Triple Frontier, Review By Case Wright


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The heist movie or treasure hunt movie is always the same and always pretty fun.  It’s not supposed to be Shakespeare; it’s supposed to pull you in and be a thrill ride.  This iteration is all about the down and out Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans who decide to seek their fortune the old fashioned way: ripping off a drug kingpin!  In true heist genre fashion, everything works out great!

The characters came across as real Veterans to me.  After some research, the writer- Mark Boal was embedded with a platoon in Iraq and he also wrote The Hurt Locker.  The characters in Triple Frontier were like the men I knew: strong, divorced, and liked to joke.  Ben Affleck’s character Tom struck me as especially realistic.  He loved his daughter, but there was a distance because he was just not suited for civilian life.  She wanted him home, but he always wanted to be away.  You could see on her face that she knew the moment his buddies came calling that he was already gone.

Oscar Isaac plays Pope who has a gig doing private security/law enforcement in South America.  He is in pursuit of Lorea, a drug boss, who is causing all kinds of problems. Yada Yada Yada.  Pope finds the location of Lorea’s hideout which has hundreds of millions of dollars stashed inside, but he needs a team to kill Lorea, Lorea’s men, get the cash, and get out of the country.  He turns to his former squad to pull off the heist.  They need a little cajoling, but they come around. There isn’t a lot of dialogue after they agree to the heist, which makes sense.  They committed and now transitioned to soldier-mode.  The heist starts off with success in sight, but it’s not long before everything goes wrong and they are in a fight for their lives.

The film is shot really beautifully and has some high-priced songs for a Netflix program. Everything seemed very real.  Even the way the characters carried themselves and flowed through Lorea’s hideout was seamless.   They moved the way we are trained to move through rooms.  I am always looking for that in action films.  Are they not having muzzle-awareness (pointing there weapon accidentally at a friendly)?  Are they holding the rifle close to their face? Are they aiming right?  The answers to those questions were yes.   J.C. Chandor should be really proud of himself for the realism.

What kept pulling me into the story wasn’t the action (which was excellent BTW); it was that these men were like the ones I knew.  The team itself was representative of who does our killing for us: salt of the earth…men.   I like seeing women in action films and I am already excited about Black Widow, but the infantry in real life is male.  They are regular guys who are asked to do terrible terrible things.  When those terrible things are done, we cast the men aside.  The story concludes a lot like the war itself did with a lot of loss and not a lot to show for it.  This film has a political statement between the explosions and it’s worth listening to it. 

* I included Mary Pop Poppins by the True Loves in my review.  The song embodies the heist genre like no other.  Also, they are Seattleites!!!!

Spring Breakdown #7: FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (dir by Chris Smith)


So, last night, I finally watched FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, the Netflix documentary about the infamous Fyre Festial.

As you may remember, the Fyre Festival was supposed to be the greatest party of 2017.  Influencers played it up on Instagram.  A commercial for it, one that featured the world’s top models on a beautiful island, was pretty much inescapable on Facebook.  It was going to be the greatest musical festival of all time, with luxury villas and yachts and private chefs and …. Blink-182?  Even before the entire festival was revealed to be a massive fraud, I have to admit that I was kind of like, “All this for Blink-182?”

Anyway, the festival did turn out to be a disaster.  A lot of people paid a lot of money to end up on the beach, staying in rain-soaked FEMA tents and eating pre-packaged sandwiches.  The bands cancelled so there wasn’t even any music.  After the festival was officially canceled, several people found themselves stranded on the island.  Those of us who weren’t there followed the drama on twitter.  We joked about the Lord of the of Flies.  One of my favorite tweets about the whole mess compared it to an episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.  “The Gang Puts On A Music Festival.”

At the time, very few people had much sympathy for anyone involved in the Fyre Festival.  Not only did the organizers seem to be a group of insufferable douchebags but so did the people who paid thousands for dollars for a FEMA tent, a cheese sandwich, and Blink-182.  Having now watched the Netflix documentary …. well, I still don’t have much sympathy for the organizers or the participants.

I do have sympathy for the people who actually lived in the island.  They were taken advantage of and most of them received no financial compensation for the work that they put into the festival.  While we were all laughing on twitter, one poor restaurant owner lost a fortune feeding all of the people who were stranded in the Bahamas.  While we were making jokes, the people who actually did all the work went unpaid.

The documentary starts with festival organizer Billy McFarland and celebrity co-sponsor Ja Rule annoying Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajowski, and Hailey Baldwin on an island that once belonged to drug lord Pablo Escobar and it ends with McFarland heading for federal prison.  Billy McFarland emerges as a professional con man who built his success by exploiting people’s desire to be a part of an “exclusive” club.  Before Fyre, McFarland ran a credit card company.  Even after the disaster of the Fyre Festival, McFarland continued to use the Fyre e-mail list to try to sell VIP access that he couldn’t actually provide.  Even when under indictment, McFarland allows himself to be filmed while he brags about “hustling.”  He really can’t help himself.

Ultimately, this documentary works best as a portrait of the power of fame.  From the start, it’s obvious that the festival is going to be a disaster.  Everyone who is interviewed states that, at no point, did they think Fyre would be a success.  (One person explains that it takes at least a year to set up a successful music festival.  Fyre tried to do it in a matter of weeks.)  But, because Billy McFarland paid Kendall Jenner and a bunch of other social media superstars to promote the festival, people who should have known better paid a lot of money for a tent and a stale sandwich.  McFarland may not have known how to put on a music festival but he definitely knew how to exploit our celebrity-obsessed culture.

During the documentary, one of the festival’s organizers — Andy — tells a story about how he was prepared to give a customs official oral sex in order to get him to release a delivery of Evian water.  Reportedly, due to the success of the documentary and the popularity of that anecdote, Andy will be getting his own reality show.  That seems like a fitting coda for the whole thing.

The Meg, Review By Case Wright


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Yes, I know The Meg came out a while ago, but I just got it on Netflix and had a pretty good date night watching it; so, you’re going to learn about too.  The press was not kind to this film.  They used words like dumbed down, boring, and bland.  I wouldn’t put The Meg in any of those categories.  This was a high budget SyFy movie like Sharknado, but less self-aware.  As for the film, there were some legit scare moments.  My general beef is that it acted as a Chinese propaganda film.  Jason…Buddy…you don’t have to pander like that.  You’ve got abs and monster shark eating people.  Really.  Even if you want to pander, showing the Chinese flag waving gloriously not once, but twice was just over the top ass-kissing.  Just stop.

The Meg, directed by Jon Turtletaub (Jericho, Rush Hour) and written by Joe Hoeber (Battleship), is a straightforward monster movie.  A Jerk Billionaire (Rainn Wilson) funds and exploration of a deepsea cave.  The dive team investigates and voila there be dino-sharks swimmin in thar and they get trapped in the land of the lost in the briny deep. *Pirate Voice*  Hmmm, maybe this entire article should be read in a pirate voice.  Think of it as your innarrrrrrrrr monologue.  A couple of megalodons get out and only Jason Statham and his abs can stop them.  Side Note on abs: I’ve lost 65Lbs and nearly have Statham Abs.  This doesn’t really add to the review, but come on abs really didn’t add anything to stopping the megalodon, but if Statham hadn’t shown his abs you’re telling me no one would’ve been disappointed?! Really?!  REALLY?! You’re sticking with that?! Fine!

Jason (Just calling him Jason, again, come on…is anyone remembering the character’s name?!!!  You went to see it because Jason was in it…..ughhhh… Fine) ….

Jonas (Jason Statham) is down and out because he had a run in with a Kaiju earlier in his career and now he drinks beer all the time that give him abs….THAT is the only part of the movie I don’t buy and irritated me.  He should’ve been doing crossfit! I’m sorry if you have even one lousy Heineken, you are not going to look like this:

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IT’S NOT POSSIBLE! I bust my hump 6-7 days a week in the gym to get the above results and boozing is not possible if you want Statham abs!  He should be doing burpees and drinking green juice!

Anywho, Jonas decides to rescue the yellow submarine and then kill the not one, but two Megs.  There a quite a few Jaws-like death scenes.  There is even a beach scene where The Meg chows down on Chinese beach goers AND when The Meg comes in for seconds, you can see wee swimsuits in his jaws (nice touch Turtletaub, nice touch). Jonas has to pursue the Meg into the beach and kill it.  This is not a spoiler! What else would he do?!  Jonas uses some weird looking submarine and kills it with some sort of submarine knife; I honestly couldn’t tell.  It was kind of a darkly lit scene.

Addendum: There is also a minor subplot with Jonas and Suyin, but it’s too dull to discuss.  I would’ve edited her and her overly cute kid out the movie entirely.

Is The Meg worth Netflixing? Yes! It’s a monster movie. The mainstream press is just too snobby to enjoy a Sharknado or unironically watch a Lifetime MOW.  But not me! I can enjoy a creature feature!

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IO, Review By Case Wright


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New beginnings and adventure versus intimacy and connection is the theme of Netflix’s latest straight to stream scifi think piece- IO.  It makes sense that human connection is the main theme because this movie was written by a team.  Rule of thumb: if you see Writer 1 and Writer 2 that was rewritten because writer 1 kinda sucked, BUT, if you see Writer 1 & Writer 2, this was written as a creative team.  In this case, there were three writers working together: Clay Jeter, Charles Spano, & Will Basanta.  I can’t imagine how challenging that would be for a film script mostly because I’m very solitary as a writer.  I’m an extrovert in every other way, but my ideal writing space is a well-lit isolation cave.  What is impressive to me  is that Netflix took a chance on these writers because it was their first real feature.  Normally, I would make a parenthesis next to the writers’ names, but here they haven’t really done anything prior.    The director, Jonathan Helpert, has done short films, never a feature. Despite this being everyone’s first feature, they executed well and attracted some real talent to their piece: Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers) and Anthony Mackie (Captain America: Winter Soldier).

The film takes place in just two locations, has two principles, and essentially just a cameo by a third actor.  The special effects were so minimalist that it made Another Earth (Lisa’s Review) look like Star Wars.  90% of the film takes place on a campsite, 5% in an empty neighborhood, and 5% in a museum. This film really ratchets up the intimacy and nothing can make two people closer than not having any other human beings around to distract them.

At first, I thought I was in for some Al Gore environmentalist porn because the film begins with a mass exodus of humanity from earth to an outpost to IO because runaway pollution changed our air to ammonia.  Obviously, there’s not enough fabreeze in the world to get rid of that smell.  Our heroine, Sam (Margaret Qualley) is up on a mountain campsite where the air is still breathable.  She is working alone to further her father’s research to adapt bees and plants to the new atmosphere in order to make the world habitable for humans again.  She makes trips down to the city below to scavenge for parts and to finally get decent tickets to see Hamilton.  This sounds like it would be dull, but it’s totally engaging because Margaret Qualley is such a talent that she plays the claustophic loneliness so you can feel it yourself.

Sam has a REALLY long distance relationship with Elon her engineer boyfriend who is determined to find humanity a new home.  His life is in the unknown and the stars; whereas, Sam’s is one earthbound and lonely.  Her loneliness is ended with the arrival of Micah (Anthony Mackie) a much older man than she, but there are obvious sparks.  They share an interest in the humanities and mourn our lost paradise.  Micah followed Sam’s father’s advice and attempted to stay on earth and survive and adapt, but doing so cost him his wife’s life and anyone else’s who listened to him.  He spent years floating around earth on a hot air balloon, seeing humanity’s fall from above.  When Micah met Sam, their age difference, the poisoned earth, or the uncertain future didn’t matter because they made a connection and developed concern for one another.

A lot has been discussed about the quasi-ambiguous ending because I suppose people are really good at missing the point.  It never was about whether humanity retook the earth or colonized a new home beyond the stars; it was about humans rediscovering their humanity.  In fact, the last lines of the film discussed exploration, coming to where you began, and re-discovering your starting point as if it were new because it is: you have changed, you have grown, the meaning has evolved.  By the end of the film, Sam and Micah had learned that they were still human.  These connections are why we fight a Trojan War to bring our loved ones home because we are connected to them, they matter, and because we are human.  The end was not about whether she survived and lived on earth on not; it was heartbreaking because alive or dead, we knew that the roads Micah and Sam would walk would not be together.

 

Trailer: The Punisher – Season 2


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The first season of The Punisher on Netflix ended up being better than what had been advertised. The series and it’s ultraviolent tone became a divisive factor in how the show was scene.

Some saw it as the true adaptation of the titular character and his anti-hero status within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Others saw it as poor taste considering the rash of mass shootings and gun violence that’s plagued the country the last couple of years.

There was no disagreement in that Jon Bernthal owned and seemed born to play the role of vengeance-fueled and grief-stricken Marine veteran Frank Castle. His portrayal not just of Frank Castle but his vigilante alter-ego, The Punisher, was like watching a force of nature on screen.

It was a no-brainer that a second season of the series would be set into production and Netflix didn’t hesitate. It’s a bit bittersweet knowing that no matter how good season 2 turns out there’s a high probability that this will be the final season of The Punisher on Netflix as every Netflix-produced Marvel show has been cancelled the past year with only the upcoming seasons of The Punisher and Jessica Jones left.

Season 2 is set of a January 18, 2019 release date on Netflix worldwide.

Trailer: Netflix’s Kingdom


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Yes, I know it’s another trailer for a zombie series. Even with my love for all things zombie fiction, I must admit that we’ve reached beyond the point of oversaturation. There’s more and more bad zombie fiction (in TV, film, books, etc.) than there are good ones. Once in awhile we will get something that puts a new spin or adds something new to the zombie genre.

We saw this with 2016’s The Girl with All the Gifts and South Korea’s Train to Busan. Even the darling of all things zombie fiction, AMC’s The Walking Dead has hit a new low in ratings (yet still continues to be the highest rated cable series).

Netflix is now jumping into the zombie pool to take it’s pound of flesh with it’s South Korean production of a zombie series set during Korea’s medieval Joseon dynastic period. It’s a blend of court intrigue and survival horror.

The series is called Kingdom and from all promotional materials released since it was first announced, the series looks to bring the zombie genre into a time period we rarely see the genre appear. Rarely do we see zombie fiction on the big or small screen set in a time period other than modern times.

Netflix will release Kingdom worldwide on January 25, 2019 with a second season already set for production early 2019.

The Christmas Chronicles (Dir: Clay Kaytis), Review by Case Wright


Netflix is known for taking risks and “The Christmas Chronicles” is no exception. There are six felonies in this film: 2 Grand Theft Autos, a kidnapping, money laundering, attempted murder, and whatever they did to that partridge in the pear tree.  Yet, it worked! I will admit that I am of the Y-Generation and Kurt Russell remains forever cool in my book, but this movie had some good story writing, great acting from veterans like Kurt Russell and Stevie Van Zandt, but great performances by up and comers Judah Lewis (The Babysitter) and Darby Camp (Big Little Lies) as well.

Clay Kaytis had his directorial debut with this film.  He is famous for being an animator for a panoply of films that you have taken your daughters to see: Frozen, Tangled, and Mulan…etc.  Clay was a pretty good choice considering the amount of animation that is in this film.  Honestly, it was a family movie that would have been a HUGE box office draw.

The film begins with a series of home movies featuring a classic nuclear family enjoying Christmas over the years…until 2017.  We learn that the father was a fireman who lost his life saving a family, leaving his family grieving and without the spirit of Christmas.  The mom is now taking extra shifts as a nurse, the daughter is REALLY into Santa, and the son is now a no-kidding degenerate car thief.  There are enough dark scenes in this film to classify it as Film Noir.

The family is trying to live as best they can and the daughter Kate is trying to reconnect with the memory of her late father by watching old home movies.  In one of the films, she sees a mystery arm delivering a package.  She convinces her brother that it could be Santa in the film and they decide to set a trap for him…..and IT WORKS!!! Not only do they catch Santa on film, they stow away onto his sleigh and cause Santa to crash.  He loses his sleigh, reindeer, bag of toys, and his magic hat.  The main ticking clock for the film is that Santa needs to get his presents delivered before christmas is up or christmas spirit will tick down to zero and it will be like the Hills Have Eyes or something.  The rest of the film is spent helping Santa retrieve these lost items and busting Santa out of jail to prevent the After Times.

And yes, Santa ends up in jail, charged with multiple felonies, and does a pretty amazing blues number with the E Street Band.  Yes, the E Street Band.  I know that a lot of this movie is starting to sound like a Christmas fever dream, but it works and my 7 and 9 year old girls were riveted and didn’t hurt each other for the duration of the film.  Thank you, Clay Kaytis…THANK YOU!

I would recommend this film and for you to subscribe to Netflix.  Otherwise, how will you understand half of my reviews?!!!!!

Merry Christmas!