Fast & Furious presents Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

Director: David Leitch

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren

Screenplay: Chris Morgan, Drew Pearce

137 mins. Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence, suggestive material and some strong language.

 

Hobbs & Shaw is a really dumb movie. It’s very fun, but wow, it’s a dumb movie. What did you expect?

It’s been two years since The Fate of the Furious, and Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, San Andreas) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham, Crank, Spy) have both been relatively busy kicking ass in the name of justice…more or less. Meanwhile, a group of MI6 agents are attacked while trying to retrieve a virus called Snowflake. Only one of them, Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, TV’s The Crown) escapes after injecting herself with the virus. Now framed as a fugitive, Hattie is on the run from Brixton Lore (Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation, TV’s Luther), and she winds up getting help from Hobbs & Shaw. Now, if only they can stop arguing long enough to save Hattie from Brixton and the terrorists he works for.

I cannot stress enough how stupid some parts of this movie get, but at the same time, I come to the Fast & Furious films to see insane action set-pieces and thrilling fight scenes. This whole franchise has branded itself as a B-Movie franchise with an A-Movie budget, and the same holds up in this spin-off. The tone feels slightly different from the other films in this universe, which I think is a smart move to set it aside while also not betraying the character arcs from previous films. You don’t have to have seen any of the previous films to get this one.

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham have great chemistry together, even if the movie overdoes their banter several times over. There’s still a sense of family to this installment, and both characters get some more background with it, though the family stuff in this installment never feels dramatic like it does in the other franchise. It’s especially nice to see Shaw’s background delved further into, and I think it’s silly that people are calling out the age-issue with him and Vanessa Kirby, as in the film they are about two years apart but the performers are closer to two decades apart. Really? That’s what your problem is with believability? For me, I was hoping to get some more info on his relationship with brother Owen, who feels very absent from this film after his appearances in the franchise, so not seeing Luke Evans was kind of a bummer for me.

My biggest problem apart from the bloated run time is the villain Brixton. I love Idris Elba and I think he gave his all in the film, but I don’t think the character of Brixton is interesting at all, and I didn’t see any solid character development to him. He’s kind of just a villain because he’s a villain. I would love to have seen more of his arc. I also didn’t like the cybernetic implants angle. I just think it pushes the insanity envelope further than I would have liked. I know, I know, but while the silliness has been in this franchise for some time, I feel like Brixton and his cybernetic implants veers the franchise into supernatural territory more than I would like.

Hobbs & Shaw is a pretty solid ninth entry in this franchise, though for me it’s not as strong as the last four films in the series. I enjoyed myself, but there is some sputtering in the setup to this spinoff series. I liked the main characters chemistry and the action is really solid, but there are problems with the pacing and the villain. It’s fun to see some really interesting small roles/cameos that I didn’t expect in the film, and I’m looking forward to how they are utilized in a future installment. Overall, Hobbs & Shaw is mindless stupidity and that’s what I was hoping for. This is popcorn action at its most ludicrous.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, click here.

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

For my review of Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious, click here.

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

For my review of F. Gary Gray’s The Fate of the Furious, click here.

For my review of David Leitch’s Atomic Blonde, click here.

For my review of David Leitch’s Deadpool 2, click here.

[Early Review] Murder Mystery (2019)

Director: Kyle Newacheck

Cast: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Gemma Arterton, Luke Evans, John Kani, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Terence Stamp

Screenplay: James Vanderbilt

97 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence/bloody images, crude sexual content, and language.

 

I haven’t been big on Adam Sandler (The Waterboy, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation) since Funny People. I was such a huge advocate for Funny People, I told everyone I talked to about it and how great and introspective it was. I still think it’s Judd Apatow’s best movie. The point is, Adam Sandler, to me, has been making movies only to hang out with his friends and make a lot of money. He hasn’t been interested in being good since Funny People. Well, I caught an early screening for his newest film, Murder Mystery, and I can report that it’s probably the best movie he’s made since then. It just still isn’t very good.

Nick (Sandler) and Audrey Spitz (Jennifer Aniston, Dumplin’, TV’s Friends) have been married for fifteen years, but they still haven’t gone on the honeymoon that Nick promised Audrey. Since then, Nick’s been struggling to become a detective, but he keeps failing the exam, so now he’s lying to Audrey about passing. He also lied about taking her to Europe on the honeymoon they never had, and on the plane, Audrey meets Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans, Dracula Untold, Ma), a rich and suave gentleman who invites them onto his uncle’s yacht for the weekend. The yacht is full of interesting characters that are all seemingly out of the murder mystery stories that Audrey likes to read, and when Charles’s uncle, the rich and successful Malcolm Quince (Terence Stamp, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Viking Destiny), is murdered aboard the yacht, Nick and Audrey find that their fake background in detective work will have to help them solve this murder and find the killer before they become just another couple victims.

The screenplay, by James Vanderbilt (Independence Day: Resurgence, Truth), gets a lot of homage and story from Clue, and it’s not a horrible screenplay, but there are elements of logic that come into play and seemingly make the characters less likable and, at times, extremely dumb. The police on the tail of Nick and Audrey throughout the film are really clueless. The Spitz’s are not world-class detectives nor are they world-class villains, and yet they are able to elude police for a large chunk of the film with ease. There’s also the sense that Nick and Audrey are not concerned at all with the fact that they have become the prime suspect in the murder of Malcolm Quince. They have a huge cliché romantic comedy argument in the middle of the film outside near the flashing lights of the police. I don’t think I would behave with that level of disregard over being in a foreign country and being the prime suspect in a murder investigation.

Both Sandler and Aniston have some pretty funny moments in the movie when they aren’t arguing and nitpicking at each other. They are a frustrating duo because both performers are capable of comedy gold and they have terrific chemistry, but they have moments throughout the film where they become unbearably annoying. There are some moments I would consider to be really funny dialogue and physical comedy, but it is packed with some leads that don’t want us to like them.

The rest of the cast is rather fun in the sense that they are all essentially archetypes. They are cliché dime-store murder novel characters, but that’s kind of the idea. We are presented with two people who are interested in mystery and detectives, and they find themselves in a mystery that they may be able to solve, so in that way, I didn’t mind that they were clichés. As I said earlier, this movie borrows a lot from Clue, which had the very same kind of conceit.

Murder Mystery is funny enough for a movie on Netflix. I wouldn’t tell people to go out, spend money, and hit it up at the theater, but my screening was filled with people enjoying the movie. I enjoyed it myself for the most part, but my mind kept getting caught up on the inconsistencies, the plot holes, the annoyances of some of the characters. I really want Sandler to care about comedy again, and he just doesn’t show it here. It’s his best movie in years, but it still isn’t the Adam Sandler we remember.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra MacDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson

Screenplay: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos

129 mins. Rated PG for some action violence, peril and frightening images.

 

It’s a tale as old as time but now Disney has turned it into a twice-told tale, but is it any good the second time around?

Belle (Emma Watson, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, The Circle) is a bookworm and inventor living with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline, A Fish Called Wanda, Dean) in the small village of Villeneuve. Belle deals daily with the advances of the slimy and arrogant Gaston (Luke Evans, Dracula Untold, The Fate of the Furious) and his sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad, Frozen, A Dog’s Purpose) as well as the looks from the townspeople who find the young woman rather odd. When Maurice is lost in the woods, he comes across a castle inhabited by a terrible Beast (Dan Stevens, TV’s Downton Abbey, Colossal) who trades Maurice for Belle. Then, Belle and the Beast find themselves falling for one another in the best adaptation of an animated Buffalo-Human Romance film ever to grace the silver screen.

But how about the actual film?

Well, in the world of adaptations, I found that this 2017 iteration from director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Mr. Holmes) has some improvements on the original and some elements that didn’t work. Mostly, though, it’s the same film. And in a lot of ways, that lessens it. There are very few liberties taken here, and overall it gives the film a very tame feeling which never really drew me in.

Let’s start with what works. The amount of respect given to the French location of the film is strong. Most of the accents work and even little touches like French subtitles in the end credits give flair. There’s also a sense of theatricality to the film due to Condon’s decision to treat this like a tale you’ve seen before. I highly suggest watching the film with the overture as it harkens back to the classic tale from decades back. I thought the treatment of Disney’s first gay character LeFou was respectful. I thought the tightening up of plot points in the prince’s age and in his ability to read (a major change to the character from the 1991 film) work well here. I also really liked a lot of the personalities and performances from the various living pieces of furniture, most notably Lumiere (Ewan McGregor, Trainspotting, American Pastoral), Cogsworth (Ian McKellan, TV’s Vicious, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility, Bridget Jones’s Baby). I am very thankful, however, that the director decided to cut the character known as Monsieur Toilette, played by Stephen Merchant, who would have been, you guessed it, a toilet.

And of course, the film looks gorgeous. There are a number of images I’d love to have on my wall from this film. Everything here looks astounding with a tremendous attention to detail.

Now, the issues with the film are glaring. I thought “Be Our Guest” was grossly over-animated and looked terrible. I felt like the film’s forcefulness to sticking to the source material made the film feel like it was dragging on forever. The musical numbers felt very autotuned and unrealistic and none of them really enhanced the original pieces. The issues amount to very simply not improving the original. This film is essentially a shot-for-shot remake in a lot of ways, and we’ve seen how that works out a number of times, most notably with Psycho and The Omen. It never seems to work, and it only reminds you how superior the original is.

Overall, I enjoyed Beauty and the Beast much more than I thought I would. Disney continues to create enjoyable experience rehashing old tales. The biggest problem with Beauty and the Beast is that I don’t see why anyone would choose to watch it again if they have the original film to go to. It just feels forgettable for all of its 129 minutes. There’s just a better version already out.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

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Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom

Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro

144 mins. Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.

 

Let’s just take a moment to appreciate the work that Peter Jackson (The Lovely Bones, King Kong) and his creative team has accomplished. Six films, two trilogies, and hours upon hours of extended editions have comprised the Middle-Earth Saga.

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, TV’s Sherlock, Hot Fuzz) and the company of dwarves have just let the diabolical Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game, Penguins of Madagascar) loose on Lake Town. It’s up to Bard (Luke Evans, Dracula Untold, Fast & Furious 6) to stop the evil dragon and reclaim their lives. Tempers soon flair up as the treasures of Erebor are up for grabs and Thorin (Richard Armitage, Captain America: The First Avenger, Into the Storm), consumed by greed, has decided not to honor the agreement made with Bard and his people. Meanwhile, Gandalf (Ian McKellan, X-Men, The Prisoner) continues his battle against the dreaded Necromancer.

The finale to The Hobbit trilogy is a far different film from its predecessors, and with a very simple plot, revolves entirely around the Battle of the Five Armies, one of the biggest battles in Middle-Earth history. It is very similar to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, where the entire film revolves around the climactic ending as opposed to standing on its own. It is definitely my sixth favorite Middle-Earth film.

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Ian McKellan is a torn Gandalf here, caught between his allegiance to the Company of Dwarves and his commitment to reason and peace. McKellan continues to impress.

Evangeline Lilly (TV’s Lost, Real Steel) is great as Tauriel here, the elf who has developed feelings for the poisoned dwarf Kili. Her relationship with Legolas (Orlando Bloom, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Three Musketeers) and his father Thranuil (Lee Pace, TV’s Halt and Catch Fire, Guardians of the Galaxy) are further delved into in this film and helps to increase her internal and external conflicts as the story progresses.

As far as the Company of Dwarves, we get more great but wholly underutilized work from Ken Stott (Shallow Grave, One Day) as Balin, the dwarf who will one day claim Moria, and James Nesbitt (Coriolanus, Match Point) as Bofur, the dwarf who, above all else, just wants his home back.

I also loved the continual references to future events and foreshadowing from The Lord of the Rings, like the cameo appearances from Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, How to Train Your Dragon 2), Ian Holm (Ratatouille, Lord of War), Christopher Lee (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Dark Shadows), and Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas). My only major issue was that I wanted more. Tolkien fans will know that Balin ends up in Moria with Oin, we know that Gloin has a son named Gimli, we know Saruman’s fate, but I wanted to see more in this film.

Director Jackson continues to prove he can handle action and large-scale battle sequences, the action here is incredible. His cinematography mixed with the amazingly well-put-together sequences, and Howard Shore’s deep and thunderous score.

It took me a while to really enjoy Billy Boyd’s final song, “The Last Goodbye,” but once I did, I really felt it tied together not just this film, but the trilogy and in fact the entire saga.

If you get the chance to watch Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance capture for Smaug and the Necromancer, do it. He is incredible to watch even without the CGI placed over it.

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies isn’t Jackson’s best work, but it certainly is a perfectly fine finale to an epic series. I feel like the theatrical cut of the film is missing some key details, and I hope that the extended cut has the ability to expand this on the film and show us some more connective tissues.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, click here.

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, click here.

 

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, click here.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

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Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Orlando Bloom.

Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro.

161 mins. Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing

Peter Jackson continues his return trip to Middle-Earth with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, a more fun follow-up to An Unexpected Journey, which showed up in late 2012 to polarized reactions. The Desolation of Smaug falls for some of the same pitfalls that troubled its predecessor, but all in all, it is a worthy addition to the epic world created by J.R.R. Tolkien many years ago.

We meet up with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, Hot Fuzz, TV’s Sherlock) and his Dwarf company (consisting of Thorin Oakenshield, Dwalin, Balin, Kili, Fili, Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin, Bifur, Bofur and Bombur) as well as Gandalf the Grey, played once again by Ian McKellan (X-Men, Stardust) to rescue the dwarven city of Erebor from the beastly dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, also of Sherlock fame). This is the part of the story where we really get to the meat of Tolkien’s epic journey.

The performances here are at the top of their game. McKellan makes me fear for the beloved wizard for the first time since The Fellowship of the Ring. I can honestly say that I was unsure that we would be seeing Gandalf again after he breaks away from the group to hunt down the location of the foreboding Necromancer we keep hearing about. You can tell Freeman is getting more comfortable with the weight he now carries in this franchise, as Bilbo is now more comfortable with his stake in things as well. Bilbo definitely takes a step back though, for a sizable amount of this film so that we can focus on other characters. Richard Armitage (Captain America: the First Avenger) has more to do in this film than just brood, which is a welcome addition.

Let’s get to Benedict Cumberbatch, who has received a lot of talk since this film was release barely over a month ago. Other critics of this film claim that he is nothing more than a name tacked on to this film and that his voice-work for both Smaug and the Necromancer could have been done by anyone. I will disagree with this claim, let us not forget that Cumberbatch also did performance capture for the characters and I feel like he adds a layer of tone and inflection to what could’ve been stock bad guys in a fantastical backdrop.

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Lee Pace is finally given the chance to boast some acting chops in this film, after completing what could be thought of as a mere cameo in An Unexpected Journey as the Elvenking Thranduil, father to Legolas, who also returns to the series played again by Orlando Bloom.

Desolation also brings some new faces to the world of Middle-Earth, one in particular, Tauriel, portrayed by Evangeline Lilly, is a completely original character, who gets some nice screen time with Aidan Turner’s Kili. We also meet Bard the Bowman, who is introduced much earlier and given more to do than in Tolkien’s original work. For those of you who are fans of the book, we will be seeing Bard again.

The Hobbit’s gorgeous cinematography and high-frame rate compliment this more-actionier installment, especially when Bilbo and company take a rather exciting barrel ride down a river. The music is definitely owed dues once we encounter Lake Town. Howard Shore really creates some new auditory wonders for us as we edge closer to Erebor. As per usual, the visual effects are stunning and magical without taking us away from the real reason that Thorin and Bilbo have come all this way.

Really, the only thing I can see film-goers not loving about this film is the length. Jackson and fellow writers Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro (who worked on the script when he was originally attached to direct) have bulked up this story a lot more than the 300-page novel had, we will call it Epic-sizing it up to turn a novel shorter than that of any of the individual Lord of the Rings books into a 9-hour love letter to Middle-Earth. I am a big fan of Tolkien’s original work and Jackson’s storytelling, so the length really doesn’t bother me, but I can see how casual viewers may not be as swept up as I was.

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The film ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger, and I have to say that I’m not sure I can wait a year to revisit this world, but fans fear not, I’m sure we’ll get an extended edition of Smaug soon enough.

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, click here.

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, click here.

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, click here.

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, click here.

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, click here.

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, click here.

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