Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood Trailer



This already got a seven minute standing ovation at Cannes today (or yesterday)

Can Quentin Tarantino do any wrong? Any whatsoever?

I'm beginning to think not.

Review: "John Wick 3" lands every single shocking punch

John Wick 3 Review
It seems like years ago when we saw John Wick (Keanu Reeves) pull Daisy the dog out of her kennel, a promise of a brand new happy life away from his wife who died of cancer. Wick was a former hitman. He met the woman of his dreams. He wanted out of the business. His handlers agreed, but at a price. Wick had to perform one last hit, a hit meant to be a suicide mission. His handlers didn't think he'd survive, but alas he did. Then something happened that we never see in movies like this, his handlers let Wick retire, asking the underworld never to bother him again. For some reason the lead handler never told his hotheaded son. His son had an altercation with Wick which lead to Wick's dog being murdered during a home invasion. Wick got his revenge, then had to kill his way back out of the life.

When we pick up with Wick on his third adventure, he seemingly hasn't stopped running with the dog he rescued at the end of the first movie. In the second movie, Wick kills a member of the High Table; a high-ranking cabal of assassins. There is now a $14 million bounty on Wick's head, and he tries to meet a member of the High Table on the other side of the world known as The Elder (Said Taghmaoui) to get the bounty waived, if he can survive to get over there that is.

The "John Wick" movies have always been relentless action movies, and I'm sure that is how they are going to stay, until the franchise no longer makes money. They stick out because of the high kinetic energy of the action scenes. Not to mention a group of all-star actors who make this movie better than it ever needed to be. This third chapter in particular includes Lawrence Fishburne, Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Asia Kate Dillon, Mark Dacascos, Jason Mantzoukas, Robin Lord Taylor as well as my favorite martial artist at the moment Yayan Ruhian. That list of actors includes returning members of the franchise as well as new members, and like I said, they give it their all. They make sure this franchise counts, but they never bottle up the notion that they are having loads of fun. 

But of course the star of this franchise is still Keanu Reeves. I don't know if it was the character he was drawn to or what, but Reeves is doing some of the best work in his career. Yes, I include Nero there too. He's never seemed this alive, this rabid to doing work. I have always thought Keanu Reeves was one of those actors who seemed half-asleep in all of his movies, but there is something about Wick that has woken him up, and he's been leaving a blazing trail ever since. At this point, I can't imagine anybody else in this role except him.

It seems the action evolves with each new movie. Part of the fun of sitting down to watch each new John Wick chapter is to see how the action changes. The first two had lots of shootouts and this third film is special due to its hand-to-hand, close quarters combat. The fights have become incredibly and impeccably visceral, and they could very well rival those of "The Raid" series from Indonesia.

If this ending has anything to be concerned with, this series isn't going anywhere anytime soon. As long as the acting stays sharp and the action stays solid, this franchise isn't going anywhere.

FINAL GRADE: A   

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Review: "Climax" is both a gift and a curse in equal measure

Climax Review

By mere coincidence, I have now seen two new 2019 movies that both begin with a close-up on a TV surrounded by pop culture that gives the audience clues for what they are about to watch. The first one was "Us." As I sat in the theater to watch "Us" back in March, I did have a good cackle to myself when they did their TV close-up scene. It was funny to see the spines of VHS "The Goonies" and "C.H.U.D." and "The Man With Two Brains" and if you know those movies, its funny to reflect on how they played into Jordan Peele's thinking. It is an odd coincidence that Gasper Noe starts his film the exact same way. We see a TV watching audition tapes for dancers contending to join a dancing troupe. Surrounding the TV is a copy of "Suspiria," a copy of "Eraserhead," a copy of "Possesstion," a documentary about schizophrenia and so much more, and yes it all plays into the darkened nightmare Gasper Noe has planned for you.

If you dig international cinema, you have probably heard of Gasper Noe. He is a crazy misanthrope from France, and whether you like or dislike his movies, they stick with you. The film that put him on the map (for better or for worse) was "Irreversible" from 2002. Anybody who doesn't watch foreign movies probably knows just how notorious this movie is. Whether the smashing of someone's head with a fire extinguisher or the most disturbing, graphic and heartbreaking sexual assault ever, "Irreversible" isn't a movie you forget. Despite the imagery, it is a profound character study on we are powerless to stop our futures, and how precious time is. "Enter The Void" is a visual dream, and also highlights the weird strengths Noe possesses. I haven't seen his third film yet, but it sounds like a typical Noe movie.

His fourth film is "Climax", and much like Noe's previous movies, it speaks in the language of nightmares. But its also a hypnotic fairy tale, even from the beginning. After the TV scene with the dancers, we begin to see each dancer, and each dancer has their own style, their own mastery of a particular style of dance. Its a very interesting way to get to know the characters without any spoken words at a time. The actors are not giving words, they aren't delivering through exposition, they are telling us who they are through their dance moves. Its a bold choice and it throws us into the world of dance. Or I should say, the world of this dance troupe. The troupe has got together for a rehearsal at an abandoned school. Not only is there bumping music and dancing, but there is some after-rehearsal drinking of sangria.

Nobody knows at first that somebody has laced the sangria with LSD. That's how the movie plunges you into nightmare mode. There is a kind of "whodunit" mystery as the dancers try to figure out who among them did this to them. But when a pack of unhinged, anxiety-fueled dancers on LSD trying to solve a mystery goes about as well as you could possibly fathom that it does. And right away, Noe smothers your face in the filthy of the idea. A dancer urinates on the floor, an alleged pregnant dancer gets her stomach kicked multiple times, and at that point, Noe is just getting started. Although oddly enough, I will say this, this is probably the tamest movie Gasper Noe has ever created, and if you have any interest to the guy, this would be the perfect gateway into his career.

Most of the cast is comprised of dancers who have never acted before. The most recognizable face in the movie is Sofia Botella, who was the villain in the first "Kingsman: The Secret Service" movie and she was also in the new Mummy. The overall cast does a pretty good job selling the idea that the people all got accidentally hooked on LSD. While we don't see what the dancers are seeing, we see how their bodies begin to acclimate to the drug. For a movie that was inspired by films like "Eraserhead" and "Suspiria," I figured we'd be in for some trippy imagery. But honestly, ask yourself, what is scarier? Seeing the images of an LSD trip or watching somebody wig out DUE to an LSD trip?

I will say that despite the madness that descends on these wry dancers, it does feel overly-long watching these dancers fall further and further down the Rabbit Hole. But perhaps that's the point. The movie looks like it was made on one continuous take, the uneasy coloring of each scene, the throbbing music, is all enough to make you feel like you are there experiencing all of this with them. But if you really can't get much feeling at all watching a bunch of people screaming to themselves, well you are probably going to wonder what the point of it all was.

Gasper Noe is such an imagery artist that there are moments that have stuck with me throughout the movie and even when you love or hate the movies Noe makes, it seems like they stick with you no matter what. The movie stops in various places to show quotes. One reads "Life is a collective impossibility," another reads "death is an extraordinary experience" and another reads "existence is a fleeting illusion" and all three of those quotes haunts the movie in some way. This is one of the few Gasper Noe movies that wasn't boo'd out at Cannes last year, so I guess that has that going for it. With all the information presented, I will let you decide if this sounds like a great idea or not.

FINAL GRADE; C

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Maleficent 2: Mistress of Evil trailer



A sequel no one asked for to a movie no one asked for. Hooray!

Midsommar Second Trailer

Only Ari Aster could take bright lights and colors and still make them creepy.

I did read the script for this a few months ago, and the thing I hoped for the most was that not much, if anything at all, changed from script to movie. The script I read was written two years ago, and that means there could have been an avalanche to a handful of rewrites. Thankfully, that doesn't look like the case. Perhaps A24 has given Aster some great freedom in bringing his visions together and now I am as rabid as I was a few months ago.




These trailers have been stunning, just stunning. July can hurry up and get here now!

Monday, May 13, 2019

"It: Chapter Two" trailer

So I am not entirely sure why this movie is being called "Chapter 2" because unless there is some serious editing or a big plan I am not aware of, there isn't going to be any other chapters after this. When Stephen King wrote the book, there was a time involving kids and a time when the kids grew up to fight Pennywise again. Because they didn't do a good enough job killing him as children. That was the story. So putting it in chapters seems funny.

This new trailer is longer than usual. We get a nice long look at an iconic scene from the book. Beverly Marsh visits her old home upon returning to Derry. There is an old woman who lives there and invites her in. Long story short, the old woman is Pennywise in disguise, in the books Beverly was afraid of the old witch from Hansel and Gretel and her old home eventually begins to look like the sweet house from the book. Also, in the book, the tea she drinks is actually shit. Literal shit. Because you know, Pennywise lives in the sewers and all. In the trailer, Bev makes a strange face after taking a sip of the tea, so I wonder if they left the shit in the movie?

The trailer is very affective and I am curious to see how they end it. According to interviews, tons of iconic stuff from the book is getting put into this new movie and I think fans are going to be blown away by what they are about to see.


Review: "Long Shot" is a perfect mix of raunchy and romantic

Long Shot Review
We all have that one that got away. That person who you fell hard for, the one that could have possibly changed the entire trajectory of your life had you just asked them out. Our lives are just a series of moments and how we react to those moments defines who we are. We rarely get second chances in anything, so we usually have to get it right the first time, and we sometimes don't even know what that first time is, and how to even get it right.

Seth Rogen plays Fred Flarsky, a journalist who is down on his luck after being released from his employer after a shady article. By chance, he meets an old flame while out with his new employer. That old flame is Charlotte Field, played by Charlize Theron. Field just so happens to be the Secretary of State. When they were young, Field babysat Flarsky, and Flarsky developed a huge crush for his babysitter. So much so that he worked up the courage to kiss her. This led to an embarrassing set-back that changed his life forever and he never got a chance to see Field afterward, until then. Field is Secretary of State for President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk, funny as always) who has decided to go make a career in Hollywood instead of run for a second term, which leaves the door open for the 2020 election, and Field is planning on running. She hires Flarsky to write her speeches after reading some of his columns, which may spark a romance.

Of course, this starring Rogen, Theron, Odenkirk and even O'Shea Jackson Jr, this isn't the ordinary romantic comedy. Sure, it may be structured like the typical romantic comedy. But allow me to assure you that its anything but. This is the raunchiest comedy to come out in awhile. As Flarsky takes the job to write the speeches, him and Field reconnect. They get to know each other, trying to pick up where they left off. They eventually discuss more personal stuff and take their relationship to the next level. The sex scenes feature some of the dirtiest humor I've seen in awhile, but it was kind of welcoming. I thought the R-rated raunchy comedy had died, apparently it was only on vacation. With Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron in the charge (and she's actually slyly funny when given the chance) this becomes better than average.

The work done by Rogen and Theron is really what keeps the thing going. Sure, they are surrounded by a great supporting cast. There are plenty of great actors who pop up here and there, but the focus is on Rogen and Theron, and they keep you laughing. As far as Rogen's persona is concerned, well you are either in or your out at this point. Most comedy guys stick to a routine, for better or for worse. Rogen isn't reinventing himself here, so if you don't like his style, he isn't going to redeem himself. I personally find him funny, so it didn't bother me. Charlize Theron continues to prove that she can literally do anything she wants, all the power to her.

Bonus points are rewarded to June Diane Raphael and Ravi Patel who play Field's staffers. They appear as typical antagonists towards Flarsky, the type of characters we usually see populating this kind of comedy. But their characters get a couple of twists, and they are flat out funny. They take characters who are rather one-dimensional and breath life into them and the results are spectacular.

For a sub-genre that has played it safe and has repeat itself many times over the years, "Long Shot" feels like fresh air. A glass of cold water after spending a month on a desert plain. Its a goofball time, and it turns on the sleaze to high volume in some places. But if that comedy works for you, this is something to catch ASAP.

FINAL GRADE :B+