Movie Reviews

The Field (1990) ***

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I wanted to watch something Irish for St. Patrick’s Day to go along with my Guinness bread, vegan Shepherd’s Pie, and cabbage so it was finally time to watch this thing.

My initial comment on the DVD is that the transfer is of poor quality. I have only seen two other DVD/blu-rays that were this bad and those were The Whole Wide World (the Robert E. Howard biopic) and Wall Street. We are so used to seeing dust and scratch free images now that it’s unusual to see a dirty transfer. But I will say it wasn’t as bad as those other two films and it didn’t impact the experience too badly. The sound was fine.

The story is about a psychopathic old tenant farmer played by Richard Harris and his mentally handicapped son played by a young Sean Bean. They live in squalor and are obsessed with a three acre piece of land that they have worked for a generation even though they do not own it. But the Harris character ‘Bull’ McCabe thinks he owns it because he’s worked it so long. Welcome to capitalism Mr. McCabe!

He says there is a difference between “The Law” which says the owner can sell it anytime she wants to and “The Law of the Land” which he says entitles him to the field because he dug so many rocks out of it over the years. So he already is clearly not on board the reality train. But the people of this rocky, barely habitable Irish fjord are nice people and when the field goes up for auction they will allow the crazy old man to be the single unopposed bidder. Until… in a direct contrast to the worn out downtrodden Irish in comes a smooth as silk Yank, played by Tom Berenger, who offers more than the old man could ever afford.

I don’t know if this was the filmmaker’s intent but I immediately sided with the Berenger character. Not only is he a smooth dresser who drives a cool car, but his family came from that town and he wants to build a dam on the land, a project that would create badly needed jobs and cheap electricity. Set in the ‘30s this town is still such a backwater that there are no electric lights in most of the homes. But Bull can’t have this, he must have HIS land so he murders Berenger in cold blood with his son’s help. Catholic guilt is a real thing and after getting scolded by the town priest, McCabe goes “super crazy” and then the real killing in earnest begins.

The photography, locations, music, and acting are all excellent. Harris especially carries the movie. However I kept wanting to see more of the civilized American. Berenger had to be one of the most handsome men in Hollywood at that time. He just stands out so sharply against the dirt poor and crazy Irish. John Hurt is even lower class than McCabe as a toothless barely understandable stooge. Everyone but the American and the priest is dirty, drunken, and poor. So very, very poor. So it’s not exactly a “fun” movie. Many animals are killed throughout and that was a turn off for my wife. I don’t know how they accomplished the animals dying, whether they used corpses or dummies, but hopefully they didn’t actually kill them just for the movie.

So it’s probably not the best St. Patty’s Day movie to watch but the acting is so good that I have to at least give it…

3 shamrocks outta 5

Star Wars 8: The Last Jedi *

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John Williams is probably the only reason I don’t give it zero stars. It’s sad that his name has to be associated with this disaster. Same for Mark Hamill. He’s making millions off this trilogy so I can’t say I blame him for doing it, but if it weren’t for the money I’m sure he would have told Disney to take a hike after he read the script.

Luke here is a coward, traitor, and curmudgeon. Hmm, I seem to ‘member him being selfless, brave, and optimistic. He burns down a Jedi Temple and all of it’s sacred texts. He says “The Jedi must be destroyed.” WTF??

J.J. Abram’s made us care about Rey’s (the new female Luke) mysterious origins in the last movie. He made it seem like her parents were somebody. Same with the Sith Lord Snoke. We never find out who he is either. Last Order? No idea who they are or how they came to be. Clearly Disney wrote no backstory.

And yes, Leia flies through the vacuum of space without a space suit. The problem with that is 1) even Lord Vader (the most powerful Jedi of all time) couldn’t do that and 2) we’ve never seen Leia use The Force except to communicate with Luke. But now she can’t even do that, but she can survive in the vacuum of space and fly like Supergirl. And that’s a huge problem with this movie. The Force is way too strong. Luke uses it to “enter the Matrix” for chrissakes. Vader never did that. The Emperor never did that. Kylo (the new boyishly lame Vader) and Rey use it to talk across light years of space like it’s a walkie talkie. And apparently it doesn’t even take years of training to master it any more. Luke teaches Rey nothing, she just becomes a Jedi on her own.

Not only is this the worst Star Wars movie by far, it’s one of the worst blockbusters ever made. Nothing makes sense. If the chrome stormtrooper Phasma has armor that can repel blaster fire then why wouldn’t every stormtrooper have that armor? Why did Luke make a map to himself if he just wanted to be left alone to die? It’s an epic fail of storytelling besides destroying the legacy of the original movies. Everything the Rebellion fought for is completely meaningless now. Vader’s sacrifice? Pointless. It stole many of the plot points from the old movies again. It’s just a train wreck. I would compare it to The Matrix 3 or Highlander 2 for it’s incompetent mishandling of a series.

1 fan film outta 5

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me ***

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This documentary film by Drew DeNicola tells the story of a little known but influential rock band from the ’70s. If you are a fan of The Jesus and Mary Chain, REM, or The Replacements then you’ve probably heard of these guys or at least would recognize the influence. The primary force in the band was Alex Chilton, singer of the ’60s hit “The Letter.” He wrote most of the songs with lead guitar player Chris Bell. Responsible for the engineering of the pretentiously titled “#1 Album” Bell dropped out of the band after the record failed to go #1 or even close. After destroying the master tapes the rest of his life was a downward slide of drugs, depression, and religion. He died in 1978 in a car crash.

Chilton likewise was a madman and abandoned the project that he would be best known for. Big Star only made three albums with the third one not even getting published until years after it was recorded. The documentary goes to great lengths show how bad marketing and an ahead of it’s time sound kept the music from gaining popularity. Well that’s life isn’t it? No one is owed anything no matter how talented. Vincent Van Gogh sold one painting while he was alive.

This doc is very well done and engaging but because the lifespan of Big Star was so short it lacks gravitas. Chilton would go on experiment with the punk sound and became a producer for The Cramps and other lesser known bands. Even though he said he hated Big Star he saw where the money was finally and reformed them in ’90s to capitalize on the Nirvana trend. He died in 2010. It’s not a great film, but it is very good and recommended for fans of indie/alternative music.

3 Big Stars Outta 5

Star Trek Beyond **

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Star Trek: Generations looks like Citizen Kane next to Star Trek Beyond. At least I felt some emotions during the former. Beyond is an exciting non-stop thrill ride, but nothing else. There was zero character development or arch, even for the villain. Spock gets to do absolutely nothing of significance. It really is Fast and Furious with space ships. It is not even a science fiction film, but an action adventure. There were no Romulans, no Klingons, or any of the famous Star Trek civilizations. The Enterprise crew is defending a space station and that’s the whole movie. Simon Pegg lied through his crooked teeth when he said this would appeal to Star Trek fans. Star Trek usually involves science and exploration. Neither were present in this movie. But if shoot outs, death defying stunts, and racing are your things, you will love it. The action is top notch as ILM threw everything they had on screen. The movie is so beautiful, it’s really a shame that they couldn’t find a story to tell. They could have grabbed any old Star Trek comic book or novel and just made that. But instead the plot merely leads us from one action set piece to the next. It is by far the weakest of the three reboots yet not as bad as Star Trek: Insurrection.

2 Nanobots Outta 5

Pegg also made a cringe worthy intro to the movie begging people to stop watching Netflix and go to obsolete theaters instead. They’re getting desperate. Make good movies and they will come. But this empty vfx-fest will play just fine on a 60″ home theater screen.

Hell or High Water ***

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Hell or High Water is a modern cops and robbers drama set in west Texas. Jeff Bridges continues his streak playing tough grizzled lawmen. Chris Pine delivers another great but understated performance as Bridges foil. I could watch these two read soup cans back and forth to each other all day. But sadly they only interact once in the entire film, but boy it’s some damn good acting. Ben Foster, who was probably cast because of his role as Billy Badass in 3:10 to Yuma, essentially plays the same role in this film. He and Pine are brothers and bank robbing partners. I don’t really buy Foster in this role. He’s supposed to be a tough guy but he doesn’t look so tough. He’s got a nerdy kid kind of face, which was covered up by a beard in 3:10 to Yuma and that helped immensely. He is probably most famous for playing Angel in X-Men 3. His character, unlike Pine’s, is also fairly one-dimentional. He also looks a little bit like Sean Penn which is maybe why I don’t like his face.  Tongue He also happened to be engaged to Penn’s ex, Robin Wright.

But this is really Bridge’s movie. He’s given more screen time than Pine and is on the side of lawful good. Pine is supposed to be the robber with the heart of gold, but it’s a highly unsympathetic role. The plot is dead simple Western formula: the two brothers’ family ranch is about to get taken over by the evil banks and they have only a matter of days to get the money to pay off the mortgage and liens. Even so, robbing banks is still a stupid and dangerous way to help your family out. You can see a bit of Heat in this film, where they want you to feel sympathetic for the cops and robbers, but not enough time is spent with Pine to really get to know him.

There are enough twists in this otherwise formulaic crime movie to keep it interesting. It’s also always nice to watch a film shot somewhere other than Los Angeles.

3 Foreclosures Outta 5

Baby Driver ***

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Heralded by critics as one of the best films of the year, Baby Driver deftly moves it’s crime/thriller/comedy story along at a fast clip yet it lives in a world of quirky unreality. Much like Edgar Wright’s other films Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim, the laws of logic and physics take a second seat to the action. People don’t die after getting shot. Bullets don’t impact main cast members even though they are clearly standing in the way of them. Crimes of murder and felony bank robbery are punished with light sentences. Rather than sweating bullets during a robbery that would guarantee 30 to life, Baby sings along to his mp3s with a smile.

So once you realize that this story doesn’t take place on Earth, but rather in a manchild’s imagination, you can at least enjoy the ride. Car stunts are great as is the cast which includes Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, and Jamie Foxx who blows everyone else off screen.

Like Guardians of the Galaxy the film utilized a plethora of ‘70s R&B hits. I don’t know, I just don’t think a 20 year old kid would be into that stuff. They try to explain why (his Mom was an R&B singer) but I still find it unlikely. It’s just a movie trope right now, ripped off from Tarantino movies of the ’90s.

It’s worth watching but this story could never happen.

3 stars outta 5

Wonder Woman ***

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I would put it alongside Martin Campbell’s Green Lantern as a mid tier superhero movie that was likewise clearly rushed and relied on CGI and green screen for the third act. Also like Green Lantern we are not really privy to what the limits of WW’s powers are. At the end she seemingly can generate energy balls like a Dragonball Z super saiyan even though this is never shown in the comic books.

The movie starts strong with some backstory about the Amazons, but it seems unlikely that they would have no idea about World War I if they are supposedly sworn to protect the innocent people of the world. It’s just one of many plot holes. Another one is the fact that Diana chose to intervene in the end of WWI yet did nothing of note during WWII (when she would have been even more badly needed)… or any other conflict on record for that matter. What has she been doing for the last 100 years?

The villains are never fleshed out or given much of a backstory – except for the god Ares – who, as a god, is not relatable. The music was better than Green Lantern yet it only had one or two themes. The CG was Snyder-rific with lots of fast to slow money shots. But much like BvS and Green Lantern there was just way too much of it. Wonder Woman just shows that a DC movie doesn’t have to be good to be a hit, it just has to be watchable. BvS and Suicide Squad could not even achieve that level of mediocrity.

3 stars outta 5

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets ***

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Inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar Luc Besson gambled all of the good will he harnessed by producing Taken and Lucy into the most expensive indie movie of all time. And it shows.

This is animation and vfx so good it had to be Weta, and they ain’t cheap. Not only that but ILM also did a huge chunk of the movie. It is THE vfx movie of the year, no doubt. Digital characters (hundreds of them) look so real that you almost think they are. Only problem is… he forgot to write a compelling story.

The film moves from one eye candy set piece to another with really interesting, never-before-seen action, but sadly all this viewer cared about were the visuals themselves. The two stars are much too young to be believable as space cops. They are given no backstories and are just our human connection on a space station full of CG aliens. Rihanna is in the movie… why? To have a million dollar Weta-enhanced dance number of course! Ethan Hawke is also in this scene for some reason.

It’s a strange movie to review because I do recommend seeing it, just to watch a madman burn hundreds of millions of dollars on fx work. There are some very interesting concepts and futuristic weapons and vehicles that are also worth the time. The design alone should win some kind of award, but in the end it’s a missed opportunity as Besson went for splash and not story.

If you have any bags of drugs lying around, after popping in this blu-ray with the surround sound turned up, I would suggest taking them.

3 astroships outta 5

Blade Runner 2049 **

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The hype is undeserved. Multiple critics said that the sequel was better than the original. That is simply a crazy thing to say. The entire movie is a callback. The look, the music, the characters, and the plot all would not exist without the first one. The sequel adds very little to the mythos. We still never leave Earth and rarely leave Los Angeles. The writing was fairly weak and has major plot holes.

Jared Leto is the new Tyrell. He is blind, a callback to Joe Turkel’s version who also had bad vision and got his eyes ripped out. They really don’t even try in Hollywood anymore do they? He wants a child that the first pregnant replicant gave birth to. That is the plot. Apparently if one wants a slave army it would be faster to impregnate female replicants rather than make them in the lab because it takes too long. Um… does this corporation realize that it takes 20 years to grow a baby into an adult? Really it takes 20 years to make a replicant? The original never mentioned this… because it’s fucking ridiculous.

Right off the bat we know Gosling is a replicant, so we don’t really care much about him. Then we find out that his girlfriend is an interactive piece of software, a basement dwelling nerd’s wet dream cum true. This makes us like him even less and of course we don’t give a shit about a character who’s made out of code. I thought that Leto’s performance was very good actually. He should have had more screen time. Gosling was fine, but he plays it deadpan. Ford was tremendous as always, but he also is barely in the film.

I was wishing that they had gotten Rutger Hauer for this because maybe he could have saved it. The main baddie is a two-dimensional female terminator, not exactly the poetic psychopath Roy Batty. It starts off strong with a good performance by Batista, but he’s quickly out of the movie. They have a great fight scene but that’s the last action you will be seeing for hours. Did I mention that this movie is 2049 hours long? It felt like it anyways. And for no reason really. It’s a fairly simple detective story that leads to an unsatisfying ending where plenty of loose ends are left hanging. They must have planned a sequel but that’s not going to happen now as this bombed at the box office badly. I can see why people didn’t turn out. It’s boring. There is a little more action at the end but it was not nearly enough. The story loses momentum by Act 3.

I would say that this was a missed opportunity but really that occurred in 1993 when the Ridley Scott Director’s Cut came out on video. It sparked a new interest in the film and that would have been the time to bring it back.

The whole “is Deckard a replicant” theory is weakly not dealt with. At least take a stand on it one way or the other. There are vague hints about it from Olmos but nothing certain. The music also was a big letdown. They didn’t even try. For the ending they just straight up replayed Vangelis.

I also did not like the way the movie fucked with the original story. They really just couldn’t come up with their own, they had to add a ridiculous swerve to the 1982 film for no reason. I am saddened by the knowledge that this director is going to remake Dune.

2 skin jobs outta 5

2016 Oscar Nominated Film Round-up

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LA LA LAND  * outta *****

No shock here. Even some critics didn’t like this one very much. I honestly stopped watching it halfway through it was that bad. I wouldn’t usually review a movie I didn’t finish, but to do so would have been torture. It’s basically like watching a high school drama production shot on a stedi-cam. The staging, song quality, choreography, singing, and script were all amateur hour. Emma Stone has no Hollywood glamour and Ryan Gosling just seemed out of his element. I understand that he had to take piano lessons for months to play this role, well here’s a crazy idea… hire someone who can not only play the piano but also sing and dance! Was Justin Timberlake busy? Same with Emma Stone, she’s not a dancer or a singer, so why is she in this? I would barely even call her A-list. She hasn’t proven that she can headline anything more than a rom-com, unlike Amy Adams.

Speaking of…

ARRIVAL  *** outta *****

Arrival is a ridiculous premise and one of the stranger takes on first contact. That said, I was actively engaged in the movie the entire two hours which cannot be said for most films so I give it a 3. Now having said THAT, if you expect the movie to make any sense by the end, keep dreaming. There is an interesting twist that involves the magic of time travel but it is never explained. Amy Adams character makes a nonsensical and unethical choice at the end that really lowered my ranking of this movie. It was simply sloppy writing. Amy Adams carries the movie and I did like that it stays with her the entire time, but the whole thing hinges on this idea that the aliens would expect us barbaric humans to translate their language instead of them (with their obviously superior science) translating ours. IT MAKES ZERO SENSE.


MANCHESTER BY THE SEA  * outta *****

Here’s another well reviewed movie to avoid. I can’t understand how a critic could sit through this dull-as-paint-drying-mopefest and give it a 5 star rating. It is one of the worst movies of 2016. Casey Affleck plays the same guy he always plays: monotone kid-faced sociopathic Boston guy. This time he’s a psycho because he accidentally killed his entire family and burned his own house down. Later in the film he leaves burning food on the stove and takes a nap. So after he’s killed his three children he plays with fire again. And we are supposed to feel sympathetic for this moron? His brother, Kyle Chandler, shows that he’s just as dumb by putting Affleck in his will to manage his own family and business after he dies suddenly. Bad idea. Affleck’s character can’t even get himself a beer without ending up bloody and beaten. So in the end, it’s a terrible movie with no story to tell, it’s a “slice of life” thing that’s set in the ‘90s for no reason.

MOONLIGHT ** outta *****

At least it’s not as bad as La La Land. That’s about all I can say about this slice-of-life Richard Linklater/Boyhood-esque “movie.” I only realized by the third act that there was no story and therefore no convincing conclusion. It starts off strong with good acting, music, pacing, etc. But then when Chiron finally grows up none of the lessons he’s learned in the first two acts pay off. This is widely described as a gay movie, but Chiron never even becomes sexually active, he’s more like a celibate. He thinks he’s gay, but never acts on it. So what is the point of this movie? You sympathize with him as a confused shy little boy, but then he just becomes a thug in the end. You would think that the point would be overcoming adversity or something. But no, he’s just an asexual gangsta drug dealer. Ok. It’s not a one star star piece of crap like La La Land, but it’s no where near a Best Picture of the Year award. Mahershala Ali (House of Cards) is the best thing about it so naturally he disappears in act one, never to be seen again.

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS ** outta *****

Similarly to Moonlight the best thing about Nocturnal Animals is it’s supporting star Michael Shannon. It would have been best if the whole movie was about his character. Unfortunately, not only is his character not the main character, he’s not even real in the movie. This is one of those travesties known as a “film-within-a-film.” Amy Adams (widely miscast) gets a manuscript from ex-husband Donnie Darko and the movie is her reading it and imaging it was a movie in her head. So yes, the entire plot shown in the trailer is all in her imagination. Really ’nuff said, this movie sucked.

At one point she walks past a giant painting that says REVENGE as if the point wasn’t clear enough that this crime novel is about their marriage. See, she said he would never be a successful writer and divorced him. Now he can write a bestseller about what a bitch she is and get the ultimate REVENGE!!! HAHAHA!

Based on this film and the director’s previous one A Single Man, it’s obvious that he hates women. Amy Adams is portrayed as a superficial cunt and his last film was about gay dudes who think that women are basically children who should be ignored. Also the main reason to totally not see this movie is the opening credits. Just to drive home how much Tom Ford hates ladies, it’s five agonizing minutes of the most obese and wrinkled examples of the female form he could find; jumping around with sparklers in front of American flags. Apparently this is supposed to be a political statement of some kind. Just horrible. If Shannon wasn’t in this thing it would easily be a one star film.