Inherit the Viper (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

Inherit The Viper

Director: Anthony Jerjen
Writer: Andrew Crabtree
Stars: Josh Hartnett, Margarita Levieva, Bruce Dern

Everyone knows the principle of the “American Dream”. The ideal image of a hard-working American who, regardless of his origin, can reach the top through hard work and commitment. “Inherit the Viper” shows the other side of the coin. A film about American citizens who experience the “American Nightmare”. They are part of agglomerations located in remote areas where poverty prevails and survival instinct is a necessity. An additional problem in recent years in the U.S. is the opioid crisis that causes an unprecedented number of victims. This widespread addiction is the Conley family’s important source of income. Apparently they inherited the business from their deceased father. Although, the storyline about what happened to him wasn’t really clear to me.

“Inherit the Viper” is primarily a crime thriller in which the Conley family, consisting of sister Josie (Margarita Levieva) and her two brothers Kip (Josh “Pearl Harbor” Hartnett) and Boots (Owen “IT” Teague), try to make ends meet by running a thriving drug-dealing business somewhere in Appalachia (especially the opioid pills OxyContin) and to sell pills to the locals massively. Even though the subject lends itself to the elaboration of a solid crime story, this film is rather a family drama in which the dynamic between the different family members is central. A family triangle with opposite character traits.

Josie is the tough little cookie from the family whose numbness has reached shocking proportions. Without hesitation, she puts a freshly sold pill back in her pocket that she finds next to the body of an addicted old woman who just died. Self-interest has more priority to her than compassion for a fellow person. Hence the explanation for a later initiative she takes and which shows how numb she is. Kip is an ex-soldier. A hardened and fearless gut-eater who knows the tricks of the trade. Yet he’s the one who would prefer to stop with the family business in order to build a safer future with his heavily pregnant girlfriend. And finally, you have Boots, the benjamin of the family. This impetuous teenager wants nothing more than to get into the family business as quickly as possible. Because this is still being put on hold by brother and especially his sister, it’s Boots who takes an initiative. Unfortunately, things are not going the way he’d hoped.

“Inherit the Viper” isn’t a masterpiece, but still it fascinates. It’s a gray, dark (literally and figuratively) portrait about despair and how to survive in a run-down and soulless corner in American society. A life without a future that requires the protagonists to make unworthy decisions. No shred of compassion is shown. It’s all about supporting the family. Although you feel the tension constantly and the Conley family is slowly but surely confronted with threatening situations (a police investigation is in progress resulting in an accusing finger pointing at them and revenge-seeking city dwellers who have lost someone thanks to the Conley’s threaten them) there are very few action-rich or criminal scenes. This is largely compensated by the interesting interactions and the realistic appearance of the film. The most colorful role is that of Bruce “The Monkey’s Paw” Dern as the obscure, critically ill bar owner where Josie deals pills. A local character who isn’t amused with the fact that corpses are piling up in his bar and whose metaphorical story actually uncovers the essence of what this film is about. And also it’s an explanation of the film title. Although I am not 100% sure about that either.

The denouement managed to surprise me in a certain way. And I was also pleased to see that Josh Hartnett hasn’t slipped off the grid. If you come across “Inherit the Viper” on a VOD service, I recommend to give it a chance. This dark film is worth a watch.

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Terminator - Dark Fate Review

Director: Tim Miller
Writers: James Cameron (story by), Charles H. Eglee (story by)
Starring Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta. 

While the world may not have needed another Terminator movie, this one cuts to the chase, so to speak, reverting back to what made the first two films undisputed classics.

Gone is most of the convoluted plot baggage that muddied Terminator Salvation and Terminator Genisys. Those films aren’t without merit, but both seemed forget what really drove Terminators 1 & 2(and even the underappreciated Terminator 3) was the thrill of the chase. We were given a crash course in time travel – just enough to accept the premise without scrutinizing it too hard – before pummeling us into submission. I haven’t met many people who cared much about the franchise’s temporal logistics anyway.

Terminator: Dark Fate ignores the last three films altogether, which is ironic since it essentially cops the “Judgment Day is inevitable” assertion of Terminator 3. Only this time it isn’t Skynet sending terminators back in time to dispatch the Connors. Now it’s a computer network called Legion and the target is Dani (Natalia Reyes), a feisty young assembly line worker in Mexico. It’s never effectively explained how Legion evolves to threaten all humankind, nor does it really matter. Once the Rev-9 terminator (Gabriel Luna) arrives in the present day, it’s up to mechanically-enhanced super-soldier Grace (Maclenzie Davis) to keep Dani alive for whatever purpose she serves in the future (revealed late in the film, though the viewer will have figured it out long before).

Of course, the big drawing card (or at-least it should have been) is the welcome return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Ever since preventing Judgment Day decades earlier, she’s been hunting terminators, though Grace has never heard of her, Skynet or John Connor (unceremoniously killed by a terminator in the very first scene). In fact, Sarah and Grace have an amusingly antagonistic relationship throughout most of the film. Still, she sees a lot of herself in Dani. Playing Sarah as a grizzled, cynical and bitter warrior, Hamilton is clearly having a lot of fun.

It just occurred to me I haven’t yet even mentioned Arnold Schwarzenegger. That’s probably because he doesn’t show up for at-least an hour, his existence & motivations are sort-of contrived and – narratively speaking – he’s the least essential character in the film. But hey, it’s not a Terminator movie without Arnold, even if he’s often regulated to being comic relief.

Like the original Terminator, there are no concurrent timelines, no altering the future to save the world. It’s all about the simplicity of the chase, with exciting action sequences and large-scale destruction (though nothing as groundbreaking as T2), relenting just long enough for occasional story or character exposition. None of it ends up being really necessary, but it sure is a lot of fun.

Primal (2019) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Director: Nick Powell
Writer: Richard Leder
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Famke Janssen, Kevin Durand

National treasure Nicholas Cage squares-off against a deadly jungle cat and a vicious assassin on-board a cargo ship. Man, I don’t see how anyone could pass that up. It’s a concept as wonderfully ridiculous as Samuel L. Jackson battling snakes on a plane. Primal doesn’t milk its premise to the campy heights of that kitschy classic, but it’s a lot more fun than the average Nick Cage Movie of the Week.

Cage plays Frank Walsh, a grizzled, grumpy game hunter who traps wild animals to sell to zoos. His latest haul includes birds, angry monkeys, poisonous snakes and – his biggest prize – a rare white jaguar. Sharing the boat ride home, however, is rogue assassin Richard Loffler (Kevin Durand), who’s been captured by U.S. forces and being returned in chains to stand trial for his crimes. Naturally, he manages to escape and frees all the animals. So now it’s man vs. man and man vs. nature, with Loffler and the cat picking off the supporting cast one by one.

Primal has less actual animal action than I hoped. Not that the conflict involving Loffler isn’t enjoyable. Durand does a decent job playing your standard over-confident bad guy, but watching nature get even is a lot more entertaining, especially in an unusual setting. Still, the beasties manage to get-in their licks here and there. Those scenes are the goofiest, therefore the liveliest, even if the CGI-rendered jaguar is laughably unconvincing.

Cage attacks his role with his inimitable brand of gusto, tongue planted firmly in-cheek, which is always enjoyable. Less vital is Famke Janssen as Ellen Taylor. She plays a Navy doctor tasked with monitoring Loffler’s health, but mostly exists to bicker with Cage and place herself in peril. The remaining cast – including Michael Imperioli – are essentially cannon fodder (or cat food).

Well made on a relatively limited budget, Primal won’t win any Oscars, but it’s hardly Razzie-worthy, either. Fast-paced and enjoyably silly, this features Nick Cage in prime any-role-to-pay-off-my-debts mode. And that isn’t always a bad thing, especially once he breaks-out his trusty blowgun.

The Professor (2018) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

 

The Professor Review

Director: Wayne Roberts
Writer: Wayne Roberts
Stars: Johnny Depp, Rosemarie DeWitt, Odessa Young

Let me start in a cheeky and derogatory tone. Let’s take Jack Sparrow, promote him to be an eloquent university professor teaching literature and tell him that he’s terminally ill. If you watch the movie “The Professor” (the original movie title was “Richard says goodbye“) with a dismissive attitude, you could utter such a statement. Well. Johnny Depp may have the tendency to use the ever-drunk pirate character. But otherwise, this entertaining tragicomedy doesn’t have much in common or many similarities with the Caribbean pirate spectacle. Even if the film is steeped with dark humour, a deeply tragic subject can still be discovered. A message about acceptance and an attitude of resignation. Though, Richard’s (Johnny Depp) way of acceptance and resignation can be called very rigorous.

Instead of a tough treatment against the proliferating ailment, Richard decides to let things carry on as they are and completely change the course of his life (the subtle Sparrow-references come to mind spontaneously). That means enjoying life to the full. In short, exploiting the saying “Carpe Diem” in an extreme way. Richard gets dead drunk continuously, smokes pot on a regular basis and ventures into unabashed free sex. In fact, with both sexes and with the approval of his wife who confessed she’s having an affair with Richard’s boss. So you can say that the bad news told by his doctor, caused a groundbreaking turn in his personal life. For the bystanders, however, it seems as if he has become completely insane.

This is without a doubt one of the most successful interpretations of Depp in years. Here this energetic actor shows he can act for sure. I fully understand that he was given this part. The rebellious character of the egocentric figure Richard fits effortlessly with a figure like Johnny Depp. Perhaps his personal private situation provided the appropriate state of mind to play this indifferent intellectualist. His sarcastic view on life produces amusing scenes. The recklessness with which he plunges into adventures, causes others to frown. As a viewer, you understand this turnaround much better. As a result, Richard finds himself in some fairly bizarre situations in which his wife Veronica (Rosemarie DeWitt), daughter Olivia (Odessa Young) and best friend Peter (Danny Huston) are involved. By the way, I didn’t think the acting performance of these last actors was that bad either. Apart from the theatrical drama of Danny Huston.

“The Professor” probably won’t appeal to a younger audience. It’s not really a movie that will make you happy. I guess it applies to all films that deal with this terrible disease. Yet “The Professor” succeeded in transforming this tragic fact into something humorous. That the end would become more emotional (you could use the expression corny as well) was of course inevitable. Serious films where you are confronted with the concepts of finiteness and death clearly does something with a person. It makes you think about the meaning of life and what you have achieved. And I agree that as I grow older my thoughts sometimes drift away into that area. After seeing this film, I think I will drastically revise my opinion and also take a “Je mon fou” attitude like Richard. So I can fully enjoy everything in the time that’s left. That seems a more pleasant way to end my earthly journey.

Gemini Man (2019) Movie Review By D.M Anderson

 

Gemini Man ReviewDirector: Ang Lee
Writers: David Benioff (screenplay), Billy Ray (screenplay)
Stars: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen

Ultimately, Gemini Man might have been partially undone by its own trailer, which spills the beans that Will Smith is a retiring government assassin forced to square-off against his younger self, an equally-skilled clone developed by his own people. But even though I think this is a dish that would have been best-served cold, it’s also a pricey, high-concept action picture and one would be hard-pressed to create any kind of promotional campaign that didn’t tease the viewer with two Will Smiths.

The problem is the way the narrative actually unfolds. Henry Brogan (Smith) is betrayed by the DIA after learning his last kill was not the terrorist he was led to believe, but a scientist working for the DIA on a black-ops project called ‘Gemini,’ headed by its nefarious director, Clay Varris (Clive Owen). Varris sends his best assassin to track-down and kill Brogan. Up to this point, Gemini Man is a watchable-but-unremarkable thriller featuring solid performances by Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the latter of whom who is a tough, resourceful DIA agent originally assigned to keep an eye on him, but ends up a target herself.

Neither learns who’s actually hunting them until well-into the second act and is obviously intended to be the story’s big revelation. But since the audience is privy to all of this from the get-go, instead of being pleasantly surprised by the sudden plot twist, we spend the first hour waiting for Brogan to figure out what we already know. The remainder of the film plays itself out in predictable fashion and is certainly watchable, but I suspect viewers going into this completely cold would have a lot more fun with it.

Elsewhere, Gemini Man works best when director Ang Lee briefly returns to his comfort zone, which is exploring the internal conflict of both Brogan and “Junior,” the latter of whom is also played by Smith through motion capture and CGI. Speaking of which, the ballyhooed “de-aging” of Smith works about as well as it has in other recent films like The Irishman and Endgame: Not entirely convincing, but less of a distraction once we acclimate ourselves. The action itself ranges from exciting to ridiculous. A close-quarters fight in the catacombs of Budapest is impressive, but a CGI-heavy motorcycle chase earlier in the film plays more like a Grand Theft Auto mission. The climax itself has our protagonists surrounded by dozens of Gemini super-soldiers, yet they’re collectively worse shots than Imperial Stormtroopers and are little more than canon fodder.

But again, Gemini Man is ultimately more of a marketing mistake than a failure as a film. The characters and performances are enjoyable and even the action is kind-of fun, like an exciting video game. However, the overall narrative is hampered by waiting so long to reveal what we already know without really expanding on such an inherently intriguing concept any further.

Parasite (2019) Movie Review By Gianni Damaia

Parasite ReviewGisaengchung (original title)

Director: Bong Joon Ho
Writers: Bong Joon Ho (story), Bong Joon Ho (screenplay)
Stars: Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo

Not only one of the best films of the year, but what likely will go down as one of the best films ever made, Parasite is my choice for number 1. I know it’s a bold claim, but if ever there was a film so perfectly conceived in the 2000’s, it’s this one. This may not be the choice you expected from the guy that gave this slot to Creed 2 last year (does that shake your faith in me? I don’t care. I love Adonis more than you, dear reader), but when a movie like this comes along it is not something to be ignored. What can I say about Parasite that hasn’t been said already.

This film is so remarkably in control that the genre changes indiscernibly from scene to scene. It is a masterclass in filmmaking. The characters are breathtakingly real. The actors are heart-wrenchingly earnest. The production design of the two primary locations allow for some of the most awe inspiring visuals ever put to screen, allowing for analysis of the subliminal implications for years to come. Parasite is a rare movie that gets better the more you pick it apart. Whether it’s discussing the themes, character motivations, or obscure journey, Parasite is the gift that continually gives more and more with each frame. Is there a flaw in it? I keep seeing it in theatres looking for one, but it constantly alludes me. I would never be so crass as to assume that a film exists flawlessly.

The collaboration involved is such a feat in itself that it renders it nearly impossible. Yet, this may in fact be that film. The one that breaks rules constantly is also the one that cannot be caught in a trap of critique. Maybe it’s heavy handed with it’s topic? But even that statement is so paper thin that it could only knock off a fraction from this being a perfect 10.. See Parasite. There’s nothing more to say. 9.9/10

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