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Vice Review : Risky But Rewarding

McKay seems intent on telling the tale in as energetic and entertaining a fashion as possible

Caffeinated Clint

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Director:

Adam McKay

Cast:

Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Alison Pill

Run time:

2 hr 12 mins

Rating:

Like the chubby kid left to be a final pick on footy team-selection day, it’s gonna probably be hard going for Adam McKay’s newest.

If a fictional film like “Star Wars : The Last Jedi” can divide fans, because of mixed takes on whether or not a legendary character was handled correctly and respectfully, imagine the 140 characters some – including a large allotment of critics – will be using up on a film about a real life person, in this case former Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney, who may or may not have acted or behaved in the exact manner the film portrays. Twitter is gonna need some extra cooler jets when this thing hits.

So how does one judge a film like that? On its artistic merits alone? Do you try and separate truth from fiction and just enjoy what’s at hand? Do you simply leave your political beliefs at the door and invest yourself in an entertaining story? The answer may lie in your opinion of Oliver Stone’s “JFK” or how many times you’ve read Machiavelli.

It’s going to be different for every viewer, but one thing’s for sure, there’s no denying “Vice” is an ambitious and imaginatively-structured film. Much like his housing crisis drama, which was littered with stars and seemingly edited by Winona Ryder’s character from “Reality Bites”, Adam McKay’s expose on the 46th Vice President of the United States is primarily concerned in telling its story with as many clever cuts and cameos as possible, so that at no time does it start to resemble the weighty, slightly more niche period piece it might’ve otherwise been. So if you like some fizz with your facts… drink up!

The film retraces the steps of former VP ‘Dick’ Cheney who began as an unassuming bureaucratic Washington insider but ultimately stepped into a position that offered him immense power. As Vice President to George W. Bush, Cheney was able to reshape the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.

With clever narration (it’s a spoiler to say any more, really), a hilarious mid-movie sequence that tricks the audience into believing the film is ending, and some entertaining, sometimes loud turns (particularly from Sam Rockwell, who is dynamite as George W.Bush), McKay seems intent on telling the tale in as energetic and entertaining a fashion as possible.

On that level, the film is a success.

Performance-wise, the all-star cast are as solid as the walls at Pennsylvania Avenue, with an unrecognizable Christian Bale disappearing into the role of the odious and seemingly merciless politico, and Amy Adams, always a delight, as equally ambitious and Lady Macbeth-like as Lynne Cheney.
Along with Rockwell’s fun and faultless turn as Bush, there’s also top turns from the likes of the versatile Steve Carell as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Tyler Perry as National Security Advisor Colin Powell, and Justin Kirk as adviser Scooter Libby.

The script, penned by McKay, is where folks will likely come to fisticuffs over – depending or not on whether they believe Cheney was given a fair shake here. The thing has been laced together as a dark comedy as opposed to serious Stone-structured political drama. To be fair, ‘Dick’ is played as almost Scrooge-like by Bale, with his menacing determination and clear absence of empathy, so it almost makes sense to go that route.

As the title card to the film tells us, little is known about Dick Cheney and that’s why, for a large part of the film, McKay was forced to resort to extrapolation and guesswork to fill in gaps. In one clever moment, an entire conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Cheney is told in Shakespearean verse.

Like his previous film, McKay’s Cheney biopic is less concerned with precision and palms than it seems to be reveling in the filmmaker’s traditional caustic jocularity and sanctimoniousness. And that, coupled with whatever pin you wore on Election Day, will help decide whether the movie is for you.

Film Reviews

Aladdin review : a gorgeous family film

Check out what we thought of the live-action adaptation of the ’92 classic

K.T Simpson

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In a world of remakes, reboots and live-action adaptations, it’s pretty difficult to get excited about Disney merely turning a cartoon into a big screen production – especially with Guy Ritchie at the helm. It’s no secret that there’s been a cloud of negativity circling “Aladdin”, but put those doubts aside, because unlike Ritchie’s “King Arthur”, “Aladdin” is impressive in so many ways.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the story of Aladdin, the ‘street-rat’ living in Agrabah and stealing to survive life in the village with pet monkey Abu. The 1992 film was an instant classic and a timeless Disney tale with a particularly iconic performance from Robin Williams as Genie. It’s big shoes for Ritchie, who has adapted the animation into a musical fantasy film, with Will Smith as the wisecracking Genie, Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine. Upon meeting Jasmine on the streets of Agrabah, Aladdin is instantly smitten and vows to win her heart, despite the castle’s highly secured walls in his way.

After Aladdin is caught by guards in the castle, Jafar, the Royal Vizier of Agrabah (Marwan Kenzari) promises to set Aladdin free if he retrieves a lamp from the Cave of Wonders. Of course the plan fails and Aladdin and Apu are trapped underground with the Magic Carpet, the lamp – and the Genie that emerges from the lamp, who then promises Aladdin 3 wishes.

The beauty in Ritchie’s “Aladdin” is firmly in the cinematography and big screen production, creating a gorgeous visual of Aladdin’s world and everyone within it. The songs hit all the high notes – excuse the pun – and Scott as Princess Jasmine is the particular standout. Her performance of “Speechless” is the next “Let it Go”, and will give you goosebumps in the beautifully choreographed scene. Massoud is a great choice to play Aladdin; the handsome young actor has a charming smile that reminds us all why Jasmine feels such a connection with the boy who on paper, is not the right choice for her.

Smith as Genie is a surprise knockout, bringing his own style of humour and entertainment to the role that Williams was so famous for. Smith never tries to emulate the ’92 animated genie, but rather introduces himself as his own genre of Genie – for which we should all appreciate. His chemistry with Massoud’s Aladdin is completely on point, and the duo bring some of the biggest laughs of the film. Aladdin’s monkey Apu is a character in himself, a cute little sidekick and says a lot without saying anything – thanks to fantastic CGI.

Jafar was always such a menacing and terrifying villain, and the hunger of his desire to be the most powerful in Agrabah is quite obvious throughout the film. He has the ability to be innocently charming, while plotting domination underneath – the mark of a true villain.

“Aladdin” truly kicks the goals of an incredible family film – it looks gorgeous, the performances are incredible and the narrative is truly heartwarming and enjoyable. Add in a healthy dose of humour and you’ve got yourself one of the most memorable films of the year.

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Film Reviews

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum review : one hell of a wild ride!

John Wick is back with a vengeance in Parabellum

K.T Simpson

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If there’s one thing we know for sure, entering the third chapter of the “John Wick” franchise, it’s that Wick wants to live. We’ve had two films preceding “Parabellum”, both showing that Wick is a man that just never gives up on his quest for revenge, and no matter how good he looks in a suit – he’s not a man you can mess with.

“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” picks up directly after “Chapter 2”, where Wick (Reeves), and his dog in tow, is running for his life with 1 hour until he’s declared excommunicado, following him breaking the rules and killing High Table member Santino D’Antonio on the grounds of the Continental Hotel. The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon), a representative of the High Table, is on the quest to punish those who helped Wick, including Winston (Ian McShane), the manager of the Continental Hotel, and crime lord Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), who has quite an incredible army of pigeons.

With a $14 million bounty on his head, John Wick is out to survive, and take no mercy on those who dare to fight him. Despite watching their peers get brutally and savagely beaten and murdered around them, they keep going after Wick – presumably thinking that they can be the one to knock him off the perch and go home with a fatter wallet. Meanwhile, Wick seeks out allies from the past, despite their reluctance to help him, in an effort to survive – for reasons we soon find out – and remove the bounty from his head.

The action sequences, while impressive, tend to play out a little like a live-action Call of Duty battle scene after a while, probably lasting a little too long and implementing all those clichés the game-lovers will recognize: enemies descending on you from all angles, setting the dogs to rip-tear-bust, and throwing smoke grenades into empty rooms. It’s slightly reminiscent of “The Matrix” in that action scenes tend to drag and are a little bit of an overkill. That said, the action is addictive as hell and pretty bloody gruesome. Safe to say, “Parabellum” is not for the feint-hearted. If you’re squeamish about knives penetrating an entire human head, this may not be the film for you.

There’s something insanely awkward about the way Keanu Reeves walks – if a little pigeon toed – but still manages to effortlessly defend and attack in awesome style. He flicks his hair like he’s straight out of “Point Break” (or is it more “Bill and Ted”?), but John Wick has a style about him we all just want to imitate – perhaps it’s the way he fights round the world and never takes off his suit and tie. Respect for that kind of commitment, straight up.

As action films go, you’ll get more than your money’s worth with “Parabellum”. It’s a really well done action flick and incredibly directed by Chad Stahelski – his strengths clearly lie in the action choreograph arena. Mark Dacascos as Zero, the head assassin is a true stand out in “Parabellum”, providing some humour amongst the blood, guts and fighting. Fishburne also impresses as the underground crime lord, with his alliances more aligned with his pigeon friends than the people around him.

“Parabellum” is one hell of a wild ride – and one you won’t want to miss on the big screen for the visual (and audio) spectacle you’re about to experience. It’s a completely bonkers and good-time entertaining film, and without a doubt one of the standout feature films in 2019.

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Film Reviews

The Hustle review : uninspiring and unfunny

Bit of a waste of a remake, really

K.T Simpson

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Every now and then, a remake gets made and it kicks all the goals, delivering a fresh take of humour and clever dialogue. This isn’t that movie. It’s hard to understand why Hollywood are mixing up old films, but I imagine the only answer comes in the form of a pay day.

When you’ve got a classic film like “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” with a top cast of Steve Martin and Michael Caine – it begs the question: why bother remaking it? The typical Hollywood twist comes in the gender switch, but apart from that this film is a straight-up copy-and-paste of the 1988 comedy. With a few millennial and female-centric jokes thrown in instead, of course.

Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway are the two main ladies in “The Hustle”, as they scam and thieve their way through the wallets of their chosen victims – and engage in a bit of a turf war when Lonnie (Wilson) encroaches upon France, which happens to be Josephine’s (Hathaway) home town (yes, French accent and all). The ladies set their sights on an American app-developer Thomas (Alex Sharp), and decide to attempt to rob him in their own unique way, making it a wager between the two.

Also confusing, and somewhat vexing, is the tagline used for this film. “Giving dirty rotten men a run for their money” – it’s interesting when literally none of the victims they target could be considered “dirty rotten”. They’re just people going about their lives. Lonnie’s whole game has to do with being rejected…. for catfishing….which she seems to find unfair and tell-all about men these days. I’m sorry, scriptwriters, but this makes no sense.

Wilson is really what “The Hustle” is using for the humourous quips, which unfortunately relies heavily (pun not intended) on fat jokes – I lost count after about 10 of them. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the funny bits – and even those are fairly stock-standard slapstick jokes, which worked better with Steve Martin.

On a whole, “The Hustle” is uninspiring, unfunny and just plain boring. The only thing going for it is a reasonable run time, giving you enough time to fit in a stiff drink following so you can forget it and get a good sleep. Having said that, “The Hustle” is completely forgettable, so don’t stress about lying awake thinking about it all night.

So what’s good about it? Look, you may get a few chuckles out of Wilson. Hathaway wears too much makeup and it’s a little bit distracting, and as a result isn’t as funny. But if you want a great heist film, with twists and turns and genuine humour – watch “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” instead.

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