Film Review “No Time To Die”

Directed by: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes
Distributed by
United Artists Releasing
Running time: 163 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

James Bond has been played by several different actors and has been on 25+ on-screen adventures in the course of nearly 60 years, but it has never once felt like his story had closure. Most of the time, actors come and go from the role because that’s the idea of the character – that the story and adventure never ends. No Time to Die shakes things up a bit by definitively putting a cap on Daniel Craig’s tenure as Bond and delivering a true finale for a full circle, five-film arc.

The film opens pretty soon after Spectre, with Bond enjoying retirement with Madeleine Swan (Lea Seydoux) and trying to keep a low profile. But after a riveting action sequence that pulls them back into the action, the film makes a pretty significant time jump that not only seasons Bond even further but makes the world around him change more than he ever expected. The biggest changes are that of the mantle of 007 being taken up by Nomi (Lashana Lynch) and a new villain arising with Safin (Rami Malek) with ties to both James and Madeleine’s past.

I’ve seen every single James Bond film ever produced and particularly have grown up watching Daniel Craig’s ventures since I was pretty young, so perhaps I’m biased when saying that I think he is the quintessential Bond in my eyes. From the genuine grit behind his action to the way he knows not only what to say but how to say it in the most suave way possible – it just doesn’t get better than him, in my opinion; and Craig gives perhaps his best performance as Bond here in his final outing. Yes, he’s delivering one-liners and punching the baddies like there’s no tomorrow, but there’s sincere emotion and nuance in his performance this time around that makes for what is easily the most emotional James Bond movie to date.

Cary Joji Fukunaga takes over directing duties this time around, and it absolutely shows. You can always count on the 007 franchise to deliver top notch action, but Fukunaga goes the extra mile to adding some truly impressive one-shots in there and matches it with absolutely gorgeous cinematography – perhaps the best looking James Bond film, aside from Skyfall? However, it’s evident that the reason why Fukunaga was the guy for the job is how he blends classical spy elements into the story while also balancing really solid character work and a true send off for Bond.

At 163 minutes, No Time to Die spares no expense when it comes to telling its story with various locations and a vast array of characters. While I greatly enjoyed the film, I do think it would have benefitted from a bit of a tighter edit at the end of the day. My only other real gripe here is that I thought Rami Malek’s villain, Savin, was somehow undercooked by the end despite such a long running time. It’s hard to elaborate on why he’s disappointing without diving into spoilers, but it feels like there’s a lot of setup for him and not a ton of payoff for the actual character and his motives.

Even with those gripes in mind, they really feel miniscule when everything is said and done – because what the film needs to get right, it absolutely nails with immense class and bravado for Craig’s final bow. After years of being delayed, the film does not disappoint in the slightest and somehow feels like both the most genuinely big blockbuster we’ve gotten in almost two-years as well as the most ideal and emotional final chapter you could ask for when it comes to that of James Bond.

Film Review “Candyman (2021)”

Directed by: Nia DaCosta
Starring: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Tony Todd
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date: August 27, 2021
Running time: 91 minutes

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I have been a fan of the original 1992 film “Candyman” since its release on home video likely back in 1993. It was a film that scared me growing up. It was suspenseful and gory and I loved it. When I heard that they were making what turned into the “fourth film” in this franchise, I could have been more excited. Bring on “Get Out”, “Us” writer/director Jordan Peele and I thought we were going to have an instant winner here. The rest of this review could offer some spoilers so if you don’t already know that much about this film, I would steer clear…

Official Premise: For as long as residents can remember, the housing projects of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighborhood were terrorized by a word-of-mouth ghost story about a supernatural killer with a hook for a hand, easily summoned by those daring to repeat his name five times into a mirror. In present day, a decade after the last of the Cabrini towers were torn down, visual artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II; HBO’s Watchmen, Us) and his partner, gallery director Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris; If Beale Street Could Talk, The Photograph), move into a luxury loft condo in Cabrini, now gentrified beyond recognition and inhabited by upwardly mobile millennials. With Anthony’s painting career on the brink of stalling, a chance encounter with a Cabrini-Green old-timer (Colman Domingo; HBO’s Euphoria, Assassination Nation) exposes Anthony to the tragically horrific nature of the true story behind Candyman. Anxious to maintain his status in the Chicago art world, Anthony begins to explore these macabre details in his studio as fresh grist for paintings, unknowingly opening a door to a complex past that unravels his own sanity and unleashes a terrifying wave of violence that puts him on a collision course with destiny.

I must say that I am definitely a Yahya Abdul-Mateen II fan, but here is my rant, if you going to make him Candyman, then make him Candyman. With this new film they hesitated to announce or reveal who was playing the role of Candyman. But when fans found out that original actor Tony Todd, who played the villain in the first three films, was involved that this was going to be an epic sequel. Maybe the film is too smart for me but I was just left saying “What?” when those credits started. I understand what they were trying to achieve with their ending but after hoping to see Todd reprise his role the whole movie, I got to say, I was left very disappointed. With little scares, less gore than the original, I am perfectly content with the first three films.

Film Review “The Night House”

Directed by: David Bruckner
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Evan Jonigkeit, Stacy Martin, Vondie Curtis-Hall
Distributed by: Searchlight Pictures
Release date: August 20, 2021
Running time: 110 minutes

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The very first time that I saw the poster for “The Night House”, I knew that I wanted to see it. I knew nothing about the movie besides that Rebecca Hall (“Godzilla vs Kong”) was in it and that it was a horror film. The trailer looks good and suspenseful. The movie unfortunately doesn’t deliver the scares and leaves you pondering at the end. Hall really delivers a solid performance basically holding this entire movie on her shoulders. I was really hoping for some solid scares here but every time something was getting scary I feel like it was pulled back leaving me wanting more.

Official Premise: Reeling from the unexpected death of her husband, Beth (Rebecca Hall) is left alone in the lakeside home he built for her. She tries as best she can to keep it together – but then nightmares come. Disturbing visions of a presence in the house calling to her, beckoning her with a ghostly allure. Against the advice of her friends, she begins digging into her husband’s belongings, yearning for answers. What she finds are secrets both strange and disturbing – a mystery she’s determined to unravel

I was a fan of the director David Bruckner who is likely know for his segment “Amateur Night” in 2012’s “V/H/S” as well as 2016’s “Southbound”. He definitely has the horror genre down pat but I just feel like this was played too safe. The ending in particular leaves you with far too many questions and there is not enough answers to make it worth the nearly two hour running time. They could have easily cut back at least 20 minutes from the beginning which dragged a bit getting started. The middle was solid but like I said the ending lost me and didn’t deliver.

I see already that many other critics are getting behind this film calling it a moody film that goes deeper into someone coping with a death of a loved one as well as paranoia. I get that and I see it in the film as well but I feel like it was not fully cashed in on. I did enjoy Ben Lovett’s score, which did create the creepy atmosphere. Lastly I know the film is called “The Night House”, so a lot of the film is dark and takes place at night but a few of the “scares” take place in extremely dark lit scenes that they are almost missed due to the darkness of the scene.

Overall, I am not disappointed that I watched it but it is definitely what I like to call a one-timer. I definitely do not see myself watching this movie again. So if you are looking for some light scares (nothing that will force you to sleep with the lights on though) and a good performance by Hall, you may want to check this out. Otherwise wait till it comes to Netflix.

Film Review – “Stillwater”

STILLWATER

Starring: Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin

Directed by: Tom McCarthy

Rated: R

Running Time: 2 hrs 19 mins

Focus Features

 Matt Damon delivers a performance worthy of being on his career highlight reel as a father trying to free his daughter from a French prison in the controversial drama, “Stillwater.” Directed by American filmmaker Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight,” “Win Win”), “Stillwater” was shot in in the second half of 2019 and was supposed be released in November 2020, but because of the COVID 19 pandemic, it was delayed until this year when it premiered on July 8th at the Cannes Film Festival where it received a standing ovation.

 A small Oklahoma town has been recently demolished by a devastating tornado. Amidst the cleanup effort is laid-off oil worker Bill Baker (Damon) who is also busy trying to pick up the pieces of his family that has been laid waste by tragedy. For the past four years, Bill’s estranged daughter, Allison (Abigail Breslin, “Signs”) has been serving time in a French prison for murdering her roommate. It is a heinous crime she says she did not commit, and Bill is steadfast in his belief in her innocence.

 Despite their troubled past, Bill has been flying to France on a regular basis to visit Abigail in her Marseille prison. When we meet them on this trip, Allison asks Bill to hand deliver a note to her French defense attorney. In it, Allison begs to have her case reopened, but the attorney refuses because the new evidence she presents is hearsay. When Bill has it translated it to him by an English-speaking neighbor, Virginie (Camille Cottin, “Allied”), he learns Allison has zero confidence in him. 

Spurred to investigate on his own to free Allison, Bill enlists the aid of Virginie, a single mother and aspiring actress, to help him with getting around and with translations. However, Bill is a fish out of water and his actions end up putting his life in jeopardy. After taking a step back, Bill settles into a new life in Marseilles that includes living with Virginie and her daughter, which provides a chance to redeem himself as a father figure … that is until a “shocking” opportunity presents itself for him to be a screw-up again. 

It is not shocking that “Stillwater” has been compared to the high-profile case of American student Amanda Knox who in 2007 was arrested in Italy and charged, along with her then boyfriend, of murdering her British roommate. Knox was wrongfully convicted and was not completely exonerated until eight years later. Clearly, the Knox case served as an inspiration to some degree for McCarthy’s film. Knox herself has criticized the film for its quasi depiction of her ordeal. At the very least, “Stillwater” comes across as unimaginative and a little predictable. 

What makes “Stillwater” watchable is the stellar performance by Damon who nails his portrayal of a man with a lot of demons who cannot seem to avoid screwing up. Damon manages to infuse him with a sense of likability even though we should probably be as disgusted with him as Bill’s daughter is. His performance captures the old, male blue-collar mentality of not wearing your emotions on your sleeve, which makes the brief moments of tenderness all the more powerful. 

Overall, if you’re a fan of anything Damon is in, then you will probably enjoy “Stillwater.” If not, then “Stillwater” may not be your cup of tea when it comes to looking for over two hours of cinematic entertainment.

Film Review: “Jungle Cruise”

  • JUNGLE CRUISE
  • Starring:  Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt and Paul Giamatti
  • Directed by:  Jaume Collet-Serra
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 7 mins
  • Disney

The tale is told of the Conquistadors that sailed down the vast and dangerous river in search of the petals of a certain plant.  The petals, called “The Tears of the Moon” were said to cure any ailment and reverse any curse.  But of course, it’s just an old tale.  Right?

Full of fun, with another winning performance by Dwayne Johnson – I think if he met me he and I would be best pals immediately – “Jungle Cruise” is the latest Disney attraction to become a feature film and, I must say, it’s pretty darn entertaining.

We are introduced to the Houghton siblings – brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) is every bit the prim and proper Brit he seems to be while his sister, Lily (Blunt) is the adventurer in the family, having spent a good portion of her adult life searching for the mystical petals.  While looking for a boat to take them down river they meet Frank (Johnson) who is currently doing his best to avoid Nilo (Giamatti), the local bad guy.  If you’ve seen “Roadhouse” think of him as the jungle version of Brad Wesley.  A deal is made and the threesome head into the great unknown.

On the plus side, “Jungle Cruise” makes great use of CGI, creating a jungle, and all of its inhabitants, with amazing realism.  Tigers. Spiders. Monkeys.  You name it, they’re there and they look amazingly real.  The cast is in great form, with Johnson happily spouting puns (we call them “dad jokes” today) whenever he gets the chance.  Also well cast is Jesse Plemons, whose character, a former German army officer, is as obsessed with the petals as Lily is.  He’s a little over the top, but in a good way. 

My only major problem with the film is that it seemed about 30 minutes too long.  You can only battle zombie pirates so long before it gets boring.  If I wanted a three hour tour I’d wait for “Gilligan’s Island – the Movie,” which I’m sure will be in theatres soon!

Film Review: “Black Widow” SPOILER FREE!

  • BLACK WIDOW
  • Starring:  Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh and Rachel Weisz
  • Directed by:  Cate Shortland
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 13 mins
  • Disney

The expression is “timing is everything.”  I say this because, while I found “Black Widow” enjoyable, it doesn’t feel as timely to me as other films in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe for those of you who don’t understand fan-speak).

Ohio.  1995.  It’s another sunny day in the local park and Melina (Weisz) is enjoying the time watching her young daughters play.  When they get home mom prepares dinner and they all wait for dad (David Harbour) to get home.  However, the mood changes when dad announces “it’s time.”  On the move again!

Full of non-stop action and some self-depreciating humor, “Black Widow” is an origin story that attempts to inform viewers where Natasha (Johansson) came from and why she defected to the Avengers. 

The majority of the film takes place in 2016, after Theodore Ross (William Hurt) helped the United Nations enforce the Sokovia Accords, which basically made the Avengers outlaws, unable to do their stuff unless requested.  It also requires all “enhanced” people in the United States to not only identify themselves but disclose what their enhancement is.   Currently Ross is on the look for Black Widow and Captain America.  And the hunt is on.

I’m doing my best to make this a SPOILER FREE review, so I won’t be going into too many details.  Suffice it to say that the characters travel literally all over the world, a lot of stuff gets damaged and a lot of people got hurt.  The action scenes are well designed and the script fun.  But still…..

While it’s not the best film in the MCU, it certainly isn’t the worse.  And that’s a good thing.   

Film Review “F9: The Fast Saga”

Directed by: Justin Lin
Starring: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, John Cena, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Sung Kang, Michael Rooker, Helen Mirren, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release date: June 25, 2021
Running time: 145 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

The Fast & Furious franchise titled The Fast Saga has not run out of gas just yet. “F9” is completely over-the-top, action packed and one hell of a blast to watch. Who knew that this franchise would be going here nine films strong. Listen we all know that these things could never happen in real life but they are fun to watch on the big screen. I recently re-watched this franchise from the beginning and it was really fun to see how this series has evolved from street racing to international spy heists…and it has been so much fun to watch. This latest film gives this franchise a kick right into outer space…literally! Where can this franchise possible go next?

Official Premise: “Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto is leading a quiet life off the grid with Letty and his son, little Brian, but they know that danger always lurks just over their peaceful horizon. This time, that threat will force Dom to confront the sins of his past if he’s going to save those he loves most. His crew joins together to stop a world-shattering plot led by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they’ve ever encountered: a man who also happens to be Dom’s forsaken brother, Jakob (John Cena, the upcoming The Suicide Squad).”

I am personally a big John Cena fan from the WWE and it was awesome getting to see him play the baddie. I felt that the film also gave an extra nod to the ladies of the Fast Saga. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a female only spinoff happen down the line. The visual effects are beyond amazing. There is nothing that looks “too CGI” or anything like that. The Fast Saga is well known for blending actual practical effects with digital effects.

Like I mentioned above, I have no clue where this franchise could go in the future, so the next two films are going to be a big mystery. But from a franchise that started 20 years ago, this week in fact (Happy anniversary), on the streets to literally flying outer space in this film, and while still keeping things fun and existing, I don’t see this franchise having any issues in the future. This movie needs to be seen on a big screen with popcorn and concessions!

Film Review: “A Quiet Place Part II”

  • A QUIET PLACE PART II
  • Starring: Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds
  • Directed by: John Krasinski
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 1 hr 37 mins
  • Paramount Pictures 

Three years ago, “A Quiet Place” became THE breakout film of the year as it grossed over $188 million domestically and landed in many top ten lists. Its long-awaited sequel, “A Quiet Place Part II” picks up right where its predecessor left off and it does not disappoint. From the get-go, we are put on the edge of our seats as this fast-paced, sci-fi/horror flick keeps our hearts racing a million miles per hour. A smart script and superb direction by John Krasinski help make this film the first true “must-see” of the year. 

(If you have somehow not seen the original film yet, then do not read this any further.) When we last saw the Abbott family, the father, Lee (Krasinski) had sacrificed himself so that his family would have a chance to live. Thanks to the subsequent resourcefulness of his deaf daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and the tenacity of his wife, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), not only were they able to survive, but they also found a way to kill the sound sensitive aliens by utilizing Regan’s cochlear implant. 

“Part II” takes us back to Day 1 when a normal afternoon of little league baseball turns into an extinction-level event for humanity. After this brief flashback, we are flung forward to day #474 of the invasion. Evelyn and her three children – Regan, Marcus (Noah Jupe) and her infant son – gather up what possessions they need and make a silent, perilous walk into town. 

As they reach the deserted town’s railroad depot, they accidentally make enough noise to attract an alien. It is at this point they stumble upon Emmett (Cillian Murphy, “Inception”), an old friend of theirs who has lost everyone and everything. He is initially adamant they leave, warning Evelyn there is not anyone left worth saving. However, Regan figures out a way for a much broader application of her cochlear implant and it sets into motion events which put everyone’s lives in serious jeopardy. 

“A Quiet Place Part II’ is a superb work of cinema as it excels in all three major phases – writing, acting, and directing. Good luck in finding a flaw with the script. In fact, you will have a better chance at finding a needle in a haystack first. Blunt delivers a perfect blend of strength and vulnerability as does Simmonds, who again demonstrates with a wonderful range that she is a star in the making. Lastly, Krasinski successfully duplicates the pacing, tension, and thrills of the first film, which earned an Oscar nod for Best Sound Editing. 

Overall, “A Quiet Place Part II” already has a good shot at being on a lot of top ten lists again when 2021 is over.

Film Review: “Cruella”

  • CRUELLA
  • Starring: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson
  • Directed by: Craig Gillespie
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 2 hrs 14 mins
  • Walt Disney 

There is nothing cruel about watching the new Walt Disney prequel “Cruella,” starring former Academy Award winner Emma Stone in a role she absolutely nails. Unlike 1996’s “101 Dalmatians,” in which Glenn Close played Cruella with over-the-top, maniacal behavior, Stone infuses Cruella with emotional complexities that draw us into a character who becomes much more than a punchline. Ultimately, there is an almost Joaquin Phoenix-as-Joker vibe to Stone’s performance, just not nearly as dark. However, do not be worried, “Cruella” is not all doom-and-gloom as there are enough light-hearted and even tender moments to keep it from falling too far down the rabbit hole. 

As a little girl, Cruella goes by Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland, “Krypton”). Raised by her loving mother, Catherine (Emily Beecham, “Daphne”), Estella manages to get into a private boarding school. Her mother warns her, though, to not be rebellious and cruel, but the fashion curious Estella cannot prevent herself from getting into continuous trouble. Eventually, Estella wears out her welcome and is expelled. 

Estella’s expulsion does not turn her world upside down. In fact, she views it as a new adventure complete with a new puppy she finds. However, reality of how cruel the world can be takes place when Catherine dies and Estella becomes homeless in London’s city streets when she encounters two young boys who are always up to no good. 

Flash forward ten years later when the trio of Estella, Jasper (Joel Fry, “Game of Thrones”) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser, “Richard Jewell”) are busy stealing from anyone they can. Yet Estella still has her eyes set on the world of fashion and a series of lucky events puts her into the employment of the most powerful fashion designer in London – The Baroness (Emma Thompson). At the pinnacle of her happiness, Estella learns a dark secret and Cruella begins to take over. 

Stone has all the appearances of being born to play this role in what is an overall terrific origin story. Her portrayal never becomes too unhinged, and she even manages to do the previously unthinkable – make Cruella De Vil a sympathetic character. Of course, she was guided with the steady direction of Craig Gillespie (“I, Tonya”), had a fresh and inventive script to work with, and shared the screen with the equally fantastic Thompson who makes The Baroness about as unsympathetic and diabolical as they come. What should also be mentioned are the film’s fantastic costume designs which will hopefully not be forgotten about when Oscar season rolls again, not that more than 10 or 12 people will be watching it anyway. 

Overall, “Cruella” is probably not for small children. Let them watch the 1961 animated version instead. Otherwise, “Cruella” is a wonderful, two-plus hour escape.

Film Review: “Spiral”

  • SPIRAL
  • Starring: Chris Rock, Max Minghella
  • Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
  • Rating: R
  • Running Time: 1 hr 33 mins
  • Lionsgate 

Part of the premise of the “Saw” franchise is that the story’s victims are put in horrendous situations and then forced choose to do something terrible to escape or die horribly. Except possibly the 2004 original, I have desperately wanted to run away from each one of these dismal death traps as they begin to flicker to life on the screen. The newest installment, “Spiral” is easily one of the most unsurprising, stereotypical works of cinema I have ever seen in my career as a professional film critic. 

The story, which is a nice way to describe what is presented to us as entertainment, begins during a 4th of July celebration when an off-duty detective does not call for any backup before chasing a purse snatcher down into a darkened subway tunnel. Shockingly, he never sees the light of day again. Enter Det. Zeke Banks (Chris Rock), a lone wolf cop who is hated by every police officer in his precinct as they all view him as a rat. 

Divorced and estranged from his father, former police chief Marcus Banks (Samuel L. Jackson), Zeke is forced to take on a younger partner, Det. William Schenk (Max Minghella, “The Handmaid’s Tale”) as he begins his investigation into crimes committed by a Jigsaw-inspired killer. Despite his efforts, the body count climbs as more dirty cops are killed in such horrific ways that you cannot help but wonder how the writers who come up with these ideas sleep at night. 

At the risk of ruining any surprises those who wish to spend their hard-earned dollars on seeing “Spiral,” I will refrain from going into any more details about the story. It should be noted that while there has been a total of eight “Saw” films in the franchise, “Spiral” is technically not part of the franchise’s ongoing tale as villain Tobin Bell (John Kramer) is only mentioned in this endeavor. 

Directed by Overland Park, KS native Darren Lynn Bousman, who also helmed “Saw II,” “III” and “IV,” “Spiral” overflows with unbearable, over-the-top grotesqueness matched only by ridiculous stereotypes (e.g. a captain who yells and waves fingers at a “rogue” detective) and plot points so predictable that you could go to the bathroom for ten minutes and not miss a beat. A good chunk of Rock’s dialogue feels like a stand-up comedy routine and when he wants to present himself as intense, he often resorts to squinting his eyes like Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western. Minghella is stoic while Jackson is too underutilized. The rest of the cast delivers choppy performances with dialogue that may have been written in crayon. 

Overall, “Spiral” spirals down into an abyss of mindlessness so bad that not even a stiff drink could help salvage it as being watchable.

Win Passes To See the New Film SPIRAL (Nationwide)

HELLO EVERYONE!!!

How in the hell are you doing?? It seems like forever since we did a pass giveaway and to celebrate, we’re not giving out passes to see a movie in Kansas City or Boston or Orlando – we’re giving passes out all over the country!!

Mediamikes has teamed up with their friends at Lionsgate Films to give (10) readers and a guest the chance to check out the latest film in the SAW series, SPIRAL.

All you have to do is let us know below what film you are most looking forward to this year. The new Bond? “Top Gun: Maverick?” “The Batman?” Let us know and you could be on your way to the movies.

(10) random winners will be chosen and they will be sent, via email, an ATOM code that will get them (2) tickets to see SPIRAL. Pretty simple if you ask me. Not like we’re asking you to saw off your arm!

This giveaway will run through Thursday, May 13th at 10:00 pm EST. At that time the winners will be selected and sent their codes via email. GOOD LUCK!!

SPIRAL opens nationwide this Friday, May 14th!

Facebook:                                 @Saw

Twitter:                                     @Saw 

Instagram:                                @Saw

Hashtag:                                   #Spiral

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.

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.