Tag Archives: andy garcia

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: Twisted

I watched this about a month ago and thought it was okay but the review for it got pushed back until I didn’t feel writing one would be fair to the material, which has happened to quite a few films this year. I’m going to try to go back to each one, watch it again and write reviews. Keep in mind that some of these were pretty pitiful and will be painful to relive. Be thankful.

It’s yet another Samuel L. Jackson movie and I’m still not sick of the guy nor do I think I ever will be. Samuel L. Jackson is the man. That’s why I made him my profile picture 🙂

However, the camera focuses on Ashley Judd’s Jessica Shepard, a crime-fighting cop brought into the world by a serial killer.

That alone is intriguing enough to hold my attention. You’d forever have self-identity issues, constantly concerning yourself, wondering if the murderous gene had been passed on to you, if your fate was already predetermined. Could you ever outrun your family’s wrongdoings?

Based off those few ponderings, I was expecting a lot from this character. I mean, this isn’t a drop in the pond of characters. This is some deep material.

Yet Twisted seems oblivious to the expectations of the audience and treats Judd’s Shepard like any other character in a thriller. No special treatment or further effort is put into her. She’s our protagonist and that’s it. The fact that her father was a serial killer and ended his streak by killing her mother before killing himself is apparently not worth remembering.

Philip Kaufman helped write the story for Raiders of the Lost Ark and directed 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. These are two successful films that had such character writing and I therefore would expect similar results from him here. Twisted was one of the last films he directed so perhaps he just lost the spark in the latter half of his career, but that doesn’t mean his product is going to get viewed any differently by me.

It’s a story that plops and plods along the road rather than sneakily skulking across dark alleyways, which is the manner you would expect a thriller to move. There’s a rat’s portion of suspense at the beginning, but it dwindles down because questionable plot points steal our attention from the tempo and tone at the beginning.

The plot ends up going ahead without its badly needed sidekick, suspense, and suffers greatly for it. Without suspense, many films in the thriller genre struggle to maintain a firm hold on our minds. Without the two-pronged attack of story and seasoning, many stories can come across as bland and seen-before ripoffs. Soon the film’s on its way down a slippery slope of bland characters, cheesy dialogue and boredom.

We’re welcomed into the film’s experience but following the opening scene, we’re almost shooed out the door by the film’s lack of self-confidence. Twisted seems unsure of who it is, as does our focal point Shepard. She has no social life outside of her interactions with co-workers. Her daily life could be summed up in three words: work, drink, sleep. Perhaps that might be okay once in a while, but on a continual basis, that’s pretty depressing.

All of the tape spent on Shepard binge-drinking could have been used on her inner demons, something we actually cared about. No need to bash me over the head with the bottle for fifteen minutes.

Despite Shepard’s mental state, she gets promoted to investigator and gets a new partner, Mike Delmarco (Andy Garcia). Her father’s partner, John Mills (Samuel L. Jackson), raised her and is now the police commissioner so I guess this is what happens when you know people. On the first day, there’s already a brutal murder and Shepard knows him. They had a one-night stand a couple of weeks ago.

That’s yet another part of Shepard’s life that I forgot to mention above. Actually, her life could be summed up in four words: work, sex, drink, sleep.

I like the sleeping with the victim aspect, but question Shepard’s choices. Hooking up in a bar doesn’t make you a bad person, but since we’re talking about someone who is in a fragile mental state, what purpose do one-night stands serve? Pleasure? That’s really all you’re getting out of it. You’re still the same distraught daughter of a serial killer you were before and you still hate yourself. Unless you add nymphomaniac to her character description, which I’ll admit I did, there’s little point to these scenes. The only possible meaning is that all the people she cares about are dying, except for the fact that these were one-night stands and she didn’t really care about them at all,. It was just a sexual hook-up. Yeah, it’s tragic but there wasn’t any lost sleep over these deaths.

Maybe that’s a little heartless on my part, but these middle segments felt overstretched like an over-sized caterpillar trying to keep its front half and its back half together. The wheels were very close to falling off this project and I’m grateful they didn’t but still frustrated this film wasn’t hitting zero to 60 in ten minutes. Let’s go! What are you waiting for? Most of these plot points don’t need to be here!

What I was looking for, personally, was a character profile and I don’t feel my expectation was unwarranted. When your Netflix summary is “Jessica, a cop, is more dedicated to her job than most of her colleagues, as she feels she has a lot to make up for: Her father was a serial killer,” I don’t feel I was being unfair with my expectations. That’s what drew me to this in the first place: cop, her father was a serial killer. That’s a catchy idea, definitely one that I’m sure hooked a lot more fish than me, but the execution is really frustrating. Twisted wastes so much time with Shepard finding bodies with the same M.O. instead of Shepard finding herself, which in my opinion, was the theme this thriller thrillingly ignored. Talk about taking the wind outta the sails.

Instead, Shepard and Delmarco serve as plot-pushers and occasionally have some fair dialogue but don’t contribute much to the film’s afterthoughts and by that I mean, no one really cares. When I leave a film, I like to sit for a few minutes and think about what quintessentially held this film together and made it meaningful/memorable. I sat and thought about Twisted and thought, “The only things this film really succeeded in were the philosophical questions presented before the film even started and casting Samuel L. Jackson because that man is hilarious and commanding in his roles.”

One of those things didn’t even happen in the movie and Samuel L. Jackson was a side role!

My anger aside, Twisted did keep me somewhat interested even though there was no suspenseful draw to it. For example, the film spends a solid half-hour if not more trying to convince us that Shepard committed these murders and I wasn’t buying it for a second. Explanation in the spoiler’s edition.

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. (American BeautyGone GirlMulanGuardians of the GalaxyDawn of the Planet of the Apes)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2Young Guns)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too.(SnowpiercerThe FamilyWhen the Game Stands TallBlack Hawk DownRed Dawn(2012))

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (ParkerHouse at the End of the StreetThe RavenDead SnowRubber)

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. (RageZoolanderThe Expendables 3HomefrontG.I. Joe: Retaliation)

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. (I, FrankensteinThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBilly MadisonA Haunted House)

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. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The GreyX-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark WorldThe Sum of All Fears)

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.” (SabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. EvilSafeWatchmen)

My score for Twisted: 64.

All in all, Twisted is not deserving of its 1% on Rotten Tomatoes, but certainly wasted a lot of potential that may have given critics the wrath required to score it that way. The acting was fine, but could not breach the proficient boundary because of the scripting. Honestly, we’re talking about Netflix here and we all know you could do a lot worse than this on there, so don’t let my frustration coming out on the page push you away from giving this a shot. I had some fun with this and I’ll give the writers props for the final third. The twist wasn’t bad, though certainly brings more questions than answers.

*SPOILER ALERT* IF YOU DON’T WANT THE MOVIE SPOILED, STOP READING!!!

*SPOILER’S EDITION*

Shepard’s an alcoholic and during one of her binges, passes out but not in the way that people usually pass out. She is very composed, clearly knows how to hold her liquor from her daily experience with it. Then out of the blue she’s dazed, confused and has tunnel vision and passes out flat in three seconds. I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how you pass out. However, I decided it was probably the film being stupid and let it pass. Then she’s drinking at home again and it happens a second time. Again, I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how you pass out.

Now, I hate seeing the doctor as much as anyone, but if you pass out like that two separate times in that narrow a time period, you go to the doctor. Shepard doesn’t do that because she’s evidently stupid.

It seemed pretty obvious that she was drugged and I guessed roofies, not because I’m a doctor but because that was the only drug I could think of off the top of my head that could do that. I looked up roofies and researched it a little, searching for if there were any symptoms of complete amnesia. Wikipedia says roofies can cause anterograde amnesia, meaning “loss of the ability to create new memories after the event that caused the amnesia, leading to a partial or complete inability to recall the recent past, while long-term memories from before the event remain intact.”

If I understand that correctly, that means Shepard would have had problems creating memories after the event and would have trouble remembering minute details during the day after. My understanding appeared to be correct as I kept reading: “In cases of pure anterograde amnesia, patients have recollections of events prior to the injury, but cannot recall day-to-day information or new facts presented to them after the injury occurred.”

What all that means is that Shepard would have remembered passing out. She would have known that she had passed out each morning when she woke up, meaning there is no reason why she shouldn’t have seen a doctor and it’s her own stupid fault for continuing to drug herself because of her own ignorance. If she had seen a doctor, she would have found out she’d been drugged and this film would have been over a lot earlier.

Finally, the twist. The whole movie it’s painfully obvious Delmarco is the culprit. He’s constantly peeking around corners, stalking Shepard a few times, smokes and was in the presence of all but one of the victims.

However, the film pegs Samuel L. Jackson’s John Mills as the killer. During a long-winded explanation to Shepard, he admits that he was the one that killed all those people years ago and then killed her mother and father and made it look like her father killed himself over guilt. Then he raised her for those 20-plus years and for some reason, decided to go back to killing people again. Nice twist, except for a few things:

How does a serial killer become the chief of police?

How does a serial killer control his murderous urges for 20-plus years?

How has he not slipped up once during all of this time?

If Mills is that good of a serial killer, how does he allow himself to be caught saying all this while Shepard’s recording all this on her phone, which is in plain sight? It’s in her hand, right next to her other hand, which is holding a gun. It is right there.

Also, if you’ve seen The Negotiator, another Samuel L. Jackson movie, you know that the film ends with Jackson’s character being shot by Kevin Spacey and while he’s lying on the floor in a pool of blood, he records the bad guy admitting to the stolen money, so in a way, this film stole this ending from The Negotiator. It wasn’t even an original idea.

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