Friday, January 27, 2017

The Accountant


When people first saw the general idea for this movie, it probably had to catch their attention somewhat. This is a movie about a socially challenged accountant who is better with numbers than people who also puts lots of bullets in people's heads on the side. We don't see this type of deal too often. Yes, it has the potential to go either way easily, but that shouldn't entirely dissuade us... right?

Christian Wolff is the character described in the title of this film; born with some form of autism (it's never fully specified). He appears to lead a decent life as a CPA accountant, despite his social issues. As we are guided through an investigation of this accountant in the U.S. Treasury (he's a mysterious figure there), we find that most of his clients are actually criminal organizations (cartels, mobs, etc). And he's done a fair amount of assassinating himself.

In an unusual move, not much about the actual plot of the movie was revealed even in the marketing; mostly just info about the titular character. Which leaves me in a bit of a pinch on how much I can say, since I generally don't say any more than what was already shown in movie trailers. Basically, he gets drawn into a situation where one of his clients has some serious financial discrepancies. And getting involved only leads to getting him and the Anna Kendrick accountant character (Dana) who first discovered it in danger.

The fact that little about the plot was revealed going in is actually a bigger payoff than usual; the actual story that is going on is probably not what you were guessing at all. And the movie gives you multiple surprises during the second half that help explain oddball things from before that were previously unexplained (which would make a second viewing probably rewarding, as you notice things you couldn't have before).

If there's one issue with the direction of this film, it's that it's a little disjointed at times. During the first half, there's more focus on the actual "accounting" part of things as well as more info about Christian's condition. But much of that gets thrown out of the window later as we get more fighting scenes (which are pretty good, even if a little brutal) and more of a drama thriller feel overall. For the most part, it gets by okay, but there are some slow scenes here and there. And the pacing is inconsistent at times, too. It does feel a little bit at times like the movie can't really decide what type of movie it is.

But for the most part, it's actually a pretty fulfilling experience by the end. The casting is mostly pretty good; Ben Affleck gets one of his better roles ever (though that's not saying much). J.K. Simmons is good, as always; even if slightly more subdued than usual. Jon Bernthal, however, is the pleasant surprise of the film; playing another hitman who has quite a way with words and facial expressions. Another separate thing about this film I was impressed with was the unusual generally positive attitude towards autism--something Hollywood often doesn't address at all--and actually giving mostly accurate depictions of it without being necessarily overblown.

The Accountant is ultimately one of the few breaths of fresh air in 2016 with regards to being an actually original movie and being one that actually has some surprising twists and turns. I've seen less original movies from 2016 that I actually enjoyed more, and were better made (hard to deny the direction is a tad sloppy at times here). But this is one that really shouldn't be overlooked the way it was. It might not really be for a super-casual moviegoer--it's a little bit more of a thinking man's movie--but otherwise, it's worth taking a look at.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Magnificent Seven (2016)


Westerns may not necessarily be quite my favorite genre, but they do indeed have a certain charm to them. I've always enjoyed the set pieces, and it's difficult to not enjoy all the gunslinging and shootouts and fistfights and what not. Sadly, it's become a near extinct genre in today's Hollywood. This is one of the very few recent ones, and it's not even an original; it's a remake. Or, since the original Magnificent Seven from 1960 was a reimagining of Seven Samurai, it's a remake of a remake, I guess.

If you're not familiar with the storyline, that's probably fine; it's sort of changed over the various iterations. In this particular version, a band of seven random "gunslingers" (a couple of them are actually knife or arrow slingers) band up against an industrialist who's insanely corrupt and likes to showcase his evilness; considering that he threatens to pretty much destroy an entire town for the sake of gold mining, and shoots without a second thought a guy who stands up to him (and a bunch of other locals die, too).

Too bad the guy he shot had a wife (named Emma Cullen) who actually had a spine, unlike the other townsfolk. Hence, she is able to find and hire warrant officer Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), who rounds up several other guys, including Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a Comanche warrior named Red Harvest, and other guys whose names you will likely never remember.

Truth be told, there's not a whole lot of character development at all; aside from Chisolm and Robicheaux, none of these people really have much of any backstory, and some of them (namely Red Harvest) even join the group completely inexplicably. Yes, the plot is a little thin around the edges. To add onto that, there's some scenes that drag on longer than they need to (I suppose that's nothing entirely new for the western genre, though).

There is some fun to be had here. The casting is pretty strong, particularly with Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, the latter of whom continues to show his ability to be a great actor in literally any type of action/adventure-type movie. The dialogue has some fun moments. Though the film drags on at times, there's enough fun standoffs as well as a great climactic finish that makes it worthwhile. (A personal favorite of mine is an early standoff between Pratt and two outlaws he wronged.)

Ultimately, there may not be a whole lot of pay-off, but it's difficult to deny that's it mostly fun while it lasts. While there are some parts of the formula that are a little annoying, the film does showcase a lot of the fulfilling stuff from the western genre as well. It may not go down as a classic, but if you're a fan of the genre at all, it's probably worth checking out.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children


Tim Burton has generally been known most of his career for the creatively weird and unusual stuff that he puts into his movies. He's probably the most unconventional Hollywood director around which, depending upon the movie, can be both his greatest trait and his greatest flaw. He's come up with plenty of stuff on his own, but sometimes he likes to take source material that was already creatively odd and make his own adaption of it. Such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Alice in Wonderland.

Here, he uses a somewhat lesser-known book that only came out five years ago and puts it onto the big screen. This movie centers around Jake (Asa Butterfield), who discovers a mansion out in Wales which houses various children with abnormal abilities led and taught by Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), as he helps them fight against forces that seek to destroy them. If it sounds a bit like the X-Men, that's because it sort of is... at least setting-wise, anyway.

They certainly were creative with the various "abilities;" if you saw the trailer, then you already know what ones there are, such as a girl with an extra mouth on the back of her head, a boy with bees in his stomach (yes, seriously) and a pair of odd twins who we never really find out if they're actually human or not.

Despite its efforts, not a whole lot about this movie is really particularly outstanding. I didn't find much about it to be poor either (besides the confusing "time loop" concept), but not a whole lot stuck out either. Samuel L. Jackson's over-the-top performance was arguably the best thing about it; the other main memorable sequence is a part where an army of friendly skeletons fight a bunch of evil monsters called "Hollows" at a circus pier. Ridiculous as it sounds, it has more life than most of the rest of the movie does, as well as being quite humorous.

Ultimately, the movie is just another example of Tim Burton's style and formula; which luckily hasn't gotten old because he's the only one doing it; but nonetheless, despite all of its creativity and efforts to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack, it somehow still feels stunningly average. Is it a failure? Not by any means, but it doesn't really garner a repeat viewing either. We'll still give credit to Burton for his effort, though.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Suicide Squad


So this is only the third entry in the DC Extended Universe; and we've gone from the gritty Superman solo film to Batman v Superman, which tried to cram about 4-5 movies' worth of material into 2.5-3 hours (depending on what version you watched), and now to the antihero film with the villains as protagonists that more people have been asking for than I ever realized. (Of course, Deadpool probably started that whole thing.)

Unlike the last couple of films, this one doesn't really have much to do with the whole "Justice League" storyline as it basically lives to introduce villains we might or might not ever see again, and to be a fan service film. That's all it really is. And ultimately, it's a pretty disjointed effort that we get. Apparently, it had a rather troubled production, and it does show at times.

The film deals with Amanda Waller, a government officer who builds a task force of villains to be used as "disposable assets..." hence the whole "suicide squad" thing, since no one cares if they die. Their first mission comes up when one ridiculously powerful one goes rogue (surprise!) and tries to destroy the world with one of the most vague doomsday weapons in recent memory and also the dumbest looking zombie army I've probably ever seen. The "suicide squad" is comprised of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Boomerang, El Diablo, and Killer Croc. And there's this girl Katana who's brought in by the "good guys" (the government) but eventually fights alongside them anyway. Oh yeah, and the Joker's in it too... for about ten minutes total screen time.

The plot itself is rather thin; considering that these "bad" guys' motivations are changing all the time. At first they're only fighting because they die otherwise (literally), and then they actually decide to help save the world... even though one of the good guys could probably do it themselves. Deadshot's really the only one who I understand wanting to help save the day. Guys like Harley and Boomerang? Nope. Makes no sense whatsoever. Elsewhere, the script's pretty ridiculous too. The editing is a bit choppy/odd at times, and it feels like we get a new pop song every two minutes or so... which gets annoying fast.

Even though watching the combat can be occasionally fun, the action sequences aren't ultimately that great either. One fight with the zombies basically feels like multiplayer in Left 4 Dead, and then most of the climactic battle with Enchantress is shown with fog all over the place, so you have no idea what's going on. The fight with Incubus fared a bit better, though.

The casting is hit or miss. Will Smith is one of the very few decent things about this movie as Deadshot; Margot Robbie does nail the character of Harley Quinn, even if I don't appreciate that character as much as others. Jai Courtney? Not so much. Most everyone else? Nope. Jared Leto's Joker is extremely spastic, changing within seconds from absolutely nailing it to being absolutely ridiculous. (Still not a fan of his look, either.)

Even if the movie actually had been better made, there's still one slight problem: the protagonists are *bad guys.* Aside from maybe Deadshot, they're not even really antiheroes, they're straight up villains whom you can't really root for. (Well, Killer Croc isn't too bad, but he has little personality in general; he just spouts random things.) Even they admit it. One key scene has Harley randomly smashing a window and stealing a bit of jewelry; and saying "What? We're bad guys. It's what we do." She's absolutely right. So remind me why I'm supposed to root for these guys again?

Suicide Squad is probably a film that was never going to work except for the hardcore DC fans who have no problem with bad guys as protagonists. Even if I did want to root for these characters somehow, though, this just isn't a good movie in general. Mediocre plot, ridiculous main antagonist and zombie army, and the inconsistent feel of the film overall... there's just no saving this movie. Regardless of how well they make these movies, though, they should just stick to the actual heroes in the future.