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Friday, July 31, 2020

Mile High Escorts 2020 * * Stars

Mile High EscortsDirector: Sam Irvin
Year: 2020
Rated NR
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Christina Moore, Saxon Sharbino, Kara Royster

"We don't come looking for them, they come looking for us". Ah, sounds like someone is persuading someone else to sell their sleek body for a little ready money.

Anyway, Mile High Escorts is my latest write-up. It's about a young woman and her friend who take jobs at an escort service only to find out that the owner of said service is a workmanlike killer. Oh and private jet departures to Paris (and back) are involved.

Mile High Escorts should not be confused with Deadly Mile High Club except for the fact that they are both Lifetime endeavors. They also both have mediocre hammy acting, squat production values, and some signature campy residue. The funniest thing about "Escorts" minus its desperate title, is that during the female companion flights you never see a freaking pilot. Automatic perhaps? Uh I don't think so.

Mile High Escorts (2020 Lifetime) – Lifetime UncorkedMile High Escorts which does contain a few tense moments, never quite "takes off" as a hokey thriller (ha-ha). The film putts around while globetrotting through Kentucky, Michigan, Maine, France, and Amsterdam (sans a few aerial shots, everything was probably shot on one location).

"Escorts" takes a while to unfold and when it does, everything feels a little anti-climatic and blase. Basically the flick trades dramatic momentum and pimped seriousness for kooky dialogue exchanges and pretty faces. Heck, besides a few smooches, some flattery, some wine and dine, and some Brut champagne, there isn't really any "mile highness" involved (that means hanky-panky on a plane, duh).

Mile High Escorts' Review: Lifetime's film is adventurous and ..."Escorts", with its characters beamed across the Atlantic in true "where no man has gone before" approach, concludes with a small twist and murders by way of stabbings, shootings, and head trauma. And in veracious Lifetime fashion, everything turns out okay about six months later. Yup, it's fille de joie minus the "fill". Rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, July 24, 2020

Blood and Money 2020 * * * Stars

Blood and MoneyDirector: John Barr
Year: 2020
Rated NR
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Tom Berenger, Kristin Hager, Mark Sivertsen

A small crew, a couple of writers, two remote distributors, a rookie director, and an alternate title of Allagash. Hey, it gets the job done in regards to 2020's Blood and Money.

Anyway, Blood and Money is a searingly effective thriller that echos stuff like Cliffhanger, Wind River, and 1998's A Simple Plan. It starts out as a character slow burn only to become unforgiving and coldblooded with each passing increment.

As something about a war veteran (on a hunting trip) who accidentally kills a robber with a bag of money, "Blood" revels in Northern Maine locales and nameless (and almost faceless) villains. Somehow I found the whole survivalist modem here to be very darn fruitful.

Granted, Blood and Money is implausible, time-warped, and lacking in all things A to B ("Blood's" lead in Tom Berenger probably lived longer than he should have). And what's with the weird, surprising ending in which a widowed mother gets a quasi-treasure map that leads to over a million dollars (spoiler alert, sorry).

Oh well. Blood and Money keeps you riveted and cling-ed as Berenger (mentioned in the last paragraph) does his finest work since getting nominated for an Oscar in 1986's Platoon.

Looking weathered, coughing up blood, bemusing frustration, and never giving the audience a reason to think he's even acting, Tommy boy lives the role of old-timer Tom Reed. He chain smokes, shoots to kill (no pun intended), and demonstrates a creaky sort of physicality.

Blood and Money movie review & film summary (2020) | Roger EbertTom Berenger is in every frame of "Blood" and you tag along with his rustic persona like a long lost puppy. It doesn't matter that his Reed killed his daughter in a drunk driving accident, lives in a Trailer RV, and consumes peanut butter sandwiches on a steady diet. Blood and Money as the antithesis of being unclouded, still "cashes in". Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, July 20, 2020

Fatal Affair 2020 * 1/2 Stars

Fatal AffairDirector: Peter Sullivan
Year: 2020
Rated NR
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Nia Long, Omar Epps, Stephen Bishop

"Can't you see we were meant to be together". Gee, where have I heard that forlorn line before. Oh yeah, in every stalker thriller that has ever come out.

Anyway, a female attorney named Ellie Warren (played by Nia Long) ends up working with an old friend named David Hammond (played by the slightly impassive Omar Epps). Having not seen each other in about twenty years, David becomes obsessed with Ellie and plans on wrecking her marriage while killing a few people on the side. Heck, you know Davie boy is a bedeviled dude about ten minutes in. Predictable, rote, knockoff-ed, and Lifetime-like, I give you 2020's Fatal Affair.

Fatal Affair on Netflix: Nia Long and Omar Epps' thriller divides ..."Affair" has elements drawn from a dozen or so flicks where a psychotic man (or woman) refuses to take "no" for an answer. It's like The Perfect Guy meets Obsessed meets The Boy Next Door meets Psycho Escort meets Unforgettable. Yup, we've seen this movie before and it has been done with more panache and even a twist or two for kicks-and-giggles. If Netflix ("Affair's" distributor) wants to continue to rule the world, they'd better come up with some less stale material in the future.

Directed by a guy known for TV Christmas endeavors (Peter Sullivan), shot in and around Los Angeles (which I thought was initially San Francisco), and pushing the adage where the cops are almost never around, Fatal Affair is mechanically plot-driven and feigned in its approach. Aside from some scenic locales and some nice-looking personas, you feel like the actors are puppets to the by the numbers script and that keeps them from giving more disciplined performances.

Netflix's Sexy Thriller Fatal Affair Is Your Next Obsession: Watch ...Bottom line: There's a song that plays a couple times during "Affair" called "Forget Me Nots". Besides the initial sigh, you'll "forget" about Fatal Affair the moment it's over. Rating: 1 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, July 17, 2020

Legacy 2020 * * 1/2 Stars

LegacyDirector: R. Ellis Frazier
Year: 2020
Rated NR
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Luke Goss, Louis Mandylor, Elya Baskin

Legacy is my latest review. It was released in May of this year and is distributed by I guess fourteen companies. R. Ellis Frazier helms as he shoots the colorful Baja California landscape in hinging and swallowing fashion. I thought to myself, "would an amateur rock collector literally go nuts if he or she was hanging out here?"

So OK, Legacy is violent, twisted, unsafe, and almost unabated. It's roughly about a hit-man with that same hit-man growing a conscience that seems to come out of nowhere. Yeah people die but the main protagonists eventually dodge their own salient demise. Talk about forced irony to serve the overlapping plot mechanics.

Trailer for Legacy Starring Luke Goss - The Action EliteLegacy contains a script where the characters constantly spew stuff like "we keep moving" or "we need to move". The acting is half-wooden and almost tolerable with Guy Pearce lookalike Luke Goss leading a mostly unknown cast.

In verity, if you fancy a Red Rocks version of say 1993's Cliffhanger, then Legacy will give you a little leeway sans Sly Stallone. And if you dig a mountain man flick akin to Roger Spottiswoode's Shoot to Kill, then Legacy will help you find your dessert treeline Waterloo.

Globetrotting a few distant countries (when everything was supposedly filmed in Baja and LA) and featuring a villain who apparently dressed up like Steven Seagal circa Halloween 2016, Legacy involves a drug kingpin slash rapist who orders an assassin to gun down a father and son on a hunting trip. 

Watch 'Legacy' Full 4k MoVies | 123Movies [2020] DOWNLOAD!Bullets fly, bows and arrows ascend, wild game are absent, and the pacing is prompt provided you ignore the fact that various personas fade into the sunset (what happened to the county Sheriff and the hit-man's third buddy?). Basically Legacy is an MTV-style B-movie that minus a pat ending, could've skyrocketed to A-level status. "Bequest" almost. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, July 13, 2020

Proximity 2020 * 1/2 Stars

ProximityDirector: Eric Demeusy
Year: 2020
Rated NR
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Ryan Masson, Highdee Kuan, Shaw Jones

"Did you have an encounter with an extraterrestrial being?" Me personally, not a chance. But a bug-eyed character and his lady friend do with bells on in Proximity (my latest review). The extraterrestrials in Proximity look, talk, and flex sort of like the ones in 2002's Signs. They're just a little more friendlier, smaller, and for the most part, more readily tolerant.

So yeah, in Proximity you have low budget effects coupled with paperweight acting and synth, 80's-style tunes that feel out of place. The film although eager and astute, is a vast shift in tones as its over-seriousness gets punctuated by a pouncing musical score that John Williams would reject on the spot.

Movie Review - Proximity (2020)For all things Area 51, Proximity's Roy Neary story involves a scientist named Isaac (played by DJ Qualls and Keir Dullea lookalike Ryan Masson). Isaac gets abducted by aliens and instead of dealing with his own inner self, he downloads his abduction footage hoping to get media attention and legit, notarized documentation. Issac searches for the truth but he also wants every snooty news outlet to know about his eerie plight (get ready to be scrutinized dude).

With a running time close to two hours (when 90 or 100 minutes would have been enough) and edited by three people (that explains the flax continuity), Proximity is stock and unintentionally cheesy sci-fi that feels too little, too late. Bordering on being exaggerated and uncomfortably tongue-in-cheek, it's like 2011's Super 8 but with older millennials and laser guns involved.

Movie Review - Proximity (2020)Proximity wants to be profound and wink-y in a Spielbergian sort of way. Accompanied by a rookie, unknown director (Eric Demeusy) and a Lifetime movie setting of Los Angeles, it lands short on both counts. Verdict: Don't be in close "proximity" to renting this ode to all tools Martian. Rating: 1 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, July 10, 2020

Downhill 2020 * * * Stars

Downhill Directors: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Year: 2020
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Will Ferrell, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Miranda Otto

"There's only one thing I have to worry about right now, one obligation and that's going down". So says the punching bag, sad sack persona of Pete Staunton. Staunton is played by Will Ferrell who keeps the funny shtick to a standstill in 2020's Downhill (my latest review). Oh and Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Staunton's grating wife Billie. Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus really get out of their comedic comfort zones to give startlingly raw performances. Elaine Benes and Ricky Bobby, we hardly knew ya!

Anyway, Downhill is not a comedy or even a black comedy as some people might have suggested. Just call it American Beauty minus the dark side with a slight lane of awkwardness. Yup, if you've ever had reservations about getting hitched, Downhill might halt and force you to keep those reservations.

Downhill (2020) • Movie Reviews • Visual ParablesSo OK, Downhill is a remake of a 2014 Swedish film titled Force Majeure. I haven't seen "Majeure" so I'm basing my write-up here on something viewed with fresh eyes. Yeah, yeah, yeah I'm aware. As voiced by other critics, the original did it so much better.

Now would I recommend the independently felt Downhill? I thought I already did. It's a revealing snapshot of two people getting through a crappy marriage by using an avalanche and slalom skiing as coaxed metaphors. Would I call it entertaining in a Brady Bunch vacation sort of way? Uh no. Downhill is demoralizing, snippy, and a little cold (no pun intended). It uses frustrating drama as a backdrop to beautiful mountain scenery via the Austrian tourism industry.

Downhill' Review: Ferrell, Louis-Dreyfus Redo a Swedish Art ...With lush, snow-blind direction by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash and some Enigma-style music by German Volker Bertelmann, Downhill becomes eighty-six transitory minutes of numbing character inquiry. It's a "slippery slope" that despite having a sometimes pedestrian script, gets a rating of three stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, July 6, 2020

Becky 2020 * * 1/2 Stars

BeckyDirectors: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Year: 2020
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Lulu Wilson, Kevin James, Joel McHale

2020's Becky is my latest review. It's lead role Becky (played by 14-year-old Lulu Wilson), might be just as evil and savage as the bad guys she's up against. This little vigilante with weapon in hand, has a severe case of unmerciful badassery.

Helmed by two people (Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion) and featuring a scene where a detached eyeball is sawed off on a kitchen counter, Becky is a snuff slash exploitation flick where apparently bloodier is better. With fire elements and crackling, outdoor cinematography, Becky feels reminiscent of stuff like 2018's Mandy and You're Next.

The film although candidly stylish, revels in prolonged, unnecessary gore. Heck, if you view Becky and are of the squeamish, just know that it's red dye corn syrup and not the real thing (ha).

Becky movie review & film summary (2020) | Roger EbertAlong with Lulu Wilson, Becky stars bungling funnyman Kevin James. James plays main villain and prison escapee, Dominick. With grisly beard and numerous tats, it's refreshing seeing him venture so far out of character. James and the rest of the cast are solid but their performances get drowned out in a movie that's too violent and remorseless for its own good. Their personas are like cardboard sloths just waiting for the hard-hearted slaughter.

Released by way of Internet on June 5th and shot exclusively in Ontario, Canada, Becky is about a girl named well, Becky. Visiting a lake house with her father, her father's fiance, and her father's fiance's kid, Becky must fend off a gang of criminals who commit a home invasion looking for a key (yeah I didn't know what the key was for either).

Review: A teenage girl goes up against neo-Nazis in violent ...Bottom line: Becky is well directed and taut with various zoom shots, rack focusing, flashbacks, and the occasional jittery camerawork. However, there's no one to really root for, no protagonist really wins, and the daft film leaves the viewer wondering what the point of it all was. There will be blood though. Oh yes, there will be blood. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Force of Nature 2020 * 1/2 Stars

Force of NatureDirector: Micheal Polish
Year: 2020
Rated R
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Mel Gibson, Kate Bosworth

"Your dad doesn't want to leave, I can't force him". Hey, I'm not gonna "force" you to see 2020's Force of Nature. Heck, for the purposes of panning it, I won't even beg.

So yeah, in Force of Nature there's the occasional burst of gunfire where the villains can't hit water in the ocean. Then there's those same villains who love to say stuff like "don't move or I'll blow your head off", "drop it", or "slowly". Finally, there's an accented Mel Gibson as a retired cop, a miscast Emile Hirsch as a current cop, and a Category 5 hurricane featured that doesn't do a whole lot of damage (just some wind, some flailing palm trees, the traditional eye of the storm, and some stinging rain).

Force of Nature' Review – VarietyAnyway, "Force's" confined story involves a group of robbers who are bent on stealing $55 million in paintings from a Puerto Rico apartment complex. It's up to a cliched, demoted officer, a cranky geezer on dialysis, and a ravaging tiger (yeah you heard me) to try and stop them.

Obviously low budgeted enough to forgo some actual, storm chaser special effects and containing a film score by Kubilay Uner that feels like second-rate Michael Kamen, Force of Nature is laddish, B-movie slop. It's like watching a self-serious, Die Hard ripoff coupled with a direct-to-video version of 2018's The Hurricane Heist (which could have been a direct-to-video endeavor itself).

Force of Nature (2020) - IMDbAlong with having some brief and feeble action-style payoffs, "Force's" script comes off as dopey and a little red-blooded at the same time. It makes solid actors Hirsch and Gibson appear as though they didn't bother to read it or console with their agents. Aside from collecting the proverbial paycheck and staying relevant, you wonder why they even got involved. Yup, "Force" is a "dead horse". Rating: 1 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson