film reel image

film reel image

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Dune 2021 * * * Stars


First Denis Villeneuve decided to piggy back on Blade Runner. Now he's doing an update of 1984's Dune. Hey bro, how about coming up with some original material. Ha-ha just kidding. 

Anyhow, 2021's Dune is pretty uncompromising. I mean why wouldn't it be. This 155-minute flick is very epic in scope. It's sometimes Kubrick-an and almost every wide-angle frame is like a portrait. Villeneuve's lens is as big as Texas and you expect the Sand People from Star Wars to eventually show up (I mean the movie is called Dune). You'll sometimes be wowed by what's on display but you'll also be a little head-scratched. 

In truth, I've never seen David Lynch's '84 version and I've never read the book on which the film is based (I don't read). So yeah, I'll just lay out Dune's plot and get it over with. Paul Atreides (a smothering screen presence in Timothee Chalamet) is the ducal heir of House Atreides. Paul must travel to an evil planet to ensure that the safety of his family and people is secure. Dune takes place in the way-out future (10,191 ad to be exact). It's a stoned, fever dream that feels like total science fiction manifest.  

Denis Villeneuve's vision is completely assured even if Dune's story-line has thighs and ankles instead of legs. Villeneuve's vision will also creep you out as he gives us sandy white tropes, dragonfly spaceships, wonted opening credits, a glacial pace, and Hans Zimmer's almost demonized film score. Heck, you know this is a Denis Villeneuve pic from the first darn shot. As with Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, Denis the menace is a creature of sculpted habit. 

All in all, Dune is not thinking man's sci-fi because well, it doesn't give you enough gumption to think. It starts somewhere in the middle and yup, its coda is somewhere in the middle too (I suppose that's why it's listed as Part 1). Whatever. Dune looks and feels like a million bucks (or $165 million if you're talking budget). There's a lot to admire here even if its disjointed narrative doesn't allow you to admire all of it. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Redemption Day 2021 * * * Stars


"The gentleman we are dealing with is crazy". OK, that's established. So why are you calling him a gentleman? Are you giving him credit for being a meshuggana?

Anyway Redemption Day is a thinking man's actioner with raw performances that only unleashes its action in the last half hour. Don't worry, said action still sticks. Oh and the brute one-liners and machismo are a hoot too ("I've been practicing on the weekends", that refers to shooting).

In Redemption Day, the protagonist (Gary Dourdan as Brad Paxton) becomes a veritable Chuck Norris with some visible badassery. Also in Redemption Day, the antagonist is a Christoph Waltz lookalike who doesn't have a nice bone in his body. He actually threatens a female character that if he doesn't get 10 million bones in ransom, he'll kill her and her unborn baby. Yeesh. 

Redemption Day is about a Marine who attempts to rescue his wife from a terrorist organization stationed in Algeria. The film while cleanly story-lined and gleamed in its lighting, is a slickster version of Zero Dark Thirty and Argo. Take heed though, "Day" doesn't have the Academy Award values of the flicks previously mentioned. It's more TV movie-influenced with some serious CNN remnants and a Call of Duty whiff. 

"Day" has a cast consisting of Andy Garcia (acting like well, Andy Garcia), Ernie Hudson (he's from my neck of the woods so I had to mention him), and Martin Donovan (acting like his normal, smarmy self). Redemption Day is also filled with long tracking shots, wide shots, a Mexican standoff, a head-scratching twist ending, and obligatory, thriller spy music. It's the type of film Micheal Bay would make if he was deciding to go art house. Whatever. Redemption Day is still worth "saving" for a midnight rental. It's okay to seize this "day". 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Halloween Kills 2021 * * * Stars


Halloween Kills is a sequel of a sequel of an original of a sequel. Just kidding. But seriously though, "Kills" is the twelfth film in the Halloween franchise canon. Its story picks up right where 2018's Halloween left off. Halloween Kills, well it's an appropriate title. Michael Myers (the bad guy, duh) "kills" just about everybody in this flick. We're talking recurring characters, new characters, long-lost cameos, and paper mache denizens just waiting for the slaughter. He even comes off as an action star doing some serious Van Damage. "Evil dies tonight". Uh, not exactly (spoiler).

Halloween Kills is also made for the die hard fandom of Halloween franchise mongers everywhere (I'm kinda one of them). It bleeds nostalgia, weaving tons of persona arcs, new revelations, and story-lines from Halloween in Haddonfield circa 40 years ago. 

As a modern-day follow-up, "Kills" has huge intentions and grated enthusiasm. It doesn't want to be middle-of-the-road stuff (like tons of other direct-to-video swipe). Director David Gordon Green's vision rather, is to be faithful and further the origins of Halloween's fanciful notion from 1978. Heck, even Donald Pleasence shows up CGI-style (it's an impressive feat). 

Helmer Green goes a little 70s with a few zoom shots in "Kills". He also gives Jamie Lee Curtis a pseudo break from raged vengeance and lets Anthony Micheal Hall's Tommy Doyle get his angered revenge on (welcome back Gary Wallace). Halloween Kills doesn't have the most creative "kills" in the series (that honor goes to 1981's Halloween II). It's still pretty violent and the blood, well it flows like Merlot-d red wine. 

"Kills" is a decent combination of brains and well, brains (of the squishy kind). It's truly the dark second act of a trilogy that will give us Halloween Ends in 2022 (no happy ending here folks). Based on the box office take of these new Halloween endeavors, there's always more tricks to be treated. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Guilty 2021 * * * 1/2 Stars


2021's The Guilty is my latest write-up. The film's title doesn't exactly come to fruition until the end. Most of the way I figured I was watching 911: The Movie

So yeah, "Guilty" is one of this year's best. A lot of people contribute but it's a bruising character study for actor Jake Gyllenhaal, a one-man show if you will. As 911 operator Joe Baylor, Gyllenhaal lets us feel his nerve endings with every close-up by director Antoine Fuqua. Abraded tour de force, well that's an understatement. 

The Guilty I guess, represents something along the lines of 2013's Locke (a flick I have yet to see but have seen clips of) and 2018's Searching (a flick I have seen and enjoyed immensely). "Guilty" is also COVID-19 ready as it was shot solely in the eye of the pandemic (November 2020). The actors of which there are few of, become socially distanced whereby they're never really near each other. Helmer Fuqua instead opts for the proverbial "violence of the mind". It's what you don't see but discern that really creeps you out. 

Harboring a cast of rattled voices on the other end of a telephone line (Ethan Hawke, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Dano) and filmed primarily in one location (an intricately detailed 911 call center), "Guilty" chronicles LAPD officer turned demoted 911 operator Joe Baylor (Gyllenhaal). Baylor is being demoted because he's awaiting trial for a manslaughter charge while on duty. Throughout "Guilty", Joe has to navigate a disturbing call concerning the abduction of a wife by a distraught husband. 

The Guilty has a twist I didn't see coming, a mean-spirited/downtrodden approach, an involved attention to detail, and tension that's 10 inches thick. Antoine Fuqua feels right at home with "Guilty's" camouflaged LA vibe and well, that's his old stomping ground (remember Training Day?). Basically if you don't check out The Guilty you'll feel "guilty" for not doing so. Natch. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Saturday, October 9, 2021

College Professor Obsession 2021 * 1/2 Stars


2021's College Professor Obsession (my latest review) is in a way, about a college professor. But the title, well it's kinda misleading. There's a lot more things going on in this Lifetime vehicle. Most of them from a cinematic standpoint, aren't great.  

So yeah, "Professor" is akin to a bad Scream sequel that ultimately plays out like a lumpy murder mystery. The acting, well it's mostly mediocre with enough hammy residue to fill a whole dinner table at Easter. Only the actual professor character (who's purely foul) provides any sort of heighten tension throughout the film. Neve Campbell is sadly not there to save the day. 

Sidney Prescott-s begot, you wanna see a Lifetime pic that's tonally all over the place with editing that is completely scattershot? Well "Professor" is truly your ticket. You wanna witness a director (Brent Ryan Green) use his actors sparingly so they fade in and out like shades of common light? Well "Professor" doesn't disappoint. Finally, do you want to see a lead performance by Rhonda Rousey lookalike Grace Patterson that's about as bad as what Rhonda Rousey would've done? It's up to you but I would avoid it.

Filmed in Oklahoma (with plenty of filler aerial shots) and harboring the production company of Almost Never Films Inc. (that's funny), College Professor Obsession is about a college student who finds herself in danger because she won't do the deed with her d-bag teacher. 

That's the plot description I got off the Internet and it's a vague one at that. Be that as it may, helmer Green doesn't follow up on said description. He doesn't give the professor persona enough screen time and doesn't establish the dude's shaded evilness. He'd rather make "Professor" more slasher/whodunit elaborate than it has any right to be. Talk about a messy "idee fixe".

Written by Jesse Burleson 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Human Capital 2019 * * * Stars


"I need that money back". Ah, spoken like any scrounger who has ever made a bad ante. 

Anyway 2019's Human Capital is my latest review. It's a remake of an Italian film by the same name from several years ago. The new Human Capital takes place in New York while the older version takes place in Milan, Italy.

So yeah, Human Capital is a "human" drama that reminded me of other human dramas from the early 2000s. You know the ones with the highly known cast playing family men characters who collide with each other. 

Human Capital is an intertwining plot film by which the personas connect or link to one another in multiple ways. "Capital" is Doug Liman's Go without all the bells and whistles. It's Magnolia un-magnified. It's 2004's Crash without racial overtones and bad lieutenants. Basically "Capital's" director (Marc Meyers) comes correct as he provides himself with one or two Rashomon-like moments. 

Meyers gives the flick a cold, pallid, and sterile look. He doesn't stray from the narrative, he just gets a little non-linear on you. Human Capital isn't violent and the actor's portrayals aren't in too much danger (except financially, adulterer-d, and with the law). "Capital" is more psychologically bruising with the raw acting by Liev Schreiber, Betty Gabriel, and Marisa Tomei being proof of that. 

Distributed by Vertical Entertainment and featuring Peter Sarsgaard in his normal smug supporting role, Human Capital is about two different families (one middle class and one upper class) who are somehow connected by way of hedge fund investments, hit-and-run car accidents, and pseudo boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. 

In retrospect, "Capital" ends low-key as almost everyone involved is basically in the same position they were at the beginning of the flick. Whatever. It's not about the destination here, just the parasitic journey. "Human" conditioned. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, October 1, 2021

Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story 2019 * * * Stars


In 2019's Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story, the "quiet storm" refers to Artest himself. Ron Artest (now known as Metta Sandiford-Artest) played in the NBA for 18 years. He won a title with the LA Lakers in 2010, was Defensive Player of the Year in 2004, and was a one-time All-Star. At almost two hours, "Quiet Storm" tells Metta's story and tells it chronologically. We're talking from growing child age till present day.

So yeah, "Quiet Storm" is a documentary about an NBA player who had moderate success while also exhibiting a volatile nature. Remember the Malice at the Palace? Well Artest was there and it caused him to be suspended for the remainder of the 2004-2005 season. Metta went into the stands and punch a spectator. He also got a couple more slugs in when another spectator got onto the court. 

Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story is an effective if not conventional documentary. It would be more conventional had it not been for title cards featuring words of wisdom from Metta's never seen shrink. Now is "Quiet Storm" a platform docu for Metta to gain sympathy for his past incidents? Sure it is. Artest had problems on court with fighting and what not. Also, he was arrested for domestic violence in 2007. Is "Quiet Storm" a manifesto for Metta to get himself consideration for the NBA Hall of Fame? I mean it feels like it but I don't believe he's an actual Hall of Famer (he had a decent career though). 

All in all, Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story gets the job done by garnishing all the standard docu checkmarks. The archive footage is solid, the interviews are real, the editing is streamlined, and you get some concrete attestation concerning the Metta you thought you knew. The con is that "Quiet Storm" doesn't jump off the screen (no pun intended) like this year's Tina and The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart. It firstly goes through the motions as to not fully laud Metta's pseudo self-serving journey. It does however, give the dude some sprinkled redemption. Imperfect "storm".  

Written by Jesse Burleson