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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Redemption Day 2021 * * * Stars


"The gentleman we are dealing with is crazy". OK, that's established. So why are you calling him a gentleman? Are you giving him credit for being a meshuggana?

Anyway Redemption Day is a thinking man's actioner with raw performances that only unleashes its action in the last half hour. Don't worry, said action still sticks. Oh and the brute one-liners and machismo are a hoot too ("I've been practicing on the weekends", that refers to shooting).

In Redemption Day, the protagonist (Gary Dourdan as Brad Paxton) becomes a veritable Chuck Norris with some visible badassery. Also in Redemption Day, the antagonist is a Christoph Waltz lookalike who doesn't have a nice bone in his body. He actually threatens a female character that if he doesn't get 10 million bones in ransom, he'll kill her and her unborn baby. Yeesh. 

Redemption Day is about a Marine who attempts to rescue his wife from a terrorist organization stationed in Algeria. The film while cleanly story-lined and gleamed in its lighting, is a slickster version of Zero Dark Thirty and Argo. Take heed though, "Day" doesn't have the Academy Award values of the flicks previously mentioned. It's more TV movie-influenced with some serious CNN remnants and a Call of Duty whiff. 

"Day" has a cast consisting of Andy Garcia (acting like well, Andy Garcia), Ernie Hudson (he's from my neck of the woods so I had to mention him), and Martin Donovan (acting like his normal, smarmy self). Redemption Day is also filled with long tracking shots, wide shots, a Mexican standoff, a head-scratching twist ending, and obligatory, thriller spy music. It's the type of film Micheal Bay would make if he was deciding to go art house. Whatever. Redemption Day is still worth "saving" for a midnight rental. It's okay to seize this "day". 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Halloween Kills 2021 * * * Stars


Halloween Kills is a sequel of a sequel of an original of a sequel. Just kidding. But seriously though, "Kills" is the twelfth film in the Halloween franchise canon. Its story picks up right where 2018's Halloween left off. Halloween Kills, well it's an appropriate title. Michael Myers (the bad guy, duh) "kills" just about everybody in this flick. We're talking recurring characters, new characters, long-lost cameos, and paper mache denizens just waiting for the slaughter. He even comes off as an action star doing some serious Van Damage. "Evil dies tonight". Uh, not exactly (spoiler).

Halloween Kills is also made for the die hard fandom of Halloween franchise mongers everywhere (I'm kinda one of them). It bleeds nostalgia, weaving tons of persona arcs, new revelations, and story-lines from Halloween in Haddonfield circa 40 years ago. 

As a modern-day follow-up, "Kills" has huge intentions and grated enthusiasm. It doesn't want to be middle-of-the-road stuff (like tons of other direct-to-video swipe). Director David Gordon Green's vision rather, is to be faithful and further the origins of Halloween's fanciful notion from 1978. Heck, even Donald Pleasence shows up CGI-style (it's an impressive feat). 

Helmer Green goes a little 70s with a few zoom shots in "Kills". He also gives Jamie Lee Curtis a pseudo break from raged vengeance and lets Anthony Micheal Hall's Tommy Doyle get his angered revenge on (welcome back Gary Wallace). Halloween Kills doesn't have the most creative "kills" in the series (that honor goes to 1981's Halloween II). It's still pretty violent and the blood, well it flows like Merlot-d red wine. 

"Kills" is a decent combination of brains and well, brains (of the squishy kind). It's truly the dark second act of a trilogy that will give us Halloween Ends in 2022 (no happy ending here folks). Based on the box office take of these new Halloween endeavors, there's always more tricks to be treated. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Guilty 2021 * * * 1/2 Stars


2021's The Guilty is my latest write-up. The film's title doesn't exactly come to fruition until the end. Most of the way I figured I was watching 911: The Movie

So yeah, "Guilty" is one of this year's best. A lot of people contribute but it's a bruising character study for actor Jake Gyllenhaal, a one-man show if you will. As 911 operator Joe Baylor, Gyllenhaal lets us feel his nerve endings with every close-up by director Antoine Fuqua. Abraded tour de force, well that's an understatement. 

The Guilty I guess, represents something along the lines of 2013's Locke (a flick I have yet to see but have seen clips of) and 2018's Searching (a flick I have seen and enjoyed immensely). "Guilty" is also COVID-19 ready as it was shot solely in the eye of the pandemic (November 2020). The actors of which there are few of, become socially distanced whereby they're never really near each other. Helmer Fuqua instead opts for the proverbial "violence of the mind". It's what you don't see but discern that really creeps you out. 

Harboring a cast of rattled voices on the other end of a telephone line (Ethan Hawke, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Dano) and filmed primarily in one location (an intricately detailed 911 call center), "Guilty" chronicles LAPD officer turned demoted 911 operator Joe Baylor (Gyllenhaal). Baylor is being demoted because he's awaiting trial for a manslaughter charge while on duty. Throughout "Guilty", Joe has to navigate a disturbing call concerning the abduction of a wife by a distraught husband. 

The Guilty has a twist I didn't see coming, a mean-spirited/downtrodden approach, an involved attention to detail, and tension that's 10 inches thick. Antoine Fuqua feels right at home with "Guilty's" camouflaged LA vibe and well, that's his old stomping ground (remember Training Day?). Basically if you don't check out The Guilty you'll feel "guilty" for not doing so. Natch. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Saturday, October 9, 2021

College Professor Obsession 2021 * 1/2 Stars


2021's College Professor Obsession (my latest review) is in a way, about a college professor. But the title, well it's kinda misleading. There's a lot more things going on in this Lifetime vehicle. Most of them from a cinematic standpoint, aren't great.  

So yeah, "Professor" is akin to a bad Scream sequel that ultimately plays out like a lumpy murder mystery. The acting, well it's mostly mediocre with enough hammy residue to fill a whole dinner table at Easter. Only the actual professor character (who's purely foul) provides any sort of heighten tension throughout the film. Neve Campbell is sadly not there to save the day. 

Sidney Prescott-s begot, you wanna see a Lifetime pic that's tonally all over the place with editing that is completely scattershot? Well "Professor" is truly your ticket. You wanna witness a director (Brent Ryan Green) use his actors sparingly so they fade in and out like shades of common light? Well "Professor" doesn't disappoint. Finally, do you want to see a lead performance by Rhonda Rousey lookalike Grace Patterson that's about as bad as what Rhonda Rousey would've done? It's up to you but I would avoid it.

Filmed in Oklahoma (with plenty of filler aerial shots) and harboring the production company of Almost Never Films Inc. (that's funny), College Professor Obsession is about a college student who finds herself in danger because she won't do the deed with her d-bag teacher. 

That's the plot description I got off the Internet and it's a vague one at that. Be that as it may, helmer Green doesn't follow up on said description. He doesn't give the professor persona enough screen time and doesn't establish the dude's shaded evilness. He'd rather make "Professor" more slasher/whodunit elaborate than it has any right to be. Talk about a messy "idee fixe".

Written by Jesse Burleson 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Human Capital 2019 * * * Stars


"I need that money back". Ah, spoken like any scrounger who has ever made a bad ante. 

Anyway 2019's Human Capital is my latest review. It's a remake of an Italian film by the same name from several years ago. The new Human Capital takes place in New York while the older version takes place in Milan, Italy.

So yeah, Human Capital is a "human" drama that reminded me of other human dramas from the early 2000s. You know the ones with the highly known cast playing family men characters who collide with each other. 

Human Capital is an intertwining plot film by which the personas connect or link to one another in multiple ways. "Capital" is Doug Liman's Go without all the bells and whistles. It's Magnolia un-magnified. It's 2004's Crash without racial overtones and bad lieutenants. Basically "Capital's" director (Marc Meyers) comes correct as he provides himself with one or two Rashomon-like moments. 

Meyers gives the flick a cold, pallid, and sterile look. He doesn't stray from the narrative, he just gets a little non-linear on you. Human Capital isn't violent and the actor's portrayals aren't in too much danger (except financially, adulterer-d, and with the law). "Capital" is more psychologically bruising with the raw acting by Liev Schreiber, Betty Gabriel, and Marisa Tomei being proof of that. 

Distributed by Vertical Entertainment and featuring Peter Sarsgaard in his normal smug supporting role, Human Capital is about two different families (one middle class and one upper class) who are somehow connected by way of hedge fund investments, hit-and-run car accidents, and pseudo boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. 

In retrospect, "Capital" ends low-key as almost everyone involved is basically in the same position they were at the beginning of the flick. Whatever. It's not about the destination here, just the parasitic journey. "Human" conditioned. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, October 1, 2021

Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story 2019 * * * Stars


In 2019's Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story, the "quiet storm" refers to Artest himself. Ron Artest (now known as Metta Sandiford-Artest) played in the NBA for 18 years. He won a title with the LA Lakers in 2010, was Defensive Player of the Year in 2004, and was a one-time All-Star. At almost two hours, "Quiet Storm" tells Metta's story and tells it chronologically. We're talking from growing child age till present day.

So yeah, "Quiet Storm" is a documentary about an NBA player who had moderate success while also exhibiting a volatile nature. Remember the Malice at the Palace? Well Artest was there and it caused him to be suspended for the remainder of the 2004-2005 season. Metta went into the stands and punch a spectator. He also got a couple more slugs in when another spectator got onto the court. 

Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story is an effective if not conventional documentary. It would be more conventional had it not been for title cards featuring words of wisdom from Metta's never seen shrink. Now is "Quiet Storm" a platform docu for Metta to gain sympathy for his past incidents? Sure it is. Artest had problems on court with fighting and what not. Also, he was arrested for domestic violence in 2007. Is "Quiet Storm" a manifesto for Metta to get himself consideration for the NBA Hall of Fame? I mean it feels like it but I don't believe he's an actual Hall of Famer (he had a decent career though). 

All in all, Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story gets the job done by garnishing all the standard docu checkmarks. The archive footage is solid, the interviews are real, the editing is streamlined, and you get some concrete attestation concerning the Metta you thought you knew. The con is that "Quiet Storm" doesn't jump off the screen (no pun intended) like this year's Tina and The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart. It firstly goes through the motions as to not fully laud Metta's pseudo self-serving journey. It does however, give the dude some sprinkled redemption. Imperfect "storm".  

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Secret Life of A Student 2021 * * 1/2 Stars


"I'm your teacher. There is nothing more between us". There is "more" I need to say about the flick I'm about to review. How about another 200+ words. 

Anyway, Secret Life of A Student is my latest write-up. And its title, well it doesn't have much to do with the movie. "Secret Life" is about a female high school teacher who is getting it from all angles. Someone in a sleek car is trying to harass her, her student claims he had an affair with her therefore threatening her job, and social media deviants are posting stuff about her that is well, inappropriate. The high school teacher I'm talking about is Lauren Beeches and she is played by Canadian actress Rhonda Dent. Dent gives a solid performance in the lead role. There's a certain rawness and vulnerability to it. 

Secret Life of A Student is directed by sometimes producer Jason James. James fashions "Secret Life" as a slow burn where you anxiously wait for the big reveal. So OK, who is driving by Lauren's house and giving her the creeps? Why doesn't the dean of students believe that Lauren is an upstanding teacher who doesn't rob the cradle in her spare time? And who killed Lauren's bestie at the beginning act leaving Lauren to care for said bestie's young daughter? These questions get answered at the two-hour mark (with commercials added). "Secret Life", well it has the ability to leave the viewer tedium-bound and enthralled all at the same time.

Basically "Secret Life" is a Lifetime endeavor posing as veritable whodunit. The acting is sometimes hammy, the whiff of the film is sometimes campy, the red herrings are ready-made, and there's the final twist where the antagonist goes completely cray cray (the way she says "sweet baby angel" is borderline theatrical). I've seen better Lifetime-rs but I've also seen worse. A secret "life" less ordinary.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, September 23, 2021

My Husband's Secret Brother 2021 * * 1/2 Stars


My Husband's Secret Brother refers to a half-brother who works at an auto repair shop. He avoids his other half-brother cause well, the dude is a psychopath. Said psychopath is Kevin and he is played by Joey Lawrence. Lawrence's Kevin yields a needle and kills like a hit-man (he's so darn professional about it). He also appears like an oily son of a gun with what looks like painted-on facial hair.  

Appearances begot, "Secret Brother" is a Lifetime thriller that gets invaded by the Lawrence brothers (Matthew, Joey, and Andrew). Matthew and Joey co-star while Andrew directs. And yeah, all three of them are executive producers. 

Now is My Husband's Secret Brother an ego trip by those Lawrence broheims? It could be but the flick is not half bad. And is "Secret Brother" better than the other Lawrence outing titled Money Plane? It is but both films are still in bad taste (bad meaning nasty fun). Case in point: Joey Lawrence's Kevin goes to a lady's condo and drowns her in her Jacuzzi. He then goes over to her piano and plays a tune with his O.J.-style murder gloves on. Joey, we hardly knew ya! 

All in all, My Husband's Secret Brother is sloppily directed by Andrew Lawrence with some off-kilter camerawork and some cringe-worthy dialogue. But hey, Lawrence is certainly ambitious and doesn't come off as the world's worst storyteller. 

His "Secret Brother" about a woman who marries a plastic surgeon bent on doing whatever it takes to claim her inheritance, has enough twists and turns to make Keyser Soze do the doo-wop. The film also gives you the standard Lifetime quirks. You got the po-po who are never around when someone gets offed. You got the sparse set locations and clear depletion of extras. Finally, you got the antagonist who announces himself to be the bad guy about 10-15 minutes in. Yup, My Husband's Secret Brother has a definite whiff of Lifetime fare. It's no "secret".  

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, September 20, 2021

Copshop 2021 * * 1/2 Stars


"I'm gonna kill you". That's the understatement of the year when it comes to 2021's Copshop. There's a lot of bullets that fly all over the place in Copshop. A lot of them miss, a few graze, and a few hit. Just ask an entire police station and a couple of prostyle killers. Oh wait, you can't.  

Anyway, Copshop is about a con man who voluntarily gets locked up only to find out that he shares the prison barracks with the actual assassin who wants to kill him. 

Gerard Butler and Frank Grillo star. One looks like Ian Anderson in the early days and the other looks like Antonio Banderas via 1995's Desperado. Both have enough sweaty testosterone and chutzpah to solve the energy crisis. And both seem to get right back up like energizer bunnies after getting shot. 

Released in September of this year, feeling like Assault on Precinct 13 with steroids, and harboring opening title credits straight from the 1970s, Copshop feels like something Quentin Tarantino and John Carpenter would combine forces on. Sadly you're better off watching their individual movies just by themselves. 

Granted Copshop isn't a bad film, it's just an uneven one. Intertwined between violent shootouts and feisty one-liners is otherwise annoying dialogue and characters who try to be too darn witty. Copshop's plot, well it's its own Mexican standoff. There's too many directions, too many points, and lots of personas chiming in. 

Oh well. At least you get director Joe Carnahan's standard ending that's abrupt, gotcha-inducing, and thought-provoking. Carnahan is truly a style monger and his flick The Grey is a favorite of mine. But sometimes he comes off like a Tarantino clone who ignored the Academy and just went for schlock. Unfortunate.  

Bottom line: Copshop might be the film Joe was born to make but it's more like he might have been "born" yesterday. "Chopped" shop.  

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, September 17, 2021

Prey 2021 * * 1/2 Stars


In 2021's Prey, the "prey" refers to some dudes who are being tormented by a soundless, female sharp shooter. Said sharp shooter is obviously distraught and traumatized. We know she lost her kid to a careless hunter and that's about it (that's I guess enough for her to go loco).

So OK, Prey is a brief Netflix thriller that I'm thinking was filmed in the backwoods of Germany (the mountainous scenery gave it away). It stars unknown troupers whose voices for the most part, might have been occasionally dubbed. The actors are not from the camp of Laurence Olivier and well, they come off as sort of unlikable millennial-s. Instead of talking to each other calmly and working out their dire situation, these five guys would rather bicker, wine, and be snide.

Prey is an exercise in style on hollow point. Director Thomas Sieben knows what he's doing behind the camera and with the help of Michael Kamm's musical score, there is fitful tension to be built. If only Prey had a more detailed plot and a tighter reason for being, it could've been something. Instead you have a B-movie with standardized violence, unmapped characters, and a conclusion that contains a loose end or two.

I wanted to know more about the woman assassin who doesn't talk and just dutifully shoots to kill. I also wanted to know why at one point she sees three of the men in her sights and doesn't off them immediately. Why? Finally, I wanted to know why the five blokes she was hunting had such an erotic same sex nature about them. I gotta admit it was very Top Gun-ish.

In retrospect, Sieben's film is well-made from a technical standpoint and his use of random flashbacks is moderately telling. But Prey would rather revel in its flowing modus operandi then flesh out any cinematic meaning. It's just not "predatory" enough.

Written by Jesse Burleson