Rated Greg’s Top 5 Ryan Reynolds Movies
- Just Friends
- Mississippi Grind
- Safe House
It’s nice to see Ryan Reynolds finally starting to get good roles after a decade of wasting away on otherwise crappy movies. He always reminded me of one of those NBA players that puts up good stats on bad teams for years until they find the right situation, like when Zach Randolph landed on the Memphis Grizzlies after dealing with the Blazers, Knicks, and Clippers clusterfucks. Most would point to Deadpool as the role that turned things around for the former Van Wilder but his best work is actually in 2015’s gambling road trip dramedy Mississippi Grind (criminally unseen but is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, so lets change that).
Anyways, Reynolds stars in the space horror, Life, along with Jake Gyllenhaal (reigning WAR leader) and Rebecca Ferguson. A movie about a group of astronauts being terrorized by a bloodthirsty alien in a confined space will obviously remind people of 1979’s Alien, but just because Life can’t come close to Ridley Scott’s masterpiece doesn’t mean it’s not worth seeing. What the movie lacks in originality definitely makes up for in execution. Once the suspense starts after your standard 20 minutes or so of introduction it does not let up until the very last image. 2017 has been horror heavy so far (Split, Get Out) but this is the first film that is legitimately terrifying.
I do have one beef with it. The title. Life is the best they could come up with?! I mean…..I get why it’s called Life, it’s about the discovery of life on Mars and all, but come on! If you’re gonna take a premise beat for beat that’s been done before, you can at least come up with an imaginative title. Let’s ignore the fact that there was already a prison movie called Life starring Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. But it’s also a TV show, a cereal, and that piece of shit board game (I don’t appreciate the game’s derogatory sentiments towards accountants). Titles I would have proposed are Calvin, Space Danger, Space Gyllenhaal, and Watch Out!.
Ok. Rant over. Contrary to a lot of reviews I’ve seen, Life is well worth the trip to the theater. Grade: A-
Nip/Tuck meets Downton Abbey. The Handmaiden is a South Korean thriller by acclaimed director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) about a petty thief who cons her way into working for the very wealthy, very beautiful Lady Hideko on her giant estate in the 1930’s. It would be a disservice to reveal much more about the plot than that, as this is one of those movies where the best part is trying to figure out exactly WTF is going on. I’m not privy to much South Korean cinema, but this is definitely one of the most out there movies I’ve seen. If you had to categorize it, The Handmaiden would fall within the psychosexual thriller confines similar to last year’s The Girl on the Train, but significantly more psycho and even more so sexual (cue the Nip/Tuck theme song). The only thing greater than every person’s agenda in this film is their libido. Grade: B-
Catfish meets The Jinx. The HBO doc Tickled starts out innocent enough. A New Zealand journalist, David Farrier, who specializes in light-hearted, quirky stories like funny animals and youtube sensations comes across a “competitive endurance tickling” circuit online. He reaches out to the American company that hosts these events for an interview and receives an aggressively scathing message back, requesting that he drop the story and never contact them again. Hmmmm? You know how you can tell if someone is hiding something based on how wildly they react to an accusation? Like a certain someone proclaiming “NOBODY has more respect for women than I do!” or Rafael Palmeiro wagging his finger in Congress’s face? Yeah, by simply ignoring his email Farrier and his partner may have just moved along, however the vehement nature in which they were told “nothing to see here” led them to keep digging. And digging. AND DIGGING. Ultimately the two journalists travel to the United States and go down a giant rabbit hole trying to unmask a legitimately sinister identity straight out of a Bond movie. Sometimes the best documentaries start out as one thing and the filmmakers stumble into uncovering something entirely different and more interesting. This is one of those times. Fair warning, the tickling scenes in this documentary range from semi to all the way disturbing. Streaming on HBO. Grade: B-
In my year-end movie wrap up, I declared 2016 the year of the sad movie (Manchester by the Sea, Other People, etc) but I hadn’t even yet seen the most emotional of them all that year, Gleason. I don’t care how desensitized you are, if you watch Gleason without tearing up at least once, you’re a goddamn liar. This documentary follows five years of a former NFL player’s fight with ALS. Shortly after diagnosis, wild-man Steve Gleason makes it a point to travel the world while he still can as well as make a video diary for his unborn son. This will most likely wreck you so it might not make a great Friday night movie, but it’s a great remedy for the Sunday scaries and will put good perspective on the BS in your life that’s ultimately not that important. Streaming on Amazon Prime. Grade: A-
Rated Greg’s Top 5 Man vs. Beast Movies
- Jurassic Park
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes
- King Kong (2005)
In last week’s Logan, I was delighted to see a big blockbuster in which it was clear the studio backers didn’t meddle too much with the auteur’s vision, given how unorthodox the film was. I can appreciate Logan even more this week after seeing Kong: Skull Island, which is about as orthodox as it gets in 2017. It’s so obvious that WB is trying to replicate the massive box office success of 2015’s Jurassic World here with this Kong reboot and it comes across as unbelievably shallow. Every choice involved with this movie just seems so blatantly geared towards generating revenue as opposed to telling an original story. They cast Tom Hiddleston, with all the swagger of an empty egg carton, to play Chris Pratt Lite and something tells me there was a special “studio note” regarding the size of Brie Larson’s tank top. Speaking of Larson, she’s way too good for this movie, as are John C Reilly, Sam Jackson, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, and Shea Whigham (all things considered this is a pretty decent cast, Loki excluded).
Ok that may have been a little too harsh. It’s not like this is the worst movie ever. Skull Island is pretty to look at on the big screen and there are couple entertaining set pieces, but overall this can’t hold a candle to Peter Jackson’s King Kong from 2005. You’d think at the very least the big CGI ape would look better with a technology of twelve years later, but I wasn’t impressed (the recent Planet of the Apes series is much better at this). I also thought the musical choices were “a little too on point” if that makes sense. Obscure B-sides would be more effective than the same 70’s rock chart toppers you’ve heard in countless other movies that take place during the Vietnam War. Lazy Lazy Lazy. Grade: C
Ah, so this is where the saying “No Mas” comes from. I had no idea it stemmed from a famous boxing match, but it makes perfect sense. Hands of Stone covers the career of 70’s & 80’s boxing legend Roberto Duran, spending the majority of the time focusing on his rivalry with Sugar Ray Leonard. Overall, it’s a mediocre boxing movie at best. The action is very choppy and unlike Gyllenhaal in Southpaw or Michael B. Jordan in Creed, I’m not convinced lead actor Edgar Ramirez can actually box. Ramirez is good in the other facets of the movie and I’m actually surprised he isn’t a bigger star by now, but the fight choreography is about as convincing as Adam West’s Batman. Also, how are you going to have a boxing movie without a training montage?! That’s like a Tom Cruise movie without a sprinting scene or a Ja Rule concert in which he doesn’t take his shirt off.
Fight scenes aside, you know who’s really good in this, surprisingly? Usher! From what I can recall, when Usher has acted he basically just plays Usher (sidenote: remember The Faculty? The Faculty was dope.), but I think he must have taken some acting classes or something after seeing him play Sugar Ray Leonard, because he’s not bad at all. With that weird hairline he has going on in this, I honestly wasn’t even positive it was Usher until I pulled up IMDB. Grade: C
Rated Greg’s Top 5 Super Hero Portrayals*
- Hugh Jackman as Wolverine
- Michael Keaton as Batman
- Robert Downey Jr. as Ironman
- Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit-Girl
- Christian Bale as Batman
*Minimum two appearances
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb saying Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is the best super hero portrayal of all time. He has the quantity (the lead in seven films plus cameos in two others over a span of 17 years). And he has the quality (villains tend to be much more interesting than the “good guys,” but Wolverine was always the best part of the X-Men franchise). Jackman has maintained that he’s hanging up the claws after Logan, and upon seeing it opening night it’s safe to say he saved the best for last, like John Elway or George Costanza.
This movie is sooooo good! Might as well keep the hyperboles rolling. Logan is the most violent super hero movie of all time (it’s R Rated and a very hard R at that). Logan is also the most heartfelt super hero movie of all time, incorporating real, actual feelings about mortality and companionship. I still have Christopher Nolan’s first two Batmans as the best overall super hero movies of all time, but Logan is only the slightest level below those. And to be honest, this isn’t even a full on super hero film. It’s technically a western that includes some uncanny elements.
From a critical standpoint, 20th Century Fox is really onto something in creating smaller scale, more auteur-friendly super hero movies outside of the confines of a PG-13 rating (they released the raunchy Deadpool last year). The genre had become so stale and cookie cutter the past couple years but these have been a breath of fresh air. Disney will never follow suit given The Avengers and Star Wars basically print money the way they are (why fix what’s not broken?), but I have a feeling Warner Bros. is going to react to the market accordingly with their properties. Batman v Superman cost $250 million dollars to make and was an outright disaster (pay no attention to those who try to spin it otherwise) whereas Logan will eventually earn back it’s $97 million dollar budget five times over. Grade: A-
I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore is an updated, dark comedy take on Michael Douglas’s white man loses his shit thriller Falling Down, only much more politically correct (there’s no shot Falling Down as it is gets greenlit in 2017). Ruth has had it up to here with the jerks she crosses paths with everyday in the form of rude coworkers, inconsiderate dog walkers, line cutters, etc, and when her house gets broken into this pushes her over the edge. With little help from the authorities, she sets out to track down her belongings by any means necessary and give the culprits a piece of her mind.
While I think the intention is to portray Ruth as the only courteous person in a neighborhood full of deplorables, I had a slightly different take. It reminded me of one of my favorite pieces of dialogue ever from one of my favorite TV shows ever, Justified. During a particular episode, a low life criminal is ranting to US Marshall Raylan Givens about the multitude of injustices he has been encountering, and Raylan’s perfect rebuttal is “You ever hear the saying ‘If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. But if you run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.” I don’t think Ruth is such an angel herself.
This is the directorial debut of Macon Blair, who cinephiles will recognize as an actor from Jeremy Saulnier’s films Blue Ruin and Green Room (sidenote: I’m OBSESSED with Green Room, check it out). This is very different than those dark, not at all comic films, but you can see Saulnier’s influence regardless, especially in the few instances of very graphic violence. I Don’t Feel at Home netted a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes as well as won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, but I’m less enthusiastic. I appreciate the quirky and valiant effort to make something different, but just found the film to be kind of dumb. Streaming on Netflix. Grade: C
In 2015, New York Magazine published a fascinating article about two 12-year-old girls being tried as adults in Waukesha, Wisconsin for attempted murder. Quite matter-of-factly, the girls copped to stabbing a classmate while playing hide and seek in the woods and when pushed further by detectives, claimed that they were only following orders from the Slenderman, a faceless, lanky modern day boogeyman whose very idea was birthed as an internet meme. Creepy right?
In a similar fashion to the article, this HBO doc examines the origins of the Slenderman mythology and dissects the horrific crime that it inspired. It includes interviews of the families involved as well as footage of the police questioning and trial. Beware the Slenderman is another true crime swing for HBO, but unfortunately it’s a swing and a miss. At two hours, it’s twice as long as it needs to be and is also just kind of a drag. You’re better off just reading the NYM article. Currently streaming on HBO. Grade: D
PS – Does Waukesha, Wisconsin ring a bell? No, it’s NOT the same Wisconsin location as Netflix’s Making a Murderer as I initially wondered. But it IS the hometown of the current Bachelor, Nick Viall.