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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Gringo 2018 * * 1/2 Stars

GringoDirector: Nash Edgerton
Year: 2018
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton

I remember reading reviews about box office flops resembling 2018's Gringo (my latest write-up). That was a long time ago. Studios rarely make out of the blue stuff like Gringo these days. I mean they did but it was probably back in the late 80's or early 90's.

Anyway, Gringo is a case of mistaken identity, a gagman's true wet dream, and a way-out black comedy that's the movie equivalent of a rabid "dingo" (ha-ha). Gringo is also more happy-go-lucky than most dark comedies and definitely more commercial.

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As something about a mild-mannered businessman who gets embroiled in a drug cartel via the country of Mexico, Gringo makes you want to avoid visiting said country unless you plan to stick to the touristy areas. In truth, this flick is a mixture of high-octane violence, Mexican standoffs (naturally), look at me banter, and clear-sighted stunt work. Many known actors working with Gringo's textured script, bark into the camera as they constantly try to one-up each other in the snarky department.

Gringo at an hour and fifty-one minutes, stars David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, Sharlto Copley, and Thandie Newton. Director Nash Edgerton (Joel's older brother) tries to give everyone ample screen time. Some of his characters are underdeveloped, some of them fade in and out, and some of them surround as dregs. Almost all of the personae are anywhere between despicable, heartless, and scurvy.

In Gringo, the bad guys get theirs and the nice guy protagonist (Oyelowo as lowly Harold) finishes first for a change. And oh yeah, Gringo is yet another flick where we see Joel Edgerton get arrested for being a naughty, naughty boy (spoiler).

All in all, despite some dexterous shootouts and a modern film score that resembles all things Alan Silvestri, Gringo has many unfinished plot contrivances giving the movie a chintzy, cut-and-pasted feel. I can't quite recommend it but it's worth at least one look.

Image result for gringo 2018 movie scenesBottom line: Gringo may be imprecise by today's uber drug tale standards. Still, it's abruptly paced, contains sound R-rated sitcom humor, and is entertaining to a fault. My rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Delirium 2018 * * 1/2 Stars

Delirium Director: Dennis Iliadis
Year: 2018
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Topher Grace, Patricia Clarkson, Callan Murphy

"Trust my brain, not my eyes". So says the persona of Tom Walker in Delirium. Walker (a rightly cast Topher Grace) loves his Fruity Pebbles, loves to sketch people, and loves his mid-90's college music. Sadly, he gets put through the ringer via Delirium with zero sympathy, solicitude, or empathy. Heck, he's like a wilted pinata that's smacked around and beaten at every turn. Eugene Levy said it best when he spouted the words, "what a week I'm having".

Anyway, Delirium contains some blood-curdling moments that actually feel genuine. It has an elaborate mansion that almost acts as a main character. Delirium deals with brute force, hallucinatory effigies, suicide, and self-infliction. Finally, Delirium heralds a decent, sort of one-man show performance by the everyman-looking Grace. Added to that, veteran actress Patricia Clarkson is effectively nasty as a kooky probation officer with schizo motives.

Image result for delirium 2018 movie scenesReleased by way of Internet in the U.S., containing a bit of dry humor, and directed by Athens, Greece native Dennis Iliadis, Delirium involves Tom Walker (mentioned earlier). Walker is a medicated, mental patient with a psychotic older brother that's doing time for murder. Tom gets put on house arrest at his dead parent's abode for thirty days. If Tommy boy can survive with ankle monitor and haunted images in tote, he's home free and doesn't have to go back to the creepy institution for which he was temporarily allowed to leave from.

Delirium's premise is a little silly, a little far-fetched, kinda plot implemented, and highly unlikely. Still, the film (at times) seems hair-raising and vaguely original considering the countless other scare fests that have come before it.

In total veracity, Delirium reminded me slightly of The Shining, 1986's House, any Saw movie, and 2007's 1408. I'd recommend the flick had it not been for its downer ending that kind of lacks some real resolution. As a viewer, you experience a lot of bruises and blackening while taking in Delirium. By the time the end credits roll out, you'll wonder if it was actually worth all that effort.

Image result for delirium 2018 topher grace movie scenesIn retrospect, Delirium mildly succeeds as a fun-house horror flick that eventually turns into an off the rails thriller. Yeah Delirium may have too many implications, it might be a little too mean-spirited towards its lanky protagonist, and it may possess too many icky twists. Oh well. It's at least equivalent to a two and a half star rating.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Hereditary 2018 * * 1/2 Stars

HereditaryDirector: Ari Aster
Year: 2018
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne

"Don't you ever raise your voice to me, I'm your mother!" So quips the character of Annie Graham in Hereditary. Graham is shown in a couple of close-up scenes shivering like Danny Torrance in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. It's a valiant effort but it pales in comparison to what Kubrick did with grainy early 80's, lens chic.

Anyway, Hereditary contains decapitations and spiritual seances. It has buzzing flies and scaling demons. It boasts plenty of adolescent weed smoking and head-scratching dollhouse construction. Finally, Hereditary heralds a performance from Toni Collette that's better than her Oscar-nominated turn in The Sixth Sense.

Taking place in mountainous Utah and directed by a first-timer (NYC's own Ari Aster), Hereditary's blueprint story involves a family dealing with the loss and grief of veritable loved ones. The movie then veers more into mumbo jumbo territory with a screw loose ending involving naked Paimon spirits.

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Hereditary, which has a trailer that's very misleading, isn't just about a dead grandmother and a creepy thirteen-year-old who makes noises with her jaw. No there's much more going on than that. Maybe too much and not of the overriding kind.

In truth, I may have gotten a slight Amityville Horror/Shining vibe from watching Hereditary. Too bad I can't garner a recommendation. What can I say, it takes a heck of a lot more than contrived references and manner over substance to get me scared.

For what it's worth, helmer Aster does an impressive job with a $10 million dollar budget. His camerawork is supreme, he bounces off of Hitchcock, and he sets up a lot of his shots well. His Kubrickian-like direction laced with art house novelty is assured but for all the wrong reasons. Hereditary goads you and baits you into thinking you'll be frightened out of your seat. The problem is that nothing ever quite comes to fruition making Hereditary the ultimate cinematic tease.

Image result for hereditary 2018 movie scenesIn conclusion, many critics have already hailed Hereditary as a horror masterpiece. I for one think it's too slow burned, too faux inducing, too baffling, and a bit overrated. Hereditary may offer a few eldritch moments but it doesn't "inherit" greatness. My rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Adrift 2018 * * * Stars

AdriftDirector: Baltasar Kormakur
Year: 2018
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin, Jeffrey Thomas

Adrift is an ample love story, a factual account, and a shimmering tale of nautical survival. As far as new releases go in 2018, Adrift is like All Is Lost except that it has a non-linear narrative, less peril, and a heck of a lot more dialogue.

Note to Adrift's helmer, Baltasar Kormakur: Robert Redford called and wants his fixer upper can of epoxy back. Also, George Clooney phoned in and wants his scruffy, fisherman's beard back too. Finally, is there any way you could re-shoot Adrift in say, chronological order? I'm not saying what you did was second-rate. It's just arrant curiosity that's all.

Anyway, Adrift has affable leads (in the form of Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin), sympathetic performances, a kissing scene straight outta From Here to Eternity, a stirring musical score, and an "I see dead people" twist that I didn't "sea" coming. In retrospect, Adrift may be a little cut and dry for the Academy but it's far more poignant than any handheld, Open Water sequel.

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Director Baltasar Kormakur shoots Adrift by cutting profusely between flashbacks and present day sequences. He creates a film that is stylish, lifelike, and subversive. Basically, his water level vision is all his own.

Kormakur's main focus is on drifter slash free spirit, Tami Oldham (played by Shailene Woodley who's mentioned earlier in the review). Tami befriends and falls in love with a mariner named Richard Sharp (played by Sam Claflin, also mentioned earlier). After a courtship of nearly five months, Tami and Richard get an offer to sail somebody's boat from Tahiti to San Diego, CA for $10,000. Chaos ensues when a hurricane causes said boat to ruin and drift hundreds of miles away from its intended destination. With minimal food, other minimal resources, and Sharp's leg and ribs being badly broken, the dedicated couple tries to keep from dying in the middle of the ocean.

Image result for Adrift 2018 movie scenesIn conclusion, Adrift has a weak sort of foundation for creating the look of 1983. Plus, the commercial nature of this flick, its various plot holes, and its far-fetched complexion of Tami's sailing skills keep it from fully doing justice via a true story fashion. Oh well. The acting pulls you through and the main characters are adorable and genuine. You feel their plight and their winsome chemistry without any pretension. My rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, June 4, 2018

Social Animals 2018 * * Stars

Social AnimalsDirector: Theresa Bennett
Year: 2018
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Noel Wells, Josh Radnor, Aya Cash

Social Animals is a depressing, sort of pseudo comedy that features a borderline, unlikable lead in Zoe (played by San Antonio, Texas native, Noel Wells). As far as new releases go in 2018, "Animals" is like Reality Bites, Richard Linklater's Slacker, and 1998's Your Friends & Neighbors being melded in a cinematic blender.

Note to the rebelling filmmakers of Social Animals: Janeane Garofalo called and wants her undisguised promiscuity back. Also, Jason Patric phoned and wants his sobering masculinity brought back into fruition too. Finally, don't include a fellatio scene with a cucumber just for kicks. It utterly feels like witless filler.

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Anyway, the flick dons effective use of Austin, Texas locales and a whiff of the city's legendary music scene. However, "Animals" makes you want to avoid certain parts of that freewheeling borough in the long run. In veracity, words like uneven, honest, tiredly manipulative, and doleful are what I'd use to describe Social Animals.

Director Theresa Bennett (this is her feature film debut) crams several, daft relationship stories into ninety minutes but her main focus is on sad sack Zoe (mentioned earlier). Zoe is a woman who is late on her rent, lives in an RV, and owns an unsuccessful waxing outlet. She's single, almost broke, and smokes pot whenever an average occasion arises. Zoe out of boredom or sheer desperation, befriends a friendly, loser married guy and has an affair with him.

Image result for social animals 2018 movie scenes"Animals" despite its decent performances and its effectively rundown, suburban inhabiting, never fully finds a coherent tone. With its Gen X careening, its woe is me dialogue, and its need to include animated illustrations of sexual innuendo, Social Animals might have been germane say, fifteen years ago. Oh and one more thing, what does the title of this movie mean anyway? My rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson