Movie Review: Focus (2015)

Running time: 105 minutes

Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

Focus-2015-MovieComic book fans are keeping their eyes on Focus to get a glimpse of what may await them in the upcoming Suicide Squad, where Will Smith and Margot Robbie will be teaming again to play Deadshot and Harley Quinn. The amazing chemistry between these two actors, in the hands of the duo who brought us Crazy, Stupid, Love, should be enough to catch a lot of people’s attention.

Nicky (Will Smith) is a veteran con man who takes an amateur con artist, Jess (Margot Robbie), under his wing and they get romantically involved. After pulling a big scheme during a football game, Nicky decides the best thing for Jess is to let her go. Things start to go south when they run into each other again three years later.

imagesWill Smith as the con man Nicky Spurgeon is as charismatic and likable as always and thankfully, his kids are not in the movie. And just like Jess evolves from being an amateur con artist and Nicky’s apprentice, to be at his same level, Wolf of Wall Street‘s Margot Robbie holds her own against the movie star, showing some acting skills and proving that she is more than just a pretty face. Their relationship never stops being engaging as they are equals and you are never sure who is playing who in each scenario.

The problem here is that Focus needs to rely heavily on their chemistry, because the actual plot of the movie doesn’t start until 50 minutes in. Curiously enough, those first 50 minutes are the most entertaining. We get to know the characters, how they work, how their relation develops and how they pull off an impressive con during a football game. But after the three years gap, the tone changes completely and doesn’t quite fit with what the movie has stablished until that point, making it feel like two different movies. One takes place in New Orleans and the sequel in Buenos Aires.

????????????????????????Alright, maybe my expectations were high and I wanted something at the level of Ocean’s Eleven, but if the entire movie had been like the New Orlean’s part I would have been satisfied. Yes, it could have been more believable because some of the tricks were a bit far-fetched and you will never see the final twist coming simply because it was like a last-minute decision. But is enjoyable and even if it is just for the chemistry between Margot Robbie and Will Smith and how beautifully shot it is, Focus is worth checking out. And if you are one of those comic book adaptation fans, it will leave you feeling really good about Suicide Squad.

6,5/10

Movie Review: Chappie (2015)

Running time: 120 minutes

Director: Neill Blomkamp

Chappie3Chappie was written by director Neill Blomkamp and his wife Terri Tatchell, who also co-wrote District 9. The movie is based on the short film Tetra Vaal, also directed by Blomkamp and he has just been signed to take on the popular franchise Alien. With such a gig coming up, the expectations for Chappie are really high. So the question is, does this movie fall more in the line of District 9 or Elysium‘s?

In a futuristic world where police officers have been substituted by robots, one of the creators, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), after many tries, success to create an artificial intelligence and download it into one of the malfunctioning robots. Deon is abducted by Ninja and Yolandi who want to use the robot, Chappie, to help them with their crimes. When Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) finds out about Chappie, he understands the potential danger A.I could imply to mankind and will stop at nothing to destroy it.

chappie01I went into this movie expecting something quite different and I blame the trailers for that. They mislead you into thinking the movie will focus on the “father-son” relation between Chappie and his creator, Deon Wilson, and how he learns from him and cartoons, like He-Man, themes such as morality, that will eventually help him to save humanity. That might have been a great movie but we will never know because Patel, despite being the only likable human character in the movie, is not the star of Chappie.

Ninja and Yolandi are the ones who take the spotlight and the film basically builds around them. How Chappie is raised by this group of gangsters from whom he learns a lot of bad habits and is manipulated into do their dirty work. You may know these two if you are a fan of the rap-rave group Die Antwoord. I didn’t but I assume they are playing a version of themselves, besides wearing their own merchandising and promoting their music. Why were they cast? I don’t know, because they are nothing but annoying, so when at the end the movie expects you to sympathize with them, it simply fails.

Chappie--2nd-trailerAlright, let’s talk about Chappie. One big thumbs up for the movie is for how well portrayed this robot was. He is very much like a kid at first and the way he moves resembles a scared puppy. He needs to learn basic things and understand the world around him and you really get to feel for him at the beginning. But for me, the movie falls apart when Ninja, Yolandi and Amerika get their way and he becomes part of the group. I never felt the connection between Chappie and Deon, as I said, this character was completely underused and you never get to see the impact he makes in Chappie.

So, the movie wants you to root for Chappie and his group of gangsters, which I never did. I might have rooted for Hugh Jackman as Vincent if he wasn’t the personification of every single Australian stereotype that you could think of. Seriously, his performance and the character are so cartoonish. Much like Sigourney Weaver, who I guess was there just to warm up for Aliens because she is barely in it and had nothing to do. So yes, in the end Blomkamp had Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver but decided that the best he could do with the plot was making Ninja and Yolandi the stars of the movie. Because… why not?

cdn.indiewire.comOverall, Chappie is not terrible like Transcendence was. It looks good, the CGI blends seamlessly but if Transformers: Age of Extinction taught us anything is that good looks don’t make up for a good movie. Chappie doesn’t do or tell us anything we haven’t seen before. The plot tackles for a minute the idea of mortality and what it is to be conscious but never truly focuses on these themes and in the end needs to rely on the big action sequence, which lacks the emotion that has failed to build up throughout the movie.

5/10

Trailer Analysis: Avengers: Age of Ultron (#3)

I have enjoyed all the trailers for Age of Ultron that have been released. I loved the darker tone, the scale of it, but one of the problems I had was that, as epic and amazing as the first two were, there was a considerable lack of humour compared to the first movie. Even Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is the most serious film in the MCU, had some moments of comic relief without being silly. This trailer has finally shown that aspect and I couldn’t be more happy.

ultron-does-doom-impression-b4d53The trailer opens with Ultron sitting on a throne and talking to the twins about how the only way to achieve peace is to eliminate the human race, starting with The Avengers. I love James Spader as Ultron more and more with every piece of footage we get. What a creepy voice… By the way, I think this is the first time we see Tony (Robert Downey Jr) saying he created Ultron. We are going to get a lot of Science Bros in this film! There’s a cool shot of the new Avengers tower and some hints at Civil War. Cap (Chris Evans) tries to save someone and fails. There is some Brutasha going on and something that at first looked like Wolverine’s claws but are actually Hawkeye’s (Jeremy Renner) new arrows.

tumblr_nkrwhaKAPb1sxz8h2o1_540The big money-shot of the trailer features all the Avengers engaging in a fight. I’m betting this is part of the epic opening scene of the film and they are fighting Hydra soldiers to get to wherever Baron von Strucker’s is hiding. There is a great shot of Cap, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Ironman facing Ultron and the twins across a bridge. Stark saying there is no way they will all survive (hinting a possible death?) and sassy Cap admitting it’s ok because he doesn’t really have any other plans (I’ll admit that the first time I saw the trailer I didn’t understand what Tony said and Steve’s response left me a bit confused). Those words are actually quite sad when you think that by getting frozen he missed his date with Peggy…

tumblr_nkrs7xLeCT1sfuc3no1_540There is another cool shot of Cap fighting Ultron on top of a truck and in the party scene that we saw in previous trailers, Natasha refused to try to pick up Thor’s hammer. Now, she is picking up Cap’s shield while saying “Am I always picking after you, boys?” Could that be a foreshadowing of her picking Mijolnir at some point in the movie? We also see the twins in action. Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) messing with Natasha’s mind and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnsson) punching Cap in slow motion. Thor, not being impressed with Ultron, asks if that is the best he can do (which clearly isn’t a smart idea, as Cap points out), Ultron laughs at him and calls his minions. We get a shot from above of all the Avengers fighting together (except Quicksilver, who could be running too fast or even dead).

tumblr_nksbwgO7fh1rz4t77o1_540And, as it is now so typical from Marvel, after the “credits” we get the first look at Paul Bettany as the Vision! He looks just like in the comics, while still being realistic. The details on his eyes are amazing and I can’t wait to see him in action. Some people are speculating that it might be the soul stone in his forehead, which could be possible as Vision is a robot who wants to be human.

Anyway, how about you? What are your thoughts on the trailer? Do you like it better than the first two or did you prefer the darker tone of the previous ones?

 

Best & Worst (February 2015)

Best: Kingsman: The Secret Service

Director: Matthew Vaughn MV5BMTkxMjgwMDM4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTk3NTIwNDE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_
Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, Sofia Boutella, Sophie Cookston

A secret spy organization called the Kingsman recruits a street kid into their program as a billionaire plans to commit a massive genocide. Stylish, rude, this movie is completely different from the typical action spy thriller and it’s so much fun. Colin Firth has never looked better and watching him kicking ass in his tailor suit is wonderful. And Samuel L. Jackson as the villain is hilarious. Full Review.

Worst: The Loft

Director: MV5BMjAyNTM4ODM5NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTA4NDE3MzE@._V1_SX214_AL_Erik Van Looy
Cast: Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, Eric Stonestreet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Rhona Mitra, Rachael Taylor, Isabel Lucas

Five married guys secretly start sharing a loft, where they can have affairs and indulge in their fantasies. But the fantasy dissolves when one morning they find the body of a murdered woman in the loft and they start to question if one of them is involved. Despite Karl Urban and James Marsden’s charm, all the characters of The Loft are so dislikable. Wentworth Miller must give the worst performance of the year so far. The plot tries to be smart and unexpected and ends up being a complete mess. The portrayal of women is so poor (and for some reason all the wifes are brunettes and the girlfriends blonds).

Movie Review: Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Running time: 127 minutes

Director: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

jupiter_ascendingTo create Jupiter Ascending, the Wachowski siblings seem to have borrowed elements from other successful space operas like Star Wars and Star Trek, from Thor and even from the classic fairytale of Cinderella. Putting all these together should have a lot of potential or at least it should be fun.The movie was supposed to come out last summer but was pushed back to the dumping ground that is February and once you have seen the movie, there is no question why.

The Abrasax Dynasty is a royal family that has always ruled life on every planet. Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a house-cleaner with no aspirations in life, discovers after being saved from a group of alien assassins by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) that she is the rightful owner of the planet. But the other three heirs, Titus (Douglas Booth), Kalique (Tuppence Middleston) and Balem (Eddie Redmayne) also want to claim Earth for themselves.

jupiter_aJupiter is the typical role of a nobody, who doesn’t quite fit in the world and suddenly discovers she is special and has to save the world. Yes, we have seen it a million times. The worst part is that with these roles you normally go through the hero’s journey but Jupiter has next to no character development and Mila Kunis doesn’t convey any emotion throughout the film, even when so much is at stake. Basically, Jupiter’s whole role in the movie is to be the damsel in distress and to be constantly saved by the genetically engineered, half human and half wolf, Caine. Channing Tatum is good with what he is given (at least his performance is not embarrassing and has things to do), he has a pretty cool pair of hover.boots and his relation with Sean Bean’s character, Stinger, had some potential to be interesting.

Alright, let’s talk about Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne. I’m still confused about his performance as Balem, the main villain who wants Jupiter dead to claim the Earth for himself. I don’t know if he was just bad, if that is what the Wachoswki told him to do or if I actually appreciate that he tried to do something different. It was definitely fun to watch, though maybe not in a good way.

JUPITER ASCENDINGRepetitive, with a tone of exposition and some terrible dialogue, Jupiter Ascending can only be compared to the Star Wars prequels. It had a lot of potential, the production design is gorgeous, it’s visually stunning, but maybe the Wachowski should stick to directing and leave the writing to someone else, because at this point The Matrix seems to be the exception and not the rule.

3,5/10