Thursday, October 27, 2016

Central Intelligence


Once upon a time, I actually thought this film was going to be pretty decent for a film that's essentially a buddy cop action comedy (something I don't watch often). Heck, I recall noting that this film was coming out the same weekend as Finding Dory, and actually thinking, "This random movie looks like it could be actually more fun." (As of this writing, I still haven't seen Finding Dory, and I honestly don't expect much from it, but I do now expect it to be better than this.) Well, that turned out to not be the case. 

The film pairs together Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart; with Johnson playing the former school outcast who became a CIA operative and, as Hart's character puts it, "Jason Bourne in Jordan's." Hart plays the former school hero who is now an accountant--and is displeased with his life. Johnson shows up and says he needs his accounting skills to solve a puzzle involving some satellite codes. Or something. 

Central Intelligence is really one of those movies that pretty much literally uses all the good parts in the trailers. Johnson and Hart have some funny moments, for sure, but you probably already saw them on TV during commercial breaks during the NBA Finals. There's honestly not a whole lot else to see. The plot is mediocre at best, and the script is honestly ludicrous--the moments that actually manage to be funny are that way because of Johnson and Hart, who both manage to keep this movie from being a complete waste. 

They attempt to make it an action comedy, but the few action scenes honestly aren't that good despite getting to watch The Rock slam people around, which is always fun. The comedy? Well, there are comedic moments, but all too often it slips into typical ridiculous crude humor "comedy"--something I was hoping this movie would avoid, but it doesn't. 

So what is there to like about this movie? Not a whole lot, but Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart do admittedly save it from being a complete disaster. Their antics might just be enough for some to have fun, and if your brand of humor matches up with the majority of this film's humor, you'll probably have even more fun. And you could certainly do worse. But it's all too cookie-cutter and ridiculous and lacking in truly funny moments to really be remarkable. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Legend of Tarzan


The Legend of Tarzan picked a pretty bad year to come out. It's already the kind of tale that doesn't seem to hold as much sway as it once did (even though there are still fans of the Disney film). But it also didn't help matters that a well-received Jungle Book remake came out this year as well, and apparently people didn't need more tales of guys who grow up in the jungle and become friends with the animals. There certainly wasn't a whole lot of anticipation leading up to this movie. 

This particular Tarzan film decides to take a bit of a "Hook (1991)" approach to the Tarzan story by having the character Tarzan (aka John Clayton III) no longer living in the wild; and he is asked to survey a development of the Congo area where he came from, which is now being overseen by some king from Belgium. 

Along with John Clayton comes his wife Jane, and Samuel L. Jackson--excuse me, I mean George Washington Williams. However, it ends up being a trap planned out by a Belgian representative named Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) who has nothing but bad intentions for Congo and the various tribes within. Which means Tarzan has to return to the jungle and get his old buddies together to take down the villain from Spectre and restore peace with Samuel L. Jackson's help. No big deal, right? 

This kind of feels like one of those movies that had a troubled production and the final product was affected because of it. It's pretty messy throughout, and the first half is really boring as a lot of nothing happens--besides some poor uses of flashbacks. The second half gets better with some good action and fighting scenes, but that still leaves a plot that is generic at best, but sloppy is more accurate. The characters are honestly pretty boring. It is difficult to get invested in the character of Tarzan as Alexander Skarsgard doesn't bring much to the table on the acting front. Leon Rom is also an incredibly flat villain. 

It's not completely bad. Unlike most of the other flat actors, Samuel L. Jackson actually does really well in his role and provides some well-needed comic relief--and it actually works. There's some good fight scenes too--the highlight being when Tarzan boards a train and singlehandedly takes out an entire room of soldiers. 

The Legend of Tarzan isn't one of the worst action films you'll see, but it's definitely not a successful attempt to bring back the character. Even if it gets better later in the second half, the first half is just so sloppy and horribly paced that much of it becomes an afterthought otherwise, especially since the second half is still flawed even so. It's not a straight-up horrible film, but Legend of Tarzan is definitely one of the more forgettable action flicks of 2016. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Project Almanac


The found-footage genre is probably one of the worst things ever to happen to cinema. Sure, it might work good for horror movies, especially considering that the cliches of those two things go well together, but put it with pretty much anything else and it's a hot mess. Chronicle and Cloverfield were decent for found-footage movies, but even they suffered from the fact that they were found-footage movies.

There are a lot of problems with found-footage movies, especially when you try to combine them with non-horror movies. The characters are pretty much always stupid and flat, the script tries to match up with real life but instead comes out horrifying, and the camera jostles around everywhere so you have no idea what the heck is going on. The actors are usually nonexistent. The plot of the movie itself can sometimes be okay, but you have to come up with a reason for why your characters are filming everything. And that reason almost always makes no sense and is stupid. (Unless it's Cloverfield, when it *kind of* made sense.) 

Pretty much everything checks out here. We're stuck with high school characters, so of course they're talking like high school characters, much to everybody's chagrin. The acting in this movie is pretty awful. The camera work is rather ludicrous. The plot of the movie is sadly pretty pathetic. Oh, and the whole camera thing? They don't even explain why they're doing it in this one. They just film for no reason. 

The plot of this movie revolves around the teenagers using blueprints and the main character's father's work to make a time machine. I'm not convinced that really any of the characters--except maybe the main one (he aspires to go to MIT)--would even be able to build such a thing. And once they build it, all the characters become pretty stupid and despite discussing well-known movies where time traveling changes reality and the need to be careful, they proceed to go into the past and end up, well, changing reality. And things start going wrong. And somehow the smart, nerdy main character ends up being the one who is the stupidest regarding his actions. 

And somehow, the ending manages to be about as stupid as can be. (If you really don't want spoilers, stop here and skip to the next paragraph... but in all fairness, you might as well read because there's a fair chance you're probably not watching a lame and quickly forgotten movie like this anyway.) They end up eliminating the timeline where they screwed things up, but it's still all on the camera they recorded it on, which they find at the end, which means they again have knowledge of the now-nonexistent timeline that no one else remembers, but there are no consequences... that we know of. Make any sense? No? Well, that's what happens. 

As you can see, Project Almanac is a mess of a film. Even if it weren't a found-footage film, it wouldn't be very good anyway due to its plot. But the fact that it is found-footage means it's even worse. And what's sad is that it takes pretty much a whole hour before we even actually start getting to the remotely interesting part where their actions affect reality... meaning you have to sit through a hour of pretty much nothing before you get to the rest of the movie, which is mostly misguided and confusing anyway. 

I've seen movies that I personally hated a lot more than this, but ended up (or would end up) getting a slightly higher rating because they had some redeeming quality to them, even if a minor one. This movie doesn't really have any redeeming qualities. It didn't have much that made me angry (besides how long it took in movie minutes for them to build the stupid machine), but I'm not sure I even cracked a smile once--besides laughing at how sloppy the ending was. To sum it up, this movie is just flat out lifeless. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Fast and the Furious


The Fast and Furious series has become one of the more longer-running current franchises, and have gained plenty of mixed opinions along the way. These days the films are known for doing crazy things like pulling off a heist with cars, defeating a tank with cars, and driving a car in midair from skyscraper to skyscraper. 

But back in the earlier installments (certainly this first one), these films were actually racing films. More or less what you'd expect. It combined the plot of an average spy/fight movie from the late 90's or early 00's and combined with it the world of underground illegal street racing. An interesting combination; and one that it ultimately couldn't keep going properly as they ultimately gave way to focusing on the street racing. 

The film focuses on Brian O'Conner, the undercover cop who is trying to figure out the culprits of a gang of semi-truck hijackers. Along the way, he gets caught up in the underground racing world led by reckless racer Dominic Toretto and now has to decide where his loyalties lie. And knowing the kind of movie this is, it's ultimately no surprise what he ultimately chooses. 

This is honestly kind of a weird and ludicrous movie. Among other things, it feels *way* too much like a 1990's film for its own good. There are moments where it actually seems to be trying to be intelligent, or trying to be carrying out a decent plot, but particularly in the finale, it throws all of that to the wayside for the sake of an exciting automobile chase/fight scene and an incredibly stupid ending involving an impromptu race between the leads. 

Although most of the characters in the film are actually criminals, there's actually some interesting ones to be found among the bunch, particularly Dom Toretto. The acting is hit-or-miss, though the script didn't really help it out. Vin Diesel's pretty entertaining though, almost no matter what he's doing. And the film actually does have a few charming and/or exciting moments here and there. 

But the problem is, there's just too much inconsistency as well as a dose of stupidity. It feels like it's all too easy for Brian to go undercover and become best buds with Toretto, and all the same, it seems like Dom forgives Brian all too easily after the inevitable revelation of "oh yeah, I'm a cop." (Man, this plot really writes itself, doesn't it?) And the villains? They're arguably some of the most forgettable ones I've ever seen, taking a backseat to the dynamic between Brian and Dom. It literally does feel as if the studios just said "screw it" for the final 20 minutes. 

As far as films with brainless thrills go, one could certainly do a lot worse. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker help keep things interesting, at least. But it's just difficult otherwise to get into a film that's mostly strictly about racing and can't decide if it wants to be intelligent or not before just saying "whatever" eventually. There is definitely certain types of people that might be able to enjoy this if they're not too demanding, but if you want something a little more realistic and sophisticated, stay as far away as possible from this movie.