by xelaperson | May 20, 2016 | Movie Reviews
By: Kevin Jordan
Good, but you missed a spot.
Imagine you are on a flight from Denver to Los Angeles. As flights go, it’s fairly eventful – there’s some pretty solid turbulence, projectile vomiting, a spirited game of poker over the new entertainment system on the plane, and a flight attendant accidentally leaving the comm. system on while divulging personal issues to her coworker. In other words, you are entertained for the duration of the flight. However, unbeknownst to you or any other passenger, the pilot has reversed course and when you land back in Denver you ask the pilot “what gives?” and he simply responds with “things never change.” Welcome to Shane Black’s latest movie – The Nice Guys.
(If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m going to SPOILER the end of this movie because if I don’t my whole first paragraph will make no sense. But I’ll do it at the end of this review and I’ll even warn you again.)
The Nice Guys is a mystery/action movie featuring a bunch of people looking for a girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley). Amelia has information relating to a new catalytic converter that releases much more pollution than automakers are willing to admit. She wants to release the information and explains that the best way to do this is by making a porn film with an actual plot (yes, this is the actual plot of The Nice Guys). Unfortunately, the people Amelia wants to expose are killing everyone involved with making the film and Amelia is the only one left. And, for some reason, the movie takes place in 1977. My best guess at that reason is Black found a great deal on bulk disco-era clothing through Craig’s List.
Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) are our main characters, with support from March’s teenaged daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice). Jackson is an enforcer, hired by people to scare/hurt other people to get them to stop a certain behavior. Initially, Jackson is hired by Amelia to get Holland to stop looking for her and Jackson makes good on the contract, hence the arm-cast that Holland sports throughout the film (and in the movie poster). But when Amelia goes missing and a couple of guys try to make Jackson dead (who are also looking for Amelia), Jackson turns to Holland to help find Amelia because Holland is a private investigator. Tagging along on the investigation and consequential shenanigans, Holly serves as a conscience and damsel-in-distress to the two men. Toss in some car chases, shooting, comic relief, and boobies and we’ve got ourselves a good old-fashioned, throwback action flick. Don’t believe me? The porn star’s name is Misty Mountains. Now you believe me.
Black’s strength as a director and writer is his ability to weave action in with comedy (of course, that’s ignoring the mess he made of Ironman 3). Until now, Gosling has always come off us “meh” to me, but Black coaxed a top-notch performance out of Gosling that I won’t soon forget. He plays perfectly into the weaselly persona we tend to associate with sleazy private dicks and punctuates it with a couple blood-curdling screams that seem like they should be coming from his daughter. He’s the perfect contrast to the overweight tough guy that Crowe presents, though who is also a bit of a sleazebag. I’m really not sure why the title refers to them as the Nice Guys, ironic or otherwise, but we do see their hearts peeking out every now and then and the narrative puts them on the “good guy” side of the plot.
As the movie rolled on, I found myself enjoying it quite a bit. The movie flowed quite well as the plot progressed and everything felt right about the movie. As the movie finished its climax (did you really think I wouldn’t include any sex puns after everything I just told you?), I felt more than satisfied (*rimshot*). But, then the last scene happened and Holland utters the following line (SPOILER! SPOILER!) – “they didn’t have enough evidence to pursue charges, so they’re going to get away with it.” Yes, you just landed back in Denver and everything that happened in the movie (plot-wise) was pointless. In other words, the villain of our story – who is also a senior member of the Department of Justice (Kim Basinger), a.k.a. a lawyer – didn’t know how evidence works and decided to kill a bunch of people, including her daughter, Amelia (yes, that Amelia), to keep the evidence (the porno) from getting out, even though that evidence wasn’t enough to convict her. Yeah – I KNOW! What’s maddening is the fix for that is so elementary – change Holland’s line to “the film was destroyed, so they’re going to get away with it.” How did they miss that?
My friend said he liked the ending because he thought the entire theme of the film was that things never change and, while I agree with that, my tiny little fix keeps that theme intact without rendering the villain’s entire motivation, and thus the rest of the film, pointless and making me lose my mind for five minutes. Thankfully, other members of the audience caught it as well, so I’m not just a curmudgeon nitpicking at an otherwise really good film. Or maybe I just want to get out of Denver for a while.
Rating: Ask for one dollar back because things should change dammit.
by xelaperson | May 20, 2016 | Movie Reviews
By: Kevin Jordan
Do it for the children.
I have a rule against reviewing animated movies for many reasons, chief among them is that I’m not their target audience, children are their target audience. Yes, I may sound like a child sometimes, but that’s beside the point. The following is me interviewing my four-year old son to get his take on the film, including his rating.
Did you like the Angry Birds movie?
What did you like?
I liked the shooting.
I like the shoot, how the Angry Birds break the buildings.
What was your favorite bird?
The red one.
What did you not like about the movie?
I didn’t like the pig stealing the eggs.
What was the funniest part of the movie?
Yellow did this. [crawls along floor and does a random yoga pose]
How did you like how the birds were dressed?
Because I liked it.
How did you like the costumes?
How did you like the eagle?
Where does the eagle live?
Where DOES the eagle live?
Uh, in his cave.
Do you think he should have lived with the other birds?
[silence. I think he’s abstaining.]
Did you think the 3D was good? With the glasses?
Did you like the glasses?
How would you rate Bomb the bird’s performance?
[farts, then giggles]
How did you like the birds’ performances?
Because I… [unintelligible as he takes a bite of Frosty]
Can you tell me about the birds?
The birds went on the swing, and the big red bird pushed it all the way and he broke it.
Oh…okay. If you could ask Red a question, what would you ask?
…..Uh…because….[distracted by the TV]
Hey! What would you ask Red?
I want to ask him about a swing.
Do you think that Red learned his lesson? Was red more angry or less angry at the end?
He was more angry.
How did you like going to the theater? What did you like about the theater?
I liked the Skittles.
Would you tell other people that they should go see Angry Birds?
Cuz they want me to go to the movie.
Because they should take YOU to the move?
How many stars would you give the movie?
How many times do you want to watch Angry Birds the movie?
Rating: $26 because I thought it was 26.
by xelaperson | May 13, 2016 | Movie Reviews
By: Kevin Jordan
I miss Jon Stewart.
One of my favorite moments in journalism happened back in 2009 when Jon Stewart took CNBC to task over their irresponsible financial reporting. In short, Stewart accused them of being nothing more than PR lapdogs for big corporations, charged with convincing people to invest their money in those same corporations regardless as to if it was a good investment. The focus became centered on CNBC’s Jim Cramer, host of a stock-tip show called Mad Money (a show which you would be forgiven for thinking was a reality show featuring a cocaine-fueled lunatic rambling about return on investment behind the stage of a travelling carnival). Near the end of the week-plus of Stewart grilling CNBC, Cramer went on The Daily Show and Stewart destroyed him in arguably the best interview in the history of television. If you have not seen it, just Google “Jon Stewart CNBC Jim Cramer” and watch the three or four Daily Show segments comprising the saga. And, you should watch them for two reasons: 1) to remind yourself never to bet your money based on the rantings of some idiot with a buzzer hosting a show owned by a major multinational corporation and (2) the entertainment value is arguably higher than what you will get from watching Money Monster.
(I’ll try to keep the SPOILERS to a minimum, but don’t bet on it.)
Money Monster is essentially the worst case scenario of the Jon Stewart-CNBC-Jim Cramer saga, but if Stewart had strapped a bomb to Cramer’s chest and demanded Cramer explain how AIG could need more than $100 billion dollars of tax payer money to stay afloat. The film literally satirizes Mad Money, replacing Cramer with Lee Gates (George Clooney) and changing the name of the show to Money Monster. Gates doles out barely researched stock tips in between really awkward dancing to kick off the show and speaking with his production director, Patty (Julia Roberts), while taking a crap. No, that’s not a euphemism. …But then maybe it is.
One day, Gates is getting ready to interview the CEO, Walt Camby (Dominic West), of an investment company that managed to lose $800 million due to a supposed computer glitch when his show is interrupted by Kyle (Jack O’Connell), a blue-collar New Yorker who saw his $60 thousand life savings investment reduced to a fraction of that as part of the bigger loss. You see, Kyle forgot rule number one (above) and decided that the best course of action was to take hostage a financial shows’ stage and crew, strap a bomb to Gates’ chest, and shoot at monitors. But, Kyle’s not there to get his money back (which Gates offers out of his own pocket); he’s there to hold Gates and Camby accountable and to explain how they managed to lose the money. If you’re thinking you’ve seen this movie before it’s because you are thinking of The Negotiator, which has the same premise – hostage taker conducts investigation to uncover the truth relating to embezzlement/fraud, hoping to solve the mystery before a police sniper or S.W.A.T. team takes him out. Samuel L. Jackson just made a better hostage taker than O’Connell.
Right away, we know something is amiss because, even before the hostage situation, Gates is informed that nobody knows where Camby is and that his Chief Communications Officer, Diane (Caitriona Balfe), will be filling in for the interview. Once Kyle starts demanding answers, it doesn’t take long for Patty to morph into Woodward and Bernstein and start demanding answers as if she was the Secretary of Defense and not the director of some bullshit faux-financial show on cable TV. While Patty is playing investigative journalist, Kyle is screaming about how the system is rigged, that it’s all one big lie and the audience is left wondering why the movie can’t quite decide what the plot is supposed to be. But, Hollywood isn’t interested in the audience thinking the entire system is rigged (that would include Hollywood) so the movie switches to exposing a shady CEO and assuring the audience that their money really is safe. 2008 is ancient history, we promise.
Aside from a plot that shifts gears in the middle of the movie, it’s actually a pretty entertaining film. There are a couple of fun twists on the standard hostage-crisis resolution scenes (cops wanting to breach, bringing in the hostage taker’s significant other), as well as some hilarity with Gates’ first attempt to resolve the crisis. They even manage to sneak in some dick jokes involving erectile disfunction cream that don’t come off as juvenile (unfortunately, the film forgets about it after the second punchline, missing out on some potential fun in the latter half of the film). I enjoyed the actors as well, though Clooney wasn’t able to quite sell me on his character being as big a douchebag as Jim Cramer. Or even half as big, for that matter. In limited time, Balfe was solid, though her accent couldn’t decide if it was English, Scottish, or Irish throughout the film. Of course, I’ll blame Jodie Foster (director) for this because we know from watching Elysium that Foster doesn’t know the difference between a German and a French accent, let alone those of Britain and Ireland. Also, poor Giancarlo Esposito was given next to nothing to do as the police chief, relegated to occasionally barking commands and yelling at people. I actually think he would have made a better Walt Camby considering his turn as Gus Fring, but I don’t think Foster watched Breaking Bad.
I was able to take along two guests to the screening (rather than the usual one) and one of them did not like the movie. He said it was because he couldn’t accept the idea that they would keep filming live the whole time (Kyle actually demands it) because they could just as easily have faked it (Kyle says he’d know if they faked it because he has a phone, but he never looks at the phone after making the statement). My other guest and I disagreed – we both think they would because we’re cynical and jaded, we remember the O.J. Simpson coverage, and $1 billion in free media coverage just went to the flaming car wreck whose name rhymes with Bonald Frump solely because he was good for ratings. If I was picking one thing that was tough to buy, it was the nonsensical explanation of financial software algorithms (stupidly referred to as “algos” throughout the movie, whose developers were equally-as-stupidly referred to as “quants” – quantitative analysts). Of course, I’m a dork who likes math and I know that roughly 1% of the rest of the audience will catch it as well, so I was fine letting it go – the movie explanation works well enough.
A lot of critics are going to compare this movie with The Big Short, but I don’t think that’s a good comparison. While I haven’t seen The Big Short, I know that it wasn’t designed as a thriller featuring bombs and bullets and bad accents (British and New Yawk). What I do know is that I came away mostly satisfied considering the movie wants us to feel good for a hostage taker and sleazy financial show host.
What I’m really trying to say is that I miss Jon Stewart.
Rating: Ask for a couple of dollars back. You can trust me – I don’t have a buzzer.