Posts Tagged ‘russell crowe’

the-nice-guys

In 1977, in Los Angeles, an elderly woman named Mrs. Glenn, (Lois Smith) hires private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) to find her niece, a porn star named Misty Mountains. (Murielle Telio) The police say Misty died in a car accident, but thinks that a missing girl named Amelia Kutner (Margaret Quailey) is somehow involved with Misty, but Amelia has hired an enforcer named Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to keep people away from her.  After beating March up, Healy realizes that they should team up to find Amelia, they try to find her at a protest against smog, but she isn’t there.  March and Healy get another tip that Amelia may be at a porn producer’s party.  They don’t find Amelia but they find the producer Sid Shatrack dead.  They also find March’s daughter that March’s daughter, Holly, (Angourie Rice) is also at the party trying to find Amelia.  There is yet another person looking for Amelia, that is her mother Judith Kutner (Kim Bassinger) who is a high ranking official at the Justice Department.  As they continue to look for Amelia, the dead bodies pile up.  Do March and Healy find Amelia?  Why can’t Amelia’s mother find her?  Why are all the people associated with Amelia and Misty ending up dead?

I didn’t like The Nice Guys.  The story just seems to meander all over the place. There is a lot of violence masquerading as action, the comedy is the same running gag, again and again, there is a lot of nudity, used as filler, and the writers seem to think that involving a 13 year old girl in the middle of murder and pornography storyline is somehow funny.  It is not. The lines the writers have kids saying in this film are generally just disturbing. There is a plot, and a subplot, and neither of them work very well.  Both March and Healy seem invincible, especially March, he repeatedly falls, down hills, through plate glass windows, into a pool, and nothing ever happens to him. It is a step below the average buddy cop movie.

Ryan Gosling, in this movie, is asked to play a broad comedic, almost slapstick role.  He is known for his quiet, brooding, smoldering characters.  It’s not that he can’t play this kind of role, in fact he’s quite good at the timing of the comedy, the problem lies with the material, which is more like Jerry Lewis level slapstick comedy.  And this is below Gosling’s skill as an actor. This is more of an Owen Wilson role than a Ryan Gosling role.  Russell Crowe has several problems in this movie, the first is his weight, I’d like to think that he was just method acting, playing a paunchy ex-cop who is now hired muscle, but I think Crowe just likes to eat and possibly drink to excess,, and his general lack of fitness gets in the way of him being a convincing enforcer.  The second problem is Crowe trying to cover his Aussie accent, with a bad New York accent, the dialogue coach in this movie should be fired.  Oddly, the best performance comes from Angourie Rice as Holly, she is put in embarrassing situation after embarrassing situation but handles her role well.  Kim Bassinger has a small role, and is not very memorable.

Shane Black is both the writer and director here.  He did the first two Lethal Weapon movies, so he knows his way around buddy cop films, but there’s nothing special here, lots of gun violence, lots of car chases, throw in too much sex, and you’ve got a formulaic Hollywood cop film. The pacing is slow and the running time is too long. Crowe and Gosling have no chemistry, and Black does not get a good performance from either. The cars and clothes are from the 70’s, but the cinematography doesn’t have that grainy 1970’s look to it.

The Nice Guys:  Gosling lays an egg.

Movie Review: Noah (2014)

Posted: April 4, 2015 in Drama
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noah

Noah (Russell Crow) troubled  by visions from God, builds an ark for two of all the animals of the earth, himself, his wife Naamah  (Jennifer Connelly) and his sons, Shem (Douglas Booth) Ham (Logan Lermen) and Japheth (Leo McHugh-Carroll)  as a life-killing flood descends upon the earth.

The trouble with the Noah story from a dramatic standpoint is that there is not much of a narrative in the Bible, so in order to make a two hour epic based on the Noah story, writer/director Darren Aranofsky has to embellish, a lot.  He makes the Nephilim, angels that are a mix between human and God, giant rock like creatures, he makes major characters out of Methuselah and Tubal Cain, and invents others.  He changes the story to make it more appealing to mass audiences, and indulges in the violence that God is sending the flood to destroy.  Most importantly, he portrays Noah as a religious zealot, bordering on the insane. This isn’t the story of Abraham and Isaac, but Aronofsky blends elements from that story into the Noah story. He stretches the story so much that at one point, Noah is retelling the creation story and the story of Adam and Eve in the middle of the voyage.  All of this could have been forgiven, but the film is astoundingly boring, that is the biggest sin of this movie.

I like Russell Crowe but in Noah, Crowe overdramatizes Noah to make up for the lack of a cohesive script, never removing the intense scowl from his face, and going from prophet to religious eccentric.  Connelly plays his wife as a long suffering woman, putting up with his eccentricities, until she can no longer deal with them.  Logan Lerman is largely wasted as Ham, portrayed as overly covetous.  Emma Watson is also wasted as Shem’s wife Ila.  Anthony Hopkins plays Methuselah as a wise old sage, but comes off more as old than sage.

Aranofsky tries to make Noah a big budget action film, and fails miserably.  The giant, walking stone angels are almost laughable, and exponentially reduce the chances of this movie being taken seriously. There’s conflagrations, and fire, a lot of violence, and finally about an hour into the film the flood.  The pacing is horrendous, that first hour felt like it was about two days long, and after that there was still an hour and 20 minutes left.  Finally, despite all the special effects, there are no iconic visual scenes, like the parting of the Red Sea in DeMille’s Ten Commandments.  I liked The Wrestler, I had mixed feelings about The Black Swan, but Noah is just plain bad.

Noah:  It’s raining, it’s pouring, the audience is snoring.

Movie Review: Broken City (2013)

Posted: January 19, 2014 in Drama
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broken city

Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) is a police officer in New York City, who resigns after being exonerated for shooting the man who raped his wife Natalie’s (Natalie Martinez) sister.  Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe) admires the disgraced cop, and hires him to tail his wife, Cathleen (Catherine Zita Jones) who the mayor suspects is having an affair.  Billy follows Cathleen, gets some incriminating photos of Cathleen with a man named Paul Andrews, (Kyle Chandler) and gives them to Mayor Hostetler.  Suddenly, Paul Andrews is dead, and the police commissioner, Carl Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright) is asking questions.  Who is Paul Andrews, does his death affect Hostetler’s re-election campaign against newcomer Jack Valliant? (Barry Pepper)

I did not like Broken City at all.  It’s a run-of-the-mill drama, trying to be a crime drama, and a movie about political corruption, it fails on both counts.  First of all, the story flashes forward 7 years and the mayor is running for re-election?  What?  Michael Bloomberg, the real mayor of New York ran for a third term, but only after getting the term limit law rescinded by the city council, and people hated Bloomberg for that.  If the writer doesn’t know about term limits, he should not be writing a movie about politics.  There are too many subplots.  Billy and the shooting, avenging his sister-in-law’s rape, Billy’s drinking problem, Natalie’s acting career, Natalie’s nude scene and affair with the lead actor, all detract from the main plot.  There is a plot twist, but the plot twist doesn’t make the plot any more interesting.  There is a little nudity, so keep the kids away, and the adults may want to stay away because this movie is too long and too boring.

The acting is just so-so.  Russell Crowe’s monumental struggles with a New York accent eliminate any dramatic edge the role may have had. This is the second disappointing role I’ve seen him in after strong performances in Man of Steel and Les Miserables.  His other woeful performance was in The Man With The Golden Fists. Wahlberg does a very workmanlike and boring reading of his role.  Catherine Zita Jones showed some verve in her role, but it’s far too small a role.  Kyle Chandler, who’s also very good in The Wolf Of Wall Street, has a few intense scenes in this movie, but again, it’s a small role.

The writing is atrocious, the term limits error is just sloppy and shows not even a basic understanding of politics, a cop accused of killing a kid in cold blood would never be tried by a judge, that strains credulity, and what kind of character name is Jack Valliant?  That sounds like the alter-ego for a superhero, not a politician.

Broken City.  Give Me a Break!

man with the iron fists

In China, in the Jungle Village, a blacksmith named Thaddeus (RZA) is working hard to save money to move to another town with his girlfriend, Lady Silk, (Jamie Chung)   a prostitute in a local brothel. The head of the Lion clan, Gold Lion (Kuan Tai Chen) is entrusted to guard the emperor’s gold.  Gold Lion is betrayed by his trusted assistants, Silver Lion (Byron Mann) and Bronze Lion (Cung Le) who kill Gold Lion.  Gold Lion’s favorite so, Zen Yi (Rick Yune) vows to avenge his father’s death.

One day, Jack Knife (Russell Crowe) an emissary to the ambassador drops by the brothel, and pays for three women and settles accounts with Madam Blossom. (Lucy Liu)  The gold is being guarded by Gemini Male (Andrew Lin) and Gemini Female, (Grace Huang)  who come to Jungle Village to have a bite to eat.  Silver Lion, and Gold Lion are lying in wait, and kill Gemini Male and Female.  Zen Yi is hurt in the fight and saved by Thaddeus, and taken back to the brothel.  Silver and Bronze Lion attack Thaddeus for guarding Zen Yi, cut off his arms, and leave him for dead.  Does Thaddeus survive?  Do Silver and Bronze Lion find the gold?  Does Zen Yi avenge the death of his father?

RZA, the writer of this incomprehensible piece of celluloid, should stick to writing rap songs, there is a beginning, middle, and an end to any songs, and songs make people happy.  If only that was true for this movie The story is long, meandering, with major lapses.  The gold moves from place to place, and nobody seems to know where it is.  There is voice over narration from beginning to end from RZA, that explains everything, and the story still makes no sense.  The romance between RZA and Jamie Chung is ludicrous, (and I don’t mean the rapper) the fight scenes look so staged it’s laughable.  There is a backstory about how Thaddeus got to China that is so long and torturous, let’s just say the backstory would not make you forget Django or  12 Years A Slave, and leave it at that.  While RZA’s backstory goes on forever there is no explanation of who Jack Knife is, until almost the end of the film.

I heard the first treatment of this film was 4 hours long, the pacing was slow as it was, it would have been mind -numbingly slow at four hours, there were already too many characters, sub-plots and unnecessary idiocy in this movie.  I haven’t even gotten to the violence, buckets of blood, splashing out like so much Kool Aid, not cool.  Have I talked about my pet peeve about women characters being prostitutes?  Well this film is shameless in that regard, all the women are prostitutes.  There is one female warrior, but she dies in the same scene that she’s introduced in, so that takes care of any strong female characters.

Now for the acting, if you can call it that.  RZA, wasn’t it bad enough that you wrote this, did you have to act in this swill too?  The genteel answer is no.  Lucy Liu is a long way from Kill Bill, Russell Crowe, just when I thought he was becoming a respectable actor again, after Les Miserables, he does this movie looking paunchy as all hell, and just slogging through a bad role with minimal effort.  The saddest part of the whole movie is seeing Pam Greer in a cameo, as RZA’s mother. Sad.  The actors all spoke in an American accents, they are all living in China, all of them sound like they’re from L.A, and New York, there’s very little Chinese spoken at all, that makes it seem inauthentic.

I grew up on martial arts movies, Enter The Dragon was a seminal movie for me as a child.  Bruce Lee took nonsense from no one and took on all comers.   Bruce Lee was a hero of mine,   Jackie Chan put humor in martial arts movies, in movies like Drunken Master. Jackie Chan is a hero of mine.  Stephen Chow took the comedy martial arts film a step further with Shaolin Soccer. I looked forward to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, and House of Flying Daggers, I loved the wuxia style of martial arts, this movie makes a mockery of that style, and every other martial arts movie that came before it.  Why is Quentin Tarantino’s name on this film?  It’s an embarrassment, and it definitely diminishes him in my eyes.

Man With The Iron Fists.  Has many flaws to iron out.

LesMiserables

Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman)  has served 19 years of slave labor, under the watchful, vengeful, eye of police inspector Javert.  (Russell  Crowe) Valjean breaks parole, and escapes to the house of a kindly Bishop, (Colm Wilkenson) who forgives Valjean for stealing some silver.  Valjean makes the most of this second chance and becomes mayor of Montreuil  Sur Mer, and opens a factory.  One of Valjean’s factory workers, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is a poverty stricken single mother who will do anything for feed her child, Cosette,  (Isabelle Allen, Amanda Seyfried) including selling her hair, and her teeth, and becoming a prostitute, now Fantine is dying, and she wants Valjean to take care of the young Cossette.  Always wary of the omnipresent Javert, Valjean pays off the owners of the inn where Fantine has left Cosette, Thenardier  (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Madame Thenardier  (Helena Bonham Carter) and takes care of Cosette while still on the run from Javert.

Years later, Cosette meets Marius (Eddie Redmayne) who after an argument with his grandfather takes up the Revolutionary cause.  Marius and Cosette fall in love immediately, but Eponine (Samantha Barks) also loves Marius, and is jealous of Cosette.  Further complicating matters, Javert is still pursuing Valjean.  Does Valjean ever escape Javert? How does the love triangle between Marius, Cosette and Eponine resolve itself?  How does the French Revolution affect these people’s lives?

When I first sat down to watch Les Miserables, I didn’t think I’d like it much less deem it a classic.  It’s a musical and I’m not too keen on musicals from Broadway.  In addition, the movie is set in French Revolutionary times, I thought I was in for a snoozefest.  I was entirely mistaken, this is an enthralling, engrossing, captivating film, that draws viewers in from the first minute and keeps them engaged throughout.  The songs, which I thought would be a weakness, turned out to be the strongest part of the movie and even aided in the exposition of the story.  It dealt with the poor, hungry masses of France in a compassionate tender way, and blended their fates with the fate of the French Revolution in a beautiful, seamless way.  Les Miserables doesn’t try to force tears, it just tells a story and lets the emotion come naturally.  This is the role Hugh Jackman was born to play, and all this time, I thought it was Wolverine.  Jackman’s acting was as good as his singing. Russell Crowe was also very good acting and singing his lines.  Anne Hathaway was wonderful in a small role as Fantine, and yes she can really sing.  Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter add some much needed comedy relief,  and Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Banks are actors who I’ve barely heard of.  I saw Redmayne in My Week With Marilyn, a very good film, but had no idea he could sing.   I didn’t know Barks at all, and she had a heartbreaking, scene stealing performance.

The writing is superb, I’m sure it’s difficult to take a 2000 page book by Victor Hugo and turn it into something that translates to the screen, but the story was told simply and effectively.  The direction was splendid, there is nothing that catches my eye about the direction, in many movies, but this movie was different, there were all kind of crazy angles and shots, and France looked like a picture postcard, although I suspect some of that was CGI.  I hope it was not most.  Watch this movie, with someone who means a lot to you, you will both enjoy it.

Les Miserables.  Not Miserable.  Enjoyable.

2009_state_of_play

 

Cal McCaffrey (Russell Crowe) is investigating the murders of a small time drug dealer and a pizza delivery man who witnessed the murder of the drug dealer.  Sonia Baker, (Maria Thayer) an aide to Congressman Stephen Collins. (Ben Affleck)  During the investigation, McCaffrey found Baker’s number on the drug dealer’s phone. Sonia Baker was investigating privatization contracts that are worth billions of dollars to defense contractor, Point Corp.  Sonia Baker is also having an affair with Congressman Collins.  So who killed Sonia Baker?  Was it the drug dealer?  Was it someone from the contracting company to keep the billions from the government flowing?  Or was it Congressman Collins to cover his affair with Sonia?

This is a very interesting movie.  It synthesizes two hot stories that affected U.S. politics in the early to mid 2000’s.  It mixes the Chandra Levy scandal with the Blackwater scandal and it does a pretty effective job of making a suspenseful political thriller.  There are characters and subplots that are unnecessary and the overall length is too long at over 2 hours, but it does a good job of keeping the viewer guessing until the end.  I didn’t necessarily like the ending, but the viewer has to stay tuned until the end.

The acting varies wildly, Russell Crowe carries this movie, and is the reason why this movie is worth watching, he gives a gutsy, solid performance.  Ben Affleck on the other hand, thankfully given a smaller role than Crowe, watch Affleck trying to emote is actually laugh inducing, whether he’s trying to cry or trying to get angry, it just doesn’t work.  Rachel McAdams is also laughable as an internet reporter partnering with Crowe’s character to report on the juicier aspects of the story.  McAdams doesn’t show any maturity in her roles, she’s the same simpering schoolgirl type she plays in those drippy romance movies that she is in this movie. Helen Mirren is great as the tough as nails newspaper editor, who Crowe’s character works for, but Jason Bateman is badly miscast as a whistleblowing PR guy for the contracting company. The writing is good, the pacing is good, but the story is too long and could have done with some judicious editing.

Now to the hot topic de jour, I reviewed this movie at this time to review Ben Affleck’s acting, and I found nothing has changed since his bombs like Gigli and Daredevil.  Some might argue that his acting has improved in movies like The Town and Argo, I disagree, he may be a good director, the jury is still out on that but he definitely is not a good actor.  He relies much too much on his looks and his emotional scenes in all his movies leave me cold.  Bottom line I will not be going to see Affleck playing Batman in 2015.  Christian Bale raised the bar so high for Batman that no one should play that role for a long time.  But Hollywood is about commerce, and they think they can make money with Affleck, they can try, but they won’t get mine.

State of Play.  Not Child’s Play.