Friday, 21 October 2016

'Keeping Up With The Joneses' Review (2016): They're Boring

Read A Book: Look it's not horrible, but really just don't waste your time. 
I don't know what it is but spy comedies never seem to do it for me. I think on the face of it, movies making fun of spies, or just playing with the espionage genre could be great. There are plenty of tropes to make fun of, but I've never really seen it done well. I haven't seen last years 'Spy' so maybe that would tickle my fancy, but by and large, making light of spy movies has never really been watchable. Any time I see Mike Meyers say groovy I want to hurl something at the screen.

Who doesn't want to punch those fake teeth to the floor?
That's not much different with this film, although less throwing, more groaning. Zach Galifianakis can’t seem to catch a break these days. I haven’t seen ‘Masterminds’ myself, but from what I’m hearing, it’s not much better than the movie this review is focused on ‘Keeping Up With The Joneses’. Both feature Zach playing everyday characters who get thrust into a life of dangerous adventure. This is the one where he discovers his neighbours are spies, and helps them out with their spying.

If you’re thinking ‘Why would spies need Zach’s help, he’s really not equipped for that kind of job” you’d be right, and the movie doesn’t seem to care. Many times I was burdened by questions like that, only for the movie to slap me across the face, punishing me for daring to take it so seriously. Silly me.

Get it together Damian, you're a professional for God's sake.
Which granted is fair. It’s a comedy with a wacky premise. It doesn’t exactly have to be grounded in realism if it’s funny. It’s not funny. In fact, it’s really dull. The main base of the humour is comparing the ho hum life of soccer moms and dads to the devilishly accomplished & attractive couple of Gal Gadot and Jon Hamm as the Joneses, new neighbours who move in to spy on Galifianakis and his fellow co workers. Those jokes get old very fast.

So it’s not very believable, and it’s not very funny. Are the characters any good? Well, actually, that’s probably the only thing the movie has going for it. There’s a sense of who each character is, and the cast does their best to bring that out. It’s just when the situations they’re in feel so illogical and unfunny, it doesn’t really matter. I know they're chickens, but I don't care why or how they cross the road.

As aimless as this movie.
I feel like I'm being too hard on a movie that's really harmless. I don't hate it at all, I just can't recommend it. It's what the rating 'Read A Book' was made for. It just plainly is, you should be reading a book rather than watching this movie. It is a waste of your precious time, something I considered walking out of simply due to feeling done with it. I'd seen everything the movie had to offer in the first 20 minutes.

All in all, this movie is just sort of nothing. It’s not going to make you angry that it exists, but it’s not gonna make you happy either. It simply occupies space and time but leaves no real effect on you. A month from now I’ll remember it as that movie that came out a couple years ago. That’s how distant it’ll be in my mind.

Rating: Read A Book.

Once again this is a movie that I don't hate, but really isn't very good. Here's a podcast I did about movies, I really do hate.

'The Accountant' Review (2016): Miscalculated.

Low Half Price: Problems keep it from being an outright recommendation, but I still had a good time with it
With a name like ‘The Accountant’, it’s hard to imagine anything but hyper aggressive keyboard clacking, horn rimmed glasses, and a job that few like. While Ben Affleck’s character in this film is an actual accountant, his job description entails more than the occasional audit, because more often than not he’s seen beating, breaking and blasting anyone who threatens him. I’d imagine a potential tagline was: Instead of crunching numbers, he’s crunching skulls.

It's a Colt 3.14. Made by Smith & Pythagoras. 
He’s dangerous because, he’s an accountant for dangerous people. Mob bosses and drug cartel leaders across the world go to him to cook their books. That’s a unique concept in and of itself, but the film has more to offer. The accountant has a high functioning brand of autism, with a difficulty socializing, but a narrow focus that allows him to work with numbers quickly. Order and organization are his Gods.

While this tends to be the “autism as a superpower” we see so often in shows like ‘Sherlock’, I felt it was earned. Mostly because you get a sense of the accountant’s development through a handful of flashbacks. Flashbacks that make this film feel even more Batman-esque than it’s star. The movie made me understand as much as I could about this character, since it was difficult for me to relate to his situation. Ben Affleck does more with less, captivating in a role that denies him the luxury of broad expression.

However as engaging as the accountant himself is, the film is challenging to say the least. Initially, following the tale of an accountant for criminals, who happens to be on the autism spectrum is enough. More than enough some would say. The film disagrees, and throws in storylines and character details that needlessly convolute the narrative. There are moments where a further layer of the film is revealed, and you immediately wish it had remained concealed. Hidden away forever. Preserving the less is more approach the movie had so confidently set up.

Lock it away in the vault of story breaking plot elements.
The film's brightest spark is in its cast. Each member brings their A-game, but sadly, you can't help but feel it's for naught. What good is a well crafted performance, if the role it's for feels contrived. These characters are overshadowed by their backstories, which makes it difficult to care for them, since they don't even feel real.

‘The Accountant’ is a movie I struggle with. I enjoyed it, but I can clearly see its faults. Its failures make its successes less impactful. It hits emotional beats, and provides really interesting action, but it gives you soap opera storytelling you’d see in a bad comic book movie. All that being said, I suppose I could say this is a movie you should see at a discount, with lowered expectations.

Rating: Low Half Price

I wanted to love this movie, but I ended up being very so so about it. Here's a podcast I did about the other emotion that movies give me sometimes, boiling hatred.

'Mechanic: Resurrection' (2016) Review by Naadir Joseph

Read A Book: The action movie that should not have been made
The classic action film that was at a high during the 80s and 90s faded when audiences began to desire complex storylines with a relatable and intriguing villain. Jason Statham’s action movies were on the rise in the new age, offering something different like the first ‘Transporter’ movie; ‘The Mechanic: Resurrection’ was a film very much like the ones of old.

Sprinkle a few fights, typical of a Statham movie, and the same plot of a normal action movie and you get this movie. I found myself in very few waking moments as it never offered me anything really to bite into in terms of story. Enter ‘Bishop,’ an extraordinary hitman that is in hiding then found by someone who wants specific people killed. Because ‘Bishop’ doesn’t have much of a weakness to force him to do anything, the movie gives him one. Enter Jessica Alba.

Through the movie, ‘Bishop’ shows off his skills as this amazing hitman while dealing with an issue he chose to put himself into. I feel like this kind of movie has been done before and in my memory, the movie ‘Hitman’ featuring Timothy Oliphant based on the video game stands out. Writers always feel like they should ground these kind of characters and it bothers me. I would much love to watch ‘Agent 47’ or ‘Bishop’ doing what they do best and turn the movie into espionage regarding their agencies or a higher up where people with similar skills would be much more difficult to take out, but I digress.

This movie was difficult to digest as it has been done before and rarely offered anything new. The reason why an action packed series like ‘The Fast and the Furious’ franchise does so well is the absurdity, it’s your connectivity and one should never forget, family! This film tries to do absurdity, but not too much. I do think that this sequel shouldn’t have been made as the first was great to watch, but the typical situation nowadays is to extend and prolong worlds and milk money out of the consumer.

If they had a different crack at it, I would have preferred a much more in depth view at the world that this character inhabits – the mythology of a hitman of his stature, different contacts and the amazing skills. So, therefore, I would say if you’re an action junkie, you’ll probably watch this anyway and if you’re not that hooked on action, don’t watch it. There is not much story here.

Rating: Read A Book

Sunday, 9 October 2016

'Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children' Review by Naadir Joseph

Catch It On CableA children's story filled with peculiar sequences and a few enjoyable moments.
Cue the long credits at the start of the film and then the movie directed by Tim Burton truly begins. ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,’ is a movie based on the novel by Ransom Riggs of the same name. Now, I have the odd issue with the way people judge movies based on literature and I feel that it should first and foremost be judged as a film. Also, I have not read the books, so it is also the only way I can judge the movie.

It tells the story of children born with weird powers that live in a home existing within a time loop. The home is headed by ‘Miss Peregrine’ played by Eva Green who delivers a performance much like her other characters in recent years with a more whimsical nature. Essentially, it is the ‘X-Men’ with a female ‘Professor X’ and less children.

Asa Butterfield’s character, ‘Jake,’ is led into this world as a child by his grandfather played by Terence Stamp. You follow his journey and learn how the children have been hunted by a man who believes that they shouldn’t hide in the shadows the way they do. ‘Barron’ is the man’s name played by Samuel L. Jackson and he leads a group that hunts the children in order to eat their eyes and regain their human form after an experiment which he had done to himself and his comrades went terribly wrong.

When I watched the movie, a few things I found quite annoying, especially the father of ‘Jake’ played by Chris O’Dowd. He would probably be given the most neglectful dad award for not listening to his son or actually not trying to be a father. I found the villain's objective quite clear, and his obstacles were only there because he chose for it to be there.

The idea of living in a time loop was great. Firstly, you live in a loop of time which is reset by the head of that household. So, you would think that it’s a bubble of time that they live in, but in fact, it is more like a time gate that you jump back in time and can still alter time – this is a unique thing they leave until the end so there’s a way for it to have a happy ending instead of a realistic ending that would have still sufficed. With this idea, one would probably think why not just go back in time with an existing time loop to kill Barron earlier and avoid other deaths, but I guess none of them thought of that.

All in all, the film I found was quite enjoyable with inconsistencies that annoyed me as I thought about it after, but it is your typical children’s movie that they would enjoy, and would teach them that no matter how peculiar you are, there’s always a place for you. I find it difficult to think another director would have made this strange movie, as it would have maybe been darker or more comedic. I feel that this movie is a normal Tim Burton movie and I’m not the biggest Tim Burton fan.

It doesn’t do any grand new things, the visuals are strange in Tim Burton fashion and you somehow find a small part of yourself enjoying it regardless of the devices used just for plot. You get a weird movie with some bits of flat acting and no real emotion or conflict, but it creeps into you just a little.

Rating: Catch It On Cable.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

'Deepwater Horizon' Review: Disaster Done Right

Big Screen Watch: Realism replaces fantasy in this dramatization, making it a movie worth your time.
Ripped from the headlines of the bygone days of 2010, ‘Deepwater Horizon’ reimagines the tragic events of April 20, 2010, in which the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, causing the deaths of 11 crewmen and the worst oil spill in US history. The film focuses on the actual explosion itself, merely mentioning the 87 days of fallout that occurred as a result. Not to be confused with a more recent disaster resulting in countless days of toxic raw material being spewed into the environment, poisoning it and slowly killing life in it.

479 days and counting.
The film stars Mark Wahlberg as ‘Mike Williams’, the Chief Engineer Technician on the oil rig. At times Mike veers into action hero territory, making the movie feel very ‘Die Hard On an Oil Rig’. Thankfully though, director Peter Berg and company recognize the importance of being earnest, in telling the story of men and women whose lives are put at risk, yet seen as expendable through irresponsible corporate practices.

At the core of it, the movie brings across that message well, and does so without the dramatic fantasy that typically accompanies movies like this. While I have no doubt that some events in the film were exaggerated, it didn’t feel that way. Everything felt as though it could have actually happened that day. No character feels unrealistic, which is troubling considering the shoddy practices on display here. I almost wish the cost cutting business men felt shadier, at least that way I could escape reality.

Outlandish villainy is not found in 'Deepwater Horizon', which is honestly scarier.
The cast of course helps this. It isn’t a movie that highlights any major role, as even Wahlberg’s character isn’t too developed. He has a family he’s itching to see again, but nothing beyond that. No, this is a film that wants to show you the events as you may not have visualized them before. That said, performances by Kurt Russell and John Malkovich as opposing figureheads make the movie feel lived in, with strong sense of conviction. Then again, actors like those could probably do a movie like this in their sleep.

John Malkovich is actually asleep in this poster. He's that good.
Perhaps what ‘Deepwater Horizon’ does best is its ability to coherently bring across tension. Even when the dialogue is muddled by technical jargon, you still get a sense of the looming presence of danger felt by the characters. Even so, said jargon only aids the films feeling of authenticity, which is always a plus in movies based on real events.

There are two moments I am almost certain did not exist in reality. Firstly, Mike compares operating an oil rig to sticking his arm in an underwater cave and hoping a catfish chomps down on it. He emphasizes that hope isn't a tactic that can replace being prepared, since his arm is always covered in gear for the bite of the catfish. Second, after the oil rig explodes, a seagull charges into a nearby ship after being covered in oil, and almost immediately asphyxiates, briefly noting the after effects that the ongoing oil spill had on the environment. The dramatic relevance of these scenes were crafted well, and felt like they had purpose, not too out of place to feel disingenuous.

For what cannot have been an easy film to direct, everything in ‘Deepwater Horizon’ feels thought out. The set was painstakingly designed to emulate the now destroyed oil rig. Touches like that go a long way in making you feel like justice was done to the story it had to tell.

Rating: Big Screen Watch.

Thanks for reading and if you liked this review, check out a podcast I host where we discussed disaster movies here:

'Queen of Katwe' Review: Captivating and Conscious

Big Screen Watch: Heartfelt and brutal, the inspiring story of the Queen of Katwe is definitely worth the ticket.
At the beginning of ‘Queen of Katwe’, my worst fears about the film seemed to have become a reality. This story of a Ugandan girl turned international chess champion had been translated into a watered down feel good Disney movie. One with no real stakes and everything tied up in a happy ending.

However as the movie continues, I realized it was really my highest hopes coming to pass. ‘Queen of Katwe’ definitely has moments of predictability, but shy away from the truly soul shattering content it does not. As Phiona Mutesi hones her impressive skills at chess, she faces the struggle of her day to day life in poverty, hoping one day to escape it. It's a great escape really.

Steve McQueen had a bike, Phiona had a chess board. You make do with what you get. 
That struggle is palpable in the film. Phiona’s family barely gets by with the turmoil life throws their way. They get caught in bad situation after situation with seemingly no way out. The amount of pressure that puts on a young person is immeasurable. Trying to muster up hope within yourself that you can drastically change your entire life, and the way you live, is probably the most impossible thing she does in this film.

All of that comes across with first time actress Madina Nalwanga, who plays Phiona. As far as acting debuts go, you could do worse than the starring role in a film with Lupita N’yongo and David Oyelowo. Madina is a part of a cast that despite their huge star power completely immerse you in the film. You understand and feel what their characters are going through, which works for the big emotional moments, and the small light hearted ones. No I'm not crying there was just something in my eye at the theatre. 

'Queen of Katwe' got me like.
Queen of Katwe’s approach to the story is as educational as it is emotional though, as it provides a snapshot of the struggle of womanhood in Phiona’s home. From the unstable path of Phiona’s sister with a man who takes advantage of her in her youth, to the way her mother considers finding a man to pay for her company just so she can get by. Of all the harsh realities this movie portrays, this was perhaps the most troubling, since it only seemed something that happened so regularly to so many persons.

‘Queen of Katwe’ defied my expectations and is a wonderful film to see with your family, but doesn’t play it safe like so many family films do. 

Rating: Big Screen Watch

Thanks for reading and if you liked this, check out a podcast I hosted about biopics: