Review for Face/Off

FaceOff_(1997_film)_poster

Synopsis: A police captain goes undercover to stop the terrorists who murdered his son many years before.

Cast: John Travolta as Sean Archer, Nicolas Cage as Castor Troy, Joan Allen as Dr. Eve Archer

I guess I have a soft spot and/or occasional interest in thrillers from the 1990s. I was…..too young to be seeing any of these movies in theaters. My parents only let me watch an R-rated movie maybe once or twice. I don’t know. There’s just something about movies from that era. Fast-paced, crazy, over-the-top movies that also make you think. This time, I’m talking about Face/Off. Let’s get into the review.

mirror scene

It’s difficult to say who gave the better performance in Face/Off—Travolta or Cage. Both of them are very good actors.  Even though at least one of them has fallen from grace, somewhat. I think they both did great jobs playing both villains and good guys.  Well, good but frazzled, overworked guys.  But they were at their best when they had scenes together.  and there were plenty of those.  I wondered if they were/are friends in real life.  Probably not, but bravo gentlemen.  The other actors did a good job in their roles too.  But they weren’t particularly memorable.

It’s pretty rare to see actors play both the good guy and the bad in the same movie.  But…. read above paragraph.  I kinda wish that this kind of thing could be shown in movies more.  I guess they don’t because it’s too challenging?  Maybe?  The execution of the movie was very over-the-top, crazy and maybe a little nonsensical.  But none of that really matters because it works so well onscreen.  John Woo did an exceptional job directing this movie.  The writing was mostly very good too.  The action scenes are among the best I’ve seen in a movie.  So many breathtaking ones, it’s hard to choose which ones.  The very last scene?  The hangar scene?  Ugh!  So many good ones!  Fan nerd’s dream! I’d see a movie by this team again.

Over-the-top, insane but ultimately very entertaining, this was one action-packed, cling-on-the-edge-of-your-seat thrill ride.  It was never dull for one second, and it’s worth a million rewatches.  It never gets old.  I give Face/Off  a 8.5 out of 10.  I’d highly recommend it, and it’s available on Netflix or on online stores.

Review for “Nerve”

Nerve movie posterSynopsis:  A high school graduate plays an online reality game that changes her life forever.

 

Cast:  Emma Roberts as Vee, Dave Franco as Ian, Miles Heizer as Tommy

 

Venus–known mostly here as V– isn’t one to walk on the wild side.  A watcher in game speak.  She envies her best friend, Sydney, who is a self-described adrenalin junkie.   A player.  Sydney is popular on this online-reality game called “Nerve”.  Which is basically a game where you have to do a lot of dares, in front of an online audience.  After V gets rejected by a boy she likes, she impulsively decides to join “Nerve” as a player.  Will this be a major game changer for her?  Let’s find out.

 

Emma Roberts did a fantastic job as V.  She had the shy, never-taking-a-risk thing down pat.  I will say that I miss watching her be evil on Scream Queens.  I also liked her chemistry with Dave Franco.  Ian was a fun character to watch.  He’s great in his scenes without her, but their scenes together are the best.  Miles Heizer did a believable job as the computer nerd who worried about his best friend.  No other performances really stood out for me.

 

Oftentimes, teen movies are boring and predictable and, worst of all, very forgettable.  This one wasn’t.  I guess it’s because the whole take-a-risk thing is something people of all ages can relate to.  But it also reminds us that taking a risk isn’t always the best thing for us.  It can be foolish, too risky and even dangerous.  Nerve also showed many scenes of people in cliques, people who had a severe case of mob mentality.  We all know that conformity and being a sheep can be very, very bad.  It seems to be about becoming your own person, away from the crowd.  Good job, Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost.

 

The film certain had its imperfections, but overall, I thought it was good.  Intentionally or not, Nerve taught some good lessons.  I’d give it a 7 out of 10.  It’s on Hulu right now.

Review for “Molly’s Game”

Movie poster

Synopsis:  A former Olympic skier becomes a hyper-successful runner of gambling.

Cast:  Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom, Idris Elba as Charles Jaffrey, Kevin Costner as Larry Bloom

 

Did you know there was such a thing as professional gambling?  I always thought that gambling was just a leisurely thing, not some career.  Apparently, it is possible to gamble professionally.  The movie Molly’s Game is about a very popular game runner, Molly Bloom.  Her rise and fall.

Jessica Chastain was perfect for the role of Molly Bloom.  I’ve seen the real Molly Bloom on YouTube.  The mannerisms, the rapid-fire speech, the voice.  The voice!  Everything was spot-on.  It was a captivating performance from Chastain.  Also very good was Idris Elba, who played Charlie Jaffrey.  He was certainly charming and smart.  He and Chastain played off each other very well.  Interesting how his character had a couple of things in common with Molly’s father.  Speaking of which, great supporting performance by Kevin Costner, who plays Molly’s demanding father.  Especially the scene between the two of them at the end.

Aaron Sorkin is new to directing, but not-so-new to filmmaking. He’s written–or co-written–many of the movies people know and love.  This was a pretty impressive directorial debut.  I liked how he used nonlinear storytelling.  Usually, this is confusing for me.  But in Molly’s Game, it wasn’t.  It actually helped me to understand Molly better.  Her motivations and why she did what she did.  That would’ve happened in a more traditional setup, but this was better.  Also, this could’ve easily been a “glitz and glamor” type of story.  There’s certainly glitz and glamor in this movie.  (It is a movie partly about gambling, after all.).  But I liked how it was more a background thing.  The main focus was on Molly’s story.   But the cinematography was pretty good. Good job, cinematographers!

I think Molly was a very interesting character, but there were a few times where I was annoyed with her.  I tried to understand some of her actions, but it was hard to.  But the movie probably needed those scenes.

 

Ultimately, Molly’s Game is a fun, enjoyable ride.  It takes what could’ve been a drab, paint-by-numbers biopic and made it intriguing.  I’ll have to pick up the book sometime.  In the meantime, take a bet and go see Molly’s Game.  I’d give it an 8 out of 10.

Review for”Wonder Woman”

Review for”Wonder Woman”

Cast:  Gal Gadot as Diana/Wonder Woman, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta, Robin Wright as Antiope

Synopsis: A story about an Amazonian war princess who becomes the superhero Wonder Woman.

What’s one thing that superhero movies have in common?  It’s all of the remakes.  The vast majority of these movies have numerous remakes, rewrites and sequels.   The same can be said about most of today’s movies.  But anyways.  They’ve never done a Wonder Woman remake.  Not that I could find, at least. I was excited to learn that they’d be making one for Wonder Woman.  Plus I’m crazy about superhero movies.  So let’s begin our review.

 

For a while, the Interweb seriously doubted that Gal Gadot was right for the role of Wonder Woman.  Those reasons really didn’t make sense.  After seeing this movie, they made even less sense.  In fact, I thought she was absolutely perfect for the role.  She was able to play a woman who was incredibly strong, smart, vulnerable and very naive.  Often at the same time.  She was a lot of fun to watch.  I liked seeing her relationships in the movie, particularly with Steve.   Their love story was cute and unique.  Connie Nielsen was good as Hippolyta, Diana’s mother.  Robin Wright also shined big time as Antiope, Dana’s aunt/commander.  That first battle scene was amazing!  I wish there were more scenes with her.

I’ll admit that I don’t know much about the Marvel vs DC battle.  In fact, I’ve only watched one DC movie–Batman vs Superman.  It was good, but not memorable.  Director Patty Jenkins did a marvelous job with this movie.  I liked how she devoted a decent amount of time on Diana’s childhood.  Not the typical skimming of the childhood flashbacks we normally see in films like this.  Seeing Diana explore a different new world was also fun to watch.  Everything so new and exciting.  Speaking of exciting, let’s talk about those fight scenes!  Especially the first big one on the beach.  It was one of the best ones I’ve ever seen.  But why was the whole movie so (literally) dark?  That and the occasional slow pacing were the only problems with the movie.  They certainly didn’t keep me from enjoying out.

 

Overall, Wonder Woman was a brilliant, well-acted movie.  The best part is that we only have to wait until November to see Diana/Wonder Woman in another DC Comics film, Justice League.  Until then, I highly recommend Wonder Woman.  I give it a 9 out of 10.  It’s playing in theaters now.

Review for “Get Out”

Review for “Get Out”

Cast:  Daniel Kaluuya as Chris, Alison Williams as Rose, Lil Rel Howery as Rod, Catherine Keener as Missy Armitage, Bradley Whitford as Dean Armitage

 

Synopsis:  A young African-American man goes to meet his Caucasian girlfriend’s family–and it’s quite a bizarre trip.

There are some spoilers below…..

Every couple has their ‘meet the parents’ phase at some point.  Chris and Rose have been together for about 5 months, and they’re headed to Rose’s parents house.  Obviously, Chris is nervous and wants to make a good impression.  But it turns out he has no idea what he’s in for.  Twists and turns all around.  Let’s get into our little review….

 

The performances in Get Out are incredible.  The best performance belongs to Alison Williams, who played Chris’ girlfriend Rose.  It was weird because it felt like she was at least 3 different people.  I guess she kinda was.  Her final phone call to Rod was chilling.  It’s-freezing-in-here-even-though-it’s-not chilling.  Wow.  Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) also did a great job in this movie.  He was smart and quick.  And also scary when he needed to be.   That scene at the lake with Rose?  I will be looking for more of his work in the future.  Rod (Lil Rel Howery) was hilarious.  He was also very intelligent and brave.  He wasn’t your typical comic relief character.  He added new layers to Rod.  All the other performances were really good as well, but those are the stand outs for me.

 

I’ll admit that I was very hesitant to watch Get Out.  Reason #1:  It was probably overrated.  It’s rare for a movie to get a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  So it might be overrated.  Reason #2: It was widely known that this movie is about racism.  It is a topic I’m very uncomfortable with.  I just hate seeing people be treated unfairly.  But my curiosity won, and I finally saw it this week.  I think Jordan Peele did an excellent job writing and directing this.  He took a very uncomfortable subject and gave us a different perspective on it.  Racism can be a lot harder to spot than most people think.  It was a sickening, but necessary lesson to learn.  Plus, the whole movie felt completely original.  Something, the movie industry is lacking a little.  There was some gore in the movie, but Peele proved that you don’t need to rely on it in order to make a horror movie scary.  There were tons of edge-of-your-seat moments in the film.  There was never really a chance to get bored.  It was actually kinda fun to watch.

There were a couple of issues, however.  The cult-like body snatchers apparently did this to live longer, healthier lives.  But they rarely left their small towns and never really did anything with their new bodies.  Why?  Plus, the deer situation at the beginning of the movie.  I wonder if that was part of the plan as well. It looked like it had been dead for a while.  Oh well….

 

 

Overall, I was surprised to find that I enjoyed Get Out.  It was a fresh take on the horror genre.  It could also be pretty funny.  I look forward to seeing more work from Peele, Kaluuya and Williams in the future.  I give it a 8.5 out of 10.  Get Out is now on DVD and on Google Play.

Review for “Girl on the Train”

Review for “Girl on the Train”

Cast: Emily Blunt as Rachel, Haley Bennett as Megan, Rebecca Ferguson as Anna, Justin Theroux as Tom, Luke Evans as Scott Edgar Ramirez as Dr. Abdic, Lisa Kudrow as Monica

Synopsis: An alcoholic’s life is thrown into further tailspin after the female half of her ‘perfect’ couple suddenly disappears.

This movie and its book version are so often compared to “Gone Girl”.  Both versions of that as well.  I guess they certainly have their similarities.  Both feature unlikable, yet interesting female lead characters.  Both are mysteries.  Both used flash-forwards and flashbacks.  Both proved to be very complex and fascinating books. (I’ve never really read the book version of “Gone Girl”.)  The title character here is Rachel, whose life has fallen apart due to her divorce and alcohol addiction.  Her only solace is riding the train to Manhattan and back.  Which version is better–the book or the movie?

I think all of the actors did a wonderful job in their roles. But Emily Blunt’s performance was the best one. She completely disappeared in her role as Rachel. Her portrayal as an alcoholic was one of the most realistic ones I’ve seen in years. She came across as a very sympathetic person who is a lot stronger than she realizes. Haley Bennett was also very good as Megan. Her character wasn’t so likable–but most of these people aren’t–but she was magnetic and intriguing. She had great chemistry with Edgar Ramirez, who played her therapist.  Rebecca Ferguson was believable as Anna, Tom’s second wife.  Her role wasn’t as dimensional as Rachel or Megan.  She could have been fleshed out a bit more.  Luke Evans and Justin Theroux were good as the husbands of Megan and Anna.  Ex-husband of Rachel.

Tate Taylor directed the film version of “The Girl on the Train”.  I think he did really well with the movie.  You got to know the characters well…or at least you felt like you did.  Rachel’s alcoholism was done in a fairly realistic way, film-wise.  The characters were in your face…literally.  Erin Cressida Wilson wrote a decent screenplay.   But it did get kinda predictable towards the end.  I liked the fact it remained true to the novel, so maybe that’s why.  And I wished some of the characters were a little more dimensional.

Despite a few small complaints, “The Girl on the Train” turned out to be an entertaining movie.  It was well-acted and solid. I just wished it were a little harder to figure out. I do recommend the movie.  I give it a 6.5 out of 10.