Friday, May 20, 2016


The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys official site The gloomy faced Russell Crowe and the handsome but serious looking Ryan Gosling are two of the best known actors in Hollywood, but not for playing comic characters. If they are cast together in a buddy film, are they going to be funny for a change? Apparently not, judging from the director Shane Black's comedy "The Nice Guys" (USA 2016 | 116 min.). The two fine actors awkwardly execute a dull script that tries to tell a murky story. They work hard to be funny yet misfire most of the time. It makes you wonder if the real reason for this year's Cannes Film Festival to show this film last Sunday is because they just want to see the duo in person, which may be more fun.

When the film's title appears in a similar typeface as the one used in "Boogie Nights" (1997), you are clued in that the story is set in 1977, and the location is in Los Angeles which is blanketed with smog, pornography, and celebrities. Scruffy Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) gets paid by his clients for beating up people. When he first meets the alcoholic and not-so-bright private detective Holland March (Ryan Gosling), he mercilessly breaks Holland's arm.

Then after the spectacular death of a porn star Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio), for far-fetched reasons, Jackson teams up with Holland to search for a missing young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), who is the daughter of the impeccably pampered Head of the California Department of Justice (Kim Basinger). Jackson and Holland certainly don't appear to have the chemistry to get along, especially after they had a pretty bad start. But it doesn't matter. The movie must go on regardless of how preposterous the story becomes. Unfunny jokes must be delivered even though they are poorly written and provide little dividend to the film's entertaining value. And Jackson and Holland must become buddies no matter how ridiculous the motivation might be.

Why do they have to run amok between bullets to find Amelia? Good luck in figuring that out.

The Nice Guys Official Site

The director Shane Black seems to be aware of the difficulty in making sense of the over-stretched story, as well as the challenge in turning the two big-name actors into a reasonably convincing and likable couple. In order to distract the audience, he adds irrelevant jokes or lame physical comedies that often feel out of the place. When jokes fail to be amusing, he throws in the towel and begins to turn the film into an action flick—people start to be smashed against windshields toward to the end of the film.

Individually, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling have played many (often melancholy) characters terrifically, such as the ones in in "A Beautiful Mind" (2001) and "Blue Valentine" (2010). So the idea of bringing them together to make a comedy is definitely intriguing. However, this film takes no time to convince you that it's actually a bad idea. The two should not have made this farce.

Oh, no sequel please.

"The Nice Guys," a Warner Bros. Pictures release, opens on Friday, May 20, 2016.

Friday, May 6, 2016


Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War official site The summer is fast approaching. You know what that means to the big screens in the multiplex—they will be jammed with more monsters, disasters, aliens, as well as those superheroes from Marvel Comics. Normally the bar for these summer blockbusters is set quite low despite their super expensive productions, and we expect more spectacles than compelling storytelling when going to one of these movies. Therefore, when one such movie gathers many familiar characters together and still tells a coherent story, it becomes both refreshing and exciting, as if you suddenly hear a complete sentence from a young toddler who usually just mumbles and smashes things. That's the pleasant surprise and satisfying feeling you might get when you watch "Captain America: Civil War" (USA 2016 | 146 min.) in 3-D on a gigantic IMAX screen. This star-packed entertaining film is directed by the brother team of Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, who have already started to work on their next superhero movies about the Avengers, a bunch superheroes who have special abilities that normal human beings don't posses.

The film's story begins in 1991 when the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), is woken up in a Russian (where else?) bunker and is sent into an operation. Meanwhile, like those US drones flying in foreign air space and dropping bombs, globe-trotting avengers are busy combating the bad guys to make the world a better place. But similar to those deadly drone attacks, many innocent people become collateral damage each time when avengers show off their incredibly powerful abilities.

The US Secretary of State (William Hurt) leads an effort to change the status quo and let the United Nation supervise the activities of avengers. While Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), aka the Iron Man, supports the notion, some others led by Captain America (Chris Evans) resent the idea. Once a unified and prestigious club suddenly is divided and begins to fight among themselves. A civil war breaks out.

The Iron Man side includes Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), and later joined by the scene-stealing Spider-Man (Tom Holland). The Captain America side includes Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). A one-of-a-kind civil war rages on.

Captain America: Civil War Official Site

It's quite remarkable for the film to stay focused on the morality and responsibility behind these dazzling fights. That focus also sets this film apart from most recent superhero movies in which they fight for apparently no reason. But even though their fighting is fierce, it's still more like a wrestling match on a court compared to the current war zone in Syria. After all, we all know that this civil war is going to end and all these avengers will remain friends and colleagues. But before that, they surely put on an entertaining exhibition when they fight each other.

Perhaps you cannot keep track of all the superhero characters and what they are capable of, but you would still be entertained and kept engaged by the story in this film. That's not a trivial achievement for a superhero film, or have we set the bar too low?

"Captain America: Civil War," a Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release, opens on Friday, May 6, 2016.

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