Mini-Reviews: Masterminds, Deepwater Horizon, Storks, & The Girl on the Train

Hey everybody!

Welcome to the third edition of Mini-Reviews. This time, it’s more of a mixed than it was last time. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Masterminds

Director: Jared Hess

Writers: Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer, and Emily Spivey

Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Ken Marino, and Jon Daly

Synopsis: A guard at an armored car company in the Southern U.S. organizes on of the biggest bank heists in American history. Based on the October 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery.

 

Yes, Masterminds is based on a true story. Of course, I’m sure the film takes some liberties, but for the most part the film tells the story of David Ghantt (Galifianakis), an armored car guard at Loomis Fargo who wants to do more in his life. He gets the chance when his co-worker Kelly (Wiig), under orders of the town small-town criminal Steve (Wilson), convinces him to rob Loomis Fargo. David, of course does it thinking he has a chance with Kelly, even though he’s engaged to Jandice (McKinnon). The good news is that David gets it done and is convinced to go down to Mexico to hide out, the bad news is that the FBI is on to him and Steve wants to cut loose ends.

Masterminds was set to come out two years ago, until it got pushed back to this year, and even then its release was in question thanks to Relativity Media’s bankruptcy. It also didn’t help that the film had a pretty descent cast, so it’s a shame that after all this, the film didn’t turn out as good as it could have been. I will say it does seem hard to make a comedy based on a true story, since you can’t really force funny moments in true stories, but if you have the right cast I assume you could. Masterminds is sadly not one of those.

I will say I’m not a huge fan of Zach Galifianakis, but he does okay here as a somewhat lovable and gullible David, who gets fooled into robbing $17 million. Kristen Wiig is reliable as always, and is arguably the heart of the film. Owen Wilson has his small moments, but doesn’t stand out as much as Jason Sudeikis’ hitman character Mike McKinney. His part of the film is rather odd, and at times will probably make you cringe-laugh, but he goes all in for this. Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are put on the backburner for the most part. Jones plays a detective for the FBI hunting down David, while McKinnon plays David’s soon-to-be wife Jandice as an odd and cliché trailer park women, who has only one big moment.

All in all, Masterminds is a wasted opportunity to let all these great comedic actors to cut loose. There are some genuine funny moments in the film, but overall Masterminds fails to really connect, and make you laugh the way I think they thought it would.

Masterminds

2.5 out of 5

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Deepwater Horizon

Director: Peter Berg

Writers: Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson, Douglas M. Griffin, James DuMont, Joe Chrest, Gina Rodriguez, J.D Evermore, Ethan Suplee, Dylan O’Brien and John Malkovich

Synopsis: A dramatization of the April 2010 disaster when the offshore drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded and created the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

 

Peter Berg has become a “based on a true story” film master. Friday Night Lights, Lone Survivor, the upcoming Patriots Day – based on the Boston Marathon bombing – and this. Berg has a way to really make the people in those films more important than the event itself sometimes, and Deepwater Horizon is another prime example of that. Not only that, he makes the film feel like a horror film at times, which is what the people onboard the actual rig probably felt like they were in on that fateful day.

The film mostly follows the Deepwater Horizon rig’s chief electrical technician Mike Williams (Wahlberg) and installation manager Jimmy Harrell (Russell) or Captain Jimmy as the crew calls him, on the day they arrive on the Deepwater Horizon along with a few BP company men and control room operator Andrea Fleytas (Rodriguez). However, when they arrive they find out that BP management, lead by Donald Vidrine (Malkovich) on the rig, want the crew to start drilling right away because they are behind schedule. Of course, Mike and Jimmy aren’t having any of it because the safety of the crew is at risk, Mike lets them know that the rig isn’t running at one-hundred percent, but Vidrine pushes them and they start drilling. What follows is the Deepwater Horizon suffering massive failure and an explosion that sets the rig up in flames. The crew then tries to survive and escape the rig at all costs.

Berg does a great job of setting everything up. He even goes into the technical side of things even though he probably knows not all the audience is going to know what the hell they’re talking about – we can get the gist considering we know what happens and they make it sound pretty bad. We also get a descent sense of these characters, so when the rig goes up in flames we care for these characters. And while most films would tip-toe around the situation, Berg tackles it head-on and does lay some – arguably all – of the blame on BP for forcing the rig workers to keep going.

The other great thing Berg does is make us, essentially, part of the crew. When the Deepwater Horizon goes up in flames, you can feel the horror that these men went through. This isn’t your typical escapist disaster film, this was a man-made disaster that isn’t filled with your typical Hollywood hero. Wahlberg or Russell don’t make big speech to comfort everyone, they get hurt and are equally affected by the rig explosion like everyone else. 11 men lost their lives that night, and the way Berg makes the event look, it’s almost hard to believe that not more people died.

The cast holds their own. Wahlberg gives one of his finest performances to date, and one that pays off at the end. I know Wahlberg may make people think of the film a certain way, but when he’s given the right material with a great director like Berg, he always turns in a great performance. Russell is as reliable as ever, Gina Rodriguez and Dylan O’Brien have their moments, but are scattered throughout the film and only really pick up during the events of the explosion. Finally, Malkovich seems to be enjoying himself playing a sleazy BP official, and while maybe that’s not how the real life Vidrine was, it does give us the general idea of greed and not caring about the consequences.

All in all, Deepwater Horizon is a very effective thriller that sometimes feels like a horror movie. Peter Berg knows exactly what to show and what kind of story he wants to tell, and instead of focusing on the oil spill – which got the most attention in the news – this highlights the people actually onboard the rig. I’ll even admit that by the end of this film, I was in tears. Something not a lot of films can make me do, and make me admit.

Deepwater Horizon

4.5 out of 5

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Storks

Director: Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland

Writer: Nicholas Stoller

Voice Cast: Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Anton Starkman, Ty Burrell, Jennifer Aniston, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Stephen Kramer Glickman and Danny Trejo

Synopsis: Storks have moved on from delivering babies to packages. But when an order for a baby appears, the best delivery stork must scramble to fix the error by delivering the baby.

 

I didn’t really expect anything from Storks when I first read about it. However, that all changed when I watched the film, because I really liked Storks. The film follows Junior (Samberg), who works at Cornerstore.com which is where storks now deliver packages instead of babies because delivering babies became too much of a problem. Junior is not in line for a promotion from his boss Hunter (Grammer), but before he can take the position he has to do one thing: fire the only human worker at Cornerstone, Tulip (Crown). Junior doesn’t really do so and instead puts her in a building by herself.

However, that only complicates matters as Tulip gets a letter from Nate Gardner (Starkman) who wants a sibling, and accidentally makes one. Junior already thinking he’d be in trouble with Hunter decides to deliver the baby on his own with Tulip tagging along. Of course, a grand adventure ensues.

I had a lot of fun with this movie more than I thought I would. The film never loses steam and the jokes are top notch, so much so that I was still smiling or laughing way after they were delivered. The stories are also very touching. On one end you have the human story of Nate, an only child, who wants a sibling to play with because his parents (voiced by Burrell and Aniston) are always busy with their real estate business. On the other end you have the two stories of Junior wanting to be more than a delivery man, and Tulip trying to find her own place in the world, and wanting to really help. The two stories perfectly blend together near the end that makes the finale all the more touching and heartwarming.

The rest of the voice cast is filled with Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele playing Alpha and Beta Wolf, who are one of the many highlights of the film, and Danny Trejo as Jasper, a stork that comes into play in the second half of the film. Finally, another highlight of the film is Stephen Kramer Glickman as Pigeon Toady, who will leave you laughing for sure.

All in all, Storks is a ton of fun that takes a while to bring its core theme out, but the ride is so much fun that it doesn’t matter. Storks will leave you laughing out loud and leave you wanting a bit more.

Storks

4.5 out of 5

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The Girl on the Train

Director: Tate Taylor

Writer: Erin Cressida Wilson

Cast: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Laura Prepon, Allison Janney and Lisa Kudrow

Synopsis: A divorcee becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation that promises to send shockwaves throughout her life.

 

Based on the popular and one of the fast-selling novels of all time by Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train is being labeled as the possible next Gone Girl. A comparison that doesn’t really help any film since Gone Girl was vastly different animal that some people haven’t seen before. While the film does show shades of that, The Girl on the Train is a completely different animal altogether that is a less effective thriller and drama than Gone Girl.

The Girl on the Train follows alcoholic and divorced Rachel (Blunt) who rides the train every morning. During her rides, she always stops and spots the house of a couple who she doesn’t know but pretends to give them names and jobs. However, one day the woman, Megan (Bennett), ends up going missing and the day she did she noticed Megan with another man. What follows is Rachel trying to figure out what happened to a woman she’s made an unnatural connection to, but her obsession also becomes a problem for her ex-husband Tom (Theroux) and his new wife Anna (Ferguson), who she has been harassing them.

Going more into detail will probably lead me into spoiler territory which is something that I obviously don’t want to do. The film does jump back in time – a few months – so we get enough scenes with Haley Bennett’s Megan before she goes missing. The film also spends some time with Rebecca Ferguson’s Anna, who shines more near the end of the film than in the beginning. All that said though, this movie belongs to Emily Blunt. I’m okay with saying Blunt is one of the best actresses working today, and this film proves it. The rest of the cast, while they have their moments, kind of fall to the wayside. Edgar Ramirez and Laura Prepon are underutilized, especially Prepon, and Allison Janney, while her character was meant to only be small, would have been nice to see more of her.

The characters are probably going to make some people not like the film. There are times when you probably want to go into the screen and smack one of them around, which is what makes the film a little more relatable – to the characters anyway. It also helps that these characters are in the thriller genre, so their actions will make us question where they fall in line to the case. Although, there are times when the film gets bogged down in its own drama.

All in all, The Girl on the Train is held together by Emily Blunt’s great performance, along with Haley Bennett. The film gets bogged down a bit by its own drama, and while some things from the book don’t carry over, they make up for it by telling their own story. The Girl on the Train isn’t the next Gone Girl, but its effective while watching.

The Girl on the Train

3.5 out of 5

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‘The Expendables 3’ Review

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Dir: Patrick Hughes

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Kelsey Grammer, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Harrison Ford

Synopsis: Barney augments his team with new blood for a personal battle: to take down Conrad Stonebanks, the Expendables co-founder and notorious arms trader who is hell bent on wiping out Barney and every single one of his associates

 

 

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

 

 

Let’s face it, The Expendables 3 is review-proof. No matter what anybody says, any action movie fan is going to go watch their action movie heroes deliver one-liners, shoot some big guns, and kick ass, right? Of course! While the cast has gotten bigger, and younger, The Expendables 3 is more or less of the same with some new characters and same ol’ explosions.

 

The movie starts off like the trailers, with Barney (Stallone), Christmas (Statham), Gunner (Lundgren) and Toll Road (Couture) riding a helicopter alongside a train to rescue Doc (Snipes) for another mission. During the second mission, the group finds out that the person arranging the thing they are trying to break up is Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson), the co-founder of the Expendables. Everything goes to hell, once Barney realizes it’s Stonebanks, someone he thought he killed years before, Stonebanks nearly kills the group and gets away.

 

After the near death experience, Barney realizes he doesn’t want their deaths on his conscious, and disbands the group, much to the other dismay. He then asks an old friend Bonaparte (Grammer, in a glorified cameo) to assemble a younger team that is hunger and willing to do anything. During all of this, Barney also gets orders for CIA handler Drummer (Ford) to take down Stonebanks and capture alive, which you can probably guess doesn’t make Barney happy.

 

So before I get further in the review, I do have to mention the big thing that everyone is talking about it, the PG-13 rating. Some people have even boycotted the movie because of the rating, which in my opinion is the dumbest reason to boycott a movie. You can get away with a lot in a PG-13 movie nowadays, and while Expendables 3 does have some obvious showings that the rating is holding it back, it doesn’t mean it’s not fun. I personally don’t need massive amounts of blood in an action movie as long as the movie is fun, which thankfully Expendables 3 is.

 

To date, it is the biggest cast yet. The new team has a new weapon technician solider Mars (Ortiz), hacker Thorn (Powell), combat expect Luna (Rousey) and former Navy SEAL Smilee (Lutz). The standouts of this young cast will most likely be Lutz, since he has some more screen time than anybody and stands off against Stallone. Rousey is okay, she cracks a few jokes but is kind of meh of a character, especially when she delivers a specific line it’s almost cringe-worthy. Powell is okay but doesn’t do a lot to stand out, and Ortiz might be the least compelling, never really showing off his boxing skills as opposed to Rousey who does. They each have their own moments to show what they are good at when Barney and Bonaparte are recruiting them but they get captured right after their first job so they disappear for a bit of the movie until the final action sequence.

 

The other new additions are Grammer, Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford and Antonio Banderas. Grammer, like I stated before, is nothing more than a glorified cameo and doesn’t get into any action scenes but it’s nice to see him and has some great scenes with Stallone. Banderas however might be the highlight of the movie. Banderas plays Galgo, a former fighter desperate to be on any team that will have him. Galgo might come has as annoying to some, mostly because he is almost consisting talking, even if he’s in a fight, but the way Banderas plays him it’s welcoming and awesome to see him on screen.

 

Hey baby

Hey baby

 

Snipes play Doc (or his full name Doctor Death), who has some nice chemistry with Stallone and even pokes fun at himself, which is funny and refreshing to see. Ford, who is replacing Bruce Willis, actually looks like he’s having fun and gets in a few jokes in at the expense of Jet Li (who only has about five minutes of screen time) and Jason Statham.

 

Ford as Drummer and Stallone as Barney Ross

Ford as Drummer and Stallone as Barney Ross

 

Finally, the last addition is Mel Gibson, who plays the villain Conrad Stonebanks who happens to be the former co-founder of The Expendables. Gibson is having a blast playing the villain and it was really cool seeing him embrace it. But Stonebanks also brings up some rather interesting points that go against Barney’s views and might even become change your view of the situation.

 

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My gun isn’t big enough!

 

The old – and I use that term loosely – cast does the same old same old. Statham is still the second in command, Lundgren and Couture play the muscle and heavy hitters, Arnold comes in, cracks some jokes and even pokes some fun at Stallone. There is really nothing new for them to do and when the younger team moves in, they disappear too.

 

The action scenes are pretty cool and although the rating might have hindered some of them, they are still fun to watch. Some of them could have been better if the rating was R but hopefully people can get past that. Even the final fight between Stallone and Gibson is a bit underwhelming even though the build-up is great.

 

There is also the issue of some CGI. Although I know its nitpicky some unwanted CGI fills some of the action scenes and it kind of took me out of it. But what is nice is that director Patrick Hughes (Red Hill) does a pretty good job leaving the feel of some of the old 80s movies.

 

All in all, The Expendables 3 is more or less of the same, which if you enjoyed the others movies than that will be fine. There are some descent action sequences and great jokes scattered throughout. Gibson and Banderas are definitely the standouts and nice additions to the cast of ass-kickers.

 

 

The Expendables 3

4 out of 5

‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ Review

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Dir: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Titus Welliver, Sophia Myles, Bingbing Li, T.J. Miller, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, John Goodman, John DiMaggio, Mark Ryan, and Ken Watanabe
Synopsis: An automobile mechanic and his daughter make a discovery that brings down the Autobots – and a paranoid government official – on them.

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

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction is the fourth installment of Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise. Even though the movie is supposed to be a reboot/sequel, but the movie is more or less the same of the other movies, which some people will probably be okay with, but at the end of the day it really isn’t.

 

Five years after the “Battle of Chicago” Transformers are seen as a threat and are being hunted down by shady government agency agent Harold Attinger (Grammer) and his agency known as Cemetery Wind, since his lead by his right hand man Savoy (Welliver). Meanwhile, down on his luck robotics engineer Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) spends his time working in his barn trying to come up with new invention, but of course they do not work the way they are suppose to. He then comes across an old beat up truck that of course turns out to be a Transformer and none other than Autobots leader Optimus Prime (Cullen). While Cade is too busy working he doesn’t notice his daughter Tessa (Peltz) and her secret older driver boyfriend Shane (Reynor).

 

Once Attinger finds out that Cade is keeping Prime hidden, he sends Savoy and others to get them which leads Prime to come out and saves them. This leads to Prime, Cade, Tessa and Shane going on the run. Little do they know, Attinger is working with tech company developer Joshua Joyce (Tucci) that runs a company called KSI, that has created his own Transformers by finding the matter that makes Transformers tick that he called “Transformium.” However, they themselves are also working, albeit a little shaky alliance, with a Transformer bounty hunter that has no allegiance to Autobots or Decepticons, Lockdown.

 

Seems like a lot going on right? That’s because it is. The movie is two hours and forty-five minutes, which turns out to be the longest installment so far. Add in the fact that we have a whole new batch of characters. For the Transformers we have; Optimus Prime and Bumblebee are the only cornerstones we have from the original series. The new Autobots are Hound (Goodman), Drift (Watanabe), Crosshairs (DiMaggio), and later another familiar face that I won’t spoil. Then there’s Lockdown, who is also followed by his massive ship that looks kind of cool.

 

Then there are Joyce’s new Transformers. The idea behind them would be cool if the idea did not look similar to other ideas from other movies. There was also a set up early in the movie that never really fully happened and I was quite disappointed by it.

 

The new characters, Mark Wahlberg does is usual thing as Cade Yeager. He plays a tough guy that happens to be an inventor. He’s overprotective of his daughter Tessa, who is about to graduate. Add in the fact that he finds out Tessa has been dating an older boy, which leads to one of the cheesiest and one of the dumbest scenes in the movie. I get that it might be an actual thing but for the movie to bring it up, it just did not work for me. Wahlberg, like I said, is fine. Whether you like him or not, he brings a presence to the screen and add in his overprotective father to it, he does okay. A side note, I don’t miss Shia.

 

Nicola Peltz is the youngest damsel-in-distress in the series but unlike Megan Fox or Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Peltz is an actual teenager playing a teenager so it makes sense for her to be a little rebellious and, without sounding mean, a bit dumb so you probably want to smack her a few times, especially when you have giant robots and the government chasing you. Newcomer Jack Reynor, who plays the older boyfriend Shane has some charisma and presence to him but overall he does not bring much to the movie, besides a cool chase scene in the beginning of the movie.

 

Grammer always looks like he has a smug look on his face but doesn’t really do anything worthwhile despite being the main human villain. Sure he is menacing but that is due to Grammer being that good. Titus Welliver’s Savoy is just evil just for being evil it seems like. Stanley Tucci is also great, and seeing him here playing a snobby-like business man who thinks the Autobots are “inferior” to his creations to later depending on the Autobots to save him and the world.

 

The rest of the supporting cast is just filler. Sophia Myles plays a geologist that really does nothing for the story or characters. Bingbing Li, who I’m a fan of, plays a Chinese businesswoman that has a connection to KSI helps Tucci and has a scene that has her show off her martial arts skills, which again, really does nothing for the movie. T.J. Miller plays Cade’s partner that is more a comic relief but adds nothing to the movie either. Thomas Lennon shows up playing a Chief of Staff, and while it’s nothing more than a cameo, it was one of my highlights of the movie.

 

But of course the new addition to the cast that everyone was looking forward to was the Dinobots. The trailers and TV spots all showed Optimus riding Grimlock and you would assume that it is going to lead to some badass cool moments. Sadly it doesn’t. The Dinobots show up in the third act in the movie and even then have about ten to fifteen minutes of screen time. Even with that, they never really do anything cool and when they are in robot form, you don’t know who they are.

 

The movie isn’t without humor but it is slightly darker in tone than the previous films. The hunt down of Ratchet might cause some Transformers fans to fidget in their seats but it also shows you just how far the Autobots have gone down in the pyramid. The hunting down of Transformers make us see a different side of Optimus, at least for the first half of the movie and even amongst the other Transformers. Even they don’t want anything to do with humans. Even Bumblebee gets a little hot-headed.

 

But really, the reason we all are watching this movie is because of the action, and Age of Extinction does have a lot. From the Yeager farm to Chicago and finally in Hong Kong, the action is almost non-stop once it kicks in. However, at times, watching all of it you kind of feel that you’ve already seen a lot of the same beats in the previous movies. Nothing really new is bought into the fights and some times, once again and a repeated issue in the series, it gets a little hard to notice who’s who when everyone starts fighting.

 

I’m not going to lie to you, I was not expecting a lot from this. When I first heard it was going to be a reboot/sequel I was okay with it, and then Michael Bay decided to return for one last go around. Look I’m not a total Michael Bay hater, I love his early stuff but Bay has a tendency of making the Transformers movies looking like car commercials or filling the screen with the most explosions ever. I know some people want to see that, and I’m with you, I do to…sometimes. Bay really did not do anything to make this movie different. Even the “new designs” don’t look that new, they might have some sleekness to them but overall they look almost exactly the same as before.

 

All in all, Transformers: Age of Extinction has things that work and things that don’t work from the previous Transformers movies. Whether that is a good thing for fans or bad, it already has made a ton of money at the box office. I don’t complain about lengths of movies because it’s nitpicky and if the movie is great than it shouldn’t matter but the length was a bit too much for a movie like this. There were some standout moments for me and even some callbacks to Generation 1 Transformers but overall the series continues to be a bit disappointing and lackluster.

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction
3 out of 5