Saturday 31 August 2019

Good Boys (Movie Review)

It might come as a bit of a surprise, but till today, Superbad remains one of my favorite movies of all time. There was just something timeless about the unabashedly comical antics of its two leads. Most of that comedy gold can be attributed to the writing duo of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg of course, the two of whom would go on to work on the equally raunchy Pineapple Express, This is the End, and Sausage Party. So from the moment I'd heard that they were producers on Good Boys, I was sold.

The film centers on the misadventures of three sixth graders who have been friends since kindergarten, Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Noon). Max has been harboring a crush on a classmate named Brixlee (Millie Davis), so when he is invited to his first ever "kissing party" by popular kid, Soren (Izaac Wang), he sees it as an opportunity to finally make his move. But first, he needs to learn, with some help from his friends, precisely how to kiss a girl.

His friends have got problems of their own though, with Lucas just learning that his parents are about to get a divorce, and Thor struggling to get the acceptance of the cool kids in their grade. But they put all that aside to come to Max's aid, and they of course turn to the first place anyone their age would go to for answers about the opposite sex: porn. Except this proves too much for the young boys, and they instead resort to spying on the teenage girl that lives next door with Max's dad's prized drone.

Things do not go according to plan of course, and the drone is captured by the girl, Hannah (Molly Gordon), and her good friend, Lily (Midori Francis). And when the girls refuse to return the captured drone, the boys are forced to steal one of their bags as leverage. Unbeknownst to them, the bag contains some ecstasy, and they soon find themselves being pursued by the two girls, skipping school to meet with a presumed pedophile, and more, all in a bid to set things right before the kissing party.

Good Boys is easily the funniest movie I have seen all year. Its crude humor might tether on the very edge of being overbearing, but what saves it from going that route is its powerful themes centered around friendship; the movie depicts how even long-time friendships might change and evolve over time, and how that is not only inevitable but also a welcome part of this journey we call life. The fact that it manages to do that in its relatively short runtime is also worthy of praise.

Ultimately, your enjoyment of the film would depend on how much tolerance you have for watching a group of potty-mouthed middle-schoolers thrust into increasingly inappropriate situations. But the fun comes from watching how these boys choose to navigate those situations, with their boyish naivety and overall good intentions still managing to shine through at the end of the day.

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood (Movie Review)

Quentin Tarantino is easily one of the greatest directors of contemporary times, with a distinct voice and vision that has produced instant classics like Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, and one of my all-time faves, Inglourious Basterds. That vision was in turn shaped by a love of movies from his childhood, the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns that inspired his last few efforts being a prime example. Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood serves as his love letter to that era of filmmaking.

The movie tells the story of Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), an aging actor who, along with his close friend and stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), struggles to come to terms with his fading acting career. His luck seems to change when the famous director, Roman Polanski (RafaƂ Zawierucha), moves into the house next to his, along with his wife and rising movie star, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Rick longs to one day meet the power couple, with hopes of landing a role in one of their movies.

Meanwhile, a large group of hippies have also taken up residence at Spahn Ranch, the location where Rick and Cliff used to shoot a TV western called Bounty Law. The group is led by Charles Manson (Damon Herriman), a man that has a grudge with the former residents of the Polanski's new home. Anyone familiar with the true-life events around which this movie is based would know that name of course, and the heinous acts for which he rose to fame, so the real thrill of the movie comes from watching events unfold as the group crosses paths with the two leads.

In true Quentin Tarantino style, the movie takes its sweet time before truly kicking into gear. But even as you wait for all the narrative beats to fall into place, you'll be hard pressed to look away, not when every single scene is so masterfully shot and put together like this. The director builds up so much tension and conflict within its almost three hour runtime, before letting all hell break loose in its gory climax.

It's a formula that Quentin Tarantino fans are already familiar with by now, so it should come as no surprise that it is expertly executed here. He is clearly a director at the top of his game, and we as fans are merely here along for the ride. But oh boy, was this one ever a wild one, with so many great character moments, excellent performances across the board and so much attention to detail, all of which come together to show his undeniable mastery and love for the craft.

Friday 2 August 2019

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (Movie Review)

As far as movie titles go, I don't believe they can get more silly than Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, the first official spin-off in the ever-popular series about fast cars and the people who like racing them. And silly is a word that can be used to describe this movie (and the entire series as a whole), as it embraces the comedic firepower of its two leads, while also fully veering into the realm of science fiction with its outlandish plot and action sequences.

That plot involves a rogue MI6 agent called Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), who is tasked by a terrorist organization (Eteon) to retrieve a weaponized virus (Snowflake). But Lore is no mere rogue agent, having had his body augmented by cybernetic implants that allow him to perform superhuman feats like punching through walls and generally being badass. To prevent him from getting the virus, a female MI6 agent (Vanessa Kirby) injects the virus into her own body. But she is framed for the theft of the virus and the murder of her entire team, forcing her to go on the run.

This prompts the authorities to bring in their greatest assets for just such a situation, the titular heroes Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). And almost immediately, both men find themselves at loggerheads with one another, even as they are forced to put aside their differences in a race against time to find the virus and its carrier before the bad guys do. Or worse, before it goes airborne and threatens to wipe out the entire human race.

I'll admit, I'm not the biggest fan of the Fast & Furious films, even though I absolutely adored the first one as a kid for the mere fact that it starred my two favorite action movie stars at the time, Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez. Both actors are missing from this installment but the on-screen chemistry of its two leads make up for that, with their constant bantering and one-upmanship. Some of the jokes are hit or miss, but the dynamic between the two is always a joy to behold.

As for the action sequences and stunts themselves (because let's face it, that is the only reason why most people would be considering seeing this movie), they more than live up to the franchise's name, with their complete lack of respect for the basic laws of physics. Especially egregious in this one was a particular scene towards the end involving a helicopter and a number of cars and trucks hooked up to it. Not only was the action logic-defying, but the scene manages to shift from night time, to day time, to full-blown thunderstorm, all within the span of a few minutes!

There's a certain B-movie appeal to movies like Hobbs & Shaw, with their leave-your-brain-at-the-door sensibilities and the reckless abandon with which they present their events. So if you happen to subscribe to such, then sure, you'll get your money's worth from watching this one. But if you never liked the Fast & Furious franchise or you're hoping this one might be the one to win you over, then prepare to be somewhat disappointed because this is as cheesy as they come.