Category Archives: Movie Review

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Movie Review – Capone

Category : Movie Review

Director: Josh Trank

Starring: Tom Hardy

Year: 2020

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.

My rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Another Round

Category : Movie Review

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Magnus Millang, Lars Ranthe, Thomas Larsen

Year: 2020

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.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


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Movie Review – The Guilty

Category : Movie Review

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal

Year: 2021

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.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Judas and the Black Messiah

Category : Movie Review

Director: Shaka King

Starring: LaKeith Stanfield, Daniel Kaluuya

Year: 2021

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.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Val

Category : Movie Review

Director: Leo Scott, Ting Poo

Starring: Val Kilmer

Year: 2021

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.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

 


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Movie Review – Star Trek: Nemesis

Category : Movie Review

Director: Stuart Baird

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Tom Hardy

Year: 2002

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.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Jaws 3

Category : Movie Review

Director: Joe Alves

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Bess Armstrong, John Putch

Year: 1983

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,

My rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Jaws 2

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jeannot Szwarc

Starring: Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton

Year: 1978

One great thing that can easily be said about Jaws 2 is that it isn’t Jaws 3.  It shouldn’t be required to see a future film in order to appreciate a present one, but that’s just how it is; this movie is in no way Jaws, but at least, thank ygod, it isn’t Numero Tres.  Obviously, when you lose a director like Spielberg you’re in for a drop off, and nothing could have compared with the classic anyway, it was a film that couldn’t be topped, let alone matched.  But they did …fine …with what they had, made a shark flick for our entertainment, and that’s something, if not much.

Chief Brody’s kids have grown up, the town has moved on, but he’ll never forget the monster that terrorized his town, and now dominates his dreams.  He finds himself panicking on the beach, overreacting to fish, and losing control; that shark really did a number on him.  And now, when a few mysterious events take place on Amity, Brody begins to feel certain that another great white has come to the island, although no one believes him.  When his own children become prey to this natural killer, it’s up to him to step up, go out on the water, and face his fears head on.

So, Jaws is partially a horror film, but it’s also so much more, which is what makes it so brilliant.  Jaws 2 makes one big mistake, and that’s only focusing on horror, turning the shark into a slasher, and forgetting the rest.  The result is a horror movie, sure, fun, but the shark is not a knife-wielding psycho, it’s an animal, something the movie forgot and faltered because of.  It turns silly how much the creature is overblown, and it doesn’t allow us to fear it in the same way, resulting in a weird vibe.  Also, the film features far too many 70s teen actors, with no support from more-talented adults, and that creates a beach party/sex romp/camp slasher mood that simply isn’t good.  Scheider does his best, the music still haunts, I guess you can’t blame the cash grab, but there’s just no following such a huge act.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Synchronic

Category : Movie Review

Director: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead

Starring: Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan

Year: 2019

Benson & Moordead created The Endless, another time-warping drama, but this time around, with Synchronic, they were well-known enough to earn themselves a real budget, so they were able to cast real actors as the leads, not just themselves because they couldn’t pay anyone else.  That extra talent went a long way, and made this film more professional, more smooth, and ultimately better.  Synchronic is time travel sci-fi, a dark look at family, and a sobering experience with death, all wrapped into one surprisingly strong piece of craftsmanship that works wonderfully on a ton of different levels.

Steve & Dennis are a pair of best friends who went to school together, and now are paramedics on the same team, rolling around New Orleans after dark, saving lives and rewarding themselves by partying too hard.  But what they haven’t tried is a new synthetic “designer drug” called Synchronic, which supposedly trips you so hard that you sustain insane injuries or disappear completely.  When both men are faced with separate personal tragedies, their lives become interwoven with the drug, and Steve must step outside himself into a world he doesn’t understand in order to save his best friend’s family before it’s destroyed beyond repair.

I’m gonna give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you know that Mackie & Dornan are much better actors than their famous roles, that they have a lot to offer, and they showcase that here immediately, just in case you didn’t.  The acting in this film is spot on; it’s deep, it’s dark, it’s multi-leveled, it’s boldly blunt and suddenly soft.  These men throw themselves into these roles, and when the story starts to get wacky (because it is sci-fi, after all), they have the ability to move us through the muck to the other side where the plot is cleaner.  Family, friends, death, the purpose of life; it’s all laid on the table here, with a “gimmick” to make it fun, to keep our attention, but with true purpose to drive the action when other features would have failed.  Hats off to all involved; I think this filmmaking team has a bright future.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Jurassic Park III

Category : Movie Review

Director: Joe Johnston

Starring: Sam Neill, Tea Leoni, William H. Macy, Alessandro Nivola

Year: 2001

In some ways Jurassic Park III is better than the disaster that was The Lost World, and in some ways it’s so, so, so much worse.  Regardless, these movies should not have been made, neither this trilogy or the following trilogy; money isn’t everything.  Some films are simply so good, so enjoyable, so iconic, so important to us, that they need to be left alone.  Not franchised, not copied, not rebooted; just let us love what we want to love and stop force feeding us crap.  The Jurassic Park series is among the worst film groups ever crafted, and that makes me so very sad.

After the failure of Jurassic Park, after the dinosaur that got loose in San Diego, Dr. Alan Grant is constantly asked about his adventures, but he would just as soon forget about them.  He says he wouldn’t go to either island no matter the reason …that is until a wealthy couple write him a blank check to go with them for a flyover so they can mark that off their bucket list.  But that’s not their real reason for going, and it’s not going to be a simple flyover; instead we’re back in the jungle, baby, back running for dinos, digging though poop, and trying to stay alive.

So, there really are positives here.  Grant is back, he’s fun to watch, the cast is pared down, which was a good idea, there are a ton of throwbacks to the original, good choice, and the whole film feels more like a homage or a nod or a play off the books, whereas #2 was simply stupid.  But there are bonehead moves too, holy cow, so many of them.  The dinosaurs, both when they are animatronic and CGI, look terrible, and the actors during the action sequences look like puppets.  And then there’s the screaming and the running, especially from Tea Leoni, who just might be the worst actress in history.  It’s still insane, this isn’t a good movie, there hasn’t been one since the first, and I wish they had never played with fire because we all got burned.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆