film reel image

film reel image

Monday, July 15, 2024

Boneyard 2024 * * Stars


Starring Mel Gibson (sort of), Curtis Jackson, and Brian Van Holt, 2024's Boneyard is one of those video on demand movies, where you watch it and realize it will never see the light of day via a high-end theater. That's not to say that it's awful but it does have Mel attached, and ever since the media caught whiff of Gibson's nasty phone calls to his bae more than a decade ago, well it's been streaming city for Mr. Riggs and his mighty mettle. 

Anyway Boneyard is directed by unknown Asif Akbar, a dude who's ambitious from the get-go but forgot to hire a capable editor and/or script supervisor to sift through this litter of a crime thriller. I mean Boneyard has a ton of subplots, lots of main and side characters that wander in, trite unnecessary camera angles, middling acting, and an ending that leaves the viewer sort of scratching their collective heads. Gibson's persona (FBI agent Petrovick), well he's barely in Boneyard, as he enters the film periodically like some long-lost puppy who's scheduled for feeding time. 

Note to producers: if you're gonna put "mad Mel" on a poster front and center, well you might wanna include him in a few more scenes and not fashion his kooky dick guise as purely actor filler. "You were looking for the boogeyman, instead focus on the regular guy just hiding in plain sight". We hear you Mel. Believe me we hear you.

Top billing, under-utilized trouper insertions aside, Boneyard's gist is as follows: a police officer and a member of the FBI try to find a psycho killer who loves to bury his skeletal remains in the realms of some remote, New Mexico desert. By the way, I got that description from Boneyard's vehicle wiki page. Otherwise I wouldn't fully be able to discern what the heck I was watching on the almighty Prime. Scrap "yard". 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, July 12, 2024

A Family Affair 2024 * 1/2 Stars


2024's A Family Affair makes a little sense as a title. I mean if the word "family" is wholly defined as "like family" then yeah, why not. 

Anyway I've seen many romcoms in my day, and they all seem dated and passe because they use tropes of stuff that came before them. With A Family Affair, you have a younger dude (Zac Efron as movie star Chris Cole) getting with an older woman (Nicole Kidman as writer Brooke Harwood). And Cole's assistant (Joey King as Zara Ford), well she just happens to be the offspring of Brooke. And oh yeah, the whole shebang is connected to the ins and outs of glib "Hollyweird". I mean if I wanted to see 2017's Home Again with Reese Witherspoon again, I'd see 2017's Home Again with Reese Witherspoon (again). Yeesh!

So yeah, A Family Affair is not so much a romantic comedy as it is a bipolar, dramatis personae study of three people who'd probably be better off avoiding each other. I mean you've got the self-absorbed star trouper (Efron, who's perfectly cast here), the easily exploited author (Kidman's Brooke), and the whiny, underling daughter (King's Zara). They all have issues and well, with Carrie Solomon's cringe-inducing script inserted their scenes are a pretty rough watch. Oh I almost forgot, seeing Kidman and Efron's characters smooch in front of the statutory, Gary Marshall-prompted backdrop was like was watching some mortified, spin-the-bottle swipe. Again yeesh!

Now for kicks-and-giggles, did I hate A Family Affair? No. I mean movies are pretty hard to make and well, hate seems like too strong of a word to label anything. But did I dislike A Family Affair? Oh you darn Tootin. When two personas are wishy-washy about regularly hooking up and the twentysomething third wheel is even more wishy-washy about letting them consummate their passing ships interconnection, well that makes for a very injudicious viewing experience. Not all in this "family".  

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, July 8, 2024

On the Line 2022 * * 1/2 Stars


2022's On the Line is directed by mostly TV guy, Romuald Boulanger. As a film about a shock jock who gets tormented by a psycho caller looking to kill his whole family, "Line" shows that Boulanger had a vision and that vision was to make an inferior version of 2021's The Guilty coupled with a better version of Oliver Stone's Talk Radio. Oh and helmer Boulanger also thought he'd throw in an ending to On the Line that was similar to David Fincher's thriller The Game. Uh, did you get all that?

Anyway "Line" takes place LA, with pretty much one set location and claustrophobic mischief to boot. Yeah it's a compact flick, starting off lean and mean with a solidly tense musical score from Clement Perin and first hour tightness that would make Antoine Fuqua sort of golf clap in the background. On the Line's star, well it's Mel Gibson as radio monger Elvis Cooney and for the most part, Mel's performance is fairly hyper and disciplined (in a good way). Gibson, well you don't see him much in theaters anymore but he's still appearing in any ready-made streaming service (take your pick). He's you know, hanging around cause the dude's got "alligator blood". Natch. 

So yeah, On the Line has decent acting, clean editing, and director Boulanger with limited holdings, trying to somewhat keep you guessing (until he doesn't). Now do I plan on recommending "Line?" Uh, not quite. The film would work better if it was more straightforward, a sort of stagecraft showcase for Gibson in the whole, "mild-mannered family man goes rogue in order to protect his brood" genre. Instead, On the Line adds root out twist upon root out twist near the end, trying to readily get its M. Night on. I mean it's like the Elvis character and any sense of dramatic momentum has left the building (pun intended). Dropped "line".  

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F 2024 * * 1/2 Stars


Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is about as lustrous a sequel as I've seen in many a moon. I mean the film looks like a million bucks ($150 million to be exact). 90210, well it appears like it got a makeover, shiny and gleaming with the vivid sun just beating down. So yeah, here's "Axel F's" gist: Axel Foley's daughter's life is in danger, Axel's bud Billy Rosewood has been kidnapped, and there's drug cartel/dirty cop stuff going on too. Yup, just another reason for Detroit's favorite dick to find his way back to the "Garden Spot of World". "This isn't my first time in Beverly Hills". You don't say.

So OK, where would I rank "Axel F" in the Beverly Hills Cop canon? Well, it's a heck of a lot better than Beverly Hills Cop III (yup, I've seen that abomination). Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F brings in yet a third new director for the fourth flick in the franchise, Australian Mark Molloy. Molloy, well he's sloppy staging shootout sequences but happily bleeds nostalgia like a gash wound, using songs from the first two installments while bringing back all the old characters and similar plotlines (Axel gets arrested again, Axel manipulates various situations, Axel revels in citywide damage). "Axel F", well it sometimes gives you the warm fuzz fuzzies from what went down almost 40 years ago. It's just a little more modernized, not quite as funny, and not quite as biting.

All in all, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is not as bad as I expected it to be (go back to second paragraph). And star Eddie Murphy, well he's more over the top than ever (actually I did expect that). The film definitely feels like a Beverly Hills Cop endeavor but its shortcomings are that it parodies the whole Beverly Hills Cop shtick rather than encircling it. Beverly Hills Cop I and II had a certain trenchancy to them, a grand style and some ripeness. "Axel F" just feels more like the lampooned, Kidz Bop version. "Cop" minus a half.  

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, July 1, 2024

A Quiet Place: Day One 2024 * * * Stars


2024's A Quiet Place: Day One is lean and mean, a prequel to the original to the sequel. It's a blueprint vehicle mind you, made to be an obligatory prelude to something else, something maybe more elaborate and pulsing in the repugnant alien department. The runtime is short, there's danger readily around the corner, and with "Day One" I was getting some serious post-COVID vibes. "Shh". Oh you know it brother. 

Directed by the unseasoned yet polished Michael Sarnoski and starring Lupita Nyong'o of 12 Years a Slave fame, A Quiet Place: Day One is about just what it says it is. I mean it's day one of the invasion in NYC where if you make a peep, those pesky, spider-like critters will get cha. Speaking of said critters, well they really snap to it, stampeding, howling, and climbing up city walls with total aplomb. "Day One's" CGI, yeah it's obviously evident yet very well done, as the images of bloodthirsty Death Angels look cloaked into the screen, keeping it real. 

A Quiet Place: Day One, well it's hardly original, borrowing its depopulated look from World War Z and its morbidly nasty concept from The Descent (another flick about creepy crawlers who rely on faint sound to hunt humans). Oh well. Helmer Sarnoski gives "Day One" that compact, efficacious treatment anyway, doing the best he can to make you feel all "end of the world"-ish as you jump from your seat on his paltry budget of $67 mil. 

Yup, there's about three scenes in "Day One" that have ample buildup and provide barbarous, monster payoffs (pun intended). I mean the actors featured (Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Alex Wolff) don't exactly give Laurence Olivier-like performances but whatever, it's nearly a silent film after all, with three-dimensional conceptualizations of post-apocalyptic dread that are literally on the come up. Pride of "place". 

Written by Jesse Burleson