Ep. 117 – Glass, Fyre

January 21, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

 

The CineSnob Podcast returns from another sabbatical to review M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” and the Netflix documentary “Fyre.”

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

January 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

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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!

Red 2

July 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker
Directed by: Dean Parisot (“Galaxy Quest”)
Written by: Jon Hoeber (“Red”) and Erich Hoeber (“Red”)

It’s pretty clear the current trend in Hollywood is making sequels. Franchises dominate and most new follow-up entries are surefire ways for studios to make some guaranteed cash. But the existence of “Red 2” is a strange one. The first installment had a decent reception from critics, but the box office numbers were far from impressive. The film only garnering $22.5 million and finishing second on opening weekend and grossed under $100 million domestically. Nonetheless, with sequels as popular as ever before (and whether audiences were clamoring for it or not), “Red 2” has arrived and deserves a little fanfare.

Now retired, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is told by old friend Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) that killers are after then and they need to find a safe place to retreat. Thinking Marvin is just paranoid, Frank would rather just stay put with his girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) and get on with life. A quiet life for Frank, however, isn’t in the cards. Soon, Interpol is on their tail thinking they are somehow tied to a nuclear device that has fallen into the wrong hands. Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren returns to the action as Victoria, a contract killer who has been paid to take out her former colleagues.

There’s a palpable sense of fun between cast members. Willis and Parker have great chemistry throughout the film and Willis in particular embraces the loose tone while bringing an appropriate level of action most fans know him for. Perhaps nobody is having more fun than Malkovich, whose paranoid and overly prepared character is easily the best in the film. So much of what Malkovich does is at the very least amusing. At its best, you can see why directors like the Coen brothers and Spike Jonze have cast him in darkly comical roles in the past. Still, it doesn’t all work. The novelty of seeing Mirren fire giant guns has worn off a bit, and the villain characters of the film are worthless.

The biggest struggle “Red 2” has is a fight for tone. At times, the film can strike a nice balance of humor and action, mostly when utilizing its veteran cast. In others, it is far too hokey. Characters like those performed by Brian Cox or Catherine Zeta-Jones are over the top and unfunny when put into context of the film. It’s things like Mirren reaching two arms out of either side of a moving car to fire guns or Cox watching Mirren’s feet as she shoots a gun and smelling her shoes that add a goofy albeit off-putting element.

It’s an interesting concept to see people in their 50s and 60s be able to star and hold their own in an action film. Many of the action scenes work well and are entertaining. Still, its loose tone is both a blessing and a curse. It’s highest moments provide some solid comedy and action (mostly courtesy of Malkovich) while it’s lowest feel like a director trying way too hard. There’s nothing here that is going to amaze viewers, but you could do a lot worse this summer than “Red 2.”

Moonrise Kingdom

June 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray
Directed by:
Wes Anderson (“The Royal Tenenbaums”)
Written by:
Wes Anderson (“The Royal Tenenbauns”) and Roman Coppola (“The Darjeeling Limited”)

I couldn’t help but feel conflicted as I was turned away from a sold-out showing at the local indie theater. I’ve logged hours perched firmly atop my soapbox pontificating about how people in this city should embrace independent film and stop ignoring one of the most important theaters in town. Yet there I stood, totally annoyed that after coming to dozens of showings where I’ve literally had an entire row to myself, a 10:30 screening that I wanted to go to was sold out. But what else can you expect when a film from arguably the most popular independent film director comes to town. In his first live-action film since 2007’s “The Darjeeling Limited” director Wes Anderson is back with the summer camp coming-of-age love story “Moonrise Kingdom,” a film that feels decidedly Wes Andersonesque, while also exploring new territory.

In the summer of 1965, Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) escapes from a summer camp led by overbearing Scout Master Randy Ward (Edward Norton). In escaping, he plans to meet his misunderstood penpal Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) in a field and escape together. After Scout Master Ward and Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) discover that they are missing, they team up with the group of Khaki scouts from Sam’s camp and a local policeman Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) set out to find the young runaway lovers.

It is no secret that Anderson prefers sticking to a familiar group of actors to headline his films. While Anderson invites back some familiar faces such as the oft-used Murray and Jason Schwartzman, “Moonrise Kingdom” features surprisingly few veterans from his previous films. For the first time in his career, Anderson doesn’t make use of Owen Wilson in any capacity. Instead, we see veteran actors such as Willis, Norton, and McDormand step into the fold. None of these secondary characters aside from Murray’s are particularly memorable, but Norton delivers the best performance as a scout leader that takes his job too seriously. Perhaps the most interesting difference from Anderson’s previous films is its heavy reliance on unknown kid actors. Fortunately for Anderson, Gilman and Hayward are able to soak up Anderson’s trademark quirk like a sponge. Although this is the first acting credit for both Gilman and Hayward, their lack of experience might have actually served them well. Even though their chemistry is strong, much of the humor and the highlights of the film in general in the film comes from the awkward interactions between the tweens.

“Moonrise Kingdom” is not a particularly hilarious film, but its subtle comedic moments work more often than not. The film takes a while to get its bearings but finds its footing once the audience starts spending time with Sam and Suzy in the wilderness. Despite its slow start, “Moonrise Kingdom” culminates in perhaps the most intricate, exciting and large-scale climax that Anderson has ever attempted, even making use of a few special effects (minor ones; we’re not talking Michael Bay-level here).

There’s plenty to like about “Moonrise Kingdom.” It’s charming, unique and occasionally pretty funny. Devotees of Anderson will be comforted by the familiar overhead and panning shots, offbeat humor, and the fantastic presence of Murray. Even with its highlights, however, something feels unspectacular and minor about the film from the get-go. It’s a good film and a worthy entry into Anderson’s catalog, but “Moonrise Kingdom” feels more like a summer fling than a modern classic tale of young love.

Red

October 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren
Directed by: Robert Schwentke (“The Time Traveler’s Wife”)
Written by: Jon Hoeber (“Whiteout”) and Eric Hoeber (“Whiteout”)

Never mind the swift hand-to-hand combat skills Zoe Saldaña shows off in “The Losers” or the way Angelina Jolie leaps off highways and onto the tops of big rigs in “Salt;” nothing says sexy CIA spy like Dame Helen Mirren playing shoot-’em-up behind a semi-automatic.

In “Red,” an action-comedy adapted from a limited DC Comics series short for “retired, extremely dangerous,” gray hair proves to have a correlation not only with experience and ingenuity, but also an itchy trigger finger when a team of former black-op CIA agents reunite for one last cross-country firearms romp before their Social Security kicks in.

Playing a tough old dude again (most recently in a forgettable “Expendables” cameo), Bruce Willis has a little fight left in him as Frank Moses, the youngest of the retirees who has been spending his free time watching his avocado plant sprout two measly leaves and making excuses to phone flirt with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), the woman who cuts his pension checks.

When Frank becomes the target of a group of hit men, he kidnaps Sarah to ensure her safety (worst way to get a date ever) and rallies his squad of former colleagues, including retirement home resident Joe (Morgan Freeman), paranoid spook Marvin (John Malkovich), and hobbyist/freelance contract killer Victoria (Mirren), to break into CIA headquarters and expose a major political cover-up.

The mission isn’t all that challenging for director Robert Schwentke (“The Time Traveler’s Wife”) and screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeber (“Whiteout”), who allow the geezers to come and go as they please with tons of firepower but precious little explanation. More importantly, the script maintains a playful tone and rarely takes any shortcuts by harping on the obvious, like in 2000’s “Space Cowboys,” meaning no jokes about MediCare, wrinkly asses, and drinking Ensure.

Instead, “Red” relies on its talented cast to deliver the shrewd sarcasm and a few far-fetched action sequences that make most of the film so enjoyable. While Freeman and Parker are underutilized for the most part, Malkovich is able to chew up scenery effortlessly (grenade baseball should be an Olympic sport), and Willis gives Die Hard fans reason to expect more yippee-ki-yaying before it’s all said and done.

Sure, comic-book-inspired movies don’t necessarily get better with age, but just because our heroes are on the wrong side of the half-century mark doesn’t mean things have to go downhill fast. With “Red,” it feels good to pump the brakes a bit and revel in the ridiculousness of it all.

This review originally ran in the San Antonio Current Oct. 13, 2010

Cop Out

February 26, 2010 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Ana de la Reguera
Directed by: Kevin Smith (“Zack and Miri Make a Porno”)
Written by: Robb Cullen (debut) and Mark Cullen (debut)

Even director Kevin Smith has to know what he’s created here. In the lame buddy cop flick “Cop Out,” which stars Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, Smith seems to just be passing the time with nothing better to do. Here, he allows Morgan to deliver his usual improvised shtick while Willis sits back looking older than ever. If you can get past the terribly unfunny scenes at the beginning where Morgan speeds through movie impersonations, you might be one of the very few who are able to stomach the entire movie even after the “Die Hard” reference.

Surrogates

September 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike
Directed by: Jonathan Mostow (“Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”)
Written by: Michael Ferris (“Terminator Salvation”) and John Brancato (“Terminator Salvation”)
 
Screenwriters Michael Ferris and John Brancato have a monopoly on the man-versus-machine movie this year. While they might be remembered more for penning director McG’s much-anticipated albeit disappointing sequel “Terminator Salvation,” a more engaging entry into the writing duo’s science fiction filmography is the less-publicized “Surrogates” starring Bruce Willis.

Directed by Jonathan Mostow, who’s had a hand in the “Terminator” franchise himself with the silly third installment “Rise of the Machines” in 2003, “Surrogates” finds itself in an awkward spot in September. Not big enough to play among the blockbusters of the summer and easily removed from the Oscar bait of the fall, “Surrogates” might be able to survive if enough people give it a chance to be exactly what moviegoers probably need during this transitional period: a quick flick that’s fairly satisfying.

In “Surrogates,” 98 percent of the world is run by humanlike robots known as surrogates. Basically, any human “operator” who owns one of these pristine, synthetic bodies can virtually link up to it and live out their entire life in the comfort of their own home. No longer does anyone have to go to work, run errands, or risk their lives walking out the front door. A surrogate will take care of it all.

Willis stars as Greer, an FBI agent, who along with his partner Peters (Radha Mitchell) are investigating the mysterious death of a young “operator” who happens to be the son of surrogate creator Canter (James Cromwell). Although it was thought to be impossible, someone has found a way to kill human operators by destroying their surrogates.

One person who would love to get his hands on whatever is overloading the “surries” is the Prophet (Ving Rhames), a human resistance leader whose hundreds of followers cling to his every word about the depressing dehumanization of society. Greer, too, is witnessing his own world slowly but surely distancing itself from reality. Unable to face the death of their son, Greer’s wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike) hides away in her virtual existence where she doesn’t have to confront those memories.

Much of “Surrogates” is standard sci-fi fare that never gets too technical or tries to deemphasize a plot that sometimes moves like the cogs of a rickety clock. It keeps a tolerable pace, but skips a few important beats along the way. Still, as illogical as much of it is, “Surrogates” is better throw-away-cinema than “Gamer” of earlier this month. If you were able to dodge that bullet and still need a sci-fi fix, you could do a lot worse than this.

What Just Happened?

October 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Robert De Niro, Bruce Willis, Stanley Tucci
Directed by: Barry Levinson (“Man of the Year”)
Written by: Art Linson (debut)

When actors play themselves in movies, it can either go very well (John Malkovich in “Being John Malkovich”) or seem too gimmicky (Julia Roberts as someone who looks like Julia Roberts in “Ocean’s 12”). It really depends on how the screenwriter decides to weave them into the story.

While most of these occurrences are edited down to quick and witty cameos (Tom Cruise playing himself playing Austin Powers in “The Spy Who Shagged Me” or Billy Idol playing himself in “The Wedding Singer”), “What Just Happens” decides to make it one of the cornerstones of its script, which falls flat after your realize screenwriter Art Linson is going to milk it as much as possible.

In all honesty, “What Just Happened” is a movie about a grizzly beard. The man behind the beard: Bruce Willis (played by Bruce Willis), who refuses to shave it before the production of his newest film much to the chagrin of Ben (Robert De Niro), the film’s producer.

Willis’ facial hair is only one of the many problems Ben has on his plate as a hard-working Hollywood producer. He also has his studio chief Lou (Catherine Keener) breathing down his neck after a test audience reacts negatively to Sean Penn’s new film, “Fiercely,” which needs to be re-edited for the Cannes Film Festival. Apparently, people don’t like when movies end with a beloved animal being gunned down point blank and left to twitch and die.

While “What Just Happened” plays on the absurdity of Hollywood and the cutthroats who live and work there, De Niro’s Ben never really expands any of these ideas to more than a few shouting matches and sessions with his shrink. Everyone is supposed to represent professionals in the industry, but Linson and director Barry Levinson deliver some surprisingly amateurish scenes. What’s happened to Levinson anyway? Since winning an Oscar for “Rain Man” and giving us gems like “The Natural” and “Good Morning Vietnam” in the 80s, he’s hit rock bottom with shockingly bad movies like “Envy,” “Bandits,” and “Man of the Year.” His last memorable film was “Wag the Dog” and that was 11 years ago.

There might be no business like show business, but in “What Just Happened” there’s nothing really interesting about what goes on behind the scenes of Hollywood’s most powerful players. It’s a cynical little piece that’s all talk and no action.