Cinema Dispatch: Bullet Train, Elvis, and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

We’re back with a few more movie reviews, and I’ve got to say that I’m starting to enjoy this format! I still get to watch the movies I want to, but now I can watch them on my own schedule and I keep things nice and succinct. The only problem is that I’m not getting these out in a timely manner, but relevance is overrated, am I right!? Anyway, let’s take a look at three movies that I’m sure you saw a while ago but are still interested to hear what some guy on the internet has to say about them! Let’s get started!!

.

Bullet Train

Bullet Train is owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by David Leitch

A hapless assassin given the codename Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is on a very simple mission to retrieve a briefcase on a train heading to Kyoto. Naturally, these kinds of things never are that easy and he laments his bad luck while dodging other assassins on the train, and is haphazardly embroiled in a plot that is bigger than he could possibly imagine and seems to be heading in one very bloody direction.

I’m not a guy who will turn his nose up at over-the-top action spectacles or something that is intentionally cheesy and a movie like this should have been my jam by default, but even the best ingredients will go to waste if given to an untalented chef, and I just found this whole thing to be insufferable. It’s convoluted without being clever, smarmy without the charm to make up for it, and artificial to the point that nothing seems to actually matter. The only part of the movie that resonated with me was the relationship between Lemon and Tangerine as Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson had great chemistry and added some genuine heart to an otherwise insincere story, and while I feel like this is one of the most Monkeys’ Paw wishes imaginable, I’d kind of like to see what could be done with a spinoff focusing on them specifically. Andrew Koji also stands out from everything else with a very angry and desperate performance that’s still about as one-note as everything else in the movie, but at least it’s a different note being played and does a great job playing it. Everything else though is just laden with insufferable dialogue and compounding coincidences that just drain any investment you can have in the characters or the plot itself; especially our protagonist who is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. For that kind of story to work, it has to ultimately circle back around to them actually being the right person to be there, but that would require a level of emotional investment that this movie is just unwilling to extend and so Brad Pitt feels like as distant to the story as those of us sitting in the theater watching him awkwardly stumble his way through a place he doesn’t belong; like an uninvited party guest asking everyone where the bathroom is. With the threadbare story, the quip-tastic dialogue, and the general lack of impact or weight from any of the narrative beats, it falls somewhere between a Rick and Morty episode and one of those award show skits with a bunch of celebrities are comically inserted into another movie. If we take it on these terms, as little more than entertainment fluff with a bunch of famous people in it, does it manage to work? Sort of, I guess. It’s competent in its action and the actors are fine for what they’re asked to do, but it’s also not that inspiring or clever in its shallowness and I had my fill of everything it had to offer well before it got to its big cameos at the end. At best it’s a misguided attempt from Hollywood to recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle magic of early Tarantino as well as the director’s own early success with John Wick, and at worst it’s the cinematic equivalent of Steve Buscemi in a backwards baseball cap asking his fellow kids how they are doing. It’s not without its charms, but why settle for the smoothed-over corporate version of stylized action shlock when the genuine article is easier to find than ever?

2 out of 5

Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Bullet Train, Elvis, and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent”

Cinema Dispatch: Dark Phoenix

DARKPHOENIXCD0

Dark Phoenix and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Simon Kinberg

I’ve probably been nicer than most about the X-Men franchise, going so far as to be somewhat positive about Apocalypse, and even I can’t be bothered to muster any enthusiasm for The Last Stand: Remastered.  I mean I GUESS I can see why Fox would want to prove that it was the other guy’s fault and not their own, and it certainly worked well enough for Dexter Fletcher, but with this franchise being so easily overshadowed by Deadpool, the MCU, and even some of the better DC films, it’s starting to feel more Quixotic than artistically advisable.  Still, I have been surprised by  movies I didn’t expect much out of before, and it’s not like they have much to lose considering this franchise is more or less done whether they make this movie or not, so hey!  Let’s see if Fox can pull it off one more time for old time’s sake!

It’s the radical nineties for the X-Men with Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his crew of charismatic comrades more popular than ever; much like the ACTUAL nineties.  Newcomers Jean Grey, Scott Summers, Ororo Munroe, and Kurt Wagner (Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, and Kodi Smit-McPhee) are fitting in well enough, Mystique’s (Jennifer Lawrence) barely contained annoyance with all of this is about as same as usual which is greatly contrasted with Beast (Nicholas Hoult) who looks like he couldn’t be happier to be there, and Quicksilver (Even Peters) is… around.  ANYWAY!  The big difference in this film that I alluded to just now which I don’t BELIEVE was the case last time is that The X-Men have become household names and everyone wants to be them!  No more mutant discrimination, at least not outright, and all the jerk mutants went with Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to some island somewhere to keep things nice and peaceful.  Why, the only thing that could ruin this perfect existence is if one of the high profile mutants on Xavier’s team went off and started blowing stuff up, but what are the odds of THAT happening!?  Yeah, so Jean Grey gets hit by some sort of cosmic ray in the beginning of the film during an astronaut rescue, and it seems to have overcharged her system to the point that she can barely control her powers as well as her emotions; the latter of which is exacerbated by some dark secrets she’s made keenly aware of and have made things rather awkward at the academy.  With one big public relations nightmare that could lead to Mutant internment AGAIN, Xavier and his crew have to find out what’s happening to Jean and if there’s any way to save her from whatever it is that will either destroy her from the inside or give her enough power to destroy us all from the outside.  Oh, and Jessica Chastain is in this somewhere in the background.  I’m sure she can’t be up to any good though!  Will Jean Grey succumb to the power she’s been granted and become the worst enemy the X-Men have ever faced?  Will Xavier finally learn that despite his idealistic rhetoric that he’s made huge mistakes in the past that could bring the world closer to destruction than anything his more militant counterpart ever came up with?  If this is worse than X3, does Fox get like a Lifetime Achievement award for how badly they can ruin a franchise?  I mean they should have already gotten one for their Fantastic Four movies, but you know the Academy!  Give it to them when convenient; not when they deserve it!

DARKPHOENIXCD1
“Here’s to the end of an era!”     “Here’s to the end of my liver functioning properly…”

Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Dark Phoenix”

Cinema Dispatch: X-Men: Apocalypse

XMACD0

X-Men: Apocalypse and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox

Directed by Bryan Singer

It’s that time again for another X-Men movie to try and prove its relevance in a post MCU world!  So far, I think they’ve been doing a fairly good job of keeping this series humming along since Mathew Vaughn kicked the franchise back to life again five years ago.  The post First Class movies haven’t been perfect, but the second shot at a Wolverine solo picture and the one that brought Brian Singer back to the franchise were both fine enough films, and now that Deadpool is kinda sorta in the mix, there may be hope yet that this franchise can make that leap to the big leagues instead of sitting comfortably as the acceptable knock off.  Is this movie the start of that transition, or is this series just gonna keep spinning its wheels until another X3 disaster kills it off for good?  Let’s find out!!

The movie picks up about ten years after Days of Future Past which is still about twenty years before the original X-Men, which I THINK is still in continuity (only X3 is the one we know for sure got blinked out of existence).  In the intervening time, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has finally set up his school, Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) has gone into hiding and now has a family in Poland, and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence)… well she’s basically doing the same thing as she as in the last movie, only now she’s a symbol of peace rather than a violent radical after she had saved the president from Magneto.  Things seem to be at a tentative state of peace with the humans being somewhat okay with mutants and Erik more or less retiring Magento so he can live a normal life.  We don’t come to an X-Men movie to see people be happy though!  What’s gonna screw it up for everyone!?  Well two things really.  First is that Erik suffers a tragedy that throws him back into his anti-human hobby, and second is that there is a millennia old mutant calling himself, among other names, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) that just so happened to wake up from his deep slumber and is ready to take over the world (presumably after getting a shower and a bite to eat).  It doesn’t take long for him to make his presence known so the X-Men must reunite and get some of the new students to fight the greatest threat to all of humanity… at least now that the Sentinels aren’t gonna be a thing anymore.  Can Charles and Mystique whip these newbies into tip top shape to fight the new bad guy and save the world?  What exactly will Erik do now that he’s given up on ever finding peace for himself?  How many times are they gonna blow up the damn school!?

XMACD1
“What happened this time?”     “Someone left a fork in the microwave.”     “SERIOUSLY!?”     “Well… we put the microwave next to the jet fuel storage container.”     “Did you at any point think that was a bad idea?”     “Oh THANK YOU Captain Hindsight!  Where would we be without your input!?”

Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: X-Men: Apocalypse”