Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Quick and Dirties: 2017 Stuff


At the top of this post is a picture of someone covered in mud. Obviously, this means it's time for another edition of The Quick and Dirties. In simple terms, I write short reviews of a number of movies I've recently watched. Normally, I have a theme. This time, the only theme is that all of these are 2017 releases, alphabetically reviewed by the way. Not much thought put into it, I know, but roll with it.


Burning Sands
We follow Zurich (Trevor Jackson), one of the pledges of the (fictional) Lamda Lamda Phi fraternity during Hell Week. He and the other mutts, as they're often called, do their best to impress their big brothers and earn a membership to the frat. Of course, the name Hell Week feels like an understatement. In other words, the hazing is in full effect. Within the few days that this movie is set in we go on an intriguing journey with a young man struggling to come to grips with himself and an organization unwilling to let go of the old way of doing things. Our emotions run the full gamut. We implore him to go on, to quit, come to understand why he's doing it, and still wonder why. Prior to this, I had only seen Jackson in the lightweight Disney flick Let it Shine. This outing requires quite a bit more depth and he provides it. It doesn't hurt that the cast around him is an exquisite mix of well-seasoned vets and younger performers willing to go all out. First time feature director Gerard McMurray handles the story-telling and does a wonderful job pulling us through the story, saying a ton, but never coming off as heavy-handed.

Possible 2017 Dellies Consideration: Best Actor (Trevor Jackson), Best Ensemble, Best Director (Gerard McMurray)


CHIPS
FBI agent Castillo (Michael Pena) is sent undercover to investigate possible corruption among the motorcycle officers in the California Highway Patrol. His cover name, of course, is Frank Poncherello, or Ponch for short. His partner is Jon Baker (Dax Shepard), a rather old rookie who barely got through the academy and has a battered body from his days as motorcross racer. Ridiculous backstories aside, this is a re-imagining of the popular TV series from the 1970s as a raunchy comedy. Ponch's backstory isn't that bad, except for the whole thing about that not being his real name. The movie as a whole is a hit and miss affair. Some of the jokes are downright hilarious, but about the same number are as flat as a month old soda. The chemistry between Pena and Shepard makes the movie watchable, but don't quite salvage it. Not quite the dumpster fire it's been made out to be, but it's certainly no comedy masterpiece. It's a meh viewing experience that owes its entire existence to success of the Jump Street franchise.

Possible 2017 Dellies Consideration: Funniest Scene (Ponch helps Jon into the tub)


Deidra & Laney Rob a Train
Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) and Laney (Rachel Crow) are sisters, both in high school, who live with their younger brother, Jet (Lance Gray), and single mom Marigold (Danielle Nicolet). Mom has a really bad day at work and gets sent off to jail. Deidra, being the oldest, takes on the responsibility of taking care of her siblings and raising money to bail mom out. Those are pretty toughs thing to do with no job. As often  is the case, necessity inspires and Deidra comes up with a plan to rob a train. While dealing with some serious issues, the movie resists the urge to become a gritty, downer of a pill to swallow. Instead, it's a fun, little dramedy that makes its statements without dragging our emotions down the tubes. Both girls are portrayed with wonderful performances. Murray is just forceful enough to make you believe in her and Crow just charms the hell out of you. The only big drawback is that little brother Jet is mostly just a set decoration rather than a real character. Still, it's a wonderful film from second time feature director Sydney Freeland.

Possible 2017 Dellies Consideration: Best Actress (Ashleight Murray), Best Supporting Actress (Rachel Crow), Best Director (Sydney Freeland)


I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore
Nursing assistant Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) lives alone, leads a rather mundane life, and pretty much gets walked over by people. She's finally had enough when someone breaks into her house and steals her laptop. After not getting much help from the police, she enlists the aid of Tony (Elijah Wood), the only person in the neighborhood more socially awkward than her. Together, they try to hunt down the people responsible. This dark comedy is the directorial debut of Blue Ruin star Macon Blair. He's learned well from that movie and Green Room, his other work with director Jeremy Saulnier. Blair's film builds in intensity as it goes along until it gets to a knock-your-socks-off finale. Lynskey and Wood are both fabulous as a pair of people who get in over their own head, but don't know enough to quit. The humor works in the most morbid of ways and makes this one of those movies you almost feel guilty about laughing at. Almost. Then you just realize this is just a damn fine movie.

Possible 2017 Dellies Consideration: Best Actress (Melanie Lynskey), Best Supporting Actor (Elijah Wood), Best Action Sequence (Mansion Showdown), Best Villain (Robert Longstreet), Best Director (Macon Blair)

John Wick: Chapter 2
Following the events of the first movie, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) thinks he's going to be left alone to enjoy his retirement from the hitman game. Unfortunately for him, gangster Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) shows up and forces him back into action. That's a pretty bad move for everyone involved. Mayhem ensues. I am one of the hordes of bloggers who watched and fell in love with this movie. The action is insane and rarely lets up. The plot is beyond simple and a mostly irrelevant excuse to get John back into the arena of the first film. Reeves gives his standard, non-emotive performance where he emphasizes random words. And watching it, I get the weird sensation that every bit of it took place within a two block radius. I say this because no matter where John goes he winds up back at the same hotel within seconds. However, it all comes back to those amazing action scenes. In a post-Raid world, the fight scenes in this movie and its predecessor are the closest thing to the combative perfection on display in that franchise. That's good enough for me.

Possible 2017 Dellies Consideration: Best Action Hero (Keanu Reeves), Best Action Sequence (Mustang Chase Scene, Assassination of Gianna), Best Fight Sequence (John Wick vs. Cassian), Best Overall Technical Achievement

Sleepless
Vincent Downs (Jamie Foxx) is a corrupt cop in Las Vegas. After he and his partner Sean (T.I.) mistakenly rob one of the city's biggest gangsters, his son gets kidnapped and held ransom until the cocaine they stole is returned. Meanwhile. Internal Affairs agent Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) is hot on his trail. The story is fairly generic, but plays out in somewhat interesting fashion. It also has some decent action scenes highlighting Foxx's physicality. As they say, the devil is in the details, and this is where the movie fails. There are a number of plot holes, and almost none of the cast seems to work well together. The biggest issue is an injury they make a big deal out of, but only seems to affect our hero between action scenes. He fights bad guys and does all sorts of athletic stuff, then soon as the fight ends he's grabbing his side and writhing in pain. This makes it all laughable, forcing us to downgrade what should at least be a decent movie. Unlike the John Wick sequel, the action isn't nearly good enough to make us forget its flaws. We're left with a movie that occasionally rises above mediocrity (slightly), but also takes dips into unintentional campyness.

Possible 2017 Dellies Consideration: Best Action Sequence (Finale)


14 comments:

  1. I do want to see I Don't Feel at Home in This World and John Wick 2 as the latter is something I want to see since I enjoyed the first film.

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    1. Both are fantastic. Hope you get to see them soon.

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  2. The only one of these I've seen is I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore, which I liked. I'll have to check a few of these other ones out.

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    1. Cool. A couple of these are definitely indie gems.

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  3. Awesome as always.

    I have to check out I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore, as that dude owned me in Blue Ruin. Totally up for seeing him behind the camera.

    You mentioned The Raid franchise. It is a damn shame that everyone involved in those movies aren't opening big summer movies, because I just went back to the first one...and it's so unbelievable. Holy shit, do you remember when he kills that guy with the bottom of a broken door? I'd already seen it...and I gasped. AMAZING.

    If you had to pick between Sleepless and CHIPS, which one should I go for? I'll probably do both, since I'm an a-hole...but where should I start?

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    1. I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore is on Netflix so give that one a go as soon as possible.

      There are so many parts in The Raid franchise that just floor me. That's one of them.

      I'd start with CHIPS. That's a selfish answer to be honest. I just have a feeling the yays and boos on that one would be phenomenal.

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  4. Gotta say, I'm so hyped for a John Wick 3. Sleepless I'm considering watching but the more I read about it, the less I'm inclined to waste my time.

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    1. I'm certainly down for JW3. With Sleepless you're not missing anything. It's one of those movies that should've been better given everyone involved, but just isn't.

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  5. I'm so with you on CHiPS! It's no masterpiece at all but there's enough to make it worthwhile. There are quite a few here I haven't seen yet, and I absolutely love the sound of I Don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore, that's going straight on the watchlist.

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    1. Yeah, I wouldn't be too upset if I had to watch it again. I Don't Feel At Home in This World Anymore is on Netflix so feel free to go for that one.

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  6. Nice reviews here. I forgot about I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore but your review reminds me that I need to see it. Had no idea it was supposed to be that good.

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  7. I really liked I Don't Feel At Home...
    and I definitely wondered about CHIPS. Actually, no I didn't. I assumed it spelled disaster, just based on the trailer. I do love Michael Pena though, so maybe you've nudged me into giving it a try.

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    1. I Don't Feel at Home was fantastic. CHIPS isn't the worst thing in the world, just don't expect a world beater, either.

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