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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AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (transfer) review

These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015. Fun fact, this was my very first review, so… yeah, it sucks, but hey, I learned.

Honestly, I find it really hard to convey a proper feeling toward this movie. There’s so much that is better than the first film, and yet there is so much that is done worse, or is at least off-putting. Don’t get me wrong, ULTRON is by no means a bad movie, it’s very much worth the price of admission. I just feel like there’s so many head-scratching moments that the story feels disjointed.

Below is basically the summed up story of ULTRON. If you don’t want to know the story then skip the paragraph and head right into the review.

Starring: Robert Downey Jr. (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR [2016], THE JUDGE [2014], IRON MAN [2008], and upcoming films SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING [2017] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]), Chris Evans (GIFTED [2017], CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER? [2011], and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR), James Spader (THE HOMESMAN [2014], LINCOLN [2012], and TV show THE BLACKLIST), Elizabeth Olsen (I SAW THE LIGHT [2016], GODZILLA [2014], MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE [2011], and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR), Paul Bettany (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, PRIEST [2011], LEGION [2010], and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR), and so many more.

Written and directed by: Joss Whedon (MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING [2012], THE AVENGERS [2012], SERENITY [2005], and the upcoming BATGIRL, due out… who knows when). Composed by: Danny Elfman (FIFTY SHADES DARKER [2017], THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN [2016], and OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL [2013]) and Brian Tyler (THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS [2017], NOW YOU SEE ME 2 [2016], RAMBO [2008], and the upcoming THE MUMMY [2017]). Cinematography by: Ben Davis (DOCTOR STRANGE [2016], GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY [2014], SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS [2012], and the upcoming live-action remake, Disney’s DUMBO, due out… who knows when).

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

STORY (SUMMARY): The movie opens to the Avengers raiding a HYDRA base for Loki’s scepter. The Avengers are kicking ass, as they should be, and HYDRA sends out “the enhanced” (they aren’t mutants in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) Pietro “Quicksilver” and Wanda “Scarlett Witch” Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen respectively) to slow down the Avengers. Kinda works, no one dies, but Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) infiltrates the base and gets some seriously ****** up shit happen in his head, compliments of Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlett Witch. Tony starts hallucinating that the Avengers are dead and the Chitauri successfully invade Earth and it’s all his fault. Fearful of this outcome, he and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) try to create an artificial intelligent being, the Ultron program, in an effort to render the Avengers needless and the world protected by a bunch of Iron Men. The program isn’t successful at first and they join the going-away party for Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Funny this and funny that, Ultron (voiced by James Spader) eventually comes alive. JARVIS (voiced by Paul Bettany) tries to reason with Ultron, but baby-bot decides to go all homicidal and “kill” JARVIS. Ultron takes possession of the most messed up Iron Man suit and reveals himself to the Avengers and escapes. Ultron recruits Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch to join him in creating a better world without the Avengers. However, he wants to make himself stronger by creating a new body made with the same material as Captain America’s shield, vibranium, the toughest metal on Earth. The Avengers come to the same conclusion and meet up with Ultron and his gang and a fight ensues. Again, the Avengers are beaten, bad guys escape, but not before leaving Stark a fun going-away gift: Scarlett Witch ******* with the Hulk’s mind and unleashing him on a city full of civilians. Everyone else is out of commission, trying to snap out of Wanda’s mind-*******, leaving Tony to break out the incredibly awesome Hulkbuster and the two duke it out in a glorious 5-10 minutes, making this fight scene one of the most memorable in all of Marvel history. Anyway, heroes recover and find themselves in Hawkeye’s (Jeremy Renner) secret home in the middle of nowhere. The Avengers infight for a bit, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) makes an appearance to raise the spirits of the beaten heroes and the Avengers go for broke. Meanwhile, Ultron is almost done creating his new body and the Avengers come around to stop him. They steal the mostly complete body, the Avengers convince Wanda and Pietro to switch sides. However, Tony and Bruce want to use Ultron’s would-be-new body for their own purposes, but in a different fashion. This causes a moment of disagreement with the others, a little fighting, and the body wakes up. Turns out, JARVIS wasn’t completely killed by Ultron, and inhabits the body, creating a new character, the Vision (Paul Bettany). He rallies the Avengers and they get ready for one final assault against Ultron, who has amassed an enormous Ultron-army and pretty much the rest of the film is ass-kicking after ass-kicking. Ultron is destroyed, a character dies, and everyone goes their separate ways, and a new team of Avengers is implied, consisting of Wanda, Vision, War Machine (Don Cheadle), and Falcon (Anthony Mackie). The end.

REVIEW: I reiterate, ULTRON is not a bad movie by any stretch of the word. It’s entertaining, action-packed, funny as hell, and incredible performances on all fronts.

What I loved. The characters are well-represented once more. Downey Jr’s comic timing is pitch perfect as always, Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers is honest and lovably naive, Hemsworth is charming and adorable, Ruffalo is dorky, Scarlett Johannson’s Black Widow is kick ass, Renner is honest and wise, just as you might expect. The real question I had as far as performances go, how was Taylor-Johnson and Olsen as Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch? Well, despite how well Taylor-Johnson did with the material given to him, he was sadly a relative throw-away character; wasn’t overly crucial to the story, despite the purpose he serves later on. Olsen’s character was given a bit more development, hence making her a more interesting character, but her character was more or less under-utilized. Yes, because of Wanda, the events of ULTRON basically get kicked in. But that means she’s more of a plot-device, rather than a full-fledged character. A shame, given that Olsen is terrific and here’s hoping that the inevitable CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR brings more character to her (not likely if you know the story of CIVIL WAR from the comics). James Spader was, as expected, wonderful in his role. However, there’s two things about Ultron that I didn’t like. The first was that the trailer made Ultron out to be this sadistic, self-aware machine that twists everything good and uplifting about the world (“no strings on me” an implication of freedom), and makes it horrifying. So many people thought ULTRON would be a dark and gritty movie, but Ultron ended up being almost a carbon copy of Loki. He was funny. I didn’t agree with this choice in character. In every incarnation that I’ve seen Ultron in, he’s always been a self-aware machine with a cold attitude toward the Avengers and all life in general. Not a sarcastic, wise-cracker. Plus, his motives and methods are painfully one-dimensional: save the world by destroying it. Seriously? Another villian who wants to destroy everything? Come on, Whedon, you’re more imaginative than that! How much better would it be if Ultron didn’t want to destroy the world because it wouldn’t accomplish anything? Don’t lie to us, dude, destroying something isn’t saving it unless you have something DEEP to say to us that challenges the audience, which he didn’t do. On the flip side, it wouldn’t be better if his motives were to RULE the world either. Why would Ultron want responsibility? Ultron would have been a more interesting character if he kept his focus on the Avengers. What if he didn’t even want to destroy them, but instead turn the world against them by showing that the Avengers create just as much destruction as an invading alien army, making THEM out to be the bad guys? Of course, that’s just me. Honestly, I would have been much happier with the character if he just wasn’t funny.

I don’t have all the issues in the world with the story, but it all kind of swings back to the character Ultron himself. His idea for world peace is destroying it. Yay, good for you, bro. Way to be. But, as seems to be a trend lately in movies for me, there’s that one moment, or line, or scene that just ******* ruins everything. When the Avengers fight Ultron, Quicksilver, and Scarlett Witch, they have a tussle of words before they fight. Thor says something like, “if you truly believe in peace, then let us keep it.” Then Ultron says, “You’re confusing ‘peace’ with quiet.” Uh… dude, Ultron, I am a 26-year-old server working in a movie theater as a server. I never completed college and graduated high school by the skin of my teeth, so why am I the one that has to point out that by destroying the world YOU’D BE MAKING IT PRETTY DAMN QUIET AROUND HERE!!! Also, not a fan of the whole Black Widow-Hulk romance bits. I feel like it’s just there to throw in a pointless love-story to shift gears every once in awhile without actually serving a purpose to the overall story of ULTRON. I know the Avengers in the comics do have romances in their stories, but these movies are short and need to tell a story. A series of comics may have the time to spark a relationship and spend a few issues developing that, but these movies are another story. They have to depart from each other, tell their own stories, two hour movies like these just shouldn’t have the time to go into pointless romances.

But as many things that annoy me regarding Ultron, there’s just too much good to bring the film down completely. In fact, it holds it up quite nicely. The Hulk vs. Hulkbuster scene, amazing, the final fight against Ultron, so great because there’s such an emphasis on the Avengers actually running around saving people’s lives instead of going straight for the bad guy. Hawkeye shines as a quasi-mentor to Scarlett Witch and she becomes a bad-ass in her own right, the banter between characters, it all does it’s job well like you wouldn’t believe. Also, I’m more than ecstatic about Paul Bettany as Vision. He’s never seemed to have a long career of good movies under his belt (MORTDECAI, LEGION, TRANSCENDENCE) despite how wonderful an actor he himself is. I really hope the Marvel movies give him a solid character arc so we can really dive into Vision’s mind and showcase Bettany’s acting. Keep that ball rolling, guys.

Overall, this film is worth it. Oh yeah, is it worth it. But I can’t say that I love it. I really like it, compared to THE AVENGERS (2012) which I LOVED. If you’re a fan of Marvel, **** yeah, go see it.

A strong: 4/5

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