It has been a bit of a running joke that Bruce Willis has all but checked out. Not from acting, but from caring. Much like Nicolas Cage, Willis works feverishly, starring in multiple films every year that go straight to DVD, on-demand or streaming services. Unlike Cage, who puts every ounce of passion into each project no matter how horrible it ends up being, Willis tends to provide laid-back, tired performances that hint at his only being there for the paycheck.
This tendency for laziness doesn’t stop at actors. It’s also found in filmmakers, directors and of course writers. Just like an actors performance, if the writing is lazy, it can upset you, aggravate you. Not because the film was bad or you wasted a couple of hours on predictable, unimaginative drivel, but because you know there’s more there that could have been done and that there are plenty of people willing to work much harder to create a great product, despite whether or not it ultimately turns out a horrible mess. That’s what I see in Willis’s new film, Cosmic Sin, where it doesn’t seem anyone involved cared much about creating anything but a passable science-fiction facsimile.Read Full Review
Not many knew of Tom Holland before he arrived on the scene as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War. Since then, Holland has become a household name, yet he hasn’t seen a whole lot of screen time outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and some voice-work in high-profile movies like Spies In Disguise and Onward. In every such case, Holland has built a reputation for playing nervous, geeky-tech kids who are more anxious about asking out the pretty girl in school than confronting the evil that wrecks havoc in his life. Chaos Walking and Cherry, two films that premiered over the last couple of weeks, give Holland a chance to break from that stereotype and prove that he has the chops to live outside of the fun-loving, nerdy persona.Read Full Review
When you think of sports movies, whether baseball, football, basketball, hockey or even golf, there is one word they all have in common — inspirational. Sports films deal in inspiration like a stockbroker deals in cash. A player learning a valuable lesson, a coach going through a mid-life crisis, or a team of misfits overcoming their insecurities to win the big game against the “better” athletes, it doesn’t matter; sports films make it their purpose to give those who are essentially broken a chance to prove themselves and become a winner. Unfortunately, the new sports drama Boogie plays into none of that, essentially stripping its story of anything inspirational and washing the whole thing in the sour nectar of gloom.Read Full Review
As a writer, I gravitate toward films about writers. Part of the reason is because most of them deal with how writers deal with the challenges of writer’s block and how they overcome it. Whether it’s a comedy like Throw Momma From the Train, or existential meta-fiction like Adaptation, the heroes journey for these characters is finding their muse and getting out of their own way in order to write that next great novel. It’s in all writers who struggle to find words to fill those terrifying blank pages and away from the mountain of procrastination we tend to build around us in order to avoid it all together. Blithe Spirit is the second film to come out this month that dives into the turmoil of the writer as he (or she) discovers their muse in an unorthodox way.Read Full Review
When did it become required to saddle evil masterminds with dimwitted associates? One reason this might have happened is because it gives the antagonist an Achilles heal of sorts that the protagonist can exploit in order to thwart their plans of world domination. This phenomenon doesn’t just happen in superhero movies, either. It can be found in plenty of dramas, comedies and and even romantic fluff. What happens, then, when the film is about nothing but “villains”? In Netflix’s new original film, I Care a Lot, both the protagonist and antagonist are criminals in different ways— one has confident, intellectual assistance, the other has the requisite loyal fools.Read Full Review
I’ve seen some odd and interesting movies over the last few months. With COVID-19 still wrecking havoc on the blockbuster movie schedule, many small, independent films have taken over the cineplexes, a lot of which can only be described as oddly unique. Then there’s Nicolas Cage, who, aside for the occasional voice stint, hasn’t made a major blockbuster film since 2014’s Left Behind, still has over two-dozen films to his name since. Most of these films have gone straight to DVD and/or VOD, but with his reputation, you know no matter what format it ends up in, the film is going to be one wild, crazy ride. Combine these two things together and you get Willy’s Wonderland, a bizarre film that would be wildly hysterical if it didn’t try to take itself so seriously.
Take the synopsis, for instance. Cage plays The Janitor, a silent drifter in a hot
product placement Camaro. When he accidentally blows out his tires driving over conveniently-placed spike strips, he agrees to clean a rundown Chuck-E-Cheese-style entertainment center to pay for the cost of fixing his car. Little does he know that the scary animatronic mascots have been possessed by serial killers and are out for blood.
The only thing that makes this synopsis even crazier is Cage being basically mute. Not sure why director Kevin Lewis chose to do that, as it would have been a hoot to see Cage quipping at all these possessed creatures as he takes them out one by one in the only way Cage could. However, even though Cage isn’t given one word of dialogue, he still manages to create an intriguing otherworldly character, infusing the Janitor with his typical unbridled performance that is devoid of fear in all sense of the word. As the creatures haunt the Janitor, Cage plays his role as if this type of supernatural occurrence happens every day, so he might as well just go with the flow.
With his penchant to duct tape all of his wounds, change out his 80s-style Willy’s Wonderland T-shirt every time it gets sprayed with black motor oil goo, and the man’s deliberate insistence to take his self-appointed breaks on time, Cage creates a character with levels of depth you wouldn’t otherwise have believed based on the material he’s given.
So-much-so that if it wasn’t for Cage’s straight-laced, yet crazy performance, the movie would have been a complete dud. The script, written by G.O. Parsons, doesn’t have anything to say beyond killing a bunch of teenage kids that have no reason being in the film. (Remove the kids and you basically have the same movie.) Parsons tries desperately to make them relevant in every scene, but we all know they’re only around so we can see some bloody carnage.
Liv (Emily Tosta) is a survivor of a past attack by these possessed animatronic characters and was taken in by the town sheriff (Beth Grant). We first meet her as she is about to burn down the entertainment center. The sheriff catches her and locks her to a radiator at her home. Why, we’re never quite sure, as she’s quickly freed by her friends, who then return to the center to again burn it down. That’s about as far as the character depth goes for these group of kids. Even Liv’s weird father-daughter bond that grows between her and the Janitor isn’t strong enough to warrant her existence.
Beyond the typical teenage slasher film cliches (character’s getting picked off one-by-one, a pair of sex-crazed kids run off to get their jollies off, the backwood hick townsfolk with a big secret), watching Nicolas Cage go crazy without ever flinching drives the film to it’s slim 88-minute run-time. For all intents and purposes, Willy’s Wonderland would have made a perfect short film — keep the gritty, dirty cinematography, drop the kids and let Nicolas Cage be Nicolas Cage in all of his Nicolas Cage glory. Unfortunately, by stretching the film into a feature, it deadens the aspects that do make it a unique horror film. If you like Cage and a little bit of bizarre horror, catch this one on late night cable when you’re about ready to fall asleep.
My Grade: B-
Judas and the Black Messiah, based on the true story revolving around Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton and the FBI’s push to arrest him, showcases a ton of parallels to a lot of what’s happening in politics and society today, however, the film has a lot of substance but no depth, leaving the audience a bit cold with a lack of a truly emotional core. Listen to my full (SPOILER) review of Judas and the Black Messiah on Ramblin’ Reviews: B+
Next week, new movies include Nomadland, Flora and Ulysses (Disney+) and I Care A Lot (Netflix). If you would like to see a review for this, or any other film out next week, please respond in the comments below.
Because a lot of movie theaters are either closed or open in limited capacities, major studios are still delaying the majority of their films in hopes that the mess created over the last year will soon subside. Until that happens, it’s understandable that the majority of new “major” films are currently premiering on-demand or on streaming services. With many people still concerned about COVID-19 or strictly locked down by state governments, television is the only way they can get fresh content. Personally, I have no issues going to the cinemas, but with so little offerings out there, jumping on these streaming services is an appropriate alternative. Since August, when I reviewed Artemis Fowl, I’ve only caught a dozen or so new movies on these services, but you can probably expect to see quite a few more streaming reviews (for the next few months at the very least), starting with Apple TV+’s new film, Palmer.Read Full Review
Casey Affleck had some big shoes to fill when he followed his brother into acting. But where Ben traveled the blockbuster path after winning an Oscar for Good Will Hunting and become an overnight action star, little brother Casey dug his roots into the independent film market (with only a few big-budget films to his credit). Over the years, Affleck has built a resume of modest, sincere melodramatic roles that show off his incredible pathos. For this reason, I haven’t seen many of Affleck’s films, as they tend not to be of interest to me. But due to the continued pandemic, there still aren’t a lot of films out there right now, so I figured I’d check out his newest film, Our Friend, and I was pleasantly surprised by the film’s earnest look into a man struggling to stay afloat as he witnesses the extreme heartache of cancer.Read Full Review
Ever since Taken became a surprise hit in January 2008, Liam Neeson has been slowly pigeonholed into the role of revenge-seeking man with a particular set of skills. Since several of the films he made over the next few years, including Unknown, The Grey, and Non-Stop, were also released in January or February and did well at the box office, it makes sense. It almost became an event to see Neeson’s new action-thriller to start the year off right! They’ve tried to replicate this success over the past couple of years but after the dismal attempt to recapture that same magic with Cold Pursuit in 2019, it’s getting harder to get excited for yet another Taken-retread in the early months of the year. That doesn’t bode well for The Marksman, Neeson’s new thriller about a rancher who fights off the cartel to give a young boy a new life.Read Full Review
After a mostly dreadful year in movies, all we can hope is that things change as we creep slowly into 2021. In a normal year, January would be a dumping ground for films that couldn’t hack it during the summer or fit comfortably into the holiday season mold (or Oscar-bait contenders expanding into additional theaters). Because there were no Oscar films released over the last few months that weren’t directly sent to streaming services, and for the most part, a lot of theaters across the country are still closed, it doesn’t bode well for the offerings that will come our way over the next few weeks. This is backed up by the first major offering of 2021, Redemption Day, which can’t seem to find a voice it cares about.Read FuLl Review