Director: Josh Trank
Starring: Tom Hardy
Capone is a cross between Godfather 3 and Wild Things; yes, it’s that bad. Ask yourself the question the filmmaking team should have asked themselves before making this movie; will it make for solid cinema to depict the last, grotesque year of a famous person’s life, a year in which they mostly sat down, grunting & shitting themselves, until they died of syphilitic insanity? No, no by god, no it will not. Tom Hardy is one of our greatest actors, Al Capone is one of our most infamous real-life villains, entertainment/intrigue awaits around every corner where these two are involved, and yet all we get is Hardy pooping his diapers and hallucinating for an hour and forty-five minutes. Again, yes it’s that bad.
Al Capone, the famous mobster, went to prison at the age of 33, was released for failing health at the age of 40, and died when he was 48. This is a depiction of the last days of his life, as his empire fell crumbling around him, a venereal disease wracked his body, and death stalked the halls of his Florida mansion. Beset by paranoid delusions and mental impairments, Capone needed more & more care from his family, and took a role in his businesses less & less. The inevitable final curtain was near, and the march toward death was disgusting, but the grim reaper comes for every man, rich or poor, mighty or frail, and the end is always the same.
Josh Trank has directed Chronicle, Fantastic Four, and Capone; that’s it. You start with a cool, interesting superhero film, you tank with a reboot that doesn’t work, so you decide to do Al Capone? OK, maybe, but specifically Al Capone in a wheel chair, unable to speak or eat or form coherent expressions? On what planet was that a good idea?! In what world was that something we needed to see?! To call this film an abomination would be too kind; it’s a mistake that should have been deleted from the universe the instant it was brainstormed. Tom Hardy is a tremendous actor, obviously, and maybe there’s a story here somewhere, if you start with success and end with decomposition, maybe, somewhere. Capone was in his 40s when he died, he was an evil god who got too close to the fiery sun, that’s an angle. But this film, this crud, was much more simple; let’s show the guy slowly breaking down until there’s nothing left, audiences will love that. Well, no, we won’t, and if the goal was to punish someone notorious, powerful, and bad, you only succeeded in making us hate you, not him.
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
I could spend this entire review talking about the greatness that is Mads …and I will, because, my god, he’s the best. I don’t have time to write down every film that he has been amazing in, but it doesn’t matter if it’s Danish, American, sci-fi, western, he’s always incredible, always fully invested, and there is literally no one like him. You could do worse than watching his entire career, ignoring all other movies, just keeping an eye on Mads as the years roll by and he does more thrilling work; his talent it that great. Needless to say, Another Round is just another treat, this time with an ensemble cast and an instant classic feel that makes the entire project pop with a vibrancy that we too rarely see, from Hollywood or from across the world.
Finding their lives becoming more meaningless, more mundane, and always boring, four friends, who all work at a local school, decide to do something to change their depressing paths. After meeting together for dinner to celebrate a 40th birthday (and much drinking to each other’s health), a bizarre experiment is set in motion; to remain constantly, lightly drunk throughout every weekday, 9-5, in order to see if having a drink will change their outlook on life, make them braver, steady their nerves, allow them to be their true selves. With varying degrees of success, the foursome begins the challenge, learning, amidst drunkenness, just how fragile life can be, and just how enjoyable.
This really isn’t all about one star, the four lead actors here put on quite a show, and they are all worth discussing. I can’t help focus on My Man Mads though, since, gosh, he’s just so great. The amount of emotion he conveys in one look, one smile, one motion, is simply remarkable; for a guy who doesn’t speak loudly he sure shouts. It’s the same with every film in which he appears, he’s just that magical, and he exhibits that magic to perfection in this film. Another Round is clever, it’s honest, it’s unsettling, and it’s lovely, all at once & all the time, taking us on a whirlwind ride that’s very inadvisable but so fucking freeing. The town, the people, the music, the students, the ups & downs, the triumphs and the terrible failures; it’s like Vinterberg decided to tell us the meaning of life using alcohol, and boy did he nail it.
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal
The Guilty is Antoine Fuqua’s best film since Training Day, maybe his only good film other than Training Day (well, can’t forget Southpaw), and could perhaps end up being one of the strongest films of the year period; not bad for a one-man show straight to Netflix. That’s the power of Fuqua’s vision and Gyllenhaal’s talent, when the stars align correctly at least, because they don’t always, but luckily they do here. The Guilty is curious, it’s layered, and it’s heavily dramatic; not bad for a 90-minute thrill-ride that never leaves the office or barely even the chair.
Joe Baylor is a reassigned police officer who is now answering emergency calls instead of walking his normal beat. That story is revealed as we go along, but suffice it to say, Joe does not want to be here but there’s a good reason why he’s not allowed on typical duty. He’s a flawed cop, maybe a bad one, that’s to be determined, but, regardless, he better get his head in the game, because L.A. needs his help. Specifically, Joe must react correctly when a woman calls on her cell phone and stealthily lets him know that she had been abducted. He kicks into action, crossing the lines (and his new job description) many times, but always with an eye to solving this dynamic, dangerous case, before it is very quickly too late.
That this entire film is set in one place, dealing with one emergency, with one actor doing all the face work, is pretty impressive. That they pull it off without making the movie boring or gimmicky is something else entirely. Think Phone Booth, but with Jake instead of Colin, and you’ll have some picture of what’s about to take place; high drama on a phone call, not going anywhere, just laying in the moment, and letting that moment spiral faster & faster & faster until you’re sweating too. It should be noted; this is a foreign film remade, which isn’t uncommon, but does make it unoriginal, so if that’s the bone you want to pick, have at it. Otherwise, Gyllenhaal carries the weight, I was invested the whole way, there are standard pieces galore, but they actually help audiences feel comfortable instead of rubbing us the wrong way. For a quick Netflix watch, this is about as good as it gets.
Director: Shaka King
Judas and the Black Messiah is a combination of BlacKkKlansman and Trial of the Chicago 7, but the difference (and the reason it’s not as good as either) is the direction; those other two had Spike Lee and Aaron Sorkin, while this one has Shaka King. Judas is his first big feature film, and its themes alone are too big for an unproven to contain, manage, and, well, direct. That this film was a darling at the Oscars last year isn’t really a surprise, but perhaps the critical success is; the story is great, the delivery grand, but the overall product is shockingly boring.
This is the true story of Black Panther revolutionary Fred Hampton and his untimely death, brought about by the treachery of informant Bill O’Neal. Hampton wasn’t just Chicago’s preeminent civil rights leader, he was on the cusp of bringing together all the gangs, all the revolutionaries, all the reformists, and creating one powerful movement for change that would shift the balance of these United States. But O’Neal saw an opportunity to save his own skin by posing as a freedom fighter as well, to get close to Hampton, to report on him, and, ultimately, to watch him be crucified.
It’s funny; the way I started the summary brought to mind The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and, really, there are a lot of similarities here. The betrayal plot is ripe for drama, that’s for sure, and the true story element is fascinating. Both films are a little slow, as well, and both could probably improve with a rewatch with a refocused brain. Is that what cinema is supposed to require? No, but some stories audiences have to work for, some stories are worth working for, and this might be one of them, regardless of my low initial opinion. Had Judas been done, odd as it sounds, with the mood of a Western, had it been quicker, have it been pared down to its bare bones, the story might have felt more accessible and watchable, might have caught our interest beyond the true story element that already had us watching. Getting us to listen is one thing, I listened, and I heard, but I also would have liked to enjoy, to come away moved, and that simply didn’t happen.
Starring: Val Kilmer
Val is the documentary of the year, an intensely sobering look at stardom and a figure who is larger than life. It’s the saddest look at the happiest man you will ever see, a heartbreaking glimpse into the mind and soul of someone who sees the universe more clearly than most and is at peace. The balance of our melancholy and his joy is what makes this film incredible, as we see his career through a new lens and watch his current world spin out of control. Val is something special because Val is someone special, and this rare peek both magnifies his genius and reveals his humanity, putting us in his shoes in a way we were absolutely not prepared for.
Welcome inside Val Kilmer’s head, or, more specifically, his memories, as we walk down the path of his career with vision provided by footage he shot himself over the many years, always with a camcorder on hand. Val endured a tragic past, funneled his grief into his immense talent, shot for the furthest stars with his ambition, and lead a life that would seem envious from outside, but could be a torturous experience. From Real Genius to Top Gun, from Mark Twain to Bruce Wayne; this is the untold story, and a personal journey like you’ve never seen before.
This might be the closest we’ll ever get to entering into someone else’s brain and swimming through their experiences. This is Val’s life, his feelings, the way he sees the world, told by him and narrated by his son, without filters or flourishes. It’s honest and emotional to a breaking point, making audiences feel like they’re living multiple lives at the same time, his and ours, and understanding the pain of another’s heartache in a way that we didn’t know was possible. What’s more, this is a hand-held tour through an incredible filmography, one I lived through and grew up loving, alongside a childhood hero who wasn’t feeling as brave as he appeared. I don’t know if a documentary has ever affected me this way; this isn’t just an amazing film, it’s something deeper and sadder and more intense, and that makes it all the more miraculous.
Director: Stuart Baird
Stuart Baird directed three movies, none of them were any good, and I wish Jonathan Frakes had stayed on to helm this feature as well, because it was an obvious step down from the middle two films, if still, of course, better than the first. Star Trek: Next Generation will always be magical to me, and the movies are a fun add-on to that adventure, but they simply can’t hold a candle to the series, other than only adding extra scenes to the lives of characters that we’ve grown to adore. Still, the films are here, they can be fun, but there are definitely top dogs.
The Enterprise is called to investigate an uprising on Romulus; there is a new power at the head of the empire, and it has come from an unlikely place, a hated planet that breeds warriors but is considered the lowest caste. What’s more, the new Romulan leader isn’t even of that home world, he’s human, and he claims to be connected to Picard in a very unusual way. The crew of the Enterprise find themselves involved in a hostile takeover and a possible annihilation event, as they race to stop this mysterious Shinzon before he uses the incredible power that he has wantonly harassed.
As another episode, Nemesis works alright, but not as well as Insurrection, and it’s no film to match First Contact. Fortunately, it’s better than Generations, which is fairly bad, but still, Jonathan Frakes directing would for sure have been an improvement, because there are failures here abounding, and that’s no good. The action sequences were weak, except for some dogfighting, which was actually really cool to see. The acting was also suspect, although, again, Spiner did some great work and helped us understand Data even further, which is also wonderful. The show rightfully centered on Data, since he’s the most interesting character and the best actor (other than Picard), so I love that the films mostly did the same. It’s sad to say goodbye to these guys once and for all; I hope they all have countless adventures and amazing endings, wherever in the galaxy they find themselves.
Director: Joe Alves
There are plenty of terrible movies in the sea, and then there’s Jaws 3, the worst movie ever and you don’t even have to go out in the ocean to find it, it just swims up into a Sea World near you and bites you directly in the ass. Jaws is legendary, perfection, clinical, and even Jaws 2 isn’t all that bad; at least it’s entertaining horror. But Jaws 3 is a travesty, a sham, and a mockery; it’s a traveshamockery! It’s literally one of the dumbest movies ever made, and the fact that it was in 3-D makes it even worse somehow. The legend dies with a whimper, not a bang, and we are reminded that sequels, remakes, and re-dos simply suck.
The Brody Bros are all grown up and have lives of their own now; Mike engineers underwater apparatus for a local water park, Sean is a student majoring in girls, girls, and more girls. Neither has completely moved on from the deadly attack by either great white when they were kids, but they try to make the best of things, and it’s actually going well; Mike has a serious girlfriend, Kathryn, who works at the park with the animals, and when Sean comes to visit he immediately falls hard for Kelly Anne, a pretty little water skier. But the dangers of the past have found them in their idyllic state; a shark comes into the lagoon just as the attractions open, and begins its reign of terror among the fish and the guests, bringing back all those bad memories and killing all those innocent people.
If Jaws was a horror/adventure and Jaws 2 was straight, bludgeoning horror, Jaws 3 is an amalgam of every bad idea anyone ever conceived as it relates to action, adventure, horror, the ocean, dolphins, engineering, romance, or humanity. It’s bad on par with the worst ever, and that’s despite its stars: Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett Jr, Lea Thompson. You can tell there were ideas here, they just happen all to work terribly, combined with visuals that make you want to rip out your own eyeballs. The 3-D gimmick is dumb, the story makes no sense, the effects are laughable, and nothing can save this film from itself, it only rolls blindly in the mud and eventually, mercifully, falls off a cliff of its own making,