film reel image

film reel image

Monday, June 17, 2024

The Antisocial Network: Memes to Mayhem 2024 * * Stars


2024's The Antisocial Network: Memes to Mayhem represents a bunch of teens, hovered around their computers, hunkered down in their basements, and creating online memes meant to I suppose, skew real-life situational outcomes. A meme by definition, well it's an image, video, or piece of text that is copied and/or spread by Internet users. So yeah, you see a lot of these so-called memes throughout "Antisocial Network" yet they're on and off the screen faster than a speeding bullet. I mean at least give the viewer a sense of coherency and/or interconnection with each passing beam or likeness. "There was definitely a lot of stuff that was... super edgy." Jeez, you could've fooled me. 

Some smug interviews here, some recent archives there, Donald Trump nearly everywhere, The Antisocial Network: Memes to Mayhem splashes onto the screen with a ton of Pokemon colors, remnants of The Lawnmower Man, and some Anime-style animation. Yeah it all looks great but uh, where's the story? And what exactly did these Microsoft nerds do, as they ate their Cheetos and didn't leave from their lower ground floor for weeks? As a documentary, "Antisocial Network" contains a lot of techie info that unfortunately seems edited into a jumbled mess. Instead of having said info spoonfed to the audience member, it just sits there in the cinematic tidy bowl, getting soggy. "You didn't want the party to stop". Are you sure about that big guy?

Cheesy snacks and sci-fi horror aside, The Antisocial Network: Memes to Mayhem does two things that a docu should never do, give a platform for Internet young-ins who don't deserve it and then try to make you root for those same young-ins who should otherwise be looking for a real job and not sponging off the esse of others. I mean maybe these computer savants contributed to the outcomes of the 2016 United States election and/or the January 6 US Capital Attack, maybe not. Man, I don't even have a tenet. Stub "network".   

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, June 14, 2024

14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible 2021 * * * Stars


2021 had The Alpinist but it also has another movie about mountaineers. Yeah I'm talking about 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible, a documentary about a dude (Nirmal Purja) whose chief goal in record time, is to climb the summits of the world's 14 highest peaks. We're talking stuff like K2 and Mount Everest, yeesh! Now do you think Purja and Marc Andre Leclerc ran into each other or crossed paths when all this was going down? Maybe, maybe not. Heck, they're both manful regardless, looking for that adrenaline like the adrenaline junkies they are. 

So OK, do I think "14 Peaks" feels rather predictable, staged, and only to be expected. Uh yeah, it kind of has to be. Otherwise the film would be titled "12 Peaks" or um, "Almost 14". And do I think the pic's subject (Purja) is rather cocksure and self-serving in the way he goes about his business? Of course. Again it kind of has to be this way. I mean confidence is key when you're standing almost 9,000 m above sea level with only an oxygen mask to keep you grinning. "If I can stay alive, I can do this". Yeah you tell 'em Nirmal.

Distributed by Netflix, featuring interviews from legendary climber Reinhold Messner, and shot primarily in Nepal, 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible takes its formalized mantra and churns out a rather streamlined and numbing docu about mountainous Mother Earth and its horrific beauty. Kudos goes out to Chris Alstrin, whose striking cinematography has every frame of the Himalayas looking like it could be captured onto a portrait. Kudos also goes out to Nainita Desai, whose pitch-perfect musical score signifies a sense of deafening danger coming right around the corner. Yeah with "14 Peaks", almost everything is possible, even if you know in advance that Purja is gonna eventually reach his ascending, "Waterloo". Natch.  

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, June 10, 2024

How to Rob a Bank 2024 * * * 1/2 Stars


"Everyone on the floor". So says the late bank robber Scott Scurlock, a dude who robbed a ton of financial establishments in Seattle, Washington via the early to mid 90s. Hey Scott, I never did hear about you but now I'm getting a full education. Prosthetic facial features, a 9mm handgun, the nickname of "Hollywood", a nearly non-violent disposition. Netflix, well you finally sparked my interest, finally.

With interviews that stick from people who were there (the FBI, bank tellers, the po-po) and archives of Scurlock that will surely haunt your vested psyche (Scott's ghostly presence lingers long after his 1996 suicide), 2024's How to Rob a Bank is a documentary that is entertaining enough to make you feel like you're watching pure fiction (when you're obviously not). I mean when the subject at hand was obviously inspired by the antics of Heat and 1991's Point Break, well you feel like Scott is Bodhi and Neil McCauley on their collective high horses. "How does he just slip away like that?" Heck if I know.

Crime pics and voices of the dead begot, How to Rob a Bank moves at breakneck speed and gets away with reenactments and animation that would make other docu flicks seem pretentious by comparison. I mean why did Scott decide to involve his bewildered friends who were non-criminals by trade? And why did Scottie boy give some of the money from his robberies to his other buds who were in financial straits? And why did Scurlock get kicked out of school when he was a semester short of graduating while eventually becoming a medical doctor? These are questions and they seem interpreted as Scurlock's own method of wallowing in his cesspool of enigma. I'll bite. How to Rob a Bank is still one of the best pieces of redolent prose to come out this year. "Bank" on it.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Bionic 2024 * * 1/2 Stars


2024's Bionic is maybe the only film I've ever seen that had to do with bionics. I mean I've never viewed TV's The Bionic Woman so um, there you go. Bionic, well it's farsighted sci-fi, made with just enough futuristic gadgetry and prescience that it doesn't completely overwhelm you. The story, yeah it's about two sisters who have prosthetic legs, vying against each other to compete in the famed Paralympics. In order to keep their sponsors however, said sisters have to partake in a life of crime and some strong-arm tactics. "I want to enter the game". Yeah you do. 

So OK, Bionic is slick and glitzy, a flick that minus a few updated gags, probably could have been released in the late 90s. Nevertheless, it's a visionary work made by a director who obviously did some previous homework (Brazilian Afonso Poyart). A little Blade Runner here, a little Strange Days, a little splash of Neill Blomkamp, a smidgen of Gareth Edwards. I mean Poyart is obviously a fan of all things speculative fiction. So uh, what does he do to add to the furor? Well he combines sports with violence and meanie malefactors, kind of the same way 1991's Point Break did it with surfing, The Last Boy Scout did it with NFL football, and Drop Zone did it with skydiving. "Every victory demands sacrifice". Yeah it does.   

Aping of ultramodern cinema, shafts of light, and Johnny Utah-s aside, Bionic is worth at least one showing for its solid intentions of trying not to be just another crapper in the $3.99 bin a la Best Buy. Objectives begot, you just have to get past the occasional bad dubbing, the cartoon-like acting, the erratic editing, and the shallow characters who are as cold as perhaps the science fiction world is itself. By "artificial" means. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, June 3, 2024

Beverly Hills Cop II 1987 * * * Stars


Beverly Hills Cop II is about as sequel as sequels can get. But hey, I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I mean if you liked Beverly Hills Cop circa 1984, you're probably gonna like "II" cause well, it's basically the same movie. Eddie Murphy's Axel Foley again goes back to Cali from his Detective gig in Detroit, wisecracking and gun-toting his way into solving another case. In the first Beverly Hills Cop, Axel investigates an art dealer turned drug dealer. In Beverly Hills Cop II, Foley investigates an arms dealer turned robbery architect. "Would you lighten up and take some risks". Exactly.  

So OK, would I rank Beverly Hills Cop over Beverly Hills Cop II? Probably but as a follow-up, "II" holds its own, following the same blueprint as the first film but adding a little more flash and panache. Whereas the first flick's director (Martin Brest) opted for a slower pace and more concentration on a juicier screenplay ("Disturbing the peace? I got thrown out of a window!"), the late Tony Scott takes over the reins in "II", providing the audience with his signature fast tempo, scorched look, and glaring close-ups. The violence is louder, the lighting is harder, and LA is much smoggier this time around. "Are you driving with your eyes open? Or are you, like, using the force". Oh Eddie you slay me, you really do.

All in all, Beverly Hills Cop II has all the familiar cast members back (Paul Reiser, Murphy, John Ashton, Judge Reinhold), slipping into their fuzz roles like old, comfortable shoes. And the soundtrack like with the first "Cop" is tops, bringing back righteous ditties by The Pointer Sisters and good old synth monger, Harold Faltermeyer. So yeah, I suppose the only reason to not dig Beverly Hills Cop II is to believe it's worse because the initial Beverly Hills Cop came first. Get over it cause despite "II's" need to revel in all things facsimile, this "Cop" still "rocks". Natch. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome 1985 * * 1/2 Stars


Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is about as visionary a film as you can get. I mean it may not make it to the revisited big screen but there it is, a third installment in the Mad Max franchise that revels in dusty landscapes and mucky, grubby caricatures, all bent on fulfilling their arid, dystopian requisites. "Thunderdome's" story, well it's a murky one, something about a place called "Bartertown", where Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson of course) has to show off his "mad" fighting skills in order to impress "Bartertown's" ruler (Aunty Entity played by Tina Turner) to get supplies for his future endeavors. "Two men enter, one man leaves". Yeah you go Tina!

So OK, where would I rank Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in the Mad Max canon? Probably in the middle I guess. Just like in the most recent Mad Max flick (Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga), director George Miller decides to venture into the world of storytelling. Um, that's not his strong suit mind you. Miller is the master of stunt work, the guy who can create "birds in flight" action sequences with almost no CGI. With "Thunderdome", he provides this action but probably needed a better editor, someone to sift out the droppings of the slogging second act, where Max is befriended by a bunch of grubby kids inhabiting an oasis called "Planet Erf" (what?). This second act, well it zaps Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome's momentum, preventing it from having any real, suspenseful heft by the time the final chase commences (and you know there's gonna be a final chase). "I can feel it, the dice are rolling". Are you sure about that bro? Are you?

All in all, "Thunderdome" is not a total loss. I mean see it for Tina Turner's molten screen presence and her hit ditty during the closing credits. See it for the always reliable Gibson, who despite being less "mad" this time around, fits the antihero role like a pair of worn out slippers. Finally, see it for George Miller's inspiration, all funked up for the punk crowd literally strung out, and on the outs. Like 1979's Alien is to Star Wars, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is to well, Star Wars. Just take out everything pristine and unspoiled in this sci-fi sphere. "Beyond" control.  

Written by Jesse Burleson