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Friday, September 22, 2023


Armed with every weapon they can get their hands on, the Expendables are the world's last line of defense and the team that gets called when all other options are off the table.

Director: Scott Waugh

Cast: Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Megan Fox, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Jacob Scipio, Levy Tran, Andy García

Release Date: September 22, 2023 

Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller, War

Rated R for strong/bloody violence throughout, language and sexual material.

Runtime: 1h 43m

The Expendables franchise has always leaned on 80's action nostalgia with its rotating collection of aging stars.  It seemed inevitable that it wouldn't be able to last forever as the big names slowly dropped off, killing off it's primary draw.  This fourth entry lacks the original hook leaving Jason Statham, Megan Fox and Randy Couture front and center, Stallone appears in what amounts to a glorified cameo.  Statham is generally good fun in supporting role or lead roles especially if he's got strong material.  Sadly the script, production and story overall is terribly lazy and undercooked leaving him to rely on his natural charisma which can only take the film so far.  Megan Fox is distractingly bad throughout, with the film asking us to believe she's a stone cold mercenary even while she's outfitted in clubwear with enough flawless make up caked on to make you think they shot her using an Instagram filter.  It's one of the many things that make the whole thing feel like a bottom shelf rental from the early 80s.  The new cast of characters are all fairly nondescript with 50 Cent acting like 50 Cent and Jacob Scipio giving a fairly terrible Antonio Banderas impersonation as his son.  Iko Uwais serves as the primary villain but he's saddled with pencil thin characterization with the only memorable moment coming in the final act with a well choregraphed fight with Statham which gives the film the slightest bit of a pulse.  The series, as a whole, has never been a bastion of high art but they were fun as mindless mayhem something this entry seems to have forgotten.  Expend4bles is sorely lacking in that department since there's nothing terribly fun about it which leaves it dead on arrival.


Tuesday, September 19, 2023



Augusto Pinochet is a vampire ready to die, but the vultures around him won't let him go without one last bite.

Director: Pablo Larraín

Cast: Jaime Vadell, Gloria Münchmeyer, Alfredo Castro, Paula Luchsinger, Catalina Guerra, Marcial Tagle, Amparo Noguera, Diego Muñoz, Antonia Zegers, Stella Gonet, Clemente Rodriguez

Release Date: September 8, 2023

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, History, Horror

Rated R for strong violence and gore, some graphic nudity, rape, language and sexual content.

Runtime: 1h 50m

Pablo Larraín surreal satire, El Conde, is a fascinating and darkly funny deconstruction of the Chilean dictator as a decrepit, isolated vampire.  Larraín approach is rather interesting as he turns a real life monster into a self loathing creature who's primarily concerned with his historical legacy while having very little power to change it.  The dialogue’s heavy script provides plenty of laughs thanks in part to a heavy dose of gallows humor and the character's general oblivious, aloofness.  Larraín makes a concerted effort to display the general disconnect from reality and humanity throughout and horrific moments are played as mundane minutiae of a monstrous existence.  Jaime Vadell plays Pinochet as a pathetic, exhausted creature who would like nothing more than to end his existence in spite of his parasitic family's wishes.  His children and wife being little more than single minded hangers on who are unwilling to let him die until they've collected all the money, they believe they are owed.  Alfredo Castro, who plays his loyal servant Fyodor, leaves the biggest impression with his performance which carries the veneer of loyalty before something duplicitous is revealed.  Paula Luchsinger delivers an equally impressive turn as the nun tasked with dispatching Pinochet after she's taken a full accounting of his misdeeds and stolen wealth for the benefit of the church.  Luchsinger mile a minute delivery makes for some of the film's best interchanges especially when she interviews the children as they reveal their superficial motivations.  Her character is more than a bit scattered as her emotional state and motivation take some interesting turns especially in the final act.  Some of the characters’ actions don't make total sense but she's given an moment that delivers the sense of an ethereal awaking in a wonderfully composed shot which is a solid culmination of the film's wonderful cinematography.  The visuals alone will leave a lasting impression even as the film moves into even stranger territory as it barrels into its finale where some of the subtext is more blunt in its messaging.  El Conde is the type of film that will delight a certain group of film lovers while others might loath it at the same time, either way it will elicit a reaction.  


Monday, September 18, 2023



Unpopular best friends PJ and Josie start a high school fight club to meet girls and lose their virginity. They soon find themselves in over their heads when the most popular students start beating each other up in the name of self-defense.

Director: Emma Seligman

Cast: Rachel Sennott, Ayo Edebiri, Ruby Cruz, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber, Nicholas Galitzine, Miles Fowler, Dagmara Domińczyk, Marshawn Lynch

Release Date: August 25, 2023

Genre: Comedy

Rated R for crude sexual content, pervasive language and some violence.

Runtime: 1h 32m

Emma Seligman’s Bottoms is a quick-witted high school teen comedy that takes the general tropes of the genre to an extreme level that pushes it closer to satire than anything else.  Seligman and Rachel Sennott, who stars as PJ, cowrote the film’s script which fires off a series of jokes at a rapid pace.  There’s a noticeable level of self-assured confidence in the way Seligman shoots the film which pairs perfectly with some top-notch comedic performances from Sennott and Ayo Edebiri.  The pair have great chemistry together as they bounce off each other with impressive ease which makes their relationship ring true even as things get more outrageous.  Sennott and Edebiri carry the majority of the film with their energy spilling over to the supporting cast.  Ruby Cruz, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber, Nicholas Galitzine and Miles Fowler are all given plenty of time to shine throughout the film rather brisk runtime.  They added a level of depth to the film by populating the school landscape with hilarious caricatures of familiar high school types.   Those looking for a truer to life high school comedy might be disappointed since this film plays on a more exaggerated level of reality when compared to something like Booksmart or Lady Bird.   Bottoms isn’t that kind of teen comedy, instead it happily stakes out its own gonzo section of the genre to great effect.  


Friday, September 15, 2023



Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot investigates a murder while attending a Halloween seance at a haunted palazzo in Venice, Italy.

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Kyle Allen, Camille Cottin, Jamie Dornan, Tina Fey, Jude Hill, Ali Khan, Emma Laird, Kelly Reilly, Riccardo Scamarcio, Michelle Yeoh

Release Date: September 13, 2023

Genre: Crime, Drama, Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Rated PG-13 for some strong violence, disturbing images and thematic elements

Runtime: 1h 40m

Kenneth Branagh's third Agatha Christie adaptation is just as lavishly directed and performed as his first two films, but the added dash of horror spices up the formula to the murder mystery template.  Branagh gives this entry a decidedly different feel from the start as he makes great use of Venice on Halloween to set up an unsettling, spooky feel to the film.  Once the film settles into its primary setting of the haunted palazzo Branagh throws in plenty of visual flourishes which makes wonderful use of off kilter angles and framing which make the film far more effective and engaging than if he'd played it more straightforward.  The cast is again made up of a wonderful assortment of impressive international actors.  Branagh leads the way with a slightly more weathered and cynical take on Hercule Poirot in this entry which gives this iteration of the character some much needed texture and depth outside of his sleuthing skills.  Tina Fey joins the fray as Ariadne Oliver, an Agatha Christie proxy in the novels, with mixed results which leaves you feeling she's miscast in the role. Fey does her best but you get the sense somebody like Rachel Brosnahan would have been a better fit for this role.  On the other end of the spectrum, Michelle Yeoh leaves a strong impression on the film even with her limited screen time.  Kelly Reilly and Jamie Dornan do just enough to make their characters interesting but sadly both roles are fairly one dimensional.  Jude Hill follows up his impressive performance in Branagh's award winning Belfast with another strong turn here.  Hill possess such a natural ease on screen as he delivers lines with seasoned actors that you can't help but be impressed with the level of talent this 11 year old brings to the production.  His interaction with Branagh early on is a surprising high point in the film which sets up a nice payoff in the end once the film concludes its twisty murder mystery.  A Haunting in Venice shows there's still life in this film series, something Branagh's character reiterates onscreen as his legendary detective finds renewed purpose.


Friday, September 8, 2023



In 1956 France, a priest is violently murdered, and Sister Irene begins to investigate. She once again comes face-to-face with a powerful evil.

Director: Michael Chaves

Cast: Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Bonnie Aarons, Storm Reid, Anna Popplewell

Release Date: September 8, 2023

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Rated R for violent content and some terror.

Runtime: 1h 50m

The first Nun was a rather flat collection of religious horror clichés that didn't really justify The Conjuring spinoff.  The sequel still leans heavily on been there, done that horror set ups and scares but its story is more engaging and focused with a final act that takes you through a gonzo cornucopia funhouse that's undeniably fun.  Michael Chaves's third film in the overall universe is the most visually appealing of the bunch.  He uses long hallways and streets to solid effect even though there are too many rinse and repeat moments where character's wander around some dimly light environment before the monster inevitably reveals itself in a jump scare.  Still, there's a level of care in the set ups that makes for a visually appealing film that gives it a distinctive look exemplified by an impressive set up at a magazine rack midway through the film.  Taissa Farmiga and Jonas Bloquet return from the original film with both being given converging story threads.  Farmiga doesn't look as young as she did in the original which helps for the role but she still struggles to find the right level of authenticity to make her role more engaging than it is.  Pairing her with the talented Storm Reid should work better than it does but she's saddled with very little to do with the most generic motivation and background.  Jonas Bloquet is given more screen time this go around which works since he's has a likable screen presence even though his subplot is rather blasé.  Regardless of the script's shortcoming The Nun II is surprisingly watchable thrill ride for the better part of its runtime even though there's nary a bit of tension built up since you know where the film is going. 


Friday, September 1, 2023



Since giving up his life as a government assassin, Robert McCall finds solace in serving justice on behalf of the oppressed. Now living in Southern Italy, he soon discovers his new friends are under the control of local crime bosses. As events turn deadly, McCall becomes their protector by taking on the mafia.

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, David Denman, Sonia Ammar, Remo Girone

Release Date: September 1, 2023

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller

Rated R for strong bloody violence and some language.

Runtime: 1h 49m

The third and possibly final installment of the Equalizer franchise is a leaner, more focused entry which makes it the most effective of the three.  Antoine Fuqua's film is still as violent as ever, but he gives his main character a bit more time to breathe outside of his avenging angel persona.  There's a bit more nuance at play throughout which helps flesh out the character especially if you've followed his journey from the start.  Fuqua still delivers plenty of hero shots for his leading man with those visuals boarding between triumphant and menacing.  The action sequences are just as visceral and bloody as the past entries, but they are far less frequent than the first two entries leaning more on Washington's acting chops.  Denzel Washington has always been this series secret weapon as he pulls so much more out of the character than what's written on the page.  In this entry, he is given more room to explore moments of happiness and contentment before external forces bring him back to unleash his talents on a slew of faceless villains.  Washington does give the character a slightly different feel here, older more weathered and almost brutish in certain moments.  It makes those moments where his character unleashes his brand of justice interesting in that it could easily be flipped into a horror movie with little effort. Sadly, the supporting character are paper thin across the board, something that's been an issue with the three films.  Adding former Man on Fire costar, Dakota Fanning, should work better than it ultimately does with her character feeling more perfunctory than necessary.  Still the series as a whole is a testament to Washington's impressive talent and ability to make these films far more watchable than they would be in lesser hands.

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