Tag Archives: Movie Review

Arsenal

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If you are looking for a formulatic action thriller, then Arsenal is not it. The new film directed by Steven C. Miller feels more like an indie experiment. And that’s just fine. Shot in just thirteen days, Arsenal is a fast moving, blood soaked thrill ride that asks “How far would you go to save your brother?”

Adrian Grenier and Johnathon Schaech play brothers bound by the childhood discovery of their uncle who commits suicide by shotgun. Mikey (Schaech) protects JT (Grenier) from the gruesome mess by sending him to the arcade.

Later, I’m not sure why or how,  but Mikey stumbles into gangster Eddie King’s (Nicolas Cage)  plastic draped hide out and witnesses  another instance of brutality. One is left to assume this event ties Mikey to Eddie King as an adult. Some details may have been lost, as I viewed the film at a screening held at Laemmle’s Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills with Schaech and Grenier in attendance.  I was too  busy watching them watch themselves.

As an adult Mikey is no angel. He drinks, has a violent temper and can’t seem to get this life together. JT on the other hand, is a mildly successful business owner who enjoys family backyard barbecues. JT loves and defends his brother despite Mikey’s outburst and shortcomings.

Mikey, in need of cash,  borrows 10K from JT and buys cocaine in hopes of flipping it. This is when the shit hits the fan. The coke is stolen and Mikey is knee deep. Eddie King has his dirty hands in this and kidnaps Mikey in order to extort more money out of JT.

Nicolas Cage, who dons a crazy wig and nose is over the top as Eddie King. The prosthetic nose is kind of distracting, but I told myself it’s because he did so much blow over the years.

It is now JT’s turn to protect and rescue his brother. Adrian Grenier plays the part with conviction. A fine versatile actor who I’d love to see more of. He appears as darling off screen.

Johnathon Schaech is the stand out. He sets the screen on fire – his presence is strong and powerful.  Blood, sweat and muscle, Schaech breathes life into Mikey with a punch. This is not a man you want to get into an argument with. I could not help but envision Schaech starring in a Die Hard-esque reboot.

Schaech has enjoyed a substantial film and television career. But keep a close eye on him – I predict much more success ahead.

Arsenal is in theaters and on demand now. Check it out! http://lionsgatepremiere.com/arsenalmovie

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Selfie time with Johnathon. 

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Candid shot of Adrian Grenier pictutred with friend outside the theater. 

The VV itch

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I’ve read countless glowing reviews about the new horror film The Witch – this is not one of them. It’s not that the movie sucked, it’s better than the usual Hollywood trash but it fails to deliver on it’s promise to terrify. Let’s set the stage….a family leaves the safe walls of their Puritan community circa 1600s – they travel into the harsh, dark wilderness to begin a new life. They find a place to settle and a build a house which seems to happen overnight without the help of a construction crew.

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The family’s oldest daughter, Thomasin (played by Anya Taylor-Joy), is on the verge of womanhood. Even her younger brother can’t help but notice her developing breasts. Gross but they live on a farm in the middle of nowhere – poor kids. Anyway, Ms. Thomasin takes her baby brother or sister (it doesn’t really matter) to the woods edge for a game of peek-a-boo. The baby disappears right before her eyes – the work of The Witch in the woods?

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The family does its best to carry on but then the finger pointing begins. Thomasin jokes that she is wicked – she really just wants to shut up her annoying younger brother and sister (twins). Here’s the scary part, the family’s lack of trust for each other will lead to their demise. Again, is the work of The Witch or the evil that lurks within? Or perhaps it’s the doing of the black goat feared to be Satan himself?

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Writer/Director Robert Eggers has the right idea and does a beautiful job recreating this scary time in American history. However, The Witch falls short on invoking feelings of terror beyond the idea that if this happened in real life it would be terrifying. Worth a watch, but save your money for the DVD/digital release.

Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton might just be the most important film of the year. It’s one part entertainment and one part a lesson in American history.  In 1986, MC Ren, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, DJ Yella and Ice Cube joined forces to create N.W.A. Their lyrics; an honest reflection of issues faced as inner-city youth. As popular as they became N.W.A. was quickly condemned for their “glorification” of drugs, violence,  degradation of woman and anti-establishment rhymes. Their song “Fuck tha Police” only added fuel to the fire.

N.W.A. were poets, storytellers and advocates for free speech. Their music brought attention to the injustices perpetuated by Police on African Americans. Sadly, this very well could take place in 2015.

Straight Outta Compton produced by Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, is thoughtfully directed by F. Gary Gray – it is lush, bold and taps all the senses. N.W.A.’s rise to fame, fortune and eventual demise is brilliantly portrayed by a cast of  talented young actors, MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), DJ Yella (Neil Brown, Jr.) and Ice Cube played by real life son (O’Shea Jackson, Jr,).

Universal Pictures announces the cast and filmmakers of "Straight Outta Compton" (clockwise, from top left): producer ICE CUBE, director F. GARY GRAY, producer DR. DRE, COREY HAWKINS (Dr. Dre), JASON MITCHELL (Eazy-E) and O?SHEA JACKSON JR. (Ice Cube).
Photos via Universal Pictures. Featured right to left COREY HAWKINS (Dr. Dre), JASON MITCHELL (Eazy-E) and O’SHEA JACKSON JR. (Ice Cube).

It would not surprise me if Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell or O’Shea Jackson, Jr.  ended up on an Oscar ballet. Paul Giamatti  does a fine job as Ruthless Records co-founder, Jerry Heller. His partnership and friendship with Eazy-E lends to a deeper subplot of corruption within the music industry.  Unlike other musical bio-pics, Straight Outta Compton lacks the cheese factor, it comes across as an authentic tribute to the pioneers of hip hop.

Straight Outta Compton is in theaters now. http://www.straightouttacompton.com

Amy

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Amy Winehouse’s father told her she was “just fine” when managers pleaded with the singer to enter rehab soon after the success of her first album “Frank,” back in 2003. The new documentary film Amy directed by Asif Kapadia, makes you wonder if Winehouse’s fate could have been less tragic if she had the right people around her.

The film provides an intimate portrait of the troubled singers journey as an 16yr old girl turned global superstar. In 2011 at the age of 27, Amy suffered a tragic death when her heart stopped beating from years of stress on her body brought on by an eating disorder and substance abuse. Her death and the famous images of Amy’s downward spiral have over shadowed her raw talent as a singer-song writer. Her voice, reflective of a soul much older.

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Through the use of home video, live performances and interviews Kapadia pieces together Amy’s story.  We see a beautiful full faced teenage girl transform into a person out of control; exploited by the media and enablers.  Among the chaos, her music and lyrics are front and center, and in retrospect are telling of Amy’s pain and desire to be loved.

We will never know what might have been…. Amy reminds us that Winehouse was as an amazingly talented artist worthy of much more respect than she received in her short life.

Amy is in theaters now.

#SanAndreas

imageLast night, I took myself to the movies. Yes, I go to the movies alone for a mental escape. It’s one of my favorite things to do. Anyway, I was in the mood for something visual that didn’t require too much thought. San Andreas, which will be #1 in the box office this weekend, expected to earn over $40million dollars, is just that movie. Think of it as more of an amusement park thrill ride than film; don’t expect much of a story line here. What San Andreas lacks in plot is made up with impressive doomsday CGI effects.

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Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as a soon to be divorced, Los Angeles firefighter who is hell bent on saving his family. The earth is shaking and the poor people of California don’t have much of a chance at survival; the biggest earthquake ever recorded hits hard. If this were real life, I might just let myself be killed by the giant tsunami! That is unless “The Rock” could rescue me too! “The Rock” is a force of nature himself and seeing his BIG muscles in 3D alone is worth the $18.99 dollar ticket price; he’s hot! Anyway, if your looking for a popcorn movie it’s right here. Sit back and enjoy the ride!

 

It Follows

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I’ve been wanting to catch “It Follows” for a few weeks now, and finally saw it yesterday. This supernatural horror film directed by David Robert Mitchell, and starring Maika Monroe had me at the edge of my seat; I even jumped several times!! The music alone is creepy enough, but what’s unusual about this film is that it pulls its thrills from the sheer suspense of not knowing what “It” is or why it follows you. “It” wants to kill you, but first its going to fuck you! Sounds crazy, right? Well, it is!

Jay Height is a young college student who goes on a movie date with this guy named Hugh. While at the movie, Hugh abruptly wants to leave…something about seeing a girl in a yellow dress. Jay agrees and they end up going for a ride, one thing leads to another and they hook up in his car. Forgot about using a condom because what Hugh is about to give her is worse than any STD! Hugh is not who he appears and their date a setup. Hugh’s only desire is to pass “It” on….a curse where a mysterious entity follows you slowly until it rapes your soul. “It” could look like anyone and the only way to make leave you alone is to have sex with someone else or so they think.

Jay, with the help of friends, tries her hardest to stop “It” in its tracks, good luck with that! By film’s end we are left with only more questions which screams SEQUEL! Kudos to director David Robert Mitchell and to star Maika Monroe for delivering the goods…if your a horror fan, I’d check this one out!