Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Movie Review #571: "Fist Fight" (2017)

Movie"Fist Fight"
Director: Richie Keen
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
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On the last day of school, in order to save his own job, English teacher Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) rats on history teacher Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube), who broke a student's desk with a fire ax. Once Campbell tattles, Strickland loses his job. This leads him to challenge Campbell to a fist fight after school to settle their beef. 

"Fist Fight" is the feature film debut of director Richie Keen, who has previously directed television shows like "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." It stars Charlie Day as Andy Campbell, a nice guy English teacher who works at the most unruly school with the most disrespectful students in existence. His wife is about to give birth any minute to their second child and the principal of his school is administering mass firings, so needless to say, he is a little on edge. Joining him is Ice Cube, who plays history teacher Mr. Strickland, the meanest, most intimidating teacher at Roosevelt high school. When Campbell sees Strickland take an ax to a student's desk in an absolute display of overreaction, principal Tyler, played by Dean Norris, threatens to fire both Strickland and Campbell unless someone fesses up to what really happened. In order to save his own job, Campbell rats out Strickland. When Strickland challenges Campbell to a fist fight after school, word of the upcoming battle spreads like wildfire across not just their campus and the neighboring high school, but all over social media and their entire town. Also in the film are Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Kumail Nanjiani, and Christina Hendricks. 

If there is one thing we learned from "Fist Fight," it's that violence solves everything, kids! If students are unruly, teachers should feel free to threaten them with violence, yell at them, slap them, cuss at them, and call them names as reasoning with them and treating them with respect is simply useless and ineffective. Have a problem with another person? Challenge them to a duel! Oh, but it's totally okay that the teachers in this movie threaten to and even do physically harm them because the kids are smarmy assholes!! The school itself is unbelievably dysfunctional as the students are so far beyond anything you would remotely see in real life that the suspension of disbelief is far too great for us to indulge. Students openly assault teachers verbally and physically with no repercussions. It isn't hard to see why though since you hardly ever see a teacher in their classroom anyway. Campbell enters and exits his class whenever the hell he wants, taking long, extended periods of free time to buy laptops and join in on his daughter's talent show.

Another thing we learned is that lazy dick and fart jokes are still not funny. They haven't been for a long time, and they still aren't funny in 2017. There is just so much that goes wrong in this mostly unfunny mess of a movie. Jillian Bell's character Holly, who is the school's guidance counselor, has running jokes about smoking meth and wanting to sleep with underage male students, a joke no one would ever consider today if the gender roles were reversed, and with pedophilia in the news just this very week, it honestly couldn't have been more poorly timed (not that there's ever a right time for jokes of that nature, but jesus, just stop with jokes like this). Ice Cube just plays the mean muggin' tough guy character he plays in pretty much every movie he has ever been in, complete with NWA lyric references and nods to his other films like "Friday." His mean straight-man persona can work with the right comedian aiding him along the way, and unfortunately, Charlie Day's spastic, weaselly wimp just doesn't quite cut it. Charlie Day is one of those actors who works much better in a supporting role, not as a lead part. We both really like him, but this is nowhere near his best work.

To say "Fist Fight" is completely devoid of laughter would be a lie. There are two moments that genuinely made us laugh out loud, one of which is the climactic fist fight itself. Unfortunately, you have to sit through 75 minutes of unfunny crap to get to the solid 15 minute finale. Everything leading up to that is a calamitous series of epic misfires and bad casting choices. Avoid this one at all costs.

My Rating: 3/10
BigJ's Rating: 3/10
IMDB's Rating: ~5.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~32%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

**To review this movie for yourself on one of the best websites on the internet, visit!*

Oscar Movie Review: "Field of Dreams" (1989)

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Movie"Field of Dreams"
Year Nominated: 1990
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

A mediocre farmer in Iowa hears a disembodied voice that drives him to build a baseball diamond in his corn field. After doing so, he is prompted to head on a road trip to help a reclusive author and a one-time aspiring ball player-turned-doctor. 

"Field of Dreams" is written and directed by Phil Alden Robinson and is based on the novel "Shoeless Joe" by W.P. Kinsella. It stars Kevin Costner as Ray Kinsella, a Stanford graduate hippie-turned-Iowa farmer. Joining him is Amy Madigan, who plays his wife Annie, and Gaby Hoffman, who plays their young daughter Karin. One day while working in the field, Ray hears a voice that says, "if you build it, he will come." He believes this means that if he builds a baseball diamond in his corn field, the deceased 'Shoeless' Joe Jackson, played by Ray Liotta, will come to play. After Ray builds the field, 'Shoeless' Joe does indeed come to the field, along with the rest of the Chicago 'Black Sox.' His task doesn't end there as the voice continues to give him missions only he can hear involving a bunch of former baseball players only he and his family can see. One of these missions involves almost sort of but not entirely kidnapping reclusive writer Terence Mann, played by James Earl Jones, who is a fictional writer meant to represent J.D. Salinger.

"Field of Dreams" is a family fantasy drama about baseball, nostalgia, and amending the mistakes of the past. Right off the bat (no pun intended), you have to accept the magical fantasy element of this film, or you can forget about enjoying it. If you are looking for answers to the question of where the voice came from and/or why it contacted Ray and Ray alone, you won't find the answers in the film beyond that it's some kind of unexplained magical premise. Once you accept that premise, and we do since we love fantasy films, it goes a long way towards actually liking the film. Furthermore, it also extremely helps to be an established baseball fan as the entire movie uses baseball as the crux of its metaphor and its story. BigJ and I are not big into the sports, but we do know a little about the Chicago 'Black Sox.'

This is a charming movie with sweet kind of story, but doesn't necessarily scream "awards prestige." It is mostly about a man coping with the fact that he never reconciled with his father before he passed away. With such an emotionally hard-hitting subject, it's sure to make the strongest person weep at the thought of it. The acting is solid, but not entirely spectacular as none of the characters are heavily layered, and none of the performances are anything remarkable. There are a few funny moments and a few touching ones as well, but mostly a lot of baseball allegories and stories thrown into a plot about coping, remembering, and moving on. There are some instances in the movie that are downright eyeroll-inducing because of how corny it is. It borders on strange, but that's fantasy for ya.

"Field of Dreams" will definitely speak to a certain group of people, which may explain why it received three Academy Award nominations, including best picture and best adapted screenplay. For us, this movie is good, but it's not great. We finished the film somewhat perplexed as to why and how this received a best picture nomination, especially when none of the acting nor the directing was recognized.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
Last Oscar season, we were watching: "All About Eve"

Two Oscar seasons ago, we were watching: "The Graduate"

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Short Film Review: "Timecode" (2016)

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Director: Juanjo Giménez Peña
Year: 2016
Rating: ---
Running Time: 15 minutes

Two security guards form a relationship by sharing timecodes with one another on the security camera system at their work.

"Timecode" is an Oscar nominated live action short film directed by Juanjo Giménez Peña, who wrote the short along with Pere Altimira. It stars Lali Ayguadé as daytime security guard Luna, and Nicolas Ricchini as nighttime guard Diego. This short is about the sweet connection of two guards who find a "partner" in each other through the closed circuit security system that they monitor constantly at their work. This seems to be a boring, mundane job. When Luna is asked to investigate a damaged car at the parking lot, she notices Diego doing something that piques her interest. She responds by leaving a timecode and camera number on a sticky note for him to check, replying to his actions. As the two go back and forth trading timecodes, they form a bond with one another through these secret videos.

This is a fun, refreshing little story that is quite charming and reminds us it's always important to enjoy yourself no matter what you do and no matter where you are. Shorts like this, ones that tell such a fantastic story in a short amount of time, make us fall in love with them all over again every time we watch one. "Timecode" is short enough to keep you engaged, but deep enough to leave you wanting more. We would not be made if this short won at the Oscars come Sunday February 26th, 2017!

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.3/10

Movie Review: "Friday" (1995)

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Director: F. Gary Gray
Year: 2011
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

When Craig (Ice Cube) loses his job, his friend Smokey (Chris Tucker) decides that they should spend their now free Friday hanging out and smoking weed. They spend their time sitting on Craig's porch watching the goings on of their neighborhood and doing their best to avoid trouble, which seems to always have a way of finding them. 

"Friday" has become a classic stoner comedy. It manages to take a much more lighthearted look at life in the inner city and appeals to people of many backgrounds. Ice Cube plays Craig, who is just your average young man living with his parents in the projects of Los Angeles. He has just lost his job, on his day off no less, for something he didn't actually do. Now, he is home on a Friday with nothing to do, so his friend Smokey, played by Chris Tucker, thinks they should smoke some weed and get high, something Smokey would do regardless of the day or the time or if Craig was with him. Craig and Smokey don't want trouble, but it still has a way of finding them. Throughout the course of their Friday, they have to deal with the local bully named Deebo, played by Tommy 'Tiny' Lister, who steals from everybody and pressures Smokey into breaking into Craig's neighbor's house. Once he does it, Deebo then refuses to cut Smokey in on what they steal. They also run into problems with Smokey's drug supplier Big Worm, played by Faizon Love. Big Worm gave Smokey some weed to sell, but instead of selling it, Smokey, well, lived up to his namesake and smoked it. He also let it slip that he gave some to Craig, so now they owe Worm $200 bucks, and if they don't pay, they could wind up getting shot. Just another day in L.A.

Ice Cube is able to show the range of his talent in "Friday" and even shares a writing credit on the script, something that he is shown doing in the film "Straight Outta Compton," which was also directed by F. Gary Gray in 2015. This movie also served as a launching pad for Chris Tucker, who was a breakout star in the role of Smokey and has many now-iconic lines of dialogue delivered in spectacular goofball Chris Tucker fashion. He then went on to do the very successful "Rush Hour" series and a few other films before people tired of his obnoxiously loud, high-pitched voice and humor and disappeared for a while. Ice Cube and Chris Tucker have wonderful chemistry with one another and make a dynamic, hilarious duo. Many other roles are also played very well, including those by Nia Long, Paula Jai Parker, and the aforementioned Faizon Love.

In many ways, "Friday" deals with similar social issues to what may be seen in other movies like "Boyz n the Hood," but with a more satirical and comedic slant. The movie may have a lot of silly stoner comedy in its short run time, but it still manages to have a poignant message buried somewhere underneath the blunts and break-ins. It also boasts an amazing hip hop soundtrack that became a favorite of many 90s kids, us included. We really enjoy revising this movie from time to time and hope you give it a chance.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 77%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

Oscar Movie Review: "Dead Poets Society" (1989)

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Movie"Dead Poets Society"
Year Nominated: 1990
Director: Peter Weir
Rating: PG
Running Time: 2 hours, 8 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

A new English teacher at Welton Academy inspires his students to appreciate poetry, seize the day, and chase their dreams.

"Dead Poets Society" is directed by Peter Weir and is written by Tom Schulman. It stars Robin Williams as John Keating, the new English teacher at the Welton Academy preparatory high school. He is the type of instructor who tries to make teaching and learning fun and teaches his students to think freely, something that goes against the natural order of Welton. Joining him are Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles, Gale Hansen, Dylan Kussman, Allelon Ruggerio, and James Waterson, who play students of Keating's and those who eventually re-form "The Dead Poets Society," a club about sharing poetry and embracing life.

"Dead Poets Society" is a coming-of-age drama, and even though Robin Williams was nominated for Best Actor for his impressive performance, he is really more of a supporting character. The film focuses more on the students and their growth into independent thinkers and bright, ambitious young men. Much of the focus is on Robert Sean Leonard's character Neil Perry, who has an overbearing father who wants Neil to be a doctor despite his passion for acting. He doesn't allow Neil to follow his interests or dreams and demands he do exactly as he is told, something that may come back to haunt this stern father. The movie also focuses on Ethan Hawke's Todd Anderson, who has a significant arc as he starts out a reserved introvert and must learn to be bold and courageous. The message of this movie is, of course, carpe diem, or seize the day, something we can truly get behind. It is full of both humor and tragedy, though the emotional response you may be left with is one mostly of anger towards certain school officials and one parent in particular with how they handle a situation which could have very easily been deescalated, but ended up in catastrophe.

This is a well made film with extremely good acting, especially by the aforementioned Williams. We all know Williams passed away a few years ago, so going back through his body of work now that he is no longer with us makes us ache inside because he will never again be able to share his gift with the world. At least we have brilliant performances like this, ones that show his talent and thirst for depth in his roles. "Dead Poets Society" wound up being nominated for four Academy Awards, including best picture, and took home just one Oscar for best original screenplay. Fans of Williams' work will love this movie.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 85%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!
Last Oscar season, we were watching: "American Beauty"

Two Oscar seasons ago, we were watching: "Rachel, Rachel"

Monday, February 20, 2017

Oscar Movie Review: "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989)

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Movie"Driving Miss Daisy"
Year Nominated: 1990
Director: Bruce Beresford
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
Did It Win?: Yes.

After the elderly Daisy Werthan (Jessica Tandy) wrecks her car, her son (Dan Aykroyd) hires her a driver named Hoke (Morgan Freeman). Though Daisy is very reluctant and often quite curt with Hoke, eventually, she grows to rely on him as a helper and a friend. 

"Driving Miss Daisy" is directed by Bruce Beresford and is written by Alfred Uhry, based on his own stage play. It stars Jessica Tandy as the titular Miss Daisy Werthan, an elderly Jewish woman who strongly believes in her own independence. When she wrecks her car, her son Boolie, played by Dan Aykroyd, doesn't think she ought to be driving herself anymore since the insurance company sees her as someone who is too high risk. In response to this accident, he hires the 60-year-old Hoke, played by Morgan Freeman, to be her driver, a pretty good position for someone of his age and education. Hoke just needs to learn to cope with the ornery Miss Daisy and her very rigid, proper, old world views.

"Driving Miss Daisy" is a slice of life film all about a platonic relationship between a 72-year-old Jewish woman and a somewhat younger but still senior black man. The film starts off in 1948 in Atlanta, Georgia, and slowly spans across their 25 years relationship. Being that it takes place in the pre-civil rights south, we do see brief instances of racism and the treatment of African Americans as second class citizens. There are also some negative attitudes shown towards against Jewish Americans as well, and even the bombing of a nearby synagogue is discussed as having taken place in Miss Daisy's town. Interestingly enough, even though she doesn't view herself as prejudiced, she still regularly treats Hoke as less than an equal. It is not done intentionally or out of hatred, but because it is the status-quo and because she sees him more as an employee than a friend for much of the film.

This movie is full of some brilliant acting, and Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, and Dan Aykroyd were all nominated for acting awards at the Oscars for their tremendous efforts. It was Tandy, however, who snagged a much deserved win, making her the reigning oldest best actress winner ever. Alfred Uhry also took home a much deserved Oscar for his screenplay. This wasn't really a huge surprise since he had already won a Pulitzer Prize for his play. The film wound up taking home two more Academy Awards, including best picture, though it is strange that Bruce Beresford didn't even get nominated for his directing efforts, a rarity when it comes to Oscars statistics. We do really enjoy "Driving Miss Daisy" as a whole, from its characters to its dialogue, from the fantastic performances to its charm and humor. We also appreciate it for its honesty in its portraying of its characters.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!
Last Oscar season, we were watching: "Raiders of the Lost Ark"

Two Oscar seasons ago, we were watching: "The Apartment"

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Movie Review: "Toni Erdmann" (2016)

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Movie"Toni Erdmann"
Director: Maren Ade
Year: 2016
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 42 minutes

A man who enjoys practical jokes visits his career-oriented daughter in Bucharest and takes on the alter ego Toni Erdmann, regularly showing up at his daughter's business functions and social gatherings.

"Toni Erdmann" is a German and English language film written and directed by Maren Ade. It stars Peter Simonischek as music teacher Winfried Conradi. He is a bit of a joker and always fashions himself into strange costumes or makeup work. After his dog passes away, Winfried decides to visit his daughter Ines, played by Sandra Hüller, in Bucharest. She is very career-oriented, driven to succeed, and rigid as a person, and once her dad arrives unannounced, his presence becomes quite a distraction, especially when he dons some fake teeth and a bad wig and starts going by the name Toni Erdmann.

This is a slice of life character sketch about silly man and his all-too-serious daughter. Peter Simonischek puts on a brilliant comedic yet touching performance as Winfried Conradi, aka Toni Erdmann. He is a very charming, outgoing character that seems to really embrace the fun of life. He has numerous hilarious interactions with many different people where he spins tall tales, mainly to amuse himself. Whether he tells others he had to rent a new daughter because his is so busy, or that he constantly wears false teeth and a brunette wig pretending to be his alter ego Toni, or that he shows up at his daughter's birthday dressed as a giant fuzzy monster never saying a word just standing there like a big hairy tree, it is clear Winfried is always having fun. Ines, on the other hand, seems unsure of her place in work and in life. She obviously hates having to kiss ass for her company by going to late night cocktail runs and shopping trips with company-men's wives, but does it to keep herself busy and to advance herself. When her father shows up, she can't get away fast enough. Simonischek and Hüller have great chemistry together, even though their relationship is strained because of business, distance, and a lack of understanding between her strict, no nonsense Ines, and his hippie-esque Winfried.

Being a character sketch, there is not a series of intense or bombastic plot points to divulge, but rather a relationship to explore and an understanding to discover between the two principle characters. Because of this, the 2 hour and 42 minute run time of "Toni Erdmann" is both unnecessary and seems far too excessive for the simple painting of a picture of this father and daughter duo and their character arcs. There are a few scenes here and there that seem a bit superfluous or elongated for no reason, and though they don't drag down the movie as a whole, they certainly could have been truncated.

"Toni Erdmann" won't be for everyone because many will be put off by the combination of this aging, meddling father and his mostly unforgiving daughter. Their relationship may be awkward and abnormal to some because "Toni" inserts himself into Ines's life constantly, hoping for a little affection from her in return. We personally enjoyed this film and the strange, quirky relationship of a tender but goofy father and his unyielding and uptight daughter. Even if it is bizarre and meandering at times, it is bolstered by two really terrific performances from Simonischek and Hüller. We can't wait to see what Kristen Wiig and Jack Nicholson bring to the Hollywood remake of this film and see what, if anything, gets omitted for a domestic audience.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!