Ep. 116 – Venom, A Star is Born

October 7, 2018 by  
Filed under Podcast

The CineSnob Podcast returns from its summer abroad, with reviews of “Venom” and “A Star is Born.” Cody also gives us a recap of Fantastic Fest, and we remind you to go download our friend Greg Sestero’s movie “Best F(r)iends: Vol. 1.”

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Venom

October 5, 2018 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Tom Hardy, Riz Ahmed, Michelle Williams
Directed by: Ruben Fleisher (“Zombieland,” “Gangster Squad”)
Written by: Scott Rosenberg & Jeff Pinkner (“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”) and Kelly Marcel (“Fifty Shades of Grey”) and Will Beall (“Gangster Squad”)

Do you remember the old days, post-Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” and pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe, when comic book movies were these weird standalone things, and studios were pulling out all the stops to try and get them to stick? We got mediocre to terrible movies like “Hulk,” “Daredevil,” and “Ghost Rider” out of the deal that each had to build a world where the main character was humanity’s first superhero. It sucked.

Apparently Sony, with their Tom Holland Spider-Man on loan to the MCU, looked back fondly on this era and realized they had the rights to Spider-Man’s arch nemesis Venom and thought “fuck it, let’s just make a ‘Venom’ movie with no Spider-Man whatsoever – that should be fine.”

It isn’t. “Venom” is the opposite of fine.

Tom Hardy stars as Eddie Brock, a hotshot investigative journalist in San Francisco with a hit TV show who dresses like I imagine Tom Hardy dresses all the time. When he’s given the chance to interview rocket-obsessed tech billionaire Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) after his latest spacecraft crashes on re-entry, Brock instead sneaks into the email of his girlfriend Anne (Michelle Williams, paying for a new vacation house, I guess) and notices people are dying in some human trials Drake is conducting (because, you see, Anne is one of his lawyers).

Anyway, instead of asking Drake about the spaceship (that, oops, brought back violent alien “symbiotes” that take over people’s bodies), Brock grills him about the human testing and promptly gets thrown out on his ass from the interview, his job and his relationship. Six months later, a down-and-out Brock is approached by Dr. Skirth (Jenny Slate), a whistleblower in the company who wants to put an end to Drake’s experiments. She sneaks him into the company headquarters (on property overlooking Horseshoe Bay that will apparently once become Starfleet HQ) where, in an effort to save a woman he knows from being experimented on, Brock becomes infected with a wise-cracking, head-eating symbiote known as Venom.

While “Venom” nakedly wants to be like “Deadpool,” the way it’s been clearly hacked into a PG-13 rating and the weird desire to turn the inky black monster into a do-gooder almost immediately blunts the whole thing from the start. Still, Hardy gives a wonderfully batshit if dimwitted performance at times, but alas that’s nowhere near enough to overcome the utter stupidity of Drake’s motivation or the unintentional comedy peppered throughout the film, be it an odd push in on a background scientist’s troubled reaction or making four-time Academy Award-nominee tenderly deliver the line “I’m sorry about Venom.”

No, Michelle, Sony is the one who should be sorry about Venom.

The Predator

September 14, 2018 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown
Directed by: Shane Black (“Iron Man 3,” “The Nice Guys”)
Written by: Shane Black (“Lethal Weapon”) & Fred Dekker (“The Monster Squad”)

The original “Predator” movie, released in 1987, is arguably the pinnacle of the ‘80s action movie genre. With a mix of shooting bad guys in the jungle, science fiction and pre-megastar Arnold Schwarzenegger, its no-bullshit, all-action approach makes it essential viewing. Hell, the greeting between Arnold’s Dutch and Carl Weathers’ Dillon and the “get to the choppah!” line are basically perfect. The other movies in the series, including a couple of sequels and a pair of crossovers with the “Alien” franchise, are best left unwatched.

Anyway, here we are 31 years later, and director Shane Black—who played Hawkins, the first guy the Predator killed in ’87—is at the helm of “The Predator,” a self-referential sequel that goes for laughs, but ends up with few surprises and far too many characters to remain interesting or entertaining, even with some ‘80s-level gore.

Set in a world where only the first two “Predator” movies happened, one of the dreadlocked aliens crash lands on Earth, essentially on top of sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) as he’s taking out some  random bad guys in Central America. A firefight ensues with the Predator, and he’s knocked out. Quinn steals the creature’s helmet and gauntlet, which he then mails to his family for safe keeping. He then swallows (for some reason) the ball thing that allows the Predator to become invisible, which gives him the power to cloak himself. Meanwhile, a mysterious government agency led by Traeger (Sterling K. Brown, all quips and honestly lots of fun) swoops in and steals the sedated Predator away to the United States, where he calls in Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), whose specialty is space animals because she wrote a letter to the president about it once.

Also, Quinn’s son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who is on the spectrum, opens the box containing the Predator mask and gauntlet and somehow figures out the complex operating system and turns the helmet into a Halloween costume, possibly ushering in a “Magical autistic kid” trope in the process.

Anyway, Quinn is arrested by Traeger’s men for what he knows, and is packed onto a military prison bus with the “Loonies,” a rag-tag team of soldiers with differing levels of mental issues, including characters played by Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key and Thomas Jane. When the Predator escapes and kills a bunch of lab techs, Quinn and the Loonies set out to kill the Predator, only to run up against an even bigger Predator.

While there are admittedly some laughs and groan-worthy meta-callbacks (“get to the choppers!” in reference to a bunch of street motorcycles on a military base, for some reason), “The Predator” is mostly a mess of goofs, gore, and muddled, incomplete character arcs. After three decades, everything new just keeps getting worse and worse in this franchise. Please, as with “Alien” and “Terminator” movies just…stop.

Ep. 115 – Solo: A Star Wars Story

May 29, 2018 by  
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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod travel to a galaxy far, far away to review Lord and Miller’s Ron Howard’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”

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Solo: A Star Wars Story

May 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Adlen Eherenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke
Directed by: Ron Howard (“Apollo 13,” “A Beautiful Mind”)
Written by: Lawrence Kasdan (“The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) and Jonathan Kasdan (“In the Land of Women”)

As Disney and Lucasfilm turn the Star Wars IP into a “new movie every year” cash cow, the companies seem to be stuck in a regressive loop, constantly revisiting characters and concepts that strike an immediate note of familiarity. Maybe that’s why we keep getting the Death Star or Death Star stand-ins. “The Last Jedi” excluded, Star Wars has played it safe since its resurrection from the much-maligned prequel era, which has weirdly included crafting two more prequels: 2016’s “Rogue One” and now “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” The new film is an origin story of sorts for the charming, rascally smuggler made iconic by Harrison Ford, which, despite some fun moments and an interesting dose of fan service, proves to be entirely unnecessary.

Opening in the dingy underground of the planet Corellia, our hero Han (Alden Eherenreich) lives an “Oliver Twist”-ian lifestyle, owned by the Fagin-ish worm Lady Proxima, who Han betrays after he’s sent to steal some valuable hyperfuel known as coaxium. With his love interest Qi’ra (Emila Clarke), Han looks to escape his home planet and buy a ship for the two of them with the stolen coaxium. But when Qi’ra is captured at the spaceport, Han is forced to join the Imperial Army to escape, where he’s given the last name “Solo” in a rather meh-worthy joke. In a war zone three years later, Solo meets Beckett (Woody Harrelson) a smuggler who’s looking to boost some coaxium for gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). With his newly-liberated Wookiee sidekick Chewbacca in tow, Han joins Beckett’s crew and begins his life as an outlaw.

Even as a famously troubled production—original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired and replaced with Ron Howard—“Solo” has a few things going for it, namely a grimy, lived-in palette with some inspired cinematography and Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian. Glover brings his natural charisma and charm to the role made famous by Billy Dee Williams. Eherenreich, though, not so much. While his Han Solo isn’t as bad as you’ve feared, it also isn’t really that good, and it’s definitely missing the spark Ford brought to the character. There are some decent moments, like the first meeting of Chewbacca and Han, butted up against ideas that feel half-formed, like an early movie heist perpetrated with a crew clearly inspired by “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but who get sent off without so much as a moment to mourn when things go south. And you want fan service? You’ve got fan service, mostly in the form of a late movie cameo that might leave you scratching your head if you haven’t watched any of the canonical Star Wars cartoon series. Who, come to think of it, reminds me of this movie: two things, a prequel and an origin story, sewn together to make a whole thing that’s familiar, but not anywhere near new.

Ep. 114 – Deadpool 2, and Cody’s evening with the Duplass Brothers

May 20, 2018 by  
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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “Deadpool 2,” and Cody recaps An Evening with the Duplass Brothers in Austin.

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Ep. 113 – Avengers: Infinity War (SPOILERS start at 10:02)

April 28, 2018 by  
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The CineSnob Podcast RETURNS to discuss the biggest superhero movie ever, “Avengers: Infinity War!”

WARNING: Cody and Jerrod talk spoilers starting a 10:02, so tread carefully, true believers!

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Avengers: Infinity War

April 26, 2018 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, lots more
Directed by: Joe and Anthony Russo (“Captain America: Civil War”)
Written by: Cristopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”)

The rumors are true—it’s all been building toward this. The entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, starting with “Iron Man” in 2008 and running through 17 movies in the past 10 years, culminates in the latest film, “Avengers: Infinity War.” Well, I guess really I should say it all BEGINS to culminate in “Infinity War” because—somewhat frustratingly, and despite reports to the contrary—the movie ends up being very much only the first part of a larger story, with a shocking ending that can’t help but call into question what exactly was at stake in the two hours and 40 minutes if this isn’t the end of the story.

Here’s the lowdown: cosmic bad guy Thanos (Josh Brolin), who we first saw in a post-credit’s stinger in 2012’s “The Avengers,” is hunting down the six Infinity Stones that have been scattered across the universe—and turned up as MacGuffins in many a Marvel movie—in order to achieve his goal of ultimate power, which he’ll use to wipe out half of the life forms in existence in order to save resources. Out to stop him is an all-star lineup of just about every superhero introduced in the MCU so far. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) stow away on one of Thanos’ spaceships, which leads them to bump into Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff).

Meanwhile Thor (Chris Hemsworth) takes off across the galaxy with Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and surly teenaged Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) to go forge a new weapon to take on Thanos. Back on earth, Captain America (Chris Evans) travels to Black Panther’s (Chadwick Boseman) Wakanda with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and back-from-space Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to reunite with no-longer-brainwashed Bucky (Sebastian Stan). If you’re looking for Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye or Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, sorry—they stayed home on house arrest, even though the fate of the universe is on the line.

While I won’t go into spoilers, know first and foremost, this is very much a Thanos movie. The Russo Brothers have made an interesting choice in focusing the story on their giant purple villain, with their equally-giant roster of superheroes coming in and out of his orbit. Unfortunately, that means some all-stars (like Cap and Black Panther) and solid bench players (like Scarlett Witch and Bucky) are left with little screen time to make an impact. Conversely, the Iron Man-Spider-Man-Doctor Strange trio is a real winner, as is pairing Thor up with the Guardians of the Galaxy. But as the movie nears its ending, there’s a jaw-dropping event that finds no resolution—at least not until the next Avengers movie is released. And, since nothing takes place in a vacuum, the stakes that the move lays out are somewhat cheapened, because Marvel certainly isn’t going to stop making movies anytime soon. While there are awesome thrills and amazing battles that fans have been waiting years to see, my real wish was that this were a complete story—and it isn’t.

Ready Player One

March 29, 2018 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn
Directed by: Steven Spielberg (“Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Jurassic Park”)
Written by: Zak Penn (“X-Men: The Last Stand”) & Ernest Cline (“Fanboys”)

One could fairly say I’m an easy mark for what “Ready Player One” brings to the table, at least on a surface level. A quick look at how I, a child of the ‘80s and ‘90s, live my day-to-day life would certainly lead you to believe I’d be all the way down for a movie with references to “Back to the Future,” the Bigfoot monster truck, Pizza Hut’s old logo, “Jurassic Park,” and even its ill-fated summer of 1993 competition “Last Action Hero,” for crying out loud.

Yes, I have inflatable “Star Wars: Episode I” promotional Pepsi cans in my living room to go with several McDonald’s Happy Meal displays, so I clearly love bathing in consumerist nostalgia. But I still like a good, fun story to go with my warm fuzzies, and thankfully Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” delivers.

Set in 2045 Columbus, Ohio after some unknown near-apocalyptic event (something called “The Corn Syrup Riots” is mentioned), the population spends its free time inside the Oasis, a virtual world that doubles as a giant online multiplayer game and sort of the next evolution of social media. One of those is Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a teen who goes by the name Parzival while in the Oasis, his avatar a wispy, elven humanoid who drives a modified version of Doc Brown’s Delorean time machine. He and best friend Aech (Lena Waithe), a giant, tech-savvy ogre, are “Gunters,” short for “egg hunters,” which means they’re looking for a treasure left behind in the virtual world by its late creator, James Halliday (Spielberg’s frequent collaborator Mark Rylance). Whoever find’s Halliday’s Easter Egg gets control of the Oasis, which is why Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) and his company IOI are eager to find it for themselves in order to infinitely monetize the user experience. It’s up to Parzival, Aech, Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) and their other Gunter friends to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Based on the best-selling (and highly divisive among nerds) novel by Ernest Cline (also a co-writer here), “Ready Player One” wisely broadens its horizons under Spielberg’s direction. Gone are the inside-baseball challenges that faced the characters in the book, esoterica like completing a level of “Dungeons & Dragons” or reenacting a scene from “WarGames,” instead replaced with huge race littered with recognizable vehicles from movies and video games and sequence inside a very famous haunted hotel where blood takes the elevator. Spielberg recognizes the appeal that filling the screen with pop culture artifacts brings, and even gets to play with some of the toys he first unleashed decades ago, like a ravenous T-rex that chomps at racers. But it’s far from the empty nostalgia that can make some recoil, instead a mondo-Spielbergian adventure in a future that it opines may not be as unlikely as it seems. Now, where can I get a Mayor Goldie Wilson re-election poster?

Ep. 112 – Red Sparrow, I, Tonya on Blu-ray, Oscars post-mortem, and a recap of La La Land live from the San Antonio Symphony

March 6, 2018 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review the spy thriller “Red Sparrow,” talk “I, Tonya” on Blu-ray, break down the 90th annual Academy Awards, and recap their visit to the San Antonio Symphony’s performance of “La La Land” live.

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Ep. 111 – Annihilation, Game Night

February 28, 2018 by  
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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “Annihilation” and “Game Night.” The guys are also baffled by James Gunn’s revelation that Baby Groot isn’t Groot reincarnated, but actually Groot’s son.

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Ep. 110 – Black Panther

February 20, 2018 by  
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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review Marvel Studios’ mega-hit “Black Panther.” They also talk giveaways for “La La Land” live at the Majestic, a special deal for “Birdman” live at the Empire, and our 20th anniversary screening of “The Truman Show” at Alamo Drafthouse!

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