No Sudden Move

Don Cheadle stars in this very cool very twisty turns crime thriller that has a good sense of humor and a few too many twists and turns for its own good.

Don Cheadle plays Curt Goynes a man just released from prison after a heist gone wrong. He returns to Detroit in 1954 and takes on a job that should be easy. He and two other small timers Ronald, played by Benicio del Toro and Charley played by Kieran Culkin are tasked with stealing a document from a safe. The job goes wrong but n a very interesting way, and the criminals climb through the layers of crime in the city which leads them to an expected place.

There’s so much to love about this movie starting with the cast. Aside from the three I’ve already mentioned, we have great turns from Ray Liotta as a gangster, David Harbour as a nebbish accountant, a fat Brendan Fraser as a mid level mob enforcer, and Jon Hamm as a federal agent. Not to mention Amy Seimetz as a 50’s housewife struggling to keep it together and Julia Fox as a put upon gangsters wife. Every character is wonderfully drawn with interesting quirks and shading to their personas. This is as much a character piece as it is a thriller.

The film plays loose with perspective. We move from Curt to Ronald to Ray Liotta, to David Harbour. Using this shifting perspective the film creates a web that shows us the full picture of events rather than limiting us to one characters POV. It helps clarify the rather intricate plot twists that occur.

For my money there are too many twists and double crosses. Movies like this always zig when you expect them to zag, but this movie zigs then zags then loops back around to zig and zag again. There are so many double crosses in the end that I lost track. I think this reaction will dissipate upon rewatching the film. It’ll all make sense the second time around, but this time around it was distracting.

The other aspect of the film I really didn’t like is the cinematography. Steven Soderbergh shot the film (he is credited under the false name of Peter Andrew’s). I’ve never liked his cinematography. I don’t like the way Soderbergh lights interior scenes. Characters always appear too dark especially when next to bright windows. His films just look muddy and underexposed to my eye. In this film he uses an extreme wide angle lens that distorts the image in an unsettling manner. Will this bother anyone else? Probably not, but I couldn’t stand it.

As a story it’s fascinating. The characters are richly drawn and vividly brought to life. I really enjoyed this one aside from my gripes. It’s currently streaming on HBO Max. It’s definitely worth checking out especially if you’re a fan of crime films.

It’s my cup of tea B+

F9: The Fast Saga

There’s a scene in the show The Office in which the character Kevin Pours a massive jar of M&M’s into his mouth. That’s what it feels like watching this movie. This movie jams so much crap down the audience’s throats that it just becomes painful and boring.

I have a mixed history with the Fast and Furious franchise. The first is a mediocre action movie. The second is completely forgettable. I actually like the third movie. It tells a simple and coherent story with style. The fourth is a moody boring muddle with crappy cgi. The fifth is a lot of fun. It’s a silly car heist movie with great stunt work. The sixth is silly escapism. The seventh is the pinnacle. This movie is the height of the franchise for me. It blends the absurdity and the sincerity of the series beautifully. The eighth movie is crap. I dislike it so much. It has a stupid incoherent plot and is obsessed with its own world building.

I say all this to establish my credentials as someone who likes the series as a whole. I also don’t hate dumb fun. It’s my favorite kind of fun. When I say this movie sucks, it’s because the movie sucks. Let’s get into why.

The film opens with the story of how Dom’s father died I’m race car crash. We then cut to Don and Letty, played by Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez living a quiet life on a remote farm. She is chafing against their quiet retirement. Adventure comes calling when a former ally sends a message that his plane carrying a super weapon has been shot down. The team reassembles to find the super weapon. It turns Dom’s long lost brother from the flashbacks is working for the man who has kidnapped the villain from the last movie to find the weapon. Meanwhile, Dom discovers that his brother killed their dad. Then they discover that Han, who died either movies ago or two movies ago depending on how you look at the series absurd chronology isn’t actually dead, he’s just been hiding from his family for many years because the former ally used his death to hide the super weapon from someone. At which point Han rescues the daughter of the scientists who made the weapon and Dom’s brother discovers that she is the key to using the weapon, so he gets himself captured by the heroes using a super powers magnet car in order to kidnap the girl and set off a satellite that will destroy the world?

Do you feel like a jar of M&M’s is being poured into your mouth? This movie doesn’t tell a story so much as jam ten or twelve disparate plots together and call it a movie. Dom and Letty living a quiet life yet yearning for adventure? That’s a story. Dom reconciling with his brother? That’s a story. Han faking his death to protect a little girl? That’s a story. Instead of choosing one story to tell the film makers violently smash them all together without any apparent regard for narrative cohesion. It’s a pain to sit through because no element is given time to matter.

Okay but the plots aren’t really the point in these movies is it? It’s about the action. These movies are famous for their amazing action. This movie doesn’t have much of it. There’s an early chase through the jungle with an entire military trying to kill our heroes. Bullets fly, explosions go off, none of it matters. The chase takes them through a mine field. That’s a great location for a car chase. What do they do with that location? They just drive faster and make it through unscathed. A few extra explosions go off, but that’s it.

There’s a scene they’re proud of, it’s in all the trailers, in which Dom Tarzans his car across an impossible ravine. This should be really fun and silly action. I wanted to like this, but it doesn’t work. The impossibility of the stunt, the fact there is no build up to the moment, the fact that it works with complete ease robs the moment of tension or interest.

Justin Lin directed this film. He’s usually a very good action director, but he sucks here. Fistfights are shot in darkness and incomprehensible closeups, so everything just looks like dark blurs. The set-pieces are all wasted like the mine field or the Tarzan car. The worst is just the incompetence on display in the final act.

Dom is in an armored van sliding down a mountain. He looks up and sees a drone coming to shoot him. Cut to the drone. Cut to Dom. He looks down at a small dark object in his hand. Cut to the drone preparing to fire. Cut to Dom doing something with the object then throwing it off screen. He jumps back inside the van. Cut to the drone shooting the van. Cut to the front of the van as an explosion goes off underneath it. The explosion causes the van to roll and land on its wheels on the road. At which point Dom takes the wheel and drives off. I smacked myself in the forehead so hard after this sequence that I’m sure the whole theater heard it.

So what the hell happened in the scene? from what I could piece together after the fact, Dom saw the drone coming he threw a grenade under the front of the van. The grenade blew up sending the van into a roll that helped the van land on its wheels. The grenade did not damage the van in anyway. The drone was just there as an added threat I guess? A closeup of the grenade would have helped us understand what it was he was doing. A shot of the grenade landing under the van would have explained what the explosion was and that it was intentional. A shot of the drone shooting at and narrowly missing Dom would have gone a long way to establish its threat. Without these connective shots were no longer telling a story we’re just stringing together a series of shots and explosions. The scene is so incompetently shot and edited that the dumb isn’t fun. It’s just annoying.

Is this one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen? Yes. The movie cost over $200 million dollars, but couldn’t even assemble a cohesive action scene let alone narrative. The actors give bad performances. The action is bad. The story is a mess. And the worst part is that I was bored throughout the movie! Don’t go see this movie. Don’t reward it’s incompetent story telling. If you’re considering making a return to the theater go see any of the other movies out right now. This one isn’t worth it.

Not my cup of tea. F

Army of the Dead

There’s more color in this poster than in the entire movie.

This movie has a good opening, and a strong first act. But it gets worse the longer it goes on, and it goes on for a long time. By then end I was just so glad it was finally over.

The movie is the latest big budget Netflix offering. Written, directed, produced, and shot by Zack Snyder fresh off his justice League Snyder Cut a movie so long it might still be playing for all we know. Snyder is a fan of excess in his movies and this particular movie is pure excess. There is too much of everything in this movie and it just wears me down.

In the film a military convoy carrying patient zero crashes outside Las Vegas leading to a zombie outbreak and the entire city being quarantined and cut off. After a few years, the president decides to nuke the city eradicating the threat. Before the big one drops however, Mr. Tanaka played by the great Hiroyuki Sanada assembled a team to enter Vegas and break into a massive vault containing hundreds of millions of dollars. It turns out Scott Ward, played by the mountain of a man Dave Bautista, is just the man for the job. He assembles his team of zombie killing thieves to infiltrate the city, break into the vault, and steal the millions.

It could be a classic genre mashup. A heist movie in a zombie film. For the first half of the movie, there is a lot of fun to be had. The opening montage feels satirical in its slow motion excess. There’s a claustrophobic scene of real tension as our thieves must walk through a dark hotel kitchen full of hibernating zombies that could wake up at any moment. It has a great “assembling the team” sequence that culminates in an awesome scene for Tig Notaro. She plays a pilot so bored with her life that flying a helicopter through a city full of zombies sounds like a great time.

From there it’s just a slog of problems. It starts for me with the cinematography. This is an ugly movie. It’s hard to look at. Snyder employs extremely shallow depth of field and soft focus throughout. This means that most scenes are out of focus and blurry. I don’t think there’s a single scene in this movie that is in clear sharp focus. The color palette is all muted grayish khaki. So everything looks like a white tshirt that got thrown in the wash with a load of brown clothes. I spent the first half checking my glasses to make sure they weren’t smudged and the second half thinking I was going blind.

My other big issue is how mean the movie is. It is needlessly cruel to a lot of its characters. Women get harassed and assaulted. A man is tortured by zombies. A main character gets beaten half to death. A man is mauled for about ten minutes by a zombie tiger. The cruelty in itself isn’t the problem. Watching a villain get his comeuppance can be satisfying. The problem is how long we have to linger on the pain and torment being endured. A main character is beaten senselessly for an extended period of time. The man mauled by a tiger is shown in horrendous detail. We get out noses rubbed in his pain. It’s not fun or entertaining or horrifying. It’s just unpleasant.

There’s one good scene that gets spoiled by the filmmaking. It involves Scott trying to reconnect with his daughter Kate played by Ella Purnell. It’s an interesting scene, and the writing adds layers to both characters. The problem is the editing rhythm is so wrong that instead of building the relationship it undercuts the revelations and emotional impact. It could have been a home run of a scene, but it just left me frustrated.

I can actually pinpoint the moment where the movie lost me. It involves spoilers so beware. Skip this paragraph if you want to remain unspoiled. The first friend Scott recruits is Maria, played by Ana de la Reguera. After helping Scott assemble the team, she pretty much disappears from the movie until about an hour and a half into the runtime when she randomly pulls Scott aside. She expresses her frustration about him ignoring her. She implies that they had a relationship and that she still wants him. Scott is receptive to her advances. Then the zombies break in and snap her neck. Her bloody spinal column juts out grotesquely from her neck. Then the shooting starts and doesn’t stop for the next hour. They do this kind of thing for the rest of the movie. They give each character a moment then immediately kill them. They get to be a hero then die. It doesn’t matter how stupid the moment is or how little it has to do with their character. They get a moment then are destroyed in increasingly horrible ways. If I’m going to spend two and a half hours with these characters I want more than lip service and a slow mo bloody destruction. It feels cheap and nihilistic. Nothing matters. Everyone is basically already dead.

I can deal with cruelty. I can sit through an excessive runtime. Ugly cinematography sucks but I can put up with it. What I can’t tolerate is when characters are disregarded. There is no value placed on telling a story with these characters. They’re just used as vessels for violent destruction.

I know this movie will work really well for some people. I know the nihilism, the excess, the endless cruelty and zombie headshots will be exactly what some people are looking for. If that’s you, then this is your movie. It’s in theaters and streaming on Netflix. If this doesn’t sound like your movie skip it. you won’t regret skipping it.

Not my cup of tea. C

Those Who Wish me Dead

This thriller gets an A+ for execution and a C for theme amounting to a masterpiece of execution without much else.

The film follows a boy named Connor played by Finn Little who goes on the run with his father after two ruthlessly efficient assassins come after him. Once he gets to Montana he encounters a Sheriff’s deputy played by the always excellent Jon Bernthal, and a smoke jumper played by Angelina Jolie. Young Connor must contend with assassins, lightning storms, and a massive forest fire in order to… talk to the media about what his dad uncovered. It’s a lackluster goal considering the extreme peril he’s put in throughout the film.

Before I get too lost in the weeds of my issues with the film. I need to offer up some praise. This movie is well deserving of a lot of praise. Starting with the writer director Taylor Sheridan.

Sheridan is one of the best screenwriters working today. His scripts are powerful, efficient, and speak volumes while saying few words. His characters behave in believable ways and make realistic decisions in the situations he concocts for them. He is a great writer, and growing into a good director. This is his second feature behind the camera. His mastery of tone and his ability to work with actors is on full display here.

Those performances come from some great actors. I love Jon Bernthal. He does great work here as a cop in over his head. Finn Little captures the trauma of a kid dealing with forces far bigger than himself. Nicolas Hoult and Aden Gillen are equally terrifying and relatable as cold blooded killers who are also brothers. They clearly care deeply about each other while killing everyone in their path. Angelina Jolie is fine. I’ve never been a fan of hers, and here she is fine. She’s solid. Sometimes I like her in movies. Sometimes I find her performance distracting. I think she’s good here. Not great not bad.

My real issue with the film is the ending. It’s not what happened at the end it’s why. There was no satisfying meaning or theme behind the conclusion.

The story is macguffin driven. A macguffin was defined by Alfred Hitchcock as the thing which everyone in the movie cares about very much. It is the driving force behind the action on screen. Here the macguffin is the information that Connors dad uncovered, but the movie never tells us what he uncovered or whom he uncovered it about. Connor’s goal is to get the information out to the world, but we don’t know what good of any that will do. On a literal level we don’t really know what the movie is about.

On a thematic level we don’t really know what it’s about either. The movie doesn’t draw a thematic line through its macguffin. You could say it’s about exposing corruption, but it’s unclear if that’s what Connors secret is. It could be about revealing evil institutions, but no evil institutions are revealed. If we ditch the macguffin and look at each character the main theme seems to be survival. But the movie doesn’t say much about survival. Some people live others don’t. There isn’t much rhyme or reason as to why. If that’s what they’re trying to say “life’s tough, sometimes people die” then that’s not enough for me.

I’m left disappointed. I have a feeling of being let down after watching the movie. With a production this good, and execution this strong I wish it had a better story. As it is it is a week made movie that feels hollow.

Maybe you’ll get more out of it thematically than I did. I can recommend so much if this movie, but for me it didn’t quite make it across the finish line. If you want to check it out, it is in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.

It’s half a cup of tea. B

Spontaneous

Very dark comedy combines with a heart felt coming of age drama to incredible effect in this surprise and explosive movie.

A boring math class in an average high school. Senior Mara, played by Katherine Langford, drops her pencil on the floor. She leans over to pick it up. In that moment the girl sitting in front of her explodes. She just goes pop spraying the entire classroom in blood. Mara sits up back to find her entire world changed.

One by one the kids in this one math class inexplicably go pop throughout the film. Mara and her best friend Tess, played by Hayley Law use humor to deal with the stress and trauma of never knowing who could be next. Mara falls for the cute Dylan, played by Charlie Plummer and their very sweet relationship makes up the best escape from the exploding kids surrounding them.

The movie is surprising. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it, but it really won me over with its mix of sweet and sardonic. From the first kid exploding to the way Mara and Dylan’s relationship unfolds, to the various coping mechanisms Mara uses the film consistently surprised me. It found some wiggle room within the traditional three act structure and created a really fun and thought provoking ride.

I really loved the way the teenagers are written. They are messy. They can be smug and too self assured. They maintain a feeling of invincibility in the face of certain death. It really captures the teenage experience.

The dark as night humor really worked for me too. The sight gag of gallons of blood spraying all over a classroom was really funny to me. And the razor sharp dialogue and asides from Mara and her friends ring genuine laughs out of a horribly macabre set up.

The film was written and directed by first time director Brian Duffield. He brings a playfulness and inventiveness to the story. The characters have overlapping voice overs and often turn to the camera to directly address the audience in order to fill out the story. It’s a lot of fun to see someone having fun with the medium.

This movie really worked for me. It pulled me in and kept me there. It doesn’t reveal deep truths about life and the world, but it has a lot more on its mind than gross out dark humor. It takes the implications of its premise seriously and tells a really compelling story with its high concept.

It’s streaming on Amazon prime. I just happened to stumble across it last night, and I hope you do too. It’s my cup of tea. A-

Unhinged

An all in performance from Russell Crowe helps make this thriller a little less generic, but it can’t save the film entirely.

Rachel is a harried mother dealing with a contentious divorce, a failing business, and a teenage son she’s struggling to raise. On top of all that she has to deal with rush hour traffic. While dealing with the traffic she has a verbal altercation with an unstable man who takes things way too far.

Rachel is played by Caren Pistorious. She turns in a solid performance although she looks way too young to be the mother of a 15 year old. The real star here Russell Crowe as the unnamed maniac man who viciously attacks Rachel’s family in retaliation for her rudeness on the road. Crowe is doing the most acting here. He’s either wearing a fat suit or he packed on an unhealthy and unnecessary amount of weight. He has false teeth. He’s doing a crazy person accent. He has wild eyed face contorting fits of rage. It’s so much acting. Whenever he’s on screen I’m totally entertained.

When Crowe isn’t on screen the movie is only okay. It’s predictable in its plotting. You pretty much what story bears will play out sheen. It’s action is shot pretty generically. There’s a car chase that can’t decide if it wants to put you in the drivers seat or film the action in an objective birds eye point of view. It doesn’t dive into any of its characters settling for surface level characterization. We never find out too much about Rachel’s husband or how she feels about him. There’s lip service paid to Crowe’s psychosis that’s he’s a troubled man, but no real character study is done here.

That said it’s an easy movie to watch. It has a little action. It has likable actors. There are couple of surprises. In the end all is put to right. It’s like comfort food or a bowl of cereal. Is it nutritious? Not particularly. Is it fun? Does it go down easy? You bet.

My biggest issue with the film is how it tries to turn its story into something more than it is. At its heart it is a grungy b-movie about a psycho terrorizing a woman and her family, but the movie true to force a ham handed message about road rage and societal frustrations onto its paper thin premise. Don’t try to force a message. You made a pretty good thriller. Don’t try to make it important.

This isn’t a bad action thriller. I had a pretty good time with it. I think you might too if you decide to check it out. It came out last year during the height of the pandemic and dared us all to see it in theaters. I’m glad I waited until it started streaming on Amazon prime this week. Check it out. You could do a lot worse.

It’s my cup of tea. It’s a solid B

Thunder Force

This movie was terrible. It’s poorly conceived and executed. It has a big cast of talented people who are wasted. Somehow inspire of its lack of quality, it has a few moments I genuinely enjoyed.

The movie has squanders an interesting set up through incompetence. A world in which cosmic rays bombard the earth and only sociopaths were given powers. Cool premise. Now let’s ignore it for the rest of the movie. These super powered people are called miscreants which sounds like an elderly person in an old episode of Dragnet complaining about kids these days. Octavia Spencer’s parents were killed by miscreants, and she vowed to discover a way to give good people superpowers to combat the miscreant menace. Unfortunately, her bumbling best friend Melissa McCarthy causes whacky antics along the way.

Where to begin with this films problems? How about the fact that I don’t believe a single moment of this movie. I don’t believe in the world because they never spend time establishing it. I don’t believe Octavia Spencer and Melissa McCarthy are friend. They act like total strangers with zero history or connection. If I found out that these two were never on set together and were simply cgi’d to appear together I’d believe it. No chemistry. I don’t believe the super powers. Mediocre effects and a lack of actor commitment just kills the super powers. I don’t believe a moment of this movie.

This all should be laid at the directors feet. Ben Falcone is a bad director. He doesn’t stage or photograph action well. He doesn’t have a good sense for building comedic moments on camera. There’s a scene where Melissa McCarthy uses her super strength to throw a bus at an escaping miscreant. She lifts it, prepares her throw, and launches it against the constant pleading of Octavia Spencer. Then we cut away. We don’t get a punchline. They cut out the moment the bus crashes. They don’t show the bus miss it’s target. We don’t have a funny reaction shot of McCarthy or Spencer. The scene just ends. It’s like unintentional anti-comedy.

I will give the movie its due. I laughed out loud a couple of times. I’m going to spoil a couple of details so beware. Jason Bateman is in this movie. I didn’t know that! It was such a delightful surprise when he showed up. He plays a miscreant who is part crab! He has giant crab arms. They’re actually convincing prosthetics. He and McCarthy have a bizarre musical interlude in the style of a cheesy 80’s music video. It is weird and inspired and hilarious. I’m smiling as I think about it. Whenever Bateman gets scared he walks sideways and clicks his pincers. It’s amazing.

There’s also an amusing scene wherein the villain kills a henchman and then they talk about how they always liked him and what a good worker he was. It’s a nice little commentary of the villain killing his henchman trope. But these moments are examples of the performers rising above the limitations of the material and the director.

If you love the performers you might find something to enjoy here. Otherwise it just feels like watching a weird Disney Channel original movie about superheroes. I don’t recommend it in spite of the genuine laughs it got out of me. There’s infinitely better movies to spend your time on this weekend.

If you really want to see crab Jason Bateman, Thunder Force us currently streaming on Netflix.

D not my cup of tea.

Concrete Cowboy

I loved this movie. It has fascinating characters. It’s set in a really unique world that I never knew existed. It tells a classic narrative with some nice twists. I really fell for this one.

This story might feel familiar, a troubled teen named Cole, played by Stranger Things’ Caleb McLaughlin, gets into a fight at school. This prompts his single mother who has finally had enough to send him to live with his estranged father in Philadelphia. This is Harp, played by the ever-stellar Idris Elba. Cole is shocked to find a horse living in Harp’s living room. Harp is part of a community of black cowboys who live in urban Philadelphia.

This is a real community of urban cowboys called the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club. They’re part of a century long tradition of riding and caring for horses in urban Philadelphia. They teach horsemanship and encourage positive outlets for youth in the community. It’s a rough group who lives a messy lifestyle that butts up against the gentrification of the neighborhood.

Cole is faced with a choice between the hard, distant, and outwardly uncaring father and his hustler friend Smush played by Jharrel Jerome. Smush used to belong to the cowboys but left to make money any way he could. Cole is constantly pulled between the two worlds and struggles with the person he wants to become.

The movie walks the well trod story paths of the coming of age narrative, the father son reconnection story, and the western genre. The film contains some cliches of the genres, and normally I’d be annoyed by the inclusion of these cliches. However the movie gives those cliches a jolt. It mixes them all up in a blender and creates a wonderful smoothie out of its genres. One I enjoyed from start to finish.

The actors are stunning. I love the mix of real cowboys and professional actors. There are some moments that will stay with me forever because of their poignancy and authenticity. I got all choked up several times in this movie.

The world these characters inhabit is so interesting. I loved spending time with these characters in this place, and knowing that they are based on a real place made it all the more impactful.

It’s beautifully shot, and well directed with great acting and a compelling world. I loved it. Check it out. It’s currently streaming on Netflix. My cup of tea for sure. A

Godzilla vs Kong

Did you want massive monster fights? You got it along with a lot of dumb stuff that nobody asked for. Thankfully there’s enough spectacle, action, and surprisingly heart to make up for it.

This movie mashup is the latest installment in the “monsterverse” an attempt to duplicate Marvel superhero films success. It is the second sequel to 2014’s absolutely terrible Godzilla, and the first sequel to 2017’s Kong Skull Island. If you haven’t seen any of the other films in the series it will make the viewing experience uneven.

This film takes a lot of time reintroducing Kong. He’s been held in captivity. He’s alone and angry and mistrustful if the humans, except for a little girl named Jia played by Kaylee Hottle. They’re moments together are really wonderful and give the film much needed pathos.

Godzilla on the other hand is introduced here destroying a factory in darkness. He then disappears until he comes back to attack Kong. He really isn’t given a personality or story. He just destroys anything that could be a threat to him. He’s very one note and frankly boring compared to the compelling Kong. It doesn’t help that Kong is given a deeply expressive face with a rich emotional palette, and Godzilla’s face looks like a pile of rocks. No emotional connection is possible with Godzilla.

When these two meet however this movie starts to soar. There’s something deeply satisfying about watching a giant ape punch a giant lizard in the face while standing on top an aircraft carrier. It reminded me of being a kid and bashing action figures together. It’s visceral and silly and fun. The brawls and action are a ton of fun throughout. There’s a lot of creativity in the fighting, a good use of setting and props, and a great sense of epic scope that I loved.

The movie has the problem most big budget movies have these days. It’s two movies mashed together. Just commit to one story Hollywood good grief!

The better story follows along, Jia, and Jia’s adoptive mother played by the always wonderful Rebecca Hall. They are trying to find a new home for Kong. She has a bond with the big fella and the three of them learning to communicate and trust is a really nice story that plucked my heartstrings in just the right way.

The dumb crappy story follows two teenagers and a conspiracy theory podcaster as they fall back-asswards into a massive corporate conspiracy to eliminate monsters and put humans back on top. It’s full of awkward comedy that doesn’t land. Stupid characters that are just so annoying and idiotic plot developments that just make me mad when I think about them. They literally short circuit a doomsday weapon by pouring whisky on a keyboard. So so dumb.

While that dumbness is going on though we have this stellar sequence where Kong and his friends journey to the center of the earth and find an incredible world of visual wonder in which gravity goes all screwy and some really cool visuals play out. It’s a beautiful sequence that I loved. I’d watch the movie again for that sequence.

The film is directed by Adam Wingard who made one of my favorite Halloween movies, You’re Next, and the underrated gem The Guest. He handles the human drama and the spectacle wonderfully. Although he gives too much time to dumb subplots and his pacing feels way too fast. (The climactic battle feels too rushed for it to land for me.) but that aside he really gives this film what it needs to set it apart from the rest of its ilk.

It’s big. Its dumb. It’s fun. I enjoyed most of it, and I can ignore the stuff I hated. Its in theaters and streaming on HBO Max if you’re looking for a good dumb time at the movies. It’s half a cup of tea for me. B+

Nobody

Anchored by a quirky Bob Odenkirk, this is a really entertaining action movie if you like your action brutally violent and darkly comic.

This is the latest entry in what I’m calling the “middle aged men you shouldn’t have messed with” genre. These are violent action thrillers about mild mannered men who are accosted in someway by criminals. Nine times out of ten these criminals are the Russian mob. Little did they know that this mild mannered man is really a highly trained unstoppable killing machine! It started with Taken and Liam Neeson’s very particular set of skills. It expanded with Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer, and it reached its zenith with Keanu Reeves’ John Wick. It’s a power fantasy. A superhero for middle aged men. And when done well it’s a pretty fun time at the movies.

The movie follows Hutch, played by Bob Odenkirk, a man so mild mannered he barely seems awake in the early scenes. He coasts through life in an almost catatonic state. He is distant from his lovely wife Connie Nielsen, and detached from his job. One night a pair of hapless thieves break into his house. Hutch resists the urge to take them both out. This loses him the respect of his son, neighbors, and coworkers who all think a real man should be violent and aggressive in the face of armed intruders. Hutch ends up unleashing years of pent up rage on a group of Russian mobsters. This sets off a war with a psychotic Russian who comes after Hitch and his family.

I loved Bob Odenkirk’s performance in this movie. He is so deeply repressed at the start of this movie that I don’t think he says a word for the first ten-ish minutes. When he finally cuts loose he shows off a quirky off beat personality that really sets him apart from the John Wick’s of the world. He also plays frustrated thinly veiled rage really well. It’s a nice performance.

The action is the real star of the show though, and it’s really good. There’s some really fun fights and a solid car chase sequence that plays out very differently than I expected.

For me there’s a difference between action and violence. Action is Indiana Jones fighting on a truck as in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Violence is a man getting stabbed in the eye with a broken champagne glass repeatedly as happens in this film.

The big set piece of this film is a confrontation on a bus between Hutch and half a dozen mobsters. It is brutally violent. It is messy. It is bone crunching, muscle squishing violence. Hutch isn’t indestructible. He takes a lot of hard hits, and it takes a serious toll on him. It doesn’t have the technical prowess of one those balletic single take scenes like John Wick, but it has a visceral reality that really worked for me.

This brutality is offset by some very funny moments. The film has a twisted sense of humor especially when dealing with the gruesome and macabre. This is t an overly comic movie, but when the jokes come they land because they’re so dark and surprising. If you like dark humor this’ll work for you.

My big issue with the film is the way it celebrates guns and violence. It seems to argue that real men are brutally violent creatures who need to let that violence out every once in a while in order to be whole.

My other issue is how often the filmmakers drop incongruous songs into the action. Guns will start going off and the movie will slow down as a hit song from the 70’s will start playing. It’s a fun bit that works really well until the end when it starts feeling repetitive.

Other than that it’s a solid action movie that I had fun with. I don’t think you need to rush out to see it. It’s violent, it’s funny, Bob Odenkirk is great, it’s everything I was hoping to get out of the movie.

It’s my cup of tea. B+