The Wannabe

This week, we take a look at a film Will and Vig checked out a the Tribeca Film Festival called The Wannabe. Directed by Nick Sandow and starring Patricia Arquette and Vincent Piazza, The Wannabe is rated R for strong language, drug use, and some graphic violence.

Based on a true story, The Wannabe follows Thomas (Piazza), a young man obsessed with mob culture. Desperate to fit in, Thomas sets out to fix the 1992 trial of John Gotti. But his plot is foiled, setting off a chain of events that leads to chaos and tragedy for Thomas and his lover and accomplice, Rose (Arquette).

*No trailer available for this film*

4.0 out of 10

I’m going to do my best here to separate the film review from the whole Tribeca experience. The latter, which was much better than the former, involves Will and my getting lost in the city, eating pizza and delicious gelato with the movie mixed in there somewhere, forgotten because of how mediocre it was. Warning: It will be tough to find much on the Internet about The Wannabe. There are no trailers  that I’ve been able to find, very few reviews and only a handful of articles about it. But skip all that and let me tell you something: this movie is a waste of your time.

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The film’s premise reflects its success, in my eyes. About an amateur mobster attempting to work his way into the depths of the mafia, The Wannabe is just that; a wannabe imitation of Goodfellas mixed with Bonnie and Clyde. Since I reckon you won’t be seeing this movie, here’s a spoiler: they die violently being shot in a car. Doesn’t that sound like one of the most famous scenes in cinema history? Doesn’t a man falling for a woman, running away with her, becoming outlaws, and robbing places sound like a certain classic crime film? Never heard of it before!

I was probably the only person in the world who didn’t like Patricia Arquette in Boyhood, and I didn’t like her here either. She was awfully cast, so I can’t completely blame it on her. She actually did fairly well considering how bad a character this was for her. I could go further, but to keep it short and scathing, Rose was as uninteresting as an outlaw, accessory-to-murder/robbery love interest can possibly get. She had no spark or interesting characteristic whatsoever.

Admittedly, Vincent Piazza’s performance as Thomas was probably the best thing about the film. He was young, immature, and brash, fitting the character pretty well. My biggest problem with him was that I felt like there was no development. He didn’t change at all. He was stubborn and brash to start and finished stubborn and brash. And I absolutely hated his mustache too. No excuse for something that vile. 

The storytelling was atrocious, if there was any. There are films that are hard to follow– Inception, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Donnie Darko— but still brilliant, as the confusion contributes to the mastery of the film. The confusion of The Wannabe does nothing but make it painful to watch. I figure that making it hard to follow was done purposefully to show off their turbulent life style… but that is a lord of horse sh*t. I had zero interest in continuing to watch this film.

Contributing to that is some of the worst cinematography I have ever seen. Throughout the film it is one of two things: shaky cam or obnoxious close ups of Thomas’ disgusting mustache. Again, I guess the justification for this is that it’s an artistic choice done in order to show how hectic their lives have become. But again, that is a lord of horse crap. I guess the production team forgot that it’s important to make a film aesthetically appealing so that their audience isn’t completely turned off. Oh well.

On the bright side, the experience was pretty great. Tribeca’s theater is absolutely beautiful and being able to see the actors on the red carpet was pretty great. There was also a talk-back after the showing, during which the actors and director talked about the process of making the film, which was a pretty cool experience. But in the end, the movie itself was not very good. It had potential, but a combination of poor directing decisions and performances that are over-acted ultimately makes this film look like a pathetic attempt to recreate the classic mob movies of the 70s and 80s. Simply put, 600 words cannot do justice to how much I dislike this movie.

5.0 out of 10

The day was great. The movie was OK.

Let me elaborate. Vig and I saw The Wannabe at its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, alongside acting greats like Steve Buscemi, personal TV idols like David Zayas, and pretty much the entire cast of “Orange is the New Black”. We walked the red carpet (well, we got to walk on a red carpet and Vig took a picture of me), sat within view of numerous celebrities, and participated in a question and answer session with The Wannabe’s director, Nick Sandow, and much of his cast. Afterwards, Vig and I enjoyed some nice pizza and gelato and an overall great (dare I say romantic?) night in New York City.

Up to that point, my most exquisite movie theater experience was when I splurged on $5.00 Sour Patch Kids and was lucky enough to be seated far away from all the smokers, talkers, and texters one often encounters in a typical movie going experience. It was, in short, awesome.

Unfortunately, the movie did not meet the night’s lofty standards. On paper, The Wannabe looked prime to join The Departed and Goodfellas as the elite entries in the mob film circle. It had the cast – including Patricia Arquette fresh off her Oscar win—, the plot, and the historical backdrop necessary to propel it to rarified air. And in truth The Wannabe did have so much potential. It chronicled the slow descent into madness of a modern day Bonnie and Clyde desperately trying to prove themselves to John Gotti and his coterie of mobsters.

Where the movie failed was in its execution. For probably an hour and a half, I had only the faintest idea of what was happening. I thought maybe I just missed a crucial piece of dialogue or something, but Vig said the same thing after the movie. The plot of the movie got lost in all of Sandow’s artistry and style, which, while certainly great assets to a movie, should not and cannot obstruct the communication of the central story. Now, maybe someone with a more refined (pompous) taste in movies was exactly keyed in, but for me The Wannabe might as well have been in Arabic.

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And maybe I would have been more okay with Sandow’s excessive artistry and its muddling of the plot if it had been effective. Way too much of the movie was spent zommed in way too tight. Sure, it was an interesting choice and we could see the physical toll drug use was taking on both characters extremely well and we could see the attention to detail the stylists had paid on giving Arquette the quintessential 90s New York City Italian look, but after 20 minutes I felt suffocated. I felt an extreme need to step back and take a breather, but Sandow wouldn’t let us up for air. I actually found myself waiting and longing for the end of the movie.

There were also a number of random plot threads that seemed to be abandoned with out a thought numerous times throughout the film. There was one plot thread with a fake brother that somehow (?) connected, a father and a café that also somehow (??) connected. In a movie with an already complicated plot, needless plot elements only serve to irritate already confused viewers.

Frankly, a 5 is probably somewhat generous for The Wannabe. The whole experience was so much fun that I don’t doubt my 5 is inflated by a point or two. If you’re really into the mob genre or incoherent and artsy movies, then feel free to check out The Wannabe when and if it hits theaters near you. But if you’re just a casual moviegoer more enticed by explosions and real drama then stylistic lens flare and pretentious bullcrap, take the advice of someone like you and give this movie a hard pass.


Avengers: Age of Ultron

Hey there viewers! We’re back today with the much anticipated Avengers: Age of Ultron. Directed by Joss Whedon and starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth, the film is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments.

Avengers: Age of Ultron follows the creation of artificial intelligence by Tony Stark in hopes to keep the peace. However, when things go awry with the robot, named Ultron (James Spader), Earth’s Mightiest Heroes must stand up to the task of taking him down and keeping the world safe.

7.0 out of 10

Both Screenwars and Joss Whedon’s highly anticipated blockbuster release, Avengers: Age of Ultron, are back and ready for action after a productive siesta – albeit the robot-crushing crew are better prepared for earth-threatening battle…

But regardless of Screenwars’ aptitude in fighting the Marvel supervillain, the Avengers are still subject to our critique; instead Zach and I suit up with word processors, thinking caps, and a family sized bag of Doritos to battle our nefarious nemesis – a film review.

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Age of Ultron certainly lived up to the visual expectations of its prequel, and again the film crew put on a fabulously flashy show of special effects that depicted everything from the glistening and idyllic Stark Tower to the wasted war zones of Eastern Europe. Hundreds of metal clad (yet surprisingly fragile) robots were brought to life on top of a flying city where a hulking green giant and magically gifted twins, among other incredulous beings, energetically battle as the entire setting crumbles to pieces. In all, Avengers is again a successfully exciting example of special effects that won over the audience’s fixated gaze for a lengthy two hours and twenty-one minutes – which is however, quite the movie marathon.

The plot of the film certainly lent itself towards the movie’s entertaining qualities as well. The very beginning of the film dropped you right into the action, picking up again where Captain America: The Winter Soldier left off with the Avengers attempting to finish off the resurgent forces of Hydra. Without giving away much… the movie progresses and leaves few opportunities for viewers to become bored or be prompted with questions, and in between the fighting scenes sit well delivered jokes and jibes, including the amusing gaffe were the other Avengers, try as they might, are unable to pick up Thor’s hammer. The plotline is nuanced enough to yank the audience into the story, yet it does not require any quantum mechanics-esq thinking to understand the events. Not long after the avengers assemble, Ultron makes his grand and violent first appearance.

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As Marvel villains have come and gone from their big screen spotlights, they adhere to a rough character template where they exact frightening but obviously fictional harm against humanity; rarely do these costumed villains establish real fear in the hearts of movie-goers with their predictable evil-doer monologues. However Ultron became the first villain to cause a stir in my gut, and a quiver in my popcorn clenched hands. James Spader’s metallic and penetrating voice struck the audience; the modulation of his tones created a character devoid of compassion or feeling. The performance was ice-cold, and the spooky, partially burned iron-man mask of his first iteration paired up with the voice acting created a truly haunting character. The evil plan, although typically merciless and far fetched, was helmed by a daunting, truly scary Ultron, whose later robot forms are progressively crueler looking and wield glowing red eyes that channel the lava-like contempt and hatred from within this villain.

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Although I found the enemy to be actually frightening for a change, this chilling nature of his also made the struggle between the heroes and Ultron more compelling. Never before was the righteous path of the beloved Marvel heroes so important and so necessary; the heartlessness and fear-inducing persona of their opponent demanded victory for humanity. The makers of the Avengers did not disappoint, and their efforts created a thrilling and entertaining spectacle out of an often ordinary and only moderately eventful Friday evening. Of course, Age of Ultron is no fine art; instead it is the graphic graffiti to the Mona Lisa, or the skateboard routine to the ballet dance concert. You won’t depart the theater with great wisdom or any novel realizations… but you will be windswept from one hell of a ride.

7.5 out of 10

Disney has some great high-class problems going this week: it failed to live up to it’s two hundred and ten million dollar opening by only coughing up a measly two hundred million dollar opening, an issue which we all can relate to I’m sure. Sucks right?

Alas, Age of Ultron (The long-awaited sequel to the first Avenger’s installment) is still a thumper of a film when it comes to the stats: it’s maintained its number one slot on the box office mast for two weeks now and, if the overseas numbers are any indicator, it won’t be leaving there in the next century.

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So, while Disney’s CEOs decide whether they’ll buy yachts or 747s, let us determine how well Mr. Joss Whedon has fared in his latest comic adaption. In my humble opinion, pretty well.

By pretty well, I mean it wasn’t exactly earth shattering. It wasn’t the universe-quaking sequel portrayed by those dark teaser trailers nor was it quite the “Empire Strikes Back”-esque darker chapter Whedon claims he was going for; it was more of the same thing and it was fun. By the end of the movie, we’re pretty much exactly where we were at the end of the last Avengers.

AOSTA, ITALY - MARCH 24: Jeremy Renner is seen filming on location for "Avengers: Age of Ultron" on March 24, 2014 in Aosta, Italy.  (Photo by Photopix/Getty Images)

This was pretty much a carbon copy of every Marvel film. I won’t bother to detour from spoilers because, if you know Marvel’s well-played formula, you know exactly how this will end. There’s a goofy yet intimidating villain, a romantic tease with Black Widow, some cool Iron Man technology, Hulk smashing his teammates, Cap. being folksy, Thor being epic, and Tony Stark (Who has basically become a one-liner machine) giving up the suit it. Of course, there’s table setting. Oh, yes, buster, there’s more table setting than ever. You better get used to it.

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But absolutely nothing’s wrong with the list above, especially if your expectations are properly calibrated. If anything, it’s all done even better than in the first go-around. This time, it feels like a story and not just a shopping list of plot points. There are great scenes of our characters just hanging around and interacting (Whedon has such an excellent grip on these guys, by the way) and said heroes fall neatly into their natural roles in the team. Whereas the first felt somewhat fragmented, this felt like a multipart comic book with just a little chop in some of the action sequences but nothing that detracts too much.

There’s still some odd stuff in there however. It feels a few rewrites away from ascending to an excellent level status definitely. There’s a bit of a shoehorned romance between two of our heroes and some weird little detours in the story and tone that don’t get much resolution. The new characters are a little hit and miss with Vision being the ace in the hole and the “enhanced” (Fox owns the word ‘mutant”. Sorry, Disney.) twins, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, being just okay. The former doesn’t quite measure up to the Fox’s X-Men version’s enjoyability but thatt’s a bit of an unfair comparison.

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I find myself saying this with more and more Marvel movies but, if you don’t care for the usual Marvel formula, sit this one out. Otherwise, you’re in for some more terrific Avengers antics and more than enough sequel-teasing.

Still waiting on Guardians of the Galaxy 2 though.

What did you think of the newest fixture in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe? Feel free to let us know in the comment section below.

5/16 Quick Post

Hey viewers,

Sorry for the hiatus! Being high school students, we’ve been busy with AP testing and what-not, but we’ll be back with a bang soon! From Pitch Perfect 2 to a film we saw at Tribeca Film Festival, we’ve got a lot of great posts coming your way.