‘Hotel Artemis’ Review

Director: Drew Pearce

Writer: Drew Pearce

Cast: Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista, Charlie Day, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto and Jeff Goldblum

Synopsis: Set in riot-turn, near-future Los Angeles, ‘Hotel Artemis’ follows the Nurse, who runs a secret, members-only emergency room for criminals.

 

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

 

Hotel Artemis, the directorial debut of Iron Man 3 co-writer Drew Pearce, has been on my radar since it was announced. Sure the movie drew comparisons to John Wick right off the bat, so the question was what was the movie going to do to stand out? Well, Hotel Artemis does do enough to make it stand on its own, but unlike its spiritual counterpart – for the lack of a better phrase – Hotel Artemis would rather build up the tension for a grand finale.

Set in Los Angeles in 2028, the city is rioting over the lack of water, but during all of that, two brothers (Sterling K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry) pull off a bank heist that doesn’t go as planned. After Henry’s character gets injured, Brown’s character takes him to the Hotel Artemis, a secret, members-only emergency room for criminals to go to get patched up and lay low. There, they met The Nurse (Jodie Foster), who runs the establishment with her head of security, Everest (Dave Bautista). The Nurse gives everyone there nicknames according to their rooms; Brown gets Waikiki, while Henry gets Honolulu.

As Waikiki’s brother gets patched up, we meet other occupants of Hotel Artemis in a loud and foul-mouthed businessman Acapulco (Charlie Day), the French assassin Nice (Sofia Boutella), and a cop played by Jenny Slate. Things look to be going smoothly until The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum) enters the picture, and things go to hell pretty fast from there.

While the trailers and TV spots focus on the action in Hotel Artemis, you’ll be surprised – maybe disappointed if you were absolutely looking for that – that Pearce shows a lot of restraint and keeps the action to a minimal until the very end. What Pearce does instead is build up these characters and world before unleashing the action scenes, which is actually kind of refreshing.

Also, the fact that Pearce was able to get a cast like this on his first feature is quite the coup. Everyone nails their roles to a tee. Jodie Foster, despite being behind-the-camera for years now, reminds us why she was such a great actress. The Nurse is the most fleshed out character out of everyone, reaching every emotion available, and while he’s not as colorful as other characters like Day’s Acapulco, her character doesn’t lend to that anyway.

Sterling K. Brown’s Waikiki is a man with a plan for everything, and more level-head than anyone involved including his mess-up for a brother. Sofia Boutella’s Nice is arguably the most dangerous of them all, and has a history with Waikiki that sadly doesn’t play out the way Pearce probably intended it when he wrote the script. Dave Bautista’s Everest is what you’d expect from a Dave Bautista role by now, and that’s okay in my book. Charlie Day looks to be having some fun with his role, but it doesn’t quite click for me. Finally, Jeff Goldblum’s The Wolf King, the man that runs L.A., is really nothing more, sadly, than a glorified cameo. And while his short time on screen is great, it does lead to some important events for the rest of the movie.

Another thing that sets Hotel Artemis apart from other similar movies – yes it does have some sequel bait/world building – is the impressive production design by Ramsey Avery. We are told by The Nurse, that she has worked for the Artemis for twenty-two years. The halls and rooms look old, but some way they look like a room you’d find in nice hotel. Combine that with the cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung, who did It, and you got yourself a great looking movie.

All in all, Hotel Artemis is a solid action thriller that’s worth your time. What Drew Pearce was able to do with his familiar concept, and what he was able to get from his impressive cast for his first feature is impressive. Despite promotion making you think the movie is a shoot ‘em up action thriller, Hotel Artemis takes you down another road that is actually worth it. With a slow build for a big finale, great character development and fleshed out characters, and great production design and cinematography, Hotel Artemis is something to check it out, and something I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel to.

Hotel Artemis

3.5 out of 5

‘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

‘Vacation’ Review

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Dir: John Francis Daley & Jonathan M. Goldstein

Writer(s): John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein

Cast: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann, Catherine Missal, Charlie Day, Ron Livingston, Keegan-Michael Key, Regina Hall, Beverly D’Angelo, and Chevy Chase

Synopsis: Rusty Griswold takes his own family on a road trip to “Walley World” in order to spice things up with his wife and reconnect with his sons.

 

 

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

 

 

The Vacation movies have always had a loyal fanbase and in some cases have a special place in people’s hearts. To be honest, I was never a hardcore fan of the movies – I’ve actually only watched two – but I could see why they are well liked. So when Vacation was announced, I wasn’t up in arms like most people. In fact, I wasn’t really anticipating much from it. So, does Vacation really stand on its own like Rusty claims in the trailer? For the most part yes, yes it does.

 

Vacation follows an adult Rusty Griswold (Helms), who sees that his family is in a funk, and doesn’t want to take them on their annual vacation spot, which happens to be a cabin, decides to take them and recreate his trip to Walley World. So he rents a foreign car, that is truly outrageous once we see all its “features” and tells his wife Debbie (Applegate), oldest and a bit nerdy son James (Gisondo) and youngest who actually picks on his older brother, Kevin (Stebbins) to pack up and get ready for an adventure. Of course, in classic Griswold fashion, it all goes downhill from there.

 

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Writers and directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (who will write the new solo Spider-Man movie for Marvel and Sony) show that they do love and respect the original films with small references to the original movies, but never going over-the-top and hitting us over the head with them. Even if you didn’t watch the original movies, you’ll still enjoy, or at least hopefully enjoy, the movie. It never tries to copy the original beat for beat, which honestly helps the movie be its own thing. Of course there are obvious callbacks like the flirty beautiful girl in the convertible.

 

Vacation does fall into the more common raunchy joke territory that some comedies are doing, and while some work, others just fall flat or aren’t even funny. The movie also has some “dirty” (poop and puke jokes) humor that, again, work every now and then. In fact some of those jokes – at least to me – worked better than the raunchy jokes that felt thrown in just for shock value. Then again, comedy is subjective, so you may find more jokes funnier than I did, but I will say I laughed a lot watching this.

 

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However, the jokes wouldn’t be funny without the delivery of the cast. Thankfully the cast works together. Ed Helms, who I’m not the most huge fan of, is relatable as Rusty here. All he wants is to get his family together and try to have a fun experience, but he’s funnier reacting to the situations that are going on around him. Christina Applegate isn’t the overbearing, non-supportive wife but has her moments to shine and holds her own. The brother dynamic is flipped on its head as the older brother is actually getting picked on by the younger brother. Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins work really well off each other and are given great material to play out. The great thing about the family is that they are all given different personalities and we can see them as individuals instead of just being a family unit. I know that probably sounds dumb, but sometimes we just know a family in the movie because they all act similar to each other, here, we know each character separately, which helps when they’re paired off with each other or have their own moment to shine.

 

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The supporting cast is also pretty great, but also feels like some opportunities were missed over just passed over. Chris Hemsworth looked like he enjoyed himself playing Rusty’s brother-in-law and full of himself TV weatherman Stone Crandall, who is married to Rusty’s sister, Audrey played by Leslie Mann. Hemsworth’s extended cameo adds some great laughs to the film, while the always reliable Mann is underused to the point that it feels like they wanted another big name to the movie or are hoping that sequels are announced so she can have a big role. There is another part to two that is merely touched upon that I kind of wanted to see more of, but seeing that movie is about Rusty and his family, it makes sense that they are not a focus.

 

There are some other cameos like Charlie Day’s water rafting guide, which is actually a better scene than I would have thought. Keegan-Michael Key’s scene happens early on in the movie and is just okay. There are two other cameos that I didn’t even know was going to happen so I’ll just leave you to enjoy them. However, the “big” cameos are from original stars Beverly D’Angelo and Chevy Chase as Ellen and Clark. Unfortunately, this element of the movie is lackluster. Chase feels like he’s trying to hard in the small amount of screentime he has and D’Angelo is barley seen. The scene is near the end of the movie and it actually derails the movie. Again, the movie is about Rusty and his family, but these two character of Clark and Ellen were what started all this, and to see the two characters essentially pumping the brakes on a movie that is for all intent-and-purposes a continuation of the legacy they paved.

 

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All in all, Vacation works on most levels. The main cast is great and gel really well together while delivering their lines to almost perfection. Some of the humor works better than others, but for the most part you’ll be laughing with your theater. There are some missed opportunities here and there, but overall, Vacation is worth the watch.

 

 

Vacation

3.5 out of 5

‘The LEGO Movie’ Review

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Dir: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

Cast (voice): Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Will Ferrell, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman, Liam Nesson, and Morgan Freeman

Synopsis: An ordinary LEGO minifigure, mistakenly thought to be the extraordinary MasterBuilder, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil LEGO tyrant from gluing the universe together.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This is a spoiler free review, as always.  Sorry for the lack of reviews lately. I live in Chicago and if you’ve been watching the news, we (like many other people as well) have been hit with a ton of snow.  But I’m back!*

 

On paper, the movie sounds a little crazy. I think just about everybody was saying “what the hell are they going to do with a Lego movie?” and I’ll admit I was one of those people.  However, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street) have blended together a unique blend of wit, humor, and heart.  And like most kid films, The Lego Movie is really about what it means to be a child but also a person in general (too cheesy?).

The movie follows Emmet (Pratt) who is the most ordinary “person” in his city of Bricksburg.  He follows the instructions for everything, loves the most popular stuff – that includes a lame TV show – and the infectiously catchy pop song “Everything Is Awesome.”  However, when he stumbles into a pit at his construction job, he unintentionally finds the “Piece of Resistance” that is part of a prophecy set by the “Master Builder” Vitruvius (Freeman) to defeat the evil Lord Business or President Business (Ferrell).  When the rebels discover Emmet’s just an ordinary person and not the “Special One” they must work together with his help.

Emmet is joined on his journey mostly by Wildstyle (Banks) who is also a Master Builder. Think of them like Neo in The Matrix that can see things around them and build anything.  Banks does pretty well as the kick ass heroine that does everything she can to protect Emmet and herself.  Freeman is pretty cool as the hippy-like wizard Vitruvius that ranges from wise to comic relief.  Will Ferrel’s Lord Business is maniacal but has depth to stop him from becoming a cliché villain. But it’s really Chris Pratt who steals the show as the endearing and sometimes dopey (in a good way) Emmet.

However the other familiar faces, drawing on some of LEGO’s strongest licenses, such as Batman and Superman for example pop up. But it’s testament to the film’s integrity that such well-known characters never really become the focus of the film.  Batman, even with substantial screen time and a strong supporting role, doesn’t steal the movie.  They even make Batman into a bit of a dick and relish poking fun at Green Lantern, who’s so desperate to make friends with the cool heroes.  But others are entirely original creations like Metal Beard – a gigantic mech topped off with the head of a pirate.

The use of LEGO also gives the film a style of its own and gives the action a distinctive look.  Set pieces often involve characters frantically building new vehicles or special items to help them escape.  It’s exciting to watch these items appear rapidly before your eyes, and they really give the film some great kinetic sequences.  Elsewhere, the solidity of LEGO adds a unique look to environments, especially elements like smoke and water.  Hell, seeing the Council of Master Builders is awesome to see. We see about every famous LEGO you can imagine ranging from; Shakespeare, Ninja Turtles, Ninjas, and Abraham Lincoln. It makes total sense because that’s the kind of freedom and creativity the movie is ultimately encouraging

However, for a movie that is promoted as a comedy, the movie has an unsuspected but welcomed emotional kick to its final act.  Dare I say the best moments of the movie are toward the end.  It’s in these final moments that The LEGO Movie becomes a little bit special

All in all, The LEGO Movie has it all; humor, action, emotion and even some twists that make it just more than a LEGO movie. I completely was blown away by a movie I wasn’t original excited for.  Everything about this movie was truly awesome.

 

The Lego Movie

5 out of 5

‘Pacific Rim’ Review

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Dir: Guillermo del Toro

Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Max Martini,Robert Kazinsky, Clifton Collins Jr., and Ron Perlman

Synopsis: As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.

 

*Review Note:This is a non-spoiler review as always.*

 

Set in future, humanity is in its seventh year of war against giant alien monsters known as “kaiju”, which emerged from a portal deep within the Pacific Ocean. In order to fight back, the world put aside their difference and banded together to create giant robots called “jaegers” that require two pilots to link minds in order to operate in what’s called “the drift,” as Charlie Hunnam’s character says “the deeper the connection, the stronger the bond.” However, the kaiju invasion becomes more and more overwhelming,and the jaeger program is on its last legs.

Former pilot Raleigh Beckett (Hunnam) is pulled back in by project overseer Stacker Pentecost (Elba) in order to make a last stand against the kaiju. With the help of rookie pilot Mako Mori (Kikuchi), Raleigh attempts to stop the invasion alongside other jaegers from different countries. Meanwhile, scientist Dr. Newton Geiszler (Day) is hunting down a kaiju brain, which may provide the key for closing the portal.

The tagline “go big or go extinct” is perfect for setting the mood. The action sequences are not only amazing to look at but it really brings you into the movie. The jaegers and the kaiju each have their own unique designs that distinguish’ each of them and doesn’t have the viewer think about how’s fighting. Seriously, the kaiju and jaegers have their own names like two the jaegers are named Gipsy Danger and Striker Eureka and one of the kaiju’s is named Leatherback. The actual fighting is a spectacle of its own. At times it feels like a boxing or wrestling match with the way Del Toro sets up the fight but it’s also an all out brawl as these giants hit each other with you can feel the hits.

One of the complaints that a lot of people have is the human element. Hunnam does a decent job as Raleigh although there are times were I wish he did a little more. Idris Elba plays the no-nonsense Pentecost well but behind his hard-ass exterior there is something there that makes us like him(you know, besides being Idris Elba). The standouts – of the human cast that is– is Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day and Ron Pealman who plays a black market dealer of kaiju parts. Day plays a kaiju expert and has his comedic moments but also plays it a bit serious. Rinko however is the real standout. Her character has the most emotional depth of the cast and holds her own against the boys and quiet literally when she has a practice fight against Hunnam’s Raleigh.

Other characters that pop up are Hercules Hanson (Martini) and his cocky pilot son Chuck Hansen (Kazinsky), Dr. Gottlieb (Gorman) who works with Day’s character and isa bit odd himself. Clifton Collins Jr. shows up as an operator to the jaegers and for you video game fans Ellen McLain aka GLaDOS from Portal plays Gipsy Dangers AI voice.

All in all, Pacific Rim is a true summer blockbuster that will have something for everybody. Yes, there are moments when the movie slows down but I don’t think it hurts the movie. The human element isn’t probably the strongest especially after the action sequences. If you want my opinion spend the extra money to watch it in IMAX 3D. It is worth seeing and I think might be the only way to truly experience the movie. Also stay a bit for the credits.
Pacific Rim

5 out of 5