On DVD & Blu-Ray: August 23, 2016

The biggest fight this unnecessary sequel was always going to battle was the one for purpose. In 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman there was much to admire in terms of visually stunning design and creativity for the functionality of much of those designs, but both the story and the characters felt thin, cobbled together from different mythologies, and thrown together in hopes of becoming a new take on an old tale. With The Huntsman: Winter's War the film once again faces something of an identity crisis-wanting to be a number of things, but never focusing on one single aspect enough to actually be about anything. As the first film was an attempt to capitalize not only on the idea of turning well-known fairy tales into live-action adventures, but on swinging the Hollywood pendulum towards more female-centric action vehicles the focus is still very much on the ladies. This is all well and good until you realize that once again this Huntsman film is simply pulling from other stories to try and cobble together a legend of its own to no avail-giving extremely talented actresses nothing to work with. While not a direct sequel or even a full prequel, Winter's War is a spin-off of sorts that encapsulates all of the previous film and intends to add a broader scope and depth to the proceedings. In doing this we are offered a take on recent female Disney characters such as Elsa's Ice Queen from Frozen in the form of Queen Freya (Emily Blunt) and Merida from Pixar's Brave in the form of Sara (Jessica Chastain). Done in the hope that telling a darker, more action packed story would appeal not only to the kids who enjoyed those movies, but to the adults who've likely seen them on repeat and might find it interesting to see variations on such characters in live action form it's a fine enough strategy. At the very least this strategy provides some kind of template for the film to build strong female characters upon, but as a final product the film does nothing interesting with the majority of its characters in a story so scattered and with one too many lulls that even the beauty of both the visuals and actors isn't enough to distract from the weariness of it all. Full review here. Video review here. C-

From the moment The Temptations' "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone," kicks in and the old Warner Bros. logo flashes across the screen one can't help but be hooked by The Nice Guys. It's been eleven years since Shane Black made his directorial debut with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang after toiling away in the writers room for years and while it's been much too long since I've seen that Robert Downey Jr./Val Kilmer crime caper I have to imagine the cult following it has amassed since its release over a decade ago is happy to see Black back behind the helm of what he does best. Though Iron Man 3 may be the most divisive Marvel film of the bunch, Black clearly has a knack and a love for crafting stories from a time in which he obviously remembers fondly and nostalgically despite those times being admittedly reckless and ill-conceived. We are dropped into 1977 Los Angeles immediately, the music blaring, the now goofy clothes worn with honor, and a smog settling in over the skyline that immediately sets the tone of something being slightly askew. The magic of Black's touch in crafting the exact right tone he desires is that of not making this skewed feeling strictly pertain to the events of his story, but more it applies to the characters that will operate within this series of events that Black has crafted to more or less exploit the type of relationships he finds interesting and funny. That is all to say the plot actually matters very little here, but instead it is the chemistry of our two leads and the understanding with which they convey Black's dialogue and character qualities that make The Nice Guys more of an exception than the rule. Sure, there could be two other actors that might have pulled this off in a similarly successful fashion and I'd even be willing to bet that replacing Russell Crowe with someone along the lines of a Liam Neeson or Kyle Chandler might have yielded better results, but Gosling absolutely owns his role and is essential to the movies success. This is Gosling's movie-make no mistake-and it will solidify both his presence and his talent as being among the most appealing in the business today (as if it wasn't already). As it is though, The Nice Guys is a buddy cop film that excels in creating a buddy dynamic so fun and compelling that all the cop stuff hardly matters. Full review here. B

I'd intended on seeing The Man Who Knew Infinity at last year's Toronto International Film Festival when I attended, but it ultimately didn't make it into my final schedule. Since, I've heard very little about the Dev Patel/Jeremy Irons film that chronicles the life and academic career of the pioneer Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and his friendship with his mentor, Professor G.H. Hardy. Though it sits at a barely fresh 62% on Rotten Tomatoes currently I can hardly muster any excitement for the film and doubt I'll make time to see it unless it just so happens to sound appealing late one night after it's been added to Netflix and I'm feelin' too lazy to get up and put a blu-ray in the player.

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