Monthly Archives: May 2016

Movie Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Bottom Line: Lots of ground to cover, little ground that was covered was worth covering.  Apocalypse’s mutant power is apparently boring us to death with his talking.

It is very difficult to make an effective superhero movie without an effective villain.  Apocalypse, you would think, fits that bill.  Nigh undefeatable.  Possesses an indescribable amalgam of mutant powers.  Has visions of world domination spanning millennia and has practical experience in the matter.  It’s a stellar villain resume.

Witnessing Apocalypse in action, however, and you get the distinct feeling that he drastically embellished the truth on his resume. For starters, Apocalypse’s super powers seem to be limited to: 1) pushing people into rock just enough to make some undefined point, 2) watching all of Netflix in a few seconds, 3) making other mutants’ powers stronger, 4) controlling people’s minds, 5) teleporting he and as many friends anywhere he wants, 6) making pyramids, 7) stopping things from hitting him.  All fine mutant powers, surely, but only the mind control and Netflix watching screams super villain..

And why stick with the Four Horsemen theme?  That turned out so well for you the first time.  At least put out an ad on Craigslist first:  God-emperor seeks four highly powerful mutants to do bidding.  Must enjoy being mind-controlled and being belittled for even the smallest of mistakes.  Loving cats a plus.  But no, you go ahead and take all of half a day and pick the first four mutants you stumble across and see how that turns out for you.  That’s right, you end up with Angel as one of your horsemen.  Way to go Mr. World Conqueror.

Then there’s your abysmal lack of imagination.  You discover the ability to mind-control literally every human being on the planet and your first thought is to take control of every nuclear missile operator and have them launch those missiles into space even though 80% of them don’t physically have that capability?  And your reasoning is, “You don’t get to destroy yourselves, only I get to destroy you!  At a point and time of my choosing which may or may not be a few hours hence when I make my new buddy Magneto suck all the metal from around the world to Cairo to make pyramids even though I have already made it abundantly clear that one of my powers is to make pyramids.”?  Why not take, oh, ten seconds and teleport your new-if-slightly-underpowered-in-some-cases Horsemen and yourself to this new mind-control ability so you can defend it at all costs?

Sorry, Apocalypse, you are the Donald Trump of super villains.  You use other people to achieve greatness and pretend it’s you that did it all.  You make poor decisions and then blame others for your mistakes.  Your greatest superpower appears to be derision.

All that said, “X-Men: Apocalypse” is not a bad movie.  It just lacks imagination in its main story line.  My recommendation is that you view the movie as a series of vignettes, most of which should have been explored further instead of bothering with the plot such that it is.

Movie Review: The Nice Guys

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Bottom Line:  WTF did I just watch?  In a good way.

“The Nice Guys” is one of the strangest movies I have watched in a long time.  Delightfully so.  Its opening is classic film noir with Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) providing the voice over setting up the story behind the newly dead porn star and her out of control car.  Jackson Healy is the guy you call when you want other guys to stop doing things you disapprove of.  This is normally done with a set of brass knuckles to the face.  It’s effective.  Healy is contracted by a young woman, Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley) who wants him to stop a man from looking for her.  That man is Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a private detective hired by the dead porn star’s aunt who swears she saw the porn star alive days after her death.  That Holland March would take the money of an old, half blind woman who obviously saw no such thing tells you all you need to know about Mr. March.

The movie starts at a zaniness level of about 3 and slowly pumps its way to 11 by the end.  At the beginning, I was all “Oh, this is going to be a film noir set in the 70s with some comedic elements starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling?  Win!” and it kind of is that, but a whole lot more as well.  The movie has some great dialogue and blends standard humor with some terrific slapstick that you wouldn’t think Ryan Gosling capable of pulling off.  But it is Ryan Gosling so you should really know better.

Holland and Jackson are joined in much of their adventure by Holland’s teenage daughter Holly (Angourie Rice, which is an awesome name), who plays both the adult in the Holland/Holly relationship and the conscience of the team.  The movie treats Holly as a fully functional human being which is great to see in a movie.  She gets kidnapped.  She saves herself.  She gets put in a life threatening situation, she grabs the hidden gun and attempts to fend off the killer.  Hurray for teenage girls not just being used as a plot point!

As the credits ran, I found myself figuratively scratching my head trying to figure out what the heck I just watched.  Was this just weird or brilliant?  Turns out it was weirdly brilliant.  The more I looked back on it and the more I discussed it, the more I liked it.  This is a completely different movie and very much worth seeing.  The ending kind of sets up the possibility of a “Nice Guys 2” and I hope it happens.  There is a lot of chemistry with this sleuthing trio and I wouldn’t mind seeing them back together for another round of zaniness.

Movie Review: Money Monster

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Bottom Line: A fluffy and enjoyable movie featuring two of the best actors in the business.  Manages to delightfully surprise the audience a few times.

Jim Cramer = Lee Gates.  Mad Money = Money Monster.  Lee Gates is an asshole and his show “Money Monster” is entertainment at best and a scam at worst.  You do the distributive math.  It’s weird watching a movie whose main character is so obviously drawn from real life.  I guess when you have such an over the top personality to draw from in real life, why try bending that mold at all.  That said, I can’t imagine this movie ever being made if not for the star power behind its making.  It’s obviously not meant to be a blockbuster and it’s really unclear that the movie has much of an audience beyond the star power drawing people to the movie.

Lee Gates (George Clooney) is the host of a TV show that predicts stock market winners in the most outrageously theatrical ways.  Needless to say, this isn’t a very good way for the people watching at home to make money.  When one man, Kyle (Jack O’Connell), invests all he has in one of Gates’ “sure thing” stocks and it bombs, he decides to take Lee hostage to get answers.

It’s a good premise for a movie and the whole hostage situation proceeds in a pleasingly organic way.  There are some funny and some surprising elements to the hostage situation that are also pretty realistic.  Then the movie goes for the easy path and attempts to make Gates the hero.  The denouement is kind of a mess.  It’s predicated on a bunch of happy coincidences and is not very satisfying.  I had the hope that the producer, Patty Finn (Julia Roberts), was actually in on the hostage situation the whole time and was manipulating things to get Gates to admit he was a fraud that hurt people.  But nooooo.  Instead it’s a fake software glitch and hackers and trips to South Africa and an insider who is conveniently able to manipulate the greedy, corrupt CEO into a position where he will have to confess to the world of his crimes.  It was still enjoyable, but I like my version better.

It’s always a pleasure to see Julia Roberts or George Clooney in a film.  This has both and their great chemistry alone makes this worth seeing.  The movie was also directed by Jodie Foster, whom I had no idea even directed movies.  That’s a lot of star power for one film.  I wouldn’t quite say that “Money Monster” is worth seeing, but it is enjoyable enough to watch if you’re looking to watch a movie and nothing much else is showing.

Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 5/5 stars

Bottom Line: Possibly the best Marvel movie to date.  Well crafted, well choreographed.  A lot going on but it is all done in an amazingly controlled way.

There is a lot going on in “Captain America: Civil War”.  I mean a whole lot.  Tons of old favorite superheroes.  A few new superheroes.  Complicated plots.  Wonderfully choreographed fight scenes.  Pitch perfect humor.  In less capable hands (*cough* Zach Snyder *cough*), it could easily lead to an amalgam of scenes thrown together without much cohesion to tie the movie together.  Anthony and Joe Russo somehow avoided this trap and spliced together a wonderful movie.

The primary driver of the action is the simple premise that the Avengers are a group of beings who, for better or worse, have caused some serious collateral damage in their quest to “save” humanity and yet are unanswerable to anyone but themselves.  The nations of the world think that needs to change.  Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) agrees with them.  Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) disagrees.  This causes a rift in the Avengers and they take sides.  It’s a pretty heavy premise to hang a whole movie around.  That it succeeds in making both sides so believable that you can empathize with both is a minor movie miracle.  It’s a heady topic, but this is a serious movie that knows not to take itself too seriously.  It is interspersed with spiffy one-liners and visual gags which do not detract from the story or the action at all.

Added to all of this are some beautiful fight scenes.  I mean, superheros vs. superheroes, yes please!  I’m sure someone dorkier than I can point to a plethora of tag team moves taken straight from the comics, but the way they all worked together was so much fun.  Sure, some of it is silly, but, uh, did I mention they are superheroes?

I have only a few minor quibbles.  The biggest of which is the fact that this is a movie about the unintended consequences of the superheroes’ actions and yet they decided to take the easy way out and make sure this didn’t apply to the superheroes themselves.  I get it, they want to protect their intellectual property, but superheroes come back from the dead or are replaced all the time in the comics.  It would have been nice to see that happen here.  Also, the only scene that didn’t really work too well for me was the part when Tony Stark recruits Peter Parker (Tom Holland).  It felt a little too gimmicky.  Tom Holland, by the way, appears to be a great choice for Spiderman.

If you’re a dork, you have already seen this movie and likely mostly agree with me as to how good it was.  If you’re not a dork, you should go see this movie as well because it is that good.  If you’ve not seen the other Captain America/Avenger movies, I’d recommend seeing it with a dork so they can fill you in on some of the finer dorkness that might not make sense to a neophyte.  Of all the movies that have been made in the Marvel universe so far, this is probably the best introduction even if you are picking it up in the middle of the action.

Movie Review: The Jungle Book

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Bottom Line: A perfectly enjoyable kid’s movie, though not much for adults.  Beautiful effects.  Mostly wonderful acting.

I was wary going into seeing Disney’s retelling of their classic “The Jungle Book”.  The whole “everything is computer generated except Mowgli” thing was a tough sell.  The CGI was fairly seemless and gorgeous.  Neel Sethi, who plays Mowgli, does a pretty good job interacting with thin air.  This is a pretty challenging role for someone so young and he mostly pulls it off.  The rest of the generated animals were pretty well done as well.  The dark, deep voice of Idris Elba makes for a convincing Shere Khan.  Stately and aloof Bagheera is voiced by Ben Kingsley.  Bill Murray plays himself as Baloo.  Lupita Nyong’o, who has the best name ever, is motherly and protective as Raksha.

There were a few disappointing performances.  Kaa as voiced by Scarlett Johansson, I felt, was not menacing enough.  Although, she did do the slipperiness of his voice quite well.  Then there was King Louie.  Ugh, King Louie.  Didn’t like that part of the movie at all.  First, they make him monstrously large to the point he towers over everyone including Baloo.  Then they give him the voice of Christopher Walken who does not in any way evoke the presence of a larger than life figure.  Then they make King Louie sing in pretty much the same timbre as the cartoon version.  All sorts of bad decisions.

There is very little singing in this version.  Mowgli and Baloo do a fairly organic rendition of “Bear Necessities” in that it really fits with their personalities and neither of them can sing very well at all.  And King Louie’s “I Want to Be Like You” just feels completely out of place.  So, of course, they decide to do the whole song during the closing credits.  It would have been nice if they had made “I Want to Be Like You” more menacing to fit King Louie’s personality during the movie and then do the light, fluffy version of the original cartoon during the credits.

If you have kids, I’d say it’s worth taking them to see “The Jungle Book”.  It’s pleasant and light and has enough eye candy to keep them entertained.  If you don’t, meh.  If you like kid’s movies, it’s worth your time.  If you don’t, you should probably find your entertainment elsewhere.