Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Quick and Dirties: More Dudes Doing Stuff


Yup, we're going with The Quick & Dirties twice in the same week...and with the same theme. That's fitting since we're starting this post in pretty similar place as the previous post. Let's do it.


Central Intelligence
(2016)
Just before their 20-year high school reunion, Robbie (Dwayne Johnson) reaches out to Calvin (Kevin Hart) and the two hook up for some drinks. It's a bit awkward since the two weren't really friends back in school. Calvin was All-Everything in school, athletically and academically, while Robbie was the fat kid everyone picked on. Now, Calvin is a successful accountant, but not really happy with his career while Robbie is The Rock. Oh, and he joined the CIA. There's just one little problem. Robbie is on the run because he is wanted for treason. Before he knows it, Calvin is dragged into this mess and can't escape. Not surprisingly, he finds out there's much more to the story, and away we go. Basically, it's the inverse of the Ride Along movies. That said, Central Intelligence is solidly entertaining and far better than RA2. The action is pretty decent and The Rock lights up the screen. It's he, not Hart, that has most of the movie's funniest moments. Chemistry between the two is a little weird. They don't so much share the screen, they take turns giving solos in the spotlight. The issue is that neither guy is playing the "straight" role. Both are in clown mode all the way through, save for The Rock going The Rock during action scenes. There's no inventing the wheel, here. It's a fun, but disposable action-comedy that gives us a few laughs and a few eye-rolls as it breezes by and quickly disappears into the ether.


The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
(2015)
James Bond Napoleon Solo (Mopey Superman Henry Cavill) is a secret agent during the Kennedy administration, smack dab in the middle of the Cold War. His mission is to find Alexander Vinciguerra (Luca Calvani) who may have the device that will decide who comes out on top of said war. To help, he enlists the aid of Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of Dr. Udo Teller (Christian Berkel), a Nazi scientist turned US informant. At the same time, he is trying to fend off KGB spy Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). As luck would have it, the three of them are forced to work together to save the world. Yes, it's based on the old TV series of same name. It's a fun romp that skirts the issue of its heroes and their conflict feeling dated by setting itself in the 1960s. Then again, given the news lately, it might not be so dated. Anyhoo, the action and the comedy are well done and carry the day. Of the former, there's not as much as I expected, but what's there works. As for the humor, it's the best part of the film. For this, a large thanks to the wonderful performances of Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, and a more than game supporting cast. Leading man Henry Cavill is alarmingly good looking, as always, and has some excellent moments of his own. He also comes across a bit on the stiff side, too. The film does suffer from a convoluted plot that's just way to hard to keep track of for a popcorn flick. Luckily, the fun stuff still makes it go.


Concussion
(2015)
Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) is a pathologist with more degrees than a thermometer. He takes his job so seriously the autopsies he performs are likened to art dedicated to helping the dead reveal their secrets to him. One day, the boy of Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Webster lands on Dr. Omalu's table after Webster commits suicide. When the autopsy reveals nothing that matches what's known about Webster Omalu decides to dig deeper, much to the chagrin of his co-workers. What he discovers, and later names, is chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE for short, a brain disease only detectable after someone's death that affects people who suffer repeated head trauma, such as football players. He publishes his findings and then the NFL tries to shut him up. This is based on a true story. It's an intriguing film about an intriguing subject, especially for (American) football fans. Omalu's discovery and the subsequent legitimization of it have become the single biggest threat to the and very existence of the game. Will Smith gives a fin performance in the lead role. Alec Baldwin aids him with an excellent supporting turn. Unfortunately, like the profession of our hero, the film is cold and clinical. We're never drawn in enough to gain real empathy beyond a brief moment involving his pregnant wife Prema (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). It doesn't help that shortly after this, she disappears from the movie for quite some time. The talented Mbatha-Raw is wasted in the role. Another part of the problem is that once her big moment has slipped by, the personal stakes don't really seem that high for our hero, regardless of whatever threats and legal tactics the NFL employs. Other opportunities to get us emotionally involved are lost by making caricatures of all the football players by limiting our interactions with them to the moments just before their unfortunate suicides. In some cases, these scenes play like they were spliced in from a horror flick. When it's all said and done, it's not a bad movie. It's just one that fails to get us to invest in the well-being of its characters.


Daddy's Home
(2015)
Brad (Will Ferrell) is a happy-go-lucky guy with a brand new wife. He has taken on the responsibility of being stepdad to her two kids and is perfectly fine being ever-so-slowly accepted by them. That process threatens to grind to a halt when their real dad calls them out of the blue and it's decided he's coming by tomorrow morning. His name is Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) and he is the exact of opposite of Brad. While Brad is the sensitive type into emotional bonding and smooth jazz, Dusty is pure machismo. Since Dusty is determined to get his spot back, the battle for the family's love is on. Ferrell and Wahlberg have really good chemistry. The movie wisely plays off it and is better for it. The endless stream of gags are hit-or-miss. What works does so because of our two stars. Story-wise, it's straight-forward and predictable. Thanks to the aforementioned stars, it never gets to the point of being a turnoff. There are a few more funny moments largely due to a riff on the wise Magical Negro in the form of Griff (Hannibal Burress), who is also quick to play the race card. Toss in a few more laughs involving Dylan (Owen Wilder Vaccaro), the socially awkward son. There are a couple stretches where the jokes aren't funny which makes it drag in a few places. It's also a bit odd Sara (Linda Cardellini), the woman Brad is married to and Dusty wants back, is essentially a third tier character with nothing to do but be pissed at both guys. All in all, it adds up to a solid, but not great bromance/rom-com that breezes by and doesn't overstay it's welcome.


Pan
(2015)
Peter (Levi Miller), not yet called Peter Pan lives in an orphanage that would scare the crap out of Annie and can't help noticing that kids seem to vanishing from the place with no explanation. Soon enough, he finds out why that is as some peculiar characters swoop in from above, snatching up him and a number of the other orphans. They find themselves on a flying pirate ship and in a magical place called Neverland. Of course, this ship and seemingly everything else in this strange land is run by the tyrannical Captain Hook Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Since I can't fool you, I know you saw that I crossed out Captain Hook, normally our villain in the Peter Pan universe. However, this is a new millennium CGI-fueled reboot/remake/prequel/origin story thingy. That means Hook is in the movie, but he and Peter build a friendship through the course of the movie. Sigh. A very pretty, overly complicated disaster of a film ensues. As our villain, Hugh Jackman gets his mustache twirl on and is easily the most memorable part of the movie, but he's just chewing scenery and out-acting everyone else who crosses the screen by way too wide a margin than is beneficial. Needless to say, Pan never gels, or even comes close to doing so, Someone should have been made to walk the plank for this one.



16 comments:

  1. Central Intelligence I'd like to check out on DVD as I love both Hart and The Rock.

    Daddy's Home was so stupid, but I lol'd sooooooooooooo hard at the fight at the dance towards the end when they find out who's bullying the kid.

    I thought Pan was ridiculous. My husband and kid loved it, and I just sat there wtf'ing throughout. Especially at Tiger Lily and all her reactions to Hook. This must have been how you felt when your family enjoyed Happy Feet. lol

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    1. CI is worth a look, for sure.

      Daddy's Home was certainly stupid, but I got some laughs out of it.

      Great memory! And yes, that's how it felt.

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  2. I've seen Concussion and Daddy's Home. I could've pretty much written the exact same thing you did. Both decent. Neither great. I enjoyed the first third of Concussion much more than the rest. Will Smith really did solid work, highlighted especially in the beginning. Daddy's home was about the same. The longer it went on the less I liked it, but I certainly didn't want to turn it off. And the motorcycle crash scene. One of the biggest laughs I've had during a movie this year. Not sure why.

    I will not be seeing Pan. I may catch The Man from U.N.C.L.E. one day if for nothing else than the slick action I'm sure Ritchie pulled off.

    It's funny you mentioned that you didn't find a strong chemistry between The Rock and Kevin Hart. I haven't seen the film, but I skimmed Matt Zoller Seitz's review over at RogerEbert.com, and he LOVED it, specifically their chemistry. Called it one of the best comedies in a long while. Anyway, I'm definitely gonna check this one out.

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    1. Exactly - decent, not great for both Concussion and Daddy's Home. The motorcycle scene is a memorable one, though.

      I say skip Pan, check out The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

      I don't think they had bad chemistry, it just didn't feel like it was really cohesive. Not sure if you're a basketball fan, but if you are think about the first year LeBron played for the Heat. They were good, but didn't instead of working well together, 'Bron and Wade would take turns getting theirs. After that, the offense flowed pretty good as they became more in tune with one another. That's how it felt in CI. Hart is good and The Rock is good, but it almost felt like they were just taking turns trying to be good rather than it flowing naturally. I hope that makes sense. I would definitely say check it out.

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  3. I saw bits of Pan, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and more recently bits of Concussion. Pan is just nuts as I don't know what Joe Wright wants to do as it is all over the place for me as I might have a better judgement in what I would see in its entirety. The Man from U.N.C.L.E.... I don't know. I only saw little bits as I'm not sure what to make of it. Concussion seems like the most interesting as it relates to what is going on but it never goes all the way and Will Smith's performance isn't very good as I also wanted more of Gugu Mbatha-Raw. I don't want to see Central Intelligence just out of my disdain for Kevin Hart and Dwayne "The Crock" Johnson while Daddy's Year is something want to see because it features a cameo at the end from the Crock's new bitch-boyfriend.

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    1. Nuts is an apt description of Pan. I do think you should see the rest of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. it's a fun flick. Concussion is not, but interesting. I thought Smith was pretty good, but not great. You're right about it never going all the way, though. That cameo in Daddy's Home is excellent.

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  4. Ikes!! I've seen hardly any of these but I loved The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and was mystified that it didn't do better when it was out. It's fun, fast paced, bouncy, stylish and involving...isn't that what people go to the movies for? And both the costume and production design are incredible.

    One of the things I liked about it the most was that the characters actually showed signs of being roughed up after some of their antics. Not enough to ruin their looks of course but black eyes, bandages etc. at least some acknowledgement that they'd been through a tussle or two.

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    1. U.N.C.L.E had all the elements it needed, it just didn't put them together well enough to be the big blockbuster it was trying to be.

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  5. I am with you on U.N.C.L.E., which was too dumb to find all that fun, to be honest...but I'm not with you on Pan, which I kind of adored.

    I had a feeling that Central Intelligence movie would be awful, but that tag line (A little Hart and a big Johnson) is hilariously clever.

    I hate that Gugu Mbatha-Raw seems to be getting wasted ever since her INCREDIBLE 2014. She needs to be the STAR of these movies. She's such a marvelous find.

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    1. I'm sorry...Pan...I just couldn't.

      Didn't find CI awful, but you're not really missing anything. Just wait for the inevitable sequel.

      I am 100% with you on GMR. I really hope it gets better for her.

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  6. I am ashamed of how often I laughed at Daddy's Home.

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    1. No shame. It has some genuinely funny stuff.

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  7. Had fun with Central Intelligence, Daddy's Home and The Man From U.C.L.E
    But can't say I was too hot on Concussion. Like you said, it wasn't bad but noting memorable there. And absolutely hated Pan

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  8. I actually really, really want to see Central Intelligence, but I keep finding something newer at the movies...and I'm an idiot like that. Oooh shiny!

    Concussion I saw with my wife around Christmas, and honestly, it was a bit of a snooze. Good story, great job by Smith...but it was all very low stakes for some reason.

    I basically hated The Man from UNCLE. It was so boring and slow...a crushing disappointment. It looked like high fashion, yeah, but stunk like low tide. Good think Vikander is so hot. Phew.

    And....avoid Pan, see Daddy's Home? Does that sound about right? I think I can swing that!

    Awesome as always, Dell.

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    1. CI is definitely worth a look, but I know what you mean about finding something newer.

      Yup, exactly (Concussion).

      I liked UNCLE better, but yeah, it wasn't near as good as it should've been.

      That sounds exactly right. The only caveat being your spawn might like Pan.

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