ABC Film Challenge – Action – K – Keeping Up with the Joneses (2016)

Director: Greg Mottola

Writer: Michael LeSieur (Screenplay)

Starring: Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher, Jon Hamm, Gal Gadot, Patton Oswalt, Ming Zhao, Matt Walsh

 

Plot: A suburban couple becomes embroiled in an international espionage plot when they discover that their seemingly perfect new neighbors are government spies.


Tagline – License to kill. License to chill.

Runtime: 1 Hour 45 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Enjoyable Comedy

 

Story: Keeping Up with the Joneses starts when average married couple Jeff (Galifianakis) and Karen (Fisher) who live in a quiet neighbourhood get new neighbours. This is the buzz of the cul-de-sac and the Jones’ Tim (Hamm) and Natalie (Gadot) are not like the normal in the area.

Karen believes that the Jones’ are not normal and starts spying on them, for good reason as Jeff becomes the pawn in an espionage mission for the undercover agents.

 

Thoughts on Keeping Up with the Joneses

 

Characters – Jeff is the everyday human resource man for a government facility, he has a normal life with his wife in a quiet suburban neighbourhood and tries to stay positive. He reluctantly finds himself in the middle of espionage where he learns that not everyone in his life is who they believe they are. Karen is his wife and an interior designer that works from home giving her a birds eye view of the new neighbours, to whom she doesn’t trust. Tim Jones is the secret agent that befriends Jeff when he is searching for criminals, he is tired of the life of crime. Natalie is his wife and weapons expert who enjoys the life even though she doesn’t fit in the suburban neighbourhood.

PerformancesZach Galifianakis in the leading role of the couple works very well, he knows how to give us everyday comedy and his weight loss is fantastic. Isla Fisher is good to feeling like they have great chemistry together. Jon Hamm is great as the agent being the slick figure you would imagine he would need to be, while Gal Gadot shows us that she is capable of the kick ass woman we saw in 2017  with Wonder Woman.

StoryThe story shows how a quiet neighbourhood can be turned on its head by new neighbours and them being spies only causes our main couple finding new excitement in their life. It shows how this field will be the hardest to blend into for the spies and how the everyday person could get in their hearts and job. There is an espionage story which can get lost at times which doesn’t feel like the most important part of the story.

Action/ComedyThe action when used is generic easy to put together to keep things safe, we have a car chase which is the highlight of the action. The comedy is mostly the reactions to what is happening to characters which will get chuckles in places.

SettingsThe film is designed to make the spy genre being set in the suburbs, which gives us everything we need it too.

Special EffectsThe effects work when needed and add to the action sequences.


Scene of the Movie –
The car chase.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The villain is almost no existence

Final ThoughtsThis is a fun action comedy that hits the marks it needs to without being one of the greatest, it easily isn’t one of the worst.

 

Overall: Fun throughout.

Rating

 

 

ABC Film Challenge – Action – C – Criminal (2016)

Director: Ariel Vromen

Writer: Douglas Cook, David Weisberg (Screenplay)

Starring: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Ryan Reynolds, Jordi Molla, Gal Gadot, Michael Pitt, Amaury Nolasco, Alice Eve

 

Plot: In a last-ditch effort to stop a diabolical plot, a dead CIA operative’s memories, secrets, and skills are implanted into a death-row inmate in hopes that he will complete the operative’s mission.


Tagline –  Take me to the Dutchman.

Runtime: 1 Hour 53 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Slow Moving Action Thriller

 

Story: Criminal starts when CIA agent Bill Pope (Reynolds) is working on bringing The Dutchman (Pitt) to America in exchange for closing the wormhole on the dark web that he has created, the problem is Xavier Heimdahl (Molla) also wants the Dutchman and kills Bill before getting the answers.

Turning to Dr Franks (Jones) for an experimental memory transfer Quaker Wells (Oldman) the head of the CIA operation uses death-row inmate Jerico Stewart (Costner) to learn where the vital information is, but letting a killer lose becomes harder to control than believed.

 

Thoughts on Criminal

 

Characters – Jerico Stewart is the dangerous death-row inmate, we don’t learn what he has done, but anyone that crosses him usually ends up in a body bag. He is forced into receiving Bill’s memories in a hope that he can save a major release of secure information, he doesn’t want to work with the CIA and is happier to operate in his own means. Quaker Wells is running the CIA operation which goes wrong, he will go at any lengths to get the answers he needs to stop the information leak, company man who does go too far. Dr Franks has been working on transferring memories for 18 years, this is his first human attempt which shows how he wants to help with the new memories. Important to the story but lacking the impact he should have on the story. Bill Pope is the family man and CIA agent, it is his memories which hold the answers after he is killed. Xavier Heimdahl wants to bring an end to governments across the world, he will go public with his speeches while also having his darker side coming out when getting what he wants.

PerformancesKevin Coster is in the middle of his recovery/mid-life crisis roles in action movies, he knows how to make his performance work keeping everything entertaining throughout. Gary Oldman as a company man CIA agent, well this always works as he never needs o do anything challenging. Tommy Lee Jones likewise does what he needs to without bringing anything unique to the role. Reynolds is hard to judge because of the smaller part in the film. Jordi Molla does make a good villain showing the calmness needed for the character to feel calculated. Gal Gadot is solid in her supporting role without needing to do much.

StoryThe story gives us the idea that vital information is about to be leaked by a hacker if he doesn’t get a passport and immunity, but things go wrong when the agent with the connection is killed. The experimental idea of transferring memories is put in motion as the candidate doesn’t follow orders the way they had hoped and different agencies from around the globe want the information. This plays out like an action film, but in reality it should have been a tense thriller with the characters we have here. It is an easy to watch and enjoy even if the premise does seem wildly over the top for a simpler idea.

Action/Crime/Mystery/Sci-FiWhen we look at the themes being used action gives us the shoot out we have seen before with a couple of car chases, nothing overly memorable though. The crime world we are placed into shows how the CIA are trying to protect the world from a new threat in London, it seems weird the British intelligence agency are not involved in this. The mystery in this film doesn’t work too well as the only thing needing to be solved is where the package was left. The sci-fi side of the film does come from the idea of transferring the memories, it is only used here though.

SettingsThe film is set in London and the surrounding area, it does feel weird that an American operation happens in England though.

Special EffectsThe effects are used well when needed without being over used for the action scenes.


Scene of the Movie –
Ambulance chase.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It does have a tonal problem with the action and thriller side of things.

Final ThoughtsThis is a solid easy to watch action thriller that doesn’t test the audience too much, throws in a wild sci-fi idea and big-name actors hoping it will be a classic.

 

Overall: Easy to watch.

Rating

 

 

Justice League (2017)

Director: Zack Snyder

Writer: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon (Screenplay) Bob Kane, Bill Finger, William Moulton Marston, Joe Shuster, Jerry Siegel (Characters)

Starring: Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Connie Nielsen, Henry Cavill, Amber Heard, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Ray Fisher

 

Plot: Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.


Runtime: 2 Hours 1 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Enjoyable Action Blast

 

Story: Justice League starts as a new unknown threat is attacking the world, with criminals committing acts of terror in the aftermath of Superman’s death. Bruce Wayne (Affleck) teams up with Diana Prince (Gadot) to stop this new threat Steppenwolf, who wants to destroy the world, yeah the usual villain stuff.

The team they recruit includes Barry Allen (Miller), Arthur Curry (Momoa) and Victor Stone (Fisher) as these three new recruits get a better introduction than we saw in the Batman v Superman movie. Using their skills they are left with an ultimate decision which could swing the battle in their favour or risk seeing the world destroyed by this ancient evil.

 

Thoughts on Justice League

 

Characters – Bruce Wayne, knows his weakness, uses his money to recruit the team, his technology to spy on the team and his human touch to connect to the characters. Diana Prince lives a quiet life after the event of Wonder Woman over 100 years ago, she still believes in the good in human and beings from different backgrounds. Barry Allen is a young man living off the grid trying to find a way to get his father out of prison, he gets excited to be able to work with a team and gets most of the laughs. Arthur Curry is a man of mystery, one with the ocean, he has left his past behind him which leads him down the Logan road. Victor Stone is a science experiment gone wrong, part human, part robot needing to learn to control his newly found abilities. Lois Lane is here, she doesn’t do much to be honest. Clark Kent is the heart of the characters drives to fight, he selfless actions last time out give hope to them all.

As for the alter-egos Batman looks so out of place in this film, we have Gods, experiments gone wrong and this random rich guy who is past his best, trying to pull the team together, he is ineffective in the combat scenes too. Wonder Woman gets the best moments in the fights, jumping on the beliefs of just how inspirational the character is. The Flash gets moments that will make you laugh, but you would rather be watching Quicksilver moments. Aquaman gets the awkward underwater scenes, which must be hard to shoot, he enjoys a good fight though. Cyborg is the brains of the team, solving the problems before they happen.

As for the villain, Steppenwolf he is a threat there is no doubt about that, he is ruthless too, but his desire for destruction does feel like it got ripped out of a Transformers movie.

PerformancesBen Affleck is a good Bruce Wayne but not a good Batman, you can believe his arrogance when trying to build the team. Gal Gadot is the star of the hero’s side of the story showing in the world of DC she is their trump card. Erza Miller does add the much-needed comedy to the serious film and hits more than he misses. Jason Momoa is good throughout too, his character feels like what Wonder Woman was in Batman v Superman, we just what more. Ray Fisher is strong too, he gives the character the darkness needed to make us want more from his backstory. The none Justice League performances are fine, but no one gets much time to do anything. Having a CGI villain means we only get the voice work which works for the film.

StoryThe origin of the Justice League, well Marvel did it with the Avengers so, why not. To be fair we got the first seeds of this in Batman v Superman and this continued the ideas to show how they could come together to fight an evil presence. My problems with the story come from the trailers, which show the team working together, much like Stephen King’s IT we follow the individual stories for a large amount of time trying to play the will they won’t they game about joining the team, but the trailer gave this away. If you want to see the story continue you strongly I will say DC’s storytelling for the bigger picture is going in the right direction and this is easy to follow and enjoy is this is your style of film.

Action/Adventure/Sci-FiThe action is big, like you would expect for the superhero movie, sadly Batman doesn’t fit in the action sequences in my opinion. The ci-fi comes from Gods, aliens and experiments working together in battle be it with each other or against.

SettingsThe settings are all over the place, not in a bad way, we get the references to previous films and teases of locations for our new addition.

Special EffectsThe effects are complete mixed bag, we get certain moments which look great but then we get the weak moments that disappoint.


Scene of the Movie –
Rebirth

That Moment That Annoyed Me Batman feels very out of place in this film.

Final ThoughtsThis is a fun addition to the superhero collection, in a year of impressive films this doesn’t crack my top 3 in the genre but doesn’t take the spot of the worst, I could happily enjoy watching this again and I hope you do too.

 

Overall: Fun enjoyable superhero movie for everyone to enjoy.

Rating

 

 

 

Franchise Weekend – Fast & Furious (2009)

Director: Justin Lin

Writer: Chris Morgan (Screenplay) Gary Scott Thompson (Characters)

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, John Ortiz, Laz Alonso, Gal Gadot, Sung Kang

 

Plot: Brian O’Conner, back working for the FBI in Los Angeles, teams up with Dominic Toretto to bring down a heroin importer by infiltrating his operation.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Back on Track

 

Story: Fast & Furious starts as Dominic (Diesel) is back with Letty (Rodriguez) and Han (Kang) living in the Dominic Republic stealing petrol for a living with the team. When the latest job goes wrong the team scatter with Letty being killed back in LA, while Dom is in Panama.

Brian (Walker) is now in the FBI and once again needs to find a way into a street racing circuit to take down a Mexican crime boss. Dom returns home also on the warpath eventually teaming up with Brian going undercover within the street racing circuit once again.

The job is working for Campos (Ortiz) who answers to Braga who is running drugs across the border but can they really work together?

 

Thoughts on Fast & Furious

 

Characters/PerformanceBrian is now a Fed, which I guess makes sense after what happened in 2 Fast 2 Furious, he still has the desire to be a street racer and gets this chance working with Dom. Dom is now on the run but risks everything to come back to help get revenge on the people responsible for killing Letty. Campos and Fenix are all solid villains but never dominating like needed to make them different from what we have seen before.

Performance wise, Walker and Diesel work great together even if the film is slightly more focused on Dom’s character, the two get to poke a bit of fun about things that happened in the first film. The other performances are all good without being truly stand out.

StoryBringing the original popular characters back helps this story, we have both men coming back to take down the crime boss because we needed the respectful enemies to become friends, taking a character’s life does drive the story too because it shows we could lose someone in this franchise now too. The core story is all what we have seen before, let’s do a crime, take down crime boss and drive away.

Action/Crime/Thriller The car chases are once again bigger and better than last time out which helps the films new direction, the crime story is now our heroes taking down criminals by breaking the law but it works.

SettingsBringing the story back to LA is good because now we see the effects of the previous films on our characters, the secret tunnel across the border also adds to the action.

Special EffectsThe special effects are what we have come to expect from the franchise and they all work well this time around.

Final ThoughtsThis is where the franchises got back on tracks because we get to see Dom and Brian back together working on the case to take down the crime boss, I see this as the beginning of what we know as the best chapters of the franchise.

 

Overall: Fun, mad and over the top, just the way we like it.

Rating

 

 

Wonder Woman (2017)

Director: Patty Jenkins

Writer: Allan Heinberg (Screenplay) Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg, Jason Fuchs (Story)

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Said Tagmaoui

 

Plot: Before she was Wonder Woman she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: DC Just Kicked Marvel’s Ass

 

Story: Wonder Woman starts in the present day (this works because we know Wonder Woman is part of the modern-day fight) where Diana (Gadot) receives the original photo of her with fellow soldiers Steve Trevor (Pine), Sameer (Taghmaoui), Charlie (Bremner) and The Chief (Rock) during the First World War.

This launches us into a flashback as Diana recounts her training under the greatest Amazon Warrior Antiope (Wright) first against her mother Hippolyta (Nielsen) wishes but soon with open arms. When Steve crashes into the oceans surrounding their island, he comes telling stories of a great war raging. Diana decides it is her destiny to fight to save the innocent and joins Steve in battle, but the outside world is nothing like she had expected and soon she will learn the politics, bravery and horrors of a modern war as she goes in search of Aires the God of war that she believes in causes it all, while Steve is on a mission to stop the latest weapon spreading. Can Diana unlock her destiny and become the hero the world is looking for?

 

Thoughts on Wonder Woman

 

Characters/PerformanceDiana is the warrior that wants to fight to save the world, always pushed to improve her abilities, she learns more about her true self on this adventure, while also having comical moments of not understand but reality checks by others. As Wonder Woman, she is the weapon we all came to see as he highlight of Batman v Superman and just continued to grow our love for this character. Steve Trevor is an American spy, he knows about the new weapon which could end the war and will do everything to stop it from causing more casualties. He is a good man that is showing Diana the way in this world. Hippolyta and Antiope are good character even if they fall into the typical mother and trainer routine. Ludendorff gives us the villain that will do anything to win the war however violent it is. The rest of the characters all either add laughs, menace or surprises to the story.

Gal Gadot is wonderful in this role, she is beautiful, naïve and can kick ass to save people all without blinking an eye. Chris Pine is a brilliant choice for this role as brave American not full off himself either. Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright fill the middle-aged roles well both look beautiful and offering the advice from their characters. Danny Huston is easily one of the best go to guys in Hollywood for a villain role and he doesn’t fail to deliver. The rest of the cast all do great jobs throughout.

StoryThe story is an origins story but this time it is our aged mentally Diana looking back on what made her want to protect humans from war. This is also a brilliant war movie showing how unknown eyes would be in complete shock and terror in what they are seeing from the humans in battle. The story does feel grounded when it is just Diana witnessing the war but when she becomes Wonder Woman it turns full comic book which is good for the world created in this universe of DC characters.

Action/Adventure/FantasyThe action is a mix of slow motion action sequences and big war set pieces, each one improving upon the last. The only negative in the action comes in the final battle. The adventure puts us on the mission to try and stop the war. The fantasy comes from Diana’s belief in Gods both good and evil being behind the war.

SettingsEach setting shows us the different environment Diana must enter after leaving her paradise, if it was London, the Front during war or the war bases which battles take place on. This helps us understand each decision Diana is making.

Special EffectsThe effects all look fantastic from start to finish of this movie and full expect to enjoy what you see.

Final ThoughtsAs a comic book movie, this is simply fantastic, wonderfully shot, powerful story that drives Diana to uncover her destiny and enjoy character. But as a major fan of the little things here, if this is Diana remembering the events how does she know what Ludendorff is up to? This of course is just being picky and is a question thrown around when people talk Titanic too, so we are in the top ranks of films here.

 

Overall: DC might just have won the battle this year with this brilliant addition to the superhero genre.

Rating