“Free Guy” (2021) & “The Lost City” (2022)

I just got past a V busy time at work; my team was under a LOT of pressure these past 6 wks! So, I decided to watch these newer/comedic movies. I didn’t have high expectations, so I wasn’t TOO disappointed. These movies already played in theaters; you can watch them on streaming now. Just don’t think too much and try to analyze entertainment like this- LOL!

Free Guy (2021) starring Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Taika Waititi, Lil Rel Howery, Joe Keery, & Utkarsh Ambudkar

Guy [saying his catchphrase]: Don’t have a good day, have a great day.

In the (fictional) popular video game, Free City, a NPC (non-playable character) named Guy (Ryan Reynolds) somehow breaks out of his programming and starts behaving differently from the other NPCs. (Gamers noted that this world has elements from Grand Theft Auto and Fortnite.) He eventually learns the true nature of his existence after he meets a human player, Millie AKA Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer). Guy’s best friend is a security guard, Buddy (Lil Rel Howery), who can’t see the game as Guy does. Key (Joe Keery) and Mouser (Utkarsh Ambudkar) are two programmers who work on user complaints at Soonami, the company that owns Free City. Antwan (Taika Waititi- in a rare bad role) is their boss.

The scenes in the real world are shot w/ anamorphic lenses, while the scenes in the game are shot w/ standard spherical lenses; the film is at 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Though the establishing shot of Free City is downtown Pittsburgh, the movie was largely filmed in Boston. In later scenes, when Antwan is standing in his office, the background is the Seattle skyline. The director, Shawn Levy, is perhaps more known as a producer; he worked recently on Stranger Things (Netflix). This movie was shot in 2018, BUT was delayed for some time.

Guy: Millie, how many times a day are the banks robbed in your world?

Molotov Girl: Hardly ever, Guy.

Guy: What about corpses, Millie? Do ya see a lot of those? How many an hour?

Molotov Girl: None per hour, Guy.

Guy: What about gun violence? See a lot of gun violence in your world?

Molotov Girl: Actually, that’s a big problem, Guy, it’s a massive problem.

This joke above is one of the few clever/funny parts of this movie, sorry to say. There are a LOT of cameos- voice and in-person! The two up-and-comers – Comer (one of the co-leads in The Last Duel) and Keery (best known as Steve on Stranger Things)- are doing as well as they can w/ the material; this was actually her 1st movie role. Reynolds is (as MANY critics/viewers commented) playing a version of himself; I haven’t seen a LOT of his movies yet, BUT he doesn’t impress me much. Reynolds (personally) asked Mariah Carey for the rights to use her iconic song- “Fantasy.” You can watch this movie on HBOMax.

[1] Free Guy (2021) feels as though it’s been made by people who have never actually played a video-game. […] …the fact that it lacks a proper sense of logic isn’t its biggest issue, although it is undeniably irritating that a movie which is supposed to celebrate video-games clearly doesn’t understand them and also partakes in the kind of banal ‘gamer’ stereotyping that perforates pretty much every piece of traditional media about the subject. No, the biggest issue is that, for me, it simply isn’t fun.

[2] Free Guy is worth going to see because it is one of the few quality films right now that increases one’s faith in human nature. Lately, I feel as though I have lost my faith in humanity, with all that is happening in the world, so it is refreshing to get a movie that feels confident in the human experience. Maybe I’m looking too deep into the message of Free Guy and maybe it was conceived just so Ryan Reynolds could screw around for two hours…

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

The Lost City (2022) starring Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, & Daniel Radcliffe

Reclusive author Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) writes about exotic places in her romance novels. The model for her hero- Dash- is named Alan (Channing Tatum); his look is based on Fabio. While on tour promoting her latest book- The Lost City of D– w/ Alan, Loretta gets kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire, Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), who hopes she can lead him to an ancient city’s lost treasure. Determined to prove he can be a hero in real life, Alan sets off to rescue her w/ the help of a former Navy Seal- Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt).

Loretta: Why are you so handsome?

Jack: My father was a weatherman.

This movie was shot on location in the Dominican Republic (during the pandemic); the scenery is gorgeous! Ryan Reynolds was originally sought for the lead male role, marking this a reunion w/ Bullock after The Proposal (2009), but a deal couldn’t be reached and Tatum was cast. IMO, Tatum is a better actor than Reynolds. The said the nude scene where Bullock pulls leaches off Tatum’s nude body was shot on the 2nd day of filming. They barely knew each other and he joked w/ her that they were about to get to know each other very well- LOL! They had to shoot it 50 times b/c Tatum kept laughing at the line: “They’re sucking on my butt like a Jamba Juice.” I liked their dance scene in the 3rd act, BUT I thought the romance was a BIT forced. These characters had more friend chemistry.

This movie needed more of Pitt (as MANY critics have said)! Bullock and Pitt became friends after they acted together in Bullet Train (2022). Pitt’s character- Jack Trainer- is a nod to the film that this is a loose remake of- Romancing the Stone (1984). In that film the male lead (played by Michael Douglas) was named Jack Colton; Mary Ellen Trainor (wife of director Robert Zemeckis) had a small role. The name of Loretta’s book tour is Romancing the Page– another callback to the 1984 movie. You can see this on Amazon Prime (Paramount+ Channel).

Loretta: How do they keep finding us?

Alan [pointing out her purple/sequined jumpsuit]: You’re basically a walking disco ball.

[1] Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum can play these characters in their sleep, and to their credit, they both seem engaged and willing to put forth the necessary effort. Tatum especially embraces the duality of a preening cover boy and the sensitive type out to prove he has substance.

[2] The Lost City has pieces that work and pieces that don’t. Placing pretenders into an actual adventure is good for laughs and heart, yet much of this script is generic. Unimaginative MacGuffins, flat villains, and predictable romances are individually forgivable, but together, they override the premise’s charm. Furthermore, the dialogue, humor, and plot devices are subpar.

[3] In the end, The Lost City is exactly what I think moviegoers need right now. Nothing too serious or weighed down by heavy drama. This is a good old-fashioned, silly comedy/romance that I feel works for what it is. It’s not going to be the type of comedy that a lot of people are going to watch over and over again, at least I don’t think, but the heart of the film is in the right place and it never takes anything too seriously.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Spoiler-Free Review: “The Batman” (2022) starring Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Colin Farrell, & Paul Dano

…rather than make Bruce Wayne the playboy version we’ve seen before, there’s another version who had gone through a great tragedy and became a recluse. Kurt Cobain had a relationship w/ fame, where being famous was not his goal. He loved music, but the idea of being famous for music was a double edged sword for him. And that made me think of Rob Pattinson, actually. I felt that this rock-star vibe suited him well. After all, he became a pop-culture icon at a very young age and had to carry that burden too, and extricate himself from it to become the actor he is today. -Matt Reeves, writer/director

Bruce Wayne in this reimagining of Batman was partially inspired by Kurt Cobain. Reeves was listening to Nirvana when he wrote the 1st act. This is the 1st movie to directly address the black eye makeup under the cowl. In previous versions, the makeup just disappeared when Bruce took his mask off. Reeves explained: “I just loved the idea of taking off [the mask] and under that there’s the sweating and the dripping and the whole theatricality of becoming this character.” Robert Pattinson (whose acting I don’t yet know well) and Zoë Kravitz (who plays Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman) were friends for about 10 yrs before being cast in this film. Reeves commented that they already had great chemistry and a natural connection from the beginning of shooting. I thought almost ALL the scenes btwn Batman and Catwoman crackled w/ chemistry!

Bruce is obsessed in being Batman. He has no desire to be Bruce and he wants to just throw it away. He hasn’t gotten over being the 10-year-old boy who, in his mind, let his parents die. For him, being Batman is like a strange kind of therapy. He thinks this is the way he can save himself, by living in this kind of Zen state as Batman, where it’s just pure instinct and no emotional baggage. It feels like he has a death wish going out at night. I always get the impression that he wants to keep recreating the night when his parents died. In his mind, every single person he is fighting is the person who killed his parents. -Robert Pattinson

This Batman is a “detective” of sorts, as many critics/viewers noted; he works w/ the police to solve crime. He is a man of few words and doesn’t feel the needs to put on the persona of Bruce Wayne. At this point, he has been at the vigilante biz for 2yrs and Gotham doesn’t trust him. However, the respected Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright- always great in any role) brings him in on tough cases as he trusts Batman. Reeves’ version of the Riddler (Paul Dano- all grown up) was partly inspired by the Zodiac killer who operated in California in the late 1960s. I noticed that some Adam Driver fans also admire this character actor. Like Driver, Dano is V tall, doesn’t have a face typical of a Hollywood actor, and is able to project vulnerability. Andy Serkis takes on the (rare) good guy role; he plays Alfred, BUT doesn’t get too much to do. I thought he did fine w/ what he was given. Did some of you recognize Colin Farrell!? (I ONLY knew it was him b/c I listened to some movie podcasts before viewing!) John Turturro (a veteran character actor who I know from Spike Lee movies) has a pivotal role, BUT I don’t want to give too much away.

When my kid saw me for the first time, he was utterly horrified. I have it on iPhone. He was horrified.

-Colin Farrell re: his transformation to Oswald (AKA The Penguin)

I already have my fave Batman (Christian Bale), so wasn’t TOO eager to see this version. There is also charm (and nostalgia) when looking back at Michael Keaton’s take on Batman, many growing up in the ’80s have commented. Also, Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer (who were exes) were hot as a romantic duo in Batman Returns! It got some decent reviews and was streaming on HBO Max, so I checked it out a few weeks ago. Yes, it’s a V long movie (as is the case nowadays w/ many movies)! The filmmakers create a realistic and noir-like environment; Gotham is usually gloomy, rainy, and dark. It (mostly) kept my attention, BUT I didn’t think much on it after a couple of days. If you want a diversion and enjoy this character, then give it a look.

Spoiler-Free Review: “Deep Water” (2022) starring Ben Affleck & Ana de Armas

A well-to-do husband who allows his wife to have affairs in order to avoid a divorce becomes a prime suspect in the disappearance of her lovers. -Synopsis

Film Twitter ands several YouTuber vloggers are commenting re: this new movie (streaming on Hulu) for the past 2 days. I watched this movie late on FRI; an alternate title could be “Deeply Wasteful.” Earlier in the pandemic, I dove back (pun intended) into the (fading) erotic thriller sub-genre. Veteran British director, Adrian Lyne, is known for his erotic thrillers, having worked on 9 1/2 Weeks (1983), Fatal Attraction (1987)), Indecent Proposal (1993), and Unfaithful (2002), among other films. As you may know, Ben Affleck (now 49 y.o.) and Ana de Armas (a 33 y.o. up-and-comer who previously had a big career in Spain) had a year-long relationship after meeting on this movie.

Vic (Affleck) is a wealthy man who has retired young; he enjoys being an involved dad to his adorable/bright daughter, Trixie (Grace Jenkins- who does a fine job). Vic’s younger wife, Melinda (de Armas), seems bored w/ their marriage and doesn’t seem to fit comfortably into the role of mom either. Melinda (who is a knockout) enjoys dancing, drinking (sometimes to excess), and flirting w/ other men. At first, it seems like Vic is cool w/ it (and maybe it also turns him on). His close friends (played by Lil Rel Howery, Dash Mihok, and Devyn A. Taylor) are concerned that Vic is being disrespected (and maybe even hurt) by Melinda’s behavior. Vic explains that maybe he doesn’t share their worries. We learn that one of Melinda’s male friends has recently gone missing. An older author in the community, Don (Tracey Letts- a writer himself), is V interested in this incident.

Deep Water is Lyne’s 1st movie in 20 yrs, and it (sadly) shows. There is a lack of character development here; the script is quite weak. I learned that this story was taken from a novel from Patricia Highsmith; she also wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley (starring Affleck’s BFF- Matt Damon). Watch that movie instead- you won’t regret it! The camera isn’t doing anything unique either. There isn’t much “erotic” or “thrilling” here- to be blunt! It was shot on location in New Orleans- this was mildly interesting (esp. the outdoors scenes).

Many reviewers commented that (real-life) lovers usually lack chemistry onscreen- quite true here. Affleck looks emotionally detached in MOST of his scenes, though I liked his scenes w/ the daughter. As for de Armas, it’s difficult to empathize w/ her; I couldn’t help but compare her to the (mature/complex) role played by Diane Lane in Unfaithful. The “other men” in Melinda’s life (played by Brendan Miller, Jacob Ellordi, and Finn Wittrock) are indeed (conventionally) handsome, BUT they’re also V boring. Ellordi is an Australian actor who co-stars in HBO’s Euphoria; I haven’t yet seen that show.