After watching Bone Tomahawk back in 2015 my anticipation for the next S. Craig Zahler movie grew feverpitch, his simple style blended with a cult laid cast pumped with an explosive violent finale had me wondering how can this realatively new filmmaker top what I have classed as an instant cult classic? Well it only took 2 years and I had my answer BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 is intoxicating in it’s execution, it’s sublime storytelling, it’s trade mark gut wrenching finale but most of all it’s one hell of a performance from Vince Vaughan as Bradley Thomas an ex-con boxer trying to make a living in any way which he can to provide for his wife and their unborn baby when all shit rains down and things get really ugly – Zahler’s writing and filmmaking style is kept simple but engaging, his use of character invention is spectacular almost Tarantino-esque, he knows how to deliver these weird, wonderful & downright nasty son of bitches to the screen, casting old pro’s such as Don Johnson to bring home key roles in his movies, and what about the great Udo Kier as the mysterious Placid Man, Kier’s role maybe small but it’s so pivotel and I can’t think of anyone I would rather play that role, Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter gives a good turn as Bradley’s wife and Buffy’s Marc Blucas is eye catching as Bradley’s boss – but essentially Brawl in Cell Block 99 is Vince Vaughan’s movie, it’s a role that’s truly up there with some of the memorable film roles of all time, such as Travolta’s Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction, Nicholson’s Jack Torrance in The Shining and more, Vaughan at times prowls the screen like The Duke did back in the old western’s of yesteryear, his wrestling background and stature is used by Zahler to great effect giving his character this imposing look who carries this quiet yet unsettling demeanor, for me a bit like Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk, those fight scenes in the last 40mins are quite something….
So to be very clear Brawl in Cell Block 99 is not for everyone, if you hate violence & don’t like to hear bone crunching sounds or watch torture and all sorts of blood curdling tear ups then please stay well clear of this movie – but if like me you like your films hard hitting with slices of no nonsense movie escapism then you will revel in this brutal uncompromising cult classic – now I only have to wait till next year for S. Craig Zahler next movie the epic titled Dragged Across Concrete that stars Mel Gibson & Vince Vaughan, my mouth is drooling already…. ★★★★½
I know I know I know… another bloody remake…. well that was my initial reaction to the news that our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man was getting another outing with yet another cast and so soon after the Marc Webb movies landed…. but as always first reactions are not always the right ones, having now seen John Watts superhero movie I must say “what a ridiculously fun, coming of age thrill ride that blends the humor, action & darkness perfectly to create one helluva cinematic event” – Tom Holland (who I loved in Pigrimage and The Impossible) was so the right choice & delivers a magical turn as our webslinger, capturing the innocence and arrogance of a teenager that’s required for this movie, Holland is surrounded by quality at every turn, Aunt May is played by the delightful Marisa Tomei giving a new & younger slant on Peter’s guardian, Michael Keaton hits it out of the ball park playing the villain Adrian Toomes aka: Vulture and Robert Downey Jr who’s actually a good mentor to Peter and is fun to watch, some of his screen time in Homecoming I found better than his Avengers stuff – I have to be honest and say when I first heard of this latest remake I wanted it all to be a complete disaster, crash and burn and be complete garbage but Spider-man Homecoming is far from it, its an exceptionally well written comicbook adaption that took me back to my teens, reading the comics, watching the animated series & avoiding spiders at all costs – Overall this is one of the best Marvel Superhero Movies in recent times, it’s an action packed, John Hughes homage laiden big screen summer movie that I found totally engrossing and deliciously fun to watch…. ★★★★½
For those of you who follow me on social media or read this movie blog you will know by now that I adore Ridley Scott, his movies and all things Alien but in recent years I have been quite vocal on this legendary directors fall from the dizzy heights of yesteryear to churning out such ordinary movies, average affairs such as Robin Hood, The Counselor, Exodus: Gods and Kings and the pretty dismal Prometheus – I am so conflicted, the one side of me is so grateful to this legendary filmmaker for giving us so many iconic movies but the other side keeps asking the question “why does Ridley Scott continue to direct such sub par movies? take a leaf out of Tarantino and Cameron’s book, maybe direct a film every few years instead of every year?” it’s my opinion that these films will only tarnish his brilliant reputation – I really had hoped that Ridley had turned the corner back in 2015, I absolutley loved The Martian with Matt Damon this was a real return to form from a director in need of some resurection so when it was announced that a new Alien movie was in production a sequel to the dreadful Prometheus nevertheless I was pumped, excited and looking forward to maybe a new chapter in this great series of scifi indulgence…..
Sadly for me though Alien Covenant was not what I hope it would be, yes it was better than Prometheus (well that wasn’t hard now was it) and yes maybe over the last 10yrs The Martian aside it’s one of his better efforts but overall it was a big screen blockbuster that left me feeling flat, it was way too predictable, contained some shitty CGI that made the overall production feel shoddy and unpolished and although Covenant had it’s moments it’s narrative tried to over complicate things so the reasons why we loved the original movies were lost in this world, a franchise that was slowly becoming more about the androids than anything else – Ridley also thought it was a good idea to go all mystical on our asses so inserted some really strange Obi Wan moments featuring David from Prometheus, living like an old wise hermit in a cave, listening to wind chimes and blowing his flute delivering lines such as “you blow and I will do the fingering” I just found all this mumble jumble embarrassing, out of place and lacking any sort of vision, suspense and was almost laughable at times….
I am not saying that Alien Covenant as a movie is a complete disaster, for me it’s not got that Ridley Scott stamp on it – McBride and Fassbender are both terrific in their respective roles and some of the nice homages to previous movies were great to see but overall Covenant felt like a bad dream a two a penny slasher that felt like a rehash of the original movie that is desperately trying to emulate all the things that worked such as (face huggers, chest bursters, acid for blood and so on) yet delivering it all with no panach and most importantly zero tension, yeah it’s a shit load more violent than it’s predecessors but that’s nothing to be proud about, what made 1979’s Alien so damn good was it’s slow burning tension that’s gnaws away at you but with Covenant you feel nothing – most of the films undoing in my opinion is it’s lack of humanity I felt so disconnected to the crew of the ship, the characters in the movie were not developed enough so when they slowly start getting picked off I actually felt very little for them, I was numb and that overall summed up my experience with this movie at it’s finale – I just hope Ridley doesn’t out stay his welcome and he lets go of the Alien reigns and allows a new filmmaker to bring some fresh ideas to this much loved franchise ……★★★½
Sad news – the Oscar Winning director of one of my favorite movies The Silence of the Lambs Jonathan Demme has died aged 73 – Demme also directed several other superb movies including the epic Something Wild that stars Melanie Griffith & Ray Liotta, Rachel Getting Married, Married to the Mob and Philadelphia but it will always be the brilliant and chilling 1991 classic that the movie world will remember him for – those who worked with him called him one of the most enthusiastic and kind filmmakers in the business, he always had a story to tell and was devilishly smart in bringing that story to the screen, his films changed the course of an actors life, Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster, Tom Hanks and Mary Steenburgen all won Oscars and much acclaim for their roles in his movies and all became better actors because of it – through the medium of film Jonathan Demme has left behind a cinematic legacy, a treasure trove of funny, gripping, haunting movies that will continue to entertain and live on forever – he was a passionate filmmaker who loved his craft, so when your next watching one of his movies take a moment to smile and fondly remember this talented New Yorker and the joy he breathed into the cinematic world we all love so much…
“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti”
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Geoffrey Orthwein & Andrew Sullivan have crafted something quite majestic in BOKEH an end of the world movie that flows like an Icelandic waterfall and captures the backdrop of Reykjavik like a painting, subtle with mouthwatering color, mystery and full of energy all of which adds to their movies narrative and overall feel….
The film starts with a young couple Jenai (Maika Monroe) and Riley (Matt O’Leary) both enjoying their vaction, taking photos and making the most of their gorgeous surroundings – the early snippets of the movie is like an advert for the perfect Iceland vacation, clips of the pair visiting such sites as the famous Geysirs, the many Waterfalls, the Islands moon like landscape & the enchanting Blue Lagoon – the film then switches to a scene where Jenai is standing looking out through her hotel window, it’s the middle of the night and a northern light storm engulfs the dark skylinefill appearing to approach Jenai’s position before disappearing into the night – suddenly as if a dream its now morning and Riley is waking Jenai up, they then leave their room hunting for some breakfast when they start noticing that there is nobody in the hotel and once outside they discover to their disbelief that the population of the city has vanished leaving the two of them isolated together in a city that is now empty of its character, its many voices, its smells and vibrancy – and then it hits home, they’re alone and now what do they do?….
This film took me by surprise, I had seen Maika and O’Leary in other projects but this movie and it’s filmmakers were not on my radar and having recently visited Iceland this gave the movie a sense of realism that totally captivated me, the films gorgeous photography, it’s haunting storyline and how the film looks at the plight of Jenai and Riley and the strain it takes on their relationship gave me chills, so as I sat their enthralled by Bokeh I wondered to myself what would I do if ever faced with this scenario? Towards the end of the movie I was aching for more, I wanted to see how the characters handled the harsh winter, the snow covering their now forced upon city and watch them take in the magical northern lights dancing across the sky, but sadly I guess Orthwein & Sullivan had to finish the movie at some point and its finale is both beautiful, tragic yet so befitting….
The film’s title Bokeh means the out-of-focus parts of an image taken from a camera lens and somehow depending on which side of the fence you sit can also describle how both the characters in the movie view the circumstances they find themselves in, one of them is slightly more happy to go with the flow and accepts their lot, the other cannot and will not accept that this has happened – Bokeh is an absolute delight from start to finish and one that I just can’t stop thinking about – from its stunning Icelandic location, refreshing exciting yet tragic storyline and two engaging performances by Maika and O’Leary Bokeh gives a twist and turn to the normal zombie infested “end of the world” style movie – a true hidden GEM and one that will divide opinion…. ★★★★
the loss of any movie star is a sad time but losing Bill Paxton an actor I have adored since the 80s, iconic, beautiful, crazy and delightfully funny is something I’m really struggling with – as I write this tears are welling, my heart is sinking and the memories of all my favorite Paxton movies are swimming round my head in what can only be described as delirious grief – I have lost count of the times since 1986 I have uttered that line from Aliens “Game Over Man!” and watched over and over his psychotic performance as vampire Severen in the fantastic horror movie Near Dark – to say he is one of my favorite movie idol’s is an understatement, his films have ignited my passion of the screen and for me he will be remembered as this infectious, ballsy movie star that owned the screen with his cowboy swagger, his mischievous grin and one of the most recognizable vocals in film – he was loved and will be missed by all – RIP #FilmLegend
“I’m gonna separate your head from your shoulders. Hope you don’t mind none”
Bill Paxton – Near Dark
Two Mercenaries played by Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal get caught in the middle of an ancient war between Chinese Warrior’s guarding The Great Wall and an angry mob of Alien Monsters that appear to cause mayhem every 60yrs….
The Great Wall is the most expensive Chinese movie ever made, it stars Jing Tian, Andy Lau, Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal and is directed by the visual master Zhang Yimou known for his work on House of the Flying Daggers and Hero….
Before I get on with my thoughts on this movie I must address the fact that there is NO whitewashing in this movie AT ALL so any controversy regarding Matt Damon’s character that happens to be set in China is sadly an attempt for those with plenty of time on there hands to be negative towards a movie that they’ve probably not seen in the first place….
OK now on to the good stuff – If like me you enjoy the fix of a well paced, epic scale action movie that’s jam packed with dazzling effects & inventive, colorful battle scenes then Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall is just what your looking for – what the picture may lack in overall substance it certainly delivers in beauty & creativity – the film’s 3D adds a stunning depth and also gave me a sense of vertigo whist watching certain scenes, especially those where the Chinese Warriors would dive off the Great Wall attached to a rope (like a bungee) attempting to spear the attacking monsters, now that’s some crazy shit right there and was pulled off by Zhang in impressive style – when the hoards of these mean & nasty looking monsters start storming the Wall, snapping like crocodiles it reminded me so much of when the Orc Army attacked Minas Tirith in Peter Jackson’s epic Return of the King, the CGI in the movie is sensational & I felt submerged, part of the action whilst watching in IMAX – the screen is magnificent and it enhances everything in it’s path from the stunning effects, the beauty & tenacity of Jing Tian, Matt Damon’s archery & wild facial hair, the incredible battle scenes and it’s rousing atmospheric score….
From it’s lavish synchronized drummers, hair-raising action sequences and pulse-raising final quarter The Great Wall is a triumph in film entertainment – be honest with yourself if you pay to go and see this film then you must love your action right? and you know your not going to the cinema to watch Opera or Shakespeare right? HELL YEAH come on !! this is a Magnificent Monster Movie, one that’s loud, explosive and pretty awesome fun – so go on take a leap, immerse yourself & ENJOY…. ★★★★