After digging through boxes of random VHS movies just to find something to review in my last Rapid Fire Reviews, I hadn’t considered reviewing some of the movies that were actually released this year. Originally I didn’t plan on discussing several of these films upon viewing them- most of the bunch weren’t all that interesting to be honest. However, I finally got around to watching “The Invisible Man” and that was the impetus for this round of Rapid Reviews. Hope you find something you’ll enjoy!
The Invisible Man
Written and directed by Leigh Whannell, “The Invisible Man” is the latest modern re-imagining of the H.G. Wells’ classic. In this iteration we’re introduced to our lead, Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss), in a relentlessly soundless opening scene as she attempts an escape in the middle of the night from her abusive partner Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), the invisible man himself. The scene is an excellent example of the skill in executing tension that you’ll be subjected to over the next two hours. This film is intense and consistently thrilling, each scene continually ratcheting up the pressure in creative and unexpected ways. The story is sort of a fun “What if Tony Stark was a grudge-holding psychopath with toxic control issues?” scenario. Elisabeth Moss owns this movie, you totally believe her fear and paranoia. Which is crucial, if her performance didn’t sell you on the immersion of threat or atmosphere of danger- the film wouldn’t have worked. There are sequences throughout the film where subtle camera movements imply the invisible man’s presence with chilling ease. Creating the unsettling “presence” of the invisible man must have been a creative joy to figure out, as the filmmakers utilize just about every trick and idea you could get out of the premise. It exceeded my expectations greatly.
Bad Boys for Life
Written by Chris Bremner, Peter Craig, and Joe Carnahan, and directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, “Bad Boys For Life” is the third installment of the buddy cop action series. It’s been seventeen years since we last saw Mike (Will Smith) and Marcus (Martin Lawrence) chasing down degenerates on the streets of Miami, and in some ways you can definitely feel the near twenty year gap between cinematic outings. However, story-wise, the film does use the characters’ age to it’s advantage. Both characters are going through great changes in their lives- but each take wildly different actions in response. Mike is fueled by obsession and his reckless policing tactics are seriously questioned by those around him. Marcus on the other hand takes his potential retirement with ease and looks to support his family in doing so. Both have their expectations turned upside down once a brutal killer with a mysterious connection to their past arrives in Miami and violently shakes things up. “Bad Boys For Life” does some interesting things with Mike and Marcus, but ultimately it’s nothing groundbreaking. Which sums up my feelings on the film as a whole, it’s a fine evolution in the series and both Smith and Lawrence did excelled returning as those characters- but it’s ultimately a movie that’s “Just Fine”. If you really love the “Bad Boys” movies you’ll probably get a kick out of this one. Though, admittedly, the lack of Michael Bay is palpable.
Lovingly Recommended with Nostalgia
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Written by Christina Hodson and directed by Cathy Yan, “Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” is a spiritual successor (of sorts) to the first “Suicide Squad” movie. So, this is a weird one. Firstly, it’s not really a “Birds of Prey” movie- it’s a “Harley Quinn” movie with a sprinkling of several other characters that have minor parts in the third act. With the exception of Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), who is more intimately involved with the plot, most of the characters take a back seat to the ramblings and incoherent nature of one Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). I mean, she’s even the narrator. Anyways, the basic plot here is that after breaking up with the Joker, Gotham City’s goons and minor villains take the chance to exact their vengeance on her (Now that there are no repercussions from the clown prince of crime). As a longtime Batman fan, I did enjoy that the two chief antagonists of the film were actual rogues from the pages of the Caped Crusader’s comic. Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), who runs a nightclub amongst his other villainous interests, and his assistant, the deranged serial killer Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina). Once they hear of Quinn’s falling out with Joker, they move to strike. The structure of how events unfold in the film are sporadic and nonsensical, some scenes feel like the abstract extrapolation of how Quinn truly experiences life. So, if you’re a die-hard fan of Quinn, there’s plenty of her, and the portrayal is fairly spot on. Margot Robbie IS Harley Quinn at this point, perfect casting for the character. One of the highlights of the movie is the brutality that villain Black Mask employs with a memorable performance from Ewan McGregor. I didn’t expect this to be the second movie I’d watch in two weeks time to feature faces being peeled off of people. But, as all despicable villains eventually do, Black Mask gets an extremely gruesome death. Bright colors, a blistering pace, and tons of violence with middling substance- “Birds of Prey…” is another completely “fine” movie, but nothing out of the ordinary for D.C.
Somewhat Recommended if you really Love Harley Quinn
Sonic The Hedgehog
Written by Pat Casey and Josh Miller and directed by Jeff Fowler, “Sonic The Hedgehog” is an adaption of the famous video game series from SEGA that began in the 1990’s. Truthfully, I did not expect to write about this one at all. This was the last movie I saw with friends in theaters this year, a movie theater with a full bar is a beautiful thing indeed, and while we all mildly enjoyed this children’s movie- I didn’t think there was much anything I could say of value. But alas, here we are! A very quick rundown of the story is that a being from another dimension, Sonic (Ben Schwartz), ends up in our universe and triggers the attention of the military after his super speed sets off all alarms and energy readings in the small town of “Green Hills” Montana. The talkative, and child-like, Sonic teams up with local Sheriff Tom (James Marsden) to avoid the pursuit of the expert brought in by the Department of Defense, Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). While there are incredibly cringey “comedic” scenes and a misunderstanding of aspects of the video game, it’s a generally capable adaption that will likely entertain most children. The film feels more akin to how video game and comic-book adaptions were handled about twenty years ago though, but again, it’s not without it’s joys. And that joy lies completely in Jim Carrey’s outlandish and entertaining performance as Dr. Robotnik. For a moment or two it felt like the 1990’s again- but in a good way. James Marsden did a fine job as the “insert affable everyman to encounter our strange IP” character, it’s hokey at it’s worst, but somewhat charming at its best. If you longed for the Jim Carrey of the 1990’s this will likely sate your appetite for silly- however, other than that, it’s passable at best.
Recommended for Jim Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik