‘Central Intelligence’ Review

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Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Writers: Rawson Marshall Thurber, David Stassen, and Ike Barinholtz

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Danielle Nicolet, Aaron Paul, Tim Griffin, Timothy John Smith, and Thomas Kretschmann

Synopsis: After he reunited with an old school pal through Facebook, a mild-mannered accountant is lured into the world of international espionage.

 

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

 

When you put two of the most hardest working men in entertainment together in a movie, things could go wrong, or they could go right. Thankfully, those two hardest working men are Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The two, who have never worked together before, come off like they have known each other for years and just now chose to work together, and while the material for the film is a bit thin, the work these two put onscreen is worth the price of admission alone.

Kevin Hart plays Calvin, the former most popular kid in school nicknamed “The Golden Jet” and voted most likely to succeed, hasn’t lived up to that label as he is now an accountant. With his ten year high school reunion coming up, he tells his wife, and high school sweetheart, Maggie (Nicolet), that he’s not going because he doesn’t want to be asked about his job. However, things get complicated when a former high school loser Robbie Weirdicht, now called Bob Stone, comes back into his life by friending him on Facebook. Robbie isn’t the same though as he’s lost a lot – a lot – of weight and has gotten past the embarrassing incident of getting thrown naked in front of the graduating class during a prep rally. Oh, and is now a CIA agent on the run.

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It should be noted that if anyone other than Johnson and Hart were casted, Central Intelligence probably, and would, have not worked at all. It’s the chemistry between these two that make the film so fun and enjoyable to watch. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to believe that this is the first film that Johnson and Hart have worked on because they play off each other so well. Hart is the more straight-laced persona, as he is pretty much the audience’s surrogate, and reacts to all the craziness the way most of us probably would. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t get some great lines to rattle off.

Dwayne Johnson plays a pretty different version of himself than we’ve seen. Despite his massive size and ability to take out a room full of guys, Bob has a goofy sense of humor and even acts a like goof most of the time, all while wearing a fanny pack, and treating Calvin like his hero. Again, it’s a different version of Johnson, who we all see as the tough guy, but here Johnson plays a little more to his comedic strengths which is really cool to watch. Hell, he wears a shirt with unicorns on it for crying out loud!

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The movie does go off the tracks a bit when it tries to bring in the spy elements, not because they don’t work, but because the element isn’t that strong. Bob is in the middle of mysterious purchase of codes that can take down the government that puts him in the crosshairs of Agent Pamela Harris (Ryan). Here is where the film tries to add a mystery element, and while it was nice that the film was trying to separate itself from other action comedies that have been coming out, everything leading up to it and the reveal is a bit underwhelming and falls flat.

All in all, Central Intelligence works mainly because of the chemistry between Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart. The two are great together, and I actually can’t wait to see what the duo will do next (besides the Jumanji remake). The film itself does have its flaws, but when Johnson and Hart are onscreen together, it doesn’t really matter. It’s still a great funny and enjoyable ride.

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Central Intelligence

4 out of 5

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‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ Review

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Dir: Ridley Scott

Cast: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, Maria Valverde, Sigourney Weaver and Sir Ben Kingsley

Synopsis: The defiant leader Moses rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues

 

 

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

*Reviewer Note #2: I know I’ve been gone for a bit. I have been watching movies but I’ve been busy with school which has kept me from writing reviews. Sorry*

 

 

Before I start reviewing the movie I want to talk about the “White Washing” Controversy that is surrounding this movie, and has even caused many people to boycott it. This obviously is not the first time people have been trying to boycott a movie due to ethic casting. The other biblical film that came out this year Noah had some boycotts due to the casting and “changes” to the well-know story. Other occasions are Rooney Mara being cast as Tiger Lilly in the new Peter Pan film Pan, Idris Elba playing Heimdall in Thor and Thor: The Dark World got some people talking even though Marvel went the other way of the ethnic casting. Finally, the one I remember the most was M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender which caused an uproar by all the fans.

 

The thing I want to say about the ethnic casting is for me, it doesn’t matter. I can see both sides of the argument, but at the end of day we should judge a movie by its quality aka if it’s good or bad. Again, I see both sides of the situation and depending on the adaptation I do feel Hollywood should go the way of the “source material.” But, for the most part let the acting justify if the role should have been played by someone else.

 

Now, getting into Exodus: Gods and Kings, the movie doesn’t start with the usual baby Moses getting picked up from the river in a basket. Director Ridley Scott gives us a full grown Moses (Bale) and Ramses (Edgerton) who are generals in Ramses’ father, Pharaoh Seti (Turturro). The two go into battle and something happens that starts to cause a bit of a rift between the two that have been raised as brothers. Years later when Ramses is now Pharaoh, Moses finds out that he is not who he thinks he is by Nun (Kingsley), an elder slave, and is exiled for it when it gets back to Ramses.

 

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Moses finds peace in a small village where he marries Zipporah (Valverde) and has a son. Of course if you know the story, Moses is called upon by God and tells him he must help his people (aka the slaves) and set them free, even if it means going to war with someone he thought of as a brother.

 

We all know the story of Moses and Ramses, so when the story starts to jump around in major gaps of time you don’t feel immediately lost, and even if you don’t know the story you’ll be okay too. But, with the run time being around two and a half hours long, the movie still feels like there is some stuff missing, which is a shame because the supporting cast is completely underused. Even Joel Edgerton who plays, arguably the villain of the movie Ramses is a bit used, which is a shame since he gets second billing and is the other important character of the story.

 

The movie does belong to Christian Bale. It’s not a bad thing either, he does try to humanize Moses to some extent – as does Edgerton with Ramses – but this Moses isn’t the normal Moses we know from the story. Obviously, he’s a general in the beginning of the movie, so this Moses knows how to fight and once he is put on his mission from God, he goes back to what he knows and starts to go on guerilla warfare type missions. This Moses is also not afraid to talk back to God and question him, God in this movie looks to be portrayed by a child that shows up at random times to talk to Moses.

 

I love Ridley Scott, as most people do, and while the war scene at the beginning is great to see, knowing he had a four hour cut of the movie first doesn’t surprise me. But, there is a lot that he cut out that I feel could have added to the story. Like I said, the supporting characters are really underused or not use at all. John Turturro as the Pharaoh has about five minutes of screentime before he passes away, Ben Kinglsey who feels like he would serve a greater purpose is just there, Aaron Paul who is almost unrecognizable really serves no purpose and could have been given an unknown actor if that’s how they were going to treat the character. Finally, Sigourney Weaver surprisingly only has about five lines in the movie and disappears after the first half hour, it nice to see the reunion of Scott and Weaver but it didn’t go anywhere. Maria Valverde might be the only one that gets some good material going but is a bit underwritten.

 

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The relationship between Moses and Ramses is also a bit on and off. One minute you can believe the dynamic between them and the next you can’t. It is a bit distracting and frustrating as Scott is going in a different direction with the story and there are moments where you can clearly see that but Scott and the writers go into a somewhat generic by-the-books way of going with Moses and the film.

 

This isn’t to say Exodus: Gods and Kings isn’t a descent film. The plagues sequence is one of the major, if not the major highlight of the film. Although it comes into well into the middle of the movie so you have to wait around to see that. The CGI also looks pretty impressive with the heavily promoted Red Sea sequence. The other great part about the movie is the score, which is done by Alberto Iglesias, whom I’ve never heard of (even though I saw Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).

 

All in all, Exodus: Gods and Kings isn’t entirely the same story we all known and the changes really don’t go anywhere or they completely change the dynamic of the story. Bale does a good job of bringing Moses to life and Edgerton has his moments to shine as Ramses. The great supporting cast is underused but is saved a bit by the score and Bale’s performance.

 

 

Exodus: Gods and Kings

3 out of 5

 

‘Need for Speed’ Review

Dir: Scott Waugh

Cast: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez, Harrison Gilbertson, Dakota Johnson, and Michael Keaton

Synopsis: Fresh from prison, a street racer who was framed by a wealthy business associate joins a cross country race with revenge in mind. His ex-partner, learning of the plan, places a massive bounty on his head as the race begins.

 

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

 

Need for Speed, based on the popular EA racing games, follows Tobey Marshall (Paul) is a former racing star who’s now struggling to make the payments on the auto shop he inherited from his dad.  When his rival Dino Brewster (Cooper) offers Tobey and his crew 25% of the profits on a restored Mustang and they, of course, take the job.  After the car sells in a way Dino doesn’t like, he wagers with Tobey and Tobey’s friend Pete (Gilbertson) an all-or-nothing race.  Tobey takes the wager and is about to win when a desperate Dino nudges Pete off the road, and kills him.  Tobey gets blamed for the crash and is sent to jail for two years. Once he gets out, he chooses to get revenge on Dino by beating him in the prestigious De Leon race held by Monarch (Keaton), an ex-racer-turned-Internet phenomenon.  The Mustang buyer’s assistant, Julia (Poots), provides the restored car and the two head across country while dodging cops and a bounty put by Dino.

While some will probably say the movie is trying to copy or be like The Fast and The Furious franchise, Need for Speed is kind of its own thing.  The movie does have its comedic moments, one scene in particular with one of Toby’s crew members Finn (Malek), but aside from that the movie is very much grounded. The movie has prided itself on using actual stunts instead with few CGI as possible, does make the car chases a bit more thrilling to watch and gives the movie a bit more creditability at the end. Of course, reviewers look at this as a mistake and some even say that the seriousness of the movie ruins the whole movie entirely. While there are some scenes that do prove that it doesn’t change the experience, well at least for me.

On the acting side, Aaron Paul, of Breaking Bad fame, does what he can with his role as a man looking for revenge but other than that he doesn’t really do anything else.  He does have good chemistry with Poots’ character Julia, who is more than just a pretty face. Toby’s crew include; a pilot, Benny, who keeps an eye of them, and mechanics Joe and Finn. All three of them are the comic relief of the movie and while some of the jokes do feel forced there are some real genuine moments that make you feel like they have been friends for a while.

Dominic Cooper’s villain Dino is nothing more than a cocky former pro-racer who wants things done his way and will do anything he can to get it.  Michael Keaton chews up a bit of the scenes he’s in as Monarch, but I think people will be happy to see him on the big screen again.

But let’s face it, the reason people will watch this movie is for the car sequences.  Like I said before, Need for Speed prided itself on using actual stunts with a touch of CGI, which does make the car chases a bit more thrilling to watch and enjoy. Thankfully, Scott Waugh (Act of Valor) went that direction otherwise the movie could have gone in another direction for the worse. Waugh even brings some descent POV shots and puts you in the car sometimes. Like the game, the races all build up to the last race which is Monarch’s pride-and-joy, the De Leon, where the winner gets millions of dollars and the fancy cars.

All in all, Need for Speed isn’t a great movie but it isn’t as bad as the reviewers want to make you think.  Paul, Poots and Keaton are the better parts of the movie but in reality the car chase sequences are the best part of Need for Speed.

 

Need for Speed

3.5 out of 5