Ep. 138 – Gemini Man, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, Disney+ catalog, and Jerrod’s getting married!

October 16, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review GEMINI MAN and gush over EL CAMINO: A BREAKING BAD MOVIE. They also talk odds and ends, like the massive catalog Disney+ is launching with, the unwanted ZOMBIELAND sequel, and their low expectations for Kevin Smith.

Oh, and Jerrod’s getting married!

Click here to download the episode!

Ep. 136 – Fantastic Fest reviews of The Death of Dick Long and In the Shadow of the Moon, and we play the movie-lovers’ card game Cinephile

September 29, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody reviews a few films leftover from his time at Fantastic Fest, The Death of Dick Long and In the Shadow of the Moon, and then Cody and Jerrod play a few rounds of the new movie-lovers’ card game Cinephile.

Want your own copy of Cinephile? Click here to order!

Click here to download the episode!

Ep. 125 – Aladdin, Booksmart, and a recap of the San Antonio Symphony’s John Williams concert

May 28, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review the live-action “Aladdin,” Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut “Booksmart,” and Cody discusses his experience at the San Antonio Symphony’s performance of John Williams classics.

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.

Concussion

January 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Will Smith, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Albert Brooks
Directed by: Peter Landesman (“Parkland”)
Written by: Peter Landesman (“Parkland”)

It’s been seven years since actor Will Smith has taken on a full-fledged dramatic role. Although his last, 2008’s “Seven Pounds,” was a complete misfire, Smith has proven in past films like “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “Ali” that he is more than capable of carrying the weight. He reiterates his talent with a genuine performance as real-life forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, who was the first person to uncover the alarming truth behind brain damage suffered by professional football players. Directed and written by Peter Landesman (“Parkland”), there is much to be desired when it comes to the emotional impact of the screenplay itself, but Smith brings out the best in this Hollywood-ized exposé on the NFL and is completely believable as the good doctor. Landesman, however, misses an opportunity to delve deeper into the football culture and explore why sports entertainment trumped science for so long.

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.

After Earth

May 31, 2013 by  
Filed under Ashley, Reviews

Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Sophie Okonedo
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan (“The Happening”)
Written by: Gary Whitta (“The Book of Eli”) and M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”)

How two-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan went from directing and writing one of the best horror-suspense films of all time with 1999’s “The Sixth Sense” to holding down the fort at the Golden Raspberry Awards should continue to boggle the mind of every moviegoer. One day, if we’re all lucky enough, he’ll get his head out of the clouds and return to form. “After Earth” isn’t the film to knock him back on track, however. Reprising his gut-wrenching trend of calamitously-made movies, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Shyamalan hits Raspberry gold once again with “After Earth.” At least he won’t be alone. Will and Jaden Smith are almost guaranteed to have a seat right next to him.

After a crash landing leaves stern General Cypher (Will Smith) of the peacekeeping organization, Ranger Corps, and his rebellious and audacious son, Kitai (Jaden Smith), stranded on Earth, the father-son duo must work together to retrieve an emergency beacon located in the tail of a ship to stay alive. Badly injured, General Cypher is forced to sit idly by, guiding his son through the treacherous terrain, which is filled with evolved species and an alien creature that killed his only daughter.

“After Earth” kicks off with a disorienting introduction and the 100 minutes that follow don’t get much clearer. Had the audience not been forced to endure the film’s ill-executed sci-fi elements and Will and Jaden Smith’s laughable performances, it could’ve scraped by with a tolerable father-son storyline. Instead, Shyamalan damages the film beyond repair with trite dialogue and melodramatic one liners, which make for good albeit unintentional laughs.

With so much chaotic back story and information throughout the entire movie, it doesn’t take long for the audience to realize how paper-thin the narrative actually is. Scenes where Jaden Smith attempts to carry the film alone don’t work. As if that isn’t bad enough, the film tries to contribute some sort of substance through flashbacks, but never reveals anything but the same scene from different angles.

At times, “After Earth” feels like a sci-fi themed episode of “Lost” starring Will and Jaden with horrible accents. If you’re used to Shyamalan disasters like “The Last Airbender” and “The Happening,” this won’t come as a big disappointment. What is disappointing, however, is the fact that the film studio is already discussing a sequel. If the Smith men can’t wait to get back on the screen together, why not try “The Pursuit of Happyness 2” instead? It couldn’t be any worse than Shyamalan’s latest debacle.

Men in Black 3

May 25, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld (“Men In Black”)
Written by:  Etan Cohen (“Tropic Thunder”)

Released in 1997, the first “Men In Black” was a breezy, quirky summer movie hit that succeeded in blending an original, humor-and-alien-laden script with big-budget action and special effects. In the process, it also confirmed Will Smith’s mega-star status after he starred the year prior in the blockbuster hit “Independence Day.”  Of course a follow-up was a no-brainer, and everyone’s worst instincts took over. Infected with deadly sequel-bloat, 2002’s “Men In Black II” was a half-baked mess, an empty collection of CGI strung together by a limp screenplay that seemed more concerned with expanding minor kid-friendly jokes from the first film into full-fledged main characters than recapturing the satirical edge that made the original so enjoyable. What was once a promising franchise had been spectacularly mishandled, and when years went by with the summer movie season being ceded to comic book superheroes, the world at large figured the series had been left for dead. Never underestimate the power of an established name brand in Hollywood. No matter how creatively compromised, there’s always room to make money.

Directed once again by Barry Sonnenfeld, “Men In Black 3” opens deep within the walls of a lunar prison built to house dangerous intergalactic biker-ish criminal Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement, one half of Flight of the Conchords). With the help of a beautiful woman and a cake concealing a spidery/crabby cohort, Boris is able to escape and set in motion his plan to seek revenge on the man who locked him up and took his arm: Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). When K’s partner Agent J (Will Smith) learns Boris’ plan involves traveling back in time to kill K before he can deploy a planetary defense system, J jumps back to 1969 just before Boris’ arrival. J’s plan goes awry, however, when a young Agent K (Josh Brolin) apprehends him, forcing J, once again, to break through his future partner’s stoic demeanor in an effort to save the planet.

While this second sequel is easy to dismiss sight unseen, taking into account how much the last movie missed the mark and the fact that these characters have been in a deep freeze for 10 years, the end result is surprisingly enjoyable. “MIB 3” effectively ignores the second film entirely, with nary a mention of K’s five-year hiatus as a postmaster or Frank the Welcome-Wearing-Out Talking Bulldog. Instead, it tosses us directly into the day-to-day duties of K’s and J’s decade-and-half partnership as if they never missed a beat. While Jones comes off a little tired and disinterested (and really, his role is more or less a cameo), Smith seems invigorated by being back in the action/comedy/sci-fi saddle. Being the fish out of water suits Smith well and the movie really kicks into gear when he arrives in 1969. Credit Sonnenfeld and screenwriter Etan Cohen (“Tropic Thunder”) for not shying away from the perils an outspoken, well-dressed black man would face in the late-‘60s, especially when he’s driving a stolen car and carrying a weapon. The real standout, though, is Josh Brolin’s killer take on Agent K. Perfectly matching the cadence and demeanor of Tommy Lee Jones, Brolin makes the perfect foil to the wizened Smith, evoking with a wink the relationship established in the first film that made the characters so appealing. Clement also shines as the menacing, slightly-underwritten Boris, especially when he’s given the chance to dole out some trademark deadpan humor. And a cameo by SNL’s Bill Hader as Andy Warhol flies in the face of what you’d expect and brings big laughs in the process.

So whip out the neuralizer, zap away all memories of the second movie, and enjoy the film as the satisfying “Men In Black” follow-up adventure we should have gotten years ago.

Seven Pounds

December 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson
Directed by: Gabriele Muccino (“The Pursuit of Happyness”)
Written by: Grant Nieporte (debut)

In “Seven Pounds,” debut screenwriter Grant Nieporte and “Pursuit of Happyness” director Gabriele Muccino keep the audience in the dark for so long, there’s no way to find middle ground between the lagging story and its foregone conclusion.

Will Smith plays Ben Thomas, an emotionally distraught IRS agent who killed seven people, including his wife, in an automobile accident, and vows to make amends for the pain he has caused. His plan: Ben will commit suicide, but not before finding seven people and “drastically changing their circumstances” by giving them something they need.

For example, when he meets Ezra Turner, a blind meat salesman, Ben decides after his death, he will donate his eyes to him. For a kid with leukemia he sees at the hospital, Ben donates bone marrow. A love interest presents herself to Ben in the form of Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), who is in dire need of a heart transplant (cue Ben’s giving nature).

It’s fairly obvious where Muccino wants to take this and has no shame in being so blatant about it. Smith is a talented actor, but in “Seven Pounds” he lays it on thick and the performance ends up too schmaltzy for its own good. Scenes of Ben thinking while staring out into the ocean, thinking while showering, thinking in the rain, thinking in the grass, are contrived. Smith is trying way too hard for an Oscar here and it shows. Any real emotion should have come from the relationships Ben creates (even from afar) with the people he plans on helping. But there’s really only time for Dawson’s character and everyone else ultimately ends up on the backburner.

Instead of “Seven Pounds,” a reference to William Shakespeare’s “A Merchant of Venice,” Nieporte and Muccino should have aimed for a couple of ounces and not spread themselves so thin. But reach they do and try giving us something profound to think about.  It’s not so much thoughtful as it is apparent and improbable.

Hancock

July 2, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman
Directed by: Peter Berg (“The Kingdom”)
Written by: Vincent Ngo (debut) and Vince Gilligan (“Home Fries”)

With Marvel and DC Comics reaping all the superhero glory over the last few years, it was about time someone else came in to attempt to claim their position in the genre again.

While “The Incredibles” was successful in doing it for animated films in 2004 and “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” failed to do it for action-comedies in 2006, someone else was bound to try again before another textbook “Hulk” or “Spider-Man” made a return to the big screen.

Enter two-time Academy Award-nominated actor Will Smith as the rough-edged superhero title-character in “Hancock.” What Hancock possesses in superhuman strength, speed, and flying ability, he lacks in people skills and finesse. While Superman will fly in to save the day with style, Hancock would rather cause more unnecessary damage to the city streets of L.A. before actually saving lives.

Because of his misguided acts of heroics, the citizens of L.A. view him as more of a public nuisance than a superhero. When Hancock saves Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) from getting hit by a train, the struggling public relations specialist decides he will thank him by helping revamp his image into one that is more clean-cut and praiseworthy. He does this as his wife Mary (Charlize Theron) cautiously looks on with a few reservations about the whole situation.

Although the premise is a unique take on superhero mythology and could have probably filled an entire film on “Hancock” himself, screenwriters Vincent Ngo and Vine Gilligan throw a wrench in the second half of the film after the first half proves to be spiffy fun. You’ll know when this unjustified twist in the story takes place because “Hancock” becomes amateurish in storytelling as it veers off inside the writers’ heads and onto the script when it should have been more up-front and humorous.