Friday, October 31, 2014

JOHN WICK movie review


John Wick  is a new movie starring Keanu Reeves as Joh Wick, an ex-hitman who has retired and has now settled down to a peaceful life. However, events happen that lead him to get back into that life, and... well, it makes for a pretty awesome action movie.

John Wick is easily the best pure action movie of the year for me. The film has really good action, like, insanely good action sequences. A lot of wide and continuous shots and camera angles, so you can actually see the action clearly. The fights are still rapidly paced and the fight choreography is mindblowing (Gun-fu. Yup, that's a thing now). The movie really is 65% action (hence, it being categorized into pure action genre), and that 65% is amazing.

However, I didn't like it just for the action. It actually has some depth and substance to it that I didn't expect going in. It has a pretty damn good revenge story some really good worldbuilding skills. The film sets up the world, its characters, and plot devices really well, and it's interesting and creative enough for me to ask for a sequel. That's good worldbuilding.

In terms of story, it has a pretty simple and basic plot, but it's executed very well. Like its main character, the movie has a hard shell, but a very soft interior, and I'd say the movie has some pretty touching moments. The movie knows what it is, and gives you exactly what you're expecting... and then some. There's enough simplicity there to make it very entertaining, but also enough new things added in order for it not to feel generic.

Keanu Reeves just brings it, man. Whatever bad dialogue you give him, he'll nail the delivery, and it will make you giddy in your seat. The other actors do a really good job as well, with the fight choreography (Gun-fu... wow, still can't believe it) and the actual acting. I also really dug how campy and over-exaggerated some of the characters are. Not campy in a bad way, no. The actors played it at just the right level. It's almost as if they were making fun of 90% mob/hitman movies.

As for the negatives for John Wick, there's hardly any I could think of. Actually, the only one I can think of is that I wish the movie would've been 10-15 minutes shorter. Yeah, compared to the first hour and a half, the last 15 minutes weren't all that nicely put together. It felt rushed and sloppy, but not too much to ruin the whole movie. It's just a minor, minor problem I had with this entertaining movie.

John Wick is the best pure action movie of 2014 in my opinion. With its mindblowingly amazing action, pretty good worldbuilding, its touching moments, and its fun characters, it's pretty much the ideal popcorn flick to look out for.

Monday, October 27, 2014

THE JUDGE movie review

"Judgement is Coming"

The Judge is a film starring Robert Downey Jr. as Hank Palmer, a big shot city defense lawyer who has to return home for his mother's funeral. While there, he has to spend time with his father (played by Robert Duvall) whom he hates, but because of a case brought up against his father, they must learn to put aside their differences to clear his father's name.

I've been looking forward to The Judge ever since I saw the first trailer. Not for the story, but for the stellar cast they've assembled. We've got Robert Downey Jr, who is finally in a starring role outside of Tony Stark and Sherlock Holmes, Academy award winner Robert Duvall, Emmy award nominated actor Vincent D'Onofrio, the wonderful Vera Farmiga, etc. There was a lot going for this movie, and it just didn't deliver for me.

Not acting wise though, it did deliver in that department. Robert Downey Jr. is really good. He has quite a few incredible scenes with Robert Duvall, that reaffirm to me that he can act outside of the usual smartass character. Robert Duvall is also really good, not Oscar caliber performance, but certainly more than just fair. His on-screen chemistry with Downey Jr. really worked, and they played off each other well in most scenes.

The supporting cast is also serviceable. Vincent D'Onofrio and Billy Bob Thorton aren't nearly in the movie enough for me to really appreciate their presence, but they were serviceable in the scenes they were given. Vera Farmiga, Emma Tremblay and Jeremy Strong may have been the best out of the supporting cast, but don't expect any big scenes from them. Dax Shepard may have the character I least liked throughout the entire movie. He plays the small town lawyer, who was probably there to add some comic relief, but actually wasn't any funny at all. 

What did not live up to my expectations? The writing, mostly. This feels like a really good movie made for cable television. That really isn't a compliment. I was prepared going in for a generic story, but I know it's all about execution. That being said, it wasn't well executed. The Judge is a film that retreads many of the usual drama movie tropes, and, to be honest, forces it upon you and expects you to feel emotion for these characters.

The film delivers quite a few emotional and powerful scenes, and hits the right emotional beats, but everything else in between is dull, pointless, and sloppily put together. Had the film shaved off at least twenty minutes and took away a few pointless character plotlines, then it'd have probably turned out a better film. Many of the characters plotlines are sloppily written as well. Some characters you'd forget were even in the movie because of how many times and how long they're off screen. Also, the endings to each plotline are poorly made. You'd be tricking yourself to say that was actually a resolved emotional arc for the character.

The Judge is a film that can boast its two leads (Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall), who are incredible in the movie, but in the end its two leads and its sometimes beautiful cinematography don't make up for how poorly written, dull, and generic its script is.

Friday, October 24, 2014

FURY movie review

Tank missillleeeee.

Fury is a war movie written and directed by David Ayer, and starring Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña, and John Bernthal as a tank crew operating during the final weeks of World War II. You follow this tank crew as they are assigned missions to clear towns, rescue soldiers, and more.

The biggest strength of this movie is the main cast. Everyone turns in one hell of a good performance. Brad Pitt, once again, is incredible in the main role. His on-screen presence is felt, and he just commands the screen. Michael Peña and John Bernthal were also really good in the movie, both stealing a few scenes themselves. Shia LaBeouf was great in the movie. It's comforting to know that he can still turn in some great performances. Rounding out the cast is Logan Lerman who may have probably given the best performance of his career so far. His character's arc may have been shaky throughout the film, but I thought he gave a strong performance,

The cast (and the movie as a whole, really) wouldn't have worked without David Ayer. Ayer really excels at creating a believable comradery among his characters, as shown in End of Watch and now this film. This film wouldn't have functioned without the comradery Ayer established among the characters.

The other thing that I really liked about Ayer's directing was his depiction of war. War was shown in this movie as dirty, disgusting, bleak, and well... terrible, and that's really the direction you have to go in with a movie like this. He also was able to show the psychological effects war has on a person really well. Ayer's directing is hauntingly beautiful, as he didn't glorify war instead showing how bleak and glum it is.

In a tank movie, I understand it's really hard to make some really good action sequences, but that isn't the case here. The action sequences in this film are quite well done actually. It really made you feel cramped inside the tank with these characters, and it brought that claustrophobic feeling to it. Also, the battles are slow moving yet intense. It's not a rapid fire, jump cut firefight. It's tanks slowly moving forward shooting one missile at a time. Yet, it was still very intense and gripping to watch.

Fury is a bleak, dark, and dirty war film that's well-acted and well directed. It's moving and touching at times, and the action sequences are very intense as well. It's not one of the best war films out there, but it's certainly not one to miss out on.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Whiplash movie review

This is a really good movie, so please give it all your whipcash. *ba dum tss*

Whiplash is a film directed by Damien Chazelle, and stars Miles Teller as Andrew Neyman, a young jazz drummer, who goes to one of the best music schools in the country under the tutelage and training of Terence Fletcher (played by J.K. Simmons), a well respected, feared, and determined instructor. Neyman's drive to become 'one of the greats' and Fletcher's personality and teaching method come head to head in a really intense and electrifying movie.

All the performances in this film are nothing short of flawless, but the two standouts being Teller and Simmons, of course. Probably the best performance he's given us so far, Teller really goes all in for his character. He just really draws you into and makes you more invested in his character and his struggles, and he is such a fantastic actor to watch on screen because you can see the passion and the drive there. It's exciting to see that, and it has a major impact on his performance. I do believe he'll get some awards recognition for this and rightfully so.

J.K. Simmons... can you just give the guy all the awards? Holy crap. As he's on screen, I can only think, "wow, he just makes the scene his bitch, doesn't he?" Simmons was so good, so intense, morbidly funny, and diabolical. It's like his J. Jonah Jameson performance on steroids, so you can imagine how far you are on the edge of your seat just because of a speech his character is giving. His character may have a hard exterior, but also a soft center that Simmons nails beautifully.

Another highlight of the film for me was the directing. The film emits this indescribable energy in mostly all of its scenes. The scenes in which the band is practicing their sets is just so beautifully made. Everything from the shots to the editing to the performances of the band itself, it was extremely well done. On the other hand, the scenes where it's just dialogue and character interaction are pretty intense as well. The dialogue is sharp and on point and, as I said, the acting is phenomenal, so most of the film will keep you on the edge of your seat, heart pounding like crazy, and I loved the hell out of it.

Whiplash is an electrifying, intense, and beautifully made film with outstanding performances. I highly recommend this film, because you'll have a hard time finding a better film this year.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Top 10 Ben Affleck Performances

With the recent release of Gone Girl this month, I've decided to theme my October with Ben Affleck movies (because Affleck over Halloween movies, apparently). I've watched about 17 Ben Affleck movies this past month, so here's a rundown of my favorites.

There's no doubt Ben Affleck is a fantastic director, I really love his work behind the camera. However, this list will only focus on his work as depicted on screen. As most great actors, a lot of their work can't always make it onto a Top 10 list, and since Affleck is such a talent on-screen, I'm going to run down a few of his performances that almost made my list, and those are: Good Will Hunting, Armageddon, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, and State of Play.

Now that that's out of the way, here are my top 10 favorite Ben Affleck performances:

10. Argo

Ben Affleck starred in and directed a film that won Best Picture at the Oscars. Yup. I feel like I should end it there, but I got to praise Affleck. While his directing is the real star of the movie, he gives a damn good performance. Showing us just how intense and stern he can be on-screen while doing what he does best (directing himself direct fictional characters trapped in Iran. Ha, I kid). This film that came well into his career just cemented him as one to look out for both behind and in-front of the camera.

9. Shakespeare in Love

Wow, he really can pull off any styles of facial hair
Playing what probably is his most different character (other than a blind guy dressed up in a red suit who fights crime), Affleck really shows to us his diversity as an actor in this film. He brings his charm and charisma to this fun role, and he's a great side character. Actually, had his character been in the movie for more than seven minutes, this performance would be higher on the list. Oh well... Hopefully, he tries a role similar to this soon.

8. Runner Runner

This movie came out, like, only a couple months after he was announced as Bruce Wayne/Batman, and it erased any doubt I had about Ben Affleck playing a eccentric billionaire with a bit of a dark side. Not a great movie, true, but every scene Affleck's in makes the movie worth it. Taking his strengths, his charisma and his raw intensity, he takes this performance up a notch by going pretty over the top with it. You can tell Affleck was like, "I'm just going to have loads of fun playing this character, and throw chickens at crocodiles".

7. Changing Lanes

Sometimes, an actor doesn't have to give a "powerful" or "moving" performance to get on my favorites list. Sometimes, it's just fun to see them having fun, and that's exactly what Ben Affleck does in this film. Affleck playing a grown-ass man acting like a stubborn teenager trying to get back at another person... the thought of it is pretty funny. Affleck cuts loose, and gives us fun and a little over-the-top performance that just brings pure joy and entertainment, and hey, can I really ask for more?

6. The Company Men

When Ben Affleck is your stand-out performance in a movie with Chris Cooper and Tommy Lee Jones, it's either your movie is pretty bad or Affleck's just really good... and well, Affleck's just really good. Affleck plays a character who has just lost his job he loves so he goes off and tries to find out what he's going to do with his life. As the film progresses, you see Affleck go from a joyful company man to a depressed guy with an out-of-control temper to a hopeful, hardworking, simple family man, and the way Affleck transitions from each is pretty good. 

5. Chasing Amy

Top 5... now, we're getting into the heavy hitters. Affleck really has that face you want to root for, whether it's finding his missing wife or not getting attacked by Youtube commenters, you just root for the guy. Affleck in this film takes his lovable charm and combined with the writing of Kevin Smith, gives us a really good, funny, and relatable character. I mean, that's basically most of Ben Affleck's characteristics anyways! He gives a real touching performance, and hits quite a few emotional beats in the film, especially the one in the car in the rain. Look out for that one.

4. Hollywoodland

Trust me, there's nothing really clever I can say that
this picture doesn't already scream.
There's a lot of things Ben Affleck can do. Create a fake film to smuggle hostages out of Iran, making a comic about two drug addicts, robbing banks, stopping bank robbers as a masked vigilante, and well, yes... Affleck can even be Superman. Affleck plays the late George Reeves (the actor who portrayed Superman in the 1950s serials), who is a eccentric, respectable, and troubled actor. Affleck pulls off that side of his character with ease and disappears into his role completely, but one of the highlights of the film is when his character lands the part of Superman. It's there where you really see Affleck's acting chops because playing two very different characters in the same film is a feat Affleck accomplishes and a feat that we should praise.

3. Gone Girl

"Show me that darling Nick smile"

A bit early to be claiming his performance to be that high up on a list, but I do believe that his performance in this film is one of his bests. As I said in my review, although Affleck's performance doesn't draw too much attention to itself, I do believe Affleck played the role he was given perfectly. He's supposed to be that play that quiet, drawn back, kind of awkward big guy, and it does work for most of the movie. He alone carries the first act of the movie, and that's not to be overlooked.

2. Dazed and Confused

I don't know who made Ben Affleck our new Batman,
he'd be horrible as neighborhood watch.
Really had a hard time picking between his performance here and the movie you'll soon find out. Ultimately, it came down to screen time. This is an ensemble flick, and not entirely centered around Affleck, so we don't get as much of him as we'd like, but his scenes in this movie are stellar. He plays the asshole, basically, as he goes around the town on the last day of school, paddling Freshman ass. It's not a performance that shows his finesse as an actor, but it's one of my personal favorites. It's Ben Affleck playing an asshole in the most sincere and enjoyable way possible.

As you've probably guessed by now, my favorite Ben Affleck performance is...

1. The Town

I first watched The Town back in 2012 initially not knowing it was a Ben Affleck-directed and starring in film, and wow, was I extremely delighted, and it has stuck with me these past two years. First of all, Ben Affleck plays a great character by the name of Doug MacRay, a criminal who, whether or not it's clear at the start of the movie, wants to leave the town. He plays this complex character really well, and he has great chemistry with Rebecca Hall and Jeremy Renner. For me, this is the full Ben Affleck package. His scenes with Rebecca Hall bring out his good comedic timing and his lovable Ben Affleck charm, and his scenes with the criminals of the town bring out his raw intensity, his brutal and stern nature, and all those characteristics of him all mix together really well in one damn fine performance. It'll be the role I associate him with the most, and I can't tell it's like that because it's my favorite performance of his or vice-versa. Either way, there's no doubt in my mind that it's his finest.

This was a fun little article I did. It really made me fully appreciate how far Ben Affleck has come as an actor (and even as a director, in some ways). I can't wait for Batman, some of his TV gigs, and what else the future has in store for him, because I so totally along for the ride (especially if that ride is the Batmobile). 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Gone Girl movie review (NO SPOILERS)

Ben Affleck is chasing amy.

Gone Girl is a film adaptation of the novel of the same name written by Gillian Flynn. The film is directed by David Fincher and also written by Gillian Flynn. The story focuses on Nick Dunne (played by Ben Affleck), as he comes home one morning to find that his wife, Amy Dunne (played by Rosamund Pike), is missing. The police and the media soon get involved in the search for his wife, but overtime, the question soon turns from "where is his wife?" to "did he kill his wife?"

Now, I might get a bit vague with some of my comments in this review, but you'll be thankful because watching everything go down in this movie is part of the experience and the fun this movie brings to the table.

First things first, the aspect of this movie I'm very ecstatic (and also very frightened) about, Rosamund Pike. Pike was amazing (pun sort of intended) in this movie. She was so, so, so good... scary good, even! She steals mostly every scene's she in, and I have no doubt she's going to get a lot of recognition come awards season. 

Ben Affleck is also really good in the movie. I'd say he played it perfectly. It's not a very diva performance and it's not a performance that really draws a lot of attention to itself, but that probably isn't the direction Fincher wanted for the character. Affleck carries the movie, for the most part, because the movie focuses on his character the most, and there's not a single scene I thought Affleck delivered poorly.

However, Affleck and Pike aren't the only ones who deliver great performances. Packed with a stellar supporting cast, this movie is just ripe with a number of standout performances. Carrie Coon, who plays Affleck's character's twin sister in the movie, does a fantastic job, and steals quite a few scenes herself. Also, possibly the most surprising part of the cast, Tyler Perry does a good job playing Tanner Bolt. I give props to Tyler Perry, because he has now proven to me that when he does serious roles like this, while still bringing that comedic side of his personality, it can really add something special to the film. Unfortunately, I thought Neil Patrick Harris was the weak link among all these actors. Although he isn't in the movie much, I just felt that his performance was mediocre and his character just never clicked with me. That being said, the cast as a whole knocked it out of the park.

At first glance, this would like just another "missing person thriller", but through twists and turns in the story and David Fincher's directing, it becomes something more than that. It even goes into subjects such as media and its manipulative power over the public, and how much media outlets harass the popular/controversial thing at the moment. This film's themes about marriage, commitment, and identity will keep your brain active for days. I love thought-provoking films, and through Fincher's brilliant directing, this film is really one that will keep you up at night.

This is possibly the most engrossing movie I've seen this year, mainly because it's a slow burn type of movie. It sinks its claws into you, and it will keep you invested all the way through. You'll laugh in some scenes, try to solve the case in others, and you'll be in horror as you see things unfold before your eyes. The film does kind of drag somewhere in the middle section, but by the time it ends, you'll be wishing for at least twenty more minutes.

Gone Girl is an engrossing and thought provoking movie, filled with rich themes and near flawless acting. I'll certainly be watching this in theaters again, because it is one of the bests of 2014.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' Season 2 Episode 1 & 2 Review

Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. is part of a cinematic universe, so why not review it, right?

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a television show on ABC that takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The show focuses on Agent (or should I say Director) Coulson and his team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents as they solve mysteries, fight bad guys, and save the world from threats they wont know about. We're on season 2 now, and it's mainly dealing with the fallout from season 1 (spoilers), where Hydra has resurfaced, S.H.I.E.L.D. has fallen, and many of the main characters still dealing with the effects of their fight with John Garret. 

I wasn't really a huge fan of season 1. It had a few good episodes here and there, but there were a lot of missteps and failures, mostly at the start and end of the season. However, I gave season 2 the chance to recapture my interest by giving it at least the first three episodes, and now we're only two episodes in, and I really want to talk about it.

I am sure as hell glad I gave it another chance, because those were a really enjoyable 80 minutes. The past two episodes really made me feel like the writers took a step back, reviewed their work, and identified all the weaknesses, storytelling wise, they need to improve upon.

One thing it really improved upon is its utilization. Now, they're actually utilizing their characters and time to a great capacity, or at least, better than last season. I'll start with the time first, because I have lots to say about the characters. The pacing has gotten really better, i.e. there's no filler. The first episode was quick to establish where our characters were at after a few months, introduce new characters, and what's probably going to be the plotline that'll thread these next few episodes together (original 0-8-4 plotline), and after that, it's character interaction and an exciting mission that carried form the first episode to the second. I'm just glad they didn't decide to make "S.H.I.E.L.D. vs Hydra" the main plotline of these first few episodes, because I'm seriously fatigued with that story. I mean, there's some major elements of that in the first two episodes, but I never saw it as the main focus of the episodes. I'm also glad that it looks like it won't be going back to "case of the week" episodes for awhile, because this show has loads of potential, it'd be a shame to see it be wasted on "Let's solve this week's mystery!" types of episodes.

Two episodes in, so... how am I liking the characters? As I said above, I think they're being used better. I still absolutely love Coulson's character, and I think making him Director of the new S.H.I.E.L.D. is an interesting turn for the character, and I'm excited to see it pay off in future episodes. Seeing him grow from that fun and badass (in a way) field agent to the troubled boss/caretaker with responsibilities will be really interesting. As I said, the potential is there, they just need to execute it correctly. I like Coulson's chemistry with Agent May (one of the few bright spots of season 1). I like that they go back and forth on who is the caretaker of who, and that scene towards the end of episode 2... really chilling stuff. The main draw to Skye this season will probably be her relationship with Ward (who is absent from episode 2) and when she realizes her dad is alive (and what is up with his hands??), so I can't wait for that to happen and I'm gushing over the possibilities there. Lance Hunter is definitely a great addition to this merry bunch of agents we got. He's only been in two episodes, and I can tell he's gonna be one of my favorite characters. His dialogue is good and so is his character. I like a wildcard, someone who may or may not ditch the team at any time, someone who can end up backstabbing them for money, who knows what this guy will end up doing. He's a wildcard, but it's evident that he still has honor and is loyal to those people that he trusts, so he's not totally irredeemable. I also really hope they give Agent Trip a bigger role this season, because he made some parts of the last few episodes of last season bearable.

You probably noticed I wasn't mentioning one key character, well... I decided to dedicate a whole paragraph to him (or... them). Oh, FitzSimmons, you're breaking my heart. I think it's worth noting that I wasn't a fan that they kept teasing us that either Fitz/Simmons was going to die. Well, now I'm convinced that keeping both of them alive was a pretty good move for the series. Huge props to Ian DeCaestecker for his performance so far. Fitz is on the edge of a mental breakdown, and to get the audience' sympathy, DeCaestecker's performance isn't the flashy "come on, feel sad for me". It's really subtle in the twitches of his hand, the expressions on his face, and the pauses in between dialogue that really make you sort of feel bad for the guy, that's only sort of... and then they decide to drop this huge (figurative) bomb on us by telling us that Simmons has only been a figment of his imagination these past few months, and she's off joining Hydr-- wait, we don't know that yet. Calm down. Point is, Fitz has been the heart of the past two episodes, and it really, really brought the show up. Just makes you want to jump into the screen and give him a hug.

Solid work out session

The Absorbing Man was pretty much great. They didn't need to give him this whole backstory that would make you sympathize with him, nope, they basically threw him in with all these characters and well, it really worked out for the best, because he came off as a huge obstacle in our agent's way, and that really is all I can ask for from a minor villain. That way of writing minor villains into the story wasn't there in season 1, that's why we spent time with some pretty boring and some unintimidating villains such as Deathlok, Blizzard, Blackout, and... well, a floating ball of goop that was teased to be Graviton but never actually coming to fruition. Anyways, the antagonists that they're setting up (Whitehall and Skye's dad)  look to be interesting, so I hope it delivers.

I really enjoyed these past two episodes, and I'm really hoping it continues through to the next episode, which, by the way, looks great. Simmons possibly in Hydra? Sign me up. These next eight episodes are a real make or break it moment for the agents. Let's just hope it turns out well.