Connect with us

Movies News

‘2nd Chance’: Film Review | Sundance 2022

Published

on

‘2nd Chance’: Film Review | Sundance 2022

Since breaking out with Man Push Cart in 2005, through Chop Shop, 99 Houses and even his generally unsuccessful HBO adaptation of Fahrenheit 451, writer-director Ramin Bahrani has proved to have a savvy thermometer applied to the temperature of the American Dream.

Bahrani’s films have a sharply observed sense of the country’s opportunities, including who they’re available to, the personal compromises necessary to achieve them and what the status is for second chances (or in Fitzgeraldian terms, second acts) in American life.

2nd Chance

The Bottom Line

A good doc that could have been great.

Advertisement

Venue: Sundance Film Festival (Premieres)

Director: Ramin Bahrani

 


1 hour 29 minutes

In some hands, the life of Richard Davis would be an exercise in eccentricity. Marking Bahran’s documentary feature debut, 2nd Chance finds some quirky amusement in Davis’ story, but its focus is much more on the poignancy of his embellished rise-and-fall journey, one that could leave him painted as a hero or as a charlatan. It’s a good story and Bahrani has made a good film, albeit one with a tremendous closing twist that I felt pointed to what could instead have been a great film.

Advertisement

You probably haven’t heard of Richard Davis, but when you watch 2nd Chance, you’ll probably wonder why not. In 1969, after his two pizzerias went up in suspicious flames — just one of countless points on which Davis’ version of the truth comes across as both changeable and questionable — Davis changed course and launched a body armor company.

Part of how he chose to promote what became a prototype for the modern bulletproof vest was by shooting himself in the chest on film. Over 50 years, Davis has shot himself in the chest 192 times — just one of countless points on which outlandish aspects of Davis’ truth come across as inexplicably believable.

Davis’ company, Second Chance, became such a success that he moved production to the town of Central Lake in northwest Michigan and became the region’s largest employer, a figure with great power that he inevitably abused. Over the years, Davis made millions, went through several wives and saved hundreds or thousands of lives — including that of Aaron Westrick, a cop who became one of Davis’ principal allies after a Second Chance vest stopped an assailant’s bullet. However, Davis also… well, it’s all in the documentary. There’s tragedy and absurdity aplenty.

Gregarious and candid to a fault (when he isn’t lying through his teeth), Davis is every filmmaker’s dream subject, and although the director can be heard off-camera challenging him either in the name of factual accuracy or sheer incredulity, it’s easy to see how enamored Bahrani is of him. Even the people in Davis’ life whom he treated the worst, including two ex-wives and some Central Lake residents with less-than-savory interactions, can’t talk about him without admiration that doesn’t feel all that begrudging.

That Davis has certain traits of a right-wing ideologue doesn’t faze Bahrani, because if there’s anything more 21st-century-American than processing the American Dream through the lens of the 2nd Amendment and near-fanatical support of law enforcement, I’m not sure what it is. Despite how contemporary the story is, Bahrani and cinematographer Adam Stone filter it through a very ’70s-style aesthetic, whether it’s the intentionally grungy-and-gritty photography or the beautifully composed talking head segments each in a room more garish and retro in its wood-paneled clutter than the last.

The affection for Davis is clear even before we see that the self-defense icon is something of a filmmaker himself, a gloriously awful filmmaker who advertised his wares with poorly staged, but ballistically ambitious reenactments of his product’s lifesaving moments. Davis’ whole life has been staged and contrived and exaggerated, an artifice that takes different shadings if you know Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing) is an executive producer here.

Advertisement

As a feature director, Bahrani made his name on films that utilized a realist, almost documentary-style aesthetic and were marked by an observational refusal to put his finger on the scale when judging his characters. What’s odd is that as a documentarian, Bahrani’s presence is much more evident, whether it’s that voice emerging from behind the camera, the choice to break the documentary into quippy chapters labeled in a ’70s font or the structuring of a story in which Bahrani knows the end and withholds information for a calculating purpose.

With maybe 15 minutes left, Bahrani rolls out a surprise that reframes the story in a way that is beautiful and, in context, a little jaw-dropping. Everybody will have their own preferences, but what bothered me is that the twist is so satisfying and so rich that it probably could have come halfway through the documentary or possibly sooner. It’s not exactly treated as an afterthought, but it’s too good to be placed as a tag at the end of an 89-minute movie, one in which I’d already begun to feel some fatigue with Davis who is, by all accounts, a lot.

One of the chapter titles in 2nd Chance is “Print the Legend,” a reference to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and I like how that segment contextualizes the film as an unlikely type of gun-toting western, or midwestern. It’s The Man Who Shot Himself, and I guess that once you’ve fired 192 bullets into vests that you invented, you’re entitled to hog the spotlight. Ceding time for an even better story wouldn’t be Richard Davis’ style, or Bahrani’s in this case — much less the American Way.

Advertisement

Movies News

Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Published

on

By

Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

Advertisement

The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

Advertisement

Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Movies News

Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

Published

on

By

According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

Advertisement

To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

Continue Reading

Movies News

Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

Published

on

By

Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

Advertisement

Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

Continue Reading

Trending