Friday, March 4, 2016

Review: Eddie The Eagle

Dexter Fletcher's Eddie The Eagle is a mostly true re-telling of British ski jumper Eddie Edwards' unlikely rise to stardom at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary.  Having only attempted ski jumping for little over a year before the games, Edwards was not in contention for any medals but still won over the crowd with his determination and enthusiasm.  Kingsman: The Secret Service's Taron Egerton stars as Edwards, an awkward British 20-something who meets up with American ex-Olympian Bronson Perry (Hugh Jackman) and convinces him to be his coach.

The story of Edwards' drive to be an Olympian is remarkable and very interesting to watch. We get to see all the loopholes that existed which allowed a relative novice of the sport make it to the biggest stage in the world.  Thankfully Egerton and Jackman are perfectly cast for their roles and deliver a lot of laughs throughout that help liven up the story.  Egerton in particular just nails everything about Edwards from his facial expressions to his mannerisms and constant "thumbs-up" gestures.  Coming off a great star role in Kingsman, he's got a bright career ahead of him.  Jackman plays off the younger Egerton easily and playing a cranky has-been drunk is not much of an acting stretch from Jackman's Wolverine role.

Fletcher does a nice job of building tension and dread through most of Edwards' jumps.  Everything looks very authentic too down to the uniform colors and the focus on Finnish ski-jumping legend Matti Nyk√§nen.  The fact that I've actually heard of and remember Matti will tell you how much I enjoy and remember past Olympic games.  My biggest problem with the film is some of the effects are REALLY REALLY fake and noticeably bad.  Watching a terribly generated CGI skier fall after attempting a jump really takes you out of the movie altogether.  Some of the supporting cast (including a horny ski lodge owner) come off more as a nuisance as well, but the parents of Edwards were perfectly cast and the reunion of Mother/Father and son at the airport at the end of the film is pretty powerful.  Shouts to Christopher Walken for showing up in a very limited role as Perry's old coach.  

Eddie The Eagle is a solid sports movie that follows the traditional "never-give-up" narrative of most successful sports films.  This movie would have been just mediocre if it wasn't for the chemistry of the two leads.  I would probably normally give this 3.5 JRs but since I'm someone who remembered watching the events in Calgary in '88 I was a little more attached to the story.  Egerton is going to be a star and Jackman can do no wrong.  A fine 4 out of 5 JRs for the 2nd best movie of 2016 so-far.  Pretty sure this won't be staying on my 2016 Top Ten when all is said and done but it's definitely something to go and see in the theater, ESPECIALLY if you're a fan of the Olympics.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Review: Zoolander 2 / Oscar Recap

Not many of us were clamoring for a follow-up to 2001's cult hit Zoolander, but Director and star Ben Stiller and his "modeling" counterpart Owen Wilson decided to give it to us anyways.  Zoolander 2 picks up 15 years after the original where once again Derek Zoolander (Stiller) and Hansel (Wilson) run a muck in the stylized (and for some reason spy-like) world of high fashion.  What we get is more of the same and the feeling of beating a dead horse with a lot of forced humor that more often than not falls flat.

The gorgeous Penelope Cruz (who is ageless it seems) co-stars as a the head of a fashion Interpol and is involved with Zoolander and Hansel in the search for Zoolander's son who may or may not be "the chosen one" and a descedent from Steve (of Adam and Eve and Steve) who may fulfill the prophecy and may or may not have been kidnapped by the evil Mugato (Will Ferrell).  If you think this plot sounds awful, it pretty much is.  Not that I'm really asking for a story in this type of movie but it comes across as the kind of film that was rushed through development and that the writers were drafting as they were in the process of shooting the film.

Stiller and Wilson are descent enough and their chemistry is the basis for some of the jokes that work.  Unfortunately a lot of the jokes fall flat and there's just too much cameo bloat throughout the movie.  Susan Sarandon, Willie Nelson, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Katy Perry, Benedict Cumberbatch.  What DID work in the cameo department was Keifer Sutherland's appearance as a sort of scorned "lover" of Hansel's.  He really delivers his lines with a Jack Bauer flair.  Sutherland and Kristin Wiig (as the over-collagen-filled fashion entrepreneur Alexanya Atoz) end up stealing the show in all the scenes they are in.  Ferrell delivers some good laughs in a role it seems he was forced to reprise. Sadly, SNL's Kyle Mooney is just terrible as a slacker rising fashion star Don Atari.  I'm not really sure what he was doing in this movie and his part is a total throw away.

The moment I knew this movie really wasn't for me was when Stiller jumps on the back of Cruz and rides her as she swims across a sea in Italy.  It just felt that the scene was written a few minutes before they shot it.  However, if you enjoyed the original, you'll probably want to give this one a try.  Just don't expect much as it feels like this franchise is completely out of gas.  There are some laughs throughout but I can't really give this movie any more than 2 out of 5 JRs.

NOTE:  The Oscars were a mixed bag last night and we actually had a few surprises which was a nice change.  Mark Rylance won best supporting actor in a shock that left Sylvester Stallone without a golden statue.  I actually thought Ruffalo deserved it more, but the one-time front runner in this race took home the prize.  Sam Smith ended up trumping Lady Gaga in winning Best Song, despite a powerful performance from the Poker Face star that brought awareness to victims of campus rape.  It was great to see Leo DiCaprio finally win gold for his work in the Revenant.  But the best moment of the night for me came with the final award as Spotlight (despite a late charge by the Revenant which was the odds-on favorite leading up to Sunday) took home Best Picture.  For the first time since Return of the King in 2003, the Academy agreed with me in awarding Best Picture to the BEST MOVIE of 2015.