Film Review: The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

Release Date: May 14th, 2019 (Cannes)
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Written by: Jim Jarmusch
Music by: SQÜRL
Cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Carol Kane, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits

Animal Kingdom, Film i Väst, Kill the Head, Focus Features, 104 Minutes

Review:

“That girl is half Mexican. I know because I love Mexicans.” – Officer Ronnie Peterson

Jim Jarmusch is really hit or miss for me.

Overall, I’d say this was a miss but it did keep my interest because one thing I usually like about Jarmsuch’s films are the characters and their conversations. However, while that is good and engaging the first time around, it doesn’t necessarily make a film worth revisiting.

The Dead Don’t Die is pretty much what one would expect from a Jarmusch film about zombies.

It’s weird, it’s quirky and there’s not much else there. In fact, the only real glue that holds this flimsy house of cards together is the cast and their interactions.

While Jarmusch can be labeled as weird, this film seems to embrace its weirdness a little too much. In this film, shit is weird just to be weird.

For instance, you have Tilda Swinton’s character who is a female Scottish samurai that you later find out is an alien when a UFO randomly appears to take her home in the middle of a zombie fight. Why? What’s the point? Why was she there? Jarmusch doesn’t care, so why should we?

You also have a moment at the end where the characters break the fourth wall for no reason other than creating a nonsensical plot twist in an effort to maximize on the weird. It actually broke the film for me and made it irreparable where, up to that point, I kind of accepted it in spite of its goofy faults.

Additionally, characters are introduced, relationships are established and not a whole lot comes out of any of it. There isn’t a satisfactory payoff and you’re just left scratching your head for a lot of it. I mean, you want to like characters and you kind of do but none of it matters because we’re all fucked and no one really has a plan, including the cops.

Is this supposed to be a critique on authority or society? I mean, haven’t we gotten that with just about every zombie movie ever made? From Jarmusch, a guy that has made some solid, critically acclaimed films, I guess I expected more than this. For the zombie subgenre of horror, I definitely wanted more than this, as zombies have been done to death, pun intended, and just being weird shouldn’t fly and shouldn’t get you a free pass.

I also feel like this awkward style of comedy dialogue is well past its expiration date.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other Jim Jarmusch films, as well as other zombie comedies.

Vids I Dig 324: Filmento: ‘Birds of Prey’: The Impostor Deadpool Jack Sparrow

From Filmento’s YouTube description: Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn Birds of Prey movie is the first DC film of the new decade, and by the quality of it it seems DC is up to its old habits a’la Suicide Squad/Batman v Supeman/Justice League. But the interesting thing about Birds of Prey’s failure is that its pretty much a copy paste of other successful movies: Pirates of the Caribbean and Deadpool. The character of Harley Quinn is a straight ripoff of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, whereas the narrative and the wonky world of Birds of Prey is a straight ripoff of Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool. But despite copying cinematic greats, Birds of Prey still manages to fail, because it completely misses the point of what makes Pirates and Deadpool great. So, in today’s episode of Anatomy of a Failure, lets see how that happened and how DC/DCEU looks once again to be taking a backseat to Marvel/MCU.

Film Review: Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

Also known as: Birds of Prey (unofficial title), Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (re-branded title)
Release Date: January 25th, 2020 (Mexico City premiere)
Directed by: Cathy Yan
Written by: Christina Hodson
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Daniel Pemberton
Cast: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, Ewan McGregor, Steven Williams

Clubhouse Pictures, LuckyChap Entertainment, DC Entertainment, Kroll & Co. Entertainment, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes

Review:

“Here’s the thing, Romy baby: your protection is based on the fact that people are scared of you. Just like they’re scared of Mr. J. But I’m the one they should be scared of! Not you, not Mr.J! Because I’m Harley Fucking Quinn!” – Harley Quinn

This movie’s title was so bad that they actually changed it after it was in theaters for only a week, where it didn’t perform up to expectations. But I don’t think that the stupid, pretentious, cutesy pie title was the only problem with the movie.

To start, I’ve never seen a motion picture be so self unaware. It tries so hard to be edgy, cool and original all while being a poor attempt at making a Deadpool movie for girls. It’s pretty obvious how blatantly this is trying to channel the Deadpool mojo that it deflates anything good within the picture.

Additionally, while this is visually stunning, overly vivid with a giallo style color palate, the choppy editing and amateur shot framing makes this feel like a 109 minute music video. And like all big studio movies that are trying to be cool, the music isn’t even that good, as it recycles exactly the same type of tunes you’d expect from yesteryear while also sprinkling in awful modern covers of classic hits that don’t really work. In short, it’s predictable as fuck.

When it comes to the characters, other than Harley Quinn, this film doesn’t really understand any of them. Who the fuck wrote this? Have they read a comic about any of these characters? I’m supposed to believe that this Cassandra Cain will eventually become a Batgirl? Not to be an asshole but they made her look like Rose Tico cosplaying as Short Round. That’s not the actresses fault, just like it wasn’t Kelly Marie-Tran’s fault that Rose Tico looked like a frumpy baked potato with the dumbest, most unappealing haircut in Star Wars history.

But look at this film’s version of Roman Sionis a.k.a. Black Mask, a villain I have always loved. This is absolutely not who that character is. Granted, I enjoyed Ewan McGregor in this, as well as the character, but he didn’t need to be Black Mask, he could’ve just been an eccentric Gotham City mob boss. There is nothing about him that even resembles Black Mask, other than he puts on a Black Mask for about ten minutes before taking it off again.

Ewan McGregor was the best thing in this film, which is funny when you think about it, as this had a very clear agenda. But I’ll get to that further into this review.

On top of that, Victor Zsasz wasn’t Zsasv, Black Canary wasn’t Black Canary, Renee Montoya was only about halfway there and the Huntress was sort of accurate but completely unlikable and awkward.

Beyond that, this is a movie that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to say. Well, it is very clear that it wants to communicate that all men are pieces of shit, as every single man in this movie are portrayed as pieces of shit, even the fatherly old Asian guy that lets Harley live upstairs.

So the man hate is clear, which is odd because no matter how hard this movie tries to appeal to women, it’s audience was still mostly men. But this is typical of the agenda-driven Hollywood nowadays. But hey, maybe this COVID-19 shit will be a wake up call for studios to actually give a shit about what their audiences want. Probably not, though, as their heads are so far up their ass that they are on a steady diet of their own shit.

The part of the message that isn’t clear is that this can’t decide between whether or not women should stick together or fuck each other over and go solo. I guess teaming up is all fun when you’re sticking it to the patriarchy but once the men are out of the way, they just act like the men they were trying to beat. It’s childish, boring, predictable and lame.

And like all things in entertainment that have this sort of pro-feminist agenda, the story wants to preach self-confidence and self-reliance but then it constantly has its characters telling each other that they’re cool and how much they are all each other’s besties. Is this what women are? Not in my experience but what do I know, I have a penis.

Anyway, confident, self-sufficient and badass women don’t need constant reassurance that they’re cool and likable. That’s not what confident, self-sufficient and badass is. But that’s what this movie is teaching the young girls who may see this picture.

For the first third of this film, I was really happy with its pacing and thought that it was flying by. But then, once you get to the part where the story starts jumping around in the timeline (another way it was trying to be Deadpool), things just went off the rails and the film became sloppy. There was no reason to do this and frankly, it’s one of the things I didn’t like about Deadpool. After this whole section of the film, the pacing didn’t pick up or recover and everything became a slog to get through.

I think that a lot of the problem with this movie is that it hired an inexperienced director. This is something that had the potential to be a massive franchise, featuring a big star playing a character that is one of the most popular in all of pop culture. But the studio didn’t take this seriously enough, so why should any of us?

It also didn’t help that the director, before this came out, was bragging about the heroes not using guns (they do) and just kicking the patriarchy’s ass. She also admitted to not being a fan of comics.

Maybe it’s time for these companies to start hiring creatives that know the material, are passionate about it and thus, want to make the best representation of what these characters and stories should be.

And they wonder why box office numbers were already decreasing before COVID-19.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: the other lackluster DC Comics movies of recent memory.

Film Review: Do The Right Thing (1989)

Release Date: May 19th, 1989 (Cannes)
Directed by: Spike Lee
Written by: Spike Lee
Music by: Bill Lee, Public Enemy
Cast: Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Spike Lee, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, John Savage, Roger Guenveur Smith, Rosie Perez, Joie Lee, Steve White, Martin Lawrence, Robin Harris, Paul Benjamin, Frankie Faison, Samuel L. Jackson, Steve Park, Frank Vincent, Nicholas Turturro, Miguel Sandoval

40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, Universal Pictures, 120 Minutes

Review:

In the summer of 1989 I was in Brooklyn visiting family for a few weeks. Being a big film buff, even at ten years-old, I had already seen every big summer movie that year. My cousin was driving us around and he asked if I wanted to see a movie. I did. He asked what I wanted to see. Thinking he would say “no”, I still replied “Do The Right Thing.” Being the cool nineteen year-old kid that he was, he smirked and said, “Well, alright.”

Leading up to my seeing Do The Right Thing in a movie theater in Brooklyn, not far from where the movie took place, I was mesmerized by the trailers and footage I saw on television. Living in Southwest Florida, I didn’t have a lot to do during summer days, except hang with friends, play video games or watch TV. I often times spent hours watching a cable channel called Movietime, which was actually E! Entertainment Television before it re-branded itself. On that channel, they always showed trailers, over and over again, and also went behind the scenes on films in development or coming out. It was a cool channel that taught a young film fan a lot about the industry and art he loved. But it is there, where I saw trailers and other footage for Do The Right Thing. Something about it just drew me in.

I always cherished the experience of seeing this film, so close to where it was made, at a time when I hadn’t quite experienced a real adult film in the theater. It was exciting but at the same time, it was a lot more than that. Do The Right Thing had a profound effect on me and how I saw other people. When I watch it now, much later in life, it is a reminder of that experience and the lessons I learned from it. It also is one of the first films that I saw to really cultivate my love for the art of motion pictures and filmmaking itself. This, alongside Cinema Paradiso, made me see movies differently.

Having just revisited Do The Right Thing for the first time in several years, it is kind of sad. Not because of the film itself but because it took away some of my optimism in regards to people. When I saw it was a kid, I truly believed that society was headed in the right direction. I thought that as time rolled on, the struggle of black people and the prejudices in America would improve. Yet, this film is almost thirty years old and its message is maybe even more relevant today than it was in 1989. Will it be even more relevant in another 30 years?

Spike Lee did a fantastic job with Do The Right Thing and it is, still to this day, my favorite Lee film (Malcolm X is a very close second). Maybe it is due to the experience it gave me when I should have been too young to have to see the world for what it is. But out of all his films, this one has the strongest message not just for African-Americans but for all Americans. And again, it is still a message that needs to be heard today.

The cinematography is stellar. The film really captures the people, the scenery and Brooklyn life in that era. The technique of using first-person perspective, which gets more prevalent as the film progresses and racial tensions increase, is masterfully shot and presented. The breaking of the fourth wall, as characters’ inner monologues come to life, directed at the audience, is effective in understanding their deepest inner prejudices and in helping escalate the tension from a narrative standpoint.

The use of Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” throughout the film is perfect and really gives an anthem to the attitudes of many of the characters. It represents, what this film, at its core, is all about. The character of Radio Raheem was the perfect vessel within the film to deliver the song to the masses, as he walked up and down the street, all day, blasting the song from his radio. He wasn’t just a vessel for the message though, he was also a symbol, a physical embodiment of it. Bill Nunn did a fine job as Raheem and made him into an iconic figure for many.

There are several really standout performances in the film. I think a lot of props need to go to Giancarlo Esposito as Buggin’ Out. Most people know Esposito as the villainous Gus from Breaking Bad. It was his role in this film, that put him on the map for me. Then years later, when I did see him on Breaking Bad, playing one of the greatest villains in television history, I was ecstatic because this was a guy who I had followed since seeing him on the big screen as a ten year-old in a Brooklyn movie theater. I’ve always thought Esposito was an underutilized actor but those who regularly work with him know his talent. In Do The Right Thing, Esposito is so committed to the role that he really stands out above everyone else. And we’re talking about a movie that has Samuel Jackson, Rosie Perez, John Turturro, Robin Harris, Frankie Faison, Ossie Davis, Danny Aiello, Martin Lawrence, Frank Vincent and so many other faces that own the screen when they are on it.

Roger Guenveur Smith’s performance as Smiley is also superb. You couldn’t not feel for the guy and when he lost his shit, you were right there with him. It’s also heartbreaking to see how others in the film treat him, even his friends, due to his handicap. Smith  has played a lot of great characters over the years but Smiley is the one I most fondly remember.

There are few films that illustrate a sense of human brotherhood as much as Do The Right Thing. While it shows cultural clashes and tensions boiling over into violence, it also provides hope and displays a lot of wisdom. Most of the characters try to maintain order but the few who keep pushing each other bring the whole neighborhood to its breaking point. And then the cops show up to screw it up even more.

Do The Right Thing isn’t just a great film, it is an important film, maybe even more so today than in 1989.

Rating: 9.5/10