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 its good to see Michelle Pfeiffer getting the chance to show off her undervalued acting prowess.

mother-2017-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000

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.

Advertisements

Bro-Reviews: 2017 Summer Box Office Winners and Losers

Whether you’re a winner or a loser, box office revenue is down significantly compared to last summer.

The Summer movie season is officially over, after 4 long months, it’s finally over. While this summer had it fair share of winners that won the box office, their were plenty of losers, and boy did they lose. It’s now time to asses the winners and losers of the 2017 Summer box office.

Winner: Wonder Woman

img_0365

The highest grossing film of the summer by a significant margin, Wonder Woman was a much needed win for the DC extended universe and showed girl power is alive and well in Hollywood. The film saw unprecedented holds from weekend to weekend over the summer, playing similarly to 2002’s Spider-Man en route to $406.8 million domestically, making it the 7th highest grossing super-hero film of all time and the highest grossing film ever directed by a woman.

Loser: Valerian and the City of A thousand Planets

valerian-images-dane-dehaan-cara-delevingne-slice

Valerian is a prime example of what happens when you let directors go into a CGI candy shop and allow them to lose their minds on screen. While visually striking, Valerian lacked star power and chose style over substance in this over-long, over-budgeted Star Wars wannabe. The film’s box office receipts didn’t help matters either, as it grossed a puny $39.8 million at the North American box office compared to its $172.2 million budget. A bomb indeed.

Winner: Marvel Studios

538794

At this point, Marvel Studios has perfected the blockbuster formula. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 grossed $389.4 million in May, showing that Star Lord and the gang won’t be going away anytime soon. Marvel Studios was also able to reap the rewards of re-booting the Spider-Man franchise with Spider-Man: Homecoming in July, grossing an impressive $321.2 million during its theatrical run.

Loser: Former Franchise Tent-Poles

des7unvxkaa1ldd

Alien: Covenant, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Cars 3, Transformers: The Last Night. What do they all have in common? They are all franchises that at one point were box-office giants who presided as the kings of the summer movie season but have now all but exhausted ideas to the point that audiences have grown tired of them. While the international box office receipts helped prevent them from flat-out bombing and in some cases made them profitable, it’s time for studios to re-think their strategies in regards to tent-pole franchises.

Winner: War for the Planet of the Apes

war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes-official-trailer-00

A stunning achievement in motion capture and special effects, War for the Planet of the Apes is nothing short of technically brilliant. Add in the emotional component most summer box office films are missing along with enthralling action, and War For the Planet of the Apes proves you don’t have to be brainless to be a successful summer blockbuster.

Loser: Baywatch

http3a2f2fhypebeast-com2fimage2f20172f032fbaywatch-trailer-official-0

On paper, Baywatch seemed to be a no-brainer. A summer comedy filled with beaches, bikinis, and the Rock would surely breed box office success, right? Unfortunately, incompetent direction, lazy joke writing, and exploitation of female bodies made Baywatch unwatchable, making it one of the biggest duds of the summer movie season.

Winner: Rotten Tomatoes

rt_main

If there were ever a time where the influence of the review aggregate site flexed its muscles, it was this summer. Films that boasted overwhelmingly positive reviews such as Dunkirk ($175.5 million) and Baby Driver ($104.3 million) enjoyed box office success and long theatrical runs. Maligned films such as The Mummy ($80.1) and The Dark Tower ($46.1 million) on the other hand saw their hopes and dreams of launching franchises either stall or end due to dog piling bad reviews.

Loser: The Summer Box Office

mw-ft564_moviet_20170901124752_zh

For every financially and critically successful film released this summer, there was an even more financially and critically disastrous film released. Add in an August with very few appealing films, and the summer box office is down nearly 16% compared to last year and movie going attendance is the worst it has been in 25 years. One can only hope the looming Fall movie season can pick up the slack, but the 2017 box office appears to be experiencing diminishing returns.

Bro-Reviews: The Top 5 Movies of 2017 (Thus Far)

It may not be Oscar season, but it’s never too early to discuss the best films of the year.

To this point, many would claim 2017 has been a bit of a bummer in regards to quality filmmaking, particularly pointing to a summer movie season that has seen box office receipts dwindle considerably. With the Summer movie season ending this weekend without a new wide release, it’s time to look back at the last eight months worth of movies and rank the top 5 films of 2017 thus far.

5. Baby Driver

baby-diver-banner-600x300

In a summer filled with numerous sequels no one asked for, Baby Driver was one of the lone original works to break-out and have success financially and receive critical acclaim. While it is essentially a hipster’s interpretation of a Transporter movie, Baby Driver features terrific performances from its ensemble cast and a hilarious script from writer/director Edgar Wright. Throw in a killer soundtrack and enthralling action, and Baby Driver proves you don’t have to be an established franchise tent-pole to have success during the summer.

4. Ingrid Goes West

ingrid-west-cb

Every year, there’s at least one independent film that flies under the audience’s radar only to be discovered later on the home video market. Ingrid Goes West is destined to have this fate, which is a shame considering it’s one of the most topical films of the year. It’s biting commentary on our society’s current obsession with social media and its stardom and a committed performance from lead actress Aubrey Plaza makes it one of the most underrated films of the year thus far, and should definitely be on your to-stream list in the future.

3. Get Out

getout-800

If there were ever a film that was released at the perfect time, it would be writer/ director/ comedian Jordan Peele’s debut feature film. Released shortly after the election of Donald Trump (*still weird to say that*), Get Out is the greatest slave movie ever made. It’s thematic elements dealing with white America’s obsession of wanting all of the benefits of being black without the skin color is one of the most dynamic elements ever explored on film. Throw in some great imagery and horror thrills, and Get Out is proof that originality is alive and well in Hollywood.

2. Logan

579199-logan-poster

We’ve been waiting for a great solo Wolverine film for years, and Hugh Jackman and company finally delivered. A post-apocalyptic western action-drama masquerading as a comic-book movie, Logan is Hugh Jackman’s finest hour as the titular character, and also features Patrick Stewart’s best performance as Professor X. With high emotional stakes that have consequences, Logan is not only the most heart-wrenching comic-book films ever, but one of the most moving films released in quite sometime. Logan may be Jackman’s swan song as Wolverine, but he goes out on what could be the new gold standard of comic-book movies.

1.War For the Planet of the Apes

war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes-banner-01

War For the Planet of the Apes is a tremendous achievement in filmmaking. The motion-capture technology used makes for some of the best special effects ever captured on film, making the apes the most realistic as they’ve ever looked on screen. Andy Serkis of course leads the way with his touching performance as Caesar, and saves his best for last in the conclusion of what could be regarded as one of the best film trilogies ever. It’s emotional impact combined with outstanding action and performances makes War for the Planet of the Apes not only the best of the modern Planet of the Apes trilogy, but the best film of 2017 thus far.

 

Bro-Reviews: The Dark Tower

One (frustrating) step away from an epic.

Let’s face it folks, making a movie is never easy. Adapting legendary literature beloved by many people into a film is near impossible. This has never stopped Hollywood before, as “unfilmable” classics such as World War Z, Watchmen, Cloud Atlas, and Atlas Shrugged have all been adapted into feature length films, yielding mixed results at best. One of these classic works of literature that has also been label “unadaptable” is The Dark Tower by legendary author Stephen King. With an expansive universe that has been built for many years through numerous books, The Dark Tower could never get out of production hell, recycling through directors such as J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard. Years later, however, The Dark Tower has finally arrived in theaters, hoping to break the “unadaptable”/”unfilmable” curse.

The Dark Tower sees 11-year-old child Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) experiencing nightmares of a parallel universe called “The Mid-World”. Convinced his dreams are true, Jake sets off for an adventure to explore this universe, which he eventually discovers and befriends Roland (Idris Elba), a Gunslinger sworn to protect the Mid-World. Roland is on a quest to find the Dark Tower, the nexus point between time and space, in hopes to save all existence from extermination. However, Walter o’Dim/ The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) is hot on the unlikely duo’s trail, and the two’s mission appears to be near impossible to complete.

Throughout the development of the Dark Tower, rumors circulated the film was too big for director Nikolaj Arcel to grasp, with initial test screenings panning the film for being too convoluted and lacking in special effects. This of course led to re-shoots and studio interference to try to make the film more accessible to mainstream audiences in the hopes of making a bankable summer blockbuster. As I stated earlier, The Dark Tower has always had the reputation of being near impossible to adapt to the big screen, and that’s the case for many of Stephen King’s works. The Dark Tower was more than likely never going to be the epic hardcore fans had hoped for, but as it stands, there’s evidence The Dark Tower was closer to being an epic than one might have originally thought.

Idris Elba continues his ascension to the top of the A-List with his turn as Roland. Elba is undeniably cool as the legendary gunslinger, and he projects his sense of frustration and seemingly aimless wandering due to the damage Walter o’Dim/ the Man in Black has done to the Mid-World and all of the other gunslingers. The Dark Tower serves as further proof the Elba is an actor to be reckoned with. Matthew McConaughey is delightfully creepy and suave as Walter o’Dim/ The Man in Black, and appears to be having a blast in the role. He’s also able to convey a sense of dread and impending doom every time he appears on screen, once again adding another tremendous performance in McConaughey’s “McConaissance” that has been going strong since 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer. Although there are moments of bad child acting, Tom Taylor is an appealing enough actor as Jake Chambers to display his wonder when first encountering the Mid-World and eagerness to help Roland, as he and Elba as make for a nice duo.

Matthew McConaughey;Idris Elba

Of course, one would be remiss if they did not mention whether or not the Mid-World is realized in any fashion. There’s definitely enough imagery within the film that makes King’s parallel universe come to life, which is impressive considering the film’s muted $60 million budget. Scenes in which children are being strapped to machines and using their “shine” in an attempt to bring down the tower are frightening and original, giving the film a much needed chilly atmosphere. This atmosphere is also bolstered with the barren wasteland of the Mid-World, an abandoned theme park, a village safe haven, and secret Mid-World societies in the heart of New York City Roland and Jake come across during the film’s 95 minute run time.While the special effects are nothing to marvel at, they’re good enough to be passable in a film that clearly had budget restrictions.

However, therein lies one of the issues preventing The Dark Tower from rising above an otherwise conventional fantasy film. Although I’ve said it before, it needs to be said again; The Dark Tower was never going to have a seamless transition to the silver screen. King has written 8 books in the series, and never truly concluded his epic saga. With that in mind, it’s very disappointing the film was restricted to a lower budget and not allowed to be the $100 million summer blockbuster it could have been in order to have the Mid-World and all of its intricacies come to life. Action scenes involving the creatures of the Mid-World are so dark you can’t really follow what’s occurring on screen, somewhat muting the film’s otherwise stylish and pulpy action sequences. It would have been even more terrifying to see all of the monsters and creatures Roland gives exposition about when explaining how the tower guards the universe from such monsters and then see him do battle with them. The film also feels hacked to the bone at 95 minutes, and one cannot help but feel the studio interference in the film in order to make the film more appealing to a wide audience. At 95 minutes, the film could’ve used an extra half hour of set-up, exposition, and action to make The Dark Tower be the epic film it should have been.

Also plaguing the film are the 20 minutes or so we see Jake in the real world/ keystone earth. Much of the dialogue during this time is laughably bad, and it does not help that the young actors in these scenes clearly needed another take or more acting lessons in order for them to not come across as actors but as actual children living in New York City. On top of that, the ending of the film clearly has a rushed, “we ran out of money” vibe, leaving one with somewhat of a sour taste in their mouth as they exit the theater.

By no means is The Dark Tower a great movie, but it’s not terrible either. Considering most of the other Stephen King films such as Pet Sematary, The Mist, and Dreamcatcher that were all quite bad, The Dark Tower stands as one of the better Stephen King adaptations.  Unfortunately, one cannot but help but feel the studio interference onscreen while watching the film. The result is a near epic film that needed more time and money to have Stephen King’s legendary vision fully realized, rendering it somewhat conventional. Despite the feeling of what could have been, The Dark Tower is bolstered by Elba’s and McConaughey’s performances, has enough imagery, and stylized action to justify a trip to the theater.

Rating: 2.5/4. Pay Matinée Price.

The Dark Tower stars Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Fran Kanz, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Jackie Earle Hayley, and Dennis Haysbert. It is in theaters Friday, August 4th.

Bro-Reviews: Wish Upon

Wish upon a better movie.

As it pertains to the horror film genre, there’s very little material out there that is new and original. Filmmakers have resorted to taking tried and tired premises and repeating them over and over again in the hopes that younger audiences who have not seen these premises before will be fooled into thinking the material they are being presented with is something that’s never been done before. Once again, Hollywood producers are trying to hoodwink and bamboozle audiences, and their latest attempt to trick us has come in the form of a new “horror” film, Wish Upon, from upstart distributor Broad Green Pictures.

Wish Upon sees Claire Shannon (Joey King) struggling through life ever since her mother committed suicide when she was a child. Her high school life is also a chore, as she is unpopular, bullied and goes unnoticed by her crush. One day, her hoarder father Jonathan (Ryan Phillippe) stumbles upon an ancient Chinese music box, which Claire learns grants wishes and turns them into reality. After making wishes that change her life for the better, bloody terror breaks out and hurts the ones she cares for. Claire must then solve the mystery of how to make the carnage stop before it’s too late.

This is an exact replica of “The Monkey’s Paw”. For the uninitiated, “The Monkey’s Paw” was a book by W.W. Jacobs published in 1902 that has since been adapted into numerous films, with the basic premise being three different people can hold the monkey’s paw item and it will grant them three different wishes. While the wishes come true, there is a blood price for the ones who made the wishes to pay since they are altering fate. Wish Upon takes this premise and puts it in a high-school setting, resulting in one of the most embarrassing blunders ever released in theaters.

WISH UPON

Joey King is a fine young actress and does what she can with the material, but she comes across as a junkie who hasn’t had her fix in the film. I firmly believe the filmmakers kidnapped poor Ryan Phillippe after he went out on an all night drinking-bender and just threw him onscreen, as throughout the film he looks as if he is crying for help and wondering where his once promising career has gone. Jerry O’ Connell also appears in the film for about 30 seconds, making me wonder if he too was strong-armed into doing this film because he owed the mafia some money. The rest of the cast consists of mainly no-names who should never work in film again, as they deliver their terrible dialogue like a high schooler performing in a play that’s only there because they need the extracurricular activity credit to graduate.

The actual use of the premise is inconsistent throughout as well. Once a wish is granted, someone close to Claire is supposed to die. However, people die in the movie that Claire is neither close to nor is even related to, so the film can’t even stick to its tried and tested premise in an attempt to make a compelling film. The only time the film is even marginally suspenseful is a scene in which the filmmakers use the cheap gimmick of showing two different people experiencing dangerous situations while leaving you guessing who’s going to be the one that gets it.

One aspect of horror films that is quiet necessary to qualify it as a horror film is providing scares, which Wish Upon can’t even wish for. Even if a horror film isn’t particularly scary, it can be improved in an exploitative fashion by quenching the audiences’ blood thirst. Wish Upon is largely bloodless throughout, so it doesn’t even go for the cheap exploitation in the hopes that its PG-13 rating will lure in dumb, unassuming teenagers who still believe the Paranormal Activity movies are real. The film also tries to blend comedy into the mix, as numerous snarky teenagers quip one-liners and do “things millennials do” despite the horror that is occurring around them. Most of the laughs are unintentional, and one must highlight Shannon Purser’s dramatic “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT” line, as it provided one of the biggest unintentional laughs I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Somewhere buried deep within the incompetency of it, there’s a decent movie that Wish Upon could’ve been. Instead, what we have is an incompetent, bloodless, not scary “horror” film that insults the audiences’ intelligence with its predictable themes that have been retreaded for the thousandth time. Had it not been for the laugh inducing middle-finger-to-the-audience ending/ payoff, Wish Upon couldn’t wish for even a half a star rating. In the end, Wish Upon will leave you wishing you had stayed at home and read “The Monkey’s Paw” instead.

Rating: 0.5/ 4 Stars. Stay Away.