Tag Archives: 2016 comedies

Movie Review: True Memoirs of an International Assassin

Image result for true memoirs of an international assassin movie poster free use“Why would an actual assassin write a book about being an assassin? It’s beyond stupid.”
“Or is it so beyond stupid, it’s brilliant.”

I love this line. I really do. It’s the type of insert that slithers its way into comedies, presenting a line of thought that causes a burst of joy and also drops a trinklet of apparent wisdom into the minds of its viewers. You have to take a double take and think. Would it really be stupid or is it jaw-dropping how genius it is?

True Memoirs of an International Assassin is a Netflix original that from the beginning, demonstrates this same wit and charisma.

Sam Larson, an accountant who’s dove into the cobwebs of assassination and writing, has created an alter ego for himself, one in which he feels he truly gets to live. Mason Carver is everything he’s ever wanted to be. And unknown to him, that chance at a more exotic lifestyle has arrived.

The introductory phrases of Jeff Wadlow’s Netflix special deals with vicariousness and journalistic integrity, offering both food for thought regarding ethics and some life advice that, while endlessly cliché, doesn’t seem to ever be heard by some. Do something worth your time. Live life.

These points are accompanied with a quiver of writing jabs and a parlance for dialogue that has the versatility to be both thought-provoking and worthy of a gigglefest. It’s whimsical but also odd in an amusing enough way that you’re willing to put up with it.

That’s generally the basis for Kevin James videos, to be honest. How much are you willing to endure?

You can see the prototype for Kevin James’ career in Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Is it a good movie? Hell no, but like Sandler has come to do, it tiptoes the trapeze of the funny and the galatically stupid. It hits and misses and at the end of the run, it’s up to the viewer to decide if the shooting percentage was worth their time.

What you see with True Memoirs of an International Assassin is a film that shows signs it wants to take itself seriously but then quickly retracts and goes back to being the fun, silly movie that certainly attracts younger audiences, but dampers the chords trying to be played.

This is what holds it back. Its insistence on keeping a younger audience engaged prevents it from being a tempting thriller, showcasing what can happen when life steals you away from your comfort zones and your routine that affords you the peace of mind you desire. In some ways, its failings are similar to Sandler’s The Do-Over, creating an appetizing adventure and possessive writing style that’s forced to run concurrently with ill-timed humor, interrupting the pleasant balance the film is trying to maintain. As the movie proceeds, True Memoirs of an International Assassin becomes more of an slog through comedy tropes than it does that endeavor we signed up for at the beginning. There is a direct rift between the first and second halves of this piece, one that allows its drama and personality to run freely, unleashed, and the one that feels the need to act like someone other than himself. That second part can only be viewed sympathetically for so long before the damn breaks free and that’s what comes here. Its flamboyance downplays the narrative drive and its continual detours for quick ad libs from James and crew do not provide the productivity that would warrant them. It leaves it in a run in pig slop or a tractor trying to mull through the fields after a downpour. It’s a mess and requires too much effort for too little gain. Difference is, True Memoirs of an International Assassin didn’t have the effort either.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (SinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the Sun)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: Apocalypse)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for True Memoirs of an International Assassin: 57.

While certainly containing its own batch of cleverness, I can’t help but wish this was a film that took itself seriously.

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Movie Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

I can’t recall a blockbuster that received so much hate prior to its release. I really can’t. Let’s be honest for a minute here. Ghostbusters is not a franchise enshrined in the hallowed halls of Hollywood. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. Ghostbusters was a great experience, Ghostbusters 2 noticeably less so. That is the end of the story. Seems short for a franchise, especially when we are readily acknowledging that 2.0 didn’t have the same charm as the original. Remaking the Lord of the Rings would be criminal. Remaking Star Wars would be criminal. Remaking Ghostbusters? That’s just expected.

Do not confuse the words expected and necessary. They’re on opposite sides of the track. The world would have moved on without Ghostbusters 2016.

Alas, Ghostbusters 3.0 isn’t apocalyptic in quality nor blasphemous in its execution. What’s great about Paul Feig’s film is the long chain he affords both his writers and cast. It leaves him little stopping power if his project descends into madness but the free roam approach in this comedy begets natural growth with some appropriate artifacts left through the screenplay to rekindle the 1984 experiment.

Ghostbusters otherwise hardly resembles the classic. It shares a title and the premise of ghosthunting. An organic dialogue transcript that is character (not plot) driven ensures a first time tour that carries a pinch of nostalgia. Feig wanted a similar, not linked, feature, a film that could succeed on its own.

Unlike Independence Day: Resurgence (thank God), the newest Ghostbusters relies on its own value, displaying a self-confidence that requires no special effects crutch. If anything, I would say at times the visuals are purposely average, almost a direct slap in the face to all of the critics, myself included, who have come to expect a remake/sequel to stutter step its way in front of the stage and display a silent dance behind a seizure-inducing light show and green screen extravaganza.

In what has been a dismal year in cinema, Ghostbusters is a welcome addition. A comedy that doesn’t take itself seriously is certainly a treat these days. Ghostbusters has the advantage of being released during a down year for movies, which may make it more appealing to me than it really is, but I don’t think so. I think Ghostbusters female edition is genuinely good.

The cast is fine. Melissa McCarthy is not as large a presence as she usually is. She’s sharing the camera, allowing everyone to get their licks and kicks in. Kate McKinnon impresses me the most, presenting one of the most awkward and quirky characters in recent memory. You never know what’s coming from her. Easily the movie’s most likable character.

Although, the argument could be made that Chris Hemsworth is the star of the show as the bumbling idiot secretary. This is probably my favorite Hemsworth role. He, as well as the rest of the cast, reflect a laid-back attitude that relaxes audiences’ fears early on that this is going to dissolve into a massive taxicab pileup in Times Square.

Feig’s film is light on its feet, bypassing any possible themes this production could have suggested, which I was okay with for this outing. Sometimes, a comedy with no message is just fine.

That doesn’t mean I plead ignorance here. There are a few items that are bothersome, especially when our villain is painted as a bully victim. The word “superficial” comes to mind. His character is drawn on tracer paper. Look, I loved tracer paper when I was a kid. As someone with little artistic talent, I found gratification in drawing something decent, even if it wasn’t my own. I stopped doing that because I grew up and realized how much more rewarding my own achievements could be.

Feig’s lack of caring in his characters’ nemesis would be startling if this wasn’t a comedy. With comedies, I can’t say I’m surprised by a general refusal to create character depth. At their most basic, comedies are meant to make us laugh. They often skip the story part. When taking into account how disastrous 2016 has been, I’ll take Ghostbusters for what it is: a fun time to the theater.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of Tomorrow)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (BatmanFree State of JonesThe Running Man10 Cloverfield LaneCreed)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Batman ForeverThe CrowHardcore HenryBatman v Superman: Dawn of JusticePride and Prejudice and Zombies)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (UnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: ApocalypseD-Tox/Eye See YouConstantine)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Underworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Independence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the ApesStonados)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Ghostbusters: 73.

Ghostbusters is an average film that I wouldn’t praise so much if I didn’t have such an entertaining experience with it. The cast is funny, Hemsworth unabashedly so, and overall has the wit and charisma to succeed on its own scripture. Considering what the summer has had to offer, Ghostbusters has been one of the highlights.

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