Monday, August 7, 2017
Three old dudes go out with a bang - while Unforgettable and Arthur blow up in their own faces
By Jim Bray
A remake of an old comedy and two movies I hope are never remade are on tap for this week's Blu-Ray releases. "Going in Style," "Unforgettable" and "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" come from Warner Brothers ("Going in Style" is being released this week, while the other two appear to have escaped, rather than been released).
Let's tackle the old dudes first, since it's easy for me to identify with such seasoned folks. This new 2017 version stars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin in the roles first occupied by George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg. I never saw that first film but, since Hollywood seems to have difficulty remaking a successful film these days without adding left wing dogma, I went into this one anticipating very little worth recommending. But I was surprised.
Oh, I get the politically correct stuff here, in that these three musty steers are at their financial wits' end and are being screwed royally by a big bank, and I understand how rewarding it could be to stick it to the Man in such a way as the guys here do.
Spoiler alert: Yet I also remember movies such as the original Ocean's 11 and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, where we have our heroes working a kind of heist, ultimately successfully, yet God - or Karma, or Murphy's Law or whatever - steps in to ensure they don't get away with their ill-gotten booty because as deserved as the booty may be, it's still ill-gotten.
It really should surprise no one that our heroes walk in the end. It's the latest step in the "good is bad and bad is good" trend of certain sections of society today. Heck, I remember "Rat Race," which was kind of a remake of "Mad, Mad World," but it kind of split the difference by having the successful "booty getters" give away their booty in the end, after being shamed and cajoled into it. Here, there's no shaming and/or cajoling, just a bunch of people glad that these old mules stole enough to "spread the wealth."
So basically, "Going in Style" 2017 is a kind of homemade wealth redistribution scheme. What a surprise.
It's a shame, because other than that it's a pretty good movie that features good performances all around. Michael Caine is especially great, with a very emotional performance I think was Oscar-worthy.
Morgan Freeman is good, too, as usual - but he pretty much plays his standard "dignified elder statesman" character, while the perhaps lesser known (or not as big a star) but just as experienced Arkin comes off believably as the elderly stud muffin (and who wouldn't like to be a stud muffin for Ann-Margret?).
Also on hand, and interesting to see after many years (for me, anyway) are Christopher Lloyd and Matt Dillon, both of whom also turn in terrific performances; Lloyd's is a whacked out contemporary of the three steers, while Dillon is the lawman trying to track down the robbers and bring them to justice. And it's amazing just how close he comes - though (another spoiler alert here) his investigation is undermined fatally, finally, because a little girl lies her face off.
The little girl's lie is believable and undoubtedly justifiable some ways, but what kind of example is that?
On the whole, it's a pretty decent story as long as you shut off your "morality judgment circuit" and just enjoy it for what it is: a good heist comedy that also serves as a showcase for some aging but still extremely effective actors.
The "Going in Style" Blu-ray looks and sounds very good. The 1080p picture is featured at its original 2.41:1 aspect ratio and the detail and colour are very nice, indeed. Check out the textures of the clothing and the actors' skin for examples.
The audio is in DTS-HD Master Audio (5.1), and it's more than adequate. This is not a really big action movie, though it has its moments, so there isn't as much stuff zinging around the home theatre as in some movies, but the overall sound quality is fine. Dialogue is always clear and the audio fidelity is fine. And I daresay most people today won't mind the lack of Dolby Atmos, since most people don't have the hardware for it yet.
Extras are limited to a commentary track by director Zach Braff and some deleted scenes.
Unforgettable is a kind of chick flick, starring women, written by a woman, directed by a woman and produced, mostly, by women. Nothing wrong with that, of course, unless you're expecting the feminine hand to make Unforgettable, well, unforgettable. It ain't.
The film stars Rosario Dawson as a woman who leaves her comfort zone to move in with her new fiancé and his daughter. She's trying to put a dark part of her life behind her, but wouldn't you know the darkness is merely beginning.
That's thanks to Tessa (Katherine Heigl), Dawson's character's main squeeze's ex-wife, and mother of his precocious daughter. She's a real piece of work and, as you might expect, she goes increasingly nuts as the movie unfolds. Not only is she jealous of Dawson's Julia, she's determined to get her out of the picture one way or another. So, having learned that Julia doesn't do Facebook, she sets up a fake account and profile and proceeds to try ruining Julia's life and her new familial relationship.
The man here, played by Geoff Stults, is such a patient saint you'd think he was patterned after me, but he's so darn patient and saintly it made it hard for me to suspend my disbelief. He's just too perfect.
The biggest problem with Unforgettable, however, is that it's not only eminently forgettable, it doesn't even offer any surprises. You see everything coming before it actually arrives; heck, they even begin the film with a "postlude" that lets you know right off the bat everything important that happens in the movie! Then you have to go back in time and watch it unfold! It's like déjà vu, or a type of Groundhog Day - except that, unlike in Groundhog Day, we only have to sit through the plot unfolding once!
To me, the best thing about Unforgettable is its look, since I'm a long-time fan of cinematographer Caleb Deschanel. Deschanel's skills are showcased beautifully on the Blu-ray, which is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with wonderful detail and colours and black levels that are rich and deep. But it's Deschanel's lighting that's the real star.
This is another movie that eschews Dolby Atmos in favour of DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 and the sound is fine for what it is. This is definitely not an action movie (well, there's a bit…) so don't expect a lot of audio effects surrounding you. But what you'll get instead is excellent dynamic range and clear dialogue.
Extras include "Reclaiming What's Yours: Making Unforgettable," whose title pretty well describes what's on tap. There's also a director's commentary track and a deleted scene. You also get to sit through a bunch of trailers when the disc first fires up, if you choose to.
Neither of these movies are going to set the world on fire (probably just as well!), but of the two Going in Style is easily the most enjoyable. If you're a guy, anyway, especially an old one.
Arthur movie not King!
Warner Brothers also sent me the Blu-ray of Guy Richie's latest movie, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. I didn't like it very much but will add a quick review here because it isn't worth a whole column.
Ritchie's Arthur is more like the Mighty Thor of Marvel's universe than a classic British legend, with Excalibur (did it used to be called "Calibur"?) taking on the role of Thor's hammer. The result isn't very legendary but is, rather, a CGI-filled action/adventure flick that's more reminiscent of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films than the Arthurian tale.
The film follows Arthur's journey from his early life in a brothel to his becoming the king we know - or thought we knew.
To be fair, it's been a long time since I paid attention to the Legend of Arthur and/or his Sword but this version seems hell-bent on turning that legend upside down. For example, I don't remember giant elephants in other Arthur for Arthur's sake outings. That made it hard to suspend my disbelief, as did the dialogue, which sounds modern, not classical (including the cussin').
I never cared for any of the characters, despite some decent performances from the racially-multicultural-if-not-particularly-historical cast, which besides Charlie Hunnam as Arthur includes Jude Law, Eric Bana and Djimon Hounsou.
Heck, I enjoyed Monty Python and the Holy Grail a lot more than this!
Yet the film looks and sounds great and if you're into action movies this just might turn your crank.
The Blu-ray is first rate, with a great, 2.41:1 picture and Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD compatible) sound that fills the home theatre so much it took away the urges I was feeling to shut off the audio and put on some good music.
Extras include a few featurettes, including one that gives an interesting look at the Scots locations at which scenes were shot.
I read a few online reviews of the theatrical version of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and it seems that Guy Ritchie fans thought it was typical of his output. I've never seen a Ritchie film before so can't comment on that. Suffice it to say Art didn't make me want to seek out more of Richie's other art.