Friday, March 27, 2015
Nowadays when we hear "new Kevin Hart" film we expect the same serving of what we've been continuously given to add to the mix of routine features that get blended together in our heads. But perhaps no one's tried putting him in the straight man's chair. Not to say that he's there the whole time in this film, but he and Will Ferrell take turns equally, and it's magical.
Hart plays the role of Darnell--a family man desperate to get enough money to buy a house in a better area to benefit his family's well-being. He is hired by James (Ferrell), a wimpy stock trader who is about to go to prison for 10 years, to prepare him for life behind bars. The catch is that James thinks Darnell is an ex-con--not because Darnell told him that, but because James just assumed.
Hilarity ensues as Ferrell taps a little into Buddy the Elf and becomes clueless as ever (which makes you wonder how he became partner at a brokerage firm), and Hart balances him out by playing the "goofy straight-man"--perhaps a comedic invention that he had already perfected and has been waiting to try out. The two play off of each other brilliantly and the chemistry between them is phenomenal.
Some parts are dragged out slightly--especially in the beginning--but the comedic pace is steady and consistent and you don't really ever feel like their fishing for material. There are a couple of "how was that possible?" moments, but it's a farce so that's expected.
The script is good. Though there is a lot of obvious improv--but not too much. There's the typical formulaic deception by one of the characters--with Darnell leading James to believe that he's an ex-con--but it's really minor and never exploited for an easy plot twist.
The true brilliance behind this film is that neither actor tries upstaging the other. They are both comfortable sitting back and letting the other take the stage when necessary. Let's hope that more filmmakers try and cash in on their natural rapport.
Twizard Rating: 84
Superbly acted and brilliantly directed, Starred Up presents us with one of the most realistic prison films we've ever seen. You forget you're watching a movie and immediately get brought into this world of brutality and subversiveness.
We have Eric (Jack O'Connell) who gets starred up--or prematurely moved from a juvenile detention to an adult prison--and finds that his father (Ben Mendelsohn) is there too.
The script brilliantly draws contemplative parallels between the hierarchies within the prison system, as well as the circular despondency that it creates. It also portrays a father-son relationship in a way that I don't think has really ever been done in cinema.
Everything works how you would want it to in a film of this nature. It's just never clear as to why Eric or his dad are in prison to begin with.
Starred Up leaves a couple of questions unanswered, but never strays from the realistic atmosphere it sets for itself. It's definitely hard to watch and the characters' banter might be just as difficult to understand--so you might want to use subtitles.
Twizard Rating: 97
While not quite as memorable as some of the other geriatric-themed movies of the past, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel still manages to pass along a plethora of nice messages to the audience members that need it the most.
It individually explores the situations of several pre-octogenarians and why they have all come to stay at the same hotel in India. Whether it's to find love, to rediscover themselves, or to find themselves for the first time, the trip is life-changing for everyone involved. The movie eventually brings it all back around to the two twenty-year-old characters who are trying to dodge their families' mutual disapproval of their love.
The film starts off very slow and we are overcome with the anxiety of their eventual arrival to India. Although at first it's unclear why certain characters are leaving their homes at all. And like many ensemble films, the tone gets mixed and matched a lot along the way.
At times it has a hard time balancing all of the characters' stories--which may attribute to the long runtime--but it still manages to portray so much of their depth. Yet two of the characters' stories remain slightly unexplored, but it may have been deliberate.
This film might fly over the heads of the younger viewers. And perhaps it's meant to. And while The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel may surpass it's niche at some points, it's just as classically heartfelt as the best films of this genre.
Twizard Rating: 81
Friday, March 20, 2015
Who doesn't love a good redemption story? Especially one where the redeemed is such a likable person. And as most of us have seen Disney's 1950 adaptation of Cinderella, we know that there are several gaping plot holes and improbabilities. It's in the nature of the story. But it's a folk tale that is meant for a higher purpose than to merely entertain--so we don't worry about it too much.
However, these days most films are meant for us to enjoy, so we have to adhere to logical circumstance. And this version of Cinderella does just that. It may play a little bit too loyal to the Disney version, but every change they make is for the better. They manage to dodge most of the plot holes that we were anticipating and ease our minds about them.
The talent is really good all around, with the obvious standout being Cate Blanchett as the evil stepmother. But Helena Bonham Carter is a nice treat as the Fairy Godmother, along with the under-noticed Stellan Skarsgard as the conniving Grand Duke. The characters have a bit more depth in this one as well, which ups the redeeming value in the end some more.
This film's biggest fault lies in the first act. With a sloppy time frame and slow build we begin to think that this is just another ploy by Disney to get our money into their pockets. But it starts to prove us wrong about half way through the film.
I wouldn't say that it's an improvement from the original. Maybe it's more detail oriented in the script, but the "original" took a classic tale and recreated it in a way that made it become synonymous with the story. And this film pays great tribute to the beloved classic.
Twizard Rating: 88
Thursday, March 19, 2015
As an aspiring standup comedian, I felt it necessary to watch Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedian" before I went any further with my set development. I have to say it was both entertaining and informative. Maybe I got more out of it considering my present circumstance, but I think that it's great insight to a world that many never consider has much insight. It's an art that's taken for granted much of the time. It's easy to laugh. We tell jokes with our friends, so it must be easy to do something that is so bare at its essence. "Comedian" proves that that's not really the case.
The premise is to show the construction of a one-hour set. Seinfeld is scrapping all his old material and starting over. He's made it and proven himself in the world of comedy, but seeks a higher challenge and meaning. This is paralleled with young comedian, Orny Adams, who tries to make a name for himself.
For those interested in pursuing standup comedy, this is a must-watch. It aims to motivate and is pretty unbiased in its effort. And for those who just like to spectate, it will show you a different side to that world.
Twizard Rating: 93
Friday, March 13, 2015
I like Vince Vaughn as much as the next guy, and I think he makes any movie better, but when the script and the direction is terrible, it's a little harder to salvage. And I'm talking about easily fixable mistakes. One character says that he's 67 years old, and then there's a time lapse of 1 year and he still talks about how he's 67 years old. It's just really sloppy.
Dan (Vince Vaughn) quits his job to start a company to compete with his former. He recruits two hopefuls (Dave Franco and Tom Wilkinson), and together they try to make a new life for themselves. A year later they have gotten nowhere and Dan is trying to send his kids to private school because they are being bullied at their current school. Dan and his two employees chase a deal all the way to Berlin, but realize that they may be the decoy deal.
The script is very unorganized and it makes us put the pieces together for a lot of crucial information. The whole time Dan is trying to make business moves, but only the business-minded audience members will understand what's going on and what the significance of certain characters are.
There are also huge narrative flaws, which include fitful pacing and inconsistencies in the tone. It can't decide whether it wants to be vulgar or sweet, and it doesn't balance the two very well.
Despite all these negative comments, I did enjoy the movie. It has a sincere anti-bullying theme and I laughed throughout. It's just not very well-made. Some jokes fall flat, some don't even make sense, and there is too much reliance on the humor of Vaughn's straight man to Franco's cluelessness.
A movie's gotta be at least a little more than just the laughs in provides. It has to have a well thought out structure. It can't win without it--otherwise, what's to prevent every other person who can write funny jokes from cranking out films the lazy way?
Twizard Rating: 69
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
"Kingsman: The Secret Service" may not have a perfectly consistent tone, but it has a consistent style.
Harry (Colin Firth) attempts to stop the evil mastermind, Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), from committing mass genocide on the planet amidst the recruiting of new agents to his top secret spy agency. One of these agents, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), is the son of a former agent who died on the job. The film is as much about Eggsy's self-realization as it is about stopping Valentine from destroying the world.
Despite it's personal-growth-filled background, the film lacks some depth for an origin story. Part of this is due to it's inability to take anything seriously, including several genocidal acts--one of which occurs as Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" wails in the background.
The film is cliche in certain aspects and dialogue is a little pedestrian--that is, when Colin Firth isn't spewing out profound wisdoms to the younger recruits.
But regardless of anything negative you can say about this movie, it's ridiculously engaging throughout. The movie's style and set pieces are incredibly unique. It does everything possible not to make the viewers feel like it's generic--and it works! It tips its hat to classic spy films while becoming a one in its own right.
The cast is just fine. Jackson does a great job as the flamboyant and sinister villain, and Firth is undeniably believable as a spy--so much so that it feels like he could be the next Bond.
It won't be the best film of the year, but it may be many people's favorite. It's definitely worth watching.
Twizard Rating: 88
Saturday, March 7, 2015
Lieutenant Cobretti will spitball well-scripted one liners, and he'll even beat a sawed-off shotgun in a West Side Story rumble with just a 4 foot chain. He's not afraid to shoot up dozens of bad guys without hesitation, but don't ever expect him to take the clear shot when he's one-on-one with their leader.
Sylvester Stallone plays Marion "Cobra" Cobretti, an elite mercenary for the Los Angeles Police Department. He then becomes invested in a string of murders around the area and tries to figure out who's responsible.
It's not fair to say that this is an unentertaining movie. It's enjoyable and I laughed a few times, but many scenarios are too convenient for the progression of the story. Cobra's colleagues have no reason not to believe his hunches. He's obviously done his homework and has talked to one of the culprits.
And we know who the "inside man" is right away. There's no mystery. We see that Cobra is right the whole time. We're basically just anticipating the inevitable conclusion.
At the very least it gives you characters to like and root for. Some of the action is ridiculous, but some of it is decently creative. And it keeps the story moving quickly. However, it would probably serve better as an episode on a crime drama series.
Stallone and his secondary lead, Brigitte Neilsen, have great chemistry (they were married) and do a good job carrying this film. But it's no First Blood.
Twizard Rating: 60
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
With what seems like two films in one, Focus has our attention the whole time. However, it makes us forget that the big picture is not what it seems to be. More or less it’s a love story between Nicky (Will Smith) and Jess (Margot Robbie). We are given a lot of scenes that make it seem like this is about a big heist, but those turn out to be just instruments to help paint a bigger picture.
While Smith adds another fun performance to his CV, Robbie is always letting us know that she’s about to con someone before we’re supposed to find out. It’s in her face. But on the other hand, she’s capable of acting fooled when her character really is.
The script could have been proofread once more to fix a few minor, yet mostly unnoticeable errors. But Focus offers an interesting glimpse inside a world that our culture is obsessed with. And the twists are mostly unexpected. You’re not sure who’s going to screw who until the end. It’s tortuous but never confusing.
Although the film lacks a lot of depth and character development, you still root for the leads. That must be the magic of Will Smith.
Twizard Rating: 84
Monday, March 2, 2015
This movie gets better with age and it grows on you the more you watch it. It’s also a case of the follow ups making you appreciate the early films even more. The dialogue is corny but laughable, and the storyline is very good.
There is a surprising amount of depth with the leads. The series–and this film in particular–is about Brian (Paul Walker) and Dom’s (Vin Diesel) growing relationship. It won’t be the same without Walker because he and Diesel’s chemistry is what made these films so charming when we first started watching them.
The director, Rob Cohen, is not very good at bringing the best performances out of his actors, but does an excellent job directing the action and racing scenes. The cuts might be a little jarring, but it makes even the slower parts of the story more engaging.
The action is distributed perfectly among the film and you never go too long without a good adrenaline rush.
This movie isn’t great to everyone at first, but watch it again after you’ve finished the rest of the series and you’ll see that it’s a fun watch.
Twizard Rating: 90