Movie Review Weekly Roundup: April 4-10, 2021

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.
MPAA RATING: PG-13
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.
MPAA RATING: PG-13
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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Movie Review Weekly Roundup: March 28 – April 3, 2021

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.


SAS: Red Notice (2021)

DIRECTOR: Magnus Martens.
WRITERS: Laurence Malkin (script), Andy McNab (book).
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Action.
LENGTH: 2h 3min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★☆☆ | WATCHED: March 28, 2021.

For an action flick that went straight to a home video release, it is surprising how much I like this movie. It features a few notable actors that I like seeing, such as Andy Serkis, Hanna John-Kamen, and Tom Wilkinson. It also features Ruby Rose in a supporting role, and I see she continues to star in action-centric stories. This movie is a definite improvement in comparison to a couple of Rose’s other recent action movies. It felt like a British variation of The Taking of Pelham 123 with a bit of international espionage mixed in with its story. It is good enough for a second and possibly even a third viewing.


Jungleland (2019)

DIRECTOR: Max Winkler.
WRITERS: Theodore Bressman, David Branson Smith, Max Winkler.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Drama.
LENGTH: 1h 30min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: April 2, 2021.

The story is okay. And the personality of each character feels a bit familiar like I have seen them in other movies before. Stanley is the brother who acts like a sports manager and part-time bookie but is void of the possibility of seeing too far beyond fulfilling his own selfishness. He comes across as a hypocritical butthole who loves laying down the law for his brother but always comes across as a strike away from self-implosion. Walter has the potential for being a decent athlete but shows no real direction and motivation to stand on his own two feet without any interference or control from his brother. They are forced to serve as a surrogate chauffeur for a young wayward woman named Sky. She arrives as part of a deal with Stanley’s misstepped decision in not repaying his debt in full to a crooked loan shark. Getting fully invested in the lives of the characters is a bit of a struggle for me. Walter is the only one I have empathy for in the story. But the feeling is drowned away by the chaotic actions of the other two main characters.


True History of the Kelly Gang (2019)

DIRECTOR: Justin Kurzel.
WRITERS: Shaun Grant, Peter Carey.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Biography, Crime, Drama.
LENGTH: 2h 4min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★☆☆ | WATCHED: April 3, 2021.

The movie’s title should be The Restless Soul of Ned Kelly. The current title sounds like a brief and boring textbook written for young readers. Watching the story unfold is a whole different level of experience than the name would suggest. The entire plot centers around the life of Australia’s notorious outlaw; the viewer, such as myself, wonders about its insinuation of Kelly’s personal identity, sexuality, and ever-growing desire for controlling power. It is like he does not feel comfortable or at ease with himself. Overall, the movie is decent, although not perfect. And it hits upon some of the usual beats for the “inspired by true events” adaptation genre.


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Movie Review Weekly Roundup: March 21-27, 2021

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.


Midsommar (2019)

DIRECTOR: Ari Aster.
WRITERS: Ari Aster.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Drama, Horror, Mystery.
LENGTH: 2h 28min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: March 21, 2021.

I want to love this movie. I wish I could like it. But I could not fall in love with any of the characters nor with their stories. Most all of the main characters, except for Dani and Josh, are hallow shells of humanity. Dani’s story arc is a sad trip into a psychological meltdown. Her boyfriend, Christian, is completely shallow. He is an endless supply of narcissism and selfishness and holds very little interest in other people. His college buddy Josh was the only other character to have a well-rounded personality. But Josh suffers at the hands of being a plot point to move the story along. I was coming into my initial viewing of this movie after seeing Ari Aster’s previous film, which I enjoyed. I had high expectations for this one, but it seems they were placed too high.


Don’t Tell a Soul (2020)

DIRECTOR: Alex McAulay.
WRITERS: Alex McAulay.
MPAA RATING: R
GENRES: Drama, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 23min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★★☆☆ | WATCHED: March 22, 2021.

Here we see how Stranger Things is introduced to The Office. The movie is better than I would expect going in at first. But I doubt it will make it to my top favorite list of movies for this year. I thought it was well-acted for such a mediocre story. Nothing else special really stands out to me while I was watching it. However, I find it rather depressing to see Mena Suvari look so withered, aged, and sickly for the role as she is close to my own age. Almost like I took her character’s haggard appearance so personally.


Promising Young Woman (2020)

DIRECTOR: Emerald Fennell.
WRITERS: Emerald Fennell.
MPAA RATING: R – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Crime, Drama, Thriller.
LENGTH: 1h 53min.
LANGUAGE: English.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: March 27, 2021.

Sigh. This movie is a mixed bag of ups and downs for me. The upside is how I can understand and empathize with the emotional trauma the main character experienced in her past, which serves as the motivation for her story. The downside that I struggled with the most is the plot. The execution of her plan for revenge falls into place so perfectly. Everything falls into place at the right time. There is only one “hiccup” within the story attempting to throw the audience off track and make them believe her plan has a flaw. It is the scene with her and the random stranger wearing the fedora hat. Oh, no! She is “caught” in the act! Her plan of revenge is in ruins! Nope, it really is not. It is just a moment of distraction. Ultimately, I believe the intention of a perfectly designed plot ruins the believability of the character’s motivation. Therefore, I am walking away from this movie with the belief it is just a missed opportunity to reel me in as a true believer in its story.


Crazy Samurai Musashi (2020)

DIRECTOR: Yûji Shimomura.
WRITERS: Atsuki Tomori.
MPAA RATING: Unrated – Viewer discretion is advised.
GENRES: Action.
LENGTH: 1h 32min.
LANGUAGE: Japanese.
WHERE TO RENT: JustWatch or Prime Video.
★★☆☆☆ | WATCHED: March 27, 2021.

The entire movie is basically samurai larping. The production concept feels like a marketing scheme to rake in the money at the box office. The premise of the story is about one man battling hundreds of fighters during one continuous camera shot. There are a few other single-take movies that are way more worthy of your time. For example, Russian Ark (2002) and Timecode (2000) immediately come to my mind. Find a copy of those two movies to watch immediately.


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