Posts Tagged ‘will smith

31
Aug
15

Not Everything Is In ‘Focus’

focus-2015-movie-poster

Starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro, Adrian Martinez, BD Wong and Gerald McRaney. Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.

Ah. The Art of the Con.

I would’ve said “The Con Is On” but that’s the tagline for a much better (and understated) movie, “Bowfinger (I need to pop that into my player again). Without delving too much into Hollywood History the older con artist with the younger con artist (regardless of sex) has been going on longer than I’ve been alive. According to my memory the last attempt at the male/female con artist rom-com (such as this is) was “Duplicity” starring Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Paul Giamatti, and Tom Wilkinson and which was a better movie. The pinnacle in my opinion would be the John McTiernan remake of “The Thomas Crowne Affair” with Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo, and Denis Leary (although Russo was not a con artist in training so much as an insurance fraud investigator). Here’s the rundown:

Enter Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith), a smooth-as-silk master con/ sociological geek who’s past is dubious at best but be certain he’s been in the game longer than he knew it was a game. He’s the kind of guy who can look you straight in the eyes while he has someone steal your wallet, get your information, and return your wallet without you knowing. One night up-and-comer Jess (Robbie) tries luring him into the “significant other catching you in the act” scheme (see also: “Derailed”). Nicky calls her out on it and leaves. Jess hunts Nicky down in order to learn the ways of the con and proves that she is not just eye-candy but a worthy addition to his team. Their big con comes during a championship football game where we learn of Nicky’s fatal flaw: gambling. After losing a massive amount and winning it back (from BD Wong) they walk away with a few cool million. Nicky gives Jess $80,000 and sends her on her way, disappearing forever. Or so it seems…

Cut to 3 years later in Buenos Aires. Nicky is hired by the head of a racing team to sell a less-than-effective engine design that will give him half-second lead per lap. Suspicious of the con artist is his assistant (Gerald McRaney) who is keeping a close eye on Nicky. Thrown into the mix yet again is Jess who made her way to the track and is considered a “race skank.” Nicky tries to make amends with Jess while scheming against the team he’s selling the “defective” design to while dancing around McRaney and the guy who hired him. However, is it all just a con within a con?

There are things the movie does well and points where you feel someone interjected or just lost sight of the original idea entirely. What works for the film is Nicky detailing how the con is mastered in such a fluid fashion that it’s like watching a magic trick unfold before your eyes. He’s able to spit out psychological/sociological perspectives on nuance and mannerisms that makes you wonder if there’s a college course on this stuff (probably). Robbie proves that she can be smart and beautiful, transcending the source material in a way that almost begs for a spin-off starring her alone. They do work well together.

The letdown of the film is that it feels that the traits of the characters were ditched to rush into a rom-com to make a quick buck. After the setups and the tryout and the championship it becomes Will Smith emoting for an hour and trying to get Robbie back. There’s almost no scene in which Smith is crying, even when he’s supposedly happy being with Robbie. What?!? Did he feel like he was selling his soul to do this film? Does he have a soul left after “After Earth?” And there’s a Gerald McRaney reveal/plot twist that makes you scratch your head as to “Why?” but you’ll find that out should you choose to check it out.

In the end “Focus” is no better nor worse than most other movies. Robbie doesn’t disappoint but Smith does a little. It’s a rainy-day, “nothin’ better on cable”-type movie. For those interested in the male/female con dynamic I suggest the aforementioned “Duplicity” or “Thomas Crowne Affair” remake (or maybe even the original). For those just wanting a different con movie I also suggest “9 Queens,” a foreign film involving a con over some misprinted stamps.

My grade: B-

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01
Jan
09

Movies on DVD Review: Hancock

hancock

 

A superhero mess of a movie.

Starring Will Smith, Justin Bateman, and Charlize Theron. Directed by Peter Berg.

I’m glad I didn’t shell out money on this one.

Story: $mith is Hancock, an alcoholic, washed-up amnesia-victimized superhero living in L.A. who causes more harm and damage than good. When he saves the life of PR professional Ray Embrey (Bateman), Embrey decides to return the favor by representing Hancock. Hancock begins to clean up his act, starting with voluntary jail time. When crime rises 40%, the city calls Hancock back into action. After, he finds out a secret from Ray’s wife Mary (Theron) that threatens the Embreys as well as himself.

The movie can be divided into three parts, as I will demonstrate:

Part One: Everything you saw in the trailer. Everything. If you saw it in the trailer or on a TV spot, it’s within the first third of the movie. $mith is a drunken superhero. $mith saves lives but at a giant cost. $mith saves Bateman. Theron stares at $mith weirdly.

Part Two: Hancock tries redeeming himself. This was the best part of the movie in my opinion. $mith tries being nicer. He goes to jail. He’s released and saves the day with minimal injuries. Everything is going well until…

Part Three: The ‘plot twist.’ In a way that only M. Night Shamma-lamma-ding-dong can appreciate, $mith finds that he’s over 3,000 years old and was married to Theron, who is also a superhero. They have a gigantic fight that goes from the mountains to the middle of L.A. Meanwhile, a group of cons escape prison. $mith ends up in the hospital Theron tells him that as long as they’re near each other, their powers diminish. The convicts find them and war breaks out in the hospital. Theron is shot and nears death, $mith stops the convicts and flies away. Eventually, everything gets better.

The biggest problem with this movie, aside from the structure, are the leaps in logic (what is commonly referred to as “suspension of disbelief”). In the Information Age, why couldn’t he find out who he was by going to the library? Wouldn’t there be public records, newspaper articles, something to remind him of who he was? Secondly, if Theron and $mith become mortal by being around one another, why did Theron leave only to “pretend” to be mortal around Ray and his kid?

But maybe the biggest crime is having a superhero movie without an arch-nemesis. Three convicts escape prison to go and kick Hancock while he’s down? What kind of bull is that? Yeah, I saw “Superman 2” and while Superman gave up his powers and was mortal he did it with conviction and he paid for the consequences; it was a choice he made, not a “by the way, check this out” convenient plot point. Wait a moment… “Superman 2” had three escaped convicts who took on the Man of Steel while he was mortal. Thieves! You screenwriting THIEVES!

And yes, the “plot twist” is an interesting concept, but in the movie it felt extremely B.S.

Sadly, $mith is working on the sequel to this.

My grade: C-

30
Dec
08

Remake Radar: Oldboy

oldboy

Welcome to the final Remake Radar for 2008.

“Oldboy” (2003)

Stars: Cho Min-sik, Yu Ji-tae, and Kang Hye-jeong.

Director:Park Chan-wook

Story: Dae-Su (Cho Min-sik) is abducted before his daughter’s birthday. He is taken to an unknown room and held there for 15 years. He’s released and given money, a cellphone, and expensive clothes. He falls for an attractive sushi chef (Kang Hye-jeong) on his path of vengeance, leading up to his captor Lee Woo-jin (Yu Ji-tae).

What do we know now?: Steven Spielberg and Will Smith are bringing it to a silver screen near you! Supposedly they are following the Manga series as opposed to the actual movie.