FlixChatter Review: RED NOTICE (2021)

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I wasn’t planning on reviewing this, but I felt somewhat compelled to after seeing it. This movie doesn’t even fall into the SO BAD IT’S GOOD category, it’s the kind that’s SO ludicrous you’re left just scratching your head why it ever got green-lit. I tweeted this right after I saw it…

… Most of those $200 mil budget went to its stars… Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot who according to IMDb trivia are getting $20 million each for their roles, likely even more for The Rock who is listed as one of the producers. As if that weren’t enough, there’s the flagrant product placements for Johnson’s and Reynolds’ own brands of liquor that each of their character drink in the film (Aviation American Gin and Teremana Tequila, respectively). The filmmakers are obviously going for a buddy-cop comedy style, but the silly banters goes from amusing to irritating in no time flat as they’re rehashing the same ol’ shtick that’s been done better in other movies. The whole prison scene is so absurd I wish I could erase it from my memory… heck, it makes the prison sequence in Paddington 2 seems far more credible.

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As for the plot, if you could even call it that… well, it’s a heist action adventure involving an Interpol agent and the world’s most wanted art thief. Who’s playing who? Well, the movie employs the ‘things are not what they seem’ twist which can be a fun mystery in a good movie, but here it ends up being so pathetic. Even the beautiful Italian locations, Rome and Sardinia, are practically wasted here… the only scene that got a strong reaction out of me was when Johnson smashed a Porsche Taycan in Rome… such a waste of fancy automobile, but then again, the entire movie is an exorbitant waste of talents and resources.

I guess one could judge a movie from the cast alone… which in this case if basically filled with attractive people with limited acting skills. I love Gal Gadot in the first Wonder Woman (sadly WW1984 was a disaster) but clearly she is not a dramatic actress. As the enigmatic character known only as The Bishop (it’s never explained why she’s called that), Gadot seems to be channeling Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider movies… down to her gloating smirk every time she outsmarts all the men in the movie. She basically resorts to just prancing around in a slinky dress here, there’s even a scene of her climbing up the ladder to yacht in a skimpy bathing suit as if she’s auditioning to be a Bond girl.

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Now, Ryan Reynolds has certainly settled nicely into the comedy genre and he’s fun to watch in a well-written material (i.e. Deadpool, Free Guy) but not so much in lazily-written ones like Hitman’s Wife Bodyguard and this one. I think he is a naturally funny guy, as evident when he trolls himself (and his wife) on social media, but simply throwing silly quips and incessantly bantering with your co-star is NOT acting. I suppose he’s fully aware of it as I read him jokingly say that he and his co-stars are wasting Netflix’s millions on just goofing around on set… Heh, maybe it IS time for him to retire and just save us from these kinds of insipid drivels until he figures out just what real acting is.

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As for Dwayne Johnson, well he’s pretty much playing a variation of himself in his movies. I’m fine with him as an action star, I mean he’s obviously built like one… but he doesn’t seem content with that as he seems to have this longing to be a romantic leading man as well 🙄 I grimaced during the lovey-dovey scene between him and Emily Blunt in Jungle Cruise as the romance just feels so forced, and he’s so cringe-worthy here as well in another eye-roll inducing kissing scene. Another tidbit on IMDb I found was that Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage, and Keanu Reeves were considered for a part that I think Johnson ended up taking on. Well, kudos to them for saying no to a ghastly script despite the huge payday.

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I have no idea who Rawson Marshall Thurber is (the only thing I’ve seen him do was We Are the Millers which isn’t great either), but really, he has no business writing screenplays as there is nothing remotely original nor creative about this movie. To add insult to injury, the action scenes are crappy and cheap-looking (even movies with a fraction of its budget looked far better!). The scene where Reynold’s character is supposed to arrive in Bali on a boat (clearly none of the crew ever set foot in my country during filming), the backdrop looks like something from a zoom virtual background photos!

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Now, I don’t expect every movie to be award-worthy, but even ‘brainless’ movies ought to still offer some kind of entertainment value, otherwise WHAT IS THE POINT?? There is really nothing to recommend this even if you are a fan of the three actors… I suggest just rewatch their more watchable movies instead. Oh and that cameo? I’m not gonna spoil it for you though you might already know from social media, but wow man, it’s got to be a stupendous career low to agree to do such a humiliating cameo. Tiresome contrivances abound from start to finish, going from cheesy, silly, preposterous in one not-so-quick succession all the way to its lame finish that shamelessly teases a sequel! Seriously Netflix, wouldn’t it be nice if you’d spend even half of that budget to fund good independent filmmakers instead?

I rarely give a rating this low, but Red Notice really is SO bad that it’s borderline irresponsible. Apparently it has the dubious distinction as being the most expensive Netflix movie to date, well it’s also the dumbest movie of the year (maybe even of the decade).

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Did you see RED NOTICE? What did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Rampage (2018)

I donʼt get Hollywood obsession with turning video games into films. Most of them were met with little box office and/or critical success, yet each year we seem to get one or two films based on video games. Last monthʼs reboot of Tomb Raider barely made a dent at the box office, now we get another film based on a video game that I doubt the target audience would remember or know much about it. But this one stars the always charismatic Dwayne Johnson and it just might turn out to be a big box office success than previous video game-based films.

After an experiment in space gone wrong and the space station was destroyed, debris containing mysterious chemicals fell to different parts of the United States. One landed near a San Diego zoo where Primatologist Davis Okoye (Johnson) is running the show and his albino ape named George was exposed to the chemical. George is a friendly ape but after the exposure, he became more aggressive and growing bigger and bigger each day. Then a doctor named Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) showed up at the zoo and told Okoye she knows whatʼs wrong with George and can help cure him. Meanwhile in downtown Chicago office, leaders of the company that owns the destroyed space station, Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) and Brett Wyden (Jake Lacy) are planning to recover those chemicals.

They dispatched some military men lead by Burke (Joe Manganiello) to recover their product. Unfortunately for Burke and his men, when they arrived at the location, they found a giant wolf that was exposed to the chemical and had to fight for their lives. Back at the zoo, George became even more aggressive and starts attacking people but a group of mysterious agents was able to sedate him. The agentsʼ leader named Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) decided to arrest Okoye and Caldwell, he believes theyʼre responsible for Georgeʼs erratic behavior. Of course they couldn’t contain George and heʼs able to escape and itʼs up to Okoye and Caldwell to save everyone from the monsters, including a giant crocodile.

Four screenwriters were credited for the screenplay, so that means several drafts of the script were written before it got approved. Now I donʼt envy them on how to come up with engaging story based on a video game about giant animals smashing things. I guess what they came up with worked well as a big budget action/adventure, although I thought some parts of the story was too serious for its own good. Director Brad Peyton did a good job of not making this into some kind of serious picture, he knows heʼs making a movie about giant animals smashing things and he didn’t hold back on the mayhem. I do wish heʼd came up with something more inventive for the big climatic action sequences in downtown Chicago. The action scenes reminded me of Man of Steel where Superman and General Zod were fighting one another and just got too repetitive and boring. Otherwise, he put together a decent action picture that would satisfy the intended audiences.

For the human characters, well, unfortunately most of them were pretty one dimensional. Dwayne Johnson always seems to know heʼs in a silly movie and heʼs having a good time playing another larger than life action hero. Naomie Harris is your typical sidekick/love interest character but thankfully they didn’t turn her into a damsel in distress and needs a rescue. Both Akerman and Lacy are your typical villains, theyʼre greedy and will do anything to save their own butts once they realized their products are responsible for the mayhem. As for Jeffrey Dean Morganʼs mysterious agent character, Iʼm not sure why they even included him in the story, Morgan looked like heʼs having a good time playing the role but heʼs kind of just a wasted character. Now maybe he might be a major player for the sequel, assuming this one makes enough money and turn into a franchise for the studio.

Rampage is nothing more than a silly action picture, it reminded me of last yearʼs Kong: Skull Island, if youʼre going into it expecting to see some kind of great cinema than youʼll be disappointed. Itʼs full of plot holes and one dimensional characters, the people who makes Honest Trailers should have a lot of fun when they release the trailer for this movie. If youʼre in the mood to see some crazy action scenes and a fan of Dwayne Johnson, then you might enjoy this.

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So have you seen Rampage? Well, what did you think?

Everyone’s a Critic – Flame & Citron, Faster Reviews

Welcome to another edition of Everyone’s a Critic! It’s been about three months since the last EaC post, and as always, we’ve got two very different genres from FC’s loyal readers/contributors. Special thanks to my pals Paula and Ted!

FLAME & CITRON (2008)



Made in Denmark in 2008, and based on actual events, the largely unseen Flame and Citron takes us into the world of two members of Holger Danske, the Danish Resistance during World War II. The Nazis have invaded and taken over Denmark. The Gestapo, Wehrmacht, Abwehr, and SS are everywhere. In this lethal atmosphere, two Danish patriots liquidate traitors—Danes who collaborate with the Nazis—knowing that being caught means certain death. Baby-faced killer Bent (Danish actor Thure Lindhardt), known to the authorities and his colleagues in the Resistance as Flame , is intense and reckless, though there’s an ever-increasing price on this head.

Told by his partner Jørgen to dye his ginger hair or wear a hat, Bent ignores the suggestion. Jørgen, a.k.a Citron (Mads Mikkelsen – Casino Royale, Valhalla Rising), is quiet and determined. He is a relatively old hand at Resistance activities; he was involved before Bent and is the last surviving member of an earlier underground group. His involvement is presumably what led to his split from his wife and his pill habit…he sleeps in his car. They have the chemistry of longtime law enforcement partners chasing bad guys in a buddy picture (which, if you think about it, they are), but these characters are well-drawn and well-acted, so they go beyond rookie and veteran stereotypes. We see their personalities and quirks and are invested from the beginning.

Their boss is the shadowy Aksel Winther, a well-connected police solicitor, who is supposedly getting orders from the British. Can they trust him? Bent and Jørgen, and the viewer, only have Winther’s word for it. Because business must be conducted in secret, no one really knows. “There aren’t many of us, and it’s hard to tell who does what,” Bent says. As the film begins, they run afoul of Winther for a killing he didn’t order. Winther says he just wants them to be disciplined, but later it seems he is shielding some of the traitors who make Bent’s trigger finger itch. Why does Winther order Bent and Jørgen to execute certain people but forbid them from taking out the head of the Gestapo in Denmark? Is he trying to maintain all of their covers or is he a double agent?

Flame and Citron draws on film noir and previous WWII espionage movies. Director Ole Christian Madsen has acknowledged particularly Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1969 neo-noir Army of Shadows, about a group in the French Resistance. As in that film, colors are mostly desaturated, suggesting the austerity of life during a Nazi occupation. There is a femme fatale, of course. Mysterious and cool, Ketty (Stine Stengade) is introduced with a building dissonance on the soundtrack. She reels Bent in even though he thinks he knows her game. And in the beginning, there is also a weary-detective-style voiceover by Bent, which Madsen uses to place the viewer in much the same position as our anti-heroes. We get pieces of the puzzle, but never really know exactly what’s going on, until the end. If then. But the film is resolutely its own thing—a shadowy spy thriller with a dose of documentary style, a partial history of the Danish Resistance including a side order of star-crossed romance, all in one fascinating and affecting film. As it progresses, there is sense of increasing paranoia as the Nazis close in and the two become tangled in an ever-thickening web of lies. It kept me guessing until the end and made me think about what I would do if I were in their places.

– review by Paula @ Paula’s Cinema Club


FASTER


Faster was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson first true action film since Doom and it was pretty entertaining. The story is about an ex-con who just got released from prison and decided to go on a killing spree to avenge his brother’s death years ago. Along the way, he was being tracked by a contract killer and a veteran cop with a suspect background. The movie pretty much focused on these three characters, The Rock played a character simply named Driver, Billy Bob Thornton played the cop and new comer Oliver Jackson-Cohen played the hired killer. Director George Tillman Jr. was really trying to pay homage to 1970s action thriller, if you’re a fan of 70s cinemas like myself then I think you’ll know what I mean when you see Faster. For the most part he succeeded, but I thought he totally messed up the last 20 or so minutes of the film.

The movie starts out like its title, fast and faster. Driver got out of jail and proceeded to start killing his prey one by one. Then we were introduced to the other two characters, Killer and Cop and also we got to know a little bit about their personal lives. I think it was bold move by the filmmakers to tell the story this way, considering the trailer made it look like the film was about The Rock going on a killing spree and kicking ass, well he did a lot of that. But it was kind of surprise to see these other two characters shared the same amount of screen time as the lead character. I think that’s the weakness of the movie, instead of focusing on the lead actor, they’ve decided to also focus on the two lesser interesting characters. I would’ve preferred to see more of Driver’s background and have the cop and killer just in supporting roles.

As I mentioned before, I really enjoyed this movie up until the last 20 minutes or so. I thought the ending was quite predictable and didn’t live up to its title. I wanted to see hard and fast action for the finally but it never happened. They included the alternate ending on DVD/Blu-ray that has a big action scene but it didn’t make sense so I was glad they cut it out. I just think the writers should’ve came up with a better ending and delivered a rousing action for the climax.

I do recommend it if you’re in the mood from mindless action flick, but don’t expect too much from it.

– review by Ted S.


Any thoughts about either or both of these films? Do share ‘em below in the comments.

DVD Picks: Football Edition – by guest blogger Marcus Anderson

Special thanks to avid sports fan Marcus A. for his generous contribution in honor of Superbowl Sunday. I’ve never seen a more passionate Vikings and Twins fan, check out his extensive blogs Vikingstailgate.com and Twinnin.com blogs for your enjoyment. Here are his picks of football flicks for each genre.

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Want to start a new Super Bowl tradition? Why not make a special night out of Super Bowl Eve and rent a football movie? So “get your popcorn ready” a day early, head to the rental store (does anybody still do that?) or queue up a tale from the gridiron.  There are so many movies about football, that hard-charging American pastime, that you might not know which one to pick?

Kid-friendly:

The Game Plan (2007)
My choice for a nice wholesome parent kid football movie would have to be “The Game Plan” starring Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson.   The Rock is hilarious in this one, playing the Joe Kingman. the Big Macho QB for a championship contending football team in Boston. He loves the nightlife, fame, glory and money,  that is bestowed to him.

But then, Peyton unexpectedly steps into his life. No, it’s not the Colts QB, Peyton Manning, it’s his 8-year old daughter, who teaches what being a real leader is all about.

I like everything about this flick. It’s hilarious, unique (sans the predictable clichés at times) and pretty well acted. The Rock shows a comedic side that is really endearing, entertaining and fun. I could watch this movie several times over and still laugh. It has Elvis impersonations, locker room hi jinx, ballet, decent football scenes, lugs, oafs, and very enjoyable moments.  Even the soundtrack good, featuring a memorable father-daughter-football team montage to ELO’s  “Mr. Blue Sky.”

Comedy:

The Best of Times (1986)
I have never been a big fan of Robin Williams, but this is fun role for him. Jack Dundee was that kid in high school who dropped the pass that lost the game, and only chance for a small town to ever win a championship.  Years later, that poor schlep still agonizes over that “butterfingers”moment and decides to do something about it.  Reno Hightower (Kurt Russell) plays the long forgotten High School QB who succumbs to the pressure and returns to help Taft High School reclaim its dignity.

There are many fun scenes in this movie, including breaking up with their wives, challenging the bully to a fight, mascot antics, mud, and a Monday Night Football game between the Vikings and Falcons.  The old saying, those that don’t know history are bound to repeat it applies in a unique way to this comedy.

Drama:

Friday Night Lights (2004)
I first heard about this “project” from a fellow classmate of mine at Macalester College back in 1983-84.  His name was Peter Berg, and when he told me of his cousin’s (H.G. Bissinger’s) project, writing a book about High School football in Texas,  I thought, “That sounds interesting,  maybe I’ll read it someday.” Years later, the book was made into a movie,  AND WHAT a movie it is.

This is the best movie about football I have ever seen. It’s bullet to the bone real, and captures the essence of football as a religion with all the tragedies intertwined within.  It captures the highs of winning and lows of losing that life can offer. It’s pressure in ecstasy as family traditions, bias, and stubbornness leak into the world of high school football.

Tim McGraw deserves recognition for this role as an overbearing father, force feeding a son to play out his lost dreams. Billy Bob Thornton is the head coach of the team, delivering the best locker room speech I have ever heard in a movie. This movie is in my collection, as are all of the first 3 seasons of the NBC TV series.

The state of Texas is the most-represented state in this week’s Super Bowl with  a total of 16 players from the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints hailing from the Lone star state. Most notable of these is Drew Brees, the starting at QB for the Saints.   Back in 1996, Brees lived the Friday Night Lights, leading  Westlake (Austin) to a 16-0 and being named the Texas Class 5A MVP.

Biopic:

Jim Thorpe: All American (1951)
My all-time favorite historical athlete who I never saw play live sports, was Jim Thorpe.  He was Bo Jackson before Bo Knew anything.  A professional football and baseball player, Thorpe  also won Olympic Gold Medals  in 1912. He was called the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th Century.

This movie stars Burt Lancaster (who  later played Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham in the baseball movie “Field of Dreams”). If I could pick any sports character for Hollywood to write a new epic movie about,  it would be for the story of Jim Thorpe.  A runaway of child from an Oklahoma Indian Reservation, who became the greatest athlete in history,  (and an NFL Hall of Famer)  is a story that deserves more attention. Somebody write the script for this please!

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There are so many more football movies to recommend, but like the Super Bowl, only  a select few can make it to the finals.  If you have a Facebook account,  and want to find  out which Hollywood Football movie character you would select with a first round pick for your team, try this fun quiz.