The Marvel Cinematic Universe began in earnest when Tony Stark proclaimed, “I am Iron Man.” Then Nick Fury stepped out of the shadows and assembled a team. The movie industry shook. It was the beginning of something new; an unchartered holistic approach to franchise filmmaking and the genesis of a box office monolith unlike any to have ever proceeded it. Over the course of 21 films, the MCU has become the equivalent of global Saturday morning cartoons; serialized superhero adventure stories that somehow most of the world has bought into. And all that comes to a head in Avengers: Endgame, a movie that is so momentous, it’s difficult to classify in and amongst other general releases. Empty out your pockets now folks, cuz you’re gonna need to strap into this ride a few times. Read More
The novelty of a fourth-wall-breaking, F-bomb-slinging, crotch-grabbing “superhero” may be gone but Deadpool’s not backing down an inch in this full-brunt sequel to the wildly popular R-rated 2016 comic book movie. With Deadpool 2, audiences will get what they expect – Ryan Reynolds spitballing irreverently, kinetic action scenes, a garbage truck full of winks and jabs at other superhero movies – but the comedic blockbuster has been reworked as a whole (*insert Deadpool joke about “reworking” a hole*), ironing out some of the kinks of its lurid predecessor, and making for an all-around more streamlined and better product. Read More
The Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar! exists in some zany cinematic purgatory of indecisiveness. Their critique of 1950s Hollywood dwells in an occasionally bemusing middle ground; that is, it can’t decide whether it wants to be a skewering of or a love letter to the golden era of tinsel town. Those who’ve found solace in the bewilderingly esoteric arms of A Serious Man or the bombast of The Hudsucker Proxy will likely concede Hail, Caesar! as a new coming for the seriocomic duo but I like my Coen’s like I like my coffee and Hail, Caesar!’s semi-satirical goofball makeup couldn’t be further from the blackest of comedy that defines the brothers’ greatest ventures. Read More
Have you ever wondered what Channing Tatum would look like in a little sailors outfit? Wonder no more. The trailer for Hail, Caesar!, the newest comedy from Joel and Ethan Coen, has arrived and it looks nothing short of glorious (and features Tatum dressed oh-so-preciously) . Hail, Caesar! tells the story of a tentpole movie production halted when its leading man (George Clooney) is kidnapped and held for ransom. The sure-to-be winning picture is brimming with talent; in addition to Tatum and Clooney, Josh Brolin, Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill and Frances McDormand are set to star with cinematography provided by all-star DP Roger Deakins. Read More
Human beings simply aren’t built to function at the cruising altitude of a 747. At 29,000 feet, you body is literally dying. Lack of oxygen becomes a toxic, poisoning the brain and forcing your body to shut down non-vital organs. At such heights, it’s near impossible to breathe without a tank of O. Beholding Everest on a proper IMAX screen, I too found myself gasping for air. It’s literally breathtaking. Read More
An argument could be made that Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn’t really a movie. There’s no real story to speak of, and what does try to pass as a story is a shambled mess of ultra-violent non-sequiturs; a collage of half-thought through ideas that never add up or mean anything in the context of one another. A movie flows through a collective of ideas adding onto one another to create a cohesive narrative. This is like someone cut up a bunch of comic books and glued their favorite parts together. And that someone is 12 and loves blood and boobies.
Nine years ago, Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller were truly onto something with Sin City. Their electrifying visual palette – stark blacks-and-whites accented by flourishes of blood red and bastard yellow – wasn’t just a new ballgame. It was a whole damn other stadium. But for all the success and acclaim their co-directorial debut received, the aesthetic trend never caught on.
Be that because Miller nosedived that visual flair into the ground with the widely panned The Spirit or because it felt like an aesthetic signature that only worked for something so rooted in the comic world and violence is unclear. What is however abundantly clear is that in the nearly 10 years since the original’s release, the largely black-and-white, entirely CG graphics have stagnated and soured. Their visuals do look straight from the pages of a hardcover graphic novel but they also lack any consequence and any gravity. Each blow is goofily powerless. Each sword strike looks like it missed. The over-seasoned and thoroughly mannered dialogue do little to convince us otherwise. But they sure do try.
This wouldn’t be such a monumental problem if the whole movie wasn’t a symphony of slamming cars, chopping off heads and getting thrown through pane glass windows. And boobies. For all intents and purposes, Miller’s sparsely imaginative storylines boil down to poor plot devices that get someone’s face from point A to point Through a Glass Window. That is intention numbers one through five. Six through ten consist of getting a dame from point A to point Naked. Seriously, if you can prove to me that this movie wasn’t one long con to reunite Jessica Alba with a stripper pole, I’ll pay your ticket price.
The craziest part is, for all the excessive nudity smeared throughout the flick, none comes from Alba’s Nancy, a stripper who spends the majority of her screen time onstage slapping flesh on hardwood and slithering around on all fours. You see, the boob award goes to Eva Green and her magnificent tata’s. That sex-kitten/minx manages to expose her simply awesome breasts for 90% of the time she occupies the space. When she’s not flipping nude into a pool, rubbing and tubbing up her silky smooth breastoids or macking out with anything with a pair of lips, she’s slipping off her garnets like they’re made of live rattlesnakes. Seriously. Chick lives in the buff. Why she doesn’t work at the strip club is beyond me.
At said Strip Club – Sin City‘s equivalent of Friend‘s Central Perk – one can stumble upon rapscallions of all shapes and sizes. Here, Alba gyrates like a made-up mechanical bull as box-faced Marv (Mickey Rourke) and other scalawags drown their sorrows in booze, taking in fully-clothed Coyote Ugly shows. I swear, Kadie’s Strip Club is the only place in the movie you won’t find a naked lass’ ass.
Here at Kadie’s, the movie reveals itself for the big show of sexy, stylized, senseless smut that it is. Here, plot lines are born and die without a smidgeon of fanfare. Here, characters rub elbows like they live in a small town of 2,000 residents. Here, lives the deus ex machina that is Marv, an individual whose sole purpose is to help characters murder other characters. He’s more MacGuffin than person, more meat than man. He’s only there to get peps out of a fix but has no storyline of his own. I guess someone out there needed to cut Mickey Rourke a paycheck.
Characters slither in and out of Kadie’s to grab their few minutes in the sun and bump uglies with the charter of vixens sprawling indoors. Joseph Gordon Levvett is compelling as a smooth-talking gambler but his plot line goes absolutely nowhere real fast. Alba, reeling from the loss of loved one Hartigan (Bruce Willis), eventually goes through a wardrobe change supposed to signal character progression but none is emotionally present. She goes from whoring herself with dangerous men to hurling herself at dangerous men and then all of a sudden the screen goes black. Nothing really happens. Just lots of murder and titties.
In the most movie-like portion of the film, Josh Brolin steps in for Clive Owen and captures the only almost-fully formed story of the bunch. However, his saga is littered with major congruency issues and logic problems of its own, the least of which is why he seems to believe that suiting up with a bad wig will make him look like an entirely new person. You scratch your head that someone actually wrote this stuff down.
For my barrage of complaints, it wouldn’t be fair to say that I hated Sin City: A Dame to Kill For because I quite honestly didn’t. I enjoy the ultra-violent, ultra-silly take on film noir. I chuckle at the trumped-up performances, meretricious violence and graphic sexuality on neon-flashing display. I gobble up the stubborn dedication to bring a comic book to life. But to claim that it’s not a bad, unnecessary, boorish slouch of a film would be a bold-faced lie. There’s little here that makes sense and nothing that will add to your understanding of Frank Miller‘s should-be compelling world of sin. Like 300: Rise of an Empire before it, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is just another chance for Frank Miller to show off how poor he is at extending franchises.
Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring Josh Brolin, Kate Winslet, Gattlin Griffith, Tobey Macquire, Tom Lipinksi, Clark Gregg, JK Simmons
Jason Reitman‘s Labor Day is a hokey, sentimental, botched abortion of a film, asking “Would you like some cheese with that ham?” Dreadfully sappy and spilling over with predictable narrative turns that’ll have you groaning in your seat, this gushing melodrama employs the trifecta of director Jason Reitman, Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin with all the elegance of buckshot into a watermelon.
Both accomplished performers do give it their all and commit to the dungy script with full hearts but they’re given such softcover romance novel material to work with that even their most devout earnestness can’t cover the gaping hole. Even the most talented of artists could turn this thin-skinned story that screams bubble bath bathos into a respectable and engaging tale.
Almost at points weaker than a Nicholas Sparks’ doomed romance, Labor Day sees an escaped convict (Brolin) hole up with a single mom (Winslet) and her son, played by a steady-handed Gattlin Griffith. Quicker than this beast can say Belle, Winslet’s Adele is fawning over this goatee-rocking con with none other than a gaping wound in his side. We’re led to believe that her illogical swooning comes from some form of “love at first sight” nonsense but the shoddy sham that’s truly going on is far more evident to the audience. She falls for him because he’s a man, willing to employ years of manliness to fix up the house and put her, near crumbling, affairs in order. Most importantly though, Frank’s the first dude to look her way in what seems like years and he’s apparently really digging her shaky, damaged goods routine.
As for Frank’s broken brand of bittersweet, he’s a man deeply distressed by certain events in his past, that oh so conspicuously percolate up over the course of the film, but he’s got an encyclopedic knowledge of just about everything and is as soft-skinned as the peaches that he makes into pies. From making irresistible pie crust to replacing furnace filters, he’s got more tricks up his sleeve than Mary Poppins. “How could this guy possibly be in jail for murder?” we’re meant to wonder, “He’s just so great!” Even though Brolin tries to sand down the edges of this over-the-top character with his rough and gruff persona, nothing he does is able to override the neon heartstring-yanking intent seeping from the page.
Strangely enough, in the throes of this hackneyed love drama Reitman tries to ratchet up some invisible tension with a syncopated score reminiscent of a 90’s spy thriller complete with edgy camera casts into the foreboding wooden atmosphere. Truly, there is never a moment of suspense, never a second where we don’t know exactly what is going to happen next so it rarely makes sense why he’s trying to weave tension from thin air. Worse yet, as he moves into the home stretch, the narrative makes drastic turns towards egregiously cornball resolutions we’d expect from a mega bargain paperback fiction. When Tobey Macguire‘s career turns to pie making, the writing has covered the wall.
An embarrassing stain on the respected filmography of all involved, Labor Day is really just not the kind of film one would expect Reitman to make. From Juno to Up in the Air, Thank You For Smoking to Young Adult, this is a man intent on exploring themes of loss and personal exploration, growing pains and manipulation. This sees none of the above and has the grace of a drunken tabby cat. A misfire in all senses of the word, let’s just write Labor Day one off as the dud that it is and hope it’s no more than a fluke in an otherwise commendable career.
Once thought to be a serious Oscar contender, Labor Day opened to lukewarm reviews out of the Toronto International Film Festival and has largely fallen off the radar as one to be strongly anticipated. Nonetheless anything from Jason Reitman, director of Juno, Up in the Air, Thank You For Smoking and Young Adult, is worth a watch, even if this will be one of his lesser efforts. Starring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet as a pair of strangers forced together by chance, Labor Day is currently rocking a 65% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Depressed single mom Adele (Winslet) and her son Henry offer a wounded, fearsome man (Brolin), who turns out to be a con on the run, a ride home and a place to lie low. As the police turn over the town in search of the escaped convict, Adele and her son gradually learn his true story as their options become increasingly limited. As the Labor Day weekend runs to a close, Tobey Maguire, Clark Gregg, JK Simmons, Brooke Smith and James Van Der Beek co-star.
Labor Day is directed by Jason Reitman and stars Josh Brolin, Kate Winslet, Tobey Maguire, Clark Gregg, JK Simmons, Brooke Smith and James Van Der Beek. It will not open on Labor Day as it comes to theaters on Christmas Day.