Tag: film review

‘Abominable’ movie – abominable or amazing?

James King, Arts & Entertainment Correspondent

Abominable is about as fuzzy as the marketing would lead you to believe. I am a big fan of animation, though the pickins have been a bit slim for animated movies I have wanted to see this year and admittedly, this one wasn’t on the top of my list. 

Continue reading “‘Abominable’ movie – abominable or amazing?”

Mercy Black, more like mercy whack

Breihan Dryden, A&E Writer

Thousands of years ago into the future, the year was 2014 and two pre-teens thought it was a cool idea to lure their friend into the woods and stab her to appease a fictional creepypasta known as “Slenderman” (or as I like to call him, SlenDaddy Long Arms). Why do I bring this up? Well, my dear reader, this is basically the plot of the 2019 horror film Mercy Black. Obviously, this might come across as being in poor taste to some people. I find it a bit odd that this movie could be considered far more offensive to the OG victim’s family, yet the actual Slenderman movie (that shares surprisingly little to do with actual crime) was subject to a crap ton of controversy when it was finally crapped out by Sony, but I digress. My point? “Is this in poor taste” isn’t something I generally consider when reviewing a film. No, “Mercy Black” isn’t a bad movie because of what it’s based on, it’s bad because it just kind of sucks.

Seriously, I was actually interested in this movie when it popped up on Netflix outta nowhere a couple of weeks ago. It looked like the Slenderman movie that I always wanted. Sure it wasn’t *actually Slenderman, but the title character of the film, the aforementioned Mercy Black, looked cool and it didn’t look like your average “is the monster real or is the crazy person jUsT cRaZy?” horror movie. It’s kind of disappointing to watch it and find out that, yeah, it’s just a bland, milk toast, and cliché-ridden direct to video (VOD, actually) horror movie, complete with creepy kids, lame jump scares, exposition dumps, and every adult acting like an actual, literal baby. Now excuse me while I re-use the same review format from my Us review, because I’m tired and I wanna go to bed.

So what did you like?” Well, something I thoroughly dig is the look and use of color in this movie. Reds and blues permeate throughout and the whole film has a really solid look. Lots of cool shots are scattered about the film and there was only one CGI shot that I could see. Yes, that means that “Mercy Black” is chock full of some pretty decent practical effects. Mercy herself is a real, physical presence in the film….kind of. More on that in a second. Some other things that are decent: the editing….uh, the soundtrack? Maybe? It’s a pretty decent soundtrack.

Sooooo what didn’t you like?” Pretty much everything else. The acting is dodgy, the story makes no sense, the film doesn’t follow its own rules, and what is perhaps the most egregious problem this movie has, it’s just sooooooooooooooo boorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring. Forreals though, homie. The pacing of this film constantly chugs back and forth between breezing through what seem to be important moments, just to spend fifteen minutes with people we don’t care about, doing things we don’t care about, in places that don’t matter. Plot convenience? This movie has loads of that, too. Since when does the creepy son of the sister of the crazy lady have a fat best friend? From the earlier scenes of him at school, it implies that if he isn’t bullied, he at least stays away from other kids. So why is he hanging out with someone now? Oh yeahhhhh, it’s because we need fatty to be in this (admittedly cool torture scene). Also, don’t get mad because I’m calling him fatty; a good number of people in this movie (including lard lad and Dwight from The Walking Dead) are straight up Dicks, like my good friend Richard.

Is Mercy Black a good movie? Oh god no. Didn’t you read the last paragraph? No, Mercy Black is a couple of steps above bottom of the barrel Netflix trash like American Poltergeist II, 13/14 Cameras, The Hatred, or Cam. At least it has those few steps, though. Besides, it’s still leagues better than the actual Slenderman movie. Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to turn Slenderman into a f——- tree??!

Mercy Black gets 4 Golden Taylors out of 10

Attack of the Clones is a mess, but not quite the mess Phantom Menace is

James King, A&E Writer

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones is a better kind of mess than Phantom Menace. With Phantom Menace, I was begging to see characters emote. I wanted something memorable and the movie just left me frustrated. Attack of the Clones is definitely a step up from its predecessor, but not much of one. I wouldn’t call it a good movie, but I wouldn’t call it bad either. It’s just kind of generic and forgettable.

The story is much better involving a duel plot of a who-done-it mystery and Anakin’s turn to the dark side. Though that in and of itself is one of the movie’s problems, as we as the audience know who the bad guy is already so that takes away much of the interest in following the mystery. Anakin’s story doesn’t fare much better as he comes off creepy and even sometimes whiney. The movie does eventually introduce many of the villains, but they come off completely ineffectual because neither are really given enough time on screen to flesh them out. Obi-Wan and the other Jedi felt a lot more fleshed out in this movie though and their dialogue was some of the better in the movie.

This movie also felt like it had a little more of a graphical upgrade.  The backgrounds look a lot less bare and the actual war scenes in this movie are fun to watch. You can still see the seams though, especially in the final third of the movie, where most of the movie, is completely CGI. There are a few places here and there where the CGI doesn’t mesh well with the real actors in the case for some aliens and animals. They tend to look videogame-y and lack a lot of detail.

The problems that the movie had though were much less pronounced then they were in the Phantom Menace. I actually had a lot more fun sitting through this, though the movie does drag a bit in certain areas. The love story felt completely basic and felt really unromantic as actors would sprout awkward lines, give one another creepy looks, and just completely lacked any form of chemistry. There was just not much that really wowed me though. The fun dialogue from the previous movies is there, but few and far between. The action scenes in this movie are great, but it’s not enough to keep the movie afloat.

Movies like this are extremely hard to talk about in review form especially when you can’t really drum up any strong emotions tied to the movie. If a movie is bad you can tear it down, you can talk about its story flaws or talk about its visual faults. If a movie is great you can sing its praises and celebrate its visual and story mastery. Movies that fall in the middle of the road just become forgettable. Even writing this review right now, I’m struggling to remember parts of the movie beyond basic beats.  That’s where this movie falls, good moments, but ultimately forgettable.

Cold Pursuit warms the heart

Devin Carter, A&E Writer

I tend to avoid movies that are released in the first few months of the year, because they usually do not turn out to be very good. They are fine for turning one’s brain off and passing the time, I guess, but I usually find early-year releases to be boring and cheaply-made. After all, everybody knows that the real movie year does not kick off until April. These were the things I was thinking when I went to the movies recently. And I only got more pessimistic about my prospects when the person I was with decided to see Cold Pursuit, Liam Neeson’s 47th action movie. Bad movies are one thing, but bad action movies are another. They are usually boring, incredibly predicable, and always feel like they’re about 30 minutes too long. I expected no different this time.

But I was happily surprised. Not only was Cold Pursuit a fun time, but it was unlike any movie I’ve seen. The basic premise seems cookie-cutter enough: Neeson goes on a revenge tour after a loved one is killed. And the film throws the book of clichés in your face throughout, with some being appropriately used and others being entirely unnecessary. And yet, inexplicably, the unnecessary bits are what add the most to the movie’s charm, because it makes it stand out as a wonderful jumble of clichés and wasted screen time and poor decisions on the part of our characters.

If it sounds as if I haven’t given the movie any specific praise yet, then you would be right. Nothing in it is done particularly well. And yet it works, because the numerous flaws that are littered without are so zany, and so different, that you simply can’t help but like it. The antagonist is wonderfully over-the-top as a germophobic, health-crazed drug lord, and Neeson’s character, while not quite as interesting, still does things that help lead to scenarios you can’t help but be amused by.

The best part of the movie was also the worst. There are three major storylines in the film: Neeson’s revenge story, a story following two police officers, and a story involving a Native American gang. The latter of these two plots serve no real purpose to the overall story, and yet the characters were so over-the-top and delightful that the move was made better by their addition. The police officers, who get roped into Neeson’s story, made the film seem eerily similar to Fargo, which is one of the greatest movies ever made as far as I’m concerned. This movie is not Fargo. It’s poorly structured and littered with inconsistencies, clichés, and other problems. But it seems to capture some of the delight that is contained within Fargo and other movies like it. But whereas Fargo is an expertly-constructed comedic masterpiece, Cold Pursuit is a horrible mess that somehow manages to entertain.

I cannot say that Cold Pursuit is a good movie. In fact, it has far more bad elements that good. But this is a movie that is greater than the sum of its parts, and it pulls off the feat of being a bad movie that works. And, in my opinion, it works for the right reasons. It’s not a garbage flick that just happens to be entertaining- it is deliberately crafted to provide viewers with a memorable experience, and, for that, the filmmakers should get some credit. I do not know how fondly remembered this movie will be, or if it will be remembered at all, based on its box office numbers, but I do think it is a fun time that is worth a watch. You may be surprised, as I was, at just how much fun Liam Neeson’s 58th action move can be.

The Phantom Menace bores

James King, A&E Writer

The Phantom Menace is the most boring movie I have ever seen.  I don’t feel like it deserves the hate it gets as a bad movie, but I can certainly see where it comes from. The previous Star Wars movies have had their boring parts, but it made up with it with an interesting world and fun dialogue, but this movie doesn’t do either right. The visuals run the gambit between somewhat interesting and completely boring. Its dialogue had me begging for characters to emote and it’s a chore to sit through and watch.

I’ll start with what I liked about the movie, it isn’t much though. All the familiar things I and most people love in the star wars movies are in it. The costume design is on point especially for Queen Padme who wears amazingly elaborate costumes in every scene that she’s in. The world is colorful with almost every piece of tech, and every alien having interesting and fun designs. The callbacks to earlier (or later since this is the prequel trilogy) characters are fun and nostalgic. The pod racing was a lot of fun and the battles at the end are pretty fun.

Though that’s where my positivity ends for this movie. My biggest complaint about this movie is that the acting is extremely wooden. Every flesh and blood character in this movie feels like their reading their lines just off-screen. The CGI characters actually feel like better actors, because they’re allowed to emote, but some of the CGI hasn’t really aged well, particularly some of the Naboo scenes the backgrounds look blank. The characters have no growth in the movie they end pretty much where they begin for the entirety of the movie, it almost feels like filler. The kind of thing studios put out because they need a tax write off or a movie they need to make to fulfil a contract.

This movie gives me nothing interesting to ponder as an audience member.  I wasn’t wowed by the visuals. There are no interesting lines for me to mull over.  The action isn’t well choreographed or animated depending on the scene. There is little to no growth for any of the characters and worst of all there is nothing I would say even looked all that cool. It is a wasteland of half-baked ideas, poor writing, and acting.

There are many minor things that fans of the franchise tend to be annoyed by, but didn’t bother me as much as I thought they would. Jar Jar Binks was grating, but I never was all that bothered by the character. The retcon of the force being tied to a person’s cells even made some sense within the universe as not everyone is or can be a Jedi. The Jedi did feel a bit overpowered in this movie though compared to the older movies. None of the droids felt like a threat and even the Sith characters felt completely underdeveloped.

This is one of the few Star Wars movies I have actually seen before, and I honestly remember liking this movie more back then, then I do now. I might be spoiled by superhero movies and more modern CGI, but it came out the same year as the Matrix and Galaxy Quest, movies with CGI that has more or less stood the test of time. It’s a real shame that this movie hasn’t considering the movies made in the late 70s have aged better than the one from the late 90s.