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film reel image

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Crawl 2019 * * * Stars

CrawlDirector: Alexandre Aja
Year: 2019
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Ami Metcalf

A giant hurricane hits South Florida and a young college swimmer drives there to save her downtrodden dad. Here's the problem: Said dad is trapped in the basement of his house and there's a bunch of evil alligators salivating down there. That's the gist of the white-knuckled yet predictable and farcical, Crawl.

Crawl, with its mounds of apprehension, its B-movie nastiness, its crunchy sound editing, and its heroine implausibility (only the game leads survive this feeding frenzy), is one of your more serviceable Jaws genre-d ripoffs. Better than Lake Placid, less gory than Piranha 3D (same director), more chilling than The Meg, and Citizen Kane compared to 2011's Shark Night, Crawl is an ideal summer movie even if the foreseen outcome is there for the taking.

Image result for crawl 2019 movie scenesCrawl is produced by Sam Raimi and directed by Alexandre Aja. It has an undeveloped script that shadows the action and gators that get the formidable CGI treatment (it's still all good). Despite your typical thriller flaws here, Aja knows how to build tension, knows how to release it, knows how to shoot low to the ground, and knows how to make you fearfully squirm.

In truth, Crawl is so wet, ratty, and slimy you can almost feel your feet itch from your waterlogged shoes. I wouldn't say "run" to see Crawl but its stomach-in-your-throat ardor is at least worth the price of admission.

Image result for crawl 2019 movie scenesCrawl stars Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario as the father and daughter in peril. They have palatable screen presence, they look like they could be related, and they give decent performances. However, their wounds throughout Crawl are about as non-fatal as Thomas M. Gifford after a fishing accident (Kaya's persona should have lost about three limbs by the 60-minute mark). Add Aja's whiz-bang camera movement with his crocs slithering like they were in a Activision video game and Crawl barely gets a 3 star rating.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, July 12, 2019

Vault 2019 * 1/2 Stars

VaultDirector: Tom DeNucci
Year: 2019
Rated R
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Theo Rossi, Clive Standen, Don Johnson

Macho criminals who don't wear masks, don't think rationally, and don't get the controlled crime lingo, try to pull off the biggest heist in U.S. history ($30 million-plus kiddies). That's the blueprint for 2019's pseudo-stylish and hot-messed, Vault.

Vault, with its slight Scorsese influence, its Steven Soderbergh drawl, and its Providence, R.I. suture, is yet another crime drama that seems to disregard long-ago ingenuity. Part Black Mass, part Departed, part 2018's Gotti, part Kidnapping Mr. Heineken, part Goodfellas, and part Ocean's Eleven, Vault is the cinematic equivalent of a bastardized mutt who can't find his mommy.

Image result for vault 2019 movie scenesVault is based on true accounts, takes place mostly in Rhode Island, and is directed by a thirtysomething named Tom DeNucci (a Rhode Island native himself). DeNucci likes to show off with the camera a la triple split-screens, zooms, flashbacks, and the occasional freeze-frame.

What Tom's Vault lacks ultimately is flow, flux, or a sense of A to B. As you watch Vault, you say to yourself, "why should I care about these characters, what is their deal, and how the heck did they get here?" The monkey editing in Vault is slipshod, the Mob violence is pedestrian (it could be the budget), the end credits in Vault make you chuckle (because everything feels a little arbitrary), and the actors (Theo Rossi, Clive Standen) do what they can with a tough-talking, clunky script.

Known troupers like Don Johnson, William Forsythe, Burt Young, and Chazz Palminteri show up occasionally but they barely register. In truth, everyone in Vault comes off like parody versions of ruthless gangsters.

Image result for vault 2019 movie scenesDespite a decent sense of time and place (the mid-70's), a clear-cut reference to Richard Nixon, an interrogation twist ending, and some retro commercials on the tele, this "vault" is still an unsavory "depository". Rating: 1 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, July 8, 2019

Spider-Man: Far From Home 2019 * * * 1/2 Stars

Spider Man: Far From HomeDirector: Jon Watts
Year: 2019
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson

"We have a job to do and you're coming with us". You as a viewer have a job to do and that's to see Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Anyway, have you ever viewed a Marvel Studio movie where the humor almost single-handedly trumps the armed conflict? You know, kid and adult personas constantly making goofy quips with tongue firmly planted in cheek? "Far From Home" is that movie and at 129 free-flowing minutes, it's my latest review.

Image result for spider man far from home movie scenes"Far From Home", with its international flavor and its introduction of Jake Gyllenhaal to the Marvel universe, feels like one of the best good time, hangout flicks in the Spider-Man franchise canon. Yes it's live-action fodder but "Far From Home" also has the look of being sort of cartoonish. Trust me, I'm okay with that.

In terms of casting, well Brit Tom Holland is perfect as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. He's likable as a non-cocky protagonist and actually looks like what I envisioned Spidey to look like. Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire are decent actors but Sony completely gets it right with Holland.

Taking place in Europe (starting with Venice) and paying tribute to one Tony Stark (spoiler), Spider-Man: Far From Home involves Holland's Peter Parker wanting to go on a class trip only to be hurled back into saving the world by antihero Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

Image result for spider man far from home movie scenesLook for solid, Zack Snyder-style film-making from director Jon Watts (I dug Jon's use of three-dimensional space within a large canvas). Also, look for love story elements (Parker and MJ), recurring Marvel characters (Maria Hill, Harold "Happy" Hogan, Fury), and lots of nasty, firing drones. Finally, know that "Far From Home" takes a page out of the Ant-Man films in that it's almost comedic and not wholly action-packed. Endgame begot, this duck soup sequel just wants to have a good time. My rating: 3 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

A Haunting at Silver Falls: The Return 2019 * Star

A Haunting at Silver Falls: The ReturnDirector: Teo Konuralp
Year: 2019
Rated NR
Rating: * Star
Cast: Laura Flannery, James Cavlo, Harry Hains

"Just like Ghostbusters". No, not at all. Not just like Ghostbusters. Ghostbusters had a known cast, fresh comedic dialogue, production values, and box office sway. A Haunting at Silver Falls: The Return (my latest review) is more akin to a fanboy, student film version of The Ring.

Anyhow, have you ever seen a movie where the budget constraints are so abundant the pseudo-Hitchcockian scenes are cut off at midpoint? And have you ever seen a flick where the musical score is the same two chords used in countless scare fests via the last twenty years? A Haunting at Silver Falls: The Return is that movie and it's a sequel that needs to be "returned" to your local Redbox stat!

Image result for a haunting at silver falls 2019 movie scenes"Return", with its E-list stars, its community theater acting, its wink wink to all things VOD, and its massively cheapo special effects, is a continuation of 2013's A Haunting at Silver Falls. Devoid of any suitable jump scares, any jim-jams, and lacking anything resembling the conch of capable editing, "Return" is only frightening if you've never seen an actual horror film before. Yeah there's a couple of twin ghosts in "Return" that are clearly inspired by the siblings in The Shining. Still, they aren't nearly as creepy as those pale-edged girls from Stanley Kubrick's 1980 hit.

Shot in Oregon (which sort of looks like rural Europe) and directed by a cut corners rookie (Teo Konuralp), A Haunting at Silver Falls: The Return has to do with a phantom aunt who uses the body of a ruthless convict to terrorize a bunch of young twentysomethings.

Image result for a haunting at silver falls 2019 movie scenesLook for characters saying the most cliched of fright night readings ("we've gotta get outta here" or "if we're gonna survive, it's now or never"). Also, know that "Return" is probably the most restrained, PG-13-style horror pic you'll ever take in. Its non-theatrical release can be put alongside any recent Amityville-franchised endeavor. Bottom line: "Return" is hardcore "downturn". My rating: 1 star.

Written by Jesse Burleson