Tag Archives: Michael Peña

Collateral Beauty (2016) Review

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Collateral Beauty

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Will Smith as Howard Inlet
Edward Norton as Whit Yardsham
Keira Knightley as Amy/”Love”
Michael Peña as Simon Scott
Naomie Harris as Madeleine Inlet
Jacob Latimore as Raffi/”Time”
Kate Winslet as Claire Wilson
Helen Mirren as Brigitte/”Death”
Director: David Frankel

When a successful New York advertising executive (Will Smith) suffers a great tragedy, he retreats from life. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. When his notes bring unexpected personal responses, he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.

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I remember first hearing about Collateral Beauty when both Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara were initially attached to it, although they later both dropped out. Still, it had a cast with the likes of Will Smith, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren and the like, so even though I wasn’t quite sure what the movie was about, I was definitely open to it. Having seen it though, I can say that Jackman and Mara dodged a bullet by dropping out. In the lead up to watching it, I heard so many surprisingly negative things about it, but watching it, it truly blew me away how bad it was.

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There’s no sugar-coating this, the trailers of Collateral Beauty straight up lied about the movie. According to the marketing, it’s about Will Smith writing to Love, Time and Death after a particular tragedy, and them actually coming in person to speak with him. That’s not quite what the movie is however. I would say spoiler alert, but this is pretty much shown within the first 20 minutes. What the movie really is about is that Smith’s friend/colleagues are worried about losing their jobs, so they decide to hire actors to portray Love, Time and Death, get them to talk to Will, record the conversations and then edit the actors out so that Smith can look crazy. I couldn’t make that up if I tried. I should also emphasise that the employees’ plan was literally recording Will Smith and the actors on an iPhone and somehow editing the actors out. What I said was just the premise, the rest of the movie is weak, melodramatic, or unintentionally silly. Some of the things in the movie including the ending is just truly absurd. It’s not so outrageous that you can have a blast watching it, but it had its unintentionally funny moments. It doesn’t even succeed on an emotional or touching level, you don’t like many (if any) of the characters, and it’s hard to get invested with what’s going on.

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This movie has an absurdly talented cast, with Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Michael Pena, Naomie Harris and Helen Mirren all involved. The cast is by far the best part of the movie, giving decent performances, but they are by no means some of the best performances of their careers, and it’s such a shame that their talents aren’t utilised the best here. Smith is in drama mode here, you can tell that he’s trying, but the material doesn’t leave him anything to work with outside of just moping around and acting sad. While he’s at the centre of the movie, you really get to know the side characters more than him.

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There’s really nothing that special about the direction by David Frankel. It’s competently directed I guess but there’s not much to say about it. At times with the way its shot and especially the music, it’s like Collateral Beauty trying to get an emotional reaction out of the audience (and failing greatly).

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Collateral Beauty is truly astounding. While the cast are alright and it is directed okay, the script is a complete mess, with plenty of questionable choices throughout. By the end you’re not even sure what the point of it all was. I can’t recommend seeing it even as a movie to make fun of, but it’s generally harmless, if terrible.

 

Crash (2005) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence and offensive language
Cast:
Sandra Bullock as Jean Cabot
Don Cheadle as Det. Graham Waters
Matt Dillon as Sgt. John Ryan
Jennifer Esposito as Ria
Brendan Fraser as D.A. Rick Cabot
Terrence Howard as Cameron Thayer
Ludacris as Anthony
Thandie Newton as Christine Thayer
Michael Peña as Daniel Ruiz
Ryan Phillippe as Officer Tom Hansen
Larenz Tate as Peter Waters
Director: Paul Haggis

Writer-director Paul Haggis interweaves several connected stories about race, class, family and gender in Los Angeles in the aftermath of 9/11. Characters include a district attorney (Brendan Fraser) and his casually prejudiced wife (Sandra Bullock), dating police detectives Graham (Don Cheadle) and Ria (Jennifer Esposito), a victimized Middle Eastern store owner and a wealthy African-American couple (Terrence Dashon Howard, Thandie Newton) humiliated by a racist traffic cop (Matt Dillon).

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I had been meaning to do a review for Crash for a while. I remember hearing about the movie for the longest time, mainly with it being widely considered the worst pick for Best Picture at the Academy Awards and I had always wondered what about it sparked such a negative reaction outside of it beating out Brokeback Mountain. Having seen it, I can understand why it’s been receiving so much hate, and I have to say that it’s pretty well deserving of it. It’s more than that it’s just a somewhat okay movie that got more praise that it deserved, at best it’s well intended but clunky, at worst it’s horribly misguided and borderline offensive.

Crash is one of those award movies where a bunch of characters’ plotlines are all mixed together and crossover at different points. While there are some coincidences that I bought, other moments felt so ludicrous that it was hard to take things seriously (and the rest of the movie didn’t help that much). Most of the plotlines weren’t that particularly interesting, and the ones that were tended to be because the acting was great or something along those lines. Crash is very questionable in how it takes on racism, it’s very blatant and has no subtlety at all. Now it isn’t required to be subtle, but when it handles the topic poorly, the ham fisted feel to it make it feel worse. People don’t act like normal people, if they’re not stereotypes, they’re random characters meant to deliver a message through random character changes. I’ll use Sandra Bullock’s ‘arc’ as an example, she nearly gets robbed, which leads to her being racist against her caretakers, then she falls down some stairs, then the caretakers help her, leading to her not being racist (not even kidding, that’s her role in this movie). There are some admittedly pretty good individual scenes. For example, there’s a payoff scene between Matt Dillon and Thandie Newton which when seen out of context is great. However, in the context of the film, it just feels gross (more on that later). Some of the plotlines have very mixed messages. I guess they are at least tried to be fair with their treatment of people by ethnicities, so they’re showing good and bad people in each ethnicities, except for Asian people for whatever reason, they aren’t particularly portrayed very well here to say the least. Crash is also very questionable in some of its plotlines and decisions. There are way too many plotlines and characters to recall, but one of which is about the racist traffic cop played by Matt Dillon, and I can’t convey how poor some of these messages are without revealing things, if you don’t want to know about it before watching the movie, then skip ahead to the next paragraph. Long story short, Dillon pulls over a couple (Thandie Newton and Terrence Howard, and molests Newton’s character. A few scenes later he responds to a car crash, and it happens to be Newton’s character, and he saves her from the car before it explodes, which I guess is supposed to be him redeeming himself by actually doing his job. Make of that how you will.

Crash has an unbelievably large and talented cast, with the likes of Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Ludacris, Thandie Newton, Michael Pena, William Ficthner and many others all involved. The cast is by far the best part of the movie, most of whom deliver decent performances. The problem is that many of the characters don’t feel like real people, some of them being cartoonish, others being rather unlikable. Matt Dillon for example is pretty good in his role but it’s hard to think highly of his performance considering how the movie treats him, going from one end of the spectrum to the other, with very little time to actually show his ‘change’.

The direction by Paul Haggis is fine, nothing special. It’s shot well, edited well, the music was fine enough, there’s not much to really say about that honestly.

I found this movie personally really bad on its own, but even if you don’t compare it to Brokeback Mountain, I’m not sure how it got nominated for anything. There are a few scenes that are pretty good and some of the actors are able to give some good performances but that’s it. None of the characters feel like real people, the attempts of taking on racism is misguided at best, offensive at worst, and the end result is just. I won’t say not to watch it, I know that some people still like Crash, and you might end up liking it. Check it out for yourself and make up your own mind on it.

 

Ant Man and the Wasp (2018) Review

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Contains violence & coarse language
Cast:
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne/Wasp
Michael Peña as Luis
Walton Goggins as Sonny Burch
Bobby Cannavale as Jim Paxton
Judy Greer as Maggie
Tip “T.I.” Harris as Dave
David Dastmalchian as Kurt
Hannah John-Kamen as Ava Starr/Ghost
Abby Ryder Fortson as Cassie
Randall Park as Jimmy Woo
Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet van Dyne
Laurence Fishburne as Bill Foster
Michael Douglas as Hank Pym
Director: Peyton Reed

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is grappling with the consequences of his choices as both a superhero and a father. Approached by Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Lang must once again don the Ant-Man suit and fight alongside the Wasp. The urgent mission soon leads to secret revelations from the past as the dynamic duo finds itself in an epic battle against a powerful new enemy.

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I was somewhat interested in Ant Man and the Wasp. I have to admit I wasn’t super hyped for the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I actually liked the first Ant Man, it was a simple but effective enough comic book movie that was quite entertaining. However with it being released after the juggernaut and emotional chapter that was Infinity War, Ant Man and the Wasp just felt a little off to release months after. Also I had a feeling that the sequel would just be more of the same, fun but nothing really that new. Nonetheless I was interested. Ant Man and the Wasp surprisingly worked very well for what it is, which is a fun and entertaining comedy.

Something that is quite apparent is that this movie is very focussed on being funny and entertaining. It’s like Marvel wanted a lighter movie following Infinity War, that could possibly affect your thoughts on Ant Man and the Wasp, for better or for worse. A problem which could happen with some MCU films is that while the comedy works, often times it would interrupt some more dramatic or emotional scenes. However with Ant Man and the Wasp, there aren’t a ton of emotional scenes, the most is related to Scott Lang and his daughter and Hope van Dyne and Hank Pym with Pym’s wife (played by Michelle Pfeiffer). So there really weren’t many emotional scenes to ruin with comedy. This movie might as well be called a straight up comedy and while I would’ve preferred some more emotional depth to the movie, it does well at what it sets out to do. A criticism of the movie is that it doesn’t have great consequences or stakes, like with the first movie the stake here are very small and personal and I’m completely fine with that. Even so, you don’t ever feel a sense of urgency, you felt it slightly more in the first movie but here you always just know that everything is going to be alright. It’s also rather predictable, with very rare surprises. Really the biggest spoiler of the movie is the credit scenes, you can’t really spoil most of the movie. It’s a rather straightforward superhero movie that doesn’t really do anything particularly surprising, it’s goal was for it to be fun and hilarious and it achieved that. The movie is about 2 hours long and from start to finish I was quite entertained. There are a couple credits scenes, the first is about something that everyone will want to watch following Infinity War, the second is okay but not necessary to watch.

Paul Rudd is once again great as Scott Lang/Ant Man, he’s just so likable and funny, and a real underdog character. It’s very easy to root for him, Rudd’s casting was perfect. It’s been a few years since I’ve watched the first Ant Man for the first time, but I remember him being a little less goofy in the original movie. While he’s not completely stupid or anything, they do put him in more goofy scenarios or make him do some somewhat goofy things, it’s like they were doing that to try to make Evangeline Lilly’s character of The Wasp stand out more in comparison, which wasn’t necessary as she would’ve done that perfectly fine on her own. Lilly as the Wasp is one of the standouts of the movie, she gets to do a lot here and the movie definitely utilises her well. I didn’t buy the sorta romance between her and Scott in the first movie and the same is here. It’s not constantly done again and again to the point of annoyance but it can be distracting at times and doesn’t really work. Michael Douglas is once again great as Hank Pym, perfect casting, here he gets to do even more than in the original movie. Michael Pena like in the first movie is very funny and has some great scenes. Other actors like Laurence Fishburne do their part. The villains often have a chance of being one of the weaker parts in MCU movies (or comic book movies in general), however with Black Panther and Infinity War earlier this year providing great comic book villains in Killmonger and Thanos, the MCU seemed to be making some progress in regards to them. The main villain in Ant Man and the Wasp is Hannah John-Kamen as the character of Ghost, who has unique phasing abilities which can lead to some entertaining action scenes. Also she does have a different backstory and credit from other MCU villains, you can really understand why she does the things she does here. For once the whole “this comic book movie villain isn’t really a villain” description actually applies, it could be argued that Ghost is more just an antagonist than a villain. It seems that all the main MCU villains this year have in common is that they all have strong and defined motivations. Ghost unfortunately isn’t a top tier level villain in the MCU but she’s a reasonably strong second tier villain. The biggest problem is that aside from her powers, the backstory, motivation and the performance, there isn’t enough of her as a character. She has just about enough screentime but it would’ve been a little better if they showed a little more to the character. With that said, the character was actually done well, with her arc being treated well, consistent throughout and not just being a throwaway villain. Also Hannah does do a great job in her role. She fared much better than Walton Goggins, who served to be as a leader of generic disposable henchmen. Goggins really is wasted here as a generic villain. He and his henchmen seem to only be in this movie because the movie needed a large amount of villainous characters that the main characters can fight because the main villain herself didn’t have any. Honestly if they were somehow connected to Ghost, maybe they could’ve worked in some way.

Peyton Reed turns from the first movie to direct Ant Man and the Wasp. The thing that really stood out about the first Ant Man was the unique action scenes that included resizing (mostly shrinking). The sequel really leaned into that more and they got very creative with the action scenes. Other visual aspects such as Ghost’s phasing ability are done pretty well. The visuals can look pretty stunning at times, especially when it comes to the Quantum Realm, which plays a part in this movie. On a side note, like in the first movie there is a flashback scene which utilises de-aging technology and once again it works effectively.

Ant Man and the Wasp is not anywhere near the top tier of Marvel but it is quite entertaining. The cast do well in their roles, it’s visually stunning with some entertaining action scenes and the movie is so fun. It does have its fair share of issues but it achieves what it sets out to do for the most part. If you really liked the first Ant Man, I’m pretty sure that you’ll have a good time with Ant Man and the Wasp.

The Martian (2015) Review

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The Martian

Time: 144 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive Language
Cast:
Matt Damon as Mark Watney
Jessica Chastain as Melissa Lewis
Kristen Wiig as Annie Montrose
Jeff Daniels as Theodore “Teddy” Sanders
Michael Peña as Major Rick Martinez
Kate Mara as Beth Johanssen
Sean Bean as Mitch Henderson
Sebastian Stan as Dr. Chris Beck
Aksel Hennie as Dr. Alex Vogel
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Vincent Kapoor
Director: Ridley Scott

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible, rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return.

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I was interested in The Martian ever since I heard about it, mostly because of the cast, director and the praise about the book which I haven’t read. When it comes to director Ridley Scott, even though I liked Prometheus, most of his recent work hasn’t been that good (The Counsellor). The Martian is a return to form for him and it’s one of the best films of 2015. The Martian has excellent special effects, an interesting story and great acting from Matt Damon and the rest of the cast. After everything I’ve seen here, I want to check out the book.

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The film jumps between Mark Watney, the people on earth and Watney’s old crew who are now on a different mission. All of these stories I thought were well done but the most interesting and overall best one out of all of them is of course is the one involving Mark. One thing I liked about this movie is that it could’ve just been dark, gloomy and depressing but it’s actually kind of a funny movie. It also helps that Mark is quite a likable character, and we are on board with him as he tries to survive all of this. Also the fact that he is a competent character helped, which separated this movie from a lot of the other stranded survivor movies. I also don’t know if this film is scientifically accurate in the things that Mark does to stay alive but the film does make it all feel real, which is one of the highest praises I can give to a science fiction movie.

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Matt Damon is fantastic in this movie. In this sort of movie you need a lead actor who can hold so much of the story on his own and Damon does that and much more. Also like I said before, his character is very likable and it works to the film’s advantage as we are with him pretty much through the entire film. The supporting cast which consists of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Sean Bean and others add quite a lot to this movie. Every actor gets their chance to shine but it’s really Matt Damon’s show here.

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The special effects are excellent, The Martian overall is a beautiful looking movie. A lot of the environments on Mars looked so real. I might even go so far as to say that it was actually worth watching this movie in 3D, which is such a rare thing for me to do. The 3D really captured what it would be like to be on Mars, and of course it’s mainly to the credit of the movie but the 3D should really be mentioned as well.

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The Martian is definitely worth watching and is a return to form for Ridley Scott. I haven’t read the book that it was based on but after this movie, now I really want to. Matt Damon, the rest of the cast and Ridley Scott have made a really great Sci-Fi movie that I want to revisit. The Martian is definitely one of the best movies of the year and is definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already.

Ant Man (2015) Review

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Ant Man

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]Violence and Offensive Language
Cast:
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne
Corey Stoll as Darren Cross
Bobby Cannavale as Paxton
Michael Peña as Luis
Tip “T.I.” Harris as Dave
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon
Wood Harris as Gale
Judy Greer as Maggie
David Dastmalchian as Kurt
Michael Douglas as Hank Pym
Director: Peyton Reed

Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, con-man Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

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Ant Man has been receiving quite a lot of scepticism before its release. Not only was this concept hard to pull off but Edgar Wright’s separation from the project concerned many. Despite this, Ant Man manages to rise above all its potential problems and makes for a great and refreshing addition to the Marvel universe. Ant Man proves once again that Marvel can take a concept that is hard to pull off but actually manage to succeed in delivering.

Marvel's Ant-Man..Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..© Marvel 2014

The first thing you need to know is that Ant Man is not a big movie. Go into Ant Man as if you are seeing a heist movie as opposed to a save the world type of movies like Age of Ultron. It’s actually kind of refreshing, it can get a little tiring being bogged down by the large scope and stakes of some of the big movies. It is also a very funny movie, this might actually be the funniest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (either this or Guardians of the Galaxy). Although Edgar Wright has left the project, you can tell from a lot of the scenes, writing and dialogue his work. I would’ve liked to have seen what Wright had in mind for this film but it is still pretty good. Peyton Reed has directed this movie quite well, despite my doubts of his choice of helming this movie. The last thing to know is that Ant Man has 2 credit scenes, so be sure to stick around for them.

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Paul Rudd is great in this film, this is probably the best performance I’ve seen from him so far. He really transitioned into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with ease and I look forward to seeing more of him as Ant Man. Michael Douglas was perfect casting as Hank Pym, it is one of his best performances in a while. Evangeline Lilly was also great as Hank’s daughter, I could really sense a lot of history between her and Michael Douglas. Michael Pena was great and he provided a lot of great comic relief. Villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (for the most part) aren’t that good and while Darren Cross, the villain of this film isn’t that fleshed out, its actor’s Corey Stoll’s performance that makes him one of the better antagonists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Like with the script, you can definitely see Edgar Wright’s style here, like with its fast editing. The effects to show Ant Man shrinking look really great and the film really takes advantage of its opportunities to create some really great, entertaining and at times hilarious scenes. This film is actually worth watching in 3D, it really does enhance and make the experience much better and that’s not something I usually say about 3D movies. The climax of this film is very enjoyable and it gets very creative and entertaining.

I said in my anticipated movies of 2015 that if Marvel can pull off Ant Man and make it great, I’ll be pretty much sold on any movie that they make, no matter how ridiculous a premise it may sound. They have done that with Ant Man and have made it much more. Looking at this film (and the end credit scenes) I’m excited for Marvel’s next films. So far it looks like today, Marvel can do no wrong (well at least movies by in the Avengers universe).