Film reviews: “Arrival”, “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates”, and “Jason Bourne”

The main 2 rules of gambling are: 1) Go with your gut and 2) Don’t be a hero, just win money. 

arrivalposterToday’s reviews are going to focus on rule 1.  When I saw the preview for “Arrival,” I said aloud, “Who gives a shit?  This is Jodie Foster’s Contact 2.0.”  And the reviews started to come in: Rotten Tomatoes loved it, some of my friends loved it, Amy Adams is going to win the Academy Award….you get the idea.  I figured since I was wrong about “Dr. Strange,” I decided to give it a go.  

So I did give it a shot.  I even saw it in the theater as other reviewers said you MUST see it in its purest form.  Amy Adams plays a master linguist who is called to service and communicate when alien spaceships land in many different countries.  Forest Whittaker and his lazy eye play an Army officer who recruits her for the position.  Tiny Jeremy Renner plays a scientist that goes with Adams to facilitate the communication betweens the aliens and Adams. And director Denis Villeneuve (did Sicario and LOVED it) is at the helm.

This film is better than Contact was but I have to admit, I was underwhelmed.  The ending was different than expected but not enough for me to pull a 180 on this film.  Just like Seinfeld, a lot of people found this to be fantastic and I’m just not with it.  You’ve seen the same plot before: aliens land on Earth, humans attempt to make contact, humans make headway, another nation wants to attack the aliens because they don’t want to wait for first strike, conflict arises, will the aliens destroy humanity or do we take them out first?

This film is alright, save your 15 bucks and watch at home.  6/10

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Trivia question: What do you a comedy that isn’t funny?  Answer: a Wes Anderson film.  BOOM!  Taking no prisoners, that’s for goddamn sure!  “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” is loosely based on the true story of 2 brothers who were told by their parents to bring wedding dates to their sister’s wedding in Hawaii after countless family gathering were ruined by the boys.  Zac Efron stars as one of the brothers who needs to make sure his shirt is off in at least 73% of the scene.  Anna Kendrick co-stars as a scorned bride who was left at the alter who makes it her life’s work to get on that free trip to Hawaii.  I did notice Stephanie Faracy (the mom in Great Outdoors) plays the boys’ mom and between plastic surgery and aging, Father Time has given her a vicious right uppercut to her work calendar.

When this preview came out, I said, “This COULD be that summer R-rated comedy of the year.”  And I wasn’t enamored by the preview and the reviews were as kind as a 24″ inch waist is to Rebel Wilson.  So, I watched it for free with the free (cable company which doesn’t sponsor me) points I’ve accrued.  You know a film is bad when you turn it off after 45 minutes AND YOU GOT IT FOR FREE.  I think I semi-chuckled twice, which is double the times I laughed at “Napoleon Dynamite” or any other Jack Black comedy.  Nothing gets me like a solid R-rated comedy but when the punchlines are softer than any Drake song, you lost me.  This film is dogshit and I was SHOCKED that it actually turned a profit. Anna Kendrick has a weird face and it’s funny to see her attempting to be sexy.  She’s perfect as Clooney’s protege in, “Up in the Air” and from what I saw while changing the channel, good in those, “Pitch Perfect” films.  Raunchy comedy, not her bag.  

I’d rather watch teens play in a video game tournament that finish watching this film.  2/10

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The first Jason Bourne film, solid.  The second, not so much.  The third, fantastic rebound and my favorite of the trilogy.  So when I read that Paul Greengrass (director of the 1st and 3rd films) was coming back to do the 4th Bourne and this time, I penciled this in to see in the theater.  Matt Damon reprises his title role, and we can wipe our memory banks clean of Jeremy Renner?  Cool, I’m in.  What scenes do you see over and over in the preview?  Damon dropping a dude with one punch and then yet another insane chase scene, this time on the Vegas strip.  Again, I’m in.

And then the reviews came in: nothing positive and pretty much all of them saying this was a hybrid of all 3 Damon films with no real original aspects of it.  So I didn’t see this in the theater as most of my friends confirmed these reviews.  I was going to see this and Suicide Squad in the same day and I’m glad I laid this hand down.  It’s the same recipe as all of the other films.  Hell, I think I can direct the next Bourne film.  Have an older white guy in a communications room, barking out orders to SWAT teams who are trying to locate Bourne for about 60% of the film.  The next 30% would be chase scenes mixed with a few hand-hand combat scenes.  The last 10% would be him trying yet again, to unearth even more backstory about how and why he was recruited to be an assassin. Give me 5 million bucks and the catalog rights to Moby’s, “Extreme Ways” so I can do the 234235th remix of that song and I’ll see you next summer with a 2 hour film that hopefully makes its money back.  

I again, used points from (cable company not paying to advertise with me) and didn’t pay a dollar for this film.  I wasn’t thrilled at all but hey, at least I made it all the way, unlike “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.” The Vegas chase scene does carry on a little too long.  The plot is murky and we’re again trying to figure out his character’s as well as his dad’s history with the Treadstone.  You end up not caring about this story about 20 minutes it.  “Bourne Ultimatum” did a fantastic job of wrapping up loose ends and answering all questions.  Greengrass should’ve ended on that high note cause this note cracks and falls flat. 

I’d rather watch all of the trailers for Rogue 1 (review next week) on an endless loop than watch this again.  4.5/10

Movie reviews: Jack Reacher: Never Look Back and Don’t Breathe

I know, you haven’t seen a film review from me in MONTHS.  That’s because there’s been mostly JACK SHIT (pun intended for today’s review) leading back to Captain America 3 in May.  I thought about it yesterday; I haven’t seen anything in the theater for 3 months.  That’s an INSANELY long absence for a film buff like me but I’m refusing to pay 15 bucks for mediocrity.   “Jack Reacher: Never Look Back” came out yesterday and I really enjoyed the first one so I said fuck it, let’s do a double dip and also see Sully.  Well, NJ transit reared their ugly head yet again and got me to a voiceover audition 25 minutes late which also fucked up my film schedule.  So I called an audible and also checked out, “Don’t Breathe.”

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JR2 is a follow up to the hugely popular book series, Jack Reacher.  They didn’t start with Reacher’s first book for the first film nor do they for this film.  Don’t worry, if you didn’t see the first film or read the books, you won’t be lost at all.  The biggest discrepancy between the books and films is that in the books, Jack Reacher is 6’4″, blonde hair, blue eyes, and 250 lbs of muscle.  And then playing Reacher in the films is Tom Cruise who is very much the opposite of 6’4.”  I swear at one point in a hotel room scene with Cobie Smulders, I thought he was standing on a platform to be at her eye level.

Cruise plays Reacher, a former MP who pretty much just roams the country where he keeps in touch with Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) and when he comes to visit her, find out she’s been locked up for treason.  Reacher believes in his friend so he breaks her out so she can prove her innocence and then gets involved into a web of selling US weaponry mixed in with mercenaries.  Action scenes ensure, Tom Cruise runs like he’s mimicking the T-1000 from Terminator 2, and of course, more than your fair share of cutesy poo action film cliches.

I read the book a few years ago but I don’t recall anything except that in the book, Reacher and Turner have “relations.”  Maybe Cruise wanted to keep this PG-13, maybe he didn’t want to fake his way through heterosexual love scenes, who knows.  Does it affect the plot? Of course not.

I had no desire to see the first film in the theater when I saw the trailers because it looked like every blasé action film.  I was pleasantly surprised when I did catch the first JR.  The second trailer was presented just like the first, nothing to get you excited to drop $15 for.  Was I as pleasantly surprised with this one?  Not really.  This film is fine, Cruise does a solid job in 75% of his films.  There are some good action scenes but nothing you haven’t seen before.  Cruise doesn’t push the envelope like he does with the Mission Impossible films.  Then again, if you read the Reacher books, he’s not a glitzy action hero.  You can totally wait for Netflix for this one but if you’re dying to get out of the house and see something, you can see this without feeling ripped off.  If it’s either this or “Madea blackmails Hollywood into funding another film”, always go with couch jumping Cruise.

I’ll give it a 6.5 out of 10.

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Again, NJ transit torpedoed my schedule yet again this week so I didn’t get a chance to see Sully.  Instead, I chose a film that did well at the box office but more importantly, got a lot of solid reviews.  That was the suspense film, “Don’t Breathe.”  A trio of Detroit dirtbags (I know, I’m redundant when I say that) enjoy breaking into people’s homes and pilfering valuables.  Out of the gates, I had a problem with these establishing scenes because they’re the sloppiest criminals.  The lead actress lays in the bed of the house they break into.  Sure, leave a few hair strands as evidence so you can get picked up by the cops in 3 days, that’s logical thinking.  Didn’t any of these kids see “the Town” where they shower and buzz their hair?  Or “The Departed” where Marky Mark shows up to kill Matt Damon in scrubs from head to toe?  It’s obvious no one will ever recruit people from Detroit to be in MENSA.  The guys also walk around with reckless abandon and in reality, this film should’ve been 13 minutes long.

Barring those gaping holes in the believability factor, this film does get better.  The gang gets word that a blind, Gulf War veteran is sitting on 300k in cash he got from a payout when his daughter was accidentally killed.  They break in to rob the place and of course, things don’t go as planned.  I guess the rule of thumb is never underestimate a blind guy who’s been trained by the military…except Ben Affleck’s Daredevil, the story of a blind superhero.  True story, Mike? (Insert Mike and the Mad Dog reference?  Check.)  A few twists and turns, a few buttonhole puckering scenes, and the obligatory smash cuts with loud sound effects to make you jump take place,  and you’re out of the theater in 95 minutes.

This film was fine as well.  Can you watch it on netflix and feel just as satiated, no question.  But it was at least more original than the dogshit reboots we’ve seen.  It’s enjoyable and again, between this or Madea (Or as I call her, Black Tootsie), this is a no brainer.

I give it a 7 out of 10.