Category Archives: Movies

Movie Review: High-Rise

Image result for high-rise movie poster free useI hated High-Rise the first time I watched it and I hate it even more now.

The only benefit to finishing it is being able to never have to watch it again for this archive. It is a callous work based on a British dystopian novel. I may go back to read that piece of literature so I can do a segment for my Book Vs. Film series, but I can say with a pretty high level of confidence that J.G. Ballard would be hard-pressed to create parchment as agonizing as Ben Wheatley’s excuse for a project.

High-Rise is a society entirely encompassed in a skyscraper. There’s a supermarket, doctor, dentist, pool, gym, parties on seemingly every floor. Aside from leaving for work, there’s no reason to leave. This blueprint was crafted as a utopia, an image of a paradise revolving around a close-knit community. It is also a foreshadowing of the story of Icarus and the Tower of Babel.

Tom Hiddleston’s Robert applied for a residency to get a fresh start. He’s self-sufficient, reserved and socially inexperienced but you get the feeling something is going on in that head of his. He’s a planner, his eyes set on the next step in the ladder, whatever that ladder may be.

This outlook makes him a perfect match for Jeremy Irons’ Anthony Royal, the architect of this establishment. Royal’s vision is complex but passionate. It is an example of looking up before seeing where your feet are.

From there, most interest that the film gathers is left moot as it dives into obscurity and then total madness. The lack of firm footing sends the tower into a struggle for resources. The power grid isn’t sustainable. There’s not enough food. Despite creating a vertical mansion, social superiority is established.

That’s about it. It’s a grating drag on one’s sensibilities and was one of the longer hours I’ve had to experience this movie year. Netflix says the second half was only one hour but it felt like three.

A film centered on social constructs and the animalistic side of humanity becomes so apathetic I wondered a couple of times if Wheatley knew he left the camera rolling. When it comes to film making, you should be able to look at every shot and determine a visual, auditory or narrative basis for it. When you notice takes that don’t, that’s lazy storytelling. That’s becoming fixating on a distraction. That’s what the editor’s table is for.

Despite a few strong thematic opportunities, Wheatley leaves his audience intellectually starved and emotionally despondent. A few tadpoles of dialogue are present in a diluted pool of potential relevant conversations.

Dystopian literature is often a forum on economics, political liability and human psychology. The human brain is a complex vessel, a set of neurons and thought patterns and emotion. High-Rise is frustrating because Wheatley makes humanity seem so basic when it is in fact the opposite.

It is visually discombobulating at times, to the point it feels like an acid trip, and not in an artistic fashion. Spending time talking about a piece of art that lacks so much of that very thing is difficult.

Void of character arc and absent of literary devices, the film compares to the story in that both are empty of elements.

High-Rise is derelict, never establishing its own reality. It is a blank canvas with stuff thrown at it. The canvas looked better unused. It’s an insult to film.

Time to watch the World Cup and get this garbage out of my mind.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The ConjuringSinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the Woods)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The RoadDoctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Wind RiverTommy BoyDeath NoteTrue Memoirs of an International AssassinThe Great Wall)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe Visit)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for High-Rise: 31.

An orgy of incompetence warrants no more of my time or mind. High-Rise is only high in its level of blatant mismanagement. A complete waste of a talented cast.

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Movie Review: Wind River

Image result for wind river movie poster free useAfter writing Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan was reportedly the latest prodigy in the streets of theater. My film compadres were saying it, the critics were parading it and I decided to pull this one out and see if the tales were true. I plan to see the two previously mentioned works as well so I can make an educated opinion.

Boy, has the Sheridan experiment not gotten off to a good start. Wind River is a stalling truck caught in a snow drift. It surveys its landscape and the harsh life all who remain suffer but also can’t help being a funeral that’s surprisingly hard to empathize with. You almost feel bad being so disconnected from it but the project is so barren that you feel like you’re mourning the life of emptiness itself.

A murder on an Indian Reservation in the void of Wyoming should carry a tempo that mimics a trudge through the storm but the pacing is so stagnant that one can’t help but continue to flick their head around to see if they’ve moved at all in the last 20 minutes. The phrase is “the tortoise wins the race” but this reptile is dead on arrival. I was very patient with this film, and as someone who’s already very patient, that meant giving this picture a lot of leeway. My brethren gave this film high praise and so I waited for it to move. I poked it a few times before flipping a table and pronouncing, “This thing’s dead, goddammit!”

Wind River doesn’t make a sound. It is eerily quiet, but after days of inaction, leads to a walk through a morgue rather than an intense murder mystery suffocating in a tundra. Jeremy Renner can work on his cowboy look all night long but it’s still not gonna make Wind River a natural disaster even remotely interesting. Imagine wandering through a hurricane and giving zero cares in the world, thoroughly disinterested by the day’s proceedings like a preoccupied millenial, except in this case you’re grazing through the least exciting storm known to man that still somehow earns the title “hurricane.” That’s Wind River.

That was overdramatic even for me. Wind River is not the least exciting storm ever. That would garner it an accolade.

Renner and Elizabeth Olsen struggle to do much with a story that is starved of dialogue and greatly lacking in the “stuff to do” department. The account of a pillage is dragged across a cheese grater for nearly two hours. It’s a story that has been stretched too far. I’m not sure if Sheridan had a cramp in his pen hand or struggles with thoughts that exist outside a movie’s borders. I’ve watched more entertaining episodes of Law and Order: SVU.

It’s not complex enough to warrant a feature-length work and it shows in the final cut. The flatness of this movie cannot be overstated. It is exceptionally dull.

A knife without edge offers little tenacity and Wind River doesn’t dazzle your eye either. As much as I enjoy watching Jeremy Renner’s stunt double bounce on a snowmobile, the organic wilderness around you is begging for a pedestal. The visual department fails to capture the aged relic of the past, one of the pieces that has gone mostly untouched by the modern world. A blistering behemoth with a personality disorder, regularly fluctuating between storm and calm, is underappreciated here. There are a few select shots which grant us a brief showcase, but we should be engulfed in the black hole, disturbed by the unknown and carry a caged paranoia.

Wind River is frustrating because it has an avenue for success. Similar to The Road, it has ample opportunity to display color palette and lighting as well as sound design. It forgoes audible creation, deciding on unnerving silence that doesn’t harness fear as much as it thinks it does and displays inexperience in its visual carving, leaving the film neither smooth nor fine-tuned with sharp edges. It looks like a log that was hacked by a teenager with a chainsaw. It wasn’t done out of rage. It was performed by an unguided hand.

Renner’s lead lacks the composite of originality and fronts a frontiersman with little bite and less bark. With an inability to stir intrigue and Olsen being almost entirely useless as a rookie on the scene, Wind River‘s character output is anemic. It will lose its grip on viewers early. The public is far more impatient than I am.

With little chill, Wind River is fully reliant on Renner, who in my experience doesn’t possess that level of talent. The only development of note is the hunter being the victim of a hunt himself. There’s not enough character molding going on here.

You can tell Sheridan was pulling for a winter western but Wind River has neither the cold nor the grit. It’s rather mellow for a western, solemn to the point of feeling sorry for itself. Sheridan manages to drizzle a few lines of concrete here and there to keep myself interested but I’m being left on a thread waiting for the beauty I was told appeared.

Drowned in a grief with surprisingly little punch, Wind River doesn’t emote much feeling in me. I’m left distant from a work where the goal should be to bring me closer, not only to adjust to the environment but to understand the gravity of the situation and bear the weight of loss this tale is buried in. The film never bothered to knock on my door and see if I was home.

If you enjoy plot pushers, Wind River might meet that criteria. It’s not a film that carries off-screen presence. It leaves me starved for content.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The ConjuringSinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the Woods)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The RoadDoctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Tommy BoyDeath NoteTrue Memoirs of an International AssassinThe Great WallRobin Hood)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe Visit)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Wind River: 57.

If the phrase, “well, it’s either half empty or half empty” was a thing, I’d use it here. I’ve now watched Wind River two times more than I would have liked and I promise there will not be a third. There wasn’t much reason to watch it the first time and there certainly wasn’t to go looking for a second viewing. Skip this one.

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Movie Review: The Road

Image result for the road movie poster free useSomething I’ve been paying closer attention to in recent days are color palettes, lighting and sound design. It is easy to overlook these things. I recently watched Zack Snyder’s 300, which still holds up rather well, and Man of Steel, which I’ve been a fan of since its release. Both films highlight Snyder’s knack for the visual flair of filmmaking, though his reputation has taken a major hit of late with train wrecks Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. His use of color palettes in 300 is especially noticeable.

These elements should be recognized and appreciated because they usually play a strong role in establishing tone and texture. Such traits tell a lot about the atmospherics of a story as well as where that story is likely to go.

This brings us to 2009’s The Road, a film adaptation of the Pulitizer-prize winning novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy. If you haven’t read the novel, you really should. It’s classic literature. Sidenote: I plan to do The Road for my next installment of Book vs. Film, so look for that in a month or two when I finish rereading the work that predicated this.

Some of the film was shot in my home city of Pittsburgh on the turnpike outside of the city and along Presque Isle beach, an old stomping ground of my childhood. Viggo Mortensen, a near perfect cast for our man, stars our central character. If you haven’t read any interviews with charming Viggo, you really should. He’s standoffish and avoids the spotlight at all costs, the polar opposite of what you would expect of someone who’s made a life in front of a camera. His seclusion is rather noticeable but his dedication to his craft is still highly regarded. Any true diehard Lord of the Rings fanatic is well-known to how immersed Viggo got in his role of Aragorn. Someone who takes method acting with the utmost seriousness will always have my respect in some form and Viggo certainly has earned mine. He feels right for this role, just on paper.

Anyway, The Road is a post-apocalyptic tale about a father and son going through a starved planet while fighting for survival themselves, all while the man tries to both teach the boy the deepest meanings of life itself and the tactics and tools he needs to survive once his old man is gone. It is a very barren concept and it takes the hands of a true craftsmen to make a tale so sordid and uninviting feel so contagious to a reader and listener.

To put things on the table, the boy in this tale, to those who are not picking up the least subtle of subtle hints, is a metaphor for childhood innocence. In the novel, McCarthy does not give his characters names, instead referring to them simply as “the man” and “the boy”. The boy’s youthfulness and ignorance to not only his current predicament but to the nature of human beings is especially precarious for the man, who is fighting inner demons, the harsh physical burden and dragging along literally the only reason he can chalk up to worth living for. In this scenario, we are literally watching a man carry a boy, his own dark thoughts, his doubt, his environment, his hunger, his heartache…dude’s carrying the world on his shoulders right now and for what? If it wasn’t such great writing, the book would be called Masochism: A Story of Hating Yourself (Think I’m gonna use that title for my autobiography).

This type of emotional desolation brings a reprieve of intellectual fulfillment, wringing lines of true dialogue gold in McCarthy’s penmanship. Sadly, those nuggets got lost in the gold rush of this film’s production. While a modicum of valuable utterances may appear during its near two-hour run time, the picture lacks the same cognitive prowess of its original maker. John Hillcoat may have directed Lawless, a western/gangster ode I really need to revisit sooner rather than later, but that came after this direction. He’s out of his league here and it’s all too easy to see before you look at the finer details of the film. It’s clear he put a high priority on the three things I mentioned at the beginning of this review: color palettes, lighting and sound design (the film actually got critical praise for its cinematography). It’s a film with a continuous overcast that’s begging to be cast in black and white, though Hillcoat never goes all the way there, instead using a paintboard of different shades of grey to compound the seemingly meaninglessness of our characters’ actions and inactions.

It is more a dire canvas than a traverse through the bare bones of human companionship. It’s a work that characterizes its setting with disturbing normalcy and a lack of apathy, the mindset one would expect when such horror is so repeatedly seen. It is certainly visually competent.

The Road is not about the road itself though, the road to freedom or some secret clearing where the world hasn’t keeled over. The Road is about the people who transgressed the path, about the humanity or lack thereof illustrated in its pages and in its steps. It’s about the tragedy that humankind has seen fall upon it, the diminution of their resolve and the endless slaughter of the concept of hope. This is a dissection of the human brain and heart as much as it is an autopsy of the psyche of an animal pushed to the brink of extinction. These are bricks of substance we’re talking about here. These are the types of discussion, the styles of theme you would expect in an adaptation of McCarthy’s work, but you will find yourself thoroughly starved by the end of it.

The backbone of this film, the meaty morsels shall we call them, simply are not there. Again, the presentation is well-done and I give the crew credit, but the foreground, the thing we came to see, is nearly transparent. It is not because the background is that enticing. It is embracing but not to the point that this deserved an Academy Award nomination or the most strident rally. No, the writing desk simply shortchanged us. The same depths that I hoped to see on-screen are simply not approached with the most ardent of efforts.

Imagine being a photographer and having a career-defining image laid in front of you. You take the picture and capture a large part of the glory in the back half, showcasing the texture I mentioned at the beginning, but in the pursuit of that panorama, that snow globe effect, of being seized by this little pocket of nature, you forgot about the central subject in your photo. What you captured is out of focus.

That feels like the most appropriate metaphor for this viewing experience. It’s a product that delivers on one of its founding principles, visual storytelling, but dramatically fails in shipping the essential contents of the story alongside it.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The ConjuringSinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the Woods)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Tommy BoyDeath NoteTrue Memoirs of an International AssassinThe Great WallRobin Hood)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe Visit)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for The Road: 62.

When it comes to the genre of post-apocalyptic dramas, you could do worse than The Road but you could also do much, much better. Viggo keeps this boat afloat, dedicating a capable effort to the cause whilst brief appearances from Charlize Theron and Robert Duvall feel like yet another headwind Viggo has to plow his way through. By the end of it, Viggo looks like a man beaten to a pulp physically but with plenty of emotional and cerebral punch left in him if only he was given the material to work with. By the end of it, I can’t help feeling like Viggo was waiting for the art to come and I couldn’t help feeling the same way.

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Movie Review: The Conjuring

Image result for the conjuring movie poster free useJames Wan’s 2013 novella was beloved by audiences, conjuring over $300 million and becoming one of the highest-grossing horror films in cinematic history.

As I’ve made my way through the depths of horror these last few years, I’ve found a lot of duds, the type of garbage that turned me off to the genre at an early age. I’ve also found some crystals such as Cabin in the Woods, Sinister, The Babadook and The Shining, films that demonstrate tension, creativity and imagination. These are the type of productions that keep the category alive. We need more of them.

The Conjuring, through and through, is an ode to original horrors such as The Exorcist, playing on high wires, shredding one’s nerves against a grater and stretching them with a rolling pin like an experienced culinary maestro. Wan has a talent for this type of film making, pairing a fascination with cinematography with a genuine care for character. The widely known pitfalls of the niche are tactfully avoided by his pen strokes. (You’ll be hard pressed to find a misplaced horror trope.)

This isn’t to say The Conjuring is revolutionary in its innovativeness. Familiar imagery is often used to give us rather blatant gestures. Wan is not trying to finesse you. He’s going to come at you. Here, we’ll play a game of hide and seek in Rhode Island before unleashing the stops in the final third. A certain bar of patience is required, though I feel the apprehension to what we all know is coming is more than enough of a reason to stick around. We’re all toys in Wan’s fantasy. We’re just being played with.

The acting is capable though nothing dramatic. Most of its success is from its authenticity. Invested characters are key to an audience’s sympathy and involvement. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson bring intrigue to demon hunters and paranormal specialists, a concept that is rather difficult to take seriously without our acceptance of these leads.

I feel that directors of scare stories underappreciate the value a character brings to said moving picture, whether it’s a slasher flick or dramatic mind bending. Cynics, especially like myself, are looking for any opportunity to remove themselves from the equation, which spells, “Uh-oh” for horror creationists. An audience that is not slaved by the puppeteer is hard to frighten. They still feel they have control of the situation. That’s why drawing a line from your audience to a character is so important, whether that person is a protagonist or villain. Friday the 13th is great because that line is drawn from us to Jason. He embodies emotional trauma. It’s hard to watch a film like that and not get even a little uneasy. The same goes for Michael Myers and Halloween.

So when you start the film and find yourself asking why we’re spending what seems like forever on this family, that is why. It gives us time to get to know ourselves in this pattern.

This film contains little to no jump scares. Wan is not someone to dab in the trivial. Wan would prefer to throw elements into his pressure cooker and watch them slowly rise up until its overbearing, silently laughing like a mad scientist.

This is not the type of movie to scare the daylights out of you, nor tell you a whole lot about yourself. There are shades of destiny talk here and there between the Warrens but not much in form of storytelling is going on. It is, however, a nice stamp to add to your passport of horror trips if you’ve just begun your adventures. It dedicates itself to what the origins of this storytelling based themselves on: a slice of visual grandeur, a pinch of narrative bravado and a heavy sampling of anticipation.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (SinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the Sun)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Tommy Boy, Death NoteTrue Memoirs of an International AssassinThe Great WallRobin Hood)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The Snowman, Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe Visit)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for The Conjuring: 84.

People might have hyped this up a tad too much for me to see it as a magnum opus, but it’s still clear that The Conjuring pulls its punches and waits for its characters’ most vulnerable moment before unleashing on them. James Wan is certainly a prodigy in the industry.

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Movie Review: Tommy Boy

Image result for tommy boy movie poster free useI recently watched Ace Ventura: Pet Detective for the first time, one of the 1994 Jim Carrey trifecta (The Mask, Dumb and Dumber) that spawned the comedian’s career in film. In it, you see what happens when a mind of humor is let loose like a dog off a leash. Carrey helped write the screenplay for Ace Ventura, allowing him near complete control of his character and surrendering to him near ultimate authority in the investigator’s portrayal. It worked quite well. Ace Ventura is a true work of stand-up comedy put to film, one that deserves a second viewing before being talked about.

Pieces like Ace Ventura do not come around often. Producers play a far larger role in the industry then they are meant to, leading to corporate heads telling artists they are restricted in their works of freedom. That is what is beautiful about art: it holds unlimited potential. It is genuinely free. An artist, through willpower, creativity, ingenuity and diligence forms an idea, one that was once amorphous and now has a visual element. Art is never finite. It always has something more to say if you but only take the time to look upon it.

It’s also important, however, to state that one must have the talent and ambition necessary to put all those pieces together. It is yet another portion that makes a movie’s success that much more impressive: there are so many people who help create a film. Moving pictures require hundreds of people.

Tommy Boy is what happens when too much independence is given to an actor, or perhaps not enough. Tommy Boy is one of comedian Chris Farley’s brainchilds. He’s the lead, asked to carry the story forward through charisma and spontaneous off-script meandering.

If you’ve watched Ace Ventura, you know there is a minimal weight placed on the plot. The story arc is not why we’re watching and in the grand scheme of things is rather meaningless. Jim Carrey is why anyone starts that picture, as well it should be, and the Canadian-American lavishes in front of the camera, deploying all the eccentricities and chimerical wit he can muster.

Tommy Boy is what happens when you force a narrative onto a comedian rather than allow him to form his own. Chris Farley is a treasure of the 90’s, one of the best that Saturday Night Live ever churned out. He excelled at the short skit, bringing an overbearing presence so animated actors often struggled to keep straight faces through his routines. Farley put a premium on making his audience laugh and always felt his fellow compatriots were a part of that group.

While we see from the get-go that Farley’s character is the capitulation of absurdity, we also notice a rather convenient restraint of that free spirit emblematic of the film’s chief character flaw: funneling. The creative juices seem bottlenecked rather than poured over the script. A character is only allowed to go full auto if the script says such. In few of his routines did I ever find Farley underwhelming and yet here he clearly is and given the enthusiasm he displayed during his entire career, it’s hard for me to believe he phoned it in here. It seems more likely producers didn’t want the film to go over the handlebars.

David Spade, who I’ve never been a fan of, is asked to bring a guided hand to Farley’s plot-appointed erratic character. While given some dry humor, Spade gets few barbs in himself, directing more of the audience’s attention toward Farley in the hopes he pulls another masterful routine.

Feature films were never Farley’s forte, however. Perhaps he would have gotten better with more practice, but it never seemed that was where his talent lied. His films did fine at the box office because of his popularity as an entertainer, not because of those films’ quality.

Tommy Boy might be a cult favorite, but it doesn’t offer anything substantial to write home about. There is a sales pitch scene that is quite good, seemingly taken right out of an SNL episode, and a few small moments that might warrant a brief grin, but nothing that warrants a second viewing aside from the nostalgia that comes from watching Farley perform again. Vintage Chris Farley is SNL Chris Farley, when he was one of the bad boys of Saturday Night Live, starring alongside Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider and Spade. Film Farley is only memorable because of the loose connection it has with the golden days of 90’s SNL. Each movie he signed up for was another chance to strike silver, but none ever panned out. If we’re going to remember Chris Farley the comedian, let’s remember him at his height, not for things like Tommy Boy.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (SinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the Sun)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Death NoteTrue Memoirs of an International AssassinThe Great WallRobin HoodUnderworld)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The Snowman, Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe Visit)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Tommy Boy: 50.

Tommy Boy is a comedy that’s remembered that is honestly better off forgotten. No meaningful impressions were made during it and there’s little reason to revisit it.

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Movie Review: The Snowman

Image result for the snowman movie poster free useThe Snowman should work on a fundamental level. Presented next to the stark contrast of a Norwegian winter, it has the atmosphere for an investigative mire through paranoia, a devoted episode in the coldness of murder. With a backdrop splayed with the natural chill of the season, that unnatural rise of the hair on your back can easily be confused for the environment, only to be verified that your life is in jeopardy, your human instinct to fear the cold was correct and all is not right in the snow. There is a predisposition, a seemingly unproven rationale, to view the cold as a negative. Many do not like it. Many connect the word “cold” with removed, isolated and unstable. Those connotations come into play here. You are alone. It is cold. Whether it’s in the field covered in snow or on the frozen lake, no one is going to hear you scream.

This is the conventional basis for a murder mystery and with talent like Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson at your disposal, you should, in theory, be able to convey these emotions whilst diving into the terror created by an unseen psychopath bent on torturing not just those around you but your identity as a person.

What you have read above is a far more intriguing set of lines than will ever be read in Tomas Alfredson’s film. Wildly panned by all forms of human beings, The Snowman went straight to limited showings after two weeks and by this point, it had become difficult for me to find a place to see it. It was such a displeasure that theaters seemed to be going out of their way to save their customers’ time. I appreciated that as a viewer but hated it as a critic. I just wanted to see how bad it truly was.

The Snowman comes as advertised, or rather, not. It comes as audiences have advertised it, not as the studios have. It is barren but not in the context that it’s meant to be. It’s an empty film, with scrawled-out pages of script reserved for only the most mundane of collegiate textbooks.

Based off a series of crime novels, Alfredson’s film is swallowed by the sinkhole that is doing too much and also too little, embedding too many plot points into his narrative and then failing to develop any of them, leaving the lot elementary and the tale as a whole as intriguing as a pot of three-day old porridge, lacking any consistency and being of so little substance that it holds no sustenance and contains no adjective other than the word “bland”.

It is a picture that misses out on the power of cinematography, forgoing the tool that would best demonstrate the serenity of the landscape contrasted with a murderer with a pathological obsession with death and snowmen. Mixing sociopathy into this character’s origin would likely make for a more complex menace, one not easily understood but with loads to say.

This is a concept I would love to brainstorm, a script I’d love to write. We have a lot of options here, a lot of nerve endings to tap into and memories to create. That might be why The Snowman is so bothersome for me. It is specifically this type of film that should be attempting to numb our primal feelings and agitate the receptors we would rather not embrace like paralysis, dread and the foresight of knowing that our characters’ actions, and possibly our own, might be meaningless and lead to the same result regardless of their/our efforts. It should have the steadfastness to remain after viewing for a time and cause us to examine the reactions we had from the material.

Yet despite the movie’s ability to speak, it does not speak. Despite its ability to write, it does not write. Despite its ability to shred us, it leaves us reserved and removed.

Michael Fassbender’s Harry Hole is a washed up detective and now full-time alcoholic. He was the real deal back in the day but now is fully off the tracks and the allure of a possible serial killer is the only thing that might have him on his last wheel. Only, we spend no time learning about how real of a deal he might have been, nor how important this case is to him. He seems reluctant to even peruse it let alone pursue it, giving me the inkling early on we have a less than interested protagonist, which isn’t exactly enticing to an audience.

We also have his ex-girlfriend and her son in the picture, for some reason, and we have Rebecca Ferguson’s Katrine Bratt, who still has the itch for crime-solving but also feels like yet another sediment to an already overloaded concoction. It is a spider web spread out too far and with strands that clearly hold little significance. Notwithstanding, the camera will continue to spend valued time on said threads that to any somewhat seeing person hold zero intrigue.

Ferguson and Fassbender’s characters never seem to be on the same page nor in the same book, telling two separate tales rather than one complete one, only halving a film that already feels halved. There is an absence of a meaningful music score or any semblance of flow because of the rampant character flips, bouncing back and forth like a disorganized ping-pong game at a frat house on a Friday night. There’s also no regular communication between Hole and the assailant. The trailer hints at messages engraved in the ice. That doesn’t happen and there’s only one letter sent to the investigator.

I haven’t yet mentioned how dull this film is. Suspenseful crime should be a piece of sharp-edged cutlery. It can be quick or drawn out and yet just as lethal, just as effective. This blade is rusted. It lacks grit, style, finesse and aggression. It is apathetic. I am not. I’m pissed off.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (SinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the Sun)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Death NoteTrue Memoirs of an International AssassinThe Great WallRobin HoodUnderworld)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for The Snowman: 26.

This 2017 entry fails in every category. Fassbender is collecting a paycheck, the direction is awful, the reveal at the end unveils a huge problem with the culprit’s motivations and worst of all, I haven’t even mention that the great J.K. Simmons is sitting in the damn corner waiting to be given something to do. Won’t miss this one.

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Movie Review: Death Note

Image result for death note netflix movie poster free use“Shall we begin?”

I need to watch more anime. It offers a lot to film as an art form, in terms of cinematography, character design and visual depiction. It is its own genre and we have many Japanese innovators to thank for it.

Death Note is an anime I am now interested in watching, not because of Netflix’s Death Note, but in spite of it, because the two are not one in the same.

The film has some going for it. For example, all of the original material that it’s based on, of which it holds zero responsibility for, is compelling, offering deadly deeds, moral dilemmas and a seemingly playful but actually cunning death god. Imagine what carnage and creation can be formed with a few names on a piece of paper from a book that kills people. All you have to do is write a name down and poof, gone. Look at the sludge. Visualize the products of one’s ambition.

There’s a lot of narrative promise here and a wide variation of thematic content. There’s a chimerical quintessence present. There’s a vicarious lust here. There’s….. a lot going on.

Netflix’s Death Note doesn’t. Not really. It’s actually rather amorphous.

We have a lead character that’s shortchanged both by actor Nat Wolff and the script. He’s portrayed as a punk, actually, an immature teenager with family troubles who’s screaming for freedom and independence. A bit conventional.

The book falls out of the sky and once the rules are explained, he decides to write the school bully’s name first. A bit conventional.

Once discovering his new power, he finds the attractive girl he’s been trying to date and immediately tells said girl about a book that can kill people. Lazily conventional. It loses a lot of tension due to this and once again, chooses a romantic subplot over a story that carries far more gravity.

In any story, the strongest portion should be saved for the conclusion but here, one of the strongest scenes comes at the beginning with the introduction of Ryuk, voiced by Willem Dafoe.

You can never have too much Willem Dafoe, nor does it ever feel bad to have him around, as is once again the case here. Ryuk is the death god, the man behind the book. The book that makes one think of ambition is actually one full of artifice, one composed of madness, but Ryuk, in his calm and yet clearly unsafe demeanor, lures our hero in like a spider and its web. This seductiveness is alluring and while you know something’s up, as I’m sure Light does here, you can’t help but wanna try it, right?

Possibility is a strong motivator, and we get to see the primal instincts of humanity through this device. We get to see what it truly feels like to be all-powerful. It is a Greek tragedy with the stylus of a Japanese artist, or at least that’s what the anime is.

This supposed love interest ends up chewing up more than she has any right to consume, clearing her plate and then Dafoe’s and then some of Light’s before all is said and done. Mia, this girl, is a sociopath, the more interesting character, the person capable of bringing the carnage and vileness of the Death Note to its full potential, making Light’s presence unwarranted. We have two main characters fighting for possession of both the Death Note and the camera, and Ryuk, who should be playing the role of the puppeteer above, is instead sitting on the couch throwing back apple cores, enjoying the festivities, a complete misuse of the character’s time and actor’s talent.

Something about adaptations tells me there is no girl in the anime. Something tells me this is another Hollywood attempt at Americanizing material. That something is memory.

I’ve seen it too often, slogged through it many a time, written about it here and there. Who would think it was so pervasive in our film industry? And look, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is in the anime, but it’s so divisive and corrosive to what is initially planted in the framework that it definitely does not belong in this film.

Another crucial part of the movie, when Light realizes the difference he can make with the Death Note, is put into a montage, a stylistic atrocity. A centerpiece of the film and you’re speeding through it rather than stretching it out? It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for ’em.

It doesn’t. It’s nerve-grating. Some of Adam Wingard’s decision-making here in the story’s fabric don’t mesh with the elements illustrated. There’s also not a high enough premium paid to the patterns and peculiarities of the anime design, leaving the material distanced from its maker.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (SinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the Sun)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (True Memoirs of an International AssassinThe Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-Over)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Death Note: 59.

All in all, I enjoyed this at points for the content it presents, not for how it adapts it. If you know nothing of the anime, as I did, watch it, get heated, and then bathe in the glory that the anime provides. It’s quite good.

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Movie Review: True Memoirs of an International Assassin

Image result for true memoirs of an international assassin movie poster free use“Why would an actual assassin write a book about being an assassin? It’s beyond stupid.”
“Or is it so beyond stupid, it’s brilliant.”

I love this line. I really do. It’s the type of insert that slithers its way into comedies, presenting a line of thought that causes a burst of joy and also drops a trinklet of apparent wisdom into the minds of its viewers. You have to take a double take and think. Would it really be stupid or is it jaw-dropping how genius it is?

True Memoirs of an International Assassin is a Netflix original that from the beginning, demonstrates this same wit and charisma.

Sam Larson, an accountant who’s dove into the cobwebs of assassination and writing, has created an alter ego for himself, one in which he feels he truly gets to live. Mason Carver is everything he’s ever wanted to be. And unknown to him, that chance at a more exotic lifestyle has arrived.

The introductory phrases of Jeff Wadlow’s Netflix special deals with vicariousness and journalistic integrity, offering both food for thought regarding ethics and some life advice that, while endlessly cliché, doesn’t seem to ever be heard by some. Do something worth your time. Live life.

These points are accompanied with a quiver of writing jabs and a parlance for dialogue that has the versatility to be both thought-provoking and worthy of a gigglefest. It’s whimsical but also odd in an amusing enough way that you’re willing to put up with it.

That’s generally the basis for Kevin James videos, to be honest. How much are you willing to endure?

You can see the prototype for Kevin James’ career in Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Is it a good movie? Hell no, but like Sandler has come to do, it tiptoes the trapeze of the funny and the galatically stupid. It hits and misses and at the end of the run, it’s up to the viewer to decide if the shooting percentage was worth their time.

What you see with True Memoirs of an International Assassin is a film that shows signs it wants to take itself seriously but then quickly retracts and goes back to being the fun, silly movie that certainly attracts younger audiences, but dampers the chords trying to be played.

This is what holds it back. Its insistence on keeping a younger audience engaged prevents it from being a tempting thriller, showcasing what can happen when life steals you away from your comfort zones and your routine that affords you the peace of mind you desire. In some ways, its failings are similar to Sandler’s The Do-Over, creating an appetizing adventure and possessive writing style that’s forced to run concurrently with ill-timed humor, interrupting the pleasant balance the film is trying to maintain. As the movie proceeds, True Memoirs of an International Assassin becomes more of an slog through comedy tropes than it does that endeavor we signed up for at the beginning. There is a direct rift between the first and second halves of this piece, one that allows its drama and personality to run freely, unleashed, and the one that feels the need to act like someone other than himself. That second part can only be viewed sympathetically for so long before the damn breaks free and that’s what comes here. Its flamboyance downplays the narrative drive and its continual detours for quick ad libs from James and crew do not provide the productivity that would warrant them. It leaves it in a run in pig slop or a tractor trying to mull through the fields after a downpour. It’s a mess and requires too much effort for too little gain. Difference is, True Memoirs of an International Assassin didn’t have the effort either.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (SinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the Sun)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: Apocalypse)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for True Memoirs of an International Assassin: 57.

While certainly containing its own batch of cleverness, I can’t help but wish this was a film that took itself seriously.

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Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Image result for pirates of the caribbean dead men tell no tales movie poster free useBeen a long time. Here’s to the return of WisTim.

Great cinema is precious, as sovereign as an angel and at times, a true blessing to behold. Such grandeur is not created unilaterally but by a team of stars both before and behind the lens. Such performance requires a certain deftness and composure. Superb film making mandates a chimerical touch, both a fascination and a mind willing to push forward both conceptually and contextually. It takes both aplomb and humility with a few pinches of stoicism.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is the pole opposite of these accolades. Dark and desolate, overused and washed up, a stain on the record of a talent beyond his years. That is what POC 5 has to offer. It presents the marketing of a new chapter to one of the better franchises of the 21st century and promptly violates the pureness of it. It is what could have happened to The Force Awakens if the people who became a part of the project decided a tonal shift or crude humor was a missing part of the single most important franchise in film history. Instead, one of the better franchises of our times has been soiled like a sacrificial lamb, though the term sacrificial suggests this was something that needed to happen and it certainly did not. Literally no one was asking for this. No one was asking for a Seth Rogen-esque script writer, one fully reliant on his audience’s enjoyment of ill-mannered bacchanals.

There is one asteroid-sized problem with this scope: a small minority of Pirates of the Caribbean fans walked into a theater, not once, twice or thrice but four times and thought, “I hope this one is like Billy Madison but pirates and Depp.” It seems fair to make this claim because Pirates of the Caribbean had made billions from its loyal fan base that, presumably, enjoyed the content as it was. I do not recall reading a protest online from viewers decrying any Pirates film, vehemently berating the producers for not including more raunchy retorts and less substance in both character and narrative. Who asked for this?

If you haven’t caught the drift yet, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a shipwreck of what was a quite glamorous creative vessel that now, hopefully, has seen its final days. Like many great athletes that can’t bear to leave the game even if it is clearly time, POC5 is a reminder that the end of something beautiful is usually quite ugly.

Johnny Depp’s most critically acclaimed role, at least in these critic’s eyes, is blinding in this installment, a nearly severed connection to the lively, clever swordsman we have come to love. The quick-witted Captain Jack Sparrow is nowhere to be found. Instead, a drunk who’s lost his edge enters from behind the curtain. The envious Sparrow never failed to be one step ahead of us or to keep us enthralled in his parlor tricks. He was a tactician with a smirk of metal as much as he was a coach with near flawless decision-making, traits quite rare among seafarers. He was a king of the dramatic and a prince of the perverse.

That beloved character is physically present but mentally unavailable. The bedrock of this persona isn’t here, nor does it ever feel like Sparrow shows up. Johnny Depp is on the screen dressed as him but the character glorified over four films is not.

It’s especially painful to watch because I can’t emphasize enough how natural this role seemed to come to Depp. It allowed him to show his polished, witty delivery and there’s no doubt Captain Jack Sparrow is the most articulate pirate I’ve ever seen. Look at this. This scene is so Jack Sparrow it’s silly. I could watch this all day.

It does nothing in terms of plot, aside from get Captain Jack to a new location, but it’s premier Johnny Depp, utilized by a scriptwriter who clearly understands the heart of the man and his character.

You’ll be hard strung to find a scene even remotely as good as that here.

I have not been beguiled. Pirates of the Caribbean 5 is not arcane, some great mystery that critics and viewers alike can’t solve. It’s simply a generation that didn’t inherit the praised talent of its ancestors and can’t help but leave a taste of disappointment in all who hoped for more.

It’s hard not to be churlish here. With another captain at the helm of the project and writer at his side, Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales falls into the pit of off-color humor, which is so tonally off the mark. Pirates of the Caribbean was flamboyant, excessively melodramatic, making a show out of life. That presentation and exuberance doesn’t arrive and neither does the type of cinematic treasure we’ve come to expect.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (SinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the Sun)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: Apocalypse)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Power RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: 46.

Prosaic rather than poetic, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales seems to miss the heart of what made Pirates of the Caribbean intriguing: that both Sparrow and the script could always add something extra that we didn’t see coming, like the scene above to surprise us. It’s a film that has betrayed its identity, and concurrently, its audience.

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Movie Review: Sinister

Image result for sinister movie poster free use2012’s Sinister was written and directed by Doctor Strange foreman Scott Derrickson, who has spent his career on a carousel of horror. Clearly more of a talent here than in the coliseum of superhero novella, Sinister is one of the more notable films of the genre in the last decade.

Sinister was sponsored by Blumhouse, a company that is both a beacon and blot on the brand. Blumhouse has demonstrated that the need to throw millions at a movie in order for it to succeed does not exist. A film can succeed on its merits alone, an important statement. Great ideas should not be skipped over because a major studio has no interest in producing them. It is of great value that art not be controlled by the business moguls, but by the artists themselves. In a way, Blumhouse gave that power back to them, while also giving studios a lesson in theatrical enterprise. The less your story costs, the easier it is to make a profit.

The downfall to this noble approach is some expulsion of honest theater and the arrival of swindlers seeking to make a quick pay day. One of the more attractive qualities to art, at least to me, is its honesty and the pedigree to which it and its practitioners hold themselves. It’s purposefully free, restricted only by the artist’s hand. Blumhouse has unintentionally spoiled the soil.

And look, film making has never been perfect. There have always been hacks trying to discover how to cheat the system or novices that throw scripts together to get a project over with, but I find the horror scene has been overflowing with them, which is a shame, because horror used to be so good. I think it can be, but if there was a staple that needed a renaissance, it would have to be horror (with comedy not too far behind).

What made horror so great back in the day was character. Yes, there were great slasher flicks back then as well, but even character drove those. Halloween is nothing without Michael just as Friday the 13th is nothing without Jason. Character is what drives a story, no matter the mode. I’m talking about movies like The Shining and The Silence of the Lambs, movies with characters so dynamic and so twisted it made your blood flow like a river.

Sinister isn’t a classic, but it does rely heavily on lead Ellison Oswald, played by Ethan Hawke. A true crime writer with an attraction to the grotesque, Ellison moves into the house where a family was murdered with the hopes of discovering what happened to the girl who vanished from the family.

In addition to being a film about mass murders and the vile routes one will go to end a life, it’s also about the seductiveness of ambition. Ellison finds a rack of 8mm tapes, all showcasing a family execution, but driven by his desire of fame and fortune, decides not to report it to the police. Ellison once had great success with Kentucky Blood, his best work, but has been unable to find that grandeur since and he’s thrust himself into obsession chasing it. The story is as much about the paranormal and ghastly crime scene details as it is about the psychological torture that Ellison is putting himself through trying to capture this nagging feeling of resolve. It clouds his judgment and very quickly, he realizes he has screwed up. There’s a scene later in the film where Oswald is watching interviews he did following the release of his big hit, a questionnaire where he talks about how the justice of the victims is far more important than his individual accolades. It’s at this point that he realizes he’s changed, and yet still, he doesn’t turn back. This character dilemma produces a reason for Oswald to push forward in circumstances where nearly everyone else would do the opposite. The scenes where you’re asking, “Why doesn’t he leave?” or “Why would you open the door?” aren’t here. This is a genuine person whose job and life purpose has become going forward.

As seen above, Derrickson does not allow his characters to be the mortar of the story, an important distinction. Characters, in my eyes, should never be the filler. They should be the fountainhead, the first thing that comes up in word association. If you’ve ever watched a slasher flick, you know that is not always the case. Blase characters are easy to remove and almost effortless to write. A true penman possesses the equanimity to pore over his work for days on end, fine tuning his art with the compulsiveness of an addict and commitment of a soldier. With writer C. Robert Cargill molding a capacious lead and hypnotizing creation, Derrickson is free to devote his time to tone and lighting. The film features plenty of shadow work and red-tinted shots to add an unsettling atmosphere to the main cogs of the piece, only drawing you in more.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of Tomorrow)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: Apocalypse)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Power RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Sinister: 85.

Sinister‘s best allegory is a black hole. It is enormously dark but increasingly enticing and soon, it’s pulling you in and it’s too late to escape. Like the abyss, Sinister is complex and inquisitive, the equilibrium of curiosity and patience. It’s one of my favorite horror films of late.

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