The Hustle and all the images you see in this review are owned by United Artists Releasing and MGM
Directed by Chris Addison
Whether or not it’s a particularly successful tactic (particularly when the audience for blockbusters is only growing larger and larger), counter programming is still a thing in the industry and I’d wager that it’s the main reason this movie is being sandwiched between so many big named blockbusters. I certainly thought the trailers for this looked quite good and I like the casting quite a bit, but being put in theaters now when Avengers and Detective Pikachu are still tearing it up at the box office is either a sign of great insight for the studios to fill a gap in the viewing audience or total hubris that will spell doom for what seems to be a fun little crime film. Is this film a big time hustler elbowing its way to the forefront against such big titans of the cinema, or is this a small time crook that’s way in over its head? Let’s find out!!
Penny Rust (Rebel Wilson) is a con artist working in the city running scams on dating sites which are actually quite effective, but end up garnering a significant amount of heat on her and so she’s forced to take her game elsewhere. Said elsewhere turns out to be the stomping grounds of another con artist Josephine Chesterfield (Anne Hathaway) who’s set up her base of operations in a ritzy French tourist trap which is never short of gullible dudes just itching to be separated from their valuables, but a wild card like Penny could throw a wrench her in perfectly laid out plans if left to her own devices. Initially she tries to fool her into leaving of her own accord, but by her own wits and a bit of luck, Penny becomes wise to Josephine’s game and wants in on the action; a proposition Josephine is initially resistant towards but figures that keeping Penny happy and useful is better than risking her going to the authorities with what she now knows. At first it seems to be going just fine as Penny trains in the arts of manipulation with the help of Josephine’s assistants Brigitte and Alfred (Ingrid Oliver and Nicholas Woodeson), and they even pull of this brilliant little scheme that’s never really come together until Penny entered the picture, but all is not sunshine and roses in the world of professional scamming, and so the student must eventually face the master in a game of wits, ingenuity, and even a bit of outright cruelty, to prove once and for all if Penny’s brash resourcefulness is truly a match for Josephine’s refined expertise. Will Penny and Josephine’s ultimate challenge bring out the best in both of them, or will they lose everything to their overblown egos? Can they ever come to a mutual understanding given how different their backgrounds are and how cutthroat their line of work is? Is it just me, or is one of them at a distinct advantage considering they’ve already played a diamond thief in a previous movie, and that’s ASIDE from them already having played Catwoman!
Alright everyone! Now that we’ve had our fun with the GOOD list, it’s time to put on some work pants as we start wading through the unimaginable dreck that was yet another “fun” aspect of the abysmal year that we all had to suffer through. You know what though? Most of us made it through to the other side, so if looking back at the year that couldn’t beat us and having a laugh (or one last bitter tirade) at the pathetic excuses for entertainment that made daily life just a little bit worse, well I think we all deserved it, don’t you?
Anyway, let’s not beat around the bush any longer! WE’RE DIVING RIGHT IN!!
Dishonorable Mentions: Death Note & Bright
Since I didn’t even bother trying to watch another Adam Sandler movie this year, this dubious distinction goes to two OTHER Netflix features; albeit it for very different reasons. The truth of the matter is, I didn’t particularly mind either of these films as I think they had some good ideas buried within their mediocre (and cheap looking) execution with Death Note having an interestingly different take on its main character (a whiny little punk with issues of inadequacy instead a megalomaniacal genius) and Bright having an ALRIGHT set up for what is essentially a weaker version of 16 Blocks. That said… yeah, these films are REALLY flawed and in glaringly offensive ways. As much as I like the idea of taking some of the pomp and circumstance out of Death Note and reframing Light Yagami to be a less foreboding figure, I don’t see why that necessitated him to be white since they never play with that change in his identity within the text of the film. There could have been a component of White Privilege to the story (especially with L being black), but that seems to have never been the intent on the part of the filmmakers who simply seemed to associate AMERICAN REMAKE with WHITE AS DEFAULT. Similarly, the half-baked and ham fisted social commentary in the script for Bright creates one of the most cringe inducing screenplays of the year which has Orcs standing in for Black People in a world that still has Black People, and it even finds an excuse to get Will Smith to say “Fairy Lives Don’t Matter” before beating said fairy to death. Sure, the movie picks up once it gets away from its proudly ignorant views on race and becomes a straight up chase film with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton (who’s under a decent enough make up job), but that’s hardly enough to excuse everything that it gets wrong in the process. Now I don’t want this to come across as Netflix bashing because they DO put out quite a bit of decent content as I’ve heard good things about First They Killed My Father, Beast of No Nation, even The Babysitter, and while it wasn’t my favorite King Adaptation this year I thought Gerald’s Game was pretty good too. That said, they’ve had quite a few stumbles over the years, pretty much starting with their awful Adam Sandler deal, and these two movies are just further examples of their awkward steps towards becoming a media empire of their own; something they’ll need to keep working on now that Disney is gonna own everything else in the world and will eventually come out with their own streaming service to try and crush them. If Netflix wants a chance to survive the Disney/Fox merger, they’ll need to avoid having clunkers like this clogging up their service.
Fist Fight and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Richie Keen
First rule of Fist Fight? Make as many references as possible! Hey, I’m not the one who said FUCK THE POLICE in the red band trailer, alright? That’s ALL on Ice Cube! Corny lines aside though, I’ve been cautiously optimistic about this film; mostly because of the cast as I LOVE Charlie Day from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Ice Cube can be pretty compelling when given the right material. I mean sure, it IS February which usually doesn’t fare much better than January as far as movies, and while it’s been pretty mediocre since the start of 2017, there have been a few bright spots here and there. Can this movie about two dudes beating the crap out of each other for contrived reasons be one of the exceptions? Hell, we let John Wick get away with that, right? Let’s find out!!
The movie takes place on the last day of high school where all the seniors are pulling hilarious pranks like hanging vulgar signs on the building, stealing the principal’s car, and mowing a penis into the track field. Needless to say that none of the teachers are too thrilled to be here (and yet for some reason aren’t calling the cops) which includes English teacher Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) and History teacher Ron Strickland (Ice Cube). Well… maybe less so Mr. Strickland who seems to come at today with the same FUCK YOU attitude that he would every other day as he’s the only teacher who can SORT OF keep the kids in line; mainly by threatening to beat the shit out of them. Of course, a guy with these kinds of anger management issues is bound to do something stupid, and that happens on this fateful day where one kid pisses him of and he takes a fucking fire axe to his desk; in full view of the class as well as Mr. Campbell who just so happened to be around during the incident. Under threat of both of them being fired by Principal Tyler (Dean Norris), Mr. Campbell rats on Mr. Strickland who in all fairness endangered the lives of SEVERAL people and probably shouldn’t be in a god damn school in the first place if this is how he’s gonna act. Mr. Strickland doesn’t quite see things that way however, and like a REAL man decides that he’s gonna punch his way out of this, so he challenges Mr. Campbell to a fight after school which the entire town hears about in a matter of minutes. Hashtag Teacher Fight! Can Mr. Campbell find a way out of this ass beating, or is he gonna get his face smooshed in by a guy twice as big as him? Does Mr. Strickland have ulterior motives for starting this fight in the first place? Can… can someone tell who thought this was a good idea in 2017? Please?
Secret in Their Eyes and all the images you see in this review are owned by STX Entertainment
Directed by Billy Ray
Does anyone even remember that this movie was supposed to come out? I remember seeing trailers a LONG time ago but then they just stopped and I haven’t seen one for this in probably four or five months. Did the studio lose faith in it despite its all-star cast (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, and Julia Roberts just to name a few)? It seems that the Studio is angling for this to be an Oscar type film along the lines of Michael Clayton or LA Confidential based on the trailers we initially got, but maybe something happened between then and now that cause the studio to lose faith in this film’s ability to reach the main stream audience. Is this a solid thriller that will generate some positive buzz through word of mouth, or are we looking at something that the studio was desperate to bury? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) as he tries to solve the murder of the daughter of his friend Jess (Julia Roberts). It’s not going all that well considering he’s just getting a breakthrough after thirteen years of diligent work, but at least he has something he can bring to the district attorney Claire (Nicole Kidman). Now this is where things start to break down so I’ll try to get this story across as best as possible. Thirteen years ago, Ray was an FBI agent that got transferred to a Los Angeles after 9/11 with a whole bunch of other agents because everyone thought that was where the next attack would be. One of those agents is Jess who becomes his partner and they become friends along with Bumpy Willis (Dean Norris basically reprising his role as Hank Schrader to the point that they eventually give the dude a cane) and the new Assistant District Attorney Claire. One day, they find Jess’s daughter dead and bleached in a dumpster outside of a Mosque they’re investigating and it completely destroys Jess. They have a suspect in some kid named Marzin (Joe Cole) that they’re DAMN sure did it but due to some extenuating circumstances, the head of the LA FBI office (Alfred Molina) doesn’t want to pursue this further. The kid is actually an informant for the office asshole Reg Seifert (Michael Kelly who’s kind of an American Andrew Scott only less awesome) who is spilling secrets on the mosque which might be harboring a terrorist cell. That and a general lack of hard evidence means he gets away with the murder and then just disappears soon after.