‘Rough Night’ Review

Director: Lucia Aniello

Writers: Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Zoe Kravitz, Ilana Glazer, Kate McKinnon, Paul W. Downs, Ryan Cooper, Colton Haynes, Ty Burrell and Demi Moore

Synopsis: Things go terribly wrong for a group of girlfriends who hire male stripper for a bachelorette party in Miami.

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: There are two post-credit scenes.*

 

Rough Night takes the crazy bachelor party and turns it on its head by having the ladies take center stage, and having them deal with the madness. Of course the film isn’t the first to do this, but the movie does try to make the concept its own. So let’s take a look at the craziness that is Rough Night, and what happens when five women try to get rid of a dead body.

The movie opens with during the last college year of four friends, Jess (Scarlett Johansson), Alice (Jillian Bell), Blair (Zoe Kravitz) and Frankie (Ilana Glazer). They make a promise that they will always be friends no matter what. We skip ahead ten years and find out that Jess is running for State Senator and is about to get married to Peter (Paul W. Downs). Alice, now a school teacher, plans Jess a bachelorette party in Miami with Blair, who’s going through a divorce and custody battle, and Frankie, an activist. When they arrive in Miami, Jess’ Australian friend Pippa (Kate McKinnon) joins in the fun as well. The women end up in a club, where Frankie scores some cocaine, and after doing it they go back to a guest house they rented and order a stripper.

After the stripper arrives, Alice accidentally kills him while jumping on him causing the chair he’s on to fall back and hit his head on the ledge to the fireplace. After the women freak out that they killed someone, especially Alice, they spend the rest of the night trying to cover up the accidental murder, but as complications arise, they find out that’s its a lot harder than they thought. Meanwhile, Peter races to Miami after getting a confusing call from Jess earlier in the film, after they accidentally killed the stripper.

The film is honestly not that bad. The gender-switch is a welcomed aspect and the ladies absolutely nail their performances. We get a real sense of who these characters are and they all have more than one moment to shine. And even though they did accidentally kill someone, we never feel like they should go down for the crime, we actually kind of root for them – maybe because the frantic pace of the jokes keeps the film moving forward. It also helps that we cut to Peter on his journey trying to get to Miami as fast as possible, where he gets into his own misadventures, which are also pretty funny, but this is the women’s show.

The movie does introduce some random and weird characters like Ty Burrell and Demi Moore as a couple that lives next door, which are very sexual and hit on the women – more on Kravitz’s Blair. They don’t really add anything to the film other than some comedy bits, but even then it’s not as great as Peter’s story. However, I will say the way the situation resolves itself is a bit wonky, but I can’t think of how they would have done that which makes sense.

All in all, Rough Night is a pretty descent comedy, especially for first time director Lucia Aniello from Comedy Central Broad City fame. The pace is very steady and brisk, and with the cast being spot on, Rough Night is much more than what the trailers and TV spots have you believe.

Rough Night

3 out of 5

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A day late because I was dirt tired last night.

‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Review

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Dir: George Miller

Writer(s): George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Bryne, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, Nathan Jones and Megan Gale

Synopsis: In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.

 

 

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

 

 

Director George Miller has returned to the wasteland of the “Mad World” he created back in 1981. Now, some odd thirty years later, Miller has bought back the character of Max Rockatansky and his surroundings of crazy-named characters, barren landscapes, insane looking cars, and yes, awesome car chases. But, does this new Mad Max hold its own or does it crumble under the hype? Well, it’s a lovely day!

 

Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t necessarily a remake, reboot or sequel. It does have a nice “Easter Eggs” to the previous movies that fans will notice, including during the opening narration by Max (Hardy) telling us who he is and what the world has become. Really, even if you aren’t a Mad Max fan or never seen the other films, it kind of doesn’t matter. Even without the Easter Eggs, Miller gives the audience enough material to make your own conclusions or flat out shows us, what this world has become. You will have no problem entering the world of the mad.

 

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When it comes to the story of the movie, it is rather simple: Its one long car chase. The chase starts when Imperator Furiosa (Theron), a war lieutenant, leads a group of Immortan Joe’s (Keays-Byrne) War Boys, young pale-looking men who are deathly loyal to Joe, to a supposed oil and ammo run but ends up taking a detour. It’s after Joe finds out that Furiosa is on the detour that he realizes his “Wives” are missing. The Wives, who are five women that Joe uses to breed, are actually in Furiosa’s rig and decides to go out with this army to get back his “property.”

 

On the way to get back The Wives, one of the War Boys, Nux (Hoult) happens to have Max with him and they chase down the rig into the heavy promoted sand storm, which is even better than the promos. Of course, Max and Furiosa eventually cross paths and the two work together to get to safety.

 

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Mad Max: Fury Road is very unapologetic. It doesn’t care if you think it’s weird or over the top, even though it is for the most part. Miller and his crew have done an amazing job of really creating a world that has come and gone, and what is in its place it. There’s very little hope in this bleak and dry world. The world is now filled with killers and survivors, and you better be one or the other, because there is no more for a middle ground.

 

One of the best parts of Fury Road, isn’t just the action (I’ll get to that in a minute), but the cinematography. The film looks beautiful and there are constantly great looking shots that just add to the film even more. Add to that the amount of great detail the costume department spent on making these characters, especially Immortan Joe, look both; great, creepy, and even resourceful. Even better, and thankfully, Miller avoids CGI for a good chuck of the film and leaves all the awe-struck moments to real car crashes and explosions.

 

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But, all of these won’t be worth looking at it, if it weren’t for the characters. Tom Hardy plays a pretty good Max. He’s haunted by his past which is heavily touched on at the beginning and sporadically throughout the film. He’s a man of a few words and let’s his action do the talking. Seriously, Max might have the movie named after him, but he leaves a great chuck of the dialogue for his fellow runaways and is even masked for a good amount of time. It’s almost fair to say that Hardy is a supporting character in the movie and the real star is Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa.

 

Theron’s Furiosa is a not only a badass fighting woman, but a vulnerable one too. It goes to show you that Theron has a ton of range and can play both the vulnerable and kick-ass characters, that also happens to have one real arm. And yes, arguably, she is the lead character in the movie. We get to know as much of her backstory, surprising without heavy exposition, just through her actions and the way she treats her mission.

 

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I didn’t want to address this in the review, but considering it’s become an issue with not just Theron’s character, but the other female characters in the movie, I’m going to address it. The “Feminist Agenda” in Mad Max: Fury Road is stupid! People outside of Hollywood have wanted more strong female characters and when they finally get more than one, they bitch about and call it a Feminist Agenda, seriously? I know not everyone is calling it this, but the fact out of the things you can complain about in the movie, you choose to call an installment in a film series about awesome looking car chases and ridiculous names, a Feminist movie? Get a life! Also does no one remember Virginia Hey’s Road Warrior character? Hell even Tina Turner’s Aunty Entity was a pretty strong female character in Beyond Thunderdome.

 

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Anyway, let’s talk about The Wives – Toast the Knowing (Kravitz), The Splendid Angharad (Huntington-Whitely), Capable (Keough), The Dag (Lee) and Cheedo the Fragile (Eaton). Or as Immortan Joe would call them, his “property,” even though they would you hit and tell you they aren’t property to anyone. Each of them has their own personalities, but you only really get to know Toast, Splendid and Capable. The Dag and Cheedo have their brief moment to shine, but otherwise sit back on the action.

 

Hug Keays-Bryne’s Immortan Joe treats himself like a god or prophet in some sense. His War Boys are loyal because Joe promises them he’ll take them to Valhalla when they die. Keays-Bryne should be a familiar face – although you actually don’t really see his face in this – to the Mad Max world, he played the villain Toecutter in the first movie, but they have no connection in this film so don’t worry about that. Just like his crazy outfit, Immortan Joe is crazy, and ruthless.

 

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Nicholas Hoult plays Nux, the War Boy, looking to prove himself not just to Joe, but to himself and others that he can be a legend. There are other great crazy characters like you’d suspect in the movie like this, people with crazy names like Rictus Erectus (Nathan Jones) or more straightforward, The People Eater (John Howard) and The Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter). They all add to the world that is long and gone and it fully shows.

 

While the movie might be one long big car chase, the film does slow down a bit to let the characters breath a bit, but pretty much to give us, the audience a breather too. Seriously after the first rig chase, I took a deep breath and the rest of the auditorium took one too and even laughed, but a good laugh not a “this is a terrible laugh.” However, I will say during those scenes, it does slow the movie down. It’s not so much of a bad thing to be honest, but considering how much we sit through during an action sequence, the slowed down bits takes you out a bit. However, during those scenes Theron and Hardy bring their characters more to life, so I really can’t complain too much.

 

All in all, Mad Max: Fury Road is a hell of a lot of fun. I do highly recommend multiple views, only because you’re sure to miss a few some awesome shots, or just viewing them all over again. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, more so Theron, keep the film going on the story and actor side of things. More importantly, George Miller brings Mad Max: Fury Road back to the things we love most about the series, awesome car chases and destruction.

 

 

Mad Max: Fury Road

4 out of 5

‘Divergent’ Review

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Dir: Neil Burger

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jai Courtney, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Ray Stevenson, Tony Goldwyn, Ashley Judd, Maggie Q, and Kate Winslet

Synopsis: In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it’s too late

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

Based off the popular Young Adult Novel of the same name by Veronica Roth, Divergent is set in a dystopian, post-war Chicago where its citizens are divided into five factions, each one emphasizing a particular personality trait: Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (kindness), Erudite (intelligence), Candor (honesty), and Dauntless (bravery).  Each one is assigned certain jobs, e.g. Abnegation runs the government, Erudite handles science, and Dauntless are the soldiers.  Every citizen must choose their faction and are given a test to see, which faction suits them best.  When Abnegation citizen Beatrice Prior (Woodley), who later calls herself Tris, takes the test, she comes up as “Divergent”, which she has to hide because it will make her a target against the higher ranks that including Jeanine (Winslet).

Divergents “threaten the system,” as we’re told over and over by various characters in urgent and cryptic whispers. Why they pose such a danger is not revealed until later in the movie and even then it doesn’t pack much of a punch (at least for me).  Despite that, the movie has an interesting world, but we never fully grasp what it really is. We see a somewhat ruined Chicago (which is cool because it’s the home city) with some futuristic touches and we get the idea of the Fraction-less.  But the only real concept we see is Beatrice’s Abnegation house when the family eats dinner around a single, tiny light bulb.  There are conflicts between the fractions, Erudite and Abnegation, although we don’t see it and are only told through Peter (Teller), who bashes Tris any chance he can get.

Of course being based off a young adult novel, Tris has a love interest in her instructor and Dauntless member Four (James). I’ll admit Woodley and James’ chemistry is one of the best things about Divergent but at the same time it takes away from the other relationships that Tris has with spunky Christina (Kravitz), Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) and Al (Christian Madsen).  Even her “rival” Peter and ruthless instructor Eric (Courtney) don’t feel bad, although Eric is menacing at times.

Again, Woodley is probably one of the better parts of the movie. She brings her A-game when need be and adds some depth to the scenes, even when it’s not necessarily needed.  Theo James adds some mystery to Four and tries to lead Tris in the right direction.  On the other hand, there is some wasted talent when it comes to Kate Winslet’s Jeanine, who feels like she’s evil for the sake of being evil.  Even Ray Stevenson’s Marcus, the leader of Abnegation, and Ashley Judd who plays Tris mother feel like they could have gotten other people to do them and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Thankfully, it does make an effort to deliver on the action, although some feels a bit anti-climatic.  The zip-lining across Chicago skylines is pretty cool.  Even the “fear tests” have some vivid imagery and is the only time the movie allows itself to go into “dark territory” which I kind of wish the movie had more of.

All in all, Divergent is kind of all over the place. For a movie that’s about two and half hours long, it kind of feels like it’s running fast to get through a lot of story that it misses the details that could make it come alive and the plot points that could help it make sense. Although it sounds like I’m bashing it, there were some moments that I did enjoy. While it’s not any different from the other Young Adult Novel adaptation, I’m guessing fans of the book will enjoy seeing the story on the big screen. I know the five pre-teen girls sitting behind me did.

Divergent

3 out of 5