Posts Tagged Reviews

Movie Mayhem – Voyagers

Voyagers — 2021; Directed by Neil Burger; Starring Tye Sheridan, Lily Rose Depp, Fionn Whitehead and Colin Farrell

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the… wait. Sorry. Wrong Voyager. This Voyagers is not about a team of explorers navigating the vastness of space, but instead a group of kids, manufactured and raised to take an 86-year journey to another planet that they know nothing about except for the fact that it has oxygen and water. These types of films always make me question why we, as a human race, are so arrogant as to believe these types of planets are uninhabited and ripe for the taking. Just because we once did the same in America does not make us entitled to expand to wherever we want – as if populating another planet won’t go horribly wrong, even if it is uninhabited by another thinking, feeling race of beings.

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Movie Mayhem – The Unholy

The Unholy — 2021; Directed by Evan Spiliotopoulos; Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, William Sadler, Katie Aselton, Cricket Brown, Christine Adams and Cary Elwes

When dealing in any genre, there are a typical set of rules that must be adhered to in order to create a story that everyone can easily follow, relate to, and understand. When done well, viewers generally will not notice this design; when done poorly, the model sticks out like a sore thumb. This is especially true in the supernatural horror genre, which is one of the easiest to emulate, but the hardest to appear original. There’s also a high expectation level for the effects, whether CGI or practical, to integrate seamlessly into the story so as not to hinder the overall enjoyment of what is usually a simple, routine story. In the case of The Unholy, the plot and character elements are all in tact as they should be, but some of the direction leaves many of the necessary scares wanting.

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Movie Mayhem – Nobody

Nobody — 2021; Directed by Ilya Naishuller; Starring Bob Odenkirk, Aleksey Serebryakov, Connie Nielson, Christopher Lloyd, RZA and Michael Ironside

When I first saw the trailer for Nobody, my first thought (as it was for probably many others) was that it was going to be a not-so-subtle mix of John Wick and Taken, with maybe a little bit of Falling Down thrown in for good measure. After all, based on the trailer, the movie was going to be about an ordinary man with extraordinary skills who finally snaps after living a fruitless, mundane life. Last week I reviewed Cosmic Sin, which I deemed too unimaginative to be anything more than a ripoff of a whole lot of different films. Does that mean Nobody was going to fall into that same trap? Fortunately, it doesn’t. Although the summary I wrote above isn’t too far off from the actual plot of the film, there is more going on here than simply retreading what’s come before.

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Movie Mayhem – Cosmic Sin

Cosmic Sin — 2021; Directed by Edward Drake; Starring Frank Grillo, Bruce Willis, Brandon Thomas Lee, Corey Large, C.J. Perry and Perrey Reeves

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.

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Movie Mayhem – Chaos Walking/Cherry

Chaos Walking — 2021; Directed by Doug Liman; Starring Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, Mads Mikkelsen and Demién Bachir
Cherry — 2021; Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo; Starring Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Jeff Wahlberg and Jack Reynor

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.

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Movie Mayhem – Boogie

Boogie — 2021; Directed by Eddie Huang; Starring Taylor Takahashi, Taylour Paige, Pop Smoke, Pamelyn Chee, Perry Yung, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., and Mike Moh

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.

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Movie Mayhem – Blithe Spirit

Blithe Spirit — 2021; Directed by Edward Hall; Starring Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher, Leslie Mann and Judi Dench

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.

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Movie Mayhem – I Care a Lot

I Care a Lot — 2021; Directed by J Blakeson; Starring Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Eiza Gonzalez, Chris Messina, and Dianne Weist

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.

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Movie Mayhem – Willy’s Wonderland

Willy’s Wonderland — 2021; Directed by Kevin Lewis; Starring Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Beth Grant and Ric Reitz

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-

Bonus Reviews:

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.

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Movie Mayhem – Palmer

Palmer — 2021; Directed by Fisher Stevens; Starring Justin Timberlake, Ryder Allen, Alisha Wainwright, Juno Temple and June Squibb

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.

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