Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

J. Giambrone

Destroyer-movie-bannerI’ve compressed all the reviews into these compendiums, except for a few exceptional titles:

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Burning

This Korean crime drama takes too long to get moving, with a sad sack of a protagonist–a writer, of course. It does bring a memorable ending though.

Mary Queen of Scots

Like many, I’m absolutely entranced by Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie as well. I meant to review this in full, but nobody reads reviews anymore. I wasn’t sure how closely they stuck to the real history, as the writer even admitted to fabricating a key scene. Is history improved through embellishment?

Ask Me Anything

This oddball story twists everything at the end. That’s the best thing I can say about it.

Humans S3

I thought I had reviewed this, as I…

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First the Freebies

I sift through the muck, so you don’t have to. Here are some underrated gems online for free right now:

Europa Report

I’ve talked about this before, and it remains a haunting, realistic science fiction thriller.

Triangle

I don’t think I have talked about Triangle. This is a great, twisted, deceptive story. It burrows deep into your mind and won’t let go.

The Last Seduction

I have mentioned this one on a list of sexy thrillers. Linda F. is a powerhouse and kind of evil.

Monster

Charlize Theron shows the depths she’s willing to go to be the world’s top actress. Serial killer Aileen Wuormos was almost unredeemable, but Theron plays her with unflinching humanity–the buzzword actors do love.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Such a lush, immersive world, apparently based in Chinese myths, this is an unforgettable kung fu extravaganza, not least because of the two female co-leads.

Starship Troopers

Paul Verhoeven slides somewhere between satire and action-thriller. It’s an ugly planet, a bug planet. Potentially mocking his own source material, this film was ahead of its time, with our real-world slide to fascism in full gear.

Numerous other films at those sites.

 

Onto the recent stuff
We Are the Night

This lesbian vampire thriller from Germany is a mixed bag. Without trying to second guess anyone, I’d call it a b-movie at best that could have used a rewrite.

Papillon

This remake of the Steve McQueen film is based on a true story, and they tried to be accurate to the source material. The first film was more memorable, however, and is a classic. They diverge in styles and in some of the subplots. I prefer the original.

November

Oddball Eastern European legends mish-moshed into some kind of religious/steampunk insanity. It dragged a bit slowly, but it’s not like anything else you’re likely to come across this year. A true WTF film.

Risk

A documentarian selectively edits the story of the world’s greatest living truth-teller. Laura Poitras does a disservice to all concerned with this sly hit piece on Julian Assange. She was invited in to tell the story of Wikileaks, but she instead let her personal biases affect the outcome. A real disappointment, years are compressed into seconds, and she disparages Assange with innuendo, rather than doing the hard work of fact finding in the case of the Swedish accusations against him. From the start she says that Julian didn’t trust her, but this was revealing that she didn’t trust Julian, and she made a film to spread her distrust to others.

Small Town Crime

Good small-scale crime film. I liked this one, but couldn’t think of enough to say about it to post a solo review. It’s a low-budget, gritty detective story with a very flawed main character.

Hot Summer Nights

This was interesting, but the filmmakers didn’t seem to know where it was going. Case in point, they shot an unused ending that was completely different. Chalk it up to a young, inexperienced bunch. Some good scenes about wasted youth pushing the limits in the summertime. Not terrible, but never makes it to poignant.

Submission

Poignant. A writer’s film, one of many. Stanley Tucci is a great actor, and he delivers a twist on the professor/student forbidden tryst. Some hard-hitting scenes with real stakes.

Lights Out

Borderline unwatchable. The “high concept” drivel Hollywood hacks can’t get enough of, but I can. Skip.

The Train

A cult classic second world war film with Burt Lancaster bellowing his American accent and not even trying to pretend he’s French. While the rest of the cast is French or German. A nice plot about stopping a Nazi from stealing France’s greatest paintings as they are run out of the country.

Bombshell: The Heddy Lamar Story

Surprising, and most of the film has suspense and build up. The ending kind of fizzles. This exceptional woman was an inventor of military radio technology, which the government was too stupid to appreciate at the time it was needed most! And a beautiful actress with all sorts of issues.

Leave No Trace

This was highly recommended in the indie scene, and it’s shot well. I did like the completeness of the story, the multi-generational aspect, the coming of age and the unique perspective on society that it dramatizes.

Plus other films with full reviews.

J. Giambrone

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Unsane

I rejected this at first because it’s a gimmick movie: filmed on IPhones. Yawn. There’s a reason phones are for making calls and cinema cameras make moving images. Soderbergh makes stupid calls sometimes. It’s heavily color graded on crappy source footage, and so the entire movie takes you out of the movie.

The story deserved a better, more serious, approach. A decent thriller, decent acting, the Philistines may forget about the crap footage and just watch.

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Now here’s a stylized movie-movie, shot on real cameras. Imagine. I might have reviewed it in its own post, but I’m so lazy.

Hotel Artemis has that ultra-violent over-the-top action. None of the characters are all that likable. The sleaze is a tad off-putting. As a curiosity it stands up, contained in one location and populated by lowlife murderers at each others’ throats.

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Here is a taut true-life drama…

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Above are some reviews from Redbox. What do they have in common?

The 4th one calls himself “MovieProfessor.”

The Idiocracy is upon us, children. Take hammers to your skulls. Bash hard. It’s a new game. The Hammer Head Game. It’s from the internet. Take a whack!

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Out on DVD

Posted: March 8, 2016 in -, Joe Giambrone
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Black Mass – My Review

 

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Crimson Peak – My Review

 

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Hunger Games Mockingjay 2 – My Review

 

Suffragette-Film-PosterSuffragette – My Review

 

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Spectre – My Review

 

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Pawn Sacrifice – My Review

 

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The Hateful Eight – My Review

 

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Mistress America – My Review

 

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Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation – My Review

 

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Sicario – My Review

 

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The End of the Tour – My Review

 

Green Inferno – My Review

 

 

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Solstice Publishing, 320pp.
$4.99 at Amazon

Book Website

“There is nothing about Transfixion that won’t excite you and keep you reading late into the night. So if you’re ready for an ‘end of days’ novel with a one-of-a-kind experience, I say you order now and buckle up.”
“This book was AMAZING! …I loved this story! It was action-packed, constantly moving, and definitely worth the read!”
“Every so often, you read a book that makes you stay up till all hours of the morning just so you can finish it. Transfixion is that book.”
“Fast paced page turner!!!!! Can’t wait to see more by this new author!!!!”
“The plot was brilliant. Kaylee is both brave and resourceful, showing strong characterization. This book is well worth its price.”
“Loved it!!! I couldnt stop reading!!!”
Transfixion is a window into a world gone insane and asks us how long we could fight against insanity before falling prey to it ourselves. It’s The Hunger Games meets The Walking Dead! More than worth a look.”
“I found that I could relate well with Kaylee Colton… The fact that she returns to her book is that she isn’t ready to realize what her new reality is. She would rather hole herself up in literature.”
Transfixion held my attention from the start. A fight to survive against extreme odds with the heroine of the hour nose buried in a book more often the not.”
“Great YA thriller – be hooked!  …The story is cleverly elaborated, focuses on Kaylee and her personal growth. I was drawn in, felt like a member of her comrades.”
“It will have you questioning what you would do if in their situation.”
“She has enough drive to keep you on her side and enough smarts to stop you looking down on her or her choices without Kaylee turning into some kind of action hero movie star.”
“At its core, the novel is a thought-provoking science fiction thriller. At the same time, however, Giambrone weaves in elements of paranormal fiction.”
Transfixion is an action-packed novel that will leave you breathless and full of adrenaline. You might need to stop and take a breath every third page or so. At least, I did.”
“Giambrone’s integration of Kaylee’s coping mechanism with the storyline is a nice touch that could be missed if you aren’t reading too closely. As it is, I think that it enhanced the story and the characters, and definitely made me smile at the end.”
“This book is a great YA book, the violence is not so descript that I would fear young teens reading it, it did not have a lot of sexual content and I have actually already recommended to several teens in the 12-15 age range. I really enjoyed this book, it moved very quickly and had a great flow to it.”
“J. Giambrone did a great job of building up the depth of the confusing emotions the characters were experiencing as they muddled their way through a scary turn of events. He gave the teenage characters faults that were realistic and true to their development.”
“This is a good read, great for YA. I will be seeing if my 13 year old son wants to read it.”
Lastly, this analysis by Kieran Kelly is fascinating:
“Fast-paced, thought-provoking and at times moving.”

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All right, my peoples…

Recent DVD/BluRay releases now available near you that we have covered, and some we haven’t.  If you would like to send in a review for these, they will definitely be considered–

Not Yet:
  • The Counselor
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Free Ride
  • About Time
  • Captain Phillips
  • Enders Game
  • Machete Kills
  • Prisoners
  • Don Jon
Reviews we already have covered:

 

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I actually watch more movies than I write about here.  Some are so inconsequential (early 70s vampire soft core?), and some are so stupid that they don’t even deserve mention.  Okay, there’s embarrassment for having chosen and sat through them at all.  We’ve all been there.  I’m pretty open-minded and end up there a lot.

One such film that I decided to ignore here was The Internship with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan.  If I bothered to review it, then I would have started by complaining how I felt like I was raped by Google Inc.  The product placement has become the movie, a new level of corporate psychological malfeasance.  Additionally, The Internship was stuffed with formula, unfunny generational humor and tired shtick.  Google should have gotten an executive producer credit and probably put up a chunk of money to remind us of the glory of Google, about a hundred times.

It’s a bit disturbing that the trend is toward corporate promotion and away from art, away from storytelling that matters to people (if that ever was a concern in Hollywood). I may have to belt the next knob who utters the Satanic phrase “branded entertainment.”  Bill Hicks discussed a similar situation two decades ago.

Crass marketing calculus has become the product.  The concern is no longer a wonderful story that brings along side benefits.  The only concerns are the side benefits.

Other films I’ve not bothered reviewing include The Master, which I didn’t take to.  Who could, really?  It was a dismal and ugly thing, quite unlike the other film mentioned, but still it didn’t resonate enough to warrant an additional review.  I’d already posted someone’s take on it here, and I didn’t feel it really earned a revisiting.

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The Total Recall remake was mind numbingly bad too, but I spared the readers hoping it would just fade away like a bad commercial.  The cheezy 80s Arnold version gains in stature.  Others that passed by the wayside include The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Identity Thief, Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie and The Other Guys.  None of these will end up in any pantheon of great comedies no matter how dumbed down the future may be.

I’ve watched and rewatched films, searching for gems, but when they don’t stand out I spare the readers. Yesterday morning I finished watching Hello Herman, a little indie film about the death penalty and school spree massacres.  I wasn’t going to post about it as it’s just not done very well.  The budget of course was a factor but also the specific execution.  Not terrible, but not terribly consequential either.

Today I watched the 1999 film Beat, with Courtney Love and Kiefer Sutherland.  This little historical drama tells of how William S. Burroughs murdered his wife.  Not a terrible film, but also not clicking.  Not worthy of its own post, I’m not going to pretend it’s a Cult Classic or Under the Radar.  The Burroughs barrage of insanity, Naked Lunch, however, directed by David Cronenberg is a true mind bender.

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So many movies fall short that it’s rather a shame in terms of wasted resources, time, effort.  A couple years back they were submitting 10,000 films per year to the Sundance Festival.  That’s 10k full length movies, not shorts, not scripts.

The current film explosion is resource unfriendly, gobbling up time, money and dreams.  The opportunity costs are significant.  All that effort could have been put to something else.  I’ve been of the opinion that 90% of them are just a waste of human potential and the viewer’s time.  How to get to the good ones without a flood of the ghastly?  Can the top 5% exist without the 95% missed opportunities?  Seems that so many aim low, confident in their exploitative power: selling sex, selling violence, selling revenge, selling torture porn.  Of the ones that actually try harder, why so many botched efforts?  Have we seen it all?  Is there nothing new under the sun?

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I think the industry grinds on because it is an industry.  People are in it for the paycheck, and whatever else their “product” foists on the world is not important to most of the people involved. The ideas being spread are largely out of their control, and people need to work.  This capitalist system is responsible for churning out mercenary art, art that exists solely because of the money flows. The participants concoct elaborate defenses as to why their system, the one they are personally invested in, is so valid, but the results, to the dispassionate observer, don’t appear so glorious.

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by Joe Giambrone

Spoilers may follow.

Recently watching Deception (2008), I was disappointed with the story, and then got to thinking about Bad Influence (1990) which is the same kind of story – done better.  A mousy, shy guy is introduced to the wild life of debauchery, but there are ulterior motives.  I had wanted to post on Bad Influence already and call it a Cult Classic.  So then I got to thinking about a lot of other psychological thrillers that use the allure of sex as bait to hook the audience as well as the lead character, play with their desires and manipulate their perceptions of unfolding events.

Femme fatales are as old as Blue Angel (1930), and probably predate her.  Some of the more memorable ones that stick in my mind are The Last Seduction (1994), Basic Instinct (1992) and Wild Things (1998).

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These types of films often lose their way by the end, either in plotting or in their moral compass.  The B list is littered with innumerable misfires that fell short somewhere along the path.  It is very difficult to spin new twists that we haven’t seen before and have them remain plausible, meaningful, and keep to a theme that resonates.

My problems with Deception, besides its slow dragging pace, are mostly with its ending.  Ewan McGregor has been played by a couple of grifters, and he’s framed for the murder of a blonde he’d fallen for, sorta.  The body in the morgue isn’t hers but a look-alike.  The real blonde is supposedly held hostage unless McGregor steals millions from his client and wires it to an account in Spain.

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McGregor then realizes that his blonde is in on it too, a femme fatale.  He sneakily arranges it that a partner’s signature be required to withdraw funds from the Spanish bank.  McGregor shows up in Spain to claim half the money, going into partnership with the murderous grifter (Hugh Jackman) who framed him.  There are two endings that can follow, the theatrical one and the deleted one on the dvd.  Neither works.

In the deleted ending, McGregor takes half the money and rides off into the sunset.  He’s basically given the murderous thug who framed him $10M, given up on the girl, and decided to disappear into wealthy obscurity.  He’s certainly lost his moral compass and become one of them, to a degree.  Was this the intended resolution of a story that had him battling to save a girl held hostage for so long?  It’s a disconnected resolution, and was rejected by the studio.

The theatrical ending goes over the top.  McGregor and Hugh Jackman stand outside the Spanish bank holding $10M each in suitcases.  McGregor offers $5M for the location of the blonde who betrayed him – he’s still in love.  Jackman says he’ll deal.  They walk to the park.  Jackman pulls out a pistol to kill McGregor.  From nowhere, the blonde shoots Jackman dead.  The blonde apologizes and runs off.  McGregor leaves $20M lying there in the park by the dead guy and runs off to find the blonde.  She says she can’t be with him and leaves.  McGregor, no money, no identity ends up in a city plaza, and the blonde just happens to be in the same plaza at the same time.  A smile.  The end.  Really?

Allowing that getting a fake passport that actually works these days is a tall order, especially in one day for a guy who knows nothing about crime, the girl also managed to get herself a firearm in Spain, secretly track the men and take out the armed and dangerous Jackman without the slightest hitch.  It seems totally out of the blonde ingenue’s character and beyond belief.  Then they just leave $20M for the cops.  This was supposedly “dirty money” in the first place and no one is looking for it.  Okay, McGregor chooses love over money, but the blonde isn’t really all that lovable, and she knows it.  He doesn’t fight for her, and just lets her go, which is where a plausible end should have been.  But then he miraculously stumbles upon her again while trekking through Europe?  It’s easy to blow the finish, and studio pressures for happy endings can really mess up any sense of direction a film may have built up.

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The draws in Deception and Bad Influence are wild sex encounters with strangers.  Deception uses an elite call list to arrange hook ups.  These are played quickly and coldly, lacking passion and rather voyeuristically.  Bad Influence uses traveling one-night only rave styled sex parties.  In both films, the devil’s salesman recruits the curious man to expand his horizons, edging him out of his cocoon.

I prefer Bad Influence over Deception for several reasons.  Here, James Spader is a mid-level corporate shlub, and he comes upon Rob Lowe, who has the keys to Lucifer’s kingdom.  The events are raw and faster paced.  Lowe reveals himself as a sociopath by degrees.  When Lowe murders a girl in Spader’s apartment his psychosis is delivered with shock, setting up a clear moral battle.  Spader is outgunned and outwitted, and there is no grey area about who he is or what he’s doing.  He’s not in it for the money, and he’s not playing games, as the evidence to frame him for murder is in Lowe’s hands.  Definitely a more satisfying film with more passionate actors who really disappeared into their roles.

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After an uncharacteristically swift (and passionate) response to the bad Lone Ranger reviews I posted here yesterday, I figured I’d look a little more into this masked man and his crow-accessorized companion.

Some critics are calling it genuinely subversive, misunderstood and other sorts of praises.

Luke Thompson:

“This will not likely come as a shock to anyone, but lest there was any doubt, yes, it adds fantasy elements and makes many of the major characters insane, while not being remotely accurate to real history. What may surprise you is that there is a legitimate in-story reason for this, one that also accounts for its mood-swings, tonal shifts, and occasional plot holes that the story quite deliberately calls your attention to.”

More:

The Lone Ranger’s Lonely Defenders: Critics Ride to the Maligned Blockbuster’s Rescue

With  the Tomatometer in freefall at 23% and with audiences at 68%, quite the split, we have something to think about here.

I’m inclined to listen to what Native Americans think of it before taking the word of middle aged white guys.

Native Appropriations:

“It’s 2.5 hours of a film with an identity crisis, not knowing if it’s supposed to be funny, campy, dramatic, “authentic,” or what. At points it was very hard to separate the stereotypical and hurtful from the bad script, bad editing, and bad character development of the movie itself.”

Apparently its defenders are pulling a Pee Wee Herman:

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Hey, if you ever wonder why “they,” as in most of the rest of the world “hates us,” well here ya go.  Scahill’s Dirty Wars is getting press.

Business Insider:

“Rumsfeld worked to make sure that the unit was “unrestrained and unaccountable to anyone except him, Cheney, and the president” while Cheney began going to JSOC headquarters at Fort Bragg in North Carolina to give direct action orders.”

More:

UPDATE

Douglas Valentine pointed out problems with Scahill, his foundation funded backers and the info he doesn’t release (concerning CIA).

Then something trutly absurd happened, straight from Scahill’s own Twitter:

Jeremy Scahill Bullies Mother Agnes!

 

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Included as many trailers as possible.  Still images don’t cut it here.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

It’s not what you’re expecting.  Tom Tykwer is a great director, and he’s on here twice.

Enter the Void

Gaspar Noe on more than good will.  The Tibetan Book of the Dead brings psychedelic reincarnation into some kind of hallucinogenic existence.

Irreversible

Noe again, not for the faint of heart.  Backwards storytelling… and leave grandma at home.

Liquid Sky

Mostly to fuck with your head.  Has to be seen to be believed.

Dirty Duck

Trailers From Hell explains.

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Pink Floyd’s The Wall

Not sure if this movie damaged my brain.  Probably not.  You’re okay.  Go ahead: Trailer.

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Jacob’s Ladder

Review here.

Memento

Review here.

Existenz

I love this film,and it could be Cronenberg’s best mind messing.  Blew my mind when I saw it in the theater.  What an ending.

The Naked Lunch

Not for everyone, this is getting downright disturbing.

The Skin I Live In

Needed to include this because it’s such a damned good movie, and bonus WTF factor.

Time Crimes

Time travel anomalies, paradoxes? Review here.

Tetsuo the Iron Man

Like with Mulholland Drive, I swear there’s a logic there somewhere that can be articulated, given enough time and review.  But I don’t think most people are going to agree.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Manages to stay fun, heartfelt and somehow even real.

Mulholland Drive

Lynch finally got his insanity to work magic.  Not sure how or why, but Naomi Watts goes a long way toward keeping this thing fascinating.

Yeah, there’s more…