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Dragged Across Concrete review : Gibson is back!

Will have Gibson’s fans demanding a new “Lethal Weapon” film immediately

Caffeinated Clint

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Director:

S.Craig Zahler

Cast:

Jennifer Carpenter, Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Laurie Holden, Michael Jai White, Jennifer Carpenter, Don Johnson, Tory Kittles, Thomas Kretschmann, Jordyn Ashley Olson, Udo Kier, Fred Melamed

Run time:

158 mins

Rating:

Some filmmakers are quite content keeping the dial set at an effective but unwavering 1 or 2, but S.Craig Zahler doesn’t believe in cranking anything into gear that isn’t turned all the way up.
Like his precious two films (“Bone Tomahawk”, “Brawl in Cell Block H”), it’s not easy to cool after Zahler’s newest.

“Dragged Across Concrete” is the type of sweat-inducing, white-knuckle chin-drooper that not even the securest of celluloid split air systems can quench. This thing clams up the skin, dries up the throat and jettisons the heart rate … and by golly, you’ll love it for it.

Gibson and Vaughan play overzealous cops – the former, the more grizzled and senior – who got suspended from the force due to what they see as an absurd leak from the “entertainment media” or “news”.

In order to get the compensation they feel they deserve, Ridgeman – whose wife has MS and daughter has been assaulted numerous times in their rough neighborhood – and Lurasetti decide to snatch the loot from a ruthless mobster and his team of bank-robbers.

With heart-stopping story drifts, shockingly realistic violence and ticker-pausing suspense, “Dragged Across Concrete” is a film that even the most detached and pessimistic of film-fan will be swept up in.

With so many of today’s action-thrillers spoonfeeding their audience like a tot midway through an episode of “Sesame Street”, it’s refreshing to see a movie that asks the audiences to connect the dots, lets actions speak more often than words, and doesn’t succumb to the projected, habitual Hollywood-style ending.

This is also a film where nothing – and no one – is black and white. While not nearly as nasty as the sadistic villains of the piece, Gibson and Vaughn’s coppers also aren’t Boy Scouts. Constantly cutting corners, not necessarily looking out for the greater good and too anxious and concerned with their own concerns to be role models to a city (or, in Gibson’s case, a daughter), these are two men out to look out for themselves.

Acting-wise, there’s no undercooked spots in the dish. Gibson, in particular, is pitch-perfect for the role of the bushed, over-it cop who, at times, resembles a forlorn Harry Callahan and at other times, an older, less chirpy take on (his “Lethal Weapon” character) Martin Riggs. Just seeing Gibson back, firing on all cylinders, both performance-wise and in a physical sense, will have fans demanding a new “Lethal Weapon” film immediately. He’s still got it – he just hasn’t been in anything this good in a while, so it’s been hard to know.

Vaughn, as the ‘straight’ sidekick, is conventionally good too — but particularly so in his chatty scenes with Gibson, of which there are some absolute corkers.

The supporting cast – which includes Don Johnson, Jennifer Carpenter and Michael Jai White – are all doing fine work here, but they’ve far less scene numbers to impress than the anchors.

Zahler seems to be taking his cue from some of the gritty, unapologetic pot boilers of the ‘70s – even, Walter Hill’s ‘90s looter-thriller “Trespass” – and the wave of crime novels that preceded them. There are big, long chunks of dialogue about nothing that would normally work better in a paperback than they would on film, and there’s grotesque blood-splattering kills that you’d normally only get in on Eli Roth retrospective reel, but with Zahler’s smart and unpredictable screenplay and carefully played performances by the leads, the nontraditional elements blend into the world of “Dragged Across Concrete” effortlessly.

Film Reviews

Penguins review : a film the whole family can enjoy

All together now: awwwwwww

Mike Smith

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I don’t know what it is about penguins that make them so damn cute! Is it the way they walk? The fun they obviously have when they slide across the frozen tundra of the Arctic? The excessive fuzziness of their young? I really don’t know but I’m pretty sure they could do an all-penguin remake of THE EXORCIST, complete with projectile vomiting and self-gratification with a crucifix and people would go “awwwww.” Which is exactly the sound I made many times during a recent screening of “Penguins.”

Steve is an Adelie penguin looking for love. He and the other males in his colony are on a trek to find a mate. But the road to love isn’t easy. Especially when your pals are stealing parts of your nest in order to attract that special gal. And what are you supposed to do when you finally meet her?

A beautifully shot (over an almost three year period) film that manages to be both heart-warming and thrilling, “Penguins” gives the audience the “birds-eye” view of life in Antarctica. And it’s a pretty chilly one. Whether it’s having to walk miles upon miles to find food or teaching your chicks how to play dead when a leopard seal tries to eat them, it’s a hard knock life. Yet, it’s also one full of love and adventure.

Like “March of the Penguins” before it, “Penguins” is a film the entire family can enjoy. Kids will love it for the penguins’ parents for the story. Nature is on full display in this film and it’s one I highly recommend.

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Film Reviews

The Curse of the Weeping Woman review : fails to add any value to the Conjuring universe

Falls short of a decent horror

K.T Simpson

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“The Curse of the Weeping Woman”, known as “The Curse of La Llorona” in other markets, adds to the “Conjuring” franchise by introducing a new horrific entity for us to have nightmares over. In a world full of horror films, it’s becoming more and more rare for any film to stand out as an original addition, so let’s delve into “Weeping Woman” to see if it’s worth seeing…

“The Curse of the Weeping Woman” begins with social worker Anna Garcia (Linda Cardellini) confronting a trouble mother who has seemingly been abusing her two young boys. As she gets taken away from her children, the woman pleads that there is more to her story, and blames the ghost of La Llorona – otherwise known as the Weeping Woman – for hurting her children. Unfortunately for Anna, La Llorona targets her children next, and will stop at nothing to take them away.

As Anna digs deeper, she discovers the history of the Weeping Woman in an effort to defeat her and get back to normal life, saving her kids in the process. Anna seeks help from a local priest, Father Perez (Tony Amendola from “Annabelle” – and practically the only tie to the “Conjuring” universe) who has had history dealing with demonic entities, such as that seen in the Annabelle doll.

As a standalone horror flick, “The Curse of the Weeping Woman” would be your typical teen-scarefest, and if you like a good jump scare then you’re in the right place. Where it fails is adding anything of value to the “Conjuring” universe. Its attempt at linking it back is by referencing a few key things from the franchise, but unfortunately it feels like a late script change to give it a reason to be released theatrically. Ultimately, James Wan producing a film within the “Conjuring” universe without directing reeks a lot like INXS without Michael Hutchence – the beats remain the same but there’s nothing that stands out, it merely goes through the motions of your stock-standard horror flick.

Furthermore, “The Curse of the Weeping Woman” is choc-a-block full of horror cliches – furniture flying across the room, doors opening and slamming shut, spirits suddenly appearing in people’s faces and said people being dragged across the room. Not to mention possession and nearly drowning in the bath. Absolutely nothing about this film is an original concept and that’s where it really fails to be any kind of memorable.

As the film nears its climax, it becomes unnecessarily complex as they attempt to defeat the corpse bride – or La Llorona as she’s called. As with any possessed house/person flick, things ramp up very quickly, but the elements involved with facing the spirit head-on are largely complicated, to a degree that just leaves audiences scratching their heads. As a result, the film goes from mildly frightening to just plain boring, as we wait for the end. Referring to the aforementioned clichés, the back third of “Weeping Woman” throws them all into a single scene – which is why it gets so weirdly complicated.

Michael Chaves directs “Weeping Woman”, and in terms of directing style definitely has a unique take. A lot of the frights come from first-person camera view, engaging the audience as if they too were living this nightmare. Chaves is also set to direct “The Conjuring 3”, due out in 2020, so it will be interesting to see how he ties the film in to both this one and the rest of the “Conjuring” franchise.

Look, overall “The Curse of the Weeping Woman” isn’t great. It’s a weird film to shove into “Conjuring” folklore, when it probably would be more successful as a straight-to-VOD teen horror for those looking for just another mindless demonic possession film.

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Film Reviews

Mary Magdalene review : boasts a lot of stillness, dignity and beauty

Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix star in Garth Davis film Mary Magdalene. Check out Drew’s review!

Drew Turney

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A couple of reviews called this movie dusty, stuffy and even boring – too genteel to really throw any philosophical cats amongst the pigeons of how history views “Mary Magdalene”.

You can see where the criticisms were coming but they’re a little unfair. You might find yourself responding more to it like you would a painting. It has a real fabric to it – the sand and rough, scratchy surfaces the clothes were made from quite tactile – and a lot of stillness, dignity and beauty. I think it might say more about today’s movie audiences weaned on the teat of comic book movies, video games and switching between apps at the first sign of disengagement than any real fault in the movie itself.

Or maybe movies have just trained us to expect what Pauline Kael once described with the phrase ‘kiss kiss, bang bang’ – movement, high passion and ferocity. “Mary Magdalene” has none of that, just thoughtful introspection and a kind of drifting lilt. Just the kind of thing people seemed to hate about Terrence Malick’s last few movies, in fact, but “Mary Magdalene” director Garth Davis doesn’t sacrifice plot for all that stuff to the extent Malick has lately.

The story is about the young Mary (Rooney Mara) going about her life in the fields and fishing grounds, railing so gently against the strictures of first century Judaean society to get married it barely elicits more than a raised eyebrow.

She’s aware of the prophet that’s emerged in the area claiming to be the embodiment of God on Earth and when she meets him and hears him speak, sets about becoming one of his followers to help share his message of peace and acceptance.

And that’s really it. Her fellow disciples receive her into their ranks to varying degrees of acceptance, making the film the feminist tract Mara promised while promoting it. In doing so it also tries to address what director Garth Davis and writers Helen Edmundson and Phillippa Goslet consider a historical inaccuracy, that the other disciples’ rejection of Mary because of her gender was conflated throughout history so much some Middle Ages Pope simply decided she was a prostitute.

But as this movie rightly points out (according to the New Testament history), she was the only witness among Jesus’ disciples to witness his crucifixion, burial and resurrection, so she seemed to have a special place among them.

And Jesus himself (Joaquin Phoenix, in one of the roles he seemed born to play) seems similarly aware of how special Mary is, affording her extra privilege to his ideas and sharing seemingly more of a personal bond than with the other disciples. Phoenix plays the role like Mara plays Mary and the film itself unfurls – with a mood many will see as ineffectual, impenetrable and obscured but which is actually gentle, loving and peaceful.

Where Mel Gibson wanted to show the blood and brutality of this story and era in “The Passion of the Christ”, Davis is more interested in the soft-focus, muted sense of grace and contemplation. Go into it with that spirit and there’s a lot to like.

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