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Monday, May 29, 2017

Baywatch 2017 * 1/2 Stars

BaywatchDirector: Seth Gordon
Year: 2017
Rated R
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario

Have you heard? It's a trend. First with March's CHiPs and now with Baywatch (my latest review). Yeah I'm talking about two hard, R-rated comedies that have almost nothing to do with the television shows they are based on.

Baywatch, with its banal outtakes and self-satisfaction at the end credits, is basically CHiPs but with a little less vulgarity. Both flicks have cameos from their former series stars, both have visible penis gags, and yup, both films are pretty freaking stupid. The cheesy, opening titles sequence says "with Pamela Anderson" but she has about five seconds of screen time (and a little reconstruction to boot). Then it says "and David Hasselhoff". He makes a slightly better impression. Hey, at least Dave's not appearing drunk on YouTube with double cheeseburger in hand (ha-ha).

Related imageAnyway, Baywatch the movie is not really predicated on saving lives in the water. It's more like a jovial Miami Vice episode by which the tanned lifeguards uncover a criminal operation involving hard drugs. I guess that makes sense. Otherwise, there would be nothing gravitating to fuel Baywatch's surprisingly long, 116-minute running time.

In between leads Zac Efron and Dwayne Johnson flexing their jagged abs (Efron is clearly headed towards appearing in this kind of piffle forever), you get flagrant jokes and innuendos that just fall flat. Listen, I like stupid humor and grossness if it actually makes me laugh. With Baywatch, I only chuckled once. Talk about slack writing with the addition of passive character development by Mark Swift and Damian Shannon (as a pair, they mostly pen horror films).

Image result for Baywatch 2017 movie scenesIn conclusion, if you decide to view Baywatch, you'll get clips involving slimy corpse drippings and full frontal nudity in a morgue. Also, you'll experience an abundance of slow-motion running (of course), incredibly fake CGI fire in a rescue scene, plenty of annoying hip hop tunes as background music, and a main villain that clearly looks like a Kardashian (ugh). In truth, 2004's Starsky and Hutch and 21 Jump Street are films based on TV shows that did it better and with more jocular tones. See them instead. Bottom line: Don't make an effort to "watch" Baywatch. Natch.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Snatched 2017 * * 1/2 Stars

SnatchedDirector: Jonathan Levine
Year: 2017
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn, Ike Barinholtz

2017's Snatched is my latest review. It has Goldie Hawn doing decent work with her first film in 15 years. It also has Amy Schumer channeling well, Amy Schumer. This movie feels like Romancing the Stone minus a feasible account, a wooing subplot, and an ounce of integrity. Within its 97-minute running time, Snatched still provided me with a few guffaws along the way.

The story goes like this: Emily Middleton (Schumer) loses her job at a clothing store and then gets dumped by her rocker boyfriend. She was going to vacation in Ecuador with him but winds up taking her mother instead (Linda Middleton played by Hawn). Chaos ensues when mom and daughter touchdown in South America only to be kidnapped by some bad dudes and then held for ransom.

Image result for snatched movie scenesWith a tighter screenplay and less improvisation, Snatched might have worked entirely. What's mostly on screen however, is an uneven mixture of savagery and humor. You could almost call this flick a black comedy if it weren't so dumbed-down. Hawn and Schumer are in so much peril, you don't know whether you should laugh at them, laugh with them, or heinously fear for their lives. And as I mentioned earlier, Snatched doesn't have much of a plot either. You can't really figure out why Emily and Linda are being abducted, you don't know much about their captors, and you don't really know what said captors do within their criminal operation.

Basically, Snatched is hit-or-miss. It either has nastily violent moments that feel out of place or stupid funny moments you surrender to. Oddly, the supporting players participating in the stupid fun are the parts that made me chuckle the most. Ike Barinholtz playing Schumer's character's brother, is a hoot. Ike is like the ultimate portrait of a cinematic goofball. In truth, he has a comedic style all his own. Then, there's the cameo at the beginning of Snatched involving Emily's boyfriend (played by up-and-comer Randall Park). It's the funniest bit in this thing and one of the best breakup scenes ever. Finally, there's Joan Cusack portraying without any lines, a tumbling vacationer who helps Schumer and Hawn's troupers escape the kidnappers. She's hilarious as someone specializing in black ops and I'm pretty sure she had her own stunt double on set. Natch.

Image result for snatched movie scenesAll in all, the segments with Barinholtz, Park, and Cusack are sadly scattered. They don't cause you to dislike Goldie and Amy. They just make you salivate for something better. As for Jonathan Levine's footloose direction in Snatched, well it's better than the lumpy script presented. Bottom line: You'll laugh a few times but in hindsight, Snatched is a little too "detached". Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, May 22, 2017

Alien: Covenant 2017 * * Stars

Alien: CovenantDirector: Ridley Scott
Year: 2017
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup

Did you hear the news? With Alien: Covenant, director Ridley Scott has been cloned and has gone Hollywood! Either that or the studio execs at 20th Century Fox bullied his film, finagled the final cut, and tried to re-release The Descent.

"Covenant" (my latest review) is the sixth installment in the ever-popular Alien franchise. As most critics (including this one) have noted, it's a stronger flick than Alien: Resurrection and 1992's Alien 3. Sadly, that's not saying much considering those sequels are not watchable to begin with.

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From 1979 till present day, Alien: Covenant has allowed Scott to one up the grossly, blood and guts factor. Also, he has been able to improve on certain special effects with his nasty species moving faster than ever (you actually view an alien kill in full detail). What "Covenant" lacks unfortunately, is feeling. Heck, it's so anti-climatic and clunky. Every time you think suspense is about to build with exploding stomachs or massive firepower, Ridley Scott brings Alien: Covenant to a screeching halt with Michael Fassbender (in dual roles) lamenting on the events of "Covenant's" prequel, Prometheus.

Regrettably, Alien: Covenant dismisses what made the first two installments so legendary. Gone is the haunting, horror film feel of '79's Alien. Gone is the rocketing, foot soldier aspect of 1986's Aliens. Finally, gone is James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith's stirring musical scores from both films.

In terms of the actors and their characters, it just gets worse. In place of Lance Henriksen, Yaphet Kotto, and the late Bill Paxton, "Covenant" gives us a miscast Billy Crudup, comedian Danny McBride, and a wooden Demian Bichir. In place of heroine Sigourney Weaver, well Alien: Covenant brings forth an admirable yet second-tier Katherine Waterston (Steve Jobs, 2013's Night Moves). The ship computer Mother still exists but yeah, things just aren't the same.

Image result for alien covenant 2017 movie scenesAll in all, "Covenant" has what no other Alien film possesses and that's a twist ending. It also gives us the famed horror cliche in which you have sex and then poof, you die. These are nifty attributes but they don't quite hold enough interest. You're better off seeing March's Life starring Jake Gyllenhaal. That vehicle was a blatant Alien ripoff but it's still better than what's going on here. My rating: A mixed two stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, May 19, 2017

Extortion 2017 * * * 1/2 Stars

ExtortionDirector: Phil Volken
Year: 2017
Rated R
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Eion Bailey, Bethany Joy Lenz, Barkhad Abdi

Not to be confused with 2015's Extraction and its similar poster, Extortion is my latest review. With its star in the making locales, its natural character acting, and its gnawing tension that may upset you, Extortion takes the ordinary family vacation and turns it into a plunging nightmare. After seeing this movie, you might want to take heed when hastily visiting the Caribbean. Also, you might wanna ride a jet ski as opposed to any other form of zipped buoyancy.

The plot of Extortion is fairly original despite the fact that it kinda nods towards films like Cast Away and 1997's Breakdown. As it begins, your hunch tells you that something really bad is about to happen. Extortion involves a doctor, his wife, and his young tyke of a son. This parentage gets more than they bargain for. Believe it. They go on a warm getaway, they decide to rent an old boat, and they become stranded on a deserted island. Then, a fisherman attempts to rescue them but wants a million dollars in return.

Image result for Extortion 2017 movie scenesDirected with relentless verve by Phil Volken, Extortion doesn't indulge in cinematic gimmicks and moves at a decent clip. Volken has his flick play detective as the story goes off into many stirring directions. He uses overhead shots and some jittery camerawork. Overall, his method is just plain efficacious. His troupers don't let him down either. Eion Bailey plays with nerve-ending intensity, the protagonist doctor named Kevin Riley. And Barkhad Abdi who's more creepy here than he was in Captain Phillips, channels the antagonistic fisherman named Miguel Kaba.

Part thriller, part drama. and part psychological horror fare, Extortion shattered me and I'm sure it will shatter you too. Granted, it doesn't have a notable lead or a strong marketing ploy. And it's only being released in U.S. and in the Philippines. Regardless, this thing is still my pick for biggest movie surprise of 2017. It's cynical, frustrating, nasty, and harrowing. Heck, it's okay to get "blackmailed" into seeing Extortion. Rating: 3 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Bye Bye Man 2017 * * * Stars

The Bye Bye ManDirector: Stacy Title
Year: 2017
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Carrie-Anne Moss

Low budget horror films like Get Out and Lights Out, have been successful both critically and financially. The Bye Bye Man however, has not quite garnered these accolades. What a shame. "Bye" (my latest review) may not be the pinnacle of epic fright or the echelon of monumental creep shows. Regardless, it's as good if not better than the two flicks just mentioned.

Recently released on DVD and possibly too intense for a PG-13 rating, The Bye Bye Man is a consuming affair. You revert back and jog the ghastly events in your head just as the closing credits come up. Granted, it's no M. Night Shyamalan circa 1999 but heck, what is. This head-jogging notion is similar to the story of "Bye" and at the same time, it's also the opposite. The main characters in The Bye Bye Man aren't supposed to think about their ghostly villain (named The Bye Bye Man naturally) or say his name. They'll either die or become possessed with the intent of harming others.

Three things to consider before viewing "Bye": Don't see this thing alone or in the dark (it's a cliche, I know). Also, try to realize that it's only a movie and that The Bye Bye Man is not in your reality-based vicinity. Finally, know that you'll never look at raincoats, falling coins, or train tracks the same way again.

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In terms of direction, well helmer Stacy Title carefully plots the film along. She builds scares to a slow creep, uses minimal gore, and adds decent cameos in the form of Carrie-Anne Moss and Faye Dunaway (where the heck has she been).

In jest, "Bye" is gnawing psychological terror that only suffers from the occasional, layman acting and an abrupt ending that's barely the sum of its parts. Still, "Bye" steadily brings to life the dormant, urban legend of The Bye Bye Man himself (first in 1969 and now in present day). He's hideous, he'll make you hallucinate, and he will feed off of any cancerous attention. Starkly original and worth a look, The Bye Bye Man gets a "hello" and a three star rating from me.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Fate of the Furious 2017 * * 1/2 Stars

The Fate of the FuriousDirector: F. Gary Gray
Year: 2017
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham

There was a time when MTV was all about music videos. There was a time when Kid Rock was a rapper. There was a time when ESPN was fixated on sports. Finally, there was a time when The Fast and the Furious movies were drive-in fodder and actually about car racing. Now, Vin Diesel and company are into saving the world, redefining the concept of locomotion, and going the veritable Jason Bourne route.

The Fate of the Furious (my latest review) is the 8th installment in The Fast and the Furious franchise. Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez are the only actors left from the original flick. "Fate" has Vin's Dominic Toretto being forced to go seamlessly rogue. It's a nice little wrench in the buildup-free plot and an applicable way to keep this film series going. Expect the usual dose of lame dialogue ("I will beat you like a Cherokee drum"), mediocre acting (with the exception of villain Charlize Theron), power steering that would shame Mario Andretti, and ludicrous depictions of character globetrotting (the cast travels to Havana, Berlin, New York, and Russia all in the blink of an eye). Also, be on the lookout for silly yet heart-pounding action sequences courtesy of director F. Gary Gray (Law Abiding Citizen, Set It Off).

Image result for the fate of the furious movie scenesWhether it's cars driving themselves and falling out of buildings, automobile chases with the addition of submarines, or fight scenes that would make Chuck Norris jealous, it looks like a billion dollars was plastered on the screen (that's the box office gross "Fate" has made already). Watching The Fate of the Furious, you realize that there are enough outlandish, "yeah right" moments capable of forming a drinking game (for the record, I don't encourage this behavior).

All in all, Gray takes whatever he did in The Italian Job and kicks it up ten notches. His camera moves like a lightning bolt, making CGI, gizmo-ed gadgets, and stunt work the equivalence of a habitual drug. When The Fate of the Furious exhaustively ends, you'll immediately know that another sequel is in the works. Might as well keep the money train rolling with another dose of nonsensical, gear head entertainment. My rating: An amusing and smash-mouth, 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Snare 2017 * * * Stars

The SnareDirector: C.A. Cooper
Year: 2017
Rated NR
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Eaoifa Forward, Dan Paton, Rachel Warren

Three people consisting of a romantic couple and their friend, plan a getaway to an abandoned apartment building. While staying on the top floor, they become trapped and eventually lose all access to food and water. Oh and I almost forgot, the place is haunted too. That's the gist of 2017's The Snare, my latest write-up.

Image result for the snare movie scenes"Snare" is a British horror flick. Better yet, it's riotous psychological horror. The Snare doesn't have an MPAA rating but I'll happily give it an NC-17. Rookie director C.A. Cooper (his only other credits are two short films) doesn't want to delight you. He wants to upset you, to make you feel perturbed and disgusted all at the same time. "Snare's" opening shot consists of a dead animal nestled in a graveyard, covered with flies and maggots. As the movie prolongs, there are then progressions of gratuitous violence, rape, cannibalism, and you guessed it, more maggots. Yikes!

The Snare initially reminded me of stuff like The Shining, Cabin Fever (from 2002), and even this year's The Belko Experiment. I kept thinking, what if Eli Roth and the late Stanley Kubrick managed to be each other's long lost brainchild. Anyway, filmmaker Cooper relies heavily on close-ups, wide angles, numbing long shots, and differing kinds of ominous music. "Snare's" first half (the film's weakest section) has C.A. cutting away from scenes too early, giving the feeling of his plot threads having dangling, loose ends. He then finds his footing, letting The Snare go from happy holiday to truly repugnant nightmare.

Image result for the snare movie scenesThe actors featured (Eaoifa Forward, Dan Paton, Rachel Warren) effectively convey a sense of fear and dread. And although "Snare's" ending can be confused and over interpreted, this is still something hardcore fright fans might want to check out. "Snare" starts out slow, with paint-by-numbers fortitude, fidgety editing, and stylistic indulgence. It then turns effectual, becoming its own, macabre entity. There are some uneasy dreamlike sequences involving the main character (Alice Clarke). Also, there's some other, jumpy and hallucinatory moments that The Snare likes to revel in. Be sure to avoid eating chicken while watching this movie. Also, bring an ironclad stomach and don't expect to be actually entertained by what you discern. My rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson