REVIEW: “STUBER” (2019) 20TH Century Fox

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So I’m sure we’ve all heard the recent comments from Dave Bautista stating how he would never do a Fast & Furious type film noting he would “rather do good films”.   Well Dave, I’ve got a news flash for you. If “STUBER” is what you are bringing to the table instead, then you might want to re-evaluate that comment just a tad.  The past few Fast & Furious films, while by no means great, are Award material in comparison to ‘Stuber’  as at least they are so bad that they are good. And that my friends is not an easy accomplishment.   ‘Stuber’ on the other hand,  is really just brutal, absurd, unfunny, and tasteless, with very few if any, redeeming qualities.

The film centers around a highly aggressive LAPD officer Vic (Dave Bautista), looking for a brutal heroin dealer, Teijo (Iko Uwais).  However, he cannot drive to the locations that he needs to go to due to his recent Lasik surgery affecting his vision. As a result, he gets in an Uber with the mild-mannered Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) who is desperately trying to keep his star rating up, as he needs this second job because he has just invested in his secret crush’s Becca (Betty Gilpin) fitness business.  In one of the most implausable storylines ever written, he instead ends up having to keep going around with Vic to various crime scenes and assisting him no less, to stop the dealer.

Basically – Imagine every cop movie cliche: death of a partner, neglected and resentful daughter, a case that’s being “kicked up to the Feds,” a big score that’s “going down” right when the cop is supposed to be at his daughter Nicole‘s (Natalie Morales) big art show, a crooked cop, and on and on. Then add massive gunfights with plenty of heads spurting blood, a death in the first five minutes of a character meant only to give the cop another reason to be on the case. Give the cop Lasik surgery so he has to stumble around and use Uber. Add “jokes” that are as limp as cooked spaghetti and as dated as The Terminator, plus the ongoing humiliation of Nanjiani’s Uber-driving character as well as of the actor, and you have “Stuber” in a nutshell.

Given the popularity of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, I thought the idea for a buddy comedy about this could be both entertaining and timely.  Unfortunately, this was a dreadful attempt at action comedy that has some surprisingly visceral action scenes, yet fails miserably at virtually every other aspect.  The film’s plot generally consists of going from point A to point B and point C, which is fine, but the story’s narrative never manages to take any structural risks. As a comedy, “Stuber” falls pretty flat.  None of the jokes or “points” of the narrative really add up to much significance.  The more over-the-top moments in the film tend to rely on shock value just for the sake of it, unlike the better R-rated comedies that balance wit, irony, and strong writing with over-the-top content that we’ve seen this year.

Bautista’s acting is so bad that I am embarrassed for him – and while the saving grace of comedy jokes here is by far Nanjiani, he is just not strong enough to carry an entire film.  The only thing worse than Baustista’s acting was hearing so many people in the audience laughing at the violence and not at the jokes. And while Bautista has a huge fan base that I’m sure will love him in this, I can only speak for myself when noting this might be the one that changes their minds.  The film’s supporting characters are also embarrassingly written as their characterization is both paper-thin, most especially our villain Teijo who doesn’t even speak till the very end. You know my motto ‘a good villain can make or break a film’.

While the film’s surprisingly intense and violent action is generally well-choreographed, that is the only thing recommendable about this otherwise disastrous action-comedy. Even though Stu wants to earn a five-star rating in this movie, the film itself is only deserving of 1 star.

Grade: D

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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, July 2, 2019 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

“STUBER” WILL BE IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE FRIDAY, JULY 12, 2019

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REVIEW: “THE BIG SHORT” (2015) Paramount Pictures

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the big short
When Ryan Gosling’s character Jared Vennett asks the question to a room full of brokers.. “What’s that smell?” and answers it with “Opportunity” you know then and there to prepare yourself for a very different type of ride.

The film’s narrative is driven by four cynical, fringe Wall Streeter’s disgusted with the large banking institutions’ overriding greed for profits. Separately, but yet oddly together, they make the decision to capitalize on the ensuing housing market catastrophe and the financial meltdown of 2008 upon discovering the market frenzy is being driven by worthless collateral debt obligations.
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While I might never figure out how Director Adam McKay made deplorable humans, blinding fear, gut-wrentching outrage and delightful shaming so much fun to watch ~ He most definitely brought along his dark bag of laughs here, but planted them in such a way as to where we actually understood what was happening thanks to fun cameo explanations from the likes of Margot Robbie in a bubble bath, Anthony Bourdain cooking it right up, and even Selena Gomez gambling though her little monologue.

After a rather lengthy dizzying, yet delightful, character introduction, the film picks up pace as the drama begins to unfold. Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale), an eccentric financial analyst, with complete autonomy of an investment fund, uncovers variables in his economic forecast indicating a massive housing market collapse. He informs his higher up, Lawrence Fields (Tracy Letts), of his discovery and creates a financial prospectus. In essence, he creates a commodity of selling short on bundled mortgages.
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The bankers laugh themselves silly as they willingly sell Burry all the “insurance” he wants. Word quickly spreads of Burry’s perceived madness in a after-work cocktail scene. With interest piqued upon overhearing the Wall Street gossip of the day, Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), scoops up the aspects of Burry’s move. Soon, he sells it to a group led by Steve Carell’s real-life character, Mark Baum and convinces them to buy in.

As the debacle is in full free-fall, Baum struggles with disbelief as he and his group have bet against their own umbrella entity, Morgan Stanley. The final team that has uncovered the impending financial crisis, made up of two Wall Street rookie wanna-be’s, Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) and Charlie Geller (John Magaro) who along with veteran trader turned-conspiracist Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), also struggle with the imploding financial system caused by corporate greed and indifference
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With a mammoth cast, the acting in this movie is pristine with the whole ensemble cast being in top form. With that said however there were three stand out performances that somewhat break this mold.
Ryan Gosling might be the funniest as he narrates and embodies the fact that he’s a scum bag and just rolls with it, offering an entertainingly slick performance. Christian Bale let us feel his pain and lonely genius, stole the show in every scene he was in. The only genuinely relate able character in the lot, Bale conveys a great deal of sensitivity, making it one of his best performances to date. Steve Carell dug deep and came up with a persona that brings Baum to life, even if he does over act at times which I guess is how he really is in true-life form.
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It was also nice to see Marisa Tomei, Hamish Linklater, Billy Magnussen, Rafe Spall, Max Greenfield and talented others working at a solid supporting level.

With all the ‘truth’ films out there this year, “The Big Short” is one of the more important ones of this group and also one of the best. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time as the film warns us in a way, who knows what will be the next basic human necessity to be denied by those few who hold power.

Grade: B+
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Review Screening: Arclight Hollywood ~ Tuesday, December 8, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
In Select Theaters: Friday, December 11, 2015
NATIONWIDE RELEASE: Wednesday, December 23, 2015