Monthly Archives: May 2022

Movie Review – The Lost City (2022)

Romance! Treasure! Adventure!

BQB here with a review of The Lost City.

Let me say off the bat this movie is OK. It is an acceptable way to pass your downtime. I am disappointed in that everyone kept telling me this flick is awesome and I’m missing out if I didn’t check it out, but honestly, I found it more or less “meh.”

Loretta Sage and her late husband once traveled the world as archaeology scholars, unlocking the secrets of past civilizations. Alas, after her husband’s untimely demise, she cloistered herself and earned her living writing cheesy romance novels about an adventurous lady archaeologist and her hunky sidekick who go on treasure hunting exploits, a far cry from the academic treatises she wanted to publish, a dream denied due to lack of sales.

Years later, the novels are a smash success, too popular in fact. When billionaire Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe) kidnaps Loretta in the hopes that she’ll be able to translate the key to a long-lost treasure, it’s up to her handsome yet incompetent, Fabio-esque cover model Alan (the hunky sidekick inspiration from the novels) to come to Loretta’s rescue.

A fine setup but the execution leaves something to be desired. Treasure hunting movies have been DOA for a long time. One might argue it’s because we’ve grown as a society and come to realize that all Western treasure hunters ever really did was just um, you know, locate and steal treasures belonging to other countries, cultures, civilizations etc. That’s part of it, though honestly, no one ever did the treasure hunting genre as well as Indiana Jones. The Romancing the Stone movies might be a distant second but ultimately, Indy was never topped. Tomb Raider and Uncharted? Yes, in video game form. No in movie form.

At any rate, you don’t really see a lot of stuff you’d expect in a treasure hunting film. There aren’t any puzzles, riddles or clues. There’s not even sufficient danger. To the heroes? Yes. To the world? I mean basically, if the evil billionaire gets the treasure, he’ll be more rich and if he doesn’t then he’ll be less rich. A far cry from the Indy stakes where an artifact falling into the wrong hands equals Nazi rule of the globe forever and ever and ever.

Even so, Loretta is in peril and Alan (Channing Tatum) is an unlikely hero. He screws up the rescue early and often to great comedic effect and there’s probably a fresh angle in that in real life, people who do things for the first time often screw them up royally. We never learn or grow without those screwups.

A different dynamic than we are used to seeing. Alan often bungles his way into becoming the “damsel in distress” that Loretta has to save and there is a 20 something year age disparity between Tatum and Bullock, though movies often feature an older, sophisticated man with a hot younger babe. Here it’s the other way around with smart Loretta and her man-bimbo Allan.

There are a lot of side characters we learn little about. They might have been interesting if allowed more time to shine. A side plot sees Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Beth as Loretta’s publisher who travels the world in search of her abducted writer. It feels like there was a budding romance between her and goofy pilot Oscar (Oscar of The Office fame) that was cut short, possibly for time. A quick line at the end will make you raise an eyebrow.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I wouldn’t rent it but wait for when it streams. It’s billed as a treasure hunting movie but it’s more of a chase movie through an exotic jungle location where the heroes have to out run the pursuing villains. A lot of CGI and the whole lady author falling in love with the real life Fabio from her covers might have been funnier in the 1990s when Fabio was at his peak, musclebound wind in the hair glory. Bonus points for some insights into the publishing industry, what sells, what doesn’t, the lengths that authors have to go through to sell some books.

Double Bonus Points for a surprise cameo that is fun though it made me wonder if the movie wouldn’t have benefitted from the cameo lasting longer.

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Movie Review – House of Gucci (2021)

Boof, 3.5 readers. Very boof indeed.

BQB here with a review of the very underrated House of Gucci. (BEWARE SPOILERS)

Always know the difference between chocolate and shit, 3.5 readers. They both look alike but when you bite into the wrong one and get that terrible taste in your mouth, it’s too late. Disgusting yet wise words and I would say this movie is very much a tasty chocolate treat.

Money is the root of all evil, and when it comes in the form of a family business, it can turn people who are supposed to love each other into bitter rivals. Such is the case when Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) charms her way into the House of Gucci as a loving wife to son Maurizio (Adam Driver) only to become a cancer that spreads destruction and catastrophe to everyone and everything she touches.

The first third of the film is a sweet love story. Maurizio, a shy law student, meets Patrizia at a party. Her love brings him out of a self-induced shell and allows him to experience the world. Alas, father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) fears Patrizia, a commoner, is just after the family fortune and will leave his son penniless and broken. Estrangement between Maurizio and the Gucci clan ensues until Patrizia eventually charms the pants off everyone, wrapping them around her little finger.

If this were a 1990s rom com, the story would end there with M and P living happily ever after, having proven their love is strong enough to set aside resentments and the Guccis ride off into the sunset as one great big happy family. Ah, but this is a film based on real life, so naturally, in the second act, Patrizia proves that the fam’s fears were very much valid indeed. One by one, she takes the various and sundry Guccis out, separating them from their fortunes through power plays, trickery, deception, blackmail and so on, all in the name of putting her husband at the top of the game.

In the third act, P, having tromped over the heads of all the other Guccis, realizes her husband is the last obstacle in her way to having it all and well, since this is based on a true story you can just google to find out what happens or just watch the movie.

This movie got a lot of lampooning, especially because of the bad Italian accents. Problem is I’m not sure what the actors/actresses could have done differently. I’ve noticed a trend in some movies based overseas for actors to speak in their regular English speaking accents, or in movies like Valkyrie, British actors are utilized to at least provide an air of foreign speaking to the American ear. I don’t think any of that would have worked in a movie set against beautiful high society Italian backdrops.

At first, I found myself offended by Jerod Leto’s portrayal of Paolo Gucci, the so-called most useless of the Guccis, a portly, bald, naive, almost child-like man baby easily duped by Patrizia into bringing about the demise of himself and everyone he loves. My initial thought is putting Leto in a fat suit and heavy facial prosthetics comes across as “fat face” and “bald face” and honestly, aren’t there chubby, bald actors who ignored all the people who told them they’d never make it in Hollywood because they are chubby and bald whose ship would have come in with this role? Why just ugly up a handsome guy? It just comes across as a mean-spirited, lampooning of chubby bald men.

But as the movie progressed, I did warm up to Leto’s portrayal. At first, he’s a fool but as we learn more info, we see how his overbearing, money holding over his head family set him up over the years so that he could have never grown up to become anything other than a fool. Don’t be fooled into thinking that money buys happiness. It just buys you into a new set of high-class problems.

Al Pacino stars in the best role he’s had in a long time, that as Aldo, the seemingly tough family patriarch who turned the Gucci brand into an international empire only to be rooked by his conniving niece-in-law.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Unfairly snubbed by the Oscars. An interesting study into how money can rip a family apart, how family businesses often don’t last when passed down from one generation to the next because a successful business needs one decision maker at the top ruling with an iron fist, not rule by committee formed of people who bitterly resent one another. Even so, sometimes these powder keg type situations can be safely stored away for many years until an outsider like Patrizia comes in and lights a match.

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Movie Review – Uncharted (2022)

Grab your treasure map, 3.5 readers. It’s time to chart a course to…mediocrity.

BQB here with a review of the treasure hunting tour de force (farce?) that is Uncharted.

Movies based on video games are often hit or miss and frankly, more miss than hit. I can’t really recall a game based movie that was a hit. A better movie historian than I might know of one and I feel like there must have been one but ultimately, what works as a collection of cut scenes between parts of a game where players make stuff blow up rarely translates to the big screen.

This is ironic as most gamers, myself included, have always agreed that Uncharted is one of the most cinematic films ever made. For the uninitiated, the games follow snarky treasure hunter Nathan Drake, a descendant of famed explorer and Queen Elizabeth love interest Sir Francis Drake. With the help of surly old pilot Sully, he travels the world in search of history’s greatest piles of long lost loot, often getting shot at by villains who want it more than he does. As a gamer, you get to shoot back, jump across ravines and hope you don’t fall in, climb up wreckage before it falls off a cliff and so on.

Sadly, the film version loses a lot in translation. Mark Wahlberg’s Sully isn’t grumpy or surly but is greedy, a scumbag who cares about gold more than people. He has a heart in there somewhere but whether he will let his lust for wealth get the better of him is his challenge. Villain Antonio Banderas…sigh…all I can say is he is getting up there in years, but I suppose it happens to the best of us. He is an average villain as villains go.

There’s a hot babe who likes to stab people and another hot babe who joins Sully and Nate. I can’t remember their names. I don’t think they added much to the movie other than they were hot and the one stabby hot one stabbed people in creative ways.

Tom Holland is given a chance to shine outside of his best known Spiderman role. I think the question we viewers had was can he play someone other than Spidey. Turns out he can. You’re able to view him as someone other than Peter Parker though in the games, Drake’s character was more of a handsome ne’er-do-well while Holland still has that aw shucks nerd appeal though he tries to lose it here.

While it is a fun romp, it doesn’t quite live up to the games. Though it comes out big time, and I mean big time at the end, much of the film is devoid of stuff you’d want to see in a treasure hunting movie, like wandering through jungles and tombs and catacombs and so on. I’ll give the film credit and admit the end is a visually stunning thrill ride but the ride toward it is a bit of a snoozer.

Holland does great but I think was ultimately miscast in the role, as was Wahlberg. Again, if you’ve never played the games, imagine a young, full of himself Robert Downey Jr. being flown around the world by an angry wiseacre grandpa. It was a buddy duo that worked in the game but doesn’t work in a movie where both characters want to be the cool leading man guy.

Also, the film kind of just glosses over Drake being an ancestor of Sir Francis Drake. I don’t think they ever even explain who Sir Francis was, and the modern day Drake’s ancestry was a fun part of the games. Weird how every Batman movie needs to devote at least a half hour or more to the Waynes’ untimely demise outside a movie theater but no one thought to add a five minute scene about how the main character is a distant descendant of a world famous explorer.

STATUS: It’s ok. A bit of a bummer because if there was ever a game begging to be turned into a movie, it was Uncharted. I’ll admit that making a treasure hunter movie in today’s modern times is a hill so steep one wonders if climbing it is worth the effort. Today’s modern audiences are more aware than ever that treasure hunters are basically just thieves who travel the world stealing another culture’s precious wealth and relics and all those booby traps the hunters have to dodge are just the ancient equivalent of an alarm system. Don’t you lock your doors and turn on your alarm to protect your stuff? Well, ancient people did that too. (By the way the film also distinctly lacks any good booby trap scenes, a must have in a treasure hunter movie.)

Is it shelf-worthy? Barely. It could have been better. It looks like sequels are planned. Though I like Tom Holland, I think the movie rests heavily on Holland’s fame and charm and if Hollywood had put some thought into it, they could have made some great flicks here. Then again, maybe not. After all, no one roots for a treasure hunter anymore. Why do you think Hollywood hasn’t put out any recent Indy reboots when they’ve rebooted everything else?

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Movie Review – Ambulance (2022)

Woo woo. Boom boom. Vroom vroom. Kapowie zowie!

Oh sorry, I just gave away the entire plot to this stink bomb.

BQB here with a review of the Michael Bay schlockfest, Ambulance.

This movie is a bimbo. Pretty face. Long hair. Great eyes. Jumbo cans. Terrific tucas. A sweet set of getaway sticks.

Ah, but alas, when she speaks, you realize if you marry her you’d be spending half your life reminding her to not look up with her mouth open whenever it rains so she doesn’t drown. Seriously, who has that kind of time?

The trailers looked awesome and I wanted to see it for months…you know, not unlike how when an uber hottie slides into your DMs and you look forward to your first date only to meet her in person and learn that she spent so much time on her looks that she can’t count to twenty without taking her shoes off.

Thus is the problem with this flick. It’s all razzle but no dazzle. All hat but no cattle. It has a bangin’ bod but can’t read.

I should have known. This is Michael Bay’s MO, though in his long line of movies that are high on kabooms but leave no room for wacky things like deep, meaningful character introspection or plot development, this has to be the worst offender.

Down on his luck dad Will (Yahya Abdul Mateen II), having been given the runaround from his insurance company only to learn there is no way for him to pay for his son’s desperately needed yet terribly expensive surgery, visits his adopted brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal). He’s hoping for a loan but instead gets a job, a bank heist job, a trip into a world of crime he had long escaped from, having broken away from his sibling years earlier for fear that Danny’s criminal ways would drag him down.

Naturally, the heist goes awry, leaving Danny and Will the only survivors of a shootout with the police. They hijack an ambulance hoping it will give them the cover they need to get around police roadblocks, only to discover a badly wounded police officer in the back. This leaves EMT Cam (Eiza Gonzalez) in the unenviable position of having to save a gunshot victim’s life while being a hostage trapped in a high speed chase.

Could I, as a noble viewer, have suspended disbelief? Sure. Half the time, that is the job of a noble viewer, after all. No one wants to see real life in the movies. No one wants to see a movie about an accountant who suffers from hemorrhoids whose kids hate him and who eats cookies in front of the tv all night and can’t bring himself to challenge his wife about her emotional affair with a coworker because at this point in his life it would just be too exhausting to divide up all the stuff.

So yes, I can pretend like it would be possible for an EMT to perform a life saving bullet extraction in an ambulance being driven at high speeds, being rocked by bullets and crashes and so on. I can believe that the LAPD wouldn’t have smashed this thing off the road within five minutes.

What I can’t believe in is the virtually non-existent plot and lackluster character development. Every character is a cheap cookie-cutter cutout, a gimmick and a few hacky one-liners. Garret Dillahunt is an undercover cop who joins the chase with a comically large dog in his backseat. Olivia Stambouliah is a cop with big hair who worries about things being caught in it. A latino gang that gets involved calls everyone vato every five seconds. A gay FBI agent in charge of LA’s anti-bank robbery division comes into the chase mid-way and seems to only exist to provide expository details of Danny’s past. One wonders how the top FBI agent against bank robberies in the area went through half his day without hearing about this absurdly dangerous bank robbery. Also, for some reason he reminds everyone he is gay every five minutes. Yeah, I know, maybe it’s wrong to wonder why a gay character reminds everyone he is gay for five minutes when hetero people remind everyone they are straight every two minutes but it really feels like Bay is doing this to point out that he has a gay character in the film. Subtlety has never been Bay’s strong suit, such that he is one step away from having the gay FBI agent shout out during a shootout, “Hey everyone! Just a reminder! I’m a big fan of the penis! OK back to shooting at the bad guys now! Pew! Pew!”

Meanwhile, EMT Cam was almost a doctor but was thrown out of med school for speed addiction. We never learn why she wasn’t thrown out of EMT for speed addiction. Apparently, it is ok to be an EMT on speed. Danny’s criminal enterprise largely consists of a warehouse full of fast cars.

And it goes on and on like this. I get it. This is an action flick. But even the cheesiest action flicks give us a reason to care. This movie just feels like Bay played an expensive game of toy car crash em up, like how little boys bonk their toy cars together then go have milk and cookies except when they do this it doesn’t cost millions of dollars.

Irony is the critics seem to dig it. I wouldn’t think they would but I rarely agree with them. A quarter of the way into the movie I found myself checking my phone and puttering around the house to do busy work. Such is the sign of a bad movie when you are like, “yeah, yeah I get the gist but I’m not going to miss anything if I turn my back for a few minutes to do the dishes and fold the laundry.”

Weird. More explosions and crashes than a Beirut backyard barbecue and yet I lost interest. Critics seem to enjoy it as a roller coaster ride. In that case, I can see it and maybe it would have been better on the big screen, away from all my household chores. Even so, I say if a movie can’t keep me from my chores than it has failed.

STATUS: Borderline shelf-worthy but very borderline. I can’t say I’d watch it again. I wouldn’t rent it or pay money for it, but when it comes to your favorite streaming service, you might put it on so you can be moderately amused while you sweep the floor and finish your ironing.

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