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Friday, October 25, 2019

Daughter of the Wolf 2019 * * Stars

Daughter of the WolfDirector: David Hackl
Year: 2019
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Gina Carano, Richard Dreyfuss, Brendan Fehr

"Where is my son?" "WHERE IS MY SON?!" That question and many others get asked a lot by Gina Carano via 2019's Daughter of the Wolf. Carano as Clair Hamilton proves she can headline a movie and not always a caged, MMA fight. "Wolf" has her in heavy-duty, female Haywire mode.

Anyway, Daughter of the Wolf at eighty-eight long minutes (that's an oxymoron), is like a version of The Grey with less nasty wolves, more ransom remnants, less terrain-ed obstacles, and weaker production values. It also feels like every cold weather/Internet thriller made in the last seven years despite some pretty nifty overhead shots.

Image result for daughter of the wolf movie scenesThe director of "Wolf" (Canadian David Hackl) stages a terrific shootout and chase sequence at the beginning. It gets your ears and eyes to perk up. The rest of the flick although steadfast, becomes uneven and tedious as it runs out of perpetual steam. Joe Carnahan would have looked around and said, "hey I can set up that shot a heck of a lot better".

Filmed in British Columbia, helmed by the guy who made Saw V, and showcasing scruffy Richard Dreyfuss in a rare, sort of villainous role, Daughter of the Wolf is about a military veteran (played by Carano) who tries to track down some ruffians responsible for kidnapping her teenage son.

Look for characters repeating the same dialogue in numerous scenes (see first paragraph), look for characters falling and drowning yet recovering very quickly, and look for Gina Carano emoting more as an actress as opposed to being just a bone-crunching, butt kicker.

Image result for daughter of the wolf movie scenesYup, Carano can act. Yup, Carano has some searing screen presence, and yup, Carano can sure as heck make loading a firearm seem coldly badass. Unfortunately the movie around her is wolves symbolism hooey. It doesn't quite measure up as this "wolf" is kept at bay. Rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Death of Dick Long 2019 * * * Stars

The Death of Dick LongDirector: Daniel Scheinert
Year: 2019
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Michael Abbott Jr., Virginia Newcomb, Andre Hyland

"Guess we got a little carried away last night". You may be right Mr. Andre Hyland. Hyland plays a vapor smoking townie named Earl Wyeth in 2019's The Death of Dick Long.

Anyway, have you ever seen a version of Fargo and/or A Simple Plan without all the epic self-seriousness? And have you ever seen a version of Fargo and/or A Simple Plan with a heavier touch of Jerry Springer? The Death of Dick Long is that version and at 100 mostly enthralling minutes, it's my latest review.

Image result for the death of dick long movie scenes"Long", with its snapshot of small town life, its skewed Mayberry tones, and its cliche of mostly bumbling police officers, feels like something pretty disturbing. It also has kooky moments in it that might make you sort of chuckle. It's kinda like the Coen brothers concocting cinema on the fly during a rushed, weekend holiday.

The actors in "Long" (Hyland mentioned earlier, Virginia Newcomb, Michael Abbott Jr.) are unknown but they do a decent job and are for looks sake, decently cast. Abbott Jr. looks like a cross between Michael Sheen and Steve Zahn while Newcomb gives off that old school, Sissy Spacek vibe.

Referencing Pulp Fiction, taking place in Alabama, and featuring a married couple named Dick and Jane (I'm not kidding), The Death of Dick Long is about three drunk buddies who take on a hard night of partying. After one of said buddies dies, the other two vow to cover it up while trying to evade the slow poke, Bama po-po.

Image result for the death of dick long movie scenesBottom line: The Death of Dick Long has characters in it that you follow incessantly despite their high level of befuddle-ness and their high level of being addled. Their Southern fried journey and their trashy white ambivalence is more overwhelming than the film's ultimate destination. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Ad Astra 2019 * * 1/2 Stars

Ad AstraDirector: James Gray
Year: 2019
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones Ruth Negga

Ad Astra is my latest review. It was released in September of 2019 with reshoots causing the film to go $20 million dollars over budget. James Gray directs "Astra" giving the audience a mixture of sci-fi Apocalypse Now, Mission to Mars, and 2014's Interstellar. Oh and you can even throw in a little 2001: A Space Odyssey because well, why not.

So OK, Ad Astra has known troupers in it that barely register (Donald Sutherland, Liv Tyler, Tommy Lee Jones). And yes, Brad Pitt as the lead gives a performance so inert and underplayed, his heart rate probably never rose above 60 (his character's rarely went over 80). Still, "Astra" has a tamed look of steely-eyed convention. It's 124 minutes of space-age, numbing beauty. Add Max Richter's Cliff Martinez-like musical score and some canvased cinematography and Ad Astra is well, total science fiction 101.

Image result for ad astra movie scenes"Astra" has shards of glacial violence, some NASA implausibility (Neptune and Jupiter aren't as far away as I thought), numerous Brad Pitt-ed close-ups, and some narration by Pitt that feels awkward at best (he's no Captain Willard mind you).

In truth, if you like your science fiction fantasies to be more pretentious family drama than action, then Ad Astra is your go-to vehicle. And if you like a flick that keeps you at a distance with a lonely, closed-in feel, then "Astra" will help you meet that particular "Waterloo".

All in all, Ad Astra is a movie about an astronaut named Roy McBride (Pitt) who goes to Neptune to find his father (Clifford McBride). Roy wants to bring said father back to earth and help him eliminate plans for an expedition that might destroy the universe.

Image result for ad astra movie scenesBottom line: "Astra" is an icy, slow burn journey of a film and because of its artsy-fartsy residue and languidness, I might not have the gumption to see it again. Or maybe just see it "ad" hoc. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

10 Minutes Gone 2019 * * 1/2 Stars

10 Minutes GoneDirector: Brian A. Miller
Year: 2019
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Michael Chiklis, Bruce Willis, Meadow Williams

10 Minutes Gone is my latest review. It was released in late September and I'm thinking it was an Internet only affair. That's what you'll get from director, nutrition-less action helmer, and monumental slick-ster, Brian A. Miller.

So OK, "Gone" has empty, streamlined shootouts where no one really hits a target. And yes, the dialogue feels word for word with the script supervisor obviously not changing a thing. Still, Brian A. Miller as a filmmaker seems to be growing a little. His flick has a twist I didn't see coming and his plot is a little more intricate than in past efforts. "Miller time" isn't so bad (unfortunately compared to Miller's The Prince/Vice, that ain't saying much).

Image result for 10 minutes gone 2019 movie scenes10 Minutes Gone contains lots of hailed gunfire, some constant Michael Bay camera movements, numerous flashbacks, a character walking away from an explosion in slow-motion (never seen that before), and a wooden performance from Bruce Willis that shows he didn't have to move five feet within the first hour (did Brucie even know where his mark was?).

In truth, if you like a digestible heist thriller with some raw (effective) acting from The Shield's Michael Chiklis, then "Gone" is gonna do it for you. And if you like obsessive aerial shots of Cincinnati, Ohio ("Gone's" go-to locale), then 10 Minutes Gone will sort of make you wanna visit "The Nati" (I stress the words "sort of").

Using a movie poster that screams direct-to-video and distributed by four production companies (Lionsgate occupying two of them), "Gone" involves a bank robbery gone afoul with the protagonist robber getting hit over the head (he loses consciousness for ten minutes, hint hint). When said protagonist wakes up, he has to figure out who double-crossed him.

Image result for 10 minutes gone 2019 movie scenesBottom line: 10 Minutes Gone isn't hot garbage but it gives us another reason to believe Brian A. Miller's work will never hit an actual movie theater. He's stuck in one, gun-toting genre with his Bruce Willis muse, his counterspy app-ed film scores, and his novice choices for actors (Michael Chiklis excluded). Yup, 10 Minutes Gone is "reservoir dogged". It has "gone" to the place of a mixed review. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, October 4, 2019

Inside Man: Most Wanted 2019 * * * Stars

Inside Man: Most WantedDirector: Michael J. Bassett
Year: 2019
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Rhea Seehorn, Aml Ameen, Roxanne McKee

An FBI agent from Harvard and a cocky hostage negotiator (Will Smith lookalike Aml Ameen) try to save some lives during a Nazi gold bank robbery in NYC. That's the gist of the slick and polished, Inside Man: Most Wanted.

"Most Wanted", with its script reading like episodes of Criminal Minds, Law & Order, and/or Scorpion, is fast-paced, mildly violent, twisty, and feinted from its opening frame. Everyone involved with this film really wants you to take it seriously. That's admirable from the standpoint of "Most Wanted" being sadly relegated to direct-to-video status (what'd you expect? It's 13 years later).

Image result for inside man most wanted movie scenesBrit helmer Michael J. Bassett signed on to direct "Most Wanted" with it being a long-delayed sequel to 2006's Inside Man. No one from the original flick was involved but Bassett keeps the mysterious heist dream alive. Just like in the first Inside Man, "Most Wanted" tells us that nothing is what it seems when it comes to hastily stealing from a Federal Reserve lender.

There's some cool explosions, a couple of ending flashbacks, a 1945 combat flashback, and characters saying the word "boom" (and "bam") on multiple occasions. Just to let you know that Inside Man: Most Wanted is an undisclosed follow-up, there's also a portrait of Denzel Washington on a classroom wall as well as a mugshot of Clive Owen in an FBI file.

Image result for inside man most wanted movie scenesIn retrospect, "Most Wanted" isn't high art but with its own "den of thieves", it tries to come real close. There's no Spike Lee this time around, no Jodie Foster, no Terrence Blanchard music, and no known stars involved (have you guys ever heard of actress Rhea Seehorn or actor Urs Rechn? Neither have I). Still, Inside Man: Most Wanted might be even more exciting and rousing than the first Inside Man installment. Sans a sizable film crew and a big budget, that's no "inside" joke. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Anna 2019 * * * Stars

AnnaDirector: Luc Besson
Year: 2019
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Sasha Luss, Cillian Murphy, Helen Mirren

"Which room?" So says the fixed character of Anna Poliatova before going in for a mission-ed kill. Poliatova changes her downtrodden life by becoming a twenty-something KGB assassin in 2019's Anna (my latest review).

Anyway, Anna is a sleek and sterile thriller with a female, John Wick kick to it. It's also another round of Luc Besson, his silencers, his femme fatales, his whipped car chases, and his cinematic, French-y cuisine.

Image result for anna 2019 movie scenesSo OK, tell me how was this film overlooked? It made only $7.7 million in the US (and $28.4 million worldwide) but heck, after the lousiness that was 2014's Lucy, I kinda dug it.

I guess Anna's low box office take might have been attributed to its sparse marketing efforts, its Keanu competition, and its nearly unknown lead in Sasha Luss. Looking like a Russian version of Jennifer Lawrence and having only one other movie credit to her dossier (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets), Luss meets the physicality requirements of Anna Poliatova as well as the sudden, volatile nature. Move over Jason Statham and Jet Li because the gun-toting Sasha Luss kicks some serious arse.

Anna's director, producer, writer, and maker of all things hit-girl, is Frenchman Luc Besson (mentioned earlier). Anna is Besson at his most Besson. It's also intricate, thinking man's Besson. Channeling his inner Rashomon while harboring a Mexican standoff and using his camera like a slithery serpentine on fire, Luc Besson makes Anna virtually recommendable.

In conclusion, I liked Anna's various twists and revelations (told through flashbacks), its supporting performances from Helen Mirren and Cillian Murphy, and its groovy, bone-crackling action which "kicks" in at about the 40-minute mark (no pun intended). Bottom line: Anna may be familiar in the realms of the existing, button woman genre. Still, it's no "Fata Mongana". My rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson