“The drug war on the U.S.-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro.”
So, the first Sicario film was undeniably my favorite movie of 2015. It was raw, gritty and unapologetic. The tension in the film managed to carry over scene by scene and at times it was palpable. I was on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. When I heard that they were making a sequel to it, I really didn’t understand why. There was no way to out-do the first one.
Watching Day of the Soldado‘s trailer felt like it was missing something that made it less appealing, but as the release date grew closer I felt compelled to give it a go. I knew that Emily Blunt would not return for the second film when it was announced it was in production. I didn’t realize how much of integral part she was to this cast of characters. In the middle of a group of men that only do what needs to be done, she was the moral barometer of the bunch. She was also the protagonist that we followed into this underbelly of violence in which we lived vicariously through her tension and stress.
Now with Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin tag teaming the protagonist role, it seems less relatable. Neither one of their characters are known for their decency and even when they try to bring it into play, it falls flat. We know all the vile things they are capable of so once they do something that seems redeeming, you really don’t care because we’ve seen them do the worst things to people. It didn’t help the audience connect.
Also, the great director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Arrival, Blade Runner 2049) did not return to helm the film. Villeneuve nailed the art of suspense through great camera angles, and shots that put us dead center in the action. Stefano Solima did a decent job, but it lacked some of the edginess that the first film delivered.
The story was written by Taylor Sheridan who has quickly become one of my favorite Hollywood writers. He penned the first Sicario movie, Wind River and Hell or High Water. This plot though felt a little jumbled and at times hard to follow. It had great moments, but there were also moments where I was trying to figure out which side of the border they were on and what exactly everyone’s agendas were.
The action scenes were decent, but nothing could match the highway scene from the first movie. There’s only so much threat a cartel of henchman can pose to the U.S. military.
Another thing that bugged me was that we didn’t see any of the major cartel kingpins. Not of glimpse. It felt like we only connected with the lowest level Sicario’s and employees that came off as faceless characters to use as target practice.
Overall Grade: C
It wasn’t a terrible movie, but with Emily Blunt and Denis Villeneuve missing, it felt let there was a giant hole that Soldado couldn’t fill, and at times it came off a bit boring. Unfortunately since this is a sequel it has to be paired with the first film and that proved to be its biggest obstacle. Also the ending just felt unfulfilling. It just feels like it ended a few scenes before it needed to, and just left us with questions unanswered. See it on a lazy Sunday st home. It’s too drab for a date movie, and too standard in its action to be a theater-worthy watch.
Sicario: Day Of The Soldado
Action, Crime, Drama
Director: Stefano Solima
Black Label Media/Lionsgate
2 hours 2 minutes
Netflix Hidden Gem : One of Us
Filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady give the Jesus Camp treatment to the Hasidic community in the excellent Netflix documentary One of Us. The film chronicles the lives of three ex-Hasidic Jews from Brooklyn who bravely stray from the flock to tell their stories of control, abuse and mis-education.
Top Five Avengers: Endgame Spoilers!
Marvel did an amazing job of keeping the best moments from Avengers: Endgame out of the trailer. Let us ruin that for you.
I was reading Avengers comics before you could chew solid food and I never dreamed they’d be able to bring a realistic Iron Man and Hulk to the silver screen. But by golly, they did. Avengers: Infinity War may be the best silver screen adaptation of comic lore ever put to film. So my hopes were high that Endgame would be more of the same, which it’s not – but that’s ok. It still has kick-ass moments and is better than anything DC can bring to life. Blame it on the tropes of time travel, or maybe all involved could have used a break between films. Regardless, there are some wonderful moments on screen and somehow the trailers told you next to nothing.
I admit I knew about this going in. Yes, I searched for Hulk clips on YouTube prior to seeing the film, especially because there were no shots of Hulk in the trailers. Yes, Hulk has his shit together in this one. He wears glasses, he’s not rampaging, and he talks just like Mark Ruffalo. I miss seeing Hulk really let loose, but I have to say the CGI on Hulk (and Thanos) were once again state of the art. Just a reminder to Marvel – people love Hulk because Hulk smashes.
Remember when Captain America makes Thor’s hammer move in Age of Ultron? Well, that was no fluke. Cap commands the hammer like he’s been swinging it his whole life. I guess he is worthy after all. Bonus spoiler: Old Steve Rogers at the end of the film is probably the best old man make-up you’ve ever seen.
Which leads us to one of the films missteps. Five years after The Snappening, Thor has gained fifty pounds, a drinking problem, and a bad fake beard. It’s kinda funny, until you realize this guy is a God who has already seen some shit – including the death of just about every Asgardian. Funny? Sure, but a little silly for a movie that already set a tone of sadness.
Death of Black Widow
This was a surprise – especially since I thought they were doing a TV series. I guess that will be a prequel series? The scene between Black Widow and Hawkeye trying to sacrifice themselves before the other can is good stuff – and probably a lot cheaper to film than most of the rest movie. Now let’s put Red Skull to better use, shall we?
Death of Iron Man
Some say there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Except mine because (spoiler alert) Robert Downey Jr. is just an actor pretending to be a comic book character that dies. You can’t fool me, movie! But in a world where it seems almost anyone can come back from the dead, who knows what the future holds for Tony Stark. Wouldn’t surprise me if he returned as some sort of hologram like Frank Zappa. No one gets that reference.
Daniel Ortiz Rants On: Us
A family’s serenity turns to chaos when a group of doppelgängers begins to terrorize them.
Rarely do I prepare myself to see a film, but Jordan Peele’s Us is one of those rare movies I didn’t need to see more than one trailer for, nor did I need the hype of other critics. I also wanted to judge this film off its own merit rather than comparing it to his freshman standout, Get Out (which made my #1 film of 2017). Comparisons will be made, but I’ll try to keep them as minimal as possible.
The stand out feature is that this film is beautifully shot. The cinematography of this movie adapts to its environment seamlessly whether it’s a vibrant beach scene or a dark setting where just enough of the characters faces needs to be made out.
Also, I thought Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide’s doppelganger, Red was a terrifying character. Everything from her awkward pantomimes to her unhinged voice was the thing of nightmares.
Now, there were a few (lots of) issues I did have with the film. I left the theater with more frustrating questions than fulfilling answers. It felt like too many ideas where in the plot and too much symbolism was forcefully wedged in to satisfy the expectations of the Get Out fans, but it came out as a jumbled mess of psychology that I didn’t want to spend my viewing time deciphering.
A lot of the horror that was built up for this film was also very deflating as the Wilson family was spared instant death and provided a background story by their doppleganger’s while others were swiftly killed before they knew what hit them. Halfway through the film, you pretty much knew they were safe from any death or violence which takes away all tension as a viewer.
The connection between the characters and their dopplegangers wasn’t fleshed out enough. Some things came off as inconsistent and driven for plot convenience, rather than a solution. I didn’t get many of the motivations and the decisions that drove the actions of our protagonists. I didn’t understand why the dopplegangers wore red jumpsuits and just one fingerless driving glove. The one symbolism I understood was the scissors, which if you look at the handle on the poster, looks like mirrored heads. This was the weapon used to cut the connection between themselves and their other half. Otherwise, I may need to see some other folks interpretations of the film.
Also, the editing was not good. There were scenes that were waaaay too long and could’ve used a few chops. The opening credit scene reminded me of an old horror movie from the 70’s (think the Amityville Horror ’79) where the title card has nothing going on, and as a viewer I felt stuck looking at a bunch of rabbits for what I assume was 3 minutes just waiting for the movie to get started.
Overall Grade: C-
There’s just too many questions, and too many inconsistencies to feel comfortable giving it anything higher. Maybe in the upcoming weeks certain plot revelations might come to fruition, but I’m not looking for Kubrick levels of hidden meaning, and this is not Kubrick-esque. I’ll chalk this up to a sophomore slump by Peele and the pressures of following up to such an acclaimed film. I just got hints of M. Night Shyamalan in this movie, meaning a Director/Writer who is owning a genre and gets type-casted to that medium. Let’s hope Jordan Peele doesn’t head down that same road.
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