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OKJA (2017) review

June 26, 2017

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written by: Bong Joon-ho and Jon Ronson
produced by: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Lewis Taewan Kim, Dooho Choi, Seo Woo-sik, Bong Joon-ho & Ted Sarandos
directed by: Bong Joon-ho
rated: unrated
runtime: 118 min.
U.S. release date: June 28, 2017 (Netlfix)

 

There was booing and controversy coming out of the recent Cannes when Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja” was screened as the closing feature and while that’s typical of the fickle crowd at the long-running, renowned film festival on the French Riveria, the reason for it all happened to revolve around Netflix.  The Korean auteur’s latest film, his first since 2013’s “Snowpiercer”, is being released by the streaming giant, which is supposedly considered a threat to cine-snobs who believe it furthers the doomed future of the theatrical experience. Sure, it’d be great to see “Okja” on the big-screen, but considering how it would’ve likely received a one (maybe two) week run at an art house theater in a major U.S. city, I consider it a good thing that more viewers will have a better chance to see another unique, bizarre and original Bong Joon-ho film. Read more…

TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT (2017) review

June 20, 2017

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written by: Art Marcum, Matt Holloway and Ken Nolan (story/screenplay) & Akiva Goldsman (story)
produced by: Don Murphy, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura & Ian Bryce
directed by: Michael Bay
rated: Rated PG-13(for violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language, and some innuendo)
runtime: 149 min.
U.S. release date: June 21, 2017

 

Just days before the release of “Transformers: The Last Knight”, the fourth and most expensive sequel in the never-ending franchise at $260 million, it was announced that this will be the last “Transformers” movie that Michael Bay directs. I believe he’s said that before, yet here he is again and Paramount has promised several more sequels to keep the well-oiled brand alive. Coincidently, Mark Wahlberg, who was in the last overlong sequel “Age of Extinction” and is back for more vacant stares, vapid dialogue and indecipherable CGI mayhem, has issued a “We’ll see” when asked if there are more “Transformers” in his future, but he’s also stated he will follow his Bay. If the bursts of inconceivable clapping during the last thirty minutes of the screening I attended are any indication, it’s a sure thing we’ll see Bay and Wahlberg reunite with more alien robots and endless explosions.  Read more…

CARS 3 (2017) review

June 17, 2017

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written by: Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich (screenplay) & Brian Fee, Ben Queen, Eyal Podell and Jonathan E. Stewart (story) 
produced by: Kevin Reher
directed by: Brian Fee
rated: G
runtime: 109 min.
U.S. release date: June 16, 2017

 

After two spins as driver, Disney/Pixar godfather John Lasseter has passed the steering wheel to storyboard artist Brian Fee, who’s making his directorial debut with “Cars 3”, the second sequel in the franchise. Of the movies in the Pixar canon, the first movie wasn’t a huge critical hit nor did would it rank that high amongst moviegoers and  the cross-continental “Cars 2” did a great job at being such an odd and bizarre misfire, yet both movies looked really good and utilized some great voice work from its cast. For the third movie, the screenwriters here basically returned to the formula that worked just fine for “Cars” presenting a surprisingly nice role reversal that observes themes of middle-age insecurity and discovering the opportunity to pass on knowledge and experience that a dreamer desires. It turns out, this qualification might even edge out its previous two runs around the track and, er, globe. Read more…

JULIAN SCHNABEL: A PRIVATE PORTRAIT (2017) review

June 11, 2017

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written by: Pappi Corsicato
produced by: Pappi Corsicato, Valeria Golino, Viola Prestieri & Riccardo Scamarcio
directed by: Pappi Corsicato
rated: unrated
runtime: 84 min.
U.S. release date: April 28, 2017 (Tribeca Film Festival), May 5, 2017 (limited) & June 2-8, 2017 (Gene Siskel Film Center)

 

“Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait” is a documentary that delivers on its promise. It is indeed about one of the most versatile American artists living today, but unlike other films that focus on notable figures of the past and present, director Pappi Corsicato doesn’t just offer a career overview, mainly because the 65-year-old Schnabel is very much alive, embracing life and constantly creating. It’s a film that not only renewed my appreciation for the painter/filmmaker/writer/musician/etc, it also reminded me how invigorating the creative process can be – which is helpful, since I’m always focused on how frustrating it is – as it focuses on this larger-than-life persona, yet is intent on simply hanging out with its subject and those close to him, who know him best.  Read more…

MINDHORN (2017) review

June 11, 2017

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written by: Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby
produced by: Jack Arbuthnott and Laura Hastings-Smith
directed by: Sean Foley
rated: Not Rated (Content equivalent to R rating)
runtime: 89 min.
U.S. release date: May 5, 2017 (exclusively on Netflix)

 

“And that’s Capoeira!”

 

The Brits have a corner on the comedy of the awkward. Likely due to their very formal society and social norms, British comedies have a way of mining laughs from characters that buck those norms in the most uncomfortable ways possible. You can add the new film “Mindhorn” to the list of great British comedies that make an audience simultaneously laugh and cringe. Read more…

THE HUNTER’S PRAYER (2017) review

June 8, 2017

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written by: Paul Leyden and Oren Moverman
produced by: Tove Christensen, James Costas, Paul Leyden, David McIlhargey, Christopher Milburn, Anthony Rhulen, Paul Rock, John Schwarz, Michael Schwarz, Michael Wexler & Sam Worthington
directed by: Jonathan Mostow
rated: R (for violence, drug use and language)
runtime: 91 min.
U.S. release date: June 9, 2017 (limited, Amazon & iTunes)

 

Nearly a decade after his comic book adaptation/sci-fi/Bruce Willis flick “Surrogates” comes “The Hunter’s Prayer”, the latest movie from director Jonathan Mostow. This is the guy who was given the keys to Ahnuld’s Harley with “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” when James Cameron bowed out.  Mostow actually delivered one of the best thrillers of the 90s with “Breakdown” and followed that with a legit WWII submarine flick “U-571”, so it’s not like I’m ready to dismiss a new film from Mostow, but I am surprised since he’s been off my cinematic radar for a while now. His involvement in “The Hunter’s Prayer” was the sole draw for me and as it turns out he shows that he still has a fine handling of the pacing and suspense of an efficient action thriller, but if the director is the only good thing about a movie, then there’s trouble.   Read more…

WAR MACHINE (2017) review

June 4, 2017

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written by: David Michôd, based on the book by Michael Hastings
produced by: Ian Bryce, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Brad Pitt
directed by: David Michôd
rated: TV-MA (for language and violence)
runtime: 122 min.
U.S. release date: May 26, 2017 (exclusively on Netflix)

 

“You can’t win the trust of a country by invading it.”

 

Few films have dared to tackle the American war in Afghanistan, likely due to its impossibly complex and labyrinthine nature. It’s one of those conflicts that has no defining moment, no real direction, and seemed to just go on forever. Enter Australian director David Michôd and actor/producer Brad Pitt, who have an angle on the war and have helped to tell the overarching problem with it by focusing in on one man. Read more…