KIDNAP (quick) review

Finally! I can stop seeing this damned trailer.

If anyone frequents the cinemas even half as much as I do, then you’re probably somewhat passably familiar with this film’s existence, but no matter how much time went by, it was never released. As I understand it, KIDNAP has a bit of a shaky history, financially speaking. According to shadowandact.com, the film has been in the works since 2014 and was supposed to be released in 2015. But the distribution company Relativity Media filed for bankruptcy that year, meaning that the film couldn’t be released. Relativity has since reemerged, but still not quite out of the sticks. This movie was pushed back to a February 2016 release, but that got pushed to May… then that got pushed to December… only to be pushed back again to March 10 of 2017. Jesus, I’m frustrated just from writing this out. I can’t imagine how the cast and crew must be feeling. But GUESS FREAKIN’ WHAT?! When March 10 came around, guess whose alarm didn’t go off that day? You guessed it, KIDNAP wasn’t released as planned! What the actual story is behind that latest push, I have no idea, but my excuse of “oversleeping” is much more humorous.

Well, assuming that this movie is going to be released… which, if you’re reading this review, then it must have, what are my thoughts? Aside from “finally, I can stop seeing this trailer?” It… could be alright. On the one hand, if it doesn’t take itself too seriously and is just an action movie for suburban housewives to see a garden-variety middle-class mother go mama-bear on a bunch of assholes who kidnap her son, then this could at the very least be entertaining. On the other hand, if it takes itself a little too seriously, then it probably won’t be very good. Halle Berry hasn’t had the best track record in recent years. Sure, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014) is arguably the best X-Men movie, but not really because of her. In fact, her role was pretty small. Her last good movie was arguably X2: X-MEN UNITED (2003). Was her TV show EXTANT good? I never saw it. CLOUD ATLAS (2012)? Was she the reason it was well-received? THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE (2007)? Never heard of it. My point is, she’s more associated with MOVIE 43 (2013), NEW YEARS EVE (2011), and X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006), none of which were considered good. Though, I’m sure by comparison, LAST STAND is Shakespeare when stacked next to MOVIE 43. Who knows where KIDNAP is going to rank.

Well, let’s take a gander at the cast. I’ve already prattled on about Berry enough, who also produced the film, so… let’s go to support. We have Sage Correa (1 episode stints on TV shows UNCLE BUCK and LIFE IN PIECES), Lew Temple (DESIERTO [2016], THE LONE RANGER [2013], and TV show THE WALKING DEAD), and Chris McGinn (a bit role in TV show ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Luis Prieto, known for unknown projects. Writing the script, we have Knate Lee, who will be writing the upcoming film X-MEN: THE NEW MUTANTS (2018). Composing the score is Federico Jusid, known for EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS (2009 – translated: THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES). Finally, the cinematographer is Flavio Martínez Labiano, known for THE SHALLOWS (2016), NON-STOP (2014), and UNKNOWN (2011).

Overall, not excited for it, but… yeah, thank God I don’t have to see the trailer anymore.

This is my honest opinion of: KIDNAP

(SUMMARY)

Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) is a single mother trying to make ends meet and take care of her young son Frankie (Sage Correa). After work one day, she takes him to the local fair and have fun. However, things take a turn for the worst as she takes a phone call and finds that her son has been abducted. Seeing the kidnappers take him away, she begins to chase after them in her own car, refusing to give up on saving her son.

(QUICK REVIEW)

It’s not good. Four-ish years of trying to get it released and this is the result. By no means awful, but it’s not as good as it could have been.

The set-up is pretty obvious, leave your kid alone for a few minutes and he gets kidnapped. Go figure. I suppose the only refreshing thing is that this movie’s main selling point is that she’s constantly following the kidnappers. Still, a better movie about kidnapped kids would be PRISONERS (2013).

I think it’s nice to see that Karla doesn’t ever really give up, even when it’s obvious it’d be at a point where in any other movie she would. Instead, she’ll drive across a field and luckily end up on the right highway to continue her chase. So the movie is definitely loaded with conveniences. I do enjoy watching how the movie is smart enough to keep throwing obstacles in Karla’s way, like finding a cop who gets axed off, or increasingly low fuel, it’s not horribly structured. And Berry is trying her best to make this performance work and it works sometimes.

Sadly, there aren’t a ton of good things to talk about. Because there’s far too many over-the-top moments; driving in reverse on the freeway without even so much as a scratched up paint job, it’s a wonder why this movie didn’t go for a more fun route. With a structure similar to SPEED (1994), all that was missing was a charismatic actor to go with it. Don’t get me wrong, Berry is a great actress when given the right material, but I feel like her character would have worked better if she was a little more bad-ass. Instead, Karla is a little annoying because too much of her dialog is, “Oh god!” or “I’m coming, baby! I’ll never lose you, baby!” Hell, even the everywoman angle could have passably worked if the script was smart enough to take a page out of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015) and just have her act with her expressions. We know she’s a woman who will not give up getting her son, so constantly talking to herself out loud isn’t going to make her character seem more determined.

I also find the police terribly incapable at their jobs here. There is a series of intense car collisions happening and the cops keep either being stupid and put themselves in a situation to get killed, pull over the wrong cars over the radio, it’s shocking to see this shit play out the way it does.

Dialog that’s cringeworthy, stupid character decisions, and even subplots that go nowhere, it won’t be a shock if this movie isn’t received well or do well at the box office. It’s a shame because Berry’s had a rough few years cinematically. Here’s hoping that Kingsman 2 will give her more opportunities in the future. Not recommended. A rental at best.

My honest rating for KIDNAP: a weak 3/5

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THE NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE (quick) review

I blame you, parents of America. You could spot a good animation movie, so you had to take your kiddies to see something that will rot their brains and the rest of the world is punished as a result. The words I want to say, I can’t, because I don’t want to use foul language in my family-friendly film reviews. But just know that I’m thinking of the worst of the worst for y’all.

THE NUT JOB (2014) was a poorly animated film with some bad jokes and writing. I may not remember a whole ton of the bad humor, but it was a chore to sit through. I think the only thing I really appreciated was the mute blue rat. Since he had no voice actor, the animation was what made him work sometimes. Beyond that, it wasn’t a funny movie and serves to just shut your kids up for an hour and a half.

All this time, I had hoped that a sequel would never had been made, but nope, too much wishful thinking, I guess. I think it’s just me, but the animation looks… improved, but not by much. While I don’t think I’ll enjoy this movie, Mr. Feng the kung fu mouse I suspect will be the best part.

Well, here’s the voice talent. Starring, we have Will Arnett (LEGO BATMAN [2017], NINJA TURTLES 2 [2016], and MONSTERS VS. ALIENS [2009]), Katherine Heigl (UNFORGETTABLE [2017], NEW YEARS EVE [2011], and KNOCKED UP [2007]), Bobby Moynihan (THE BOOK OF HENRY [2017], THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS [2016], SISTERS [2015], and the upcoming TV revival series DUCKTALES [2017]), and Jackie Chan (KUNG FU PANDA 3 [2017], THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM [2008], RUSH HOUR [1998], and upcoming films THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE [2017] and THE FOREIGNER [2017]). In support, we also have Maya Rudolph (THE EMOJI MOVIE [2017], POPSTAR [2016], and IDIOCRACY [2006]) Isabela Moner (TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT [2017] and MIDDLE SCHOOL [2016]), Peter Stormare (JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 [2017], CONSTANTINE [2005], and THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK [1997]), and professional voice actors Tom Kenny (SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS [1999- ongoing], STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS [2008-2015], FOSTER HOME FOR IMAGINARY FRIENDS [2004-2009], and upcoming film SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS 3 [2019] and TV movie ROCKO’S MODERN LIFE: STATIC CLING [2018]), and Kari Wahlgren (DC animated film JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. TEEN TITANS [2016], video game INJUSTICE 2 [2017], and TV show RICK AND MORTY [2013- ongoing]).

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing is Cal Brunker, known for ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH (2013) and the upcoming THE NUT JOB 3 (2019). Co-writing alongside Brunker are Bob Barlen (ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH) and Scott Bindley (stuff I’ve never heard of). Finally, composing the score is Heitor Pereira, known for DESPICABLE ME 3 (2017), THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE (2016), CURIOUS GEORGE (2006), and upcoming animated films THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE 2 (2019) and SCOOBY (2020).

Overall, nope, not looking forward to this. Just please make Chan funny and I’ll be happy… er, enough.

(SUMMARY)

The Nut Shop is working out great for the animals, led by their hero Surly (voiced by Will Arnett). They’re fed and lead happy lives. There’s just one problem. Andy (voiced by Katherine Heigl) believes that the animals have grown too complacent and are losing their natural instincts and her attempts at reteaching them the ways of gathering and storing food in the wild keeps failing. But one fateful day, the Nut Shop explodes and their lazy days come crashing down and they have no choice but to relearn their instincts. Of course, that becomes complicated too when the city’s mayor Muldoon (voiced by Bobby Moynihan) wants to tear down the park in order to create his amusement park Libertyland. If the animals want to save their home, they must band together and fight for their home.

(QUICK REVIEW)

Ugh…

Here’s the improvements: slightly better animation (though not by much), a running gag with silencing Heigl from going into a song and dance, and Jackie Chan as a kung fu mouse, and by extension the rest of the mice. That’s about it.

Other than that, Surly is still an unlikable and selfish, Andie is flat and uninteresting, making their relationship highly questionable, the jokes are horrendously unfunny, the set-up terribly forced for no rhyme or reason, subplots that last a total of five minutes, and of course having to watch dogs vomit and then proceed to eat it made this an automatic hate for this movie.

I don’t have too much to say. Like I said, the kung fu army of mice was the best part of the movie, so I wouldn’t mind watching those scenes again, but as for the rest of the film, HARD pass. Make your kids wait for Disney’s COCO (2017) this November 22. There’s nothing to gain from watching this.

My honest rating for THE NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE: 2/5

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GOOD TIME (quick) review

Before seeing this movie, I didn’t think that much of it. Nothing really captivated me and I figured I’d be bored by it. Only saw its trailer once, but that was enough for me to say that this wouldn’t interest me much. But, me willing to give things a shot, I went in anyway. It’s so hard to say “no” sometimes.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Robert Pattinson, known for THE LOST CITY OF Z (2017), WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (2011), and HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE (2005). In support, we have co-director Benny Safdie (PERSON TO PERSON [2017]), Buddy Duress (PERSON TO PERSON), Taliah Webster (feature film debut; congrats, miss), Jennifer Jason Leigh (MORGAN [2016], ANOMALISA [2015], and THE MACHINIST [2004]), and Barkhad Abdi (THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY [2016], EYE IN THE SKY [2016], CAPTAIN PHILLIPS [2013], and the upcoming BLADE RUNNER 2049 [2017]).

Now for the crew. We have the Safdie brothers Benny and Josh, both have directed projects I’ve never heard of. Co-writing the script is Josh Safdie and Ronald Bronstein, both have written projects I’ve never heard of. Composer of the score is Daniel Lopatin, known for THE BLING RING (2013). Finally, the cinematographer is Sean Price Williams, known for a ton of stuff I’ve never heard of.

I wasn’t especially looking forward to this flick. It looked boring as hell. How did it hold up?

This is my honest opinion of: GOOD TIME

(SUMMARY)

Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) has an undying loyalty to his mentally handicapped brother, Nick (Benny Safdie). Connie is also a bank robber and ropes Nick into a heist. They leave with the money, but the bills get doused in paint and the two are on the run as the cops are hot on their trail. Though Connie gets away, Nick is taken to jail and Connie has to work up enough money to bail him out, or get him himself.

(QUICK REVIEW)

It’s not good. Not the worst, but I didn’t like it that much.

It opens fine enough, with a seemingly accurate portrayal of a mentally handicapped man, performed by Benny Safdie, as well as a good performance from Pattinson too as a misguided, but caring brother. In fact, I’ll just say this now, Pattinson is fantastic throughout the film. But it doesn’t take long for the movie to lose me. The first red flag was when the two of them rob a bank wearing black men masks (which looked damn convincing at first glance) and rob the teller with only notes telling her that they’re armed and not trigger any silent alarms. It’s all done quietly, but the entire time I’m wondering why she takes them at their word. I would have triggered that alarm on the down-low anyway. And finally, when they stupidly get the money they might as well have politely asked for, they soon find out that their bag of money had a hidden ink bomb. Why the piss fuck wouldn’t they suspect that?! Of course the bank would do that!

The rest of the film is an unfocused mess that I quickly found myself not caring about. Supposedly, Connie’s goals are to work enough cash to break his brother out. He knows he can’t get it because his girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has all of her credit cards frozen by her mom. He tries to break his brother out of the hospital after getting hurt getting caught, and brings him to another person’s house to call for help from his mom. There’s a scene of near-statutory rape (I don’t know how old Taliah Webster is, but Crystal says she’s sixteen), so a million kinds of ewwy, he finds out that he broke out the wrong guy and his name is Ray (Buddy Duress), who becomes the absolute most annoying character that I’ve ever had the misfortune of following in a movie. Worse than Jar Jar Binks. Yeah, I think he’s that bad. His dialog consists of nothing but, “I’m so fucked up, bro,” or “Come on, bro,” and it grated my mind like a mother fucker. To make matters worse, he’s a central character. That’s what ultimately lost me. Jesus, I’m getting a headache just thinking about it. I had hoped the annoying characters would end with Corey, Leigh’s character, but nope, we traded her for someone worse. We get a soul-crushingly long backstory about Ray, which concludes with a bag of stolen money that Connie wants to get from him, which ultimately goes nowhere and… I’m getting so angry just thinking about it.

What movie was everyone seeing?! Why is this getting critical praise from everyone?! 7.9/10 on IMDb (as of 8/15/2017)?! 91% on RottenTomatoes (as of 8/15/2017)?! What the hell did I miss?! This movie was a fucking load of shit! Like I said, Pattinson does somewhat save it, but with a majority of the characters being beyond irritating and a plot that gets unbelievably unfocused, I just wanted the movie to end. Not recommended. If you’re a fan of Pattinson, watch it as a rental, but it’s not really worth it even then.

My honest rating for GOOD TIME: 2/5

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WIND RIVER review

So… the dark and gritty adventures of Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch? Shut up and take my money! What is it about a snow setting that makes a movie look so damn appealing? Maybe it’s because I’m from suburban Los Angeles and snow is akin to the Loch Ness monster, or Atlantis… or the impeachment of an asshole President. I gotta say that this movie looks really good. The movie is toting around how it’s the same writer of SICARIO (2015) and HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016). I can’t claim to be in the same band wagon as everyone else who loved SICARIO, but I did really like HELL OR HIGH WATER. Whatever I feel for those movies, you can almost guarantee that this film is going to be incredibly well-written, slower-paced, but atmospheric as hell.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Jeremy Renner (THE HOUSE [2017], ARRIVAL [2016], MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION [2015], and upcoming Marvel’s AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018], and the as-of-yet titled or planned release-date sequel to his Jason Bourne film) and Elizabeth Olsen (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR [2016], GODZILLA [2014], MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE [2011], and upcoming films INGRID GOES WEST [2017] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR). In support, we have Graham Greene (THE SHACK [2017], Twilight Saga NEW MOON [2009], and DANCES WITH WOLVES [1990]), and possibly in a bit role, Jon Bernthal (BABY DRIVER [2017], THE ACCOUNTANT [2016], TV show THE WALKING DEAD, and upcoming Netflix TV show Marvel’s THE PUNISHER).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Taylor Sheridan. He’s only directed one poorly received horror film called VILE (2011), but he penned HELL OR HIGH WATER and SICARIO, and will be writing SICARIO sequel, SOLDADO (2017). Co-composing the score… and performing it?… are Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, both known for Netflix’s WAR MACHINE (2017), HELL OR HIGH WATER, and THE ROAD (2009). Finally, the cinematographer is Ben Richardson, known for TABLE 19 (2017), THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (2014), and BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (2012).

Overall, I’m curious. I won’t say it’s the movie of the week that I have to see, but it’s on the list of films that I will see.

This is my honest opinion of: WIND RIVER

(SUMMARY)

Set in Wyoming. Cory (Jeremy Renner) is a game hunter tasked with hunting a den of lions killing live-stock when he comes across the body of eighteen year old Natalie (Kelsey Asbille). The local police, headed by Sheriff Ben (Graham Greene), calls the FBI, who sends rookie agent Jane (Elizabeth Olsen). Cut off from any reinforcement and only a handful of officers to help with her investigation, she enlists Cory’s help to solve the case.

(REVIEW)

I think it’s best to point out a quick tidbit of information. In the beginning of the film, it’s stated that this is based on a true story. Don’t take it literal. Cory Lambert and Jane Banner are, in the context of this story, completely fictional, as is the victim, Natalie.

But make no mistake, while the movie is fictional, the events that it’s representing are absolutely not. While it’s not hard to look up this information online, I’ll save some clicking for you and give you a rundown. The Wind River reservation is real and it’s really in Wyoming. It’s also Wyoming’s only American Indian reservation. In this place, life expectancy is 49 years. Jesus Christ, humans are capable of living up to 120 years and in this place, they can’t even make it half way. This isn’t a sick accusation of weakness of course, but rather an acknowledgement of what life in this place is like. Drug addiction, poverty, an astoundingly broken justice system that makes you want to scream, blood pressure will only rise when you realize the Department of Justice determined that 84% of Native American women – and by extension Alaskan native women – experience violence and 56% experience sexual violence. Hell, the movie itself ends with a quote that will leave you sick to your stomach, “While missing person statistics are compiled for every other demographic, none exist for Native American women.”

Here’s a couple of links that really go into everything that I just said. Check them out if you’re interested.

http://www.refinery29.com/2017/08/166625/wind-river-review-indian-reservation-sex-crime-drugs

https://www.bustle.com/p/the-true-story-behind-wind-river-is-this-hidden-injustice-against-native-american-women-75304

This movie’s importance is more subtle than you might think. Leaving the theater, yeah, I thought it was a really good movie, but something about saying “it’s a really good movie” didn’t feel right. Usually, I attribute that to me lying to myself and as I write these reviews, I usually discover something about the movie that makes me go, “oh that’s what was bugging me,” or some such crap like that. It’s pretty rare to get a situation where I start to realize it’s actually better than I thought.

But as important as it is to talk about these things, let’s talk about the actual movie itself.

Once again, I usually don’t have an ear to spot this sort of thing, but I think I’m getting better at: sound design. Here’s what I mean. The intro to Cory is basically him sniping some wolves threatening the local farmers’ live-stock. It’s pretty atmospheric in the beginning, just the wolves looking at the sheep, or goats, or whatever they were, but then out of nowhere, you just hear this thunderous BOOM. Of course, there’s a blood splatter and then a camouflaged Renner appears, making me think if this was the Hawkeye performance that he thought he was signing up for in THE AVENGERS (2012). But it’s not just this scene. The brilliance of Sheridan, and by extension, the sound effects department, guns in this movie are scary. When they’re drawn, you know shit’s gonna get real, a very similar feel that SICARIO did extremely well. When a shootout begins, you feel that immediate adrenaline rush the characters must be feeling. Your blood pressure rises, your stress level goes haywire, and every bullet leaving the chamber is like an invisible force playing baseball with your chest. They’re all completely visceral moments loaded with tension and even fear. Especially in the end, you won’t know whether to cheer or scream for your own life.

The performances are fantastic. Renner delivers arguably his best performance since THE HURT LOCKER (2008). As Cory, you see this man’s determination to make sure that justice is served the best way that can be dished out in a desolate place like Wind River and wants to prevent a family from living with the exact same pain as he does. He’s a professional, deadly, the very definition of a man you don’t fuck with. This is definitely the best performance that I’ve seen out of Olsen, which is saying something because I think she’s great as Scarlet Witch in the Marvel films. Jane is clearly a rookie FBI agent who’s only in this situation because there was no one else closer to send in and she was in Vegas. Her intro scene is showing up in a standard thin-ass jacket, freezing her tits off, but what I love most about her character is how well-handled she is as a character. I can see a character like this, rookie agent who’s fighting everyone for control and doesn’t know the first thing about fuck all. They’ve existed before and they’re frustrating and hamper a movie like no one’s business. But that’s not Jane. She quickly learns to adapt and isn’t afraid to ask for help. She won’t hesitate to show force and isn’t incompetent in a fight, but also isn’t some trigger-happy nutcase. She’ll try to diffuse a situation, proving that she can be in control when it needs her to be.

Overall, this is a film dripping with chilling atmosphere, and I’m not just talking about the snowy weather. It’s a captivating movie that will make you dread what these characters will face next, but you can’t help keeping your eyes glued to see how they’ll get out of it. As amazingly executed as the film is, it’s even better knowing that it’s shining a light on an issue that Americans probably overlook too much, or not even know is a thing at all, making it a must-watch. If it isn’t obvious, I highly recommend this film.

My honest rating for WIND RIVER: 5/5

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COLUMBUS (2017) review

No real back story for how I came across this movie. I was just checking the weekly rounds of movies at my usual haunts, and saw this was going to be the flavor of the week. I honestly can’t say what the story is about. It looks like another one of those movies that’s supposed to be slower and smaller, just a little slice of what life is about and how it should be lived. Simple enough, I suppose, but something about this movie seems a little more sincere than something like A GHOST STORY (2017) and captivated me in its two and half minute trailer time. I guess it must be doing something right.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have John Cho (STAR TREK BEYOND [2016], HAROLD & KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE [2004], TV show FLASHFORWARD, and the as-of-yet-titled or announced release date, Star Trek sequel), Haley Lu Richardson (SPLIT [2017] and THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN [2016]), Parker Posey (CAFÉ SOCIETY [2016], SUPERMAN RETURNS [2006], JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS [2001], and the upcoming TV reboot LOST IN SPACE [2018]). In support, we have Rory Culkin (SCREAM 4 [2011], DOWN IN THE VALLEY [2005], and SIGNS [2002]) and the criminally not-as-famous-as-she-should-be Michelle Forbes (The Hunger Games MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 [2015], and TV shows TRUE BLOOD and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA).

Now for the crew. Writing, editing, and directing is Kogonada, making his feature film debut. Congrats, sir. Composing the score is Hammock. Any more crew members with single names working on this project, guys? Sure you don’t wanna throw in Madonna as a sound mixer or anything? Anywho, Hammock is also making his feature film debut. Also congrats, sir. Finally, the cinematographer is Elisha Christian, known for SAVE THE DATE (2012).

Overall, yeah, this could be a pretty solid film, so I’ll give it a shot.

This is my honest opinion of: COLUMBUS

(SUMMARY)

After is father falls ill, Jin (John Cho) visits Columbus, Indiana to keep watch over him in case he wakes up or passes away. Before long, he meets a young woman named Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), who has a deeply rooted passion for architecture and the two strike up a friendship as they learn about each other and their respective families.

(REVIEW)

I liked this a lot. A very introspective and soft movie for you poetic hearts out there.

I think the thing to keep in mind when viewing is that it’s a slow film. The focus is character building, so unless you’re a fan of Cho or have become a fan of Richardson like myself, then this might turn a lot of people off. But as far as all that goes, it’s a beautiful film. Cho plays Jin. He’s this guy who never quite saw eye-to-eye with his father who was a workaholic. It wasn’t anything dramatic, just a difference in opinions on life. But now that he’s looking after him while he’s on life support, he’s wrestling with his feelings about what the future holds for his father. He even goes on record to say that he might not even want his father to recover. I forget the particulars, and it’s certainly incredibly selfish and cruel of him to hope his father to die, and it’s not exactly something that makes you like Jin, but I keep in mind that he’s constantly conflicted about it. It’s not a definite spiteful hope. Okay, it’s spiteful, but it’s because all his life, Jin’s dad was pushing him in a direction he never wanted to go and their relationship had never quite patched up. He’s by no means a bad person. He’s just a guy trying to make his own way in the world without judgment from his family. Cho’s performance is laced with subtlety, arguably making this the best performance I’ve seen him deliver.

On the other side of the proverbial coin is Richardson as Casey. She’s this unbelievably bright and charming young girl with the potential up the wazoo. Unfortunately, we learn that her mother has suffered in the past and stays in Columbus to keep watch over her. She has an incredible passion for architecture, like Jin’s father. Character driven films aren’t always easily done. It’s way too easy to go for the extremes, like drunken father who beat his kid, or the rebellious son who thinks he’s going to be great, but is really just an entitled little shit, but that’s not what’s presented here. Everyone is just doing the best that they can with the hands that they’ve been dealt and that’s the best way to describe Casey. She’s had a rough few years, but she never lost her hunger for knowledge, nor her passion in the things that made her happy. But fear of the unknown and leaving behind all she’s ever known holds her back, even though she has the best of intentions in mind.

One of the best aspects that make Cho and Richardson great is the plentiful long takes. In many of the dialog scenes, there’s very few quick cuts, implying that the actors actually had to memorize their lines and the director was smart and kind enough to show off their talent. Hell, you could probably turn this into a stage play and it’d work just as beautifully. There’s other interesting details thrown in too. There’s small sequences where Jin is on the phone with someone and he’s speaking Korean. Thing is, there’s no subtitles. Yet, Cho’s delivery of his Korean lines are delivered so brilliantly that you don’t really care what he’s saying, but you can probably guess. His tone, his expressions, they all leave something to interpret. Hell, I’m pretty sure subtitles are only used once throughout the film and that was in the beginning. Pretty ballsy for a movie to do that. Respect, bro.

Side-stepping away from Cho and Richardson a bit is funny enough one of my favorite, yet brief characters in the movie, Culkin. Aside from how strikingly similar he looks to his child-star famous brother, Culkin was surprisingly really good. The guy’s obviously proven that he can act ever since he was a kid in SIGNS (2002). And like in that movie where he stole the show occasionally, he definitely does that here. Like Casey, Gabriel is a bookishly smart guy with possibly the hots for her. They have a charming relationship with each other as they bounce their intellect off of each other. A couple of scenes stand out. An old high school friend of Casey’s runs into her at the library where Casey works at and they start chatting. Her friend makes a comment about how guys in Columbus are weird or something and of course Gabriel overhears. Culkin’s comedic timing is absolutely priceless as he gives this glare that subtly whispers “bitch.”

There’s another scene where he and Casey are talking and they have a really poignant conversation that I think is the theme of the movie. He talks about this man and his son. The man is traditional and loves to read books and could read for hours, whereas his young son is more modern and loves video games and can play them for hours. The man tries to play the boy’s video game, but gets bored after only a few minutes. The boy tries to read a book, but gets bored as well. Initially, the man thought that the boy just had a short attention span. But then he flipped his idea around and thought that maybe that wasn’t accurate at all because if that were the case, how could the boy be playing video games for hours? It wasn’t a lack of focus, it was a lack of interest. Neither medium that the two tried provided an experience that they were looking for. Maybe the story of “attention versus interest” is obvious, but what I find brilliant is how well this is explored in the film and how well it pertains to Jin and his story arch.

While the film is wonderfully written, acted, and directed, there are a few things that I feel like go nowhere, or seemed odd. For one, I remember a weird bit where Casey is trying to get a hold of her mother, calling her at her work and what have you, but she never answers. We spend a few scenes with Casey playing private eye and trying to find out why she’s been avoiding her. This is left completely unresolved, wholly ignored later on in the movie, and is never referenced again. If so much time wasn’t devoted to these scenes and such emphasis on Casey worrying about her mom, I wouldn’t make a huge deal out of it, but… yeah, it was weird to have a subplot like that mean nothing. I’m also not sure what the significance was with Jin’s crush on his dad’s… wife? Assistant? It never really affected the story either in any meaningful way. It’s certainly alluded to, but it also doesn’t really go anywhere. Also, the movie was pretty obsessed with these far away shots; showing something at a distance. I’m sure it was supposed to say something and add to the poetry of the movie, but when characters are having a conversation, the cinematography would get in the way. I’d rather see the actors’ faces when they talk instead of a long-ass series of rows of library books.

But these are all very small problems to an otherwise extremely well-done movie. Pitch perfect acting, impressive direction and writing, it’s a great accomplishment for Kogonada. Here’s hoping to see a bigger project from him the future and to see what else he can do. I may not have a shot of vodka in front of me, but here’s to brilliant performances from both Cho and Richardson, and a second invisible shot to Culkin. For God’s sake boy, get some fame on you! Or… if this low-key “at your own pace” style works for you, then ignore me. Just be happy. It’s a pretty limited release, so I’m not sure how many theaters will be playing this, but I do give this is a recommendation. It’s a beautiful slice of life and shouldn’t be missed out.

My honest rating for COLUMBUS: a strong 4/5

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THE DARK TOWER review

Stephen King certainly is a hit or miss for a lot of people, isn’t he? At least, as far as his film adaptations are concerned. It seems like his most celebrated films are his non-horror films, like THE GREEN MILE (1999), STAND BY ME (1986), and my personal favorite film of all time, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994). That’s not to say there aren’t some standout horror films that are considered great, like THE SHINING (1980), CARRIE (1976), and MISERY (1990). Personally, I love THE MIST (2007), but most everything else is either ridiculed, or entertainingly bad, like CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984), MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986), and DREAMCATCHER (2003), to name a few.

Of course, I’ve never read any of his books. Not much of a reader. But that’s not to say that anything with King’s name on it isn’t going to pique my interest. It’s so fascinating to see his on-screen adaptations be so diverse in quality. To my understanding, his novel series, The Dark Tower, is what he himself considers to be his magnum opus. A series that links many of his past novels together into a multiverse type deal. I admit, that’s pretty interesting, and I’m curious to see just how much of that will be translated to the film.

So how do I feel about this movie? It looks… basic. Don’t hang me! But it kind of does. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of a darker, more serious version of LAST ACTION HERO (1993), a campy classic of the 90’s if you ask me. I can’t claim for certainty if the Schwarzenegger action romp is technically inspired by the novel series, but the similarities are there. A kid is an adventurer of sorts, one is an action movie junkie (ACTION HERO), the other is described as an adventure seeker (TOWER), and both get whisked away into a world not like his own, and meets up with a bad-ass mutha who’s at war with an asshole, and their conflict eventually carries them back to the real world of the kid, who probably gets himself into trouble more times than he really should. Hello!?I’m sure this movie is wildly different, but it might be a little too easy to make comparisons.

Well, here’s the on-screen talent. Starring, we have young Tom Taylor (known for TV shows I’ve never heard of), Idris Elba (THE JUNGLE BOOK [2016], PACIFIC RIM [2014], THOR [2011], and upcoming films THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US [2017] and Marvel’s THOR: RAGNAROK [2017]), and Matthew McConaughey (GOLD [2017], KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS [2016], and REIGN OF FIRE [2002]). In support, we have Jackie Earle Haley (THE BIRTH OF A NATION [2016], SHUTTER ISLAND [2010], WATCHMEN [2009], and the upcoming Robert Rodriguez film ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL [2018]), Abbey Lee (THE NEON DEMON [2016], GODS OF EGYPT [2016], and MAD MAX: FURY ROAD [2015]), and Katheryn Winnick (KILLERS [2010], and TV shows VIKINGS and BONES).

Now for the talent behind the scenes. Directing and co-writing is Nikolaj Arcel, known for A ROYAL AFFAIR (2012). Co-writing the script, making for a red flag total of four writers, we have Akiva Goldsman (RINGS [2017], THE 5TH WAVE [2016], I AM LEGEND [2007], and the upcoming DC film TITANS [2018]), Jeff Pinkner (THE 5TH WAVE, TV shows ZOO and FRINGE, and upcoming films JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2017] and Sony’s Marvel Spider-Man spin-off VENOM [2018]), and Anders Thomas Jensen (BROTHERS [2009]). Composing the score is Junkie XL, known for BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016), DEADPOOL (2016), DIVERGENT (2014), and upcoming video game adaptations SONIC THE HEDGEHOG (2018) and TOMB RAIDER (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Rasmus Videbæk, known for THE ROYAL AFFAIR.

Overall, I can’t say I’m super stoked, but I’m curious enough to want to see it.

This is my honest opinion of: THE DARK TOWER

(SUMMARY)

Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is a young boy who experiences visions of a man in black (Matthew McConaughey) who is trying to bring down a dark tower and destroy the world. Thing is, no one believes him and has been seeing therapists. But after his mother Laurie (Katheryn Winnick) feels that she has exhausted all of her options, she contacts a pair of people that will take him somewhere to get better. Believing these people, who bare striking similarities to those he’s seen in his visions, runs away to seek answers. He eventually comes to a house with a mysterious key code, punches in a set of numbers he’s been seeing and finds himself teleported to a world known as Mid-World, the world where the Dark Tower resides and has been terrorized by the man in black. His only protection: Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), who is the only one that Jake believes that can stop the man in black from destroying the tower.

(REVIEW)

For such hype, this movie is a letdown, but I’m not entirely sure if I was expecting anything amazing to begin with.

The setup is already confusing on its own. A series of opening text states that the Dark Tower is so powerful that it protects all the dimensions from the forces of darkness, but there’s a… what I can only assume to be a prophecy that states that there’s one child who’s mind can destroy it. That seems like a lame weakness, if you ask me. I mean, why? First off, why aren’t we done with this cliché of “chosen ones?” If a movie can start off drawing comparisons to STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999), then it’s not a great start to a film. This is only the first thirty seconds of the movie, mind you.

Then we jump to our Earth, Keystone Earth, as the film likes to call it for some reason, and we see that Jake has been drawing these visions that he’s been having for quite possibly quite some time because he has a therapist and his older brother is commenting that the therapy isn’t helping. And this is another big problem I have with movies like this: the victim of visions that goes around telling people the crazy things that he sees and expects them to believe him. This is such a tired trope too because no story that has ever existed with characters like this has ever had anyone believe them. Why would they? This is reality. We chock these things up to chemical imbalance for adults and bad dreams for kids. If Jake was in his single digit years, I might be more lenient toward his lack of common sense and understanding of human nature, but Jake is probably closer to being a teenager than a child. He’s gotta be able to distinguish what an adult would believe and not believe by now, and visions of a “man in black” and “people with fake skin,” that’s a hard pass on reality. Even the kids from the TV show STRANGER THINGS (2016 – ongoing) knew what to keep to themselves and they were definitely younger than Jake.

Even once things start coming to a head and the people with the fake skin enter his world and hunt him down at his home, he’s outrunning a grown-ass adult. A grown-ass adult that’s not even human and the punishment for failing the Man in Black is quite possibly death, so they’ve got all the motivation in the world to keep chasing him. But they don’t. He gets away. And to make matters even more outlandish, he manages to travel an unknown distance to a house that serves as a portal to Mid-World and this entire time, I’m wondering where the hell the police are. Surely the mother would have called the cops and there’d be an army of cops pulling over public transport after public transport looking for the squirt. He’s not a ninja. This shouldn’t have taken so long.

That’s probably the most obvious problem with the movie. It’s horribly written and we’re expected to suspend too much disbelief. But see, if this was taking place in the fictional fantasy world, this could make all the kind of sense it wants. But Keystone Earth is supposed to be our Earth. Physics, plausibility, you can’t chuck that into the wood-chipper with a cackling evil laugh. You have to ground these aspects in reality. Also, the villain. While I’ll go into the

But fine, you could argue this is nitpicking. Does the rest of the film hold up when Jake gets to Mid-World?

Nope! It does not! First of all, those people with the fake skin, they wear that shit even in Mid-World. Um… why? It makes sense in Keystone, obviously, but… why in Mid-World? Are these beings so ugly that even in a world where ugly is the norm they have to cover up? Seemed kinda silly to me. There’s also a scene, a little after Jake’s met Roland for the first time, and in their traveling, Jake references the Man in Black, to which Roland immediately grabs Jake by his shirt and threatens to drop him off a cliff if he’s a spy for him. Note, it’s literally just the name that sets him off. Not a prolonged conversation about him and Jake says something stupid and Roland takes it the wrong way, no, the mere mention of the name “man in black” throws him through the ringer. There’s even some weird shots too. Like, this movie was desperate to show that it’s connected to all of Stephen King’s stories. For example, Jake stumbles upon a ruin of some kind and he’s standing on a submerged-in-the-ground statue of a hand holding up balloons and a sign reading “Pennywise” from his story “It.” It’s like the cameraman and the editor knew that the sign was hard to read in pitch black lighting, so they held on to the shot for dear life. There’s even a demon that makes it’s way to our heroes and it really reminded me of that alien from STAR WARS: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002) that slashed Padmé’s back in the Geonosian arena scene.

And really? Walter? “The Man in Black” … the name that strikes fear into the hearts of all in the known realms… the man who killed all but one Gunslinger, a legendary order of warriors that numbered in the legions, and literally has the power to command people to die and they fall down dead… his real name… is Walter?

Walter.

SO SCARY!!!

Honestly, the rest of the film is uninteresting and almost boring because Mid-Guard doesn’t look all that spectacular. I’m sure the idea is to make it look like an apocalyptic wasteland, but it’s way too visually boring. The forest scene is about the closest we get, but everything else makes you wonder how this takes place in a fantasy land instead of Earth.

***SPOILERS***

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And even when it gets to Earth, almost nothing stands out either. In fact, I’m having a hard time recollecting what even happened. I know Jake finds out that his mom dies and he is eventually kidnapped by… Walter… which leads to a shootout to save Jake’s life.

Which now brings me to my final complaint. Why does Walter want to destroy the realms? Okay, some people are psychotic and seriously should have had a loving mommy to hold them, I get that. But if I understand the movie correctly, the forces of darkness sound like demons that aren’t even of the realms of the established universes. These forces are outside of what’s known. Is Walter one of these forces? Does he somehow think he can control these forces, or think he can survive their coming destruction? For that matter, who ever created this Dark Tower, what was it’s intention? It’s primary function is to protect the realms from each other and from these forces of darkness. So why have a weakness built into it that could destroy the thing completely?

So many questions, so little care.

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***END SPOILERS***

Is there anything redeemable about the movie?

Not… especially. Some of the action is ridiculous that it got a chuckle out of me, but I have no idea if I was giggling because of how stupid it was or… nah, it was pretty stupid. I suppose the actors aren’t all that bad all things considered and I do think Taylor was serviceable enough. He sure wouldn’t have been able to carry the film without Elba around, but he wasn’t bad. And up until learning that the Man in Black’s name was Walter, I thought McConaughey was decent. He had an intimidation about him that I enjoyed watching.

Overall, though, I think this movie is a dud. By no means the worst I’ve ever seen, but for a movie with such a background, a story that intersects all of King’s stories in some fashion and it doesn’t culminate into anything of any real substance. It’s like a perfectly crafted bullet trying to be shoved into a toy shotgun; it just doesn’t work on so many levels. The actors are trying and I hope this doesn’t ruin anyone’s careers, especially the younger actors, but if this was supposed to be a introduction to this universe, the access isn’t very universal. Hell, I’d be shocked if fans of the novels would get anything out of it. I don’t recommend this in theaters and I don’t really recommend it as a rental. It’s not overly long, not even two hours, but it might feel longer for some audiences.

My honest rating for THE DARK TOWER: a weak 3/5

 

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DETROIT review

Man, I really should have paid attention in history class. I assume it’s a racially charged film. No duh, 1967 white cops in a black neighborhood, that goes without saying. But I suppose what sets this film apart is the star-studded and fairly interesting cast. I’m mostly referring to Will Poulter, who seems like he’s playing a cop who is in charge, even though he looks like he’s in high school. No offense to the man of course, he’s twenty-four years old, but just the way his face is structured, I almost don’t buy him as someone giving orders. But it’s not like I’ve seen the film and for all I know, his performance overshadows his baby face. To be fair, he is a great actor, so I’m sure that’ll be the case.

Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we have John Boyega (THE CIRCLE [2017], STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS [2015], ATTACK THE BLOCK [2011], and upcoming films STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI [2017] and PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING [2018]), Will Poulter (THE REVENANT [2015], THE MAZE RUNNER [2014], and THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER [2010]), and Anthony Mackie (TRIPLE 9 [2016], CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER [2014], PAIN & GAIN [2013], and Marvel’s upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]). In support, we have Algee Smith (EARTH TO ECHO [2014]), Jacob Latimore (SLEIGHT [2017], COLLATERAL BEAUTY [2016], and THE MAZE RUNNER [2014]), Jack Reynor (FREE FIRE [2017], SING STREET [2016], TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION [2014], and the upcoming JUNGLE BOOK [2018]), John Krasinski (THE HOLLARS [2016], 13 HOURS [2016], TV show THE OFFICE, and upcoming TV show JACK RYAN), and Kaitlyn Dever (video game UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF’S END [2016], and TV shows LAST MAN STANDING and JUSTIFIED).

Now for the crew. Directing is Kathryn Bigelow, known for ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012), THE HURT LOCKER (2008), and POINT BREAK (1991). Penning the screenplay is Mark Boal, known for ZERO DARK THIRTY, THE HURT LOCKER, and IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH (2007). Composing the score is the always amazing James Newton Howard, known for FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (2016), THE HUNGER GAMES (2012), M. Night Shyamalan’s LADY IN THE WATER (2006), and the upcoming FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM 2 (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Barry Ackroyd, known for JASON BOURNE (2016), THE HURT LOCKER (2008), and UNITED 93 (2006).

Overall, yeah, this looks like it’s going to be good. Some great talent in front of and behind the camera, so I’m thinking we can expect a quality film here. Let me at it.

This is my honest opinion of: DETROIT

(SUMMARY)

Set in 1967 Detroit, Michigan. Racial tension between the black community and law-enforcement is at an all-time high and the city has become a war-zone, with officers gunning down black people in the streets for little to no cause and covering their tracks with lies and false evidence. Within the local Algiers Motel, a black teenager, fed up with the police and the mistreatment of black, fires a few blank rounds at the police to scare them, but the result is the police thinking it’s a sniper attack and the motel is raided and so ensues a night of humiliation, beatings, and murder.

(REVIEW)

I feel a little conflicted. It’s good, but I’m not sure just how good I feel about it. Definitely, the one thing I will say is don’t see it if you’re expecting a story with a happy ending. It’s not sad, or anything, but my buddy whom I saw it with said it best, “It’s depressing.”

I can’t say how long this review will be, but let’s see how I do.

First and foremost, the acting is spectacular. On the villainous side, Poulter threw me to the ground, shoved a pole in my back, and wiped the floor with me because he was so despicable, so fucking monstrous that he quite possibly stole the show. Not that I have a mind to catch on to “themes” of movies all the time, but one of them was just how low and depraved these men could get in this time period and what they managed to get away with. They will even take an act like praying, a symbolic gesture of peace, clarity, and hope, and use it to traumatize and horrify, forcing them to recite a prayer at the threat of death. And their behavior and attitude isn’t just reserved for the people of color. No, they’ll mistreat the white women too. It’s incredibly hard to watch. But the act of threatening alone isn’t enough if the victims aren’t scared out of their minds and boy howdy did I believe they were. Man, I hope shooting on that set that things were chill between everyone because even though it’s acting, I can see things getting out of hand and someone decking each other simply out of reaction, but I highly doubt that ever happened. Stories like Shia Lebeouf knocking out Tom Hardy are pretty isolated incidents. Either way, everyone did amazing and you could cut the fear in their eyes with a chainsaw and not make a scratch. If you wanted a real horror film to watch that features no monsters, this is well worth that experience.

I suppose another aspect that I can appreciate is the restraint that this movie had to not have Julie (Hannah Murray) or Karen (Dever) raped by the cops. While I’m sure that didn’t happen in the incident anyway, I can definitely see some studio big-wig trying to throw that “creative liberty” in there all in the name of “added dramatic effect.” You can’t convince me it hasn’t happened before. It sure looked like it was going to go that route what with the constant close-ups of the two women’s backsides and the animalistic men ogling over them. Hell, I was ready to rip my hair out after Julie’s clothes were ripped off. I was calling it, that’s where it was going to happen. But nope, the humiliation and the implication in the men’s eyes was more than enough, and honestly, a lot more effective.

Other than there being a great deal intensity and visceral stress and fear that you feel alongside the victims, there’s not a whole lot of praise to be spoken. It’s just holding a magnifying glass on an incident which perfectly captured the tension between two sides of a conflict and what the law was clearly there to protect at the time, and it wasn’t always its citizens.

Although, having done no real research, and certainly not having the resources that the crew had while putting this movie together, one element did bother the crap out of me. Carl (Jason Mitchell) used a pistol with blanks when he wanted to scare the cops. When the cops raid the place looking for the gun, they keep shouting for it, but… why don’t they explain that it’s not real, or didn’t have real bullets? They spent hours getting questioned and it’s like they honest to God didn’t know anything about a real gun. Is a real gun so indistinguishable from a fake one, or a real one with no real ammo? I don’t know, I grew up with paintball, airsoft, and cap guns, as well as watching a whole ton of action movies. I think I could tell the difference. These people, scared or not, really didn’t say anything?! Maybe this is a weird detail overlooked by the movie, but… yeah, that seemed off to me.

Overall, this movie isn’t for the feint of heart and it certainly shouldn’t be seen if you’re looking for a crowd pleaser. But it’s the 1960’s in one of the most crime-ridden cities in America, even to this day. This movie’s setting alone was an indication that a happy ending was never going to be in the cards. But it’s worth watching. It’s a powerful piece that will stay with you. I think a detail or two can be questioned, but it’s a good film. It’s no “must see” of the year, but if you have even a passing interest, I do recommend it.

My honest rating for DETROIT: 4/5

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