Film Review “The Djinn”

Written and Directed by David Charbonier and Justin Powell
Starring: Ezra Dewey, Rob Brownstein, Tevy Poe, John Erickson, Donald Pitts, Jilbert Daniel, Omaryus Luckett, Collin Joe and Isaiah Mansfield
Studio: IFC Midnight
Running Time: 82 minutes

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

When I see a movie coming out from IFC Midnight, my interest always immediately peaks! When I saw that there was a new movie centered around the supernatural Djinn, I got even more excited. I knew I had to see this film ASAP. It packs a fantastic synthesizer score, which I wish was used more. I would have loved to seen The Djinn more in it’s supernatural form but the film kind of cop-outs by transforming the Djinn into human form. I think it could have been much creepier if it was in demon form but I assume it was due to budget. Overall, the score works well to deliver great suspense, especially with the crying mom. “The Djinn” is definitely worth a watch despite it’s likely budgetary issues.

Young actor, Ezra Dewey, definitely does a great job here. He also worked with writers/directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell on their last film “The Boy Behind the Door”. I can see why they wanted to work with him again. I see this kid having a bright future in the business. He literally carries this entire film himself as the only other case is his father and the humans that the Djinn embodies from photos in the apartment. I

Official Premise: The story follows a mute twelve-year-old, Dylan Jacobs, as he discovers a mysterious book of spells inside his new apartment. Grieving the loss of his mother, and feeling isolated from everyone except for his father, Dylan performs a ritual that promises to deliver his heart’s desire: to have a voice. But he soon discovers that every gift has a toll when a sinister djinn arrives to collect his soul. Now trapped in his new home with nowhere to hide, Dylan must find a way to survive until the stroke of midnight or pay the ultimate price.

Overall, the small apartment in the film is the only location for this film, which leads to this claustrophobic feel that the film has. Due to this small space, it delivers some solid suspense for our young lead trying to escape the creature throughout the hour in order for his wish to be granted. The twist is worth the watch as well. I appreciate a good twist in horror films and this one definitely delivers. I just wish we had the Djinn more in it’s creature form because this could have been much scarier if we had a looming figure rather than a human hunting our lead.

Opening in New York at the IFC Center, Los Angeles at Laemmle NoHo7 and Select Theaters Nationwide on Friday May 14th. The film will also be available on digital/VOD everywhere you rent movies.

Film Review “Wrath of Man”

Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Jason Statham, Holt McCallany, Jeffrey Donovan, Josh Hartnett, Laz Alonso, Raúl Castillo, DeObia Oparei, Eddie Marsan, Scott Eastwood
Distributed by: United Artists Releasing
Running time: 119 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When you put director Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham in the same room, great things are bound to happen. “Wrath of Man” marks the fourth collaboration of the duo following Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), Snatch (2000), and Revolver (2005). “Wrath of Man” is a non-stop fast paced rollercoaster ride. It’s a shoot first ask questions later kind of movie. Speaking of shooting, boy, is there a lot of shooting in it! Just from the trailer alone you could have expected that though. What’s good about this movie is that the trailer sold it for me yet without giving away too much.

Official Premise: A mysterious and wild-eyed new cash truck security guard (Jason Statham) surprises his coworkers during a heist in which he unexpectedly unleashes precision skills. The crew is left wondering who he is and where he came from. Soon, the marksman’s ultimate motive becomes clear as he takes dramatic and irrevocable steps to settle a score.

Guy Ritchie is coming off last year’s The Gentlemen, which was another must-see gem! This film keeps the fire hot and allows Statham to continue his career as being Hollywood’s badass. He is so cool and collected through this film that he makes you nervous for him. Holt McCallany, aka FBI Special Agent Bill Tench on the Netflix series Mindhunter, gets a chance to deliver a solid role as well. I like this dude and I like that he gets to shine here. Josh Hartnett also pops up in the film, feels like we haven’t seen him doing anything recently, so it’s cool to see him kicking ass as well. Also music fans should keep an eye for a quick cameo from Post Malone.

I didn’t know this but this is based off the 2004 French thriller Le Convoyeur (aka Cash Truck) by Nicolas Boukhrief. I am definitely interested in checking out that film now as well. Hopefully it is as badass as this film. Also the score, by Christopher Benstead, should also get some props cause it keeps you on the edge of your seat during the film’s twists and turns. Let’s hope that this doesn’t mark the last time that Statham and Ritchie work together because this is yet another winner for both of them.

Film Review “Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah”

CLAUDE LANZMANN: SPECTRES OF THE SHOAH
Directed by: Adam Benzine
Starring: Claude Lanzmann
Running time: 40 minutes
HBO

Claude Lanzmann has become a legendary figure in the world of filmmaking, and this documentary by Adam Benzine, which was nominated in the Best Documentary Short Subject category at the 2016 Oscars, is an attempt to try and distill Lanzmann’s life, and his greatest project, into a short movie. Of course, you would probably need a documentary as long as Shoah to properly tell his life’s story, but Benzine does a fantastic job here of getting the Frenchman to open up about his early life as well as the huge task that was the creation of that documentary. For those who have not heard of Shoah, it is a French documentary directed by Lanzmann that was released in 1985, which is a look at the Holocaust, through interviews with survivors, witnesses and perpetrators, as well as visits to Holocaust sites such as Treblinka and Auschwitz in Poland. The movie runs to 566 minutes; that is over nine hours long, and is a detailed and painstaking effort which won a BAFTA for Best Documentary, as well as a New York Film Critics Choice Award for Best Non-Fiction Film. It has been hailed as one of the best documentaries ever made on a subject of contemporary history, and thus it was apt that there was a documentary made on the making of this documentary.

Thus, we can see how this is already an iconic documentary, and it made waves recently for very different reasons as well, becoming the first major motion picture, as well as the first Oscar-nominated movie, to be released as a non-fungible token (NFT). Ten ‘first edition’ copies of the movie were offered for sale via the blockchain auction site Rarible, along with bonus items including access to a director’s cut of the movie, as well as unique digital posters. It is interesting that this movie became the first to join the NFT bandwagon, and this is another reflection of the growing trend towards crypto and blockchain in today’s world, where people can even, for example, visit bitcoin baccarat gambling site to place bets virtually through cryptocurrencies on casino games online.

Benzine gets Lanzmann to open up about his earlier life, including his youth when he was part of the French Resistance against German occupation in the Second World War. He also briefly speaks about his affair with Simone de Beauvoir, but the main focus of this documentary is the making of Shoah. It took him nearly 12 years to make the movie, having begun production and interviews in 1973, and he talks about the various challenges and the emotional burden of trying to get survivors of death camps to open up and relive their experiences for his movie. He also had to secretly track and film former SS officers illegally to have the perspective of the perpetrators in his movie, while it was another monumental task to try and create a cohesive narrative from the nearly 200 hours of footage that he had amassed. Benzine also managed to secure a lot of previously unseen footage from Shoah that did not make it to the final movie, but was showcased in this documentary, with the help of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, to try and tell Lanzmann’s story better.

Shoah was a groundbreaking movie in every way, and it is therefore fitting that Spectres of the Shoah is also a pioneer in some manner. This is an excellent documentary that tells the story of one of the greatest documentary movies ever made, and thus it is a must watch for movie fans, as well as fans of history, in any part of the world.

4K/Blu-ray Review: “Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV”

  • KINGSGLAIVE: FINAL FANTASY XV
  • Starring the voices of:  Aaron Paul, Lena Heady and Sean Bean
  • Directed by:  Takeshi Nozue
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 50 mins
  • SONY Pictures

I’m not much of a fan of films derived from video games, however I do appreciate “Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV” for its stunning digital art.

Shot in full motion-capture CGI, the film is a visual work of art with some fun voice acting. However, if you’re not familiar with the game or story, you may find it a bit overwhelming. I was not at all familiar with “Final Fantasy” but it was still cool to look at and marvel at its artistry.

Watching on a 4K UHD disc certainly makes the presentation even more amazing and the sound quality is pretty amazing. The beauty of the film is that when you first glance at the characters, they look amazingly real! The full motion capture is astounding.

As for the plot, to break it down lightly, the story takes place on a planet called EOS, which is like a futuristic Earth. There is a Kingdom called Lucis, which houses a magical crystal that was given to the Lucians by gods. The power is used to protect the people and give power to the ruling king and his soldiers, who are known as the Kingsglaive.  With these powers, the Kingsglaive can ward off enemies.

Anything that is magical and promises powers will surely arouse jealousy and create wars and the crystal is no exception. Friends are stabbed in the back, characters are not whom they say they are and mega monsters, demons and spaceships riddle the landscape.  Everything climaxes into one big, epic final battle, which leads up to “Final Fantasy XV,” the video game.  

Once again, the visuals are quite stunning. In fact, this film has some of the best motion capture and CGI work I’ve seen on the big screen with room shaking LFE activity that’ll give the subwoofers a workout. The level of detail is staggering. Hair stubble and skin pores are clearly visible and come to breathtaking life!

Even for the novice, a viewing of “Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV” will give you a glimpse of the technical achievements of current film technology. It is certainly the next step in motion capture animation.

Special Features

  • A Way With Words – Epic And Intimate Vocals
  • To Capture The Kingsglaive – The Process
  • Fit For A Kingsglaive – Building The World
  • Emotive Music – Scoring The Kingsglaive

Film Review: “Mortal Kombat”

  • MORTAL KOMBAT
  • Starring:  Lewis Tan and Josh Lawson
  • Directed by:  Simon McQuoid
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  1 hr 50 mins
  • Warner Bros.

I can hear the pitch now.  Couple of guys walk into Warner Bros. and layout their idea for a film based on the early 1990s video game MORTAL KOMBAT.  “It’ll be great,” they tell the studio boss.  ‘Every thirty year old with kids will want to take them to see a movie based on their favorite childhood video game.  And, because we obviously don’t know that kids can’t readily see an “R” rated film, we’ll fill it with vulgar language and buckets of blood!”  Mission accomplished.

The story in a nutshell:  bad-ass bad guy kills bad-ass good guy and his family, but doesn’t know there is a baby hidden under the house.  Centuries later, we meet Cole Young (Tan) who is, of course, an MMA fighter.  That loses.  A lot.  An orphan (of course again) Cole has a family of his own, including a young daughter who is his corner-person when he fights.  Sadly, despite her constant pleading, he won’t throw the uppercut, so he taps out a lot.  But even though he’s a loser in the octagon, Cole has one thing the other fighters don’t.  A strange dragon marking on his body.  What could it mean?

Poorly written – I imagine the script was basically there to put a few minutes between fight scenes – and way over the top, MORTAL KOMBAT is exactly the kind of film I wouldn’t want my 37 year old son to take his kids to.

The dialogue, what there is, is very heavy handed, with words of wisdom that fall on deaf ears.  Another issue with the dialogue is that some of the film is subtitled, with the subtitles telling you if the characters are speaking Japanese or Chinese.  Later in the film they drop identifying the dialect.  When one character speaks to Cole in, if we were paying attention, we know is Japanese we can’t help but hope for a subtitle that reads “I have no idea what you’re saying” (English).

While the fight scenes do liven up the film some, the violence is over the top.  Yes, in the video game you killed your opponent in nasty ways.  Usually your opponent would explode in a red burst and their bones would rain down.  Violent, yes.  But not like this.  Here heads are crushed with a bloody splat, limbs hacked off and various blades are buried deep inside bodies, only to be removed in a geyser of blood.  Heck, one character is split down the middle vertically with organs spilling out like quarters from a slot machine.  Definitely not the MORTAL KOMBAT I remember playing.

A loud, rambling blood-fest, MORTAL KOMBAT is a great concept gone horribly wrong. 

Streaming/Film Review: “Boys From County Hell”

  • BOYS FROM COUNTY HELL
  • Starring:  Jack Rowan, Fra Fee, Louisa Harland
  • Directed by:  Chris Baugh
  • Rated:  Unrated
  • Running time:  1 hr 30 mins
  • Shudder


“You gonna tell us to ‘Stay off the moors’?”

“This is Ireland, lad… there aren’t any moors.”


Eugene (Jack Rowan) and  William (Fra Fee) have been busy spending their days surviving unwanted construction work, racking up hearty pub tabs and swindling cash and beer from tourists at the grave site of Abhartach – a legendary Irish vampire who may have inspired Bram Stoker’s famous Dracula novel. After wrangling a duo of cash-rich Canadian Dracula-enthusiasts, Eugene alerts them to the local disdain for the infamous fictional character… insisting the pub from which they just departed ‘The Stoker’ is only named so to monetize the fact that Stoker pillaged their town and stole their local legend and reaped the fame and fortune.


     The undead are inadvertently invited to join the drinking festivities once again when the boys’ construction crew accidentally disrupts Abhartach’s grave and  a monstrous infection starts to spread through town, leaving the locals to face and overnight battle with the ORIGINAL legends. 

“Boys From County Hell” is a perfect cocktail of horror and comedy from start to finish.  A brief visit to sleepy, small-town Ireland where you’ll immediately want to open a tab and grab a pint with our misguided heroes even if their call to action means fighting vampires. Horror enthusiasts will immediately feel American Werewolf in London’s  Slaughtered Lamb vibes from  County Hell’s tourist-tailored watering hole but make no mistake, vampires are back and doing something entirely new and bringing a disarming level of gnarly gore out to play. These aren’t vampires that sparkle or seduce — these vamps are nightmare fuel and this film is simply delightful.


     A reminder to research the origins of monster legends: lest you find yourself fleeing bloodsuckers armed with dangerous misinformation.  “This is important shit to know.”


     “Boys From County Hell” will stream exclusively to Shudder on April 22nd in the US and Canada, as well as via the Shudder offering within the AMC+ bundle where available.

Film Review: “Mank”

  • MANK
  • Starring:  Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried and Arliss Howard
  • Directed by:  David Fincher
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  2 hrs 11 mins
  • Netflix

“Citizen Kane” is often regarded as the greatest film ever made.  Directed by “boy genius” Orson Welles, who was only 25 at the time, the film would receive nine Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture (Welles was also nominated as Best Director and Best Actor) the film won only one Oscar, Best Original Screenplay.  The award was given to Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz but, according to “Mank,” only one of the deserved the award.

We meet Herman Mankiewicz (Oldman) as he is brought into a home far from the big city.  Mank, as he is called, is recovering from an auto accident and has been hired by Orson Welles to write a story about a man obsessed with power but yearning for love.  As Mank begins dictating his script, we look back at various episodes in his life that have made him the man he is.

A true love letter to the movies of the Golden Age of Hollywood, “Mank” is an amazing recreation of those exciting times before World War II when talking and conversation were almost a commodity. 

Director Fincher, working from a screenplay by his late father, Jack, has captured everything about the films of that era, from the opening credits to the cue marks that appear in the corner of the screen to signify a reel change.  The script is well written (surprisingly this is Jack Fincher’s only produced screenplay) and the dialogue is pure poetry.

Mank is a man who loves his work, his liquor and his women, though not always in that order.  As he makes his way around Hollywood we are introduced to his fellow writers (Ben Hecht, S.J. Perelman and George S. Kaufman among them), Hollywood moguls like David O. Selznick, Irving Thalberg and Louis B. Mayer (an outstanding Arliss Howard, missing from the big screen for far too long).  We also meet the “boy genius” himself, but in this story Orson Welles (Tom Burke) is a secondary character, showing up occasionally to add his thoughts to Mank’s script. 

Oldman is perfect as Mank, accenting every nuance in his many monologues, whether he is sober or…not so sober.  His performance is truly award worthy, and I have him neck and neck with Chadwick Boseman for this year’s Best Actor Oscar.

But the big revelation here is Amanda Seyfried, who plays actress Marion Davies.  I’ve seen her in everything from the “Mama Mia” films to “Ted 2” to “Les Miz” to the underseen “Lovelace,” in which she made Linda Lovelace into a human being and not just a punchline, and have always enjoyed her but this is the first time she has completely inhabited a character.  She has been nominated for a Best Supporting /Actress Oscar for her performance here and rightly so.

Production wise, the film is beautiful to look at, with much credit going to cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt, an Oscar nominee for this, his first film as DP.  His cameras capture the era perfectly and it’s like going back in time.

Most movies about the movies are either hit or miss.  “Mank” is definitely a hit.

Film Review: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (2)

  • MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
  • Starring: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman
  • Directed by: George C. Wolfe
  • Rating: Rated R
  • Running Time: 1 HR 34 MINS
  • Netflix 

With the 93rd annual Academy Awards just days away, it is a good time to take a look at “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” a film unforgivably snubbed in the Best Picture category. Garnering a total of five nominations, “Ma Rainey’s” is a fantastic drama with a brilliant cast punctuated by memorable performances from Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman. 

Based upon the 1982 stage play by the late American playwright August Wilson (1945-2005) and wonderfully directed by George C. Wolfe (2005’s “Lackawanna Blues”), “Ma Rainey’s” is set on a hot and steamy July day in 1927 Chicago. Popular Georgia-born blues singer Gertrude “Ma” Rainey (Davis) is scheduled to record a song – “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” – for a pair of white producers anxious to make a profit off her music. 

Ahead of her much-anticipated arrival, Ma’s band arrives to prepare for the day’s recording session. Her musical quartet is made up of three seasoned veterans (Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman and Michael Potts) and an ambitious trumpet player named Levee Green (Boseman). Levee has a head full of dreams of becoming a star on his own, but his fellow players scoff at his ideas, at least until he tells them in a powerful scene about a disturbing racist experience he had while growing up. 

When Ma (Davis) arrives late there is heavy tension in the air, especially when it comes to her interaction with one of the white producers, Mel (Jonny Coyne, “The Blacklist”). Neither likes the other as Ma does not take any guff from anyone and Mel does not like her because she is black. In the middle is the other producer, Irvin (Jeremy Shamos, “Better Call Saul”) who will do anything to appease her. After many hiccups, the recording session finally begins but it is afterwards when the story’s haunting climax occurs. 

The real Ma Rainey lived from 1886-1939 and is often regarded as the “Mother of the Blues.” The Columbus, Georgia native was a force of nature in life and Davis drives this home with a tour de force performance that dominates the silver screen. It’s almost no wonder that Davis thrives so well on the script since she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2016’s “Fences,” another of Wilson’s works.

 Equally spellbinding to watch is Boseman whose last performance before his untimely passing is one never to be forgotten. His progression from a bravado-filled, star-seeking musician to a broken man seething with rage, pain, and frustration is done with amazing skill. It is arguably the best acting of his brief career and makes his death that much more tragic. 

Overall, “Ma Rainey’s” is an important, transformative work of cinema. How it was ignored in the Best Picture category is a travesty of the highest order.

Film Review: “Ma Rainey’s Black Botom” (1)

  • MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
  • Starring:  Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis and Glynn Turman
  • Directed by:  George C. Wolfe
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  1 hr 34 mins
  • Netflix

It’s a hot summer day in Chicago in the late 1920s.  In a small, enclosed room a group of musicians gather, waiting to back up a recording session for the tardy Ma Rainey (Davis), forever known as “the Mother of the Blues.”  Among the musicians is Levee (Boseman), a horn player with aspirations of musical fame of his own.  He’s tired of being part of a “jug band” and wants to introduce the musical world to a new style.  But he soon learns that Ma isn’t interested in a new style.  And what Ma says, goes.

Like “Fences” before it, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is a film adaption of an August Wilson play, again produced by Denzel Washington, who also produced, directed and starred in “Fences.”  “Ma Rainey” is directed by the amazing 15-time Tony Award nominee (and three time winner) George C. Wolfe.  Wolfe skillfully opens up the play on screen while keeping the performances front and center.  And what amazing performances they are.

Davis is tough as nails as Ma, a woman a lot smarter than some give her credit for.  She knows that her white producers only want her for her voice = that otherwise they would have nothing to do with her.  So she wields the power her voice gives her by making demands that must be met.  Whether it’s fetching her a Coke or ensuring that her nephew will appear on a record and get paid, she is as strong a Black woman as the times will allow.

The supporting cast of musicians are equally strong, especially when killing time by sharing stories of their musical past.  Turman, Michael Potts and Colman Domingo share their tales with great conviction and, occasionally, humor

As the session producer, Jeremy Shamos is both firm and bendable, depending on whether he’s dealing with his boss or Ma.

God bless Chadwick Boseman.  His star shone brightly with amazing work in films like “42,” “Get on Up” and, of course, “Black Panther.”  He left this world much too soon, but he left us with a performance that will be remembered forever.  Levee is a dreamer, but when his dreams are dismissed, or downright crushed, his jovial smiling face turns into a mask of anger, an anger that needs to be released.  Boseman, like Ms. Davis, has been Oscar nominated for his performance and they both richly deserves to win.

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is currently showing on Netflix.” 

Film Review: “Crisis”

  • CRISIS
  • Starring:  Gary Oldman, Armie Hammer and Evangeline Lilly
  • Directed by:  Nicholas Jarecki
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  1 hr 58 mins
  • Quiver Distribution

Even with the current pandemic circling around the globe, it isn’t alone in its destructive hold on the world.  You would have to be living on Mars to not be aware of the horrible Opioid problem that is still being faced by over 10 million people in the United States alone and is claiming the lives of almost 50,000 annually.  You would be correct in calling it a Crisis.

“Crisis” is the story of three very different people with very similar goals.  The film opens with a young man running for his life through a field of snow.  He is heading to America from Canada but is eventually stopped by the Border Patrol.  In his backpack they find $500,000 worth of Fentanyl.  Meanwhile, in nearby Montreal, Jake (Hammer) is setting up a deal with Mother (Guy Madon).  He and his Armenian partners are looking to score $3 million in Fentanyl, to be pressed into, and disguised as, vitamin pills.

Meanwhile, at a small college, Dr. Tyrone Brower is pushing back against recommending a drug created to stop pain but is described as being non-addictive.  Dr. Brower’s lab results tell him different but the school’s Dean (Greg Kinnear) urges him not to make waves as the pharmaceutical company manufacturing the drug are his biggest grant donors.

In Detroit, a mother’s worse nightmare come true when she is informed that her son has overdosed after consuming a handful of Oxycodone.  Grief stricken, the woman (Lilly) makes it her goal to find out where her son got the pills.  Eventually all three characters will be central to the story.

Well-paced by director and writer Nicholas Jarecki, who also has a role in the film, “Crisis” is a film with several twists and turns, each one taking your around the corner to another revelation.

Oldman, who is truly a chameleon on screen (he’s played everyone from a wannabe Rasta pimp in “True Romance” to Lee Harvey Oswald in “JFK” to Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour,” which won him the Academy Award for Best Actor).  Lilly is spot-on as the grieving mother who will do anything to find the answers she is looking for.

Hammer’s Jake is the most complex character.  As his story unfolds we learn he really isn’t who we thought he was.  We also learn that he has a sister who is hooked on drugs, which gives his character more impetus to carry out his plans.

The plot, based on a true story, jumps from one character to another fairly seamlessly, which is always a positive in a film with multiple story arcs.  If I had any complaints it would be Lilly turning into a one-woman detective squad and the fact that Mother sometimes loses his Canadian accent, curious because Mr. Madon is, indeed, Canadian.

Those little quibbles aside, “Crisis” is an enjoyable film and well recommended.  It also is proof, in this writer’s opinion, that they can’t sign Armie Hammer fast enough to play Batman!

Film Review: “Godzilla vs Kong”

  • GODZILLA vs KONG
  •  Starring:  Godzilla, King Kong, Alexander Skarsgard
  • Directed by:  Adam Wingard
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 53 mins
  • Warner Bros.

It’s March.  Do you have your brackets ready?  Who are you picking?  Rodan?  Mothra?  Typhon?  How about King Ghidorah?  With a name like that, how can he lose?  Quite easily it turns out.

Off the coast of Florida an unusual creature emerges from the ocean.  It’s our old pal Godzilla and he’s pretty pissed.  As CNN reports the news, they question what turned this once “friendly” monster into a…well…MONSTER?

Meanwhile, on Skull Island, King Kong is just minding his own business when he suddenly finds himself captured and flat on his back on a barge on the ocean.  Destination?  I’m not telling.

Short on story but HUGE on special effects, “Godzilla vs Kong” is a perfect example of the mindless entertainment we need right now.  Sure, Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler – who must really enjoying working with Mr. Kong since he also starred in Peter Jackson’s epic 2005 King Kong” – emote in all the right ways but come on, you came for the Titans!!

As the two title characters make their way towards the inevitable battle, they have some fun along the way, destroying cities and battling other badies.  Millions (conservative estimate) of innocent people are killed as entire city blocks full of apartment buildings are knocked over like dominoes.  But you don’t care about them – you cheer every punch and laser=breath blast, clearly taking sides in the Fight of the Century!

The film is well paced and the visual effects are amazing.  I just watched the original 1933 “King Kong” the other night and the effects here make the early stop-motion effects used in that film look like…well…early stop- motion effects.  The effects come courtesy of Peter Jackson’s WETA shop and are so clean you can count every hair on Kong’s back as the wind blows through it and every scale on Godzilla’s rather large body.

Sure, you could stay home this weekend and watch the basketball Final Four, or you can treat yourself to the Ultimate March Madness and see “Godzilla vs Kong!” 

Film Review: “The Violent Heart”

THE VIOLENT HEART

Starring: Jovan Adepo, Grace Van Patten

Directed by: Kerem Sanga

Rating: Unrated

Running Time: 1 HR 47 MINS

Gravitas Ventures 

The brutal murder of a young woman leaves a family in agony and for her little brother, an intense anger that while growing up is a powder keg ready to explode at any given moment. “The Violent Heart” is a dark crime drama with a dose of young romance that keeps your attention from start to finish. With fresh, young actors who have talent to spare and some nice twists and turns, “The Violent Heart” provides some nice entertainment for an evening at home. 

A nine-year-old boy named Daniel watches his older sister load a suitcase into a strange car and get in before it speeds off down the road in the middle of the night. Concerned, Daniel sets out after them on his motorbike. He spots the car sitting vacant on the side of the road. After shutting off his bike, Daniel hears voices in the nearby woods. Through the darkness, Daniel follows the sounds until he sees his sister and a man standing in a clearing. A pair of shots soon ring out and Daniel’s sister is dead. 

Fifteen years later, his sister’s unsolved murder hovers like a dark cloud above his family. Daniel (Jovan Adepo, “Fences”) now works as a mechanic while helping to take care of his mother (Mary J. Blige) and younger brother. However, he still desires a life in the Marine Corps like his father. On one fateful day, 18-year-old high school senior Cassie (Grace Van Patten, “The Meyerowitz Stories”) drops off her father’s car to be serviced. There is an instant attraction and a romance soon blossoms between them. 

Unlike Daniel, Cassie is close with her father, Joseph (Lukas Haas, “Inception”), who is an English teacher at her school. This fact makes an affair she uncovers all that much more devastating for her, but it does her closer to Daniel who has his own newfound struggles to deal with. Ultimately, “The Violent Heart” shows that no matter how deep secrets are buried, they seem to always rise back up to the surface. 

Written and directed by Karem Sanga (“First Girl I Loved”), “The Violent Heart” has steady pacing throughout with a pair of nice lead performances by Adepo and Van Patten. Adepo demonstrates solid depth as he portrays someone who erroneously fears that his life will amount to nothing if he does not get into the military. 

The film’s weaknesses can be found in a lack of serious relationship development between the characters within Daniel and Cassie’s immediate families. Therefore, we feel a sense of disconnection which makes it hard to be truly impacted when crisis hits the families towards the third act of the film. It is particularly disappointing that Daniel’s career military father is omitted from almost the entire story. 

Overall, “The Violent Heart” is well worth your time.

Film Review: “Sound of Metal”

  • SOUND OF METAL
  • Starring: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke
  • Directed by: Darius Marder
  • Rated: R
  • Running Time: 2 hrs
  • Amazon Studios 

To be succinct, the Oscar-nominated drama “Sound of Metal” is a cinematic revelation which will sear itself into your memory. With six total Oscar nods, including Best Picture, “Sound of Metal” is a powerful story by first time, feature-length film director and co-writer Darius Marder. Riz Ahmed (“Venom”) in the lead delivers the best performance of the year with gritty and powerfully emotional acting as a man whose tenuous hold on sobriety is put to the test. 

Trying to make a go of it as the heavy metal duo Backgammon, Ruben Stone (Ahmed) and Lou Berger (Olivia Cooke, “Ready Player One”) travel across the United States from one small gig to another in their RV, which also serves as their home and studio. It is a grueling lifestyle, but the couple, who are recovering addicts, are devoted to their music no matter their circumstances. 

Without warning, Ruben begins to experience hearing loss, putting his role as the duo’s drummer in jeopardy. Eventually, Ruben is referred to a specialist who informs him that his hearing is deteriorating rapidly, and he will lose it permanently if he continues to perform. Angry, frustrated, and desperate not to lose his creative outlet, Ruben pushes forward anyway and tries to keep playing. 

Scared that Ruben’s volatility might lead him to return to his addiction, Lou tearfully convinces Ruben to stay at a rural shelter that treats recovering addicts who are deaf. Run by a mild-mannered Vietnam veteran (Paul Raci), the shelter is supposed to be a place for Ruben to find peace with his new condition. Despite learning sign language and establishing relationships, Ruben’s desperation to get cochlear implants, and return to Lou, threatens his newfound stability.

Also nominated for Best Film Editing, Sound and Original Screenplay, “Sound of Metal” is a masterful tale of a man trying to find his footing in a world that has been turned upside down. Marder places us in Ruben’s head by allowing us to hear what he is going through. It is a strong tool that punctuates his deafness and how he attempts to adapt to it. 

The emotions conveyed through the script are raw and brought with ferocity to the silver screen by Ahmed. Of course, Ahmed had a terrific co-star to bounce off of in the form of Cooke, who was snubbed horribly by the Academy in this writer’s humble opinion. They exchange a chemistry of the highest sincerity and her individual performance is just as remarkable. Last, but not least, Raci, a veteran TV series actor, is an absolute delight to watch as a genuinely good man who tries to show Ruben how he can overcome his challenges. 

Overall, “Sound of Metal” is a heavy work of brilliant, cinematic art.

Streaming/Television Review: TINA

  • TINA
  • Starring:  Tina Turner, Angela Bassett and Oprah Winfrey
  • Directed by:  Daniel Lindsay and T. J. Martin
  • Rating:  Not Rated
  • Running time:  1 hr 58 mins
  • HBO Documentary Films

I have a confession to make.  And before I fill you in, let me assure you that my wife already knows.  I have loved Tina Turner since 1975 when I saw her as the Acid Queen in “Tommy.”  When the 80s hit, and I became a young adult, her music and her talent made my crush seem all the more worthwhile.  Of course, thanks to her best-selling autobiography and the film “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”, the world knows that Ms. Turner’s life wasn’t all singing and dancing.  And who better to tell the story of that life then the legend herself.

“TINA,” premiering on HBO and HBOMax this Saturday night, March 27, tells the amazing story of Tina Turner in five parts.  First up is the story of IKE and TINA.  By all accounts, Ike Turner was a terrible person, but while saying that I also must note that he was a very talented musician who is widely credited for helping create the very first rock and roll song, “Rocket 88.”  A chance meeting with Ike Turner by Ms. Anna Mae Bullock of Nutbush, Tennessee led to one of the most popular musical groups of the 1960s, the Ike and Tina Turner review.  Here we learn how Ike actually gave Anna Mae the name Tina, without her knowing it,  We learn of the music and the popularity and we also learn about the horrible way Ike treated her.  A lot of the film consists of a recording of an interview Tina did with “People” magazine in 1981, as well as current conversations recorded with Tina in 2019.  I won’t belabor mentioning the abuse Tina suffered (in fact, this is something she is tired of talking about, as she tells more than one reporter) but to hear the stories in her own voice is heartbreaking. 

The other four parts of the film follow the path that Tina Turner took to get to where she is now, the unchallenged Queen of Rock and Roll.  And all along that path there were setbacks.  Her first single, “River Deep, Mountain High” didn’t achieve the success it deserved.  Her divorce from Ike left her with nothing but her name, something she had put in the divorce decree.  Stuck doing Vegas-type shows, she yearned to fill stadium with pure rock and roll.  You know how the story ends, but to see and hear it told by the lady herself is a grip worth taking.

Full of amazing interviews and even more amazing vintage footage, TINA is a must see!   

Film Review: “Nobody”

  • NOBODY
  • Starring:  Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen and Christopher Lloyd
  • Directed by:  Ilya Naishuller
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time: 1 hr 32 mins
  • Universal

BOB ODENKIRK – ACTION STSR!!!

Seriously.

A handcuffed man, his face badly bruised, sits across a table from two detectives.  They stare as he takes a can of cat food out of his pocket, then opens it.  They stare more as he pulls a kitten out of his jacket.  “Who are you,” they ask?

Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk) leads a pretty dull life.  Wake up.  Make breakfast. Jog. Catch the bus.  Go to work.  Come home.  Repeat.  The same dull life, day after day after day.  Until the day he hears a noise downstairs in the middle of the night.  He comes across a pair of burglars, who confront him.  Suddenly his teenage son tackles one of the baddies and Hutch has the opportunity to take out the other.  Instead he lets them go, drawing the ridicule of everyone from his neighbor to the cop that takes the report.  He catches more hell at work from his boss – also his father-in-law – (Michael Ironside) and his brother-in-law (Billy MacLellan).  He remains un-phased until his daughter notes that her kitty-cat bracelet is missing, innocently commenting that it must have been stolen.  This comment, despite the innocence in its mention, triggers something in Hutch, who heads out on a mission.  And what a mission it is.

Action-packed from beginning to end, “Nobody” is a true cousin to films like “Death Wish” (the Bronson one, not the horrible Bruce Willis remake) and “Straw Dogs.”  A film about a seemingly mild-mannered man who reaches his breaking point.  Only Mitch is much deadlier because he has a past.  An amazing past that puts him square on the top of the “People You Should Never Mess With” list.

Odenkirk, probably best known as Saul Goodman in the acclaimed series “Better Call Saul,” is a revelation here.  I’ve been a fan since he appeared with David Cross in “Mr Show with Bob and David” and have enjoyed his supporting work in films like “The Post” and “Nebraska” proves himself a capable leading man.  His is a character you keep learning things about, slowly understand how (and why) he is able to do what he does.  The supporting cast is also very good, including Nielsen as Hutch’s somehow understanding wife, Aleksey Serebryakov as a Russian mobster and the always entertaining Christopher Lloyd as Hutch’s father, who apparently has passed down some of the family skills. 

The film is perfectly paced – no slow spots and plenty of amazing action, all set to some great tunes that set the tone of the on-screen action.

Copyright: MediaMikes.com © 2021 · Powered by: nGeneYes, Inc. · Login

All logos and images used on this website are registered trademarks of their respective companies. All Rights Reserved. Some of the content presented on our sites has been provided by contributors, other unofficial websites or online news sources, and is the sole responsibility of the source from which it was obtained. MediaMikes.com is not liable for inaccuracies, errors, or omissions found herein. For removal of copyrighted images, trademarks, or other issues, Contact Us.