Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016) - A Review

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016) almost manages to come close to the original's spontaneity. The following review contains spoilers:

The Plot: A sequel to Neighbors (2014), it follows the same dim-witted couple, and this time around, they have to outwit a sisterhood that has moved next door. 

Analysis: Despite the start being a bit boring, Neighbors 2 becomes more fun when Chloe Grace Moretz's character, Shelby, and her group of friends, move into the house next door to our main couple's abode. They are again played convincingly by Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne.  

There's no shortage on acting talent, though we have seen Moretz in more challenging roles, she does make for  a convincing freshman. The themes of minorities, same-sex marriages and adolescent depression are made fun of, but not with offense, rather with a postmodernist outlook of humor. Although, the frequent usage of the word "sexist", could have been taken down a notch.

Compared to the last entry, Neighbors 2 isn't that much different in terms of cinematic style. That's because Neighbors was a more original venture which showed both the couple, and the frat brothers, engaging gradually and understanding each other. But in this part two, we have the plot of the sorority sisters becoming a secondary storyline altogether.  

The afore-mentioned factor is really annoying when the movie starts, but as the running time progresses, you realize that Neighbors 2 is one of those flicks that gets better as the plot moves along. And it was also a treat for me as I dislike comedies that are much longer than 90 minutes, but at 91 minutes, it made for an overall entertaining experience.

Of course, this picture does try to replay old jokes and dialogues just to showcase it as a sequel, and it's a bit too generic in some sequences. But with Byrne's Kelly Radner giving a feminist speech very much near the ending, seeing old friends unite, and then new family members emerge, the movie has not forgotten its prequel's roots at knowing how to finish off a comedy in proper fashion.

And not to mention when Teddy Sanders (Zac Effron) mentions that the girls have become what they hate, now if that's not deep enough for you, then watch another comedy, because after all the indecency, the hidden messages of acceptance in the narrative still come out as strong.

The Verdict: Neighbors 2 doesn't have its forebear's brilliance, but it's still worth watching if you liked the first part, and also because it's superior to most of the farces that Hollywood keeps churning out year by year.

The Rating: 3 out of 4.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Now You See Me 2 (2016) - A Review

Now You See Me 2 (2016) is one of those sequels that makes you wonder if Hollywood will ever stop churning out part twos. The following review contains spoilers:

The Plot: In this part, the Four Horsemen finally resurface to the public, only to get involuntarily recruited by a tech genius to pull off an impossible heist.

The Analysis: To start with, not only was the movie's plot dumb, but every sequence seems disconnected to the central storyline. We have a starting scene of a flashback which leads to one of our main character's past dilemma. This forwards to Jesse Eisenberg's J. Daniel Atlas seeking out the Eye himself.

With these two points of offset, the viewer isn't sure which story to follow, which was not the case in the prequel. The first part was better in terms of incorporating mystery foremost then concluding with a twist ending. But with this second attempt, writer Ed Solomon showcased that he couldn't convince audiences of the bizarre idea that he and Peter Chiarelli came up with.

The characters aren't that intriguing either. Although, majority of the thespians playing them have given Oscar-worthy, and even Oscar-nominated, performances before. Morgan Freeman suited portraying Thaddeus Bradley but at his age he could play such roles in his sleep.

Literally, there's no shortage of talent here: Eisenberg is perfect as he was in the last film as Atlas, Mark Ruffalo is wasted as Agent Dylan (don't get me wrong, his acting was spot on), Daniel Radcliffe seemed like he was supposed to be on another set, Woody Harrelson played a dual act with finesse but ultimately it's just another double role, and Michael Caine appears out of nowhere like he just missed being in big-budget blockbusters.

But we have two saving graces for this one: Dave Franco as Jack Wilder, and Lizzy Caplan as Lula May. Both these figures brought a renewed fire onto the screen. I think Caplan served as a welcome addition to the ensemble. As Luna, she provided relevant comic relief when it was needed, and most of her antics diverted the attention from the other Horsemen's cheesy dialogues.

The direction by John M. Chu constantly made the film feel like it was a dance movie, with all the UV lights and such. So, I wasn't surprised at all to find that Chu helmed my favorite dance flick: Step Up 2 (2008). He also served as the director of G.I. Joe Retaliation (2013). Therefore, this exhibition came as a mix-up of two genres, comedy-action, but it played out more like a dance movie.

However, the afore-mentioned factor of playing out like a dance movie is not a negative one. Pacing is one of the foremost positive points for this picture. Even at a running time of 129 minutes, you never get bored with the swiftness of the shots, and if you're more into glamorous thrillers, then you won't even notice when the closure arrives.

There's one sequence I hold in highest regard and that was the laboratory scene where the heroic crew had to steal a chip, and they do this by pasting it on a card, which they pass along to each other. That sequence was the best one of Now You See Me 2. And I commend Mr. Chu for showcasing his directorial skills at that mark when I thought this movie comprised mostly of unoriginality.

Still, you can't help but get turned off by the serendipity of events that led to the happy ending for our protagonists. When the closing trick was revealed it came to me as no shocking revelation. Furthermore, the secondary storyline of Agent Dylan's grudge against Bradley was actually superior to the major scenario. And if the writer had made this the main plotline then the comprehensive experience would've been much better.

The Verdict: Overall, I recommend this movie to viewers watching strictly for entertainment purposes, but to me it was just another run-of-the-mill summer flick. In the end, Now You See Me 2 is all about what's on the surface with nothing much of value underneath.

The Rating: 1.5 out of 4. 

If you favor thrillers of better worth, then check out Masoom Thrillers #2:

It contains seven short-stories incorporating genres of vampire fiction to traditional tales of suspense. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Brooklyn (2015) - A Review

The Oscar-nominated Brooklyn (2015) is filled with emotional highs and narrative lows. Still, it manages to come across as a paramount entry in the romantic genre.

The Plot: Based on Colm Toblin's 2009 novel of the same name, it tells the story of a young Irish immigrant who finds love, when she travels to Brooklyn in the 1950s. However, things take a drastic course when her past catches up with her. 


The Good: The cinematography is sublime and nothing looks out of place whether it be the scenery of Ireland, or the developed America. Director John Crowley really knew when to use the shots, specifically close-ups of the main character Eilis. His talent is also showcased when he directs the intimate scenes between the primary couple.

The score is also pitch perfect. I thought the music really came in handy when there were no dialogues on the screen. Brooklyn is one of those rare romantic-dramas which has both picturesque mise-en-scene, and attractive thespians playing lovebirds.

The highlight of this flick is no doubt the acting. Saoirse Ronan leads the charge with her spectacular enactment of Eilis. So, it came as no surprise that she got nominated for Best Actress at the 88th Academy Awards. And she might've won if it hadn't been for Brie Larson with her incomparable performance in Room (2015). Ronan was undoubtedly the runner-up.

The supporting cast is also notable. Emory Cohen is lovable as the main male figure. Domnhall Gleeson and Julie Walters also provided memorable support. Emily Bett Rickards who plays Felicity on the TV series Arrow also had a secondary role which ironically suited her as she depicted an annoying gossip girl.

The second-best aspect of Brooklyn is the discourses between characters. I thought the humorous conversations going on where Eilis lived in Brooklyn were quite laughable. Also, the letter narration between Eilis and her sister was done extremely well in a literary sense. Not to mention the charming exchanges between the two leads where Cohen earned his chance in the spotlight with the portrayal of Eilis' love interest Tony Fiorello.

Furthermore, Brooklyn is not just some fancy tearjerker. It has a heart of its own and it lies within Eilis. She is the major focus throughout this spectacle. And I thought this was a needle in a cinematic haystack which showcased a woman so brave. It's all about the female individual's choices and this movie was more character-orientated than event-driven which also allowed to be a bit different from others in its category.

It all comes down to this question for Eilis: Should I return to Ireland or live my life here in the US? And not only is she asking herself this but the audience is equally indulged in her thoughts. And that is why screenwriter Nick Hornby earned the nod for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The Bad: Firstly, the picture was very predictable, even though most of its type are I just thought even the most tragic of incidents were forthcoming. In addition, the first hour was slow and uneventful yet the last 45-50 minutes were brilliantly filmed and written thus moving along at a swifter pace.
Thirdly, despite the venture being unique for representing a strong lady, there are similar films with this message. Therefore, the feature is not entirely original as in being one of a kind.

The Verdict: Brooklyn was the least-best contender for the 88th Best Picture. But after completing it, I reckon that it deserved to be selected, hands-down, for all three Awards. It might be foreseeable but the unparalleled acting by Ronan and Cohen, and the superbly-penned closure, make it a must-watch for dramatic enthusiasts.

The Rating: 3 out of 4. 

If you favor romantic movies then why not read poetry of the same genre? Check out Masoom Poetry:

It's a collection of 50 poems, that after reading, makes you want to fall in love again. Whether it be on the topic of heartbreak or a newly-found love, this poetry e-book is the epitome of love lost or found again.  

What Women Want (2000) - A Review

What Women Want (2000) doesn't live up to its title, but it's a helluva entertaining watch. This is my favorite Nancy Meyers flick, the second being The Intern (2015).

The plot follows Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson), a chauvinistic executive who after a freak accident, attains the power to read women's minds. This especially comes in handy when his new boss is a woman embodied brilliantly by Helen Hunt.

Acting is the best factor with Gibson and Hunt sharing undeniable chemistry, even before they realize it in the frames. The supporting cast of Alan Alda, Marisa Tomei and Ashley Johnson make for an intriguing addition.

The movie succeeds in being a one-of-a-kind rom-com. It's equally romantic as it is comic. The complete 2 hours are fun. And even though the title is biased, it still has plenty to offer for both genders.

One negative part was how it took the venture a little too long to build up. The introductory half hour is slow. But after this period there are a ton of laughs. When Nick gets his ability it's all downhill from there.

Nick's final speech is unforgettable. Mel Gibson has totally outdone himself with this portrayal. He's both handsome and charming - qualities modern cinematic Casanovas lack!

In the end, What Women Want doesn't necessarily answer that question for us men, but it gives us a unique outlook on what both sexes want. And it's one of the best romantic comedies out there.

The Rating: 3.5 out of 4. 

If you like romance with depth, then check out Masoom Poetry:

It's a collection of 50 romantic poems, that after reading, makes you want to fall in love again. Whether it be on the topic of heartbreak or a newly-found love, this poetry e-book is the epitome of love lost or found again. 

The Trust (2016): Another bad Nicolas Cage feature

The Trust (2016) is a heavily-clich├ęd crime film which does little to stand out from its low-budget contemporaries.

The Plot: It follows two cops who, while investigating a drug invasion, stumble upon unknown territory. 

The Good and The Bad: Honestly, one of the primary reasons I watched this is that I still hold Nicolas Cage in high regard as an actor. And he did not disappoint in that aspect. We don't have a prominent supporting cast here, so The Trust relies on Cage and Elijah Wood to carry the weight of the stereotypical script.

The initial 40 minutes are the highlight of this venture. This is due to the superb introduction of the lead stars. It's clear from the onset that both these individuals couldn't be any more distinct. And the humorous emphasis on this only makes it more fun to watch, if only the remaining 50 minutes were as equally entertaining.

The Trust suffers from being too typical. Trust me, the comedy implemented in the foremost half did succeed in giving this venture a lighter tone. But afterwards, when the mood becomes dark, The Trust loses its only glimmer of hope, and that was being unique from others in its genre.

Acting-wise, Cage and Wood made a surprisingly awesome team. Their different takes on the characters really did complement their on-screen friendship. So, this exhibition came as even more of a disappointment to see thespians who are not the most talked-about performers worldwide, who gave it their all for a lost cause.

Another negative factor was the monotony. You can guess the conclusion after one hour has passed. Although, I have to mention I was shocked that The Brewer Brothers' direction did allow for unpredictability, but again only for the opening 40 minutes.

The Verdict: The Trust starts off brilliantly and provides moments for Cage to show off his signature theatrics, but ultimately it fails in the third act. In my opinion, at a running time of approximately 90 minutes or more, this feature would have worked better as a short showcase.

The Rating: 1.5 out of 4. 

If you prefer thrillers, albeit, better ones than the afore-mentioned movie, then check out Masoom Thrillers #2:

It contains seven short-stories incorporating genres of vampire fiction to traditional tales of suspense.