Quick Reviews! Calvary, Headhunters, Suicide Kings, and Tusk

Yeah, That’s a lot of reviews that didn’t get full write ups. I know. I’ve been busy actually. I’d love to do full write ups on all these films but you know what? That’s not what this site is for. I’m not Roger Ebert. I’m a film hobbyist. The main goal of this blog is to hightlight and expose films that you may not want/have the chance to see. I think these small posts get the job done. Like always, films I see in the theater will be given full reviews. Films I see at home however will not always get a full write up. Honestly, they should. They’re just as important as the theater screenings. Maybe once things settle down I’ll get back down to giving each film my full attention. Not today though. Order up!

Calvary
Directed By – John Michael McDonagh

If any film I’ve seen over the last two weeks deserves its own write up, it’s this one. One problem…I HAVE to see the film again and I already sent it back to Netflix. Brenden Gleeson is a priest who is told by one of his flock during confession that he will be killed in a week, not because he’s an evil man but rather because he is a good man. Right off the bat this is a story I can get into. The fact that it stars one of my favorite actors in Gleeson is only a bonus. I saw The Guard. I liked The Guard. I didn’t love The Guard. I loved this film. It hit me emotionally towards the end of the film like nothing I’ve seen in a few months. The film has a group of great character actors in their natural state hamming up a few scenes here and there. Chris O’Dowd is particularly good in this. The scenery is beautiful and once again, Gleeson is magnificent. Only goes to prove that the McDonagh brothers are some of the best writers working today. I wish they would team up and make a film like the Coen brothers do. They could change film.

5/5

Headhunters
Directed By – Morten Tyldum

I had no idea who Morten Tyldum was when he was nominated for Best Director at this years Oscars. When I looked up his previous work I realized he directed this film, which had been sitting in my Netflix queue for oh, let’s say, four fucking years. That’s what happens when you are continually adding films to a queue. Films get buried. I pulled the trigger last night and was glad I did. The film has holes…HUGE holes…but that doesn’t take away the fact that it was entertaining as hell. There were many “holy shit” moments throughout its entirety. I hated the ending but understood that it was needed to cover up the gigantic plot holes that littered the film. Usually this would turn me off the film but I actually liked it a lot. Hell, any film that has Jamie Lannister kicking ass is good in my book.

3.5/5

Suicide Kings
Directed by – Peter O’Fallon

This one sucked. I’m sorry. I know it’s a cult favorite but I didn’t like the film at all. Actually I take that back. I liked any time Christopher Walken or Dennis Leary was on the screen. Anything other than those two people was atrocious. The plot lingered for what seemed to be forever. The characters were annoying and most couldn’t act. I’m looking at you Henry Thomas. It also has one of the cheesiest love scenes I’ve ever seen…ever. Skip this one unless you like Walken hamming it up or Dennis Leary ad-libbing his entire dialogue.

1.5/5

Tusk
Directed By – Kevin Smith

One of the most ridiculous and bizarre films I’ve ever seen. It surfs on this monumental wave of garbage yet still is one of the more fun times I’ve had at home by myself watching a movie. I had two phone calls during the movie and in both calls I had to stop them and tell them to go watch this movie. The thing that really interests me is reading that the entire plot of teh film was thought up on Kevin Smiths podcast and put to a vote by the listeners. They played audio from it at the end of the film. They literally made a movie from a conversation. That is impressive and awesome. Not to mention the fact that Justin Long and Michael Parks dance this crazy ballet of lunacy during the entire movie. I love Michael Parks. The BEST part though, I mean the absolute best, is Guy Lapointe. I won’t say who plays him as it should be a surprise but my god, the guy needs his own film. WATCH THIS MOVIE. IT’S SO BAD IT’S AWESOME.

4/5

Film Review : Ex Machina (2015)

IMDB Score – 8.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 90%
Metacritic Score – 78/100

Directed By – Alex Garland
Starring – Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno, and Alicia Vikander

A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.

Let me start off by saying that I’m extremely happy for Alex Garland. I’ve been a fan of his since 28 Days Later. His stories, while flawed at times, always strike me as interesting and unique. His novels and short stories such as The Coma have inspired some of my short story writing that I do independent of this website. I’m a fan. I was excited to hear he had directed a film and even more excited that his film is doing so well. It only means we’ll be seeing more of his mind on screen soon enough.

That being said, I loved the film.

There’s something about tiny films that appeal to me. Alien is a much better horror film than it’s sequel Aliens to me. Why? There’s less space to move around. It all takes place on the ship and deals with one alien. It’s more personal…intimate. Aliens is a fine film, but it’s more of a Terminator 2 type of film where they took what was great about the first film and then turned it up to eleven. Ex Machina is an intimate film. It takes place mainly in one location, the multi million dollar estate of Nathan, the CEO of Bluebook. Bluebook is basically the combination of Facebook and Google so right off the bat you know how rich and smart the man is. Caleb is a programmer working for Bluebook and wins a contest sending him to his boss’s home. There we find out that Nathan has built an AI and that Caleb was brought there to test it.

The first scene of the film is brilliant. It doesn’t meander around who Caleb is or what exactly this company does. We learn that later as the film progresses. We’re given a 30 second dialogue free set up and away we go into the world of this house and it’s inhabitants. I just love how that was done. Garland and his DP really took their time with the aesthetics of this house. It’s obviously a very modernized home with the latest and sometimes one of a kind technology. Garland makes sure to hold the camera at precise points to vaguely foreshadow certain plot twists later in the film. I love films that I can watch a second time and catch new things. I haven’t seen it a 2nd time yet, but I’m going to. There are so many points in the beginning of the film that can be recalled later in the film as being significant. I think that may be the best highlight of the entire film for me. It’s just so tight and clean, just like every inch of Nathan’s house. The dialogue between all three inhabitants is sharp, often funny, and always engrossing. Once Caleb finds out why he is there, the real show begins.

Alicia Vikander.

Yeah, I wasn’t aware she was a thing either. That’s changed. She was fantastic in this. It should be taken with a grain of salt however because her performance isn’t something flashy or grandiose. This is a small and quite performance. Most of the time we see her as Ava, we see her bare robotic body with just the front half of her face. Vikander was tasked with portraying the emotion and thought processes of a robot using only her facial expressions. This is why I find her performance so good. She was able to draw me in so well and actually believe that she was an AI with her own conscious and intelligence. Her sessions with Gleason were engrossing to watch.

Has Oscar Isaac just become my favorite actor? That’s hard to say, but he’s certainly in the discussion now. I think I can safely say that both he and Michael Fassbender are the future of male actors. They have not been in a bad film, not delivered a bad performance, and have pretty much been getting better with each role. He’s able to portray Nathan as somebody who you seem to like judging by the way he talks to Caleb, but somebody who you just don’t seem to trust. He reminds me of Jack Torrance before he went crazy in The Shining. Even in the beginning of the film you can tell something is off. Something just isn’t right about him. His drunk scenes were the best and may have been in the greatest dance scene I’ve seen in a long time. His co-star Domhnall Gleeson is solid but really takes a back seat to Vikander and Isaac here. I feel her started to skip towards the end of the film. It may have to do with the circumstances his character got into, but I just wasn’t with him towards the end.

That’s the gist of the film. What I haven’t talked about, and will dance lightly around, is the way the story progresses. There are scenes in with I was on the edge of my seat, not from excitement, but from pure envelopment of the story. It lured me in. It had my full focus. I didn’t check my phone to see what time it was. I didn’t wonder what I was going to do after the show. I was just fully enveloped in this tightly written sci-fi. There is a lot to discuss at the end of the film. Who was the villain here? Did so an so deserve what happened to them? I’m still not entirely sure who’s side I’m on. That’s what a great screenplay does for me. Makes me question myself.

It’s my film of the year so far. It provoked a lot of interesting theories as far as creation goes. It made me more afraid of the future than I already am. It provides two incredible performances from Vikander and Isaac and needs to be seen for the dance scene alone. I’m glad it came out when it did because it’s going to be buried by Avengers, but if you’re trying to see a film and want to duck around the Marvel crowds, this is your film. It’s one of the better sci-fi films to come out in some time and is a wonderful sign that Alex Garland will be making thought provoking films for a long time.

4.5/5




What I’ve Been Watching

It’s bee a while since my last review. I honestly haven’t seen anything in a theater since It Follows, reasons being that I haven’t found a single thing worth paying money near me. I’m patiently waiting for Ex Machina to come out. In the mean time, I’ll try to keep this thing fresh by writing a bit on what I’ve been watching over the last three weeks. Full reviews will start coming soon.

Tracks
Directed By John Curran

Tells the story of Robyn Davidson, a woman who walks across the Australian desert with her four camels and dog. Really atmospheric. For a movie about walking, the film was able to keep my attention for the entire run length. This can attributed to both the wonderful cinematography and the powerful performance by Mia Wasikowska. I’ve enjoyed her in pretty much everything she’s ever done and films like this only go to prove she’s one of the best young actresses working today. The film was heartbreaking as well as inspiring. It’s on Netflix and well worth it.

Noah
Directed By Darren Aronofsky

I’m not really sure why I didn’t watch this in theaters. I’ve never really been attracted to biblical films, but I’ve enjoyed Aronofsky’s last two films in Black Swan and The Wrestler. I guess the world’s oldest disaster story gave off a lot of “2012” vibes, so I decided to skip it until it released on some sort of streaming service. Netflix has answered that call. The film ended up being pretty entertaining. Sure the plot and themes were heavy handed and clumsily communicated. Sure it managed to piss everybody off. It also utilized some pretty awesome special effects and was able to draw out some great performances from Crowe, Connolly, and Watson. Most of the film was shot with CGI, which is something that I can only fully enjoy every once in a while, I enjoyed it. It’s worth the watch.

Rosewater
Directed By Jon Stewart

I’ve always been a Daily Show/Jon Stewart fan. His first film behind the camera ended up being pretty forgettable. I didn’t understand why they used Gael Garcia Bernal to play an Iranian reporter. I felt they could have been a lot more realistic with the portrayal of what was going on in Iran during the time of the elections. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t wow me at all. If you have the chance, check out the documentary Burma VJ for a real look at what documenting a tyrannical regime is really like. I did however enjoy the Fort Lee joke. Although, since I’ve lived here, I have not once seen these pleasure palaces.

Game of Thrones Season 5

Two episodes in, nobody has died yet. I don’t know if that is awesome or bad. Is that weird? I don’t want anybody to die, but I also love the fact that the show does what it pleases. We’re seeing a lot of different things with Tyrion in hiding, Jon Snow becoming more of a leader, and Dany losing hold of her power. Everything seems to be setting up for a serious season of shock and awe. I love this show.

House of Cards Season 1

What can I say? I’m late to the party. I just finished season one and I’m kicking myself for not jumping on this show earlier. Yes, I know Kevin Spacey is great in this. That’s not why I love the show. The secondary characters are all fantastic. The way these characters along with the entire show is written, gives me hope for Netflix Original content. Orange is the New Black and Bloodlines are also quality television, but this show may be the patriarch. Can’t wait to start the next season.

Quick Review : Love is Strange (2014)

IMDB Score –
Rotten Tomato Score – 94%

Directed By – Ira Sachs
Starring – John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marissa Tomei, Charlie Tahan, Darren E. Burrows, Cheyenne Jackson, Manny Perez, and Chrstina Kirk

After Ben and George get married, George is fired from his teaching post, forcing them to stay with friends separately while they sell their place and look for cheaper housing — a situation that weighs heavily on all involved.

Today is Easter, and while I’m waiting for a succulent ham to enter my mouth, I’ve got a few words to say about this cute little movie. That’s right, it’s cute. I don’t care.

Love Is Strange is a little indie film from last year from writer/director Ira Sachs. The film features Lithgow and Molina as longtime partners who get married and immediately have their lives uprooted after the marriage. Molina works at a church as a music instructor and gets fired after the church finds out about the marriage, even though they knew of the relationship. This cause them to lose their apartment and have to spend time apart as they stay at their respected family members houses. The distance apart, and the drama at their temporary places of residence tests their love for each other in different ways.

I really liked this. Like I said before, it’s cute. That isn’t to say it’s a bunch of roses and happy endings. The film deals heavily on family, personal art and dreams, and age. Lithgow and Molina at first don’t have much chemistry, but as the film continues, their bond is very apparent. Both actors portray their characters with class and realism instead of stereotypical mannerisms that an older gay man may posses. Think the opposite of Christopher Plummer’s character in “Beginners”. I liked this better. It’s a subtle film that doesn’t put too much on the fact that they are gay, even though it’s basically the whole reason the film exists. The background story dealing with the family of Marissa Tomei’s character was a bit frustrating. The mother, played by Tomei, is a self centered bitch that farts out nice toasts about her uncle, played by Lithgow, and then seems to be annoyed by his existence when he has to stay at their place. The father is always absent or a ghost when present, and the son is a little shit, but young enough to get away with it. Their story is almost as important as the relationship between the two leads. It just pissed me off how much I hated them, especially the mother.

The film is well shot. I’ve been trying to find a still of one of the last scenes of the film were Ben and George are leaving a bar late at night. The streets are empty in what I presume to be the east village in NYC. They live on opposite ends of the city so at an intersection, one goes one way and the other another. The shot is stagnant and pretty as hell. I’ll try to find it and stick in in here. That being said, it’s a wonderfully made film.

It’s totally worth your attention. It’s a small, subtle, and ultimately heartbreaking film about love and what it all entails. Molina and Lithgow are fantastic in it and it’s pretty to look at.

4/5



Film Review : It Follows (2015)

IMDB Score – 7.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 95%

Directed By – David Robert Mitchell
Starring – Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Lili Sepe, Olivia Luccardi, Jake Weary, and Daniel Zovatto

A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after getting involved in a sexual confrontation.

*Insert STD joke that everybody seems to be making here*

There. Now that THAT’S over with…

I feel the need in every horror review I write to point out that modern horror movies are hard to do correctly. First off, studios have trouble greenlighting a lot of horror films because the great ones almost HAVE to be rated R and rated R films hurt box office sales. If your film does get on its feet, then it’s got to be pretty unique or else it’s going to come off redundant and stale. As of late, there has been an almost “rebirth” of 80’s style horror/thriller films that take simple premises and make them unique with style, atmosphere, and callbacks to horror classics of the 70s and 80s. Films like Drive, House of the Devil, The Guest, Cabin in the Woods, and The Innkeepers have done unique things with either tired tropes or dated plot devices. Cabin in the Woods did this perfectly and then spun us onto our head with the 3rd act. House of the Devil fully embodied an 80’s slasher flick. The Innkeepers took a typical ghost story and through atmosphere and brilliant camera work, made it unique and special. That being said, I’ll always respect and applaud films that try to do something different, or try to spice up something familiar. It Follows is a film that I respect, am intrigued by, but am left wishing it gave me a little bit more.

The film has a relatively easy premise. Whoever has “it” is followed by people, seemingly random people, and if they are caught, they die. They have to sleep with somebody and then “it” gets passed along to that person and the chain continues. If that person dies, “it” goes back down the chain of teenager sex until nobody is left. The followers only walk, and can’t be seen by anybody else. Off the bat, that’s a creepy premise. We all have been walking home late at night and notice that somebody is walking behind us. Even if that person is harmless, the sense of unease is there. So an entire film based on random people coming for you dead eyed at all hours of the night scares the shit out of me. I was disappointed though, not so much with the film, but rather by own self. You see, I wasn’t scared, not once, throughout the whole film. Save for one scene, I was watching this film no differently than I would watch a Pixar film. I guess the suspense just didn’t grab me or some outside forces from the day just numbed me to being scared but I just honestly wasn’t tense at all. I did however appreciate how one could find this suspenseful. They certainly did a good job keeping the camera flowing at the right places and still at others. There were many 360 pan shots that revealed some horrible thing or a stagnant show with something coming closer in the distance. I liked that. The film is well made. I just didn’t really get it.

Like I alluded to earlier, the film definitely paid tribute to classic films and directors. The score, which was amazing by the way, is straight from Carpenter himself. The night shots and horror scenes look like they were shot by Wes Craven. Hell, I was even reminded of The Shining a couple times when a scene would concludeand I was left scratching my head as to what the hell I just saw.

I think that’s what is eating at me with this film. It’s not as if I didn’t like it. I liked it plenty. I just didn’t get it enough to really love it. It’s a film that could definitely change my opinion of it over time, but I’m just not there yet. It’s flawed. The 3rd act was kind of a let down. There wasn’t a satisfactory end. Ambiguous is fine, but I needed a little bit more from it before it ended, which it abruptly did. There seems to be a lot of underlying themes that have NOTHING TO DO WITH FUCKING STDS that I just can’t seem to grasp. Is the film about relationships? We have Jay, a girl, played by Maika Monroe, running away from “it” while her friend Paul, played by Keir Gilchrist, is only trying to get closer to her. I enjoyed this dynamic. Is the film about the youth of adolescents? Are these kids literally running away from death which is slowly inching its way towards them? Like I said, “it” walks very slow. Whatever the main theme is, it’s not obvious, which both excites me and frustrates me. I like challenging films. I also like to figure things out. I haven’t figured this one out yet.

You should see the film. Why? Maybe you’ll understand it more than I did. If you’re a horror fan and have been waiting for a unique film that hasn’t been done before, then go see it. It’s a stylish film that does something completely different. Michael Meyers may have started the slow walk killer thing, but this film takes it to another level. I’ll always pay to see films like this. I love ambition. I just may not always get it. I need to watch this again.

3.5/5