Ep. 100 – Wonder Woman, RiffTrax Live preview, and a review of Fist Fight on Blu-ray

June 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

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On the landmark 100th episode of The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review the equally-historic “Wonder Woman,” preview the next RiffTrax Live event, and Cody catches up with “Fist Fight” on Blu-ray.

[00:00-10:39] Intro/RiffTrax Live Summer Shorts Beach Party preview

[10:39-29:13] Review: “Wonder Woman”

[29:13-35:22] No Ticket Required: “Fist Fight”

[35:22-39:30] Wrap up/tease
Click here to download the episode!

Wonder Woman

June 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright
Directed by: Patty Jenkins (“Monster”)
Written by: Allan Heinberg (debut)

It took 76 years for Hollywood to come around to producing and releasing a full-length live-action motion picture featuring DC Comics’ Wonder Woman, easily the most famous female superhero of all—and one that recognizably stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Superman, Batman, and cross-company rival Spider-Man in the “everyone on planet Earth knows who this character is” pantheon.

So what the hell took so long? We’re up to six Spider-Man movies, eight Superman movies, and nine Batman movies since Wonder Woman first his comic books—not to mention the one Supergirl and one Catwoman film no one was asking for. Blame it on good old fashioned sexism or misogyny if you like, or waiting for the right cultural or financial climate or whatever other baloney studios use to justify not doing something, but after the entirety of Bob Dylan’s lifetime we finally have “Wonder Woman,” and the film manages to be both worth the wait and the redemption the critically-maligned DC Extended Universe so desperately needs.

Set after the events of 2016’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” we catch up with Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) as she receives a delivery in her office at the Louvre in Paris: a briefcase containing a vintage photograph of Diana and a team of soldiers which she was seeking in “BvS.” Bruce Wayne tracked it down and returned it to her, triggering a flashback to Diana’s youth on the mystical, all-female island of Themyscira. There she trains to be a warrior under Antiope (Robin Wright) after protestations from her mother, Queen Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). When a WWI-era German plane breaches the island’s protective force field, Diana swims out to sea to save the pilot and British intelligence spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). His rescue, however, brings German soldiers—and the war—to the island. When told of the Great War by Trevor, Diana is convinced Ares, the god of war, is behind it all, and demands Trevor take her to the front to fight—and fulfill her destiny to destroy Ares and bring peace to the world.

Minus a junky, CGI-heavy final battle far too reminiscent of the worst qualities of DCEU steward Zack Snyder, “Wonder Woman” is a refreshingly smaller scale superhero origin story that doesn’t get bogged down in the typical traps of that very specific slice of the genre. Director Patty Jenkins coaxes a winning, badass performance out of Gadot, who wasn’t given much to do except save Batman’s ass in the character’s abridged big-screen debut last year. Diana is strong, sincere, and funny as the fish out of water in the modern world (well, the modern world of 100 years ago). Chris Pine also shines as Steve Trevor, a career soldier and sometimes smartass that’s ready to fall in step when he realizes Diana can more than take care of herself—and everyone around her.

“Wonder Woman” isn’t a perfect movie, but it hopefully marks the righting of the DC ship—and with it already angering dipshit men upset at women’s only screenings, consider me in love with this kick-ass Amazonian princess.

Hell or High Water

August 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster
Directed by: David Mackenzie (“Starred Up”)
Written by: Taylor Sheridan (“Sicario”)

With the ever-increasing demand for complex narratives, there is something to be said for a film that expertly tells a basic story. It may be ground that has been treaded many times before, but very few things are better than simplistic storytelling with well written dialogue and pitch perfect performances. In “Hell or High Water,” director David Mackenzie takes a rudimentary bank robbing plotline and elevates it to truly special heights.

In order to save their family farm, brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) go on a series of increasingly dangerous bank robberies to get the money. The investigation to find their next location is led by veteran Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) who uses every sense of knowhow and the input of his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) to take down these amateur, and quickly-turning-professional criminals.

Every performance in “Hell or High Water” is exceptional, led by the always underrated Foster and Pine. Pine in particular is great at playing a level of reluctance bouncing off the loose cannon nature of his brother. It’s also a really great platform for Bridges, who in recent years seems to be playing the same marble-mouthed character over and over. As a grizzled veteran, the act really works in this film, and is made even better by the ball busting, buddy-cop relationship with Birmingham.

Story-wise, the plot for “Hell or High Water” truly can be summed up in a quick few sentences. It is, at times, almost too basic. There is still, however, something really intriguing about the desperation breeds necessity elements as well as the complexities family relationships can cause. It’s a story about brothers who don’t want to let anyone down, but it’s also about figuring out what to do when your back is against the wall.

It’s no surprise that “Hell or High Water” is well-crafted, given the pedigree of director Mackenzie, whose most recent film “Starred Up” was one of the hidden gems of 2013. It’s too funny to be a pure drama and too Western to be a straight up heist movie. Whatever you want to call it, one thing is for sure: it’s one of the best films of 2016 thus far.

The Finest Hours

January 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Holliday Grainger
Directed by: Craig Gillespie (“Million Dollar Arm”)
Written by: Scott Silver (“The Fighter”), Paul Tamasy (“The Fighter”), Eric Johnson (“The Fighter”)

Recounting the true story of a coast guard rescue in 1952, “The Finest Hours” tells the story of how Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) led a team off the coast of Cape Cod to save a wrecked ship. It’s a story that, on paper, sounds like a daring, enthralling rescue mission. Unfortunately, in the hands of director Craig Gillespie (“Million Dollar Arm,” “Fright Night”), it doesn’t translate to very inspiring cinema.

Throughout “The Finest Hours,” characters are routinely flat and uninteresting. Speaking in bad Boston accents, the usually solid Chris Pine and Casey Affleck are blank slates who despite being in leadership roles, never truly show qualities that make them endearing. Even one of the more underrated character actors in Ben Foster feels like he’s just reading lines rather than developing a nuanced character. It’s certainly a bad sign when the boat is the most interesting character in the film.

The biggest reason that “The Finest Hours” fails to connect is that there is no way to hook into the narrative. The film opens with a clunky attempt to establish a romantic story, complete with a poorly written script with terrible jokes. From there, anything romantic is a major whiff, with not only a complete lack of emotional connection, but no reason for the central couple to even be together. In an attempt to make Bernie’s fiancée seem like a strong, independent woman, Gillespie and company instead make her shrill and commanding. In that sense, “The Finest Hours,” attempts to show a unique relationship in the context of the 1950’s and instead gives audiences a relationship that has a precarious foundation.

As a tale of rescue, “The Finest Hours” is an interesting enough story of bravery and impressive feats. As a dramatization, the film version lacks any sort of pull – emotional, visual or otherwise. It feels excruciatingly long and each scene is more tedious than the last. Other than a few special effects, “The Finest Hours” lacks in just about everything else it brings to the screen.

Into the Woods

December 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, Chris Pine
Directed by: Rob Marshall (“Chicago”)
Written by: James Lapine (debut)

With this musical fantasy, director Rob Marshall (“Chicago”) probably has the goose that lays the golden egg when it comes to the box office this holiday season, but it’s hard to come up with a substantial reason to visit this mishmash of classic fairytale characters (Cinderella, Rapunzel, etc.). Adapted from James Lapine and Stephen Sondeim’s Tony Award-winning Broadway play of the same name, “Into the Woods” is a misfire on almost every level (this coming from someone who knows his fair share of kitschy show tunes).

In the film, Marshall along with Lapine, who penned the screenplay based on his own book, focus the story on a nameless baker and his wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt). Unable to have children, the couple turns to a nameless witch (Meryl Streep) who promises them a child if they go on a mission for her (think the Wizard of Oz asking Dorothy to procure the Wicked Witch of the West’s broomstick, except not nearly as interesting). Their assignment: to bring to her a “cow as white as milk,” which belongs to Jack from the Jack and the Beanstalk tale; a “cape as red as blood,” which belongs to Little Red Riding Hood; “hair as yellow as corn,” which belongs to Rapunzel; and a “slipper as pure as gold,” which belongs to Cinderella.

What comes out the other end is an awkward mess of a narrative with a tone that goes from playful family-friendly fare to a story about death and deception all wrapped up in collection of Broadway tunes that – with the exception of the title song – are far from memorable. Sure, some of the Grimm Brother’s stories get closer to their original text, but Disney seem to be trying to have their cake and eat it, too, by attempting to cater to the kiddos in some scenes and then flipping a switch. For example, cutting off the heels and toes of Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters when they try to fit into her shoe probably isn’t what most five year old children remember happening in the classic 1950 animated movie. Happy-go-lucky mice, yes. Self mutilation, not so much.

When Johnny Depp comes out in full Johnny Depp mode (he’s wearing wolf whiskers and singing about “plump pink flesh” while salivating over Little Red Riding Hood), audiences will wonder who this film is actually for. Fans of the stage play might have an invested interest, but with the exception of a few technical achievements (art direction, costume design and make-up), this isn’t a musical with anything to say (much less sing).

Horrible Bosses 2

November 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day
Directed by: Sean Anders (“That’s My Boy”)
Written by: Sean Anders (“Dumb and Dumber To”) and John Morris (“Dumb and Dumber To”)

In an alarming trend that has been documented on this site many, many times, the cornucopia of sequels released every year is becoming absurd. Most of the time, either with a follow up to a financially successful first installment or the fervor of a fanatical fanbase, most sequels have at least some element that is beneficial to the studio. Then you get something like “Horrible Bosses 2.” It made a respectable $117 million domestically (though a far cry from the ridiculous $277 million that the first “Hangover” movie that spawned a franchise) and was a decent enough comedy, but it certainly did not have people clamoring for a sequel. But this is the film landscape we inhabit, and as a result, clueless amateur criminals played by Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day are back for more in this unnecessary follow-up.

After being put in a position to have their new company and invention completely fail, friends Nick (Bateman), Kurt (Sudeikis) and Dale (Day) decide the only thing they can do to keep their business afloat is to kidnap their rich offender’s son and hold him for ransom. But as we know, the trio are far from criminal masterminds and must once again figure out how to get away with a serious crime without screwing up.

In the worst symptom of “sequelitis,” this is where the film, with a shaky premise at best, begins to retrace its steps from the first movie. The film hits repeated comedic beat after repeated comedic beat and tells the same jokes as the first film under slightly different circumstances. They completely botch breaking into places and risk their identities being compromised, only this time, they are somehow dumber than before.

Beyond plot points, the character designs are also extremely similar. Jennifer Anniston is still completely sex crazed, Kevin Spacey’s character is still ruthless and mean and Jamie Foxx’s “Motherfucker Jones” continues to give worthless advice in exchange money or goods. It is here where the jokes start to feel completely stale. The novelty of Aniston’s character, for example, was one of the most memorable things about the first film. Here, it feels obligatory and passé as the novelty of it has completely worn off. As far as peripheral characters, the most notable is the one inhabited by Chris Pine, who is ironically enough rehashing a character type of his own, playing a cleaner and slightly less crazy iteration of his rich character from Joe Carnahan’s “Stretch.” Still, Pine is game here and fits in well with the gang proving himself to be pretty talented at comedy.

It would be unfair to say that “Horrible Bosses 2” is completely humorless. The sheer talent of the three leads and their undeniable chemistry allows the film to be occasionally funny, mostly at one-liners rather than its bigger, broader moments. Like the first film, Day probably garners the most consistent laughs, but everyone here is clearly having fun. But even though there are some laughs to be had, it doesn’t change the fact that “Horrible Bosses 2” has no real reason to exist and is less funny and inferior in every way to its predecessor. It’s almost as if they played “Mad Libs” with the beats and inserted a new crime. What a waste of a fantastic comedy trio.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

January 17, 2014 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh (“Thor”)
Written by: David Koepp (“Premium Rush”) and Adam Cozad (debut)

Though remakes, reboots and franchises have been the latest trend in Hollywood, few have had the longevity and staying power of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series. Dating back nearly 25 years and including actors such as Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck and Harrison Ford, this series has brought about a consistent stream of films. In an original story not based on a novel, “Star Trek” actor Chris Pine is the latest to take on the role of the Marine-turned-CIA agent in “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.”

As an injured Marine, Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is convinced by CIA agent William Harper (Kevin Costner) to become an undercover analyst in the CIA embedded in the financial world. As the Russians threaten to take down the U.S. stock market at the hands of Russian Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh), Ryan must transform from analyst to operational to try to save the United States from danger.

From the first moments of the 9/11 attacks being shown as the impetus for Ryan’s enlistment of into the military, the audience is clued into “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” being a fresh reboot of a long standing franchise. For a fresh start, Pine is an inspired choice to take on Ryan. Relaying the tremendous amount of charisma and personality in the “Star Trek” films, Pine is a perfect candidate to take on any role, despite the committed relationship nature of Ryan being a little less fun than his womanizing role as Kirk. While Costner and Keira Knightley provide fine, if not ho-hum presences, this is Pine’s film to carry and he does so with an ability that could prove profitable for future films.

Ryan is an interesting action hero. He is seen in the film, very briefly, as a Marine, but quickly loses his strength and ability to even walk from an injury he sustains in Afghanistan. As an analyst forced into operational duty, Ryan’s training comes into prominence as he is forced to do actions outside of his pay grade. The result is a showing of pretty standard hand-to-hand combat and action scenes. Where the film succeeds is in its build up of tension during scenes where Ryan must infiltrate the Russian compound and fight to save his love. There are two major sequences that are successful in building up said tension, yet they never feel like scenes that are worthy enough to create a climax for the film.

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” has its moments of intensity and intrigue that is strong enough to capture one’s attention during the course of the film. But with a finished and final product that feels a little incomplete overall, it is likely a film that is easily forgettable in the long run.

Star Trek Into Darkness

May 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed by: J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek”)
Written by: Roberto Orci (“Star Trek”), Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek”) and Damon Lindelof (“Prometheus”)

Already having given audiences the best “Mission Impossible” film of the series with the third installment in 2006 and the best “Star Trek” movie with his hip revamp in 2009, director J.J. Abrams attempts to top himself again by joining up with the Starship Enterprise in “Star Trek Into Darkness,” a solid follow-up to Abrams’ first foray into space seven years ago. It’s more proof that you don’t have to be a Klingon-speaking geekboy to find this franchise one of the more fascinating big-budget sci-fi projects to hit the mainstream in the last four or five years.

Of course, if you are one of those hardcore “Star Trek” fans that won’t be happy with the shape of Mr. Spock’s ears in comparison to Leonard Nimoy’s or looking forward to nitpicking any number of creative choices Abrams makes that are different from the original TV show, then it’s probably best if you stay home and Netflix “The Trouble with Tribbles.” This isn’t your grandfather’s “Star Trek.” For those interested in another fresh take from Abrams and have the open-mindedness to let things go, then “Into Darkness” just might be the popcorn movie of the pre-summer.

Working loosely off 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” which is what most “Star Trek” aficionados agree is the best of the original films, we join the crew of the Enterprise as they search for John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a former commander who has gone rogue. On his trail and reprising their roles from the 2009 film are Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk, who was recently relieved and then reinstated as Captain; Zachary Quinto as Mr. Spock; Zoe Saldana as Uhura; Karl Urban as Bones; Simon Pegg as Scotty; John Cho as Sulu; Anton Yelchin as Chekov; and Alice Eve as new and attractive science officer Carol Marcus. When they catch up to Harrison on a Klingon planet, the crew is shocked to learn there is more to their manhunt than simply eliminating a powerful villain.

Aside from the outstanding action sequences and set pieces that packed its predecessor, “Into Darkness” also takes an effective emotional turn with the relationship between Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock. Kirk’s massive ego and bullheaded nature and Spock’s reluctance to break regulation frame their interaction very well. Pine and Quinto once again take command of the characters in the same way William Shatner and Nimoy did in the late 60s. Sorry, purists, but those roles are theirs now.

With today’s technology catching up to Gene Roddenberry’s creation, the universe feels even more volatile, which makes for an exciting adventure with this crew. Who knows how long Abrams will stay on board (now that he’s been dubbed to lead the new “Star Wars” movie in 2015), but he’s laid some great groundwork for a dozen more and has taken the storytelling to a place few directors have gone before.

Star Trek

May 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana
Directed by: J.J. Abrams (“Mission: Impossible 3”)
Written by: Roberto Orci (“Transformers”) and Alex Kurtzman (“Tranformers”)

Welcome me with open arms Trekkies worldwide.

While I may not know the difference between photon and polaron torpedoes and can’t speak a lick of Klingon, the new J.J. Abrams-helmed “Star Trek” has created a new fan – at least of the most recent film.

Commanding the Starship Enterprise is a young James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), the son of a former captain whose reign was short-lived after being attacked by a Romulan ship the night his wife gave birth to James. Leading the enemy ship throughout the film is Nero (an unrecognizable Eric Bana), a Romulan who wants nothing more than to make anyone he comes in contact with suffer, especially the Vulcan race.

The back stories to the most influential characters of the series, including Kirk, Spock, and “Bones” McCoy are extremely fascinating. Give credit to screenwriting team Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman of the overblown “Transformers” movie for reenergizing this franchise. With so much material to work with in “Star Trek” folklore, Orci and Kurtzman do well in dabbling in both the old and the new aspects of what has made the franchise popular for so long.

As the new half human-half Vulcan Spock, actor Zachary Quinto is spot on, not only with his pointy-eared look but when what he brings to the character. The scenes he shares with the original Spock (Leonord Nimoy) are well-written and fit in nicely with the new story. The most important thing about this small cameo is that Nimoy doesn’t feel like he was thrown in as a gimmick. His contribution to the film is integral and Abrams uses the short time he has with him to expand the story by light years.

Once Kirk enlists in the Starfleet, “Star Trek” never lingers. It’s an extraordinary action film complete with impressive special effects and solid performances by the entire cast.

Bottle Shock

August 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Chris Pine, Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman
Directed by: Randall Miller (“Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School”)
Written by: Randall Miller (“Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School”) and Jody Savin (“Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School”)

It’s always inspiring when a studio picks up a film based on a little-known event that happened years ago. It’s less encouraging, however, when that story is adapted into a human-interest narrative that you would find buried in the back of the food section in any local community newspaper.

That’s how little regard “Bottle Shock” seems to have for it true-life and triumphant tale of Chardonnay. Directed and co-written by Randall Miller (“Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School”), the story featured is “The Judgment of Paris,” a blind wine tasting competition held in Paris in 1976 where a panel of French judges surprisingly chose the vintage wines of California’s Napa Valley over those of their home country. The contest is said to have put California on the map as a respected wine producer since the French were always regarded as the best winemakers in the world.

Alan Rickman (“Love Actually”) plays Steven Spurrier, an English wine aficionado living in Paris who travels to California to find the best wines to compete against the French favorites. One of the wineries he visits is owned by Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman), who has no interest in finding out if his wines can beat the best the French have to offer. His son Bo (Chris Pine), however, believes in the family business although he’d much rather be corkscrewing the summer intern (Rachel Taylor) than butting heads with his old man about issues of the past. Freddy Rodriguez (“Bobby”) rounds out the cast as Gustavo Brambila, a winery worker with an impressive palate, who’s passionate about making his own sweet nectar.

In terms of films about wine, “Bottle Shock” is not even close to being on the same menu as something like 2004’s Academy Award-nominated film “Sideways.” While an exciting history lesson about “The Judgment of Paris” would have been highly desired, what’s sadly missing from “Shock” is a developed set of characters and relationships we can become emotionally invested in. Instead, meaningless drama in the chateau knocks the film’s pacing off track and some rather dull moments in Napa ruin the overall beauty of the countryside.