War Dogs

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War Dogs is based on the true story of two young men, David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, who won a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan.

War Dogs is surprisingly one of the smartest and most entertaining movies of the year. With two excellent leading actors and superb writing, this movie is very hard not to enjoy. Jonah Hill and Miles Teller both kill it as two twenty-something-year-old arms dealers who became millionaires by forging their way to million-dollar deals and eventually, driving Porsche’s too. Hill is unforgettable, bringing so much fun and wit to his role, and Teller is filled with soul as Hill’s partner-in-crime, as well as the film’s narrator.

This movie is being sold as a comedy, and as much gut-busting humor that’s included in the film, I would look at it in a more broad way as a hybrid of The Big Short, The Wolf of Wall Street and Catch Me If You Can. I was especially reminded of Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can because of the idea of young men making bad decisions, as well as an awful lot of money, with Hill and Teller’s roles resembling DiCaprio’s portrayal of con man Frank Abagnale, Jr. Although the characters in this film weren’t always in illegal business, but in both films the characters decide to cheat their way to the American dream. Even though this movie is from the director of the Hangover trilogy, don’t expect goofy and nonsensical humor, because War Dogs is a LOT more than that.

If you like watching movies about true stories that you wouldn’t believe actually happened at first, then this is the movie for you. The plot is heavily fictionalized but the overall story is true, and it was a story that was not just interesting to watch, but entertaining as hell to sit through. The movie is less than two hours long, but not a moment felt rushed. The script never provides a dull moment, and there are some scenes and lines that will be difficult for you to forget. Don’t expect much action from this film either, because that’s not what War Dogs is about. War Dogs is a dangerously true story, that’s more of a dramatic than a comedic or thrilling movie, and that may be hard to believe but also very hard to forget. Please give this one a watch in theaters if you want a remarkably awesome time at the movies.

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Pete’s Dragon (2016)

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A reimagining of Disney’s cherished family film, Pete’s Dragon is the adventure of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliott, who just so happens to be a dragon.

Disney is continuing their surprising streak of great live-action remakes with Pete’s Dragon, which is based on the 1977 live-action classic, instead this time, the dragon is given a visual update with CGI instead of being hand-drawn. And once again, Disney succeeds at bringing a charming, family-friendly world of CGI to life. Although there isn’t as much visual weight and realism to the dragon as there was to the incredibly photo-realistic environment and characters in this year’s Jungle Book, there’s enough charm and fun to make it another solid and spirited Disney family flick. The is a splendid cast that helps carry the film that includes Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, and Robert Redford. Oakes Fegley, the child actor who plays Pete, does a remarkable job acting in front of his costars and sometimes in front of nothing (in the scenes in which his character must interact with Elliot). The majority of the film, however, didn’t require as much interaction with computer-generated surroundings as the leading child actors from The Jungle Book and The BFG, hence making Fegley’s performance less impressive and unique as the other actors and overall, I felt much more connected to the leads from the other two films. The standout of the cast is definitely Howard, who brings lots of life and energy to her character and delivers a notable performance from the film.

This movie may be a great time for families and especially younger kids, but that’s really the only target audience for the film. If you watch this film looking for a great story, you might not be satisfied. The story has lots of soul, but the film’s second half starts to slow down a little bit before entering familiar territory and following a formula used by too many family films.The story of a kid trying to protect an extraordinary being while the adults’ greed and fear prevents them from understanding the situation as well as the protagonist has already been used plenty of times. E.T. and How to Train Your Dragon are just a few examples of films that follow the exact same formula during most of their runtime. When the movie tried to get exciting during the final act, it was hard for me to care because of how cliched it mostly was. However, the film concludes with a great message about family and preserving your surroundings.

Although it does get too familiar at times, I can bet you Pete’s Dragon will be a great time if you go see it with your family, with lots of soul and great underlying messages, as well as outstanding cast members and writing. I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re looking for the best movie out there, but if you want to see a fun and touching family film, then Pete’s Dragon is unlikely to disappoint you.

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Jason Bourne

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Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), the CIA’s most dangerous former operative, is drawn out of hiding when old ally Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) finds him, to uncover more explosive truths about his past.

Jason Bourne reminds us that the series it belongs to is still one of the greatest action franchises out there, especially with Paul Greengrass in the director’s chair, and Damon in the spotlight. In 2012, we got The Bourne Legacy, which starred Jeremy Renner instead of Damon and failed critically because it didn’t feel much like a Bourne movie because of Damon’s absence and the lack of everything that distinguishes a Bourne movie from a regular action movie. In this film, Greengrass shows us that this series can still return to form after a mistake like that. Jason Bourne follows the formula set by the first three films, with lots of impressive shaky-cam action while Bourne is running from the CIA. However, it gets even more personal this time around, as he starts to uncover a final secret from his past. The story isn’t very new but as a huge fan of the series, I never lost interest thanks to the pacing and intense action. Damon is still fantastic as the titular character, even fourteen years after portraying the character for the first time. He never loses character both physically and emotionally, and it’s so much fun to watch him constantly kick ass in all four of these films. Tommy Lee Jones portrays a ruthless CIA director who’s as perfectly written and developed as Chris Cooper’s antagonist in the first film, while Alicia Vikander is superb as a CIA agent that, in a way, resembles Joan Allen’s Pam Landy from the previous movies. Although both characters feel familiar, they are most skillfully portrayed by two excellent casting choices for their roles. Vincent Cassel is also a great villainous newcomer to the series, with an interesting backstory and great writing to his character. It’s so impressive that even though the main characters are part of the franchise’s formula, each one of them was written so profoundly, and I loved the way they were developed and portrayed.

If you’re hoping to get some spectacular action sequences from this movie, then you won’t be let down because there is plenty of intense bone-crunching and heart-racing action that’s just as great as what Greengrass gave us in Supremacy and Ultimatum. There’s an epic motorcycle chase during a riot that glued my eyes to the screen, as well as an enormous car chase in Vegas that kept me on the very edge of my seat. The incredible use of practical stunt and shaky camera work definitely hold up. Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd is more reliant on shaky cam than Oliver Wood, who shot the original trilogy; Ackroyd has however proved to be a master at capturing exquisite action and scenery with his style in films like The Hurt Locker and Captain Phillips. Here, his style may feel overdone to some, but I believe the camerawork was done impeccably, especially during the action scenes. A lot of critics have sadly been disappointed by this movie, saying it doesn’t live up to the previous work of Damon’s Bourne pictures, but let me tell you that skipping this movie is not the right move for fans of action movies and especially of the saga. Jason Bourne gave me everything I wanted and even more. It’s strikingly written, phenomenally acted, and stunningly shot and directed. It’s definitely on par with the first three films, probably even better than Supremacy. The Bourne movies have truly raised the bar for action movies, and I haven’t seen many others like them. Jason Bourne is another fantastic example that did not disappoint, so please, despite what many critics have said, go see this movie with an open mind like I did, and who knows how much you may end up liking it?

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Suicide Squad

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In DC’s latest attempt to recover from the backlash received by this year’s Batman v Superman, A secret government agency recruits a group of imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency, which inevitably leads to chaos.

Suicide Squad was easily one of my most anticipated movies of the year, but I was also expecting so much from it, and unlike other films that unsurprisingly disappointed, I was almost certain I was going to get everything I wanted from this film. With great casting choices and an intriguing story, I didn’t think anything could go wrong. However, despite a few perks, Suicide Squad is ultimately a chaotic and poorly constructed supervillain extravaganza. This movie isn’t completely bad, as most of the action is tons of fun and the film’s cast is packed with awesome and entertaining performances. Will Smith leads the cast with great humor and writing, and Margot Robbie steals the movie with her insane and lively performance as Harley Quinn. Robbie always seems like she’s having so much fun in the role, as she’s always full of energy and she definitely lived up to what I expected from her. Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Viola Davis, and the rest of the cast are solid and mostly funny. I expected more, however, from Jared Leto. His take on the Joker is nowhere as memorable as Heath Ledger’s take on the psychotic villain in Nolan’s The Dark Knight, and his role is of little significance in the film. The DC universe just wastes this character in the film and I didn’t like his use in the film, although I liked Leto’s performance. Another thing I enjoyed about the movie was the amount of humor incorporated in the movie, and how much it delivered. Characters like Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, and Captain Boomerang were hilarious and delivered some great lines. I was impressed and overall satisfied by how much the movie made me laugh. The action mostly entertained me as well.

I was hoping Suicide Squad could help DC recover from Batman v Superman‘s terrible failure this year, however, I was wrong. Like its predecessor, the movie suffers from many continuity errors and plot holes. Many things happen that don’t make any sense later on, and although the movie tries hard, there is ultimately no emotional weight that got to me, and by the end, the story felt completely empty and pointless. The editing is too choppy and flashy, all the takes are transitioned through too quickly, and I could tell that too much was cut from the film. Not much is explained and regarded that I wish was addressed to have made more sense. A lot of the development for more minor characters was not there, so emotionally there was nothing this film gave me. Despite the backstories provided for more major characters like Deadshot and El Diablo, nothing hit me deep like other films of its genre, like Guardians of the Galaxy and other films in the Avengers saga. The film’s villain also did nothing for me, as the villain’s plot and presence were dull and effortless. The ending of the movie makes the plot and even the film itself feel so pointless and nothing seems to be in its place anymore. You may want to watch Suicide Squad for a few fun action sequences and good laughs, but don’t expect a redeeming summer blockbuster for DC, or anything close.

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