Movie review: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Movie reviews

Hello!

The latest film in that other Tom Cruise action-spy franchise has landed in theaters, so, let’s talk about it! This is the review of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.

IMDb summary: Jack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever.

While I’ve closely followed Cruise and his Mission: Impossible movies, I managed to somehow miss the first Jack Reacher picture when it was first released in 2012. However, I did my homework and watched it before going to see the sequel. I really enjoyed the narrative of the film: the story was a bit different from the usual action movie plot. It had more of the actual investigation and an interesting dialogue rather just a ton of physical fights. But, when the action did happen, it was quite cool too – it was more rugged and down to earth than the spectacular and over the top action sequences in MI. Jack Reacher’s action reminded me of the action in Jason Bourne films, just with less shaky cam. The characters were fine as well, although the film was mostly a Tom Cruise show.

While the first film was a delightful surprise, the second one was just another uninspired and cliche sequel. I didn’t really have any expectations going into this film and I was right to not expect anything because Jack Reacher: Never Go Back was just an average action movie at best.

Writing

Richard Wenk (The Mechanic, The Equalizer, The Magnificient Seven), the director Edward Zwick and Zwick’s long-time collaborator Marshall Herskovitz wrote the screenplay for the film, adapting Lee Child’s 18th book of the Jack Reacher series. I had a lot of problems with the story. For one, the whole set-up seemed forced and rushed. It took two phone calls for Reacher to want to help Turner, while in the first film, more than 30 minutes had to be spent to actually get Reacher into the action. That whole thing with Turner being wrongly accused seemed like a recycled idea from the first movie as well. And don’t even get me started on that plot-line concerning his maybe-daughter – she was super annoying and was a huge liability to both the characters and the film’s narrative. She had one smart scheme, which we didn’t even see her carrying out – we were just told about it, and a ton of stupid ideas. And why even include her if she turns out to not be his daughter after all? Only to have that cheesy goodbye that didn’t add anything to the picture?

The villain showed up in maybe like 3 or 4 scenes in the whole movie. If you want to see a much better movie about the government contracts and arms’ dealers, then just check out War Dogs. Lastly, while the first film was slow but had a somewhat interesting dialogue about the investigation to fill in the time between the action, its sequel had a ton of small talk that didn’t get the movie anywhere. When it tried to foreshadow or set-up something, it did that in the most obvious way possible. From a thematical standpoint, I did like the overarching military v civilian life debate, however, what I didn’t appreciate was that whole male/female bickering. That plotline was irrelevant and felt out of place even more than the father/daughter storyline.

Directing

Edward Zwick, who has previously worked with Cruise on The Last Samurai and has also directed such films as the biopic Pawn Sacrifice, the war drama Defiance, and the comedy Love & Other Drugs, helmed Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and did an okay job. He opened the film with the sequence from the trailer, which I have seen multiple times before even watching the movie since I go to the cinema a lot. Wish they would have either chose a different scene for the trailer or changed it up a bit for the movie. The overall action was fine but nothing too striking or worth mentioning. I liked the gray colored shots of Reacher visualizing the escape or the past events, but the movie kinda dropped this idea halfway through.

Acting

  • Tom Cruise was good as Jack Reacher but I have come to expect this from him a long time ago. It’s nice to see him doing his own stunts, though – makes the movie a bit more realistic. Cruise also produced this film, like the majority of his action movies, but I’m actually quite interested to see if he will ever direct one. His upcoming pictures are a biographical crime thriller American Made and The Mummy reboot.
  • Cobie Smulders as Susan Turner was quite good too. I was happy to see her getting some work, because since How I Met Your Mother has ended, I haven’t seen much of her, well except in the MCU films, although her role in those is really small. I liked hers and Cruise’s chemistry in this movie and I also thought that she was good in the action scenes.
  • Danika Yarosh as Samantha Dayton a.k.a. the daughter. I don’t want to be angry with the big screen newcomer Yarosh because she was fine in the role, but, as I have already mentioned, her character was written terribly and didn’t even have a place in the film. Yarosh has been mostly acting in various TV shows and I do hope that this mediocre film and a bit cringe-y performance won’t stop her from being cast in more movies.
  • The supporting cast also included a lot of quite unknown (to me) actors, like Aldis HodgePatrick HeusingerHolt McCallany, and Austin Hebert. No one really stood much but they also haven’t been really given a chance to do so.

 In short, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is an average sequel that basically advises its potential viewers to skip it. The story is awful, the directing is okay and while the acting is good, the cast is not given enough solid material to work with. I advise you to Never Go Back to the Jack Reacher films.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back trailer

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Movie review: The Secret Life of Pets

Movie reviews

Good morning/day/evening!

The animated movies have been really dominating the box office this summer, so, let’s review one of the latest additions to the genre – The Secret Life of Pets.

IMDb summary: The quiet life of a terrier named Max is upended when his owner takes in Duke, a stray whom Max instantly dislikes.

Recently, there has been quite a few animated pictures about talking animals – we just had Zootopia and the new animated musical SING also has animals as its characters. This concept has always been popular and it is definitely not going anywhere. While the idea to show how animals act when the humans are not around is cool and clever, it is not the most original. Another recent animation that kinda did the same thing was Bolt. So, since the TSLOP can count on originality, it is all about the execution.

Writing: story and ideas

The Secret Life of Pets’ script was written by Brian LynchCinco Paul, and Ken Daurio. This trio has previously worked on other Illumination Entertainment projects like the Despicable Me films and Minions. I’m a fan of the main Despicable Me franchise but can’t really stand its spin-off. I feel like with TSLOP movie, the screenwriters mixed everything I loved about the first property with the things that annoyed me about the second brand.

The positives: 

  1. I liked how the animal characters had both animalistic and human-like features and manners. I also enjoyed how the various stereotypes were played up. Sometimes, human stereotypes were used on animals as a joke: for example, in the scene with the white Pomeranian and the telenovela. In other instances, these stereotypes were subverted and made for an even funnier moment: the poodle who likes rock music was a nice idea and the main antagonist of the film – the anarchist bunny – was also an unexpected and subversive addition to the picture.
  2. I loved the little relatable moments like the scene with the cat and the turkey. That tiny inside competition between the cats and the dogs was also a great real-world tie-in. The inclusion of concepts like the cat videos on YouTube and the vacuum cleaner to be used to get rid of the pets was neat as well.
  3. The idea to make the barking of dogs their language was obvious but still nice and super funny when showed visually on screen.

The negatives:

  1. The film didn’t have the most original narrative – it was a basic save and avenge storyline. It was still an enjoyable adventure to watch but the viewer might feel that he/she has seen it before numerous times.
  2. The picture really got dark at times and I don’t know if those ideas had a place in the film. The picture wasn’t really that sophisticated and it was definitely on a more simplistic side and aimed at the younger audiences, so I don’t think that it was a good idea to show the suffering animals like the tattooed pig or the magician’s rabbit and talk about killing the owners. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to talk about the first thing – that people are not always the nicest to the animals – but I don’t think that a mainstream kids’ movie was a place to do that, maybe if it had a more serious tone, I would have had a different opinion.

Directing: visuals and animation

TSLOP was directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney. Renaud has previously directed the Despicable Me films and has created the voice of the Minions, who he voices in all of the movies that they appear. Cheeny has only directed a few shorts up until now but he has been a production designer on the Illumination Entertainment pictures. I really enjoyed the directing of the film for the most part. I really liked the montages at the beginning which set up the independent world of pets nicely and it was also a great idea to end the movie with corresponding montages – it tied everything together perfectly. The actual animation was also spectacular – the fur of the animals looked excellent and the NY skyline was also realized beautifully – it is so iconic and recognizable even in animated form. The actual character design of the animals was cool and cute too. TSLOP also had a good complimentary soundtrack, I liked the inclusion of the Welcome to New York song. The only sequence of the film that I disliked was that Sausage World – I felt that it was too childish even for a light children’s film and, moreover, those sausages reminded me of Minions too much.

Voice Work

The actors who voiced the animals did a good job. The stand-out for me was Kevin Hart (he voiced the rabbit) – I could instantly recognize his voice and really loved the way he delivered the lines and the one-liners. His character was definitely the funniest and I think that that was because of Hart’s involvement. I’m definitely starting to become a fan of him after this film and Central Intelligence. The great comedian  Louis C.K. voiced the main character – a Jack Russell terrier, while Eric Stonestreet really fit the voice of his character – the large and furry mongrel. Steve Coogan was great as a Sphynx cat – the British accent was somehow appropriate. Lastly, Jenny Slate was a great choice to bring the Pomeranian to life. Slate has recently voiced another animal – a sheep – in Zootopia.

In short, The Secret Life of Pets was an okay film. It was as subversive or adult-friendly as Zootopia but it did make me laugh more than a couple of times and I’m sure that the kids would have a blast watching it.

Rate: 3.7/5

Trailer: The Secret Life of Pets trailer

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Movie review: Nerve

Movie reviews

Hello!

Nerve – an original thriller in a sea of reboots, remakes and sequels – has finally hit theaters, so let’s talk about it!

IMDb summary: A high school senior finds herself immersed in an online game of truth or dare, where her every move starts to become manipulated by an anonymous community of “watchers.”

Writing

Nerve’s screenplay was written by Jessica Sharzer, who has mostly worked on TV until now. The script was based on Jeanne Ryan’s book with the same name, so it is not a totally original story, but at least it hasn’t been done on the big screen before. I absolutely loved the narrative of Nerve. I thought that it was probably the most contemporary thriller I’ve ever seen. Its topics were extremely relatable to all teenagers and young adults out there.

The cool update on the Truth or Dare game reminded me of YouTube Challenge videos and I think that the majority of the audiences of this film do watch YouTube and will understand where I’m coming from. On top of being extremely entertaining, the film also had some nice messages and things to say. It explored a modern friendship, full of jealousy and social stigmas. It showed the scary side of the Internet – the total loss of privacy – and cautioned its viewers to be careful. It also showed that computer skills and even hacking are useful traits to know in the modern world. Finally, the most important idea that Nerve spread was that one can be brave in the crowd or when he/she is protected by their username, however, the anonymous actions online have dire consequences in the real world to actual people and even oneself. This message should hang above everyone’s computer.

On a personal note, I loved the film Nerve because I could relate to it. I’m a kind of person who rarely takes risks or leaves her comfort zone, so I understood the character of Vee. In addition, being somebody who is usually in the shadow of her friends, I understood how the feeling of validation or acceptance can be intoxicating and addicting.

Directing

Nerve was directed  by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who did the documentary Catfish and 3rd and 4th of the Paranormal Activity films. I really enjoyed the things they did with the project. The pace was always fast, so the story was unfolding non-stop. A small pause was taken before the big finale, but it didn’t seem like the movie slowed down – that break really built tension. When the actual finale of the film was happening, it did seem a bit over-the-top, but when everything was done and over, it somehow all worked. The actual visuals of the program, the various POV shots of the characters as well the POV of the game (webcam, front camera) were really cool and appropriate for the film. The end credits in the style of social media posts also rounded up the feature nicely. Nerve also had an amazing soundtrack, I was Shazam-ing all of the songs. It general, it reminded me a lot of a different film with a good soundtrack, which I saw at the end of last summer – We Are Your Friends.

Both WAYR and Nerve were obviously aimed at younger audiences because they explored the topics that actually interest teenagers – EDM and Social Media. The two films also had similar soundtracks, as I’ve mentioned. I also predict that both pictures will be similarly successful – they will either bomb at the box office or do okay, but then will dominate the streaming.

Nerve and WAYR also share similarities behind the scenes – they both were made by related people. Nerve was directed by H. Joost and A. Schulman, who did the Catfish documentary. This documental feature later had a spin-off TV show on MTV, created by Nev Schulman (brother of A. Schulman) and his business partner Max Joseph. Joseph had a feature film debut last year, directing none other but We Are Your Friends. So that’s some interesting behind the scenes trivia for you.

Acting

The film had a cast of up-and-coming actors who never really stuck with audiences.

Emma Roberts, who has been around forever, played the lead Vee and did a great job. Her chemistry with Dave Franco – another actor, trying to create a career for himself without the help of his family – as Ian was amazing as well. I first encountered Roberts in the early 2000s, in a Nancy Drew film. Lately, I’ve also seen her in Palo Alto and We’re the Millers. Later this year, she will also be in Billionaire Boys Club with a bunch of other young actors. Franco popped up on my radar in 2013’s Now You See Me and 2014’s Neighbors. He also starred in both films’ sequels. Dave Franco will now go back to working in the family and will star in his brother’s films Zeroville and The Masterpiece. Afterward, he has a comedy The Little Hours coming up.

The supporting roles of a film were kinda cliche but served their purpose. Juliette Lewis played the over-protective mother. Emily Meade starred as the outgoing friend of Vee’s – Sydney, while Miles Heizer was Tommy, Vee’s friend who secretly had a crush on her. The rapper Colson “Machine Gun Kelly” Baker starred as Ty, a fellow player of Nerve and was quite an interesting character. A bit cartoonish, but entertaining nonetheless.

The film also had a cameo, which I, as a fan of Youtube, really appreciated. The filmmaker and daily vlogger Casey Neistat made a small appearance in the movie and his presence actually made sense.

All in all, Nerve was an entertaining picture, that had a surprisingly serious cautionary message. It had a great cast, interesting visuals, and a perfect pop soundtrack. I wouldn’t be surprised if the app like Nerve will be created in a near future. For now, we at least have Pokemon Go.

Rate: 4,25/5

Trailer: Nerve trailer

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