The new movie “Vengeance” from first time director B.J Novak is one of the few movies that tries to be dramatic and comedic at the same time. The central part of the humor is all about defining the difference between people from New York City, who are sophisticated and rich as opposed to people in the poor deep south, who for the most part are far less educated.
The story of Vengeance is about an x-girlfriend of Ben Manalowitz, who was either killed or murdered while in a small town in Texas. Ben is a radio host and writer who decides to travel to this small town and by using his cell phone as a tape recorder, decides to create a podcast of his investigation about what happened to his x-girlfriend. Ben works with a producer Eloise, played by Issa Rae who reviews the ongoing podcasts back in New York.
There are some funny lines in this movie, pointing out the contrasts between the poor town people in Texas and Manalowitz – the best being, “How do you want your coffee? In my mouth”. The problem with this film is that the funny lines are not funny enough and there are periods where this film drags into solid boredom almost to the point where I wondered why they made this movie in the first place. The actor Ashton Kucher is in this movie as Quentin Sellers, a wealthy celebrity within this Texas town. Kutcher is a friend of BJ Novak from his MTV “Punked” series from 2003. Sellers provides some additional high level humor within this story and an unexpected ending that I thought for the most part did not work.
Essentially, this movie is too boring and slow in too many areas to recommend and I am surprised at the solid 80% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. I rate this movie a pass.
In the year 2009 the world heard about one of the most horrifying events involving an animal in the history of the world. A woman by the name Carla Nash was attacked and almost killed by a friends 200 pound Chimpanzee. Her wounds were described as horrifying by the emergency room doctors. Her friends Chimp, named Travis had had ripped off Carla’s hands, nose, lips, torn out her eyes and completely smashed the bones in the middle of her face. Some months later Carla was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey wearing a bee keepers head gear to hide her destroyed face. Some time after that Carla recieved a face transplant and her hand transplants failed. I remember the Oprah Winfrey interview from some 13 years ago and wondered at the time why anyone would want to continue to live after being blinded and having their face ripped off by a chimp.
For some reason, Jordan Peele, obviously facinated about this horrendous news story from 13 years ago, decided to add many references to it, including even Oprah Winfrey to his new movie “Nope”. There is even a scene with the woman whose face was destroyed by a chimp who appeared on a sitcom years earlier, sitting in a stadium wearning the exact same bee keeper outfit that Carla Nash wore when Oprah interviewed her 13 years ago. From what I have found on the internet so far, there is some symbolism to this reference with Hollywood’s poor treatment of animals. However, this reference is so obscure and hard to understand that I saw no reason to include this horrible event from 13 years ago, within a movie that is mostly about the appearance of an alien spaceship on a horse farm. Then add the fact that Peele decided to show at least 3 scenes of the chimpanzee attack that at least he had the humanity to not show the close up details of a womans face and eyes being eaten by a monkey. This is the essential problem with all of Jordan Peele’s movies. The attempt to create something never seen before, trying to be different to a level that is way too over the top with weird messages and crazy ideas. The question with movies like this is always, “Is this strange and different good, or strange and different bad?”. For me, mainly because of the Carla Nash reference, this 3rd Peele movie is strange and different bad. To put a reference to a horrible event like this to make a point about Hollywood’s mistreatment of animals, not only makes no sense but it also has nothing to do with the essential plot of this film. So, why do it?
As far as the story, once again Peele is using actor Daniel Kaluuya to star in this movie. Kaluuya also stared in Peele’s first movie “Get Out” that was released in 2017 – another movie I did not like. I think of Peele’s movies as someone who tells a joke and when nobody laughs, he has to explain the joke. A joke is never funny when it requires research or a slide rule.
Kaluuya plays OJ Haywood (yes, his name is OJ) who owns a horse farm with his sister played by Keke Palmer, whose name is of all things Emerald. There are a series of clouds that hide a large spaceship-like object that we learn as the story moves forward, may be more than just a space ship. There are scenes of increasing and violent interactions with the spaceship/creature and many reminders of a much better movie, “War of the Worlds” directed by Steven Speilberg and starring Tom Cruise that was released in 2005. The ending was also rather strange with a documentary director involved in trying to film the appearances of this alien spaceship and a tech representative of a local electronics store. I thought the ending was just OK, with the acting good throughout.
The Rotten Tomatoes ratings are in the low 80% range with my rating only a 70% while not recommending this movie, due to the reasons already stated.
In the history of Netflix – which has been having its share of problems with its stock this year, no movie has ever cost more to produce than “The Gray Man” – 200 million dollars. There is nothing small about this film, or nothing that seems like it is not a top mainstream movie production. The special effects are spectacular to the point of wondering how they were able to pull off such dangerous stunts. The fight scenes are as impressive and dangerous as I have ever seen.
The acting from the 3 main stars Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas and Billy Bob Thornton is outstanding throughout this 2+ hours. However despite all of this positive news about this very good action movie and the fact that it cost 200 million dollars to produce, the critics on Rotten Tomatoes are only giving this a 50% rating. Once again, the critics are dead wrong, because this movie deserves a 75% rating just for the hard work that went into some of the most amazing action scenes ever filmed. There is one scene where it seems like large part of a European city is destroyed by car crashes, buildings exploding, mixed with non stop gunfire.
It is true that we have seen most or all of this kind of film before, but adding up all the positive points, this movie is a must see, with at least an 85% rating. The concept of taking someone from prison or about to go to prison and training them for the most dangerous work within the CIA is a concept that has been done in the past – most notably with Bridget Fonda in “Point of No Return”, released in 1993. Sometimes just being different can be a bad idea, IF being different results in a ridiculous story, like too many movies have been doing lately. The upside of this film is that everything was very well done and believable.
I was most impressed with the highly intricate and choreographed fight scenes with the 3 main stars, de Armas, Evans and Gosling. It looked to me that there was a high probability of a major injury for all 3 of them, because no matter how hard you practice and prepare, there is always something that could go wrong. Considering the money, fame and incredible jobs these A list actors have, they also have to take the risk of possible major injury or death, just to make a movie.
In terms of a great action movie this one ranks very near the top and I give it a strong recommendation.