Ep. 129 – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, The Farewell

July 29, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

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The CineSnob Podcast returns with reviews of the latest Quentin Tarantino movie “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” and “The Farewell.”

Cody and Jerrod also discuss dynamic ticket pricing and Marvel’s Phase 4.

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Mary, Queen of Scots

December 17, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden
Directed by: Josie Rourke (debut)
Written by: Beau Willimon (“The Ides of March”)

Like “The Favourite,” “Mary, Queen of Scots” features its own interesting archrivalry between two women scheming for a monarchical power grab. As a historical biography, “MQOS” is much more conventional than Yorgos Lanthimos’ aforementioned film, but its sprawling storytelling about women in authoritative positions gives the picture its own sense of 16th-century political wokeness, which is notable in any era.

Helmed by first-time feature film director Josie Rourke, whose background is largely in theater, “MQOS” tells the story of Mary Stuart (three-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan) who arrives in Scotland to reclaim her throne after the death of her husband, the King of France. She is met with masked contempt by her cousin Queen Elizabeth I (Oscar nominee Margot Robbie), who rules over both England and Scotland and isn’t about to relinquish authority to anyone.

Political maneuvering involving Mary and Elizabeth begins as they attempt to decipher what angle the other is playing to get what she wants. With her sovereignty in jeopardy, Elizabeth pushes back when she sees her cousin gain standing, especially since Mary is able to give birth to an heir and Elizabeth is not. The dynamic is a fiery one, even though Ronan and Robbie don’t share the screen until the film’s final act.

There is a lot of history to unpack in “MQOS” and these details are being questioned by historians. Some argue the queens were never on friendly terms, as depicted in the film. Others point out that Mary didn’t have an Irish accent like Ronan’s natural one. And the meeting the rulers have at the climax of the film? It never happened, although it does make for compelling theater.

It’s easier for a period piece like “The Favourite” to call itself a farce and get away with taking more creative license. For “MQOS,” there seems to be less leeway for purists who had problems in the past with films like 1971’s “Mary, Queen of Scots” or 2007’s “Elizabeth: The Golden Age.” If you can overlook some of the historical inaccuracies and the occasionally sluggish narrative, “MQOS” has a lot to say about the rise of women in a male-dominated world.

Ep. 112 – Red Sparrow, I, Tonya on Blu-ray, Oscars post-mortem, and a recap of La La Land live from the San Antonio Symphony

March 6, 2018 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review the spy thriller “Red Sparrow,” talk “I, Tonya” on Blu-ray, break down the 90th annual Academy Awards, and recap their visit to the San Antonio Symphony’s performance of “La La Land” live.

Click here to download the episode!

Suicide Squad

August 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis
Directed by: David Ayer (“Fury”)
Written by: David Ayer (“Training Day”)

Love them, hate them, or merely shrug through them as they unspool twice a year, at least the Marvel films have one thing going for them: a cohesive vision. Sure, it’s not a romantic filmmaking one, like that of a gifted writer or visionary director, but at least there’s a house style in place that prevents their films from having to be saved (or salvaged) in the editing room. Three movies into DC Comics’ film slate—the closest thing Marvel has to a direct competitor, even though that’s not how movies work—and we’re still getting products that feel like they’re assembled out of hundreds of executives’ studio notes and test screening reactions rather than a decisions and imagery conjured up from a director’s heart and soul or words typed into Final Draft by a screenwriter. That’s why we have the option to choose from the theatrical and extended cuts of “Batman v Superman” on Blu-ray, and seemingly the reason why we’ve got this tonal mess plopping into theaters under the name “Suicide Squad.”

The premise is simple: in a post-Superman world, mysterious government hard-ass Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) wants to put together her own super team of meta-humans to take up arms against whatever comes next that maybe isn’t as nice as Superman was. Thing is, Waller only has access to bad guys like super-sniper Deadshot (Will Smith), psychotic nymphet Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), fire-conjuring homeboy Diablo (Jay Hernandez), an Aussie guy who throws boomerangs and drinks beers (Jai Courtney), some giant alligator guy (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and, uh, a guy that climbs ropes really well (Adam Beach).

Waller’s proposal is cut and dried: these villains have no choice but to fight for the government. If they don’t, they die by way of an explosive in their necks. And if they do, they’ll probably die anyway. After stilted introductions and some interruptions from The Joker (Jared Leto), the group is pressed into service fighting the real-life witch Enchantress (Cara Delevigne).

With an erratic tone and butchered-to-hell narrative flow that feel like panicked responses to the critical beating that “Batman v Superman” took from critics (well, I liked it fine) and a fair share of average fans, “Suicide Squad” feels icky with flop sweat, the embodiment of the phrase, “Oh shit, we’ve gotta fix this!” After initial (fun and funny!) trailers were well-received, the movie reportedly underwent reshoots to inject more humor into the proceedings, and the stitching together of disparate elements of director/writer David Ayer’s script and whatever giant pile of sentient studio notes denied a WGA credit kicked out is as obvious as Robbie’s ass is in the marketing materials. While you’ll sell plenty of Pop! Vinyl figures and might even power through to a box office hit on this, you blew it again, DC.

Focus

February 27, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro
Directed by: Glen Ficarra & John Requa (“Crazy, Stupid Love”)
Written by: Glen Ficarra & John Requa (“I Love You, Phillip Morris”)

I’m a sucker for slick con man talk. I don’t mean to imply I’ve been conned by a professional any higher up the food chain than a fast-talking carny bruising my ego enough to convince me to spend 15 bucks trying to win some knock-off Scooby-Doo plush toy, just that I love the names the con men use for their grifts in movies. Take the “Ocean’s 11/12/13” films, with their “Two Jethros” and their “Susan B. Anthony” and their “Looky-loo with a bundle of joy;” every last utterance invokes world-building that may or may not make much sense, but I’d sure like to learn more about it. “Focus” may not have the breezy swagger Soderbergh infused into the celeb-heavy “Ocean’s” series, but it’s a self-assured caper that doesn’t let one too many turns derail the chemistry of its leads.

After scheming his way into a reservation at a tony restaurant, long time con man Nicky (Will Smith) runs across the beautiful Jess (Margot Robbie) running a con of her own. After her attempts to swindle Nicky are thwarted, she becomes his protégé and lover, joining a confederation of con men in New Orleans, running a massive criminal operation pickpocketing, skimming, and hustling all the suckers in town for the non-branded movie version of the Super Bowl. Nicky breaks off contact with Jess after the score, only to run into her three years later in Buenos Aires while working for her racecar owner boyfriend Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro). His emotions thrown for a loop, Nicky must work the con and convince Jess he’s changed to win her back.

Written and directed by the team behind the wonderful “Crazy, Stupid Love,” Glen Ficarra and John Requa,  “Focus” also suffers some of the same setbacks their previous film, namely an effortlessness that doesn’t seem to carry any danger for the characters dancing close to disaster. The tightly choreographed theft on display in New Orleans comes with little threat of danger, despite the grift totaling more than $1 million and being right under the noses of hundreds of thousands of people. And like the Emma Stone reveal in “Crazy, Stupid Love,” there’s another unnecessary twist at the end of the film that only serves to render scenes that came before it pointless or nonsensical. In spite of that, though, the movie star version of Will Smith the world fell in love with 20 years ago is back, finally, after the dismal “After Earth,” and Margot Robbie exudes the energy and sexiness of a young Cameron Diaz. When the two stars are on camera together, especially in a tension-filled high stakes gambling sequence featuring veteran character actor B.D. Wong, you can’t focus on anything but the chemistry.

The Wolf of Wall Street

December 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
Directed by: Martin Scorsese (“The Departed,” “Hugo”)
Written by: Terence Winter (“Get Rich or Die Tryin’”)

As Jordan Belfort, the so-called Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio asks the question we’re all thinking when it comes to the complicated maneuverings of Wall Street: “Was all this legal? Absolutely not!” 

Directed in full “Goodfellas”-mode by Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street” charts the true-life meteoric rise and fall of Belfort and his firm, Stratton Oakmont, during the ‘80s and ‘90s. With his best friend Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) at his side, Jordan runs a years-long scam involving selling penny stocks to unsuspecting average citizens at a heavy commission, knowing full well the shares are garbage from go-nowhere companies based out of garages and basements. As his personal wealth grows, Jordan slides falls further and further down a rabbit hole of drugs, prostitutes, sex, and even more drugs. When the firm finally grows large enough to warrant the attention of a straight-arrow FBI agent (Kyle Chandler), Jordan’s life begins to unravel.

At just under three hours long, “The Wolf of Wall Street” could have easily overstayed its welcome, but a fun script from Terence Winter and hilarious performances from DiCaprio and Hill keep things interesting. Winter, an HBO veteran who served as a writer on “The Sopranos” and creator of “Boardwalk Empire,” turns in another Tony Soprano/Nucky Thompson-style likeable anti-hero in Jordan that the audience can’t help but pull for in the early going—in spite of all the horrible things we see him do.

Scorsese slips into this filmmaking style—“Wolf” is basically a spiritual sequel to both “Goodfellas” and “Casino”–like it’s a well-worn shoe.  No one does it better, and with a game DiCaprio in front of the lens, there’s an awful lot to like about this film.