‘Phil’s Quick Capsule Review’ (a nod to legendary comedian Bill Hicks who coined the phrase when he reviewed ‘Piece Of Shit’ movie Basic Instinct)… where a perfect 10 is rarer than a rain free British summer!
Written by Phil Hobden – UK based podcaster, writer and former filmmaker. Part of the All Things Film network…
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a worthy sequel to the surprise hit Sicario which doesn’t quite live up to the reputation set by the 2015 directed Denis Villeneuve original. Focusing down on an even deeper grey morality, Sicario: Day of the Soldado may lack the visual stylings that the team of Villeneuve and Roger Deakins delivered previously but it almost makes up for it with a hell of a cast, some tense drama and one ballsy ending. So not as essential as Sicario (nothing touches THAT scene in the original) but well worth a watch…
Best Bit: The stoppage
Buy, Stream, Avoid: Stream
If You Liked this Try: Sicario, Wind River, Traffic
It’s The Smoking Lamb Movie Podcast. A weekly, no-holds-baa-aa-arred, and R-rated look at the world of movies.
On this episode: With everyone else away, it is up for the Co-Runners to take charge as Mike and Josh handle this on their own. We have two very different films to review this week in The Snowman and The LEGO Ninjago Movie. Plus, a Top 5 on Movie Weapons!!!!
It’s The Smoking Lamb Movie Podcast. A weekly, no-holds-baa-aa-arred, and R-rated look at the world of movies.
On this episode: He’s back! Josh returns to a whopper of an episode. We have two great reviews of Mother! and American Assassin, a Top 5 on Posters That Ruined The Movie as well as our most creative Address The Lamb yet!
A question for anyone who’s seen this right off the bat – is Cheap Thrills a dark comedy, or a light horror? It can’t be both. It doesn’t have the faintest idea what it wants to be. So it decides to be both, I guess, and let the viewer decide. The poster suggests riotous, cheeky comedy.
When the film starts, its tone is blatantly clear; this won’t go well tonight for young new father Craig (Pat Healy) in what is undoubtedly the year’s biggest F.U. to any character – he’s served an eviction notice, goes to work and is laid off, and goes to drown his sorrows in a bar – only to meet a former high school acquaintance who’s much easier to handle when on mute. Poor sod.
Vince is his ne’er-do-well friend played by Ethan Embry, and they drink… and when Craig returns from the bathroom, Vince has cozied up to a couple named Colin and Violet. Colin is played by the go-to guy who’s name we can never remember but we always see in staple big budget comedies; David Koechner. Here, he’s the star of the show – his young trophy wife clearly with him because of his money; and, boy, does Colin wave it around. He dares the two youngster to down tequila and pinch a girl’s behind…
… and they end up back at his place, where the game really begin. Vince and Craig really need the money, and the wealthy sadist Colin dares them to do a number of ‘thing’s, which I won’t spoil, whilst simultaneously raising the amount. So, it’s one of those high concept comedies or horrors. Why then doesn’t it work? On paper, scripted as it is by David Chirchirillo and Troma’s own Trent Haaga must have read better than it plays. The film is set to slow-burn for approximately two thirds of its running time, and it all heads toward a tedious inevitability. I think the problem here is with relative newcomer E.L. Katz; tonally, the film is all off. It’s like the opening of Scream – in a manner of speaking – pulled out to 88 minutes. Rarely has a film felt twice as long as its own running time.
Okay, there are one or two reasonably satisfying set pieces involving – nope, not saying. Why? Well, if I do say what they are, then I’ll have ruined what limited fun there is to have.
The whole subtext about Craig needing to do this shit for the money, and Vince wanting the money is not exploited well enough until it’s far too late. Anyone who’s seen – let alone grew up on – concept cheap-o-ramas such as drivel like this will guess what one of the dares is before they’ve even left the bar. Especially if you’ve seen The Man From Hollywood. The ending is especially slack, with little-to-no motive (the furthest of the film’s troubles) for the lead character to do what he does, through to the daft reconnaissance that closes the picture down when the big titles flash at the end.
The main issue I have with the movie is that it simply doesn’t have the courage of its convictions. It doesn’t go TOO far enough. The BBFC have, according to the press notes, slapped this with a ‘15’ certificate for its May release. Fuck that. A film of this nature should be going apeshit bonkers, along the lines of Brian Yuzna’s Society or even Danny DeVito’s War of the Roses. If it were me, I’d have raised the bar higher a lot quicker, and the end would have been… too outrageous for print in a respectable website.
Cheap Thrills; perhaps the clue is in the title. Cheap? Certainly – this four hander seems to have been shot in the producer’s rich grandparent’s LA Canyon home. Thrills? Eh, not so much.
During a routine Transatlantic flight, Air Marshall Bill Marks (Liam Neeson), receives a series of text messages from an unknown person, threatening to kill a passenger every 20 minutes unless a $150 million ransom is paid by the airline. Thinking he is being wound up, he dismisses the texts as a sick joke, however things start taking a turn for the worst when the bodies start piling up and Marks finds himself being framed as the chief suspect.
Its then down to the beleaguered air marshal and a plucky passenger (Julianne Moore) to find out which of the passengers is the villain and stop the air force from shooting down the plane.
It had to happen, I knew it couldn’t last. 2014 was going so well – just about every film id seen so far this year had been superb. The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyers Club – all brilliant, even the Robocop remake wasn’t bad. So, being the total sucker for an action film that I am, I merrily toddled off to my local Cineworld to watch this stinking pile of pants.
Now Non Stop should have worked – Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore are always good value, its produced by the legendary Joel Silver (Predator, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard etc.), the plot seemed interesting, the trailer screamed “top action movie” – hell even the poster looked great. Not only that, when it was released in the US, it flew straight to the top of the box office with a $30 million opening weekend!
So what went wrong I hear you cry? Well friends, just about bloody everything.
For a start the script is woefully awful, with characters that are cliché’ to a fault. Marks is a grieving alcoholic, one of the stewardesses is having a fling with the co pilot, everyone on the plane is made to look suspicious and of course there’s the obligatory vomit inducing, teddy bear wielding 9 year old, who (predictably) is on her 1st flight by herself – laugh? I nearly asked for a sick bucket.
As far as the performances go, the normally superb Neeson seems to have just shown up for the money and is by turns cheesy, and ineffective in the lead role. Julianne Moore fares no better, her bland character given no depth or backstory – quite what an actress of her ability and range is doing in this nonsense is beyond me. Jaume Collett Serra’s direction is uninspiring , boringly by the numbers and criminally fails on every level to crank up any tension or deliver one half way decent action scene. Even the shootout at the films climax lacks any and all excitement – I mean how hell does a director screw up a scene showing the mighty Liam Neeson flying through the air firing a handgun??! Answer – you just don’t – it aint the done thing old son.
Dammit there’s no place for films like this anymore, you could get away with it in the 80’s and 90’s but not now. The next two years are going to be some of the most exciting times the cinema has ever seen. Talented directors like JJ Abrams, Chris Nolan and Joss Whedon, are out there right now, taking their time developing sharp scripts and good stories, –basically making damn sure that we, the punters get our money’s worth.
OK, yes I’ll admit that Non Stop isn’t the worst film I’ve ever seen and it passed the time well enough, but If I wanted to see a rehash of the likes of Executive Decision or Air Force One – id simply just watch them again.
All I would say is that, if studios are going to recycle and redo old films , then at the very least write a good script, throw in a few decent characters, and for God’s sake don’t bore me! It was done brilliantly last year with the fantastic Olympus Has Fallen and there is no reason it shouldn’t have been done here.
Liam you are better than this, and to producer Joel Silver – a word to the wise, the glory days of the 80’s are over mate, get some inspiration and stop living on the past.
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: Jonnie To’s Chinese language crime thriller Drug War is a lot more low key than maybe you would expect. Less John Woo more Michael Mann. That’s not to say it doesn’t have it’s action moments, it does and they are very well handled, but this film a much more than that. Betrayal, deception and broken alliances are the order of the day here and, whilst visually it’s a big hum drum, the story & performances more than make up for it.
Best Bit: The rather excellant Final shoot out.
Buy, Rent, Stream, Borrow: Rent
If You Liked this Try: The Departed; The Killer; SPL
The Review: I love it when the title of a film aptly sums up precisely how thrilling and entertaining the experience of sitting through it is like. Take The terminator, for examples, or perhaps even Twelve Angry Men (and RoboCop) – those two titles tell you what’s going to happen; gear you up for a giddy ride. Then there’s shite like The Motel Life starring Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff, which does precisely the same. Only don’t be fooled by the title this time around; The Motel Life is much, much more boring.
The aforementioned superstars play brothers – in childhood they’re approximately the same age, and now in adulthood, it seems Dorff has gained about fifteen years on his sibling. A quick trip to the iMDB informs us that Dorff is a clear decade older than Hirsch. But it gets better – Hirsch is a clear decade older than his love interest played by Dakota Fanning, who for all intents and purposes (and especially in the America) is not quite at the requisite age yet for having been dumped a while ago by this loser and considering taking him back.
But anyway, I digress. The Mote Life is directionless twadlle. Dorff hits and kills a youngster with his dumpster truck – or something – and dumps the body on a frozen river and legs it. He tells his brother, and they decide to flee. But dickhead Dorff throws his toys out of his pram, feels sorry for himself, and shoots himself in the leg. His amputee leg. Oh dear.
In the hospital, and the cops are getting wise. Dorff now needs Hirsch to rescue him. I know, this all sounds like a Fargo-ish crime thriller, right?
This is dreary, slow-paced utter buffoonery which brings about memories of films far richer, certainly better written and infinitely more enjoyable than this pretentious piece of twattery. I rarely use the word “pretentious” around these here parts because it’s often misused. But here, I mean it sincerely. All this ‘action’ is punctuated by fatal halts in the ‘narrative’ flow to include animations of stories being told by Hirsch to…. well, whichever character will listen. This is a slam dunk deadbolt in the gears of a movie that has real trouble gargling its engine to roll past the 80 minute run time.
Dakota Fanning is haphazardly miscast as the love interest – but fair dos, she’s so underused anyway, it barely seems to matter. Hirsch on numerous occasions has eye drops bled into his tear ducts just before the directors shout action to ensure the tears are real. Dorff is… God knows what he is, but he is ‘it’ and then some. Annoying, I think is the word. It’d be quite fair to align The Motel Life to Of Mice and Men in more than a number of ways. My God this film is mind-numbingly tedious.
And this narcoleptic hogwash needed TWO directors? Ha. Yeah – one to read the newspaper, and the other to hold it up for him, no doubt. Yawn.
The Review: As nice as it is to see Christian Bale not playing a campy superhero, there seems to be mostly only one setting he goes for, lately; that of the slightly angry, mostly psychotic revenge-fuelled layabout.
Out of the Furnace is no different. Here, Bale plays a mill worker who’s relatively happy shacked up with Zoe Saldana (and who wouldn’t be?) and generally getting on with life. His younger brother, Rodney, played by Casey Affleck is a war veteran deeply shaken to the core by his adventures and trying to make ends meet by involving himself in illicit bare knuckle boxing matches.
Of course this won’t turn out well. Affleck mostly steals the show as the dim-witted brother who enlists the services of a local kingpin (Daefo) to go and fight a few rounds under the supervision of DeGroat (Woody Harrelson, channeling Mickey Knox) – the USA’s most evillest, violent and balding crime lord since Ben Kingsley’s Don Logan.
It’s all played perfectly well. Bale does all he can to say the line “Rodney, You PLONKER!” at almost every turn. Affleck convinces us that he’s a no good, shell-shocked nitwit. He manages to continue to convince us with his performance in this film, too. Scott “Crazy Heart” Cooper’s direction is at once quiet and under-laboured – a welcome follow-up to the gushing Jeff Bridges starrer a couple of years back. Sadly, all this grandiose blatancy is underserved by a script perfectly willing to throttle along one two major plot contrivances. Bale, early on, involves himself in a car crash. It’s a stone in the shoe of the film’s overall message, and certainly surplus to requirement. It’s a plot device enabling him to fester anger and defy the odds of engaging the world’s most ruthless badass on his own turf. It’s extremely unnecessary given the certainty of the material and feels more at home in a Scott Adkins picture.
Next up – in what I consider to be this year’s head-slapping “Oh WHY did you bother doing that?!” moment, a cell phone is accidentally knocked out of a pocket and records a damning indictment for two characters who meet their demise shortly after. The pious artificiality of this action and when it occurs – conveniently before both men are executed – donkey punches the believability of the movie right at the time when it’s most needed.
And then there’s the end. It’s satisfying, all right. It’s the payoff we expect and we deserve. Take this beginning and ending – and a rather edifying, if fleeting, repatriation between Bale and Saldana’s estranged lovers on a railway bridge – and you have one of the movies of the year. But take into account the liberal use of mistrust of an audience’s appreciation for not being treated like cretins in two moments such as the ones I’ve describe, then the filmmaker’s shouldn’t be surprised at a reaction like mine.
We’re not dumb. Casey Affleck is dumb.
And I’m not knocking off at least two points for the middle finger, thankyouverymuch ★★★★★★★★★★
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: Hollywood Executive: “Ben, fancy slumming it in some gambling thriller starring Justin Timberhips?” Ben Affleck “Not really!” Hollywood Executive: “How about it we pay you $10 million, then film in Costa Rica. All you have to do is turn up. No effort required” Ben Affleck “Maybe…” Hollywood Executive: “There will be lots of half naked women and boats and fast cars and planes…” Ben Affleck “Where do I sign?” And that my friends is Runner Runner where everyone slums it. even the audience.
Best Bit: Costa Rica is lovely
Rent, Borrow, Buy, Stream: Save the money so you can go to Costa Rica instead.
If you liked this try: Giving up ever watching films again.
The Review: I’ll keep this brief, Prisoners is AT LEAST an hour too long. This film has no right being any longer than 100 minutes – maybe 105 at most.
Admittedly, i went into this film totally blind. I thought it was a prison drama starring Hugh Jackman and Jack Gylllenehahlannalll. But, no, it’s almost exactly on a par with Zodiac, with hints of The Silence of the Lambs. It’s just over two and half hours long. It should have been titled “Another Place Beyond the Pines”.
Two young girls vanish and the fathers, played by Jackman and Terence Howard, decide to take matters into Jackman’s hands and target the local RV-dweller; a typical bespectacled nerd. Was I meant to feel more compassion toward the nerd than for Jackman? Jackman’s character really loses it, and our sympathy. it’s a fine performance; possibly even his very best, ever. Gyllenhaaal plays the cop; his introductory scene makes him out to be the abductor, but in the end he’s chasing down all the trails with that awkward blinking. He never smiles.
And rent-a-mom Maria Bello shows up as Jackman’s wife. A lot of sobbing and depressants, immersed in a bleak setting is matched equally by Roger Deakins cinematography. Quite why relative newcomer director Dennis Villeneuve feels the urge to snap-cut to a slow dolly shot on a tree/car/house* accompanied by a *PANG* sound effect is beyond me; that’s no way to draw out emotion. The actors do a fine enough job.
I am sure Villenueve and writer Aaron Guzikowski have better films in them – but they need to sack their editor. The sad fact remains that the performers are doing in a good job in a film that scarcely deserves it. it’s too long. Too, too long. It’s “The Place Beyond the Pines” all over again..