Movie Reviews: Only God Forgives

37426.jpgAfter seeing Drive, like many people, I was interested in what would come next from Nicolas Winding Refn. I was so excited, I did something I rarely do … I paid to watch the movie on demand. It cost around 20 bucks I think, and it was 20 bucks I would have rather had back. This is the price to pay when you want to see something still “new” in theaters from the director of Drive.

I even watched it twice, just in case I missed something or it was too confused at the arthouse story. I didn’t pay twice, mind you, since it was one of those things where you can watch as much as you wanted in 24 hours.

It was clearly an experiment gone wrong.

Ryan Gosling must have wanted to capitalize on the skills of the new hot director who made the classic, Drive, based on source material (a book, then Hugh Jackman script). Or, he clearly wanted to pay Refn back while loyalty in order to get funding for the film.

If you watch the documentary, My Life Directed, it is clear there were issues getting funding and distribution for this movie. Ryan and Nicolas had to make appearances at Drive events in order to add to the budget of Only God Forgives. What is also apparent is Nicolas Refn’s fear about how the story would be received.

It’s surely weird.

Kristin Scott Thomas is evil.

Ryan Gosling is really an antagonist in a foreign land.

We watch bad people squirm around trying to navigate in seedy ways.

The hero had unorthodox and uses methods most revered for villains.

The story is about characters which I like, and the cinematography is actually pretty good. The story isn’t compelling for my taste. I doubt anyone in Thailand relates to it. I term this is a story out of water. I can’t really classify it. I hated it and appreciated it at the same time. There is one great scene, involving a market ambush. There are a bunch of terrible, and cinematically pretentious scenes, involving everyone.

In My Life Directed, Refn says everyone wanted him to make another Drive.

Well, it’s been around 7 years since Drive. I think it’s time.

As for this movie, I’ll forgive you.

Movie Rating: 2/10 Machete chops

Movie Reviews: Roman J. Israel, Esq

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What is an esquire?

Either google the term if you have zero patience, or watch how Denzel Washington delivers an answer as Roman J. Israel, Esq, a man with a crisis of conscience.

This is a common theme in many adult films. I personally like George Clooney in Michael Clayton as he explores a similar theme, also in the legal world. Maybe this is why we don’t predominantly like attorneys. They are expensive, shallow, and the nature of their work treat their clients as dollar signs. This theme runs deep through the film as Denzel’s character has to weigh a life of servitude for the greater good, or giving in to the monetary demons on his shoulders.

Choices are made, and you can probably guess the arc. If you watched Nightcrawler, an excellent film also by Dan Gilroy (who also saved Rogue One in reshoots), you’ll know there is a new master in Hollywood. Gilroy understands pacing, character arcs, and how to deliver an ending against a narrative.

People, understandably, hope for some Hollywood type ending. In legal dramas, this often culminates in some victorious legal decision. But the story is often more about the case or criminal. A film directed by Dan Gilroy is always about someone’s journey, the decision they have to make, and the consequences of their actions. Watch Nightcrawler, the end of Rogue One, and Roman J. Esquire and compare.

I read a few other reviews, mostly centering on Denzel getting nominated for an Oscar again, but they hoped for more. Others called the film weird.

I thought it was tremendous masterwork done by a storyteller. I look forward to the next decade of Dan Gilroy films. They have you thinking afterward, “what was that about?” In current cinema, there are only a few other directors I hold in this regard: Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, and Nicholas Winding Refn. I don’t exactly have to love all of their films, but I love the artistry they display in a commercialized business.

I think this is Denzel’s best work in many years. He’s plays basically the same character in most of his films, likely due to director/producer decisions, so that people know exactly what they are paying for. He is kind of crusty, kind of tough, and usually to the point. Roman J. Israel is crusty, however isn’t tough, is kind of chicken, stammers on tangents and lacks social manners.

And what else. Colin Farrell. That Colin Farrell. The one who was In Bruges, not the one in SWAT. The one pushing himself in The Lobster, not the one evading capture in Total Recall. The one who dabbles in indie films with exploratory storytelling. Not the one looking for the big payday. The character actor. A good character actor.

Dan Gilroy, please please please keep the films coming. I know $11 million isn’t exactly the box office producers want, but film as an art form needs more stories like this, and adults need to support it in the future, otherwise over-saturation of sequels/prequels/animation/reboots/comic stories will somehow get worse. Film itself is going through a similar crisis of conscience. There is a tradeoff in this industry, like many others (like Facebook filtering the fake paid posts, but not all, or Google disabling fake news accounts, but still allowing Tai Lopez to pump Bitcoin courses to dumb millennials), which I now ponder the morning after. Movie reviewers are not exactly a philosophical bunch, so I understand how most were quick to type up their reviews and few actually thought about the art. I can only imagine them attending a new art exhibit.

Movie Rating: 9.5/10 Armenian Rewards

 

 

Movie Reviews: Night Owls

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When you are a night owl searching for a flick to watch in bed, what’s more fitting than a movie called Night Owls?

It is yet another story of boy meets girl.

Boy sleeps with girl.

Boy finds out she is crazy.

Whether or not art is imitating life, or life is imitating art is a tricky question in this case. One thing is known though, is this movie probably won’t be remembered as art. Madeline and Kevin are foes throughout. Adam Pally seems like he was told to do his best impression of Seth Rogan. Rosa Salazar seems like she was told to do her best impression of Aubrey Plaza.

The problem is, neither are funny.

Neither are believable playing it serious. For something as serious as the event that happens ten minutes in, I would expect to see more panic on both sides.

I’m not saying the acting is terrible. It’s okay. The best they can do is work with the material given to them. For most of the film, they are the only two characters struggling against each other on a single set.

In movies, opposites attract. Throughout the film, I didn’t really think Kevin or Madeline felt anything towards each other. Here, it seems they keep a disdain for each other up until the end. Madeline doesn’t show any real closure with her previous flame. Kevin doesn’t truly conquer his obstacle, not unless you count pouting off away from the conflict.

The movie sort of ends where it begins.

A more interesting movie would have been what happens next. At least then, we could have watched a change in the characters.

Movie Rating: 5/10 mace sprays in the face

 

 

Movie Reviews: Logan Lucky

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If I was to assemble a dream team to rob a Nascar race, what would be my top 3 draft picks?

1)Thomas Crown

2)Danny Ocean

3)The Joker (Dark Knight version)

I understand what happened. Instead of one James Bond, they replaced him with a newer James Bond. Instead of one heart throb, they replaced him with Magic Mike. Instead of one over-the-top villain, they replaced him with Kylo Ren.

I’m sure the movie pitch was something like “Magic Mike plus James Bond plus Star Wars meets Nascar meets Oceans 11 meets Little Miss Sunshine. “Cinematic gold,” the group of producers would exclaim before high fiving each and heading off to their lunch meetings at Nobu.

I saw how the other half steals. To me, it seemed just like how regular criminals steal: with a bad plan. In movies, bad plans are often replaced with overtly ambitious plans executed by underachievers. This is because boring plans by overachievers is too serious. It’s Heat. It’s the opening of The Dark Knight. The protagonist is typically the authority chasing them.

The movie itself is worth a watch. The gimmick is watching Daniel Craig play an American down on his luck. Channing Tatum does a serviceable job in his performance but it was hard to believe Adam Driver was his brother. Part of me thinks the movie would have worked better if Adam Driver was the main POV. The obstacles would have been even more challenging, and maybe with the war backstory there would have been a more clever ending.

Movie Rating: 7/10 John Denver songs.

 

Movie Reviews: Logan

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Logan is the movie everyone wanted to see at the beginning, not the end of the series. There is probably the least amount of special effects in this time than its predecessors that used it extensively in trying to hide poor acting, writing, and directing.

Logan is a adult film. Maybe not the first comic book adult film as many bandwagon fans seem to point out. At the core of the story, it is a character study of one man.

A broken man.

A man with claws. A Weapon X survivor. A man cursed by his healing powers.

He didn’t need to fight some old Samurai or Deadpool on top of a nuclear reactor to show who he was. He simply needed to fight for a reason. Something beyond himself. To become bigger than one character.

Wolverine needed to become Logan.

The film is great. The acting is great, even including the teenagers in the film. Just because it is a comic book movie doesn’t mean it is automatically made for easy translation and worldwide markets for teenagers around the world. Themes can still be dark. Acting can still trump special effects.

Maybe this is the last time we see Wolverine on screen. With Disney buying 20th Century Fox, I see it going two different ways. Either a full character reboot, or a boatload of cash for a couple more with Hugh Jackman.

For me, it will kind of be like Han Solo. There is only one in my book. It takes nearly flawless writing, acting, and directing to make us forget the previous role. The last time this happened for me was Christian Bale supplanting Michael Keaton as Batman. Then, in the sequel, Health Ledger supplanting Jack Nicholson. This was astounding to me. In the J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot, this didn’t quite happen with Chris Pine and Captain Kirk. I’d describe the feeling as a cool rendition of the old man in the Captain’s chair. The movie was still good.

Logan was great. Maybe it’s the last time we see Hugh don the claws.

Maybe he saved the best for last.

Movie Rating: 10/10 Claws

Movie Reviews: Hell or High Water

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This movie was good in the boring Old-Cop chases young-robber sort of way. It harkened back to No Country for Old Men to me, except the anti-hero was actually likable here.

To me, I never understood why people resorted to a life of risky crime where you area asking to get hunted down by armed cops with a major ego trip. All the risk for a few thousand bucks, which could be made manning the counter of a convenience store or working at Taco Bell is a much more peaceful way to get by where the only people to rob you is the tax man.

This movie didn’t answer that question.

Instead, it is a well acted movie with an ending that leaves us a little unfilled. They try to tell us the “why” but never actually do outside of serving a plot line that was supposed to be a mystery of motive the entire film. I felt annoyed. Like what a bunch of dumb shits.

There was a little depth a moments in the film. To me, the Native American partner and the allegory of lands being conquered over and over was pretty deep … but then they pretty much shit on that irony by FORCING and ending.

Chris Pine is good. Better than as Jack Ryan.

Ben Foster pretty much plays Ben Foster.

Jeff Bridges kind of does a dumb accent like he did “The Seventh Son.” It was annoying and didn’t necessarily add authenticity.

It appears they spent a bunch of money on Ford F-150’s, and zero on a cinematographer. Shit, all the angles and close ups and lighting seemed off. It is so much cooler watching the shots from behind a shooter, if shots are being made. Better to see the car from overhead when in a chase and making a huge turn (not a close-up of the tire, steering wheel, outside landscape moving). This is basic storytelling. When it all looks fake as hell, nobody believes it.

If there is one lesson, tip your waitresses well.

Movie Rating: 8/10 Sniper Shots

Movie Reviews: A Bigger Splash

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As many who know me can attest, I am a fan of foreign films. Usually, I would even admit that English films that take place in Europe usually get a pass from me for effort. In some regards, it is even more relatable to watch the cultural fish out of water story than something more authentic and locally made. You can read my review of Lost in Translation as an example of this. It had an impact on me that a Japanese made film with Japanese actors could not.

To a certain degree, most Science Fiction works this way. We want to see humanoids battle space dictators and enter light speed. Seldom are the protagonists in film a six foot one-eyed blob called Qloip.

Simply, we want to relate.

A Bigger Splash basically throws those principals out the window. Most of the characters are so unlikeable  an uninteresting that they might as well be Qloip. I was incredibly bored most of the movie, despite the effort Ralph Fiennes put in to try to make it entertaining. There is a limit an eccentric character can save a film if it isn’t a comedy.

Then, there were the flashbacks as if it would reveal some secrets that audience couldn’t infer from the acting and dialogue.

Tilda Swinton, despite being a decent actor, is pretty unbelievable as a rock star. Matthias Schoenaerts is pretty unforgettable in playing the boytoy boyfriend that represents a physical outlet.  Dakota Johnson is just as convincing as she was in Fifty Shades of Gray.

Ralph Fiennes is decent, and maybe it would have been a better story if it just followed him  in his POV the entire time, even to the splashy ending.

This movie simply will be flushed from my mind, which is a rather difficult feat with an interesting environment.

Movie Rating: 2/10 splashes