Category Archives: Movie Reviews
I am a true child of the 80’s, given I was actually born in 1980, so I have grown up with some of the best movies ever made but also the most infamous which only fuels my nostalgia. Every so often I find myself spending an afternoon or two re-watching Predator, Alien, The Goonies, E.T. and many, many more. My favorite however, are 80’s action films which I will always have a soft heart for. I spent much of my childhood watching the likes of Bloodsport, Hard to Kill, Delta Force, and Kickboxer only to run out in my yard and practice for hours the different kicks, punches, and blocks I learned from these films.
These films ranged from dumb to awesome depending on the levels of action and fight scenes but they were never something someone could defend should it come to plot or story. They were a product of their time and although I’m not completely against remakes or sequels (the 80’s action scene lived off sequels) sometimes it’s best to just leave things in the past.
I was really interested in Kickeboxer: Vengeance when I saw the trailer. It looked promising, had some cool action scenes, and starred Jean Claude Van Damme as the teacher this time around instead of the protagonist. The story is the same as the first, Eric Sloan (Darren Shahlavi) is the kickboxing champ in the U.S. who gets an invite to fight Tong Po (Dave Bautista) in Thailand for a very large sum of money and bragging rights of being the best. Despite the reservations his brother Kurt (Alain Moussi) has, Kurt flies to Thailand to fight Tong Po and is murdered by the Thai boxing champ. Kurt sets out to train in Muy Thai, under his brothers trainer Durand (Jean Claude-Van Damme) so he can avenge his brothers death.
Kickboxer: Vengeance has my attention right from the start because the story began after Eric had died and Kurt is trying to sneak into Tong Po’s training camp to kill him. This gave some insight on what Tong Po does on his spare time, which is hold training and death matches but then it doesn’t take long before there are a ton of questions and little to no answers and it only gets worse from there. Then you have the very beautiful Sara Malakul Lane who plays Liu, a Thai cop who is investigating Tong Po but doesn’t seem to do much about it even though it appears the entire police force in behind her.
Kickboxer: Vengeance has clearly been hacked to death in the editing room causing continuity errors, an incoherent story, and some of the worst dubbing I’ve ever seen. Characters appear, disappear, then appear again for no reason and the questions start overtaking the answers as the film progresses and it really cuts into the small good things the film has going for it. Dave Bautista looks like the producer of this film kidnapped him and forced him to get as big as he could get and it works. He is menacing, powerful works right along with the original Tong Po played by Michel Qissi.
Core elements of the story were altered just to be different from the original film which leads to huge inaccuracies for characters and the overall plot. It’s revealed that Eric trained under Durand, who is supposed to be the best Muy Thai teacher but he is no match for Tong Po. Originally, Eric went to fight Tong Po with no training because he was arrogant and believed he stayed at his best all the time. This change neuters Durand as a trainer because he’s supposed to be the all knowing last resort who can kick the protagonist butt into gear and push him past him limits so he can be a better fighter.
Also, Eric is killed in an underground fight instead of a normal kickboxing match, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to kill him, but this takes away from the curiosity of the final fight. In the original Kurt was training for a normal Muy Thai match only for Tong Po to change the rules and have them fight in the old way, which had the fighters hand wrapped in rope then crushed glass glued to them. Here we already know the setting so there is nothing to surprise us about the final fight.
Everything about this movie is just wrong. Alain Moussi just doesn’t have Van Damme’s charisma and it boring to watch. The characters and their actions don’t make sense, the fight scenes are so choreographed you can see the stunt men just waiting for their moment to come into the scene and get knocked down by a kick that wouldn’t stop a small child and training sequences are boring do nothing to excite you into training like the original did. The training sequences in the first film, whether you believed them or not, were amazing to watch I’ve quoted and reenacted the “kick the tree” scene over and over again.
There is more emotion in that one scene then there is in the entire 90 minute running time of Kickboxer: Vengeance which leads me to my biggest complaint. I’ve always felt that Van Damme is a much better actor then he’s been given credit for. The man was the epitome of 80’s action for me growing up, he was fun to watch, he still is an amazing martial artist and athlete but he was sleep walking through this role. It’s like he doesn’t want to do these anymore or he’s always tired and if that’s true then he should just stop and focus on other things, because he was the biggest letdown for me. Like this film, his heart just wasn’t into it and broke the heart of this 80’s kid. At least I can try and get over it since this movie introduced me to Sara Malakul Lane.
Possible Spoilers, Obviously.
It’s rare that a movie can actually be better with a more footage added in, most of the time a film can be bogged down and forced to be trimmed to make more coherent movie but the Ultimate Cut of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a much more coherent film then it’s theatrical predecessor. I was not a fan of the original version when it hit theaters. Superman was a horrible person in how he seemed to just neglect people who needed help, Batman just came across as a complete sociopath, and the populated world was so stupid to believe that a man who could fly, shoot heated rays from his eyes, and juggle planets would use a gun to kill anyone, which is a major plot point of Lex Luthor’s plan to get the world to turn against Superman and for the much anticipated throw down between the two DC titans.
Why does the world believe Superman shot those people? Why is Batman terrorizing the port area in Gotham? How come Superman didn’t realize a bomb was about to go off during a Capitol hearing? All of these questions and much more are answered which not only help the overall flow of the film but also flesh out Henry Cavill’s Superman and alter ego Clark Kent as he investigates who The Batman is. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) gets more to do as she begins to pull the threads of the mystery surrounding the murders that seem to follow Superman wherever he goes. It’s a nice little mystery we are actually following along with that held my attention despite a few dumb moments sprinkled in just to move the plot along.
Henry Cavill shines a lot more as Superman given the added footage and Ben Affleck is still an amazing Batman, Jeremy Irons, Laurence Fishburne everyone is pretty much bringing their A-game except the main villain of the film.
Despite all the good, the film is still plagued with problems, namely Jessie Eisenberg, who continues to be awful as Lex Luthor. I did enjoy him more when he begins to lay out his plan to Superman just before the main event fight, but his performance will go down on future list as “Worst Villain Ever” for years to come. The fight between Batman and Superman now takes even longer to get to given the added footage and is still really short compared to all the build-up. Then you have Doomsday. The CGI looks better and I could tell what was going better then I could in theaters, but I still stand that they should have waited to bring Doomsday in and kill Superman until WB had built up the DC Universe a bit more. It would have been nice to see the members of the Justice League walking behind his casket in Metropolis in tandem with a select few at the actual funeral in Smallville.
Originally I hated the first half of the theatrical cut because it was boring and confusing but with the Ultimate Cut I am able to enjoy the film much more as a whole. Usually when someone releases a “Director’s Cut” with added footed it’s usually a cash grab with footage that doesn’t help the movie slightly *coughGreenLanterncough* if at all but in this case, the thirty extra minutes does bring a lot to the film but it still has the same problems with the useless dream sequences, the bloated final third of the film when Snyder wants to just conveniently drop hints of the future members of the Justice League. It still doesn’t work, feels really crow barred in and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is still useless until she’s called upon to be the warrior she is.
With the added footage you are now forced to sit through a three hour cut which is really taxing to sit through on anyone who have a thousand things to do every day and it comes with an R rating which it earns with a lot of CGI blood added into the fight scenes and a character dropping the F-bomb. If you are interested, I do recommend giving the film another look, it’s definitely worth it checking out if you want to see a better, yet exhausting, version but if you completely hated the original theactial released film then you’re better off skipping it all together. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice hits shelves today!
There have been filmmakers over the years whose movies we know from the get go are not conventional. And by that we are not going to get the usual kind of story telling, films whose visual style alone are going to test both understanding and patience and even push the boundaries of conventional artistic film making. I’d have to say Kubrick is the master of this, Israeli director Amos Gital is another but the most recent name to be in this mix is the one and only Terrance Malick. A filmmaker whose films are sights to behold and stories test intellectual boundaries.
How many of us have marveled at the beauty of “Days of Heaven,” been impressed with the allegory of violence and destruction in nature with “The Thin Red Line,” or maybe even saw their jaws drop at the beauty of “The New World” Since then he brought his mix of philosophy and poetry into new realms that mixed science and wonder with his masterpiece “Tree of Life” and the deeply underrated “To The Wonder.” And I have to be perfectly honest his films were some of the films that inspired me to follow or even write films and I honestly thought he could do no wrong. Well nobody’s perfect.
The fault of the film isn’t in it’s odd poetic dialogue, that’s a Malick trademark (“where have you gone my son?/the stars, from here, I cry” “Don’t threaten to leave/my love/my heart”) or it’s eccentric acting, jumpy editing all of these are things you expect from Malick. The fault is the story itself. It’s far to drawn, far too off beat and way, way, way too smug for it’s own good.
Basically long time Malick collaborator Christian Bale plays a movie ex who’s caught up in a world of parties, sex, womanizing and excess that draws a wedge between him and his wife and forces him to choose between a life of his wife/ex-wife Cate Blanchett or his world of excess. Along the way he consorts with off beat eccentrics and loose beat L.A. citizens in the form of Freida Pinto, Isabel Lucas, Teresa Palmer and Imogen Poots. All the while trying to reconnect to his estranged brother Barry (Wes Bentley) and father Joseph (Brian Dennehy). And keeping up his love for his girlfriend Elizabeth played by the ALWAYS gorgeous Natalie Portman. All set against the almost ethereal backdrop of the always exotic Los Angeles. Confused yet? You should be?
But what does it mean? What do you think? What is that supposed to say? What do you think? Are you even more confused yet? You should be but you shouldn’t? And that is the biggest problem with this outing by Malick. He’s gotten deeper than normal almost off the wall in a way. Trying to make a film that shows how the material world and desire separates man from the spiritual world but really does every character have to be just so, offbeat that you don’t even care?
Basically Bale is just a sad sack of a man who goes from one place to another, messes with one girl then another, and sees one weird building then another. I know Malick likes to have his narratives subjective, you the audience figures it out, but that doesn’t mean Mr. Malick that every single person has to be eccentric, or every angle has to be seen through a window, or every woman has to be nude. Just witness a scene where someone is on a balcony naked, why……….if even I figure it out, I’ll tell you. But all of this just doesn’t help the story on any level it’s just there to try and make us feel some sort of shame for our lives. Well, that never works doesn’t matter who it is, it just never works.
But credit has to go to another Malick collaborator cracker jack cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, red hot off his third straight Oscar win who beautifully illuminates the city and landscapes in and around Los Angeles. He shoots with that of a true artist an almost poets eye for finding beauty in the most obscure. From sunlight through a tunnel, to a plane flying from LAX, to a tryst on a beach, everything is breathtakingly amazing and I’m sure this might get him his fourth Oscar. And of course there is my FAVORITE actress the one and only Natalie Portman! Serving to the story what women often serve as in a Malick piece, an angelic Earth mother. She brings warmth, almost sensuous presence it reminds me more and more of Audrey Hepburn. Sadly Malick miscasts her and doesn’t use her till almost the final act of the film. Sad.
But all in all the final fault of the disappointment rests on that of Malick himself. An art director that has let his critical acclaim go to his head thinking we will just eat it no matter what. Wrong, so wrong. Oh well he has another due later this year also with Mrs. Portman, maybe that will redeem him?
2 ½ out of 4 stars
By Jason Greathouse
I’m just going to say right now that there is a possibility that the film could be spoiled for you here. I’m not going go through every aspect of the film, but in order to discuss my issues thoroughly, I really have to divulge into the larger problems, so you’ve been warned.
It’s surprising that after all these years that WB still hasn’t figured out how to market any of their large line-up of rich characters except Batman. We seem to go through the same routine every few years where they put all their chips on Batman, and don’t really use logic when it comes to their other characters. Superman Returns and Man of Steel were both troubled yet enjoyable films. Green Lantern was a horrible mess, and yet Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy has gone down as one of the greatest live action interpretations of Batman we’ve ever seen, at least until now. It seems that WB has once again shifted the focus into their new Batman while leaving Superman off on the sidelines.
While I did enjoy, even largely defend defend 2013’s Man of Steel, the problems the film had were more in the writing then the direction. The film had the action many Superman fans had been craving for ever since we’ve seen what CGI was capable of but a weak script had the characters saying and doing things that didn’t make much sense. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was WB/Snyder’s chance to correct those problems and issues Man of Steel created and would reverberate throughout the future movies and they have failed more then they succeeded.
While BvS promises to address the destruction, character motivations, and the fact that Superman doesn’t really act like Superman it tosses all of this to the side to show you a bunch of cool stuff. I always defended Superman’s actions in Man of Steel because it was literally his first day on the job, I was willing to overlook that he didn’t start out as the Superman we know and love because he hasn’t yet learned how to be THAT Superman. I am willing to watch him grow over a couple movies before becoming the leader of the Justice League and becoming that beacon of hope he’s been promised to be, but this did not happen.
I felt like I was sitting next to Zack Snyder and every time I had a question, he’s dangle some platinum diamond keys (or in other words something pretty from the movie) to distract me from anything that didn’t make sense. “Zack Snyder, why did Lex Luthor hate Superman so much?” I asked. “Well, he just does.”, Zack replied. “He hates him in the comic.” “Yes, but we know he hates him in the comic, but in this film, why?” Zack suddenly whipped out a cool action scene or something pretty for me to look at in hopes that I would forget my questions.
How did Batman know to dream, in such detail, about the Omega sign and Darkseid if he never met or heard of him before? Why didn’t he just dream of Superman going nuts and destroying the city like any normal nightmare? Well because Snyder and company wanted to show you something really cool and make a Batman figure to sell to kids. There is a weird moment where, at first, we’re lead to believe that the Flash (Ezra Miller) had ran back through time to warn Batman about Superman, only to have Batman wake up again like it was a dream. Leaving the audience to wonder if this really happened or if it was really a dream. We’re lead to wonder about Lex, as he keeps mentioning his father. Perhaps this isn’t the real Lex Luthor because it wouldn’t take anything for Snyder and company to go, “Oh, no, he wasn’t the real one, his dad is the real Lex Luthor.”, and here goes my underlying problem with BvS is it doesn’t commit to anything.
The film carries enough good stuff to keep it from dropping into Green Lantern level of horrible but, and this is putting it bluntly, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a cluster fuck of a film. Don’t ask for a plot because there really isn’t one. BvS feels more like Snyder wanted to direct a Batman movie more then a sequel to his Superman as the Cavill is left without anything to really do except be a punching bag for Batman during their inevitable match-up and serve as a plot point later in the film. There was a moment in this film where I felt that Cavill was going to deliver a strong speech about helping mankind and how he was going to be a better hero and who we need him to be when he’s called to Washington to answer for all the problems he has been causing but just when he’s about to speak there is a giant explosion before Henry Cavill has a chance to utter a single word.
Which leads me to my biggest complaint and yet a small compliment is Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, or Lex Luthor’s son because the movie left it open so the film makers could very easily change gears and say he isn’t the real Lex and his father could show up later on as the real Lex Luthor in later films. It’s not so much that he played Lex Luthor, but how he played him. Superman’s greatest villain has changed his backstory and motivations many times over the years but Eisenberg’s performance is kind of all over the place except near the end when he turns out to be really psychotic which I loved it’s just that the two performances just didn’t mesh well together so it’s jarring when Luthor switches.
BvS is nothing but a bunch of cool moments strung together in some vague attempt at a story, even the fight, which the entire movie is being touted around, is a lie when it gets down to the real reason they’re fighting which is extremely disappointing. Iron Man 2 and The Avengers: Age of Ultron caught major complaints from fans when they turned out to be basically trailers for what was coming later in the MCU and DC should not be left off the hook. There is no reason that WB/DC can’t make movies of the same caliber or better then the MCU but for whatever reason they seem content walking the line of mediocre.
Now that I’ve railed against this film, you should know I didn’t exactly hate it, in fact I enjoyed many things about it. It’s ironic that people did nothing but complain about the casting of Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman and he turns out to be the best thing about it. This is THE best live-action Batman we’ve ever had. He fights and moves just like Batman should, he uses his gadgets and environments to pretty amazing results and I can’t wait to see what Affleck does with the character in his solo outing which he is directing and writing. Gal Gadot is pretty amazing as Wonder Woman, once again silencing the critics over her body type as she melds very well with Superman and Batman and it is great that anyone who has a daughter finally has a female superhero they can cheer on because Gadot really breathes new life into a character who has never appeared on a movie screen before.
BvS is a beautiful disaster, a film that hurts so much because of all the things it gets right is wrapped in mediocrity and it’s frustrating to see. This isn’t just a Marvel thing, or a chance to jump on the idiotic fanboy argument of which is better, Marvel or DC. Twenty years ago we would have been happy with whatever comic book movie we could get because no one was taking them seriously but times have changed and the power has shifted. The fans are now in charge of creating these films and the bar has been raised thanks to The Dark Knight Trilogy, the Marvel Films, Deadpool, the whole comic book movie craze kicked off with the small budgeted Blade, something no one really thought had a chance to do anything.
If you are a DC lover and you’ve been waiting for this movie and you’re going in with the mentality that you’re going to love it regardless, then by all means go and I hope you enjoy the film. There is enough here that you can nerd out on but let’s not kid ourselves here, there are major problems with BvS and it has me worried for Justice League because Zack Snyder couldn’t handle this simple story line how is he going to handle seven other main characters? This worries me because WB/DC is coming so late into the comic book movie game that they can’t afford to reboot this again and hope to start churning out their roaster of hero’s, they need to buckle down and start utilizing every tool they have to make a good film and start gaining some control over these film makers so we don’t get anymore Green Lantern’s or another film with so much wasted potential.
In a world of over the top green screen, computer generated everything, filled with fake sets, fake stunts, and even “faker” action scenes, YES I’m talking to you George Lucas and Michael Bay, thank you lord for Quentin Tarantino! A filmmaker who was raised, born and bred on the old-school ways of movie making. Back when you HAD to do it in front of the camera before people just said we’ll get the “computer guys” to fix it. And it’s welcome believe me and he comes back this Christmas with a western that’s more “Reservoir Dogs” than, well anything else since.
And believe me he’s pulling out all the stops, quick-witted dialogue, fast cutting fights, profane laced dialogue, and over-the-top non-stop bloodthirsty violence. Some could argue that he’s gone too far but COME ON it’s Quentin Tarantino, complaining about that is like going to see “Star Wars” and complaining about special effects. And it’s all done right in front of you as if he’s saying, “look Ma no computers!” And it’s welcome believe me. Basically the plot is this a bounty hunter named “The Hangman” (Kurt Russell) is taking in a female murder named “Daisy” (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to collect the bounty in the middle of blizzard in post-Civil War Wyoming. And do we meet some characters along the way…you bet! An ex-slave turned “Confederate Killer” (Samuel L. Jackson), a could be new sheriff and former Confederate officer (Walter Goggins), and then we have a nefarious Mexican (Demian Bichir), a bitter Civil War General (Bruce Dern), a British executioner (Tim Roth), a soft spoken & possibly dangerous cowboy (Michael Madson), and a angry-quick on the drawl coach driver (James Parks). They’re all killers, tough guys, and hombres that would love to shoot first ask questions later, but which is the good guy and which is the bad guy….well you’ll just have to see to find out.
Some could argue that the film is too long and too slow and unlike past Tarantino outings with all the oddball characters you could at least “like” the characters and their intentions. And if that is your complaint, well you’d be right. Some of the back-stories go on far too long and you just want him to get on with it and stop slowing down the pace. But again it IS called “The Hateful Eight” not “The Likeable Eight” and Tarantino wants to make sure we’re immersed in the world of westerns he grew up on the westerns of Howard Hawks and Sam Peckinpah. There you didn’t know the characters were good or bad it’s just whom you root for, or whom YOU should have rooted for in the end.
But in making sure the film never gets dull well credit needs to go to both Tarantino and his editor Fred Raskin (“Django Unchained,” “Guardians of the Galaxy”) keeping up the pace and when the violence hits, and believe me IT WILL hit it’s done with an almost gleeful release (another Tarantino trademark). In a world where everything just seems fake and nothing is believable anymore, almost where everything is just done inside of a computer hard drive, thankfully there is Mr. Tarantino! A film lover’s prayer answered. And sadly it might not do 1% of what “The Force Awakens” might make in just a day of release, sad. Because as long as Tarantino is out there reminding us of what film really is, an art form NOT to just be done on a computer, a collaboration of many who work to give you something to see right in front of you then there is always going to be a reason to go to the movies! And God bless you Tarantino for it!
Written by Jason Greathouse
Considering how we always have a very small amount of holiday movies from year to year, I always find myself jumping right to one that actually looks good so I can get my holiday fix. It’s a shame that many filmmakers, and the Hollywood machine itself, just can’t get it right when it comes to holiday movies because it’s an untapped resource for people like me who are clamoring for Halloween movies, Thanksgiving (yes those too), and Christmas movies. I grew up in a time when I had holiday shows and movies hitting my TV year after year before the production of these show and movies found themselves in Hallmark Channel hell. So when I saw the trailer for Krampus I was enjoyed beyond belief. Here was a horror Christmas film about the the “Anti-Santa” who punishes children for misbehaving.
The film follows Max (Emjay Anthony) who, despite his best intentions, isn’t having the greatest Christmas. No one seems to be in the Christmas spirit. His sister, Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) hates him, his very liberal mom and dad (Adam Scott & Toni Collette) aren’t in the mood to deal with him with the impending visit of his extremely rude and very conservative Aunt & Uncle (Allison Tolman & David Koechner) and their stereotypical redneck children. When the two families collide Max rips up his letter he was writing to Santa and tosses it out the window, an action he unknowingly causes Krampus, to come on Christmas and punish his family.
Directed by Michael Daughtry (Trick r’ Treat), the film is very strong in it’s creepy atmosphere and mostly practical effects, and Krampus himself is terrifying to see but he’s largely missing. He spends the first part of the film sneaking around the shadows like the shark from Jaws, until he fully reveals himself near the end and this is where my problems with the film lies. We spend a large amount of time with this horrible family and I get you’re supposed to hate them based on your political beliefs but they were too far on the left or right that I hated all of them throughout the entire film and didn’t feel sorry for anyone as they were picked off one-at-a-time. I get that you’re supposed to dislike the characters, even flat out hate them, but Daughtry and company decided to make the two main characters, played by Adam Scott and David Koechner, and their families are so liberal and conservative I couldn’t wait for them to get knocked off.
Another issue I had was with Krampus is Krampus himself or the lack of. Instead of having the main villian attempting to get in the house we have to spend an hour watching his minions, which consist of a killer teddy bear, a evil doll that looks like a tree angel, ginger bread cookies (which by far are the worst effect), a giant Jack-in-the-Box that slithers around the house like a snake, and some dark elves, until Krampus finally shows up in all his glory but when he finally does arrive it’s amazing to see. The mixture of practical effects and CGI blend together pretty flawlessly.
It’s clear that Daughtry is attempting to make his own version of Gremlins and he largely succeeds over his failures but the film just feels incomplete where Trick r Treat was more rounded Krampus feels cut, incomplete, and really suffers from the PG-13 rating because it can only go so far in the horror and comedy instead of really committing hard to both.
In the end, I did enjoy the movie, it’s visually stunning, creepy, funny and mostly hits all the right points and I feel it’s another one of those movies that will benefit from a sequel because it would allow Daughtry to build of the lore of Krampus. The film really showcases what’s wrong with our society around the holidays and how we’re more interested in the things we get then the company of our loved ones and how there are quite a few people who could use a visit from Krampus this Christmas, but unless you’re hankering for a this type of movie you’re better off just waiting for it to hit Blu-ray/DVD.
After more than 50 plus years of martinis, girls, guns, and gadgets you might think Bond is over and done. Not true, not true, not for a second and it continues with the latest installment “S.P.E.C.T.R.E.,” a direct sequel to 2012’s “Skyfall” and the fourth installment with Daniel Craig.
Continuing with the rebuilding the myth of Bond that began with Craig in 2006’s “Casino Royale,” to rebuild the myth of the hero also meant well, we must rebuild the villains as well. So what is S.P.E.C.T.R.E. you ask? Is it a terrorist organization? Is it a secret society? Does it link all of the past Craig Bonds together? Does it tie in to Bond’s past? Yes, yes, yes, and that’s classified.
Also back on board, becoming one of the few directors to do more than one turn in the director’s chair, Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes (a director who was greeted with mixed reaction until his excellent Bond debut). And does he pull out all the stops you ask? You better believe it! From an over the top chase/fight/shootout in Mexico City, parts of which look like they’re done in one continuous take, an edge of your seat car chase through the streets of Rome, to a plane/car chase through the Austrian Alps. Obviously sparing at no expense to dazzle us all, maybe that’s the explanation as to why the film, according to insiders could be not only the most expensive Bond of all time but THE MOST expensive film ever made. At a rumored $300 to $350 million-dollar budget even James Cameron is shaking his head in disbelief. But not resting on spectacle credit Mendes for making sure that his Bond villains are top notch. Picking the second straight Oscar-winner to take their place as Bond’s nemesis, Christoph Waltz who plays the head of the mysterious S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Franz Oberhauser. Who is he exactly you might ask? Well, you’ll have to see it to know for sure but let’s just say his real name and identity has links to Bond’s orphan past and will have Bond’s many fans fist pumping in the theaters going: YES! And then we have our “Bond Girls” the amazingly sexy Monica Bellucci (yes amazingly sexy at 51, the eldest to play a Bond girl, breaking the record of Honor Blackman, who was 37 upon her Bond debut) and the breath takingly intense French actress Lea Seydoux who is also tied in with this mysterious organization who….RATS ALMOST CAUGHT ME! Not gonna say a word, you’ll just have to see it yourself.
Now the question some will ask is how does it compare with the last outing “Skyfall.” Does it match-up or surpass it? Is it worth the budget? Is it worth the three plus years of waiting to see the follow up to the most successful, in terms of gross, awards, and critical acclaim, of ALL of the previous Bond films? Sadly no, no, and no it doesn’t come close. The plot seems to drag on a bit too long then there’s a subplot involving the new “M,” the always great Ralph Finnes, trying to keep the “00” active and the new head of MI-6 from shutting them all down. It’s a worthy pay off but by the time it comes you just want them to get on with it! Stop the bad guys and blow stuff up already! It walks and crawls when you want it to sprint.
But finally you have what has been my biggest complaint about Bond and I know many of his fans will debate me on this, Craig himself. Finally, after four outings and 9 years showing something that ALL of his predecessors remembered to do with Bond that Craig had forgotten: SHOW A SENSE OF BLOODY HUMOR It looks like he’s finally having fun with the role thankfully, just check out the action/reaction he was with the new “Q (an ever wonderfully droll Ben Whishaw).” But despite of that he still brings his usually beat you with my bare hands approach that made him the obvious choice of the EON producers and execs who were obviously reacting to Bond’s new American competition, Jack Bauer and Jason Bourne. But he still makes you long for the old days of Bond who seemed to manage to save the world with smirk, a vodka martini, and a cell phone that turned into a machine gun. The campiness is gone with Craig; it’s partly welcomed by the new generation but for those who grew up with Bond, like myself, too bad.
But is this the last outing for Craig as Bond one might ask? Judging by the ending, which I WILL NOT even attempt to say a word about, maybe? And judging by recent comments/interviews with Craig (recently quoted in London’s “Time Out Magazine” as saying “I’d rather slit my wrists than play Bond again, I’m over it at the moment”) I’d say no. But then again…..who knows? His predecessor Pierce Brosnan ousted from the tux and Aston Martins after four films as well. Not many actors have managed to have the impact on the character, so even if it is his last, it’s a worthy exit.
Written by Jason Greathouse
3 ½ out of 4 stars
The Nightmare is a documentary, directed by Rodney Ascher, that follows eight complete strangest from all over the world who suffer from sleep paralysis. A condition that plagues thousands if not millions of people and causes them to see or hear bizarre and sometimes terrifying things while they are on a very thin line between asleep and awake. We follow these eight individuals as they divulge their horrifying experiences which are then film like a cinematic haunted house giving you a gateway into their nightmares.
There came a moment while I was watching The Nightmare that I began to realize that I had suffered from sleep paralysis. I had to move back in with my parents and was going through a very large amounts of stress when I suddenly felt a tingling/electrical current running through my body and I realized I couldn’t move. A warning one of the men said would let him know that he was about to experience a nightmare. I remember I could see and hear someone in the room across from mine and they wanted to pull me into the dark room. Nearly every night for about a month this dark shadowed person would slowly open the door across from mine and come into my room. Sometimes he would stand by my bed, other times he would pull at my feet until I was nearly off the bed and just when I thought he was going to yank me into the dark I would wake up in my bed, gasping for air and terrified out of my mind.
Did that scare you any? If it did then you’d probably get a kick out of this film, if it didn’t, it’s hard to recommend it to you. Each of men and women who are suffering from sleep paralysis spend the 91 minutes of it’s running time recounting their horror stories while the director took the creative approach of reenacting their dreams and while it sometimes works, the illusion is quickly shattered when the camera begins to move through sets from one dream to another. Nearly every one recalls a ‘shadow man’ coming into their bedrooms, something that is reported in cases around the world, but just when the film starts to get really scary it’ll cut to something behind the scenes, or you’ll watch the shadow man move from one set to another, someone will throw a rob or a blanket over them, and the actor will portray the next monster in another nightmare.
After nearly an hour I began to get bored and began to wonder if they would bring in any experts to talk more about sleep paralysis, maybe offer some insight on any know reasons for this condition, if there was anyway to stop it or relieve the symptoms, anything other then a glorified episode of Unsolved Mysteries but that just wasn’t the case.
It’s a good thing this film arrived on Netflix just in time for Halloween because it is something fresh if you’re tired of watching A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, or Halloween and it’s sequels then this is something you should check out for the scare factor because there are some chilling imagery here and it’s almost like you’re sitting around the fire place with some friends and telling scary stories and someone manages to project what you would see in your head. I like this movie a lot for that because if someone can enjoy it on the campfire level then you can have some fun but if you’re looking for some actual deep conversation about sleep paralysis you will be left feeling empty.
Once in a while we the audiences get treated to a performance that goes beyond anything that we’ve ever seen. DeNiro’s Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, comes to mind. Jamie Foxx’s depiction of Ray Charles in “Ray” is another good one. And Heath Ledger’s psychotic depiction of comic book villain “The Joker” makes a noted mentioning. And the most recent to this collection would have to be Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of Navy S.E.A.L. Chris Kyle in American Sniper. But now the latest addition to this is Johnny Depp’s absolutely spot on cold-blooded and terrifying depiction of gangster James “Whitey” Bulger a man who ruled South Boston, MA, or Southie as it’s commonly referred to, like a dictator rules his kingdom with an iron fist and lead law enforcement on a decade long chase. Believe it or not.
Granted this is technically not the first time that Bulger’s story has been brought to the big screen. His story was the inspiration behind the character of Frank Costello depicted with comedic over-the-top darkness by none other than Jack Nicholson in Scorsese crime-classic actionier The Departed. But while that was a stylized depiction based on a Hong Kong action caper there is no tongue and cheek depiction here. And the violence is by no means stylized here. It comes not with a flash of style but with an appropriate burst of brutality. From a behind the head shot to the strangulation of possible informant all of it comes right in front of your face in all its glory. “This is what I do to rats” it’s explained by Depp with just as cold-blooded delivery as that. These are the people who’s world we are in and it’s a dark one. Credit that to director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace) who removes all color from South Boston. It’s as cold as the characters aiding to the evil of the world we’re engrossed in.
But the real tour de force is that of it’s lead Johnny Depp, he gives the performance of his life here after slipping a bit with a recent string of flops, how many of us would like to forget Transcendence or The Lone Ranger? Well he makes up for it big time here, with a performance that reeks of both evil and terror. From almost shaving his head to appear balding, bleaching his skin, yellow coloring his teeth to giving a stare that when he looks at the camera he looks at you and it’s a stare of brutality that chills your soul. Just witness a scene where he asks for the “secret ingredient” for a steak that just makes you shiver with enough terror that would make Wes Craven himself clap with bravo. Bulger is a wolf with a taste for blood and he goes for blood whenever it’s near from when he guns down two people with no remorse to beating to death someone who could be a “rat.” It’s a performance that sticks with you long after you leave the theater; enough to make you shout “play it again!” It’s the performance of a lifetime from Depp.
But Depp isn’t the only one bringing his A-game to the table without a doubt the biggest surprise is, believe it or not, Dakota Johnson herself in a brilliant cameo playing Bulger’s wife. She wants to give us sympathy for the devil so badly as she shakes off the crust from Fifty Shades of Grey giving intensity and emotion as she begs Depp’s Bulger in the hospital with their sick young son. Bravo to her!
But how did Bulger do this for so long, how did he maintain such a criminal empire for so long? Well, it’s explained from his dealing with an F.B.I. Agent/informant played with both rock-star groupie and edginess by a wonderful Joel Edgerton. He wants to be the right hand to the devil so bad that he does all he can if anything he can to try and kiss up to Bulger. It’s a deal with the devil but to him “that’s just business.” To his younger brother who rises to Speaker of the House of the Massachusetts State Senate played with both remorse and sadness by recent Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch. How or why he does this remains a mystery not even Cumberbatch himself could explain it, nor does he really try, he just shows us a brother who does this out of sheer misplaced loyalty. You understand the sadness in his eyes to a point where we could just nod and say, “I get it” just as simple as that.
But in spite of all of it’s technical achievements and performances it’s going inevitably be compared to other “gangster” films from The Godfather to Goodfellas to Casino to The Departed to The Sopranos. Here there’s no comparison here we’re given a world of cold men who’s acts of violence leave a scare that South Boston will never recover from. It’s a powerhouse of a film that leaves you breathless, just see it.
Written by Jason Greathouse
4 out of 4 stars
The Guest is a movie has been popping up on my Netflix for weeks now and I would just mentally tag it as a film to watch one night and move on until I actually felt like sitting through it. The film follows David (Dan Stevens) a ex-soldier introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son, Caleb, who died in action. After David is welcomed into their home, a series of accidental deaths seem to be connected to his presence and a department of government is looking for him.
The Guest starts out promising, It sets up all the questions you want answered about David. Who is he? What does he want? Why does he seem off? David starts out really charming, winning over Calab’s mother and father almost overnight and they beg him to stay longer as he is the last link they have to their dead son, but it doesn’t take long before we know that there is something wrong with David as he begins to violently help the family out in their problems.
The film is really uneven, Dan is good in the role then there are times he is just awful as he switches from his gentleman to psycho role, Nearly every actor in here is bad except for my always favorite character actor Joel David Moore (Hatchet) and the cute as a button Maika Monroe (It Follows) who jumps back and forth from doing something interesting then being completely forgettable throughout the movie.
Adam Wingard (V/H/S, V/H/S 2/ You’re Next) who started out and mainly directed horror films tries to add this to the action genre and it just doesn’t work. At first David is mysterious and you can see he’s bad for Caleb’s family but it all starts to unravel when it’s revealed that he and Caleb were part of some sort of super soldier program that was used to make them into the perfect killing machines for the government.
Wingard and the crew reveal in not explaining much of anything about David’s backstory, so much so that Lance Reddick just shows up out of nowhere as a a Major who is cleaning up any survivors of this program we are told nothing about. Adam Wingard is good at making your feel uneasy in his films, the entirety of the V/H/S series and You’re Next do just that, make you uneasy and has had me shifting in my chair or couch several times but by the end of The Guest, all I could do was be pissed because I couldn’t help but think how someone’s incompetence help manufacture several unnecessary deaths. This movie left me angry because, like the people who started this program, the stupidity behind it left everyone with a horrible outcome.