Vampires vs. the Bronx (2020)

Vampires vs. the Bronx
Director: Oz Rodriguez
Writer: Oz Rodriguez, Blaise Hemingway
Cast: Jaden Michael, Gerald Jones III, Gregory Diaz IV, Sarah Gadon, Method Man, Shea Whigham, Coco Jones, The Kid Mero, Zoe Saldana
Seen on: 9.4.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Miguel (Jaden Michael) loves the Bronx. So he tries to organize a fundraising event for the local bodega run by Tony (The Kid Mero) that is close to shutting down. It’s not just a bodega, it’s also a safe space for Miguel and his best friends Luis (Gregory Diaz IV) and Bobby (Gerald Jones III). Part of the bodega’s problems is the gentrification that is slowly but surely reaching the Bronx, pushed forward by Murnau Real Estate. But Miguel soon realizes that there is more to the company – they aren’t just there for the profit, they actually are vampires. So Miguel gathers Luis and Bobby to fight for the Bronx.

Vampires vs. the Bronx is sweet and fun, but it stumbles a little over its own political metaphors and a little too conventional narrative structure. Still, it is a very entertaining romp.

The film poster showing the four main kids as stylized images. Miguel (Jaden Michael) is at the top, clutching a cross and screaming.
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Vice (2018)

Vice
Director: Adam McKay
Writer: Adam McKay
Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Alison Pill, Eddie Marsan, Justin Kirk, LisaGay Hamilton, Jesse Plemons, Bill Camp, Don McManus, Lily Rabe, Shea Whigham, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Tyler Perry
Seen on: 27.3.2019
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Content Note: misogyny

Plot:
Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) had some tough times and struggled with alcohol, but after an ultimatum from his wife Lynne (Amy Adams), he pulled himself together and went into politics. Even though he is never really at the forefront of political offices, he rises steadily in the ranks until he even becomes vice president to George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) – a position he manages to make even more powerful than it was until then.

Vice was absolutely unbearable. Arrogant, preachy and smug, I had a hard time not screaming through the film – and that although I share the criticism it presents.

The film poster showing a stylized image of Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) in black and white on a yellow background.
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First Man (2018)

First Man
Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Josh Singer, James R. Hansen
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Patrick Fugit, Christopher Abbott, Ciarán Hinds, Olivia Hamilton, Pablo Schreiber, Shea Whigham, Lukas Haas, Ethan Embry, Brian d’Arcy James, Cory Michael Smith, Kris Rey
Seen on: 26.11.2018
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Plot:
Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and his wife Janet (Claire Foy) just lost their little daughter to cancer, prompting Neil, who also had some professional disappointments, to apply for a new program at NASA. They all move to Houston and Neil starts working on the Gemini project – the most important project in the space race between the USA and the Soviet Union. But it will take a while before Neil and Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll) undertake their historic flight to the moon.

First Man is made of excellent parts that nevertheless feels underwhelming as those excellent parts don’t really make for an excellent whole – even if I can’t put my finger on why that’s the case.

The film poster, showing an astronaut (Ryan Gosling) in profile.
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Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

Bad Times at the El Royale
Director: Drew Goddard
Writer: Drew Goddard
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Nick Offerman, Xavier Dolan, Shea Whigham, Mark O’Brien, Charles Halford, Jim O’Heir
Seen on: 22.10.2018
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Plot:
The El Royale is a run-down motel literally straddling the state line between Nevada and California. Most of the time, it’s empty now, with a single night clerk, Miles (Lewis Pullman) enough to handle all the guests. But on this particular night, there are more guests than usual – and they are all here for their own unstated purposes: Father Daniel (Jeff Bridges) is looking for something. Darlene (Cynthia Erivo) wants to make her career as a singer. Laramie (Jon Hamm) is a vaccuum salesman on the road. Emily (Dakota Johnson) is running from something. As the guests bring their own story to the motel, things get more and more complicated.

Bad Times at the El Royale obviously tries to be a film in the vein of Tarantino’s best, but while a lot of the right ingredients are there for that, the film doesn’t really come together and starts to fall apart more and more the longer it lasts.

The film poster showing a montage of the main characters atop an image of the motel El Royale.
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Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Kong: Skull Island
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Writer: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly
Remake of: King Kong
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, John Ortiz, Tian Jing, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Miyavi, Richard Jenkins
Seen on: 13.3.2017

Plot:
Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) are convinced that monsters exist – and they may be hiding on a recently discovered island. When they can finally secure funding for an expedition there, they hire ex-military tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), a group of soldiers under command of Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) to make sure they succeed in finding and documenting whatever lives on that island. But once they get to the island, things don’t go according to plan.

Over and over again I try to like kaiju movies and over and over again, I fail. In this case, though, it’s mostly because Kong: Skull Island really sucks.

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Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Star Trek Beyond
Director: Justin Lin
Writer: Simon PeggDoug JungRoberto OrciPatrick McKayJohn D. Payne
Based on: Gene Roddenberry‘s TV show
Sequel to: Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon PeggJohn Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris ElbaSofia BoutellaJoe TaslimLydia WilsonDanny PudiGreg GrunbergShea Whigham
Seen on: 26.7.2016

Plot:
The Enterprise is about halfway through their five year mission of exploring uncharted space. But five years is a long time and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) starts wondering about other career options. Before things get very far, though, they all land at Starbase Yorketown. The base has recently rescued Kalara (Lydia Wilson), a scientist whose ship was attacked. The Enterprise is sent off to rescue the rest of Kalara’s crew, but things don’t go as planned: instead the Enterprise is destroyed and the crew is stranded on the planet Altamid.

Star Trek Beyond was an entertaining film again and – to a non-Trekkie like me – it felt like the trekkiest of the new films so far. There are still a whole lot of plot holes and not everything worked flawlessly for me, but I had fun watching it.

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Knight of Cups (2015)

Knight of Cups
Director: Terrence Malick
Writer: Terrence Malick
Cast: Christian Bale, Wes Bentley, Cate Blanchett, Imogen Poots, Natalie Portman, Jason Clarke, Teresa Palmer, Joe Manganiello, Isabel Lucas, Nick Offerman, Joel Kinnaman, Nicky WhelanAntonio BanderasFreida PintoKatia WinterMichael WincottThomas LennonClifton Collins Jr.Shea WhighamNick KrollRyan O’NealKevin CorriganBrian DennehyJoe Lo Truglio, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Ben Kingsley
Seen on: 15.9.2015

Plot:
Rick (Christian Bale) is a screenwriter living in LA. He moves from party to party, woman to woman. He seems to be looking for something, but who knows for what?
[Actually the first note I wrote down for this film is: “I don’t think I could write a plot description for this film”, so you’ll have to live with that little bit.]

I don’t like Terrence Malick movies. I decided to watch this one anyway because Cate Blanchett! Christian Bale! Natalie Portman! And so many other actors I love. But it turns out that Knight of Cups is everything I hate about Malick movies turned up to 11, while nothing I used to still like about them works for me anymore.

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Non-Stop (2014)

Non-Stop
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Writer: John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach, Ryan Engle
Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy, Corey Stoll, Lupita Nyong’o, Shea Whigham

Plot:
Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) is an air marshal with a host of problems, not the least of which is that he drinks too much. But all of those things take a back seat, when Bill starts receiving text messages mid-air threatening the plane and to kill its passengers if they don’t receive a whole lot of money. And despite Bill’s vigilance and the fact that the plane is flying, people start dying.

Non-Stop suffers from many things but mostly from a plot that doesn’t make a lick of sense and some serious lengths in the second half. At least there is the wonderful female cast.

non-stop

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American Hustle (2013)

American Hustle
Director: David O. Russell
Writer: David O. Russell, Eric Warren Singer
Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Michael Peña, Shea WhighamAlessandro Nivola, Saïd Taghmaoui

Plot:
Irving (Christian Bale) is a con man who finds a new partner in all things in Sydney (Amy Adams), despite being married to Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence). But then police man Richie (Bradley Cooper) catches them in the act and decides to use them to convict the mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) of corruption. But things keep on spiraling out of control.

I can imagine that American Hustle would have been a good film if somebody other than David O. Russell had made it. Or if Russell had found a consistent tone in which to tell his story. But as is the movie was just a mess.

american-hustle

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The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

The Wolf of Wall Street
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Terence Winter
Based on: Jordan Belfort‘s book
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley, Shea Whigham

Plot:
Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) dreams of making a whole lot of money on Wall Street. At first this seems rather impossible, especially since the stock markets crash right when Jordan gets his broker’s license. But then Jordan finds a way to make it big, even if it’s not entirely legal. He enjoys the money way too much to care about that. Even when the FBI gets involved, he can’t stop.

The Wolf of Wall Street was one of the most uncomfortable movie experiences I had in recent times. It was not only the content, but also the length and the audience that had me cringing.

wolfofwallstreet

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