Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Movie Review: "Mr. Pig" (2016)

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Movie"Mr. Pig"
Director: Diego Luna
Year: 2016
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

A pig farmer named Ambrose (Danny Glover) is in failing health and massive debt. He makes a last ditch effort to earn money by selling his prized pig Howie to the son of an old friend in Mexico. When he doesn't like the facility, Ambrose decides to take his pig back and look for a more suitable home for Howie with the help of his daughter Eunice (Maya Rudolph).

"Mr. Pig" is directed by actor Diego Luna, who also wrote the film along with Augusto Mendoza. It stars Danny Glover as Ambrose, a grouchy, aging pig farmer in failing health and on the brink of losing his farm. He has spent the last little while racking up credit card debt and drinking to his heart's content. In an effort to have something to leave behind to his estranged daughter Eunice, played by Maya Rudolph, Ambrose loads up his prized pig Howie in his van and heads to Mexico where the son of an old friend has offered to buy it for $50,000 dollars. When Ambrose doesn't like the conditions at this massive pig farm/slaughterhouse, he decides to look for a better home for Howie with the reluctant help of Eunice, who has since dropped everything in her life to head to Mexico to help the dad she hardly knows.

This is a slice of life road trip movie about what we do as we face our mortality, as well as the importance of living in the now, balancing responsibility and fun, and of course, family and familial bonds. Danny Glover does an excellent, rather heartbreaking job playing the character of Ambrose, the grizzled old temperamental pig farmer. He is kind of an old fashioned farmer and doesn't like the modern farming conditions of close-quarters living where the hogs are pumped full of antibiotics. He doesn't like to accept help, either, and despite the fact he is very sick, he doesn't want to be a burden and would rather tough out what little life he has left in solitude...well, and with Howie, of course. It is clear to the audience Ambrose has not always been the best father and grandfather to Eunice and her son, but fortunately, when Eunice shows up in Mexico to help him, he gets an opportunity to reconcile and bond with his daughter while they drive around the country with a giant pig in the van. We want to see more of Danny Glover doing these dramatic types of movies where he so clearly feels at home as an actor. Maya Rudolph also puts on a marvelous performance as a daughter who is both concerned about her father, and at the same time, fed up with his attitude and stubbornness. She has a lot of unresolved feelings about his absence in her life. Rudolph has this unique way of showing exactly how she feels through expression without actually saying a word. Of course, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the adorable big guy Howie, who is a star in his own right.

"Mr. Pig" is a charming, touching story that has moments of profound sadness, mild humor, and extreme heart. The cinematography is beautiful and it really displays the gorgeous, vast Mexican landscapes as many may not have ever seen them. The acting is also top-notch, and we'd love to see Glover and Rudolph stay in the drama genre where they so clearly excel. Overall, this might be seen as a simple father/daughter bonding/road trip story, but it is also very enjoyable and worth checking out for what it has to say about family and relationships, even if that relationship is as minute as the one between you and your pet.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 50%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Movie Review #478: "Morgan" (2016)

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Director: Luke Scott
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

A corporate risk management consultant (Kate Mara) is sent to one of her company's research facilities to investigate an incident involving their experiment, a genetically enhanced artificial human called Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy).

"Morgan" is the first feature length film by director Luke Scott. It is a dramatic sci-fi thriller with a bit little action thrown in for good measure. It stars Kate Mara as Lee Weathers, a corporate risk management consultant who is sent to one of her company's experimental research laboratories. While there, she is tasked with looking into a violent incident involving Morgan, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, an artificially designed and enhanced human who stabbed another employee at the laboratory. Joining them are Rose Leslie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Toby Jones, Michael Yare, Chris Sullivan, Vinette Robinson, Michelle Yeoh, and Boyd Holbrook, who make up the other staff members at this isolated research lab. Upon arriving at the facility, it becomes clear to Lee that many the staff members have grown far too fond of Morgan and treat her more like a child/daughter/sister than the financed experiment she is. When Morgan has a second violent "error," Lee decides it is time to terminate the experiment; however, Morgan is not so willing to go peacefully.

We were not really sure what to expect from "Morgan." The few times we saw the trailer, it never really drew us in or got us hyped despite a solid cast featuring the likes of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Giamatti, and even Anya Taylor-Joy, who had quite the breakthrough role in "The Witch" earlier this year. Now that we've seen the movie, we have to say, the trailer is definitely somewhat misleading, and we are not so pleased with the final product of "Morgan." There are some exciting and worthwhile elements here and there. Early on, there are a couple of very tense scenes and situations, as well some excitement to go along with them. The movie starts off as a drama mystery where those behind the camera build up the situation and characters. Unfortunately, the film never gets to the point where you really care all that much about any of them and whether or not they can stay alive long enough to make it to the end of the film. Many of these characters also do inexplicably stupid things, so you don't really feel bad if something terrible happens to them. By the latter portion of the movie, it evolves into full-on action thriller complete with gun-play, car chases with an all too durable Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz that can apparently barrel through objects without so much as a scratch, and fight scenes ripe with a busy, shaky camerawork and 50 cuts in 60 seconds. There are way too many contrivances here for it to be taken seriously as a drama, and it's far too dull to be a mystery.

We are sure there will be a portion of the viewing audience that will be deceived by the flashy sci-fi charm and dramatic intentions of "Morgan" upon first examination (especially if you have seen the trailers), but once you begin to peel back its many messy layers, it all starts to crumble apart a little bit more and more. Provided you don't think about it too hard, you may like this film. While there are some enjoyable moments early on, the film falls prey to predictability and a rough third act. This one is just mediocre for us.

PS: Lolo was right.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

Movie Review: "My Blue Heaven" (1990)

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Movie"My Blue Heaven"
Director: Herbert Ross
Year: 1990
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

While in witness protection waiting to testify, former mobster Vinnie (Steve Martin) starts up his own organized crime ring when he meets a bunch of other former mobsters also living in witness protection.

Directed by Herbert Ross, "My Blue Heaven" is a mob comedy written by Nora Ephron. Oddly enough, "My Blue Heaven" is said to be inspired by the exploits of Henry Hill, who was also the inspiration for a little film called "Goodfellas." This isn't as weird as one might first think when you discover Nora Ephron was married to Nicholas Pileggi, who wrote the book "Wiseguy," the 1986 novel that inspired "Goodfellas." Steve Martin stars as Vinnie Antonelli, a former mobster who joins witness protection when he agrees to testify against his former mob bosses. Vinnie is relocated from New York to Fryeburg, a fictional suburb outside the city of San Diego, where he is instructed to maintain a low profile. The calm and quiet suburban life doesn't quite bring Vinnie enough excitement, so he decides to start up his old habits. This happens much to the chagrin of the local prosecutor, Hannah Stubbs, played by Joan Cusack, who isn't allowed to bring charges against Vinnie because he is in witness protection. This causes a lot of problems for his handler, FBI agent Barney Coopersmith, played by Rick Moranis, who is actually starting to fall for Hannah.

This is one of those fun, lighthearted comedies about love and friendship with a different and unique mobster twist. Vinnie helps the stuffy Barney Coopersmith loosen up and learn to enjoy his life as the two become unexpected friends despite their massive differences in looks, lifestyles, and personalities. Steve Martin is extremely funny as Vinnie, offering up some cocky, witty comedy in what can best be described as a caricature of an Italian mobster. Moranis plays the straight-man to Martin's Vinnie, but still offers the occasionally delightful but more awkward quip, as well as a few touching moments here and there when it comes to Joan Cusack's Hannah, who is wound way too tight, too. It is always enjoyable to watch actors in their prime, and the three of them work extremely well together on screen. The story is cute and sort of quirky, though the way it's told might not work for every viewer. The story is parsed out in an almost episodic fashion, which can lead to some instances of dragging, as well as lulls in its run time in the middle of the movie. Though this isn't the very best we've seen from offered up from Martin, Cusack, or Moranis, "My Blue Heaven" is still a charming enough watch for fans of any of the three principle actors. It's also interesting to see a very different take on the story of Henry Hill without all the blood and F-bombs.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 71%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Movie Review #477: "Mechanic: Resurrection" (2016)

Movie"Mechanic: Resurrection"
Director: Dennis Gansel
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
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Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) has been hiding out in Brazil and has put his past as a hit-man behind him. When he is located by a man from his past and asked to do three hit jobs, Arthur refuses. Then, when a woman he just met and had sex with (Jessica Alba) gets kidnapped by this same man, now, this old friend named Crain (Sam Hazeldine) has found the leverage he needs to force Arthur to do the jobs.

Charles Bronson is rolling over in his grave right now.

"Mechanic: Resurrection" is the sequel to the 2011 film "The Mechanic," which is a remake of the 1972 film of the same name starring Charles Bronson. Dennis Gansel takes over the directorial duties from Simon West for this installment. Jason Statham returns as Arthur Bishop, who is no longer a hit-man for hire. Bishop has been hiding out in Brazil for the past few years. His location is discovered by an old childhood chum named Crain, played by Sam Hazeldine, who wants Bishop to perform three very difficult 'jobs' for him, and when we say 'jobs,' we think you know what we mean. Arthur refuses and bails to Thailand. While there, he rescues a woman named Gina (Jessica Alba) from what appears to be an abusive boyfriend. Of course, Bishop being the savvy former hit-man he is, he immediately figures out she was being blackmailed by Crain to seduce him so she can, in turn, be kidnapped and used as a hostage to force him to do the jobs he doesn't want to do. You know, that old chestnut. In response, Bishop falls in love with Gina and Crain kidnaps her, which forces Arthur to do the jobs he doesn't want to do. Yes, you've read that correctly. This is exactly what happened in this movie. This totally mind-numbingly stupid plot point actually happened.

"Mechanic: Resurrection" is idiotic and completely abandons any true characteristics of Arthur Bishop. The 2011 remake at least tried to keep the themes and share a similar spirit of the original, but this film goes so far off the rails that it basically becomes a circus. This sequel also turns Bishop into your run-of-the-mill generic anti-hero. The defining characteristics of Bishop have always been that he was fairly cold-blooded, killing was never personal for him, and he doesn't keep attachments. All of this has flown out the window as Bishop is now a reluctant killer with a seeming heart of gold. This movie is full of clichés and contrivances. It has a villain that incessantly threatens to kill his hostage, and despite constant disobedience from the person he is blackmailing, he never comes close to following through on his threat. This movie is laughably bad as we see the ridiculous over-the-top stunts coming from a mile away after they are foreshadowed in the scenes just before them, ranging from implausible and inane to just plain ol' inconceivable. There are exactly two cool scenes in this entire thing, but the rest of it is so bad, so hilariously bad, we began to simultaneously attempt to stifle our laughter and question our entire lives as movie reviewers while sitting in a theater with about 20 other people who made no reactions whatsoever for an hour and 40 minutes. In addition, Statham either flexes his muscles so his veiny arms are in full view of the camera, or he takes his shirt off in just about every scene of the film in a misguided attempt at...what exactly, we don't know. What's he trying to prove? It feels like water scenes were worked into this movie in an effort to get Statham to fulfill his contractual topless obligation.

"Mechanic: Resurrection" is an unnecessary sequel to remake that only had mediocre success in the first place. There is absolutely no reason for the steaming garbage pile to exist. It's not just terrible, it's laughably terrible. It is so bad, in fact, I was in tears from laughing so hard at three separate points in this godawful excuse for cinema, and two out of three of these instances involve Tommy Lee Jones and his ugly, poorly constructed outfit including black and white striped pajamas, a leather jacket, two gold hoop earrings, hippie glasses, and a soul patch. It's no wonder why people don't want to go to the movies in the theater anymore when, without Jason Statham, this movie would have been guaranteed to go straight to DVD. This is 2016's "Transporter Refueled" (which is ironic considering Jason Statham wasn't in that movie because they wouldn't pay him enough).

My Rating: 2/10
BigJ's Rating: 2.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~25%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

Weekend Box Office Results: August 26th, 2016 - August 28th, 2016

"Don't Breathe" dethrones "Suicide Squad;" other newcomers fail to impress

*all numerical information provided by boxofficemojo.com
Hey, movie lovers! Hope you had a great weekend! Here are your weekend box office results!

Horror thriller "Don't Breathe" has claimed victory over all, dethroning its weeks long run of "Suicide Squad" by making an impressive $26,115,000. "Squad" dropped to second place to the tune of $12,110,000, bringing its domestic total gross to $282,882,627. "Kubo and the Two Strings"  had an impressive second week showing by coming in third place, making $7,909,000. This movie still deserves your money, so go see it if you can! In fourth place was "Sausage Party," which made $7,665,000. Finally, rounding out the top five this weekend was another newcomer in "Mechanic: Resurrection," which made far too much money, $7,500,000. Please don't see this stupid film.

This WeekDomestic Gross
1 Don't Breathe$26,115,000$26,115,000
2 Suicide Squad$12,110,000$282,882,627
3 Kubo and the Two Strings$7,909,000$24,920,378
4 Sausage Party$7,665,000$80,008,510
5 Mechanic: Resurrection$7,500,000$7,500,000
6 Pete's Dragon$7,282,000$54,715,378
7 War Dogs$7,255,000$27,757,687
8 Bad Moms$5,760,000$95,453,235
9 Jason Bourne$5,230,000$149,357,235
10 Ben-Hur$4,530,000$19,552,877

*See you at the movies!!!*

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Movie Review #476: "Anthropoid" (2016)

Director: Sean Ellis
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 0 minutes
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A pair of Czechoslovakian soldiers parachutes into German-occupied Prague for operation Anthropoid, which has a mission objective to assassinate the Nazi third-in-command, Reinhard Heydrich.

Directed by Sean Ellis, "Anthropoid" is a true WWII drama about a mission to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, the third-inicommand for the Third Reich and one of the principal planners of the "Final Solution." It stars Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan, who play a pair of Czechoslovakian soldiers named Josef Gabcík and Jan Kubis, who are tasked with the aforementioned mission, dubbed "Anthropoid." The basic story behind this film sounds like a compelling one subject wise. Though Heydrich was third-in-command, it's always interesting to see WWII movies that don't focus on Hitler directly because there are so few of them out there. The planning and execution of a mission such as Anthropoid should make for a captivating film. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and "Anthropoid" winds up being rather dull and uneven as it gets lost in its sloppy execution. The first three fourths of it is borderline mundane and meandering, never really sure if it wants to be as it is part romance, part drama, part thriller, and part historical war picture. It focuses heavily on two possible romantic relationships the aforementioned men have with two women named Marie Kovárníková, played by Charlotte Le Bon, who has a romance with Jamie Dornan's Jan, and Lenka Fafková, played by Anna Geislerová, who is paired up with Cillian Murphy's Josef. Josef's and Lenka's relationship isn't quite as impassioned as Jan and Marie's, who hit it off instantly and fall in love during wartime, even as Jan is tasked with a mission that could end his life at any moment.

After the love story takes a back seat, the film focuses on Jan and Josef, along with the Czechoslovakian resistance, planning out Heydrich's assassination by tracking his comings and goings using assets working inside his building to gain information. One might hope the story would pick up a little bit in this planning phase, which sounds like it could be enthralling, but again, it really isn't. It's not until after they carry out their somewhat failed plan when it all finally starts to pick up the pace. The fallout from their attack on Heydrich becomes the most engaging part by far, and even when our protagonists are in danger, it never loses steam in its final moments. It all leads to a grand finale showdown that is far more exciting than anything else that has happened the hour and 30 minutes leading up to it, leaving just a mere 30 minutes for something interesting to actually happen. Director Sean Ellis focuses too much on crafting this grandiose finale, which works with us and against us as viewers. Ellis is clearly more concerned with creating an exciting ending than making everything leading up to it worthwhile. Though some viewers may be able to forgive the rather boring initial 90 minutes for 30 minutes of excitement and intrigue, we would personally prefer our thrills dealt out in a more evenhanded manner. The good comes a little too late. This messy distribution of excitement reminds us of "Jane Got a Gun" from earlier this year, which has nearly the exact same slow unfolding of events early on that leads to a whopper of a finale. Cillian Murphy does a fine job here, but none of the performances are really anything to write home about. Jamie Dornan's accent gets distracting after a while, as does Charlotte Le Bon's, but at the end of the day, we don't really remember the performances because they aren't good enough to overcome the dullness early seen on in the film.

Though "Anthropoid" is not a completely terrible movie, we cannot truly say it is worth the time we spent watching it. History buffs may enjoy this film, but for most of us, it's a mundane and messily constructed film with some nice enough visuals surrounding all of the horrors going on inside Prague. We wouldn't mind seeing this story told again in a more engrossing manner at some point in the future.

My Rating: 5.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 58%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Movie Review: "The Mechanic" (2011)

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Movie"The Mechanic"
Director: Simon West
Year: 2011
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

A meticulous hit-man (Jason Statham) takes a young apprentice (Ben Foster) under his wing to teach him the tricks of the assassin trade.

"The Mechanic" is a remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson crime thriller of the same name. It is directed by Simon West, who is known for directing movies such as "Con Air" and "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider." In this version of the film, Jason Statham takes on the role of Arthur Bishop, the titular mechanic. Bishop is a hit-man who specializes in clean kills which he can make look like accidents. When he gets a job to take out an old friend, played by Donald Sutherland, he takes that friend's son, Steve, played by Ben Foster, under his wing and teaches him the business of professional murder, though Steve has no idea it's actually Arthur that killed his father. Surprisingly, this remake doesn't stray too far from the path of the original's plot. It does take a far more action-oriented approach to the story, which gives it a much different tone overall, but we were shocked it kept most of the plot details the same.

Jason Statham in Jason Statham fashion plays his typical tough guy schtik, you know the one we've all seen him play in a thousand films in the past. He is the tough English guy who can kick major ass, and this is his part in about 94.875% of his movies. He is a relatively safe bet when it comes to these big, violent action movies, so he nestles into Bronson's role with ease. Ben Foster does a fine job as Arthur's assassin-in-training, one who makes a lot of mistakes on his path to being a hit-man. Donald Sutherland has a small part here as well, and in his very limited capacity, he is effective in driving the plot where it needs to go.

Some viewers may actually wind up enjoying "The Mechanic" from 2011 better than the original from 1972 because of its faster pace, its focus on the aforementioned action over Arthur's methodology as a hit-man, and because of its cleaner but equally violent approach, (though we still prefer the original Bronson-led thriller). Though we don't want to really nitpick differences between the two films, one major one we will note is the approach to the mentality of the two main characters. In the 1972 original, Bishop was a stone-cold killer, and Steve was pretty much a sociopath. This time around, both characters are far more humanized as Arthur shows regret and remorse for some of his choices, and Steve actually cares his father is dead and seeks vengeance for whoever killed him. This may be done in an attempt to make the protagonists far more sympathetic and relatable to show that they have normal human emotions, which is fine, though we do prefer the more hardened approach the original took in this respect. Unfortunately, this movie doesn't have a great narrative, dialogue, or themes. Its main purpose is to take the plot from the original and modernize it, which it does, turning it into a popcorn action flick you don't have to think about too hard.

That being said, though not as engaging as the original, "The Mechanic" remake sticks closely enough to its source that it's not a completely different story, and we appreciate this in a world full of up-ended, overhauled remakes. It is a decent watch, even if it's somewhat forgettable.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 53%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?