Focus (2015)

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Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie

Screenplay: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

104 mins. Rated R for language, some sexual content and brief violence.

 

I’m kind of done with Will Smith (Men in Black, Winter’s Tale). In recent years, he hasn’t given me much to cling to in terms of exciting projects. Granted, I’m very excited for his upcoming role in Suicide Squad, but to be honest, there haven’t been many great new projects for the actor, though he still ranks much higher than his son. As far as Focus went, I saw some initial possibilities for greatness, especially pairing Smith with Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, Z for Zachariah), who will also be joining Smith in Suicide Squad. Well, that excitement lulled rather quickly after the film started.

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Focus is the story of Nicky (Smith), an incredibly fast-footed con man, and his mentorship and relationship with Jess (Robbie), a fledging con artist in the making. As he teaches Jess, he becomes more and more involved with her until the lines between the con and the attraction blur too much for comfort and Nicky must decide what he wants more.

Focus comes from writer/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You, Phillip Morris), but the film is nothing like what I expected. First of all, if this plot was cheese, it would be Swiss with all the holes I found. The story breaks its own rules almost from the moment the story begins. Nicky breaks his own code so easily that it made me wonder what caused him to create it in the first place.

But none of the plot holes would have even matter if the film wasn’t so damn boring. Seriously, I couldn’t keep my eyes open for this terribly disappointing slow moving dredge of a story. I couldn’t have cared less for the characters who made decisions willy-nilly because they weren’t even interesting characters.

And then there’s the ending. No spoilers here, but seriously, that ending is one of the dumbest I have ever witnessed. I kept thinking it was going somewhere and then it didn’t. It was so sad an attempt to cash in on shock value that it pulled me right out of the film.

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Focus lost me very early on. I couldn’t decide what was worse: the plot or the pace at which it sauntered along. Keep your money for better choices. Focus is nothing but a con trying to take your cash.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

So what did you think of Focus? Did you get the mark or were you conned? Let me know!

[Happy 15th Birthday!] Requiem for a Dream (2000)

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Director: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans, Christopher McDonald

Screenplay: Hubert Selby Jr., Darren Aronofsky

102 mins. Rated R for intense depictions of drug addiction, graphic sexuality, strong language and some violence.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Ellen Burstyn)

iMDB Top 250: #90 (as of 1/24/2016)

Damn, this is a tough movie to watch. Warning: This isn’t a movie that will make you happy.

Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn, Interstellar, Draft Day) just found out that she is going to be on television. Her son, Harry (Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club, Mr. Nobody), an addict, is about to make some primo money selling drugs. His friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans, White Chicks, A Haunted House 2) just wants to be a good kid. Harry’s girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind, Winter’s Tale), wants to design clothing. Each has dreams of becoming better than they are, but unfortunately for them, they are all addicts slowly falling deeper and deeper into their delusions of happiness in this film from director Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Noah).

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Damn, I’ve seen Requiem for a Dream a couple times now, and it doesn’t get any easier, but this is a work of pure art that almost requires itself to be seen. It isn’t an easy film, and no one is walking out happy, but if you want a truer depiction of addiction, you will not find it anywhere else.

Ellen Burstyn is pure magic as Sara, the matriarch who needs to cut her addiction to fatty foods and in the process finds a new vice. Jared Leto is a kid with one foot in the grave who keeps slipping deeper and deeper into it. Jennifer Connelly’s Marion has so much drive but can’t seem to break out of her chains.

Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore, About Last Night) was perfect casting as Tappy Tibbons, a TV personality trying to sell his new books to the masses. He is unnerving and terrifying and everything he needs to be to those who need him.

Aronofsky’s film is jarring and painful to watch, mostly because it is a visual drug trip happening in real time. When the characters shoot up, you shoot up. When the characters make love, you make love. When the characters lose all self-respect, guess what. So do you. It isn’t easy, but it is real.

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The dreamlike qualities combined with the realism about vices and the drugs that surround us all make Requiem for a Dream one of the most painful experiences in film history. That’s about as complimentary I make it sound. It is stunning and gruesome and works perfectly at everything it tries to be. If you can, see this film.

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, click here.

Horrible Bosses (2011)

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Director: Seth Gordon

Cast: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland, Jamie Foxx

Screenplay: Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein

98 mins. Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material.

 

I usually find one great comedy every year. 2011’s Horrible Bosses was a great comedy. My review for Horrible Bosses here.

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Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman, TV’s Arrested Development, This is Where I Leave You) has been working his butt off for a promotion, but his boss Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey, TV’s House of Cards, American Beauty) seems not to notice or care. Dale Arbus (Charlie Day, TV’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Lego Movie) is trying to be the best fiancé he can be, but his boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston, TV’s Friends, Cake) wants to ruin it be forcing Dale into a sexual relationship through blackmail. Then there’s Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis, We’re the Millers, Drinking Buddies), who is all set up to take over his boss’s position when he retires. Unfortunately, Kurt’s boss Jack Pellitt (Donald Sutherland, The Italian Job, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1) dies, and his son Bobby (Colin Farrell, Total Recall, Winter’s Tale) takes over instead. Now, these three have no choice but to get the help from Mothafucka Jones (Jamie Foxx, Django Unchained, Annie) to kill their horrible bosses in this dark comedy gem.

I love this movie. Most films don’t try the black comedy anymore and even fewer actually succeed as perfectly as Horrible Bosses did. I also found the story to have plenty of twists and turns to it, enough so to keep me enthused even without the laughs, but then add in the genius of Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis as the everymen along with the strong performances of Spacey, Aniston, and Farrell as the “horrible bosses” and you have a great time at the movies. Director Seth Gordon (Identity Thief, Freakonomics) handles this crew nicely and gives each equal laughs and equal screentime to boot.

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All in all, you see a movie like Horrible Bosses for laughs, and it has plenty. It isn’t a perfect film, but it is about as close to genius comedy as one can get.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 10th Birthday!] Alexander (2004)

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Director: Oliver Stone

Cast: Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Jared Leto, Rosario Dawson, Anthony Hopkins

Screenplay: Oliver Stone, Christopher Kyle, Laeta Kalogridis

175 mins. Rated R for violence and some sexuality/nudity.

 

Ten years ago today, silver screens everywhere were graced with the presence of Oliver Stone’s newest film, a bold epic about Alexander the Great (Colin Farrell, Phone Booth, Winter’s Tale). Audiences and critics alike were in agreement. This was one of the worst films ever. I myself hadn’t seen Alexander until I heard that the 10th anniversary was coming, so I took it upon myself to see if the film has aged well or if perhaps the rest of the world was wrong.

As it turns out, they weren’t.

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This movie is dreck. The plot is unbearably convoluted to sift through, but essentially tells the entire life story of one of the greatest rulers in existence through the word of his general Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins, Hannibal, Noah). We get to see his uncomfortably sensual relationship with his mother (Angelina Jolie, Maleficent, Kung Fu Panda 2), his constant need to kill his father (Val Kilmer, Heat, Palo Alto), his undersensualized sexual relationship with friend Hephaistion (Jared Leto, Requiem for a Dream, Dallas Buyers Club), and his animalistic relationship with first wife Roxane (Rosario Dawson, Sin City, Cesar Chavez). Seriously, I had no idea what was going on throughout this movie. It jumps around so damn much that I couldn’t quite remember where we were in time, which wasn’t helped with the horrible makeup that showed us that in ancient times, no one actually aged; apparently Angelina Jolie is hot no matter what age she is and Anthony Hopkins was actually born an aged bearded old man (that being said, at least a younger actor was cast to play Hopkins’ role in his flashbacks, that’s about it). I feel like this film should have been released with a light up timeline that people could check off events in the movie as they happen so we knew exactly what the hell was going on.

Colin Farrell kills it in this movie. Wait, I meant to say he killed this movie. If nothing else, I was so pissed to find that he absolutely tried his hardest not to act for the entirety of this three-hour tour. Oh, I didn’t know that Alexander was Irish. Hmmm, interesting.

I also didn’t know that somehow Alexander’s mother Olympias was Russian. It certainly seemed that way from the broken accent work given by Angelina Jolie.

Val Kilmer actually gives a nice enough performance were it not for the atrocious makeup work on his eye. You can literally see the prosthetic piece’s edge. Totally takes away what he could put down.

I actually like Jared Leto’s work as well as that of Rosario Dawson, but I felt like both roles were wasted by having nothing to do (again, I’m not complaining about Rosario’s nude scene, perhaps the only scene in the film worth keeping in the finished film).

And what was going on with Anthony Hopkins in this movie? Was his performance work based on a Roomba, because it seemed to me like he was walking all around his little balcony for 175 minutes bopping back and forth like a screensaver on a DVD player. I kept waiting to see if he would bump into a corner ‘cause I just wanted to see what would happen.

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Honestly, I have never seen a more wasted group of talent. This was one of those films that marked the end of Stone’s career; it really hasn’t moved much in a good direction since. From the opening overlong and boring prologue to the ending that seems to discredit any actual fact in the film, Alexander is a pointless film not worth the three different cuts the film had. Good movies are supposed to have multiple cuts, like Blade Runner, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and The Lord of the Rings films. It seemed like maybe if they kept recutting the picture, maybe they’d find a version that worked (ultimately, they did not). Avoid at all costs.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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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