FlixChatter Review – ARKANSAS (2020)

Directed by: Clark Duke
Written by:
Clark Duke and Andrew Boonkrong 
Cast:
Liam Hemsworth, Clark Duke, Michael Kenneth Williams,
Vivica A. Fox, John Malkovich, Vince Vaughn

Crime thriller is one of my favorite genres and I’ve seen countless films and TV shows based on the Italian mobs and drug cartels in South America. But there aren’t many films about the crime lords in the Southern States of America. Arkansas is a new film that tells the story of low-level crime syndicate in the deep south. It has the same spirit as some of Quentin Tarantino’s and The Coen Brothers’ crime films.

Just like Tarantino’s films, Arkansas breaks its story into chapters. In chapter 1, we meet two low level drug dealers named Kyle (Liam Hemsworth) and Swin (Clark Duke). They’ve been assigned by their boss named Frog (Vince Vaughn) to move drugs into a new location. On their way to their destination, they ran into a park ranger named Bright (John Malkovich) who ordered them to follow him to his home. Bright tells them that he’s actually their new boss, this is the order from their big boss Frog. Under Bright’s orders, the Kyle and Swin must do the drug dealings in the southern state areas such as Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia. While out to do their business one day, Swin met a pretty young nurse named Johanna (Eden Brolin). Kyle warns Swin to not get involved with anyone who might disrupt their rise to power in the syndicate but Swin fell for Johanna and the two became an item. After a drug deal with one of their contacts went wrong, Kyle and Swin must figure out ways to stay alive and keep Frog happy. In the next chapter, we get to see how Frog rose to become one of the biggest crime lords in the south. As anyone who’ve seen Tarantino’s films, you’ll eventually see how things will tie together and culminate in a violent ending.

Based on John Brandon‘s best-selling book of the same name, the screenplay was written by Andrew Boonkrong and Clark Duke, the latter also directed the picture. I’ve never read the novel but this is a well written screenplay and I really enjoyed the dialog from each of the characters, but I wish they didn’t try to copy too much from Tarantino’s films. There’s so much good material to be told in a new way but Boonkrong and Duke decided to structure the story that’s been done too many times before. Maybe another round of rewrite by an experienced writer could’ve made the script even better. Some of the characters needs to flesh out a bit more.

This is Duke’s debut film and I was surprised that the producers actually let him direct it. He didn’t do a bad job of directing this film, he just copied style from other more experienced and talented directors. Maybe Duke’s skills will grow as a director with more experience, but I think this one should’ve been directed by someone else. I believe that with a script this good, a more polished and experienced director could’ve elevated it to an excellent picture. This is a material meant for talented directors like David Fincher, Chan-wook Park or Bong Joon Ho.

Clark Duke with Liam Hemsworth

Performances by the actors were pretty good, I’m still not sold on Liam Hemsworth as a leading man material and unfortunately, he didn’t convince me in this film. It’s probably not fault since his character needs to be flesh out a bit more. For a lead character, we don’t really know much about him. Also, his southern accent wasn’t convincing at all. Duke wrote himself a better role and he’s more of the comic relief character and kind of sympathetic one too. Even though he has smaller screen time, Malkovich was a hoot as the small time crime boss. The most well thought out character in the film is Vaughn’s Frog, heck he’s actually the main character of the story. Vaughn gave one of his best performances here, but his southern accent needed a little work. Unfortunately, the two female characters in the film didn’t really have much to do. Johanna is an interesting character and I wanted to know more about her, but she ended up just being the love interest. Same with Vivica A. Fox’s Her, she has history with Frog and the script should’ve expanded on their relationship.

Despite by quibbles, I still think it’s a good crime thriller. If you’re a fan of QT’s or The Coen Brothers’ thrillers, then you’ll enjoy this one. I just think it could’ve been an excellent film with a more polished script and talented director behind the cameras.

3/5 stars

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

FlixChatter Review – Bad Boys For Life (2020)

The original script of Bad Boys was written for Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz, for the youngsters out there, Carvey and Lovitz were quite popular comedians back in the 80s and 90s. Surprisingly, both actors weren’t interested and with the rise of hip hop music in the 90s, the script was rewritten for then young and hip comedians, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. Producers Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson were in a time crunch, they needed to turn the script into production in just a few months or Sony was going to pull the plug on the project. Most well-known directors at the time weren’t interested in directing the film, so they decided to hire an unknown music director by the name of Michael Bay. The film opened in the spring of 1995 and it’s a big hit considering its very small budget of about $20mil. Personally, I thought the series was going to have like 6 or 7 sequels by now, but a sequel didn’t come out until 2003 and now we’re finally getting a third sequel.

As the film opens, Det. Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) became a grandfather while his partner Det. Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) still enjoy living the single life. Unbeknownst to Mike, Marcus had decided to retire from the Miami PD. He’s trying to convince Mike to settle down, get marry and have children. But Mike still considers himself the cool cop in Miami and wants to keep taking down the bad guys as long as he could. One night while out celebrating the birth of Marcus’ new grandson, Mike was gunned down by an assassin. The person behind the assassination attempt is Isabel (Kate del Castillo), wife of a deceased drug cartel leader from Mexico. She wants vengeance on those who caused her husband’s demise and Mike happens to be on top of the list. Helping Isabel taking out her enemies is her son Armando (Jacob Scipio).

Joe Pantoliano back as Captain Howard

Of course, Mike survived the attack and after spending six months in recovery, he wants revenge. Hoping his partner would be more than willing to help him track down the assassin but Markus told him he’s retired from the Miami PD and that he can’t be part of the “Bad Boys” team with Mike anymore. Now feeling betrayed and angry, Mike decided to beg his captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) to let him investigate his own assassination attempt. So Howard decided to let Mike be involve with the AMMO team that’s in charge of the case and Mike needs to follow the order of its leader Rita (Paola Núñez), as it turns out Rita and Mike were once a couple but broke up because Mike’s fear of falling in love. That’s pretty much the set-up of the story, this being a buddy cop action picture, you’ll get the usual car chases and shoot outs.

The screenplay was credited to three writers, Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan. Carnahan was actually tapped to direct the picture, he left because of the constant delays in production but still gets credited as a writer. There’s nothing really new in this sequel, instead of having Mike and Markus battling drug dealers like the previous films, this one is more personal to Mike. But the film still contains elements of the last two films. What’s kind of refreshing to me was that the story took its time before unleashing mayhem on screen. Since we’re now living in a more PC world, the gay jokes aren’t there anymore and the racist and sexist jokes have been tone down a bit. With both Smith and Lawrence are now in their 50s, the film contains more old people’s joke than other offensive ones.

I consider BAD BOYS 2 to be one of the worst films of the 2000s. It’s a loud and obnoxious film with no redeeming quality whatsoever. Basically, it’s Michael Bay’s first journey into Bayhem. So, I was glad he decided to not return and direct this one. Taking over the helm are two unknown and untested directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. While the look and style of the film is very similar to Bay’s, the two directors did tone down the flashy camera works and fast editing that Bay seems to love incorporating into his films.

Unfortunately, both Arbi and Fallah just couldn’t shoot proper action scenes. There were two big set pieces that should have been exiting but they were so badly staged and shot that the scenes looked like some film student actually shot them. Now if the film was a low budget production, then I can give it a pass, but with a reported budget of $90mil, it’s inexcusable to me. I think maybe they should’ve hired Bay just to shoot action scenes. Say what you will about the man, he does know how to set up proper action sequences and make them look exciting on the screen.

The two leads w/ supporting cast Charles Melton, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, and Paola Núñez

Performances were fine all around. Smith and Lawrence always have a good chemistry, and there are some of their scenes together in the film that made me laugh out loud. In order to attract younger audiences, young actors Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig and Charles Melton were part of the action and of course they’re there to make fun of Mike’s and Marcus’ old age.

While I wouldn’t call it the “best” in the series, this three-quel was definitely an improvement over the last film. It’s less mean-spirited and has more laughs. If you’re a fan of the series, then I think you’ll enjoy this one. It’s just a shame that the action scenes were the weakest part of the film.

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So have you seen Bad Boys For Life? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review – Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

Hollywood has pretty much given up on producing any kind of original ideas when it comes to big budget event films. Franchises are the big money makers these days and one of the franchises that never quite make the jump to the $1bil club is The Terminator series. Three high priced sequels were made after T2: Judgement Day but none of them were box office hits. Yet somehow the studio executives are willing to write big checks to make more films in the series. The latest in supposed to be a true sequel to T2 since James Cameron is officially part of the production, he came up with the story and produced this sequel.

Sarah Connor is back!

Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and her son John (Edward Furlong) has stopped Judgement Day and Skynet never happened. Unfortunately, the war between machines and humans are inevitable and a new threat has emerged. A lone warrior from the future name Grace (Mackenzie Davis) has been sent back to our time to protect our new savior named Dani (Natalia Reyes) from the new evil time travel Terminator (Gabriel Luna). With the help of Sarah and T-800/Carl (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Grace must figure a way to keep Dani alive and kill the more advanced Terminator. That’s basically the story, there’s nothing new here, if you’ve seen the previous Terminator films then you know how it goes. Lots of big chases and shootouts and machine hand to hand combats.

Arnie’s back to the role that made him a superstar

According to Cameron, we’re supposed to ignore the last three films, and this is a true sequel to Judgement Day. I didn’t care for the last three films and was curious as to what kind of story he came up with. Well as it turned out, there’s not much here that we haven’t seen before. It’s same storyline, there’s no creativity or any sort of effort in trying to create anything that resembles originality. I’m not a fan of McG’s Terminator Salvation but at least that film tried to come up with something new and move story forward to new territory. Here Cameron and his writers just rehashed the same tired storyline from the previous films and updated with new characters. It’s quite surprising how lazy script was to me.

Gabriel Luna as the evil Terminator

Director Tim Miller didn’t help much with his lackluster directing skills. He basically tried to mimic Cameron’s style and he failed on every level. The action scenes were huge but lack any excitement and I’ll say it again, it lacked creativity. Miller’s background is in art direction and design and the film looked great. But he’s not a good film director, he’s one of those Hollywood directors that can shoot beautiful shots but can’t put scenes together to make a compelling story.

Mackenzie Davis + Natalia Reyes

The only thing that saved this from being a complete disaster are the actors. It’s great seeing Linda Hamilton back as Sarah Connor and Arnold can play The Terminator role in his sleep. Just like the last film, he’s basically the comic sidekick. Mackenzie Davis is becoming one of my favorite actresses in Hollywood. She’s great here as the new action hero and she even able to deliver some corny lines with believability. I’ve never seen Natalia Reyes in anything before but she held her own against the more veteran actors. As for Gabriel Luna, well he didn’t have much to do except to look like an evil Terminator, basically he’s similar to Robert Patrick’s T-1000 in T2.

I’ve said in my review of the last film Terminator Genisys that this franchise needs to be terminated and I stand by that statement. There’s nothing new or exciting in this latest sequel and I would be happy to never see another Terminator film in the future.

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So have you seen Terminator: Dark Fate? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Hell or High Water (2016)

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When I first saw the trailer of Hell or High Water a couple of months ago, I thought for sure it’s going to be one of those late summer action films that would be shown at theaters one weekend and disappeared the next. Well as it turns out, it is one of the best reviewed films of the year, maybe the best so far. According to Rottentomatoes.com, out 134 critics who reviewed it, only 2 gave it a negative review. As of this writing, it’s currently sitting at an unbelievable 99% fresh rating on the site.

Set in West Texas, brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are bank robbers and as the film opens, we see their acts right away. They’re amateurs but desperate for money, especially Toby who wants to keep his family land from being foreclosed on by the evil banks. Texas Ranger Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his partner Parker (Gil Birmingham) are on the hunt to stop these two brothers from committing any more robberies. These four characters are the center of the picture and it’s the chess match between the brothers and Rangers that’s fun to watch. This film can be described as buddy/western/road/action/thriller, it’s quite a lot to describe a film but that’s best way to explain it to anyone.

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For a film that doesn’t have a complex plot, the actors need to carry the picture and the performances by the main leads were pretty great. Jeff Bridges gets my vote for best performance of the year so far; no doubt he’ll get nominated again comes awards season for his performance here. He pretty much reprised his role from True Grit and it’s quite fun to watch. His character is on the verge of retirement and he wants to catch these thieves so he can ride out into the sunset as a hero. His constant insults on his partner Parker is hilarious and we audience know he didn’t mean what he said.

Birmingham also stood out as the partner who has to endured Hamilton’s insults but he give as much insults back to Hamilton as well. Watching these two rangers bickers gave the picture more comedic tone than you’d expect in a film like this. Pine, who probably realized he can’t rely on the Star Trek pictures to keep him relevant in Hollywood, wisely accepts this role in a smaller film. He’s very good here as a desperate man who wants his kids to have a better life than his. He also worries about his reckless brother who only decided to rob the banks just for fun. I was never a fan of Foster but he’s effective here as the reckless brother who enjoys violence and knows that his life is over once they’re done with the robberies.

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The script by actor-turned-screenwriter Taylor Sheridan is pretty great. Even though it’s a simple story, he was able inject some dark humor, great dialogs and some surprises here and there. I do wish he’d toned down some of the hate directed at the evil banks; yeah we get it, many people suffered because of these greedy bankers. Some of the dialogs tend to get a bit too preachy for my liking, especially when Toby and Hamilton had their confrontation.

Director David Mackenzie also did a good job of setting moving the film along as a brisk pace. It’s obvious that he took inspirations from films of Sam Peckinpah and The Coen Brothers. Some even compare this film to No Country For Old Men. While I agree there are similarities, I still think the Coen Brothers’ picture is superior to this.

Even though it sounds like I love this film, I only liked it. I thought Mackenzie did a good job of bringing a great script to the big screen, I think had it been directed by a more polished directors like David Fincher or Alfonso Cuaron, this would’ve been a near perfect film. I didn’t see any originality from Mackenzie so I can’t call a great film, just a very good one. But it does have a great script and fine performances.

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So have you seen Hell or High Water? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: The Purge: Election Year (2016)

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The Purge franchise is becoming quite lucrative for Universal Studios. Produced on a relatively low budget ($10 mil for this third sequel), it tends to earn twice the amount the studio invested in. The franchise also has more room to expand its story than other franchises like Friday The 13th, Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street; mostly it relies on the concept instead of a super evil villain character. The first one was basically a home invasion thriller and didn’t really work for me. But for the sequel, the story was expanded to a citywide setting and became more of an action thriller. It also introduced a hero that we can cheer for and it worked quite well in my opinion.

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The story takes place two years after the event of the last film. Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) is back as the badass hero; he’s now the head of security for Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell). Roan is touted to be the next President of the United States and vows to put an end the Purge for good. Of course the powerful people in States who benefits greatly from the Purge don’t want that to happen so they’re planning to assassinate Roan on the Purge night. Just a few hours before the Purge was set to begin, we’re introduced to other characters including a storeowner named Joe (Mykelti Williamson), his royal employee Marcos (Joseph Soria) and friend Betty (Laney Rucker).

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As the Purge begins, Roan’s house got ambushed and it’s up to Barnes to keep her safe since some of his men betrayed him. While on the run, Barnes and Roan ran into some purgers but fortunately Joe and Marcos came to their rescue. As the story progresses, it became the usual run of the mill chase action thriller. The group swore to protect Roan from would be assassins because they all want her to be the next president and they all want the Purge to end permanently. We see the usual shootouts and the eventual hero vs villain hand to hand combat for the climax.

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The film was again written and directed by James DeMonaco, who I thought went a little overboard with the film’s obvious poke at our current political climate. Some of the messaging gets a little too preachy for my liking but when chase begins and the bullets start flying, he created a nice action thriller. Although I wish he’d stop moving the cameras so often during the quieter scenes. He’s one of these new directors who thinks that shaking the cameras during dialog scenes would make them interesting or something. Some of the action scenes he shot also needed better staging, but with limited budget, I don’t really think it’s his faults.

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Performances by the actors were very good. Grillo, who’s an underrated actor, shines again here as the hero who’ll do anything to protect his boss. He doesn’t really have much to do except kick ass and shoots people. But whenever he’s on the screen, he has my attention. Mitchell was also good as maybe the hottest political figure I’ve ever seen. Her character didn’t reduce to just another damsel in distress, but of course the story dictates that she must be rescued by the heroes at some point. The most standout performance belongs to Mykelti Williamson, he’s the everyman character and he chewed every scenes he’s in and he looks to have a great time doing it.

This was another good sequel that’s on par with the second film. If you’re a fan of the franchise then I think you’ll enjoy this one, just don’t expect anything new or surprising.

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Have you seen ‘The Purge: Election Year’? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: THE NICE GUYS (2016)

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Almost 30 years ago Shane Black made a name for himself when he wrote the buddy cop action comedy hit Lethal Weapon. He instantly became one of the most sought-after writers in Hollywood and one of the highest paid too. But when a couple of the big action films he wrote (The Last Action Hero and The Long Kiss Goodnight) tanked at the box office, his career stalled for a few years. After the big success of Iron Man 3, he’s now back on the good graces of Hollywood executives.

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Set in 1977, a private eye named Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is hired by a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) to get some goons off her back. One of the goons happens to be another private eye named Holland March (Ryan Gosling). March is sort of a multi-tasking investigator, along with stalking on Amelia; he’s also investigating the death of a porn star. This porn star’s death led the two private eyes to believe it has something to do with Amelia but before they could talk to her, she disappeared.

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With the help of March’s precocious young daughter Holly (Angourie Rice), the dual set out to find Amelia and got involved in deep conspiracy involving some powerful people. That includes Amelia’s mom Judith (Kim Basinger) and a ruthless hit man named John Boy (Matt Bomer). Those wondering about Crowe & Basinger’s reunion since L.A. Confidential, well Basinger has only got about 5 minutes of screen time here. Sadly she has become one of those actresses whose roles keep getting smaller as they get older, it’s unfortunate because she’s good actress.

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I enjoyed the script by Black and co-writer Anthony Bagarozzi, the dialog is witty. Even though the plot were kind of predictable, it’s still fun seeing things unfold as I predicted. Fans of Black’s other films such as Lethal Weapon and The Last Boys Scout will be pleased with all the f-bombs and shootouts. Black kept the tone of the film very light, though people are getting shot, beat up and every character loves to drop the f-bombs. The film definitely has the feel of a 70s flick. I also enjoy the beautiful cinematography by Philippe Rousselot, he really captured the look and feel of L.A. in the 70s.

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The performances by the two leads were quite good and their chemistry worked well together. Crowe gained some weight to play this out of shape but tough private eye. He beats and shoots people without hesitation. I wasn’t sure if Gosling can do comedy but he’s very funny as the bumbling and cowardly private eye. I’m glad they didn’t make his character into some kind of an action hero, he’s a weak man but very resourceful.

Despite my high praises, I still think it’s an average film. It’s an entertaining action comedy, just not a great one like I thought it’s going to be. If you’re fans of 70s flicks, buddy cop action comedy or the two lead actors, then I think you’ll enjoy this film.

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Have you seen ‘The Nice Guys’? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: The Invitation (2016)

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Director Karyn Kusama got the attention of Hollywood executives when she made her first film, Girlfight, it also launched the career of Michelle Rodriguez. But like many of other young filmmakers, Kusama made the mistake of accepting a big studio film for her sophomore project and the result was disastrous. Her second film Aeon Flux (starring Charlize Theron) was a huge disappointment, both financially and critically. Many thought Kusama’s career might be over after her third film, Jennifer’s Body, again failed to make a dent at the box office and were mostly hated by critics. The Brooklyn NY native decided to go back to her indie root for her fourth outing and it might be one of the more surprising thrillers I’ve seen in a while.


Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) arrived at a party being thrown by Will’s ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her boyfriend David (Michiel Huisman). At the party are also a bunch of Will’s and Eden’s friends whom they haven’t seen in over 2 years. Through flashbacks we learned that Will and Eden had a son and once were very happily married. Unfortunately they lost their son and Will doesn’t seem to have recovered from that tragic event. Eden on the other hand have accepted the loss and decided to move on. When Will arrived at the party and noticed that Eden looks different and happy, he seems to think something’s not right. He also doesn’t seem to trust David at all and as he catching up with his old friends, we audience also think something’s not right at this party. This is a kind of movie that’s hard to review because you need to go into it with little knowledge as possible.

The script by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi keeps the audience on the edge, you feel something’s off about this party and the payoff is well worth the wait. Speaking of waiting, the movie took its time by building the suspense, you’re not sure if Will’s crazy or something bad is about to happen. Kusama did a great job of building the tension and not to give anything away too early.

The performances by the actors were very good, especially Marshall-Green whose character is still haunted by a tragic event and refuse to accept the reality of it. The rest of the cast consist of actors who’ve appeared in other films in smaller roles. One standout performance to me was John Carroll Lynch’s character that showed up later in the film and made everyone at the party very uncomfortable.

This is a film that requires your patience, it’s very creepy in tone and while the payoff wasn’t anything too surprising but it’s well made. Maybe Kusama found her calling and keeps making smaller thrillers like this down the road.

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Have you seen ‘The Invitation’? Well, what did you think?