Brawl In Cell Block 99

Brawl In Cell Block 99
Brawl In Cell Block 99

I watched Brawl In Cell Block 99 last Friday night at Alamo Drafthouse’s satellite Fantastic Fest event in Denver. The short plot summary for the film is “A former boxer-turned-drug runner lands in a prison battleground after a deal gets deadly.” The summary leaves out the best part of the film, though: gruesome violence.

Vince Vaughn departs from his comic roles here as a former boxer who takes a job delivering drugs for a buddy. When a deal goes badly he ends up in prison and must make choices that are not that great. Any more details might spoil the plot. If you are squeamish or can’t handle gore and violence this film is not for you… the film was released unrated for a reason.

I was impressed by Vaughn’s acting abilities here and hope to see more of this type of role for him in the future.

Mother!

Mother! poster
Mother!

So. This film is not for everyone. Its symbolism will lose a lot of viewers and the allegorical references to the Bible and Christianity will put others off. It’s a wild ride and one of the few films I’ve seen in a long time that made me think about it over the ensuing few days.

Some of the characters are nuanced and others are clear-cut. Only Darren Aronofsky knows for sure who each of them represent — the audience is left to (hopefully) interpret his creation and decide for themselves.

Ingrid Goes West

Ingrid Goes West poster
Ingrid Goes West

Another great, quirky film starring Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen exploring the cult of online personality. Aubrey really conveys the zealous fervor of following an online persona and wanting to become friends in real life… until it all crashes down on her.

Highly recommended.

The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower
The Dark Tower

 

I loved Stephen King’s Dark Tower series of novels when I was younger.  I was excited to see an attempt at adapting them to the big screen and hoped that big-name actors such as Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey would end up presenting a good, if not great, film.

Unfortunately the studio, director and writers decided to cram as much of several of the books into a single 98 minute film.  Time was spent on details that would only please the hardcore book nerds at the expense of the overall story.  For example, there is a reference to the Crimson King but nothing is made of it.

I think the biggest mistake was trying to make the film the story of Jake, probably for the YA audience demographic, instead of focusing on Roland.  Other characters were missing (Oy, the billy-bummer) yet still alluded to.

If you had not read any of the Dark Tower series the film is not bad in itself.  It’s just not the story I grew up reading and that’s a difficult thing to ignore.

I’ll get over it.

War For The Planet Of The Apes

War For the Planet Of The Apes poster at Alamo Drafthouse Littleon
War For the Planet Of The Apes poster at Alamo Drafthouse Littleon

If you like sci-fi monkey movies this one’s for you.

Despite great performances from motion-captured actors like Andy Serkis and Steve Zahn, it’s still CG. The violence against “animals” (and people) is easy enough to dismiss as fake but it still makes one question why we can’t all just get along and need to bring guns in as a solution. I suppose that’s the point of a “War” film, though, and I guess you have to write to the most common denominator in your audience demographic.

At least the writers tried to make the script interesting and I admit I didn’t see the twist with Woody Harelson’s character coming until right as it occurred. That twist does attempt to explain a certain aspect of the films (both this new trilogy series and the original series from the seventies). I appreciate attention to details when it doesn’t hit you over the head.

Harelson’s Colonel character is one of the few non-CG actors in the film, although his scenes try too hard to paint him as crazed and “off the rails” and the dialogue falls flat. The script does tie up this whole Planet trilogy to a point where there doesn’t need to be another film (or series of films)… but you know Hollywood: there will be at least three more.

Bottom line: good summer entertainment as long as you are not expecting more than CG apes blowing shit up.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-man Homecoming
Spider-man Homecoming

I wasn’t sure the world needed another Spider-Man reboot… but was I wrong. Marvel has pulled Peter Parker into their Cinematic Universe with the assistance of cross-over appearances by Tony Stark, Pepper Pots, Happy Hogan and even Steve Rodgers. Peter Parker does exactly what any other fifteen year old boy would do when given supernatural strength and reflexes (as well as the ability to climb walls and ceilings… somehow): worry about impressing his crush.

While the origin of Spider-Man is implied and only mentioned briefly during conversation, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is young, sassy, impetuous and nervous — exactly the right combination for a Spider-Man feature film. You care about the boy and his journey into becoming a super hero, with all the responsibilities that entails.

There’s humor through most of the film in the vein of most of the recent Marvel films and it certainly helps the audience enjoy the journey. One of the Marvel execs recently told a reporter that humor is their hook into the audience’s attention, which they’ve successfully done here.

Marvel is firing on all cylinders lately and this latest entry doesn’t disappoint. I predict this will be one of the more successful summer movies of the year, especially given some of the competition (Wonder Woman, for example, and the excellent Baby Driver).

True Spider-Man comic nerds will appreciate the hidden (and sometimes obscure) references in the script to future villains and other characters in the Spider-Man history. And in true Marvel film spirit there are two post-credits “bonus” scenes. It pays to have patience

Baby Driver

I watched Baby Driver Tuesday night at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Littleton.  WOW! Written and directed by Edgar Wright, previously known for Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and others, brings a massive car chase/bank robbery film with a PERFECT soundtrack.  If you watch at a Drafthouse location Mr. Wright was kind enough to film several interview spots that play prior to the film which discuss his inspirations for the film and some behind-the-scenes details.

I’m already planning to see it again, but one must see it on the big screen while it’s out in cinemas.  #VolumeUpPedalDown

Baby Driver poster at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
Baby Driver poster at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Littleton