Archive for the 'Movie Review' Category

A Day Late and a Dollar Short: the Accountant

My wife and I are avid movie-goers even in the age of Netflix, Hulu, and HBO GO. There is something about the group experience in the theater, the energy, the big screen, and the popcorn. Can’t do a movie without the popcorn which is also our little way of making sure the theater industry can keep going.

This series of articles will be my movie reviews. We often watch movies at the second-run theater to economize so I don’t think any of my reviews should be considered spoiler-rich because if you haven’t seen the movie after six weeks of release, you’re fair game.

I rate movies by the number of “ticket stubs” (0 to 5) symbolizing if it was good enough to go see again.

The Accountant

Summary: Ben Affleck stars as Christopher Wolff, an autistic accountant who does accounting forensics for some of the worst people on the planet: drug kingpins wanting to know where that extra $100M went but unable to trust anyone in their own organization. Surprisingly he’s also got other crazy skills including being a crack sniper and a martial artist.

Review: (5 out of 5 ticket stubs)

What seems like a premise that is difficult to believe or like a knockoff of Jason Bourne, really comes off solidly in this movie. Wolff’s abilities and his autism are carefully established through flashbacks. Plot twists are prepared early and surprise late so they feel right. Wolff can do many things but also has difficult in social situations and it appears that romance is “undiscovered country” for him.

It really makes me realize how movies are not this well constructed. There is drama, suspense, secrets, and action that all make sense. I’d say 90% of the movies my wife and I see have us talking about them afterward, usually identifying hanging questions or plot holes. We couldn’t find anything wrong with the Accountant and she let me know about a clue that I’d missed while watching it.

I’d recommend this movie to anyone but especially those who like some action in their movie and a plot that never felt like a retread.

Movie Review: Boy Wonder

Sometimes from tragedy something amazing is born.  Imagine a boy, shocked by the violent death of a parent.  As he grows toward manhood, he hones his body and mind to prepare himself for pursuit of his mother’s killer.  Cloaked, he acts only at night, slowly catching the attention of the police as he faces down vicious criminals.  Now give that movie a title, “Boy Wonder”, and you expect a good if slightly derivative superhero origin story.

That’s not what we have here.  In fact, the title is a bit of misdirection like much of this tightly-scripted, dark, vigilante thriller.  Although the movie might have intention to portray the tragic boy, Sean Donovan, as a gritty comic book hero, the character lacks Batman’s moral code that keeps him from becoming just like the criminals he targets.  The tagline on the poster, “Beware the Hero”, is appropriate and contributes to the superhero/thriller misdirection.  Again, if you put any superhero notions aside and watch the film for what it is giving you, you’ll be rewarded.

The movie is dark and violent.  The acting is all top notch with a special nod to Daniel Stewart Sherman in a role which could have come across as something much less three-dimensional.  The plot is creative and engaging.  You keep trying to get a step ahead of it.  I don’t want to step in any spoilers but the beautiful Zulay Henao gives a rich performance as the cop in the cop/vigilante dance with the film’s lead, Caleb Steinmeyer.

As to the look of the film, most of the scenes are gritty and realistic with typical cinematic touches to the flashback scenes.  The locations feel true to the story and the movie was filmed in Brooklyn and New York City by natives, not farmed out to faux New Yorks of Toronto or elsewhere.  That really helps the feel of it all especially when the events of the story could easily be re-interpreted in the unrealistic lens of superhero comics.  The setting keeps the plot firmly grounded in reality.

So I would recommend the movie with 4.5 stars for adult audiences only.  Just don’t expect to see do-gooders in tights capturing colorful villains.  More information at the film’s website.

Movie Review: Kick-Ass

Okay, I think I’ve made it quite clear that I’m a comic book junkie and a comic book movie junkie.  So the trailers for Kick-Ass looked pretty interesting.  Take a kid in our world who wonders why no one becomes a superhero. Give him a run-in with muggers and the hood of a car that leaves him with metal plates in half his body and a lot of screwed up nerve endings.  That’s a super as he gets, physically.  His ability?  The ability to get beat up a lot and keep going.  He runs into other new super heroes and attracts the attention of a real bad guy, a drug lord hiding behind a lumber company as his front.

I read a couple of the comics before the movie, but I didn’t read the graphic novel (which sits on my shelf waiting to be read) before going to the movie.  I wasn’t totally surprised that the movie put in the amount of violence, blood, and gore that it did, but just pretty disappointed.  I know they were “staying true to the comic book” but it was like watching Quentin Tarantino as a teenager trying to make a movie.  It was just over the top.  I guess maybe the same people who can sit through Hostel and Saw would probably not have a problem with Kick Ass, but in my doddering opinion, it just wasn’t necessary.  Effort put into having people’s heads blow up in your face might have been put in giving any of the characters some heart or depth.  Only Nicholas Cage’s whack-job of an obsessed father (Big Daddy) had you caring what happened to him.  The rest had the emotional investment of characters in a teenage sex farce.

I wanted the movie to be good.  I always want the movie to be good.  I watch movies looking for the good stuff.  But some movies bring so much of the bad that even the stuff they do well gets lost.  There was a good movie to be made here, but director Matthew Vaughn’s third attempt at directing falls far short.  (But looking him up on imdb explains a lot… he was a producer for two of Guy Ritchie’s British gang films: Snatch; and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.  He directed a wannabe Guy Ritchie film called Layer Cake which didn’t live up to the promise.  Shoulda cribbed more notes from Guy.)

Movie Review: Guy Ritchie’s Batman

I just saw the Batman movie that Guy Ritchie made.  It really nailed some of the aspects that no other Batman flick ever got right…

Of course, I’m talking about “Sherlock Holmes”, which is a silly alias to hide his work from DC Comics’ lawyers.  Okay, what am I blathering about?  Well, he got some of the Holmes and Watson stuff right, the CGI was excellent for that period of London, the case was suitably mysterious with overtones of dark magic and the fall of the British government.  The parts that seemed quite Batman-ish were as follows.

  1. The Fellow Can Take a Punch: This version of Sherlock Holmes, through his intense study of human anatomy and physics, is a remarkable hand to hand fighter.  He’s also quite well-muscled and strong.  There is a dose of James Bond in there as he battles one unnaturally strong and durable henchman of the villain.
  2. The Most Brilliant Mind: Although the style is a bit different, the same supremely analytical mind is present in both Sherlock Holmes and Batman, the same way of investigating a crime scene and detecting the faintest aroma of a rare chemical only used in the manufacture of a certain thing in a certain place in a certain time… and the encyclopedic knowledge to readily recognize it.
  3. Catwoman: Okay, in this movie, they call her Irene Adler but I assume that is an anagram for Selina Kyle, though I haven’t cracked that one yet.  The consummate thief and female criminal, Irene is the one Sherlock failed to catch, twice.  She seems to be the only match for him and the attraction between the two is palpable, though they remain restrained and un-united so the attraction doesn’t catch the screen on fire.
  4. Watson = Robin+Alfred: Okay, he’s Sherlock’s investigation partner and combat ally in all his melees which is Robin, but he’s got the military background and skills of a doctor, hence Alfred’s role.  He’s there to give Sherlock someone to explain things to so we, the audience, ‘get it’.  Robin and Alfred serve the same role, otherwise Batman would nearly never speak and we’d have no idea what he was doing and how he solved the case.
  5. Drama, Drama, Drama: It’s a big budget, action-thriller so it has to have drama.  A fight high atop the unfinished London Bridge… the villain falling to his death not by our hero’s hand but by fate… A convoluted plot involving a bomb which has to be deactivated with only moments to spare… I could go on, but the movie delivers the plot devices required to make all this relevant.

Overall, I enjoyed the film.  I’d been conditioned that it was a “bad” Sherlock Holmes film so my expectations were low.  Yes, he diverted from classic Holmes, but not in any way that I found distasteful.  Moriarty raises his sinister head, and Sherlock has ample opportunity to display his famous ‘eye for detail’.  I am not a huge Holmes aficionado but I think most people would enjoy the movie.

Grade: B

Movie Review: Book of Eli

Just got back from a screening of “The Book of Eli”, a post-apocalyptic drama starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, and Jennifer Beals.  The story is set in a world 30 years after a war “tore a hole in the sky, let the sun came down and burned the earth.”  The devastated, near black and white landscape hosts a smattering of thugs, refugees, cannibals, bandits, and wanderers.  Things from the “time before” are prized, from bullets and books to handi-wipes.  Water is very scarce and those who control clean water control people.

Eli is one of those wanderers with an almost supernatural ability to defend himself.  Here the movie is very explicit in the violence: cutting off hands, shooting people in heads, cutting off heads, etc.  It is not for kids (though sadly I saw several families with small children in the audience).  It isn’t as over-the-top gore as say a Tarantino flick, but they show you the battle and then let it rest.

The setup feels very much like a “western”.  The lone wanderer comes into a town, becomes a threat to the boss, and is targeted by a long string of thugs and soldiers.  The source of the conflict is a book that Eli is carrying, sent on a divine mission by a voice in his head.  The boss wants the book to reinforce his hold over his people and expand to more towns.

One Easter Egg in the film that I enjoyed was a movie poster for “A Boy and His Dog” (1975, Don Johnson as the lead) set in a very, very similar post-apocalyptic future.

Overall, the movie was satisfying and it certainly gave me a lot of ideas for running a post-apocalyptic game.  I’m thinking of writing a “Gaming the Movies” column based on this film.

Grade: B+