Hotel Artemis

Hotel Artemis started advertising not that long ago and then went really hard at it. I avoided watching any trailers, but it did have a ton of posters, character spotlights, and general social media campaign.

I definitely thought and just assumed it was the same hotel in John Wick: Chapter 2, because again, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to it.

I also went in expecting a shoot out, broken rules, high famous people death count, and so on.

Really, the only reason I was interested in the movie was due to the people acting in it.

Blooming
Including this formerly elusive fucker who is trying to be in everything the last year.

Hotel Artemis is less a hotel and more a hospital. It is in a penthouse of a large building in Los Angeles and it is a secret organization for criminals. After all, every hospital out there is for the good guys and regular guys, so why not a place for criminals. You cannot just be bad and get in, you have to join their club and pay your membership dues.

Basically, as long as there is an empty room and you are a member, you will have a place to go and get patched up without alerting the authorities. And this film starts with Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and his brother (Brian Tyree Henry) hurt after a robbery gone wrong making it over to the facilities. It is the future and LA is having big riot problems over clean water, so everyone is on edge.

Thankfully, they get patched up by the Nurse (Jodie Foster) just swell, and just have to wait for a new liver to be created for his brother. They find out that the current patrons of the hotel are not all there by coincidence, and that greater and more deadly stakes are afoot at this place they thought was safe.

Also starring Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista, Charlie Day, Jeff Goldbloom, Jenny Slate, Kenneth Choi, and Zachary Quinto.

Big Dog Little Dog
Finally, some hired help who can punch and sew.

Hotel Artemis is a film that has some cool and interesting ideas, but never really reaches its goals.

The plot is a bit shit. We have good reasons for future riots, those are believable, but the backstory for the Nurse takes too long to play out despite being one of our major points. The plot line with Boutella was average, and Brown’s was more fleshed out, but still didn’t feel really worth it. Tons of hype around Goldbloom, but in the end it also lacked a huge amount of oomph in the trunk.

It also didn’t have as much action as promised. Sure, we do get a few creative deaths and really well choreographed and decorated rooms, but the action itself is weak. Near the end it looked like there would be two different hallway scenes. One of them was interesting despite the many camera cuts, the other fell completely flat and denied the viewers of a great brawl aspect.

And yet, there are still elements to praise. For example, Foster was completely into this character. She had the quirks, the voice, everything felt unique. Foster transformed herself for this role and really, I couldn’t tell Foster was behind it at all. Probably her best role in over a decade.

Almost all the actors seemed to be acting in ways that were very uncommon for them. Brown doesn’t really play shooting criminal badasses, Day is generally spastic, but this time he was wormy and theoretically “cool” with a different voice, Quinto played a character who was definitely slow witted, and Slate wasn’t completely annoying.

The cast of characters is the reason to watch this movie, but it will unfortunately leave you just watching it once. Too many plot points that don’t go too many places will leave the story forgettable and the idea a wonderful dream.

2 out of 4.

Gringo

Gringo had something funny occur with their PR screening ahead of time. Our screening wasn’t until the week of release, like normal, but they actually sent out the real invite for it over a month early. Now, normally, these invites are a week to two max early. If any earlier, we get save the date notes or whatever to let you know it is coming up, but this was just the regular invite to respond to for RSVP purposes.

So of course I accepted, and the only reason it is much later a review is because I was sick that day, couldn’t go, and had to watch it weeks later in the theaters. I wanted to see Gringo, it looked fun, and sure, it had a plug on The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale. Let that be a lesson for you, advertising can work. Why else would I still be using old spice body wash every day?

Gringo has an interesting name, given what I think I know what it means, and that we had a film awhile ago called Get The Gringo, which was also a bit better than anticipated. I had high hopes for Gringo given it setting, its very fun looking cast, and of course, because of Mr. Copley adding his own weird style.

WHich One
Which one is the gringo though, really?

Our story is about Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo), a man who never can catch a break. He has a high job in a pharmaceutical company,but he isn’t rolling in the dough like the people in the higher levels. His wife (Thandie Newton) is an interior decorator, but only has one client and is bleeding their money. His boss (Joel Edgerton), is a hardass, a dickwad, and all of the body parts between those two. But he makes that money, he is good friends with Harold, and he got him the job in the first place.

Harold has to work and travel to Mexico frequently for their job, where they have the pharmaceutical factory set up. They are making a weed pill, so to speak, so that when America starts lifting those bans, they will have the product and infrastructure in place to take advantage of the now open market.

Because we are talking about drugs and Mexico, it should be obvious that the Cartel is also involved. Harold doesn’t know about that of course, he is a good guy, but when dealing with his boss’s mistakes, he is about to see how little he matters in the grand scheme of events.

Also starring Carlos Corona, Alan Ruck, Kenneth Choi, Sharlto Copley, Charlize Theron, Melonie Diaz, Amanda Seyfried, Harry Treadaway, and Yul Vazquez.

GOT HIM
Ooooh, looks like they finally GOT THE GRINGO! Oh, wrong movie. Sorry.

Gringo is an example of a story with a lot of separate plot lines amongst the characters, where no one character is sure of what is actually going on, and all the chaos that occurs from these miscommunications and lies. But also, with death, violence, and comedy. So yeah, going for a Taratino film feel.

Out of all the many cast members, the only one to really shine is our star, Oyelowo, who seems to have perfected that scream freak out look that he gets to do over and over in the film as he continues to get shit upon. Because that is the movie. Bad things happening to his character, despite being a relatively good guy, and him never getting out of his situation.

If you hate crazy plot lines, you still might enjoy it for Oyelowo’s performance, where he seemed to show a different side of him. A more excited side, compared to more of his very serious roles recently.

The movie did feel quite long, given the twists and turns along the way. And hey, I didn’t know where it was going most of the time. So it was a surprising thrill ride that did still have me on the edge of my seat. A lot of bad people in this one, and one guy to root for. A good classic film position to be in.

Give Gringo a shot, at least just once.

3 out of 4.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Third times the charm?

Well, that is a weird phrase to apply to this situation. But it is one I have heard quite a lot.

After all, this is our third Spider-Man actor in 18 years. The problem with that phrase is that it implies the other times were not charming. But damn it, most people still talk highly about Spider-Man 1 and Spider-Man 2, especially the sequel. Just because the third one was a dud doesn’t taint the whole.

And for The Amazing Spider-Man? Shit, I liked the first one, and the sequel was disappointing, but Andrew Garfield was still pretty good as a Spider-Man.

People have just really wanted Spider-Man to go back under some amount of control to Marvel, so that we can see him interact with other heroes. Which is fair. But I want Spider-Man: Homecoming to be just a great movie on its own right, not flashy with in universe references.

Boat
I also hope this Spider-Man can just hold everything together.

This film begins with the events of Captain America: Civil War, from Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) perspective. To see how he got to Europe, his sweet suit, and his life afterwards. His life is to be put on hold, waiting for a new “assignment” from Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), with Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) as his go to man to report any issues or problems.

And this keeps Peter busy. He patrols the streets of Queens in the afternoon/evenings after school, under the guise of a Stark Internship, so that his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) doesn’t get too concerned. This does put a strain on his social life however. He cancels most of his extracurricular activites, hangs out with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) less, and he is even about to miss parts of the Academic Decathlon! Besides being smart and enjoying it, it annoys him more because it is run by Liz (Laura Harrier). But don’t worry, Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) still picks on him.

Speaking of busy, eventually he runs into some thugs who are selling alien technology weapons they made! Turns out when NYC was fucked over by aliens those 8 years ago, a lot of alien tech was lying about the city. Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) was in the salvage business, but Tony Stark in an effort to help the city made his own special Damage Control division that won a government contract to clean up any superhero mess. This puts Toomes out of business and enraged about the rich getting richer. So he decides to keep some of the tech, and with his small band of workers and tinkerer friend Phineas Mason (Michael Chernus), they decide to take salvage and turn it into cash in the form of new, high tech weapons. Hooray for capitalism!

Spider-Man cannot let this happen on his streets, as innocents will get hurt, and apparently this is not a problem that the avengers have to worry about. Oh well, I am sure he can handle some thugs and alien weapon technology and gear no sweat!

Also, unsurprisingly, starring a whole lot of other people! We got a whole lot of classmates (Zendaya, Abraham Attah, Angourie Rice, Tiffany Espensen, Michael Barbieri, Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), Thugs (Bokeem Woodbine, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Mando), and others (Donald Glover, Kenneth Choi, Hannibal Buress, Martin Starr, Jennifer Connelly).

Keaton
If you think that list is big, wait til you see Keaton’s personal trainer list!

There are a lot of praises I could sing for Spider-Man, and a lot of them come from story and plot decisions. It isn’t an origin story, because he already exists and we already know it. It does not mean that we don’t get Spider-Man doing things for the first time.

For instance, his first real villain in The Vulture, outside of just petty criminal stuff. We find out that he is not the wall crawler swinging through Manhattan like previous films, but mostly in the much smaller building complexes of Queens. So we have his first time at extreme heights, and we get to see how he handles fighting crime in a suburb, without the ability to swing around with ease.

Speaking of villains, they knocked it out of the park with The Vulture. We get a backstory for Toomes, reasons for his life of crime, reasons for why he feels he is in the right, morally gray shit, we got it all. They gave us what we have been wanting, and it is an excellent villain.

Holland is still good as Spider-Man, but we already knew that from Civil War. The large swaths of side characters fill their niches and no one really feels wasted.

And finally this Spider-Man tries to be very different from the previous iterations. No Gwen Stacy or MJ right away to get you all romantically fluttered, we get LIZ. We get a diverse looking school. We get nerds and a neighborhood that feels like a goddamn neighborhood. And a lot of the characters are new just for this film, with plans to take this film in its own direction, regardless of comics. I give it props.

But strangely enough, I barely laughed in the film. I did a few times, but I was alone. The movie theater was silent, it was no where close to being as wise cracking as I’d imagine a Spider-Man movie to be. I also think it relied too heavily on Iron Man/Happy characters to make sure everyone knew it was fitting in.

And Spider-Man’s suit? Well, it was a bit annoying. Turns out it is super high tech, and most of the known Spider-Man powers aren’t actually his, but suit based. Like Spider-Senses. I am not sure what powers he actually got. Some super strength and acrobatics skills, with some sticking to walls?

It is a decent film, just again, not as great as I had hoped it would be.

3 out of 4.

The Wolf Of Wall Street

Sometimes, the best publicity for a movie is a battle with the MPAA. Just ask Harvey Weinsten and the movie Bully. That is what (intentionally/unintentionally) happened with The Wolf Of Wall Street. It was supposed to come out on November 15, but after being given an NC-17 rating by the board, Martin Scorsese had to go back and cut some more material out of his three hour biopic of of one Jordan Belfort.

Which is why it was pushed back to Christmas (pushing back Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit to January 17. Same distributor, didn’t want to compete against itself). I couldn’t be happier that it got pushed back, either. Compared to last years Les Miserables and Django Unchained, this year’s releases needed a kick in the butt to be anywhere close as good.

Talk Wolf
A raunchy, naked woman filled hard kick in the butt.

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), for all intents and purposes, was a self made man. His parents were accountants, and he wanted to go to Wall Street in the late 1980s to become a stock broker. He quickly got a job, became good buddies with the boss (Matthew McConaughey), and was taught all of the ins and outs of the business. Including the not so legal ins and outs.

Well, his first actual day as a stock broker, Black Monday happens, and the firm he works for quickly goes under. Back to being on the bottom, Belfort finds out about “penny stocks,” companies too little to be sold on the actual stock market, where the commission for a broker goes from 1% of the sale to 50% of the sale. If he can land some big fish on these worthless stocks, he could probably make fat cash quickly, with everyone none the wiser.

But that illegal activity is just the tip of the iceberg. Drugs. Money laundering. Drugs. Drugs. Prostitution. Tax fraud. Bribing officials. You name it, this guy did it. With the help of his very awkward buddy, Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), there ain’t nothing they can’t accomplish, or at least nothing that can’t be bought.

The Wolf Of Wall Street has a huge cast of characters, most of them actually quite important and memorable. Rob Reiner plays his dad, an angry accountant, and Kyle Chandler the FBI agent trying to bring him down. Cristin Milioti plays his original wife, and Margot Robbie plays his new wife. Jon Bernthal plays a drug dealer, and Jon Favreau his lawyer. Finally, last but not least, P.J. ByrneKenneth ChoiHenry ZebrowskiBrian Sacca and Ethan Suplee play his original start up friends and workers who carry him to the top.

DANCE DANCE DANCE DANCE
I don’t think I need to say anything for this one.

The Wolf Of Wall Street can best be summed up by three words: Unforgiving, Real, and Amazing.

I initially groaned at the three hour run time, and although it can be difficult to make it through if you drink a lot of fluids during the movie, the viewings at home when you can pause will be easy peasy. The three hours are full of so much tension and energy (while also constantly moving the story forward) that it all flies by in a jiffy. In the last twenty minutes or so, the extreme length became noticeable as the movie slowed down. But slowing down makes sense at that point in the movie, to fully understand that Belfort’s bubble had finally been burst.

The acting performances by everyone involved was incredible. DiCaprio, despite looking like himself, felt like a completely new man. Every time he got up on the microphone, I was in awe at the intensity and heartfelt that he showed. The second “chest bumping song” scene is unforgettable. On the other side, Hill didn’t look or sound like his normal self at all. Dare I say, he has actual acting talent?

The movie definitely earns its R rating, and it is pretty clear why originally it was given the NC-17. It was incredibly dark and funny, so much that I couldn’t tell if I really wanted to laugh or run and hide from the screen. It is a twisted version of the American Dream, a train wreck that somehow rampaged through the country side, and something that I could not take my eyes off.

Although I doubt it will be considered the best film of 2013, it can certainly be considered the most ambitious.

 

4 out of 4.

Red Dawn

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Nothing I love more than patriotism, except maybe blind patriotism. So give me a war movie involving America, and I will probably love it. Red Dawn is of course a remake of the 1980s movie of the same name. The original film was not really a work that most people would describe as great, but maybe entertaining. In that film it was the end of the Cold War, and the USSR along with Cuba invaded the US. Clearly, the enemy has to be updated as well.

Thor
Let’s face it, the invading country is fucked when Thor is on our side.

In this distant future, the USA has become involved with more conflicts than they can handle. They have troops all over the world, and some would say that leaves their coast lines defenseless. But who would attack the US? Well, apparently North Korea would! That will teach us to over extend ourselves. Set in Spokane, Washington, Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth) has returned home for a visit while being an active duty marine. Jed left home after their mother died six years ago and hasn’t kept in touch. His father (Brett Cullen), a police chief, and brother Matt (Josh Peck), a high school quarterback are reluctant to have him back without a warning.

Then, you know, North Koreans start falling out of the sky in parachutes, and corralling up people in the streets! Hell no. Jed and his brother run away to their father’s cabin, picking up some other high school friends along the way (nerds, played by Josh Hutchenson and Connor Cruise, the latter being the mayor’s son!). Toni (Adrianne Palicki), a female friend is able to find them, but not Erica (Isabel Lucas), Matt’s girlfriend! She is captured! Oh no!

You know the rest of the story, the band of misfits begin to train in the woods and try to slowly take back their town. The Wolverines gain more recruits, more guns, and are quickly able to put a dent in their takeovers side, Captain Cho (Will Yun Lee) doesn’t like being messed with and is determined to fight back. They also find themselves joined by three marines (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kenneth Choi, Matt Gerard), looking to join up with the local guerrilla force to acquire the communication device of the enemy. That way, they can hear their transmissions and hopefully start taking out larger groups around the country.

You know. Or die trying.

Wolverineee
The fate of the future of America may be in these men’s hands.

In the original Red Dawn, the threat of invasion probably felt a bit more real than it does today. However, I also felt that the previous movie was a bit campy in its actions, kind of making it a action/comedy by today’s standards. Just watch this famous scene again, and try not to laugh.

The remake does a much better job of creating a more serious film, even going so far as to kill off a lot of the characters you might expect to make it to the end. After all, it is a mini war and people die in wars. The audience has come to expect it now.

I think it is interesting how they ended it, leaving it open for potential sequels, and reminding us that there would be no easy fix to having another army invade our borders. But I can also see how it would piss people off. I think they did the right thing, giving us their training in a speech montage, instead of wasting more time before their counter attacks. I actually liked most of the action sequences too, which in turn made me feel pretty patriotic.

This film could have focused more on a lot of the pressing issues of our time, how different citizens react, and how one man can make all the difference, but really they instead went more for the fun action flick. Which is fine, I don’t mind action if its entertaining. Just remember the film seems to be focused more on entertainment, instead of a film focused on changing our attitudes towards war and society.

3 out of 4.