Noah

Noah

Noah
3

Darren Aronofksy’s curious choice to adapt one of the most retold parables from the book of Genesis is something unexpected to me. But haven’t most of Aronofsky’s choices been fairly curious within his body of work? From Requiem for a Dream to Black Swan he’s continued to evolve and reinvent himself. I think that is what has continued to set him apart with a handful of other auteurs on the shortlist of the best storytellers currently working in cinema. Noah, his latest story to hit the big screen is an epic to say the least, and it’s an interesting one nonetheless. It is also important to know going in that this adaptation is more of Aronofksy’s interpretation versus an accurate re-telling of the biblical story. It’s entertaining, with many flaws, but still entertaining. It’s a movie, and popcorn seemed to go well with it.

A lot of the things you’d expect from the story in the bible, we get. Noah (Russell Crowe) has a vision from God that he must save all of the animals from a great flood. So he starts to construct a giant arc to house the animals, but we also get a little bit of a bizarre twist for cinematic purposes…Noah can seriously kick your ass. On top of that we get a showdown between Noah and Tubal-Cain (Ray Winestone), a group of Tolkienesque giant rock creatures referred to as The Watchers (voiced by Nick Nolte and Frank Langella), and a third act that involves our new Noah anti-hero wrestling with whether or not God wants him to murder his oldest son’s newborn baby in order to punish all mankind for treating the land as their toilet. All a part of Aronofksy’s artistic liberties taken with the story from the bible to make this a bizzare, yet enjoyable ride. Jennifer Connelly brings balance as Noah’s affable wife Naameh and Sir Anthony Hopkins is on point as always playing Noah’s spiritual guide and grandfather Methuselah. Crowe turns in a performance that gives us ancient blue-collar grit that was surprisingly more reminiscent of his Richie Roberts than his Maximus. The visual effects in Noah are bold and breathtaking, and some of the best I’ve seen on screen this year.

The most fascinating thing about Aronofksy’s telling was that he seems draw a parallel with the story of Noah and modern day faith in general. He doesn’t try to provide any answers, he just poses questions. And in the world today the faithful interpret the silence of the creator in different ways too. It was intriguing the way Noah’s story was framed here and how it relates to the present. I just hope people of faith can take Aronofksy’s Noah for what it is; a blockbuster action movie built to entertain.

-JB

Enemy

Enemy

Enemy
3.5

A college history professor whose not really into movies, gets bored and decides to watch a movie and gets bored halfway through and turns it off and then decides to revisit said movie later to finish only to notice his doppelganger has a small part in the film and in turn becomes obsessed with learning more about his apparent double only to find out that their relationship will come boiling to a climactic finish as they play mind games and try to bed each others lovers. Sound like something you want to watch? Well, you should. As odd as Enemy sounds and actually is, it turns out to be surprisingly stimulating. French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve intricately adapts Jose Saramago’s novel Double for the screen with a mindful tact that other filmmakers might never have thought to approach it with, as they would’ve probably gone tumbling down the rabbit hole after rabbit hole. Like he showed audiences with his Sundance darling Incendies and one of last year’s best, Prisoners, Villeneuve has a knack for dark storytelling.

Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a professor that leads a dry and dreary life. He schlubs around the brown of inner city Toronto, meandering back and forth between his work life at the college and his lackluster home life with his girlfriend Mary (Melanie Laurent). When he stumbles upon his doppelganger playing an extra in a movie he rents, his interest in learning more about starts to drive him away from his drab life and his overwhelming curiosity lifts his spirits. He starts watching the actor Anthony Claire (Gyllenhaal) from afar and even poses as him to gain entry to his apartment building to get a closer look. Of course Anthony is the antithesis of Adam. He’s strong and confident. We see him coming in from a long jog instead of spending his time with laying around in self loathing like Adam. We see all the differences, albeit most of them subtle. Adam wears sloppy boring suits and Anthony is has more of style about him, he is after all, an actor. But then we see the running theme of both of their parallel lives intersecting; they are bored and unsatisfied personally and professionally. It’s probably why Anthony is struggling in his relationship too. His pregnant wife Helen (Sarah Gadon) starts to get suspicious when Adam starts calling the house, and only fuels her uncertainty about where they are headed in life. But when both of their interests about the others life peaks, the film takes a sexual turn, and the thrilling study of a man’s subconscious slithers, twists, and turns into a gratifying climax. Is the grass really greener on the other side, and if so is it worth exploring? What seems so great about another person’s life, might not be so great once you walk in their shoes.

Enemy is a psychological slow burn that borders on comedic absurdity at times, but builds to a payoff that I found worth the wait. Your brain gets a nice workout as your left to interpret what this story means to you metaphorically, but we also get to revel in Gyllenhaal’s subdued, yet powerful performance as the two leads. (Sorry haters, it looks like he can really act. IE Zodiac, Prisoners) I won’t even get into Enemy’s wild, mother of all indie-endings. I’ll let you chew on that tasty bit of madness yourself. This little mind trip won’t be for everyone, but it is definitely worth a watch if you’re in the mood for something different. It’s just too bad the title The Two Jakes was already taken.

-JB

A Critic’s Dozen: Best Films of 2013

A Critic’s Dozen: Best Films of 2013

Wolf of Wall Street

1 – The Wolf of Wall Street

Only Scorsese could’ve made this film as exhilarating to watch as it is. Epic spectacles of excess that take you on a roller coaster ride with despicable, conscienceless men who dupe average Joe’s out of millions and build an empire out of it. A three-hour film about the rise and fall of real life sleaze Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the greed and drug-addicted lifestyle that eventually led to his company’s demise. It’s one zany story after another that Scorsese wisely keeps on rapid fire throughout to not let you realize this movie you are enjoying so much is about horrible, immoral people. Tragic, yet undeniably funny, The Wolf of Wall Street ranks up there as one of Scorsese’s finest works. Not only is it a harsh truth about the world we live in and the darkness shrouding our financial system, it’s a cautionary tale with great relevance to headlines ripped from the front page of our modern society. DiCaprio and Jonah Hill’s balls out bravado, Terrence Winter’s biting script, and Scorsese’s best directing effort in years make The Wolf of Wall Street the best movie of the year. The pure chaos and comedic brilliance of scenes like the “Popeye Quaaludes” scene were quickly etched into my cinematic memory as some of the most memorable scenes in years. I was in awe of how this story was put together for the screen. I can hardly wait for repeat viewings. Just make sure and put the kids to bed first.

The Place Beyond the Pines

2 – The Place Beyond the Pines

Criminally underrated and unrecognized, Derek Cianfrance’s epic tale of cops and robbers and fathers and sons moved me in more ways than one. Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper own the screen exploring the tricky relationship between fathers and sons. No matter how bad a young man’s father is, he always wants to try and emulate him to a certain extent. A boy’s hero worship for his father is generally unstoppable and the film takes the subject on with such layered storytelling, disguising the human drama of the flawed as a genre movie. The end result is a mesmerizing film full of gut-punching twists that I can’t wait to revisit again.

Gravity

3 – Gravity

Cast Away in space is a very crude way to describe a film like Gravity. But that’s the basic premise. But, Gravity is much more than a survival movie. It’s much more than a space movie. A giant, heartfelt movie about the power of the human spirit. Alfonso Cuarón’s direction and the spellbinding, breathtaking special effects are an amazing achievement on their own, but combined that with two actors at the top of their game, and an earnestly triumphant story, Gravity is one of my favorite cinematic experiences of recent memory. My generation’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Pacific Rim

4 – Pacific Rim

I don’t find it difficult to get excited about a blockbuster directed by Guillermo Del Toro about a battle between giant robots and monsters, but to see the way Del Toro’s vision of Pacific Rim came out as a cinematic finished project is astonishing. Rarely is blockbuster this fun and technically sound all at the same time. Beautifully realized and equally entertaining throughout Pacific Rim is easily Del Toro’s best work to date. Filed under the same category as The Lone Ranger as the other big studio tent pole that went misunderstood and underachieved domestically, Pacific Rim deserves to be watched and watched again. Monsters vs. Robots people!

Christian Bale;Amy Adams;Bradley Cooper

5 – American Hustle

Fun. Fun. Fun. With its pitch-perfect ensemble performances and fast-talking story American Hustle dazzles from start to finish. Russell triumphs by borrowing from the greats. His Scorsese zoom pans almost are used ad nauseam, but I was having too much damn fun to really care to knock him for it. The key to making this Russell’s most confident film to date was realizing who to borrow from and he shows true inspiration with his choices. Whatever small negatives I could find quickly faded into the background of this con-artist caper. Russell’s first two features Spanking the Monkey and Flirting with Disaster showed promise. I rather enjoyed Three Kings too, but I felt like he had slight misses with I Heart Huckabee’s and The Fighter after that. Then came last year’s wonderfully insane love story Silver Linings Playbook. Russell builds on that momentum and finally hones his penchant for dysfunctional characters with good hearts. American Hustle is Goodfellas meets Silver Linings Playbook and the combination is one hell of a good time.

Inside Llewyn Davis

6 – Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coens deadpan storytelling reaches new heights with somehow making audiences empathetic to a protagonist that is pretty damn unlikeable. A film about the path to stardom and the fact that it never leads to anywhere for most who travel down its weary, winding roads. Oscar Isaac’s showcases his supreme talent as we follow Llewyn on his self-centered trek seeking folk stardom. It features all the caveats that we are used to with a Coen Brother’s film: Amazing music, funny and sharp dialogue, and amazing supporting performances. But, the main thing that stood out about this one for me was that it was the Coens most succinct film to date. Tightly woven and expertly directed, Inside Llewyn Davis had me grinning and chuckling for all 104 minutes of cold weather without a winter coat that Llewyn had to endure.

12 Years a Slave

7 – 12 Years a Slave

Director Steve McQueen takes a page out of one of our country’s darkest historical periods. Based on the book of the same name, the film follows the harrowing journey of Solomon Northup, who was born a free man, but was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s turn as the mistaken slave pours out with emotion and not only has you feeling his frustration as a free man trapped, but also keeps you rooting out loud all along the way. McQueen triumphantly brings Northup’s story to the screen with his usual straightforwardness and gives one of the clearest pictures of what it was probably like to see slavery as it was. Nudity and blood are no strangers in McQueen’s films and here you get an uncomfortable amount. Fassbender’s heartless plantation owner Epps is ferociously evil yet represents the moral justification that existed from the white majority at the time. As visually punishing as some of the graphic violence in Northup’s story is, it’s worth enduring through for a gratifying ending that is sure to move all that make it through the gut-wrenching story that is 12 Years a Slave.

Her

8 – Her

What more can I say about Joaquin Phoenix. Easily one of the top actors working today, he continues to slither in and out of his characters like a reptile’s skin. He has also been very good about choosing who he collaborates with. This time out he and Spike Jonze along coupled with the voice-over of Scarlett Johansson create a futuristic world that explores where our relationship with technology may be heading. Fresh and original, Her works simultaneously as entertainment and a think piece. A dark social commentary with a lot of big laughs and poignant moments, the script penned by Jonze, should be the chalk come Oscar night. I feel like Her will be even more profound years from now when our reality creeps closer to Spike’s vision. Jonze and Phoenix continue to march to their own drumbeat and I hope neither one of them ever take a different route.

1170481 - This Is The End

9 – This is the End

If you want to pee your pants, you should see This Is the End. I laughed so hard throughout its entirety I thought I might soil myself at any moment. Luckily, I made it through with zero accidents. In a hilarious send up of their Hollywood celebrity personas, This Is the End worked in every way for my funny bone. Generally when you get this many talents in one vehicle it tends to be bloated and extremely watered down. But not here…This Is the End is funniest movie of the year. It finds fresh and original ways to make the all-star cast stay in sync with each other and keep the story moving along one hilarious bit after another. Rogen and Goldberg were smart enough to give us a nice story that finds a way to show a little heart shine through amongst the dick-jokes and graphic post-apocalyptic FX. That’s the sign of a good comedy – when the characters are so loveable and funny that there is no amount of crudeness that would turn you off. That’s what This Is the End does, it makes you laugh a lot more than most comedies, but it also is written and directed in a way that both the story and the horror scenes keep you entertained when you have a few moments in between laughs. In the old school tradition of Cannonball Run, Rogen and Goldberg steer an all-star cast through heaven and hell to swim through a sea of cameos in one of the year’s best movies.

Prisoners

10- Prisoners

So many comparisons have been drawn to Prisoners. Films like Mystic River, Seven, and even Zero Dark Thirty seem to keep coming up. But for me, I drew parallels with another film Gyllenhaal excelled in, David Fincher’s Zodiac. It’s similarly paced, with solid performances, and Fincher never lets you count any suspect out until the very end of that jigsaw thriller. Director Denis Villeneuve lays out the web of damaged characters by subtly revealing their back stories with little, yet precise details. Couple the ensemble cast’s strong effort with the super talent of cinematographer Roger Deakins beautifully framing the murky details through rainy grey windows and pitch black night exteriors and you have a winner here. I quickly figured out that critics and fans alike were divided into love and hate camps with this film and even though I correctly identified the who in the whodunnit halfway through, there were more than enough great qualities about Prisoners to keep me well entertained until the two and a half hour running time expired. This movie does not take you to a happy place by any means, but it is high-grade entertainment for all of us grown-ups.

Mud

11 – Mud

Mud is a film that harkens back to legendary literature classics of yesteryear. It oozes Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and even though set in modern times, it could’ve just as easily been 100 years ago. The story takes place mostly on the river banks of the Mississippi and involves two boys happening on a mysterious and potentially dangerous loaner hiding out on the river. Although McConaughey and Witherspoon share virtually no screen time the casting is just right. McConaughey continues his hot streak with another spot on performance and Witherspoon, hides years of pain behind those eyes. Both actors turn in stellar character portrayals with a striking subtlety that’s quite refreshing. Tye Sheridan’s turn as Ellis evokes just the right amount of innocence, so that we can really recognize it being stripped away in the third act. Michael Shannon, Sam Shepard, and Paul Sparks complete a solid cast. Writer/director Jeff Nichols, who’s been somewhat of an indie darling, has turned out one intellectually stimulating film after another with great storytelling in both Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter. He follows suit with Mud, his best film to date. Nichols realizes that a great story doesn’t just happen; you have to read and turn the next page to get the full effect. There is no instant gratification with Nichols’ films. Some may even call his pace slow, but Nichols knows the value of classic storytelling of the past…and it’s good to know they actually still do make em’ like they used to. Mark Twain would’ve been proud.

Spring Breakers

12 – Spring Breakers

I can’t remember a film that I was so bored with in the first act that made such a surprising comeback in the second and third acts. Harmony Korine’s film could’ve been labeled as a pure fetish film if you just watched the first 30 minutes, but as this weird little flick got off the ground it was one of the most refreshingly unique and entertaining works I saw all year. A lot of it can be attributed to James Franco’s powerhouse performance as a wannabe gangster Alien, and surprisingly effective turns from Selena Gomez and Ashley Benson as the bikini-clad gunners. Whether or not you want to read into how much of this film was a social commentary on meat-head millennials or just a neon-laced heist movie, Spring Breakers stood out as 100% weird, and that ends up being a good thing.

The Lone Ranger

13 – The Lone Ranger

Why this was one of the most widely panned movies of the year still is a bit mind boggling to me. Goofy and fun, but extremely well crafted, The Lone Ranger was one of the most entertaining blockbusters of the summer. Sure this was a new take, a re-imagining of the classic TV series. Tonto (Johnny Depp) is now pretty much the lead and he’s not taking any of The Lone Ranger’s (Armie Hammer) shit. But even though it was a new spin director Gore Verbinski took up where he left off with Rango, his other magnificent collaboration with Depp. With nods to the classic Westerns and silent films galore, The Lone Ranger was funny, action-packed, and has a story that had more to say than most probably cared to realize.

Honorable Mention:

Frances Ha, The Act of Killing, We’re the Millers, Behind the Candelabra, Nebraska, Out of the Furnace

-JB

A Critic’s Dozen: Best Albums of 2013

A Critic’s Dozen: Best Albums of 2013

I think 2013 was a stellar year for music and really produced some great full-length albums. So it was tough for me to come up with my best of list. Kanye going off the charts with Yeezus and Drake giving us his best effort to-date. Haim kept me wrapped up in high quality sister-pop. Vampires of the City was amazing from start to finish. Hell even a band I worshiped in my adolescence made a turned in their strongest in years (NIN). The one I kept coming back to though was Queens of the Stone Age, …Like Clockwork. It sounds as good listening to it in its entirety now as it did back in May, and I feel like it won’t lose much in the years to come. That’s how I evaluate a great album. Start to finish, with staying power, and I think that is just what Josh Homme and company gave us with …Like clockwork. Long live Rock.

1 – Queens of the Stone Age, …Like Clockwork

QOTSA

2 – Kanye West, Yeezus

Kanye West

3 – Haim, Days Are Gone

Haim

4 – Drake, Nothing Was the Same

Drake

5 – Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City

Vampire Weekend

6 – Daft Punk, Random Access Memories

Daft Punk

7 – Palma Violets, 180

Palma Violets

8 – Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks

NIN

9 – The National, Trouble Will Find Me

The National

10 – Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe

Chvrches

11 – A$AP Rocky, LongLiveA$AP

asap-rocky-long-live-asap-cover-400x400

12 – Parquet Courts, Light Up Gold

PARQUET COURTS

13 – Earl Sweatshirt, Doris

EARL SWEATSHIRT

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Anchorman 2
2.5

Great Odin’s Raven! Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his entire news team are back for more comedy hijinks in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. The movie opens with some pretty decent comedic momentum, but loses steam about half way through as the story goes all over the place. It has a bright spots, but lacks the energy and hilarious back-and-fourths of the original.

After Ron goes through a hard breakup with his wife and co-anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) he’s hired by a new 24-hour news channel and Fox News – ahem…GNN is born. He seeks out all of his old running buddies to assemble the news team that once was, finding all of our favorite characters from the first installment doing their own thing. Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) has struck it rich becoming a famous cat photographer, Champ Kind (David Koechner) is running a fast food fried chicken chain, and Brick Tamland (Steve Carrell) is well…I’ll let you see that one for yourself. There are good solid jokes setting all these up including a pretty funny sequence where the news team is in a super slow-motion car crash involving scorpions and bowling balls. But when the new characters are introduced they don’t have a real place within the story and don’t really serve much of a comedic purpose. Jack Lime (James Marsden) is Ron’s new rival news anchor who quickly disappears somewhere in the second act. Then you also have Ron’s sassy new boss Linda Jackson (Meagan Good) who just happens to be African-American to set up some jokes involving Ron’s political incorrectness and 80’s racism that for me fell super flat. But, don’t get me wrong, there are still some big laughs in Anchorman 2, just not enough for me to recommend the movie.

The original Anchorman knew what it was. It was silly, raucous, and although most of the classic scenes in that movie were more than likely improvised the script had purpose and heart. This time around the script that director Adam McKay and Ferrell penned is so scattered that it feels almost like a different movie at different junctures in the story. As it neared its end I found myself asking, “Was Ron Burgundy just blind and bottle feeding a shark for the last 25 minutes?” That’s just the kind of sloppy subplots that really weighed this sequel down. I will watch Anchorman 2 again though. Probably while folding laundry on a Saturday afternoon with the tube lazily stuck on TNT or FX. That’s where this movie belongs and I think there is something good to be said for mediocre movies like that. Everything has its place.

-JB

American Hustle

American Hustle

Christian Bale;Amy Adams;Bradley Cooper
4

There are movies, and then there are films. Movies are predominantly built for mass audiences. When I think movie I think a theme park ride, a comic book, or a sequel designed to appeal to the more casual movie-goer. Films are geared towards a smaller section of the audience; made primarily to appeal to snarky cineastes who analyze for character development, technical aspects, and other cinematic elements. If you can achieve both a movie and film in one single work, then you have hit the entertainment jackpot. That is just what writer/director David O. Russell has accomplished with his latest flick, American Hustle. It’s sure to garner countless accolades and recognition from film critics, but I think it’s also something you could show your Uncle who hasn’t been to a movie in five years. Russell’s film goes big and over-the-top and scores big points for doing so. You’re in the theater hanging out with some of the zaniest, yet loveable characters in recent memory, and you’ll find yourself having an extraordinary amount of fun at the movies.

We open on a shot of Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) placing stray hairs back in to place in his intricate comb-over. He’s paunchy and balding and dresses like a sleazy car salesman turned nightclub owner. Bale’s Irving leaves debonair Bruce Wayne light years away from his newest incarnation. He and his girlfriend and partner Sydney (Amy Adams) have been busted by ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) and in exchange for no jail time agree to go undercover and help the bureau take down politicians on the take. Along the way we learn that Irving also has a wife and son. Irving’s wife Rosalyn not only has a screw loose, but manipulates Irving into staying together with her in their dysfunctional marriage. As DiMaso’s plan unfolds and continues to get bigger and bigger, Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), members of congress, and the mafia become targets. Irving wants to make a run for it and take Sydney out of the country, but can’t bring himself to leave his son behind. But who’s got the angle on who? The script keeps you guessing until the end, but the real reason you want to stay put in your seat are the amazing performances, especially from Bale and Lawrence. Bale is masterful as a con-man with the heart of a lion. Lawrence has found her wheelhouse combination of Crazy and David O. Russell, turning in another great role as the bat shit crazy Rosalyn. Cooper playing the curly-haired, over-zealous agent is a lot of fun too. Even the supporting bit parts are stellar. Louis C.K. as the straight-laced square supervisor of DiMaso’s department had me in stitches and Boardwalk Empire alums Shea Whigham and Jack Huston do their normal thing of being really good onscreen. The acting combined with a really nice production design and cinematography really makes American Hustle well-rounded in every aspect. One of my biggest pet peeves is period pieces that lazily skimp on the details, but Russell along with production designer Judy Becker gives us some of the best looks at the glitz, glam, and bravado of the 70’s since Boogie Nights.

With its pitch-perfect ensemble performances and fast-talking story American Hustle dazzles from start to finish. Russell triumphs by borrowing from the greats. His Scorsese zoom pans almost are used ad nauseam, but I was having too much damn fun to really care to knock him for it. The key to making this Russell’s most confident film to date was realizing who to borrow from and he shows true inspiration with his choices. Whatever small negatives I could find quickly faded into the background of this con-artist caper. Russell’s first two features Spanking the Monkey and Flirting with Disaster showed promise. I rather enjoyed Three Kings too, but I felt like he had slight misses with I Heart Huckabee’s and The Fighter after that. Then came last year’s wonderfully insane love story Silver Linings Playbook. Russell has built on that momentum and finally honed his penchant for dysfunctional characters with good hearts. American Hustle is Goodfellas meets Silver Linings Playbook and the combination is one hell of a good time.

-JB

Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips

Tom Hanks
3

Director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, United 93) finally found the perfect story for his shaky camera! Let’s go get seasick together at the movies! Tom Hanks plays Captain Richard Phillips, the real life hero who was taken hostage at sea by Somali pirates. It’s an amazing story, and to see how it all played out is pretty incredible.

Greengrass’ approach of casting virtually unknown actors to play real people works again here, but it really helps to have Hanks’ star power, even though he’s more everyman than ever. We see Phillips get dropped off at the airport by his wife (Catherine Keener), then we see him board the cargo ship and go through his normal preparation. But we know what’s coming. A slow build up leads to a nice big rescue mission payoff, although it drags a bit on its way there. The climatic third act will more than likely leave you shook and exhausted. The final sequence is effective to the point of the audience taking on some of the physical toll Captain Phillips is enduring. Trust me, you’ll leave the theater still tense and drained which is a testament to the power of the climax. It’s fairly mind-boggling to see how the military was able to intervene and plan Phillips’ rescue from a small lifeboat that had him flanked by three pirates. Just thank our lucky stars the Navy SEALs are on our side.

Captain Phillips is taut with suspense and intricately re-enacted moments from the real life story. If it weren’t for a brief bout with boredom at its midpoint, I would’ve called it masterful film making, but Captain Phillips ends up being a half hour too long. Greengrass does a nice job of evoking Captain Phillips’ workman-like mentality with a nice stripped down blue collar approach. All in all it is solid entertainment value for a docudrama, and is a very interesting and gripping true story of what this man did to save his crew. This Tom Hanks guy is a pretty, pretty, pretty good actor too.

-JB

Machete Kills

Machete Kills

Machete Kills

1.5

I will preface my review of Machete Kills by saying that I generally enjoy Danny Trejo, the works of Robert Rodriguez, and the character Machete.

When the first Machete film came out in 2010 a lot of audiences felt it was better suited to stay as it was originally spawned; a faux-trailer in the intermission of the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double-feature Grindhouse. I loved Machete as a fake preview and I rather enjoyed it as a feature length movie. As a fan of exploitation films of the 70’s and the badass action vehicles of the 80’s I understood the nostalgic nods to those movies, albeit mostly corny jokes. Machete was a fun flick that worked as a “so bad it’s actually pretty good” premise better than most that had tried before it. Now comes the sequel that we probably didn’t need. The first Machete almost ran out of gas in the final act, but didn’t go on long enough to grow tired. Machete Kills takes that sputtering spirit and uses it in every frame of screen time. Repetitive, uninspired, and just plain dull Machete Kills wears out the fun, badass spirit of the Machete character early in the first act. This follow-up finds Machete (Danny Trejo) hired by the President (Charlie Sheen billed as Carlos Estevez) to track down a madman heading up the Mexican drug cartel. Come to find out the devious plot goes deeper and leads Machete to go head to head with a Maniacal industrialist named Voz. In what could have been an ingenious piece of casting to let Gibson channel Martin Riggs and pave the way for a comeback, instead finds Gibson out-of-practice and sweaty. What could’ve been a daffy supporting role setup perfectly for Gibson to chew the scenery with just ends up boring and flat. The only mildly bright spot is Sheen’s semi-funny turn as the commander in chief. Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez reprise their roles, but neither are memorable or even necessary. Cuba Gooding, Jr., Sofia Vergara, Lady Gaga, and Antonio Banderas also have bit parts, but even after seeing the movie I’m still not even sure why. Not that you’d expect much from the writing in a Machete movie, but to say there’s no character development would be an understatement. No matter how this debacle of a comedy-action flick came to be this bland, audiences need to at least feel like there was somebody out there that cared enough to make an effort to make the best movie possible. That’s not what I took from it. Even Frank Drebin had a decent back story, and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, the weakest of that Trilogy towers over this waste of an hour and forty-seven minutes.

The problem is that there is nothing new or fresh that Rodriguez brings to the table. “Machete don’t text,” has been lazily replaced with “Machete don’t tweet,” and so forth and so on. The question I kept asking myself walking away from this one was, “How did the person that directed Sin City make this?” Onward and upward to Robert Rodriguez and Danny Trejo, but unfortunately we might be able to finally put a fork in Mel Gibson’s movie career. I hope I’m wrong.

-JB

« Previous Entries