“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Green Book

Monday, January 28th, 2019

I was excited when I first heard of GREEN BOOK – a two-hander teaming two actors I love, Viggo Mortensen (AMERICAN YAKUZA) and Mahershala Ali (PREDATORS). I wanted to see that. And a true story drama but directed by Peter THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY Farrelly? That’s interesting. It wasn’t until I saw the second trailer that I had a sinking feeling of oh shit, is this some kind of respectability-politics-cures-racism bullshit? Oh no Viggo, what did you do? And then I started seeing really harsh reviews supporting those fears.

It was only after I saw the movie and tried to read up on it that I found out some relatives of Dr. Don Shirley, the classical pianist who Ali plays, strongly object to the movie. I’ve been struggling with this review since before the movie won the Best Comedy or Musical Golden Globe, which is when the good pitchforks were taken out of the china cabinet and sharpened. Now it’s also nominated for the best picture Oscar, taking up that bad guy slot as the movie that all cynical people assume will win and show how out of touch Hollywood is about race. (read the rest of this shit…)

Close

Thursday, January 24th, 2019

There’s this weird psychological thing about the availability of movies. I looked at IMDb and determined that I’ve seen every Coen Brothers movie since THE HUDSUCKER PROXY in the theater, most of them probly on the first day or opening weekend. That’s thirteen films over a period of 24 years. But when THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS went straight to Netflix I let it sit there for more than two months before I finally got to it. Because, you know, every weekend I wanted to go see WIDOWS or CREED II or on and on, and I rented THE FOREIGNER I needed to watch that and return it and then I wanted to watch some Christmas horror, that was more timely, that had a sell by date. I procrastinate more when it feels like it’s accessible at any moment between now and the day whatever black magic they’ve been using to stay in business wears out.

I bring this up to explain how surprised I am at myself for seeing an article mentioning the release date of the Netflix original CLOSE and realizing it had gone up 18 minutes ago and then spontaneously actually watching it. I sorta did that for THE NIGHT COMES FOR US too, but that came with the pedigree of HEADSHOT. This one I had seen a trailer and knew Noomi Rapace (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, PROMETHEUS, PASSION, DEAD MAN DOWN, THE DROP) was a badass in it so it seemed like some DTV shit I could get behind. (read the rest of this shit…)

A Simple Favor

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

A SIMPLE FAVOR is an entertaining thriller from known-for-comedy director Paul Feig (THE HEAT). He brings to it some humor and his obvious rapport with the great casts he puts together, but if we had to categorize it we’d be forced to put it in with GONE GIRL, because it’s a twisty mystery based on a recent book by a female author and with entertainingly amoral, even wicked female characters.

Stephanie (Anna Kendrick, THE ACCOUNTANT) is a widowed “mommy vlogger” who, in between cooking and crafting demos, has been filling her subscribers in on the disappearance of her “best friend” Emily (Blake Lively, GREEN LANTERN). Even from the bits of vlog we see, before the omniscience of cinema kicks in, this seems fishy, because she admits she’s only known Emily for a few weeks. Their sons are in school together and tried to set up a playdate, causing intimidating fashionable rich mean lady Emily to begrudgingly bring Stephanie to her (extremely modern) house after school for drinks. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Old Man & the Gun

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

THE OLD MAN & THE GUN is a slight but pleasant lovable-bank-robber tale that Robert Redford (THE HOT ROCK) apparently chose as his one last job. He plays Forrest Tucker, a real life thief who from the age of 15 to 83 spent his time stealing and getting locked up and escaping and repeating. Based on a New Yorker article, this takes place in 1981, when he’s 70 and at it again shortly after escaping San Quentin in a kayak he built and cheekily decorated with the county logo and a yacht club flag. I gotta admire attention to detail in a jailbreak, especially when it’s only for artistic purposes. (read the rest of this shit…)

Glass

Monday, January 21st, 2019

Like many of you I was a pretty big fan of M. Night Shyamalan’s UNBREAKABLE when it came out in 2000. It was a different time. One year after THE SIXTH SENSE, the idea of Shyamalan as a master of suspense was not a punchline, and quiet, sad Bruce Willis characters were fairly new territory. It had only been about a month since the very first X-MEN movie came out, and would be years before Batman began and the Marvel Cinematic Universe followed, so when we were blindsided by the opening title card of oddly useless comic book statistics, and Samuel L. Jackson (THE SPIRIT)’s character proceeded to make grandiose generalized proclamations about the comic book mythology, it was semi-forgivable. The ads gave no hint of this, but the movie took the idea of super powers and put them in a grounded suspense thriller context that felt like a pretty new combination of flavors at the time.

Sixteen years later Shyamalan had been a laughing stock far longer than he’d been a respected auteur, and the popularity of SPLIT counted as a comeback. Though I found the “oh, this was actually a super villain origin story” ending a little anti-climactic, I thought most of the movie was effectively creepy and I was really impressed by James McAvoy’s playful turn as the many personalities of “The Horde.” And of course I enjoyed the wacko reveal at the end that it was I DON’T THINK THIS IS A SPOILER ANYMORE taking place in the same universe as UNBREAKABLE.

Now, finally, Samuel L. Jackson is… GLASS. Except he gets a “with” credit. McAvoy gets top billing, because he does the most acting, by many different meanings. (read the rest of this shit…)

Widows (2002)

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

One of my favorite movies last year was Steve McQueen U.K.’s heist movie WIDOWS. I feel like it got a little less attention than it deserved, but it stuck in my mind for weeks. So I got curious about the source material, a 1983 mini-series written by Lynda La Plante (Prime Suspect). It does exist as a PAL DVD but I don’t have access to it. I did, however, find a 2002 remake (also scripted by La Plante) that was an earlier attempt at an American version. This one takes place in Boston, though it was filmed in Toronto.

As I expected, this isn’t a patch on a patch of the McQueen version’s balls, but I was able to enjoy it for what it was. Keep in mind this aired on ABC, and at a time right before TV started to evolve into what we have now – The Shield and The Wire started that year. And also American Idol and The Bachelor. So this is the type of television event where you might roll your eyes a little at first, but then you get drawn in. And it’s interesting to see an alternate take on the material. The heist is different and the characters have different backgrounds than in McQueen’s, but the story isn’t too far off.

Mercedes Ruehl (LAST ACTION HERO) plays a pretty different version of Ms. Rawlins, who brings together her fellow widows of a heist gone wrong to finish a job their husbands had planned. She’s meaner and bossier than Viola Davis’ version, more of a mob wife. And she has the original name, Dolly. When she first encounters the other widows at the morgue she acts like they’re beneath her and has no interest in talking to them. When she later wants their help she still doesn’t really treat them as people she has something in common with. Ruehl is really good as a tough lady who eventually softens as she comes to see the others as cohorts instead of employees. (read the rest of this shit…)

BuyBust

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

(as in a bust during a buy)

Every so often in the world of action movies something or someone comes along that throws down the gauntlet and inspires others around the world to try to match it or top it. THE MATRIX, TAKEN and JOHN WICK are three that might qualify based on imitation alone. I think ONG BAK really started something with its insane stunts and flying knees and elbows originating from a country not previously known for movies. More recently THE RAID ignited an Indonesian action film scene and inspired people in other parts of the world to push the envelope in their own ways.

I’m not just talking about copycats. They might even become classics in their own right. Case in point: the amazing 2018 Philippine drug raid epic BUYBUST, which would’ve definitely made my best of the year write-up if I’d seen it in time. It’s kind of like THE RAID meets ELITE SQUAD. A highly trained team of drug enforcement agents go into a favela-like part of town tailing an informant (Alex Calleja) who is wearing a wire for a transaction with the vicious druglord Chongki (Levi Ignacio) in an attempt to draw out his boss, the elusive Biggie Chen (Arjo Atayde). It turns out to be a setup, the drug gang guns down most of the team and the surviving agents have a long, grueling night battling their way through endless attackers in a labyrinth of narrow, crowded passages and corrugated roofing while trying to figure out who betrayed them and where to find Biggie. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Equalizer 2

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

THE EQUALIZER is not a great movie, but it is part of a great American tradition to allow the finest actors an opportunity once they get older to make movies where they pretend they’re Steven Seagal and break dudes’ arms and drill ’em in the head and stuff. To help people. Very loosely based on the ’80s tv show, Denzel Washington (MALCOLM X, RICOCHET) played Robert McCall, a mild mannered, O.C.D.-having widower with ugly sneakers who works at an off-brand Home Depot and also happens to be an ex-secret-agent badass, so when he sees enough injustice he decides you know what I’m tired of being hoodwinked and bamboozled, I’m gonna vigilante the shit out of these Russian mobsters or whoever.

Had things gone a little differently maybe we’d all be excited for Denzel’s much-hyped return to the popular VIRTUOSITY franchise after sitting out the last three, but we play the cards we’re dealt, so THE EQUALIZER 2 is Denzel’s first ever sequel. Also back are director Antoine Fuqua (BAIT), writer Richard Wenk (VAMP, 16 BLOCKS, THE MECHANIC, THE EXPENDABLES 2, COUNTDOWN, JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK), Academy Award winner Melissa Leo (who played a different character on an episode of the TV show in 1985!) as his old agency boss Susan Plummer, and Bill Pullman (CASPER) as her non-ass-kicking husband.
(read the rest of this shit…)

If Beale Street Could Talk

Monday, January 14th, 2019

After MOONLIGHT I was gonna see the new Barry Jenkins movie no matter what. Didn’t have to ask what it was about. Probly wouldn’t sound like my thing anyway. If I had asked, the answer might’ve been something like “in early ’70s Harlem, a young woman and her family try to clear her fiance who has been falsely accused of rape.” But that would’ve been misleading because it’s not at all a thriller or a legal drama. There aren’t any plot twists or shocking revelations. We never see a courtroom. The background is the inescapable, self-perpetuating undertow of an unequal justice system, but the foreground is a story about love, not just between this couple but between them and their families.

Like MOONLIGHT it’s gorgeously lit and photographed by James Laxton (YOGA HOSERS), has thick mood and atmosphere, a strong sense of the character of its setting, and a cast full of revelatory performers, people you just want to be around, faces you want to (and get to) stare at in vivid closeup. The two lovers, Tish Rivers (KiKi Lane making a great debut) and Fonny Hunt (Stephan James, who played John Lewis in SELMA and Jesse Owens in RACE), absolutely beam with infatuation. We hear a little bit about them growing up as best friends, but we don’t need it. Their eyes tell us how enamored they are of each other.

But Fonny is, as Tish puts it, “behind glass” when she brings him news that they’re going to have a baby. And not for the last time we will hear firm, assurances that things will be okay, people will stick together, odds will be overcome. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mary Poppins Returns

Thursday, January 10th, 2019

I’m usually an optimist, but I had no confidence at all in Rob Marshall directing a sequel to MARY POPPINS, despite the obviously well-cast Emily Blunt (THE WOLFMAN). I’m happy to report, though, that all involved did a great job and MARY POPPINS RETURNS is a warm and enjoyable revival of old school Walt Disney cornball musical family entertainment, for those who might be interested in such a thing.

I really didn’t know what I was talking about with Marshall, to be honest. I’ve never even seen his Academy Award winning CHICAGO. But I was so bored watching PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES that it completely put me off a series I had loved up until that point. I didn’t trust him taking a crack at this much more sacred Disney ground, especially with a script from the guy that did fuckin FINDING NEVERLAND. But in retrospect Marshall had pretty good qualifications for this one. I’ve subsequently learned of his love for MARY POPPINS as the first movie he remembers seeing, his seriousness about honoring the original tone and using material from the P.L. Travers books, that he had Marc Shaiman (MY GIANT) start recording the score beforehand so he could play it while filming, and that he got the cast to rehearse the song and dance numbers for months, something he took from his days as a dancer and choreographer for the stage. Having seen it, all of that makes sense. (read the rest of this shit…)