Stuber (2019)

or “A less-comedic version of Collateral”

Director: Michael Dowse

Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista, Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Jimmy Tatro, Mira Sorvino, Karen Gillan

Screenplay: Tripper Clancy

93 mins. Rated R for violence and language throughout, some sexual references and brief graphic nudity.

 

Yeah, I finally caught Stuber. I was invited to numerous press screenings for this film for months and something always came up. Then, I was available to go to one, and for some reason, I just didn’t. After having seen it, I understand Past Kyle’s decision.

LAPD detective Vic Manning (Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy, Escape Plan: The Extractors) has just learned that drug lord Oka Tedjo (Iko Uwais, The Raid 2, Mile 22) is planning on doing a drop, but he’s just finished with laser eye surgery and cannot drive. He enlists Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick, Men in Black: International) to drive him around the city as he hunts for clues as to Tedjo’s whereabouts. The two quickly learn that they are nothing alike, and Stu desperately wants out of this situation, something that Manning is not willing to do. Shenanigans ensue.

There’s some suspension of disbelief in the action of Stuber, and in comedy, that’s something that can actually work, but the comedy needs to be there to heighten the surreal world, and that’s unfortunately something that Stuber is painfully low on. The only good laughable moments come from Nanjiani, and many of them are featured in the trailer, so you can save yourself about 90 minutes by just watching that. Nanjiani has great comedic timing, and he’s doing his best, but there’s a lot of time in Stuber wasted on funny scenes that aren’t funny and action scenes that aren’t enthralling.

Bautista is trying his best with the screenplay as well, but he doesn’t have the comedic training of Nanjiani nor does he have the acting chops to play ball here. At least not yet. I’ve been very impressed with Dave Bautista’s work in the MCU and Blade Runner 2049 and Spectre, but he’s just not working with a director that can pull that performance from him and he’s holding a lot of this film on his shoulders. They’re big shoulders, but he’s just not ready to do that yet. He’ll get there, but it isn’t in this film.

Stuber has an interesting premise, one that seems topical and could be mined for some great comedy and action, almost like a Lethal Weapon-type buddy-cop film. That’s what I was hoping for, but it just didn’t work. The writing isn’t clever, and the story was very simple (most of the “twists and turns” were easy to see coming or nonsensical), and there’s no flare to the film. It’s very one-note.

Stuber is, sadly, not good enough for its premise and doesn’t make good use of its leads. It’s a film that fundamentally doesn’t work very well and every funny moment was in the three-minute trailers. I really wanted to like it, and it just didn’t follow-through on its premise. This is one to skip.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Christoph Waltz to Return as Blofeld in Bond 25

The as-yet-untitled Bond 25 will see a familiar face joining Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Lea Seydoux, and Naomie Harris. Actor Christopher Waltz, who played the villainous Blofeld in Spectre, will return to play him in the upcoming sequel, according to The Daily Mail.

Blofeld, previously portrayed by Donald Pleasance, Telly Savalas, and Charles Gray in the main franchise, is the ultimate baddy of the Bond franchise, having appeared in a large number of installments, pulling the strings in the background of the evil Spectre.

The film is being directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga of True Detective fame and will feature many more returning faces, but I was shocked and pleased to learn that Waltz was one of them.

Spectre was not beloved by Bond fans in the same way Casino Royale and Skyfall were. I think the updates made to Blofeld in this new iteration of Bond didn’t really go over well, even though I’ve always found Waltz to be one of the most incredible performers working today, and I rather like his take on the villain. I like the idea of an antithesis to James Bond, and Blofeld is just that. Spectre did a lot of work tying the Daniel Craig saga together, and I think it would be odd to completely ignore it for the final installment of Craig’s run as the spy.

So what do you think? Should they ignore Blofeld or include him in Bond 25? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 (2017)

Director: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone

Screenplay: James Gunn

136 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content.

 

Yes, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 is now available on home video and streaming platforms, and this film was universally liked but not universally loved. I took another look at it to see how I really felt.

Set a few months after the original Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, Jurassic World, Passengers) and the team find themselves on the run from the Sovereigns when they come across a being known as Ego (Kurt Russell, The Hateful Eight, Deepwater Horizon) who announces that he is Peter’s father and has been looking for him. Peter takes off with Ego and brings along Drax (Dave Bautista, Spectre, Enter the Warriors Gate) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Avatar, Live by Night), leaving Rocket (Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook, 10 Cloverfield Lane) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel, Furious 7, Riddick)  to fix the ship and keep an eye on their prisoner, Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan, Oculus, The Circle) who is very much alive. While Peter learns much of his heritage from Ego, there is something strangely perfect looming over their time on the living planet while Rocket and Groot are hunted down by the Ravagers led by Yondu (Michael Rooker, Cliffhanger, The Belko Experiment). With the team split up, they soon learn that they are at their strongest when they stick together in this sequel helmed by James Gunn (Movie 43, Super).

Is Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 an improvement over the original? No, but does it have to be? No. I’m tired of these comparisons that say that a sequel or follow-up is not successful unless it surpasses the original. It doesn’t have to. But there are some things that are better. First off, I think the film’s coverage of its secondary characters is better. We get a much better look at Yondu that’s more than the somewhat one-dimensional character we had in the original. Michael Rooker is a masterful and often forgotten character actor and he absolutely shines here.

I also think the obligatory Stan Lee cameo is the best one in his entire filmography, which, at this point, is a pretty impressive feat. James Gunn’s choice to overload the end credits with five mid and post-credit scenes is brilliant and it adds to the insanity. I think overall, Gunn’s choice to embrace the flavor of what he brought to the screen is the winning element of the Guardians of the Galaxy series. You probably saw the music video for Inferno, the Guardians theme, recently, and I love that this kind of marketing and viral social meeting presence is available to fans.

I also felt that the relationship between Star-Lord and Ego is an interesting and complex one. Chris Pratt said in an interview that this film helped him to get over the death of his own father. Theirs is the driving force of the film and everything feeds off it. In fact, this is a film about fathers and the families we create, whether by blood or not (oh, and the de-aging of the devilishly handsome Kurt Russell is pretty impressive).

Things that altogether weren’t as good as they should have been? Really, it’s a small list, but I wish Mantis (Pom Klementieff, Oldboy, Hacker’s Game) could’ve done more. I think we will see more of Mantis later, but I felt like she was underused. I also was never a big fan of the Nebula/Gamora dynamic and I hope more relevance comes to this when Infinity War hits. Then there’s the loss of Nathan Fillion’s terrific cameo. I wish there had been a place to squeeze him in, but the film is rather bloated. Maybe that’s it. There’s so much going on that the film feels a little bloated. Yeah, that’s it.

“I am Groot.” -Groot

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 is a fine film and a fine addition to the MCU. I love these characters and treasure further adventures with all of them. The soundtrack is subtle and important and stays with you long after the film ends (I’m still humming it). Yeah, it’s just a damn fun time at the movies and in that respect, it’s a beautiful experience.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

  • For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.
  • For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.
  • For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.
  • For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.
  • For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.
  • For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.
  • For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

 

 

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[Early Review] Annabelle: Creation (2017)

Director: David F. Sandberg

Cast: Stephanie Sigman, Miranda Otto, Lulu Wilson, Talitha Bateman, Anthony LaPaglia

Screenplay: Gary Dauberman

109 mins. Rated R for horror violence and terror.

 

Hey everyone, I had the chance to catch an early screening for Annabelle: Creation, the prequel to a prequel to The Conjuring. If that sounds confusing, that’s because it is. Real quick, let’s track this franchise…

There are further planned films in The Conjuring Universe, including a third Conjuring film as well as further spin-offs for The Nun and The Crooked Man, but I’m digressing…

Annabelle: Creation is the story of a nun, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman, Spectre, Once Upon a Time in Venice), and a few orphaned girls who are taken in by the Mullins, Esther (Miranda Otto, TV’s 24: Legacy, War of the Worlds) and Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia, TV’s Without a Trace, The Assignment). Janice (Talitha Bateman, Nine Lives, The 5th Wave) immediately begins witnessing strange and unexplained events, seemingly surrounding a doll made by Mr. Mullins. Soon, Linda (Lulu Wilson, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Deliver Us from Evil), Janice’s best friend, starts to see it too, and she fears for Janice’s safety. It becomes clear that Mr. and Mrs. Mullins have a terrible secret hidden in their past that is about to break free and put the orphans in unimaginable danger.

First off, I have to say that I was very nervous about another Annabelle film. While I thought the first Annabelle film was okay, I understood that it existed within the larger framework of The Conjuring which was a truly excellent film and the difference in quality was just too wide. Then, I noticed that the prequel had the same screenwriter as the first film, Gary Dauberman (Swamp Devil, Within), and I assumed that we wouldn’t see anything too different from the original. Finally, I noticed that the film was pulled from its original release and placed in August. The studio reasoning for this was to avoid competition with Alien: Covenant, which made sense but also could’ve been a really good spin on the story.

But there was also good news bits. First, James Wan, director of The Conjuring and producer for Annabelle, explained that they had heard the reviews for Annabelle and were going to use the feedback to craft a stronger film. Then, David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) came aboard the project as a director. This is what kicked my excitement into full gear.

The finished project is a definite step up for the Annabelle series. Sandberg fills his film with frights and mood that stacks as the film progresses into an amazingly tense nail-biting finale. The performers were also very strong. We are seeing an amazing year for young female performers from films such as The Beguiled, and Bateman and Wilson are no exception. Their work, particularly in the scenes they share, is exemplary. Annabelle: Creation also holds strong with seasoned performers like Otto and LaPaglia that help to elevate the girls’ acting.

The film is not entirely without flaws, however, and Annabelle: Creation does suffer due to its somewhat simplistic storytelling. There isn’t a lot of shock to the film’s narrative and it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to engage its audience. Thankfully, Sandberg knows how to get the best that he can from his characters, but there are moments when Annabelle: Creation falls back on its tropes. There is just enough in the film that works that it didn’t ruin my enjoyment when the plot sauntered into cliché.

I also felt like the ending didn’t stand on its own but relied rather heavily on the audience’s awareness of the franchise. I don’t really want to get into it but the film doesn’t feel like it has an ending.

Overall, Annabelle: Creation is not likely to disappoint fans of the horror genre. There are genuinely creepy moments especially in the finale that work really well. For Sandberg, this isn’t a better outing than Lights Out but it proves that the director is capable of stepping into someone else’s sandbox and playing nice with it. Annabelle: Creation both excites me for Sandberg’s next project (Shazam for DC) as well as the further widening of The Conjuring Universe. I would advise horror fans to give the one a try.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen Annabelle: Creation? What did you think of it? And what spin-off from The Conjuring are you most excited for? The Nun? The Crooked Man? A possible Annabelle 3? Let me know! Drop a comment below!

 

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

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring 2, click here.

 

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Daniel Craig Still Top of Wishlist for Bond 25

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It would seem that Spectre may not be the last time we see Daniel Craig as the iconic James Bond, at least, if producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have anything to say about it. According to BBC, executive producer Callum McDougall said that Craig is still at the top of the wishlist to return, remarking that he was the “first choice” for the role. McDougall was also hesitant to make any claims about the actor, saying “I wish I knew” when asked about a confirmation of Craig’s return.

I myself don’t want to see another Daniel Craig Bond movie. I think he has done admirable work, but one of the worst parts of last year’s Spectre was the noticeable wear on Craig’s performance. He just wasn’t into it. I thought he did a better job at his hidden cameo in The Force Awakens than he did as the martini-guzzling spy.

As for who to replace him, I don’t mind the idea of an African American James Bond with Idris Elba, as long as it is taken seriously. That being said, I do not want a female Bond, because that is far too drastic of a change for the character. It would cease to be James Bond and the jarring shift would remove audiences from the story, which the most recent films have strived to build upon. Plus, it degrades the idea of bringing strong female characters to the film world by just taking existing properties and gender-swapping them. Instead, give us a female spy. A new character. Someone exciting and new.

So what do you think? Should Daniel Craig come back to Bond? Who should pick up the mantle if he should walk? Let me know!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Dave Bautista Finds the Future, Joining Blade Runner 2?

bladerunner22018a

Some interesting news this morning, as professional wrestler turned actor Dave Bautista, who has already left his mark on 2 major franchises with Guardians of the Galaxy and Spectre, joining the upcoming Blade Runner sequel.

Bautista announced his addition in a very cool way, taking to Instagram to reveal a very interesting picture from one of the film’s most iconic moments. It definitely appears like he’s very excited to be making his mark again, and from what I’ve seen, this is a performer that gets genuinely excited to be taking part in his roles, so good for him. He isn’t going to win Oscars anytime soon, but his abilities are getting better in each role.

Details are still scarce about the plot and Bautista’s role in it, but the film is currently building steam with each new announcement.

Are you excited to see Blade Runner 2? And what long-gestating sequels have you been a fan of? Let me know!

Blade Runner 2 holds strong to a January opening when it lands in theaters January 12, 2018.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2016oscardeathrace] Spectre (2015)

 spectre2015a

Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes

Screenplay: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth

148 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (“Writing’s on the Wall”)

 

Well, let me assure you by saying that Spectre is the third best Bond film…featuring Daniel Craig (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Adventures of Tintin). Okay, I’m playing now.

Spectre opens with one of the single most impressive shots and sequences of the entire Bond franchise, due in large part to the masterful directing of Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition, Away We Go). Sadly, it is the film’s best moment, and while the rest of Bond 24 is exciting, it is missing something.

spectre2015b

James Bond has lost someone very close to him. In her place, he now has M (Ralph Fiennes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, The Invisible Woman), who has bigger fish to fry when MI6 comes under political scrutiny. While M and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris, 28 Days Later…, Southpaw) try to protect the organization, Bond is off to discover the mysterious plans of the criminal syndicate known as SPECTRE, and his connection to its apparent leader, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained, Big Eyes). There are a lot of spoilers to stay away from, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Sam Mendes described Bond’s dedication to uncovering SPECTRE as a more focused passion, and if that is the intention, I did not see it. Daniel Craig feels bored in this entry.

Christoph Waltz brings a healthy dose of fear to the villainous Oberhauser, and his henchman Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick) feels nicely reminiscent of Oddjob from the glory days of Goldfinger, a much better version of homage than the way Die Another Day beats you over the head with it.

Fiennes, Harris, and Ben Whishaw (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, In the Heart of the Sea) as Q do their collective day’s work nicely, but the film rests far too much on a personal story for James, and Craig’s best work is when he is being tortured.

Director Mendes gives us a gorgeous Bond film, even after losing the incredible Roger Deakins to other projects. In his place, we get Hoyte van Hoytema, who does some better than expected work but fails to properly convey his visual medium to the story correctly. It isn’t easy, and he certainly tries.

In Bond girls, we get some of the most well-crafted Bond girling from Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color, The Grand Budapest Hotel) and some of the most underutilized work from Monica Bellucci (The Matrix Revolutions, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice).

spectre2015c

Maybe that’s the problem with Spectre. It’s just so uneven. There are some truly incredible sequences, and there are some snoozy moments. It just didn’t keep me the way previous entries have. Not a bad Bond film, but a step down for the franchise, its director, and Craig (who gave us better work this year in Star Wars: The Force Awakens; oh, you didn’t know that?).

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Spectre? What’s your favorite James Bond movie? Let me know!

Preliminary Visual Effects Shortlist Revealed!

 

On location in Jordan, Ridley Scott directs Matt Damon, in THE MARTIAN.

Hey everyone, the 88th Academy Awards list of films to be nominated for Best Visual Effects has been narrowed down to twenty for the Academy to officially nominate. Here they are:

 

Ant-Man

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Bridge of Spies

Chappie

Everest

Ex Machina

Furious Seven

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

In the Heart of the Sea

Jupiter Ascending

Jurassic World

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

The Revenant

Spectre

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Terminator Genisys

Tomorrowland

The Walk

 

interstellar2015a

What do you think? Me personally, I believe that the frontrunners here are obviously the soon-to-be-seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road, which I saw earlier this year and should almost guarantee a win for the perfect blending of practical effects and minor digital retouching.

What films do I expect to not see on the final ballot? Chappie, Everest, Terminator Genisys, and Tomorrowland as well as Furious Seven. They just won’t be able to convince the academy that they are worthy of the final five.

It also remains to be seen if the upcoming releases for In the Heart of the Sea and The Revenant will gain any recognition once the films bow later this month.

The process of selecting nominees is a larger one than most would know, as the list will be further thinned to 10 and then each finalist will be able to vie for the role one last time.

Many have pointed out the biggest films missing including Cinderella, Crimson Peak, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and San Andreas.

The most recent winners of the award are Interstellar, Gravity, and Life of Pi.

I don’t know about you, but I am marking my calendar for January 14th when we will get the final list of nominations and begin death-racing toward the February 28th-dated awards ceremony.

lifeofpi2012a

So kids, what do you think? Which films do you expect to see on the final ballot and what are some other films you saw from this year with impressive visual effects? Let me know!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Finally…Civil War Drops: A Look at the First Official Trailer for Captain America 3!

 captainamericacivilwar2016a

Hey everyone, I hope your holidays have gone well. Mine certainly did; a belly full of food and a new trailer drop for Captain America: Civil War. There were rumblings that this beast would drop during the opening weekend for Spectre and then for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and then we heard that Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans were stopping by Jimmy Kimmel last week, and I started to think that yeah, this was it.

Was it worth it?

Simply, yes. I thought this trailer looked tremendous! After hearing all the news dropping about the overcrowded cast list and then hearing the meh reaction to the first footage shown to fans at D23, I have to say, I was a bit worried. Last Year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a wonderful addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I wanted Civil War to be of the same caliber.

In the film, based on the massively popular and renowned Civil War comic, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers square off over a new registration act that may be linked to Bucky Barnes. We still don’t have all the details, and that’s okay. I don’t need to know everything.

We did get a great look at Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman (Civil War will be his MCU premiere). One exclusion is Tom Holland as Spider-Man, who many have rumored to make his first appearance here as well. Now, I am happy we didn’t see Spider-Man. I think that the fans don’t need to see him until the movie comes out, and I have colleagues who think the general public doesn’t know that Spider-Man is in this film and the trailer should have shown it, but I feel like it would confuse people who just had a taste of a now non-canonical The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from last year and don’t need all that info thrown at them.

If you choose to view the trailer (and we both know you will), enjoy the epic line of dialogue that Tony drops in it. You will know it when you see it (it sent shivers down my spine).

So what did you think of the new trailer? What is your anticipation level for Captain America: Civil War? Let me know!

Captain America: Civil War begins battle on May 6, 2016.

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