RSS

Tag Archives: movie breakdown

Movie Breakdown: Cop Car (Noah)

August 4, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

Jon Watt is the man Marvel has chosen to lead their new incarnation of Spider-Man. And though this may be because he’s a young, impressionable artist and they know they can crush out his poet’s soul with their vibranium Dr. Octopus claws, I’m hoping it’s because Cop Car f’n rules.

The Reality:

Indie Film doesn’t stand for independent film anymore, it’s the filmic equivalent of a literary novel. They’re probably talkie, perhaps beautifully shot, and definitely experimental enough to capture the imagination of some star-eyed producer. The indie films I remember, the ones that still get my little blood-pumper firing, are the indie films that don’t stretch outside of their budget in an effort to make a Hollywood film (most of Sundance, I’m talking about you) but those that happily embrace their limitations, using techniques – story or otherwise – to create tension, characters and action above and beyond their means. Cop Car is this film. I don’t know what the Marvel Machine is going to do to Jon Watt (hopefully leave him to his own devices) but Cop Car is a fucking announcement of a director to watch. The film – about two runaways that find a cop car, steal a cop car, and are then chased down by the crooked cop (Kevin Bacon) who’s cop car it was – uses only a handful of locales (either the cop car, the plains of bumfuck nowhere, or a smattering of houses), untested (though amazing) child actors, and a situation that demands brevity without hours of build-up (two kids … in danger!). And you know what, it’s fucking brilliant. Watt has crafted a film, like last year’s Blue Ruin, that trods happily in the sandbox of early Coen Brother’s films. It’s stark and gritty but laced with a dark humor and a throbbing sense of melancholy that only a truly talented director can bring to the screen. The kids (Hayford Wells and James Freedson-Jackson) in the film are wonderful, natural and lacking in pretension, and with the film’s emotional core resting on their shoulders, it needs to be. As much as this is a film about a deranged cop, desperately trying to find his car (for good reason), it’s also about two kids on the outskirts of life, just wanting to grow up. Mr. Watt, I have extremely high expectations for your upcoming dalliance on the dance floor of Spider-Man-land.

The Lesson:

I worry that Jon Watts will only make this one beautiful film before the Hollywood Monster devours him. Be nice Marvel.

Cop Car will open at the Drafthouse South Lamar this Friday.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Noah)

July 30, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

You can call me a fan of the Mission Impossible franchise. Sure, like everyone else who has eyes and was forced to be subjected to John Woo’s second Mission Impossible film, I understand that there can be some flaws in the format, but overall these are entertaining films with a charismatic star and everything I’ve seen from film number 5 assures me that it’s going to be another enjoyable romp down Tom Cruise lane.

The Reality:

Let’s lay the Tom Cruise hate to rest before we get going. Sure, Tom Cruise is annoying, and he has been bad in one or two movies over his big, brilliant career and yes he’s a Scientologist who possibly forced Katie Holmes to be his wife and probably has a crystal planet floating somewhere in the universe. Does this affect the way we see him as an actor? It shouldn’t, so let’s just assume, while reading this review, that all of you love Tom Cruise and if you like or don’t like this film it isn’t predicated on the fact that he’s the star of it. Pretty much: Tom Cruise is a beast, and you need to get over it. That said, Mission; Impossible – Rogue Nation is, outside of the untouchable Mad Max: Fury Road, the best blockbuster of the summer. It’s a light, fun, spy-romp that has a cast of characters we’ve come to know and love (Simon Pegg, I am especially fond of you) slipping back into a slightly altered format and doing what the IMF does best – spy shit. This go around the government, again, has decided that the IMF is bad news and that it isn’t exactly up to code having them running around the world, blowing up shit. Just about the same time this is happening, Tom Cruise discovers that an “anti-IMF” called The Syndicate exists and well, it’s up to him to shut it down. Amazing character-driven, spy-action commences for the next two hours. Seriously, this is how a blockbuster should be done. It’s fun, but not entirely adrift on action scenes and good looking girls (though it has both in spades), instead director Christopher McQuarrie and his team inject a layer of subtext in regards to why we as world powers continue to indulge in spycraft. As always, Rogue Nation features a sort of anti-Bond girl, meaning a strong-willed, ass-kicking opponent for Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt (this time it’s the very convincingly bad-ass Rebecca Ferguson playing a bad-spy-who-might-be-good-or-might-just-be-playing-good-to-do-bad-things) and it features Simon Pegg saying cheeky things, but more so it features the evolution of the relationships of these characters. We’ve spent almost 20 years with the folks from IMF (both Cruise and Pegg are showing signs) and instead of just bouncing them around like money-making pinballs, McQuarrie and team reminds us why not only we love to watch them spy, but that after mission after mission, these characters genuinely care about each other. It’s a little cherry on the top of a great entry into an already pretty fantastic franchise.

The Lesson:

Don’t hate. Seriously, I can smell your hating. Scrub off the odor and go see these film.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

July 30, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

The fifth entry into the Mission: Impossible series has arrived.  There’s no reason to not be excited.

The Reality:

If I were to count how many truly bad movies that Tom Cruise has been in, it wouldn’t come anywhere close to the number of shitty films I’ve seen in just 2015 alone.  The guy knows how to pick ‘em, so I honestly went into Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation with the utmost confidence.  And why wouldn’t I?  The very talented Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow) both wrote and directed it, the trailers have been good, and – again -  it features the always reliable Tom Cruise.

As it turns out, I wasn’t wrong to assume the movie would be good.  Rogue Nation is a wildly entertaining film that’s pretty much the best Mission: Impossible entry yet.

The story isn’t too original – there’s a secret organization that’s bent on twisting the world to fit its own agenda – but that doesn’t really matter.  Overall, the film is epic (the airplane scene, the underwater sequence, the car/motorcycle chase), grounded (anything to do with Simon Pegg), cocky (all things Cruise and/or Ving Rhames), tense, twisty and funny when it needs to be, and it all amounts to something that very much never stops trying to engage you.  How many action flicks can lay claim to that?  Most try to dazzle you to the point to where you’ll willingly zone out until the next big scene, but Rogue Nation actually wants to steadily hold your attention.  I found this to be really impressive.

Those of you on the hunt for an entertaining action film will find a lot to love in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, and I recommend that you see it ASAP.  If you’re not currently searching for such a thing, then why in the world would you even consider seeing it?  Stop being silly!

The Lesson:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ll watch anything featuring Tom Cruise.  The guy is 100% committed to his craft and I both love and appreciate his unlimited enthusiasm to entertain.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Vacation

July 29, 2015

1 Comment

The Impression:

Vacation has been given an update (thankfully, it’s more of a spiritual sequel than an outright reboot) with Ed Helms and Christina Applegate.  The trailers have been somewhat hit or miss on the laugh-front.

The Reality:

The original Vacation is a solid time.  Chevy Chase bumbles around, there’s a hefty variety of goofy jokes to be had, and then just when you’ve had enough you’re reminded that family is important.  Moral delivered!  The end.

The 2015 version of Vacation is somewhat the same.  Ed Helms (as Rusty Griswold) does indeed bumble about just as Chevy did on the original voyage to Wally World, and the concept of family is certainly hailed as the end all be all of creation, but the humor is in a completely different realm.  I don’t know if that’s part of the “updating” or what, but the new Vacation is as crass as can be at every turn.  Personally, I didn’t mind.  I laughed quite a bit at all of the ridiculousness on the screen and generally found the film to be an entertaining entry into the series, but I can see how some might just find the whole damn thing to be offensive.

If you’re really attached to Chevy’s Vacation, I’m not sure the new one is for you.  While it does feature nice callbacks to the 1983 film, overall it’s a louder (some would say dumber) effort that clearly wants to make you yell #OMG every few minutes.  On the other hand, if you’re like me and get a good laugh out of most things immature and kind of stupid, then I say catch a matinee and have some fun.

One late note, I wish Christina Applegate was in every movie.

The Lesson:

Sure, I’d watch another one.  It just can’t be a new take on Christmas Vacation.  That film is perfect.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Southpaw (Noah)

July 23, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

Jake Gyllenhaal looks like a piece of thugged out granite in the trailers for this film and that Eminem track makes me want throw on my hoodie and punch some bags. I’d say that’s a pretty good impression.

The Reality:

Southpaw is, very much, your typical sports film filtered through the visual aesthetic and grit-infused mind of Antoine Fuqua (he of Training Day fame). It finds famed boxer Billy “The Great” Hope (Mr. Gyllenhaal, all muscles and tats) at the top of his game, beating up fools, taking hits in the cabeza and generally being every ounce of the toughened sports cliche we all love to love. Bad things happen though and in a sequence so drawn out and depressing I internally begged for beautiful shot boxing (which the film has plenty) to occur, Hope loses, well, everything – his wife, his daughter, his money, his friends and even his fleet of black cars with vanity license plates. As you can guess, the rest of the film follows Mr. Hope as, with the help of toughened trainer Tic Willis (Forrest Whitaker), he redeems himself as both a boxer and person. It’s nothing new, but in the hands of Antoine Fuqua it is, for the most part, one part tear-jerking tale of redemption/one part street-tough-boxing-film filmed in severe closeups with a heavy dose of gouting eye blood and slo-mo sweat droplets. Gyllenhaal manages to transform his foster-kid-turned-boxing-champion into a tightly wound hulk of man, broken by tragedy, and unable to find his way back. It’s another fine turn for Gyllenhaal, and if his punch-beaten face doesn’t pop up at the Oscars, I’d be surprised. I personally found Forrest Whitaker’s portrayal of a former boxer turned trainer turned less successful trainer the shining highlight of the film. Whitaker, his eye a cloudy remembrance of punches past, gives his character the sort of nuance and roundness one doesn’t often attribute to a sports film. His mumbly patois (there’s a lot of mumbling in this flick) and quick temper give Willis an indelible heart of gold, surround by the rough exterior of a man broken and redeemed. I found the boxing, the boxing training and well, anything that had anything to do with boxing to be superb in this film, but found my attention lagging as Fuqua takes Hope through the rigamarole of New York’s Child Protective Services. Clearly, this a film about overcoming the worst parts of yourself and living a better life, but this is not Fuqua’s strong point as a director and for every moment Gyllenhaal tried to convince his daughter to love him again, I wished for another boxing scene. But hey, if I have to trade earnest emotional outpouring for scene after scene of beautiful boxing, well, it’s a sacrifice worth making.

The Lesson:

Not every sports film needs a gooey center. Sometimes I just want to watch people hit each other until their eyes explode. And in this film, sometimes that happens.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Pixels (Noah)

July 23, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

Somehow, in some terrible, horrible way the trailers for Pixels have managed to convince me that a new Adam Sandler film directed by the ghost of Christopher Columbus’ career might be good. I apologize to my own brain for allowing this to be a thought.

The Reality:

Pixels is, handily, the worst film I’ve seen this year, possibly in the last ten. I would pair it with Halle Berry’s Catwoman and a video I once saw of a woman pleasuring a horse as an unholy trinity of all that is awful in the world. In 1982, America sends a probe into the space-heavens loaded with, amongst other things, a collection of classic video games, in the hopes that an alien life-form will find the probe and be alerted to the presence of humans. Cut to today, Kevin James (his character is so forgettable I can’t remember his name, or take the time to look it up on IMDB) is President and, well, the Earth is under attack by alien representations of said classic video games. Seemingly, the probe from 1982 somehow convinced the aliens that Earth was looking for a scuffle, and now, well, they’re here, because aliens are seemingly very stupid, to battle our kind with our video game creations. Because this movie is horrible, Kevin James’ best friend is Adam Sandler (playing serious Adam Sandler) who was, at one point the best video game player in the world. Now, with a team of other former video game players, they must battle the aliens in a series of video game related, uh, competitions. And what follows is two solid hours of absolute shit. Chris Columbus has managed to make a flashy film that doesn’t make any sense, follows no rules, and is populated by some of the most egregiously obnoxious characters in film history. Including, and I’m sad to write this, Peter Dinklage as a PG version of a sexist, racist, cheating ex-con. This is our obsession with nostalgia finally pushed to its terrible, logical end; a series of loosely connected scenes featuring Bad Pac Man, Bad Donkey Kong, and Bad Every Other Video Game Character of All Time battling to destroy our world. Things happen, nothing of importance and or imbued with any sort of consequence and or feeling; characters do stuff; and the movie ends with the feeling that everything good about your childhood was dragged into an alley and beaten into a coma. Hopefully this film will bomb so miserably that anything from the 80s now being zombified into a skeleton of a film will be placed back into the exhumed grave and allowed to fade into our memories in peace.

The Lesson:

Please, someone lower the flag to half-mast at Atari headquarters and signal that our days of nostalgia regurgitation have come to an end.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Southpaw

July 22, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

BELIEVE IN HOPE.  Antoine Fuqua’s Southpaw stars Jake Gyllenhaal and looks like an overly dramatic sports flick.  I’m in.

The Reality:

I very much enjoyed Southpaw, but I’d be a liar if I said it wasn’t essentially just a raw re-imagining of various moments from the Rocky series.  Boxer Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) was once on top of the world, but the tragic loss of his wife (Rachel McAdams), a forced separation from his daughter, and his financial ruin have pushed him all the way back to square one.  Now it’s time to get back to the basics with a tough new trainer (Forest Whitaker) so that he can reclaim what has been taken from him.  Some of that, unless you haven’t seen a Rocky film, should sound fairly familiar, and it shouldn’t require much effort to guess which path Southpaw travels down and where it ultimately ends up.  The film is, and the pun is totally intended here, a full-on telegraphed punch.  Thankfully though, the lack of originality doesn’t keep it from being an entertaining movie.  Director Antoine Fuqua seems to be a legit boxing fan, and his treatment of the sport (the training, the actual fights) gives the film an underlying stream of enthusiasm.  Then there’s Gyllenhaal, who clearly poured his all into the mumbly, punch drunk Hope, and his performance in and out of the ring is transfixing.  In other words, while the film doesn’t do anything new, it seems to have largely been made by people who clearly love their characters, the story of Billy Hope’s redemption and the actual sport of boxing.  I can appreciate that.

If you’re a sports fan, I think you’ll really like the drama and energy that’s packed into Southpaw.  If you’re not, you may still find it entertaining, but I wouldn’t expect to be blown away.

PS – Forest Whitaker is such a great actor that he could have put on a bad wig and also played 50 Cent’s part, and it would have been 200% better than 50 Cent’s flat as hell performance.  Just saying.

The Lesson:

Jake Gyllenhaal has now more than redeemed himself for doing Prince of Persia.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Felt (Noah)

July 17, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

The poster for this film is piece of stretchy, panty-hose like material split down the middle with a woman’s lips pressed out between them vertically. So, yeah, it looks like weird fleshy lady bits. That’s my impression. Fleshy lady bits.

The Reality:

Jason Banker’s Felt is a deeply weird, surprisingly touching movie about a woman who’s pissed at what it means to be a woman, and the trials and tribulations of her falling in love. There’s also a lot of creepy Lady Suits, cotton vaginas, and fabric penises. Artist Amy Everson plays a character named Amy, an iconoclastic artist obsessed, in the bad way, with the inherent differences between man and woman, and the power it affords men in our society’s dynamic. She meets a guy, Kenny (Kentucker Adler), who isn’t full of man stereotypes, and after ditching him on the side of the road and then randomly running into him wearing a chicken costume, they start to date. And the film, to this point abrasive and tense in a way where you think Amy’s behavior could lead, at any point, to some serious genitalia mangling, becomes sweet, a brief moment where the weird girl finds some form of happiness. What Banker does well, amongst many things as this film is weird and beautiful and touching all at the same time, is make the audience root for Amy’s happiness but at the same time, ask the question: by finding happiness is Amy betraying her artistic/moral values? It’s subtle and impressive, and when the film ends it’s a question that just keeps coming back. Amy Everson is a natural actor, touching on mumblecore, but able to sell both divisive sides of Amy’s personality. And that’s all that matters. This is Amy’s film. She’s surrounded by other characters, but they’re there merely to showcase the many facets of Amy’s weirdness, and what it means when those facets reach a critical point. People are going to accuse this film of pretentious art-house-ness, and it does dally in that sandbox, but it’s art-house with a strange, slightly rotten heart, and that’s more than you can ask for.

The Lesson:

There are a lot of ways to artistically depict a penis. Just saying.

Felt is due out on VOD on July 21.  If you’re in Austin, it’s at the Alamo Drafthouse now.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Ant-Man (Noah)

July 16, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

As big as Marvel films are getting, and let’s be honest they’re like ‘roided up Hulk snorting PCP riding an elephant, they’ve also hit a sort of formulaic lull. Ant-Man, formerly Edgar Wright’s, now Peyton Reed’s, may just be the mold-breaker we’re all looking for. Or it could be another Thor.

The Reality:

Turns out Marvel has created an empire, outside of a few outliers, of, well, pretty good flicks. Ant-Man, all things considered, is a solid little film – great lead, a few solid action beats, and a dip into weirdness that almost makes it a better movie than it is. Hell, this could be the description of just about every Marvel film up to this point. This particular little oddity (I mean oddity because it doesn’t have enormous men punching each other, rather slightly smaller men punching each other) stars Paul Rudd as ex-con Scott Lang, who’s pulled into a strange world of a shrinking super-hero when he steals a suit from, ah fuck it, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Seems there’s a world to be saved, and ex-con Scott Lang is just about the only one who can do it. Rudd is, as Rudd is, charming. He doesn’t stretch much outside of his Paul Rudd antics – look charming Paul Rudd is riding an ant! – but still, he’s a leading man built for Marvel – charming, but harmless. The film, as all Marvel films do, suffers from a weak bad guy, Marvel B-lister Yellow Jacket (Corey Stoll), who’s trying to do something with something to make something happen. All I know is that Michael Douglas kept telling me it was going to end the world, so, I believe. There’s great set pieces using the humor and weirdness of two small men fighting, but even when Corey Stoll is getting ran over by a miniature train (spoiler alert), it all feels pretty inconsequential. The film as a whole feels flat, subdued even, as if whatever madness Edgar Wright was cooking got vacuum-sucked out and left on the side of the ride, and this, a perfectly enjoyable, perfectly serviceable film was left in its stead.

The Lesson:

This film has two post-credit bumpers (don’t leave your seats!) and both of them annoyed me more than anything. I won’t say what they are, but at least one of them should have been incorporated into the main plot of the story. Which is frustrating. Marvel is banking on the comic book nerd/television watching set to be pulled right into another film based on the secret revealed in the final post-credit scene, and it feels, sometimes, like these aren’t movies, just long introductions to the next cliff-hanger.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Trainwreck

July 16, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

Written by Amy Schumer.  Directed by Judd Apatow.  Featuring Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, LeBron James, Colin Quinn, Tilda Swinton, John Cena and more.  Trainwreck is surely a can’t miss comedic affair, right?

The Reality:

I actually saw a “working” print of Trainwreck back at SXSW and really liked it.  I suppose I didn’t need to see it again, but I was curious to see how it would hold up.  Would I still find it to be as funny and charming as I did the first time around?  Would I find Amy Schumer’s first big role to perhaps be a bit less enticing on viewing number two?  Or maybe it just wouldn’t play as well without the rabid crowd that usually comes along with a SXSW screening?

Nah to all of those things.  The film is really goddamn good.  In fact, my wife has now missed both screenings, and if she wants to go I’d be happy to sign up for a third viewing.  Trainwreck is easily Judd Apatow’s best film since Knocked Up (and one of his better overall efforts), and it will certainly be the thing that launches Amy Schumer into stardom.  Good for the both of them.

One other thing, a ton of praise must be given to every single one of the movie’s minor characters – they’re all fantastic.  If you ask me, while Schumer and Bill Hader will be what most remember about Trainwreck, the movie only works as well as it does because of its stellar supporting cast.

See Trainwreck immediately.  It has a lot of heart and is really funny, and you will dig it.

PS – I didn’t really notice any differences between the “working” print and the “final” cut, but I will say I felt as though the latter moved better and didn’t feel as long.  Granted, this could have totally been because I knew what to expect and I wasn’t exhausted from the SXSW grind.

The Lesson:

All aboard the Amy Schumer train.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Ant-Man

July 15, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

Marvel goes … small … in the wake of the enormous Age of Ultron.  Paul Rudd stars.  The film looks kind of goofy.

The Reality:

Ant-Man is an overall entertaining film, but it’s also an odd one.  It fits into the universe that Marvel has created, but its various references to it (especially the scene at Avengers HQ with Falcon) come off as really forced.  It’s funny, but for every joke that hits, there’s one that falls so flat you’ll glance at the person next to you to see if maybe you just didn’t get it.  Paul Rudd, Michael Pena and Michael Douglas turn in quality work, but Evangeline Lilly comes off as bored and Corey Stoll may have just googled “how villains act” and based his character off of the results. In other words, half of Ant-Man works and half of it just feels flat and/or off.  This, I’m assuming, is simply just the byproduct of director/writer Edgar Wright’s early exit from the film due to creative differences with Marvel.  He quit, then the movie got tossed around to too many people, and the end result is a wonky film that’s pretty fun but also shrug-worthy and instantly forgettable.  Success?

Matinee this one, friends.

PS – Big ups to director Peyton Reed for making the best of an awkward situation. Without him I think the film would have been an all-out mess.

The Lesson:

You’re slipping, Marvel.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: The Gallows (Noah)

July 10, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

I feel like right after The Blair Witch Project came shuffling into theaters in all it’s shaky-cam, “I threw away the map” glory, every studio just hired robots to make a million found-footage horror films so they could slowly insert them into the marketplace for the next ten decades. Just a feeling.

The Reality:

If The Blair Witch Project (or any of its oddly shaped kin) is like someone shooting a pistol filled with fear bullets at you, The Gallows is like one of those giant machine guns on the bottom of helicopters that just explodes the side of glass buildings in action movies. Because this is ostensibly a film review, I’ll briefly write what I think the plot of this film is: a bunch of kids who hate acting decide to break their high school drama club’s set the night before the big show. Aw shucks! But once they are there a Ghost-Actor with a thing for hanging motherfuckers decides it’s time to lock some doors and commence with a whole lot of strangling. Honestly, The Gallows has a plot (if you call writing down words on a page a plot) and it has characters (if you call people who talk and then die characters) but seriously, it doesn’t fucking matter. Not a lick. This is literally a found-footage movie where all of the narrative arc has been excised in favor of two hours of jump-scares. Loud music, horrified screaming, things coming out of the darkness – yessir, for two full hours. It’s like being tazed in the chest repeatedly for two hours. If you have heart problems you shouldn’t watch this movie. I mean it, it should have a warning on it so old people with a yen for shitty movies don’t go to this film and then have massive coronaries. And you know, if you can get over the fact that this film has entirely unlikeable character, a plot that hinges on enormous canyons of belief suspension, and the ability to literally kill people with health issues – it’s actually pretty fun in that attaching electrodes to your jibbly bits sort of way.

The Lesson:

Well, if these films aren’t going to stop being made, I like the idea that they’ll just be shorn down to nothing but their basest elements.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Amy

July 9, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

Asif Kapadia follows up the magnificent Senna with a look at the life of Amy Winehouse.

The Reality:

Amy is a tough one.  Comprised of home video clips, concert footage and slyly placed voice-overs, the film provides an impressive amount of insight into the late singer’s life.  And it’s thoroughly depressing,  Every bit of it.  In fact, if you were hoping that the doc would mainly cover her music and only slightly explore her issues, then you’ll probably be disappointed with it.  There are definitely a few moments that take a look her songwriting style and her stunning voice, but the film is largely about how her tragic transition from being a whip-smart, obliviously ambitious and naturally talented young lady into a distracted, distraught and substance-addled woman.  Not much about Asif Kapadia’s documentary is easy to watch, and I definitely felt a strong sense of sadness once the credits hit the screen.  Not so much because the world lost such a talented singer, but mostly because things got too big and too crazy for Amy and a bunch of greedy people chewed the vulnerable girl up and spit her out without so much as blinking an eye.  How unfortunate.

My recommendation is that you run out and see Amy.  Yes, it’s more of a cautionary tale than one that takes a deep look at the famed vocalist’s music, but it’s still very much worth all your time.

The Lesson:

Sorry, Amy.  You might have straightened yourself out with some actual help.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Self/Less

July 9, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

Ben Kingsley’s consciousness gets put in Ryan Reynold’s body.  Weird things happen.

The Reality:

There’s a good movie to be had somewhere in Self/Less – it follows a dying real estate mogul who doesn’t quite get what he’s hoping for after he has his mind transferred into a younger body – but Self/Less itself is not a good movie.  This is largely because director Tarsem Singh (yes, that’s the guy who made The Cell) practically reads the next plot point aloud right before it happens, and – as I’m sure you can imagine – an action thriller isn’t at all done any favors from such telegraphed silliness.  Then there’s also the way the film’s leads – largely Ryan Reynolds and somewhat Matthew Goode – don’t at all seem to care about their characters, so the combined amount of depth between the two of them is equal to that of a kiddie pool for ants.  Thanks, fellas!

Honestly, I could continue on with a variety of things that the film doesn’t even try to do well, but there’s just no point.  Self/Less is a boring, uncreative flick that doesn’t have an ounce of inspired decision-making anywhere in it.  Eventually it’ll be on TNT every week and you can halfheartedly watch it while wondering if The Matrix is on another channel.

The Lesson:

Ryan Reynolds needs a good movie ASAP.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Cartel Land (Noah)

July 7, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

There’s a lot of stuff out there in Content Land about the Mexican Cartels and their movement around the border. This doc, a criss-crossing exploration of two vigilante movements on either side of the US/Mexico border, looks to explore the resistant to these Cartels from the ground up.

The Reality:

Wow. Absolutely, wow. Cartel Land is amazing. Director Matthew Heineman journeys to both the border of US/Mexico to spend time with Tim “Nailer” Foley, a former-Army-turned-vigilante who patrols a particularly rough area of the border with his militia group the Arizona Border Recon, and to the Mexican state of Michocoan to explore the citizen army Autodefensas and their charismatic leader Dr. Jose Mireles. This is not an easy documentary to watch. The two forces, separate but linked by a similar want to expel, or kill, those who perpetuate the “evil” of the Mexican Cartels, exemplify the term “vigilante.” These are pro-violence groups who are doing what they think necessary to protect the people, or the nations, they love. While Tim “Nailer” Foley espouses much of what we’ve come to dislike about the border vigilante movement – the racism, the tunnel-vision, the disregard for American law – his passion reflects that of Dr. Jose Mireles, a complicated character who’s urge to expunge the Cartels from his home state is buffered by a corrupt organization slowly crumbling beneath him. Heineman is a deft hand with both camera and content, and Cartel Land exposes both the flaws and weaknesses that live within these types of movements, but also the passion and rationalization that might lead one to take up arms as a vigilante. The film is beautifully shot, all stark imagery and desaturated colors, pulling the viewer into these two worlds. There are no punches pulled, images of decapitated heads and men hanging fill the screen, but none of it feels exploitive or purely filmed for shock value. Instead, Heineman uses his amazing camera work and his ability to capture the right moments and the right time, to craft a documentary that captures the struggle to do what one’s government cannot, regardless of the consequences. A beautiful, jarring film, and one that sits at the very top of my list for best films of the year so far.

The Lesson:

Regardless of our actions, the world keeps moving, good or bad.

Continue reading...