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DEATH WISH (2018) Film Review

3.5 STARS (out of 5)
A bold remake of the 1974 classic film which originally starred Charles Bronson and led to a successful series of 4 films.
In this update, Bruce Willis stars as Dr. Paul Kersey, an E/R trauma surgeon in modern-day Chicago, where treating gunshot wounds is as common as ordering pepperoni on a deep-dish pizza. As the opening credits roll, a talk radio montage reveals the community’s exasperation with all of the violence.
Lucy (Elisabeth Shue) is Kersey’s upper middle class wife who is finally completing her PhD after 15 years of being a mom and home-maker. Camila Morrone plays Jordan, the Kerseys’ daughter, a high school senior bound for NYU in the Fall. Vincent D’Onofrio is Kersey’s ne’er do well brother Frank, for whom Paul cares unreservedly.
One evening while at work, Lucy and Jordan are brutally savaged by home invaders. Wife Lucy does not survive the event and their daughter Jordan is now in a coma.
After Lucy’s funeral, Kersey’s father-in-law introduces the concept of guns for self-protection. A notion previously uncomfortable to Paul.
Days and weeks pass and the good doctor becomes unsatisfied with the slow pace his wife’s murder investigation.
One evening, while treating a bullet-riddled criminal patient, Paul finds, and confiscates, the patient’s handgun–a Glock–which he brings home. Paul teaches himself to use the Glock and decides to roam the city at night with the purpose of finding trouble. On that first night, he interrupts a random act of violence.
This situation, a car-jacking, requires rapid reaction and Paul’s instincts take over. He thwarts the heist and both criminals are killed. One of them expires from his initial wounds. But the other requires additional kill shots…which Paul obliges.
Unbeknownst to Paul, the episode is captured on a cell phone video and he becomes an instant social media sensation dubbed “The Grim Reaper”. The only thing protecting Paul’s identity is that his face was obscured by the hood of his sweat jacket. Later on, while reviewing the video of his exploits Paul seems quite self-satisfied, almost amused.
The remainder of the film has Paul gunning down other bad guys while always remaining one step ahead of the police and throwing Chicago social media into a deeper frenzy over the meaning, purpose and justification of being a vigilante killer.
Eli Roth (God Bless him) offers a nod to conservatism when he has a fellow NYU-bound girlfriend of the comatose Jordan reading Milton Friedman aloud for Jordan at her hospital bedside. Which is to signal that capitalism, crime-fighting and cowboying-up are all back en vogue. Touche!

TERMINAL (2018) Film Review

“TERMINAL” (2018)
4 STARS (out of 5)
Watching this movie is like taking a trip to an Adult Disneyland where Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride includes neon-lit malt-shops, Go-Go bars and blood-splattered surgical theaters.
It is a highly-stylized, pop-art, film noir whose archetype can be traced back to Frank Miller’s “Sin City” (2005) and Alan Rudolph’s “Choose Me” (1984).
A creepy mix of 5 plots all intersecting through a shabby railroad terminus and all featuring an omnipresent femme fatale who’s always several stiletto-heeled steps ahead of the other players.
Margot Robbie as the enigmatic, platinum-blonde anti-heroine was born for this role. Her character wears many hats: waitress, stripper, assassin, nurse…and each of them involves costumes that fit the art-deco-noir motif. Her Lana Turner-esque seduction of Alfred (Max Irons) is terribly smooth. He’s so over-matched (Life can be so unfair!) but we eagerly endure his erotic pain.

Mike Myers impressive as the Terminal’s idiosyncratic Night Manager. Limping to-and-fro pushing his garbage cart, he’s decades removed from SNL, Shrek and Austin Powers…but he may have found a terrific new career in horror films. I’d love to see more.

Simon Pegg as an emaciated, terminally-ill, English scholar. We’ve never seen him look this old, frail and mature. Gone is the jovial round-faced zombie fighter from “Shaun of the Dead” or the effusive Scotty from “Star Trek”. He articulates quite reservedly, like any erudite dialectician would. This is a more restrained role for Mr. Pegg and we hope he tries this again. I can almost see him taking on Rex Harrison roles like p Captain Gregg (“Ghost and Mrs. Muir”) and Professor Henry Higgins (“My Fair Lady”). Bravo, Simon. You are growing by leaps and bounds.
The sub-plot involving Dexter Fletcher and Max Irons as bumbling hitmen is yet another literal allograft from Harold Pinter’s “The Dumbwaiter” (also poorly concealed and uncredited in John Favreau’s “Made” and Martin McDonagh’s “In Bruges”). These two gents are stuck in Pinter’s hitman quandary and grate on each other as expected. Fletcher is the more seasoned actor and you’ll recognize him from many character roles throughout his career, the best of which was as Tony the Concierge in BBC’s “Hotel Babylon” series from 2006-2009.
Max Irons is a relative newcomer but has a strong family pedigree with Jeremy Irons as his father. He’s over-matched by both Robbie and Fletcher, but he doesn’t cave in, so we root for his survival.
GENRE: Mystery, Horror, Noir, Crime, Comedy
DIRECTOR: Vaughn Stein
WRITER: Vaughn Stein
CAST: Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Mike Myers, Dexter Fletcher.
RUNTIME: 95 Minutes

Film Review: “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

I finally re-watched Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) last night for the first time in 45 years.

It was too long and lofty for me as an 10 year old back in the early 1970s to actually understand it–and I almost felt that way again this time around again.
But with the modern technology of FF and REW i was able to really see it in full detail and each scene several times over.

The entire film is actually 5 movies rolled in one. And only the middle section had any real drama to speak of.
It took Kubrick a full hour to finally introduce Dave and HAL, our protagonist and nemesis, respectively.
And their story-line only lasted 50 minutes. I really wished it was longer here.
The film is too long in 2 of the 5 sections: Parts 2 and 4.

Here are the 5 sections:

1) Prologue: Prehistoric man’s encounter with a strange, inert obelisk. Rectangular, slender, tall, ebony and shiny. While inanimate, it exudes an aura that fascinates the cave men. They see value in it. Is it Beauty? Power? Safety? What do those concepts even mean to a cave man? One thing’s for certain: Early man’s curiosity is awakened and this prompts the innovation of his first crude tool.

2) PanAm TV Commercial: Dr. Haywood’s trip to the moon is a visual masterpiece, albeit lengthy. It seems more about bragging rights for conceptual designs of future space travel than a movie sequence. Very little drama to speak of. Uneventful and existential. But in the end we arrive at the reappearance of the obelisk.

3) Dave and Frank travel to Jupiter. HAL9000 goes haywire.Bad things happen. Lots of tension and excellent storytelling.

4) Dave’s voyage unexpectedly jettisons past Jupiter to the far reaches of the universe. Very psychedelic and trippy. Way too lengthy.

5) Epilogue: Dave’s arrival at the end of his trip. The end of life (his life?) yet also a (or “the”) beginning. Did he discover life’s meaning?
This is the most fascinating sequence. I’ve had it memorized for over 40 years and seeing it again gave me the old familiar chills.

Kubrick had an agenda to demonstrate what our future would look like on an existential level…so he was stingy with compelling, forward-moving plot points. But it was realism, if only hypothetical. And it made its point loud and clear. It still does. You can count me as one person who is thankful to not be a space traveller because it looks DAMNED boring!

The accuracy in predicting how space travel and technology would look was uncanny. Including the introduction of iPad-like tablets, almost mimicking to their current size in 2018.

-Nick P