Tag Archives: Peter Dinklage

The Boss (2016)

The-Boss-Poster

Melissa McCarthy was beginning to grow on me after the surprisingly funny Spy last year. Unfortunately, she’s unable the keep the momentum rolling with The Boss, a labour of love she co-wrote with her real-life husband and director of the film, Ben Falcone.

It has again McCarthy playing foul-mouthed, abrasive woman who we will discover, surprise surprise, actually has a heart of gold. This time, she embodies Michelle Darnell, an orphan-turned-millionaire-businesswoman who loses everything and must seek the help of a former employee, single mother Claire Rawlings (Kristen Bell). The “villain” is played by none other than Peter Dinklage, aka Tyrion Lannister.

There are problems galore with The Boss. First of all, McCarthy is playing the exact same character we’ve seen a zillion times already. She’s crass, she’s rude, and she doesn’t take any prisoners. In Spy, we got to see a different side of her as she stretched out perceptions of what she’s capable of. In The Boss, she takes a huge step back by resorting to her stale bag of tricks.

Secondly, the film doesn’t seem like it knows what it wants to be. It’s all over the place. Part of it is the weak plot that basically pieces together a bunch of familiar tropes. At times the movie feels like it’s going for the gross and outrageous, other times it’s going for the cute and sweet. Occasionally it just resorts to cookie-cutter stuff like predictable slapstick or try-hard melodrama. It tries a bunch of different things but nothing sticks.

Thirdly, the central characters are either unlikable (McCarthy) or devoid of personality (Bell). The movie simply assumes we’ll like them because of the actresses who play them, but actually give us no reason to give a shit about their predicaments. And Peter Dinklage…I don’t even know what to say. He totally phoned this one in. I’ve seen him in other comedies like Pixels and Knights of Badassdom, where he’s actually not too bad. Here, he’s more like a Dingleberry than the Dinklage we know and love.

Above all, the movie simply isn’t funny. It was actually quite a surreal experience, because I knew exactly what each gag was aiming for and where it was going, sometimes even prior to it happening or before the punchline hit. But I got no laughs out of any of them. Not a laugh, not a cackle, not even a tee-hee. I wasn’t really frustrated or annoyed, just puzzled as to why I wasn’t laughing. The phrase that best encapsulates my sentiments about the whole movie can be found in that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer starts working for a place he’s not employed at, and when his boss is trying to fire him he references Kramer’s reports, saying, “I don’t know what this is supposed to be!”

I didn’t expect much from The Boss, and even then it still underperformed. It’s rare to see a film filled with so many jokes — and so many types of jokes — but zero laughs. Even the ad libbed jokes and outtakes at the end couldn’t deliver. I don’t know what else to say, because all McCarthy, Bell and Dinklage all have positive track records with comedy. I guess this was just a perfect storm of unfunniness.

1.25 stars out of 5

Pixels (2015)

pixels-poster

Hearing about a new Adam Sandler movies used to excite me, but now it just fills me with fear.

Pixels, on its face, at least seemed like an interesting idea brimming with potential: for some reason aliens attack Earth using massive real-life versions classic arcade games (like Galaga, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, etc), and the best video gamers in the world are called upon to save the human race.

It’s a nerd fantasy that’s supposed to inspire awe and nostalgia, or at least a offer a cool and fun visual feast thanks to modern special effects. The fact that it is directed by Chris Columbus, the dude who gave us the first two Harry Potter films, the first two Home Alone films and Mrs Doubtfire, also suggested that it would at least be a technically sound production.

I guess I shouldn’t have expected so much from an Adam Sandler movie.

Pixels is actually not a horrible film by Sandler’s recent standards. At the very least it’s not as atrocious as the Grown Ups movies or trash like Jack and Jill or Thats’s My Boy. It’s biggest problem is that it’s just really lazy. Everything just reeks of laziness. Lazy script, lazy performances, and even a lazy effort from the typically reliable Columbus.

Let’s start with the script. The story itself is a great idea, but that’s about it. The execution of the story is cliched and mechanical, arbitrarily ticking off plot points just to drag the narrative from point A to point B. Worse, it is completely lacking in logic. That’s normal for Sandler comedies of old, but those were great because they made sense within their own universe. There are decisions made in Pixels that make no sense in any world, and I’m not even talking about the sci-fi elements. It’s as though the script was reviewed by a petulant child who demanded that everything be amended to his/her liking, with no consideration of what developed brains might think.

Then there’s the performances. Sandler, at this stage, feels like he’s just phoning it in. There’s a deadness in his eyes that permeates his acting. It’s a shame, because there are flashes of the old Sandler in this film — when he’s being a smartarse tossing wisecracks and making fun of people. It’s the only time when he seems to have any energy. Instead, we get scenes like the one where his character is doing a moonwalk, and just when he’s about to do it the camera switches to the legs of someone who clearly isn’t Sandler (the legs look about 100 pounds lighter, for starters), before switching back to his upper body again. It’s that lazy.

Michelle Monaghan plays the token female character and there’s not a whole lot for her to do. The forced romance between her and Sandler’s character is predictable and cringeworthy, another example of the film’s laziness and excessive willingness to follow film tropes.

Kevin James again plays Sandler’s sidekick, though his character happens to be a very important person. I would say it’s completely implausible, but then again, we’re living in a world where Donald Trump could be US president soon. James has a few solid lines, but for the most part he’s relegated to the background.

The only actors I felt put in any real effort are Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad, who play two fellow top-level gamers. Dinklage plays Sandler’s douchebag childhood rival, and he seems to relish the opportunity to portray a character with some unusual fetishes. Gad plays a younger gaming prodigy who grows up to be a conspiracy nut who is still in love with a fictional gaming character. Both actors try, but only Dinklage is consistently funny. It’s not Gad’s fault; it’s just that his character isn’t interesting enough.

Lastly, we come to the ordinarily reliable Columbus. There’s nothing really wrong with the film from a technical perspective, and the special effects indeed very nice, but for whatever reason, Columbus fails to inject Pixels with what it needs most: a sense of fun and excitement. It’s strange, because the innovative ideas are all there. On paper, the real-life video game battles should be fantastic, though for me, apart from the Pac-Man stage, there wasn’t much to capture the imagination.

The end result is a surprisingly bland film with much less passion and enthusiasm than it ought to have had. It would be unfair to say Pixels has no merit. There is still a cool concept at heart, slick visuals and some laughs along the way. It’s just that the film with this much potential– even with Sandler’s involvement — should never have been this dull.

2.25 stars out of 5

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

xmen

X-Men: Days of Future Past, my second-most anticipated film of 2014, has done the impossible by living up to the loftiest of expectations.

I was sceptical at first when I heard that they were making this film, an ambitious attempt to combine the old X-Men franchise (X-Men, X2 and The Last Stand) with the new, younger reboot of X-Men: First Class, while also not forgetting about the two spin-off Wolverine films. It was potentially more difficult than The Avengers, as it not only features characters across different sub-franchises but also adds the wrinkle of time travel to the mix.

But I had forgotten one thing about this seventh X-Men film: Bryan Singer, the director of the original X-Men and X2, was back at the helm, and anyone who could managed to handle multi-layered complexity of The Usual Suspects should not be underestimated. And sure enough, Singer delivers, giving us arguably the best one yet.

What makes Days of Future Past so fantastic is what made it seem appealing on paper — bringing together all our favourite characters, past and present. There’s the old and young Professor X (Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy), the old and young Magneto (Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender), a young Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and a young Beast (Nicholas Hoult), together with the familiar faces of Storm (Halle Berry), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Iceman Shawn Ashmore) and Colossus (Daniel Cudmore). The only guy who didn’t have to worry about all the ageing was of course the ageless Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), who once again takes centre stage as the face of the franchise.

The genius of the film is making all of these bits and pieces fit together, given it is virtually impossible to give everyone sufficient screen time and worthy stuff to do. The solution turned out to be quite simple, with the story writers (Simon Kinberg, Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, with Kinberg penning the screenplay) going for what made the most sense. That is, tailor the story to focus on a handful of the franchise’s most popular characters and Hollywood’s hottest actors of the moment, and allow them to drive the time travel narrative. At the same time, the lesser characters are not forgotten either, though they are limited to key supporting roles and timely cameos. A bit of fresh blood is also injected with the introduction of a few new characters, most notably Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing as portal opening mutant Blink, to liven things up and appeal to the international market.

The result is a fairly straightforward and surprisingly unconvoluted storyline about a dystopian future ruled by unstoppable mutant-killing robots called Sentinels, who have just about wiped out all of humanity. To save the world, Professor X and Magneto come together in China and get Kitty Pryde to use her powers to send the consciousness of Wolverine — the only one whose body and mind can withstand the rigours of distant time travel — back into the body of his younger self to change the course of history. This task involves convincing mortal enemies, the young Professor X — who has become a shell of his former self and is being looked after by a young Beast — and the young Magneto — who is in a high security cell after assassinating a historical figure — to work together and stop the young shapeshifter Mystique from killing Boliva Trask (Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones), and thereby setting off the Sentinel program.

So in one fell swoop the plot manages to combine the thespians playing the old and young Professor X and Magneto (Stewart, McAvoy, McKellen and Fassbender); make Wolverine (Jackman), the face of the X-Men and its most beloved mutant, the film’s central character; substantially elevate the status and screen time of Hollywood’s “it” girl, Lawrence, as well her rising star beau in real life, Hoult; and introduce a new human character in the shape of the award-winning and super-duper awesome Dinklage. Instead of overwhelming audiences by splitting time and subplots between a whole bunch of characters, the story is driven by these eight brilliant core actors (and six characters) — and it’s all by design.

One supporting character who nearly stole the show for me was Quicksilver (Evan Peters, seen recently in American Horror Story), the lightning speed teenage mutant whom the X-Men seek to help them bust Magneto out of prison. He’s a fabulous character, both in terms of his abilities and his demeanour, and owns the most impressive set-piece sequence in the entire film when we see what the world feels like for him when he moves at top speed. It’s great to know he’ll be back in the 2016 sequel, X-Men: Apocalypse (and make sure you stay for the post-credits scene right at the end for a sneak preview!).

So Days of Future Past is a lot of fun, even though it appears to take itself quite seriously (albeit with the occasional joke or one-liner). It’s a really clever film, not just for the way it brings the characters together through the time travel concept, but also in the way it redefines history through mutant interference, from the Cuban Missile Crisis and the JFK assassination to the Vietnam War. The action sequences and are also executed well, allowing each of the mutants to show off their powers in eye-popping fashion, but without feeling we’re just watching a bunch of special effects. It’s amazing what good actors and adept choreography can do.

The final product is an intelligent, satisfying, well-acted and thoroughly entertaining X-Men flick that is epic in scope but stays under control by limiting the focus to the franchise’s most marketable stars and characters. There are plenty of nods and winks to the earlier entries in the series and the cameos will make loyal fans very happy, but even if you are a first-timer to the franchise the plot is unconfusing enough to be easily followed. The 132-minute running time is only a tad long, and there are perhaps one or two brief lulls along the way, but on the whole there isn’t much to complain about Days of Future Past. 

4.25 stars out of 5!

PS: Interestingly, the character of Quicksilver (a different version of him) will also appear in the next Avengers movie, but he will be played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson of Kick-Ass and Godzilla fame.

2013 Movie Blitz: Part V

The movie blitz is back, and there are some interesting new entries.

Nurse 3D (2013)

nurse-3d-movie-poster

Riding high from her star turn in Boardwalk Empire, Paz de la Huerta gets cast in Nurse 3D, a campy horror film where she gets to play Abby, a crazy nurse who seduces her “deserving” victims before killing them. If anything, Nurse 3D knows exactly what kind of film it wants to be — sexy, bloody, gory and campy. The kind of film you scream and laugh to, depending on your disposition.

The poor woman who gets her life turned upside down by Abby is Danni, played by 30 Rocks‘ Katrina Bowden. There’s some sex, plenty of nudity, and no shortage of gruesome kills and bloody aftermaths. There is definitely a market for this kind of film, and for me it’s preferably to other trite attempts such as the Piranha 3D franchise.

Paz de la Huerta certainly has a screen presence, but I really don’t know what to make of her. She has a nice figure, I suppose, one she is not afraid to show off, but she has a weird face. As for her acting, I can’t really tell if she is really good at trying to be bad, making her really good, or just bad.

Anyway, I didn’t hate the movie and found it occasionally fun, which is surprising, but I think you have to have a certain type of taste to be able to embrace it.

2.75 stars out of 5

PS: I watched this in 2D, but I can’t really see why this would be a worthwhile 3D film unless you want blood and boobs popping at your face.

Knights of Badassdom (2013)

knights_of_badassdom_xlg

Knights of Badassdom is for anyone who enjoyed the live action role-playing scenes in Role Models. It’s basically about a bunch of live action role-playing dudes played by an all-star cast including Aussie Ryan Kwanten (from True Blood), Steve Zahn, Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Summer Glau (Serenity) and Margarita Levieva (recently seen in Revenge) who bite off more than they can chew when an evil demon is unleashed from the underworld during a major event.

There are lots of nerd jokes, great puns and one-liners, but as is usually the case with such films it’s not quite as funny as you think it should be. That said, there are some solid moments that had me giggling and even laughing out loud. The violence, blood and gore are all intentionally fake and silly, but I suppose you can still call it a “horror.” It should come as no surprise that a flick with a name like Knights of Badassdom is not a good movie. It’s is a complete farce and it knows it, but the problem is that it’s not quite bad enough to be a so-bad-it’s-good type of film. So it’s not very good, but it’s not bad enough to be great. Does that make sense?

Nonetheless, consider all the problems the film went through to get released, it could have been much worse. It had a really troubled production because filming began in 2010 and was in post-production in 2012, but took another year before it was given a limited release. My wife gave up on it after about 2 minutes as she mumbled something along the lines of it being the stupidest thing she had ever seen. But I persevered and had a reasonably good time with it. Not a bad party flick, especially if everyone is drunk or stoned.

3 stars out of 5

Enough Said (2013)

enoughsaid

Enough Said is a nice little romantic comedy that I would never have seen in a million years had it not starred Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine from Seinfeld, aka the greatest TV actress of all time) and James Gandolfini in one of his final roles before his tragic passing.

The film’s premise is simple. A freelance masseuse (Louis-Dreyfus) goes to a party and meets a fellow divorced fellow (Gandolfini) and they start a relationship. But there are some wrinkles to this relationship, wrinkles I can’t discuss without giving part of the plot away. For me, it was pretty foreseeable, but for others it might come as a twist.

The strength of the film lies in the performances from two of the greatest TV actors of their generation, or any generation (plus the likes of Catherine Keener and Toni Collette in her original Aussie accent), and an extremely witty script by Nicole Holofcener, who also directed the film. It’s rare to see a drama that involves mainly people conversing with each other being so engaging. It may be just me, but I noticed a ton of Seinfeld references in there, which I loved, of course, but apart from that the hilarious one-liners just kept rolling out along with the sharp dialogue.

Leaving the humour aside, the drama is also surprisingly warm, insightful and poignant, and dare I say, realistic. There’s nothing about the film that really stands out (it’s not a film you’ll likely remember years down the track), but for me it’s a sweet little gem I’d definitely nominate to people looking for a DVD recommendation.

3.75 stars out of 5

About Time (2013)

abouttime

The poster for About Time almost put me off watching it. A smiling Rachel McAdams and a gingery British fellow (Domhnall Gleeson, whom I had only previously seen in an episode of the brilliant sci-fi series Black Mirror — if you discount the last couple of Harry Potter flicks) standing in the rain. It looked like a romantic-comedy version of The Notebook.

But, as is almost always the case, I was wrong. About Time, in my humble opinion, is probably the best romantic-comedy of 2013. Not that the field is strong, but at least it’s not the worst.

The premise is that Gleeson’s character, Tim, can time travel, like all the other men in his family, including his father (Bill Nighy). He doesn’t develop this ability or find out about it until he’s 21, but once he does, he tries to take full advantage of it. Everyone has different purposes for time travel, be it money or career, but for Tim it’s all about love. And that’s where Rachel McAdams’s character, Mary, comes in.

The bulk of the film is about their romance, as it should be. I mean, come on, who won’t fall for Rachel McAdams? Tim makes good use of his time travelling to woo Mary, but he also discovers that his ability has certain limitations. .

And no, it’s nothing like that other time travel film Rachel McAdams starred in, The Time Traveler’s WifeAbout Time is written and directed by Tony Curtis, who is responsible for penning the scripts for British romantic-comedy classics such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Love Actually (which he directed too), as well as Steven Spielberg’s War Horse. So hopefully that gives you an idea of the feel of the film and the type of comedy in it.

It dragged on towards the end of its 123-minute running time, but for the most part I simply adored this film. Not there there isn’t anything to complain about — the time travel rules, for example, don’t make any sense if you think about it, and Tim and Mary’s relationship is far too smooth and lacking in conflict. But I’m willing to overlook all of that because there is a sweetness and tenderness to the film that just warmed me up inside. And it’s not just the romance, but the moving relationships Tim has with his father and his sister (played by Lydia Wilson) also got to me as well. Very few, if any, romantic-comedies resonate with me (the last one was probably 500 Days of Summer), so I’m glad I was fortunate enough to have given About Time a shot.

4 stars out of 5