Movie Review Weekly Roundup: April 4 – April 10, 2021

Den of Thieves (2018) starring Gerard Butler.

The following is part of a weekly compilation of movie reviews from The Buzz Track staff. These movies were watched in the previous week, and the reviews were originally posted on Letterboxd.

Songbird (2020)

DIRECTOR: Adam Mason.
WRITERS: Adam Mason, Simon Boyes.
GENRES: Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 24min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★☆☆☆☆ | WATCHED: April 4, 2021.

There is a good handful of character actors who appear in this movie. I recognize many of them from their other acting gigs. However, this movie is such an overly dramatic reenactment of the COVID-related pandemic. The movie’s production was completed only a few months into the health crisis and lockdown procedures of 2020. The entire story is a laughing shame. Even the brief sex scene between Bradley Whitford and Alexandra Daddario is so absurd and horrendously terrible that I almost feel ashamed for even considered watching the movie at all. The experience of suffering through this movie is right on par with the insufferable celebrity-filled “Imagine” karaoke video that Gal Gadot hosted on her Instagram account. Unless you enjoy watching bad movies, I would suggest you avoid watching this movie. Go spend your time doing anything else more entertaining or productive.

Den of Thieves (2018)

DIRECTOR: Christian Gudegast.
WRITERS: Christian Gudegast, Paul Scheuring.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Action, Crime, Drama.
LENGTH: 2h 20min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: April 4, 2021.

For a Gerard Butler action movie, this one is entertaining and fun. Maybe it could be attributed to being a heist movie, which is a genre I usually enjoy. I think Butler might be trying to outpace Liam Neeson for appearing in a high count of action movies produced by a North American company. Den of Thieves is entertaining and decently put together. It tries to be a modern wild west story. The outlaws are townies instead of traveling rustlers, and they want to rob the local Federal Reserve branch instead of the Wells Fargo stagecoach. One of their biggest hurdles in accomplishing their plan would be the local sheriff, who is very rough around the edges and clearly flawed. I actually enjoyed the movie a bit more when viewing it as an American western rewrapped as a present-day heist movie. Even during the driving audition scene, they use a Ford Mustang as the vehicle of choice for Donnie to demonstrate his driving skills. A car with the name of a horse breed. I know it is a stretch to make the connection back to the Wild West days, but come and join me on this bit of fun. It might give you a new perspective while watching the movie.

Born a Champion (2021)

DIRECTOR: Alex Ranarivelo.
WRITERS: Sean Patrick Flanery, Alex Ranarivelo.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Action, Drama, Sport.
LENGTH: 1h 52min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★☆☆☆☆ | WATCHED: April 4, 2021.

The movie begins with a tone that reminds me of those trendy religious movies with a feel-good story, even though the main character does give off a predatory vibe early in this story when he first meets his future wife. And then the plot of the movie quickly becomes an MMA riff of the Rocky series. I mentally tuned out early on and only kept tabs on the story in a passive sense. I am sure this movie will entertain someone out there, but I am not amongst its target audience. For me, it is not even worth my time for a second viewing.

Pixie (2020)

DIRECTOR: Barnaby Thompson.
WRITERS: Preston Thompson.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Comedy, Crime, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 33min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: April 5, 2021.

I rented this movie because I noticed Olivia Cooke and Colm Meaney are in it. What is the deal with Alec Baldwin appearing as an Irish Catholic priest? It made me lose a bit of interest. The story tries to be grander than what it really is. It feels like it is trying too hard to be something extra to impress the audience with a wow factor. Pixie, the main character, does spend quite a bit of time on exposition about her life and her family’s mafia ties. It gets a bit drawn out sometimes. The two supporting characters are completely enamored with her, and it seems a bit over the top at times.

Half Brothers (2020)

DIRECTOR: Luke Greenfield.
WRITERS: Ali LeRoi, Eduardo Cisneros, Jason Shuman.
GENRES: Comedy, Drama.
LENGTH: 1h 36min.
LANGUAGE: Spanish, English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★☆☆ | WATCHED: April 10, 2021.

This movie is a dramedy. It suffers from a failure in blending the tone of a drama and a comedy. When Evaristo interacts with his dad, the approach is serious in nature. Then whenever his half-brother appears, it takes a sudden comedic turn. It feels like an abrupt change in almost every occurrence. I would prefer if the story remains focused on Evaristo and his dad’s relationship for the entire movie. Omit the comedy aspect and the story arc with the half-brother. It would have been an improvement. The comedy shtick with the brother was satirically obnoxious. He only exists for the sole purpose of advancing the story along to the next plot point and provide a laugh or two as well. Also, is this movie a plot rehash of the concept from the 2015 German comedy movie Halbe Brüder? The catalyst for their stories is very similar. I have only seen the 2020 version, so I cannot offer a complete and thorough comparison between the two movies.

Random Acts of Violence (2019)

DIRECTOR: Jay Baruchel.
WRITERS: Jay Baruchel, Jesse Chabot, Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti.
MPAA RATING: Unrated – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Drama, Horror, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 20min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★★☆ | WATCHED: April 10, 2021.

Yes, the movie lives up to its name. It contains several acts of violence. But it is expected of the audience to presume the acts are random. It is about a comic book writer who struggles with creating a good ending for his long-tenured horror series. As he embarks on a road trip with his friends and acquaintances to attend a comic book convention, they experience a horrific interaction with a serial killer. The villain horrendously recreates several notable moments from the writer’s comic books. The script takes its inspiration from an actual comic book created by industry veterans Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, who might harbor similar fears the main character has in this story. I found the movie to be more tolerable and enjoyable than I anticipated going into the initial viewing. I love the visual style with the integration between the live-action sequences intermixed with the hand-drawn animation. I believe it is worth a second viewing, for sure.

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