FlixChatter Review: The Accountant (2016)

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It’s kind of an interesting choice for Ben Affleck to do this movie in the same year as Batman V Superman. Some people call this one as an unconventional superhero movie about an autistic accountant, and it wouldn’t be wrong as there’s certainly traces of Bruce Wayne in the film protagonist, Christian Wolff. Heck even his name sounds like a superhero alter-ego, though I whisper to my hubby during the movie ‘Bruce Wayne wouldn’t be caught dead in a Ford F-150!

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From the time Christian was a boy, he’s a whiz with numbers. The movie opens with him working on a puzzle at a child psychiatric office with his parents and his younger brother. There’s constant flashback on him being taught by his military dad, and the film makes a point to contrast him with his more ‘normal’ sibling. Though he works at a small town CPA office in a nondescript strip mall, of course our protagonist is more than meets the eye. As it turns out, he’s been offering freelance services to some of the world’s most dangerous criminal organizations. The head of the Treasury Department’s crime unit, Ray King (J.K. Simmons), has been investigating Christian for some time and with the help of his new protégé Marybeth (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), he’s closing in on him.

accountant_simmons_robinson One of the most amusing moments is when Christian takes on a job with a robotics company where he meets Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), an accounting clerk who discovered a discrepancy involving millions of dollars. Naturally the accounting whiz only needs a single night 15-years worth of bookkeeping to figure out the exact sum. Kendrick’s vivacious personality is a fun contrast to Affleck’s forlorn and subdued’s character, though the supposed ‘romance’ between the two can only be described as awkward. Yes Christian is supposed to be socially impaired but the scene comes across as completely weird that it takes me out of the movie. Too bad Kendrick’s role is actually pretty small here as the movie could use a bit more of her dynamic energy.

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The concept is actually interesting but the overwrought script by Bill Dubuque (who also wrote the tedious The Judge) packed way too much into a 2-hour film. There are countless flashbacks that become repetitive real fast, especially when practically every single character gets a backstory. The scene when King talked about his encounter with Christian could’ve easily been trimmed down considerably as it threatens to grind the movie to a halt. The way Marybeth investigates Christian also plays out like an episode of Law & Order or CSI. This is the second film from Gavin O’Connor I saw, the first time being Warrior which I think is an excellent drama also involving a pair of brothers. Can’t say I’m impressed with his work here, it made me think if the film would’ve been better had Affleck himself had directed this.

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The third act is when we get Batfleck vs. Punisher, as Jon Bernthal played the head of security of the company Bat… er Christian is hellbent on taking down. Somehow it escaped me that Affleck has played Daredevil once too, so the fight scene at the end is also Daredevil vs. Punisher! Ok so as a superhero fan, the casting makes the mano a mano more amusing than it otherwise would, but the twist might actually harken memories from BVS, though it’s not quite as insipid as the ‘Martha’ fiasco. I just think it’s so on-the-nose that it took the thrill of finding out the twist and it’s actually quite cringe-worthy the more you think about it. I do like Bernthal here though, no doubt he’s great in action scenes but his character is actually not devoid of personality. At least he gets his chance to shine briefly unlike John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor whose talents are largely wasted.

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Overall I feel that this movie has a lot of potential that’s not fully realized. Just as some teachers would say to students that they’re not applying themselves, I feel the same about this movie. Despite all that clutter and sluggish pacing, there are some entertaining moments, hence my generous rating. That scene where we first see Christian in action at a farmhouse involving two hired goons is probably my favorite part in the movie. I guess I have a thing for nerdy superhero and this is practically Affleck’s version of Clark Kent. I read somewhere that Warner Bros wants to create a franchise out of this movie. Meh, that’d be so ill-advised given how incredibly bloated the superhero genre has been, and really, we already have Affleck playing a sullen, wealthy, bad-ass superhero who clearly has issues.

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Have you seen ‘The Accountant’? Well what did you think?

MARCH Viewing Recap + Films I’m looking forward to in April

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Well it’s technically Spring and the sun is shining outside, but Winter hasn’t quite left us just yet. Temps is only in the 40s so we can’t exactly plant those Petunias just yet. Heck, we might even still get snow later tonight! But hey, it IS April so I’m gonna pretend Spring IS here.

So here are movies I saw this month:

New-to-me Movies

(in order of viewing)

I’ve reviewed Shaun the Sheep, London Has Fallen, Eye in the Sky, Crouching Tiger 2, Batman V Superman and Before We Go. I’ve pretty much summed up my thoughts on Knight of Cups here. I should have my review of Suite Française later this month as I still haven’t got around to reviewing any of Sam Riley movies [sigh]. I did do a special Music Break post dedicated to Control though. As for Suite Française, lets just say the UK dvd I bought from Amazon (which I had to convert into Region 1 so I can actually play it) was well worth the purchase!

On the TV front, I finished the entire season of Daredevil in just one week! That is quite a record as normally my hubby and I take our time with TV shows. Well, suffice to say Daredevil season 2 was great, I’d say it’s on par with season 1, with an even better adversary in The Punisher. I’ll definitely do a top 10 post for it, just like I did with Jessica Jones.

Rewatches

Yes of course I rewatched a few of Sam Riley films. On the Road and Control are the kind of films I could watch a few times a year, even just to indulge in Sam’s performance. I only have one more of his feature films to watch, which is a British thriller 13 (see trailer below) which has a stellar ensemble cast (Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Ray Winstone, Michael Shannon, etc.) which I plan to watch next week. After that I’ll be done with his entire filmography!


Of course there’s always time for period dramas in my life, so I rewatched BBC’s Persuasion just a few days ago. Apart from the awkward kissing scene, I love this adaptation. Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen story after Sense & Sensibility. Now, A Promise is a very flawed drama, but for some reason I enjoyed it… there’s something about the way Richard Madden pines for Rebecca Hall that I find so irresistible.

Currently reading

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I’ve been devouring this excellent novel by Len Deighton, which is an alternative history narrative set in a Nazi-occupied Britain, centered on a Scotland Yard detective Douglas Archer. BBC is currently adapting SS-GB as a five-part miniseries with my dahling Sam Riley as the protagonist Archer (yay!) I’ll be blogging about this project specifically, but let’s just say the book is a page-turner, a MUST for all spy fans.

MOVIE SERIES OF THE MONTH

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I actually don’t really have a favorite new-to-me film I saw this month. It would’ve probably be A Streetcar Named Desire, but since I was unable to watch it last week for the Blindspot series, I’m putting down Daredevil Season 2 as the best thing I watched in March. I can’t wait to see the standalone Punisher series, I wonder if they’ll have that before or after Daredevil season 3. Either way, I’m up for both!!


Films I look forward to in April

Born To Be Blue

I’m hoping to catch this one later this weekend. I have the screener link but it has the pesky watermark on it so I’ve sort of been putting off watching it. Hoping to chat with the director too, we’ll see if that pans out. I’m always up for an interesting music biopic and I don’t know anything about Chet Baker so it should be interesting.

Demolition

I missed the press screening of Demolition last month but fortunately there’s another one scheduled next week, so I can’t wait for this.

 

Huntsman: Winter War

This screening is actually scheduled the same time as The Jungle Book. I’d love to see that one too but I didn’t really like the theater it’s screened at so I chose this one. It’s probably not gonna be a great movie, but I’d still see it just for the trio of fabulous women: Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain. I think it’s inspired casting to see Theron and Blunt as sisters.

13 (2011)

Despite the stellar cast, this film never got a theatrical release. I actually heard about it in one of Sam’s interviews where he said he saw it years later and had to find it online somewhere to see it! The reviews haven’t been kind, but really, with THIS cast (esp. Sam in the lead role!) I simply have to see it. It’s interesting too that the Georgian director actually remade his own movie 13 Tzameti and set it in the US with British/American actors.


Well that’s my recap of March. What’s YOUR favorite film of the month?

Weekend Roundup: Chris Evans’ directorial debut ‘Before We Go’ review

Happy Tuesday, folks. Well, I’m kinda bummed that I couldn’t complete my March blindspot on time. Last night I was planning to watch A Streetcar Named Desire after work but the internet connection just wasn’t working properly that iTunes simply couldn’t load the movie. It stared for like 2 minutes then stalled and stalled that I finally gave up 😦 In fact, I’d have to ask iTunes for a refund as it’s a 24-hour rental and I don’t think I have enough time to see it before it expires. Ah well, at this rate I’m not even sure I could complete even the 10 Blindspot films I’ve committed to watch, we shall see.

As far as weekend viewing, well I saw Batman V Superman on Friday night (my second viewing) and some of you might’ve read my review. So on Saturday we’re looking for something that’s totally different from a superhero movie. I got a screener link for the Chet Baker biopic Born To Be Blue starring Ethan Hawke, but the thing w/ screener links are that it has an unsightly huge watermark right smack dab in the middle of the screen, so my hubby didn’t want to watch it.

Ironically, we ended up settling on something directed by a Marvel superhero 😉 So here’s my review of Chris Evans‘ directorial debut… Before We Go.

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I mentioned about this movie three years ago in this Five for the Fifth post, which sounds kind of like Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy (heh it even has the word ‘before’ in the title!). It also sounds utterly cheesy so when it hits Netflix earlier this month, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to see it. But you know what, sometimes our prejudices got the best of us because I ended up liking it.

We first met Chris Evans’ character Nick, playing trumpet at Grand Central Station. It’s past midnight and the station is closing soon. Minutes later he comes across a pretty girl who ends up missing her 1:30 train from New York to Boston. She happens to break her phone as she was running in front of Nick and that’s how their encounter began. Not exactly a ‘meet cute’ and there isn’t an immediate spark between Evans and Alice Eve who plays Brooke. It took me a while to warm up to the movie and a few times I even thought about turning it off and watch something else, but y’know what, I’m glad I stuck it out.

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One thing that initially frustrates me was the fact that there’s such mystery surrounding the reason why Brooke is adamant on rushing to return home to New Haven that very night. But once it’s finally revealed towards the end, I actually appreciate how the story unfolded and that there’s more to the story than meets the eye. The pairing of Evans and Eve was rather unexpected, apparently Evans wanted to hire her because she was British (per IMDb) but she ended up playing Brooke as an American. I like both of their performances as they’re more natural and understated, even when at times the dialog was clunky and the script did resort to schmaltziness.

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Overall I’m quite impressed with Evans’ direction. He’s wise to pick a script that deals with a small number of characters to be more focused, and takes place over the course of a single night. The fact that he’s a first timer means we can’t expect a perfect movie. There are some continuity problems (like a jacket button is closed one second and open the next) and the pacing could’ve been much improved, but in the end it’s a rather sweet and moving little film. It also managed to take me by surprise on a few occasions, and something unexpected is always a good thing in a genre that tends to be predictable.

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Before We Go is an intriguing look at love lost and second chances, told from two very different point of view and circumstances. Nick and Brooke end up learning from each other over the course of the night, and the tentative romance between them feels earnest. The gorgeous Manhattan backdrop certainly adds to charm. This turns out to be the perfect antidote to this weekend’s gigantic blockbuster, as well as an interesting juxtaposition to Evans’ own superhero movie Captain America: Civil War that’ll be out in a month. Well, there’s definitely more to him than just a Marvel superhero, and I hope he continues to explore the indie side of his career.

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So what did you see this weekend? Anything good?

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Review – The good, the bad and the ugly

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By the time I sat down to write this, I’ve actually seen BVS twice in a week. Yup, you probably think I’m a masochist and I don’t blame you. But hey, it’s really out of solidarity with my dear hubby that I saw it again a second time, as we weren’t allowed to bring guests to the press screening and I actually couldn’t wait for him to see it so we could discuss this drivel movie together.

I have a lot to say here so it’s best to break things down in three categories, like I did w/ some award commentaries. Let’s start w/ the positive.

The Good

I tweeted when I sat down at the press screening that despite the title featuring two of the world’s biggest superheroes, I was mostly excited for Wonder Woman. And well, she did NOT disappoint. In fact, I was literally giddy the first time we saw Diana Prince dressed to kill in a skintight red dress at Lex Luthor’s party. The biggest audience cheer throughout the entire movie was when Wonder Woman finally showed up in costume.

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Gal Gadot slayed it, she was all badass and heroic. I wish they hadn’t revealed that exact moment in the trailer, I mean they could’ve shown ANY other WW scene besides THAT one, heh. Oh and the WW theme song, OMG I’m seriously obsessed w/ it now. The score is written by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL who just did the awesome Mad Max: Fury Road score, and this particular track has Junkie XL written all over it.

Like most moviegoers, I was more curious than excited about BVS and it’s to see the Batfleck. Ben Affleck followed up on the strong impression left by Christian Bale in the best Dark Knight trilogy, but y’know what, if we’re just judging on Ben Affleck’s portrayal alone as Batman/Bruce Wayne, I’d say he nailed it. Right from the moment we saw him driving around the wreckage of Gotham as Superman and his Kryptonian foes are wrecking havoc from the sky, we get a grizzled, world-weary and indignant Bruce Wayne. I gotta say Affleck looked damn good as Batman and his alter ego. He certainly has the gravitas of an older and wiser caped crusader, though he’s certainly far more brutal and doesn’t have qualms knocking down bad guys and even killing them. But then again, the supposedly more gracious Superman is nowhere to be found here either.

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The actual BVS battle itself was pretty fun to watch. It could be because we’ve spent nearly TWO hours waiting for the damn thing to finally happened. I was like FINALLY! The action scene here was well-staged and there were moments where I thought they could do serious damage to each other. It’s not quite the level of suspense of Batman vs Bane in TDKR however, I think Nolan crafted that sense of dread and serious peril much better than Snyder. But still, within the grim and dour universe of BVS, this scene was one of the highlights.

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Which brings me to…

The Bad

Oh dear, where do I begin.

Basically everything I didn’t care about the third act of Man of Steel is back with a vengeance. All the clanging noise that threaten to do serious damage to my eardrums are ever present as soon as Doomsday showed up. It’s an eyesore too. The world of Gotham/Metropolis are so severe and somber, and the ugliness of the Kryptonian/human monster hybrid so potent I had to look away a few times.

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Doomsday is a cross between Lord of the Ring’s Orc, the Hulk, Ninja Turtle and King Kong, also with a penchant for leaping into tall skyscrapers. That whole battle between the three heroes and this grotesque monster is a colossal CGI smash that went on far too long. It’s a sensory overload that feels like an endurance contest for the audience. If it weren’t for Wonder Woman forming the trio, I think this entire battle sequence would’ve been a total bust.

Speaking of Wonder Woman again, all of the wonderful things about her awesome intro, it is offset by the perpetual damsel-in-distress situations of all the women in Supes’ lives, be it Lois or her mother. It’s like, for one step forward in the right direction about female empowerment, there are three or more that took us back. It’s not Amy Adams‘ fault really, but I’m not fond of THIS Lois at all.

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Now, what I’m about to say is going to make Henry Cavill fans furious but y’know what, a huge fan of Superman it actually pains me to say it. Superman is actually the least interesting character of this movie, thanks to what Snyder created in Cavill. Neither Superman nor Clark Kent was a character worth rooting for. Gone is the heroic and sympathetic alien who cares deeply for humanity, he even refused to take ANY blame for all the monstrous destruction that could’ve been easily avoided if he went around the buildings instead of flying through them! Not only that, he was delusional enough that he told Bruce Wayne that nobody saw him as a liability and that the world was entirely on his side. Cavill’s Clark Kent is no longer the meek, mild-mannered reporter, as he’d rather argue relentlessly with his boss Perry White and had the worst work ethic. Yes Clark was always MIA in previous movies too, but we actually saw he had a good relationship with his boss and there’s a mutual respect between them. None of that is displayed in Snyder’s version.

Don’t get me started with the cringe-worthy scenes between him and Lois. Gone are the sweet and flirty banter between the two, instead we get cheesy lines about hope and what have you, and the supposedly romantic gestures just doesn’t compute at all because none of it felt true. And what’s with the constantly-constipated look on Cavill no matter what circumstance his character finds himself in.

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He had the same baffled/sad/forlorn/reflective (all of the above? none of the above??) whether he’s talking to his mom/Lois, at the courthouse, surrounded by strangers during Day of the Dead festival, etc. I think he only switches to something of immense rage when he’s facing Batman, which doesn’t exactly make me like him one bit as he comes across more like a bully than a wise and gentle hero we’ve seen in Christopher Reeve. What’s more, Snyder sexualizes Superman so much here it’s putting me off. There’s a scene of him jumping into a bathtub and a gratuitous scene of him cooking with no shirt on. Sorry but that had the opposite effect on me. I don’t want a sexually-alluring Superman, I want a Superman I can believe in.

The Ugly

[SPOILER ALERT]

Ok, one of the screenwriting rules I’ve read often says to steer clear of dream sequences. Unless something is hugely integral to the plot (like say, in Inception), there are very few narratives in which this structure fits. Well, guess what, there wasn’t just one but MULTIPLE dream sequences. I literally was gonna throw things at the screen when it happened, and after seeing it twice I STILL have no clue what the heck those scenes are about and how it served the story. It has no purpose being there other than to infuriate the audience. Seriously, the movie could’ve easily been trimmed to under 2 hours long without these inconsequential scenes.

The scenes of Batman in the desert fighting a bunch of goons wearing Supes’ emblems in their uniforms followed by some ethereal-looking ghost talking to Bruce, what the hell was THAT?? And the whole Superman talking to his dead earthly dad scene in the North Pole. Heh, we already know Supes has daddy issues. Same with the wholly extraneous scene of Bruce’s parents being gunned down. The whole thing is played out with the most irritating slo-motion as if seeing Thomas & Martha Wayne dying a slow death would make us care more about them. Is it so that the movie can start AND end with a funeral scene?? [shrug]

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Forget daddy issues though, this movie seems to be more about the moms. The filmmakers used the fact that Bruce and Clark’s mothers share the same name as a plot device. Good gracious, it’s not only trite, but it’s simply lazy writing. So they needed a good reason for why Batman would stop from killing Superman and that’s all they could come up with?? We’re talking about a writing duo comprised of David S. Goyer (who co-wrote the Dark Knight trilogy) and Chris Terrio (who won Best Screenplay Oscar for ARGO).

[END OF SPOILER]

That said, it begs the question whether it’s actually possible to forge a worthy script that tells SO many origin stories in a single movie with SO much going on there’s absolutely no room at all for any character development. My hubby and I were talking about it this morning on the way to brunch that this movie could perhaps work as more of a Batman story, with Superman treated as a supporting character (plus cameo from Wonder Woman) so it could be more focused on a single character whilst still serve as a launching pad for other characters in DC cinematic universe. But perhaps the studios want to appease the fans for Man Of Steel 2 being delayed indefinitely, as the ‘battle’ between these two characters, no matter how epic, just can’t make up for the messy storytelling.

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All the intriguing ideas about deity and humanity seem so half-baked and completely lost in a sea of clanging CGI death-match. I roll my eyes every time the characters are saying some philosophical mumbo-jumbo about hope and that ‘man is still good’ or whatever, because the film hasn’t earned them. The quasi-spiritual themes feel tacked on instead of being an inherent part of the narrative.

Other Observations

I haven’t mentioned Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, whose take of the villain is more of a deranged and power-hungry tech megalomaniac who likes to play god. He played it much like his Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, but with more than a few screws loose. He’s hellbent on destroying these demigods, liken them to Biblical demons, but it’s never clear what he’s true agenda is. But y’know what, he’s at least amusing in his nervous ticks that he actually offered a bit of relief from all the drab and grave mood of the movie.

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Alfred is portrayed as being more of an equal as Bruce, more akin to James Bond’s Q than the traditional English butler in previous screen adaptation. I have no problem with that and Jeremy Irons rocked as the dry, sarcastic and no-nonsense Alfred who looked like he could’ve been a perfect Bruce Wayne in his younger days. I also love Laurence Fishburne as the commanding Perry White, he’s definitely a more authoritative version of the Daily Planet editor. He respects superstar reporter Lois Lane but doesn’t let her walk all over him either. Perhaps that’s what’s needed to head a newspaper in the digital age, though I have no idea how they’re still in business.

The intro of other DC characters which will live on as part of Justice League and in various stand-alone movies are handled pretty well. At least it didn’t feel jarring to me, though at that point I really didn’t care so much about them as I struggle to muster up sympathy for the characters in BVS.

Final Verdict

It’s mind-boggling just how haphazardly-constructed this whole movie was. It proves that no amount of money ($250 mil production cost) can guarantee quality. Surely it’s a challenging task for even the best director to make a smorgasbord of plots to interweave seamlessly and no director is less than up for the task than Zack Snyder. The transition from one scene to the next is so mind-numbingly jumpy and disconcerting. It’s not quite a complete disaster but still, the bad far outweighs the good for me and trust me, I already had a very low expectation for this one.

I can’t believe Warner Bros entrusted so much of DC universe to a one-note director who has absolutely no talent for storytelling. So he’s known for his visual flair, but to be honest with you, I can’t even think of a single truly spectacular scene that took my breath away. Ok so there’s the moment where Batman drives his Batmobile into his Batcave through a secret entrance hidden in a dam that I thought was pretty darn cool. But that is all I could remember from an entire 2.5 hour movie, which is saying a lot.

It’s unforgivable that Snyder & co. has made a formidable hero like Superman so tedious and impossible to root. After this, I can’t be bothered with any other DC movies in the future. The only one I’m looking forward to is Wonder Woman and that’s mostly because a female superhero on the big screen has been so long overdue. The fact that it’s NOT directed by Zack Snyder is another reason to cheer, but since Dawn of Justice hit a big box office record on its opening weekend ($170 mil), I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him yet. Alas, Snyder will still be allowed to make more movies, and that’s the real travesty of it all.

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So what did YOU think of ‘Batman V Superman’? Did you like it more or less than I did?