Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Hardcore Henry

***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 is waaayyyy different than the spin-off Softcore Sam.



Hardcore Henry – 3 out of 5

I love action films and I really enjoy video games.  While first person shooters might not be my go-to games (I’m not really a Call of Duty type of dude) there are plenty in this genre that I do enjoy.  So, when these two ideas came together to form Hardcore Henry I was endlessly intrigued.  Then, when I saw the R-brand trailer, I was really interested.  Well, I finally sat down with this one-of-a-kind action film and, I have to say, I wasn’t too into it.

Although, I do concede that some moments were really cool!

Good thing he married a cybernetics engineer...
imagine if he married an accounted.  He'd be
dead.
A man named Henry (played by too many people to even begin to list here) finds himself suddenly revived in a laboratory by a woman named Estelle (Haley Bennett).  She claims that he is both her husband and a potential star of a new version of The Six Million Dollar Man after he is rebuilt with cybernetic implants after an accident.  After a warlord named Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) invades the lab, Henry is thrown into a chaotic race against time as he has to save his wife from the man and figure out what is happening to him.  Along for the adventure is a mysterious man named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley); he seems to have all the answers and is leading Henry to something but he has the bad habit of constantly dying and coming back as a different version of himself.

I was wondering when I would get to see Copley play a guy hopped up on
coke while in some animal print undies.  Finally!

Watching someone fall in first person perspective
is surprisingly relaxing.
The main selling point of Hardcore Henry is the fact it is shot entirely in the first person, theoretically putting you directly in the action.  In reality, however, I found a film that has some saving graces but is entirely bogged down but a product that is too repetitive and ends up feeling like it’s all sizzle without the steak.  The moment the film starts it feels like the intro of a video game and that’s actually a cool thing.  Hell, there’s even a ton of references of game tropes and game-based gags throughout the film that work and are genuinely a neat addition.  However, the biggest problem is that video games are an active experience where you take control of the character and, when the game is a first person shooter, you are essential the main character and you are in control.  You don’t get that with Hardcore Henry.

If only the screen started to glow red when Henry got hurt...

To boil it down, Hardcore Henry felt like a passive experience for me as a viewer and, despite seeing everything through Henry’s eyes, I never really felt like I was a participant.  Granted, it’s a movie and there’s obvious limitations that prevent me from feeling like I’m a part of the adventure but the first person gimmick is meant to make you feel like you are going through the ordeal Henry is going through but the fact that Henry is essentially a faceless cardboard cutout of a character who gets no real development and has no meaningful arc made for a film that felt empty and shallow.  This could have  worked as a popcorn action film but there were other problems that prevented it from hitting that mark.

"Hi, I'm Henry's dad; Tim Roth, this is the closest you'll see to any depth
given to this character.  Thanks!"

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some very cool action moments in Hardcore Henry but these are bogged down tremendously by the repetitive and formulaic approach the plot takes.  The film follows a very obvious path during its entire running length as we see Henry greeted by Jimmy, Jimmy delivers some exposition (because Henry is mute, so all developments are lazily explained directly to Henry and, essentially, the viewer), Jimmy then dies, chase scene follows or action scene commences and repeat.  This made the film very tedious and, even when I found myself saying, “Wow, that part was really cool,” I discovered I couldn’t get fully invested in what I was seeing because of its color-by-numbers approach and pattern.  Not to mention that a lot of the fist fight parts were kinda hard to watch as the first person perspective made things very shaky and unfocused.

I will say this, though, this version of Jimmy was fantastic.
Probably my favorite version.

I also had issues with the film’s antagonist Akan.  I wasn’t too impressed with Danila Kozlovsky’s performances and the character just wasn’t that interesting.  However, despite these many set-backs, Hardcore Henry does have some elements working heavily in its favor and I can’t deny the marvel of filmmaking magic that it was.  The sheer nightmare of logistics that came from filming and editing this piece is really something to behold and warrants a viewing for its technical wizardry alone.   Additionally, the film provides some entertaining gags, has some fantastic music that compliments the chase scenes and action moments and Sharlto Copley’s character (characters?) steals the film.  Hell, I was more interested in his backstory than I was in Henry’s past or future.

Akan kinda looks like a boss you'd see in the Metal Gear series.


Hardcore Henry is notable for a major reason but that reason also ends up just being a gimmick—and like most films made on a gimmick, the rest of the product suffers.  The film isn’t too boring and didn’t feel like a waste of time but with its lack of character development and due to its obvious formula, the film proved to be less entertaining than I had hoped it would have been.  It has its moments here and there that are definitely fun and very badass to take in but, in its entirety, I found the film to be kinda mediocre.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Storks

***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!  At one point I accidentally typed "strokes" and realized that would a been a very different movie.



Storks – 4 out of 5

I don’t know if you know this or not but babies don’t actually come from storks.  I know, I learned about it only two years ago and I’m still shocked by this reality.  Turns out, there’s an entirely different process used to make tiny human beings and it involves a lot of nakedness.  Anyway, Storks is an animated feature from Warner Bros. that plays off the old fairy tale that these birds were once the human life delivering equivalent of UPS drivers.  When I saw the trailer, I thought it looked amusing but was it?  Well, you can see my score so you know I did think it was.

Honestly, having Key and Peele as two wolves automatically made this
an enjoyable movie.  Man, I really miss their show.

This movie even has some penguins...now let's
see them do battle with the ones from
Madagascar!
After realizing that there’s more profit to be made in being a parcel delivery service, CEO of Cornerstore; Hunter (Kelsey Grammer), discontinuous delivering babies.  Years later, a young hotshot delivery boy named Junior (Andy Samberg) is next in line to become boss but first he must fire the orphan Tulip (Katie Crown), a baby who wasn’t able to be delivered and remained at the warehouse.  Unable to complete the task, he puts Tulip to work in the now defunct mail room and disaster quickly takes place after a young boy named Nate Gardner (Anton Starkman) decides to write the storks and ask for a baby brother because his busy realtor parents (voiced by Jennifer Aniston and Ty Burrell) never have time for him.  Tulip ends up putting the letter in the machine that creates the babies (no nakedness involved) and now she and Junior must get the kid to her new family before Hunter finds out.  However, a brown-nosing pigeon (Stephen Kramer Glickman) is suspicious of the two and is out to discover what they are up to and use whatever he finds to his advantage.

I need to point out that Tulip is an 18 year old person and that stork is taller than
her.  Which begs the question:  HOW GIGANTIC IS THAT STORK?!?

Often when it comes to animated films I find that if they aren’t Pixar they are very rarely in the arena of amazing quality.  That isn’t to say that anything from DreamWorks, Sony or others is automatically a stinker but few animation companies have mastered the art of storytelling the way Pixar has.  Storks isn’t on the same level as the emotion and heart that we’ve seen from the people that gave us Toy Story, Wall-E and Up but this feature is a long way from something as cheap and forgettable as something DreamWorks has farted out in the past.  Sure, it has talking animals but this isn’t one of your “Let’s have animals talk and do people stuff and just stop there” type of animated movie.

Cartoon babies are cute.  Real babies scare me because they embody
responsibility.

One thing that struck me as the film progressed was how truly great the animation was.  When I first sat down to watch it, the backgrounds, characters and character movements all seemed to be pretty basic, run-of-the-mill computer animation that you see often but I soon started to realize that this was far better than the standard.  The background locations all look immensely incredible and detailed and even though the characters all have the signature cartoon look about them, they all had a very realistic approach to their movements—including the way their eyes move (you know, in that way that makes it feel like there's a real brain processing information behind them eyes)—that made they all feel very real.  Once the voice actors were inserted, the characters came to life in a very fun and, from a technical perspective, impressive way.

Seriously, the backgrounds in this movie look awesome!

"Our next step in making our company profitable is
pooping on as many statues and cars as
we can!"
And speaking of the voice actors, this movie really brought in some talent that fit their characters extremely well.  Whether it’s having Kelsey Grammer as the CEO bird Hunter—who has a voice that just screams upper management—or Katie Crown really capturing the quirkiness and intuitive nature of the character Tulip or the small but very fun parts that were filled by Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele and Danny Trejo.  I think, however, the best part of the cast was Andy Samberg as Junior.  Samberg is already a very talented funnyman as he is excellent at being over-the-top and cartoonish in real life.  This trait really translated well to the animated bird and allowed Samberg to not just be the voice of the bird but feel like he was really being the bird.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an actor so perfectly mesh with the animated character they were playing before this.

And from now on, you can't convince me that Andy Samberg is nota cartoon bird.

Finally, this movie is very funny.  I will admit that it took a little bit for the humor to work for me but once it started going I was rolling on the floor and busting a gut—it was a spectacle and a bit of a mess trying to fix that busted gut.  The humor in the film has a lot of your typical animated go-to’s like a character hurting themselves in ways that would normally seriously injure or kill a real person or animal but there’s also a good dose of meta humor and borderline absurdist comedy thrown in.  My favorite comedic aspect of the film has to be the pigeon character because he’s responsible for a lot of the meta humor but he’s also a fantastic parody of the frat boy “bro” persona with a hilarious voice to match.

"Bro, do you even bird?"

I went into Storks thinking it was probably going to be a mildly amusing animated film that would probably be a movie that I’d watch once and never think of again but was pleasantly surprised with something else.  While the story isn’t full of rich emotion like some other animation companies supply, it works for what it is and it is filled with a great cast, killer animation and it’s darn funny.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Nice Guys

***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 Asylum's "mockbluster" version of this movie is called The Nicer Guys.



The Nice Guys – 4 out of 5

I gotta say that I’m a fan of Shane Black.  I think he’s a great writer and director.  The guy has written some great action movies that have a healthy dose of comedy; films like Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Last Action Hero (which I hold firm that it was ahead of its time and is wittier and smarter than we give it credit for), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3.  When I saw that he made a film that starred Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as 70s era buddy cop-esque partners I was pretty intrigued.  So, is The Nice Guys as good as Black’s films that came before?

It has Keith David in it, so that's automatically making this movie at least a 3.

Ah, yes.  The 70s.  Reminds me of that show from the 90s.
In 1977 Los Angeles, a drunk private investigator by the name of Holland March (Gosling) teams up with a muscle-for-hire; Jackson Healy (Crowe), after both men end up having a connection with a woman by the name of Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley).  It seems that she has some powerful individuals after her and she’s somehow connected to the death of a porn star.  Matters are only made worse when a high ranking official in the Department of Justice (Kim Basinger) is asking the men to take the job and locate Amelia.  Now these two must work together to find the woman and find out what she knows and why it is causing all this trouble.
I know it's early in the review to say this but I wouldn't be opposed to a sequel where
these two take another case.
 

The trailers made this one look like an absolute riot and made the duo of Crowe and Gosling look like the new version of Riggs and Murtaugh—or whatever other buddy cop twosome you want to use.  However, I have to say that the trailers really sold this movie short because the comedy in this film is only a small part of what made this film great.  I don’t want to act like the humor in this movie isn’t amazing because it’s fantastic but this film also offered up a really intriguing story that had a fairly decent mystery to it, some very satisfying action moments, and some excellent performances.

Let's be honest, even on the toilet like this Gosling is still dreamy to all the ladies.

Rice is not only really talented but she brought drinks
for everyone!
One of the strongest aspects of the film is the cast.  I was incredibly impressed with Angourie Rice as Holland March’s daughter Holly.  This kid plays a big part in the story as she greatly helps her father and Healy but also is there to help develop a dramatic arc for Holland and Rice does a tremendous job in the role.  Crowe and Gosling are both incredible in the film and really have some palpable chemistry.  On paper, these two guys don’t seem like they are the types to be in an action comedy are partners but they work amazingly well.  I was even quite surprised to see just how over-the-top Gosling would get and was very impressed at how he made it work and looked very natural doing it.

The look of a man who realized they were not entertained.

Finally, Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi fantastically crafted a story that blends comedy and action and even throws in just enough drama to make the characters a bit more relatable and engaging.  The mystery isn’t too complicated nor does it take itself too serious as it brings in the reveals and twists in the story at an excellent pace.  Black and Bagarozzi even throw in some unique moments as plot points are revealed in ways that are very unusual for mystery/crime thrillers.  It really all came together to form a story that is easily engaging and ripe for comedy.

You can literally hear him saying "Hey girl" when you look at this picture.

The only real downside I had for The Nice Guys is the fact that some supporting characters aren’t as developed or prevalent in the film as I would have liked to see them.  For example, Kim Basinger is rarely around and some of the antagonists—like Matt Bomer as a hitman—don’t have the threat level that they needed.  One of the weakest aspects of the film’s story is the fact that Healy and March really don’t feel like they are up against anyone.  While there are some nefarious ne’er-do-wells who are behind the plot that the guys are trying to uncover but it really doesn’t feel like there are for much of the story.

Shane Black does give us a giant talking bee in the film.  Something a lot of movies
are lacking.

The Nice Guys might have little hiccups with some elements of its story but nothing about this missteps really cause any widely noticeable problems or did any harm to the entertainment value.  Overall, the film is a lot of fun and a great example of an R-rated action comedy that is incredibly hilarious and very engaging with its action.  Hell, some of the action moments are actually kinda surprising and shocking and it resulted in a movie that proved to be an excellent addition to the annuals of the buddy cop comedy sub-genre.