Oscar Isaac-Led The Card Counter Rounds Out Its Cast

The upcoming casino revenge film The Card Counter, which is set to star Oscar Isaac and directed by Paul Schrader, has added three big names to its cast. According to Deadline, the thriller has added Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, and Willem Dafoe to the principal cast.

The film stars Isaac as the titular card counter who is tasked by Sheridan’s character to seek revenge on a military man, played by Dafoe. Haddish will play a gambling financier who backs the two men.

Let’s break these additions down piece-by-piece, starting with Willem Dafoe. There is no world where the addition of Dafoe is a bad idea. This performer has consistently done great, most predominantly in recent years with award-worthy work in The Florida Project, At Eternity’s Gate, and especially The Lighthouse. I can’t recall the last time he turned in a performance that hasn’t uplifted the film he’s in, so I got no problems here. Hell, he already worked with Isaac on At Eternity’s Gate so the chemistry is there.

Sheridan is an interesting addition. He’s a pretty subtle performer who has done solid but perhaps forgettable work in Ready Player One and the newer X-Men films, and while his is not a name that comes up in discussions for who should play what character in what film, he’s not a detractor.

Now, let’s get to Haddish. I can’t think of a film with Haddish that has worked since Girls Trip, and I’m getting a little tired of her. She was solid but forgettable in Keanu, and I found her quite funny in Girls Trip, but since that time, I haven’t really found her to be entertaining at all. She’s in a rut similar to Steve Carell’s earlier career where she keeps playing the same character over and over again to diminishing returns. The more I’ve thought about it, I didn’t really like her in The Kitchen, and I really hated Like a Boss from earlier this year, so I’m not feeling this addition to the cast. Hopefully she can surprise me, but I’m not on board with this one yet.

So what do you all think of these casting adds? Is The Card Counter turning into a most-anticipated film for you? Let me know/Drop a comment down below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Toy Story 4 (2019)

Director: Josh Cooley

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, Joan Cusack

Screenplay: Andrew Stanton, Stephany Folsom

100 mins. Rated G.

IMDb Top 250: #132 (as of 7/9/2019)

 

We didn’t need a Toy Story 4. That’s what I kept saying. We just didn’t need it. Toy Story 3 was a great ending to a solid trilogy and we didn’t need to muddy the waters with another installment almost destined to be terrible. We trusted Pixar not to ruin this one, and our trust in them was worth it.

It’s been two years since Andy gave his toys over to Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw, American Sniper, Ant-Man and the Wasp) and departed for college, and the toys have been on a great many adventures since then. Andy’s favorite toy Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks, Cast Away, The Post) is struggling, though, as he has been seemingly forgotten by Bonnie when playtime occurs, but he remains vigilant in his duties to protect her, so when she becomes nervous at kindergarten orientation and makes a new toy, Forky (Tony Hale, Batman Ninja, TV’s Arrested Development), out of some trash and crafting supplies, Woody takes it upon himself to teach Forky how to be the best toy he can be. During this time, Bonnie and her family are on a vacation in the RV, and at one of the stops, Woody spots a lamp at an antique store that he believes may belong to Bo Peep (Annie Potts, Ghostbusters, TV’s Young Sheldon), a toy that one belonged to Andy’s sister, one that he cared for very deeply. Woody and Forky also come across the menacing Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks, Ginger & Rosa, TV’s Good Girls), a defective antique toy who wants Woody’s voice box for her own. Now, Woody must return Forky to Bonnie without getting caught by Gabby Gabby, and he is also forced to confront his own wants in the process.

Let’s cover the purpose of Toy Story 4, because if there was one criticism in just about any fan’s mind as they enter the theater, it’s the question of WHY? Why Toy Story 4? Well, I will say this. I think Toy Story 4 is the second-best film in the series behind the third film. That being said, I think Toy Story 4’s ending is so much better than the third film. It leaves up in a very satisfying place and works very well in questioning everything that came before. It’s a film that looks at the toys we have and asks a lot of questions.

This is very much Woody’s story, and he goes on it mostly without the help of the other toys, encountering lots of new characters in the process. While Toy Story 3 is the ending of the story in relation to Andy, Toy Story 4 takes a good hard look at Woody, a toy that has always been in service of his human, but he is confronted with the very real idea that he may not be Bonnie’s favorite toy. His character arc, especially in relation to Forky’s existential crisis of self, is very well-layered and something I’ve always wanted more out of.

The new characters are so wonderful as well. Keegan-Michael Key (Keanu, TV’s Friends from College) and Jordan Peele (Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, TV’s The Twilight Zone) appear together as Ducky and Bunny, two sentient toys made sown-together at the hands, and they are an absolute delight. Key and Peele use the classic comedic timing and chemistry that they’ve been known for to make this the funniest of the Toy Story movies. They had me in stitches, never once ruining the scene by trying to hard.

Then, there’s Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves, The Matrix, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum), a Canadian daredevil toy with a motorcycle capable of performing incredible stunts, or at least, that’s what the commercials had said. I love all the character Reeves packed into such a limited screen time. He worked tirelessly on embodying his character with the director, and it shows in the work. His is a similar character to the one that Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen, El Camino Christmas, TV’s Home Improvement) was in the first film: a toy that is coming to terms with its limits. He is broken on the inside because he was never able to meet the expectations of his commercial.

The only real flaw I had with Toy Story 4 is that I believe that Gabby Gabby is probably the worst villain of the entire franchise. It sounds like I may be in the minority on this one, but I’m going to speak my reasons and let them stand. I never found Gabby Gabby as a villain to be very menacing. Yes, she’s a little creepy and her henchmen ventriloquist dummies are certainly frightening and strange enough, but I never really saw her as villainous in the way that I saw, say, Lotso from Toy Story 3. Maybe it’s just me, but I felt like she was antagonistic but never villainous.

Toy Story 4 also feels, at times, like a big game of I Spy. The antique store, where a good portion of the film is set, is chock full of Easter Eggs and references to other Pixar films, to Toy Story films, and to other pop culturally iconic movies, most notably The Shining, which has always had a somewhat odd connection to the Toy Story franchise. Then, there’s voice cameos galore, many of which I didn’t catch until someone told me about them after the film ended. It’s just a celebration of so much magic that Disney and Pixar can craft.

Toy Story 4 is the perfect true finale to the franchise, one I hope they actually keep to, and I absolutely adored this movie. It’s the ending that feels most earned, not just throughout this installment, but through the entire series. It’s a powerful finale that will drive many to tears, this writer included. I really enjoyed it.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Oscar Madness Monday] Straight Outta Compton (2015)

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Director: F. Gary Gray

Cast: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti

Screenplay: Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff

147 mins. Rated R for language throughout, strong sexuality/nudity, violence, and drug use.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Original Screenplay

 

Who would’ve thought that Straight Outta Compton would be an Oscar contender? 2015 was great.

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Straight Outta Compton is the story of NWA, specifically Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell, Keanu, Broken City), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.), and Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins, Non-Stop, Romeo and Juliet), and the effect that they made on the music industry in the 1980s and 90s. It also tells of NWA’s involvement with Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti, Sideways, Ratchet & Clank), the manager of the group.

Straight Outta Compton seemingly came out of nowhere. I didn’t think it would be very good. I was wrong. This was more than just a fun movie. This was excellent film making. To be honest, my immediate dismissal of this film came from F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job, Law Abiding Citizen). I enjoyed The Italian Job somewhat, but I absolutely hated Law Abiding Citizen. So I wasn’t too keen. I was, as I said, wrong.

The best elements of the film, though, come from the leads. Jackson, Hawkins, and Mitchell were all amazing, and their performances were aided by Paul Giamatti and his pitch-perfect portrayal of Jerry Heller.

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Straight Outta Compton chooses to cover every side of the beginnings and ends of NWA and everything in between. This movie is a lot of film. It runs a bit lengthy, so spend some time to watch this behemoth. It is worth it.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] The Conjuring 2 (2016)

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Director: James Wan

Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Simon McBurney, Franka Potente

Screenplay: Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan, David Leslie Johnson

133 mins. Rated R for terror and horror violence.

 

Good evening, everyone, I just got back from an early screening for The Conjuring 2! Did I like it? Spoiler: Yeah, I did.

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This sequel from director James Wan (Saw, Furious 7) is set after Lorraine (Vera Farmiga, TV’s Bates Motel, The Departed) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson, Watchmen, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) have wrapped up their famed inspection of the Amityville house. Now, a far more terrifying case comes calling all the way from Enfield in north London. Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Mercy) and her family have been experiencing a new level of paranormal disturbance that threatens the lives of the entire family. This entity has centered itself on Peggy’s daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe, The Campaign, Keanu) and plans on forcing her to do the unthinkable. Now, the Warrens have found themselves in their most dangerous journey, facing an enemy that wants more than just the Hodgsons.

First of all, I have to congratulate Wan on not tackling The Amityville Horror. This sequel touches on it just enough to provide a context for the series. The Conjuring 2 is one of the more amazing horror films in recent times. It may also be Wan’s best film to date, and I mean that.

The acting from Farmiga and Wilson are again incredible, but it’s the relationships built between them and the Hodgsons, particularly Janet and Peggy, that make the film. It’s rare to call a horror film heartwarming, but that’s exactly what The Conjuring 2 reaches for amidst its shocking and tense mood. Young Madison Wolfe holds her own in her scenes with the more accomplished performers here. There’s also a terrific turn from Simon McBurney (The Last King of Scotland, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) as Maurice Gross, a man searching for proof of life after death but who may be too easily convinced. On the polar opposite in the troupe is Anita Gregory (Franka Potente, TV’s Copper, The Bourne Identity) who is out to prove the Hodgson haunting a hoax.

Wan’s always had great cinematography in his films, and The Conjuring 2 is no exception. It would seem that the horror director’s entire filmography has led to this, from his smaller pictures like Saw to his action-packed extravaganza with Furious 7. Wan’s work has created a unique style pulling from everything he has done before and creating something wholly new.

Another progression is that of Joseph Bishara, who scored the film. Bishara is much more restrained than in previous works like Insidious, his score only enhancing scares instead of instigating them. It works very well here.

James Wan swings for the fences, even if he misses on the special effects. There is a hint of swift CGI to this film involving one particular element that I won’t mention here. You’ll know it when you see it, this piece of CGI will not age well, even if it didn’t completely take me out of the movie.

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The Conjuring 2 feels so personal and so profound, the master stroke of a filmmaker in full control of his craft. It’s incredible to have been a fan of this storytelling for over a decade and to see his metamorphosis into a skilled and strong filmmaker who impresses me more each time I enter the cinema. See The Conjuring 2. It’ll make you believe in studio horror again.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Insidious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

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