ABC Film Challenge – G – The Good, The Bad and The Dead (2015)

Director: Timothy Woodward Jr

Writer: Sean Ryan (Screenplay)

Starring: Johnny Messner, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Vivica A Fox, Michael Pare, Natassia Malthe, John Laughlin

 

Plot: Brian Barnes (Johnny Messner) wakes up in the desert wounded and with no memory and no idea why he’s surrounded by eight bodies, a van with four million in cash and a van full of cocaine. Brian is pursued by not only notorious drug lord Danny Perez (Danny Trejo) who desperately want his money back, and DEA Agent Rooker (Dolph Lundgren), but also a by the corrupt Sheriff Olson (Michael Pare) who will stop at nothing to get his hand on the new found fortune. On the run, Brian discovers the more he remembers the less he wants to know about who he really is.


Tagline – Who can you trust?

Runtime: 1 Hour 24 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Over Populated Action Film

 

Story: The Good, the Bad and the Dead starts as the outlaw (Messner) wakes after a drug deal goes bad, corrupt sheriffs try to claim his prize which brings in the Enforcer Bob Rooker (Lundgren) to do the work for the Suit Imani Cole (Fox) who has been trying to stop the drug deals coming across the borders. When the drug lord Mateo Perez (Trejo) wants his drugs back, it becomes a race against time to see who ends up with the drugs, money and lives.

The race to solve the case and close the case brings us many twists which leave Outlaw Brian needing to face the facts about who he really is and what he was doing at the crime scene.

 

Thoughts on The Good, the Bad and the Dead

 

Characters – Brian Barns is the outlaw, he is left shot in a drug deal gone bad, he has no memory which leads him to need to go on a journey to first learn who he is and later how to escape. Bob Rooker is the DEA Agent tracking down the events of the shootout, he is following clues while staying on the right side of the law. Mateo Perez is the drug lord that is wants to track down who killed his son and took his money. Imani Cole is the suit trying to put the pieces together with her team. Most of the characters we meet don’t get enough development and we keep getting more characters added to complicate things.

PerformancesThe performances are affected by the pure number of characters we are dealing with, nobody gets a chance to stand out or is given enough screen time to be effective for the film.

StoryThe story does try to bring us a story that has plenty of interweaving arcs, which the film doesn’t get enough time to get flushed out and then we try to make every single character seem like they are the most important character to the story. The story does try to stay fast paced which doesn’t help either because we do get a lot of scenes which involve talking and just shooting or planning which takes a lot away from the final outcome of the story.

Action/WesternThe action is by the book shooting which never feels challenging to watch and leaves you not caring too much.

SettingsThe film doesn’t use the settings well enough for the film making none of them having any memorable scenes.

Special EffectsThe effects are fine when it comes to the wounds, but otherwise it will not become anything memorable.


Scene of the Movie –
The opening sequences works well.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Too many characters and twists.

Final ThoughtsThis is an overly complicated and populated movie that brings in too many characters to make the twists happening.

 

Overall: Too busy.

Rating

 

 

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Jason’s Letter (2018)

Director: Terrance Tykeem

Writer: Terrance Tykeem (Screenplay)

Starring: Vivica A Fox, Michael Pare, Robert LaSardo, Quinton Aaron, Joseph R Gannascoli, Claude Jordan, Jamol Manigault

 

Plot: This powerful film addresses the unarmed police shooting in America thru the eye’s of 2-young boys, one of whom had to give his life in order for change to even be considered.


Tagline – This is a film that will do more than any other before it to humanize young black boys, while shining a bright light on an on going problem in America.

Runtime: 1 Hour 32 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Brave Message

 

Story: Jason’s Letter starts as we head to a city in Delaware, the city has been having an ever-increasing number of black men and children being killed by the cops, the latest killing has bought City Hall to look for a solution, Sammi Brooks (Fox) is part of a city meeting, which has teenager Jason McKey (Manigault) has come up with a letter which he believes could end the killing problem.

As the Principal of the school is trying to figure out how to control the bad behaviour by bringing the parents into detention to see how their children act, we get to see how the white cops treat the black residents and how one council meeting is looking to bring a stop to the problems in the neighbourhood.

 

Thoughts on Jason’s Letter

 

Characters – Jason McKey is the teenager that has seen his friends killed by the police and has come up with a letter/petition to hopefully bring an end to the heartache families would be feeling, his vision could bring a change to the way the country is run and his innocent views reflect the culture that won’t be budged. Sammi Brooks works in city hall, she has been working on the problems, she is the connection that will get Jason to speak to the council. We get to meet a lot of characters in this film, parents of victims, council members and we get the generic push against the white police.

PerformancesJamol Manigault is good in the leading role of the film, he keeps the vision his character wants to feel innocent like we needed it to be. Vivica A Fox is the biggest name of the film at gets to give a good performance in the role. We do have good performances throughout the film, through the many different performers.

StoryThis story looks to find a solution for the police brutality being used on the black people in America focusing on the most innocent victims, the children. We follow the town who have been searching for a solution, which one of their own children might have come to a big, ambitious solution too. This is also one of the hardest stories to discuss without getting political, this does have the big message that needs to be addressed, the idea is big, but there are clearly certain points that paint people in one light only. The only issues with the story that should have been addressed is that not all white police officers are bad.

SettingsThe film is set in a minority black, Hispanic and Asian neighbourhood almost running in fear of the number of deaths in the neighbourhood.


Scene of the Movie –
The Letter Reading.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It does have a brave message, though one sided.

Final ThoughtsThis is a film is a big important message about a real problem going on in America, it does show a solution which could realistically work too.

 

Overall: Important and brave message.

Rating

 

 

Gangster Land (2017)

Director: Timothy Woodward Jr

Writer: Ian Patrick Williams (Screenplay)

Starring: Sean Faris, Milo Gibson, Jason Patric, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Peter Facinelli, Mark Rolston, Michael Pare, Sean Kanan

 

Plot: The story of America’s most famous mobsters and their rise to power, GANGSTER LAND examines Al Capone’s ascension through the eyes of his second in command, “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn. Once an amateur boxer, McGurn is lured into the Italian mafia after the murder of his step-father. Upon joining, he rises swiftly through the ranks along with friend and eventual Boss, Capone. As the Italian mob becomes the most lucrative criminal organization in the country, tensions build with “Bugs” Moran and the Irish mob which ignites a brutal gang war culminating with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.


Runtime: 1 Hour 27 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Enjoyable Gangster Lesson

 

Story: Gangster Land starts in prohibition era America, Chicago, where amateur box Jack McGurn (Faris) is trying to find a way to make extra money, Al Capone (Gibson) see potential in making him part of the Italian Mafia in the on-going war with the Irish.

When the peace is well and truly shattered the bosses are targeted leaving Al Capone to rise to power in the Mafia where he recruits Jack McGurn to be his second in power, the problem is the bloodshed is increasing on a seemingly daily basis and George ‘Bugs’ Moran (Facinelli) isn’t losing his Irish Mafia without a fight.

 

Thoughts on Gangster Land

 

Characters – Jack McGurn is an amateur boxer that after his father is gunned down by the Irish mob joins the Italian Mafia as Al Capone’s righthand man gaining the reputation and nickname of ‘Machine Gun’ as it becomes his weapon of choice while gunning down the Irish. Al Capone is a name we have all heard before, an icon in the Mafia history, here we follow how he got placed in the position of head of the Chicago branch waging war against the Irish. Detective Reed is one of the few honest cops shown in the film, he knows the problems but not how to solve them. Lulu is the dancer Jack falls for, she becomes the beacon of light for Jack even after she isn’t interested just because of the suit Jack was wearing. George ‘Bugs’ Moran rises to power in the Irish Mob, he has a short temper which leads to him going after Jack and Al.

PerformancesSean Faris takes the leading role in this film and he is great as he keeps our attention with every decision his character makes. Milo Gibson gets to step into the iconic gangster role where he must compete with many actors to have played the role, he is good in this role never looking out of place. The rest of the cast give good performances through the film.

StoryThe story follows how the events of the St Valentine’s Day Massacre came about with the rise of Machine Fun Jack McGurn and Al Capone in the Mafia. We have nearly all heard of the story of Al Capone or at least heard the name, so watching how he had early days in the mafia with his righthand man McGurn rise to power is interesting and the story doesn’t fall into the mindless over the top gangster traits. As I do struggle through gangster films as time, I did find myself enjoying how this one unfolded, the storytelling process makes each scene feel like you want to see more.

CrimeThe crime side of the film comes from the world we are entering, showing us just how the gangs were acting towards each other.

SettingsThe film is set in Chicago in the 1920s, I feel the whole film does feel authentic for the time we are watching unfold.


Scene of the Movie –
Machine Gun’s Plan.

That Moment That Annoyed Me I would have liked more facts about what happened.

Final ThoughtsThis is a gangster film that shows you can make the calm ones that show historical events, it has the beginning of Al Capone and his righthand man as well as showing how the St Valentine’s Day Massacre unfolded, this is something both interesting and compelling to see.

 

Overall: Stylish gangster movie.

Rating

 

 

John Leguizamo Weekend – The Infiltrator (2016)

infiDirector: Brad Furman

Writer: Ellen Sue Brown (Screenplay) Robert Mazur (Book)

Starring: Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Daniel Mays, Amy Ryan, Jason Isaacs, Michael Pare,

 

Plot: A U.S. Customs official uncovers a money laundering scheme involving Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Good Crime Drama

 

Story: The Infiltrator starts as we meet Robert Mazur (Cranston) who has been working as an undercover US Custom officer who has just taken down a drug ring which for the time offers him a chance to walk away from field work. When one of Robert’s co-workers Emir Abreu (Leguizamo) comes to him with information of a Colombian drug lord Robert must decide whether to follow the lead.

Robert takes the job where he must go undercover as a banker for the Colombian drug lord where he must work with Abreu who he sees as a loose cannon to take down Pablo Escobar. The further Robert goes undercover the deeper he finds himself wondering just how far he will get pushed by the drug lords.

The Infiltrator gives us what seems to be just another look at a brave man who goes undercover to bring down a crime lord. We do have heavyweight performance from Cranston yet again that could easily get Oscar attention. I also think we get a great supporting performance from Leguizamo. The film gives us plenty of focus on the effects of going undercover on the personal life as well as the professional side of everything but it does sadly feel like just another story we have seen similar before.

 

Overall: Great performances to a crime story it feels we have seen before.

Rating70

 

 

The Vatican Tapes (2015)

vaticanDirector: Mark Neveldine

Writer: Christopher Borrelli, Michael C Martin (Screenplay) Chris Morgan, Christopher Borrelli (Story)

Starring: Michael Pena, Olivia Dudley, Djimon Hounsou, Dougray Scott, Alison Lohman, Kathleen Robertson, John Patrick Amedori, Michael Pare

 

Plot: A priest and two Vatican exorcists must do battle with an ancient satanic force to save the soul of a young woman.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Different Twist to the Possession Film

 

Story: The Vatican Tapes starts as we learn Vicar Imani (Hounsou) is being assigned the latest case of a potential anti-Christ coming through Angela (Dudley), and we have to rewind 2 months to meet Angela a happy young lady from America. While celebrating her 25th birthday Angela suffers a cut to her hand and over the next few days he starts to act very different to how her boyfriend Pete (Amedori) and father Roger (Scott) are used to.

When Angela is involved in an accident she ends up in a coma and Father Lozano (Pena) is bought in to look for answers that could explain the non-medical problems she is suffering from. Angela finds herself in a mental home where the demon inside of her starts to take over bringing in the Vatican to solve the situation.

The Vatican Tapes comes off like a standard exorcism possession case as we follow from early stages to medical investigation, mental home before entering into the exorcism side which I will say is good. The final twist is excellent but for the negatives I have found this sub-genre something that is difficult to find a fresh approach and this ends up down the same road. Well about my favourite part I do think you get a reward with the final outcome though.

 

Actor Review

 

Michael Pena: Father Lozano is the local Priest that is looking over Angela, a former soldier turned Priest start suspecting something unusual but nothing prepared him for his first possession case. Michael is good and well restricted from his normal comic tone we get through his performances.

Olivia Dudley: Angela is the young lady that finds herself being possessed by a demon, it all starts with a small cut before she starts having powers unlike any human acting out of character but can she fight the demon inside her? Olivia is good as the victim in this film.

Djimon Hounsou: Vicar Imani is the man that learns about the Anti-Christ coming to the Earth and must find a way to stop him taking over. Djimon is barely in this film which is a huge disappointment really.

Dougray Scott: Roger Holmes is the father of Angela who has raised her himself and is still very protective of her even after she has started to live her own life. Dougray is very much a supporting character that I don’t understand why we have such a known actor in.

Support Cast: The Vatican Tapes has a supporting cast which are all about wondering what is happening and are trying to solve the problem.

Director Review: Mark NeveldineMark gives us a good couple of twists to the story we are used to seeing.

 

Horror: The Vatican Tapes has all the horror elements need for a possession based movie.

Thriller: The Vatican Tapes does try to keep us guessing throughout which works throughout.

Settings: The Vatican Tapes tries to keep the settings looking like an everyday location to try and show how easily it can happen.
Special Effects
: The Vatican Tapes has good effects to show what is happening with the possession side of the events.

Suggestion: The Vatican Tapes is one for the horror fans to try if you are a possession based fan this is good choice for you. (Horror Fans Try)

 

Best Part: Final twist.

Worst Part: We have seen most of this before.

 

Believability: It’s you want you want to believe

Chances of Tears: No

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No

 

Oscar Chances: No

Budget: $8,405,000

Runtime: 1 Hour 31 Minutes

Tagline:  For 2,000 years the Vatican has recorded evidence of evil. May God have mercy on their souls.

Trivia: The screenplay for this film was featured in the 2009 Blacklist, a list of the “most liked” unmade scripts of the year.

 

Overall: One of the stronger possession based films.

Ratingcard