Movie review: The Disaster Artist

Movie reviews

Hello!

I just saw a great movie about an awful movie. This is The Disaster Artist.

IMDb summary: When Greg Sestero, an aspiring film actor, meets the weird and mysterious Tommy Wiseau in an acting class, they form a unique friendship and travel to Hollywood to make their dreams come true.

Disclaimer: prior to seeing The Disaster Artist, I wanted to watch The Room – the film whose behind-the-scenes story is the subject of this movie. However, then I thought that I already have a never-ending list of past quality pictures that I need to watch but don’t have time for. So, The Room fell off the list without even making on it. But, maybe if I truly love The Disaster Artist, I’ll give The Room a chance too.

Writing

The Disaster Artist was written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (the duo has previously adapted two John Green’s book to the big screen – TFIOS and Paper Towns, they are also writing the New Mutants film for the Marvel Fox division), based on the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Film Ever Made by Greg Sestero (Dave Franco played him in the movie) and a journalist and a critic Tom Bissell. I enjoyed the writing for this picture very much. First of all, as a cinephile, I love all things related to movies, so a film about a different film is right up my alley. Moreover, I adore movies that celebrate other films and The Disaster Artist did just that. It wasn’t making fun of The Room or Wiseau but showed a certain kind of appreciation of and respect to it and him. Also, the fact that the movie didn’t go for the easy jokes, made The Disaster Artist so much better and funnier in its own kind of way.

The writing for Tommy Wiseau as a character for this movie was intriguing. I don’t know how accurate it was but it certainly worked for the film. The fact that Wiseau was trying really hard to make something he believed in and loved came across very clearly. His personal quirks (that have now become infamous) were present in the film too. However, the movie did not single them out more than necessary. What The Disaster Artist seemed to be more focused on were Wiseau’s insecurities and feelings behind the quirks. I drew a conclusion that he was somebody who wanted approval of others but on his own terms (basically, he wanted a friend who would understand him and it’s a good thing that he found one in Sestero. It’s cute that they still talk every day, if the text at the end of The Disaster Artist is to be believed).

Lastly, Wiseau, The Room, and now The Disaster Artist also expressed some neat ideas about cinema and human behavior (how one is the expression of the other). My main takeaway from the 2017’s biopic was the idea that the making of The Room was therapy for Wiseau. In addition, the watching of The Room seems to bring a feeling of catharsis for the viewers too (otherwise, why would they be watching it?).

Directing

James Franco directed The Disaster Artist and did an impeccable job (this film was actually my first introduction to him as a director). Not only did he recreate the scenes from The Room spot on (as evident in the credits side-by-side comparison) but he managed to balance out the film – keep it respectful but also funny. The opening interview montage, full of celebrity cameos, added a slight documentary feel to the movie, while the handled cinematography made it undeniably indie. The late 1990s/early 2000s soundtrack was fun (especially for somebody who grew up on that bad pop music). The funniest sequences of the feature, in my opinion, were the audition montage and the nude scene shoot. Lastly, the shots of the audience laughing while watching The Room felt very meta, as the actions of those moviegoers were mirrored by the audience of The Disaster Artist.

Acting

The Disaster Artist had a display of some bad acting from some great actors. James Franco not only directed the film but played the lead Tommy Wiseau (real Wiseau cameos during the end credits scene that nobody waits to see). I have enjoyed a lot of Franco’s dramatic roles before (like the one in 127 Hours) and I have liked some of his comedic work (he was hilarious in both Sausage Party and This is the End). I feel like, in this film, he combined all of his talents and delivered a brilliant dramatic and comedic performance. He nailed Tommy’s laugh and the vaguely Eastern European accent (though I’m not sure that Wiseau’s own accent is truly Eastern European – this comes from somebody who has spent years trying to lose her accent from the same region, so I think I’d recognize that particular accent in another person).

Dave Franco (Nerve, Now You See Me, The Lego Ninjago, Jump Street) played Greg Sestero and was really good too. He brought innocence and excitement to the role of the young Sestero (he was barely 20 or in his early twenties when shooting The Room). The Disaster Artist marked the first time that both Franco brothers appeared on screen together. Would love to see them collaborate on future projects!

Seth Rogen (Steve Jobs), in addition to producing the film, also had a role as Sandy Schklair, the script supervisor on the production of The Room. He was delightful to watch on screen: his scene about the check going through received a lot of laughs from the audience in my screening. Alison Brie starred as Amber, Sesteros’ girlfriend, while Ari Graynor played the actress who portrayed Lisa (yup, the same one that’s tearing Wiseau apart) in The RoomJosh Hutcherson (Mockingjay) and Zac Efron (BaywatchMike and Dave, We Are Your Friends) also both appeared as the members of The Room’s cast. They got a chance to recreate an incredible scene from The Room (that literally does not connect to anything else in that film) in The Disaster Artist.

In short, The Disaster Artist was an amazing movie that should be highly appreciated by any cinephile out there. Though it still did not fully convince me to watch The Room.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: The Disaster Artist trailer

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Movie review: Logan Lucky

Movie reviews

Hello!

Steven Soderbergh is back from retirement but the audiences don;t care much. This is Logan Lucky!

IMDb summary: Two brothers attempt to pull off a heist during a NASCAR race in North Carolina.

Writing

Logan Lucky was written by Rebecca Blunt – either a newcomer writer or somebody, working under a pseudonym. There has been speculation online that Blunt lives the UK, while some critics thought that Soderberg himself is hiding underneath that name (because he does that when crediting himself as a cinematographer (as Peter Andrews) and editor (as Mary Ann Bernard). Anyways, whoever this Blunt person is/was, they did a good job on the script. While the core narrative was quite familiar (Hell or High Water-esque – stealing for one’s family), its execution in details was brilliant.

The movie opened with a good set-up of the mundane lives of its characters and established them as people, whose lives did not turn out the way they planned (one of them peaked in high school, the other was suffering from the little brother inferiority complex).

Then, Logan Lucky moved on to showcasing the American culture (the kind that foreign people wouldn’t even dare to call culture), which consisted of children beauty pageants and rural county fairs. However, the star of the said culture and the film was NASCAR – a very American brand of motor-racing. The cherry on top was the prolonged anthem scene. Logan Lucky seemed to be driving home a message, that stuff like this, for better or for worse, happens only in the USA. This type of portrayal could have easily come across as annoying but the underlying sense of irony and satire made it work.

Speaking about the comedic side of Logan Lucky – it was great if not as extensive as I hoped, after watching the trailer. I loved the different pairings of the criminals (The Hitman’s Bodyguardesque) as well as the jokes that were central to the characters (one-handed bartender, the dumb brothers of Joe Bang). Logan Lucky also had a really funny sequence with Sebastian Stan’s driver character (who didn’t seem like he had much to do with the actual plot of the film). Another magnificent and hilarious sequence was the prison riot and the prisoners demanding all GRRM books, getting frustrated that ‘The Winds of Winter’ has yet to be released, and hating the fact that the TV show is going off books. The ‘explosive device’ sequence and the decision to stop midway and explain the chemistry were extremely funny too.

Logan Lucky also had a surprising and really heartfelt scene involving the main character’s daughter’s beauty pageant and the song ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ (by John Denver). That scene should have been the closing images of the picture. However, Logan Lucky did continue and had a concluding detective story that felt like an afterthought. The investigation itself was not that interesting or neccesary. However, that closing sequence did provide some revelations about the main character’s secret dealings and did have a nice ending (well, for now) with all of them sitting in a bar.

Directing

Steven Soderbergh (The Ocean’s trilogy, Magic Mike series, Haywire) did a good job with Logan Lucky but I don’t think that this was his best film. The pacing at the start was a bit slow, however, the movie did pick up its pace, when the action began. However, it started dragging again with that detective-story afterthought. What I appreciated the most about Logan Lucky (and the other films by Soderbergh) was that it felt real. Not necessarily realistic but real, grounded, self-aware, and sprinkled with irony. While the scripts that he directs (or even writes) are usually mainstream, Soderbergh addresses them with unique auteur/indie perspective.

This time around, Soderbergh also approached the distribution of the film uniquely and decided not to partner with any of the big studios. Well, that backfired. Big time. Logan Lucky didn’t win its weekend, nor it showed any staying power by dipping lower and lower in the TOP 10. I really want to know who/what is to blame. Are the audiences just not interested in Soderbergh’s work anymore? Was it the lack of advertisement? Where were all the NASCAR fans? Where were all the grown-up Pixar’s Cars fan (the ones who saw the 2006 film as children and are now adults)? Where were the fans of movies, involving cars, a la Baby Driver?

Acting

Logan Lucky had a really strong cast, lead by a new favorite of Soderbergh’sChanging Tatum (they worked together on Magic Mike, while the other recent Tatum’s films include Hail, Caesar!, The Hateful Eight, Jupiter Ascending, Jump Street). His brother was played by Adam Driver, who is constantly working on smaller, more art-house pictures in between his Star Wars gigs, like Midnight Special, Silence, and Paterson. Daniel Craig (Spectre) also had a very fun role in the film that he seemed to be having a blast while playing. He never appeared to enjoy being Bond that much and, yet, he still signed on to continue being the 007.

The supporting cast included Riley Keough (Mad Max), Katie HolmesKatherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts), and Hilary Swank (would love to see her going back to the Million Dollar Baby type of projects and the level of success). The majority of them didn’t really play real characters but were used as devices for world-building or the lead’s character development. Seth MacFarlane (Ted, Sing) and Sebastian Stan (Marvel stuff, The Martian) also had cameo roles and their whole separate thing going on in the background.

In short, Logan Lucky was an enjoyable mixture of mainstream and indie, but it didn’t offer anything too special. Neither a disappointment nor really a win for Soderbergh.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Logan Lucky trailer

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Movie review: The Mummy

Movie reviews, Music

Hello!

Welcome to another movie review of a film that literally could have come out at any time in the last two decades – The Mummy!

IMDb summary: An ancient princess is awakened from her crypt beneath the desert, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia, and terrors that defy human comprehension.

The Mummy is the official beginning of the rebooted Universal Monsters franchise, now titled Dark Universe. The first attempt to revive this classical (1920s-1950s) series happened in 2014 with the release of Dracula Untold, however, since the film underperformed, it was later made non-canon. And yet, I still feel like it might be reinstated into the franchise, as The Mummy is not fairing much better, neither critically nor financially. One last note – Universal’s Monster Dark Universe should NOT be confused with Legendary’s MonsterVerse, which has Godzilla and King Kong instead of The Invisible Man, Frankenstein, and The Mummy.

Writing

The 14th The Mummy film was written by David Koepp (who has worked on some of my favorite pictures – Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible, Panic Room; some stinkers like Indy 4 and Mortdecai; and some who were somewhere in between, like Inferno and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit; he is also writing Indy 5), Christopher McQuarrie (who worked on The Usual Suspects and a trifecta of Tom Cruise films: Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow, and MI 5; he is next both scripting and directing MI 6) and the actor Dylan Kussman (the least accomplished screenwriter on the project – this is only his 3rd project as a writer). The story credits were also given to Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Doctor Strange, Passengers), the actress Jenny Lumet (she wrote Rachel Getting Married), and the director of the film.

I actually quite enjoyed the writing for The Mummy – it was definitely better than the writing for a few blockbusters that I’ve seen this summer movie season already. The film started on a really solid footing – the set up was good and interesting enough even if a bit heavy-handed and dense (I always liked the mixture of history and fantasy, so maybe that’s why I liked that ancient Egypt sequence)  – but the promising script fizzled out in the 3rd act (the love story and the solution to defeating The Mummy were both predictable). Also, the set-up story was repeated too many times. The viewers did not need to hear the same exposition 3 or more times.

The characters were great though – I liked the fact that we got to see the narrative through the ‘everyman’s’ perspective (even if Tom Cruise isn’t really an ‘everyman’). What I liked the most about his characters was the fact that he was a genuine idiot – let me explain – his character was a thief and not even a very good one, so the stupid actions that he had to make during the plot actually sorta made sense. It would have been illogical if a super smart person acted that certain way that action movie narratives require. I also liked the contrast between the two leads, how she was a scientist and he was totally clueless about most of the stuff except how much everything is worth on the black market. The duo of the two military partners was also good – I liked how one was an adventurer and the other wanted nothing more than not to be there. These contrasts between the characters gave rise to some funny moments. Actually, The Mummy was a way funnier movie in general than I expected it to be. A lot of the funny moments stemed from the awkward encounters or involved characters reacting to stuff – nothing too original but at least these scenes weren’t cringe-y.

Looking to the future of the series, the two main things should be kept in mind. First, Russel Crowe’s double identity (Jekyll and Hyde, good and evil) will probably come into play in the next film. He, as the head of Prodigium, is the connecting tissue for the Dark Universe, so his involvement in all the films is all but guaranteed. Second, Tom Cruise’s character’s double identity, acuired in the final act, will probably be also explored further, maybe in other Dark Universe films or perhaps in The Mummy 2, when or if that movie materializes (the future is unclear due to lukewarm reception from critics and moviegoers alike).

Directing

The Mummy was directed by the screenwriter Alex Kurtzman – this was only his second directorial attempt and it wasn’t a bad one for sure. The pacing was fine and the action sequences were serviceable too. The design of The Mummy was really cool looking as well and her powers were realized well (even if they were really vague). I especially liked that reanimation effect – it lookes appropriatelly disgusting. The world building/the visualization of mythology was fine too. The design for The Mummy’s victims-turned-zombies could have been better though – they looked like they were in/from World War Z. Overall, a good directing effort – not groundbreaking but nothing to be ashamed of either.

Acting

The Mummy had a pretty well-known cast. The biggest name was, of course, Tom Cruise, in the lead role Nick Morton. Say what you want about him as a person, but I still belive that Cruise is a good actor, especially when he is in his element – an action movie. He is good at physical stunts and charming AF. This time around, he also got a chance to show off his comedic skills – haven’t seen those in a while. His next film is Doug Liman’s American MadeAnnabelle Wallis (quite an unknow actress to me) starred as Jennifer Halsey and was good too. This was defintely her biggest role to date. She also had a small part in the new King Arthur film, which I’m finally seeing in a couple of days.

Sofia Boutella played Princess Ahmanet. She has made a name for herself by performing physically interesting or challenging roles in pictures like Kingsman and Star Trek Beyond. Those skills really helped her embody The Mummy as well. Her next film is Atomic BlondeRussell Crowe (Noah, The Nice Guys) was also good as Dr. Henry Jekyll. I like the fact that they were able to get a serious actor into this franchise – maybe that will give it more gravitas?

The comedian/actor Jake Johnson (21 Jump Street, Neighbors, Mike and Dave Need Weding Dates) starred as the sidekick to Tom Cruise’s character and did a good job being the comic relief. Lastly, Marwan Kenzari, who I just saw in The Promise a handful of days ago, played a security officer. I knew he looked familiar and I was rocking my brain, trying to remembering who he was, everytime he appeared on screen. 

In short, while The Mummy is a rocky start to Universal’s Dark Universe, it is a perfectly fine summer action movie. It doesn’t have any deeper themes, but it is also not convoluted, offensive or boring.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: The Mummy trailer

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Movie review: The Lego Batman Movie

Movie reviews

Hi!

With the DCEU films being critical nightmares, which do not earn as much as they should do, Ben Affleck stepping out as director of the Batman solo movie and The Flash film being completely rewritten, the Warner Bros desperately needs a win concerning its DC properties. Might The Lego Batman Movie be the win? Let’s find out!

IMDb summary: Bruce Wayne must not only deal with the criminals of Gotham City but also the responsibility of raising a boy he adopted.

Writing

The Lego Batman Movie was written by Seth Grahame-Smith (who wrote Dark Shadows, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and the novel version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), Chris McKenna (a TV comedy writer), Erik Sommers (Spider-Man: Homecoming writer), Jared Stern (who provided additional story material for Wreck-It Ralph), and John Whittington (a newcomer writer who doesn’t have any significant credits on his IMDb page). The duo of writers/directors behind the uber-successful The Lego Movie – the film that started The Lego franchise – Phil Lord and Christopher Miller – helped to produce this spinoff flick as well. I, personally, absolutely loved the writing for this movie.

Let’s star with the on the nose humor as it was such a huge part of the picture. The Lego Batman was basically Deadpool for kids. Like Deadpool, this film didn’t waste its credits and began mocking the studios and the executives in the first few seconds of its runtime. It then moved on to making fun of the comic book movies cliches, such as ‘the unnecessarily complicated bombs’, ‘the villains who explain their plan aloud’ and other plot conveniences.  Plus, I laughed out loud several times when the characters would start making the shooting noise – ‘pew pew’. I also loved the funny inclusion of the comic book sound effect balloons which showed the origins of Batman. Lastly, the movie also poked fun at merchandise with that merch gun scene (I’m definitely guilty of owning some items myself – I was actually wearing my batman sweatshirt at the screening).

The narrative wise, The Lego Batman Movie didn’t bother with neither the setup nor the basic development and origins of the character and I’m actually really glad that they skipped all of that, cause everybody already knows Batman’s background. Nevertheless, the film still did some cool stuff with its main character, for example, portraying him more as an anti-hero and raising the questions of accountability and legitimacy (basically, Captain America: Civil War storyline). The movie also teased and parodied the Batman’s Rogues Gallery and also mocked his gadgets (while at the same time, showing them on screen just so that they could turn them into toys and merch, which they have also made fun of already).

In addition, this film attempted to do something with the Batman and Batgirl relationship, which was very similar to what The Killing Joke movie did. That development really angered the fans and The Killing Joke really suffered from that addition, so I was worried that this idea might damage The Lego Batman too. However, this film dragged the ship more than pushed it, so everything turned out fine in the end. On the other hand, I really liked the relationship that was created for Batman and The Joker. The were literally like an old married couple. The other little details, like Batman’s password (‘Iron Man sucks), the Hugh Hefner-like dressing gown, and his obsessions with romcoms (shout out to Jerry Maguire) were just amazing. I also loved the fact that they managed to include a Nightwing easter egg and actually used the fact that lego figurines can join together as a plot point in the film.

From the thematical standpoint, the movie explored relationships within a family and between friends as well as narcissism. It looked at the fear of human connection which arose from the possibility of being left alone. The final message of the film – that one has to let people in even if they might hurt you by leaving and disappearing – was a neat one.

Directing

Chris McKay, who worked as an animator and editor on The Lego Movie, directed The Lego Batman and did a spectacular job. I just loved the fact that he took the grimmest property from the dark and sophisticated DC and made it work as a comedy. The Lego Batman Movie was, truly, one of the best action comedies I’ve seen. It had the non-stop jokes and the fast action (the film was unbelievably energetic) but it still found time for quieter, more heartfelt moments (every animated movie needs ‘the feels’). The only few moments in the picture, which annoyed me a bit, were all the singing and rapping scenes. They juts seemed of a lower level of humor than all the wonderful meta-references and jokes.

Additionally, the animation was just striking. Every shot looked so densely animated and complex – you could just see how much work it has taken to bring this story to life in this format. The Lego Batman Movie was definitely a perfect match between the material and the format, cause I doubt that this narrative could have worked in live action. It would have just come across as stupid (mostly because of all the rapping), but now it blended the right amount of stupidity and cleverness and was, overall,  extremely fun and very enjoyable.

Speaking more about the visuals of the film, I loved seeing the recreations of all the previous Batman films in the lego form. I also really appreciated the lego versions of all the other DC and non-DC villains that cameoed in the film – crossover all the way! We got to see Voldemort, Sauron, King-Kong, The Wicked Witch, and Doctor Who’s Daleks – basically all properties that belong to WB.

I have also noticed, that the majority of DC films (both live-action and animated) are now team-ups. It also seems that one cannot have a Batman movie without Superman or the other Justice League members (that short scene was a neat surprise and maybe it was there to set-up a sort of solo Lego movies for other DC characters?).

Music

Lorne Balfe was responsible for the soundtrack and he picked some very appropriate, witty, and catchy songs for the film. While I didn’t really like the actual Batman song, I loved the updated version of ‘Man in the Mirror’ and felt that it was a more clever jab at Batman rather than the on the nose Batman song.

Voice Cast

The film had an amazing voice cast. Will Arnett (a long time voice actor and narrator) just killed it as Bruce Wayne / Batman, while Zach Galifianakis (who has also had some experience with voicing) was an equally amazing JokerMichael Cera (Sausage Party) brought a sense of innocence to Dick Grayson / Robin, while Rosario Dawson’s (who voices Wonder Woman in most of the direct to video JL films) voice really fit Barbara Gordon / Batgirl – she sounded as and actually was an efficient go-getter. Ralph Fiennes (Kubo and the Two Strings) oozed class as Alfred PennyworthJenny Slate (Zootopia, The Secret Life of Pets) was the voice of Harley Quinn. It might be the Margot Robbie effect, but I wanted Harley to sound sassier.  The filmmakers also managed to get the big name talent – Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill –  to record a few lines as Superman and Green Lantern, respectively (they voiced these characters in The Lego Movie), while Adam DeVine joined them as The Flash.

In short, The Lego Batman Movie was both a successful spin-off of The Lego Movie as well as a great parody of all the comic book movies. Extremely funny and highly enjoyable!

Rate: 4.7/5

Trailer: The Lego Batman trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Sausage Party

Movie reviews

Hello!

Before I start reviewing films that belong to the fall movie season, allow me to catch up on the only summer flick that I couldn’t see when it was still summer – Sausage Party. My university put on a free screening of it during Freshers’ Week, so, now I can review it!

IMDb summary:  A sausage strives to discover the truth about his existence.

  1. Before going to see Sausage Party, I really didn’t know what to expect. I have never been a fan of really raunchy comedies and I have also had mixed feelings about Seth Rogen’s previous projects. I did enjoy both Neighbors films but wasn’t a fan of The Interview at all. His voice work in Kung Fu Panda has been great, though, so I was sure that he can nail the voice of a sausage. The jokes were my main concern and I’m so happy that Sausage Party completely wiped my worries away. Yes, the jokes were extremely raunchy and offensive but they somehow actually worked in an animated form.
  2. A whole bunch of people worked on the film’s story and script, including Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Jonah Hill. The whole premise for the movie was both absurd and genius, smart and stupid. In short, Sausage Party was basically a Toy Story with food for adults. A lot of the jokes were based on stereotypes and were used for social commentary Zootopia style, only in way raunchier way. Lastly,  something that I’d never thought I’d said – I actually enjoyed the fact that Sausage Party was unapologetically offensive – it had a tonne of jokes based on race, sex, sexuality, ethnicity and religion and could literally offend everyone and anyone. In a time, when the slightest critique or a darker humour is taken as an attack, Sausage Party went all the way and did not even think about saying sorry and I applaud it for that.
  3. Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan directed the film and did a good job. For the most part, the pace of the film was quite good – quick and snappy, although, the movie did slow down in the middle to develop its characters a bit. The 3D animation looked good – a great mix of realism and cartoon. The 2d flashback was also not bad. Lastly, the usage of music in Sausage Party was hilarious: the opening number was a perfect sequence to start the film and the meat loaf’s song was funny too.
  4. Sausage Party had 2 end-scenes that I liked to touch upon. The first one was that long hmm…orgy sequence. It started as funny but turned into gross really fast and then it just kept on going. I don’t know if it was necessary – Sausage Party had already proved that it was a raunchy and offensive comedy so I don’t know if they should have gone all the way into the gross territory too. The second end-scene was that meta-sequence were a few actors got name-dropped and a possible sequel was set up – I found that second ending to be way more funny that that first sequence.
  5. The food was voiced by a plethora of great comedians. Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig (Ghostbusters), Jonah Hill (War Dogs, 21 Jump Street), Bill Hader, Michael Cera, Nick Kroll, David Krumholtz, Edward Norton and Salma Hayek were all amazing at bringing various items of produce to life. Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) and James Franco had funny cameos as two of the few human characters.

In short, Sausage Party is the raunchiest comedy I’ve seen in a while but it does work because of its unique format for this particular genre – animation. The jokes are hilarious, the voice work – amazing and the 3D animation of food – quite tasty-looking as well.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Sausage Party review

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Movie review: War Dogs

Movie reviews

Hello!

Another buddy comedy has hit theaters, so let’s review it!

IMDb summary: Based on the true story of two young men, David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, who won a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan.

War Dogs is kinda similar to the other to buddy comedies of this summer – The Nice Guys and Central Intelligence, in that they all have a contrasting duo in a lead. The film also shares some topical similarities (greed) with Pain & Gain and even The Wolf of Wall Street.

Writing

War Dogs was written by Stephen Chin, Todd Phillips, and Jason Smilovic, based on Guy Lawson’s book Arms and the Dudes, which was inspired by true events. The film’s narrative was fine – it had a few clever things to say about war, mainly, that was is an economy. It also explored the greed of people and portrayed it as the biggest flaw of humanity. Lastly, the movie touched upon the performative aspect of communication – War Dogs showed how specific individuals can read other people and modify their own manners and appearance to fit the vision that the others have of them.

The first act of the film felt a bit choppy – I couldn’t figure out where the story was going, but in the middle of the 2nd act, everything started to flow nicely. War Dogs also had a lot of narration and, while, to my mind, it worked well, to a lot of movie-goers it is a bad thing. The picture’s ending was a bit abrupt, though. I did not feel that there was a full resolution and I also thought that the two criminals got away way too easily.

Directing

Todd Phillips of The Hangover trilogy was at the helm of this picture and did a good job. War Dogs was quite a slow but really well made and entertaining film. I wanted to see a bit more action but I guess they decided to go the drama route and explore the relationship between the two characters. The intro montage set the stage for the upcoming story neatly and explained the premise clearly and concisely. I also liked the structure of the feature – how it was divided into a bunch of  vignette-like parts. The names of these vignettes, which were just random lines of dialogue, were also cool and perfectly summarized the main ideas of these specific pieces of the film. The soundtrack wasn’t bad either.

Acting

The two leads of the movie were played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller. Their characters were both clever idiots, only Hill’s character was the more crazy and greedy one, while Teller’s character was presented as the protagonist, the everyday-man that the audiences are supposed to root for.

Hill was amazing as the selfish Efraim Diveroli, the only element of his performance that annoyed me slightly was that laugh. He played a similar character in the already mentioned The Wolf of Wall Street. In addition, Hill isn’t new to the buddy comedy genre – his big break was in Superbad (the teen comedy about two guys), while in the recent years he has returned to the genre with Changing Tatum and 21+22 Jump Street. Now, Hill replaced Tatum with Teller but, thankfully, Hill’s and Teller’s chemistry is as good if not better.

Miles Teller was also great in the role of David Packouz. I’ve told you numerous times that I’m a fan of his and was extremely soud after Fantastic Four turned out the way it did. I hope that Teller will start clicking with the audiences soon, because he is a really talented actor. If you don’t belive me, just watch Whiplash. He was also good in small comedies 21 and Over, Two Night Stand and That Awkward Moment. Going forward, Teller has a boxing movie coming up as well as a drama and an action flick. I don’t know if he will return to the Divergent franchise as the last installment of that series is still up in the air and will probably go to the TV.

An important supporting role was played by Bradley Cooper who also produced the picture. Cooper was fine in the movie but I was actually much more interested to find out that he produces basically all his big films like Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and American Sniper. Going forward, he has a few voice roles for Marvel/Disney and Universal.

In short, War Dogs was a fine summer picture that had a great release date – if it would have come out earlier in the summer, it would have probably been burried underneath the big blockbusters. The film had okay directing and writing, while the standout feature of the movie were the performances of and the chemistry between the two leads.

Rate: 3,5/5

Trailer: War Dogs trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another movie review. This time, we’re looking at Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. As you have probably noticed from the title of the post, I’m doing the short version of the review, because I never really have a lot to say about a comedy.

IMDb summary: Two hard-partying brothers place an online ad to find the perfect dates for their sister’s Hawaiian wedding. Hoping for a wild getaway, the boys instead find themselves out-hustled by the uncontrollable duo.

  1. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is a film, sorta inspired by true events (at least it claims to be), written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, who have previously written both Neighbors films, which also star Efron. I did enjoy the movie’s script. The story was a bit cliche, but funny enough to be enjoyable. Some jokes landed, some didn’t. I also liked the self-awareness that the film had with that Wedding Crashers reference. As a cinephile, I also appreciated that Jurassic Park plug. The whole cousin subplot felt a bit awkward. The theme behind the comedy was kinda basic – how to deal with life? – but the picture’s message was nice. All of the ideas about weddings also appealed to me, since my childhood friends are starting to get married, while I still feel like a kid. The only thing that really annoyed me was that whole thing with ‘I’m a strong independent women etc’. I didn’t understand whether they were serious or whether they were making fun of feminazis.
  2. Mike and Dave film was directed by Jake Szymanski, who is quite an unknown director to me. He has mostly done shorts and TV shows. I liked what he did with this movie for the most part. My few gripes were the fact that the levels of craziness, when it came to the characters, seemed a bit inconsistent. Also, that ending musical number was a bit much. I don’t think that because he had actors who can sing (Efron from HSMDeVine and Kendrick from Pitch Perfect), he needed to use them. The bloopers during the credits nicely tied the film and showed how much improvisation all the actors did. The picture was genuinely funny and I laughed out loud a couple of time.
  3. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, like the recent comedies Central Intelligence, The Nice Guys and 21+22 Jump Street, had a duo of guys in the leads, played by Zac Efron and Adam DeVine. Both of them did a good job. Their chemistry, as well as the comedic timing, were great. Efron played his usual role – a kinda crazy guy who is actually nice and sweet inside. DeVine’s role wasn’t ground-breaking either. I feel like I have seen him in that role previously. Efron has really established himself a career as a comedian. After starring in teen musicals, like HSM and Hairspray, Efron appeared in a few indie-ish films, like Charlie St.Cloud and The Paperboy. Since 2014, he has consistently appeared in succesful(-ish) comedies like That Awkward Moment, Neighbors 1+2, We Are Your Friends and Dirty Grandpa. He also has a Baywatch movie coming up. DeVine is a bit less accomplished: he has done the Pitch Perfect films, had a small role in The Intern and is voicing a character in the upcoming Sausage Party.
  4. The two female leads of the film were played by Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza. Their performances were okay for the roles that they had. As far as I know, Kendrick never really plays crazy girls, so it was nice to see her trying something different, although underneath, her character was a good girl. Aubrey Plaza played her usual slutty type of a character, like in Dirty Grandpa and The To Do List. Plaza has also starred in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, while Kendrick had roles in Pitch Perfect 1+2, and awards contender Cake and Into the Woods.
  5. In summary, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates was an enjoyable comedy – a simple summer flick. It wasn’t ground-breaking and is not a must watch, but if you do choose to see it, you will definitely have at least a pleasant time.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

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Movie review: The Hateful Eight

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a movie review of a film that would have made my top 10 list if I had seen it last year. However, since distribution companies have not yet figured out that global day-in-day releases are desired by movie fans worldwide, I was only able to see the 8th film by Quentin TarantinoThe Hateful Eight – in January. So, since I am already late to the party, let’s do not waste any more time and review this motion picture.

IMDb summary: In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter and his prisoner find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.

SPOILER ALERT

Quentin Tarantino

The Hateful Eight is the 5th Tarantino’s film that I have seen (I still have Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2 (considered to be a single film), Jackie Brown and Death Proof to go). I do not think that I would be able to pick my favorite film of his. I actually cannot even decide if I like his early work – crime thrillers – more than I like his later historical movies. I also really applaud Tarantino for endorsing the work of other creators. For example, he has worked really hard to introduce Western audiences to Asian cinema. One of the directors that he has spoken highly of is Wong Kar-Wai from Hong Kong. I did my midterm essay on his film – Chunking Express. While I did not get that great of a mark (low B), I loved the process of watching the film, doing research and the finally putting my thoughts on paper (the same as I do in here, only in a more formal fashion). One of the sources that I used in my essay was Tarantino’s commentary on that particular film. He did a casual intro for the film’s DVD with zero formalities and a relaxed attitude – as an everyday person talking to his friends about movies.

And that is one of the reasons why I am a fan of his – he is just like us – a movie fan first and a filmmaker second. His knowledge of films and their history is infinite. More importantly, he respects those who came before him and expresses that in his work. Tarantino blends the cinema’s past (70 mm film gauge, narrative’s division into chapters, intermission, overture, manual focus/racking) and his own creativity and signature style (non-linear narrative (flashbacks), bloody and shocking scenes and ideas, one of a kind characters) perfectly. It all just somehow fits together, no questions asked.

Visually, the film looked beautiful. Both the outdoor and indoor mise-en-scenes were wonderful and utilized very well. Character outfits were also memorable and unique (the furs, the hats, the red tie). I also applaud him for doing a nude scene with a male as we have seen enough naked female bodies on screen already. Speaking about the cinematography, the wide shots looked amazing because of the wide film gauge (although I wish I would have seen the film on a bigger screen – my local theater was showing it on the 5th screen, which is middle sized – it would have been more pleasant to see it on the biggest – no.1 – screen).  In addition, Tarantino’s usage of long and steady takes was also wonderful – although there was only a slight movement, present on the screen, the viewers were fully engaged because of the dialogue.

While this film did not have any iconic monologs (Pulp Fiction), it definitely did have some nice lines, which were brought to life by amazing actors and actresses. The subtle humor and irony were also present and done in a cool way. The build up and the opening were a bit slow, but they did an amazing job of setting everything up before the real action and mystery started. I also appreciated the narration by Tarantino itself – it was a bit surprising but an interesting creative choice – it broke the 4th wall but also sucked you into a story more, by explaining the setup but not really telling anything that would ruin the surprise that would come later.

Music

The Hateful Eight’s score was created by Ennio Morricone, and he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score for this soundtrack. I especially liked the usage of the song There Won’t Be Many Coming Home by Roy Orbison during the credits, but the whole score was amazing and build tension perfectly.

Acting

The film had a huge bunch of unique characters. I won’t be able to talk about all of them but all the actors deserve highest praises and at least a mention.

The titular eight:

  • Samuel L. Jackson as Major Marquis Warren a.k.a. “The Bounty Hunter” was amazing as always. I don’t think I have ever seen a film where I did not like his character or where Jackson did a poor job and that certainly has never happened in a Tarantino film. I loved the calm face and the sneaky and amused smile he was doing while telling that graphic story. It was a bit disturbing to listen but captivated you nonetheless. His Lincoln letter was not only a unique prop but an interesting story device. Samuel L. Jackson has had a long and rewarding career and I can’t wait to see what he does next. I hope he will re-team with Tarantino once more and if not – I still have MCU movies to look forward to.
  • Kurt Russell as John Ruth a.k.a. “The Hangman” was also another wonderful character and an amazing performance by Russell. His mustache was also on point. His best scenes were the ones with his prisoner – they had amazing chemistry and wonderful back and forth banter.
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue a.k.a. “The Prisoner” was also really good in this role. I liked the fact that she was a female prisoner and that nobody cared about that and treated her terribly. I also like the fact that she looked awful by the end of the film – this movie broke every ‘beauty’ standard of Hollywood.
  • Walton Goggins as Sheriff Chris Mannix a.k.a.”The Sheriff”. He was my favorite character. While I did not agree with his racist remarks, I loved his genuine reaction to everything and the infinite excitement. Goggins has worked with Tarantino before back in 2012’s Django Unchained. He was also in last year’s awful action comedy American Ultra – he definitely can do better than that and I am so happy that he was great in this film.
  • Demián Bichir as Bob (Marco the Mexican) a.k.a. “The Mexican” – while nothing really stood out to me about his character or the performance of the actor, I did love the reveal involving him and a sign above the bar.
  • Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mobray (English Pete Hicox) a.k.a. “The Little Man”. Another actor who has worked with Tarantino in the 90s. He was good in the film and I loved the sneaky attitude of his – from the very beginning, you could feel that there was something odd about him.
  • Michael Madsen as Joe Gage (Grouch Douglass) a.k.a. “The Cow Puncher”  the quietest of the bunch – looks can be deceiving and the characters in this film learned that.
  • Bruce Dern as General Sanford “Sandy” Smithers a.k.a. “The Confederate” – a spectator of the action that just happened to be in a wrong place, at a wrong time. The character seemed to be a terrible person but I kinda felt bad for him when he had to endure that story.

Supporting cast:

  • James Parks as O.B. Jackson – the driver of the stagecoach who also had no need to be there and met a sad faith. I loved the tassels on his hat.
  • Channing Tatum as Jody Domergue – I knew that Tatum would be in this film because I was very happy for him when the casting announcement was made public. He was not present in the trailer, so I was hoping that his part would be an important one because it might have been spoiler-y. And that’s exactly what it was. I loved the reveal of his character but I also wish that we could have spent more time with him. Tatum has also had a promising career so far. He has a loyal mainstream fanbase (Step Up, Magic Mike and its sequel, 21 and 22 Jump Street) and an Oscar-nominated film on his resume – 2014’s Foxcatcher. Next year, he will star in the comedy Hail, Caesar! and will also start shooting the new Gambit film – while I am excited about that film and the fact that he got the role, I still think that Taylor Kitsch was a perfectly fine Gambit. I guess we will see if Tatum can do it better.
  • The flashback sequence also included a few nice characters who only had a few scenes each. Their names and the actors who portrayed them deserve to be mentioned: Dana Gourrier as Minnie MinkZoë Bell as Six-Horse JudyLee Horsley as EdGene Jones as Sweet Dave and Belinda Owino as Gemma.

All in all, The Hateful Eight was an amazing film and another great example of the greatness of Tarantino. It was the perfect blend of old and new, known and fresh. It had all the trademarks/cliches of Tarantino but it never got boring or predictable. I would love for it to win or at least get a nomination in the Best Ensemble category at the Academy Awards because all the members of the cast did a stellar job. Well, if they don’t get that nomination, the film will probably/definitely get one in Best Picture category.

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: The Hateful Eight trailer

P.S. This has nothing to do with The Hateful Eight (well, not directly at least), but I just can’t shake the idea that a new Adam Sandler movie Ridiculous 6 sounds like a parody of this film. I don’t think it is and I do not plan on watching it, but I just found it funny how both of these names kinda sound similar in my mind and wanted to share my thoughts with you. Bye!

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Movie reviews: 21 + 22 Jump Street

Movie reviews

Helloo!

I feel like it has been a long time since I wrote a movie review, so I decided to dig deeper into a few new comedies.

21 Jump Street: I really enjoyed this comedy and it made me laugh several times and I am not easily impressed when it comes to humor. The movie is based on the 1987 television series with the same name by Stephen J. Cannell and Patrick Hasburgh. The film follows two police officers who are forced to relive high school when they are assigned to go undercover as high school students to prevent the outbreak of a new synthetic drug and arrest its supplier.
Two policemen are played by Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. I was surprised with their great chemistry; I did not think that this pair would work. In addition, I never truly believed that Channing Tatum could do comedy, but he is actually really good at it. I also enjoyed the message this movie was trying to spread – you can be friends with different people than you. What is more, do not judge the book by its cover because people have so many layers and it is impossible to know all of them.
One last note: Dave Franco is hot as hell.
Trailer: 21 Jump Street trailer
Rate: 4/5

22 Jump Street: The sequel took our beloved policemen to college. Yes, to a place where partying, drinking and going crazy is legal. With such classical premise and set-up this movies was destined to be funny. And don’t get me wrong, it was really funny, just not original…at all. They were literally doing the same things like in the first movie. Although, this time Jonah Hill’s character was the one who got pushed away. The chemistry between two characters was great as in the first film. What is more, I was so happy to see actress Amber Stevens in this movie because I loved her in ABC Family’s show GREEK (it went off air in 2011) and she hasn’t done anything big ever since.
Trailer: 22 Jump Street trailer
Rate: 4/5

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