By Mike DeAngelo
There aren’t any big studio films dropping this week, so let’s take a look at what’s streaming online! These are mini reviews of films I’ve streamed recently. Sadly, as you’ll see, I haven’t had the best luck lately. With that in mind, I left some alternate recommendations near the bottom. Enjoy!
Director: Stephen Frears
Writers: John Hodge
Stars: Ben Foster, Chris O'Dowd, Guillaume Canet
Basic Plot: Based on the book of the same name, The Program follows Lance Armstrong’s rise and fall in the world of professional cycling through the lens of an Irish sports writer who suspects Lance isn’t exactly playing by the rules.
When the credits roll on The Program, you’re left sitting with mixed feelings. On one hand, you have another outstanding performance from the underrated Ben Foster. On the other hand, you have a movie the feels overall rushed and sloppy. Ultimately, the blame rests on the shoulders of the writer (John Hodge – known for Trainspotting) and the director (Stephen Frears –who directed one of my personal favorites, High Fidelity), who should have realized that a film like this needed better pacing and more time spent with the characters. Instead we get a film that feels like we’re reading the cliff notes of a better book. Speaking as someone who hasn’t read the book to fill in the gaps, it’s an extremely underwhelming experience.
OVERALL RATING: 5/10 Roids
Get A Job
Director: Dylan Kidd
Writers: Kyle Pennekamp & Scott Turpel
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Alison Brie, Miles Teller
Basic Plot: A group of millennials attempt to navigate the job market after graduating college.
Considering the massively talented cast they managed to wrangle for this movie (Anna Kendrick, Alison Brie, Miles Teller, Bryan Cranston, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jon Cho, etc, etc), it should/could have been so much better. The basic skeleton of this movie could have been intriguing, especially considering the job market these days. Sadly, we get a cliché ridden, cookie cutter coming-of-age tale that we’ve seen done better a million times before. This type of movie was popular in the late 90’s and early 00’s, but in 2016, it feels cheap, predictable, and moronic. The biggest problem I have with this movie is that it feels like a critique of millennials written by someone who isn’t a millennial. Is this really how stupid and vain you this we are?
The main character (played by Miles Teller) is a selfish, unprofessional douche who really doesn’t do anything special and expects the perfect job to come to him – even worse, in the end, it does. Somehow, his girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) likes him. The only reason I sat through the whole thing is because I love the actors in the movie – outside of Bryan Cranston, no one shows up much.
OVERALL RATING: 4/10 Jobless Millennials
Kill Your Friends
Director: Owen Harris
Writer: John Niven
Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Thomas Conroy, James Corden
Basic Plot: A British A&R rep attempts to work his way up the ladder at his label by any means necessary.
Many people have been comparing this film to the cult favorite American Psycho – I can absolutely see where that comes from; However, instead of the 80’s New York cut-throat investment world, we get the 90’s London cut-throat record label industry. Aside from that and a few murders, the comparisons don’t really line up. In American Psycho, you’re treated to the fascinating, unhinged performance of Christian Bale. Sadly, Nicholas Hoult, while talented, is no Christian Bale. Also, his character isn’t psychotic, he’s just an asshole that’s willing to do anything to work his way up the ladder. Movies like this work because they’re constructed in such a way that you can’t help but root for the despicable lead – sadly, with Kill Your Friends, you just pray that it ends quickly.
OVERALL RATING: 5/10 Murderous Music Men
Director: Sean Anders
Writers: Brian Burns & Sean Anders
Stars: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini
Basic Plot: A step-father’s world is turned upside down when his step-kid’s real father comes back into the picture.
I like Will Ferrell. There’s something that’s just undeniably funny about the man. With that said, he still has his share of bad films. His comedies are at their best when he’s able unleash his inner lovable idiot (Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Zoolander, A Night at the Roxbury, Old School, Step Brothers, The Other Guys, Elf). Don’t get me wrong, there are some misfires when he’s done this – I’m looking at you Semi-Pro, Land of the Lost, Kicking & Screaming, The Campaign, etc.
Daddy’s Home doesn’t play to Will’s goofy strengths – most of the movie Will has to play it too straight for the laughs to be fast & loose. This essentially neuters the entire movie, as Mark Wahlberg certainly can’t carry the comedic weight. Yes, Will does get some wild moments as things get more competitive between Mark & himself, but they’re more uncomfortable than funny.
I’ve heard in interviews that they wanted to make this more of a family film, but it’s too full of foul language and adult problems to really be marketed to them. It may have been interesting if you switched Will and Mark’s roles. As is, it feels very bland, uncomfortable, and unfunny. Here’s to hoping that Will is able to “unleash the beast” in his next movie.
OVERALL RATING: 4/10 Step-Dads
Director: Paul McGuigan
Writers: Max Landis
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Jessica Brown Findlay
Basic Plot: An origin story to the Frankenstein tale we all know and love seen from Igor’s perspective.
In an attempt to tell a “Batman Begins-esque” origin to Frankenstein in the style of the new Sherlock Holmes films, director Paul McGuigan and writer Max Landis lose what made the story popular for all of these years. Most things in this movie fail miserably. The writing and direction is bland, the characters aren’t particularly likable, the Frankenstein story is barely there, and Victor himself is horribly miscast. I like James McAvoy, but his version of Victor Frankenstein is terrible. I don’t want my Dr. Frankenstein to be a suave, eccentric playboy – it’s cheap and feels horribly out of place within the context of the original story. The character doesn’t come across as a brilliant mad-scientist. He comes across as a spoiled rich kid that has more luck than useful scientific knowledge – and some massive daddy issues.
I commend Daniel Radcliffe for giving his all to the role of Igor – he’s one of the only reasons that I sat through the damn thing. There are moments where you do feel for him, but then, inevitably, James ruins everything.
It’s my understanding that Universal intends on launching their own interconnected universe of their classic monsters (Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolfman, and Frankenstein). Let’s hope that they see Victor Frankenstein as a template for what not to do.
OVERALL RATING: 4/10 Body Parts
The Night Before
Director: Jonathan Levine
Writers: Jonathan Levine & Kyle Hunter
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, Jillian Bell
Basic Plot: Three friends give their Christmas Eve partying tradition one last epic hurrah.
You might be asking yourself by this point in the list if I’ve liked anything that I caught on VOD recently. While there certainly have been a lot of misses lately, I’m happy to say that The Night Before is not one of them. Jonathan Levine reteams with his 50/50 stars, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Seth Rogen (plus Anthony Mackie!), to create a filthy, adult-leaning, and surprisingly heartfelt Holiday film.
While it’s not likely to become a movie that families can watch together every year due to its use of filthy language, drugs, and sex, The Night Before may just become a niche/cult holiday tradition that adults can re-watch on their own.
All of the stars get their moment to shine – most notably, Rogen, who plays a husband let of his leash one last time before his first child is born – and with a handful of drugs provided by his loving wife (Jillian Bell). Michael Shannon also makes a surprise appearance as the gang’s old drug dealer. A role he was seemingly born to play.
Yes, the movie is a bit of a predictable boys club, but it has the right mix of heart, laughs, and James Franco to make you overlook any shortcomings. If you’re searching for a fun, dirty, and relatively harmless comedy to throw on, look no further!
OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10 Glasses of Holiday Spirits
Director: Ericson Core
Writers: Kurt Wimmer, Rick King, & W. Peter Iliff
Stars: Edgar Ramirez, Luke Bracey, Ray Winstone
Basic Plot: A remake of the 1991 action classic in which a young FBI agent is tasked to bring down a team responsible for a recent string of unique heists.
When I first heard Point Break was being remade, I, like many others, wondered if it was completely necessary as The Fast and the Furious movies started out as Point Break with cars instead of surf boards and are still going today. Then again, this is “Big Studio Hollywood” we’re talking about here– and they’ve been out of good original ideas for a long time now.
So, did it at least live up to the low bar set by the original film and the subsequent rip-offs? Not even close. The new Point Break is a movie built for and around its largely practical action set-pieces. While some of them are very intricate and impressive, the focus on character and basic plot is almost non-existent – even by Hollywood action movie standards. You’re given scenes in between action pieces that merely use the characters to set up the next big action scene. In doing this, the action scenes become increasingly less effective and two-dimensional. Then, the movie just awkwardly ends, leaving the audience more confused than entertained.
This should be used in film classes as a shining example of how to not make an effective action movie. It’s that damn bad and I won’t waste any more time on it.
OVERALL RATING: 1/10 Southern California Accents
The Secret in Their Eyes
Director: Billy Ray
Writers: Billy Ray & Juan José Campanella
Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts
Basic Plot: A tight-knit team of rising investigators, along with their supervisor, is suddenly torn apart when they discover that one of their own teenage daughters has been brutally murdered.
I never saw El Secreto de Sus Ojos, the Spanish language film that this is based on, but I get the strong feeling that I’d like that version a lot more. That’s not to say The Secret in Their Eyes is a bad film. In fact, I was fairly entertained throughout; however, there is a sense that Billy Ray is desperately trying to recapture the magic of something that has come before. The results are fairly mixed.
The cast does a perfectly respectable job (I’ll watch anything Chiwetel Ejiofor is in) and the story is interesting and dark enough to be more than a glorified CSI/Law & Order/Criminal Minds episode. Regardless, I will likely not remember or want to re-watch this one again, as it suffers from something that director/writer Billy Ray’s films often suffer from – extreme blandness.
If you’re a big fan of dark Hollywood mystery thrillers, The Secret in Their Eyes may be worth a once through. If not, your time may be best spent trying something else.
OVERALL RATING: 6/10 Dimly Lit Dead Bodies
Other Streaming Recommendations:
Seeing as I wouldn't recommend most of those flicks, it might be best to check out some of the big Academy Awards nominees this weekend: my favorites are Sicario, The Revenant, Brooklyn, The Martian, Room, Mad Max: Fury Road & Spotlight. Also, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens drops on VOD today, so you can’t go wrong there!