Well it’s the middle of August, which means the big blockbusters of summer are just about through.
And despite a fairly lackluster June, this summer has been pretty great for movies.
Superhero movies ended up knocking it out of park with the likes of “Wonder Woman,” “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2,” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
Others like “War For The Planet Of The Apes” and “Baby Driver,” while not as popular as the big comic book movies, received plenty of well deserved praise.
And though comedies this year have been fairly hit or miss, “The Big Sick” and “Girls Trip” prove the genre still has a lot of good to offer.
But enough about the summer, here’s what I saw this week.
First up is “Detroit.”
Set during 1967 Detroit Riot, this film is centered around the Algiers Motel incident, a police raid that lead to the torture and murder of three black men.
Holy crap, what a film to start the weekend off with.
As you might guess from the description, this is not a happy-go-lucky flick where you’ll walk out of the theater skipping and wearing a smile on your face. In fact, considering how this film had me sobbing by the end of it, I’d say it’s the exact opposite.
But while it may not be pleasant, this is a powerful movie focusing on some truly horrifying historical events.
As someone who wasn’t alive during the 1960s and as just a guy who’s lived a pretty sheltered life in general, it’s hard to believe these events actually happened in the United States.
Sure, I know there’s been incidents like Ferguson fairly recently, but those don’t hold a candle to the long hot summer of 1967.
That’s the first thing that struck me while watching this movie. This isn’t a war zone in some third world country, this is a city in the U.S.A. on fire, patrolled by National Guard with machine guns and tanks. Tanks!
That’s only the setting though.
This film does an amazing job of bringing to life the people involved in this terrible incident.
Everything, from the writing to the performances are brilliant across the board and I was invested in everyone involved even before the actual events at the Algiers Motel.
It’s the way this movie’s shot that really sucked me in though.
The film almost has a documentary feel to it, not only in the cinematography, but in how it blends real historical video with movie footage.
Most of the film is shot in a disjointed, almost hectic handheld style with the camera panning and zooming nearly constantly. Normally I hate this type of camerawork, but here in this film it somehow works.
Actually, not only does it work, it adds a massive amount to the overall sense of the movie and makes the film feel much more personal.
Plus, unlike other movies featuring a shaky camera, I never once felt lost during the chaos. Bravo to the filmmakers for that.
To be clear, this isn’t a movie whose only purpose is to harp on the evils of police officers and espousing the virtue of black people. The film starts off by showcasing mass looting for goodness sake.
Yes, the movie focuses on a couple bad cops, but it also takes the time to feature the good ones as well.
Most importantly though, the film shows how it only takes a few bad actors to escalate a situation from horrible to tragic. If anything, that’s what this whole movie is about. Escalation.
Two sides feeling so threatened and backed into a corner that they lash out at each other. Each blow escalating the conflict until it boils over.
If you couldn’t tell, this movie made me think and reflect quite a bit. If that isn’t the mark of a great film, I don’t know what is.
Please I urge you, if you can stomach the violence, see this movie. It’s powerful, it’s important, and even 50 years later, there’s much to learn from this tragedy.
“Detroit” is rated R.
Next up I saw “The Dark Tower.”
Based on the Stephen King book series of the same name, this film follows Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), an 11-year-old boy with visions of a man in black (Matthew McConaughey) on a distant world attempting to destroy a dark tower that protects the universe from destruction, as well as a gunslinger (Idris Elba) who seeks to stop him.
His visions prove to be true when Jake finds himself swept up in a battle of good and evil with the fate of all worlds in the balance.
You know, I actually was kind of looking forward to this movie.
I’ve heard so much praise for the book series. Some people I know even say it’s King’s best, which is impressive considering his body of work.
I may even have to check out the books for myself one day.
Hopefully they’re better than this boring, confusing mess of a movie.
To be fair, the universe the film is set in is kind of interesting. It’s just so poorly fleshed out though.
It’s like the movie starts in the middle of the story and doesn’t bother explaining who anyone is or why any of this is happening. The Man in Black and the Gunslinger are supposed to be in this ongoing battle and apparently have a massive history with each other.
Shame we didn’t get a movie about that. Nope, we just get a single blurry flashback and a bunch of boring dialog telling us about it.
It doesn’t help that most of the film is shown from the perspective of the 11-year-old kid. Not that he’s an especially bad actor, but he’s just not a very good one either. He’s particularly terrible during any kind of emotional scene.
I don’t get it. They have award winning actors like Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba, but nope, they decide to focus the story on the kid. Why?
Also, for a movie based on an epic series like The Dark Tower, this movie is remarkably short. Only an hour 35 minutes long.
Honestly though, I’m glad it wasn’t any longer. With as boring as the film was, I’d hate to see what the people behind this movie would do with an extra hour. Probably more talking about cool stuff that happened in the past we’ll never see.
To the movie’s credit, it does pick up towards the end and the film finishes on a decent action scene. The filmmakers never got around to giving me a reason to care about any of the characters though. Why should I worry about the destruction of the universe when I don’t like anyone in it?
I don’t know. Maybe you’ll get more out of this film if you read the books? Supposedly this movie is intended to be a sequel to the 7th book in the series. That’d explain why the plot didn’t make a lick of sense.
Everyone else would probably be better off watching something a bit more exciting, like paint drying.
“The Dark Tower” is rated PG-13.
Last this week I saw “Kidnap.”
A typical day at the park turns into a nightmare for single mother Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) when her young six-year-old son is kidnapped.
Not having time to wait for the police, this mom sets off in hot pursuit of the kidnappers, stopping at nothing to rescue her son.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie quite like this.
You know how superhero movies are wish fulfillment experiences for kids? Films where extraordinary people do amazing things you could only dream of doing yourself in real life?
That’s what this movie is, except instead of for kids, this film is a pure wish fulfillment experience for moms.
And it’s a pretty poorly made one at that.
The story in the movie is about as bare bones and straightforward as you can get. Boy gets kidnapped, super mom stops at nothing to rescue her kid, kidnappers are ugly and also over-the-top white trash caricatures, so they’re easy to hate.
It’s like something out of an old fashioned Saturday morning cartoon.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Simple premises are made into great movies all the time. It’s just been a while since I’ve watched a film with zero subtlety.
With the exception of Halle Berry, performances in this movie are terrible all around. Luckily, the film barely has anyone else speak, so that worked out in the end.
In fact a large chunk of the movie is basically a one woman show. The film dishes out monologue after monologue from Berry by herself, sitting behind the wheel of her minivan.
Her dialog wasn’t poorly performed, but the constant talking to herself started to wear on me after the third or so speech. I guess it saved me from hearing any of the other actors try to perform at least.
Those are all minor gripes in the end though.
In fact, I may have even had a good time if it wasn’t for the film’s obnoxious and all around terrible editing.
This is easily some of the worst editing I’ve ever seen in a movie.
It’s like the editor went out of his way to make the action as confusing and hard to follow as humanly possible.
Anytime something dramatic happens, the camera cuts to Berry’s face, then maybe a super closeup of her van, followed by an even closer closeup of the kidnapper’s car, and maybe back to Berry’s face for a reaction shot.
All that happens in the span of about two seconds in quick flashes and repeats every single time there’s any kind of action on the screen.
The editing alone takes what could be a fun, brainless, popcorn flick and turns it into an unwatchable mess, at least it did for me.
Then again I’m not the target audience.
The people I saw this with seemed to really get into it. They were cheering Berry’s character on the whole way through and whenever she made a dumb mistake you could hear an audible groan throughout the audience. They even applauded at the end.
I don’t know, I guess if you’re a mom dying for an R rated, mindless action movie this may be up your alley. It’s definitely not for me though.
“Kidnap” is rated R.