Chappie - 2015 - 1/5 - Directed by Neill Blomkamp - starring Dev Patel and Hugh Jackman
Neill Blomkamp's Chappie or: The Ridiculously Overlong Die Antwoord Music Video is really a mess of a film. It's all over the place - not knowing what it's seeking or rather striving to be. If there was ever meant to be any sort of deep meaning, or literal message in Chappie it's long gone. It never knows if it's trying to be an action thriller, a film ultimately about identity and family, or just an entertaining popcorn flick. It's definitely Blomkamp's worst film.
Based on Blomkamp's 2003 short, Tetra Vaal, Chappie is set in the year 2018 where crime is at an all time high in Johannesburg, South Africa. To combat the criminals and slowly decrease the crime rates, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) designs a semi-A.I. robot to aid the police. They are called Scouts and eventually are mass produced by a company known as Tetravaal. After Scout 22 takes a high amount of damage in police duty, he is scheduled to be destroyed. However Deon has just created a new software that will allow the Scouts to be able to think just as humans. Tetravaal CEO, Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) has refused this plan of Deon's.
However, Deon still presses forward, with intents on testing it on Scout 22. Meanwhile, three gangsters, Ninja, Yolandi, and Amerika (Watkin Tudor Jones, Yolandi Visser, and Jose Pablo Cantillo, respectively) owe a major debt to a gangster, $20Million, and attack Deon with the intentions of using him to program the scout to aid them in a heist. Thus, Chappie, the free thinking scout is born. On the other side, Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), who's MOOSE A.I. design has been pushed aside at Tetravaal, he looks to sabotage Deon and the scout program, in order to have a mass production of the MOOSE robots ready.
Chappie certainly isn't a great film, and the mix-match marketing certainly proves this. The marketing never could truly sell the film. While it appeared that it would continue to explore some themes and political undertones we've seen in Blomkamp's previous two films, they are still present in Chappie, though merely briefly. The film really suffers from an identity crisis. While it definitely has Blomkamp's gritty, realistic touch, it suffers be still being unrecognizable and being a standout among films that feature a similar idea. In the end, Neill Blomkamp took the idea of a free-thinking robot, which has been explored in the past, and just really put his own spin on it. Except his spin wasn't needed, nor was it remotely necessary and satisfying.
It fails at being dramatic, it fails at being humorous, it fails at being at action packed. Overall, Chappie fails. I was actually hoping there would be some good action present, but it was nothing I haven't seen, whether it's from Blomkamp or in another film. It's far from being action packed. There's maybe two-three action scenes present, and they are widely spread apart, and when they happen - you realize you're still actually watching a film and not a shitty two hour extended music video for Die Antwoord.
If you're still reading this, then you'll obviously gather that I didn't enjoy Ninja and Yolandi's performance at all. I get it, they're there to add some possible cultural diversity, make the film more fun, etc. Instead, they end up being just as annoying as the ridiculously long AMC theaters animation intros that go on for too fucking long. TL;DR, Die Antwoord should stick to making shitty fucking music. Dev Patel and Hugh Jackman are the strongest of the cast, though they don't particularly have a script that's equally worth it. Patel is the more dramatic actor, but when the film sets a dramatic tone, it just never fits. Jackman is the jealous employee who pretty much ends up becoming the villain, because why not. He did have a sweet Aussie mullet though.
Sharlto Copley was terrific as the robot, Chappie. In the very, very short beginning. Once Chappie hung around Ninja too long and started to act "gangsta", that's when I pretty much dropped this film and started at my phone waiting for the credits. However, Copley's motion capture and voice over work is very top notch and incredible stuff from the actor. As a whole, I just couldn't care for the robot, as with everybody else. No one was really worth investing time or interest in.
In the end, Chappie was a pile of crap. Definitely wasn't worth seeing in IMAX - as it's probably the worst IMAX DMR release I've ever seen.
I am though, legitimately nervous about Blomkamp's Alien film.
Kingsman: The Secret Service - 2015 - 1/5 - Directed by Matthew Vaughn - starring Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson
Kingsman is essentially Kick-Ass with a spy/espionage mod on it. It's very self-aware and over-the-top like Vaughn's 2010 film. It's a spy film for the ADHD generation and an extremely big step back from his previous film, X-Men: First Class. It also doesn't help that I don't think Mark Miller is a very good comic writer at all and I frankly find most of, if not all of his work terrible.
When Professor James Arnold (Mark Hamill) is kidnapped by assailants led by internet billionaire, Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) and his henchwoman, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella). Kingsman spy, Lancelot (Jack Davenport) is sent in to rescue Arnold, but is killed in action. Seeking a replacement, Kingsman, turn to several young adults as a suitable choice - including Gary "Eggsy" Unwin. "Eggsy's" father was in training to be a Kingsman, when he was killed in action seventeen years prior. With the help of mentor Harry Hart (Colin Hart), "Eggsy" looks to make the most of the opportunity with his trouble life. Meanwhile, Valentine is giving away free SIM cards for cell phones, however a signal is broadcasted to the SIM cards, causing anyone who has them to be uncontrollably violent - A method Valentine is using to exterminate the virus that is the human race.
Was I expecting an overly serious espionage film like say Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or even something remotely like the Bond films? No, and I knew that the minute I found out it was based on a Mark Miller work. I went in with low expectations, and over the course of an extremely tonally uneven film, they continued to sink lower and lower. It tries and succeeds to have a far fetched plot and a somewhat throwback to classic spy films, mainly the Bond films with it's lavish sets and far fetched villainous scheme. And there's times when it just goes completely bat-S*** and disjointed with it's hyper stylized violence.
It's as if Kingsman: The Secret Service is too keen on trying to be appealing to the young crowd with it's over-the-top-ness, similar to Kick-Ass. I get it, there's people out there who like this sort of thing (mainly the action per se), but it's incredibly dull. It's clear Matthew Vaughn (director, co-writer, producer) is more keen on filming action scenes, as he really does go all out on them. He fails at adding or properly capturing emotions on screen when there are moments they do occur. And the actions scenes are all so jarring to watch, it's literally Vaughn screaming at you, "LOOK AT HOW COOL THIS IS!".
The acting is very iffy, while Taron Egerton and Michael Caine are terrific (although the "JB" conversation wasn't). I wasn't impressed with Colin Firth at all, and frankly Samuel L. Jackson with his hat tilt to the side and his Adidas Classics clothing was a joke of a villain. That includes his lisp and motives. The humor falls flat and the film as a whole is quite a bore. Of course, Kingsman: The Secret Service is supposed to be like this, right? But was it meant to be the piece of S*** I found it to be?
It's pretty sad that X-Men: First Class is a much better spy film than this film is, by leaps and bounds. As for Matthew Vaughn, I've enjoyed only two of his films (Layer Cake and X-Men: First Class.), everything else from him is just trash.
Run All Night - 2015 - 3/5 - Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra - starring Liam Neeson and Ed Harris
Wait a minute! The new Liam Neeson action film was good??? Yes, surprisingly, and I was actually pretty entertained throughout. It was certainly better than Taken 3 and probably his most enjoyable straight up action film in quite some time. Neeson joins director Jaume Collet-Serra for their third collaboration in which I can say that Run All Night is easily the best and my favorite of their three films together.
Once notorious hitman, Jimmy "The Gravedigger" Conlon is now a anything but shell of his former self. No friends, no family, he has nothing but his friend, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). One night, Jimmy's estranged son, Michael (Joel Kinnaman) is driving his Albanian clients to see someone. He witnesses one of them killed by Danny (Boyd Holbrook), Shawn's son and Jimmy kills Danny to protect his son's life. Distraught, Shawn sends out all of his men and connections, including professional killer, Mr. Price (Common) to hunt Jimmy and Michael. Together, Jimmy and Michael must bury the past long enough to survive for one night, all while Jimmy tries to clear things up for his son with a detective, Harding (Vincent D'Onofrio) who's long been on his tail.
The advertisements of course will do everything they can to make Run All Night appear is action packed as possible. It's honestly much more of a thriller (or at least an action thriller) in ways. Some critics have said that the film has a convoluted plot, which is baffling. It's as straight forward as they come, it just happens to be much better executed then some of the more mainstream action films. The action sequences were well done, and there was enough breathing room in between that allowed for more plot.
Liam Neeson is as game as ever. Whether you've enjoyed his films as of late, he does bring it, and he certainly does so in Run All Night. The rest of the acting is all great, and some of the finer scenes are the little moments between Neeson and Kinnaman. There's certainly enough action here to go around and it's entertaining and tense - including a finale that I thought was well done and well shot. The car chase was also well done too.
While I enjoyed it, there's a few flaws. While it's a pretty good film, the script is still a by numbers action/thriller story. Jaume Collet-Serra just handles it a bit differently. And the music score by Tom Holkenborg sounded too much like a Hans Zimmer knock off. Which is funny, considering Holkenborg is one of several collaborators Zimmer has worked with in the past.
All in all, I was equally surprised at how entertained I was with Run All Night. It's by far one of Liam Neeson's best action films in recent time and is certainly one that is worth that watch. I can see myself returning to this one in the future.
Fifty Shades Of Grey - 2015 - 0/5 - Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson - starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan
Now this was a waste of time - though thankfully I didn't spend money to see this in the theater. Not that I was planning on doing so myself. Saw this online to download, figured why the hell not, I can probably heckle at this for a couple of hours. It turns out that Fifty Shades Of Grey is probably the most dreadfully boring film I have seen in quite some time. It also doesn't help that it's complete S*** either. Then again, It's not like anyone was expecting this to be absolutely amazing, or simply good.
Anastasia "Ana" Steele (Dakota Johnson) is a 21-year-old undergraduate in Washington. When her friend Kate Kavanaugh (Eloise Mumford) becomes ill, Ana steps in her place to interview wealthy entrepreneur, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Over the course of the interview, it's visible that Ana is somewhat attracted to him, though mildly intimidating, but it's Christian who has an eye for her. The two eventually begin to see each other, though under different pretenses. Ana isn't getting the relationship she expected, instead she's in a Dom/Sub relationship. That's pretty much the film in a nut shell.
It's pretty sickening when crap-tier literature from a crap-tier author manages to get published and snag a sweet movie deal with options for the sequel books. All for a cool, hundred million or so. This is the worst type of filmmaking there could be. Of course I'm the wrong intended audience and viewer, but anyone with a (half) brain could figure out that Fifty Shades Of Grey is just horrendous in every way. The script is what ties everything together here. Packed with some cringe worthy dialogue, eye-rolling lines, throwaway characters, and plot that pretty much runs around in circles. "Does Anastasia Steele want to be his submissive slave or not?". That seems to be the question she asks herself, but can never make up mind. She's not sure if she's happy in this type of relationship and such. But buy her a car and throw other gifts at her, and she'll be happy for days.
That leads me to those steamy sex scenes you were waiting to feast your eyes on. The sex scenes are pretty much on the same level as that of Tommy Wiseau's masterpiece (sarcasm), The Room. By that, they all share a common interest - which is they all require slow pop/R&B songs to accompany them. Mainly in order to appeal more and be more romantic. Instead it looks completely amateurish and frankly hilarious. Then again, it's not Danny Elfman's dreadful of which was reduced to background noise would have sufficed.
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan deliver performances akin to Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart from The Twilight Saga. Only difference is those two have gone on to be successful and have good performances. Johnson and Dornan are extremely flat and have absolutely zero chemistry. It's hard to buy them as being serious or romantically linked. Especially since they have literally one facial expression. Dornan stand there with this smug, blank emotionless face (maybe intended for his character, but F*** knows) and there is Johnson who has a look as if she's been struck stupid or something. Their line delivery is awful.
In the long run, Universal is looking at a cash cow, especially with two more films to come. Yes, you read that correctly, two sequels are in production for 2016 and 2017. What more can they possibly try to cover or even add to an alarmingly dull story. All I can say is that Charlie Hunam, you sir have dodged a bullet. A wise move for your career, I'd say.
Focus - 2015 - 2.5/5 - directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa - starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie
Focus essentially relies on it's star power from it's two leads while trying to con the audience with bigger things to come, though it never truly reaches those levels. Instead we have a film that is trying to be smarter than it should, but it's acting and moments throughout are a somewhat, saving grace.
Nicky (Will Smith) is a season con-man who finds himself keen on the beautiful Jess (Margot Robbie) one night, that ends with him seeing through her failed attempt at conning him. A few days later, the meet again, and Nicky agrees to mentor her and give her the knowledge she needs to be a con artist like Nicky. After pulling a string of successful small jobs in New Orleans, including conning a compulsive gambler (B.D. Wong), Nick leaves her for Buenos Aires, as he finds himself drawn too much to her in the relationship.
In Buenos Aires, Nicky is working for billionaire race team owner, Rafael Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro) and agrees to accept a job where he will pose as a disgruntled employee, only to take a job with the competition and sell them a fake component that will slow the competition's cars down, thus giving Garriga the win. However, on the night Nicky is scheduled to begin the con, he sees Jess with Garriga. Stunned and trying not to lose focus, Nicky must keep himself in check on the job, while trying to secretly pursue her.
It was nice to see Will Smith in a smaller budgeted film again, and not acting alongside his son or making a second sequel in plunging franchise (Sorry, I'm not a Men In Black fan). Focus reminded me of how good Will Smith can actually be. Sure at moments in the film he's playing himself, but his performance in this is probably his best in quite some time. It's Margot Robbie who steals the show however. Yes, she has the looks and the beauty (thanks to The Wolf Of Wall Street), but she also manages to outshine Smith at times. While her character is a little weaker (thanks to the middling script), she really does triumph as Jess. The chemistry between Smith and Robbie is actually very good, which is a rarity to see now in films like this.
While the direction can be pretty slick at times and stylish, the script is the biggest problem. The romance angle can easily be seen a mile away in the very beginning and almost comes across as forced rather than natural. With con film, everything is usually culminated in the end by the big reveal. The twist. When you really find out who was played by who and consequences of such a thing. If done right, it can be good. It's obvious that this was a route writer/directors Glenn Ficarra & John Requa were going with. Except, it all became a little too predictable by the second and third act. And the final con/twist was severely underwhelming. It also doesn't help that Focus has an ever-changing tone throughout going from Romantic/Thriller to even Romantic comedy at several occasions.
Don't let my final score try and deter you away from seeing this. If the script was tighter, I would definitely be giving this a three star rating. However, for two and half stars, it was still a pretty enjoyable film, it's just the script that was the let down.
The Loft - 2015 - 2/5 - Directed by Erik Van Looy - starring Five guys and One dead girl
Shot in 2011 and finally getting it's theatrical release, The Loft is an American remake of a Belgian film of the same name. The American remake was critically panned, but in all fairness, it's not nearly as awful as everyone is making out to be. It's not outstanding, but it at least tried to be different. It just wasn't executed properly.
Five married men - Vincent, Luke, Chris, Phillip, and Marty (Karl Urban, Wentworth Miller, James Marsden, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Eric Stonestreet, respectively) own together an uptown loft of which they use to meet their mistresses. One morning, Luke walks in only to find a dead woman (Isabel Lucas) laying the bed. The other four guys arrive and they each try to figure out the pieces of the puzzle. Did one of the other guys do this? Or did someone manage to get a key and is now framing us for it?
None of these guys are likable. This is pretty much explained to us in the very beginning of the film when it is explained what the loft will be intended for. After that, the rest of the film is just flashbacks of the film showing us just how much these guys treat and view women, and it pretty much runs around in circles, with little advancements. I'll give them credit, as the twist was something I wasn't expecting, and wasn't nearly as bad, but the ending really irritated me as it borders in the finale half hour or so from being too convoluted.
There's really not much else I can say about The Loft. I haven't seen the original film, but I'm certainly much more curious now.