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.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Movie Review: Interstellar

Christopher Nolan is back folks. The acclaimed director’s new sci-fi, space exploration epic, Interstellar, is finally upon us. The hype behind this film has been ginormous to say the least. Shot in IMAX 70mm…on actual film! Features minimal CGI! Uses man made sets and practical effects! Academy award winning cast! Etc. etc. Does the film actually deliver? Kind of.

Matthew Mcconaughey stars as “Cooper,” a former NASA test pilot marooned on a slowly decaying American farmstead. In the not too distant future, Earth has had enough of mankind’s shit and ravaged the environment with a deadly wave of blight and dust storms, causing massive crop failures and respiratory problems up the wazoo. Our time on Earth is running low, and humans toil about their increasingly miserable lives trying to get by. Cooper begrudgingly raises his two children on his dying farm, mourning his dead wife, and extinguished dreams of exploring the stars. But thankfully, his genius daughter’s pet ghost tasks them on a crazy errand that reunites Cooper with the remnants of what used to be NASA, who’ve been literally hiding in his back yard the entire time, hatching a plan to save the human race: move to a new galaxy. Yes, you read that correctly.


could have been a great film, instead of just a good one. Unfortunately, it’s beyond convoluted plot and insistence on ham-fisted melodrama takes the film down several pegs. The ‘wow, I can’t believe what I’m seeing!’ sense of awe that Nolan’s visuals instill throughout the film, gives way to a ‘wow…I can’t believe this is what I’m seeing,’ lament, stemming from the mediocre script. The film is long and ambitious but surprisingly, despite the ‘lol wut?’ problems with the plot, doesn’t feel like an eternity while watching. Maybe that’s because the film crams what should have been twelve hours of screen content into a mere three [we got off easy if you think about that way].

Interstellar’s ensemble cast turns out to be film’s saving grace. With so much trippy NASA jargon and space talk thrown around and tons of eye rolling exposition being spoon fed to the audience, it’s the actor’s stellar [eh eh?] performances that keeps the movie from collapsing in on itself. Matthew Mcconaughey’s character Cooper might be written as the dumbest astronaut ever [he needs diagrams to explain how wormholes work], but his performance is unyielding throughout. He spouts that dialogue, no matter how painful, like it was the word of God [or Nolan]. In fact, the scene where he watches messages from his family on Earth is some truly powerful stuff and one of the highlights of the entire film. Anne Hathaway is billed as Interstellar’s other big star, but Jessica Chastain is the movie's real leading lady. Hathaway isn’t bad per se…even though her character is written so, but Chastain’s performance is just miles beyond hers.

the real MVP

is three hours of bizarre entertainment. If you can ignore the bloated plot and relish some solid acting and cool visuals you’ll probably have fun. It was refreshing to watch a sci-fi film with real people and not a massive CGI cartoon, just as it was cool to see Nolan finally play with a new cinematographer for a change [hello Hoyte van Hoytema, nice work dude]. There’s some really gripping, suspenseful scenes that almost make up for the bang your head against the wall stupid ones. This movie would have been a sweet ass summer time blockbuster, but since it came out in fall and is surrounded but tons of, you know, good movies; it just doesn’t hold up as well in comparison.