film reel image

film reel image

Monday, March 29, 2021

Nobody 2021 * * 1/2 Stars


In 2021's Nobody, the "nobody" in question is actually a somebody. I mean how is this dude able to acquire a special set of skills so quickly? Ben Odenkirk plays said nobody in the form of Hutch Mansell. Ben has never ventured into action star mode but if you squint long enough, he kinda looks like 70s Clint Eastwood or Kevin Costner a la 3 Days to Kill.

So yeah, Nobody is light on story and heavy on action. It's inventive yet violently sloppy. Co-stars RZA and Christopher Lloyd (yes that 82-year-old Christopher Lloyd) join in on the shoot-em'-up fun. They supplement Hutch's need to break out of his cautious, non-combative lifestyle.

Containing some tongue-n-cheek humor, featuring clips where villains bite the slow-mo dust to old school ballad music, and directed by the guy known for the gimmicky Hardcore Henry (Ilya Naishuller), Nobody chronicles husband and father Hutch Mansell (mentioned earlier). After a couple of thieves break into Hutch's home, Hutch decides to track the thieves down and eventually get embroiled with some Russian mobsters.

Mansell's solution mind you, is a savage one. He vows to kick some butt and take some names. Before he beats up some riled-up ruffians, Hutch actually says, "I hope these guys like hospital food". Yikes!

If I had to compare Nobody with anything, I'd have to say that it reminded me a little of the John Wick films. Here's the thing: Odenkirk is an affable action hero but he lacks the vulnerability and fragile nature of John Wick himself (Keanu "Cool Breeze" Reeves). Reeves looked like he wasn't in the best shape to fight but he prevailed like a Mack Truck anyway. Added to that, the "Wick" flicks are longer in length and become more defining in scope.

Bottom line: If Nobody had come out before John Wick, it might have had a lesser been there, done that feel. Despite some kinetic editing and veritable fists of fury, Nobody "doesn't do it better".

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Deadly Excursion: Kidnapped from the Beach 2021 * 1/2 Stars


"It's finally over". That's what I said to myself after watching Deadly Excursion: Kidnapped from the Beach. "Kidnapped" is a sequel to 2019's Deadly Excursion. I haven't seen the first film and I didn't like this camp fest either. Curiously though, I plan on going back to where it all started with these toolbox characters. 

Deadly Excursion: Kidnapped from the Beach was released in January 2021 (with its premiere in Cleveland, OH. Wha?). It's a Lifetime Flick but it sure doesn't feel like one. "Kidnapped" is more like a bad Miami Vice episode with its villains putting on a pseudo macho front. Somewhere in the afterlife the late Tony Montana is also laughing his caboose off. 

Deadly Excursion: Kidnapped from the Beach has shoddy production values even for a supposed Lifetime-er (if you look close there's some real fake CGI going on). There's also the worst overacting I've ever seen by Lifetime veteran Corin Nemec. Nemec's David McCarthy gets knocked out on multiple occasions and becomes pierced by a bullet. Surprisingly, the dude gets right back up even though he should be at a hospital getting checked for possible brain damage. 

The casting in "Kidnapped", well it's pretty bad. The mother and daughter leads look like they could be sisters. The father and son antagonists appear like they could be brothers. Finally, there's a henchman named Eduardo who looks like Billy Crystal with five pounds of wrinkle cream added. 

Deadly Excursion: Kidnapped from the Beach is well, pretty explanatory. It's about a wife, a husband, and their daughter being taken by a crime lord who wants to extort $200,000 from them. Look for most of the proceedings to take place on a beach in Florida (shocker). Also look for some bad, evasive running on screen from star Samaire Armstrong (she's certainly no Joan Benoit).  

Before "Kidnapped" concludes, a final scene suggests that the gateway is open to yet another sequel. Here's a proposed title: Deadly Excursion: "Dead" On Arrival. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, March 22, 2021

Phobias 2021 * 1/2 Stars


"Let's get you hooked up". No thanks. I'd rather eat liver and onions.

Anyway 2021's Phobias is my latest review. It features singer Macy Gray, Leonardo Nam, and Alexis Knapp. Now does Phobias have anything to do with actual phobias? Not the simple ones mind you (fear of heights, fear of spiders, fear of snakes). Was Phobias more fun to imagine than it was to watch? Uh-huh. And is Phobias one of the worst outings of this year? It's only March but yeah.

Terror-filled but not really scary and visionary but totally fitful, Phobias makes you stand up and say, "I could probably shoot this thing better and I'm not even a director". Helmers Camilla Belle and Maritte Lee Go thought they could take Saw and 1995's Strange Days and mesh them together. They thought wrong because Phobias for all its grim ambition and held-against-one's-will stature, is a plodding mess.

Belle and Lee Go fashion Phobias as a horror film that feels too elaborate for its own good. There are flashback scenes that go on too long. There are supposed payoffs that never happen. There's hate crime elements that are probably wrong for this present time. Finally, there's an abrupt ending that feels rushed and pasted on. I studied the running time of Phobias (85 minutes) wondering how the heck the filmmakers were gonna wrap this thing up. Yeah the bad guy dies eventually but do we really give a rat's butt? Uh no.

Phobias is confusing, poorly edited, and disjointed to the nth degree. In order to figure out what was going on, I actually needed to look at the flick's wiki entry (patients at a government testing facility are examined to provide an answer to weaponizing fear). Bottom line: Minus a trippy opening credit sequence, my biggest "phobia" is having to sit through Phobias again. "Fear factor" crapshoot.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Girl in the Basement 2021 * * * 1/2 Stars


Girl in the Basement is my latest write-up. It's a brutal experience not a movie and I don't think I could sit through it again. That doesn't mean it's not recommendable.

So yeah, "Basement" is a Lifetime film on anabolic steroids. It makes other Lifetime endeavors feel like child's play in comparison. The despicable antagonist in "Basement" is played by Judd Nelson. If you thought you hated his John Bender in The Breakfast Club, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Girl in the Basement is like 2015's Room bucked up about ten notches. And if you're easily upset and/or wholly traumatized, you might wanna stay clear of "Basement's" tormented, 88-minute running time.

The director of "Basement" is actress turned rookie helmer, Elisabeth Rohm (she makes a cameo too). Rohm's debut is impressive as she uses two or three locations and creates a level of claustrophobia and pseudo Stockholm syndrome. Heck, "Basement" contains the type of cinematic, family dysfunction that would make Maury Povich eat his heart out.

Based loosely on a true story and spanning about twenty years, Girl in the Basement is about a father (Judd Nelson as Don) who holds his youngest daughter captive in his downstairs abode. He abuses her, rapes her, and in disturbing fashion, she ends up mothering three of his children (with one added miscarriage brought on by brute violence).

In retrospect, I was almost reluctant to review Girl in the Basement because well, the putrid subject matter punched me in the gut once too often. However, the somewhat happy ending and eventual rendering of the outside world was enough to suffice. "Basement" is a Lifetime pic that other Lifetime pics couldn't touch with a stick. It will affect you terribly and make you realize that today's environment although hard up, might not be so hard after all.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Adverse 2020 * * 1/2 Stars


"Nothing personal, just strictly business". No someone's not getting fired. It's more like they're about to meet their maker. Ouch.

Anyway, 2020's Adverse is my latest review. It was released in February of last year and is distributed by Eagle Films. Brian A. Metcalf helms Adverse as a threatening LA story. Without filter, his pic is filled with drug addicts, crime lords, multiple deaths by tire iron, and remorseless henchmen. Adverse is well, "perverse".

Adverse is about an unwashed ride share driver named Ethan (Thomas Ian Nicholas). Ethan is guardian to his kid sister Mia (played by Kelly Arjen). When Mia owes a lot of money to the wrong people ($10,000 plus interest), Ethan is forced to smooth over the feeble situation and off a few bad guys along the way.

Nicholas in the lead really disappears into character. His Ethan is rattled, short-fused, galled, and full of intense stares. This is not the same dude from American Pie and Rookie of the Year mind you. And even though his performance is a little strained and over the top, you gotta admire the campy commitment.

In truth, if you like a flick with a well-known cast of cameos (Lou Diamond Phillips, Sean Astin, Penelope Ann Miller, director Metcalf), then Adverse is your cup of tea. And if you like a flick with a well-known cast of squalid side characters (Mickey Rourke, an unrecognizable Andrew Keegan), then you might get a kick out of Adverse's need to make these actors feel relevant again. Finally, if you like your crime thrillers slightly neo-noir while bloody to the max, then Adverse will give you your cinematic, needled fix (no puns I swear).

Watching Adverse, I was somehow reminded of 2011's Drive. Too bad Adverse lacks Drive's breakneck style, 80s vibe, more focused story, and better use of a nastier villain. Sorry Mickey Rourke. I still love ya though.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Dangerous Medicine 2021 * * 1/2 Stars


2021's Dangerous Medicine is my latest write-up. Its title, well it couldn't be more literal and/or obvious. "Medicine" is about a psychotic caregiver who by having a nurturing complex, tries to take possession of a paralyzed 18-year-old. At the fifteen minute mark, said caregiver (Daphne played by Leann Van Mol) is already a cray cray loon by default. The yelling, the screaming, the head voices, the spazzing, the desperation. Yes it's all there. 

Trashy, belligerent, LA based, and shrewd like a Lifetime movie should be, Dangerous Medicine is icky and pretty uncomfortable to watch. The film is also a train wreck so well, you just keep watching. Mol's Daphne not only kills people, she also tries to romance younger guys while keeping them eternally crippled. She's like a cross between Nurse Ratched, Hanna Schmitz, and Mrs. Robinson. Heck, the bathtub scene where Daphne goes for the groin is pretty darn cringe-worthy. 

Chris Cimperman plays 18-year-old Tony while veteran Lifetime lifer Meredith Thomas plays Tony's travel happy mom. Questions regarding "Medicine" are as follows: Why does Daphne's employer hire Daphne without a background check, a second interview, or a reference check? Why is Tony's girlfriend Jasmine not cited or put on probation (I mean she caused the accident that put Tony in a wheelchair)? How the heck did Tony's mommy and Jasmine find out where Daphne kidnapped Tony? Finally, how are Tony and Daphne able to be intimate from a sexual standpoint (the poor dude can't feel anything from the waist down)? 

Bottom line: Dangerous Medicine may be nervously watchable but come on, you have to suspend your disbelief. I'm convinced that after thirty-one years, Lifetime has cinematic, diplomatic immunity-s and wants it that way. With implausibility, overacting, and sketchy plot developments on display, "Medicine" is an "antidote" to a mixed review. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Crisis 2021 * * * 1/2 Stars


2021's Crisis is my latest write-up. Loved the movie but didn't quite dig the title. Sorry but it's kinda generic.

So yeah, Crisis is probably the best vehicle of the year so far. As pilled drug fodder, it's slick, it pulsates with energy, and it features performances by Armie Hammer, Gary Oldman, and Evangeline Lilly that really cook (no pun intended).

Crisis is like a re-update of stuff akin to Traffic and 2005's Crash. And although it has a more direct-to-video feel than those two films, its tight editing, inching revelations, and dejected outcomes still demand your attention as a viewer.

The director of Crisis is Nicholas Jarecki (Arbitrage, The Outsider). He's also the producer, co-star, and chief writer. Is Crisis a cinematic ego trip for the 41-year-old New York-er? Maybe. Is it a good ego trip? I'm not sure that's possible but yeah. With Crisis, Jarecki is not trying to be a far-reaching, revolutionary helmer. He's just trying to be well, Nicholas Jarecki.

Harboring a known cast and using locations such as Montreal and Detroit, the story of Crisis is actually three stories that start to bounce off each other at the hour mark. One has to do with a vengeful mother whose son dies of narcotics. Another has to do with a federal agent involved in the smuggling of Fentanyl and one more has to do with a professor who disapproves of a pain killer about to hit the open market. All of this is set to the opioid epidemic that spanned a good eighteen years.

Crisis for its crime genre, doesn't use overlapping dialogue in the styling-s of Robert Altman. And it's not quite Paul Haggis preachy. Finally, there's no jittery camerawork or trickery a la Steven Andrew Soderbergh. Crisis is basically meat and potatoes film-making made to order. It's only a "setback" if you want it to be.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Land 2021 * * * Stars


"I'm here because I choose to be". So says the persona of Edee Mathis in 2021's Land. You as a viewer should "choose" to see Land. It's a somewhat enthralling vehicle that again pits human vs nature.

Land's setting is inclement weathered Wyoming (which masquerades as Alberta, Canada). And it's another film in which the power of scenic beauty can still test your icy lifeblood. As something about a depressed woman who flees the outside world to live in a stodgy log cabin, Land is one of those few flicks in which you want the running time to be about twenty minutes longer. At just under an hour and a half, Land at times gives the moviegoer the feeling of being in an effective, dream-like state. Other times the pic appears a little pat and almost underwhelming.

So yeah, Land features star and first-time director, Robin Wright. Along with giving a solid, nerve-ending performance, Wright also has a keen eye behind the camera. From an acting standpoint, Robin gets her veritable, All Is Lost moment (except that she has more dialogue than golden boy Robert Redford). From a directorial standpoint, Wright is a visual auteur and sort of Terrence Malick-esque. With every zoom, every quiet jiff, every tree branch, every furry animal, every snowflake, and every distanced mountain, it's like the Western Canadian sweep in Land should be framed in a portrait.

In cessation, Land does have a few tense moments where you see the Wright character trying to force herself into dealing with arid isolation. And the movie for the most part, appears widescreen ready. Still, Land ends on a slight whim as a twist is added involving a hunter who saves Edee's life. Overall, the film is just missing something extra, a better dare to be moment of choice perhaps. Safe and zippy "landing".

Written by Jesse Burleson