Haywire: On Second Thought Thursday

Gina Carano deserved to be a bigger leading lady. She could’ve been one of the best action stars.

AT FIRST, I WAS LIKE: Completely forgettable. I couldn’t get into anything going on but I liked the action as well as Gina Carano’s performance. The one thing I vividly remember from my first watch was the fight on the beach between Gina Carano and Ewan McGregor. That sequence has a lot of overhead shots which has stuck with me ever since my first watch. The action is very different from other action sequences because of how unglamorous it is; it’s intimate and raw. Other than that, I largely dismissed it as forgettable.

BUT NOW, I’M LIKE: Haywire is actually better than I remember it being! I picked up so many things this time around. The action is still just as good as the first time I watched it, but I admire it for how raw it was; every kick and punch thrown had me cringing from how painful it looked. It’s never romanticized and it’s shot from a distance which helps keep it grounded. Say what you want about Carano as an actress but I think she has a great onscreen presence and her prowess as an MMA fighter is on full display here! If we’re going to rank modern action heroines, she’d easily be on that list.

IN THE END, I’M JUST LIKE: Steven Soderbergh needs to do more action films because he has a really unique take on the genre. The editing is so smooth and the cinematography is experimental in a way most modern action films aren’t. I’ve never been one for plot and given that Haywire is a spy film, it requires you to keep up. Despite that, Haywire is shot and edited in a way that gauges your interest and it never lets you go. This was one of the most rewarding rewatched I’ve had in a long time and I’d recommend this to anyone who loves action and spy films

Wrath of Man: Ehh

My YouTube Review

Guy Ritchie knows how to make his characters stylish even when they’re wearing a bathrobe.

REPPED: The opening banter between the characters is a lot of fun. There are plenty of people who don’t enjoy Ritchie’s macho dialogue but I’m one of the few guys who do. It’s nice to see a bunch of blue collar guys and gals breaking each other’s balls; you rarely get that with most movies now. Granted, the dialogue isn’t well-written and it’d fit right in with a Schwarzenegger-led action film, but that’s exactly why I liked it so much. In fact, Wrath of Man should have had more of that dynamic going on because the actual plot itself is an absolute slog.

NEGGED: What could have been a straightforward action movie turns out to be a narratively convoluted mess that had no reason to be. It’s typical Guy Ritchie to have his movies jump back and forth in time but it serves absolutely no purpose to a film like Wrath of Man. The only thing the time jump does is add to the runtime and remove any sort of tension because we’re now watching two different films altogether. No one, with the exception of Jason Statham, have any real personality so it’s baffling that Wrath of Man would add more characters and backstory instead of focusing on the characters we had at the start.

FINAL VERDICT: Wrath of Man focuses too much on the things it shouldn’t and less on the things it should. The film starts out promising enough with an introduction resembling Michael Mann’s Heat and some banter that’s both funny and cheesy. As it progresses, Wrath of Man slows down a bit too much by going into extreme detail about Statham’s backstory and backstory of the robbers who killed his son. The third act is what Wrath of Man should have been from the beginning, but its unnecessary use of time jumps ultimately makes Wrath of Man kinda fun, kinda boring, and completely forgettable.

Baby Driver: On Second Thought Thursday

AT FIRST, I WAS LIKE: For all of the technical mastery that Edgar Wright displays here, Baby Driver slightly lacks in character. The romance between Ansel Elgort and Lily James isn’t given enough time to develop which makes their relationship seem too sudden. Baby Driver has a lot of great action and the soundtrack is killer but perhaps it’s the style that kept me at bay from actually getting to know the character of Baby.

BUT NOW I’M LIKE: After the fourth time watching it, it’s definitely sat better with me. The car chases are clean and slick and it really did enrapture me from a visual standpoint. I also think Jon Hamm is an absolute terror when he’s allowed to let loose. In a way, Jon Hamm’s character can be charming and welcoming but he’s also an unstoppable force. I also really love the aesthetic of all the bad guys having tattoos.

IN THE END, I’M JUST LIKE: I’ve come to accept that Baby Driver isn’t going to give me all the substance and character that I want, so I’m just going to focus on the stuff that does work: the action and the editing. Edgar Wright knows how to effectively maneuver the camera in a way that feels slick and natural and it’s present especially during the car chases. The character of Baby might not be the most interesting protagonist, but the world surrounding him is.

Insomnia: Pacino Just Wants Some Sleep

It’s a Nolan movie but it’s also not really a Nolan movie

REPPED: Nolan yet again draws a solid performance from his actors and this time it’s from Al Pacino as Will Dormer! Detective Will Dormer has some good things going for him: he’s smart, attentive, organized and charming but as the film progresses you also see he has some red on his ledger. This moral ambiguity and the guilt Dormer carries is Insomnia’s central theme. We’re all aware of the “HOO-AHH’S” and the “HA’S” but Pacino tones it down for Insomnia which is a welcome change of pace. In the context of Pacino’s other performances, this probably wouldn’t even crack a Top 20 for most, but I implore everyone to give it a rewatch because Pacino does so much here with just the look on his weary eyes.

NEGGED: The actual mystery of who murdered Kay Connell is uninteresting and even Nolan knows that. The fact that Robin Williams doesn’t even appear until an hour into the film further supports the idea that Insomnia isn’t about the mystery at all. Rather, the real story lies in the character of Will Dormer and the guilt he feels in his pursuit of justice and the greater good. Nolan does enough to make that narrative as interesting as he can but it’s obvious where everyone’s interests truly lie.

FINAL VERDICT: Insomnia might not be Nolan or Pacino’s best work but it still manages to be an engaging murder mystery with great performances all around! Nolan doesn’t rely on plot twists or nonlinear narratives to tell his story; he simply presents it as it is. Even with a film as conventional as Insomnia, Nolan manages to inject something fresh and exciting into a film that, under lesser hands, could have been dismissed as another generic thriller. Pacino and Williams deliver effective performances and the cinematography has some gorgeous landscape shots which he’ll use to great effect for Batman Begins. Thematically and tonally, Insomnia fits right in with Nolan’s past and future filmography and it further establishes Nolan as a bold director who can take conventional material and turn it into something transcendent.

Memento: It’s Rewind Time

“Which would be worse: to live as a monster or to die as a good man?”

REPPED: Guy Pearce’s performance is a top-five Nolan performance for sure. He’s able to balance the various personality traits of Leonard while also delivering a performance that’s very emotional and sympathetic. As a revenge flick, Leonard has all the makings of the typical protagonist: he’s methodical and organized but that’s not the only thing we know about him; you see, he’s also got a condition known as anterograde amnesia which prevents him from creating new memories. It’s an effective narrative choice because we’re now following an unreliable narrator which places the audience in a state of unease and uncertainty.

NEGGED: I mean, I don’t know if there really is anything negative to say about Memento. I’ve read some reviews dismissing the reverse narrative as a gimmick, but that seems to be missing the point of the film. It’s a mirror into Leonard’s mental state which in turn has us questioning whether we can trust his point of view or not. It’s all in service to the story and themes being presented.

FINAL VERDICT: I see many parallels between Memento and Shutter Island and the lies we tell ourselves to escape our guilt. This theme of guilt will carry over throughout Nolan’s filmography, but it’s never been more effective than in Memento. The small budget does Nolan a lot of favors as he’s able to focus more on character rather than spectacle. Memento is the reason why dude-bros like myself gravitate towards Nolan and his films: he’s able to make high concept ideas easy to understand while also adding a human element to anchor it all down.

Mortal Kombat: On Second Thought Thursday

Hot take but Mortal Kombat was better than Mortal Kombat

AT FIRST, I WAS LIKE: Wow, what a fun time! I remember watching this late at night after a long day at work and it totally worked for me. None of the characters were particularly interesting, but there was something so charming despite that. The soundtrack to Mortal Kombat is iconic and as an admirer of metal, I really appreciated how they incorporated it into the movie; you can hear it during Cage’s fight with Scorpion. It’s not high brow cinema, but as a cult film, it hits the spot especially when you’re up at 2 in the morning.

BUT NOW, I’M JUST LIKE: My rewatch of Mortal Kombat was the equivalent to having the club lights coming on at the end of the night; that hot girl I was grinding on turned out to look more like Maui as opposed Nicole Scherzinger. A lot of the performances are about as bad as a trash can sitting out during a hot summer day and the action sequences aren’t as smooth as I remembered. Perhaps after watching so many action films following Mortal Kombat, I’ve been exposed to better choreography, but American films before The Matrix seem to have terrible hand-to-hand combat sequences. I still think a lot of the set design looks very rad and I loved Goro! I’ll take practical effects over cheap CGI any day of the week.

IN THE END, I’M JUST LIKE: Curves and imperfections aside, I still think Mortal Kombat is a good time! I’ve read too many reviews hating on the script, but I think it works for the most part. It effectively sets up our three leads and their motivations as well as the stakes of Mortal Kombat, even if the stakes don’t hold much weight. For a movie based on a videogame about punching people, I think that’s all you need. In regards to acting, I can’t defend that, but Liu Kang isn’t too bad and Johnny Cage has his moments; I just wish they gave more for Sonya and Kitana to do. I’ve seen the new Mortal Kombat and it’s not nearly as fun as this one. If you like extra cheese on your pizza, order the 1995 Mortal Kombat.

Following: Nolan Begins

Ladies and gentlemen, won’t you FOLLOW me in this review?…he-he, get it?…*ahem* anyway, on to the review shall we?

REPPED: From a technical standpoint, Following is perfectly fine. It has a lot of the Nolan flair albeit less refined, which is understandable considering this is one of his first major films. Too many film bros seem to think that black and white makes their film feel more arty farty, but with Following it’s actually appropriate considering the fact that this was made to look and feel like a noir film.

NEGGED: You know you’re watching a Nolan film when the narrative jumps back-and-forth, up-and-down like a rollercoaster. Nonlinear storytelling can work and it has worked in other Nolan films, but it doesn’t feel appropriate for a film like Following. In Roger Ebert’s review for Following, he states: http://Already in “Following” you see Nolan’s affinity for convoluted chronological structure and the final twist, in which all the jigsaw plot pieces snap into place and you finally see the whole picture (along with the main character). You may wonder just how necessary/integral they are, but they help make the film fun to watch, even if they don’t necessarily add up to a whole lot. This is the problem: it doesn’t amount to anything at the end. Following could have played out in a traditional three-act structure and nothing would have been lost or gained. It doesn’t affect the final product, but it feels as if Nolan tries to make a simple story more complex than it needed to be.

FINAL VERDICT: You ever watch a movie that’s competently made, but just doesn’t connect with you for some reason or another? Following is that film for me. If we look at Following as its own piece, it’s nothing particularly memorable, but when you look at it in the context of Nolan’s filmography, this is a blueprint into the kind of filmmaker he’d eventually become. For one, you have Alex Haw’s Cobb who feels like an “early draft” for the Cobb we’d eventually get in Inception: the swagged out infiltrator who’s confident and good at his job. Add a little nonlinear storytelling and a femme fatale and you’ve got yourself a Nolan sandwich! Following may be bottom-tier Nolan, but it’s a confidenty made directorial debut from one of the greatest auteurs of modern cinema.

Dragon Ball Z Packs a Punch!

My lovely girlfriend gave me the complete Dragon Ball Z series for my birthday so I’ve been working my way through it for the past few months. As someone who’s never been particularly interested in anime, I gotta say, Dragon Ball Z is a lot of fun!

Isn’t it beautiful?

One of the strongest elements of the show is how it handles its villains. In the first season, we’re introduced to the Saiyans Raditz, Nappa, and Vegeta and with each passing episode the stakes get higher and higher as we’re left wondering whether Goku can beat them. If you thought the Saiyans were tough, just wait until the Frieza Saga!

Frieza looking diesel as FUARK!!!

The Frieza Saga is as far as I’ve gotten with the series and so far Frieza stands as my favorite villain! What a cold-hearted bastard he is, but at the same time, I loved seeing him do his thing. The battles are epic and it only ends because of Frieza’s own pride. Frieza makes for a great villain, but the protagonists are just as compelling, especially Gohan.

When I was still working through the first season, I couldn’t help but find Gohan’s incessant crying to be a bit annoying, but the strength of the series is how it really puts these characters through real character arcs. Gohan goes from being a crybaby to a real badass! I’m looking forward to seeing where else they take Gohan.

I know I skipped on characters like Vegeta, Goku, and all the big-names, but I just felt like rambling about my favorite elements of the show. I still have a long way to go, but I’m so stoked to keep working my way through the show. Gotta go, Garlic Jr. just showed up!

#dragonballz #bluray #blogging #tvseries #movies

The ‘Burbs

REPPED: The world within the film feels fully realized. You have a cast of quirky characters that have their own personalities which makes everything in The ‘Burbs feel authentic. It’s a hyper realized depiction of suburban life but there’s enough to make it feel relatable without getting too outlandish. Despite Tom Hanks being the lead, he’s not the standout of the film. Hanks is the straight man and he does it well, but most of the other actors have a lot more personality than he does

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NEGGED: Much like the characters and their motivations, the message of the film seems to be inconsistent. For most of the film, Tom Hanks seems to be uninterested in what’s going on in his neighbor’s house, but at other points, his character seems to change without any sort of reason. I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it, but the film does a good job with the handling of its message until the final twist at the end which sort of undoes everything that came before it. Is the twist effective? Yes. However, in the grand scheme of the rest of the film, it just doesn’t fit.

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FINAL VERDICT: The ‘Burbs is a darkly comedic tale that’s a bit muddled in its overall message. Its biggest strength is the world built around the film and the amazing talent in front of the screen. It doesn’t handle all of its ideas perfectly, but its whole vibe of suburban life keeps it from being a total dud.

My Story

What’s going on guys? Welcome to my first official blog post for The Cinebuff!

This blog is an offshoot of my Instagram account which is also titled “the_cinebuff.”

Danny Mendes (@the_cinebuff) • Instagram photos and videos

I’ve always had an interest in film, but it never manifested into much until the summer of 2014 which was when my love of cinema started to bloom. As I began my journey into film, I started to understand who I was and what my interests were. It was the summer of 2014 that brought me to the path I’m on now and it further solidified where my true passions lay.

I have quite a few aspirations with this blog. For one, I wish to refine my writing skills and further develop my own voice in film criticism. I also want to challenge myself and expand my tastes to films that are beyond my comfort zone; the only way to grow is to keep pushing beyond your limits. Finally, my wish is to possibly make this into a full-time career whether it be to write for a media company or to even create my own business from the ground up.

Here are a few things you can expect with The Cinebuff:

  • There will be film reviews posted on a weekly basis
  • I will discuss current events in the film world from time-to-time
  • A few posts will be opinion pieces related to the current state of films and film culture

I encourage reader interaction as it makes blogging more enjoyable. If you have a viewpoint that you agree or disagree with me on, feel free to make it known; this is an open space where all opinions are welcome.

I want this blog to not only inform readers on interesting films they need to watch, but I also want this blog to help me grow as a film critic. I still have so much to learn but as I continue to review films, my intent is to learn something new from each film that I watch.

I thank you all for taking this journey with me and I hope that we can all grow together!

#movies #cinema #film #zerotohero