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Review: ‘The Nice Guys’ Is a Perfectly Acceptable Shane Black Movie, But Not Much More

the nice guys review

Set in 1977 Los Angeles, The Nice Guys begins its buddy crime comedy with an impossibly insane inciting incident. Just as a young boy (probably about director and writer Shane Black’s age during these years) opens a dirty magazine to ogle a famous porn star, the famous porn star herself crashes through his house, narrowly missing him. He goes to assess the damage and promptly covers her up during her final moments.

To put it simply, this is a film that embraces the absurd and dues ex machina of it all in order to get its point across, which varies from scene to scene. And while there’s no thread that neatly connects a lot of the bigger moments in this story about two private investigators who unravel a Hollywood porno conspiracy, a lot of the gags and character moments are flat out impressive and refreshing.

And you couldn’t ask for better actors to fill these roles. Russell Crowe plays Healy, the no-nonsense muscle. Ryan Gosling plays Holland March, a bumbling demigod of survival. And Holland’s wise-talking daughter, Holly, is played by Angourie Rice, whom you’ll certainly be seeing more of out of Hollywood.

the nice guys review

Originally intended to be a pilot for a TV series heavily inspired by “The Rockford Files” (which is clear throughout the film with its many loving references to that 70s show), The Nice Guys was converted to film when it was clear that the pilot had too many issues.

And some of these problems seem to have carried over to the final product, which is a story that is sorely lacking of a rewrite that addresses many of the plot contrivances and shallow characterization for anyone outside the “big three,” and perhaps an unlikely villain who emerges past the halfway mark.

But Gosling, Crowe, and Rice were made to fill the screen together, in what is one of the best displays of onscreen chemistry all year, along with some of the best jokes. Gosling gives his all in a hilarious performance that mixes surprisingly violent physical comedy with laser-focused comedic timing. Not all of the jokes in The Nice Guys land quite as well as they were probably intended, but the duds are few to find. In fact, the film’s best joke is probably the fact that it’s a film about Hollywood that was actually filmed in Georgia.

the nice guys review

For most fans of Lethal Weapon and especially Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, as well anyone keen to pick up on the mountains of 70s pop culture references, this film will be a godsend and probably your favorite movie of the year. But for everyone else, it does the job at a deeply discounted rate.

Grade: B

Extra Credits:

  • I prefer the 60s when it comes to 20th Century decades.
  • Russell Crowe seemed quite in his element alongside Gosling, especially during the funnier moments. With a better edited script, the likely sequel to The Nice Guys could be one of the best movies in years. That’s how much more of these characters I want to see.
  • Kim Basinger really fits in with the era of this movie. But not in a good way.
  • I forgot to mention some of the action of this movie, which is fantastic for the most part. The only scenes that fell flat were the ones in the third act, and that’s only because the entirety of that act is a bit of a mess. The film essentially peaks at the elevator scene.
  • If you’re someone who obsesses over, Why wouldn’t that character do X, Y, and Z, then you might have a bad time.

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

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Review: ‘Les Miserables’

Image Courtesy of aceshowbiz.com

People have been waiting a long time for Les Miserables to hit the big screen. Constantly regarded as one of the greatest musicals to ever hit broadway, this piece of work has, until now, been an undertaking some would call “unfilmable.” Well, I’m here to let you know that, yes, this movie works, and it just might be the best movie you’ll see this year. Maybe.

BIAS

I have no bias with this work. I had never seen the play, read the book, or known any crucial plot points before seeing this film (not for lack of wanting. I had tickets to the broadway play in 2008 but the show was canceled due to the writers’ strike. I’ve been charred ever since.)

So this review is coming from the words of someone completely unfamiliar with the source material, so take my opinion for what it is. I won’t be in the business of trying to compare the movie to the book or play, since I simply can’t.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Image Courtesy of projectqatlanta.comIf you don’t know much about the story or backdrop, know that you will be entering a biopic of sorts centering around the character of Jean Valjean played by Hugh Jackman, with his story taking place over a period of about 20 years (40 if you count the unseen prologue) in 17th century France.

Yes, the movie has plenty of supporting characters, but the story really revolves a long chase scene between Jean Von Jean, a convict who broke parole but is seeking spiritual redemption, and Javert, the ruthless policeman who hunts him played by Russel Crowe.

The movie carries many themes, with one of the most prominent being freedom. Halfway in, the story coincides with the second French Revolution that took shape in the 1830s. The story coincides beautifully with these events, making it a fitting period piece.

This movie is truly a musical, with characters constantly singing and very, very rarely speaking out of song. I don’t have to have seen the broadway play to know that the music is one of the world’s most celebrated scores, constantly pulling at your heartstrings throughout the movie’s long 2.5 hours.

Oh yeah, the movie is long. If you don’t have the RunPee app (an app that shows you when the best times are to take a bathroom break) GET IT. I did and benefitted greatly, since the movie is constantly introducing new characters and jumping forward in time, though there are plenty of long song sequences you can cut short.

Back to the music, you may have already heard that the movie has pioneered a new method of recording the music. Rather than produce all of the singing in a studio months before production, most of the singing recorded is actually being sung on camera, and it shows. The raw emotion in the sound this creates is extremely noticeable and provoked many in the audience to tears, literally.

WHAT WORKS

Pretty much every scene with Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, who plays Fantine, is pure gold. Their performances overshadow most everything else about the film, and awards will most likely be handed out. The music is phenonemnal, though the only songs that really did it for me were “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Red and Black,” and “Do You Hear the People Sing?” Everything else was fine, but there was just so much singing that many of the others songs were cluttered and forgettable. Something I’m sure purchasing the soundtrack would cure.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK
I’m not going to say that Russell Crowe did a poor job. He really didn’t. I’m just burdened with having to compare him to Hugh Jackman. The performances were far apart in my opinion, mainly because of Crowe’s lack of emotion, though perhaps that’s what the character of Javert calls for.

The sets are hit or miss. They ranged from epic in scale, especially towards the beginning, but then meander to looking like something out of a Lemony Snicket novel. It was too noticeable for me to forgive.

I know British accents are all the range, but do we really lack the capacity for pulling off French accents in America? It’s annoying to watch a French Revolution movie where the 8 year old is leading one of the most epic battle songs sounding like Kelly from Misfits. 

On a more serious note, I hesitate to judge the story, which I frankly found rushed. Yes, this is a different medium. Movies can’t do what books do. I just wish that more explanations between time skips could have occurred. You absolutely have to pay close attention, or you will be yearning for more.

I also wish they could have done more with Cosette, played by Amanda Seyfried, though I’m appreciative that they took full advantage of Sacha Baron Cohen, who played Thenardier the Innkeeper.

IS IT WORTH WATCHING?

For most people, definitely yes. It’s pure drama with some action, so don’t expect much humor. If you want to get truly involved in a long, gripping, and performance-rich musical, you will get what you paid for with Les Miserables. Almost everyone can appreciate the beauty behind the music, but the movie is definitely not for everyone. If you couldn’t even handle the music breaks in Phantom of the Opera, for example, then this is definitely not the movie for you.

For fans of the source material, I can say with confidence that every person I know that has seen both the play and the movie have greatly enjoyed this. I’ve yet to hear of disappointment from the fans. There was a standing ovation at the very end, which turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever witnessed. Not a dry eye in the house.

I highly recommend that you see this in theaters! I can’t imagine the sound being better in your living room. On a final note, here is my favorite quote from the movie that gave me chills: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

 

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