Mini Movie Reviews
Click on the letter to take you to where you want to go. The movies listed next to the letter are the movies you will find there.
Await Further Instructions
Await Further Instructions follows a family as they are trapped within their own home by a mysterious force, and the only point of contact for them is their tv giving commands. This film tries to do two things at once: make a mystery-thriller film while at the same time adding social commentary on various topics like the power of television and the subtlety of racism. Unfortunately, this film fails to do either well. The characters are all one-dimensional, making the ‘subtle racism’ against the estranged son’s non-Caucasian girlfriend not so subtle and incredibly fake as well as the ‘the power of the tv’ message unreal because of how unquestioning the characters are. The film as a mystery-thriller also in-large part fails as well. The film actually does pick up in the second act, as we see the family tear itself apart over the increasingly-demanding messages on the tv. Unfortunately, the finale to the ramping up of the second act throws all tension and suspense out-the-window when it’s revealed what is going on. I won’t say what it is, but I will say I actually started laughing for thirty seconds straight at how goofy the revelation is. The ending alone kills Await Further Instructions, but there are plenty of other elements to do the job as well.
Bohemian Rhapsody tells the tale of Queen’s lead singer Freddie Mercury and his rise to stardom up to Live Aid. As a big fan of classic rock, I knew that no matter what, I would still get some kicks out of this film. Fortunately, this film is more than just an appeal to Queen and/or classic rock fans. The movie is rather formulaic, but the acting performances and the story are good enough to keep the film going. Rami Malek is the highlight, as he transforms from the socially awkward weirdo in Mr. Robot to the eccentric Freddie Mercury. At the end of the day, it was still good fun to be part of a band I have loved for many years, and the Live Aid performance in particular wraps up the film really nicely. While it isn’t the best biographical film, Bohemian Rhapsody offers a look into one of the greatest bands of the 20th century, and being in that space alone is worth experiencing.
Boondock Saints follows two Irish twin brothers has they turn into Boston vigilantes, with the FBI following them the whole way through. This film to me is very much like From Dusk Till Dawn: a film that have great and terrible moments, and me feeling divided as to whether or not the film is deserving of a cult following. Unlike From Dusk Till Dawn however, Boondock Saints doesn’t have any creative edge, and its bad elements outweigh its good ones. I think the brothers are the highlight of the film, and the two have a great chemistry together. Plus, I think some of the other characters as well as the world-building are fun to be around. Unfortunately, the film feels bogged down by bad action scenes, mediocre editing, and other not-so-fun characters. On top of that, the characters and the world never felt properly introduced, which made me feel like I was watching the sequel and was expected to already know the characters. The absolute worst part of this film is Willem Dafoe, who plays as an FBI detective who is falling apart as the film goes on. Seeing him crying and shooting his gun in the air while imagining what happened at the crime scene felt goofy in all of the wrong ways. I can totally see why Boondock Saints would have a cult following, but it ultimately feels too goofy and amateurish to be anything more than a bad action film.
Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day
Despite not being a fan of the first film, I still felt the need to watch the second film. So I did, and now I wonder what my life would be like if I didn’t watch the first film in the first place. All Saints Day follows the two brothers years later, as they decide to go back to Boston after the death of a priest. This film pretty much plays out like the first film, but even less enjoyable. The last film has a near-equal balance of good and bad, but this film is pretty much all bad. The film is goofier in the wrong ways, and it feels like it’s trying to be edgier. While the old characters are fun to be around, the new characters feel like caricatures more than real characters. Finally, the humor in this film is trying too hard to be offensive, which in a sense makes the brothers feel like caricatures. Boondock Saints is a film I don’t like but I can understand why people like; All Saints Day, however, is just a bad film altogether.
Deliverance follows a group of four guys as they go on a canoe trip out in Georgia before the river they are on is destroyed by the building of a dam, only to find that there are some locals out in that area who are none-too-pleased with, well, anybody. I try not to go into films with any expectations, but by the description of the film as well as the posters (the most famous of which are hands coming out of the water gripping a double-barrel shotgun) gave me ideas as to what the film was going to be. What I found instead was completely different. What sounded like a fight for survival really was an outdoors film with a few bad apples. The film felt all over the place with its mood, and I didn’t know what to make of the film by the end. On top of that, I think Jon Voight’s acting was pretty bad. Maybe this is a film that is past my time, but Deliverance didn’t really leave me wanting more.
A Fistful of Dollars & For a Few Dollars More
Just about everyone knows of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but what isn’t as well known is the fact that the legendary Western is the third film in a trilogy. The first two films, about a stranger who walks into a town divided by two gangs and two bounty hunters teaming up to take down a big hit, are films that all feature the Man with No Name, but they all are separate stories and characters. I decided to put both of them together because my thoughts on both of them are pretty much the same. These two films feel like the buildup to the third film. You can start to see the traces of the third film in the first two, but also a bit of first generation Western traces as well. They are films that don’t quite nail it, but offer the building blocks for the third film to nail it. Despite that, I still enjoyed these two films. The characters are solid, the shootouts are still tense, and the music is fantastic. They might not reach the heights of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but they are still two Western films worth watching.
Free Solo is a gripping and intense journey about one of the scariest climbing forms being applied to one of the hardest climbs on Earth. The documentary follows Alex Honnold in both the preparation and the execution of climbing El Capitan without any ropes. While the doc is surrounded by the climb itself, I found the parts before it equally fascinating. The climb is gripping and left me on the edge of my seat as he tackles the hardest parts of the route thousands of feet in air, but it’s the beginning part that puts a lot of weight into the climb and keeps it from being some extreme sports doc with edgy rock music. The first half of the doc is the preparation, but throughout this you get to see the people who surround Alex, and what puts both this climb and this film into perspective is how those around him have to accept his mortality. His friends as well as the audience has to accept the fact that the person this doc surrounds could die on camera, and that is something I have never truly experienced in any film or doc. Free Solo is a gripping yet haunting doc that isn’t for the faint of heart, but is most definitely worth watching.
From Dusk Till Dawn
From Dusk Till Dawn follows two bank robbing brothers as they escape to Mexico and waiting for an alibi in a truck stop, only to find that said truck stop is a feasting ground for vampires. It’s really hard for me to wrap my mind around this film because of how great and terrible it is at the same time. For every thing I didn’t like about this game, I had something that I liked equally that counters it. On one hand, some of the acting is terrible, the film tries to annoyingly appeal to edgy teens with naked women and stupid gags (like a gun in the shape of a penis), and the first half the film overall is pretty bland. On the other hand, its creativity creates a unique environment and plot, the tonal shift in the second half makes the film better, and some of the star power shines through. I really hate the bad aspects of this film, but at the same time I can see why it’s a cult classic. From Dusk Till Dawn is a film full of flaws, but I can’t help but enjoy the moments that were great. It won’t knock anyone’s socks off, but it is worth watching just to see how crazy this film is.
Heat follows the leader of a thief and a police detective as their lives intertwine after a heist. The thing I like the most about this film is how it never felt like it took the perspective of the cop or the robber. Both of these characters are complex human beings that have their own similarities and differences, and the thing I love about that is I never felt that one of them is the “good guy” and the other one is a “bad guy.” Watching both of these characters trying to outsmart each other like a game of chess is incredible to watch, and every tense action moment that happened is all-the-more intense by the fact that I don’t know who to side with and I don’t know who will win. The action scenes are also fun to watch, and I could instantly tell that Payday got a heavy inspiration from this film. I did have a few issues with the film, however. For starters, the film hasn’t aged well in some spots. Some of the dialogue, music, and green screens have this 90s cheese to them, which is something I felt could’ve been avoided. Also, I won’t say what the ending is, but I will say it is so incredibly dumb, especially considering how smart these two characters are at outsmarting each other. In the end, Heat offers a fun heist movie that does a great job at fleshing out its characters and keeping it from being a “good guy, bad guy” film.
Hell or High Water
Hell or High Water follows two brothers who go around Texas robbing banks, and some Texas Rangers hot on their tails. I love a good heist game or movie, and this one doesn’t disappoint. The two brothers have a good dynamic, the middle-of-nowhere Texas vibe is a good setting for the film, and the acting done by Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges is solid. On top of that, I think the reason for them robbing (it isn’t just about the money) makes the film feel down-to-Earth. This feels like the heist movie everyone has come to love mixed with a modern-day Western setting, and it feels both refreshing and familiar in all of the right ways. In a world where heist films are often times grandiose, Hell or High Water tells the most personal heist story I have ever experienced, while still offering everything I love in this genre.
John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum
Picking up where the last film left off, John Wick 3 has, well, John Wick on the run as every assassin wants his head for the $15 million bounty on his head. The first film set quite a precedent with its excellent choreography and cinematography, as well as its unique world building. John Wick 2 adds onto the first one by making the action scenes a little better and the world building a little bit crazier. So it should come as no surprise that John Wick 3 is pretty much like the last two films, but a little bit more refined. Fortunately, the John Wick films are so much fun, that more of the same is exactly what I wanted. John Wick 3 is a blast from beginning to end. The one downside to this film, however, is the lack of an end. Instead of closing off the story into a nice, compact trilogy, the film feels like it was built to be followed up, which which left me unsatisfied in terms of the story. Still, I had a blast with this film, and I can say it is a worthy edition to the series.
Mine is about a soldier who is stuck in the desert after accidentally stepping on a landmine. Despite its boring concept, I think a good filmmaker can pull off an excellent film with a concept like this, but unfortunately I think the two Fabio’s failed to do so. While there are some touching moments as he starts to hallucinate from the heat and dehydration, a lot of the film is built on cliches. Even with Armie Hammer’s pretty solid performance, even he couldn’t save how generic his character is. He’s just a small-town kid raised by an abusive father. He meets the love of his life at a bar after fighting some military d-bags, and soon they fall in love, but he is insecure about solidifying the relationship in marriage. When he’s not hallucinating, he is dealing with the similar misfortunes found in other survival films. All of it culminates to an ending that starts pretty strong, and ends poorly when you realize another character in the film truly knew the situation he was in but decided not to give it to him straight. I want to like Mine for the idea of the director creating interesting content around a boring premise, but the execution of this film feels incredibly generic, and I think other films who have tackled the myriad of cliches found in this film have done it better.
Once Upon a Time in America
Despite its nearly four hour run time, I never felt like I wasted a single moment watching this film. The tale of a ex-prohibition gangster reliving his past at two different parts in his life fleshes out both the plot and the character, and it made me care deeply about him and his gang as they grow and become successful, only to have it all taken away. It’s an emotional roller coaster that explores the value of friendship and loyalty, all with a Prohibition backdrop that made the setting fascinating without it being too in-your-face. All of this is brought together with the directing and cinematic skills of Sergio Leone and the the musical genius of Ennio Morricone, who make each scene all-the-more impactful. Once Upon a Time in America is a great film that I almost wish was longer, just so then I can stay in that world for just a little bit more time.
Polar is an action film about a soon-to-retire assassin being hunted down by his former employer because the company he used to work for can’t afford to pay him his retirement fund. Long-story-short, this film is a John Wick knockoff with a heavy emphasis on a comic book style and over-the-top gore. You would think this would be a recipe for success, but this film finds a way to screw it all up. The comic book style and gore makes the film feel too humorous, and while it did lead to some pretty funny scenes, it never felt right with the rest of the film. Most of the characters are wacky in a bad way and look like they came off of some obscure fashion show, with the main antagonist being particularly bad (an actual line from his mouth is “time to die”). At the end of the day, though, it’s the action that counts, and this film has a surprising shortage of it. Plenty of death happens, but in terms of an action scene and not just a simple murder, there is one action scene and one hunter-hunted stealth scene. The things I love about John Wick are how the action scenes are well choreographed and how mature the film is in its style and world building, and Polar is a film that strips all of that away and replaces it with a style that would appeal to edgy twelve year old kids. Polar is a film that tries and fails to knock off a much better action film, and by the end I just wanted to watch John Wick more than anything else.
Senna is a documentary about the career of Formula One driver Ayrton Senna, and how he came to be one of the best F1 drivers ever. I’m not big into racing, and I have never seen an F1 race in my life, but Senna is a gripping documentary that made me want to give interest into the event. In this documentary, we get to be with a man who was incredible at what we did, while still staying humble. This doc follows him through thick and thin, as we see his highest highs (like winning the world championship), and his lowest lows (like battling against the FIA). The entire film is presented through recordings of his races and interviews, with occasional interview audio being thrown into the mix. Senna offers a glimpse into the life of an incredible driver, from his go-kart beginnings to his tragic end, and every moment I spent with him was a moment I don’t regret.
Studio 54 is a documentary about a nightclub in Manhattan that represented the pinnacle of 70s disco, until it crashed down hard. Studio 54 is a documentary like any other, so the ultimate question is whether the source material is worth experiencing. While the story of the nightclub and its downfall isn’t all that interesting, I had a good time with the documentary overall with everything surrounding it. The doc looks at nightlife culture in the 70s, and being in that time period was far more interesting to me than the story about a nightclub who didn’t properly get a liquor license and whose owners skimmed the profits. It’s a strange case for me to have a film where everything surrounding the plot is better than the plot itself, but being transported to a moment in history that was carefree was worth my time. While the story of Studio 54 isn’t really worth a documentary, the day-to-day of that studio and just how popular it was with famous and non-famous people alike makes the documentary worth a watch.
1982’s The Thing follows a group of researchers out in Antarctica dealing with an alien that can imitate other beings. I haven’t seen a lot of horror films, but I can easily see why this one is considered one of the greats. It does such a great job at cutting the fat from the film and keeping me on suspense. Just when I thought this guy would eat it, somebody else did. The film does a great job at keeping you from guessing who is human and who is not, just like the characters. On top of that, the effects are incredible, and it is the first time I can think of that a film actually made me want to stop eating. The ending, which I will not spoil, left me on the edge of my seat, but with hindsight is a great ending. And as always, Ennio Morricone behind the music makes the movie all the better. I can’t tell you what is the best horror movie ever made, but I can say that The Thing is definitely a contender.
West Side Story
West Side Story is a movie based on a play that is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, but in a New York setting with gangs as the two opposing sides. I think a more modern take on the classic story is a solid premise (just like Leonardo DiCaprio’s Romeo + Juliet), but the film ultimately comes off as goofy because they added too many silly elements to the story (just like Leonardo DiCaprio’s Romeo + Juliet). The main issue I have with this film is the singing and dancing part, which wouldn’t be an issue if the story was a bit more lighthearted. I’m fine with musicals and whatnot, but trying to convince me that these juvenile delinquents are ready to kill the opposing gang while they sing and dance is a bit of a hard sell. The songs themselves are okay, as for half of them are memorable and about a quarter of the people who sing them can actually sing. There are good songs to listen to, good moments here-and-there, and a pretty solid use of color, but the film is just too goofy to really appreciate those things. West Side Story is a film that could’ve been good and even has a few good elements, but ultimately feels too goofy to watch seriously.