Jackie Brown Movie Review – 1997

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Crime, Drama, Thriller

Year: 1997
Creator(s): Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Pam Grier, Samuel L Jackson, Robert Forester

Mild Spoilers

Written By: William R Wortham

Most crime dramas are good examples of plausible real life cruelty and psychological extremes. Flicks like L.A. Confidential are good psychological pieces on both criminals and corruption, and often based off true events. Jack Brown is a boring film about people randomly smattered about with a predictable ending. Oddly enough if you want to skip seeing a majority of the film just read the synopsys of this, because you aren’t missing much. Compessing every scene and character development into one paragraph is pathetic. Yet, somehow, this films seems to do this with great ease.

It’s a very cut and dry detective story that leaves nothing to the imagination. Max Cherry (Robert Forster) is a standard PI whos’ approched one day by Jackie Brown. After some flash backs and very long drawn out scenes things will slowly develop. I found a lot of them totally uninteresting because they were worthless converstations about generic things. This sours any kind of story development by distancing emotionally impactful scenes with scattered scenes. The whole point of a film is to keep people guessing, not drag things out beyond developmental archs.

One of the more tedious moments was when one of the side characters dies. It didn’t build drama well, and considering how shallow the characters are it was easy to predict. Common sense would have behooved many in this film and its like they blantantly ignored all of it. Unlike Hitchcock where you can’t see whats going on or its left up for grabs as to what happened, many scenes don’t do much to convey any emotion. It’s very blunt and the rest of the shots throughout the movie are the exact same.

All the characters are one-dimensional, with most of the character development basically summerized in a few minutes. This works for some movies, but it kills it for me when the top 5 main characters are as deep as a puddle. I can’t care about characters who are so predictiable and who lack any form of intelligence. Many in the film are more emotionally driven rather than by any kind of logic. Most gangster films involve smart criminals who get away with things due to subtle dialoge and cohersion. This had none of that.

On a postive note, for a Tarantino film, it’s totally out of the norm. Its lacking in huge amounts of gore and blood, unlike most of his films. In Pulp Fiction, no one was really a good guy or bad guy. Everyone was equally selfish, and eventually met a brutal end. Jack Brown is one of the few that ends on a high note and it might please some audiences. All of the characters, even though boring, were a lot less over the top compaired to his other movies.

I don’t know if I can recommend this movie, or hate it either. It was really well shot and everyones performances were up to snuff. Underwhelming scenes, a guessable story, and underdeveloped characters kill the rest of the film. If you want something simply written with farmiliar faces watch this film. I would skip it if you hate things that are completely banal.

4.5/10

Maggie Movie Review

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A large trend in cinema that has turned most people off to the horror genre is zombies. Yes, zombies. Love them or hate them they are here to stay. However, with any genre it has a possibility of going stagnant. There’s only so many times the general audience can see a cannibalistic undead person eat a puppy before it gets boring. Meanwhile, others out there will skip it all together for anything else. Which is kinda why I’m reviewing Maggie. This is a cross between a zombie movie and a family tragedy movie.

Unlike most zombie scenarios the world doesn’t completely collapse once they show up. In Maggie a rather refreshing approach was taken. The various governments around the world declare a forum of Martial Law and require everyone to be tested and treated. The intro, and everything that follows, I believe is a more realistic approach. There are a few instances in the movie where it shows people coming to terms with the death of their friends, or family, and learning to deal with it. To me this makes more sense since zombies are stupid and slow. So I couldn’t see a fast paced world ever be over thrown by a bunch of decaying freaks. So I kinda enjoyed this different take on this horror genre.

I could see that it was trying to push tragic themes into the audiences head, like movies about cancer. The only difference is that its about a disease that turns people into face eaters. So I kinda felt detached from it and the impact was lost. I felt it was less serious at some points then it could have been. The characters also developed different ways in dealing with the onset illness. Most were grizzly and it added to the overall impact of the situation. A kind of slow sorrow is felt throughout the film despite it being unevenly paced.

The major downfall to this movie is it’s pacing. Yes some of it does add to the theme of “the world is dying,” but it like all zombie movies after a while it’s like “we get it.” The random burning cars and torn apart houses get old after a while. Sure it could just be the background, but a lot of the scenes wouldn’t even involve the characters but random wreckage. These slow scenes kinda disrupt the pacing of the characters development, which other wise are well rounded. This doesn’t add much to the story and to a certain extent I think took away from good areas in the film where they could have simply done something else.

Oddly enough some slow scenes highlight a lot of the actors better abilities. It showed a good dramatic side to Arnold Schwarzenegger, which is rarely scene. Abigail Breslin is back to displaying her best skills as a girl who struggles with the fact that she’s slowly dying. Joely Richardson does a great job of being a cold hearted mother and compliments Schwarzenegger’s meandering about his daughters health. The bit characters do a decent job at adding tension to the film, but are only lost because of how quick they are introduced and then discarded.

Hopefully this will add some variety to the genera. For the tragedy buffs out there, you’ll probably love this. For the zombie fans, well, avoid it. There isn’t that much gore or cannibalism involved. In other words, it lacks action and the adventure elements that are usually in zombie films. The emotional turmoil of the family is enveloping and will draw most to the film. The heartfelt look into deaths in the family is something I hope most writers will consider for future movies in this genre. It’s a decent sad film, but I probably won’t be watching it again since it’s like seeing a rerun of fireworks: you know where the explosions are going to happen and fizzle out.

6.0/10

Kingsman: The Secret Service

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WARNING: Mild Spoilers

Harry Hart owes a life debt to a fallen friend, Lancealot, whilst working for a socially elites group of people who are Britain’s best undercover spies called: Kingsmen. They all take names from King Arthers fairy tales, and some even exude qualities of their mythical counter parts. Regardless, Gary “Eggsy” Unwin grew up as a social delinquent. He eventually gets arrested and calls on the Kingsmen to get him out of trouble. They do and decide to recruit him for their undercover training program.

I consider most British comedies wittier then most American comedies due to well placed sight gags or very well crafted dialogue. This one lacked in some areas on good gags and smarm, but it made up for with well crafted crass humor. Colin Firth played the straight man to Taron Egerton‘s young and foul mouthed teenager. Many examples can be seen in the various trailers out there. Other times its simple pokes at American stereotypes or in your face violence. Oddly enough I found myself snickering at some of the violent scenes involving a racist church group they eventually investigate. Other times it was at the blatant references to just about every other spy film ever made while still trying to formulate a ironic style of humor while still honoring the genera.

I didn’t care for the film’s jumbled development. Many times Taron Egerton’s character jumps between lovable dumbass to killing machine back to being a arrogant prick. You’d think after months of training he’d know how to do something simple like open a parachute. Also the anti-US American undertones were a tad obnoxious. They were consistent and only seemed to be berating the ‘evil corporate American companies are trying to kill you’ lunacy that seems to plague every other story now-a-days. Also it isn’t plausible that one of the crucial parts of the story involves mass genocide and all the billionaires in the world just being OK with it. Because once society has toppled what good is their money? Who will run their power plants or make their food? Oh wait. No one will, because everyone is DEAD. There’s a definite spike between different styles of humor after a main character dies. In the beginning it’s a mixture of mellow, wit, wry, and crass humor. After the main character dies then it becomes oafish and pure crass. It isn’t that its too jarring, but it’s REALLY noticeable. So if you think all of a sudden the jokes become crappier then thats just letting you know you’re near the end of the movie.

Colin Firth was decent as a stern sophisticated person without giving into his past experience with roles. Mark Strong played a good guy for once and while not showing a lot of strength in anything he did seem to know how seem convincing he was a master of all trades. Mark Hamill is a bumbling professor and plays it rather well. It’s different since he usually plays a stronger male role, even as a villain. Taron Egerton was good as a jackass, but most of his acting was reactionary due to the script so I don’t think it’s a good example of his acting. Samuel L Jackson was great as the villain, but it seemed like he needed to tighten up some areas and be a little more aggressive or assertive. Other wise he was rather good and made someone with a lisp rather creepy.

Most spy films that try to be comedies fail by hiring writers who don’t know how to blend the two genera or the comedy becomes too experimental. This was a nice balance of everything without having one genera overpower the other. The characters were likable, even if mildly cliché. The story might be bland to some people, but how everything is set up separates it from the rest of the genera. Kingsman might not go down as a comedy classic, but it will definitely be brought up in conversation frequently.

See it in theaters.

7.5/10

American Sniper Movie Review

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Chris Kyle is a down and out ranch hand. He falls in love with a girl at a bar and marries her. They fall on financial hard times so he joins as the Navy and signs up to become a SEAL sniper. He becomes known for his pinpoint accuracy and helps stop some of Al-Qaeda’s worst killers. It eventually becomes known that him, and his team, become so damaging that they get a bounty put on their head. He eventually retires and goes home. He then suffers from PTSD and continues to want to help other.

This is a beautifully tragic movie and I’m going to try to avoid all of the controversy that’s been in the news lately about this film. So if you want some kind of philosophical discussion of the real Chris Kyle go somewhere else. This is just a review of the movie, that took a few dozen liberties with the story. I will be labeling this as a ‘historic’ movie, despite that. Also even though they took several liberties with the story that didn’t ruin the movie nor diminish it’s central themes.

War movies have a tendency of being giant propaganda pieces. In all honesty this movie only kinda was a propaganda movie. It’s propaganda in the sense that it’s a huge anti-war movie. It’s does a rather large elaborate job of stressing how bad war is and how it impacts the families involved, regardless if they are on the front lines or not. There were several very powerfully bad (i.e. violent) scenes that involved Arabic families basically caught in the middle and either A) being casualties of war or B) they’d panic, run, and step on a land mine or something. On top of that it does show the real struggle of aftermath of war as well. It didn’t cover as much of the movie as the war did, but it still made the statement noticeable after Chris Kyle came home. Also Chris seems to come off as a head strong individual who was hired to do a job and did it well to keep his fellow soldiers alive, and himself.

Now don’t get me wrong there are a few dozen scenes of former, or current, armed forces members thanking Chris Kyle and telling him how awesome he is. This didn’t glorify anything for me because you don’t bite the hand that feeds you so to speak. Lets say sniper friend and you were deployed to the middle east, in a hot zone. I don’t think it would be appropriate timing to bring up that you think his wife is a whore or the haircut he has makes him look like a homosexual. Sure they can say nothing to the guy, but humans have a tendency to be either blunt or social. So him not running into comments about his abilities would be fucking weird. Also there were a dozen or so scenes where there were ‘close calls.’ Like in one scene a terrorist was on a roof about to do whatever to the US troops below. You hear a loud bang and then a dead body drops a few feet away from one of the front line patrols. Cheesy, and kinda Hollywood-esk, but I’ve read enough History books to know this shit happens nearly all the time.

Most American war movies do come off as a too patriotic movie portraying the USA as some kind of good guy. With this one, well, I don’t think so. For every American soldier who gets shot in the film, the same amount of Arabic people die. So for the most part it did a fair balance of portraying the Arabic people as confused, scared, and generally upset people that they have to deal with war for the millionth time. It also portrayed many soldiers as people who were just there to do a job, despite it’s grittiness. So even go on to complain that they don’t know why they’re there or don’t see the point. It basically stressed that many were unhappy with the things they were doing, or just unsure.

This point I’m about to make should be rather obvious to most: the major downsides to this movie is that it is very, very dark. You see children die. If you get emotionally attached to any character they have a likability of dying. Yes, its a war movie and those themes have been shown before, but the visuals are a little different. With this one it shows a more modern day approach where the enemy in the movies uses everything they can to kill the protagonist and his friends. This is pretty much the way it is with most real life situations, but in the past movies would shy away from that. While it’s a brutal idea to conceive, its still realistic.

Bradley Cooper did a decent job, but I can’t say there was much to the character. He was a gruff kinda guy and didn’t speak until either A) he had he needed to say or B) was prompted. Other wise he seemed like the average Joe who went to war. I’m not sure it would be right for the Academy to give him a Oscar for that. Keir O’Donnell did a decent job as Cooper‘s brother. He did better on some of the more comical parts in the beginning of the movie. Sienna Miller was as the distressed wife at home. Sure, it’s just a wife role, but not many can be so convincingly intense. Other then that there isn’t that many repeat characters that stick around.

This is one of the most powerful movies I’ve seen in a while. Its unique to see a character so strong headed and duty based. Most movies I’ve been running into lately the good guy is jaded or too over the top to be realistic. Its like all of them have dead relatives and decide to go on alcohol benders. However, this is based in damn reality and so everything is plausible. Regardless of what people say about this movie its mostly the ballad of someone who went to war long enough to survive it. This movie isn’t about America. It isn’t about politics. It isn’t even about the USA’s influence in the middle east. It’s one mans journey to do as much good as he can, for as many people as he can, for as long as he can, and to help the world live a better life in the future.

If you want to see a well made movie, see this.

8.5/10

The Wedding Ringer Movie Review

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Warning: MILD SPOILERS

Doug Harris proposes to Gretchen Palmer and they start to plan their wedding. Doug struggles to find best men as the weeks get closer to the wedding date. Eventually Edmundo (AKA Dirty Eddie Sanchez) notices and suggest Doug see Jimmy Callahan. Doug finds out Jimmy does this as a profession and is offered a rang of options. Once Jimmy finds out that he needs 7 groomsmen then he almost kicks Dough out.

This was really disappointing. I thought it would be funnier since Kevin Hart was in it, but I was really wrong. Now don’t get me wrong it was different story and bromance wise, but not as a comedy. Not only does it rely off of some terrible tropes, aggressive humor, pratfalls, and various things that are just really recycled jokes, but they are the most predictable things ever. The only good part was the one liners. If they aren’t cringe worthy, then they had me rolling my eyes. I’ll admit I did laugh a few times and smirked, but for the most part this was cliché.

Seriously we’ve seen all these jokes before. Let me see if I can spell a few of them out for you. The fat guy is made fun of for his fat. Fat guy leans on glass table and it breaks. Fat guy starts screaming in pain. The black guy with the fro is super ghetto and says something ghetto. The guy with the mulletsays something eluding to rape or redneck-ish. Bullshit macho-men push around a smaller guy. Do you get the point yet? Does it feel like I’m explaining all the jokes for you so it isn’t fun, and possibly being abrasive or in your face about it? Good! That’s exactly how the movie made it out to be. Every other movie ever made has made all of these jokes already, without violence and such blatant stereotypes.

Other then the jokes, and some horrible pranks played on Douge, the story was relatively well written. The bromance felt more legit then the relationship then the romance subplot. This totally worked out later. Also there’s the who plausibility factor. There’s lots of people out there who just don’t have time to maintain friends and when something that requires you to have them, like a wedding, then they would be SOL. However, since the whole story is COMEDY based, and the jokes are terrible, that’s why I can’t give it a passing grade.

Sadly, despite the jokes and story, everyone did a reasonably decent job at acting. Kevin Hart was loud, in charge, and swam like a duck in water with this role. Josh Gad was good as a dimwitted questionably social nerd. I vaguely remember seeing him in other things and he seems to have range. Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting was good, but I didn’t care for her in this role because it seems she’s been typecast as the pretty slut, pretty manipulative girl, or pretty woman who’s settling for less. Affion Crockett was awkward in a few scenes and his timing was spot on. Jorge Garcia did well, but it seemed like he made a few references to LOST that I didn’t get. Sorry I didn’t watch the show. I mostly know Corey Holcomb as Black Jesus and while this wasn’t a stretch, but he was lively. Olivia Thrilby basically was there to call Hart’s character on his BS. I like her, but I feel she’s was underused. It was also interesting to see some famous standup comics make guest appearances. Jeffrey Ross made a quick guest appearance as the weddings DJ. It wasn’t much of a performance, because he said a whole of 5 lines maybe, but who knew he could sing. Whitney Cummings made a quick appearance as Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting brides made, who was incredibly obnoxious and loud, but fun. Also one of the funnier scenes was with Josh Peck who royally screws the pooch on a wedding toast. His delivery was freaking FLAWLESS. I cringed with the people at the wedding in the movie and made me want to punch him.

The thing that upsets me about this film is that everything was good, except the jokes. All jokes made were notably average, with very few exceptions. They’ve been in other films multiple times to the point of being nauseating. The plot falls apart in some areas due to main focal points relying off the jokes, because when the punchline falls flat so does the impact of that moment in the story. I can’t recommend seeing this since a comedy relies really heavily off of jokes that just aren’t funny.

4.5/10

Unbroken Movie Review

Unbroken

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS

Louis “Louie” Zamperini, and US Olympian, is trying to sort out his life. He eventually joins the air force during WW2. He gets shipped out and his first flight crew gets shot up. They crash land safely back on the main base and then relax some in Hawaii. They eventually get geared up and get shipped back out, again. This time they crash land in the ocean and most of the crew dies. Eventually the Japanese find them and take them as prisoners.

Many are upset because this didn’t get a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Well for 1) Boo hoo and 2) the reason it didn’t get a Best Picture nomination because it was mildly boring. This is a great film. It has some great inspirational parts. It shows very tasteful violence, rather the in your face visuals like Saving Private Ryan or Fury. It also has some decent character development for the main characters. The MAJOR down side is that it has painfully long scenes where it’s nothing but scenery or waiting for something to happen. Like the first 30 minutes of the movies basically portrays the young Zamperini as a young douche, but a justifiable douche since people can’t seem to find better things to do in the 50s then to live up to stereotypes and beat on the only Italian kid in town. The next 10 are about his Olympic achievements and him going into the air force during WW2. After that it’s about a HOUR of them sitting on a rafter and suffering from sunburn, dehydration, and eating birds or fish raw.

Later in the film he gets caught by the Japanese. They basically beat the shit out of him for the next our in various fashions. More stuff happens. The guards there play mindgames. Eventually Mutsuhiro ‘The Bird’ Watanabe is introduced and is the main antagonist from then on. In all honesty not a whole lot happens. Yes, it shows the resilience of Mr. Zamperini and his flat out determination to not be broke by a bunch of sadistic people, and you know, not die. But I’m sure we’ve all seen this before.

Jack O’Connell was great as a smart-ass ish kinda role while still portraying Zamperini as a very level headed man in extreme conditions. His best scene was with the main antagonist. His face poured hatred for the man, but sat there with dignity while Watanabe said he got a promotion. Domhnall Gleeson was good as Zamperini’s friend Phil, however there wasn’t much to the role. He, like Zamperini, was basically whipped the crap out of a lot. He was the softer soul during some of the more intense scenes and did them very well. Takamasa Ishihara was the infamous Watanabe. He was probably one of the more stand out performances from the movie. He did a great job portraying someone totally sadistic and just out right strange at times.

This is a great inspirational story, but it’s rather boring due to the drawn out scenes. Yes it has a positive message of ‘never give up on yourself,’ but we’ve seen it before. Also with this being a World War 2 movie I kinda found it to be drab. Do we really need to be reminded we fought the Japanese again? On top of that there are better WW2 prison movies, like The Great Escape. For a more positive note: it’s BEAUTIFULLY shot, fantastic music scores and has some great acting in it. It’s worth watching in theaters or at least once.

6.5/10

Must Come Down Movie Review

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WARNING: SPOILERS

Ashley is a bit of a free spirit who’s just trying to find a good time and his way through life. After quitting his job to travel he’s traveling back to his home town to revisit past memories. Holly just recently got dumped by her boyfriend. She’s also looking for a new job and is confused as to what to do with her life. The two meet at a bus stop and eventually start talking. They bond and help each other over come emotional obstacles.

So I usually don’t like indy movies because they feel pandering or the story is either repetitive of something from it’s genera. This thankfully wasn’t that. It’s a simple love story between two lost souls and kinda dorky people who just want to be loved. For the most part it’s all about subtle moves. Like Holly will lay on the blatant hints of wanting more then a friendship. Then Ashley would brush it off, but would kinda acknowledge it the next day. It was like a cute disjointed teen romance. There’s one scene where she hugged him and started to cry. Then as he left he looked emotionally drained. I honestly think he knew he made a mistake.

To a certain extent there isn’t much of a story. It’s mostly quick montages of people goofing off together. Yes it seems to deal with Ashley’s social awkwardness, but he doesn’t seem all that bad off. He does mention his parents getting divorced, but it seemed to lack detail. It’s obvious Holly just wants to be in love again but would probably be better suited just keeping calm for a while. It does seem to capture the uncertainty of life, that bad alone feeling, and how great it is to just find someone.

PEW PEW!!

PEW PEW!!

The scenic outlay of most of the shots are brief and capture simple details. They’re nicely shot and the simpler they are capture more of the moment between the characters. Its quick cuts go directly to what the other characters were previously talking about and usually winds up hilarious. The musical pacing is great. It reminds me of Garden State because it didn’t use orchestra music to heighten some emotional scene. It would interject random indy bands and it always seem to help make smooth transitions between the characters, especially at parts with no dialogue.

First off I’ll acknowledge my bias towards Ashly Burch. Yeah I like her acting, and voice acting. I originally started watching her in Hey Ash Whatcha Playin. Which she plays Ashly Burch, the character, who’s debatably clinically insane. So this was a little more normal for her. She did well as a worried emotional trainwreck without giving into some of the old acting cliches of the romance genera. There was only one scene of hers that I think she UNDER played, but the script might have been written that way. David Fetzer was funny to watch as a flighty guy who just seemed to like to coast through life. He was weirdly likeable. If anything his character reminds me of ‘that guy’ at all the parties. He’s weird, he dances to his own beat, and thinks about everything a lot. Liberty Cordova was a cute addition to the cast. Her brief parts gave a ditzy kinda feel. It was brief, but cute. Colin Fugit had about 10 lines in the whole movie and he was probably the weakest of the group. Yeah he played a scumbag character but it seemed stale or hesitant. But eh, it doesn’t mean he won’t get better. Most of the other actors had small parts so its difficult to critique them all.

This is a heartwarming movie despite it’s SLOW pace. The cast plays their characters out well and seem earnest. The music was a awesome addition to the movie. It was probably a bunch of indy bands, but every song laced the scene and feeling of the moment so well it’s weirdly soothing. The scenic shots are light and done very well with natural lighting without too much visual interference. Despite it not ending the way I would liked it to, it’s still a beautifully melancholy romance movie for people who struggle to move on. It’s something us diehard romantics wish we could experience at least once, for a little while. For me its something I’d watch on a rainy day.

It’s available as a digital download, to rent, or you can buy a physical copy at their website.

7.5/10

Exodus: Gods and Kings Movie Review

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King Seti is dying and about to pass the throne on to Ramses. His best friend, and high adviser, Moses has plans that need to be carried out for the people of Egypt and sustain the kingdom. Ramses gets side tracked with rumors and enjoying his rule over the Jewish people. Ramses finds out that Moses is a Jew and has a sister. He gets upset by this and casts Moses out. In turn Moses wonders the desert until he finds a remote village that takes him in. Then one night while looking for his lost sheep he believes he encounters God and is told about his peoples suffering.

Most religious films piss me off with their canned acting, terrible dialogue, just feeling dated, or spending too much time focusing on the terrible things that happened. Much like most of Charlton Hestons movies, and acting. Yes, I know I’m taking a pot shot at someone huge, but I’m just as entitled to my opinion just as you are to disagree with my opinion. This surprised me by striking a balance between history and the religious tones without coming off as oppressively preachy or depressing. Also I don’t understand the stupid controversy huffed up about this movie. “Hurr they didn’t hire Egyptian Actors!” Well hue hue hue to you too. No disrespect to the International Egyptian Actors community, but I don’t know of any Egyptian actors, even from the Golden Era of cinema. Also this is directed by Ridley Scott for fucks sake. He isn’t going to hire nobodies or poor actors for his films. He hired all really well rounded actors and got good performances out of all of them.

The movie is beautifully scenic. A lot of the shots add a huge amount of atmosphere to various dramatic scenes and almost looked painted. However this draw back to this is that some really beautiful shots will take up a good bit of time. Yes it sets a soothing mood, but I feel it’s strange since in the next few scenes Moses will be wielding a sword and killing people left and right. Another odd thing is that when the plagues descended upon Egypt they spent only a small amount of time on it, which is fine, but I don’t feel they made it as gruesome as it was made out to be in the Bible. Sure they didn’t want to make it too rough for a Christmas movie, but it really devastated the economy of Egypt and it was only given maybe 5 minutes of the film. I’m not saying they needed to show the gore, but telling a little more of the impact would have helped. Like they had a great scene where random poor people broke into a wheat storage building and starting stealing the wheat. Now of course the empire retaliates by setting them on fire. In turn it burns half of the wheat in the building. If it gave more examples of the chaos that ensued I think it would have helped the film out. The only other real weakness of this film is that we’ve seen/heard this one before at least once. With a heavily Jewish influence in the media today it’s difficult not to notice.

Christian Bale gives a solid performance. Oddly enough it mirrors some of his more serious roles while still having a solemn and calm undertones. Joel Edgerton was moody and did well displaying subtle rage without looking canned. It’s one of the more difficult ones to do since everyone seems to think ever you over do it or looking more constipated then angry. John Turturro is always a reliable actor. He’s one of my favorite bit actors, but this performance wasn’t one of his best. I don’t know if the role was written to seem stuffy, but it seemed off with everyone behaving with a little more of a natural feel then, well, him. Ben Mendelsohn did a great job appearing as a elites asshole who really loved power, and considerably racist. Most everyone else had minor bit parts and I don’t feel right to critique them on maybe less then 10 lines in the entire movie.

I enjoyed this film, even for a religious piece. It was structurally balanced and had enough themes to warrant it as a Christmas movie. So it wasn’t too graphic. The acting was decent with a strong performance from the main characters. The only major weakness it has is that if you pay attention to anything American, or Christian, or any kind of Christmas movie ever, then you’ve probably heard this story before. If you like this kinda movie, or the actors, then I’d see it at least once.

6.5/10

Birdman Movie Review

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WARNING: Mild Spoilers

Birdman centers around Riggan. He’s a Hollywood actor who’s fallen out of the spotlight and is struggling to make a comeback. Along the way you discover his other problems and failures. It also covers the story of multiple actors and the madness that happens behind the scenes of a play. For every aspect that goes into this film its central theme is that they all struggle with a sense of lost fame or just flat out growing older. So it feels like a mid-life crises movie for the theater crowd. Then it lightly touches with others frustrations like unwavering movie critics or a daughter they don’t have time for. The madness truly sets in when their main actor gets hurt.

I love weird movies with social and political commentary, but this was a hit and miss to me. Either the jokes were middle school grade crass or very artistically done. The jump between the differences is smooth, but unpredictable. That’s fine, but the crass jokes hamper the artistic style and flow of the film. The other neat thing is that everyone had a joke, regardless of quality, in the film. I thought this was cool since usually in most films it’s only one guy, or small group, being the catalyst for the jokes. But no, everyone was funny at least a few times.

On top of that this is a completely beautifully shot film. It has nearly no cuts in it and looks like one continuous shot. This almost made me feel like I was one of the cast members, although it had a voyeuristic feel since none of them ever interacted with the camera. The extreme closeups of the characters did add to a sense of ‘being in the moment’ with the character. It emphasized that the audience should be paying attention to the characters rather then the background. This was a neat aspect, but the background was hideously distracting since there is a insane amount of detail in just about every scene. One example is when Riggan is talking to his now ex-girlfriend and talking about how they would be bad parents.

The only thing I couldn’t stand about the film, unfortunately, was half the stories political and social commentary. I’ve heard it all before, multiple times, so it came off as completely boring to me. One part of the movie Sam (Emma Stone) freaks out on her Dad, Riggan. She states that he doesn’t matter anymore and pretty much states what he does doesn’t matter. Its a glaring commentary of people innate need to be or feel wanted, when in a dark truth none of them matter to a certain extent. So if you have the slightest clue as to what nihilism is, then this is glaringly obvious to you. Other times it hates on the audience, which is completely hilarious, but it’s still the same boring argument. Either the audience is made of art snobs like the Tabitha character or they just want a shit ton of violence and explosions which is something you hear a few times in Riggans internal rants. Both have validity, both have a important statement to make, but seriously I’ve heard it a zillion times before.

This is probably one the best all around cast performances that I’ve seen all year, maybe even in a long time. Michael Keaton probably gave one of the best performances in his career in this one. He was manic and strange and did it at sporadic levels. It was really well done and convincing. Emma Stone did a grand job looking like a complete washout with some social conscience. This was refreshing since she always picks the goody two shoes roles and how it was written was great. Most druggie characters are either the comic relief or completely assholes to the point where I don’t think I’d care if they recover or not. With her acting and the way the character is written it really does drive home how she’s just struggling to deal with everyone and life itself. Even when she expresses her fear that she doesn’t matter was rather heart wrenching. Zach Galifianakis was fantastic in this semi-dramatic role. Usually he gets handed a role that makes me wonder about the characters emotional or mental stability. This role helped prove he has range. Naomi Watts, like her other performers, is here and there. However in this one she shinned as a struggling performer who’s trying to keep it all together with a weird boyfriend and still make a living. Edward Norton was great as usual, but he’s a like Guy Pearce, Helen Mirren, or John Goodman. They rarely suck in any of their performances. To see a substandard performance would be rare and unusual. Jeremy Shamos and Damian Young shared bit roles, and were funny. However it was a shame they didn’t have more screen time. Also last, but not least, is Andrea Riseborough. She was fantastically creepy as the super unstable girlfriend and as a performer who was too into acting.

The cast and crew should be thoroughly pleased with themselves. They’ve made a hell of a film that covers vast topics in a really cramped time frame. I am forced to give it a lower rating though because I’ve heard it all before. To me it’s like talking to a green peace guy who cries about the environment but then doesn’t go out and plant trees, or any other kind of foliage for that matter, to offset the CO2 caused by pollution hes just complained about. So it’s kinda like more pretentious crying, but I can’t say that as a absolute considering it presents a lot of the philosophical topics in a different light. Even if I didn’t care for it it was done very well with clever black comedy. Also the black comedy is so well done it even gave me a warm cynical smile sometimes without feeling shitty. This is noteworthy since black comedy usually more grotesque or even mean to the point of many people, with a soul, end up hating the punchline.

This is a great thinking film. If you want to find yourself asking questions about life, love, fame, and self importance long after the film, then watch this. This might even be a good piece to analyze later in some art class or a philosophy class. Regardless you should probably see this at least once for the balance character development and the great performance by everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE.

8.0/10

Fury Movie Review

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WARNING: SPOILERS

It’s sometime during World War 2 and a tank battalion loses everyone but one tank. In the mists of the fight one of the crew members gets killed. So they roll into the nearest US base and are immediately assigned a new gunner. Unfortunately, he’s a typist and doesn’t know a thing about tanks. They haze the rookie by making him clean out their gut and blood covered tank hoping it would toughen him up to what he’s about to face.

I liked this movie, but it was very intensely gory. This is basically Saving Private Ryan if the beaches of Normandy lasted for 2 hours and 30 minutes. Some areas don’t involve the in your face gore, but it shows it very subtly. Which is neat since most movies now-a-days are either shaking the camera in order to give it a ‘realistic’ feel or showing blood and guts every 6 seconds and so in your face for so long it becomes obnoxious. This shows a image and the gore is hidden in the image. It’s weird, but it slowly builds up a very dreary and morose atmosphere. Like there’s one scene where it’s showing a artistic shot of a tank rolling through mud. If you look long enough you can see the uniform of a soldier. Then as it slowly rolls over the uniform it can clearly be seen that the soldier is still in it, but others have run over him about a million times already. It’s gross and brutal, but it shows the unforgiving nature of war rather then spend half the movie about the soldiers wanting to go home, like many others do.

The thing I liked about this film the most was the different characters. They didn’t rely off of stereotypes or tropes of most war movies. In turn it gave many of them a more genuine feel. Like Jon Bernthal (Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis) was a hardcore redneck who knew he wasn’t ever going to be rich and wasn’t worth for much other then labor or, as he put it a few times, killing. This isn’t seen much in movies, or at least this kind of character isn’t given that much screen time. Many war movies they are the first to go insane and become just another ‘bad guy’ and get killed. Shia LaBeouf (Boyd “Bible” Swan) was a crazed Bible thumper who is suffering from various parts of PTSD while still trying to do his job. This is another one you don’t see too often merely on the fact that strongly religious people are either mocked, chastised by newly found atheist allies, or flat out made to look like their completely insane. While it was obvious he had problems, the character didn’t wane from his beliefs and still respected his fellow allies. Even if they gave him a weird looks while he recited Bible verses they respected him enough to keep their mouth shut. Brad Pitt (Don “Wardaddy” Collier) was a cool to the core Sergeant who didn’t give any fancy “we’re going to win” speeches. This, from my experience, are what seasoned veterans are like. They might not be as cold, but they weren’t like Patton, who was a little flashy. Logan Lerman was the everyman. Instead of having long speech about how killing was wrong and how he had to do it for whatever reason his change was gradual and without dramatizations. Which was nice to see. Due to all this it built a foundation for a more believable look into soldiers lives during wartime. Michael Pena was basically the guy with really bad PTSD and sever depression. Now in a lot of movies he’d go insane or be given a medical discharge from the movie, then never seen from again. This was refreshing because it showed they could be worked with while doing their job.

While it included a slew of familiar faces, and A Lister Brad Pitt, I’d say everyone did exceptionally well. Brad Pitt did a great job playing a hard nosed war machine who pretty much knew what he was doing and how to corral a bunch of rough necks. Shia LaBeouf did exceptionally well as the stressed out religious Bible thumper and seemed extra weird for this performance. Jon Bernthal needs to stop impressing me or I might start rallying behind the guy to get him a Oscar nod. He’s demonstrated a various amount of range from the movies I’ve seen him in, especially since he was a nervous wreck in the last film I saw him in: Snitch. While, yes, he is usually cast as a bad guy in this movie he’s the redneck who’s crass to everyone and was rather convincing. He was great as one of the good guys who knows what good is but does it in his own way. Logan Lerman has always been a subtle leading man while picking roles who were more conservative then the characters they interacted with. So this married up to his other roles, but it was a stronger performance due to the subject matter. Michael Pena was good as the standard depress and over worked soldier, but many will have seen this performance before. However when he does get lines he nails them out of the park and makes the character different enough to warrant the audiences attention. Other then that everyone’s elses role was small, but not negligible. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to compliment or constructively criticize others, but the movies doesn’t much leave the tank they are in.

Fury is above average when it comes to WW2 movies. This is a very worn genera, but this breaths new life into these kinds of movies just by simply telling a different kind of story. It’s different approach in character development, its presentation of the tragedies involved, and even the way it shows other perspectives of war without making the people involved look psychotic is welcoming. All of the acting involved was top notch. The visuals were stunning, grotesque, and a little different then most. All in all this is a great WW2 film and it would be a good idea to add it to your collection once it comes out.

7.5/10