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Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Turning 2020 * * 1/2 Stars

The TurningDirector: Floria Sigismondi
Year: 2020
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard, Barbara Marten

The Turning as 'bump in the night' incarnate, is my latest write-up. It is based on the 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw. "Turning" includes Mackenzie Davis in her first starring role. As I watched The Turning, I kept wondering why Mackenzie's character Kate just couldn't find the gumption to get out of the haunted house she was living in. Oh wait, if she left there'd be no movie.

Anyway, "Turning" is a 2020 release and it is directed by the woman responsible for The Runaways (Floria Sigismondi). Shot almost two years ago in goth fad, I'd say it's the film version of Paranormal Witness crossed with 2001's The Others (if The Others took place in the early 90's).

Movie review: 'The Turning' | Archdiocese of BaltimoreIn regards to The Turning, you get countryside Ireland masquerading as Maine for a imitation shooting location. As for the cinematography by David Ungaro, well it's adequately jungly with plenty of low tracking shots and darkness via the Fairchild Estate (I'll get to that later).

The performances in "Turning" are excellent with Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard, and Brooklynn Prince being the standouts. Basically, The Turning is loads of horror build-up with atmosphere, moxie, and systematic jump scares in check. Oh and with most fright flicks, the statutory music pounces in at just the right moments.

Distributed by Universal Pictures, more morbid than scary, and once a passion project for Steven Spielberg, "Turning's" building plot has to do with a nanny who is hired to watch over two orphans at an eerie mansion (the old-world Fairchild Estate).

The Turning Review: 3 Ups & 5 DownsAll in all, "Turning's" abrupt ending harnessed as stodgy symbolism, is sadly the culprit. It's a head scratch-er and it disappoints almost everything that came before it. Yup, the line producers probably came in and "turned" up the heat. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Escape from Pretoria 2020 * * * Stars

Escape from PretoriaDirector: Francis Annan
Year: 2020
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Daniel Webber, Mark Leonard Winter

"You get twenty-four years if you're lucky, a bullet in your head if you're not". Wow. Failing to break out of a bullish correctional facility with rooftop snipers is no joke man.

Anyway, it was the "dog days" of summer in 1989. The film was Sly Stallone's Lock Up and it propelled me into the prison movie drama. Cut to thirty-one years later and I'm introduced to Escape from Pretoria (my latest review). "Pretoria" is a prison thriller that's the thinking's man prison thriller. Devoid of hardly any prisoner, warden, or prison guard brutality, Escape from Pretoria gets your heart pumping regardless. TV movie feel, bumbling security, feeble character development, and quick-knitted conclusion begot, it still gets my recommendation.

Escape From Pretoria' Film Review: Daniel Radcliffe Prison Break DramaClocking in at just over 100 minutes and directed by Brit Francis Annan, "Pretoria" chronicles the prison break of two captives from a South African jail circa 1979. They were African National Congress supporters and they received sentences anywhere between 8 to 12 years. Daniel Radcliffe (as Tim Jenkin) and Daniel Webber (as Stephen Lee) play said captives and they give seething, disciplined performances. After being held for over four hundred days, their personas attempt to escape using wooden keys to unlock numerous, clanking doors (thankfully there were no closed-circuit television cameras back in '79).

Daniel Radcliffe Calls Escape From Pretoria A 'Brilliant' True ...Reflecting on Escape from Pretoria, I was reminded of a less than compelling Shawshank Redemption, a placid version of Papillon, and/or a less foreboding model of Midnight Express. In verity, "Pretoria" is clean, true account film making that builds inching tension despite relegating hardly any real fear. Oh well. You know the outcome of the characters and go along with the flick's benign, PG-13 rating anyway. Thanks to some solid period detail and some masquerading Australian locales, there's movie "escapism" in these dark walls. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, April 17, 2020

Green Rush 2020 * * Stars

Green RushDirector: Gerard Roxburgh
Year: 2020
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Mike Foy, Paul Telfer, Kriss Dozal

"You wanna make some real money?" Sure, who wouldn't. Well there are better ways of making real money without killing, raping, and holding people hostage.

Anyway, if you wanna see the black comedy version of a pot flick, then check out 1998's Homegrown. If you want something a little more bestial like Trespass or Straw Dogs, then Green Rush could put the paranoia in PRETENDO.

2020's "Green" has a cast of unknowns and their character's plight is based on actual, true events (the truth might be bending). If you are wondering what the "green" in Green Rush stands for, it stands for ganja, dope, fatty, herb. In other words, marijuana. 

Green Rush' world premier movie trailer from producer Urijah FaberDirected by a rookie in Gerard Roxburgh and feeling overlong even at 88 minutes, Green Rush is a home invasion thriller where some nasty criminals infiltrate a marijuana farm and attempt to steal the farm's hidden profits (spoiler-there's a safe and a cave involved).

In verity, Green Rush is movie dithering coupled with psychological, fleshy, and physical torture porn (an ear gets bitten off Mike Tyson-style). Every actor has the need to explain themselves (and their motives) before actually getting down to business. "Green" is also randomly homoerotic and predatory thanks to the disturbing performance of antagonist Ticker (played by Scottish trouper Paul Telfer).

Filmed in Northern California, taking place in Northern California, and produced by UFC fighter Urijah Faber, "Green" has slipshod editing, dialogue that feels as if it was written in a rushed state, and some everyday twists and turns.

Green Rush' world premier movie trailer from producer Urijah Faber"Green's" story and foundation of a story is there. It's about greed, strained brotherhood, and the inkling of bud legalization. It's just too bad Roxburgh's direction is misguided, stalling, and a little out of sorts. Bottom line: Don't "rush" out to rent Green Rush at your local Redbox. Rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Black and Blue 2019 * * * 1/2 Stars

Black and BlueDirector: Deon Taylor
Year: 2019
Rated R
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Naomie Harris, Frank Grillo, Beau Knapp

"It was the cops that shot me". Oh really. That's gotta stink especially if you are a cop.

Anyway, 2019's Black and Blue is the be-all-end-all of dirty fuzz thrillers. As something about a rookie policewoman who witnesses a corrupt, execution-style death on her body cam, "Blue" is high energy, highly volatile, thuggish, and nastily dangerous. No one is safe in this movie and that includes the audience, the "Crescent City" denizens, and the venal NOPD (New Orleans Police Department).

Film Review: Black and Blue – The Charleston ChronicleGranted, Black and Blue is implausible, remorseless, and far-fetched just like every other crooked crime caper. I mean the beating these personas take would put any other doughnut eater in a wheelchair. Still, you can't deny "Blue's" relentless prowess that hits you like a darn sledgehammer. You want a more down and dirty version of Training Day, Street Kings, and/or 2015's Run All Night? Well Black and Blue will give it to you. And do want to see the flick that 21 Bridges wished it could've been? Well you got it threefold with "Blue". 

The cast of Black and Blue is especially solid. That includes the tough as nails Naomie Harris (she plays rookie Alicia West), the Dante-like Frank Grillo (bad cop Terry Malone), the snarling Beau Knapp (he's always snarling), and the unrecognizable Tyrese Gibson (did he gain some weight?). Their characters respire heavily as the defiled, New Orleans landscape ingests them whole.

Black and Blue' neat, nasty police thrillerAll in all, Black and Blue's plot unfolds into a New Orleans shootout that turns into modern day Beirut. It's the po-po versus the kingpins, Naomie's West versus the above the law trigger men, and West versus the thugs who have a torrid price on her head. You can smell the bullets and as a viewer, you won't be able to breathe. Rating: 3 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Abducted 2020 * * 1/2 Stars

AbductedDirector: Prince Bagdasarian
Year: 2020
Rated NR
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Daniel Josev, Scout Taylor-Compton, Michael Urie

2020's Abducted is my latest review. And no, it has nothing to do with that Taylor Lautner movie from nine years ago. This flick stars a different Taylor in Scout Taylor-Compton. Taylor-Compton plays a detective who likes Ramen bowls, likes having an attitude, and likes a little kickboxing.

Released in SHOWTIME via March of this year and containing a musical score that's as brisk as Abducted itself, Abducted is directed by a guy named Prince (that would be Prince Bagdasarian). Bagdasarian fashions Abducted as a combination of Taken and an episode of Law & Order. Cops, a vigilante, and a handicapped, deaf soldier get involved as fierce protagonists.

Scout Taylor-Compton searches for a kidnapped child in Diverted EdenAlong with Scout Taylor-Compton, Abducted stars lesser-known actors in Daniel Josev, Najarra Townsend, and Michael Urie. They all do a decent job whereas the bit players come off as a little stiff. Basically, Abducted keeps you guessing till the end and it's not as revenge-minded as you might think. The kidnappers don't necessarily die, they just get some wounds and a good old fashioned threat (spoiler).

With a working title of Diverted Eden and distributed by Artist View Entertainment, Abducted is just what it says it is: A war hero whose wife dies of cancer, takes the law into his own hands when his 7-year-old daughter is "abducted" from him. Dana Hunte (played by Daniel Josev) is said war hero. Dana thinks the police force is taking too long so he weapons up, dons a bulletproof vest, and investigates incognito.

Bottom line: Just imagine Charles Bronson, Bruce Willis, and Liam Neeson being a little nicer in their dispatcher methods and that's what you get with Abducted. With a red herring here and some absurdness there, the film is good for a decent rental considering that staying away from the theater is our only option these days. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

VFW 2019 * * * Stars

VFWDirector: Joe Begos
Year: 2019
Rated NR
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Stephen Lang, Fred Williamson, William Sadler

2019's VFW is my latest review. It has a cast of comfortable shoe, character actors from the past (William Sadler, David Patrick Kelly, Martin Kove, George Wendt). These actors dons Glocks, fists, shotguns, and machetes for some ghastly, gory amusement. If only the lighting was just a little better I could see the corollary of their carnage. Oh well. You can't go wrong with VFW's background music (by Steve Moore) which feels like something a modern-day John Carpenter would have concocted.

Fantastic Fest Review: 'VFW' will blow you awayAnyway, VFW's regurgitated story reminiscent of Project Greenlight's Feast, goes like this: A group of war veterans convene at a dive bar only to get infiltrated by a bunch of stoned hoodlums with itchy trigger fingers. Said veterans have to perimeter the establishment, weapon up, and defend at all costs. In truth, VFW is not for the squeamish but it is for the raucous, midnight movie crowd. It is one of the most unabashedly violent flicks I've seen in a long time.

VFW's running time is right on the money for 92 minutes. Most of these minutes involve grisly killings, lots of alcohol consumption, and kooky, tough guy dialogue. If you like grindhouse suture with plenty of red corn syrup splattered on the screen, then VFW will give you your horror action fix. And if you like a John Carpenter version of Assault on Precinct 13 with old-timer drinking buddies instead of cops and inmates, then VFW will update your longing for all things 1976 (or 2005 if you dug the remake).

Stephen Lang to fight off punk mutants at his local V.F.W.Filmed in Dallas, Texas which looks more like eight mile Detroit, VFW is down and dirty and dark and nasty. Oh and in case you are wondering, VFW stands for "Veterans of Foreign Wars". In 2019, the "war" here is obviously not over. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Hunt 2020 * * 1/2 Stars

The HuntDirector: Craig Zobel
Year: 2020
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Betty Gilpin, Hillary Swank, Emma Roberts

The Hunt is my latest review. And no, it has nothing to do with "Red October", Lee Marvin, or an actress named Helen.

Released at maybe the wrong month for these trying times (March of 2020) and featuring a pig character named Orwell (that's symbolism at its finest), "Hunt" is directed by one Craig Zobel. Zobel fashions The Hunt as part "grindhouse", part camp, and something the late Charlton Heston would get a kick out of (NRA hint hint).

Starring the likes of known actors Hillary Swank, Emma Roberts, and Ike Barinholtz (Emma and Ike basically make cameos), "Hunt" is splatter house tongue-in-cheek with a non-sequential narrative. It starts out as Surviving the Game meets 1981's Southern Comfort only to harbor more twists and turns than a street called Lombard.

It's over for 'The Hunt,' a movie in which liberal elites try to ...So yeah, I squirmed at "Hunt's" putrid violence which was remorseless (look for the best girl fight since Vivica A. Fox and Uma Thurman squared off in Kill Bill). And yes, The Hunt had enough political remnants to make me think it was actually making a broad statement. Still, the film is sort of ill-timed and I think the viewer might get a bad taste in their mouths after an on demand purchase.

Clocking in at a running time of 90 minutes and distributed by Universal Pictures International (in 7 different countries), The Hunt has to do with 12 people who wake up in the middle of nowhere. With gags in their mouths, plenty of ammo, and not a darn clue, they are being hunted for sport in the country of Croatia (which initially masks as Arkansas).

Does The Hunt Have a Post Credits Scene or Mid Credits?Bottom line: "Hunt" targets its audience as the "cynical" prey. No one is safe in this movie and the mean-spirited surplus is almost too much to handle with the world we're living in. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson 2020 * * 1/2 Stars

The Murder of Nicole Brown SimpsonDirector: Daniel Ferrands
Year: 2020
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Mena Suvari, Nick Stahl, Agnes Bruckner

"I've made a terrible mistake". So did NFL football legend O. J. Simpson. Or did he? That question and some others get thinly dissected in 2020's accurately locale-d, The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson.

Now is "Nicole Brown" the equivalent of a R-rated, late night cable movie? At times, it kind of feels like it. Does that mean it's not worth checking out at least once? No, not at all.

Anyway, "Nicole Brown" is told in short timelines and gets decent performances despite a little miscasting (Mena Suvari as Nicole Brown Simpson, Nick Stahl, Agnes Bruckner). For reasons brought up over 25 years later, the film is about the possible, alternate telling of Nicole Brown Simpson's untimely death circa June of 1994.

The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson' Review | Hollywood ReporterAccording to "Nicole Brown", O. J. might not have done it. It could have been real-life serial killer Glen Edward Rogers. My question is where was the Kato Kaelin character in this flick? I mean wasn't he a darn witness?

Full of tension, paranoia, campy remnants, and a loathly final bloodshed scene (set to some melodic piano music), The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson is quite effective until it drags its final conclusion over a salient collage of archive footage. It almost feels like a band-aid for the movie's unbelievably short running time of 82 minutes.

The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson movie is as gross as you'd ...Bottom line: The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson does for the O. J. Simpson murder case what the Charles Manson murders did for last year's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. It's a possible fiction fabrication, a possible siding for O. J. (for the record, I believe "the Juice" had some involvement), and something only ready-made Tinseltown could come up with. Hey, I'm telling it straight. "Nicole Brown" is not as bad as some IMDb viewers have made it out to be. Look for multiple, white Ford Bronco cameos (it's an indelible image). Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson