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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Poison Rose 2019 * * Stars

The Poison RoseDirectors: George Gallo, Luca Giliberto, Francesco Cinquemani
Year: 2019
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: John Travolta, Morgan Freeman, Brendan Fraser

The Poison Rose is my latest review. Set to be released in May of this year, it's an uneventful, paperweight film noir that was directed by three people (the most notable being Midnight Run scribe, George Gallo). In addition to that, "Rose" has star John Travolta looking like The Most Interesting Man in the World. Yup, that's a shout-out to Dos Equis beer and bearded silver foxes everywhere.

Image result for the poison rose movie scenesSo OK, The Poison Rose cements the fact that Travolta doesn't really care whether his movies are great or not. Hey it's not that his performance is bad here. It's just that "Rose" is another excuse for John to delve into twangy stature and acting self-parody. With umpteenth Southern accent and umpteenth hairpiece in tote, Johnny boy obviously forgot that he once shined in Pulp Fiction. "I like to drink, I like to smoke, and I like to gamble". That's great John Travolta. Can you channel your inner cerebration and juggle upside down too? Just kidding.

Anyway, the gist of The Poison Rose goes like this: An alcoholic detective named Carson Phillips (played by Travolta in chimney-smoking, Philip Marlowe mode) travels to Galveston, Texas to solve a murder involving a star college quarterback. Said murder might have entailed the actions of Carson's long-lost daughter (which subsequently is played by Travolta's real-life offspring, Ella Bleu Travolta).

Image result for the poison rose movie scenesClocking in at just over an hour and a half, baiting atmospherics, and registering as the first time Morgan Freeman and Travolta ever shared the screen together, "Rose" has its tres directors using fade outs, wipes, and generic shootouts to move the clunky narrative along. Adjoined to that, The Poison Rose has a time setting of 1978 which feels incredibly inauthentic. Heck, it could have been 1988 or even the late 90's for all we know. Bottom line: "Rose" is an unintentional, spoofed and campy affair (even for a smoldering thriller). Sadly, it has "thorns" and lifeless stems in its side. Rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Violent Separation 2019 * * * Stars

A Violent SeparationDirectors: Kevin Goetz, Michael Goetz
Year: 2019
Rated NR
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Ben Robson, Ted Levine

"You drop a stack of hay in a tub of water and the needle will fall to the bottom". Huh, that's interesting.

Anyway in 1998, I remembered seeing one of my all-time favorite films. That would be Sam Raimi's coaxing and nasty thriller, A Simple Plan. A Violent Separation feels very rain-soaked, very Mayberry, slightly neo-noir, and Simple Plan...ish. Yup, it's my latest review.

"Separation" with its depressing, closed-in feel, heralds solid performances from its B-list cast. That's especially inherent in Ted Levine who plays a disciplined, can't-let-it-go detective. "Separation's" two brother directors (Kevin Goetz and Michael Goetz) create a flick with palpable tension and diverse moments where nothing is actually what it seems. Their "Separation" may be slow at times but it unfolds effectively with a Lady Macbeth-type character flaw (spoiler).

Image result for a violent separation movie scenesHarboring a setting involving small town Missouri circa 1983 (even though it doesn't really look like 1983), A Violent Separation chronicles two siblings named Norman and Ray Young (played intensely by Brenton Thwaites and Ben Robson). Ray accidentally kills his girlfriend by gunshot and his young, sheriff bro Norman tries to help him cover it up.

Look for actors who resemble other actors (Thwaites looks like Andrew Garfield, Robson looks like Chris Hardwick, and Alycia Debnam-Cary has that Emmy Rossum thing going on), a lot of metaphoric fishing scenes, an ardent musical score, and lots of bar tussles. Basically, "Separation" has the same southern fried look as 2017's Running Wild. You can smell the horse manure, leather boots, leather chaps, and well whiskey from a mile away.

Image result for a violent separation movie scenesA Violent Separation was shot in Louisiana yet made to look like it all went down in The Show-Me State (I didn't pick up on that initially). It's a little Lifetime network, a little direct-to-video, and sort of low budgeted (watch for fake snowflakes and even faker ground snow). Still, A Violent Separation is involving enough to recommend. "Separation" is mucho "trepidation". Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, May 20, 2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum 2019 * * * Stars

John Wick: Chapter 3 - ParabellumDirector: Chad Stahelski
Year: 2019
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane

"Guns. Lots of guns". You tell em' Keanu and the underused Halle Berry. The movie I'm about to review is "armed" and far from being "gun-shy".

Anyway, badass hit man John Wick now has a $14 million dollar bounty on his head. That's all because he killed a member of the international assassin's guild (it's no longer about a wife and a dead dog people). Everyone from New York City to Morocco is out to get John and he must use his special skills (and swanky suits) to defeat them.

Image result for John wick 3 movie scenesKeanu Reeves plays Wick with a familiar screen presence, a flax of physicality, and a comparable way in which he hastily reloads a Walther P99. In all validity, Reeves seems to be steadily reinventing himself as an action star and it's a beautiful thing. Yeah, that's the gist of John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (my latest write-up).

Set in a fantasy world full of Spaghetti Western nods, cardboard liquidators, old school phone operators, pilot subtitles, and flux swordsmen, "Chapter 3" feels like a 130-minute, junkie bone-crunching sermon. Yeah there's a smidgen of a mumbo jumbo plot but it's more about the relentless melee here.

"Chapter 3's" director (Chad Stahelski) moves his camera around like a mild typhoon, letting everything spill out a la a bleeding video game. As for Reeves, well he's like Stahelski's almost indestructible muse. Basically Keanu makes Jet Li and even the late Bruce Lee look like Mister Rogers in comparison.

Image result for John wick 3 movie scenesIn conclusion, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum isn't the best of the John Wick series (that honor goes to Chapter 2) but it's easily the most violent and most kung fu-ed. Call it "crouching tiger, hidden" Keanu. Call it "enter the" Keanu. Call it the Keanu "identity". Yup, it's a "wick" that still burns rightly and brightly. The question is will it burn enough with a 4th installment coming around the corner (hint, hint)? My rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Zoombies 2 2019 * * Stars

Zoombies 2Director: Glenn Miller
Year: 2019
Rated NR
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Erica Sturdefant, Jonathon Buckley, Jarrid Masse

I gotta admit, I like the title (Zoombies is a combination of "zoo" and "zombies". Duh).

"You're a bad mama". Therein lies the problem. "We are leaving". Ah, that's a nod to Aliens from 1986. "The animals are going crazy!" Uh ya think? These are quotes from my latest review, Zoombies 2. "2" is a sequel to 2016's Zoombies. I've never viewed the original Zoombies but I'm thinking that's perfectly fine. I didn't plan on seeing it anyway.

So OK, here's the uneven gist with "2": Cartoonish wildlife in the form of zebras, pythons, porcupines, rhinos, hippos, and aardvarks turn into witchcraft corpses and then attack various humans in a faraway jungle (the gophers in Caddyshack and the anacondas in Anaconda got nothing on these toothed, untamed creatures).

Image result for zoombies 2 movie scenesClocking in at a choppy 84 minutes and distributed by The Asylum (they're responsible for those Sharknado flicks and the inspired 2006 vehicle, Snakes on a Train), Zoombies 2 only occasionally pushes the envelope the way other zombie pics do. "2" is Roger Corman-like and low-budgeted. "2" is perfunctory Cable watching at 4 am. "2" is akin to 1982 John Carpenter on holiday. Finally, Zoombies 2 is pure camp so I guess you'll have to light up the S'mores, pitch a tent, and keep the home fires burning.

With the fake, CGI-enhanced Zoombies 2, director Glenn Miller lets middling to bad acting, dialogue-d grandstanding, and timeline-skewed editing spill onto the screen (how could one character have a bloodied, scratched up face and then be totally camera-ready in the next scene?). His "2" minus a hefty amount of scares, is like a direct-to-video version of Critters, Ghoulies, and dare I say, Jurassic Park (ugh). Add a musical score that was meant for a better film (thanks Christopher Cano and Chris Ridenhour) and some cheesy opening credit titles and Zoombies 2 gets a generous "two" star rating.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, May 10, 2019

Long Shot 2019 * * 1/2 Stars

Long ShotDirector: Jonathan Levine
Year: 2019
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, O'Shea Jackson Jr.

If Judd Apatow directed a movie with less gnawing improvisation, a 90's soundtrack, and a little less grossness, he'd get 2019's appropriately titled Long Shot (my latest write-up).

Seth Rogen in "Shot's" lead role, morbidly strikes again. With his groggy looks and his nerd-like swagger, Rogen gets to be frisky with yet another beautiful leading lady (Charlize Theron, Rose Byrne, Katherine Heigl, Elizabeth Banks, etc.). Basically this is Seth Rogen at his most Seth Rogen. Expect the usual F-bombs, drug sightings, cultural references, slapstick physicality, and scruffy, manic behavior.

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In  Long Shot, Seth plays out of work journalist Fred Flarsky. While taking in an intimate Boyz II Men concert (I forgot those guys still existed), Flarsky runs into his old babysitter named Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron). Field is now the U.S. Secretary of State and is soon planning on running for President. Charlotte needs a good speechwriter and decides to hire Fred based on his previously strong penning. The two of them unlikely hook up and plot devised conflict ensues. Yup, the sight of neon-dressed Rogen and any hot babe truly reminds me of Beauty and the Beast. Natch.

Containing a healthy bit of the raunchy and a healthy bit of heart, "Shot" is like a combination of Knocked Up, Hitch, and 2010's She's Out of My League. Long Shot's director (NYC native Jonathan Levine) creates a well-structured comedy that's vague on political nuances, rife with masturbatory innuendo, and short on overall plausibility (there's hardly a chance Field and Flarsky would ever get together let alone trot the same sidewalk).

Image result for long shot 2019 movie scenesStill, Theron and Rogen give decent performances and there's a few mild laughs to be had. In truth, you sorta wish Rogen would revert back to his brilliant supporting gig in 2015's Steve Jobs but you'll settle for this umpteenth, typecast turn. Bottom line: Long Shot gets a mixed review as it "longs" to be a simpatico rom-com. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, May 3, 2019

The Intruder 2019 * * Stars

The IntruderDirector: Deon Taylor
Year: 2019
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Meagan Good, Michael Ealy

"Lights out!" So says the weirdo, ex-homeowner Charlie Peck in The Intruder (my latest review). "Intruder" the movie, well it sure seems "light" in terror compared to some of the kindred vehicles that came before it.

The Intruder while mildly involving, still has that been there, done that feel to it. It's about a married couple who buy a home in Napa Valley only to have its previous owner being unable to let go of said home's nostalgic remembrance. Borderline camp, weak in persona development, and weak in overall buildup, "Intruder" is disposable, B movie schlock that features its dreamy abode as a bona fide, architectural star. My final thought after the closing credits came up was, "hey, this flick was almost worth $6.50 at the matinee ticket booth".

Image result for the intruder 2019 movie scenesSo yeah, The Intruder is like 1992's Unlawful Entry without you know, the law. It's also like Obsessed without goofball Jerry O'Connell or 2015's The Perfect Guy without any investigative po-po showing up. The sad thing however, is that "Intruder" isn't quite as frantic, horror-struck, or scary as the pics just mentioned. Yup, I needed more than just a few noisy jump scares and one axed kill to get my pulse racing.

Directed by Deon Taylor (Traffik, Meet the Blacks), featuring a loud, pouncing musical score by Geoff Zanelli, and distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing, The Intruder gives us its strongest performances in the married couple (mentioned earlier) played by Meagan Good and Michael Ealy. Their realistic portrayals as troubled spouses (and unsure newlyweds) rise above the otherwise formulaic material.

As for "Intruder's" lead in Dennis Quaid (Charlie Peck), well Quaid has never been a real villain in anything he's ever done via a 40-year screen career. He comes off here as uncomfortable, forced, and sort of overreaching. It's like he's doing "Intruder" as a prolonged, acting checklist. I wanted to see the bad guy but all I could get was well, Dennis Quaid (he's much too famous for this swipe). Oh and check out how Quaid's Peck seems to savagely attack everyone in the house as if he was beamed from place to place. It's as if Denny boy was a faux character in any Star Trek endeavor (oh brother).

Image result for the intruder 2019 movie scenesBottom line: The Intruder will probably be in theaters for a very short time (it's gonna get the heave-ho courtesy of Avengers: Endgame). With its side characters appearing as if they were from another movie, its Jack Nicholson-esque way in which a heavy enters through a door (you'll see), and its sundry references to foreboding cigarette inhaling, you might be "interloped" by Hollywood if you view "Intruder" more than once. Rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Berserk 2019 * * Stars

BerserkDirector: Rhys Wakefield
Year: 2019
Rated NR
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Nick Cannon, Nora Amezeder, Rhys Wakefield

A struggling screenwriter, a B-list druggie actor, and a kooky female director end up committing some violent crimes as they try to finish a script for a not yet green-lighted film. It's neon, it's tripped out, it's LA, it's candy-coated, it's acidly, and it's fake "Holly-weird". That's the blueprint of 2019's sporadic (and hammy) Berserk. Yup, it's my latest review (and my disquieted ode to aspiring troupers everywhere).

Image result for Berserk 2019 movie scenesWhen a character in Berserk says, "we're gonna need another writer", I thought yeah, that makes sense. When another character says, "life's awesome" I thought no, not your spotted, lavish life as a nonchalant murderer. Finally, when yet another character says, "we're going to jail man", I thought you should go to jail. Heck, Christian Slater did three months for punching his girlfriend while high on cocaine and some fueled heroin.

Starring an overacting (and overreaching) Nick Cannon, a Deputy Dewey-like James Roday, a femme-fatale in Nora Amezeder, and an ego-tripped Rhys Wakefield (he's also the writer, producer, and director), Berserk is "berserker" as quasi, movie-within-a-movie remnants. Oh and I'm officially creeped out by the sight of drones at this point (just watch Berserk's balls-out second act and you'll see).

Berserk with a running time of 85 minutes, comes off as a screw loose black comedy mixed with plenty of drug use, saturated visuals, and lots of trite, Hollywood dreaming. Basically, it's part Very Bad Things, part Basic Instinct, and part Bad Times at the El Royale. Look for a chameleon as a metaphor, a pool as another metaphor, lots of "show off" Blade Runner flood lighting, a little double crossing, and visions of shrooming delight.

Image result for Berserk 2019 movie scenes
Bottom line: Berserk is messy, ambitious student film-making that seems to think it's more sagacious and groundbreaking than it really is. My rating: 2 stars Olaf. "I don't think sexy". Natch.

Written by Jesse Burleson