BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE Review

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence Return for a Fourth Round in the Franchise and Continue to Deal with the Challenges of Aging in a Young Man's Game.

IN A VIOLENT NATURE Review

This Experimental Slasher Flick puts Audiences Literally In-Step with the Killer and Features Some of the Most Gruesome Deaths in the Genre's History.

FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA Review

Director George Miller Returns to the Wasteland with a Full-Fledged Epic that Balances the Titular Character's Story with the Bombastic Vehicular Mayhem.

KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES Review

This Latest Installment in the Planet of the Apes Franchise isn't Necessarily Bad, but is Probably more of a Forgotten Chapter in the Franchise Mythology.

THE FALL GUY Review

Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt Kick-Off the Summer Movie Season with a Big, Fun, and Funny Action-Packed Adventure that Fully Delivers on its Promises.

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A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE Review

Some movies are good because they achieve exactly what they set out to do, some movies surprise because they rise above their own genre estimations, and others are just rock solid all-around because everything happened to align in just the right way at just the right time. I would love to say A Quiet Place: Day One falls into that last category or even into the second which is where the two previous films in this franchise nicely settle, but director Michael Sarnoski - the latest filmmaker to be promoted directly from small indie to giant blockbuster - has crafted a film that, despite maybe having more ambition, ultimately scrapes by on achieving its main objective. 

Odds are, much of this isn't the fault of Sarnoski as this franchise studio film crafted at the hands of a fresh-off-the-circuit filmmaker reeks of boardroom tinkering in even the slightest of ways. The combination of insert shots interrupting what are otherwise more precise sequences, the sheer number of focus pulls seemingly used to guarantee easier transitions in editing, and the shoddier special effects used to fill out the frame whenever the shot goes too wide (this was shot entirely on a backlot set in London, not New York City) not only signal a certain kind of approach but an apprehension about whether or not this was the right move with the right franchise. Whether true or not, this kind of mentality ultimately resonates in the production quality of the film - and deflated my excitement for what this chapter might offer when as much became apparent - yet the script still manages enough individual moments of creativity and tension to entertain if not necessarily captivate.

BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE Review

It’s nothing new for a Bad Boys movie to have an overly convoluted plot and too many side characters, but what has remained consistent is how each movie somehow manages to not let those things detract from the centerpiece chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Four years is the shortest amount of time between sequels in this franchise thus making the latter two films feel as equal in weight as the impressive debut and chaotic classic that is Bad Boys II. Why Bad Boys III didn’t come out in 2009-2010 and why we converted to confounding subtitles rather than sticking with the already established roman numerals I will never understand, but here we are with two very distinct halves of the Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett saga. 

In truth, it would be hard to mess one of these movies up and fortunately all the key ingredients are present with Bad Boys For Life directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah returning in full "Bayhem" mode employing (and deploying) as many drones to shoot the film as Alexander Ludwig's character does to shoot the bad guys. Screenwriter Chris Bremner returns while Aquaman and Justice League scribe Will Beall joining him to fashion a story around the next phase in Mike and Marcus' already illustrious careers after seemingly working through all the late-stage personal and professional conflicts these two would have encountered as aging lieutenants. 

This is where the real challenge of the film lies though, as up to this point each Bad Boys film was capturing these characters at very different stages of their lives and careers, but as a direct sequel to "For Life" this not only deals in many of the same themes, but picks up certain plot lines directly and carries them through. There isn't anything wrong with this approach from a high-level perspective (though I hope they don't wear out their welcome because this is the only viable franchise both are currently clinging to) but as you get into the weeds of what matters on a story-level one can feel the straining to both find new layers for Smith and Lawrence to explore with these characters while also seemingly trying to set-up the future of this franchise in two successors who have ever met one another and whose chemistry - the necessary chemistry that allows these movies to elevate themselves above other, traditional police procedurals - is untested.

IN A VIOLENT NATURE Review

About twenty minutes into writer/director Chris Nash's In A Violent Nature we meet the group of early twenty-somethings we would have typically followed from the couple amongst them's duplex to the remote cabin in the woods where the six of them now sit around a campfire airing out grievances and ghost stories. Typically, key word here, we would have more context for said grievances and a deeper understanding about who each of these people are and how they play into each other's lives allowing for any kinship or tension between them to also play into the dynamics of their impending doom given the order with which they are dispersed. Again, typically we would have a focal point, our final girl if you will, who is highlighted early and earnestly before both the film and her world descend into a madness she would have never imagined on the sunny, optimistic-filled drive she embarked on upon our introduction to her. Instead, it is not until that twenty-minute mark that we meet anyone with a remotely optimistic viewpoint as Nash opens with dread rather than allowing his movie to descend into it.

The hook (pun intended) of In A Violent Nature is that it is told almost completely from the perspective of the killer. As is the case, much of what we're treated to are tracking shots of our antagonist lurking through very green, very lush, wooded areas until he comes upon his victims and then - without much forethought or hesitation - moves forward with some of the most gruesome gore you've seen at the movies. In many ways, this leads to the film being more an exercise in style and form than it does in story or theme. These are essentially iterations of scenes we've seen hundreds of times before in this genre with Nash simply looking for new ways of framing them. It's hard to imagine there was much of a script for the film, but likely more a collection of death descriptions along with the routing of our killer's journey. In A Violent Nature is a largely wordless affair, the only dialogue coming from the aforementioned group of twenty-somethings whose pre-determined fate more or less negates any interest in what they're talking about. This could both serve as a warning sign for those who feel it necessary to have characters to invest in and root for, but considering the tone Nash establishes early in the film it is understood this is not the point of his slasher. Instead, any ideas or commentary audiences pull from In A Violent Nature would seem to be wholly their own - the film itself serves only as a prompt.

FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA Review

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Fury being the key word here. We all crave revenge though, just as Chris Hemsworth’s wicked Dementus would say, but while we may not be able to balance the scales of our suffering with such revenge - seeking after such does have the capacity to make for one hell of a story. Such is the tale of the titular Furiosa in George Miller’s nine-year-later follow-up to his bombastic Fury Road. While that film - itself a thirty-six-year-later follow-up to Miller’s dystopian trilogy that began simply as a story of another vengeful Australian who set out to stop a violent motorcycle gang - is now something of a cultural milestone and turning point for action filmmaking in and of itself it didn't necessarily blow me out of the water in the way so many of its fans praise it for doing (more on that later). Why Miller, who will be eighty in less than a year, chose to enter this world once again through the prism of a prequel to flesh out the details of a fascinating yet not necessarily unambiguous character whose destiny we are well aware of might at first feel a little puzzling as the film unfolds the filmmakers justifications are made clear: re-entering this world and continuing to flesh out not only the character of Furiosa but all of the characters at play in these wasteland fortresses along with the wasteland itself is what makes it worth the trip. Such a task is an admittedly impossible line to walk in not only in having to deliver on the expectations set by Fury Road, but also in attempting to deliver something that is inherently cut from the same cloth yet stands on its own merits. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, for all the context, history, and set-up that would seem to inform its creation is ultimately still an origin story - the beginning of a saga if part of one at all - and needs none of the circumstances surrounding it to be known in order to flourish for what it is. Where Fury Road, for all its audacity and inspiration, felt more like an art installation of a movie - meaning I was floored by its visual achievements but not necessarily moved by or invested in its experiment - Furiosa is full-fledged epic where the storytelling is as front and center as the action - much to the chagrin of the majority of movie-goers, I'm sure.

KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES Review

In what is essentially the fourth new beginning in the Planet of the Apes franchise and the tenth film overall, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes has the difficult task of not only following-up the critically acclaimed and well-liked Caesar trilogy but establishing a new cast of characters for audiences to care about and maybe more critically - to root for. The fascinating thing about this franchise in particular is that it has no one anchor, no single selling point, but more it relies on each films ideas and themes to be the main attraction. These are blockbusters built on allegory, delivering spectacle to fulfill the experiential aspect of movie-going, but largely crafted for the purposes of the conversations that will take place afterward. In director Wes Ball's (the Maze Runner trilogy) re-boot each of these factors are in place to meet the aforementioned requirements of both entertainment value and parable-like storytelling, but much like with the previous two Matt Reeves films (my hot take regarding the Caesar trilogy is that Rupert Wyatt's film is actually the best of them) these frameworks for what these films intend to do and be end up mostly being only that: a structure. In Kingdom specifically, the themes themselves are such repeats of ideas and concepts this franchise has touched upon before that it almost feels the series is becoming that of which it is analyzing a la the cyclical nature of society - the triumphs and failures destined to collide with the systems put in place to try and form some type of order no matter the dominant species.