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: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD (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

detroitposter

Advertisements

SLEIGHT review

Boy howdy is this movie getting some buzz. I mean, I don’t know the last low-budget indie film that was getting this raved about by critics, already claiming it to be the best superhero featuring a black hero. Jeez, guys. And yet, look at the early ratings from other sources. IMDb has it at a 5.4/10 (as of 4/26/2017), which is bad, and RottenTomatoes has it at a 58% (as of 4/26/2017), also not a good rating. So… who am I supposed to believe here?

The story looks like it’s about this street kid who performs magic tricks to earn a little money to get by and take of his little sister. But he gets involved with a bad crowd, it turns violent and deadly, and now he wants out. Turns out, his magic tricks may be super powers and he starts fighting back against those that threaten him. Were it not for the superhero angle, I’d swear this was another “from the ‘hood” story, so I personally am not super hyped for this.

Here’s the on screen talent. Starring, we have Jacob Latimore, known for COLLATERAL BEAUTY (2016), THE MAZE RUNNER (2014), and RIDE ALONG (2014). In support, we have Seychelle Gabriel (THE LAST AIRBENDER [2010] and TV shows SLEEPY HOLLOW and THE LEGEND OF KORRA), Dulé Hill (THE GUARDIAN [2006], and TV shows DOUBT and PSYCH), and Storm Reid (12 YEARS A SLAVE [2013] and TV shows CHICAGO P.D. and NCIS: LOS ANGELES).

Now for behind the scenes. Directing and co-writing is J.D. Dillard, known for short and unknown films. Dillard’s partner-in-pen is Alex Theurer, known for two episodes of INTERVENTION and short films. Composing the score is Charles Scott IV, making his feature-film debut. Congrats, sir. Finally, the cinematographer is Ed Wu, known for short films.

Overall, I can’t get behind the critics on this one and say that I’m hyped. I’m really not. I’ve one too many “from the ‘hood” stories that it just looks boring with a hint of pretentious. But maybe I’m wrong. I do love my superhero movies after all, so maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

This is my honest opinion of: SLEIGHT

(SUMMARY)

Bo (Jacob Latimore) is a nice kid. His parents passed away, but he’s doing what he can to take care of his little sister, Tina (Storm Reid). One way he makes money is through performing magic tricks on the streets. But unfortunately, he also does so by drug dealing for the local head honcho, Angelo (Dulé Hill). But as Angelo’s demands get Bo into more danger and asks him to do more harmful things, Bo is desperate to get out. After stealing drugs from Angelo, and Angelo finding out, Bo has to sell the drugs with interest: money Bo knows is a tall order. As the situation escalates, Bo needs to start making some hard decisions and possibly fight back.

(REVIEW)

Eh. It’s really not that special.

As previously mentioned, I’m not much of a fan of these types of stories. I could forgive it if the characters were at least interesting, but that’s not really what we have here. Don’t get me wrong, Latimore isn’t a bad actor here, but his character, Bo, is pretty dumb. First off, Bo didn’t sign up to hurt anyone. All he really does is sell drugs. He doesn’t carry a gun or any weapon on him. So why doesn’t he ever object to Angelo when he’s told to go on a stick-up? I’ll complain about Angelo in a minute, but I’m pretty sure that compared to Angelo’s other henchmen, who are brawny and psychotic, a nothing teenage kid doesn’t seem very imposing, nor would it be taken very seriously by his enemies. And a lot of the main conflict with the film is his fault when he steals drugs from Angelo. The man never gave me the impression that he doesn’t know how to look after his own shit, so why would Bo take that kind of risk? Desperation, I know, but that’s the story with every good-natured street kid who wants out of his shady employment, so he’s nothing new. So when things escalate and people he loves get threatened, I’m sitting here going, “Well yeah, you stupid shit, what did you think was going to happen?”

I promised complaints about Angelo, so let’s get to those. Despite that he’s a dude you clearly don’t want to screw with, I have a hard time believing that being the top drug hound in his neighborhood that he can’t afford more hired guns in his crew. I mean, from my memory, he’s got only two guys. You’d think he’d have more, or have the good sense to not bring in a kid with no experience in handling a gun, or really himself in a tight situation like that. It just seems silly and desperate, which strips away some of his imposing factor. He’s no Jack Nicholson from THE DEPARTED (2006), but he is saved by the fact that he is intimidating. I just won’t understand his need to arm a teenager on his missions.

None of the other characters fare much better. Holly (Seychelle Gabriel) is your generic romantic interest that supports him and Tina is the cute little girl who knows nothing of Bo’s activities. Again, she’s a goal for our hero, not a person with a clear-defined character.

How about the superhero elements? They seem a little out of place, actually. It’s entirely possible that this is one of those “suspense of disbelief” situations, but I couldn’t buy into any of what Bo was able to do. Some explanation. I had it wrong in my initial impressions from the trailer. I assumed that he did have superpowers, but used them to do magic tricks. I was very wrong. What he did was essentially put wires and a supercharged electromagnet in his arm, which allowed him to do the more impressive tricks, like moving chairs at a distance and making a metallic ring float without strings. We later discover that he was something of a genius in school, but due to his parents’ death, he had to drop out to take care of his sister. I don’t know about you, but I feel like the way they explain all this is both forced and a little too out there as far as execution of his “powers”.

I don’t think there’s much else to talk about. The movie, as a whole, isn’t wholly original, and there isn’t really a new spin on it that will stand the test of time. The actors are passable, even though their characters are bland or stupid, and the superhero toting is a little too out there for my taste to make sense, even in this established world. It’s not awful, but it’s not very good. I don’t recommend seeing it in theaters, or as a rental, but it’s not the worst investment of your time if you really want to see it.

My honest rating for SLEIGHT: a weak 3/5

Sleight-new-poster

COLLATERAL BEAUTY review

Oh boy… this movie.

Alright, so I would say like most people, this looked pretty good at first glance. I mean, Will Smith? Kate Winslet? Edward Norton? Helen Mirren? Kiera Knightley? This was a concentration of Oscar-winning (or nominated) talent. The story didn’t seem that bad either, the story of a man who loses his daughter, stops caring about everything, his friends try to help to no avail, and then the personified forces that binds people together come to him to help him find peace with his life. How could this possibly sound bad? It actually sounds pretty creative and moving, doesn’t it?

And then the reviews came out, and… it’s been getting worse than bad reviews. I won’t pretend to have read these reviews in depth, only getting a look at the ratings, but it seems universally panned by both movie-goers and critics.

But… but… Will Smith! Helen Mirren! Kate Winslet! Just… how??? No… no, all of you are wrong! There’s poetry that all of you are missing!! All you movie snobs and hoity toity GODFATHER lovers, you just can’t handle the raw emotions that is this movie has to have! That’s the explanation! And I’m going to prove every last one of you wrong!

Well… that cast, though. Everyone’s a fan of Smith. From his clean rap, to TV show FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR, to MEN IN BLACK (1997), BAD BOYS (1995), he’s an acting giant with popularity that practically defined a generation and continues to do so. Granted, it’s not like he’s done exclusively good movies, there’s some bad ones. MIB II (2002), WILD WILD WEST (1999), and AFTER EARTH (2013), we knew his feet were made of clay, but… it’s so rare that fans have to face that reality. Mirren… whatever you can say about Smith, Mirren is that on steroids. That’s not a jab at her age, it’s an acknowledgment of how timeless she’s become. She has an elegant presence in every performance that makes you pay attention. She’s about the best of the best actresses out there and her name on any movie, from EAGLE EYE (2016), to RED 2 (2013), to THE QUEEN (2006), you know you’re going to get a quality show from her. And Norton, who is notorious for being in only movies that challenge him as an actor, who is a perfectionist as an artist (making frequent appearances in “actors that are difficult to work with” lists). If Norton says yes to a script, then he’s seeing something worth being a part of. FIGHT CLUB (1999), AMERICAN HISTORY X (1998), BIRDMAN (2014), he’s got a rarer list of failures than even Smith. There’s too many names to go through, but I think everyone gets the point.

Now for behind the scenes. Directing is David Frankel, known for THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (2006), MARLEY AND ME (2008), and HOPE SPRINGS (2012). Writing the script is Alan Loeb, known for ROCK OF AGES (2012), JUST GO WITH IT (2011), and THE DILEMMA (2011). Composing the music is Theodore Shapiro, known for GHOSTBUSTERS (2016), TROPIC THUNDER (2008), and SPY (2015). Finally, the cinematographer is Maryse Alberti, known for THE WRESTLER (2008), CREED (2015), and THE VISIT (2015).

Overall… man, I don’t know what to think. I guess I’m about to find out. This is my God’s honest opinion of COLLATERAL BEAUTY.

(SUMMARY)

Howard (Will Smith) is a man whose young daughter tragically passed away and has detached himself from everything else around him. His friends and co-workers are concerned because the job they work at is in trouble. If a deal isn’t successful, then everyone will lose their jobs. In a desperate attempt to get Howard to snap out of it, they hire three actors to pose as Howard’s personified subjects that he sends letters to: love, death, and time.

(REVIEW)

Did you read my summary? Did you also watch the trailer to this movie? Did you suddenly feel like these were two different movies and the trailer looked like a better movie than the one I just described? Yeah, SO DID I!!! Holy shit, was this ever misleading. I mean… holy shit! What went wrong, you might ask? You can already piece one thing together. The trailer make the story out to be a subtle fantasy/drama. Almost a non-Christmas take on “A Christmas Carol,” with the three ghosts trying to cheer up Smith’s character about the death of his daughter. It’s actually not a bad premise. But what do we get instead? Let’s run through it all. Prepare for a rant because there’s so much to say.

Let’s start with Howard’s best friends, Wit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Peña). All three of these characters are unlikable. Wit is supposed to be Howard’s best friend, but he seems to be the most detached. There’s this whole thing that the company is about to go under, and that’s what he seems to be most concerned about. So in order to snap Howard out of his depression, he hatches that idea to hire actors to pose as these entities. This… is really messed up and insane. I mean, who would do something that insensitive? Are there business protocols put in place for situations like this? If the owner of a company isn’t mentally sound enough to run it, he has subordinates that take that responsibility. To have something so elaborate and borderline juvenile… what words can one possibly have? But more than that, he has a side story. Yeah, this douche bag has a life that the audience is supposed to care about. Well, to be fair, it is a sad one. Yeah… it’s so sad that he cheated on his wife with a younger woman, and when his emotionally hurt daughter, barely ten years old, makes it clear that she’s upset with him… it breaks your heart to see Wit so distraught… that he goes back to work completely unaffected by the events that transpired with his daughter. Just talking about it brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it? *SARCASM*

I suppose Claire and Simon are lesser offenders, but notice how I say “lesser.” They go along with Wit’s messed up plans and Claire even offers to pay the actors the full amount they ask for, which is like, what, some thousands of dollars for each actor? I don’t remember, it was an outrageous amount. She’s also written to be the one character that is most sympathetic to Howard, but when you are just as involved with these crazy plans, you lose all credibility. Being bland certainly doesn’t help. Next is Simon, who also has a side story. I won’t spoil this, though lord knows no one would really care, but do you notice another problem with this movie? Look how many side stories there are. The focus, from both the trailers and the opening minutes of the film, should be about Howard. But this movie is so desperate for emotional investment from the audience that they’ll give everyone sob stories that it actually becomes annoying. Worse, it’s unfocused. If this is supposed to be one of those multiple-stories type movies like LOVE ACTUALLY (2003) or CRASH (2004), then you can’t make it out like one character is the focus and then spend so much time on the secondary characters.

Now for the hired actors, Brigitte (Helen Mirren), Raffi (Jacob Latimore), and Amy (Keira Knightley). They’re despicable characters too. Brigitte is going alone with this whole thing because she sees it as a means of expanding her acting abilities. Yeah, not to help a man get over a terrible tragedy in his life (again, even if that were the motivations, it’s not an ideal means of going about it), but to showcase her talent. Yeah, so likable and relatable! Now for Amy. This movie was so close to having a good, solid character. When Wit has everyone gathered to talk about the specifics of his “screw with a man’s emotions” plan, Amy is the one character that is so disgusted with the notion that she actually walks out of the room.

1gg8qb

For the first time in this movie, I was so happy to see another person act like a real person. It was like the big man upstairs parted the clouds, reached down, and with the gentlest of hands, grabbed my shoulder, and whispered in my ear, “Everything will be okay. Keira will save this movie.” I suddenly felt safe… and hopeful.

And then… it takes the most magnificent swan dive from the top of the ugly tree and hits every Satan-blessed branch all the way down… finishing with a “perfect ten” face-plant into the rocky gravel below resulting in not a horribly disfigured diver, but a grotesque puddle of mush. Not only does money eventually sway Amy over to going along with this, but she even develops an unbearably forced romance with Wit. With… Wit. The most unlikable character of the three best friends, and she gets charmed by him.

1gg9j8

And Raffi? Um… first of all, who’s Jacob Latimore? When standing next to acting giant Mirren and wildly popular Knightley, Latimore is completely forgettable. No offense to the man (Apparently, he’s a singer. Sorry, I don’t listen to much music.). But as for the character… yeah, I think I remember him being another asshole. That was it. Considering how everyone in this movie is an asshole, I’d say being the forgotten asshole is a blessing.

But wait, I haven’t talk about Howard yet! Surly Smith is the true saving grace of this picture. Well… To be completely fair, the movie isn’t devoid of good acting. Even though the characters are horrendously written, the actors are trying their hardest to make it work, but that actually hurts the film and Smith is no exception. There’s this scene where he’s on the subway, and he snaps at Brigitte, who he thinks is death. But… the way he mocks his religious and philosophical findings at her is so awkward that it’s almost like his performance is supposed to be comical. Instead, it’s probably the most awkward performance Smith has ever delivered, and that’s saying something because I’ve seen both WILD WILD WEST and AFTER EARTH! At least his performances were consistent in those. Here, it’s baffling how inconsistent it is. But that doesn’t fully answer the question, is he the saving grace? No. He really isn’t because so much screen time is dedicated to the most unlikable characters in the film parading as Howard’s best friends. Even when he is on screen, he doesn’t get a line half the time. He just spends the majority of his scenes looking depressed. Hell, maybe at some point he knew this movie was going to be garbage and the director just didn’t bother trying to get him to feel anything else.

There are unfortunately people out there who have lost children, and this movie is almost saying, “screw you, the people around you matter more!” It lies and tells you that it has a heart and that it’ll make you feel, but this is far from the case. This film has no heart. It’s message is that it’s okay to lie to depressed people by making them feel crazy to force them to feel better about their downtrodden lives in order to make your own life easier, and even more sickeningly, profitable. That’s pure insanity. The more I think about this movie, the more insulting it gets. Fine, WILD WILD WEST is a failed comedy. Fine, AFTER EARTH is a failed sci-fi. Fine, MIB 2 is a failed sequel. Those happen. But what doesn’t happen is a movie that is supposed to have a strong and powerful message to give to the world, completely marinating it in poison, and gift-wrapping it to us thinking it knows a little something about humanity. Please, don’t see this movie. It’s rotten. Save your time, money, and gas. It’s not worth it.

My honest rating for COLLATERAL BEAUTY: 1/5

collateral-beauty_poster