Monday, December 8, 2014

Movie Review: Horrible Bosses 2

Nobody will argue that Horrible Bosses 2 is an original or poignant film. In fact most people are probably wondering why they even bothered with a sequel. Not I however. I love me some dumb lolz and Horrible Bosses 2 brings the lowbrow humor in spades.

Last time, our heroes Nick, Kurt and Dale [Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day] hatched a zany scheme to kill their tyrannical employers that didn't work out so well but brought lots of cheap laughs and crazy hijinks to the big screen. It's pretty much the same deal here, only instead of plotting a series of murders, they've decided to go the kidnapping route. It's like the running gag from this years 22 Jump Street where they keep referring to the plot of the last movie, "Just like last time." Nick is still the only guy with common sense, Kurt is still a raging horn dog and Dale is the totally loveable but oh so wild miscreant. In fact the villain in this one is less twisted than any of the three 'horrible bosses' from the first film. Sure he's a douche-y cut throat business man, but there are millions of those dudes out in the world. This sort of makes the gang's plot to kidnap his son a feel a little contrived...but who cares? Shit is funny!

From the opening scene it's clear that this movie gives no fucks whatsoever. I don't know if they even had a script because the whole thing feels like a gloriously long improve session between the cast. Yes it's so super raunchy, crude and repetitive but, as a former twelve year old boy I can appreciate the lost art of juvenile, potty humor. The past decade of smart ass yet sanitized, Judd Apatow branded comedies has left a void in my heart. It's refreshing to see stupid comedy excel at being both.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Movie Review: The Hunger Games- Mockingjay (Part 1)

The latest installment of The Hunger Games movie franchise is easily the darkest film of the year. I'm not talking about the film's content either [although it's pretty grim itself]. No, I mean the picture quality is literally black as midnight. Lots of scenes take place in secret underground bunkers or inside abandoned buildings and it makes for one of the muddiest pictures I've ever seen. Be prepared to squint and grimace slightly while watching this one. Of course the film's ridiculously forced love triangle and sheer lazy directing/camera work might have you doing that anyways.

What's my beef with The Hunger Games you ask? In case you missed my evisceration of the last film, I'll summarize by saying they're just way too bland for my liking. Mockingjay 1.0 falls victim to the same troubles that plagued Catching Fire, and suffers from some new mistakes as well. The script is still a big bag of "meh" [as most films adapted from 'Young Adult' fiction tend to be] but Mockingjay lacks the dazzling set pieces that propelled the first two films. Jennifer, Katniss, is no longer a wee young lass trapped inside the games. That means no more crazy fight sequences or wacky costumes from the Capitol. Now Katniss is transitioning into the role of freedom fighter and hanging out with the resistance in their less than glamorous subterranean headquarters. Because Mockingjay was divided into two films to maximize profits, that means all the "cool" stuff is being saved for the series finally, which leaves nothing but exposition and Jennifer Lawrence making "OMG" faces every five minutes in this one.

The lame script and, you know...lack of any real climax, could have been countered by some crafty camera work or truly standout performances. Mockingjay 1.0 has none of that. John Wick might be the most cliched movie ever made; yet the directors counter the banality of it's plot with awesome camera tricks and direction that keeps the audience engaged. Mockingjay is by comparison...a snoozefest. The fact that Julianne Moore and Philp Seymour Hoffman share multiple scenes together, which constitutes an Amber Waves & Scotty J. Boogie Nights reunion, is The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1's only saving grace.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Movie Review: Dumb and Dumber To

Dumb and Dumber To is a real thing. Sure it’s fifteen years too late and an obvious nostalgia cash grab…but it exists. The how’s and whys aren’t important, to fans of the original, who grew up under the sage tutelage of Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn, there’s only one thing they care about regarding this ill-timed sequel: does it suck? Will the pristine legacy of the original be sullied by this…you get the picture.

So what’s the verdict? Dumb and Dumber To isn’t a total abomination. It’s not as hilarious as it’s predecessor, but it does provide few big laughs of its own and stays true to the spirit of the original. Or in other words: “WE LANDED ON THE MOON!”

The movie takes place twenty years after the fiasco in Aspen, where that little filly Mary Swanson broke ol’ Lloyd’s heart. He’s been recovering in a convalescent hospital for the past two decades in a state of catatonia. Harry stops by every week to check on his pal and help take care of him until…nevermind. Nobody cares about Dumb and Dumber To’s plot. The only thing that matters is that Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels still have amazing chemistry together. The movie really struggles in the first act because we, and Lloyd, have twenty years’ worth of catching up to do and exposition has never been the Farrelly Brothers’ strong point, but once our heroes get into their groove, it starts to feel like old times again which is really all anyone wants to see.

Dumb and Dumber To isn’t a complete travesty and with beer/nostalgia goggles on it might actually be hilarious. I’m not quite sure but, it brought a smile to this overtly cynical ol’ bastard’s face.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Movie Review: Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal is a fucking mad man. His outstanding, tour de force performance in Nightcrawler will be talked about for ages and will further reinforce this point. We’ve seen traces of brilliance throughout his career [Brokeback Mountain, End of Watch, Prisoners], and we all know Gyllenhaal is at his best playing weirdoes [Donnie Darko, Zodiac, Enemy] and not the pretty boy leading man stuff he’s dabbled with in the past [Prince of Persia…get outta here]. Now we’ve finally been blessed with Jake going full on uber creep/psycho with Nightcrawler, in what is easily the most startling and mesmerizing performance of his career.

Gyllenhaal stars as Louis Bloom, a reclusive conman who roams the streets of Los Angeles trying to scrape out a living, applying for odd jobs here and there, stealing and occasionally assaulting/robbing people. You know, the usual. After witnessing a fiery accident on the freeway one evening and seeing a pair of opportunistic freelance news videographers record the scene, Bloom finally finds his niche in life. Gyllenhaal’s character is a sociopath who lives alone, despises people and but simultaneously yearns for success and validation. Imagine the Grinch with Asperger’s and a violent streak and you’ll start to see the picture. Nightcrawler does two things and does them both rather well, it showcases the seedy seed of the cutthroat local news scene, and is a fascinating character study unlike anything we’ve seen since Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. Ruthless, greedy, conniving misanthropes who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, Louis Bloom and Daniel Plainview are veritable peas in a pod, just as Gyllenhaal’s all-encompassing performance is reminiscent of Daniel Day-Lewis’ Oscar winning role.

First time director Dan Gilroy has crafted a wicked character piece about an utterly wicked individual, up there with Taxi Driver and American Psycho. He’s also put together one hell of an ode to Los Angeles. Yes, we’ve got Hollywood in our backyards and all, but very few films seem to capture the LA vibe the way Nightcrawler does [see: Collateral, Training Day, etc]. Gilroy is a longtime screenwriter who also wrote Nightcrawler’s script, and he maneuvers the camera in such way that proves he knows the ins and outs of this story like the back of his hand. There are dozens of knuckle gripping moments in this film, along with a wild chase scene at the end that blows all that overdone Fast And The Furious stuff away, which makes Nightcrawler one of the weirdest and most exciting films of the year. Gyllenhaal’s performance is worth the admission price alone, good thing the rest of the movie is pretty rad itself.

Movie Review: John Wick

John Wick is as close to a perfect action film as we’re gonna get in 21st Hollywood. Embrace it. As the fine folks at Ruthless Reviews have already illustrated in their official Guide to 80’s Action, the glory days of the mindless action romp peaked during the Reagan years. When story arcs and even special effects took a backseat to the glory of mindless [borderline homoerotic] carnage; when buff dudes named Arnold, Sly and Jean-Claude could frolic shirtless onscreen and punch/mud wrestle/murder tons of random faceless enemies. The Soviets, the drug cartels, even ninjas, whoever messed with our grizzled protagonists where going to get their asses handed to them for the next ninety minutes of brainless, but oh so awesome, super violent fun.

John Wick is an unabashed genre flick that harkens back to the glory days of 80’s style overindulgence. Keanu Reeves stars in the film’s titular role, playing a retired hitman who is thrust back into the murder scene, after some random thugs with mafia connections steal his car and worse, kill his dog. That’s it. That’s the whole plot right there. In typical 80’s action form, John Wick is a widow morning the loss of his dead wife. Like the Reagan administration itself, the women of 80’s action movies didn’t really do much, other than get in the way of Hulkamania inspired alpha male mayhem. The ladies are either dead, kidnapped or somewhere just off camera screaming for rescue [or pleasure], and only serve as a catalyst for unadulterated vengeance. Reeves [aka Neo, aka Johnny Utah, aka Johnny Mnemonic and whatever his name was in Speed] is no stranger to the action genre and he plays his character to perfection. Arnold said “I’ll be back” in 1984 and changed the world forever. Keanu says “Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back!” thirty years later and 80's action fiends piss themselves with joy.

Stuntmen turned directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski are the true heroes of John Wick. Their years as stunt doubles to the stars [Stahelski was Reeve’s double on The Matrix] and master fight choreographers made them beyond qualified to handle directing duties this time around. The fight scenes and gun battles are fluid and mesmerizing. No shaky cam or ADD editing to mask what’s going on, we see Keanu kick ass and sprout one-liners like the gods of 80’s action films before him. If you like popcorn, headshots, and listening to Keanu Reeve’s world weary voice in THX surround, go see John Wick ASAP.