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Riders of Justice Review

Movie News

Riders of Justice Review
Riders of Justice Review

May 14, 2021 by: Chris Bumbray

9
10

PLOT: After his wife is killed in a train derailment, a military man, Markus (Mads Mikkelsen) is convinced by a survivor of the accident (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) that it was no accident. Rather, he and his crew of statisticians tell him that it was a deliberate attack to eliminate a key witness in a criminal case against an infamous biker gang called “The RIDERS OF JUSTICE”. Markus, who’s also dealing with his traumatized daughter, declares war on the gang, using his combat skills to pick them off one-by-one, while also finding a bizarre surrogate family in this crew of misfits.

REVIEW: Riders of Justice is being sold domestically as a straight-forward revenge tale. On the poster you have Mads Mikkelsen in an action movie pose with a gun, with the typical tag line “someone is going to pay.” Here’s the thing – Riders of Justice is a revenge movie. There’s loads of action and a body count in the dozens. But it’s also just as much a dark comedy and a sweet family melodrama. It’s an interesting mash-up of genres that is very evocative of other films made in Denmark, where Mads and his co-star Nikolaj Lie Kaas are super A-list.

Just like Mikkelsen’s other big recent Danish movie (Another Round), Riders of Justice will likely get a big American remake deal at some point, but the resulting film won’t be anywhere near as interesting as Anders Thomas Jensen’s original. Mikkelsen is great as the hardened military man, who suddenly finds himself a single father after his wife dies. He’s left with an emotionally scarred and neglected teenage daughter (the terrific Andrea Heick Gadeberg) who wants her dad to open up, but he’s incapable. Revenge proves to be a great distraction, with him more comfortable mowing down bikers with his M-16 than participating in family therapy with his daughter.

Mikkelsen’s Markus is a hard-ass, but you also get the sense that he’s trying to be a good dad and a good guy to boot. When he smacks his daughter’s boyfriend for mouthing off, you get the sense immediately that he regrets what he did, and it’s a tribute to the maturity of Danish films that the two simply sit and talk things out rather than paint either guy as two-dimensional. It’s a great role for him and hopefully this and Another Round show Hollywood there’s a lot more to him than bad guy roles in big franchises (I still hope he’s playing a good guy in Indy 5 rather than a villain).

Riders of Justice is also more of an ensemble than a straight-forward star vehicle, with Nikolaj Lie Kass’ character just as important, with him a statistician with his own demons struggling to overcome a sense of guilt. Being a nice guy, he gave up his seat to Markus’ wife on the train, leading inadvertently to her death. His idea of revenge is hacking into the gang’s bank accounts and signing them up for a bunch of dumb memberships. Mads prefers murder. Kass also has lovely chemistry with Gadeberg, who – in yet more proof of the Danish sensibility- never blames him for what happened to her mom and actually quite likes him in the end.

Kass’s misfit buddies are a solid bunch too. Danish star Nicolas Bro is the overweight team hacker who’s tougher than he looks, while Lars Brygmann is terrific as an emotionally scarred rape survivor who finds common ground with a biker victim played by Gustav Lindh. Again, it’s unique that the two survivors of sexual assault in this are both men. The bikers – led by Skyscraper’s Roland Møller, are a demonic bunch, with them reprobate sex traffickers and rapists, so when Mads starts mowing them down you can’t help but root for him even if the case against them orchestrating the train accident is circumstantial at best.

While I loved Riders of Justice, it bears mentioning that this may not be for all tastes. A lot of folks don’t like their violent thrillers laced with heavy doses of dark comedy and family drama, so if you’re looking for a straight-ahead revenge pic this isn’t for you. But, if you’re a touch adventurous in your choices, give this one a watch. For the record – former JoBlo staff member and my Beard and the Bald co-host Paul Shirey loved it, as did Jessica Dwyer of Fantasizing About Fantasy Films. My partner Laura also adored it. It’s utterly unique and thoroughly entertaining.

Source:
JoBlo.com

The Woman in the Window Review

Movie News

The Woman in the Window Review
The Woman in the Window Review

May 13, 2021 by: Chris Bumbray

3
10

PLOT: An agoraphobic woman (Amy Adams) who spies on her neighbours witnesses a murder.

REVIEW: Joe Wright’s THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW had a turbulent journey to the big screen. Originally a 20th Century Fox Film, it was left in limbo when Disney acquired the company. It’s based on a huge bestseller (by A. J. Finn – a controversial figure) with a script by noted playwright Tracy Letts (Killer Joe). You have to assume it was once meant to be an Oscar-caliber thriller a la Gone Girl. Suffice to say things did not work out in the film’s favor. Disney had much of the film reshot with producer Scott Rudin (another controversial guy) hiring fix-it man Tony Gilroy to re-write the film. The result was a radically changed movie. They changed it so much so that they had to scrap the Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor score, and eventually, Disney opted to sell the finished film to Netflix.

One can see why it was dumped as, despite the high pedigree, The Woman in the Window is not a good movie at all. It’s visually creative and energetic, something you can credit director Joe Wright for (even Pan – as bad as it was – had energy), but the plotting is one-note and, worse yet, the performances are over-the-top. When you have a movie that stars Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Julianne Moore but the acting isn’t up to par you have to wonder what went wrong.

Like many book-to-film adaptations, what works on the page doesn’t always work on film. This reminds me a lot of The Girl on the Train, which was also based on a bestseller but wound up being a boring movie. Adams is supposed to be suicidal and agoraphobic, but never convinces as a character on the edge and/or crazy. She seems too collected. She needed to be more unhinged, with her tragic backstory coming along too late in the film to give her gravitas.

Adams is the whole show here, and while she’s amazing 99.9% of the time, this is the one movie that doesn’t serve her well. Similarly, Julianne Moore is way over the top as a walking red herring, while Gary Oldman had very little to do as the neighbor across the street that Moore is convinced killed his wife. Again – it’s Gary Oldman as a sinister character yet he’s boring? Jennifer Jason Leigh is especially ill-served, having almost no dialogue and no big scenes. What happened here? The seams in this one are glaring. Likewise, Wyatt Russell, Brian Tyree Henry and (especially) Anthony Mackie are wasted in two-dimensional roles. 

It’s tied together by good visuals, with Bruno Delbonnel working overtime to give it a unique look. Wright tries to be too slick with his references to classic psychological thrillers that parallel the plot, but when you see clips from Hitchcock guess what? You want to go watch Hitchcock and you wonder why you’re watching such a mediocre film. Even the Danny Elfman score is assembly line.

It’s been a long time since I’ve disliked a movie so much. I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become much nicer as a critic giving a pass to movies I would have probably hated a few years ago. Suffice to say, if I hate something these days it’s bad. I’m not exaggerating that, had I not been reviewing it, I would have never made it to the end credits. It’s a terrible movie.

Source:
JoBlo.com

Profile Review

Movie News

Profile Review
Profile Review

May 13, 2021 by: Matt Rooney

4
10

PLOT: Trying to uncover how ISIS recruiters are able to lure young Westerners over to their cause, a journalist poses as a Muslim convert and tries getting close with a recruiter, making him believe she aims to travel to Syria to become his wife. 

REVIEW: The true story of journalist Anna Erelle’s investigation into ISIS’ use of social media to recruit young people – particularly women –  and manipulate them into abandoning their home and joining their cause in the Middle East, only to mistreat and abuse them, would make for a great tension-filled cinematic thriller. It could shine a light on the dark, all-too-accessible corners of social media, how dangerous of places they can be, and alluring extremist ideals can appeal to those who feel lost. Timur Bekmambetov’s PROFILE, which adapts Erelle’s book, “In the Skin of a Jihadist”, is not that movie. Everything about the subject matter that is complex, illuminating, and may even provide answers for the people who lost family members, is watered down to its most simplistic elements for the sake of rudimentary thrills, of which often fall flat on their own.

Known to mainstream audiences for his stylistic action movies like Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and maybe even for whatever 2016’s Ben-Hur was, Bekmambetov finds himself operating in a completely opposite landscape, ditching the abundance of CGI for a desktop monitor. Taking inspiration from similar movies like Unfriended, Profile is designed to put you in the shoes of Amy (Valene Kane), as she gears up to investigate a member of ISIS (going under the name “Melody”) in hopes of figuring out how they are able to get into the minds of young women and get them to leave everything behind and join their cause – only to end up being mistreated, sold off, or killed.  As to be expected, there’s plenty of Amy jumping around on the web, bouncing between typing to her editor (Christine Adams), trying to get an advance to pay off her overdue rent, speaking with her boyfriend (Morgan Watkins) about moving into a new place, and all at a speed that reminded me just how unskilled I am at navigating a computer.

Originally hitting the festival circuit in 2018, the film was shot before the likes of Searching and The Host have come to represent the peak of the computer screen film but is only now getting released. Unfortunately, that means there’s nothing unique about the film’s presentation to set it apart on a visual level, and perhaps only more to disorient. And yet, the movie’s high point comes as Amy pours over horrific videos posted on prominent ISIS Facebook pages – featuring them beheading or slitting the throats of hostages. Bekmambetov never dips too deep into the violence the group touts with praise but lets it linger just enough to instill a sense of danger. You may similarly feel like you’re investigating a disturbing, dark part of the web, which better helps you understand how dangerous a situation Amy is getting herself into. This is the movie at its most effective, ably putting you in the mindset of Amy as she finally contacts an ISIS recruiter and former British citizen, Bilal (Shazad Latif), and realizes there’s no going back.

Unfriended and The Host are all about the terror happening off-screen; Searching’s excellence is derived from the tension that came from the investigation a father’s daughter’s life online. Here, the suspense and the stakes need to come from the conversations that happen between Amy and Bilal, and how they impact Amy offscreen. However, where this exploration falls incredibly flat is in how the conversations between Amy and Bilal feel incredibly thin, without much of any importance being discussed or emotional resonance genuinely occurring between them.

Bilal is handsome, with a dashing mop of black hair, and is what any Midwestern mom could even classify as “a real charmer.” One of the angles the movie aims to explore is how these scenarios may play out in the real world, and how these very charming men are so easily able to convince people to buy into their extremist points of view. But aside from talking about how much he hates his enemies and how casually he talks about killing them, so much of how he speaks to Amy amounts to no more than f**k boi speak, wherein he endlessly calls her “baby” and talks about beautiful she is, talking about how good he will treat her when they’re finally married. His entire persona is that of a guy who is clearly juggling multiple women in his life – which while likely not far from the truth of the real story – makes up so much of his screen time despite there obviously being so much more to him that should give him a sort of cult-leader demeanor.

Trying to humanize him is necessary for the story so as to make it at least somewhat understandable that Amy feels herself growing closer to him – to the point where even she hesitates to give over some information to her editor, with Amy even getting very close to revealing herself as a journalist to Bilal after one fleeting, heartfelt exchange. But other than rushed moments where he talks about the racism he experienced living in Britain and how his mother died, there’s very little that justifies Amy’s struggles with maintaining her cover. Their dynamic simply comes off as that of virtual pen pals (with inklings of something more romantic), when truly something more complex happening on an emotional, psychological level, especially on Amy’s end.

As for Amy, both the script from Bekmambetov, Britt Poulton and Olga Kharina – coupled with Bekmambetov’s direction – find her juggling so much that I never felt like I was getting a great sense of what she really thinks about Bilal or his views. There are the smallest of hints into how her growing closer to Bilal is impacting her, but not nearly on the level to make for the compelling tension behind the notion of “Is she herself being manipulated?” Between dealing with her editor, her boyfriend who notices her time is too dedicated to her subject, and talking with Bilal, it’s far too easy to lose grip on her as a character, as well as find her overall mission of figuring out how young women are being manipulated by these men feel woefully underexamined. That also doesn’t leave Kane room to do much with the character other than to showcase some exacerbated looks, trying to lend some emotion to her screen time when the rushed plotting leaves her character’s development lacking.

Admittedly, I found myself eager to make it to the end of the movie for what was expectedly set up for some kind of twist, but most of that was based on how obviously shady Bilal is, and me wanting to see just how evil his intentions were. By the end, the point is driven home how dangerous the internet can be and cautious people need to be when talking with people who you think are on your side. Still, I can’t help but feel that was the easiest theme of the movie to drive home, and come the end, the final stretch feels so convoluted and ludicrously plotted, mostly because none of the earlier groundwork properly sets the stage. 

Amy sacrificed her safety in the name of good journalism, and the work of the real-life Anne shouldn’t be diminished simply because this movie version of her actions doesn’t properly do her work justice. The mistake, among more than a few, lies in the decision to use the computer screen style itself, which is inherently too minimalist to tackle such weighty, complex character dynamics – which done right – could’ve illuminated so much more of what the movie hints at, but rarely manages to explore. With a presentation that’s forced to rely on the bond of two people – and the consequences and dangers of that bond – Profile fails to live up to the material’s potential with thin character development stretched over far too many open desktop windows.

 

Source:
JoBlo.com

Those Who Wish Me Dead Review

Movie News

Those Who Wish Me Dead Review
Those Who Wish Me Dead Review

May 13, 2021 by: Chris Bumbray

8
10

PLOT: A smokejumper (Angelina Jolie) reeling from a tragedy is forced to protect a young boy (Finn Little) who’s being hunted through the Montana wilderness by two cold-blooded professional killers (Nicholas Hoult & Aidan Gillen).

REVIEW: Outside of Maleficent, Angelina Jolie hasn’t done a legit action movie since Salt way back in 2010. With THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD, she makes a triumphant return to the genre in a slick, solid thriller that feels like a lost nineties action flick in the best possible way. Co-written and directed by Taylor Sheridan (based on a book by Michael Koryta – who also had a hand in the screenplay along with Charles Leavitt), the film offers Jolie a tailor-made role as a woman of action laid low by a horrible tragedy. A smokejumper, she had to watch a family burn to death after “reading the wind wrong”, which has led to a nasty bout with the bottle and being regulated to tower duty thanks to the interference of an ex (Jon Bernthal) who’s worried she’s going to self destruct.

Jolie is believable in the part, with early scenes showing her partying with her rough and tumble smokejumper pals establishing a “one of the boys” camaraderie that comes through. However, unlike her earlier roles, Jolie isn’t a superwoman here. She’s vulnerable, both physically and emotionally. Early on she takes a nasty fall while rappelling down a role that leaves her hands pretty heavily injured – not an easy injury when pitted against a couple of killers.

Her chemistry with Finn Little is great, with her adopting a warm, maternal tone to the traumatized boy that makes us buy the fact that he would immediately trust her. The son of a forensic accountant (Jake Webber) with the goods on a syndicate (run by Tyler Perry of all people in an against-type cameo), he wants to take shelter with his uncle (coincidentally Jolie’s ex-flame Bernthal) and his survivalist wife (Medina Senghore) but winds up with Jolie instead.

Those Who Wish Me Dead is more of an ensemble than you’d think, with Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult getting plenty of screen time as the psycho killers out to kill this kid. Hoult is the physical threat of the two who gets a cool fight with Jolie, while Gillen is the crazy one. Gillen has a bloodcurdling moment with the pregnant Senghore which is probably the best scene in the movie, with her character proving to be just as badass as Jolie’s in her own way. Bernthal, a Sheridan regular, also gets a nice part as the salt of the earth sheriff’s deputy who winds up a prisoner of the dastardly duo. His big moment of defiance against them is terrific, and it’s nice to see him (at last) playing a true blue good guy (in Sheridan films he’s usually a little more grey).

The movie also has some pretty nifty setpieces, including a ton of blazing infernos. It’s probably the most visceral smoke jumper movie since the underrated Only the Brave, and Sheridan knows just how to make this a lean, effective thriller. It’s rare you get a major movie like this in at 100 minutes, but Sheridan keeps it tight and entertaining throughout. It’s the kind of rock-solid programmer that we used to get regularly but now seems all too rare. It’s a solid little flick and a nifty comeback for Jolie, who seems pumped to get back into action between this and Marvel’s Eternals.

Source:
JoBlo.com

Spiral: From the Book of Saw Review

Movie News

Spiral: From the Book of Saw Review
Spiral: From the Book of Saw Review

May 12, 2021 by: Chris Bumbray

7
10

PLOT: A detective (Chris Rock) investigates the brutal Jigsaw-style slaying of his best friend, only to discover there’s a new killer out there targeting dirty cops.

REVIEW: First – I should get this out there: I’m not a Saw expert. Like everyone, I saw (SAW!) the first couple of movies, but I tapped out somewhere around the fourth installment. I never actually disliked any of the movies (that I “saw”) but what probably happened was that I missed one of the many sequels, ended up falling out of the rhythm of the ultra-prolific franchise, and just started skipping them. However, I was intrigued when SPIRAL: FROM THE BOOK OF SAW was announced, mainly since it emerged from a pitch by Chris Rock, who also plays the lead.

Rock has described Spiral as Law & Order crossed with Saw, and that’s pretty dead-on. It proves to be a surprisingly solid mash-up, distinguished by Rock’s performance in the lead and some ultra-stylish direction by frequent franchise director Darren Lynn Bousman. Rock plays Detective Zeke Banks, who’s like the Serpico of his police department. Hated by everyone in the department for blowing the whistle on an officer-involved execution of a witness, no one will work with him or back him up save for the cop who buys it in the first scene. Burns investigates his murder with his fresh-faced young partner (a solid Max Minghella) and discovers this new killer, Spiral, is executing cops, with his dad, a celebrated veteran (played by Samuel L. Jackson) high on the hit list.

Shot for release in 2020, the film is surprisingly timely given current events, but anyone looking for a deep dive into police corruption best look elsewhere. There’s no particular message here other than “sit back and enjoy the traps”, but it’s still an interesting take on the franchise. Rock, who recently impressed me a lot on Fargo is terrific in a straight-ahead hero part. Much more convincing as a leading man in middle age, he’s solid as the torn cop on the trail of a new killer. Rock doesn’t fall into a common comedian trap, where he plays things too seriously either. He’s not morose. There are a few great Rock riffs, like one on why there’s no Forrest Gump 2, which cuts the tension a bit. Jackson is Jackson, which is just right for a role like this, meaning he says “mutherfucker” a lot and intimidates people. He has good chemistry with Rock, while Minghella is kind of the straight man, playing everything low key in a likable way. Marisol Nichols is solid as well as Rock’s captain, a former crony of his dad’s.

Of course, in a movie like this the big question is “how are the traps?”. This might be the goriest movie of the franchise with an opening sequence involving a tongue nauseatingly effective, as is a later scene involving wax. Bousman and DP Jordan Oram have also given the movie a slick sheen with bold primary colors and a 2:35:1 scope aspect ratio that distinguishes it from the earlier films. Charlie Clouser is back to do the score, incorporating the familiar Saw theme that comes in just when you want it to.

While some may resent the fact that there’s arguably more plot than gore in this installment, it still more than delivers on the blood and carnage you expect from the series. I had a good time with it, more so than a lot of other bigger budget horror flicks, so to me, this is a continuation of the franchise that works pretty well. Check it out.

Source:
JoBlo.com

Oxygen Review

Movie News

Oxygen Review
Oxygen Review

May 11, 2021 by: Matt Rooney

7
10

PLOT: Waking up in a cryogenic unit with no memory of how she got in there or who she is, a woman must figure out how to escape before the rapidly-lowering OXYGEN supply runs out for good. 

REVIEW: If you asked me if I would rather wake up to discover I was trapped in a box from which there was no escape and would slowly meet my end or be torn apart by Velociraptors in the middle of Jurassic Park, I would swiftly answer, “Give me the clawed dinos.” Uma Thurman being buried alive in Kill Bill and the entirely of Buried with Ryan Reynolds are cinematic moments designed to make my skin crawl – and the new movie Oxygen is right up that same alley. The idea of waking up in a techno-box is horrifying on its own, but factor in some memory loss and being injected with a myriad of tubes and there’s a perfect recipe for a panic attack. But it’s also a surefire way to get the audience on the lead character’s side, with anyone watching desperate to see this poor soul bash through the lid and taste the sweet taste of freedom.

Director Alexandre Aja leaps into the scenario with his trademark twistedness, as the movie begins with a woman struggling to break out of what looks like a shrink-wrapped Hefty bag, gasping for air as her escape cuts back and forth between footage of experiments being done on lab rats. Unnerving enough to get the hairs on your arms upright, once she breaks free, Aja begins to shift the tone away from the unsettling images to focus squarely on the woman (Mélanie Laurent) and the tension around her circumstances: She’s trapped in a cryogenic pod, has no idea who she is and what she’s doing there, and the pod is quickly losing oxygen. Eventually learning her name is Elizabeth, her only source of information and direct communication being a HAL-esque A.I. system that, despite the direness of the scenario, seems to only ever want to give her the advanced-space-pod equivalent of a chill pill.  

Aja further embraces the minimalist tension he brought to his last film – the stellar gator horror flick Crawl – and ditches the gore of his other previous films for endless, nail-biting tension, covering various angles of the pod to emphasize just how small and inescapable it is. Writer Christie LeBlanc was smart enough to know that the premise can’t simply be “how does she get oxygen?” and adds onto Elizabeth’s plight by forcing her to figure out not only where she is, but who she is. The ultimate concoction of all this is a blend of survival thriller and amnesia mystery – and while individually those two devices aren’t terribly original – together they make for a sci-fi thriller that puts the lead character in an ever-evolving mystery that keeps the character struggling to figure out what’s next.

But in that balancing act is where the movie has its biggest struggle. During the first act, as Elizabeth wakes up, and the tension is surrounded by the mystery of “Where am I?” Elizabeth struggles to make sense of where she is, clawing at the pod for any kind of information or means of escape, with what little help she gets from the outside world giving her fewer answers, and all as the oxygen clock keeps ticking away. Aja gives the atmosphere a needed sense of palpable claustrophobia, Elizabeth’s fears being very primal and relatable because, again, who the hell wouldn’t freak the hell out after waking up in a bag and inside a futuristic box? But as the story develops, the “Where am I?” becomes blended with the “Who am I?” As deft as Aja’s direction and as thoughtful LeBlanc’s script, this balancing act of tensions doesn’t always remain consistent. While the central mystery of the latter is compelling in its simplicity, the mounting tension of the former becomes less so, as the tension beyond lowering oxygen levels and needing a way out feels more like background noise.

However, if any of that is as compelling as it is, so much of it is thanks to Laurent’s jaw-dropping performance. Having to play a character with no sense of who or where she is, the sheer levels of physicality Laurent brings to Liz will keep viewers on their toes better than any other element. She runs the gamut of denial, confusion, defiance, rage, utter sadness and more than you can fit in any sized cryogenic unit, and she masterfully weaves between it all. If you’re ever feeling a bit lost in the movie’s constant shuffle, Laurent is what gives it its footing and reaffirms the movie’s grip. Even compared to her work in Inglorious Basterds or Beginners, this is easily among her best – if not her best – work to date.

At the core of Oxygen is a simple, terrifying scenario and straightforward mysteries to keep it moving. It marks a unique entry for Aja that shows him evolving as a filmmaker, and LeBlanc’s script has the hallmarks of a great mystery – and together their work makes for solidly suspenseful midnight viewing – even if it does tend to bite off more than it can chew. But what you should come for, more than anything, is Laurent. A captivating performance from start to finish, she put herself into that space box, endured what I can only imagine were hours of filming at a time inside, hoists every thematic element in her shoulders, and the magic that came out of it deserves to be seen.

Source:
JoBlo.com

The Water Man Review

Movie News

The Water Man Review
The Water Man Review

May 7, 2021 by: JimmyO

8
10

PLOT: A young boy dealing with his ailing mother discovers an urban legend about a man who found immortality. Desperate to help his mom, he and a young girl he bonds with head off on an adventure hoping to uncover this mysterious man and find out if his ability to live forever is true.

REVIEW: David Oyelowo is a fantastic talent. The actor has given us beyond impressive performances in Selma, Queen of Katwe, The Last King of Scotland, Nightingale, and much more. His latest also happens to be his feature film directorial debut, and it’s an unexpected treat. In it, he plays a father dealing with an ailing wife, and their son who is having issues watching his mother’s health decline. THE WATER MAN is a tricky story. Much like the brilliant A Monster Calls from 2016, this fantastical tale is grounded in utterly heartbreaking reality. It’s a bold move for his first feature film directorial gig, one that requires a sense of balance between sadness and hope. So how does Mr. Oyelowo fair with this modern family fable? Let’s take a closer look at The Water Man.

Gunner Boone (Lonnie Chavis) is facing something no child at any age can fully prepare for, the prospect of losing a parent. As he watches his loving mother constantly struggle, his problematic relationship with his father Amos (Oyelowo) is amplified. When Gunner learns about a local legend, an immortal human the locals call “The Water Man,” he decides that perhaps there is truth to this tale. And maybe if he finds this strange man, it could bring some help to the mother he adores. His quest truly begins when he meets a mysterious girl his same age by the name of Jo (Amiah Miller). She convinces the lad that this strange man living in the woods is real. The two set off on an unusual adventure, one that may reveal far more than just a mystic figure living in the woods.

The Water Man is an incredibly sweet and engaging tale. Oyelowo and Dawson are perfectly matched as parents trying valiantly to not frighten their young son during a difficult time. It’s a very real and profoundly sad struggle that they are facing. There’s an especially thoughtful examination of a father and son who can’t quite connect. The family dynamic here is impressively explored. A boy who is afraid of his father. A father terrified of losing his wife. And a woman trying her damndest to keep her family together while her health is failing. As tragic as this may sound, it’s handled carefully without delving too heavily into overt sentimentality.

As good as both Dawson and Oyelowo are, the real stars of The Water Man are Miller and Chavis. Much of this story revolves around the two as they head off into the deep woods hoping to find this immortal being. It all creates an exciting and emotional adventure. Even with that, the film’s focus on their characters and the underlying pain they both feel is what makes it all work. The two young actors are fantastic here. The natural chemistry they share helps make what could have been something ludicrous, into a tender and, at times, uplifting tale of promise and acceptance. Had these roles gone to lesser actors, it would not have been near as moving as it ultimately is.

Oyelowo took a bit of a risk by taking on such a delicate story. He could’ve easily pushed the emotionality of it all and completely missed the subtle little moments on display. Even the more imaginative sequences never feel like they go too far. If anything, there are a couple of moments that you truly need to accept that the film is a fantasy and say goodbye to logic, but that’s a very mild criticism. The script by Emma Needell (credited as Emily  A. Needell) delivers a touching and occasionally magical tale, one that will tug at your heartstrings in an impactful way. After all, most of us have had to deal with a sick family member struggling day after day. Considering this is a family feature with a PG rating, it handles the more challenging aspects far better than you’d expect.

The Water Man is an impressive directorial debut for David Oyelowo. Creating a family drama that so deftly balances fantasy and drama is truly an accomplishment. As wild as this story could’ve been, the grounded telling of this tale creates a far more potent movie-going experience for the viewer. While all the performances are strong – both Maria Bello and Alfred Molina are terrific in supporting roles – this truly works thanks to excellent performances from the young stars. Expect to see much more from Lonnie Chavis and Amiah Miller because they are truly exceptional here. Don’t let the family flick vibes and the could’ve been silly plot fool you, this is a powerful film with heart and soul.

Source:
JoBlo.com

Above Suspicion Review

Movie News

Above Suspicion Review
Above Suspicion Review

May 7, 2021 by: JimmyO

4
10

PLOT: The true-crime tale of an FBI agent who finds himself having an affair with his informant.

REVIEW: There was a time that a thriller like ABOVE SUSPICION would be something you’d find on the regular in theatres. Flicks like Fatal Attraction or Single White Female used to be very popular, and they occasionally spill out into modern cinema. With the new film starring Emilia Clarke and Jack Huston, that old standard is back (sort of), with a true story to add a little bit of weight to it. The cast is good, there’s a little bit of style thrown in, but is this little real-life crime drama worth your time? Well perhaps that all depends on your taste. Considering the film was completed in 2019, you have to wonder if the current pandemic is the only reason it’s finally getting a release. Where to begin…

Above Suspicion tells the true story of Susan Smith (Clarke), a woman involved with small-time criminal activity, partly due to her ex-husband Cash (Johnny Knoxville) as well as her former flame Joe-Bea (Karl Glusman). Things get tricky when a hotshot FBI agent named Mark Putnam (Huston) shows up to investigate a series of bank robberies. When Mark meets Susan, he convinces both her and Cash to share intel on the criminal culprit. However, as Susan and Mark spend more time together, they begin a torrid affair, making things incredibly complicated for Susan and those she is informing against, as well as Mark’s wife Kathy (Sophie Lowe) and their young child. This story is factual, and it led to very serious charges for a certain individual involved – if you’ve no interest in the film, you can Google both Susan Smith and Mark Putnam to get the full story.

It takes some time for Above Suspicion to start to get into the meat of the story. If you’re not familiar with the case, the beginning narration from Clarke reveals quite a bit. One of the biggest issues with the feature is the overuse of telling the story in such a formulaic way. While Ms. Clarke handles the Southern dialect well, it becomes almost an annoyance having everything in the film spelled out as such. Ultimately, the true-crime aspect of it feels more like an episode of America’s Most Wanted with drug-fueled parties presented by playing with the speed of the film. This never adds to the suspense. If anything it becomes more distracting without adding a thing.

Emilia Clarke and Jack Huston are both very talented performers. And they are fine here. However, the on-screen fire that should be crackling rarely even gives off a spark. Taking a very long time for the two to get together,  the relationship between the two rarely delivers. Both characters are frustratingly selfish, and neither elicits much sympathy. This is especially problematic because they are portraying real people involved in a serious crime. If anything, their performances only slightly bring this feature above a typical crime drama that you’d see presented on Lifetime or late-night cable. Even the love scenes are incredibly dull, with the briefly silhouetted bodies engaged in a secret tryst.

Even if the two leads aren’t able to bring the fireworks to screen, you have to appreciate both Johnny Knoxville in a surprisingly good performance. As well, the most charismatic show in the film might very well be Karl Glusman as Joe-Bea. His character is the scum of the Earth, and Glusman with his long curly hair fully embraces this. As trashy as he plays him, it almost makes the role feel more honest than perhaps the leads. Another strong showing is Sophie Lowe as Mark’s wife. The actress brings a surprisingly intriguing take to the loving wife. And frankly, like Glusman, brings a sense of truth to what could have easily been a throwaway role. As stated, the cast is fine, but all the pieces together make for a very bland feature.

Directed by Phillip Noyce from a script by Chris Gerolmo and Joe Sharkey, this flick rarely manages to surprise on any level. Even knowing nothing about it in advance, as I did, the reveals are obvious. One thing that I will give credit for is the impressive use of the backdrop of Kentucky. The gorgeousness of the woodsy landscape adds a bit to look at visually speaking. The characters are mostly terrible – I guess that makes sense with the kind of story they are telling – and the predictable story leaves much to be desired. If you are a fan of true-crime thrillers, maybe you’ll be interested in giving this a look. That said, just be prepared for a story that takes much too long to get to the point and one that you’ll begin to forget immediately after it ends. Above Suspicion is a dull crime drama that fails to deliver.

Source:
JoBlo.com

Wrath of Man Review

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Wrath of Man Review
Wrath of Man Review

May 6, 2021 by: Chris Bumbray

8
10

PLOT: The latest hire (Jason Statham) at a cash truck company turns out to be wildly proficient at foiling robberies – but it quickly becomes clear there’s more to him than meets the eye.

REVIEW: After years spent toiling on massive Hollywood blockbusters like Sherlock Holmes, Aladdin and would-be franchise starters like the underrated Man From U.N.C.L.E. and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Guy Ritchie’s taken a step back, opting to make a series of lower budget, but still wildly ambitious, films that skew more closely to the R-rated flicks that made him a household name. His last movie, The Gentlemen, was a worldwide hit, and now he’s back with one of his most idiosyncratic films ever – WRATH OF MAN.

In some ways, this is similar to his misbegotten Revolver, albeit far more successful in pretty much every way. It eschews his cheeky humor for a darker, almost operatic tale complete with chapter breaks, a complex non-linear structure, and a tailor-made role for star Jason Statham, marking their first film together since that one.

In Wrath of Man, Statham plays H, a new security guard at a cash truck company staffed by a collection of characters so hyper-macho they all use nick-names like “Bullet”, “Hollow Bob”, and most hilariously “Boy Sweat”. The company he works for is routinely hit, and during one such attack H dispatches the attackers methodically, saving his colleagues and impressing the cash truck company’s president, played by Catastrophe’s Rob Delany. At this point, the flashbacks kick in proving that H is far from what he seems, with the trailers revealing that he’s on a mission of vengeance after a job gone awry took the life of his son.

Statham plays to type here, with H completely invincible. He never loses a fight and dispatches his adversaries so methodically it almost feels Steven Seagal-like until Ritchie starts to peel back the layers of the character like an onion. The film is loaded with wall-to-wall hyper machismo, but in some ways, this feels almost like a satire with Eddie Marsan as the harried supervisor at the cash truck company the only one who wonders whether Statham is more of a psychopath than a superhero. Wrath of Man is based on a French film called Le Convoyeur or rather Cash Truck. It’s more of an ensemble than you’d think as opposed to being a straight-ahead action vehicle for Statham. At one point, the film circles back to portray a gang of thieves that are war vets, being led by Jeffrey Donovan’s character. Former soldiers, they’ve all been saddled with menial jobs. They decide to use their skills to take down scores, giving this a Heat vibe at times, although thematically it’s probably closer to Den of Thieves – albeit better. Scott Eastwood is the crew’s trigger-happy hothead, a solid change of pace for an actor often dismissed as a pretty boy.

The rest of Statham’s cash truck crew also get a lot of material to chew on, with Holt McCallaney as Bullet, the affable old pro, whereas Josh Hartnett, in an impressive turn, is the team tough guy who turns out to be anything but once shit goes down. Raised by Wolves breakout Niamh Algar is the team’s sole female member, who, like the guys, adopts a hyper-macho persona to fit in. It all builds up to a massive third act action sequence that’s probably the best pure action filmmaking Ritchie’s ever done. There’s even a bit of a satiric bent with all the cash truck employees suddenly overcome with this machismo that results in an all-out blood bath that’s impressive to behold.

All that aside, Wrath of Man is an impressive piece of work from Ritchie that, likely, will get a mixed reaction as some will dismiss it as a quickie actioner. Thematically, I think there’s more going on here than meets the eye, and I’m curious as to how Ritchie’s gonna top himself with his next Statham team-up, Five Eyes. While its a touch lengthy at two hours, Ritchie makes the most of the extended running time, fleshing out the ensemble. Action fans will have to wait a bit for the hardcore carnage to kick in, but the third act is well worth it.

Source:
JoBlo.com

Things Heard and Seen Review

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Things Heard and Seen Review
Things Heard and Seen Review

April 29, 2021 by: Chris Bumbray

7
10

PLOT: A couple (Amanda Seyfried & James Norton) moves to a small town when the husband acquires a prestigious university post. When there, they acquire an old house with a dark history that mirrors their troubled marriage.

REVIEW: At first glance, THINGS HEARD AND SEEN seems like another haunted house movie, only for Shari Springer Berman and Robert Puccini’s film to subvert expectations and play out as a dark, tortured tale of a marriage gone awry. The paranormal aspect almost feels like an afterthought in this absorbing drama.

Based on the novel All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage, the film takes place in the Hudson Valley circa 1980. Seyfried and Norton are academics with seemingly bright futures once he accepts a post at a rich university, but the cracks become evident right away. She’s bulimic while he’s passive-aggressive and is keen to jump in the sack with any girl who crosses his path, with him trying to pick up Stranger Things’ Natalia Dyer at a library despite being there with his kid.

In some ways it’s a companion piece to Berman and Puccini’s own Cinema Verite, which also tackled the destruction of an American family in the seventies, in that case, the Loud family as depicted on PBS’s An American Family. They seem fascinated with the cracks that lie beyond the surface of being picture-perfect, especially in that era.

Fans of the supernatural will still be served though, with the house they move into having a history of husbands murdering their wives. Norton’s boss at the university, played by F. Murray Abraham, turns out to be an aspiring spiritualist, convincing Seyfried to let him hold a seance – always a bad idea in movies like this. In a neat twist, he’s portrayed as a good guy, while the spirits themselves may also not be ill-intentioned. Rather, the film goes down a more atypical path, with the horror on display being of the very human sort.

While the fact that it’s not scary will put off some horror fans, it should be noted that Things Heard and Seen isn’t a failed thriller. People are probably used to anything involving spirits being horror, but that’s not the case here. Rather it’s about the cycle of abuse and the haunted house aspect, in a way, is metaphorical. If I have any complaint it’s that Norton’s character is insufferable from the start, making it hard to believe he could charm his way into academia or Seyfried’s heart. She’s terrific in this, with it being a strong showcase for her talent. She’s been getting better and better lately, with this part of a great run that includes First Reformed and Mank. Abraham is extremely likable as the sweet old university dean, thrilled to get a chance to dip his toe into the supernatural, while Better Call Saul’s Rhea Seehorn has a nice role as another academic who becomes Seyfried’s fast friend. Great character actors pop up all over the place in this, including Karen Allen, Michael O’Keefe, while young Alex Neustaedter is impressive as the good-natured twenty-something doing carpentry for the couple who carries a torch for Seyfried.

With its rich characters and mostly top-shelf acting, plus some really attractive cinematography by Nicolas Winding Refn favorite Larry Smith, Things Heard and Seen is an unexpectedly solid Netflix entry. Again – it’s not horror but it is quite a good little film.

Source:
JoBlo.com

Without Remorse Review

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Without Remorse Review
Without Remorse Review

April 28, 2021 by: Chris Bumbray

6
10

PLOT: A Navy SEAL (Michael B. Jordan) seeks revenge after his pregnant wife is killed during a hit gone awry. He discovers it all relates to a plot to reignite the Cold War with Russia, sending him on the warpath. 

REVIEW: After years and years of being in development hell, Tom Clancy’s WITHOUT REMORSE finally has become a movie, albeit one that’s so far removed from the source material, one wonders why they tied it to Clancy at all. In it, Michael B. Jordan plays the character who becomes John Clark, arguably Clancy’s second most popular protagonist outside of Jack Ryan. Clark was previously brought to life by Willem Dafoe in Clear and Present Danger opposite Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan. Then there was Liev Schreiber as a younger John Clark, with Ben Affleck as Ryan in his only take on the character in The Sum of All Fears.

Many stars have been attached to play John Clark over the years, with Keanu Reeves and one-time Superman Brandon Routh among them. If Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit had been a hit, we likely would have gotten Without Remorse as a spin-off with Kevin Costner reprising his role from that film, and Tom Hardy as Clark. Christopher McQuarrie had been attached to direct. Yet, it didn’t happen as Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit was a flop with both critics and audiences, and Jack Ryan took a turn to the smaller screen with John Krasinski playing him on the current Amazon TV series. Ironically, Amazon is now distributing Without Remorse.  It was produced by Paramount Pictures as a theatrical release, with the intention to start a franchise. Rainbow Six would be the sequel. 

So how does the film fair? Without Remorse is a decent enough thriller, with a fine performance by Jordan in the lead, but I can’t help but be disappointed. For one thing, this doesn’t feel very much like anything related to Tom Clancy. It’s a low-key action thriller, very similar to Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, in that both seem modestly budgeted and low-wattage for would-be franchise starters. What keeps Without Remorse being as big of a disappointment is Jordan. 

Obviously a star, Jordan has the megawatt charisma to keep you watching and engaged, even if you wish he’d had more Clancy-esque material to work with, had they kept Clark as more of an anti-hero. Jordan’s Clark is a true-blue hero, a decorated SEAL who – shades of Commando – finds his team is being knocked off after an extraction mission. When the hit squad comes to kill him, they miss but kill his pregnant wife, leading him to uncover a plot that seems poised to ignite another Cold War with Russia. He’s alternately helped and hindered by two government agents, one being Jamie Bell’s weasel CIA agent, Ritter, the other being Guy Pearce’s Secretary of Defense, Clay. He’s also aided by his SEAL unit commander, played by Jodie Turner-Smith.

So where does the film go wrong? Everywhere but Jordan to be honest. Director Stefano Solima did a great job with Sicario: Day of the Soldado but doesn’t seem up to making a big action movie. What’s doubly disappointing is that Taylor Sheridan had a hand in the script, but it certainly doesn’t feel up to his standards. The casting is so-so, with Pearce not having much to do, while Bell seems too boyish for his part as a high-ranking CIA agent. The one who sticks out is Jodie Turner-Smith of Queen and Slim as Clark’s commanding officer. Striking and a good actress to boot, she still doesn’t seem credible as a SEAL.  It’s simply a case of miscasting although her character is meant to recur, with her playing the daughter of James Greer – the character played by James Earl Jones in the films, while Wendell Pierce plays him on the Amazon show. I wonder if this is meant to take place in the same world? 

The action is curiously low-wattage despite Jordan’s physicality. It’s frustrating. The gunfights are generic and one scene where he sets a car on fire and then climbs into it strains credibility. This is upsetting because there’s a brief hand-to-hand sequence in a jail cell that’s killer, utilizing Jordan’s physicality and intensity in a way that makes you wish a different, or more experienced creative team in terms of action movies had been involved. 

There are a few bright spots though. Jordan is great – he can’t help but be good, as is Brett Gellman in a cast-against type turn as a baddie. The movie also has a good musical score by Sigur Ros’ Jonsi. In the end, Without Remorse will likely disappoint Clancy fans in a major way, but perhaps younger audiences that don’t care about the books won’t care. It hits Amazon Prime this Friday and that’s a good platform for a movie like this. Had this been a theatrical release it probably would merit a 5/10 but given that it’ll be streaming free to subscribers, I’d say this just about ekes out a 6/10. While I’m mixed it, I do hope Jordan gets the chance to do Rainbow Six, I just hope for the next one they pump some big bucks into it and give Jordan the A-quality star vehicle he deserves. 

Source:
JoBlo.com

Mortal Kombat Review

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Mortal Kombat Review
Mortal Kombat Review

April 22, 2021 by: Matt Rooney

3
10

PLOT: With the Outworld realm on the verge of winning its tenth MORTAL KOMBAT tournament, which would give it the power to invade the Earthrealm, Earth’s champions team up and do what it takes to stop the enemy fighters in brutal combat — err — kombat. 

REVIEW:  For being based on a video game series that’s been loved for decades thanks to its cast of colorful characters, expansive mythos and insanely bloody, brutal gameplay, it’s almost impressive how painfully dull the latest Mortal Kombat movie manages to be. Despite years of character history and world-building to draw upon, director Simon McQuoid and his team have barely cleared the lowest possible bar to bring these classic characters to the big screen, meaning that, by the end, even the most diehard fans may realize that the last 100 minutes they’ve wasted with a cavalcade of wooden characters, threadbare plotting and minimally entertaining action could’ve been spent playing through the game once again for an infinitely more satisfying experience.

The shame of it all is the movie doesn’t begin with such a hint towards failure. Taking us back years before the bulk of the story takes place, a renowned ninja named Hanzo (who fans may know as Scorpion, played by Hiroyuki Sanada) loses his family to the villainous Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), resulting in a slick fight scene that doesn’t skimp on the gore – and hints to a greater conflict for the rest of the film. But from then on it’s a perpetual slide down as we shift to Hanzo’s far less interesting descendant, Cole Young (Lewis Tan), a fighter who lost his prowess in the ring, but bares a mysterious dragon mark, thus making him of use to characters Jax (Mehcad Brooks) and Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), who pull him out of cage fighting mediocrity for the sake of helping them fight on behalf of Earthrealm in a mythic Mortal Kombat tournament.

 

After a mountain of matter-of-factly explained exposition, Cole has no hesitancy towards any of it, leaves his family behind, and joins the quest that brings them one after another towards other classic game characters, leading to a sandy fighting pit where they kick and punch each other in hopes of proving their not a bunch of lame asses with no powers, stopping only to talk very seriously about this very silly scenario.

From a storytelling perspective, that’s about as far as the narrative goes, meaning there actually isn’t much of a story at all. None of the characters involved, whether it’s the good guys on Earth or the bad guys from the alien Outworld, have any rhyme or reason for doing anything other than to battle over the Earth. The motivation on both sides stems from Earthrealm having lost the last 9 tournaments, the tenth time meaning Outworld gets to claim our realm. For the villains, it’s like getting nine punches on a card from your favorite sandwich shop, and the tenth one gets you a free sub. With that motivation alone, it’s understandable why the beings of Outworld, led by evil warlock Shang Tsung (Chin Han), would want the Earth so desperately, because other than the prospect of free shit, there’s no other noticeable motivation for the big bad or the goons who follow him.

 

That thinnest of plotting and character development shines a light on McQuoid and writers Greg Russo and Dave Callaham’s entire approach to Mortal Kombat, which is that character and storytelling don’t matter, and as long as fan-favorite characters wearing game-accurate clothing show up and say things their characters may say in the game, nothing else matters. Every plot beat where characters don’t beat each other is driven by stale dialogue that readdresses how serious this tournament is, listlessly moving along until yet another character enters the fray. Once the major players are gathered, there are so many of them that none get the chance to have any other depth besides their basic attributes.

 

Sonya Blade is tough as nails, and seems to exist to be told there’s nothing special about her because she doesn’t have a dragon mark; the Aussie Kano only opens his mouth if it’s to say something crass and prove a horrid person to be around; game favorites Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) and Kung Lao (Max Huang) are both very serious and take the tournament very seriously and; thunder god Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) is a sort of Nick Fury of the group, and is very serious and takes the tournament very seriously. Most disappointing of all is Young, the character who is supposed to be the focal point of everything, hardly getting much to say, doing nothing but getting the crap beat out of him by everyone else in hopes it will unlock his secret. His depth comes from having a family and nightmarish visions of Hanzo, but all of that means very little, as none of it is used to truly explore him as a character and contribute to an emotional journey. Tam, McNamee, Han as Tsung, and everyone else in the cast are left to hack their way through wooden, doom-laden dialogue, of which even a veteran cast would struggle to give any weight.

 

Despite all these characters coming together like some sort of ragtag group of would-be super fighters, the lack of any distinct personalities outside of Kano’s rampant boorishness means that they’re nothing but figureheads transported from game to screen. Even passionate fans will only have reason to care for the characters when and only when they recognize a game character’s move set coming to life on screen, accompanied by whatever throwaway catchphrases they have and to an invasive score inspired by classic game themes. While McQuoid understands that’s what fans came to see, so much of it feels tacked on and sometimes wildly out of place and out of character for how they speak before and after. But still, a character drops a line, a box if checked, and it’s on to the next.

But hey, maybe you’re reading to everything I’m saying and ignoring it because the only thing you’re really looking for is epic kills – bloody, intricate, explosive kills. Even then, I’m sorry to say, Mortal Kombat still feels like a letdown. Aside from a rather slick, bloody opening fight with bursts of CGI blood, you’ll have to sit through another solid hour before more fights come along to satisfy your bloodlust. Oh, there are fights in between – even one with a disappearing alien creature with acid blood. But no matter the scenario, fight scenes usually begin with a random character or creature showing up out of nowhere, and proceeding to get in a clumsy, ham-fisted, and often all-too-brief clash with one of the “good guys.” Granted, when the bloody finishing moves do come rushing out during the sprint to the finish, they are gloriously vicious. But even still, it’s gratuitous violence purely for the sake of it, because it’s what people expect. Behind it all are no stakes, grace or style in choreography to make it feel unique to the big screen. So much reliance was put on things looking similar to the game, that even during moments of brutality, nothing proves that this is an adaptation that can stand on its own.

 

But for a movie that seems so reliant on making sure fans get what they want, I’m sure many fans may even leave disappointed. Particularly, this is due to the treatment of fan-favorite character Sub-Zero, who graces the promotional material more than any of the more showcased characters. While getting a decent intro, the rest of the movie he’s relegated to being a goon for Shang Tsung, meant to show up wherever, whenever, being stoic and silent before unleashing some freezing powers. When it comes to Zero’s much-advertised fight with Scorpion, I will only say those advertisements don’t leave much room to be surprised, made up entirely of beats designed to make fans go, “I recognize that move…and that phrase…and that move too.”

 

For those fans, perhaps that’s all enough, and perhaps the filmmakers can act as if they’ve succeeded by checking off every box on a player’s wish list. But Mortal Kombat made me wonder how exactly low the bar for filmmakers is when adapting popular games into moviegoing events. Is checking all those boxes proof of success, or is it no more than cinematic copy-paste? Is that really doing justice to these characters and their world that fans love so much? True service to fans and the material would be exploring these characters with even a microcosm of depth, and then giving them a world to play in that feels as invigorating as picking up the controller and clicking “Play”.  On both those fronts, Mortal Kombat is an abject failure — a self-inflicting fatality that’s far more brutal an experience than any bloody end characters suffer in kombat.

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JoBlo.com

Stowaway Review

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Stowaway Review
Stowaway Review

April 22, 2021 by: JimmyO

5
10

PLOT: On a mission to Mars, a space crew finds that they have a STOWAWAY on board their ship. This unexpected guest brings along with him a few major problems for the small ship and those on board.

REVIEW: When you collect a group of very talented performers that include Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette, Daniel Dae Kim, and Shamier Anderson, you’re already in a good place. Writer/director Joe Penna offers us this, as well as an intriguing take on a science fiction-based story. Stowaway is a fascinating idea. Presented as a human drama that takes place during a mission to Mars, there’s much that could push that element to unique heights. Instead of an action-packed feature, the new film is far more cerebral in the way it examines how we deal with impossible situations. With good performances and a few inspired shots, however, something is lacking in this Netflix thriller.

While on a mission to the planet Mars, Marina Barnett (Collette), Zoe Levenson (Kendrick), and David Kim (Kim) discover that someone else is on board their craft. Twelve hours after their take-off, they find that another man is on the small space shuttle. When they take in Michael Adams (Anderson), he is injured and his presence brings more questions than answers. Along with the questions, Adams also makes things problematic with the limited oxygen available. As they progress closer to their destination, they realize that a very difficult choice must be made. It is one their survival depends on. 

Cerebral science fiction is usually quite fascinating. And while the idea of what human beings will do when under serious pressure can be exciting, the script for Stowaway is only mildly successful when it comes to raising the stakes. Instead of creating a tense environment, the first half of the film is mildly interesting but occasionally dull. Much of what happens depends on the problems that arise from their unexpected guest, and even then it takes much too long to explore his character in connection to the others. And when the obvious conflict finally does arrive, it is handled in an unimpressive and lumbering way. Considering this is the main source of drama, it doesn’t help the slow pace.

The cast involved attempts to bring a bit of heart to the drama. Yet it is Toni Collette – in her native dialect – and Shamier Anderson bringing the most impressive emotional arc. Even still, you never really get a sense of who these people are. Aside from Kendricks’ Zoe and Anderson’s Adams, we don’t learn anything especially moving about them. It’s hard not to just see the actors in spacesuits playing the required roles and attempting to hit the right beats. All four actors do fine work, but the lackadaisical feel of the story and how it moves forward keep the audience at a distance. One of the strangest choices is that we hear only a one-sided conversation when the crew is dealing with the support they’ve left behind on Earth. It was a bit distracting to listen to only part of the information given.

As far as the look of the film, it’s clear that the budget is limited. That said, the design of the ship and the impressive outer space images did help. The intimate space ship setting worked well, as did much of the camerawork from Penna and cinematographer Klemens Becker. Also, the story brought its fair share of profound ideas about human nature. It appeared that the influence of films like Gravity and Moon helped build this dramatic thriller, yet this isn’t quite able to reach the heights of either of those powerful features. Even still, it’s hard to not appreciate the thought behind what is presented here.

Stowaway isn’t a bad film by any stretch. There are a few moments that bring a sense of wonder and engagement, but as a whole, it’s too often too dull an experience. As much as appreciate the work of Anna Kendrick, it’s not a role that stands out in any real way. As mentioned, the best work came from both Toni Collette and Shamier Anderson, both of whom embrace the emotional frustrations that each one is going through. There’s nothing wrong with a slow burn of a movie. Unfortunately, this is a slow burn without much of a satisfying conclusion. Currently, this film is available on Netflix (and Amazon Prime internationally). And while many may find the same issues as stated here, others may appreciate the moody thriller. Either way, it may at least be worth a look, even if this trip to Mars ultimately disappoints.

Source:
JoBlo.com

Together Together Review

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Together Together Review
Together Together Review

April 22, 2021 by: Chris Bumbray

6
10

PLOT: A middle-aged bachelor (Ed Helms) develops an unexpected friendship with the young woman (Patti Harrison) he hires to be his surrogate.

REVIEW: TOGETHER TOGETHER is an unconventional love story in that its totally platonic. The characters do indeed say “I love you” to each other, but in the way two friends might say the same thing. They have an immediate connection and may indeed be well-suited to each other romantically. However, they’re also twenty years apart in age, with Harrison’s character, Anna, explaining to Helms’ Matt that she finds that kind of disparity gross. The two never take it to the next level, making this a different kind of romance, but a refreshing one in some ways.

The fact is, despite the age difference, no one would have blinked at the two getting together, so in a lot of ways it’s edgier that the two don’t hook up. It’s perhaps also more realistic in some ways, given the fact that Anna is Matt’s surrogate, carrying a baby she’s supposed to give up once she’s carried it to term. Romance would be a profoundly bad idea.

As such, this is a pleasant, well-intentioned comedy, although one that’s a little low-wattage in that it’s a character study with very little conflict at its heart. It’s one of those pleasant indie comedies you get a few of at Sundance every year (indeed – it made its premiere there) that makes for a solid watch but has little staying power.

Of the two leads, I’d wager it’s Harrison who makes the biggest impression. As the young woman who’s already carried a baby to term as the result of a long-ago teenage pregnancy, she’s well-suited to the job at hand and seems pretty unconflicted about the fact that while she may be carrying the baby, she will not be its mother. She wants to use the money to go back to school, and Harrison’s vibrant performance brings her to life as probably the film’s most fully realized character.

By contrast, Helms is playing to type as the uptight but sweet Matt. An amiable bachelor, he’s the stock Helms character, in that he’s all awkward good intentions, but I must admit I’d like to see Helms branch out a little more as this character is getting a little familiar (check out his turn in Chappaquiddick to see how versatile he really is).

The two do have a nice, easygoing chemistry that makes them believable as companions, as they binge-watch Friends together and share their disappointments in love and life. As prototypical a part as it seems for Helms, I did appreciate the fact that he’s not portrayed as a sad-sack. While his character has been unlucky in love, he’s perfectly fine with being alone and it’s refreshing to see a single parent movie from the male perspective.

As far as laughs go, they’re of the modest variety here, although PEN 15 star Anna Konkle has a funny cameo as a new-age doula, while Tig Notaro has a nice part as the couple’s counselor they turn to establish boundaries. The movie is more-or-less stolen by former SNL writer Julio Torres as Anna’s coffee shop colleague though. It’s a great little part.

While I can’t say I was riveted by Together Together, it nonetheless held my attention throughout and is a nice little relationship comedy that’s perfectly acceptable for a lazy afternoon watch. Harrison is likely an up-and-comer and this is a good showcase for her talents.

Source:
JoBlo.com

The Mitchells vs. The Machines Review

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The Mitchells vs. The Machines Review
The Mitchells vs. The Machines Review

April 21, 2021 by: Matt Rooney

7
10

PLOT: A software update from a major tech corporation sends robots on a hunt to round up the human race, and the last humans left, the Mitchell family, are tasked with bringing down the machine uprising. 

REVIEW: Since their breakout with the colorful and charming Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, writer/producer/director team Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have delivered some of the most unique animated titles of the last decade – including The Lego Movie and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Being able to slap those titles on the marketing materials for any future animated films means we as an audience get to expect something zany, brilliantly animated, and with no shortage of heart. Anything less would be a bit of a downer, but with the brilliant minds of Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe as writers and directors, their latest, THE MITCHELLS VS. THE MACHINES, offers up the kind of manic pacing, vibrant animation and human-level sweetness that make it another winner in a growing canon of animated excellence.

Wasting no time revealing that the candy-colored visuals come hand-in-hand with a nigh-constant sugar rush, we’re introduced to the Mitchell family as they barrel through a squad of robots hunting them, the last remaining humans. But as soon as the fast-paced antics rope you into this wild world, we take a step back and get to know the Mitchells pre-machine takeover. Presented as the most off-kilter family you’re likely to meet, the family of four is probably as accurate to the modern family as you’re likely to see. The story predominantly focuses on Katie (Abbi Jacobson), a wildly inventive aspiring filmmaker who dreams of venturing off to film school, and away from her father, Rick (Danny McBride), who simply doesn’t understand – or see the value in – her art, preferring to build cabins and set possum traps than learn how to use the internet. Then there’s the mother, Linda (Maya Rudolph), who is stretched a bit thin trying to keep the familial unit afloat, and the youngest son, Aaron (Rianda), with a dinosaur obsession that makes the word “obsession” seems like an undersell. Together they’re dysfunctional and awkward with Katie and Rick’s dynamic representing the void between the tech-savvy, creatively-driven new generation and their blue-collar parents, who just want their kids to find a job that won’t leave them starving.

With the ripples in the family unit establishing the emotional stakes in the story, Rianda and Rowe also paint them as the least capable team to survive the impending mechanical takeover. But the takeover comes regardless, with a young tech genius (Eric Andre) at the head of a corporation called Pal (think Amazon meshed with Apple) mistreating his advanced AI system (voiced by the scene-stealing Olivia Colman), shoving it aside for advanced robotic tech. But as a statement on our reliance on technology and increasing subservience to it, the AI easily takes over the army of robots, making them hunt down all humans, place them in comfortable, WiFi-fitted spheres, and then prepare to launch them into the void of space.

While it takes some time to get into the actual clash with the machines, with the first solid half of the movie establishing the rift between father and daughter, I did find myself needing some time to adjust to the visual style of Mitchells and the abundance of zaniness driving it. Like a blend of Meatballs and Spider-Verse, the animation style appears like a mesh of now-typical 3D computer animation, and the kind of hand-drawn, comic book-inspired feel that made the latter movie pop on-screen. I spent so much time awe-ing over everything from character designs to the overall world they live in, which also left me struggling a bit to keep up with how quickly everything moves. It looks brilliant and commands your attention, but the whole thing seemed aimed to keep the eyes of the younger viewers with dwindling attention spans.

But while that may sound like a minor deterrent for older viewers, the fact of the matter is there’s so much to marvel at from a technical standpoint that any viewer may have a hard time peeling their eyes away. Particularly when we’re taken to the sleek headquarters of Pal – now run by the AI virtual assistant and its robot army – there’s a tapestry of rich colors and that makes every frame burst off the screen. With Disney and Pixar often dominating the landscape, here is proof that Sony’s animation division should continue to lean into this bolder approach that can make both establishing shots and action scenes pack an arresting punch. Factor in yet another transcendent synth score from Mark Mothersbaugh (Spider-Verse, Thor: Ragnarok), and when Mitchells really gets going there’s much that gives it a unique sense of scope.

That burst of imagination extends just as much to the humor as it does the spectacle, with hardly a moment going by without some dash of the weirdness or meta-humor that made the likes of Lego Movie so constantly funny. A lot of shots are taken at humanity in general by the likes of Colman’s PAL and her army of often silly robots, poking fun at our inability to exist without WiFi and our complacency as long as we’re comfortable and have access to YouTube. Colman digs into PAL with a comedic bite that relishes a rage and loathing for humans, breathing so much life into what is, essentially, Siri deciding to murder us all. Mitchells is at its funniest when it’s skewering current consumer culture, like in a mall sequence for the ages when the family is attacked by a series of software-enabled appliances, crescendoing with a side-splitting attack via a certain nostalgic toy.

At its core, however, is the story of the family, particularly of father and daughter. Even amongst all the action and meta gags, Rianda and Rowe’s script makes every interaction feel grounded by the dynamic between Katie and Rick. If I did walk away not as emotionally invested in their journey, though, it’s not so much for lack of trying as it is their arc feeling stretched over a bit-too-long runtime (just under two hours), and so much colorful chaos. We know Rick and Katie are of two different worlds, but their relationship doesn’t quite get the space for exploration beyond their base differences once the story gets moving. As well, while they get their chances to shine, both Linda and Aaron do tend to feel like they’re mostly just along for the ride – well-written characters who just aren’t quite as key to the story. I can’t say Rianda and Rowe don’t really love these characters or see their emotional journey as important as the more spectacular elements, but sadly, I did walk away with more affinity for the latter than the former. The entire voice cast that makes up the family is excellent, though, with Jacobson’s spirited, energetic work as Katie pairing nicely opposite the way McBride’s goofy, sweet approach cuts through Rick’s old-school manliness. Then, of course, Rudolph is as excellent as always, with Rianda a true scene-stealer as the neurotic, dinosaur-loving Aaron.

Even if The Mitchells vs. The Machines doesn’t quite enrapture on a narrative level as it does a sensory one, there’s nothing the movie is truly lacking. The heart and tenderness are always there right alongside the pure mania of the visuals and action, with an often strange sense of humor that makes it all the more lovable. In fact, it’s such a fun time it’s shame that, due to the COVID pandemic, that the movie had to skirt a major theatrical release and be sold off to Netflix, meaning most people will be seeing it at home (which is a good call, for safety). There’s plenty to love here that would’ve made seeing it on the big screen a real treat after this last year. And yet, so much still bounces off even the smallest screen in such stunning fashion that, like the Mitchells vs a robotic apocalypse, there’s not much that can hold this movie back. 

Source:
JoBlo.com

In the Earth Review

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In the Earth Review
In the Earth Review

April 15, 2021 by: Chris Bumbray

6
10

NOTE: IN THE EARTH was previously reviewed at Sundance 2021. 

PLOT: In the middle of a pandemic, a scientist (Joel Fry) and a park scout (Ellora Torchia) venture deep into the forest to make contact with a lost doctor.

REVIEW: One of the most pleasing aspects of this year’s edition of the Sundance Film Festival was that, despite everything, it was relatively short on movies about the pandemic. I could have easily seen them doing a sidebar to lockdown-shot films, but Ben Wheatley’s In the Earth is the only major film I saw that acknowledges the pandemic in any way, although it’s left vague over where the virus described here is supposed to be the same one we’re dealing with right now.

At any rate, In the Earth isn’t actually about the pandemic. The film was shot by Ben Wheatley during the lockdown, but it’s all just background here, with the movie instead focusing on an ancient evil deep in the English woods that owes more to Celtic mythology than anything else. Already, it’s proving to be divisive, with many reviews coming out of Sundance all-out pans, although some think it’s brilliant.

Wheatley’s had an intriguing career. His early work was highly idiosyncratic, with Down Terrace, Kill List, and Sightseers all utterly unique genre entries that mixed Ken Loach-style working-class realism with heavy doses of ultra-violence. Since then, he’s dipped his toe into slicker fare, such as Free Fire, High Rise, and the recent Rebecca (while also signing on to direct The Meg 2), while occasionally making lower-budgeted, personal films like A Field in England and Happy Birthday Colin Burstead. In the Earth is more in line with his more personal fare, playing out a bit like a mix of Kill List and A Field in England.

What probably rubs some the wrong way is that after an early conventional start, where our leads, Joel Fry’s squirrely scientist and Ellora Torchia’s earth guide try to navigate the elements, the film takes a wildly surreal turn. The two are violently attacked and meet a survivalist, played by Reece Shearsmith, who initially seems like their savior but soon drugs them up. It’s here the film takes a very cerebral turn, digging into the mythology of the woods, with some freaky lighting tricks that will no doubt make this a rough film to watch for those with epilepsy. It becomes a head-trip film with heavy doses of gore as Fry’s Martin loses a couple of toes and gets marked up by the crazed Zach.

Even once the film calms down slightly as the two encounter Hayley Squires’s Olivia, the scientist they’ve been looking for since the start, the movie maintains its heightened, hallucinogenic vibe. Neon picked this one up and would be wise to position it as a midnight movie, which I assume is the experimental vibe Wheatley was going for. Again, some will despise this film and Neon probably shouldn’t try to sell it as a conventional horror movie. I’m not even sure I’d call it horror. However, if you’re in the mood for something risky and experimental, give it a try. It’s well-crafted, with some impressive visuals despite the low-budget and a terrific score by Wheatley regular Clint Mansel. The cast, which is really just a quartet, are all excellent, and the film itself, while it doesn’t always work, is nonetheless consistently interesting.

Source:
JoBlo.com

The Mosquito Coast TV Review

Movie News

The Mosquito Coast TV Review
April 14, 2021 by: Alex Maidy

PLOT: From award-winning novelist and creator Neil Cross, and based on the best-selling book by Paul Theroux, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, "The Mosquito Coast" is a gripping adventure and layered character drama following the dangerous journey of a radical idealist and brilliant inventor, Allie Fox, who uproots his family for Mexico when they suddenly find themselves on the run from the US government.

REVIEW: When I was a kid, I tried to watch every Harrison Ford movie I could get my hands on. Expecting each film to be like Indiana Jones, I was sorely mistaken when I watched Blade Runner, Witness, Regarding Henry, Frantic, and Presumed Innocent. Ford was always excellent in his roles but the one that knocked me for a loop was The Mosquito Coast. Playing his most unlikeable character in Peter Weir's 1986 drama, Ford imbued Allie Fox with a mania that failed to click with audiences or critics. Now, almost four decades later, AppleTV+ finally does the source novel justice with a sprawling, seven-episode series starring Justin Theroux, nephew of The Mosquito Coast author Paul Theroux. With updates and changes from the original novel, this new take on the tale of dystopian ideals and mental illness is more faithful to the book with a far more substantial character for Justin Theroux.

Created and written by Neil Cross (Luther) and directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), The Mosquito Coast shifts from the Fox family voluntarily relocating to Honduras and the titular coast where they develop a settlement into a utopian (and then dystopian) society. Now, Allie Fox is on the run from the United States government and takes refuge in Mexico. The first three episodes of the series race through introducing the off-the-grid family and their journey illegally crossing into Mexico. It is a harrowing and hard-to-watch journey that is the opposite of what many expect when thinking about illegal border crossings. By having a Caucasian family flee America for Mexico throws you off as the entire concept of this series does as the story advances.

By the halfway point of the series, we have barely scratched the surface of why Allie Fox is the way he is. A failed inventor who brilliantly uses discarded cooking oil to fuel his vehicles while shunning any sort of electronic devices like cell phones, television, or Xbox, he has an intimate knowledge of computers, the dark web, and recent technology. His children, fifteen-year-old Dina (Logan Polish) and younger brother Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) know something is happening with their parents. At times, Allie is quite attractive and persuasive but in his absence, we see that his hold on his family is tenuous. Margot (Melissa George) supports her husband's lifestyle, but it is an ongoing mystery that you crave to understand: why does this family live this way?

Once the story shifts to the family in Mexico, I was hoping that the story would hew closer to the novel but aside from the character of Allie Fox, much of this story is completely new and different from what came before it. Even the title is a tenuous connection to the book. Watching the series, I was reminded more of stories like Better Call Saul and Ozark that find average people involved with criminals and cartels. Seeing Justin Theroux embody Allie Fox, you often cannot tell if you want to root for him or see him get what he deserves. Theroux is one of the most underrated actors working today and this performance is so far from his stellar work on HBO's The Leftovers that it is hard to reconcile that it is the same actor. Allie is a character that is hard to like which makes every decision and action he takes brimming with anxiety as to how it will not only impact him but how it will cascade to his family as well.

The supporting cast are all good, especially Melissa George who holds her own opposite Theroux. There is also a great turn by Kimberly Elise as an NSA agent tracking the Fox family. While the acting is never questionable here and the direction is excellent, the series feels overlong. With each episode clocking in close to an hour, the narrative could easily have shed two full episodes and still told an effective story. For most of the series, I was torn between wanting to learn more details and desperately wanting them to skip ahead rather than linger on plot elements that are given far too much attention. There are multiple times through the series that a character is about to share something important before they are interrupted and we don't get to find out a vital piece of information. The first time, I let it go, but after multiple rounds I began to feel that Neil Cross was trying to pad the story rather than getting to the point.

There is a lot to like in this series, much of which is enhanced by a nicely curated soundtrack. Wyatt's direction is sun-drenched and makes some grisly visuals quite beautiful on screen. There is so much of this story that is harrowing that sometimes the darkly humorous side can catch you off guard. The idea that this is a series wholly against mobile phones and modern technology and is airing on a streaming service owned by one of the biggest tech companies in the world is an irony that I caught almost immediately. As a limited series, The Mosquito Coast is a worthwhile experience if only for Justin Theroux's performance. Fans of the novel or the 1986 movie may be underwhelmed but everyone else may find this jaunt south of the border to be worth the investment.

The Mosquito Coast premieres on April 30th on AppleTV+.

Source:
JoBlo.com

Monday Review

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Monday Review
Monday Review

April 14, 2021 by: JimmyO

8
10

PLOT: After a wild one night stand, two people find themselves involved in a blossoming love affair, one that is complicated by past relationships and the uncertainty of what comes after sex.

REVIEW: The new romantic drama MONDAY, directed by Argyris Papadimitropoulos, features Sebastian Stan, and Denise Gough as a couple who engage in a tumultuous love affair. This engaging story is wildly uninhibited and fiercely intimate. What’s truly unusual is the fact that this new feature never shies away from the intense sexual nature of the relationship. And yes, both Stan and Gough fearlessly tackle the material. The two naturally maneuver through the difficulties of sex and love and reveal both of themselves emotionally, and physically – yes, it features full-frontal nudity from both the leads. Monday is the rare, R-rated, drama that treats the nudity and the sexual situations seriously, without delving into salaciousness. It’s a warm, passionate, and modern fable that avoids the trappings of the typical, overly sappy, romantic drama we usually see coming out of Hollywood.

After spending some time in the stunning beauty of Greece, Chloe (Gough) is finally planning to return to the US. However, things take a drastic turn when she is introduced to Mickey, a DJ playing at the party she’s attending. The two spend a lust filled night together, only to wake up naked on the beach. As they spend time with each other following their introduction, they discover that they both would like to take things further than a drunken night of sex. As the two become closer and closer, she decides to stay in this gorgeous land a little longer and see where her new exploration takes her. When they find that they are falling for each other, the realities of his past relations and her fears create a strain on the newfound love. Will the two find a common bond and stay together? Or will the problems they face become too difficult to make things work? It’s well worth spending time with both to find out.

The irony of the title is that nearly every sequence takes place on a Friday. We see both Chloe and Mickey meet and the instant fire they appear to create between them. Yet we also see the problematic realities set in as they run the gamut between a growing relationship, and the lure of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Director Papadimitropoulos smartly maneuvers these characters between the insane nights of partying to the very real problems of moving in together and dealing with the complexity of a new relationship. And yes, once Monday finally arrives in the film, we get a better sense of exactly where these two are heading in terms of building a partnership. It’s a fascinating dissection of two people discovering love and sexual desire for one another.

Sebastian Stan and Denise Gough are impressive here. The two find that spark instantaneously. The smart casting makes it easy to believe these two would find themselves drawn towards each other. And as easy as it could have slipped into a sappy drama, the heat between them is handled realistically and avoids that trap. The drama of these two simply moving a couch or the thrill of taking a naked drive on a scooter in full view of the public feels both intimate, alive, and honest. This may be the best performance of Stan’s career. His commitment to bringing a sense of truth to Mickey is clear, and it’s impossible to not fully appreciate just how fantastic Ms. Gough is. Considering we are supposed to entertain in their emotional entanglement, it’s nice to see that they both explore these characters in such a meaningful way. 

As mentioned, the lack of overt sentimentality and romantic undertones make Monday a refreshing take on love and sex, one that you rarely see in American cinema. All too often sexuality is treated as an afterthought or something shocking. Here, Papadimitropoulos creates a very passionate and truthful take along with co-writer Rob Hayes. The script manages to bring both Chloe and Mickey into several situations that escape the problematic nature of your typical romantic feature. It’s an unapologetic look at drugs, desire, and all the obvious complications that come with it. Much like what Boaz Yakin did in last year’s sublime – and even more inventive – Aviva, Monday is fueled by a real-life examination that happens when you are intimately involved with someone. Even when the two begin to face serious obstacles, it never delves into something safe and predictable.

Monday is a wonderful change of pace when it comes to big-screen romance. The only real issue for this viewer was the final moments. It may work for others, but it didn’t quite connect. Even still, there is much to admire in this engaging romantic feature, especially the wonderful work from both Sebastian Stan and Denise Gough. Argyris Papadimitropoulos has put together a warm and passionate tale, one that manages to overcome the typical flaws of similar features. Both Chloe and Mickey are relatable, and their on-screen chemistry is especially interesting. It may not be perfect, but it’s achingly honest, and hypnotically romantic. This is an impressive feature with a smart script and terrific leading performances. See, not all Mondays are bad.

Source:
JoBlo.com

Thunder Force Review

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Thunder Force Review
Thunder Force Review

April 9, 2021 by: Matt Rooney

2
10

PLOT: After years of Earth being plagued with supervillains, a scientist comes up with a formula to engineer superheroes, leading to two estranged best friends coming together to try and save the world. 

REVIEW:  After teaming together for movies like Tammy, The Boss, Life of the Party and Superintelligence, you’d think that, finally, the husband-wife filmmaking duo Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone would want to attempt a comedy that was more than simply sticking the former in a one-joke scenario that was funny for maybe a few minutes in a pitch meeting. Not only is their latest, THUNDER FORCE, proof they may never deviate from that formula, but the notion that this movie’s concept was seen as funny to anyone beyond a few seconds requires more suspension of disbelief than any Avengers movie.

No doubt greenlit by Netflix solely because the name “Melissa McCarthy” and the word “superhero” were tossed out during the pitch, Thunder Force takes place in a world where radioactive waves struck the Earth, causing certain people – namely, people who already have a predisposition to have “sociopathic tendencies” – to gain powers. Young Emily’s parents were killed by one of these new Miscreants (yes, it sounds worse the more it’s used), and afterward befriends Lydia at school, and the two become inseparable. But soon they have a falling out purely because Lydia is lazy and irresponsible and Emily is studious and determined, and despite a seemingly unshakeable bond, completely lose touch. For some reason still torn up about it 25-30 years later, Lydia (McCarthy), now an aimless dock worker, seeks to meet up with Emily (Octavia Spencer), now a renowned scientist working on a way to combat Miscreants.

Via her general stupidity and some lazy direction from Falcone, Lydia finds herself accidentally strapped in a chair in a very secret lab casually attached to Emily’s office, and is injected with a serum that gives her super strength, which Emily was aiming to use on herself in tandem with an invisibility serum. But now Lydia is in the mix, and instead of being too upset about it and thus further causing strife between the two, Emily just sort of goes with it. While this means the movie technically goes on for about another hour and 20 minutes, it undeniably comes to a grinding halt nonetheless. From here on out, writer-director Falcone seems to lose all sight of what story he’s telling, shifting away from a tale of two estranged friends putting aside differences to come together and leaning into a meandering series of half-baked bits featuring McCarthy training to be a hero. You can see the gags coming a mile away, like McCarthy trying to jump over stuff, only to fall over; McCarthy taking boxing lessons, only to hit someone too hard; McCarthy throwing something, only for it to go too far and hit something it shouldn’t have it.

What’s worse than seeing McCarthy – someone who has proven time and time again to be an incredible actress, earning two Oscar noms for her comedic and dramatic work – sleepwalk through these gags, is seeing her supposed partner in this, Spencer, fall by the wayside. Not only is her character not really explored – despite doing the opening narration and having the “superhero arc” – but she doesn’t even get in on the jokes. She simply seems there to respond to McCarthy’s foibles, and maybe throw out a chuckle-worthy response. This is perhaps because Emily was always the more serious of the two, but that simply seems like one-dimensional character detail designed to explain away why she’s not getting in on the fun as much as her co-star. Spencer has also proven to be hilarious in past work, so to see her so unused both as a character and an actress is too much to bear. Not only is Falcone not interested in exploring either of the characters’ flaws or divide between each other, in turn building logical character arcs, but he really doesn’t care to do much that doesn’t involve McCarthy being center stage.

As the story progresses, the lack of character depth means there’s really not much of a story at all, and if it doesn’t feel like there’s much of a story outside of the duo it’s because, for the longest time, there also isn’t much of a villain. Despite a world-changing dose of radioactivity, with Miscreants supposedly running amok, Chicago seems…fine? Aside from news footage with anchors talking about destruction at the hands of uber-Miscreant Laser (Pom Klementieff), and an admittedly funny-looking villain, The Crab (Jason Bateman), there’s really not much for threats around. When things do get going involving a sadistic politician/Miscreant called “The King” (Bobby Cannavale) the plot still becomes about as predictable and stale as a Saturday morning cartoon, with still little value coming from the lead characters as they have to rise up to the challenge.

If there is any saving grace it all, it comes from some supporting players. Young Taylor Mosby is a breath of fresh air as Emily’s wildly intelligent daughter Tracy, with Melissa Leo’s Allie, given a constant I’m-so-done-with-everyone’s-shit demeanor, being the closest thing to relatable in the whole movie. Picking up slack in the comedy chemistry department where the starring duo fails is Bateman and McCarthy coming together. The romance between Lydia and The Crab is when things get welcomely silly, and even when she’s not around, Bateman does what he can to make his scenes work. The same goes for Cannavale and Klementieff, who are clearly here to just have some fun and chew some scenery.

By the end, with little in the way of action or character development, Lydia and Emily have a forced “separation” moment, only to far-too-easily come back together and head into the finale, whatever emotional and character stakes of which are entirely mute and unearned. The one-joke scenarios in past movies of the McCarthy/Falcone canon feature “McCarthy…but trailer trash” (Tammy), “McCarthy…but obscenely rich” (The Boss), and this time around, it’s “McCarthy…but with superpowers.” And some involved with those movies may argue that, in the end, we learn deep down there’s more to her characters than that the basics around their conception. But as is painfully the case in Thunder Force, whatever makes McCarthy’s Lydia more than the central figure in awkward exchanges and gross-out gags is non-existent.

I don’t doubt for a second that McCarthy and Falcone love working together and that everyone involved had a great time making Thunder Force. Like some of Adam Sandler’s recent comedies, they’re chances for him to get together with his buds, have a fun time, and then put that fun time on screen. But just because you’re having a good time doesn’t mean you’re making a good movie and that whatever fun you’re having is making it on screen. In the case of Thunder Force, the movie is painfully un-fun, with not enough being funny to make it a comedy, not enough exciting to make it a superhero film, and not enough endearing qualites to make it a story about friendship or family.  Whatever ideas the team of McCarthy and Falcone had in thinking this would make for a good comedy are buried underneath a pile of rubble, and this time, they brought Spencer down with them. 

Source:
JoBlo.com

Voyagers Review

Movie News

Voyagers Review
Voyagers Review

April 8, 2021 by: Chris Bumbray

5
10

PLOT: Thirty young men and women are sent on a multi-generational mission to find humanity a new home. Their mission descends into chaos when the young people discover they’ve been ingesting a protein that represses their emotions.

REVIEW: VOYAGERS offers an intriguing if familiar premise. What if, in the future, we were all medicated to keep our most troublesome emotions at bay? Ya know, things like love, lust, and hate? It’s been done – pretty well – before in movies like Equals and Equilibrium. The twist here is that the ones doing the medicating aren’t especially sinister. They’re doing it out of presumed necessity, as the human race is dying off. Their only hope is to send a Noah’s Ark of humans out to the furthest reaches of the galaxy to start over. Their mission will last generations. The idea is that by regulating their emotions they’ll stay laser-focused on the mission at hand (procreation will be done randomly, with romance discouraged). Guess how well it goes.

Voyagers comes from Limitless director Neil Burger and it feels thematically similar in that its speculative sci-fi that examines the way medication and drugs could alter society – and the backlash it could cause. Here, the leads are Tye Sheridan’s Christopher, the even-tempered quasi leader of the crew, with Fionn Whitehead his more unpredictable best pal Zac. They both love Lily Rose-Depp’s Sela, who doubles as the crew doctor. She’s being mentored by the lone grown-up on the ship – Colin Farrell’s Richard. He’s been assigned to watch over the kids as they come of age. Unlike any of them, he’s had a life, with it hinted that he had a family that passed away, thus nothing was tying him to earth any longer.

The first half of Voyagers is better than the second. The premise is a good one, and Burger gives the film a polished look, with cool lensing by Enrique Chediak and an effective minimalist score by Trevor Gureckis. The movie falls apart to some degree in the second half, where it becomes a virtual remake of Lord of the Flies set aboard a spaceship. One of the issues is that the cast, all of whom are in their mid-twenties, are too old for their roles. Had the actors all been teens, it might have worked better. It feels like they’re written as teens, with much made out of their youth, but everyone here seems to be in their early to mid-twenties. They’re distinctly not children.

The performances are a mixed bag. The two leads, Tye Sheridan and Lily Rose-Depp are really good. Sheridan has the right blend of naivety and empathy to play the one they all look to for leadership, while Depp is the most mature person on board thanks to her friendship with Farrell. The ones that don’t come off as well are the villains, particularly Dunkirk’s Fionn Whitehead as the crew member who becomes a full-on sociopath within moments of screentime. We’re supposed to believe these young adults, all of whom are supposed to be genetically engineered super-geniuses, would automatically follow him when he suggests eating their way through the ship’s limited resources. I didn’t buy it – with it hard to swallow the fact that Depp and Sheridan would essentially have to stand alone while the rest of the ship depends into chaos. Farrell is good in a minor role. It’s crazy to think that he’s gotten to the point where he’s now the elder statesman in films like this.

As such, it’s a flawed but still generally entertaining tale. Burger, who also wrote it, has made a familiar film that’s not quite as provocative as it seems to think it is, but his work is nothing if not proficient. It’s a frustratingly mixed bag, but still a decent Sunday afternoon watch on a streaming service, which is really where this belongs. Back in the day, there was a category of films that were “wait for video”. That doesn’t exist anymore so I guess “wait for Netflix?”

Source:
Joblo.com

Nobody Review

Movie News

Nobody Review
Nobody Review

March 23, 2021 by: Chris Bumbray

9
10

PLOT: A suburban everyman’s (Bob Odenkirk) past comes back to haunt him following a home invasion.

REVIEW: Schwarzenegger. Stallone. Snipes. Washington. Bronson. Van Damme. Wills. Eastwood. Neeson. Reeves…Odenkirk? Yes, folks, believe it or not, Bob Odenkirk, the famous Mr. Show alum and Slippin’ Jimmy McGill aka Saul Goodman himself establishes himself as an action icon in the shoot-up blast of testosterone that is NOBODY! This is the movie that abysmal Death Wish remake should have been, with Odenkirk playing a seemingly mild-mannered everyman who disappoints his family when he allows a home invasion to happen. Turns out though, his Hutch Mansell is no suburban nobody. Rather, he’s a highly trained former government agent known as The Auditor who’s been on the down-lo for years only to suddenly blast into action at the end of a very bad day when he decimates a gang of murderous Russian thugs hassling a young woman. They turn out to be connected to some heavy hitters, meaning this “Nobody” and his family are in their cross-hairs, but no one – NO ONE – is gonna mess with The Auditor. 

I went into this expecting a nifty little action movie but it easily exceeded my expectations. It comes from director Ilya Naishuller who directed the stylish if shallow Hardcore Henry some years back. It has a script by John Wick scribe Derek Kolstad that almost makes it feel like an unofficial spin-off at times, with a vast underworld mythology and killers with cool nicknames. Grounding it all is the incredibly likable Odenkirk. A classic everyman, he’s one of the most deceptively badass action stars in some time as, unlike the new guard, which includes Jason Statham, Vin Diesel, and The Rock, Odenkirk isn’t surface tough. He doesn’t have bulging muscles and he doesn’t affect a tough guy attitude. He’s laid back and easy-going, quick to smile and have a chat, and doesn’t seem like a simmering inferno of violence – unless he’s pushed. Odenkirk trained for four years to make this movie, and the result is up there on the screen. He’s like Vince Vaughn in Brawl in Cell Block 99, where once you see him in action hero mode it seems like the most natural thing in the world. 

Unlike Statham, Vin Diesel, and The Rock, Odenkirk also allows himself to get bested at times and take his lumps. He gets the shit kicked out of him here, making the fights all the more exciting because hey – he’s only Bob Odenkirk – he could die before the end credits! Anything goes in Nobody, and the action design is SICK. The highlight is the first big fight scene on a city bus, where Odenkirk uses everything he can find to take out these hulking villains. They include some MVP stunt-men like Alain Moussi and Daniel Bernhardt, who’s been killed by Keanu Reeves a whole bunch of times in the John Wick and Matrix movies, and also had that amazing episode-long fight with Bill Hader in Barry. Bernhardt co-choreographed the fights and does an amazing job. This also counts David Leitch as a producer so you know the action is legit.

Odenkirk really goes to town in this one, raking up a body count that probably doubles that of all three Taken movies combined. But, it’s not just mindless action. Odenkirk makes you care about the character and his family, with him having a warm, affectionate and believable relationship with his on-screen wife, played by the great Connie Nielsen, and his kids. We get that he loves them and doesn’t want to disappoint them, but once the killing starts it ain’t gonna stop. However – the BEST thing about the cast here is a late-in-the-game cameo by The RZA in full action-hero mode, while Christopher Lloyd – yes 80-something Christopher Lloyd of Back to the Future plays Odenkirk’s pistol-packing dad. He has a scene with RZA and Odenkirk that’ll make you stand up and cheer. If he was twenty years younger, Lloyd would probably be getting his own Nobody. Too bad Hollywood never cast him against type back in the day. But I digress.

My only issue with Nobody is the villain, played by Aleksei Serebryakov, who has a GREAT introduction and is certainly menacing, but he doesn’t get enough screen time. He should have been built up more as a physical threat to Odenkirk. A minor caveat though, as Niashuller’s crafted one heck of a fun action flick, with a light, breezy tone and some inspired song choices, with this probably the first action movie I’ve seen that has set pieces set to Andy Williams and Pat Benetar. Nobody is a sleeper hit in the truest sense of the word, and if things were a little different out there, it would likely have a better chance of being seen theatrically. In theaters are open near you, give this a shot. It’s the best commercial action movie we’ve gotten in a long while. I loved every second of it and can’t wait to see it again! 

Source:
JoBlo.com

The Fallout (SXSW Review)

Movie News

The Fallout (SXSW Review)
The Fallout (SXSW Review)

March 21, 2021 by: Matt Rooney

9
10

PLOT: High schooler Vada navigates the emotional fallout she experiences in the wake of a school tragedy. Relationships with her family, friends and view of the world are forever altered.

REVIEW: One of the tragedies of America is that too many school students have had to go through the kind of trauma that would normally be reserved for combat veterans. How teenagers have had to adapt to life afterward – on top of dealing with the change that comes with being a teenager anyway – can never be fully exemplified in a single story, but Megan Park’s jarring directorial debut, THE FALLOUT, does a masterful job nonetheless.

Sixteen-year-old Vada’s (Jenna Ortega) day starts off normal enough – nodding off while getting ready for school. She’s picked up by her friend Nick (Will Ropp), and they jam out to music and hit up Starbucks.  Park writes her as not unlike any normal American teenager today, one who isn’t too popular and has a style of their own, which Ortega eases into. But in a masterful, terrifying pivot, the tone switches from high-school-flick to pure horror. Vada, hiding in a bathroom stall with Mia (Maddie Ziegler), hyperventilates as gunshots echo in the hall outside. Vada tries her hardest to make sure anything of theirs that falls on the floor gets picked up, lest the shooter walks in and notices. Soon a male student, Quinton (Niles Fitch) rushes in covered in blood, saying in disbelief how they got his brother. Between the terror on the character’s faces as they fear for their lives, and the surreal sounds of gunshots that only escalate in volume, it is perhaps some of the most heart-pounding minutes you’ll see on screen this year.

 

 

As the title suggests, this is about the aftermath of the shooting as we center on Vada as she struggles to adapt by putting on a “chill” face that suggests everything is normal and that she’s good, despite the fact that even she knows nothing will never be the same again. It’s a high-school-set, coming-of-age story where the circumstances signaling that everything is different are forced onto the character rather than being a natural passage of time; a few minutes of bullets and screams rather than an evening of beers and buds. As difficult as that kind of storytelling can be, a blend and balance of tones come to define Park’s incredible debut work, gliding between devastating heartache and moments of silence, and perhaps most unexpectedly, a disarming sense of humor.

 

Park’s film is defined by these little moments weaved together into a whole, as Vada spends her days avoiding her family, sitting in the dark and staring at her phone, with the only time she’s spending out of her room or the bathroom being on the couch watching TV. Her solace comes in befriending Madi, an Instagram influencer known for her dance videos (making use of Ziegler’s real-life talents). The moment in the stall the two shared together has unexpectedly bonded them for life, and while on the surface their moments together play like two teenagers letting the summer days whizz by with food and afternoons by the pool, Park, and the fantastic performances, always ensure that whatever pain they’re not discussing lingers in the background. They both know it’s something they don’t want to talk about, and even when little hints of the day are spoken about, they retreat into trying to build up a new normal.

 

But the emotional toll ricochets between everyone in Vada’s life. Her mother (Julie Bowen) wants her to open up, only for Vada to totally shut her out. Most heartbreaking, this extends to her younger sister, Amelia (Lumi Pollack), who wants to feel connected to her big sister again, only to be iced over and over again. Again, where Park’s brilliance as a director and cast’s equal brilliance with their characters means that each interaction hits a little differently, with so much information put on the screen to hint just enough at where everyone is in their arcs without giving away the whole show. Part of watching that balancing act between characters is what makes sticking with the story so engaging, even if the story is about living moment to moment over having a more conventional narrative arc.

 

 

At the core of it all is Ortega as Vada, a role I hope gets her as much attention as the movie gets itself. A hugely complex performance that requires her to play both a playful, awkward high-school student who is repressing deep emotional trauma, the range Ortega puts on display is both so perfect of her age and wildly beyond it. Capable of making you tear-up/ugly cry – like how she plays a simple hug to Quinton, or when she and Amelia finally have a cathartic moment that will knock you to the ground – or laugh riotously. Park writes the characters knowing there’s light in them blending with the pain, and there’s no shortage of funny moments that make it almost as much comedy as drama – nearly all of them hinging on Ortega’s timing. Look no further than a scene when Vada takes ecstasy to get through one of her first days back at school, a whole sequence which seems inspired by Leonardo DiCaprio’s work in Wolf of Wall Street, and that Ortega absolutely nails. Everything she does comes layered with the reminder that Vada’s coping the best way she knows how no matter what the scenario, and Ortega is a knockout from start to finish and signals she’s ready for bigger things.

 

There’s not a weak link in the rest of the cast, either. Ziegler is great as the quieter type compared to Vada. Her dads are often away on business, leaving Madi alone in their artsy, expensive home. She gives her dialogue a hesitance to play up how her character struggles to put words to her numbness, which she will likely have to keep buried should she continue her Instagram ascension. Her connection with Vada is the only thing keeping her going, and Ziegler is excellent alongside Ortega. Pollack, Bowen, Shailene Woodley as Vada’s counselor, and John Ortiz as Vada’s father are all terrific (especially young Pollack) and most get their heart-wrenching moments by the end – albeit the one flaw I can think of is the lack of screen time for Ortiz. Then there are her other friends and classmates. A signal that times are changing comes in the deteriorating bind between Vada and Nick, the latter having used the moment to become the face of the political revolution, not unlike the students in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland, Florida in 2018. He views Vada’s coping as repressing, and as he moves on with a new sense of passion for change, they drift apart, and their last moment together subtly puts the last nail in the coffin. As Quinton, who would normally be a love interest in a typical high school movie, acts as another way for Vada to work through her feelings. Another great performance in the movie, Fitch blends charm with heartache, dealing with the pain of losing his brother while also being at peace believing he will never really leave him.

 

The Fallout’s story begins after a tragedy occurs that should only exist in nightmares, and the final scene acknowledges that it won’t be the last time it happens — which is a necessary reminder, if not the strongest narrative choice. What Park focuses on are the ways one student deals with the aftermath – and these moments may shatter you to your core, make you laugh despite the pain underneath, and shed more than a few tears. It may not be the experience every student who has had to live through this unspeakable horror may have gone through, but The Fallout uses its time to say that it’s okay to cope in whatever way they need to. For the rest of us, it’s a mandatory glimpse into the life of a teenager who has gone through something that has become all too normal, and it deserves to be burned into your memory.

Source:
JoBlo.com

City of Lies Review

Movie News

City of Lies Review
City of Lies Review

March 19, 2021 by: Chris Bumbray

7
10

PLOT: LAPD Detective Russell Poole (Johnny Depp) investigates the murder of the Notorious B.I.G on the eve of the Ramparts scandal.

REVIEW: The killings of The Notorious B.I.G and Tupac Shakur have long captivated the public imagination. Indicative of both the furiously violent East vs West Coast hip-hop rivalry of the nineties and widespread corruption within the LAPD in the wake of Rodney King and O.J. Simpson, this story has been fodder for a huge number of documentaries, books, and TV series. CITY OF LIES actually isn’t the most recent example, with it predating the similarly themed TV series Unsolved as well as the brand-new Netflix doc Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell. You see, City of Lies was shot way back in 2016-2017, with it originally slated for a wide theatrical release in the fall of 2018, only to be pulled at the eleventh hour reportedly due to the scandal surrounding Johnny Depp’s legal battles. Some involved with the film believe the reason it was scrapped had more to do with the way the LAPD was portrayed, as explained in this intriguing Daily Beast write-up.

Whatever the case, three years later, City of Lies is getting a quick, low-key release via Saban (the trailer only dropped recently) on VOD, which is a shame as it’s not a bad movie at all. Very much in line with director Brad Furman’s previous The Infiltrator (and underrated Bryan Cranston thriller), City of Lies takes an interesting deep-dive into the circumstances surrounding Biggie’s murder, with them fingering an LAPD cover-up and a relationship with Suge Knight’s Death Row Records as the likely culprits.

Whether or not any of this is true, City of Lies is still a slick procedural, and while his recent troubles have resulted in a long screen absence, Johnny Depp is surprisingly low-key and effective as the dogged Russell Poole. My issue with Depp has always been that he has a tendency towards gimmicks and hamminess, with movies that he’s not hiding behind obnoxious make-up and accents few and far between. Other than an off-putting blonde mustache that doesn’t match his hair, Depp plays Poole in a straight-forward way that’s a refreshing change of pace and would have likely been appreciated by fans had the film been widely seen.

Poole, who remains a controversial figure, is portrayed as a heroic cop eager to deliver some measure of justice for Biggie’s mother (with Violetta Wallace playing herself). The story indeed seems stranger than fiction, with it tying into the crazy Rampart scandal that involved dirty officers that influenced cop movies for at least a decade, with Training Day and The Shield apparently both directly influenced by those events. Fans of Biggie and Tupac may be disappointed to learn that both men are relatively minor figures here, with this more about police corruption than the rappers themselves. Even Suge Knight is ultimately portrayed as a minor character.

Nonetheless, City of Lies has a juicy supporting cast, with the perennially underrated Toby Huss as Depp’s partner, while Michael Pare shows up in a small role as a Vegas cop investigating the Tupac killing. Shea Whigham has a juicy role as real-life cop Frank Lyga, who inadvertently kicks things off through a road rage shoot-out with someone who turns out to be another cop with deep ties to Death Row. Forest Whitaker is second-billed as a journalist who teams with the older Poole, but it feels like a waste of his talents as his only role here is to interview Poole, although he does have a juicy scene opposite legendary heavy Peter Greene, cast against type as a cop.

While City of Lies isn’t an exceptional film by any means and likely would have only caused a minor stir in theaters, it’s still a rock-solid procedural thriller that’s worth watching for anyone with an interest in the case. Depp fans will also appreciate one of his subtlest performances in years, and hopefully, this is a venue he continues to explore, as no matter what his legal troubles may be, he remains a talented actor with loads of fans.

Source:
JoBlo.com

The Courier Review

Movie News

The Courier Review
The Courier Review

March 16, 2021 by: Chris Bumbray

8
10

Previously reviewed at Sundance 2020 under the title Ironbark. 

PLOT: Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch), a middle-aged businessman working in London circa 1960, is approached by British Intelligence and the C.I.A to act as an intermediary between them and a Russian asset, Oleg Penkovsky (Mereb Ninidze), working deep in the Soviet Nuclear program.

REVIEW: There are so many great stories about the Intelligence community that are truly stranger than fiction. IRONBARK is certainly one of them, with some of the film’s craziest, hardest to believe twists all being based on things that happened, making this a compelling spy yarn that tells a story we should all know. In a very real way, the fate of the world hinged on the actions of a middle-aged English businessman and his friendship with a highly placed Russian mole, with them playing a pivotal role in the Cuban Missle Crisis I’d wager most of us know nothing about.

The best way to enjoy IRONBARK is by not looking up Greville Wynne or Oleg Penkovsky on Wikipedia as some of the film’s most devastating moments will be spoiled. I went in relatively ignorant to this side of the story as was riveted throughout. While undoubtedly a harsh depiction of the grim realities of being caught-up in espionage, at its heart its an optimistic story about two good men separated by politics but united by a desire to make the world a legitimately better place. It’s a lesson we should all be reminded of now and then.

Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent as the initially bumbling Wynne. A total amateur without any ties whatsoever to the world of espionage, he’s plucked out of nowhere solely because he has some knowledge of Eastern European affairs, and has a vague enough job that he could credibly be visiting the Soviet Union for business. His early scenes are played for laughs, with Cumberbatch working overtime to remind us that he’s just a normal guy, with a family to support, bills to pay, and no delusions of glory. We see him gradually develop a rapport and then close friendship with Mereb Ninidze’s Penkovsky, and it’s their relationship that gives the film a beating heart that distinguishes it from other spy thrillers.

The supporting cast is also considerably more fleshed out than usual, with Rachel Brosnahan as the driven but compassionate CIA caseworker involved in the scheme, while Angus Wright as British Intelligence agent Dickie Franks is not the stereotyped, cold-blooded english bureaucrat. His priority is making sure his countryman, Wynne, is safe throughout. He’s not an asset he’s willing to throw to the wolves no matter what the stakes are.

WILD ROSE breakout star Jessie Buckley also has a really good part as Wynne’s wife, with us getting some insight into exactly what the lied-to spruce has to go through when her husband disappears on trip after trip to Russia, leaving her to her suspicions, with the added wrinkle that Wynne has, in the past, had an affair.

It’s the compassionate, nuanced characterizations and top-shelf acting that makes IRONBARK a really good new entry to this genre, with director Dominic Cooke once again showing how well he handles an ensemble following his underrated ON CHESIL BEACH. It’s also relatively fast-paced, running a lean 110 minutes, with very little time wasted throughout – every scene feels essential and the pace never lags. All in all, it’s one of the most purely entertaining films to emerge (so far) out of this year’s crop of Sundance titles, and one that could very well be an awards play for Cumberbatch, who’s as good as he’s ever been in the lead.

Source:
JoBlo.com

Zack Snyder’s Justice League Review

Movie News

Zack Snyder’s Justice League Review
Zack Snyder’s Justice League Review

March 15, 2021 by: Chris Bumbray

9
10

PLOT: Following the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) recruit Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), Victor Stone (Ray Fisher), and Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) to join them as they try to save the world from the forces of Darkseid, led by the fearsome Steppenwolf.

REVIEW: When I visited the set of Justice League, way back in 2016, I had no idea what a rocky road this film was facing. I vividly remember visiting the London soundstage where it was being shot, meeting the cast, and chatting with director Zack Snyder about his epic vision for what DC hoped would be their answer to The Avengers. Little did I know their obsession with making it EXACTLY like The Avengers would lead to Snyder’s eventual dismissal from the project, with Joss Whedon being brought in to finish the film, which eventually came out in the fall of 2017 to terrible reviews and middling box office.

In the years following, rumors started to spread that Snyder had delivered a fully realized, alternate version of the film long before Whedon got involved. One that was so dark it spooked the studio. Thus the myth of the Snyder Cut was born. When HBO Max announced Snyder was going to finish his mythical cut, jaws dropped. Eyebrows were raised even further when Warner Bros revealed they would be ponying up $70 million to finish the film, which would be R-rated and run four hours. The run time was especially stunning, as the finished theatrical version ran under two.

No one was more of a “Doubting Thomas” than me, as I assumed Snyder had originally been aiming for a two-hour movie and we would be getting a crazy bloated rough cut. Watching the Snyder Cut, or as it’s now officially called, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, my jaw was on the floor throughout. This is no bloated extended version. It’s an epic superhero team-up that’s startlingly original, hugely influenced by Jack Kirby’s The New Gods, and somewhat akin to a DC version of Lord of the Rings. The Whedon cut, for what it is, has almost nothing in common with Snyder’s version. Maybe something like forty minutes of what Snyder originally shot ended up in there, but even the stuff that was used has very little resemblance to the original. Take for example Wonder Woman’s first big action scene, where terrorists try to set off a bomb in a bank. In the Whedon version, they crack wise and it’s relatively lighthearted. In the Snyder version, it’s gruesome and intense. Wonder Woman’s reaction to them is appropriately violent – and deadly.

The vast majority of the film is unseen footage, giving the movie an epic scope that’s striking. While the basic plot is similar, being that Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds ) wants to assemble the three mother boxes to pave the way for Darkseid to kill the planet, the two films have very little in common. Steppenwolf’s look has been changed, making him much more of a Lovecraft-looking baddie, with a strong plot that hints at him being an exhausted character desperate to break free from his enslavement to Darkseid.

The league themselves don’t assemble until much later in the film. A full three chapters of the six-chapter film has passed by the time the now assembled Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman and Cyborg meet with J.K Simmons’ Commissioner Gordon on the rooftop. The first half of the film spends a lot of time among the Amazons, with Connie Nielsen’s Hippolyta having a greatly enhanced role.

It makes the whole ordeal much more of a journey for Wonder Woman, with Gal Gadot getting a lot more to do here than she did even in WW84. She’s fully powered and not pre-occupied with Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor this time. The other character who emerges as more fully formed is Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, who, in essence, the whole film hinges on. He was a nothing character in the Whedon cut. Here he’s perhaps the most significant member of the League. Henry Cavil’s Superman, with his black suit, is also a much darker character, and refreshingly free of a CGI superstache. Ezra Miller’s The Flash also gets loads more screentime, with Kiersey Clemons showing up as Iris West in a cool scene, as well as Billy Crudup as his imprisoned dad. Joe Morton, who was barely in the Whedon version as Silas Stone is nearly a lead in this version. Probably the two characters who were left the most intact in the Whedon cut were Ben Affleck as Batman and Jason Momoa as Aquaman – although there are key differences for both. Momoa’s Arthur Curry emerges as a much more serious character, while Affleck’s Batman gets all the new material in the much-hyped Knightmare sequence which ends the film on a HUGE cliffhanger fans will be desperate to see resolved.

All in all, there’s no doubt in my mind that Snyder Cut devotees will be shocked at just how formidable this new version of Justice League is. Everyone else – my advice is this. Don’t think of it as a director’s cut. It’s really not. The Joss Whedon version of Justice League has barely any footage in common with this, beyond a few heavily modified sequences. This is a new movie and should be viewed as such. Hopefully, it’ll lead to more Snyder in the DCEU. It may seem unlikely but the mere existence of this movie proves nothing is off the table.

Source:
JoBlo.com

Coming 2 America (review) – Eddie Murphy

Movie News

Coming 2 America (review) – Eddie Murphy
Coming 2 America (review) – Eddie Murphy

March 4, 2021 by: Chris Bumbray

7
10

PLOT: More than thirty years after first visiting the U.S, Zamunda’s newly crowned King Akeem (Eddie Murphy) discovers that he has a long-lost American son. Meanwhile, he also has to contend with a neighboring warlord (Wesley Snipes), an angry wife (Shari Headley), and his more-than-capable daughter (Kiki Layne) who resents the country’s patriarchal rules of succession.

REVIEW: Coming to America is a tamer movie than you may remember. Sure, there were F-bombs and the royal bathers (who are back in the sequel – albeit wearing more clothes), but overall it was a pretty safe comedy that was a beloved childhood classic in my household despite the R-rating. As such, Amazon’s COMING 2 AMERICA may disappoint hardcore Eddie Murphy fans who were thrilled as his return to raunch in Dolemite is My Name, but it’s a perfectly pleasant, good-natured comedy that will no doubt be a huge hit for Amazon Prime.

In many ways, this feels like a halfway point between one of Murphy’s nineties family comedies (more Nutty Professor than Daddy Day Care) and his eighties classics. It’s ultimately wholesome but director Craig Brewer has still sprinkled in a little bit of raunch to please the old-school fans.

One thing that’s worth noting is Akeem has always been one of Murphy’s more classic leading man types. He anchors the film emotionally, with most of the humor coming from the other characters he plays, such as two of the three guys in the NYC barbershop, while Arsenio Hall, who returns as his right-hand man Semmi, plays the third. Murphy seems eager to pass the baton on to another generation, even taking a backseat at times not only to newcomers Jermaine Fowler (as his long lost son Lavelle) and Kiki Layne, but also Hall and Wesley Snipes.

Snipes is really funny as General Izzi, the neighboring warlord who wants to either marry into the royal family or eliminate it, and he seems to be having a blast chewing scenery. He hasn’t been this funny since Major League. Fowler is also very likable as the new addition to the royal family, with his Lavelle as a surprisingly sensitive and sensible guy, who’s not unlike his dad in a lot of ways. I especially liked his sweet-natured romance with the royal barber, played by lovely newcomer Nomzamo Mbatha. Kiki Layne, who made a big splash recently in The Old Guard, is great as Akeem’s oldest daughter, who’s looking to take Zamunda into the 21st century. The conflict in the plot comes from the fact that her dad still clings to his father’s old ways (James Earl Jones returns for an extended cameo).

Notably, Coming 2 America doesn’t seem overly reliant on gags. Like Brewer’s last Murphy movie, it aims to tell a relatively warm-hearted story (Dolemite – for all of its raunch – had a very big heart at its core). It’s funny, but not in a big set-piece kind of way. The humor is more character-based, with the big laughs coming from Snipes, Leslie Jones (as Akeem’s baby mama), and the iconic barbershop guys – who get more screen time than they did in the original and have all the best lines.

One thing worth mentioning – if you haven’t seen Coming to America in a while, a revisit is definitely in order before checking out the sequel. It does assume viewers are extremely familiar with the original, with tons of callbacks (too many?). Virtually every memorable character (with one or two exceptions) is back. Even folks like Louie Anderson return, with his character still working at McDowell’s – but he’s at least a manager in Zamunda now. Brewer, known for grittier stuff like Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan, and more, opts to shoot the film in a way that’s not significantly different from John Landis’s approach to the original. This gives the two films some continuity – although there are a few big musical numbers that feel like his personal stamp on the material. Overall, it’s not the hardcore-R-rated comedy some may have wanted, but honestly, that was never really what Coming to America was (despite the F-bombs). This is still a funny and pleasant follow-up to a comedy classic that should leave a smile on the face of many fans. It cements Murphy’s comeback as the real thing – so hopefully we finally get Beverly Hills Cop IV before long (although that one HAS TO BE rated-R).

Source:
JoBlo.com

Eddie Huang’s Boogie (Film Review)

Movie News

Eddie Huang’s Boogie (Film Review)
Eddie Huang’s Boogie (Film Review)

March 4, 2021 by: Matt Rooney

4
10

PLOT: A young Chinese-American basketball phenom struggles to balance the expectations of his immigrant family with his own dreams of becoming a player for the NBA.

REVIEW:  In an early scene from the new basketball drama BOOGIE, the title character is shown creepily staring at a fellow, female prep school student – the camera pointed at her inner thighs as she works out. Designed to be the start of their eventual romance, Boogie (Taylor Takahashi) tries to woo her in the only way he clearly knows how…which involves sexually harassing her with a derogatory statement. After cringing, I spent the rest of the 80 or so minutes wondering why writer/director Eddie Huang would have his lead character – the person we’re meant to sympathize with – say something so bluntly gross. Did he think this is something a guy so supposedly slick and charming like Boogie would think is slick and charming to say? Or was it meant to purposefully showcase his immaturity, thus setting him on a journey of growth? Whatever the reason, Huang spends the rest of his directorial debut proving that whatever decisions he felt were right in bringing this project to life, he was often wrong.

What’s most unfortunate about coming to that conclusion by the end is that the movie started promisingly enough. A story about expectations put upon children by their parents, Huang begins his movie by showing Alfred “Boogie” Chin’s parents – (played by Pamelyn Chee and Perry Yung) – talking to a fortune teller about what the future holds for their young son, as well as their marriage. The movie occasionally flashes back to this exchange to illustrate their clashing hopes for their son, setting the stage for the present, where the two are at odds over where they should steer their now 17-year-old son and supposed basketball prodigy. Boogie’s father, and Boogie himself, think it’s smart for him to start at a new school in a new basketball division so he can take on and beat a local legend – Monk (Bashar “Pop Smoke” Jackson) – and hope that will be enough to land him a good school, while his mother thinks he should focus on more in hopes of getting a scholarship. The dynamic between the two parents and their war of ideology is one of the few interesting aspects of the film, only for it to get bogged down when we go back to Boogie having the carry his own narrative.

 

 

This is mainly because Boogie is, in short, a jackass. He’s arrogant, selfish, and crass, and Huang as the writer and director has more interest in showing him as stoic and defiant in the face of opposition than giving him room to show vulnerability. Popping a hole in the “room for growth” angle I mentioned earlier, from start to finish there’s barely a sense that what Boogie goes through actually changes him for the better. Huang makes half-hearted attempts to do so – like showing him be more of a team player on the court than a show-off – only for to re-neg on that by the finale. Aside from a moment or two when he’s caught between his parents fighting or forced by them to show some humility, Boogie has this perpetual “tough guy” exterior that never crumbles, and which Huang mistakes for resiliency. Takahashi, in his acting debut, can’t be blamed for not giving his character any emotional depth beyond this, as the problems lie in the script not giving him the room to branch out.

 

Huang continuously fails his lead character and his journey, not only by making him hard to connect with, but by also trapping him in a story that can’t break out of the cliches of the genre. We’ve been told the story of the high school student who uses sports to break away from his troubled home life before, and in this movie’s case, it also comes with a mostly meandering romance angle. Despite continuing to be a complete creep, Boogie ends up winning over Eleanor (Taylour Paige), but their dynamic doesn’t often extend between being able to make the other laugh. Where they do connect in a worthwhile way is in how they feel disconnected by their respective cultures — Eleanor from her Trinidadian roots, and Boogie from his Chinese heritage. If Huang does inject something new into the tired formula, it’s writing characters struggling with there they stand within their respective cultures, with Eleanor not always knowing where she comes from, and Boogie struggling with the expectations of a Chinese-American with potential for success in a field where people like him aren’t well represented. But even there, Huang has all these ideas and thought he puts forth about what it’s like being Asian in America, using Boogie as his catalyst, but they never add up to a cohesive argument or a compelling narrative. They’re simply statements for the sake of statements. 

 

 

It’s in that angle where Huang clearly has something to say with these characters and indeed paints the picture nicely at times, like when Boogie sits with his father and watches tennis player Michael Chang win a Grand Slam tournament. His father addresses the importance of this moment in Asian-American history, saying what it felt like watching Chang’s monumental win right when it happened. By building up this sort of “boss battle” angle between Boogie and Monk, you can see Huang needing to create this own moment for his character, which is admirable from a representation standpoint.

 

Huang ultimately fails to meet that moment, too. Every moment of basketball feels like a slightly more professional recording of a high school game. The illustration of how talented both Boogie and Monk are at ball is executed with little more than some good dribbling and solid lay-ups. Because there’s no kinetic energy in how the games are shot, the whole idea of these men being so good — almost mythical — at the game doesn’t hold any water. Everyone around them keeps talking up their skills, and yet when it comes time for the ultimate showdown, the pacing is deflated and the stakes non-existent. Huang seems more interested in letting their hype soar in talks rather than letting it come to life on the court. This is meant to be a big resolution between all the characters, and Huang tries to wrap it all up in a nice little bow rather than having it all make sense. The fantasy of his character’s triumphant moment feels like nothing more than just that, with narrative or emotional heft to make it feel real.

 

Whatever Huang was trying to do with his movie, he mostly misses the shot. What his story offers in insight and perspective within a worn genre, it lacks in emotional resonance and style, ultimately crumbling under the weight of the conventions it’s trying to defy. There are interesting angles – especially between the parents – but he fails to really dig into Boogie as a character, and whatever connection Huang had to him on the page didn’t translate to the screen in a way that feels meaningful. I never got past seeing him as a cocky jackass, leaving disconnected almost from the word “go”. Whatever ideas Huang brings to Boogie fall in the execution, so hopefully, if Huang gets behind the camera again, he can learn from the experience and actually make most of the shots he takes.

Source:
JoBlo.com

Chaos Walking with Tom Holland & Daisy Ridley (Film Review)

Movie News

Chaos Walking with Tom Holland & Daisy Ridley (Film Review)
Chaos Walking with Tom Holland & Daisy Ridley (Film Review)

March 3, 2021 by: Matt Rooney

4
10

PLOT: Set in the world 2257 A.D., a settlement of only men live on an Earth-like planet, with their every thought manifesting out loud, outside their heads. When a young woman, Viola (Daisy Ridley), crash lands on the planet and is discovered by a young man, Todd (Tom Holland), the two must escape the clutches of the evil Mayor Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen). 

REVIEW: All movies require a tremendous amount of effort to bring to the screen. However, in the case of the new movie CHAOS WALKING, the effort put into bringing this particular story to audiences defies reason. From the initial draft of the script being written all the way back in 2012 by Eternal Sunshine’s Charlie Kaufman, to the numerous drafts done afterward from a half-dozen writers, to the then extensive re-shooting starting in 2019 costing millions upon millions, all the way to this week’s official release, which is finally here after dates being pushed several times over two years.  Everyone involved likely had so much passion to put that much into bringing this futuristic story to the screen, and the tragedy is, almost none of that passion actually made it up there.

Based on the acclaimed first in a trilogy of Young Adult novels – this entry titled The Knife of Never Letting Go – by writer Patrick Ness (one of the half-dozen writers who took to the script, eventually landing his name on the finished draft alongside Christopher Ford), this sci-fi story is set 250 years in the future on a planet, not unlike our own. In fact, it’s so not unlike our own, it pretty much just looks like normal Canada, where the movie was shot. But on this fictitious planet, we center on Todd (Tom Holland) who is one of several in a male-only settlement, the women being supposedly killed by the planet’s native inhabitants (called Spackles) years before. Space croppers don’t sound like the most compelling set-up, but here, all the men have become afflicted with a condition called “the Noise” where all their thoughts and imaginations are manifested in the open, leaving them unable to hide anything from anyone.

 

 

Blending a little Western in the sci-fi, the settlement is run by the seedy Mayor David Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen), who moseys around on his horse, a big, too-wide-brimmed hat, and what can only be described as a pimp coat – being a general creep the whole time. After a ship carrying a new wave of settlers crashes, a lone survivor, a woman, Viola (Daisy Ridley), stumbles upon this madness, and the man-folk of the village don’t take too kindly to her. With the aid of Todd, they venture out to find some way of helping her contact her people. It’s an adventure through the woods if that adventure was only worth watching to see Todd’s thoughts loudly float around his head as they walked around.

 

Whereas other YA franchise films from Lionsgate like The Hunger Games and Divergent have a little action and energy to their teen/early-20s angst, Chaos Walking is mostly content with just the angst. So much of the movie’s runtime is dedicated to following around these two characters, who manage to connect through a shared sense of loneliness and a collective awkwardness when Todd’s very vocal thoughts betray what he just said. Often it means stuff like “She’s cute” and “Blonde hair. Nice smile,” coming out at all the wrong times. Meanwhile, Mayor Pimp and his goonies are slowly hunting them down, because hey, gotta have something to break up the forest walking. It’s almost admirable to see this story take a more grounded approach to the YA formula, only until you realize a lot of that is because it’s leaving so little for everyone outside of the leads to do or offer. 

 

However, for as meandering as this movie both sounds and very much is, it’s weird how much more it works when it’s not trying to be an attempt at a grand, YA trilogy. When it leans into the quirkier side of a young man not being able to hide what he’s thinking, it can have a sense of humor and relatability to keep things somewhat engaging. The instances of thought-dialogue are spliced together nicely alongside what Todd is actually saying to make it seem like he’s arguing with a different version of himself (which, he pretty much is), and thanks to Holland’s talent it kind of all works. Everything that pops into Todd’s head — no matter how sad, awkward, or insecure — comes pouring out, and it’s interesting to see how that’s used to shape who he is as a character. There are even themes of toxic masculinity explored through him, as he needlessly tries to bury emotions to “be a man.” Even though he bowed out some years ago, I sense little nugget of Kaufman’s sensibilities in these moments.

 

 

This is certainly Holland’s movie. His character is whom we focus on, and whose journey we follow. As a result, Ridley as Viola can’t help but feel like a sidekick who’s simply there to help Todd get from Growth Point A to Growth Point B. So much of what she’s given to talk about is her family and getting somewhere she can send a message to her ship. In terms of her actions she’s a resilient character, no doubt, not being subjected to typical action movie tropes wherein she needs to be saved by some man all the time. She’s capable and goal-oriented, doing what she can to be a good friend to Todd but is in no way looking to fall for him. But as far as emotional growth all the focus is on Todd, making the story of these two feel heavily one-sided. There are some sweet moments between them, though, and that’s where the movie shines the most, and their chemistry as friends is the movie at its most genuine and rewarding.

 

And yet, the plan from the start was sure to make this the beginning of a trilogy, hence why so much money was thrown at it; $100 million, to be exact. When you hear that figure and watch the movie, you will instantly wonder where all that money went. Multi-colored clouds floating around men’s heads can’t be that expensive, and aside from a few shots of big spaceships, there aren’t many visual effects scenes. This is a movie that tries to set the stage for something bigger, but between a narrative that never knows how to drive that point home, a sense of scope or wonder, or how to make use of its huge cast, there’s little to connect to on-screen aside from the two leads. Whatever sense of spectacle or excitement of any kind director Doug Liman has brought to past movies (Edge of Tomorrow, American Made) none of that makes the cut here, and he, on the contrary, seems more on autopilot, making scenes not defined by Todd’s mind going berzerk feel listless. 

 

As for that big cast, they get done the dirtiest. Perhaps on the promise that we will see them in the “next chapter,” characters like Nick Jonas’ “Davy” Prentiss and Cynthia Erivo’s Hildy Black – two characters who have huge roles to play at one point or another – just sort of never show up again or have their arcs resolved. Such is also the case for the planet natives, one of whom fights with Todd at one point, only to never see him or other natives ever again. That’s not to say anyone in the cast is especially bad here. While Jonas isn’t quite cut out for a villain role, actors like Mikkelsen, Demian Bichir as Todd’s adoptive dad, and David Oyelowo’s Aaron, the manic priest, are too good to not offer something to their screen time.

 

The shame of Chaos Walking is that between the beloved source material and some of the themes explored – such as male insecurity, disinformation, and learning to escape the clutches of cult-like hysteria – I can see why the people involved cared so much to bring this to the screen. There’s some worthwhile stuff here, and when it takes time to embrace the small moments, it can really work. But everything else outside of those moments and the dedicated cast who are really trying to do what they can to give this thing some heft, there is just nothing at all worth connecting to here, with either tired YA tropes being recycled or just a severe lack of energy and momentum. The studio isn’t likely to make their massive budget back from this, which there won’t likely be more, so unless you want to watch something that will constantly remind you of how great it could’ve been, I suggest you keep walking.

Source:
JoBlo.com

Tom & Jerry (Film Review)

Movie News

Tom & Jerry (Film Review)
Tom & Jerry (Film Review)

February 26, 2021 by: Matt Rooney

3
10

PLOT: Iconic cartoon rivals Tom & Jerry are back in a new movie, bringing their brand of cartoon chaos to a lavish New York hotel on the eve of a very important wedding. 

REVIEW: Tom and Jerry are iconic, timeless “frenemies” for several reasons, chief among them that their rivalry is so simple. Tom is a cat, Jerry is a mouse, and as hard as Tom tries to catch Jerry, the mouse is far too clever and makes the cat look like a fool. As a cartoon, it makes for perfect slapstick that easily stands the test of time. Where the formula starts to implode is when you take that very direct premise, blow it up into an unreasonable 100 minutes, factor in an ensemble of useless humans who do more to hurt Tom & Jerry’s classic dynamic than add to it, and scatter them all across a story that just makes you wish you could get back to the cartoon hijinks. The result? A family film about as headache-inducing as watching an actual cat and mouse tear through your home.

Leaping out of the all-cartoon realm, this updated take on Tom & Jerry keeps the characters looking like their classic animated selves but places them in our very real world. Reading that, you probably don’t need me to go any further, as you’re likely already fearing – as you well should – all the cinematic crimes the movie will commit. Less Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and more the onslaught of films like Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Smurfs, and even the Rocky and Bullwinkle movie, Tom & Jerry makes the mistake in believing that the key to keeping these characters relevant and fun for new and old audiences alike is to take them out of their very colorful cartoon world and placing them in our very bland and dirty real one. Worse yet, to also pair them alongside human characters so lacking in charm or humor you would forget their names if they didn’t have to wear nametags for their jobs.

 

 

Taking place in the thrilling location of a fancy New York hotel, Tom, a down-on-his-luck cat who dreams of being a famous piano player, and Jerry, an ambitious mouse who wants to live the big life in the city, are thrust into scenario after scenario of the combative hijinks they’ve done best for years, all so they can have a shot at living a life of comfort in said hotel. In the middle of it all, for some reason, is small-time con artist, Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz), who lies her way into an important job helping plan the hotel wedding between a hot, rich couple, Ben and Preeta (Colin Jost and Pallavi Sharda). This involves her teaming with Tom to get rid of Jerry (because who wants a lone mouse minding his own business in a hotel where rich people come?) and allowing chaos to ensue. Whatever creative decision led to the mesh of real and animated beyond wanting to do the bare minimum of making these characters feel modern is a mystery, but what this approach only achieves is making you wonder one thing from start to finish: Why is this a movie?

 

The premise – Tom and Jerry run amok in a hotel – is perfect for a several-minute segment in a series of cartoons, but for the movie, it’s a stretched out, mostly aimless exercise with a bevy of uninteresting humans having the impossible task of trying to pad it all out. Even the actors themselves seem to know they’re in the way, rushing through dialogue and letting jokes evaporate into thin air so the movie can get to what the people came for – elaborate pranks and shenanigans between a cartoon cat and mouse. When these moments of cartoon antics do get to play out do we get a sense of fun, with their back and forth offering up some old-school entertainment. Not every bit lands, and those usually are the result of the two (mostly Tom) having to deal with the limitations of a cartoon character interacting with the real world. However, when the effects do get kicked up a notch (like when Tom tries to sneak into the hotel via a clothing line in the middle of a thunderstorm), do we see the classic Tom & Jerry spirit come alive.

 

But as soon as the antics go, the humans come back in to ruin the fun. Moretz, who is normally great in much of what she’s given, has the impossible task of holding up so much of a movie where the only characters worth seeing are the cartoon cat and mouse. It’s a thankless role she’s in, and one that doesn’t even have the decency of being well-written, playing a sort of grifter with not much depth to her. We have little reason to like her until maybe the final 15 minutes, up until which she comes off as mostly a jerk. Michael Peña plays the overly-dedicated hotel higher-up, and luckily he’s talented enough in comedic roles to get some chuckles out of how seriously his character takes hotel event coordinating. Other funny people like Rob Delany (Deadpool 2) and Ken Jeong (a lot) are left stranded here, perhaps mercifully, knowing they don’t have as much responsibility in following up the real stars. 

 

 

Humans even manage to ruin the exploration of the movie’s ultimate theme – which is putting aside your grievances and embracing what makes you a team. Logic would dictate that would be explored with some sweetness among the title duo, but instead, it’s mostly via Ben and Preeta. Ben is a schmuck who is ruining the couple’s wedding, and Preeta seems to be regretting marrying him at all. It would be worth it to see the two learn to love each other again if only Jost and Sharda had any chemistry with each other during the good times. But they’re humans in a cat and mouse world, and like the rest of their kind, are of no value here. Director Tim Story doesn’t seem to know what to do with his cast except get them through the scenes without messing up lines, and the script from Kevin Costello does nothing to make those scenes worthwhile, losing grip on what depth there is even in Tom & Jerry themselves before the 10-minute mark. The idea was to do something with Tom & Jerry so the names don’t die with the incoming generation, and together, they’ve done the barest of the minimum amount.

 

But Tom & Jerry are not the only animals here. Every animal in this world is a cartoon and many are callbacks to the original cartoons. Some of them talk, others don’t, but mostly, humans both live with them comfortably but are completely taken by surprise by the destruction they can cause. You would think they would have found a way to prevent “animal tornadoes” by now, but no. While a lot of money and valuable artistry was poured into meshing the animated with the realistic, it mostly looks…misguided. Sometimes the effects look okay – mostly when Tom & Jerry are going at it – and other times they look wildly out of place against the numbing artificial light of the sets. Again, it all begs the question of why the money was spent on a forgettable movie and not at a shot at creating a re-vamped cartoon series. 

 

Of course, it seems nitpicky to go to town on a children’s film. But being a children’s film doesn’t give you the license to be terrible. Maybe with more innovative minds behind the scenes, this could’ve been great. A big, colorful world could’ve been created for these two classic characters to play in, but instead, they get New York on an uneventful Tuesday afternoon. My problem isn’t that it’s never funny; sometimes it can be. It’s just that when it’s not, it’s painfully dull and uninspired. Parents will get tired of the nostalgia after ten minutes, and kids will likely run to the other room when the cat and mouse aren’t on screen. This is a shocker because, clearly, if there’s anything that’s going to get young audiences to pay attention to the cartoon antics of Tom & Jerry, it’s the live-action supporting roles of Colin Jost and Ken Jeong.

Source:
JoBlo.com

Little Fish with Olivia Cooke & Jack O’Connell (Film Review)

Movie News

Little Fish with Olivia Cooke & Jack O’Connell (Film Review)
Little Fish with Olivia Cooke & Jack O’Connell (Film Review)

February 5, 2021 by: Matt Rooney

7
10

PLOT As a memory-erasing illness sweeps the planet, a husband (Jack O’Connell) and wife (Olivia Cooke) prepare for the time when they may forget each other forever.

REVIEW: If our lives on Earth are but a series of fleeting snapshots assembled to form everything we are, then our memory is the binding that holds it all together. Without it, it’s hard to imagine we’ve ever existed at all. The exploration of memory is not a strange concept for any artistic medium, and with the new movie LITTLE FISH, director Chad Hartigan and screenwriter Mattson Tomlin (working off the short story from Aja Gabel), use a semi-sci-fi romance story that doesn’t shy away from any of the story’s heartbreak and devastation to explore what it means to be – and be with –  someone who is losing everything that makes them the person you love, and how that little assortment of snapshots with them can encompass your whole world.

The story focuses on the romantic life of husband and wife, Jude and Emma (Jack O’Connell and Olivia Cooke), as they navigate a world increasingly afflicted with an illness that makes the sufferer lose all their memories. Called “Neuroinflammatory affliction,” or NIA, it affects people either all of a sudden, causing them to forget how to drive and crash a bus, or slowly over time as they forget the conversations that had minutes before, all before not recognizing the person laying in bed next to them. Looking at it from the outside, soon Jude begins to show signs of slipping away, and told primarily through Emma’s eyes and her narration, reciting words from the diary she’s keeping, the two begin to face a world where he will soon have no idea who she is.

A sharp contrast from his more light and breezy comedy Morris from America, Hartigan’s film can’t help but look like kinds of indie romances we’ve seen come and go on screen – with a softness in every frame and an intimacy in some of the camerawork to make it look like we’re watching a happy couple’s home videos. All queued up with Keegan DeWitt’s persistently ethereal score coming in at virtually any moment deemed heart-wrenching (which there are many), this style does work well in the movie’s favor, as the stitching together of Jude and Emma’s fondest memories play out like we’re stepping into their world, watching on the sidelines as these fleeting memories flash by. There’s a level of intimacy in the approach that highlights how each and every moment the two have together has been special, with the tragedy then deepening knowing what’s on the horizon for the couple.

Cooke and O’Connell have a warm chemistry, making each other laugh effortlessly, being at ease with each other in any moment, bringing to life two relatable characters who know they must make every second together count. Individually, their characters, and by extension their performances, bring something unique to the table, with Cooke’s Emma having to keep it together knowing what she’s fearing is inevitable, but not knowing how to confront it. “When your disaster is everyone’s disaster, how do you grieve?” she ponders in her journal. This line has a grander meaning in the current times we’re living in and can’t help but perfectly sum up the most heart-breaking aspect of her emotional journey. Cooke’s work is not dissimilar to her highly underrated work in Sound of Metal last year, which is in no way a bad thing, and indeed she’s as good here as there. O’Connell, too, does some of his best work yet, subtlety peeling back layers of Jude’s memory loss, trying desperately to recall the right details of his memories in hopes of keeping them alive for that much longer. To see the blows hit him when he believes so firmly that what he remembers, like his wedding day, played out exactly how he remembers it, only to realize the fragments are evaporating and the details entirely wrong, can be devasting thanks to the smallest, but no less impactful, facial cues from O’Connell.

The film Eternal Sunshine in the Spotless Mind will perhaps forever be the go-to for any movie dealing with memory and how we process relates to love and heartbreak, but Little Fish finds room to tell its own deeply romantic story about two relatable characters at its center. Even if the ultimate conclusion feels a bit rushed into for the sake of having a more hopeful ending (which is not un-welcome in a movie that can be quite weighty), the sheer intimacy of the direction and performances is absorbing enough to draw you into a story about memory, explored here as if it were a time machine that can give the past a sense of enormity and wonder. For that, some of the trappings of the indie romance can be forgiven, and indeed, by the end, you’ll be filled with a sudden desire to start keeping a journal of your own.

Source:
JoBlo.com