Message From the King comes across like a combo of John Wick and a neo-noir crime flick, but doesn't really knock anything out in either arena. The action is average, and the noir part not much better. There is a lot of talent here in Chadwick Boseman, Alfred Molina, Natalie Martinez, and Luke Evans, but sadly even that cast can't bring the final product to a higher level.
One of the most hard hitting docs I have seen in a minute, while conversely delivering its punches with a light hand. South Bureau Homicide deals with the most violent sections of Los Angeles, the police who investigate the murders, and the community who are left to hold the pieces after tragedy rattles any semblance of solace. Directors Mark Burman and Mike Cooley present these stories as they are, covering in equal light the side of the cops who have to find these killers and the frustrated residents who are weary of the violence. The doc is only an hour and 18 minutes long, but there are numerous moments that will hit you in the chest and sit with you for a long time.
Its tough to do a movie about a real life killer and do it well. You have a lot of pressure to making a killer deadly without glorifying him, there are considerations to the victim’s families that are a huge factor. But done right, the final work can be gripping. 10 Rillington Place is one of those types of movies. It tells the story of John Christie and one of his particular heinous crimes involving Tim and Beryl Evans. Christie is played by Richard Attenborough with quiet malice, an intelligent psychopath who is terrifying without being cool, and I only say that last part because being deadly is so often depicted in a sensationalized light. Instead, he is just creepy here, which to me is appropriate. Making that creepiness so recognizable is no easy feat, but John Hurt runs right along with him, sensational playing the slow thinking Tim Evans in a role that could have been easily overdone. But Hurt’s chops are on full display here. There are moments when you feel like you can see the gears turning in his head as revelations slowly make their way to the forefront of his cranium, Hurt fully capturing how just because a man has lower IQ does not make them a cartoon. Its tough to do a movie about a real life killer and do it well. You have a lot of pressure to making a killer dangerous without glorifying him, there are considerations to the victim’s families that are a huge factor. But done right, the final work can be gripping. 10 Rillington Place is one of those types of movies. It tells the story of John Christie and one of his particular heinous crimes involving Tim and Beryl Evans. Christie is played by Richard Attenborough with quiet malice, an intelligent psychopath who is terrifying without being cool, and I only say that last part because being deadly is so often depicted in a sensationalized light. Instead, he is just creepy here, which to me is appropriate. Making that creepiness so recognizable is no easy feat, but John Hurt runs right along with him, sensational playing the slow thinking Tim Evans in a role that could have been easily overdone. But Hurt’s chops are on full display here. There are moments when you feel like you can see the gears turning in his head as revelations slowly make their way to the forefront of his cranium, Hurt fully capturing how just because a man has lower IQ does not make them a cartoon. It’s a very layered performance and one I will remember. As to the story being told, it’s a compelling one. The end result is just as relevant today with capital punishment, abortion, and criminal investigation techniques all under the magnifying glass here. 10 Rillington Place takes just a bit to get you locked in, but once it has you, it has you. As to the story being told, it’s a compelling one. The end result is just as relevant today with capital punishment, abortion, and criminal investigation techniques all under the magnifying glass here. 10 Rillington Place takes just a bit to get you locked in, but once it has you, it has you.
One of the few old school kung fu flicks that bends genres, that I have seen at least. Five former students of the Venom Clan who don't know all of each other's identities all seek to find a treasure hid by the clan leader. When the clan leader is nearing death, he sends a sixth student to find the other five and find out whose motives are with honor and whose aren't. Each student has their own style of fighting and expertise and the sixth knows all their styles, but is not on the level of any of the others. It all makes for a great mystery to go along with the top tier choreography. This is Chang Cheh's clinic on filmmaking.
With Kina at home
Not terrible, not great either. If you are in the mood for an old, 80s type of splatterfest, this will take you back to it. Its a fun trot for fans of watching people meet gruesome demises, and I can say I fall in that lot as long as there is some kind of story to go with it. And Terrifier offers up just enough of something to spin between the kill scenes with its psychotic clown on the prowl over Halloween. Its all very silly in its presentation, never taking itself too seriously which is fine enough for a single watch. Nothing I'd ever come back to though.
At home on Shudder
I have heard that Shudder has some decent offerings for original content. I was up late and this one was a little over an hour long, so I figured I would give it a spin. I really hope this isn't par for the course in what the young network has to offer. The Witch in the Window is bad in many ways. Its biggest flaw is just how boring it is. It has a long intro before it gets going--and I say gets going with sarcasm--kinda trying out one of those Deer Hunter numbers where you bond with the players in the first act. But I didn't really like that approach even in that classic, and Witch in the Window never makes up for that slow trod onward. It starts with a long look at a son spending some time with his oft-absent padre, the two trying to get the father/son bonding thing going while working on a house the dad is trying to flip. But its boring stuff and over its course you don't grow to care about either of these two. And when the "scary" part starts in, its all run of the mill, now you see the witch, now you don't type of action, inducing yawns and glances at the watch in an effort it will somehow get viewers to the ending. This could have got a 1 star save one very brief creepy moment in the middle that got past all the boringness and cliche horror tropes. Watch something else.
With Kina and Fudge at Kent AMC IMAX
Here are the things that were wrong with Endgame: Its unnecessarily long, it does not do the best job at intertwining non-Avenger characters into the story, and it has a few moments that are stretches even for a movie based in a universe where just about anything goes. Outside of that, its what we would expect from the grand daddy ending that everyone has been waiting for. There is great action, hilarious and heartbreaking moments, and what feels like true closure to the first book of the MCU. Very small gripes here, Endgame narrowly misses the mark of being one of the best MCU entries. Narrowly.
I wasn't a huge fan of Mystery Road, the movie which Goldstone is the sequel to. I did feel it had a lot of potential however with a good setting for crime noir in outback Australia and an equally interesting protagonist in Aboriginal police officer Jay Swan. Goldstone continues to highlight that director Ivan Sen knows how to shoot a movie, capturing the rugged beauty of the outback with stunning shots. The setting becomes a character in itself, the isolation of the universe Swan lives in breathing and exhaling from his quiet tough guy demeanor. When Jay shows up in a tiny mining town to look into a missing girl, he is soon under everyone's radar including the local constable, a shady mine boss, and the greasy mayor. His only ally seems to be a local elder who seems to know more about Jay then Jay does and as events play out, its equal parts a study in what made Jay into the outcast he is as well as what happened to the subject of his investigation. It makes for an interesting spin on the genre, even if it stumbles at times with wtf moments.
With Leilah at home
Oh, what would the MCU be if Norton hadn't pissed everyone off and gotten himself fired? Its an interesting question, one we will never know the answer to. One thing we do know is that The Incredible Hulk is the best film of the MCU origin stories.
With Kina and Leilah at Lakewood AMC
I don't know what all the naysayers are harping about. Captain Marvel keeps the MCU streak going as upper tier popcorn entertainment. Brie Larsen does a great job at showing she can kick tail with the best of the boys and Sam L. is a G as always. I feel its some kind of sexist even to compare it to Wonder Woman because they have nothing in common outside of being comic based and having female protagonists but if I have to, then I'll say Captain Marvel is easily the superior of the two. If you aren't a right wing jerkwad that can't get his head out of his ass and you like a good action film, then you should have a great time here. My gripes were small and center mostly on the climax and how it was executed, but they are small issues.
Gritty tale of a cop (Burt Reynolds) demoted to the vice squad in Atlanta after a bust goes awry. I don't know how this has never came across my radar before. I learned of Sharky's Machine reading an obit for Reynolds. Doing some background on the film, I learned that this was Burt's answer to the Dirty Harry series after he felt Eastwood crossed into his territory with Every Which Way But Loose. Sharky's Machine is no Dirty Harry. Nor is it on par with Body Heat which is another one it seems to oft have been compared to. But it has some of the character of both films and does it best to hold court. There are some ridiculous things that sink it (ninjas in karate suits working for Latin drug kingpins??) but it does have some good things going for it as well, the highlight of which is the chaotic chemistry between Reynold's Sharky and his vice squad. That interaction feels genuine and helps hold the rest up when needed.
With Kina at home
I must admit that when I heard who was behind this return to my beloved Halloween franchise, I had an eyebrow cocked. Danny McBride, known for a career of goofball comedic relief and David Gordon Green, a director who has had some good stuff but nothing I have seen that was anything like a slasher. In all honesty, I expected bad things. But while nowhere near perfect, this direct sequel to the original is a pretty fun ride for fans of the series. The first half pretty much pays homage to the 1978 classic, recreating some of its most memorable scenes with a new modern take. And the second half takes off on its own, finishing in a satisfying climax that was pretty dang commendable. Rob Zombie, eat shit.
With Kina at home
Searching is an interesting achievement in the manner of which its events are captured on the screen. The entire movie is told through a computer. From emails, Youtube videos, live streams, Facetime chats, everything is told via a digital interface. The story revolves around a father (John Cho) whose teenage daughter has gone missing. In his efforts to find her, he scours through emails and video blogs she has posted, learning more than he ever knew about her as he tries to track her down. There is a lot to push aside while watching Searching. But while culpability gives way to the unique presentation, it isn't over the top enough to ruin the thriller. I was actually pretty locked in throughout most of it, grasping on to a sort of Hitchcockian type feel with a modern cyperspace twist woven into the fabric. Cho proves that he can play the leading man with ease. I have always been a fan of his acting chops and I hope Searching opens up some doors for him. Kudos also go to Michelle La, showing a nice range as the missing girl as she hides her angst from her dad in moments caught on old video files. Debra Messing was not as impressive playing the lead investigator in his daughter's case. It felt at times like she was phoning it in a little, maybe not used to playing to a webcam. Still, props to director and writer Aneesh Chaganty for putting together a mystery with such an interesting lens.
With Kina, Marq, and Bella at Bellevue Air BnB before Bella left for Australia
Saulnier is definitely on my to watch list. I loved Blue Ruin and think Hold the Dark looks pretty good. Green Room however carried some serious buzz with it and I must say I was a little disappointed. Its beautifully shot but the road from beginning to end hits some questionable patches which hold the piece up from being great. I love Patrick Stewart as much as anyone else but I also was underwhelmed at his heavily hyped role as a skinhead bigwig trying to clean up after his goons create a bloody mess in front of a travelling punk rock band. Any of you guys wonder why William Hurt got so much props for his quick role in A History of Violence? Kinda the same deal with Stewart here for me. Oh well. Saulnier still knows how to fuck people up on film and there was a whole lot of that type of fun here that kept me dialed in.
This is easily one of the most beautifully shot Westerns ever. The gorgeous cinematography of the desolate winter wastelands on top of an impeccable Morricone score set a haunting backdrop for a story that will sit with you for some time. Klaus Kinski is masterful as the subdued psycho Loco and Jean-Louis Trintignant shows how to convey emotion without words as the mute protagonist Silence. Not to be missed.
The Angel is based on the story of real-life Egyptian billionaire turned spy Ashraf Marwan. A close advisor to President Anwar Sadat in time leading up the Yom Kippur War, Marwan fed info to Israel's Mossad and according to some believers, also worked as a double agent to Egypt. The Angel follows that line of belief, following Marwan's rise to becoming Sadat's trusted advisor and watching him play both sides in an effort to avoid all out war. How much of this is true is another discussion, but regardless that story line on paper is very interesting. But director Ariel Vromen doesn't execute very well on its presentation, instead following a paint by numbers path that we have seen many times before in spy films. Marwan Kenzari is effective as Ashraf, but is held back by a predictable script.
With Kina at home
Let's be honest. We probably don't need any more zombie movies for awhile. The genre is bursting from saturation across every medium possible from film, TV, books, and comics. But if we followed that idea, we'd miss out on fresh takes like the one we see in Cargo. Cargo begins where many zombie flicks begin, with the epidemic already spread and in full swing. A man Andy (Martin Freeman) is travelling with his wife Kay (Susie Porter) and their infant child Rosie, trying to look for the good in the bad but desperate to find a safe haven. When tragedy befalls them, they are forced to look for help, not knowing if the humans they encounter will be friend or foe. Their path leads them to Thoomi (Simone Landers), a clever teen travelling with an infected father who is heartbroken at his condition. What separates Cargo from other films of its kind is its lack of attention on the zombies and its focus on the family bond in catastrophe. Its not that its ghouls are unimpressive, they are about as scary as most the good entries out there. But its that emphasis on family through turmoil that really makes this one stand out.
At home on Shudder
Takashi Miike is known to push the envelope throughout his ultraviolent portfolio, and early in his career he put that on display in Shinjuku Triad Society. I can tell you the story is about a crooked cop (Kippei Shina) obsessed with taking down a gangster (Tomoro Taguchi) and his cronies after they bring the cop's shifty attorney brother into their fold, but the plot is so thinly executed that it really doesn't need explaining. Everything plays second fiddle to shock value in Shinjuku's 110 minutes, and outside of Taguchi giving a fierce turn as the psychotic antagonist, there really isn't anything memorable here , at least anything good to remember. I am no prude when it comes to blood on the screen. But I also need something to hold onto in the middle of all that plasma splashing around and there is absolutely nothing gripping on display here.
Gritty and interesting tale about a B-movie sound guy (John Travolta) who witnesses a fatal car crash while out recording ambient sounds at night. When he rescues a woman (Nancy Allen) in the crash and learns that the dead driver was a presidential hopeful, he reviews his recording and starts to think he witnessed a murder. Layer by layer he begins to peel back an intricate plot involving a crooked P.I., a radicalized assassin, and a whole bunch of people who just want the whole debacle to go away. DePalma is heavy on style here, dropping his characters in a shadowy setting where the threat is lurking around the corner in what feels like every scene. Its good stuff until the climax which is a little over the top. But a fun watch nonetheless.
With Kina at home
We are in Iran in the 80s and there is war going on outside with Iraq. A disheartened mother is stuck with her daughter in their apartment as the threat of missile attack looms. This is a pretty good setup by itself but Under the Shadow adds a supernatural wrench to the gumbo where we don't really know whether the mom is the Babadook or something else is going on. Its too bad it took what felt like half my adulthood to get past the setup because once it did, Under the Shadow was an effective ghost story aided by a claustrophobic lens that heightens the intensity. But effective only gets you so far and that paired with such a slow start equals only adequate.
At home on Shudder
It took me a minute to figure this one out. I'm in a group online with fans of cult films, and a lot of them love Fulci, and of those a lot cite The Beyond as their fave of his. This was my first foray into the director's body of work, and I must admit I had an eyebrow cocked for about the first 35 minutes or so. The Beyond is built on a flimsy plot which is executed by terrible actors reciting equally bad dialogue. A woman inherits a mysterious hotel which--unbeknownst to her-- has a room sealed off with a gateway to Hell. Of course once she takes control of the property, bad things happen. This actually sounds pretty cool on paper, but the storyline jumps all over the place and does not build on that premise well. And in the end, it doesn't really matter. Fulci's m.o. (here at least) is to create multiple scenes of gore and terror that shakily ties it all together. The majority of these scenes strictly from an artist's point of view without considering the overall story are pretty well done by themselves. Lot of blood, lot of cool shots, lot of old school practical effects that are missing in today's CGI everything universe. On that note, I can see why some people love Fulci. He was really good at throwing out compelling imagery. But for me, visuals are not everything. I need substance behind it.
With Kina at home
I must admit that when they relaunched the X-Men series to focus on their origins as teens led by a young Xavier and Magneto, I rolled my eyes. But First Class and Days of Future Past are probably the best two out of all of them, maybe X2 nudges them a tad. I had high hopes for Apocalypse, one of the most revered X-Men storylines. Couple that with the addition of Oscar Isaac as the lead villain, and the recipe was there for a home run. Sadly, Apocalypse stumbles too much in execution to be great. Issac does an admirable job playing the part, especially because his dialogue is largely cookie cutter super villain garbage. There are also too many moments to pick apart, questionable plot holes you could do a 20 minute YouTube video on, which people have. Now all that bad aside, its not a total miss. Singer does a good job at dialing up the special effects that are customary for a film of this caliber. The Quicksilver scenes especially once again are a highlight. Its just too bad the smoke and mirrors weren't enough to mask the stage show better.
With Bella and Marq at home
There's two movies inside of Apostle. The first is a thriller where a man suffering from PTSD after travels abroad is looking for his sister who is being held for ransom by a mysterious cult. This movie is pretty good. Its gorgeously shot, well paced, introduces lots of fleshed out characters and wraps up viewers into its snowballing tension. It also has a small undercurrent of something supernatural afoot. Its that supernatural stuff that takes over in the third act, shifting from subtle to outright ridiculousness once the curtain is drawn back on everything that is going on. Its a dang shame too, because Apostle really had the punch to be something great.
Whoa. How many times during Mandy did I think "dang, am I on acid?" Director Panos Cosmatos is intentional with this aspect, using color bends and blends to give Mandy an overall hallucination-like vibe to go with the 80's backdrop the movie takes place in. All cool color effects aside, Mandy suffers from an extremely long start, one of those long Deer Hunter intros establishing the relationship between its protagonists (Cage and Riseborough). Its completely unnecessary in length, even if the look of it all keeps it from putting audiences to sleep. But once the Charles Manson like bad guy Jeremiah (played well and against type by Law and Order's Linus Roache) enters the fray, its a nonstop ride to the finish. Cage is in rare form here after so many bombs and its hard not to root for this to be the beginning of a comeback for him.
With Kina at home
By now if you follow mainstream movies then you have heard the buzz on A Quiet Place. I won't give another plot breakdown here knowing that you have probably got the lowdown already. Just know that the hype around AQP is real, and the focus around sound (and lack of it) is a refreshing flip on both the creature feature and post-apocalypse arenas. The chemistry between the family here also adds to the engagement of viewers, an often overlooked yet important factor in any movie, but especially ones like these.
Watching Baskin is a little akin to watching someone else's really bad nightmare. It has that dreamlike aspect prevalent throughout where things happen with no explanation and when its all over, you will wonder just wtf happened. But that's ok. It doesn't all need to make sense. Just know its a really, really bad evening for five Turkish police officers responding to a distress call at an abandoned building. They will soon come into contact with a cult led by Baba, played by newcomer Mehmet Cerrahoglu with such a high level of casual sinister that you would swear he was a long tenured vet.
With Kina at home
I enjoyed the first Strangers. It did a good job at focusing on mood and tension, not worrying too much on the plot. Just put a couple in the middle of nowhere with some killers in cool masks and let them go at it. Nothing mind blowing, but it worked. This oddly timed sequel attempts to do the same but pretty much fails at nearly every level. This time we have a family in the killers' sights instead of just a couple, but their characters feel like generic cutouts doing the cliche idiotic things victims tend to do in bad horror films played by actors phoning in the performance. Their stalkers don't add much to the equation, sure they look creepy but there just aren't many scenes where we get a good shot of them in action. The lone exception is a pool scene in the last act, a small redemption that keeps this from worst ever territory. If you can watch that one scene, you can skip the rest with no regret.
With Kina at home
Sicario 2 focuses more on Benicio Del Toro's character from the first one, losing Emily Blunt's character entirely as she had other commitments. The foreboding mood that was so prevalent in the first returns here and lends itself well to the narrative. However, a few oversights on believability and a lack of as many well developed characters keep this one from being as great as the first. Still, I love this universe screenwriter Taylor Sheridan has created and hope a third one gets the green light soon.
At on flight home from Chicago
The mind of Wes Anderson is something else. That remains a consistent throughout the man's career. Isle of Dogs is no different with a unique tale of a metropolis banishing man's best friend to an island after the animals come down with a vicious virus.But when the nephew of the mayor who issued the decree crashes on the island trying to find his dog, he is befriended by five canines who join his search. Anderson and co-writers Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola have created a distinct setting that is all their own. The interactions between the various dogs with their own quirky personalities are a gem to watch. Voiced in that soft-delivery style Anderson likes by an all-star cast, the banter is funny and engaging and leading to a belief that any future Anderson animated entries are must watches.
At on flight home from Chicago
Beirut is a merely adequate spy entry that could have been much better. It involves a former diplomat to Lebanon (Jon Hamm) who is now a labor dispute negotiator after a tragedy forced him out of his career a decade earlier. But after a spy is kidnapped in the same region he used to work, current US security forces call on him to return after the spy's captors ask for him by name. Beirut's foundation is interesting, but ultimately the pieces fall in standard formation without much to be excited about. I like Hamm, but this one was nothing we hadn't seen before.
With Kina at Lakewood AMC
Disclosure: I took the miss to see Crazy Rich Asians for two reasons with the most important one being my desire to support a major release in the U.S. with an all Asian cast. Being of Asian descent, this type of breakthrough is of extreme importance. So with that, the second reason was that I could do that and also tally this one as the annual or semi-annual romance movie we watch. That's right. I am not a rom-com type of dude. There are very few throughout the years that are in my faves. There's Something About Mary and Crazy, Stupid Love come to mind. Crazy Rich Asians is not a movie in those veins. That doesn't mean its not a good one. Its just not my normal cup of Oolong. That said, it hits on all the right fronts for what its trying to do. Its a little Cinderella, a little Rat Pack, all wrapped up in Chinese culture both eastern and American. My parents would love this movie. My girlfriend really liked it. Me, I thought it was ok, but I am glad it got made and I'd go see the next ten movies that are like it if they had all Asians in it too.
Chang Cheh establishes the classic kung fu plot trope where two strangers riding for the same side are tricked into fighting each other. While not a knockout, its a solid effort for Cheh who gets great efforts from his two leads Kuan Tai Chen and Sheng Fu.
This is another gangster film like the just reviewed A Most Violent Year where there isn't all the action of the traditional entry in the genre. If Goodfellas is Saving Private Ryan, then Black Souls is more in the vein of The Thin Red Line, not the same caliber as that film but you get my drift. This is much more of a character study of the players involved. The eldest of a trio of brothers has spent decades tending to his farm and staying out of the family business, which is for the most part unnamed shady stuff. But when his son goes to visit his goon of a brother with intentions of joining the dark side, a sequence of events fall in place resulting in a finish that I don't think anyone can see coming. Not a lot happens in the first 2/3s of Black Souls in an action sense, and if I was in the wrong mood I might not have liked this as much as I did. But I thought the conflict between the four chief characters (the dad, his two gangster brothers, and his son) was established very convincingly. Come with patience to this one and you will be well rewarded. One of the scenes near the finish is simply magnificent.
With Kina at home
Doesn't get much better than this for a movie fan like me. Total spectacle, a gazillion montages to 80s and 90s pop culture, Spielberg laying the mack hand down in a major way. Cline's novel gets the best treatment possible and the result is a win for everyone tuned in.
With Kina at Lakewood AMC
Oh, the shoes to fill when you are brought in to lead the sequel to one of the biggest blockbusters in recent history. I don't know why producers on Fallen Kingdom didn't stick with Colin Trevorrow after he did such an impressive job on the first Jurassic World. All I know is his replacement J.A. Bayona fails to reach the same level of enjoyment that Trevorrow accomplished. Fallen Kingdom suffers from a poor script that lacks the wittiness that made the first one fun. It also adds a lab geek character for comedic relief played by Justice Smith, but he ends up being annoying and unoriginal. The dinosaurs still look great though so there is that. This sequel has made a gazillion dollars so yes, another one has already been announced. Here's to hoping they can right the ship next time around.
If you saw Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly a few years back, you would have saw a gangster film that lacked the romanticism often associated with entries in the genre. The scenes of violence at times lacked flair and the goons often were not clearly defined in their actions on purpose, highlighting the real life absence of prettiness and consistent personalities in an ugly and chaotic world. A Most Violent Year has a lot of that as well. Oscar Isaac leads the story as the new head of a New York trucking company in 1981 who wants to run a clean business despite the shady nature of his competitors and predecessors. When his drivers face increasing attacks and an ambitious prosecutor seeks to bring charges against Isaac's character, he struggles to stay the legitimate course. For a gangster movie called A Most Violent Year, there really wasn't all too much violence in its 2 hours plus run time. But that was ok. Its well paced, investing viewers more in Isaac's battle to stay straight rather than whether he will ever bash some heads in. Jessica Chastain pads her increasingly impressive portfolio with another solid performance as Isaac's not afraid to go to the mattresses wife. Unfortunately it is Isaac who lets down a little. Its not that he isn't good, he does a decent enough job but whoa if he doesn't channel way too much Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in his efforts. Its possible I would have loved this movie if he had made the role more his own. But that factor coupled with some questionable scenes keep this from being a great one.
Ugh. Two side notes: One, I get in moods for dumb horror movies sometimes. Cheap scares and lack of originality I can overlook a little if they are presented in a cool package. Two, I have been fascinated with the Winchester mansion since I was a kid. My parents took me and my siblings through there on a run through Northern Cali when I was maybe 10 or so and since then I have always wanted to know more about the infamous spook site. So with those two things in mind, I thought Winchester could keep me entertained enough to warrant a RedBox rental on a Friday night. But sadly, there is no cool package here. Just a boring, uninspired letdown that makes you wonder why the legend Helen Mirren decided to take part. The ONE thing Winchester has going for it is its premise, based on the real Winchester widow's belief that her home was haunted by all the victims that her family's brand of rifles cut down. I don't know if that really is a credit to the filmmakers, but I'll give it to them anyway.
With Kina and Leilah at Ruston Century
I'm a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In my opinion, the last average or below movie they made was Avengers: Age of Ultron and I still enjoyed it enough. That said, the first Ant-Man movie was to me not of the caliber that Marvel had been rolling on. It was decent enough, had a good balance of laughs vs action, but the lack of a good villain bogged it down a little. Ant-Man and the Wasp runs along the same lines although it has an even better balance of humor vs action pushing it past its predecessor. There are better villains here too. Check it out for a fun watch.
With Kina and Leilah at home
I'm not exactly sure how a cliched origin story with a predictable end riding action shots stolen from Peter Jackson's greatest hits somehow became the sensation of last year that it did. Positives? Galdot, Pine and their motley crue play well off each other and there were some cool effects at times. But for all the hype this one got, I was big time disappointed.
While it gets a little too Hollywood near the end, Inside Men is an enjoyable crime thriller where a low level gangster on the rise is betrayed by the high profile public figures he does dirt for. As the goon tries to get his vengeance, he forms a shaky alliance with an honest prosecutor bent on smashing his fist down on the out of control corruption. Its a story we have heard a thousand times but there are some fantastic shots in Inside Men as well as solid performances from all the main players. Give it a shot if you are a fan of the genre.
With MantisFist at Pooh's
Everyone starts somewhere, right? My Friend Dahmer showcases this fact in a strange coming of age tale that can't decide whether its making one of the most vicious killers in American history worth our empathy or highlighting where the evil was born. Or maybe its telling his story like its a bit of both? In the end, it doesn't succeed at either and never gets viewers as emotionally invested in the subject manner as we should be.
Jimmy Caan is a firecracker ace thief in this stylish crime thriller with a bad ass soundtrack from Tangerine Dream. Michael Mann proves early on in his career here he knows how to keep viewers invested. Robert Prosky is great as the boss Caan's master diamond snatcher comes to work for. But will Caan's fuck everyone attitude mesh with Prosky's sinister charm? Thief builds up the tension well on the road to answer that question even if it falters some in the third act. And Jesus if Caan's character isn't hard to like sometimes. All in all though, a good watch.
With Kina at Lakewood AMC
The rare occurrence when a sequel trumps the OG, Reynolds shows he knows what it takes to carry a franchise both in front and behind the camera having contributed to the script. The over the top comedic and violent aspects that worked so well in the original are kicked into overdrive here for outstanding results. The supporting cast also help carry this to high levels and leave me ready for the next one.
At Bellingham lake rental
Abacus is a compelling look at how the government has responded in varying degrees to banks they feel have played a part in the mortgage crisis a decade ago. On the one hand, you have the large banks that received bailout money in the amount of billions to keep the US and world economy from imploding. On the other hand, you have a small, family owned bank like Abacus who at worst participated in the same predatory lending practices that the big boys did. If you believe the filmmakers, Abacus actually didn't do anything of the sort as an institution, in fact they did the opposite. It makes for a very interesting watch that is an indictment not only on how the government responded to the recession but also in how they use the media to spin stories to their liking.
With Kina at Bellingham lake rental
Veronica tells the tale of a teenage Spanish girl who plays with a Ouija board in an attempt to talk with her dead father. During her session with the board, there is also a lunar eclipse going on outside. In standard horror fashion, this is somehow bad and results in some kind of evil entity causing havoc in her life. The one good thing that really keeps Veronica from being an absolute snoozefest is the relationship the title character has with her younger siblings. Veronica is left to take care of her family as her mom is now a workaholic widow struggling to make ends meet. The rapport Veronica has with the kiddos is both tender and entertaining and that keeps audiences on her side. The rest of the movie is boring, full of D-list scare moments and plot cliches that we have seen many times before.
I must admit I don't always get the anime scene. In fact, I don 't get it the vast majority of the time. Redline is another one that I can't quite wrap my head around. The art is stunning, but the weird stories and dialogue just don't translate very well which dampens the experience for me.
With Kina at home
Remember the scene early in Guardians of the Galaxy where Chris Pratt walked through the planet dance steppin' to his walkman, kicking aliens aside in tune to the beat? It was pretty cool, right? Now imagine a heist movie that instead of just having an intro like that (it does), is largely built on similar scenes throughout the course of the movie. It makes for a unique and stylish experience while at times feeling a bit too much. But Edgar Wright still gets a nod of the head for trying something different.
With Syd Vicious at home
Pixar is the best at what they do. The consistently put out quality material and Coco is no exception. This time we have a story of a Mexican boy who longs to pursue his dream of being a musician against the wishes of his family who come from a legacy where music is considered a root of bad things. Pixar deserves a huge pat on the back for bringing in an all Latin cast to fill the roles. With the huge success of Coco, hopefully other studios can follow suit. All that aside, don't miss out on this one. The visuals are gorgeous, the music outstanding, and the story a real heart tugger.
Interesting piece on obsession. A great warrior but socially awkward samurai asks for the hand of a married woman as a payment for his loyalty to his master. This strange and inappropriate request sets forth a journey down a sinister path where all involved are destined to crash together at the end of it. Gate of Hell does well at developing the breakdown of its crazed warrior Morito, but it suffers from long awkward shots that had me scratching my head. I'm not a fan of the long real time shots that do nothing to further the story, but other than those, this was a fine piece.
With Kina and Fudge at Lakewood AMC
The Marvel machine bulldozes on, dropping yet another fun, action packed-romp in the Avengers universe. This one has a heavy plate to fill as it attempts to unite all of the heroes of the cinematic series without being too much for viewers to chew on. The Russos are able to deliver however in a great way to spend 2.5 hours of your summer.
With Kina at home
It Comes At Night is an extremely engaging study on paranoia and how it can rip through one's moral compass. It is paced beautifully and has just the right amount of ambiguity to have viewers talking after the movie without being overly irritated. The acting is fantastic, the shots are gorgeously creepy, and the climax is one that will sit with me for sometime. My only gripe is the ending is about three minutes too long, definitely a small gripe.
Chang Cheh laid the groundwork for his later successes here with what is considered the Godfather of the Kung Fu cinematic golden age. It's definitely not the most polished though. The fight scenes don't look as slick as later entries in the arena. But still, the violence pushed the envelope for the time and David Chiang is compelling as a no shit taking avenger on a path for destruction.
I love magicians and magic. So it's not much to say I also love movies about the subject. Unless it's really terrible, it's an easy mark up a grade or two just for being in the genre. So my assumption was that I was going to like Now You See Me. But there was just too much smoke and mirrors and not enough oomph for me to come on board completely. There is a lot of cool stuff here coupled with a great cast. But the story moves too quickly and unbelievably for me to lose myself. I found myself wondering how these guys went from a group of misfit magicians to criminal masterminds so quickly. And many other questions arose that I can't mention without giving away too much . So if you like flashy stuff, you will probably dig this. But I need less lasers and more sleight of hand to give my kudos.
With Kina at home
There are some movies that don't waste time and cut right to the chase. In Mad Max: Fury Road, that last part is meant in the literal sense. After a short opening turn of events, the film takes viewers on a chase of cinematic historic levels, with very few breaks once the race is on. While there isn't much dialogue, Hardy and Theron are great as the two bad asses leading the way on this thrill ride. Director George Miller puts together a canvas for the pair to splatter all shades of red resulting in a thing of real beauty. For adrenaline fans, it just doesn't get much better than this.
With Kina and Fudge at Lakewood AMC
Just doesn't get much better than this when we are talking about the blockbuster film. An all-star cast paired with a clever script and amazing effects. I was purposely looking for a reason to knock off a point and could not find one. I need to go back and watch Coogler's Fruitvale Station and Creed. What a job. Extra kudos for him throwing a Too Short song into a Marvel movie.
With Kina at home
Every now and then a movie comes along that while not perfect, pleasantly surprises you. The Ritual is that type of movie. It follows a group of friends on a hiking trip intended to bring closure to a tragic event in their recent past. But when one of them is injured and the men decide to try and take a shortcut to get back to civilization faster, grave things begin to happen. The story of The Ritual doesn't break any new ground at all. But its the execution that works so well. You understand what has brought these men together and how it effects their interactions as a whole. The changing in tone of their conversations from playful banter to much more serious and frantic feels real. And when director David Bruckner starts to lay on the creep, viewers buy in. Its not until the climax when all is revealed that The Ritual starts to suffer a little bit, as is the case in many a horror or thriller piece. But the ride getting there makes it worth the trip.
American Sniper is a beautifully shot film. Eastwood shows off his eye for action and his ability to build up tense situations and create drama from that arc. But this story is a little too formulaic for me to love and that predictability kept it from being great in my opinion.
Ahhhh, can Christopher Nolan do any wrong? I missed out on this early entry into the Nolan portfolio but after just catching up on it can safely say that the man is working his way into my list of all time favorites. This tragic piece on rivalry and obsession is so well paced that even when you see the ending coming, you aren't too upset about it. Terrific performances from this arsenal of an ensemble cast round out the kudos.
With Danny at Lakewood AMC
This is neither the best or the worst Star Wars movie ever. It neither ruins the franchise or creates a breakthrough in the series's storytelling. It's an enjoyable extension of the groundwork laid in The Force Awakens. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
With Kina at Ruston Cinemark
I went into this not expecting it to be any good, and although it wasn't anything super surprising, it still wasn't terrible. Hudson and Hart have a great repoire, Jack Black was pretty funny as well, and Karen Gillan is showing again that she can keep up with the big timers. If you are into big brainless fun, you will probably like this. If not, don't waste your time.
With Kina at Lakewood AMC
I have to say that this is right up there with the best of the Marvel films. Taking cues from absurd 80's lovefests like Kung Fury, Thor: Ragnarock is that perfect blockbuster package of humor, action, and spectacle. Its got everything there is to love in a big budget film and there simply isn't anything more to ask for from a comic book fan's point of view. Who the hell is Taika Waititi? Holy crap, put that man on your watch list now.
With Bret at Lakewood AMC
Talk about big shoes to fill. Villanueve takes on a universe where fans were ready with torches upon the first mention of a sequel. Luckily, he not only matches the original but surpasses the classic. Blade Runner 2049 is one of those rare pieces that can combine the best parts of science fiction, weave them with heavy topics like creationism and morality, and spin a web which grabs and holds viewers from start to finish. The entire cast is working their A-game here. Gosling continues to pad his resume, Ford gives his best work in probably 25 years, and Ana de Armas makes her name known with a stellar performance as an A.I. companion of Gosling's lead. This is a near-masterpiece and I admit it may hit that perfect 10 mark upon watch #2.
Watched super late during the work week. Was a little tired to take it all in.
With Kina at Lakewood AMC
Big time mixed feelings on this one. It is an excellent coming of age movie wrapped up by an ok horror flick. The developing of the protagonists is so well done, rivaling the level of a Stand By Me or a Breakfast Club. But the scary elements of It are above average at best. There is too much Pennywise here, (not that Bill Skarsgard did a poor job-quite the opposite) which results in him feeling like a Freddy Krueger type character. That's not chopped liver, buts it not the level of which nightmares are made either, at least not for me.
With Me at Home
This is noir at it's best. As a learning fan of the genre, it's hard to believe I had never heard of this one along with the greats. The ambience and dialogue are top tier and there are a couple of clever dispatches of characters that I imagine for the era were ultra shocking. This is great stuff.
At on plane back from Nashville
This is one of those movies that could have been really good but falls apart in the 3rd act. Everyone does a great job performance wise but the final story arc of what is really three different stories here is just not good.
At on plane to Nashville
Very compelling piece about the events leading up to the Unites States pulling out of South Vietnam and their abandonment of their allies as the North took over.
With Kina at home
The worst thing Hush has going for it is also its best thing. The premise of a deaf woman being trapped in her home with a sadistic killer is a fresh one. Director Mike Flanagan does a good job at getting the most out of that idea, setting up new scenarios for a genre that needs a revamping. But our protagonist's disability also is the reason Hush isn't as good as it can be. At times the protagonist's deafness is so heavily leaned on, its like the audience is forced to believe that her only other sense is sight. Not every deaf person is Daredevil, but there were times here when the heroine was unbelievably unaware. And those moments hurt the final score deeply.
With Colin and Cameron at Colin's
Headshot looked so golden off the trailer. I was a huge fan of The Raid and thus it's star Iko Uwais. Uwais also stars here as a stranger who awakens from a coma with a case of amnesia and a bullet hole in his forehead. Just who is he and how was he shot? And how is he connected to a brutal gang leader who has just escaped execution? These are the questions at the core of the plot of Headshot. Headshot has some great fight scenes for sure. WhIle not nearly as polished in that department as The Raid, it still swings a big enough stick to showcase that Indonesia continues to be a force to be reckoned with in the action arena. There is also a key factor surrounding the background of the gang and how it recruits that adds a compelling aspect to the otherwise clichéd storyline. But that factor and the good fight scenes are hindered by terrible dialogue and the aforementioned clichés. Uwais is fine here and shows he has the chops to be an A list international star. He also is helped by a terrific Sunny Pang as the vicious gang leader Lee. But they are not nearly enough to save Headshot. The Raid was top shelf stuff. Headshot is Monarch mixed with good juice.
With Kina at Century Cinema Federal Way
Taylor Sheridan, screenwriter hot off the critical darlings Sicario and Hell or High Water, also takes the helm here and shows he has what it takes to run the show. Wind River is a whodunit with an excellent cast led by Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen. But even with all the great players who contribute (including the always stellar Graham Greene), the setting should also receive high marks when discussing Wind River's excellence. Sheridan knows that his deadly cold Wyoming is a critical part of this piece's plot and he makes sure to capture it on lens. The icy grip the conditions lend is felt in the entirety of the movie and adds to the feeling of isolation and helplessness of the reservation, such a critical factor in the events of Wind River. Sheridan is on a hot streak. He is definitely a surging talent who will be on my radar from here forward.
With Kina at Home
Life takes a thoroughly worked over theme of man fiddling with nature to disastrous results. There is nothing new to offer here to a the history of that idea on film but one thing Life does is sure make it look pretty. The space station on which this adventure is set is gorgeous. The space and imagery outside the station is in par with that of Gravity-of which in style Life borrows heavily. It also borrows from the Alien series as well, but if you can get past the idea biting, there is a decent movie here. Not every film needs to reinvent the wheel. If you are gonna do a lot of stuff we have seem before, at least make it look cool and make sure the audience is invested in your characters. Life hits on both those fronts and that is what keeps it afloat throughout.
With Kina at Home
The original Magnificent 7 is up there in the top five when discussing best westerns of all time. The 2016 remake, despite being outfitted with an all star cast, is merely adequate. The characters are likable with juuuuuuust enough back story and the action scenes are a grade above passing. The players here lay out their best cowboy accents, led by Vincent D'Onofrio who gets the ribbon for eccentric but likable big fella. The rest do fine as well but fine doesn't make memories. Fine is just....fine.
With Leilah at home
I would never have watched this but my little niece was over and she is a fan of it. We put it on while eating and then doing some things around the house. Its a cute enough idea: orphan boy gets some magic sneakers that allow him to play hoop at a star level. But even if you are able to get past that ridiculousness, the rest of the film plays out in an absurdly predictable fashion. There aren't many genuinely funny moments, and the whole thing just feels like a ripoff of 80's feel good cornball flicks. Big thumbs down.
With Kina and Fudge at Home
For me, this is by far the best movie in the Star Wars franchise. The characters are cool and believable, the action while predictable is top tier, the story arc keeps you ready to see what happens next. It's so amazing to me how bad of a job they did with Episodes 1-3 in the 2000s. This universe has so much going for it. I hope they can keep the small streak going.
Let's Throw Some Flair On An Old Recipe
Let's get things clear from the gate: Train to Busan does nothing especially innovative to a densely crowded zombie genre. The plot revolves around a large group of survivors fleeing an infected metro area on a train that leaves the city. In that sense, it's basically Zombies on a Train. Much of the dialogue is cliche, the characters do a lot of dumb and unrealistic stuff, and there are several groan moments of over-emo scenes that Asians love to put on the screen.
That said, it's one of the most well shot horror films in recent memory. The cinematography is top tier, highlighted by a claustrophobic feel in many of its most intense moments. The characters are well developed-if not very familiar-which contributes to the audience being invested in the ride.
With Kina at Home
Let's get things clear from the gate: Train to Busan does nothing especially innovative to a densely crowded zombie genre. The plot revolves around a large group of survivors fleeing an infected metro area on a train that leaves the city. In that sense, it's basically Zombies on a Train. Much of the dialogue is cliche, the characters do a lot of dumb and unrealistic stuff, and there are several groan moments of over-emo scenes that Asians love to put on the screen. That said, it's one of the most well shot horror films in recent memory. The cinematography is top tier, highlighted by a claustrophobic feel in many of its most intense moments. The characters are well developed-if not very familiar-which contributes to the audience being invested in the ride.
A Decent Enough Entry Into My All-time Favorite Franchise
I agree with just about everything VungTauMantis said. However, I feel like the scenes between the two synthetics as well as the general exploration of the creationism theme add enough to a fun enough romp in Scott's esteemed franchise.
There are a lot of dumb moments though, things that belong in C list movies from decades ago. However, what can I say? I'm a fan of the setting and in that Scott does not disappoint. Squeaks in for a 7.
With VungTauMantis, TacAggregate, and Kina at AMC Factoria
I agree with just about everything VungTauMantis said. However, I feel like the scenes between the two synthetics as well as the general exploration of creationism add enough to a fun enough romp in Scott's esteemed franchise. There are a lot of dumb moments though, things that belong in C list movies from decades ago. However, what can I say? I'm a fan of the setting and in that Scott does not disappoint. Squeaks in for a 7.
Duvall is Fresh Out the Pen and Ready to Rock
It has been awhile since I watched a 70's crime flick, one of my favorite sub-genres. I had never even heard of this one, surprisingly being that Robert Duvall is one of my fave actors.
This was a fun time. Its nowhere near other entries in the era but its a good watch nonetheless. Its pretty much about 100 minutes give or take of Duvall and Joe Don Baker kicking mob ass. And what's not to like about that?
It has been awhile since I watched a 70's crime flick, one of my favorite sub-genres. I had never even heard of this one, surprisingly being that Robert Duvall is one of my fave actors. This was a fun time. Its nowhere near other entries in the era but its a good watch nonetheless. Its pretty much about 100 minutes give or take of Duvall and Joe Don Baker kicking mob ass. And what's not to like about that?
They don't make them like this anymore. Bogey pads his resume in the shoes of iconic gumshoe Philip Marlowe. Bacall steps in his as the possible love interest femme fatale type but is she bad or not? That's the good thing about The Big Sleep. it keeps you guessing while at the same time not focusing so much on the answers to the Marlowe's case. Instead, the journey is all about the slap in the face dialogue so fit for the genre. Good stuff.
Review from the comment
Gifted is the story of Frank and his niece Mary whom he has cared for since her mother died. The girl is of genius level intelligence and her school is pushing Frank to send her to a school for the gifted. But Frank has his own ideas on her having a normal kid's life and when his estranged mother steps into the picture to get the girl into the school, things get ugly.
Gifted is one of those Hollywood feel good movies that is just good enough for most audiences to like it, but too predictable and unbelievable for a nitpicker like me to like it. Here you will see family court turned into Law and Order like drama, cliche cutouts for a supporting cast, and a third act that is really all over the place. If you are into the type of movies that tell you when to smile and when to cry, this is right up your alley. Unfortunately, its not my type of party.
With Kina at Century at the Commons
Gifted is the story of Frank and his niece Mary whom he has cared for since her mother died. The girl is of genius level intelligence and her school pushes Frank to send her to a school for the gifted. But Frank has his own ideas on her having a normal kid's life and when his estranged mother steps into the picture to get the girl into the school, things get ugly. Gifted is one of those Hollywood feel good movies that is just good enough for most audiences to like it, but too predictable and unbelievable for a nitpicker like me to like it. Here you will see family court turned into Law and Order like drama, cliche cutouts for a supporting cast, and a third act that really was all over the place. If you are into the type of movies that tell you when to smile and when to cry, this is right up your alley. Unfortunately, its not my type of party.
Review from the comment
Killer Joe is one of those neo-noir films that is just a little too off tilt for me to enjoy completely. It plays on dumb Southerner stereotypes a little too much and is just overall a little too strange. I was surprised at the tone of this film with Friedkin at the helm. It definitely didn't feel like the Friedkin pieces I have seen, with its comedic narrative undercutting the overall dark tone.
I feel like Killer Joe wants to be a Fargo for Texas, and it doesn't succeed at all in that regard. But it is enjoyable at times, albeit even if it leaves you feeling a little dirty after watching.
Killer Joe is one of those neo-noir films that is just a little too off tilt for me to enjoy completely. It plays on dumb Southerner stereotypes a little too much and is just overall a little too strange. I was surprised at the tone of this film with Friedkin at the helm. It definitely didn't feel like the Friedkin pieces I have seen, with its comedic narrative undercutting the overall dark tone. I feel like Killer Joe wants to be a Fargo for Texas, and it doesn't succeed at all in that regard. But it is enjoyable at times, albeit even if it leaves you feeling a little dirty after watching.
With Kina at home
A superbly executed testament of the struggles of a gay boy as he grows into a teen and later an adult. I could probably talk about this movie for a couple of hours with the right person. There is so much under the surface of such a simply shot character study. Collectively, the acting here is top tier, and from such a range of unknowns mixed in with seasoned vets like Ali and Harris. I know Ali got the statue, but for me Harris really shined. However, the prize of the bunch is Ashton Sanders, playing the protagonist during his teen years. Sanders flips between polar opposite sides of the emotional spectrum that many thespians with much more work under their belt could only dream of doing. I did have a few minor problems with Moonlight which kept it from getting a perfect score, but this is a coming of age story that should not be missed.
Review from the comment
Its hard to take a documentary serious when you find out that it is executive produced by its subjects. However, director QD3 does a good job at (mostly) evenly playing up the highs and the lows of rap production icons Organized Noize. The result is a solid, nostalgic look at one of Hip Hop's most prolific teams. Even if there is a desire to hear about more of the inner feuds (there is no mention of the riff between Big Boi and Dre or Ceelo and Goodie MOB), there is enough here to keep you focused for a quick 90 minutes and change.
Its hard to take a documentary serious when you find out that it is executive produced by its subjects. However, director QD3 does a good job at playing up the highs and the lows of rap production icons Organized Noize. The result is a solid, nostalgic look at one of Hip Hop's most prolific teams. Even if there is a desire to hear about more of the inner feuds (there is no mention of the riff between Big Boi and Dre or Ceelo and Goodie MOB), there is enough here to keep you focused for a quick 90 minutes and change.
With Tac Aggregate and Vung Tau Mantis and Cameron at Tac Agg's
Here we go again. Another Serbian film, billed as in the vein of A Serbian Film. Look, I'm no megafan of A Serbian Film, but at least it had its merits. It was full of clever dialogue and its twist is right up there with the greatest. But it also went way too far in pushing the envelope of decency. And I simply can't get into movies like that. That doesn't mean I won't try though apparently. The Life and Death of a Porno Gang's trailer let me know right away that I was in for another shocking event but in the end, did not even live up to the hype of being ultra disturbing. There are no merits here either. The plot is shoddy, the characters unlikable, and even the shock value is below what was anticipated. And that my friends makes it a failure on every front.
Average rating: 6.6