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 – N – The Negotiator (2018)

Director: Brad Anderson

Writer: Tony Gilroy (Screenplay)

Starring: Jon Hamm, Khalid Benchgra, Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris, Shea Whigham, Douglas Hodge

 

Plot: Caught in the crossfires of civil war, CIA operatives must send a former U.S. diplomat to negotiate for the life of a friend he left behind.


Tagline – The Americans want to keep their secrets. The Israelis want to raise the stakes. He only wants to save a life.

Runtime: 1 Hour 49 Minutes  

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Never Hits the Levels it Should

 

Story: The Negotiator starts as we see American Diplomat Mason Skiles (Hamm) involved in a tragic event in Beirut. Walking away from this career, he is dragged out of retirement when his old friend Cal (Pellegrino) is taken hostage by the Israelis.

Mason working with Sandy (Pike), Gary (Whigham) and Donald Gaines (Norris) must enter negotiations to free Cal without a body count in a high-tension situation in Beirut.

 

Thoughts on The Negotiator

 

Characters – Mason Skiles has been working in a diplomatic position for years, until a tragic event sees his wife killed in Beirut, he steps away from that world, living a business life back in America. He gets pushed back into the field when his friend is kidnapped and one of his former connections is the prime suspect to everything going on, he must use his connections to try and get a peaceful end to the situation. Sandy is the connection that must keep an eye on Mason, she is considered the skirt that will entertain the America to keep him there, she has her own connections though and will be the one that is happy to let Mason off his leash. Donald Gaines and Gary Ruzak are both involved in the operation with their own agendas coming through.

PerformancesJon Hamm in the leading role is the strongest part of the film as he has the most about his character who has been through the trauma and must use this mission to redeem himself.  Rosamund Pike struggles to make the impact you feel her character is meant to, while the rest of the cast just don’t get the time to make any sort of impact.

StoryThe story follows a negotiator that has walked away from the diplomatic position only to be forced back into the field to help his old friend who has become the latest kidnapping victim by terrorist group. This tries to create the same sort of atmosphere as the true events that went on during the Beirut problems with the Israeli terrorist groups that were at war with the Americans, we struggle to get sucked into the movie because the tension is never given to us enough to make us become interested in what is happening to the characters. the one that does have an arc is Mason which gets glanced over more than anything as we try to show him in the middle of a situation he knows how to play, though he isn’t meant to be in control of.

ThrillerThe thriller side of the film struggles to come through as strong as it should because of the lack of tension in the film, while the stacks are high, nothing seems in any way out of control.

SettingsThe film does keep the settings being used in the streets of Beirut which does show us how much trouble the city was in during the terrorist attacks.


Scene of the Movie –
The deal.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The political side.

Final ThoughtsThis is a weak tension based movie that just never hits the levels it should do like many of the films in this genre.

 

Overall: Just not on the strongest levels.

Rating

 

 

Oscar Isaac Weekend – Sucker Punch (2011)

Director: Zack Snyder

Writer: Zack Snyder, Steve Shibuya (Screenplay)

Starring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn

 

Plot: A young girl is institutionalized by her abusive stepfather, retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, envisioning a plan to help her escape.


Tagline – You Will Be Unprepared.

Runtime: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Sexy & Stylish

 

Story: Sucker Punch Starts when Babydoll (Browning) is se to a mental institute by her evil step-father, looking to cope with this new world, she creates an alternative reality where the other patients Sweet Pea (Cornish), Rocket (Malone), Blondie (Hudgens) and Amber (Chung) entertain clients for Blue Jones (Isaac) the orderly who in this world is a gangster.

Babydoll has a plan to escape which involved winning over the girls, most support him, while Sweet Pea isn’t so happy to go along with the plan, with each performance putting the girls in a life or death situation outside of the current reality.

 

Thoughts on Sucker Punch

 

Characters – Babydoll is thrown into a mental home after trying to defend her younger sister from their abusive stepfather, here she knows she has five days before it is lights out, which means she must plan her escape, which sees her create alternative reality where she can escape the hands of the people who will end her life. Sweet Pea is the eldest the girls in the home, she is most opposed to going through with the escape plan, believe it will get the rest of the girls in trouble. Rocket is the first of the girls to let Babydoll in after being rescued by her, she guides her around the home teaching her just what they need to know to survive. Blondie and Amber some off as the two naïve of the girls as they will go along with any idea which would make their lives easier. Dr Gorski looks after the girls preparing them for their performances. Blue Jones is the one that runs the club, an orderly in the home that holds the key to the only exit.

PerformancesEmily Browning in the leading role fits the part perfectly, we needed her character to look the youngest of the group. Abbie Cornish fits the oldest of the girl’s role well too because she see her vulnerable side through the film, while trying to be the strongest. Jena Malone plays the middle ground between the girls well as we see just how conflicted her character becomes through the film. When we get into the supporting cast, we do know that we performances that fit the film without looking out of place in any point in the film.

StoryThe story can be cut down to a simple escape plan movie, that would be the simplest way to describe the story, only this isn’t a simple movie. It creates worlds, within worlds to cope with an impending outcome for Babygirl. The idea that we jump into other realities does help the film feel a lot more enjoyable because the wildly imaginative ideas only improve the story, even if it could have borrowed from many subgenres. While this does have a comic book feel and you could easily see more chapters being added to make more adventures, it does have to go down as original in the story front, something that shouldn’t ever be criticised.

Action/FantasyThe action is massive set pieces each one from a different eras from a samurai to war, they all work and feel unique to this film, which is filled with fantasy ideas of just what the characters use to create the world they can fight through.

SettingsThe film uses the settings to show us just where the girl’s minds will go through the performances, each one makes the mission to escape feel like we are fighting for something.

Special EffectsThe effects in the film are fantastic, they show us just how you can create something this visually stunning no matter how big it could be.


Scene of the Movie –
Dragon fight.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Blondie and Amber are too similar.

Final ThoughtsThis is a truly ambitious movie, it shows us just how you can make an original movie which will completely go against anything you believed you would be seeing.

 

Overall: Brave, ambitious, wildly over the top, what more could you want?

Rating

 

 

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

Director: Drew Goddard

Writer: Drew Goddard (Screenplay)

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Caliee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Chris Hemsworth

 

Plot: Seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at Lake Tahoe’s El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption – before everything goes to hell.


Tagline – All Roads Lead Here

Runtime: 2 Hours 21 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Wonderfully Stylish Movie

 

Story: Bad Times at the El Royale starts as a priest Daniel Flynn (Bridges), a singer Darlene Sweet (Erivo), a vacuum salesman Laramie (Hamm) and a woman on the run Emily (Johnson) all arrive at the El Royale, a hotel that sits on the state lines of California and Nevada, the manager Miles Miller (Pullman) does every job at the hotel and not everything is as it seems.

As the night unfolds the guest turn out to have their own secrets with on bringing along the psychopathic cult leader Billy Lee (Hemsworth) who only makes this worse for the guests at the El Royale.

 

Thoughts on Bad Times as the El Royale

 

Characters – Father Daniel Flynn is an ageing man whose memory just isn’t what is once was, he has selected the El Royale for his own reasons, which will become clear, he comes off like the calm presence you would imagine any priest, with a dark past. Darlene is a singer that is dreaming of her own big break, she uses the hotel as her halfway point in her latest gig, she is easily the most innocent resident at the hotel this night. Emily comes speeding into the hotel, on the run from someone, she is trying to help somebody and will do everything in her power to save them. Laramie is a vacuum salesman that has a secret, one we learn early on, he ends up being the catalyst for everything that happens at the hotel. Billy Lee joins the hotel late, he is the psychopathic leader of a cult that enjoys to torture and put people through games for his own pleasure. Rose is Emily’s sister who has been sucked into the cult, she will following Billy to the ends of the Earth for her devotion to him. Miles Miller is the hotel manager, well the only member of staff here, he has the secrets which will only make his come off shady, though he past will be the thing that sets him free.

PerformancesWe have a wonderful cast here with Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm giving us the performance we know from them, Chris Hemsworth continues to prove himself in a different genre once again. Newcomers Lewis Pullman, Cailee Spaeny and especially Cynthia Erivo who easily steals the scenes.

StoryThe story follows the group of strangers that end up at the El Royale hotel for one night, when the secrets of the characters comes out as the night unfolds which only gets placed in the middle of the battle with a cult leader who wants his members back. This story does keep you guessing and uses the different perspective of different scenes only adds to the story. We don’t seem to have a wasted moment here either which is important because the clues will be there ready for the completion of the film.

Mystery The mystery in this comes from learn each character’s motives for being in the hotel, we learn from each new revelation that, they have a different reason that will make them stronger and be able to twist what we first thought of the character’s actions.

SettingsThe film keeps nearly all the action in and around the hotel, the only time we leave is when we look at flashbacks to where the characters have come from. The hotel does have a stylish look which adds to the creepy nature of events within the hotel.


Scene of the Movie –
The roulette gang.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Could I find one? no.

Final ThoughtsThis is a wonderful stylistic movie that has wonderful performances throughout, a story that keeps you guessing and even feels unique for a cinematic experience this year.

 

Overall: Must watch mystery thriller.

Rating

 

 

ABC Film Challenge – Comedy – T – Tag (2018)

Director: Jeff Tomsic

Writer: Rob McKittrick, Mark Steilen (Screenplay) Russell Adams (Article)

Starring: Ed Helms, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Isla Fisher, Annabelle Wallis, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb, Hannibal Burgess

 

Plot: A small group of former classmates organize an elaborate, annual game of tag that requires some to travel all over the country.


Tagline – Based on a True Story. We’re Not Kidding.

Runtime: 1 Hour 40 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Laugh Out Loud Funny

 

Story: Tag starts in the month of May, the same month five friends Hoagie (Helms), Bob (Hamm), Chilli (Johnson), Sable (Buress) and Jerry (Renner) always play a game of ‘Tag’ the problem is they have normal lives and for the 30 years of playing they have never managed to tag Jerry. This year he wants to retire from the game, which brings the other four out to bring their best game.

The four are joined by Hoagie’s wife Anna (Fisher) who takes things too seriously and reporter Rebecca Crosby (Wallis) who believes this could be a major story as they all head home for the wedding.

 

Thoughts on Tag

 

Characters – Hoagie is one of the gang, the one that still takes the game of tag the most serious willing to take fake jobs to get his friends, he joins his wife who keeps him determined to get Jerry this year. Bob now in a successful businessman who is being interviewed at the time of the beginning of the game this year and now his story will help bring the game to the life of the public. Chilli is the stoner of the group, his life hasn’t gone well with his marriage, business and career not going well. Sable seems to be the guy trying to put his life back together, we don’t learn too much about his life away from the gang, but he does get plenty of laughs. Jerry is the one from the group that has never been caught, he has turned the whole game into a mission to prove he can escape and plan ahead of anybody who comes for him. Rebecca Crosby is the reporter that is writing a story on Bob, only to get learn of the game of tag that makes for a much bigger story. Anna is Hoagie’s competitive wife who would be the be the best player in the game if she was allowed to play.

PerformancesEd Helms, Jake Johnson, Jon Hamm and Hannibal Buress have great chemistry which shows in their performances, we get laughs from all of them without one getting more than the others. Isla Fisher is the strongest actress in the film because the characters are not used to the full amounts in the film. Jeremy Renner is the highlight in the film because he goes against the typecast we know and hits the comedy moments throughout.

StoryThe story here follows the story of five friends that have been spent 30-years playing tag once a year for a month and this time the four are determined to get the one that has never been caught. This is clearly and early message about brotherhood and remaining friends for a lifetime, it gave the guys an excuse to just go and see their friends. We do get moments that I feel do go too far when it comes to getting involved in the game, but the idea of the game is just as crazy as it sounds. I did like the fact this story showed us how life can get in the way of friendship the older we get and this gives us a reason to keep in contact with them, brining a moment of happiness to a life that could be going in a bad direction.

ComedyThe comedy in the film is great, though it easily has moments that will upset people because certain jokes could be slightly too offensive, the chases will get the most laughs.

SettingsThe film takes the friends in their home town which shows the important message behind the game which gives us a nice feeling.


Scene of the Movie –
The concept of friendship.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Certain moments are too dark.

Final ThoughtsThis is a great comedy that people will enjoy the most part of the message of friendship, it has great performances from everyone involved too.

 

Overall: Must watch comedy.

Rating