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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Bad Samaritan 2018 * * 1/2 Stars

Bad SamaritanDirector: Dean Devlin
Year: 2018
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: David Tennant, Robert Sheehan, Kerry Condon

A petty thief who's also a budding photographer (and resident pot head), attempts to rob a rich guy's sterile abode. Here's the problem: That same rich guy has a woman chained up, held captive, and gagged in his office. Said guy finds out about the thief's break in (and rescue attempt) and tries to make his life a living hell. That's the gist of the decently acted, comically inept, and tamely R-rated, Bad Samaritan. It's my latest review.

"Samaritan" is actually about a good Samaritan and not a bad Samaritan (despite the tag of the film's title). Sure the thief character pilfers stuff (by way of deceptive valet parking) but at least he's willing to save a human life, face alleged jail time, and not turn the other cheek.

Image result for bad samaritan movie scenesAnyway, Bad Samaritan while not quite recommendable, has one of the most original and most kosher premises of any flick I've seen this year. At an overlong running time of 111 minutes (when an hour and a half would've sufficed), "Samaritan" contains a small amount of Hitchcockian flavor, some overcast Rose City chic, and some rocketing buildup in its opening act. Then, the film piles on plot detours and turns until it concludes on a rather silly note.

"Samaritan's" director (Dean Devlin) trades in his sci-fi producer roots to make a thriller that contains enough cell phone usage and clueless cop intuition to power a small country. His focus is on psychological tug of war, cliched Facebook notions, slick cars, requisite jump scares, and a lack of visible bloodshed. With Bad Samaritan's hyperactive musical score and overly earnest way of creating suspense, Devlin might be making a movie that's too mildly ambitious for its own good. He shoots "Samaritan" with a nippy, Portland, Oregon setting and a villain that looks like Kyle MacLaclan a la an episode of the defunct Tales from the Crypt. I was absorbed most of the way but I kept saying to myself, "Dean, just end this thing already".

Image result for bad samaritan movie scenesBottom line: Bad Samaritan might be one of the best rentals of 2018 (disregard its paltry, $4.1 million take at the box office). Still, it gets a two and a half star rating from me. This "Samaritan" ain't bad but it presents itself in a disappointingly "charitable" way.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Mission: Impossible - Fallout 2018 * * * Stars

Mission: Impossible - FalloutDirector: Christopher McQuarrie
Year: 2018
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames

I haven't seen an M:I flick since J.J. Abrams got behind the lens in 2006's Mission: Impossible III. It's now 12 years later and I'm glad I decided to revisit this juggernaut of a techie gag franchise. Heck, star Tom Cruise at a Rob Lowe-like age of 56, is a lifetime away from any AARP BS here.

So yeah, I'm talking about Mission: Impossible - Fallout (my latest review). It has to do with something about plutonium cores and saving places like Jerusalem and the Vatican from nuclear destruction. Cruise and company are back to light it up. They give you a brisk 147 minutes of pure adrenaline, pure poetry, lush locales, and some seriously deluxe, motion camerawork.

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Sure "Fallout" contains numerous twists which appear as though the screenwriters are making stuff up as they go along. And yes, the scenes between all the visceral mayhem seem like languid preludes or clear setups. Oh well. With Mission: Impossible - Fallout, it's all about the steadily forced engagement sequences that take a big fat dump on the concept of CGI. You know the ones where the director gives Cruise's Ethan Hunt tailor made chances to survive by the skin of his teeth.

There's an aerodynamic motorcycle chase so brilliantly filmed by Christopher McQuarrie, you feel like you're in it and living it. There's also an in-your-face helicopter pursuit (and crash) that no human being could survive (but of course Hunt does). Finally, there's a bathroom fistfight segment with punches and bone cracks so loud, you might need earplugs. For reasons clearly evident, "Fallout" contains some of the most fearless and most outlandish stunt work I've seen in many a moon. I'm remember turning to talk to my friend at the theater and whispering, "are you seeing this dude, seriously?"

Image result for mission impossible fallout movie scenesAnyway, "Fallout's" acting standouts include of course Tom Cruise (except when he's talking to himself in airborne fashion) plus Henry Cavill and Sean Harris as would-be villains. As for director Christopher McQuarrie, well his staging of action is up there with some of the greats (I'm talking John Woo, William Friedkin, George Miller, and John McTiernan. All for different reasons). Too bad McQuarrie's mumbled script, predetermined chaos, and messy narrative for "Fallout" fail to measure up. Still worth a recommendation though. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Occupation 2018 * 1/2 Stars

OccupationDirector: Luke Sparke
Year: 2018
Rated R
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Dan Ewing, Stephanie Jackson, Rhiannon Fish

Extraterrestrials that look like your paint-by-number extraterrestrials, invade a small Australian town. It's up to said townspeople to go military, defeat them, and save the human race. Time to put another burnt shrimp on the barbie and give blokes and sheilas a bad name. That's the gist of Occupation, my latest review. Oh and I almost forgot, what the heck does this flick's title mean anyway? It's balderdash I tell you. Pure balderdash!

Image result for occupation movie scenesAnyway, Occupation while never lacking in energy, brute villainy, and a tonally inconsistent musical score, is one of the cheesiest and worst movies of 2018. At a convoluted and overlong 120 minutes, Occupation strives to be Independence Day meets War of the Worlds meets The Walking Dead meets Red Dawn meets Signs meets Arrival (uh talk about copycatting). Instead, director Luke Sparke fashions something in the vein of Battlefield Earth meets Planet 9 from Outer Space meets Saturday the 14th Strikes Back. Sparke as Aussie's version of Ed Wood, shoots Occupation as a jerry-built, show-and-tell project. Like I said, cheesy.

Along with cheap special effects, sloppy editing, some laughable slow-motion shots, and the tired adage of documentary-style footage, Occupation's school play acting is pure abomination with its stock characters appearing one-dimensional and childlike. They bicker in cliche as they reside in their prescribed, Army state. As for the parodied aliens involved, well they're no prize either. Do you enjoy E.T.s dressed up in tacky Judge Dredd costumes and spouting off poor man's, Evil Dead jibber-jabber? Neither do I man. Neither do I.

Image result for occupation movie scenesAll in all, I faithfully deem Occupation as a modern day, drive-in theater turd or the kind of pic that's a legend in its own mind (a sequel to Occupation is in the works and that scares me). Bottom line: Occupation is a bad, cinematic "line of work" mate. My rating: 1 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Hot Summer Nights 2017 * * 1/2 Stars

Hot Summer NightsDirector: Elijah Bynum
Year: 2018
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Timothee Chalamet, Maika Monroe, Alex Roe

Sheepish Daniel Middleton (played by Timothee Chalamet) loses his father and is forced to spend the summer with his aunt (who is rarely seen). While adapting to his new surroundings, Daniel befriends an alpha male drug dealer and tries to romance his vixen sister. Over time, Danny boy becomes an unforeseen ladies man and a veritable drug dealer himself. That's the gist of the glittering and mostly true storied, Hot Summer Nights. It's my latest review.

Hot Summer Nights is a flamboyant, sort of overly ambitious American drama showcasing Academy Award nominee Chalamet. As far as delayed releases go in 2018, "Nights" is cinematic Yankee Doodle Dandy, a pirated combination of Blow, Boogie Nights, and 2002's The Salton Sea.

Image result for hot summer nights movie scenesNote to the mystery director of "Nights", Mr. Elijah Bynum: Paul Thomas Anderson, the late Ted Demme, and Edgar Wright called. They want their freeze frames, zoom shots, match cuts, and whip pans back. Also, Martin Scorsese phoned in and says he wants everything back (including his own Panavision camera). Finally, what's up with all the gross imagery and childlike ilk in Hot Summer Nights? I'm talking french fries with way too much ketchup, a couple sloppily sharing a lollipop, and a young kid putting another person's gum in his mouth. Dude that's gross.

Anyway, "Nights" gives us mumbled prosaic acting, a nostalgic 80's soundtrack, a Henry Hill-style beating, a sun drenched Cape Cod setting (circa 1991), and some galling, out of place narration (by an unknown tyke who's not seen till the near end of the movie). Most of the characters in "Nights" are ill-defined and non-amicable with its coming-of-age story "coming" off as slight and loose. What we clearly have here is ballsy style over knowable substance.

Image result for hot summer nights movie scenesIn conclusion, Hot Summer Nights is Elijah Bynum's feature debut and he dauntlessly goes for broke. With enough cinematic tricks, cocksure, and energy to fill five movies, "Nights" projects Bynum as directorial show off and bona fide hot dog man. Bottom line: "Nights" is worth a look if you wanna see the latest filmmaker sampler on wheels. Ultimately though, it's mildly disappointing. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, July 27, 2018

Siberia 2018 * * * Stars

SiberiaDirector: Matthew Ross
Year: 2018
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Ana Ularu, Pasha D. Lychnikoff

Five production companies, one entertainment company, and one distributor had a hand in getting 2018's Siberia made. I'm no can-do Hollywood producer but I think it was worth it.

Anyway, Siberia is a slow-burning and slow-churning thriller. It's similar yet antithetical to last year's The Snowman. Siberia's thrills nestle in the mind's eye and not in beatings, chases, or elaborate stunts. As something about a diamond merchant whose diamond selling deal goes sour and off the reservation, Siberia is like chic, Russian film noir with star Keanu Reeves playing a detective-free, Philip Marlowe type.

Image result for Siberia movie scenesGranted, Siberia could've improved on its standoff, shootout ending. It feels abrupt while portraying the Reeves persona as a protagonist afterthought (you see Keanu fending off bad dudes with a mag 10 and you salivate for more). Plus, side player Molly Ringwald who's an 80's actress icon, barely shows up in two faded scenes. Nonetheless, Siberia mostly draws you in and leaves your Basic Instinct-like psyche absorbed and content. Time to pour out a little cinematic liquor (in this case I'm talking vodka).

Keanu Reeves as diamond trader Lucas Hill, sinks his teeth into a role that seems tailor made for him. Sans beating people up a la the styling of John Wick, Keanu relies on minimal talking, bleeding screen presence, and some gadgetry, physical hand movements. Keanu's Hill is in nearly every frame and you as the viewer, follow his every turn (and his many sexual trysts). Minus his work in Speed, Point Break, The Matrix, and Street Kings, this is probably my favorite performance from the guy whose name cordially means, "cool breeze over the mountains".

Image result for Siberia movie scenesSiberia's director is New York City native and Harvard graduate, Mathew Ross. His first flick titled Frank & Lola (which I have yet to see) supposedly is also of the racy, noir variety. With Siberia, Ross is manifest with his vision. He fills the screen with Siberian landscapes, various close-ups, soft-core sex scene realism, and cold, ominous background lighting. His calculated pacing along with Keanu's scruffy, roughed up stares into the camera, make Siberia work as crossfire fiction. In truth, this is not an action extravaganza or a headlong genre affair yet it sets you in motion. Would I recommend that you see Siberia with a refreshed open mind? As the Russians say, the answer would be a profound "da". Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

211 2018 * * Stars

211Director: York Shackleton
Year: 2018
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Dwayne Cameron, Sophie Skelton

Nicolas Cage gets one of his prescribed, thespian rage moments. Countless firearms and ammo are featured as if Cage is remaking his past vehicle, Lord of War. A fictional town of Chesterford, MA sans its accents and receives more recognition and advertisement than Pepsi. Five or so bank robber personas nearly dismantle an entire SWAT team (whatever). A direct-to-video-style musical score is featured from a guy who's known for well, direct-to-video musical scores (Frederik Wiedmann). It's all present in 211, my latest review.

Image result for 211 movie scenesShot in Bulgaria (which I guess substitutes for Massachusetts), saddled with mostly unknown actors, oily slick in its approach, and featuring Nic Cage in more of a supporting role (despite his mug on 211's poster front and center), 211 chronicles two police officers and a ride-along getting caught in the middle of a deadly bank heist. Said ride-along must go with said officers or get expelled from high school for a battery incident. Talk about a weird and preposterous punishment.

Anyway, Nicolas Cage as patrolmen Mike Chandler, gives a decent if not mostly subdued performance. Sure he's doing 211 for the paycheck, sure his character is a little ill-defined and sure, Nic happily dons required hair piece in tote. Still, Cage is likable here as the compulsory, soon-to-be-retired cop with chalked up gray areas. His Chandler also happens to have a partner who's married to and has knocked up his estranged daughter (how goofy and convenient is that).

211, whose title is derived from the police code known as robbery, clocks in at an abrupt and paltry 86 minutes. It's violent and unforgiving yet vacant, a sort of patchwork version of Heat, Swordfish, and 2016's Patriots Day. Director York Shackleton (yup, that's his real name or his pseudonym) works with multiple plot lines, scrappy dialogue, endless characters, and bullet-ridden scenes of animalistic action. Too bad "Shack" decides to take shortcuts while dispelling thriller film rationale and wrapping up 211 rather quickly in a crooked bow (it was probably budget constraints or pure amateurism).

Image result for 211 movie scenesIn conclusion, I don't remember seeing 211 in theaters so if you're interested in taking in a viewing, Redbox or On Demand have your back. Bottom line: 211 provides plenty of nutrition-less savagery, bumbled police protocol, and scale-like acting. That's the cinematic "411". Rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, July 20, 2018

Acrimony 2018 * * * Stars

AcrimonyDirector: Tyler Perry
Year: 2018
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Ajiona Alexus, Lyriq Bent

A working title of She's Living My Life. Title cards with descriptive words like "Deranged", "Sunder", "Acrimony", and "Bewail." A Fatal Attraction-style ending that leaves you elated and hurt inside. A messed up relationship story that is told over a couple of decades. A Taraji P. Henson persona that turns out to be a little cray cray. It's all here in Acrimony, my latest review.

Shot in Pittsburgh, PA, slick in its construction, told in chronological order (with a continued flashback), and featuring a detailed block of voice-over narration, Acrimony chronicles a woman who divorces her man and then sees him become rich while inhabiting the life that she thought she would have.

Image result for acrimony movie scenesHenson, as the distressed Melinda Gayle, gives a type-casting performance via a troubled, female spouse on scorn alert. Her hubby named Robert Gayle (played by Lyriq Bent), is a thwarted male pinata that gets put through the sex-free, marriage ringer.

As this flick becomes a hardcore, soap opera character study with singer Nina Simone belting out soft hits in the background, Acrimony makes you take husband and wife sides while bringing you down endless detours until it finally concludes.

Acrimony, which feels like director Tyler Perry is inhabiting his own, final cut cinematic cesspool, is a struggling tug of war drama. It's also depressingly bleak as Perry turns the screws on supposed infidelity, revenge murder, and saddened manipulation.

I was absorbed and gerrymandered all the way, seeing where Acrimony's tale would take me even knowing that the film might suffuse and reach an unsatisfactory dead end.

Image result for acrimony movie scenes
Tyler Perry, with rage and a bone to pick with women who don't know they're going off the deep end, has flawed men on the loom and some real balls to put out a movie like this. I'm gonna recommend Acrimony for its Lifetime, TV method of keeping you plastered to the screen. Montell Williams would certainly wanna take a knee here. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, July 16, 2018

Skyscraper 2018 * * 1/2 Stars

SkyscraperDirector: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Year: 2018
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Ng Chin Han

Actors cheating death by doing stunts that would make the late Hal Needham jealous. CGI flames that come on like gangbusters but look kinda fake. Dwayne Johnson failing to equal his best performance (that would be 2013's Snitch) by coming off as the poor man's Bruce Willis. Johnson's daffy, acting style consisting of him readily talking to himself (ugh). Three foggily-defined villains that barely connect to each other. It's all here in 2018's Skyscraper, my latest write-up.

Taking place in Hong Kong, promoting the manly use of duct tape, and partially filmed in Vancouver (I can see the slight resemblance), Skyscraper tells the story of a one-legged security expert (Johnson as Will Sawyer) being framed for starting a blaze in the tallest building in the world (nicknamed "The Pearl"). As Skyscraper barrels at a lightening pace, you can see "Pearl's" copied architectural style and copied aerial shots from a certain 1974 vehicle (I'll get to that later).

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Skyscraper, which feels like it should've been rated R (this thing is a tad violent), is techy, loud, futuristic, and preposterous yet adds a certain amount of appeal. Mainly, it's a condensed, souped-up combination of The Towering Inferno and Die Hard. That's minus "Inferno" and Die Hard's feasible buildup, extensive character development, and non-middling plot.

Questions I asked myself during a screening of 2018's Skyscraper: Why didn't the fire department show up when this flick marched into its second act? And why do two main characters not stick to the ceiling when an elevator is barreling downward at Mach 1? And oh yeah, where the heck has actress Neve Campbell been for the last decade?

Anyway, Skyscraper is the definition of a high-octane, action endeavor. It's relentless and farcical, with plenty of jaw-dropping, "yeah right" moments. The good guys survive by the skin of their teeth and the bad guys perish in similar situations. Bottom line: If you're afraid of heights or surrender to vertigo, avoid seeing this 109-minute film at all costs.

Image result for Skyscraper 2018 movie scenesIn conclusion, Skyscraper's director is Rawson Marshall Thurber. Normally he does comedies. Here, he distracts the thinking man's audience by blowing stuff up, piling on the tech-savvy gadgets, letting veritable bones crack, and paying homage to one Bruce Lee (check out the rooftop mirror fight scene in Skyscraper's last ten minutes). Thurber pulls out all the stops so get your earplugs ready. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp 2018 * * * Stars

Ant-Man and the WaspDirector: Peyton Reed
Year: 2018
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas

Yup, there's a connection between Ant-Man and the Wasp and Avengers: Infinity War. All you gotta do is check out the short clip after the closing credits come up. Marvel Comics, you just couldn't resist could you.

Anyway, Ant-Man and the Wasp is overly plotted compared to first Ant-Man installment. Added to that, "Wasp" doesn't take itself as seriously, it's not a blueprint vehicle, and there's a little less at stake (Paul Rudd's Scott Lang isn't saving the world this time when he puts on that dwindling suit). Oh well. "Wasp" with its nod to the quantum realm gods, is a lot of fun and it turns your everyday superhero movie on its collective head. 2015's Ant-Man came off as an action comedy. Ant-Man and the Wasp is compulsory comedy with some jaunty action on the side.

Before production commenced on "Wasp", director Peyton Reed managed to get every single cast member from the first Ant-Man to sign on. This time around, their personas are fleshed out even more as a result. Examples would be Michael Pena's kooky, ex-con named Luis, Scott Lang's twinkling, cutesy daughter (Cassie played by Abby Ryder Fortson), and of course Evangeline Lilly as the butt-kicking companion dubbed Wasp.

Image result for ant man and the wasp movie scenes"Wasp", while totally worth the price of admission, sometimes revels too much in sci-fi mumbo jumbo, backstory convolution, and serpentine gadgetry. However, Peyton Reed still keeps things light and breezy with his whip pans, his techie-staged fistfights, and his collective wink wink to the audience.

Reed, who I'll always think of as the antithetical Joss Whedon and the dude that filmed 2006's The Break Up, stylizes "Wasp" as a fast-paced and whiz-bang affair. Heck, he even throws in a science lab as a diminished suitcase and a long-winded car chase via the streets of San Francisco (eat your darn heart out Steve McQueen).

Image result for ant man and the wasp movie scenesWith "Wasp", Peyton relies less on extravagance and morbid destruction and more on cartoonish hyperbole. He's quickly trying to distract you from his unexplained expansion of the Ant-Man universe (the shrinking technology of humans and objects needs backtracking and gets complicated here). His Ant-Man and the Wasp is a hot mess, with goofy humored quips at the end of each scene and a spine-tingling villain named Ghost (naturally). The original Ant-Man while less funny, is leaner and meaner with more grounded storytelling. Bottom line: I liked both flicks equally but I can't explain why. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson