Movie Review: “The Nice Guys”

Starring
Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Kim Basinger, Margaret Qualley, Yaya DaCosta
Director
Shane Black

Shane Black may not have invented the buddy cop film, but he’s widely viewed as the modern-day godfather of the subgenre thanks to seminal movies like “Lethal Weapon,” “The Long Kiss Goodnight” and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” Black is to buddy cop films what Raymond Chandler is to hard-boiled crime novels (a fitting comparison considering the writer/director lists the author as a major influence), and his latest movie, the retro detective noir “The Nice Guys,” is arguably his best entry in the genre since redefining the buddy cop formula three decades ago. Although it hits all of the usual beats of a Shane Black feature, “The Nice Guys” does so with such remarkable efficiency, brimming with witty banter, solid action and even a little heart, that it feels totally fresh.

Set in 1977 in the seedy, neon-tinged underbelly of Los Angeles, the movie stars Ryan Gosling as Holland March, a drunken private eye who’s less concerned about solving mysteries than getting paid. His latest gig finds him investigating the death of famous adult film star Misty Mountains, and though it sounds like an open-and-shut case, Misty’s grandmother claims that she saw the actress alive several days after the car accident that supposedly killed her. Holland’s only lead is a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), who was seen leaving Misty’s house on the date in question, but the trail goes cold after enforcer-for-hire Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is enlisted by Amelia to stop Holland from following her around. However, when Amelia’s life is threatened by a pair of menacing thugs and she goes on the run, Jackson and Holland team up to track her down with some help from the latter’s precocious tween daughter Holly (Angourie Rice). But as they get closer to uncovering the truth behind Amelia’s involvement in the conspiracy, an assassin (Matt Bomer) is sent to silence them.

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Movie Review: “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”

Starring
Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein, Ike Barinholtz
Director
Nicholas Stoller

The 2014 film “Neighbors” cost $18 million to make and brought in $270 million worldwide. That is a spectacular, “Saw”-like return on investment, so it makes sense that the studio would be interested in making a sequel. There’s just one teensy little problem: there was nothing about “Neighbors” that lends itself well to a sequel. (Also, no one appears to have been asking for a sequel, but that is apparently beside the point.) It’s a film where the main characters each win a battle, but lose what’s left of their dignity. No bonds are forged, and the attempt at a happy ending drips with sadness. One of the first film’s good points was that they didn’t seem concerned about tomorrow because they were having too much fun today. Then tomorrow came, panic settled in, and for God knows what reason, the decision to not make a second film wasn’t considered. This is a mistake.

“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” isn’t even remotely tethered to reality. If this took place in the real world, at least two people would be dead and one would be in traction. It requires “Horrible Bosses 2” logic in order to work, which dictates that if you’ve been badly burned in your personal or professional life, you will learn absolutely nothing from the experience and make the same mistake again. “Horrible Bosses 2,” for the record, was another movie that no one asked for, and it made half as much as the original. Universal should prepare themselves for a similar drop-off.

Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne, respectively), now with a two-year-old and another baby on the way, have decided to sell their house and move to the suburbs. They have a family who wants to buy, and the house is put in escrow. The Radners do not understand that the sale is not final until their realtor spells it out for them for the sake of the plot (and the audience); the buyers have 30 days to back out of the deal for any reason. When Mac and Kelly see that a group of rebel girls wants to start a new party-friendly sorority in the abandoned house next door (the house previously owned by the Delta Psi Betas from the first film), they ask the girls to tone it down until the sale goes through. The girls are already annoyed that sororities are not allowed to throw parties, but fraternities are. They are not receptive to this request.

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Movie Review: “The Lobster”

Starring
Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman, Ariane Labed
Director
Yorgos Lanthimos

There was a time when married people used to be envious of their single friends, but dating in the 21st century has become such a weird and awkward process (dominated by superficial dating platforms like Match.com and Tinder) that being single isn’t as attractive as it once was. Director Yorgos Lanthimos explores that strangeness along with the social pressures of marriage with his English-language debut “The Lobster.” Bizarre, refreshingly original and darkly comical at times, the movie is unlike anything you’ve seen before, but while it starts out as a sharp satire on the horrors of dating, “The Lobster” stretches so far into absurdity that its various eccentricities overshadow the point it’s trying to make.

Set in a dystopian future where it’s illegal to be single, the film follows a recently divorced introvert named David (Colin Farrell) as he checks into a mysterious seaside hotel and is given 45 days to find a new mate or be turned into an animal of his choosing. His brother Bob has already been through the hotel and now accompanies him as a Border Collie, a constant reminder of the threat of failure, and David has prepared himself for a similar fate by electing to live out his final days as a lobster due to their long lifespans and his affinity for the ocean.

Though he quickly makes friends with some fellow bachelors (John C. Reilly and Ben Whishaw), David has no luck finding a female companion, and with his deadline fast approaching, he decides to take his chances outside the hotel with a rebellious group of singles in the woods. Led by a cold anarchist (Léa Seydoux) who’s trying to bring down the whole oppressive system, the so-called Loners live by their own set of strict rules and punish anyone who so much as flirts with another person. But when David meets his perfect match in Rachel Weisz’s Short-Sighted Woman (none of the characters are given names apart from David), the two risk everything in order to be together.

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Great Ways to Have Fun on a Weekend Night Online

ID-10049393 woman working with laptop

Entertainment options are numerous these days. We have access to so many different ways to have fun and it is shame to notice that so many end up feeling bored as they have no idea what to do. You want to be patient and you need to always look at the various opportunities available for you on the internet. Let’s mention some of the really popular ones at the moment.

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Blu Tuesday: Dirty Grandpa and The Witch

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“Dirty Grandpa”

WHAT: When his recently widowed grandpa Dick (Robert De Niro), whom he used to be close with as a kid, needs someone to drive him to his Florida vacation home, uptight corporate lawyer Jason (Zac Efron) grudgingly volunteers. But as he soon discovers, Dick has ulterior motives for their road trip – namely, to get laid – and takes them on a detour through Daytona Beach to soak up the spring break festivities.

WHY: Robert De Niro has proven himself adept at comedy over the years, but he’s almost always played the straight man, which is what makes “Dirty Grandpa” an interesting choice for the actor, because it allows him to let loose in ways that audiences have never seen before. Though there’s something wrong about watching a screen legend like De Niro acting so raunchy, it’s also part of the film’s strange appeal. It would all be quite embarrassing if De Niro and Efron didn’t appear to be having such a good time, but the two actors form a great team, elevating the juvenile material just enough to earn a few chuckles. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that “Dirty Grandpa” is an incredibly stupid movie fueled by a never-ending stream of bad language, insults and frat humor that’s shocking for the sake of shock value. The film progressively gets worse the lower it sinks (wasting its supporting cast in the process), and yet despite its indefensible badness, “Dirty Grandpa” is still marginally entertaining, if only because De Niro makes it so.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by director Dan Mazer and writer John Phillips, a behind-the-scenes look at making the movie, three more featurettes and a gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“The Witch”

WHAT: In 1630s New England, a devout Christian family is exiled from its village and builds a homestead on the outskirts of an eerie forest. But when their newborn son mysteriously vanishes and their crops suddenly die, the family members begin to turn on each other.

WHY: Praised as the best horror movie in years upon its debut at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, “The Witch” is a decent but wildly overrated period drama masquerading as a genre flick. Though first-time director Robert Eggers creates an unsettling sense of dread that looms over the entire film, there’s nothing very scary about the events that transpire apart from a few choice moments, like the possession sequence with the family’s middle child, Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw). “The Witch” is an incredibly slow burn that boasts some beautiful imagery and fantastic atmosphere, but there’s so little to the actual story that it’s easy to lose interest during its many lulls. Thankfully, the cast delivers such compelling performances – especially newcomer Anna Taylor-Joy – that it’s never as boring as it could have been. While “The Witch” is definitely worth experiencing once, the movie has too many issues (for instance, the manner in which it plants the seed of paranoia within the family) to warrant the kind of acclaim that’s been thrust upon it.

EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary by director Robert Eggers, a making-of featurette, a Q&A with Eggers and star Anna Taylor-Joy, and a photo gallery.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT