Film Review: Bruiser (2000)

Release Date: February 13th, 2000 (Canada)
Directed by: George A. Romero
Written by: George A. Romero
Music by: Donald Rubinstein
Cast: Jason Flemyng, Peter Stormare, Leslie Hope, Tom Atkins

Canal+, Barenholtz Productions, Romero-Grunwald Productions, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Rosie… They won’t know me. I’m invisible. I’ve always been invisible.” – Henry Creedlow

I remember seeing marketing for this film back in the day and thought it had a cool look to it and a character with a cool, unique mask. However, I didn’t know anything about the plot. I guess I just assumed he was some sort of cool hitman or slasher with a gun. Nah, this film is a lot weirder (and duller) than that.

The film follows this guy that’s a loser and pretty much invisible to everyone in his life. He’s got a shitty job, even if it is prestigious, and he’s got a shitty marriage, even if she’s hot and they have a pretty incredible mansion.

Crazy shit happens and then the loser wakes up with a mask attached to his face that he can’t remove but it figuratively makes him even more invisible to those around him. With that he gets a bit crazy and starts getting revenge on the shitty people in his life.

The plot is a bit hard to explain as I had a hard time trying to make sense out of it. The main character’s motivations to kill were clear but his decisions still didn’t make a lot of sense. Well, unless you can watch a movie and not think about things like logic and relying on what you’re shown of the character while the foundation for the plot is still being established.

Point being, the main character doesn’t seem like someone capable of these acts but waking up with a weird mask on I guess makes one into a heartless killer.

I think that the lead actor is the problem, though, and not just the script. He just isn’t convincing and since I’ve never noticed him in anything before, I don’t know if its his fault or director, George A. Romero’s.

That being said, Romero, by this point, was a solid horror director for decades but maybe by this point he just wasn’t as passionate and had lost some mojo. Honestly, nothing he made from this point in his career, going forward, was any good. And I guess that’s unfortunate, considering he was instrumental in giving birth to what became the zombie subgenre of horror.

Bruiser is a really weak, very dull film. It tries to go for the gusto in its big finale but it falls flat.

In the end, at least I got to spend some quality time with Tom Atkins.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: George A. Romero’s films that don’t involve zombies.

Film Review: The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Also known as: Jurassic Park 2, The Lost World (working titles)
Release Date: May 19th, 1997 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: David Koepp
Based on: The Lost World by Michael Crichton
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Arliss Howard, Richard Attenborough, Vince Vaughn, Vanessa Lee Chester, Peter Stormare, Harvey Jason, Ariana Richards, Joseph Mazzello, Camilla Belle

Digital Image Associates, Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 129 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and um, screaming.” – Dr. Ian Malcolm

I barely remembered this film, as I hadn’t seen it in its entirety since the theater in 1997. Although, I have seen bits and pieces on television over the years. However, I usually catch the movie at the end, once the T-Rex is running around San Diego looking for its baby.

So I wasn’t sure what to expect in revisiting this but I always remembered not enjoying it as much as the original. However, it has a lot more Goldblum, so that is kind of a selling point, regardless of the overall quality.

Staring with what I liked about the movie, I thought it was immensely cooler simply for the fact that it was darker and pushed the envelope a bit further. It felt much closer to Jaws than the first film and it actually showed a good amount of dino on human violence. A lot of people get eaten, as well as a dog. We even see a girl get savagely attacked and are left with the impression that she was eaten to death. But we are told, several minutes later, that she survived the attack and was doing okay.

The tone in this movie, for the most part, was just right. It comes undone in the third act during the San Diego sequence but the movie did pretty good up to that point.

As mentioned in the second paragraph, this movie is heavy on the Goldblum, which I liked a lot, as even though he’s one of the three stars of the first movie, by the mid-point of that film, he’s kind of just hanging out in the techies’ office.

Looking beyond just Jeff Goldblum, this film had a great cast between Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn, as well as cameos by Richard Attenborough and his character’s grandchildren. This also featured Pete Postlethwaite in what I would call one of his greatest roles. His character was complex, interesting and he really shined in this role, despite not having the screen time that the bigger stars had.

I also liked the sequence where the raptors are hiding in the tall grass and picking people off, as everyone is running away from the danger. It’s superbly shot and it’s a chilling scene that has held up remarkably well, especially when other scenes don’t look like they’re on the same level as the first movie.

Moving on to the negatives, the CGI and special effects, overall, look worse than the first film. I found that baffling, considering that this came out four years later in an era where CGI effects were moving forward by leaps and bounds.

However, the scene where you see the first dinosaurs greatly pales in comparison to the dino reveal scene in the first picture.

Also, the movie doesn’t feel like a Steven Spielberg movie. It’s a hard thing to explain and his magical cinematic touch is difficult to quantify but this just doesn’t have that “touch” that other Spielberg adventure films have.

Something that made me scratch my head and go “huh?” was the scene where Goldblum’s daughter uses gymnastics to kill a raptor. I remember people bitching about this back in the day but the whole thing slipped away from my memory over the last twenty-three years. It doesn’t break the movie but it makes you question whether or not Spielberg was off that day and left the film in the hands of a stoner baked out of his mind.

While I liked most of the action, the sequence with the research trailers hanging off the cliff ran on for too long. It was stretched out for suspense and to set up the curveball that was the arrival of two T-Rexes but it was poorly crafted with bad pacing and it disrupted the suspense it tried to build towards.

Lastly, I didn’t like the San Diego shit. I get why they did it, as they had to try and up the ante with this film and taking a T-Rex to a major American city seemed like the next logical step. It just feels out of place and strange. Although, I did like the film’s token asshole getting eaten alive by the baby T-Rex.

This film is a mixed bag. It’s mostly good and it’s a better-than-decent popcorn movie to escape into for a few hours. However, it kind of shows that maybe this concept should have been kept to one film.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Jurassic Park/World films.

Film Review: Bad Boys II (2003)

Also known as: Bad Around the World (working title)
Release Date: July 9th, 2003 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: MIchael Bay
Written by: Ron Shelton, Jerry Stahl, Cormac Wibberley, Marianne Wibberley
Based on: characters by George Gallo
Music by: Trevor Rabin
Cast: Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Jordi Molla, Gabrielle Union, Peter Stormare, Theresa Randle, Joe Pantoliano, John Salley, Otto Sanchez, Jon Seda, Oleg Taktarov, Michael Shannon, Henry Rollins, Dan Marino (cameo)

Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Columbia Pictures, 147 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve got so much brass up my ass that I can play the Star Spangled Banner.” – Captain Howard

This may be the most quintessential Michael Bay movie that I like. Honestly, it’s as good as a Bay film can be and it’s two leading stars just make every moment an enjoyable one.

I’m glad that I watched this again, after so many years, because it really builds off of the first film and ups the ante in a great way.

My only real complaint about it is that it’s a bit too long. I feel like some things could’ve been left out but Bay likes long movies with long action sequences and not too much plot getting in the way of the spectacle.

Still, this isn’t boring or slow, it just feels like it’s a half hour longer than it needs to be.

It’s well shot, competently edited and it displays the Bay style better than just about any other Bay movie. It’s certainly not a visual clusterfuck like his special effects heavy movies tend to be.

I also don’t think that this would’ve been anywhere near as good of a movie if it didn’t star Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. Those guys, especially in this era, were just gold and they have incredible chemistry, as their bond in the film comes across as genuine and real.

The film’s plot is a cookie cutter drug crime tale. There’s not much about it that sets it apart from similar films and the criminal activity isn’t all that impressive or creative. But, honestly, it doesn’t need to be. This is a movie that’s just supposed to be a fun, mostly mindless, popcorn flick and it succeeds at that, immensely.

I enjoyed the additions to the cast and thought that Gabrielle Union was solid, which is probably why her character, all these years later, got her own spin off television series. I may have to watch and review it after I check out the third Bad Boys movie.

In the end, this is just pure, unadulterated, unfiltered fun. It stars two guys everyone should love, doesn’t have a dull moment, is equally badass and hilarious and has some incredibly great action sequences that have not only stood the test of time but are still some of the best ever filmed.

I don’t say this often but hats off to Michael Bay.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Bad Boys films, as well as the Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop movies.

Film Review: John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Release Date: January 30th, 2017 (Arclight Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Written by: Derek Kolstad
Music by: Tyler Bates, Joel J. Richard
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Claudia Gerini, Lance Reddick, Bridget Moynahan, David Patrick Kelly, Franco Nero, Peter Serafinowicz, Peter Stormare

Thunder Road Pictures, 87Eleven, Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate, 122 Minutes

Review:

“John Wick, you’re not very good at retiring.” – Bowery King, “I’m working on it.” – John Wick

Having finally watched the first John Wick, I figured that I would check out the sequel, as it is available on HBO but is soon expiring.

This film is longer than its predecessor and it is also packed with a lot more action and I thought that those sequences were orchestrated really well. Although, I didn’t like this film’s story as much and it seemed forced in parts and disjointed in others.

Still, this was enjoyable and a good followup to the first chapter.

Here, John Wick is pulled back into his life as an assassin. He is called upon by an old acquaintance that he owes a favor to. Wick refuses, has his home destroyed and finally decides to do the favor. However, like a typical film-noir, the plot has a lot of swerves, surprises and is hard to predict. While this approach worked well in the first film, I found this one a bit harder to follow. Plus, they introduce new characters left and right and the amount of people in the film is a bit overwhelming and bogs down the flow of the narrative. But I guess when a film needs to get by on murdering the crap out of everyone and everything, you’ve got to throw characters at John Wick in order to keep piling up the bodies.

Also, the dog isn’t murdered in this movie, which is a plus.

While the first film did well and got the sequel treatment, this film, I don’t know if I have much interest in watching more of these. I like Keanu, I like the action but there isn’t much else to sink my teeth into that satisfies my palate.

Yes, this is well made from a visual, action and stunt standpoint. But I need more than that from a film. I don’t know, I admire what I see in these pictures but I just don’t feel connected to them. What John Wick goes through to setup these films is horrible but it is just backstory without any sort of real emotional context. Maybe it’s because you never really get to spend time with Wick and his wife, other than a quick sort of montage in the first film. I’m not saying that this needs to be The Notebook but I feel like they needed to show a their deep connection to really give Wick’s loss some weight. And by the time you get to this second film, the loss of his wife and dog are mentioned but the gravity of the situation is lost.

I would still probably check out the eventual John Wick 3 but I’ll go into it without any expectations other than anticipating solid action sequences and nice cinematography. Which is fine. I just feel like these movies had the opportunity to be so much better.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: John Wick, as well as Atomic BlondePunisher: War Zone and Death Wish 3, which still has the best balls out grand finale in motion picture history. For some old school pictures with similar themes and visual flair: Tokyo Drifter and Le Samouraï.

TV Review: Longmire (2012-2017)

Original Run: June 3rd, 2012 – November 17th, 2017
Created by: John Coveny, Hunt Baldwin
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Walt Longmire Mysteries by Craig Johnson
Music by: David Shephard
Cast: Robert Taylor, Katee Sackhoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, Bailey Chase, Cassidy Freeman, Adam Bartley, Louanne Stephens, Zahn McClarnon, A Martinez, Gerald McRaney, Peter Weller, Tom Wopat, Charles S. Dutton, Graham Greene, Peter Stormare

Warner Horizon Television, The Shephard/Robin Company, Two Boomerangs Productions, A&E, Netflix, 63 Episodes, 42-72 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

Longmire was a highly successful show. For some reason, A&E cancelled it after its third season. Netflix then picked it up and continued it with season four and the upcoming season five. And maybe there will be more after that. I hope so anyway.

The show is a modern western, which there can never be enough of, as far as I’m concerned. It follows Sheriff Walt Longmire, just after the death of his wife. It deals with his handling of the loss, balanced with his job of being the sheriff of a small town in Wyoming near the Montana border and a Cheyenne Indian reservation. It touches on the politics of tribal life, small town western American life and crime.

Robert Taylor plays Sheriff Longmire and it is the greatest role he has ever had. He is accented by Katee Sackhoff, Cassidy Freeman, Bailey Chase, Adam Bartley and Louanne Stephens. The actor who really nails it though is Lou Diamond Phillips as the Cheyenne best friend of Longmire. Phillips has never been better and he’s an actor I have always liked and hoped he would find his niche outside of poorly executed straight-to-video action films.

Longmire has an episodic format, which I am not a huge fan of in this day and age where we get season-long story arcs with most crime shows. However, as it progresses and you get to know the characters more, there are bigger plots that span over multiple episodes. For the most part, every episode’s crime is solved within the hour. It is the bigger backstory that is more compelling, however.

It is superbly acted, the writing is good and it has a badass vibe to it. Sheriff Longmire is the modern version of an old Louis L’Amour character brought to life. He’s a man’s man and made of steel. Sure, he has his faults and weaknesses but he handles his shit like a boss.

The cinematography is top notch and the geography of Longmire’s world is beautiful. It makes me want to move to Wyoming (although it’s filmed in New Mexico). Hell, I want to be a sheriff now.

Rating: 8.25/10

TV Review: American Gods (2017- )

Original Run: April 30th, 2017 – current
Created by: Bryan Fuller, Michael Green
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Music by: Brian Reitzell
Cast: Ian McShane, Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Crispin Glover, Bruce Langley, Yetide Badaki, Pablo Schreiber, Gillian Anderson, Cloris Leachman, Peter Stormare, Orlando Jones, Dane Cook, Kristin Chenoweth, Corbin Bernsen, Beth Grant

Living Dead Guy, J.A. Green Construction Corp., The Blank Corporation, FremantleMedia North America, Starz, 8 Episodes (so far), 52-63 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’ve been a subscriber of Starz for a bit now but I didn’t watch this as it was on. I’m a bigger fan of waiting for something to be over and then binging out on it for a few days.

But how could I not like this show? It has Ian McShane, a guy I have absolutely loved since Deadwood. It also features Crispin Glover, a man who has mesmerized me since I first discovered him in Back to the Future and then further enchanted me as I followed his career as it evolved well beyond the iconic George McFly. Plus, throw in Emily Browning and Gillian Anderson and you’ve certainly got my attention.

This show is also based on a novel by Neil Gaiman, who from a creative standpoint, never really disappoints.

It takes awhile to figure out what this show is and where it is going. I went into with no knowledge of the book, other than it being about gods. Essentially, Ian McShane plays an Old God and he is being challenged by the New Gods, who are trying to take over the world. McShane’s character hires Ricky Whittle’s character to be his driver and bodyguard. You don’t actually find out who McShane is until the end of the final episode of season one.

There are other characters and gods sprinkled into the show and they all have really interesting stories and plot threads. It is obvious that everything is connected but we don’t get to see how it all comes together by the end of the first season. Being only eight episodes, the first season is more of a setup than anything else. Luckily, there is a second season already in production.

It is hard to review the show, as it is very short and kind of just exists as a door into a much larger universe. So far, I really like what I see and this has a lot of potential to grow into something extraordinary.

The acting, directing, cinematography, music and tone are all great. The way the stories weave together is also well handled. If the quality maintains, as the universe broadens, those of us who watch this show are in for a real treat.

Plus, Crispin Glover and Gillian Anderson, as far as we know, are the villains.

I eagerly anticipate what’s to come when the show returns.

Rating: 7.75/10