film reel image

film reel image

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Gotti 2018 * 1/2 Stars

GottiDirector: Kevin Connolly
Year: 2018
Rated R
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Stacy Keach

What's-a-matter with the flick I'm about to review? Uh plenty. Gotti is a skewed, timeline misfire. It features star John Travolta hamming it up, talking into the lens a la Ray Liotta, and sporting yet another fake hairpiece. As far as new releases go in 2018, Gotti tries way too hard to appeal to everyone's gangster sensibilities. Despite decent supporting work from an unrecognizable Kelly Preston (Travolta's actual spouse) and veteran character actor Pruitt Taylor Vance, Gotti is sadly pretty "spotty".

Note to Gotti's director Kevin Connolly and his whole freaking crew (no pun intended): Francis Ford Coppola called and says he wants all his mob cliches and cliched Italian names back. Also, Martin Scorsese phoned in. He doesn't want you to include the ditty "House of the Rising Sun" and says that famed editor Thelma Schoonmaker is unavailable to step in for a fixing. Finally, don't make an organized crime pic that lacks a sense of foreboding or real danger. It just renders the proceedings laughable and sadly irrelevant.

Image result for gotti 2018 movie scenesAnyway, Gotti sloppily chronicles the thirty-year monarchy of Gambino crime boss John Joseph Gotti Jr. (Travolta harbors a lot of parody-style rage here in the lead role). In truth, this film is never boring as its inconsistent soundtrack of Pitbull and 70's/80's tunage litters every frame. Still, Gotti leaves the viewer adrift with too many characters, screw loose editing, dead end plot threads, and numerous TV movie interludes.

So OK, helmer Connolly knows what to do with the camera. His storytelling sensibilities, well that's a different matter altogether. Kevin shoots everything in skewed, prearranged fashion with scene after scene completely jotting back and forth. He fashions Gotti as a second-tier Black Mass, using every borough in NYC as a setting and literally butchering the almighty cinematic form.

Image result for gotti 2018 movie scenesRemember when Kevin Connolly starred in Entourage and tried to produce its fictional, box office bomb Medellin? Well talk about art imitating indelible, real-life. Gotti with its eye-rolling, tough talking script and severe whiff of incoherence, gets a 1.5 star rating from me.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Terminal 2018 * 1/2 Stars

TerminalDirector: Vaughn Stein
Year: 2018
Rated NR
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Margot Robbie, Mike Meyers, Simon Pegg

Margot Robbie gives a decent performance as a sicko femme fatale. Simon Pegg branches out in a distressed supporting role. Dexter Fletcher keeps his thick "Lock, Stock" accent alive and kicking. Lastly, Mike Myers strives for an acting comeback with so-so results.

Image result for terminal 2018 movie scenesYup, I'm talking about the troupers involved in 2018's Terminal, my latest review. Cloaked in pretension and set in fantasy-land, Terminal involves two twin sisters getting revenge on certain denizens that have randomly traumatized them. In truth, this film won't compel you, shock you, or disturb you enough. Terminal projects style for the sake of style and contains plot twists that are inserted just for the heck of it. It's like Usual Suspects meets The Prestige but sadly, it's the "play dumb" version.

Note to Terminal's conventional and rookie director show off, Mr. Vaughn Stein: Ridley Scott called. He says he wants his futuristic aerial shots back and his look-see lighting. Also, Terry Gilliam phoned in and says he wants his offbeat camera angles back too. Did I mention that Philip Noyce is a little disappointed that you copied his surveillance shtick a la 1993's Sliver? Finally, don't try to make Terminal out to be a film that thinks it's more apt than it really is. That's just plain annoying bruh.

Image result for terminal 2018 movie scenesAnyway, Terminal might have delayed its release had it not been for Robbie's inclination of getting nominated for an Oscar just months earlier. This flick is the equivalent of doltish British film noir, complete with lathered neon lights, circling ciggie smoke, dream-like elements, a Frank Miller remnant, and a look of chronic darkness. It's a Blade Runner wannabe. It's edited to be clever but the script will bore you silly. Finally, Terminal is a movie that a certain Minnesota-born helmer would have made had he not been concentrating on telling the story of Don Quixote (see last paragraph). Bottom line: Terminal may be earnest in its execution and obviously rift with darkened ideals. Still, its existence is "terminally" unnecessary. Rating: 1 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Kin 2018 * * * 1/2 Stars

KinDirectors: Jonathan Baker, Josh Baker
Year: 2018
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Jack Reynor, Zoe Kravitz, Dennis Quaid

A troubled, adopted boy from Detroit stumbles upon a spaced-aged gun capable of blowing a hole through anything. The boy vows to use the Oblivion-style weapon to protect his older brother from some nasty gangsters he owes money to. That's the blueprint of Kin, a vehicle that studios pined to make in the 80's but rarely have the Repo Man-like cojones to make today.

Now Kin got lost in the summer shuffle of Marvel blockbusters, 2018's Ocean's 8 (ugh), Mission: Impossible sequels, and bad shark pics (yes I'm talking about The Meg). Kin's featured carbine with its crisp reloading sounds, its warlike statue, and its gleaming amount of red light gadgetry, feels like an actual star in the movie.

Related imageEncompassing a lousy box office take, an uninspired marketing campaign, and an end-of-August opening date, Kin will probably bow out in theaters very soon. Rather than salivate over what new fall releases enter the horizon, I suggest you see this refreshing bit of genre reverie and see it stat!

Anyway, Kin is dirtied-up, lower class sci-fi, furnished with an earthy post-rock soundtrack and some 70's tunes by the likes of one Joni Mitchell (1974's "Help Me" never sounded so good). Kin is also a thinking man's form of science fiction, relying less on bloodshed and plot over plot and more on character-driven theatrics.

Kin while never lacking in ingenuity, presents itself as a road trip movie, a slick techno fever dream, a squib of present day dystopia, and an exhilarating fantasy par excellence. You'll dig the raw performance of Chris Pratt lookalike Jack Reynor, the comfortable work of James Franco as Kin's scruffy heavy, Kin's surprise ending, and the badass cameo of Michael B. Jordan that goes along with said ending (I gotta say Kin's revelatory coda makes it a better film than it already is).

Image result for kin movie scenesBottom line: Kin may have not found an audience or caught the cult bug but I'm happy to start a cinematic petition. Call it my new and long lost "broheim". Call it sci-fi True Romance meets sci-fi Afterschool Special. Call it Kinship! Rating: 3 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, September 3, 2018

Summer of 84 2018 * * 1/2 Stars

Summer of 84Directors: Anouk Whissell, Francois Simard, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Year: 2018
Rated NR
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Judah Lewis, Tiera Skovbye, Cory Gruter-Andrew

Four horny, masturbatory teenagers who swipe whiskey for a sipping delight and ride their bikes around town to Bananarama's "Cruel Summer", try to prove that an overly nice, neighboring cop is a serial killer. That's the rub of Summer of 84, a build-up vehicle that's so Hitchcockian, so forestry suburbia-like, and so slow burn, it almost replicates the master himself. On a side note, I was ten years old during the dog days of 1984. My only exciting highlight was going to see Ghostbusters with my immature buds via a pizza and Pepsi b-day. In veracity, "84" teases as true story fodder but yeah, it's cut from original cloth. I'm no film historian or adolescent conspiracy theorist but I can see why.

Image result for summer of 84 2018 movie scenesAnyway, "84" is a movie set in the mid-1980's within the state of Oregon (you'll know that right off the bat). Its sense of time and place is half-arsed but it's more about the musical soundtrack, a mixture of early John Carpenter, 1983's Risky Business, and 80's synthesizer-style cheese. Listening to Summer of 84's background noise made me want to put on my Members Only jacket, play a little Pac-Man, and grow a mullet. Also, "84's" title card sort of reminded me of Michael Jackson's heavily iconic, "Thriller" music video.

Helmed by three people (Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell) and devoid of opportunistic, heightened suspense, Summer of 84's direction is still solid. It's full of zoom shots, mildly tight scripting, slight nostalgia, Spielberg references, and Carpenter-esque jolts. However, the flick reeks of predictability (you clearly know who the quiet murderer is early on) and features a conclusion that feels like a dangling loose end. The filmmakers fashion "84" as a foul-mouthed Super 8 with It overtones, obliged coming-of-age residue, and acting that projects as poor man's Stand by Me. I was somewhat intrigued and furled along but I'm going with a mixed rating.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Upgrade 2018 * * * Stars

UpgradeDirector: Leigh Whannell
Year: 2018
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Betty Gabriel, Melanie Vallejo

Grey Trace (played by Logan Marshall-Green) loses his spouse in a street robbery and then becomes paralyzed by the evil thugs involved. After taking part in a scientific experiment that helps him walk again, Trace forgoes his suicidal tendencies and decides to seek revenge on his wife's killers. That's the gist of 2018's Upgrade, a missed science fiction yarn that blocked its marketing efforts and suffered a lousy box office take last June.

Image result for upgrade movie scenesSpiked with Tarantino-style violence, Runaway-style car chases, a not too overdone futuristic setting, and some good old-fashioned storytelling, Upgrade rises above most of the direct-to-video sci-fi that it faintly replicates. Director Leigh Whannell creates a world full of autonomous cars, numerous roving drones, bloody butchering, and curvy city landscapes. This is coming from the same dude that wrote the Saw movies and acted in Insidious and The Matrix Reloaded. It all comes full circle here.

So Yeah, the title of Upgrade refers to Trace's "upgraded" body, controlled by a centipede chip and a hidden voice that feels like Hal 9000 for a new generation. Grey can fight and kill with mechanical efficiency a la Chuck Norris on steroids. He can also run like the wind and expand his brain to play revengeful and deceptive detective. Watching Upgrade reminded me of stuff like Death Wish, Blade Runner, Self/less, and 1990's Total Recall. It's a small scale version of these films while still containing its own form of cold ingenuity (Upgrade's glassy look and budget feel a little more advanced than the $3-$5 million reported).

Image result for upgrade movie scenesSure Upgrade contains B-movie plotting, a sort of muddled ending, one too many twists, and actors of unknown origin (Marshall-Green is ruggedly cast but he's a "C" lister at best). Still, the flick is worth a peek if you like your technological gadgetry mixed with gloominess, gore, and noir. Bottom line: Upgrade may have been overlooked this summer but it happily brings you "up to code". My rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Mile 22 2018 * * 1/2 Stars

Mile 22Director: Peter Berg
Year: 2018
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Iko Uwais, John Malkovich

A band of CIA operatives have to travel 22 miles through Southeast Asia. They must transport a foreign intelligence asset for extraction. Along the way, terrorists and street hoodlums are out to kill the chipper operatives and reclaim said asset. That's the blueprint of Mile 22, a mini Black Hawk Down that feels like one long, slack 95-minute action sequence (that happens to be "22's" subsequent running time). In truth, "22" is so hyper-kinetic and so all over the place, it comes off as the movie equivalent of a 10-year-old boy who forgot to take his Ritalin. Non-sympathetic, vacant, and morbidly violent are other words I would use to describe Mile 22.

Image result for mile 22 movie scenes
So yeah, "22" on paper seems like the perfect vehicle for its star, Mark Wahlberg. In true obligatory fashion, Marky Mark spits out insulting and hard-hearted dialogue like a hyena on angel dust. Saddled with a clunky script by rookie Lea Carpenter, Wahlberg does have some lines that relegate a sort of badass detection. However, most of what he says feels like gargled, espionage gibberish. And oh yeah, don't get me started on his character constantly snapping a rubbing band around his wrist. That's just one of the quirks that makes Mark's James Silva so quote unquote, "mentally unstable".

Anyway, Mile 22 has plenty of nasty fistfights, "Hand of God" explosions, sundry fast cuts, hi-tech sutures, and deafening shootouts (if you can see what's visibly going on). They keep the flick from being anything but boring and void of energy. Also, I sort of dug "22's" gotcha ending which is kinda reminiscent of The Usual Suspects and 2003's Basic. Still, Mile 22 projects like a rushed and swiftly pasted effort from its otherwise calculated and nuanced director, Peter Berg.

Image result for mile 22 movie scenesBottom line: Berg and Wahlberg make Mile 22 a grandstanding and strutting affair. Nonetheless, they got much better "mileage" when they tackled the subject of the Boston Marathon bombing via Patriot's Day (from a couple of years ago). Knowing that Peter Berg will bounce back with more heroic, true story fodder in the near future, I'm gonna go with a two and a half star rating here.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Meg 2018 * 1/2 Stars

The MegDirector: Jon Turteltaub
Year: 2018
Rated PG-13
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson

A prehistoric shark nestled at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, makes its way to the surface to feast on residents of Sanya Bay and a group of la-di-da scientists. It's up to rescue diver Jonas Taylor (played Jason Statham) to save the day and of course narrowly avoid getting eaten. That's the rub of 2018's The Meg, a science fiction thriller that disregards B-movie fun and entertainingly dumb, summer fun. In truth, "Meg" may be big and loud but it's one hollow spectacle rifled with messy ideals. Somewhere author Peter Benchley is probably rolling in his grave and Steven Spielberg is royally shaking his head.

Image result for the meg movie scenes
So yeah, the title of The Meg refers to a Megalodon. It's an extinct species of shark that lived millions and millions of years ago. The Megalodon in "Meg" kills a few people but you never view any blood or carnage. You just see human casualties faintly disappear or kinda get swallowed up (hence the weak, PG-13 rating). I never thought I'd say this but watching The Meg made me yearn for something more like 2010's Piranha 3D. "3D's" no masterpiece but at least it confirms that people actually become fish food in the hands of nasty, tooth-like creatures.

Anyway, The Meg gives us direction by John Turteltaub that contains choppy editing (no pun intended), unnecessarily infused humor, and an inconsistency in the avenue of storyboards (every pseudo, heart rendering sequence seems to randomly pop up or flow unevenly). Also, "Meg" saddles the audience with the odd casting choice of Jason Statham in the lead. After seeing "Meg", I realized that Statham is better off doing another Expendables or Transporter sequel. Yeah he may be decent in many butt-kicking action scenes. However, JayBird has never had much in the way of screen presence with the dude possessing about 1-2 facial expressions total (sorta like Dwayne Johnson if you know what I mean).

Image result for the meg movie scenesIn retrospect, The Meg feels like just another Jaws ripoff with updated special effects, less suspense, and a larger specimen of great white on the cocky prowl (yup, you're gonna need a much bigger boat). The characters that "Meg's" shark reeks havoc on are unappealing and ones you don't really want to root for to survive. As for the headlining shark itself, well it may be up to 60 feet in length but it has the attested personality of a gnat. Bottom line: This "Meg" is truly a bad "egg". My rating: 1 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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.

Image result for mission impossible fallout movie scenes
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