FlixChatter Review: STUBER (2019)

When you order an Uber on any random day, you hope to be able to get from point A to point B in the fastest possible way, and the Uber driver hopes to get a high rating on the trip from the passenger. Well, Stu (Kumail Nanjiani), the Uber driver in the movie Stuber, actually demands a five-star rating from all of his passengers. He’s actually quite intent on getting that five-star rating that he will do just about anything to get that rating from his riders. He goes through the fast food drive through for his passengers, even when they seem a little more than intoxicated. Then, he has to deal with the ramifications of a drunken passenger throwing up all over his leased electric car. But Stu never, in his wild dreams, ever expected that his Uber would get called for a job by LAPD detective Victor “Vic” Manning (Dave Bautista) to go chase down criminals involved with a notorious drug lord named Oka Teijo (Iko Uwais) who recently killed his partner in cold blood.

Speaking of, the movie starts out with detectives Victor Manning and Sarah Morris (Karen Gillan) chasing down the ruthless drug trafficker and cop killer Oka Teijo, who escapes in the crowds of basketball fans leaving the Staples Center, but not before Vic is seen having issues seeing his partner and Sarah catching up to Teijo, only to be shot in close range by him in the confusion and mayhem of the fans running up and down the LA Live complex. The next day, Vic decides to get corrective laser eye surgery so he can finally be able to see. The surgeon tells him that he won’t be able to see clearly for at least a few days and gives him special darkening glasses to wear on his way home. He is driven back home by his daughter Nicole Manning (Natalie Morales), who reminds him that her sculpture show is happening that night, to which Vic promises that wouldn’t miss it for the world. She pulls up the Uber app on Vic’s phone and programs the address of her sculpture show, so this way he has no excuse about not knowing the address, or not being able to see where he’s driving.

Cut to later that afternoon, Vic gets a call from on his informants that Teijo is planning a major drug deal, but the phone dies before Vic could get all of the details from the informant. Vic, still not able to see almost anything, decides to rush out in his car and drive it to the informant. He quickly realizes that he can barely drive the car straight down the road, let alone get on the highway or anything; he ends up quickly crashing his car into a construction zone. Left without a car, Vic remembers the Uber app the his daughter Nicole added to his phone and he requests a ride from the nearest driver, who just happens to be Stu’s Uber (if you haven’t figured it out by now, Stuber stands for Stu’s Uber, and is the name Vic starts calling Stu, just so he can remember his name). Vic flashes a badge at Stu’s Uber just as Stu is pulling up, and he demands to be taken to a certain LA neighborhood. This is where Nanjiani shines, as he riffs his comedic lines into existence. “You can’t just shout out random neighborhoods. That’s not now Uber works,” Stu tells Vic as they get into an argument inside the Uber. “Let me guess, you want me to drive you to all the Sarah Connors in the city?” asks Stu of Vic, as she notices his grizzly size and strange-looking sunglasses – the ones he’s still wearing after corrective laser eye surgery.

At this point, the movie goes down an unnecessarily complicated path, as Stuber director Michael Dowse and writer Tripper Clancy take the duo of Stu and Vic down a rabbit hole, taking them from a factory to a drug dealer’s house, to a male strip club, and then to a veterinary clinic where some animals get involved (but don’t get harmed). They finally intercept Teijo and chase him into a Sriracha bottling factory, where Stu has another hilarious moment. He sees a red phone on the factory wall, as Stu and Vic are hiding from Teijo. He picks up the phone next to him; “Hello, operator, we need help. Someone’s trying to murder us,” just then his voice comes up in the factory speaker. Teijo relegalizes the Stu is using the company’s intercom system and laughs at them. Even at a point where you’d think that Stu and Vic have the upper hand against Teijo, they really don’t. When Stu tries to shoot Teijo, the gun doesn’t shoot, and he throws the gun at him, Teijo catches it, punches Vic with it and throws it back in Stu’s face knocking him out. They are given some unexpected assistance, and eventually do overwhelm Teijo.

The problem with Stuber is not how many laughs Nanjiani or Bautista deliver for their audience – there’s plenty of that – and most of it comes in back and forth scenes between the two. The problem is that Stuber forgets about the character development of everyone else – the bad guys, Vic’s daughter, Stu’s love interest, and other Uber drivers – to satisfy their need for quick jokes, once every minute or two. They kind of hint at the fact the being an Uber driver isn’t easy – most Uber drivers have to put up with many different personalities that make sometimes outrageous demands, just so the drivers can earn the much desired five-star rating. They often work ridiculously long hours, sacrificing any free time them may have had, with family, friends or any show at a love life. The director and writer fail to make the connection between what Stu is going through personally, with the similar backstory that Vic is going through with his own daughter.

Overall, Stuber delivers great ad-lib comedy from the two leads, but little substance in the overly-complicated plot. The thrills are about as exciting as an electric Uber blowing up after rolling down a slight embankment. If you want a summer movie that is absent of any major plot or character development, but does make you chuckle every couple of minutes, then give Stuber a try. For me, it was only worth the two-star ride, thanks to the quick comedic hits, primarily from Kumail Nanjiani.


  Review by Vitali Gueron


Have you seen STUBER? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: MILE 22 (2018)

When an action film is released late in the summer season, it’s usually a lower budget fare that studios doesn’t want to spend too much money promoting it and the movie itself is not that good. This latest team up between BFFs Marky Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg definitely falls into those categories.

James Silva (Wahlberg) is a leader of a special elite military force called Overwatch, think of this group as the ‘Impossible Mission Force’ but works with the military instead of intelligence agency. After completing a mission that didn’t go smoothly in the States, he and his team are now working in an unnamed Southeast Asian country trying to find missing deadly chemicals.

His second in command agent Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan) has an asset within the local government named Li Noor (Iko Uwais), who has a disc containing information on where to find the missing chemicals. Noor will unlock the disc when he’s out of the country and on his way to the States. With no time to waste, Silver and his team has no choice but to escort Noor to an airport and keep him alive from assassins working for the local government. With the help from Overwatch’s technical team and its leader Bishop (John Malkovich, wearing a ridiculous wig), Silver and his team must navigate through the city and avoid being killed.

There’s not much of a plot here, it’s a pretty simple story and I don’t think screenwriter Lea Carpenter really care to expand much beyond it’s simple storyline. Carpenter did include tons of F-bombs in the dialog and not much else. For a movie with not much of a plot, director Peter Berg decided to ramp up the violence and made sure this movie earns its R rating. Unfortunately, Berg didn’t get the memo that it’s 2018 and not 2008. The action scenes in this movie reminded me of last decade’s unwatchable fast editing, up-close shots and shaky cam style that ruined most of action films from the 2000s. By trying to make action scenes look exciting, Berg used several camera angles and most the frantic sequences were either incoherent or just plain ugly to watch. I think directors who’s going to direct an action film should watch the last couple of Mission: Impossible films and take notes on how to shoot action scenes correctly.

As for the performances, Wahlberg is basically playing the same type of roles just like his other flicks. His character in this movie supposed to have some sort of bi-polar condition so all he did in the movie was either yelling at people or being a smart ass. I like Lauren Cohan in The Walking Dead but here she seems to be out of her elements. They did try to give her character some background, but it just didn’t work for me. Iko Uwais didn’t have a lot of dialog, he was mostly used for the hand-to-hand combat scenes. Malkovich wasn’t on the screen that much but he does appear, I tried not to laugh because his haircut just looks ridiculous.

Mile 22 could’ve been a good action thriller if they had gotten a better crew to work on it. Berg tried to make a cool espionage picture, but he also tried to make it more realistic and the results was just silly. The movie also lacks any true villains and since we’re in the era of franchise building, this one ended with a cliffhanger and twist that I think most people will see it coming way before it ended. Apparently, it’s supposed to be a trilogy and I don’t think I’d care to see anymore adventures of the Overwatch team.

TedS_post


So have you seen MILE 22? Well, what did you think?

Weekend Roundup: The Raid: Redemption and My Week with Marilyn reviews

Happy Tuesday folks, a bit late on the weekend roundup as I just wanted to get my Hunger Games review out of the way. Well, I managed to see four movies last week which to some of you is on the low side but it’s actually more than what I usually have time for. I saw Casablanca on Wednesday (which I still plan to blog about in the near future), a re-watch of Gregory’s second film (and his first Oscar-nominated performance) The Keys to the Kingdom, Hunger Games, and late Sunday night I finished the week with My Week With Marilyn.

This week we also have a special guest review from my Twitter pal Cecilia Rusli who saw the uncensored version of THE RAID (which I mentioned here) at iNAFFF (Indonesia International Fantastic Film Festival), the only genre film festival in South East Asia. She actually got to meet some of the cast, Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Joe Taslim, Tegar Satrya at the special screening!

So let’s get to the reviews, shall we?

THE RAID: Redemption

I was impressed on the first time I saw the fights between Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian in an Indonesian action movie directed by Gareth Evans titled Merantau. It finally put my expectation pretty high on The Raid: Redemption which has the same director and some same casts too. The Raid: Redemption basically is about a group of SWAT which are on a mission on raiding a drug lord on his safe house. They find out that they were trapped there and the only way out is by fighting those dangerous killers and drug lord floor by floor.

I’m personally not impressed by the storyline and it’s the kind of story I will forget in few weeks. However, Ray Sahetapy and Yayan Ruhian, the villains, are having strong characters which made me love them much than the other casts, even Iko Uwais could not beat my impression to their characters. They both managed to look real snob, but hilarious at the same time. I think I’m officially more into the villains of The Raid: Redemption.

The hype is true. The Raid: Redemption offers a  non stop action pack which hardly gives us room to breathe. The thing which I hardly find on the other action movies is the Indonesian martial arts known as Pencak Silat. They do use some guns, knives, and explosions. And I would prefer watching The Expendables if I’m into those things. But The Raid: Redemption managed to actually shows us how to kill people with hands, and only hands. Iko Uwais is brilliant on that point. Again, not only by his character, Yayan Ruhian steal my most attention on the action parts. Yes he looks small if being compared with most fighters on action movies who are tall and having big muscles. But his superb fights on The Raid: Redemption actually made me say “When will this guy be dead?”

Some people might say that The Raid: Redemption is just a video-game like. I personally amused by the violence. Blood and fights between tough guys have never been so much entertaining like this before.
/// 
4 out of 5 reels


Thanks again Cecilia for her wonderful review!


My Week With Marilyn

I don’t usually begin my review with a confession but I feel that I must admit that I have never seen a Marilyn Monroe film before seeing this one. But yet I’ve always been intrigued by her glamorous persona and this film offers a tiny glimpse of what’s life is like for Hollywood’s most iconic movie star.

The ‘my’ in the title belongs to an Englishman named Colin Clark, whose two books are the film’s inspirations. Despite his lack of experience, the 23-year-old Clark’s determination (and family connection) got him a seemingly thankless job as third assistant director in The Prince and the Showgirl’s British production, directed by Lawrence Olivier who also starred in the film. It doesn’t take long before Clark completely fell under Monroe’s spell, as she had such an effect on people. The British Press, the cast and crew and the townsfolk were all in awe of her beauty and movie star image, all except Mr. Olivier, who’s frustrated and infuriated by her work ethic, or lack thereof. Marilyn was constantly late to the set and always insisted on bringing her acting coach Paula Strasberg, though it didn’t seem to help as she constantly flubbed her lines.

Colin summed up the dilema between Monroe and Olivier perfectly… “It’s agony because he’s a great actor who wants to be a film star, and you’re a film star who wants to be a great actress…” 

Despite her beauty and fame, Marilyn had zero self confidence and Olivier’s no-nonsense attitude and blatant discontent only exacerbates her poor morale. At first I thought that Marilyn was such an irritating primadonna, but as the film went on, I felt increasingly sorry for her. When her husband briefly went back to New York, Marilyn turns to the warm and compassionate Colin. Though Marilyn’s name is in the title, Colin is arguably the heart of the film as he took us through a roller-coaster ride of pure euphoria and heartbreak, all in a week’s work.

Michelle Williams is sublime as Marilyn, offering us something more than just plain imitation of the iconic actress’ coquettish sensibilities. Her blond locks and voluptuous figure certainly look the part, but she also captured Marilyn’s emotional vulnerability and her desperate yearning to be accepted and loved. Now I can’t tell you if Kenneth Branagh‘s performance as Olivier is spot-on or not as I’m not acquainted at all with the late actor, but in the context of the film, I think his performance was excellent. Both he and Williams definitely deserve all the accolade, including their Oscar nominations, for their respective roles.

I’m also impressed by Eddie Redmayne as Colin, he’s got that earnest look about him that makes me immediately identify with his character. I noticed him in The Pillars of the Earth before this, but this is definitely a much more memorable turn from him and certainly don’t mind seeing more from this actor. It’s also nice to see Judi Dench, a welcome presence in any film, and her Dame Sybil is wonderfully sympathetic. The rest of the supporting cast including Emma Watson, Dominic Cooper, Julia Ormond and Dougray Scott as Arthur Miller also turn in a pretty decent performance.

The film doesn’t offer much depth into what caused Marilyn’s insecurities and even her marital troubles with Arthur Miller wasn’t adequately explored, hence it felt a bit superficial at times. I wonder at times if this story would’ve worked better as a miniseries instead. In any case, I did enjoy it for what it was and director Simon Curtis did a marvelous job capturing the mood of 1950s England, especially the stunning wardrobe. The music is also wonderful, I was especially dazzled by Nat King Cole singing Autumn Leaves as Marilyn and Colin enjoyed a blissful day visiting the Windsor Castle which ended with the two skinny dipping together.

It’s a worthy glimpse into the life of a movie star… and it certainly made me glad that I’m just a regular gal.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


What did you watch this weekend? If you’ve seen either one of these films, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Five for the Fifth: March 2012 Edition

Hello folks, welcome to the March 2012 edition of Five of the Fifth!

As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here. So let’s get started, shall we?

1. This film has been catching all sorts of buzz all over the film sites/blogs. It’s won the Audience Award at TIFF and has been well-received all over film festivals such as SXSW and Sundance. This movie is definitely NOT my cup of tea, I actually read a review that described the non-stop action as being so brutal that it makes Oldboy looks like a Pixar film. Oy.

But what caught my attention is that, this is actually set in my hometown Jakarta and starred mostly unknown Indonesian actors. The director is Welsh-born Gareth Evans was working on a documentary called The Mystic Arts of Indonesia: Pencak Silat for a production company owned by Christine Hakim (Indonesian’s version of Meryl Streep) when he met the lead actor Iko Uwais. He was so impressed with Uwais that he cast him in his first Indo-production Merantau.

Well what do you know, this movie hasn’t even hit US shores yet (it opens in limited release on March 23) and US studio Screen Gems has already been planning for an American remake [heh, what else in new]. Anyway, check out the featurette below:

Have you heard of this movie folks? Would you watch it?
… 


2. I saw a photo of Jude Law recently in the upcoming Anna Karenina adaptation in which he’d play Anna’s high-ranking Russian government official Alexei Karenin. My first reaction is that how in the world are they going to make one of Britain’s most beautiful actors look dour and not-much-to-look-at as Alexei’s described in the book?? But after seeing the first still from the Joe Wright’s movie, well clearly the makeup people somehow made it happen! I almost didn’t recognize Jude in this photo!!

Anyway, Jude’s been busy this past year (though not as busy as Ewan McGregor, but then who is?). A lot of you might have seen him in no less than three films, Contagion, the Sherlock Holmes sequel, and HUGO. I kind of appreciate him more as he seems to tackle quite a diverse types of films, going from one genre to the next and he doesn’t capitalize on his good looks.

I’m curious, what are your thoughts on Jude? What’s your favorite Jude Law film(s)?
 


3. Now for this next question, I actually borrowed it from Sunday’s #MTOS (Movie Talks on Sunday) session on Twitter, hosted by PopFeelings blog. It’s a fascinating question that no doubt will get different answers from movie fans, so here goes:

What genre seems to generate the most terrible films and why?


4. All right, casting news time! Thanks to my pal Dezzy the Hollywood Spy for bringing this to my attention. Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind, I Am Legend, The Da Vinci Code, Cinderella Man) is writing the script and will be making his directorial debut in A Winter’s Tale (no, NOT the Shakespearean version). Will Smith and Russell Crowe are set to play a ruthless mobster and a judge, respectively and Tom Hiddleston is currently in talks to join the cast (per THR).  Wahoo, I definitely love the idea of Crowe and one of my new favorites Hiddleston appearing in a movie together!

Here’s the plot: A sweeping drama about reincarnation, the story is set in the early 20th century and focuses on a thief on the run who, when breaking into a wealthy man’s home, strikes up a relationship with the man’s terminally ill daughter. A flying horse and a time-shift 100 years also figures into the equation.

What do you think about this film’s concept & this cast?


5. Lastly, this is an upcoming project that the first time I heard it I was like, what?? Another remake to Hitchcock’s classics? Fortunately it’s NOT a remake. The film is called Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho which according to SlashFilm will be about exactly what the title suggests. I’m more psyched about the senior cast members Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren who’ll play Hitchcock and his wife Alma, respectively. In the role of Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins, they’ve cast Scarlett Johannson and British actor James D’Arcy.

Heh, I always thought that Andrew Garfield would be the perfect choice to play Perkins as when I saw Perkins in On the Beach recently I kept thinking that they could practically be twins! Both are lanky with dark hair, and their facial structure are so similar.

I’m not as familiar with D’Arcy’s work having only seen him in Master & Commander, so I can’t say much about his casting. As for Johansson, well I haven’t been impressed with anything she’s done lately but I suppose she has that retro look that might work for this casting, though her um, busty figure probably is more suitable to play Jayne Mansfield.

Anyway, what do you think about this project? And who would you prefer to play Leigh and Perkins?


Well, that’s it for the March edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all!