Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Late-Night Boredom Reviews: The Shallows, The Walk and The Night Before

Embed from Getty Images
Anyone who has experience with adult relationships knows that most couples are split into two, distinct classifications: The Early Bird and The Night Owl. In my own personal relationship, my beautiful girlfriend is The Early Bird, and I'm The Night Owl. That means when she passes out around 10 p.m., I'm usually awake watching movies. 

And I'm certain I'm not the only one. So "Late-Night Boredom Reviews," as always, are dedicated to all of the lovers who stay up looking for random films to watch. 

THE WALK (2015)

Embed from Getty Images

The Walk is based on the true story of Philippe Petit (Gordon-Levitt), a high-wire artist who decided it would be a good idea to walk from one Twin Tower to the other back in 1974. The idea alone is fascinating; but the film takes a little too long to catch its footing. 

Gordon-Levitt is game and energetic as Petit, but the primary problem with his casting is that we know he isn't a Frenchman. That fact was immediately distracting to me; but Gordon-Levitt is so persistent that, thankfully, the distraction fades a bit as the movie progresses. As a man, Petit is a somewhat annoying, one-trick pony with little regard for others, so it's often difficult to care about him throughout the expository first half of the film.

However, Robert Zemeckis' wizardry in special effects elevates the second half and produces a number of exhilarating highs. For our casual moviegoers, Zemeckis is best known for directing smash hits such as Back to the FutureForrest Gump and Cast Away. I would also recommend checking out his extraordinary effects in the Jodie Foster vehicle, Contact (1997). Once "The Walk" shifts away from Petit's background and toward the dogged pursuit of his dream, the momentum picks up and we begin to feel the magnitude of the stakes. 

Petit's plan -- which is often referred to as "The Coup" -- requires a handful of "accomplices," namely his girlfriend Annie (a likable Charlotte Le Bon), and a few of their friends. Of the supporting men, the only performance worth noting is that of James Badge Dale (whom you may recognize as the man who murdered Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed). Dale, who was intentionally bland in The Departed, showcases a whole 'nother side here: He's versatile, funny and injects necessary energy into an otherwise forgettable ensemble. 

In the end, the strength of "The Walk" is, well, the walk itself. WARNING: If you have a perfectly-reasonable fear of heights (like me), the final half-hour of this film may be extremely hard to stomach. Let's just say that I'm glad I saw this in my bedroom on Starz, as opposed to an IMAX 3-D theater. I probably would have passed out. The climax is something I haven't seen before; so that's a victory in itself. 

** JOHNNY FRO'S RATING:  7 out of 10 **


Embed from Getty Images

I'm generally a sucker for ensembles overstuffed with A-list stars, so it's a bit abnormal for me to review consecutive films that revolve around one, single lead. "JGL" in The Walk, and now the lovely Ms. Lively (or should we say, Mrs. Reynolds?) in The Shallows

This film paints itself into a weird little corner; essentially, if you've seen the trailer, then you've seen the movie. One could reasonably think, given that information, that The Shallows should instantaneously be dismissed as cookie-cutter crap. And yet, somehow, it isn't. It's actually quite entertaining. 

Story wise, The Shallows is exactly what you think it is: Nancy (Lively) wants to get away from the world, so she seeks out a secluded beach for some peaceful surfing. Unfortunately, there's nothing peaceful about a f--king vicious shark attack. Nancy ends up stranded at sea, bouncing between rocks and buoys in a spirited effort to stay alive long enough for someone to find her. 

Yes, it's Cast Away with Lively's sexy body replacing Tom Hanks' hairy chest. She even has a sidekick like Wilson; hers is a loyal, wounded bird. The bird, like Wilson, is both cute and likable. 

I don't usually support movies that blatantly borrow from others, but The Shallows does enough visually and conceptually to distinguish itself as a standalone work. The fun of the film is watching Nancy's ingenuity in staying one step ahead of the unbelievably massive shark, which looks real to me (great CGI). Collet-Serra gives us a gorgeous location and some fancy directorial flourishes, while Lively carries the action with aplomb. 

The CGI is clean, the action is pulse-pounding and the editing is economical. The Shallows is a fun film if you watch it for what it is. 

** JOHNNY FRO'S RATING:  7.5 out of 10 **


Embed from Getty Images

Within the first minute or two of The Night Before, I found myself thinking, this is going to be my kind of movie. We have Seth Rogen and JGL, two of my absolute favorite people in Hollywood, and a story that elicits some comparisons to my own personal life. The older I get, the more I realize that our favorite movies are those that speak to us at particular stages of our lives. 

But alas, The Night Before is not going to become one of my faves.  The setup is intriguing and well thought out -- three lifelong friends, Ethan (JGL), Isaac (Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) confront the end of a holiday tradition as they crossover into adulthood -- but the delivery just isn't there. The first 45 minutes or so are very funny, but Jonathan Levine (who wrote the successful Warm Bodies and directed the wonderful 50/50) starts running out of ideas around the midway point. 

The trio of leads exhibit completely believable chemistry, but their individual storylines burn out like Christmas Eve candles. We're waiting for Playstation 4 under the tree, and instead we get like, GameCube or Dreamcast. 

Nevertheless, The Night Before has its heart in the right place, and laughs are generated by Chris' "Social Media Game" and steroid use, as well as Isaac's unsuspected battle with a number of extremely potent drugs. Rogen and Mackie are the comic relief, as JGL holds down the emotional center of the story. 

Lizzy Caplan and Gordon-Levitt have a lovely ease to their romantic chemistry; the latter also paired well with fellow brunettes Zooey Deschanel (500 Days of Summer) and Anna Kendrick (50/50) in the past. This is a likable guy matched with equally likable women. It's a safe and logical Hollywood formula. 

The Night Before starts strong and ends pretty well, but stumbles through the middle innings. It's still funny at times and ultimately worth seeing. 

** JOHNNY FRO'S RATING:  7 out of 10 **

Many thanks for joining me for the Grand Opening of "Late-Night Boredom." Here's a list of possible reviews to come:

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
The Mexican (2001)
Atari: Game Over (2014)
Deadpool (2016)
Ghost World (2001)
Ratatouille (2007)
The Score (2001)
The Revenant (2015)
Untraceable (2008)
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
A Perfect Murder (1998)
Sisters (2015)
Backdraft (1991)
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

And many more...

No comments:

Post a Comment