I love a movie like this because, in recommending it, the target audience is easy to figure out; fans of the featured actor. While my personal favourite is still probably 'My Name is Bruce' (featuring Bruce Campbell as himself), I have to say that this is a very close second. This one is for any one of us who has thrived on Nicolas Cage's extreme over-acting abilities over the years. It may not quite be Cage at his "Cage-iest", but it definitely satisfies the Cage-craving one will be looking for.
Nicolas Cage (as himself) is living a close-to-has-been life in Hollywood, being passed over for several roles, and constantly arguing with his alter-ego "Nicky" (who is the version of Cage we really wanna see). Nicky is essentially the younger side of him that gave him success, and torments him about being washed up. If that's not enough, his family life is also suffering due to years of emotional neglect, being constantly away from his now ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan) and, more importantly, daughter Addy (Lily Mo Sheen). This all leads to Cage planning on retirement, once and for all, in order to get his life together.
Cage's agent, Richard Fink (Neil Patrick Harris) offers him a deal of $1 million to head to Majorca in the Balearic Islands near Spain to be the guest of honour a billionaire Javi Gutierrez's (Pedro Pascal) birthday. The two eventually bond, especially over a shared love of movies, but soon Cage learns that he may be in over his head when CIA agents Vivian (Tiffany Haddish) and Martin (Ike Barinholtz) enter the scene, claiming that Javi is a wanted arms dealer, and responsible for the kidnapping of an anti-crime politician's daughter, Maria (Katrin Vankova).
Reluctantly, Cage decides to help the CIA despite his newfound friendship. In the meantime, however, he can't help but take Javi's ideas for a collaborative movie script into consideration. So it ends up being a bit of a rock-and-a-hard-place situation for Mr. Cage. As one would expect, it delivers just fine on Nick Cage being the Nick Cage we've come to love, and it's really cool to see him able to make fun of himself in various aspects of his life - like the idea of him being a film buff trying to share obscure movies like 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' with his teenage daughter. It's a fantastic feat of cinematic production for its time, but it's very clear that not everyone is gonna appreciate something like it these days.
There's really not much more to say about it. I'd break it down simply to recommending it to fans of Nicolas Cage, because that's the clear target audience. The film takes place in a "real-life" scenario, but it doesn't shy away from the over-the-top comedic action that we've come to love Nick Cage for these days. Again, there's plenty of his eccentricity to satisfy the sweet-tooth, and as a loose fan (I don't necessarily like him in everything I've seen him in, but love his extreme acting) I can honestly say that I had a lot of fun with it. I might further highly recommend seeing it with people who will appreciate the "Caginess" of it all.
Putting my cards on the table right away, DC has completely proved me wrong, and not for the first time. When the trailer first came out for this, my thoughts generally leaned towards it being another eventual failure because it felt too soon after "Batfleck" - especially with the release of the Snyder Cut just last year. It looked like "just another Batman movie", and I figured people weren't gonna care as much as they did with the 'Dark Knight' series.
On top of everything else, things in the DC Extended Universe feel ultimately confusing at this point. But with all that aside, this does act as a VERY good 'Batman' movie. I'm altogether kind of blown away with how thoroughly good this was in as much as it connected with various dark Bat Titles - not the least of which is an old favourite - 'The Long Halloween' (which I really should read through again). It also draws from further familiars like 'Year One' and 'Ego', and finally plays with Batman's detective side rather than his superhero/action side. Some prefer that action side, sure, but even with that in mind, this is something long overdue!
The film opens on Halloween night in Gotham City, where mayor Don Mitchell Jr. (Rupert Penry-Jones) is killed by a mystery man who calls himself "The Riddler" (???) in various messages (both video and written) left for Gotham's detectives and The Batman (Robert Pattinson), himself. Batman has been a vigilante at this point for about two years, working alongside Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright). Up until this point, it has mostly been on petty thug crimes, and there's a wonderful opening to this where we see how it all works; how Batman uses fear as a tool against the lawbreakers of the crime-ridden city.
As Batman continues his detective work with some help from his understandably concerned butler, Alfred (Andy Serkis), it sets him on a path in which he meets the likes of the Penguin (an unrecognizable Colin Farrell), Selina Kyle - better known as Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz) and at the top of everything, notorious mob boss, Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). The whole situation ends up being perhaps the most taxing event of his career so far, but little does he know that this Riddler character isn't exactly the only recent threat to the city of Gotham.
Now, when it comes to DC movies and my particular tastes, it can get a bit confusing. The DCEU is pretty dark, there's no question. But, much like with Marvel, I think some of it should be dark, but some of it light. But Batman has this limit for me. Personally speaking, I'm one of those guys who doesn't think Batman should be killing people (at least that we see on screen), and I don't think "Dark Batman" means "He should get away with killing". To some, it works, but for me, I just always knew there was a good way to do it without it needing to be on certain levels. I've always said they should look to the 'Arkham' games and stuff like that, and well... here we basically are!
One caption on a poster for this says "the Batman movie we've been waiting for!", and I think for a lot of fans like myself, that rings absolutely true. This really does remind me a lot of the 'Arkham' games when it comes to things like the film's atmosphere, and even Batman himself. Pattinson as Batman was something I was always convinced could work, but I have to admit that to some degree, he actually impressed. He will undoubtedly fall into the age-old debate of "who is the best Batman?" (Kevin Conroy). He takes a different, more intensely quiet and mysterious approach to the role, and it works quite well. The guy moves slowly at all times like a Jason Voorhees, but when he fights, he fights with the reflexes of a cat... bat.... well, you get the picture.
This one comes from Matt Reeves as well, which is almost immediately a good sign that the film is in good hands. This is the guy who gave us the last two titles of the new 'Planet of the Apes' trilogy, and 'Cloverfield', which may not be for everyone, but it's still one of the best concepts for a found footage film I've ever seen. According to sources, there are two sequels planned for this as well, and I really look forward to seeing where it can go. Just thinking of things like new takes on various villains in this universe - especially Scarecrow for yours truly has me super excited. So if you have the means to do so at this point in time, I highly recommend this as a big-screen venture. But get comfy, 'cause it's like, 3 hours long.
For those keeping track, 'Death on the Nile' is the sequel to 2017's 'Murder on the Orient Express'. This is an updated version of Agatha Christie's book, and it certainly looks as though we've got a pretty solid series in the making here. It's a remake of an old story, yes, but I daresay that a good murder mystery goes a long way these days (with True Crime being so incredibly popular). And why not bring back some classic material for today's generation? Poirot, no doubt, can show 'em how it's done.
The film opens with a bit of great detective Hercule Poirot's (Kenneth Branagh) history, in which we discover why he's got such an awesome mustache. It doesn't feel like it makes a whole lot of sense, but we also get a chance to see his innovation in the trenches and meet his lost love, Katherine (Susannah Fielding), which is admittedly interesting. Fast-forward to 1937, where the real story takes place, we catch up with the now mustachioed Poirot at a nightclub in London. There, Salome Otterbourne (Sophie Okonedo) performs while, very quickly, heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) steals the handsome Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) away from socialite Jacqueline "Jackie" de Bellefort (Emma Mackey).
Now that we have a good set-up, we eventually get to them all (somewhat coincidentally) on a cruise along the Nile River, six weeks later. Linnet and Simon are there on a honeymoon but appear to have been followed by a jealous Jackie. And while the main case seems incredibly plain, there's a boat full of all sorts of colourful characters who could be behind one particular murder. As one would imagine, it's all a big puzzle to solve, probably doesn't quite turn out as expected in the end, and the real charm of the movie is behind Poirot's character as opposed to the murder mystery aspect.
Now, truth be told, I'm terrible with murder mysteries like this, and tend to confuse fairly easily. I'm the kind of guy who blinks once and misses the entire plot to something like this, but I'm also not unable to find entertainment value in it. As mentioned before, I do find Poirot to be a rather charming character, the film has a mild sense of humour, but it's not altogether silly, and the cast of colourful characters is pretty solid. Among just some of the names included are Annette Bening, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French (who may be a little more obvious to us fans of British Humour), Russell Brand, Rose Leslie, and that's just naming a few.
I think it's safe to say that this will certainly be up other peoples' alleys more so than my own. But I say that very lightly because I was still entertained by this. There's really nothing I would point out as specifically bad about it, and I probably wouldn't mind checking it out again, it only to get a little more out of the story. I'll just say that if you're a fan of the classic murder mystery, this is well worth a watch - especially if you happened to be a fan of 'Murder on the Orient Express'. Poirot may not be any Sherlock Holmes, but I do have to admit that he's up there as one of the all-time great fictional detectives.
Theaters are once again closed near me, which means I'm resorting to searching online for new VOD releases. This one's available for rent right now for nice and cheap, and it makes for a pretty decent home invasion movie, if that's the kind of thing you're into. While there's really nothing about it that particularly stands out, it's really not bad for a simple, evening venture if you want a little thrill.
While competing for the Olympics, downhill skier, Sophie Scott (Skyler Davenport) is diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease that causes blindness, thus bringing her Olympic dreams to a screeching halt. She becomes pretty bitter about her situation, and gives up altogether, even though her friend, Cam (Keaton Kaplan), seems to really want to help her train for the Paralympics. I have to admit, one thing that brings the movie down for me is Sophie's character. She's blind, yes, but it's hard to feel sympathetic when she ends up being such a jerk.
Anyway, Sophie gets by, cat sitting for the wealthy and stealing things like priceless bottles of wine, to resell on the black market. She answers an ad, and just about goes about her regular criminal routine, but soon locks herself out of the house. After doing this, she contacts a service through an app called "See For Me", which allows the blind to connect with a seeing helper through video chat. In reality, there is something called "Be My Eyes" that works on a similar level. Soon, she's connected to Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy), and she manages to get back in. But little does she know, she's in for an interesting night.
Sophie is awoken by a break-in, calls 9-1-1, and is told that due to her remote location, response might take a while. Being stuck without sight, she contacts Kelly again. Kelly soon sees the predicament she's in before being disconnected, and as the film continues, she does everything she can to try to help Sophie from behind her computer. Meanwhile, the motivation for the break-in is nothing at all surprising - it's about money. Even the criminals themselves are clichés - Otis (George Tchortov), Ernie (Pascal Langdale) and Dave (Joe Pingue). I forget who's who, honestly, but basically, your leader, your tough guy, and your sensitive guy. They're also lead by a man named Rico (Kim Coates) who isn't there.
So, as one might imagine from a home invasion movie, a lot of it becomes Sophie trying to survive the night in this strange house, while blind, and being guided by someone (when they can connect) on the other end of a phone. This is a movie that's better reviewed than how I really feel about it though, so let's just get into some good. There are some intense moments, the concept is somewhat original (I'm sorry, but 'Silence of the Lambs' did something very similar with night vision goggles), and I do have to say that Kelly is a very likable character. But for me, the bad sort of outweighs the good here.
Now, when I say "bad", I don't actually mean it in the strongest sense of the word. But the film's problems for me include it being a seemingly very standard set-up, the criminals are incredibly bland, the hero isn't very likable, and I feel like it's full of clichéd moments. However, it's that same basicness that makes it what I mentioned in the beginning - "really not bad for a simple, evening venture if you want a little thrill". I get the feeling that others would like this just fine, and perhaps I've just seen too much of the same sort of thing - like your average demonic possession movie these days, home invasion stuff gets pretty predictable. But hey, that's just me. It's a nice and cheap rental right now, if you wanna check it out for yourself.
With some recent reviews, like 'In the Heights', I've mentioned that musicals seem to be something I've been getting more and more into as time goes on. As a result, I figured I'd check out a version of 'West Side Story' as envisioned by the one and only Steven Spielberg. With that, I should probably mention that 'West Side Story' (aka 'Romeo & Juliet') was never really a favourite story of mine. A classic in it's own right, just not really up my alley.
My hope was to go into this and get something from Spielberg's direction, or some kind of mind-blowing choreography. While these aspects are quite good here, I couldn't help but get the feeling that it's really just... 'West Side Story' again. I know, I know, what exactly do I want, right? I'll be kind enough to give the film some leeway on that. But I think the film's overall biggest strength (at least in my eyes) happens to also be its weakness, and it leaves me not quite knowing how to feel.
The story takes place in 1957 Manhattan, as we immediately see the turf war taking place between the Jets; a gang of white Americans, and the Sharks; a gang of Puerto Ricans. According to officer Krupke (Brian d'Arcy James) and Lt. Schrank (Corey Stoll), who break up a scuffle between the rival gangs, their war is pointless. The whole neighbourhood is about to be demolished in order to make way for the now famous Lincoln Center. However, none of this stops leader of the Jets, Riff (Mike Faist), from proposing a "rumble" to finally settle things.
This brings Riff to his out-on-parole friend, Tony (Ansel Elgort), who wishes to start a new life, living on the straight and narrow. Owner of a Puerto Rican general store, Valentina (Rita Moreno), helps Tony with getting his life back on track, and Tony doesn't find it hard to say "no" to the upcoming fight. Tony soon meets Maria (Rachel Zegler, in her pretty amazing film debut) and falls madly in love with her, but there's a catch - Maria happens to be the sister of the Sharks' leader, Bernardo (David Alvarez). Their forbidden love then leads to a collision course between the two gangs despite the fact that neither Tony nor Maria want any part of this fight.
It's the story of forbidden love we've seen many times before. It's probably safe to say that you get everything you expect from the story if you're at all familiar with either 'Romeo & Juliet' and/or 'West Side Story', which both have a variety of stage renditions as well as screen adaptations. I think that's part of why I didn't see this as anything entirely special as opposed to... basically everyone else. It's just something I've seen before, the songs aren't new or different (and probably shouldn't be, to be fair), and it was never a favourite to begin with.
But having said that, let me point out the good about this movie. I have to say, for as much as I didn't really care, there really was no "bad" to this. Sometimes a story just isn't for me, and that's something I can accept. For those who love the original musical (be it movie or stage), I really think you'll have a great time with this. Spielberg has always done a good job at capturing eras in time, and the 50s is definitely no exception (even if I didn't like 'Crystal Skull', the setting was still well done). It doesn't stop at the clothes or the cars either. There was something about this that made it feel like it's authentically from the 50s.
Going back to what I said about the film's biggest strength also being it's biggest weakness, it's a messed up situation. On one hand, it kind of sucks that there was nothing very new or different about this. But on the other hand, it's authenticity for the era is what gives the film most of it's charm. It is a lot like watching a stage musical as opposed to many other adaptations that go out of the way to make sure you know it's still a movie... like 'Cats'... Anyway, the bottom line is that if you are into this story at all, you should definitely check out Spielberg's rendition. But if you're like me, just know that it's something you've seen before, and try to appreciate the direction more than anything else.
Here we have our next dose of horror from director James Wan; the man who sent chills up our spines with the likes of 'Saw', 'Insidious', 'The Conjuring' and 'Fast & Furious 7' (although those chills were different). This was a title that, at least from my perspective, has been floating under the radar enough that I wasn't fully aware it existed until I was looking for something that would be released this week for review. The determining factor was, of course, Wan, himself. Speaking on a personal level, I am a fan. I feel like he's breathed a little bit of new into horror while maintaining a lot of that classic stuff we all know and love.
'Malignant' is another example of a relatively fresh take on a relatively old idea. One thing I will say right off the bat is that, speaking for myself, I found this to be entirely far too predictable. I wasn't entirely sure what the "Malignant" title was all about, but when things start going down in this, it's so easy to draw a conclusion. The mystery is in how this conclusion will play out - and let me just say, it's campy, and a bit reminiscent of a certain 'Simpsons' Halloween segment with hints of... 'Harry Potter' (you'll see what I mean by the end) and even at one point, kind of 'The Matrix'. I didn't think the film was altogether that great, but I can't deny that it was rather interesting in the way it all played out.
Things open back in the early 90s where Dr. Florence Weaver (Jacqueline McKenzie), Dr. Victor Fields (Christian Clemenson) and Dr. John Gregory (Amir AboulEla) treat a psychatric patient named Gabriel who, one day, runs amok, kills a handful of staff, and we discover that this is a kid who should probably be under the care of Professor Xavier. This young man has superpowers, which include manipulation of electricity, and the ability to broadcast his thoughts through speakers. Near the end of this almost 'Jurassic Park'-like opening, we get our first glimpse of Gabriel - some sort of terrible creature who the doctors are trying to subdue.
We fast-forward twenty-seven years where we meet a pregnant woman named Madison (Annabelle Wallis) who comes home to an abusive stereotype named Derek (Jake Abel). There's a fight, and he violently throws her head against the wall, prompting Madison to lock herself in the bedroom away from him for any amount of sleep. During sleep, she has a nightmare about a killer in the house, which may or may not have a sort of 'Elm Street'-like attachment to the real world. Without spoiling anything much, we find out soon enough. This eventually leads Madison down some strange rabbit hole where she learns some gritty details about her own past which could lead to solving a murder mystery that currently surrounds her life.
Altogether, I wouldn't claim this to be Wan's best film, but I might also suggest that Wan could be an acquired taste for most. 'Saw' for example is a series I find altogether hit or miss, but I personally see the first as a horror classic at this point - and that's the only one Wan did. I might also argue that he did the best of the 'Fast' movies with the seventh, and 'The Conjuring' might be the best "haunted house" series currently running. But this is all my opinion, and if anyone were to debate any of this, I wouldn't try too hard to hit back, because I totally get not liking his style just as well. But I do think if you're like me, and a fan (though admittedly not what you'd call die-hard), it's worth checking out. The twist ending will either make you cringe or smile, but if you're lucky, it could lead to both, as Wan's films tend to do.
'The Hitman's Bodyguard' was a movie that I found to be quite a bit of fun, and though not necessarily a great flick, it gave me laughs, and delivered more or less what I expected. I saw it based on the idea of Ryan Reynolds and Sam Jackson playing off each other, which is honestly still something that sounds kind of amazing. The overall result was more of a randomized giggle-fest than something that made me constantly laugh out loud. Its sequel, here, isn't really something I feel different about. They are a fun couple of movies, good for a laugh, but nothing about them is as knee-slappingly hilarious as one might feel it could be.
To recap the previous film, bodyguard Michael Bryce (Reynolds) is hired by an old flame to escort and protect a pro-assassin named Darius Kincaid (Jackson) so he can testify against a tyrant named Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), guilty of a share of unspeakable crimes. Kincaid and Bryce find themselves ducking and dodging Dukhovich's constant attacks, however, and the result ends up being a pretty witty sort of buddy cop film, without it really being a buddy cop film. It was a film not without its charm, something I'd watch again, but not something I'd rush to watch again. This is a touch different, but it's very much an excuse to get these characters back on screen again for those who want to see more of Reynolds being Reynolds and Jackson being Jackson (which, by the way, I am guilty of anyway, so no worries there).
As this one picks up, we meet up with Bryce, who is trying to retire from the bodyguarding game after the events of the last film. He speaks to his therapist who suggests a vacation, which, of course, he goes on. However, while on his vacation, he is interrupted by Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek) who finds him there, under the impression her husband, Darius, is in a lot of trouble, needing his help. After the rescue, and instead of that being the plot, the trio are caught by Interpol agent Bobby O'Neill (Frank Grillo), needing their help to find a terrorist named Aristotle Papadopoulos (Antonio Banderas), who is plotting against the European Union, wanting to bring down the European power grid and infrastructure. Mission follows, humour ensues, and it's not quite as good as the first.
Although I have a sort of bias towards both Reynolds and Jackson (I just love the guys as people, let alone a lot of the roles they play), much like the first film, I left this thinking it probably could have been better, but I'm also not turning my nose up at it. I got my fair share of giggles, it was more or less what I expected, and I don't really have any genuine complaints about it. The only thing that got a little bit under my skin was Selma Hayak's dialogue. They seem to go out of their way to make her the loud, vicious, no-shit-taking Mexican American stereotype. A lot of her humour has to do with how loud she is and how she pronounces things, and I know she can do much better. Reynolds and Jackson are pretty much what one would expect, but they don't manage to go as all out as they could have.
I would say I like the first one better, but to be honest, I could find myself bored one night and giving these a nice back-to-back viewing. It's the kind of movie I'm not excited to see again, but it would make for a mildly fun double feature. Something to watch if you're sick at home, or just plain bored with nothing to do. These are a couple of movies that I have a tough time recommending to just anyone, but I would probably argue that it's perfectly watchable for Reynolds and/or Jackson fans. I think a lot of critics frown on these titles, but I choose to go somewhat against the grain on this one. I didn't love it, and it wasn't without its fair share of problems, but I have to admit that I still enjoyed it for what it was.
Well folks, it has finally happened! Theaters are open again up here in Ontario, Canada, and I decided to make my return to the big screen with some mindless action. Despite the fact that this movie is the ninth chapter in an overall ridiculous franchise, this is going to get a little deeper than it probably should, on a personal level. But first, one must understand what going to the movies means to me. I'm typically there about once a week, but due to Covid, theaters have been closed, and I have been grounded. Before this, the last time I got to go was for 'New Mutants', almost a year ago.
Returning to the big screen with a movie like 'F9' was a friendly reminder of what the big screen experience was all about for yours truly. This kind of "throw-you-brain-away" action ride is exactly the type of thing the big screen was meant for. This series could be considered something of a present-day 'Die Hard' saga, complete with heavy, fast action, likable heroes and a whole lot of physics bending. I learned to throw reality out the window with these a long time ago, and this has to be, quite possibly, their best example of needing to do that yet. With these scenes, there was a lot of me laughing because for as stupid as they are, you can't help but think of them as part of the ride you're taking.
This chapter, however, does have an interesting balance to it as it opens in the past, portraying a younger Dominic Toretto (Vinnie Bennett) back in '89, where he and his brother, Jakob (Finn Cole) assist in the pit crew of their father, Jack's (JD Pardo) race. This is reflective to a story Dom tells in the first chapter, where he nearly beats a man to death for evidently crashing his dad's car, killing him. Fast-forward to the present, and Dom (Vin Diesel) has since retired from action, living with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and raising their son, little Brian (Isaac/Immanuel Holtane). Being typical of this kind of movie though, things cut right to the chase to pull Dom out of retirement.
Roman, Tej and Ramsey (Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris and Nathalie Emmanuel, respectively) pull up to Dom and Letty's peaceful existence to deliver the news that Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) has captured Cipher (Charlize Theron), but his plane was attacked by rogue agents only to crash-land in the fictional Montequinto. The deciding factor that puts Dom back in action is the realization that his brother, Jakob (John Cena) is involved. Without unfolding the whole story, however, things take off from there and we have the standard 'Fast' movie, starring pretty much literally everyone from the past. And the biting question everyone has is finally answered - yes, they do go to space in this movie.
I wouldn't go so far as to say that this is either the best or worst of the series, but I might suggest that it's probably the most interesting. It probably happened way before this, but with this chapter I definitely found that the series has totally come to terms with itself. This is less of a solid movie and more of a Saturday morning 'Fast & Furious' cartoon. I think that if you can go into these treating them as such, and never taking them seriously, you can have a really good time with them. This was no exception, and in fact is probably the cartooniest of all so far. They hit up space, the stunts are insane (you can't catch someone flying through the air on the hood of your car and have things be okay), and if you can't throw reality out the window with this, you're just plain doomed.
One thing that really stood out to me here, however, is that this was definitely one for the more solid fans of the franchise. They bring in so many characters from the past here that I had forgotten about some of them. So it might very well be worth doing a bit of homework on the series before going, whether that means going through all of the previous movies or just Googling a lot of the basics, it might be worth going through. Then again, if you're like me and just wanna buckle in and go for a ride without it really meaning much of anything other than fun, I say go for it. It's not what I'd call a good movie, but not a lot of these ever really are. But that does not mean you can't go back to the big screen after all this time and just have some fun with it.
As far as Batman stories go, I tend to claim 'The Long Halloween' as my personal favourite (or 'The Killing Joke' - its honestly kind of a coin-flip). I enjoy how grounded it is, focusing on more of a detective story than an action adventure, and it's a good source for letting some of Batman's lesser known foes into the spotlight, if only for a moment. As an example, we have Calendar Man (David Dastmalchian), who is a bit of a 'Hannibal Lecter' type in this. But it provides us with some of our old favourites as well.
Much like with 'The Dark Knight Returns', this one is split into two parts. This is one place I find DC kind of triumphs over Marvel with their animation. If they have a good, beloved story to tell, they will see to it that its told right. A two-parter allows for much more wiggle room. It tends to work out pretty well, and they have a good track record of providing us with some solid adaptations. There's a few bumps in the road, sure, but DC has a good way of not messing around with their darker animated stuff, and this is no exception. To be fair, I'm overdue for a re-read of this story, so there are a few places in the movie I'm not sure match up 100%. But as far as I can see, so far so good.
Things kick off on Halloween night, when Carmine "The Roman" Falcone's (Titus Welliver) nephew, Johnny Viti, is killed by a suspect who leaves behind a jack-o-lantern as a sort of calling card. GCPD Captain James Gordon (Billy Burke) calls for a meeting with DA, Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel), and Batman (Jensen Ackles), and has them look into the murder, bending, but not breaking any rules in the process. The trio find themselves pursuing a holiday killer they simply nickname "Holiday", who kills one holiday per month. One connection the victims seem to have is that they are all criminals. But who is offing them, why are they offing them, and why are they choosing holidays to do it?
As mentioned earlier, some of our old favourites are along for this ride. The big ones for this chapter are Catwoman (Naya Rivera), who's more of a helper this time around, and of course the good old Joker (Troy Baker). There is more to come though, as we'll get to see the likes of Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, and Poison Ivy coming into the picture, each in their own unique way. It's that part that I'm looking forward to a little bit more, but I definitely had a good time with this. It's a good look into the darker, more grounded side of Batman stories, and is one of the more classic tellings of how Two-Face becomes Two-Face (another thing to look forward to in 'Part 2'). So if you're a Two-Face fan, this is actually a good story. His role here is a very back-and-forth one where its hard to tell just what side he's on.
As far as the voice acting, the fact of the matter is that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill remain the best respective voices for Batman and Joker, respectively. Having said that, while Troy Baker still does a great job here as Joker (not for the first time), Ackles does a somewhat surprisingly good job as Batman. When I learned about that casting, I was picturing Batman sounding like Dean from 'Supernatural'. He did the voice of Jason Todd in 'Under the Red Hood', but that seemed to just fit. As Batman, it was a pleasant surprise, and he actually does have a bit of a Conroy edge to his voice here. That aside, between the mystery and intrigue, this is a bit more of a unique Batman story, matching a tone a little more with the 'Arkham' series of games as opposed to the Animated Series. It's definitely solid, but really, it just got me excited to see what they will do with the second half of the story.
Here we have the latest film from director, Guy Ritchie; the man responsible for a couple of titles I consider classics - 'Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels' and 'Snatch' as well as Robert Downey Jr's 'Sherlock Holmes' movies (the first of which was far superior). He's a bit of a hit and miss director in my eyes, a lot of the time I tend to meet his films in the middle, and this is such a good example of one of his most middle-ground movies to me.
The film flows a bit like 'Pulp Fiction' in as much as it's divided into four parts, all surrounding one particular event - the armed robbery of an armoured truck, killing two guards and a civilian. Five months later, we meet our mystery man lead, Patrick Hill, or more commonly, "H" (Jason Statham), who applies for a guard job at Fortico Security (the company we see get robbed in the beginning). His superior, Terry (Eddie Marsan) mentions the robbery, and warns him of the conditions of the job while the age-old cliche of H's new co-workers ripping on the new guy plays on. Among them, "Bullet" (Holt McCallany), who's responsible for showing him the new guy the ropes; the cocky guy who decidedly hates the new guy, "Boy Sweat" Dave (Josh Hartnett), and Dana (Niamh Algar) the token woman whose sole purpose is to emasculate all of the men.
In the midst of a training pickup, Bullet is taken hostage, but H manages to rescue him showing phenomenal skill that suggests he held back during his training. As the film unfolds, we get to learn about just why H has become a part of the armoured trucks team when he's clearly overqualified. The result is basically a revenge film that offers a twist here, a turn there, and leaves you guessing about things along the way. The overall execution can get a bit confusing at points, however, and while the idea is pretty cool, it's still another revenge film, and I feel like I've seen better - even this year with 'Nobody'. I still enjoyed myself, but this is another case where I feel there's simply better material out there.
I think if you're a Statham fan, this is a good time, especially since he's back to playing a strong silent type. Speaking for myself, this felt like a good example of another video game movie that isn't officially a video game movie. A lot of that isn't even about the action of it all so much as the way the characters interact. The whole opening locker room scene made me think of any game where you play the silent rookie, interacting with various people in the main hub before going on your mission. A lot of that is the dialogue, which I have to admit, I found pretty corny. I don't know if my description does it justice, but check it out, and you'll probably grasp what I'm trying to get across.
This just happened to be an action flick that didn't entirely succeed on having my on the edge of my seat. This isn't like watching 'John Wick' where you watch the fighting with wide eyes and are somewhat blown away. This one's a touch more real-world about things, but it doesn't really do it with the same dose of comedy Ritchie's other films do. The comedy action is the real draw for me, but this was much more serious. While there's nothing wrong with that, I have to say I expected something else I didn't quite get. Still, it's not bad, and I wouldn't recommend avoiding it or anything either. If you wants some serious shoot-'em-up action with Statham behind the wheel, I say go for it. But I'll stick with Ritchie's other material.
Let me start this one out by saying that, as one might very well expect, this is really just another 'Saw' movie. You've got your gruesome, torturous traps, you've got your detective who finds himself at the ass-end of it all, and you've got your twist. I will forever consider the first 'Saw' movie the best of the bunch, followed very closely by the second - but from '3' on, it seems to become much more about the traps and how brutally they can make the audience wince.
With that said, I can respect the 'Saw' franchise to a degree in that they were the big new franchise to become an annual Halloween flick after 'Halloween'. Also, like 'Halloween', the franchise went from the proper Fall release to a Summer release, because box office. 'Halloween' did it with 'H20', and 'Saw' did it with... well, this. So kudos to 'Saw for at least outlasting a series like 'Halloween' in tradition. Anyway, after checking this one out, all I can say is that nothing at all is surprising, and you get what you get from the average 'Saw' movie. That's a franchise I dropped after '3', and still haven't seen anything else leading up to 'Jigsaw', which I managed to review somewhat half-assedly.
Anyway, plot-wise, this one brings in Detective Ezekiel "Zeke" Banks (Chris Rock); he gets the "renegade cop" role here, overshadowed by his father, Detective Marcus Banks (Samuel L. Jackson). He gets partnered with a rookie named William Schenk (Max Minghella) and the pair are sent to investigate a grizzly murder. Upon inspecting the scene of the crime, they find out that they are dealing with a Jigsaw copycat killer... again. This one seems to be out for cops, and is seeking some sort of twisted justice. The more Zeke goes down the rabbit hole, the closer he finds himself to the killer, thus potentially putting himself and people around him in danger. Honestly - it's just another 'Saw' movie, tackling a hot button issue in the only way 'Saw' can.
There are a few things to appreciate about this, but not very many. For one, the traps still do their jobs at making us wince, cringe, etc. so, if that's your deal, it works out pretty well - but there are also only a few of them. Of course, Chris Rock being Chris Rock, there are a few laughs here as well. The problem is, I just find Chris Rock really hard to take seriously as far as a role like this goes. I enjoy the guy, but I'm too used to him as a comedian at this point. I hear he does pretty good in 'Fargo', so maybe I should try that. But here, it's pretty much Chris Rock with an attitude, and he gives us a character that's kind of a tough one to route for.
As far as horror goes, this is a franchise I can respect, but it's not entirely for me. The whole torture porn thing just gets under my skin (no pun intended), and I tend to see it as a pretty cheap way to make audiences flinch. But at the very least, things can get creative in 'Saw', and I've always found it interesting that the kills are set-ups for the victim to either suffer horribly and live, or die because they failed their trap. The "killer" never actually does the killing. I've always found that to be the most intriguing twist to the Jigsaw killer, plus when Tobin Bell is on-screen, you can't help but like him as the next big deal in horror villainy.
For as intriguing as things could get (bearing in mind I still haven't seen 4-7), this just made me think of 'Jigsaw' a few years back in that it simply feels too little too late. For me, this is a matter of outdated material, and something that makes you wonder who was asking for it. That said, I've stumbled on the fact that this seems to be Part 9 of a 10-part series, so I guess this just has its handful of dedicated fans, and maybe it's something I don't entirely get. You've got to give it to them for lasting the way they have though, no matter how you feel. Thinking about the apparent, upcoming 'Saw X', it ought to be released in late October, 2024, giving the franchise a solid 20-year run and going back to its roots. Who knows? It could go back to being as good as the first two. But it definitely needs to be better than the last two.
If you know your Disney, Cruella De Vil can often be remembered as one of the most deplorable villains in the Disney animated library. I mean, her motivation was as simple as fashion, and she was willing to kill a bunch of adorable puppies just to make a coat. Unlike a lot of what Disney does with its live-action stuff nowadays, this is not a copy-paste job of '101 Dalmatians'. This is an origin story in which we see how Cruella De Vil became Cruella De Vil - the high class, vicious but fashionable snob who has no regard for puppy life.
As we open, we see Cruella's childhood. Her real name is Estella Miller (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland), and she lives with her mother, Catherine (Emily Beecham). Catherine gives Estella the nickname of "Cruella" due to her having a bit of a nasty streak. This nasty streak eventually gets her pulled from school with plans to move to London. On their way, they stop at a high class party, hosted by the awful Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson). They aren't allowed in, but Estella sneaks off for a peek at things. It is here that she sees all sorts of glamour and high fashion, and it immediately becomes a bit of an obsession. She, however, is found, chased out of the party by a few Dalmatians (thus giving her a bit of an instant hatred for them). While on the run, she evades the dogs, but the dogs end up knocking Catherine off a cliff to her death. So this is basically why Cruella is so heartless towards Dalmatians later in her life.
Now orphaned, Estella wanders, eventually meeting Jasper (Ziggy Gardner) and Horace (Joseph MacDonald), and the three begin their friendship as a handful of street urchins in London. They make their way by stealing, stealing and more stealing. Ten years of this life lead to Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) stealing Estella (Emma Stone) a very special gift; a job as a cleaner at Liberty Department Store; owned by the Baroness, it is the highest in quality fashion. The job ends up sucking, and Estella's knack for fashion one day leads her to drunkenly fix a window display one night. The Baroness sees it, and instead of punishing her for it, she offers her a job as her assistant. It's here that Estella notices her dead mother's valuable necklace around the Baroness' neck, and from here, it pretty much becomes a heist movie while Estella transforms into Cruella through the process.
Although this is a movie that has a lot to do with high society, fashion and the like (all of which I have next to no interest in at all), I have to admit that when it comes to live action Disney material, it's definitely a breath of fresh air. I really like that, for once, we have something very different. This is an original story that gives you some hints for '101 Dalmatians', but it's not just a remake. It's got the odd Easter egg here and there, and Emma Stone, I think, was the right way to go with casting. She is meant to be a more innocent character for a good chunk of this, and Emma has always been great at being likable - but she's also great at having fun with her roles. You can tell in this that she's having a blast with the transformation process, and when she gets to be full Cruella, she's really quite good. She even gets the cackle down.
All that said, it is true that I tend to love Emma Stone in whatever she's doing - not only is she gorgeous, but she's very flexible as an actress. She can sing, she can speak with an English accent (although sometimes her American comes through - she's no Robert Downy Jr.), she can laugh just as easily as cry, she's great. This is one role where we get a little bit of everything from her, and I'd probably take her rivalry with Emma Thompson as the highlight of the movie. Just two people trying to out-style each other. While Cruella's a bit more in your face and out to make a statement, the Baroness is this high class snob with little to no regard for human life, everyone's beneath her, and she feels she can't be outdone. What I love here is that Cruella actually intrigues the Baroness rather than just having her freak out and retaliate. It's a bit of a slow-burn rivalry they have. But I love it when the big baddie of the movie has respect for the... well, in this case, anti-hero.
This is another one of those titles I can definitely throw some respect to. My bias for Emma Stone aside, it's otherwise well-acted, has a surprising amount of heart, and it's just neat to see a Disney take on a heist movie. Really, Cruella is the perfect character to do something like that with. I do have a few beefs with the movie though, so don't think it's all praise coming from my end. For one, the CG is pretty awful when it does show up - namely one particular ending scene. Another is that some of the easter eggs are a bit heavy handed. At one point Cruella mentions Dalmations making a wonderful coat, but as a joke, and that was a bit of an eye-roller that felt crowbarred in. I also can't tell yet if my hatred of the Baroness is good or bad. She has to outdo Cruella, so the result is someone very, very easy to hate, especially if you despise snobbery as much as I do.
As decent as the movie was, and for as much praise as I give it over criticism, the one thing you should take away from this is the fact that the subject matter is something I couldn't care less about. While the heist aspect is cool, this largely has to do with fashion, high society and exclusivity. Speaking as someone who has very easily been turned away from various clubs because I wasn't wearing something as simple as dress shoes (meanwhile seeing a ton of running shoes waiting in line) I have a real beef with things like that. That's a lot of what this movie is, and the Baroness is just one of those characters I'd love to run down with a car. So this is one I have a lot of respect for as to what it is, but it's not something I intend on coming back to any time soon. Most definitely, others who are into fashion and the like will get much more out of it than I did. But it's still a nice change from the regular live-action Disney remakes!
By this point, this film has been around for a little while. But to be honest, it went right over my head, and things didn't really click for me until some people at work started talking about it. When people started comparing it to 'John Wick', and mentioned Bob Odenkirk as the lead, it was easy for me to be sold. Like watching 'Better Call Saul' if Saul was some kind of ex-military badass. Upon watching it, so far, it's one of my favourite movies of the year.
Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk) lives the life of an "everyman", with an average office job at a metal fabrication company. He lives in suburbia with his wife, Becca (Connie Nielsen) and two kids; teenage son, Blake (Gage Munroe) and loving little daughter, Abby (Paisley Cadorath). He does the every-day grind thing, and slowly it really starts getting to him, and he's about to be pushed over the edge. This is essentially achieved when, one night, two burglars break into their house and try to rob them at gunpoint. Hutch actually lets the perps go, and with that, word spreads about his actions despite his feelings that he made the right decision - especially based on what he could have done to them.
The following day, Hutch is the subject of ridicule from such close people as his son, his brother-in-law, Charlie (Billy MacLellan), and his neighbour, Jim (Paul Essiembre). Upon coming home from work, Abby mentions that she can't find her kitty cat bracelet. Hutch figures that since it was in the bowl of cash the burglars grabbed, it went with them, and thus is triggered Hutch's "snap event", sending him on a mission to retrieve his daughter's bracelet. Things escalate fairly quickly as we find out Hutch isn't exactly the family man we thought he was, and soon his rampage leads him to unknowingly brutally injuring the brother of a notorious Russian mob boss, Yulian Kuznetsov (Aleksey Serebryakov).
I tend to see this movie is as though 'John Wick' and 'Falling Down' had a baby with all of their best features. I love me a good revenge film, especially if it involves the "straw that broke the camel's back" situation. Here, it's a kitty cat bracelet, in 'John Wick', it's a puppy (though to be fair, that one's also incredibly relatable to most), and in 'Falling Down' it's really just a bad day for the wrong type of person. In other words, not typical "eye for an eye" revenge so much as that thing that pushes us over the edge. Every single one of us has faced some kind of God awful day, and movies like these allow us to live vicariously through these characters, in the legal safety of our own home. This could be compared to blowing off some steam while playing a good 3D shooter.
The only other thing I want to bring up are a couple of cast names I missed, who really help make this movie a fun time. Hutch's more immediate family consists of a couple more specially skilled characters; his father, David (Christopher Lloyd), and his half-brother, Harry (RZA). By far, Christopher Lloyd is the most fun part of this movie, and between this and another new one called 'Senior Moment', it's nice to see the 82-year-old actor not only still going, but having a lot of fun doing it. You can tell he had a blast in this, and it adds a healthy does of comedy to everything. Lastly, making an almost unrecognizable cameo here is Michael Ironside as Hutch's father-in-law. He's a bit of a true neutral character here, routing for Hutch but concerned all at once.
If you were ever a fan of 'Better Call Saul' (or enjoyed the character in 'Breaking Bad'), and you enjoy a good revenge film much along the lines of 'John Wick', then this is the movie for you right now. I had a hell of a lot of fun with it, and even watched it twice before landing on this review. It's a shame that it couldn't be a theatrical presentation for me, but even if you're stuck at home right now, it's a good one to cozy up to if you just want some senseless blood and gore with a more simplistic plot than 'Mortal Kombat'. It may have gone over my head back in March, but I'm glad that I caught up on it for this belated review. Maybe I'm a bit of a stand-alone here, but I really loved it!
What a strange week it has been for yours truly. 'Godzilla vs King Kong' was pushed back, so I had to seek out a different "Now Playing" review, not able to come up with much of anything too interesting. But then, I saw a trailer for this Apple TV Original (so perhaps a bit of a cheat) starring Tom Holland, and directed by the Russo Brothers. The trailer immediately grabbed my attention, as Holland looked like he was giving a tour de force, and so far, I only really know him as (arguably) the "best on-screen Spider-Man yet".
Luckily for us, we have Apple TV, because it was honestly the only thing I really wanted to check out this week - even if this review is technically running a couple of weeks late, being that it was released March 12th, and here we are almost two weeks later. Anyway, no matter, here I am now to give my pinion on what looks like it could be some award-winning material. As luck would have it, the performances throughout the film were pretty well what I expected, and more. Holland especially shines here, and shows that he has much more range than just being a smart-ass teenager with a super suit. As for a lot of the rest of the movie, well, let's just say it's not entirely without flaw.
We open things up with Cherry (Holland) robbing a bank, and taking us through the story of how exactly he got here. It all starts with a girl named Emily (Ciara Bravo) who he meets in college, and admits to us that at first, it's just lust. However, as things move forward, he falls for her hard, and their relationship becomes very strong despite a bit of hesitancy on Emily's part. She soon tells him, quite out of the blue, that she's leaving for school in Canada, and they would have to separate. In his devastation, Cherry joins the Army, but she comes back to tell him she's not going after all, putting him in an awkward position, having already joined up.
Cherry serves overseas for two years, and comes back with PTSD due to what he sees out there. Sure enough, Emily waited for him, but Cherry's PTSD and coping with various drugs eventually turn the couple into junkies, and the film sort of unfolds from there. It's a bit like taking a Nicolas Sparks movie and dirtying it up with some 'Breaking Bad'-ness - if you're familiar with 'Breaking Bad', the relationship these two have isn't exactly dissimilar to Jesse's and Jane's. Also, for the record, I've given away most of the movie already. It is split into parts, and the first whole hour and a bit are the war part of the movie followed by the drug part. It reminded me, in some ways, of 'Jarhead' in as much as it not having to really do with the war itself, but what the war did to the lead character - in this case, made a junkie out of him.
This is another one of those movies where the critics don't like it but a general audience certainly has the potential to. My only real criticism about the film is that I can see how it's quite formulaic in some ways - again, it really did make me think of the average Nicolas Sparks movie that has to do with a romance challenged because of war. But it also reminded me of just about any movie/show that has to do with becoming a heroin addict. I didn't personally find the whole ending of this predictable, but when it's all said and done, I could certainly see how one might. So, I think if you choose to check it out, you should be aware that you've probably seen something very similar. But this is an odd case where the story, at least for me, takes a back seat to these characters.
I found Tom Holland's performance quite convincing, and he really breaks out here, proving that he can do so much more. Bravo was good for what she had as well, but it's very easy not to like her character, and you do wonder what the hell Cherry is holding onto with her sometimes. I found this to be a pretty intense movie, emotionally, in many ways. Cherry is that guy you care for, and feel for, but at the same time, you want to set him straight. He's that dear friend you want to go down the right path instead of the path he's heading down. I didn't care nearly as much for Emily, but I also think there's a good reason they made her such a way.
Unfortunately for many, this IS an Apple TV exclusive, so hopefully other options will appear to eventually check this out if one doesn't have Apple TV. This is the problem with streaming taking things over - lack of accessibility to exclusives. It's like having an X-Box and wanting to play 'The Last of Us' because it's one of the best games ever created (humble opinion). But I can also say this is worth waiting for if you ever will be able to access it elsewhere. It's not a must-see now title, but I was entertained by what it was and moved by what it was saying, especially with Holland's performance. I sense big things for him, moving beyond the MCU.
Right off the bat, I'm going to have to confess that this review may not turn out to be my best. The fact of the matter is, this was not a movie that sucked me in, its ideas have been done before, but better, and it's just plain too long and boring for what it's trying to be. That's something I hate to admit to when Denzel is involved, as I consider him one of the finest actors in Hollywood, but it's sadly true. There is just nothing particularly special about this one.
It all opens in 1990 where we see a girl being chased. She manages to run towards an oncoming transport truck and flag it down, thus rescuing her from her pursuer. So we get that there's some creepy guy on the loose and our first victim isn't even a mood-setting victim. Fast-forward a bit to Kern County, LA, where deputy sheriff Joe "Deke" Deacon (Denzel Washington) is called to collect evidence for a recent murder. Deacon soon accompanies new lead detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) to a fresh murder scene, where he finds similarities between this murder and one he was unable to solve during his time as a former LA sheriff's detective.
Before long, the pair end up questioning one Albert Sparma (Jared Leto), a prime suspect in the murders who works at a repair shop. As the FBI starts to take things over, the detectives find themselves up against the clock even more so. Further to that, will they be able to solve these grizzly murder cases and find their killer without it affecting Deacon's performance? Or indeed, is Deacon the one we have to be worried about to begin with? The film is fairly reminiscent of 'Seven' and/or 'The Bone Collector' from my perspective - but also, from my perspective, both of those movies offer a lot more than this. While the aforementioned films consist of great suspense and disturbing imagery, this one tries, but manages it to a much lesser extent.
My final impressions of this one were simply that it felt too long for what it needed to do, I've seen better movies within the genre, and this is a lot more talking than anything else. There's not a whole lot here that gives you an "edge-of-your-seat" perspective, and I would say it would be worth waiting out the current rental cost so as to stream it for free. If you're into the whole dark and disturbing detective thing, it works okay, but I'd liken it more to a 3-part TV miniseries than a movie made for big screen appreciation. Though it has shadows of movies like 'Seven', there's nothing that stands out about it apart from perhaps the performances. That actually brings me to my next point, because I don't necessarily mean that in a good way.
In a movie with a cast that consists of Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto, the only one who really stands out is Rami Malek. Denzel seems to have taken a voluntary step down, and it feels like this might be a "paycheck" movie for the man. He's still charming as ever, but the writing has him sleepwalking through most of this. As for Leto, I think there's still too many shades of his Joker here, and that just turns me away altogether. He's always been incredibly hit-or-miss for me, and never truly a personal favorite. Malek, on the other hand, really seems to have come into his own after his portrayal of Freddie Mercury, and it's almost as if we're seeing Denzel pass the torch from solid A-lister to rookie A-lister. It's interesting, but you do kind of wonder how a movie starring Denzel does not have Denzel carrying it on his shoulders.
So, if you're super curious about this one, I'm not gonna sit here and try to steer you away from watching it. I would, however, encourage you to wait it out so that at the very least it might be less costly. In the days of the video store, this would be the equivalent of me suggesting renting it from the video store when it comes out, as opposed to paying to see it on the big screen. There's just nothing special about it that stands out, and despite its best efforts, it's just a bit of a snooze-fest. It may manage to capture someone else's attention better than mine, but this one is reserved for those who get a kick out of detective movies where the conversation takes a front seat, leaving the action and overall suspense in the back. It does hurt to give a Denzel Washington movie a poor rating, but I suppose these things are eventually bound to happen.
David Ayer is an interesting guy. For some reason, I can't seem to land on how I really feel about his films. On one hand, he wrote for movies like 'Training Day', and extended his writing to also direct great, gritty titles like 'End of Watch' and 'Fury'. On the other hand, 'Suicide Squad' provided my eyes and ears with the most God awful Joker I've ever seen in my life, and for me, the film only turned out okay at best. Sadly, this film makes the same cut as 'Suicide Squad' - okay at best. It's just a touch too typical for what it is, and there's nothing altogether surprising about it.
For those of you looking at the Shia LeBouf images associated with this film, under the impression that it's his movie, fair warning, it is not. The main focus of the film is a family man named David Cuevas (Bobby Soto). He works the life of a "Tax Collector", along with his friend "Creeper" (LeBouf). The pair work for a behind the scenes crime lord known as The Wizard, collecting his cuts from local gangs who owe him. Picture a Mexican 'Pulp Fiction' Jules and Vincent, but with the very white Shia LeBouf as one of them.
When The Wizard's former rival, Conejo (Jose Conejo Martin) comes back to L.A. from Mexico, however, David soon finds his whole world going topsy-turvy. As though the rivalry that upends Wizard's business isn't enough, David also finds himself desperate to protect his family; wife, Alexis (Cinthya Carmona) and kids, Casey (Aaliyah Samara Lopez) and Dillon (Ricardo Gonzalez). It's your average "owe money or get messed up" kind of movie, and not entirely new or different - but it is kinda neat to see the enforcers in a bit of danger. It's a take on the whole thing you don't often seem to get, but even with that, a lot of the film flows typically - that is until the last third where things really go off the deep end.
Despite some glaringly bad reviews, I can say with assurance that for those of you who enjoy violence, this one has some pretty solid gore. Some of it is filmed, such as the busting up of a leg with a hammer, and some of it is off-screen, such as a face being dragged down a road... well, kinda off-screen. It takes a while for it to get going, but if you're any kind of gore hound, there's some decent material here for you. I know I cringed a few times, so it's effective at being unsettling. It's one for the hardened movie-watcher.
As I mentioned at the beginning, this one makes the same cut as 'Suicide Squad' for me. There was a lot I didn't really care for, but there was still some thing I liked about it - mainly the offer of a different perspective on a rather typical set-up. The payoff here is pretty brutal, and you end up routing for David after a while, even if there's a few things that seem to blatantly tug on your heartstrings. David almost becomes too easy to empathize with, considering all of the horrible things he has to face.
I might say that this is another one of those films that may very well have been better off as a video game. Hell, there's even a scene where David straight up "GTA"s a guy and steals his truck. I honestly laughed so hard at how unexpected it was - for the record it's about 59 minutes in. Otherwise it's pretty reminiscent of a lot of Ayer's typical work. It's gritty, it's gorey, it takes place in the mean streets, it's ripe with solid cinematography, it's a hard R rating, and just plain tough. You need a bit of a stomach to get through it at some points, but as an overall, I might like it better than 'Suicide Squad', but it's no 'Fury' - still, in my opinion, Ayer's best work.
If you've ever been into raunchy teen movies in recent years, you're probably at least somewhat familiar with Clark Duke. He can first be spotted (at least with movies) in 'Superbad', crdited as "Party Teenager", but has since become better known for his roles in 'Sex Drive' and 'Hot Tub Time Machine'. I've always kind of enjoyed his characters, being altogether nerdy but charismatic, so when it came to this film, I was looking forward to checking out his directorial debut - especially with a relatively star-studded cast.
Kyle (Liam Hemsworth) is a drug dealer, working for a man he has never met before, known only as "Frog" (Vince Vaughn). He has been promoted to work wholesale in Arkansas, where he meets up with his assigned partner in crime, Swin (Duke). Eventually they find themselves working under the orders of Frog's representatives, Bright (John Malkovich) and Her (Vivica A. Fox), posing as junior park rangers by day, and trafficking under the cover of night. Swin also ends up complicating things by going against direct orders and taking up a relationship with a local named Johnna (Eden Brolin).
When one particular deal goes south, however, Kyle, Swin and Johnna all find themselves at Frog's mercy. Meanwhile, through some misunderstanding, Frog is actually mistaking the small group as a threat to his empire. Half of the film follows this story while the other half is focused on how Frog got to be in the head honcho position he's in now. The film jumps back and forth, and much like an episode of 'Breaking Bad', there's a lot of "This happened - now let me show you how we got there."
The film is perfectly solid for what it is, but its strengths are also its weaknesses. What I mean by this is that everything here is pretty derivative, and it sort of reflects a lot of the loose, casual crime movies of the 90s - which, by the way, are all quite a bit better. This is no comparison to 'Pulp Fiction' or 'Goodfellas', but it does share that type of mild but dark sense of humor. It's just that not a whole lot happens. It's mostly watching Frog get to where he is, while also watching two characters in the midst of something that isn't their fault.
If you're looking for a dark crime movie with a slight sense of humor right now, this is a pretty decent place to look. If I'm honest, given he performances in this movie that were all pretty good, I kinda wanna see what else Clark Duke can do. This one's based on the book of the same name by John Brandon, and you can tell Duke has a fun time directing some of these bigger names. It got me curious to hopefully see what kind of original stuff he can come up with in the future.
It won't win the best movie of the year, and it may be kinda slow-moving for some. But if you do have an appreciation for any sort of crime movie that has a laid-back tempo to it, this could very well fulfill your viewing desires for the time being. You're mostly gonna look at the performances here, as it's very character-driven. But if you come here for an edge of your seat story with plenty of action and edge of your seat moments, it's not exactly a gold mine. It's decent, but average. You may not love or hate it, but like me, deem it passable for what it is.
AKA 'Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Immancipation of One Harley Quinn', or, by the time I'm writing this, is now on IMDb as 'Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey', which is probably the most accurate title for the film, since it's far more a Harley Quinn film than a story about the Birds of Prey. But I digress. To be perfectly honest, I didn't have very high hopes for this. But I'm happy to say that I was mostly pleasantly surprised... mostly.
This one takes place after Harley (Margot Robbie) and the Joker (Sir not-appearing-in-this-film) break up, no doubt an extra effort on DC's part to ditch the God awful Jared Leto Joker (and to make it clear, Jared Leto is a fine actor, but his Joker is among one of the most screwed up characters in superhero movie history). In a fit of rage, and wanting closure on the subject, Harley does anything from adopt a Hyena from a black market pet shop (and name it Bruce) to blow up the Ace Chemicals factory, where the Joker "made her". So they keep the continuity from 'Suicide Squad'.
Word spreads fast that the breakup has happened, and Harley no longer has the Clown Prince of Crime protecting her. A lot of the fun through the movie is being introduced to a variety of characters that she's wronged in the past who are now hunting her down. Meanwhile, Harley is looking for a girl named Cassandra Cane (Ella Jay Basco) who apparently has a diamond that can access the bank accounts of the Bertinelli crime family.
After meeting the girl, Harley soon finds herself reluctantly protecting her (more as in protecting the diamond) from the twisted criminal, Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor - who is having a great time with his role) and his right hand man, Victor Zsaz (Chris Messina), who definitely lends himself to the film's R-rating. These two are also keeping track of a mob killer who is only referred to as "The Crossbow Killer", but we all know her better as Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and she's out for revenge after Sionis killed her whole family - The Bertinellis.
The other Birds of Prey come into it as Officer Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) who is investigating the mob killings, and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) who works for Sionis, but betrays him after she sees how far things can go in his club. I could deal with details all day, but yes, they eventually all cross paths and the title of the film does have some meaning - but it's definitely a Harley Quinn movie as opposed to a real team-up movie.
The whole thing is told from the perspective of Harley, and as you may have heard by this point, there is a bit of back and forth jumping. But I don't think it's enough to really confuse anyone. Speaking for myself, I was able to follow along pretty well. It's kinda fun having Harley tell the story, because it somewhat reflects her personality in all of its style. If I was to compare it to anything, I'd have to say that this is DC's answer to 'Deadpool'. It's R rated, can be brutally violent, but it's still more of a comedy than a superhero movie. In fact, I'd say this owes a lot to 'Deadpool' for paving the way. With the success of this and 'Joker', I daresay, DC might just be able to get something off the ground with R-rated films.
Anyway, for what this is, it's pretty cool. But I'm still not entirely loving it like so many others. I meet it halfway, enjoying the execution of the story and the film's overall style. But at the same time, there are some nitpicks that tend to irk me. The fight coreography was sometimes cool, but often strangely off. Pay attention to the fight scenes and watch how many people either wait their turn (prison scene) or just do nothing at all (car chase scene). It's not a first, but it's just something that makes no sense for what this is. Beyond that, I hate to say it, but Harley's narration can be a little bit grinding at times. But again, these are nitpicks. For the most part, the film is enjoyable. Just remember that it's not totally a Birds of Prey movie when you go check it out.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again - nowadays, there's at least one hidden gem that can be found within the deep, dark pit that is the January/February dumping zone. They tend balance it out with the high ranking Oscar stuff, saving big releases for the Summer and Holiday seasons.
Here we have a title that probably should have sucked, just based on what it is - a third title that no one was really asking for, cranked out 15+ years too late. Plenty have failed before, so why should this have been any different? But I'll be damned if they didn't grasp at our nostalgia and fully succeed.
Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) come speeding back into our lives, and we welcome them with open arms, not realizing how much we actually missed them - Mike ever confident in his driving skills, while Marcus reluctantly goes along for the ride, on the edge of vomiting all over that sleek interior. The perfect scene to snatch us back up after 17 years.
After a bit of fun chaos, we find out Marcus has a newborn grandchild, and during a celebration, Marcus mentions retirement. This pretty much goes against Mike's thoughts of being partners forever, representing their mantra - "we ride together, we die together, bad boys for life". Before they know it, their friendship is tested, when a case very personal to Mike pops up, and Marcus refuses to get back into things, and become the family man he wants to be.
There's actually quite a bit that happens in between all that, I'm not gonna lie, but this is one of those movies that's full of interesting surprises along the way. In its own way, even for a 'Bad Boys' movie, things get pretty deep here. It was actually a great film for developing both Mike and Marcus, as it peels back some never before seen layers to them.
In case you might be wondering about it being too Michael Bayish, not to worry. This one is directed by the fairly green team of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (here credited as Adil and Bilall). They must have been good fans, 'cause they did a bang up job here. There's just enough Bayishness, maintaining the fun, popcorn action movie that it should be. But it also tells a good story that moves things along with these two characters, as they start to deal with things like retirement, and family a little more than usual.
What more can I say? If you were a fan of the first two movies, you'll probably get something out of this. I might recommend rewatching them before going in, as well, just because of how things unfold here. I found it referring back to them more than I expected, and I hadn't watched either of them in years. I also think you'll get more out of Mike and Marcus' character development here, 'cause they do still play their respective characters very well. All in all, this was a pleasant surprise that I certainly did not see coming.
Let me start this one out by saying that I appear to be in a sort of minority when it comes to this film. It currently stands at a whopping 97% critic and 92% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and holds three Golden Globe nominations, including Best Motion Picture, Comedy/Musical. And do not get me wrong, it's totally enjoyable, I just don't find myself offering all that praise towards it. I liked it, I just didn't love it, and I feel like I've seen better this year.
With that said though, it's a nice, impressive feat for writer/director Rian Johnson, fresh off of 'Last Jedi', which clearly didn't go over very well with the horrendously toxic Star Wars audience. Good on him for making something he can take pride in. Despite me sort of going against the grain on this one, it's another case of perhaps just not personally being a member of the audience this was made for. Murder mystery movies were never really my thing, and if I'm perfectly honest, without spoiling anything, I just felt like all was revealed too quickly. It catches us off-guard, and becomes much more about cover-up than the mystery itself. We know what's up, but the characters don't. But that might also be what's so good about it - the untypical telling of a murder mystery, making it a mystery for the characters, but not for us.
Our basic plot here involves the discovery of a dead, but wealthy novelist named Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), found just after his 85th birthday party. Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is called to the scene to investigate and interrogate, but he's unaware of who hired him for the job (which kinda ends up being the bigger mystery for the audience than the murder). One by one, he interviews the family and house staff to find out the truth behind Harlan's death.
Among the all-star cast includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette and several others. Our main character here is Harlan's personal caretaker and dear friend, Marta (Ana de Armas) an interesting piece to the puzzle due to a condition in which she tosses her cookies if she lies. That was definitely something I found hard to take seriously, but upon taking a Google, it seems like it's plausible, just not probable. We do briefly get an explanation that it has something to do with a past event, but not much more. So we roll with it, especially as she's basically a human lie detector to herself, which is an interesting idea.
I think I appreciated the idea of a different execution for a mystery film like this. This had some interesting ideas, twists and turns, and it was neat that it gave us a parallel, and much more interesting mystery to the murder itself. The characters were all pretty solid, but I don't think any of them truly stood out to me as any kind of "favourite". Really and truly, the only character I genuinely liked was Marta, and even then, that's mostly 'cause she carried the weight of this movie on her shoulders.
There's plenty to appreciate here, but despite all my praise, I'm not entirely sure I fully appreciated the mystery switch-a-roo when I noticed it. With some time to sit and think about things, I have gained an appreciation for how it all unfolded, as they did something different, and this wasn't just and old fashioned who-dunnit story. Still though, I just can't seem to cross that line to loving it. It's just not the type of thing I gravitate towards, typically. But I do still highly recommend checking it out for yourself at some point, as your opinion may very well differ for the better. It seems that way with he vast majority, already.