New Podcast Episode: Oscar Picks, Nightwing Film Being Developed, Matt Reeves Directing The Batman & More

It’s been a while since I’ve posted the podcast up here, but here’s a new episode of the podcast with a guest.

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‘Fist Fight’ Review

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Director: Richie Keen

Writers: Van Robichaux and Evan Susser

Cast: Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Kumail Nanjiani, Christina Hendricks, JoAnna Garica Swisher, Alexa Nisenson, Dean Norris and Dennis Haysbert

Synopsis: When one school teacher gets the other fired, he is challenged to an after-school fight.

 

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

 

After school fights, we’ve probably seen them or heard about them (maybe been part of one?), but it’s usually between students and not teachers. That is what leads us to Fist Fight. While the sounds like a descent idea, some aspects of the movie do go over board, which yeah, it’s a movie, but seriously – this film is just a tad over the top.

Fist Fight takes place at Roosevelt High School on the last day of school, so everyone is a little hyped out as you can imagine. However, the students as his school take it to the next level by do insane pranks on teachers and school property. That’s where we meet Campbell (Charlie Day) and Strickland (Ice Cube), Campbell is by-the-books teacher who has a child on the way, and one set to make a big performance at a school talent show, while Strickland is the no nonsense, tough and mean teacher in school. It doesn’t help that the school is cutting down the budget and firing teachers, so when a brave soul decides to pull a prank on Strickland, he goes overboard and gets a fire ax to destroy his desk with Campbell seeing the whole thing. When they’re questioned, Campbell sells out Strickland, which prompts Strickland to challenge Campbell to a fight after school. What follows is Campbell trying to get out of the fight.

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The premise behind Fist Fight is as ridiculous as the movie is, maybe more. Again, the film takes the level of what these school kids do to the max. So much so that you have to really suspend your disbelief that these kids can and could get away with half the stuff they are pulling off. Once you get pass that, you can start to enjoy the film and all the jokes, which are pretty much nonstop once they start rolling, and of course some fall flat while others are great.

When it comes to the characters, Day and Ice Cube really nail there respected part. Ice Cube could play the tough and mean looking character all day and in his sleep, but there is a little more to his character that I wish was pushed more to the forefront. It’s mentioned in passing and near the end, but I wish there was more of that instead of his just being angry all the time. Charlie Day’s Campbell is the guy with no backbone, and spends the whole day trying to get out of the fight as much as possible, and while Day has incredible comedic timing, his actions get him trouble.

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The supporting cast is really hit-and-miss. Jillian Bell as the school guiding counselor, Holly isn’t really all that great at her job and is one of Campbell’s go-tos. Tracy Morgan plays Coach Crawford, who gets dragged into Campbell’s situation, Kumail Nanjiani plays security guard Mehar, who has some solid scenes and Christina Hendricks, who plays Ms. Monet is kind of wasted here, as she plays a character who’s too weird, even for this movie.

Surprisingly, the actual fight is rather impressive and almost felt out of place with the whole film. It’s also longer than I thought it would have been, but a credit to the stunt team along with Day and Ice Cube for even going through with it.

All in all, Fist Fight really tests your notion of the final day of school, even at a troubled and verge of closing school. However, some of the humor is spot on and the cast mostly work well together.

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Fist Fight

3 out of 5

‘The Great Wall’ Review

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Director: Zhang Yimou

Writers: Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro and Tony Gilroy

Cast: Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Pedro Pascal, Andy Lau, Lu Han, Hanyu Zhang, Kenny Lin, Eddie Peng, Xuan Huang, Ryan Zheng, Karry Wang and Willem Dafoe.

Synopsis: European mercenaries searching for black powder become embroiled in the defense of the Great Wall of China against a horde of monstrous creatures.

 

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

 

The Great Wall received a lot, and I mean a lot, of criticism when the trailer was released showing Matt Damon surrounded by Asian actors and by the look of it, saving them and China from monsters. After all of it, director Zhang Yimou and Andy Lau came out and said that was not the case, and that the character was always written to be non-Asian, but people still were angry – without watching the film. Now, that the film is out, I know people will still keep to their stance not seeing past Damon’s casting, but if you can get past that – especially seeing that Damon is the true savior of China in the film – we get a descent and passable action film.

The film follows William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal), mercenaries that came from Europe to China seeking the fabled “black powder” to make them rich. However, they find The Great Wall of China instead with a massive army inside that call themselves The Nameless Order. Once within, they discover that China is under attack from monsters the Order have called the Tao Tei. Once they prove themselves to the Generals, including Commander Lin Mae (Tian Jing) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau), they are recruited to stop the monsters from breaching the Great Wall and attacking the world. However, Tovar and William are conflicted once the fight becomes more dangerous. Tovar wants to complete the mission they were on, while William wants to stay and fight.

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People will have their opinions about The Great Wall, but the way I looked at it – without spoiling it of course – Damon’s William isn’t the “White Savior” many thought he would be. Does he play a factor to the end game? Yes, there’s no denying that, but at least from what I saw, he isn’t the key to killing the monsters like many thought or the trailers would have you believe. Is he special? Sure, he’s really good with a bow. That’s it. Once you get past Damon’s weird accent, and sometimes what feels like wooden acting, William is a character drawn to two worlds. He’s a mercenary that kills for others and money, but once he meets The Nameless Order and Commander Lin, he sees there are other reasons to fight.

When it comes to the rest of the cast Pedro Pascal has great chemistry with Damon, and because of that I wished he had more screen time. Tian Jing’s Commander Lin has some great moments scattered throughout, and being the only real female character in the film it was good to see. Also, she’s not a love interest! She does have an effect on Damon’s William, but it more of a respect than romantic – although you can make the argument probably. Willem Dafoe on the other hand is pretty much wasted here. Besides adding some insight in what is going on, he doesn’t really do anything and could have been played by anyone else.

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When it comes to the action, it’s pretty good despite the massive amount of CGI monsters. That shouldn’t be too surprising considering the man that directed this in Zhang Yimou. From films like Hero and House of Flying Daggers, the action is pretty great and filled with great cinematography, and heart-pounding score that Zhang is accustomed to. Moreover, when it comes to the creatures, the designs aren’t that bad and their design makes them difficult to fill as well. Also, the fact that most TV spots or trailers never really fully showed them off was impressive.

All in all, people are going to have their opinions on The Great Wall as a film and politically, which is fine. I just hope people can look past that and find some enjoyment in the film. It’s not perfect, most of the characters don’t get enough screen time or are not even developed at all, and there a small subplot that comes out of nowhere and doesn’t do really anything for the film – at least personally. But, the end game of it all, the film is a passable action film.

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The Great Wall

3.5 out of 5

‘A Cure for Wellness’ Review

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Director: Gore Verbinski

Writer: Justin Haythe

Cast: Dane DeHaan, Mia Goth, Ivo Nandi, Adrian Schiller, Celia Imrie, Harry Groener and Jason Isaacs

Synopsis: An ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness center” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps but soon suspects that the spa’s miraculous treatments are not what they seem.

 

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

 

Gore Verbinski is one of those director’s who makes films that you like or don’t. Sure the same can be said for all directors, but Verbinski also has a weird filmography. From The Mexican, The Ring to the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, Rango and finally The Lone Ranger. So while A Cure for Wellness had some potential from the trailers, so it’s a bit of a disappointment to see the film that had a lot of potential and sparks of great scenes, to fall apart.

The film follows Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), a young executive at a financial service firm in New York City who is ordered by his board to go get the firm’s CEO, Pembrooke (Harry Groener), at a spa resort in the Swiss Alps after he sends them a weird letter. However, there is extra incentive for Lockhart in getting back the CEO sooner rather than later, but when Lockhart arrives and Pembrooke doesn’t want to leave, Lockhart leaves to regroup only to get into an accident, get a broken leg and has to stay at the resort. However, the more Lockhart stays, the more mysterious and disturbing the resort is.

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Despite what I said at the beginning, A Cure for Wellness does have some great things going for it. The cinematography by Bojan Bazelli, who has worked with Verbinski on The Ring and The Lone Ranger, is equal parts beautiful and horrifying. Add on the production design and the film looks like it could be set in any time period, with the exception of Lockhart using a cell phone at the beginning of the film. Also, the nice little touches of horror that Verbinski scatters throughout the film adds to the sense of mystery and dread the film needs.

However, when it comes to everything else, it’s a huge hit-or-miss. A Cure for Wellness has too much going on for its good, and that’s saying something considering the film is two-and-a-half hours long. The film essentially has three different stories going on, but only two of them actually make the film worthwhile. Those two storylines involve the history of the resort and how it connects to the head doctor in Volmer (Jason Isaacs) and Hannah (Mia Goth), the only other young person around. There is a third plot point that involves Dane DeHaan’s Lockhart and a personal tragedy, but it doesn’t really feel like it serves the overall narrative, and could have easily been cut out.

When it comes to the cast, the strongest member is Mia Goth, but the negative aspect is that she’s not in the film enough. Hannah serves a great purpose, but the true nature isn’t revealed until the final act, and by then you’d probably figure it out so the impact is lessened. However, it doesn’t make her journey great to watch. When it comes to DeHaan, he’s feel a bit miscasted at the beginning of the film. He’s plays off as “tough” Wall Street guy, but it comes off a bit weird. I don’t know if it’s just me, and it’s nothing against DeHaan either, because I think he’s a great actor when given the right material, and once he’s stripped of the Wall Street guy, he’s good. When it comes to Jason Isaacs, well, at this point he can play a bad guy or mysterious/maybe evil character in his sleep.

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However, the biggest issue I have with the film is the length. I’m not one to usually complain about a film’s length, but A Cure for Wellness’ biggest weakness is how long it is. Like I said before, some of the secrets you could probably figure out or, at least, guess so it takes away some of the impact the reveals have. Another added factor to the length is there are scenes that could have easily been cut, and not affect the final product, and potentially make the film better.

All in all, A Cure for Wellness was a –personal– disappointment. While the film does introduce some interesting concepts it fails to really execute on them or makes them fall flat instead of excite. The only real saving grace in the film is the fantastic visuals, production design and score.

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A Cure for Wellness

3 out of 5

‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ Review

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Director: Chris McKay

Writers: Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, & John Whittington

Voice Cast: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Zach Galifianakis, Jenny Slate, Mariah Carey, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ellie Kemper and Billy Dee Williams

Synopsis: Bruce Wayne must not only deal with the criminals of Gotham City, but also the responsibility of raising a boy he adopted.

 

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

 

No one knew what to think when The LEGO Movie came out, and then we watched it, everyone (okay not everyone) fell in love with it. Something many agreed was the standout was LEGO Batman, so when it was announced that LEGO Batman would be getting a spinoff, it seemed right and logical. And before you ask, no, you don’t have to watch The LEGO Movie in order to watch The LEGO Batman Movie, in fact, the film stands on its own. So was the gamble worth it? Yes, yes it was.

The LEGO Batman Movie starts off with a pretty lengthy and action-packed opening where Batman (Will Arnett) takes on what looks to be his entire rogues gallery lead by The Joker (Zach Galifianakis). Afterwards, he returns to Wayne Manor on Wayne Island where he essentially lives by himself with the expectation of Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), and lives his life as a lonely man. However, that changes when Jim Gordon retires and his daughter Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) is bought in to be the new commissioner and wants to work with the Batman to finally end crime in Gotham, which of course he doesn’t like. Add on the fact that while be distracted as Bruce Wayne, he unknowingly adopts an orphan in Richard Grayson (Michael Cera), or as the other kids in the orphanage call him, Dick. What follows is Batman bringing Dick into the fold and discovering what it means to work together and be a part of a team.

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While the film may be for kids, there is enough here for hardcore Batman fans. The film really digs deep into the core of the character and what makes him tick. The film makes fun of how long the character’s been around, but at the same time it brings up the obvious questions fans, and non-fans, bring up about him. It never gets to the point that it brings the character down – as it shouldn’t – but just enough to make you really think back and criticize the character and his actions. However, it all wrapped up as a huge love letter to Batman and it works on much a personal and ambitious level, and all done in LEGO form.

The voice cast is pretty spot on with Will Arnett, once again, being the highlight once again. He has this ability to tap into Batman that makes him comes off as both a jerk at times, but also a charming character. Michael Cera is a close second to stealing the show from Arnett as Dick Grayson/Robin as he’s equal parts naïve, adventurous and funny, moreover he’s the perfect opposite to Batman. Ralph Fiennes is pretty spot on as Alfred, Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon does the best with what’s she’s given, and is a nice non-villain foil/love interest to Batman.

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Zach Galifianakis as The Joker, which I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sold on when he was casted does a great job. Seeing him be down on the dumps when Batman tells him he’s “fighting around” is both hilarious and a bit heartbreaking in its own way. To go a bit nerdy, hearing Billy Dee Williams voice Two-Face –albeit in a small role – was still cool to hear. The rest of the villain cast don’t really have big moments like Joker, and some other villains Joker recruits – which leads to a fun introduction and funny moments – so I won’t get too much into them. Finally, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill return to voice Superman and Green Lantern in a fun cameo appearance.

While I’m sure many will find some things wrong or misplaced with the film, the film lags for a only a bit, The LEGO Batman Movie nows who the audience is. One thing I do love about the film is it stands on its own. Despite one moment in the film, it stands on itself and doesn’t rely on The LEGO Movie to keep it up – not that it really needed it – I mean, come on, it’s LEGO Batman for crying out loud.

All in all, The LEGO Batman Movie is all around fun. Whether you’re a hardcore Batman fan or not the film has just about everything for everybody watching. More importantly, the film knows and understands the character, which makes the film feel like the ultimate love letter, and the perfect one.

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The LEGO Batman Movie

4.5 out of 5

‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ Review

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Director: Chad Stahelski

Writer: Derek Kolstad

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarico, Common, Ruby Rose, Lance Reddick, Claudia Gerini, Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne

Synopsis: After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life.

 

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

 

Back in 2014, the first John Wick came out and everyone was surprised how great it was. It could have easily gone under the radar as a dumb fun action thriller with Keanu Reeves getting revenge of the people that killed his dog. But, the film became an instant favorite with everyone that watched it because of the crazy action/fight sequences with “gun-fu” and how the film felt like a throwback to the eighties and early nineties action films. So, when it was announced that John Wick: Chapter 2 was happened, fans eagerly waited what The Boogeyman’s next adventure would have in store. Little tease – lots and lots more of headshots.

Chapter 2 opens up with a long action sequence that follows John Wick (Keanu Reeves) getting his car back, and once he gets it back he returns home where once again put his guns and gold coins away so he can live out his retirement. Of course, nothing is that easy in this world, and gets a visit from an old acquaintance in Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) who is calling in a favor, blood markers as they call them, that Wick owes him. The catch is if Wick doesn’t do it, he will be killed or despite declining the offer John eventually does do the favor which ends up with him getting a bounty placed on his head. Watch follows is John Wick doing what he does best.

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John Wick: Chapter 2 wastes little time throwing us back into the world of the mysterious assassination guild that involves The Continental. What was just teased and mentioned in the first film is fleshed out just a bit more here. Of course, not everything is explored and answered, which adds a fun layer to the film, but not knowing everything is what makes the film so damn fun. I mean, seeing John Wick shooting people in the head is a hell of a lot of fun too, the world this film takes place in is great to explore too.

Like the first film, Chapter 2 is carried by Keanu Reeves, who let’s face it, was born to play John Wick. Reeves continues to play Wick as a calm, collective and quiet kick-ass hitman who loves headshots. While the character isn’t as conflicted here like he was in the first film, there are a couple of moments that show John Wick’s humanity. Seriously, I can watch Reeves shot people in the head for three hours and not get bored.

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The rest of the cast is hit-or-miss. Riccardo Scamarcio’s D’Antonio just gives off villain-vibes and is somehow easily unlikeable. Ruby Rose plays Ares, a mute henchwoman that tussles with John throughout the film, Common plays Cassian, a guard to Gianna D’Antonio (Claudia Gerini), who gives John a run for his money on multiple occasions. Ian McShane and Lance Reddick have just a little more to do than they did the first time around and Laurence Fishburne as The Bowery King, although he’s never referred to as that, is someone who has a history with John and doesn’t appear until the end of the second act of the film, but it was awesome to see Reeves and Fishburne together on the big screen again.

All in all, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a damn good fun time. The action is pumped to eleven and the world building continues to help elevate the world introduced in the first film. I think as long as Keanu Reeves can keep doing the intense action scenes, I’ll be down for ten more John Wick films.

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John Wick: Chapter 2

4 out of 5

‘Rings’ Review

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Director: F. Javier Gutierrez

Writers: David Loucka, Jacob Estes and Akiva Goldsman

Cast: Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Aimee Teegarden, Bonnie Morgan, and Vincent D’Onofrio

Synopsis: A young woman finds herself on the receiving end of a terrifying curse that threatens to take her life in 7 days.

 

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

 

When the American remake of Ringu came out in 2002, the film found an instant following because of the overall creep and disturbing factor. Of course, the mythology of the film was enough to grab you and pull you: you watch a creepy VHS tape, you then get a phone call with a voice telling you seven days and then you die. The Ring started the horror film remake craze – for better or worse – and became a cult favorite. Now, after all these years – and its sequel – Rings has been released and while usually the wait it worthwhile, it was not the case for this.

After an interesting opening involving an airplane, Rings jumps to our main characters. We start with professor Gabriel (Johnny Galecki), who along with one of his students, Skye (Aimee Teegarden), finds an old VCR and take it home. Gabriel eventually discovers a tape is stuck inside and continues to watch it – of course us the audience knows what it is: Samara’s tape. We then jump to Julia (Matilda Lutz) and her off to college boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe), who are saying their last goodbyes. After a few weeks, Holt isn’t returning any of Julia’s messages, but she gets a weird message from Skye. Julia takes it upon herself to go find Holt and finds out Holt has gotten himself involved in something he shouldn’t have. What follows is Julia eventually watching the video and discovering a new threat that changes everything we know about the mythical tape that kills you after seven days.

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So after the long wait, and the delay – the film was supposed to come out last year: twice – Rings doesn’t really live up to the wait, and to the promise the film tries to convince you of at the beginning of the film. There’s a rather odd new concept introduced to the film that is spearhead by Galecki’s Gabriel that is somewhat makes sense after two films, but one that I kind of wish we had more time with. Galecki also does his best to not make it come off as cheesy, which it easily could have.

When it comes to the other cast members, I don’t know if it has anything to do with them or the script, but every other thing came off as bland. They do have their moments, but the lack of real emotion at times hurts a lot of the scenes they’re in. Lutz’s character Julia has a “sub-plot” that is mentioned and never mentioned again, ever. I assume it was to show us what kind of person she is, and it somewhat pays off later, but they could have gone without mentioning the little tidbit at the beginning. Alex Roe as Holt feels like he has the same expression on his face the whole time, and Aimee Teegarden, who only has a small amount of screen time is actually really good, and I wish she could have been in it more.

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Galecki, like I mentioned, does the best he can with what he’s given, and actually looks like he gives a damn. Vincent D’Onofrio pops in as a blind character that knows about Samara and tries to veer Julia and Holt away from whatever they think they have a lead on. D’Onofrio might actually be the best character in the film, but stumbles near the end. Finally, Bonnie Morgan plays Samara, who actually did uncredited work on The Ring 2 as Samara (the crawling up the well scene). Sadly, Samara isn’t in the film nearly enough as she should be. Sure the film is about Julia trying to once again figure out why this video is so damn dangerous, but we should see Samara a lot more than we should.

The film itself also leaves a lot to be desired. I kept my expectations low, like I always do, but even more so for Rings merely because it honestly didn’t look that great. The film does have some creepy moments, but lacks the real sense of dread and disturbing factor the first film had, which made it so damn great. Rings doesn’t have any real sense of urgency, which seems kind of dumb to say considering, you know, you’ve been told you have seven days to live. Moreover, Rings often times is rather boring when it’s trying to build up its mythology.

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All in all, despite some cool shots Rings is not worth the long wait. The film doesn’t do anything to really further the mythology of the killer video. Sure they add a new concept, but it’s never really established enough to make it worthwhile.

Rings

1.5 out of 5