[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

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

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Director: Francis Lawrence

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

Screenplay: Peter Craig, Danny Strong

123 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material.

 

Of all the young adult post-apocalyptic stories currently drowning our theaters, The Hunger Games is definitely at the top of my list. The list is of good quality work, and the list is small. At just over two hours, the newest film in the franchise, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, takes the series in a new direction while setting up the final climactic piece to this series, but does it work?

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Yes and no.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook, X-Men: Days of Future Past) has escaped from the Third Quarter Quell Hunger Games intact, and now she finds herself in the midst of a major rebellion against the Capitol and the insidious President Snow (Donald Sutherland, The Italian Job, Horrible Bosses). Her on-again-off-again real-but-also-kind-of-fake boyfriend Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson, Bridge to Terabithia, Epic) has been captured and might be dead. She is joined in her quest to take down Snow by friends Gale (Liam Hemsworth, The Expendables 2, Empire State) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson, TV’s True Detective, No Country for Old Men) as well as the rebellion leader President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore, Magnolia, Non-Stop) and her second-in-command Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote, Doubt). Does Katniss have what it takes to be the face of a rebellion, and can she save the ones she loves from the dark and powerful Capitol?

First of all, I must say that I was in agreement about making Mockingjay into two films. Having read the book, I found that there was a lot of material to be mined from it and I couldn’t see a logical place to cut it without it feeling rushed. That being said, I felt that the area they could’ve beefed up and gone into more were not. We are thrown into the film without have a few minutes to start connecting the dots. I spoke to some views who hadn’t read the books to question their thoughts and they felt as though a little more prologue or something to bring the story into its frame of reference would’ve been appreciated. We also could have spent more time with some of our new characters and there are a lot of them, virtually all of them in this film. We could’ve developed Liam Hemsworth’s Gale as more than just a good-looking fella. There is some action for Hemsworth in this picture but it doesn’t feel as exciting because frankly we don’t know his character like we should.

Now, this movie isn’t bad, don’t think that’s where I’m going with this, but it could’ve had better pacing and more to it. We get some great work from J-Law here as Katniss, and some awesome work our second tier players Moore, Hoffman (in the last performance before he was taken from us), and Harrelson.

Director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants) handles the material well, but I don’t think he added as much from a stylistic perspective as he could have. Think about the latter Harry Potter films, the ones directed by David Yates. Each Yates film in the series, although directed by the same man, has a different feeling and a wholly unique style. I could see a moment from Yates’ film and know which film it is. I don’t feel like F-Law has learned anything from last year’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which he should have. Again, not really a flaw, just a notice.

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The problem with most of these films is that they are intended to be viewed as a whole, so when The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is released next year, I will take a look back at this first installment (or third, technically) and see how it holds up as a complete saga. Mockingjay – Part 1 is a strong and powerful entry in The Hunger Games saga. There are some truly great moments in this film, and we get a wide array of awesome performances and a lot of tension building for next year’s finale. It is, however, a step down from Catching Fire.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

September 2014 Preview

I just want to get this out on the table. I have not seen any of the films on this list. This is only an assumption of the films’ merit based on the information I have on them. But, I should point out that I have a pretty good knack for this kind of stuff.

 

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Before I Go to Sleep

This is the story of Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge!, Paddington), who gets into a car accident which causes her to have deep memory loss. She awakens every morning with memory loss. Then, one day, the memories flow back to her, and she questions the nature of the car accident and what really happened. I can see this movie trying to do the kinds of things that Memento got away with. The problem being that this film would really have to have a unique style, and from what I have seen, it isn’t really there.

 

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The Identical

Twin brothers (both played by newcomer Blake Rayne) are separated at birth and lead different lives. One of them becomes a famous singer, the other struggles between his love of music and his place in his family. This movie puts a lot of faith in Blake Rayne, and he doesn’t have the ability to carry this movie. It has a nice supporting cast in Seth Green, Ray Liotta, and Ashley Judd, but can it carry? Probably not.

 

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Mary Kom

This is based on the real-life Mary Kom, a female boxer of Indian descent. I’m not saying this film will be great. I’m not saying it will be bad. I’m saying it will be meh. The plot should be very interesting, as Kom had a very interesting life, but the crew isn’t anyone memorable.

 

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Horns

I’ve been waiting a long time to see Horns, from the incredible horror film director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D). It also happens to have some really good source material with the novel by Joe Hill. Daniel Radcliffe rounds out this crew starring in the film as Ig, short for Ignatius, a man who awakens one morning to the discovery of two large horns protruding from his head that give him dark thoughts and powers. Horns has the potential to be the standout horror film of the year, and a great way to get into the mood for Halloween.

 

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Ned Rifle

Ned Rifle is the third film of a trilogy. No, I actually knew very little about the previous entries before discovering this third film. The first film is Henry Fool, and the followup is Fay Grim, and the the trilogy follows these same characters. Ned Rifle is the son of Henry Fool and Fay Grim, and this is the story of Ned trying to murder his father. From the footage I have seen, I wouldn’t mind watching this trilogy, but I would say watch the other two and if you like them, I have very good feelings about Ned Rifle.

 

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Dolphin Tale 2

Wow, this movie looks terrible. I mean it, really bad, but then again, I have been saying that about the first film for a while now. If you enjoy Dolphin Tale, you will probably still buy a ticket and have a good time, but I’m going to tell you that you are wrong.

 

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The Drop

I just want to point out that this is a beautiful poster. If the film is even partially as good as its poster, I’ll get chills. This is based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, and like everything else he touches, it will be good. Lehane is known for his crime stories and thrillers, and chances are, the plot will have some difficult and disturbing turns along the way, but this is worth the ticket money. It also contains the final performance of deceased actor James Gandolfini.

 

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No Good Deed

Don’t see it. See The Drop!

 

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The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner has the ability to be the next Hunger Games. It is the story of Thomas, a young man who awakens in a maze with several others without any memory of what exists outside the maze. Together with the other maze runners, he must escape the maze and discover the purpose. Someone see this and tell me how it is. I’m feeling good.

 

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This is Where I Leave You

This seems like a good one. We have Jason Bateman and Tina Fey leading a breakout cast full of interesting personalities as four siblings return home to sit Shiva after the death of the family patriarch. Honestly, it just seems like much more interesting dramedy concept than I have seen recently.

 

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Tusk

I’ve already spoken about my thoughts on this movie. It has so many talented people adding to it. I just have no idea how a movie like this is going to work. This is a risk.

 

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A Walk Among the Tombstones

Liam Neeson hunts a kidnapper…

I’ve gotten into this habit of understanding that Liam Neeson kicks ass. Not all of his films do, but Liam Neeson kicks ass nonetheless. In order to properly decide the merit of a Liam Neeson, look at the release date. Non-Stop came out in February. Not great. A Walk Among the Tombstones releases in September. I’m thinking a hit.

 

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Finding Fanny

Finding Fanny is a road trip movie, and a pretty generic one at that. Skip.

 

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The Equalizer

Damn, I loved watching the television series The Equalizer. That series was awesome. Denzel Washington is perfect in the role Robert McCall, an ex-spec op who wages war on the Russian mob. Antoine Fuqua knows this kind of film and it is going to rock. I’m pretty sure.

 

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Believe Me

This is the tale of a bunch of college students who fake a church group to use donation money to pay their student tuition. Man, this movie is going to piss people off. I have nothing against the subject material, but I have seen footage and am doubtful about the technical aspects. It doesn’t look very cleaned up. I’m leaning on skip.

 

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The Good Lie

No. Nope. I don’t think so. Probably not. No.

 

So there you have it. Here is a final tally.

Best Bets: Horns, The Drop, This is Where I Leave You, A Walk Among the Tombstones, The Equalizer

On the Bubble: Before I Go to Sleep, Ned Rifle, The Maze Runner, Tusk, Believe Me

Likely Misses: The Identical, Mary Kom, Dolphin Tale 2, No Good Deed, Finding Fanny, The Good Lie

 

As before, these are the tools. Use them however you wish. What do you think of this month’s releases? What do you want to see most? Let me know!

Non-Stop (2014)

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Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Jason Butler Harner, Anson Mount, Lupita Nyong’o

Screenplay: John W. Richardson, Chris Roach, Ryan Eagle

106 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references.

 

Liam Neeson gets on a plane…

I watched Non-Stop with the expectation to see Taken again. What I got was more like a rip-off of Taken 2. I found the film to be a bit of a bore, unlike normal Neeson fare. The movie tells the story of Bill Marks (Bryan Mills?), an alcoholic federal air marshal who hates planes. Perhaps this is the first indicator that you picked the wrong career. Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, A Million Ways to Die in the West) portrays Marks as he boards a flight and discovers that a killer is on the plane, but who is it? This is essentially the plot at its most intricate. Julianne Moore (Magnolia, last year’s Carrie remake) is Jen, a passenger on the plane who might want to bone the air marshal. The rest of the somewhat first-class cast are given coach roles and little wiggle room to stand out.

I’d like to point out that I don’t know how many flights allow vigorous make-out sessions and dry humping during flight, but maybe I need to switch airlines.

Non-Stop

I have very little to say that is good about this movie. It all comes down to a weak antagonist (literally a pop-up bubble text message that is sent to Bill throughout the film but does very little to convey menace), characters we don’t care about (live or die, who cares?), and a motive that is so over the top that it makes one laugh out loud at real tragedy and just downright pissed me off. I didn’t like this movie. For my money, I’ll hold out for Taken 3.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Jaume Collet-Serra’s Non-Stop? Did Liam Neeson save you on this film, or would you like a pillow for this flight?

February 2014 Preview

I want to put this out there right now. I have not seen these films. I haven’t. The ides of this preview is more of a way to tell you about the upcoming films this month, offer photos or trailer info, and help you make the best decision possible about what you want to see this month and what can probably wait until home video or Netflix.

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The Lego Movie:

Emmet, an ordinary everyday Lego figure, is mistaken for the Special (an all-powerful Master Builder) and receives help from a cadre of Lego creations to stop the Evil Lord Business from gluing the Lego world together. I had reservations about this film, and I still do. You are probably asking the same thing I was. “How do you make Legos into a movie?” I’m still not sure how, but I trust the work of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the co-directors of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street. These guys understand comedy, and they understand story. I think we have limitless opportunities within the Lego-verse to pull stories from, and I have excitement to find out what has been created.

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The Monuments Men:

A group of men in World War II are tasked with retrieving stolen art from the Nazis and returning them to their owners. Okay, I like this cast. I don’t think this film can carry us for two hours. I like George Clooney, but he picks some weird projects as a director and his abilites have not proven to me that he is a guarantee.

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Vampire Academy:

Based on the 2007 novel, Rose is a human/vampire hybrid known as a Dhampir. That’s about it. Vampires are dead. No pun intended. They have just been done to death. There I go again. Probably won’t be good. I don’t care to see it at all.

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RoboCop:

This is a remake of the 80s cult classic about Alex Murphy, a great cop gunned down in his prime and rebuilt as RoboCop, a perfect law-enforcement machine. There have probably been some minor changes, but I just don’t think a remake was the right way to go. Can’t we just get a good sequel instead of telling the same story?

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About Last Night:

Another remake from the 80s, this one a romantic comedy. Just see the original, this one doesn’t look to entice anyone.

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Endless Love:

Holy crap, another remake from the 80s. Don’t spend you money on this one. Rent the original. Please.

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Winter’s Tale:

Based on the novel. Don’t know much, but I am enticed. I can’t even explain the plot really, so just check the trailer. Looks to be a love story that I think will bring the fellas in as well.

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Pompeii:

Paul W.S. Anderson is perhaps the king of the forgettable action film. The only thing people really remember him for is Resident Evil, and even that series has dried up from unoriginality. This one looks entertaining, but ask yourself, “Why release it in February? Wouldn’t it make for a better summer release?” Good question, class. My guess is, this film isn’t worthy of a summer release, so it has been dumped off early in the year to provide less similar competition and hopefully earn back money most likely lost elsewhere.

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3 Days to Kill:

This looks like a failed attempt to strike gold twice in the same way that Taken did five years ago. Aging Action Superstar! This film will be forgotten.

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In Secret:

I went ahead and watched the trailer for this film, as I know nothing about it. Another story of forbidden love, murder, and over-drama. Rent it.

Here’s the trailer for you:

Vengeance

Vengeance:

Vengeance is literally a movie about…wait for it…Vengeance. Didn’t see much story here. Watched the trailer. Still no story here. Skip it.

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Son of God:

Do not pay money for this film. Rent it at the very most, but understand this going in. This film is made up of scenes from the miniseries event The Bible with deleted scenes from the miniseries. Let’s not expect a whole lot. I liked The Bible, but I will not spend ten bucks for what is a ripoff.

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Welcome to Yesterday:

Welcome to Yesterday seems like a found-footage Butterfly Effect, and that is because it is. These movies about teenagers encountering something cray-cray appeal to very few, so be cautious if you really really want to see this.

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Non-Stop:

I want to hate this movie because it feels like it could be an attempt at getting Taken again as I mentioned earlier. I want to hate it, but I just can’t. Liam Neeson doesn’t do a crazy-ton of action movies, so I tend to lean on his good graces when he does one. I think this will be fun. There, I said it.

There you have it, February 2014 in Preview Form, let’s cover this again.

Best Bets: The Lego Movie, Winter’s Tale, Non-Stop.

Likely Misses: Vampire Academy, About Last Night, Endless Love, 3 Days to Kill, Pompeii, Veangeance, Son of God, Welcome to Yesterday.

Up in the Air: The Monuments Men, RoboCop.

I gave you the tools. Use them. And tell me what you think. Is there anything I missed?

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