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: 500 Days of Summer

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Boy meets girl.

Boy falls in love with girl.

Girl breaks up with Boy.

We’ve seen this all before, but not quite in this non-linear way. Many times, movies are told in a total flashback, where the beginning of the narration is really the end, but that isn’t the case here at all.

We see the highlights and the low points and know mostly one side of the story. It’s ultimately his story, and his journey, so it works, despite being a somewhat sad watch.

The famed “expectations vs reality” scene reflects something we’ve all gone through. Life sometimes doesn’t measure up to what he wanted. Outcomes are not quite achieved. Hope is sometimes lost.

But as long as we get through that dark tunnel, we might find some hope again.

Seasons change, and time heals.

It could be the best Zooey Deschenal film before her move to TV. She plays it as cold and irrational as you’d expect, or as you remembered from your own experiences, when you are not the one.

Movie Rating: 8/10 Shower Curtains

Movie Reviews: Logan Lucky

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If I was to assemble a dream team to rob a Nascar race, what would be my top 3 draft picks?

1)Thomas Crown

2)Danny Ocean

3)The Joker (Dark Knight version)

I understand what happened. Instead of one James Bond, they replaced him with a newer James Bond. Instead of one heart throb, they replaced him with Magic Mike. Instead of one over-the-top villain, they replaced him with Kylo Ren.

I’m sure the movie pitch was something like “Magic Mike plus James Bond plus Star Wars meets Nascar meets Oceans 11 meets Little Miss Sunshine. “Cinematic gold,” the group of producers would exclaim before high fiving each and heading off to their lunch meetings at Nobu.

I saw how the other half steals. To me, it seemed just like how regular criminals steal: with a bad plan. In movies, bad plans are often replaced with overtly ambitious plans executed by underachievers. This is because boring plans by overachievers is too serious. It’s Heat. It’s the opening of The Dark Knight. The protagonist is typically the authority chasing them.

The movie itself is worth a watch. The gimmick is watching Daniel Craig play an American down on his luck. Channing Tatum does a serviceable job in his performance but it was hard to believe Adam Driver was his brother. Part of me thinks the movie would have worked better if Adam Driver was the main POV. The obstacles would have been even more challenging, and maybe with the war backstory there would have been a more clever ending.

Movie Rating: 7/10 John Denver songs.

 

Movie Reviews: Logan

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Logan is the movie everyone wanted to see at the beginning, not the end of the series. There is probably the least amount of special effects in this time than its predecessors that used it extensively in trying to hide poor acting, writing, and directing.

Logan is a adult film. Maybe not the first comic book adult film as many bandwagon fans seem to point out. At the core of the story, it is a character study of one man.

A broken man.

A man with claws. A Weapon X survivor. A man cursed by his healing powers.

He didn’t need to fight some old Samurai or Deadpool on top of a nuclear reactor to show who he was. He simply needed to fight for a reason. Something beyond himself. To become bigger than one character.

Wolverine needed to become Logan.

The film is great. The acting is great, even including the teenagers in the film. Just because it is a comic book movie doesn’t mean it is automatically made for easy translation and worldwide markets for teenagers around the world. Themes can still be dark. Acting can still trump special effects.

Maybe this is the last time we see Wolverine on screen. With Disney buying 20th Century Fox, I see it going two different ways. Either a full character reboot, or a boatload of cash for a couple more with Hugh Jackman.

For me, it will kind of be like Han Solo. There is only one in my book. It takes nearly flawless writing, acting, and directing to make us forget the previous role. The last time this happened for me was Christian Bale supplanting Michael Keaton as Batman. Then, in the sequel, Health Ledger supplanting Jack Nicholson. This was astounding to me. In the J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot, this didn’t quite happen with Chris Pine and Captain Kirk. I’d describe the feeling as a cool rendition of the old man in the Captain’s chair. The movie was still good.

Logan was great. Maybe it’s the last time we see Hugh don the claws.

Maybe he saved the best for last.

Movie Rating: 10/10 Claws

Movie Reviews: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is for folks with an IQ of One

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Directed by Gareth Edwards and Tony Gilroy

It’s not surprising to find why Rogue One needed to pay another director $5 million bucks to swoop in to “save” the film. Simply put, Rogue One is a very PG story that is essentially what you get when the focus is on mindless diversity for the sake of diversity to execute a very basic plot. There isn’t an ethnicity not filled here, almost in a Hollywood way to say the strongest teams is when everyone is different (despite the only asian guy in a galaxy far far away doing martial arts, the leading lady being a spunky white chick, the black guy being crusty and angry, the middle eastern guy being resourceful, etc). As we learned from the last election, people are tired as fuck from getting social engineered by the media and Hollywood that only diverse teams and harnessing everyone’s unique talents that impossible obstacles can be overcome.

I say bullshit.

Go to the majority of high school cafeterias, restaurants, churches, small businesses around the world and you’ll see this simply doesn’t exist in 90% of culture. People tend to stick to people similar to them, unless forced into some sort of draft or military conscription. But we are talking about Rebels here. What rebel group in the history of the world been this diverse? (Study history, because none of these writers/execs do) Usually rebels have narrow sets of ideals. In A New Hope, almost everyone on Yavin was white. Everyone in the Empire was white and spoke like a Brit. I don’t know, maybe everyone different were busy doing the real missions. (And yes, I know, in ROTJ, the rebels even has fish admirals against the white imperialists in the Empire).

I’m not totally against women leading the SW universe, but at this point, it feels forced as fuck. At least Captain Janeway had a purpose as the leader, and was legitimate because she rose up the ranks through hard work. Commander Sisko survived Wolfe 359 and was eventually assigned to Deep Space Nine to oversea a giant wormhole. Neither of them were artificially contrived for their roles because they were the son or daughter of anybody. Why couldn’t she have been just a badass? Maybe the baddest of the bad.

Despite very nostalgic visuals that are cool to see and a story where we know the ultimate ending, the story itself is made for 12 year olds. I guess they know who will buy the video games and see it 3 times over christmas break and will ask for the toys for Christmas … despite all the marketing toward girls.

Where is the Intergalactic Saving Private Ryan we were promised? Where is the darkness? Why do people talk in short sentences as if the film has to be dubbed in 38 languages? Why is the dialogue so damn simple, and frankly, dumbed down as if there can’t be any confusion to offending the “fake outrage” groups.

Fucking Disney, come on.

I sensed things had gone to shit when I saw all the action figures filling up the shelves. This is The Force Awakens Fiasco all over again. At least the overall plot here isn’t as batshit stupid as Episode VII.

The film is better than any of the prequels (except for the Darth Maul vs Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan fight, and the Jango-Obi-Wan fight, and the first 2 minutes of Revenge of the Sith).

I recommend you see it, because if you read this far, you’ll see it anyway. Just post a comment how you agree that Disney is turning Star Wars into a marvel universe where everyone is so damn likable that they want fanboys and fangirls to cry out for six thousand spinoffs so we can explore each backstory so that eventually we’ll have a thousand different characters to know and love. How can they not? Nobody says anything offensive as a rebel fighting for the galaxy. Few characters act like they have a braincell, including the oh-so-tough leading lady.

Please GRR Martin, don’t ever sell the rights to Game of Thrones expanded universe to Disney. I couldn’t imagine the “reimagining” version they would do to Westeros.

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