Gentlemen Movie Review: Highly Entertaining But Borderlines Offensive

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Nothing is as mesmerizing as a Guy Ritchie movie.

His recipe consists of fast-paced dialogue, a spritz of the black comedy and marinated in metaphors and embellishments of cinematic genius. The movie “Gentlemen” has been marked as Ritchie’s return to his signature cockney crime genres such as Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barriers and it definitely did not disappoint.

Told from the perspective of Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a selfish and conniving private investigator who was hired by newspaper mogul to trail multi-millionaire British expatriate, Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConahey) who owns a marijuana empire, through sheer tyranny, violence, and coercion. Word got out that Pearson is going to retire from his criminal career and plans to liquidate his weed farm to potential buyers including; Jewish – American billionaire, Matthew Berger and British- Chinese mobster, Dry Eye (Henry Golding). However, instead of relaying the information to and cooperating with the newspaper, Fletcher goes to the belly of the beast and decides to blackmail Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), who is the resident’s right-hand man of Mickey Pearson.

With Fletcher being an unreliable narrator, he hopes to exploit Mickey Pearson’s empire and his criminal activities through writing a movie script, called BUSH, which he is planning to sell to Miramax studios if he does not get his money. A very meta-reference about the film within a film, distributed by the said studio.

The movie is entertaining nonetheless, with nonsensical dialogue that borderlines offensive which makes viewers laugh nervously to every unpredictable turn of events. Every actors’ performance in this movie is hilarious and over the top. Hugh Grant who usually is typecast as the polished English gentlemen has been subverted into a grimey, calculating and obnoxious private investigator who has ill-intentions. Hugh Grant completely disappears into the character and leaves slightly amused about the actor/character conceit. The same with Henry Golding, the actor who played Nick Young in Crazy Rich Asians – he turned into a two-faced, arrogant gangster who had the audacity to rip off Pearson.

 Much of the movie itself is a colossal conceit, which says a lot about the title of the film, “The Gentlemen,’ meant to be an ironic nod to the character’s unruly, destructive and violent personalities. Although with the black comedy, there were some distasteful jokes such as Raymond and Coach pronouncing an Asian name as a pseudo – swear word or Jewish billionaire speaking in a ‘stereotypically gay’ way- having a lisp.

After decades of directing films that are huge franchises such as Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur, and more significant projects, Ritchie finally gives his fans want they wanted in the Gentlemen. A chaotically organised, nonsensical movie filled with never-ending hypotheticals and lightning-fast dialogue for two straight hours that makes you want to watch it over and over again.

“Joker” Movie Review: Is It Worth Your Time And Money??

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Screenshot from Warner Bros. Pictures

Rating: 5/5 Stars

DC has been circling the cinematic port-o-john drain for some time now. While blockbuster success stories like “Shazam” and “Wonder Woman” have certainly raised some dollars and new fan bases, all the dark brooding and more intense edge they proclaimed was one of their strongest suits has yet to rear its gritty head…until now. Todd Phillips, director of “The Hangover” films decided to break the mold and attempt a new, daring, disturbing standalone take on one of the most classic and legendary supervillains in comic book history, The Joker. Having zero connections to any previous Joker or Batman incarnation, “Joker” is a wild take of a film that hits all too close to home for many people and finally gives me hope that DC could be good again.

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a failed comedian and a failed human being; slumming through his broken life at a dead-end job as a party clown in Gotham City. As society mistreats and demeans him, along with his own mother (Frances Conroy) and TV hero (Robert De Niro), Arthur’s life spirals out of control and quickly descends to the madness that changes everything he knows and is as a person. Taking on the persona of “The Joker,” Fleck plans to make an impact on society, an impact so bloody and destructive that the people will never forget who he is, what he’s done and what he is about to inspire the people of Gotham to become.

It would be grossly unfair to call “Joker” an origin film. This is a film unlike any you’ve seen before, an alternative take on a comic book character that speaks to people on a level that is painfully all too real in all the best ways imaginable. This take on this iconic character puts people’s empathy and sympathy squarely on the clown prince of crime’s shoulders; something no other cinematic adaption has been able to come close to accomplishing. “Joker” reminds us of the people suffering not only under the discrimination of high society and perceived “norms” of the world, but also the insufficiently funded mental health treatment system that hit this reviewer a lot harder than I expected it would. It’s a depressing representation but accurate as well.

The violence displayed is never glorified or justified here, if anything, the brutality of it shows how heavy murder impacts a person, which is something most films gloss over when you have action sequences piling up off-screen body counts. In a lot of ways, “Joker” feels like a cautionary tale to the world; reminding us how discarded people feel like they have nothing and no one in their lives and are willing to do anything to get people to give a damn about them, even murder. Phoenix truly transforms into the character; physically and emotionally. He presents the Joker in a way that he is neither inherently evil nor is he a tragic hero. He’s written and portrayed not as a character but more as a whole, full living human being and it is truly remarkable.

The film cleverly blurs the line between reality and Arthur’s own personal fantasized reality, putting into question everything he does and everything that happens; constantly keeping you guessing about whose reality is a worse place to live in. Robert De Niro is perfectly cast as a Johnny Carson like talk show host, inspiring and infuriating Arthur throughout the film; leading to a climactic final act that will leave everyone (inside and outside of the film) horrifically shocked. Despite not being connected to any previous DC film or Batman film, I applaud the interwoven minor references to Bruce Wayne and feel they add a bit of framework to Arthur’s journey and feel more like necessary components than shoehorned Easter eggs.

“The Dark Knight” was egregiously ignored at just about every award show and category (save for a posthumous award for Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker), so if there was ever a chance at a comic book movie that deserves to win some golden recognition, it’s “Joker.” This is a film unlike any other film I can think of, a warped take into the human mind that makes you feel a plethora of emotions and perceptions on this highly divisive character. “Joker” is a must-see film, a truly visionary piece of filmmaking that will raise questions and spark conversations for years to come.

“Between Two Ferns” Movie Review: Is It Worth Your Money??

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Screenshot from Netflix

Rating: 2 and ½ out of 4 Stars

As “Saturday Night Live” will tell you, making movies out of skits is not a terribly smart business decision. With the exception of “Wayne’s World,” every film based off a skit like “Night at the Roxbury,” “The Ladies Man” and “Superstar” has been a disastrous failure with both audiences and box office grosses. Will Ferrell’s “Funny or Die” network has accumulated a great deal of talent, sketches, and recognition that they produce high-quality comedy in small, short video bursts that keep them relevant without becoming oversaturated or longwinded. Zach Galifianakis has a show called “Between two ferns,” a short comedic interview series where he awkwardly talks to and insults celebrity stars in this offbeat “Funny or Die” original series.

The film naturally follows Zach wanting more than his dinky little public access interview show currently offers. When a disaster demolishes the set and forces Will Ferrell to rethink Zach’s worth. Ferrell challenges Zack to complete 10 episodes with 10 different celebrities on the road to meet a deadline and if he pulls it off, he’ll receive his own network show. Now Zach is on the road meeting big name celebrities like Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Peter Dinklage and others trying to save his weird and awkward show.

It’s kind of hard to review a movie based on a show like this, truth be told, it’s even weirder to understand HOW someone can even MAKE a movie out of an interview talk show skit like this. Luckily, “Between two ferns: the movie” manages to keep what made it funny and great consistent, plentiful and it doesn’t try and make a weird story or emotional journey to the extent of previous skit based films have attempted. In a lot of ways, the movie plays like you’re watching a bunch of “Between two ferns” episodes back to back; watching one celebrity get awkwardly roasted and then immediately jumping right into the next one. It doesn’t sound like you could fill a movie out of that but it does and it helps that the writing and comedic timing of everyone involved is spot on and is some of the best the “Two ferns” show has ever produced.

The story involving Zach and his crew going around meeting random celebrities in unusual places even helps add to the humor of new, unpredictable situations like one involving John Legend and Chrissy Tiegen and a visit to Peter Dinklage’s house. There is a wraparound story involving a student documentary crew filming and following Zach and his staff around but it doesn’t go anywhere and the same can be said of Zach’s crew. Similar to “Borat,” there are small roles with characters to try to fill in supporting roles in-between the interviews. They don’t really develop the characters to any extent so they serve more like funny commercial breaks before Zack gets weird with the next guest.

It’s hard to cite this as a criticism as I didn’t want or expect anything more than just lots of hilarious interviews with big-name stars, and on that front, they definitely delivered. But as a film with an overall structure, it misses a golden opportunity to explore more humorous chances and scenes with Zach’s crew. Their introduction was hysterical, it felt like an R rated version of “The Office” and if they had more of that quality sprinkled throughout the rest of the crew’s scenes, this film would have been even funnier than it could have imagined.

All in all, “Between two ferns: the movie” actually DOES work as a movie. It’s got a great cast of stars with impeccable comedic delivery and writing; it keeps what works and sticks to its strong suits from start to finish. The cast could have been used a bit more creatively and doubled up the comedic potential but overall, whether your familiar with the skit series or not, this is a comedic gem you don’t want to miss.

“Frozen 2″ Movie Review: Is It Worth Your Money??

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Screenshot from Walt Disney Animation Studios

Rating: 4/5 Stars

I remember seeing “Frozen” for the first time when it first came to theaters. I knew next to nothing about it thanks to very few witnessed advertisements so I went in mostly blind and was very pleased to see how everything played out. It was a beautiful, wonderful, elegantly scored film that felt like a real return to Disney’s classic film quality levels. Imagine my surprise at how quickly the film evolved into a massive phenomenon and then, Disney taking a whopping 6-year gap before finally putting out the sequel. Needless to say, the hype surrounding “Frozen” was obscenely high and left a great deal to live up to for “Frozen 2” to match.

Our story takes us back to Arendelle where Elsa (Idina Menzel) enjoys a peaceful reign as queen until she starts hearing a strange voice calling her to the enchanted forest; outside of the kingdom. Desperate to find answers to the origins of her powers, Elsa ventures into the forest along with her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) and friends Kristoff (Jonathon Gruff) Olaf (Josh Gad) and Sven the reindeer. What the group discovers is a new side to the sister’s parents, the king, and queen, and how their ties to the magic world are far more complicated and dangerous than Ana or Elsa ever imagined.

Topping a juggernaut like the original “Frozen” is no easy task for any sequel, thankfully, “Frozen 2” doesn’t just try to merely copy its original formula and instead treats the film’s story just like it treats its characters: allowing them to age. “Frozen 2” has grown up in every aspect compared to its “sister” movie; everything from the themes, morals, drama, music, and conflicts have all escalated into much bigger and more mature elements that I don’t think anyone was expecting. Gone are the catchy, Disney pop-ish musical numbers that can be easily lip-synched on sing-along CD albums and are now deeper, more emotionally meaningful songs that resonate with personal growth and the changes that come with age. Even Olaf, the goofy lovable snowman, sings about how he hopes he will be wiser when he grows older.

This new approach certainly appeals to the older audience members and it helps that most of the story really focuses on the character’s core motivations and developments. This maybe Elsa’s journey but there are so many other pivotal moments and lives involved here, it feels like everyone’s invested in this and the dangers and environments they encounters measure up accordingly with each bigger moment. The new environment expands the world of “Frozen” with new creatures, new mythology, and lore and it’s gorgeously rendered with spellbindingly beautiful computer effects and graphics. The world has never looked so wondrous before.

Kristen Bell and Indina Menzel truly go above and beyond their emotional capacities. Their bond and ties are truly tested here, pushing them to the limits and still managing epic songs that elevate Bell and Menzel’s talents to new heights. Sadly though, the music never becomes memorable or catchy enough that you’d want to say buy the soundtrack and listen to it over and over again like the first film. The songs are beautiful and expertly scored but just doesn’t make it replay value, with the exception, of course, being Kristoff’s song; a hilarious 80’s power ballad tune that is hilarious to watch and even better to listen to. Its high time Kristoff got a real song this time around.

However, “Frozen 2” suffers from a few flaws; ones that are actually quite identical to the ones afflicting “Ralph Breaks the Internet.” Namely, “Frozen 2” delivers slim to zero new characters. The ones they do introduce are so paper thin and barely on screen, they feel more like cameos than proper roles. Another problem is nothing that new is brought to the table. Much like how “Ralph 2” just explored new levels of the same relationship we knew about before, “Frozen 2” gives us a few new neat tidbits about Elsa and her parents but it’s largely the same old story with just a few lessons about growing up. Kristoff’s relationship with Ana is one of the best new expanded storylines they’ve had but even that was handled fumblingly at times.

Overall, “Frozen 2” is a gorgeous, well-matured film that doesn’t try to be another kid’s movie and be something deeper and richer with heart and depth. The lack of new characters is disappointing and the rehashing of similar relationship problems/cues is unfortunate, but all in all, this is a beautiful movie that does take a few risks and tries something more adult-oriented and it works on many levels even if not all the way through every time.

“Countdown” Movie Review: Is It Worth Your Money??

Movie

Screenshot from Movie Coverage

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Movies, as well-intended or crafted as they can be, often rely on simple elements or gimmicks to rack in the audiences and those gimmicks come in all kinds of different styles: big-name actors, clever concepts, gore, special effects, brand recognition; etc. Horror movies have often relied on gimmicks to deliver a monster/ghost story or slasher flick that delivers something unique enough to make people want to see it. Having a movie about a killer phone app like “Countdown” sounds silly, absurd and pretty dumb just on face value alone. However, while this movie isn’t anything truly great it IS something new…it’s just that most people won’t believe it.

Quinn Harris (Elizabeth Lail) an aspiring nurse who meets a patient who informs her there is an app that supposedly tells you exactly how long you have left to live. Naturally, she doesn’t believe the app really work, Quinn’s patient dies and she learns the danger is real and her countdown time says she will die in 3 days. Now she must unravel the secret behind this deadly app, find out where it came from and most importantly, find out how to stop it before her time runs out and she meets her destined fate as another victim to this bizarre phone app.

This is one of the few instances where I come across a movie I know next to nothing about, and by that I mean I saw barely any trailers, clips or even advertisement whatsoever. I was taking a risk on a movie that sounded dead on arrival with such desperate attention-seeking story about a phone app that essentially kills you. However, the more I watched the movie the more I learned this wasn’t anything quite that hokey and that there was actual thought put into the movie’s story; such as establishing rules, mythology and how this app’s functions play out with the characters.

Unlike “The Ring” where everyone who watches a cursed videotape dies, “Countdown” doesn’t automatically give everyone who downloads it a short-lived life clock. Some people download it and say they will live another 40 years, others download it and it says they will die in 24 hours. There is a system and demonic lore to this concept, which is already light years more fleshed out than I expected this movie to ever be. The cast tries everything from exploring phone technicians and even demonic exorcists to free themselves of their rapidly approaching deaths and it provides ample and effective tension to go along with the bone-chilling scares that follow.

The demon figure itself is actually scary and even gave me a few frights here and there. Unfortunately, the cast doesn’t carry enough thought and background padding like the story received. Everyone in here plays dime-a-dozen roles, relying on tired old clichés about whiny siblings, inappropriate male figures and the same old backstory you’ve heard and seen done better a million times. “Countdown” works better as a mystery thriller than a thought-provoking perspective on fate, destiny and changing your future or even as a horror movie sometimes. You’re more interested in learning the ins and outs of this app’s origins and functions than you are the cast it’s terrorizing.

The cast is just too weak and generic. You don’t care who dies or who doesn’t because no one feels like a real person and no one is acting like they are a real person either. The buildup and payoff overall do serve a satisfying enough purpose even when the cast and the film’s flimsy attempt at humor fails at almost every chance it has. While the plot’s material leaves it wide open for sequels, I can’t for the life of me seeing the need to go see another one and feel all that could be said and done here was already over and done with.

Overall, “Countdown” has a bland cast with weakly written characters and average level acting. You don’t care or invest enough to be emotionally involved in their fates. The plot and the overall story behind the killer phone app is more interesting and thought out than expected and in the end, I feel that makes the movie decent enough to give a watch. It may sound dumb but “Countdown” has more brains behind it than I think most people give it credit for.

“Doctor Sleep” Movie Review: Is It Worth Your Money??

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Rating: 4/5 Stars

Of all of Stephen King’s adapted works, none was as impactful and iconic as Stanley Kubrik’s creative approach to “The Shining.” Though heavily different from King’s original source material, Kubrik’s inventive filmmaking style and Jack Nicholson’s unforgettable performance cemented the movie in cinematic history and still holds up to this day. The idea of a sequel (book or film form) sounds like an absurd and impossible task to accomplish, however, Mike Flanagan who had stellar success directing “Oculus,” “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” and Netflix’s “Haunting of Hill House” TV series; proves to be up to the task of adapting King’s spinoff/sequel to “The Shining” entitled “Doctor Sleep.”

Set decades after the horrific events of the Overlook hotel incident, Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) had suffered from alcoholism, depression and horrific nightmares of the ghosts that still haunt him (literally and figuratively). He travels around trying to find purpose in his life and finds a new talent using his “shining” powers helping dying patients in a hospital. He stumbles across a group of beings who siphon the shining off kids as “steam” in order to live forever. When a young girl (Kyliegh Curran) possesses the strongest shining Danny has ever sense, Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) leads the immortals after the girl and now Danny has to use his gifts to save her life and stop the evil before it takes more young lives.

Following Danny’s life, after “The Shining” is not only an interesting story approach, it’s also the most sensible considering how the original film ended. What’s surprisingly satisfying about “Doctor Sleep” is how it crafts its own story and fleshes out its own characters so well that even with the earmarks of “The Shining” being present during its 2 and a half hour running time; it never feels boring or like it’s relying too much on callbacks for its core material. Both Danny and Rose get equal amounts of screen time; alternating back and forth between the two and learning more and more about their lives, their beliefs and how they use their powers for themselves and towards others. Everyone gets a chance to shine (pun intended) and the world and story building feels stronger/better for it.

Ewan McGregor isn’t my first choice for playing an adult Danny Torrance but he clearly proves he was the BEST choice. McGregor beautifully displays the broken, aching misery that someone like Danny would naturally experience considering what happened to him. You feel for his struggle and applaud his noble acts to help others even while struggling to help himself; both of which are presented in raw, intense performances from McGregor throughout the film. Ferguson plays a delightfully charismatic and wicked villain as Rose the Hat. She truly feels like a real life King character brought to life with her mannerisms and twisted motivations. Her group serves as excellent villains and provides a variety of intense and terrifying challenges to our heroes.

The callbacks to “The Shining” mostly work, but at times they do fail to feel like a properly connected sequel should when the film makes the unfortunate mistake of re-creating key scenes from “The Shining” with different actors. Sometimes it’s not really noticeable like with the excellent casting of Carl Lumbly as Dick Hallorahn and Alex Essoe as Wendy Torrance, other times (like Jack Torrance essentially), it’s hard not to cringe a little at the poor imitation. I will say though the film’s climax brings the story full circle back to the Overlook Hotel in a sequence that is chilling, intense, horrific and satisfying on every possible level. I won’t say how everything plays out but I will say that whether you are a fan of the film or the book, this movie’s grand finale will please people all across the board.

Overall, aside from a few weak imitations of key “Shining” scenes, “Doctor Sleep” is a masterfully crafted successor that manages to stand on its own two legs; using its connections to the previous film as winks and clever nods rather than leaning on them like crutches. McGregor and Ferguson are perfectly portrayed, written and developed along with everyone else involved. This is a worthy continuation of King’s story and manages to be its own beast without leeching off the original’s coattails. It’s a lengthy sequel but one that definitely does the books and the film justice and of course, quality.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” Movie Review: Is It Worth Your Money??

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Rating: 1/4 Stars

Much as people balk and groan at the thought of seeing sequels or new installments to decade-old franchises, I love seeing film series I grew up and adored coming back after so many years and continuing a story with a new take. However, many people seem to agree (myself included) that James Cameron’s epic sci-fi series “The Terminator” should have stopped pumping out future films a long, LONG time ago. Many believe “T2: Judgement Day” is the last true and respected Terminator sequel made and everything else sucked afterward (I strongly disagree on “T3: Rise of the Machines” however). Now Cameron is back to produce this latest (and hopefully last) ditch effort to revitalize the franchise with “Terminator: Dark Fate.”

20 years after Judgement delayed was stopped, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) has lost her way and struggles to find a new path now that the world is finally free from the technological terror of Skynet…or is it? In Mexico City, a young girl named Dani (Natalia Reyes) is attacked by a twin pair of deadly terminator machines called Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) who seeks to kill her for something she will do in the future to aid humanity. A mysterious cyborg woman named Grace (Mackenzie Davis) also comes from the future to protect Dani. Now along with a still-spry Sarah Connor and an old T-800 unit (Arnold Schwarzenegger), they must all work together to stop a new dark future from coming and save humanity once again from the threat of machines.

If there ever was a movie franchise that perfectly embodied the “beating the dead horse” metaphor, it’s Terminator. After the last disastrous effort to restart the franchise with a new trilogy of films with “Terminator Genisys”, people were hopeful Cameron’s involvement along with classic stars Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger coming back would mean a return to the film’s quality roots which have been dead and dormant since “T2.” Turns out they were wrong, they were VERY wrong! Ignoring the events of every Terminator movie except the first two, “Dark Fate” is a lazy, weakly cobbled together hot mess that copies tropes, ideas, and clichés from every single previous Terminator movie (including the bad ones).

“Dark Fate” is essentially a poor man’s clean slate that tries to start a new storyline to keep expanding the lore by ripping off every movie that came before it; sacrificing all originality and creativity. The first 5 minutes of the movie is the most shocking and infuriating part of the entire film and if you’re anything like me, it’ll be impossible to really get into the rest of the movie after seeing it. This film doesn’t feel like a worthy successor to any of the previous Terminator movies; it feels more insulting than anything else. For example, Skynet is written out and a new software-based menace called Legion emerges as the new big bad, with Dani as the ‘new’ John Connor and Grace as the ‘new’ T-800 protector role.

The only things that work here are a few action sequences and (unsurprisingly), Hamilton and Arnold back as Sarah Connor and the T-800 unit. Their attitude, awkward chemistry and bad ass images really bring back that nostalgic thrill back to the good old days of quality Terminator movies. They slipped back into their roles seamlessly and have every bit of sharp wit, gravitas and intensity they’ve become immortalized for. Sadly, everyone else falls pitifully short. Dani is a sad substitute for John, having no personality, memorable lines or even much of an impressive future role to play in the new timeline. Mackenzie Davis’s Grace tries her best but suffers from weak writing and weak conceptualization (basically, she’s a knock off of Sam Worthington’s character from “Terminator Salvation”…and she needs insulin shots to survive).

Even the new Terminator robot, Rev-9, offers nothing new and just copies the same powers and abilities the T-000 had in “T2” and the powers of the TX from “T3.” Overall, “Dark Fate” has nothing going for it, even with Cameron, Hamilton, and Arnold all being attached to it. Everything this movie has to offer has been seen and done before and better in the previous Terminator films. The story and characters are insulting, weakly written and prove that the Terminator franchise needs to stay dead and buried and not come back until someone in the absurdly far future knows how to salvage this mess.