Snowden

September 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo
Directed by: Oliver Stone (“Savages”)
Written by: Kieran Fitzgerald (“The Homesman”) and Oliver Stone (“Savages”)

As one of the best documentaries of the last several years, “Citizenfour” was an endlessly fascinating fly-on-the-wall account of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden blowing the whistle on surveillance that the government was doing. Regardless of the audience’s opinion, the footage was unassailably mesmerizing as history, agree with it or not, was being made. It’s a film that didn’t necessarily need a dramatizing, but as a person, Snowden could stand to be understood and explored. Unfortunately, that’s where the blunt hammer of director Oliver Stone comes in.

Rising through several government agencies, computer analyst Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) notices that the government is gathering information from its own citizens, with access to personal communication, webcams, and more. Torn about what to do, and with his relationship strained, Snowden makes a decision that could land him in jail for treason.

It will probably annoy some viewers, but Gordon-Levitt’s voice work is actually remarkably close to how the actual Snowden sounds. It’s a good performance, in a film of pretty solid performances all around. Shailene Woodley’s character being a strong personality is more of a testament to her capabilities than the way she is written, which can often seem to flip flop from scene to scene.

The most interesting stuff in the film is seeing Snowden slowly put the pieces of the puzzle together and feel drawn to let the public know what was actually going on. There’s a certain psychology behind the decision making and an awakening of a conscience that is touched on, though perhaps not explored enough. The parts of the film that are straight out of “Citizenfour” really seem to drag, however, as it is a re-enactment of something that is not only so recent, but not really adjusted for any type of dramatic effect.

As one might expect, a movie about Edward Snowden directed by Oliver Stone is not exactly an unbiased affair. Stone is very clear in his position about how he sees Snowden. While it is never quite preachy, one of the most fascinating parts about the story of Snowden is that there’s a real, honest debate and divide around the country about the appropriateness of his actions. Presenting the information and letting the public decide for themselves was the crux for the decision that Snowden made. Without that debate, the movie feels extremely one-sided and doesn’t allow audiences to make their own decision.

“Snowden” isn’t necessarily a bad film, but it is one that is riddled with problems. It is painfully boring in parts, and it is anything but neutral. The fact of the matter is, “Citizenfour” is such a compelling film, and a better representation of this story, that the dramatization falls way short of the goals. The decision to show Snowden’s actions through the lens of his personal relationships really hurts a film that could have been an exploration into why the biggest whistleblower in history did so. It’s a shame that the character of Snowden isn’t more interesting.

Sully

September 9, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney
Directed by: Clint Eastwood (“Mystic River”)
Written by: Todd Komarnicki (“Perfect Stranger”)

With the proliferation of 24-hour news cycles, few amazing stories in the modern era go “untold.” Most people know, at minimum, the basic details of what has come to be known as “The Miracle on the Hudson.” After hitting birds and encountering dual engine failure, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) pulled off an astonishing forced water landing in the Hudson River in New York in early 2009. It dominated headlines for weeks, and Sully became somewhat of a national hero. Since many details are known, a movie this soon after an event could easily seem superfluous and unnecessary. Given that, director Clint Eastwood (“Mystic River”) tries to provide more insight into the man, the event, and the investigation, with varying results.

National treasure Hanks is, as always, solid, if not very, very understated in the lead role. Sully seems like a mechanical guy without a whole lot of personality. There’s still an art to playing a very quiet, monotone presence and Hanks, unsuprirsingly nails it. There’s not a whole lot for him to do, but when it calls for chops, he delivers. Aaron Eckhart also gives a solid performance as the first officer of the flight, Jeffrey Skiles.

One of the biggest faults of the film is its decision to vilify the National Transportation Safety Board, and specifically it’s leader Charles Porter (Mike O’Malley). There’s a lot of evil stares and mean mugging, as Eastwood heavy handedly tries to insinuate that the NTSB are out to get Sully. It’s a shame because the investigative part of the film is what keeps it interesting. There’s a legitimate chance that Sully may have made an unnessecarily dangerous and risky move which makes all of the scenes involving the investigation seem like something the general public may not know a lot about. Instead, Eastwood threatens to derail all of this good by making the NTSB be almost comically evil.

Eastwood makes the decision to show bits and pieces of the crash several times throughout the film. It’s a move that really takes away from what could have been a really hard hitting piece of filmmaking when he shows the entire recreation of Flight 1549 in real time. Instead, it ends up being a retread of a scene we’ve seen played over a half dozen times by that point. There’s no question that it’s harrowing and gripping, but it really starts to lose its luster.

There’s a very blatant overuse of post 9/11 imagery by Eastwood. It’s hard to know exactly what he was trying to evoke here, but there’s no question it was meant to be stirred in people’s minds. There’s a little too much hero-worship going on, and any look into Sully’s personal life, specifically scenes involving his wife played by Laura Linney are far too maudlin, complete with sappy piano music. Still, Sully just barely squeaks by as a well-performed, acceptable tale of American heroism, despite Eastwood’s complete lack of subtlety and questionable directorial choices.

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 Infiltrator

July 15, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger
Directed by: Brad Furman (“The Lincoln Lawyer”)
Written by: Ellen Sue Brown (debut)

Colombian cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar has always been a source of great fascination. Even still, there seems to be a resurgence in the interest of him as a subject, as seen in recent projects like Netflix’s “Narcos,” “Escobar: Paradise Lost” and various other documentaries. As a look at a different perspective “The Infiltrator” tells the story about how a U.S. Customs agent took down the cartel’s money laundering system in America.

Based on a true story, “The Infiltrator” tells the story of how U.S. Customs agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) assumed the role of Bob Musella and infiltrated the deadly Escobar-led Medillin cartel. Posing as an accountant of sorts, Musella offers to help launder cocaine money while getting close to higher ups of the organization. As Mazur goes deeper and deeper, his relationships become more complex and the danger grows.

It is no secret that Cranston is one of the most lauded television actors of all time. Since the end of “Breaking Bad,” where Cranston won four Emmys (including a record tying three in a row) playing chemistry teacher turned drug lord Walter White, Cranston has had mixed results in film projects. Last year’s “Trumbo,” a role which found Cranston nominated for an Oscar, may have been the turning point, however. His performance in “The Infiltrator” is no different. Cranston is easily the best thing on screen, as he begins to blur his way into his new role as Musella. Cranston has always played vulnerable well, and to watch him sink into the role while using his expressive face to show the difficult of taking down people you’ve grown close to is something to behold. The supporting cast is OK, with John Leguizamo getting the brunt of the work. It’s a slightly hammy performance. As a comedian, it’s almost as if Leguizamo couldn’t help but throw in jokes in times where they don’t work as well.

The best thing “The Infiltrator” has working for it is its sense of tension. Musella is constantly put in situations where he’s given pressure to break, as he works his way into the cartel. It’s a bloody and scary business and watching even the most seasoned pro like Musella be so deeply affected by the brutality of the industry is a credit to Cranston’s performance and good tension building.

When the film is tense and unpredictable, it’s edge-of-your-seat stuff. When it isn’t, however, it becomes a little dull and plodding. Tension between Leguizamo and Cranston feels a little forced and ineffective, while elements of Mazur/Musella’s home life are nothing special.

There’s a bit of cartel fatigue going around, especially with the Escobar story being told so many times. “The Infiltrator” does a good enough job of telling another side of the story that makes it a worthwhile endeavor. It’s a touch generic and retreaded ground (if you’ve seen any cartel movie, you should be able to figure out where the plot is going), but when it dials up the tension, Cranston’s sheer power takes over and elevates the material exponentially.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

June 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer
Directed by: Jorma Taccone (“MacGruber”) and Akiva Schaffer (“The Watch”)
Written by: Andy Samberg (“Extreme Movie”), Jorma Taccone (“MacGruber”), Akiva Schaffer (“Extreme Movie”)

Since the mid-2000’s, the comedy trio of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, also known as “The Lonely Island,” have been slowly building their comedy empire. With their music video for “Lazy Sunday,” their SNL digital shorts single-handedly ushered “Saturday Night Live” into the digital age. From there, their musical prowess only grew stronger, capitalizing on the success with the Justin Timberlake-featured “Dick in a Box,” which blew up on the internet and led to a rap album. Several Grammy nominations later, The Lonely Island have produced several respectable albums, and Samberg has gone on to star in several movies and TV shows, with Schaffer and Taccone having writing/directing careers of their own. Though the three collaborated on the film “Hot Rod,” “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” marks their first time the comedy trio has had full creative control of a film project.

Taking the mockumentary format, “Popstar” tells the story of Conner4Real (Samberg), a solo pop-artist who gained fame with a group called The Style Boyz. After a tumultuous break-up, Conner and fellow Style Boy Owen (Taccone) branch off for Conner’s solo career, which has the potential to become massive. After his follow-up album is a universally hated, however, Conner must go on tour to try to save his career.

As the first full-fledged Lonely Island film, it was to be expected that music would be a major component. While the music of The Lonely Island has been consistently hilarious, the music in “Popstar” is extremely hit or miss. The best of the bunch is a gay rights activism song, a tune that somewhat mocks Mackelmore’s “Same Love” by showing support for gay rights while making it 100 percent abundantly clear that the artist himself is not gay. Other songs, however, rely to heavily on the mish mashing and smashing together of random, unconnected words and fail to register as truly funny.

As a send up of the music industry, “Popstar” is at its best when it is making specific, pointed jokes at the expense of its ridiculousness. A recurring plot line of Conner’s songs being released through all appliances is a really funny take on Apple causing an internet firestorm by putting the latest U2 album on everyone’s devices without permission. The rest of the film, however, feels a bit aimless and far too reliant on cameos, to the point where it feels slapped together and discombobulated.

That isn’t to say that “Popstar” doesn’t have its moments of hilarity. Moreso than the silliness of Conner’s lifestyle, the funniest moments of the film come at the expense of off-hand comments or throwaway lines. Schaffer, in particular, steals virtually every scene he is in, while people like Tim Meadows get in a handful of really funny lines.

The Lonely Island have always been known for their absurdity, but the film could have used a bit more subtlety as it serves as a quasi-parody of the music industry. These guys have musical chops, and are unquestionably super funny. The fact remains, however, that despite some decent laughs, “Popstar” never fully comes together.

Captain America: Civil War

May 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”)
Written by: Christopher Markus (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) and Stephen McFeely (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”)

When the cast list was announced for “Captain America: Civil War,” it was hard to not be afraid that it would be an overcrowded mess. After all, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” tried to replicate the success of the first “Avengers” with limited amounts of success. But leave it to brother directorial duo Joe and Anthony Russo to pull off something truly “Whedon-esque.” They take something that, on paper, should not work at all, and turning it into a rousing, action-packed, spirited film.

For being a Captain America film, “Civil War” goes a long way in its development of other characters. In a huge anticipatory move, Tom Holland is introduced as Peter Parker (Spider-Man). While the initial introduction is a bit clunky, fans may be surprised by how much Spidey they get. It is also the first appearance of Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. It’s impressive how streamlined his introduction becomes, quickly establishing his place in the franchise while not seeming rushed. Of course, at the heart of “Civil War” is the battle between Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) as well as the friendship with Rogers and Bucky, also known as The Winter Soldier. To that extent, it is a Captain America movie. To every other extent, this is basically a third installment of “The Avengers.”

For featuring nearly every Marvel character other than The Hulk, Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Russo Brothers did an astonishing job of not letting the film feel overstuffed. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was a complete mess that had no discernible structure. On the other side of things, “Civil War” has nary a wasted frame, feeling lean and mean considering its two and a half-hour run time.

A major problem throughout most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the inability to develop a good villain. Sure, Loki was fun, but the threat in all of these movies is always a vaguely evil and impending world domination by an under-developed and uninteresting big bad. One of the biggest reasons that “The Avengers” was so successful as a film was that it pitted these characters against each other. Strife within the group proved to be the most interesting conflict the team has had to face throughout the course of these movies. “Civil War” follows suit, literally dividing The Avengers into teams. It is, once again, the most interesting aspect of the film. It’s much more satisfying and exciting to see Iron Man and Captain America violently beating each other up than it is to see entire city blocks be destroyed by fighting some random otherworldly species.

This all culminates in a scene that has been dubbed as the “airport scene.” In what is one of the most memorable scenes of the Marvel franchise, the teams have a battle royale in a giant setpiece. Not only is this scene immense, break-neck speed fun, but nearly every character gets at least one moment of sheer awesomeness and humor. It’s where Marvel gets to show off that they know what to do with Spider-Man, really Holland being a true motor mouth. It’s also where Paul Rudd actually gets to be himself, stealing every second of screentime and being the version of Ant-Man that should have been in his own previous film.

Something that sets “Civil War” apart from most comic book films in recent memory is that it actually addresses the issue of superheroes destroying cities and killing random folks without consequence. It’s an idea that is somewhat meta, considering that being an actual criticism of the genre, but also an idea that was terribly flubbed by something like “Batman v Superman.” To this degree, “Civil War” actually gives our heroes a real reason to be against one another. While the stakes may never feel quite high enough, the disputes are earned.

The end of the film is a bit of a let-down, but “Captain America: Civil War” is solidly exhilarating, engaging, and entertaining. It’s a truly astonishing feat that the Russo Brothers were able to introduce new characters, stuff nearly every Avenger into a single scene, and somehow make this film feel like a stand-alone rather than a table setter, one of the biggest criticisms of the Marvel franchise. Without question, “Civil War” is easily among the top three films Marvel has produced, and the franchise seems to be in capable hands with the Russo’s.

10 Cloverfield Lane

March 14, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.
Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg (debut)
Written by: Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”) Josh Campbell (“4 Minute Mile”), Matthew Stuecken (debut),

Back in 2007, a trailer was attached to the first “Transformers” movie that caught the attention and curiosity of moviegoers everywhere. It featured a party filmed handheld style that was violently interrupted with giant explosions and terror. It ended with the head of the statue of liberty rolling down a New York street. It also ended with no title card, and only a release date for when it would come to theaters. It became one of the top searched trends on the internet and eventually, more details would come to light on the JJ Abrams-produced “Cloverfield,” an inventive found-footage monster movie that helped kickstart a style that has, for better or worse, become a major trend in Hollywood.

Abrams, being a lover of all things mysterious, pulled another trick when another Michael Bay movie (“13 Hours”) had a mysterious trailer attached to it. This time, it had a title: “10 Cloverfield Lane.” Absent from anyone’s radar, the movie was set to come out in mere months. With few plot details known, the time has finally come to see if first, the movie has anything to do with its name sake and second, if its any good.

After being involved in a car crash, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up chained in an underground bunker. Brought back by doomsday prepper Howard (John Goodman), she is told that the air is contaminated and nobody above is alive. As she becomes closer to another person in the bunker, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), they begin to realize that Howard may be more dangerous and crazy than they think. As they band together to try to find a way out, Howard does whatever necessary to keep them there.

The biggest draw to “10 Cloverfield Lane” is the performance of Goodman. It’s a little hammy and on the nose at times, but it’s still an unsettling and weird performance. Winstead is good for her part, getting to show some physical prowess as well as acting chops. The screenplay, however, does not allow for any meaty character moments to happen. We find Winstead’s Michelle on the run, but we don’t know and never find out why. We see Howard has a checkered family past but we don’t know and never find out why.

In fact, as the proceedings move along, it becomes abundantly clear that direct Dan Trachtenberg and company have no intention of answering any of the questions that they posed. Beyond the narrative, it becomes really difficult for any character study to be done when the audience is only aware of very surface level things. The film flirts with taking its most interesting character in Howard and shedding some light on his truth. It pulls the rug, however, and nothing becomes resolved. The result feels like a complete bait and switch, and perhaps worse, the creation of tension only for the sake of tone and not serving any narrative purpose.

That doesn’t mean the film is totally devoid of tension. There’s actually a lot of intense scenes of near escape or trying to figure out one another. It’s almost a prolonged chess game, only, at times, slow moving and filled with annoying red herrings. Without divulging spoilers, the plot takes a twist in its final act that is completely inexplicable. It feels pasted on, as if we are watching the beginning of an entirely new movie. It’s a shame that instead of exploring characters further and adding nuance to the story, the film decides to go in an even bigger “wtf” direction than what we have seen so far.

Fans of “Cloverfield” may find themselves let down that “10 Cloverfield Lane” has virtually nothing to do with the 2008 film. But after you crack through the potential disappointment of expectations vs. reality, “10 Cloverfield Lane” boils down to a lot of manufactured mood, repetitive MacGyver’ing from Winstead’s character, and an unsatisfying narrative.

Gods of Egypt

March 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites
Directed by: Alex Proyas (“Knowing”)
Written by: Matt Sazama (“The Last Witch Hunter”) and Burk Sharpless (“The Last Witch Hunter”)

With the #OscarsSoWhite controversy still fresh on people’s minds and the lack of diversity in Hollywood at a fever pitch, there is probably no worse time for a film like “Gods of Egypt.” With a cast of white, European actors playing Egyptian gods, it isn’t exactly working hard to combat the so-called “white washing” of the film industry. But can the quality of the film be enough to overcome its diversity issues? Spoiler alert: no it can’t.

As Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is set to become the new King of Egypt, Set (Gerard Butler) usurps the crown, stripping Horus of his eyes, and taking reign. In an effort to try to save the one he loves, mortal Bek (Brenton Thwaites) teams up with Horus to try and take the crown back from the merciless Set.

It is difficult to find a good place to start with the issues that plague “Gods of Egypt,” but one may start with the atrocious CGI. Right off the bat, the size differential between the Gods and the mortals look ridiculous, as if actors are playing in dollhouses. Beyond that, a lot of green screen rendering looks awful, and much of the design of computer graphics generated characters looks unfinished, fake, and unpolished. Simply put, “Gods of Egypt” features some of the worst CGI for a big budget movie in recent memory.

The actors of the film cannot be blamed for its terribleness, though they certainly didn’t do anything to elevate the material. Coster-Waldau continues to search for a film role that matches the greatness achieved by his performance in “Game of Thrones” and Thwaites is merely fine. Much of the blame should be shouldered by a really mediocre script that can’t decide what it wants to be or where it wants to go. In some scenes, it feels like a comedy, while in others the theme of love is hammered home with zero subtlety. The tone of the film also suffers, with many scenes playing as goofy, immature comedy which not only seems anachronistic, but corny as well.

Even though the movie is terrible in virtually every facet, it all seems to come back down to the core issue of a diversity problem. Where something like Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings” featured white actors wearing make up to look like Egyptians, “Gods of Egypt” doesn’t even try to make it seem like their Gods are anything other than white, mostly British men. It’s a decision that feels almost equally as offensive. In fact, even Chadwick Boseman, one of the few racially diverse cast members, has a phony British accent slapped on.

Opinions of diversity (or lack their of) aside, “Gods of Egypt” is just a bad movie. It’s lame, boring, pointless, and difficult to follow. It would be one thing if there was some engaging visuals to look at, but they couldn’t even get that right. All in all, there isn’t a single quality of the film that keeps “Gods of Egypt” from being God-awful.

Where to Invade Next

February 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Michael Moore, Krista Kruiu, Tim Walker
Directed by: Michael Moore (“Fahrenheit 9/11”)

As a public figure, it’s no secret that Michael Moore is extremely divisive. Outspoken and loaded with conviction, most of his films seem to be received in the same way: extremely one-sided, but with interesting talking points. With his latest film, “Where To Invade Next,” Moore fits his MO perfectly.

Despite the rocky setup of being sent to “invade” foreign countries to steal their good ideas, the first few segments of the film are fascinating and somewhat light. Moore goes to Italy to learn about the amount of paid vacation they get, explores the gourmet student lunches in France and free college education Slovenia. The cultural gaps are extremely interesting through American eyes, as Moore’s goal appears to be to simply point out the differences. For the most part, news of the American ways are met with horrified looks from the foreign natives, which is a worthwhile glimpse into the perception that outsiders have of the United States versus reality.

From there, however, things become uneven and borderline preachy. After relatively non-political subjects, Moore takes the middle of the movie to investigate Germany, spending a big chunk of time on the Holocaust and past sins of American history. It’s an unbelievably jarring 180-degree turn, which is immediately followed up by a segment on how the prison system in the U.S. is, in Moore’s terms, “a new form of slavery.” As the tone shifts to pure seriousness, Moore’s viewpoints, agree or disagree, steer the rest of the film and the agendas of his filmmaking begin to emerge.

Nonetheless, Moore still touches on some interesting subjects in the second half, including a look into the astonishing prison system in Norway. The footage here is probably the most shocking (though not graphic) segment in the film. It also feels like a missed opportunity on Moore’s part. This illustrates perhaps the biggest difference in cultures in the film, and one that many American’s might be mortified by. Rather than dig in deep to the psyche of it all, Moore asks leading, softball questions that make the segment feel like a bit of a letdown.

Another thing that gets in the way of “Where To Invade Next” is Moore himself. By inserting himself into the proceedings, he becomes a figure that removes any and all objectivity from the film. One could argue that that is the point of a documentary, but if Moore is looking to make strong points about the ways in which other countries are doing things better than America, the agenda should, at the very least, be given a back seat to the information.

Moore’s attitude makes it so that his sarcasm comes off as mean-spirited and elitist rather than playful. It’s easy to imagine Moore smirking as he wrote a lame and outdated Dick Cheney joke smack dab in the middle of the film. No surprise, the joke lands with a thunderous thud.

Though the set up is dumb, there’s no question that there is some very interesting footage in “Where To Invade Next.” As one might expect, one sided and in the end, very agenda driven. It would have been nice to see Moore explore whether these things were possible in the United States and if so, how they could be implemented. If the film were merely a look at cultural differences, it would have been an educational, mind-opening slam dunk. Instead, by inserting himself so firmly into the narrative, Moore created an unfunny and uneven documentary that ultimately he can’t save from himself.

Hail, Caesar!

February 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

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.

Anomalisa

January 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

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