Sunday, April 26, 2020

Review: Taxicab Ride with Jesus (2020)

Review: Imagine if you had a chance to talk to Jesus Christ for 20 minutes. What would you even say in a situation like that? More importantly, would you even believe him? In my honest opinion there is no correct answer to this question because even the most faithful would likely question the legitimacy of a total stranger claiming to be the son of god.

But I digress, from director Dan Brennan, the creative mind behind The Video Guys (2008) and Maggie Marvel (2010) comes Silly Sisters’ latest production Taxicab Ride with Jesus (2020) a short film about Billy (Dan Brennan) a down on his luck cab driver who’s going through a rough time having to balance a growing mountain of bills and medical debt, his wife Clare (Marybeth Paul) stressed and worried, and their daughter Wendy (Juliana Sousa) hospitalized in a coma, and who’s health is rapidly declining. Billy’s latest fare, however, happens to be Jesus Christ (Russ Camarda). Yup, THAT Jesus.

TRWJ is a heartfelt short that teaches one to find the inner courage and faith to take responsibility in life, even in the bleakest of times. Seeing Dan Brennan and Russ Camadra together on screen is always a treat to behold. While both actors are without question fantastic performers on their own, it’s whenever this dual share the screen together that, in my opinion, is when the real magic happens. Dan’s performance as Billy comes off as sympathetic and relating. He delivers an accurate representation of the every day man fighting through the day to day struggles of life. Russ’s take on Jesus is both fresh and to be frank, quite enjoyable. This isn’t the overly praise the lord churchy Jesus. This is a variation who quietly observed humanity in all their flawed ways for the past 2000 years, and quite frankly, have grown somewhat annoyed to see how little we have learned from past mistakes. This iteration of Christ might be viewed as a little controversial to some, sure, but I personally found it to be a welcoming breath of fresh air. Ed Cryer as God was perfection, absolutely perfection! With a cast like this I wouldn’t expect anyone else in the role of the all mighty! I also enjoyed Marybeth Paul performance as Clare, and Juliana Sousa as Wendy. Both did exceptionally well in their respective roles.

Final Verdict: I really enjoyed TRWJ. It’s well shot and well paced with suburb editing done by Russ Camadra himself. I really loved the Taxicab Confessions vibe the film gives off during Billy and Jesus’s conversation. It’s blunt and comes across in a no-bullshit attitude, but also doesn’t come off as too preachy. I also really appreciated the piano score, which in my opinion, added that extra special touch. My only complaint is that, I really wished it were just a tad bit longer than 20 minutes. All in all, TRWJ is a worth watching short, especially now more than ever with content being somewhat limited in availability.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Review: The Invisible Man (2020)

My Thoughts: At the start of the early 2010’s Universal Pictures was on track to launch their very own shared cinematic universe aka the DARK UNIVERSE. Which initially would have began with Dracula Untold (2014), followed with The Mummy (2017) and then work it’s way through their catalog of classic monsters movies leading up to the “AVENGERS” event (Monster Mash). However things didn’t quite pan out the way the some had hoped for, and the critical and commercial failure of 2017’s The Mummy was the final nail in the coffin for any future plans for a shared universe in it’s current inception. While the concept of a shared universe can be thrilling and highly enjoyable. 2020’s The Invisible Man proves that not every iconic franchise needs it. In this review I will be breaking down the mentionable things I loved, the things I liked, and the things I, for the lack of a better word, did not.

First off, the opening sequence really sets the tone for Invisible Man with it’s eerie silence. The anticipating build up as Cecilia Kass (Moss) attempts to pack her things up and get the fuck outta dodge while her abusive boyfriend Adrian Griffin (Cohen). The entire fricken opening sequence is unnerving to the core, and really sets the tone for what’s in store. This is largely attributed to The Handmaids Tale star Elizabeth Moss. Who really shows off her range of acting here. There are actors who can act their hearts out when given a good script. And then, there are great actors who can make any roll great through their performance alone. Elizabeth Moss is the latter. Her range of express is near limitless, and no doubt one of the most captivating aspect of any role she takes on. In this regard, in the absence of a physical co-star on screen, Moss’ performance picks up the slack and really amps up every scene. This is further complimented with the film’s beautiful cinematography, which takes these very brilliant wide angled shots that gives each and every scene a real sense purpose, and added atmospheric anxiety. I literally found myself scanning each scene up and down wondering, “where is Adrian? Is he here somewhere?”. The answer is, you don’t know. And that’s what makes it so terrifying. It’s not the scenes where he makes his presence known. It’s when he doesn’t.

This not knowing plays in well with the plot and the developing relationships between Kass, her sister Emily (Dyer), her friend James (Hodge), and his daughter Sydney (Reid). Because Kass suffers from PTSD due to her abusive relationship with Adrian, her motives and reactions are continuously questioned and doubted by all those around her. They think she’s going through a downward spiral into a mental break. And it’s frustrating for you, the viewer, because you know she’s not crazy, but they don’t. And it’s both maddening and brilliant at the same time. I loved the relationship between James, Sydney and Kass. It gave the movie a sense of grounding and a bit of relief from the intense build up. One of my overall favorite aspects of The Invisible Man is message of female empowerment embedded deep within it’s core. It shines light on psychological trauma victims tend to experience during abusive relationships. People typically assume that abuse only comes in the form of the physical, and while this is true to an extent, it also isn’t because its making light of the deep emotional and mental scars abuse leaves on a person. Kass isn’t just beaten. She was belittled and forced to be someone she wasn’t. Adrian got inside her head, it wasn’t bad enough he beat her, he needed to make her think how he wanted her to think, live and sleep how he wanted. Force her to be obedient in every sense of the word. But, when push comes to shove, there is only so much a person can take before they fight back. The movie doesn’t treat feminism like a trope. It’s worked in there quite organically and it works incredibly well thanks to writer/director Leigh Whannell. This is further cemented with the film’s ending, which in my honest opening, is one of the most satisfying movie ending I’ve had the pleasure of viewing in years. It’s the perfect payoff to a slow burn buildup. And it’s such an ingenious note to end the film on.

Final Verdict: So is there anything I hated? Well, I thought about it long and hard, and I honestly can say there isn’t a thing about this movie that I actually hated. There’s some nit picky things I wasn’t wholly satisfied with. But not something I outright hated. I wish we got a deeper look into who Adrain Griffin was, and what his motivations were that made him dangerously obsessive, controlling, and abusive. I certainly wish we had more onscreen time with actor Oliver Jackson-Cohen because he is a really good actor and did a magnificent job in the role. But I also understand that more onscreen time with him would absolutely defeat the purpose of the film’s title. Beyond the minor nit picking, The Invisible Man was near perfect, and had earned the rare top tier rating from me.

Rating: 10/10

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Review: Guns Akimbo (2020)


Review: It’s almost like a rite of passage for any child actor to take on a role that is out of the boundaries of what they’re expected. And yeah, for actor Daniel Radcliffe there have been a fair amount of films to cross those boundaries since his Harry Potter days. Films like The Woman in Black (2012), Horns (2013), Swiss Army Man (2016) just to name a few, are all evident of that chapter of sweet innocence coming to a closed in his career. That being said however, none of those films really struck a cored with me. They aren’t trash by any means. But I don’t consider them really “shock” value. That is until I watched Guns Akimbo. Now before I dive into the real meat of this review let me address the elephant in the room. [waves at Bill the wallflower elephant] No but seriously, this film is surrounded by a plethora of controversy. Mostly centered around the film’s director, Jason Lei Howden just prior to the movie’s theatrical release. I won’t go into the details regarding the disturbing controversy because this review isn’t about that, or him for that matter. If you want to know more about that then I suggest you look it up for yourself, which believe me isn’t hard at all to find. and it is quite the doozy of a read. But I digress..

Guns Akimbo is a nut cracking, ultra violent rollercoaster ride that, once the wheels start rolling you’re on a one way psychedelic trip to crazy town, and you forgot to put on some pants, baby! The plot revolves around Miles (Radcliffe) a soft spoken video game developer who divides his free time between secretly obsessing over his ex-girlfriend like a creeper through social media, and being a typical keyboard warrior picking fights with online trolls. That is until he picks a fight with the wrong motherfucker and finds himself in a heap of shit when a notorious organization known as Skizm shows up to bolt two pistols to his hands. Skizm is an entertainment terror group who force’s individuals of different backgrounds (ranging drug dealers, psychos, criminally insane, and your Garden variety bully) to fight each other to the death while millions of viewers watch via the internet and cheer on their favorites. Soon Miles finds himself being hunted by Skizm’s MVP, Nix (Weaving) a murder happy, coke snorting psycho who will stop at nothing to get her target. If there’s one person you don’t want to fuck with, it’s definitely Nix. Guns Akimbo in many ways remind me of Birds of Prey, in that it is a balls to the wall wild, but also super stylish film. Especially with it’s color pallet. It’s almost as if Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, and Shoot ‘Em Up had a coke fueled one night stand, and nine months later Guns Akimbo was the unintended result of not using protection. Yes, it’s that wild in my opinion!

The action sequences are very well choreographed, one scene in particular feels like it could have been ripped right from a John Wick movie. The violence is unforgiving and unrelenting, and is without a doubt pleasing is so many ways because it’s so fucking ridiculous that I could not help but love it! The intense violence is then complimented with a dark sense of humor. This is where Radcliffe truly shines in the film. His ability to hit the mark with comedic timing is so on point and awkwardly funny, that it’s hard not to laugh at the predicament and relate at the same time. But while Radcliffe might be the film’s headliner, the true star of Guns Akimbo that pretty much steals the whole fucking picture is without a doubt Samara Weaving. Her performance as Nix is so off the wall nuts, that at times she reminds me of a little of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn (minus the colorful outfits and overly done Brooklyn accent, of course). Hands down she is the absolute best part of Guns Akimbo. Not a single scene involving her comes off as dull, or boring in the slightest. Hell, I’d go as far as to say that I’d be willing to pay good money to see a Nix movie starring Samara Weaving! Ned Dennehy does exceptionally well as the film’s main antagonist, Riktor. A villain with an egotistical personality and power complex that is larger than life itself. But to be frank, the character isn’t really fleshed out all too much with backstory or substance to go on. Which unfortunately is a recurring theme for most of the characters in the film. There are so many potential plot points and opportunities for substance that go ignored. Or in some cases, begin, starts to go somewhere interesting, and then flatlines. Never to be brought up again, or have any sort of meaningful conclusion. It’s kinda like the equivalent to taking a massive peanut butter shit and then realizing after the fact that there isn’t any toilet paper in the fucking bathroom. So now you need to wobble your ridiculous ass off the crapper to get a fresh roll hoping above all hope, that no one catches you in such a compromising situation. Yeah, it’s that unsatisfying. Another issue I had was the unrealistic responses from normal every day people while all these fire fights are occurring around town throughout the story’s progression. In one scene two characters unload over a hundred rounds in an apartment with an open window. Yet people are going about their business walking on the sidewalk just outside. One of the characters then encounter a couple of police officers just around the corner. And you’re telling me they didn’t hear all the gunshots fired!? This is only but a single example of multiple occurrences throughout the film in which the loud as fuck gunplay goes completely ignored by passerby’s. Maybe it’s nitpicking. But its a pretty bad oversight that should have been noticed and corrected by the filmmaker.

Now that’s not to say the unfinished plot points, or unrealistic responses fire fights are a deal breaker. Despite the the films multiple issues, or the drug fueled insanity of gunplay that never really stops once the peddle is punched down. There is a much more to Guns Akimbo than meats the eye. Beneath the surface, the movie is a commentary on society at large, and the direction we are in many ways heading. From cyber bullying, toxic mob mentality, to people simply lacking empathy for their fellow man, especially on social media. That’s the ultimate message director Jason Lei Howden was trying to get across with Guns Akimbo. While I do think that message could have been put forward a little better, and the film in general done better. The movie is far from being shit. It can be a bit try hard at times, yes this is true. But it’s nowhere near the level of human waist that Hollywood has shot out from it’s poop shoot over the years.

Final Verdict: All in all. Guns Akimbo is a fun rollercoaster ride of violence and mayhem from start to finish with a corky sense of humor. Is it perfect? Far from it. The pros slightly outweigh the cons. But while it does have it’s problematic issues, the movie is still a pretty cool way to kill a couple of hours. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s got a pretty killer 80’s soundtrack to further compliment it’s over the top action sequences!

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Short Review: Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

Review: Video game adaptations have a horrible track record in cinema. Sure we do get the occasional Resident Evil. But RE is considered the exception as where everything else is the rule. So going in my expectations were low. Like, really low. To my surprise, however. Sonic turned out to be a real treat. Introducing the classic character to a new generation while also paying tribute to its past with callbacks to the classic games. Sonic isn't perfect, it certainly has it’s flaws. But it’s a faithful adaptation fun for the whole family!

Rating: 8/10

Review: Child’s Play (2019)

Review: The original Child’s Play has a very important significance to me. It’s the film that traumatized as a child. To a point that, I developed a paralyzing phobia for dolls. By the time my tween years rolled around my phobia had reached it’s peak level of intensity when being in the same room as a doll would result in extreme hyperventilating, sweating, and the inability to think rationally. Needless to say, I was pretty fucked up thanks to that little fucker. I did, however get over my fear of the movies some time ago and have even learned to appreciate the movies for it’s dark sense of humor along with blood and gore. The fear of dolls is still very much still there mind you, but it’s a slow work in progress.

But I digress. I hold the original Child’s Play, and more importantly the original Chucky up there in high regards. Right next to Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Pinhead, and even Leatherface. but, more specifically to say, much like Freddy and Pinhead, and that there is only one of them. So I was pretty damn skeptical about Orion Pictures’ remake. You can’t just replace the vocal genius of Brad Dourif. Not even if it’s with the likes of another master of the vocal arts such as Mark Hamill. You just don’t! And besides. Remakes are never an easy task to begin with. like any franchise it is incredibly difficult to reinvent that in which has already been established, whether it be the story, or the character itself. And yet somehow against all odds Orion Pictures managed to do just that with it’s 2019 reimagining. Similarly to the ogrinal, the reimagining is a bit of a slow burn in it’s first, and most of it’s second act. Though much dfferently from the original, the 2019 film goes about the story progression in a completely different way. Removing the supernatural aspect of the original, and the soul of serial killer Charles Lee Ray and replaced with an artificial intelligence made by the Kaslan Corperation (this movie’s universe equivalence to Apple).

After a disgruntled employee from Kaslan tampers with the safety features of one of the compeny’s Buddi dolls. It sets into motion a chain of horrific events. Chucky doesn’t immediately begin as a murderous doll. He actually begins as a sweet and purely innocent toy, and genuinely loves it’s owner Andy. And wants to do anything and everything it can to make his owner happy. For the most part, Chucky means well and bares no ill will towards anyone (at first). But as the story continues and Chucky is exposed to the harsh elements of life, he slowly begins to develope a more murderous side. The movie pays tribute to the original in many ways, but does not fallow in it’s exact footsteps. It carves out it’s own bloody path which on it’s own merits is pretty damn entertaining and creative. However, It is not without it’s flaws to bare. While the first half plays off pretty strongly, the movie does stumble a bit in it’s second half with the big climax feeling a tad bit rushed, which makes you feel somewhat robbed of the the moment to fully appreciate the payoff that the film was building towards. I also wasnt too excited over the design choice for the new Chucky. Don’t get me wrong. Original Chucky looked ugly as fuck just the same. But the new one looks like Ken’s methhead cousin who lives behind the dumpster of a 7-Eleven. The design definitely takes some getting use to (if that’s even possible). Is it a bad movie? Far from it. The remake/reimagining is a fantastic film teeming with loads of ambition and deserves to be given a fair shake. Is it superior to the original? Nope, the original is a classic that cannot be beat.

Final Verdict: Child’s Play (2019) is a bold and fresh new take on a iconic character and I look forward to see what Orion Pictures has planned for it’s future.

Rating: 8/10