Ep. 97 – Beauty and the Beast, Kong: Skull Island, and our full SXSW recap

March 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “Beauty and the Beast,” circle back to pick up “Kong: Skull Island” from last week, and give their full SXSW recap, including quick reviews of “The Disaster Artist,” “Baby Driver,” and “Mr. Roosevelt.”

[00:00-42:53] Intro/SXSW recap

[42:53-56:37] Review: “Beauty and the Beast”

[56:37-1:06:30] Review: “Kong: Skull Island”

[1:06:30-1:10:20] Wrap up/tease

Click here to download the episode!

SXSW Review: The Disaster Artist

March 14, 2017 by  
Filed under CineBlog

“The Disaster Artist,” a comedy documenting the creation of the cult-classic film “The Room,” often called “the worst movie ever made,” received a standing ovation from a crowd at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, where the film screened for South By Southwest as a work in progress.

Director and star James Franco, who plays the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau, was on hand along with producing partner Seth Rogen (who has a role as an exasperated script supervisor in the film) and Franco’s brother Dave, who plays Wiseau’s best friend and “The Room” co-star Greg Sestero.

(The actual Tommy Wiseau an Greg Sestero were in attendance as well, receiving a standing ovation themselves as they took the stage for a post-show Q&A.)

The film, based on the book “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever” by Sestero and Tom Bissell, chronicles the meeting of Wiseau, a mysterious man with an inscrutable accent and long black hair who looks much older than he says he is, and Greg, a fresh-faced 19-year-old struggling to make it as an actor San Francisco in the late ’90s.

Tommy and Greg become friends–in Tommy’s case, Greg is really his only friend–and move to Los Angeles to make it big as actors, despite Tommy’s eccentric behavior and his cryptic warnings to Greg to not tell anyone anything about him and his increasing jealousy of seemingly anything Greg gets that he doesn’t, like an agent, or something that steals Greg’s attention, like a girlfriend.

After they both struggle to find work, Tommy vows to write a film for he and Greg to star in and, with Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” as his inspiration, Tommy bangs out the script for “The Room” and digs into what one character calls a “bottomless pit” of money to produce his “All-American” vision his way, including the unorthodox practice of buying film equipment over leasing it and using it to shoot film and HD video side-by-side.

Tommy himself and the script for the film baffle crew members, including the script supervisor and de facto director Sandy (Rogen) and director of photography Raphael (Paul Scheer), who both nearly quit over Tommy’s outrageous behavior, only to be talked out of it by Greg, the checks that are still clearing, and the notion that no one will see the film anyway.

Of course, the film saw the light of day in 2003 and became a midnight sensation thanks to Tommy’s paying to keep it in theaters (to qualify for the Academy Awards) and an infamous, ominous billboard that lorded over Hollywood for more than a decade.

Easily his best film as a director to date (most of them are really weird and terrible), James Franco also disappears incredibly into Tommy, making him more than just a weird accent and greasy black hair, but also leaving the mystery of Tommy effectively intact. Sure, the audience might want to know some simple things like where Tommy came from, where he gets his money, and just how old he is–but the real Wiseau has never publicly revealed that either.

Franco’s wonderful performance, like the film itself, is easily on par with the Johnny Depp-Tim Burton biopic “Ed Wood,” a career-best turn for both, about a delusional, never-give-up director of terrible-yet-sincere movies that share DNA with “The Room.”

The question remains if “The Disaster Artist,” still technically not complete and a little scraggly in the middle, will play to a crowd that isn’t familiar with “The Room” and all of its foibles. The audience at SXSW was certainly made up of devotees (myself included), loudly cheering and laughing at every recreated line and situation (the original film screened right after the Q&A wrapped up…I didn’t stay for that).

Regardless, “The Disaster Artist” is delightfully hilarious and, like the inimitable Tommy Wiseau, has genuine heart.

Kong: Skull Island

March 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts (“The Kings of Summer”)
Written by: Dan Gilroy (“Nightcrawler”) and Max Borenstein (“Godzilla”) and Derek Connolly (“Jurassic World”)

What if “Apocalypse Now” was remade today, but with a twist:  instead of the Viet Cong, you replace them with King Kong? While the movie isn’t shameless enough to title itself “Viet Kong,” instead “Kong: Skull Island” foregoes subtlety—and, damningly, simplicity—to sort of retell Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece with a giant ape and connective tissue to other giant monsters in the pipeline ready to star in their own film franchises. In short, “Kong: Skull Island” is a weird fucking movie, albeit one that squanders that weirdness by bogging it down in a swamp of exposition, an overabundance of characters, and weird shifts in tone.

After a prologue shows us a pair of pilots, one American and one Japanese, crash landing on an island in the South Pacific during World War II and encountering our title character, we’re thrown ahead nearly 30 years to the waning days of the Vietnam War. Satellite photography and mapping is all the rage, and would-be explorer Bill Randa (John Goodman) uses the threat of Russian discovery to convince a senator to finance an exploratory mission with a military escort to Skull Island, which is permanently surrounded by storms.

The military enlists Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a career soldier looking for a fight after having to “cut and run” in Vietnam, and his men to facilitate the expedition. Along for the ride is former British special forces tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), the latter of which provides the story with its inevitable “Beauty and the Beast” allegory. As soon as the team arrives and sets off bombs for, uh, some reason, they’re met with a fury by Kong himself, swatting helicopters out of the air and leaving Packard with a thirst for revenge.

Cool monster fisticuffs aside, “Kong: Skull Island” ends up a mess as we’re expected to follow too many different poorly-drawn characters (big ape included) as they make their way across the unclear geography of Skull Island, during which moments of would-be or unintentional comic relief mar what comes down to a movie about a crazed Samuel L. Jackson taking on King Kong. I mean, that sounds badass, right? But then what the hell is with Tom Hiddleston tossing on a gas mask and grabbing a katana to knife through a flock of pterodactyls in a poisonous gas cloud in slow motion? Is THAT supposed to be badass? Because it’s just sort of laughable. And the glut of characters leaves fine actors, like Goodman, Brie Larson, Shea Whigham, and Toby Kebbell, either stranded with nothing to do or with so little motivation the whole thing feels like a byproduct of bad editing.

Ep. 96 – Get Out, our Oscar picks, and Moonlight hits home video

February 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review the new horror/comedy from Jordan Peele, “Get Out.” They also hand out their Oscar picks, and take look at “Moonlight” as it hits home release on Tuesday.

[00:00-17:45] Intro/inside podcast talk

[17:45-41:29] Oscar picks

[41:29-52:51] Review: “Get Out”

[52:51-1:04:50] No Ticket Required: “Moonlight”

[1:04:50-1:15:46] Wrap up/tease
Click here to download the episode!

Ep. 95 – Logan (spoilers start at 53:52), The Great Wall, A Cure For Wellness, and why can’t WB nail down The Batman?

February 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody, Jerrod and special guest critic James Roberts review “Logan” (spoilers for the movie start at 53:52, so be wary!), “The Great Wall” and “A Cure For Wellness.” They also wonder just what the hell is going on with Warner Bros. losing yet another director for “The Batman.”

[00:00-14:09] Intro

[14:09-38:56] News: Director Matt Reeves might be walking away from “The Batman,” leaving the movie in disarray

[38:56-1:02:50] Review: “Logan” (spoilers run 53:52-1:02:16)

[1:02:50-1:14:31] “The Great Wall”

[1:14:31-1:24:56] “A Cure For Wellness”

[1:24:56-1:36:07] No Ticket Required: “Manchester by the Sea”

[1:36:07-1:43:41] Wrap up/tease
Click here to download the episode!

Logan

February 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen
Directed by: James Mangold (“The Wolverine”)
Written by: Scott Frank (“The Wolverine”) & James Mangold (“Walk The Line”) and Michael Green (“Green Lantern”)

In the 17 years since Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” birthed the modern comic book movie, there have been a sizable number of really good films in the genre—but transcendent ones are as rare as adamantium. 2008’s “The Dark Knight” obviously makes that list, and many would put 2012’s “The Avengers” right behind it, followed in some circles by last year’s “Deadpool.” And now, nearly two decades after his first, career-making appearance as Wolverine, Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold join their company and outdo every film in the X-series—and most comic book movies, period–with the R-rated “Logan.”

Set in 2029 after something mysterious (and blissfully unexplored) left most mutants dead, “Logan” opens with Jackman’s erstwhile berserker X-Man, weak and hungover, sleeping in a limousine. When a group of guys try to steal his rims, Logan can’t muster the strength to take them down—until a shotgun blast to the chest awakens his anger and he cuts them to ribbons. Later, he’s met by a woman named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) who offers him $50,000 to take her and her young daughter, Laura (Dafne Keen) to North Dakota—both of whom are also wanted by a ruthless, robotic-handed mercenary Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook). When the shit hits the fan, Logan and an elderly, dementia-addled Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) escape in the limo with Laura, who mysteriously mirrors Logan in both rage and the presence of razor-sharp claws that extend from her appendages.

Clearly owing a debt to the financial success of the brilliantly profane and grisly “Deadpool,” Jackman and Mangold were taken off the PG-13 leash, free to pepper “Logan” (seemingly not beholden to much of the series’ notoriously convoluted timeline) with all of the fucks and gory decapitations that have been missing from the character’s DNA. It pays off, too, allowing the film’s achingly bleak, last-of-its-kind tone to wash over everything without the compromise normally required for something meant to sell action figures and breakfast cereal. 17 years later, after pretty great movies (“X2,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past”) horrible duds (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) and underappreciated turns missing just a little something (“The Wolverine”), Jackman—in what he insists is his final performance in a role he 100 percent owns—finally has his comic book movie masterpiece.

The Great Wall

February 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Andy Lau
Directed by: Yimou Zhang (“House of Flying Daggers,” “Hero”)
Written by: Carlo Bernard (“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”), Doug Miro (“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”) and Tony Gilroy (“The Bourne Ultimatum”)

For those prematurely concerned with another Hollywood whitewashing of Asian culture when “The Great Wall” was announced with star Matt Damon, rest assured: this is most definitely a Chinese movie with Americans along for the ride. With most of the dialogue in Mandarin (with English subtitles) and some of the Chinese film industry’s biggest stars in actor Andy Lau and acclaimed director Zhang Yimou, “The Great Wall” doesn’t feel culturally compromised (at least to this ugly American), but it doesn’t ever fully embrace its potential for mash-up weirdness either.

When a pair of European men, William (Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal), narrowly escape a monstrous creature while on the hunt for black powder in China during the Song dynasty, they stumble across the Great Wall as the color-coded soldiers prepare for an attack by the Tao Tie. The Chinese army, made of up archers, wall-walking infantrymen, and rope-assisted crane fighting women, are defending the capital from the creatures (essentially telepathic monster dogs who came to earth in a meteor and represent greed!). When William proves himself to be an effective warrior, he earns the trust of Commander Lin Mae (Tian Jing) and devises a plan alongside the Chinese soldiers to defeat the dog-monsters once and for all.

While “The Great Wall” isn’t a bad movie, it is mostly a boring one—and one that leaves what could be epic multicultural weirdness on the table. Damon is fine, if not totally committed, to the role of a semi-scoundrel looking for honor, but the trio of screenwriters (including frequent Damon collaborator Tony Gilroy) fail to drum up much internal conflict for William—or anyone else for that matter. “The Great Wall” presents its conflict (the fight against the telepathic dog-monsters from space), the threat they pose (the dog-monsters have breached the Great Wall) and the unlikely secret weapon Damon introduces (a magnet!) that can help take the Tao Tie down and save the planet in the process. If that sounds potentially bananas, especially in the hands of Zhang, you’d be right. But “The Great Wall” never lives up to its batshit crazy potential.

Ep. 94 – The LEGO Batman Movie, John Wick: Chapter 2, Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis, The Edge of Seventeen, and Beavis & Butt-head: The Complete Collection

February 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Jerrod and Cody review “The LEGO Batman Movie” and “John Wick: Chapter 2.” They also dive in to new home entertainment releases “Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis,” “The Edge of Seventeen,” and “Beavis & Butt-head: The Complete Collection.”

[00:00-29:30] Intro/SXSW tease

[29:30-44:48] Review: “The LEGO Batman Movie”

[44:48-56:37] Review: “John Wick: Chapter 2”

[56:37-1:19:19] No Ticket Required: “Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis,” “The Edge of Seventeen,” and “Beavis & Butt-head: The Complete Collection”

[1:19:19-1:22:50] Wrap up/tease
Click here to download the episode!

Ep. 93 – Split, The Founder, and a Lost in London recap

January 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split” and the so-called “The Social Network with hamburgers” biopic “The Founder” starring Michael Keaton. They also recap Woody Harrelson’s live film “Lost in London” which was presented live across the country by Fathom Events.

[00:00-22:12] Intro/”Lost in London” recap

[22:12-36:19] “Split” review

[36:19-49:13] “The Founder” review

[49:13-59:32] Wrap up/tease
Click here to download the episode!

Split

January 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense,” “Unbreakable”)
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan (“The Visit,” “After Earth”)

Former Hollywood golden boy M. Night Shyamalan has been working on a comeback for longer than he was at the top of his game, and since the double-sided nadir of “The Last Airbender” and “After Earth,” Shyamalan has gone small, like a former world-class athlete rebuilding his game in the minors. 2015’s “The Visit” was a fun found-footage horror romp with zero big stars and a sly wink at the audience from time to time. With his latest, “Split,” Shyamalan starts to play a little hero ball like it’s 2001 again, shooting to spin an intimate psychological thriller into an epic tale of supernatural ability using showy performances and, yes, a twist–with mixed results.

At a birthday party for popular high school student Claire (Haely Lu Richardson), the quiet, introverted Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) remains an outcast, invited only so it wouldn’t be awkward in class. When it’s time to go, Casey hitches a reluctant ride with Claire, Claire’s dad, and Claire’s friend Marcia (Jessica Sula), only Claire’s dad is knocked out before he can get in the car and the three girls are taken by a stranger named Kevin (James McAvoy) and locked in an underground bunker. When the girls come to, they find that Kevin suffers from dissociative identity disorder, and they’re visited and/or tormented by several identities including manically methodical Dennis, taciturn Miss Patricia, and lisping 9-year-old Hedwig. These identities are revolting against the reasonable artist persona Barry, who keeps trying to break through and reach psychiatrist Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley) — who likens Kevin’s disorder to superhuman abilities — before an unknown entity known as “The Beast” arrives to devour the captive girls.

While McAvoy’s go-for-broke performance as the multiple personalities is bold and grimly funny at times, the nearly two-hour run time leaves a few aspects teetering on the brink of annoyance (I’m looking at you, Hedwig). Also puzzling is the inclusion of a grossly depressing backstory for Taylor-Joy’s Claire that does essentially nothing for the plot accept to provide a head-scratching end to the climax and an icky aftertaste in the epilogue. Why her character was made to suffer that fate to have such a confusing payoff is a mystery.

So, let’s talk about the twist—which, really, has more in common with the Marvel school of post-credits stingers that open up the movie’s world instead of turning what we just watched on its ear. It’s a bold decision, for sure, and it’s hard to decide if it’s a brilliant move or a boneheaded one. Either way, it will make you leave the theater talking. Although it’s a little like watching Kobe Bryant back in the day score 60 points in a game—thrilling, to be sure, but maybe an indicator that Shyamalan hasn’t quite learned his lesson.

Ep. 92 – Patriots Day, Live By Night, Silence, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, San Antonio Symphony Home Alone recap, Lost in London preview, and introducing Cinema on the Rocks!

January 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

The CineSnob Podcast returns from hibernation, and the rust is evident. We can’t recommend you listen to this episode, but if you do, you’ll hear reviews of “Patriots Day,” “Live by Night,” “Silence,” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

Cody and Jerrod also discuss the San Antonio Symphony’s “Home Alone” show, Woody Harrelson’s live movie “Lost in London,” and our new film series Cinema on the Rocks.
Click here to download the episode!

Patriots Day

January 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman
Directed by: Peter Berg (“Lone Survivor,” “Deepwater Horizon”)
Written by: Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”) Matt Cook (“Triple 9”) and Joshua Zetumer (“RoboCop”)

Reliving real-life, recent historical events through the eyes of a single character in a film is the hallmark of the docudrama. Think Tom Hanks’ in “Sully” or, well, Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips.” These two lead characters are portrayed as rather ordinary people thrust into incredible drama, and as an audience we identify with them, we relate to the events through their eyes. So, what if they didn’t exist, made up to heighten the tension, to put the audience in the shoes of someone who was “there” without really being there? In “Patriots Day,” that’s Mark Wahlberg’s put-upon Boston police officer Tommy Saunders, a super cop who has the ear of the commissioner, the FBI, and the governor while also being on scene for every major development in the Boston Marathon bombing, from being at the finish line when the bombs go off to each step of the manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers. It’s a strange action movie cliché that somewhat mars an otherwise solid and high-tension retelling of the worst act of domestic terrorism (sadly, since eclipsed) since 9/11.

Everyone knows the story: on April 15, 2013, two homemade pressure cooker bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others. After scouring security footage, two suspects dubbed “white hat” and “black hat” were identified, and the release of the photos sparked the duo, Chechen brothers Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff, all spooky, clueless Millennial disaffectedness), to go on a crime spree on their way to Times Square. In the process they killed an MIT police officer (Jake Picking) while trying to steal his gun and carjacked and kidnapped a Chinese exchange student (Jimmy O. Yang) before engaging in an explosive-fueled shootout with police. Tamerlan is killed in the standoff after being run over by the fleeing Dzhokhar, who became the target of an unprecedented manhunt that shut Boston down and brushed the edge of martial law. He was ultimately located, hiding in a sailboat in a suburban backyard.

If you can look past Wahlberg’s fictional cop who never sleeps, director Peter Berg has put together a fantastic ensemble piece that never loosens the screws, even if along the way it ends up painting law enforcement as maybe a bit too infallible. One scene in particular, featuring Tamerlan’s American wife Katherine (Melissa Benoist) being interrogated—after we’re told explicitly she wasn’t read her Miranda rights—by a mysterious hijab-clad government agent (Khandi Alexander) who questions her commitment to Islam, comes closest to breaking that streak, though. The FBI special agent in charge (Kevin Bacon) and Boston police commissioner (John Goodman) look on in wonder as the extra-legal interrogation takes place, but the feeling we’re left with is this—and the virtual lockdown of Boston—is for the greater good. “Patriots Day” isn’t interested in questioning those ideas, but it could have been a much richer experience had it done so.

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