Weed. Noodles. Lex Luthor. Exploding cars. Weed. Spoon fights. Hammers. Weed. The CIA. Grenades. Huell from Breaking Bad. Weed. Teddy bears. Weed. An astronaut monkey. More weed. American Ultra has a lot of things going on, that's for sure, especially when you consider that the actual film is only an hour and half long. You may not recognise the name Max Landis at this stage in time, but give him a year or two and we'll all be anticipating his next release. I know I already am.
American Ultra follows the story of two stoners, Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) and Phoebe (Kristen Stewart). Mike works at the local convenience store and spends his free time smoking weed or doodling the adventures of a comic book character he's come up with. On a seemingly uneventful night, he's visited by a member of government, Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton), who makes an attempt at "activating him." It doesn't appear to work at first, but after two thugs try to blow up his car, his hidden secret agent skills are activated and he kicks some ass. Using soup, a spoon and, eventually, a gun, he kills them both, starting up a series of frantic events involving everything listed in the first paragraph. It's one chaotic movie and it's a lot of fun.
American Ultra is writer Max Landis' follow up to 2012's Chronicle, and director Nima Nourizadeh's follow up to 2012's Project X. While I haven't seen Project X, I did see Chronicle multiple times, and wow, these are two completely different movies. On the one hand, we have a dark and gritty found footage horror film, and then on the other, there's a stoner action/romantic comedy. They both work so well for different reasons, making Max Landis a name to be on the alert for. His upcoming film, Victor Frankenstein, looks promising. After seeing this, I can only hope for the best, and I'm starting to expect the best as well.
As we travel down the rabbit hole, we're provided with a much deeper film than one would expect. It's not trying to say an awful lot, nor is it trying to win any Oscars, but it's got a surprising amount of heart to it, managing to create some extra stakes when it comes to the more intense action sequences. There's a solid relationship built up between Eisenberg and Stewart, and as the film begins to unfold itself, this relationship is given more layers than you'd predict. The film manages to become more than just your average stoner romp. It's no Inherent Vice, but it's fun.
Jesse Eisenberg, who's rocking a greasier, darker version of the hair-do we'll see him in in Batman V Superman, completely blew me away. Much like in his many previous comedies, he plays the bumbling awkward guy who ends up being the best character in the entire movie. His character goes from being a stoner to being Jason Bourne on steroids and the transformation is incredibly entertaining to watch, full of blood, guts and gore, and even a little bit of weed here and there. There's a scene where he starts crying over a tree and it's one of the most simultaneously heartfelt and hilarious scenes in the entire movie.
That being said, this does result in more than a few tonal shifts. While each of the individual scenes plays out excellently, as a whole they're a bit everywhere. There's action, there's romance and there's comedy, and while it can from time to time play off smoothy, it can also create a few bumps in the road, especially when the comedy aspect drops the ball a little bit. These many tonal shifts, unfortunately, lower the overall energy of the film, but by the time the third act comes around the film is just balls to the wall crazy and it's a blast.
To sum up, American Ultra is a fun stoner romp that unevenly tries to balance out comedy, romance and action. The result is one hell of a good time, but the few bumps get in the way of the constant energy. Jesse Eisenberg kills someone with a spoon though, so that was amazing.
3 1/2 Stars
What's going on, Zac? No, seriously. What's up? Are you feeling okay? Do you need to lie down or something? I mean, I can run down to the store and buy you an aspirin if you want one? No? Oh, okay. Well, maybe it's best for you to just take a seat for a little bit. Get that oxygen you need, maybe even a bit of water. I honestly feel a little sorry for you. Hangovers are the worst. You do one good movie, feel like shit the next day, and then to cure your hangover you stupidly decide to do this. Sorry, man. Maybe next time it'll work out.
I know this part of the review is usually where I give you a general rundown of the plot of this movie, but We Are Your Friends doesn't necessarily have too much of a plot to summarise. It's a film that just sort of.... I don't even know. The protagonist of the film is Cole Carter (Zac Efron), a 23 year old wannabe DJ living in California. He's all like "hey, I want to be a DJ." And his friends are all like "hey, we have our own ambitions." So he's like "well, I don't care because I want to be a DJ and there's nothing you can do about it." So they're all like "well, shit, dude. You've got us there. Let's help you out." So Zac's all like "thanks, guys. Aren't friends the best? I'm totally going to ditch you all in 20 minutes time." And then a few things happen involving DJs or whatnot. I don't really know. I was too busy watching Zac Efron take his shirt off. I'm straight, but damn, boy. He's got a lot of muscle under that shirt of his.
Many films can get away with doing absolutely nothing. In fact, if you look through a lot of classic films, most of them are literally about people talking to each other. It can be exciting to watch. In We Are Your Friends, there's absolutely no excitement whatsoever. It's a film about nothing and it achieves nothing, completely wasting my time, although hopefully not yours. We follow Zac "please forget that I was in High School Musical" Efron's journey from a party boy to, well, a famous party boy. By the end of the film he's not changed one bit. As a matter of fact, none of his friends are, so that's a bit disappointing.
As this 96 minute movie goes on, and trust me when I say it will feel a lot longer than 96 minutes, my attention span gradually decreased, eventually getting to a point where I just gave up following along with what was happening. Although that's not to say much was happening. The film starts out pretty watchable, setting up a story that's familiar, but promising, only to throw in more and more clichés every couple of minutes until it got to a point where I could literally tell you, in detail, what's going to happen in a few minutes time. And the funny thing is that I was always right.
The film tries to tell us so many things about art and friendship and how we should be living our lives, yet the film isn't even good enough to not do the things it's telling us not to do. The friends are given minimal screen time, these characters never change their lifestyle and worst of all, the film is constantly hammering in that we shouldn't borrow other people's techniques and that we should create our own, yet nothing about this movie is fresh. It's 96 minutes of borrowed techniques. Way to go, people. Way to freaking go.
That being said, the cast and crew do try their best. Director Max Joseph does manage to give a certain rhythm to the first act of his film, although this rhythm is soon forgotten, replacing stylised shots with slow motion zoom ins on Emily Ratajkowski's breasts as she dances to the music. Her performance is fine, but really, she's just there for eye candy. Half of her scenes are shot from the neck down and I wish that was a joke. The real star of this movie is Zac Efron, and I'm glad that's not a joke. He's excellent in the role, creating a believable character in a believable world, even if half of his lines are absolutely cringe worthy.
To sum up, We Are Your Friends is a 96 minute bore that starts out reasonably energetic, but quickly looses that energy and replaces it with slow motion dancing. There's a line that goes "that's the best part. The moment before it starts." That's one very truthful line as it can be applied to this exact movie.
There are some films that stick with you long after they're done. Everybody has those films. You see them, you love them and when the movie's done, they refuse to leave your mind. They've oozed their way into every nook and cranny of your brain and there's no escaping their thought. More often than not, this turns out to be a good thing. It gives you time to digest them. You get to think about what went on for just a little longer. I saw The Gift over a week ago and it's still oozing around in my mind, and when it comes to Australian theatres on the 27th, I can almost guarantee it'll ooze around your mind, too.
Written and directed by Joel Edgerton, The Gift follows the story of Robyn (Rebecca Hall) and her husband Simon (Jason Bateman). Happily married and hopeful for kids, the two move back to Simon's childhood town to get a fresh start in life. With a wonderful new house purchased, the two couldn't be happier. That's when they run into Gordo (Joel Edgerton), a high school buddy of Simon's who persistent on starting their friendship back up. However, things take a strange turn when Gordo starts being overly kind and just a little outside the norm. Providing them with plenty of gifts and visiting nearly every day, he seems friendly, but it's a one sided friendship. Simon and Robyn uncomfortable with his constant presence, they try to take things back a notch, but he's just getting started.
The Gift is a film that starts out as your normal, every day thriller. It's not bad, it's far from it, but it feels generic. Don't be fooled. The Gift is anything but generic, and Edgerton's screenplay does a mesmerising job at changing things up. You start out nervous, a little shaky even, but you're not too worried. You'll have images running through your mind of what's probably going to be going down in an hours time. I know I did. Then the film continues to go along, revealing more and more details about the plot and these characters, and my jaw progressively began to drop.
It does have its clichés here and there, but they're put in their, mostly, to mislead you, as an audience member. They're there to make you feel like you know where this plot is going, and then Edgerton completely pulls the rug out from under you and it's absolutely shocking. His screenplay is so rich and vibrant, getting you invested in these characters and then slowly pulling all of them towards the darkness, away from your safe nurturing. I could do nothing except watch as these characters I cared about were plunged into a state of no return.
I never once felt that Edgerton was behind the camera this entire time. There was never a moment in this movie where I said to myself "ah, that old cinema trick." For the entire runtime, this felt real. Edgerton managed to get me so invested in this film that I honest to God forgot I was even watching one. The events on screen never play out how they would in your run of the mill horror movie. No, they always feel unexpected and exciting. They're shocking and unpredictable and made me forget about reality entirely. That's one of the biggest praises I can give a movie.
As the story continued to unfold, I was constantly left hanging on a lose thread. When the ending comes around, that thread is cut, and I was left plummeting into a state where my mind physically exploded. It's an ending that left me emotionally distraught and psychologically manipulated. In a similar way to the ending of last year's Gone Girl, this ending will make or break the movie for people. For me, it most certainly made it. The problems people have with it are just ludicrous, for there's so much more to it than the haters bring up. It's an ending you certainly won't see coming.
Jason Bateman gives the performance of his career in this movie. There's no comedy to be found here. It's just a straight up psychological thriller with a performance so good, it left me shaking. As we get deeper and deeper into the plot, Bateman is allowed to play around a whole lot more than he could've at the start. His role is less restricting, and the result is fantastic. He may not be the central character of the movie, but he's certainly the standout. But this film primarily revolves around Rebecca Hall. She's the one home all the time. She's the one Joel Edgerton comes to visit the most. She's the one whose perspective we see everything from. And she's absolutely fantastic. Transcendence, be gone! The Gift is in town.
To sum up, The Gift, surprisingly enough, is the must see movie this August. It's a psychologically traumatising movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat long after the credits role. The leads are sensational and Edgerton's directing is priceless, and the ending had me shaking.
4 1/2 Stars
When I sat down to watch this movie, I honestly thought it was that new Transporter film. I knew it was called Hitman: Agent 47, but whenever I went to think about it, all I could see was Transporter. I don't know why. As the ads continues to roll, and I continued to chug down popcorn I so wasn't hungry for, my mind was set and ready to go. I wasn't excited, but I was ready. Then, not long before the film actually started, they played the trailer for The Transporter: Refuelled. You must imagine my confusion as I started to watch a trailer for what I, at first, believed was the movie I was about to witness.
Hitman: Agent 47 is based on the popular video game revolving around the titular character, Agent 47 (Rupert Friend). He's a genetically engineered assassin who always follows through with his contracts, no matter what methods he must use to complete this. The creation of agents has been shut down for quite some time now, but a group known as the Syndicate (a popular villain organisation name this year) is attempting to start it back up, only they need the help of an off the charts woman named Katia (Hannah Ware). Not wanting the program to reboot, Agent 47 hunts down Katia in the hopes that he can get to her first. The problem that stands in his way is John Smith (Zachary Quinto), a man equipped with skill.... and genetically modified skin. So yeah, he's a bit of a nuisance, isn't he?
There are some films I see that just make me furious. They're so painfully bad that I just want to scream at the top of my lungs when the film comes to a close. There's been plenty already this year, the most recent example would be the new Fantastic Four movie. I pretty much did scream when it was over, but I managed to somehow vocalise my screams into a semi-coherent sentence. Hitman: Agent 47 is on the same level as these films. What differentiates them, however, is that when this film came to a close, I had absolutely no desire to scream or curse or yell anything. I merely rolled my eyes and left the cinema. It's a film not worthy of anyone's time or oxygen. I honestly wasn't bothered with it.
But since I am so dedicated to all you loyal readers, I'm still here to provide you with my thoughts on this mess of the movie. This film completely drained the life out of me. If you've ever been under surgery, they either put you to sleep with a needle or gas. I'm not sure what happened during this movie, but just looking at it gave me the same feeling as being gassed before surgery. I constantly felt as if I'd blacked out during the previous scene, missing a key piece of the story, but alas, I hadn't. The film was merely messy enough to make me think that way.
The film is fast in pace and finishes before you know it, but it's still a struggle to get through. It's uneventful and feels like an hour and a half long third act of another movie. Literally every scene in this film is treated like one final twist in a romantic drama, or a final boss battle in a video game. Maybe that's why the film felt like it was going so fast, because I always thought it was about to finish. I checked my watch thirty minutes in, thinking that things were wrapping up, despite being fully aware of the fact that it had only just begun.
Despite not going for the shaky cam style of filming action sequences, director Aleksander Bach still manages to find other ways of harassing his audience's eyeballs. Whether it's strobe lighting or Taken 3 levels of editing, the action may look smooth, but it's bound to cause a seizure or two. When he does manage to hold the shot for more than an eighth of a second, the shot is always chocker block with CGI, taking you out of the moment yet again. If you were ever in the moment, that is.
There's so many things wrong with this movie, yet for some reason I really don't feel fussed enough to talk about them. This is one of those movies you'll mindlessly come across on television late one night, watch ten minutes and then fall asleep. From its poor acting to the cringe worthy screenplay to its many, many clichés, nothing about this movie will really convince you to stay up until 1am watching it. When the day comes that you see this starting at 11:30 at night, turn it right off.
To sum up, Hitman: Agent 47 is a clichéd, poorly handled action film that's nauseating to watch and makes very little sense. Don't be surprised if you see this floating around your television late on a Monday night. Don't feel like you have to watch it, either.
1 1/2 Stars
Sequels to certain franchises are inevitable. It's the truth. No matter where we go, how well we hide or how far we run, a sequel is always going to be one step behind us, waiting to pounce on us and ruin fond memories we have of that franchise. Name one decades old franchise that took a break from making films for a long, long time, only to have a new sequel released some time in the last three years that was actually good. There's tonnes of franchises to choose from. Can you pick one? No, James Bond doesn't count. No, Star Wars doesn't, either. Nope, can't choose 21 Jump Street. That was a TV show. Exactly. You can't choose a good one. This new Vacation movie is here to keep this trend up.
This new Vacation movie, now the 5th film in this sort-of beloved franchise, when really everybody only remembers two of the films, tells the story of Rusty Griswold (Ed Helmes). The son of our previous protagonist, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), now has a wife (Christine Applegate) and a family of his own. The problem is that they're not really getting along as well as he hoped. The sons are constantly fighting and he and Debbie, his wife, are starting to do the same old thing time and time again. Hoping to bond, and much to the reluctance of the rest of his family, Rusty has the idea to recreate his family holiday from when he was a child and for them to go and visit Wally World. And then literally the exact same plot as the first film occurs, but look guys, the filmmakers know that so it's self aware, right? Right?!?!
First thing's first. Pointing out that you're literally copying another movie does not make your film a self aware, comedy jackpot, much like last year's 22 Jump Street was. That film worked so well at being self aware that it's actually become a trend nowadays for sequels, especially those that fall into the genre of comedy, to be self aware. Some cases are forgivable, Horrible Bosses 2 merely makes me roll my eyes and I forget about it, but Vacation is not. If you've seen the first film, you've seen this one. There's literally one scene in this entire movie where they address the fact that this is a reboot and that it's okay that they're copying the original film. It's not okay. It's the opposite of okay. You're not being a smart, self aware comedy, you're being lazy and digging real deep to find an excuse for being ever so lazy.
The thing is, I don't feel like this film was originally written to be self aware. Like I said, there's literally only one scene in the entire movie where they do a little wink towards the audience and say "hey, look at us. We're making fun of reboots and remakes." They're not making fun of them at all. 22 Jump Street made fun of sequels. This is the thing that they were making fun of. This new Vacation follows the original film plot beat by plot beat, even taking the time to steal a joke or two or seven. Remember that scene in the original where Chevy Chase is waving to an attractive woman in the car next to his? HAHAHAHA WE STOLE IT, BUT ADDED MORE DESTRUCTION!!! Remember when the Griswold's car breaks in the middle of nowhere? HAHAHAHA WE STOLE IT, BUT ADDED MORE DESTRUCTION!!! Remember when... okay, you get the point.
The jokes are undeniably a hit and miss, but the ones that hit are actually pretty damn funny. Vacation isn't an awful movie, it's merely a mediocre one, although it could've been a lot better. In fact, one way to drastically improve it would be to not have it exist at all, but let's not go there. Not yet. But like I was saying, the jokes that hit are so painstakingly dumb that you can't help but laugh at them. It's got a Dumb and Dumber meets Anchorman vibe to it. It's not the same vibe as the original films, but it can occasionally work in this film's favour. The presence of Chris Hemsworth and Charlie Day, while both very brief, certainly made up for the several lifeless scenes that came before them.
Vacation's opening credits run over a series of catastrophic photos from different vacations. Not different Vacation movies, but literally random vacations random people around the world took. The sad part about it is that it's probably the funniest part of this movie, and when the funniest part of your movie isn't even an actual part of your movie, you should probably start to reconsider this movie's existence. For every joke that hit, three cringe worthy jokes followed. This new Vacation movie is painfully uneven. You should just spend your money on seeing Inside Out for the seventeenth time. Or save your money for more visits to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
To sum up, Vacation is another one of those sequels. It attempts to be self aware, but the result is uneven and unfunny, the only jokes that really do hit providing nothing more than a couple of chuckles. They're pretty funny, but they just don't come all that often.
The way movies are distributed and advertised always fascinates me. Companies are willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting movies such as the Transformers franchise, which will make a profit no matter how much it's advertised, yet they're not confident in advertising or distributing films such as Dope. When this film comes out in one week from today, it's going to hardly be seen by any of us here in Australia. Why? Because nobody knows it exists. The studio isn't confident in advertising it so that everybody knows of its existence and everybody wants to go see it. And everybody should go see it.
The film follows the story of Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his two best friends, Jib (Tony Ravolori) and Lily (Kiersey Clemons). They're three straight A students with a passion for 90s culture. They're also in a band together. Their band hasn't really gone anywhere, but they enjoy themselves and to them, that's what matters. Trying to impress a girl named Nakia (Zoë Kravitz), Malcolm encourages Jib and Lily to come to a drug dealer's birthday party with him. They go, and everything's going great until an unexpected raid occurs and everybody flees, Malcolm ending up with a back full of drugs that he must now get rid of without being caught.
Written and directed by Rick Famuyiwa, Dope is really something. It knows how strange it is and that makes it even more fascinating than it already is. There's a distinct style in the way Famuyiwa directs this movie and it thrives on the big screen. The film bounces around from scene to scene with a sort of funk that's hard to replicate. He's made a film truly unlike anything we've seen before. He has something very important to say and his voice is clearly heard.
Taking the lead role is Shameik Moore, his previous roles consisting mainly of one-off characters in little known television shows. He's an actor with very few roles under his belt, but he's full of potential. His performance in this movie is full of life, realism and energy, and I highly doubt that this is the last we've seen of him. His performance is raw and honest, but with just the right amount of fun, perfectly fitting in with the vibe of the entire film. He gets what the film is going for and he plays off of that.
His two best friends, played by Tony Ravolori, the secret weapon from last year's Grand Budapest Hotel, and Kiersey Clemons, also give damn good performances. While Ravolori is unable to top the absolutely wonderful performance in Budapest that he brought to our screens just last year, was that ever going to happen? It's hard to top a performance directed by Wes Anderson. In Dope, he honestly tries to top it, and he does manage to get so close. Alas, Budapest remains on top. But is that really a bad thing?
A huge element of this movie is the culture of the 90s. The three leads are infatuated with it, relishing every component of it, hip hop especially. This aspect of the movie, while only playing a minor part of the plot itself, feels so right in the context of things. It adds layers and personalities to these characters, proving them to be more than just your run of the mill teenage geeks. It gives them much needed depth and character, allowing this story to work as well as it does.
As I was watching this movie, I was really having a ball with it, but I was unsure of what it was trying to do. Don't get me wrong, it's a highly entertaining movie, even with a few hit or miss jokes, but it always felt like it wanted to say something. It wasn't. Then the ending happens and what do you know? It says something so unexpected and real that I was blown away by it. Its message is powerful and sticks with you, completely pulling the rug out from under you. I want to see this film again solely to view it through new eyes. It gives me a new perspective on the whole thing.
To sum up, Dope is a fresh, funky and extremely well done movie that's both hilarious and honest. It's a masterful effort from director Rick Famuyiwa with a powerful message that'll stick with you long after it's done.
3 1/2 Stars
2015 is shaping up to be a year of movie throwbacks and films that feel as though they've come straight out a previous decade. And I'm not just talking about sequels, either. Sure, we've got Terminator, Jurassic World, Star Wars and many others, but we're also getting new, original content that feels so refreshing, despite being something that would've felt so familiar a few decades ago. We've got Kingsman: The Secret Service, It Follows (which my review for is still coming. I promise it'll be up eventually), Spy and again, plenty of others. I don't know about you guys, but I sure am loving it. Except for Spy. I hated Spy. What do you mean everybody else loved that movie? SHUT UP, DUDE!
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is based on the 60s TV show of the same name and it follows the story of an American secret agent, Solo (Henry Cavill) and a KGB operative, Illya (Armie Hammer). The former enemies are forced to work together to take down a chain of criminals in Rome who are working on a nuclear weapon, granting them a significant amount of power that will affect both Russia and the United States. They must put aside their differences to take these former Nazi's down, along with a little help from Gaby (Alicia Vikander), who'll work as an entry point into the organisation. It's just a whole lot of fun, really.
From the stylised mind of Guy Ritchie, The Man From U.N.C.L.E is a brisk, fun and fast paced adventure that rarely fails to entertain. Cutting in at just under two hours, this film doesn't mess about, telling its story in exactly the right amount of time. There's no dawdling to be found here. What's necessary to the plot stays, nearly everything else goes, and the result is one hell of a good time at the movies. Because of its fast pace, the film relentlessly moves forward, never stopping long enough to take you out of the moment. You're always in it, invested in the film at hand.
Guy Ritchie directs the film with class and style. It's eccentric, it's over the top and it's everything a film like this should be. Ritchie is fully aware of what sort of film it is and his knowledge pays off. He's got a distinct tone to his directing; a certain approach, if you will. Don't be fooled by its 2015 release date. This is a movie made in the 60s, or at least that was my thought process watching this movie. Ritchie is a man of great talent and this is one of his best yet. But has he really made too many bad movies? Exactly.
Cavill and Hammer play two very conflicting characters in this movie and their relationship is priceless. Cavill's character is a straight up classy act, born and bred in the US of A. He's a charmer, a genius and he's the man with a plan, always knowledgable of his entrances and exits. He's one step ahead of everybody. That is except for his partner, Hammer's character. A Russian soldier with anger issues, it's refreshing to see Hammer acting again. If the Social Network showed he had talent, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. proves it.
The dialogue between the two of them just bounces through the air, not a single line failing to work. It's a very well written screenplay. Exaggerated and familiar, perhaps, but it's just so refreshing to see something as fun as this. We don't get too many films like this anymore and while I'm certainly not asking for hundreds more, having the odd one here and there is sure to bring a smile to my face. Fun is seriously the best word I can use to describe this movie and that's because it is. It really is just two hours of fun and I implore you to go see it this upcoming weekend.
The third lead of the film, Alicia Vikander, is, like always, enthralling. No matter what film she's in, whether it's the monstrosity that was Seventh Son or the masterclass effort that was Ex Machina, she's always one of the best components of the film. While Ex Machina remains her finest achievement in terms of performance, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. does a solid job at giving it a run for its money. The two are completely different movies, but they're both must sees. Vikander knows how to pick a script.
What I didn't expect for this film was for it to be as hilarious as it was. The film is absolutely hysterical, putting what could be considered dark situations, such as torture, in a lighter tone, resulting in a lot of belly laughs. There's a scene involving Hammer and Cavill in a boat chase that happens about halfway through the movie that's absolutely brilliant. While the whole film knows exactly what it is, this scene showcases that style the best. What starts out as a serious, possibly dangerous scenario soon turns into one of the funniest scenes in the entire movie.
To sum up, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a fun, energetic, stylised, over the top and completely entertaining cinema experience that will draw you in from the opening title sequence and never let you leave until its brisk runtime comes to an end. Talk about a crowd pleasing movie!
When you look back through the history of cinema, a lot of great actors have come and gone, some still currently in work. Charlie Chaplin, James Stewart, Clint Eastwood, Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro, Daniel Day Lewis, Jack Nicholson. The list goes on. Each one of them are famous in their own right, providing hours upon hours of constant entertainment. Looking through the names of younger actors currently working today, one man always pops into my mind. Jake Gyllenhaal. He's proved time and time again that he's dedicated to his roles, and long after he stops acting, I have no doubt he'll be looked upon as one of the greats.
Southpaw is the latest film from director Antoine Fuqua. If you're into entertaining R rated action flicks (going off of American classifications, of course), you've more than likely seen a film or two of his. His latest film finds aggressive boxer Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) in a very low state of life. After rising up to become a champion, Billy's life as a husband, a father and a boxer comes plummeting down. Without delving too much into spoilers, an event occurs one night at a charity event that leads to Billy being put on trial for the guardianship of his daughter, Leila (Oona Laurence). Due to his aggression, grief and occupation, the court doesn't deem him worthy to raise her, so he begins to fight not only in the ring, but also for his daughter.
Southpaw is a movie that takes several clichés from other sporting movies and blends them together into something that feels brand new, despite clearly not being so. On the surface, it's a fairly generic story of a boxer's redemption with in the ring and out of it, but this film brings so much more to the table than just that. The boxing story is great, don't get me wrong. It's predictable as hell, but it's entertaining nonetheless. The boxing, however, is merely a subplot of this intense, violent and often unnerving tale of a father, a daughter and their wish to see each other.
Because of how well the relationships between these characters are portrayed on screen, when shitty things begin to happen in this man's life, and a heck of a lot of shitty things do in fact happen, you can really feel his frustration. His anger bleeds off of the screen and it creates quite an emotional experience. For the entire first half of this movie, I was honest to God on the brink of tears. The entire time! Screenwriter Kurt Sutter does such a phenomenal job at bringing these characters to life and getting us to care about them, and the actors truly make the experience worthwhile.
All of the actors in this movie give powerhouse performances, Gyllenhaal especially. He's a maniac, buffing up for the role mere months after loosing a drastic amount of weight for last year's Nightcrawler. A superior film, no doubt, but they feature two very different Gyllenhaal's. In a way, both characters could be considered psychopaths. And in another way, both performances deserve Oscars. It's too late for Lou Bloom, but let's get a campaign going for Billy Hope to get the victory he truly deserves.
Rachel McAdams, while not playing too major of a role, shines, her performance absolutely incredible and completely heartbreaking. The final scene she shares with Gyllenhaal's character got my eyes swelling up, both of their performances taking my breath away. Another actress in this movie that stood out for me was Gyllenhaal's character's daughter, played by Oona Laurence. For a child actor, she's one of the best around, or at least it appears that way after watching her kill it on screen today. Her relationship with Gyllenhaal is believable and natural, and there's never a line that wasn't delivered poorly. Has Hollywood found their next big child actor? I'd say there's a chance.
Obviously, one of the major components of this movie is the boxing, and it's displayed fantastically. I don't feel as if this movie will be going down the same paths Rocky and Raging Bull did in terms of fame, but those who see it are in for a treat, and Southpaw delivers. While neither the greatest movie about boxing, nor the worst, there's no denying how well the fight scenes are handled. They're relentless, in your face and feel grounded in reality. There's no exaggeration to be found. There's a moment in the movie where one character is hit hard, flying backwards. What I loved most about this scene wasn't the triumphant punch, but the fact that Gyllenhaal's character naturally went for another punch, even though he didn't hit a thing. He'd already done what needed to be done. It felt real. It didn't feel like he knew the knockout was coming. It's just one of the many things I adored about this film.
To sum up, Southpaw is a boxing movie that takes a bunch of different clichés and somehow turns them into something fresh and exciting, and also providing us with an emotional core to the story and plenty of insane boxing sequences helps as well. That Gyllenhaal sure can act.
Please be advised that this review contains frequent strong language.
Superhero movies are arguably the biggest genre of filmmaking at the moment. They're coming at us left, right and centre, two currently playing in cinemas and one about to arrive on DVD and Blu-Ray. They're everywhere, with plenty more coming over the next few years. They're making profits and they're pleasing fans, much like myself. I love them. Honestly, I can't get enough of them, especially since they're all at the quality of which they are. Superhero teams appear to be the biggest profit maker, films such as X-Men, The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy not only receiving a large box office profit, but also gaining positive critical responses. Then there's this piece of shit.
Fantastic Four is about as generic as superhero movies come in terms of plot. Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is a high school genius who appears to have cracked inter dimensional travel in his shed, along with the help of his best friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell). They're approached by Doctor Storm (Reg R. Cathey), a scientist who offers Reed a chance to help out with the production of a machine that will allow them to travel to an alternate dimension. Reed accepts, patterning up with Doctor Storm's two children, Sue (Kate Mara) and Johnny (Michael B. Jordon), as well as an unpredictable scientist named Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell). They travel to this alternate dimension and things go awry, giving each of them superhuman abilities.
I'm not going to lie, until recently, I was looking forward to this movie. After the first trailer came out, I was actually quite impressed. It appeared to hold back a lot of footage, something most superhero movies are incapable of doing, but at the same time it gave off a promising vibe. Then the second trailer came out and I was absolutely sold. It looked brilliant. I was going to use the word fantastic there, but realised what the title of this movie is and I really don't want to be that guy. But anyway, I was keen, not wanting to see any more footage until I saw the final film. Evidently, it's actually pretty easy to make a great trailer out of a truly horrendous movie.
The film opens with an obligatory childhood sequence. While the sequence isn't necessarily awful, I was quite relieved when it was over. We soon catch up with Reed and Ben seven years later, and while you would think that this is the starting point of our story, it's really not. The film doesn't actually begin as poorly as you would expect. It's not great, but it's bearable. Then this opening sequence continues to go on... and on.... and on...... and on........ and on........ and it doesn't stop. I checked my watch one hour into this 100 minute movie and the Fantastic Four didn't even have their powers yet. ONE FUCKING HOUR INTO THE MOVIE!
After an hour of exposition and "your mum" jokes comes to an end (there's actually a "your mum" joke in this movie and it's the most out of character line I've heard in a long time), our heroes finally get ready to suit up and.... visit the other dimension. Do you know what the worst part of the other dimension sequence is? It's not that the CGI is god-awful, although it definitely is and not just in this sequence, and it's not that it's a fucking hour into the movie. It's the fact that Sue Storm doesn't even go with them on the expedition. She never steps one foot on the other planet. It's Reed, Ben, Victor and Johnny that go, and this pisses me off immensely, not just as a comic book fanboy either.
Sue is given absolutely nothing to do in this movie, not even in the film's only fight scene, which I will get to eventually. She's there to stand around, look pretty, be the source of a bit of (failed) tension between Reed and Victor and then become a member of the Fantastic Four. She's the least developed character in the film, and that's a difficult title to hold as I don't think a single character in this movie receives any sort of development during its minuscule runtime. The only character that does develop is Doom, and his development is so sudden that I couldn't even give two shits about what was going on.
Since we're on the topic of Doom, let's discus him, shall we? He looks fucking hilarious. The moment I saw his "evil looking" suit, I burst into laughter. Doctor Doom is a character so badass that it's actually difficult for him to be ruined when put on screen, yet somehow they still managed to completely fuck him up. Even the 2005 Fantastic Four movie did a better job at portraying his character. He's meant to be this big, sinister bad-guy that's capable of taking down the Avengers and what did we get? A wimpy ass computer nerd who for some unexplained reason hates the world and wants to see it all come crumbling down.
Because of how long the introduction to this movie takes, we only actually get to see Victor become Doctor Doom for a mere five to ten minutes, half of which involves him walking down a hallway randomly killing staff. There's literally one moment of action in this movie and it's the final fight, and the fight feels very rushed. The screenplay for this film still feels as if it's a first draft. The screenwriters were trying to get down all of their ideas and they started out promising, but soon realised they were running out of time and just scribbled down everything they wanted to do as fast as they could do it. It results in a short, underwhelming and completely rushed finale and doesn't even feel like a finale, yet is treated like one. When the film came to an end, the only words I managed to get out of my mouth was "that's it?" I stand by those words.
On top of that, because of how poorly written Doom is, the final battle contains absolutely no tension whatsoever. I couldn't give a shit about what was happening because we were only introduced to the "main villain" just moments ago. He arrives, he makes some comments about how he must leave the planet, goes back to the other dimension and then for some reason deems it a worthy idea to destroy Earth. Why? Who fucking knows and who fucking gives a shit! It's a pointless scenario without any motive and the result is completely underwhelming.
Once the so-called battle comes to an end, the film wraps things up really quickly. The final thirty minutes move so fast that it's almost a blur. It's the complete opposite to the first, slow burning and excruciatingly awful hour. And real quick, what's the deal with cutting sentences or triumphant actions off at the end of movies now? We got cut off from a Godzilla roar at the end of Godzilla, a T-Rex roar at the end of Jurassic World, a badass sentence at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, an initiation ceremony at the end of Pitch Perfect 2 and now something else I won't spoil at the end of Fantastic Four. It seems to be becoming a trend in big, blockbuster movies (plus Pitch Perfect 2) and I honestly have no idea why. It worked well for three of those and it worked painfully for two of them. You do the math. Or don't. I'll just tell you. It didn't work well for this and Pitch Perfect. There you go. You're welcome.
I'm honestly not sure who's to blame for this complete turd of a movie, but whoever it is better stay far, far away from these characters. I know it's not the actors faults, that's for sure. They haven't even seen the final movie yet. They merely did what they had to do to get a pay cheque and I'm hoping that it was a damn good pay cheque because a film as bad as this one is not something you want with your name (or face) on it. Miles Teller recently came out to say that the film won't be critically well received, but he hopes we can enjoy it for what it is. That's complete horse shit and we all know it. This film sucks. End of story. Now, can the rights to these characters (and more so their villains) please go back to Marvel? Thanks. And fuck you.
To sum up, the new Fantastic Four reboot delivers exactly what the super crappy older films did.... except this time around it's much, much worse. It's slow, painful and goes nowhere, leading up to an underwhelming finale with a poor excuse of a villain. I hate this movie so very much.