CHIPS

‘CHIPS’ is the latest 70’s television show to get the big screen treatment, in this remake starring Dax Shepard and Michael Pena. Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) and Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Michael Peña) have just joined the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in Los Angeles but for very different reasons. Baker is a beaten up pro motor-biker trying to put his life and marriage back together. Poncherello is a cocky undercover Federal agent investigating a multi-million dollar heist that may be an inside job—inside the CHP. The inexperienced rookie and hardened pro are teamed together, but clash more than click, so kick-starting a partnership is easier said than done. But with Baker’s bike skills combined with Ponch’s street savvy it might just work…if they don’t drive each other crazy along the way. ‘CHIPS’ is written and directed by Dax Shepard himself, and is rated R for crude sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, some violence and drug use.

‘CHIPS’ is an interesting concept in script and tone because I’m not quite so sure about who it is marketed towards. Fans of the 70’s television show won’t like it because it abandons the working formula that made the series a success for five years. Youthful fans who have never seen the show and just want to watch a good movie won’t like it because there’s nothing funny or entertaining about this juvenile film that can barely be called a remake. Over the last fifteen years, remakes of 70’s and 80’s TV shows have been hit or miss for their finished products. Most notably, films like ’21 Jump Street’ or ‘The Man From UNCLE’ have attained that rare stamp of approval from TV enthusiasts of the original, while films like ‘Starsky and Hutch’ and ‘Dark Shadows’ have done lasting damage. Unfortunately, ‘CHIPS’ will fall with the latter because this often distracted bro-comedy offers very little homage or memorable material to justify its presence among the remake ranks. This is Shepard’s second time behind the camera, and its clear that his admirable ambitions overshoots the actuality of his grip on the pulse of this particular franchise.

At 96 minutes, there’s very little in positive returns for that of a script that takes every ten minutes to halt what little momentum these characters or subplots build on. One example of such is the noticeable stance on homophobia, which holds no bearing or place in this particular story. Because of this, ‘CHIPS’ often feels like it was made ten years too late, when the poking fun of cultural explorers because eye-rolling. Often times, this movie feels like it was written by a minor who just peeped his first nudity magazine. The R-rating is used to show female breasts, or to let the cast drop the occasional F bomb, which has zero impact on their overall comedic timing or flawed delivery. Even more so, this movie has some of the most obvious foreshadowing in storytelling that I have seen most recently. It’s easy to spot these lines from the second they are presented because often it holds no meaning or accordance to the material being shuffled in dialogue. Some of these examples were Shepard’s character having bionic limbs from bike accidents, so he tells his captain on the first interview that rain is bad for him. So of course there will be a scene where rain prominently pops up. Another one involves Shepard saying he hates blending house smells because they make him vomit, so of course we are going to have a scene where this gets to him. Pena and Shepard have a conversation early on about girls who marry their fathers, then sure enough there’s a line of dialogue by the end of a movie where a female cop explains that she likes Shepard because he reminds her of her father. This isn’t even half of what I found, and it makes the material more than slightly telegraphed as I waited for the ending.

Then there’s the dialogue, a literal hodge-podge of awful line reading. At first I wondered if this was intentional to play up to the laughably bad forced readings of 70’s nostalgia, but then I realized what little in storyline progression that this movie actually had. This film has this vast offering of multiple scenes that will halt in order for Pena and Shepard to discuss their latest sexual conquests. Most of the time it’s things that the typical grown up would learn in high school, and it hangs what is going on around them in mid-air waiting patiently for when they finish up. I will get more to the characters later on, but Pena’s character in particular crippled me, as every other line of dialogue concluded with a “bro”. On top of that, most of these reads feel like they never should’ve made the finished product, as they rarely ever feel believable through the dense fog of ludicrous developments. Now I’m not foolish enough to expect great dialogue from the CHIPS remake, but it does help the entertainment value if I can immerse myself and believe that these two idiots are officers of the law to benefit the story.

As for the performances, there was nothing of any charismatic charm or finesse to justify the casting of Pena and Shepard beyond the latter’s triple layer mold of power on the project. What passes for character exposition in this movie is the most brief of offerings for us to indulge in. Pena’s character is a sex addict, that’s it. That is all that we have to hang our investment of this character on. Shepard’s is at least slightly more in-depth; he’s an ex-motocross performer whose wife is cheating on him. How could you not want to spend over an hour-and-a-half with these guys? Beyond this, the two have virtually no on-screen chemistry between them, often times feeling like two actors who just met and were asked outside to come in and put on a show on-stage for twenty people. Vincent D’Onofrio is decent, but the biggest aspect to his character is that we learn something about his moral stigma early on that the movie doesn’t catch up to for another eighty minutes, taking us through the most obvious of movie mysteries.

I do have one positive to this movie however, and it’s that Shepard at least has a distinct view for bike chase sequences that serve as the single lone aspect that outdoes the original. These scenes don’t come nearly enough in the overall finished product, but there are some exceptionally well depicted tracking shots that take us through the ritzy areas of Beverly Hills. These luxurious landscapes breeze by through each swerve and turn that our protagonists take us on, and it overall makes for a fast-paced action thrill ride that serves as the brief moment that this film takes our breath away. I also greatly enjoyed the POV style that put us face-to-face with our riders as they embrace the fast-and-dangerous lifestyle. Most of the time, POV won’t work because you miss what is most important that is going on around the actors and action, but the rendering here is justifiable because these officers are constantly imbedded in the chaos that surrounds them.

Whatever CHIPS intends to be, one thing is certain; this film lacks the energy and chemistry of a 70’s TV show by comparison (Laugh intended). A staggerly unfunny comedy that puppeteers the sensitivity of homophobia and important female leads. Something that would make sense in the 70’s, but not in a politically correct 2017 that has grown above that. Shepard has an artistic eye for motocross sequences and little else. Perhaps a future in the X-Games, instead of feature length films is just up his alley. Either way, CHIPS is coming to a yard sale near you.

3/10

Power Rangers

Five teenagers turned heroes learn of the impending doom upon their town of Angel Grove, forcing the group to become the ‘Power Rangers’. Five teens with attitude are inexplicably brought together by coincidence or destiny to become the newest generation in a line of warriors known as the Power Rangers. The world rests in their hands as Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), a powerful witch and former Green Power Ranger, launches an assault seeking the Zeo Crystal with an army of stone golems called Putty Patrollers and a giant golden monster called Goldar. Based upon the popular American television series, ‘Power Rangers’ is directed by Dean Israelite, and is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, minor adult language, and for some crude humor.

There are times in my writing career when I take honor for being correct in my assumptions. Unfortunately for me, and fortunately for all of my doubters, ‘Power Rangers’ will not go down in history as being one of these times. When I first heard that they were producing a big budget silver-screen version of the popular 90’s kids show, I thought about how negatively some of these properties like ‘Jem and the Holograms’ or ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ have been treated along the way. Thankfully, Saban Productions knows the kind of property that they have on their hands, one that speaks to generations younger and older who adore this folklore. For my own personal grade, I view two important aspects to this movie; does it do damage to the original offerings? and does the film present enough of a fresh perspective to justify its re-imagining? Both of these answers play hand-in-hand with one another, but I can gladly say that this 2017 version should pleasantly please audiences of every timeline. Whether you were a 3-season fan like me, or you followed this evolving group of kids through every manifestation, there will be plenty of positives to instill that fun in you that you felt as a child, as well as have you anxiously awaiting the inevitable sequel that is hinted at in a mid-credits scene that is carefully orchestrated.

First of all is this fresh cast that a lot of this film rides on. The movie immediately introduces us to three valuable characters who are equally built among their respective angles and storylines. These are Jason, Kimberly, and Billy. Oddly enough, Billy was my least favorite character in the original ‘Power Rangers’, but here R.J Cyler combines nerdy intelligence with teenage awkwardness that places him in the spotlight of this adolescent who I just couldn’t get enough of. Likewise, Naomi Scott and Dacre Montgomery (Winner of the Zac Efron look-alike contest) too live up to their important characters as Kimberly and Jason respectively, and what I dig about both of them is that they feel like they come from two different worlds, and would otherwise never frequent one another, but this adventurous secret between them and everyone else, crafts a ‘Breakfast Club’ kind of arrangement that hits on that classic 80’s film setup on more than one coincidence. There are two other Power Rangers played by Becki G and Ludi Lin, as Trini and Zack, but sadly neither are given the valuable screen time or smooth transitions to their story that would otherwise build them equally with their other three protagonists. In fact, the film kind of forgets about the two of them until about midway through, when we are told vital information about one character’s sexual orientation, as well as the other one fearful to go home for their own personal dealings. These could’ve used more emphasis in a two hour run time, and regretfully character building is something that this film does feel jarring with all of its picking and choosing. Even still, I thought it was cool how they kept the names the same from all of the original rangers, and yet switching their heritage around with the color of their uniforms.

If there is one MAJOR flaw to the casting, it’s in Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa. I definitely admit that I got my prediction for the finished product of this movie wrong, but I was absolutely correct about this being an immense miscasting for the rangers biggest villain. Not that it’s completely Banks fault. She is given a very miniscule amount of on-screen time not only to build the backstory of her character, but also put her in any scene that doesn’t jumble the teenage drama kind of tone that the film surprisingly hit on wonderfully. Any time that Repulsa is on-screen, we return to the hokey kind of atmosphere that the original series dabbed in, and while this may satisfy some, I can humbly tell you that I never once believed that Banks fully immersed herself in this character. For the most part, it feels like she is playing dress-up and spouting off some cheesy lines that make it difficult to ever take serious. Banks is a decent actress, but this kind of action movie is anything but her forte, and the absence of a strong antagonist keeps this film as consistently predictable.

I mentioned the tone, and what works in its dramatic regards is that a lot of these teenagers in the movie are dealing with issues that mirror that of what our current youth entail. Sexual orientation, high school identity, and loneliness are just a few of the depictions that ‘Power Rangers’ hits on, and the portrayals consistently feel honest and not at all like a gimmick used for plot convenience. To watch this group of kids merge into a family is one that does a lot for the moral integrity of the film, and adds a dramatic layer of depth to your investment in those characters and their well-being. What’s smart about this is that this is an origin story, so the film feels it vitally important to build the men and women inside of the suit before it shows us the goods, a point that pays off soundly. At the end of the day, this is still a group of teenage superheroes who form a gigantic dinosaur, so there is some humor to boot, but the sprouts of it inserted throughout are used wisely and accordingly so as not to jumble the increasing tension within these inexperienced rangers and the impending doom that awaits them.

The action is given a nice big budget presentation in CGI destruction value. It’s kind of funny to watch this once little engine that could be transformed (Poor choice of words?) into a Michael Bay kind of depiction in crumbling buildings practically falling from the sky. The fight choreography pays homage faithfully to the kung-fu kind of brawling that engaged in the original series, even so much as turning the amps to eleven, with fast-paced movements that always feel tightly in-sync with one another. The camera work could definitely be stronger however, as there’s either often too much going on within each frame, or the direction of each shot is negatively compromised because of experimental camera work that reaches a little too much in aspirational pull. Some of what I mean for instance is when a character or machine will get knocked upside down, and the camera has to follow the flip all the way in the same vain that said object does. I certainly do not need this kind of accuracy to understand the pain associated with being knocked on your head, but if feeling the brutality was the intended purpose, then I most certainly did with some of the most visually sickening camera work of 2017.

The only other two things that bothered me was that of some viciously disgusting product placement, as well as an ending that could’ve lasted slightly longer in resolving Repulsa’s immense army. On the latter, this movie does touch on the familiar cliche that if you defeat the biggest one, the rest will fall. If you’ve seen ‘The Avengers’ you know what I’m talking about. On the former, there is a local donut business that gets the most repetitive two hour commercial that money could’ve bought them. Once or twice is OK, but to keep showing, and even having a character feast on a donut during the big climax, angered me to the days of Adam Sandler and all of his cheap usage to put some more change into his pocket. It feels as desperate here as ever before, and the intended purpose for this building could’ve been any other abandoned building or otherwise to get its point across.

‘Power Rangers’ was a brace for the worst kind of modern-day adaptation, but the marriage between 90’s cheesy kids shows and big budget productions is a gift-wrapped delight to fans who have been waiting for this kind of rangers movie for over two decades. With a better casting for the antagonist, as well as some modest step-taking when it comes to shooting action sequences, and Israelite could etch his name as a premiere filmmaker. Even still, the pacing never slows down for two solid hours of nostalgic insanity that will remind you of a simpler place and time.

6/10

Kong: Skull Island

The king of the jungle makes a roaring comeback, in ‘Kong: Skull Island’. Set In 1973, a secretive organization known as Monarch finds an island that is shrouded in mystery and identified as the origin for new and dangerous species wreaking havoc on the locals. The resulting expedition to the island reveals that a giant monstrous ape named Kong is at the center of a battle for dominion over the island, against the apex predators, nicknamed the “Skull Crawlers”, responsible for wiping out his kind. As the expedition crew makes plans to fight for survival against Kong and the other monsters on the island, some of them begin to see that Kong is worth saving, in the ensuing brawl for the island’s worth. ‘Kong: Skull Island’ stars Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, Tom Hiddleston, and Brie Larson. It is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language.

‘Kong: Skull Island’ is an accurate and intricate depiction of a creature feature set during the Vietnam era, and that setting does nothing but compliment the beautiful presentation in glossy cinematography that goes much further than cosmetic purposes. I found myself very impressed not only with the yellowish color tint, highlighting the screen full of endless sun and smoke, but also that of the superior editing of 70’s stock footage that is placed so sporadically throughout the intro scenes of this picture. The designs in costume and sets mold very faithful homages to the eras of Nixon and Johnson, and no price is spared to immerse the audience visually in this creative time period. Kong himself previously had a movie made during the 70’s, but ‘Skull Island’ feels like it outduels that previous effort, relaying the very socially binding concepts in war and patriotism that were called into question for the first times in U.S history. It’s a movie that has so much going on for it in socialistic commentary that only adds depth and layering to the concepts of setting this film in that age, and all of those issues do not go ignored in the initial plot and introductions of these human characters meeting their 100 foot tall counterpart.

The idea was evident from the opening act of this movie; presentation in ironic comparisons between this invasion with that of the Vietnam war. Upon the introduction of Samuel L Jackson’s character, we are told about Vietnam being a war in which the U.S lost, for its overabundance of lost lives, as well as the permanent stain that it left on the moral fabric of American-foreign relations. The group of soldiers in this film likewise must invade a mysterious island in which they know nothing about, tackle an enemy with all of the advantages of knowing its home, and make their way through an endless landscape of trees full of separate enemies that want them dead. Despite all of this being an obvious comparison, I found myself intrigued to see what Vogt-Roberts could do with this immense budget and ambitious production. The concept in design does wonders not only to the kinds of weapon responses that we unleash upon Kong and the creatures alike, but also in the mental instability of thousands of soldiers coming home to very little of a heroic return. It makes you understand the painfully tough decisions that each of them make, most of which go against protocol for the typical exploration mission.

As for story, the film kicks us off with a boost of adrenaline, supplying a 70’s soundtrack that perfectly captures this place in time. I commend this film for not making the audience wait the usual hour for giving us our initial intakes with its title character, the impact of which sets the stage for anything but your typical survival movie. The second act unfortunately doesn’t continue this pacing, as much of this period feels like it’s held in the air for the riveting conclusion that we’ve all been waiting for. It’s nothing jarring in terms of synthetic pacing or consequential to the material before it, but it just plays things far too safely, including a noticeable gap of about a half hour without Kong, in which we come to learn about some of the other creatures who inhabit the island. The final act resolved mostly everything that I was anticipating, building to a test of wills between man versus monster that will have you re-thinking everything that you’ve come to know to this point. Certainly, this isn’t anything original for a Kong flick, but I commend this film for not being afraid to tell the story that many Americans won’t be too encouraged to hear. When you invade and bomb somebody’s home, there are consequences that come with that feat, and ‘Skull Island’ reflects on a time when our own special forces were at a crossroads after the last of the tolling world wars.

The action sequences and creature designs also live up to par, emoting solid computer generated work to accomplish the mental game of its animated characters. This is by far my favorite Kong design of all time and a lot of that is because more attention to detail is given on his eyes and facial movements that speak to the heart of the animal. For most of the history of Kong, he is portrayed by a man under a rubber suit, and even though I am a sucker for practical stunt work, there is no comparison in monster movies to the kind of cutting-edge work that studios are manufacturing today. The designs of the bone creatures were also very enjoyable. The snap reactions to the way they stalk their prey communicate everything that you need to know about their character, and it’s in their cunning nature where they more-than measure up to the immense Kong, setting up a showdown that will remind you what you came to see. The action sequences impressed me not only as a powder-keg of ammunition riddled quick-cuts, but also in how grizzly and visceral the unapologetic violence kept topping itself. To me, ‘Kong: Skull Island’ feels like the first actual horror movie in the Kong franchise, and most of that can be attributed to its bone-crunching, crimson-colored carnage that pushes the envelope as far as it should rightfully go for PG-13.

The biggest weakness in the film to me was character exposition. Most people won’t watch a Kong movie for its ambitious characters, but an A-list cast this great were simply too big to be disappointing, and with the exception of three characters, they are mostly wasted in one-note designs that don’t do a single one of them a favor. I’ve read that most critics have a problem with the exposition for these characters, but I think the problem lies in the overabundance of characters that continue through the majority of this film. An opening crash scene that is shown in the trailers doesn’t do a lot to increase the body count, so this massive group of civilians bide their time before their number is called. Most notably, Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston are sadly wasted as flimsy one-note characters that stick too closely to their outlines. Larson is the photographer, so she must snap a picture in every cut to her, and Hiddleston is essentially James Bond with a gun or sword, so he must continue to be accurately perfect throughout the film. Thankfully, the trio of Jackson, Goodman, and John C Reilly present hearty and competent characters to give us something to chew on. I was amazed with how important Reilly was to the script as the movie went on, essentially centering around the past of his character that establishes him as something more than just the grizzled veteran. Goodman’s character narration enjoys a solid first act that unfortunately is for nothing, as he disappears late in the second. Up until then, he was probably my favorite character, but he is lost in the sea of faces once their feet land on the island. Jackson is devilishly detestable as an army captain with malicious intent. Early on, we learn why he has such an interest in this mission, but due to Jackson’s gritty performance, you start to see the mask of sanity slowly slip away, giving way to the weapon of mass destruction that earned his character a chest full of honorary medals.

‘Kong: Skull Island’ is certainly an improvement on 2014’s ‘Godzilla’, and does more than enough to even the scales for the massive 2020 showdown between the two. The film’s ambitiously gorgeous presentation, as well as thrilling action sequences does more than enough to push it through some of the weaker aspects, like a dry second act, and an overabundance of patient characters with very little to do. Vogt-Roberts masterful dab in visual tapestry paints an intoxicating canvas for Kong to roar his loudest. The king is finally back on his throne.

7/10

Logan

The last remaining X-Men faces a resistance that sees him seeking the alliance of a little girl with a secret gift. In Logan, It’s 2029. Mutants are gone, or very nearly so. An isolated, despondent Logan (Hugh Jackman) is drinking his days away in a hideout on a remote stretch of the Mexican border, picking up petty cash as a driver for hire. His companions in exile are the outcast Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart), whose singular mind is plagued by worsening seizures. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy abruptly end when a mysterious woman appears with an urgent request; that Logan shepherd an extraordinary young girl (Dafne Keen) to safety. Soon, the claws come out as Logan must face off against dark forces and a villain from his own past on a live-or-die mission, one that will set the time-worn warrior on a path toward fulfilling his destiny. Logan is directed by James Mangold, and is rated R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity.

For seventeen years, fans of the Wolverine character have waited patiently for a spin-off worthy of arguably one of the greatest comic book heroes of all time. With ‘Logan’, that time has carefully been plucked, and during the most appropriate of times for its charismatic cast. Speculation has been that this will be the final time that Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart will don the roles of their respective characters, and if that is the case, they have done us proud with an R-rated gash-fest sure to satisfy the gore hound in all of us. ‘Logan’ quite often than not feels like the adult side of X-Men movies that has always been teased, but never fully committed to for fear of the risky R-rating that rarely proves possible for comic book movies. If one thing is clear, it’s that Mangold fruitfully resonates themes like weathering and vulnerability to show-off a side of Logan that has never been seen in eight previous films. Because of Mangold’s attention to style over adaptation, we get a presentation that very much feels like a nod to 70’s westerns and road trip flicks to bond and present a wild ride that responsibly depicts the very cause and effects that come with such power.

With zero restrictions on what this character can do, it feels like this film can prosper in ways that other films haven’t, most ideally in that of adult language and fight sequences that drag the audience kicking and screaming through every unsettling jab. The concept of claws feels like it is accurately being told for the first time, as Logan and his youthful passenger leap and attack through an army of endless antagonists who feel the barbaric wrath of their ill intentions. What works is that the new rating doesn’t feel like it’s being used at desperate lengths. The fight scenes are very carefully separated from one to the next, giving the movie an anti-superhero film of sorts. In fact, ‘Logan’ likens itself more to a dramatic western genre film that has decided to pluck a character from comics just to see how he would do in this environment and picture. He prospers wonderfully, and even in his ninth film, Wolverine feels like he is seeing the world through new eyes given to him by the ambitious Mangold who paints the true torture and isolation from what comes from being different. All of this time we’ve heard about it, but never witnessed it, and it presents a somber and melancholic side to these heroes we grew up admiring, and knowing that their best days are clearly behind them.

Aside from this mysterious little girl and her purpose, ‘Logan’ surprisingly packs a wide range of well-attentive subplots that constantly keeps the movie moving well past the two hour mark. For the first act of this film, it practically breezed by, and I found myself very immersed in this world where Logan exists as someone just trying to get by. He’s kind of pathetic, revealing a nightly ritual of abusive drinking, as well as bickering back-and-forth with the one relative in mutation who he has left, Charles Xavier. The relationship between them feels like father and son, and plays even more importantly in the backdrop of the developing relationship between Logan and the little girl. This embraces a hearty side to the script that is usually steered clear of in comic book films, but it works here being the last chance that Logan has to live a somewhat normal life. The only time that the film felt like it was living up to its paper origins was in the final showdown that enthusiastically reminds audiences of who this title character is, and gives him one more day of Summer as we catch one final glimpse into the prime of the toughest S.O.B that Marvel ever illustrated. ‘Logan’ lightly touches on the graphic novel ‘Old Man Logan’, but leaves the pages of its script to original territory, relying more on gripping performances rather than action sequences in which we’ve been there and done that.

On the subject of those performances, I can confidently say that this is some of Jackman’s best stuff. I’ve always thought that the best kind of story with superheroes are in the ones when age and deterioration have caught up to them. As Logan, Jackman endures a world where X-Men no longer exist, emoting a kind of harrowing reality to just how lonely he is in this new world. Even after nine movies though, Jackman continues to be the single greatest casting decision that Marvel has ever succeeded at. To find an actor who can appropriately channel his rage, as well as dramatic depth when it comes time to harness the goosebumps, is one of great difficulty. Logan feels like his own greatest detractor, denying a hint of hope, despite the fact that a little taste of it still burns strong in his veins. I don’t know if Marvel will cast another Wolverine, but I would be happy without this character ever seeing the light of day in the film world, the effects of Jackman portraying a character so well that he will never escape it, long after he shuffles off. Patrick Stewart was also hilariously delightful, once again portraying Xavier. The deterioration of Charles and a mind once powerful, reminded me that there comes a time for all of us when the easiest task becomes the longest climb, and Stewart emotes that difficulty with much disdain, as well as a taste of that wise-ass humor that lives to tug at the sanity of Logan. These two have felt like father and son from the start, so it’s not even slightly a suspense of disbelief when Mangold illustrates this metaphor vibrantly in a world where the other is the only person who understands what they’re going through. Leaps and bounds however, I was greatly impressed with the work of Dafne Keen as (No reason to hide it) X-23 herself. Dafne kicks ass and does it with the most paralyzing of stares to weaken not only her antagonists, but that of the audience that she peers into on more than one occasion. For a majority of the film, Keen is kept quiet, and that felt like the appropriate call to channel the isolation and fragility of such a character who has never experienced a normal life, let alone a mutant one thanks to her history. Kid actors is a difficult thing to cast, but Dafne Keen’s chilling range will permanently keep her atop the list of youthful actors who you will see frequently for years to come.

As for problems, there were two small critiques that occasionally soured my otherwise amazing experience. The first is with the pacing of the second act feeling slightly off from the rest of the picture. It’s during this time when some of the setups to the final confrontation either drag on too long, or reach an overabundance in offering. For my money, some of these could’ve been condensed into one single confrontation, instead of a series of setups that feel somewhat repetitive by the third one. My second and much more important problem came with the predictability of some of the subplots that I referred to earlier. I won’t spoil anything, but a friend of mine can faithfully vouch for the fact that I successfully predicted the outcomes of more than a few of these conflicts, and I blame this on a flimsy setup that was easily transparent. If this wasn’t enough, the trailers once again spoil some visuals spoilers in the movie that would’ve been nice to be surprised on. One such scene involves a burial that is all over the trailers like it’s no big deal. My thought process soon will be to stop watching trailers, as the best in surprises for cinema are being ruined one-by-one by thoughtless teasers that do more harm than good to the creativity of a script as strong as this one.

‘Logan’ aggressively charges its way through a somber, yet sterile offering of brutal engagements. With some deliciously violent exchanges, as well as some emotionally gripping material that constantly tugs at the heart, Mangold’s goodbye to the beholder of claws is one that Wolverine fans will be gushing over for its pulled back approach to re-defining the superhero genre. Proving that even after nearly two decades, the claws are as sharp as ever to inject into the audiences looking for an articulate conclusion to Jackman and Stewart, who satisfy in spades.

8/10

John Wick: Chapter 2

The streets and our animals are a lot safer with legendary hitman John Wick back on the scene, in John Wick: Chapter 2. After being forced out of retirement by a former associate plotting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins’ guild, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is Bound by a blood oath to help him. John travels to Rome where he squares off against some of the world’s deadliest killers on an ammunition-filled road of rampage. The film also stars Laurence Fishbourne, John Leguizamo, Ian Mcshane, and Common. It is directed by first chapter director Chad Stahelski, and is rated R for strong violence throughout, some adult language, and brief nudity involving sensuality.

Most of my lack of excitement for sequels in general to a hit original movie relies too heavily on their dependency on the first movie. These films usually become watered down parodies of the former, soiling the very fresh originality in concept and progression that a sequel should provide. Thankfully, John Wick: Chapter 2 seems to be a movie that makes its own rules by further progressing the story of this cryptic hitman and the society’s underbelly nightlife that thrives on eye-catching neon set pieces and bullet-piercing rounds that never seem to run out. This is very much a sequel that works because it stands on its own two original feet, and has little relation or reliance on conjuring up the same situations and structure to get it across to its blood-thirsty audience. The second film in this obvious trilogy more-than packs a brutal punch, feeling like a completely fresh offspring all together to the Wick franchise and just how much further it can grow from this point on. Many movies that prepare for the finale in a trilogy will sometimes neglect the presentation of the second film by playing it too safe before all of the chips go on the line. What Stahelski has managed to do is nearly guarantee gold hitting three times in the same spot because the progression of this script from start to finish has me possibly the most excited that I have ever been for the third part in an action movie saga.

The script in question picks up literally days after the events of the first movie, the only connecting link to the carnage candy that we have already been through. I didn’t have a problem with this brief scene of correlation as it perfectly renders the audience motionless with a pulse-setting sequence that is every bit as fast as it is cohesively choreographed. To open a movie with arguably the best sequence in the film is quite the risk that gives the movie a positive and a negative for where it headed with the opening act. The positive is of course enriching us with the kind of gore and brutality that we have come to expect by Reeves donning the suit and classic Mustang. The negative is that the film’s opening forty-five minutes of so slugs through a noticeably long time before the next action sequence. This wouldn’t be a problem if the opening fifteen minutes weren’t so riveting in the endurance of this artfully crafted demolition derby, leaving a long dry spot to anything that follows. We do get some solid exposition during this time, notably in the backstory of Wick’s deceased wife and her impact on the house and car that haunts John’s daily routines. To me, the lone negative is that this film takes slightly too long to set everything up, and subtly lacks the audience investment of the first movie with the passing of Wick’s dog. That’s not to say that I wasn’t riveted by what transpired on-screen, but if this movie lacks anything it’s in the lack of capability to give us a story that we care as much about as the animal vulnerability of its predecessor.

What I did found enlightening was that of the change of scenery from New York to Rome in this picture. My favorite aspect of the first movie was the depiction of this secret society of assassins that lives and breathes at the hands of lucrative contracts and shoot now think later reactions. The cinematography feels like it goes above and beyond here, radiating a sense of taboo surroundings for the audience to immerse themselves into. The script feels like it never stops building. Proof of this comes late in the second act when the game changes up for our central protagonist, as he finds himself on the opposing end of a limitless onslaught of contracted killers who want him dead. The fresh twist into a spy thriller really re-energized me before a finale that subtly pays homage to Bond set pieces of the 70’s. When the film closes, you will realize that the film not only provided everything that a sequel rightfully should, but also promoted a third chapter that will have you screaming at the concepts of all good things coming to those who wait.

The action here is heart-pounding, mainly because of a riveting sound mixing by sound editor Michael Head. It’s a pretty safe bet that an IMAX screening of this film will throttle your ears, but what surprised me was how much jumping that I was doing in a rundown theater with a lack of the best sound technology on the market. The crash scenes in the film felt very personal because the exceptional camera work is choosing to follow, instead of attach to the characters in each shot, and the unpredictability of something else coming just off screen feels like an inevitability of exciting offerings sure to rattle the audience that takes this movie in. The gunshots are as loud and honorable as they rightfully should be, forcing the audience to understand their grave impact each time a round is fired into the frame. One particular fight sequence in the movie between Reeves and Common is choreographed mesmerizingly, and the lack of musical accompany makes the audience feel and hear every devastating blow without diluting the reactions of their fast-moving motions. Not since Mad Max: Fury Road have I felt that sound has played such a visceral part in the dissection of an action movie, but Chapter 2 doesn’t disappoint in placing the audience in the way of the most dangerous atmosphere, while granting them immunity for watching this in the audible peaks of a confined theater.

The film isn’t free from some predictable action movie cliches however, even if these things weren’t a major proponent in my final grade. The first is of course the usual keys in the visor trick that seems to happen in every movie ever made, but never once in real life. How does this keep happening? A simple scene where Wick finds keys in an office can subdue my disbelief and earn some honor in the code of solid screenwriting. The second is in the lack of re-loading by Wick with a handgun that holds no more than twelve rounds. This is particularly evident during the Rome club-shooting sequence whose length in screen time only makes the lack of round exchanges that much more humorous by comparison. The third cliche was in the number of times that Wick eats it at the hands of an automobile. I’m not saying John isn’t tough, but to get up so fast from an overabundance of car interactions is highly unlikely. My final problem was that of a stomach wound that Wick suffers in the second act, only to have it forgotten about completely by the final confrontation. One could say that this wound could’ve been stitched up, but to that I call bullshit on how many times he took forceful hits and kicks to that particular area over the last half hour of the movie. One shot can easily rip stitches open, but several should at the very least have you gushing like a fountain.

The performances were solid, even if they don’t rely entirely on the acting of their respective cast. Reeves has proven that not only is Wick his comeback story, but that he was born to play such a tortured character. If the film does one thing well, it’s in keeping his sentences short and straight to the point. That’s not to say that Keanu can’t act, but more that this character who is described as “The Boogeyman” remaining as cryptic to the positivity of his menace. Reeves noticeable emptiness in the character of Wick is one that is heartbreaking, as well as relatable to the audience in knowing that this is a man with nothing left to lose each time he goes back into the game. Ian McShane was also attention-grabbing once again as the leader of this chilling hotel of contractors. The on-screen interactions between Ian and Keanu make for some of the best scenes of the movie, as their relationship signals a missing friend and family from Wick’s personal life. If McShane does just one thing well it’s in the ability to play both sides of the moral coin without coming off as cartoonish or practical in his delivery. Sadly John Leguizamo is only in two scenes in the movie, and I for one hope he has more of a commanding presence in the third chapter.

Overall, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a justifiably necessary sequel because it packs twice the brutal action and stunt choreography of the first movie. This sequel did lack the full power of immersing myself in the revenge plot of Wick, like the first film did effortlessly, but there’s plenty of other positives to commend Staheleski for that other sequels simply don’t commit to. Most importantly, the newest chapter keeps the pages rolling of not only the best action saga going today, but also one of the very best and most impactful of all time. With a gun, Wick is unstoppable. But with a rollercoaster of thrills and exceptionally shot carnage candy, his sequel is irresistible.

7/10

Collide

A youthful couple ‘Collide’ with a group of dangerous drug dealers that has them on a high-speed chase for survival. After a heist goes terribly wrong, Casey Stein (Nicholas Hoult) finds himself on the run from a ruthless gang headed by mob boss Hagen (Anthony Hopkins). Now Casey has precious cargo that belongs to Hagen, who will stop at nothing to retrieve it. Left with no choice, Casey calls his former employer and drug smuggler Geran (Ben Kingsley) to protect his long-time girlfriend Juliette (Felicity Jones) before Hagen gets his hands on her. Casey sets out on an adrenaline-fueled car chase on the German highways to save the love of his life before it’s too late for the both of them. Collide is directed by Eren Creevy, and is rated PG-13 for violence, frenetic action, some sexuality, adult language, and drug material.

There’s plenty that can be said about a movie that has been on the shelf since fall of 2015. Relativity Studios crash of that year left plenty of movies on hold until a studio could come along and finance the release of the finished product. In this case, Automatik Entertainment has come to the rescue, and there’s so many methods of thanks that I have to give to them for giving the audience this kind of offering. To be surprised by a movie this bad by February, isn’t a surprise at all, but rather solidification to the kind of lack of inhibitions that this month is famous for releasing. Collide is a mess of a picture that at times feels unfinished, and in general feels quite contradictory between two varying styles of attitude that feel so jarringly opposite that it often feels like two different movies that were merged together as a Frankenstein experiment. It’s the latest in the feel of post-2000 fast-paced action flicks that are churned out at a dime a dozen, and in general offers nothing fresh or memorable to cast it as anything different from the movies it spoofs that do it a hundred times better.

To grasp the extent of damage from this film, you must first understand that 2015 was a much different year than the 2017 that we now find ourselves in. The four person leading cast of this movie now feel FAR too good for a movie of this stature, mostly in that of Jones and Hoult, who have had a successful past two years with Oscar nominated films that have made stars out of both of them. As for Hopkins and Kingsley, this is nothing more than a paycheck film for two class actors who have each dived in Oscar enchanted waters. Kingsley offers another film-crushing role similar to that of his role as The Mandarin in Iron Man 3. This time, he’s a Russian pimp gangster who has one of the worst accents that I have ever heard. At the very least, he’s having fun. Hopkins feels like he’s sleeping through the motions of a Bond villain, complete with hokey one-liners and cartoonish evil running through his veins. Jones feels virtually non-existent as the eye candy of the movie, who we are only reminded of during the rare occasion when the plot needs her. To view the poster, you would think that she is equally as important to this chase as Hoult’s character is, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Nicholas is decent at carrying the load, but his character is so uninteresting and void of development that it’s hard to ever get fully invested in his Casey. Hoult and Jones never develop into a believable duo, and that’s because of a lack of chemistry from a script that keeps them apart for virtually the entire film. Collide does command a strong A-list cast, but none can break free from the shackles of a flawed script that cuts them short at every corner.

It’s evident early on that this film is going for a modern approach of a Romeo and Juliet story, even going as far as naming one of their characters after such. But this is clearly a script that doesn’t develop the relationship of Hoult and Jones, instead opting for sharp-cutting chase sequences that make up more than 80% of the 94 minute run time. Because of this, anything else that has to do with exposition or dialogue is sacrificed in an overabundance of misdirection. The latter of which was responsible a few times for cringe-worthy delivery that consistently kept me from taking the movie as seriously as the first act treats it. Such an example of this comes halfway through the movie at a gas station scene, when an attendant tells our antagonists “My name is Suri, and you better back down before you get blown away”. The antagonist responds “Apologies Suri. Do you speak English?”. This is only one of the many problems that would’ve been better left on the editing room floor. But the visual deserves its claim to fame as well, and there’s plenty to balance that of the dialogue that drops the ball repeatedly. There’s a scene towards the end of the movie that is a flashback scene of an event we missed. The problem comes in discovering that this is a false story that is nothing more than a joke between two characters. What a complete waste of time for something that could be used equally as effective as a one-line throwaway.

One thing that can be dissected fruitfully for the movie is some solid action sequences that competently shoot with precision sound mixing throttling the set pieces around them. There is that usual quick-cutting in editing, but the good news is that it’s never terrible enough to lack definition in the fast-paced situations that are constantly changing with one push of the pedal. This is a film that got my pulse running with some impactful carnage and high-speed octane exhaust that consistently went above the bar in the more than four sequences that adorn the picture. What the film benefits from is a distinct music video style of cinematography that feels like a tribute to early 21st century action flicks like The Transporter or Death Race. The techno music feels appropriate with the Eastern European landscapes that beautifully decorate our backdrops. What Creevy lacks in conventional storytelling, he more than makes up for in bone-crunching projection, and it’s clear that he has the capability to be an action presence for years to come.

The ending convolutes itself to stuffy levels because of the many twists that it tries to pack into a logically-challenged explanatory scene that totally feels every bit as unnecessary as it does tasteless to the closing memories that we have for this effort. Because this movie is predictable at nearly every turn, there is a desire to wrap this story and its conflict up as soon as possible, but this is one collision that would instead rather take the long road in third act structures to get there.

The collision in this film deals with lack of consequential story and hollow characters that always feel like an outline instead of actual people, and because of that, Collide speeds too fast on the highway to mediocrity. Some films are better left in the dust of obscurity, and Creevy’s music video spin on 2000’s action cinema slams on the brakes quite often of an otherwise tightly-paced offering.

4/10

The Space Between Us

Something completely out of this world is about to crash on Earth, altering The Space Between Us. In this interplanetary adventure, a space shuttle embarks on the first mission to colonize Mars, only to discover after takeoff that one of the astronauts is pregnant. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield), an inquisitive, highly intelligent boy who reaches the age of 16 having only met 14 people in his very unconventional upbringing. While searching for clues about his father, and the home planet he’s never known, Gardner begins an online friendship with a street smart girl in Colorado named Tulsa (Britt Robertson). When he finally gets a chance to go to Earth, he’s eager to experience all of the wonders he could only read about on Mars, from the most simple to the extraordinary. But once his explorations begin, scientists discover that Gardner’s organs can’t withstand Earth’s atmosphere. Eager to find his father, Gardner escapes the team of scientists and joins with Tulsa on a race against time to unravel the mysteries of how he came to be, and where he belongs in the universe. The film is directed by Peter Chelsom, and is rated PG-13 for brief sensuality and adult language.

The Space Between Us is at best a solid idea about the isolations of growing up on a planet without people or basic experiences for a teenager to live without. Its reliance upon the importance of technology and the kind of advances that it gives us for making a more intelligent and even enhanced human being are greatly depicted in the film, and don’t go without polarizing contrasts when compared to Earth counterparts. At worst though, this is a film that spontaneously combusts on a wannabe Nicholas Sparks teenage romance novel, in conjunction with cheesy dialogue and some of the biggest lapses in logic that I have ever seen in a Sci-Fi film, and that’s saying something. This is very much a project that chose to be something different for all of the wrong reasons. There’s a passable movie somewhere beneath all of the forced romantic subtext, and the Y.A audience that is was depending upon. Chelsom’s film settles for being just the latest spin in 21st century love being told at an adolescent disadvantage by frustrating characters and lack of any real depth for what makes their romance one for the galaxy.

For the first half hour of this movie, I was very much on board for the setup and themes that made this quite the little science-fiction gem that it could be with a little growth in character development and the unlocking of many mysteries that were set up early on. The very idea of this baby who was born and forced to live in a kind of prison of sorts for the entirety of his life is one that is certainly easy enough to get behind and invest in, but what added that extra layer of intrigue for me was the attempt at breaking down some health concerns between the environments of Mars versus Earth. This is where the movie feels at its strongest because it is showing us a variety of foreign lifestyles and technology that seem advanced even for 2017 standards. From transparent laptops to self-driving cars, The Space Between Us gives us that brief glimpse into a prosperous future where it feels necessary to dream again, complete with detailed set pieces that really make it simple to lose yourself in the rich tapestry of the Mars red-rocks in all of its imposing stature.

Once you’ve reached the half hour mark, you should understand that it’s at that point where you’ve reached the creative peak of this movie, because instantly the film goes back on everything that it has built for a flimsy love narrative that not only feels forced, but feels emotionally awkward for the lack of chemistry and character spark of our two central protagonists. I will get to the performances later, but the vast difference in real life age between Britt Robertson (27) and Asa Butterfield (19) made it very hard to invest and feel moved by their time spent together on-screen. If anything, the two feel like brother and sister kissing, albeit with Butterfield’s undeniably youthful exterior and Robertson’s adult personality that feels anything except the high school characters that she still finds herself being cast for. Her character comes off as a badass for some reason, but then is instantly turned into the same cliche female that you always see in romance flicks. Apparently Chelsom feels my pain about their concern for physical differences based on age because midway through he gives Robertson a baby doll dress to signify her high school side, further alienating her character from the Tom-boy tough chick who we were force-fed in her opening exposition scenes. If this isn’t enough, the film completely comes to a screeching halt during this time, with shoddy pacing, as well as making an antagonist of sorts out of Gary Oldman’s character. This idea is made even more inane when you see where all of the characters finish by the end of the movie, and highlights the second act of the movie as a sore thumb that sticks out ugly against two opposite acts that feel like they’re telling their own genre story.

The finale kicked the absurdity into high gear, and it was at this point that I felt an engulfing lack of care for the rules and themes that the movie had built for itself up to this point. Characters travel to space without so much as a space suit or any kind of breathing devices that would help them adapt to the increase of cabin pressure or lack of gravity that fills the air. There’s also the big reveal to the kind of mystery of sorts that the movie lightly inserted in the first act if you were paying attention. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. The plot twist was easily predictable for me, and I’m usually average at predicting these kinds of things. My reason for easily reading between the lines is the forceful reactions from one particular character that radiate in overabundance when compared to everyone else, making it far too simple to read between the lines. It all closes itself up tightly for a finish that is every bit as convenient as it is frustrating at just how much could’ve easily been trimmed from the nearly two hour run time. The worst part of a movie for me is when it drags endlessly, and The Space Between Us rarely reaches orbit after it runs out of ideas midway through.

As for the performances, there sadly isn’t a lot of noteworthy praise in this notable cast. Gary Oldman is probably the one positive in terms of taking a character who is every bit the typical mold for scientist entrepreneurs and making something more out of him. As I mentioned earlier, his character does go through some morale leaps and bounds that feel jarringly forced on the very flimsy suspense that this movie entailed, but Gary is enough of a pro to go to hell and back, and yet still produce a character who is enjoyable to watch for his commitment to craft, as well as his hands-on approach of this boy’s life since watching him grow. Butterfield does exubberate slightly more enthusiasm for this role as opposed to his past monotonously tone-deaf characters, but it’s still not enough to justify leading man status. As Gardner, we see a teenager who has his eyes opened for the first time at a world he was denied. That fact alone should make this boy fascinating, but Butterfield spends too much time on his one-track mind, meddling through the motions of a relationship that he feels far too at home with, despite a severe lack of female intimacy for the first sixteen years of his life. Robertson is once again playing the same character as she has in films like Tommorrowland, A Dog’s Purpose, and Mr Church. Hollywood has seemed to typecast her as this unorthodox female teenager who can give and take with her male counterparts, but then silences her into the typical female love interest that feels like a checklist of endless cliches. Robertson has talent, but she has to start venturing out of her comfort zone.

There’s an undiscovered lifeform of potential deep within the subtext of The Space Between Us, but its reliance upon a romantic direction that offers little fresh in the way of Young Adult novels, rips the oxygen fast out of this one. It’s a slow paced, unintelligent Sparks immitator that hangs in the balance of two protagonists who have as much romantic chemistry as two people who met for the first time on FarmersOnly.Com. As it stands, Chelsom’s infatuation with Indie favorites prove to us that this story feels expired before it hits the ground, time-stamping it with the others in a post-Twilight garbage can.

3/10

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

The final remains of the T-Virus return us to the scene of the origin, in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. Picking up three weeks after the events in Resident Evil: Retribution, humanity is on its last legs after Alice (Milla Jovovich) was betrayed by Wesker (Shawn Roberts) in Washington D.C. As the only survivor of what was meant to be humanity’s final stand against the undead hordes, Alice must return to where the nightmare began; Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering its forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors of the apocalypse. In a race against time Alice will join forces with old friends, and an unlikely ally, in an action packed battle with undead hordes and new mutant monsters. Between losing her superhuman abilities and Umbrella’s impending attack, this will be Alice’s most difficult adventure as she fights to save humanity, which is on the brink of oblivion. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is written and directed by Paul W.S Anderson, and is rated R for sequences of violence, as well as some adult language.

For someone who has written and directed all seven efforts of the Resident Evil franchise, Paul W.S Anderson seems to have selective memory about the film’s rules and history that feels trampled on after the latest effort known as The Final Chapter. Going into this movie, I wasn’t expecting a lot of bang for my buck. My expectations were cast pretty low; strong action sequences and a furthering of the story that capped of fifteen years with Alice and her friends. Ultimately, both of my expectations were sadly missed, as this is in my opinion the very worst of the franchise by a wide margin, and a lot of that is because of Anderson’s careless methods to provide fans with the goodbye that they deserve. The film has a plot twist near the end of the movie that is not only predictable because of how little they do to hide the identity of this mysterious Umbrella worker, but also how little it makes sense with histories established in the first two films. These aren’t forgivable plot contrivances, these are MAJOR flaws that would only take Anderson watching these movies to refresh what he has established about certain characters. Picture a Jason movie where they flashback to something that happened in the second movie, only to show Jason wearing the wrong color and dying by a different way. It’s truly mind-shattering how far this series has fallen, and just how little this whole thing has to do with any of the respective video games that they borrow plot from.

If there is one positive, it’s that this movie at least feels like a video game. Not so much a movie, but a video game because of how it has very minimal plot and lots of weapon re-ups, as well as conflict scenes in a new backdrop with each passing minute. On the first of those issues, The Final Chapter feels like more of a continuance for something like Retribution or Afterlife, instead of its own movie. With the previous efforts, each movie revolved around its own growth for each of its characters, while establishing a setting that felt fresh for each chapter. This is very much a time and place that we have endured before in much better circumstances with the original Resident Evil. That movie, while not perfect by any standards, at least keys you into what makes these throwaway popcorn flicks exciting in their own element. The introduction here of this anti-virus comes out of nowhere. At no point in six other films did we ever key in to any kind of solution for the problems that have engulfed this world, and the introduction now feels very lazy in creating a suitable solution that fans will believe. This is a movie at 101 minutes that constantly keeps moving, never choosing to slow down to tell the story of what happened in Washington during Retribution, or establishing its fresh faces to the audience. At this point, there’s not enough patience or commitment to cast these people as anything but bodies in the way of Alice reaching her final destination, therefore your investment feels minimal and even tiresome at the repetition in setup, attack, and kill. Wash, rinse, repeat.

The visual presentation was perhaps the biggest flaw that the film entails because the camera styles don’t remain faithful to the style of shooting that we have come to love from this series. If there is one positive that I can say for this series, as well as The Final Chapter itself, is that it conjures up some artistically beautiful choreographed fight scenes that always reach their mark in channeling the video game profiles of each attack scene. This was the single greatest strength of this movie that unfortunately gets weighed down pretty quickly by some of the arguably worst action sequence depictions that I have ever seen. I recommend highly that you watch this movie at home in a lighted environment because your eyes will be kicking your ass by film’s end. The fight scenes are lit poorly, shot far too closely, and (Most importantly) involve an overburden of quick-cuts to ever keep you from registering what is transpiring on screen. Not since last year’s Jason Bourne have I truly felt such pity and despair for how a film chooses to style its bread and butter. I compare the visuals to watching a bootleg copy of a movie on your computer, where you have to squint to register the poor quality of a camera illegally filming a movie. Truly horrifying on the eyes and less on your actual fright for the creativity in creatures and zombie designs alike that the movie could’ve used more emphasis on visually.

As for returning cast, I was sadly disappointed at just how little involvement there actually was for the time invested characters of past films who were left off of the slate. Chris Redfield, Asa Kong, and Jill Valentine are three characters whose presence are greatly missed in a sea of fresh faces that never have time to establish character arcs or traits to make them any different from the people to the right or left of them. The only familiar faces are that of Alice, Claire Redfield, Albert Wesker and Dr Isaacs. The focus is mainly on that of Alice and Isaacs, leaving Wesker off of the page for a final showdown or satisfying climax to the polarizing figure that we have come to love and hate equally. This is a major disappointment because there’s much chemistry that is left off of the pages of the script between Alice and Isaacs that just doesn’t measure up to some of her previous enjoyable entanglements with that of Valentine or Wesker. When you look at the bigger picture of all seven films, it feels like these movies were constantly building to something bigger and better that just never materialized. The ending of this film felt far too easy and neatly tucked away for a fifteen year investment, settling for a goodbye to its antagonists in the most cringe-worthy and logic-infuriating methods to storytelling that missed their mark tragically. Wesker’s ending in particularly was the final gasp of hope that left my body for a once prosperous saga of video game adaptation.

The Last Chapter for Resident Evil is a welcome one because it displays just how off-the-mark the series has twist and turned from being a simply admirable zombie epic through the streets of Raccoon City. If you’ve held on for this long, I can imagine that the passionate fans of this story will like this movie all the same, but Anderson’s latest lacks any real bite to grab the attention of new audience, and The Last Chapter will go unread for plenty of fans who found the antidote to Paul’s stretching of liberties years ago.

3/10

XXX: Return of Xander Cage

The return of XXX means one thing; looking good while saving the day is certainly no crime. In XXX: The Return of Xander Cage, the third installment in the series, Extreme athlete turned government operative Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), thought to be long dead, comes out of self-imposed exile as recruited by the CIA to race villain Xiang (Donnie Yen) to recover a powerful weapon known as “Pandora’s Box” which can control military satellites which could cause catastrophic damage. Recruiting a group of thrill-seeking cohorts (a sharpshooter and a hacker), Xander finds himself caught up in a deadly conspiracy of corruption among world governments including insiders in his own country’s government. The movie is directed by D.J Caruso and is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of gunplay and violent action, and for sexual material and language.

For anyone who was asking for a direct Vin Diesel sequel to the 2002 failure XXX, fifteen years later feels like the right time and place to remember what was so terribly tragic about this franchise to begin with. Return of Xander Cage arrives in the thick of January to compete with films like The Bye Bye Man and Monster Trucks for early favorite honors on the worst film of 2017. For a movie that prides itself on being extreme and going against the rules, a PG-13 rating should tell you everything that you need to know about how rebellious that this movie can get. If there is one positive, it is that creatively this movie doesn’t feel like a sequel of the same movie that took itself far too seriously, many moons ago. The movie is ridiculous and it’s incredibly self-aware of that fact, so there is great possibilities in sitting back and not treating this movie like the same James Bond films that it tries to spoof with a modern edge. In summarizing this movie, I disperse my experience using a formula that I call the three I’s to relate the true debauchery and waste of an opportunity that this movie was to produce at least a humorous sit to gravity and screenwriting.

The first I is for immaturity. To say that this script feels like it was written by an adolescent, is the understatement of the year. While fifteen years has been tacked onto the age of our shovanist protagonist, it seems that is mental stability seems to be going backwards with how he treats women and antagonists alike. Diesel has always been a solid action movie presence for me, but what doesn’t work about his roles as Xander Cage is that he lacks even a shred of vulnerability. If he never feels fear or conflict, how can we as an audience invest in his struggle? If this wasn’t enough, he sleeps with no fewer than ten women in the opening fifteen minutes of this movie. It’s called solid story building…..yeah right. Then there’s the dialogue, which made me cringe so hard that I nearly broke my pointless 3D glasses. One such example is when Diesel utters to a group of females “It’s time to get down to the thick of it”. Only a man child who is living out his unfulfilled fantasies of being a pimp would find this humorous. I can usually laugh through such muck, but this was so terribly underwritten that I found myself getting angrier by the minute.

The second I is for impatience. This is evident in the character building that feels like it’s quickly becoming a trend among Hollywood bombs like Suicide Squad and Yoga Hosers. Every time a new character is introduced, instead of carefully constructing their traits in personalities, the movie instead rushes everything along by halting the process so we can read a five second character file that does nothing to explain why they were chosen for the XXX mission. One such crew member is a DJ. This guy literally does nothing dangerous throughout the movie, nor does he play records during the final confrontation, so why even have him as a character? The subplots (If you can call them that) too struggle brutally, with the story moving so fast that if you miss even the slightest detail, you will wonder what happened. Characters change sides, conflict arcs never reach their potential, and plenty of missed opportunities at creating something valuable for the audience to take home is missed in careless wrecklessness. There is also a surprise cameo with about fifteen minutes left in the movie, that the last trailer spoiled for everybody. To say this is a surprise is stretching it a bit because if you never saw the direct-to-video sequel from 2005, and I’m guessing a majority of fans didn’t, this surprise will mean very little to you in terms of the XXX saga. If you do follow this correctly, then using this person for the final fifteen minutes is another strong reminder of how little patience or effectiveness that screenwriter F Scott Frazier has for this continuance.

The final I is for Implausibility, a staple of the XXX franchise. Look, I can get past how insanely ridiculous the thought of raising X-gamers to be Central Intelligence spies is, but what takes it to another level is when this movie so articulately debates the laws of physics without even a shred of backlash. An example of such feats comes in skateboarding off of the side of a moving bus, water-skiing with a motorbike, and my personal favorite; finding your running balance on a car that is moving fast at you. At this point in modern action movies, I guess we should just go with the fact that anything is possible. Perhaps for Vin Diesel’s next movie he can strap a rocket on a pool stick and ride it to the moon. I mentioned earlier how there is no vulnerability to this character, and that goes double for machines and automobiles, because there’s never a moment when Xander even sweats at something headed full speed at him. Also, the very concept of a Macbook that has the power to take down every satellite in space requires some suspension of disbelief. If you believe the world’s central powers are this easy to hack, then surely someone would’ve already done it by now. The film never explains how it can do such a thing, it just does. This black box pops up out of nowhere and magically has this capability. If it has existed and wasn’t manufactured by some computer genius recently, how come nobody else has tried to steal it? Because movie convenience, that’s why.

Not everything is a flaw in this movie however, as the film has some solid stunt work, as well as fight choreography that tastefully remind the viewer that this is an action-first movie. Donnie Yen is a strong addition to this cast, and his couple of violent dances rain down brutality hard on the audience that are thirsty for some semblance of what this movie once was in 2002. Xander’s stunt work also deserves kudos for the many different location settings that he explores with inducing anxiety on the audience. It’s clearly obvious that Diesel isn’t performing his own stunts here, most notably because the stunt man who is portraying him has a head that is far too light-skinned, as well as drops about forty pounds magically from one frame to another. However, the fast-paced cuts and shooting style to this movie at least present a capable enough presentation when the screenplay is aiming completely off of its mark.

Overall, the Return of Xander Cage is an unnecessary and at often times uninspiring sequel that plants its feet firmly on the January film docket that keeps jabbing after all of these years. If this were a comedy, it would succeed on the grounds that it is simply too ridiculous to take seriously. As it stands, the XXX franchise feels like it’s finally out of octane, a fact that is evident by how much time has passed since our last Xander pleasure. Lets hope even more time passes.

4/10

Live By Night

Ben Affleck returns to the silver screen to write, direct, star and anything else, in Live By Night. Boston, 1926. The ’20s are roaring. Liquor is flowing, bullets are flying, and one man sets out to make his mark on the world. Prohibition has given rise to an endless network of underground distilleries, speakeasies, gangsters, and corrupt cops. Joe Coughlin, the youngest son of a prominent Boston police captain, has long since turned his back on his strict and proper upbringing. Now having graduated from a childhood of petty theft to a career in the pay of the city’s most fearsome mobsters, Joe enjoys the spoils, thrills, and notoriety of being an outlaw. But life on the dark side carries a heavy price. Beyond money and power, even the threat of prison, one fate seems most likely for men like Joe: an early death. Joe embarks on a dizzying journey up the ladder of organized crime that takes him from the flash of Jazz Age Boston to the sensual shimmer of Tampa’s Latin Quarter to the sizzling streets of Cuba. Live By Night is rated R for for strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity.

After seeing the trailers for Live By Night, I was on the edge of my seat for a powder-keg of bullet-ridden mayhem for this period piece. Affleck has proven himself as a solid director, with The Town and Argo, so the man certainly knows what it takes to shoot powerfully gripping action. What surprised me however, is that film is not what you get here, instead opting for a dramatic offering of gangster life and prohibition during the roaring 20’s. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy Live By Night, but after sitting through it, I can confidently say that its misfires do make this Affleck’s least favorable film of his early work behind the camera. With much honesty, my interpretation is that Affleck has worn himself slightly too thin for this production, as one of his three responsibilities don’t quite reach as far as the other two. More on that later. Live By Night feels like the victim of a ruthless slaughter by a studio that was destined to make this into their kind of movie, while the writer had something completely different in mind. Evidence of that is made apparent during some jarringly noticeable plot holes throughout the movie that always miss their mark being that the audience isn’t involved in the topic at hand, resulting in some sloppy desperation for storytelling.

In that regards, what Affleck does charm at as a writer is being faithful to this time and era when the world was still changing post-war, and it does invite the audience on a rather insightful and original side to the gangster way of living. This is very much a story about business and the importance of making yourself something more than just another hitman who takes lives instead of gives them, and Affleck’s character in the movie prides himself on the latter with running a successful bootlegging business, as well as aspiring to be the first licensed gambling establishment in South Florida. The film’s two hour run time has some sluggish moments, but quickly picks up if you can wrap your interest around these characters who always feel more dangerous than they’re letting on. Live By Night thrives on the feel that this is very much a paradise where law enforcement doesn’t exist, and so much of what we see doesn’t have to be done under the table with a salesman like Affleck at the helm. I can say that for 2/3 of this movie, I was glued to the screen because it felt like it was constantly building for something bigger that was to take place right around the corner.

The final half hour does generously feed our need for bullets and blood to fly after being deprived for so much of the movie, but I feel like it was the wrong time and place for this to happen. So much unfurls towards the end of the movie, complete with characters making abrupt and unnatural motivation changes with no telegraphing. Surprising? Yes. Logical? Not quite. It feels like Affleck’s script starts to run out of gas when it realizes this moment that it has been building for has been tip-toed around, and because of it, a lot changes quickly with our characters and plots that make them shadows of who we once knew. The second ending of this movie was actually the better situational ending for me, and I wish more time was dedicated to that aspect and the heart punch that it delivered. All in all though, I can’t say that the story ever bored or delayed me from what it eventually gave. The ending is satisfying enough, even if some of its layers come quite literally out of nowhere, making us wonder what we missed along the way.

Affleck once again far exceeds expectations visually, with his strongest cinematic work of his early directing career. This is very much a success in terms of gorgeously luxurious backdrops, as well as wardrobe design that articulately conveys the very fashions and cultures of this era in time. The suits are thick, the dresses are flimsy, and the romantic backdrops are aplenty. For Affleck to accurately depict two different areas of the geographical map that couldn’t be any different in climate and civilization is an achievement to his artistic merit. Ben’s capabilities far exceeds his reach of experience behind the camera, and at this point there is no project that shouldn’t be greenlit with Batman himself sitting in the directors chair. My favorite style choices for his cinematic work were that of some beautifully detailed revolving shots early on in the movie, as well as the symbolic framing that he uses for Elle Fanning’s character during her sermon of lost followers to relate the feeling and aggravations with religion. Ben’s efforts and designs pushed Live By Night slightly further when it was being downgraded by some aspects of the production that were less than thrilling.

That brings me to the performances that were as a whole sadly underwhelming. Nobody is terrible in this movie, but with the exception of two supporting cast members, this movie never reached its emotionally climax with the underwriting that most of them endure. Zoe Saldana and Siena Miller are practically wasted as the two love interests for Affleck. This is clearly Ben’s movie, but their lack of involvement with our protagonist always makes their chemistry with him that much more difficult to read, and this script definitely could’ve used more of both. Affleck himself feels very reserved and almost busy to ever open up to us the audience on the more than one occasion he experiences conflict. Ben plays Joe a little too cool for too long, and it makes his lack of vulnerability at times underwhelming as a whole for his character. The only two that I thought made the most of their minimal screen time was that of Chris Cooper as the police chief of Tampa, and Elle Fanning as his troubled daughter who turns to God after some second act reveals that serve to work in Affleck’s favor. Fanning is very much again the same hypnotizing figure that she was in The Neon Demon last year, and a lot of that is because of her emotionless stare that constantly feels like it’s burning a hole in her prey. She feels threatening without conveying her menace, and they certainly don’t make many actresses like her. Cooper has always been one of the best hidden secrets to any film that he joins, but here we see the brutal unfolding of a once prosperous town figure who is changing for the worst with the times. Cooper’s interaction with Affleck made for some of the very best scenes of the movie, and it serves as a testament to Chris’s polished routine to feed off of any personality that he bounces off of. Cooper and Fanning are the very glow that keeps the movie lit, and their work definitely shouldn’t be underplayed here.

Live By Night balks at the action grouping that it received in a pulse-setting trailer that underplays its true value as a dramatic period piece. It proves that even the most beautiful places have dangerous consequences, and the climax of faith and sin are always destined to meet on a one-way track. Affleck dazzles behind the chair, producing illuminating beauty in some truly breathtaking backdrops and faithful approaches to style that overshadow some holes in plot and underwhelming performances. Merely a footnote in cinematic mob stories, but one that deserves a chance from fans of Ben.

6/10

Monster Trucks

A youthful mechanic changes truck racing for the stranger extraterrestrial, in Monster Trucks. Looking for any way to get away from the life and town he was born into, Tripp (Lucas Till), a high school senior and loner, builds a Monster Truck from bits and pieces of scrapped cars. After a freak accident at a nearby oil-drilling site displaces a strange and subterranean creature with a taste and a talent for speed, Tripp may have just found the key to getting out of his dead-end town and a most unlikely friend in a flexible alien who is able to bend and distort his body to fit into Tripp’s newest gas-fueled hog. Monster Trucks is directed by Chris Wedge, and is rated PG for action, peril, brief scary imagery, and some rude humor.

What kind of positive product can you design with 125 million dollars? Quite simply, a Masterpiece. When you look at some of the biggest action thrillers of the last few years, most of them don’t even come close to that ridiculous figure. So what does Monster Trucks have to restore our faith in the American dollar? It turns out not much at all. This is very much a wasted effort on nearly every end of the theatrical spectrum, despite a big name cast that somehow got roped into this charity project against their will. Could that be the answer to the big 125 million dollar question? Did Rob Lowe, Danny Glover or Barry Pepper make the biggest payday of their lives to sell their souls to a higher power? It would certainly justify the theory, because there’s very little positive or reaping reward to this laughably bad project that Chris Wedge has manifested. Monster Trucks feels like 90’s cheese at its piping hottest, and that predictable formula for subplots and animal co-stars that were the hit twenty years ago has managed to find a place again in modern cinema, despite waning interest in it. This was a movie that sat on the shelf for nearly four years after its production wrapped, and it’s clearly evident in nearly every area of the movie that can’t even hit a foul ball off of an underhanded pitch.

The cast is mind-blowing. I mentioned earlier about the trio of actors that got plucked from their respectable careers for something like this, and sadly the juice doesn’t justify the squeeze with any of them, because they are such a small part to this movie. One of the two positives that I had for this film is that it is a pretty solid, albeit terribly miscast ensemble, and there’s certainly some fun to be had for these actors figuratively hurling gas on the fire that was once their careers. When I think of miscasting, I think of actors who are in roles that they have no business being in. One fine example is Rob Lowe as a Southern accent oil tycoon who shows up when he wants to make a paycheck. Lowe is seriously in the movie for about ten total minutes, and the film decides to cast a new villain along the way because of his lack of involvement in the script. How about the other side of the conflict? Lucas Till (26) and Jane Levy (27) are the central protagonists for the movie. Both of them playing high-schoolers against a backdrop of young faces and children that had me laughing every time they cut to a school shot. Thankfully, the school is only shown twice in the movie, otherwise my laughter would’ve ruined a movie for a lot of people. To even try to suspend disbelief in thinking that these two are high-schoolers is absolutely unthinkable. I could see if Till’s character was a moron and maybe got held back ten years in a row, but his character is beyond intelligent with the things he does with automobiles. One of the tremendously awful lines of dialogue in the movie is Levy’s character reacting in shock, “Wow!! You are smart”. Levy looks like Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed. If this is feasible on this planet, then surely they could’ve cast Ellen Burstyn or Helen Mirren. Why not?

Then there’s the story. If there’s one positive that I have to say for this aspect, it’s that the movie does have personality. There were times where I forgot what I was watching and got some occurances where I could laugh AT the movie. This is still a negative of sorts because nobody likes their work to be laughed at, but the fact that I could get something out of a bad movie is what will always separate it from the worst of the worst. Other than this, there’s never a moment when you forget that this is a kids movie because implausible scenarios are everywhere. Lets forget for a moment that a monster who can barely move can command a car. Lets think more about the fact that he smashes through walls and cars by himself without any machine, then we are asked to believe that his siblings can be held prisoner by being stuffed in plastic hampers with very little structure or security. HUH? Lets follow that up by talking about how the trucks never fall apart despite jumping on buildings or off of mountains. Not to take away from the 90s aspect however, with a pointless subplot of a school bully who only shows up a few times to spout lines like “That truck looks like a truck took a dump……yeah, that’s what it looks like”. This kid isn’t a central antagonist or anything, it’s just to remind you that this is a high-school story even after you’ve already disbanded it as anything but. So what is the villain’s motivation you ask? Well it’s a big, bad oil company that has no motivation what so ever to see these monsters dead. They could just continue drilling oil and making a fortune, but the movie needs them to be bad and hunt these creatures down, so we can have some kind of conflict. I’ve got a headache.

I couldn’t possibly write this review though, without the visuals that scream 125 million dollars. The 3D is one of the most pointless additions that I have ever endured. There’s nothing of any eye-popping or visual beauty to justify its existence, so my theory is they added it to try to chip away at making back some more of that massive budget. This movie also has severe continuity constraints that proves even the production team couldn’t take this seriously. One fine example of the many is the introduction scene between Till’s character and the monster, where the latter is seconds away from being smashed by a junk yard grinder. The monster escapes, the grinder goes all the way down, and in the very next scene, the grinder is back up top to its starting position. Think that’s the kicker? think again. The next shot shows the grinder all the way down in crushing position paused, which means only a button press could launch it back up. What were they thinking? The CGI though, is perhaps my biggest flaw with the movie. I can give them a round of applause for at least rendering the color and shadow of the creatures accordingly to match the backdrops and human co-stars faithfully. It only took 125 million dollars, but what the hell. My problem is more about hit detection for these computer animated slugs. One thing that I like to do with CGI characters is see the reaction to the live action things they touch and interact with. Take the monster touching Till’s t-shirt, and how there’s no imprint or wrinkle to convey that it is being touched. Lets go bigger. Take the dirt surface of the junkyard when one of the tentacles of the monster is being dragged along it. Is there a line in the dirt to show his interaction? NO!!! of course not. Apparently this monster has no feel to it because its physicality is non existent amongst the things it touches. Treating kids like idiots since the early 20th century.

Monster Trucks isn’t the worst 90 minutes that I’ve spent over the last few months, but it does remind me why I shutter every time I think about January and the horrors that it beholds from effortless voids like this one. This monster clearly has no teeth to its material or production, and Wedge’s film was better left in the 2014 closet where it belonged, free from destroying the careers of Till and Levy who could do better work in their sleep. But as far as spending goes, Monster Trucks is a far better way to burn through 125 million dollars than say giving to a charity or building something great. I found thirty of it, but were still looking for the other ninety-five.

3/10

Sleepless

A dirty Vegas cop gets burned by a former associate in the ransom deal of a lifetime. “Sleepless” stars Jamie Foxx as undercover Las Vegas police officer Vincent Downs, who is caught in a high stakes web of corrupt cops and the mob-controlled casino underground with his partner Derrick Griffin (T.I). When a heist goes wrong, a crew of homicidal gangsters kidnaps Downs’ and wife Gabby’s (Gabrielle Union) teenage son. In one sleepless night he will have to rescue his son, evade an internal affairs investigation led by the straight-shooting Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) and bring the kidnappers to justice in a race against the clock. Sleepless is directed by Baran Bo Odar, and is rated R for strong violence and adult language throughout.

Sleepless tries to model itself after the 90’s deceptive crime thrillers like Wild Things and Basic, while trying to push a modern approach to the mob drama. The end result crafts a Frankenstein experiment that surprised even me, as I found it to be not entirely a terrible experience. To go even further, for the first hour of Odar’s film, I was having the time of my life, not taking the narrative too seriously enough to override what was transpiring on screen. This is a movie with very little exposition or character development to open up the movie, so I found myself resorting to great levels of patience in waiting for something groundbreaking to pay off, and while this isn’t a movie that I would confidently recommend, I can say that it is a bullet-riddled night in Sin City that never slows down or lets its foot off the pedal. That is until the final act of the movie where (like those 90s thrillers I mentioned earlier) the ending feels convoluted and cluttered with twists that lose their value because of their abundance. To say that I saw 95% of the twists coming, would be an understatement. They were easy to call, not only because of a trailer that reveals far too much, but because the actors playing these specific characters always play vilains in all of their other movie roles. A.K.A, the Gary Oldman rule of the 90s.

As far as locations go though, I don’t think there’s a better choice than the beautiful neon decals of Las Vegas itself. This is a movie who’s central theme is a city overrun with dirty cops, so what a wonderful choice it is to cast the backdrop as the same place where sin and betrayal are a commodity to money and power? It sounds cliche anymore to mention this, but Selfless is yet another movie where the city itself becomes a character in this story, complete with Odar offering no shortage of long-angle transitional shots of the beautiful landscapes on the strip. This style in presentation, as well as an ominous musical score composed by Michael Kamm. In only his third big screen composition, Kamm’s organ-heavy sounds gave me a striking similarity to Johann Johansson and all of his work in Denis Vilenueve films. In fact, Sleepless as a whole reminds me of a movie where Odar might have watched Sicario a time too many, as the similarities in production quality and cinematography are certainly there. I’m not saying Sleepless is anywhere near the quality of Sicario, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all.

The action and editing are best when they are well-reserved, and unfortunately this is another example of how the movie falls apart by the climatic finale. During the first hour of the movie, the characters feel very vulnerable to their actions and deceptions, and the attitude and aura in the air give it that crisp feeling of real life quality. By the ending though, we have been through parking lot chases that make it difficult for any adult to crawl, let alone walk out of, characters dodging death after massive car crashes, and one character going through the slowest blood wound that I have ever seen. How this person doesn’t bleed out a half hour in with the size of this wound is beyond me, but its kind of left forgotten like the other plot conveniences in the movie. As far as positives go, the editing is very quick-cut and paced accordingly, without ever feeling rushed or sloppy in the transition shots. The fight sequences triumph without needing any cheesy sound effects to get their pain across, and the makeup work is quite exceptional for a movie with a budget of 30 million dollars, most of which going to the detailed chase sequences.

I mentioned earlier that the film’s overindulgence of plot twists kept it from just getting over the passing grade for me, and it all felt unnecessary to the compelling story and attitude that the film already positively bestowed for itself. The final half hour of the movie feels like it finally bought into the same movies that it may or may not have been spoofing, and that settling for mediocrity is a shame because Sleepless has so much to say not only about primal motivations, but of dealings in the world itself. The very last shot of the movie at least sent me home with a positive, as I think it is genius to leave some matters in this story left wide open and not settling for the cookie-cutter finish that all films are handicapped to. It feels valuable to social commentary without ever feeling like sequel-bate, something that I have severe doubts about since I am concerned that this movie will even make back its budget.

Performances like Jamie Foxx and Michelle Monaghan’s always lifted their flimsy characters to new heights, putting everything they have into their deliveries. Monaghan is the single best aspect of this movie. In Jennifer Bryant, we grasp a female ass-kicker who has clearly spent too much time in a profession with law deceivers. She has built a career on busting those who swore an oath, and her character never settles for anything less than going down swinging. This was a refreshing take for Monaghan, and I hope she can keep taking roles for action movies, instead of the crappy romantic films that have plagued her filmography. Foxx is terrific, offering a complex character who we don’t always relate to. As Vincent, there’s A lot that Foxx toes the line with morally, but there isn’t a better pair of eyes throughout the movie to stick with, as Jamie is every bit as passionate in emotional delivery as he is relentless in reaching the finish line. The rivalry between he and Monaghan is something I simply couldn’t get enough of, and I’m thankful they never reduced it to just another forced love interest. Even the supporting roles by Dermot Mulroney, David Harbour, and Scoot McNairy chilled on both sides of the moral coin. Harbour and McNairy join forces again after 2014’s A Walk Among the Tombstones, and it’s clear that both actors have grown into dependable supporting cast mates in a field of big name heavy-hitters. McNairy in particular delivers satisfaction in an antagonist mob boss’s son who takes a piece of his victims with him after every failed transaction. It’s can’t miss cult-like chills.

Sleepless wasn’t quite the positive that I was looking for, but the infectious fun in another crime story set in an appropriate place and time, gave me more than enough to praise for this movie critically than I may have if I wasn’t forced to sit down and endure it. For a rental, this is about as safe as you can get for popcorn action, and the dramatically dark narrative reminds you early that you have stumbled into a world where the rules don’t apply to any profession.

5/10