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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Category Archives: 5-5.5/10

American Assassin (2017)

American Assassin

After a devastating terrorist attack kills the woman of his dreams, Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) is pulled into a dark, unrelenting world of tracking these terrorists down and getting his own sort of revenge. But just as soon as he gets close enough to do so, he’s whisked away by the CIA who, having tracked all of Mitch’s actions in the past year or so since the attack, like what they see and feel as if they can use it to their own advantage. However, Mitch is a bit of a hot-head and while he has the skills to shoot a gun and kick all sorts of ass, he needs to know how to control his temper so that missions can be completed, without any issues whatsoever. That’s when Mitch is sent to an isolated boot-camp, headed by Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), a former Marine who is quite the ass-kicker himself. Together, Stan and Mitch track down a terrorist (Taylor Kitsch), who has plans of starting a global war, but once again, it all comes down to whether or not Mitch can control himself, when the push comes to the shove.

Do they allow those kinds of hair-do’s in the CIA? Or should I say, hair-don’ts!

The first 40 minutes or so of American Assassin are actually pretty good. Director Michael Cuesta, who, oddly enough, has made quite the name for himself in small, rather disturbing indies, doesn’t really speed things up, as much as he lets it all play out in front of our own eyes, in a very mannered-way. In a way, that makes the violence all the more shocking and graphic. Sure, having an R-rating attached certainly helps things, but rather than seeming like an action set-piece in a big-budgeted movie, American Assassin‘s action, in the first-half at least, feels like it’s going for something colder, darker, and deeper, than just blood, guts and terrorists doing bad thing.

Then, it all goes away.

At about the half-way mark, the movie then realizes we need a mission, we need a story, and oh yeah, we need some sort of conflict that isn’t just Mitch and Stan constantly dick-measuring – there needs to be a baddie, a reason, and oh yeah, way more action. When this happens, American Assassin eventually turns into a very dumb, over-the-top, and surprisingly safe action-thriller that wants to keep on being dark and meaningful, but is just too silly for its own good. It’s as if Cuesta may have gotten thrown out of the director’s chair about halfway through production when the powers that be eventually realized he wasn’t making the Bourne rip-off they so desperately wanted.

Cause even in something like Bourne, at least the politics of that movie, while challenging, at least feel fully realized. The action happens for a reason and while it is no doubt played-up for thrills and chills, it still comes from a very dark, realistic place, in a world where these sorts of things happen each and every day. In American Assassin, the politics are way too troubling and one-sided, almost to the point of where I wonder whether it was made before, or after Trump got elected.

In other words, it’s so jingoistic that it borders on xenophobic.

Kick some ass, Mikey. Do it for ‘merica!

Then again, the villain is a disillusioned and paranoid former-soldier from the South, so I guess that kind of saves it? I’m not sure, actually. What I am sure of is that for the final hour or so, American Assassin gets pretty rote and well, boring. It’s action isn’t all that exciting, it’s script continues to get sillier, and yeah, we see where it’s always going. The first-half had at least some surprises and excitement to it, because it felt a little fresh, but once that goes out the window, we’re back to crazy action-sequences that you can see perfectly fine, but do you really want to?

The only real saving-grace above this all is Michael Keaton, who feels like he’s way too good for the material and may have signed-up for something else entirely. Still, as the strict and mean Stan Hurley, Keaton gets a lot of mileage out of being the angriest and possibly, toughest guy in the room, despite himself being quite tiny and over 60-years-of-age. Still, it’s a testament to the kind of actor Keaton is, because he helps this thing move, probably when it shouldn’t.

As for Dylan O’Brien? Yeah, the verdict’s still out on him.

It’s not that I see him as dull, either, it’s just that the material he’s given here either doesn’t give him enough room to stretch, or he himself doesn’t know how to take this character. He’s jacked and handsome, but when you get down to it, there’s still this kid-like vulnerability to him that doesn’t quite register and makes this character feel like Jr. Bourne.

But hey, as long as he doesn’t get injured again, at least he’s got the Maze Runner to fall back on, right?

They still make those, right? Somebody help me.

Consensus: Despite a very promising start, American Assassin soon turns into a full-blown action-thriller, that’s never as fun, or as smart as it clearly wanted to be.

5 / 10

Baby Looney Tunes are taking over the CIA! Help us, foreign nations!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Kidnap (2017)

Kidnap (2017)

Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) is just another single mother doing whatever she can to get by. Her job as a waitress can be a little demanding, with her also battling over custody for her son with her ex-husband, and yeah, she tries. But to add another wrench in her life is the moment when her son is kidnapped by a bunch of random rednecks. Karla has no clue why they kidnapped her son, but you know what? She’s not going to hesitate for a single second to find them and get her son back. Which is something she does, although it becomes readily apparent that Karla’s going to have to do a lot of driving, yelling, running, maneuvering, thinking, and oh yeah, possibly even killing. See, Karla’s life just got a whole lot more complicated, but it’s her son and she’ll fight for him any day.

So happy….UNTIL!

Just like with the Call a few years ago, Halle Berry is once again stuck with a B-movie where all she has to do is show up and give it her all. Which is exactly what the Oscar-winner does; there are brief moments where she really has to let loose on her emotions and well, it actually kind of works. Granted, she’s practically crying and yelling throughout the whole movie, but no one does that quite as well as Berry does and she actually elevates the material, just by showing up and putting in solid work.

It makes me wonder why she’s doing stuff like this, when in reality, she’s still a tremendous actress and downright beautiful to-boot.

But once again, why is she here?

Always check your blind-spots.

And this isn’t to say that Kidnap‘s a terrible movie; it’s exactly what you would expect in a late-summer diversion. It’s fast, fun, and incredibly stupid. The fact that the plot-line never goes beyond “Halle Berry chases kidnappers” for the whole 86 minutes, should really show you what you’re getting yourself into. And it’s not necessarily a problem that the movie doesn’t try to over-complicate itself with things like plot and motivations, but a part of me feels like there truly was no script here and a lot of it was just left up to director Luis Prieto and Berry to make up as they went along.

If that’s true, what they do make up can be exciting, but most of the time, a little repetitive. For instance, a good portion of the first-half is this car-chase that goes on and on and on for what seems like hours. Which is fine, because it does keep the adrenaline going, but there’s not much else to it; we just hear Berry talking to herself and wondering what the next best move for her is. After awhile, it can get a bit old and feel like, once again, there’s not much of a script.

Just action, action, and oh yeah, a little more action.

Once again, though, it’s not as if this is always a problem with movies – simplicity is, in ways, sometimes a movie’s best friend. But here, with Kidnap, it feels lazy and as if there really wasn’t anything else actually going on beneath the surface to be found. It can be fun, but even at 86 minutes, it still feels like it was stretched a bit too thin, even by its own standards.

So yeah, Halle, please get back into the mode of making good movies again. Please. We need you and miss you.

Consensus: Even as a late-summer diversion, Kidnap is fine, but also feels like it’s not really going anywhere and solely depending on the still-great skills of Halle Berry.

5 / 10

Oh. Here we go with this for an hour.

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

Goon: Last of the Enforcers (2017)

Who needs a goal? Kick somebody’s ass!

A lockout has reunited old teammates and brought a crew of new players to the bench for the one, the only, and the notorious Halifax Highlanders. Sidelined after one too many hits and now married with a baby on the way, Doug “The Thug” Glatt (Seann William Scott) is forced to hang up his skates and settle into something that we call “normal life”, with him trying his hand at selling insurance. Does it quite fit him like a hockey-glove? Not at all, but it does keep him occupied and his wife (Alison Pill) happy, so why not just stick with it? But it all changes when Doug’s nemesis, the young, cocky hotshot Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell), is made captain of the Highlanders and new ownership threatens to tear his team apart. Now, Doug feels as if it’s time to lace back up the skates, put the gloves back on and, yeah, take some people’s teeth out.

Get it? They’re Canadian! Listen to the way they pronounce their “O’s”!

In the world of sports movies, it’s very rare that we get one about hockey. Better yet, it’s incredibly rare that we get a good one. Or hell, it’s incredibly rare that we get a hockey-comedy that isn’t just funny, but also kind of sweet and exciting to watch for everybody, regardless of if they love hockey or not. But that’s exactly what the first Goon was: Hilarious, hard-hitting, and at the center of it all, a little heartfelt. It was, for lack of a better word, one of the better sports movies made and perhaps, close to being the best hockey-movie of all-time.

Notice how I said “close to”, people. Don’t get all riled-up as I know Slapshot! is still #1 is on everyone’s list.

But still, Goon probably didn’t need a sequel, but here it is and well, things feel a whole lot different. For one, the quality has been downgraded a whole lot. Jay Baruchel takes over directing-duties this time around and while he’s very good at shooting hockey and the sort of excitement that can be felt from watching a game, where it seems like everyone’s more interested in beating the hell out of one another, and not actually, you know, scoring goals and winning, he feels awkward with everything else. The comedy, the drama, and even the slightest bit of heart that’s anywhere to be found, just doesn’t quite work.

Does he know what’s happening?

The only thing that really does work is, other than the hockey and over-the-top, but effectively extreme brawls, is Seann William Scott who, once again, proves why he’s one of the more underrated talents in comedy. Cause while the guy is definitely funny, he also has a little something more to him than just crass-jokes about balls and Canadians (which is all this movie’s comedy revolves around); he’s actually a pretty nice guy who means well and basically loves everyone around him, even if he is an absolutely nutty and crazy fighting-machine. Scott’s delivery with everything he says here is golden and feels like he’s constantly lifting the movie above what it actually seems like it wants to be.

Cause at the end of the day, it’s still a really loud, a really crass, and really dumb sports-comedy that sort of works, but also sort of doesn’t.

It’s hard because when you compare it to the first one, you have to think that there may have been an opportunity wasted. The story isn’t really here, the comedy is really slapdash, in terms of what’s funny and what isn’t, and the supporting-characters all just feel a little one-note. It’s as if the heart and soul was somehow lost, even though it seems like everyone involved with this, wanted to make this, and felt so incredibly passionate about it, that they didn’t care if the money was there or not. They wanted to make Goon 2 and well, they got it.

I just wish it was something totally worth waiting the past five years or so for.

Consensus: While still just as silly and raunchy as the first, Last of the Enforcers also feels like a drastic step-down with weak writing and a bad case of familiarity, despite the hockey-scenes and William Scott saving the day.

5 / 10

That’s more like it, Dougie! Knock his ass out!

Photos Courtesy of: Entertainment One

Beatriz at Dinner (2017)

Never invite the help for dinner. That’s rule #120 for the upper-class.

Beatriz (Salma Hayek) is a masseuse who has a great deal of clients. One just so happens to be Kathy (Connie Britton), the mother of a girl that Beatriz not only helped, but befriended many years before. Now, Beatriz works her magic on Kathy and in a way, they consider themselves as “friends”. Others may see it differently, but they talk a lot and get to know one another so well that they basically might as well just be friends. Or at least, something like it. Anyway, Beatriz is in a funk one day when, because of the awful day she tells Kathy about, Kathy decides to invite her to a dinner they are having a little bit later. Kathy’s doing this out of the kindness of her own heart, but her husband (David Warshofsky) isn’t too happy about it; for him, this is a business-dinner and not a very social one, meaning that having someone like Beatriz around may be odd. However, Kathy insists and she gets her way, leaving Beatriz to spend the night in the house, at the table, talking with the guests, drinking wine, and eating all sorts of lovely meals. But little does she know that one of the guests (John Lithgow) is quite the pompous ass that literally stands against everything she is for.

Looks like someone didn’t get the “rich housewife gown” memo!

Everything that Beatriz at Dinner is attempting to say, or at least, get across, I whole-heartedly agree with and stand by. In today’s day and age, with the political-climate we currently have going on, it’s great to see a movie stand up to these sorts of fat-cat, bigwigs of the upper-class that constantly seem to be getting away with filthy, bloody murder. But what Beatriz at Dinner does well and at least gets across, is that it shows us that these people are, as you’d expect, human. They may have looser morals and heavier wallets, but they are no doubt, humans, and in a way, that makes them scary.

The fat-cat, bigwig of the upper-class here in Beatriz at Dinner is played by John Lithgow and as usual, he totally immerses himself in the role. He’s compelling, powerful, takes over any room he’s in, seems like he always has something arrogant to say, and oh yeah, is quite menacing when he wants to be. But he’s also humane and feels like a real person – the kind you wouldn’t want to call “a friend”, but the guy you could see yourself sitting and having a drink with, only because he seems like a good time when he isn’t talking about big-game hunting or knocking down trees. But through Mike White’s script and Miguel Arteta’s direction, we see someone who does have a soul and a heart, as black as they may be, and because of that, they are hard to look away from and because of that, easier to indict and point the finger at.

Issue is, that’s all the movie has going for it.

Which isn’t to say that Beatriz at Dinner doesn’t have other fine qualities to it, other than shaming the rich and powerful; it can be, at times, quite funny and interesting, if only because we want to know more and more about these characters. As usual with Arteta’s movies, he’s not afraid to simmer everything down to where we aren’t getting constant jokes, every few seconds, but instead, moments to relax and focus on the finer things in comedies such as these, like characters and what’s to them. Of course, White knows what he’s doing with a script like this when it comes to writing comedy and nailing down perfectly the kind of awkwardness that would be had in a certain situation such as this.

“Cheers to whatever!”

But if anything, the real problem is that it feels unfinished. The movie, for being nearly 80 minutes, feels like it’s missing maybe a few too many reels, especially near the end. The dinner party comes around and why it takes up the bulk of the movie, it still feels rushed and not as if everything fully came together. Some of the humor in these scenes works and there’s a lot of hinting at something deeper going beyond the surface, but nope, the movie just sort of backs away and continues on with way too many ham-fisted points about current-day society.

Once again, I totally agree with what it has to say, but there’s a better way to go about it than here.

And also, if there’s a main problem here, it’s Beatriz herself. While it’s nice that we get a movie where the Latin-American masseuse is the lead protagonist, it also doesn’t help that she’s kind of a type, too. Beatriz, whenever is necessary for her and not really understanding the conversation going on around her, constantly chimes in and rambles on and on about stories from her native-land, goats, and well, mother nature itself. It’s basically one-joke, stretched way too long and it hurts because we know that there’s more to this character than just waxing on and interrupting conversations. Hayek is fine in the role, but yeah, even she feels like she may have been stuck with something that isn’t exactly a win-win for her, in the end.

Consensus: Regardless of what, or who, it speaks about and against, Beatriz at Dinner still feels like it’s missing some pieces to fully keep a cohesive, smart and subtle dramedy, even despite a good cast to help out.

5 / 10

Of course she has a guitar to jam out with.

Photos Courtesy of: Killer Films

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)

Looks like T-Swift’s gonna need one of these soon.

The merciless dictator of Belarus (Gary Oldman) is being held-up on charges of some serious war-crimes, but for some reason, there’s no real clear-cut evidence against him. The only option imaginable to actually come in front of a court and testify to this man’s heinous actions is Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), a notorious contract-killer who is currently serving a pretty long sentence for his various kills in his storied-career. So yeah, he signs a deal to come forward, but now, his name is out there and people want him dead. So what does one do for a hitman who needs protecting, especially for the next 24 hours? They call up the hitman’s bodyguard, who also happens to be Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), a straight-laced bro who is also reeling from a bit of heartbreak. Now, it’s up to Michael to make sure that Darius can stay alive and testify, or else it’s not just his ass on the line, but possibly his life. Only issue: He and Darius don’t exactly see eye-to-eye.

Like, on anything.

Oh yeah. Salma Hayek’s also here, basically re-doing her role from the equally insane Savages.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard wears its late-80’s, early-90’s action-comedy influences on its sleeve and doesn’t really make any sort of excuse for it, either. In a way, that’s sort of commendable – it’s like all of those Tarantino rip-offs we got about midway through the 90’s that tried to be something that they clearly weren’t. But in this case, the movie isn’t wholly trying to be something it isn’t – it knows it’s stupid, silly, wacky, and over-the-top, and it’s kind of fun for that reason alone, right?

Well, uh, yes and well, uh, no.

See, the one issue with the Hitman’s Bodyguard is that it’s a lot of things all wrapped-up into one, without ever making total sense of itself. Sure, it’s a dark comedy that flirts with the idea of heinous, ugly violence being played for laughs, with constant swearing and nudity being flung everywhere, but it also seems like it never knows when to tone any of that down. Cause the jokes don’t always land, the camaraderie doesn’t always work, or hell, make sense, and the plot, despite the constant twists and turns, just doesn’t make sense. You get the sense that director Patrick Hughes sort of got this right from the get-go, so rather than taking his time on every little plot-detail, he kept everything moving as fast and as crazy-quick as he could.

Still, it doesn’t keep the movie away from being shy of two hours, but yeah, it does help that the movie knows how to keep itself going, even if it is only to distract us from the fact that there are some problems here. Like, for instance, the script just isn’t as funny as it thinks it is; the constant conversations between Jackson and Reynolds, while occasionally amusing, also grow tired and old, after about the fourth or fifth one that clocks in at about ten minutes. It’s nice to have an action-comedy that cares this much about dialogue and listening to two characters, essentially, just banter about, but it makes you wish that the script itself were better.

Another foreign country. Another freakin’ car-chase.

Or hell, that the jokes were funnier.

Instead, we get some lame punchlines, callbacks, and oh yeah, forced drama about love, life, and careers. It doesn’t work and it’s sure as hell hokey, but once again, there’s at least an attempt to do something here. Would this have all been handled a lot better in the hands of Shane Black? Most definitely. But that guy wasn’t around, because he’s off trying to make another classic and because of that, we get Hughes working from Tom O’Connor’s script. Whether these two saw eye-to-eye on what exactly was hilarious about this script or not, isn’t shown in the final-product, because it’s sort of like everything gets thrown at us, at once, without any break in the action.

Which can be fine, too, because the movie does have some solid action-pieces and bits and pieces from Jackson and Reynolds. In fact, Reynolds and Jackson are probably the true reasons to see this; they clearly have great chemistry with one another and also show that, despite them both being charismatic as hell, they also know when to give the other the spotlight. They’re not constantly duking it out to see who gets the better lines or the shinier moments, they’re just having fun and trying to invite us in on it, too.

Shame that doesn’t quite happen, though. Once again, however, there is an effort. And that’s all that matters.

Consensus: Perhaps not as hilarious or as smart as it thinks it is, the Hitman’s Bodyguard benefits from some fun action and a solid pairing of Reynolds and Jackson who, despite not having the best material to work with, wade through it all with their dignities still in-tact.

5.5 / 10

Get it? Nuns and hit-men? So loopy!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Bushwick (2017)

It’s the end of the world as we know it and as long as Bautista’s there, I feel fine.

It’s just another typical day in NYC and Lucy (Brittany Snow) and her boyfriend (Christian Navarro) decide to spend their time together, heading off to see Lucy’s sister and grand-mom. Nothing too crazy or out of the ordinary, but typical. Then they step off the subway, and for some reason, hell has broken loose. Guns, weapons, bullets, and bodies are flying everywhere on the streets of Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood. Why? Well apparently, Texas is attempting to secede from the Union, and militia forces have descended upon New York City to claim it as an East Coast base of operations and negotiation tool. Now it’s up to Lucy to survive the day, which isn’t all that easy when you’re a small, relatively civil white girl from Brooklyn who is constantly falling prey to evil people, on both sides. However, her only sense of safety and perseverance is Stupe (Dave Bautista), a burly war veteran who has seen horrors like this before and knows what he’s getting himself into, but at the same time, isn’t too happy about it.

Can’t wait for their second date.

The whole gimmick behind Bushwick is that it’s not just all taking place in real-time, but it’s supposed to be shot in one, continuous-sequence, a la Birdman or, from what I hear, Woody Harrelson’s Lost in London. Which already proves to be a problem for the movie; we can tell when the cuts and swipes occur, but the movie’s also not very subtle about breaking its own rules, either. Both co-directors Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott earn some praise for at least attempting something rather difficult and time-consuming, but at the end of it all, it can tend to be a bit distracting.

Still though, it kind of works.

See, Bushwick puts us right in all of the action, which helps the movie move from scene-to-scene, even if a lot of it can seem repetitive. It’s the kind of movie that doesn’t really ask for us to think of things like logic, or even expectations, but sit back, watch, and continue to be all wrapped-up in all that’s happening. A lot of the action takes place off-screen, far away from our eyes, but heavy in our minds and the imaginations can honestly run more wild than what’s actually seen. It’s something so rarely done in modern-day thrillers, that it’s nice to see it here, even if it was probably unintentional.

And sure, the movie’s a little silly. When the action slows down and the intensity sort of dissipates, the characters aren’t all that smart. And this is where the one-shot gimmick runs afoul – we can always tell when these actors are acting, no matter what. They’re made to seem like real people, in a disastrous situation, without anywhere to go, or any shelter to hide in, but really, because we don’t get the hundred or so edits to get that right shot/take, we’re watching what is, essentially, actors running lines as if they’re petrified and all shaken up.

Uh oh, bro. Don’t talk about that other wrestler-turned-actor, who is also one of the biggest stars in the world. Dave doesn’t like that.

The only one who really gets by with all of this is Dave Bautista because, well, he’s such a menacing force, he doesn’t have to act scared or worried. He actually downplays the role much more than you’d expect, and it’s much more interesting than you’d want from a movie about a five-block trek through a war-zone. Even in the smaller moments where the movie decides to take its time to develop characters, as dumb as they may be, Bautista shines and shows us that there’s more behind the big arms and body.

Believe it or not, the fella can actually act. Wow.

And nothing against Brittany Snow, or any of the few others here, but yeah, they don’t quite work. The movie much more about the mood and the tension in the air, as opposed to being a smart, thought-provoking allegory for the current state of affairs in America. While something such as this is perfectly relevant in the same way that the Handmaiden’s Tale sort of is, Bushwick doesn’t care too much about really developing these ideas any further than just using them as a, you know, backboard for showing some real cool action and using a neat style.

Does it totally work? Eh. Not totally. But hey, it’s better than anything else I’ve seen in the past week, so why not be nice.

Consensus: Despite its odd gimmick and silly writing, Bushwick is still a rather tense and exciting thriller, that has some stakes in the real world, but never goes beyond much of any of that.

5.5 / 10

The couple made in hell. Literal, hell.

Photos Courtesy of: RLJ Entertainment

The Wall (2017)

Trumps worst nightmare.

U.S. soldiers Allan “Ize” Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Shane Matthews (John Cena) answer a distress call in the desert of postwar Iraq. Out of nowhere, gunshots erupt, leaving Shane badly injured and Allan with a bullet in his leg. Forced to take cover behind a crumbling stone wall, Isaac now finds himself in a fight for survival against an unseen sniper who has all of the advantages.

The Wall is one of those lean, mean, tight, and incredibly small thrillers that don’t get made as much as they probably should. See, most of Hollywood believes that the best way to achieve some chills and thrills, is solely through big, loud, explosions of action, CGI, and exposition that doesn’t really matter. It isn’t always the case, but for the most part, Hollywood has let the American thriller down and it’s up to folks like Dough Liman to try and save it.

Lots of experience from COD.

Unfortunately, the Wall isn’t quite the saving grace you could hope for.

If anything, it’s a very small movie that flirts with the idea of being incredibly compelling and fun but, other than at least 20 or so minutes of actual intensity, the movie sort of just sits there and coasts by. It seems like, at any point, it’s going to take off and go somewhere crazy and relatively fun, but just as soon as that’s promised, for some reason, things slow back down. It’s weird, too, because you can tell that Liman wants it to take off of the ground – it’s just that he either doesn’t know where to go, what to do next, or basically, just didn’t have enough money to do the sorts of things he wanted to do.

After all, Liman shot this whole thing practically on the sly, without anyone really knowing of its existence, nor what it was going to be about, which is a noble decision on the part of Liman’s, but it also may have taken the movie back a bit. The budget is smaller than most thrillers of this nature and because of that, some of the more ambitious things he may have been tempted to do, probably couldn’t have happened. And it’s not like I have issues with small movies such as this, just sitting in one location for the whole run-time, but that’s literally what happens in the Wall for at least half of its hour-20 run-time: Sits.

The only aspect of the movie that makes it all worth saving and sticking around for is Aaron Taylor-Johnson in the lead role.

Wait. Why is there a picture of air?

And I think it should be stated by now, people, that Taylor-Johnson is a pretty great actor. Sure, he’s a hunk, a pretty-boy, and most definitely the crush of every girl out there who has ever laid their eyes on him, but all that aside, the guy can handle any role put at him. His role here finds him doing a lot of heavy-lifting all by himself, without much assistance from those around him, and it deserves to be noted that he makes it all interesting to watch. We don’t get much background about his character, other than the fact that he’s a soldier and loves America, but Taylor-Johnson gives us the promise that there’s something more there, just waiting to be revealed; add that to the fact that he’s a soldier, trapped in a deadly-position, without much of a way out, and yeah, he’s awfully sympathetic.

Which is why the Wall, though it doesn’t really get as deep as it probably should have, definitely seems like the kind of movie that wants to say something about war, the military, or even foreign affairs, but at the same time, sort of only skirts by all of these ideas it probably had brewing in its mind. The Iraqi soldier speaking on the radio the whole movie, constantly reminds us, the audience, about the United States and their constant insistence on getting involved with other country’s business and while it is no doubt a true and honest sentiment, it’s told to us through someone who is, either nonexistent, or basically, just a victim. There’s not much else to him, so because of that, we’re sort of just left with the idea that he’s a sick human being who wants to see soldiers killed, because, well, why not.

May be a case of me nitpicking, but I don’t know. At least some of those mainstream, Hollywood, big-budget thrillers have a little bit more on their mind than just shooting, blood, action, violence, and xenophobia.

Consensus: Even with a solid lead performance from Taylor-Johnson and a few solid thrills, the Wall crumbles under the weight of its own rather small ambitions and, of course, budget.

Hurry, Aaron! Save that air!

5 / 10

Photos Courtesy of: Lionsgate

The Glass Castle (2017)

Every family’s a little crazy. Obviously some, more than others.

Though Jeannette Walls (Brie Larson) grew up to be a smart, tough and powerful gal writing for a column, she had quite a rough upbringing. Her parents, for lack of a better word, were hippies in the sense that they didn’t care too much about certain materialistic things. You know, things like a house, or bills, or even school. This led Jeannette and her relatives to having to grow up by themselves and save up money, day in and day out, in hopes that they’ll one day make it out. And the father, Rex (Woody Harrelson), was probably the biggest problem of them all. Not only did he love himself a drink, but he was so controlling, he wouldn’t let anybody out. The mother, Rose Mary (Naomi Watts), was just always there, painting, and trying her hardest to ensure that her family stayed together. Honestly, it was a lost cause which is why, when Jeannette grows up, she doesn’t really want much to do with her parents. But the older she gets, the more she realizes that no matter how hard she tries, her parents and her family’s legacy is something that she can never, ever avoid.

Daddy’s little girl. So long as daddy ain’t drinkin’.

The Glass Castle is an odd movie that felt like it should be a whole hell of a lot darker, meaner and more disturbing, than it actually plays out. It’s literally a story about a drunken-deadbeat of a father who forced his family to stay in poverty, not really depend on anything but him, and as a result, sort of scar them for life. And that story, as is told, kind of works; the Glass Castle has an honest way about telling its story where we get the sense that no matter how many years go by, the scars will still always be there.

But that’s only one aspect of the story. The other aspect is this notion that the movie also wants to praise the drunken-deadbeat father for being charming, thinking for himself, and always being able to provide an argument in a justified manner. It’s almost as if we’re supposed to hate him for all of the awful, almost unforgivable actions that he commits throughout the two hours, but also love him for these faults, too. Once again, it’s odd and it never quite works together, and it’s all the more disappointing considering that this is coming from director Destin Daniel Cretton who, a few years ago, shook the airwaves a few years ago with Short Term 12.

Which also starred Brie Larson who, for some reason, feels wasted here, as does everyone else.

She turned out all right. Right?

The only person in the cast who gets to do the most is Woody Harrelson and oddly enough, even he feels like a problem for the movie. Though it’s not entirely his fault – the writing’s too confusing – it still shows us that no matter how hard he tries, even Woody Harrelson’s charm can’t save a character who is, at the end of the day, an asshole. We get constant flashbacks of him being something of a nice father, who tells his kids to inspire more, but we soon find out that he only says that because he can’t support them in any other way. We also get constant flashbacks of him connecting with Jeannette and we get the sense that they truly did have a loving relationship growing up, and constantly depending on one another, but then we also find out that the father didn’t want her to leave the nest and sabotaged her career, at one point.

It’s really weird, honestly. And it feels like the movie never quite makes up what it wants to be about, or hell, what it even wants to say, about us, about this family, and about family as a whole, in general. The story itself is compelling and, on occasion, we’ll get some small glimmers of material that could have been further explored, in a much darker, much more adult-oriented movie, but the Glass Castle also feels like it’s playing very much for the made-for-TV crowd. It looks and has better acting than one of them, but it’s just as messy and uneven, making it a missed opportunity on all fronts.

Go back to indies, Destin. Please.

Consensus: While the original source-material leaves plenty of room for promise, the adaptation of the Glass Castle is a confused, mish-mash of melodrama, sap, and mixed messages about family, alcoholism, and coming-of-age.

4.5 / 10

“Who needs gas? Or electric? Or water? Or school? Or hell, anything else! We got family!”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

The Look of Love (2013)

The Look of Love (2013)

At one point in his life, Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan) seemingly had it all. He was a Soho adult magazine publisher and entrepreneur that seemed to have all of the money, all of the drugs, all of the women, and all of the fancy people around him to help him out. However, it wasn’t always like that. In fact, before he got on top, Raymond started with just a few adult burlesque houses, where nudity and sexual innuendo was a constant cause for controversy. Eventually, it all came to work out for him, because not only did people want to see naked women, they also wanted to be in the company of them, as well as Raymond, who was, in all honesty, a charming chap. And while he was closer and closer to becoming one of Britain’s wealthiest men, he had some issues to deal with, mostly those in his personal life with wife Jean (Anna Friel), who he can’t seem to stay faithful to, or his daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots), who seems to be taking all of the drinking, sex, and drugs a little bit to hard and may prove to be her ultimate undoing.

Life is good when you have Anna Friel on your arm.

The Look of Love is one of those glossy, glammy, and glitzy biopics about rich people having all of the fun in the world. It doesn’t really try to inform or educate us, nor does it ever really set out to change the nature of biopics as we know it; it has a subject, it has a story, and it has a sort of hook. That’s all we need.

But for some reason, coming from director Michael Winterbottom, something seems to still be missing. See, it isn’t that the Look of Love can’t be entertaining when its living it up with all of the excess of drugs, sex, booze, and partying, because it does, it’s just that when that is all said and done, it doesn’t have much else to offer. A good portion of this can have to do with the material just not working and Winterbottom’s rather lax-direction, but it may all just come down to the fact that Paul Raymond himself just isn’t all that interesting of a fella to have a whole movie about.

Or at the very least, a movie in which he is shown as a flawed, but mostly lovable human being.

And it’s odd, too, because Raymond definitely gets the whole treatment; everything from his success as a businessman, to his failure as a family man is clearly shown and explored. But for some reason, it still feels like the movie is struggling with what to do, or say about this man. Sure, he brought himself up from nothing, to become more than just someone, or something, but is that about it? What did he do to get to that? Who was he with? What was the rest of the world like? Any sort of conflict?

And above all else, why do we care?

Truth is, we sort of don’t.

It’s even better when you’ve got a fine ‘stache.

That isn’t to say that Winterbottom and Coogan especially, don’t seem to try here, because they do. As Raymond, Coogan gets a chance to be light, funny, and a little dirty, which is something the man has always excelled in. But when it does come to the movie showing us more to Raymond behind the lovable and wacky facade, the movie stumbles a bit and Coogan’s performance can’t really save things in that department, either. We see that he loves his daughter and is fair to his ex-wives and lovers, but does that really give us a total reason to have a whole hour-and-a-half-long movie about his life and successes?

Once again, not really. It helps that Anna Friel and Imogen Poots are good in supporting-roles, but even they feel a bit underwritten. Friel’s ex-wife character is gone for such a long stretch of time that we almost forget about her, until she shows back up, gets naked, gets drunk, and has some fun, and Poots’ daughter character, while initially promising at first, turns into a convention that biopics like these love to utilize. Granted, she was a real person and the movie isn’t taking any narrative short-cuts in this respect, but still, it just doesn’t wholly feel right.

Was there more to her? Or her mother? Or even Raymond? Once again, we may never know.

Consensus: At the very least, the Look of Love is an entertaining, if also by-the-books biopic of a man we probably didn’t really need a whole movie dedicated to in the first place.

5 / 10

And when you’ve got plenty to drink and snort. But that’s obvious by now.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Daddy Longlegs (2009)

Safdie

Lenny (Ronald Bernstein) is really trying to make it work. After his divorce, he was given custody of his children with his ex, but for some reason, he can’t even seem to make that work. He constantly yells, gets frustrated easily, and doesn’t really know how to maintain his time to ensure that he has enough of it for work, for his kids, and for the rest of his personal life, and whatever the hell else that entails. Issue is that it’s all starting to catch up with him now and for some reason, a mental-health disease is back in full-form and keeping him away from being able to grasp with all of these responsibilities even more than before. What’s he to do? Give it his best shot and see what happens? Ask for other people’s help and see if they don’t mind? Or, simply put, just give up on it all and abandon anything that he has left in life.

See? He’s a nice guy!

Daddy Longlegs, like all of the Safdie Brother’s flicks, seems a lot like a Cassavetes clone. Or, I guess in this case, the right term is “wannabe”. See, it’s not that they don’t nail the style, the mood, or even the look of that legend’s films, because they definitely do, and then some. It’s more that they don’t really nail much else, like compelling characters, or even an interesting story worth sitting by and sticking around for, regardless of time, or subject-matter.

And sure, you could even make the argument that a lot of Cassavetes films were like that, where we didn’t really want to sit and spend time with a lot of these awful people, but there was still something about them that made us want to stay glued to our seats and screens. Most of that had to do with in the way of the performers and in Ronald Bernstein, the Safdies are lucky. Bernstein has a ticking time-bomb look to him where we’re never too sure just when, where, or how this guy is going to crack, but we just know that he is, so standing by, watching, and waiting for it all to happen, is a bit of ride in and of itself. The character is thin and a bit conventional, honestly, but Bernstein makes this guy seem a little bit more crazy than we’re used to seeing with this kind of character and makes him watchable.

The rest of Daddy Longlegs is watchable, too, but once again, the Safdies feel like they are getting at something, but only scratching the surface.

Uh oh. Nut’s about to crack.

Cause while the movie wants to sort of sit there and poke fun at Lenny’s crazy actions and his seemingly dysfunctional life, it also wants to focus on how nice of a guy he is, who takes time out of his day to take care of his kids and ensure that they grow up fine. Or, at least that’s what I think. See, this aspect of Daddy Longlegs is a bit confusing and makes the movie a tad bit uneven; it wants to be a dark, somewhat twisted comedy, but also show us a softer side to this nut-ball, too. It never quite chooses which way it wants to go down and because of that, it gets to be a bit frustrating to watch.

It helps that the movie can look a lot like a documentary and that it feels authentic, but they never quite nail down a compelling story to sit by. Cassavetes always seemed to be making things up on the fly, so it didn’t always matter what his story was about, or what the central-conflict would even turn out to be – all that mattered was characters and the relationships they had with themselves and the world around them. The Safdies seem to itch close to achieving the same goals that that wizard did, but unfortunately, come up very, very short.

Thank heavens for Bernstein, though. Guy saves the day.

Consensus: The Safdies are clearly going for a Cassavetes vibe here with Daddy Longlegs, and while they somewhat succeed on a technical level, they don’t have solid writing to back any of it up. Instead, it’s left to Bernstein to sort of save the day, which he does.

5.5 / 10

That’s how all dads treat their children. Correction, only the “best” ones do.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

To the Bone (2017)

Thanks, supermodels! What influences you all are!

Ellen (Lily Collins) is an unruly 20-year-old anorexic girl who spent the better part of her teenage years being shepherded through various recovery programs, only to find herself several pounds lighter every time. There’s no real rhyme or reason or why she’s stopped eating and allow for her body to get so frail – it’s just something that happened and has forced everyone around her to take notice and wonder what they did wrong. It’s even gone on to influence Ellen’s art which, as a result, even influenced a fellow girl her age, to kill herself. Once again, why? No one really knows, so Ellen gets sent away to find some sort of a solution to a group home for youths, led by a non-traditional doctor (Keanu Reeves), who believes much more in talking and getting to the root of the problem, rather than diagnosing it and expecting all sorts of issues just to go away. Through this home and the people she meets, Ellen begins to grow up a bit and start think about the life she has and why it’s actually worth living. And also, why it’s best to just chew down, as opposed to not at all.

Handshake, or pound it? Make up your mind, kids!

To the Bone is a step above the usual, cookie-cutter movie-of-the-week junk we get on TV nowadays. But it’s still a small step that features cursing, sex talk, drug use, and some other disturbing material that also makes it seem like it’s trying a bit hard, but at the same time, not, because it’s actually giving us real teens, with real issues, talking the way that real teens talk. Does that make it great? Nope, not really. But if anything, that makes it more noble than anything that Lifetime can offer you.

And if that’s the standard, then really, what’s the point, right?

Anyway, To the Bone mostly gets by on Lily Collins performance in which, not only does she totally dress herself down in an unhealthy and scary way, but also allows for her character to grow over time. It helps that Ellen is more than another angsty teen who has family-problems and doesn’t really know how to express herself, as she’s much more of a teen who just doesn’t know what to do with her life; the fact that she was mostly pushed to the edge of her life through someone else’s suicide, already makes her a tad different than other protagonists like her, in other movies. And yes, Collins is quite good, too, showing a great deal of sadness, as well as fun and light in a character that, honestly, should have just had a whole movie dedicated to her and to her alone.

Because it’s in the supporting characters that the movie sort of plays its hand a bit too much and, dare I say it, get a bit annoying. For instance, Alex Sharp’s romantic love-interest character, while well-intentioned, comes off a bit goofy and pretentious. It’s as if he jumped right out of the Fault in our Stars and decided to give this movie a bunch of annoying comedy that, quite frankly, it didn’t really need. We get it, he’s different and a bit light on his feet, but does that really mean every line he has, has to be some sort of lame joke that sounds like it came from your weird uncle?

You’ll get there. Have a steak.

Probably not and it’s why To the Bone struggles to figure out just what it’s about.

Either it’s about anorexia and what draws a person to this way? Or, it’s about this one girl, trying to live, trying to survive, trying to find happiness, and just trying to be herself, even when she doesn’t know how to be? The movie flirts with both angles and after awhile, it makes you wonder where it wants to go, what it wants to say, or what it even what it wants to be about. Both stories are interesting and could work, but side-by-side, they don’t and it ends up making the movie feel like a bit of a mess, even if yes, it’s one step above something from Lifetime.

But then again, is that really the peak?

Consensus: Though it flirts with some interesting ideas about anorexia, depression, and coming-of-age, ultimately, To the Bone feels a little melodramatic and light to really dig deep into what it wants to develop.

5 / 10

“Like, uh, woah.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

At First Sight (1999)

Eyes open or closed, we all know Mira Sorvino is downright beautiful.

Young architect Amy Benic (Mira Sorvino) needs a break from the busy high-life of Manhattan and decides to go out to the country-side, relax, and get her massage on. While she’s getting that on, she falls under the spell and hands of the masseur Virgil Adamson (Val Kilmer). She instantly clicks with him and realizes that there’s something between the two that’s as rare as it can be. Rare, because Virgil’s also blind and has no idea what she looks like, or anything else for that matter.

Watching all of these sappy, romantic-dramedies can honestly do a number on a person. Nicholas Sparks has dulled the senses so much, that even when something relatively sweet, sort of nice comes around, it’s hard to fully embrace it. For someone like me, I’m just so used to saccharine, annoying romantic-junk that yeah, it makes you forget about actual solid romantic-flicks out there in the world.

Sort of like At First Sight. But also, sort of not like At First Sight.

Let me explain.

Well, close enough.

Well, close enough.

Granted, it’s nothing special, but it works at being a piece of romantic-drama that you can root-root-root for the couple, and just hope that they end up together because you can see that they’re good people, have the best intentions for one another, and most of all, love each other like silly. Isn’t that what we all want to be reminded of when we watch sap-fests such as these? Well yes, as well as the ability to love and be loved is still out there and if you have a heart big enough to allow that into your soul, that even you can come under it’s spell? I think so, and I think that’s why I actually didn’t mind this movie as much as I was planning to.

Val Kilmer is a nice fit as our blind man for the two hours (way, way, way too long for my liking!), Virgil Adamson. Despite how he may be behind the scenes, Kilmer has always had a certain cool, suave charm about him, which is what works well for this character here, who could have easily just been a later-day saint who also happened to be blind. It’s also a nice refresher to see him play a much softer, more romantic-side, even though the movie surrounding him is, yes, corny and undeniably syrupy beyond belief.

But like I said, the guy’s so charming, he makes it work.

Daredevil totally ripped this movie off!

Daredevil totally ripped this movie off! Damn Ben Affleck!

Playing his love bird for the two hours (once again, way, way, way too long for my liking!), is Mira Sorvino as Amy. Sorvino is always a charmer and is as cute-as-a-button that whenever she smiles, it’s so easy to just feel all warm and gooey inside. She’s got that beautiful look to her that works to her advantage and it’s just great to see that in an actress that can make bad material like this work, even if we do see it coming a hundred-upon-a-hundred miles away. You actually believe that she could fall in love with a guy like this, knock down all of the problems of being blind, and just look at the person instead. It’s obvious stuff, but Sorvino and Kilmer make it work together and if it weren’t for these two in the roles, it’d be really hard to get through this thing.

Then, there’s Kelly McGillis who eventually shows up as Vrigil’s sister that is always there for him and watching over him and is okay, but also where the movie really starts to go off-the-rails. The first hour, while cheesy, is sweet, soft and enjoyable enough to where it’s a nice piece of time passing-by, because it’s never taking itself all that seriously. But then, miraculously, as soon as McGillis rears her head in, everything gets a bit bonkers and far too serious. It certainly doesn’t help the fact that she’s always yelling, upset, and crying about something going on. Thankfully, Nathan Lane is here to save the day and as usual, use his comedic-charm to his ability and have us love the guy like never before.

So when in doubt, just trust Nathan Lane.

Consensus: Is it predictable? Yes. Is it obvious? Yes. Is it long? Hell yes! Is it at least entertaining? Ehh, sure. At First Sight may not throw you any curve balls you won’t see coming at you miles away, but Kilmer and Sorvino at least make the material seem more than just your average, run-of-the-mill romantic-drama, even if that’s exactly what it is.

5 / 10

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you not supposed to pet those dogs or something?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t you not supposed to pet those kinds of dogs or something?

Photos Courtesy of: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Paris Can Wait (2017)

Be yourself, momma!

Anne (Diane Lane) is in Cannes with her husband Michael (Alec Baldwin), a prominent movie producer. As the festival ends she learns that the vacation she and her husband were supposed to go on in Paris will be slightly delayed as they need to go to Budapest first. They plan to fly to Paris, but the pilot suggests Anne not fly due to an ear infection. Michael’s producing partner Jacques (Arnaud Viard) offers to drive Anne to Paris himself. But here’s what Anne doesn’t know, or better yet, expect: Jacques is going to take it upon himself to not just wine and dine her, but also even take her to bed. Why? Or better yet, how could he? Well, it’s because he’s French and that’s just the sort of wacky things that they do, right? Anyway, Anne doesn’t know whether to be flattered, or appalled, but mostly, just wants to be left alone where she can take pictures, enjoy the food, the scenery, and occasional good conversation that gets so very deep, she doesn’t know if she’s made the right decisions in her life.

Should it be Alec?

Paris Can Wait is probably the most perfect movie to take your older-relative out to this summer. If they don’t want the slam-bang, loud action of the blockbusters, then give them something small, quiet, sweet and relatively carefree that doesn’t ask for much except just your undivided attention for, oh, I don’t know, say an-hour-and-a-half, if even that. Which means that it’s a fine little movie in its own right, but does that make it really any good?

Not really. But once again, think about your older-relatives. They like movies, too, and why should they be forgotten about? Why? Because they don’t care for Transformers? Or some dude swinging a web? In this general sense, then Paris Can Wait is probably the most perfect movie around: Inoffensive, simple, and easy-to-follow. It’s not setting out to hurt, kill, or maim anyone, but then again, should it?

Better yet, coming from the matriarch of the Coppola family, shouldn’t it do that, and a whole lot more?

Yes, probably, but as is, it’s fine. Writer/director Eleanor Coppola has set out to make a small movie that tries to discuss all aspects about life, love, growing old, having regrets, and yes, appreciating everything around you, but doesn’t really seem to touch on any aspect all that much; it’s as if she’s treading along, hoping to catch something deep, dark, and rather emotional, but doesn’t. And as a result, we’re left with a movie that’s about so many different, small things, but not totally about a whole lot much else.

Or some French creeper?

It’s a shame, too, because at the center of this tale is a really great performance from Diane Lane who, is still just as beautiful as she was in Francis Ford’s the Cotton Club, but also a lot wiser and smarter of a performer. As Anne, Lane, gets the opportunity to show us a sad and, at times, confused older women who doesn’t quite know if she’s happy with the life she’s lived, but also knows that it’s a little too late to change everything up and act as if it never happened. There’s a very surprisingly and emotional scene involving Anne in a church and it’s a great bit of acting from Lane and probably the best part of the movie.

In other words, it comes out of nowhere and actually goes somewhere.

Something that, unfortunately, the rest of the movie doesn’t follow through with. Sure, it’s enjoyable and a feast on the eyes, ears and probably even, the heart, but at the end of the day, it’s just a piece of time passing by. And what would you much rather do with your time left on this planet: Watch a mediocre movie starring Diane Lane? Or, actually live and experience life, go to Paris, drink wine, eat fatty food, have sex, be naked, and yes, just enjoy things around you?

But hey, don’t forget about those older-relatives. They’re what really matters, after all.

Consensus: With a solid lead performance from Diane Lane, Paris Can Wait gets by as an enjoyable diversion to whatever else is out there in the cinemas (hey, remember those?).

5 / 10

Aw, who cares, Diane! Just take those pics, gal!

Photos Courtesy of: Citizen Charlie

The Bad Batch (2017)

Cannibals gotta eat, too.

In the near-future, where it seems like the rest of the world is either on the brink of self-destruction, or already there, lies an odd area outside of Texas where there are no rules, laws, or jurisdictions whatsoever. And in that case, that means anything goes, where anyone can do whatever it is that they have to do to survive. It’s surely not the easiest place for anyone out there, and especially not a small, seemingly innocent girl by the name of Arlen (Suki Waterhouse), who just gets dropped in the air, only to then lose an arm and leg, very shortly afterwards. Why though? Oh, because there’s cannibals lurking just about everywhere you look in this awful wasteland and it’s up to Arlen herself to not just stay away from these terrible folks, but not become one of them herself. And while there, she meets someone named Miami (Jason Momoa), a Cuban who may look like a sinister and mean son-of-a-bitch, but in reality, just wants his daughter back – the same daughter that Arlen has in her company with good reason.

In a post-apocalyptic world where human flesh is desired, don’t worry, supermodels survive.

The Bad Batch isn’t so much of a mess, as much as it’s just a simple, pretty ordinary movie that strains to be something strange, odd, weird, and hella different, but in reality, is just like many other Mad Max rip-offs ever made in the past few decades. It’s grimy, hot, dirty, mean, grotesque, weird, and packed with a whole lot of wide, sweeping shots of the desert, but there’s one key ingredient missing: Excitement. See, without any of that, you just have an ordinary, everyday thriller that longs to be something way different and out-of-this-world, but ultimately, is just so slow and boring that it feels like it’s being made-up on the spot, but without all that much time, thought, rhyme, or reason of why everything’s playing out the way it is.

Okay, so yeah, maybe it’s a bit of a mess.

But still, the Bad Batch isn’t as bad as people have been making it out to be; if anything, it’s just a two-hour-long movie that feels longer and probably could have been cut by at least 30-to-40-minutes and no one would have been the wiser. Of course, you’ve got to give it to writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour who, after achieving some surprising success with A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, seems to have gotten total and complete creative-control with this here, for better and for worse. It’s nice that she was willing to make such an impact with her equally odd and strange debut, but whereas that movie seemed like it had somewhere to go, even while it was making itself up as it went along, this one seems like she doesn’t really have the slightest clue of where she wants it to go.

Then again, you can’t totally blame her. Not only does Amirpour have a bigger budget this time, but she’s got a bigger cast, scope, and yes, way more toys to play around with. In that sense, then Amirpour makes it worth her while; the movie looks muggy and disgusting, but deservedly so, as if it may have been taking place on the outskirts of Thunderdome, but still seeming like it’s own place. If there’s anything that Amirpour achieves here, it’s a nice general sense of the world that she’s created and the characters she’s given us to help make sense of this messed-up, sickening and twisted world.

I don’t know, Suki. May be a little too much man to handle.

That said, it does take awhile to get through it all which, ultimately, keeps the Bad Batch from fully getting off the ground. And it’s not even that it’s a terribly boring movie – there are some nice bits of tension that seem to work themselves out, the more drawn-out they are – it’s just that it takes so long to actually get going to where it needs to get going. There’s not much of a story to begin with, but then again, there wasn’t much of one with Amirpour’s debut; that movie had the benefit of going down certain weird and crazy avenues, while definitely random, made the movie all the more interesting to watch.

The Bad Batch doesn’t quite know where it wants to go, or what it’s actually interested in and therefore, it makes it harder for us, the audience, to get all that interested, either.

And it’s a shame, too, because Amirpour shows that she’s capable of handling a bigger-budget, with a bigger-cast and scope, it’s just that her story isn’t totally there. Had at least 15 minutes of the pauses and silences been cut-out, the Bad Batch would have been a tighter, much more compelling ride through this deserted wasteland. But as it stands, it’s just way too long, without all that much of a direction in sight.

Unlike, of course, any of the Mad Max‘s. Sorry, Ana Lily. Next time, I can feel it.

Consensus: With a bigger-budget and names, the Bad Batch shows Amirpour can handle more on her plate, except nail down tone, story, and well, pacing. Aka, the essentials for making a solid, exciting and relatively compelling thriller.

5.5 / 10

Oooh. Cheeky.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Rough Night (2017)

Girl power. Right, guys?

Jess (Scarlett Johansson), Alice (Jillian Bell), Frankie (Ilana Glazer), and Blair (Zoë Kravitz) were all once the best of friends in college. They drank, partied, danced, did drugs, and well, had sex together. But now, a decade later, they’re all, well, old. Alice is still holding on to her golden days; Frankie is still a rebel/hippie, sticking it to the man; Blair just got out of a rough divorce and is now an even worse custody-battle; and Jess, after years of trying to make a name for herself, is a politician who is now also finally getting married to her sweet man, Peter (Paul W. Downs). Which, of course, now means that it’s time to get the whole gang back together for a night full of fun, sex, drugs, and strippers. But an obvious wrench gets thrown into the mix when the stripper they hire surprisingly dies. Now, the gals have no clue what to do, and when they aren’t sparring with Jess’ other friend, Pippa (Kate McKinnon), they’re sparring with one another, trying to get out of this situation and not kill each other in the process.

Get a bad boy, girls!

It’s not hard to feel a little conflicted about Rough Night; it’s an R-rated comedy, starring women, directed by a woman, and even co-written by a woman, Lucia Aniello of Broad City fame. And yes, in a world where it seems like fewer and fewer of these movies are starting to pop-up, it’s nice to get a little reminder that women run the world, they’re fun, and hell, they can be just as, if not more, raunchier than their male counterparts. It’s why more movies like Rough Night deserve to be made, regardless of key demographics and it’s also a sign that, perhaps, the times do need to change. If not now, really, really soon.

But then again, I’m conflicted because while I’m happy the movie was made, by who made it, and who’s all starring in it, I still can’t help but feel like the movie should have been way better, more well-written, and well, funnier.

In fact, a whole lot funnier.

The general idea with studio-comedies isn’t whether the laughs are great, or huge, or even all that well-earned – it’s all a matter of if you laughed enough times, and if so, does that justify spending the time to go out and see it. In that case, then yes, Rough Night deserves to be seen because as a comedy, it can be funny. Granted, it’s not the most original premise out there in the world, but considering that it’s women in said premise, it makes it seem a bit fresher, even if the jokes aren’t always connecting. Rough Night is also one of those studio-comedies where everyone seems to improvising their butts off, which can provide to be funny, at times, but at others, a little tedious.

Drink up, girls!

So yeah, Rough Night can be funny, but it also feels like, given the cast and crew involved, why wasn’t it funnier? Why did it just reach the bare-minimum of humor? Why couldn’t it go above and beyond all of that? Some of that has to do with the fact that the movie was mostly all improvised by everyone involved, but it also has to do with the fact that the movie just doesn’t quite move as well as it should; even the premise itself, while familiar, still feels like a sad excuse just to have all of these women stand around a room, make dick jokes, curse, and yeah, do what they do best.

Which again, it works well enough because everyone involved is talented and can make wonders with whatever it is that they touch. But even they feel like more of architectured types, then actually, full-fledged people. Johansson’s Jess is a super-serious professional type who gets a little crazy, but not too much; Bell’s Alice just wants the party to keep on going; Glazer’s Frankie is a bit of a free-spirit; Kravitz’s Blair is sort of just there, who has a little bit of a past with lesbianism; and McKinnon’s Pippa, perhaps the only real star of the show, has some light and fun to her, but ultimately feels like an annoying sidekick, used for jokes every so often when the going gets serious. Trust me, they’re all fine and make this material work, in often times when it shouldn’t, but even they deserve a little bit better.

So yeah, you’ll laugh at Rough Night. Probably. But female-fronted films can do way, way better.

Consensus: Even with the obvious talent on display, Rough Night still feels like a mixed-bag of comedy that doesn’t always work and should be way funnier than it actually is.

5 / 10

Walk it out, girls!

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

The Dinner (2017)

Have a nice, friendly din-din with your bro, they said.

Paul (Steve Coogan) and his wife, Claire (Laura Linney) get ready to spend an evening with his brother and sister-in-law at a fancy restaurant where they can catch up, discuss some things, and yeah, just do what adults do by a certain age when not much else is left to do: Try to one-up each other. It’s this sole reason that Paul doesn’t want to go, but there’s something going on with his son (Charlie Plummer) that this dinner needs to address and rather than sitting around, moping, and not seeing anything getting better, Paul decides to suck it up and have dinner with his brother and his wife. And said brother, who also happens to be Congressman Stan Lohman (Richard Gere), knows that he and Paul have some things to address, but it takes too long to get there because, well, they don’t quite get along. There’s a history there and it’s something that keeping this dinner away from being, at the very least, a civilized one. Tack on the fact that Stan’s wife, Katelyn (Rebecca Hall), isn’t in the best of moods, either, and yeah, it’s going to be a long night.

Steve Coogan is sure-as-hell wishing that he was dinner at with Rob Brydon right about now.

Without going so far as to review the Dinner on what could have been, instead of its merits like one should always do, there’s a part of me that wishes it had been a lot easier, simpler, and laid-out than what actually happens. See, on the surface, there’s a movie that’s ripe with promise of tension, questions, answers, family-history, and well, ideas about the world we live in, the world we make for future generations to come around, and most above all, politics. In that sense, had the movie just been a four-hander between these four very talented actors, just waxing on and on about life and all of its issues, then yes, the Dinner probably would have been as compelling as it promised.

But unfortunately, that doesn’t happen.

The Dinner is, for lack of a better term, overstuffed beyond belief and way too busy to really work with itself out. Director Oren Moverman has proven in the past that he has a knack for telling small, subtle, but dark tales about everyday humans, but for some reason, he gets wrapped-up in way too much going on here; granted, it was Cate Blanchett who was originally supposed to direct here, but dropped out, leaving Moverman to pick up the pieces. He tries to make sense of the many strands of plot this movie has, but after awhile, once the eighth or tenth unnecessary flashback hits the screen, it becomes really repetitive and really annoying, really quick.

After all, it’s only breaking up any of the tension that the actors create here in the first place, making it seem like the material was too troubling to work with in the first place, or that Moverman didn’t trust these actors enough to really give the movie all the intensity it needed to work. And when it’s just them four, sitting around a table, it’s quite a treat to watch; Coogan, Linney, Gere, and as usual, Hall, are all pros at what they do and can handle whatever this sometimes wacky script throws at them. However, it gets to become a problem when the movie steps away from them so much, almost to the point of where you wonder whether the title is ironic, or if there is actually supposed to be a so-called “Dinner” taking place?

I don’t know who’s their daddy, but Richard Gere and Steve Coogan did not came from the same mother.

And if so, with whom? Or better yet, will we actually be able to watch it?

Still though, it’s hard to hate a movie with this cast because when the Dinner is on them, it’s fun and rather, exciting. It’s a true testament to what can happen, even if you have a weak script, when you have a solid cast, doing what they do best: Act. Coogan’s probably the most impressive here, as his character not only gets the most development out of the four, but also gets to show off his much darker, meaner and weirder side that we don’t too often see. Sure, his American-accent is a little too odd for me to fully buy, but in this character’s case, it sort of works. Yeah, I’m still not sure.

However, the movie not only needed more of him, but yeah, everyone else, too. It’s called “the Dinner” for a reason – let’s see said “Dinner” actually occur.

Consensus: Despite solid performances from the four leads, the Dinner suffers from a way too busy and hackneyed plot that does so much, it breaks up any of the tension that’s meant to be felt with dark and disturbing material such as this.

5 / 10

“Cheers to pure hatred and contempt for one another and everything around us!”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Belko Experiment (2017)

Take a sick day next time.

An ordinary day at the office becomes a horrific quest for survival when 80 employees at the Belko Corp. in Bogotá, Colombia, learn that they are pawns in a deadly game. It all happens when, out of nowhere, a weird, sinister voice comes over the PA system, letting them all know that they are trapped inside their building and that two workers must be killed within 30 minutes. Two die and the employees think that’s all there is to it. Little do they know that plenty more will have to be killed in order for the voice to stop doing what it’s doing and let the workers go. And for some workers (John Gallagher Jr.), this is fine, because they have a conscience and don’t want people to die. But for others (Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley), they know that the only way to come out of this thing alive is to make the weakest suffer and die off first. Ask questions later. After awhile, it just becomes a free-for-all where no one knows who’s going to live, die, or hell, even what the end game is here.

That look you make when you’re absolutely tired of all the damn memo’s.

The Belko Experiment seems to be going for some sort of message about the current day workforce, or hell, even the government in and of itself. After all, the movie is set in Colombia, where an American corporation is held, dealing with certain issues that never become made clear to us. Is the movie trying to say that foreign relations with the States is so bad, that everyone associated with them is eventually going to become killers? Or, is it trying to say that the workforce, in and of itself, is already so vicious in the first place, that eventually, everyone in it is just going to start killing one another to be the best, literally and metaphorically speaking?

I honestly don’t know. But probably not.

See, the Belko Experiment isn’t a very smart movie that wants to get itself all bogged down in certain stuff like politics, or hell, even ideas. It just wants to kill, give us a lot of gore, and make certain office-items into weapons. A part of that can be fun to watch, but here’s the issue with the Belko Experiment: It’s just not all that fun to begin with.

In a way, it’s actually pretty depressing and dare I say it, disturbing. But honestly not in the way that it intends; writer James Gunn seems to be clearly going for some sort of darkly comedic-edge, where heads are splattered and limbs are exposed, but for some reason, there’s still a smirk on everybody’s faces by the end of the killing. However, that doesn’t quite translate here at all. The Belko Experiment is a drop dead serious movie, which could still allow for the premise to fully work, but it never seems as convinced of its own darkness, that it allows itself to go there.

It’s always just moving along, steadily and surely, but is it easy to care? Not really.

What a courageous guy. Too bad that he’ll probably have to kill her later.

And yeah, that’s what it ultimately comes down to with the Belko Experiment – it’s hard to ever really care. Sure, watching seemingly normal, everyday people go to work and be threatened with meaningless, senseless death is upsetting to begin with, but the movie’s character-development is, well, lacking. For the first ten minutes or so, we get to know a little bit about the main players of the story, but mostly, they all just come down to types, so that when things do start to go awry and characters begin to make rash, downright questionable decisions, none of it really connects, or translates.

Take a movie like It Comes at Night that, in a way, is a horror movie, but not really. That one deals with the day-to-day horror of real life human beings, being shoved the brink of madness and having to act out in heinous ways that they’ll soon regret, but did for the greater good of themselves and the ones that they love. While the Belko Experiment never tries to reach for the same heights that that movie did, it still seems to touch on the same issues of normal people, having to act out in disgusting ways, to save their asses. The difference is that It Comes at Night made us understand and believe these decisions, where the Belko Experiment seems to just, well, give us conventional types, expect us to buy them, and watch as they hack one another off.

When in reality, who cares?

Consensus: The Belko Experiment flirts with being darkly fun, but also gets a little too wrapped-up in being too sinister and mean-spirited to be as exciting as it wants to be.

5 / 10

Conservatives, or just deranged dicks? You be the judge.

Photos Courtesy of: VarietyIndieWire

The Hero (2017)

Don’t let Hollywood forget about you. Even if everyone else you knew already has.

Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott) is an aging Western icon with a golden voice, but in all honesty, his time in the spotlight seems to mostly be behind him. Nowadays, when he isn’t making money in voice-over roles for silly animated flicks, or for lame-o commercials, He spends his days reliving old glories and smoking too much weed with his former-co-star-turned-dealer, Jeremy (Nick Offerman). But he soon finds out that he’s got cancer and it’s not looking too pretty, so it comes time for him to put his life into order, think long and hard about the people he’s hurt, and those that he wants to continue on and love. So of course, around this time, he gets a new lease on life when he meets stand-up comic Charlotte (Laura Prepon), who, despite the obvious age-gap, decides to take him on as something of a mate and try hard to navigate through each of each other’s difficult lives. Meanwhile, Lee tries to connect with his estranged daughter, Lucy (Krysten Ritter), all while searching for one final role to cement his legacy.

“What sort of device is this?” (Okay, he’s not that old, but still)

Co-writer/director Brett Haley’s last movie (I’ll See You in My Dreams) was a surprise-winner for me. It not only gave the ridiculously underrated Blythe Danner the starring-role she was quite deserving of, but also offered something of a smart, low-key, humorous, and heartfelt look at aging, finding love again, and oh yeah, death. It wasn’t too deep that it was depressing, nor was it too funny and light that it could be cheesy – it was just somewhere in the middle and yeah, it worked wonders.

But for some reason, the Hero doesn’t quite work as well. It tries to discuss the same themes and ideas about aging, finding love again, and yes, death, but it sort of fumbles them all in a mess of a movie that doesn’t know where to go, what it wants to be about, or hell, how long it wants to go on for. Because even at just a little over an-hour-and-a-half, it still feels way too long, as if the script wrote just enough material for an hour, but the budget asked for a much longer movie, so of course, everything had to get more and more padded-out.

And also, yeah, Haley seems to have lost a bit of inspiration in the writing-department this time around, too.

But it’s not like the Hero doesn’t play around with some complex thoughts; the idea of aging in a business that has long forgotten about you, is still an interesting to watch, because it’s something that so clearly happens, whether it’s in Hollywood, or elsewhere. But the Hero seems to barely touch on this and instead, just be more about this old dude’s relationship with a ridiculously unrealistic character who could most definitely be classified as nothing more than “a type”. Not that Laura Prepon isn’t good in the role, or at least, doesn’t try, it’s just that she’s so obviously a conceit that writers make up on-the-fly, that listening to her recite poetry, literally, makes me gag.

A May-December romance in Hollywood? You don’t say!?!?

And honestly, she’s not the only type here, either.

Even in the lead role, Sam Elliott is most definitely playing himself, once again. Obviously though, this time, he’s got more to work with and yeah, he makes it worth the movie’s time and effort. He’s honest and sad when the movie asks for it and while he gave a better performance in a much smaller-role in Haley’s last movie, it’s still nice to see him get a leading-role, when there’s very few of them in his long, storied career.

But like I said, he’s still a type. Nick Offerman’s stoner-buddy, while heartfelt, is still used as the obviously straining comedic-sidekick who smokes pot and makes jokes about the old days; Krysten Ritter is the estranged daughter who hates her dad no matter what and reminded me far too much of Evan Rachel Wood’s ridiculously similar character in the Wrestler; and Elliot’s real-life wife, Katharine Ross, shows up as his character’s ex-wife and they have a few nice scenes together, but that’s it. There’s nothing more to them, or their relationship. What you see, is what you get, so don’t expect anything more.

Sort of like, ahem, this movie.

Consensus: Even with a solid performance from Elliott in a rare leading role, the Hero still feels like it’s scratching the surface of a very interesting premise that doesn’t get the opportunity to go further and deeper than what seems to be promised.

5 / 10

Long live Sam Elliott. Just not in this movie.

Photos Courtesy of: NPRDeadlineJunk Host

The Mummy (2017)

Damn. Where was Brendan Fraser when we needed him?

Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) is a soldier in the United States Army who, when he’s not taking down terrorists and saving the country, is going around foreign countries, stealing ancient artifacts, and selling them on the black market for way more than is ever predicted. However, he discovers something that maybe even he may not be able to get away from: A tomb containing, get this, a mummy. Turns out, the mummy (Sofia Boutella) is an old princess who was supposed to be Queen, only to then have been sabotoged, killed and, of course, mummified. Now, she’s out of her tomb and needs something to latch onto, regardless of what it is. So, of course, she latches onto Nick and desires every part of him, hoping that she can, sooner than later, become an evil, but much more powerful spirit than ever before. Nick doesn’t like this, so, with the help of a world-renowned archaeologist Jenny (Annabelle Wallis), who Nick has had relations with in the past, he hopes to not only be rid of this evil, but stop it once and for all, so that no one else in the world can be attacked by such an evil.

Wow. Scientology can do all sorts of tricks to 54-year-old-men’s bodies.

The Mummy is an odd movie in that it’s clearly and most obviously setting-up a franchise, with future, money-grabbing movies to come down the line, but by the same token, also doesn’t feel like it’s leaving a whole lot of room for places this story can go. For instance, we get a glimpse of Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll, who turns crazy and nuts, only to then not moments later, so what’s there to be of him in the future? Is he getting his own movie where he can do what he already did for us? Not to mention the mummy, too, who clearly has her story all laid-out for us, so as to not give us any grey-areas on the matter whatsoever.

So you’d think her story would be done, right?

Well, oddly enough, no. The movie still sets her story up as if there’s something monumental that we just have to wait around for and see. Then, of course, there’s this issue of Tom Cruise who, even at this stage in his career, seems like he may be slumming it a bit for something like the Mummy, where even his charm and wit can’t be the center of attention, but a non-stop punchline just in case for when things get too serious and scary. But yeah, even his story is set-up to continue on and on, but again, his story seems done and, yeah, it’s Tom Cruise, so is he really going to sign on to another one of these when he could just stay at home and collect Mission Impossible money for the rest of his days?

Probably not, but hey, the Mummy is still having fun setting itself up for further adventures down the road. And this is obviously a problem, because it takes away from what could have already been a pretty fun, light and silly romp. Granted, we didn’t really need a reboot of the Mummy, but hey, we got it and if this is the best that they could do, then yeah, it feels like maybe, just maybe, Brendan Fraser’s franchise shouldn’t have even be messed with in the first place.

Literally pre-gaming for Ozzfest already.

Cause it’s not like the Mummy is as awful as everyone is making it out to be; it’s occasionally fun, charming and yes, a little goofy, but it can occasionally come together and be worth watching. It’s honestly all of the CGI, story-strands, set-ups, and mythological elements that don’t quite work and yeah, even get in the way of the spirit of this movie, that can be found if you look deep and hard enough. Granted, it’s not easy to like a movie like the Mummy, especially when it does seem as if it’s trying too hard to please everyone who watches it, but it can be a bit enjoyable, if you can get past all of these other issues that seem to constantly be getting in the way.

But yeah, that can be a pretty difficult task, so it’s understandable if it doesn’t quite work out for you, like it did for me.

I’m just a weird guy who takes it easy on these over-budgeted, glossy, and expensive summer blockbusters that don’t know how to settle themselves down and can, occasionally, become total messes. But sometimes, messes can be fun. They can also be dull, too, which the Mummy can be, when it forgets to let itself be some bit of fun.

Some bit, unfortunately. But there is a bit.

Consensus: Way too much story and set-up for very little reason, the Mummy can be occasionally fun and entertaining, but also feels like it’s a step-down for everyone involved, especially a randomly cast Cruise.

5 / 10

Uh oh. Chris Martin may have an issue here.

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

Fist Fight (2017)

Honestly, I myself would have just wanted to brawl with one of my teachers.

It’s the last day of school, and for most people, they’re just worried about getting pranked and having to remember the shame for the rest of the summer. But for Andy (Charlie Day), he’s just worried about getting his ass kicked or not. See, it all started when Andy ran into Ron (Ice Cube), the history teacher who is a bit of a hot-head and not the nicest guy around, and accidentally ratted him out to the principal (Dean Norris) for doing something extremely bad. Ron doesn’t like snitches, so he challenges Andy to a brawl, in the parking-lot, right after school. Everyone hears about it, which leads to many people getting in Andy’s head, messing with him, and driving him even further to madness than ever before. Which is an issue for Andy, especially on a day like this, where he actually has to be at his daughter’s talent show by the end of the day and, you know, not worrying about getting his ass kicked.

Don’t look, Charlie. He’s about to quote an two-decade’s old NWA song.

There’s something to be said for most mainstream comedies out there in the world today that feel as if they were written with a paintbrush. Most of them just have a plot, have a few characters, and other broad spectrum of the story, but for the most part, don’t really have much else filled. It’s almost as if they’re just written for the sake of being written, so that big stars can sign onto them and the projects can get funding, made, and released to the world to see.

What happens in between, honestly, is all up in the air and made up on the spot, and that’s feel like what happens with Fist Fight, another studio comedy that relies heavily on improv, but ultimately, doesn’t have that many jokes to sustain its already overlong run-time and premise. That said, there is some humor to be found, which is mostly always the case when you have reliable comedy talents in it like Charlie Day, Tracy Morgan, Ice Cube, Jillian Bell, and, uh, Christina Hendricks? Believe it or not, everyone’s pretty funny here and adds a few zingers every so often to make it seem like the movie isn’t just one lame joke, over and over again.

That’s typically the case with improv: Some of it is good, some of it isn’t. But most of it is, and can be, entertaining to watch.

“Something, something, drugs. AHAHA!”

That said, Fist Fight also feels like the kind of comedy where there isn’t all that much else to it, except funny people, playing around, collecting a paycheck, and trying to make the most of it. It’s not even that it feels soulless, as much as it just feels a bit boring, because you know that there’s really nothing in this that makes these talents want to work their hardest and best; Bell is a perfect example of this, as she literally starts off the movie, saying that she wants to bang a student, but that she’s also on meth. Sure, Jillian Bell is always funny, and is definitely funny here, but when you start the movie off with those two extremes, it’s a little hard to fall back on anything else.

And oh yeah, the plot, too. See, one of the interesting things about Fist Fight is that there is, believe it or not, some interesting commentary to be had about the school-system and how, in ways, it will literally drive two respectable, likable teachers, to the brink of madness and feel as if they have to beat the hell out of each other, just to keep their jobs. It’s a bit of an extreme example, for sure, but it also helps Fist Fight seem like more than just a lot of jokes and some story.

Which is, essentially, what it is.

And no, I’m not crapping on Fist Fight for not having more interesting ideas, or better yet, even more plot to work with; it’s a comedy and by default, has to be funny. If that’s the case, then yes, Fist Fight is a serviceable comedy that has laughs to offer. But like I said, not much else.

Consensus: Even with a solid cast who can handle goofy material like this well, Fist Fight also feels a bit underdeveloped and like every other studio comedy ever made.

5 / 10

Someone do something. Come on!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire