Category Archives: Drama

Swiss Army Man: The Most Sincere and Profound Fart Joke of Our Time

It’s not often that we find a film which starts with a person who’s about to hang themselves on a deserted island. Less frequent still are those which follow it up with a fart joke montage. This is such a film.

We start with Hank (Paul Dano) stuck on an island, by himself. He looks to be in poor condition, suffering from exposure to the elements, dehydration, hunger, and depression. As he’s about to yield himself to the mercy of the rope he notices a person who washed up. After he slips and damn-near succeeds in his now-aborted suicide attempt (rope breaks, he survives, watch the trailer), he races to the person (Manny, played by Daniel Radcliffe) only to find out that he is dead. He attempts to resuscitate the person with no success.

Despite his unsuccessful resuscitation attempt, Hank finds Manny useful in a number of ways, most of which I couldn’t begin to do justice to here. I will say that the fart joke is a common theme throughout, they were really committed to that.

The acting in this film was amazing. Daniel Radcliffe pulls off “dead,” and in-so-doing really caused me to spend some time thinking about what a challenge actually playing dead would really be. His character, Manny has a lot of experiences which Radcliffe really does well.

Hank is played by Paul Dano, who I never really paid that much attention to in the past but now is on my list of actors I follow. While some of the plot points and character development for Hank were cliché – we get it, you’re a smart, lonely and shy person; get over yourself Hank! – the delivery was incredible. You don’t expect to find sexual tension in a film with a man stranded on a deserted island and his best buddy corpse, but here it is and it was pretty good.

While I want to say that Sarah (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a tired love interest, she really played an interesting part near the end where the motivation of her character is to be profoundly creeped out and disturbed. She did that well, just as she did in 10 Cloverfield Lane (which I still totally need to review, though I watched it and so should you).

This film had one weak point: the ending. Everything up until the ending was amazing: the acting, the plot (minus cliché shy loser character), the photography, the sound, the music – I’ll get to the music in a moment! – and even the incredible lighting effects they had in the aquatic scenes… and then they had to destroy it with a unsatisfying ending.

will not tell you the ending of this film, it’s worth watching to see the ending, and you won’t understand what I mean about how unsatisfying it is until you’ve seen the full epic. I will help you imagine it though.

Do you remember Big Fish? Do you remember the endearing scene at the end where all of the people who were in the father’s stories showed up to send him off? Well, it kinda seems like they tried to do that, except instead of fanciful characters from stories, it’s a smattering of awkward characters vaguely referenced from earlier in the film. While they’re going for an endearing finale, it falls flat and even has a smattering of child endangerment. It’s not great.

One thing that this film really excelled at was music. Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe themselves perform a lot of the music in the film, and it’s all quite well done. I know that many folks don’t always focus that much on the soundtrack, but you’ll miss out on this film if you do not. I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow to see if I can find this soundtrack on Spotify or iTunes.

All-in-all this is an excellent movie. They won Sundance, and they really just hit it out of the park. I really enjoyed this film, and the fact that this film could be poorly summarized to being a 97 minute fart joke adds to that enjoyment.

Update

I found the music on Spotify, I encourage you to check it out. It’s pretty sweet.

The-dark-tower-From-Stephen-King

Initial Photos of Idris Elba as Roland from The Dark Tower Film

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”   – Stephen King, “The Gunslinger”.

The first sentence in what would become an epic sprawling book series created over several decades.

In my middle school years, I discovered an author who would change the course of my life.  As the terrible and disturbing years that counted as my adolescence gave way to an awkward period of pubescence, not many things were what you would call “comfort”.

Stolen stock image or not, this is as close as I could get to the look of me "reading" a "book", so, a little comfort.
Stolen stock image or not, this is as close as I could get to the look of me “reading” a “book”, so, a little comfort.

After using “reading material” (and I use that term loosely) to indulge in teenage desires, I soon found that certain genres took me away from the hell of bullying, school, and you know, general Middle School BS.  For me, Stephen King and his World’s did that.  The first novel I read was “The Green Mile”.  I was inspired by Michael Clarke Duncan’s (may he rest in peace) performance as the unfortunate victim of racism and fear. Not only did I feel a connection with Duncan’s character, John Coffey, but once the prose was displayed upon paper, I was forever enchanted by Mr. King and eventually became a “Constant Reader” as he likes to put it.  Now, obviously, I could not relate to the character in form of race, but being an outsider was simply a feeling that has never left me, even through to this day.

My second run-in with Mr. King’s work was a bit different.  After finishing “The Green Mile” on vacation in Colorado, I was brought along to a used bookstore in which I discovered the first three volumes of Mr. King’s dark fantasy series: The Dark Tower.   The odd tale of a “Authurian-Like” figure going on a journey through time, multiple dimensions, and the supernatural grabbed me and enveloped my feelings and thoughts. It took me almost another decade before I was able to finish the series (King began the series formally in 1982 and it was finished in 2004), but every step of Roland, The Gunslinger’s journey was my own as well.  I know many a person that feels the same way.

You can find the series on Amazon and be thankful you don't have to wait years between novels.
You can find the series on Barnes and Nobel (or wherever books are sold…always wanted to say that) and be thankful you don’t have to wait years between novels.

Then in 2012, Warner Brothers and Ron Howard announced they wanted to take on a huge project with a hybrid film/television version of The Dark Tower series.  HBO, one of the sister companies of WB would air the show and WB would distribute the film.  This ambitious announcement was also met with an announcement that Javier Bardem:

No country for old menthe creepiest creep

Silvathat ever creeped) was originally set to play Roland, but that fell through and Russell Crowe was given the option for the role.  That also fell through and everyone’s favorite weirdo actor, Matthew McConaughey was offered a role in the film, which many thought of him portraying The Gunslinger Roland as a given.

Well, WB backed out, and four years later, we’re staring down the sandalwood grip pistols of a joint Sony/Media Rights Capital/Columbia Pictures amalgamation filming right now!  That’s right, the start of The Dark Tower film is happening as you read this.  Directed by a relative unknown, Nikolaj Arcel, who’s most notable credit comes from writing the screenplay of the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  This is an odd and bold move, but clearly Sony trusts this man and with Stephen King providing the bones, there is a lot that can go south, but let’s choose to ignore until the film is finished and we’re strapped in for a unique ride.

With all of that, the actual news of this story is, yesterday, we were given the first images of Roland himself, portrayed by Idris Elba, an actor whom Stephen King himself called “One of the Best Actors” Working Today.  High praise from such a legend.  So without further ado, see our “hero” for the first time:

Roland 1 Roland 3 Roland 4

All of these images come curtosey of Twitter (Mr. Elba’s I do believe) and if you’re familiar with the books or now intrigued by them, Idris Elba looks glorious as Roland, The Gunslinger.  Now you cannot have a protagonist without an antagonist.  This character first comes in the form of “The Man in Black” as mentioned above.  And while he didn’t get the lead role in the film, none other than Matthew McConaughey himself was cast opposite Idris Elba.

Preparation...
Preparation…

I realize this post doesn’t give much for the non-reader, but please understand that there is a massive following for these books and I encourage you, if you enjoy dark fantasy, science fiction, and any novel Stephen King has ever written, The Dark Tower is for you.  And as one of the main protagonists says: “Go then, there are other worlds than these.” -Jake Chambers, “The Gunslinger” by Stephen King.

darktower
May the road to the Tower be of quality and entertainment…

-Darkmovienight

manchicken’s Movie Log: 2016-03-31

I saw Hello, My Name is Doris tonight, and boy was it interesting. I don’t know why I’d never thought of it before, but this film is ground-breaking in one key way: it has, as its leadHello, My Name is Doris character, an older single woman who exhibits symptoms of mental illness who isn’t weird, isn’t just sad because she couldn’t get a man. She has depth, she’s relatable, and you find yourself routing for her.

There were two key parts of the film that I found hit close to home. The first is that her feelings cause her to make some key poor choices. The second is that she was very real in how she got overwhelmed when you could see that everything that was important to her at that time came crumbling down and she’s being judged by selfish people who pretend to be supportive… but are not. Both of these things hit pretty close to home for me, and I really found it neat that the film showed how those play into the very strong sense of anxiety that accompanies people under tremendous social stress, and it warmed my heart that the film showed this as the obvious outcome of the stress rather than a person acting weird and out of a norm.

I think that there were some parts of the film which were a little too forced. The love story in the film was very heavy-handed, and that part was weird. It was easily overcome by the frequent comedy breaks, though.

It’s nice to see that Sally Field can still surprise the hell out of me. For the most part, I enjoyed this movie. It was a different way of enjoying a movie than usual – I found it more useful for framing life and its events than entertaining – but I really did find it enjoyable. My girlfriend laughed a bunch, too, and she’s a kinda picky about movie comedy. I think you may enjoy this film as well, and I hope that you also walk away thinking differently about mental health in film.

manchicken’s Movie Log: 2016-03-24

I saw Miles Ahead in an advanced screening. I had a number of impressions. My first impression is that if Don Cheadle doesn’t win all of the awards for his portrayal of Miles DavisMiles Ahead then that will be a sign that the Academy has truly internalized and embraced #OscarsSoRacist hashtag as a term of endearment.

Cheadle does an amazing job of playing a very complex character who has a strange mix of good guy and bad guy in him, a conflicted man who lived in a time where overt racism was acceptable in public and just being a Black man in the wrong place was a guaranteed beating and night in jail. His story comes in after Miles Davis has been chewed up and mined for all of his gold as a young man, and pieces of the movie show us how he got there and how he pushed past it.

This movie gets my highest compliment: I left the theater conflicted, impressed, and thinking about the movie.

I think you’ll like this movie.

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

First Annual Oscar Clobber or The First time we rant about the Academy Awards

I honestly had a real plan for this article.  It was going to be a week long event in which we had guest writers discussing things like #OscarsSoWhite, how terrible the panel is due to ridiculous rules, eligibility, and voting, but I just can’t seem to care enough about the award show to make a real effort at posting something profound.

Seriously, I just Googled "Apathy" and this was the first image that came up...
Seriously, I just Googled “Apathy” and this was the first image that came up…

In lieu of an article about how awful the Oscars have become (and pretty much always have been), I’m going to go over some of the major categories and see if we can find something of interest somewhere among them to talk about.

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Academy Award for Best Actress

First off, I really don’t like the fact that we still distinguish between “Actresses” and “Actors” via gender.  They are all actors and should be treated as such.  In my opinion, we should really put Jennifer Lawrence (nominated this year for the movie Joy) up against Eddie Redmayne (nominated for his (her?) performance in The Danish Girl) or Matt Damon (nominated for The Martian).  If you’ve seen Joy, you know it’s no where near the caliber of her past performances (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, etc.), but it’s still a well put together movie and for her part, she does everything right and again, showcases an immense amount of talent.

"Don't put metal in the SCIENCE OVEN!" Still my favorite line of that movie and quite possibly 2014.
“Don’t put metal in the SCIENCE OVEN!” Still my favorite line of that movie and quite possibly 2014.

Anyway, there are other actors (yes, screw the word Actress) that are nominated as well, here is a quick round up:

  • Cate Blanchett, in Carol Aird, as Carol
  • Brie Larson, in Room, as Joy “Ma” Newsome
  • Jennifer Lawrence, in Joy, as Joy Mangano
  • Charlotte Rampling, in 45 Years, as Kate Mercer
  • Saoirse Ronan, in Brooklyn, as Eilis Lacey

IWTMM’s Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence

Of course it has to be Jennifer Lawrence.  Everyone loves her (she is really seemingly charming by all accounts) and if the panel even recognized any other actor’s name in that pile, then I would be surprised.  Just give her another one, let her trip on the stairs or her dress *cue laughter* and a “surprised” winning speech.

IWTMM’s “Who Should Have Won”: Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road.

Seriously, you’ve likely seen Mad Max: Fury Road, the other nominations, not too likely.  If you have (or even if you haven’t), Charlize Theron kicks so much ass in two hours than all the “Action Stars” of the 80’s combined.  I totally think she should go all Kanye West on the Winner.

"I'm gonna let you finish, but first, I want to shoot a few idiots in the crowd." -Charlize Theron
“I’m gonna let you finish, but first, I want to shoot a few idiots in the crowd.” -Charlize Theron

Academy Award for Best Actor

 I believe they add, “in a Leading Role” to this title, but I don’t really care (that’s going to be a theme during this whole article).  Let’s take a look at our powder-white nominees:

  • Bryan Cranston, in Trumbo, as Dalton Trumbo
  • Matt Damon, in The Martian, as Mark Watney
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, in The Revenant, as Hugh Glass
  • Michael Fassbender, in Steve Jobs, as Steve Jobs
  • Eddie Redmayne, in The Danish Girl, as Lili Elbe / Einar Wegener

IWTMM’s Prediction: Leonardo DiCaprio

Leo has been passed over for this award in four separate years.  They skipped a year between nominating him so it didn’t look too suspicious, but I believe DiCaprio has been thoroughly snubbed.  It likely doesn’t make any difference to him.  Did you see what he got to do in The Wolf of Wall Street?

I can just see all the tears spewing from his gold-lined tear ducts...
I can just see all the tears spewing from his gold-lined tear ducts…

I mean, come on, you think Leo cares?  Does he want to win, probably, it’s seemingly a big deal to these Hollywood types.  But if a little gold statue is more important than the millions he rakes in for almost every film he does, then I really think the “art” in film is moot.

I think this is a bit more up everyone's alley...
I think this is a bit more up everyone’s alley…

Academy Award for Best….

You know what, I really don’t give a crap.  The Oscars are horrible.  The monologue is obnoxious and no matter who wins, someone is going to be upset.  I don’t even have enough apathy to finish this article.

IWTMM’s Prediction for Best Director: Adam McKay for The Big Short

IWTMM’s Prediction for Best Picture: The Big Short

Seriously, I don’t care.  The Big Short was a phenomenal movie with excellent actors, a horrifying reality, and was honestly both entertaining and filmed very well.  It’s on the “Unicorn List”.  It’s both entertaining and “Critically” acclaimed.  So, for my money, it’s going to come out the winner, but I really don’t care.  The whole thing is just a big Hollywood circlejer…….

We apologize for the inconvience as us at I Watch Too Many Movies attempt to appeal to all audiences, thus the ending of the review has been closed and censored.
We apologize for the inconvenience as us at I Watch Too Many Movies attempt to appeal to all audiences, thus the ending of the review has been closed and censored.

…..and that’s all I have to say about that.  At least I get to see Zootopia next weekend.

-Darkmovienight

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi or Michael Bay’s 2nd Best Film

13-Hours-The-Secret-Soldiers-Of-Benghazi Poster

*****DISCLAIMER*****

Heavy subject in today’s review.  As usual with anything a little bit off kilter, controversial, or political, I want to state that we at I Watch Too Many Movies will not give our own personal opinion on the movie.  We are just here to review the movie itself.

*****RE-CLAIMER*****

Michael Bay is one crazy dude.  Not only can the man figure out a way to kill the Transformers as a franchise with exceptional CGI and explosions, but he can also slow down long enough to direct a film like 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.  When I say slow down, I’m probably searching for the word restraint.

"Hold on you guys, this is serious material, tone it down." -Michael Bay (maybe)
“Hold on you guys, this is serious material, tone it down.” -Michael Bay (maybe)

Even if Bay twisted the explosion knob down from his usual 11, this was still an action movie after all, so yeah, there were explosions.  I will give it to Bay that he did something that I didn’t think was possible: took a highly charged political issue and made it about the event instead of the aftermath.  That takes some guts and I appreciate Mr. Bay for that action and sparing us from his opinion.

13 Hours was based off a 2014 book (13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff, who took actual accounts from the point of view of the Benghazi compound’s defenders. The book itself does not address any of the political controversy surrounding the attacks in the aftermath of the September 11th, 2012 horrible incident.

I’ll give a quick thought I had while I was watching the film.  In the beginning, the information on the screen read, “This is a True Story”.  If you’ll recall, I explained what these types of terms meant in the world of film.  When I read those words on the screen, I got to thinking about the “Chain of Custody”.  Quick definition is that when evidence or something else is handled by multiple people, each of them sign off so that anyone can quickly identify where, when, and who had the evidence.  Basically, it’s a much more accurate version of “Telephone”.

Unless you hear it from a Hamburger Phone, don't trust the Intel.
Unless you hear it from a Hamburger Phone, don’t trust the Intel.

Anyway, all I’m trying to say is that you can believe the depiction of the events in the film about as much as a packet of salt.  Here we have an author who discussed the events with the survivors, then we have Michael Bay and his writers dissecting the book and creating a screenplay from it, and finally the actors actually got a chance to discuss the events with the individuals that experienced those hellish hours.

If you want my opinion, the “Chain of Custody” had so many places to break and I believe it did.  That’s okay though.  Like I said, there were no allegations made in the film or the book, and the actors portrayed their characters who likely couldn’t care a “Lesser Hemsworth Brother” about the politics.

One is Thor and the other is living with Miley Cyrus. The different smiles say it all.
One is Thor and the other is living with Miley Cyrus. The different smiles say it all.

We’re glad they took the politics out of the event.  Great job Mr. Bay. Now, what did you fill the two hours with?  Actually a pretty solid action flick.  From the very beginning of the movie, it was obvious that our heroes were in hostile territory.  I mean even before Jim Halpert, excuse me, I mean John Krasinski‘s character lands in Libya, he’s given the evil eye about 100 times.

Yeah, I don't think I'd be too happy with someone waving a gun in my face either.
Yeah, I don’t think I’d be too happy with someone waving a gun in my face either.

At this point, it is my complete obligation to tell you that I really had a hard time separating Krasinski’s character from his portrayal of Jim Halpert in The Office.  He doesn’t deserve that at all, as there isn’t even a “Hint of Halpert” (say that five times fast) in the whole movie.  I just really kept waiting for him to turn and look at the camera and shrug his shoulders.  I saw an interview with him and he said that he never once slipped into a Halpert-ism.  In fact, all the actors do a very good job (but odd how more than two of them were from The Office). Perhaps it’s because they were allowed to discuss this particular incident directly with their real-life counter-parts or something else, but every single person took their job seriously.  It was the script that was a bit heavy handed.

Neither did we...
Neither did we…

Here is my huge issue, these guys went through hell and back.  You don’t have to spend every other minute reminding me that they either have a family, a dog, or a pet cactus.  WE GET IT, the stakes were high.  In Hollywood, there is a tendency to spoon feed the audience the emotions of the characters instead of letting the ambiance and actors do their jobs and, you know, tell the story.  Chuck Hogan, who wrote the screenplay from the novel, can do good work, I’ve seen or read it.  He wrote The Strain series with Guillermo del Toro and even wrote the novel in which the film The Town was based.  So I’m not quite sure why the audience is bashed over the head with a Skype call to family, new pregnancies, calling children, or even taking photos into battle throughout the whole movie.  If anyone had bothered to watch the trailer, they would know that there is tons of action, gunfights, and explosions, then they likely knew someone was going to die.  Come on, this is based on a real event, you could have spoiled the movie by reading a HISTORY TEXTBOOK.

Look at those smug bastards just waiting to spoil the movie for you. Just to be safe, you should Un-Friend them so they don't spoil the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Look at those smug bastards just waiting to spoil the movie for you.  Just to be safe, you should Un-Friend them on Facebook so they don’t spoil the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Other than being told repeatedly that this is a dangerous situation, the film is fine.  Typical action with plenty of gunfire, death, explosions, and the terrible feeling that you have no idea who is your enemy and who may be a sympathizer.  I was especially impressed by how the actors shot and reloaded in this scenario.   Typically, in every other action movie, an automatic weapon fires for minutes at a time and doesn’t need to be reloaded.  This wasn’t the case in 13 Hours.  Small 3-4 round bursts and dedication to actual tactical maneuvers that might be used in an actual battle.

The set was interesting in that the creators used all of the actual blueprints to construct the buildings in the film.  That’s a pretty neat bit of dedication.  Last thing that was impressive?  The beards.  Apparently, and this is true, if you’re going to be stationed in a CIA base, and you’re hired mercenaries, then you have to have an awesomely groomed beard at all times.

Ahhhh, I can smell America from here
Ahhhh, I can smell America from here

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:

Michael Bay actually showed some restraint in this film about a real-life event that was devastating for our country and he kept the political aspects completely out of the film.  The actors did play “super-hero” versions of their actual counter-parts, but they hit the right notes and didn’t ring false at all with just a few real touches.  I was a little disappointed in the script as it intravenously fed you the stakes of the event and the artificial terror of someone dying.  It’s not a bad film to see in theaters, but you’ll enjoy it just as well by streaming or buying it on Blu-Ray.  Oh, and if you even had to wonder what I consider to be Michael Bay’s best film, then shame on you.

Just can't beat the combination of Cage, Connery, Helms, and Bay
Just can’t beat the combination of Cage, Connery, Helms, and Bay

-Darkmovienight

*****BONUS*****

Quick little bonus for all you good boys and girls.  In the first 15 minutes of the film, I realized that all grizzled looking action stars had one thing in common: they either roll up their shirts or wear short sleeves.  Just take a look (and know this is just the tip of the iceberg):

Rolled up from 13 Hours
Rolled up from 13 Hours
Short Sleeves from Casino Royale
Short Sleeves from Casino Royale
Short Sleeve Over-Shirt from Die Hard 3
Short Sleeve Over-Shirt from Die Hard 3
Rolled Up Sleeve from Chris Pine as Jack Ryan
Rolled Up Sleeve from Chris Pine as Jack Ryan
Short Sleeves for the Thieves in Ocean's 11
Short Sleeves for the Thieves in Ocean’s 11
So many Rolled Up Sleeves in Argo
So many Rolled Up Sleeves in Argo

Now you can look for it in the next film you watch.  Have a nice day.

Creed or Rocky is Old, Here You Go Kid

Seriously, do yourself a favor and enjoy this as soon as you can.

When we did our review of Spotlight, we told you the difference between “Based on a True Story” and “Inspired by a True Story”.  This film sets up the uncanny valley between the two: fiction mixed with more fiction, but while seeming like a true story, or at least based off one.

Through six movies, Sylvester Stallone has portrayed his most popular and arguably most fleshed out character, Rocky Balboa.  The Rocky series started in 1976 and has gone all the way through to 2006’s love letter to the fans and the franchise, Rocky Balboa, which was directed by Stallone himself.  What most people remember about the films is he screams “Adrian” at the top of his lungs, fights Russians and works out to a catchy tune that my Norman High “Tigers” Marching Band friends got extremely sick of.  There are not many films out there that have the pop culture impact that the Rocky franchise has had.  Although, these films may disagree with that assertion.

If you’ve been living in an underground vault for most of your life due to some type of nuclear apocalypse, or no one in your family loves you enough to show you the Rocky films, then let me tell you why Creed is a bit of an odd duck in the world of cinema.

Did you get the reference?
Did you get the reference?  We alluded to Fallout 4!

Apollo Creed is not a real boxer.  He’s a fictional adversary turned friend in the Rocky franchise.  Being based on the real champion of boxing, Muhammad Ali, Creed was introduced in the first Rocky film as the main antagonist and is portrayed by the classic real life action hero Carl Weathers.  I can’t vouch for his actual heroics, but he’ll always be my hero. Basically, the first Rocky movie had him being arrogant and getting beat up at the end of the movie to some triumphant music.  It’s typically used as an inspirational fable when someone is going through some sort of trials in the real world. Well, as most people fail to remember when recounting Rocky, Creed actually won the fight in the end.  That’s pretty much like taking inspiration from a bee stinging someone.

You know you're going to die now, right?
You know you’re going to die now, right?

Anyway, throughout the whole franchise, Creed and Rocky come to blows again and again, both physically and emotionally.  Eventually, Creed dies in the ring during Rocky IV, by the living embodiment of the Red Menace, Ivan Drago, portrayed by the then semi-coherent Dolph Lundgren.  It was an action/drama film in the 1980’s, so of course the villain had to be Russian, it was the Cold War dammit!

Dolph Lundgren
Just look at the vague coked-up fierceness in his expression

Well, the long and the short of it is, Creed dies in this fictional universe and Rocky continues on…for two more films.  Now that we’ve established a bit of the history in this fictional universe, let’s talk about the film at hand.

Creed features the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, Adonis Johnson. He’s portrayed by the criminally underused Michael B. Jordan (see the latest Fantastic 4 disaster).  Now Jordan brings something really interesting to this film. It’s his motivation.  Think about it, as an actor, there are so many styles you can employ to create a character: classical acting, method acting, or even the newfangled Neurostethic acting (I’d try to explain the last one but I’m pretty sure it’s made up by the Screen Actors Guild to show that film is continuing to be “progressive”).  Jordan doesn’t have a lot to work with here.  His emotional input is to be the son of a famous fictional character.  It’s not rocket surgery or anything, but it does present a problem: how can the young actor motivate himself when the source material is completely made up?

I’m sure many of you are confused here and saying, “Isn’t that what actors do?”  Well, you’d be right for the most part.  A role like this could easily be phoned in and done with little to no emotion.  Jordan doesn’t take that route.  He makes you believe that he really has a chip on his shoulder and is afraid he can’t get out from under his father’s shadow. Remember, his “father” is a fictional character.  I truly believe that took a lot of talent on Jordan’s part and I hope he gets to have meaty roles like this in the future.

Hopefully this doesn't make him quit the craft entirely
Michael, in the title, I didn’t mean LITERALLY passing the torch…

At any rate, you have Jordan’s amazing performance and determination (both as an actor and as the fictional Creed’s son), but you also have Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa.  Now I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Sly in real life, but based on his body of work, I’m pretty sure the “Rocky” character is close to his real personality, or at least I hope it would be.  Rocky is Rocky.  There isn’t too much to say for Sly but he does his job and handles some of the more difficult sequences with the talent of an experienced actor.  I will give him the credit of using his age to his advantage instead of falling off the face of the Earth and retiring as so many do.  There is a place for older actors and I’m glad he takes full advantage of it.

Surely he can't let "League of Extraordinary
Surely he can’t let “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” be his last film…

After the performances given by its cast and a robust fictional lore, the final few things that Creed excels at is its cinematography and fight choreography.  Most people don’t tend to notice one cinematographer from the next, but I really have to applaud the amazing job Maryse Alberti does here.  Her work is also seen in the fantastic 2008 film, The Wrestler if you want a point of reference.  Now, she has won multiple awards for her work, so it’s no surprise that she would do well, but when you are watching Creed, not only do you feel every punch, see clearly the agony and endurance of Rocky and Creed Jr., but you really get a point of view that is spectacular.  It’s difficult to describe, but in each and every fight or training scene, you feel like you’re actually in the action. While Creed is only rated PG-13, the work done by Alberti makes it feel much more brutal.  Make no mistake, this is a tough boxing movie.

Speaking of the boxing, it is incredible.  This is a sport’s film, so of course everything will be an exaggerated version of the real thing, but man oh man do these fights make you want to get up and cheer just as in a real match.  In my screening, there were several people that were actually shadowboxing during the titular fight scene, which getting that sort of response from your audience is just cool.  The fight choreography was absolutely top notch.  I don’t think I’ve seen something as gripping and thrilling since the Neo/Smith fight in The Matrix (yes, I’m just talking about the first one in the subway).  I just have to say that it had me cheering, albeit quietly.

Yes, whoa is right
Yes, “Whoa” is the appropriate phrase and response in this particular case, well done Mr. Reeves.

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:

The Rocky franchise can now live on since Stallone has passed the torch to a younger generation.  Let’s see how many more movies can be made on this premise.  Creed is a sports film through and through.  It’s main job is to make the audience feel like they can do anything and sensationalize the sport in question.  Check both those off of your list, then add to it an amazing performance by Michael B. Jordan, Sly being Sly, amazing film work, exciting fights and you’ve got a winner in every sense of the word.

Oh, and even though it’s not in the film, a huge pop culture gift the Rocky franchise and the band Survivor gave to everyone (and you’ll be singing it throughout the rest of the day) was this glorious tune:

You can find my personal favorite video version here, but you would have to be a Supernatural fan to really appreciate it.

-Darkmovienight

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 or The Last Dystopian Movie with Kids I’ll Go See

HungerGamesMockingjay2Poster

This will be a quick review on The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 as Manchicken has already done a good job of displaying our feelings of the film.  The only reason I’m giving this five minute review is to do two things: 1) showcase the absolutely beautiful IMAX poster for the film that is above and 2) I, unlike Manchicken, never read the books, so you’ll get a slightly different opinion.  The old adage that “The book was better than the movie” has been repeated so often, it has become truth when it’s not necessarily correct.

Book is better
That campfire seems pretty precarious for a bunch of books…

At any rate, I really enjoyed the final film in The Hunger Games series. Unique concept and well executed film, all the way from the actors, directors, and special effects team.  As with most young adult novels, I had no knowledge of the books until the movie gained popularity and I saw people cosplaying as people from The Capitol.

Seriously, cosplay people take this stuff seriously
Seriously, cosplayers take this stuff seriously,
Amazing Cosplay
and sometimes do better than the actual costume designers…

Anyway, having not read the books, the light finish for Mockingjay Part 2 seemed a bit odd.  They hinted at long term damage, but from what I saw, everyone who made it out alive was just fine.  Revolutions come and revolutions go.  Each individual person reacts differently, even the figureheads for either side.

After reading Manchicken’s review, I can’t imagine why they would leave out much larger consequences of the battles other than people dying. It’s probably exactly for the reasons he mentioned, they couldn’t disfigure the pretty Jennifer Lawrence.

Couple of final thoughts:

-Where was Bradley Cooper?  He would have killed it as someone…I don’t know, he and Jennifer Lawrence just have good chemistry and I don’t think either of them should be in a film without the other.

-All the actors seemed exhausted and if it was just from doing these movies for the last four years, it really helped convince me of the weary survivor state all there characters were in.

-Donald Sutherland is just awesome.  Menacing and absolutely calculating.  His final scene was the single most insane moment of the movie.  I loved it.  Oh, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman (rest in peace) were great as usual.

-I’m really dead tired with the genre of kids living and surviving in a dystopian future.  Don’t get me wrong, I know one somehow we will find a way to screw up the planet beyond all recognition, but kids just don’t have to be the heroes all the time.  Likely I won’t even attempt to watch this type of film again.  Looking at you Divergent and Maze Runner series.

Sometimes it's the lack of children that gives us the best dystopian future
Sometimes it’s the lack of children that gives us the best dystopian future

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:

Well filmed, well directed, and used some amazing set pieces.  Jennifer Lawrence was great and the Lesser Hemsworth brother was just fine (seriously, watch that video, anything Jennifer Lawrence says out of character is amazing).  Anyway, action was great, finished the series on a high note and was totally enjoyable.  Yeah, the break between Part 1 and Part 2 was odd, but I doubt many people would watch a movie in theaters for well over four hours.

Maybe I'm wrong
Maybe I’m wrong…

-Darkmovienight

Spotlight or How Confirmation Bias Works

Spotlight

So this has been a tough one.  In general, a movie review, not to mention the reviewer, has to separate the subject matter of the film from the performances of the actors and the general tone, look, and feel of the movie.  Spotlight was difficult because, as I’ll mention later, this made me really sick to my stomach and broke my heart.  Well, I’ll go ahead and define a few things and then do my best keep it light and to give a review this film based on the entertainment value and not the wretched subject matter.

First things first.  I want everyone to know the difference between “Inspired by a True Story/Events” and “Based on a True Story”.  Anything that is “Inspired by” a person, place, or event typically leans more on the fictitious side.  The screenwriter(s) or director might have gotten something right from the truth, but that could be something as simple as the names of the people involved, but most take a lot of liberties with the story.  While Argo was “Inspired by True Events” Ben Affleck largely downplayed how the Canadians did most of the work and the whole tense end sequence was pure fiction.

Sorry
Sorry my beloved, even with your perfectly sculpted beard and ‘Devil May Care’ haircut, you totally didn’t give the brave Canucks enough credit you hoser.

Now we get to things “Based on a True Story/Event”.  This typically swings completely the other way than “Inspired By” films.  Most of the material is not fictionalized, but sometimes names, places, length of time the event occurred in, etc.  One of the best examples is 127 Hours. If you’ve seen that film, then you know you can go ahead and ask the crazy bastard who actually sawed his arm off and then went back for more adventuring.

Why couldn't
Why couldn’t it have really been James Franco?

Now that we have cleared up some common misconceptions, let me tell you where Spotlight falls in this spectrum.  When you go back up and look at the movie poster at the beginning of the review, you’ll see the following phrase: “The true story behind the scandal that shook the world.”  Notice there are no “Inspired By” or even “Based On” in that byline.  Spotlight goes one above the other movies we’ve talked about. This is a true story.  The director, Tom McCarthy and screenwriter Josh Singer both have the unenviable job of bringing this tale of molestation, corruption, and investigation to the silver screen.  Now that we know that this is pretty much biographical, let’s dig into the film.

warning_sign
Seriously, not going to pull any punches, so if words like molestation or Catholicism are triggers for you, go read Manchicken’s hate for the worst movie this year, it’ll be better.

Again, trying to separate the subject matter from the film, that’s the goal but unfortunately Spotlight really focuses on two things that bug the hell out of me: child molestation and organized religion.  Last week on Wednesday Wars we celebrated Veterans, and I was explicit in that most of the post was satire.  I didn’t bring my personal bias or thoughts about war and soldiers in general.  However, in this case, I will not hid my thoughts on the matter.  Like I said in the title, I believe most (if not all) organized religions are crooked and have no place in the modern world. On top of that, and here is where my confirmation bias comes into play, I have absolutely no trouble with believing that the Catholic church is a sordid and dangerous institution.  That’s about all I’m going to say on the subject matter.

Francis, I totally dig you in general, but you've GOT to get your house in order
Francis, my man,  I totally dig you in general, you’re good people but you’ve GOT to get your house in order dude.

Spotlight is an investigative team from the Boston Globe who take on large cases and brought to light an absolutely abhorrent story of Catholic priests molesting young boys and girls in the city of Boston. Their 2002 article then spurred a look at the Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal’s.  Tom McCarthy, the director, has spent more time in front of the camera than behind it, but you can easily feel the tension in his style. This is something he cares about.  Every single frame depicts a horrifying look into one of the oldest institutions in the World and McCarthy makes sure you feel that disgust.  Whether it’s from the decidedly grey tint to the cinematography or the extremely heated dialogue written, it’s very apparent that something is seriously wrong here.  He absolutely excels at making you feel uncomfortable, as you should, and for a film to elicit emotions like that is really what it’s all about.  Of course we love the light-hearted comedies and action films, but sometimes, when you see a film like Spotlight, you’re reminded why the moving pictures are there at all: they exist to move you.

While the discomfort in the theater was absolutely palpable in the air, the ante was upped even from there with the unbelievable cast they put together.  I’ll list the major people here, but everyone involved in this production, especially the actors portraying the victims, were involved in a way that you don’t see everyday.  It’s as if they understood the gravity of the subject matter and that their acting and every word of dialog would somehow stop this sort of abuse by supposedly trusted individuals.  As I said, let me toss out the main cast: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, and Stanley Tucci.  I honestly don’t believe I’ve ever written the names of such talent in one review.

The three that I really want to showcase (just couldn’t use the word “Spotlight” there) are Ruffalo, Keaton, and Tucci.  First off, it’s really good to see Michael Keaton taking meaty roles recently.  Last year’s critical darling, Birdman, was the first time I saw his acting chops really get challenged since the ’89 Batman.

There really was
There really was some spectacular acting in this film.  Seriously, go back and watch it.

Anyway, Keaton succeeds as the editor of the Spotlight team by not only being their bosses, but he really digs into the trenches with them on this story.  I sincerely hope the real Walter Robinson treated his employees the way Keaton gelled with the rest of the cast.

Stanley Tucci usually plays the creepiest of characters, have you seen The Lovely Bones?  If not, and you’re a parent, I recommend you don’t.  You’ll be convinced Tucci is outside of your house every night.  As if one Boogeyman wasn’t enough, Hollywood had to cast Tucci in roles that he’s way too good at.  However, in Spotlight, he portrays the attorney that is attempting to bring the criminals to justice.  Yes, these people are the worst kind of criminals.  And this is going to be really controversial, but at least murderers end their victims’ lives.  Anyone who has been molested, raped, physically abused, etc. can attest that at some point you feel you’d rather be dead than live the life laid out in front of you. So, Tucci brings in victims, discusses cases, and the whole time I don’t know how he doesn’t throw up.

In my opinion, the true star of the film is Mark Ruffalo.  I love him as The Hulk, but this was a much different role.

Yeah, I felt like screaming too
“HULK HATE HUMAN SEXUAL DEVIANT PREDATORS!”

Ruffalo very much represents the audience in this film.  Not only does he have some of the toughest scenes (many with Tucci), but he handles most of the legwork of the film.  The sheer anger and disgust that is put on display with not only his words, but his mannerisms.  There are several shots he is in that his face clearly depicts what I hope everyone who watches this film feels: revulsion.  I would have never believed he was capable of this range, but he pulls it off, and again, maybe it’s due to how important the investigation that the real Spotlight team did.

There is no good way to end this review.  We all know what happened and the fallout.  Much of it was covered up as best as it could be by the church, but the World was made aware of a serious systemic problem in their ranks.  I didn’t do a good job of separating myself from the subject matter and the film, but hopefully what you read conveyed my own anger and revulsion to this issue.  That’s something that just can’t be taken lightly.

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:

Everyone involved in making this movie did two things: they made it entertaining and they made you feel disgust and anger.  This film will move you.  It’s opening in wide release today, so I recommend you go take a look.  It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you can get past the truly horrific nature at the core of this film, you’ll find actors who care a great deal, a good investigative story, and writing/dialogue that should, and will, make you sick.  For me, it confirmed my beliefs.  Will it do the same for you, or will it challenge them?

-Darkmovienight

Spectre or The Bond Movie that was a Bond Movie but not like Recent Bond Movies…Bond

spectre-poster

Bond, James Bond.   Over 24 movies, we’ve heard this phrase uttered a million times by a million actors (giver or take a million) and it never gets old.  When a Bond film is announced and then hypes its way to release, there is a certain air of mystery and excitement.  Who is the villain and what is their master plan?  What new gadgets does Bond get this time? How many STD’s has he contracted since the last film?

"Seriously 007, Gonorrhea is no joke" -M
“Seriously 007, Gonorrhea is no joke” -Q

Since 2006’s Casino Royale, the Bond reboot if you will, both the quality of the action and storytelling of the films has increased and changed dramatically.  In general, the tone of the films have deviated from the typical action film with repetitious plot points to an adventure film that happens to have James Bond in it.  It is much the same way that The Dark Knight was a gangster/mob film that happened to have characters dressed as a Bat and a Clown.  It is also no coincidence that these films were released so close together as in the mid-to-late 2000’s, writing good films came first and then adding all the traditional troupess (superhero powers, spies, and bulletproof protagonists) was a large part of the film-making industry.  Iron Man is another great example of this sort of style. The movie was first about the morality of arms dealing and terrorism, then eventually included a man in a supersuit.  And as we all know, this method was extremely successful as all of the films mentioned above went on to either complete series or start an epic universe.

This would not have happened in any other age of filmmaking
This would not have occurred in any other age of film-making

In Spectre, the James Bond franchise reemerges as what audiences think of as the “typical Bond film”.  While its really the culmination of the story arc started in Casino Royale, it is very different from the films that proceed it. Casino Royale and Skyfall both gave the Bond films a much needed change of pace and style.  They still had witty dialogue, gadgets, attractive women, sex and excitement, but gone were the “over-the-top” set pieces and world destroying plans.  In short, those Bond films were much more subtle and personal.  You can really tell the difference between them by just knowing the villain’s motives and ultimate goals. Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre from Casino Royale was there to win a poker tournament to pay off other villains.  And Javier Bardem’s Silva in Skyfall just wanted to exact revenge against Dame Judi Dench’s M and MI6 for him being spurned by the agency and his “Mother”.  This is a far cry from the last “traditional Bond film”, Die Another Day, which included an ice castle hotel, North Korean face transplants, and a giant sun focusing laser in space.

It's the
It’s the space laser one, that’s what doesn’t belong. Also Halle Berry, but that a whole other story

What made Casino Royale and Skyfall so special was Daniel Craig’s performance and tearing away all the familiar and expected Bond behavior. Daniel Craig’s Bond is vulnerable, he can be hurt, he makes mistakes and he’s all the more entertaining for it.  Now don’t get me wrong, all the actors proceeding him had their merits, especially Connery who brought Bond to life, but none of them have been put through the ringer like Craig’s Bond.  And with Spectre, you’re going to get a lot more of that, but as we’ve come to expect, Craig pulls it off effortlessly and showcases why he was the perfect choice for James Bond in the first place.  Now, there is already a large discussion on whether or not he should return to the role for a fifth time as 007.  I believe he wrapped up a good storyline in Spectre and should only return if it is absolutely necessary to the film’s story that Craig be the face of Bond.  I’d honestly rather a fresh new face portray the most well known spy, but my choice is pretty controversial:

Just seems right to me, but I'd be fine with anyone on this list
Seems like a perfect, bold, and unique fit to me, but I’d be fine with anyone on this list

Back to Spectre.  With a brilliant character, excellent track record, and all the hype in the world (at least what’s not being used for The Force Awakens), it really puzzles me why Director Sam Mendes decided to return the series to its typical troupess.  The action was completely over-the-top, which while still enjoyable but felt out of place from the other films with Craig’s Bond. Even the elaborate torture machine has been reintroduced.  SPECTRE as villainous organization is way more “World Dominating Illuminati”-Type than what we’ve seen in a while.   The film makes it seem as if they’ve been behind every criminal activity from terrorism to mismatching hot dogs with hot dog buns.

I KNEW it had to be a Conspiracy
I KNEW it had to be a Conspiracy by a shadow organization

At any rate, Spectre is very entertaining but lacks the subtle nuances of the more recent Bond films.  Now don’t discount the film just because it eschews from what Craig has done with 007, but remember that the James Bond series was highly enjoyable with all the troupess in place. One of these famous troupess are the unique, diabolical, and just plain cool villains.

Christoph Waltz was universally regarded as absolutely terrifying in Inglourious Basterds as Colonel Hans Landa.  Then everyone cheered for him passionately as Dr. King Schultz in Django Unchained.  It’s also worth noting that he won Oscars (Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role) for both performances.  So, bringing him on as the newest and most diabolical of all the new Bond villains was nothing short of a perfect casting decision.  He commands all of the attention in almost every scene he is in like a Kardashian on TMZ.

This is what a
This is what a Kardashian is, right?

Now I won’t spoil anything, but suffice it to say, if you know your Bond lore, you know who heads up SPECTRE.  If not, go back and watch 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever and you’ll get it.  Sadly Sam Mendes takes a page from J.J. Abrams’ playbook and chooses to hide details that any Bond fan will easily see.  This robs any drama from any possible surprise revelations and just confuses anyone who hasn’t been following the franchise since the early 1960’s.

His name is actually
His name is actually Thanos, but for marketing the film, we’ll call him Luke Skywalker

Coming into the film knowing Waltz will be brilliant pulls a lot of the stress from all the other actors.  Ralph Fiennes, with his decidedly attached nose, does his job as the new M by being cross with 007 most of the time, but he gets to kick some ass this time around, which is pretty awesome. The other two actors who I adored in Spectre are Ben Whishaw’s Q (sadly he’s no Desmond Llewelyn or John Cleese, but he brings his own charm and idiosyncrasies to the character of Q) and Dave Bautista as the main brawler villain in the film.  Bautista, wrestler turned actor, has been climbing the ranks and becoming one of my favorite people in Hollywood.  He absolutely delivers the strong, silent, and menacing big gun of the film.

I don't have a trigger
“How can I be a gun, I have no trigger or hold any ammunition?”

Anyway, Waltz and Bautista are the perfect villains for the traditional Bond style, and that’s really what Spectre is, just a return to the old Bond films which were mostly successful and beloved. I left the theater entertained, which is the whole purpose of movies, but not “wowed” by the film.  Don’t get me wrong, you should absolutely see Spectre in theaters just for the sheer enjoyment of a Bond film and all that that implies, but just be ready to experience the Bond films of old, Aston Martin and all.

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:

You’re absolutely going to be entertained by Spectre.  From the stylish action, over-the-top set pieces, Craig’s perfect portrayal as Bond, and some of the coolest villains in recent memory, there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy it.  Just don’t go in expecting Casino Royale or Skyfall.

Also, I want this on the record that I went this whole review without making A SINGLE REFERENCE TO TENTACLES, so that should make my partner, TheManChicken happy.

I’ll leave everyone with a parting gift.  One iconic aspect of all Bond films that is always my favorite are the opening credits and the song that accompanies them.  While the official footage isn’t available yet, Sam Smith’s music video (they still make those?) is available, so enjoy “(The) Writing’s On The Wall” and then go see Spectre while it is in theaters.

-Darkmovienight