Archive for category Film

Movie Mayhem – Mile 22

Mile 22

Mile 22 — 2018; Directed by Peter Berg; Starring Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, John Malkovich, Iko Uwais, and Ronda Rousey

Ever since the beginning of cinema, actors and directors have been teaming up to produce multiple projects together. Leonardo Dicaprio was just another pretty face before Martin Scorcese made him an actor; Wes Anderson’s phone number is the only one Bill Murray will ever answer; Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater break all kinds of boundaries; Tim Burton and Johnny Depp share the same brain; and John Ford and John Wayne are probably still making movies together in heaven. What makes them work so well together is because each pair have a unique brand; you always know what you’re going to get when you walk in the theater. One of the more recent actor/director collaborations is Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg, who have made four films together over the last five years (two of which opened in 2016). The first three were powerful true stories of harrowing bravery in the face of tragedy. Their newest partnership, Mile 22, is miles from their previous jaunts together, but nevertheless stays true to their brand.

Wahlberg plays James Silva, a man recruited by a clandestine government agency because of his wild temper and unfortunate upbringing. He’s a man without morals, without shame. He talks in narcissistic tones and rattles off his beliefs to perpetrators as if he’s channeling a ’90s version of Denis Leary. And he’s ruthless when it comes to his job, getting the work done no matter the cost. He’s paired with a team of similar, like-minded anti-heroes, none more so than Alice Kerr (an aggressively foul-mouthed Lauren Cohan), who must use a sensitivity divorce app so that her mouth doesn’t get her in hot water with her ex-husband (Berg) and give him fuel for the custody fire. She’s feminine on the outside, hot-wire testosterone on the inside.

While stationed at the U.S. embassy in China during an operation to track down some weaponized gas, a man (Iko Uwais) walks up to the embassy with a hard drive that holds the key to where the gas is located around the world. The only way to get those answers is to provide him with asylum to the U.S. There’s a time limit, though, as the ability to enter the code that will unlock what they need only lasts for several hours. Silva’s team, then, must get this man twenty-two miles to an airfield while being tracked by a shady Chinese government that wants him silenced.

This is the first time Wahlberg and Berg have partnered on a fictional story and one that doesn’t portray Wahlberg as a standard hero — someone who beats the odds while saving lives under the rule of law and integrity. Silva is a degenerate through and through, having to snap a rubber band on his wrist in order to ease his temper. It’s these little quirks, though, that add to the character and give him his arresting personality. It’s hard to relate to Silva, not like the characters Wahlberg has embodied in the past, but the more you learn how abused his mind is, the more you understand him and realize he isn’t so different after all.

It’s also through this character trait that Berg creates the visually kinetic world Silva lives in. On the surface, the film feels tensely frenetic. Choreographed fight scenes and chase sequences edited like a music video on crack. Even the simple dialogue and exposition scenes move too fast to catch your breath. But this visually hungry style digs deep within what makes Silva tick; Berg is showing us how fast and intense Silva’s mind actually is, and when you can’t escape the speed and chaos of this type of reality, how else are you going to present yourself to the world. It’s just one more layer to Silva’s character and both Wahlberg and Berg pull it off beautifully.

A lot of the humor also stems from this gruff, no holds-barred, boys-club attitude. The banter between teammates causes not only friction, but a hostility that leaves you with nothing else to do but laugh so as to release some of your own tension. Along with that, writer Lea Carpenter provides us with authentic-feeling dialogue between Silva’s team and Overwatch, a group of geeks sitting behind computers run by Bishop (John Malkovich), who see all and know all as they guide Silva’s team through the bedlam distracting them from getting to their destination. Watching how this team communicates is a wonder in itself.

Where the script falls a bit short is in the development of plot and key character aspects. Carpenter is so immersed in getting to the twisty reveal at the end of the film that they set things up that never really pay off. Case in point: as Silva’s team tries to get their “package” to the airfield, a couple of hackers remain behind to break the code in case things don’t work out. We get some crazy banter about signatures and the like and one of the hackers tries to find out who was behind building the encryption. This person is eventually revealed, but so arbitrarily, it’s a wonder why so much attention was paid to this aspect of the film.

But is that ultimately the point? Throughout the film, Berg cuts to Silva being interrogated about the mission, and if you’re really paying attention, a lot of what he has to say is in the undertones of the words themselves — that no matter how much you think you’re safe, or how well orchestrated everything is, there really is no point to anything that happens. Life isn’t some calculated game; it’s a mess of circumstance that no one can fully plan for, and when things get ugly, the only thing to do is step up and do what’s necessary to complete the mission.

And therein lies the true testament to Wahlberg and Berg’s collaborations. Mile 22 may be a gritty, less sympathetic way to showcase their message, but in the end, Wahlberg’s character is simply trying to save lives and do so without the help of anyone but himself. It’s not perfect, but it fits and does what it sets out to do, and in that way, Wahlberg and Berg produce yet another win in their growing repertoire.

My Grade: A

Bonus Reviews:

Alpha, a dreary story of how the dog (or in this case, wolf) first became “best friends” with man, spends so much time winking at its own cleverness and “authenticity” that it forgets to imbue its tale with fulfilling, heartwarming substance. B-

Though every story line is utterly predictable, Dog Days still pulls at the heartstrings with a Gary Marshall-level symphony of emotions, bringing together a fun cast of characters to deliver a simple message: love in all forms is possible — so as long as you have a dog. B+

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Next week, new movies include A-X-L, Searching and The Happytime Murders. If you would like to see a review for one of these, or any other film out next week, please respond in the comments below.

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Movie Mayhem – The Meg

The Meg

The Meg — 2018; Directed by Jon Turteltaub; Starring Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Page Kennedy and Shuya Sophia Cai

What made Jaws so great when it first scared audiences away from beaches (and subsequently made the rest of the series so underwhelming or bad) was that it felt so authentic. It’s been widely documented that Steven Spielberg had major technical problems with the shark during production, limiting its exposure to the audience. This “problem” provided much more tension because we could sense a danger lurking in the depths of the water, but couldn’t see it. Ever since then, filmmakers have tried to replicate that sense of fear to varying degrees of success.

The problem is, as technology evolved and became more accessible, that authenticity devolved. Filmmakers jumped at the chance to use computer effects to create more menacing sharks without the hindrance of technical issues, but in doing so, made them less scary. Not only that, but by focusing so much effort on making the shark more frightening, they stopped caring about the characters, which is another ingredient Spielberg nailed to precision. And when the characters simply become a source for food (and the only goal of the filmmaker is how many people die, and how gruesome their deaths will be), we lose that connection and, thus, our ability to relate to what’s happening. The genre, therefore has either embraced the stupidity of shark attacks or have failed to live up to the promise of being the next Jaws. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – The Spy Who Dumped Me

Spy Who Dumped Me

The Spy Who Dumped Me — 2018; Directed by Susanna Fogel; Starring Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Sam Heughan and Gillian Anderson

In small doses, Kate McKinnon can be very funny. On Saturday Night Live, for example, she has a knack for infusing characters with just enough manic energy and quirky characteristics that juxtapose perfectly with her straight-laced counterparts within the same sketch, and with her ability for perfectly-timed, over-the-top expressions, she can both make a sketch work from the beginning or bring life to an otherwise dying sketch. But this works best in four-minute bursts. It doesn’t work as well when she tries to extend this personality over the course of a two hour film. I have yet to see a movie featuring McKinnon where I didn’t find her overly aggressive, annoying and off-putting, mainly because it’s clear this type of extreme shtick is all she knows. This perception doesn’t change with her new film, The Spy Who Dumped Me, where she plays the hyperactive yin to Mila Kunis’s frazzled yang. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Mission: Impossible – Fallout

MI Fallout

Mission: Impossible – Fallout — 2018; Directed by Christopher McQuarrie; Starring Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Angela Bassett and Alec Baldwin

In my review of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, I compared the M:I franchise to the Fast and the Furious franchise, in which the films really found there voice with their fourth installments and haven’t let up on the gas since, each one producing fun, inventive (sometimes wholly outrageous) pieces of entertainment. My viewing of each series followed the same basic trajectory, where the first in the series was just okay, the second worse, prompting me to skip the third altogether (and still have yet to see). When the fourth entry came around, I reluctantly went to see them (Fast & Furious because my friend wanted to see it and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol mainly because of Simon Pegg). To my surprise, both franchises upped the ante and turned what could be considered singular, stand-alone projects into a continuous story where each new entry could stand on its own two feet, but as a whole felt as if they were part of a much bigger world, breathing life into the plots and the action by way of new characters that stuck around beyond their first appearance. With Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth installment of the M:I series, it almost feels like the end of an era, wrapping up story threads going back as far as the third film for one last hooray. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – The Equalizer 2/Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Equalizer-Mamma Mia

The Equalizer 2 — 2018; Directed by Antoine Fuqua; Starring Denzel Washington, Melissa Leo, Ashton Sanders and Pedro Pascal; Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again — 2018l; Directed by Ole Parker; Starring Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Pierce Brosnan and Christine Barinski

It seems sequel-itis has officially hit theaters this week with not one, not two, but three follow-ups to semi-successful films that most people weren’t hankering for. This comes on the heels of Tom Cruise’s sixth go-around as Ethan Hunt in the Mission:Impossible series and follows a week after the third installment of Hotel Transylvania 3 graced us with its unpleasant summer vacation. I understand that brand recognition can drive sequels, but if that’s the only thing studios are banking on, then they are doing not only the audience, but themselves a disservice. Producing a sequel is one thing; producing a new story with interesting character development within the same world is quite another, and it isn’t hard to see the difference. Where Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, a follow-up ten years in the making, finds a way to feed off of its predecessor while maturing into its own delightful song, The Equalizer 2, the next chapter to the semi-successful 2014 film about a man with a past who anonymously helps those less fortunate, does nothing but set itself on repeat. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Hotel Transylvania 3

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation — 2018; Directed y Genndy Tartakovsky; Starring the voices of Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, Katherine Hahn, David Spade, Keegan Michael-Key, Jim Gaffigan and Mel Brooks

Harmless (adjective): not able or likely to cause harm; inoffensive. Synonyms include safe, benign, mild, unobjectionable and unexceptional.

All of these words apply to Sony’s Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, a harmless, safe form of entertainment that goes out of its way to be as inoffensive and unobjectionable as it can be, ultimately making the film feel benign and unexceptional. If I may, I would also like to add: unnecessary. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Ant-Man and the Wasp

Antman and the Wasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp — 2018; Directed by Peyton Reed; Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Peña, Hannah John-Kame, Laurence Fishburne, Walton Goggins and Michelle Pfeiffer

Walton Goggins has been a favorite actor of mine since he first broke onto the scene as Timothy Olyphant’s charismatic and calculated foil Boyd Crowder on FX’s Justified. Goggins brought rich depth and nuance to a character that wasn’t meant to last past the first episode, and he didn’t let any second of screen time go to waste, especially when he shared it with Olyphant, each able to bring out a brother-like camaraderie that intensified the other’s performance. Ever since then, whether it be in TV or movies, Goggins has yet to recapture that presence in the same way. Goggins is a thinking man’s actor, and so far this year, he’s taken roles (or been given them) in films that don’t need any brain cells to enjoy, such as Maze Runner: The Death Cure and Tomb Raider, and that trend doesn’t stop with Marvel’s newest film, Ant-Man and the Wasp. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom — 2018; Directed by J.A. Bayona; Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Daniella Pineda, Rafe Spall, James Cromwell, Justice Smith and Isabella Sermon

There’s been some controversy recently about producers and studios claiming that some movies aren’t made for critics; they’re made for the fans. For me, this claim is just an excuse to produce films without any effort. If critics weren’t fans of film, why would they subject themselves to hours upon hours of their lives watching them? And if studios don’t want to receive bad reviews, they should stop rushing films into production and do what Pixar does and take the time to develop a good, solid story. On the other hand, everyone will bring their own personal experiences with them into a film. Where one person sees a masterpiece, another sees boring tripe. You’re never going to please everyone; all you can really do is make the best possible movie you can and let the chips fall where they may. Somoene’s opinion should never be mocked or ridiculed just because it doesn’t line up with yours. I know not everyone is going to like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the newest entry into the dino-centric franchise. Some will think it’s a retread of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, some won’t be interested in the cast, and some will say it’s nothing more than a cash-grab. And that’s fine. As for me, I enjoy an array of different types of films, and as both a critic and a fan, I thought Fallen Kingdom was a welcome addition to the franchise. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Incredibles 2

Incredibles 2

Incredibles 2 — 2018; Directed by Brad Bird; Starring the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, Sophia Bush and Samuel L. Jackson

When The Incredibles first made their way to the big screen in 2004, I really enjoyed it, as I do all Pixar movies, but I didn’t seem to appreciate it the same way I did  films like Toy Story and Finding Nemo. I’m not sure what it was, but there was something about it that didn’t quite click. Over the years, though, after several repeat viewings, the film has grown on me more, and I can appreciate what writer/director Brad Bird was able to accomplish. Fourteen years later, Bird returns with Incredibles 2, the long-awaited sequel to his superhero love song. Can it live up to what many fans of the original have been clamoring for? Or has the magic worn off due to the length of time it took to finally get this film off the ground? In many ways, it may be a little of both. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Hotel Artemis

HotelArtemis

Hotel Artemis — 2018; Directed by Drew Pearce; Starring Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Charlie Day, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista and Jeff Goldblum

Don’t be fooled by high-caliber casts. When the advertising for a film focuses heavily on the well-known, and in some cases, incredibly talented actors, it doesn’t necessarily equate to a particularly good film. Case in point — Movie 43. This 2013 film boasted about its extremely big names that all came together to have a good laugh. The end result, though, was a disgusting mess of a film that had almost zero laughs, took their premises way too far, and didn’t know what to do with their all-star talent. I can’t say that Hotel Artemis is near as bad as Movie 43, but it spends so much time lamenting over the caliber of its cast, that it completely forgets to give any of the characters or the plot any meaningful substance. Read Full Review

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