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Amazon Prime Hidden Gem: Brawl in Cell Block 99

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“A former boxer-turned-drug runner lands in a prison battleground after a deal gets deadly.”

Earlier this year I was watching a panel of critics list their top ten favorite movies of 2017. Of course you had ITGet Out and others that we heard many times over, but one of the critics was extremely excited about a movie called Brawl in Cell block 99.

He said it was Vince Vaughn like he’s never seen him before and he had an excitement about it that was quite unique to the other critic’s reactions. The rest of the panel brushed him off (obviously never seeing the movie), but his enthusiasm intrigued me. A month or so later I saw Amazon Prime had the film available, so I decided to watch it.

The film starts as a slow burn, really fleshing out Vaughn’s character and the circumstances rising within his life. It gives you a great introspection of the downward spiral he is going through within his career and marriage, but quickly reveals that he is a fixer. It also gives you a glimpse early into the rage this man holds inside that he has full control over. A rage you can see has gotten him in and out of a lot of situations prior to where the film started.

As he continues, you can see this isn’t Vince Vaughn from Wedding CrashersAnchorman or The Intern. This is the dramatic Vince Vaughn we haven’t seen in a long time. Actually it was a new Vaughn. One that had gotten bigger and much more intimidating. The title may fool you a bit, but this film is about a man on a sound rampage.

He goes into prison during the latter part of the movie and when this happens, the film actually shifts a few notches within a matter of scenes. Facing a predicament that threatens his family, he is forced to do some extremely brutal acts with an unforgiving nature that makes you question what you’re watching.

This isn’t Vince Vaughn from Wedding Crashers, this is a new Vince Vaughn.

The beauty of the film is how his brutal nature is so violent and aggressive, but yet so controlled and calculated. It was almost poetic how his character managed to tread this line so effortlessly and with an unflinching understanding of using his force to get exactly what he wanted.

I will say that at times this movie does get into absurd levels of violence that reminded me of Quentin Tarantino’s direction in Inglorious Basterds or Django Unchained. It didn’t fit the flow of the rest of the movie, and took you out of it at moments, but the violence was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Even though disjointed, I was willing to accept it because of the Director’s gall to inject that level of cartoonish antics into such brutality.

Overall Grade: B+

This film was a great watch. Vince Vaughn was definitely a beast and really took this part seriously. The dialogue and environment building is palpable and the threats are unimaginable. You actually begin to root for this brute force of nature to win as he continues to encounter further unthinkable challenges, and handles them with his three best weapons: His two hands and his mind. Watch it! It’s good!

Brawl in Cell Block 99
Crime, Drama
October 2017
Director: S. Craig Zahler
RLJE Films
2 hours 12 minutes
IMDB reference click here

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Halloween: The Classic Slasher Film Gets a Proper Sequel

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“Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.”

1539919451162Michael Meyers is considered one of the elder slashers that helped catapult the sub-genre in the late 70’s and opened the door for such favorites as Jason Voorhees and Freddy Kreuger.

Much like its influences, the Halloween films have churned out eleven sequels, prequels, and I guess spin-offs, that tend to be cheap thrills on a boring night. These production companies try their best to produce cash grab after cash grab that tend to water down the legacies of the original films for the sake of forced jokes and cheap jump scares. Does this sequel, that for some reason names itself after the original movie, have anything to bring to the table?

Yes, I would say so. It feels like this movie attributes itself as a direct sequel to the first film, and totally ignores every other film in the franchise. This was a good move because this film does feel like a direct sequel – almost like it was an old movie from the 80’s recently unearthed with an aged washed-out color scheme and familiar score. It wasn’t as polished as the H20 series, but it wasn’t as grungy and delusional as the Rob Zombie films, either

The plot managed to remain simple which often is the Kryptonite for sequels and does a few callbacks to the first film without being heavy-handed about it.

Michael Meyers felt like an old man with the Director David Gordon Green giving us glimpses of his age, however he’s still very broad and menacing with little need to run after his victims. He tends to be great at sneaking and trapping his victims in inescapable corners.

“Feels like an old movie from the 80’s that was recently unearthed…”

The acting was decent, led by the talented Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role as Laurie Strode. The characters felt real and not too far-fetched for some B-movie style decision making.

Even the story was engaging, but be prepared to question how some people are oblivious when they should be on high alert that a psycho murderer is on the loose in their town. Either way, you might want to lock your doors.

Overall Grade: B

It definitely was better that the last few Halloween films and manages to provide a couple of scares and jumps.

The director made a good decision of going with a John Carpenter-style Halloween film that delivers on good old slasher film exploitation without feeling the pressures of some big-time studio exec telling him to tone it down.

* * *

Halloween (2018)
Horror, Thriller
October 2018
Director: David Gordon Green
Blumhouse/Miramax
1 hour 46 minutes
IMDB reference click here

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The Predator

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When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal hunters’ return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.”

The movies that made my childhood great continue to get tarnished for a profit. First Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, now this. When they announced that another Predator movie was coming out this year, I let out my first exhausted sigh since I saw a Predator running side by side with Sanaa Lathan. The only thing that piqued my interest is that the prestigious Hollywood writer and original Predator alum, Shane Black was writing and directing this film. Lo and behold, not even Mr. Black could save this movie.

Before I get into my dislikes in this film, lets talk about the state of monsters in movies. Making a bigger hybrid of the original does not officially make a better movie. Typically these hybrids tend to stifle themselves by having all these new superpowers they can’t even use to dominate the unevolved human species, and find a way to self-implode, thus making them useless as a threat or even close to an iconic character.

Subtly is what made the first one great.

Now, in regards to the Predator series…it’s over. I know this film tried to open itself up to a sequel, but no. Leave it alone. We’ve watered it down way too much. What made the first film amazing was the ambiguity of the Predator. We didn’t know what it was or why it was killing people. In essence, we were drawn closer to the movie because we didn’t  see the monster until the 3rd act. After we saw its face and knew its intentions, the magic was gone. That’s why every other Predator movie paled in comparison.

Now this film in particular, it overcompensated by trying to be the biggest Predator movie without realizing that subtly is what made the first one great. It told you the Predator’s intentions way before we needed to know, and even tried to turn it into a social commentary. Listen, I’m here to see a Predator movie, not get beat over the head with the state of our planet…again.

What I found annoying is that everyone was so amazing at deciphering the Predators intentions, physical makeup, language, purpose, and weaponry with the smallest clues and all of a sudden they knew everything there was to know about these creatures. The speed and precision that these areas were identified were just way too convenient.

Okay, the little kid, Jacob Tremblay. I’ve done reviews of his movies before and I think he’s a great actor, but why the hell do we have a kid in a Predator movie??? You know he’s safe, and it changes the whole dynamic because now you know the adults are going to appease to the kid and turn this movie into something more friendlier than what we were expecting.

Overall Grade: D

As the movie went on, my grade got worse. The original Predator in this film was bad-ass enough, but introducing the hybrid Predator actually worsened the value of the movie. With that, the acting got worse and the plot conveniences got better and turned this movie into a big pile of Predator dung. They tried to resort to comedy and forgot that this film was originally a testosterone-filled horror/action thriller that was unforgiving to human sympathies and catered to the realities of brutal warfare. Also, another Predator film that failed to have a Schwarzenegger cameo. Remember, Dutch NEVER DIED!!!

Bonus Feature: Best Predator movies in order.

6. Predator 2
5. Predator vs. Alien
4. The Predator
3. Predator vs. Alien 2
2. Predators (go see this one instead. It’s a lot better)
1. Predator (the best one, period)

The Predator
Action, Adventure, (Horror)
September 2018
Director: Shane Black
20th Century Fox
1 hour 47 minutes
IMDB reference click here

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Ralph Breaks the Internet | Official Trailer

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