It isn’t easy to think of a bigger name right now when it comes to comedy films than Will Ferrell. Ever since he starred in Old School with fellow Frat Pack members Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson, Ferrell’s had a part in several of the most oft-quoted movies of the last decade. His general lack of shyness coupled with an overall good guy persona (with a few exceptions) has earned him the love of many fans around the world.
Now, it’s reasonable to think that Ferrell alone could carry a comedy title, but in this case, the producers managed to enlist Kevin Hart to play Ferrell’s foil. Hart has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame the last few years with his stand-up routine as well as his role in other recent films such as Ride Along and The Wedding Ringer. Hart has a knack for comedic timing, and combined with Ferrell’s naivete, it’s almost enough to save Get Hard, but not quite.
Around this same time last year, Divergent was a box office success – pulling in almost $300 million dollars worldwide on its $85 million dollar budget. This was yet another attempt to kick-start a movie franchise based on a YA property, similar to that of The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games. Where other similar attempts like Vampire Academy and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones have failed, The Divergent Series seems to be right on track to cash in. But has the lackluster second film in the series predicted the future for the franchise?
Taking place only days after the events of the first film, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her love interest Four (Theo James), along with brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and frienemy Peter (Miles Teller), take refuge in Amity until they are ready to take on Jeanine (Kate Winslet). Meanwhile Eric (Jai Courtney) and his army have been searching Abnegation for a box marked with all of the symbols of the factions. After uncovering the artifact and taking it to Jeanine, we learn that only a Divergent can open it – causing her to order the capture of their kind. When Eric shows up to Amity, Tris and her friends escape on a train to Factionless territory – where we are introduced to their leader Evelyn (Naomi Watts). She asks that Dauntless join forces with the Factionless to take on Jeanine and the Erudites.
In 1950 Walt Disney Productions was $4 million dollars in debt, and took a huge gamble on producing the $3 million dollar animated feature Cinderella. It was a film that would either make or break the studio. Yet here we are, and we all know the outcome of the film – 65 years later as we watch the live-action re-imagining of the classic, which is revered as one of the greatest animated features of all time.
Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet, Thor) directs a screenplay by Chris Weitz (About a Boy, Antz) in a straight forward adaptation that doesn’t try to flip the original story, which audiences know and love, on its head. The film follows the classic animated version pretty much beat for beat, and it isn’t at all a bad thing. We do gain more insight into Cinderella’s childhood, and relationship with her mother (Hayley Atwell) and father (Ben Chaplin) before they pass away, which only helps to grow the connection we feel with the main character – played by the charming Lily James (Downton Abbey).
Before Ella’s father passes away, he tries one more attempt at happiness by marrying the widowed Lady Tremaine – masterfully portrayed by Cate Blanchett (Lord of the Rings, Blue Jasmine). Blanchett may look as lovely as ever, but she is evil incarnate as the wicked stepmother. Never before has a cartoon villain come to life on film in such dastardly fashion, as the actress makes it extremely easy to hate her character to its core. Blanchett is in good (bad?) company, as she brings her terribly nasty daughters Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) with her to live in the house. True to form, the wicked stepsisters are just as cruel and awful to Cinderella as you would expect. All three actresses do a fantastic job of making the audience loathe them.
Chappie is the latest film by science fiction director, Neill Blomkamp. Blomkamp has been responsible for some the most modern, contemporary sci-fi films to date. Elysium and District 9 were his last two films, and many critics and movie-goers were not satisfied with his most recent direction. The film community had begun to wonder if the young, brash and over-zealous director was in over his head. Can Blomkamp return to form and wow audiences with CHAPPiE?
Is third time the charm for the director? Read on to find out.
Chappie follows Blomkamp’s crude, realistic and dirty production values of his previous films. To say Blomkamp has a style to his films is like asking if the next Michael Bay movie will have explosions. Blomkamp has the ability to craft worlds that seem so realistic and authentic; they’re science fiction, but his content and they way he presents it is highly believable.
The world Blomkamp and writer Terri Tatchell have created is one of despair and oddly enough, hope. The setting? South Africa, Johannesburg. The situation? Dire. Crime is at an all time high, the local police force over run, a city out of options. Enter Sigourney Weaver (Avatar, Aliens), who plays a brash but easily manipulated robotics CEO, Michelle Bradley. Bradley’s company offers the relief a city with no options needs; a relenting, efficient and uncompromising police force–made of highly advanced, mobile robots. These robots are the brainchild of Deon Wilson (Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire). Wilson is responsible for creating the rudimentary A.I. system that powers the Scouts (the nickname given to the robotic police force).
Heist movies have been among the more highly revered genres for decades and it seems unlikely that it will stop anytime soon. In most cases, the audience finds themselves rooting for the person(s) committing the often elaborate heist in the hopes that they may get to walk off into the sunset thus granting a payoff (figuratively and literally speaking) to viewers and the characters. So, what are we getting with Focus?
Focus follows the life of highly experienced con artist, Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith) who has, obviously, been in the game for a while and has a wildly successful and covert operation with his team in which massive amounts of money is generated from selling ‘hot’ merchandise and other commodities. Enter young, and intrigued Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie) who crosses paths with Nicky and immediately wants to be a part of the operation. As expected, Jess seems to be transforming from high potential apprentice, to someone of high affection to Nicky. Needless to say, things get just a little complicated.
Calling back to the previous point about heist movies in general, is the desire for the successful pull off of the heist. More often than not, movies of this type make the audience overlook the criminal actions of the protagonists due to the fact that the person or group they are robbing has far more reprehensible qualities. In Focus, most of the people being robbed are actually quite oblivious bystanders. In fact, there is a scene (which is well filmed by directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa) in which a slew of random people get robbed blind via slight of hand techniques. To the credit of the scene, and watching the team work, it was a sight to behold and was quite entertaining. On the other hand, imagine being one of those people walking down the street and in startling late fashion discovering something of high value was taken. You would be a little pissed and paranoid would you not? It would be hard to say that there really is a villain to be found opposite Nicky and his crew which can make rooting for them a tad more difficult. Perhaps that is the point here.