Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Quick and Dirties: Heroic Dudes


My first Quick & Dirties post of the new year takes a look at some guys trying to save the day. No need beating around the bush. Let's just get to it.


Bright
(2017)
In an alternate version of the present, all the creatures of Tolkien's Middle Earth, particularly Orcs and Elves, are now here with us humans on regular Earth. Daryl Ward (Will Smith) is a human and an LAPD cop just back to work after being shot by an Orc. His partner, Jakoby (Joel Edgerton) is not only an Orc, but the first Orc police officer in the country. And since Orcs are thought be dumb and inherently evil, there are lots of unhappy people down at the precinct, at all levels. In fact, Internal Affairs is investigating Jakoby for possibly letting the Orc go that shot Ward. However, there are eventually bigger fish to fry. A magic wand...yes, a magic wand (and not the last magical whatchamacallit in this post). is loose in the hood. Whoever has one can pretty much do and attain whatever they want. The problem is the only ones who can touch (barehanded, at least) and actually use wands are "brights." Ward and Jakoby find themselves on the run from everyone on both sides of the law when they get a hold of one. At its core it's a buddy-cop movie where the our two leads must bond against malevolent forces coming at them from all angles. This means the final two acts are essentially one long chase scene. During all the chaos and stress of the situation is when our heroes must bond. Thanks to wonderful chemistry between Will Smith and Joel Edgerton this works. The banter they share works, not because it's groundbreaking dialogue, it isn't, but because they both give wonderful performances. What also holds our interest is the way the movie utilizes its situations and characters as social commentary on race relations in our version of reality. It can be a bit heavy-handed at times, and half-baked at others. In particular, the film never shakes the implication that Jakoby is the only good Orc. That's a dangerous assertion when applied to our real society as the film seems to want us to. That said, the film functions solidly as a whole, far better than its critical reception suggests. It holds our attention, is nicely paced, has tons of action, and our two heroes work well together. This makes for an entertaining ride. If I have a superficial complaint, it's that the magnificent Noomi Rapace is wasted in her role as an elf hellbent on getting that wand. She does a good deal, but could've been given a good deal more. Instead of being a really memorable villain, she's merely serviceable. This is hardly a deal-breaker, though. I still had a fun time with this one.


Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
(2017)
In the 28th century, Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevigne) are space cops tasked with traveling around the galaxy protecting and serving. Since they're the only two people in their squad car...er...squad ship...whatever, and because Valerian channels only the most easily attainable aspects of the both Captain Kirk and Han Solo, every other sentence out of his mouth is a pick-up line spat in the direction of his partner. Each time she responds by reminding him how many notches he already has on his galactic belt. And there you have roughly half the dialogue of the movie. It quickly grows tedious and fails to make us believe for one second these two should be a couple. It's as if a twelve year old boy tried to build a romance out of only the snarkiest lines exchanged by Princess Leia and the aforementioned Han Solo. That's a big issue when the movie appears to be banking on our investment in the relationship of its two leads. However, there is actually a plot. It's ripped directly from Michael Bay's Transformers franchise, but it's a plot nonetheless. In short, Valerian and Laueline have to get their hands on some all- powerful-energy-sourcy-thing before the bad guys do and use it to yada yada yada. I'm sorry I'm too lazy to actually give specific details, but it's a lazy story. All the effort went into the visuals which are often dazzling. They make the movie watchable. Unfortunately, the one hundred percent derivative nature of everything that takes place renders it a string of pretty pictures lacking the soul needed to give them life.


Sleight
(2016)
After his mother passes away, Bo (Jacob Lattimer) puts all of his dreams on hold to take care of himself and his little sister. He makes a few bucks as a street magician. It helps that he seems to have the genuine ability to levitate small items. However, his real money is made by night when he deals drugs for Angelo (Dule Hill), the local gangsta. As it tends to happen in the movies, Bo finds himself in deep trouble with Angelo as he's working one last big deal to give him enough money to get out of the drug game. In the midst of all of this, he meets and falls for the troubled Holly (Seychelle Gabriel). A hybrid of hood flicks and superhero origin movies ensues. As a hood flick, it works pretty well. Bo's plight is intriguing and harrowing. He makes a compelling protagonist because of the moral dilemma he's clearly experiencing and the fact he's bitten off more than he can chew. The air of mystery surrounding him also helps. For much of the film we're left wondering what he has given up to live this life and what the extents are of his capabilities. As a superhero flick is where Sleight falters. That aspect of it is teased throughout, but the meat of it is shoved into the third act and not fully explored. How he got his powers is glossed over and falls apart upon slight inspection. If you let that slide, it's impossible to ignore the obvious drawback to those powers. It's developed like a major plotline, but is suddenly dropped. Despite these issues, it's a solid watch because it's strengths are really strong. The nature of those positives suggests this is probably more enjoyable for people who really aren't into superhero movies.


Assassin's Creed
(2016)
Cal (Michael Fassbender) is a lifelong criminal who, because of his super special lineage, or something, gets selected by some super-secret organization to go back in time to the Spanish Inquisition to stop some really bad guys. However, he's not really going back in time. He's hooked to some machine that allows him to function in the past while his body is in the present. If he's successful it will bring about everlasting peace on Earth. I think that's it, but honestly, I'm confused as hell. There are a few really action sequences, but I spent the entire two plus hours wondering what in the name of Playstation was going on. Yup, this is based on a video game. It's better than the last such movie I watched, World of Warcraft, but suffers from the same problems. Understanding it, let alone enjoying it, requires fairly intimate knowledge of the game. I'm well aware of its existence, but haven't played it for even one second. I shouldn't have to to watch a standalone movie. It must function as a self-contained entity. This doesn't.


The Mountain Between Us
(2016)
Alex (Kate Winslet) is getting married tomorrow in Baltimore. The problem is she's in Idaho and her flight home has been cancelled due to a snowstorm. Through some nosiness...accidental overhearing...she finds out that Ben (Idris Elba) is a doctor, was booked on the same flight, and is supposed to perform an emergency surgery the next morning. Alex uses this information to convince Ben to join her in hiring Walter (Beau Bridges), a local pilot with his own plane, to fly them home. The three of them, along with Walter's dog, pile into his plane, and away they go. As bad luck would have it, Walter has a stroke shortly after takeoff causing the plane to crash somewhere in the snowy mountains. He dies, but the others survive. No silly, they don't have cell phone reception. So, they have to figure this thing out on their own. This means, we spend an hour and change watching Super-Ben repeatedly save Lois's...er...Alex's life while they slowly, but surely fall for each other. This is one hundred percent predictable and sappy romance. It's not a terrible watch due to the abilities of the stars to breathe life and tension into trite situations. Just don't look for anything to happen you didn't see coming from minute one. Use however you already feel about so-called "survival romance" and/or how enamored you are with either Elba or Winslet to decide if you want to see this one.


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales
(2017)
A young man is looking for his long-but-presumed-dead father whom he believes can be brought back to life by Poseidon's trident. Yay, another magical doo-dad. Anyhoo, it turns out another long-dead bloke, Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), is also after the trident, and more importantly to us, holds a serious grudge against none other than Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Depp does his now tiresome routine of drunken prancing, rolling and batting his heavily-lined eyes, and slurring his words. Javier Bardem also hams it up, along with Geoffrey Rush, back as Captain Barbossa. The story winds, doubles back and folds on itself until it's clear as mud. Worse, it dragons on for an agonizing two-and-a-half hours. Please Movie God, let this series die.


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10 comments:

  1. I haven't seen any of these. Sleight interests me because Jacob Lattimer has been really good in everything I've seen him in. I almost went to see the new Pirates movie but I'm glad I didn't. I may check it out on DVD. The Mountain Between us did look sappy, but my thirst for Idris Elba is so strong I may see that too. And I liked their twitter marketing campaign where they told everyone the dog doesn't die. Genius.

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    1. Sleight is an interesting watch. I'd be curious to see what you think of it. And by all means, get your Elba fix from The Mountain Between Us. He definitely gets to be a manly man throughout this one.

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  2. Haven't seen any of these. Sleight looks interesting. The rest look pretty missable, although I am a little curious about Bright...kind of morbidly so based on what I've heard.

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    1. I don't think Bright is that bad. The fact it sits so low on the tomato meter (28%, last I saw) baffles me. It's not one of the year's best or anything, but it isn't the ginormous turd it's been made out to be.

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  3. Valerian I'm kind of interested in due to the fact it's from Luc Besson and it's based on a widely-revered graphic novel series. Pirates..... fuck off! I have no interest in seeing that as I'm just tired of seeing Johnny Depp and I also really dislike that young actor they have to play Orlando Bloom's son as he just looks like every other pretty-boy asshole.

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    1. Fair points, can't argue against any of them.

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  4. Sure looks like there's some shockers in here. What is your favourite video game movie adaptation btw?

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    1. Probably Silent Hill. Or maybe Tomb Raider. For full disclosure, I haven't seen any of the Resident Evil movies, yet.

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  5. The only one I haven't seen is Sleight and I think it's probably the only one I should have.

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