Review: Palm Springs

Palm Springs (2020)

Director: Max Barbakow

Writer: Andy Siara

Starring: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milloti, Peter Gallagher, and J.K. Simmons

Plot: A man and a woman are stuck in a time loop taking place on her sister’s wedding day.

Review: So, here’s the thing. I saw Palm Springs about a week ago. I enjoyed it. I really did. However, I didn’t love it like I know a lot of people have. And, I don’t exactly know why. So, I kind of put off typing up my review for it. Now we’re a week out and I feel like I have to type something up because it’s one of the more popular movies “playing” right now. So, here we are. I don’t know how long or how inspired this review is going to be. But, it’ll be a review. Hopefully it’ll serve its purpose by letting you know whether it’s worth a stream. Ok, let’s just jump into it. 

First things first, I can see the script for this movie being pitched as an unnecessary sequel to Groundhog Day. “What if Phil’s girlfriend were stuck in the time loop with him?” Now, I’m not trying to use that as purely an insult. This is about the best you can do with that concept. However, like I said, it feels unnecessary. I feel like everything this movie has to say was already articulated in Groundhog Day. And although there is a twist that keeps things semi-fresh, I don’t really think it was enough to justify its existence. Maybe that’s a tad too harsh. I don’t know. But, if you’re going to attempt to retread the same ground as an iconic movie, you better bring me something super fresh. Happy Death Day, for example, caught my interest by making it a slasher flick. This just feels like more of the same. 

But, that doesn’t mean it’s all bad either. I laughed quite a bit during this movie. I think some of the gags they were able to do with the time travel were really clever. The way they wasted time and messed around was very entertaining. Likewise, there were a couple of twists I didn’t see coming. But, the real draw here is the characters. Samberg plays, essentially, the Bill Murray part in the middle of Groundhog Day. He’s the one who has been stuck in the time loop the longest and knows his way around the place. He has tried to get out so many times that he’s given up. And, of course, it’s Andy Samberg so he’s hilarious. Then, there’s Cristin Milioti who was the real breakthrough for me. When I think of this movie, she’s probably the one I’ll remember most. For reasons you learn later, she’s kind of stuck in one of the worst days of her life at the type of massive family gathering a lot of people dread. Through the time loop, she has to learn to accept her failures and confront her past. It’s a super interesting dynamic. Her character is really what makes the movie work. And, the two of them have a great dynamic. They play off of each other really well and are super cute. I was actively rooting for them to end up together, which is a good sign in a romantic comedy. So, Palm Spring’s definitely isn’t a complete waste of time. There’s some really good, clever stuff here. 

So, yeah, that’s pretty much everything I have to say on Palm Springs. I really liked the characters. The acting was good, especially from Milioti.  I thought a couple of the gags were really clever. There were a couple of twists that I didn’t see coming. But, I can’t ultimately say that I loved the movie because it just feels like I didn’t get that much fresh content from it. I don’t know. Sorry this review is kind of all over the place. That’s why I took so long to type it up. I would definitely say give Palm Springs a shot. It’s not a waste of time. I just don’t think it’s all that memorable either. Am I being to harsh? Maybe. It’s likely. Definitely. I’d probably like it a lot more if I hadn’t already seen Groundhog Day a million times. 

TL;DR: Palm Springs is a fun movie with great characters, but suffers from the inevitable comparisons to Groundhog Day. 

Score: 6/10 (Ok)

Review: Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)

Director: Eliza Hittman

Writer: Eliza Hittman

Starring: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Theodore Pellerin, Ryan Eggold, and Sharon Van Etten

Plot: A teenage girl and her cousin travel to New York City so she can get an abortion without parental consent.

Review: You know what? Sometimes movie watching can be a weird hobby, as you’re thrown from one extreme to the other. Sunday night, I watched Guns Akimbo, a high energy, fun shoot ‘em up. Then, the next night, Never Rarely Sometimes Always was on the docket. And, honestly, I don’t think there are two more different movies on the entire planet. This was a slow, realistic and oftentimes hard to watch drama. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean one was better than the other. I really enjoyed Never Rarely Sometimes Always. I mean… as much as one can enjoy this type of movie. 

A word of warning to any who go to watch Never Rarely Sometimes Always. It is incredibly slow. Not much happens in it plot-wise. You’re pretty much just following these two characters as they execute this scary, hastily scraped together plan. It’s almost like watching a documentary. There’s no added drama. There’s nothing thrown in there just to make the audience laugh. There’s not much of a score. In fact, it doesn’t really feel like much of a movie. But, that’s also kind of the point. This venture is already scary enough. We don’t need anything added to make it worse. Going through this process as a teenage girl sounds absolutely horrifying. Heck, I’m intimidated by it and I’m quite a bit older.

On the other hand, this movie 100% does not pull any punches. (No horrible pun intended, if you’ve seen the movie.) It’s brutal. From watching our lead character try to have a miscarriage early on to seeing the constant amount of sexual harassment these girls endure, it can be a very hard watch. In fact, I had to fight the urge to close my eyes or look away almost as often as I do in the gnarliest horror films. However, I think that brutality is needed. It really drives home the point. We’ve made abortion too hard to obtain for young women. The process is almost scarier than the procedure, which is insane. This is showing that insanity and what teen girls are willing to do to avoid it. It’s really tragic stuff. Likewise, sexual harassment is just flat out gross. It makes the guys look like creeps and the women super uncomfortable. And this movie really puts you in their shoes. I could feel the same disgust the characters experienced. So, definitely not an easy watch, but I feel like it’s an important one. And that’s the point. 

I wouldn’t say that all of Never Rarely Sometimes Always is entirely bleak though. There are some moments of light. First of all, the love that these two cousins have for each other is very strong. Some of the things they do for each other really hit me hard. You can tell that they just want to be there for each other, especially in this scary situation. Likewise, there’s one doctor at the Planned Parenthood office who was legitimately a nice person. There’s a scene where the doctor has to ask her a couple of questions before the procedure that nearly broke my heart. She obviously wants what’s best for her young patients and knows that a lot of them have really tragic backstories. It was nice to see someone who genuinely cared. I’m glad there was some heart to this movie. It made it feel more real. Like, even when you’ve got to go up against these crazy, scary situations, you can always count on someone to have your back. I think that’s an important message. 

I definitely respect the hell out of Never Rarely Sometimes Always. I think it’s one of the most important movies to come out this year. It’s not an easy watch by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a necessary one. I feel like I walked a mile in someone else’s shoes and learned a thing or two. I was already pro-Planned Parenthood but this movie put everything in a new perspective. This is definitely a very real, scary journey that a lot of young girls have to go through. And, honestly, that’s tragic. Things need to change. 

TL;DR: As hard as Never Rarely Sometimes Always can be to watch with its slow pace and brutal realism, I feel like it’s an important watch that shows a new perspective. 

Score: 8/10 (Great)

Review: Guns Akimbo

Guns Akimbo (2020)

Director: Jason Lei Howden

Writer: Jason Lei Howden

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Samara Weaving, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Ned Dennehy, Grant Bowler, Edwin Wright, and Rhys Darby

Plot: An internet troll finds himself forced to participate in a killing based reality show. 

Review: I’m gonna be honest. I didn’t know how to start off this review. I typed up a couple different things and nothing seemed appropriate. Then, I found this quote on Rotten Tomatoes that was too good. So, I’m going to essentially steal it. Christian C, an audience member who Rotten Tomatoes has deemed as a “Super Reviewer,” gave Guns Akimbo two stars and said “I don’t understand why this movie was made. It’s a grotesque orgy of excess, depravity, and hyperactivity crying out for a heavy dose of Ritalin.” Well… that’s all very true. But, unlike Christian,  I FREAKING LOVED IT. 

Guns Akimbo is a freaking roller coaster ride. Imagine having Edgar Wright’s cocaine addicted clone write and direct a movie that’s a mashup between The Truman Show and The Purge. That’s what this movie feels like. I think every scene was just trying to outdo the last. The violence and the dialogue were just so over the top, in the best way possible. It makes Deadpool look like a Disney backed MCU film by comparison. The pace is also ridiculous as we’re just thrown from one absurd thing to the next. The sense of humor is quite strong too. I was laughing almost the entire time. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced a movie quite like this one. I can definitely see how some people would hate it, but I had a hell of a time just going along for the ride. Honestly though, I’m kind of a sucker for dark humor like this. 

But, I’ve also had a lot of these high octane, balls to the wall action movies fail to catch my interest in the past. I think the main difference here is how incredible the two leads of Guns Akimbo are. Daniel Radcliffe is fantastic here. I love this trend he’s been on since he ended his run as Harry Potter. He’s gone down the Elijiah Wood/Robert Pattinson path of just taking whatever roles he wants to take. These guys don’t have to worry about money. They’re set for life, so why not have some fun? And, this is definitely a fun part. He’s an internet troll that just so happened to mess with the wrong people this time. He wakes up the next morning with guns attached to his hands and is told that he has to participate in a violent internet gameshow. Watching him try to figure out how to live his life with guns for hands was very entertaining. 

Likewise, I loved seeing how this typical, nerdy, pacifist guy reacted to being thrown into something truly horrific and being forced to kill. I think Radcliffe brought a really genuine and funny take to it. It felt like how I and most of my friends would react in that situation.

Similarly, Samara Weaving continues to make a name for herself. Despite the movies sharing some DNA, she is completely different here than she was in Ready or Not. In this, she plays a grade-A badass from beginning to end. She’s Radcliffe’s competitor in the game, thus the one who is trying to kill him. But, unlike him, she is an expert assassin who has been dominating at the game for years. She’s got a crazy amount of weapons, an indomitable will, and has a hunter’s instinct that always seems to allow her to catch up. Honestly, she’s like the Terminator and Harley Quinn rolled up into one terrifying character. Yet, there’s a real touch of humanity to her. Weaving does an incredible job of making her both terrifying and also vulnerable, making her one of the more interesting characters I’ve seen this year. It’s quite the achievement. I was impressed by Weaving before, but now I’m convinced that she’s here to stay. 

So, I definitely enjoyed Guns Akimbo. It’s not for everyone, obviously. But, if you’re down for a high octane, intense, violent, definitely not-pc thrill ride, you can’t do much better. It’s as fun as Baby Driver with all the violence of John Wick. 

TL;DR: Guns Akimbo is a fun, super violent, non-stop thrill ride with strong performances from Radcliffe and Weaving. 

Score: 8/10 (Great)

Review: The Lovebirds

The Lovebirds (2020)

Director: Michael Showalter

Writers: Aaron Abrams, Brendan Gall, and Martin Gero

Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Issa Rae, Paul Sparks, Anna Camp, and Kyle Bornheimer

Plot: A recently broken up couple finds themselves trying to solve a murder before it can be pinned on them. 

Review: The Lovebirds was one of the movies I was most disappointed to see pulled from theaters. Throughout the first three months of the year, I must’ve seen its trailer two dozen times and it made me smile everytime. There were two likeable leads. The plot seemed interesting. Yeah. I was definitely excited for it to roll around. And, then, of course, COVID happened. And, now it’s on Netflix for all to enjoy… from home. Having now seen it, I gotta say… I wish it had hit the cineplex. Because this movie is funny. Like, really funny. I think it would’ve been a good group viewing. Instead, I just watched it at home by myself and, while enjoyable, I don’t feel like I got the full experience. It’s still a really solid comedy though and I laughed out loud more than a couple of times. 

The plot of The Lovebirds is really nothing special. We’ve seen similar elements in about a hundred different movies or tv shows. Innocent civilians are pulled into a ring of crime after they were accidentally in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hilarity ensues as they react to the horrific things going on around them while they’re trying to escape. But, it’s a plot that works really well. We can all put ourselves in their shoes. How would we react? “Haha. It’s funny that he’s crying because I would definitely cry too.” You know. That kind of thing. And, this definitely is good for that. There are just enough scary or WTF moments to keep you going along for the ride. 

However, I don’t think it would’ve worked half as well without our two leads: Nanjiani and Rae. As a couple on the verge of breaking up, their chemistry really shines through. I could see the love that they have for each other and the pain in their eyes whenever they talk about splitting up. Honestly, it kind of felt like the kind of performance you get when two actors are actually seeing each other. They’re that good. And, obviously, these two are funny as hell. They both have amazing comedic timing and their conversations had me chuckling the whole time. I especially liked their opening fight. It felt like the real, petty stuff that people argue over, but was hilarious. I hope these two do more together. I’m a big fan of each separately, but I think they work really well together too.

Lastly, I’ve gotta give a huge shout out to the marketing team. Like I said, I saw the trailer for The Lovebirds at least 20 times. I basically had it memorized. So, I anticipated knowing a lot of the funny lines before they were said. However, in this instance, I was wrong because they actually changed a lot of them. I don’t know if they actually filmed separate stuff for the trailers MCU style, just had different takes, or edited the movie after the marketing was released. It doesn’t matter though. It was just so refreshing to watch a comedy without having all the best lines spoiled in the trailer. More companies need to do this. Give us the feel of the movie, not the exact jokes. 

Overall, I really enjoyed The Lovebirds. It’s not groundbreaking stuff. It’s fairly straightforward. You’ve seen movies like it before. But, the leads are just so likeable that it’s easy to spend an hour and a half going on an adventure with them. 

TL;DR: Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae shine in the otherwise paint-by-number comedy The Lovebirds. 

Score: 7/10 (Good)

Review: Bad Education

Bad Education (2020)

Director: Cory Finley

Writer: Mike Makowsky

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, Geraldine Viswanathan, Alex Wolff, Rafael Casal, Stephen Spinella, Annaleigh Ashford, and Ray Romano

Plot: A couple of high ranking school officials are brought down when it’s discovered that they’ve stolen huge sums of money from the budget. 

Review: The best way I can think of to pitch HBO’s Bad Education is “Think All the President’s Men but in highschool.” Because that’s a lot like this feels like. It’s Watergate, but on a much smaller scale. If that sounds appealing to you, I’d definitely recommend this one. It’s a really fun, engaging watch.

Who doesn’t love a good scandal? I know I do. And this is a juicy one. It’s people stealing millions of dollars from the education system. And, not just anyone, the charismatic leaders who are supposed to have the best interest of the kids at heart. This story is interesting enough on its face value, but watching it unfold in front of you makes it all the more satisfying. It’s especially fun to see the characters try to wiggle themselves out of trouble. 

Speaking of, these characters are great. I love Hugh Jackman’s performance in this. He plays a superintendent who the whole town seems to love. He’s radically improved the school district and looks cool doing it. He’s like James Bond, if 007 ever got into teaching. Even before the scandal broke, it was great to watch him work the room. He just had so much charisma. It’s no wonder he was able to hide the fact that he was a scumbag. Then, of course, it’s a joy to see him fall apart. Likewise, Allison Janney brings real humanity to this movie. She starts off just as cocky as he is, but getting busted hits her hard. By the movie’s end, you almost feel bad for her. Almost. These are two scumbag lowlifes, so it’s an incredible feat that you end up liking them at all. 

I also really like the message Bad Education is sending. Like I said before, it’s the high school version of Watergate. There’s a reporter digging in, finding cases of corruption, and taking down the man. Power of the press! The only difference this time is that it’s set in a high school. It’s a school newspaper reporter that’s taking down the man, man. How cool is that? I wrote for the school newspaper. It’s fine for a bit of light, puff piece-y entertainment. I don’t know that we ever wrote anything of much importance, definitely not something this big. Like, damn. That’s quite the message to send out. I know it’s rated TV-MA but, if I were a journalism teacher, I’d love to show this in my class. It’s really freaking inspiring. And, in our world of scandal and attacks on the media, this was a welcome viewing experience. 

Overall, I really enjoyed Bad Education. The story is good. The characters are fun. The moral of the story feels important today. And, it never feels like it’s preaching to you. It’s still a remarkably fun movie. It’s not my favorite movie of the year, but I don’t have any complaints either. I would definitely check it out on HBO when you get the chance. 

TL;DR: Bad Education feels like a Watergate movie, but set in a high school with characters that are a lot of fun. 

Score: 7/10 (Good)

Review: The Vast of Night

The Vast of Night (2020)

Director: Andrew Patterson

Writers: James Montague and Adam Dietrich

Starring: Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz

Plot: A teenage girl and a radio DJ investigate a weird wavelength that’s come over their small town. 

Review: The Vast of Night is one of the few movies that actually got lucky during the COVID-19 situation. Movies like Black Widow and Mulan fled theaters for the time being, which allowed smaller, independent movies to take their spots in the few theaters that remained open. Like, I don’t know… Maybe a self-financed, grounded science fiction movie with no big names attached from a first time director. Yeah, The Vast of Night is being talked about way more often than it usually would be. But, is it good? Yes. Yes, it is. 

The main factor this movie has going for it is Andrew Patterson. He paid for this movie himself. He wrote it. And, he’s the director. That’s already quite the achievement. For it to be as good as it is, that’s on a whole different level. He’s quite the director. There’s an extremely long tracking shot that is maybe one of the most impressive I’ve seen. The camera takes us on more or less a tour of the entire town, including through a high school gymnasium where a basketball game is currently taking place. And, even though it’s obviously not one shot, the way everything is pieced together makes it flow so well it definitely feels like it is. Plus, I love the framing device of this movie. We start off zoomed in on a tv set like we’re watching an old episode of a Twilight Zone knockoff. Then, it pans in and becomes our reality. Though, it still occasionally will go back to black and white like we’re just coming back from commercial. I think that was a really cool idea. But, Patterson didn’t feel the need to constantly show off either. He’d let the story stand on its own when necessary. There are several scenes of people just talking where he doesn’t do anything fancy with the camera. In fact, during one of the longer stories, he even cuts the visuals to let you really concentrate on what’s being said. That’s ballsy. I can’t imagine a big studio release ever doing something like that, but I really, really enjoyed it. 

So, as a coming out party for Patterson, The Vast of Night is super impressive visually. However, I can’t say that I loved it. Because, honestly, the plot isn’t the strongest. You can pretty much guess where it’s going from the setup. I also can’t fault the movie that much either because it’s not trying to be anything original. It’s obviously paying homage to 50’s science fiction and that’s exactly what it feels like. This is pretty much a really well-directed episode of The Twilight Zone. Unfortunately, it’s one that you’ve seen before and doesn’t really stand out from the pack all that much. It’s kind of just bland. I wanted to be invested more than I was. The acting is good. The visuals are good. There’s some really unique storytelling tricks here. But, the plot just didn’t grab me. 

Overall, I’d say that The Vast of Night is worth a watch if you’re interested. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime. It’s only 90 minutes. And, like I said, there’s some good stuff in there. Just don’t expect to be blown away by it. 

TL;DR: The Vast of Night is a really well directed version of a story you’ve already heard a million times. 

Score: 6/10 (Ok)

Review: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)

Director: David Dobkin

Writers: Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele

Starring: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens, Melissanthi Mahut, Mikael Persbrandt, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Graham Norton, Demi Lovato, and Pierce Brosnan

Plot: A less than stellar musical duo is given a shot to represent their country at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Review: My dad and I once had a several day conversation about the career trajectory of comedians. We theorized that their quality of work in movies was essentially a bell curve. They would start off kind of slow, having bit parts or cameos in other famous comedian’s movies. Then, they’d hit it big and make hit after hit after hit for a couple years. However, this almost never lasts as people get tired of the schtick and they’re career hits a bit of a lull. I added that I’m pretty sure that happens when they voice an animated character. That’s usually the end of their peak. Eventually, they’d either upgrade to dramas or go back to being bit parts in other comedians’ films. Well, we’ve been in the lull of Will Ferrell’s career for quite some time now. He hasn’t had a live-action role I’ve been a huge fan of since Step Brothers. And, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga doesn’t change that streak either. It’s not awful, but it’s pretty far away from the Ferrell highlight reel. 

Honestly, the emotion I felt most during my viewing of Eurovision was boredom. I know that everyone’s standards for a good comedy are different, but I just didn’t find this movie that funny. There were a couple of one-liners I chuckled at, but, for every joke that hit, there were ten that didn’t. And, I think the problem comes from the writing. The stuff I laughed at I can easily see Ferrell or McAdams improvising on set. The really, painfully unfunny stuff was obviously in the script. From the cringe-inducing visual gags to Demi Lavato in maybe one of the worst ongoing gags I’ve seen. And, maybe the biggest fault is that this movie is over two hours long! A couple of chuckles is not worth a two-hour investment. They definitely should’ve edited it down to eighty or ninety minutes. Keep the strong stuff and cut out the clutter. 

Another major problem I felt is that this movie really doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it a parody of Eurovision or a loving tribute? Am I supposed to think the musical numbers are funny or genuinely good? Is this villain a conniving jerk or a decent person? The movie never really seems to commit to anything, which left me confused on how I was supposed to feel. They would constantly bash our heroes, making them seem like the worst band in the world, then have them progress super far. They’d talk about how evil Dan Stevens’ character was and then have a scene where you felt real warmth radiating off of him. And, it’s not like they’d slowly evolve those feelings, because in the next scene they’d take it all back. It’s very odd. 

Before I wrap this up, I do feel like reiterating that I didn’t hate Eurovision. There were a couple of funny lines from Ferrell. Rachel McAdams is always a delight. She’s one of the more likeable people in Hollywood. And, apparently, she actually sings a bit. Her performance was probably the stand-out for me. Likewise, I really like Dan Stevens. I think he’s crazy talented and his musical performances were among the few that actually made me giggle. So, it’s definitely not a complete waste. 

Overall, I’d say that Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga had a lot of potential. It’s a funny enough concept and the characters are likeable. It’s not the worst thing you could throw on Netflix to keep yourself entertained for a bit.  I just think that the movie has some serious tone issues and is waaaaaaaay too long. 

TL;DR: Despite its promising premise and strong cast, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga isn’t good for much more than a couple chuckles. 

Score: 5/10 (Meh.)

Review: The Lodge

Directors: Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala

Writers: Sergio Casci, Veronika Franz, and Severin Fiala

Starring: Riley Keough, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh, Alicia Silverstone, and Richard Armitage

Plot: A woman with a tragic, cult related past and her soon to be step-children, who don’t like her, are stuck in a cabin together in the dead of winter. 

Review: Ok, so here’s the thing. This is going to be a relatively short review. In fact, I almost didn’t end up doing one for it at all. Why? Because it’s super hard to discuss what makes The Lodge great without spoiling the crap out of it. And, I want your potential experience with this movie to be as pure and batshit insane as mine was. Because I knew absolutely nothing going in and it was fun to guess where this movie was going as the plot unraveled. So, I’ll say what I can, but, unfortunately, that won’t be much. 

First off, the plot of The Lodge is insane. I spent the first half of the movie trying to even figure out what type of horror film this was. Is it a cult movie? Is it a creepy kid movie? Something along the lines of The Shining? Or The Conjuring? Honestly, I had no idea. But, I was having a blast trying to figure it out. Then, when everything does reveal itself, I was floored by what they were presenting. I really, really enjoyed where this movie went. It was an insane ride with one of those endings that leaves you sitting there stunned as the credits roll.  However, I can also see where some wouldn’t enjoy it as much, because it’s not exactly as advertised. But, I’m a fan of the new, “artsier” wave of horror and the twist was a big hit for me, so this was right up my alley. 

Speaking of artsy, this movie is beautifully shot. Each and every scene could be a painting on someone’s wall. There were so many gorgeous establishing shots of the cabin and just people roaming around to really give you a feel for how isolated they really were. And, the lighting definitely created that cold, wintery vibe. It really felt like you were stranded with them. Plus, the constant shots of religious imagery shot in probably the scariest possible way really showed the lead character’s uncomfortable relationship with religion in a jarring way. It felt a lot like The Shining or an Edgar Allan Poe poem. There was dark, creepy foreshadowing and symbolism everywhere. It’s really freaking effective.

Lastly, I can’t wrap up this review without talking about how absolutely amazing Riley Keough is in it. She’s been a bit of an indie darling the last couple of years, giving good performance after good performance without becoming a household name. She’s definitely been one of my favorites though. And, The Lodge is probably my favorite role she’s had yet. Again, it’s hard to talk about without giving specifics, but her character unravels in a very real, very scary way. You can tell exactly where this character is coming from and empathize with her almost every step of the way. She’s a truly damaged human being and to see her get thrown into a scary situation again is just heartbreaking. 

I can definitely say I loved The Lodge. It’s not for everybody. It’s a bit of a slow burn, especially for a horror movie. And, the twist is one of those that you’re either going to really enjoy or really hate. I happened to think it was brilliant. Plus, the atmosphere and performances are top notch. In fact, I think my own review talked me into watching it again. It’s that good. 

TL;DR: The Lodge is a very good, atmospheric horror film with an absolutely chilling plot. 

Score: 9/10 (Amazing)

Review: Da 5 Bloods

Director: Spike Lee

Writers: Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, Spike Lee, and Kevin Willmott

Starring: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isaiah Whitlock Jr, Melanie Thierry, Paul Walter Hauser, Jasper Paakkonen, Jean Reno, and Chadwick Boseman

Plot: Four Vietnam veterans go back to Vietnam to retrieve the body of their fallen leader and a fortune they left behind. 

Review: I know it’s ridiculously early to make this call, but I think I just saw our first 2020 Best Picture nominee. Or, at least, I did if the Academy wants to be as “important” as they think they are. Because Da 5 Bloods rocks, is super well made, and speaks perfectly to the times that we’re in. It instantly became my favorite movie of the year and I can’t imagine that ten better movies are going to come along to knock it out of contention. I really, really enjoyed this movie.

Sometimes, despite their release dates being set months or even years in advance, movies just get lucky and come out at just the right time. That’s definitely the case for Da 5 Bloods. It’s a movie that speaks very much to the Black Lives Matter movement. It tells the story of black soldiers who feel betrayed by their country. They have been fighting for this country for hundreds of years, only to be treated like second rate citizens at home. It’s tragic. And, while I understand that this has been an issue for years, it’s a super relevant message for today. A new spotlight has been shone on the black struggle. A lot of people are looking for this type of message right now and Da 5 Bloods definitely hits with a deep dose of reality.

Likewise, it dives deep into Vietnam and the war in general. It makes a point to show how scarred (emotionally and physically) we leave our soldiers. And, for what? Forty years later, it doesn’t really matter all that much anymore. These men don’t hate the Vietnamese. In fact, there seems to be a lot of remorse on both sides. They even say at one point that the war was all about money and money was all about war. It’s really chilling stuff. 

But, don’t think that Da 5 Bloods is all serious and depressing. It’s actually a super fun movie. Each and every character is likable and has their own unique quirks. The dialogue between these old friends is super entertaining. A lot of crazy shit happens in that jungle that I can’t get into for spoiler reasons. And, it’s crazy violent. Seriously, as the best movies do, I feel like it works perfectly well without all of the moral lessons. It’s just a fun trip to be a part of.

After being in the business for 40 years, Spike Lee got his only Best Director nomination for BlacKkKlansman. I expect him to get his second this year, because this movie was perfectly directed. From the beautiful shots of Vietnam to the literally in your face character moments, I loved every choice he made here. I liked the fact that, whenever they referenced a historical figure, their picture or a video of them would come up on the screen. I liked that the Vietnam flashbacks were filmed in a different aspect ratio and lower quality film so it seemed like we were actually watching footage from the war. I haven’t seen a lot of Spike Lee’s work (sadly, I’ve only seen his two most recent films), but I’m definitely becoming a fan and want to dive into his past work.

I would also definitely expect an Oscar nomination for Delroy Lindo. While all of the performances are top notch, his character was maybe the most interesting of them all. He plays a vetern who very much suffers from PTSD and is having a super hard time being back in Vietnam. Watching his character unravel is one of the most entertaining and devastating aspects of the movie. It’s insane how well he managed to make this character sympathetic while he does and says some truly awful things. I 100% think he crushed it. And, while I’d understand if the Oscars forget about this movie by the time the nominations roll around, they better not leave his stellar performance out because that would be a true injustice. 

Overall, I freaking loved Da 5 Bloods. It’s a two and a half hour movie but I thought the time flew by. It manages to balance tragic, important lessons with a funny, unpredictable storyline. I never once felt like it’s message was too heavy handed but it still got it’s point across very effectively. Plus, Spike Lee is a hell of a director and he has a hell of a cast. I’d definitely give it a stream on Netflix when you get the chance. I guarantee you’ll have a fun time. And you may even learn something along the way. 

TL;DR: Da 5 Bloods is an entertaining, relevant, and important movie that everyone should see. It’s my favorite movie of 2020 so far. 

Score: 10/10 (Masterpiece)

Review: Extraction

Director: Sam Hargrave

Writer: Joe Russo

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hooda, Golshifteh Farahani, Pankaj Tripathi, and David Harbour

Plot: A mercenary is sent to save a drug lord’s kidnapped son. 

Review: Are you the kind of person that can be entertained by just one long, extended fight scene? If so, Extraction is the movie for you. If you’re looking for anything deeper or more character based, I would look elsewhere. This is an action movie if I’ve ever seen one. I swear the runtime is like 95% fighting. And, in this case, that’s both the best and worst part of this movie. 

Extraction is one of those movies that I was almost more impressed with than entertained by. It was produced by the Russos and directed by the guy in charge of a lot of their MCU stunt work. And, from the earliest days of their Marvel work, it was very clear that these guys know stunts. Luckily, this is a high quality display of those talents. The fight choreography here is super impressive. It’s brutal. It flows nicely. And, it feels very, very real. There were a couple of times where I had to look away and I’m normally pretty ok with even the most intense action sequences. Overall though, I wouldn’t put it up there with things like John Wick or The Raid. Maybe it’s a tad more realistic, but it just doesn’t seem as fun. 

The other noteworthy thing about Extraction is the directing style. Almost all of the action sequences are filmed to look like one long shot. It’s super impressive as we’re ducking in and out of buildings and jumping from high heights and getting into cars and then doing extended chase sequences. The way the camera flows through moments like this was quite impressive. It almost feels like a video game instead of a movie. I’m definitely interested in seeing what the director, Sam Hargrave does next. 

So, what’s holding Extraction back? I said I was more impressed than entertained. Why? Well, there’s really not a lot of story here. There’s like one or two wrinkles in the overall plot but that’s about it. From the point Hemsworth’s character is introduced, we just jump from one intense fight scene right into the next. It really starts to wear you out after a bit. And, it feels like there’s absolutely no emotional stakes either. They tried by having Hemsworth’s character have a tragic past, but it just feels shallow and shoehorned in. Likewise, there isn’t a single moment of levity in the whole movie, which is very strange considering it was written by Joe Russo. I know that he’s a funny guy. From the MCU to Community, he’s shown that before. I’m not saying that this should be a laugh riot, but I feel like every movie should at least make you smile once or twice. Unfortunately, I’m not sure this one ever pulled much emotion from me. 

So, like I said, if you’re looking for just a straight action movie, I would recommend Extraction. If you’re looking for almost anything else, I’d look elsewhere. Overall, I’m glad I saw it. The fight scenes were impressive as hell. However, I’m not sure how much of a mark it’s going to leave. It’s definitely a well made movie, but far from a great one. 

TL;DR: Extraction excels in super cool fight scenes and stunning camerawork, but, unfortunately, doesn’t have a whole lot else to offer. 

Score: 7/10 (Good)