Archive for category Reviews

Movie Mayhem – The Rhythm Section

The Rhythm Section — 2020; Directed by Reed Morano; Starring Blake Lively, Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown, and Raza Jaffrey

The Rhythm Section is a bit of an enigma. If the title doesn’t immediately throw you as having nothing in particular to do with the actual film, the movie will. The whole way through, I couldn’t figure out if I liked the film or was somehow utterly disappointed by it. There are moments that are enticing and drive the narrative quite well, but everything else about the film — the editing, the direction, the writing and the atmosphere — all seem to contradict themselves, essentially putting up a wall to keep you from fully engaging in the exploits of this casual revenge thriller.

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Movie Mayhem – The Turning

The Turning — 2020; Directed by Floria Sigismondi; Starring Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard, Brooklynn Prince, Barbara Marten and Joely Richardson

Wait. What? Um… huh? Is that it? Wait. Huh?

This is what I felt as the end credits scrolled across the screen of The Turning, the new psychological thriller/horror movie that spends plenty of time building up the odd, sometimes creepy relationships between its characters, just starts to get interesting (and a little weird — in a good way), and then abruptly ends as if the filmmakers forgot to put the last ten minutes on the reel. The more I try to put the pieces together, the more confused I am about what actually happened — and whether there was actually some clever twist at the end or if the writers just didn’t know where they wanted to go with it.

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Movie Mayhem – Dolittle

Dolittle — 2020; Directed by Stephen Gaghan; Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Harry Collett, Michael Sheen, Antonio Banderes and the voices of Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spenser, Tom Holland and Craig Robinson

Is there anything worse than a fantasy-adventure movie that has all the right pieces but absolutely no adventurous spirit? That is how I felt watching Dolittle, Robert Downey, Jr.’s first post-Iron-Man gig that feels so confused about itself, it plays like a set of short vignettes from other, better adventure stories that are being recreated by a group of juvenile actors who at no time are aware of what any other actor is doing, even within the same scene. It’s like the blind directing the blind — everyone can hear what’s being said, but the visual interpretation is all scattered across the universe.

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Movie Mayhem – Underwater

Underwater — 2020; Directed by William Eubank; Starring Kristen Stuart, Jessica Henwick, Vincent Cassel, John Gallagher, Jr., Mamoudou Athie and T.J. Miller

Underwater begins with a somber contemplation of living several miles below sea level. Kristen Stuart, in her usual worn, uninterested — bordering on haughty — gaze discusses how time can be deceiving; you can never be sure if something is real or a dream. Within a couple of minutes, noises filter throughout the locker room where Stuart’s character, Norah, is getting dressed for her shift. She forgoes putting on shoes to investigate only to come face-to-face with an unexpected leak. From then on, the movie becomes a full-steam ahead disaster flick without ever returning to the idea of dreams versus reality.

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Movie Mayhem – The Best and Worst Movies of 2019

Well, the decade is coming to a close, and with it come the end of two major eras in cinema history. Though Disney has no plans to end the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the Star Wars saga anytime soon, 2019 brought an end to what’s been dubbed “The Skywalker Saga” as well as bringing 22 interconnected comic book movies to a loving crescendo.

Including these spectacular milestones, I once again saw 125 movies in the cineplex this year, 64 of which scored an A- or higher. The movies listed as part of my best and worst lists do not include any films that premiered on a streaming service, and are only based on those movies I saw between January 1 and December 31, 2019. Now without further adieu, here are my picks for the top ten best and top five worst movies of 2019.

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Movie Mayhem – Knives Out

Knives Out — 2019; Directed by Rian Johnson; Starring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Ana de Armes, Tony Collette, Michael Shannon and Christopher Plummer

Murder mysteries have been a staple in storytelling for as long as storytelling has been in existence (or at least it seems). Why? Humans are a curious lot, so pretending to be a master sleuth for a couple of hours as we attempt to figure out what happened before the big reveal can be quite an exhilarating experience. When it’s done correctly, the pieces are placed perfectly throughout as to throw us off the scent, even when the clues are right their in clear daylight. When done poorly, you don’t have to be an eagle-eyed viewer to know who did it ten minutes into the story. Rian Johnson’s new film, Knives Out, slips somewhere in the middle — although the big reveal feels a bit anticlimactic, the ride getting there sure is a blast.

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Movie Mayhem – Frozen 2

Frozen 2 — 2019; Directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck; Starring the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Sterling K. Brown, Jason Ritter and Evan Rachel Wood

Back in 2013, Frozen became a cultural phenomenon that led to a series of short films that didn’t quite live up to the majesty of the full-length feature. To put all of it into perspective, Disney was sued for one of the shorts that mirrored another animators story, and another was ridiculed for its length; apparently twenty-one minutes of Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) running around doing stupid things is too much when your kids are anticipating the day of the dead. As a lesson to be learned from the disaster known as Minions, side characters like Olaf are so much better when they aren’t the focus of your movie. So it was nice to enjoy a return to Arendelle with Frozen 2, a film that doesn’t surpass its big sister in quality, but stays on par with with the magic we all expect from the franchise.

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Movie Mayhem – Last Christmas

Last Christmas — 2019; Directed by Paul Feig; Starring Emelia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Lydia Leonard and Michelle Yeoh

I like me a good brainless rom-com every now and again, and with Emma Thompson both writing and co-starring, Last Christmas was poised to be an enjoyable couple of hours. Thompson has written some very good movies in the past and has the ability to raise what could be subpar material to a new level with just her mere presence. However, with Christmas, something got lost in translation.

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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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