Monday, April 15, 2019

Robin Hood (2018)

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  This movie already loses a point due to the lack of Bryan Adam's "Everything I Do (I Do It for You)" on the soundtrack.



Robin Hood (2018) – 2 out of 5

I don’t begrudge properties being made and remade because I am of the thinking that stories should be told over and over again and should be re-adapted.  Hell, every month I am in a production of a Shakespeare play and I’ve already done several of the stories upwards of three or four times.  I don’t understand the arbitrary rule that plays are the only stories allowed to be adapted multiple times simply because they were created for the stage.  So when a studio decides to reboot a franchise or remake a feature or, like in the case of Robin Hood, readapts a story that exists in the world of public domain, I don’t get irrationally irritate and type in all caps in the comment section that “Hollywood has run out of ideas.”  Instead, I say, “Hmmm, let’s see what they do with this version.  I’m curious.”  Sometimes it’s a win, sometimes it’s a loss.  As much as I wanted to like this one, I have to say this one was a miss.

The movie is a dud but I still like you Egerton.

Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) seems to have it made in the shade  as he lives a life of ease with his lover Marian (Eve Hewson); however, the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) drafts him to fight in the Third Crusade.  After serving for several years, he returns to find the city fallen into poverty and learns from his friend Friar Tuck (Tim Minchin) that he was declared dead and Marian has moved on and found a new lover in Will Scarlet (Jamie Dornan).  Robin learns through a former enemy, Yahya (Jamie Foxx), that the Sheriff has been seizing land and wealth in order to continue the war effort.  Yahya trains Robin to become a great archer and sets him out to rob from the rich and give to the poor and to stop the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.

"You know it's true, everything I'd do--"
Dammit, that song really needed to be in this film.

I like Taron Egerton.  I think he’s a great actor and a great screen presence.  Honestly, that was the main feature that sold me on this latest telling of Robin Hood.  Additionally, the trailer made the action look cool as well and that didn’t hurt.  However, the trailer did feel a little odd to me with the over aesthetic of the world the feature was portraying.  Was this film taking place in an era appropriate to Robin Hood or was this a diet steam punk/alternate era that was being presented?  The architecture seemed off and the outfits did not match the time period at all.  I literally couldn’t tell if the look was a conscious choice or if the production just didn’t give an eff.  However, I was still willing to give this one a shot.  Sadly, I found the whole thing kinda boring and really hard to get invested into.

Uh oh, Christian Grey has got that look in his eyes...

The overall look of the film—the clothes and weapons that didn’t exist at the time—could, in theory, translate to a unique way of retelling Robin Hood’s story but, for me, it too often was distracting.  This idea lacked the balance for it to be pulled off because one second the film looks as authentic as a film can get for the time period and the next second you see a man walking around in a machine stitched leather coat and people are shooting automatic crossbows.  It had this overall feeling that the feature wanted to be this alternate reality time period that had some hints of leaning in a steampunk-ish direction but never felt like it wanted to fully commit.  I could have really gotta behind this concept but the overall feeling that it was only giving this aspect partial involvement ended up being more distracting than something that would set it apart.

Like, it is a cool leather jacket but it just sticks out like a sore thumb
in a Robin Hood film.

It doesn't help that Marian's character is written poorly and
doesn't really offer Hewson much to work with.
The final two nails in this one’s coffin come in the fact that two elements are extremely flat and ridiculously lethargic.  These elements are the majority of the performances and the story itself.  While I will say that Egerton, Foxx and Mendelsohn are genuinely good in this film, I can’t say the same for Hewson and Dornan.  Hewson looks like she just doesn’t care about the product and Dornan has the exact same amount of passion he showed in Fifty Shades of Grey—that is to say none.  Any scene with these two just feels like it is dragging.  One of the more odd casting choices was comedian/musician/actor Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck.  I enjoy Minchin’s music but his comedic leanings for the role felt horrifically out-of-place within the film’s overall gloomier tone.  Finally, there was no denying that I found the story to be incredibly boring and very difficult to invest in.  So much of the narrative feels like it is dragging and lazily trying to get from Point A to Point B and it made the whole feature feel like homework rather than a piece of entertainment.

Yes, Minchin's more comedic leanings felt out of place in the overall tone of
the film but he sure does have some great songs.

I did really enjoy Foxx's intensity in his role.
I don’t want to make it sound like this adaptation of Robin Hood is complete and utter shit because it isn’t.  It is very rare that I ever experience a film that is 100% a waste of my time and has no redeeming value.  This film does have some neat stuff working in its favor.  I already mentioned that I really enjoyed the performances of Egerton, Foxx and Mendelsohn and the film also has some cool action moments and these moments are filmed wonderfully and constructed terrifically; however, the thing I found the coolest was the archery style of Robin for this product.  Archer guru Lars Anderson was brought in to the production and his focus on the ancient techniques of archer instead of the more modern ways was utilized and it translated in a slick way in the film.  Anderson showed how archers most likely shot their arrows from the outside of the bow rather than notching it from the inside.  This results in faster drawing and releasing (check out his YouTube videos, they are really cool) and having this element allowed for a Robin that was faster on the draw and definitely more exciting archery scenes than other Robin Hood films have had.

As cool as this approach was for the archery, it just isn't enough to save the film.

Robin Hood has some cool elements that I genuinely enjoyed but, overall, I just found the story too boring for me to get into.  Additionally, I wasn’t a fan of a lot of the cast and the film’s overall look with its costumes and sets were more distracting than something that set it apart from the rest of the pack.  I still find their use of ancient archery a nice touch because it shows that, at the very least, this film had some thought behind it and wasn’t just farted out in order to try and make a buck by the studio but that alone just wasn’t enough for me.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Creed II

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  I was a boxer once.  I remember that one hit I took and then crumbled to the mat and wet myself.



Creed II – 4 out of 5

I’m a casual fan of the Rocky series.  I’m not a boxing fan at all and actually find the sport to be pretty barbaric but I can’t help but get that swell of enthusiasm that comes with sports films when Rocky Balboa knocks emmer effers out.  When the spinoff hit with Michael B. Jordan, I was very much into it.  It had the spirit of the franchise and yet never really felt like it was just doing the same thing all over again.  When it was announced that a sequel would arrive and bring with it the child of the iconic antagonist from Rocky IV, I was very excited because that moment when Dolph Lundgren says he must break Rocky is such a B.A. scene and I really liked the inherit concept of this spinoff bringing in a descendant of an old villain.  Creed really delivered a killer sports drama and sequels can be hard to live up to when such is the case; however, Creed II really packs…a great movie.  (I am not going to say “packs a punch.”  That’s for the other critics who actually get paid for their work.  Pay me and I’ll slap out those cheesy lines.)

I would put a joke here about boxing but I literally know nothing about sports.

Yeah, he is the champ but can he beat Mike Tyson
in Punch Out!?
Three years after the events of the first film, Adonis Creed (Jordan) has worked his way up to a shot at the WBC World Heavyweight title.  After a hard fought victory, he asks his girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson) to marry him and start a life together.  While, across the pond, Ivan Drago (Lundgren) lives in poverty after his loss to Rocky Balboa and trains his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) to be a boxer and regain the family’s lost honor.  After a promoter lays down the challenge, Creed accepts to fight the Russian; after all, it was Ivan that killed Creed’s father in the ring.  With so much emotionally on the line with this fight, Creed asks Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) to train him but Rocky refuses since he realizes the fight is a bad idea.  Creed decides to go through with the fight anyway despite Rocky’s reservations and is left a beaten mess in the ring.  Seeing Creed broken, Rocky gets back in Creed’s corner to help him heal and help him train for the rematch.

Sly can really showcase his dramatic skills in these films.  It's nice.

Due to his commitments to Black Panther, director Ryan Coogler wasn’t able to return as director and I was definitely disappointed when I heard about it.  However, the film was clearly in great hands with director Steven Caple Jr.  He really hit the tone fantastically and was able to continue and build on what Coogler brought in the first film.  The biggest aspect one needs to get right in a sports triumph story is getting the lows and the highest of the highs.  You need to believe that the star player/team is down for the count on a superficial level and then be able to hit it at the top when the player/team gets that ultimate victory.  Caple nailed it in this respect.  He captured a tone that encompassed the right atmosphere that you feel it on an emotional level when Creed loses to Viktor and then experiences the unbridled joy of his ultimate victory.  It’s easy to get inspirational with sports drama when that win occurs but this film really delivered that win in a fantastic way and it was hard not to want to cheer for this completely fictionalized fight.

Yes!  Time to feel like shit about my body!

Admit it, we all kinda wanted her to marry Flavor Flav.
One aspect I really enjoyed was how Viktor Drago was handled.  It would be easy to just make him a generic villain.  Make him strong, make him unstoppable and you have your bad guy that Creed has to overcome.  Forgoing this, the story treats Viktor like a character that has his own obstacles he needs to get over and his own legacy he has to live up to.  After his defeat against Rocky, Ivan lost everything, including his wife (Brigitte Nielsen, who returned to play Ludmilla), and he became disgraced.  This meant Viktor grew up without a mother and she suddenly returns to his life as his country gives him their full support.  So, instead of being a cookie-cutter obstacle for Creed to face off against, he is his own character in his own story that has a lot to prove and a lot piling up on his shoulders.  This collision of fighters with their own motivations ends up culminating in an ending that was amazingly satisfying not only on that inspirational sports film level but on a human emotional level.

They sure picked the right guy for Viktor.  I received a fracture to my cheek
bone just looking at his intimidating stare.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that, from an acting standpoint, Creed II has got the goods.  Michael B. Jordan is just a powerhouse of a talent and he proves it each and every single film he does.  This feature is no exception.  You also have Tessa Thompson who, like Jordan, is just pure awesome and does a tremendous job at growing her character in this sequel.  Like the last film, Sly Stallone is fantastic  and I liked the frailty he brought to this film as Rocky is hesitant to see Creed be put in the same situation that claimed Creed’s father.  Despite being a man of few words in the film, Florian Munteanu is super intense as Viktor.  He’s a physical specimen with a very intense stare so, from a pure superficial standpoint, the guy is intimidating as hell but the intensity that he brought was also able to non-verbally express what he was going through.  Finally, I like Dolph Lundgren and still find the guy to be a badass mother but I really enjoyed the dramatic side he brought to this disheveled and nearly broken version of Ivan Drago.  Basically, from a cast standpoint, this movie does not falter in the least.

Man, the dude is still intimidating AF!

Creed II has all the heart and entertainment that the first one delivered.  The cast is astounding, I loved how it incorporates past elements of this franchise, and the ending is fairly dynamic and unique for the sports drama genre.  Sequels can be a difficult thing to get right and this one is one of those examples of a sequel getting things right and living up to what came before it.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  The title is the exact thing I said to my pizza delivery guy after he found out that I also order from several other pizza places in the area.  I have a problem and the problem is pizza.



Can You Ever Forgive Me? – 5 out of 5

I adore Melissa McCarthy.  I think she is very charming, incredibly talented, endlessly adorable and epically hilarious.  Sadly, sometimes the projects she attaches herself to don’t resonate with me the way I hope they would (not the Ghostbusters reboot, though.  Sorry haters, I loved that film) but never do I find her to be the true weak point of the features.  When I heard she was in the drama Can You Ever Forgive Me? and that she was just astounding in it, I knew I had to see it.  Granted, due to my enjoyment of her as a performer I was going to see it anyway but the reviews the film got and love her performance was receiving had me very interested.  Well, I recently checked it out and McCarthy has shown a side to her talent that has been glimpsed previously but never showcased to such an amazing degree.

I would comment on how she's dressed but she dresses far better than I do.

In the early 90s, author Lee Israel (McCarthy) is struggling to make ends meet.  After stumbling upon some letters from an author during some research, Israel sells the memorabilia in order to pay her rent.  Stumbling upon a possibly lucrative market, she begins to create forgeries of letters from famous authors and uses her writing skills to perfectly capture the authors’ tones and voices.  The only person she lets on about this scam is her best friend Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant) and eventually uses him to help sell the fakes after several dealers start to become suspicious of her.  However, eventually her plan crumbles as the authorities catch wind of her dealings…

"...and little hearts on all of the I's..."

On the surface, a story like the one in Can You Ever Forgive Me? seems like something that might not keep my interest.  Creating forgeries to sell seems like an interesting scam but when they are letters from authors?  Eh, doesn’t really seem like that “cool” of a crime.  However, I was surprised by how engrossed I became with the events of the tale and the presentation was done so effectively that this movie does get tense at times.  Overall, the feature’s tone is pretty amazing as the story is dramatic, emotional and, like I said, surprisingly tense.  The story really presents Israel as a dynamic character who is both sympathetic and kinda shitty at the same time (like any human being is capable of).  She is doing wrong and we know it but, at the same time, it’s understandable why she ended up going down this path.

I find it so stupidly adorable that Melissa and her husband Ben Falcone work
together on so many films.

Another reason Israel is an interesting and attention-grabbing character is from the performance of McCarthy.  I already stated that I hold her in high regard but I was completely floored with her dramatic performance.  It’s really no surprise that she could pull this off because to be a good comedic actor is to also be a great dramatic one because the best comedy comes from sincerity.  Nevertheless, despite knowing this, I’m still amazed at how well comedic actors do when they transition to drama and McCarthy is just astounding in this role.  She perfectly captured the necessities of the character and was just enthralling to watch.  Her performance is matched by costar Richard E. Grant and their chemistry together was undeniable.

This is what it looks like in my head all the time.

The only real drawback I had for the film is the replay value.  It is a terrifically crafted film that does wonders with capturing tone and atmosphere and it contains terrific performances and has a captivating and very intriguing story; however, it is one of those films for me that once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it.  That being said, having limited replay value didn’t diminish my score in the least for Can You Ever Forgive Me? nor did the usual altering of history that biopics do harm my experience (did I mention this was based on a true story?  Because it is.)  In the end, the film is just a very moving feature that was very entertaining and really showcased that Melissa McCarthy has way more range than a lot of her naysayers believe she does.