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Movie Review: The Nice Guys


Shane Black is the guy who wrote and directed Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang... the unconventional comedy crime caper starring Robert Downey Jr., Michelle Monaghan and Val Kilmer. While some would jokingly argue Kilmer first played a gay character in Top Gun, this was Hollywood's first openly gay character to front a feature film. While the title sounds unusual and strangely South African, the film was a dark horse success as a private eye, a struggling actress and thief masquerading as an actor converged on a murder mystery.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" must have been the thinking with Shane Black's The Nice Guys, which echoes the buddy chemistry and playground at the heart of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. As the screenwriter who authored Lethal Weapon's buddy cop chemistry, he was perfectly poised to bring this odd couple caper to life after racking up a few more directorial credits with Iron Man 3. The Nice Guys follows a mismatched private eye and a hired enforcer, who investigate the apparent suicide of a fading porn star in 1970s Los Angeles.

Tracking and refining the formula of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Black's paired two of the most unlikely actors in Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as Jackson and Holland, taking the story back to a seedy and vibrant '70s scenario. Russell Crowe is in unfamiliar comedy terrain, but does remarkably well as the tough, no-nonsense straight man to Ryan Gosling, whose high-strung gumshoe character makes these Laurel & Hardy archetypes hilarious together. Their chemistry works surprisingly well and the script sparkles with funny dialogue and one-liners as the two fumble their way across Hollywood in search of clues, which usually land in their laps.

The Nice Guys movie review

"I suppose you're wondering why we called this meeting..."

The bumbling Frank Drebin style detective work is a few shades short of being a spoof, allowing the characters to straddle reality and detective story fiction as they stumble in and out of trouble. It's a breath of fresh air, which while seedy at times, is redeemed by the likable co-stars and their funny, unpredictable misadventures. Imagine the atmosphere, mood and setting of the Bob Crane biopic, Auto Focus, meets Black's offbeat and dark buddy comedy, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, and you'll have a good idea of what to expect.

Crowe and Gosling's surprising chemistry rallies that of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, making a sequel seem inevitable. While the co-stars are the life force of this outrageous crime comedy, they're reined in by an adept Angourie Rice as Holly. Playing a spanner-in-the-works that actually works, she gives us a fresh, naive perspective on the underground action. While we worry about her exposure and safety she's usually the one steering her father and his colleague out of danger. As if Black was playing around with Alice in Wonderland references, it's Holly's journey that seems like she stumbled down a rabbit hole in order to save the March Hare and Mad Hatter.

This isn't the Alice in Wonderland experience you may be accustomed to and The Nice Guys does dip into bad taste quite knowingly. The violence can be intense, the coarse language is in keeping with the setting and the porn industry backdrop means there are some scenes that involve drug use and nudity. While these unsavoury elements are tempered by the silly tone, they may offend sensitive viewers.

Otherwise, there's never a dull moment in this zany comedy that keeps a taut line as we're lowered into the shroud of darkness encapsulating the murder mystery. The '70s fashion, sets and Anchorman swagger give it tongue-in-cheek charm. The out-of-their-depth action and suspense creates plenty of unexpected laughs, while the sterling comedy performances make these typically dramatic actors seem like they've been holding out on us. The plotting isn't as critical as the style and mood, making this dark comedy more about the the slap-around entertainment and bound to leave a smile on your face.

The bottom line: Hilarious


 
Talking Movies with Spling - Now You See Me 2, Everybody Wants Some and Steve Jobs


Spling reviews Now You See Me 2, Everybody Wants Some!! and Steve Jobs as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

 
Movie Review: Everybody Wants Some!!


Slacker was one of Richard Linklater's first feature films, which roamed Austin, Texas as a day in the life of social misfits, outcasts and oddballs played out. With no discernible plot, this set in motion self-taught writer-director Richard Linklater's appetite for rambling films with colourful characters. In 1993, he did it again with Dazed and Confused, which followed the adventures of high school and junior high students on the last day of school in May 1976. The nostalgic music, meandering storyline and presence of up-and-coming stars, Milla Jovovich, Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck made this a cult hit.

Everybody Wants Some returns to this free-range formula, where being in the moment and embracing a here-and-now hedonism take centre stage. Referred to as a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some takes place in the 1980s as a group of college baseball players enjoy the last few days before the start of class, finding their place in an unsupervised college environment.

Once again, Linklater has immersed us in the life and times, taking root in the nostalgia of the era as records, tapes and transitional dress sense inform the eye and music from The Knack, ZZ Top, Cheap Trick and Sugarhill Gang, the ear. While an ensemble comedy drama, Blake Jenner takes the lead role as Jake, a new recruit and freshman entering the baseball team's frat house. With each member a high school hotshot, a strong competitive spirit emerges as the brotherhood try to establish themselves through sporting prowess and testosterone-fuelled misadventures.

Everybody Wants Some Movie

“Everyone in favour of calling our digs, ‘The Dug Out’… raise your… hand.”

Jenner is supported by Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell, Glen Powell, Temple Baker, J. Quinton Johnson, Tanner Kalina, Forrest Vickery, Will Brittain, Austin Amelio, Ryan Guzman, Juston Street and Zoey Deutch. While it centres on Jake, Everybody Wants Some is a real team effort allowing each of the cast members to shine and enjoying terrific on-screen chemistry that feels real. While a relatively unknown cast, this adds to the authenticity, believability and will no doubt be a launchpad for many of the actors featured in this film.

It's difficult to single out a few performances when the "no I in TEAM" characters jell so well. Blake Jenner plays a generous lead and likable tour guide, whose moral compass is tested as he tries to be one of the men, while carving his own path. He and Zoey Deutch make a good romantic pairing, which almost echoes the synergy Love Story. Glen Powell wields great energy and the inner confidence of Brad Pitt, while Tyler Hoechlin works well as the egotistic and cantankerous McReynolds. Juston Street is hilarious as Jay, playing a character who could warrant his own spin-off starring Jim Carrey.

Linklater's script bristles with life, concocting a story that moves by association as the ragtag crew move from one party or bar to the next in a never-ending quest for women. The dialogue seems spontaenous, almost like he gave the characters freedom to ad lib in the moment. The theme of sexuality dominates the film, forms the primary motivation for the characters and drives the narrative. As college jocks, it's either about baseball or scoring with ladies, making the baseball back story the perfect metaphor.

For some, especially those that lived in a similar fraternity or boarding arrangement, Everybody Wants Some will come across as an accurate, maybe even nostalgic depiction of life with the boys. For others, the hedonistic behaviour and locker room language will serve as a fascinating behind-the-scenes, which will disgust or amuse you based on your frame of reference. Either way, you can't deny the underhanded charm at play, which will keep you curious even if off-balance and offended.

Linklater ordinarily gets the benefit of the doubt, based on the strength of his filmography, however, the sporadic cursing and single-minded letchery alienates rather than invites, and while necessary to establish a suspended reality, begins to chip away at its overall entertainment value. Despite this, the collective chemistry, organic dialogue, immersive production values, charming performances, freewheeling direction and classic rock soundtrack all bond together to create a wonderfully entertaining comedy about camaraderie and college exploits.

The bottom line: Charming


 
Movie Review: Warcraft


Warcraft started as a strategy game by a gaming company called Blizzard, which required you to create settlements and explore the unknown surrounding territory. Humans were pitted against Orcs in a race to become the strongest and only civilisation, using precious resources in order to build a town, manufacture armaments and expand your dynasty and fortify your army. Originally, the god-view kept your troops fairly anonymous and the enjoyment came in the strategy and progress, immersing yourself in the world of Azeroth and playing with either orcs or humans. Nowadays, World of Warcraft has personalised an on-the-ground adventure.

The film isn't all that different, allowing us to identify with characters in both camps. The peaceful realm of Azeroth is the battleground as a race of warrior orcs leave their dying homeland through a portal to enter a face-off with the humans, which could mean the end of either civilisation. While based on the original, we're introduced to other races, who will probably become more involved as the series continues to shape into World of Warcraft.

Moon and Source Code director, Duncan Jones, was brought in to adapt the video game and has been faithful in bringing it to life. The borderline cartoon style has carried over, making you think that an animated version may have been the way to go. Although, based on the amount of CGI, Warcraft is just about as close to animation as a live-action film can get. Through detailed sets and character design, he's been able to merge the two races quite seamlessly into one action-adventure. The opening close-up of orc chieftain, Durotan, is so detailed that you can pick up pockmarks, pores and follicles – an important moment in establishing the reality of the orcs.

Warcraft movie

"Sit, Ubu, sit."

Jones seesaws us between the two races as individual stories and themes relating to family, culture and home emerge. It's not as intricate as a Game of Thrones episode, but you imagine he took some inspiration in presenting a fairly unbiased vantage point for each faction. Within each tribe, the subplots swirl as characters slowly come to the forefront of the story. However, there isn't enough exposition or back story, making their emotional journeys seem insubstantial against the circumstances.

Unfortunately, most of the performances are rather flimsy and unable to flesh out the spaces in-between. Travis Fimmel looks the part as a steely-eyed defender of the realm, but comes off like a mixture between Christopher Lambert and Viggo Mortensen. Paula Patton is fierce and beautiful, even as orc-human Garona, echoing Zoe Saldana as Neytiri... but distracts with her wardrobe and make up, which makes her look like she's the only one into cosplay. Ben Schnetzer is likable but hesitant as the apprentice Khadga, Ben Foster helps to steady the drama as the "Gandalf" and guardian, Medivh, while Dominic Cooper's performance seems uninspired as the King, Llane Wyrnn. Ironically, the pick of the performances goes to the most manufactured, that of orc warrior Durotan played by Toby Kebbell.

Just when you think they're about to get deeper, we cut to another scene, keeping the pacing fleet-footed, protecting the performances and focusing on the main attraction, the visuals. Add an uneasy tone, out-of-place comic moments and some unintentional comedy and you've got an off-balance quest that continually verges on cheesy. Warcraft is far from cinematic greatness, but as an over-the-top fantasy adventure and spectacle it succeeds in being entertaining.

Reeling back to the fact this is a video game adaptation, it'll probably appease fans of the game. It doesn't have the epic majesty and depth you'd want from a fantasy action-adventure, but we've already got Lord of the Rings, and Warcraft is dazzling and entertaining enough to hold your attention through the highs and lows. You may not buy into the clunky characters, cheesy dialogue or flimsy human performances but the visual effects and battle sequences are so mesmerising that for fans, it almost doesn't matter.

The bottom line: Fun


 
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