Bro-Reviews: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

More a Jurassic World theme park ride than a movie.

Back in 2015, the arrival of “Jurassic World” was a historic one. It had been nearly a decade and a half since the much maligned “Jurassic Park 3”, and eager audiences paid their hard earned dollar in droves in en route to the largest opening weekend of all time (for 6 months) and one of the highest opening weekends of all time. With the dinosaurs once again becoming a money printer for the studio, a sequel was greenlit quickly, and three years since the world welcomed its return, the park has reopened once again for “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.”

Three years after the events of “Jurassic: World”, a group of mercenaries funded by the estate of John Hammond’s former partner, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), has extracted remains from Isla Nublar, the park’s abandoned island,  despite push-back from the US Government and mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). The park’s former operations manager, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), is contacted by Lockwood’s aide, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), to partake in a mission to relocate the remaining dinosaurs to a new sanctuary, including the velociraptor Blue. Despite initial rejection, Claire’s former flame and velociraptor trainer, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), partakes in the mission as well. The two discover the Lockwood estate’s plans are not the virtuous mission it was pitched as, and must find a way to stop the estate from taking the cloning of the extinct creatures to a point of no return. 

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” isn’t so much a movie as it is a theme park ride, much like one you’d see at the Universal Studios resort. Though it gets off to a slow start after its action packed opening, the film’s first act is a non-stop action thrill ride filled to the brim with scientific impossibilities, explosions, chases, and most importantly, dinosaurs. This undoubtedly is the high point of the movie, and once the film leaves the self titled “Fallen Kingdom”, it somehow devolves into even more preposterous territory.

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Chris Pratt in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.”

The second and third acts of “Fallen Kingdom” may take place mostly on the Lockwood estate, but attempt to tackle the similar issues its predecessor dealt with, namely the introduction of a new super dinosaur that could one day be used not only as an attraction, but a weapon. There’s a tinge of Universal’s classic monster horror films in there with the dinosaurs lurking within the creepy, tucked away estate in Northern California, but it’s much too silly to truly generate scares for anyone over the age of 8 years old. Other interesting theories and conflicts arise such as the endangered species and cloning dilemmas, along with asking the question of if the creators and trainers of such clones are just as responsible as the ones who are selling and exploiting the creatures, but they’re half baked ideas that are largely forgotten for humans versus dinosaurs al la “Home Alone” style. 

Chris Pratt seems to be using these films as an audition tape to become the next Indiana Jones, and while a capable action star with presence, still hasn’t grown much as an actor. Bryce Dallas Howard manages to be more of a force than a damsel in distress in the last film, but her idealism of the extinct creatures despite evidence proving they should remain extinct is beyond eye rolling. The mysterious child of the Lockwood estate, played by Isabella Sermon, never rises above annoying kid in movie status, while Rafe Spall, Toby Jones, and Ted Levine all sleepwalk through their villainous roles. Goldblum barely gets out of his chair at a senate hearing to collect a paycheck, while James Cromwell would like you to hold his beer as he barely gets out of bed for his. 

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” isn’t necessarily a let down, but a sequel made because of a surging of 90s nostalgia that has yet to die down. With the heat of the summer upon us, audiences will look to “Fallen Kingdom” as an escape for summer pop-corn fun, which it is more then capable of being. But for a film that actually raises interesting questions that remain pertinent to today’s society, it’s a shame “Fallen Kingdom” plays it relatively safe and settles for dumb summer fun. 

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars. Pay low matinée price.

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” stars Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, B.D. Wong, Isabella Sermon, Geraldine Chaplin, and Jeff Goldblum. It is in theaters now.

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Bro-Reviews: Hereditary

The horrors of family.

Every year there seems to be a darling film that arises from the festival circuit. 2018’s film festival darling was “Hereditary”, a midnight screening at the Sundance Film Festival that was met with rave reviews. Some have even gone as far to say it’s the scariest movie of all time, but does the film live up to the hype it received back in the winter? 

“Hereditary” sees Annie Graham (Toni Collette), a diorama artist, grieving from the loss of her mother, a private woman who seems to have been very popular within the community. After her death, Annie’s family, consisting of husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), son Peter (Alex Wolff) and daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro), begin to experience a series of strange behavioral changes and freak occurrences. This leads Annie to investigate the meaning behind these occurrences and their relation to her mother’s death. 

While maybe not “the scariest movie ever” as the hype would have you believe, “Hereditary” is the scariest movie to be released in quite some time. This is thanks in part due to Ari Aster, making his feature film directorial debut, and his ability to create tension throughout the film. The films use of quiet and the dark creates such tension, leaving you gripping your chair’s arms and at the edge of your seat. Tension also undoubtedly arises from the wide arrange of emotions the Graham family is experiencing, as their drama builds to the point of near explosion numerous times. The family’s off putting mannerisms also helps build a sense of uneasiness throughout, particularly Milly Shapiro, whose turn as Charlie is nothing short of captivating.

One other aspect of ”Hereditary” that perhaps has resonated with people most is the film’s imagery. The film boasts some of the creepiest, goriest imagery throughout, especially towards its hellish climax. Some may not find the film’s use of such imagery scary, but it undoubtedly will creep back into your mind as you attempt to sleep and will keep you awake all night. 

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Toni Collette in “Hereditary”.

Toni Collette gives an awards worthy turn as Annie, as her emotional depth is unlike one we’ve seen in art house horror. Gabriel Byrne gets plenty of mileage out of a seemingly thankless straight man role, Ann Dowd is a scene stealer as a friend of the family, and Alex Wol shows he’s a star in the making coming off the success of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”. 

Like all horror movies, however, there will be those who have a bone to pick. The strange occurrences surrounding the family will leave plenty asking why don’t they notice something that is obviously peculiar. The film’s climax will have some asking why would you do that/ why wouldn’t they do this instead, but these are tropes that we should be accustomed to and prevent you from being in the moment. If you are able to be in the moment with these characters, you along with the characters of “Hereditary” will leave the theater scarred in fashion or another.

“Hereditary” is an art house horror masterpiece. Its use of familiar horror elements builds a sense of terrifying for the unknown that will leave you horrified and regretting your curiosity. It may not scare all and live up to the hype of “scariest movie ever”, but “Hereditary” will frighten you and leave you restlessly disturbed.

Rating: 3/4 stars. Pay full price.

“Hereditary” stars Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, and Ann Dowd. It is in theaters now.

Bro-Reviews: Rampage

Arcade button mashing is more thrilling.

Earlier this year, the video game movie genre stumbled with the arrival of Tomb Raider, an uneven, overlong slog that received mixed reviews at best and disappointed at the box office. Hollywood can’t seem to get the video game movie formula down. But their was hope, as such films never had as big a movie star as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Sure, he had starred in the film adaptation of the popular video game “Doom” back in 2005, but he wasn’t a bona fide star then like he is now. Throw in the high concept idea of the video game “Rampage”, a game in which you play as giant creatures going around the world destroying everything in your path, and you’ve got a recipe for a fun, and possibly even first good video game movie, right?

Rampage sees Dwayne Johnson as Davis Okoye, a primatologist who prefers the company of animals rather than humans. His favorite animal/ friend George (* motion captured by Jason Liles*), an albino gorilla he rescued, one night becomes infected by a pathogen that causes him to grown in size and increase aggression. After numerous cases of other animals being infected by the pathogen arise, Dr. Kate Caldwell (Noami Harris), a genetic engineer, teams up with Okoye to try and find a cure before the evil Energyne Corporation, led by Claire Wyden (Malin Åkerman) and her brother Brett (Jake Lacey), unleash even more hell upon the world with their experiment: Project Rampage.

Obviously, the glaring difference from the game and this adaptation is actual animals become infected with the pathogen in the film whereas it was humans being turned into giant animals in the game. This was probably a wise decision, and it lends itself well to the relationship between George and Johnson’s character. This is surprisingly one of the best aspects of the film, as while Johnson isn’t exactly known for his acting abilities, he’s able to convey his concern for his friend and vice versa. Of course, the giant albino gorilla, giant crocodile, and giant flying wolf wrecking havoc on the city draws parallels to the game, and at times is a delight to watch. It even lends itself well to an interesting horror element that makes the film one of the most violent PG-13 rated films ever released.

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Dwayne Johnson in Rampage.

Unfortunately, for a film that’s main selling point is monstrous destruction, Rampage is confoundedly mute during some of it. Sure, there’s plenty of destruction, but it doesn’t sound or feel like you get the full brunt of the carnage unfolding. The obliteration in the film never escalates to what should be disaster movie levels, and this could be due to the fact that the film struggles to balance tones during its slog of a second act. At times, the film takes itself seriously as if it’s trying to sell us that this could actually happen, and at others it stops to be meta and lighthearted, a combination that does not mix well. The second act is the main area where we see these jarring tonal shifts, and after countless male posturing confrontations, mistimed comedy, and failed attempts at developing characters, Rampage unforgivably becomes a bore.

While Dwayne Johnson may have the desire to be the next global action star, al la Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’s no Schwarzenegger. Jeffrey Dean Morgan should change his name to Jeffrey “Lean” Morgan, as his performance consists of the tendencies of his Negan character from The Walking Dead combined with an impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones from The Fugitive. The result is an awkward cowboy persona that feels like he’s in a completely different movie. Naomi Harris and Joe Manganiello are utterly wasted in the film and barely even resonate, while Malin Åkerman and Jake Lacy come across as Team Rocket from Pokémon and also feel out of place.

Rampage is yet another missed opportunity for the video game movie genre. A film boasting the talents of Dwayne Johnson, a blockbuster budget, and a high concept like the “Rampage” video game should have at the very least been fun. The result we get is an uneven disaster movie that hopes it can save itself by recklessly button mashing its way through its climax. You’d better off going to the arcade and doing that with the game the movie drew its inspiration from, at least you might get some thrills attempting to beat the high score.

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars. Rent it.

Rampage stars Dwayne Johnson, Naomi Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin  Åkerman, Jake Lacey, Marley Shelton, and Joe Manganiello. It is in theaters now.

Bro-Reviews: A Quiet Place

Quite the surprise.

Horror films have been lacking originality these days. Most rely upon teenage tropes that only unassuming audiences can enjoy, or recycle the same premises or old franchises ad nauseam. However, when trailers dropped for the new survival horror film A Quiet Place, people were instantly intrigued by its unique premise of using the ever so underappreciated use of quiet as a means of survival. Even more shocking was the reveal of the talent behind the camera, Jim Halpert himself, John Krasinski. With all of the intrigue and positive word of mouth for the film coming out of the South by Southwest Festival, A Quiet Place couldn’t land in theaters soon enough for the general public to see and judge for themselves.

A Quiet Place takes place in the year 2020, where a blind alien species with supersonic hearing has arrived and wrecked havoc on the earth. One of the few survivors consists of a family having just experienced a tragedy: a mother and father, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), and Lee Abbott (John Krasinski), their son, Marcus (Noah Jupe), and their deaf daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds). The family must live in silence and band together to avoid the seemingly invincible creatures in order to survive.

A Quiet Place gets plenty of mileage out of its selling point and biggest asset: quietness. With the premise established in a fashion in which you fear for the characters at every turn, A Quiet Place has you paralyzed in suspense and at the edge of your seat throughout the film. The premise lends itself so well you begin to feel frightened for just squirming in your seat too loudly, as the film transports you to its world so well you too feel as if you’re living under the dire circumstances established in the film. Much of this credit must be given to director John Krasinski, who also co-wrote the film. With so little innovation in the horror genre, A Quiet Place is a welcome change of pace. A rare jewel in the genre that is not only tense, but undeniably frightening as well.

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John Kasinski in A Quiet Place

In regards to the performances, one must highlight the actor’s abilities to convey real emotions while still maintaining the logic of the premise. The strongest of the bunch has to be deaf actress Millicent Simmonds, whose character comes across as sympathetic and brave, and is a testament to the wonders of properly casting a role. Blunt also delivers as a caring yet strong mother, and her encounters with the other worldly species are undeniably jumpy. While some may laugh at his attempts to shed his Jim Halpert persona in favor of a ripped bearded mountain man in the hopes of reminding us he was almost Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, John Krasinski also does a splendid job as the family patriarch and protector.

If there’s anything to gripe about, the film’s premise does render its first half-hour somewhat slow. Yes, it’s all to establish the environment and setting, but even after the first sequence we get the point. Also, you can’t help but question some of the logic behind the film’s premise, such as day to day functions. Call it nit-picking, but the film doesn’t answer some of those questions as well. Most films at a certain point have to cheat their premise, but it would’ve been nice to see some of those burning questions resolved as well.

A Quiet Place is an edge of your seat survival-horror thriller that will leave you jumping at every sudden move. When a film can absorb you into its world to the point the happenings around you make you feel terrified for the potential consequences set up in the film, one must give kudos to the filmmakers for creating such an uneasy atmosphere. Considering its quiet rise to the public’s attention, A Quiet Place is quite the surprise.

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars. Pay full price.

A Quiet Place stars Emily Blunt, John Krasinsku, Noah Jupe, and Millicent Simmonds. It is in theaters now.

Jon Gruden: The Return

Sorry Jack, Chucky’s back.

Back in 1998, then Raiders renegade owner, the late Al Davis, made a bold head coaching move. He fired coach Joe Bugel after a terrible 4-12 season, the Raiders worst season since 1987, in favor of a young, fiery, unknown commodity by the name of Jon Gruden. Gruden was a hit with the Raider Nation, embodying the eccentric fan base to a T. The fans showed their adoration for the coach by bestowing him the nickname of “Chucky”, the killer doll and horror icon from the Child’s Play franchise.

Jon Gruden roams the sidelines during his first tenure with the Oakland Raiders.

Gruden’s tenure with the Raiders was immensely successful, posting a 38-26 record in 4 seasons as the Raiders head coach, and guiding them to the AFC Championship game in 2000. His stint with the Raiders came to an abrupt end, however, when Raiders lost in controversial fashion in what is now known as “The Tuck Rule Game” against the New England Patriots. Gruden lost a power struggle with owner Al Davis, the same man who had hired him to lead the Raiders to the promised land. He was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a king’s ransom, including Tampa Bay’s 2002 and 2003 first round draft picks, their 2002 and 2004 second round draft picks, and $8 million in cash.

A joyous Jon Gruden hoists the Lombardi Trophy after his Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated his former team, the Oakland Raiders, 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Gruden made Davis pay for his move, as the Buccaneers blew out the Raiders the next season in Super Bowl XXXVII 48-21. Gruden’s next six seasons as head coach of the Bucs weren’t nearly as successful, posting a 45-51 record, appearing in the playoffs twice, and no playoff victories. He was fired at the end of the 2008 season after a season ending loss, which knocked Tampa out of the playoffs, to the same Raiders that had traded him away six years earlier. Ironic.

Jon Gruden looking underwhelmed during a press conference while head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It didn’t take long for Gruden to land on his feet, as he was soon announced as the color commentator for ESPN’s flagship sporting event, Monday Night Football, and remained in that role for nine years. Gruden’s star power emerged even more during this time, as he was not only praised for his commentary inside the booth, but began hosting rookie QBs ahead of the NFL Draft in “Gruden’s QB Camp.” He starred in commercials for Corona and Hooters as well, and seemed like a man who was comfortable living his life without the stresses and pressures of coaching in the NFL. But the 3:17 a.m. wake-up calls and itch to coach again never left Chucky, and teams, both in the NFL and the NCAA, seemingly pursued him every offseason. But Jon didn’t feel the time was right to return. Until now.

Jon Gruden during a broadcast of ESPN’S Monday Night Football.

Following a colossally disappointing 6-10 season for the Raiders, a season in which before it began many believed Oakland would appear in the Super Bowl, head coach Jack Del Rio was fired. The team’s star QB, Derek Carr, lost confidence. The offense under the guidance of first year offensive coordinator Todd Downing looked broken. The Raiders had massively underachieved. Before Del Rio could even announce he was fired, ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortenson reported Jon Gruden was set to return to the Black Hole, where his head coaching career began. Nearly 10 days later, Jon Gruden was introduced as the new head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

“This is a big effing deal,” proclaimed Raiders owner Mark Davis at the introductory press conference. It absolutely is. Gruden’s contract is reportedly for 10 years and $100 million dollars. Mark Davis knew he had to make a splash and keep scorned Oakland Raider fans invested in the lame duck franchise for the next two years while they remained in Oakland before bolting to Las Vegas. The fate of the franchise depended on it.

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis needed to make a splash head coaching hire for his “lame-duck” franchise or risk losing fans before the team’s move to Las Vegas.

It helps, however, Jon Gruden believes he has unfinished business with the Raiders, as he invoked horrific memories of his final game as a Raider, “The Tuck Rule” game. “(Tom) Brady fumbled that ball,” Gruden stated. He went on to say, “Yeah, there is unfinished business as a coach. I was traded, I was fired. I’ve missed the game terribly. But I’ve really missed the Raiders. And for my career to end on that night in New England? It still ticks me off. I’m just so thrilled to be back here.”

Jon’s love for the fanbase and the city of Oakland was also prevalent throughout the press conference. “A big reason why I’m here is my passion for the city of Oakland and this franchise. And the people in the Black Hole, if you’re out there listening. I can’t wait to see you guys, man. I really can’t.”, Gruden stated. While Gruden may have 100 million little reason as to why he’s back, it’s clear he wants to be a Raider again, and wants to deliver a winning football team to the city of Oakland before loading the moving trucks. So much of the love letter to Oakland in the wake of the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas has seemed like a PR strategy, as evidenced by the acquisition of retired RB Marshawn Lynch, a native of Oakland, last offseason. But Jon Gruden epitomizes the Raiders and the East Bay’s attitude, so his adoration for the city and the franchise seems genuine.

Gruden didn’t make any promises in regards to producing a winner on the field, however, stating “I’m gonna do everything I can, no guarantees, no promises, but I want to win.” The Raiders will have to find a way to repair their offense, and must greatly improve their defense as well. Gruden seems to have taken steps in those directions already, as he announced Rams QB coach Greg Olson and Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will be the offensive and defensive coordinators respectively.

It’s not often former head coaches come back to the NFL and succeed, only Dick Vermeil won a Super Bowl with the then St. Louis Rams in 1999 after taking a hiatus from coaching. It’s not like the Raiders have had much success at bringing back old coaches either, as evidenced by Art Shell. After coaching the team from 1989 through 1994 during their Los Angeles days, Shell was re-hired to coach the team in 2006, yielding a disastrous 2-14 campaign, their worst in franchise history.  History may not be on Gruden’s side, but the time was right to come back. “I just, in my heart feel this is the thing to do. This is what I want to do. This is the organization that I want to be a part of, and I’m all in.”, Gruden said.

Jon Gruden and the Raiders won the press conference. They’ve riled-up the Raider Nation and have them believing 2018 will be their year. They have reason to believe Gruden can guide the team back to championship contention despite his near decade-long absence from coaching. Win, lose, or tie, Jon Gruden will be a member of the Raider Nation forever, but only time will tell if Mark Davis’ desperate hire will pay dividends within the next 10 years. Much like at a high stakes poker table in a Las Vegas casino, Mark Davis is all-in on Jon Gruden.

Jon Gruden and Mark Davis pose for a photo after Gruden’s introductory press conference at the Raiders headquarters in Alameda, California on January 9th, 2018.

 

 

Bro-Reviews: The 10 Worst Movies of 2017

One overwhelming feeling I couldn’t escape from my movie going experience in 2017 was just how underwhelmed I was walking out of most films this year. Another feeling I most certainly couldn’t help but feel was how angry I was watching certain films. Sure, bad movies are released pretty much every week now these days, but 2017 saw many films leaving myself and audiences visibly and audibly upset walking out of theaters. Of course, one cannot view every bad movie, but the following films listed are the the absolute worst 2017 had to offer.

(Dis)Honorable Mentions:

Bright (Netflix)

Joel Edgerton and Will Smith in “Bright.”

Alien: Covenant

“Alien: Covenant.”

Fifty Shades Darker

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in “Fifty Shades Darker.”

Snatched

Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer in “Snatched.”

10. Fist Fight

Ice Cube and Charlie Day in “Fist Fight.”

Mean spirited and unfunny, Fist Fight wastes a talented cast with a juvenile script and obvious gags. Its underlying message of how awful the public school system has become also goes nowhere, and ranks as one of the most misguided comedies of 2017.


9. Justice League

Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, and Jason Momoa in “Justice League.”

One thought after the success of Wonder Woman, DC might finally be on the right track. Justice League proves DC hasn’t learned from their previous mistakes, as this rushed and heavily re-shot answer to Marvel’s The Avengers didn’t even gross as much as the incoherent Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The DC Extended Universe may be beyond saving at this point.


8. The Emoji Movie

The Emoji Movie.”

If you ever wanted the film embodiment of a corporation desperately trying to appeal to younger audiences and thinking they’re being clever about it, The Emoji Movie is for you.


7. Geostorm

Gerrard Butler in “Geostorm.”

Geostorm makes Armageddon look like Casablanca. It could’ve been dumb fun, but it’s mostly listless and overdone with poor special effects. Geostorm tries to breathe life into the dying disaster movie genre, but fails spectacularly.


6. Transformers: The Last Knight

“Transformers: The Last Knight.”

The Transformers franchise has so much potential to be great, even in the hands of a true auteur like Michael Bay. But we must put an end to the Autobots and Decepticons, as Transformers: The Last Knight is an overlong and over-complicated fever dream that ranks as the worst the series has to offer. And that’s saying something.


5. The Snowman

“The Snowman.”

The Snowman feels like an incomplete project not even a first year film student would submit. It’s poorly structured, sloppily edited, and above all else, boring. The Snowman aims to be the next Se7en or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but comes across as a counterfeit knockoff no sane person would classify as good filmmaking.


4. Baywatch

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“Baywatch.”

Bikinis, cleavage, abs, comedy, action, and The Rock?! What could possibly go wrong? For Baywatch, everything. This lame, uninspired summer action comedy is a chore to sit through, rendering this bay unwatchable.


3. Mother!

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Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence in “Mother!.”

Calling Mother! pretentious would be an insult to the word. Mother! believes it’s groundbreaking and deep by realizing Biblical scripture in modern times, but is ultimately a pointless venture made purely for shock value.


2. All Eyez on Me

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Demetrius Shipp, Jr. in “All Eyez on Me.”

Tupac Shakur was a fascinating man and a rap legend, but you wouldn’t know that by watching the ill-fated bio-pic All Eyez on Me. This two-and-a-half hour long slog through the rapper’s life plays like a cheap, scratched-up greatest hits album that is missing some tracks, and ultimately has no flow.


1. Wish Upon

Joey King in “Wish Upon.”

From bad acting, shameless pandering to millennials, to being downright comedic instead of scary, Wish Upon hoped to lure in an unassuming and undemanding audience that still believes The Blair Witch Project was real. The result of this poor update on “The Monkey’s Paw” turned out to be not only one of the best screening experiences I’ve ever had, but most importantly, the absolute worst 2017 had to offer in film.

 

Bro-Reviews: Mother!

Pretentious filmmaking at its finest.

One of the last true artists remaining in Hollywood today is director/writer Darren Aronofsky, whose career has been built upon making artistic and ambitious films. With the exception of The Wrestler, most of Aronofsky’s work is filled with metaphors, allegories, and pure insanity. After making the story of Noah’s Arc a post-apocalyptic fever dream with no clear setting in 2014’s Noah, Aronofsky is out to outdo himself once again with the release of his new psychological horror film, Mother!.

Mother! stars Jennifer Lawrence as Mother, a young housewife married to Him (Javier Bardem), a poet who’s experiencing writer’s block. One night, a mysterious man (Ed Harris) appears at their house, and against the wishes of Mother, is invited to stay by Him. Soon after, a mysterious woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) appears at the house, claiming to be the mysterious man’s wife and is also invited to stay by Him despite a reluctant Mother. A series of strange arrivals and disturbing events then occur, and mother is left to solve the mystery behind these occurrences.

In regards to the acting, everyone in the film does a fine job. Jennifer Lawrence somehow actually manages to act for the first time since her award winning turn in Silver Linings Playbook while still maintaining her blank stare that has somehow made her one of Hollywood’s most sought after actresses. Javier Bardem clearly chooses his projects based on their absurdity, and delivers a fine performance considering the ludicrous material he’s given. Ed Harris is a veteran actor who knows what he’s doing at this point in his storied yet underrated career, and it’s good to see Michelle Pfeiffer getting the chance to show off her undervalued acting prowess.

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Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence in “Mother!.”

There’s little doubt that Darren Aronofsky is a true auteur. But sometimes auteurism can lead to pompous filmmaking, and that is what precisely plagues Mother!. The film is clearly an allegory to religion, most notably Christianity. To explain any further would spoil the entire movie.

Aronofsky clearly has some sort of hangup with Christianity and religion in general, and uses his platform as a director and writer to explore the themes of spiritualism and cultism that exists within religion. However, his findings are nothing more than surface level observations about the ridiculousness of certain beliefs in religion and the dangerous effect it can have on the people who follow it excessively. While some may call his vision and work ambitious and thought provoking, the peculiar and unsettling events and images at the beginning of the film turn into obvious and cheap shock value by the film’s hellish climax.

Highlighting the absurdity of certain beliefs in religion and then realizing them is no doubt disturbing to watch. However, if one already acknowledges the belief is somewhat preposterous when you really sit down and think about it, showing the audience what that belief would look like if realized in full form on film is shoddy imagery. And for over two hours, Aronofsky fills Mother! with these depictions, and has no insightful commentary whatsoever. So unless you’re easily mesmerized by horrific symbolism, they are largely ineffective due to Aronofsky’s inability to provide useful insight into what is a controversial and thought provoking subject matter.

Mother! may have fine performances within it, but they are muted by Aronofsky’s desire to place his performers under unusual circumstances as an excuse for him to be weird. Some may marvel at Aronofsky’s lofty ambitions, but Mother! comes across as a useless, pretentious film that states the obvious and has absolutely nothing of value to say or add to its contentious subject matter.

Rating: 1/4 Stars. Stay Away.

Mother! stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeseon, Brian Gleeson, Jovan Adepo, Stephen McHattie, and Kristen Wiig. It is in theaters September 15th.