Paddington 2 Review

I would’ve never guessed that the sequel to Paddington, a cute family comedy about a talking bear, would be made with the same care and consideration as the first. Even more shocking to me is that Paddington 2 turned out to be even better than its predecessor, with more laughs and excitement to be had then before.

Having settled down with the Brown family, Paddington bear continuously spreads childlike wonder and joy throughout his community. One day he sees a pop-up book in an antique store and decides to save up his money to purchase it. Thinking that the pop-up book would be a great gift for his aunt for her 100th birthday. However, when a thief breaks in and steals the book, Paddington is framed for the robbery. As Paddington adjusts to life in prison, he brings his warmth and joy to very unlikely people. Meanwhile, the Brown family attempts to find the culprit behind the theft and free Paddington before his Aunt Lucy’s birthday.

The most surprising part about Paddington 2 was just how laugh out loud funny it was. Who knew that situations like, say, Paddington getting a ten-year prison sentence, would have such a strong comedic output. The scenes with Paddington in jail were among the best moments of the film, and I enjoyed them to a great degree. The film jumped at every opportunity to throw in a joke, whether it be slapstick or a more sophisticated and subtle humor, and just about all of them were right on the money.

Hugh Grant as the villainous Phoenix Buchanan was delightfully hilarious and fit the mood of the story just right. The rest of the cast fit the bill quite nicely too, as they all felt very authentic and kindhearted in their performances.

Paddington 2 is quite a lot of things. Exciting. Funny. Charming. Sincere. But most importantly, the film is genuine. Paddington 2 isn’t trying to manipulate children’s emotions, and neither is it a cheap, mundane piece of entertainment to be forgotten soon after viewing. It’s a film with crystal clear, straightforward messages that any parent (or person) could get behind.

Paddington Bear teaches children how one person (or bear, in this case) can positively affect the lives of everyone around them. He emphasizes manners, honesty, and kindness, and applies these to every area of his life. Because of this, in my mind Paddington is the perfect role model. I think even adults could learn a lesson from Paddington in how to treat others, more so than children.

Usually I can come up with some sort of flaw or demographic of individual who may not benefit from watching whatever film I’m reviewing. With Paddington 2, I’ve completely drawn a blank. It’s an adorable, family-friendly adventure that nobody should miss out on.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Review

Anticipating what I assumed to be a distasteful soft reboot of a fun, lighthearted adventure film, I expected the worst from Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. However, to my pleasant surprise (and curious confusion), Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle shares little resemblance to its supposed source material. Instead of a murderous board game that forces players to partake in increasingly difficult tasks, this involves the hip millennial version of the whole thing.

Four clichéd high school students are sucked into a video game while in detention. Once inside the video game, each high schooler takes on a completely different persona, kind of like an in-game avatar. These avatars are played by Jack Black, Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan, who all go off on a vague MacGuffin plot to stop a one-dimensional bad guy. Basically, get the thing, put it in the thing, so it will do the thing.

Jumanji is about as ridiculous and uninspired as you can possibly get, and thankfully the film knows that, making the absolute best of its lame and outrageous premise.

It’s obvious the cast is having a lot of fun shooting Jumanji, and that genuine enthusiasm easily rubs off on the audience. The journey these characters embark on and the lessons they learn along the way was where I derived most of my enjoyment.

Another big part of the film aside from the characters is the humor, which in my opinion was a tad overplayed. Some jokes work very well at first and get a good laugh, only to be drawn out for too long until they become tiresome and annoying. Other scenes intended to be humorous were incredibly childish and tonally inconsistent, leading me to assume that Jumanji had no clear audience it wanted to appeal to.

Jumanji’s strongest suit wasn’t in its humor, but in the genuine moments shared between the protagonists, who were so goofy and animated that I couldn’t help but join in on the fun. The cheesy and poorly written aspects of Jumanji all teeter precariously on “so bad it’s good”. Altogether, I think there is more amusement to be had in Jumanji’s faults than boredom or irritation.

The Verdict: C+

-Zachary Flint

The Disaster Artist Review: It Big Hollywood Movie!

In the same vain as Tim Burton’s 1994 film Ed Wood, The Disaster Artist documents the making of what is widely considered one of the worst films of all time, The Room. Written and directed by Hollywood outsider Tommy Wiseau, The Room is an absurd and perplexing piece of cinema full of unintentionally humorous scenes, bizarre writing, and atrocious acting. Despite the film’s irrationality, The Room maintains a massive cult following, with frequent midnight showings across the U.S. still a popular occasion. And with so much mystery and fascination surrounding The Room, it was only a matter of time before we got a feature film about the topic.

It becomes evident within the first few minutes that The Disaster Artist was a passion project for Franco, and that he (like many of us) loved The Room with the same level of comedic fervor.

Franco as Tommy Wiseau is as hilarious as it is uncanny. His performance as the eccentric actor/director is hard to get a grasp on, as his character remains quite idiosyncratic and secretive throughout the entire film. Wiseau, for example, speaks with a slurred but strong Eastern European accent, yet adamantly asserts he’s from Louisiana. Wiseau also miraculously funded The Room entirely on his own, spending more than five million dollars to produce it. Only, nobody ever understood where and how he got the money to do so.

And from interviews I’ve seen with the real Wiseau, Franco captured this awkward demeanor incredibly well; pulling off what I consider to be my favorite role of his yet.

The rest of the cast, featuring such talent as Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, and Josh Hutcherson, all give wonderful performances as well, elevating The Disaster Artist in numerous ways. Seth Rogen as Sandy Schklair (the script supervisor) acts as the main form of comic relief, as film continuity proves to be less than useful in Wiseau’s production. Dave Franco as Greg Sestero (an actor who befriends Tommy and stars in The Room) allows the audience to see a more sensitive side to the usually unpleasant Tommy Wiseau.

The Disaster Artist documents the mysterious and baffling nature behind the making of The Room, however it sadly doesn’t say much about it. The one key feature that this film desperately lacks is a central point of focus. More specifically, The Disaster Artist needed more of a purpose. Sure, the film details the making of The Room with a brilliantly keen sense of self -awarenessbut what does have to say about Wiseau and his big Hollywood movie? What does the mere existence of The Room mean for filmmaking and aspiring filmmakers? Is it possible that any blindly passionate individual with enough conceit can rise to infamous Hollywood stardom?

Those with a vehement love of The Room will have the most to gain from watching The Disaster Artist, while others with no frame of reference will likely find themselves bored. Already having extensive knowledge on the subject allowed me to enjoy watching The Disaster Artist with a heightened sense of awareness and understanding for the strange events that unfolded. I more than enjoyed watching it, and I hope that others will respect the enthusiasm and love Franco put into his tribute to one of the most bizarre films ever made.

The Verdict: A-

-Zachary Flint

Daddy’s Home 2: A Ho Ho Horrible Holiday ‘Comedy’

Daddys Home 2 follows the occasionally used formula of turning a comedy sequel into a holiday escapade. An almost always disastrous decision (just look at A Bad Moms Christmas), it will surprise no one to hear that Daddy’s Home 2 is a comedic flop. With the first Daddy’s Home being a mediocre and forgettable comedy, this installment had no intentions whatsoever in surpassing it.

Will Ferrell plays his usual man-child schtick, and Mark Wahlberg plays a tough guy. Together they co-parent a set of forgettable child actors, who are disappointed they always must do two Christmases. That’s when Ferrell and Wahlberg get the bright idea to do a joint Christmas, as well as invite both of their dads in on the excitement. Their dads unfortunately consist of Mel Gibson (a stereotypical racist) and John Lithgow (a mirror image of Will Ferrell). From here, wacky and predictable hijinks ensue.

The only clever bit in the film involved a below the belt jab at Liam Neeson and his typical style of movies. Apparently in this universe, Neeson starred in a terribly bloated action film called Missile Tow (Get it!). From my guess, this is some kind of holiday version of Taken or Non-Stop. Pretty humorous nonetheless.

Daddy’s Home 2 suffers from the same ailment as every other bad comedy. That being, it’s not funny. It’s constantly caught between trying way too hard to be comedic and not trying at all. Sometimes there are moments of slapstick humor that are painfully long, and at other times there are scenes where I’m waiting for a punchline that never comes.

And by the end of Daddy’s Home 2, few of the characters went through any sort of change or revelation. They’re all still horrible people, yet the film accepts this and just decides to end on a poor note. Nothing is gained from watching it. In fact, all Daddy’s Home 2 really did was shine a spotlight on the limitations of these actors and actresses.

There was one particular scene in the film that really rubbed me the wrong way, and I think it really captures the mentality of Daddy’s Home 2. It’s when the entire cast gathers at a movie theater towards the conclusion of the movie. Will Ferrell’s character stands up in front of a crowd and makes a comment on how everyone came to the theater with someone they love. Except, of course, one man in the back, who came to the movie alone on Christmas. Will Ferrell then makes a passing remark on how this man is sad, and somewhat pathetic.

Well, movie, Christmas for some isn’t so joyful, and is quite lonely and depressing. So, when you make a shoddy, low-quality, unfunny, sloppy joke such as that, you come off as a huge dick.

Bottom line, this movie sucks.

The Verdict: F

-Zachary Flint

Logan Lucky Review

Logan Lucky has what seems like a standard heist/comedy plot, but takes it to the nth degree. Cutting away the fluff and filler of usual heist films and giving audiences the weird scenes and exciting performances that they never knew they wanted.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike), Logan Lucky tells the story of a Southern family man named Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), who decides to rob the famed Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. To help him, Jimmy has his one-armed brother Clyde (Adam Driver), his hairdresser sister Mellie (Riley Keough), and an explosives expert named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig). Through an absurd turn of events, we the audience witness this group of unusual individuals attempt to steal millions during a famed NASCAR race.

Most of the cast of Logan Lucky felt more like actual backwoods goofballs than A-list actors, which makes many scenes all the more engrossing (and hilarious). And given the eccentric nature of the film, I often had no idea where it was going next, or even what purpose it served. All I really knew was that Logan Lucky didn’t feel obligated to play out like other films. The plot progression, for example, didn’t include many transition scenes to show characters getting from point A to point B. Alternatively, we are only ever shown what is absolutely necessary for the sake of understanding what’s going on, which ends up making the film all the more entertaining.

And rather than going with typical blockbuster banter, the humor in Logan Lucky is often very dry, deriving the hilarity from the bizarre personalities and interactions of the actors. Adam Driver and Daniel Craig were too of my favorite characters, playing two very weird individuals vastly different from what they’re used to. Driver goes most of the film with the same deadpan expression, and Craig has this maniacal look in his eye that I couldn’t help but frequently laugh at. Not all the humor of Logan Lucky was directly aimed at this Southern style mentality, as proven by Seth MacFarlane’s comical performance as an uptight British businessman.

Logan Lucky never tries too hard to dazzle, be funny, or impress the audience with usual Hollywood gimmicks. Instead, the film naturally comes off as impressive because of its charming actors, engaging story, and outlandish plot progression. And with the help of some clever camera work from behind the scenes, Logan Lucky transcends to what I would consider a fantastic work of art. It’s an oddly exciting, heartwarming film that I’d recommend anyone interested to give a watch.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

The Hitman’s Bodyguard Review

The idea of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson acting in a buddy comedy together sounds like a match made in heaven. The type of roles they typically play are tremendously different, which would theoretically make for a highly interesting film. I say theoretically, because The Hitman’s Bodyguard perfectly displays the sad truth that, just because you have good actors, doesn’t mean you’ll have a good movie.

The film stars Reynolds as Michael Bryce, a protection agent who’s called upon to help protect a notorious hitman named Darius Kincaid (played by Sam Jackson). With a long, complicated history between them, Bryce must now escort Kincaid across Europe so that he may testify in court against a ruthless dictator (Gary Oldman).

Ryan Reynolds and Sam Jackson are pretty funny as individual characters, but don’t work well off each other’s comedic style. Most attempts at jokes dragged on for far too long, and nobody in the theater was even laughing to begin with.

This poor comedic outcome is due to the writers going for the double act style of humor, which is what you see in most buddy comedies of this caliber. Double act works in films like Tango & Cash and Men in Black because the characters are written with complete opposite personalities. Well, herein lies part of the problem with The Hitman’s Bodyguard, as neither of our protagonists have well-defined personalities

Jackson was more severe than Reynolds, but neither ever stuck with a singular set of characteristics. Jackson would often go from being a cold-hearted killer to a more sensitive and understanding person, almost at the flick of a switch. So when the actors don’t have defined personalities, it’s hard for the audience to relate to one of those characters, which entirely defeats the purpose of double act.

The villain of the film, played by Gary Oldman, is a bland Eastern European stereotype with absolutely no depth to his character. After having just watched The Hitman’s Bodyguard, I can’t remember anything about him. Now, Gary Oldman is one of my favorite Hollywood actors, and I think he can play a very diverse range of roles. So I’m incredibly confused as to why he was given so little to do the entire film. He never says or does anything of importance, making his character one of the more forgettable villains of past months.

Some of the action scenes were energetic, while others were fairly lackluster. Take the grand boat chase seen for example. It has a mix of clever and generic moments, however what really ruins the chase sequence is that it goes on for an eternity. The best chase scenes (and action scenes as well) are short and to the point, condensing what the viewer is shown into the most exhilarating moments. The Hitman’s Bodyguard unfortunately wasn’t all that exhilarating, or exciting.

When you boil it down, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is about as standard as a buddy comedy can possibly get. It attempts to go through the same motions of other films in its genre, but because of the lopsided writing it fails to leave any lasting impression on the viewer. It had some funny, even hilarious scenes. However, even the most enjoyable moments of The Hitman’s Bodygurad are overshadowed by sloppy writing and a sense of mediocrity.

The Verdict: D+

-Zachary Flint

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming, an exciting and well-acted entry into the Marvel Universe, manages trim the fat from your usual superhero origin story, and gives fans of Spidey the film they all wanted to see.

Presuming that audiences are exhausted with Spider-Man origin stories (as this is the sixth Spider-Man film in fifteen years), the film jumps right into the part that viewers want to see. Taking place shortly after his fight with the Avengers, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has returned to Queens, New York to live with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Here we see Peter as he attempts to prove himself capable of joining the Avengers, as he takes on local neighborhood crime while also keeping his social life in balance. Peter’s days of crime fighting quickly escalate when he gets wrapped up in the affairs of the Vulture (Michael Keaton), who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

The action scenes, dialogue, humor, and characters, are all pretty much everything you would expect from a Marvel film by now. While these details have become a typical, standard package that you get with every entry in the series, this doesn’t really hinder how well-executed Spider-Man: Homecoming is.

The comedic timing of the dialogue and jokes in the film are spot on, as Marvel filmmakers continue to perfect their quickly-timed humor.

Tom Holland as Spider-Man is probably as good of an on-screen Spidey that we’re ever going to get. The film goes very in-depth into how Peter’s role as Spider-Man impacts his personal life, and we see these struggles portrayed very well by Holland. The best part of it all, is that he still behaves and looks like a young kid. He’s oftentimes arrogant, impatient, and awkward, yet still strives to do the right thing (even with serious risk to his own well-being). With a little help from Tom Holland, Peter Parker is as charming of a character as ever.

Michael Keaton as the Vulture was everything I wanted it to be and more. His performance was incredibly strong, playing a very bad man who, deep down, may still have some good intentions. His excellent acting is complimented nicely with just how well his character is written. Instead of creating an elaborate backstory for the Vulture that takes an hour of screen-time to develop, the audience is given a brief summary of his motivations and even gets to see him in his costume, all within the first ten minutes. Again, it seems the filmmakers knew exactly what the audience wanted to see out of Keaton as the Vulture.

This being a Marvel Cinematic Universe film, the weakest moments of Spider-Man: Homecoming happened to be its connections to the ongoing series. A lot of scenes shared between Tony Stark and Peter Parker are unnecessary, serving as detours that the film doesn’t need. Spider-Man: Homecoming is very competently directed, and can stand perfectly on its own as an independent piece. It’s not imperative to include Avengers tie-ins every few minutes, as this type of screenwriting is more likely to hold the film back from reaching its fullest potential.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a well-calculated crowd-pleaser that I found to be very exciting and a lot of fun. Both Tom Holland and Michael Keaton give really strong performances, and share some of the tensest sequences in a Marvel film to this day. Unlike the previous two Spider-Man series, I feel that this interpretation of everyone’s favorite web-shooter will be the most universally loved and respected.

The Verdict: B+

-Zachary Flint