Friday, July 14, 2017

Speed Reviews: Life, A Dog's Purpose, CHIPS & The Belko Experiment

     Well, this seemed to work well with my Stash Or Trash: Spider-Man Films (2002-2014) video so let’s give it a go here.  I’ve been getting caught up on a bunch of movies that I needed to watch and due to time restraints, I won’t have a chance to give each one an individual review so we’re gonna lump ‘em together for some speed reviews.  Each movie will have about a paragraph or two devoted to it so this post isn’t a mile long.  Let’s get started!

      Life stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ariyon Bakare and is about the crew of a space station studying a new life form that they have discovered only to have it turn hostile towards them.  The best way I can describe this movie is imagine if you put Alien, Evolution (sans the humor, for the most part) and Gravity in a blender.  There’s a great sense of claustrophobia to this movie as if you’re trapped in the narrow corridors of this station with the crew and it’s good that the movie actually spends time showing them off and getting you invested in them before it starts to throw them into danger.  When you watch the creature grow larger and smarter, your sense of hope gradually diminishes until you get to a point where you tell yourself, “They’re so screwed.”  My only complaints are that some of the dialogue gets really cheesy about an hour in and I called the ending a little earlier than I would’ve liked to admit.  I wouldn’t consider this movie a horror film like I do with Alien but Life is a really intense thriller with a nail-biting score, pretty believable creature effects and investing performances all around, even if Ryan Reynolds’ character is just a caricature of himself and I’m giving Life an Excellent.

"EXCELLENT!" *guitar peel*  

     A Dog’s Purpose is based on the W. Bruce Cameron book of the same name and tells the story of a dog (voiced by Josh Gad) as he experiences life as 5 different dogs and tries to understand why he is here in this world.  Now a premise like that sounds either cheesy or like a tear-jerker and having watched it, there was only one part that made my eyes water (mostly because it brought back painful memories) but it does feel kinda sappy all around.  The cast is…fine, really but some of Josh Gad’s line reading does sound a little phoned in, to be honest.  The biggest gripe I have with this movie is that the first 30 minutes of this movie drags and it doesn’t feel like anything is really happening.  After that, the movie rushes through Gad’s lives as these other dogs that comes to a satisfying enough conclusion.  It was neat to see from a dog’s perspective how they can/do perceive human behavior and habits but it didn’t pull me in enough.  This movie was filmed entirely in the province of Manitoba (where I live) and I must say that it is a strange feeling when you see a street in your old hometown CG’d to look like the 80s and you say, “Hey, I just drove down that literally the other day!”  A Dog’s Purpose is a totally serviceable movie, it probably won’t change your life one way or another and I’m giving it an Indifferent.

"Yeah, that happened..."

     Alright, full disclaimer: I never watched the original show that CHIPS is based off of because that was before my time and I don’t think it was a big enough deal with my parents that they would’ve wanted to show my brothers and I the reruns on TV so I’m approaching this one just as a movie.  Dax Shepard wrote, directed and starred in the movie as a failed X-Games athlete joining the California Highway Patrol to try and save his marriage and he is paired with Michael Pena who plays a sex addicted FBI agent going undercover to find a ring of crooked cops on the force.  The best things that I can say about this movie is that the catalogue of licensed songs that the movie uses is actually pretty good and on Pena’s first day on the force, the captain accidentally calls him “Officer Pantera,” which made me think of Phil, Dime, Rex and Vinnie as highway patrolmen and that would’ve made a much better film because CHIPS is awful.  The film doesn’t even try to have an element of mystery to it, choosing instead to reveal the villain very early on in the movie (Vincent D’Onofrio, what a surprise) so it can unload a plethora of unamusing dick jokes at the audience.  Seriously, this movie is 100 minutes long and I didn’t laugh once and if your movie is supposed to actually make people laugh, you’re doing something wrong.  There is no chemistry between the two leads, the humor goes raunchy for an attempt at a cheap laugh, it thinks loud equals funny, said unamusing jokes go on for way too long, when these two talked I found myself muttering, “Oh, shut the fuck up.”  I was annoyed 25 minutes in, pissed off by the hour mark and I’m giving CHIPS a Throwaway.

"Get the fuck outta here..."

     As much as CHIPS pissed me off, I do think The Belko Experiment is the worse film.  Even if done horribly, at least CHIPS had a story to tell whereas The Belko Experiment has more of a vapid gorno vibe to it which is disappointing because James Gunn wrote the script so you’d think I would’ve given something of a shit about the characters, right?  NOPE!  The story is these office workers are locked in their building and the only way they can get out is to kill each other and it’s as flavorless as it sounds.  The profanity and violence serve as nothing more than noise and spectacle, it's too...simple to be social commentary, the protagonists aren’t remotely likeable and no one else in the cast can salvage this.  I was ready for the movie to be over 45 minutes into the 90 minute runtime and that is never a good sign.  I would say at least the movie is mercifully short but the pacing of it makes it feel more like a 2 hour film and while it’s dangerously close to a Shoot Her, I am giving The Belko Experiment a Throwaway.

"Get the fuck outta here..."
      Before anyone asks, no, these two movies are not worse than A Cure For Wellness.  Just wanna put that out there.  Hopefully the next movie I review will better *cough*Apes*cough*.

     -The Cynic

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Great Wall Review

     2017 has actually been a pretty good year so far for my movie viewing experiences.  I'd only seen 12 2017 movies before sitting down to view The Great Wall and out of those 12, only 2 were duds.  I seem to recall a bit more of a balance by about this time last year so I watched this one, thinking that it might help pad out the Bad list.  I'll be completely up front with you, seeing the trailers for this movie did not make me excited one bit and Scholar and I figured that The Great Wall would end up being a hate watch, like what she did with last year's abomination Gods Of Egypt or our plans for this year's The Mummy.

      The story behind The Great Wall, conceived by Legendary Pictures CEO Thomas Tull and World War Z author Max Brooks, is that two surviving members of a platoon of European mercenaries have traveled to China to find out the secret of gunpowder.  After a strange encounter with a creature at their camp, William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Predro Pascal) happen across The Great Wall of China, only to find it heavily guarded and patrolled by an army known as The Nameless Order.  William and Tovar are captured and find themselves caught up in The Nameless Order's ongoing battle with a race of beasts known as the Tao Tei.  Having some emotional baggage, William agrees to help the Nameless Order in their fight in hopes of personal redemption.

     Now that sounds pretty silly, right?  Saying it out loud doesn't really do the movie any favors and the aforementioned trailers didn't help so I sat down with a big glass of Crown and Coke and gave it a watch...

     ...and Goddamn it, I kinda liked it.

Hey, I'm just as surprised as you are, Jing Tian.
      First of all, this is a pretty good looking movie.  There is a lot of sweeping landscape shots and a great sense of scale when getting good looks at both the wall and Bianliang later on, showing just how massive the threat they face is and even when the Tao Tei horde isn't featured onscreen, the cinematography is really nice during these moments.  When our characters reach the Wall, the movie receives a nice injection of color that the first few minutes sorely lacks with somewhat Blizzard-esque armor and weaponry being sported by The Nameless Order gives the aesthetic a more vibrant feel.  Kudos to Weta Workshop in this department because that looked great.
     Another thing that looked good was the action scenes when The Nameless Order engage the Tao Tei in combat.  The shots and editing used during these moments were clear, coherent and not so overdone that you couldn't see what was going on, which was good because this allowed the movie to unleash some brutality during these moments that I thought were pretty intense for a PG-13 movie.  The Great Wall doesn't really shy away from the fact that The Nameless Order are just as likely to get mass casualties just as the Tao Tei.  Naturally, it's not as brutal as something like Hacksaw Ridge but I was surprised by some of the shots showing what became of some of the soldiers during these fights.
     If I had to pick one thing that I enjoyed the most about this movie, it would be the score.  It was actually the first thing I noticed just as the movie was starting up.  Ramin Djawadi's music has the feel of your typical major Hollywood blockbuster but there was also a playful undertone to it which gave me flashbacks to Klaus Badelt's score for the first Pirates Of The Caribbean film.  I'm listening to this soundtrack as I write this review and to be honest, I would buy it.

Just wanted an excuse to show these costumes.
     However, a great movie The Great Wall is not.  One of the biggest problems I had with it, now that I think about it, is that there a couple of side characters in this movie that just do not need to be here.  Pedro Pascal and Willem Dafoe's respective characters don't really add much to the story other than an obligatory human threat to the well being of The Nameless Order and the pacing of the movie suffers whenever they're on.  Their performances are fine (actually, everyone is fine in this movie although it takes Matt Damon a few minutes to really get into it) and I don't have anything against the actors but they just weren't that interesting to follow.  Whenever Tovar and William would get into a spat, I found myself wanting to get back to The Nameless Order stuff, not because of the action and the costume designs but their ranks, hierarchy and way of life was more engaging and even then, I wasn't completely wrapped up with those characters either.  Pascal and Dafoe's characters could've been cut from the movie and I don't think much would've really been lost.
     I am also on the fence about the Tao Tei's designs.  They grew on me a bit more as the film progressed but the first good look you get at them 19 minutes in left me feeling very underwhelmed at the designs and, well, you only get one chance at a first impression.  Other than that, there's your typical blockbuster movie nitpicks: some bad greenscreen near the beginning of the film, it gets very, VERY CGI heavy at the end and it doesn't always look the best and I can imagine there's probably a lot of people who were mad/disappointed at a tease of a big action sequence that we only ever saw the aftermath of.
     In the end...yeah.  The Great Wall is not the wreck I was expecting it to be.  It's not a game-changer in the action movie genre, the dialogue isn't Tarantino levels and there's very little humor to be had here but it is an enjoyable, CG creature-feature war film with some pretty intense action sequences and an overall fun feel to it.  I'm not saying I'd run out and buy the Blu-Ray full price but if I found it in the cheap bins, I'd honestly pick it up.  I'm giving The Great Wall the ranking of a Fun Ride.

      So folks, what did you think of The Great Wall?  As always, thank you so much for reading and if you like what you see on this blog, you be sure to nudge that "Follow" button and stay cynical!

     -The Cynic

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Nine Lives Review

     As someone who really likes watching movies and listening to/partaking in discussions about them, sometimes a movie will come up that is notoriously bad, like "the reputation precedes it" bad and sometimes, against one's better judgement, a person may find themselves seeking out the film in question to say, "Okay, let's see if it is really that bad."  Well, that was me with Nine Lives and thanks to Netflix, I was able to see it and we're gonna talk about it.

     Nine Lives stars Kevin Spacey as Tom Brand, a multi-millionaire business man who is too obsessed with his company that he more or less completely neglects his second wife (Jennifer Garner) and daughter (Malina Weissman).  He goes to buy his daughter a cat (even though he can't stand them) but something happens at his office building that puts his body in a coma but his mind is now in the cat that he bought.  So now he has to save his marriage, his company and his human body while being a cat.

Yeah, I made this face reading that part too...
     So...where to begin?  Well, I noticed that the movie wastes very little time turning you off of the overall look of the thing.  After the movie opens with some cat videos pulled from FailArmy montages, the camera shoots up from two most-likely CGI kittens playing on the shore of a river upwards past the skyline of Manhattan and up to a plane Spacey is about to parachute out of and not a frame of it looks convincing.  The speed that the shot zooms up coupled with the awful green screen and CG effects make for a very unpleasant sight and it doesn't stop there.  At the 3:28 mark, everything in the movie took on a very plastic, overly synthetic look and I groaned when I realized I still had another 85 minutes to go.  Every scene transition feels just as unpleasant as that zooming to the plane shot, whether it'd be a zooming shot through the scaffolding of Spacey's new tower that would make CSI demand the movie dialed it back a little, the cartoony closing black circle transition or just the fact that the movie jumps all over the place without giving us much to latch onto story-wise.
     The cast here seems really disinterested in the whole affair.  Spacey seems alright when he's in human form but once he becomes a cat, his line reading sounds similar to the opening of The Last Airbender where it sounded like instructions being read off the back of a pizza box, specifically his realization of his situation.  It's not Matthew Perry in Fallout: New Vegas bad but it's still bad.  Garner and Weissman are serviceable, I guess but nothing really stood out about them.  I think I may have been distracted by the presence of Spacey's ex-wife (Cheryl Hines) and her daughter (Talitha Bateman), who keep popping up because Garner and Hines' characters are apparently friends but I didn't buy it.  Hell, I bought the rift between Weissman and Bateman even less as the forced conflict they had is as synthetic as the look of the film.  Christopher Walken is doing his usual Walken thing while Mark Consuelos' Ian comes off as the most cartoony aspect of this movie and the whole time he was on, I kept thinking he looked like a discount bin version of Oscar Isaac.  Robbie Amell is in this as well as Spacey and Hines' son but I never really got a sense of what his job actually was and it turns out he just basically became a plot device to thwart Consuelos in the end.

"Why are we here, cat?"  "I ask myself the same thing, Cousin of Arrow."
     As for the special effects, remember the Garfield movies?  Yeah, when the cat is CG, I had flashbacks to that and while I do remember Garfield not being as bad as it could have been, the CG there was bad by 2004 standards as is the case here.  Sure, the cat's overall design here is more believable since when it isn't CG, an actual cat is used but the CG sticks out like a very sore thumb.  This movie had a budget of $30 million but most of that went to the cast me thinks, leaving the visual FX team very little to work with.
     Look, I didn't go into Nine Lives expecting anything great, or good for that matter.  Yet, I still found myself disappointed once I reached the end credits.  Why, you ask?  Because Nine Lives' greatest offense is that it is just boring, which (depending on who you ask) could actually be worse than infuriating because at least when a movie pisses you off, you feel something.  There isn't the bludgeoning of extremely nauseating CGI and acting like Gods Of Egypt, the heavy-handed obnoxiousness of Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates or even good ideas gone awry like Batman vs Superman, instead we're left with a film that almost seems like it is actually putting effort into being not interested in its own existence.  Most people walk away from a movie disappointed that they didn't like it more but here I'm disappointed that I didn't dislike this movie more.  Nine Lives is just another one of those movies where it doesn't try because it is aimed at kids, where I've said before just because you're aimed at a certain demographic doesn't mean you shouldn't try.  This movie may not have infuriated me like it has others but if you haven't seen it yet, keep it that way because it still sucks and with that, I'm giving Nine Lives the rating of a Throwaway.

Get the fuck outta here!
      Feel free to sound off below, what did you think of Nine Lives and what is your favorite or least favorite talking animal movie?  Thanks for reading and if you like what you see on this blog, be sure to nudge that "Follow" button and stay cynical!

     -The Cynic