Posts Tagged Film

Movie Mayhem – Our Friend

Our Friend — 2021; Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite; Starring Casey Affleck, Dakota Johnson, Jason Segel, Isabella Kai and Violet McGraw

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.

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Movie Mayhem – The Marksman

The Marksman — 2021; Directed by Robert Lorenz; Starring Liam Neeson, Jacob Perez, Juan Pablo Raba and Katheryn Winnick

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.

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Movie Mayhem – Redemption Day

Redemption Day — 2021; Directed by Hicham Hajii; Starring Gary Dourdan, Serinda Swan, Andy Garcia, Brice Bexter, Martin Donovan, and Ernie Hudson

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.

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Movie Mayhem – The Best and Worst Movies of 2020

Ah 2020. The year that saw movie theaters close for half the year (and in some states, the majority of the year), production studios shut down for months and product being shipped off to On-Demand and streaming services. Because of that, this year marks the first year that a movie premiering on a streaming service has made my list of Best and Worst movies of the year.

Despite everything that happened over this past year, I was still able to see 39 films in theaters (down from the normal 115-130 movies I normally see). I also saw 15 movies on Disney+, Hulu and Netflix to bring my grand total to 54, 20 of which earned a grade of A- or above. Believe me when I say that there were a lot of stinkers out there this year, but there were also a lot of bright spots as well, and some movies that did make my top 10, like the box office itself, probably wouldn’t have made the list had the insanity that was 2020 not come to pass. With that said, here are my picks for the Best and the Worst of 2020.

You may also listen to the breakdown on my new podcast!

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Movie Mayhem – Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl — 2020; Directed by Kenneth Branagh; Starring Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Josh Gad, Nonso Anozie and Colin Farrell

It’s been almost three months since my last movie review due to the coronavirus pandemic shuttering theaters back on March 17. Although there have been a handful of movies (Trolls, Scoob! and The Lovebirds) that skirted their big screen release dates to premiere as streaming service rentals over the last couple of months, the price for entry was a bit too high for my blood for these particular films.

Had Artemis Fowl followed suit, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second look either, despite the fact that I would have gone to see all of them in the theaters. Disney, however, decided the already delayed film about a young boy who learns that the world of fairies and other magical creatures he’s been studying from a young age is actually real when his father is kidnapped, was best suited to help bolster Disney+. Thanks to The Mandalorian and all the upcoming Marvel series, I’m already a subscriber to the fledgling streaming service, so this was a perfect opportunity to get back on the review train.

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Movie Mayhem – Bloodshot

Bloodshot — 2020; Directed by Dave Wilson; Starring Vin Diesel, Guy Pearce, Eiza González, Sam Heughan, and Lamorne Morris

Vin Diesel’s got the perfect vocal range for supplying voices to animated creatures like an iron giant or a massive tree, but as an on-screen personality, he just isn’t all that captivating to me. I didn’t care for the Riddick or XXX films, nor do I find much of what he does outside of fast cars worth watching. (And let’s face it, the Fast and Furious franchise didn’t get interesting until they added a Rock with a dose of logic melting, physics shattering action sequences.) Bloodshot is yet another attempt for Diesel to appear relevant. And though the film is better than most of his non-Fast adventures, it’s only because the supporting cast makes the whole intriguing premise pass muster.

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Movie Mayhem – Onward

Onward — 2020; Directed by Dan Scanlon; Starring the voices of Tom Holland, Chris Proatt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Kyle Bornheimer and Tracey Ullman

When John Lasseter started Pixar, he made a commitment to only make movies that had a strong foundation. That meant he would only put films into production that had a great script. Some may say this hasn’t always been the case (see: Cars 2 or The Good Dinosaur), but for the majority of films produced by the animation stalwart over the last twenty-five years, the promise for strong stories and characters has flourished, even after Lasseter was forced out of the company. This tradition continues with Onward, where everything that’s made Pixar the king of animation is on full display.

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Movie Mayhem – The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man — 2020; Directed by Leigh Whannell; Starring Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer, Storm Reid, Michael Dorman and Aldis Hodge

The invisible man has been around since H.G. Wells first gave him life in 1897, an idea which has culminated in dozens of film and television iterations throughout various genres. The most famous are of course the original 1933 version (part of Universal’s original monster universe that spawned two sequels), Chevy Chase’s comedic-oriented Memoirs of the Invisible Man, and Kevin Bacon’s horror/thriller Hollow Man. Other than the main character somehow becoming invisible, the only thing that connects most of these iterations is the heavy focus on the trials and tribulations of the person that becomes invisible.

This is where writer and director Leigh Whannell smartly separates his version of The Invisible Man from the rest of the pack. Instead of putting the spotlight on the person who becomes invisible, Whannell focuses all of his attention on the victim of the invisible. By doing so, the film becomes more atmospherically chilling, adding a heavy psychological element that raises the level of the story to fresh, new heights.

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Movie Mayhem – The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild — 2020; Directed by Chris Sanders; Starring Harrison Ford, Omar Sy, Cara Gee, and Dan Stevens

As a big proponent for the use of practical effects over computer-generated effects, I was highly disenchanted by the trailer for The Call of the Wild. When filmmakers use CGI as a crutch, it tends to make the viewer numb to the emotional stakes of the film. There is a place for CGI, no doubt. When used to enhance what physically cannot be created or to perform tasks that may be too dangerous otherwise, it can be quite effective; when used for no other reason than because it’s there, even though something real or practical could do the job just as well (and sometimes even better), it becomes unnecessary imitation.

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Movie Mayhem – Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog — 2020; Directed by Jeff Fowler; Starring James Marsden, Jim Carrey, Tika Sumpter, Lee Majdoub and Ben Schwartz

Movies based on video games have gotten a bad reputation… and for good reason. When you try to translate a video game to a film, you inherently strip away the ability to tell the same expansive story that a video game can encompass as well as what makes the game so much fun — interactivity. For Sonic the Hedgehog, the latest video game adaptation to hit the big screen, it didn’t help that early trailers for the film got massive push back because of Sonic’s less-than-stellar character design. Paramount listened, though, and made the necessary changes to give fans what they demanded. So how does Sonic the Hedgehog hold up against its small-screen counterpart?

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