Movie Review – ‘The Nice Guys’

“Despite a cinematographic orgy that delicately takes viewers back to a retro 1970s look, “The Nice Guys” can’t overcome a slow, boring start with one-dimensional characters. Russell Crowe’s big-screen forte is masterminding others misfortune, not spewing one-liners in a crime comedy.”

Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

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Far out clothes and vintage Hollywood party scenes aren’t enough to save this latest Russell Crowe film from box office disaster. Fellow new release “The Angry Birds Movie” clinched this past weekend’s top spot with nearly $40 million, followed by 2016’s highest grossing film so far–the resilient “Captain America: Civil War” ($34M).  But most troubling to Warner Bros. and Crowe has to be the fact that “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” landed in third place with $22 million…crushing “The Nice Guys” with twice the ticket sales from moviegoers.

Co-starring opposite Anna Kendrick’s Twitter love interest Ryan Gosling, the former “Gladiator” (2000) Crowe plays a hired heavy paid to dole out punishment on others in 1977 Los Angeles.  Gosling plays small-time private eye Holland March and reluctantly teams up with Crowe’s bruiser character, Jackson Healy, to investigate the disappearance of a woman who goes missing into the Hollywood nightlife.

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Despite a cinematographic orgy that delicately takes viewers back to a retro 1970s look, “The Nice Guys” can’t overcome a slow, boring start with one-dimensional characters.  Russell Crowe’s big-screen forte is masterminding others misfortune, not spewing one-liners in a crime comedy.  Thankfully, Gosling’s comedic timing is spot-on throughout.

The film’s biggest drawback, though, is the lack of audience investment in either of the Crowe or Gosling detective roles. The film’s director and writer Shane Black (“Iron Man 3”) deserves credit for starting the story off so raw, minus any narration or set-up.  Missing a quick background on the main players, however, costs Black valuable screen time (already pushing 2 hours) and tests viewer patience.  But in the end, Black nicely ties together every loose end and hidden joke for an impressive, encyclopedic storyline from start to finish.

Less about sleuthing for answers to a missing girl than a budding bromance between two Hollywood heavy-weight actors, “The Nice Guys” crosses the finish line intact.  Do we know more about either Jackson Healy (Crowe) or Holland March (Gosling)?  Hardly.  Do we care?  Barely.  This whodunit crime mystery delivers on two fronts—taking the audience back forty-years on film to a simpler time in America and dishing out groovy punch lines.  Unfortunately, neither is enough to keep audiences psyched through a sedated first hour that’s “for the birds”.  Let me do you a solid, wait for this throwback on DVD.

Grade: B-

“The Nice Guys” is rated R for violence, sexuality, nudity, language and brief drug use.  Its running time is 1 hour and 56 minutes.

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Movie Review – ‘Money Monster’

“Money Monster” delivers a steady-paced thriller that only gets better by the minute…it wisely touches upon the viral nature of social media and the public’s laser-guided focus on potentially violent outcomes during live events. It’s comparison between the OJ Simpson Ford Bronco freeway perp chase and O’Connell’s walk along crowd-rousing Manhattan streets doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

Money Monster

We’ve all cringed at movie trailers, those pesky studio previews which have spawned from one-minute commercials into two-and-half minutes of spoiler reels. Just as movie running times are getting longer and longer, so are the trailers promoting those films. In today’s critical competition for box office dollars, promotional companies expend an entire film’s arsenal of laugh lines, suspense shots and plot twists in the trailer alone—leaving audiences letdown when all that’s left to see in the theater is bland background filler.

Having recently watched the spoiler-rich “Money Monster” trailer from Academy Award-winning actress and now director Jodie Foster, I was not eager to watch this Wall Street corruption narrative unfold. The previews told us everything: George Clooney’s character is an over-the-top, on-air television personality spewing Wall Street investment tips at the top of his lungs. The movie’s calming influence falls to “Pretty Woman” Julia Roberts, as Clooney’s producer, who directs and de-escalates the TV set using her voice. What else can this movie tell us? A lot.

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Continuing Hollywood’s fascination with Wall Street moguls instigating financial disasters through incompetence or greedy shenanigans, “Money Monster” pits one large corporation against a single, meager shareholder seeing red after a $60,000 investment loss. “Unbroken” (2014) star Jack O’Connell perfectly portrays a distraught and armed investor who has lost it all—based on the misguided advice of Clooney’s financial forecast.

Between all the finger-pointing and stock quotes is a compelling story of anger and discontent directed at greedy individuals perpetrating fraud inside the financial district. Similar to last year’s Oscar-nominated best picture “The Big Short”, Foster presents this Wall Street train wreck in understandable terms. She deserves serious accolades for never letting this story dissolve solely into a money-counting movie experience. Despite less than stellar police work in parts, “Money Monster” delivers a steady-paced thriller that only gets better by the minute.

“Money Monster” wisely touches upon the viral nature of social media and the public’s laser-guided focus on potentially violent outcomes during live events. It’s comparison between the OJ Simpson Ford Bronco freeway perp chase and O’Connell’s walk along crowd-rousing Manhattan streets doesn’t go unnoticed.

Strong performances carry this brisk 90-minute film. Clooney’s wack job persona gets more believable throughout the movie as his heart begins to thaw. Although a simplistic financial formula, “Money Monster” achieves its portfolio goal—accountability for those responsible for the mismanagement of funds and loss of trust from others. But we knew that already…from the trailer. Here’s my “Money Monster” investment advice: Go see the movie and not the trailer.

Grade: B

“Money Monster” is rated R for language throughout, some sexuality, and brief violence.  Its running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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Goodness: ‘Deadpool’ now available on Blu-Ray/DVD

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Yesterday’s release of “Deadpool” on Blu-Ray and DVD is great news for movie lovers.  For the handful of people who still haven’t seen this outstanding film, here’s a quick, no spoiler, synopsis:

“Deadpool” is a splendid dose of humor, cartoonish violence and raunchy innuendo… I can easily call this fast-talking, smart aleck performance by People magazine’s 2010 “Sexiest Man Alive”, as Reynolds’ crowning film to date…

First-time director, Tim Miller, immediately grabs the attention of viewers from the opening credits, creating several hilarious moments which avoids any resemblance to cliché superhero starts or previous Marvel launching points.

“It’s cunning dialogue and violent delivery casts this film firmly into the deep end of the adult pool.

“…a breath of fresh filmmaking. By no means does it only take the superhero routine less traveled. It forges its own path with a simplistic but humorous jaunt, casting likeable street stars with hip, sassy tongues.”

You can read my entire “Deadpool” movie review here.

Check out Screen Junkies’ release of their Honest Trailer segment promoting the “Deadpool” Blu-Ray/DVD release–with a special cameo by Ryan Reynolds hijacking the piece in mid-video.  Hilarious…

But NSFW, so you’re warned:

 

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The ‘Snowden’ trailer

Patriot or traitor?  The true story of one of America’s most polarizing figures.  From controversial Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone, comes “Snowden”–a blood pressure raising personal story about the former CIA and National Security Agency cyber-surveillance figure who copied and leaked our country’s most secretive intelligence collection techniques and tools back in 2013.  The guy who once boasted leakers “should be shot in the balls“.

Still on the lamb avoiding federal charges for violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property, Snowden’s whereabouts are unknown at this time–perhaps hiding in Russia.

This thriller focuses on why he did it, who he left behind, and how he pulled it all off.

Roll the tape…

“Snowden” includes an all-star cast of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Nicolas Cage and Scott Eastwood.  It hits theaters nationwide on September 16th.

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Movie Review – ‘Captain America: Civil War’

“The film’s premise is that Captain America, Iron Man and their fellow crime-fighters must be controlled and regulated by governments through the United Nations. Really? If only fighting evil were so easy. So clean and neat.”

Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

Marvel's Captain America: Civil War L to R: Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), and Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) Photo Credit: Film Frame © Marvel 2016

L to R: Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), and Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Photo Credit: Film Frame © Marvel 2016

The concern I’ve levied at comic book superhero movies in recent years has been twofold. First, could viewers get bored from the oversaturation of a handful of DC Comics and Marvel action-centric films released each year? Secondly, if moviegoers actually did continue to overwhelmingly support these computer-generated imagery (CGI) fantasy adventures, would the studios be able to keep raising the bar for fresh ideas and storylines? With the fifth best opening weekend ever ($182 million), “Captain America: Civil War” quickly answered both of those questions this morning.

Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) return to co-direct this latest box office winner. Seizing on the wave of media and political bashing towards law enforcement, “Civil War” sparks outrage towards The Avengers for using excessive force to stop evil on the World’s cities and streets. We’re told that the real culprits for innocent deaths to bystanders must be pinned on the first responder superheroes, not the actual criminal elements creating and directing the terror.

The film’s premise is that Captain America, Iron Man and their fellow crime-fighters must be controlled and regulated by governments through the United Nations. Really? If only fighting evil were so easy. So clean and neat. Where zero collateral damage is not just strived for, but demanded. Here, deciding whether to side with that lunacy pact or not resides Steve Rogers’ “Captain America” (Chris Evans) and Tony Starks’ “Iron Man” (Robert Downey Jr.). A disagreement between the two becomes uncivil, barely passing as plausible—but vastly more entertaining than DC Comics’ disaster “Batman v. Superman” two months ago.

Captain America: Civil War” is not the best Marvel Comics film in the collection. In fact, it’s not even the best from Marvel so far in 2016 (read: “Deadpool”). But this movie is still worth checking out. Be prepared, however, for a meeker, less charismatic and fun Iron Man.

Shiny new Marvel toys appear along with a couple of more recent superhero rollouts, combining to steal this movie with impeccable comedic timing.  Action scenes pump much-needed life into this comic book chapter.

After the slow, drawn out and misguided political plot unfolds, this Avenger reunion finally picks up speed, spider webs and humor in its final hour.  Be sure to stay a full 10 minutes after to enjoy two story-related continuation scenes during the credits.

Grade: B

“Captain America: Civil War” is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of violence, action and mayhem.  Its running time is 2 hours and 26 minutes.

 

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My reaction to ‘Captain America: Civil War’

Marvel's Captain America: Civil War L to R: Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), and Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) Photo Credit: Film Frame © Marvel 2016

Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War.  to R: Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), and Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan).© Marvel 2016. Photo Credit: Film Frame

Not the best Marvel film in the collection…not even the best Marvel so far in 2016 (see: “Deadpool“).

After a slow, much too drawn out and politicized adult plot unfolds, this Avenger reunion finally picks up speed, spider webs and humor in the final hour.  “Captain America: Civil War” is worth checking out, but be prepared for a meeker, less charismatic and fun Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr).  Shiny new Marvel toys, along with a couple of more recent hero rollouts, steal this movie.  Action scenes (particularly the airport scene above) pump much-needed life into this comic chapter.

Be sure to stay a full 10 minutes after to enjoy two story-related continuation scenes during the credits.

Full movie review to come.

**

 

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Coming Soon – ‘The Shallows’

A bikini-clad woman, (Blake Lively) with a lot on her mind, escapes to a secluded beach location where only a couple of fellow surfers pose as chum to bloodied waters.  Part “Jaws”, part “The Jericho Mile” with small portions of “Cast Away” thrown in, “The Shallows” looks passable.  Not as good as Lively, but good enough?

Currently unrated (expect R), “The Shallows” hits theaters on June 29.

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Movie Review – ‘A Hologram for the King’

“Similar to the hologram virtual world concept itself, this movie’s plot never really materializes, nor feels reliable and trustworthy.  More like an illusion, “A Hologram for the King” has no clear point to make or message for viewers to hold onto going forward.”

Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

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Each high-caliber professional has a misstep or two along their climb to success.  Even Michael Jordan, the 14-time NBA All-Star who never went scoreless during his 1,251 professional games, didn’t put up double-digit numbers every night.  On thirteen occasions, “Air Jordan” scored fewer than 10 points during an NBA game, twice recording only a single bucket.  So, if Tom Hanks’ latest film seems out of character and bland for North America’s fourth highest-grossing actor of all-time, so be it.  Mr. Hanks will bounce back.  Guaranteed.

“A Hologram for the King” takes Hanks’ to Saudi Arabia as corporate salesman Alan Clay from Boston to pitch the latest breakthrough technology in long-distance communications.  Clay, we soon learn, is down on his luck following a strained divorce, losing his house and having his boss consistently needle him to close this massive hologram deal in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The movie’s single-largest blemish is its overall believability.  A slow pace throughout allows viewers enough time to add up Hanks’ constant distractions away from the main plot…the numerous awkward chair-breaking moments, a hypocritical relationship with his taxicab driver and tenuous personal dealings with a Danish business woman.  Each of these subplots created but never fully explored…just tossed out to mark time and misdirect movie-goers.

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The implausible meter, however, gets pegged when a female Saudi doctor, in the midst of her own divorce, seduces Hanks at her swank oceanfront estate. Perhaps the film’s sensational camerawork and Muslim customs should’ve further examined those public execution plazas, noting the women and wives stoned to death for violating far lesser Saudi crimes.  The courtship between Hanks and his doctor feels contrived and comes across as another just diversion utilized for the sole purpose of ending the business side of the film’s main story.

Similar to the hologram virtual world concept itself, this movie’s plot never really materializes, nor feels reliable and trustworthy.  More like an illusion, “A Hologram for the King” has no clear point to make or message for viewers to hold onto going forward.  It does an admirable job pointing out the Kingdom’s reliance on Third Country Nationals, the Saudi’s lack of deference to firm schedules and the vast remoteness experienced in the Middle East.  But, despite above-average casting and acting, the film’s aura doesn’t score as a typical Tom Hanks feature.  I guess even Tom Hanks is susceptible to an off-night at the movies.  Like one NBA legend in particular.

Grade: C

“A Hologram for the King” is rated R for some sexuality and nudity, language and brief drug use.  Its running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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Sneak Peek: ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’

“★★★★★!”  “One of this year’s best stories!”  “An extraordinary film for the eyes and ears!”

Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

This summer’s potential source of “Oscar talk” is a movie set during the 1940s.  In what looks to be her best performance in years, Meryl Streep stars as a legendary New York heiress and socialite obsessed with her dream of becoming a great singer.

An electrifying story of love, perseverance and imagination abounds in this true story.

Florence-Foster-Jenkins-640x400“Florence Foster Jenkins” is a momentous film achievement by Academy Award-nominated Best Director Stephen Frears (for 2006’s “The Queen”).  Most viewers will remember Frears’ well-received 2013 masterpiece “Philomena”, which was nominated for an Oscar in four categories–including Best Picture.

“Florence Foster Jenkins” is a compassionate story about endless love and endearing support.  As husband and manager, Hugh Grant’s St. Clair Bayfield character is both protector and tempered watch dog.  His greatest challenge, a 1944 public performance by his beloved Florence in Carnegie Hall, weighs as heavily on his heart and mind as it does moviegoers.

“Florence Foster Jenkins” hits theaters on August 12th.

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Coming Soon – ‘Clown’

A father puts on a cursed clown costume at his 6-year son’s birthday. Worst possible scenario ensues.

Not exactly Bozo the Clown, huh.  A 2014 film released in Italy last November, “Clown” is a Canadian-American collaboration horror movie.  Frowny the Clown is played by Eli Roth (who also produced this creeper).  Jon Watts, who directs next year’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” for Marvel, took the helm on “Clown”.

The Weinstein Company purchased this horror flick last year to scare more people between “The Walking Dead” seasons. Good call.

“Clown” debuts in the U.S. on June 17th.

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