!

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Movie Review: Deadpool

Movie Review: Spectre


Here’s the thing about James Bond movies: they’re not so much films as they are spectacles. They’re not meant to be broken down and reviewed as if they’re saying anything important. Structurally they’re all similar, where the greatness of any particular Bond film lies in the main villain and exotic locations. If you nail just those two elements…you have a great Bond film.

I mean think about it, how many Bond movie plots can you actually recall?

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Spectre is the fourth film in the Daniel Craig as James Bond series, and it is a straight up throw back to old school Bond. Some people (Bond lovers) are going to like it; others (assholes) are not going to like it at all, and then waste time writing articles about the “need” for a James Bond and all that other navel gazing bullshit that follows a Bond movie release.

Director Sam Mendes started to aim the current Bond series towards the classic Bond films with Skyfall. Having the main villain and Bond interact and play off each other is a staple of the “great” Bond films and something that was sorely lacking from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Moreover, while I respect the Daniel Craig reboot for injecting some much-needed modernity in to the Bond films, it lost many of the things that made the James Bond movies great in the first place.

Seemingly ridding itself of the Jason Bourne heavy leanings of the first two Craig Bond films, Spectre takes us back to the golden era of Bond: beautiful locations, hot women, menacing henchmen, fights in small spaces, and blowing the shit up out of things. Oh yeah, and the return of James Bond’s greatest villain Ernst Blofeld!

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With the return of Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), there is also a return to the sadomasochism that was slowly drained from the Bond series as they started leaving the books behind. To be fair, there’s a lot of Bond getting his shit tortured in the Craig Bond’s, but Spectre takes it all the way back with the main villain being the torturer in charge. Ridiculous monologuing and all!

The only real complaint I have with Spectre is in regards to its use of Christoph Waltz as Blofeld. I remain optimistic with Craig having one more film on his contract and Blofeld not being killed at the end of the film that there very well could be more Blofeld/Bond hijinks in another film. Because he’s not given much to do in this film.

I think what I love the most about Spectre is that the production trolled a fair amount of people in to thinking that the film was going to be something it wasn’t. When it was announced that Monica Bellucci was cast as a “Bond Girl”, the media was all “Finally an age appropriate woman for Bond!” Nevertheless, she’s in the movie all of five minutes, half of that being a super sexy foreplay scene, the other half being a plot propulsion device…not pun intended!

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Of course, the 30-year-old Lea Seydoux is going to be the main Bond bitch! This is James Bond we’re talking about here! Nothing against Bellucci she is fine as shit in this movie, but no Bond film fan was confused as to who Bond was going to pick.

Perhaps another disappointment with Spectre would be in Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx, Blofeld’s henchman and Bond ass kicking deliveryman. Maybe this is a throwback to the less-as-more villains in past Bond films, like Oddjob and Jaws, they’re more physical presences than substantial characters. Mr. Hinx is very menacing and makes a great entrance in to the film proper, but then he winds up being wasted in a bunch of vehicle chases. Look, I love beautiful expensive cars racing around “exotic” locations as much as the next man, but come on! You’re wasting a giant imposing figure that looks great fighting Bond!

Spectre spends a little bit of time in film continuity, with Bond focusing on previous events in the series. Which does kind of make sense as Blofeld explains he was the mastermind behind all the plots of Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall? However, it’s not necessary, and Bond dealt with a lot of this “demons” and “being too old” nonsense to great effect in the previous movie.

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They don’t even pretend as if James Bond is too old to be out in the field fucking bitches and ruining master plots. Although there is a great visual gag early in the film when Bond is given essentially a tracking device in his blood and a screen that reads “Alcohol Content” that is clearly on an uptick is briefly seen.

As I stated at the beginning, Bond movies are more spectacle than film, so all these critics that are panning the movie because “It’s not as awesome as Skyfall” need to get over themselves. Skyfall is literally the plot of The Dark Knight, it has a bloated run time and Raoul Silva was a shitty villain. Compared to Quantum of Solace, of course Skyfall is going to be leagues better.

In addition, all this talk of continuity is absurd as well. Bond movies are the perfect cable movie marathon material! That’s how most people became Bond fans in the first place! You watch these movies on your ass during the holidays as you try to fight off a food-induced coma.

Better yet, Bond movies have always been a father-and-son pop culture fixture. At my viewing, there were several fathers and sons watching the movie. For a matinee, the theatre was packed as well. This is the type of “movie” James Bond will always be. It’s not one of those things you break down and discuss within an inch of it’s life. Either you like a particular Bond movie or you don’t. In the case of Spectre, I loved it very much and look forward to the next Bond movie…as always.

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Movie Review: Spectre

Movie Review: American Ultra

In a review for American Ultra, a reviewer posited that August was the month where studios dumped their lesser movies; in the attempt to wring out just a bit more money out of summer moviegoers. Sadly, it’s not August that’s the true dumping ground, that distinction would go to February.

If it is a dumping ground, at least August has way better movies in it than the turgid, miscast, shelved-for-years nonsense that mucks up a February movie release calendar. This is why I hold out great hope for Deadpool, seeing at its only real competition will probably be another Katherine Heigl starring romantic-comedy abortion that a studio sneaks out.

As I stated in my The Man from U.N.C.L.E. review, August is home to the cable movie incubator. Sadly, this means that American Ultra joins its ranks as well.

From what little he has done between American Ultra and Chronicle, screenwriter Max Landis seems to be the king of great concepts that somehow lose something in the translation to the big screen. Perhaps in it’s the low risk/high reward budgets of his movies. Seeing as no studio in their right mind would give American Ultra the kind of budget that would do the material true justice. So instead, we get a modest $12 million dollar budgeted film that wisely uses that money for star power and less for action movie bang-pow.

American Ultra also lends itself to the notion of “it’s not for you”, a concept that a movie might not be for everyone. Sometimes old ass Peter Travers isn’t going to be the intended audience of a movie like this, even with his lackadaisical review style that inexplicably finds itself blurbed on every turd movie that’s released in a calendar year.

The movie is clearly aimed at a younger audience who doesn’t really have the necessary touchstones to better action movies.

Another problem that American Ultra is contending with is the idea that since its protagonists are potheads this is supposed to be a stoner movie. The movie clearly labeled itself as an action movie first, with comedy coming in a distant second. If this were to be a comedy, why would the two leads be Jessie Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart? Hell, the only real comedic elements in the film come from John Leguizamo and he’s barely in the film!

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From left: The “comedic” stylings of John Leguizamo, Jessie Eisenberg.

The limited budget means that the “action” in this action film is bare minimum. Many shaky-cam-laden and obscured camera fights scenes try to disguise that Eisenberg, or any of the other actors, didn’t spend six months learning how to fight or train in any kind of movie-kung fu. There are explosions, but they’re small and wimpy and if you’ve seen an action movie at any time in recent history, you’ve seen what’s on offer here.

The concept of Eisenberg’s super-spy Mike Howell being able to kill anyone with anything is awesome. Unfortunately, it’s never really used to great effect, outside of the first scene in which he uses a spoon and a cup of ramen. You’d think the climax taking place in a hardware store would yield great results, but it does not. It mainly reveals the budget constraints of the film and the need to keep things small. No unique kills with a brass wing nut or anything, just typical screwdrivers and hammers type maiming. And guns lots and lots of gunplay.

I still remain firmly unimpressed with Kristen Stewart and while she and Eisenberg have great chemistry, and help ground the film in the real human stakes the story tries to imply, she’s just…Kristen Stewart. She’s boring and constantly has her mouth open just this much to be annoying. You’d think she’d use all that Twilight money and get some acting classes.

“Acting” as seen in every movie Kristen Stewart has EVER been in.

American Ultra‘s true problem is pacing. If it is indeed an action movie then it can’t have so many pudgy parts padding out the time. Again, budget constraints are probably more to blame than anything else is, but in between the action set pieces is a lot of downtime. Some of it is used to great effect, especially considering the kind of actors they got for the film. It’s fun to watch Bill Pullman, Connie Britton and even Topher Grace kind of flex some semi-over-the-top acting.

But when it’s to the determent of the action, that’s where it begins to lose its edge and starts to become that cable movie masterpiece, languishing on TNT and AMC the rest of its days.

There’s an animation sequence at the end that reveals the true heart of the film. Its black light tinged color palette and over-the-top violence are only merely hinted at in American Ultra. Had this end scene informed more of the movie tonally and stylistically, perhaps it would’ve been better than cable movie average.

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Movie Review: American Ultra

Movie Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

August is what I like to refer to as the “Cable Movie Month” for releases: most of the movies are solid, but they lack that “Wow!” factor that most summer movies have. They make great background noise entertainment as you do something else while it plays on the television. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is that movies in spades.

The trailer for Man from U.N.C.L.E. definitely sold a sexier movie than the one I saw in theaters. I also had NO IDEA that Guy Ritchie was at the helm of this flick. Even during the run-time I couldn’t tell you who the director could be, that is just how vanilla The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is.

To be fair, there is some great comic book panel-type work that plays well in action scenes and helps mask the utter cheapness that sits at the edges of the film. Made for an estimated $75 million one supposes that Ritchie spent all that money on sexy locations and great clothes for all the main characters and villains of the film.

1960's Movie Checklist: Sexy Clothes? Check. Sexy Locales? Check. Sexy People? Check.
1960’s Movie Checklist:
Sexy Clothes? Check.
Sexy Locales? Check.
Sexy People? Check.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E., based on the ‘60’s television series of the same name, and from the geriatric laden crowd in attendance when I went to the movie theater this weekend…was the main audience of this film. As I stated earlier, I came for the sexy spy film that is teased in the trailer, and I was GREATLY disappointed that that really wasn’t the case with the movie.

According to good ol’ Wikipedia, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was supposed to be a Tom Cruise starring jam, and it reeks of the kind of middling end of summer film that he would get up to in the odd years between his bigger blockbusters. He would’ve elevated The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with his Cruise-like powers of riding a motorcycle in a few scenes, running around sexy locations in a sexy suit, climbing sexy architectural marvel buildings in a sexy suit and other cliché ass Tom Cruise things that fill his movies. Instead, we settle for Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo, gentleman spy.

Cavill is the only actor in this film that I really liked. Illya Kuryakin, played by  Armie Hammer, who pretty much does the only thing he’s good at, being a straight man, and Alicia Vikander as “the girl” is cute and does what she can with what little she’s given. Cavill seems to be the only one having a real good time.

I may be the only reviewer that found Napoleon Solo’s aloofness endearing and infinitely watchable. Apparently he also saw the same trailer I did and somehow been ripped out of that and jammed in to this by-the-numbers spy movie with the same tired twists and supremely uninteresting villains with a rigid ass boring plans as far as that goes. I was half surprised they didn’t have a scene wherein the villainess held the world hostage for one million dollars or some trite bullshit.

The biggest problem that I had with this film, surprisingly, came from Jared Harris’ American accent. It’s fucking atrocious. Perhaps he was trying to impersonate the television series Saunders character or be in that campy movie that Henry Cavill thought he was starring in, but it just doesn’t work. On top of that his pronunciations are off as well, with been persistently being pronounced “BEAN”. I guess we can chock this one up as a paycheck for an otherwise great British actor.

Unintentional comedy is unintentional.
Unintentional comedy is unintentional.

Astonishingly enough with four credited writers, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. doesn’t have any tonal issues, and manages to only bog down in a few spots. They’ll be completely unnoticeable to the cable movie crowd, and more than likely truncated for run time and more commercials.

Ritchie as director-for-hire one would think he would lend more of his visual language to the film. Maybe his “influence” on younger directors is such now that even he is indistinguishable from your run of the mill director-for-hire as nothing in this film particularly stands out.

The use of the comic book style panels are used to great effect at the end of the film as both Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), descend on the villains’ compound (naturally) they essentially montage the entire event. Stylistically it’s kind of cool and essentially works as a fast forward to the films denouement. Nevertheless, realistically looks like they hired MAYBE six people to play bad guys, and they plainly use them repeatedly in various shots.

The biggest problem of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is that is doesn’t pick a side and stay there. Is it a campy romp reminiscent of its source material, or is it a Guy Ritchie movie with modern overtones set in the 1960’s because of the source material? Which is very well why it wound up in the middling vanilla graveyard of an August instead of the bombastic awesome flavor of July? Doomed to live out the rest of its days as a cable movie mainstay played as background noise to folding laundry or midday sex romps.

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Movie Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Movie Review: Fantastic Four (2015)

You have to wonder just exactly movie critics were expecting out of this Fantastic Four reboot. Better yet, was this movie an excuse for critics to expound on all their pent up dislike of the current, seemingly endless, barrage of comic book superhero movies clogging up mainstream pop culture at this point?

Like it or not all comic book movies are only middling to good. There’s not really one you can point to and say “Yes, this was all worth millions of dollars to final realize [Insert Comic Book Hero]’s journey to the big screen.”

As I said in my Ant-Man review, Marvel Studios is just making genre films and wedging superheroes in to them. Even the most middling of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are buoyed by this ridiculous idea that you need to watch all of them in order to be “in” on the overarching story arc that all these movies portend to.

That being said, I love the general “Fuck You, Marvel!” nature of the 20th Century Fox and Sony Marvel licensed movies. They keep making movies as a way to hold the licensed superheroes like X-Men and Spider-Man hostage, and Marvel just has to watch in horror as each successive “remake” or “reboot” comes to theaters. And critics are there to gleefully pan the shit out of them.

Fantastic Four harkens back to the late 90’s/early 00’s way of making comic book movies: Hire a director to put their “take” on a license, then drown the film in studio notes and general malfeasance and hope that whatever comes out is watchable. It is in the regard that Fantastic Four doesn’t disappoint.

Josh Trank’s Choronicle proved that if given a proper budget, he could do great things with a superhero movie. The bulk of Fantastic Four’s plot proves this out. It’s in the odd seemingly forced in action bits and clearly filmed many months later re-shoot scenes that the movie starts to unravel.

Look at that horrible ass wig on the right! Who approved that?
Look at that horrible ass wig on the right! Who approved that?

There’s some awful continuity shots in the movie, which I found so-bad-to-be-great and humorous. Sue Storm’s (Kate Mara) hair is a major culprit. One scene it looks normal, then a horrible ill fitting wig in the next, and then sometimes a less horrible wig, perhaps more of a bad dye job filling in. Towards the end of the film Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) sports a clean shaved face only to magically grow a full goatee in the very next scene. Richard Reed (Miles Teller) also gets in on the game with a scruffy five a clock shadow and zitty chin only to be clean shaven and mildly LESS zitty in the next scene. Apparently only The Thing (Jamie Bell) was able to keep up continuity wise.

The humor in all of it is the notion that this movie cost $120 million dollars to make, and no one seemingly gave a shit that the movie played and looked patched together. From the continuity, to the shitty workman like heroes costumes, you have to wonder where all that money went?

Keeping with what I hope will be a continuing trend Fantastic Four clocks in about an hour and forty minutes. Even in its shoddily patched together framework, it doesn’t mess around plot wise. It even has the temerity to just move the film forward a year, because why waste time watching the heroes come to grips with their powers? The film leans on the audience being somewhat familiar with the source material, and perhaps a lot of this “Now the Fantastic Four will be used by the military ‘for reasons’” was more of a studio move than a directorial intention.

Aside from Trank’s recent (now deleted) tweet at dissatisfaction at the finished product, Fantastic Four is a pretty solid movie, outside of the clearly studio added elements that bog down the rest of the film. There are glimpses of a more grounded, less superhero-laden narrative that keeps getting pushed aside for scenes of the Fantastic Four using their powers. The “You’re Only Strong as a Family” sentimentality of the film seems more forced and out of place in this ramshackle version of the film.

Dr. Doom...or just Doom in this film.
Dr. Doom…or just Doom in this film.

It’s also too bad that they had to front load Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) with so much “he’s totally going to be the bad guy” nonsense before he becomes the vaunted archvillian of the movie. Plot-wise it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever for him to want to destroy Earth. If he loves Planet Zero sooo much, then why not go back to it and leave well enough alone? Instead he’s all “Y’all be killing the Earth anyways, so fuck you, I’ll kill Earth for you!” and the Fantastic Four are compelled to stop them because they have superpowers. The End.

So if you were wanting an uncut version of a superhero movie, perhaps Fantastic Four isn’t for you. It’s not as a bad as critics are making it out to be, and it’s no less horrible than any of the other dozens of middling comic book movies cluttering up the movie theaters this summer.

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Movie Review: Fantastic Four (2015)