CHERRY (2021)

Directed by: Joe Russo & Anthony Russo 
Written By: Jessica Goldenberg & Angela Russo-Otstot 
Based On The Novel By: Nico Walker 
Cinematography: Newton Thomas Sigel
Editor: Jeff Groth

Cast: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor, Forrest Goodluck, Jeff Wahlberg, Michael Rispoli, Michael Gandolfini, Damon Wayans Jr. Kelli Burland, Daniel R. Hill, Pooch Hall, Thomas Lennon

Cherry drifts from college dropout to army medic in Iraq – anchored only by his true love, Emily. But after returning from the war with PTSD, his life spirals into drugs and crime as he struggles to find his place in the world.


It might be that one really wanted this film to succeed. As it is the first film for the Russo brothers directing after THE AVENGERS  movies and a starring role for Tom Holland in a more dramatic role. Not to mention actress Ciara Bravo in a leading female role after the streaming Series WAYNE was unfortunately canceled before it’s time and she was so good on it. That the film’s problems might’ve taken a little more personal. 

While I never read the book. I know it was critically acclaimed and had its fair share of fans. 

This is a clear case of style over substance. As the film gives us a story adapted from the book of the same name.

Though throughout the film flirts with so many different genres a mind types that it never has time to settle into any of them flirting but never quite sealing the deal. As they are just escapades that help us get to the next part of the story.

The film mainly revolves around two characters and at heart is a love story of two people trying to find themselves in one another. While dealing with constant mistakes that seem to get bigger whenever trying to solve the last problem.

It is also a drug addiction story. While the two leads are capable Tom Holland and Ciara bravo they look so young which might be the age of the characters, but they look Ike they are playing dress-up half the time. Especially as their characters get older and for Tom Holland especially the later scenes where he grows a mustache Looks more like make-up than a naturally grown character. Though Ciara bravo tries very hard with her character. Her more adult scenes just never hit home. As she is a good actress.

When it comes to the direction of the film. It is overly stylized which can be appreciated when done with just enough panache. The problem here though is that the story never quite earns it so it usually feels over the top. Though it does give the film an operatic presentation. It feels overdone and at times like it is taking suggestions from other films but is never quite as sharp as those other films. So that even in some scripted scenes that are more comedic it still falls flat.

Even as it tries to base itself on the book and present each new time period in their lives as a new or different chapter. Trying to elevate the material higher.

Even the bank robbery scene has no flair. We get that they are trying to show it’s not like the movies are glamorous or necessarily well thought out, but they just feel lifeless. As the film goes on everything feels familiar but the film keeps trying to present it in a different way that ends up going overboard and not actually adding anything to the overall experience or film. Be

The film seems to go out of its way to show that life isn’t fair as the good moral characters have a way of always having hardships or dying. While the characters who showcase bad moral behavior sometimes are punished but at other times seem to succeed or at least survive. At least In our time with them.

One of the problems is that throughout the movie the scenes feel melodramatic and examples of emotional beats you have seen done bigger and better and more deserved in Other films. Making the film again feel like it is more trying to be like films of this type instead of just being itself. It’s let’s put on a show rather than let’s stay true and tell a story.

It’s not a bad film but like the main character, it feels full of ambition but never quite makes it to where it wants to go or wants to be. Though it is a nice try. It ends up feeling like it is trying to show off to prove it belongs and in doing so showcases why it doesn’t.

It might be that the film feels more like a dramatic graphic novel with its style and with the filmmakers behind it. It just feels like a movie of moments that might have been handled better emotionally,  gritty and dramatic rather than grand and so visual and surreal. 

There is a plan here it just doesn’t match the story or material 

It’s an interesting try that in the end doesn’t quite stick to the landing. By the end, you have a film that will keep your interest but you might not have anything to really grab onto to remember or even truly feel.

Grade: C

STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997)

Directed By: Paul Verhoeven 
Written By: Ed Neumeier 
Based on the book by: Robert A. Heinlein 
Cinematography: Jost Vacano 
Editor: Mark Goldblatt & Caroline Ross 

Cast: Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, Clancy Brown, Jake Busey, Michael Ironside, Neil Patrick Harris, Seth Gilliam, Patrick Muldoon, Dean Norris, Rue McClanahan, Marshall Bell, Matt Levin, Brenda Strong, Amy Smart, Greg Travis, Dale Dye

In the distant future, high school kids are encouraged to become citizens by joining the military. What they don’t know is that they’ll soon be engaged in a full-scale war against a planet of alien insects. The fight is on to ensure the safety of humanity.


a film about and presented in parts as a war propaganda epic, but it’s also an out-and-out war film. As well as a melodrama that all feels like a video game. As it also has a science fiction element.

This is an epic war film that focuses more on the battlefield and action than anything else. It ultimately becomes a satire on war films. 

The film follows a group of high school students who sign up for military service for various reasons though the love triangle introduced at the beginning seems to show that each of them signed up to follow the other. These will be the ones we mostly stay with throughout. So that it has a coming of age and mildly romantic element. Which is the only time the film has any sweet moments.

Most of the characters come from Buenos Aires and are mostly caucasian. As the story goes along we are introduced to various characters most of them look straight out of a soap opera and are visually appealing. Which only strengthens when it comes to melodrama. It also clues you into who will most likely survive.

Even though the film does throw in plenty of surprises it also serves up plenty of cliches it manages to also throw in some ridiculous measures of subversion. Like seeing Neil Patrick Harris famous at the time mroe for playing teen doctor DOOGIE HOWSER on television. As a high-ranking military scientist and strategist prone to wearing German SS army gear as a uniform without any swastikas and when the main character of Johnny Rico is punished for insubordination, his punishment is to get whipped and he is punished when applying the whipping is an African American man. 

The film is hyper-violent and gory. Even the boot camp scenes manage to have death and plenty of violence. 

Once the battle begins we see the soldiers fight off against the deadly enemies bigs that’s right the enemy is giant insects. So that when there is violence against the enemy there is carnage but mostly goo rather than blood. Only when Humans are killed is there really bloody gore. 

When it comes to the style scenes grand and small there is so much action in battles and in casualties that is where it more feels like a video game other than in the premise. So while not based on one this is an early example of what a movie based on a video game should feel like. Before, where they feel like they could easily interchange. 

The film knows that this is pretty much a campy big-budget B-Movie that doesn’t take itself deadly seriously. It knows what it is and offers the audience thrills and chills, but knows it is there more to entertain over all else. 

It knows how far-fetched the premise is but makes you care and get involved anyway. It has breaks of propaganda where it shows news reports, commercials, and ad campaigns that are all overacted. Which not only like Director Paul Verhoven’s previous film ROBOCOP satirizes but also manages to world build and give background information of how this war is affecting all aspects of life on the battlefield.

The film is hard-edged and dark throughout. Even when it comes to its humor. 

It’s obviously a film that could only be made at the time it was. As it asks us to watch a war film that doesn’t really have any political agenda and is more born out of entertainment than being too serious and to show off special effects but not make it overbearing and what the film focuses on.

This is a film that at times is easy to forget about but feels like a film of a different time. It’s a film where you won’t forget the first time you see it and it might come off as silly at first but the more you think about it the more Impressed you are by it 

Even though most of his films have been wild and structured. This film seems to be one of the bigger films of Director Paul Verhoeven’s career where he seeks to go more full balls to the wall. Rather than trying to be too subtle or create a more intimate atmosphere. While not necessarily a classic along the lines of TOTAL RECALL or ROBOCOP which he directed. He doesn’t embarrass himself or shows any restraint even as this comes off as one of his more mainstream and crowd-pleasing films. 

As I will admit when I first saw it in theaters I felt it was ridiculous but kept me entertained. 

That seems to be more for a blockbuster audience and not so much the artistic crowd. 

Grade: B

SHADOW IN THE CLOUD (2021)

Directed By: Roseanne Liang
Written By: Max Landis & Roseanne Liang 
Cinematography: Kit Fraser
Editor: Tom Eagles 

Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Beulah Koale, Taylor John Smith, Callum Mulvey, Benedict Wall

On a stormy night during World War II, a female pilot with top-secret cargo talks her way on board a bomber plane about to take-off. The crass all-male crew reluctantly agrees, but their suspicions about her identity and the mysterious cargo quickly grow. Just then a shadow appears in the clouds – was it the incoming Japanese fleet? Or caused by some other sinister stowaway?


This film had a very notorious beginning as one of disgraced Screenwriter Max Landis’s big-budget scripts being turned into a production. 

Though after much rewriting supposedly the film was eventually made. Though one wonders if the script was so pro-female before it was rewritten or maybe if he did write it that way as a kind of public apology against the charges he has been accused of. 

It also might also be an homage to the TWILIGHT ZONE movie which his father was infamously sort of even though he didn’t direct that segment of the film and also kind of a remake of the AMAZING STORIES episode THE MISSION directed by Steven Spielberg.

Either way, the film takes the premise of the classic Twilight zone episode terror at 20,000 feet and changes the situation to that of a fighter plane running a mission with an extra female passenger In the gunner galley who sees the gremlin at first. While the others think she has gone crazy, but also during this, they are being attacked by enemy planes and she is trying to keep a top-secret cargo mission from others.

So the film Is loaded and at first, it seems like this going to be a claustrophobic thriller mainly taking place with her in the gunner pit but then eventually it opens up to the whole plane. So that while it is still contained there is more to work with. 

The film stays entertaining though some of the twists are totally unbelievable and reminds you how much a production this is. Which also helps you to accept the more far fetched elements.

Especially one action Sequence where Chloe Grace Moretz is hanging out of the plane trying to retrieve her package and fight off the gremlin. This then adds the intrigue of a fighter place attacking At the same time and an explosion that has to be seen to be believed. As it is an impressive action sequence but totally laughable thinking about the physics of it and how it is played. 

The film offers a little bit of everything there is intrigue, action, war sequences, thriller a little bit of drama, and even a showcase of sexism from most of the males involved in this mission with her and how in the end she more than proves herself capable and above them. Being the bravest, strongest and most resourceful.

In the end, though they help at times as resources this is really Moretz’s action film to take hold of. As she is the hero and they are more the damsels in distress who help out a little.

It isn’t as pumped up as a similar world war II film OVERLORD but It’s a fun action film that uses history and injects something supernatural. So that they have to deal with these otherworldly elements with whatever resources they have that aren’t that advanced.

If anything this movie is an entertaining b-movie and a perfectly fun time waster. 

Grade: C

EXTRACTION (2020)

Directed By: Sam Hargrave
Written By: Joe Russo
Based On A Story By: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo & Ande Parks
Based on the Graphic Novel “Ciudad” By: Ande Parks
Cinematography: Newton Thomas Sigel
Editor: Ruthie Aslan & Peter B. Ellis

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Golshifteh Farahani, Adam Bessa, Rudhraksh Jaiswal

In an underworld of weapons dealers and traffickers, a young boy becomes the pawn in a war between notorious drug lords. Trapped by kidnappers inside one of the world’s most impenetrable cities, his rescue beckons the unparalleled skill of a mercenary named Tyler Rake, but Rake is a broken man with nothing to lose, harboring a death wish that makes an already deadly mission near impossible.

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THE AVENGERS (2012)

theavengers-group-shot

Written & Directed By: Joss Whedon
Story By: Zak Penn & Joss Whedon
Cinematography: Seamus McGarvey
Editor: Jeffrey Ford & Lisa Lassek 


Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johanssen, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Renner, Chris Hemsworth, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgard, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexis Denisof, Jerzy Skolimowski, Jenny Agutter, James Eckhouse, Harry Dean Stanton, Stan Lee 

Nick Fury is the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., an international peace-keeping agency. The agency is a who’s who of Marvel Super Heroes, with Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. When global security is threatened by Loki and his cohorts, Nick Fury and his team will need all their powers to save the world from disaster which is formed by Loki and his team

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HOW I LIVE NOW (2014)

Howilivenow

Directed By: Kevin McDonald
Written By: Jeremy Brock, Penelope Skinner & Tony Grisoni
Based On The Book By: Meg Rosoff
Cinematography By: Franz Lustig
Editor: Jinx Godfrey 


Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Tom Holland, George MacKay, Harley Bird, Danny McEvoy, Anna Chancellor, Amy Dawson

American teenager Elizabeth “Daisy” is sent by her estranged father away from New York to the countryside of England to stay with her Aunt Penn. Her distant cousin Isaac welcomes her at the airport and drives her home. She is introduced to her cousins, seventeen year-old Eddie and young Piper and to their friend Joe. However Daisy is a resentful, needy of love and aloof girl who believes that she is cursed and that bad things happen wherever she goes since her mother died in her delivery. Aunt Penn is a busy woman who is studying the war scenario in England, which is on alert due to an imminent terrorist attack, and needs to fly to Geneva. However, the next morning, a nuclear bomb explodes in London and the authorities of the United Kingdom declare a state of siege. Meanwhile Daisy and Eddie fall in love with each other, but they are separated by the military, which sends girls to one camp and men to another. Daisy and Eddie promise to meet each other again. In a country at war, Daisy and Piper flee their lodging and cross England under martial law, trying to find Eddie and Isaac.

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FORBIDDEN GAMES (1952)

forbiddengames

Directed By: Rene Clement
Written By: Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost & Francois Boyer
Based On The Novel By: Francois Boyer
Cinematography: Robert Juillard
Editor: Roger Dwyre 


Cast: Georges Poujouly, Brigitte Fossey, Jaques Marin 


A girl of perhaps five or six is orphaned in an air raid while fleeing a French city with her parents early in World War II. She is befriended by a pre-adolescent peasant boy after she wandered away from the other refugees, and is taken in for a few weeks by his family. The children become fast friends, and the film follows their attempt to assimilate the deaths they both face, and the religious rituals surrounding those deaths, through the construction of a cemetery for all sorts of animals. Child-like and adult activity are frequently at cross-purposes.

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LONE SURVIVOR (2013)

lonesurvivor_aa

Written & Directed By: Peter Berg
Based On The Novel By: Marcus Lutrrell & Patrick Robinson
Cinematography By: Tobias A. Schliessler
Editor: Colby Parker Jr. 


Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, Eric Bana, Yousef Azami, Alexander Ludwig, Jerry Ferrara, Peter Berg

Marcus Luttrell, a Navy Seal, and his team set out on a mission to capture or kill notorious al Qaeda leader Ahmad Shahd, in late June 2005. After running into mountain herders and capturing them, they were left with no choice but to follow their rules of engagement or be imprisoned. Now Marcus and his team are left to fight for their lives in one of the most valiant efforts of modern warfare.

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300: RISE OF THE EMPIRE (2014)

300: BATTLE OF ARTEMESIUM

Directed By: Noam Murro
Written By: Zack Snyder & Kurt Johnstad
Based On the Graphic Novel “XERCES” By: Frank Miller
Cinematography By: Simon Duggan
Editor: David Brenner & Wyatt Smith
Production Design By: Patrick Tatopoulos 

Cast: Eva Green, Sullivan Stapleton, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, Jack O’Connell, Peter Mensah


After its victory over Leonidas’ 300, the Persian Army under the command of Xerxes marches towards the major Greek city-states. The Democratic city of Athens, first on the path of Xerxes’ army, bases its strength on its fleet, led by admiral Themistocles. Themistocles is forced to an unwilling alliance with the traditional rival of Athens, oligarchic Sparta whose might lies with its superior infantry troops. But Xerxes still reigns supreme in numbers over sea and land

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