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Average User Score: 6.6Mar 25, 2019More consistently terrifying than "Get Out" while maintaining that film's intelligence and emphasis on provoking thought, Jordan Peele's "Us"More consistently terrifying than "Get Out" while maintaining that film's intelligence and emphasis on provoking thought, Jordan Peele's "Us" proves that the writer/director is far from a one-hit wonder. The movie isn't always as successful as its predecessor in exploring the heady themes of identity and control that it evokes, and is a messier, less coherent experience as a result, but nevertheless remains compelling throughout. The impressive cast members all show considerable range in playing two vastly different characters, particularly Lupita Nyong'o, who shines both as the desperate, terrified but determined matriarch as well as her sinister, calculated doppelganger with a voice straight out of a nightmare. The confidence with which Peele and his performers pull it all off is ultimately what rescues the project from itself, however, and it remains enough of an unnerving experience on a purely visceral level to remain enjoyable for horror fans looking for something a little more than ghostly ghouls and silent slashers.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.4Oct 21, 2018Some issues with uneven pacing here and there aside, this is a stunning directorial debut for Bradley Cooper. Heartbreakingly earnestSome issues with uneven pacing here and there aside, this is a stunning directorial debut for Bradley Cooper. Heartbreakingly earnest performances (particularly his, Lady Gaga's, and Sam Elliott's), strong writing and, of course, plenty of memorable (totally original!) songs that will stick with you for long after the credits roll all make for a film that's undoubtedly one of the best of the year thus far. Most striking about this fourth re-interpretation of the original tale, though, is the tenderness and sympathy with which Cooper treats his characters - a ruthlessly money-minded record executive aside (though even that character remains compelling throughout), these are all real people with flaws who make mistakes with good intentions, hurting the ones they love in the process. To find a film that brings to life fully fleshed-out characters and deftly balances tragedy, character-driven romantic drama, and bald-faced critique of the fame machine and what it does to people sucked up into its gears is rare, and Cooper pulls it off with a near-flawless finesse that would have you believe he's been doing this for years.
The past two years have been incredible ones for debut films from individuals outside the traditional realm of film directors - Jordan Peele ("Get Out"), Bo Burnham ("Eighth Grade"), Jonah Hill ("Mid90s") and Paul Dano ("Wildlife") have all shown us just exactly how much promise they hold outside of comedy or acting, respectively, in the future, and with this film Bradley Cooper joins that list as well. The thought of him taking the reins on an entirely original idea is a tantalizing one, and I look forward to seeing much more from him in coming years. 9/10… Expand
Average User Score: 7.4Aug 21, 2018Ladies and gentlemen, the reviews do not lie - director Spike Lee has crafted what is perhaps his most compelling film in well over a decadeLadies and gentlemen, the reviews do not lie - director Spike Lee has crafted what is perhaps his most compelling film in well over a decade with "BlackKklansman", a movie that is as smart and funny as it is politically aware and relevant in the current heated climate.
The film does get off to a slow start, but when it does take off it does so like a rocket. The main plot - a black police officer joins the KKK and has a white coworker pretend to be him at their meetings in order to investigate and disrupt their operations - is one so ridiculous that it would require every person working on the movie to be firing on all cylinders, and Lee, the screenwriters and the talented cast pull it off without a hitch. Part of why this works as well as it does is because the lunacy of the premise is like an in-joke that the characters are in on, and watching them go back-and-forth between stone-faced seriousness when face-to-face with the Klan and outright mocking behind their backs for having fooled them so completely is thoroughly entertaining to watch. The two leads give fine performances - Adam Driver's was my personal favorite between him and John David Washington, because he does a lot to explore the moral grey zone of a Jewish cop going undercover and spouting hatred left and right and is thus ten times more compelling here than in either of the more recent "Star Wars" movies - and the movie proves it has more on its mind than a zany premise and some comic hijinks, with juxtaposed images of young black college students and ordinary-looking white people chanting "Black/White Power", respectively, bringing up some interesting comparisons and contrasts while the side plot of Washington's character dating the president of the Black Student Union at the local college allows for thought-provoking conversations between the two on whether black people can try to fix the system from within by gaining access to it or it should be torn down for being too far gone to save.
The movie does get a bit heavy-handed in some places, the insane amounts of racist rhetoric are to be taken with caution if you react strongly to that sort of thing, and as mentioned before the first 20-30 minutes are a bit of a drag, but on the whole this is a compelling and insightful film from one of our most overtly political filmmakers working today. Regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum, you owe it to yourself to get out and see this movie - it may not change anyone's opinion, but it'll certainly provoke some thought at the very least.… Expand
Average User Score: 5.5Aug 17, 2018The Meg is a dumb movie. I'll happily point that out right here and now. It's outlandishly silly in concept and execution and threatens toThe Meg is a dumb movie. I'll happily point that out right here and now. It's outlandishly silly in concept and execution and threatens to buckle under the weight of any outside logic applied. But this is precisely part of what makes the film so fun - it's not trying to be the next Citizen Kane, but rather one that is as knowingly ridiculous as it is brainless, a movie that you can simply pop over to for some decent scares as well as laughs and action (courtesy of Jon Turtletaub, director of the equally ludicrous "National Treasure" films). The cast - including Rainn Wilson, Li Bingbing, Ruby Rose, and Page Kennedy as the typical assortment of stereotypes that come along within this sort of movie - is likable, and leading man Jason Statham channels both his typical stone-faced action hero schtick as well as some of the same comedic timing and wit that made him so surprisingly funny in Melissa McCarthy's "Spy" to give us one of his best performances in recent memories.
True, fun as it may be, the film is riddled with cliches, many of the side-stories are underbaked, and the movie doesn't quite go as far off the deep end as you may hope, but it's almost exactly the best that one could ever hope for from a film that's like a big-budget Syfy Original movie with better writing, directing, acting, special effects and, well...basically everything. For me, that's more than enough - I'll take this over "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" any day.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.0Jul 13, 2018An enjoyable ride in its own right, but by no means of the same caliber as the original "Sicario". I had high hopes for this movie, and whileAn enjoyable ride in its own right, but by no means of the same caliber as the original "Sicario". I had high hopes for this movie, and while it succeeded in some areas I was sorely disappointed in others.
The acting (particularly Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin, but especially so with Brolin in my opinion) is still superb, the direction (despite missing Denis Villeneuve's magic touch) is crisp, and the film is still great to look at even without Roger Deakins, crisply filmed with exciting, harrowing action sequences and plenty of beautiful Mexican landscapes and grimy, crime-riddled cities to take in. I also liked the development that Brolin's Matt and Del Toro's Alejandro go through within the movie: seeing the former wrestle with following orders he doesn't believe in lends him some extra depth and the latter's bonding with a teenage girl (Isabela Moner) wrapped up in their plot to initiate war between the cartels some much-needed humanity. The story, however, tries to do too much and becomes a muddled mess because of it, with plot points raised and either never resolved or only mentioned again once or twice, and some of them defying common logic (what exactly would drug cartels gain from smuggling Islamic terrorists into the US?). Whether this is writer Taylor Sheridan's or editor Matthew Goodman's fault I don't know, but within this movie there are at least two or three stories that would have been solid movies on their own had they been developed enough to actually provide some substantial payoff. Alas, they weren't, and here we are. There are also some of you out there who, if you took issue with the decidedly negative portrayal of Mexican characters in the first film, will have a field day with this one: almost every Latino character outside of the main cast is either an illegal migrant or a criminal, while Muslims get payed the lip treatment as being portrayed purely as suicide bombers for the umpteenth time. To take such a complicated issue as crime at the border and boil it down to merely "bad vs. worse" provides a fairly reductive view of said issues, and threatens to reinforce some of the toxic beliefs still held in our day and age.
I'm not recommending that you don't see "Day of the Soldado". Considering the sheer amount of testosterone and the often grim tone that it takes, "entertaining" may not be the right word, but the movie certainly had my attention (at least at first) while watching. For those of you going in expecting a worthy successor to the brilliant original, though, I would advise caution: you may find it more of a set-up for the third movie than an actual film in its own right.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.5Sep 23, 2017Would it be fair to say that, even by a two-and-a-half-hour movie, that I walked out of the theater feeling a little cheated? After watchingWould it be fair to say that, even by a two-and-a-half-hour movie, that I walked out of the theater feeling a little cheated? After watching "Kingsman: The Golden Circle", I think I can say yes, it would.
Picking up sometime after the events of "Kingsman: The Secret Service", "Golden Circle" finds Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) all alone after a hack into the Kingsman files by former recruit Charlie Hesketh (Edward Holcroft) enables a series of missile strikes that leaves the private intelligence service in ruins. With nowhere else to go they turn to their stateside counterparts, the Statesmen (Jeff Bridges, Pedro Pascal, and an underused Channing Tatum and Halle Berry), who assist them in bringing to justice the one responsible for the attack: Poppy (Julianne Moore), the leader of a mysterious drug cartel (the titular "Golden Circle") who plans to ransom the lives of hundreds of millions of people to the United States government in exchange for the legalization of all forms of narcotic substances. The thoughts of the President (Bruce Greenwood)? "Pretend like we're going to give in, but we don't!" In his mind, it's a win-win - no more drug users, no more War on Drugs. But if that's not enough for you, the movie desperately tries to find time to cram in "relationship troubles", "I'm not given the respect I deserve", and "a traitor in our midst" storylines that all feel half-baked at best due to the lackluster attention they receive, as well as a few GOTCHA! moments that aren't quite so and that the movie really could've done without (*cough cough* COLIN FIRTH... *cough cough*).
I've never seen the first "Kingsman" (at least all the way through), so allow me to bring some objective criticisms against this film that in no way have to do with the original. First and foremost, nearly three hours' worth of movie is almost always too much, even in the best of cases (one of the main reasons I rarely watch my all-time personal favorite film, "Pulp Fiction"). One can't help but feel that had some of the fat been trimmed from this film it would have been better, but the bloated run time can't help making one wonder if screenwriters Matthew Vaughan and Jane Goldman simply threw every idea they had into the script and expected people to think that more is better. And speaking of both Vaughan and the idea that "more is better", cranking up the things people loved about the original - the high level of style, the humor and the kinetic action sequences - as far as they'll go and then breaking off the knob afterward has got to be a surefire route to sequel gold, right? Perhaps in terms of money-making opportunities, but it kinda sucks the soul out of the movie in the process (something mirrored in the "Sin City" series, with "A Dame to Kill For" trying to lay it on even thicker than its predecessor and failing) and doesn't leave you with much walking out of the theater. The large, unwieldy budget becomes much more noticeable here in the sense of several major action scenes (of which there are a whole gaggle) being largely CGI-based (and for such an impressive budget, you'd think they'd be a little more real-looking) and therefore losing the kinetic energy of the church scene from the previous film (one of the bits I have seen from the original). The heavy-handedness with which "Golden Circle"'s right-wing sensibilities are delivered also grow tiring at a certain point, having all of the misogyny, violence, drinking, and anti-drug preaching you'd expect from a Golden Age 007 movie. Some have pointed to the exaggerated caricature of the President as a critique of current POTUS Donald Trump, but when the visible symptoms caused by the toxins placed by Poppy into her product are introduced, you'd be hard-pressed to find a right-wing character affected, which suggests something of an opposite viewpoint.
I must admit, however, I did have more fun at this movie than I anticipated I would for having been dragged into it - there are some good jokes in the film (When Eggsy and Merlin activate the doomsday protocol, they open a safe containing "everything they need" with just a bottle of whiskey inside; "I suppose this is upper-class humor..." Strong mutters bitterly); the soundtrack, while a little too on-the-nose at times, is well-suited to the film; some of the action scenes are, despite my previous railing, pretty fun; and the cast of fine actors make terrific company for three hours, particularly Moore, whose deliciously upbeat baddie is easily the best thing about the film. We also get, among other things, an Elton John cameo that figures largely into the plot's third act, so...There's that.
If you want my honest advice? If you can't wait long enough for the next "John Wick" to get your stylized action fix, you'd be better off re-watching one of the first two and saving yourself the price of admission. Maybe check it out on Redbox if you just can't resist scratching that itch. 5/10… Expand
Average User Score: 7.3Mar 26, 2017Jordan Peele's first outing as a writer (co-writer, actually) on a major Hollywood production brought us the 2016 action-comedy "Keanu", aJordan Peele's first outing as a writer (co-writer, actually) on a major Hollywood production brought us the 2016 action-comedy "Keanu", a movie that was much better than it had any right to be given its absurd premise. Now, not only writing solo, Peele finds himself in the director's chair with "Get Out", a film that hundreds or even thousands of aspiring directors and screenwriters would kill to have as their first. Promised a race-savvy mix of comedy and horror going in, I can say first-hand that this movie does not disappoint. Peele has truly achieved something great here.
For those of you who haven't seen the trailers or have no friends who have gone to see it already (I would recommend moving out from under the rock beneath which you reside, in either circumstance), allow me to bring you up to speed with the rest of the viewing world. Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is preparing for the milestone of all milestones in dating: meeting the parents of his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), Missy and Dean (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford, respectively). Now, this would be stressful enough as is, but the fact that Chris is black and Rose is white makes things even worse in the mind of the former. She implores him not to worry--Dean would have voted for Obama a third time if he could have, Chris (and the audience) are informed--but once they arrive, things take a turn away from the usual nervous, eager-to-impress overreactions into situations that are increasingly absurd and disturbing in equal measure. The growth in the number of older white people interested in him (Stephen Root), the strange behavior of the only other black people on the property (Betty Gabriel, Marcus Henderson, LaKeith Stanfield), and a seeming universally mutual desire to keep him cut off from his friends in the outside world (Lil Rey Howery) all lead Chris to believe that he has been brought to the Armitages' remote lake house for different purposes entirely (I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that yes, he has).
This could easily have been another forgettable, run-of-the-mill horror thriller that pits blacks against whites in the name of some cheap thrills and big box office returns. Luckily for Peele, he demonstrates immense skill as a writer, employing a sort of "less is more" strategy and simply putting together the pieces that he has assembled into a structure that audiences will understand as it is but contains other, more subtle ideas and meanings for them to discover with the use of a little brainpower. He's also careful not to give away too much too fast (as many others in the genre often do), and as the film first creeps and then full-on sprints towards its unbelievable conclusion, a twist better than any seen in horror in the last two decades--better even than the one in "Don't Breathe", or the hokey but effective 'the killer was the corpse in the bathroom' bit from "Saw"--is likely to have you on the edge of your seat, scared out of your wits but practically begging for more. Additionally, Peele works the horror-comedy angle effectively to provide much-needed comic relief when things start getting too serious, and the pitch-black humor thrown into some scenes (one that comes to mind is a time towards the beginning when, after learning of a car accident Chris and Rose were in because of a deer, Dean comments that he wants to "kill them all" because there are "just too many of them", unsettling his daughter's boyfriend) makes them all the sweeter for their unmatchable comic timing perfected on "Key and Peele". Perhaps best of all is--and hold on to your hats for this one, people--there is some real depth and complexity of character here beyond what is immediately obvious (*chorus of shocked gasps*). The white people in the film are not socially backwards, ultra-violent neo-Nazis. They are upper-middle class liberals, and they do what they do not because they hate blacks but, in a bit of a surprise reversal, because they adore them. As one character puts it, "Black is in style."
It's great to me that Peele had such an amazing collection of talent, both in front of the camera and behind it, working to help his vision become what it was truly meant to be. The score by Michael Abels in particular stands out to me for its successful return of abrupt, screeching violin to horror movie soundtracks for the purposes of suspense creation (I could've sworn I was watching a John Carpenter film), and classic songs like "Run Rabbit Run" are used to hilariously frightening effect. Kaluuya is likable and even fascinating in some bits as the protagonist, Whitford is so friendly and charming as Dean that you hope and pray he doesn't turn out evil, and while I can't say too much without some major spoilers, Williams is effective in unexpected ways as Rose. The end result is utterly immaculate, and deservedly so.
I have only two things left to say. "Bravo!" is one. "More, please!" is the other. 10/10… Expand
Average User Score: 7.1Feb 17, 2017Gore Verbinski's new psychological thriller is a puzzling movie. On the one hand, there's nothing bad enough in it to prevent me fromGore Verbinski's new psychological thriller is a puzzling movie. On the one hand, there's nothing bad enough in it to prevent me from recommending it, but on the other I still feel that I cannot whole-heartedly. It has promise, but when your film starts to feel like a bunch of cool shots and beautiful scenery strung together by a tenuous plot line, you risk audiences beginning to seek out A Cure for Boredom.
From the very first moments, when the film opens with shots of downtown New York buildings bathed in the kind of grimy green light that the worlds of these horror movies are always smothered in (*cough cough* "Saw"... *cough cough*) accompanied by an eerie female vocalization (which returns several times in the story with no explanation of its significance), this movie is trying to show you just how creepy it (thinks) it is. And don't get me wrong, it has its moments (I guarantee that you'll never look at an eel the same way again after seeing this), but these have a tendency to come few and far between while the story runs around and around in circles. By the time that Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) begins to see the dark truth behind this seemingly miraculous "wellness center", the original plot line of him being sent to retrieve the CEO of his financial company (Harry Groener) and bring him back home has been more or less forgotten. This movie's got things on its mind, you can be sure, but it can't seem to decide what it wants to focus on, and so its visual style and interesting premise become lost in a muddy, mired plot that features the unfortunate combination of being overlong in trying to be epic as well as repetitive and preachy in trying to be thoughtful and intelligent. I would be lying if I said I wasn't somewhat expecting this from a re-teaming of Verbinski and "The Lone Ranger" screenwriter Justin Haythe.
Perhaps the greatest strengths this film possesses are its visuals, direction, and performances. DeHaan, with his turn as Lockhart, crafts a hero not completely likable (his obsession with survival of the fittest and his obvious dislike of visiting his mother don't exactly make him endearing, which helps us somewhat enjoying, or at least thinking he deserves, the suffering brought upon him) but that navigates the frightening absurdity of his situation with much of the same rage, fear, and disbelief that most of us would. Jason Isaacs, as the German-sounding director of the treatment center, is likely to remind you of a Nazi officer in both his physical appearance and his mannerisms. On the surface he is friendly, seemingly helpful, charming, and by all appearances is intensely concerned not only for his patients but for Lockhart as well. However, he is truthfully a manipulative individual, one who loves playing mind games and constantly seems a step ahead of Lockhart (until the finale because, you know, it'd be no fun if the villain ended up winning for once). Think Annie Wilkes crossed with Ralph Fiennes' Amon Göth character from "Schindler's List" and you'd have the idea. Mr. Isaacs is easily the best thing about this movie: he plays his character with such skill that even after we're fairly certain he's evil we begin doubting ourselves yet again. Mia Goth, a relative newcomer, is also skilled as Hannah, a mysterious patient at the facility who is closer to Lockhart's age than most (the others are all octogenarians), and whose relationship with Isaacs' Dr. Vomler character forms the true conflict of the movie. There is something endearing about her performance: she is strange, to be sure, but there is a certain seductiveness about her that she exudes without even really trying to (you all may remember the bathtub scene from the trailers), all while dressed in clothes so old they look like they could have been around about 400 years ago. By the way, did I mention the tragedy that occurred there around that time involving a baron trying to keep his bloodline pure by using the same practice the Ancient Egyptians did?
The cinematography is likewise just as skilled. Bojan Bazelli does his best to distract us from how limp and sickly the "story" (BWAH HA HA! ...Was that out loud?) of this film really is with beautiful shots of the Swiss Alps, of the facility and with gloomier shots of corporate buildings and the modern world as we know it. The scenes featuring nature and fauna are the ones where sunlight pours in and the light is soft and gentle and puts us at ease. The insides of the facility look like they haven't seen a bit of change since the 1950s and looks a bit like a period piece with some steampunk sensibility. All of this is well and good, but without a decent story to back it up all of the style present is simply for naught.
Gore Verbinski is not a bad director. He just, for some reason, continues to work with bad screenwriters. Perhaps another collaboration between him and John Logan is due. The first one, "Rango", won a Best Animated Feature Oscar, if you recall. 6/10… Expand
Average User Score: 8.1Feb 10, 2017The man. The myth. The legend. John Wick is back, and he’s here to stay. And don’t worry: the new dog’s still here too.
Where do I evenThe man. The myth. The legend. John Wick is back, and he’s here to stay. And don’t worry: the new dog’s still here too.
Where do I even start? Films like this one, and the original, are usually ones people walk into with low expectations, coming mainly to see a spectacular light and sound spectacle that goes heavy on the bloodshed and light on the, oh, everything else. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of blood splatter to go around in this movie, but never for a second is the storytelling (take a moment, even for a movie like this one, to follow that word up with a hollow laugh) aspect of the movie compromised for the sake of an action scene, which is such a beautiful thing in this day and age when multiplexes are filled by the likes of Michael Bay. Plenty of focus was spent on world-building in the first, delicately crafting a massive and elegant underground society of assassins and mobsters hiding right under our noses in the middle of New York City. As you’ll see in this one, that is only the tip of the iceberg.
We open on Wick (Keanu Reeves) settling his last bit of unfinished business from the previous film by getting his vintage Mustang back from the brother of original antagonist Viggo Tarasov. This actually accomplishes very little—when he returns home with the car, John Leguizamo’s chop shop owner character quips it’ll be ready “By Christmas…2030” when he calls him to repair it—and seems to serve the purpose of re-introducing the character and his legendary reputation to audiences (including the infamous “pencil story”, of which he gives a demonstration later on). Once this is done, John begins to again try to settle back into life as a civilian, when his past comes back to haunt him once more in the form of Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), an old acquaintance who, we learn, played a vital role in helping in the completion of Baba Yaga’s “impossible task” that established the Tarasov syndicate in the previous film. Bound by a blood oath to assist D’Antonio (who reminds him of this by blowing up his house with a grenade launcher), Wick is given the task of eliminating the former’s sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini; I wonder if Monica Bellucci was unavailable, I honestly think she would have been better for that role) in order for Santino to claim a place at the “High Table”, a council of high-level crime lords who make use of the circle of assassins to whom John used to belong. If you’ve seen anything about the movie on TV or in the news you no doubt know that he succeeds, but when Santino double-crosses him to tie up loose ends, John suddenly finds a world that was all-too-happy to have him back now treacherous and full of danger. With an open contract on his head worth enough money that it’d make anyone consider life as an assassin, John must figure out who he can trust, outlive the attempts on his life by his former colleagues, and find a way to take revenge on D’Antonio all at the same time.
Now, I said that this sequel does everything that a sequel ought to. Allow me to elaborate on that a little more: everything great about the first film was kept while the weaker or less developed areas have been tightened up and now feel more at home. The unique lighting and visual style are still apparent, but a bit of a break is taken from the noir atmosphere of the last film by giving plenty of daytime settings and scenes (in contrast to the grey and black New York night streets), as well as plenty of beautiful new set pieces in Rome. The action scenes are still beautifully choreographed and shot, and we even get to see Wick use a few new weapons in this one (most notably is a shotgun—I was disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to utilize one in the first, but that scene makes up for it one-hundred percent). The dry humor that made the first so hilarious in such a deadly way (the deadpan delivery of Reeves and Lance Reddick, the Continental’s concierge, makes it all the sweeter) is all over the place, and to make up for a few of the juicy supporting performances we lost between this movie and the last one (Poor, poor Willem Dafoe…) we get a couple of new ones from the likes of Laurence Fishburne as the leader of a gang of homeless men/assassins/criminals, Common as the bodyguard of Wick’s mark in Rome, and the legendary Franco Nero as the Winston-type character of an Italian branch of the Continental (Ian McShane also returned to his role, and I loved every minute of his time on screen). But what’s perhaps most interesting is the expansion upon the lore created in the last movie: we see now that these killers aren’t just in New York, but everywhere in the world, and now Wick must be even more careful than before.
I’ve never given an action movie a perfect 10 before, so this is a first for me. All I have left to say is: Threequel, please! 10/10… Expand