Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Holmes & Watson

***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! A case where the trailer is better than the film.

Holmes & Watson – 2 out of 5

I love Will Ferrell.  I love John C. Reilly.  I love the combination of the two and when I heard they were teaming up again for a new comedy I was pushing all my chips to the center of the table and said I was all-in.  Sadly, I was playing poker when I got the news and wasn’t metaphorically pushing chips into a metaphoric table.  I lost badly that day and it caused my wife to leave me and take the kids.  It got even worse when I realized I didn’t even know I was a father and a husband.  To make matters worse, I decided to sit down and watch Holmes & Watson in order to try and alleviate some of my emotional pain and that didn’t help because it wasn’t a very good movie.  This was all a lie because I didn’t hear about the film and see it in the same day but heard about it, saw the initial trailer months later (which I really dug and laughed out loud to) and then recently saw it.  The only thing I didn’t lie about just now was the fact I didn’t enjoy Holmes & Watson.  I wanted to…but it just didn’t do it for me.

Before this I watched Stan & Ollie and thought it would be fun to watch another
movie with John C. Reilly and then Steve Coogan showed up.

Sherlock Holmes (Ferrell) is the greatest detective to ever live and he and his trusted partner Dr. John Watson (John C. Reilly) are quickly on their way to legendary status in England.  However, after a surprise birthday party is thrown for Holmes, a message is sent from Professor James Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) that the Queen is going to die in 4 days.  Now Holmes must use his wit and his intelligence to save the Queen and bring Moriarty to justice.

Well, at the very least, Fiennes feels like the perfect choice for a Moriarty.

Like I said, I really wanted to like Holmes & Watson due to the fact I enjoy the other comedic adventures from Ferrell and Reilly.  Additionally, the trailer genuinely made me laugh and the premise isn’t a bad idea.  Sadly, the film was pretty disappointing as a lot of the jokes and gags were duds.  I know comedy is very subjective but the humor in this one just wasn’t doing it for me.

Since this was a flop, can we try a comedy where Ferrell is doing his Goulet?

One highlight I found for the film was Hugh Laurie
playing Mycroft.
I won’t make the argument that the film was completely devoid of me laughing because it wasn’t.  There were plenty of gags that I really enjoyed and found very funny.  However, the majority of the time I found the humor to be trying too hard.  The longer a gag would go the more cringe-worthy it became; most of the time it was the smaller gags that had me chuckling.  However, there were even character elements that just didn’t come off funny.  For example, Lauren Lapkus stars as a feral woman who is an assistant to the character Grace Hart (played by Rebecca Hall).  Hart is a doctor and the love interest of Watson but the feral assistant just didn’t make much sense to me and it resulted in a lot of sequences that felt like it was forcing the idea that a feral woman that Holmes finds attractive is inherently funny and it just resulted in me just wincing and staring in utter confusion at my TV screen.

I found myself wondering if they found this whole thing funny on set.

One thing I really did enjoy about the film is the camaraderie between Ferrell and Reilly.  Sure, the film isn’t great as it has a weak story, some awkward characters and even more awkward humor but Ferrell and Reilly are great together and there’s no denying their chemistry.  Even when the material wasn’t great, sequences with these two I found enjoyable because I could feel that they truly do enjoy working together.  Due to this, despite the film’s shortcomings, there were moments of charm that I enjoyed about this one.

It's customary for me to mention that I want John C. Reilly to play P.T. Barnum
in a biopic about the man whenever I review a film with Reilly.

I really wanted to enjoy Holmes & Watson but ultimately found it to be a pretty weak and disappointing comedy.  There are some jokes and gags I admit were funny and I still find Ferrell and Reilly to be a charming and fun duo but there were too many misses in this one for me to enjoy the overall experience.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Stan & Ollie

***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 got nothing to add here.

Stan & Ollie – 4 out of 5

My familiarity with Laurel and Hardy is passing at best.  I’m aware of who they are, I’ve seen bits and pieces of there material and that’s just about where it stops.  I have no real reason for not digging into their work beyond the fact it just never became something I invested in or tried to seek out in my life.  That being said, I do love a good biopic and when I saw the trailer for Stan & Ollie I was immediately sold on seeing it.

When I was a kid, I thought the world was once in black and white because of
black and white movies.  I was a dumb kid.

In the early 50s, Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) are heading over across the pond and are gearing up to embark on a UK and Ireland tour in hopes it will renew audiences' interest in them so they can get an adaptation of Robin Hood produced.  With new comedic duos on the scene and their films no longer drawing, the pair is at the tail end of their careers.  With each passing gig, the audiences become smaller and Ollie’s health gets worse.  Matters are only made worse when Stan learns that the man he hoped would produce the Robin Hood film backs out of the deal and he decides to keep that information from his friend and partner. 

High waist pants are back.  Hardy was ahead of his time with fashion.

What I liked the most about Stan & Ollie is the fact the story focuses them during the end of their careers rather than their heyday.  It showcases the hardships of two performers who knew greatness and are doing their best to hold on to that creative spark as their bodies and time start to take its toll.  It still would be cool to see a biopic that illustrates them at their strongest but this film allows for a more vulnerable time to be explored and see how this would affect their partnership and their friendship.

Look at those piercing blue eyes they gave Coogan...
Damn, they are looking into my soul.

The film does a great job at balancing the tones and emotions of the story.  It’s heartwarming as it explores the depths of their friendship, gets emotional as the pressure of this friendship mixed with their winding down career starts to get to them and it’s charming and funny as it illustrates the humor of these two men.  The production really captured some great drama, heart and emotion and it did so in a realistic way that never came off as too over-the-top or overdramatized.

John C. Reilly is a treasure...and this is the time when I once again sell
my idea of a biopic of P.T. Barnum that doesn't shy away from the
controversial points of the man's life and Reilly plays Barnum.

Quite possibly the strongest aspect of this film is the cast and its two leads; Coogan and Reilly.  Both of them really felt like their real-life counterparts but, in addition to this, they really had this amazing chemistry together.  They both were not only able to capture the essence of both the characters they were playing but they mastered the comedy duo’s timing and mannerisms.  It was easy to get lost in their performance and the fact that both of them had this undeniable chemistry only made the whole product that much more enjoyable to consume.

They dance better than I do...in fairness though, I'm a shitty dancer.
I basically only do The Robot and do it poorly.

Stan & Ollie is a sweet biopic depicting the latter days of two comedy icons.  The story is as amusing as it is heartwarming and delivers its subject material in a way that never feels like it is overdramaticizing everything but rather presenting it in a real and authentic way.  Finally, it features some truly fantastic performances from two very talented actors. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Bleed for This

***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! If you ever wanted to see Aaron Eckhart sporting a look that makes him appear like he owns and operates a pawn shop then this is the movie for you!

Bleed for This – 4 out of 5

I’m terrible at all sports so I don’t bother to engage in them or watch them.  I’m also a terrible fighter because I’m soft and weak and that turns me away from fight-based sports like mixed martial arts or boxing.  Due to this avoidance of all things sports, I know absolutely nothing about the rules of literally every sport and I could barely list off 5 famous athletes in various sporting disciplines.  So if you would have told me that actor Miles Teller would be portraying the 80s boxer Vincenzo Pazienza in a biopic, I would have said, “I know what a biopic is but I don’t know who Pazienza is; however, context clues tell me he is a boxer.”  At that point, the person telling me about this film would have commented how strange I am and walked away.  Anyway, I checked out the biopic Bleed for This about boxer Vincenzo Pazienza and it was damn good!

You can almost hear the hair metal when you look at this shot.

Balding Aaron Eckhart looks like he has extensive
opinions about velvet tracksuits.
In the late 1980s, Vincenzo “Vinny the Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza (Teller) won the WBC World Light Welterweight Title in boxing.  Days before he is set to defend the title, Vinny is in a terrible car accident and suffers a horrific neck injury.  He is told that his fighting days are over and that he has the risk of possibly never walking again.  Not one to give up, Vinny demands to be fitted with a brace that is screwed into his skull and keeps his head propped up with metal rods because, in doing so, there is a slight chance his body could heal itself and that means a sliver of a chance he could fight again.  While living with this brace, called a Halo, Vinny secretly starts to exercise and train with his coach; Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart), against his doctor’s orders and behind the backs of his parents (played by Katey Sagal and Ciarán Hinds).  Slowly, Vinny starts to get stronger and it looks like a comeback fight is in store for the man but one wrong move and his career and life could end abruptly.

It's used so often that the side strike car accident has become a movie trope
but this one does a head-on collision that was frighteningly realistic looking.

Bleed for This does a tremendous job of telling that sports story of an athlete overcoming adversity.  In this case, it was healing from a severe neck injury in order to…beat…the…shit…out…of…people…wow, when you really sit there and think about it, the inspirational portion of this thing is kinda messed up.  Anyway, my beliefs on how barbaric boxing is aside, the film does do a great job of exploring how one individual won’t give up and will endure the crap and the pain that is shoveled and tossed in front of his path and just plow through it all in order to find and claim success.

Float like a pool noodle and sting like a paper cut...I think that's how it goes.

The story itself is already easy enough to get behind and become invested in because who doesn’t want to see a person overcome a terrible injury?  And whoever that person is I really don’t want to get to know them because they are probably monstrous.  However, a great story all by itself isn’t going to help make a film great.  Having a tremendous lead and a terrific supporting cast help bring to life this real-life story and make the tale flow and gel.  Miles Teller keeps showing what a talented performer he is growing into and really captured the initial arrogance of the character and showed how it morphed into a solid resolution of determination after it becomes clear that his world was nearly destroyed by the accident.  The rest of the supporting cast are fantastic and really give life to the world around Vinny but I exceptionally enjoyed Aaron Eckhart as Vinny’s coach and felt that he and Teller had some great chemistry that only added to how engaging Vinny’s tale is.

You gotta admire the punishment this man was willing to take.  I spend a majority
of my time avoiding any and all potential of me even receiving the slightest
bit of harm.

Visually, as well, the film is pretty great.  There are the obvious elements of making sure the film looked like the decade of Snap Bracelets, Afterschool Specials, and hair metal and new wave but the overall look of the film looked amazing.  The lighting and cinematography helped turned this film from “another sports drama” to a sports drama with atmosphere.  The way scenes were lit did an incredible job at creating tones that fit Vinny’s journey and really made the film something interesting to engage with.

The Pazmanian Devil takes on the Tasmanian Devil in the upcoming
Space Jam spinoff.

Cynically, one could poo-poo Bleed for This because it hits all the predictable notes that an inspiration biopic hits but they are all done with a sincerity that makes it work and makes it entertaining.  Combine that with a great cast and Miles Teller doing a tremendous job in the lead and it’s easy to get lost in the film.  Overall, the film tells and showcases a great story that is amazingly inspirational.

Monday, June 10, 2019

It's Not All Bad...Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

It’s Not All BadStar Wars:  Episode II – Attack of the Clones

Hey, my fellow Jedi Knights!  Welcome back for another installment of “It’s Not All Bad…”, my new semi-regular feature where I take a look at films that are collectively called bad by the court of public opinion and make the argument that, even with their problems, there are still some redeeming factors held within them.  Today, I am on the second in the prequel trilogy; Star Wars:  Episode II - Attack of the Clones.

Obi-Wan's "Bitch please" face.

"I know it was you, Anakin, and don't try to pull the
'smelt it, dealt it' nonsense."
So, as I stated in my look back at The Phantom Menace, I actually like the prequels.  This always causes the “smart geeks” to act smug around me because they are cool enough to hate them and then proceed to talk down to me for daring to have an opinion that isn’t exactly the same as theirs.  Hell, those types are probably already jumping to the comment section to call me an idiot (ha, as if people read and/or comment on this).  I’ve been hearing this condescending garbage for years but that doesn’t change the fact I like the prequels.  I admit there are things wrong with them but there are some really awesome things I love about them so I don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Hell, this spectrum of appreciation is why my reviews come in a 1 to 5 scale and not a Good or Bad method.

I attended Celebration III and Captain Typho (Jay Laga'aia) was the emcee at a bunch
of the panels and he was an insanely charismatic host and made a lot
of the panels super fun. 

So, Attack of the Clones came out in 2002.  I was a college boy still a couple of years away from graduating.  I, of course, went and saw the film opening weekend and really did enjoy it.  Now, what exactly did I enjoy and enjoy to such a degree that I don’t hate the film?  What exactly about the film makes it not all bad?

For one, Samuel L. Jackson is in the film with a purple lightsaber.
If that's not the coolest shit in existence than I don't know what is cool.

First off, Attack of the Clones has some great action.  Whether it is the exciting chase that Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin (Hayden Christensen) take on after they foil an assassination attempt on Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman) or the final battle that introduces the clone army as they take on the Separatists’ droid army.  One battle that I am particularly fond of is Obi-Wan’s fight with Jango Fett on the landing platform on Kamino.  The battle is short but I definitely found it exciting.  Not to mention seeing a bounty hunter hold his own against a Jedi is fun stuff.  And that leads me to my next point…

I know people are split on a lightsaber battlin' Yoda but I still think it is awesome
when he draws his weapon and goes nuts.

From the rainy planet of Kamino to fathering Aquaman.
I really enjoyed the character of Jango Fett and the actor portraying him; Temuera Morrison.  I know a lot of fans were up in arms over the reveal that the badass bounty hunter Boba Fett was a clone but I really enjoyed seeing his origin and found Jango to be a very interesting character.  On the surface, he’s exciting because he’s got that badass Mandalorian armor, he did that cool flourish with his blaster after gunning down the Jedi during the Battle of Geonosis and he equipped the Slave I with those wicked seismic charges (which the sound design on those babies is incredible!) but Morrison’s performance is the big reason why I found the character intriguing.  Morrison brought this quiet calm that coated a badass veneer and when you add in the fact he agreed to be cloned so he could have an unaltered one to be his son gave him a complexity that we never got to experience in his limited screen time from Boba Fett.  Finally, Jango’s fate and final confrontation with Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) made for a great moment that puts young Boba on the path of being that quiet and cool looking badass we all became enamored with in the original trilogy.

This is definitely one of my favorite parts.

And speaking of the cast, seriously how cool was it to see Christopher Lee in a Star Wars film?  Lee (Rest in Power) had a long career of being a badass—the dude even was in a metal band—and seeing him bring his regal poise and threatening demeanor that he’s capable of to a fallen Jedi who has aligned himself with the Sith was pretty epic.  Fans are split about his battle with Yoda because a lot of fans see it as a betrayal for the little green character (fighting was something a lot of fans just didn’t picture Yoda doing) but this scene—and really any scene with Lee—was made better by his presence.  The way the man carried himself and spoke just commanded attention and he made Dooku feel incredibly threatening and powerful.

Let's be real, too...the curved hilt of his lightsaber is awesome!

One finally element I really enjoyed about the film is the expansion it provides the universe.  The old Expanded Universe books, comics and games did a tremendous job of bringing about new worlds, weapons, ships, creatures and alien species.  However, at the end of it all, they were usually in a print media or in a video game format.  The prequels somehow made these new worlds and beings legitimate and real.  In this one we see more of the city-planet Coruscant and visit a termite-looking world of Geonosis and a water-based planet called Kamino.  We meet bug-like aliens that speak in chirps and clicks and aliens with long necks and elegant voices that are amazing with cloning technology.  This is all fun, universe-building stuff that plays to my overactive imagination and adds depth to this property that I’m such a fan of and I really dig that.

Damn bugs are responsible for the Death Star.

The advancement of the special effects are amazing.
This scene blew me away because Watto literally
looks like he's thinking and trying to remember
Finally, Attack of the Clones has all the little things that embody Star Wars.  There’s John Williams’ mood-setting score and the just amazing sound design that gives unique life to the galaxy far, far away.  Lastly, there are the special effects.  Since the inception of this property, it has always been at the forefront of movie magic and has push the boundaries of visual effects, both practical and computer.  Attack of the Clones once again ventures forth into this with the impressive feat of having two completely computer generated armies.  I know computer effects are quickly becoming cool things to hate but when I saw this and realized that all the droids and all the troopers were totally digital and they looked amazing, I was blown away.

A legion of Jangos!

That sound effect for the seismic charges was epic!
When I say that it’s not all bad when it concerns Attack of the Clones, I’m not making the argument that the film is perfect.  Far from it.  Hayden Christensen’s performance is really hard to sit through.  Additionally, the story is loaded with problems.  For example, the development of Anakin and Padmé’s relationship is extremely weak.  It’s already weird enough that she met him when he was a child but their budding romance never feels natural and the two performers have no chemistry together.  Hell, the development of Anakin’s skirting with the dark side isn’t handled that well either.  I will admit I did like the conflict within him after he slaughters the Tusken Raiders and it feels like we’re really going to see him struggle but this moment is fleeting and dropped due to poor development and performance.  The point is, despite the problems, there are still things I love in this second film in the prequel trilogy and they are why I think it’s not all bad with Episode II.