\

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews The Gentlemen

The Gentlemen, written and directed by Guy Ritchie, tells a complicated yarn of the interactions among many different players in the London crime scene, from low-level street toughs to the wealthy masterminds overseeing their empires.  Guy Ritchie came onto the scene with two fantastic crime films of this type: Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.  I love both of those films!  While I have enjoyed some of Mr. Ritchie’s big-budget Hollywood work (I really liked the first Sherlock Holmes film he made with Robert Downey, Jr.), I’ve been longing for Mr. Ritchie to return to this type of funny and scary fast-paced crime story that he does so well.  (2008’s RocknRolla was an attempt, but I thought that film was something of a miss.)

While I wouldn’t say that The Gentlemen equals Lock, Stock or Snatch, it’s a very enjoyable romp of a film!  Mr. Ritchie’s fast-paced style is back in full force, and the film is stuffed to overflowing with colorful characters and outrageous circumstances.  The story is somewhat confusing, but it works because of the playful joy with which the entire thing unfolds.  The film is full of fast-paced dialogue and whip-fast jokes.  The narrative is a pleasingly bizarre jumble, complicated by unreliable narrators (especially Hugh Grant’s reporter Fletcher, who tells the story of much of the film’s events) and Mr. Ritchie’s usual creative approach to storytelling.

The film’s cast of weird and dangerous characters is played by a fantastically talented ensemble.  Hugh Grant puts on a thick London accent to play Fletcher, the newspaper investigator who believes he’s discovered his ticket to fortune.  Matthew McConaughey plays Mickey Pearson, the suave and dangerous crime lord.  Charlie Hunnam plays Raymond Smith, Mickey’s right-hand-man and fixer.  Colin Farrell plays Coach, who mentors a group of young wannabe-criminals.  Henry Golding plays Dry Eye, a Chinese gangster looking to make a move on Mickey.  Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) plays Rosalind, Mickey’s wife and a formidable player in her own right.  Jeremy Strong (Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, Molly’s Game) plays Matthew, the wealthy businessman looking to purchase Mickey’s empire.  Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes, The World’s End, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) plays Big Dave, editor of a British tabloid with a grudge against Mickey.  And that’s just scratching the surface…!

There’s a lot of bad language and some juvenile humor in the film.  This isn’t a movie for everyone.  It’s been mostly savaged by the critics, but I’m not sure what they were looking for in this film.  This isn’t Citizen Kane.  Not every film need to be!  It’s a pleasingly diverting lark, one that I found to be funny and … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

I’m not sure why Hollywood keeps insisting on making King Arthur movies.  Is it the allure of a known name, in the way that studios chase after franchises and keep remaking and rebooting series with a recognizable title?  Personally, I have never been all that interested in the King Arthur mythos, and I have not actually seen too many Arthur movies.  The early trailers didn’t make this new version, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, look all that interesting to me.  But I enjoy the work of director Guy Ritchie, and though his films can be hit-or-miss, I am always intrigued to see what he has done with his latest project.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword creates a new mythology, casting the Arthur story as taking place in the midst of a conflict between mages (magicians) and humans.  Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana), is able to defeat the villainous mage Mordred.  But soon after, Uther and his wife are murdered by Uther’s brother Vortigern (Jude Law), who takes the crown.  Young Arthur escapes and is raised in a whorehouse in Londinium.  He grows up to be a savvy and tough young man, able to carve out a comfortable niche for himself within the low-level crime taking place in the city.  But when he crosses a group of Vikings under King Vortigern’s protection, he comes under the King’s scrutiny and Vortigern soon discovers Arthur’s true heritage.  Though Arthur initially wants nothing to do with any sort of struggle for the crown, he is soon drawn into the fight.

While I can’t recommend King Arthur: Legend of the Sword as a great movie, neither is it as bad as I had heard.  I found myself entertained by the film, and engaged with the story.  It’s a perfectly fine, fun film.  But neither is it a film that seems to have much reason for existing.  Did we need yet another version of the Arthur story?  What does this film add that we haven’t seen before in other films?  True, this fantasy-epic version of the Arthur story does incorporate a lot of weird new ideas, but while these ideas might be new for the Arthur story, they feel rather derivative of so many other fantasy films from recent years, most specifically Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.  (The giant elephants with villain fighters on their back from The Return of the King even make an appearance in King Arthur’s opening sequence!)

What is more genuinely new to the story is taking the fantastical and historical aspects of the story and wrapping it up in Guy Ritchie’s very modern, fast-talking, street-level-crime style of storytelling.  There are a few moments when Mr. … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

A new film by Guillermo del Toro is always a source of great excitement for me.  Add to that the idea of Mr. del Toro, a master of horror and fantasy, involved in a haunted house movie?  Delicious.  Crimson Peak has not been successful at the box office, which is a shame because it is a great film, original, clever, gorgeously made, and with some wonderful performances, particularly by the lead trio of Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, and Jessica Chastain.  While the film does not approach the quality of Mr. del Toro’s masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth, it’s nonetheless a terrific film and a wonderful story.

Crimson Peak.cropped

Young Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) has been raised by her businessman/architect father after the death of her mother when she was just a girl.  Edith dreams of being a writer, but has thus far found only rejection.  Though she has a friendship with a handsome young physician (Charlie Hunnam), she finds herself wooed by a visiting British aristocrat, Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who has come to America looking for Edith’s father to invest in his inventions.  But Sir Thomas and his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), are hiding a secret, one which will threaten Edith’s life when she joins Sir Thomas and Lucille back in their ancient mansion home, nicknamed Crimson Peak by the locals.

What I love most about the films of Guillermo del Toro is the way that each is an utterly original creation and a fully realized fantasy world.  Each film of Mr. del Toro’s is a peek (no pun intended) into an entirely original universe, with its own rules and unique characters and situations, into all of which Mr. del Toro digs deeply.  Each of his films benefits from an enormous amount of thought and care paid to the world-building of that particular story.  I love this feeling of stepping into a fully-realized universe of the film, one which exists beyond the boundaries of the particular story being told in that film.

Mr. del Toro is also a master at tying the fantastic elements of his stories to real, human characters, who are always the center of his films, no matter how wonderful the ghosts or monsters or other fantasy creations in the film are.  (As much as I enjoyed seeing Mr. del Toro operate with the first huge budget of his career with Pacific Rim, that film stumbled because it lacked Mr. del Toro’s usual sharp focus on character.)  Though Crimson Peak is also a decently-budgeted film (it is listed on-line at a budget of $55 million, which is a lot more money than many of Mr. del Toro’s earlier films but a tiny pittance compared to most big-budget blockbusters … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Pacific Rim!

The first feature film adaptation of Hellboy back in 2004 was my introduction to Guillermo del Toro.  I have subsequently watched all of his films (except Blade 2 — I just have absolutely no interest in those Wesley Snipes Blade films) and pretty much loved every one of them.  Through the magic of DVDs/blu-rays, it has been great fun to track Mr. del Toro’s progression from his smaller-scale Spanish films, Cronos (click here for my review) and The Devil’s Backbone (click here for my review) to a slightly larger budget and canvas with Hellboy, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (click here for my review), and the magnificent Pan’s Labyrinth, which right now stands tall as my very favorite of Mr. del Toro’s films.

But it’s been quite a while since Mr. Del Toro has helmed a new film.  He spent years developing The Hobbit films with Peter Jackson, only to withdraw from being their director when it seems that the films would never emerge from legal limbo.  He then turned to the development of what he described as a dream project, an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, but after about another year pursuing that project, it too fell through.  Ironically, the Peter Jackson-directed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey made it to theaters before Mr. del Toro’s new film.

That new film is Pacific Rim.  It is a movie that comes tantalizingly close to greatest, but unfortunately falls short.

Pacific Rim is a movie about giant monsters fighting giant robots.  If that premise excites you, then despite the film’s flaws, you are going to enjoy this movie — particularly if you see it on the largest movie theater screen possible.  If that premise sounds boring to you, then this is a movie you should skip.

Pacific Rim brings to big-budget life the Japanese genre of Kaiju — big monsters.  Godzilla would be the most famous Kailua, but there are many many Kaiju films featuring many many different Kaiju.  Clearly Guillermo del Toro was a fan, because what he  has done is create a love letter to this type of film, taking the b-movie “man in suit” concepts and translating them to big-budget action spectacle.  I have read a few breathless internet reviews of Pacific Rim that compare the scale of the world-building in the film to that of Star Wars.  I like Pacific Rim, but I think that’s way over the top.  However, Pacific Rim does remind me of Star Wars in the way that both films have taken old-fashioned, b-movie concepts, re-mixed them, and brought them to life using cutting-edge special effects.

In the world of Pacific Rim, a mysterious … [continued]