Image: Aww, isn't that swee.......I mean, ador.......Isn't it nauseating?
Sometimes your audience can perfectly identify the basic mood of your theater going experience. In a slightly busier than expected showing, full of women mostly probably shown up for a girls night out, I was once again seemingly the only guy in the theater. It's awkward, weird, and just plain looks wrong. Luckily, another girl and her boyfriend arrived just before the movie started. Cue the boyfriend standing still for a brief moment and letting out the loudest, longest, and most exasperated sigh you'll ever hear before going to find his seat, with a defeated look on his face. Sums it all up nicely don't you think?
"Forever My Girl" opens with Southern lovebirds, "Liam Paige" (Alex Roe) and "Josie" (Jessica Rothe) about to get married. Too bad Liam decides to be a jackass and runs off to become another generic country singer. Cut to 8 years later when the one black guy in town dies, Liam returns to his home for his funeral, taking a break from his big tour. Josie understandably isn't too happy to see Liam, and in fact, nobody in town really is, including Liam's estranged pastor father, "Brian" (John Benjamin Hickey). However, Liam soon realizes that Josie was also pregnant when he abandoned her before, meeting her (And well, his) daughter, "Billy" (Abby Ryder Fortson). Liam decides to stick around in hopes of getting to know Billy, reconciling with Josie, and reconnecting with his Southern, good old fashioned, all American roots.
Comparing "Forever My Girl" to the yearly Nicholas Sparks adaptions (Though they have basically vanished in the recent years) like most critics have been doing doesn't seem particularly fair. I've seen the worst those films have to offer and this one is nowhere on par with how bad they can get. With that said, much like those films, there is this lack of understanding of how people work and react in terms of reality. The sappy dialogue doesn't mesh well with the attempts to be cute and funny, mostly because of how heavy the emotional drama would be realistically. The way the film explains why Liam did what he did is so basic and simplistic, and the way the film treats other dramatic moments (Most of which happen off-screen) just feel odd and sloppy. It doesn't help that Liam is not a very likable character in the slightest, and since we are forced to focus on him more than anyone in the film, it ruins the actual romance, which weirdly feels secondary.
Alex Roe can't seem to keep his accent in check, and doesn't have the charisma to carry the film, especially considering how much of a dick he comes across as. (Also, is it wrong to say I don't trust his face? Not sure what it is, but I just don't....Look, I don't like his face.) Jessica Rothe (Who easily carried last year's underatted "Happy Death Day") is plenty cute and shows a great deal amount of personality. But their relationship is just off, mostly due to how poorly the film handles their story, resulting in me not buying the relationship's obvious outcome in the slightest. Abby Ryder Fortson gets some overly precious dialogue, but makes up for it with the fact that she's an undeniably talented little actress. (Although, is her character a bit too overly gifted? Sounds like it would be the plot of a separate movie) Probably the best performance comes from John Benjamin Hickey, who does sell his heartfelt moments, even if most of his story happens off-screen like many arcs in the film. The unlucky ones are seemingly abandoned, such as the dead friend's grieving widow. (Eh, She was unimportant anyway I guess.)
Directed by Bethany Ashton Wolf, "Forever My Girl" is too safe, blandly boring, and choppily cobbled together (And boy, I have heard enough country music to last me a lifetime), but on the bright side, it never reaches that offensiveness that I'm used to compared to other early in the year romances. It certainly overstays it's welcome quickly, and the film's more overly dramatic moments do get more laughs than the actual moments of humor. (Hot Dogs are the biggest conflict the movie has to offer) However, if your girlfriend decides to drag you to it.....well, actually, you'll still be pretty miserable But you could still be more miserable elsewhere. Maybe she wants to see "Paddington 2" or "Star Wars" instead. If she does, I suggest you marry that girl immediately. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Adult Content, Killer Hot Dogs, And Alex Roe's Inability To Keep His Shirt On.
Image: Gerard Butler's beard has his own agent and trailer.
You know, for a January film season, this hasn't been all that bad. (With the exception of "Paddington 2", that was great. You guys should have gone to see it.) But there is at least more of a sense of effort put into the few movies I've seen this month already. And when the worst thing you can say about your movies are that it's just sort of forgettable, that's at least better than....well, "Fifty Shades of Black", "Mortdecai", or "Norm of the North". It's the small victories in life that count.
"Den of Thieves" starts Las Angeles with a truck robbery resulting in the deaths of a couple cops. This brings in corrupt L.A.P.D. cop, "Nick O'Brien" (Gerard Butler) aka "Big Nick" (Because he's uh, big), who knows that this is the work of a elite gang of criminals, led by "Ray Merrimen" (Pablo Schreiber), who has been pulling off the most successful bank robbery heists in the state for years. Nick's crew manages to capture the gang's newest member, "Donnie" (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), with the intention of getting him to give Nick's crew information on what Merrimen's gang's next big heist is. Donnie can only provide so much (Mostly because he knows so little as it is), and he is forced to work for Nick in exchange for leniency. As the day of the heist draws near, Merrimen finally reveals that this last big heist is going to be their greatest and most difficult yet, planning to rob the Federal Reserve Bank, which is said to be impossible.
I may have a bit of a difficult time explaining the plot to "Den of Thieves", mostly because the more I think about it, it's actually a pretty simple yet overly complicated at the same time (Does that make sense?) It's the kind of story you've seen before, but despite some failings particularly when it's all meant to come together towards the end, there is this sense of suspense to the film that does keep your attention for the most part. First time Director Christian Gudegast knows how to build some tension, but can't seem to find the right sense of pacing and doesn't seem to understand the meaning of the word running time. (It clocks in at 140 minutes for no apparent reason).
One of the film's strongest aspects is Gerard Butler, giving the best performance I've seen from him for some time. He plays up the scumbag aspect with charismatic sliminess and dominates the screen, devouring the scenery every chance he gets. He easily steals the film from Pablo Schreiber, who is much more boring by comparison. O'Shea Jackson Jr. does a solid job in the movie, with a few moments to shine, even with a weird moment at the very end. While Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson (as "Levi", one of Merrimen's gang members) is here as well, that's really it, in terms of developed characters. Most of them are left in the background, leaving their family lives as afterthoughts, especially with a subplot involving Nick's wife, "Debbie" ( Dawn Oliveri), who is divorcing him for obvious reasons.
"Den of Thieves" has some cool technical aspects, with some excellent utilization of sound (Especially during the shootouts), and Gerard Butler's enjoyably sleazy performance elevates it further. But the film drags along, with an overly drawn out length, and a final twist that feels somewhat clever, but just makes you question the necessity of certain scenes and plot points. It's got it's moments, but it feels like a more forgettable version of a cop/robber thriller you've likely seen before. Just a really, really long version of it. 2 stars. Rated R For Very Strong Language, Brutal Violence, And Pure Gerard Butler Sleaze.
Image: "I'm getting too old for this sh*t."
I know this is pretty late. I'm playing catch up due to the weather seemingly going out of it' way to destroy us all. I witnessed the weather change and the temperature drop right before my eyes. It was kind of amazing, but I decided to weigh the risks and decided against braving the elements. I know Liam Neeson would handle it like a man and physically fight the freezing cold personally. You know that movie is gonna get made.
"The Commuter" follows "Michael MacCauley" (Liam Neeson), a former Cop living through the same routine day by day, just trying to get by, and provide for his wife, "Karen" (Elizabeth McGovern) and son, "Danny" (Dean-Charles Chapman). Michael ends up getting fired from his job as an insurance salesman simply for being old, and he dreads telling his family. While on the way home during his daily train ride home, he meets a mysterious woman, "Joanna" (Vera Farmiga), who gives Michael a supposed hypothetical question about what he would do if offered money to point out a random person.
Turns out the question isn't hypothetical as Joanna explains that he has a certain amount of time to locate a person using the alias "Prynne", and point them out to her "People". Michael decides to take the money and at first go along with it, but as he progresses in his search, he begins to realize that this is bigger than he could possibly imagine. Michael's family is targeted, people start dying, and Michael is seemingly being set up to take the fall. Michael is left to find Prynne and uncover the bizarre conspiracy before something even more terrible happens.
"The Commuter" is exactly what you would expect it to find in a preposterous action film. However, it does at least have competent people behind and in front of the camera to carry it, and does what it sets out to do, which is make for an entertaining, briskly paced thriller. The premise is certainly interesting, and the setup is surprisingly solid, showing our main character's family life before the plot finally happens to develop his character and further the theme of what kind of you could be if put in a deadly situation. It's clever, but nonetheless stupid, especially once we finally learn what exactly is going on. The villains' scheme feels way too overly convoluted for no apparent reason other than to make it overly convoluted, making less and less sense as it goes.
Liam Neeson thankfully doesn't sleepwalk even through the silliest of movies. He still gives it his all, with his charisma alone making you invested in what's happening. And to his credit, he doesn't fight his way through some baddies without taking a few good punches. (Aside from CGI Neeson jumping onto CGI train. That was....bad.) Vera Farmiga only appears briefly, but her presence throughout, (With a cute, innocent look and sound to her that makes her particularly villainous). Patrick Wilson (as "Mruphy", Michael's cop buddy) shows up to do the obvious, but doesn't do a bad job at it either, while Sam Neill (as "Captain Hawthorne", Murphy's superior) unfortunately just kind of shows up to do nothing.
"The Commuter" is ridiculous, with some goofy twists and turns, but at least retains some moments of humor and humanity to keep your attention. The film embraces what it is, with even the most outlandish of action scenes remaining enjoyable. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (Who previously directed "The Shallows" and "Non-Stop", which is eerily similar to this movie in plotting) is good at what he does, keeping the pace moving, making for a quick sit. It's dumb, but an action flick that doesn't take too much of your time, and least the most of it's January dumping ground release. Other than some really awesome people with January birthdays, let's just get this month over with. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence, Flying Trains, And Liam Neeson's Epic F-Bomb.
Image: Proud Taraji keep on burnin'.
This right here. This is what I expect to come out in January. Not so much that the film is terrible by any means, but January movies are just so....off. When the people involved hear that their film is going to be released in January, they know that it's conformation that the work of art they just finished is probably destined for box office failure and a 20% on "Rotten Tomatoes". So "Proud Mary" is pretty much a perfect January movie.
"Proud Mary" follows "Mary" (Taraji P. Henson), a well known hitwoman for a Boston crime family, led by the man who took her in "Benny" (Danny Glover). Mary has been a part of the family for years, eventually leading to a fateful day where she kills the deadbeat father of a young boy, "Danny" (Jahi Di'Allo Winston). Feeling guilty, she follows Danny for a year, seeing that he has begun working for a slimy rival mobster, "Uncle" (Xander Berkeley). Mary befriends Danny, and after seeing how much Uncle abuses him, she ends up putting a bullet in Uncle, resulting in the Russian mob growing paranoid. All the criminal gangs are now at each other's throats, with Mary planning to make amends for her bad deeds and maybe give Danny the family she never had. while attempting to get away from her hitwoman life, while avoiding the suspicions of her ex/Benny's son, "Tom" (Billy Brown).
"Proud Mary" just never quite figures out what the Hell it wants to be. The tongue in cheek tone from the trailer is missing for the most part in the film. Instead, it's more of a thriller, with some pretty heavy drama surrounding it. It doesn't help that occasionally the movie suddenly drifts into goody, more tongue in cheek territory, especially by the end. With a plot that has been done to death, the whole thing doesn't mesh and feels sloppy. It seems the filmmakers were trying to figure out what they wanted to do as the movie went on, but never came to an actual conclusion.
It's too bad because Taraji P. Henson is truly trying her absolute best, with her natural charm and ability to look pretty cool while kicking butt. Her relationship with Jahi Di'Allo Winston feels underdeveloped, but the amount of emotion that Henson brings to her role does make it feel somewhat genuine. It's also nice to see Danny Glover actually getting to sink his teeth into a good role for the first time in a while, easily going from nice and caring to villainous and threatening. Billy Brown isn't so much bad, as he can seem a bit intimidating, but his character's arc doesn't feel developed in the slightest and where they go with his character is both predictable and doesn't match how the character started. Neal McDonough (as "Walter", one of Benny's goons) is criminally underused, doing absolutely nothing for his 5 minutes of screentime.
"Proud Mary" isn't the worst film I've ever seen in January by any means, as the film does at least look like something I would see in theaters and Taraji P. Henson alone makes it a little worth it (And because Kellan Lutz isn't in it.) The film doesn't leave much of an impact, which is evident by the rushed through finale and an ending that just sort of stops. (The wrap up isn't even a minute long) With this review done, I'll probably never even think about this movie ever again. Such is the fate of dumped off January releases. Proud Taraji deserved better. 2 stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Strong Violence, And Tight Black Outfits.
Image: Prison changes a Bear.
Hello 2018! After taking a week off from reviewing anything ("Insidious: The Last Key"? I don't have time for that.), it's time to get into the usual January dumping ground (Aside from last second 2017 Oscar hopefuls). But instead of the usual run of the mill bad January releases, we get something rather wonderful. It must be my birthday or something.....Well, it was actually. Happy Birthday to me!
"Paddington 2" follows that adorable, overly polite, Marmalade loving bear from darkest Peru, "Paddington" (Voiced by Ben Whishaw). Paddington is still living in London with his adopted human family, "The Browns", consisting of the father, "Henry" (Hugh Bonneville) who is going through a bit of a mid-life crisis, the mother "Mary" (Sally Hawkins) who yearns for adventure, the son "Jonathan" (Samuel Joslin) who tries way too hard to be cool, the daughter "Judy" (Madeleine Harris) who starts a feminist newspaper to spite her ex, and their housekeeper "Mrs. Bird" (Julie Walters) who keeps everyone together. Paddington desperately wants to get his only remaining relative, "Aunt Lucy" (Voiced by Imelda Staunton) a birthday present, finding the perfect gift at the antique shop of his friend, "Mr. Gruber" (Jim Broadbent) in the form of a pop-up book of London. The bad news is that the book is one of a kind, and costs a fortune, so Paddington decides to try to make the money to buy it like the good little bear he is.
Enter egotistical, washed up actor, "Phoenix Buchanan" (Hugh Grant), who knows that the book contains a hidden secret that leads to a legendary treasure and plots to steal it. Paddington catches Buchanan in the act, but is unable to stop him from taking the book, resulting in Paddington being framed for the crime. Because those Brits take book theft very seriously, Paddington is sent to jail, eventually befriending a few of the inmates, including the prsion cook, "Nuckles McGinty" (Brendan Gleeson). Paddington and his new friends, along with the Browns aiding from the outside, set out to clear his name before Aunt Lucy's birthday and before Buchanan gets away with his crime.
The sequel to 2015's excellent family feature "Paddington", which was both a critical and box office success, "Paddington 2" really shouldn't be much different, since it's just as wonderful, just as endearing, and just as laugh out loud hilarious. Once again Directed by Paul King, who shoots the film like a colorful storybook made out of candy. The sight on screen is stunning to look at, with so much color changing throughout depending on the mood. The well written script remembers to be charming and funny, while also remaining undeniably sweet natured. The film's strong messages of family, positivity, and just plain treating people with basic compassion are just as inspiring for adults as they are for children, and should warm the heart of the most cynical of cynics (Even prison inmates get respect).. It's somehow grounded in a form of reality, despite all the fantastical and wackiness going on. (Everyone has pretty much just accepted that a talking bear exists in this universe.)
Ben Whishaw is once again delightful, with an innocent sense of wonder and optimism that makes for such a lovable character. The family dynamic remaining as strong as the first, with Hugh Bonneville and the adorable Sally Hawkins getting just as many laughs as moments of heart, along with Julie Walters getting some of the best dialogue. Like before, Jim Broadbent is likable in a supporting role, with Peter Capaldi (as "Mr. Curry", The Browns' grouchy neighbor) being suitably snobbish. Brendan Gleeson is an absolute riot, and Hugh Grant simply steals the movie in a wildly entertaining, rather brilliant performance that makes him just as dastardly as he is hysterical. The overall cast, which is also made up of a large ensemble of smaller parts, really brings the film together, and by the end, everything and everyone has a part to play.
"Paddington 2" is one of those sequels that somehow manages to be just as great as the first, never losing sight of it's genuine heart and emotion, while remembering to make it's audience laugh and teach good morals at the same time. It's a perfect representation of what a great family movie should be, giving both kids and their parents plenty to admire and enjoy. It's also hands down the most whimsical prison break movie you'll ever see and starts off 2018 in the best way possible. 4 stars. Rated PG For Quirky Shenanigans, The Tugging Of Heartstrings, And Constant Consumption Of Marmalade.