Widows

November 30, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Liam Neeson
Directed by: Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”)
Written by: Steve McQueen (“Shame”) and Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”)

Academy Award-winner Steve McQueen is a brilliant director. Although he has only made three features in the last decade — prior to his new thriller “Widows” — each of those films was clearly different and truly memorable, especially his controversial 2011 drama “Shame,” which starred Michael Fassbender as a New York City sex addict, and his brutal, 2013 Oscar-winning drama “12 Years a Slave.”

Sadly, his early cinematic achievements make “Widows” all the more disappointing. Knowing what he is capable of doing behind the camera, it’s unfortunate to see how incredibly ordinary of a heist movie it turned out to be. Even with a top-notch cast, its sprawling narrative ambition, flimsy characterizations and vague central plot push “Widows” to the brink of total collapse.

Set in Chicago, “Widows” kicks off with serious potential. McQueen and co-writer Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”) introduce audiences to a foursome of criminals who are quickly dispatched during a heist gone wrong. Left to mourn them are their wives — Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) and less-important Amanda (a wasted Carrie Coon). When Veronica learns that her husband Harry (Liam Neeson) owes $2 million to some shady associates, she takes a set of blueprints left behind by her dead husband and decides to organize a robbery with the help of Linda and Alice, so they can pay off the debt.

Bursting over with more subplots than McQueen and Flynn know what to do with, “Widows” also follows a powerful and corrupt political family, led by father-son tandem Tom and Jack Mulligan (Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell), who get caught up in dirty deeds with one of Veronica’s debt collectors. Their story interlinks to one of the overall themes of the film, which attempts to deliver a reflective message about race, class and gentrification, but does so without much enthusiasm or emotion.

Regrettably, “Widows” forgets that it is – first and foremost – supposed to be a believable heist flick. There is so much happening away from their actual strategy, Flynn neglects piecing together a logical way to get Veronica and her crew to accomplish the feat without mucking it up. Sure, there’s a little preparation involved as we watch the women scout the location and talk through the importance of avoiding slip-ups, but once it’s time to execute the plan, moviegoers will be hard-pressed to explain how these characters are even remotely close to being ready for such a dangerous mission.

Add to this a handful of obvious plot holes and secondary storylines about a tense election, a rich developer procuring sexual services from Alice, a dead son, a fifth single mother trying to make ends meet, a hairstylist with a loan problem and an anticlimactic twist, and “Widows” spreads itself to waifish proportions.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

November 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan
Directed by
: Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”)
Written by: Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”) and Efthymis Philipou (“The Lobster”)

With his 2015 film “The Lobster,” writer and director Yorgos Lanthimos established himself as a creative force. With a fascinating premise and surrealist world building, the script was nominated for an Academy Award and firmly put him on the radar of film fans yearning for something cerebral and exciting. With another great premise, Lanthimos’ “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” continues the trend of high-level creativity and firmly plants him as a true talent to watch.

As a skilled cardiologist, Dr. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) has a successful career, an ophthalmologist wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and two great kids. But there is something lurking in his mostly hidden relationship with an odd, but seemingly harmless teenager named Martin (Barry Keoghan). As their relationship comes to the surface, Martin reveals earth-shattering information that may change the course of Murphy’s life, along with the rest of his family.

One of the things that Lanthimos did that made “The Lobster” easy to crack into despite its outlandish premise is create a universe in which its idiosyncrasies were the norm. Everyone talked in stilted speech with quick basic sentences and an underlying level of social awkwardness. The same technique is employed with “Sacred Deer,” which allows the film to be rooted in somewhat of an alternate universe where everyone talks differently and really strange things happen.

It’s easy to see how some audience members may confuse Farrell’s performance in both films, for example, to be simplistic and odd. In reality, Farrell is giving a fantastic performance that helps establish the setting. The revelation in this film, however, is Keoghan who gives a super creepy and darkly funny performance.

The narrative itself, while not as creative as “The Lobster,” still works pretty well as an updated take on a classic tragedy, provided you are able to buy in. It may not have a terrible amount to say metaphorically but it is well paced, features great tension and is fascinating to watch play out, even if you have an idea of where the story is going.

With the amount of by the numbers, run of the mill storytelling that happens every week at the theater, anyone doing something different is a breath of fresh air. Lanthimos clearly has a warped sense of humor and a keen eye for story telling that is absurd and fantastical while remaining intimate and grounded. “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” may not be one of the better films of the year, but its certainly one of the purest forms of an artist distilling his singular vision into a unique movie going experience.

The Beguiled

June 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kristen Dunst
Directed by: Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”)
Written by: Sofia Coppola (“Marie Antoinette”)

I’ve never seen Don Siegel’s 1971 adaptation of Thomas Cullinan’s novel, “The Beguiled,” and I imagine that there are plenty of fascinating and inevitable nuggets to be discovered in comparing it with Sofia Coppola’s new adaptation. You won’t find such critical comparisons here, which is for the best since everything should be judged on its own merit. The “is this movie really necessary” argument is already being thrown around, and to those simpletons I retort: is any?

Coppola’s film boasts an epic cast featuring the likes of Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice and many more. The story is simple enough. After finding a wounded Union soldier in the woods, a Confederate all-girl boarding school finds its repetitive, undisturbed routine upended by the presence of a man in the house. True to the title, Farrell plays his character with the perfect mix of charm and rot. Coppola slowly peels back the layers of all her characters, revealing the darkness that resides in some of her characters while shattering the innocence of others. It’s compelling storytelling, though if you’re not a fan of Coppola’s steady pacing you may not find much to enjoy here.

This is a very tense and suspenseful movie, but it is also laugh-out-loud darkly comedic. “The Beguiled” throws us into a world where order, restraint, reverence, and etiquette are just as if not more oppressive than the war that rages on just outside the house’s gate. The opening shot of the film follows a young girl through woods flooded with cannonball smoke as the sounds of war echo. It’s the perfect way to open a film about creeping evil, and Philippe Le Sourd peppers the film with similar images to amplify that mood. The costumes from Stacey Battat, Coppola’s regular collaborator, tell so much about each character, marking this film as a perfect fusion of elements behind and in front of the camera.

That subdued style of storytelling works great as buildup, and while the payoff in the final act is explosive and dark, it could have gone darker. This is an R-rated movie, but the only given reason is sexuality (there’s thrusting; shame!). Coppola doesn’t seem to have any interest in embracing her R-rating. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it may have done “The Beguiled” some good if she had pushed the envelope a bit further.

Still, what remains is incredibly powerful and unforgettable. Part of what makes “The Beguiled” so entertaining is that it constantly changes what character you feel compelled to root for. I don’t really think there’s anything empowering about this movie. It’s a horrifying look into the complex intricacies of human nature. No matter how much of a front one tries to put on, there’s always insidious malevolency lurking beneath.

Epic

May 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Ashley, Reviews

Starring: Colin Farrell, Amanda Seyfried, Christoph Waltz
Directed by: Chris Wedge (“Robots”)
Written by: James V. Hart (“August Rush”), Tom J. Astle (“Get Smart”), Matt Ember (“Failure to Launch”), William Joyce (debut) and Daniel Shere (debut)

While the title is a drastic overstatement, “Epic” is sure to send the kiddos off with a smile and some good laughs. With that said, it’s important to warn those who are expecting a magical world filled with dynamic characters and a heartwarming storyline to wipe your expectations clean. “Epic” doesn’t reach those heights.

In “Epic,” teenager Mary Katherine, aka M.K., (Amanda Seyfried), who has recently lost her mother, must deal with the transition of moving in with her kooky and absent-minded father, Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis). Hard at work, the professor is trying to prove the existence of a secret world which inhabits tiny warriors who protect the forest, a theory M.K. isn’t buying. The only bright side to living in her new creaky home is spending time with her rambunctious, beat-up Pug, Ozzie. After accidentally letting Ozzie loose, M.K. ends up chasing him into the forest where she is magically shrunken into the secret world her father told her about – a world of fairylike creatures and talking animals.

Caught in the middle of a raging war between good (the Leafmen) and evil (the Boggans), M.K. finds her tiny self destined to protect the “chosen pod,” which now holds the good spirit of the forest, passed on by the slain Forest Queen, Tara (Beyonce). In order to defeat Mandrake (Christoph Waltz), leader of the Boggans, who is plotting to take over the forest, M.K. enlists the help of Ronin (Colin Farrell), the noble and trusty Commander of the Leafmen; Nod (Josh Hutcherson), a rebellious hero; and a couple of comic-relief sidekicks, Mub the Slug (Anziz Ansari) and Grub the Snail (Chris O’Dowd).

With so many opportunities to live up to its name, “Epic” never fulfills its destiny. Focusing a little more on the divided relationship between M.K. and her father would’ve been the easiest fix, but the film never takes full advantage when it has the chance. It barely grazes the surface of the father-daughter narrative and leaves the audience with unanswered questions.

Although unsuccessful at capturing the emotions of the entire story thanks to mediocre voice acting and a static storyline, “Epic” makes up in aesthetics with its whimsical animation and intricate battle choreography. But what truly slides in and saves the day, literally, are Mub the Slug and Grub the Snail. With their slapstick humor and memorable jokes, “Epic” is more enjoyable than it really should be.

Dead Man Down

March 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard
Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”)
Written by: J.H. Wyman (“The Mexican”)

Revenge is a dish served cold and in most cases pretty immediate. If you’re watching a master at the genre like filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, there’s no beating around the bush when it comes to it. Death comes quickly when The Bride slices her way through ninja assassins in “Kill Bill” or the Bear Jew plays homerun derby with a Nazi’s head in “Inglourious Basterds.” But when revenge is carried out in a more meticulous manner, it only works if the narrative doesn’t follow suit and come to a screeching halt. “Dead Man Down” does just that. It’s a crackling fire that dies out fast.

Danish director Niels Adren Oplev has experimented with this slow-burn revenge concept before in the original “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Without giving too much of the plot away, his attempt at doing the same in his first American film is far less intriguing, especially when the revenge story is cobbled together in scenes riddled with messy dialogue and unbelievable plot devices used by screenwriter J.H. Wyman (“The Mexican,” TV’s “Fringe”).

In “Dead Man Down,” Colin Farrell stars as Victor, a low-grade criminal who has somehow infiltrated a gang led by a man (Terrence Howard) responsible for the death of his wife and daughter. As interesting – albeit familiar – a film as that might’ve been alone, Wyman decides to pile on more useless storylines by introducing us to Beatrice (Noomi Rapace, the original lead actress of “Dragon Tattoo” before Rooney Mara made it her own), a former beautician who wants her own revenge on the man who left her face scarred after a drunk driving crash. There’s not much inspiration behind Beatrice’s anger. She just wants the guy dead and exhibits this obsession in a weirdly psychotic way during a driving scene with Farrell that would make Cameron Diaz’s crazy car rant in “Vanilla Sky” feel like a gentle argument.

Whatever her character is supposed to be experiencing emotionally, Wyman doesn’t capture her tortured soul in the slightest way. Neither does he with Farrell’s Victor whose vengeful nature just seems like too much trouble when all is said and done. A bullet straight to the head would probably make more sense in this scenario. The nonexistent chemistry between Farrell and Rapace is also a problem. It’s vague in its delivery, but even when it becomes obvious, there’s not much time to do anything with the relationship. Nor is it logical for Victor to feel anything but disdain for Beatrice to begin with.

When the bullets do start flying in the last 15 minutes, “Dead Man Down” is already a lost cause. It retreats into a cliché shoot em’ up flick that has Hollywood written all over it. It’s unfortunate Oplev’s foray into the American film industry had to start with such a whimper, especially since he’s already proven with “Dragon Tattoo” that he has a very fascinating take on the darker side of drama.

Seven Psychopaths

October 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken
Directed by: Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges”)
Written by: Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges”)

In a scene pulled straight from the Quentin Tarantino playbook, “Seven Psychopaths” opens with two assassins having an innocuous, and quite funny conversation about shooting people through the eyeball. It’s unique, quick-witted and sets the tone for the rest of the film. It’s also incredibly well-written, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the source. After writer and director Martin McDonagh made his mark as an accomplished playwright and wrote and directed his Academy Award-winning short film “Six Shooter,” McDonagh wrote and directed his first feature, 2008’s “In Bruges,” which won him critical acclaim and a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination. Though less successful than his first film, “Seven Psychopaths” still carries some of the traits that make McDonagh stand out as a true talent.

“Seven Psychopaths” follows Marty Faranan (Colin Farrell), a screenwriter struggling to pen his next film. Marty’s friend Billy Bickle, (Sam Rockwell) who desperately wants to help him write the script, works with his partner-in-crime Hans (Christopher Walken) to kidnap dogs for rewards. When Billy kidnaps a dog from angry gangster Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson), Charlie will stop at nothing to get it back, bringing Marty, Hans and Billy into his sights.

Though it’s marketing materials make it seem like there is a giant ensemble cast, the film truly belongs to Farrell, Rockwell, Walken and a bit of Harrelson. While Farrell is good as the straight-man, Rockwell and Walken steal the movie. The grossly underrated Rockwell shines as the unstable and violence-obsessed Billy, executing stupidity and brash personality perfectly. Once again, Rockwell proves to be incredibly versatile and truly shows his capability of carrying a film. Though he doesn’t do much else than play a variation of his eccentric self, Walken soaks up McDonagh’s material and fits right in with his counterparts to form a great chemistry between the trio.

If there’s one thing that holds “Seven Psychopaths” back, it’s the films narrative ADD. Since there is a screenplay within the film, McDonagh shows scenes that function as Marty’s would-be movie intertwined with the dog-napping situation that is currently happening. Nonetheless, McDonagh’s best material comes in the scenes of Marty’s potential film, none better than a brilliantly written scene about a revenge seeking Quaker. In line with the dark comedic tone that McDonagh masters, there are plenty of memorable moments of sheer excessive comic violence. In a particularly uproarious scene,  Billy pitches his idea for the film that is so gloriously over the top, and expertly performed by Rockwell.

Fans of “In Bruges,” shouldn’t expect the levels of rapid-fire, whip-smart brilliance that McDonagh’s earlier film provided. What can be expected, however, is a unique, unapologetic, filthy and darkly funny movie experience. While there are some problems with “Seven Psychopaths,” particularly with the occasionally wobbly narrative structure and a stronger first half, the film succeeds on McDonagh’s satirical and meta screenplay, which could possibly be a dark horse contender for another original screenplay nomination come Oscar time.

Total Recall

August 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel
Directed by: Len Wiseman (“Underworld,” “Live Free or Die Hard”)
Written by: Kurt Wimmer (“Salt”) and Mark Bomback (“Live Free or Die Hard”)

Remakes of movies people remember fondly are a tough sell from the start. Not only do you have to engage the audience with the story you’re telling, but you’ve got to do so in a way that doesn’t have the audience mentally checking off plot points from the DVD they have sitting on the shelf at home. Recently, the filmmakers behind the updates of “Footloose,” “The Karate Kid,” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” have tried, with varying degrees of success, to strike the right balance between satisfying the fans of the original who are drawn to the name recognition a remake brings and the need to put a unique spin on the story to justify the existence of the new version.

The latest modern classic to receive the remake treatment is “Total Recall.” This new spin on the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi/action film stars Colin Farrell as Doug Quaid, a post-apocalyptic factory worker suffering from vivid nightmares. In an effort to change his life, Quaid pays a visit to Rekall, a company specializing in implanting fake memories into the minds of their clients such as dream vacations or wild sexual fantasies. Quaid’s procedure is aborted, however, when the staff realizes that his memory has already been erased and a commando team blasts its way in, guns blazing. Upon escaping, Quaid returns home to find his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) is out to kill him and that their marriage is a lie that has been implanted in his head. Escaping for the second time, Quaid encounters Melina (Jessica Biel), a resistance fighter he shares a past with bent on bringing down the evil Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston).

This version of “Total Recall” suffers from a fatal flaw: not getting its ass to Mars. Director Len Wiseman (“Underworld”) has crafted a slick, lens-flared world torn in two by chemical warfare, but keeping the action Earth-bound turns the film into a dull, anonymous sci-fi slog. The futuristic cityscapes populated with flying cars zipping through canyons of neon signs are never as effective as the papiermâché Martian caves from the original and feel like they could have been lifted wholesale from “Blade Runner” or “The Fifth Element” or even “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.”  Outside of the clearly-enjoying-himself Cranston, the cast doesn’t fare any better. Farrell’s Quaid is a bland, less tormented Jason Bourne, Beckinsale is merely playing an evil version of her acrobatic hero from the “Underworld” movies, and Jessica Biel is just a pretty actress wearing frumpy military-style clothing and shooting guns.  Implant a positive memory and watch the original version on DVD instead.

Crazy Heart

January 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell
Directed by: Scott Cooper (debut)
Written by: Scott Cooper (debut)

Place an entire narrative on the shoulders of four-time Academy Award nominated actor Jeff Bridges (“The Last Picture Show”) and good things are bound to happen, especially if you ask him to sing, too.

Despite a fairly safe and conventional screenplay by first time director and writer Scott Cooper, the music drama “Crazy Heart” is Bridges’ closet shot to winning Oscar gold since earning his last nom for his supporting role in 2001’s “The Contender.”

While “Crazy Heart” is rich with familiar themes, Bridges doesn’t disappoint. He stars as “Bad” Blake, a down-on-his-luck country and western singer who finds himself in the twilight of his career fighting to stay a significant part of the music industry he helped build.

All the gigs Bad can book, however, are in small-town bowling alleys, run-down watering holes, and places where his fan base – although faithful – isn’t as significant as it once was during his glory days. Years of alcoholism have taken their toll on Bad, who is now flat broke. His agent want him to sit down and write new material, but Bad’s just not interested in writing songs for other performers anymore. This includes working with his former protégé Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), a young and popular singer who epitomizes the new generation of country music.

Instead, Bad seems comfortable doing his touring across the Southwest in his 1978 Chevy suburban, staying at ratty motels and drinking the cheapest whiskey he can find. When Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a Santa Fe reporter, asks for an interview during one of his tour stops in New Mexico, Bad agrees and is immediately stunned by how much he likes the young writer. Jean, too, is oddly drawn to the Merle Haggard-type star as he tries to sober up and kick-start his life and career.

Adapted from a novel of the same name by Thomas Cobb, “Crazy Heart” – as cliché as it sounds – actually feels like the cinematic version of a country song. All the ingredients are there from love to heartbreak to redemption and Cooper follows the recipe without burning the biscuits (Bad’s specialty in the kitchen). Sure, a few bites may be a bit dry, but Bridges is riding a gravy train.

As Bad, he gives an effortless performance as a man who wants a second chance to do something memorable with the talent he has. As we watch Bad fiddle with his guitar throughout the film (pieces of the Ryan Bingham/T-Bone Burnett-written “The Weary Kind” can be heard), it’s evident that there is something amazing waiting to be revealed before it’s all said and done.

Whether he’s on stage singing songs from the film’s exceptional soundtrack (“The Weary Kind” is Oscar bound) or holding a sweet conversation with Jean’s little boy, Bridges knows no bounds when providing us with his subtle and sensitive character. “Crazy Heart” is his latest dream role and we’re all singing his praises.

Pride and Glory

October 26, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Edward Norton, Colin Farrell, Jon Voight
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor (“Miracle”)
Written by: Gavin O’Connor (“Tumbleweeds”) and Joe Carnahan (“Narc”)

If “Pride and Glory” were an episode of “Cops,” it would be any one of the shows where a police officer pulls an eightball out of a crackhead’s pocket and the only thing the panicked druggie can say is, “That ain’t mine.” It’s director Gavin O’Connor’s stock answer for the crime-drama genre.

Sure, not all crime-dramas can be as well-acted as “Training Day” or as brutally realistic as “Narc” (written and directed by “P&G” scribe Joe Carnahan), but with “P&G,” Carnahan and O’Connor (“Miracle”) drag the story through such generic plot points and with halfhearted characters, it’s no wonder New Line Cinema decided to shelve the film for more than half a year (it’s original release date was, gasp, March 14).

Playing brother-in-laws in the NYPD, Edward Norton and Colin Farrell can’t be held accountable for “P&G”’s lack of sensibility. In the film, Norton is Ray Tierney, a straight-laced officer who, after two years working in Missing Persons, is pressured by his father (Voight), the Chief of Detectives, to head a task force in search of a cop killer. Farrell is on the other side of the law as Jimmy Eagan, a hard-ass cop who pals around with drug dealers while on the clock. It all makes for a not-so-sweet holiday season at the Tierney household as Ray investigates the murders of four policemen, while Jimmy looks for ways to cover his tracks.

While most of the boys in blue look out for their own, the same can’t be said about Carnahan who dumps some rather stagnant and unintentionally funny dialogue onto the lead actors. This may be the first film of his career where he’s not directing his own script, but responding the same way as the aforementioned crackhead isn’t going to hold up in any court.