Tuesday, August 15, 2017


***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!   A good night is pizza and a shark movie.  They're just fun!

Bait – 1 out of 5

I say this every time I review a shark movie but I really do love these things.  A very, very small fraction of them are genuinely good (like ridiculously small) but the rest of them are enjoyable in their own way—that way being they are hilarious and are those “good bad” type of films.  However, I think I’ve found one of those very rare ones that are neither good nor good-bad and was just plain bad.  This Australian-Singaporean horror/thriller/drama/cartoon proved to be that and it was really disappointing.  I wanted to laugh and have some fun with some over-the-top shark goodness but Bait was just a lame duck (no offense to ducks).

The shark looks like he just got done at the buffet and is wandering home tired
and bloated.  I know the feeling, friend.

Nature is basically just a great white delivery service
in this modern age.
After tragedy struck lifeguard Josh (Xavier Samuel), he finds himself without the love of his life and trying to live with the death of his best friend while working at a supermarket.  One day, while a criminal by name of Doyle (Julian McMahon) is attempting to rob the store, a tsunami strikes and traps the criminal, Josh, several employees and even Josh’s former love; Tina (Sharni Vinson), in the building.  The store starts to flood and they all soon realize that they are not alone in the vicinity and that a great white shark has also found its way in and it is really hungry.  Now they have to find a way out or find themselves as another meal for the aquatic predator.

Awww, look at him trying to be sneaky.

Make sharks ghosts, I’m in.  Put the sharks in the ground and make them sand sharks, I’m in.  Put them in a tornado, I’m in.  Make the shark the extinct Megalodon and have John Barrowman fight it and then literally tell a girl he wants to go down on her, I am SUPER in!  So, when I saw this movie involved trapped people in a flooded building caused by a tsunami and that act of nature also somehow carried great whites with it and, miraculously, deposited them without harm into said building, I thought I was going to be in for a delight.  Instead, what followed was a movie with conflicting tones and acting that was all over the place.

A tsunami is coming so, of course, there's one surfer who is running directly at the
incoming wave.

With all shark films, there’s a suspension of disbelief that accompanies them.  The main one, of course, is that sharks aren’t nearly as kill-y as the movies make them out to be but the better shark features (and by that I mean, the more hilarious ones) really require you to suspend the hell out of that disbelief as things like science, nature and basic physics are completely tossed out the window.  This movie definitely has these moments and they come in the form of the group worrying about an exposed power cable over the water (and then deactivated said power cable by shutting off the fuse box that is completely submerged underwater), cars that are totally underwater but are somehow watertight, and the idea that a stun-gun will murder a shark.  In theory, these are fine for your run-of-the-mill silly shark productions but they end up being a stark antithesis to the character drama this film delivers and makes for some very unique, but incredibly jarring, shift in tones.

Thank God for water and air tight vehicles!  (Seriously, they are completely
submerged and no leaking...and remain that way for a long time)

Look, the replacement boyfriend character.  Clearly he
will survive and not die needlessly and the female
lead will forget about him instantly and move
on to the old flame.
Bait really likes to take its human drama moments very, very seriously.  In fact, too seriously.  The characters start out all poorly developed and weakly introduced but periodically through the feature the story will take these moments to try and give them dimension.  We get a girl who is caught shoplifting before the tsunami and we suddenly learn that she lost her mother and that’s why she acts out.  Or there’s the criminal who is apparently doing this job against his will in order to even things out with his partner (and then the film never really elaborates on that).  Then you have the main character who is wearing his heartbreak on his face literally every second of the story.  These moments could work in other movies but when you have a scene that involves a very cartoonish bad guy on the verge of throwing on a bowler hat as he twirls his mustache while tying a woman to a set of train tracks (and the train is made of sharks) and you have a character create a shark cage out of shopping baskets (among other things), it’s a little hard to take the human drama seriously and it ultimately makes the movie feel like it was two separate scripts welded into one really messy feature.

Hey look, it's that guy from the terrible Fantastic Four movie.  Oh wait, I should clarify...
He was in the two that weren't as bad as the third one.  Actually, let's start
again--Hey look, it's Christian from Nip/Tuck.

I will criticize this man's acting but respect that he never
saw a limit to how thick he wanted to lay it on.
The final element that aids in these weird shifts in tones from weird movie logic to crazy human drama is the performances.  Every actor seems to be on their own page for what tone the film is going for so every actor is all over the place and nothing gels.  For example, there’s the evil robber who is working alongside Julian McMahon’s character and he is chewing every bit of scenery he can in an effort for you to know he is diabolically evil.  Then there’s the people who look like they came in as a favor to the director and that’s mingling with those who think this is their big break.  The hardest actor to watch, ultimately, was the lead; Xavier Samuel.  For 99% of the film, he wears a single expression on his face and thinks it is interchangeable with such feelings as concentration, heartache and brilliant insights.  He’s not a terrible actor per se but he really stuck with one expression and it is very distracting throughout the entire film.

He really likes this look...
This one is a slight variation.  He added a hint of "disgust" to it.
He can even take that look outdoors.
This one is a little softer than the rest.
Hell, he can even do it underwater.  And that's just the tip of how often he uses
this reaction.

This happened early in the film and it was an unfair precedent
to set because the rest of the kills were exponentially tamer.
I really wanted something goofy and fun with a movie like Bait or, at the very least, one that offered up some good shark kills but the final product was something that would take itself too seriously some times and not seriously enough during other times.  It then went a step further with acting that was all over the place.  The final nail in the coffin of this one is the fact that the body count is really low (unless you count all the faceless folks who perish in the bad special effects that are the tsunami) and there’s really not much gory action.  I can overlook how silly the CGI sharks look but when you skimp on the gore in a shark attack movie you’ve committed a horrible offense!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Dark Tower

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!   It's best not to think about how this property was in development hell for 10 years when you see this movie.

The Dark Tower – 3 out of 5

Stephen King is a powerhouse of a writer.  While I don’t really read many of his books, I am in awe of his work ethic.  I wish I had the discipline and the plethora of ideas to churn out as much material as he did.  Instead, I write a review blog where I make bad dad jokes and occasionally contribute a short story based on the films I review.  That being said, the man’s work has been adapted a lot.  In fact, saying it that way doesn’t do it justice and the word “a lot” should have been capitalized, bolded and maybe even increased in size.  Now, with a career as vast and long lived as King’s not everything he’s made will be adapted with outstanding praise—there have been some stinkers along the way.  Is The Dark Tower one of stinkers or is it one of the more successful ones?  This question is both a lazy way to end the paragraph and for the people who don’t read the score (maybe I should start putting the score at the end?  Nah).

                                                                                                        Colombia Pictures
The Gunslinger keeps humming about walking 500 miles during this scene...
it's weird.

In New York, a young boy named Jake Hanson (Nicholas Hamilton) suffers from reoccurring nightmares about a Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) and how he is using special children to attack a mysterious dark tower.  In those dreams, he also sees a hero named Roland Deschain; the infamous Gunslinger.  Soon, Jake learns that these dreams are visions of a reality he never knew existed and now much travel to a mysterious world and help this gunslinger defeat the evil Man in Black and prevent his world, and all other worlds, from falling to darkness.

                                                                                                        Colombia Pictures
He also dreamed about being naked in class after forgetting to study for a test
while his teeth fell out.  The next film will be about that one.

Honesty time:  I’ve never read The Dark Tower.  I have a lot of friends who love it and have regaled me with stories about how amazing it is but I’ve never taken the time to read them.  I have, however, read the first volume of the trade paperbacks from when Marvel adapted it to comics.  More honesty:  I didn’t really get into it.  The world was very detailed and, as a reader, I was thrown in with so little context that I didn’t quite know what was going on but I loved the art and was interested enough to one day consider buying the rest of the trades (I haven’t yet but I will).  That being said, I’m not reviewing the book.  I am reviewing a movie that is adapted from a series and I won’t critique the accuracy of it from the source material.  I’m only going to talk about how it goes for a storytelling and movie-going experience…and let me say, it kinda failed at both of those.

I won’t go as far to say The Dark Tower was horrible because it’s definitely doing some things right and you can feel that there’s potential.  Where this movie is falling short is all in its writing.  Overall, this whole film feels like it is a trilogy that has been edited and condensed to be one film.  It starts with taking too much time world-building at the beginning and that makes the first act really slow.  Next, it never takes the time to establish the greater conflict so when it’s stupidly easy resolution comes to pass there’s no weight and no feeling of relief or accomplishment that accompanies it.  Finally, the protagonist and antagonist are never given the establishment they need to make them heroic and evil.  The only reason that the Gunslinger and the Man in Black are mildly enjoyable is because of the performances.  From a writing standpoint, they were weak and had the real potential to be forgettable.

                                                                                                        Colombia Pictures
See this landscape?  The feature felt like it was more concerned with building
it than it was the story and characters.  (I know that was a stretch but I'm
trying to justify using this picture)

So, if the writing is crammed and poorly thought out, surely the action must be great, right?  Well, it wasn’t and I will refuse to do that Airplane joke.  This stems from the big problem with the Gunslinger I mentioned earlier but we never really get to see his skills until the final half hour.  There is a single action scene that takes place once he and Jake start working together but the sequence was so poorly lit and so dark that it was really hard to tell what was going on or even see the monster he was fighting.  I started to question my eyesight it was so bad.  (Now, this could have also been a problem with the theater but I’m not so sure how bright it is going to be when it arrives on Blu-Ray and DVD.)  This lack of action only compounded the lethargic and boring pace the film was carrying for itself.  Forgoing action, conflict establishment and character development in favor of world-building made for a story that was impossible to become emotionally invested in.  Granted, the film ends up feeling like it is apologizing for this when the Gunslinger and the Man in Black finally have their epic showdown—and it is awesome and very exciting—but, by this point, it’s already too late and it’s not doing an already failure of a feature any favors.

                                                                                                      Colombia Pictures
Why would you waste the natural badassness of this man?  Why?

I realize this review sounds mean and certain readers who liked the film probably have left and said some hurtful things about me and then heroically claimed that “they don’t listen to critics anyway” but I’m not a real critic, I’m a wannabe critic and I’m here to say the film definitely has some very strong and definitive setbacks but it’s not a horrendous film.  Even though it comes too little too late, there is some killer action during the film’s climax.  Additionally, the film has some genuinely funny moments but the strongest aspect of the movie (and the thing that saved this from being a 2 out of 5 for me) is the performances from Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba.

                                                                                                         Colombia Pictures
One is a villain but they're basically both heroes...because they saved this
film.  (Oh yes, that caption was cheesy!)

I wanna add that there isn’t a bad performance in the entire bunch in this movie.  The smaller roles are done very well, I thought Nicholas Hamilton was very good as Jake, I really liked Jackie Earle Haley in his small role as Sayre but McConaughey and Elba are the main attraction here.  Both men are damn fine actors in their own right and each guy just oozes their own unique charisma and charm.  Since these two are so talented, both of them were able to make themselves commanding centerpieces despite the fact the script handled their characters so poorly.  Even though we never get to see Roland’s abilities as a the Gunslinger until the movie is pretty much over, Idba (which is my nickname for him because we’re besties even though no one has told him yet) carries the character with such gravitas that you know he’s a badass without ever having to fire a single bullet (still, it would have been nice to see more action).  Matty McC (that’s my nickname for him, we’re besties too even though he doesn’t know it) is so intimidating and sinister as the Man in Black and even though the final product robs the viewer of really getting a taste of what his power has the potential to be, he extrudes a wickedness that is palpable.

                                                                                                         Colombia Pictures
Man, McConaughey was great but I think he might be borrowing Derek
Zoolander's hair.

The Dark Tower, for me, was a disappointment—a complete let down.  The trailer made it look amazing but what I watched was an unfocused, boring, meandering feature that did nothing to establish its two best characters, never bothered to develop its central conflict and somehow felt it was moving too slow and then wrapping up too fast at the same time.  It has some minor redeeming factors but this was clearly a world that needed time to grow and be nurtured and not one that needed to be quickly packaged and shipped out.  This film could have worked if it was stretched and embellished to the point to create this into an epic trilogy or, better yet, an HBO series (I know a series is in the works but, after watching this, it’s hard to get excited for it).  There was undeniable potential for this movie to be great and the start of a new successful film series but what was delivered felt hollow and even like it was a TV edited version of a great movie.  That’s just heartbreaking when you realize it was in development hell for nearly a decade.

Tour de Pharmacy

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!   Oh, mockumentaries...you make me so happy!

Tour de Pharmacy – 5 out of 5

I like documentaries and I like funny things, so mockumentaries are like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to me (the best sandwich, in my book).  The previous HBO mockumentary by director Jake Szymanski and writer Murray Miller; the tennis feature called 7 Days in Hell, I found to be very funny and when I saw they were making another one where they poke fun at the Tour de France and all the accusations of doping and drug scandals, I was all-in!  And, I gotta say, I really think they outdid themselves this time around with Tour de Pharmacy and made something funny in an epic way!

A name that could only belong to a reporter, a porn star or a pro wrestler...
or an ambitious person who does all three.

This mockumentary is telling the story of the 1982 Tour de France and how all the cyclists were on performance enhancing drugs.  After racer Juju Pepe (Orlando Bloom) causes a massive pile-up and a brawl breaks out, the judges learn that all of the racers were on drugs and all but 5 racers were taken out of the competition.  The remaining contestants were Pepe, the African Marty Hess (Andy Samberg), female racer disguising herself as a man; Adrian Baton (Freddie Highmore), Jackie Robinson’s nephew who wishes to break the color barrier in cycling; Slim Robinson (Daveed Diggs), and Austrian Gustav Ditters (John Cena).  What follows is tale of sportsmanship, cheating, drug use, death, love, gratuitous male nudity and insanity…all in the name of cycling.

He's up front but you can't see him.

Tour de Pharmacy works so well as a mockumentary and a comedy because it is playfully teasing the subject material that it is satirizing but it is also taking the genre very seriously and delivering a product that feels very authentic.  The entire feature feels like a legit HBO Sports doc and, even better, the production used old cameras in order to make the footage from 1982 look real and dated.  Even when the story gets really ridiculous (and we have a moment where John Cena is hoisting a naked dude over his shoulder and has that man’s bits and bobs on display for the world to see) the movie still feels like a documentary.  To put it simply, Szymanski and Miller are doing exactly what great parody does and that is honor the very thing it is mocking.  In a world where satire and parody has basically just de-evolved into bad pop culture references and being as mean-spirited as the creators can be, this film is a throwback to when parody was an art form that was meant to offer both praise and humorous criticism.

Andy Sandberg is such a goddamn treasure!

In addition to a tone that really captures the art and difficult nature that is the mockumentary, this film is overloaded with talent—and overloaded in a good way. You already have the core group of racers but the film offers up “modern day” equivalents with these characters.  You have Jeff Goldblum as Marty Hess, Julia Ormond as Adriana Baton, Danny Glover as Slim Robinson and, my favorite part, Dolph Lundgren as Gustav Ditters.   

The dude will never stop being an intimidating presence.
He's awesome!

This is just offering you humor from the young and the old with these characters and it doesn’t stop there.  There are hysterical cameos by the likes of Mike Tyson and J.J. Abrams.  You have James Marsden as the reporter from the 82 race, there’s Will Forte having a small (but memorable) scene as a cop, Jon Hamm is narrating the whole thing and even Kevin Bacon joins the cast.  There are so many people in this film and each and every single one of them was fantastic.  However, the most memorable of them all, in my opinion, was the very funny addition of Lance Armstrong.

Without a doubt, his inclusion in this film was a great decision, in my opinion.

One thing this film has been heavily criticized for is the involvement of former sports hero Lance Armstrong.  Look, I get it.  The guy is a cancer survivor who charmed us all by coming back from the brink of death and going on to achieve greatness in the world of cycling and then all our hearts were broken when we found out he did it using drugs.  Here’s the thing though:  Everyone was using drugs on those bikes.  I won’t argue that the man is a saint but he’s definitely not the only demon in the room.  However, that being said, I have a special place in my heart for people who don’t take themselves too seriously and are willing to make light of themselves and Armstrong does this in such a strong way in this film.  Every time the action cut to him was absolutely hysterical and just utter brilliance in the world of comedy.  I salute Miller for writing it and salute Armstrong for doing it because it made an already attention-grabbing comedy even stronger.

Also in the film, you get to see Jeff Goldblum dressed like this and that's an
automatic win.

Tour de Pharmacy does all the right things that a mockumentary needs to be in order to be successful as a comedy.  It captured the correct tone and was able to make that balance of being authentic feeling, funny, and, at the same time, honoring the subject matter it was teasing.  It has a tremendous (and large) cast and it never, at any point, ceases its strong pace of humor and entertainment.  The only downside is that it is a short film (but it had to be in order to capture that HBO sports documentary series feel) and it definitely left me wanting more.

We don't pull our sunglasses down in order to show how shocked and
surprised we are anymore.