Ep. 117 – Glass, Fyre

January 21, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

 

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

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Atomic Blonde

July 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman
Directed by: David Leitch (debut)
Written by: Kurt Johnstad (“300”)

I’m firmly on the record as being on board for everything that “John Wick” maestros David Leitch and Chad Stahelski attach their names to from now until the end of time. Their action scenes are among the best cinema has to offer this side of Gareth Evans, and the worlds they create are so rich they put entire blockbuster franchises to shame.

Leitch’s “Atomic Blonde,” headlined by Charlize Theron, is another explosive showcase of the director’s talent. A lot of press lately has focused on Charlize doing her own stunts, and the movie certainly delivers on heroine ass-kicking. There’s decidedly less action here than in either of the John Wick installments, but Leitch cranks up the mayhem here to unprecedented levels of insanity. One particular sequence featuring a car chase is easily in contention for one of the greatest action sequences ever put to film.

In case you hadn’t already caught on, “Atomic Blonde” has fantastic action sequences. Regretfully, it doesn’t offer anything beyond that. Atomic Blonde has a running time of 115 minutes, and you really feel it. So much time is spent on exposition and backstory, but none of it accomplishes anything beyond turning the film into a dull slog. In adapting the graphic novel series by Anthony Johnston and Sam Hart, screenwriter Kurt Johnstad (both “300” movies, “Act of Valor”) tries his hardest to make a Cold War thriller, but even the slowest John le Carre moments bubble with more intrigue.

Review etiquette requires me to give some sort of a plot synopsis, but I’m going to have to forgo that formality due to the lamentable fact that the events that play out in the film are so instantly forgettable. Even great supporting talent like John Goodman, Toby Jones, and Sofia Boutella seem bored by having to deliver lifeless dialogue that is simultaneously dense and dull. Theron’s performance has a bit of that lifelessness too, which works for her character, but surrounding her lethal assassin with similar cold beings lessen her performance’s effect.

On the flip side, James McAvoy and Eddie Marsan tear up the screen in such a way you really want to see the crazy movie that they were in. There are lots of cases where Leitch seems to be down to make that movie, too, what with his upbeat (albeit on the nose) 80s soundtrack and his neon-tinged visuals. Ultimately, though, not even the brilliant mind of Leitch can save this movie. There’s a great ballet of carnage on display in “Atomic Blonde,” but the remainder of the film is so painfully out of tune you leave the theater wondering why such greatness had to be showcased alongside something so tepid.

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

January 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split” and the so-called “The Social Network with hamburgers” biopic “The Founder” starring Michael Keaton. They also recap Woody Harrelson’s live film “Lost in London” which was presented live across the country by Fathom Events.

[00:00-22:12] Intro/”Lost in London” recap

[22:12-36:19] “Split” review

[36:19-49:13] “The Founder” review

[49:13-59:32] Wrap up/tease
Click here to download the episode!

Split

January 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense,” “Unbreakable”)
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan (“The Visit,” “After Earth”)

Former Hollywood golden boy M. Night Shyamalan has been working on a comeback for longer than he was at the top of his game, and since the double-sided nadir of “The Last Airbender” and “After Earth,” Shyamalan has gone small, like a former world-class athlete rebuilding his game in the minors. 2015’s “The Visit” was a fun found-footage horror romp with zero big stars and a sly wink at the audience from time to time. With his latest, “Split,” Shyamalan starts to play a little hero ball like it’s 2001 again, shooting to spin an intimate psychological thriller into an epic tale of supernatural ability using showy performances and, yes, a twist–with mixed results.

At a birthday party for popular high school student Claire (Haely Lu Richardson), the quiet, introverted Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) remains an outcast, invited only so it wouldn’t be awkward in class. When it’s time to go, Casey hitches a reluctant ride with Claire, Claire’s dad, and Claire’s friend Marcia (Jessica Sula), only Claire’s dad is knocked out before he can get in the car and the three girls are taken by a stranger named Kevin (James McAvoy) and locked in an underground bunker. When the girls come to, they find that Kevin suffers from dissociative identity disorder, and they’re visited and/or tormented by several identities including manically methodical Dennis, taciturn Miss Patricia, and lisping 9-year-old Hedwig. These identities are revolting against the reasonable artist persona Barry, who keeps trying to break through and reach psychiatrist Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley) — who likens Kevin’s disorder to superhuman abilities — before an unknown entity known as “The Beast” arrives to devour the captive girls.

While McAvoy’s go-for-broke performance as the multiple personalities is bold and grimly funny at times, the nearly two-hour run time leaves a few aspects teetering on the brink of annoyance (I’m looking at you, Hedwig). Also puzzling is the inclusion of a grossly depressing backstory for Taylor-Joy’s Claire that does essentially nothing for the plot accept to provide a head-scratching end to the climax and an icky aftertaste in the epilogue. Why her character was made to suffer that fate to have such a confusing payoff is a mystery.

So, let’s talk about the twist—which, really, has more in common with the Marvel school of post-credits stingers that open up the movie’s world instead of turning what we just watched on its ear. It’s a bold decision, for sure, and it’s hard to decide if it’s a brilliant move or a boneheaded one. Either way, it will make you leave the theater talking. Although it’s a little like watching Kobe Bryant back in the day score 60 points in a game—thrilling, to be sure, but maybe an indicator that Shyamalan hasn’t quite learned his lesson.

X-Men: Apocalypse

May 27, 2016 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaac
Directed by: Bryan Singer (“X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “X2”)
Written by: Simon Kinberg (“X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Fantastic Four”)

When we last left the X-Men movie franchise proper, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine – forever the series’ MVP – had traveled back in time in “Days of Future Past” to undo some stuff that had been done in both the movie’s universe and the real world. “DoFP” brought together the differing timelines and actors, erased little-loved entries like “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” and absolutely destroyed any sense of a coherent timeline, which “Deadpool” took a jab at earlier this year. The longest-running comic book movie series was reinvigorated and, 16 years after we first met the cinematic mutants, most of them are back (played by younger actors) in “X-Men: Apocalypse.”

This time around, Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his team of mutants, including Hank McCoy (Nicolas Hoult), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), are pitted against the first and most powerful mutant ever, Apocalypse (Oscar Issac). After being buried under a pyramid for 5,000 years, Apocalypse is awakened in part by the bumbling of CIA agent Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) that allows sunlight to activate his golden power pyramid, or something. Anyway, Apocalypse gathers his four horsemen, including Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to rid the world of humanity and rule whoever is left. Also in the mix is Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) and her crusade to free persecuted mutants around the world, pulling Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) from the clutches of an underground fighting ring. Oh, and don’t forget returning fan-favorite Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and an extended cameo featuring a berserk, metal-clawed hero we’re all too familiar with.

With so many new (well, new-ish) characters to introduce alongside the old ones, director Bryan Singer often leaves the narrative momentum of “X-Men: Apocalypse” standing around and waiting while different cast members are dropped in on. Fassbender’s time as a Magneto/Erik gone straight with a wife and young daughter is the most compelling plot line in the movie, but Singer and screenwriter Kinberg keep yanking us away to check in on boring stuff like Xavier and McCoy visiting Mactaggert at the CIA to remind us of a long-forgotten plotline that had Charles erase Moira’s memory at the end of “X-Men: First Class.” In another bright spot, Evan Peter’s Quicksilver gets a stand-out slow-motion sequence in the movie, this time set to the Eurythmic’s “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” along with some more screen time. But Lawrence’s plot line feels tacked on and unnecessary, the result of the producers trying to come up with something interesting for the megastar who they signed to a contract before her fame went supernova.

And for a being with god-like power, Isaac’s Apocalypse sure does a lot of pointless dicking around in his quest to take over the world, perched atop a pyramid for what seems like 20 minutes making a new helmet for Magneto out of sand while the plot spins around to everyone else in the cast. Even what should have been a quick cameo by the so-called Weapon X drags on minutes too long, and, like the rest of the movie, ends up feeling like nothing more than table-setting for whatever is next. Fox had righted the X-franchise ship, so let’s hope this crummy mutation doesn’t affect the series again.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

May 23, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender
Directed by: Bryan Singer (“X-Men,” “X2: X-Men United”)
Written by: Simon Kinburg (“X-Men: The Last Stand,” “Sherlock Holmes”)

In this golden age of comic book movies, the X-Men franchise is the unlikely elder statesman. Bill Clinton was still president when the first film hit theaters in 2000, for crying out loud, and since then we’ve had two different sets of Spider-Man movies, three different versions of the Hulk, and we’re working on our second go-round with both Batman and Superman. And the X-movies, with their often blatant disregard for continuity with one another, fly in the face of the clockwork-precision the current slate of Avengers-based blockbusters Marvel and Disney are pumping out. It’s no secret that Hugh Jackman’s Logan/Wolverine is the glue that holds everything together, anchoring the everything from the best (“X2”) and worst (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) in the series with his definitive take on the most popular X-Man. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is no different, only this time it shrewdly sends the mutant MVP back through time to undo some of the franchise’s most glaring missteps in an adventure that ranks among the series’ strongest.

Opening in a dystopian future — and weirdly, seeming to shrug off the post-credits sequence of “The Wolverine” — “Days of Future Past” finds Logan, Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellan), and a small group of X-Men fighting for their lives against shape-shifting killer robots known as Sentinels. Originally meant to hunt down mutants, the Sentinels’ programming changed to include taking out mutant-sympathizing humans as well. In an effort to end the war before it begins, Professor X hatches a plan with Kitty Pride (Ellen Page) to send Logan’s consciousness back through time into his younger body. His goal is to unite the younger Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lesherr (Michael Fassbender) to stop Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Sentinel creator Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), an event that set humankind on a mission to eradicate mutants from the world.

Returning to the franchise for the first time since “X2,” director Bryan Singer seems to have one goal in mind: clean up the mess the series has become. Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinburg rely heavily on the audience being familiar with  most of the events in “X-Men,” “X2,” “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” and the prequel “X-Men: First Class” (again, oddly, the superior “The Wolverine” is largely ignored), and the duo make a massive effort to smash all of that into a timeline that makes sense within itself (spoiler: it never does). Thinking about it too much can make your head hurt, and thankfully the film is exciting enough that you don’t need to worry about it. At this point Jackman IS Wolverine, and his performance is as badass and funny as ever. The “First Class” cast, led by Lawrence, McAvoy, Fassbender and Nicholas Hoult (as Hank McCoy/Beast) all shine as well. “Days of Future Past” ultimately serves as a giant reset button and with Singer back at the helm, the future of the franchise seems brighter than ever.

Trance

April 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassell, Rosario Dawson
Directed by: Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”)
Written by: Joe Ahearne (debut) and John Hodge (“The Beach”)

Though his movies are well known and his reputation as an impressive filmmaker is planted in the world of cinema, director Danny Boyle has never quite had a huge audience for his work. In fact, only one of his movies has ever crossed the $50-million box office threshold, and only three have crossed $20 million. Of course, that all changed when Boyle orchestrated and directed the opening ceremony for the 2010 London Summer Olympics, which was watched by an estimated 900 million people around the world. After being at the helm of an event watched by nearly a billion people, Boyle returns to his roots with another low-budget independent feature. In his follow-up to the stunning multi-Oscar nominated 2009 film “127 Hours,” “Trance” (which was actually filmed before the Olympic ceremony planning, shelved, and finished post-Olympics) is Boyle’s take on a psychologically skewed art-heist film.

In “Trance,” art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) helps to orchestrate a heist of an expensive painting. In the middle of improvising a double-crossing scheme, Simon suffers a blow to the head by ring-leader Franck (Vincent Cassell) and suffers amnesia. Unable to remember where he hid the painting, Franck enlists in a hypnotherapist named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) in an attempt to figure out where the priceless painting was stashed. Elizabeth discovers Simon is in trouble and from there, relationships, motives and greed begin to emerge.

The performances in “Trance” are fine, but nobody particularly stands out. McAvoy is the best of the bunch, as he gets to play a wide variety of emotions. With Cassell, you get an above average version of a very typical crime villain. Dawson brings an overt sexuality to the role, which is laid on pretty thick by Boyle. Ultimately, it serves no real purpose other than to unnecessarily complicate relationships between characters. Strangely enough, while they all have pretty good on-screen chemistry, their relationships within the movie are poorly written and difficult to buy into.

Screenwriters Joe Ahearne and John Hodge along with Boyle perhaps overload on confidence, expecting the audience to care about the eventual end point of the story. The problem is that while the half-cooked plot lines are left hanging, there is no suspense or curiosity attached to them. Though there are themes of greed, trust, and obsession, which linger throughout the entirety of the film, the script as a whole feels incredibly unpolished and haphazardly thrown together. The presentation of hypnosis throughout the film requires a suspension of disbelief and even then is still extremely far-fetched. For a director who has such a distinct visual style and flair, even the look of “Trance” fail to impress. Sure, there are some neat camera angles and shot compositions but certainly nothing that could be considered a unique stamp for Boyle.

While “Trance” starts with an interesting premise, it eventually collapses on itself after an exhausting series of underwhelming twists that takes entirely too long to develop. Even after a drawn out, overdramatic expository scene, which explains nearly everything, there are still narratives turns in what seems like a never-ending loop of penultimate endings. Instead of being a thoughtful and challenging suspense film, “Trance” is unnecessarily confusing and akin to being given pieces to a puzzle that you just want to give up on halfway through.

X-Men: First Class

June 4, 2011 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn (“Kick-Ass”)
Written by: Ashley Miller (“Thor”), Zack Stentz (“Thor”), Jane Goldman (“Kick-Ass”), Matthew Vaughn (“Kick-Ass”)

As much as you’d like to get the bad taste out of your mouth cause by director Brett Ratner’s 2006 sequel “X-Men: The Last Stand” and director Gavin Hood’s 2009 prequel debauchery “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” adding “X-Men: First Class” into the series lineup isn’t going to do much good unless you consider yourself a diehard fan of the mutant mythology. “First Class” is another prequel in the franchise and director Matthew Vaughn (“Kick-Ass”) doesn’t let you forget it for a moment. Want to know how each mutant gets his or her name or how Beast becomes a, well, beast? It’s all right here in this flat, overdone blockbuster. While “First Class” has a bit more style than the last two movies, there is a lack of intrigue no amount of shoddy CGI can save. Come for actor Michael Fassbender (AKA Magneto). He is the saving grace of the film when there’s nothing left to save except the world.

Gnomeo & Juliet

February 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine
Directed by: Kelly Asbury (“Shrek 2”)
Written by: Kelly Asbury (debut), Mark Burton (“Aliens in the Attic”), Kevin Cecil (debut), Emily Cook (debut), Kathy Greenberg (debut), Andy Riley (debut)

William Shakespeare is probably not turning in his grave since his classic stories have been adapted for the big screen in some form or fashion since the beginning of cinema, but with “Gnomeo & Juliet” he has to at least be wondering, “Why?”

The easy answer to that would be because “Gnomeo” rhymes with “Romeo,” the one of the star-crossed lovers in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” but you can also argue that the cuteness factor of the gnomes themselves was a major selling pitch. More than likely, these fat figurines will easily lure kids and their parents to the theater for a little 3-D hokum. If this finds box-office success, watch out for “The Urchin of Venice.”

Basically following along the same narrative structure as the original play, but replacing all the characters with garden gnomes and other lawn ornaments, “Gnomeo” finds itself at an impasse when it refuses to inject anything fresh and exciting into the picture. Instead, the animated film takes the easy way out and makes absurd references to other films just for the sake of referencing something. Sure, these gimmicks can work well when told in context with the story (see “Shrek”), but “Gnomeo” screenwriters go too far when they find ways to force in jokes into the script featuring quotes and images from “Brokeback Mountain,” “American Beauty,” and a host of other unrelated allusions.

Where  “Gnomeo” earns a few chuckles is through its use of satire to pick a little fun at Shakespeare himself. Then there’s the actual animation, which is above average when it captures the porcelain features of the garden gnomes and the clanky sounds they would make if they walked or touched each other (like tea cups toasting). Add to that, some fine voice work from an excellent British cast (Emily Blunt, James McAvoy, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham) and “Gnomeo” isn’t impossible to watch for a short time.

Still, you can almost imagine the ridiculously large group of novice feature film screenwriters attached to this project sitting in a room together tossing ideas and dialogue back and forth and settling on the most obvious gags. Not nearly as funny as it should have been, “Gnomeo” is the first animated film of 2011 and will easily be lost in the shuffle with the other mediocre family films to hit theaters this year. Here to hoping it doesn’t get worse than this.

The Last Station

February 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Helen Mirren, James McAvoy, Christopher Plummer
Directed by: Michael Hoffman (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”)
Written by: Michael Hoffman (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”)

While “The Last Station,” a melodramatic period piece on 19th century Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, might not find the literary scholar in all of us, there’s no denying the major influence the writer’s work has had on generations of free-thinking minds. From Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr., Tolstoy, who wrote such well-known novels such as “War and Peace,” “Anna Karenina” and “The Kingdom of God is Within You,” is regarded by many as a one of the greatest storytellers in all of literature.

Portraying Tolstoy at the age of 81 is an icon in his own right, 80-year-old Canadian actor Christopher Plummer, who began his professional film career in the last ’50s and is best known for his role in “The Sound of Music” and his Tony Award-winning work on Broadway. As Tolstoy, a part that earned him the first Academy Award nomination of his career this year, Plummer is fantastic. Accolades are also well deserved for Oscar winner Helen Mirren (“The Queen”), who plays Tolstoy’s wife of 48 years, Sofya. The role earned her a fourth Academy Award nomination.

The acting talent is limitless in “The Last Station,” which also stars Oscar nominee Paul Giamatti (“Cinderella Man”) and up-and-coming Scottish actor James McAvoy (“Atonement”). In the film, McAvoy plays Valentine Bulgakov, a young and impressionable essayist who becomes Tolstoy’s personal secretary. Like his role in 2006’s “The Last King of Scotland” where he plays Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s private physician, McAvoy’s Valentine is at the center of a delicate, emotional, and historical narrative. This one splits Tolstoy between his family and his faction.

The year is 1910 and Tolstoy has built a substantial following of people who live life according to his philosophy, which includes celibacy and passive resistance. Known as Tolstoyans, a Christian anarchist group formed by Vladimir Chertkov (Giamatti), the advocates regard Tolstoy as a prophet. In “The Last Station,” Vladimir sends Valentine into the Tolstoy estate to spy and report back family news from inside the household. Vladimir is worried Sofya will ruin the commune’s plan to indoctrinate the public with his beliefs. She wants the rights to her husbands work after he passes away, but Vladimir argues the work belongs to the people. Tolstoy, himself, seems bewildered at the thought of having to choose between his wife and the man who could help seal his legacy.

While “The Last Station” might feel a bit stuffy and slowly-paced for some viewers, director/screenwriter Michael Hoffman (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) has created an intelligent drama based on the intricacies that evolve when relationships and ideals collide. As Mrs. Tolstoy, Mirren is memorable when revealing her character’s frustrations as she slowly loses her husband to the world. McAvoy, too, holds his own alongside the veterans by creating a sympathetic character lost between his idolization of a flawed master and his better conscience.

Wanted

June 27, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman
Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov (“Day Watch”)
Written by: Michael Brandt (“3:10 to Yuma”), Derek Haas (“3:10 to Yuma”), Chris Morgan (“The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”)

A fast-paced and mostly ridiculous adrenaline rush through the streets of Chicago, “Wanted” tells the story of a bored-out-of-his-mind account manager who finds out that his life is about to get a little more exciting because of his bloodline.

Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) hates his job and his vicious boss, hates his nagging girlfriend for cheating on him with his best friend, and hates the fact that when he Googles his name, the Web site produces “No Results,” which basically tells him he hasn’t done anything with his life.

But when Wesley meets an assassin named Fox (Angelina Jolie) and discovers he was born to follow in his father’s footsteps as hired killer, he says goodbye to his 9 to 5 job and joins an underground fraternity where he is assigned to execute the man who ended his father’s life.

Reminiscent of the sharp narration of “Fight Club” in the film’s early scenes, “Wanted” is visual escapism at its most hyperactive. Beside aerodynamic sports cars and assassin maneuvers that defy the laws of gravity, which can be fun when they’re not too frenetic, a thin plot is what keeps “Wanted” stuck in neutral.

Penelope

February 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Catherine O’Hara
Directed by: Mark Palansky (debut)
Written by: Leslie Caveny (debut)

Beauty is in the eye of the be…Ah, who are we kidding? If you’re born with the face of a pig (unless your name is Babe), chances are you’re probably not going to be lucky in love.

So is the case for Penelope Wilhern (Christina Ricci), a young woman who was born with swine-like features because of a curse that was cast on her wealthy family generations ago. Because of her snout and piggy ears, Penelope can’t seem to find a husband despite her high-strung mother (Catherine O’Hara) bringing gentleman callers to their home every night.

Her best chance at happiness comes in the form of Max (James McAvoy), a young man with a gambling problem who is smitten with Penelope’s charming personality. Still, Penelope has never been outside of her home and wants to find independence on her own. But with a cruel world out there, and a pool of reporters hoping to get the first photo of her (one is played by Peter Dinklage of the brilliant “The Station Agent”), can Penelope find her way around the real world without people noticing her unique façade before they know the girl inside?

It’s “Beauty and the Beast” vice versa in this awkwardly written and flat romantic comedy. No real chemistry is evident between Ricci and McAvoy and a needless cameo by Reese Witherspoon is thrown in to give more firepower to an already lackluster idea on female empowerment.