Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rough Night - Review


Rough Night
Actresses Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Zoë Kravitz, Ilana Glazer and SNL star Kate McKinnon bring their ensemble acting and comedic talents to a film called “Rough Night”.  A story about very 5 very close former college millennial-ish girlfriends who reunite after 10 years for a wild bachelorette weekend in Miami. Their hard partying takes a hilariously dark turn when they accidentally kill a male stripper. Amid the craziness of trying to cover it up, they're ultimately brought closer together when it matters most.

Review: “Rough Night” is a reverse gender take on the 2009 male bachelor party – road trip hit film “The Hangover”. The creators of the female version go to great depths in their attempts to literally try in re-capturing the same magic of its predecessor by assembling similar casting personalities for the viewing audience’s “road trip gone badly” fodder. “The Hangover” however is the far superior effort largely because it was better written and better acted as a film overall as it artfully and adroitly moved between biting and contemporary humorous situations to the occasional lightly dramatic tension filled situations and then back to its comedy themes again.  “Rough Night” not only failed directorially to accomplish this balancing act, it failed in the worse imaginable ways.

Look I won’t bore you and get right to the bottom line. I have never felt so frustrated to having to endure such horribly writing, acting and directing of a film. NOT ONCE in the 1:45 minutes did I laugh or even smile at any of the scenes that bent way over backwards to try and make me laugh and smile. Each scene was stale, dumb and predictably stupid which was very hard for me to conceptualize given that this was framed about 5 accomplished college educated women who in the film all of a sudden could not reasonably navigate their way out of the basic plot of the film while remaining equally funny through the cascade of un-anticipated problems that would follow along their way. Instead I just watched a film filled with cliches that relied too often the lamest of brain dead solutions over and over again to the point of ad nauseam. Apparently some film executive thought when this film was greenlighted that simply watching bright women fall pray to panick attacks while making fools of themselves with one another in the process would be both funny and hilariously interesting. And I haven't even begin to mention how stupid the fiance's subplot role in this film was. His story situation (if you could imagine) was even more lame and lifeless.

I could go on in more detail, but I choose not to as I will end this now by going downstairs to my kitchen to take a couple shots of Wofford Bourbon and maybe even a Xanax to stand on my head for an hour in the hopes of “etch a sketching” this out of my archive of movie going experiences.

I was going to give this film a lower score than noted below and then I reminded myself how Scarlett Johannsson was (barely) the only one character that came across as viably entertaining and it didn’t hurt also she look radiantly gorgeous during my time in the theater.

1.00 Stars      

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Mummy - Review


The Mummy
A list actors Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe team up in the 13th film version of “The Mummy”, with an added twist of a female actress playing the lead as the ancient mummified Egyptian named   “Princess Ahmanet” (Actress Sofia Boutella). Her version of "The Mummy" is historically and loosely based on an Egyptian goddess named Amunet.

In this adaptation Cruise plays a man named Nick Morton who is a soldier of fortune who plunders global ancient sites for their timeless artifacts and sells them to the highest bidder. When Nick and his partner come under attack in the Middle East, the ensuing battle accidentally unearths Ahmanet, a betrayed Egyptian princess who was entombed under the desert for thousands of years. With her powers constantly evolving, Morton must now stop the resurrected monster as she embarks on a furious rampage through the streets of London.
REVIEW: In the simplest possible terms, “The Mummy” is a writing and directorial amalgamated mess. Running 2 hours even, the films starts out in the first half to being a mix of “Tom Cruise and The Raiders of the Lost Ark”, then it becomes “Tom Cruise Tomb Raiders” and then it becomes “Deputy Sheriff Tom Rick Grim Cruise and The Walking Dead”. And there’s more. There is an abundance of ego stroking references to past Tom Cruise films – characters  such “Jack Reacher”, Ethan Hunts “Mission Impossible and finally channeling the self-involved but slightly romantic personality of Jerry McGuire from the film of the same title.

And then there is Russell Crow’s character as Dr. Henry Jekyll. Notice the last name? If there was ever an advance hint as to what his story line was about you couldn’t send up any bigger flairs and not be more obvious. What I don’t get is even why his character was necessary at all? I swear if you put Crowe under Sodium Pentothal, he would probably swear he thought he had signed on for a part into a one dimensional Guy Ritchie film; he was that much out of place here.

The Mummy lacked structure, lacked coherency and most of all lacked a cinematic soul for you to embrace as we go on this mercenary adventure. Ultimately you don’t care about any of the cast because they don’t give us a reason to. You end up more as an observer to action and chaotic events than a meaningful heartfelt compelling story. To my larger point, if someone at Universal Studios would have asked me under Sodium Pentothal what I thought of their movie in some advanced screening, I would probably have said to the executives there………”So, this is the 2 hours that was cut out and left on the editing floor?” Yep, that messy.

Look, the movie did have a good look about it, but that’s not enough of a reason for you to venture into seeing it this opening weekend as a paying customer. Unless? Well, unless you just so happen to find yourself before a Court Room Judge who has just rendered down a sentence to you doing a 100 hours of community service for some minor public offense. I almost guarantee you if you tell the Judge you saw “The Mummy” he will almost certainly knock of 25 hours just for torturing yourself. 50 hours if you saw it in 3-D.

1.25 Stars

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Wonder Woman - Review


Wonder Woman
Starting in 1975 and for four years on ABC TV actress Linda Carter became the first popular face of the character “Wonder Woman”. In comparative terms by today’s standards Carter’s earlier presentation of the female super human crime fighter while smart, beautiful and sexy, had a tad vulnerability especially while playing her disguised incognito persona of Army Officer Lt. Diana Prince against her mortal superior in the way of Captain Steve Trevor of the Office of Strategic Services United States Army Air Service Corps (actor Lyle Waggoner).

In retrospect Carter’s “Wonder Woman” offered up some rather modest displays of super hero ability such as being able to leap high, use her lasso for great effect, to ward off bullets with her arm bands and to occasionally toss objects farther than her male counterpart. But in the end carter’s version was always sanitized to what I could only surmise was an attempt to appeal to a broader wholesome family TV viewing audience. Well it’s 2017 and man oh man has Wonder Woman changed, this time out with actress Gal Gadot in the leading role as Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman.
We find the film version beginning with the young woman’s earlier life as a 5000 year old Amazon immortal princess named Diana, daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus and the half-sister of  a God named Ares. From the onset as an Amazonian woman she is continuously and ruthlessly trained to be an unconquerable warrior on her sheltered island paradise. 

On a chance encounter one day young Diana meets an American pilot named Steve Trevor, a Captain from the United States Army Air Service. Steve tells Diana about a world she is totally unfamiliar with, particularly a world filed with massive conflict, filled with political and human strife raging worldwide. Translation, its World Ward 2.
Upon listening to Steve’s stories, Diana becomes convinced that she can stop the global threat, so she leave the confines of her safe home for the first time to fight alongside strange men in a war. Ultimately it is the war conflict that helps her discovers the full measures of her powers and her true destiny as an Immortal Amazonian.  

REVIEW: With an opening sequence that narrates the early origins of Diana Prince and the Amazonian Island women’s commitment to their way of life, “Wonder Woman” gets off to an exhilarating start by offering a concise back story of their origins from the God Zeus. It also showcases their relentless “muscular” fighting and training techniques, their bravery to fight ferociously and mercilessly in battle and to be collectively connected through emotional strength as a superior race of women without ever being simplistically or mythically only female driven. They are within their own right intense, strong, intelligent, passionate and gifted people, who just so happen to be women too. 
Actress Gail Gadot is perfectly cast as “Wonder Woman” as she delivers a powerfully fresh new face to add to the whole superhero franchise storyline. Gadot doesn’t just fly about in some sexy skimpy outfit with a glowing lasso, she creates a far more substantive character by embracing her natural given intelligence and confidence without ever being “the girl” or “the daughter” in the movie. Her Diana Prince exudes from start to the film’s finish an ability to convey an effective moral earnestness to command and to lead with charisma and personal fortitude. She receives respect for who she is without having to repeatedly ask for it.  Her words, her actions and her abilities speak for themselves which serve as the conduits to the respect she receives.

Now, there are some minor flaws to the film. One in particularly early in the film involved the sleeping arrangements on a boat that I am sure on paper was meant be funny with some typical male – female exchanges encased in some nervous unrequited sexual tension between Diana and Steve. For me their interaction here was awkward in its execution and really never offered up anything that was either funny or interesting between these two leads. I wish the Director had taken note to delving more deeply into the films major subplot about the moral decay of humans in the world. Examining more intimately their perspectives into their different lives and their different views of how two worlds coexisted one in a constant state of peace (Diana’s) and the other in a perpetual state war (Steve’s). To me this was a wasted moment for the films overall arc.

The other minor problem I had was the overall transitioning of Diana’s story as she leaves the island to come to the modern world of London in the 1910s. There were an array of new characters introduced here as we learn what the new mission will be for Diana that would hopefully save the world (as Diana saw it). Most of the dialogue here and some of the new characters introduced here seemed very one dimensional, lacking any real depth of why they or any part of their story was important to the mission going forward. You could make the case that they were forgettable and irrelevant to the films overall story.

Still, I found this adaptation of “Wonder Woman” to be more than empowering for women for women sake as a central heroic role model. For me it provided a unique new character that is both erudite and beautiful, erudite and witty and erudite and strong and at no time were these virtues ever in conflict with one another. Nor did the film to its credit take up any useless time offering up cliché scenes where a women lead would normally spent time verbally justifying her existence and place in the world before being fully accepted. This “Wonder Woman” moves very freely and confidently on the screen to be who she is without any equivocation or explanation. This is especially unique given the historically period of World War 1 when the film takes place where women generally back then were not so readily recognized first for their intellectual assets before their obvious beauty.

'Wonder Woman” has a running time of 2:21 that has a solid narrative story filled with genuine fireworks especially in the last 50 minutes. Gadot takes her lasso acting talent to deliver a cut above superhero filled with just the right powerful emotions, spectacular actions scenes, well timed – well placed comedic humor and above all a display of goodness and heart that felt real. These qualities will only get better as the story moves forward with many more sequels to come offering much, much more in the way of genuine excitement and thrills to come.


3.50 Stars