Friday, November 17, 2017

Zodiac

***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'll try to keep the Ted Cruz jokes to a minimum.




Zodiac – 4 out of 5

For one reason or another, Zodiac was a film that was always on my list to see but somehow never got around to checking it out.  I don’t understand why either because it’s a David Fincher film and I love that guy.  His visuals are so stark and his presentations are so visceral and commanding.  Not to mention this film has a tremendous cast and the story is about a real life mystery that was incredibly dark and horrifying.  So, this last weekend I decided to finally check this one out.  Also, I kinda wanted to learn more about what Ted Cruz did when he was younger.

They really captured the darkness in Ted Cruz's soul.
(I promise that was the last Ted Cruz joke...maybe)

I don't even want to imagine what Zodiac's Penthouseletters were like.
In the late 60s and early 70s, a mysterious man, who would become renowned as the Zodiac Killer, claimed responsibility for the deaths of many people.  He begins to send encrypted letters to the San Francisco Chronicle and becomes the obsession of crime reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) and political cartoonist Robert Graysmith.  Meanwhile, Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) begin a massive investigation to find out who the killer is.  As the years pass and the body count rises, law enforcement is no closer to figuring out the killer’s identity and Graysmith quickly becomes obsessed with his own investigation and starts to sacrifice everything to find some closure to this great mystery.

"Hey, don't make my partner angry...you wouldn't like him if he was angry."

Zodiac is a really impressive crime thriller that has an amazing tone and atmosphere.  David Fincher brings his trademark skills as a director to make something that captures the tension and frustrations the characters are feeling as this mystery unravels.  It’s also nice to watch a film about a serial killer that doesn’t make its emphasis on the murders itself but rather the mystery surrounding the individual.  A lot of serial killer films tend to focus more on the dark and gory but Zodiac was able to make it more about the obsession that some had in finding him.  That isn’t to say that the feature doesn’t bring in its moments of terror and blood because it’s there (in fact, there are some really tense and spine-chilling moments…the blood, on the other hand, well, I’ll get to that in a minute) but the film was more about the annoyance, the frustration and hardships that came with not knowing who was responsible and the fear that he could be anyone and could strike at any time. Fincher’s signature work and his eye for atmosphere made for a perfect match for this feature and this story.

Is RDJ one of the coolest dudes in the world?
The answer is yes!
 
This movie also has a tremendous ensemble cast working in its favor.  You already have powerhouse actors like Gyllenhaal, Ruffalo, Edwards, and RDJ taking the leads but they are backed up and supported by the likes of Brian Cox, Chloë Sevigny, Elias Kotes, Donal Logue, Adam Goldberg, James Le Gros, and more.  Hell, Charles Fleischer—the voice of freakin’ Roger Rabbit—was in this one and his scene with Jake Gyllenhaal is creepy as hell!

Seriously, this scene was really scary.

At times, it seems like there might be too many recognizable names in this one and there’s a chance this film might end up being more about who they got to be in it than the actual story itself but everyone is so good in the film it was easy to forget that you were seeing a massive ensemble cast.  Every member so effectively sold their roles that it was easy to get lost in the characters and become immersed in the events and action.  A special mention has to also be made to John Carroll Lynch, who plays a man who is suspected of being the Zodiac Killer. Lynch is such a talented and versatile actor but he can do unsettling very well and he does it exceptionally amazing here.  It’s hard to pick one over the other but the cast is so stellar that it almost outshines the excellently crafted story and Fincher’s foreboding tone.

JCL is so awesome to watch in everything he's in.  I loved the guy!

The only drawbacks I found in Zodiac are that the subject material and, when this is mixed with the length of the film, it makes this one’s replay value low for me; blending this element with a narrative that is relatively on the slower side and it pretty much made for a feature that I’m probably only going to revisit once or twice in my life.  However, the worst part of the film is the use of computer generated blood.  This feature isn’t a gorefest but there is some blood here and there and, in an effort to save time and money, Fincher opted for using CG blood and the results are very obvious.  The blood never looks real and it’s painfully obvious that it is added in post.  Thankfully, this serial killer movie doesn’t contain a lot of shots of murder so the CG blood is contained to a few short scenes and on infrequent occasions.  Overall the issue is easy to overlook but, when it arrives and when it is in the moment, it’s kinda hard not to cringe at it.

I imagine this is the look that Gyllenhaal gives when people remind him of
Bubble Boy.

Zodiac is a striking feature about a serial killer that we never caught.  The visuals and tone is killer (no pun intended) and the cast is exceptional!  Furthermore, I like how the story never bothers to try and present who concretely the killer was but rather presented the theories and ideas.  To effectively create this, Fincher used different actors to play the hidden killer and it really just added to the mystery and the tense mood.  Sure, the fake blood is distracting but this movie wasn’t about the blood, it was about the atmosphere and it delivered that extremely well.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Robot & Frank

***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 want a robot...mainly Baymax.




Robot & Frank – 4 out of 5

Robots are nothing new in the world of fiction or in the realm of non-fiction—albeit, the real ones aren’t as cool as the ones we see in movies, comics, book, video games and more.  It’s kinda rare where we see a film that involves a robot that isn’t actively trying to murder fleshy humans but it’s kind of a nice change of pace when we get this.  Robot & Frank delivers us a story that isn’t about a mechanical creation of man out to destroy the ones that made them but rather a really sweet and heartwarming tale.  Although, years of Terminator sequels caused me to keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and have a scene where the robot suddenly chokes out Frank.

Obligatory "What are you doing, Dave?" caption.

I can't wait for retirement so I can spend my entire days
like this.  I'm kidding.  I'll never afford to retire.
In the not too distant future (and immediate the theme song to MST3K has appeared in my head), a former cat burglar named Frank (Frank Langella—also, drink every time you see the word “Frank”) is trying to live a quiet, retired life in a small town.  However, his children (James Marsden and Liv Tyler) are worried about him because he’s growing increasingly forgetful.  His son Hunter buys him a service robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard and acted by Rachael Ma) to help him out around the house.  Frank is put off by the mechanical acquaintance and is rude and standoffish to it despite the fact the robot just wants to help him with his memory and improve his health.  Frank starts to come around after his local library begins to transition from physical books to digital media and he decides to scratch his old thieving itch by stealing a first edition copy of one of the books and give it to the librarian (Susan Sarandon) as a gift.  Suddenly the robot doesn’t seem to be such an inconvenience after all when he learns that it makes a good accomplice.

"Tonight we take over the world, my tiny robot friend!"

What impressed me the most about Robot & Frank is how it takes its premise and the fact that the second half of the two leads is a robot and it made a story that was amusing, touching and even bittersweet.  The story never feels like it is going for the easy moments—whether it’s for a joke or something that can easily squeeze a tear from your eye.  Instead, the tale feels like it is going for that real emotion and watching the bond between this robot and human form and seeing how Frank’s condition gets worse is easily captivating and creates a final product with heart.  Most importantly is how this heart doesn’t come off sappy or overly dramatic.  Everything just feels genuine.

I'm not going to put a caption here.  Just enjoy the robot/human hug.

One element that really strengthens the emotional core of this film is the performances.  Frank Langella delivers a terrific performance and is capable of balancing out the old curmudgeon, the restless retired thief and the man who is slowly losing his memories.  The robot is brought to life by Racheal Ma as the physical character on set and voiced by Peter Sarsgaard.  Ma makes the robot look and move like the current advancements we see and Sarsgaard was able to bring about voice acting that somehow created a sense of cold, lifelessness of what you would expect from an robotic being but also with enough emotion that you felt the connection that was being forged between the two characters.  Supporting players like Marsden and Tyler, Susan Sarandon as the librarian that Frank meets with, Jeremy Sisto as the town’s local sheriff and Jeremy Strong as the antagonist that Frank starts to despise as he makes the changes to the library were all performed very well and all were very grounded.  They added to the realism and grounded nature of the drama and solidified this film with a very talented and memorable cast.

Why isn't Susan Saradon making affirmation recordings?
If I heard her warm and welcoming voice telling me "You're Great," I'd
believe the hell out of it.

The only downside I saw for Robot & Frank is the replay factor.  I don’t think I’ll find myself watching it anytime in the near or far future.  It’s heart, drama, and justified slow narrative doesn’t translate to a feature that I would want to turn on very often.  That aside, it’s still an amazingly put together little film that has a great cast, a unique and simple story, and a whole lot of heart.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Computer Chess

***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! How about a nice game of chess?




Computer Chess – 4 out of 5

I literally have a list of movies that I keep and add to whenever I hear or read about a movie that interests me that has come out in the past.  For current and upcoming movies, I usually know all about them so I have no need to use this list for that reasons—although, there are times when newer films make it to this list because my desire to see them isn’t the strongest.  Very often, movies end up on the list and I eventually forget how I stumbled upon them and what about them interested me in seeing them in the first place.  Computer Chess is one of those films.  For the life of me, I can’t remember how I heard about this independent comedy but it was on “the list” so I decided to bump it to the top and give it a go.  I may not remember why I added it but I’m glad I did because it was a quirky and awkwardly fun film.

NERDS!!!  Eh, who am I kidding?  I'm a nerd too, guys.

"And King Me!"
In 1980, a group of computer programmers come together in a hotel for a weekend competition put on by chess master Pat Henderson (Gerald Peary) to see who made the best program for playing chess.  The winning program would put it skills to the test against Henderson himself.  While this tournament is going on, the collection of awkward programmers are forced to deal with a cocky young man named Michael Papageorge (Myles Paige) trying to worm his way into other people’s room because the hotel screwed up his reservation, the only female programmer; Shelly Flintic (Robin Schwartz), has to deal with the annoyance of the other men acting like her presence is an astonishing anomaly, and one shy programmer named Peter Bishton (Patrick Riester) having a series of run-ins with a swinger who is also staying in the hotel for a relationship conference.  It's utter madness the likes of which these nerds haven't seen.

We know it's fiction when there's a girl who is treated as a novelty at a
computer programmers' conference when, in reality, she would be doxxed
and tormented with threats of violence and rape.  My gender is fucking horrible.

Computer Chess is a fairly unique experience for a comedy.  Everything about it feels era accurate as the clothes, décor, facial hair, computers and even the black and white presentation and the film quality harken back to a different time.  The humor in the film is also very interesting as it’s very dry and subtle for most of the feature and slowly starts to unravel into something stranger—at points it even felt akin to Twin Peaks, if that product was a straight comedy.  Furthermore, the way it builds feels seamless and, by the time the end arrives and you’ve entered into something really strange, it sorta feels natural and expected.  

Nerds plus swingers equals awkward humor!

Where are the shoots and/or ladders?
I don't understand chess.
As far as the performances go, the film works fairly well.  Not everyone in the cast was an actor and that was because director/writer Andrew Bujalski brought in real computer experts and allowed them to improvise most of their lines of dialogue so there is a very obvious wonkiness to the performances you are seeing.  It’s obvious that these individuals aren’t professional actors but what they are delivering isn’t so bad that it destroys the final product.  Having real computer professionals does make the feature feel a little more realistic and even when the lines of dialogue aren’t given perfectly, it only adds credibility to the awkwardness of the characters and the situations.

The movie really captured the untamed sex appeal that was the 80s.

Computer Chess has a great era-appropriate feel and a sense of humor that is unique and individualized as the cast they got to play the film.  On the downside, the film doesn’t offer up a whole lot of memorable moments that make this a feature that commands attention nor does it have the pacing that makes it a product that has the replay factor for me.  These complaints are minor and do not hurt the overall entertainment of the film or impact its score too much because, overall, it is a pretty solid and original tale.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Hudson Hawk

***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 has left me momentarily broken and I have nothing to put here.




Hudson Hawk – 1 out of 5

Being one of those people who had a childhood in the 80s and pre-teen and teenage years in the 90s, Hudson Hawk came out during my formative years.  Because of movies like Die Hard, I was a Bruce Willis fan and wanted to see it based solely on the fact that he was in it.  Even as a young boy, I heard nothing but bad things about the movie and even my father, who eventually rented it, told me that we wouldn’t watch it together because it was such garbage—this was coming from my dad who pretty much let me watch anything and is why I have a love for low budget, bad films.  So, I forgot about it and went on with my life, not missing anything.  For some reason, I was reminded of the feature’s existence and finally decided to check it out.  Honestly, I should have followed the example my dad set and just never bothered with this one.

I'm only including this because this is the dummy of a character that was blown
up during the film.  I paused the movie at the right moment.  The dummy
looks like he knows he's going to die and regrets every moment of his life.

I wanna make a joke that being the subject of a Dan
Brown book is worse than this film but, alas, Hudson
Hawk
is way, way worse than The Da Vinci Code.
Long ago, Leonardo da Vinci (Stefano Molinari) made a machine that turned lead into gold and hid the secrets of how the machine is constructed and operates in his paintings and works.  Many, many, many years later, a husband and wife team named Darwin and Minerva Mayflower (Richard E. Grant and Sandra Bernhard) pull some strings that resulted in renowned cat burglar Hudson Hawk (Bruce Willis) and his partner Tommy Five-Tone (Danny Aiello) to pull off some heists in order to get what they need to construct da Vinci’s machine.  In over his head and unsure of whom he can trust Hawk finds himself at odds with the Mayflowers, the CIA and even the Vatican.  And this whole time, he just wants to relax after he just served his prison sentence and enjoy a cappuccino.(Why a cappuccino?  Because it was the 90s.  Those were still a novelty then.)

Only 90s kids will remember cappuccinos.  Am I doing those stupid memes right?

So…yeah…this movie is definitely something else.  I have a hard time really coming up with the words to describe and review this thing.  I think the best way to articulate how I felt about this one is that it is a complete misfire.  Essentially, Hudson Hawk is a slapstick, wacky R-rated comedy and presents itself as something silly but sorta just comes off awkward, strange and like it is desperate for attention.  I didn’t find any of the set pieces, gags, jokes, or performances that amusing and I wasn’t even able to laugh at how bad it was.  The whole thing just felt like a strange fever dream that was on the verge of a nightmare at any second.  It’s clearly an experience to endure because there’s nothing else that is even remotely close to it; however, it’s not an experience I’d ever want to relive or even recommend in the future.  I didn’t find myself hating this film but, instead, just mystified by the whole thing because there was a lot of people that saw over its production and said, “Yes, this is the product we’re going to go with.”

Seriously, did anyone question what they were making at any point?

Richard E. Grant seems to be staring into someone's
soul while Sandra Bernhard is using her mind
to destroy it.
Pretty much everything about this film is wacked-out nutso.  The performances are needlessly over-the-top, the dialogue feels like word vomit and nonsense half the time, the jokes often feel like they were crafted by an alien race that is only learning of the whole thing called humor, and the plot feels all over the place pretty much all the time.  The film also likes to add sound effects in order to enhance the cartoonish nature of the feature but all it seems to enhance is just how crazy the whole thing feels.  I couldn’t even bring myself to laugh at how bad the film was because I was put into a stupor over just how surreal the whole experience ended up feeling.  There was a brief moment that I thought someone might have slipped me something and I was tripping but I don’t go out and I avoid human contact so that wasn’t possible at all.  The reality was this movie was just super effed up.

Even James Coburn wasn't immune to the insanity of this film.

One thing that really struck me as I watched this 26 years after it was released was how committed Bruce Willis was to the role.  After seeing him phone it in for nearly a decade, it was a huge shock to see him give it his all to a movie.  This shock was only exaggerated when you realize just how bonkers, batshit crazy this whole film is.  Modern Day Willis puts on a mask that makes it look like everything is beneath him but, apparently in 1991, he wasn’t above acting like a buffoon and trying to channel his inner vaudeville performer.  Honestly, this was the one thing I honestly enjoyed about the film because it was a nice reminder that there was a time when he gave a shit about the products he was in and wasn’t giving a “doing it for the paycheck” amount of effort.  Plus, there’s a strange sort of charm he brings to the role of Hawk that somehow works well in this odd production.

Hmmm...Willis seemed to care when he had hair.  No hair, no care!
I'm on to something here!

I won’t go as far to say that Hudson Hawk is a bad movie because, in theory, the whole thing is sound.  It’s a mess but the performances aren’t horrible—they’re crazy insane but not horrible—and, as nutso as the plot gets, it’s sorta structurally sound (if you boil it down enough).  What makes Hudson Hawk not work for me was the whole thing was a giant misfire.  Sure, in theory some of the elements work but none of them are delivered in the right quantities and measurements.  The humor and jokes could have worked but they’re delivered too grandly and not subtlety enough.  The performances might have been fine but no one seemed to tune in on the level they needed to be at.  So much of this might have been fine but the balance just wasn’t there and, because of that, the whole film is just freakin’ cheeseballs with a side of nuts.  I’m saying it’s a strange, crazy film.  I’m talking like a maniac here, see how it made me lose my mind?