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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Get Hard 2015 * * Stars

Get HardDirector: Etan Cohen
Year: 2015
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Alison Brie

What can I say, I'm a sucker for classless, offensive, and indecorous comedies. If the jokes are tight, the actors sell their lines, and the vehicle does whatever it can to generate a laugh, well it's worth it. 2015's Get Hard because of its Red Band trailer, enticed me to get on board. Yeah, the bulk of it (at just under a running time of three minutes) is pretty dicey. The actual movie, well that's a different story. In truth, "Hard" is a gregariously mild affair. It has very few laughs and vaguely routine performances from two overexposed movie stars (Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart). Sadly, it just doesn't get "hard" enough.

Speaking of its stars, I've been hearing all over social media that Hart and Ferrell have been relentlessly promoting their first flick together. Will Ferrell has even gone so far as to posing as third base coach for The Chicago Cubs (spring training style). The myth of said promotions says that they know the movie is bad, they know audiences won't like it but hey, it's crucial that they get people in the theater via the first week (so Warner Bros. studios and Gary Sanchez productions can possibly break even). After taking in a viewing of Get Hard at 1:30 yesterday, I can safely say that its cast and crew needed some form of due diligence.

Now some critics in question, have mentioned Get Hard in the same breath as Trading Places or one of those Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor capers from years past. I felt a slight comparison in this respect, but not enough to actually announce it. "Places" and See No Evil, Hear No Evil are intelligently written yuck fests with a certain plausibility to boot. Get Hard on the other hand, relies on gangbanger stereotypes, gay stereotypes, jokes about prison rape, and gags concerning oral sex (in prison) to get its point across. This is tired, recycled stuff from ear to ear. The humor doesn't really shock you and the lead actors try to sell it with annoying, impov overload.

First timer Etan Cohen not only directs, but also has a hand in writing the screenplay. You figured the same dude who penned the hilariously juicy Tropic Thunder would again strike gold. Negatory. It feels like the script here didn't have some sort of treatment and was hastily rushed to the actors right before production. Anyway, "Hard" begins its story by chronicling one James King (Will Ferrell). He's a rich dude and a successful hedge fund manager. He's also got a beautiful yet superficial wife and a righteous set of wheels. James has it in good with his future father-in-law, Martin Barrow (played by Craig T. Nelson in a one note performance. What was he thinking?). He's about to become partner in Martin's firm. But wait, Martin sets him up on charges that he ripped his clients off. James gets detained, sentenced to ten years in San Quentin State Prison, and loses his engagement to his ex-future (gold digger) wife. His solution: survive the big house with the help of the schlep that routinely washes his car. Enter Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart). James thinks because Darnell is black, he's done some serious time. Darnell can train James to handle life in the slammer and pocket $30,000 in the process (he needs the money to buy a house and move his family out of a bad neighborhood. King is willing to pay him this money). High jinks ensue when Hart's Darnell turns King's mansion into the actual, fearsome facility (famously known for harboring death row inmates). Over time, the two form a friendship and have an interesting way of working out in their simulated San Quentin (Ferrell lifts midget-sized Hart instead of using actual weights to bulk up. This seems funny on paper but on screen, it falls flat).

Here are some things that I liked about Get Hard: 1. Kevin Hart's Darnell reenacts a prison riot as part of King's training for hard time. It's complete with a strobe light and a freakish monkey. 2. there's an amusing cameo from singer John Mayer. He performs at a party held by Ferrell's King. Right before he sings his hit song "Daughters" he says, "ever see 100 women get wet at the same time?" That's so John Mayer. 3. Ferrell's character picks a fight with an old timer in a park (this is again part of his prison training). He gets the crud beat out of him while being told, "I was in Vietnam motherf**ker!"

Here are some things that had me scratching my head about Get Hard: 1. Ferrell's character wears an ankle bracelet during the thirty days before he has to get his affairs in order. He tries to leave the country by cutting said bracelet only to be arrested, thrown to the ground, and handcuffed. Cut to the next scene and he's back walking around L.A. Huh? He probably should have been put in the county jail or confined to his home before his decade-long term commences. 2. speaking of Ferrell's ankle bracelet, well it sure has one broad territory. After already being caught for trying to escape once, you're telling me that he can travel from his swanky pad in I guess, Beverly Hills to Crenshaw boulevard (and almost everywhere else) without setting it off? Yeah right. 3. Ferrell's character is innocent and he's going to jail based on something his future father-in-law did. But what exactly? Talk about a plot that is thin skinned. It's obvious that the people who worked on Get Hard didn't do the research needed to explain the aspects of fraud and embezzlement. Ferrell's King gets busted and gets the veritable Bernie Madoff treatment (along with going through the speediest trial ever captured on film). His key to freedom lies within data stored in a computer from the 1980's. Please. 4. the oral sex scene involving Ferrell's King and a guy in a bathroom stall is supposed to blur the lines of bad taste. However, it just doesn't come off as bold enough. For one thing, King doesn't go through with the act anyway and second, an 0.5 second snippet of frontal nudity is shown for effect. This is muted shock value at best.

In conclusion, you know what to expect when you see a movie starring Kevin Hart or Will Ferrell. They are from the "Vince Vaughn" school of acting by which they give the same darn performances over and over again. Their comedic styles differ somewhat with Will being the dimwitted bulb who's subjected to dumbing himself down and Kevin being the hyperactive fast talker with the skewed gift of gab. Heck, I figured that if you put them in a flick together, they'd be too bad for each other. They'd produce a fireball! Not so much here. It's more neutered than anything else. Therefore, I'm gonna go with a 2 star rating. Get Hard "hardly" earns my recommendation.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, March 26, 2015

McFarland, USA 2015 * * * Stars

Director: Niki Caro
Year: 2015
Rated PG
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Carlos Pratts

I've never been a huge fan of Disney sports movies. For every Invincible, there's a Herbie Fully Loaded. For every Remember the Titans, there's a Snow Buddies. It's all sugar coated, gerrymander stuff that doesn't quite deliver an emotional wallop. Enter McFarland, USA, the type of Disney inducement that sort of breaks the mold. Now granted, I wouldn't rank it as one of the best of its genre. It doesn't grab you by the lapels and make you get all teary-eyed like Hoosiers and Rudy (two of my all-time favorites). I will say however that next to last year's Million Dollar Arm, this 2015 release is probably the best sports flick to come out of Walt Disney Pictures, a production company that's been around before films even had the luxury of sound (we're talking over eighty years ago to be exact).

Directed by Niki Caro who oversaw the critically acclaimed Whale Rider (2002), McFarland, USA is based on a freshening true story that's long overdue. As you watch the events depicted via the year 1987, you wonder why it took so long for things to get greenlighted. Could it be the fear that a movie about cross country running might come across as boring or trivial? Maybe. Does it really matter at this point? Not so much. Critics have embraced it. Audiences seem to be eating it up. So to quote a song lyric from the late, great Jim Morrison, "nothing left to do but run, run, run, let's run."

Anyway, the story begins with real life football coach Jim White (played by Kevin Costner). The film's opening scene which is its weakest asset, shows him getting into a confrontation with his snobbish quarterback/captain. He argues with him, throws a cleat at his locker, said jock gets a cut on the face, and Jimbo gets fired from his job. Along with his wife Cheryl (Maria Bello in a side role that she could play in her sleep) and his two daughters, White moves from Boise, Idaho to one of the poorest towns in America being McFarland, California. He's there to take a second rate job (the only job he could get) as an assistant football coach. After yet again being asked to step down, he's handcuffed to just the role of a physical education teacher. It's within this realm that he learns about how fast his students can run. This gives Jim an idea: he's gonna convince the principal to back the first cross country team in the history of McFarland High. White will be the coach and all he has to do is find seven male runners. This sparks a plethora of comradery, friendship, father figure interludes, and determination between Costner's White and his underprivileged speed demons. As a team, they start to make waves at various running meets and eventually hightail it to the California state championships. "McFarland's" main conflict therefore, is the question of whether or not Jim is trying to boost his resume. He could get offered another job in a nicer town that's less poverty-stricken. He also could stay in McFarland seeing that him and his family become so attached to a community of hard working pickers with not so bright futures.

Now McFarland, USA is a conventional yet well filmed sports drama. With a little heart, a little tug, and a little shine courtesy of Australian cinematographer Adam Arkapaw, it gets the job done. The running scenes are profusely shot with the Southwest California landscape glistening in the background. Its authenticity is paramount showcasing unknown, young cast members (from what I read, actual students from McFarland High School as well) and the mighty Kevin Costner whose old world weariness, scruffy demeanor, and acting as veritable comfort food deem him perfect for the role of Jim White.

Yeah the outcome here might be a little predictable, the racial stereotyping of cultural differences (between Americans and Hispanics) overwhelms key scenes, "McFarland" is sometimes, forcefully mean spirited, and the opening sequence of Costner's White as volatile, coaching henchman seems totally undernourished (not to mention unconvincing). However, what's on screen is to a degree, admirable family fare (PG-style). And Costner being so synonymous with sports bids, can faithfully add this one to his greatest hits collection (alongside Field of Dreams, Draft Day, and Tin Cup).

In conclusion, this is feel good, fast food stuff that's not in any sense, preheated. McFarland, USA is a place to go to in your mind, a movie to see. Rating: 3 enduring stars.

Of note: I loved the final credits montage. It showcases the real life runners, their real life coach, and the current state of the actual McFarland High School. It also explains in worded titles, what they are up to in their lives (roughly twenty-eight years later). It's indeed heartwarming and very well done.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Focus 2015 * * 1/2 Stars

FocusDirectors: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra
Year: 2015
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro

Margot Robbie is one of the co-stars of Focus (the film I'm about to review). I gotta admit, she's gorgeous. I mean absolute perfection. So it was difficult for me to concentrate on the gist of everything when all I could do is uh, "focus" on her (ha ha). Will Smith is in Focus as well. In the last three years he's appeared in the bomb After Earth and made a guest appearance in an even bigger bomb, Winter's Tale. He hasn't really been the blockbuster stud we've been used to seeing lately. Was this 2015 release the draw that gave him his mojo back? Hardly. Based on the last three weeks, its box office take has been dropping faster than the ball on New Year's Eve. Together these two good looking people make their debut as a full fledged screen pair. Their characters (Nicky and Jess Barrett) are con artists. One is the teacher and the other is the student. They steal from denizens good and bad, they fall in love, and they contend to build a small fortune until one of their fumbled cons leaves them within an inch of their lives. The result is sadly a mixed review from me. And to borrow from the definition of the word focus, I'll say this: what we have on screen is something that fails to be the center of interest or activity.

Focus, in its hour and forty-five minute running time, is somehow split up into two halves. The first half involves theft of watches, pickpocketing, and an organization of pickpocketers. The second half (taking place three years later) chronicles a scam within the backdrop of motorsports (IndyCar racing). There are cons, double cons, multiple double crosses, and revisited relationships. Yet nothing seems at stake and variable tension is at times, omitted. Granted, with all of this going on, it's a Warner Bros. production that still feels unfinished. Basically, I just threw my hands up in the air and decided to call it a mundane love story between Smith and Robbie's characters. However, the fact that Focus is slick, contains a few cool whip pans, is locale based (Buenos Aires and New Orleans to name two), and has a breezy tone, sometimes negates from its shortcomings.

In terms of the acting, it's substantial if not unchallenged. Smith as Nicky, reinvents the typical cool cat in sunglasses. Just think his Hitch character with the same confident strut but posing as a thief and a habitual liar. Then there's Margot Robbie. She plays it dumb as Jess Barrett, the con world's young Padawan in training. She's not necessarily miscast and as mentioned earlier, incredibly easy on the eyes. It's just that this is no where near as strong a turn as she posed in 2013's The Wolf of Wall Street. That leaves B.D. Wong giving the highest caliber performance in Focus. He does the whole scene-stealing, cameo thing. I'm a Law & Order junkie and he's been on that show for a countless number of years. Here he goes unrecognizable playing Liyuan Tse, a compulsive gambler and obvious millionaire who hinges on taking Nicky for everything he's worth (at an NFL game). I had to watch the closing credits to confirm that it was actually him.

In the realm of directing, John Requa and Glenn Ficarra shoot the film at times, as a tribute to Martin Scorsese. They become cinematic masturbaters with some of their set ups (there's a drawn out sequence having to do with betting at The Super Bowl). Also at the same time, they are clearly filming a variation of Ocean's Eleven complete with a saucy 60's/70's throwback soundtrack. These guys keep Focus at a barely rated R punch. There is one violent confrontation and everything before it is suggestive innuendo/filtered-in f words.

Anyway, I'm not recommending this flick but I will almost refrain: if you decide to take in a viewing, this exercise will make you think twice about standing near someone in a crowded area (who knows, you might get lifted). And as I left the theater, I stayed at least ten feet away from the nearest patron. Overall, it's a sketchy affair, a slight disappointment. Here's my sage advise to Will Smith: it's not too late to sign on to do Independence Day 2. It hasn't started filming yet and you could continue your life plan as a superior box office likeness.

Of note: I love The Rolling Stones as much as anybody and I even dig the song, "Sympathy For The Devil". But gee whiz does it have to appear in every darn movie these days (including this one). The novelty of this 1969 ditty is getting really tired. In the case of Focus, I don't care if its lyrics have something to do with a major plot point. There are other songs out there that spout "woo woo" you know.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, March 20, 2015

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 2015 * * 1/2 Stars

Hot Tub Time Machine 2Director: Steve Pink
Year: 2015
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is not as good a film as Hot Time Time Machine. There I said it. Sequels are for the most part, inferior to the original so I'm basically telling you the audience member, something you probably already know. "2" isn't as laughable this time around, funnymen Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson aren't as appealing, the script is a tad lazier with a little too much improvisation, and Chevy Chase has like two lines (his screen time is equal to his minuscule cameo in 2002's Orange County). Notice that I didn't mention the absence of one John Cusack. Personally, I thought he was miscast in the first film anyway and the only reason he possibly signed on was because it had an 80's novelty to it (the Evanston, Illinois native was iconic as an actor in that bullish decade). I'm sure he had his reasons for not appearing in this delayed second helping (originally slated for late December 2014 I believe). No matter. The first one would've worked without him and the 2nd one, well it's not so bad. Here's hoping Johnny boy didn't instead decide to reprise his role as Sam in the sequel to The Prince. Just kidding.

Anyway, the inaugural "Hot Tub" involved four down on their luck dudes getting hammered, sliding into a ski lodge jacuzzi, and going back in time via 1986. Its director Steve Pink, fashioned an outrageously raunchy version of Back to the Future. With "2", Pink gets back behind the camera and creates a sort of sloppily-made whodunit. The plot which kind of feels uninspired, puts the characters in present day (2015 of course) and has them going ten years into the future to catch the person who killed Lou Dorchen (comic juggernaut Rob Corddry). As Craig Robinson puts it (he plays mediocre recording artist, Nick Webber), "this is just like Terminator". Bingo.

Past cinematic references aside (and there are many of them in "2"), time travel vehicles are so confusing. But that's not why people go to the Hot Tub Time Machine releases. It's about the funny, the vulgarity of it all. Number 2 has plenty of that. It's more of the gross out kind than the humorous kind however. There's a scene where a main character gets shot in the junk and another scene where someone gets a needle put into their testicles with white-colored love juice spewing out at everybody (ugh). Finally, there is an implied sex sequence involving Corddry's Lou and Robinson's Nick (it's on a game show entitled, Choozy Doozy). Electric shock treatment and nods to The Lawnmower Man are hastily involved (if this is what the future holds, I might have to turn my TV set off for good).

All in all, if you liked Hot Tub Time Machine, there's no reason why you wouldn't embrace its 2nd go around that was five years in the making. "2" is more elaborate, more sumptuous, and less contempt. It's not in the category of sequels that should have never been made (this is what a lot of critics have been saying). It's just that the bubbles aren't as effervescent this time around despite a few ample guffaws. Result: A guilt-ridden two and a half stars.

Of note: The two Hot Tub Time Machine movies are known for their cameos and in "2", they're in the form of an unbilled Christian Slater (he plays a sadistic game show host) and singer Lisa Loeb. They aren't as effective or out of the box as Karate Kid's William Zabka back in 2010. But they are amusing nonetheless. Also of note: Stay for the end credits. What a hoot. They're not outtakes. In fact, they're quick cuts involving the gang of misfits (Robinson, Corddry, Scott, and Duke) constantly going back in time (examples are the late 1800's, the 1960's, and of course the 1980's) and discussing it while wearing different fad-like outfits. Something tells me that this isn't a prelude to a third "Hot Tub" installment. I could be wrong though.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Unfinished Business 2015 * * Stars

Unfinished BusinessDirector: Ken Scott
Year: 2015
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Dave Franco, Sienna Miller

An iPad video of a young girl beating the crap out of an Indian boy, a character named Mike Pancake, a sequence involving frontal nudity via the washroom glory holes at a German gay bar, and a weird obsession with the wheelbarrow sex position. That is what you get with 2015's Unfinished Business, an ill-defined comedy that although entertaining in spots, ultimately begins and ends with a thud. It's Vince Vaughn's latest and after taking in a viewing, I realized one thing: if you eliminate the first two letters from the title and omit "business", well you're left with one word. That word in a nutshell, would best be used to describe Vaughn's current career path as an actor.

Strutting its first ten minutes as a faintly homage to Jerry Maguire and scripted by Steve Conrad (he penned The Pursuit of Happyness) who undeniably should know better, this ninety minute vehicle is billed as comedic despite not having any real, hearty guffaws. The story begins with husband, father, and all around good guy Dan Trunkman (Vaughn). He just quit his job because his boss (played by female starlet Sienna Miller whose actual character's name is Chuck) is hellbent on giving him a pay cut. In retaliation, he starts his own company with two nincompoop associates. They are in the form of a mentally distraught Foot Locker employee (the aforementioned Mike Pancake played by Dave Franco) and a perverted, weed-toking 67 year old (Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson who was obviously blackmailed into taking on the role of Timothy McWinters). After being in business together for one year, they finally get the deal of a lifetime. First, they have to fly Portland, Maine before eventually hightailing it to Berlin to get quote unquote, "the handshake". All this and their office is still at a Dunkin' Donuts location (whatevs).

Now for the life of me, I couldn't really figure out what Vaughn's Trunkman did for a living. Conrad's screenplay masks those intricacies or any other talks about important ventures. He eradicates the research needed to script a business trip comedy and instead concentrates on the crass humor. Almost every cast member says the word "numbers" to make it sound like they're in the zone. And the charts shown in meeting rooms are from a distance so you can't really see what's being talked about. Balderdash I tell you. Pure claptrap.

Added to that, Unfinished Business being rated R, tries to be a cute family film. This makes it uneven and lopsided. In between scenes of Trunkman having long distance skype sessions with his kids, are other scenes where characters say f*** this and f*** that. Oh and there's one sequence involving countless images of naked breasts in a unisex bathhouse. Yeah that was shocking about thirty years ago (filmwise) but it's still out of place and happenstance.

In the arena of acting, it ain't stupendous but it's actually a surprise to see Vince Vaughn play a more mature, more seasoned role (as opposed to the manchild ones he's been inhabiting for the last ten years). This time everyone involved lets him down (who'd have thunk it). His turn is above the proceedings and it belongs in something else, something better. Yeah, there's plenty of Vaughnisms to go around (fast talking, ad-libbing, him taking off his shirt) but he holds back a little bit more this time. Thank the Lord. As for the other performances, well they're one note at best. You have a good cast here embarrassing themselves at director Ken Scott's every expense. Dave Franco is the worst of the bunch. His Pancake just bugged me. I didn't get him and his tone is so darn grating that the way he speaks, will cause you to grit your teeth in anger. One minute he's blurting out something that's moderately intelligent. The next minute he's acting like a five year old who sounds like his nose is all plugged up. Is this guy for real or what?

Oh and I almost forgot, there's the ending to Unfinished Business. It's so muted, so anticlimactic, just so blase blase. There is an antagonist and a protagonist in this thing. But when the good guys win, there's no celebration, no real confrontation with the bad guys (in this case, it's the evil business owners being Chuck Portnoy and Jim Spinch played by James Marsden). I've literally felt more emotion during a session of cutting my toenails.

Anyway, if you wanna spend ten bucks (or whatever the inflated price of a movie ticket is these days) at the local megaplex, see an Oscar holdover like Whiplash. If you wanna view something that's uninteresting, unsatisfactory, unnecessary, and uncouth, check out Unfinished Business. Sadly, it's a middle-of-the-road madcap at best.

Of note: Germany is an interesting country. I'm half German but unfortunately, I've never been there. Vaughn's character stays in a hotel in Berlin that's also a museum (all the other ones are booked for the night). It's a comedic gag that almost falls flat. The room has no curtains, people can walk by and look at him, and they can also hear what he says through headphones. I know it's only a movie but is this really a thing? Just curious.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Chappie 2015 * * 1/2 Stars

ChappieDirector: Neill Blomkamp
Year: 2015
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Sharlto Copley

"He's a happy chappie." So says the character Yolandi and in one instant, a funky robot from Neill Blomkamp's latest release, gets his name. Playing itself out as RoboCop meets Short Circuit (the gangster version), 2015's Chappie really finds its director in his element here. Blomkamp's vision of sci-fi consists of slow motion shots featuring his caricatures leaping, plenty of artificial intelligence red herrings, and a grubby, draggy look that in turn, gives an audience member the feeling of a slumming, dystopian punk rock society. This is a guy who tends to make the same vehicle again and again with gadgetry masked as art exhibit. The only difference is that Chappie as opposed to his two other feature films (Elysium and District 9), tends to have more of a heart in certain scenes. I may be rambling but is he the right choice to take over the Alien franchise? Based on a stubbornly, headstrong style, probably not. Is he wholly original minus the occasional borrowing from other futuristic, action/thriller fare? Sure, I'll give you that one.

Chappie takes place in a militarized, corrupt civilization where regular cops are called "pigs" and robotic cops are called "dogs". It's violent in a hail of gunfire sort of way but bloodless for almost half of its tempestuous two hours (there's less heads exploding this time around). The story brings us back to Blomkamp's old digs being the dusty slums of Johannesburg, South Africa. Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) is an inventor of robots. These robots are used in harnessing the crime wave via Johannesburg's many decaying neighborhoods. Deon's boss at Tetravaal (the company he works at) is Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver). She's happy with Deon's work but prevents him from developing a new concept, robots that mimic the human mind. Deon defies her and instead implants a forbidding program into one of the bots who was destroyed in the line of duty. The plot workings then become more compound. Deon gets robbed by hoodlums who want to use his new found creation (Chappie, a humanistic android whose learning process initially is that of a five year old) to pull off a major heist. They owe twenty million dollars to the type of nasty criminal you don't want to tick off. And it doesn't help that a disgruntled employee at the other end of Tetravaal's ideals (Hugh Jackman as weapons expert Vincent Moore), wants to destroy Chappie in order to make way for his own robotic menace, MOOSE.

Now I liked almost all the characters in Chappie and the acting ranged from standard to haphazard to flat out excellent. Sharlto Copley who's a Blomkamp mainstay, gets the mannerisms of Chappie just right. He doesn't put on an actual robot suit (it's more complicated than that) but his voice is perfect as are his jerky, protracted movements. In the case of Sigourney Weaver, well her performance was probably the low point. It seemed like it was totally phoned in. She will always be a legend in my book but her CEO (Michelle Bradley) should have been more important than was advertised. Ripley doesn't register so much as a blimp. As for Hugh Jackman, well he's an interesting choice to play the heavy. He does an adequate job channeling a jealous, sniveling rat in the Tetravaal corporation. Oh and he rocks the mullet (as well as multiple sets of khaki pants). Finally, there's Dev Patel who completely shines in his role. He brings sympathy and believability to Deon Wilson, Chappie's quote unquote "maker". And in truth, he's been a busy boy lately (his other film The Second Marigold Hotel is currently in theaters as well).

Out of the box casting choices aside, the ending to Chappie may be one of two reservations I have for not recommending it. This a complex affair but it concludes with the notion that humans are better off living forever as robots. With their consciences transferred from dying bodies to connected hunks of metal, it feels like Blomkamp wanted to tack something on without knowing that it might reek of desperation. I mean, the problem with science fiction movies these days is that every contingent has been done already. I don't fault him entirely though because the journey to get to Chappie's weary conclusion is almost worth it. The other reservation I have involves the undramatic rap music that accompanies the flick's second act and the closing credits. It feels sort of muddled as does Chappie's uneven attempts at humor (the teaching of Chappie by uncompromising thugs on how to talk like a bad ass and putting gold chains around his neck are prime examples).

In conclusion, during the film's opening half hour, the main protagonist proclaims, "this is a new kind of life form, a new step in evolution". I don't share the same sentiment with Neill Blomkamp's latest (filmwise) but it feels like something he's always wanted to make, a pet project if you will. Result: two and a half stars.

Of note: the workplace environment at the weapons manufacturer Tetravaal, is comprised of cubicles like in 1999's Office Space. I snickered a bit. I mean you have Patel and Jackman's characters sitting at their desks near a bunch of other people who apparently don't do any work for the company. They're just there next to computers, like props if you will. I figured Patel and Jackman would be out in the testing field or I guess, the war rooms (which for most of the time, they aren't). Oh and if you take in a viewing of Chappie, get ready to be introduced to a new word. That word would be f**kmother (said over and over again).

Written by Jesse Burleson