Get Out (2017)

Get Out: The Best Horror Movie of 2017?

Picture Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner with a dash of Deliverance and a Stepford Wives twist. That’s Get Out in a brilliant nutshell. Written and directed by Jordan Peele (MadTVKey & PeeleKeanu), the film is about racism and black fear. That doesn’t mean white audiences won’t like it or that it’s “reverse racism” (not a thing), but it does mean this film is crafted around the black experience. So calm down, white people. Not everything is about us. Continue reading “Get Out: The Best Horror Movie of 2017?”

Amy Adams in Arrival (2016)

Arrival: Who Knew a Movie About Alien Linguistics Would Cut So Deep?

Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario), Arrival isn’t your typical sci-fi. Yes, it has the striking visuals of aliens and their ships (on a fairly modest $50 million budget, I might add) and a truly unnerving yet gorgeous score from Jóhann Jóhannsson (The Theory of Everything, Sicario), but it’s less focused on the “wow factor” of science fiction. Instead, it chooses to be a deep and devastating story about life and human connection. And throughout all of it, it examines the role language plays in those moments. Continue reading “Arrival: Who Knew a Movie About Alien Linguistics Would Cut So Deep?”

Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Should’ve Taken Its Own Title’s Advice

What a hilarious garbage movie. It’s so bad that it’s fun (or it had enough action distractions to make me feel like it was fun). It’s peak Tom Cruise…in the sense that Tom Cruise has gotten so far up his own ass that he can’t play any character besides the characters Tom Cruise has already played. You know, the tall, dark, handsome, tall (Yes, I said tall twice because Tommy wears lifts in his shoes) ass-kicker with the edgy name like Ethan Hunt or William Cage.
Continue reading “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Should’ve Taken Its Own Title’s Advice”

Blake Lively in The Shallows

The Shallows Is Enjoyably Ridiculous

A hot blonde vs. a shark. That’s The Shallows. I should hate this. So why don’t I? Because this summer has been a huge letdown. Every “blockbuster” has either been a sequel, underwhelming, straight-up mediocre, or all of the above. And that’s exactly why this average, unintentionally hilarious suspense/thriller is so entertaining! Continue reading “The Shallows Is Enjoyably Ridiculous”

Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling star in The Nice Guys, an action comedy from Shane Black -- a writer-director who's long shown a fondness for sending up L.A. noir

The Nice Guys: Crowe and Gosling Are a Hilarious Combo

Shane Black films have a similar structure—neo-noir thriller mixed with “odd couple” comedy. Think Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon, Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans in The Last Boy Scout, or Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, all of which written and/or directed by Black. Basically, if you liked those movies, you’re going to enjoy The Nice Guys.

Set in 1970s Los Angeles, investigators Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling) are begrudgingly brought together in the search for a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), who’s somehow associated with the death of a porn star and who also happens to be the daughter of Department of Justice Director Judith Kuttner (Kim Basinger).

Honestly, the plot is the weakest part of The Nice Guys, even with the colorful and hilarious porn adjacency. It’s a “solve the mystery” story that ends with the predictable villain being predictably busted. Sure, there are a few twists and turns in the plot that you won’t see coming, but those twists and turns aren’t meant to enhance the plot. Nope, they’re meant to drive the characters.

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in The Nice Guys (2016)

That’s the common theme in all of Black’s films, though. Characters first, everything else second. It works because Black is able to craft well-rounded, incredibly enjoyable characters. Not to mention, he takes actors who make you think “Wait…those two are in a movie together?” (because, let’s be honest, that’s what we all thought when this trailer came out) and writes complementary “foil” parts that still showcase individual talents.

Crowe and Gosling are a weird mix, but god they have great chemistry onscreen. Healy is essentially a more likable version of Crowe—he assaults people, has a grumbly demeanor, and is the more seasoned of the two. Gosling’s March, on the other hand, is the goofball who bites off more than he can chew, has a drinking problem, and is raising a teenager daughter Holly (Angourie Rice), who outwits him and Healy the whole movie. If this isn’t selling you on The Nice Guys, I don’t know what will.

No, just kidding. I know what will. The comedy. While the combination of Crowe and Gosling is the root of this movie’s hilarity, it’s Gosling who leads the charge. From his drunken visions about killer bees and Richard Nixon to his weak stomach and inability to keep tabs on his gun, Gosling is the reason for most of the laughs.

But the thing I loved most about the comedy in The Nice Guys was that it wasn’t nonstop laughs. This isn’t one of those movies where they sling half-assed jokes at you for two hours and hope a few of them stick. No, Black and writing partner Anthony Bagarozzi are about the long-game—the jokes that require a lot of setup before the payoff. It makes the laugh feel more deserved, you know?

The Nice Guys: B+

Listen to my review of The Nice Guys on “Pat & JT in the Morning” here (at 59:28).

Movie still from The Divergent Series third installment, Allegiant

Allegiant: Will Somebody Pull the Plug on This Franchise?

The Divergent Series feels like the never-ending story. Not only are three books being stretched into four movies, but the movies have gotten progressively worse each time, which makes the slow jog to the finish line that much more unbearable (Did no one learn their lesson after The Hobbit?). Do we blame it on bad filmmaking, author Veronica Roth’s mediocre young adult novels, the bland actors who play one-dimensional characters, or the onslaught of too-similar special snowflake saves dystopian society stories? I say all of the above. Continue reading “Allegiant: Will Somebody Pull the Plug on This Franchise?”