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: Creed + a look back

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another review of the Oscar season! This time, we are talking about the 7th entry into the Rocky franchise – the spin-off/sequel Creed!

IMDb summary: The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.

2015 has already had one boxing movie – Jake Gyllenhaal’s Southpaw. However, Creed, being a sequel to the Rocky franchise, received much more attention: it earned more money and got a few awards’ nominations, while Southpaw lacked both.

Before seeing Southpaw, I knew nothing about boxing (still do not know that much) or sports movies, however, I watched all of the 6 Rocky films in a span of 2 days before going to see Creed. I have also watched a lot of other sports movies during the Christmas break like McFarland USA, Million Dollar Arm and Concussion, so I am no longer a newcomer to the genre of sports dramas. Nevertheless, Creed managed to surprise me and exceeded all my expectations – it wasn’t just a great sports movie, it was simply an amazing film.

A look-back

As I have mentioned before, I have seen all of the Rocky films. It is not essential to watch them before seeing Creed, because that film stands on its own, however, your enjoyment will definitely be improved if you are able to catch all the references and callbacks to the previous films.

Rocky franchise has always had so much heart because these films were made by people who actually cared about the story. Sylvester Stallone basically created Rocky for himself and used this character as a building block for his entire career. While nowadays, some of the scenes (mostly the romantic ones) from the first few films look a bit cheesy, the overall story/arc of all the films is timeless. Rocky is also one of the best characters of cinema because he is the everyday-est everyday guy that anyone can relate to or identify with. He is also one of the truly nicest characters – he is never cocky and always good-hearted, even when he finally succeeds in boxing.

Other characters of the franchise are also worth mentioning. Personally, I really disliked Paulie – he was such a whiny brat. I also had mixed feelings about Adriana – I really liked her in a few films and hated in others. However, my favorite character of the series (not counting Rocky) was Apollo Creed, so I was very pleased that his legacy is continued in Creed and future sequels. I really liked Rocky’s and Creed’s friendship, so that’s why the 3rd film is my favorite. I also enjoy Rocky 3, because that film contains a few scenes of Rocky training in the pool and for me as a swimmer that just seals the deal.

The Rocky franchise also has really exciting fighting scenes that make the viewer feel like he/she is in the ring. Rocky films are also famous for their training montages, which are not only amazing to watch but are great examples of spectacular film-making and editing. These montages are usually followed by great theme songs. Eye of the Tiger is the most famous one, though, the one that I enjoy the most is Hearts on Fire.

Rocky 5 is my least favorite film of the franchise and it is also the film that showcases Rocky in a trainer’s position. I was worried that Creed would also suffer from the same problem, since Rocky is once again training someone else and not fighting. However,  Creed was really smart when dealing with this problem – the creators just wrote a side storyline for Rocky which not only made him even more interesting of characters but tied that storyline into the main plot-line and the main idea of the film (more on this later).

Awards Rocky vs Creed

Rocky won 3 Academy Words back in the 49th Oscars – best editing, director, and picture. Creed has only received one nomination – best supporting actor for Stallone and lots of critics are predicting that he will surely win since Stallone has already picked up a Golden Globe and a Critic’s Choice Award. I think he definitely deserves it not only for his amazing emotional performance in Creed but for his whole life’s work of being Rocky.

Writing and Story

Ryan Coogler was the person that came up with the whole idea of Creed. He was the one who convinced Stallone to come back to the franchise and to continue it. Coogler then also co-wrote the script with his friend Aaron Covington. Both of them are kinda new to Hollywood. The only previous feature film on Coogler’s resume is Fruitvale Station (he both wrote and directed it) also starring Michael B.Jordan.

I believe that both Coogler and Covington did a really nice job with the script. They paid respect to the lore of the franchise with all the references and callbacks to the previous films as well as reinvigorated it with fresh storylines and new characters. One of my favorite scenes was the dialogue between Rocky and Adonis in the jail cell when Creed finally broke down. I also loved Rocky’s side story. It felt so unfair that an athlete, who has suffered a lot in a ring, can now possibly be defeated by an illness. I also felt bad for Rocky because he did not deserve this, being such a nice guy in general. This story-line also touched me on a personal level, as I have lost a few close relatives to cancer. Finally, the idea ‘I fight, you fight’ just totally destroyed me emotionally in the best way possible.

Directing

Ryan Coogler also directed the picture and did a very good job. That’s why Marvel/Disney snatched him up for Black Panther. I loved the visuals in the scene where Adonis is punching the air by the screen, which is showing the video of Rocky’s and Apollo’s fight. I also really liked the long takes and around/circle type of filming of the fight scenes. This type of cinematography differed a lot from the jump-cuts of the previous Rocky films’ fight scenes.

Acting

The movie had a great ensemble cast, consisting of both old and new faces. I will only briefly mention a couple of them.

  • Michael B. Jordan as Adonis “Donnie” Johnson Creed – Jordan was amazing in the role. The physical transition that he went through is also worth a separate round of applause. He is definitely a wonderful actor and I hope that Creed will turn into a separate franchise on its own because I do want to spend more time with his character. I have seen only a few of Jordan’s films (to be truthful, he has not been in that many films), sadly one of them being Fantastic Four. While that movie was awful, I do think that Jordan was really good as Johnny Storm. He also has a comedic side – watch him in That Awkward Moment – a really nice comedy (and that is coming from someone who hates comedies most of the time). I still need to see Jordan’s and Coogler’s Fruitvale Station – I am sure that it will be amazing. I am also thinking about checking out 2012’s Chronicle.
  • Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa. Stallone was really good in this role back in 1976 and he is still a great Rocky 40 years later. He is one of the most likable actor ever. The last movies that I have seen him in were The Expendables trilogy (he came up with the idea of that franchise as well). Now I just need to re-watch all the Rambos
  • Tessa Thompson as Bianca –  she was a really great love interest for Jordan’s Adonis as well as just a great character on her own. I haven’t seen many of her films, though, she did appear in last year’s Selma

In short, Creed was a great comeback for the Rocky franchise as well as just a great movie in general. The storyline was both emotional and interesting, the acting – wonderful and the boxing scenes were nostalgia-inducing but still fresh and exciting.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Creed trailer

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Movie review: Fantastic Four

Movie reviews

Hello!

So, the time has come to review the last comic book movie of this summer and probably the most disappointing one. Let’s go meet the not so fantastic Fantastic Four.

To begin with, Fantastic Four is actually the first comic book that I have ever read. I also loved the animated series when I was a kid. Even though comic books were not popular in Eastern Europe when I was little, everybody seemed to know who the Fantastic Four were. Lastly, back then I even thought that the 2005 and 2007 movie editions were not that bad. Of course, I changed my mind when I re-watched them only recently. Because of that,  I had really high hopes for the reboot. I was hoping that they would get it right this time or that I at least would like it with only a singular watch. Let’s be real – a lot of movie crumble on a closer inspection. But this one doesn’t even need a closer look to come across as really really bad. Let’s get on with my angry rant.

IMDb summary: Four young outsiders teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy.

To begin with, this movie is based on the Ultimate version of the Fantastic Four, so the origin story is a bit different. Also, the movie tries to make the story as realistic as possible by relying on scientific explanations. I was really excited that they decided to adapt the Ultimate version because I always enjoy seeing something fresh and unique. Moreover, science fiction has been one of my favorite genre of films since childhood, so I was down for some extraordinary science mambo-jumbo. The thing I wasn’t down for – the Fox studios getting my hopes up after the X-Men Days of Future Past (review) and then crushing my trust in them completely once more. Deadpool please be good. I am begging you.

Directing and Writing

The film is directed by Josh Trank and written by Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg and Trank himself. Although, it seems like Fox executives were also involved in the production a lot and their fingerprints are defintely showing. And when the money-driven studio gets in a way of the actual creators, nothing good ever happens.

The movie had tremendous potential and it wasted all of it. The story was okay during the first half, but the ending was terrible. The time jumps made zero sense. The dialogue was cheese and uninspiring as well as full of cliches. The only scene with some interesting dialogue was the one right before they decided to travel to the other dimension and were all drinking in the circle. The Neil Armstrong argument was the best line in the whole film. Sadly, it was short and lasted for just a minute. After that, you had to sit through 100 minutes of awfulness.

In addition, all the character were undeveloped, they never picked a clear main protagonist and tried to develop all of them, but just failed completely. It felt like the movie was missing half the scenes, which probably contained the backstory. Plus, the villain was the most awful of all the characters. They completely ruined Doctor Doom. Also, they didn’t include Sue Storm in the actual experiment that gave them powers but she still got hers anyway. You have one female character, only ONE, and you mess her story up? How is that even possible??

Moving on to the action scenes – there was only like 2 of them. One of them is okay, the other makes no sense. And the CGI…oh God. With the movie that cost this much money and is being made in 2015, you would expect at least the computer effect to look great, but they don’t. It looked like this film was made in the late 90s or early 2000s by some kid in a garage. Basically, it was a cheap looking animation. The only effects that looked quite good were the actual powers of the Fantastic Four. The Thing’s design was okay, but Johnny’s flaming body was the coolest one for me. However, Reed’s stretching abilities were enhanced by allowing him to change his appearance and that scene looked awful. Furthermore, when Sue Storm was flying in her force field bubble, you could clearly spot the places where the cables were attached to her back.

Acting

This movie had an extremely talented cast, who kinda lost their talent while filming. I’m guessing the terrible script made them loose all inspiration to perform.

  • Miles Teller as Reed Richards / Mr. Fantastic. I am a huge Miles Teller fan. I praised him in a separate blog post. But here, he was not that great. He definitely portrayed the nerdy aspect of the character perfectly as well as was a great half-of-a-friendship with Ben, but he was awful as a team leader. His inspiring monologue was so corny and so bad.
  • Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm / Human Torch. I have no idea why the fans got angry when they changed the race of Johnny Storm. It looks like we are still living in the 19th century with all the racism and discrimination that is going on. I never look at a skin color of the character or an actor. I look at their work and the way they present themselves. I really loved Michael B. Jordan in That Awkward Moment and enjoyed his performance here. He was probably my favorite character and, to my mind, did the best job out of all of the cast.
  • Kate Mara as Susan “Sue” Storm / Invisible Woman. I have already complained about the creators decision to not include Sue in the actual experiment. Also, once again they made her into an unlikable and not fun mommy type character. It’s not the 1940s!! If you are changing the backstory and the personality of the character, change it for the better and not for worse.
  • Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm / Thing was quite good. He definitely portrayed the sadness and inner anger of the character well. However, he lacked developed and closure to his story like the others.
  • Toby Kebbell as Victor von Doom / Doctor Doom……Don’t even want to talk about him. This was not Doctor Doom. He looked weird, his power were weirder and his intentions and actions – weirdest of it all.
  • Reg E. Cathey as Dr. Franklin Storm. Fox tried to turn the daddy Storm into Professor Xavier of the X-Men or Nick Furry of the MCU. Not surprisingly, Fox failed. Moreover, the supposedly inspiring monologues were terrible.
  • Tim Blake Nelson as Dr. Harvey Allen. He was as suppose to be the unlikable antagonist of the Fantastic Four. However, since you didn’t really care for the heroes, you didn’t hate the anti-hero either. The government story-line and the militaristic ideas, introduced through this character, were interesting, but the movie never followed up on them.

References

This move didn’t even had a Stan Lee cameo. Seeing Stan always makes the movie better for me, but Fantastic Four didn’t even have that. The only reference which I’ve enjoyed was the Star Trek’s ‘Beam me up, Scotty‘, when the kid Reed Richards was talking about teleportation in the class. That, I though, was clever.

To sum up, the Fantastic Four film took itself way too seriously, it never found a clear direction or a tone. It was way to uneven and a few good performances and interesting lines only reminded us, how good the movie could have been but wasn’t. I don’t believe it will get a sequel. I’m hoping it won’t.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: Fantastic Four trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: She is Funny That Way

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a different format of a movie review. Usually, I do and still be doing long and informative reviews but sometimes there are movies that you don’t have a lot to say about but still want to mention. So, the solution is these brief reviews point by point. I hope you enjoy!

1. She is Funny That Way is a comedy-drama from a quite an unknown director and writer (for me at least) Peter Bogdanovich. It was made and is distributed by really small companies which were created only a few years ago.

2. The films story is based in Broadway. The whole plot of the movie rests on awkward moments, interactions and encounters.  All characters have secrets between them and are usually connected in some way: they are either friends, lovers or family. Personally, I really enjoy watching films full of cringe worthy scenes, because I have a lot of them in my life.

3. The main character of the film is played by Imogen Poots. I really like this British actress and have seen quite a lot of movies starring her. Though, I gotta say, she sounded so weird in this film. I don’t know if she was trying to create some type of accent or if she always sounds like this. I know for sure that she didn’t sound weird in Need For Speed or That Awkward Moment. Her voice took me out of the movie a bit. However, the idea that you have to look for your place in life was conveyed quite beautifully through her character.

4. The supporting cast is full of B-list actors. Okay, Jennifer Aniston might be the only A-lister. Other include Owen Wilson, Kathryn Hahn, Will Forte, Rhys Ifans and many more. All of them did a nice job.

5. I also enjoyed references to culture that were used in the movie. And I am not talking about the current pop culture but old black and white films. However, the biggest reference to real life was the last cameo which I don’t want to spoil here.

Rate 3.75/5

Trailer: She is Funny That Way trailer 

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Current favorite actor: Miles Teller

Uncategorized

Recently, I have been watching a lot of movies starting American actor Miles Teller and it gave me an idea to stars a new series of blog posts in which I will tell you about celebrities (actors, actresses, singers, models and etc.) which I currently like.

As it happens, the first star that I am going to talk about is Miles Teller. Miles is 27 year old actor who has been acting since 2004 but just recently started to get recognition for his work and consequently – more roles in movies. I have first seen him in Divergent and later in That Awkward Moment and have been blown away by his performance, so, I decided to see more movies starring him. I watched The Spectacular Now and Footloose (2011). The first one is an amazing coming of age drama (Miles won The Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting at the Sundance film festival in 2013 for his role in this movie) and the second – a fun remake of an 80s movie. He also had a minor role in Project X – found footage movie about a crazy party.

I admire Miles ability to be serious in one moment and funny the next. He is not a huge movie star for now but I believe that he has a long and successful career ahead of him. I can’t wait to for Insurgent (the second movie in the Divergent series) where he stars as Peter – main antagonist of the series. However, I believe that his ticket to stardom is Fantastic Four reboot which will come out in 2015 (next summer in particular). Miles is going to play Mr.Fantastic – leader of the pack. There hasn’t been much news about the film but as a die-hard Marvel fan I am really excited about it. I hope Fox doesn’t mess up this series as they did with the X-men (but they kind of fixed it with Days of Future Past so I am starting to have faith in them).

Before these two movies come out I am planning to check out Miles’ performance in comedy 21&Over, Two Night Stand, Get a Job (2015) and drama Whiplash and I invite you to do the same. He will also be in the next Divergent movie – Insurgent comes out in March 2015.

UPDATE: I’ve already watched two
comedies from that small list (21&Over and Two Night Stand). I laughed a lot during them and really enjoyed the performance of both casts. (In the first one, Miles was joined by Skylar Astin, Justin Chon and Jonathan Keltz. In the second, the cast included Analeigh Tipton (ANTM cycle 11) and Jessica Szohr).

UPDATE no. 2: Oh, how wrong I (and everyone) was about that Fantastic Four movie. If you haven’t seen it – DO NOT WATCH IT. It’s terrible.


Photos: Google Images

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