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01
Jun
19

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

The John Wick series keeps the action clever and explosive in a franchise that just keeps getting better. By now, most franchises would be out of steam and out of ideas. John Wick 3, however, maintains a steady stream of action, and manages to keep doing things that have never been done before. It’s a wonder that 55 year-old Keanu Reeves seems to be at the top of his game here, and the entire creative team delivers a film that defies expectations.

This film picks up immediately where John Wick 2 ended. Reeves is on the run with a 14 million dollar bounty on his head, and every assassin in the world after him. The first act of the film is his desperate attempt to flee New York City. There is a great nod to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, the greatest knife fight ever filmed, and a cool horse chase/battle. It sounds bonkers, but every bit of it works.

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13
May
19

Triple Frontier

A Netflix original film, starring Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, and some other dudes, has been promoted as a high-stakes thriller, and a militaristic heist film. Those descriptors don’t work for this movie. This movie is a plodding, pointless piece of poop (yay alliteration) that is anything but thrilling.
Triple Frontier is a snooze a minute about former military guys who learn that a drug lord has a shitload of money hidden in his house. Well, obviously a drug lord has a shitload of money hidden in his house, that’s not exactly a revelation. Anyway, these guys plot to steal the money. Instead of showing the planning stages in a flashy way like heist movies are supposed to do (see Ocean’s Eleven and The Italian Job), it’s literally just them sitting around a table talking about what to do. Eventually, they get to the drug lord’s house, and kill everyone. But it isn’t an action-packed extravaganza you’d hope for like in Commando. No, the characters are methodical, and quietly take out the bad guys. It’s supposed to be realistic, but it’s boring as hell. They find the money, and try to escape via helicopter, but there is too much money, and they can’t make it over the Andes mountains, and crash.
The rest of the film is these bozos trying to carry whatever money they can on foot. You’d think at this point something interesting would happen. Like they would turn on each other, or drug dealers would catch up to them or something. But no. Nothing fucking happens. They encounter a couple of small problems they easily overcome. One of them dies, but it’s not in any sort of heroic or exciting way. And then, after a while, the movie decides to meander to a conclusion.
I don’t know what the fuck the filmmakers behind this thing were thinking. For a movie about ex-military commandos stealing money from a drug lord, it has no sense of urgency whatsoever. The nature of its premise alone requires something more, and Triple Frontier consistently fails every step of the way. Even the denouement lasts too long, and the audience is dying for the movie to end already.
Verdict: Shitty
23
Apr
19

Velvet Buzzsaw

When I saw the cast list for this movie, I figured it was going to be special. With the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, John Malkovich, and more, the cast of this movie is totally stacked. How does a movie manage to land A-list talent like this unless it’s good? Well, that’s a great fucking question, because Velvet Buzzsaw is terrible. It’s about a group of art dealers who stumble across the collected works on a recently-deceased, unknown artist. There’s a bit of sales maneuvering, power plays, and political backstabbing in the first half of the film, which leads one to think this movie will be a drama/thriller of sorts.
It’s an interesting setup for sure. But the second half of the movie doesn’t know what to do with the setup, and just goes balls-to-the-wall stupid. The art dealers are killed one at a time…by the art. Yes, that’s right, art is a serial killer in Velvet Buzzsaw. No matter where the characters go, if they profited from the unknown artist’s works, they will die, murdered by paintings. And it doesn’t even have to be those specific art pieces they sold. Literally any art will murder them, like graffiti or performance art. The cast does their absolute best to work with the material, but it’s hard to be convincing when they are being murdered by CGI paintings.
The movie has a mocking tone, trying to stick it to the art world, but it’s hard to find that angle appealing when 99% of the populace has no interaction with art dealers, and therefore no point of reference for this. It’s a hokey film, but at least it moves at a brisk pace. The ending is dumb, and it’s hard to get invested in a horror movie that doesn’t even have a villain. It’s hard to believe that this piece of crap was written and directed by Dan Gilroy, the same guy who wrote and directed the incredible Nightcrawler. This one isn’t worth your time.
Verdict: Shitty
10
Apr
19

Avengers: Infinity War

What can I say about the MCU that I haven’t already said? By now you know that I’m just not into superhero movies. Sure, you occasionally get a gem like The Dark Knight or Logan or Wonder Woman, but for the most part, they are drab, unimaginative, paint-by-numbers affairs. A valid complaint other people have leveled against the MCU is that the ultimate goal is to get to the Avengers films, and all the films in between are just road bumps in that path. Sometimes, with how mediocre the “in-between films” are, it really does seem to be true. And so, Avengers: Infinity War arrives, as part one of a two-part extravaganza incorporating almost every character seen in the MCU so far. They have been teasing Thanos as the ultimate villain in the universe for some time, and now he finally gets to the front and center of the screen.

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29
Mar
19

Only God Forgives

The combination of Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling made Drive one of the best films of 2011. So, it seemed that their re-teaming for the 2013 neo-noir Only God Forgives would be a sure thing. Unfortunately, it was about as far from a sure thing as you can get. Only God Forgives is one of the most punishingly terrible movies I have ever seen. From the first fucking frame to the moment the end credits roll, watching this movie is an exercise in patience. Its pace is plodding, its plot non-existent, and its use of a talented cast squandered.
The movie flows like this: 20 minutes of characters staring at each other, Gosling has a hallucinatory vision, someone dies gruesomely, rinse and repeat. The movie barely has any dialogue. Gosling maybe has five lines in the entire thing. Sure, he barely spoke in Drive, but the other characters spoke and moved the story along. In this movie, nobody speaks. It is practically a silent film. This would be OK if there was constant kinetic movement, but there is none of that. The characters sit around staring at each other or staring into space for huge stretches. A tightly edited version could probably be whittled down to 15 minutes. As a short film, it could have been amazing, but the choices Refn made turned it into a bloated, unwatchable piece of shit.
Refn has his head too far up his own pretentious ass to realize he has created the cinematic equivalent of watching paint dry. He has praised himself, and this film, as one of the all-time greats, and has been mocked by many reviewers, including director William Friedkin. Refn thinks that by having vast swaths of silence, punctuated by over-the-top violence and bizarre visuals, he is creating art. But David Lynch he ain’t. Lynch at least has a purpose behind his films, whereas Refn just farts at the viewers and expect them to sniff it up like the world’s finest wine. In short, he has no clue what he is doing, and his massive ego prevents him from admitting he fucked up.
Only God Forgives is so horrifically bad, it deserves a score lower than shitty. Too bad I don’t have one. Someday, when the entire cast and crew is dead, they will find out if God will forgive them for making this turd.
Verdict: Shitty
22
Mar
19

Hardcore Henry, The Villainess

Hardcore Henry
A Chinese-financed, Russian-directed movie where you never see the protagonist’s face sounds like a great idea on paper. No wait, nevermind, it sounds like a terrible idea on paper, and it is even more terrible on screen. Hardcore Henry is an ode to the first-person shooter genre of videogames. I’m no stranger to the genre; I’ve played and enjoyed the classics from Doom to Goldeneye 64 to Portal 2 and beyond. However, this style of gameplay does not translate to the screen. In a game, you are the main character. In a movie, you can’t be the main character. You can’t empathize with Henry because there is no Henry, there is just what Henry sees and hears. A film requires the main character to be seen and heard so you can, with them, experience the situation and emotions they are caught up in. The first person gimmick might have worked for just the action scenes, but dedicating the entire movie to it just doesn’t work. It loses its novelty very quickly. Admittedly, a lot of the action scenes are fun and inventive, and I especially liked the motorcycle chase sequence, but almost the entire movie is action. There is no story. It’s just a parade of endless shooting and punching. The only glimmer of originality was the scene with Sharlto Copley’s clones dancing and singing, and I felt like they should have built the movie around the clone concept instead. Hardcore Henry has well-made action, and I laud the excellent choreography it had, but it was just not enough to make this a worthwhile experience.
Verdict: Shitty
The Villainess
The first scene in this movie is a ten-minute, first-person action sequence. I watched this immediately after Hardcore Henry, and I thought I had just inadvertently done a first-person double-feature. My heart sank. Fortunately, the movie never goes first-person again once the introductory scene concludes. The Villainess is a South Korean action movie about a super-assassin akin to Jason Bourne. And as amazing as the introductory sequence is, the film loses steam quickly and never fully recovers. The Villainess comprises two incredible action sequences that bookend an otherwise bloated and plodding middle. The bulk of the movie is learning the Villainess’ tragic backstory, her training to become an assassin, and her return to the real world. The movie is interspliced with flashbacks, but the audience gets no cue when the flashbacks begin, such as a fade or an auditory clue or a different color lens filter. Frequently, I couldn’t tell we were in a flashback until a good 30 seconds into one. The movie does this often enough it becomes disorienting. In the modern part of the film, the spy agency sends an undercover agent to manipulate the Villainess into marrying him, so he can keep tabs on her. However, this is pointless because she already has a handler and 24-hour surveillance. The marriage, in fact, causes the Villainess to botch an assassination, and unravels her entire life. Maybe this was the point of the film, but it’s impossible to tell. It feels more like bad writing as you watch it unfold. The middle section drag interminably until the Villainess finally confronts the main bad guy in a very cool bus-chase-ax-attack sequence. The camera moves with frenetic energy. Clearly, the director was enthusiastic about it, although he gets a bit gratuitous with the camera movements, sweeping up and down and around, when a simple static shot might have been more impactful. Plus, I could have done without the fish-eye lens shots. But, on the whole, the action scenes are refreshingly inventive, excellently choreographed, and thrilling. The Villainess has an ambiguous ending, but what is the audience meant to ponder? Is this an origin story? Are there going to be more films? She’s not villain-like at all, but certainly could have become a villain at the conclusion. In any case, The Villainess is a 2 hour film that should have been 90-minutes, and would have been improved with a more energetic second act. However, it’s action scenes are unimpeachable.
Verdict: Average
06
Sep
18

Jur-ASS-ic World: Fallen Kingdom, Night of the Hunter

Jur-ASS-ic World: Fallen Kingdom
The second (or fifth, depending on how you count) entry in the Jurassic World series is just as dumb as the trailer would make you think. The island where the Jurassic World theme park is situated is about to experience a volcanic eruption so powerful it will decimate all life on the island, including the dinosaurs. Bryce Dallas Howard wants to rescue the dinosaurs, which seems like a pretty dumb fucking idea since every time the humans and the dinosaurs get together, it results in the dinosaurs eating the people. Chris Pratt thinks its a terrible idea, but since he needs a paycheck real bad, he goes along with her. What transpires next is a continuous chase sequence of humans outrunning dinosaurs, and then dinosaurs outrunning an unconvincing CGI volcanic explosion. Everyone survives, naturally.
The second half of the movie takes place in an isolated mansion where the rescued dinosaurs are auctioned off to people for various purposes, such as weaponizing them. The big attraction is a new dinosaur (every Jurassic Park movie tries to up the ante by introducing a new, scarier dinosaur) that is a genetic combination of a Velociraptor and the Indominus rex. Of course, in the previous movie, we learned that the Indominus rex was a genetic combination of a Tyrannosaurus rex and a Velociraptor, so the new new dinosaur is basically the same fucking thing except smaller and stupider looking. Howard and Pratt run away from the dinosaurs some more, and shout some insipid lines. The bad guys all get eaten. The end of the movie is supposed to be a shocking twist, but it’s pretty lame: the dinosaurs get free in southern California. Except they already did that in Jurassic Park 2. So, nothing is new in this franchise anymore. I think the worst part is that this movie serves no purpose except as an extended trailer for Jurassic World 3: Dinosaurs Up Your Ass in California. What a waste.
Verdict: Shitty
Night of the Hunter
It’s a shame that director Charles Laughton only got to direct a single film, Night of the Hunter, while so many idiots like Michael Bay and M. Night Shyamalan get chance after chance to churn out dreck. Laughton’s single attempt at film-making turned out a now-legendary film. Night of the Hunter is an interesting study of sociopathy and religious preoccupation, stemming primarily from the titular character as played by Robert Mitchum. The story is brilliant in its simplicity: a con-man is jailed in the same cell as a bank robber. Before his execution, the robber lets slip to the con-man that someone in his family knows the location of the money he stole and hid. Upon the con-man’s release, he goes to the town to win his way into the family’s graces so he can acquire the money.
Mitchum’s con-man is rather likeable on the surface, but has only the charming superficiality seen in sociopaths. Beneath the surface, he is a terrible misogynist, a serial killer, and will do anything to get what he wants without any remorse. He quickly earns everyone’s trust (except the children), so no one believes the children when they claim he is a murderer. The character study is enough to write an entire book about, and yet is only one aspect of what makes this film great. However, compared to Mitchum’s power-house performance, none of the other actors hold a candle to him. He acts circles around everyone else, and perhaps this was intended by Laughton, but I doubt it. Mitchum is just too good, and his excellence makes everyone else’s mediocrity more apparent. The only other actor who acquits herself is Lillian Gish, a former silent film star who managed to successfully transition to talkies. The child stars carry the weight of the film, and while their acting is about as good as I would expect from a 12 year-old and a 7 year-old, they perform nicely, and successfully form the emotional core of the film.
The only major gripe I have is the relative anti-climax of the film. The children escape from Mitchum in a harrowing scene, and of course he tracks them down sometime thereafter. It is at this second encounter that the movie just sort of stops. Mitchum easily gives up without much of a fight, whereas the scene could have very effectively been played for terror.
Night of the Hunter is expertly directed, and has no right to be this good being directed by a first-timer. It uses bold, contrasting shadows. It uses religious hymns to haunting effect. It uses unique shots and angles I have never seen in any other film. Laughton was a borderline genius director, but we’ll never know if he could have channeled that genius into further films, or if he just had beginner’s luck. Regardless, this is a really amazing film, and one that deserves to be watched by everyone. Regardless of a few shortcomings, Night of the Hunter is a classic of American cinema.
Verdict: Awesome



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