Thursday, January 21, 2016

Rapid Reviews: The Finest Hours and Dirty Grandpa

Director Craig Gillespie has never been a household name, but I have been a fan of his past works such as Million Dollar Arm and Lars and the Real Girl. His films fail to strike a deep emotional chord, but they generally tell very interesting stories and keep the audience engaged. Therefore, I was at least mildly interested in Gillespie's latest endeavor, survival drama, The Finest Hours.

After a massive oil tanker splits in half during a wild wintry storm off the shores of Massachusetts, all nearby Coast Guard units are dispatched to the scene with their finest vessels. And in the most improbable turn of events, a second oil tanker suffers the same exact fate, splitting in half as well and slowly sinking into the frigid ocean waters. With the nearly 30 passengers on-board working tirelessly to keep the ship afloat until help arrives, responder Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) is called upon to assemble a 4-man crew in a daring rescue mission with only a second-rate boat at their disposal.

It's difficult not to compare Gillespie's new release against another well known and finely executed sinking-ship drama, The Perfect Storm. Both are based on true stories and where Wolfgang Peterson's 2000 release wins the audience over with strongly developed characters and worthwhile dramatics, The Finest Hours most shining attributes revolve around its spectacular special effects. Chris Pine continues to illustrate a fine ability to carry a film and Casey Affleck's character has a few strong moments as well, but nearly everyone else becomes a replaceable piece to the puzzle. The third act's rescue mission delivers noteworthy thrills and suspense, but the film fails to create characters through which the audience can connect and have a vested interest. The Finest Hours is a decent, but far from exceptional, film that dazzles with eye-popping visual effects. And despite holding the audience's attention for nearly two full hours, its writing and overall effect fails to stack up against The Perfect Storm.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

Sometimes you encounter a film where you just wish you could have those two hours of your life back. 2016 kicks off its cinematic year with one such feature, Danny Mazer's Dirty Grandpa. Sadly, this absurdly concocted comedy marks an absolute low point for both Robert De Niro and Zac Efron's acting careers.

A week before Jason Kelly's (Efron) wedding, his grandfather (De Niro) tricks him into taking a debaucherous road-trip to Daytona Beach during spring break. With the old man's last parting wish to defile a spry college-aged beauty (Aubrey Plaza) who has a "thing" for older men, Jason reluctantly goes along with the plan until he hits it off with a former classmate (Zoey Deutch) and puts his until engagement at risk.

Dirty Grandpa is a poorly written and predictable comedy that relies solely on male nudity and immature vulgar one-liners to steal laughs from the audience. The plot is formulaic and feels all too familiar while Robert De Niro force-feeds raunchy quips that miss far more than they succeed. This improvisational comedy fad that spawned from directors such as Judd Apatow and Adam McKay has lost its flavor. Pointing a camera at someone and having them say the craziest, most raunchy things that come to mind is no longer funny and definitely not creative. De Niro is a two-time Oscar winner who's starred in cinematic greats like Raging Bull and The Godfather: Part II. Watching him tarnish his valuable legacy in this way is an absolute tragedy and something I want no part of. There are almost no redeeming qualities to be found in Dirty Grandpa, and I suggest holding onto your hard earned paycheck by avoiding this clunker.

Stars: 1 star out of 4

Grade: D+

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