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Friday, March 29, 2019

The Beach Bum 2019 * * 1/2 Stars

The Beach BumDirector: Harmony Korine
Year: 2019
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher

Stephen Bishop's "On and On" is featured on the soundtrack of The Beach Bum (my latest review). "Beach Bum" the movie, well it wanders massively. It too just goes "on and on". On another note, Eddie Money's "Two Tickets to Paradise" is featured as well. "Beach Bum's" setting is "paradise" that stinks real pretty.

The Beach Bum while amusing, still could've used a slight mantra of a script. It's about a drugged-up writer named Moondog who must pen a final poetry book in order to claim the rich inheritance of his dead wife. Foul-mouthed, sloppy, g-stringed, pot enhanced, and containing clips of simultaneous junk grabbing, The Beach Bum comes off like a bunch of random scenes snipped from the cutting room floor. I was regaled but sort of shook my head as the final credits came up.

Image result for the beach bum movie scenesSo OK, "Beach Bum" is like 1987's Barfly for the South Beach circuit. It's also kinda like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas without the souped-up paranoia. With a look containing purple, orange, and blue hues, The Beach Bum might be the most beautiful, scuzzbucket of a movie I've ever seen. "One day I will swallow up the world". Indeed.

"Beach Bum" is directed by Harmony Korine. Harmony makes films and I don't think he cares whether you like them or not. As a legend in the art of off-kilter framing and pitying, self-indulgence, Korine puts his muse (Matthew McConaughey as Moondog) in nearly every frame.

McConaughey as a gentler version of Mickey Rourke's Henry Chinaski, doesn't really give a performance. He just acts a fool without knowing that the cameras are even rolling. Matthew's Moondog is the type of footloose character we all want to be for a day. The sad part is I don't think anyone would even attempt to try it.

In conclusion, "Beach Bum" has well known actors like Zac Efron, Snoop Dogg, Jonah Hill, and Martin Lawrence making appearances but not exactly registering in terms of plot mechanics (or lack of plot mechanics). They are there to sort of ensure that Moondog is the Forrest Gump or Zelig of kooky junkies.

Image result for the beach bum 2019 movie scenesBottom line: The Beach Bum slightly hinders its message about being yourself and not caring what the heck anybody thinks. This flick might turn out to be a stoner classic as long as you actually get stoned while watching it (for the record, I don't endorse this action). Heck, if I had a dime for every time someone lit up a joint in "Beach Bum", I'd be a darn millionaire. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Triple Threat 2019 * * Stars

Triple ThreatDirector: Jesse V. Johnson
Year: 2019
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Scott Adkins

"Yeah I got eight guns pointed at me right now". Sure why not.

In hustle-bustle Thailand, a billionaire's daughter has a contract put on her by a group of trained assassins. It's up to a couple of down-and-out soldiers to help protect said daughter. That's the rub of Triple Threat, my latest review. In all honesty, I gawked at the energy and harsh gusto by which "Threat" displayed in its never-ending string of rabid action sequences. I mean yeah, I kind of admired it (not!).

Image result for triple threat 2019 movie scenesShot with actors you've never even heard of and helmed by the guy who made last year's Accident Man (a film I recommended), Triple Threat is so enamored in its martial artistry, hailed bullets, and corn syrupy gore that it forgets to be purposeful. This is Big Trouble in Little China without the heart. This is Crouching Tiger, Hidden "Bandwagon". This is a prosaic David Ayer picture on anabolic steroids (and without any snarky line readings).

With "Threat", director Jesse V. Johnson revels in slickness, fast cutting fistfights, remorselessness, and gunplay that is completely cardboard in nature. It's as if the ghosts of John J. Rambo, James Braddock, and John Matrix came in to do some serious dispatching. As for the pace of Triple Threat, well it's one-snidely storyboard-ed and relentless. Despite "Threat's" twisty plot coming in at fits and starts, every other frame has some character perishing via assembly line slaughter. Yup, "Threat's" kill count as drinking game will give you a blood alcohol level of .3 (ouch).

Image result for triple threat 2019 movie scenesAction junkies in the form of sheltered teenagers (like myself in the 80's), might find some video game excitement in Triple Threat's overly violent tone and copious, affray set pieces. Otherwise this is a very hollow viewing experience. Most martial arts flicks are more epic, less dated, more authentic, and more soulful than "Threat". Heck, you might as well see John Wick: Chapter dos instead. My rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Last Man 2018 * Star

The Last ManDirector: Rodrigo H. Vila
Year: 2018
Rated R
Rating: * Star
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Harvey Keitel

Narration from an unrecognizable Hayden Christensen that feels as if it was lifted from Harrison Ford circa 1982. Co-star Harvey Keitel saying his lines as if he were reading them from cue cards. Cringe-worthy dialogue, obvious Pink Floyd references, a tired Mexican standoff, and acting that screams straight-to-video. Interior dig shots so dark and droll, you can't see what the heck is going on. Doofus side characters that look too much alike. It's all here in The Last Man (my latest review). Once is the "last" time I plan on seeing The Last Man. Sadly it's the Ishtar of science fiction endeavors. Natch!

Image result for the last man 2018 movie scenesAnyway, "Man" takes place in the future and was filmed in Argentina. Its musical score is decently apocalyptic while its look is rainy, thundered, and ho-hum dystopian. As for The Last Man's story, well it's about a combat veteran who has post-traumatic stress disorder. With advice from an old-timer street prophet, he decides to prepare for the end of days. Somewhere Rick Deckard is viewing this flick while dreaming of unicorns and deciding whether or not he is openly human. And somewhere Malcolm McDowell's Alex DeLarge is getting his eyeballs dilated as he views some morbidly sadistic images.

Image result for the last man 2018 movie scenesThe Last Man, which comes off like a nowhere version of Blade Runner without any Philip Marlowe protocol, feels self-serious, tedious, and badly mean-spirited. You can even add a muted version of 1995's Strange Days and A Clockwork Orange for faux inspiration. Basically, "Man" rivals these movies yet doesn't have any real cinematic reason for existing. "Man's" director (Rodrigo H. Vila) forcefully plagiarizes his vision, there's some absurd beatings, lead Christensen mumbles his way through the proceedings, "Man" stumbles incredibly in its way-out narrative, and the flick announces itself as a jaded poster child for PTSD (mentioned earlier).

Bottom line: The Last Man is the most non-sensed form of sci-fi drivel I've seen in many a moon. It belongs in the Best Buy "trash bin". Rating: 1 star.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Arctic 2018 * * 1/2 Stars

Arctic Director: Joe Penna
Year: 2018
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smaradottir

"She's running out of time". So says the battered character of Overgard in 2019's Arctic (my latest review). Arctic the movie, well it sure takes its "time". 98 minutes seems to feel a little more long-winded here.

Arctic while fitting, still has that seen it all before feeling. It's about a man who is stranded somewhere in the Arctic Circle after his small plane goes down. While waiting to be rescued, he is forced to survive with whatever bare resources he has around him. Frustrating, harrowing, and not without its various moments, Arctic might have been more pioneering say 30 years ago. My final reaction after Arctic's closing credits rolled was a muted sigh.

Image result for arctic movie scenesSo OK, Arctic is like 2013's All Is Lost in snow. It's also like The Grey without wolves, Gerry without the desert, or Alive without visible cannibalism. The sad thing however, is that Arctic isn't quite as terrifying, high arty, or compelling as the films just mentioned. Yup, it must have been a little too warm on the North Pole when Arctic's "man against nature" plight went down.

Directed by first-timer Joe Penna (he's a shorts and TV guy), containing almost no backstory, and made on a minuscule budget of $2 million, Arctic gives us its strongest asset in lead Mads Mikkelsen. As Overgard, Mads gives a performance that is totally weathered and seemingly staunch. Being perfectly cast in looks and in speaking voice, Mikkelsen effectively rivals the Robert Redford persona from All Is Lost (mentioned earlier).

Image result for arctic movie scenesIn conclusion, Arctic's music by Joseph Trapanese is rousing and wholly baseline for this type of genre. As for Arctic's cinematography (by Tomas Orn Tomasson), well the budget constraints make it feel like it was tersely filmed in snowy Colorado (or any Canadian province). Bottom line: Arctic isn't mediocre but it sure comes off like a paint-by-numbers exercise in brute survival. You take away the parching screen presence of Mads Mikkelsen and the outcome might be even worse. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, March 8, 2019

Apollo 11 2019 * * * * Stars

Apollo 11Director: Todd Douglas Miller
Year: 2019
Rated G
Rating: * * * * Stars
Cast: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Indeed.

In July of 1969, the spaceflight involving the first two people to land on the moon, is gloriously and masterfully depicted in Apollo 11 (my latest review). "Apollo" is shot in 70 mm, cut from thousands of hours of reel, baited in effective title cards, and contains cinematography from the actual astronauts involved (Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins). Barely grainy, split-screened, and nevertheless revolutionary, you as the viewer feel like you're stuck in an outputted time warp.

Image result for apollo 11 2019 movie scenesYup, it's official. "Apollo" is so far the best film of 2019 and the most heady since Kubrick's 2001. I left the theater elated and enthusiastic at what I just saw. Heck, Apollo 11 is the real "First Man", not the mediocre science fiction flick where Ryan Gosling plays a turgidly aloof Neil A. Armstrong.

Clocking in at a perfect 93 minutes, distributed by up-and-comer Neon, and containing archived restoration of the highest order, "Apollo" is a documentary without interviews, commentaries, narration, or whatever. Hey, its predictable true account just works and everyone from age 10 to 100 should check it out.

Director Todd Douglas Miller (a docu genius in the making) pulls you into "Apollo's" "in the moment" vision. He lets the actual people involved (no actors here) do the talking and his footage is so pristine and polished, your jaw will literary drop. After 50 years, I can't believe nobody thought about releasing this kind of maverick foresight earlier. Eat your heart out Paul Greengrass cause Apollo 11 is totally mind-blowing (and mind-boggling if you think about it).

Image result for apollo 11 2019 movie scenes"Apollo's" music by Ohio native Matt Morton, is an added bonus (it's fitting since most spacemen hail from the Buckeye State). It's stirring and Herculean and pounces in at all the right moments. Bottom line: Apollo 11 is the future of factual programs for years to come. Now all I gotta do is see Peter Jackson's They Shall Not Grow Old and my cinematic world will be complete. My highest rating: 4 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Trading Paint 2019 * 1/2 Stars

Trading PaintDirector: Karzan Kader
Year: 2019
Rated R
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: John Travolta, Michael Madsen, Shania Twain

Parodied character names like Sam "The Man" Munroe and Bob "Lead Foot" Linsky. The gorgeous Shania Twain phoning in her love interest performance as if she were the spokeswoman for Simple Mobile. The cheesiest sports commentary since the Ben-Hur-style pod race in The Phantom Menace. An ending too fanciful for words. It's all here in Trading Paint (my latest review). Let's just call "Paint" Days of "Blunder" shall we.

Image result for trading paint 2019 movie scenesAnyway, Trading Paint takes place in Alabama and was filmed in Alabama. Its production values basically consist of going to a small rural town, turning on the Panavision camera, and quickly yelling action! As for "Paint's" story, well it's about minor league dirt car racing, like father, like son racing, and rivalry racing all rolled up into one. The scenes where the stock cars are barreling down the speedway seem anti-climatic, underwhelming, pedestrian, and few and far between. Somewhere Cole Trickle is shaking his head in embarrassment while sipping some hardcore Tennessee Moonshine.

Trading Paint, which comes off like 1990's Days of Thunder on a shoestring budget (see first paragraph), feels insignificant, predictable, and incredibly small-scale. I give the filmmakers a little credit for trying to install a dramatic narrative as opposed to just relying on built sedans violently rubbing up against each other (hence the name of the movie). Still, "Paint" veers into straight-to-video territory real quick. Look there's "Paint" star John Travolta harboring little integrity, sporting his umpteenth hairpiece, and spewing more weirdo southern accents than Jim Nabors (how noble of him). And look, there's co-star Michael Madsen channeling his inner, uber-villain while trying to be relevant again (uh what the heck happened to this dude's career and speaking voice?).

Image result for trading paint 2019 movie scenes
Bottom line: Loved the catchy title of this film. Loved seeing Shania in tight jeans. Didn't really like Karzan Kader's cut corners direction. Didn't really like "Paint" in general. Sadly, Trading Paint is gearhead "finger-paint". Rating: 1 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, March 1, 2019

Alita: Battle Angel 2019 * * 1/2 Stars

Alita: Battle AngelDirector: Robert Rodriguez
Year: 2019
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Mahershala Ali

"You are the most human person I have ever met". So says the lovelorn character of Hugo in Alita: Battle Angel (my latest review). Good insightful quote because I don't think anyone in "Alita" actually registered as a full-on "human" being. Robo-apocalypse now people!

In Alita: Battle Angel, a female half robot with a mortal brain attempts to recollect her past while trying to find herself in fictional Iron City (circa 2563). She also strives to become a star athlete in the savage sport of Motorball.

Image result for alita: battle angel movie scenesStarring Rosa Salazar, the miscast Christoph Waltz, and the miscast Mahershala Ali (these dudes should have switched roles as the villain and non-villain), "Alita" doesn't quite win the "battle" for my total recommendation. Big eyes and small-boned aside, Salazar as "Alita's" lead comes off a little wooden even though she aptly knows how to handle herself in a fight.

Registering at a running time of just over two hours and scripted by James Cameron (where the heck has he been?), Alita: Battle Angel is the cyborg movie to end all cyborg movies. Fundamentally, "Alita" is a little bit of Blade Runner, a little bit of A.I., a little bit of 1975's Rollerball, and something akin to an early flick by South African Neill Blomkamp. Look for some cheesy dialogue, some sumptuous yet dated special effects, and a one line cameo by former Oscar nominee Ed Norton (huh?).

Image result for alita: battle angel movie scenesAll in all, "Alita's" veteran director (Robert Rodriguez) has never been the most cohesive of maverick storytellers. With Alita: Battle Angel, it's just another sci-fi case of rinse, rinse, repeat. Still, Rodriguez knows where to put the camera, he knows how to shoot in 3D space, he ferociously knows his whip pans, and he knows how to intensely film samurai-style action. "Alita" may be polarizing, soulless, and mechanical but at least there are cinematic bodies in motion. That's half the darn "battle". Rating: 2.5 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson