Live By Night

<em>Live By Night</em>

Cohesiveness is an aspect of movies that holds great importance but isn’t readily noticed. Movies are assembled by scenes, of course, leading to a sort of storytelling puzzle: making sure all of these varied scenes appear in an order best suited to reveal the message of the story being told. However, movie makers are far too quick to dispose or diminish this fine interlocking mesh of events and dialogue in favor of a particular aspect of the movie, maybe the scenery, or the action. In the end, though, audiences notice this, maybe not immediately, but as a jarring disaffection to the story being told. Ben Affleck’s Live By Night takes this potentially minor incongruence and blows it up the be a major fault, highlighting so many mood and scenery changes and pushing to the forefront so much action that the entire movie becomes a mess, beginning on the joyful note of a crime-comedy such as Goodfellas and ending with a melodramatic moan as something akin to the end of a Dawson’s Creek episode.

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Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

guardians-of-the-galaxy Hey Nerdpocalypse faithful, I'm Tim, one of the hosts of the new Mouthful of Toast podcast for anime and manga fans.  I'll be posting reviews here every once in a while, so I hope you enjoy!

Let me preface this review with two details: 1) Despite being under the Nerdpocalypse banner, I have never read a single issue of anything Guardians of the Galaxy related. <insert comments about me not being a real nerd here>  This review will not reflect whether or not Guardians was accurate to the source material. 2) Typically there’s a post credits scene, aka “stinger,” for the next Marvel film.  This screening did not have one.  This either means there’s no scene or there’s a major scene that they did not want leaked before the movie comes out.  Definitely stay after the credits just in case.

When the first trailer aired, many wondered if Marvel could work its magic on one of their lesser known properties.  Director James Gunn has a mediocre filmography at best, so my expectations were low.  Personally, I thought the trailer was a bizarre Parks and Rec spin-off with Chris Pratt’s character taking over a new space division of Pawnee government.  Despite odd first impressions, this film proves Marvel Studios is capable of tackling anything it wants.  Guardians shows how the key to a great movie experience is simply treating the script with the right attitude, in this case, with a tongue in cheek version of their proven formula.

Young Peter Quill is abducted by aliens and we fast forward to him (Chris Pratt) as a spacefaring scoundrel looking for loot.  He finds an ancient orb that will fetch a high price, but as it turns out, everyone in the galaxy wants this orb.  The rest of the team is introduced through various fights in the span of half an hour as we zoom through five locations showcasing all of the quickly unfolding intergalactic drama.  The pace is dizzying at first, but once the initial setup is over, scenes get more time to breathe (just don’t take any bathroom breaks).  There’s plenty more to tell about the story, but moving into the second half is where there’s some nice treats for dedicated Marvel fans and I’d hate to spoil any part of that experience.

Chris Pratt delivers a hilarious performance as the self-absorbed Quill.  The mostly goofy team is balanced out by Zoe Saldana’s stern take on the living weapon, Gamora, but even she eventually joins in on the silly antics.  Groot is easily the most lovable of the crew, due in no small part to Vin Diesel’s impressive and nuanced voice delivery of his one, repeated line.  Rocket, played by Bradley Cooper, steals the show with some of the best quips Guardians has to offer.  Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer provides another angle of comic relief and works well as the team’s bruiser.

Seeing this movie in 3-D was a surprising treat, considering the last movie I bothered to watched in 3-D, Avatar, did nothing to impress me.  Certain shots take great advantage of the 3-D to immerse you in scenes, such as one early scene where you feel like you’re spying on Quill from afar behind rocks that pop out in the foreground.  The space battles might make you flinch, but don’t close your eyes too long or you’ll miss the incredible CGI.

Guardians runs for about 2 hours, which was surprising for the volume of material presented.  Extending the run time would have eased the hyperdrive pacing in the beginning, but the movie honestly does not suffer too much from it.  It’s a welcome relief to have a blockbuster not clock in at 3 hours or more.  Some consider Guardians to be kid-friendly, but the humor is raunchy and phallic enough to place it somewhere in an older teen demographic.

Let’s be clear; this is not a grand space opera.  The plot is merely a vehicle to get us from one cool action sequence to another. For the purposes of this film, it works.  The amount of style and humor oozing from this movie make it very easy to overlook the simple teambuilder storyline and Macguffiin orb.  The soundtrack elevates this movie from the usual superhero romp to a galactic groovefest.  Guardians feels like the lovechild of the Avengers and Spaceballs with a dash of I Love the 80s.

Overall, Guardians shines bright at the end of the summer blockbuster season.  Whether it was Marvel guiding James Gunn that lead him to movie gold or if all he needed was the right script, but all of my expectations of his directing were shattered.  Concerns about pacing don’t detract from the sheer amount of fun you’ll have the entire time.  Guardians doesn't pretend to be an epic; it's the story of unconventional heroes banding together and having a really good time.

[easyreview title= "Review of Guardians of the Galaxy" cat1title="Tim's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.5" overall= false]

Review: Out of the Furnace

Out of the Furnace Out of the Furnace paints a good picture of a forgotten town, but leaves little to remember after you have left the theatre. It gives impressive performances throughout by Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, and an always entertaining Woody Harrelson, but somehow towards the middle, you start to wonder what this movie is trying to explain to you. I don't want to give too much away from people who have not yet seen this ,but I will start by saying the movie is far different from what the trailer made it out to be. The movie's hero is Russell Baze (Christian Bale) who is your typical small town steel-worker who leads the simple life. He wakes up next to his sexy girlfriend (Zoe Saldana), goes to work at the mill, goes to the bar, goes home then does it all over again. He has one concern in his life, and that is his little brother, Rodney (Casey Affleck), who cannot seem to stay out of trouble.

Rodney is lucky to have his brother bail him out when he's in too deep with all the unnecessary debts he has to pay with all of his gambling problems. He can't seem to control himself, but believes otherwise. One night Russell drives home from a normal night at the bar, he gets into a tragic accident. This obviously earns him some jail time so he spends years in there having to endure the news from time to time of life moving on. His girlfriend moves on, his brother goes overseas to fight in Iraq, and he handles the elements around him with reservation and acceptance. Christian Bale gives possibly his most modest performance to date. He plays an everyday hero who knows who he is and knows he's not anything more than a man working in his small town. As soon as he gets out, one thing has changed and one thing hasn't changed. The thing that has changed is that his old flame is now dating a cop and the thing that hasn't changed is that his brother is still being an asshole. He is now doing unlicensed underground fighting and he's exceptionally tough, but stubborn. His manager keeps telling him to lose fights, but just won't listen.

A series of fights eventually leads to him to Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson) who is pretty much pure evil at its most basic form. Woody Harrelson has given a lot of entertaining performances, but I'll be damned if anyone doesn't have a smile on their face whenever he comes onscreen. All eyes are on him. You know he will fuck somebody up. So Rodney's manager is able to arrange a fight where Harlan, go figure, instructs him to lose the fight.

I will state that I was not pleased with how the events went down in the final act and it seemed like it took way too long to get there. Midway through I was beginning to question the plot I derived from the trailer. When it came to the conclusion, I thought wow this is a totally different movie. But I will say this, the performances by Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson are worth enough the price of admission if you want to see top-notch acting. Just watch Russell hold back his emotions and slowly break down when he finally reunites with his ex-girlfriend. After that scene was over, I leaned over to the right and said to my brother, "God damn that is some good acting!" My brother said he was literally about to say the same exact thing.

[easyreview title= "Review of Out of the Furnace" cat1title="Brady's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="2.5" overall= false]

Review: The Words

The Words can be summed up in one made up word: book-ception. This refers to Christopher Nolan’s dream laden action movie, Inception, where people worked in a dream world inside a dream world inside a dream world. It was a very heady and interesting to watch. The Words is no Inception, but its not trying to be. Writer/Director Brian Klugman presents what I like to refer to as a perfect concept movie. To me concept movies are ones that focus more on the idea of a slick or interesting hook than the details. Here, Klugman is hellbent on getting you focused on how intriguing it is to have three layered stories. Will that be enough, or do we need to go deeper?

I will be honest, I went in thinking The Words would be this year’s The Notebook, a mostly vapid romance-a-thon with slight underpinnings of tolerable acting. I can truthfully say, that I was wrong. The movie is better than that, but not much better. The multi-layered idea works to a degree, and I found myself looking forward to the back and forth moments from one universe to another. Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) is the creator of this book-ception, as he is the writer of a book conveniently called The Words. When we start on this adventure we find ourselves listening to Hammond recite the first two chapters of his book to an adoring crowd. That book focuses on a couple, Rory and Dora Jansen (Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana, respectively) as they go through their mundane lives as Rory struggles to become a published author. When Rory finds an unpublished book and passes the work off as his own the story finally gets going. The moments before really only kept my interest because I was waiting for the dramatic moment of plagiarism. When Rory is confronted by an old man (Jeremy Irons) about his theft this becomes the most compelling portion of the movie. When Irons is on screen no one else matters. I found myself wanting the old man to be the only character in the movie delivering multiple soliloquies while sitting on a park bench.

The other layer that we haven’t talked about is the one that lives within the stolen book. That story focuses on a young man (Ben Barnes) who has a textbook love affair with Celia (Nora Arnezeder), a french woman who he met during WW2. Their lives are polar opposite of Rory and Dora’s. They suffer unbelievable turmoil as their marriage goes on, and this apparently makes for a fantastic read to everyone in the higher universes. When Clay Hammond wrote his story it was clear that in order for Rory to truly connect with the stolen story it had to be outside of him. This is the most obvious reason for the stark character differences in an slew of otherwise straightforward character creations by Clay. When we are at the top level of the book-ception with Clay, we see him cavorting with Daniella (Olivia Wilde). She is eager to hear just how Clay’s story ends and his real motivation behind it. There are a lot of casual glances and quiet moments between the two, but it never seems particularly genuine. Of the three universes the top level was the least interesting. You get a lot of questions, but not a lot of answers. Perhaps this was Klugman’s way of building suspense, but I found that it just seemed lazy. Throw it to the audience to deduce without having to make the effort...thanks. At the end of the day, The Words isn’t a horrible movie, but rather a concept...a great one actually. The idea of wrapping multiple stories together like this is intriguing. I think with a lot more care in developing each universe instead of just connecting them would have gone a long way. The acting and screenplay were serviceable to get us through the 96 minutes. As I mentioned previously, Jeremy Irons steals the show. Between his absolute master ability to emote, he delivers lines as if he is in a far better movie that he was; a real standout. This is a movie that works better in a intimate setting, catch it on cable television or as a rental.

[easyreview title= "Review of The Words" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="2.5" overall= false]

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