Hot Tub Time Machine 2 and Focus
I haven't been around these parts lately because I've been soaking in some sun in Florida on vacation for the last week plus. And of course, by soaking in some sun, I mean getting sunburnt badly while playing golf and then wearing laughable amounts of clothing layers at the swimming pool later. When you don't go outside as much as I normally don't go outside, it's pretty easy to forget that sunscreen even exists.
Anyway, I saw two movies while continuing to forget about my real life problems back home, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 and Focus. Both of which were movies that I mostly forgot about hours later while beating my parents at Bocce ball. But I guess I could review them, or whatever. The movies, not the Bocce ball. My review of Bocce ball is that lazy old people sports are fantastic.
So what are these dumb movies?
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is the sequel to the 2010 comedy that I don't think was that well received either, right? But I kind of liked the first one, in a "worthy of buying for $5 in a bargain bin" kind of way. For the sequel, they've lost John Cusack, and the premise is now that they go to the future instead of the past. But, if you're making a movie where one of the three main draw-ins is Clark Duke, then you know you're going to be in trouble.
Focus is the new Will Smith feature, which felt like something of a redemption film for what he exposed us to in After Earth, and is a story about some con artists who have absurdly well thought out cons and are literally conning people in every single scene of the movie even if it doesn't look like conning is happening because they will remind you later of how it is. That was kind of a run on sentence. Don't care! [drinks unknown neon blue tropical drink] Margot Robbie (the Wolf of Wall Street lady) plays the love interest who is also conning people, along with several other supporting characters. Let's just say that the third person listed in the credits was a "Con Artist Supervisor / Pick Pocket Designer". For real. Like a Martial Arts Supervisor in a Jet Li movie. Kinda funny.
Was there anything worthwhile about them?
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 didn't have very many satisfying elements. I guess it's nice that Adam Scott and Gillian Jacobs got heavily featured roles, but this movie was so stupid and (probably) unwatched that it doesn't even matter. I want to like Rob Corddry, and *have* liked him in other things, but his character is thoroughly unenjoyable in this movie. A week after seeing it, I honestly can not remember a single joke that I outwardly laughed at while watching it. Not one. That's, uh, not very good. They had one chuckle-worthy visual gag of a giant painting of Corddy's character having sex with a tiger, and it worked pretty good as a "subtle" background joke. But then, like everything else in the movie, they started to outwardly mention it many times and run the joke into the ground.
For Focus, I actually really liked the first half. It was kind of just some fun choreographed gags, all done with lighthearted, fast-paced action; showing how all of these con artists steal watches and wallets and whatnot from people during the "Superbowl". That's in quotes because they didn't have any licensed NFL teams, and it was the "Chicago Rhinos" and "Miami Thrashers". This was funny to me because only in a pretend cinematic world could Miami overcome their mediocrity to make it to the championship game against none other than underachiever Jay Cutler and the Chicago Rhinos. It's like a bizarro world where nothing makes sense! Well, the score was 6-3 at halftime, so I guess a game that inept would be a little realistic.
What was so terrible about these movies?
Oh man, I don't even know where to begin with Hot Tub Time Machine 2. Let's see... Well, I guess one of the biggest problems with the movie is that Clark Duke is horrible, and he's basically an unfunny concoction of Jonah Hill and Michael Cera, only without any of the charisma. Does Clark Duke only exist to be terrible in these two HTTM movies? Like, has he been in anything else? I'm going to check his IMDb page now.
27 credits?! Ok, I'm surprised by that. Eight episodes of Two and a Half Men. Haha, that kind of makes sense. Ohhhh yeaaah, he was on The Office during those later years seasons after Michael Scott left, when Andy was boss and they tried to bring in some new faces uneventfully to jazz things up. Clark Duke didn't exactly draw in huge ratings, I assume? I vaguely remember him in the trailer for A Thousand Words, with Eddie Murphy (didn't see the movie, though). Ah yes, he was in both Kick-Ass movies, the first of which was probably his finest work. It looks like he's been in 74 episodes of "Greek". I don't know what that is, but it sounds like a CW show. Well, at least he has no upcoming credits listed, so that's good. Not that I wish him misfortune for the rest of his career, but I feel like he's been given a huge lucky break already for being as unfunny as he is, so he can start showing up in SyFy Channel movies with Tara Reid any day now. That would be fair. Clark Duke is basically a less interesting Josh Gad, and Josh Gad is fantastically uninteresting to begin with.
What else is wrong with HTTM2...? They drag every joke out as much as possible. Milking everything until it's dry and shriveled. And they do these long sequences where they just cut to "improvised" one liners over and over again until one of the characters has to literally tell them to stop. Just a barrage of "Jacob looks like (this) meets (that)" for like 4 minutes at a time. And they do it so many times in the movie. A fifth of the film's running time is probably spent doing these kinds of jokes. These are jokes that would normally be reserved for the credits gag reel of a Will Ferrell comedy.
And then there was the smart car joke that they built up to nothing over about six scenes. And the cliché drug trip sequence. And the forced virtual reality gay sex joke. And the... Uhhh... I don't even remember. I kind of want to forget about this movie. [starts chugging neon blue drink rapidly]
Oh yeah, I was talking about Focus, too. [edit note: this paragraph kind of contains a spoiler, and while I don't mention character names, I do pretty much spoil the dumb thing that happens at the end of the movie] What I didn't like about this movie is that, eventually, I started to realize that every single thing in this movie was not what it seemed. Everything was methodically planned by the characters to the point where a character could literally die, and then it would end up just being part of a con. Was that actually a spoiler alert? I don't know, I didn't really say who it was, so I don't think so. But if you want some advice, if you see this movie, after that person gets killed, you should just get up and leave the theater. Enjoy that experience as an unhappy, realistic ending. Why does everything always have to have a happy ending? No one is going to talk about the ending this movie actually has (which is really stupid). But if they ended it realistically and abruptly, I would have probably given this movie two points higher. Also, one of the character twists at the end of the movie makes NO sense with behaviors these characters have in a scene earlier in the movie. That's just bad/lazy writing.
Speaking of points, what would you score these things?
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is like a 3.5 out of 10. I'd give it a hard pass if I were you, with the knowledge I have now given you. Focus is probably a 6.5 out of 10. It's watchable, and slightly fun, but ultimately dim-witted. I'd give both movies an enthusiastic "why don't I do something better with my vacation time than seeing these movies?"
[finishes all the neon blue drinks] [passes out on shuffleboard court] [gets sunburnt in places I didn't think were possible]
Focus is noteworthy for being edited in 4k using Apple FCPX. Even the titles were done in FCPX, which is unheard of.
[Mark Suszko] "Focus is noteworthy for being edited in 4k using Apple FCPX."
A discussion for another forum, but I think it's noteworthy for people THINKING it's noteworthy that it was edited in FCPX. LOL It's unfortunate that Apple partisans will once again rush to the theaters to "check it out for themselves," as if Apple's magic has somehow rubbed off on what Scott rates as dim-witted, a word pair that does not get used nearly often enough.
My general calibration is that my own scores tend to be a little lower than Scott's
It surely can't be any more dim-witted than Rules of Attraction, the first major studio production to be edited with FCP. NOT Cold Mountain, which was the following year. It wasn't dim-witted, merely boring, insufferable, and I fear quite literally interminable. I'm not convinced the movie ever ended. I left before it was over, with the distinct impression that it could well still be droning on.
The irony is that The Big Three (Rules, Mountain, and Focus) have in common that THEY NEEDED MORE EDITING. Shorter movies, you ppl.
So maybe the Cold Mountain Moment as applied to Focus is that, a) the movie wasn't very good, and b) it didn't change things in the movie bidness much one way or the other....
But it does make me wonder -- Will Smith is one of the most engaging humans to ever appear in front of a movie camera, but how far back do we have to go to a non-MiB picture that was an unqualified win for Will? Ali in 2001? Enemy of the State in 1998?
Enemy of the State of course invoking The Conversation, the masterpiece edited by - -anyone? Bueller? -- Walter Murch, whose sound work also nabbed him an Oscar nom....
Anyhoo, shorter movies, ppl.
And longer reviews, Scott. LOL
"Pursuit of Happiness". Will at some of his most personable.
Aside from the subjective rating of a movie being "good" or "bad", one of the measures used to judge a software product in the post community is if and how it's used in a Big Hollywood Movie. FCP got a lot of grief from Avid fans until some big movies came out showing you could indeed cut a movie on it. FCPX got grief not just from Avid users but the FCP user base. Now it's got some legitimacy in the post community.
Can you watch a film and say: "that cut was definitely made on an Avid, or in Premiere, or FCP, or a Steenbeck" ? No. Good editing is a separate discussion from the platform it was done on. I just pointed out that FCPX now has a track record as having been used on A Big Movie. And just as high performance car racing tends to generate innovations that trickle down to consumer automobiles over time, getting used in Big Movies tends to drive more innovation and continual updating in NLE platforms. That's good for ALL of us.