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Monday, July 24, 2017

Dunkirk 2017 * * Stars

DunkirkDirector: Christopher Nolan
Year: 2017
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy

Christopher Nolan, a period piece, and a warfare movie. It's an interesting amalgamation. What did I think? Eh, meager disappointment at best. My latest review is Nolan's 2017 release, Dunkirk.

The story of Dunkirk is a true one. It's not handled faithfully and it has big Chris achingly trying to reinvent the combat wheel, Nolan style! It's about a rather large evacuation in World War II. Allied soldiers were taken from the beaches and harbor of Dunkirk via the summer of 1940. And in case you are wondering, Dunkirk is a medium-sized commune in northern France.

Frustrating, overly thought-provoking, icy and at times clunky, Nolan's film is told through the eyes of three different groups of WWII servicemen. Yeah its running time is 106 minutes but Dunkirk feels like it's two and a half hours long. Heck, about an hour in, I was almost "done" with Dunkirk. Natch.

Image result for Dunkirk 2017 movie scenesAnyway, Christopher Nolan as a director, gives Dunkirk a sterile look, a large canvas, a few nimble wide shots, and a numbing sense of being. These are the traits I like about him. However, when Christopher's style fails to correlate with the proper subject matter (forgone battle in the trenches), it almost appears like amateur hour on screen. Nolan mind you, has never been a supreme storyteller, a user-friendly filmmaker, or an expert at staging action. This is where his Dunkirk ultimately fails.

For a movie under two hours, Dunkirk feels slight at hand at being a silent film. It still has a ton of scenes that don't find a rhythm and can't sustain any kind of payoff. Battle sequences involving planes, boats, and land infantry are quick, lack minimal gore (that explains the PG-13 rating), and are virtually non-coherent. Also, the actors mumble their lines and Nolan's favorite troupers from his other flicks (Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy), feel underused while not having a lot of script material to bounce off of.

All in all, my biggest fault with Dunkirk has to be the editing by Australian Lee Smith. He shapes a vehicle that substitutes wartime ADHD and spoon-fed art for tone and entertainment value. Nothing in frame is truly held long enough for the viewer to process. Basically it's the movie equivalent of someone constantly changing channels with their state-of-the-art remote. So yeah, Dunkirk has a couple of meaningful moments with a provided musical score that's equal parts stirring, absorbingly loud, and annoying. Still, Smith's edits are very choppy and very fleet. They zap Dunkirk of having any lengthy intrigue or sense of epic tranquility. Bottom line: War pics shouldn't make you miffed at trying to fit all the events together as the closing credits come up. That only works with stuff like The Thin Red Line. My rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, July 21, 2017

All About the Money 2017 * * Stars

All About the MoneyDirector: Blake Freeman
Year: 2017
Rated NR
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Danny Trejo, Casper Van Dien, Mindy Robinson

Behind two weeks of plain old procrastination, I finally decided to view 2017's All About the Money. "Money" chronicles three, penniless washout guys from Los Angeles. After hearing about a $25 million dollar reward involving the capturing of America's most wanted criminal, they eagerly venture to Columbia, South America to try to get the job done.

In "Money", Blake Freeman directs, co-stars, storyboards, and partners in writing the screenplay. Yeah it's a mini ego trip for him and he makes sure that his film veers far away from taking itself too seriously. All About the Money sans an MPAA rating but it's surely a hard R. Yup, this is real cockamamie stuff. It starts off as this year's Half Baked while giving us loose end side characters and two, suitable flashback excerpts. "Money" then turns into an aping drug movie with a final shootout sequence blatantly reminiscent of 1984's Beverly Hills Cop.

Now "Money" does have some humorous moments courtesy of funnyman Eddie Griffin. If ever a flick mixed sketchy laughter and drug lord prudence, this would be it. "Money" also drags at times, features out of place narration by a snobbish bloke (Stephen Stanton), and contains a certain level of improvisational annoyance. Mean-spirited, demented, and racially skewed in its approach, All About the Money gets points for originality only to gather grounds for deserved, direct-to-video enhancement.

Image result for All about the money 2017 scenes danny trejo
In cessation, Blake Freeman shoots "Money" as if it's for his own pleasure, his own sufferance, or his own, mocking amusement. I'll give the dude smug credit for squeezing everything he can out of what is probably a diddly-squat budget. There are great Columbia locales, fantastic Colombian babes, quick pauses of hailing gunfire, and plenty of Scarface citations. However, after seeing "Money" with its ode to loser lyricism and its failure to apologize for its own, fanciful nature, you'll realize that it's vapor-ed, disposable material. A better title would be All About the "Mindlessness". Rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, July 14, 2017

All Nighter 2017 * 1/2 Stars

All NighterDirector: Gavin Wiesen
Year: 2017
Rated R
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: J. K. Simmons, Emile Hirsch, Kristen Schaal

Ginnie (Analeigh Tipton) is on vacation and her phone is turned off. That doesn't stop Ginnie's father and her ex-boyfriend from thinking she has gone missing. The father is Mr. Gallo (played by J.K. Simmons) and the ex-boyfriend is Martin (played by a bearded and dimwitted Emile Hirsch). They progress through the streets of seedy SoCal, they harbor the notion that it's stupid to walk from place to place in Los Angeles (this was made public by Kevin Dillon in Entourage), they experience some serious hi jinks, and they wind up being arrested in All Nighter, my latest review.

Anyway, "Nighter" plays like a combination of Due Date (just look at the poster), Planes, Trains & Automobiles, and 2015's Grandma. It's a road trip flick, a polar opposite buddy movie, and a shoddy L.A. story all rolled up into one. Whereas Due Date and "Planes" had some sort of purpose or destination, "Nighter" feels almost too lightweight and barely ceases to exist. The whole film could've ended if someone had sooner made a phone call to the right person. That's how frivolous and unnecessary All Nighter appears to an audience.

Image result for all nighter 2017 movie scenesAs for Hirsch and Simmons (mentioned earlier), well they are decent actors who are clearly above this material. Their encounters with each other and everyone else in "Nighter", come off as awkward, cringe-worthy, and thorny. I'm not finished. To the supposed amusement of All Nighter's director (Gavin Wiesen), the side characters Gallo and Martin try to gather clues from, are goofy for the sake of being goofy, annoying for the sake of being annoying, and tactless for the sake of being tactless. They don't feel the need to act like actual human beings. I guess you could call "Nighter" the ultimate City of Angles thread-baring or the ultimate foray into "Hollyweird". Natch.

In conclusion, a year from now when the dust has settled and all of the DVD premieres have curtailed, I see All Nighter being filtered to the bottom of a $4.99 bin at Best Buy. No BS. Rating: 1 and a half stars.

Image result for all nighter 2017 movie scenesOf note: Growing up in the state of Michigan, I've always appreciated the rocking music of Bob Seger. In "Nighter", Seger's hit "Night Moves" is playing in the background on three different occasions. You see "Night Moves" is without a doubt, a classic. However, it needed to be featured in a different movie, one that's much better than the trivial conch that is All Nighter.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, July 10, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming 2017 * * * Stars

Spider-Man: HomecomingDirector: Jon Watts
Year: 2017
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau

Peter Parker wants to be part of the Avengers. And under the eyeing supervision of Tony Stark, he may get his chance assuming the identity of Spider-Man, the web-shooting NYC victor. That's the gist of Spider-Man: Homecoming, my latest review.

Looking like a cross between a young Tony Goldwyn and a teenage Eric Bana, Tom Holland plays Mr. Parker. He's decent in the role but there's a certain amount of guilelessness in his performance. When Pete defeats a bad guy, he spouts off stuff like "yippee" or "woohoo". It feels a little grating at times but hey, the dude portrays an undeveloped fifteen-year-old so I guess it's you know, predicted.

Image result for spider-man homecoming movie scenes 2017Anyway, I'm not an aficionado on superhero films nor am I a fanatic when it comes the character of Spider-Man (or the Spider-Man franchise). I did however, enjoy Spider-Man: Homecoming. It's a sort of "you can tell" way of rebooting the yesteryear of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.

Now I was hesitant on taking in a screening seeing that "Homecoming's" trailer readily misleads you. I initially thought of something low budget, with a kiddie feel, a cartooning palate, and yet another change in the lead actor department. Heck, for all I know this could've been the next Home Alone 3. Thankfully that wasn't the case.

Lushly directed by Colorado native Jon Watts, Spider-Man: Homecoming allows Johnny boy to generate stupendous action sequences at breakneck speed. His camera, which gives the film a more comic book look see, is always hastily roving around. My favorite sequence is one in which Spider-Man saves his buddies from an elevator crash via the Washington Monument. It's pretty invigorating stuff and if you're afraid of heights, you might have to look away.

Image result for spider man homecoming movie scenesAll in all, "Homecoming's" budget is still healthy at $175 million. It's $118 million below the last Spidey-sense installment (2014's The Amazing Spider-Man 2) but so what. The vibe with Spider-ManHomecoming is less dark, more fancy-free, more cheery, and more whimsy than anything else in the Spider-Man canon. It's like superhero fanaticism meets Pretty in Pink or She's All That. Add a creepy malefactor in Michael Keaton (he plays Adrian Toomes aka Vulture) and the result is a stony mixture of cutesy high schooling, deadpan humor, and intimidating villainy. What can I say, it just works. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, July 3, 2017

The House 2017 * * Stars

The HouseDirector: Andrew J. Cohen
Year: 2017
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas

Scott and Kate Johansen (played by Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) are proud parents who find out that their daughter is going to Bucknell University. The only problem is that said daughter's scholarship fell through and the Johansen family doesn't have any money to begin with. Their solution is to open up an illegal casino at a nearby neighbor's house. This will help pay for tuition because hey, Bucknell costs about forty-eight thousand a year (I looked it up just to be sure).

That's the gist of The House, my latest review. It hastily stars Will Ferrell, the Dow Jones of comedic actors. His movies fluctuate between good, fair, and awful. "House", with its badly marketed summer release, its pasted together feel, and its wonted R rating, barely steers clear of that "awful" category.

Image result for the house 2017 movie scenesDistributed by Warner Bros. Pictures and featuring slow-motion clips accompanied by rap music, The House is truly the be-all-end-all of manufactured comedies. At a running time of eighty-eight minutes, it only has enough material for maybe a half hour skit. A lot of "House" is filler. The screenwriters do everything to get a laugh but they forget that a full-length story actually matters.

Anyway, characters in The House are ones that don't act like real-life people. They are overly idiotic, over the top rash, and over the top in their stupid funny antics. They exist in their own world, a world detached from forgone reality. With "House" being on intrigue autopilot most of the way, Poehler and Ferrell take center stage in this stupidity (Ferrell's Scott can't add numbers and misconstrues the meaning of a 401 (k)). They relentlessly strut their stuff and basically play themselves. Amy and Will act a fool, act goofy, and lack a reasonable moral center. Their Scott and Kate should probably be committed as opposed to being let loose in society.

Image result for the house 2017 movie scenesAll in all, The House does have moments that will make you chuckle. However, it's a hard movie for me to recommend and an even harder movie for an audience member to appreciate. In "House" (ha ha), Ferrell (nicknamed "The Butcher") gets fake blood relentlessly squirted at his face, Jeremy Renner is featured in an all-too-brief cameo as a mobster (and he gets burned to death, ouch), and co-star Ryan Simpkins appears like a deadpan of early Taylor Swift. There's also unnecessary outtakes at the end credits (come on, not again), a couple of brutal scenes involving underground fighting, and lots of improvisation by the troupers with script supervision optional. Bottom line: There's that old saying, "the house always wins". Well, the movie The House doesn't quite break even. Rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson