Archive for August, 2016

War Dogs

by on Aug.28, 2016, under Movie Reviews

war dogsInspired by real events, War Dogs centers around two American men in their 20s who end up as arms dealers for the US military. Yep, that’s right, these guys sold weapons and ammo to our very own armed forces. The film goes on to explain how this came to pass but let’s just say it boiled down to bullshit, contacts and some research on the internet. Ultimately, everything went south for our intrepid entrepreneurs when they sold Uncle Sam a bunch of bullets made in China which is so not cool to our government.

Jonah Hill and Miles Teller portray Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz who sort of stumble into the world of weapons surplus and sales. I wasn’t sure I would find the film interesting based on the premise but I was pleasantly surprised to find the movie entertaining and well-paced. The locations bounce around between the states and more extreme locales in the middle-east. It’s a wonder these guys were never killed and left for dead in the desert somewhere considering how out their element they were. It’s also a wonder that the government doesn’t do more homework on who they’re getting their armaments from.

The script and dialog are tight as is the directing of the film. Bradley Cooper plays a supporting role and is also listed as one of the producers in the credits. The way the film plays out to its conclusion I thought was satisfying and surprising from the statistics presented at the end. It’s hard to imagine that you can sell illegal weapons, get caught and go to jail, only to get out and go back into business again doing the same thing. Yet, there’s more excessive punishment in some states for owning a small amount of marijuana. Wow. We really need to work on our priorities more.

The actors are tight, each one of them owning their share of the screen while not stepping on the toes of their counterparts. Although Cooper’s not in for very long, he’s creepy and menacing when he’s onscreen in a convincingly performance. Hill is a bit of a smart-ass but in a more serious way that reveals his character is kind of scam artist and in the end, a loser beneath the smarmy surface. Teller plays his character passionately as well and shows more of his range as an actor.

Overall, I don’t know if I’d bother seeing this one in the theater, but it’s definitely worth catching when it hits the small screen.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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He Never Died

by on Aug.21, 2016, under Movie Reviews

he never diedMeet Jack, he’s a bit of a odd bird as conversations with him are short, strange and direct. He’s also a bit eccentric and oh, he eats flesh and drinks blood. A vampire you say? Nope, judging by the scars on his back, he’s a misplaced angel although it’s never formally explained that he’s an angel and there’s never any reason revealed for his presence here on terra-firma. He does seem to have a purpose though as he never hesitates to hurt someone of an unsavory nature. Eventually, he discovers he has a daughter and of course that opens up a whole new can of worms…

He Never Died is a bizarre movie. But that’s one of the things that makes it compelling. It’s kind of a day-in-the-life (more than a day really) that shows what it’s like to live in Jack’s shoes as a strange creature in a strange world. The script is well written, has some smart, catchy dialog and an interesting arc for the main character. Jack does evolve once the interactions with his daughter kicks in although initially on the surface you’re not sure if this guy is ever going to change his ways. The ending is something that left me scratching my head a bit as the film ends super abruptly on a point that establishes the swing of Jack’s persona into new areas of responsibility but in a really short, direct way.

Henry Rollins plays the main character. And although Hank is primarily known as a writer, spoken word performer and as the voice behind The Rollins Band as well as Black Flag, he does a fine job in the lead role. Rollins’ delivery is as offbeat as Jack is with short bursts of dialog and blunted emotions. His performance is really intriguing and worth studying. The lineup includes Booboo Stewart, Kate Greenhouse, Jordan Todosey, Steven Ogg, and David Richmond-Peck all of whom turn in solid portrayals with Rollins as the stand out.

Overall, He Never Died is an entertaining and engaging film if you like quirky dramas with some off-kilter personalities. You can catch it on Netflix.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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by on Aug.14, 2016, under Movie Reviews

lucyScarlett Johansson plays the title character who finds herself in a wrong-place-wrong-time kind of scenario when she ends up as a drug mule for a gangster. The twist comes in when the container containing the drug in her system bursts and Lucy begins to absorb the drug which is designed to be a new form of meth or something similar. Said drug stimulates areas in Lucy’s brain that have never been used before by anyone.

In some ways, the film reminds me of The Matrix; not in some rip-offey way, but more in terms of feel and towards the end, in execution as well. The script is well written and feels fresh with an interesting resolution. The dialog and development of the characters flows nicely with Lucy’s arc being entertaining to watch.

Johansson turns in a strong performance showing some range early on from her vulnerable beginnings to her powerful end. Alongside her are Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi, Amr Waked, Analeigh Tipton, and Julian Rhind-Tutt all of whom bring their substantial skills to the table. Luc Besson wrote and directed.

Overall, the film kept my attention, made me wonder where it was going at times and looked great visually too.

A sci-fi thriller with an intelligent twist, Lucy’s worth checking out.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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by on Aug.01, 2016, under Movie Reviews

cbgbI have a history with CBGB in NY from my own days in the music biz. I’ve spent a lot of time in that club and was fortunate enough to see some legendary performances. CBGBs was the club to cut your teeth in for new bands as well as a place to pay homage for the seasoned veterans. It was one of those clubs that was a badge of honor both for playing the stage as well as seeing a band pour out a pint of blood during a performance on it.

Part historical film, part bio pic, part music video, CBGB is all of those things and more. Alan Rickman expertly plays Hilly Kristal who many consider the godfather of US punk having given the stage to play for bands such as The Talking Heads, Blondie, The Dead Boys, Television, Iggy Pop and many, many more. Over 50,000 bands played at the club during the course of its lifetime. Ironically the majority of the bands did not fit into the original musical vision of the owner given that the initials actually stood for Country Blue Grass and Blues.

The film plays out as a drama / bio pic of sorts centering mainly on Hilly and the birth of the club. Throughout the film, Hilly is constantly going broke, letting people into the club for free, bailing bands out of trouble and trying to stay afloat in general. His generous nature is one of the things the film touches on, especially during the end credits during The Talking Heads acceptance speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The first thing the Heads do is thank Hilly Kristal, and then they thank him again.

The actors are great, especially Rickman who nails Hilly’s grumpy exterior which he balances out with an I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude. If you’ve ever seen interview footage of Kristal, you’ll appreciate Rickman’s portrayal. Taylor Hawkins from the Foo Fighters plays Iggy Pop and really does a great job, I have to admit I didn’t know he could act but he’s pretty good in this. Rupert Grint from Harry Potter fame shows up as Dead Boys guitarist Cheetah Chrome and does a fine job letting everyone know he’s more than just a wizard. Donal Logue, Malin Akerman, Freddy Rodriquez and Ashley Greene are all part of this talented lineup.

If you want to brush up on your punk history and discover the birthplace of The Ramones among many others, check out the entertaining CBGB.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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