Archive for category Film

Movie Mayhem – Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil — 2019; Directed by Joachim Rønning; Starring Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer, Harris Dickison, Sam Riley and Chiwetel Ejiofor

If you’ve been reading my blog since the beginning, you may have read my review of Maleficent way way back in 2014. In that review, I was very critical of the film in many aspects, including the watered-down — or non-existent — relationship between Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and Aurora (Elle Fanning) that was supposed to be the crux of the plot, as well as the lack of character development to make the whole idea behind telling the story of Sleeping Beauty from Maleficent’s perspective. The film was okay, and there was a lot to like, it just felt flat and uneven because it wasn’t executed to its full potential.

Changing things up behind the scenes was a good start for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. Joachim Rønning takes over the directing reigns from Robert Stromberg and lifts the energy of the film to a new level, even while falling into many of the same traps the first film setup because everything on-screen is exactly the same.

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Movie Mayhem – Jexi

Jexi — 2019; directed by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore; Starring Adam Devine, Alexandra Shipp, Rose Byrne, Michael Peña, Ron Funches, Charlyne Yi and Justin Hartley

I wasn’t all that excited to see Jexi. With Adam Devine and a overlay of raunchy humor in the driver’s seat, for all I was concerned, the film could have been relegated to direct-to-DVD or on demand status. Or better yet, buried on some obscure streaming service to be seen by insomniacs browsing their feeds while high. But, CBS Films and Entertainment One decided to release it in theaters, and as I always say, you never know when a movie will surprise you. So I went to check it out. And boy, did Jexi surprise me.

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Movie Mayhem – Joker

Joker — 2019; Directed by Todd Phillips; Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen and Robert De Niro

Thirty years ago, Tim Burton introduced us to not only Michael Keaton as what many still say is the quintessential Batman, but to Jack Nicholson, considered for a long time as the perfect choice to play the manic, high-octane Joker. That is until Heath Ledger (who, much like Keaton, was originally criticized for being a poor casting choice) blew us away with his Oscar-winning turn as the deranged psychopath in 2008’s The Dark Knight. It didn’t seem like anyone would live up to Ledger’s unhinged frenzy, especially after Jared Leto’s utter butchering of the beloved character in Suicide Squad. Luckily, Joaquin Phoenix dispelled those fears by delivering yet another Oscar-worthy performance as the titular character in the gritty, dark character study, Joker.

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Movie Mayhem – Don’t Let Go

Don’t Let Go — 2019; Directed by Jacob Estes; Starring David Oyelowo, Storm Reid, Mykelti Williamson and Alfred Molina

Back in the year 2000, Frequency, a small film about a cop who begins to speak with his deceased father through an old ham radio, debuted in theaters. The movie was an intelligent, suspenseful, unique sci-fi thriller with terrific turns by Jim Caviezel and Dennis Quaid, who found a compelling chemistry together despite having no screen time together. Nineteen years later and we find our way back to a similar premise with Don’t Let Go, another smaller film that understands how to work within the bounds of the idea, but doesn’t know how to build the necessary suspense to sustain any amount of intrigue.

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Movie Mayhem – August Movie Roundup

Clockwise from top left: Ready or Not, Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark, Blinded by the Light, Good Boys, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, The Kitchen, and Overcomer

For three weeks at the end of July/early August, there were a whopping three (count them – 3!) wide releases in theaters. How do the studios make up for that? Release 13 films over the next three weeks! To honor the glut of riches at the movieplexes, here are some quick reviews for all of the films I’ve seen in the last two weeks. Enjoy!

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Movie Mayhem – Brian Banks

Brian Banks — 2019; Directed by Tom Shadyac; Starring Aldis Hodge, Greg Kinnear, Melanie Liburd, Sherri Shepherd and Morgan Freeman

All you can control in life is how you respond to life.

Jerome Johnson (Morgan Freeman), from the film Brian Banks

The quote isn’t just a powerful message for the new inspirational sports drama, Brian Banks, but relates, on a much smaller scale, very well to this very review. Upon finishing my first draft, something happened and the entire review was wiped from existence. Like anyone else, I was angry at myself for not saving, and was angry at WordPress for not auto-saving and acting weird. The easy thing to do would have been to give up on the review altogether. Instead, I took a deep breath, recollected my thoughts and started anew. This has nothing on the major incidents of the film itself, however, it’s still relevant to the importance this movie’s overall message means for true happiness in life.

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Movie Mayhem – Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw — 2019; Directed by David Leitch; Starring Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Cliff Curtis and Helen Mirren

You can parachute cars out of a plane; you can have a chase sequence between a slew of supercharged cars and a submarine in an icy tundra; you can jump a sports car from one hundred-story tower to another; you can have a guy rip the cast off his arm with his bare hand; heck, you can even defy gravity to save someone’s life and no one would expect anything less. But introduce your audience to a transforming, self-driving motorcycle and you’ve suddenly gone too far.

Suspension of disbelief is a tricky thing. There are certain expectations that come along with being able to set reality aside and enjoy whatever is being thrown at you. Ever since The Fast and the Furious franchise veered off from centering around fast cars and hot women to becoming what amounts to an international spy series, you’d think the whole thing would have broke down on the side of the highway. Fact is, the franchise only became better as it became more and more absurd.

It only makes sense, then, that as the franchise grows more popular, producers would want to milk it for all its worth. Best way to do that? Spin characters off into their own wild and crazy franchises. The first choice, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, is the smartest choice, as it highlights two very bankable stars (and fan favorites since their respective introductions into the franchise) in an effort to see if this type of offshoot will work.

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Movie Mayhem – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — 2019; Directed by Quentin Tarantino; Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Margaret Qualley, Dakota Fanning, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell and Al Pacino

I am not much of a Quentin Tarantino fan. Of his nine films, I’ve only ever seen four of them, and by all accounts, that’s enough. Reservoir Dogs was okay, but I was not a fan of Pulp Fiction or Django Unchained. Tarantino has a very unique style, and his writing can definitely be sharp and witty, but it always felt to me that he can also be very overindulgent, an opinion that doesn’t end with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — even as his ninth film finally breaks through as one I can actually say I enjoyed, despite having no discernible plot.

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Movie Mayhem – The Lion King (2019)

The Lion King — 2019; Directed by Jon Favreau; Starring Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Chietel Ejiofor, John Oliver, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, Seth Rogen and James Earl Jones

Live-action remakes have been around for quite some time (Popeye, anyone), they’re just much more prevalent now with Disney’s recent onslaught of remaking all of their beloved animated classics into live-action properties. I don’t mind these upgrades; getting to see your favorite animated films with real people can be a lot of fun, especially when the updates add more to the story and help develop stronger characters. The issue with these updates comes when a film relies too much on their predecessor (because, you know, they were perfectly fine in animated form), making them feel a bit lazy and underwhelming.

This is what happens with The Lion King, which isn’t so much a remake as it is a facelift; many scenes, including the grand opening sequence, are nearly identical to the original. Beauty and the Beast was criticized by many for this reason, though I didn’t mind it as much because real actors carried the majority of the film. However, because The Lion King is nothing but animals (no humans were harmed in the production of this movie), it’s hard to distinguish this version as “live-action” because the majority is still animated, just in a different way.

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Movie Mayhem – Crawl

Crawl — 2019; Directed by Alexandre Aja; Starring Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper

Movies about alligators (or is it crocodiles?) attacking gorgeous teens aren’t quite as plentiful as movies about sharks attacking gorgeous teens, but there are still plenty of them crawling around out there. Sharks, on the surface, seem more deadly; they are after all out in the wide open spaces of the ocean, while gators are stuck mostly in marshy, humid areas where no one would want to camp or spend their holiday. But alligators can be just as deadly as sharks when they want to be, and Crawl proves that when a family of alligators attack a father and daughter during a major hurricane, begging the question, how many times can someone be bit by an alligator and survive?

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