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.

Patriots Day

January 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman
Directed by: Peter Berg (“Lone Survivor,” “Deepwater Horizon”)
Written by: Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”) Matt Cook (“Triple 9”) and Joshua Zetumer (“RoboCop”)

Reliving real-life, recent historical events through the eyes of a single character in a film is the hallmark of the docudrama. Think Tom Hanks’ in “Sully” or, well, Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips.” These two lead characters are portrayed as rather ordinary people thrust into incredible drama, and as an audience we identify with them, we relate to the events through their eyes. So, what if they didn’t exist, made up to heighten the tension, to put the audience in the shoes of someone who was “there” without really being there? In “Patriots Day,” that’s Mark Wahlberg’s put-upon Boston police officer Tommy Saunders, a super cop who has the ear of the commissioner, the FBI, and the governor while also being on scene for every major development in the Boston Marathon bombing, from being at the finish line when the bombs go off to each step of the manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers. It’s a strange action movie cliché that somewhat mars an otherwise solid and high-tension retelling of the worst act of domestic terrorism (sadly, since eclipsed) since 9/11.

Everyone knows the story: on April 15, 2013, two homemade pressure cooker bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others. After scouring security footage, two suspects dubbed “white hat” and “black hat” were identified, and the release of the photos sparked the duo, Chechen brothers Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff, all spooky, clueless Millennial disaffectedness), to go on a crime spree on their way to Times Square. In the process they killed an MIT police officer (Jake Picking) while trying to steal his gun and carjacked and kidnapped a Chinese exchange student (Jimmy O. Yang) before engaging in an explosive-fueled shootout with police. Tamerlan is killed in the standoff after being run over by the fleeing Dzhokhar, who became the target of an unprecedented manhunt that shut Boston down and brushed the edge of martial law. He was ultimately located, hiding in a sailboat in a suburban backyard.

If you can look past Wahlberg’s fictional cop who never sleeps, director Peter Berg has put together a fantastic ensemble piece that never loosens the screws, even if along the way it ends up painting law enforcement as maybe a bit too infallible. One scene in particular, featuring Tamerlan’s American wife Katherine (Melissa Benoist) being interrogated—after we’re told explicitly she wasn’t read her Miranda rights—by a mysterious hijab-clad government agent (Khandi Alexander) who questions her commitment to Islam, comes closest to breaking that streak, though. The FBI special agent in charge (Kevin Bacon) and Boston police commissioner (John Goodman) look on in wonder as the extra-legal interrogation takes place, but the feeling we’re left with is this—and the virtual lockdown of Boston—is for the greater good. “Patriots Day” isn’t interested in questioning those ideas, but it could have been a much richer experience had it done so.

Ep. 84 – Star Trek Beyond, SDCC trailer dump, and Kiko is treading the boards with a new take on The Little Mermaid’s Ursula

July 25, 2016 by  
Filed under Podcast

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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review Star Trek Beyond, talk about all the comic book movie trailers that dropped at San Diego Comic Con, and speculate on what stage role Kiko has taken that’s caused him to miss this week’s show.

[00:00-11:48] Intro/Where is Kiko? Is he starring in The Little Mermaid?

[11:48-38:53] SDCC trailers: Justice League, Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, Kong: Skull Island and Doctor Strange, plus casting news featuring Brie Larson, Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone.

[38:53-1:09:53] REVIEW: Star Trek Beyond

[1:09:53-1:17:43] Wrap up/tease

Click here to download the episode!

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.

Monuments Men

February 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett
Directed by: George Clooney (“The Ides of March”)
Written by: George Clooney (“The Ides of March”) and Grant Heslov (“The Ides of March”)

Historically speaking, “Monuments Men,” a film about a platoon of art appreciators who put their lives on the line to rescue priceless works of art from the Nazis during World War II, is a fascinating story and one that everyone should definitely be aware of. Cinematically speaking, however, director George Clooney’s latest isn’t the film they should trust to make it a lasting experience. As much as it would like to be considered more of a heist movie than an actual war movie, “Monuments Men” comes up extremely short on both fronts.

Sent on a mission by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to reclaim thousands of famous artworks stolen by the Germans across Europe, art historian Frank Stokes (Clooney) puts together his ragtag team of curators and museum directors to save what they can before Hitler puts it in his own museum or burns it. The team includes art dealer Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin) and sculptor Walter Garfield (John Goodman). Other actors joining the bumpy ride are Billy Murray, Hugh Bonneville, Dimitri Leonidas and Bob Balaban. Somewhere along the way, Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett are used sparingly, although their story is probably the most compelling part of the entire narrative. Simply put: there are just not enough pages in the script to make them fully-realized characters. There isn’t even enough content for the men on the frontlines themselves, who basically mill around until it’s time for them to uncover the next trove of art.

Despite the impressive cast, Clooney’s cheeky “Ocean’s 11”-style approach to the film wasn’t in the best interest of the narrative in the least bit. The tone is playful throughout, which takes away from the seriousness of the subject at hand. Even when Clooney and co-writer Grant Heslov want to break away from the silliness, they fail to give the men any motivation so the characters can pull us in emotionally. Whether it’s during a scene where the men find a burnt frame belonging to a painting of Pablo Picasso, thus confirming the importance of their mission, or a scene where Murray breaks down because he misses his family, none of it rings true.

So far in his directorial career, Clooney has done some impressive work when the subject feels mature. Films like “The Ideas of March” and especially “Good Night, and Good Luck” are proof of that. But here, Clooney attempts to mix and match what he did with those films and what he did with his more lighthearted football-themed comedy “Leatherheads.” The outcome is a mess and one that, we’re sure, Clooney probably won’t be making during his next project.

Monsters University

June 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Ashley, Reviews

Starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren
Directed by: Dan Scanlon (debut)
Written by: Daniel Gerson (“Monster’s Inc.”), Robert L. Baird (debut), Dan Scanlon (debut)

Twelve years ago, Pixar introduced us to the charismatic one-eyed monster, Mike Wazowski, and his ginormous polka-dotted buddy, Sulley, in “Monsters Inc.” Set 10 years before their epic adventure with Boo, its prequel, “Monsters University,” prevails in both charm and humor. Simply put: It’s just so darn cute, it’ll make you want to grab your best friend and give them a monster-sized cuddle.

In “Monsters University,” the origin story of how Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) came to be pals takes center stage with a trip back in time to their college days. We quickly discover that it wasn’t always happy times for the BFF’s. In fact, they detested each other their first semester in college.

Their constant bickering finally blows up in their face when they are kicked out of the elite Scaring Program on campus after impulsively breaking out into a fight, right smack in the middle of their final exam. Catching the undesirable attention of stern and intimidating Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), Mike and Sulley are forced to change their majors and say goodbye to their long desired dream to become professional scarers.

Mike’s lifelong aspirations, however, keep him from giving up. He optimistically enters the Scare Games, an Olympics-style team competition on campus, in hopes of being crowned “Best Scarer on Campus.” With one more shot to prove his worthiness, Dean Hardscrabble agrees to let him back into the program if he can clinch the title but not before he is forced to team up with the nerdy misfits of Oozma Kappa, the only fraternity on campus that will have him, and his enemy, Sulley, who fills in as the sixth required fraternity member.

With an impeccable cast, every actor effortlessly lends their voice to the animated characters, making the ensemble irresistibly entertaining. Its heartwarming storyline is likely to put a smile on everyone’s face no matter what age, especially with its inspiring message of friendship and finding the inspiration to overcome life’s obstacles.

“Monsters University” is flawlessly animated with striking and vivid colors, making every scene pleasurable to watch. With its bright and intricate details, take heed in knowing there is no reason to purchase a 3-D ticket. Despite the many off-the-wall activities the Scare Games demand the fraternities and sororities complete before going onto the next round, nothing is added to the movie watching experience in a 3-D format.

Even though the film might not be able to make you tear up like “Toy Story 3,” director Dan Scanion saves it from becoming another Pixar misstep like “Cars 2.” With its crazy antics, memorable characters and rambunctious comedy, “Monsters University” delivers a satisfying G-rated film the entire family will enjoy.

Argo

October 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin
Directed by: Ben Affleck (“The Town”)
Written by: Chris Terrio (debut)

Imagine what screenwriter Lionel Chetwynd must’ve been thinking when former CIA officer Tony Mendez released his book “Master of Disguise” in 1999. The memoir, which reveals details about a covert operation he led to rescue six Americans trapped in Iran in 1980, was a story Chetwynd though he had already thoroughly adapted into the TV movie “Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper” one year after the mission ended. While Caper provided many stirring and historical facts about the incident, the most Hollywoodesque parts of it weren’t even known until President Bill Clinton declassified the top-secret CIA files in 1997.

In “Argo,” his third film as a director, Ben Affleck (“Gone Baby Gone,” “The Town”) takes the full, uncensored narrative and runs with it. Unlike his last two films, Affleck doesn’t get a writing credit to his name this time around. Instead, he passes the expansive script duties to first-time screenwriter Chris Terrio who keeps the interaction and dialogue between characters moving briskly, but finds difficultly in building tension without glossing over the conflict.

After militants infiltrated the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, a plan was devised to rescue six diplomats who were able to escape the hostage situation and hide out in the home of a Canadian ambassador. What no one knew aside from those involved was this: Mendez’s risky idea – and the reason a film like “Argo” is so unique on paper – was to smuggle the diplomats out of Iran by pretending they were all part of a filmmaking crew scouting locations for a kitschy sci-fi movie (in “Caper,” they attempt their escape as less intriguing grain exporters). Standouts in “Argo” include Oscar winner Alan Arkin (“Little Miss Sunshine”) and John Goodman (“The Artist”) as two film industry pros operating a fake studio back home in Los Angeles.

What’s so ironic about “Argo” is that it’s a story about a faux film, but occasionally comes across just as deceptive as the movie-within-a-movie it’s featuring. Some might consider certain scenes in the third act thrilling, but editing them in such a happenstance manner makes them crowd pleasing at best. Still, Affleck makes more good directorial choices than he does questionable ones, especially when he pays close attention to the details of the era. That, along with the timeliness of the subject matter (one can’t watch without thinking of recently slain U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens), and “Argo” is a solid political spy movie, despite being gift wrapped a little too neatly.

Speed Racer

May 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman
Directed by: Andy and Larry Wachowski (“The Matrix”)
Written by: Andy and Larry Wachowski (“The Matrix”)

Apparently, Japanese influence in Hollywood doesn’t always have to come from remakes of the country’s eerie horror films like “Ju-On” or “Ringu.” Now, Japanese anime is the next genre to be translated into American-made films. We get our first mainstream taste of it with “Speed Racer,” based on the Japanese cartoon of the 1960’s.

Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski of “The Matrix” trilogy fame, “Speed Racer” is a psychedelic romp for little boys under 10 and off-road racers who are counting down the days when the Baja 1000 includes vehicles equipped with tire shredders for those drivers who get a bit to close. Sure, it’s much more fun than watching caution laps in NASCAR , but then what isn’t?

In “Speed Racer,” which is actually the name of our protagonist, Emile Hirsch (who was fantastic in last year’s “Into the Wild”) stars as the titular racecar-driving character. As the next big star on the track, everyone wants a piece of Speed, especially the corporations who want him to drop his family-run racing team (John Goodman and Susan Sarandon play his loving parents; Christina Ricci plays Trixie, Speed’s girlfriend) and sign up with them. The shadiest of the bunch is led by a scheming billionaire named Royalton (Roger Allam), who promises Speed the world if he signs on the dotted line.

When Speed refuses, however, Royalton makes it his personal mission to do anything in his power to keep him from ever crossing the finish line anywhere he decides to race. In steps a mysterious, masked racer known as Racer X (Matthew Fox, who doesn’t even seem to want to be part of the production in certain scenes) ready to team up with Speed and expose Royalton for the professional snake he really is.

Inundated with special effects (except for the humans and a chimpanzee named Chim Chim, everything is), the Wachowski brothers slam on the gas for “Speed Racer” and never let up. It might be a good thing for those of you who walk around with an IV pumping caffeine in your bloodstream 24-7, but for the rest of us the Tokyo drifting on a futuristic racetrack becomes overdone after a while.

Although the family dynamic keep the fluorescent film grounded at times, the script isn’t nearly as sensible as it needs to be to recommend to anyone outside its demographic. Of course, that’s not necessarily what the Wachowski brothers were going for. Its seems they wanted the silliness of the “Pows” and “Whams” of the old-school “Batman” TV series mixed with their own stylistic vision and a video-game feel (Mario Kart is the most obvious). At the end, it’s all one big bowl of colorful, soggy Trix. And who are Trix for boys and girls?