jess kroll

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The Raid: Redemption

Posted by jesskroll on July 30, 2012 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

The Raid: Redemption, 2011

2.5 / 5

In an action movie, the quiet moments are just as important as the loud ones. The Raid: Redemption often excels during its visceral, lightning-quick action sequences, but seldom pauses long enough to let the adrenaline slow or, on the rare occasion it does, include the heart needed to fuel its bloody surface. As a result the entire experience becomes numbing after around fifteen fight scenes. For pure, guilty-pleasure action the film definitely delivers, stocking all the brutality American films of its genre are too cowardly to include, yet the length and proximity of these scene makes them blur  into one, long, messy, bare knuckle rumble. Characters barely have names beyond “Old guy,” Lieutenant” and “Rookie cop with pregnant wife” destroying any suspense or sympathy with the various, screaming meat sacks that roam the halls. But hey, at least the fight scenes are cool, because there sure are a hell of a lot of them.

150 Reviews

Black Dynamite

Posted by jesskroll on July 28, 2012 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Black Dynamite, 2009

4 / 5

It takes a lot of skill to disguise careful planning as flaw. Although not flawless, Black Dynamite is a rare film that is obviously precise but appears completely slapdash. Black Dynamite makes its parody clear, even to inexperienced blaxploitation viewers, and hilarious. Michael Jai White is perfect, delivering solid fight scenes, subtle stabs at stray boom mics and nunchucks, and cool, righteous readings of even the most absurd lines, making each of these moments laugh-out-loud funny.  From the saturated film stock, to the costumes, sets, dialogue, music (which is awesome), stock footage and period details, Black Dynamite looks more like a found film than any grainy black-and-white horror movie; as though it was buried in some studio backlot in 1972. The survey of blaxploitation clichés is so deep that right when tedium sets in, the scene shifts to a new location, while the ending is crazily over-the-top, in the best way. Dy-na-mite! Dy-na-mite!

150 Reviews

The Dark Knight Rises

Posted by jesskroll on July 20, 2012 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (0)

The Dark Knight Rises, 2012

4.5 / 5

The conclusion of Nolan’s Batman trilogy lives to expectation. It’s a supreme accomplishment in blockbuster filmmaking with Nolan again working on a scope unseen in non-period cinema. An overly intricate plot engulfs Gotham leading to astonishing action and Rorschach politics. Although not equal to Leger’s Joker, Hardy’s Bane is terrifying and worthy, it’s a shame half his dialogue is indecipherable. Unfortunately the story, twists and results also unfold as expected. Any viewer with a basic knowledge of the characters will be unsurprised by events on screen, and in fact, a little disappointed that more isn’t done with them. Similarly those anticipating a slight letdown after Dark Knight and Inception will also find their expectations met, although maintaining that inhuman level of genius is near impossible. Even the theme, hope, is as expected. Rarely do trilogies end at their peak. Nolan’s farewell to Gotham is everything it should be: excellent but not flawless. Nothing more and, definitely, nothing less.

150 Reviews


Win Win

Posted by jesskroll on June 29, 2012 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Win Win, 2011

3 / 5

Win-Win is the type of movie you can enjoy for about 100 minutes, and then begin to forget soon after. In other words, it's exactly the type of movie Paul Giamatti has been and continues to be stellar in. The performances, beginning of course with Giamatti and Amy Ryan and all the way down the cast, are excellent. The writing is solid, at times very funny, honest and emotional without being sappy or forced. The only problem in fact is that the film doesn't amount to much. It's a good little slice of humanity, but doesn't make much of a lasting impression. The actual story is rather slight. Some nice visual touches, character moments and observations make the film enjoyable enough, but not much more. It escalates, as little as it does, and wraps nicely, but the question remains of why the audience should care. So we shrug and move on.


150 Reviews

Tropic Thunder

Posted by jesskroll on June 17, 2012 at 7:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Tropic Thunder, 2008

4 / 5

Robert Downey, Jr. was nominated for an Oscar in a comedy playing a method actor in blackface for a failing war movie. That statement alone should be enough to sell Tropic Thunder to viewers. The movie is essentially a comedic Apocalypse Now: sprawling, repetitive, scattershot, thin, at times unfocused and often brilliant. Everything that should not be funny - fat suits, disemboweling, beating up children and, most notably, blackface - works in the best ways. In an era where comedies are ranked exclusively by their number of quotables, Tropic Thunder tosses off one-liners so quickly, it becomes numbing. Most of the characters are single-joke hucksters, with those of Black, Stiller, McConaughey and McBride wearing fast, and the film slows considerably from a nonstop opening, but then there's Tom Cruise, who gives Downey a run as unrecognizable, committed and hilarious. Yes, like Les Grossman, Tropic Thunder is cheap and profane, but it's also undeniably awesome.

150 Reviews


For the corporations. By the corporations.

Posted by jesskroll on June 6, 2012 at 3:40 AM Comments comments (0)

In Mitt Romney's own words...

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Posted by jesskroll on May 6, 2012 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Haywire, 2011

2.5 / 5

Steven Soderbergh has always been a risk taker, from complete genre reconstruction to wild casting choices, however only one of these works in Haywire. Although limited, Gina Carano's debut is a striking success. She's gorgeous, moves with astonishing speed and fluidity, and the film works best when it simply follows her running, jumping, climbing and, most of all, fighting. Unlike so many female "action" stars when Carano throws a punch, you know it hurts. She's smartly surrounded by a hefty group of actors, with the exception of Channing Tatum, remaining as interesting onscreen as a chunk of wood, whom she can kick the teeth out of. Yet instead of a Jason Bourne-style bareknuckle action bruiser, Soderbergh's arthouse sensibility leads to long stretches of nothing, setpieces muted for cool jazz and a story so minimal it doesn't have an ending. For a character as skilled and efficient as Mallory, finishing should be the priority.

150 Reviews


The Avengers

Posted by jesskroll on April 29, 2012 at 7:15 AM Comments comments (0)

The Avengers, 2012

4.5 / 5

Superhero movies - those not directed by Christopher Nolan - need only deliver on two things: character and action. For character, few screenwriters deliver quick and sharp dialogue like Joss Whedon and he clearly has a natural affinity for Downey Jr.'s Ironman, who carries the movie during downtimes. Others character feel flat at the start but eventually come around, particularly Hulk, treated as the film's Jaws and redeemed after two previous cinematic disasters. For action, Avengers is one of the few superhero flicks which truly delivers on its epic premise. Battles are huge but remain clear and fun. Even the merely human heroes (Black Widow and Hawkeye) are given purpose, as flimsy as they may be. Instead of trying to reinvent the genre, Whedon wisely embraces it, clichés, obligatory scenes and all.  The story may fail in its brief attempts at transcendence and relevance leaving only a paint-by-numbers story, but those numbers display some exceptionally gorgeous paint.

150 Reviews


Hunger Games

Posted by jesskroll on April 8, 2012 at 7:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Hunger Games, 2012

4 / 5

Hunger Games has great things going for it: a strong lead character (Jennifer Lawrence is already one of her generation's best actresses), well staged and at times intense action (even knowing it's the first of three books) and powerful promised implications. However, it also has many flaws all stemming from one major issue: pacing. The dystopian setting and sanitized, PG-13 violence are glossed into an dull sheen; a polish which makes the film disappointingly safe. Little time spent with characters gives only one death any weight. The individual parts of the movie feel rushed while the whole feels long. And the computer effects are bad. Like 1990's bad. These flaws are particularly glaring because there is so much to otherwise love. Its aforementioned strengths are mighty enough to create a highly entertaining and enjoyable movie. A strong foundation for the next two (or three) which will, hopefully, bring power and not just polish.

150 Reviews

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Posted by jesskroll on March 18, 2012 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - 2011

3 / 5 stars

Condensing a novel, later adapted to six-part mini-series, into a two-hour movie means a lot of material gets removed. This minimal form of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy leaves little left to question, losing characterization, lowering the tension and making the eventual resolution feel somewhat blasé. What remains is a very well-made film with an unremarkable story and absolutely stellar lead performances. Gary Oldman is almost every reason the film works, the supporting cast being the remaining reason. His stoicism and clarity of purpose perfectly suit the Cold War setting, muted color palette and slow-burn pacing to create a detached, emotionless atmosphere. However where the restraint performance works the same austere delivery makes the story feel dull. There's never any sense of danger or dread. The film may be more realistic to espionage than the Bond or Bourne franchises, but in the end it feels like nothing really happened. Much with actual spy work, the general public moves on, completely unconcerned.

150 Reviews