Masterminds Review

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Written by Nelson Cumming

I am not a dead-inside film critic when I say Masterminds is unfunny and forgettable. I was watching Masterminds with around thirty people who were trying very hard to have a good time and find the movie funny. For the first thirty minutes, there were half-hearted chuckles and then there was complete silence. It’s an eerie, sad experience when it happens to comedies.

The whole story revolves around David (Zack Galifianakis) who works driving armored trucks filled with money. David has fallen in love with a new co-worker (Kristin Wiig) and she has friends (including Owen Wilson) who want to rob millions of dollars and she manipulates David to do be a part of the robbery. They soon double cross David once the robbery is done. David has to avoid a hit man (Jason Sudeikis) and law enforcement to get his revenge.

You can tell the scriptwriting is so bad that stars like Zack Galifianakis, Kristin Wiig, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis and Kate McKinnon cannot make the material funny. Sudeikis and McKinnon get it the worst. I felt sad for them on what they had to do.

McKinnon plays a stereotypically dumb redneck blonde who is David’s fiancee and she deliberately made her facial expressions look mechanically fake. It was just looked so weird. What’s even worse is Sudeikis, who plays a hit man sent to kill David, Galifianakis’ character. All he added was a layer of comedic awkwardness on material that just failed to land.

What is also not believable is the storytelling. To advance the story you have to believe the main characters are impossibly dumb. There is also a massive eye rolling moment when you realize that the assassin sent to kill Galifianakis stops his plan when he realized that Galifianakis is his brother. It’s almost akin to Batman vs. Superman when Batman stops fighting Superman when Superman says his mother’s name.

Masterminds is the comedic film where nothing works. The overuse of slapstick doesn’t work, the dialogue doesn’t work nor do the characters have the chemistry to make what little they had funny. Although the characters and their motives are entirely believable in the movie’s internal logic, very little laughs materialized from the audience. At least Masterminds was not boring.

When I left Masterminds I left with the most positive bad reaction. I just said “Well that sucked” in a care-free way. It’s not boring, nor is it hateful. It’s kinda messy but coherent enough to not make me lose complete faith. Most importantly, it’s just not that funny *1/2

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Deepwater Horizon Review

 

Written by Nelson Cumming

I originally didn’t care about seeing Deepwater Horizon until a friend recommended it to me and when I learned about the subject matter. I’m glad I listened and learned. Learning is good. Listening is good. Everything is good. There are good performances, tension, and explosions. Yes, you heard me, explosions. I praised explosions.

Well, explosions are what you expect when you mix gallons and gallons of crude oil spurting out at high pressure with a single spark. This movie is based on the true story of the BP oil spill and the majority of the story consists of the workers trying to escape the oil rig that’s burning down in front of them.

Explosions, Explosions, Explosions

To elaborate on the explosions I believe they helped add narrative stakes to the story. In other words, I believed in the threat of death that the majority of characters are trying to avoid. There are about twenty to thirty minutes of explosions during the narrative climax. That’s enough to make Michael Bay jealous expect that in Deepwater Horizon, the explosions served a purpose.

Dedicated Cinematography

What I also cannot believe is the effort a cinematographer called Enrique Chediak does. He is doing long shots of the oil rig and spins the camera nearly 360 degrees around the large area, he gets the low angle close-up shots of the workers being flung around the room like a ragdoll, he also gets into the ocean and shoots footage of the pipes from the inside struggling to handle the pressure. He was awesome.

A Trinity of Good Acting

The other thing I have to compliment on is the performances of Mark Whalberg, Kurt Russell, and John Malkovich. Whalberg plays his role as the hero with determination, knowledge and empathy for his workers; Russell is the Commander in Chief and he is just a legitimate tough guy when you see what he does under adversity and Malkovich is good at playing the cringeworthy, bad guy. Malkovich plays a BP worker.

There is great chemistry with Malkovich and Russell. You need to see the political game Malkovich tries to play and how much Russell tries to relent. Russell’s reaction to Malkovich when he realizes he caused the explosion was the best part of the story. After all the business pressure and the physical damage, you fully realize Russell is the Winner and Malkovich is the loser. The performances were not Oscar worthy but they were admirable.

Minor Criticisms: I am Picky

Despite all this praise, the movie did have a lot of little problems. Most of which happened in the first quarter The dialogue for the first 20 minutes was boring to say the least and the foreshadowing scenes were so obvious that I nearly felt patronized. They were little things but a lot of them were only mildly annoying like the feeling you get when a fly is buzzing around you constantly. At least it wasn’t as painful as a slap to the face or a kick to the crotch.

Does Deepwater Horizon match up to a lot of the great disaster movies I have seen in recent years: No. Does Deepwater Horizon leave me happy to have seen it: Yes ***1/2

Storks Movie Review

 

storks-posterWritten by Nelson Cumming

Storks is one of the films that is scattershot (throwing things at the walls and seeing what sticks) but works. It has enough humor and heart to make it likable. This is a departure from the normal material of adult raunch comedies from director Nicholas Stoller but it never has a “first-time director” feel to it which is a plus. He juggles the material not so smoothly but gets the job done nonetheless

The film is all about storks who are birds who delivered babies to aspiring parents and it is run like a manufacturing business- you know, the kind of thing you believe as a kid where babies come from. Well that used to be the case until there was a stork that was over passionate about the baby and accidently broke the tracking device that contained the address to the baby’s family

18 years later the business model has completely changed and the factory no longer makes and delivers babies but they deliver all sorts of items that is run like a Fed-ex factory. Junior (Andy Samberg) is a carrier ambitious bird, climbing the corporate ladder and is about to take over the factory from his smug and arrogant boss (Kelsey Grammer). The baby is now a teenager called Tulip who is the only human and is a little clumsy. The boss makes a deal with Junior: Fire Tulip and gets promoted to “boossssss”

The problem is that Tulip accidently starts up the baby making part of the factory and a letter comes from a kid called Nate who longs for a baby brother who has “lots of ninja skills” because his parents are too busy with their home business to take care of him. So the story then becomes Junior and Tulip trying to deliver the baby to Max

Storks is funny in odd and weird ways

To describe how the filmmakers try to make Storks funny would take awhile because there isn’t a cohesive direction in the comedy but it strangely works here. There are adult comedy elements but there are no sexual jokes. There are business jokes that any adult could relate to, yet there are gags that were so overly childish that I couldn’t believe I laughed at. There are several gags with wolves and let’s just say “their methods of transportation” that had me laughing.

This is a film where the comedy is both rooted in reality and fantasy and darts in, out and around the two. You have to be willing to go from understanding the logic the movie creates to completely suspending disbelief to capture the movie’s zaniness. If you need a little consistency and logic in the humor then this is probably not for you.

Despite these lack of consistent brand of humor Storks is witty enough with good charact development between Tulip and Junior. This is a decently fun movie where a lot of things work in the unclear direction ***3/4

David Brent: Life on the Road

Genre: Comedy
Year: 2016
Rating: MA
Runtime: 96 minutes
Main Cast: Ricky Gervais
Ben Bailey Smith
Production companies: Entertainment One
BBC Films
Written and directed by Ricky Gervais

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Written by Nelson Cumming

David Brent: Life on the Road left me at a loss for words by the time it ended and not in a great way. I was left utterly befuddled by the entire movie and it’s strategic direction in both the story and the comedy. This movie has a tone that is deliberately unsound (pun intended) and the story lags on before it does a full 180 and changes direction by the end. I laughed at some of the gags, but I felt bad for laughing at them. David Brent was a mess but not an unpleasing convoluted mess.

At least the story is simple. It’s about David Brent (Ricky Gervais), a man who works in sales but leaves to reform his old band called ‘Forgone Conclusion” (You can see where he ends up here) but the members are the siblings of the original lineup. He pays everyone handsomely, which is the only reason anyone puts up with him. The problem Brent has is his performances and his lyricism: they both suck. Badly.

This entire premise is done in a mockumentary fashion that will remind you of “This is Spinal Tap” mixed with “The Office”. I am not joking. Brent’s band members are half his age and have completely different interests. Brent also has these songs that are very racist and bigoted out of ignorance but not hatred (which makes this movie at least watchable) and he paints himself as the social outcast whenever he interacts with someone.

Ricky Gervais is good… too good.

What I have just described is Rickey Gervais wet dream. He wrote, starred and directed this movie and it shows. From “The Invention of Lying” Gervais has shown that the social discomfort zone is his comfort zone. He loves it to bits. I, however, am not so sure. Gervais is great at what he has to do. He gets everyone feeling awkward about his comedy and leaves us an air of discomfort, but in this movie, he goes so extreme that it was unbearable to watch.

He has songs about African Americans being victims of colonialism (in great detail because he wants to be “factually accurate”) jokes about the disabled (including people “who eat out of a straw”) and just about any other minority you can think of. It was hit-and-miss. But when he dies on stage I cringe and when he dies on stage again I cringe harder. When I laughed, I felt bad for laughing and when he wasn’t funny I was cowering into my notebook in shame.

To sum that up, Ricky needs to fine tune his comedy. Not in the timing, dialogue or the acting but in moderation, not exaggeration. The movie is awkward so many times in this movie that I felt really uncomfortable as I was leaving.

Character Development: There is none

After the first five minutes, I liked the David Bennet character, after about fifteen, I wanted him to change because he gets annoying. That is because I thought he was naively innocent, then I realized he is just stupid and not funny. Gervais himself said in an interview that his character forms his band as a vanity project. His characters mantra is to throw money at things to solve his problems. It doesn’t look great on the screen.

So I expected “Hey at least he will hit rock bottom and he will become aware of his problems and learn from his mistakes” Nope. That does not happen. Instead, as I will explain later, his bandmates suddenly feel sorry for him and try to cheer him up. Throughout this whole film, you realize he learns nothing after screwing himself over. The execution of that was also done poorly due to…

The Pacing: So, So Bad

The movie’s pacing is terrible, to say the least. Takes a while to get going (about 20 minutes) and when it reaches a point, it stays there for 60 minutes before the story suddenly flips in the last 15 minutes. This is the basic structure that I dislike in comedies. It happened in Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and Zoolander 2. It’s a structure that’s predictable, and uneven.

David Brent: Life on the Road is a movie where everyone hates him but then people love him instantly with no reason as to the change in attitude. The only reason this happens is to try and get audience members to leave happy whereas when you spot it, it feels so flippantly placed

Overall I will admit, there are laughs in this movie, but the cost of uneven pacing and cringeworthy, awkward moments exceeded the enjoyment. Ultimately I would have to say I didn’t like it but the gags do achieve the desired audience reaction, it’s just not the reaction I desired *3/4.