Quick Movie Review: City Slickers

city slickers

I always say that even the worst movie is good if it has Billy Crystal in it. And although Crystal helps make this film what it is, along with a great supporting cast, it’s really a nice story. It’s about a man’s second coming-of-age and it’s about camaraderie and second chances.

The comedy is slightly irreverent and jarring, as it is partially a satire. It juxtaposes tragedy with humor, but that goes along with the film’s theme of “That’s life!” And although the intermittent jokes may disrupt and off-put the film’s tone at times, the build up to the 3rd act is well worth the wait.

Even if the humor is not for you, the story is undeniably charming. If I ever get to the point in my life where I’m facing a midlife crisis, I will be sure to queue up City Slickers.

For a comedy, the writing in this movie is superb. There aren’t any silly plot holes or goofs that stand out. This film just doesn’t do anything to annoy you.

With circumstances that are easily related to and fun in-jokes you feel like you’re on the journey with them. And as someone who hasn’t yet gotten to their midlife crisis, this movie makes me realize that it won’t be so bad.

Twizard Rating: 96

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Quick Movie Review: The Imitation Game

imitation game

I was really looking forward to watching this movie. How bad can a film about decrypting a Nazi war tool be? I failed to realize that it was more of a film about Alan Turing, himself.

It’s a dual story, explaining how England government is secretly trying to decrypt the Nazi’s Enigma code, while also acting as a character study of Alan Turing himself. My biggest issue with The Imitation Game is the filmmakers ‘decision to put Turing’s personal struggles and stopping Nazi Germany on the same importance level.

Throughout the film there are many chronological lapses back and forth in time. Although jumping around in the timeline may serve a grander purpose, we almost always prefer remaining at the time during the war when Enigma is being cracked. Maybe this is because the flashing back and forth is only there as testament to Turing as a person–not to parallel the issue with the Nazis.

When character studies are concluded we’re meant to understand the character on a level that we thought not to be possible. But at the end of this film, we are still left at a cold distance away from him. And this is a trend, as there are no characters in this movie that we actually like–an issue that plagues many a potentially great film. While The Imitation Game is a great war drama, the character study is lacking that warmth, and ultimately this film, at times, becomes as hard to connect with as its main protagonist.

The script, although filled with superb dialogue, features confusing plot points, which aren’t helped by the time-lapse narrative.

But this film does do many things right. Benedict Cumberbatch is terrific as Turing, and the supporting cast does a great job too. On the technical side, the set pieces and design are great to look at, and the score has heightened awareness. This film does everything correctly in those minute aspects. My biggest issues just come from within the script. However, overall, it isn’t a bad movie by any means. It just isn’t a great one.

Twizard Rating: 83

Quick Movie Review: Finding Nemo

finding nemo

The visuals are just serene in this 2003 Pixar installment. We get a great story of love, sacrifice, and acceptance. The film already captures our attention in the first act with some tragic events. But the great thing is, we’re sucked in despite the absence of the movie’s great characters. This is back when Pixar, much to our good fortune, used to rely on its plethora of fun characters. While nowadays they’re just seeming to become less musical Disney films. But Finding Nemo is when Pixar first started making its influence of Shrek known. The jokes become more abundant–both subtle and forthright. The comedy took greater risks and involved more self-parody and a little more potty humor. Before Shrek, animated movies were all trying to mimic what Toy Story did–provide us with a very classy story and warm comedy. And nowadays those films strive to find a happy balance between Toy Story and Shrek.

But Finding Nemo doesn’t shy away from warmth either. The oceanic cinematography makes you feel like you’re in the ocean as well. You even develop a good sense of direction of where everything is.

The characters are about as deep as you can go in an animated movie–with the exception, maybe, being Toy Story.

There’s not really anything that doesn’t work. This is an amazing family film that both parents and kids will enjoy. Another Pixar classic.

Twizard Rating: 100

Quick Movie Review: American Sniper

american sniper

If you want a film about a guy who you can relate to, this film might not be for you. American Sniper prides itself on finding complexities from such a simple person. It proves that even the most unvarnished soul can have the most intricate internal conflicts.

And if you’re looking for a film that’s going to be inspirational and moving, this film is not for you. This isn’t Saving Private Ryan. It’s going to leave you slightly speechless and feeling funny. It’s a film that is built to teach you about a life that has lived–a complicated life to say the very least. It’s a peek inside the life of the most lethal sniper in U.S. history and how he grew as a person throughout his life, and how the military changed him.

Bradley Cooper is fantastic as U.S. Navy Seal, Chris Kyle. He gets the character and commits fully, which serves the purpose of this film tremendously.

What we have is a movie that doesn’t waste time with very many subplots. Instead, it uses the few elements that it has and intertwines all of them so that it becomes one big tangible object. The character arc is so dynamic that you almost become Chris. You feel his conflicts and you don’t blame him for being detached and aloof. You’ve seen what he’s seen. The thing with war films is that they’re hardly ever predictable. You might know what’s going to happen, but you never know how. So this helps you move along the journey with Chris even better. Except finally, when Chris is at home, yet feels like he has to go back to the war, you realize that after all you had been through you would never want to go back there. You realize where you and Chris differ. And at that point you slip back into reality for a moment and remember that it’s just a movie. But this clarity is necessary in order for you to further understand his character. How messed up must he have been in order to feel the need to go back? He’s hearing his dad’s wolf speech in his head still. American Sniper does the best thing possible to make you understand a character. It makes you the character and then pulls you away in order to see the contrast. It’s brilliant!

When I grade a film I look at the intentions of the director. And it’s a joy to see the exact film that the filmmakers wanted to make. It came out entirely how they wanted it. You can’t knock it for that.

Twizard Rating: 100

Quick Movie Review: The Wedding Ringer

wedding ringer

Between predicting every move before it happens and watching the characters make decisions that are so implausible you need to put your hand out, it seems like this movie is destined for eye rolling. But with a premise that begs all kinds of questions before our butts are even in the seats, you must already know what you’re getting into.

We have Doug (Josh Gad)–occupation: something that gives him the ability to spend $50,000 on a whim right before his wedding without worrying that his future wife will notice. He has no friends and is trying to show his fiancé that he is worthy of her marriage. Then we have Jimmy (Kevin Hart)–occupation: a wedding ringer who is hired by grooms who have no friends (or Facebook accounts) to deceive their fiancés into thinking that he is their best man. He is hired by Doug to pull of a Golden Tux–a service package which requires Jimmy to find 7 groomsmen for Doug.

After sitting through a semi-slow setup that finds itself fishing for jokes, we get the typical antic-driven premise, much similar to The Hangover. But when you want consistent farce, you mostly get filler scenes, such as the groomsmen versus old men in mud tackle football, a dance montage between Doug and Jimmy, and a bachelor party scene that is pretty empty up until the end. Then the predictable happens, where Doug becomes smitten with a call girl from his bachelor party. But even though we predicted it, we didn’t see this happening until Doug had a REASON to fall out of love with his fiancé, Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting). At this point, the audience had no physical cue to sense that this was going to happen. And the character acts as if he knows he is going to fall out of love with Gretchen before he even has any reason to.

Although we all know what’s going to happen and how this movie is going to end, we don’t dislike it. And the reason for that is the humor. It’s so smart and witty, with compliments to director, Jeremy Garelick, who makes up for his story arc mistakes with sharp cuts that help the jokes reach their maximum potential. Kevin Hart and Josh Gad are good together and display chemistry. However, I would have liked to have seen a better utilization of Gad as the straight-man. But where it’s used, it’s really funny. The group of groomsmen hired by Jimmy make you laugh-on-site as they all shine wonderfully without taking away from the stars.

While this film may be painfully unrealistic and ridiculously predictable, it has some touching moments and will no doubt make you laugh out loud a lot.

Twizard Rating: 76

Quick Movie Review: Paddington

paddington

Paddington is a very old school family film, which is a good thing. It doesn’t meddle with juvenile humor or cheap gags–save for maybe a brief wall-scaling incident. But it remains honest to its purpose of bringing the beloved book series to life on the big screen without sacrificing its integrity for a “21st century touch”.

Yeah, sure, it’s completely predictable, but we really don’t care. Paddington is just too lovable and this story is just so sweet and innocent. And there aren’t really any concerning plot holes, which are common in films of this nature.

I did notice that it borrows heavily–whether intentionally or not–from 1992’s Beethoven. However, that film was so long ago that Paddington still receives it’s own identity from having such a great backstory and a charming lead.

Most of all, the movie never tries to be anything that it’s not. It’s classy and refreshing.

Twizard Rating: 96

Quick Movie Review: The Interview

interview

Amidst the controversy of a film that was more famous prior to its release than Star Wars VII, you sort of have a fear in anticipation of seeing this movie. Will they find me and kill me for purchasing a ticket? Am I contributing to an act of war? Maybe I’m just paranoid. Nonetheless I’m glad I decided to take the risk.

Seth Rogen sure knows how to stay relevant. Part of that reason is the fact that he still refuses to sit back and become complacent. No. He still takes risks with comedy and with his career. And it’s never been more evident than with his current piece of work. He, partnered with Evan Goldberg, loves asking “what if?” while answering it just as eloquently.

Besides it’s edgy nature–as we all know the general plot–this film eventually moves beyond predictable, down a rabbit hole where anything could be at the bottom.

It’s not so much of a political commentary because they’re telling us everything we already know, but it’s the smartest film they have written to date. Their maturity level goes up another notch. They tone down the potty humor in favor of a much smarter straight-man/banana-man schtick.

And it’s the most consistently funny comedy that I’ve seen in awhile–along the lines of Jonah Hill’s 21 Jump Street adaptation. What’s typical with films of this genre is that the 1st act usually fills itself with rapid fire jokes, while the rest of the film focuses more on story and less on humor (e.g. Dumb and Dumber or Caddyshack). But The Interview manages to keep you laughing AND equally engaged in the unpredictable story at the same time.

There’s not a lot that doesn’t work. Maybe we could see some better character growth, but when it comes down to it we don’t feel robbed of anything as the credits roll.

Rogen and Goldberg definitely have a knack for good ideas, and it’s clear through their direction of this film. They take chances with the action and they’re never afraid to ask each other, “What if we [blank]?” They outdid themselves, as this is their best piece of work yet.

Twizard Rating: 95

Quick Movie Review: Hot Tub Time Machine

hot tub time machine

Upon watching this movie for the second time in preparation for the sequel, I’ve realized how funny it really is. Although much of the humor is subtle, the situations are priceless. For a film that seems fairly shallow and silly, it digs pretty deep and even gives off a grandiose vibe. The cast plays well together and feed off each other well. Those who are nostalgic about the ’80s will also appreciate this film as it gives plenty of nods to the decade.

While the jokes are sharply written and aren’t simply dependent on one-liners, the dialogue could be a little less vulgar. Not that it bothers me a whole lot, but it feels as if a 16-year old boy wrote much of the characters’ responses to one another. When cursing isn’t used to enhance the dialogue it becomes distracting and a seemingly cheap way to get laughs from teens.

Other than that, I can’t complain too much about Hot Tub Time Machine because it never tries to be anything that it isn’t, and it’s a very unique addition to the comedy genre.

Twizard Rating: 89

Quick Movie Review: The Gambler (2014)

gambler2014

I can always use a good gambling movie. Unfortunately, this isn’t a gambling movie. The title may throw you off, but Mark Wahlberg’s character, Jim, even says so himself; “I’m not a gambler.” As disappointing as that is, I have to look past it. I have to take this movie for what it is–a story about a cynical realist who has a gloomy outlook on humanity and is struggling to rediscover his purpose. But he’s not actively looking for a reason to live, until a couple of them fall into his lap. He didn’t think he wanted a reason, but realized that sometimes you don’t have a choice. You can try to control every aspect of life, but you have no control over your heart.

And while the messages of The Gambler may be well intended, the execution is a different story. The dialogue, although smart and often funny, just sounds like every character is speaking directly from the writer’s mouth so that all of them are having the same supercilious conversation with themselves. Each character seems like an arrogant, vulgar Woody Allen.

Under the direction of Rupert Wyatt, the drama and suspense work outside of the actual gambling itself is impressive. But together with the DP, Wyatt seems to not understand the world of blackjack or basketball enough as a spectator. I typically become resilient when watching basketball movies because I understand the game too much that the slightest error annoys me. It’s laughable, but I let it slide a little here. But the movie is about gambling–blackjack to be specific–and the filmmakers continue to show us 1st person perspective while NOT giving us enough glimpses of the dealer’s hands. How can we adequately feel the suspense if we can’t see what Jim is seeing–or the rest of the table for that matter?

What works is Wahlberg’s interpretation of Jim. You can see in his eyes that he understands him, and that he and Jim are one in the same. You’re convinced.

The rest of the cast is great as well. Brie Larson, who always delivers her lines with such fluidity, and John Goodman, who is as intimidating as ever, are joys to watch on screen.

But regardless of how entertained you are, you might be disappointed, like me, that The Gambler isn’t really about gambling at all.

I heard the 1974 original is better anyway.

Twizard Rating: 74

Quick Movie Review: Night Shift

night shift

While this is a film that feels very dated, it doesn’t lack quality. Other than a setup that drags on forever, there isn’t too much wrong with this film. With that said, there also isn’t anything that makes it stand out from the pack either. Although it’s technically sound, it doesn’t have many traits that prevent it from being forgettable. The story may have been somewhat unique for the time period, but it’s not told in the grandiose fashion that we have become accustomed to in this era of film.

Henry Winkler and Shelley Long hold their ground pretty well here, but the highlight of the film is Michael Keaton who really keeps the film moving. You can’t take your eyes off of him, whether you like his character or not.

This is a great effort by Ron Howard and not a film that most people will hate, as it also gives us solid character development–especially with Winkler’s character. The script is acceptable and the music is a great mark of the times. While the characters in this film are very often stressed out and distraught, Night Shift brings you back to a much simpler decade.

Twizard Rating: 81