Can’t Tip My Hat Off To This Cyber Crime Film

Blackhat.

            Another movie, another review and this time I’m going to try a different format to mix things up. This next write up is on Blackhat, the latest Michael Mann film that centers on cyber attacks and crime solving. Now from analyzing the trailer, here is:

What you might expect: Crime solving for a series of cyber attacks, Chris Hemsworth shirtless scenes, action, and lots of running.

Now let’s analyze these expectations and see if you get what you expect:

What you get:

  1. Crime solving: The trailer plays it up that Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) is an elite hacker who is hired to stop a madman as he commits a series of deadly crimes. For the most part this is true, as the entire two hours is spent trying to uncover the identity of the cyber terrorist. Uncovering clues is all a part of the game, and the audience will get pulled down the rabbit hole as Hathaway and his team try to decipher the cryptic codes. On their journey, the will be forced to sneak around various buildings, circumvent government programs, and go through copious amounts of conveniently placed laptops and internet connections to uncover the truth. I’ll give Mann credit for evolving the “suspense” of the film as the simple crime transitions to also running from the government. Throw in a few twists and again you add a little more surprise factor to the mix. However, I agree with many fellow reviewers that this film lacks some bite and thrills. At the beginning the terrorist attacks happen, but after that the antagonist does surprisingly little with the power he has. I was expecting Hathaway to have to use his talents to prevent and correct the damage, but that was not the case in this film and it was disappointing. In fact the only suspense I felt kept me in the movie was the identity of the master hacker, though that was rather disappointing to me. Still the crime solving is well done, and fans of the various television shows will most likely enjoy this aspect.
  1. So with a usual Chris Hemsworth movie, most female members are going to want to see as much of his gorgeous body as possible. Well here is the deal, you get to see the man in a lot of rugged shirts and jeans, the latter giving him that Abercrombie and Fitch. He makes a lot of manly poses, and his desperado like stare and smolder seemed to please many of the women in my showing. As for shirtless scenes though, you don’t get much footage there, limited to some glancing shots of him during sex, bullet wounds, and waking up suddenly. Despite your moans of aggravation though, Hemsworth gives a decent performance as a tough as nails hacker. His design defies the stereotypical hacker role, trading the geeky glasses and nerdy fashion for guns and a tank top. Sure the romance was a little bad, and yes he was a little dry and lacking emotion, but overall the part was done well. I think I was most impressed with his interactions with his team.
  1. The action of the movie is okay, but again not what I was expecting. In a manner very similar to Law& Order, Blackhat starts off with a little chasing and running. Unstable camera work, tied with some odd angle choices, leads a semi-dizzying effect that may leave you a little annoyed. It’s not as bad as Cloverfield mind you, however there was surely better ways to capture the action. Anyway, when all the running has stopped, an occasional shoot out occurs to help spice things up. Two of these shoot outs are actually pretty well done, giving you some exciting and emotional scenes. While there are some rather fortuitous occurrences, and inconsistencies, the thrill of these standoffs help relieve the dragging pace of the film. As for the final “action” scene though, it was an anticlimactic slaughter with a slight homage to a famous Die Hard scene. Perhaps this lackluster battle was to mimic the ending of the movie, vague and lacking finesse that left me wanting more. Oh well, I guess to have an ending like that we would have had to given up the eccentric visualization of a computer signal being generated. Something none of us could live without right?

To sum things up, Blackhat is a decent crime film with a cyber terrorist theme. While the investigation and sleuthing are impressive, the editing could have removed some scenes to tighten up the film. The suspense was okay, but there wasn’t really enough edge to this movie to say it kept me intrigued the whole way through. Again those who love crime dramas on television will go for this movie, despite the lack of some character development. However, I would recommend waiting on this film for a RedBox or NetFlix instead and put your money to other use. I give Blackhat a solid:

Action/Crime/Drama: 6.5

Movie Overall: 6.0

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Ring In With A Fun Comedy.

Wedding Ringer

            Mindless, stupid fun is what the movies have become in the comedy genre, especially during the summer times. Clever, witty humor is replaced by shallow gags and one liners, often buried amid mushy predictable plots that are present in most romantic comedies. However, every once in a while you manage to get a stupid movie that actually shines amidst the drab. For this reviewer, one movie fell into that category and it is the Wedding Ringer. Now I’m not saying this movie was the best, but there were a lot of things that I really enjoyed this movie. Why? Read on to find out.

Think about most modern comedies where one or two jokes are the focus of our characters, with little divergence. Often this involves getting drunk off their rockers, getting high, or sexual situations that are a bit too on display. The Wedding Ringer for the most part manages to break from that mold and instead craft a film that is filled with a variety of laughs. Throughout the entire movie, fans will get their fill of funny, albeit simple, gags that include situational comedy, alcoholic antics, environmental, and so many other styles that I don’t have room to detail them all. Putting on a fake best man relationship I thought would have been stupid, and at times it is, but the concept is a bit of a change from the normal comedy film. The convoluted steps to pulling off the golden tux are presented like a master crime film, with planning, props, and coordination that pokes at the dramatic nature of those films. Injecting humor into the ridiculous team assembled, which if the looks don’t get you, their qualities will. Even better is that the movie keeps things mixed up with the unifying lie of the “friendship” that is present. At one point we are pulling off fake trips only to transition into lying about a character’s background before going to plan another component of the lie. It keeps it fresh, fun, and entertaining through the whole movie, and has the 101-minute runtime flying by. There almost wasn’t a part I was laughing at, especially at the wittier jokes that reference a lot of popular culture.

Of course stupidity is all in good fun, but in order for it to be relevant, make sense, and truly maximize the humor you need a story. Now the trailers for me made this story look like a simplistic tale that was just going to be bad (like Let’s Be Cops). Surprisingly though, and maybe this was due to low expectations, the tale impressed me more than I thought. The fake wedding planning is the main medium to which the comedy is brought out, but as the movie proceeds, you get to see a developing relationship between our two protagonists. For a guy like me, the issues each character had are relevant, especially in the desire for a real friend who wants to hang out with you for just being you. That morale is the strongest lesson of the bunch, and while sometimes a little preachy, avoids the overdramatic monologues that life lessons in film have become. Integrating character developing moments with this relationship, as well as into the comedy, further maximized the emotion surrounding this genre. I repeat that the story is not unique, and a little drawn out at times, but the more serious moments keep the comedy grounded to reset for the next wave of laughs.

If you haven’t guessed yet, the unifying force of my two previous paragraphs are the characters, who are only brought to life by the actors portraying them. So why don’t we talk about them? Kevin Hart, the mad man of comedic craziness, is back in all his ridiculousness. In my previous reviews you’ll know that Kevin’s mindless screaming and tougher than all attitude gets old for me after a while. Fortunately, this movie provides a break from the stale ridiculousness that some of his parts have been. The role of Jimmy has added some suave to his character to make the lies and idiotic things he does not as in your face. Kevin actually has some clever lines, and his delivery was much better for me, focusing more on the timing and delivery, than the volume of his screams. For once I could actually understand everything he stood, a rare feat for the man. An added bonus is that his character was actually serious as well, again balancing the disproportionate insanity I’m used to seeing with him. Josh Gad as well did a great job playing his stereotypical nerd role he has made famous. The shy and quiet nature seems to come natural to him, and the desires to break out of that shell must have been a goal of his for some time now. Many will find his bad luck, klutziness, and social awkwardness to be hilarious, and seeing his pathetic attempts to be normal had me in a laughing fit for most of the film. Of course the real magic comes from the chemistry between these two, and how effortless they are in blending with their supporting cast. You feel part of a brotherhood with these two, and the adventure they bring us on is not only fun, but also heartwarming at times. Their chemistry is good, and I would like to see future movies with them, but not any time soon because I want the magic to remain fresh.

Wedding Ringer is not very original, but I had a lot of fun for the film. With the diverse comedy, the relatable character, and the good chemistry it has a lot of elements that will keep you entertained. Despite how predictable it is, I feel most will enjoy the film for what it is, especially those looking for a break from the mass produced milieu that the comedy genre has become. I’m encouraging all to give this film a shot in the theater and wish you as many laughs as what I had last night with it.

Why wasn’t this the Second Movie

Taken 3

Anyone remember the last time Liam Neeson wasn’t in an action movie?
Yeah it’s pretty difficult for me too, but nevertheless the actor’s
skill at being a bad boy never ceases to impress America. Here I am
again writing a review on yet another thriller, this time returning to
his role as Bryan Mills the one father you really don’t want to piss
off. After the lackluster sequel we got last time, I hoped this random
installment would provide a better story that returned to the roots of
the series. What did I get? Read on to find out.

Let’s think back through the series before we start this review. The
first one was a balance of uncovering the rabbit hole that was Kim’s
(Maggie Grace) kidnapping and Neeson beating the crap out of a posse of
thugs. In the second, the balance was thrown for excessive action,
which merely was mass execution of the family of the thugs from the
first series. In this installment, the balance is somewhat back with a
more complex scheme to which Bryan must dig himself out of. His wife
Lanore getting whacked helped break the mold that his family is immune
to death, and pinning the crime on him changed up the pace. Thus Taken
3 is more like a remake of the fugitive, with plenty chasing, dodging,
sneaking, and snooping around the big bad feds. Fans will get to see
Mills work around the most tech savvy nation, again impressing you with
how much the man can do. But Robbie what about the action? It is kind
of there, but mainly reduced to lots of car chases with choppy camera
work and random angles to help give a more complete picture. There are
a few shoot outs and an occasional fist fight, but they have been
greatly diluted from the previous numbers we have seen. I guess this is
an example of story supported by action, but to change it that greatly
may not have been the best move.

Of course you might notice this as much when you see Liam Neeson back
on stage. Die-hard fans are going to fall in love again with his tired
and true character, a courageous, hard edge, assassin with a heart of
gold. If you haven’t tired of it yet, then odds are you’ll be just
fine, but I was hoping for some character development with the death of
his wife. Luckily Neeson has some well delivered lines to bring some
humor to the mix, helping relieve some of the “tension” that builds up.
However, age hasn’t helped evolve this character, and unfortunately has
slowed some of his moves down. As for Kim, she is still as cute as
ever, but this time isn’t quite the pathetic mess we’ve seen before.
Some big things happen in this film that are important to the story,
and become the weakness to the superman that is her father. A nice
addition to the cast was Forest Whitaker, playing the chief inspector
in charge of bringing Bryan to justice. Whitaker’s charm is well
received in this character, blending with the OCD like nature of a head
inspector that adds a little weakness to the position of power.
Attempting to match Bryan’s move, Whitaker is like the rival chess
player in deciphering the clues left behind in the chase. It makes for
a more interesting opponent than the simplistic barbarians with guns we
have seen, and the fact that he is a good guy made it even better for
me. Unfortunately the bad guys in this film are not quite as skilled as
I had hoped. I know that I would stand no chance against a syndicate
like this, but there wasn’t much drive with the thugs we fought. Sure
they had some strength and a few had a few tricks up their sleeves, but
they lacked any real bite that I felt other villains in the past have.
Most of the time the bad guys weren’t even on screen, and they were
only somewhat integrated into the multi-layered scheme of the head
villain.

I think the only other component I can talk about is the editing in a
simple film like this. Taken 3’s film has some decent quality to it,
the audio in particular designed to maximize the amplitude of
explosions and bullets to keep you awake. As for the scenes themselves,
they are okay. Seeing our hero uncover information, and sneak amongst
highly guarded sectors was pretty cool, as were Whitaker’s analyzing
moments and clue gathering. However, the action was a bit to hectic in
camera work, an almost random hodge podge of relevant and unnecessary
hastily mixed together. Some of the scenes could have probably been
altered down if not left out completely, but the crew kept the film
rather tight at almost 110 minutes so I can’t complain too much. Other
than that, a few times I felt the dialog had been dubbed over, a few
choice words being replaced with others despite their mouth movements
not matching. A little sloppy there, but for most won’t be a big deal.

Taken 3 is supposed to end the series, but the ending leaves it open
for more trouble should the box office do enough business. I liked this
one better than the second, but it still does not match what we got
with the first adventure. Chances are you will see it, and all the
movie magic is definitely improved with the theater’s high definition
speakers. I can actually recommend this one for a trip to theater, but
only if you can handle a little less action and a little more plot.
Instead of a score I’ll give you this ranking instead:

Movie Overall: Moderate