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Monday, June 1, 2020

Debt Collectors 2020 * * * Stars

Debt CollectorsDirector: Jesse V. Johnson
Year: 2020
Rated NR
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Scott Adkins, Lousi Mandylor, Vladimir Kulich

"No more hurting my fellow man". Oh really. Then how come the characters in Debt Collectors "hurt" and spit like no one's business. I mean male bodies are pounded like tenderized meat trolled out at a Four-star steakhouse. Whoever was in charge of the sound editing via many blaring punches needs a little recognition.

Anyway, "Collectors" is a cleanly-staged action film, a pseudo-martial arts mantra, and an ode to how much head trauma punishment a human being can take. It's also a tale of two guys who demand some long, overdue moolah. They accomplish this by using desperate physicality, a non-blarney approach, and no BS.

Watch an exclusive clip from Debt Collectors starring Scott AdkinsThe amassed actors involved (Scott Adkins and Louis Mandylor) exhibit spitfire dialogue, mobbing frailty, pinched brotherhood, and knuckled fists of fury. Their scenes of prolonged discussion are like Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield: The Dukes of Hazzard version.

As far as this year's releases go, Debt Collectors is about as violent and unforgivable as a "grindhouse" spool on high-grade PCP. Being a second installment to 2018's The Debt Collector (which I have yet to see), "Collectors" is almost akin to the True Romance sequel Quentin Tarantino never had a chance to make (Tony Scott's signature lighting and lead Christian Slater excluded).

Yet to be released in the UK, feeling like a latter-day Western, and directed by a guy who's also a stunt coordinator (Jesse V. Johnson), "Collectors" is about a couple of debt collectors who get involved with a drug kingpin bent on killing them no matter how well the job is done.

PAYBACK (AKA DEBT COLLECTORS) is Hitting UK DVD and Digital ...This film takes place in LA and Las Vegas with a final shootout sequence that follows some explanatory talk and footsy, electrocution torture. I give "Collectors" a 3 star rating but it's not for the easily squeamish. Yup, you can "bill it".

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Photograph 2020 * 1/2 Stars

The PhotographDirector: Stella Meghie
Year: 2020
Rated PG-13
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Issa Rae, Lakeith Stanfield, Courtney B. Vance

"Long distance never works". I agree wholeheartedly. The Photograph as a ponderous romantic drama, doesn't really work either. Practically annoyed, I sat through a hundred glossed over minutes only to say, "what was the point of all this courting, leading on of a partner, and googly eye-ness?"

Anyway, "Photograph" is for the most part, mildly arbitrary. It's about a woman whose photographer mother dies of cancer and she gets involved with a journalist who happens to interview her estranged father. Issa Rae plays said woman while San Bernardino native Lakeith Stanfield plays said journalist. Against an impersonating Louisiana landscape, their performances aren't terrible but there are plenty of eye-rolling moments between these two agonizing nutters.

Where Was The Photograph Filmed? List of All Filming LocationsSo yeah, picture 2016's Moonlight but without any solidity and that's what you get with The Photograph. And just for kicks and giggles, picture something Spike Lee would have done on holiday (during his Mo' Better Blues phase) and "Photograph" will shabbily fill in the blanks. Finally, imagine Tyler Perry running out of writing wriggle room and The Photograph will give you that tangent-ed perspective.

Distributed by Universal Pictures, told through two interconnecting stories (one in the 1980's and one in present day), featuring an earthy R&B soundtrack, and harboring background music that channels a little Terrence Blanchard (even though it's done by Texan Robert Glasper), "Photograph" is fairly well-directed if not tarnished in crystal clear pretentiousness and wandering flashbacks.

The Photograph (2020) Photo (With images) | Movie photo
This film is whimsical, kaleidoscopic, and sort of dream-like but that's the be-all-end-all. There's no revelation, no big reveal, no give out, and you wish what's on screen wasn't such an elegant snooze-r. If I had my druthers, I'd prevent any Redbox viewer from paying $1.80 to see "Photograph". I'd also take an actual "photo" and stare at it instead. Color space included. Rating: 1 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Last Moment of Clarity 2020 * * * Stars

Last Moment of ClarityDirectors: Colin Krisel, James Krisel
Year: 2020
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Zach Avery, Samara Weaving, Carly Chaikin

"I saw something that I wasn't suppose to see". Me, well I saw 2020's Last Moment of Clarity and I initially didn't know where it was headed.

Anyway, Last Moment of Clarity is a ratcheted and calculated thriller that takes about fifty or so minutes to thrill. It's a shadowy film about a guy named Sam who is led to believe his girlfriend was murdered three years ago by accented mobsters. When Sam sees squeeze Georgia on the big screen a la the eighth lead, he goes to sunny LA because he thinks she's still alive.

New Action Movies Last Moment of Clarity (2020) - YouTubeSam is played by the brooding Zach Avery while Georgia is played by Margot Robbie lookalike Samara Weaving (Hugh Weaving's niece). Brian Cox who's well known in any capacity, checks in as a fatherly side character.

So yeah, Last Moment of Clarity is directed by Colin Krisel and James Krisel (it doesn't say if they are brothers or not). These guys were obviously inspired by dudes like Mike Figgis and the legendary Steven Soderbergh.

Using flashbacks, dark cinematography, a romantic twist, and low angles where the camera never seems to sit still, Colin and James give us a disciplined directorial debut that takes a little while to get going. Heck, you think "Clarity" is a drama that takes itself too seriously until it doesn't.

REVIEW: Last Moment of Clarity Is a Pale Imitation of HitchcockDistributed by Lionsgate and rated R for some bloody images (and a few F-bombs), Last Moment of Clarity is slight neo-noir that's bemused at the beginning yet unfolding at the end. I liked almost every sullen shot used by the Krisels and I pretty much dug the entire musical score (when it was put in at the right moments). Hopefully, Last Moment of Clarity will not be the "last" time Colin and James Krisel decide to helm a tenebrous flick. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, May 18, 2020

Capone 2020 * * * Stars

CaponeDirector: Josh Trank
Year: 2020
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Tom Hardy, Linda Cardellini, Matt Dillon

"You can drop the act now". Tom Hardy couldn't drop the act if he tried. In Capone (my latest review), Hardy plays Al Capone and becomes as usual, the consignment chameleon.

Anyway Al Capone as a character, also goes by the tag Fonse (that's what everyone called him). Capone as a film, well it never has anyone saying his real name.

So OK, as something about the final year of Al Capone's decrepit life, Capone is a nightmarish breadth of view and not your typical crime drama. Shot like a TV movie but lush and gaping in its tone, Capone doesn't care whether or not you embrace its fever dream vision (bloodied detached eyeballs as a horse head metaphor are included here).

Capone' Review | Hollywood ReporterNow Capone does have a final, nasty shoot-'em-up with a gold-plated Tommy Gun. And yes, Fonse does make a few threats about cutting a poor soul's head off. But hey, Capone is not Scarface people. It's more a character study about a dude with dementia, a guy with neurosyphilis who can't control his own darn bowels. Third time director Josh Trank fashions Capone as a brute horror flick with an hallucinatory underbelly. He's not in the business of entertaining the audience. He'd rather sledgehammer his out of the box fancy.

The cast of Capone is all good with Hardy's Fonse basically hugging the screen via a mugging scowl for the ages. He is backed up proficiently with work from Noel Fisher (his son Junior), Matt Dillon (his mysterious buddy Johnny), and Linda Cardellini (his sympathetic wife Mae). Their personas are like frustrated rogues just waiting for Al to peacefully be put out of his misery.

All in all, Capone does do a good job of having shooting location New Orleans masquerading as Palm Tree-d, Palm Island, Florida. And yeah, the film's ominous score always gives you a foreboding feeling that something bad is about to happen.

Where was Capone Filmed? 2020 Movie Filming LocationsBottom line:  Capone at 104 minutes, could've been a little longer in length in order to provide more insight into this last days, true-life American gangster. But for what's abruptly on screen I'll take, even if it's cinematic "hatchet man". Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, May 15, 2020

Rev 2020 * * * 1/2 Stars

RevDirector: Ant Horasanli
Year: 2020
Rated R
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Francesco Filice, Sean Ray, Vivica A. Fox

"You gotta take what's yours". According to Rev (my latest review), that refers to stealing cars, stealing girlfriends, and stealing freedom.

Anyway, Rev as a word, refers to a revolution of an engine per minute. Rev the movie, well it's much more than that. As a blueprint about a car thief who becomes an informant in order bust up a vehicle smuggling ring, Rev is a familiar story that's well told. Shot in Toronto, Ontario, Rev doesn't need an extravagant budget, prodigal flash, or Vin Diesel to get my recommendation.

Now Rev does have its share of stylish automobiles. And those automobiles do partake in some good old fashioned drifting. But hey, this isn't a car racing endeavor nor is it a heart-pumping action flick. Rev is more of a glitz and glitter drama, a drug film with a twist, and an underground spectacle with a Mob feel. It begs the question of what if Gone in 60 Seconds or The Fast and the Furious were directed by Iranian Barbet Schroeder.

REV Official Trailer Exclusive 2020 Fast & Furious Style Movie ...The cast of Rev is filled with confident unknown actors and the still feisty Vivica A. Fox. You got car booster Mikey played by the stone-faced Francesco Filice. You got Diego Luna lookalike Sean Ray playing criminal mastermind Charlie, and you got slinky Hannah Gordon playing Charlie's squeeze Ava. Their characters are like low key versions of Brian O'Conner, Dominic Toretto, and badass Letty Ortiz ("I don't got friends, I got family").

All in all, Rev is a mature and taut directorial effort from Mr. Ant Horasanli (that's his first name no joke). With a catchy, techno musical score, a moderate pace, and some chic Toronto locales (for once it's not Toronto masquerading as NYC or Chicago), Rev gets a rating of 3 and a half stars. "Rev" it up!

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Arkansas 2020 * * 1/2 Stars

ArkansasDirector: Clark Duke
Year: 2020
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Liam Hemsworth, Clark Duke, Vince Vaughn, Eden Brolin

Arkansas as slow burn, droning incarnate, is my latest review. It is based on a novel of the same name by John Brandon. The cast of Arkansas is like a bunch of recognizable actors going unrecognizable. Case in point: Co-star and Illinois native Vince Vaughn wears a St. Louis Cardinals hat while listening to their games on an old radio. Oh and director-slash-star Clark Duke sports an adult film mustache and kinda looks like a chick (oxymoron alert).

Anyway, 2020's Arkansas is not a bad feature debut for the 35-year-old Duke. Filmed at a snail's pace with zoom shots, whip pans, and a time setting that feels mostly 80's and 90's, Arkansas appears like something Quentin Tarantino would have done pre-Reservoir Dogs.

Arkansas' Movie Liam Hemsworth Review: Stream It or Skip It?In regards to Arkansas, you get a country-fried rock soundtrack, acts of brutal violence minus the action, and stories with chapters attached a la Pulp Fiction. Clark Duke, who was obviously influenced by directors such as S. Craig Zahler, Steven Soderbergh, and Tarantino (mentioned earlier), is a visual and camera hot dog helmer. Unfortunately, his bitty storytelling sensibilities in Arkansas don't quite catch up to his keen eye behind the lens.

The performances in Arkansas are underplayed yet solid with Vaughn, Duke, and Liam Hemsworth being the standouts. Their dialogue readings are slow, philosophical, and drawn-out. Yup, Arkansas may have a running time under two hours but hey, it kinda feels like three.

Clark Duke-directed crime drama Arkansas gets a poster and trailerWith music mostly from The Flaming Lips, a distributor by the name of Lionsgate, and a knack for having Johnny Lee's "Lookin' for Love" never sounding the same way again, Arkansas is about two drug dealers who take orders from a callous kingpin who they have never seen or met. In 2018, the normally fast-talking Vince Vaughn starred in the glacially-paced Dragged Across Concrete. Expect more of the same here. Call it "Arkan-drawl". Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, May 8, 2020

Deadly Mile High Club 2020 * * Stars

Deadly Mile High ClubDirector: Doug Campbell
Year: 2020
Rated NR
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Allison McAtee, Marc Herrmann, Anna Marie Dobbins

"Nice and smooth, all the way to full power". Hubba hubba! That's airplane speak, mild flirtation, or I guess, maybe something else.

So yeah, in Deadly Mile High Club (my latest review), there's some vintage planes, some rudder, some do to death, and some actual "mile-high club" whoopee involved (on a wooden storage box no less). Hey, a movie's gotta "get its Cinemax on" and back up its better than normal, Lifetime Network title.

Is 'Deadly Mile High Club' Based On A True Story? It's A Common ...Anyway, "Mile High's" pitched story involves a kooky flight instructor who tries to seduce her young student along with wrecking his dull marriage. Sexily evil Allison McAtee plays flight instructor Tanya while wide-eyed Marc Herrmann plays aspiring flight learner Jake. In verity, "Mile High" is a Lifetime flick so their performances feel like parodies of A-list actors via some theatrical releases.

With a running time of eighty-eight minutes, aviation sequences where you can tell there's no actual flying involved, and production values that would make the late Tony Scott readily roll over in his grave, Deadly Mile High Club is overripe camp perpetrated on the highest level.

Two campy examples in "Mile High" are characters that are completely over the top and/or factitious. They are Margaret (Jake's mother-in-law) and Gonzo (a rival flight instructor to Tanya). Watching their rum antics, I felt like I was taking in a comedy and not a stifling, TV thriller (which "Mile High" claims to be).

Where Was Deadly Mile High Club Filmed? Lifetime Cast DetailsDeadly Mile High Club despite featuring some good-looking people and some sexy, absurdly innuendo, falls into so bad it's bad territory. Sans a small twist I didn't see coming, it's an uneven combo of abstaining drama, mad as a hatter terror fest, and unintentional satire. "Mile High" is like viewing Point Break if Point Break were an SNL skit. Alternate title: "Mistakes on a Plane". Rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Psycho Escort 2020 * * * Stars

Psycho EscortDirector: Monika Lynn Wesley
Year: 2020
Rated NR
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Victoria Barabas, Nick Ballard, Donovan Patton

Dug this flick yet its title is a little too umbrella. Yeah I'm talking about Psycho Escort and it's my latest review.

"Psycho's" story reminiscent of say, The Wrong Stepmother starts like this: A widow named Diane (played by ultra sexy Victoria Barabas) hires a shady escort named Miles (played by the robotic-looking Nick Ballard). Diane is doing this because she isn't dating anyone and needs a fake date to keep up public appearances within her job. When Miles goes off the clock and pursues Diane even though she eventually doesn't feel the same way, Miles goes well, "psycho".

Psycho Escort': Release date, plot, cast, trailer and all you need ...With a cast of I guess C-listers and production values that involve a couple of distant shots via sunny LA, Psycho Escort is indeed a Lifetime endeavor. The actors/actresses involved do their best to emote but the dialogue exchanges are of course, TV movie webbed.

Oh well. "Psycho" is well-plotted and unputdownable. Even if its characters are overly tolerant and/or incredibly credulous, it's still engrossing to see the creepy layers of stiff Miles slowly peeling off. And the female lead in Victoria Barabas, well she's super easy on the eyes anyway.

Almost veering into camp while its siren protagonist gets nearly brainwashed, Psycho Escort still sucks you in just like anything Lifetime Network would. Psycho Escort isn't as violent as you might think but that doesn't mean you're not fearful for any suburban denizen implied.

Where Was Psycho Escort Filmed? Lifetime Cast DetailsAll in all, if you want something to wake you up after being half-asleep during your 3 pm nap, then "Psycho" will get the job done. And if you want an ending that undoubtedly provides no safe conclusion, then Psycho Escort will provide your "psyche" with a few afterthoughts. "Psycho" may not be Academy Award material but it's entertaining as heck. Just "accompany" it. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, May 4, 2020

The Assistant 2019 * * Stars

The AssistantDirector: Kitty Green
Year: 2019
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Julia Garner, Kristin Froseth, Matthew Macfadyen

"Long hours, first one in last one out". Sounds like it could be a thankless job. And it could be even more thankless if you're second, third, or even fourth in command.

Anyway, if you want to view a twisted secretary flick where ferocity ensues, then check out 1993's The Temp or Obsessed. If you want the polar opposite and something plucked from the low budget indie circuit, then The Assistant will be right up your alley.

2019's "Assistant" has a cast of relative unknowns, a script that needs more cowbell, angry people only heard over the phone, and a nanosecond cameo from Patrick Wilson (he is listed as "Famous Actor"). "Assistant" for the most part, is the antithesis of being entertained.

The Assistant movie review & film summary (2020) | Roger EbertThe assistant in The Assistant is a young woman who works at a film production company in hopes of someday becoming a big time producer. Jane (played by Julia Garner) is said assistant and she is pasty, a little nosy, restrained, and unabashedly naive. In the only scene where the audience member doesn't feel totally detached, Jane goes to the HR department because she believes her superior is fooling around with a co-worker or two (tisk tisk).

Directed by someone known for documentaries (Kitty Green), inspired by the Weinstein scandal, and having the feeling of watching paint dry even at eighty-seven minutes, "Assistant" is a slowly-mounting character study that never actually mounts. Personas are constantly passive sans an actual human interaction at the 50-minute mark and the pic feels like a docu when it really shouldn't (hint hint).

Would You Have Said Anything? The Chilling Power of “The Assistant ...Sterile, somewhat unassertive, arc-less, and without an actual music score (except for a couple of piano notes at the end), The Assistant gets a "number two" as in stars. It's the self-indulgent Gerry of office space dramatizations and something made with humanoids instead of humans.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, May 1, 2020

The Rhythm Section 2020 * * * Stars

The Rhythm SectionDirector: Reed Morano
Year: 2020
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Blake Lively, Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown

"Think of your heart as the drums, your breathing as the bass". That's a quote from 2020's The Rhythm Section. Get it? "Rhythm" trades instruments for knives and guns with hollow point rounds. The "tempo" demonstrated here is mostly palatable.

Anyway, The Rhythm Section is vastly underrated and kinda overrated at the same time. Many a spy/revenge thriller have come before it. Oh well. "Rhythm" has sloppy yet effective action scenes that come in fits and starts. The dialogue that emerges from the actors mouths is confidently pithy and that's a good thing.

Blake Lively Becomes A Cold-Blooded Assassin In Exclusive The ...Sadly slotted into a January release and directed by a lady who has mostly been a cinematographer (Reed Morano), The Rhythm Section is about a woman who seeks vengeance for some terrorists who killed her parents in a past plane crash. Blake Lively plays said woman (Stephanie Patrick) and Jude Law (Iain Boyd) plays the ex-M16 agent who trains her to be an executive killer.

Law and Lively give solid performances that heighten the almost a la mode material. Law channels his inner badass while Lively digs deep into character with nerve endings manifested. Normally elegant-looking and bright-eyed, Blake Lively appears a little weathered in "Rhythm". I'm not kidding. Her persona was once a drug addict and a prostitute so the phrase, "you look just like I feel" gets a whole new meaning.

Rhythm Section, The (2020) - Whats After The Credits? | The ...Reflecting on The Rhythm Section, I was reminded of a more ratty Bourne Identity coupled with a modern-day version of 2005's Munich. In truth, "Rhythm" is a slow burn, globetrotter of a film with the occasional burst of extremity and a raw, in-your-face car chase that needs to be seen to be believed. Bottom line: This "rhythm ain't gonna totally get you" but there are much worse ways to spend over a hundred minutes. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson