Movie Reviews: Roman J. Israel, Esq

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What is an esquire?

Either google the term if you have zero patience, or watch how Denzel Washington delivers an answer as Roman J. Israel, Esq, a man with a crisis of conscience.

This is a common theme in many adult films. I personally like George Clooney in Michael Clayton as he explores a similar theme, also in the legal world. Maybe this is why we don’t predominantly like attorneys. They are expensive, shallow, and the nature of their work treat their clients as dollar signs. This theme runs deep through the film as Denzel’s character has to weigh a life of servitude for the greater good, or giving in to the monetary demons on his shoulders.

Choices are made, and you can probably guess the arc. If you watched Nightcrawler, an excellent film also by Dan Gilroy (who also saved Rogue One in reshoots), you’ll know there is a new master in Hollywood. Gilroy understands pacing, character arcs, and how to deliver an ending against a narrative.

People, understandably, hope for some Hollywood type ending. In legal dramas, this often culminates in some victorious legal decision. But the story is often more about the case or criminal. A film directed by Dan Gilroy is always about someone’s journey, the decision they have to make, and the consequences of their actions. Watch Nightcrawler, the end of Rogue One, and Roman J. Esquire and compare.

I read a few other reviews, mostly centering on Denzel getting nominated for an Oscar again, but they hoped for more. Others called the film weird.

I thought it was tremendous masterwork done by a storyteller. I look forward to the next decade of Dan Gilroy films. They have you thinking afterward, “what was that about?” In current cinema, there are only a few other directors I hold in this regard: Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, and Nicholas Winding Refn. I don’t exactly have to love all of their films, but I love the artistry they display in a commercialized business.

I think this is Denzel’s best work in many years. He’s plays basically the same character in most of his films, likely due to director/producer decisions, so that people know exactly what they are paying for. He is kind of crusty, kind of tough, and usually to the point. Roman J. Israel is crusty, however isn’t tough, is kind of chicken, stammers on tangents and lacks social manners.

And what else. Colin Farrell. That Colin Farrell. The one who was In Bruges, not the one in SWAT. The one pushing himself in The Lobster, not the one evading capture in Total Recall. The one who dabbles in indie films with exploratory storytelling. Not the one looking for the big payday. The character actor. A good character actor.

Dan Gilroy, please please please keep the films coming. I know $11 million isn’t exactly the box office producers want, but film as an art form needs more stories like this, and adults need to support it in the future, otherwise over-saturation of sequels/prequels/animation/reboots/comic stories will somehow get worse. Film itself is going through a similar crisis of conscience. There is a tradeoff in this industry, like many others (like Facebook filtering the fake paid posts, but not all, or Google disabling fake news accounts, but still allowing Tai Lopez to pump Bitcoin courses to dumb millennials), which I now ponder the morning after. Movie reviewers are not exactly a philosophical bunch, so I understand how most were quick to type up their reviews and few actually thought about the art. I can only imagine them attending a new art exhibit.

Movie Rating: 9.5/10 Armenian Rewards

 

 

Movie Reviews: The Nice Guys

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The Nice Guys directed by Shane Black

The movie was watched after 4 beers and a belly full of food on a Friday night after a long week of work. I was tired and just wanted to zone out for a bit and watch something new. I had seen the previews and didn’t quite get the hijinks between the two main characters. One is a little too tough and gruff and the other reaches deep in the ambitious underachiever trope.

The first fifteen minutes confirmed by suspicions, however, somehow, someway, the movie elevated itself out of trope-dom and actually was smart, well made, with a unique plot that had me actually wanting to see more.

The buddy cop or buddy detective plot has been done in so many ways that it is very difficult for something to really be considered “new.” Part of my point of view was inhibited by a little alcohol, yes, but it still takes a ton to really surprise me nowadays.

With this film, I was surprised. I had little idea what direction the movie was going once Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling linked up.

Then, there was the Matt Bomar introduction. I laughed my ass off for a good 30 seconds at the scene. You can read my past movie reviews; I don’t think I’ve ever written that in a review for any film so far, even comedies. This is because when the delivery is a surprise, and people don’t expect it coming, the scene is absolutely nailed. Shane Black has a knack for writing dialogue, and the screenplay shows his talents off. The interplay between Crowe and Gosling grows with each scene so much that even Kim Basinger can’t torpedo the movie.

There is action.

There is nudity.

There is partying.

There are gunfights.

There are comedic lines.

There are subdued comical reactions.

There was a kick-ass villain.

The ultimate compliment I can for a movie is for me (the one who hates sequels/reboots/requels/reimaginings/prequels/tv adaptations) to say I want to watch a sequel.

Let’s hope for a “The Nice Guys II” by 2019.

Movie Rating: 8.5/10

 

Movie Reviews: Hail, Caeser

hail-cesar.jpgHail, Caeser directed by the Coen Brothers

There are good Coen Brothers movies and annoying Coen Brother movies. In a rare feat, some manage to step toes in both categories.

Hail, Caeser has it’s ass squarely in the annoying category.

The previews pretty much sum up the plot. George Clooney is a star actor who is abducted in a convolutedly boring plot that is more a setup for visuals rather than entertainment, humor, or intrigue. In many ways, it reminded me of Burn After Reading and a little of Barton Fink (without the cerebral ending).

Like with many Coen Brother films today, critics and reviewers are too afraid to give their true opinion. Even if utterly confused and bored at spending an entire movie trying to read between hidden meaning and allegorical double takes, they give it a pass.

There a bunch of dancing from Channing Tatum (huge stretch).

A bunch of confused looks from George Clooney (huge stretch).

Francis McDormand speaks fast and is neurotic (huge stretch).

Scarlett Johansson plays it sultry with an accent (huge stretch).

Jonah Hill plays it boring and straight (Huuuuuge stretch).

And Josh Brolin essentially plays the same character that he did in Inherent Vice. (Big Whoop).

The big mystery was seeing how the new Han Solo acted (why oh why would they make a damn original prequel?????) He was ok.

I went into the film with little hopes, and left thankful they haven’t gone back to make a sequel to Fargo, The Big Lebowski, or Raising Arizona, and for that, Hail the Coen Brothers.

Movie Rating: 4 out of 10 Russian Submarines

Movie Reviews: Now You See Me 2

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Now You See Me 2 directed by Jon Chu

aka “Now You Can See the Casting Change”

What happens when Hollywood has an unexpected surprise hit with a relatively low budget cast?

Sequels happen.

What happens when the token hot girl doesn’t agree (likely over compensation) to appear in the sequel?

Hello Lizzy Caplan.

This seemed like the first 10 minutes was focused explaining this in some awfully written dialogue as if the audience needed to know the play by play. We’ve seen this plot device at the beginning of Karate Kid Part II and practically any sequel where there are casting issues. We have had 3 different Hulks in films, and Captain America was first part of the Fantastic Four. In Speed 2, Sandra had to take a cruise with someone else because “things simply didn’t work out.”

I call this cinematic weak-sauce.

Here is a hint Hollywood. Movie-goers can be smart too. They go to movies not because it is believable canon. (They put up with bumbling and unwatchable Finn in the new Star Wars) They want escapism, or want to fit in with friends, or take a date there, or have to watch over their kids. Nobody needs so much intro to explain why Robin William’s voice isn’t in The Return of Jafar. Reminding them someone isn’t there has the opposite effect!

I thought it would be a throwaway line. Nope. The first act is essentially trying painstakingly to make Lizzy Caplan to be likable by giving her all the clever lines and reactions.

They simply should have renamed the movie “Now Can You Please Like Her?”

On to the plot.

Nonsensical plot to try and link it back to the first one and come up with reasons for cast to return. The fun and cleverness and discovery in the first film is completely lost in this plot. It isn’t as if the first film was a masterpiece, but I hoped that with confidence in a franchise, and a larger budget, they could be bolder and expand what was started.

So what’s the plan for the third one? Gonna bring back Michael Caine once again?

On to the main question at hand; Did I like Lizzy Caplan?

Yes, but not for any reasons to do with the film.

Movie Rating: 3 Card Monty’s out of 10.