Film Review: Sicario (2015)

Release Date: May 19th, 2015 (Cannes)
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Taylor Sheridan
Music by: Johann Johannsson
Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Jeffrey Donovan

Black Label Media, Thunder Road, Lionsgate, 121 Minutes

Review:

“Nothing will make sense to your American ears, and you will doubt everything that we do, but in the end you will understand.” – Alejandro

This is a film that I put off watching because there was a lot of hype about it when it came out. Had I watched it in 2015 or even 2016, I probably would’ve lost my shit.

Reason being, this is nowhere near as good as the critics and my friends led me to believe.

In fact, other than less than a handful of scenes, this is a boring fucking movie that doesn’t seem to have much of a point.

I mean, I get it, the drug cartels in Mexico are fucked up. But I’ve known this and seen this in lots of film and television shows that are far better than this.

With the cast and a very capable director I was expected an intense, badass neo-western in the vein of No Country For Old Men and Hell or High Water. Sadly, this doesn’t hold a candle to those films and it is just a few cool action sequences and one intense dinner scene, strung together with moral babble and Emily Blunt not doing much other than looking offended and confused.

I can see why she didn’t come back for a sequel but her character was completely vacant anyway and it didn’t really matter that she was in this film. And that’s not to knock Blunt, she’s an incredibly capable actress. However, they could’ve just taken all her close ups in this movie, spliced them into the sequel and no one would’ve been the wiser, as she is just sort of in the film as an observer and moral compass.

Now I can’t completely shit on the film. The high points were actually good and intense. The dinner scene has incredible tension but at the same time, the end result of that scene is not shocking and has little effect. It’s more fucked up than shocking.

Also, the cinematography and shot framing were incredible. This is a good looking film from start to finish and that’s probably its biggest positive. But I can get these things in a music video from a talented director of photography. Alluring visuals are great and they are important but they can’t be the sole driving force of a film.

For instance, The Revenant was visually breathtaking but none of that would’ve mattered if the rest of the film was a crap factory.

I absolutely love the modernized western film but they are really hard to do well. Sicario doesn’t deliver on much but I’ll still probably check out the sequel just to review it.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the sequel and other neo-westerns, most of which are better than this.

TV Review: The Walking Dead (2010- )

Original Run: October 31st, 2010 – current
Created by: Robert Kirkman, Frank Darabont
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Michael Rooker, David Morrissey, Melissa McBride, Scott Wilson, Michael Cudlitz, Emily Kinney, Chad L. Coleman, Lennie James, Sonequa Martin-Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Alanna Masterson, Josh McDermitt, Christian Serratos, Seth Gilliam, Ross Marquand, Robin Lord Taylor, Alexandra Breckenridge, Austin Amelio, Khary Payton, Tom Payne, Katelyn Nacon, Steven Ogg, Pollyanna McIntosh, Corey Hawkins, Audrey Marie Anderson, Denise Crosby, Samantha Morton

Idiot Box Productions, Circle of Confusion, Skybound Entertainment, Valhalla Entertainment, AMC, 115 Episodes (so far), 42-67 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Do I even need to review The Walking Dead, at this point? Everyone in the world has seen it by now, right? Everyone already has their own opinion of it, yes?

Well, there are a lot of people that quit years ago and it seems like the ratings have been going down the last couple of seasons. Granted, it is still AMC’s biggest show and rakes in higher numbers than nearly anything else on cable but it’s been on for eight friggin’ seasons, which is a whole hell of a lot in this day and age where decent shows get cancelled all the time.

It’s hard to review the show for the fact that it has been on for so long and that it hasn’t been very consistent from season to season. But at least the show mixes it up and tries new things, reinventing itself every 2-3 seasons. The gist of it is really the same but it’s done a decent job of evolving with the timeline in which the show is set.

However, it sort of ignores some of the real world threats that would be happening in a post-apocalyptic United States. Things that a simple comedy like The Last Man On Earth was smart enough to explore. Things like explosions at unattended nuclear power plants, spewing really bad shit into the air.

I have stuck with this show through thick and thin because as cheesy as it sounds, you grow to know these characters as if they were real people and you care about their story, especially if you’ve toughed it out through the good and bad points of the show.

There have been moments during this show’s run that I thought about giving it up but there isn’t much else to do on a Sunday night and their eight episode half seasons are pretty quick to get through. If this show had 23 episodes a year like most programs, I couldn’t stay committed to it. Plus, there was that part of me that was just waiting for the war with Negan to start. That war wasn’t what I had hoped it would be but I was satisfied with how it wrapped up and am interested in what’s to come in the upcoming season, as there are a lot of changes and a time jump happening.

For the most part, The Walking Dead has been a good show. Sometimes it feels as if it has already ran its course but for whatever reason, I can’t seem to walk away from it like some others have. But that could change with Rick, the main character, leaving the show soon.

In the end, The Walking Dead isn’t a show about zombies, it’s a show about exploring human nature and that’s more interesting than the undead.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Fear the Walking DeadDeadwood and Hell On Wheels.

TV Review: The Punisher (2017-2019)

Original Run: November 17th, 2017 – current
Created by: Steve Lightfoot
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Punisher by Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr., Ross Andru
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Jon Bernthal, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ben Barnes, Amber Rose Revah, Paul Schulze, Jason R. Moore, Michael Nathanson, Daniel Webber, Jaime Ray Newman, Deborah Ann Woll, C. Thomas Howell, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Clancy Brown, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

ABC Studios, Marvel, Bohemian Risk Productions, Netflix, 13 Episodes (so far), 49-58 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This was the first of Marvel’s television series for Netflix that just didn’t resonate with me. Luke Cage wasn’t on the level of Daredevil or Jessica JonesIron Fist was a big step down and The Defenders was a pretty huge disappointment. Plus, Daredevil season two was nowhere near as good as season one. The Punisher, however, is the worst of the bunch.

The problem, is that I anticipated the Punisher doing what he is most known for, shooting the shit out of everyone and everything. The bigger the guns, the better.

Instead, we get a Punisher that just talks and talks and talks and talks and occasionally finds himself in a firefight. We also have to wait like ten episodes to see him wear the iconic skull logo again. Most of the time, he’s a depressed and brooding, angry brute trying to woo the wife of his partner.

Jigsaw is in this, which I was excited about, but I shouldn’t have been. I mean, he’s in just about every episode but he’s Jigsaw before Jigsaw and his origin isn’t even close to what its supposed to be. In The Punisher, we get Ben Barnes looking all pretty and shit. The show should have followed suit with the Punisher: War Zone movie, which featured Jigsaw and did a fine job with the character, even if they botched his real name.

The first season of this is also capped off with a shootout on a carousel. Wasn’t there a carousel scene with the Punisher in Daredevil already? Also, Bernthal had a massive shootout with the mob in Mob City. If you’ve seen that show, which luckily for Netflix, no one else really has, then this feels like familiar territory. Why wasn’t Bernthal on set going, “Guys, I’ve already done this scene before and it was a lot better!”… why?

The only thing I really liked about the show was Ebon Moss-Bachrach, who played Microchip. He was, by far, the best actor in this thing and his work made his character more interesting than it otherwise would have been. In fact, he was more interesting than the Punisher, who just mumbled and grunted through thirteen boring episodes.

I’ll watch the eventual second season but only if Marvel’s Netflix stuff starts getting back to basics and getting as good as it was in the beginning. Besides, I’m pretty close to cancelling Netflix anyway, as the shows I like are ending or falling off, other content is dwindling away and their price keeps getting higher.

Rating: 6/10

TV Review: Mob City (2013)

Original Run: December 4th, 2013 – December 18th, 2013
Created by: Frank Darabont
Directed by: Frank Darabont, Guy Ferland
Written by: Frank Darabont, Michael Sloane, David J. Schow, David Leslie Johnson
Based on: L.A. Noir by John Buntin
Music by: Mark Isham
Cast: Jon Bernthal, Milo Ventimiglia, Neal McDonough, Alexa Davalos, Jeffrey DeMunn, Robert Knepper, Jeremy Luke, Gregory Itzin, Edward Burns, Dana Gould, Simon Pegg, Ernie Hudson, Patrick Fischler

Darkwoods Productions, Swiftly Productions, Michael DeLuca Productions, TNT, 6 Episodes, 45 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Frank Darabont was the man that brought The Walking Dead to the small screen back in 2010. Unfortunately, he was the showrunner for only a short time. AMC fired him after two seasons and it actually angered some of the cast members who were close to Darabont. He took two of those actors with him to this show, which became his big project after being let go by AMC.

Darabont went to TNT with the idea of adapting the book L.A. Noir for television. He cast Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead‘s Shane) as the lead and also got Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale from The Walking Dead) to play a pivotal role. Sadly, this would not become the runaway success that TNT had hoped for after Darabont smashed cable records with The Walking Dead.

Mob City is much better than decent but it also didn’t exist long enough to truly find its footing. The way in which it was released also probably hurt it. It came out in the middle of the Christmas holiday television season with episodes played back-to-back like two hour movies over the course of three weeks. It was treated more like a miniseries than a show and this may have confused people and just got lost in the holiday shuffle.

The real problem with Mob City, however, is that six episodes just aren’t enough to really get invested in it. I didn’t feel invested in The Walking Dead after its very short first season, either. Imagine if all you ever knew was season one of The Walking Dead. It has evolved into a much different show over time. Even though a small sample size created a long lasting legacy for AMC, a small sample size is just a small sample size and it didn’t work the same way for TNT’s Mob City.

Mob City told a quick story over its six episodes but it was just enough to get you interested on what this show could be over the long haul. It even ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, as you know that there is a bigger story just on the horizon. Unfortunately, we’ll never get that.

It is hard to give a show a fair look with only six episodes. Mob City was intriguing and offered up some really cool bits in its short run. The shootout on the carousel in episode three was magnificent. The end of the season was also great. But ultimately, there just wasn’t enough time to really get to know these characters or to be able to sink your teeth into a show that felt like it had riches to bestow on its audience. But kudos to the writers, because these characters left you wanting to get to know them much more intimately.

Rating: 7/10

TV Review: Daredevil (2015-2018)

Original Run: April 10th, 2015 – current
Created by: Drew Goddard
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Daredevil by Stan Lee, Bill Everett
Music by: John Paesano, Braden Kimball
Cast: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Toby Leonard Moore, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Bob Gunton, Ayelet Zurer, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Bernthal, Scott Glenn, Élodie Yung, Stephen Rider

ABC Studios, Marvel, DeKnight Productions, Goddard Textiles, Netflix, 26 Episodes (so far), 48-61 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

If you haven’t watched Daredevil at some point over the last week, you have been severely missing out.

Marvel, now teaming up with Netflix, has given hardcore old school comic book fans a television show that they deserve. Being that it is on Netflix and not ABC or some other network, Daredevil has a lot of creative freedom. It also isn’t catered to the younger viewer, which can often times be a pretty tedious and annoying factor in regards to Marvel’s other live-action outings. What we’ve got is something very close to the source material and as dark as the stellar Frank Miller stories were in the early 80s. What we don’t have is a two-plus hour toy commercial accented by Tony Stark witticisms. For the record, I like Tony Stark witticisms but this isn’t the place for them.

Now I am not going to completely fan boy out like most of the people praising this show. It isn’t perfect and could improve in various areas but it is one of the best Marvel adaptations of all-time.

The positives are pretty abundant though.

To start, the tone of the show is perfect. The lighting is amazing, as it conveys the same color palette as the comic book from its most iconic runs. The cast, for the most part, is perfect. And the evolution of Daredevil throughout the first season of this series is very well done. We don’t have a hero that immediately kicks ass and looks invincible. We have a normal guy who is generally a bad ass but still gets his head kicked in a lot. The show just feels more real and more organic than any other live-action comic book property ever has and that in and of itself is a great feat.

The show also benefits by the fact that it isn’t stuffed full of characters and villains. The only real major Daredevil villains that even appear are Wilson Fisk (a.k.a. the Kingpin) and Leland Owlsley (a.k.a. the Owl). Kudos on the producers for holding off on Bullseye, Typhoid Mary, Elektra, Mr. Fear and the rest.

Although, the amount of time focusing on the inevitable confrontation between Daredevil and Fisk is pretty drawn out. The pace of the show is a bit slow and lacking energy in areas. I feel like the bulk of everything important could have been covered in six-to-eight episodes. What we’ve got instead is thirteen episodes with too much filler material.

The one performance that I question is Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal of Wilson Fisk. It isn’t bad but there are times where his voice is odd and out of place. I get that the character is written as a sort of fucked up kid turned “kingpin” but at this stage of his life, he should be more sure of himself and confident in his abilities. And I am not saying that he isn’t confident but his bizarre tone just seems out of whack for what the character needs to be. The Kingpin is not some emo child in a fat suit, he is an exacting, ruthless and very motivated evil genius that isn’t intimidated by anything. Maybe that makes him one dimensional but I’d rather have a caricature of pure evil than what we have with this character on the show. Besides, the comic book version of Kingpin has been fleshed out so well over the years that there is a lot to work with without some new and unnecessary spin on the character.

Daredevil is fantastic though. It is worth your time and as an avid reader of Daredevil in the comics, I think that this show truly hits the mark. It can be improved upon but it is a step above everything else Marvel has done thus far.

Film Review: Baby Driver (2017)

Release Date: March 11th, 2017 (SXSW)
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Edgar Wright
Music by: Steven Price
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Flea, Paul Williams

Big Talk Productions, Working Title Films, Media Rights Capital, TriStar Pictures, 113 Minutes

Review:

“Fuck your baby.” – Bats

Edgar Wright has been one of my favorite directors of the last decade and a half. Granted, he hasn’t directed as much as I’ve liked and his last effort before this, The World’s End, was pretty lackluster and also came out four friggin’ years ago. He was involved in Marvel’s Ant-Man but left the project after putting in a lot of time, so that excuses the four year hiatus, I guess.

After the long wait, Baby Driver is not a disappointment. To be completely honest and frank, this is my favorite Edgar Wright film, which is pretty unbelievable with Hot FuzzShaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in his oeuvre.

Now this is a film that is getting a lot of hype between the critics and other reviewers and bloggers online. This is one of those rare cases where you can believe the hype.

With fast car movies being a dime a dozen these days, Baby Driver is completely its own entity. It is better than all the films you could compare it to. The Fast & Furious movies have become cartoons and have never been able to tell a story this great. Drive, while a mesmerizing marvel to look at, doesn’t come close to having the heart of Baby Driver nor does it match its personality and characters.

Additionally, the action in Baby Driver is pretty realistic and it all seems plausible. The Fast & Furious films are ridiculous and while Drive felt authentic, it didn’t have the amount of getaways and fast action that Baby Driver does. The film shifts from car chases, foot chases and machine gun shootouts quickly and seamlessly.

All of the action, and really all of the film, revolves around music. This is not a musical, by any means, but the narrative is driven by the tunes hand-selected by Edgar Wright for this picture. The soundtrack is magnificent and I’m picking up the vinyl when the record store is open (they were closed when I swung by after seeing this at its first showing).

Not only does the music enhance the experience but so does the cast. I didn’t know much about Ansel Elgort or Lily James before seeing this but they were superb as Baby and Debora. I’ll definitely check out their future films and maybe look back at some of their earlier work.

The rest of the cast was like an all-star team of great bad asses. You had Jon Hamm (in my favorite role after Don Draper), Jon Bernthal (the Punisher, himself), Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx and Flea. All of these men were criminals and each was unique and interesting. Well, Flea and Bernthal could’ve used some more meat to chew on but that may have had a negative effect on the film’s flow.

Baby Driver is the most adrenaline heavy movie I have seen since Mad Max: Fury Road and it may even be a better film than that. They are two very different action flicks but Baby Driver is a perfect marriage of all its elements. I can’t think of a single thing that could have been better.

The film exceeded the expectations I did have and this is one of the best movies I have seen over the last decade. It is the best summer film this year and nothing else really compares to it. And the thing is, this isn’t even trying to be a tent pole film but it blows them all away. Better action, better acting and just a better movie, hands down.