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film reel image

Monday, July 15, 2024

Boneyard 2024 * * Stars

BARE BONE

Starring Mel Gibson (sort of), Curtis Jackson, and Brian Van Holt, 2024's Boneyard is one of those video on demand movies, where you watch it and realize it will never see the light of day via a high-end theater. That's not to say that it's awful but it does have Mel attached, and ever since the media caught whiff of Gibson's nasty phone calls to his bae more than a decade ago, well it's been streaming city for Mr. Riggs and his mighty mettle. 

Anyway Boneyard is directed by unknown Asif Akbar, a dude who's ambitious from the get-go but forgot to hire a capable editor and/or script supervisor to sift through this litter of a crime thriller. I mean Boneyard has a ton of subplots, lots of main and side characters that wander in, trite unnecessary camera angles, middling acting, and an ending that leaves the viewer sort of scratching their collective heads. Gibson's persona (FBI agent Petrovick), well he's barely in Boneyard, as he enters the film periodically like some long-lost puppy who's scheduled for feeding time. 

Note to producers: if you're gonna put "mad Mel" on a poster front and center, well you might wanna include him in a few more scenes and not fashion his kooky dick guise as purely actor filler. "You were looking for the boogeyman, instead focus on the regular guy just hiding in plain sight". We hear you Mel. Believe me we hear you.

Top billing, under-utilized trouper insertions aside, Boneyard's gist is as follows: a police officer and a member of the FBI try to find a psycho killer who loves to bury his skeletal remains in the realms of some remote, New Mexico desert. By the way, I got that description from Boneyard's vehicle wiki page. Otherwise I wouldn't fully be able to discern what the heck I was watching on the almighty Prime. Scrap "yard". 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, July 12, 2024

A Family Affair 2024 * 1/2 Stars

"YOU CAN'T CRY 'CAUSE YOU'LL LOOK BROKE DOWN"

2024's A Family Affair makes a little sense as a title. I mean if the word "family" is wholly defined as "like family" then yeah, why not. 

Anyway I've seen many romcoms in my day, and they all seem dated and passe because they use tropes of stuff that came before them. With A Family Affair, you have a younger dude (Zac Efron as movie star Chris Cole) getting with an older woman (Nicole Kidman as writer Brooke Harwood). And Cole's assistant (Joey King as Zara Ford), well she just happens to be the offspring of Brooke. And oh yeah, the whole shebang is connected to the ins and outs of glib "Hollyweird". I mean if I wanted to see 2017's Home Again with Reese Witherspoon again, I'd see 2017's Home Again with Reese Witherspoon (again). Yeesh!

So yeah, A Family Affair is not so much a romantic comedy as it is a bipolar, dramatis personae study of three people who'd probably be better off avoiding each other. I mean you've got the self-absorbed star trouper (Efron, who's perfectly cast here), the easily exploited author (Kidman's Brooke), and the whiny, underling daughter (King's Zara). They all have issues and well, with Carrie Solomon's cringe-inducing script inserted their scenes are a pretty rough watch. Oh I almost forgot, seeing Kidman and Efron's characters smooch in front of the statutory, Gary Marshall-prompted backdrop was like was watching some mortified, spin-the-bottle swipe. Again yeesh!

Now for kicks-and-giggles, did I hate A Family Affair? No. I mean movies are pretty hard to make and well, hate seems like too strong of a word to label anything. But did I dislike A Family Affair? Oh you darn Tootin. When two personas are wishy-washy about regularly hooking up and the twentysomething third wheel is even more wishy-washy about letting them consummate their passing ships interconnection, well that makes for a very injudicious viewing experience. Not all in this "family".  

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, July 8, 2024

On the Line 2022 * * 1/2 Stars

LINE OF DESCENT

2022's On the Line is directed by mostly TV guy, Romuald Boulanger. As a film about a shock jock who gets tormented by a psycho caller looking to kill his whole family, "Line" shows that Boulanger had a vision and that vision was to make an inferior version of 2021's The Guilty coupled with a better version of Oliver Stone's Talk Radio. Oh and helmer Boulanger also thought he'd throw in an ending to On the Line that was similar to David Fincher's thriller The Game. Uh, did you get all that?

Anyway "Line" takes place LA, with pretty much one set location and claustrophobic mischief to boot. Yeah it's a compact flick, starting off lean and mean with a solidly tense musical score from Clement Perin and first hour tightness that would make Antoine Fuqua sort of golf clap in the background. On the Line's star, well it's Mel Gibson as radio monger Elvis Cooney and for the most part, Mel's performance is fairly hyper and disciplined (in a good way). Gibson, well you don't see him much in theaters anymore but he's still appearing in any ready-made streaming service (take your pick). He's you know, hanging around cause the dude's got "alligator blood". Natch. 

So yeah, On the Line has decent acting, clean editing, and director Boulanger with limited holdings, trying to somewhat keep you guessing (until he doesn't). Now do I plan on recommending "Line?" Uh, not quite. The film would work better if it was more straightforward, a sort of stagecraft showcase for Gibson in the whole, "mild-mannered family man goes rogue in order to protect his brood" genre. Instead, On the Line adds root out twist upon root out twist near the end, trying to readily get its M. Night on. I mean it's like the Elvis character and any sense of dramatic momentum has left the building (pun intended). Dropped "line".  

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F 2024 * * 1/2 Stars

"EVERYBODY WANTS INTO THE CROWDED LINE"

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is about as lustrous a sequel as I've seen in many a moon. I mean the film looks like a million bucks ($150 million to be exact). 90210, well it appears like it got a makeover, shiny and gleaming with the vivid sun just beating down. So yeah, here's "Axel F's" gist: Axel Foley's daughter's life is in danger, Axel's bud Billy Rosewood has been kidnapped, and there's drug cartel/dirty cop stuff going on too. Yup, just another reason for Detroit's favorite dick to find his way back to the "Garden Spot of World". "This isn't my first time in Beverly Hills". You don't say.

So OK, where would I rank "Axel F" in the Beverly Hills Cop canon? Well, it's a heck of a lot better than Beverly Hills Cop III (yup, I've seen that abomination). Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F brings in yet a third new director for the fourth flick in the franchise, Australian Mark Molloy. Molloy, well he's sloppy staging shootout sequences but happily bleeds nostalgia like a gash wound, using songs from the first two installments while bringing back all the old characters and similar plotlines (Axel gets arrested again, Axel manipulates various situations, Axel revels in citywide damage). "Axel F", well it sometimes gives you the warm fuzz fuzzies from what went down almost 40 years ago. It's just a little more modernized, not quite as funny, and not quite as biting.

All in all, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is not as bad as I expected it to be (go back to second paragraph). And star Eddie Murphy, well he's more over the top than ever (actually I did expect that). The film definitely feels like a Beverly Hills Cop endeavor but its shortcomings are that it parodies the whole Beverly Hills Cop shtick rather than encircling it. Beverly Hills Cop I and II had a certain trenchancy to them, a grand style and some ripeness. "Axel F" just feels more like the lampooned, Kidz Bop version. "Cop" minus a half.  

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, July 1, 2024

A Quiet Place: Day One 2024 * * * Stars

"BE VEWY VEWY QUIET"

2024's A Quiet Place: Day One is lean and mean, a prequel to the original to the sequel. It's a blueprint vehicle mind you, made to be an obligatory prelude to something else, something maybe more elaborate and pulsing in the repugnant alien department. The runtime is short, there's danger readily around the corner, and with "Day One" I was getting some serious post-COVID vibes. "Shh". Oh you know it brother. 

Directed by the unseasoned yet polished Michael Sarnoski and starring Lupita Nyong'o of 12 Years a Slave fame, A Quiet Place: Day One is about just what it says it is. I mean it's day one of the invasion in NYC where if you make a peep, those pesky, spider-like critters will get cha. Speaking of said critters, well they really snap to it, stampeding, howling, and climbing up city walls with total aplomb. "Day One's" CGI, yeah it's obviously evident yet very well done, as the images of bloodthirsty Death Angels look cloaked into the screen, keeping it real. 

A Quiet Place: Day One, well it's hardly original, borrowing its depopulated look from World War Z and its morbidly nasty concept from The Descent (another flick about creepy crawlers who rely on faint sound to hunt humans). Oh well. Helmer Sarnoski gives "Day One" that compact, efficacious treatment anyway, doing the best he can to make you feel all "end of the world"-ish as you jump from your seat on his paltry budget of $67 mil. 

Yup, there's about three scenes in "Day One" that have ample buildup and provide barbarous, monster payoffs (pun intended). I mean the actors featured (Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Alex Wolff) don't exactly give Laurence Olivier-like performances but whatever, it's nearly a silent film after all, with three-dimensional conceptualizations of post-apocalyptic dread that are literally on the come up. Pride of "place". 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, June 28, 2024

Tom Cruise: The Last Movie Star 2023 * * 1/2 Stars

"I WANT THE TRUTH!"

2023's Tom Cruise: The Last Movie Star is not so much a documentary as it is an A&E Biography special sort of lapsing into syndication. I mean I'm not saying that's a bad thing but why announce it as an actual release when it could easily qualify as boob tube filler via 6 PM on a Tuesday.  

With "The Last Movie Star", you have a timeline of Cruise's permanence of a career, the highs and the mid-lows all sort of pasted together and on the fly. I mean why is he so able to easily play Ethan Hunt over the span of nearly thirty years? And why would he fire his manager who just happens to be his own sister by blood? And uh, what's up with his fascination with Scientology and his yearn to plunge into the almighty meltdown (Oprah's couch ring a bell?)? 

Yeah Tommy boy is a pretty interesting guy, and Tom Cruise: The Last Movie Star is pretty juicy stuff. The production values, well they ain't much and the propped up interviews, well they're from people I've never heard of (except for critic Richard Roeper, but no captions regardless). The particulars regarding Cruise's metier journey however, are raw and honest. And the archives of him in Top Gun, Days of Thunder, and/or Risky Business mode, are evocative and longing for the past of glorious 80s/90s pop cinema. 

Tom Cruise: The Last Movie Star, well it puts "the cruiser" in equal parts negative and positive lighting. And while we see him show up periodically in the flick, he's mysteriously not there in probing to defend himself via his own delineation. Oh well. At 75 breezy minutes, "The Last Movie Star" is worth at least one watch if you're a Cruise fanboy or someone who didn't know every tidbit about his meteoric rise in the meaty cesspool of "Hollyweird". Operatic "star". 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The Bikeriders 2023 * * Stars

WHEEZY RIDER

2023's The Bikeriders is one of those down-and-dirty movies. I mean the musty smell of a bar, the scented drag of a ciggy, and the gasoline intake from a large chopper cloak you as you walk out of the theater. The pseudo true story of "Bikeriders", well it's about the lives of a motorcycle club called the Vandals and what went down with them from 1965 to 1973. The setting is Middle America, the inspiration akin to '53's The Wild One. "This is our family forever." Oh fo-sho.

So yeah, "Bikeriders" doesn't have much of a story arc just as Goodfellas didn't have much of a story arc (critics have been comparing the two films lately). Goodfellas, well it hits you a little harder and resonates more from an emotive, Mob standpoint. The Bikeriders, well it's paltry and bare bones, never having a true reason for being while never creating any memorable and/or likable characters. I mean sure star Austin Butler has a smoldering screen presence and sure, co-star Tom Hardy disappears into his role like vapor. But come on now, these guys just ride bikes, peel off, grunt, and act stout, never making The Bikeriders more than merely trivial stuff. De Niro and Ray Liotta they surely ain't. 

Scorsese earthy crime dramas begot, "Bikeriders" is based on a book of the same name and helmed by a guy known for ditching the funny (Arkansas native Jeff Nichols). Nichols, well his direction is more style here than anything else. I mean he knows where to put the camera, his sense of time and place is rich, and his actors are loyal to him (just ask Michael Shannon). But with The Bikeriders, he mostly missteps, giving the audience member a rinse, repeat of grubby men smoking, drinking, knifing, getting into sudden bursts of graphic violence, and occasionally burning rubber on their Harleys (I stress the word occasionally). Yup, it just goes on and on with no end in sight, as the thin diegesis of "Bikeriders" runs out of propane wiggle room real fast. Free "rider" problem.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Sunday, June 23, 2024

St. Elmo's Fire 1985 * 1/2 Stars

CEASE THIS FIRE

1985's St. Elmo's Fire is no great shakes, like sitting through a quilting seminar is no great shakes. Remember The Big Chill and The Deer Hunter? Those lifelong friends endeavors? Well those pics came out in '83 and '78 respectively. Years later we got St. Elmo's Fire, The Big Chill for paupers and/or have-not-s. Here we have a bunch of pseudo, recent college graduates (from Georgetown not Michigan) who are still very close and are trying to come to grips with early adulthood. Sigh. These people chain smoke, drink, do coke, sleep with each other, hang out at the local watering hole, and ogle at the camera as if to subjugate that they're actually doing some effective acting. "It ain't easy being me". You don't say Andrew McCarthy.

St. Elmo's Fire, well it's one of those movies that shows if you have a well-known cast, you don't always translate that into greatness. I mean sure "Fire" was a modest box office hit but who wouldn't be curious about seeing something with Rob Lowe, McCarthy (mentioned earlier), Judd Nelson, Mare Winningham, and Demi Moore attached to it. Basically St. Elmo's Fire was the Brat Pack flick, the quintessential Brat Pack flick, with the indelible images of those Brat Packer-s and their faces plastered onto the fusty frames forever. Too bad "Fire's" late, baby boomer script only looked good in production meetings and it's clunky editing goes down as smooth as the rut of extra coarse sandpaper. Hey um, image isn't everything people.  

Early twenties movie stars and script supervisor firings aside, St. Elmo's Fire was directed by the late schlock-meister Joel Schumacher, a guy who never met a genre he didn't want to impede (remember Batman & Robin? Ugh). Schumacher's style in "Fire" is all over the place, an unnecessary tracking shot here, a wide there, clips that look like they're shot on a soundstage and not an actual location, a forlorn attempt to imitate the great Robert Altman. It's all a sort of young adult faux pas, with "Fire's" popular soundtrack pouncing in on almost every scene, as if it needed to be there no matter what. "Do you ever feel like you're not accomplishing anything at all?" You said it Mare, not me. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Brats 2024 * * 1/2 Stars

"SOLDIER ON, ONLY YOU CAN DO WHAT MUST BE DONE"

2024's Brats takes you back to a simpler time. You know, the early 80s, the early "Greed decade". I mean this is a documentary that revels in the past, not being able to let go of some adverse article written 39 years ago about some young, rising actors. The guide of Brats, well it's veteran trouper Andrew McCarthy, the dude that starred in Pretty in Pink and Less than Zero and 1983's Class. "I've never talked to anybody about what that was like". You are now Andrew, for reals. 

Now if you're my age (close to 50), you definitely know what I'm talking about in reference to Brats. I'm talking about the Brat Pack, those movie stars that appeared in a bunch of flicks about young people in coming-of-age mode. Remember St. Elmo's Fire, The Breakfast Club, and Oxford Blues? Yeah me too. They had Brat Pack people in them like McCarthy, Rob Lowe, Judd Nelson, Alley Sheedy, and Molly Ringwald. 

Decades later, McCarthy has decided to make a shuffled film about the legendary Brat Pack, burning both ends of the candle as director, producer, and unequivocal Greek chorus. Yup, it's a little strange to see what Andrew McCarthy is like in real-life, as he nervously seeks out former "Pack" members while trudging around Brats like he's some Woody Allen caricature via Annie Hall

Andrew, well he's obviously a little neurotic, and it's a little disconcerting that he fashions Brats as a therapy session for him or an exorcism of his Brat Pack demons if you will. If Brats were more an extensive account of the Brat Pack legacy and not a platform to facilitate McCarthy's boredom by bringing back the dead and buried, well I think the docu would work a little better. Regardless, Brats is ambitious and well-shot, giving the audience member grainy, 1980s archives, an effective sense of the camera peeking in, and perspicacious interviews from the people who were there and didn't make the cut, floundering in the Brat Pack trenches (Timothy Hutton, Lea Thompson, and Jon Cryer to name a few). "Pack" a slight punch. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, June 17, 2024

The Antisocial Network: Memes to Mayhem 2024 * * Stars

SOCIAL INJUSTICE

2024's The Antisocial Network: Memes to Mayhem represents a bunch of teens, hovered around their computers, hunkered down in their basements, and creating online memes meant to I suppose, skew real-life situational outcomes. A meme by definition, well it's an image, video, or piece of text that is copied and/or spread by Internet users. So yeah, you see a lot of these so-called memes throughout "Antisocial Network" yet they're on and off the screen faster than a speeding bullet. I mean at least give the viewer a sense of coherency and/or interconnection with each passing beam or likeness. "There was definitely a lot of stuff that was... super edgy." Jeez, you could've fooled me. 

Some smug interviews here, some recent archives there, Donald Trump nearly everywhere, The Antisocial Network: Memes to Mayhem splashes onto the screen with a ton of Pokemon colors, remnants of The Lawnmower Man, and some Anime-style animation. Yeah it all looks great but uh, where's the story? And what exactly did these Microsoft nerds do, as they ate their Cheetos and didn't leave from their lower ground floor for weeks? As a documentary, "Antisocial Network" contains a lot of techie info that unfortunately seems edited into a jumbled mess. Instead of having said info spoonfed to the audience member, it just sits there in the cinematic tidy bowl, getting soggy. "You didn't want the party to stop". Are you sure about that big guy?

Cheesy snacks and sci-fi horror aside, The Antisocial Network: Memes to Mayhem does two things that a docu should never do, give a platform for Internet young-ins who don't deserve it and then try to make you root for those same young-ins who should otherwise be looking for a real job and not sponging off the esse of others. I mean maybe these computer savants contributed to the outcomes of the 2016 United States election and/or the January 6 US Capital Attack, maybe not. Man, I don't even have a tenet. Stub "network".   

Written by Jesse Burleson