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

Review: Joker (2019)

Review: Joker isn’t quite your average comic book movie. In the sense that, it isn’t really one at all. Remove the name Gotham City, the Waynes, and Arthur Fleck, and what you have is a psychological character peice focused on a troubled man suffering from mental illness brought on from years of abuse (both physical and mental) by his mother, whom also suffers from her own mental issues. The city in which Arthur lives in, is a cold and heartless place completely divoid of empathy and warmth.

There is only the haves and the have not. Gotham’s privileged few, and those trapped in the city’s underbelly. And it’s the privileged who are calling the shots. In Alan Moore’s 1988 masterpiece The Killing Joke, there is a moment in which Batman’s arch nemesis, the Joker, mentions the “One Bad Day” theory, in which the most sanest of men can be driven completely mad through the act of a single bad day. Proving that under the right circumstances anyone can be like the Joker if pushed to their limits. And maybe deep down inside us all, there in lies a hint of what makes the Joker, Joker.. While not exactly the same for Arthur Fleck in terms of a single bad day, Arthur is a man who has battled his own demons his entire life. We witness his fragile state gradually decline into madness over the course of the film. What happens to a man who dances ever so closely on the very edge of sanity in a city that does not care about helping society’s most vulnerable?

Joker is a deeply unsettling and bleak movie that strives to make you feel an unwavering sense of discomfort throughout. Hanger director Todd Philips, delivers a movie that makes you sympathize with it’s title character but only to a degree. There is most certainly a point in Joker where you, the viewer, realizes that Arthur has crossed a line, and is heading down a path in which there is no return from.

Joker is without question an amazing film. But far from perfect. In my opinion, Joker suffers from number of issues. Most noteworthy being a plot that is hardly original. After having seen it I also conclude that it’s also an overly hyped film. It’s not nearly as violent or as some opponents of the film have sited as “dangerous”. This is a huge misconception of Joker. Disturbing? Yes. Unsettling? Oh you betcha! But violently dangerous? Not even close. The odds of this movie inspiring real life violence is as likely as My Little Pony inspiring the next World War. And if that happens then I’ll gladly eat crow (oh please god don’t let me be wrong!). The movie tends to drag on a bit longer for my liking in it’s second act, but to it’s credit that is easily forgiven with Joaquin Phoenix’s fantastic proformence. While I don’t think the movie itself is deserving to “sweep the Oscars”, I do think it will be a damn crime if Phoenix isn’t at least recognized for his bone chilling performance.

The cinematography was something I appreciated. Particularly the way the film goes about it’s color schemes. Some scenes have a notably blueish hue, while other scenes have an almost orange like hue. One thing, however that was a bit of a turn off was the fact a chunk of the plot is centered around the Wayne’s. And that Bruce was used as a plot device at one point. As a long time fan of Batman it has always bugged me when there is an attempt to link Batman’s origin with Joker’s. It’s highly possible for these two individuals, Gotham’s Dark Knight, and it’s Clown Prince of Crime, to be arch nemesis that battle through the ages and not be as strongly linked to each other. Especially Batman. Because in my opinion, it feeds into the whole “Chosen One” narrative. This is something Burton misunderstood about Batman. And despite how amazing his 1989 classic is and how much I adore it, I never fully got onboard with the idea that Joker is somehow responsible for making Batman. This is something Nolan understood right away when making The Dark Knight. And sadly, Todd Phillips did not.

Final Verdict: Overall, while it isn’t perfect. Joker is a pretty engaging film that will stick with you for quite some time. It is worth checking out at least once.

Rating: 7/10

Review: Pet Sematary (2019)

Review: From the moment I heard John Lithgow say “Sometimes death is better” in the trailer, I knew I was going to have issues with the 2019 remake. Which I found very disappointing considering it’s been 30 years since the orginal Pet Sematary was released, and was well within justification for an update. It seemed so promising with the potential of being on the same level of greatness as the IT remake. But alas, the finished product sacrificed everything that made the novel great in the name of cheap jump scares. What made the novel such a great book is that it’s more than your average run of the mill horror, it’s also a tragedy that hit’s you where it counts, and leaves you with questions of morality if put in similar circumstances. This is something lacking in the 2019 remake. It lacks the ability to invest any sort of emotional bond with it’s viewer and thus feels heartless. This, of course could not be more true than in the film’s big twist... By shifting the tragic death of Gage to Ellie, the film robs us of her grief, and how she copes with the loss of a sibling. And turns her into a genric killing machine. This leads me to the other issue. In the novel the series of tragic events is largely due to Louis’s inability to accept the finality of death, and instead continues repeating the vicious cycle out of desperation and hope things will differ this time around. Except they don’t. The story of Pet Sematary is every bit as much a tragedy as it is a horror. And yet, in the 2019 remake, we are deprived of some of the most key elements.

Rating: 2/10