Review: Hot Summer Nights (2017)

“You can’t hold on to everything.”
– McKayla

SYNOPSIS: In the summer of 1991, a sheltered teenage boy comes of age during a wild summer he spends in Cape Cod getting rich from selling pot to gangsters, falling in love for the first time, partying and eventually realizing that he is in over his head. – via IMDB

So I moved this up on my watch list because I adore Timothée Chalamet and I also thoroughly enjoy Maika Monroe, so the talent alone had me like “hells yeah” on this. I had no preconceived ideas about Hot Summer Nights, I remember reading about it before it came and thinking to add it to my watch list because I liked the cast, and A24 has churned out some pretty good movies over the years, then I kind of forgot about it. But then I saw it again and I was like “oh yeah!”.

Hot Summer Nights is a mixed bag. It’s carried by amazing performances from the cast, and it looks great – the outfits of the time, the stylish way it’s shot, the colours, everything on that front works for it. I even like the soundtrack, though at times it just felt like someone wanted to cram as much nostalgic/relevant music of the time to set the scene, which sometimes kinda just dragged you out of the whole affair sometimes? Chalamet was (as expected), fantastic. Honestly. Maika Monroe, too, impressed me (as always), and the two of them just looked gorgeous together. Alex Roe (a newcomer for me) was solid, too. He doesn’t have the most extensive filmography and I am not sure why, I thought he was rather good. I really liked them all, and watching them all.

Where the movie is let down is the paper thin story. For reals. It could have been so much more, weaving a coming of age story into this summer and seeing how it would all come together. But that opportunity was wasted. Also, these guys grow their pot sales empire, but never really addresses the how. We are told it is happening, we see the money, but we don’t get anything more than that. It just leaves holes and questions. Thomas Jane, too, is underused in this.

Anyway, Hot Summer Nights is a decent watch. The performances alone are worth a look see, and it’s not a terrible movie. It just doesn’t have an awful lot of substance to it at the end of the day. Not your typical coming of age movie, but I liked it enough.

Review: Nora Roberts – Divine Evil

SYNOPSIS: A decade ago, sculptor Clare Kimball fled Emmitsboro, Maryland, to take the art world by storm. Now she’s celebrated as the artist of her generation. But no amount of success can eclipse the nightmares that haunt her—or the memories of her father’s suicide. Just as her star is shining brighter than ever, Clare leaves it all behind to face her demons.

Emmitsboro sheriff Cameron Rafferty loved Clare from afar all through high school. Now that she’s back, they form a bond that grows stronger each day—fueled by an attraction that’s been simmering for years. But Clare’s past soon rises up with a vengeance, rocking the town with a sinister murder that is clearly linked to her return. As an investigation gets under way, Clare and Cameron will learn that evil can linger anywhere—even in those you love and trust the most. But it’s a discovery that may come too late to save them.… – via Goodreads

Ugh this book. I honestly don’t know what I expected, if we are being honest, but it wasn’t this. There was this whole Satanic aspect to it that had the potential to be so damn interesting, but instead comes across as Hollywood hysteria. So the Satanic section fell totally flat, but this is a romance, so there might have been something to salvage it, right?

Wrong.

This whole aspect of the book peeved me, too. So there wasn’t much to save this book. Clare and Cam fall into each other’s arms and beds within like… ten minutes of meeting each other. Within a week he is talking about her moving in and marrying her. He is super controlling, she is such a bitch to him all the time, constantly mad (read: stereotypes galore). I mean love and marriage and all that after sex a few times within days of meeting each other. Damn. The romance is unrealistic (which is to be expected), but I resent this thing of the woman not wanting a white knight but needing one, and some man needing a woman and stepping in to take over her life because she, har har, needs saving.

Moving on from the meh romance, I also didn’t like any of the characters. They are all messy caricatures of stereotypes, so they really have nothing working for them. I was a bit perturbed by the decent people (Jean Pierre and Blair, etc.) being overly invested in young high school girls/majorettes. I totally wanted to get a romance from this with an investigation into the occult, but my hopes and dreams were crushed man. It isn’t that it is a terrible book, per se, it is just such a generic, bland book and it is excessively long. It had no right to be that lengthy, and the drag in this is what changed the story from being a decent, fluffy read to being a schlep.

Anyway, Divine Evil is not the worst mystery/murder romance you could read, but it certainly leaves a lot to be desired (haha, yes, I am on a roll). Shallow, flat characters litter a tedious book that cannot decide if it wants to be useless erotica or a hardcore murder mystery, yet totally lacking the conviction to be either.

Review: Pines – Blake Crouch

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SYNOPISIS: Secret service agent Ethan Burke arrives in Wayward Pines, Idaho, with a clear mission: locate and recover two federal agents who went missing in the bucolic town one month earlier. But within minutes of his arrival, Ethan is involved in a violent accident. He comes to in a hospital, with no ID, no cell phone, and no briefcase. The medical staff seems friendly enough, but something feels…off. As the days pass, Ethan’s investigation into the disappearance of his colleagues turns up more questions than answers. Why can’t he get any phone calls through to his wife and son in the outside world? Why doesn’t anyone believe he is who he says he is? And what is the purpose of the electrified fences surrounding the town? Are they meant to keep the residents in? Or something else out? Each step closer to the truth takes Ethan further from the world he thought he knew, from the man he thought he was, until he must face a horrifying fact—he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive. – via Goodreads

I’ve always wondered about these books, and been interested in checking them out, and just never got to it until recently. Amazon had them on special, so figured I would get my hands on them and see. I have never read anything about them and I have not watched the show, but I see it cropping up all over the place, hence I thought it might just be time to look into it.

Reading this, the first thing that popped into my mind is that it read like a Koontz novel. The longer I read, the more it reminded me of Koontz’s The House of Thunder in specific.I have not read spoilers for this story (there are few things I abhor as much), but the twists and turns in this novel did not really keep me in suspense. Why? Because I felt it was really predictable, and nothing really shocked me.

So let’s start with this – the premise is interesting. It is. A special agent in an accident and suffering from amnesia in a creepy little Stepford style town? For sure. Soon after that though it becomes evident that our leading man is not a particularly likable character, and there is a lot of him running back and forth but nothing happening. That does not necessarily make for a boring read, and it helps in this regard that the writing is not particularly meaty – meaning you are really just going to run through this, there is nothing you are going to chew on and think over, to really get involved with. So it certainly scores in the way of a quick read with an interesting premise, even though the execution is a little weak and definitely leaves one wanting. The fragmented sentences littered throughout the book were a source of endless frustration for me though, seriously!

I feel that Pines is a messy book, but entertaining. There was enough mystery to keep me going, although I had pegged the majority of the outcomes and plot twists before they were delivered, and the reveals were no shocker, save one. I have also got to admit that the reasoning behind things as well as some of the logic is completely preposterous, something I struggled to buy into. I know it sounds like a lot of bitching, but the story flows fast and it does pull you in, even though a lot is left to be desired. All that being said, I will check out the next novel in this trilogy. The completist in me will have me read all three; for the sake of completion as well as the fact that I paid for them.

Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

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“But we almost pulled it off despite what everybody thought. Worst part of it is they’re going to blame us for the whole thing. They can’t have people knowing the truth. We’re the patsies; the cover up. Don’t forget, we’re the bad guys.:
– Deadshot

SYNOPSIS: A secret government agency recruits some of the most dangerous incarcerated super-villains to form a defensive task force. Their first mission: save the world from the apocalypse. – via IMDB

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GRADE 6This movie is one of the films this year that got showered in hate. And a lot of it. I have finally seen it to form my very own opinion and, while I thought it was messy and a missed opportunity, it really was not the heinous film that it has been painted. There was quite a bit to like, but there was more to dislike, and that is quite the issue.

We know David Ayer has the goods – just look at Fury, if you want a quick, amazing example. He knows how to shoot a film, and weave a super engaging story. Suicide Squad did not do that, and it sucks, because there were moments in the film where you could almost see something brilliant hiding, something that could have broken free. I thought the film boasted some super sketchy effects, and it really just threw you out of the watching experience.

Let’s also look at the whole concept of the Enchantress. Why? I mean Amanda Waller creates the Suicide Squad, but in so doing creates the threat, and then her newly formed squad must end the threat? Come on. Let’s also not forget a group of psychopaths becoming besties in a matter of hours. As a psychology graduate, I had such issues with this. The music, too, was something that irritated me. Initially it was something I loved, great music choices, but ultimately it was something that grated on me because it felt like as many cool songs as possible were being squeezed in, and when the soundtrack becomes more important than the film, and overshadows what you are watching and pulls you out of the movie, you have done something wrong.

I gotta say though that the performances were pretty good. I thought Robbie and Smith worked wonders together, and were hands down the standouts of the film. One of my biggest issues with this? Jared Leto as the Joker. In the trailer I could already tell he wasn’t going to work for me, but I had no idea how terrible he was actually going to be. Every time he came on the screen, I felt that he was just killing the movie for me. Ugh.

Overall, the movie wanted to be something more than it was, and it was sad because you could see something awesome trying to escape the mess it eventually was. It didn’t break barriers tot he genre, and was quite predictable throughout. Not the worst watch in the world, and certainly not deserving of the hate, but it’s a decent, mindlessly entertaining watch.

 

Rapid Review: The Purge: Election Year (2016)

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” We will now purge. We will torture you and violate your flesh. Remove your skin and share in your blood. This is the American way.”
– Uncle Sam

SYNOPSIS: Years after sparing the man who killed his son, former police sergeant Barnes has become head of security for Senator Charlie Roan, a Presidential candidate targeted for death on Purge night due to her vow to eliminate the Purge. – via IMDB

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Man, oh man, was this ever a disappointment to me. I didn’t expect to love this as much as I did Anarchy, because that delivered on everything I ever wanted from a Purge movie, but I really thought that it would be more than this. Sure, I was expecting politics, the title told you as much, but I did  not expect the movie to be so tedious, for the master and star of Anarchy, Frank Grillo, to be reduced to a caricature of his former character, as well as have such a large group of unlikable characters. Really.

For instance, every time I wanted to warm to Joe Dixon, there were just racial slurs again (and seriously folks, as a South African and race being the central point of everything, it’s just the last thing you want to hear in a movie). I quite liked Marcos, and could not stand that stupid Kimmy/Freakbride/whatever that spoiled brat was called that had beef with Joe.

Anyway, the political overtures were over the top, the Purge itself didn’t have the same charm or draw as the last two films, the plot was just all over the show, there were some super dodgy “South Africans” in the beginning (bull), and the movie felt like it dragged because the pacing was faulty. Nope, I expected more after the last movie and Election Year simply did not deliver. I don’t have much to say about this, except that it was quite a let down, and not the greatest note to end these films on.

Rapid Review: Black Mass (2015)

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“It’s not what you do, it’s when and where you do it, and who you do it to or with. If nobody sees it, it didn’t happen.”
– Whitey Bulger

SYNOPSIS: The true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf. – via IMDB

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GRADE 7I watched this recently as it came back with some great reviews. Now, while I liked it, I didn’t love it (I feel there are infinitely better gangster movies out there). That being said, this is, without a doubt, the finest Johnny Depp has been in years. I was so stoked to see a movie where he was actually doing something again, wasn’t the same cut and dry quirky character we have seen him embody recently. I liked that, and was reminded why Johnny Depp was so insanely loved at a stage. He was a crazy Bulger, and those contacts he wore really freaked me out (they really looked unnatural). Edgerton was also, as is to be expected, a solid pick for John Connolly, and did a great job with his character. I have to say, the movie played it way too safe. It was formulaic, albeit carried by really good performances. At the end of the day, it used a tried and tested formula, and didn’t even try to push the boundaries, which is a pity considering the cast the film touts. So much more could have come from this. It stays within the bounds of “safe”, but never breaks through to “great”. The pacing is fine, not rushed, not too slow, but at times I wished more focus had been given to certain things and less to others. The characters were not as developed as they could be, and for a true story, I definitely think that more could have been done. Black Mass is certainly not a bad watch, and is absolutely, one hundred percent worth it if you want to see if Depp still has the goods (which he does, here, anyway), because the performances are definitely the highlight of this film.

Rapid Review: Bloodsucking Bastards (2015)

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“Wikipedia did not mention that.”
– Frank

SYNOPSIS: Evan is a dutiful and overworked employee stuck at a soul-killing corporation with his beautiful co-worker and girlfriend Amanda and his slacker best friend Tim . Evans world begins to crumble when Amanda dumps him and his boss Ted hands his coveted promotion to his nemesis Max. When his office mates start going through disturbing changes, Evan must find a way to stop the evil brewing amidst the cubicles, and rescue his workplace pals before his life and career go from dead-end… to just dead. – via IMDB

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GRADE 5I can’t even remember where I read a review of this and decided to possibly check it out. But I did, and I cannot say that I was impressed. I mean, it is better than most movies, but it is a long way from really good, or even great. For one, starting the movie feels like you are watching a terribly boring sitcom. Nothing is happening, the characters suck, no genius, nothing. Then it moves along to the actual vampire bit, and things started getting more interesting there at least. The one good thing is that you can see the whole cast is having a total ball, which is great, and they were all very entertaining. Joey Kern’s stoning, Kelly Clarkson-loving, ever-eating Tim was a really good character, he was such a chop, and as much as Marshall Givens’s crazy, military, Redbull-guzzling Frank makes you smile, when you pair the two of them up, you get a stroke of genius. As for Fran Kranz… I could totally only see him as the stoner with a huge mug bong. Seriously. Pedro Pascal was very good as Evan’s arch nemesis, and you can see he is having a blast playing this crazy weird vampire with an MBA. Now all of this looks like it should make for a good movie, right? Well, it just didn’t. It looked ridiculously low budget, which isn’t something I usually have a problem with, but this really looked awful. Plus there was a lot of awkward, forced humour, which fell flat consistently and made me cringe. Let’s not even forget to mention the incredible amounts of stupid thrown into this. I am not a fan of stupid, brainless humour, and this movie packed a lot of that. Nothing really smart. Not because all comedy has to be smart, but I am not a fan of that by-the-numbers, don’t-use-your-braincells comedy. Every now and again Bloodsucking Bastards gets a laugh in, but not necessarily what you want, all the time. Plus two, the pacing was all over the show. Like I said, the movie takes quite a while to go anywhere and feels like a cheap sitcom, and then jumps into something more entertaining, but still falls grossly short of the mark, never really reaching the heights it set itself up for. Not the worst  movie you could be spending your time on, but not nearly as amusing as it would like to be.

Rapid Review: The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

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“Choice is an illusion created between those with power and those without.” 
– Merovingian

SYNOPSIS: Neo and the rebel leaders estimate that they have 72 hours until 250,000 probes discover Zion and destroy it and its inhabitants. During this, Neo must decide how he can save Trinity from a dark fate in his dreams. – via IMDB

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GRADE 7I get that this is regarded as the better of the two sequels, but I am not so sure about that, to be honest. For one… there is just so much CGI. And not like a lot of movies, where there is CGI and you can forgive it, this is just in excess and in your face all the time. Reloaded just looks so fake in so many places, and that is highly disappointing. Especially after the last phenomenal piece of cinema we got, this is just a step down. I was not a fan of the heavy techno soundtrack, and there was just far too large a sexual component to this movie than there needed to be. Also, there were many scenes laced throughout here that were unnecessary and time consuming. A complaint my fiancé had was that the fight scenes all looked “soft” – nobody seemed to be getting into a real fight, things were too gentle and relied on a lot of low gravity and nothing really happening, but fists constantly being swung, you get what he means? What I did like though were those two creepy white albino twin things. They were interesting, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way they fought and morphed and moved. Something I have always wished about the Matrix movies is that they had focused just a little more on the relationship between Neo and Trinity, making it more real and understandable for us. Instead, their love story is something that just happened, no real introduction, no real fleshing out of it, always making it feel slightly less important than it needs to be. I really liked the keymaker, too. The storyline with Agent Smith is actually really cool, and there is so much that can happen from there. Also, the Seraph was incredibly entertaining, definitely a character that I thoroughly enjoy. I need to mention, you know my cape fetish? I have a thing for jackets, too (think my Peter Bishop jacket obsessions). Well, Neo only just has the most badass jackets when he goes into the Matrix. I mean wow. Long, flowy, amazing… yes. I love it. I do. Alright, alright. Moving back to the movie, Reloaded is well worth the watch, continues to tell us more about the story and what is happening since Neo has come to save them all, and is pretty good, though it falls far short of its predecessor, something you cannot but compare it to.