Stories based on true events are often tough to swallow. Hollywood loves to truss up a story, make it into something it never was, make things funny when they weren’t. While I may not know the original story that this was based on, I did read the news report posted online and was unsurprised to read that the people who had been kidnapped in the actual story were disgusted with the changes made. I can’t imagine anyone being happy with a Hollywood comedy about a tragic event in their lives, but it is unsurprising.
The story follows an anti-hero named Lugo played by Mark Walberg. Lugo is a personal trainer, working hard, wanting more from life, like many of us, no doubt. After attending a self-help seminar, he realises he can’t continue doing what he’s doing. Instead he sees one of his clients, Victor, has more than he deserves. Lugo convinces two friends to help him with a ‘simple’ kidnapping scheme that will make them rich. As expected, things go off the rails from the beginning. The kidnapping is never executed well and it takes three tries before they finally acquire the target in any capacity.
The acting was superb, Dwayne Johnson, the Rock, may seem like a meat-head, but he stole practically every scene he was in. Guest appearances from Rebel Wilson and Ken Jeong were perfect. I feel like Mark Walberg has been playing the same two characters in every movie I’ve seen him in: the tortured, tough guy or the funny, buff guy. While I have been impressed with his work, this one felt very forced.
The story ends as you might expect, but I found myself not feeling sympathetic for the tough guys, who were the main focus of the story, but the resiliency from the hateable victim Victor. Tony Shaloub is absolutely detestable as Victor. You hate him the moment you meet him, but truthfully, you should feel sorry for him. This allusion may be poorly placed, but the movie reminded me of Cogan’s Way, the recent Brad Pitt movie Killing Them Softly. The basis for that movie was about the American Way, getting what you want and working hard for it.
This movie cuts from the same cloth. Lugo wants the American life, the one that is feasible in this country, but few others. If you work hard, if you stay the course, you will be rewarded. What Lugo forgets is that he isn’t working hard, he’s stealing. Victor wins because he is dogged in his efforts, as he was on his way to success. The crux of the story is if you cut corners, you won’t get to the finish line. While we may not like it, despicable people are successful because they don’t give up, they don’t let someone beat them. Victor was literally run over by a car, narrowly escaped being caught several times and managed to have his story taken seriously by one person, and that is all it takes.
Many reviewers felt this movie was vapid, but I found the moral hitting home. I want to succeed, as we all do, and more like Victor than Lugo, I’m not cutting corners, putting in the time to be see the fruits of my labour. If nothing else, the movie emboldened my focus, confirming that hard work does pay off. Go forth and take that dream, no one will give it to you.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Thursday, March 14, 2013
The story of the wizard of Oz is only known, for most folks, from the viewpoint of Dorothy through the age old movie the Wizard of Oz and the many revivals it has seen. In the new movie, Oz the Great and Powerful, the audience sees the story from the role of the wizard who becomes the Great Wizard of Oz. The wizard is a less than savoury man, a con artist to the highest degree, wanting to be more, but not willing to put the time and effort in to be better. Though this kind of character isn’t new, he still seemed compelling and interesting. When he gets whisked off by a tornado, he lands in a new world, meeting a woman who helps him to the emerald city. Her name is Theodora, and she believes he loves her. As a con man, he loves himself the most. Her sister, Evanora tells Oz he must kill the evil witch so that their world can be free of her evil. When he finally meets her, she resembles a woman he loved back in Kansas. He soon realises that one of the two of the witches are lying to him. The story unfolds in somewhat predictable fashion, but this doesn’t detract from the story or experience in any way.
Without giving away the end, the story ends with a perfect opening for Dorothy to arrive in the Land of Oz. The acting was passable, at times, not as great as the breath-taking special effects. James Franco and Mila Kunis were good, but not great. I felt like I could hear ‘Meg’ every time Kunis got upset or agitated. It is silly, I know, but it pulled me out of the story each time she did it. Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams were absolutely amazing. Both delivered what I’ve come to expect, knock-out performances. I’m still amazed Williams didn’t win an Oscar nomination for her role in My Week with Marilyn, but such is life in Hollywood. The story was quite good, the execution decent. I can see why many critics felt it fell flat. There were points where I felt like Franco was giving his trademark grin, phoning in the performance for our benefit. Sometimes, I’m not sure I take him very seriously. The 3D effect was incorporated well into the story, not making it seem overzealous as many kids movies tend to. This is worth seeing, but I’m not sure I’d see it in the evening. Many theatres have matinee specials, I’d go for that if I were you.
Monday, March 4, 2013
A fan of horror movies must often suffer through really bad movies to get really good ones. The Last Exorcism was a ‘found footage’ style movie that placed viewers with a preacher who claimed that no one was ever really possessed and proved it by taking a film crew along. As luck would have it, he stumbles upon a real possession and faces his own death as he tries to save the girl being taken by a demon. In the sequel, we pick up where we left off, so to speak. The possessed girl, Nell, has finally been found, doesn’t remember much of what happened and is trying to lead a normal life. The demon who possessed her loves her and wants her back.
In what can only be typified by your garden variety low-class attempts, the story groans and sputters, leading from one predictable sequence to the next, never providing anything of interest or anything compelling save for the consistent innocence from Nell, performed quite ably by Ashley Bell. She personifies confusion and panic in a way that makes the terrible story almost bearable for an hour and a half. What is more disappointing with this sequel is not the heavy-handed writing, the mediocre acting or the banal acting from most of the cast, it departed so heavily from the original, save for Nell, the story almost lacked any cohesion. The first movie was terrifying for the twists and turns, for the unpredictability. The sequel was tired and underwhelming, the ending worthy of walking out. Of all the bad horror movies I’ve seen, this is one of the worst. I forgot it almost as soon as I got to my car.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Like many of you, I watched the Oscars, which is to say I watched the first thirty minutes of it before my DVR changed the channel to Walking Dead and I went to bed. In the morning, much to my dismay, did I see the expected winners win. Daniel Day-Lewis I can’t argue with. I have yet to hear how Lincoln spoke, but I suspect he became Lincoln for that movie. Christoph Waltz was the same person from Inglorious Basterds, if you ask me, but I guess that’s how things shake out. Anne Hathaway probably does deserve an award for just losing that much weight and being able to sing, but you’d have to pay me to watch Les Mis.
The most confounding moment was Jennifer Lawrence. I don’t even mean the falling on your face, though good on Hugh Jackman and Bradely Cooper for coming to her aid. But really, since when has playing in a romantic comedy earned someone an academy award nomination, let alone a sweep through the Golden Globes and Oscars? I mean, really? I think I may have lost all respect for the reputable institution after this move. Yes, JLaw was great in Winter’s Bone, but that doesn’t mean you need to give a ‘make-up’ award for a laughable performance in a mildly diverting rom-com. I just can’t understand it.
After sitting through many of the best picture movies this past weekend, I found my mind unable to wrap around how anyone in that cast, let alone the writers and producers, getting any credit for writing a romantic comedy. I do realise that ‘As Good As It Gets’ did this exact same thing years ago, but really, the Academy was just giving Nicholson an award, and his trip down mental illness seemed much more believable than either Lawrence or Cooper. Jessica Chastain deserved that award and while I’m happy she’s happy, I’d be spitting nails if I were her.
And while I have your limited attention, despite what the Huffington Post tells me, I don’t think Seth McFarlane was that bad. I thought his monologue could have been shorter, sure, but I think it was entertaining and didn’t steal from the show. Yes, his jokes can be off-putting, but if you’ve never seen anything he’s done, then that might surprise you. He isn’t Billy Crystal, no one is or ever will be.
Monday, February 25, 2013
The final movie in AMC’s all-day viewing was Zero Dark Thirty. The story follows the search for the greatest known terrorist to America, Osama Bin Laden. The main character, Maya, is transplanted from a cushy job with the CIA in Washington, DC to Pakistan and parts unknown. She searches with a small team, using any means necessary to discern the truth from captives, those known to associate with Bin Laden or those he works with.
As this plays out in recent history, it was much easier to follow the timeline, meet characters we’d heard about only through reports after their deaths. Seeing the terrorist acts replayed in a movie was a lot to take in, especially some that feel, literally, too close to home. I still feel like talking about 9/11 is too soon, but that might just be me.
Jessica Chastain deserved more than a nomination for her role in this movie. After watching Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, I was more convinced of this, but I’m not an Academy voter, so my voice doesn’t matter. There was one great scene were Chastain lays into Kyle Chandler’s Joseph Bradley. The intensity in that scene alone was eye-catching and worthy of an Academy Award. The story was still, to me, steeped in conspiracy theory. Even when the big reveal occurs, as a movie goer, I was no more convinced of who had been killed than when it happened in real life. Bigelow is masterful in her storytelling and she should have been given more credit for her work as well. This is a tough movie to watch, but well worth seeing.
The story begins with Pat getting out of a mental hospital after having a breakdown. It is quickly revealed that Pat has been suffering from bipolar disorder, making him occasionally insensitive and not having the same filter that most people have. On his road to recovery, to restore his marriage, he meets a good friend of his who invites him to dinner and he meets a woman who is a little loose with her morals, Tiffany. The two don’t quite hit it off, but they get along enough to help one another. Pat lives with his parents who are ardent Philadelphia Eagles fans (something I personally find abhorrent). After the incident, Pat has a restraining order and a personal cop assigned to him. He lives with his parents and trades help from Tiffany to speak to his wife. In return, he must participate in a dance competition that Tiffany has no partner for.
The story is comical and entertaining, but the depth of it is greatly lacking. I felt the caricature of mental illness was just that for both Bradely Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, the latter winning dozens of awards for what I’d argue isn’t a stellar performance. I found myself scratching my head as to why so many critics were falling over themselves to give Lawrence some reservoir of credit for a role in what is basically a romantic comedy. Since As Good As It Gets, mental illness has been a great harbinger of awards, but that doesn’t mean it was done well or should be sensationalised. The movie was entertaining, but to see awards being given out for a romantic comedy is, in and of itself, laughable.
In what would have been the third movie of the Academy Award docket at AMC, was the second for me as my friend and I skipped Life of Pi due to there being no pie in the movie at all. As the title would suggest, Lincoln follows the former US president as he tries to get the thirteenth amendment passed prior to the end of the Civil War. The story sets the state of Lincoln in an almost comical fashion contrasted with a quiet control that manages to accomplish things that seem impossible. Knowing the overall ending of the story did make it a bit of a cheat, but the movie was very entertaining with very memorable performances from everyone in the cast.
My expectations going in were that I’d be bored to tears. It isn’t that I don’t care for American history so much as I like a good story, a good adventure, and I didn’t think I’d get either in this movie. I wasn’t wrong, per say, the story is very focused on dialogue and little action. The subtlety of the story grows on you as it goes on, making it seem accessible and for once making history not feel so tiresome. I can’t say that I liked all of it. I felt like there was so much going on, a stouter cast might have gave a better impression of the scope of things, though I can appreciate that the president of the United States does indeed have a far-reaching influence. I have seen a lot of Joseph Gordon-Levitt this year and I felt like his inclusion was a bit much and felt forced. Sally Field and Daniel Day-Lewis were superb, as was most of the cast. I don’t know that I’d ever recommend a movie like this, but it was worth watching. I would never have seen it if not for it being included in AMC’s all-day event.