Free Guy Review

Free Guy movie posterSynopsis
Guy (Ryan Reynold) is a character in the video game Free City, only he doesn’t know his world is not real. That is, until he meets Molotovgirl, aka Millie (Jodie Comer).

Review
Before the pandemic delayed much of the films expected to release in 2020, Free Guy was at the top of my list of films to see in 2020. Ryan Reynolds making a version of The Truman Show centered around a video game? Yes please! Despite whatever expectations I had for this film, it surpassed them and then some.

At this point, Ryan Reynolds is just playing himself in his films and I’m here for it. His sense of humor and delivery was on point and single-handedly carried this movie. Don’t get me wrong, actors like Jodie Comer, Joe Keery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Taika Waititi, and Lil Rel Howery were all great too but honestly, this movie would not have been as enjoyable if not for Reynolds at the forefront. Every scene is full of non-stop laughs. I can see Reynolds as Guy in a future conversations about perfectly cast roles.

As a gamer myself, films such as this that look at video game worlds or the video game community (this film looks at both) are so much fun for me. There are plenty of call outs to video game tropes or staples that other gamers are sure to pick up the references. Streaming on platforms such as Twitch is a huge part of the gaming community these days and this film incorporates several big streamers from all across the world into the story. Their time on-screen is brief but their inclusion is a major shout out to how big game streaming has become.

Several years ago, as you might recall, Twentieth Century Fox was bought by the entertainment conglomerate know is Disney and renamed to Twentieth Century Studios. Free Guy takes full advantage of the fact that Twentieth Century Studios lives within the Disney umbrella. I’m not going to spoil it but towards the end of the film, there is a fantastic and perfectly executed cameo from a famous Marvel actor. It served as the feather in the cap to an already reference-filled experience.

I thought Free Guy was GREAT πŸ˜€ I’m a sucker for feel good films and this has shot high onto my list of favorite feel good films. Everyone in the cast makes this movie so much fun and the gaming references and easter eggs are just icing on the virtual cake. If more films had the heart and humor of Free Guy, the world of cinema would be a much better place.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Shawn Levy – Director
Matt Lieberman – Screenplay / Story
Zak Penn – Screenplay
Christophe Beck – Composer

Ryan Reynolds – Guy
Jodie Comer – Millie / Molotovgirl
Joe Keery – Keys
Utkarsh Ambudkar – Mouser
Taika Waititi – Antwan
Lil Rel Howery – Buddy
Britne Oldford – Barista
Camille Kostek – Bombshell
Mark Lainer – Hostage
Mike Devine – Officer Johnny

The Suicide Squad Review

The Suicide Squad movie posterSynopsis
Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) sends Task Force X, aka the Suicide Squad, on a mission to country of Corto Maltese, to destroy a secretive experiment there known only as β€œProject Starfish.”

Review
When the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) first started, Warner Brothers tried a darker feel, similar to the successful Dark Knight trilogy, to build their interconnected cinematic universe. However, after a string of arguable failures, WB has given the creative forces behind their latest films more creative freedom to tell their stories featuring DC’s superheroes without being concerned with the connectivity with other DC films. Director James Gunn takes full advantage of this new approach, injecting The Suicide Squad with a flamboyancy not seen in any previous DCEU film.

In an online featurette, Gunn comments that WB gave him permission to kill any character he wanted, which he clearly took to heart. The movie opens with guns blazing (literally), killing multiple characters, setting the tone for the rest of the film and driving home that no character is safe. By the end, you will be surprised who does and, more particularly, who doesn’t make it to the end of the film. While I do enjoy the overarching characters and plots in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it is refreshing to see superhero movies that tell the story they want to tell, without being concerned with building that shared universe.

Gunn is no stranger to creating stories around quirky and dysfunctional teams, he is the man behind The Guardians of the Galaxy films after all, and that experience fits perfectly into The Suicide Squad. It’s clear that Gunn went wild with his ideas, especially after being given the go-ahead to hold nothing back. The whole movie is filled to the brim with humor, insanity, violence, excitement, and heart.

And at the heart of the film are Ratcatcher 2, played by Daniela Melchior, and Bloodsport, played by Idris Elba. Melchior brings a softness to a film that is filled with brutality and ferocity. This is her first major film and I am excited to see what projects she picks up from here because she was great in this film. Elba is always a dependable actor so it should be no surprise that he carries the film along side Melchior. Margot Robbie was born to play Harley Quinn and I’ve already said as much in my Birds of Prey review so I’m not going to go any more into her fantastic portrayal of the character. John Cena is another of my favorite additions to the team. He plays Peacemaker with such a deadpan attitude that somehow works perfectly with Elba’s Bloodsport that their scenes together make some of the best and most humorous of the movie.

I thought The Suicide Squad was GREAT πŸ˜€ While it introduces many new characters, the core ones are given the room they need to develop and make you feel for them. This film is James Gunn unleashed and he subverts much of what is expected in a superhero feature. Overall, there is an emotional depth that I wasn’t expecting, and it’s that depth that really makes this movie stand out in the DCEU.

Favorite Quote
Bloodsport: No one likes a show off.
Peacemaker: They do if what you’re showing off is dope as fuck.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
James Dunn – Director / Writer
John Murphy – Composer

Viola Davis – Amanda Waller
Joel Kinnaman – Colonel Rick Flag
Margot Robbie – Harley Quinn
Idris Elba – Bloodsport
John Cena – Peacemaker
Daniela Melchior – Ratcatcher 2
David Dastmalchian – Polka-Dot Man
Sylvester Stallone – King Shark
Jai Courtney – Captain Boomerang
Michael Rooker – Savant
Nathan Fillion – TDK
Flula Borg – Javelin
Pete Davidson – Blackguard
Mayling Ng – Mongal
Sean Gunn – Weasel / Calendar Man
Steve Agee – John Economos / On-Set King Shark
Tinashe Kajese – Flo Crawley
Jennifer Holland – Emilia Harcourt
Peter Capaldi – Thinker
Juan Diego Botto – Presidente General Silvio Luna
Joaquin Cosio – Mayor General Mateo Suarez

Transformers Review

Transformers movie posterSynopsis
When Earth becomes a battleground between two factions of a warring alien race, Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf) must help Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and his team of Autobots defeat the evil Megatron (Hugo Weaving) and his Decepticon forces.

Review
The original 1980s Transformers cartoon (often referred to as Generation 1 or G1) was a cornerstone of many childhoods for those who grew up at that time. Over the years, many iterations of characters such as Optimus Prime, Megatron, and the rest of the Autobots and Decepticons have made their way to the hearts of many other generations of children, including myself. I remember being extremely excited when a live-action Transformers film was announced. I enjoyed Transformers back in 2007 and still enjoy it today.

Before I get started, I want to say that yes, Transformers is far from perfect. But remember, this is based on a children’s show, which itself was driven by the Transformers toy line. The Generation 1 series in particular was wild and all over the place in terms of characters and story. Could the story have been created in a way that honored the original 1980s series but still felt updated? Absolutely. But with Michael Bay at the helm, that most likely wasn’t going to happen. There is also plenty of corny dialogue that would make anyone who considers themselves highbrow would scoff at. However, taking it for what it is, this is an enjoyable film for a laid back afternoon.

With Bay directing, you can expect lot of explosions and big action pieces. Given this movie stars giant talking battling robots, β€œbig action” is an understatement. As the characters trek across different landscapes throughout the world, each action scene presents its own unique action piece. My biggest gripe against many of the action sequences is it can be hard to always see everything happening in the fight. Often, the camera will zoom close to the characters while they are brawling. Since many of them look similar up close it can be hard to discern what exactly is going on. These robotic beings are stories tall so it would be cool to see the scale of their battles compared to the buildings around them.

There is plenty of humor throughout the film. Something I have found after multiple viewings (I’ve lost track how many times I’ve seen this film) is that it doesn’t necessarily hold up. Some jokes still make me chuckle but most barely get a reaction out of me now. The movie is nowhere near as funny to me as it used to be. Thankfully this is an action movie, not a comedy, so the humor not holding up isn’t as big of a concern of mine.

While the cast is fairly large, there were a few stand outs. Firstly, is Kevin Dunn and Julie White as Ron and Judy Witwicky respectively. Whether together or individually, Dunn and White brought so many laughs and bring a bit of groundedness to a movie filled with building-size fighting robots. The other stand out performance was from the always humorous John Turturro. His over-the-top performance fits right in with the goofy nature of the film.

Peter Cullen is the voice of Optimus Prime in the Generation 1 Transformers television series. His return to the role in the live-action version of the character is a huge and rewarding bit of fan service. Hearing Cullen’s booming voice on the big screen feels right. Hugo Weaving voices Megatron and is a perfect fit for the character. It would have been great to see Frank Welker, the voice of Generation 1 Megatron, reprise his role but if he had kept the same voice as the cartoon counterpart, it would not have worked for this version of the character. Luckily, Weaving did a fantastic job bringing Megatron’s malice to the live-action iteration of the character.

Since this was assumed to be the start of a franchise, Transformers actually did a good job of keeping the story small and contained, building the world of Transformers. There were times where the exposition felt heavy but it also balanced well with the action and the rest of the film. Although that leads into my biggest complaint of the film: its length. At almost two and a half hours (including the end credits), it just feels like there is too much of everything; too much exposition and too much time spent in the action scenes. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of action pieces in an action movie. Here, however, the scenes overstay their welcome.

I thought Transformers was GREAT πŸ˜€ This isn’t a deep piece of cinema but it does exactly what it set out to do: introduce the Transformers and their universe to the big screen. As long as you take this film for what it is supposed to be, popcorn entertainment based on a children’s show with very little plot, then you will find a lot to enjoy and maybe even having a good time.

Trivia
The military provided their vehicles as the alternate modes of the Decepticons Starscream and Bonecrusher. They also allowed their F-22 and CV-22 aircraft to be filmed[.] Soldiers served as extras, and authentic uniforms were provided for the actors. In return for the favor, the filmmakers provided an advance screening of the film to the soldiers, free of charge. (via IMDb)

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Michael Bay – Director
Robert Orci – Screenplay / Story
Alex Kurtzman – Screenplay / Story
John Rogers – Story
Steve Jablonsky – Composer

Shia LaBeouf – Sam Witwicky
Megan Fox – Mikaela Banes
Josh Duhmel – Captain Lennox
Tyrese Gibson – USAF Tech Sergeant Epps
Rachael Taylor – Maggie Madsen
Anthony Anderson – Glen Whitmann
Jon Voight – Defense Secretary John Keller
John Turturro – Agent Simmons
Michael O’Neill – Tom Banacheck
Kevin Dunn – Ron Witwicky
Julie White – Judy Witwicky
Peter Cullen – Optimus Prime (voice)
Darius McCrary – Jazz (voice)
Robert Foxworth – Ratchet (voice)
Jess Harnell – Ironhide / Barricade (voice)
Hugo Weaving – Megatron (voice)
Charlie Adler – Starscream (voice)
Jim Wood – Bonecrusher (voice)
Reno Wilson – Frenzy (voice)

Rear Window Review

Rear Window movie posterSynopsis
Wheelchair-bound photographer LB β€œJeff” Jefferies (James Stewart) watches his neighbors through the rear window of his apartment. One night, he believes he witnesses one of his neighbors commit a murder.

Review
As soon as the opening credits started with an upbeat and jazzy score, I knew Rear Window was going to have a different vibe than the other Hitchcock films I have watched up until this point. This film has a brighter feel than films like Shadow of a Doubt or Rope. While a suspicion of murder is at the core of the story, the movie tells the story in a much more pleasant way, if that makes sense. Because of this overall difference in tone, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat with suspense like some of Hitchcock’s other films. However, I still felt drawn in to the mystery and suspense of trying solve it along with Jefferies (James Stewart).

Hitchcock’s films have contained great casts and this one is no exception. Stewart brought the multiple facets of his character to life, from Jefferies’ strong belief in what he thought he witnessed, to his internal conflict about settling down and getting married. Grace Kelly is one of Hollywood’s most stunning actresses and she shows she has the talent to go with her looks, too! My unexpected favorite was Thelma Ritter as Jefferies’ nurse Stella. Ritter’s comedic timing and sass had me laughing every time she was on the screen.

As great as the cast was, what really sets this film apart is what Alfred Hitchcock was able to do with everything around the actors and actresses. First, there is the magnificent set design. All the buildings surrounding the central courtyard were each as unique as the residents within them, adding to their stories. Second, Hitchcock was able to tell multiple different stories of the residents in those other apartments without them even saying a word. Rear Window never leaves Jefferies’ apartment, so everything we know and see is through Jefferies’ point-of-view. Yet the audience is able to learn so much about Jefferies’ neighbors just by what Hichcock decides to show us.

Which leads me to my last point: this movie is a masterclass in visual storytelling and audience manipulation. From the get-go, we have an understanding of what happened to Jefferies that caused him to be in a wheelchair. And not a single word is spoken about it. Then, as stated above, Hitchcock only revealed what he wanted us (and Jefferies) to see about Jefferies’ neighbors, especially around Mr. Thorwold (Raymand Burr). This manipulation lets us learn about the characters by observation only but this also allows Hitchcock to throw in some twists about them towards the end of the film, revealing that there is more to those around us than meets the eye. Hitchcock also does a fantastic job of both reinforcing and contradicting Jefferies’ belief in Mr. Thorwold involvement in his wife’s disappearance. A true spectacle about what can be accomplished with a well-written script.

I thought Rear Window was GREAT πŸ˜€ At first I wasn’t sure where it landed on my ranking of Hitchcock’s films but after some thought and consideration, it lands pretty high for me. While not as dark of a suspense film as the previous films, the film’s mystery kept me engaged from start to finish. Hichcock has proven himself a master of suspense but with Rear Window, he also demonstrated himself to be a master of manipulation.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Alfred Hitchcock – Director
John Michael Hayes – Screenplay

James Stewart – LB β€œJeff” Jefferies
Grace Kelly – Lisa Carol Fremont
Wendell Corey – Det. Lt. Thomas J Doyle
Thelma Ritter – Stella
Raymond Burr – Lars Thorwald
Irene Winston – Mrs. Emma Thorwald
Judith Evelyn – Miss Lonelyhearts
Ross Bagdasarian – Songwriter
Georgine Darcy – Miss Torso
Sara Berner – Woman on Fire Escape
Frank Cady – Man on Fire Escape
Rand Harper – Newlywed
Havis Davenport – Newlywed

Rope Review

Rope movie poster

Synopsis
Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger) host a dinner party after murdering a classmate.

Review
As I make my way through my Alfred Hitchock collection, I’m starting to get a feel for his directorial style and why he came to be known as the β€œMaster of Suspense.” Rope is the next stop on my journey and while it doesn’t overtake the previous film, Shadow of a Doubt, as my favorite, it does have merit to come close.

Hitchcock shows the audience immediately the murder committed by Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger) as well as the pair hiding the body in a chest in their apartment. Because this act is literally the first scene of the film, there is no doubt about the character of Brandon and Phillip and what they are capable of. We also get a sense of their personalities and relationship from this early scene. So as the film goes on, the suspense continuously builds as their guests seemingly come closer and closer to discovering the hidden body. The tension kicks into high gear once Rupert (James Steward) becomes suspicious of the two boys. Once again, this film is suspenseful but in a different way than Hitchcock’s previous films I have seen so far, truly demonstrating his mastery over the genre.

What really adds to the suspense is the acting from Dall, Granger, and Stewart. All three of these actors did superbly in their parts. You get the sense that the dynamic between the two murderers is more than simple friendship and Dall and Granger sold that relationship. Dall brings a sense of superiority over everyone around him to his character. This brings him to verbally spar with his mentor, Stewart’s character. Stewart brings a calm demeanor that dovetails well with the snideness of Dall and the nervousness of Granger. When these three were together, particularly towards the end of the film, is when Rope excelled.

One of my favorite things Hitchcock did in this film was make it appear to be one continuous shot. Rope was adapted from the play by the same name and it feels like watching a play when watching this movie. The one-continuous-shot style has rarely been used over the decades but Rope was the first to make use of the technique, making Hitchcock a pioneer yet again. He was limited to 10 minute shots due to limitations of 35mm film at the time and it is easy to see where several of the transitions occurred but it doesn’t take away from the experience too much.

I don’t know how much of the dialogue was adopted from the original play but I found the dialogue of Rope to be very witty. Multiple innuendos were sprinkled throughout the film. It’s a small touch but it added a little bit of humor to an otherwise dark and serious film.

I thought Rope was GREAT πŸ˜€ As I watch more and more of Hitchcock’s films, I am learning that β€œsuspense” can be implemented in multiple ways. The suspense of Rope is different than the suspense in the previous Hitchcock films I have watched, which also have different types of suspense from each other. The trio of John Dall, Farley Granger, and James Stewart were fantastic, bringing the snappy dialogue to life. The quality from Hitchcock has been astounding and I cannot wait to see what happens next in my on my journey through my Hitchcock collection.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Director – Alfred Hitchcock
Hume Cronyn – Writer
Arthur Laurents – Screenplay
David Buttolph – Composer

John Dall – Brandon
Farley Granger – Phillip
Edith Evanson – Mrs. Wilson
Douglas Dick – Kenneth
Joan Chandler – Janet
Cedric Hardwicke – Mr. Kentley
Constance Collier – Mrs. Atwater
James Stewart – Rupert Cadell
Dick Hogan – David Kentley

Shadow of a Doubt Review

Shadow of a Doubt movie posterSynopsis
Charlie (Teresa Wright) gets suspicious that her uncle (Joseph Cotton) might be a murderer.

Review
This review contains slight spoilers.

Next up in my journey through my Alfred Hitchcock collection is Shadow of a Doubt. Hitchcock has said that this is his favorite film, so that is some high praise coming from the director himself! Of course, I didn’t know that when I started the film. I have been going into these films with as little knowledge beforehand as possible. Good thing to because Shadow of a Doubt is way more suspenseful if you don’t know what is going to happen in the film.

I know I’m only two films into my journey but an early trend I am seeing is Hitchcock had a knack for casting a fantastic leading pair. In Saboteur it was Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane. Now in Shadow of a Doubt it’s Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotton. Cotton in particular was phenomenal. As the film progresses, we slowly see the dark side of his character, Charlie Oakley. Cotton’s descent into this darker persona is chilling and wonderfully executed. Teresa Wright, whose character is named after her Uncle Charlie, begins the film full of excitement and youthful energy when her uncle first arrives to visit. In the same way Cotton slowly descends into a darker character, Wright has a similar transformation, from naive child to realizing a hard truth about her uncle. And not only are these two great individually but they are also marvelous together.

Besides Cotton and Wright, there was an unexpectedly fun pairing of young Charlie’s father, Joseph, played by Henry Travers, and Joe’s best friend Herbie, played by Hume Cronyn. The friendly banter the two of them had throughout the film was funny and entertaining. It brought a sense of levity to an otherwise generally serious tone of the film.

In the beginning, you have no idea of who Uncle Charlie really is. The film does an excellent job of slowly unraveling the character while at the same time keeping an air of mystery around him. I f there is one flaw I would say Shadow of a Doubt has is that it made the revelation too early. If Hitchcock would have maintained the suspense of if Charlie was or wasn’t the murderer until the very end, I think that would have made the movie even more suspenseful. I know that sounds like blasphemy, criticizing the master of suspense but I said it and I’m sticking to it.

One of the things I liked about Saboteur, the previous film in my Hitchcock journey, was how large the adventure felt. Barry Kane started in California and worked his way across the United States, ending in New York City. Shadow of a Doubt is much smaller in scope, taking place solely in Californian small town. Despite this, Shadow of a Doubt is the more exciting film of the two. There’s something about the small town atmosphere that adds to the tension when a menacing figure shows up and begins causing havoc.

Something I didn’t expect from this film was the amount of humor it had! I regularly found myself chuckling, especially when it came to the scenes with Joe and Herbie as mentioned before. I wasn’t expecting such moments of levity from a Hitchcock film. I guess I’m learning more and more that I shouldn’t have any expectations of what to expect from a filmmaker of Hitchcock’s caliber.

I thought Shadow of a Doubt was GREAT πŸ˜€ This is what I expected out of a Hitchcock film and more. I hadn’t expected to find a favorite this early into my journey but this movie had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Joseph Cotton was the absolutely stand out member of the cast, balancing the menace and friendliness of the character. Even if the reveal is too soon, the suspense flows throughout the film. Coming across a film of this quality so early in my Hitchcock journey has me excited to see where it goes from here.

Trivia
Alfred Hitchcock has stated that this is his favorite film. Part of why he considered this to be his favorite film he made was because he liked the idea of bringing menace to a small town.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Alfred Hitchcock – Director
Thornton Wilder – Screenplay
Sally Benson – Screenplay
Alma Reville – Screenplay
Gordon McDonell – Story
Dimitri Tiomkin – Composer

Teresa Wright – Charlie Newton
Joseph Cotton – Charlie Oakley
Henry Travers – Joseph Newton
Patricia Collinge – Emma Newton
Edna May Wonacott – Ann Newton
Charles Bates – Roger Newton
Hume Cronyn – Herbie Hawkins
Macdonald Carey – Jack Graham
Wallace Ford – Fred Saunders