film reel image

film reel image

Monday, October 30, 2017

All Eyez on Me 2017 * * * Stars

All Eyez on MeDirector: Benny Boom
Year: 2017
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Danai Gurira, Lauren Cohan

All Eyez on Me is my latest review. It's a biopic of the poetic Tupac Shakur. Tattooed, volatile, and sneering, Pac was once one of my favorite hip-hop artists from the 90's.

At 140 minutes, the director of "Eyez" (Benny Boom) tries his darnedest to include all of Shakur's life. I'm talking from when he was in his mother's womb to his infamous death via September of 1996. It's a valiant but glossed over effort with a little TV movie shtick, a workmanlike pace, and some side characters that sort of fade in and out (Dr. Dre, The Notorious B.I.G., Shock G, etc.).

Nevertheless, All Eyez on Me is still an absorbing drama. A lot of it is total, behind the scenes stuff giving you the Tupac Shakur you thought you knew. I'm not sure if everything is accurate but the film outlines the rapper as boisterous, tangled, and even kind of misunderstood.

Image result for all eyez on me movie scenesAnyway, I didn't gather why Shakur was falsely incarcerated for sexual assault nor why he was accused of shooting two off-duty cops in Atlanta. Also, I didn't know the whole side account with "Eyez" involving Tupac's mom (former Black Panther party member, Afeni Shakur). These are just a handful of examples because after taking in All Eyez on Me, I now have some hard insight into Shakur's complicated existence.

For what it's worth, "Eyez" paints a detailed picture for most of the way. It's a movie in which you the viewer, never feels safe (much like the way Shakur felt for 25 years). In the lead role, Demetrius Shipp Jr. looks eerily similar to the rap legend. Not only that, he gets all of Tupac's mannerisms and tics down to a T. Being a novice actor who pretty much auditioned on a whim, Shipp's portrayal almost feels like an impression (as opposed to a performance) but it's still darn good.

Image result for all eyez on me movie scenesNow could "Eyez" have worked out better if it was made into an actual documentary? Maybe. I'm not sure if this has already been done but you could include some archive footage and interviews from the people who knew Tupac intimately. Could "Eyez" as a do-cu transport you into Shakur's closed-off world while stirring up tension in the mind's eye? Possibly but the real-life stuff is more subdued than the make-believe. I sometimes dig make-believe more. Bottom line: See 2017's All Eyez on Me. It's no masterpiece but as a blow-by-blow, biographical yarn, it's "all" good. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Geostorm 2017 * * 1/2 Stars

GeostormDirector: Dean Devlin
Year: 2017
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Ed Harris

2017's Geostorm is my latest review. It was initially shot over three years ago but that doesn't really diminish its quality. Geostorm is a disaster film and yeah, I'm a sucker for that kind of popcorn fury. You wanna see random cities get destroyed by hail storms, tidal waves, and millions of lightning bolts? Geostorm's got your back. You wanna see denizens parish from molten heat and from being flash frozen? Geostorm will give it to you.

But wait, that's not all. Geostorm doesn't just have the weather as its only antagonist. There's also a creepy Secretary of State playing government cover-up by implanting a computer virus to destroy the planet. You just know that Geostorm is then gonna have vapid car chases, some fistfights, and some gnarly shootouts. Hey, I can dig it.

In truth, Geostorm is a little intense for PG-13 fare. I remember getting the same feeling watching people burn to death in something like The Towering Inferno (a disaster trope that today could have been rated R). Guess what, you've been warned as a moviegoer.

Image result for geostorm 2017 movie scenesFor what it's worth, I almost decided to recommend Geostorm. What can I say, it surprised me. Call it science fiction fodder with ideas as opposed to just relying on chintzy special effects. Geostorm creates its own, unique world in which satellites control the Earth's climatic overhaul. There's also a sense of fragility and peril when it comes to Geostorm's take on natural disasters. Geostorm's logic is hokey yet weirdly fascinating. Its scenes of destruction are partial yet boldly intense. The critics have been lambasting this thing every since it came out last Friday. Frankly, they just need to chill.

Now where would I rank Geostorm in the disaster porn canon? Well it's better than Deepwater Horizon, better than Into the Storm, better than 1979's Meteor, and much better than 1974's Earthquake. However, Geostorm is not quite on par with Cloverfield, The Day After Tomorrow, and Deep Impact. So OK, I'd probably put it in line with something like The Core. There's a flick I'd also saddle with a strong, mixed rating (hint, hint).

Anyway, Geostorm is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures and features a musical score straight from the annals of Michael Bay. Added to that, Geostorm chooses the cities of Rio, Orlando, Florida, and Tokyo as candidates to bite the proverbial dust. In the casting department, Geostorm stars scruffy Scot and ICSS commander hero, Gerard Butler.

Image result for geostorm 2017 movie scenesListen, I believe Gerard to be a decent actor. I really do. The problem is that his agent keeps putting him in movies that are critically panned on a dime. Geostorm inhabiting that kind of movie (this isn't my opinion), puts Butler in the position of being the poor man's so-and-so (Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, take your pick). It's a shame. Heck, flicks like Playing for Keeps and The Bounty Hunter won't get him any closer to the Academy Awards either. Oh well. Butler is the heart of Geostorm and he does a bang-up job. My overall assessment of this motion picture: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, October 23, 2017

It Comes at Night 2017 * * 1/2 Stars

It Comes at NightDirector: Trey Edward Shults
Year: 2017
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo

"You can't trust anyone but family". So quips the character of Paul played by Joel Edgerton. Joel yields paranoia, a quarantine protocol, and plenty of firearms in It Comes at Night (my latest write-up).

"Night" is distributed by A24 as box office poison. It is heralded as a psychological horror film but doesn't really horrify you. It Comes at Night is more of a paint-by-numbers thriller. It revels in pretension with tons of buildup, a forestry setting, and imposed, Hitchcockian nuances.

Image result for it comes at night movie scenes 2017With its title being seemingly unclear (I never figured out what exactly comes at night), "Night" is one of those movies that saturates itself. It thinks it's more clever, more complex, and just plain better than it really is. "Night's" plot is a mere snapshot of a family trying to protect itself from a contagious outbreak that has taken over the free world. The flick's script gives us a set of rules for safety against said outbreak. Everything is taken so seriously to the point where It Comes at Night almost becomes paradoxical in nature.

In truth, I wanted to experience something more like the similar-themed Cabin Fever. That film upset me and occasionally humored my psyche. Regrettably, "Night" gave off a vibe akin to 2004's The Village. Not my ideal. It Comes at Night "comes" with a scattered, mixed review.

Director Trey Edward Shults (he helm-ed 2015's Krisha) provides meh dream sequences, occasional zoom shots, and some admirable tension. Yeah his "Night" is moderately stylish but lacks considerable atmospherics. Shults probably could've benefited from the advice of Sam Raimi, Eli Roth, or even Stanley Kubrick's resonant ghost.

Image result for it comes at night movie scenes 2017Bottom line: Despite a decent musical score, some tightly would guises, and some effectively cautious acting from the leads (Edgerton, Christopher Abbott), It Comes at Night is kinda unceremonious. It is abrupt cat and mouse that misleads the audience with its fearful trailer. My rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Ghost Story 2017 * * Stars

A Ghost StoryDirector: David Lowery
Year: 2017
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara

Remember when Casey Affleck appeared in 2002's Gerry? I do. I enjoyed that film despite the fact that certain scenes went on incessantly. A Ghost Story (my latest review) also stars Affleck. It too has extending wide shots and parlays over ninety minutes that could've just equaled an hour.

Now did I like "Story" as much as Gerry? Not really. Despite a decent musical score and a wholly original template, A Ghost Story felt a little pretentious and a little too symbolic for my taste. With "Story", the camera peers in on every frame, there's some pseudo creepiness, and there's plenty of uncomfortable silences. A Ghost Story has slight shades of Terrence Malick and at the same time, gives off the whiff of being akin to an independent version of 1990's Ghost (starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore).

Anyway, "Story" is filmed mostly at a real house outside of Irving, Texas. Said house could easily come off as the pic's unequivocal star. Shot on a screen resembling the outline of a small pool table, A Ghost Story isn't conventionally scary but is indeed about ghostly figures. There are a couple of them. They are dressed in white capes with eye holes cut out.

Image result for a ghost story movie scenes
Casey Affleck plays up apparition as an anonymous character. He's a husband who dies in a car accident and comes out of death as Casper for a new generation. He tries in afterlife fashion to connect with his grieving wife. Then, he lies dormant as his other half moves to a different town (Affleck's sweetie is yet another anonymous persona played by Bedford, NY native, Rooney Mara).

In conclusion, "Story" is directed with soared ambition by David Lowery (Pete's Dragon, Ain't Them Bodies Saints). Lowery has tailored intentions but fails to give his audience an emotional connection to his troupers (we barely get to know anything about them except that they binge-eat homemade pies and then throw up). He also robs his flick of having a sustained level of entertainment value.

Bottom line: A Ghost Story might make one hit the fast forward button on their DVD remote. It perturbs giving you every painstaking sequence from an extensive distance. Call it tricked "storytelling" that's announced as overthought, spoon-fed art. Rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 * 1/2 Stars

Blade Runner 2049Director: Denis Villeneuve
Year: 2017
Rated R
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas

Blade Runner 2049 (my latest review) is the long-awaited sequel to 1982's cult hit, Blade Runner. Guess what, I'm gonna compare the two films outright. Like GEICO, it's what I do.

"2049" is forty-five minutes longer than Blade Runner, "2049" expands on Blade Runner's universe from three-plus decades ago (yet there's no unfeigned connection), and "2049" is a little more violent and more action-packed. Still, Blade Runner 2049 is discombobulated. It's an inferior product that doesn't quite manifest as a rightful companion piece. There's less mystery, less darkness, no hypnotic Vangelis music, and less of a noir feel this time around. Sadly, those are the things I liked about the first outing.

Image result for blade runner 2049 movie scenes
Now would I consider Blade Runner from 82' a masterpiece? Not quite. I'd still recommend it though. The storytelling is tighter than in "2049" despite both flicks being vehemently slow-paced. Blade Runner is a pioneer in the visual effects department and has a poignant, ironic ending. Blade Runner 2049 by comparison, is a nettlesome exercise that has too many ideas and tries way too hard to be relevant. Sure its look is decent enough. But with a bloated running time, some scenes that should have been left on the cutting room floor, and some shaky editing, Blade Runner 2949 ends up being an annoying, sci-fi slog.

People all over the world have been debating the humanoid status contained in the first Blade Runner. These fanboys have been doing it for the past thirty-five years. With "2049", they'll probably just sigh and wonder what all the new fuss is about.

Harrison Ford reprises his Rick Deckard character for what feels like a minuscule cameo. Regrettably, he doesn't act with the mannerisms of Deckard enough to think that you believe he's back in Rick's nominal saddle again. It's almost a thankless performance. Then you have Ryan Gosling in the lead as protagonist K/Joe. Gosling is basically playing himself here. He's quiet, solemn, and appears like a less nastier version of his Driver trouper from 2011's Drive. Finally, there's Jared Leto as the ill-defined villain in Niander Wallace. It's Suicide Squad all over again because Leto barely registers in his role. It's like his presence feels akin to a separate motion picture altogether. That can't be good.

Image result for blade runner 2049 movie scenesAll in all, Blade Runner 2049 unfortunately comes off like other sequels in the past. After getting a whiff of its pretentiousness and unnecessary, science fiction mumbo-jumbo, you'd rather watch the first film the minute "2049's" closing credits come up. Rating: 1 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, October 5, 2017

American Made 2017 * * * Stars

American MadeDirector: Doug Liman
Year: 2017
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Tom Cruise, Sarah Wright, Domhnall Gleeson

You wanna bring back "The 'Me' Decade" by curating a grainy, weathered look? No problem. Just add Cesar Charlone, the director of photography for American Made (my latest write-up).

"Made" chronicles one Barry Seal (played by Tom Cruise). In the 1970's, Seal starts off as a bored TWA pilot who wants more money and more excitement in his life. He hastily quits his current job, gets contacted by the CIA to fly reconnaissance missions, becomes a gunrunner, and eventually smuggles drugs for the Medellin Cartel. The movie ends with him being fatally assassinated in the mid-80's (spoiler).

All in all, this may not be Cruise's greatest performance but it's still darn good. It's much different from his all-american heroes in the past. Notwithstanding Tom's mundane likeness, he's still got the charisma, he's still got the charm, and he's still got those whitening chompers. Cruise disappears into his role easily and effortlessly. You almost forget that you're watching Tom Cruise, the megawatt movie star.

Image result for american made movie scenes
Directed by Doug Liman and scripted by Gary Spinelli (Stash House), "Made" is a frenzied, bouncy affair. Liman usually makes action pics like The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and Edge of Tomorrow. His American Made is something invariably different. It's unlike anything he's ever done before. In fact, I'm not sure Doug Liman was even behind the camera. His film at just under two hours, breeds kookiness, contains a rich, poppy soundtrack, and breaks a few rules. Heck, Duggy and lead Cruise are all the better for it.

With the addition of an old school opening sequence a la Universal Pictures, Liman uses a host of cinematic techniques in regards to "Made". There are freeze-frames, archive footage, some jittery camera-work, random inserts of narration, and low grade animation. Doug seems to be channeling his inner Martin Scorsese along with his inner Oliver Stone. Also, despite the fact that American Made is based on a true story, Liman still had to of watched 2001's Blow or Lord of War for a little inspiration.

Image result for american made movie scenesIn hindsight, "Made" is mildly tense, feverishly paced, and even intently funny. I didn't quite embrace its ending for it made Seal's death a blase, abrupt, and forgettable event. Furthermore, I didn't completely know what was going on for most of the way. "Made's" plotting is sort of underdeveloped with a concealed, murky tone right from the get-go. Still, I dug Liman's groove, his balls out craft, and his breakneck style. I can't wait to see what this New York born director does next. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson