Snatched

Snatched

Rating: 0.5/4

Twitter review: Next Mother’s Day, I’ll take my wife to a better film. Like Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. Or just about any other film other than this.

Spoiler-free review: It had been a long time since I was able to go to the movies, and even longer since I was able to go with someone else. This past Sunday being Mother’s Day, I treated my wife out to dinner and a movie. The only problem was ‘which movie?’ There weren’t that many choices I felt she would enjoy, so I opted to go with her to this movie, thinking that I could tolerate a chick flick (and in fairness, some of them are very good; a couple of favorite movies of mine include When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless In Seattle. Those are not the typical chick flicks, but you [hopefully] get my point). After seeing this movie, I was lucky not to have to sleep on the couch (okay, that’s an over-exaggeration, but really, I should try looking for different films next time).

Snatched stars Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer as two people I hope I never have to meet. The mother, Linda, is obsessed about safety and her kids, hardly going out at night after having been ditched by her husband many years ago (if she acted like this back then, I can guess why the husband left her). The daughter, Emily, is not only vain, but also clueless about a lot of stuff. We’re introduced to her as she’s chatting up someone in a clothing store, trying out different outfits, while she’s supposed to be filling the racks and the other person is a complete stranger looking to buy clothing. After getting fired and then subsequently dumped by her rock-star boyfriend (who, even though he looks and sounds like he’s constantly high on drugs, has sense enough to know that Emily is a loser), she then confesses to her mother that the trip she was going to take to Ecuador with her boyfriend is non-refundable. Having seen pictures of her mom when she was younger who actually travelled, she convinces mom to go with her to Ecuador. Once there, they wind up eventually getting kidnapped and ransomed. Then it’s a matter of trying to escape, while Emily’s even more annoying brother Jeffrey and a couple of weirdos from the hotel pool (Joan Cusack and Wanda Sykes, both of whom apparently were desperate for the payday) try saving them.

The thing is, this film has a LOT of problems with it. All the characters in it are annoying (Jeffrey especially) without much if anything to allow you to relate to them. The plot itself has more holes than a pound of Swiss cheese. And the directing is just dreadful. There were far too many scenes that just ended abruptly. But the worst sin of all is that there were almost no laughs in this film (okay, there were a few girls giggling through the film, but I’m assuming they would laugh at someone dumping a cup of coke over someone else’s head). I counted two times that I actually found funny in the film. Goldie Hawn has had her day, but if all she can get are films like this, she should just quit. As for Amy Schumer, she can better stick to stand-up. At least there, anyone who actually pays to hear her crack jokes knows what they’re subjecting themselves to.

Spolier-filled review: One of the main plot points – if you can call it that – of this film is that Linda and Emily are kidnapped by a gang led by this guy named Morgado. The beginning of the film gives the impression that Linda and Emily will wreak havoc on their kidnappers. But other than Emily accidentally killing two people close to Morgado – his nephew and his son – not much else happens. Too much of the film is spent with mother and daughter yelling at each other. And by the end of the film, when Morgado catches up with them again (with no explanation how Morgado was able to keep finding them), Morgado starts choking Emily before getting distracted by Linda who then uses a dog whistle to have a dog attack Morgado (don’t ask). I think it says something about the characters in the filn, and the fact that Morgado was the only one played with any sense of actual acting, that I was inwardly rooting for him to kill Emiily. Yeesh.

The Accountant

The Accountant

Rating: 4/4

Twitter review: People want their accountant to be competent and help them save money. This one can also kick a serious amount of ass.

Spoiler-free review: I have a theory. I think that the accountant in this film is an alternate dimension version of Batman. I mean, both this guy and Batman have serious childhood trauma issues. Both of them are singularly driven. Both of them have more money than they know what to do with. And both can kick everyone’s ass at the drop of a hat. I dare anyone to prove me wrong.

In this film, Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, a brilliant accountant who is also an accountant for major crime syndicates all over the world. To give himself a low profile, he operates a small accounting firm. At night, he has a fairly rigid routine, the result of being a high-functioning autistic person. He was also raised by his army father, who insisted that any problems he might have can be forced out. Hence, he spends 20 minutes listening to blaringly loud music and runs a rod over his legs. At the insistence of his handler, who uses an electronic voice to communicate with him over the phone, he takes a ‘legitimate’ job, checking the books for a company that makes prosthetic limbs. One of the company’s accountants had found a discrepancy, and he is called in to verify the discrepancy. What he doesn’t yet know is that there are people looking for him – a federal Treasury agent who blackmails a young analyst to find Christian, and a mysterious assassin who soon starts targeting the top people of the company, as well as himself and the accountant from the firm.

I have to say that although there were times when it did feel a bit slow, I was absolutely riveted by Ben Affleck’s performance. I don’t know if he used the same thousand yard stare he used in Batman v Superman, but I could totally believe in his character. And when the action does eventually come, it comes at a good clip. This man is methodical about eliminating people who are out to kill him. And I could also believe that he wanted to try and have some normal relationship with the accountant from the firm he was auditing, Dana. The film doesn’t try and shoehorn a romance into the mix, instead focusing on Christian and how he views the world. I really enjoyed this film, and I can definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a good drama with some action to it.

 

Spolier-filled review: One of the things I also liked about this film was how it was able to tie things up at the end properly. A bit like The Usual Suspects, we are given out of sequence scenes, which are meant to be clues to not only Christian but to other people as well. It was satisfying to see how Christian and his brother, as well as this other girl whom he met as a child and who also has developmental disabilities, were all parts of this puzzle. The ending of the film allows for this character to come back again, and although on the one hand I would like to see more of this character, on the other hand I hope they leave this film as a stand-alone. I would hate for this character to be subject to watering down just for the sake of having yet another movie franchise.

Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange

Rating: 3/4

Twitter review: The Matrix meets Inception meets Beyonce’s Single Ladies. No, back up, not that last part. A good addition to the MCU, but not GOTG good.

Spoiler-free review: Doctor Strange is, for lack of a better term, a bit of a strange character to have in the Marvel Comics Universe. Most of the people inhabiting the MCU either have a sort of armor, or are physically enhanced in some way (the major exceptions being Black Widow and Hawkeye – gee, I wonder why neither of them have been featured in their own movie?). Doctor Strange has neither. Okay, he has his cape and The Eye Of Agamotto, but still.

For those not familiar with the character, the film follows Doctor Stephen Strange, a brilliant neurosurgeon (I doubt it would make for a good story if he was sloppy) who gets into a car accident while checking his cell phone to see the image of a patient (at the end of the credits, there’s even a message telling people not to get distracted while driving). As a result of the accident, Strange loses the ability to use his hands as he used to. Frustrated, he eventually is told about a man who was a paraplegic who somehow learned to walk again. Tracking the man down, Strange is told to go to Nepal, where he comes into contact with The Ancient One, a person who is able to knock his soul out of his body and cast him into a 2001-esque space/time dance. Having found a new purpose, Strange starts reading everything he can get his hands on, quickly becoming proficient in the mystical arts. Which is a good thing, since one of the Ancient One’s former disciples, Kaecellius, wants to eventually gain immortality by tapping into the power of Dormammu, a being from a dark dimension.

As in a lot of the MCU films, there are stabs at humor taken throughout, but the highlight of the film is when Kaecellius and his followers start attacking Strange and The Ancient One. There’s not only a lot of mind-bending images that would make MC Escher proud, but also some fun, unusual fights, including one that takes place on the astral plane. When I left the theater, I was happy I finally got to see this film, but at the same time I felt like it was missing something. And while I agree with another movie critic that the beats in this film are very similar to Iron Man and a bunch of other MCU films, I think the thing I was also missing was a bit more heart. Part of the problem with having Strange be so egotistical is that he acts like an asshole for a long time before he finally doesn’t. Hopefully in any sequels, we can see Strange actually go out on a date or something. As he demonstrates at one point, he can refill a person’s cup pretty easily.

 

Spolier-filled review: I usually enjoy watching Tilda Swinton, and while she gives a decent performance here, I also felt like she was a bit of a wasted character. Being someone who has lived for so many years and who herself had tapped into Dormammu’s dimension for power, it would have been nice if she had been allowed to show a bit more emotion, especially when being confronted with her own death. I keep thinking of her role a Gabriel in Constantie and her role in Michael Clayton. In both of those films, she was a cold and manipulative person/being, but she was also allowed to show more emotion that she did here.

Inferno

Inferno

Rating: 3/4

Twitter review: A better Robert Langdon film, since it doesn’t require stepping all over major religious doctrine to make a story.

Spoiler-free review: You have to give Dan Brown some credit. The man can write some good pulp novels. I read Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code and Inferno, and Dan Brown knows how to keep the pace of his novels going. In each of the novels, I was able to keep reading them fairly quickly, finishing them off in a couple of days. Most other novels of that size would probably take me much longer to read. Not because I’m necessarily a slow reader, but because sometimes it takes awhile for you to absorb the images the author wants you to get. Translating the first two of these novels into films hasn’t always been the easiest thing to do, partly because the main character, Robert Langdon, has to explain to everyone the various different Catholic dogma and doctrines he is about to run past. That tends to slow the action down, as the audience has to hear about The Last Supper painting or the process in which a new pope is elected, without much else going on. In Inferno, however, there is less standing around staring at paintings or what have you, and more running.

In this film, Langdon unexpectedly wakes up in a hospital room in Florence, Italy. Having been in Massachusetts only a couple of days before and no idea what happened in the previous couple of days, Langdon soon has to run when an assassin starts shooting at his door. Langdon eventually finds a device that displays a map of the 8th circle of hell (personal confession – I loved reading Dante’s The Inferno in college, so I did get a bit of a kick first reading about and now seeing references to The Divine Comedy), but with subtle changes. Then he and the nurse who pulled him out of the hospital, Sienna, start running again to other places in Italy, trying to dodge not only the assassin but also people from the World Health Organization who seem to be after his hide also. The end goal is a plague created by a billionaire, Bertand Zobrist, who hid his plague somewhere, but left a bunch of cryptic clues for people to follow.

I did actually like The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, though I also felt that the action tended to slow down a bit too often in those films. There, the things that people were looking for were not things that could destroy the world (Ok, in Angels and Demons, there was a bomb that was capable of blowing up Vatican City with millions of people there, but it helped that the guy who was behind the plot happened to also be in the city itself and wasn’t some suicide bomber). Here, the stakes are much higher, and the Catholic dragging through the mud is kept to a minimum. Langdon regularly has to avoid people trying to shoot him, while trying to prevent the plague from being released and going global. It also helps that the direction and score, while sometimes a bit much, did for the most part enhance the film. My main criticism is that there was a good amount of padding, which was supposed to add depth to some of the characters, but in the end felt like it wasn’t necessary. Get rid of the misty-eyed flashbacks, and you have a 2 hour film instead of a 2 hour and 20 minute film. That would have made this film that much more better.

 

Spolier-filled review: I suppose one of the problems with having read the book first is that you’re on the lookout not only for things you remember from the book, but also things that are NOT in the book. And while my main criticism about the padding of the film still stands, I was also disappointed in the ending. At the end of the book, everyone gets to where the plague is supposed to be released, only to find out that they’re a week too late – the bag with the plague was released a week beforehand, with the countdown clock being when the plague would spread world-wide, causing a third of humans to become sterile, thus putting the brakes on human over-population. Sienna, who was Zobrist’s lover, eventually decides to try stopping the plague, and is allowed by Langdon to eventually go her own way. In the film, the bag is still intact, and Sienna actively blows herself up in an attempt to burst the bag. I was sitting watching people fight over the glass box that WHO had managed to slip around the bag, actually hoping that the filmmakers would have the guts Dan Brown had and actually let the plague loose. It wasn’t meant to be. Pity.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Rating: 3.5/4

Twitter review: A particularly entertaining movie which I thoroughly enjoyed. The acting is great and the story is hardly an X-Men knockoff.

Spoiler-free review: I have to admit, when I first saw the posters for this film, I really thought it might be a sort of X-Men knockoff. After all, it has children with supernatural powers, a headmistress, someone who can shoot fire from her hands… I was hoping to be entertained, but also preparing to start counting how often this film would have ripped off previous X-Men films. Thankfully, I was wrong.

The film revolves around Jake, a typical quiet 16 year old who is bullied by classmates. One day, he gets a call from his grandfather (an always welcome Terence Stamp), who warns him not to visit him and worries about where his shotgun is. When Jake does visit, he eventually finds his grandfather dying, his eyes taken out. Grandfather cryptically tells Jake about a bird that will tell him what he needs to know before he dies. While discussing things with his therapist, Jake decides to take a trip to an island his grandfather told him about, accompanied by Jake’s father. While exploring the bombed out house his grandfather told him about when he was younger, Jake sees someone else, and tries giving chase. Eventually, he is taken through a cave back to the same house, but now still in one piece – because Jake has gone back in time to 1942.

Jake then meets Miss Peregrine, as well as the various children his grandfather told him about but whom Jake thought were just figments of his grandfather’s imagination. As Jake gets to know the various children, all of whom have different ‘gifts’ (not all of them are flashy – one child has bees living inside him, while another has a sharp-toothed mouth in the back of her head), he also eventually finds out about a couple of things. One is that the place where he is is in a sort of time-bubble. A German bomb is supposed to destroy the house, but just before it does, Miss Peregine resets her clock 24 hours, so the children are able to keep living in the same day over and over again. Another thing Jake eventually finds out is that there are some people with similar gifts who, in an attempt to achieve immortality, need to keep eating the eyeballs of gifted children. Yes, well, this is a Tim Burton film, after all.

One of the things I did enjoy about this film, besides the acting, the story and the score, was also a bit of the attention to detail in keeping the story plausible. A big question that could have been asked would be “Hey, if Jake is able to go back in time, how come he just doesn’t drag his unbelieving father with him?” Because the portal only works for people with a special gift, and Jake’s gift is that he’s able to see the invisible monsters that threaten them all. I also enjoyed how everyone interacted with each other, even the asshole bully Enoch, whose gift is being able to animate lifeless beings by supplying them with hearts (as I said, this is a Tim Burton film).

Unlike a typical X-Men film, the action in this film was saved primarily for the last third of the film, but I didn’t mind. I was able to fully absorb myself in this film, and even if the running time a bit long, I didn’t mind. It really did feel as though everything I was watching made sense, and there was very little in the way of padding. This is not a film for small children to watch (while watching the film, I was wondering if my 7 year old daughter would be able to see this film; after seeing some of the stuff in this film, I decided that she could wait), but it is a nice film to enjoy when you want something different than the usual superhero fare.

 

Spolier-filled review: One thing that did keep nagging at me after watching the film was the ending. In the end, Jake is able to change things around so that his grandfather is still alive when he comes back again to 2016. Jake’s grandfather then hands him the information he meant to give to Jake on his birthday, telling him to go back to where Emma, one of the children whom he began to care about, who was stuck in a different time loop in the 1940s. Jake went back, knowing he would be giving up his life in 2016 to be with Emma, since Emma couldn’t stay for long in 2016 without rapidly aging and dying. However, that also begs a question: Although Jake’s dad is, for lack of a better term, a loser (he keeps trying to write a book about birds, then glumly gives up when he thinks someone else will write a better book than him), I would imagine that Jake’s father and mother would be worried where he was. How could Jake just run off for who knows how long like that? I mean, even if his dad is a loser, still…

Bridget Jones’s Baby

Bridget Jones’s Baby

Rating: 2.5/4

Twitter review: 9 months is a long time to wait for a baby. It’s also a bit of a drag having to wait before some of the laughs come out.

Spoiler-free review: Bridget Jones is like one of those friends whom you haven’t seen in ages, who you can take delight in by sitting back and having a few drinks and enjoying their presence. But then after awhile, you start to realize that maybe all those years of not seeing them wasn’t the worst thing in the world, seeing as how long it can take to get to a point.

Renee Zellweger is back as Bridget Jones, now in her 40s but not yet fully in mid-life crisis mode. At the end of the second film it was heavily implied that she was finally going to cross the finish line and marry Colin Firth’s Mark Darcy, especially after having spent two films figuring out if she was going to be with him or with Hugh Grant’s Daniel Cleaver. Sadly, Daniel is killed off screen, and we’re caught up with the fact that Mark had married someone else when Bridget and Mark attend Daniel’s funeral (why Mark would attend this funeral is never really explained, other than it was ‘proper’ – shorthand for “We know he has no real reason for being here, but we needed some excuse to get him on the screen”). Bridget, producer of a news program that is more about sensationalism than news, is convinced to go to a music festival with her friend and the anchor of the news program Miranda. While at the music festival, she winds up meeting Jack, who is handsome (though he never loses his five o’clock shadow during the whole film) and the two have sex together before Bridget leaves. A week later, she bumps again into Mark, who reveals that he’s divorcing his wife, and THEY wind up having sex together.

It should be no shocker, based on the title of the film, that Bridget is soon pregnant. Except she doesn’t know which of the two is the father. This is made all the more hard for her when she finds out that Jack is Jack Quant, author of an algorithm that is supposed to predict whether two people are a match for each other (I’m convinced the writers came up with this name solely so they could come up with the cringe-inducing name ‘Quantum Leap’ for his book and website) and who has a book out which makes him also very rich. And rather than run the minimal risk that something might happen to her baby while determining who the father might be, Bridget decides to at first keep both men in the dark about the other – until that plan doesn’t work either.

Patrick Dempsey does a decent job as Jack, being a potential love interest to Bridget. He’s kind, he’s thoughtful, and even when he finds out about Mark, he’s still willing to go to yoga class with Mark and Bridget, having a bit of fun by pretending that Mark is his lover and Bridget is the surrogate. The problem with Jack, though, is that for Bridget to still want to be with Mark, Jack has to be a bit of an asshole. Which he is for part of the film. But the big weakness is that he’s not Hugh Grant’s Daniel asshole. There was a moment in the film when I thought Mark and Jack would wind up throwing punches at each other, reminiscent of the fights Mark and Daniel had in the first two films. But nothing. Which is a bit of a shame, because Bridget tends to dither and the film drags a lot while trying to figure out how to wring laughs out of two men who won’t fight for their potential son.

In short, if you liked the first two Bridget Jones films, you should enjoy this one well enough. But like that friend, you may be wondering why you’re still putting up with some of the silliness.

 

Spolier-filled review: When I mentioned before that the film tends to drag, the opposite is true for the last 20 minutes or so. The filmmakers, clearly not wanting to have riots on their hands, want to tie everything up in a nice little bow. So rather than imply anything, we actually get to see Bridget marrying Mark. And we’re told that Bridget’s baby is Mark’s. And Jack is still a happy member of Bridget’s life, acting like best buddies with Mark. And just for good measure – Daniel is revealed to be alive! Though the filmmakers were so rushed to show a newspaper showing this news, they neglected to figure out that Daniel’s having been missing for a year would mean he would have turned up around the time when Bridget had given birth, NOT one year after that when Bridget and Mark finally get married. I don’t know why Hugh Grant decided not to bother showing up for this film, but if they do try and make a fourth film, they better get Daniel to show up for that one. Maybe then there will be some proper fireworks.

Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster Jenkins

Rating: 2.5/4

Twitter review: Meryl Streep is, as usual, wonderful to watch. It’s too bad she’s playing a character who can’t sing and is stuck with a boring Hugh Grant.

Spoiler-free review: While I was watching this film, I had to keep thinking of a different Meryl Streep film, Postcards From The Edge. In that film, Meryl plays an actress who is battling drug addiction while having to live with her boozy mother played by Shirley MacLaine. Towards the end of the film, we see that Shirley’s character has to wear a wig (or a scarf wrapped around her head in a pinch) because she has so little actual hair, and that film closes with Meryl singing “I’m Checking Out”. So I know that Meryl can sing. And she can act (I still have a bit of a crush on her, but that would be more Meryl from 30 years ago) [Gad, that makes me feel old!]. So it’s to her credit that she is able to pull off playing a character who is awful at singing, but completely oblivious about it.

The film is about the title character, Florence Foster Jenkins. Being someone with a sizeable amount of cash, she is able to live in her own world, which includes being patron to a wealthy club and having Hugh Grant’s St. Clair Bayfield as her husband. Bayfield makes sure that only good reviews are printed of Florence, while living with his mistress Kathleen in an apartment in Brooklyn. When Florence decides to take singing lessons, she hires Cosme McMoon, a pianist who spends most of the film nervously trying to keep his mouth shut so he can continue to collect the money he’s earning. After awhile, Florence decides that she wants to sing on the stage of Carnegie Hall. Fearful that this will puncture the perfect world Florence is living in, Bayfield has to first try and convince Florence not to go through with this, then has to try and help Florence and Cosme come to terms with the show they are about to put on.

Meryl Streep does a very good job in making you believe she is someone who cannot sing. The only problem here is that there are a lot of minutes devoted to Florence singing arias from Mozart and others way off key (when she began singing The Queen Of The Night’s aria, for a few seconds I was thinking of the scene in the film Amadeus, one of my favorite films; that moment came to a shattering end when Meryl’s Florence sings the high notes way off key). The other problem I have with this film is Hugh Grant. He’s a good enough actor, and he’s not bad in this film, but I never quite felt like he truly loved Florence, as the film eventually tries to make you believe. There is one brief moment when he’s in a bar with Kathleen and he hears a record Florence had made, and tries to take the record back. But that is really the only moment when I could believe that he had feelings for Florence, other than his grip on her money.

 

Spolier-filled review: Being a feature film and not a documentary, this film takes some artistic licenses with Florence’s end, as well as Bayfield’s relationship with Katherine. According to Wikipedia, Bayfield actually married Katherine after Florence died. Whether they had a relationship while Florence was alive or not, I don’t know, but the film tries to make Bayfield the one who is controlling the money as much as possible. It might have made for a bit more of an interesting take had the film let Florence be more in control of her money, and let Bayfield perhaps sweat a bit more about Florence finding out about his affair.

Similarly, the big reveal that Florence had been carrying her will around in her briefcase the whole time was a bit boring. I would have liked to have seen pages of musical notes coming out of the bag. After all, Florence had actual talent with music. She just couldn’t sing. It’s too bad for her she lived when she did, and not 60 years later. She might have been able to be a patron to William Hung.