Ever After: A Cinderella Story
Director: Andy Tennant
Writers: Susannah Grant, Andy Tennant, Rich Parks, Charles Perrault
Staring: Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston, Dougray Scott
Release Date: 1998
My girlfriend wanted to watch Ever After and who am I to say no to watching a movie. The revolves around the Cinderella story everyone knows about. What makes this near turn of the century version different is that it takes out the fairy tale aspects and grounds the fantastical into at least some realistic footing. Drew Barrymore stars of Danielle, the “Cinderella” of the story. Her suitor is Prince Harry, played by Dougray Scott.
Ever After: A Cinderella Story is a perfectly adequate movie. I know, riveting stuff to read here. But in all seriousness, Ever After hits all the notes of a classic romantic comedy and the Cinderella story most know about. The highs, lows, close calls and happy endings are all there. The family friendly movie also has the side characters that make a movie like Ever After rise above the like for forgettability.
In terms of the side characters, none are better than Jacqueline, played by Melanie Lynskey. She has the best one-liners when arguing with her sister Marguerite (Megan Dodds) and Rodmilla (Anjelica Huston). Lynskey makes Jacqueline the most personable and enjoyable experience of the adventure.
Ever After: A Cinderella Story has not aged…the best. The fashion (as pointed out by my girlfriend) is strictly a blend between the medieval setting and the release date’s fashion. The roughest part of the movie takes place on the acting side.
Dougray Scott is not a great Prince Harry. He is not a great prince charming. He does not play the part with the same whimsical nature of Barrymore or Huston. His earnestness seemed forced. The chemistry between Barrymore and Scott did not work. It’s struggle luckily was not enough to bring the entire movie down.
Stanko Rating: C+ (2.5/5 Stars)
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Writers: Paul W.S. Anderson, Kanama Fujioka
Staring: Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa, Ron Perlman
Streaming: Fandango Rental
Release Date: December 18, 2020
THIS MOVIE STINKS! Goodness gracious, me-oh-my, there is really nothing redeemable about Monster Hunter. The lone positive is nothing about the movie, but the fact that Paul W.S. Anderson is still somehow cashing ridiculous checks for very below par movies.
Artemis (Milla Jovovich) plays the part of the a hard-nosed solider who is transported to a mysterious world where monsters reign supreme. She must battle the hordes of evil while garnering the trust of new friends in a video game tale as old as time.
Some critics have said that Monster Hunter is self aware to what it is, but I personally struggle to see that. Everything about this story and movie has been done before. Very few original thoughts or shots. Also classic Paul W.S. Anderson slo-mo everywhere.
This is just going to turn into an examination of Anderson’s career. He is a video game adapter without a doubt. We’ve got Mortal Kombat (1995) and Resident Evil (2002); both of which are bad but in an enjoyable way. Then we have him taking the IP for Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Death Race (2008); again both okay in their own right. However, there are a LOADS of clunkers.
Also question here, is Event Horizon (1997) the lone original screenplay he directed and is that coincidently his best regarded movie?
Stanko Rating: F+ (1.0/5 Stars)
Sons Of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness
Director: Joshua Zeman
Release Date: 2021
A mini-series on a serial killer? I will watch it, even it is not fully up to snuff. What makes Sons Of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness a bit unique is that the story does not follow the killer (or possibly multiple…?), rather it follows Maury Terry.
Terry was an investigative journalist who became obsessed with the Son of Sam case. He persistency was rooted in the fact that he believed there were multiple people involved with the killing spree in New York City. Terry believed there were satanic cults rooted everywhere across the country.
I can understand how viewers who went into Sons Of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness expecting a deep dive into the crimes would be disappointed at this four-part series. However, in my opinion, the focus on Terry and his view of things and eventual tragedy of his life brings this documentary over the Mendoza line. It adds something different to the viewing and provides a bit of complexity to what would be a “generic” cop gotcha story.
Stanko Rating: B- (3.0/5 Stars)
Director: Pierre Morel
Writers: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Staring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen
Streaming: Amazon Rental
Release Date: January 30, 2009
I mean, Taken rocks. If you don’t think so, then you can politely get the hell out.
Getting to watch this with my girlfriend (who had never seen it before), was a great experience. Her best observation is that Bryan Mills’ (Liam Neeson) best move is the karate chop to the neck. No joke, he must do it at last half a dozen times. Just non-stop HI-YA!
Somehow Taken stands the test of time. Maybe it is how fast it moves, or maybe it’s the downright great performance from Neeson. Is it how it was a hit after nobody really expected it? Did the horrendous sequels help people remember how good this original was?
While watching Taken this time around, I couldn’t help but think how the movie universe might be different if this franchise took the John Wick road with successful sequels? Neeson was in five movies in 2020 after Taken and he did have a bit of a quality streak in the early parts of the 2010s.
The last two Neeson movies I have seen that I have positive memories of is Widows (2018) and Cold Pursuit (2019).
With that being said, I will have nothing but fond memories of Taken.
Stanko Rating: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)
Director: April Mullen
Writers: Tim Doiron
Staring: Aaron Eckhart, Tommy Lee Jones, Katheryn Winnick
Streaming: Amazon Prime
Release Date: December 4, 2020
This movie is a missed opportunity. Aaron Eckhart gives his best work that I have seen since The Dark Knight (2008) (I will admit to not seeing a lot of Eckhart…), but the performance is wasted on a script that is unevenly paced and unsure of what it wants to be.
Arthuer Bretnick (Aaron Eckhart) and Jimmy Cleats (Tommy Lee Jones) are conspiracy theory pals. Bretnick has haunted by some trauma in his past, and naturally as he is hired to do some private investigation work, Bretnick must delve back into his past demons and try and connect many interwoven webs.
The destitute western landscape of Wander is one of the best aspects of the movie. It helps with the classic “trust no one” mantra that was prevalent among the reluctant heroes of the old western movies. Part of what April Mullen is trying to do is make it so the audience doesn’t trust Bretnick as the protagonist. With episode of blackouts or bleary flashbacks, Bretnick is supposed to be a mentally conflicted individual.
The attempt by writer Doiron and Mullen is understandable, but it is not executed well. It makes the twists and turns at the end not as impactful because you are left confused due to the poor attempt at generating confusion earlier. It is an effort where simplicity would have been better than going M. Night Shyamalan.
Can’t end this without saying that Jimmy Cleats is a really freaking awesome name.
Stanko Rating: D (1.5/5 Stars)
Wrath Of Man
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writers: Guy Ritchie, Éric Besnard, Nicolas Boukhrief, Marn Davies, Ivan Atkinson
Staring: Jason Statham, Holt McCallany, Josh Hartnett, Scott Eastwood
Release Date: May 7, 2021
GUYS. I WENT TO THE MOVIES. AND IT WAS AWESOME!
For the first time since February, 2020, I walked into a cinema, purchased tickets and snacks, and sat in my favorite place on earth. It was magical.
Wrath Of Man is a classic action revenge story but with a tinge of Guy Ritchie’s pizzaz. There are witty barbs and a lots of violence interwoven in this predictable but all-be-it entertaining experience. Jason Statham stars as “H”, a mysterious man hell-bent on a mission that is not known to all. As the four parts of the movie unfold, the motivation of H and purpose of the story all come into view.
Wrath Of Man struggles to find its footing. The opening 20 minutes is sloppy compared to the rest of the adventure. The audience does not have all the answers and is meant to be confused as to what is happening; but that disassociation is not compensated with strong filmmaking.
The script of Wrath Of Man also struggles most at the start of the movie. There is a locker room scene where the dialogue is truly tedious and cringeworthy. My girlfriend was laughing and saying “is it going to stay this bad?”
Luckily the movie did improve. Wrath Of Man really picks up when H can reveal his skills and we begin to get a sense of what he is capable of. The secrets that are being kept are starting to become unwoven…with a hail of bullets.
Statham is absolutely stone cold as H. Honestly perfectly casting for the role. The dialogue is minimal and half the time is just grunts and glares. His job is to be intimidating and kick-ass, both things that Statham does incredibly well. What may shock you as the next best casting job is Scott Eastwood as Jan. The handsome devil is sucking in the screen every time he is shown on the screen.
People will recognize a lot of people from Wrath Of Man. Holt McCallany of Mindhunter fame plays Bullet, and even Andy Garcia makes a few appearances. Throw in Josh Hartnett and Jeffery Donovan too. The best getup of the movie belongs to Sticky John, played by Alex Ferns. The drastic combover and truly unique look makes his few conversations with H well above par.
The ending of Wrath Of Man has a lot in common with John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum. The bad guys have massive body armor on that makes them nearly indestructible and the hero must somehow survive the ordeal. Everyone will agree that Wick handles the show of it better, but still the conclusion of Wrath Of Man puts a nice bow (all-be-it a small one) on the story.
Some may ask how how H gets to the final setting of the movie, but I do give credit to the writers for creating a bit of breathing room. They call him “The Dark Spirit”, and if you want to play at that game, a spirit can arise anywhere it’s calling persists.
Overall Wrath Of Man is fine action movie that has a strong leading performance but is lacking on the exterior. The side characters don’t have the same charisma as past Guy Ritchie movie. The dialogue is not as fluid and quick as some would expect. Essentially, this is not an action-comedy but more and an action-drama, which is a bit outside of what Ritchie excels in. Wrath Of Man has moments, but lacks the gusto to raise it above a one-time viewing.
Stanko Rating: C (2.5/5 Stars)
Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?
Director: Mike Nichols
Writers: Ernest Lehman, Edward Albee
Staring: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal, Sandy Dennis
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: June 22, 1966
I get why this one is called a classic. Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? is filled with enough poison, spite and malice to take down a hoard of rabid elephants. While George (Richard Burton) and Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) say they love to have fun playing games, nothing is further from the truth. The pair of actors give a two all-time performances and match each other blow for blow.
The bitter married couple envelope the young couple of Nick (George Segal) and Honey (Sandy Dennis) in their bitter battle when they invite them into their home for a night cap. The four partners of chaos switch conversation parties as if their line dancing, but every step is like trying to balance on a beam over a pit of snapping piranhas who feed on your insecurities. In particular, George absolutely undresses Nick on numerous occasions and fames to accept defeat in certain arguments.
While the disdain was simmering from the start, the lid popped off when Martha told Honey of her and George’s son. A son, that does not exist. An imaginary son that acting like a levee to keep the facade of a functioning marriage afloat. When Martha told Honey of this son, she broke a major rule. She crossed the ideal into the reality, and that lid can’t be put on that jar. George, in a rage fueled tirade, finally shows the audience why his wife breaking that rule is so detrimental. He creates a story that ends up with the son being dead, and Martha starts to break down saying how George can’t do that. The end of their imaginary happiness is ended with the death of their imaginary son. The final sequence of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? has the pair trying to understand how they are going to continue, but do we know if that is possible?
I wish I was formally trained in understanding the acting that went into the performances of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, but all I can say is that they are unbelievably good. Like downright fantastic. Their chemistry together is remarkable. Their characters treat each other like complete garbage, but it’s a train wreck you can not look away from.
Everyone go and see Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?. You will feel better about yourself and you’ll be in awe of what good acting and a good screenplay can make you feel.
Stanko Rating: A (5.0/5 Stars)