Tag Archives: Unnecessary remakes

TIFF19: Human Capital

Drew is an ex-gambler who has borrowed money he doesn’t have to invest in a hedge fund. When it tanks, he’s pretty desperate, with bills piling up and not one but two babies on the way. Drew (Liev Schrieber) also happens to be the father of a teenage daughter, Shannon (Maya Hawke), who is dating Jamie (Fred Hechinger).

Jamie’s parents are rich, which gives Drew a lot of envy. humancapital_0hero-hr__1_2Jamie’s dad, Quint (Peter Sarsgaard) just happens to be the manager of that hedge fund I was talking about, and he’s super stressed, selling assets to stop the bleeding. He’s not a particularly nice guy, it probably goes without saying. His wife Karen (Marisa Tomei) is fairly pragmatic about their flawed marriage, but she cries a lot. She recently bought a theatre to renovate and run, but with the hedge fund having a coronary, she’s about to lose it.

Jamie and Shannon are actually recently broken up because Jamie is gay and Shannon has a new boyfriend, a bad boy with a record. But for now, both families are together for a high school fundraiser, after which there will be a hit-and-run, and one of them will be responsible.

Human Capital is a tale of guilt and innocence, and how much they’re worth, and to whom. It’s about greed and compromise. It’s based on a novel, and another movie besides, and ultimately fails to justify its own existence. It’s moderately interesting and the performances are fine, but there isn’t a single aspect of this movie that distinguishes itself. Even the whodunnit feels beside the point.

With nothing to uplift it, it may as well have stayed on the page.

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The Upside

Dell has a record and a chip on his shoulder. He’s looking for work just enough to appease his parole officer but not enough to actually get a job. But then one lands in his lap anyway.

Now, to be fair: Dell (Kevin Hart) hasn’t done anything to earn this job. Yvonne (Nicole Kidman) has lined up plenty of qualified, competent health care aides to interview for the position. But Philip (Bryan Cranston) doesn’t want the good ones. Philip is disgustingly wealthy, newly paraplegic, and harboring a death wish. No one else is prepared to respect his DNR and he’s hoping a fuck up like Dell will mean merciful death – and soon.

The Upside is an American remake of  a French film called The Intouchables. It was wildly popular in France and it’s a well-made film, but both iterations have MV5BODE2NDI3NzUxNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTIzMDQxNzM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1497,1000_AL_the same problem. They’re about a wealthy white dude introducing a poor black man to “culture.” The condescension implicit in the premise is so problematic it’s hard to look beyond it. Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston have passable chemistry but you’re going to love or hate this film, mostly depending on whether you can embrace the formula. Because The Upside doesn’t even pretend to deviate from The Intouchables’ formula. Not for one stinking minute.

Old white rich guy and slightly younger ex-con have a lot to learn from each other. Philip is grieving the loss of his wife (which never amounts to anything) and his legs, while Dell is dealing with repercussions over the loss of his freedom, and his family. Not that he ‘lost’ his family so much as neglected them and now thinks he can win them back by throwing money at the situation.

The direction is nothing special. The movie relies on the whole ‘based (VERY LOOSELY) on a true story’ shtick and it’s very familiar and uninspired. The performances are fine; the best thing you can say about them is that they won’t be remembered in anyone’s career retrospective. But none of this really matters because at the end of the day (or the start of the film), the movie just feels racist and wrong.

The Hustle

A small-time con-woman named Penny (Rebel Wilson) meets a big-time con-woman named Josephine (Anne Hathaway) and they inevitably tangle antlers. But then they decide to work together – Penny wants to learn from a mentor, and Josephine’s always had a con in mind that needs two people. But of course they’re still also working each other and eventually things get messy. Because while Josephine goes after big fish with an air of sophistication and a veil of class, Penny is loud and brassy and calls an awful lot of attention to herself for someone who probably should want to remain under the radar.

The two agree to settle their differences with one ultimate bet: whoever fails to extract $500K from their mark first has to leave town forever. Their mark is a rich young tech millionaire who seems almost completely guileless – Thomas (Alex Sharp, MV5BNTM1MzI4NjM1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzc2MDE0NzM@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_who clearly answered the casting call for a Mark Zuckerberg type and fits the hoodie perfectly). Penny poses as a blind woman to remind Thomas of his blind grandmother, and Josephine as the German doctor who can possibly treat her (hysterical, don’t ask) blindness. There are a thousand princes in Nigeria who could tell you this scam is unnecessarily convoluted, but where’s the fun in that?

Anne Hathaway has clearly been working on some accents, and here they all are. Rebel Wilson always has a breathless charm about her but I’m sick to death of her having to play roles for women lacking physical self-confidence. We get it: she’s fat. Hollywood continues to go out of its way to reassure us that they know she doesn’t belong. Here’s another character who feels unworthy because of her weight. Um, really? You do know it is entirely possible for someone to be fat AND confident. And more importantly, it’s extremely possible to be fat and still do your job, and do it well, and not make a whole thing about how much you weigh while you’re doing it. Wilson brings so much energy to all of her roles it’s exhausting to watch her, and a little uncomfortable too, because her body is so often the punchline and that’s not a joke I want to be in on.

The script is pretty uninspired, filled with the usual cons you’ve seen dozens of times before: men being duped into proposing with enormous rings, stealing diamond jewels, casino heists, etc. It’s a gender-flipped remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels that is simply too lazy to be any good; they don’t bother to update the jokes and there’s a deep chasm where subversive feminist comedy should have gone.. There are isolated laughs but nothing consistent. A training montage that for some reason includes clearing a pommel horse and uncorking a champagne bottle is particularly cringe-worthy. Hathaway and Wilson are fine, but they don’t have particularly good chemistry and it’s frankly upsetting to watch them be wasted on a movie whose only true con is the one that bilked you out of a $12 movie ticket.

 

 

 

What Men Want

Ali is a hard-working sports agent at her firm, where she is overdue to make partner but keeps getting passed over in favour of more bro-ey types. It’s a real boy’s club in there, but she’s motivated to join their ranks.

So that accounts for why she’s a bit down in the dumps at her best friend’s bachelorette party. A fortune teller come to entertain the women “sees” that she’s having trouble connecting with men, and has just the tea for that. And wouldn’t you know it, the next day Ali (Taraji P. Henson) wakes up with the ability to hear men’s inner thoughts, plus or minus a head injury.

Yes, this is a remake of the Mel Gibson vehicle What Women Want, though no one seems to have noted that neither men nor women wanted either of these films. And to be honest, Taraji P. Henson is eminently more watchable than Gibson and Helen Hunt combined (great Darwin’s ghost, what was 2001 thinking?), so the 2019 edition has a MV5BMTIxODZhYmEtYzM4MC00YzE5LWJhMDQtMmQyOTE4MDcwMDU4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzEwODIxNzE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_slight edge. However, women really are a mystery and Mel Gibson really is an idiot, so at least that version made sense. Taraji P. Henson clearly knows how to handle men. Ali is a confidant, competent, sexy woman. So let’s not sit around pretending that she’s the problem in search of a mind-reading solution. What this movie should have been is How Not To Be A Misogynistic Asshole At Work (Or Ever!). And also: How Not To Group All Men Into One Disgusting Category. What’s that you say? Men like sports and cars and not talking about their feelings? How very 1958 of you.I mean, sure, those things describe Sean rather perfectly. But he also farts and eats a lot! I mean, that’s not ALL he’s good for. He also carries heavy bags and holds my credit card and orders for me in restaurants. Wait. What? The onslaught of unadulterated sexism in this movie has jumbled my brain. If only a man was around to write this review for me!

You know what women want? Better roles for Taraji P. Henson. And I bet men want that too.

Robin Hood

If you needed money on an urgent basis, would you steal from the rich or the poor? The rich, right? It’s a no brainer. It’s Robin Hood’s calling card for good reason, because it works. And yet, when forced to make that decision in the latest big screen version of the legend of Robin Hood, the evil Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) chooses to rob the poor instead. I took it that was intended to show us that the Sheriff is truly evil. But what it really shows us is that he is an idiot.

This Sheriff of Nottingham is so dumb that he has no chance to best Robin Hood or any of his merry men. He is so dumb that he was written out of this wannabe franchise before it even crashed and burned at the box office. Still, Mendelsohn doesn’t let this miserable movie or its bad script constrain him. He gleefully chews enough scenery to let us know that even as this movie is bursting into flames around him, he relishes this chance to play an idiot. He absolutely nails it. Which doesn’t make Robin Hood any more enjoyable, but I have to give Mendelsohn an “A” for effort.

No one else in Robin Hood has even an eighth of Mendelsohn’s desire. Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Eve Hewson and Jamie Dornan must also know that they are part of a dismal film. Nothing about this project could ever have seemed promising. Cliches and plot holes abound. The story makes no sense. The voiceovers are unbearably banal. The whole endeavour was so flat that I had time to wonder what Michael Bay might have made of this, and I concluded he could only have made it better, because at least Bay would have joined Mendelsohn in having some fun with the wretched source material.

Aside from Mendelsohn, everyone else in this film is making an obvious effort to be forgettable. It mostly works. In a year from now, I probably won’t remember anything about Robin Hood. It’s destined to be a footnote at best, remembered only in passing the next time a Robin Hood movie is made (maybe with Robin being female, which is one in a long list of Jay’s good ideas). Until then, try the Disney cartoon if you need a Robin Hood fix, or fall back on the Kevin Costner one if you’re desperate. Because the 2018 Robin Hood is not worth any of your time, or even any of the time of your most idiotic nemesis.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

I did not think the world needed another Jungle Book movie. I felt the same about Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book. I am too young to have any warm feelings toward the Disney cartoon – that movie felt old-fashioned to me as a kid, and I couldn’t watch it. We never read the books, and I was never a boy scout. And don’t get me started on this “live action” nonsense – this may be more sophisticated animation, a less cartoony cartoon, but this stuff is 95% computer-generated.

Anyway, as you may have gleaned: a “mean” tiger named Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) eats some humans in the jungle. He’s the menacing villain of the story, even though the tiger was only doing as tigers do. But white people think they own MV5BOWNjOGFlNTAtZDlmMS00ODdjLWFiMjQtYjMxNTUwYjY1OWMwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUwNzk3NDc@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,732_AL_everything they see and touch and feel, and are surprised not be welcomed with open arms whenever they attempt to colonize new lands. The jungle was never meant for humans, and almost everything about the jungle makes that abundantly clear. Anyway, the dead humans leave behind a baby, Mowgli, who is accepted by and raised by a  literal pack of wolves. Mowgli is mentored by a black panther named Bagheera (Christian Bale), and a bear named Baloo (Andy Serkis). They try to teach him the ways of the jungle, but they also know the strange animal called man is edging in on their territory, and it can only be an asset to have one of them among them.

At PG-13, this is a darker, less family-friendly version of the Jungle Book. Mowgli’s story has always had something to say about fitting in, and whether how we look has ever been the best way to judge who is one of us, and who is not. But, we’ve obviously been told this story several times before, and Serkis’ version gives us nothing new, just some special effects and his trademark motion capture that actually brings nothing to the table. There’s no charm, there’s no heart. Andy Serkis may have donned the green suit to give life to Baloo, but he’s never seemed more cold and aloof. He’s not the same Baloo that people have loved for generations. This isn’t the same Jungle Book. It’s dark and it’s bloody – so, for the rare person who wishes beloved children’s books played more like war movies, I guess this is pay dirt – but for the rest of us, this is a miss.

 

Overboard (2018)

When it’s over, Sean turns to me and says ‘I know you recently crowned SPF-18 the worst movie ever, but what do you think, could this usurp it?’ And the thing is yeah – he’s not wrong, though I must uncomfortably remind him that while we watched SPF-18 for “free” (Netflix), we paid to watch this shit. Which makes its awfulness that much harder to swallow.

Sure the 1987 version was horribly sexist, but it was also soaked in charm. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell had major chemistry, and Garry Marshall knew how to wring a scene for laughs. In the 2018 remake, it’s hard not to compare Anna Faris to Goldie Hawn, and it’s impossible for her not to lose, and by quite a large margin. Hawn has big presence and effortless likeability. Faris has her wide mouth and not much else.

In 2018, the roles are reversed. Kate (Faris) is the hard-working widow, and Leo (Eugenio Derbez) the pompous, spoiled brat. She meets him one day vacuuming up a glitter bomb on his beautiful yacht, and failing to meet his impossible standards, is MV5BZjNkOTNjMjktZGI5Yi00ODJjLWFhMzQtZWQ2YTU3NDBiNzRmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDg2MjUxNjM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1502,1000_AL_thrown overboard, unpaid. He later suffers an accident and ends up unidentified in a hospital with amnesia (his evil sister refusing to claim him so she can inherit the family business) so Kate, egged on by her best friend Theresa (Eva Longoria),decides to claim him as her husband and force him into a life of servitude in order to extort retribution. Nothing about this new life feels familiar to Leo, and he’s not immediately great at working a back-breaking job, doing all the housework, caring for 3 kids, and getting nothing in return.

Eugenio Derbez is a curious choice to play the leading man here. He’s a big star in Mexico but virtually unknown to the rest of North America. He’s also too old for Anna Faris, and not handsome enough, and doesn’t seem at home in either end of his role’s spectrum – the rich playboy, or the blue-collar dad. Either Overboard got some major Mexican money and had to meet certain conditions, or they were courting the Mexican box office (indeed, that’s where it made half its money) hard. Either way, Derbez just doesn’t fit. And Anna Faris, while never my favourite, has something to offer, though that something was left on the table. She’s more adept at physical comedy, screwball stuff, and the script did not play to her strengths at all. The chemistry between them is non-existent. How did this thing even get off the ground?

Never mind the fact that the premise just hasn’t aged very well. I mean, she’s basically kidnapping a mentally disabled person and forcing him into slavery. And when she delivers a laundry list of chores for him to complete on top of his two jobs and caregiving responsibilities, it just comes off as mean. Which isn’t nearly as bad as how she comes off as a mother. First, the gall to complain that her mother (Swoozie Kurtz, whom I have never not loved) is not prepared to derail her whole life in order to care for Kate’s kids full-time. Um, they’re your kids Kate. I get that it’s tough to be a single parent, but it’s nobody’s responsibility but yours. Second, she constant reminds us how icky it is to leave her three young daughters alone with a strange man (the only thing she knows about him is that he’s a horndog douchebag, ie, not great babysitting material) and yet it happens over and over. Kate is a widow, apparently, though that’s mentioned once and forgotten. There is no mourning being done in her household – no mentions, no memories, no pictures even. So I get why she might “fall” for a provider type, someone to lessen her burden. But why would Leo fall for her? She’s so much worse than just your standard liar: she’s amoral and selfish and exploitative. This is not a love story you can root for and not a comedy you can laugh at. So what the heck’s the point?