Tag Archives: Richard Roundtree

Brick (2005) Review

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains medium level violence
Cast:
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Brendan Frye
Nora Zehetner as Laura Dannon
Lukas Haas as the Pin
Noah Fleiss as Tugger
Matt O’Leary as The Brain
Emilie de Ravin as Emily Kostich
Noah Segan as Dode
Richard Roundtree as Assistant V.P. Trueman
Director: Rian Johnson

After receiving a frantic phone call from his ex-girlfriend, teenage loner Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) learns that her dead body has been found. Vowing to solve her murder himself, he must infiltrate high-school cliques that he previously avoided. His search for the truth places him before some of the school’s roughest characters, leading to a confrontation with a drug dealer known as “the Pin (Lukas Haas).”

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Brick is a movie I’ve heard about for a while and have been meaning to watch. Having seen Rian Johnson’s Looper and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I’ve wanted to check out his first movie even more. All I basically knew about is that it was some kind of noire movie set at a high school and starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead role. Brick was a really great neo-noire mystery, and I’m really glad that I finally got around to seeing it.

There are so many parts of the movie that shouldn’t work at all, it certainly doesn’t seem to on paper. You wouldn’t think that placing a detective and noire plot set inside the setting of a high school would work at all, however it did. Oddly enough, for the most part, Brick seems to be playing everything completely straight instead of making it a comedy. The detective, the femme fatale, the kingpin/boss, a mystery, the way the characters talk and the dialogue they deliver, a bittersweet ending, all the typical tropes that are in a classic noire movie are mixed in with this plot and you can actually take it seriously at the same time. Occasionally there are scenes which are much more humorous in nature, which at least shows that Johnson and the film are self aware, while not going so far as to detract from the seriousness of the rest of the plot. I guess Brick is a satire of the genre, but instead of making it a comedy like you’d think they would, they instead take it for a darker turn. It’s also a genuinely well written movie, despite many of the familiar tropes, the twists are good and you can’t necessarily predict where the plot is going to go or what is going to happen. It’s not just using the satire aspect as a gimmick. Johnson’s writing really makes this work, there are a lot of elements at play that don’t seem like they would quite fit together easily. The ending as well was great, and fitted rather well considering the rest of the movie.

Most of the actors here you don’t really recognise, however they are mostly good in their roles (with the occasional performance not as great as some others). There are two highlights among them though. The first of them is Joseph Gordon Levitt, the most famous and recognisable of the cast. Levitt plays the role like the classic detective seen in classic noire movies, and he manages to make it work and you can actually take it seriously. He gives one of his best performances, and that’s really saying a lot. The other standout is Nora Zehetner, whose character seems more in the femme fatale sort of role.

You can tell that it’s a lower budgeted movie, and in fact it’s just at $450,000. However, Rian Johnson did a lot with very little, and his style works exceptionally well for a debut. He clearly knows what he’s doing behind the camera, it is a very well shot movie. Again, the detective and noire tropes are conveyed very well here, as the familiar types of shots seen in said movies are present here too. Even the music played here are reminiscent of classic noires.

Brick showed off Rian Johnson’s talents pretty early on and was a great neo-noire and a good movie on its own. The cast was good (particularly Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and it’s written and directed very well by Johnson. Although I do think a couple of his other movies are a little better, it’s worth a watch for sure.

Shaft (2019) Review

Time: 111 Minutes
Cast:
Samuel L. Jackson as John Shaft
Jessie T. Usher as John “JJ” Shaft Jr.
Richard Roundtree as John Shaft, Sr.
Alexandra Shipp as Sasha Arias
Regina Hall as Maya Babanikos
Director: Tim Story

John Shaft Jr. (Jessie T. Usher) may be an FBI cyber security expert, but to uncover the truth behind his best friend’s untimely death, he needs an education that only his dad can provide. Absent throughout his childhood, the legendary John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) agrees to help his son navigate the heroin-infested underbelly of Harlem, N.Y. Besides, the locked and loaded Shaft has his own score to settle — both professional and personal.

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I haven’t seen the 70s Shaft with Richard Roundtree, but I saw the 2000 Shaft titled Shaft with Samuel L. Jackson in the lead role, and I liked it quite a bit and had fun with it. I’ve heard some not so good things about the sequel also titled Shaft (not confusing at all), but I wanted to check it out for myself. Having 3 generations of Shaft in one movie could be something entertaining at the very least. I was expecting something somewhat entertaining, but it really was a chore to get through. It’s not surprise that it was picked up by Netflix.

The biggest problem with the movie is the screenplay, which is embarrassingly bad. Much of my problems comes from Samuel L. Jackson’s Shaft, but I’ll get to that soon. Even without that aspect, this movie is trying way too hard to be edgy, and it just comes across as being cringe more than anything. It’s trying so hard to be anti-politically correct, so I guess if you wanted that in a movie, it might be up your alley. It honestly feels like this movie would be more suited being released a couple decades ago. And if you’re wondering if the movie is some kind of commentary or satire poking fun at both millennials and out of touch older people, I highly doubt that’s the case. It’s actually rather mean spirited and hard to watch at points, and it seems like it was trying to be funny during those moments. The 2000 Shaft was a semi-serious thriller with some comedy. For whatever reason 2019 Shaft is a full on comedy, which wouldn’t be too bad if the movie was actually funny (though Richard Roundtree has some good moments). If we’re just talking about the actual plot, it’s a generic and dull crime thriller, with boring villains and very little actual thrills. You’re not really following what’s going on, not because it’s necessarily complicated, but because you just don’t care. By the time I was half an hour into the movie, I just wanted to give up on it. When it gets to the third act it picks up, as it becomes a standard action climax, still better than what came before.

There are two leads, Jessie T. Usher as JJ Shaft, the son of John Shaft, and Samuel L. Jackson, who reprises his role of John Shaft from the 2000 movie. Usher wasn’t good but I can’t blame him too much considering how little he had to work with. There was a dance/fight scene that happens in a club, and at that point I’m not really sure anyone would’ve been able to play that role with some form of credibility. His character is also quite bland and uninteresting. With all that being sad, I’m glad that he’s one of the leads, because at least it means that we have one protagonist who isn’t absolutely unlikable. When I talk about this movie being very mean spirited and all that, most of it involves Jackson’s Shaft. I really liked him in the 2000 Shaft, but here he’s just really hard to watch. It’s honestly an achievement when a movie can actually make it unbearable to watch Samuel L. Jackson in a movie. I really don’t get whose idea it was to make his Shaft a bigot who spews off sexist, homophobic and in general offensive lines, but it really made the movie all the more worse and feel out of touch. The chemistry between the two characters is so familiar and typical, it’s the whole generational boomer vs millennial dynamic. You know that it’s going to end with them finding that they have more in common than they thought. Richard Roundtree appears for the last 20 minutes and he’s easily the best amongst the cast, really wished that he appeared more in the movie, he’s a lot more bearable than Jackson’s Shaft in this movie. Also something to note, the 2000 film had Richard Roundtree has Samuel L. Jackson’s uncle, however they’ve retconned it so now he’s his father for whatever reason. The villains in the movie aren’t good at all, there’s literally nothing to say about them. The two prominent female actors of Alexandra Shipp as JJ’s girlfriend and Regina Hall as JJ’s mother and John Shaft’s ex-wife basically have nothing to do in the movie and considering the rest of the movie it’s not really surprising.

I only know Tim Story as the director of the 2000s Fantastic Four movies, and I was less than impressed with his work there. His direction of this movie is really stylistic here, but it tries way too hard. No matter how many times the movie plays that classic Shaft theme, it doesn’t improve the movie at all. The action is actually not terrible, just rather generic and underwhelming, at least it was comprehensible and wasn’t full of cuts.

Shaft is one of my least favourite movies of the year, it was way worse than it had any right to be. As a thriller it’s very weak, as a comedy its embarrassing, and as a Shaft movie it’s not a Shaft movie. Really Richard Roundtree was the only part of the movie that I fully liked. I’m honestly not sure who this movie was made for, I don’t think it’d be fans of the previous movies, and I don’t think it’s newer audiences either. If you haven’t seen any of the other Shaft movies but are reading this review, just watch Shaft from 2000. Or even watch the Shaft with Richard Roundtree, it’s no doubt way better than whatever this movie was supposed to be.

Speed Racer (2008) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Emile Hirsch as Speed Racer
Christina Ricci as Trixie
John Goodman as Pops Racer
Susan Sarandon as Mom Racer
Matthew Fox as Racer X
Benno Fürmann as Inspector Detector
Hiroyuki Sanada as Mr. Musha
Rain as Taejo Togokahn
Richard Roundtree as Ben Burns
Director: The Wachowskis

Born into a family business of race cars, Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is one of the track’s hot stars. Sitting at the wheel of his Mach 5, he consistently deflates the competition. When Speed turns down an offer from the head of Royalton Industries, he uncovers a secret. Powerful moguls fix the races to boost profits. Hoping to beat the executive, Speed enters the same arduous cross-country race that killed his brother.

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The Wachowskis haven’t always been making the best movies in recent years. For every Cloud Atlas they make there’s a Jupiter Ascending. Even though Jupiter Ascending was a really terrible movie (hilariously bad) I don’t actually think it’s their worst movie. That dishonour has to go to Speed Racer, a movie that oddly enough seemed to have been gaining a cult following recently. With its conflicting tone, obnoxious style it was honestly a real pain to sit through. I’m not sure how this movie could end up being this bad with the amount of talented people involved.

I never really found this story interesting at all, not once did it really grab my attention. This film really doesn’t know what it wants to be. On one hand it goes all out crazy with it’s fast and in-your-face style and it’s obnoxious and childish comic relief (which I’ll get to later) but at other times it tries to be serious. I haven’t watched the cartoon it was based on but I have a feeling that it never should have been turned into a live action movie, certain shows don’t translate well to the big screen. This movie is way longer than it needed to be, over 2 hours long, after a while it somehow became boring. The dialogue was most of the time cheesy, the comedy was really bad, but it mostly comes from the comedic relief, which I will go into more later on. So overall the story was uninteresting, the dialogue was cheesy and often terrible, and the comedy was awful.

Most of the actors are fine here, but I have no idea what many of them are actually doing in this movie. Like, what is John Goodman, Christina Ricci and Susan Sarandon doing here? They are way too talented to be in this movie. The acting for the most part is tolerable, so in a sense its really the best part of the movie. With that said, it also has one of the worst parts of the movie, the comic relief, which consists of a kid and a monkey, which are some of the worst comic relief I’ve seen in a movie, they are worse than Kate Capshaw in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Jar Jar Binks from Phantom Menace. That’s saying a lot. They offer absolutely nothing to the movie. They aren’t likable, they aren’t funny, they are obnoxious, there’s absolutely nothing to like about them, yet the film constantly forces them into scenes and dedicates entire scenes to their antics and ‘comedic moments’. I hated them.

I didn’t think the movie would be very good going in but I thought that there would at least good action scenes as the Wachowskis are involved. However that’s not the case, every car action scene looks like a McDonalds toy commercial, not a big budget movie. The way they filmed action wasn’t very entertaining. There were 2 fight scenes, the first was fine but the second was absolutely obnoxious. Even the editing is horrible, during driving (or whatever) there are heads that scroll in front of the screen for no reason. If there’s one thing that really annoyed me about the movie, it’s the style and direction. It was so obnoxious.

I’m of the opinion that Speed Racer is the Wachowski’s worst movie (yes, worse than Jupiter Ascending). The style and editing was obnoxious, the comic relief was irritating, the action scenes were poorly filmed and the film somehow becomes tiring in the worst possible way. The only aspect which didn’t flat out suck was the acting from most of the actors. Aside from that, I have to say that Speed Racer is one of the most painful movies I’ve watched, and that is saying a lot.