Release Date: July 29th, 2021 (Switzerland, Germany, Israel) Directed by: David Lowery Written by: David Lowery Based on:Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by anonymous Music by: Daniel Hart Cast: Dev Patel, Ralph Ineson, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, Erin Kellyman, Patrick Duffy (voice)
Sailor Bear, BRON Studios, A24, 130 Minutes
“[as the Queen’s voice overlaps with the Green Knight’s while she reads his letter] Oh, greatest of kings, indulge me in this friendly Christmas game. Let whichever of your knights is boldest of blood and wildest of hearts step forth, take up arms and try with honor to land a blow against me. Whomsoever nicks me shall lay claim to this my arm. Its glory and riches shall be thine. But… thy champ must bind himself to this: should he land a blow, then one year and Yuletide hence, he must seek me out yonder to the Green Chapel six nights to the north. He shall find me there and bend a knee and let me strike him in return, be it a scratch on the cheek or a cut in the throat. I will return what was given me, and then in trust and friendship, we shall part. Who, then, who is willing to engage with me?” – Green Knight; Queen
I went into this without expectation and that’s probably the best way to see this.
This is a live-action adaptation of the 14th century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It’s a story I always enjoyed, which I first discovered when I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of it. There are other translations but it was the Tolkien one that I first discovered and experienced and it’s probably the only version I’ll ever revisit, unless someone can sell me on another one.
This is also the first adaptation of the poem in decades, at least that I am aware of. I saw the one with Sean Connery, years ago, and thought it was pretty weak. This version, was far superior to that one and what I just experienced is one of the best traditional fantasy motion pictures that I’ve seen in quite some time.
Dev Patel plays Sir Gawain and I thought he was fantastic. He’s also one hell of a strikingly good looking man. With that, he has the sort of regal and manly visage that made him look like he belonged at the table with King Arthur. In the story, he even gets to wield Excalibur for his first confrontation with the mythic Green Knight.
Patel truly carries this film on his back. Granted, he is backed up by a pretty talented cast. I especially liked Sean Harris as Arthur.
The film is very melodic and dreamlike. I wouldn’t say that it moves slow, it just enchants you, puts you in a strange trance and then pulls you along on this adventure. It works well and I liked the somewhat relaxed pacing, as you kind of need to marinate in the different sequences and take in the dialogue, the emotion and also the visually captivating cinematography.
The Green Knight feels otherworldly but it also feels familiar. As for Arthurian legends, it feels truly authentic and frankly, it’s one of the best King Arthur-related movies that I’ve ever seen.
Also known as: The Thing: The Beginning (working title) Release Date: October 10th, 2011 (Universal City premiere) Directed by: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. Written by: Eric Heisserer Based on:Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Music by: Marco Beltrami Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Eric Christian Olsen
Morgan Creek Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Strike Entertainment, 103 Minutes
“You think they’re gonna pay a bonus for bringing home an alien instead of core samples?” – Colin
While this prequel to 1982’s The Thing, also titled The Thing, is not a bad movie, it is a perfect example of why I will never like CGI monster effects as much as physical, real, practical effects like its predecessor.
If you watch both Things back-to-back, you will see the stark difference between this CGI festival of love and the much more impressive, real feeling effects of John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece.
Where the 1982 movie, regardless of how many times I’ve seen it, is still terrifying and a complete and total mindfuck, this 2011 prequel’s special effects look like they’re from a video game. Because of that, they pull you out of the film and its potentially terrifying impact because you’re reminded that this isn’t real and in fact, it’s kind of cartoonish by comparison.
The story here is good, as is the acting, the direction and just about everything else. Well, except for the pacing. Frankly, it’s oddly paced and doesn’t slowly build and escalate in the same way as the 1982 version, which they honestly should’ve just followed because it’s a perfect template on how to build tension at the right speed, in the right way and how to smack the audience in the face with a perfect finale.
Maybe the writers and the director didn’t want to do a complete rehash but they should have. While this is neither a remake nor a reboot, who cares. The reason why The Thing is a perfect movie is because of its flawless narrative framework, as well as its incredible effects that still look good almost forty years later. This Thing doesn’t seem to understand that, so it doesn’t utilize either of those winning techniques and we’re left with something promising on paper but executed like someone was designing cut scenes for a Resident Evil video game.
While I generally liked the story and how it explored the creature a bit more than what we already knew, it kind of goes too far with the battle on the crashed UFO finale. It’s not a big battle and it just follows the two remaining survivors as they decide to go there for some odd reason. They burn the alien and we think the story is done. But we already know that if it were truly dead, we wouldn’t have had a story for the 1982 movie.
So there’s a twist at the end that isn’t all that surprising and for some dumb reason the female lead of the movie survives. Honestly, this is a movie where everyone should’ve died. We shouldn’t have gotten the final girl riding off into the tundra in a snowcat like The Shining.
During the credits, we cut to a sequence that sets up the opening shots of the 1982 film. This part was done pretty well and honestly, at least this movie did a pretty good job of connecting the dots that we only just peaked at in the 1982 version. We see how every victim discovered in the 1982 version died where they were found, as well as seeing how the alien carcass had two faces merged together. I liked that they actually gave enough of a shit to work this stuff into the plot and none of it really felt forced.
Ultimately, this is a decent companion piece to the ’82 picture but it certainly isn’t necessary and honestly, didn’t need to be made. The fan service stuff was neat but the film completely missed its mark due to its failure of understanding the elements that made John Carpenter’s The Thing a perfect horror movie in the first place.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with: 1982’s The Thing, which this connects to directly with its post-credits scene, as well as other body horror flicks.
Release Date: December 13th, 2017 (Regency Village Theater) Directed by: David Ayer Written by: Max Landis Music by: David Sardy Cast: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, Lucy Fry, Edgar Ramirez, Ike Barinholtz, Margaret Cho, Brad William Henke, Kenneth Choi, Matt Gerald
Overbrook Entertainment, Trigger Warning Entertainment, Grand Electric, Netflix, 118 Minutes
“This is like a nuclear weapon that grants wishes.” – Nick Jakoby
Any film where Will Smith is the chosen one, is probably guaranteed to suck. But then Netflix original movies are the modern version of direct-to-video schlock. At least, that seems to be the trend over the last year or so.
Also, I’m going to have to be brutally honest with this review because David Ayer is a shit filmmaker. Between this and Suicide Squad, I’d prefer it if the guy just stayed away from a camera unless he’s taking selfies for his profile on Tinder. Then again, I really don’t give a crap about his Tinder or his movies, at this point.
There is one sole bright spot in this entire film and that is the performance of Joel Edgerton. Sadly, he had to play opposite of Smith, who can be a good actor at times but whose hokiness and cheesy delivery can be confusing in a role that requires more grittiness and a hefty helping of testosterone. Smith plays his role like this is Bad Boys III and even when he gets a bit of a harder edge, he’s always got that awful one liner that drags the movie down a few notches.
I don’t blame Smith per se, I blame Ayer for not knowing better. It was his job to dictate the tone of the film and thus, Smith’s execution of the character. Maybe Max Landis’ script was just hard to work with. While it showed promise and had some interesting ideas, the dialogue was mostly terrible, the metaphors for race relations were one dimensional and overall, it was incredibly derivative for something that really should have felt fresh and original. In fact, it mostly just played out like Training Day and End of Watch, two of Ayer’s better films. But really, I think Ayer can only make one kind of film and this is it. It just happens to have orcs and elves thrown in.
Bright is poorly executed in just about every way. It should have been cool and unique but it wasn’t. I guess Netflix already wants to pump out sequels, showing that they don’t really give a shit about the quality of their product anymore. They just need to make as much product as possible to justify rising subscription costs and a mass loss of content that they didn’t create. I’m pretty close to cancelling my subscription, actually.
Bright really is friggin’ terrible. That being said, it has to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. And the results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”
Release Date: September 4th, 2015 (Venice International Film Festival) Directed by: Scott Cooper Written by: Jez Butterworth, Mark Mallouk Based on: Black Mass by Dick Lehr, Gerard O’Neill Music by: Tom Holkenborg Cast: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Cochrane, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Corey Stoll, Peter Sarsgaard, Dakota Johnson, David Harbour, Adam Scott, Juno Temple, W. Earl Brown
Cross Creek Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Warner Bros., 122 Minutes
*written in 2015.
“Take your shot, but make it your best. ‘Cause I get up, I eat ya.” – Whitey Bulger
Black Mass is the latest mobster biopic to come down the pipeline. What makes this one interesting is Johnny Depp wears a bunch of heavy make-up that looks odd and makes him look like the elderly love child of Ray Liotta and one of those reptilian aliens that I heard are taking over the U.S. government.
The film is directed by Scott Cooper, who also did the critically-acclaimed Crazy Heart and the mediocre Out of the Furnace. He also acted in an episode of The X-Files a long time ago. I wouldn’t say that this film brings back the bright shining star status Cooper had with his debut Crazy Heart but it isn’t a bad film by any means. It is more eventful than Out of the Furnace but unlike that film, I don’t care about any of the characters in Black Mass.
Depp’s portrayal of James “Whitey” Bulger is interesting and well executed for the material but there is a real lack of material there. There is no character building or development. What you have is a one-dimensional psycho on screen from the opening bell to the closing bell. His backstory is casually mentioned, his relationship with his friends and family is bland and he just feels like a cookie cutter bad guy in a cookie cutter mob film. I don’t care about Bulger, good or bad. I don’t sympathize with him or hate him. I should feel something, correct? And that is how it is for every character in this film.
For a movie boasting a cast of names like Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Joel Edgerton, Jesse Plemons, Adam Scott, Corey Stoll, Julianne Nicholson and Juno Temple – I expected more. Additionally, Rory Cochrane from Dazed and Confused and Empire Records has an integral role, as does Dakota Johnson, who I am not as familiar with but she is some sort of big deal because she was in Fifty Shades of Grey (hopefully that’s not all she’s going to be known for).
This film seems to be getting a lot of love from critics. I’m not sure why. It plays from scene-to-scene and has a logical and fairly fluid plot but there just isn’t a lot of suspense or build up. Everything is predictable. You know who is going to die and when, you know what this psycho is thinking. Realistically, shouldn’t the psycho surprise you? I know that this is a biopic but some of us don’t know the whole “Whitey” Bulger story and the film would benefit from giving us a few surprises instead of blatantly foreshadowing everything to the point of eliminating any real tension or drama in the movie.
Black Mass is more good than bad, even though I am being somewhat harsh. The thing is, it is pretty forgettable in the grand scheme of gangster movies. It is interesting enough to watch but it certainly isn’t a classic in the sense of Goodfellas, The Godfather, Scarface or even Depp’s 1997 film Donnie Brasco.
Release Date: April 29th, 2017 (Timberline Lodge premiere) Directed by: Trey Edward Shults Written by: Trey Edwards Shults Music by: Brian McOmber Cast: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Riley Keough
Animal Kingdom, A24, 91 Minutes
“You can’t trust anyone but family.” – Paul
I went into this movie really knowing nothing about it. I never saw a trailer for it and it came out and got lost in the shuffle of the summer blockbusters. However, I did notice its pretty high rating on Rotten Tomatoes and thought it was a horror film worth checking out.
While considered horror, it really isn’t. It is more of a dark thriller with some mystery. There aren’t really any monsters or creatures to worry about and the title and marketing of the film are pretty misleading, in my opinion. Yes, there is a lot of nighttime darkness in the film but there is no clear indication of what “It” is. And really, “It” doesn’t exist. The real threat is what happens when people with good intentions can’t trust one another and are overcome by paranoia. If that is the “It” from the title, it’s a massive disappointment.
The film, like its title, is full of red herrings. So many red herrings in fact that it becomes tedious keeping up with them and ultimately, none of them matter. The story opens up a lot of avenues and mysteries to explore but then never goes down those paths. While the film does a great job of reeling you in and building suspense for the first 90 percent, the last 10 percent is an anticlimactic clusterfuck that makes most of that previous 90 percent inconsequential and pointless.
The idea behind this film also isn’t anything new. These ideas and these aspects of human nature have been explored in just about every episode of The Walking Dead, and much more effectively. Hell, we’ve seen this story play out in countless zombies movies and really anything that is set in a post-apocalyptic world.
The positives of the film aren’t enough to save it.
The acting is pretty good but most of that is due to Joel Edgerton, who impresses me more and more with each picture, taking on the bulk of the acting duties. His son, played by Kelvin Harrison Jr., does a good job being the eyes and emotion of the audience but he doesn’t really get to evolve or explore his character other than emotionally reacting to his world and his loved ones crumbling around him.
The cinematography is also a strong positive. While it isn’t anything groundbreaking, the tone of the film is probably the most effective thing about it. The house is welcoming during the day but a dark and dreadful place at night. The long dark corridor to the back door is really a character all its own.
I can’t say that I was disappointed with the film, as I went into it blindly and without expectations. However, as it rolled on, my expectations rose only to have them slapped back down when the climax arrived.
I haven’t watched these films in a few years. I catch glimpses of them from time to time as I am flipping through channels on cable but it has been at least five years since I’ve sat down and watched this trilogy in its entirety.
It is universally agreed upon that this trilogy was not on par with the original trilogy and many people have griped about these three films for well over a decade now. I knew they weren’t as good but I used to try and defend them, as I could look passed their faults because at least they were new Star Wars movies.
Having had a lot of time away from this series and being less enthusiastic than I probably should be about the upcoming Disney films, I can no longer defend the prequels in good conscience. They are what essentially killed the Star Wars magic inside of me, even if I didn’t want to see it at the time.
But let me address each one individually.
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999):
Release Date: May 25th, 1999 Directed by: George Lucas Written by: George Lucas Music by: John Williams Cast: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Pernilla August, Frank Oz, Samuel L. Jackson, Ahmed Best, Ray Park, Terence Stamp, Keira Knightley, Peter Serafinowicz, Sofia Coppola, Warwick Davis
Lucasfilm Ltd., 20th Century Fox, 133 Minutes
“I have a bad feeling about this.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
The Phantom Menace is a bad film, plain and simple.
There are only a few good things even worth mentioning as positives.
To start, Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor were great as Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Also, Darth Maul is the most bad ass looking Sith of all-time. Unfortunately, Darth Maul has little screen time and meets his demise before this film is over and Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan have to share most of their scenes with any combination of the characters Jar Jar Binks, Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala. All three of those characters, in this film and really all of the films, were mostly unbearable.
This installment into the Star Wars mega franchise was too full of political nonsense and pointless babble about stuff no one cares about. Sure, we’d like to know how the Galactic Empire came to be and how the Sith rose to power and conquered the Jedi but we didn’t need endless diatribes about details no one even remotely wanted to follow.
Also, take into account what this franchise was before this movie. You have now replaced terrifying and cool Storm Troopers with anorexic and bumbling Battle Droids. You replaced Rebel soldiers with thousands of Jar Jars and armed them with bubbles. You replaced X-wing Starfighters and TIE Fighters with awfully designed Naboo Starfighters and Vulture Droids. You replaced desolate and wild worlds with the Singapore Botanical Gardens. Everything about this film was wrong: in tone, in characters, in design, in total execution.
It was corny, cheesy, way too child friendly and full of more annoyances than things that are actually cool.
Fuck pod racing. Fuck midichlorians.
There really is nothing I like about this film other than the few things mentioned around paragraph two. And even then, they certainly aren’t enough to save this movie.
Rating: 6.5/10 Pairs well with: This specific Star Wars trilogy of films.
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002):
Release Date: May 12th, 2002 (Tribeca) Directed by: George Lucas Written by: George Lucas, Jonathan Hales Music by: John Williams Cast: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Jimmy Smits, Temuera Morrison, Joel Edgerton, Rose Byrne, Ahmed Best, Pernilla August, Liam Neeson
Lucasfilm Ltd., 20th Century Fox, 142 Minutes
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” – Anakin Skywalker
Attack of the Clones may be even worse than The Phantom Menace.
This film offers up a lot of the same as the previous. Luckily though, Jar Jar Binks has pretty limited screen time, as the backlash of that character was tremendous. In fact, I’ll be shocked if future Star Wars films even remotely show a Gungan.
The cool thing about this film is the inclusion of Jango Fett and the origin of his son, the uber popular and awesome Boba Fett. Also, Christoper Lee, one of my three favorite actors of all-time, shows up as the Sith Lord, Count Dooku.
This film should have been awesome. Well, for the first time ever, we get to see what happens when an army of Jedi fights together. While it was visually cool to see a bunch of Jedi light up a few dozen lightsabers, it happened against Battle Droids. You know, those clumsy metal comedians that the idiotic Gungans beat in the previous film. Somehow, now, they present a challenge to the best Jedi in the galaxy. Am I missing something here?
Also, one thing that has always bothered me about the Star Wars films was the ambiguous travel times. Never is it as much of a continuity problem, as it is here.
Look at the timeline of people traveling to Geonosis. Yoda shows up five minutes after Mace Windu, even though they both left Coruscant at the same time and Yoda had to make a pit stop at Kamino to pick up the Clone Army. Anakin and Padmé got there not too long before Windu because they knew Windu would not make it in time to stop Kenobi’s execution. However, Windu walks up just as the attempt at execution is going down. And Windu was walking casually slow. Had he tried not to look so cool, he could’ve probably beat the clock for sure.
This movie is a mess. Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman’s acting during the Anakin and Padmé romance scenes was beyond painful to watch.
Rating: 5.5/10 Pairs well with: This specific Star Wars trilogy of films.
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005):
Release Date: May 15th, 2005 (Cannes) Directed by: George Lucas Written by: George Lucas Music by: John Williams Cast: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Jimmy Smits, Peter Mayhew, Ahmed Best, Temuera Morrison, Joel Edgerton, Bruce Spence, Keisha Castle-Hughes, James Earl Jones, Bai Ling (scenes cut)
Lucasfilm Ltd., 20th Century Fox, 140 Minutes
“Oh, I have a bad feeling about this.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
The third and final movie in the prequel trilogy is the best of the three. However, it still isn’t very good by Star Wars standards.
In this one, we see Anakin’s destiny reach full climax as, by film’s end, he becomes the iconic Darth Vader. Of course, the path to full Vaderdom is just more of the same bullshit that we’ve had to endure over multiple films now. And Hayden Christensen continues to give a wooden performance accented by Natalie Portman, who doesn’t even want to be there and Ewan McGregor, who is trying to be passionate with the shitty lines George Lucas gave him to speak.
This film solidifies just how stupid the Jedi Council is or just how bad of a writer that George Lucas is. Why are only two Jedi sent to rescue the Supreme Chancellor who is held hostage over Coruscant, the capital of the galaxy? I mean, there is a Jedi Temple full of Jedi below, even if many are off fighting on other planets. And why did Yoda and Obi-Wan not tag team Palpatine and then Anakin? And somehow, Yoda and Obi-Wan fought their battles at the same time, even though they took off for them simultaneously but one was down the street and the other was on the other side of the galaxy. Again, ambiguous travel times.
Count Dooku dies too early. General Grievous is a dumb villain and it is clear that instead of having long lasting iconic bad guys like Darth Vader, Lucas would rather give us Maul then Dooku then Grievous in an effort to sell more toys. Sacrifice the story, sell more shit.
Fuck this movie too.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: This specific Star Wars trilogy of films.
Release Date: May 16th, 2016 (Cannes Film Festival) Directed by: Jeff Nichols Written by: Jeff Nichols Based on:The Loving Story by Nancy Buirski Music by: David Wingo Cast: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Marton Csokas, Nick Kroll, Michael Shannon
Big Beach, Raindog Films, Focus Features, 123 Minutes
I really wanted to get around to seeing Loving before the Academy Awards. Ruth Negga was nominated for Best Actress for the film and I have been a fan of her work since first discovering her on the great British television show Misfits. People really need to watch Misfits; I think it is still available on Hulu.
The film is also the first time that I had seen Nick Kroll shed his comedy shtick and try something serious. Kroll did great, by the way.
Loving is the true story of the Loving family and how their interracial marriage caused them a lot of problems in Virginia in 1958, as well as after. It follows their story of love and showcases the challenges that they face. In the end, their situation led to a Supreme Court decision that prevented any sort of legal troubles for interracial couples that marry.
The acting in the film was superb and Negga really takes things to another level, especially in the latter half of the film. Joel Edgerton was solid but he is usually pretty good. Michael Shannon has a small role as a photographer but he is also really impactful.
The focal point of the movie is the relationship between the Lovings. They support each other, they carry each other and ultimately, their bond is tested but only gets stronger.
Loving is a good movie about an important story that needed to be told. I wouldn’t consider it to be a great picture but it features a really strong display of acting prowess from its stellar cast.
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