‘No Escape’ Review

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Dir: John Erick Dowdle

Writer(s): John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle

Cast: Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, Sterling Jerins, Claire Geare, Sahajak Boonthanakit, and Pierce Brosnan

Synopsis: In their new overseas home, an American family soon finds themselves caught in the middle of a coup, and they frantically look for a safe escape in an environment where foreigners are being immediately executed.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

No Escape – originally titled The Coup – was originally set to come out earlier this year, but got pushed back to the end of August to probably avoid any sort of competition at the box office. It is also coming out at the end of the month, which usually isn’t a spot that films want because it usually means there isn’t a ton of faith. Thankfully, No Escape isn’t entirely a bad film and has some redeeming qualities to it thanks to its cast and tension filled moments.

 

The film follows Jack Dwyer (Wilson), who after his company goes belly-up, takes a new job for a big corporation in a foreign country and brings his family of wife Annie (Bell) and his daughters Lucy (Jerins) and Beeze (Geare) with him. On the plane they meet Hammond (Brosnan), who is also heading the country and gives them a few tips to get around. Jack and his family get to their hotel room and have a hard time adjusting to their new surroundings. Unbeknownst to them, a group of nationals kill the prime minister and start a coup, throwing the country into turmoil. Jack eventually is the first to know as he goes to town and gets caught in-between a fight between the police and nationals. Jack then races to this family to protect them and find safety.

 

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Now a lot of people are coming out and calling this movie racist or xenophobic, which honestly never crossed my mind while watching. Mainly because I don’t think of things like that when I’m immediately watching something and I don’t go in willing looking for flaws in a film like some people do. Looking back now, did I see that film that way? Honestly, no because I was engaged in the film.

 

The best thing that works in No Escape is that film puts you right in the action and what Jack and his family have to do in order to survive. The many tension filled moments work effectively because the family feels real. The family unit has great chemistry and brings some levity to the otherwise brutal and hard to watch moments in the film.

 

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Owen Wilson isn’t playing an action hero. He’s playing a normal guy that cares about protecting his family: That’s it. Wilson only has one real action film to his credit in Behind Enemy Lines, but he was playing a soldier in that (I Spy was more of an action comedy). So don’t except Wilson to pick up a gun and never miss a target, he does have his heroic moments, especially the heavily promoted throwing his kids from one building to another. I think since we’ve seen Wilson in so many comedies, that we kind of forget his dramatic roles and thankfully he brings some of that here. He also still finds time to inject some humor it the film, which is one of the things that surprised me about the film is that there is some great moments of humor. Although some moments felt too forced and but I could understand why they were there.

 

Lake Bell, who has been sticking to some comedies lately, also gets some dramatic moments here and there as a devoted mother and distressed wife. The little girls playing the daughters thankfully don’t fall into the annoying kid category that they could have gone into it, and while they do fall into that category at first, they quickly know that they have to follow their parents through the dark streets and hide in small and uncomfortable corners.

 

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No Escape falls into a weird category, in that the film is more of a thriller than anything else. However, the film has been marketed a bit as an action-thriller and while there are moments of action, I’ll get to that in a minute, there are moments of horror thanks to director Dowdle’s horror filmography. Like I mention, the action comes mostly from Pierce Brosnan’s character – and Sahajak Boonthanakit’s character “Kenny Rogers.” Brosnan does steal the film, and he’s clearly enjoying himself while doing it. Sadly, he doesn’t get a ton of screen time.

 

While I did find the film highly, and surprisingly, enjoyable No Escape does have some problems. The whole reasoning behind the coup is a little lackluster and when it’s explained why it happen, it kind of kills and stops the film. The other thing is that we never really get to know any of the “villains.” There is one particular villain that pops up in almost every scene involving the nationalists (I seriously can’t think of another word), but we never get a name and the language they speak is never subtitled. Sure the reasoning can be said that the film is all about the Dwyer family, and in most cases you can figure out what they are probably saying by their actions, but still. There are also some moments of slow motion that seem unnecessary and put in to, supposedly, slow down and show the severity of the situation. Thankfully, those moments are only in the first act of the film.

 

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All in all, No Escape is a surprisingly fun and tension filled film that is held together but the great family chemistry and stars Owen Wilson, Lake Bell and Pierce Brosnan. The film lacks in some areas, but it won’t be a complete waste to watch it.

 

No Escape

3.5 out of 5

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‘American Ultra’ Review

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Dir: Nima Nourizadeh

Writer(s): Max Landis

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, Tony Hale, John Leguizamo and Bill Pullman

Synopsis: A stoner – who is in fact a government agent – is marked as a liability and targeted for extermination. But he’s too well-trained and too high for them to handle.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

When you think of movies with stoner leads you don’t really imagine there is going to be any action in it, or at least hardcore action. That is not the case with American Ultra, in fact, it works almost the opposite. It’s an action film with stoners in it. It’s a rather odd mix considering the action in the film is very heighten at times and albeit a bit shocking at times, but it always makes sense when you see the events of the film and how the movie operates.

 

American Ultra follows Mike Powell (Eisenberg), a stoner working in a convenience store in Liman, West Virginia with his girlfriend Phoebe (Stewart). The two are happily in love, however Mike was part of a failed CIA operation called “Wise Man” and ambitious upstart CIA agent Adrian Yates (Grace) plans on wiping away everyone in the program, which includes Mike. When the program’s former head Victoria Lasseter (Britton) goes against the agency and actives him, the town is put into lockdown and Mike’s programming starts to go into effect, making him a lethal and trained killer. Now with Yates and his own program assets try to kill Mike, he must protect himself and Phoebe from getting killed.

 

I wasn’t really expecting much from this to be honest. I thought it would be a dumb fun action comedy, and while it is that for the most part, there is something about it that sets it apart from other action comedies. The other reason I wasn’t looking forward to it that much was I’m a little tired of Jesse Eisenberg playing the stoner/deadbeat-like character. Thankfully, here it isn’t too distracting. Sure he goes on some stereotypical-like dialogue, but Eisenberg’s deadpan and rapid delivery make it work, especially with the great chemistry he has with Stewart. I will say though, that his rambling does get a bit old during some points.

 

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The rest of the cast works too and all have their shared moments to shine. Kristen Stewart – who is still probably shaking off the Twilight hate from fans – is pretty good here, playing Mike’s girlfriend Phoebe, who loves and supports him and thankfully there is more to her character than that, but is hurt a bit by becoming a de-factor-o damsel in distress in the last act of the movie. Topher Grace is weirdly miscast as the films villain. Although it makes some sense, as he’s trying to prove himself, there is a weird disconnect since because he’s more humorous than bossy.

 

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It’s actually Walton Goggins, who is as reliable as always, that plays more of the villain role as the asset Laugher, for reasons you can probably imagine. Connie Britton looks to be having some fun playing her serious CIA agent, but at the same time has a protective side of her as she tries to help Mike get through everything. John Leguizamo plays Mike’s drug dealer Rose and has some funny moments, but is nothing more than a minor character, and the same can be said for Tony Hale who plays another CIA agent, Petey, caught in the middle of the power struggle between Britton’s Lasseter and Grace’s Yates. Finally, Bill Pullman pops up in a cameo performance that doesn’t really serve too much purpose other than being another government official.

 

While the film is highly enjoyable, American Ultra does take a hit early on as it does something that kind takes away from the enjoyment of the film as it “rewinds” everything. In some cases it works in films, but only if they do it as a final ta-da moment in the final few minutes, but not the very start of the film. Also, the film’s tone is a bit scattered. The film goes from action-comedy to spy espionage film, and the flip flop is a bit jarring at times, especially with the heighten and hyperactive violence in the film.

 

As for the action, the scenes are great to watch unfold. Yes, they might be a bit violent or jarring for some people, but considering what the movie is, I’m not surprised by how the violence is approached. A highlight is definitely the final act supermarket sequence.

 

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All in all, American Ultra isn’t that bad of a film. Yes, there are some jarring things about it tone wise, and while the rewind aspect hurts the film, the enjoyment of watching the events unfold in real time is enough to make you forget that to some extent. If anything, the chemistry between Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart is enough to keep you entertained.

 

American Ultra

4 out of 5

‘Hitman: Agent 47’ Review

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Dir: Aleksander Bach

Writer(s): Skip Woods and Michael Finch

Cast: Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto, Thomas Kretschmann, and Ciaran Hinds

Synopsis: An assassin teams up with a woman to help her find her father and uncover the mysteries of her ancestry.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a mid-credit scene.*

 

Video game movie adaptations have a rough hill to climb. For one, they take away the interactive aspect of it all, and forces you to watch –essentially– an entire cut-scene. The other – which is the main reason – is that they aren’t always very good, in fact, a lot of the time they are downright terrible. The problem with Hollywood is that forget most video games are fun to play and they take away that fun and make the films just a tad more serious than they probably should be. In other cases, it’s the studio or creative team thinking they can create something on their own and use the basic skeleton of the video games, which is often the reason the films fail. In the case of Hitman: Agent 47, the reboot tries to inject some more aspects of the video game, but still fails to bring a descent adaptation, despite two solid leads.

 

Hitman: Agent 47 starts off by telling us what and when the “Agent” program started. The program was to create Agents, genetically modified assassins, but was eventually shut down. However, a corporation called Syndicate International, lead by Le Clerq (Kretschamann), is looking to restart the program and to do so they need the lead scientist of the program, Litvenko (Hinds). They believe they can find him through his daughter, Katia (Ware), who is also looking for him for personal reasons. So they send John Smith (Quinto) to find her and bring her in, but Agent 47 (Friend) is after them as well with his own agenda.

 

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I did enjoy, for the most part, 2007’s Hitman with Timothy Olyphant as Agent 47, but with this being a complete reboot, Showtime’s Homeland’s Rupert Friend takes over the role and I have to say, he’s a little bit better in the role. Agent 47 is a bit of a tough character to crack in the sense that he’s a genetically modified assassin that had all his feelings stripped away from him. It is really all about the actor playing him and the charisma he brings along with his body language and style. You want to feel this guy is going to kill you and isn’t going to stop until that happens. Friend does bring most of that to the table, and for the most part. Friend brings that Terminator-esque vibe at the beginning as he calmly walks toward Katia and John Smith in a train station. However, I should say, in case you didn’t know, Paul Walker was originally intended to star before he sadly passed away.

 

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Probably one of the best cast members is newcomer Hannah Ware. Katia acts in some ways as the surrogate to the audience and the world of Agents. She plays a rather important part to everything going on, and if you have avoid the trailer – since one of them actually gives it away – I won’t spoil it here. But, it’s a pretty nice addition to the potential series, if they continue making them. Her character at one point feels like she’s going through a “tutorial level” with Agent 47 telling her how she has to deal with her surroundings. Ware does thankfully hold her own and gets involved as much as possible in the action.

 

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The villain side unfortunately doesn’t hold up too much. Thomas Kretschmann’s Le Clerq feels like he’s suppose to be main villain, but sends most of his screentime inside his specially designed safety office. That said, Zachary Quinto, who is really a henchman for Le Clerq becomes the primary villain for us. Quinto, who is usually reliable, doesn’t really deliver as the villain here. He doesn’t really do too much, sure he has some pretty intense fight scenes with Friend’s Agent 47, and he has an interesting character trait, but his character just lacks a bit. Ciaran Hinds, who isn’t a villain, gets a small but descent role as Katia’s father and creator for Agent program. Hinds is reliable as always and it’s kind of a shame he didn’t get more screen time since he brings the heart to the movie.

 

So despite the two solid leads in Friend and Ware, Hitman: Agent 47 does have its faults, and unfortunately those faults do take you out of the movie a bit. For one, a lot of the CGI takes you out of it. Some it works, but a lot of the time it just doesn’t look good at all. Sure the movie is low budget, but it shouldn’t have affected the CGI too much. Even some of the action sequences – which were put together by John Wick directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch – are great to watch, especially the beginning set-piece, but director Aleksander Bach makes some weird editing choices that don’t help the scenes out in any way and even makes them a bit hard to watch.

 

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One little tidbit that I thought could have added to the movie is having more world building. It looked like Fox was setting up for a franchise and there were some great opportunities for Fox to build that up a little more. They tried with a character named Diana (Angelababy), who looks to be Agent 47’s contact, but it was the scene at the end that really tries to build up the world, but by then it is too late.

 

All in all, Hitman: Agent 47 has some problems that take away from the movie a bit, but with its leads in Rupert Friend and Hannah Ware you can overlook them (for the most part). While it’s not the best video game movie adaptation – there’s also some nice nods to the games – it certainly isn’t the worse.

 

Hitman: Agent 47

3 out of 5

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‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ Review

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Dir: Guy Ritchie

Writer(s): Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram

Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Luca Calvani, Sylvester Groth, Misha Kuznetsov, Jared Harris and Hugh Grant

Synopsis: In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

2015 really does seem to be the year of the spy genre. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation came out a couple weeks ago and the next James Bond film, Spectre is coming out in November. Both films are totally different so it’s nice to see something a little more loose and fun with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. coming out his past weekend. Not to say the film doesn’t have its moments of seriousness, but The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a nice alterative to some of the other films out there.

 

Directed by Guy Ritchie, the film is based on the old 60s shows of the same name, is set in the early 1960s at the height of the Cold War, and follows CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Cavill) having to team up with and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Hammer) to work with an East German mechanic Gaby Teller (Vikander), whose father – a known scientist and ability to make a nuclear bomb – has been kidnapped by Victoria Vinciguerra (Debicki) to build a bomb. The plan is for Illya to pose as Gaby’s fiancés in hopes that Gaby’s Uncle Rudi (Groth) can arrange an introduction, as Solo tries to charm Victoria so they can get the Intel they need to rescue Gaby’s father and stop the bomb from being sold and used.

 

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The film works as a pseudo-prequel to the TV show, as it shows how the group came to be. Solo is one of the CIA’s best agents, like Kuryakin is the best the KGB has to offer and are focused to work together in order to, for all intent-and-purposes, save the world. The two aren’t on the best terms since the film opens with an impressive chase scene – that also involves Gaby – and right before they team up, they beat the crap out of each other. They also have their own ways of going about a mission and it also doesn’t help that their respected agencies have their own agenda. However, despite being on different sides of the war, the two form a weird and competitive friendship and mutual respect for each other.

 

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In fact, one of the best aspects of the film is the relationship and chemistry between Cavill and Hammer. The banter they exchange with and about each other is funny and brings another layer to them. Cavill – who actually replaced Tom Cruise after he left the project – brings a great dose of charisma and is heavily suave when need be. Cavill is easily enjoying himself here and loves chewing up some of the scene. Hammer, goes against the usual stereotypes of Russians as bad guys, and makes Illya more of earnest character that balances his anger than the other way around. Hammer also seems to be having fun playing the character and putting on the Russian accent.

 

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Alicia Vikander, thankfully, isn’t a female character that is put off to the side and actually gets to be involved in the mission, for the most part. Vikander is becoming one of my early favorite actresses after seeing her in Ex Machina, and she doesn’t disappoint here. She stands out in her bigger scenes, especially one that involves her and Hammer in a hotel room. By the end, she does get a bit lost in the background.

 

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The rest of the supporting cast really doesn’t work out that well, unfortunately. Elizabeth Debicki’s Victoria and Luca Calvani are supposedly to the villains of the movie, but they don’t essentially earn that title. Maybe we’ve been spoiled by good spy film villains with the James Bond and Mission: Impossible films, but The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is its own thing in being a bit looser, but still no excuse for not having a good villain. Sylvester Groth’s Uncle Rudi does okay, but by the time we know more about his character and is finally growing, the film is done with the character. Jared Harris plays Solo’s CIA contact and boss, but it really is nothing more than an extended cameo for Harris, and the same goes for Misha Kuznetsov who plays Illya’s KGB boss. Finally, Hugh Grant’s Waverly character pops in around the middle of the film and disappears until the final act, and I have to say, I wish he was in it just a tad bit more. The character feels more like he was a character they were building up for potential sequels, but I wish they gave him a little more to do in the actual film beforehand.

 

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Guy Ritchie is sometimes known for choosing style over substance in his films, and while that rings true here in some areas, the other areas he find a nice balance in some of the scenes. But, the film almost lends itself in some areas to choose style of substance, especially in the beginning action sequence – which is a hell of a lot of fun – and in some instances during the final action sequence. Speaking of the final action sequence, it almost saves the film, in the sense that the final act makes up for some of the slow pace during the second act. The final action sequence is also elevated a bit more because of the score. The score adds another great layer to the scene that makes it even more fun to watch.

 

All in all, The Man from U.N.C.L.E is a ton of fun. Cavill and Hammer bring a lot of the fun and humor to the film that sets it apart from the other spy genres that are coming out this year.

 

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

4 out of 5

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‘Straight Outta Compton’ Review

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Dir: F. Gary Gray

Writer(s): Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff

Cast: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown Jr., Aldis Hodge, R. Marcos Taylor, Marlon Yates Jr. and Paul Giamatti

Synopsis: The group NWA emerges from the streets of Compton, California in the mid-1980s and revolutionizes Hip Hop culture with their music and tales about life in the hood.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

N.W.A aka Niggaz Wit Attitudes was one of – if not the – most known group and popular rap groups in the late 80s and early 90s. The success you could argue was because of the time and place they formed and got popular, but it doesn’t take away anything they have done or their talent. However, Straight Outta Compton feels like a mix of gritty drama, road movie, and behind-the-music. Moreover, the film touches on the racial tensions back then, but you can’t help but feel the connection to the present with all the racial tensions today as well. But of course the question is, is Straight Outta Compton any good? Or is it a water down biopic on a highly successful and beloved group? It’s a mix of both.

 

I’ll be honest; I’m not the biggest N.W.A fan out there. I do like a few of their songs and knew some of the history coming in to the movie, so for the most part I can in as a clean sponge ready to soak in everything about the group that I didn’t know and how they formed. Of course, you should know that the film does take some liberties with the history of the group. For one, some things don’t line up in history timeline, but that could be because the film was originally three and a half hours and it was cut down an hour for the theater cut. The other is some events in the groups history were completely taken out and not even mentioned, but I’ll leave that for you to find out what. Straight Outta Compton isn’t a complete biopic, but it is a good one that focuses on the group’s three major players: Eric “Eazy-E” Wright (Jason Mitchell), O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), and Andre “Dr. Dre” Young (Corey Hawkins).

 

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Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, and O’Shea Jackson Jr.

 

The film starts off showing us the lives of the three live before they became the notorious group. Eazy-E is selling drugs, Dr. Dre wants a better life for himself and is confident about his abilities, and Ice Cube is writing lyrics and also wants a better life. Enter in Antoine “DJ Yella” Carraby (Neil Brown Jr.), Lorenzo “MC Ren” Patterson (Aldis Hodge), and The D.O.C (Marlon Yates Jr.) and the group hit it off and make a hit song. Soon they get the attention of manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti), who gets more exposure for the group and eventually makes them one of the biggest groups on the planet.

 

Once the group starts touring and becoming more and more popular, the group starts becoming a little splintered, due to contracts. It’s Ice Cube that sees Eazy-E and Jerry are getting the better end of the deal than him and goes off to do his own thing, while Dr. Dre realizes’ it and goes off to produce his own music with Suge Knight (R. Marcos Taylor) to start their own company in Death Row Records. Eventually, everything starts to fall apart and everyone starts to look back at what was and could have been.

 

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Like I mentioned earlier, Straight Outta Compton drives more its focus on the group as people and where they came from to what happened after the success. Of course, not everything in the group history is in the movie, but the performances and tense drama is enough to overlook all that – at least when you’re watching the film – but even some stuff in the film seems biased only because you know they are not going to put everything into the film.

 

The performances are really what make the film pop and worthwhile. Jason Mitchell’s Eazy-E is both tragic and charismatic and is one of the most defined characters in the film. Corey Hawkins’ Dr. Dre is probably the second most defined as we see his struggle with leaving the group and dealing with Suge Knight’s antics at Death Row Records. Finally, O’Shea Jackson Jr. gets to play his own father and it really is like seeing a spitting image of him. Jackson Jr. actually holds his own in his own scenes to the point you can tell he actually put in work and wasn’t just given the role because he looks the most like his father. Finally, there is Paul Giamatti’s Jerry Heller. Giamatti is as reliable as always and his best scenes are arguably with Mitchell’s Eazy-E, especially one of these last scenes together.

 

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The rest of the cast is really just along for the ride, Brown Jr.’s DJ Yella and Hodge’s MC Ren are really just background characters that get only a few moments to shine or do a little more, but get lost in the shuffle. Marlon Yates Jr.’s The D.O.C doesn’t even get a lot of screen time or lines for the matter, he’s easily the most forgettable character of the group until he’s mentioned in one particular scene. R. Marcos Taylor’s portray of Suge Knight hits a little more closer to home considering what is currently going on with him, but believing all the stories is a lot more easier once you see what happens in the film.

 

Director F. Gary Gray put a lot of thought into how the group finally comes together and the performances. Each one has its own vibe to it and nothing ever repeats itself. The big one is of course the famous concert in Detroit. I won’t go too much into it, but it is definitely one of the highlights of the film. Even the way the group supposedly got the inspiration for one of their hit songs, “Fuck Tha Police” was extremely well put together and had every bit of drama and tension that made that scene powerful in every way.

 

If there is one thing I didn’t like about the film, it would be the length. I’m not one to complain or even bring up the length of a film, only because it feels nit-picky. However, Straight Outta Compton could have taken out some scenes to cut the runtime and it wouldn’t have hurt the film in any way. I do get why the scenes were in there, but some of the previous scenes did the job well enough. However, knowing that the film Gray wanted to put out was originally three and a half hours long, and then had to cut down an hour, it makes sense some scenes feel a bit out of place. Moreover, there are “cameos” by artists by Snoop Dogg (Keith Stanfield) and Tupac (Marcc Rose) that feel forced and out of place, but again, knowing that the cut was originally longer, I guess it makes more sense.

 

All in all, Straight Outta Compton is a great film. The movie is surprisingly more dramatic and tense than you would think, but it’s the performances by the three main leads in O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, and Jason Mitchell that makes the film worthwhile. Paul Giamatti is also a major player in the supporting cast role. The film does lose a lot of steam toward the end of the film, but gains it back a bit before the credits role. The film may not have the group entire history, and could be a bit biased, but there is no question to say the film isn’t good.

 

Straight Outta Compton

4 out of 5

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‘Fantastic Four’ Review

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Dir: Josh Trank

Writer(s): Josh Trank, Jeremy Slater, and Simon Kinberg

Cast: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Tim Blake Nelson and Reg E. Cathey.

Synopsis: Four young outsiders teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

The Fantastic Four aka “Marvel’s First Family” is very beloved by many fans. However, 20th Century Fox has never really been able to nail down the characters. Tim Story’s 2005 film, and its sequel in 2007 were not received well and came off as too goofy and campy. Enter the age of gritty and darker comic book movies and Josh Trank brings his take – sort of – to the Fantastic Four with a movie more connected to science instead of science-fiction, with elements of experiments gone wrong and familiar characters. However, it’s all the behind-the-scenes drama that most people will probably remember from his reboot.

 

I don’t want to focus on the behind-the-scenes drama because if you walk in to the movie with all that in your head, as much as you want to enjoy the movie for what it is – which you should always do that – it will get to you. However, Trank isn’t completely to blame, at least according to some well place and reliable people. That being said, this review will ONLY focus on the movie and not things that unfortunately happened. I will just say this, Trank and Fox may take the hits, but at the end of day, it’s the fans that lose.

 

The movie starts off by showing us a young Reed Richards (Owen Judge) building a machine that he believes at the time to only be a teleporter. With the help from a young Ben Grimm (Evan Hannermann), the two pull it off. Up ahead seven years, an older Reed (Teller) and Ben (Bell) try to show off their invention at a science fair only to be disqualified because they think it’s a magic trick. However, Reed and Ben meet Dr. Franklin Storm (Cathey) and his adopted daughter Sue (Mara), who sees Reed’s invention as the last piece of their own project they’ve been doing. Reed gets to go work at the Baxter Institute where he continues his work.

 

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Franklin Storm eventually brings in a resentful former worker and co-founder of the project they bought Reed into do, Victor Von Doom (Kebbell) and Johnny (Jordan) to help finish transporting to another dimension. Seeing that the machine works, and it is possible to travel safely to the alternate dimension, the project takes a bump that they didn’t see coming. So Reed calls Ben so the two, along with Victor and Johnny, can go and see their work for themselves. However, disaster hits as the four try to return and as they try to head back the four – along with Sue by accident – becoming affected with abilities they don’t know and can’t explain.

 

For all intent-and-purposes, Fantastic Four is an origin story. The characters are new version from what you’ve seen before. In fact, the movie tries to play them as teenagers. Yes, teenagers: Miles Teller, who is 28, and Jamie Bell, who is 29, are treated as that and when we see the “adult” versions of them, they are in a science fair in school. Sue is apparently the same age or maybe older, and Johnny is able to drive – the first time we see him he’s street racing – and tells his father during an encounter later in the movie that he’s in adult. Victor is the most notable adult of the five. The age issue is probably a small thing, and not the worse part of this movie, but it is odd once you think about it.

 

The nice thing about the film is, for the most part, you know who these characters are. Reed wants his work to mean something and do good for everyone, he’s not doing it for the fame. Sue wants the same thing, but goes about it for own way. Johnny wants to be his own man and doesn’t want to really follow in his father’s footsteps although he could. Victor is driven by ambition and doesn’t want his work to be messed with by anyone, especially the government.

 

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The least developed character at the start is Ben Grimm. The only thing we get from his character is that he comes from a poor income family and gets beaten up by his older brother. Once he gets turned into The Thing he becomes angry, but, he uses his anger. It’s hard to talk about it because I don’t want to get into spoilers, but there is a single shot that connects to what he’s been up to since turning The Thing, that I thought would be a great place to go and have that be a new character trait or something that can change the character that we’ve known for ages. But, no, instead it gets tossed aside and it never mentioned again.

 

I’ll say this, the first two-thirds of the movie work, even with the middle of the movie being a bit sluggish and unbalanced. Fantastic Four is a filled with action. Instead it brings the focus to the characters and dealing with their newfound abilities. Instead of automatically embracing it, they are actually scarred, especially Ben, who of course gets the worse of it. The film jumps a year after they get their powers and sees them be able to use them. It did irk me that we couldn’t see the actual scenes of them learning how to use their powers because it would have given us an extra layer to attach to, but as is some of the rest of the movie, a missed opportunity.

 

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Now, that’s the first two-thirds, and again, it isn’t that bad as many are saying it is. It’s not perfect. However, the final act of the movie is what really hurts Fantastic Four, so much so that no matter how hard I tried to not think of the behind-the-scenes problems, I thought of them, and you can clearly see some of the problems. Moreover, the final act is way too rushed and kills any sort of potential and monument the movie had. It’s almost a shame to say, because you obviously you want a movie to end strong, but Fantastic Four’s ending feels like they were doing too much in little time.

 

The cast does okay with what they are given. Miles Teller is pretty reserved here and doesn’t step foot into the typical leadership role until the very end. Kate Mara’s Sue Storm has her very brief moments to shine, but gets a little stronger as the movie goes on. Jaime Bell, again, is one of the most underdeveloped characters as human Ben Grimm and even The Thing. There was some great potential for his character, but they don’t do anything with it. Also, the CGI-d Thing isn’t too bad. It’s probably the best effect the movie has, which is saying something because some of the CGI is a bit wonky in areas.

 

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Michael B. Jordan is okay as Johnny Storm aka The Human Torch. He a certain attitude to him that makes sense when you look at everything that he goes through. Of course, everyone was up in arms when he was cast as Johnny and the question of race came up – along with some disturbing and disgusting comments – but no one batted in eye when Reg E. Cathey was cast as Franklin Storm. Anyway, the stupid argument of race doesn’t even matter at the end since Sue is the one that’s actually adopted. The adoption is bought up about twice, never to full effect, but it almost doesn’t matter. Which brings me to my next point.

 

The four never really feel like a full fledge team. Instead when they face Doom at the end, it feels like they are just teaming up because Doom is trying to kill everyone on Earth. Even when the movie tries to make it seem like they’ve always been together as a group, it feels forced. Yes, the argument could be made that it is an origin story and this is how they become the team or they haven’t earned the team at this point, but considering Sue and Johnny are supposed to be siblings, and Ben and Reed are suppose to be best childhood friends – although they only have a few scenes together and some don’t even work – the group doesn’t blend well together.

 

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As for Toby Kebbell’s Victor Von Doom aka Dr. Doom, or just Doom, well, let’s just say that it isn’t all that great. Kebbell is a great actor and is finally getting some recognition for that, but wow, did Fox mess this up. I’m even going to say that Victor is a better character than Doom, and Doom has superpowers! Maybe it was because there isn’t enough Doom in the movie, and even his short screentime isn’t the best. I think if his look was different, than the scenes of him using his powers could have been more terrifying. I’m indifferent about the look, only because of the way they went about making the look. Unfortunately, even Kebbell couldn’t save the character.

 

Reg E. Cathey is highly misused here and no thanks to some weird editing – most likely by Fox when the kicked Trank out of the editing process – is robbed of what could have been a great scene with Jordan before the final act. Tim Blake Nelson plays a greedy government official that chews up any scene he’s in, but the role is wasted on Nelson, who is a great actor, because it really adds nothing, other than have a human antagonist opposite Doom.

 

All in all, Fantastic Four is not as bad as people and critics are saying. The movie isn’t fantastic (sorry, I had to), but it isn’t terrible either. The final act of the movie does hurt the film a lot because of how rushed it feels and the terrible structure of it. The behind-the-scenes drama coming out does hurt the film a bit, but only because it is extremely noticeable in a lot of places. Also, there are quite a few shots in the trailer that seemed really cool that aren’t even in the movie! So be ready for that. Yes, Fox and Josh Trank will take the hit, but it is us the fans that suffer from all the drama. So is Fantastic Four worth watching? In most cases it is, and then the ending comes around, and then it isn’t.

 

Fantastic Four

2.5 out of 5

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August Movie Releases

Can you believe it’s already August? Seriously, where has the all the time gone geez. Anyway, August is filled some films that could have potential. It’s also the last month of the Summer Movie Season, also known to some as studios’ “dump month”  or just dumping movies they don’t have complete faith in. Let’s hope that it is not the true case.

 

 

7th

Limited Releases: Dark Places & The Diary of a Teenager Girl

 

Ricki and the Flash

Everyone’s favorite Meryl Streep goes a little against type playing a rock-and-roll musician who left home and her family to follow her dreams, but returns home when her daughter’s, played by Mamie Gummer, husband leaves her. I like Meryl Streep as much as the next person, but I feel like I’ve watched the whole movie on the trailer. So maybe avoid the full trailer if you want to watch it. The film also stars Sebastian Stan, Rick Springfield, Audra McDonald, and Kevin Kline.

 

Shaun the Sheep Movie

A stop-motion movie based on TV show of the same name which follows titular character Shaun trying to get some of his friends back to the farm. The adventure leads to Shaun and some of his other sheep friends to the “Big City.” I’ve actually heard of the show in passing but never watched it for myself, but I like stop-motion work so I might give this a shot.

 

The Gift

Jason Bateman, Joel Edgerton and Rebecca Hall star in this mystery thriller as a married couple’s (Bateman and Hall) lives get thrown into a tailspin after an old acquaintance (Edgerton) from the husband’s past brings gifts and starts to act mysteriously around the couple. This one kind of popped out of nowhere for me. The cast is great and I’m interested to see what exactly the mystery is and hoping it’s not too cliché.

 

Fantastic Four

Fox is giving another go at the most popular family in comic book history. The movie is directed by Josh Trank (Chronicle) and is taking the grittier approach from the first look at the trailers. The movie is taking a lot of crap because of the tonal shift, the weird casting, changing Dr. Doom’s name and origin, and the race changing of Johnny Storm/The Human Torch being played by Michael B. Jordan (although I don’t remember anyone giving any flake to Reg E. Cathey for playing Franklin Storm, the father of Johnny and Sue Storm (Kate Mara)). Nonetheless, the movie could end up surprising us, so let’s see what they bring to the table. The film also stars Miler Teller, Jamie Bell, and Toby Kebbell.

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14th

Underdogs

An animated film that is pretty self-explanatory. The film follows Amadeo, a local top Foosball player, as his town is about to be taken over by an old rival. Amadeo challenges his rival to a game of real soccer; the catch is that Amadeo has help from the players in his Foosball table that have come to life. The movie looks okay, I’m not really excited for it too much, but I’m sure it’ll find an audience.  Rupert Grint, Ariana Grande, Nicholas Hoult, Anthony Head, John Leguizamo, and Belle Throne voice the cast.

 

Straight Outta Compton

The biopic about one of the most popular and outspoken groups in music history: N.W.A. The film has been in the works for a few years now, but it wasn’t until recently that it started to pick up steam, and now, we’re finally getting it. The movie is being produced by members Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, so we can expect something close to and maybe some sort of inside look to the group life we didn’t know. The movie also feels a little more personal since Ice Cube’s son is being played by his actual son. The rest of the cast is filled out by only a few familiar faces like Paul Giamatti playing the group’s manager, Jerry Heller, but is filled with most newcomers to the scene like Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre), Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E), Neil Brown Jr. (Dj Yella), Aldis Hodge (MC Ren), R. Marcos Taylor (Suge Knight) and Alexandra Shipp (Kim).

 

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Superman and The Lone Ranger partner up, well at least the actors. The film is based on the show of the same name that ran from the mid 60s about a CIA agent (Henry Cavill) and a KGB operative (Armie Hammer) have to work together to stop an organization from setting off a nuclear weapon. The film is directed by Guy Ritchie and the film does have his style all over it, so let’s hope that The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is good enough especially with the rest of the cast of Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Jared Harris and Hugh Grant.

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21st

American Ultra

Max Landis wrote this film that stars Jesse Eisenberg as a stoner store clerk that actually happens to be a sleeper government agent, but his programming is phased because of all the drugs. Trouble brews when he becomes a target and the government also captures his girlfriend (Kristen Stewart). I’m going to watch the movie, but I’m actually a little tired of seeing Eisenberg playing a stoner-like character. The rest of the cast fills out to Topher grace, Walton Goggins, Connie Britton, John Leguizamo, Tony Hale, and Bill Pullman.

 

Hitman: Agent 47

Fox has decided to reboot their video game adaptation of Hitman. This time the film is called Hitman: Agent 47 which sees the titled agent (played by Rupert Friend) teaming up with a woman to help her find her father, who may have had a hand on creating the program that made him an assassin. I had no problem with the last film – it had its moments – but I will say this reboot looks pretty action-heavy. Friend is from the Showtime show Homeland, which he’s pretty good in and I think he’s going to nail to nail this role. The rest of the cast is Hannah Ware, playing the woman mentioned earlier, Thomas Kretschmann, Emilio Rivera, Ciaran Hinds, and Zachary Quinto.

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28th

Limited Release: Z for Zachariah

The film opened at the Toronto Film Festival to rave reviews and with three strong leads – and possibly the only cast members – I can see why. The film follows three survivors (Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejifor and Chris Pine) who are bought together after a disaster wipes out civilization. The film isn’t going to be like most post-apocalyptic films, as the movie looks to be a straightforward drama with some thriller aspects thrown in.  Can’t wait to see it.

 

We Are Your Friends

Zac Efron plays an aspiring DJ who looks to make it in the electronic music (EMD) scene. The trailer doesn’t do too much for me to be honest. It’s not even that I’m not a huge fan of EMD, but the trailer doesn’t make the movie seem that appealing. The rest of the cast is filled out by Emily Ratajokwski, Jon Bernthal, Jonny Weston, Shiloh Fernandez, and Wes Bentley.

 

Sinister 2

The horror sequel will see the urban legend Bughuul return to haunt a new family of a single mother (Shannyn Sossamon) and her two sons. The movie is said to have Bughuul involved more – possibly even more about his history, along with the spirits of his past children victims. The only help they have will be from the returning character of Deputy So & So (James Ransone). I don’t know how I feel about the movie after watching the first trailer. Not because it didn’t look any good, but because it looks like it gave just a tad bit too much away. Although, the last film looked like it gave a tad bit much in the trailers, but it didn’t.

 

Regression

Emma Watson and Ethan Hawke star in this suspense thriller that finds a detective (Hawke) trying to solve a mysterious case that involves a girl (Watson), her family and a possible cult. I didn’t know too much about the movie, but once the trailer came out I was fully on board. The trailer is creepy and it looks like the film will keep us guessing until the very end.

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So, what are you looking forward to?