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

February 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

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

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

[17:45-41:29] Oscar picks

[41:29-52:51] Review: “Get Out”

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

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

Fences

December 23, 2016 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson
Directed by: Denzel Washington (“The Great Debadters”)
Written by: August Wilson (debut)

Reprising their roles from the 2010 Broadway revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington (“Training Day”) and Oscar nominee Viola Davis (“Doubt”) star as a married couple living in 1950s Pittsburgh struggling to come to terms with the imperfect life they have created for themselves and their family. Directed by Washington, his first film behind the camera since 2007’s “The Great Debaters,” and adapted to the screen by the original playwright, the production has no qualms about presenting the narrative to viewers as if they were watching a stage performance. Still, Washington and Davis, especially, give incredible performances, which is reason enough to forgive the film’s cinematic shortcomings.

The Magnificent Seven

September 23, 2016 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”)
Written by: Richard Wenk (“The Equalizer”) and Nic Pizzolatto (debut)

Movies are often compared to theme park rides; sometimes that’s meant to evoke the thrills a viewer could experience along the way, while the more negative connotation could mean that the film takes you from point A to point B with little drama along the way. Some movies are built like rides at Disneyland: immersive and invigorating, enveloping you in a world far away from the line you waited in for two hours and 15 minutes before delivering you unharmed at an end result that, while fun, is not unexpected. Others are like an attraction at Six Flags: sure, it’s fun, too, but you can see the air conditioning units on top of the gift shop from every angle of the ride and you have to walk past a few ice machines for the adjacent snack bar on the way out.

The 2016 version of “The Magnificent Seven,” from director Antoine Fuqua, is a Six Flags ride of a pop-culture western. You can see the track the entire time, and you probably won’t want to buy the photo they take of you along the way, but the two hours and 15 minutes it took to get through the whole thing won’t feel like a waste of time.

When a crooked robber baron named Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) forcibly takes over the small mining town of Rose Creek in the years after the Civil War, killing and stealing indiscriminately from the populace, a widow (Haley Bennet)  and her companion (Luke Grimes) hope to enlist the help of some gunfighters to free their town from Bogue’s grip. When they encounter honorable bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) in a nearby town, they talk him into their cause and prompt Chisolm to recruit a band of brave men to fight off the evil Bogue and his army of hired guns. Joining Chisolm are the rakish Farraday (Chris Pratt), legendary sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), his quiet-yet-deadly assassin Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), crazy mountain man Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) and rebel Comanche Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier)—the so-called Magnificent Seven.

It feels like it’s been a while since a western was played as an action movie—these days they’re the domain of post-modern anti-heroes and moral conundrums. “The Magnificent Seven,” though, is just taking you from one place to another on horseback with some kicks along the way. There are times when the effortlessness actions of the heroes threatens to derail the whole endeavor—seriously, there are almost no obstacles for our heroes until the script dictates them—but it ultimately stays in the saddle long enough to be successful.

The Equalizer

September 26, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”)
Written by:  Richard Wenk (“The Mechanic,” “16 Blocks”)

“The Equalizer” clearly owes its existence to Liam Neeson’s “Taken,” the Eurotrashy action film that kick-started the so-far Neeson-dominated movie genre of “old guy with a secret single-handedly takes out an entire cartel of bad guys,” only it seems to think it deserves more respect thanks to the presence and charisma of Academy Award-winning star Denzel Washington. It doesn’t, and if the film took itself less seriously, it might have been tons more fun.

Washington stars as Robert McCall, a quiet man living a quietly methodical life in Boston. Working at a Home Depot-ish hardware superstore, McCall is the model diligent employee, handling every situation with a smile and even taking personal time to coach his overweight coworker (Johnny Skourtis) who dreams of becoming a security guard if he can only make the target weight.  McCall’s evenings are spent in a diner, where every night he brings his own teabags and a well-worn book. He frequently shares conversations with teenage prostitute Alina (Chloe Grace Moretz), an aspiring singer who slowly opens up to McCall. One night after Alina goes missing after meeting a client, McCall discovers she has been beaten and put into the ICU. McCall pays a visit to her Russian mafia pimp, attempting to buy her freedom. When he is rebuffed, a switch flips and McCall draws upon some long-dormant training to brutally execute the entire crew. This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg, as the full-force of the Russian underworld comes after McCall, who must take them on all alone.

Director Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) indulges in far too many subplots to keep the movie as brisk as it needed to be. At over two hours, the bloat is obvious, featuring go-nowhere elements like cops that shake down a small Mexican restaurant and the never-ending  saga of McCall’s kindly, obese coworker becoming a security guard that should have been left in the editing software’s recycle bin. Heavy-handed allegories to “The Old Man and the Sea” and “Don Quioxte” land with an audible thud, doing nothing except standing in the way of Washington— ever noble even when savagely murdering people — getting to the ass-kicking we all came to see. The outcome never remains in doubt, of course, but it would have been nice to have gotten there in a quicker, no-nonsense fashion.

2 Guns

August 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Bill Paxton
Directed by: Baltasar Kormakur (“Contraband”)
Written by: Blake Masters (debut)

When thinking about actor/director teams of recent memory, duos like Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe, or the late Tony Scott and Denzel Washington come to mind. One that might not be at the forefront of people’s minds is the duo of Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur and Mark Wahlberg. Reteaming for the second time in as many years (Kormakur directed last year’s “Contraband,” a remake of an Icelandic film in which Kormakur actually starred in), “2 Guns” sets out to put the duo on the map as a new formidable team.

With their true identities unknown to each other, Undercover DEA Agent Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington) and undercover naval intelligence officer Marcus Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) try to infiltrate a drug cartel and take the other down with them. Both find themselves being chased down by Stigman’s crooked Naval bosses and an angry CIA agent (Bill Paxton) who they mistakenly stole the money from. Together they must team up to track down the money, which was taken from them, and stay alive.

Though not straying too far from characters seen in recent films like “Ted,” this is the kind of role and film Wahlberg does best. Throughout the film, Wahlberg uses his natural humor and is able to effortlessly put entire scenes on his back. In Washington’s case, it almost feels like he’s just along for the ride. It isn’t to say that his performance is lackluster, but it’s the kind that seems to be the norm for Washington these days. Besides the two leads, Paxton plays a deliciously evil Southern villain to a tee. He is a blast to watch. All his lines, including the hilarious ones, are delivered with total perfection. You can clearly tell Paxton is eating up the role.

What “2 Guns” really succeeds at is hammering down a consistent and loose tone. Jokes have a constant presence and are utilized in appropriate times. In fact, “2 Guns” packs some legitimately big laughs and one-liners with Wahlberg being the culprit in most cases. Even when some lines toe the line of absurdity, the film has a certain self-awareness that makes what’s happening or being said fun, rather than corny. While Kormakur is certainly capable of staging an action sequence, these scenes in particular are probably the weakest point of the film.

The plot itself becomes over-complicated in the third act with plenty of plot twists and double-crossing. Still, the film never loses its sense of a good time.  At its core, the driving force behind “2 Guns” is the performances of its actors, chiefly Wahlberg and Paxton. Even with all the gunfire, bloodshed, and explosions (and dumb title aside), at the end of the day, the successful pairing of Wahlberg and Washington is what makes it worthwhile.

Flight

November 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis (“Cast Away”)
Written by: John Gatins (“Real Steel”)

Though the circumstances differ a bit, merely hearing the plot of “Flight” will remind people of pilot “Sully” Sullenberger’s miraculous plane landing in the Hudson River in which he was able to spare the lives of all 155 passengers in 2009. Factor in that the film’s main character is not-so-subtly named “Whip” Whitaker and it becomes clear that inspiration is often found straight from the headlines. More than just a new starring vehicle for Denzel “Wash” Washington, “Flight” also marks the return to live-action for director Robert Zemeckis after a 12-year stint in the world of motion-capture animation. It’s a comeback that leaves a lot to be desired.

When a flight piloted by “Whip” Whitaker (Washington) loses control midair, Whip must make dangerous maneuvers to try to save everyone on board. Though the plane crashes, he is able to save a majority of the crew and passengers. When he wakes up, however, he finds an investigation open that reveals drugs and alcohol were found in his system. Along the way, Whip develops a very unique and close relationship with a heroin addict named Nicole (Kelly Reilly)

Considering the talent both behind and in front of the camera, it is staggering just how much of “Flight” doesn’t work. The performance by Washington is solid, but ultimately a little unsatisfying when he isn’t playing drunk. Perhaps the best member of the cast is Don Cheadle, who plays Whip’s defense attorney. One of the biggest problems with “Flight” comes in the form of script and tone issues. At times, the film tries to be “edgy” and dark with its humor. It ultimately misfires. Structurally speaking, Zemeckis spends far too much time on average-written storylines that are uninteresting, often to the point of becoming completely painstaking. Even the cinematography and camera movements are boring and stale.

Though “Flight” is quite strong in its portrayal of Whip’s alcoholism, Zemeckis and company completely dropped the ball with Nicole, who is apparently the most successful recovering heroin addict of all time. There are scenes of the torment that Whip must go through battling with the temptations to drink and scenes that portray how non-functioning he becomes when he drinks too much. And with Nicole? Other than her initial hospitalization for an overdose there are no temptations, no struggles and no withdrawal symptoms. She essentially quits heroin cold turkey. Impressive.

Perhaps the most distressing thing about “Flight” is that the core relationship of the film is woefully unsuccessful. Nicole is introduced to the film in such a disconnected way that it ultimately has nowhere to go as the film moves forward. From that point on Zemeckis force-feeds the relationship between Whip and Nicole to the audience. Not only does it not make sense, it is completely ineffective in registering any type of emotion.

Like the fabled plane in the film, “Flight” has problems almost immediately after it takes off and ultimately crashes and burns. The end result is a flaming pile of wreckage that ironically wouldn’t even be entertaining on an airplane ride. Though the premise of the film is admittedly interesting, “Flight” makes every subsequent turn a wrong one and occasionally nose-dives into excruciatingly bad cinema. One wishes that Zemeckis wouldn’t have been on auto-pilot for his long-awaited return to live-action.

Safe House

February 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Brendan Gleeson
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa (“Easy Money”)
Written by: David Guggenheim (debut)

The rules are fairly easy in Hollywood if you’re a filmmaker wanting to direct a movie. Prove yourself a moneymaker like Michael Bay and budgets will usually swell. Problem is, every bloated and brainless production looks like the next one on the conveyer belt and mainstream audiences – despite their insatiable need for big explosions and pricey special effects – sometimes don’t fall for it (see “Green Lantern” or “Speed Racer”). What’s a studio to do when it wants to hire a new voice, but doesn’t want to gamble $170 million on someone whose resume only features a collection of really slick-looking TV commercials? The answer: Find some foreign talent yet to be influenced by the big industry machine and see if they can figure out how to inventively bash robot heads together at half the salary.

Examples from the past few years include Russian-Kazakh director Timur Bekmambetov, whose film work in Moscow earned him the right to make the 2008 Angelina Jolie action flick Wanted, and Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn (“Bronson,” “Pusher” trilogy), whose first American-made film was last year’s stylish arthouse hybrid “Drive.” Next in line to take a swing at an America action movie is Swedish-Chilean director Daniel Espinosa with “Safe House,” an exceedingly routine spy thriller starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds that will easily be lost among the mediocrity come March. Despite keeping things moving with some creative stunt driving and distracting editing, the film falls short in the screenplay department. While adequate in small doses, the lightweight plot, which becomes increasingly formulaic and predictable, doesn’t do much to heighten Espinosa’s visual approach or Washington’s villainous intentions.

Washington has played the bad guy before, but in films like “American Gangster” and his Oscar-winning role in “Training Day” there was more to his character than firing a slug into someone’s forehead or pointing a pair of pistols at a hoodlum’s groin. There was depth in those performances that simply isn’t found in the “Safe House” script of first-time screenwriter David Guggenheim. As renegade CIA operative-turned-traitor Tobin Frost, Washington makes his dead-on gazes work for him, but aside from the tough exterior there’s little about Frost that would send a chill down anyone’s spine. He’s selling government secrets in South Africa when he ends up in the custody of his former agency. Left to contend with Frost is Matt Weston (Reynolds), a low-level MI6 agent who must try to keep his “high-profile asset” alive as both are tracked by a mob of assassins. Wasting away in the wings are actors Brendan Gleeson, Vera Farmiga, and Sam Shepard, who stay holed up at CIA headquarters supervising the jerry-rigged mission for most of the runtime.

For those who like the hand-to-hand combat of the Jason Bourne series and the firefights and action of something like “Assault on Precinct 13” or “The Taking of Pelham 123,” “Safe House” might be a safe bet for a matinee if you’ve already caught up on the spillover from 2011. As much as the film wants to be a battle of wits between Washington and Reynolds, there isn’t nearly enough downtime for bullets to stop flying and a significant conversation to take place. Basically, this is a 106-minute chase scene through Cape Town that highlights a few fun stunts and some trivial storytelling. Espinosa does his best impersonation of Paul Greengrass and Tony Scott, and therein lies the problem. Until foreign directors like him realize their American films don’t necessarily have to be Americanized, we’ll continue to get what ultimately ends up being copies of copies of copies.

The Book of Eli

January 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis
Directed by: Albert Hughes (“From Hell”) and Allen Hughes (“From Hell”)
Written by: Gary Whitta (debut)

In comparison to other films that feature lone travelers living in a post-apocalyptic world (“Mad Max,” “Children of Men,” “The Road”), “The Book of Eli” would be the end-of-days-movie-of-the-week. It spouts off religious banter as if it was poetic dialogue and relies on a thoughtless narrative and plot twist, which does nothing to tie up any loose ends.

Oscar winner Denzel Washington (“Training Day”) takes the lead as Eli, a road warrior-type who is traveling west on the desolate highways through a world destroyed by some type of nuclear war 30 years prior. In his backpack he carries the last-known Bible, a book he has kept safe from anyone who tries to take it from him. A machete and shotgun get the point across to the thieves and cannibals who try and make trouble for the isolated journeyman.

But trouble has a way of finding Eli no matter how many limbs he hacks off would-be agitators. When he strolls into a tumbledown town as cool as a cowboy on horseback, Eli is confronted by Carnegie (Gary Oldman), the leader of a renegade gang who has been sending his men for years to search for a copy of the Bible. He believes possessing the last Good Book on earth will give him limitless power and help him conquer the rest of humanity as an all-knowing messiah. “It’s not a book, it’s a weapon,” Carnegie gripes to his henchmen.

What he does not count on, however, is Eli’s stubbornness and refusal to give up his prized possession. Tracking him on the road when he escapes the town (not to mention taking along a pretty sidekick played by Mila Kunis of “Max Payne” and TV’s “That 70s Show”), Carnegie and his band of greasy-haired thugs will stop at nothing to get the faith-based text.

Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes, the brotherly duo who gave audiences 1993’s “Menace II Society” and 1994’s “Dead Presidents” before taking a 9-year hiatus from filmmaking after the dismal Jack the Ripper-inspired “From Hell” of 2001, there’s not much of a defense the Hugheses can give for their decision to stand behind this work. While there are some well-choreographed scenes, “The Book of Eli” lacks any common sense with a script penned by first-time screenwriter Gary Whitta. What Washington saw in this script is beyond comprehension. This is the type of role that someone like Vin Diesel was made for – a kind of second-rate addition to his “Chronicles of Riddick” series.

God may be all-forgiving, but for The Hughes Brothers and Washington, it’s going to take a little more time to get over this one.

The Taking of Pelham 123

June 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro
Directed by: Tony Scott (“Déjà Vu”)
Written by: Brian Helgeland (“Man on Fire”)

Two-time Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington and director Tony Scott reunite for a fourth time in the remake of the 1974 film “The Taking of Pelham 123,” an underground action flick that proves to be more than screenwriter Brian Helgeland can manage when it comes to adding a little common sense to the original script.

In “Pelham,” the workday starts of like any other for Walter Garber (Washington) at the New York City Rail Control Center. Things begin to get nerve-wracking, however, when he notices some odd occurrences happening on the subway system monitors. One of the rails has come to a halt in the middle of its route. The premature stop is caused by a group of hijackers led by a man who calls himself Ryder (John Travolta).

“What is the going rate for a New York City hostage,” he tells Walter after taking control of the rail and before asking for $10 million in ransom. Setting a one-hour deadline to get him the money before he starts plugging passengers, Walter relinquishes his hot seat to hostage negotiator Det. Carmonetti (John Turturro) who immediately informs the mayor (James Gandolfini) about what is happening under his city.

Ryder, however, doesn’t want to consult with anyone but Walter. During their short time together on the phone, he has come to feel comfortable enough to execute his master plan – which in itself doesn’t even have a rational exit strategy – through the one person with the least power in the entire room.

Nevertheless, with a gun in his hand, Ryder is calling the shots and Walter is whisked back into the fray in an unrealistic plot to transport the money inside the dark tunnel before time runs out. During the waiting game, Carmonetti begins to wonder if Walter is part of the heist himself. Why else would Ryder be so adamant about pulling the heist off on Walter’s watch? When Walter’s co-workers supply information about a recent demotion and suspension for something he irrefutably denies, thing begin to get testy at the control center. All the while, Ryder and Walter continue to play a cliché game of mental chess (Ryder says “checkmate” a few time to push the issue) as the passenger cower under their seats.

And since Washington (who gives a very good performance) and Travolta never come face to face with each other, director Scott is forced into a predicament. Where will he find the “action” in his action movie? With the clock literally ticking, Scott forces the action during the scenes when the money is being delivered to Ryder. He turns the transfer into thoughtless mayhem by tossing in car crashes and other odd speed bumps to boost effect.

In the end, “The Taking of Pelham 123” is irrelevant. It’s the type of movie that keeps you awake more than it keeps you truly entertained.