Quick Reviews: “Sisters Brothers,” “Simple Plan,” “Predator,” “Nun,” “Peppermint,” “White Boy Rick” “Jurassic World 2” “Uncle Drew” “Damascus Cover” “Gemini”

By | November 5, 2018

The Sisters Brothers…A twisty Western that keeps going in directions you wouldn’t expect. For some, that may be a bit disappointing at first, but this is a film that grows the more I think about it. I found myself slightly underwhelmed while watching it, but enjoying it more fondly days and even weeks later. For those that complain there are no original films anymore, this is the movie for you–and it’d be slightly hypocritical to say that on the one hand, but be disappointed when things actually don’t go the way you’d expect here. Also, look forward to solid performances all the way around, especially from the always-impressive Riz Ahmed and the film’s producer John C. Reilly. Grade: B+

A Simple Plan…A strong first half eventually devolves into something ridiculous and cartoony. This is yet another example of Hollywood crapping on interracial couples (this time “Crazy Rich Asians” Henry Goulding and Blake Lively), but Lively turns in one of her best performances ever. Between this and her surprisingly effective turn in “The Shallows,” she’s proven herself someone to take seriously even in the craziest genre junk. Grade: C

Uncle DrewAnother example of Hollywood crapping on interracial couples as this basketball comedy’s villain is “white boy” Nick Kroll who eventually dates Tiffany Haddish (the lead character’s gold-digging ex-girlfriend). Yuck, as is the lop-sided tone that swerves between the broadest of broad comedy–an adult Baptism that’s more like a forced drowning–and sentimental drama. The movie also sets us up to learn the secrets of “old time” basketball greats, but doesn’t spend 2 minutes truly explaining why they were great or how they could beat younger athletes. Grade: D

The Predator…This movie sucks. It makes the Adrien Brody led “Predators” look like a masterpiece, and I wonder why the studio didn’t stay on that great idea of a game reserve planet for the predators to hunt the world’s deadliest humans. Grade: D-

Peppermint…A movie that could’ve been great, but something is missing in the execution. A female-led “Death Wish” style movie is a great idea, and Jennifer Garner is certainly believable in the part, but the script becomes so far-fetched (and the direction so lackluster) that you actually believe Melanie Lynskey was more capable of vigilante badassery in “I Don’t Feel at Home in the World Anymore.” Grade: C

The Nun…I love old-school horror films where period-politeness eventually unravels in shadowy Inns and foggy monasteries (“The Wolfman” may be one of the better recent examples, and readers already know my love of AMC’s “The Terror”), but “The Nun” is a slightly underwhelming experience. Still, I’ll fully admit I’m a sucker for films of this type and even if it never really digs deep enough into its time period, I’d much rather watch this than the 100th, generic “The Haunting of…” modern exorcism horror junk. Grade: B-

White Boy Rick…Sure, the film may be dreary and a bit lifeless around the edges, but it’s set in Detroit, so some of that is a given, and you need to really feel the bleakness of these character’s lives to understand why almost anything (even drug dealer) would have to be preferable. In the end, “Rick” pulls a bit of a Trojan horse, setting us up for a “rise of Scarface” type gangster story, but winding up a heavy drama that’s really about the vast over incarceration problem in America. Personally, I’d much rather watch something like this–that’s interested in the intersection of police almost needing the drug war to keep going and Rick’s ridiculous drug sentence–than the umpteenth “American Gangster” story. Grade: B+

Damascus Cover…Dark-haired, heavily-accented Irishman Jonathan Rhys-Meyers plays a blonde German-Israeli Mossad agent. If that sentence didn’t make you crack up, you just might go for “Damascus Cover,” which revolves around a Mossad operation to remove a high-level Syrian asset. For most other people, this film will be too far-fetched for the John Le Carre crowd, too turgid for the James Bond lovers. Grade: C-

Jurassic World 2: Fallen Kingdom…Sometimes, you feel as though you’ve slipped into an alternate universe where left is right, up is down, and the vast majority of the country absolutely loves crappy “Jurassic World” movies. The first “Jurassic World” was–to me–the worst installment in the “Jurassic” franchise, but people seemed to eat it up, and this film is arguably worse, but it seems to be even more popular. It starts off with the great plot of saving the dinosaurs from a volcano that’s about to make them extinct for the second time, but a shockingly little amount of the movie actually takes place on that island (the first 15 or 20 minutes don’t and the entire last half is somewhere else). A better script and director might’ve been remotely interested in the juxtaposition of hot lava and cold-dinosaurs desperate to escape a second extinction, but the last half of this movie takes place mostly in cramped spaces like cargo containers, ships, and a British mansion. It was as if someone decided “You know, people have seen these dinosaurs 5 times now, and they may be underwhelmed at the majesty of their vastness, so why not make that problem worse by shoehorning these creatures into dark, tight spaces that make them look fake and ordinary?” Although the shot of a T-Rex howling with primal anguish as a volcano roars behind it will always make me shiver, it’s one of the few moments of genuine power in the entire film. Grade: C-

Gemini…Main actress Lola Kirke has a stilted blankness that hardly feels appropriate for a role drenched in anxiety. But Zoe Kravitz is the real star of this twisty film–about the murder of a mysterious “cool” actress. Kravitz nails the sexual manipulation and “won’t you defend me?” femme fatale aspects of a bohemian, bi-sexual millennial star who only seems helpless. When Kravitz departs, the movie’s energy level drops dramatically, which is a real problem since that’s technically when the thriller aspects begin. Grade: B-

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