Flicks – Oct 5, 2016
Masterminds: Disarming robbery
Truth is stranger than fiction, and in the case of Masterminds, it’s also a lot funnier. Delayed for release by Relativity Media’s financial woes, this is a smart, snappy little gem that marks the best film to date for director Jared Hess, who first scored with Napoleon Dynamite (2004).
Originally titled Loomis Fargo, the story is based on the Loomis Fargo armored-car heist that took place in North Carolina in 2007 – albeit told with a delicious absurdist bent that screenwriters Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer and Emily Spivey mine for every laugh – and then some.
Zach Galifianakis, slimmed down but sporting one of the year’s greatest haircuts (heavy on the bangs), plays David Scott Ghantt, who stole $17 million in cash as a gesture of love to former co-worker Kelly Campbell (a never-better, never-sexier Kristen Wiig).
The ostensible mastermind of the heist is would-be crime kingpin Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson at his obnoxious best), but when he tries to cut David out of the score, that’s when the trouble – and the fun – really begin, as this comedy of errors shifts into high, frequently hilarious, gear.
Every actor brings their best game to the table, with Galifianakis (who stepped in when Jim Carrey stepped out) both funny and sympathetic as a wannabe criminal who has no clue how far in over his head he is, at least until he encounters Mike McKinney (Jason Sudeikis in a terrific late-inning turn), a hit-man with unexpected and very quirky principles.
Kate McKinnon (as David’s ditched fiancee) and Leslie Jones (the poker-faced cop on the case) appear in smaller roles, this having been filmed before their pairing with Wiig in this summer’s disappointing Ghostbusters reboot, but manage to earn their share of laughs, too. Masterminds is well worth a look and a laugh.
Disaster at sea
Deepwater Horizon, based on the true story of the April 20, 2010 oil-rig disaster off the Gulf of Mexico, marks the second collaboration between producer/star Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, whose earlier Lone Survivor, itself a fast-based story, was one of 2013’s best films.
Like Lone Survivor, Apollo 13 (1995) or the recent Sully, Deepwater Horizon focuses exclusively on the events leading up to the disaster, the catastrophe itself, and its immediate aftermath. It’s a tribute to the courage of these real-life heroes who managed to survive and help others survive against steep odds, and in Deepwater Horizon Berg puts the viewer right in the middle of the conflagration, giving it a visceral wallop.
Wahlberg plays working stiff Mike Williams, embarking on his latest three-week stint on the Deepwater Horizon, whose cautious captain, “Mr. Jimmy” Harrell (Kurt Russell), is nevertheless answerable to the executives of BP (British Petroleum), most prominently – and potently – represented here by Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich, relishing a spicy Cajun accent).
Although the oil spill is mentioned during the end credits, in no way does the film let BP off the hook. Had appropriate repairs been made and proper safety cautions observed, very likely there would not have been an explosion. Vidrine emphasizes the usual corporate refrain about being behind schedule and over budget. When Mr. Jimmy is presented with his seventh safety award mere minutes before the disaster, the irony looms large.
There are a few domestic scenes, with Kate Hudson appearing as Mike’s worried wife, but Berg keeps the story focused on the disaster, which is depicted in breathtaking, awe-inspiring fashion. Even knowing the outcome of the story doesn’t diminish the film’s intensity.
The actors aren’t dwarfed by the special effects. Wahlberg, ostensibly the leading man, again demonstrates his willingness to cede center stage to his fellow actors. He never hogs the scene. Malkovich manages to bring some humanity – and humiliation – to what could have been a one-dimensional heavy. Gina Rodriguez, Ethan Suplee, Dylan O’Brien and J.D. Evermore make solid impressions, and Russell’s turn as the concerned, even fatherly Mr. Jimmy is the sort of sturdy and credible performance that could make Academy voters take notice.
Godzilla bigger and badder than ever
Let’s face it: The Japanese do Godzilla right. They made him. He belongs to them. They know him best. Just look at Roland Emmerich’s 1998 or Gareth Edwards’ 2014 versions, which might have made money but simply “weren’t” the Godzilla we all know and love.
That’s not the case with Toho Studios’ latest installment, Shin Godzilla (Godzilla Resurgence), which offers an implacable, unstoppable “Gojira.” It’s bigger, more powerful, and possesses some new powers best not revealed here. This is Godzilla, done right. The fans will undoubtedly be pleased.
Co-directors Hideaki Anno (who also penned the script) and Shinji Higuchi get things off to a quick and rousing start as a strange creature emerges from the waters of Tokyo Bay. Initially labeled a “Giant Unidentified Life Form,” this large reptile doesn’t initially resemble Godzilla, but it soon evolves into the familiar visage.
Many of the earlier Godzilla films released in the United States were heavily edited to enhance the camp quotient and appeal to the kiddie trade, but the Japanese have always taken a more serious approach, and so it is here. When Godzilla’s not trashing Tokyo and the surrounding environs, time is devoted discussions about collateral damage, global implications, and the impact on Japan’s political infrastructure – scenes that would likely be trimmed or eliminated entirely had an American distributor released the film.
Leading the human contingent is Hiroki Hasegawa’s Rando Yaguchi, an ambitious young cabinet secretary who assembles a team of intellectuals (“geeks”) to find a way to stop Godzilla while the military embarks on its customarily futile efforts to shoot, blast, and bomb the beast to smithereens.
Of course, the star of the show is Godzilla, and the special effects on display here – a combination of CGI, motion-capture animation, and good old-fashioned miniatures) – are very well executed, especially when one recalls some of the earliest Godzilla films, many of which seem quaint in retrospect. (In Japanese with English subtitles)
Shin Godzilla will be screened 7:30 pm Tuesday, Oct. 11, Wednesday Oct. 12, and Tuesday, Oct. 18, and 1:30 pm Saturday, Oct. 15 at Carmike 18, 4822 Koger Blvd., Greensboro. For advance tickets or more information, call 336.306.5396. You can also purchase advance tickets from the official Shin Godzilla website: HYPERLINK “http://www.funimationfilms.com/movie/shingodzilla/”http://www.funimationfilms.com/movie/shingodzilla/.
Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92 (92.3 FM). Copyright 2016, Mark Burger