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by on Mar.19, 2017, under Movie Reviews

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Undivided is available on iTunes, Amazon, Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Prime!

by on Mar.19, 2017, under Movie Reviews

Is now available! Check it out online through Vimeo On Demand before it comes out everywhere else!

Undivided on Vimeo on Demand

AVAILABLE NOW ON:
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Eagles of Death Metal: Non Amis (Our Friends)

by on Mar.19, 2017, under Movie Reviews

eagles of death metal non amisDirected by Colin Hanks, this documentary offers an inside, heartbreaking look into the tragic terrorist attack in Paris at the Bataclan concert hall during a show by the Eagles of Death Metal a little over a year ago. 89 people were killed in the theater, 368 were inujred, 130 total died in what was an act of murder and hate. This film is about not only what happened that night but how the band returned to Paris to perform for the survivors after this horrific incident.

The doc starts with some backstory in terms of how the band formed as a bond between two close friends who both used music as both catharsis and a form of expression. Those friends being Jesse Hughes (guitar and lead vocals) along with Josh Homme who is on drums. If you’re not familiar with Josh, he’s the rock star of the two as some of his credits include Kyuss and most notably Queens of the Stone Age. Both have been best buds since fending off bullies in high school and remain tight to this day. Their friendship is part of the spine of the story and is one of the elements that keeps you glued to the screen as everything plays out.

Interviews with the band, their crew and their friends along with people who attended the concert fill in all the brutal details. It’s compelling to listen to while scary and very sad all at once. To hear it in such a specific way from each person’s standpoint, it’s like they all had their own version of the same horror movie that none of them could escape.

There are uplifting moments here too, and thank God for it. After listening to what happened, I found myself angry and desperately wanting something good to be in here somewhere. Luckily, the end of the film ties up with the band returning to Paris after help and encouragement from their fans and from U2 who stepped up to show their support in the face of malice and intimidation. The calls to action from the people who rallied both in the band and around them are a big inspiration and should be both celebrated and shared as a sign of hope for others.

As hard as this film is to watch, I’m sure I’m going to watch it again, and again.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Logan

by on Mar.12, 2017, under Movie Reviews

loganLogan is one of those rare films that comes along and re-defines a genre. In the case of Logan it’s moreso a drama and less so a movie about superheroes. This time, mutants just happen to be part of the character landscape but they’re kind of forgotten about or treated matter of factly as the timeline is set in 2029. Without the pressure of having to create spectacle, the story is allowed to breathe and becomes much deeper and richer in emotion and tone than previously seen in the genre.

Tied in with the old man Logan version of the Wolverine comic, this film is about the end of the road in a number of ways. I won’t reveal spoilers but one ending here is Hugh Jackman playing the role he played so well for 17 years. I recently saw a retrospective on all the films he’s been part of and it’s pretty awesome to watch and see how he naturally aged with the character and how it all ties together so well.

They’re really going for it on this one, that’s why it’s rated R. So if you’re a parent, think twice about taking your little one to see this one, it’s not for kids, it’s really not. The film is really violent and does not hold back on the language either. Even Prof. X drops in some F-bombs. Speaking of which, the way Xavier is written and delivered is unique, challenging and rewarding to behold…

In regard to the performances – Jackman and Patrick Stewart have never been better. They both portray their characters with more depth and range than in their younger days. Now, both of them are vulnerable, scared, and not so the confident, strong badasses we’ve seen before. Their deliveries in this film is one of the things that kept me glued to every frame of it. Jackman is passionate and seems like the world is just falling out beneath him while Stewart’s Prof. X deteriorates mentally in front of him as he suffers from a degenerative brain disease.

That was another cool thing about this film. The way they did portray the mutant’s powers seems more organic and natural while even more powerful and volatile somehow. You’ll see what I mean when Xavier has a mental episode as that doesn’t work out so well for people anywhere nearby.

If you’re one of these whiners that bitches and moans about they’re never being a “real” Wolverine film (sorry but The Wolverine was a definitive film for the character), Logan should make you shut the hell up about it already, bub.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Tickled

by on Mar.05, 2017, under Movie Reviews

tickledCompelling. Unique. Original. Strange. These are all words I would use to describe the documentary Tickled. Directors David Farrier and Dylan Reeve present this bizarre story of how an innocent enough investigation into competitive tickling evolved into an expose on intimidation, public humiliation, hacking and legal threats.

Competitive tickling you say? Yep, it’a a thing. Sort of. But you have to watch who get involved with as there are some sites that promote tickling as an innocent enough fetish alongside something like say a foot fetish. But then, there’s Jane Media and David D’Amato (who has denied all involvement with Jane Media I should add here so he doesn’t bully and threaten me litigiously as he has others). Farrier and Reeve discover Jane through their investigation of this “sport” as an organization that pays big bucks for young men to tie each other up and then get tickled on video.

Initially, the men sign up, make some money and then sometimes that’s it. But it doesn’t always work out so well for the participants where a number of these videos have ended up online to ruin the lives of the guys who join up once they decide that they don’t want to do it anymore. Essentially, they get bullied and threatened when they stop making the videos for Jane and that’s one of the things that drew the filmmakers in to dig further.

You have to really see this one to believe how deep it goes and how strange it gets. The filmmakers are based in New Zealand and after many legal threats telling them to shut down the documentary, they forge on and take the risk of coming to the states to track down the source that’s issuing the letters that are telling them to cease and desist. The long trail does lead to the source I mentioned above and how they get there keeps you tuned in the whole time.

Would definitely encourage a screening of Tickled.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

 

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The Nice Guys

by on Feb.26, 2017, under Movie Reviews

the nice guysSet in 1970s Los Angeles (but shot in Georgia ironically) The Nice Guys pays homage to the detective/buddy cop flicks of the same era. Written and directed by Shane Black and starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling you’d think this would’ve been a sure fire hit but the film fell pretty shy of its $50M budget. Let’s see what happened…

Crowe and Gosling play competing PIs who team up on the same missing person case. Crowe is the heavy who mostly has his shit together where Gosling plays the charmed goofball / comic relief guy who’s also a lousy father and brings his daughter to crime scenes instead of getting a babysitter. The story revolves around the death of a porn star and a missing person on the run who knows too much.

While the setup of the story is pretty good and the film has some solid moments, it suffers from a series of “are you serious?” number of moments. One such moment includes a struggle for a gun that results in a neighbor getting killed and there’s no mention of it after it happens. It’s a really bizarre kind of insert into an action scene. I think it was supposed to be funny the way it was presented but it comes off tragic and dismissive. The film has a strange sense of humor sometimes that don’t seem to really hit the mark. Then there’s the believability of the head of the justice department and her motivations. I don’t’ want to give up any spoilers so you’ll have to see the film to see why I question the validity of her intentions.

The production of the film looks great, the wardrobe, sets, cars, everything hits the 70s on the head. It was fun to look at the various marquees and signs to see the listings of that time. The music is fun and authentic too as were the parties featured in the movie. It’s a shame some of the writing and directing is what ultimately kind of hurts The Nice Guys along with too much presence of Gosling’s daughter’s character. She got kind of annoying after a while.

The cast includes Kim Basinger, Angourie Rice, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, and Gil Gerard.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Hail, Caesar!

by on Feb.19, 2017, under Movie Reviews

hail caesarHail, Caesar! is the latest offering from the Coen Brothers who brought us classics like No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Fargo and The Big Lebowski. The film is set in the 50s during the golden age of Hollywood and centers around a “fixer” (which is kind of another name for producer these days) who is trying to keep a studio together while dealing with erratic talent, a kidnapping, and a plot by some disgruntled writers.

The film itself is fun enough but doesn’t quite capture the magic of some of their other releases. In other words, for a Coen film, it’s kinda average which makes it a decent regular film by conventional standards but not a home run. The story itself is ok, with some interesting nods to the paranoia of the entertainment industry at that time as well as to the eccentric behavior that talent is often associated with. However, the dialog and action are not super compelling or exciting but rather run-of-the-mill. There are the occasional unexpected elements here and there but nothing as captivating or surreal as The Big Lebowski. And quite frankly, the ending is sudden and boring.

The actors are fun to watch, George Clooney shows some range, especially when he’s getting pushed around by Josh Brolin. A couple other pleasant surprises include Tilda Swinton playing the smarmy twin writers modeled after Dear Abby / Ann Landers and Channing Tatum showing off his song and dance skills. The film has a helluva lineup featuring Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill, and Alden Ehrenreich.

If you’re a Coen fan, you should probably give this a whirl and see what you think. If you’re not familiar with their work, don’t start with this one, there are better offerings from the Coens.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Cloud Atlas

by on Feb.12, 2017, under Movie Reviews

cloud atlasMultiple intertwined stories from different timelines told simultaneously with numerous actors playing various parts. Confused yet? Yep, me too. I was able to follow along but due to the ambitious nearly 3 hour length of the film, I found myself not caring much towards the end. While clearly an intensive endeavor for everyone involved, they seem to overreach on this one and end up with an exhausting, confusing mess that keeps changing the minute you get a handle on what’s happening only to offer that same formula repeatedly.

Presented by The Wachowskis (from The Matrix trilogy), Cloud Atlas is marked as one of the most expensive independent films of all time. It’s also unfortunately one of the biggest flops as well. It’s a shame, but I see why as while I appreciate the challenge that was undertaken with this project, its delivery is where it falls short of what could’ve been a compelling presentation. I think my biggest complaint is how often it changes from one scene to the other. The problem isn’t just the scene change but the way you change to a whole different character with a different storyline in a different time period, which happens a lot. Every time you connect with what’s going on, you’re thrown off-balance by another scene switch.

There is such a thing as over thinking a film and over-intellectualizing the process in terms of how you deliver it. Cloud Atlas is a perfect example of this (with a $100M price tag). The filmmakers obviously didn’t consider how the audience would experience this and there was a disconnect there that I would guess they’re still licking their wounds from.

The lineup is truly impressive and there are some great deliveries here. However, I saw some instances of what felt like the actors were spreading themselves thin at times. Tom Hanks seemed a little worn down trying different dialects that weren’t always super intelligible. The writing was something that influenced this but other actors played it a bit straighter which seemed to help maintain strong deliveries. Hanks appeared to be trying a little too hard here and there. Halle Berry is hit or miss at times throughout too. The 2 actors I thought were strongest were Jim Broadbent and Hugo Weaving. You have to give credit to all the talented people who played multiple roles here, that’s a challenge no matter what level you’re at. The cast includes Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Keith David, James D’Arcy, and Ben Whishaw.

If you’ve got the endurance and like to challenge yourself, you might want to check it out.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

by on Feb.05, 2017, under Movie Reviews

resident evil the final chapterResident Evil: The Final Chapter (kinda sorta, but not entirely) picks up where the last film left off with Alice as one of the last survivors of humanity left behind to face the legions of undead that have engulfed the planet thanks to the t-virus courtesy of Umbrella. This installment is supposed to be the one that finishes the Alice series with Milla Jovovich as the lead.

The story is ok but more just an excuse to break up the action as there is tons of action. There were some interesting surprises within the final arcs of the characters while filling in more backstory on Alice, Hive and the Red Queen. Wesker surfaces too but he doesn’t play too big of a part in this one. Everything wraps in an average way, which was disappointing, I was hoping they would really go for it but they played it safe.

The action saturates the film to the point where it starts to get routine and predictable even while each scene is trying to one-up itself from one sequence to the next. Another issue is the constant shaky-cam, which is a vehicle used to save money so they don’t have to spend as much of the budget on wider action shots. Unfortunately, it becomes detrimental in many of the scenes it’s supposed to intensify. The use of this kind of camera work is way overused here and becomes a crutch and a distraction throughout the film.

In terms of effects, they’re mostly done well but do look CG at times, especially the larger scale scenes. The series is running out of steam and hopefully this marks the end of the productions just trying to get bigger and bigger. If there’s ever been a series that is in need of a re-boot or re-envisioning, it’s this one. Personally, I’d take it back to its horror roots and strip it down with a strong story and passionate actors.

Speaking of actors, there’s some phoning it in taking place and conventional deliveries with noone offering any surprises or that much heart in what they’re doing. Sadly even Milla looks like she’s posing more than she is coming from any place of emotional authenticity. The lineup includes Iain Glen, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Eoin Macken and Ruby Rose.

Overall, I’m glad that this might be the last one…

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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The Impossible

by on Jan.29, 2017, under Movie Reviews

the impossibleThe Impossible is based on the true story of an unfortunate/extremely fortunate family that was on vacation in Thailand when it was hit by a tsunami in 2004. I say unfortunate/extremely fortunate because they had to go through such a terrible experience but that they all survived it. There were numerous families that didn’t survive or that lost members from this tragic event…

The film is told in a very compelling way with the opening of the film revealing the family on vacation at a beach front resort for Christmas. There’s some minor backstory revealed here and there to establish character but the main event is when the wave hits. You hear stories of such things and you see the footage afterward but the way the film delivers what it might have been like is truly extraordinary. And to see how everyone hit by the wave was just carried away and pounded with debris like glass, cars (not kidding, cars), street signs, etc. was terrifying.

Naomi Watts plays Maria, the mother of the family and she apparently had the worst injuries, especially to her legs. Don’t forget the circumstances here, not only were her injuries grave but everyone and everything was effected by this devastating wave, which means hospitals, ambulances, medical staff and so on. The family was separated multiple times throughout this chaotic experience in a country where english isn’t the primary language. That alone can be intimidating but then work in 3 young boys into the equation too.

Suffice it to say, you should see the film and let it stand on its own. The whole thing is crafted with expertise, care and passion. From the engaging script to the powerful delivery of the actors to the outstanding design and effects, the film is top-notch all the way. It’s hard to watch at times due to the realistic nature of it and the trials that the survivors had to go through to make it out alive. I found myself glad the film was over but relieved for the ones that made it.

The cast just nails this one and includes Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland (the new Spiderman!), Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast. Directed by J.A. Bayona.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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