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"I look like somebody hit me in the face with Lil Wayne."
Let's Be Cops is a buddy comedy that falls flat as a feature length film and makes one wonder what the director and the rest of the crew were thinking when they decided to make this. I could understand how this might work as a short two to three minute sketch in Saturday Night Live, but you need much more than the simple premise to make an engaging full length film. I can honestly say that I laughed at two or three small scenes, but the rest of the jokes felt completely forced or out of beat. It was also rather unfortunate that once they established a solid funny scene instead of building on that moment, the film was edited in such a way that every scene felt disconnected with the other. Let's Be Cops also lacks originality and many of the jokes that didn't even work in the first place are repeated throughout the film in a predictable manner. I assure you that you will laugh more from the trailers than during the entire film. There is a moment halfway through the film where the pacing also becomes an issue and you can't wait for the credits to begin rolling. I tend to like films with this similar premise of people pretending to be cops (I was one of the few people who actually enjoyed Martin Lawrence's Blue Streak), but the premise isn't enough. Let's Be Cops is just too tiresome, lazy, and repetitive.
I haven't watched Luke Greenfield's prior films, Something Borrowed and The Animal, but I had really enjoyed The Girl Next Door. After this film I really don't care too much for his upcoming projects because the directing was a major letdown. I know that a huge part of the success of these buddy comedies relies on the chemistry between the two lead actors, but there were several technical aspects of the film I had a problem with as well. The editing was poorly done, which hurt the overall flow and pacing of the film. The script was also a major letdown as none of the characters had any interesting or memorable lines that teenagers would be quoting for years to come. Nothing stands out either.
Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. might be great together in New Girl, but in Let's Be Cops their scenes felt so forced that the comedic elements never work. If one of the best things about 22 Jump Street was the strong chemistry between Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, then one of the worst things about this movie was the lack of chemistry between the two leads. Just thinking about this makes me want to give 22 Jump Street a higher grade. I wasn't a huge fan of that sequel, but the chemistry was so strong that it worked. Not even the talented Andy Garcia was able to give a saving performance here. If Nina Dobrev continues to choose scripts like these for her next films, she might as well stick with The Vampire Diaries. The only character I sort of enjoyed here was Rob Riggle's, but he wasn't in this film very much. In summary, I would recommend you watch the trailer instead of the film because I promise the trailer has better editing and you will laugh more.
Director Anton Corbin followed up his slow paced thriller, The American, with this spy thriller which requires the audience's full attention if they want to understand what is going on with the plot. It is a film driven by Philip Seymour Hoffman's lead performance (which also happened to be his last one) which makes up for some of the minor flaws of the film. Despite being a slow film, this character kept me engaged with the story. Comparisons with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy came across my mind about fifteen minutes into the film due to the overall tone and pacing of the story along with the cynicism surrounding some of the characters and the double crossing that takes place between the different agencies. It's a sort of cat and mouse tale that takes its time to establish itself. I didn't quite enjoy it as much as Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy, but A Most Wanted Man is a very solid thriller which could have benefited with a little more suspense and tension. I later discovered that the film is based on John le Carré's novel, who also happened to write the novel for TTSS so I wasn't entirely crazy when I was comparing the two films. John le Carré was a former British spy so he really knows what he is writing about and his novels have proven to be great source material for films. The characters and the spy stories have a genuine and authentic feel to them. It didn't hurt either that Philip Seymour Hoffman was chosen for the lead role because he drives the entire film from the opening scene to the very end (and what a great scene that was).
This isn't your average procedural spy film, it is more interested in portraying how the system works. Each agency despite trying to work together seems to have different agendas. We also get a glimpse as to how the bureaucracy functions in these type of situations. Some are looking for quick fixes while other try to dig a little deeper and are more concerned with looking for the bigger fish and protecting the innocent. We see these differing view points through the main characters of the film who all do what they believe is right. So we get real characters who aren't simply painted as good or bad people. Through the way they operate we discover their philosophy and the way they are thinking. As interesting as these characters are at times the film does lack to build more tension and tends to alienate the audience.
As I mentioned above, Philip Seymour Hoffman drives this film with his powerful yet subtle performance as this German security agent who is trying to avoid another 9/11 disaster. It is a cynical world in which he lives in and his physical performance translates how exhausted he is feeling. It is such a genuine performance and he never misses a note. The cast is very strong as well, with solid supporting performances from Robin Wright, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, and Nina Hoss. I was disappointed that Daniel Bruhl was underused because he has proven to be a great actor and he should have been given a more substantial role in this film. Despite the strong cast no one seems to be at the same level as Philip Seymour Hoffman was in this film. His scene in the end was one of the best performed I've seen all year.
My only major complaint with A Most Wanted Man is the use of German accents. I understand that they would speak to American agents with these heavy accents, but it took me out of the movie when they would speak amongst themselves in English as well. I wonder why audiences seem to think it is more believable if they speak english in their german accents, when in reality it doesn't make much sense, you might as well just let them speak plain english. But that is just a minor issue I had here because the film delivered strong performances and it was a solid and intelligent spy thriller.
"There are things happening that I can't explain."
The Conjuring was one of my favorite horror films of the past decade and it even managed to make it into my list of the best films of 2013, which is a huge achievement considering I'm not a fan of the genre. Despite how much I enjoyed The Conjuring, I still had very little expectations for its prequel, Annabelle, because from the get go it seemed like the producers were simply trying to bank on the success of the first film. That is perhaps the reason why they rushed this film to theaters only an year after The Conjuring. The budget is surprisingly smaller and James Wan's direction is missed here. I want to begin my criticism with the technical aspects of the film because The Conjuring was one of the better looking horror films I had seen, but from the opening scene in Annabelle the contrast is huge. The lighting and the eerie setting that was so effectively used in the original is lacking in this prequel. It's strange considering that director John Leonetti was the cinematographer in The Conjuring, but here he fails to give the film a similar look. Instead of those amazing shots Wan delivered, we get several close ups of the doll's face which never actually does anything. This film looks as ugly as the vintage Annabelle doll does and it lacked the eerie atmosphere that worked so well in The Conjuring.
If at least the story or characters would have been half as interesting as The Conjuring I would give Annabelle a chance, but nothing about it really worked for me. The story is predictable, the characters are uninteresting and boring, and there are very few scary moments. Leone should stick to his work as a cinematographer which is an area where he has proved to be talented, but as a director this is his third flop. If it weren't for The Conjuring's success this film would have been sent directly to DVD because even the performances were wooden. Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton fail to deliver compelling and interesting characters we would care for. That lack of sympathy for them hurts the film's chances to scare us. The Conjuring had set up such an interesting premise that there were a lot of interesting things that could've been done with this prequel. Unfortunately here we discover that the doll that was the scariest thing in the paranormal investigator's closet (enclosed in a glass shelf) actually isn't all that eerie as it seemed thanks to Gary Dauberman's uninspiring script.
Despite how much Annabelle disappointed me, I still have to admit there were two or three shocking moments that sort of worked for me. The film does become predictable and familiar at times relying on the sounds of rocking chairs and appliances going off on their own at night. After so many close-ups of the dolls face, it lost its eeriness. The three moments I will rescue from this film involve the opening scene where we see the neighbors get attacked by a cult from the window, then the scene we see from the trailer where the small girl runs towards the door turning into the adult Annabelle, and finally the elevator scene which was perhaps the scariest moment of the film. Other than those three moments I wasn't really shocked by Annabelle. The characters and the story were so boring that at times I felt like snoozing for a few minutes. It was a huge disappointment.
"My father is a lot of unpleasant things, but murderer is not one of them."
The Judge may not be the highly effective powerhouse courtroom drama we were expecting when we first heard about the pairing of Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall, but it isn't the terrible film some critics are describing it as either. Most of us had high expectations for The Judge but once the first reviews started coming in my expectations were lowered so I went into this with moderate expectations. It is a somewhat effective melodrama when it centers on the father and son family dynamics, but when it tries to include other subplots like the courtroom drama scenes and the relationship with a former lover, the film falls flat and feels overlong.
Director David Dobbin succeeds when he gets Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall in a room together. Those are the most effective scenes of the film and they standout because both actors are on the top of their game. Dobbin however fails when he tries to cram other dramatic elements into this film, and he does so way too often. At 144 minutes, The Judge could have been more effective if it were cut short and centered exclusively on the family dynamics rather than on the rest of the subplots that Dobbin is cramming into the film. The problem is that Dobbin is trying too hard to make a serious film since this is his first time directing a non-comedy.
Audiences who were expecting a Grisham style courtroom drama will be disappointed because that aspect of the story falls flat, but as a film centering on a dysfunctional father and son relationship it succeeds thanks to the two lead actors. When the two Roberts get together The Judge pulls at your heart strings effectively, but the rest of the scenes do feel clichéd and manipulative (especially the scenes involving those home movie projections). I also enjoyed this as a character study of the different family dynamics and I appreciated the films intentions about giving an honest portrayal of aging through Duvall's character. There are some powerful scenes, but they are ruined sometimes by the cliches the film follows.
Aside from Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall's powerful performances (they are both at their best here), there is also a very interesting supporting performances from Vincent D'Onofrio. His scenes with Downey are relevant as well and he holds his own. Billy Bob Thornton doesn't really get much character development considering the court case is simply included as an excuse to keep this family together. Farming is a wonderful actress and she gives a strong performance as well, but her scenes really don't add anything to the film and their subplot could have been left out.
The premise of the film isn't anything we haven't seen before either. The story centers on a hot shot lawyer from a big city who is returning to the small town he grew up and ran away from, for his mother's funeral. He doesn't want to stay long because his relationship with his father is a disaster and we get a glimpse of it early on. Those scenes are powerful but not entirely original. Downey plays the smart mouth witty son to perfection, while Duvall is the uptight and stern father who he can easily play in his sleep. The only moment where Duvall and Downey were on screen together that didn't work for me was when they begin discussing their personal issues while his father stands on trial. That was just one example of a forced moment where melodrama seemed more important than authenticity. There are several moments like this that hurt this film, but the few authentic moments are powerful enough to recommend this it. The Judge isn't a bad film, it's just one that had the potential to be so much more.
"Are you only the legend, or are you truth behind the legend?"
Hercules was one of those rare cases where I was glad the film was nothing like the trailer was portraying it as. From the trailers I was expecting yet another Clash of the Titans sort of fiasco, but I was pleasantly surprised the film took an entirely different approach. Instead of portraying the Greek mythology as something completely accepted in this world, it actually is just a myth that some have more trouble than others in believing.
Hercules is one of those silly action films that rarely work for me. I tend to find these sort of action packed movies where there is very little character development dull and boring. Surprisingly however, the action sequences looked impressive and somehow I was engaged by the characters. For the first two thirds of this 90 minute film I was on board with the breezy and light hearted action, but unfortunately the final act included an uninspired twist that didn't work for me. I felt like the film rushed to the conclusion and tied things up too neatly. Hercules has many flaws and lacks depth but it makes up for all of this with some slick visuals, engaging action sequences, and an impressive lead performance from Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Brett Ratner won a lot of enemies when he ruined the X-Men franchise for many fanboys, but he has also made some entertaining and decent films like Red Dragon and the first Rush Hour. Hercules may not be a great film, but it was much better than I anticipated and I had a decent time with it despite being predictable and pretty straightforward.
Perhaps the best thing going for Hercules is the lead performance from The Rock who completely drives this film and engages us with the title character. He is an action star with a lot of charisma who happens to sell the funny moments as well. Ian McShane also deserves his share of credit for the comedic moments of this film. He is great in his secondary role as one of Hercules's sidekicks who also seems to have the ability of foreseeing his own death. Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, and Reece Ritchie each deliver as part of Hercules's faithful companions and despite not having any depth to them whatsoever I still managed to care for each one of them. The greatest weakness of the film might be the lack of a strong villain and a somewhat unbelievable twist. All in all, Hercules is decent enough to give a mild recommendation from my part.