Posts Tagged ‘action’

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Can we just forgive Mel Gibson already?

I know he made The Passion of the Christ, but I can forgive him for that.

Oh yeah, there’s all that racist stuff too. But he was drunk! Who among us hasn’t said some stupid shit when we’re drunk? I regret virtually everything I’ve ever done when drunk. There’s a kernel of truth in the saying that the real person reveals themselves when intoxicated. As a fan, I’m happy to have Mel Gibson back in my life.

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Get the Gringo is Mel Gibson at his best. His booze-soaked, chain-smoking best.

The premise is stunningly simple. Mel Gibson’s character is simply known as either the Driver or Gringo. He was the getaway driver of a robbery gone bad. Get the Gringo opens with the Driver leading the police on a chase with a dying accomplice bleeding all over the millions in their car. In a last-ditch attemptr, the Driver evades the cops and crashes the car into and over the border wall in order to get easier treatment in Mexico. The laughably corrupt Mexican cops that catch him take the millions in stolen money and throw the Driver into their shitty prison system on false charges—hoping to bury him forever. The setup of the story is nice and breezy.

Essentially, this is a revenge movie where Mel Gibson makes sure his enemies get their comeuppance. And oh shit, comeuppance is had. Mel’s character is the only white guy (hence, the Gringo) locked up in El Pueblito, which is a Mexican prison where the inmates run the asylum. If you have enough money, you can bring your family into the prison to live with you—while the kids can even continue going to school on the outside. The Gringo gets the lay of the land and starts to exploit his surroundings to improve his stature in the prison.

Get the Gringo has an enjoyable pace, but I found myself more in love with the acting than the actual story. Mel Gibson exudes charisma. This is the typical kind of gruff character that Mel Gibson knocks out of the park. Despite being an arguably shitty human being, I find Mel Gibson to be an extremely likeable actor.

the-driver-and-the-kid

As great as Mel Gibson is in Get the Gringo, this movie is so memorable because of the Kid (played by Kevin Hernandez). I’ve seen Kevin Hernandez is a few things since this movie, but Get the Gringo will likely be the height of his career. Honestly, it feels like one of the best performances from a young child actor. The Kid has special privileges in El Pueblito because he is the only match for a liver transplant that the criminal leader of the prison, Javi (played by Daniel Giménez Cacho) needs—due to all of his drinking. No one can touch the Kid, and he can’t leave like the other kids. The budding friendship between the Gringo and the Kid is the highlight of this movie.

Most child actors are shit. I think reasonable people can agree about that. They’re kids, they can’t be trusted to be any good. What child should be working at that age? However, Kevin Hernandez perfectly encapsulates this character. He’s a wise-cracking, tough kid on the outside, but you can see he is scared to death on the inside. In his current circumstances, there’s nothing the Kid can do to save himself or his mother. But he wants to try to do so by killing Javi. He has no choice. His liver is no longer his own. Once Javi gives the go-ahead, they’ll cut the liver out of the Kid and transplant it into Javi so he can ruin another this one too with his binge drinking.

Naturally, the story snowballs and you find out more about the robbery gone bad. The Gringo stole those millions from an evil fuck named Frank (played by master of greasy creepitude, Peter Stormare). Frank wants that fucking money back. Nothing will stop him. Get the Gringo is wise to let Stormare chew scenery and gloriously over-act. Peter Stormare is phenomenal in everything, and I will fight you if you disagree.

There’s a few other solid performances from supporting actors, but the biggest secondary contribution comes from Peter Gerety. If the name isn’t familiar, maybe the many chins of Peter Gerety will remind you that he was the hefty Judge Phelan in The Wire. I’ve been grossed out by Gerety ever since I heard his character in The Wire say he “would love to throw a fuck” into a female character. The mental image that conjured will haunt my nightmares. Gerety is operating at peak creepiness as the Embassy Guy poking around in the Gringo’s business.

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Get the Gringo is a fun action adventure. This is the exact fucking type of movie that we as a nation have missed out on in the name of morality. Most people in the movie business are probably pieces of shit. I don’t care. Movies aren’t real. I can disassociate someone’s real life from what’s happening on a screen. It’s acting. Some people are weirded out by Tom Cruise now. Like Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise exudes charisma and he’s always entertaining in movies.

Maybe Mel Gibson still is a piece of shit. But people can change. His past, present, or future isn’t going to impact my enjoyment of his films. Get the Gringo is a fine example of the pure fun that we can have from watching Mel Gibson get back to work. Give the man some room to breathe and the freedom to perfect his craft.

freedom

4.5 out of 5 stars

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Hardcore Henry is a stupid name for a movie. We can all agree on that.

A movie that solely features a first-person perspective seems like a stupid idea.

However, Hardcore Henry is not a stupid movie. Although this is absolutely not a highbrow movie, it is quite an achievement in filmmaking for crazy rooskie Ilya Naishuller. I hope that’s not taken as an insult in the Motherland because it’s meant as a term of endearment for this outrageous Russian who made this fucking movie his debut film. I have no idea where Naishuller goes from here.

Sadly, we may never even get an opportunity to see Naishuller’s future work if this flops.

Hardcore Henry deserves better. This movie would have benefitted tremendously with a late release at the very end of summer—hitting people at the tail-end of action movie season with something they have never witnessed. Or perhaps scheduling the movie for a February release (such as Deadpool) would have been a boon to the box office. Anything was a better idea than competing directly against tentpole movies. Keeping the original title of Hardcore should have also been an easy decision. Hardcore Henry’s marketing campaign did not do the movie justice. This is more than a “video game movie.”

For whatever reason, Hardcore Henry has not hit the mark with critics or the audience.

Yes, the first-person perspective is a gimmick. But it is very well-executed throughout the movie.

Action

No one has had the balls to pull off a full-length feature film shot with a GoPro. I have no idea how some of these sequences were pulled off, but the practical effects are seamlessly blended with CGI to make this relatively smooth camerawork. If you are at all predisposed to motion sickness, sit in the back row. As a child, I learned the hard way because the 5-year-old version of myself was dragged to Aladdin and forced to sit in the front row. Needless to say, that magic carpet ride was not so magical. I wanted to throw up and we had to leave the movie. Maybe it’s a coincidence that I hate all Disney movies. But as long as you know what to expect with Hardcore Henry, you should be fine for the hour and a half runtime. While it can get too shaky at moments, I never experienced motion sickness. Naishuller gives the audience just enough breaks at the right times to serve as respite from all the murdering.

Hardcore Henry has a frenetic pace and the kinetic action drives the movie.

With a slow build, there is a nice crescendo leading up to all the ensuing chaos.

Estelle

The beginning is a beautiful introduction to the premise and plot. As the audience, you see everything from the first-person perspective of Henry. Just as Henry does, you wake up to find yourself being attended to by a sexy doctor named Estelle (played by Haley Bennett). Not so sexy is that you’re missing an arm and a leg. But good news, the doctor is apparently your wife and she can hook you up with cybernetic limbs. Essentially, these limbs are indestructible plug-and-play parts.

The party is almost immediately broken up by a mysterious villain named Akan (played by Danila Kozlovsky) who has fine-tuned telekinetic powers and bad intentions. Akan and his never-ending army of soldiers seize Estelle and Henry’s mission is to get his wife back. If there’s a weak part of this movie, the character of Akan leaves a lot to be desired. A more iconic villain and matching performance would have really elevated Hardcore Henry. Instead, what we got was a weird albino Joker-lite.

Akan

The story isn’t remarkable, but it still manages to be an entertaining sci-fi movie set somewhere in a more technologically advanced world. If this was filmed in the typical straightforward fashion, I would still be interested in watching the story unfold. In a sense, Hardcore Henry self-imposes limitations on the story by forcing themselves to film everything in the first-person perspective.

It’s hard to fathom how this got made, but I am glad it did.

Sharlto Copley comes out of Hardcore Henry as the shining star (Jimmy). Copley is not the titular Henry, but he plays several different versions of the same character who helps Henry on his mission. Most of the comic relief in Hardcore Henry is a direct result of Copley’s completely over-the-top performance. Sharlto puts his range on display, and he already proved very capable of performing with just his voice in Chappie. By luck or design, Copley appears to enjoy being part of interesting movies.

Jimmy

Hardcore Henry is mostly a nonstop thriller. When Naishuller needs to give the audience a rest from close-ups of hyperviolence, he still manages to make the events interesting. Considering Hardcore Henry was primarily shot using GoPro mounted cameras, that feat is a worthwhile accomplishment. However, there are few occasions where Naishuller falls a little too much in love with the GoPro.

I whole-heartedly loved the first and third acts of this movie. But Hardcore Henry threatens to stall out in the second act because there’s too much repetition of similar sequences. Henry is in a bind against Akan’s soldiers and he has to fight his way out so he can find his wife. There reaches a point where they almost make you numb to the gory violence. I promise you that Ilya Naishuller will win your heart over with the finale if you stick it through. Near the end, they recognize the absurdity of the story and Naishuller just turns up the volume level to dangerous head-splitting territory.

While this movie absolutely isn’t for everyone, I would be surprised to hear people (who went into this movie expecting to experience mindless action) were not entertained. There are so many thrilling sequences that leave your jaw agape. Just sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

Violence

I guarantee you have never seen anything like this movie. Since we’re all drowning in a sea of mediocrity, you should do yourself a favor and bear witness to a cinematic achievement that cannot be replicated. I don’t think anyone will have the balls to try to pull this off again. Even if someone makes an attempt, Ilya Naishuller already set the bar extremly high with the execution of Hardcore Henry.

Eventually, I expect this movie to find a cult audience that will appreciate and celebrate its existence. Hardcore Henry deserves that adoration because it threatens to be different. If you noticed, I haven’t even mentioned who plays Henry. A series of stuntmen and cameramen served the role—including director Ilya Naishuller, which shows some real investment. The whole crew responsible for this movie probably won’t get the respect they deserve, but they can take solace in the creativity of their labor.  Their work will likely scare off anyone else from attempting a full first-person movie.

Despite the commercial disappointment, Hardcore Henry is actually an incredibly pleasant surprise.

A-OK

4 out of 5 stars

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Deadpool is the culmination of the collective will of comic book nerds.

I’m not a big comic book fan and I had no idea about Deadpool, but the story behind this movie’s existence is fascinating. In 2009, X-Men Origins: Wolverine butchered the depiction of Deadpool, which also featured Ryan Reynolds as the character—except with his mouth sewn shut. The Merc with a Mouth literally had his mouth removed. While a Deadpool movie was in the works at that time, the massive commercial failure of X-Men Origins: Wolverine effectively killed this virtually unkillable character. Development hell is a perpetual state of misery that very few movies escape.

Deadpool excited nerds everywhere by leaking a rough trailer showing CGI footage of Deadpool kicking ass and Ryan Reynolds cracking jokes. This guerrilla tactic sparked widespread interest among the comic book community and this fucking Deadpool movie finally got a green light. The power of nerds. And Ryan Reynolds—don’t forget about him. Everyone should be sucking Ryan Reynolds’ balls for sticking with this movie and believing this character, Deadpool, could deliver a hit.

Once this movie premiered, the American public gravitated to this R-rated superhero comedy like no one could have possibly expected. As a result, Deadpool might be a tad overrated because of the hype. But this movie still delivers heaps of genuine hysterics and unbelievable violence. When all Marvel movies are so overwhelmingly saccharine and DC is establishing a gritty, dark universe, Deadpool operates in a sort of limbo with elements of both approaches to superhero movies. What makes Deadpool distinct and singularly unique is its metanarrative and constant breaking of the fourth wall.

Touching Myself

Ryan Reynolds is a perfect fit as Wade Wilson—who is transformed into Deadpool through a series of torturous events. While the humor is almost too much of the wink-and-a-nod variety, Reynolds’ delivery successfully matches the tone of the movie. I cannot imagine anyone else pulling off this role.

Oddly enough, the opening credits are one of the best parts of this movie. Deadpool starts with a bang and impressively maintains that pace despite not having the same type of budget as most superhero movies. However, the lack of financial resources probably improved the quality of Deadpool because it forced them to be creative. The structure of the movie gives the illusion of relentless action. In reality, there are only a few scenes of real action but they’re used efficiently and spread throughout.

For the most part, the supporting cast is incredible. If there is a weak spot, Ed Skrein was rather lackluster as the villain Ajax. I didn’t cringe every time Skrein was on the screen, but the character and performance were flat and one-dimensional. He was just a British villain—as the credits stated.

Weasel

T.J. Miller was outstanding as Wade’s best friend, Weasel. I will watch anything involving T.J. Miller, and he really shined in this movie—especially bantering back and forth with Ryan Reynolds. Morena Baccarin’s character, Vanessa, didn’t have a whole lot to do, but she brought a certain charisma to the screen. Baccarin is deserving of a more prominent role in the sequel, and I demand a return of T.J. Miller.

I don’t know if this was one-and-done for the X-Men characters Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (played by Brianna Hildebrand), but they flawlessly created these characters and the actors brought them to life perfectly. It was a harmonious production. Although I was never a huge comic book fan, the one comic I collected a few copies of just happened to be X-Men. I remember playing an X-Men arcade game and the animated television show was also a staple of my childhood. The X-Men movie universe is entertaining enough and fun for what it is, but Deadpool blows away the competition. While this shares some similar aspects to James Gunn’s Super (starring Rainn Wilson), Deadpool is unlike anything the audience has seen from a major movie studio. You can legitimately critique Deadpool’s satire of the superhero genre as hollow considering it operates within the same universe. But that is unavoidable due to the rights issues regarding the character.

Colossus and Negasonic

Deadpool’s incredibly shrinking budget is likely why the writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and director Tim Miller had so much freedom to create this movie in their image. There’s been a lot of hullabaloo about Deadpool’s R-rating, but it wasn’t forced and it naturally works with the character. Deadpool is not a family-friendly superhero comedy. The fact that it feels taboo and a bit naughty has probably helped propel this movie to unthinkable levels of commercial success.

Whether it was all of the marketing or just word of mouth spreading, Deadpool has earned its status as one of the highest grossing R-rated movies. A sequel was already confirmed in the post-credits scene, which is going to be a difficult task to match this accomplishment. I hope they keep restrictions on Deadpool so the character remains separate from the main X-Men timeline. But if the sequel receives anywhere near the same reception, I fear over-saturation would be inevitable.

As a snarky antihero, Deadpool scratches a very specific itch.

The whole superhero movie landscape will be transformed (for better or worse) by Deadpool. Personally, I still credit James Gunn because Deadpool follows in the footsteps of Super and Guardians of the Galaxy. Tim Miller did a very admirable job in his directorial debut, but someone like James Gunn could have elevated the material even more. Was this just a perfect storm?

I’m not sure if the success of Deadpool can be reproduced. After the resounding success of Deadpool, I expect the sequel to be appropriately ambitious—already announcing that Cable will be included. The odds are stacked against a repeat performance, but crazier things have happened.

3-in-1

4 out of 5 stars

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Look at the poster and treasure it because that’s better than anything in this movie.

Cooties is a massive disappointment on so many levels.

I was eagerly anticipating the release of Cooties, a zombie horror comedy set in a school where the children are the zombies. Even if the zombie genre has you sick and tired (and running a fever and stumbling around looking for brains), you have to admit that is a promising premise. Fruitful ground to explore ways to bend the genre and bring something new to the table. No such thing occurs in Cooties.

I regretfully inform you that this movie is boring and forgettable.

Zombie Children

Not living up to my expectations isn’t such a horrific offense, but Cooties fails to meet any expectations or self-imposed standards. Although there are laughs and worthwhile moments, those scenes are few and far between—practically buried under a mountain of shit that not even Andy Dufresne could crawl through. So many gags or intended jokes fell flat. Sadly, this is a run-of-the-mill movie.

The story of a zombie outbreak is a horror comedy doesn’t need to be remarkable. In this movie, it’s important only as the reasoning for why it is occurring in a school. That’s not the unpleasant part about Cooties. No, leave that load to the lead character, Clint—played by Elijah Wood doing Elijah Wood things. This annoying fuck is an aspiring horror writer and the movie tries to play up the horribleness of his writing, but it obviously feels like it is a gold mine of funny. It is not. It is obnoxious and difficult to endure.

Elijah Wood

I’m not sure why you would want your main character to be so grating. Normally, I like Elijah Wood. But I wanted to watch a herd of feral zombie children feast on him in this movie. Congratulations, you made me hate Frodo. I suppose that is an accomplishment. C’mon, he’s The Good Son! As an actor, Elijah Wood is fine in Cooties. Wood wasn’t given much to work with, but he does his job delivering the sub-par material.

He doesn’t embarrass himself. If you want to see Elijah Wood embarrass himself in a horror movie, then maybe you want to watch Maniac—mostly shot from the perspective of Elijah Wood as a serial killer attacking women and fucking mannequins. On second thought, never watch that movie. Maniac is legitimately one of the worst movies I have experienced. I have no idea why Elijah Wood agreed to do that movie when he has all of that sweet Lord of the Rings money in his bank.

Back to this other miserable pile of shit, the best part about Cooties was Rainn Wilson.

Rainn Wilson

Rainn Wilson perfectly plays Wade, the dickish PE teacher reliving glory days out on the children’s playground. Wilson deserves more respect for his acting chops. At his best, Rainn toggled between serious drama and ludicrous comedy in Super (directed by James Gunn). In Cooties, Rainn Wilson goes full-bore into the role—reluctantly running through children then gleefully dispatching the zombie demon children back to hell. He is a moronic loudmouth and a great source of comic relief.

Why weren’t there more character actors cast as fellow teachers with Elijah Wood and Rainn Wilson?

You can’t convince me that this wouldn’t have been a better movie with something like a brief cameo of Betty White getting devoured by the little bloodthirsty bastards. Give me some David Koechner or Keegan-Michael Key to chew scenery. Sprinkle in Kumail Nanjiani as an uptight school administrator and you have an infinitely better movie. It seems like they may have had that intention with casting Jack McBrayer as one of the surviving teachers, Tracy. But then they gave him practically nothing to do.

Arguably the only other entertaining aspect of Cooties was Jorge Garcia as the crossing guard, Rick—watching the horror unfold while tripping on mushrooms in his van trying to ride out the high. Jorge Garcia is a loveable oaf and he’s a welcome break from the borefest that is this movie.

Jorge Garcia

I wish there was more to enjoy, but Cooties doesn’t give you much to relish during its 88 minutes. Unfortunately, the brief runtime could have been even more brisk if we’re being honest. Somehow, it still feels long as fuck. Through the first act, Cooties shows promise before completely falling apart when the children storm the school. You could probably trim the movie down to 70 or so minutes by cutting the characters themselves discovering the spread of the outbreak and subsequent tacked-on ending. It certainly could not have made the movie any worse. This is a cringe-worthy experience.

In retrospect, I was hoping for too much from Cooties. I wanted a goofier Faculty-esque fun horror with zombie children causing chaos. After grinding to a halt in the second act, the only thing I was eagerly anticipating was the merciful end. Cooties is the equivalent of a comedian laughing at his own jokes.

When people complain about the oversaturation of zombies in our culture, they can now point to Cooties as a prime example. This doesn’t even qualify as beating a dead horse. The zombie herd has consumed all of the dead horse’s entrails and its corpse barely remains. Mark this down as another entry in the constantly growing, already bloated genre of horror comedy genre. No one can compete with Shaun of the Dead so we should all stop trying if it’s just a rehash of the same shit we’ve seen a thousand times over.

The worst crime of Cooties is that is simply an exercise in going through the awkward motions.

Awkward Motions

1.5 out of 5 stars

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Holy fuck. Those are the only two words that will come out of your mouth after watching Sicario. An early favorite for Best Picture at the Oscars, Sicario is well-crafted with amazing acting performances from Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, and Josh Brolin. If there’s a better movie coming out later this year, I can only imagine it being double the pleasure, double the fun with Tom Hardy playing twins in Legend.

Calling Sicario a tense action thriller is an understatement.

My breath was hastened. There was a weight on my chest. Sprawled out in a cozy recliner, I squirmed around uncomfortably. This fucking movie gave me anxiety. Trust me, I’m familiar with the feeling. Somehow, merely driving through the streets into Mexico and back across the border managed to become insanely intense. No need to fret, there’s a payoff for all that fierce tension too.

Driving

From the very first scene—a raid on a suburban home in Chandler, AZ—you know you are in for a ride. It is bumpy and uncomfortable at times. The stakes are established early. This is the war on drugs where raids and busts are simply scratching the surface. But be careful of what you might find when you go deeper. This is awful people doing awful things—the stuff white of people’s nightmares.

A veritable game of chess, the important pieces like kings and queens are kept out of sight. For the most part, everyone we see are pawns in one army or another. On the American side, there are Department of Justice advisors Matt Graver (played by Josh Brolin) and his mysterious partner Alejandro (played by Benicio Del Toro). However, the audience experiences the action through the eyes of FBI agent Kate Macer (played by Emily Blunt). Just like Kate, we’re along for the ride through this hellscape.

Emily Blunt

Emily Blunt is predictably fantastic, which you should expect if you watched her in Looper and Edge of Tomorrow. You see Blunt’s vulnerability and feel her emotional state deteriorate the deeper they delve into the business of the drug trade. Any normal person would have broken down a long time ago.

In my own personal game of recognizing actors from my favorite TV shows, Jon Bernthal (Shane from The Walking Dead) pops up in an extended cameo. As usual, Bernthal is just grand and he brought more to the role than the flat character that was written on paper. From the Fifteen Million Merits episode of Black Mirror, Daniel Kaluuya plays Reggie Wayne, friend of Kate and fellow FBI agent. Kaluuya is surprisingly enjoyable as the skeptic. The supporting cast elevates the content even in mundane scenes.

Benicio Del Toro

With such an incredibly well-rounded movie, even the cinematography demands your attention with its dramatic presence. I live in Arizona and the only Southwestern landscape that I find breathtaking is the red rocks of Sedona. But the wide angle shots of the desert and barren wasteland along the border are beautiful in this movie. The framing of several scenes depicts a strong sense of foreboding.

The doom is impending for a reason. And it is always inevitable.

Sooner or later, it all catches up to you. The river of shit is unavoidable. In a sense, that’s a recurring theme in Sicario. Although Emily Blunt’s character Kate wants maintain her moral compass, it’s hard not to spin out of control when you realize that the most effective response to terror is terror. Hidden bodies in a suburban home is just the beginning. Moving beyond the surface only reveals more evil. The water in the deep end is dark and murky. While everyone else is doing whatever necessary to get the job done, all Kate wants to do is follow procedure. In this world, following procedure will get you killed.

Sicario is sick and twisted, but it is wisely infused with some levity.

Josh Brolin

Josh Brolin’s character Matt Graver is shockingly humorous with his dickish persona. You never quite trust him, but he still comes off as likeable. Benicio Del Toro is sneaky great with a raw, mysterious performance. Everything—writing, casting, acting, directing—works together harmoniously. The score made my heart pound during the right moments. At this point, I’ve only watched Sicario once, but it won’t stay that way for long. I look forward to uncovering more nuances in future viewings. Sicario doesn’t have the same philosophical underpinnings as No Country for Old Men, but it belongs in the same stratosphere of great movies. Director Denis Villeneuve has a phenomenal piece of art here with Sicario.

Expect Sicario to at least garner Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Director, and Best Picture this year. Emily Blunt could be in the competition for Best Actress and there are other fitting categories as well. Sicario excels by giving its stars the room to breathe in their roles.

If Sicario is any indication, the war on drugs is an unbreakable cycle of horror. There’s no winning. We are all losers in this game. You might want to take a shower after this cinematic experience.

Shower

5 out of 5 stars

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The opening montage of Chappie appropriately sets the stage by introducing the audience to the new robotic police force that is tasked with cleaning up the rampant crime in Johannesburg, South Africa. If you watched District 9, the faux documentarian approach employed early on is familiar territory.

While effective, it’s indicative of the movie as a whole and writer-director Neill Blomkamp’s work.

By now, we’ve all grown accustomed to the imagery.

The look and feel of District 9, Elysium, and Chappie are mostly the same. South Africa is a horrifyingly beautiful place stricken with poverty and blessed with pretty landscapes. I can certainly understand why Blomkamp is comfortable with using his home country of South Africa as a foundation for his movies. But people have reached a point where they want more diversity discovering new stories.

Although Chappie isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.

Unfortunately, Chappie didn’t seem to find its audience here domestically. An early release in March seemed like odd timing as Chappie feels like it should have been closer to the string of summer releases—somewhere around late April/early May or at the tail-end of blockbuster season near August. Both District 9 (2009) and Elysium (2013) were August releases. Pure armchair speculation, but those studio decisions are typically indicative of their own opinions on the movie.

Maybe they were right, to an extent. Disclaimer: Chappie is not for everyone. And that’s fine.

This is not a movie that would likely sit well with test audiences. I can understand why studio executives wouldn’t get it either. Squares in suits with ties cinched around their necks are not going to enjoy Chappie. Clearly, this movie is intended for Blomkamp’s well-carved out niche audience. I count myself amongst them. Chappie is dumb, entertaining fun with a heart. Do not try to think too much or else the plot holes will hurt your brain. If you want a thinking man’s movie about artificial intelligence, then watch the terrific acting performances of Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson in Ex Machina. Both of these movies are great in their own right, just in different ways. Ex Machina should be an Oscar contender in some respect.

Hugh Jackman

That’s right, I think Chappie is great. And that’s not because of Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, or Sigourney Weaver. While I enjoy Ripley as much as the next person (and we can probably credit Chappie for the eventual creation of the next Alien movie), Sigourney Weaver was wholly useless in this movie. It wasn’t her fault, but that role of Tetravaal CEO was so bland that literally any man or woman could have filled out. That was a bit of a disappointment. Dev Patel was solid yet unspectacular as Deon, the genius inventor of the robotic police force. A number of actors could have done as serviceable of a job as Slumdog Millionaire. Hugh Jackman was delightful as the prickish, jealous ex-military co-worker of Deon who wants to watch the world burn if it means his massive remote controlled MOOSE robot can come in and wreck shit. His haircut was ridiculous and Jackman seemed to revel in the freedom of the role.

Sharlto Copley deserves immense praise for giving life to Chappie—both voice and motion-capture. At several points, I had to remind myself that it was the same person that played the lead in District 9 and was relatively terrifying as Kruger in Elysium. Copley bring a humanity to Chappie that I didn’t expect. There’s one particularly heart-wrenching scene where Chappie is in danger in the slums of Johannesburg while still trying to understand the world. Copley captures the spirit of every situation perfectly.

But no, none of these actors are the highlight of the film. I feel confident in saying that whether or not you like Chappie hinges on what you think about the gangsters Ninja and Yo-Landi.

If the purpose of Chappie was to thrust Die Antwoord on the American populous, then I consider Chappie to be a resounding success. Ninja and Yo-Landi stole this movie and made it entertaining. Die Antwoord is interwoven into the fabric of Chappie—this movie couldn’t work without them. Several production sets are clearly from Die Antwoord’s music videos, which brings an awesome sense of surrealism. Die Antwoord’s music is dropped in at perfect, opportune moments to add some levity and zef style.

Zef

It’s been six months now and I’ve watched Chappie on three separate occasions.

I still haven’t escaped the rabbit hole that is South African rap group Die Antwoord’s ridiculous music. Such classics as Cookie Thumper!, Enter The Ninja, Fatty Boom Boom, Happy Go Sucky Fucky, I Fink U Freeky, Raging Zef Boner, and Strunk. And I hate almost every electronic dance music song I’ve ever heard. But the fat beats and zef raps of Die Antwoord will seep into your brain and infect you.

In Chappie, the gangster duo of Ninja and Yo-Landi are accompanied by Amerika—their Yankee cohort played by Jose Pablo Cantillo, best known as Martinez in his run on The Walking Dead. Chappie has a limited story, which is set into motion by these lovable gangsters needing to pay off a $20 million debt in a week to the not-so-lovable Hippo—a steroid freak with a hilarious haircut played by Brandon Auret. I think Auret is a weak link in a very good cast, but he serves as an imposing figure in his few scenes.

I was shocked that I enjoyed Chappie as much as I did. Several people were probably turned off by a shitting marketing campaign, but this movie deserves better. Blomkamp apparently already has a trilogy planned out, it seems completely unnecessary in terms of pure storytelling. While the foreign market at least balanced the budget, Chappie probably isn’t long for a sequel. And that’s fine.

Although I truly hope Blomkamp’s contribution to the Alien franchise comes to fruition, I don’t want to see Blomkamp return to any of his works. We’re done with the world of Chappie. The story comes to a nice resolution that we don’t need to revisit. It’s time to move along to a new story and different world.

Story Time

Die Antwoord made this movie with real, human performances that I connected with—surprisingly enough. It seems unlikely that Chappie even got off the ground with the unknown rap duo practically starring with more screen time than Hugh Jackman. You can see that Blomkamp leaves a window open with the ending that he could squeeze through for a sequel, but let’s just close that shut now.

While this movie is nowhere near Oscar-worthy in any category, Chappie is great in its own right. It’s much more entertaining than it had any right being. With an odd blend of charisma and panache injected by Die Antwoord, Chappie manages to be unique—something all movies should strive toward.

Give Chappie a chance. Maybe it won’t touch your heart, but you should enjoy the ride regardless.

Fist Bump

4 out of 5 stars

Poster

Mad Max: Fury Road is almost too good to be real.

The confluence of events that finally led to the creation of this movie is unthinkable. Stuck in development hell for 15 years or so, there was legitimate concern that another Mad Max installment would never see the light of day. The Iraq War and Mel Gibson’s various racist incidents nearly signaled the end.

Somehow, George Miller persevered and his vision eventually came into existence. In this age, it is hard to believe a major movie studio would entrust a director with total creative control—especially after so much pre-production chaos and controversy. Thankfully, George Miller was up to the task and potentially daunting responsibility. The end-result surpassed even the loftiest expectations.

At this point, I’m so late to the game that you’ve probably heard the bountiful praise heaped upon this movie by now. It’s not for lack of interest as I was in the seats the first night to watch Mad Max: Fury Road. And then I went back the next night. In terms of re-watchability, you can’t find a better film.

Doof Warrior

Don’t be skeptical. Leave behind your cynical bullshit and be prepared to have your face melted.

Believe the hype. Immerse yourself in the desolate hellscape and revel in the spectacle.

Summer blockbusters don’t deserve to be in the same category as Mad Max: Fury Road. While some people have mischaracterized it as a nonstop chase sequence, the pacing deliberately stops to inhale the dust while delivering more than enough action. Unlike most movies of this ilk, the action works because you care and feel some investment in the characters. The intensity cannot be manufactured. Utilizing practical effects rather than over-reliance on CGI, the audience is allowed to experience the gravity of situations instead of being hurled around in a whirlwind of flying metal like Michael Bay movies.

With top-notch performances from Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, and Hugh Keays-Byrne in the supporting cast, there isn’t a weak link anywhere in the chain. The good vs. evil dynamic is only as strong as the villain. Despite a mysterious rise to power, Hugh Keays-Byrne’s run as Immortan Joe is as awesomely badass. While oppressively evil, Immortan Joe’s stranglehold over his domain is tenuous due to his deteriorating physical condition. It has all the makings of an iconic, memorable movie.

Immortan Joe

In short: if you don’t like Mad Max, go fuck yourself.

We don’t need to be friends. It sounds snobby and condescending, but you just don’t get it if you are unable to enjoy this movie. I’m not saying you are an idiot if you don’t like Mad Max: Fury Road. However, you are much more likely to be an idiot if you hate this movie. Surprisingly, this is a rare mass appeal action spectacle that satisfies the senses with ample support from a simple yet interesting story.

Mad Max isn’t flawless, but it doesn’t have to be pristine. This movie embraces and celebrates its warts—quite literally in the case of certain characters. Mad Max: Fury Road is perfectly imperfect.

Tom Hardy

The big swinging balls of George Miller are inescapable. Not only is the titular character turned into a prisoner, but almost all of his face is obscured by a bulky metal mask. While Max is relegated to an object of the plot rather than the driving force, the de facto lead, Charlize Theron—one of Hollywood’s most gorgeous actresses—has her head shaved bald and a mechanical arm replacing her amputated stump.

For the purpose of this story, there’s no reason Mel Gibson couldn’t have returned as Mad Max. As much as I love Tom Hardy, it would have been nice to see people finally forgive and re-embrace Mel Gibson. Mad Max: Fury Road could have launched a new beginning for that lovable old racist kook.

Mel Gibson’s loss is Tom Hardy’s gain. The acting ability of Tom Hardy is unquestioned, but big screen success has eluded him up until this point. Thanks to the overwhelming positive reception of Mad Max: Fury Road, every door in Hollywood should be gaping open in eager anticipation of Tom Hardy. Not only can he carry a small independent film like Locke where he is the only character on-screen, but he also has the charisma to lead a major motion picture. I want and need more Tom Hardy in my life.

Furiosa

The brilliance of George Miller is palpable and abound in this madness. Mad Max: Fury Road is everything you can imagine in a massive, mindless action movie while still managing to bring something new to the table. Likely to be often emulated but never duplicated, Mad Max: Fury Road has already spawned a life of its own and hopefully future installments don’t shit all over this beautiful foundation.

Basically, this movie is the anti-Waterworld.

Bask in its eternal glory—shiny and chrome.

Shiny and Chrome

5 out of 5 stars