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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Category Archives: 2010s

The Bad Batch (2017)

Cannibals gotta eat, too.

In the near-future, where it seems like the rest of the world is either on the brink of self-destruction, or already there, lies an odd area outside of Texas where there are no rules, laws, or jurisdictions whatsoever. And in that case, that means anything goes, where anyone can do whatever it is that they have to do to survive. It’s surely not the easiest place for anyone out there, and especially not a small, seemingly innocent girl by the name of Arlen (Suki Waterhouse), who just gets dropped in the air, only to then lose an arm and leg, very shortly afterwards. Why though? Oh, because there’s cannibals lurking just about everywhere you look in this awful wasteland and it’s up to Arlen herself to not just stay away from these terrible folks, but not become one of them herself. And while there, she meets someone named Miami (Jason Momoa), a Cuban who may look like a sinister and mean son-of-a-bitch, but in reality, just wants his daughter back – the same daughter that Arlen has in her company with good reason.

In a post-apocalyptic world where human flesh is desired, don’t worry, supermodels survive.

The Bad Batch isn’t so much of a mess, as much as it’s just a simple, pretty ordinary movie that strains to be something strange, odd, weird, and hella different, but in reality, is just like many other Mad Max rip-offs ever made in the past few decades. It’s grimy, hot, dirty, mean, grotesque, weird, and packed with a whole lot of wide, sweeping shots of the desert, but there’s one key ingredient missing: Excitement. See, without any of that, you just have an ordinary, everyday thriller that longs to be something way different and out-of-this-world, but ultimately, is just so slow and boring that it feels like it’s being made-up on the spot, but without all that much time, thought, rhyme, or reason of why everything’s playing out the way it is.

Okay, so yeah, maybe it’s a bit of a mess.

But still, the Bad Batch isn’t as bad as people have been making it out to be; if anything, it’s just a two-hour-long movie that feels longer and probably could have been cut by at least 30-to-40-minutes and no one would have been the wiser. Of course, you’ve got to give it to writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour who, after achieving some surprising success with A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, seems to have gotten total and complete creative-control with this here, for better and for worse. It’s nice that she was willing to make such an impact with her equally odd and strange debut, but whereas that movie seemed like it had somewhere to go, even while it was making itself up as it went along, this one seems like she doesn’t really have the slightest clue of where she wants it to go.

Then again, you can’t totally blame her. Not only does Amirpour have a bigger budget this time, but she’s got a bigger cast, scope, and yes, way more toys to play around with. In that sense, then Amirpour makes it worth her while; the movie looks muggy and disgusting, but deservedly so, as if it may have been taking place on the outskirts of Thunderdome, but still seeming like it’s own place. If there’s anything that Amirpour achieves here, it’s a nice general sense of the world that she’s created and the characters she’s given us to help make sense of this messed-up, sickening and twisted world.

I don’t know, Suki. May be a little too much man to handle.

That said, it does take awhile to get through it all which, ultimately, keeps the Bad Batch from fully getting off the ground. And it’s not even that it’s a terribly boring movie – there are some nice bits of tension that seem to work themselves out, the more drawn-out they are – it’s just that it takes so long to actually get going to where it needs to get going. There’s not much of a story to begin with, but then again, there wasn’t much of one with Amirpour’s debut; that movie had the benefit of going down certain weird and crazy avenues, while definitely random, made the movie all the more interesting to watch.

The Bad Batch doesn’t quite know where it wants to go, or what it’s actually interested in and therefore, it makes it harder for us, the audience, to get all that interested, either.

And it’s a shame, too, because Amirpour shows that she’s capable of handling a bigger-budget, with a bigger-cast and scope, it’s just that her story isn’t totally there. Had at least 15 minutes of the pauses and silences been cut-out, the Bad Batch would have been a tighter, much more compelling ride through this deserted wasteland. But as it stands, it’s just way too long, without all that much of a direction in sight.

Unlike, of course, any of the Mad Max‘s. Sorry, Ana Lily. Next time, I can feel it.

Consensus: With a bigger-budget and names, the Bad Batch shows Amirpour can handle more on her plate, except nail down tone, story, and well, pacing. Aka, the essentials for making a solid, exciting and relatively compelling thriller.

5.5 / 10

Oooh. Cheeky.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Rough Night (2017)

Girl power. Right, guys?

Jess (Scarlett Johansson), Alice (Jillian Bell), Frankie (Ilana Glazer), and Blair (Zoë Kravitz) were all once the best of friends in college. They drank, partied, danced, did drugs, and well, had sex together. But now, a decade later, they’re all, well, old. Alice is still holding on to her golden days; Frankie is still a rebel/hippie, sticking it to the man; Blair just got out of a rough divorce and is now an even worse custody-battle; and Jess, after years of trying to make a name for herself, is a politician who is now also finally getting married to her sweet man, Peter (Paul W. Downs). Which, of course, now means that it’s time to get the whole gang back together for a night full of fun, sex, drugs, and strippers. But an obvious wrench gets thrown into the mix when the stripper they hire surprisingly dies. Now, the gals have no clue what to do, and when they aren’t sparring with Jess’ other friend, Pippa (Kate McKinnon), they’re sparring with one another, trying to get out of this situation and not kill each other in the process.

Get a bad boy, girls!

It’s not hard to feel a little conflicted about Rough Night; it’s an R-rated comedy, starring women, directed by a woman, and even co-written by a woman, Lucia Aniello of Broad City fame. And yes, in a world where it seems like fewer and fewer of these movies are starting to pop-up, it’s nice to get a little reminder that women run the world, they’re fun, and hell, they can be just as, if not more, raunchier than their male counterparts. It’s why more movies like Rough Night deserve to be made, regardless of key demographics and it’s also a sign that, perhaps, the times do need to change. If not now, really, really soon.

But then again, I’m conflicted because while I’m happy the movie was made, by who made it, and who’s all starring in it, I still can’t help but feel like the movie should have been way better, more well-written, and well, funnier.

In fact, a whole lot funnier.

The general idea with studio-comedies isn’t whether the laughs are great, or huge, or even all that well-earned – it’s all a matter of if you laughed enough times, and if so, does that justify spending the time to go out and see it. In that case, then yes, Rough Night deserves to be seen because as a comedy, it can be funny. Granted, it’s not the most original premise out there in the world, but considering that it’s women in said premise, it makes it seem a bit fresher, even if the jokes aren’t always connecting. Rough Night is also one of those studio-comedies where everyone seems to improvising their butts off, which can provide to be funny, at times, but at others, a little tedious.

Drink up, girls!

So yeah, Rough Night can be funny, but it also feels like, given the cast and crew involved, why wasn’t it funnier? Why did it just reach the bare-minimum of humor? Why couldn’t it go above and beyond all of that? Some of that has to do with the fact that the movie was mostly all improvised by everyone involved, but it also has to do with the fact that the movie just doesn’t quite move as well as it should; even the premise itself, while familiar, still feels like a sad excuse just to have all of these women stand around a room, make dick jokes, curse, and yeah, do what they do best.

Which again, it works well enough because everyone involved is talented and can make wonders with whatever it is that they touch. But even they feel like more of architectured types, then actually, full-fledged people. Johansson’s Jess is a super-serious professional type who gets a little crazy, but not too much; Bell’s Alice just wants the party to keep on going; Glazer’s Frankie is a bit of a free-spirit; Kravitz’s Blair is sort of just there, who has a little bit of a past with lesbianism; and McKinnon’s Pippa, perhaps the only real star of the show, has some light and fun to her, but ultimately feels like an annoying sidekick, used for jokes every so often when the going gets serious. Trust me, they’re all fine and make this material work, in often times when it shouldn’t, but even they deserve a little bit better.

So yeah, you’ll laugh at Rough Night. Probably. But female-fronted films can do way, way better.

Consensus: Even with the obvious talent on display, Rough Night still feels like a mixed-bag of comedy that doesn’t always work and should be way funnier than it actually is.

5 / 10

Walk it out, girls!

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

Song to Song (2017)

Music rocks. Until it doesn’t.

Set in/around the Austin, Texas music scene follows the story of four different people who are all in some way, shape, or form connected to one another. There’s BV (Ryan Gosling) a struggling lyricist who has chances of becoming the next best thing since Bowie, but for some reason, doesn’t know if he wants to fully commit to this dream just yet. His buddy/co-writer/co-producer Cook (Michael Fassbender) is on a much different playing-field; he’s already established, rich, wild and happy as can be, but also a bit of a nut-case, which leads him to making some pretty rash, awful decisions. Then, there’s his former assistant, Faye (Rooney Mara), who now spends her time taking up odd-jobs, whenever she isn’t flirting with the idea of music. And then, there’s waitress Rhonda (Natalie Portman) who meets Cook and ends up not just falling for him, but the world he represents. The same thing happens when BV and Faye meet one another, too, however, their relationship becomes more and more toxic as certain secrets begin to come up into the air.

Look out, Rooney. This is how Baby Goose gets all the ladies.

Song to Song is a lot like every other Terrence Malick film released since the Tree of Life: Rambling, ambitious, meandering, random, and oh yeah, absolutely beautiful. And normally, as was the case in both Knight of Cups and To the Wonder, I would be annoyed, baffled and oh yeah, utterly disappointed; after all, this is the one director who every person in Hollywood wants to work with, drops everything to be around, and do so, without ever even being promised that they’ll be in the final-cut. It’s surprising, actually, because Malick, while no doubt having made some classics in his film-maker career, has more “mehs”, than actually “wows”.

Consider Song to Song in the category of the later, although, with some obvious mild reservations.

Of course, it deserves to be said that, at times, Song to Song can’t help but be incoherent; the editing is so dazzling and jumpy that it doesn’t take long to realize that every scene will probably be on the screen for upwards of five seconds, only to then be switched back to another. The editing is impressive and considering how much footage was probably there to be waded through, time and time again, cut-and-cut, it’s all the more surprising how much of it actually seems to make sense, when put together, but man oh man, the shots can tend to be repetitive.

I mean, yes, I get it: It’s a Malick film. So of course we have to have a bunch of scenes of people frolicking in nature, looking towards the sky, running around exotic locations, and trying not to kiss, but yeah, it happens way too many times here. A part of me wants to learn and accept that as Malick’s thing, and move on, but a part of me can’t help but think it’s just pure laziness, where rather than having to actually write a script, where people speak to one another and profess certain things, they can just run around, glance at each other, and appreciate nature. Once or twice is fine, okay, whatever, but it happens way too often here to where I was beginning to wonder if certain shots were re-used, just so that Malick could hit his frolicking-cue.

And on that note, let me just switch gears by saying, despite these reservations, this movie is quite the watch.

And I mean that in the best way possible.

Sure, it’s Terrence Malick, so the narrative isn’t always the strongest, but in a way, there’s more cohesion here, than there’s been in anything of his since the Tree of Life. Seemingly, they’re two love stories, all taking place around the Texas music scene, and while the movie does ramble on to other places, it’s easy to understand that it is about these four characters and leaving it at that. It’s easy to get confused and well, bored, in Malick’s other flicks, but here, it seems like he knows the kind of story he wants to tell and doesn’t try to go for anything else.

That said, there’s an energy to this thing that just keeps on kicking throughout the whole two hours. It’s honestly what kept me watching, even when it seemed the movie was going to lose its way. But surprisingly, it never does seem to; even in those parts where the movie slows down and focuses on, hey, get this, the actual characters and their lives, there’s still a rambunctious feeling in the air that Malick, believe it or not, just wants to kick out the jams.

Every waitress’ dream: One day, an alcoholic, drug-fueled, crazy and rather insane music-mogul will come in and sweep you off your feet.

And well, he sort of does.

If there’s one complaint that I’ve been seeing around is how Song to Song isn’t really as much about the music, as much as it’s about these characters that make and live around the music, which is an okay complaint, I guess. Except that well, that’s what the movie’s about. Malick doesn’t seem to set out and create some sort of conventional, crowd-pleasing musical in the same vein of La La Land or Chicago, but much more of a narrative-based movie that surrounds itself with loud guitars, amps, drums, and singers, like Nashville, for lack of a better complaint. Sure, we get brief glimpses of Florence and the Machine, Patti Smith, and the Black Lips, but the movie isn’t trying to make this the ultimate Woodstock experience for those who wanted to experience, but more or less, use it as an interesting backdrop for all of these wildly contained lives.

In a way, it’s incredibly smart on Malick’s part, because he not only makes us feel like we’re watching a documentary the whole way through, but a very interesting one at that. Which is to say that yes, Song to Song is beautiful, but you probably already knew that; Emmanuel Lubezki touches something and it automatically turns to art. But there’s something more beyond the prettiness and glossiness of the whole thing that makes it feel much more about the heart, other than the style.

Which is also why Malick does a smart thing in actually allowing his cast to aid him in telling the story, for once.

And with Gosling, Portman, Mara, and especially, Fassbender, Malick’s found some real treats. Granted, a good portion of their performances ultimately come down to narration, but when they are captured on-screen, in the moment, all of them are captivating and enthralling. Fassbender’s probably the stand-out here, showing a loose and wild man in Cook who, despite having all of the money and power in the world, still shows a great deal of darkness, lying underneath. While most of the performance seems improvised, it’s still a true testament to the kind of talent that Fassbender is, where he can play this sometimes over-the-top character and still, somewhat, make him seem real and honest.

Then again, it is a Terrence Malick film, so how real or honest you can get, totally depends on him.

Consensus: Though it does have the ability to ramble at certain points, the exciting energy, utter beauty, and interesting performances of Song to Song are what keep it, at best, compelling and a lively experience. Sort of like, hey, get this, going to a concert. Except with, of course, less music.

8 / 10

Alright, Rooney. Stop being Sia. Be you, girl.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Dinner (2017)

Have a nice, friendly din-din with your bro, they said.

Paul (Steve Coogan) and his wife, Claire (Laura Linney) get ready to spend an evening with his brother and sister-in-law at a fancy restaurant where they can catch up, discuss some things, and yeah, just do what adults do by a certain age when not much else is left to do: Try to one-up each other. It’s this sole reason that Paul doesn’t want to go, but there’s something going on with his son (Charlie Plummer) that this dinner needs to address and rather than sitting around, moping, and not seeing anything getting better, Paul decides to suck it up and have dinner with his brother and his wife. And said brother, who also happens to be Congressman Stan Lohman (Richard Gere), knows that he and Paul have some things to address, but it takes too long to get there because, well, they don’t quite get along. There’s a history there and it’s something that keeping this dinner away from being, at the very least, a civilized one. Tack on the fact that Stan’s wife, Katelyn (Rebecca Hall), isn’t in the best of moods, either, and yeah, it’s going to be a long night.

Steve Coogan is sure-as-hell wishing that he was dinner at with Rob Brydon right about now.

Without going so far as to review the Dinner on what could have been, instead of its merits like one should always do, there’s a part of me that wishes it had been a lot easier, simpler, and laid-out than what actually happens. See, on the surface, there’s a movie that’s ripe with promise of tension, questions, answers, family-history, and well, ideas about the world we live in, the world we make for future generations to come around, and most above all, politics. In that sense, had the movie just been a four-hander between these four very talented actors, just waxing on and on about life and all of its issues, then yes, the Dinner probably would have been as compelling as it promised.

But unfortunately, that doesn’t happen.

The Dinner is, for lack of a better term, overstuffed beyond belief and way too busy to really work with itself out. Director Oren Moverman has proven in the past that he has a knack for telling small, subtle, but dark tales about everyday humans, but for some reason, he gets wrapped-up in way too much going on here; granted, it was Cate Blanchett who was originally supposed to direct here, but dropped out, leaving Moverman to pick up the pieces. He tries to make sense of the many strands of plot this movie has, but after awhile, once the eighth or tenth unnecessary flashback hits the screen, it becomes really repetitive and really annoying, really quick.

After all, it’s only breaking up any of the tension that the actors create here in the first place, making it seem like the material was too troubling to work with in the first place, or that Moverman didn’t trust these actors enough to really give the movie all the intensity it needed to work. And when it’s just them four, sitting around a table, it’s quite a treat to watch; Coogan, Linney, Gere, and as usual, Hall, are all pros at what they do and can handle whatever this sometimes wacky script throws at them. However, it gets to become a problem when the movie steps away from them so much, almost to the point of where you wonder whether the title is ironic, or if there is actually supposed to be a so-called “Dinner” taking place?

I don’t know who’s their daddy, but Richard Gere and Steve Coogan did not came from the same mother.

And if so, with whom? Or better yet, will we actually be able to watch it?

Still though, it’s hard to hate a movie with this cast because when the Dinner is on them, it’s fun and rather, exciting. It’s a true testament to what can happen, even if you have a weak script, when you have a solid cast, doing what they do best: Act. Coogan’s probably the most impressive here, as his character not only gets the most development out of the four, but also gets to show off his much darker, meaner and weirder side that we don’t too often see. Sure, his American-accent is a little too odd for me to fully buy, but in this character’s case, it sort of works. Yeah, I’m still not sure.

However, the movie not only needed more of him, but yeah, everyone else, too. It’s called “the Dinner” for a reason – let’s see said “Dinner” actually occur.

Consensus: Despite solid performances from the four leads, the Dinner suffers from a way too busy and hackneyed plot that does so much, it breaks up any of the tension that’s meant to be felt with dark and disturbing material such as this.

5 / 10

“Cheers to pure hatred and contempt for one another and everything around us!”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Graduation (Bacalaureat) (2017)

As if school wasn’t rough enough. Thanks, Dad!

With his daughter’s high school graduation coming up, Romeo (Adrian Titieni) couldn’t be more than excited for both himself, as well as her. For him, it’s a sign that all of the years of hard-work and ensuring that his daughter got the education and treatment she deserved, have finally paid off, and for Eliza (Maria Dragus), it’s a sign that it’s time to grow up and move along with life. After all, her father has her locked, loaded and ready to ship out to a fancy school in England where, if she gets passing-grades on her finals, she’ll be spending the next few years of her life and, hopefully, out of a rugged, gritty, and dirty place like where they’re living in in Romania. But of course, it all begins to fall apart when, on the way to school one day, Eliza is attacked by a random person and possibly even raped. Now, with the finals coming up swiftly, Romeo uses every advantage in his power to make sure that his daughter not only takes the final exam, but passes and can move away, as soon as possible. But with everything going on in his life, added on with plenty more now, it seems like Romeo’s dreams may not at all come true.

Yeah, every teenager loves being surrounded by the cops and their dads.

Graduation is the kind of movie where it seems like nothing is happening, but if you really look deep in and hard enough, chances are, you’ll realize that almost everything is happening. It’s a story about one girl’s graduation and a father’s acceptance of her growing up and moving away, of course, but it’s also about so much more; it’s also about one man, at odds with the world around him, trying to make sense of an ugly place that, in all honesty, he partakes in. After all, we get to know more and more about this daughter, the father, and hell, even the mother, so much to the point where we realize that it’s more than just a slice-of-life tale, but a dark, understated look at these relationships and how they’ve constantly been getting worse and worse as the years have gone by.

You know, like is the case with all families, hate to say it.

But writer/director Cristian Mungiu is a much smarter film-maker than to just let this all be known to us, right off the bat. Nope. Instead, Mungiu takes his time, letting us know small, certain details about these characters, their lives, their histories, and well, where they want to go next. He’s a smart enough film-maker to know that it’s best to let everything breathe all by itself, which is why Graduation, at a little over two hours, and feeling every bit of it, can tend to be a bit straining; there’s so many subplots, with so many different meanings and threads, that after awhile, it makes you wonder what the real story actually is.

Hm, noticing a pattern there?

But he puts it all back together in a solid little character-study that has more to do with the father in this situation, than the actual daughter. Even though her characterization goes far and beyond being just another spoiled, little brat who doesn’t know or understand the world around her, just yet, it’s really the father who gets the most shadings, in which we see a truly detested and hated human being who, by the same token, also happens to be a very good father. If anything, he just wants what’s best for his daughter and in by doing so, takes some pretty chaotic, downright idiotic steps, but it all comes from a soft, sweet spot in his heart.

Sure, it may be problematic, but hey, it’s what dads do best.

And as the father, Adrian Titeni is quite great, showing us sides to this character that we never thought we’d see. Cause once we first meet him and see him as just another average, ordinary, everyday father who loves his wife, his daughter, and, at times, his job, we don’t really think that there’s much to know. But as the film goes on and the plot thickens, we see that there’s a truly messed-up and sad individual somewhere underneath and it’s hard to keep your eyes off of him. He may not look like a bastard, but he totally is, but he’s the kind who’s troubled and interesting enough that he’s compelling to watch and Titeni, through every chance he gets, allows this character’s depravity to sink further and further into troubling.

Sort of like, you guessed it, real dads. What they do for us is both a blessing, as well as a curse. It’s belated, but hey, Happy Father’s Day, dads.

Consensus: Even if it is a bit long and slow, Graduation still offers up a nice character-study on a few who are interesting, if also well-acted.

7.5 / 10

Ugh. Angst!

Photos Courtesy of: The Hollywood ReporterBFIThe Playlist

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)

Yep. Vampires exist. But only in Iran.

Set in some cold, dark and downright mysterious town somewhere in Iran, lurks a skateboarding vampire (Sheila Vand) who preys on almost everyone around her, but most importantly, men who do wrong by women. So in a way, she’s a vigilante, but at the same time, begins to start to realize that there’s more to life than just killing and sucking the blood out of people. Believe it or not, the vampire meets a human being (Arash Marandi) who may not just have the hots for this blood-sucking creature, but she may even have it for him in return! After all, he’s a hot, young, hip, and chill guy, who listens to rad music and likes to be nice to those around him, so what’s there not to love, or better yet, not try to kill and suck all of the blood out of? However, it gets harder and harder for this vampire to make up its mind of what it wants to do, when it not only starts to have the need for blood, but also realizes that the city around her is getting worse, with all sorts of ugly and catastrophic violence occurring.

Got to do that make-up right for the blood-shed.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night probably deserves a lot of props for being as odd, as weird, and as original as it can be. It’s a horror movie, about a vampire, lurking on possible prey, which already sounds pretty lame and formulaic, but writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour does something neat with the familiar premise in that she adds a little zest and spice to the whole thing. She adds a unique neo-noir look and feel to the movie, that could have easily been just another tension-piece about a vampire, but instead, turns into this home movie of sorts, where it seems like Amirpour is just using whatever is at her disposal, as opposed to just making a movie, expecting for all of these things to come to her.

Obviously, that sort of stuff takes time.

And yeah, Amirpour makes it all worth it. There’s something exciting about watching a first-time film-maker show their true colors, once and for all, with absolute, undeniable style, as well as a great deal of originality, which helps Amirpour out. She tackles something easy and conventional, and puts a smart spin on it that doesn’t just keep the movie, at times, interesting, but the genre of vampire movies, as well.

Then again, there is such an issue here in that it’s so darn slow. And normally, a deliberately plodding and slow pace to a movie like this is fine for me as is the case with most tension-pieces, where it isn’t about the shocks, the scares, the blood, or hell, even the gore, but more about the suspense racking up, slowly but surely over time, without ever seeming like it’s stopping. In Amirpour’s case, it’s nice that she didn’t lose track of what she wanted to do, but there are times where it feels like she could perhaps pick up the pace a tad bit, and opts not to.

Come on, bro. Be nice to the cat! It’s just a gag, after all!

Is this a case of a first-time director just having a ball with their new toys and not wanting to stop playing with them?

Or, well, is it a little pretentious?

In a way, it’s a mixture of both. It’s sweet to see Amirpour want to play with all of the treats she has, for a much longer time, but there does come a point where all the treats have to be simmered down a bit and an actual story has to go on along. The fact that the movie does have a compelling romance-arch at the center of all the hookers, drugs, guns, murder, blood-sucking, and electronic music, is something to point out, but the movie gets so distracted by its own coolness that, sometimes, it can’t help but feel like the story itself is just playing second-fiddle to Amirpour and her coolio style.

Once again, the style is cool and definitely a nice touch, for once, but at times, it does bring the movie back from being much, much better. It works as a horror movie, that obviously has some goofier, lighter touches, but it also tries to double as a message-piece, about feminism, politics, and the drug wars, that also doesn’t feel like it gets anywhere. Granted, these are themes and ideas you really have to dig down deep for here, but they are there and well, they feel like a stretch, at best.

But hey, it’s her first movie. She’s allowed to let loose a bit.

Consensus: Rather odd and unique, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night definitely gets points for originality and style, but also loses some points for not knowing when to settle down, pick up the pace, and well, tell the story. Especially when said story is actually a compelling to watch play out and develop.

6 / 10

Vampire? Naw.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Obit (2017)

You’re dead, but are you forgotten?

Newspapers are dying and guess what? So are people, too! And to make sure that those names, faces, and famous figures aren’t forgotten by the rest of the world, the obituaries are there to write it all up. But most importantly, at the New York Times, one of the most prestigious and well-known newspapers still around, there’s still this need to ensure that every person who dies, whether well-known, or not, get their bits and pieces in the newspaper. But as we see, even those famous and incredibly talented writers run into issues that every journalist runs into; whether it’s getting all of the facts correct, finding the right sources, or hell, even making sure that it’s the right length, these writers have to make sure that their stories go down without a hitch. And even if there is one, what’s next to do?

Unfortunately, most will not even know what this logo means.

For a fellow journalist, Obit is a nice documentary because, even in our current climate, where journalists, the media, and news people in general, are getting attacked for going out there in the real world and reporting on, well, the news, it’s still nice to see that writing, words, and news itself, are still important to our society. And even those people that still decide to stick through it all, even when the world is changing and the job-field is getting smaller and more limited, deserve to have the spotlight shined on them, even if it’s for only a short amount of time. It reminds me why I love being a journalist and why I enjoy going out there, getting a story done, and figuring out what works best, what doesn’t, and so on and so forth.

It sounds boring, I know, but for someone in my field, it’s like a kid at a candy store.

The same kind of feeling that, in all honesty, I never felt with Obit.

And this isn’t to say that the movie is bad – it’s well put-together in that it’s paced nicely, smooth, looks great, polished, and yeah, gets as much information out there for an-hour-and-a-half that’s absolutely necessary. But by the same token, it still feels like the kind of thing that would have been much better off as an hour-long This American Life special, as opposed to an-hour-and-a-half-long movie that has some nice points and ideas to make for at least 30 minutes, but then sort of rambles on and for the next hour or so. It’s the kind of documentary that goes into the subject/topic, knowing that it doesn’t have a clear-cut story to begin with, so instead, plays like a fly-on-the-wall, but also shows why certain documentaries that sort of just wing it, can be a little annoying to watch.

What’s a newspaper? Is that like the internet?

Which isn’t to say that these kinds of documentaries that just sit there and document everything that they see and are told, are bad movies in the first place; a similar one like Page One, plays the same way, but is compelling, exciting, interesting, and well, fun-to-watch, despite not really having a story in mind. Obit has an idea in its mind and attempts to make something out of nothing, but ultimately just rambles on and on, without an idea, or direction of where to go with itself. It made me wish for more specific cases and, honestly, a tighter-production.

Still though, it serves, at best, a tribute to those who actually have these jobs, writing about dead people, both famous and not, who still try their best to make sure that the absolute truth gets out. In that sense, then yes, Obit works; it gives us the right people to watch and listen to, as well as some interesting cases where these writers were tested. However, it also feels like, once again, there’s almost too many of them, with so very little to be known about each and everyone, that makes me wonder if there was a longer-cut of this out there somewhere, or if there just wasn’t all that much to really work with?

Honestly, I’m not sure. But yeah, Obit‘s fine. Just don’t expect a whole much.

Consensus: Though it shines a nice light on journalism and journalists, as a whole, Obit still feels like its got very little to work with, for a very long time, by offering only small bits and pieces of interesting tidbits.

6 / 10

Pictured: The hell of the New York Times.

Photos Courtesy of: Rotten TomatoesBrightest Young Things

The Book of Henry (2017)

And what an odd book that is.

Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) is a lot like every other 11-year-old-kid out there in the world. He’s awkward, a little weird, sometimes quiet, nice, sweet, and oh yeah, brilliant-as-hell. In fact, he’s maybe a bit too smart for his own good and at times, that finds him not just getting into trouble with people who could possibly be his friend, but even his own family. Although, both his mother, Susan (Naomi Watts), and little brother, Peter (Jacob Tremblay), love him immensely, they also know that he can be a bit much. They also know that his brain is so huge, with such an insane amount of knowledge, that they actually use it to their advantage; her, for help on the stocks and how to save money, and him, for emotional support through these rough times of growing up. But something changes in all of their lives that not only affects Henry especially, but all the other people around them, leaving the family to make some drastic, almost disastrous decisions.

If you thought one annoying precocious kid was bad enough……

A part of me wants to absolutely and totally annihilate the Book of Henry for being a ridiculously messy, uneven, weird, sometimes way-too-stupid-for-its-own-good take movie about growing up, learning who you are, death, and oh yeah, child-abuse, or more importantly, rape. However, there is another part of me that wants to praise it and, at the very, absolute least, respect it for going all-out on a plot that could have been absolutely cookie-cutter and derivative of everything we’ve ever seen done before and taking risks, chances, and certain unpredictable roads, even if yeah, they don’t quite work out. But then, there’s that middle part of me that doesn’t know what to think, say, or hell, even believe in.

After all, if a movie as muddled and as nutty as the Book of Henry can, for at least an-hour-and-a-half, entertain me and sort of surprise me, yet, at the same time, still feel way too weird, than what’s that say about me? I do like bad movies? Do I give them a pass just because they try something different? Or, am I just too broken down and beaten-up by the everyday, conventional blockbusters that are pushed in front of my face that, when something comes to me, from someone, somewhere, regardless of how messy it is, still makes me think and expect something different, that I just have to accept it for what it is and yeah, possibly even like it?

Once again, I don’t know what to think.

A movie like the Book of Henry is challenging. Not because it’s an altogether deeply confusing, or hell, even psychological movie, but more that it’s the kind of movie that doesn’t know what to make of itself so, as a result, the viewer is left with the same feeling. Director Colin Trevorrow, after breaking all sorts of records with Jurassic World two years ago, seems to have gotten carpe diem for the Book of Henry and in a way, is allowed to make this movie as crazy and as weird as he wants. Screenwriter Gregg Hurwitz does deserve some credit for trying something new and, dare I say it, intriguing with the YA genre of films, but even he, at certain points, seems like he’s losing all control.

Which is to say that the Book of Henry, in all honesty, isn’t a good movie; it’s tone is so over-the-place, with a plot that continues to get wackier and wackier, and a silly twist that happens midway through, it’s just not that easy to say it totally works out. If anything, it misses the ball, more than it actually connects with it and because of that, it’s hard to fully recommend this movie to anyone, or hell, even for myself.

…try two!

But like I said, it’s definitely an original. Whether or not that originality works out for itself, or bites its own ass in the end, is a whole other matter to decide on. But Hurwitz and Trevorrow clearly try to make this work as much as they can; Trevorrow constantly keeps the plot moving and Hurwitz, while mostly getting stuck with idiotic lines for precocious 11-year-olds only seen and/or conceived in movies, does try and juggle some things that you’d never expect one to do, yet, sort of respect.

But yeah, like I said, the movie’s just sort of all-over-the-place.

For some reason, however, it still kept me watching. Every opportunity it had to bother me and piss me off to the highest of the heavens, it still brought me back in with trying to figure itself out and go somewhere I did not at all expect it to. It’s the kind of movie that takes some many odd chances on telling its story, seeing just where the hell it can go, stepping back, and eventually, just throwing everything at the wall, that it’s much more interesting to watch than, well, actually entertaining. But hey, if having your mind stimulated while watching big-budgeted movies is entertaining to you, then hell yeah, you’re going to probably the enjoy the hell out of the Book of Henry.

But then again, probably not. I myself am still not sure. And I just reviewed it.

I think.

Consensus: By taking so many risks that so few little movies of its magnitude and well, budget, actually do nowadays, the Book of Henry deserves some kudos for going out on a limb and trying something new, even if it just never coheres together well. Like, at all. So yeah, it’s a mess.

5.5 / 10

And a middle-class, waitress mom who spends her leisurely time playing, guess this, video-games! Naomi Watts, ladies and gentlemen!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Donald Cried (2017)

Home. It’s always there for you. Even if you don’t want it to be.

After the tragic death of his grandmother, Peter Latang (Jesse Wakeman) has to do something he hasn’t been wanting to do for quite some time: Return home. While he wants it to be a quick, painless and relatively carefree visit, where he can hopefully gather up all of this things and move on, it turns out that he lost his wallet, and therefore, doesn’t have any money to do, well, anything. Nor does he have his ID. So yeah, basically, he’s stranded and lost in his hometown and wants to desperately get out, as soon as possible. The only way he can do that, however, is reconnecting with long lost friends, including his oldest, Donald Treebeck (Kris Avedisian). And although Peter just wants a ride from Donald, so that he can be back on his merry way, Donald can’t get enough of seeing his old pal and uses this as the sole opportunity for them to hang out like old bros again and reconnect as if the old days never went away. Problem is, they did; Peter knows this, but Donald, doesn’t.

Why not brawl it out? Who needs to talk?!?

We’ve seen a lot of movies like Donald Cried, where an uptight, almost straight-laced character returns to their old hometown that they’ve grown to hate and detest, sees their old friends, families, and remember why they loved it so much in the first place. And hell, if that’s not familiar enough for ya, then the one character’s old pal is also the most conventional, “hasn’t-grown-since-high-school-character” ever, with the title-Donald being, for lack of a better word, almost a cartoon. He’s got awful hair, wide-rimmed glasses, scruffy facial-hair, an annoying Boston-accent, silly tattoos, horrible clothes, and oh yeah, still lives with his parents. Not to mention the dude talks about the old days ad nauseam, whenever he’s not drinking, smoking, or getting into random fights.

So yeah, he’s basically a cartoon, but he’s one that each and every one of us have in our lives.

And that’s why Donald Cried is actually a bit of a surprise – it deals with the formula, the conventions, and the types of this kind of story, with these kinds of characters, finds some honesty, finds some heart, and yeah, even finds some laughs among all of the sadness and nostalgia. It’s the kind of movie that you’ve seen done a million times before and will continue to get, but for some reason, it’s still so relatable and heart-breaking that, hey, it kind of works. It’s not going to change your life, by any means, but offers a small, relatively sweet look at everyday, normal lives.

As silly as those lives can be.

Ugh. Just too much life for me.

But it’s writer/director Kris Avedisian’s talent that makes Donald Cried so good, because just when we think the story is going to go somewhere we’ve seen before, he finds a way to turn it around and show us something new. Take, for example, Donald himself; he’s loud, rude, and totally stupid, and exactly the kind of character you’d expect Danny McBride to play and pull-off so well. And while there’s a great deal of him that feels obvious and formulaic, Avedisian writes him in such a manner that shows him as a bit of an embarrassment, but also as a guy who just wants to relive the glory days and be somewhat happy, once again, especially with his good buddy.

See, there’s not just heart there, but also a rash bit of honesty that makes him connect so much more. And yeah, Avedisian is pretty great in the role, too, finding enough pathos to get past the inherent goofiness that can sometimes plague these characters from keeping themselves fresh and fun. It also helps that he’s got solid chemistry with Jesse Wakeman who, as Peter, could have been a boring stiff, but actually shows some light as a guy who may not miss his childhood, or those involved with it, but doesn’t mind having some fun in it, for the time being. Together, they feel like good buddies who have a lot of memories and know that time has passed both of them by and while one of them accepts it, and the other doesn’t, they can both accept the fact that, yes, they’ll always be childhood friends.

And honestly, what’s more important?

Consensus: Even if it is still a conventional tale of nostalgia and coming-of-age, so to speak, Donald Cried still has honest bits of heart, humor and pathos to make it all fresh enough to work and slightly different.

7.5 / 10

“Drink some Old E’s with me, bro!” Do it!”

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWireTwitterCritics Round Up

The Belko Experiment (2017)

Take a sick day next time.

An ordinary day at the office becomes a horrific quest for survival when 80 employees at the Belko Corp. in Bogotá, Colombia, learn that they are pawns in a deadly game. It all happens when, out of nowhere, a weird, sinister voice comes over the PA system, letting them all know that they are trapped inside their building and that two workers must be killed within 30 minutes. Two die and the employees think that’s all there is to it. Little do they know that plenty more will have to be killed in order for the voice to stop doing what it’s doing and let the workers go. And for some workers (John Gallagher Jr.), this is fine, because they have a conscience and don’t want people to die. But for others (Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley), they know that the only way to come out of this thing alive is to make the weakest suffer and die off first. Ask questions later. After awhile, it just becomes a free-for-all where no one knows who’s going to live, die, or hell, even what the end game is here.

That look you make when you’re absolutely tired of all the damn memo’s.

The Belko Experiment seems to be going for some sort of message about the current day workforce, or hell, even the government in and of itself. After all, the movie is set in Colombia, where an American corporation is held, dealing with certain issues that never become made clear to us. Is the movie trying to say that foreign relations with the States is so bad, that everyone associated with them is eventually going to become killers? Or, is it trying to say that the workforce, in and of itself, is already so vicious in the first place, that eventually, everyone in it is just going to start killing one another to be the best, literally and metaphorically speaking?

I honestly don’t know. But probably not.

See, the Belko Experiment isn’t a very smart movie that wants to get itself all bogged down in certain stuff like politics, or hell, even ideas. It just wants to kill, give us a lot of gore, and make certain office-items into weapons. A part of that can be fun to watch, but here’s the issue with the Belko Experiment: It’s just not all that fun to begin with.

In a way, it’s actually pretty depressing and dare I say it, disturbing. But honestly not in the way that it intends; writer James Gunn seems to be clearly going for some sort of darkly comedic-edge, where heads are splattered and limbs are exposed, but for some reason, there’s still a smirk on everybody’s faces by the end of the killing. However, that doesn’t quite translate here at all. The Belko Experiment is a drop dead serious movie, which could still allow for the premise to fully work, but it never seems as convinced of its own darkness, that it allows itself to go there.

It’s always just moving along, steadily and surely, but is it easy to care? Not really.

What a courageous guy. Too bad that he’ll probably have to kill her later.

And yeah, that’s what it ultimately comes down to with the Belko Experiment – it’s hard to ever really care. Sure, watching seemingly normal, everyday people go to work and be threatened with meaningless, senseless death is upsetting to begin with, but the movie’s character-development is, well, lacking. For the first ten minutes or so, we get to know a little bit about the main players of the story, but mostly, they all just come down to types, so that when things do start to go awry and characters begin to make rash, downright questionable decisions, none of it really connects, or translates.

Take a movie like It Comes at Night that, in a way, is a horror movie, but not really. That one deals with the day-to-day horror of real life human beings, being shoved the brink of madness and having to act out in heinous ways that they’ll soon regret, but did for the greater good of themselves and the ones that they love. While the Belko Experiment never tries to reach for the same heights that that movie did, it still seems to touch on the same issues of normal people, having to act out in disgusting ways, to save their asses. The difference is that It Comes at Night made us understand and believe these decisions, where the Belko Experiment seems to just, well, give us conventional types, expect us to buy them, and watch as they hack one another off.

When in reality, who cares?

Consensus: The Belko Experiment flirts with being darkly fun, but also gets a little too wrapped-up in being too sinister and mean-spirited to be as exciting as it wants to be.

5 / 10

Conservatives, or just deranged dicks? You be the judge.

Photos Courtesy of: VarietyIndieWire

Wilson (2017)

Life’s crap. So talk it out.

Wilson (Woody Harrelson) is a guy who, well, likes to talk. To anyone. About anything. Most of the time, though, he just annoys people by being outspoken, always having something on his mind, and normally, being smart and well-equipped for any conversation. It makes him a nice guy, but also someone who doesn’t quite like the world, making him feel more lonely and isolated. That’s why he decides to track down Pippa (Laura Dern), the ex-wife who left him 17 years earlier. And while they reconnect and everything seems to be great and wonderful, wouldn’t you know it, that the two actually have a kid together, in the form of Claire (Isabella Amara). And while she gave her up for adoption, Wilson decides to bring Pippa along for the ride of finding Claire, getting to know her, and striking up something of a relationship that was clearly missed out on before. It’s something that Wilson wants and, at this point in his life, needs. But it’s also something that may prove to be his ultimate undoing and a true sign that he needs to get with the times and grow up a bit.

I don’t know if she’s shocked that he found their kid, or that they had sex together to begin with?

Wilson is from the masterful brain and mind of Daniel Clowes, who knows a thing or two about making fun of the social norm and everyday life that is regular society. And in this movie, we do get a bunch of that; constant conversations about technology, life, love, friendships, work, and so on and so forth, casually gets discussed and honestly, they verge on being brilliant. Clowes is a smart writer who actually has an ear for dialogue, even if the dialogue does lead to characters just going on and on about silly stuff.

In a way, he’s a pessimistic Kevin Smith, for better and for worse.

But what’s odd about Wilson is that it feels like a lot of that brilliance gets lost in the shuffle of a story that doesn’t quite make sense, nor ever really come together. It’s as if director Craig Johnson knew that Clowes’ material was great and hilarious, but also realized that in order to make this all work in one, cohesive picture, he needed to create a story, with plot-archs, character-development, and well, feelings. He gets some of that right, but really, it feels like he’s straining a bit; it’s almost as if he just wants to keep on sitting by and listening to these conversations and not really get brought down by something as lame and conventional as plot.

Life is grand. So stop talking about it, bro!

And who could blame him? As Wilson, Woody Harrelson is pretty great, showing a funny, nice, and rather sweet guy, who often times gets brought down by his own anger and frustration with the world around him. It’s a role that could have been very one-note and, well, boring, but Harrelson handles this kind of thing with absolute charm, allowing for the material to click when it should. And the rest of the ensemble, with Isabella Amara, Judy Greer and Laura Dern, among others, are all pretty good, too, showing off a great deal of lightness and fun, even when the material gets sort of stuck.

And it’s why Wilson can often times be a disappointment. Johnson’s past two movies (True Adolescents, The Skeleton Twins) have both been thoughtful, smart, and heartfelt looks inside the lives of people we only see in indie-movies. While that can sometimes give off a negative breath of air, in ways, it works for him. He tries to do the same thing with Wilson, but mostly, he gets lost in a plot that doesn’t know what it wants to be about. Does it want for Wilson to grow up and accept his responsibilities? Does it want him to leave his only child alone? Does it want him to be sad? More depressed? Fed-up with the world around him?

Honestly, I’m not sure. And nor do I think Wilson himself is, hence why this is a bit of a disappointment. So much more could have been done, had there been more attention paid to the things that truly, honestly matter.

Consensus: Wilson has some streaks of absolute hilarity, but mostly, feels like a sad attempt on trying to string together a bunch of character-beats and ideas, alongside a plot that doesn’t gel.

6 / 10

They’re a happy family. They’re a happy family.

Photos Courtesy of: Roger EbertThe PlaylistFilm Blerg

The Hero (2017)

Don’t let Hollywood forget about you. Even if everyone else you knew already has.

Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott) is an aging Western icon with a golden voice, but in all honesty, his time in the spotlight seems to mostly be behind him. Nowadays, when he isn’t making money in voice-over roles for silly animated flicks, or for lame-o commercials, He spends his days reliving old glories and smoking too much weed with his former-co-star-turned-dealer, Jeremy (Nick Offerman). But he soon finds out that he’s got cancer and it’s not looking too pretty, so it comes time for him to put his life into order, think long and hard about the people he’s hurt, and those that he wants to continue on and love. So of course, around this time, he gets a new lease on life when he meets stand-up comic Charlotte (Laura Prepon), who, despite the obvious age-gap, decides to take him on as something of a mate and try hard to navigate through each of each other’s difficult lives. Meanwhile, Lee tries to connect with his estranged daughter, Lucy (Krysten Ritter), all while searching for one final role to cement his legacy.

“What sort of device is this?” (Okay, he’s not that old, but still)

Co-writer/director Brett Haley’s last movie (I’ll See You in My Dreams) was a surprise-winner for me. It not only gave the ridiculously underrated Blythe Danner the starring-role she was quite deserving of, but also offered something of a smart, low-key, humorous, and heartfelt look at aging, finding love again, and oh yeah, death. It wasn’t too deep that it was depressing, nor was it too funny and light that it could be cheesy – it was just somewhere in the middle and yeah, it worked wonders.

But for some reason, the Hero doesn’t quite work as well. It tries to discuss the same themes and ideas about aging, finding love again, and yes, death, but it sort of fumbles them all in a mess of a movie that doesn’t know where to go, what it wants to be about, or hell, how long it wants to go on for. Because even at just a little over an-hour-and-a-half, it still feels way too long, as if the script wrote just enough material for an hour, but the budget asked for a much longer movie, so of course, everything had to get more and more padded-out.

And also, yeah, Haley seems to have lost a bit of inspiration in the writing-department this time around, too.

But it’s not like the Hero doesn’t play around with some complex thoughts; the idea of aging in a business that has long forgotten about you, is still an interesting to watch, because it’s something that so clearly happens, whether it’s in Hollywood, or elsewhere. But the Hero seems to barely touch on this and instead, just be more about this old dude’s relationship with a ridiculously unrealistic character who could most definitely be classified as nothing more than “a type”. Not that Laura Prepon isn’t good in the role, or at least, doesn’t try, it’s just that she’s so obviously a conceit that writers make up on-the-fly, that listening to her recite poetry, literally, makes me gag.

A May-December romance in Hollywood? You don’t say!?!?

And honestly, she’s not the only type here, either.

Even in the lead role, Sam Elliott is most definitely playing himself, once again. Obviously though, this time, he’s got more to work with and yeah, he makes it worth the movie’s time and effort. He’s honest and sad when the movie asks for it and while he gave a better performance in a much smaller-role in Haley’s last movie, it’s still nice to see him get a leading-role, when there’s very few of them in his long, storied career.

But like I said, he’s still a type. Nick Offerman’s stoner-buddy, while heartfelt, is still used as the obviously straining comedic-sidekick who smokes pot and makes jokes about the old days; Krysten Ritter is the estranged daughter who hates her dad no matter what and reminded me far too much of Evan Rachel Wood’s ridiculously similar character in the Wrestler; and Elliot’s real-life wife, Katharine Ross, shows up as his character’s ex-wife and they have a few nice scenes together, but that’s it. There’s nothing more to them, or their relationship. What you see, is what you get, so don’t expect anything more.

Sort of like, ahem, this movie.

Consensus: Even with a solid performance from Elliott in a rare leading role, the Hero still feels like it’s scratching the surface of a very interesting premise that doesn’t get the opportunity to go further and deeper than what seems to be promised.

5 / 10

Long live Sam Elliott. Just not in this movie.

Photos Courtesy of: NPRDeadlineJunk Host

It Comes at Night (2017)

Stay inside. Watch Netflix. Never come out. The end.

In a world where a deadly disease has been rapidly spreading, a close-knit family lives together, holed-up somewhere in the woods, where they fight all sorts of everyday dangers, aside from the disease. While the patriarch of the family, Paul (Joel Edgerton), wasn’t quite ready to live a life like this, he knows that his wife (Carmen Ejogo) and son (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) need him now and it’s about time that he took charge. Which is why when a mysterious outsider (Christopher Abbot) accidentally breaks into the house one day, Paul can’t trust the guy, or anything that he says. Initially, that is. After awhile, the two get to know one another, where they came from, and yeah, even forge something of a bond. And yeah, it turns out that this mysterious stranger has a name – Will – as well as a wife (Riley Keough) and kid. Together, the two families try to stay alive out there in the woods and fight the disease, but weird things begin to happen for both families and it comes to a head, especially when the lies begin to unravel.

New family…..

It Comes at Night has been oddly marketed as a typical and conventional horror-flick, filled with spooky ghosts, creatures, and happenings. It constantly seems to be playing with the fact that there’s an “It“, it goes bump in the night, and yeah, there’s something to worry about, almost in the mythical sense, as opposed to the realistic sense. And I don’t know if it’s smart, or just pure manipulation of advertising, because It Comes at Night doesn’t really have anything to do with spooky and scary monsters in the slightest.

If anything, it’s just about spooky and scary human beings which, from a marketing standpoint, probably isn’t the one thing that’s going to sell tickets to the everyday, average movie-going member. Nope, sirree. Instead, most want to see a dark, twisted, shock-filled, and gory chiller filled with ghosts, goblins, ghouls, and evil, satanic beasts that can only be things of nightmares, as opposed to the real, everyday world.

And that’s why those types of movies, while some being quite good, are just not my bag. They feel phony, fake, and a little too obvious to really creep me out. It Comes at Night, however, is my kind of horror movie; it’s the kind that doesn’t really deal with anything supernatural, but instead, shows us that these supernatural beings are always lingering in everyday, normal human beings who, when pushed to the brink of insanity, act just as ugly, or hell, even as evil as these monsters from other horror flicks are known for acting. Honestly, who needs a Freddy, or a Jason, or even a Pinhead, when you can just have a bunch of normal people, who have to act out, kill, and lose bits and pieces of their soul.

See why I’m not working in advertising?

Regardless, It Comes at Night is a pretty great movie in its own right, forget the whole “horror” genre tie-in. Writer/director Trey Edward Shults clearly plays around with his audience in smart ways, making it seem like the material is going to go down one dark avenue, but then takes another wild turn, going somewhere completely and utterly darker and more sadistic than you’d expected. Because of the small-scope, and presumably, small-budget of the flick, it makes sense that he’s able to get away with some of the mean stuff that he gets away with here – the movie doesn’t back down from showing people, making rash and sometimes, tragic decisions, while having mercy about them, also know that they have to make them, for the greater good of themselves, as well as the ones that they love.

…meet the old family.

It’s basically an episode of the Walking Dead. Except that it’s actually good. Not cheesy. Doesn’t feature any zombies. And, oh yeah, actually has something interesting to say. It reminds me what can be achieved through horror, so long as there’s something going on behind the scares, the chills and the brutality; just having a bunch of scares, violence, and oh yeah, gore, without much going on, doesn’t quite work. There needs to be a soul, a heart, a bleeding pulse to everything that’s going on, because without that, what’s the point?

Sure, some people may be scared, but there’s nothing behind it.

Then again, this is all just me speaking. It Comes at Night will probably fail ten ways from Sunday at the box office, but honestly, that’s because most audience-members won’t be ready for it. They won’t expect the movie to be more character-based and more about the decisions that these people make, and why they make sense. They won’t expect there to be a small amount of actual blood, violence and gore, with most of it actually being hinted at, or shown off the screen. They won’t expect it to have a whole bunch of questions, setting up its dystopian-world, and not really answering a single lick of them. And they sure as hell won’t expect the material to go as deep, as dark and as downright disturbing goes.

But I did. And that’s why I loved it.

Consensus: Remaining smart, interesting, and complex, even despite all of the violence and creepiness that eventually ensues, It Comes at Night is a step above your average horror-fare, showing more mind, than bravado, while still also not backing away from disturbing us in the meantime.

9 / 10

Let the freakiness begin!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Mummy (2017)

Damn. Where was Brendan Fraser when we needed him?

Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) is a soldier in the United States Army who, when he’s not taking down terrorists and saving the country, is going around foreign countries, stealing ancient artifacts, and selling them on the black market for way more than is ever predicted. However, he discovers something that maybe even he may not be able to get away from: A tomb containing, get this, a mummy. Turns out, the mummy (Sofia Boutella) is an old princess who was supposed to be Queen, only to then have been sabotoged, killed and, of course, mummified. Now, she’s out of her tomb and needs something to latch onto, regardless of what it is. So, of course, she latches onto Nick and desires every part of him, hoping that she can, sooner than later, become an evil, but much more powerful spirit than ever before. Nick doesn’t like this, so, with the help of a world-renowned archaeologist Jenny (Annabelle Wallis), who Nick has had relations with in the past, he hopes to not only be rid of this evil, but stop it once and for all, so that no one else in the world can be attacked by such an evil.

Wow. Scientology can do all sorts of tricks to 54-year-old-men’s bodies.

The Mummy is an odd movie in that it’s clearly and most obviously setting-up a franchise, with future, money-grabbing movies to come down the line, but by the same token, also doesn’t feel like it’s leaving a whole lot of room for places this story can go. For instance, we get a glimpse of Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll, who turns crazy and nuts, only to then not moments later, so what’s there to be of him in the future? Is he getting his own movie where he can do what he already did for us? Not to mention the mummy, too, who clearly has her story all laid-out for us, so as to not give us any grey-areas on the matter whatsoever.

So you’d think her story would be done, right?

Well, oddly enough, no. The movie still sets her story up as if there’s something monumental that we just have to wait around for and see. Then, of course, there’s this issue of Tom Cruise who, even at this stage in his career, seems like he may be slumming it a bit for something like the Mummy, where even his charm and wit can’t be the center of attention, but a non-stop punchline just in case for when things get too serious and scary. But yeah, even his story is set-up to continue on and on, but again, his story seems done and, yeah, it’s Tom Cruise, so is he really going to sign on to another one of these when he could just stay at home and collect Mission Impossible money for the rest of his days?

Probably not, but hey, the Mummy is still having fun setting itself up for further adventures down the road. And this is obviously a problem, because it takes away from what could have already been a pretty fun, light and silly romp. Granted, we didn’t really need a reboot of the Mummy, but hey, we got it and if this is the best that they could do, then yeah, it feels like maybe, just maybe, Brendan Fraser’s franchise shouldn’t have even be messed with in the first place.

Literally pre-gaming for Ozzfest already.

Cause it’s not like the Mummy is as awful as everyone is making it out to be; it’s occasionally fun, charming and yes, a little goofy, but it can occasionally come together and be worth watching. It’s honestly all of the CGI, story-strands, set-ups, and mythological elements that don’t quite work and yeah, even get in the way of the spirit of this movie, that can be found if you look deep and hard enough. Granted, it’s not easy to like a movie like the Mummy, especially when it does seem as if it’s trying too hard to please everyone who watches it, but it can be a bit enjoyable, if you can get past all of these other issues that seem to constantly be getting in the way.

But yeah, that can be a pretty difficult task, so it’s understandable if it doesn’t quite work out for you, like it did for me.

I’m just a weird guy who takes it easy on these over-budgeted, glossy, and expensive summer blockbusters that don’t know how to settle themselves down and can, occasionally, become total messes. But sometimes, messes can be fun. They can also be dull, too, which the Mummy can be, when it forgets to let itself be some bit of fun.

Some bit, unfortunately. But there is a bit.

Consensus: Way too much story and set-up for very little reason, the Mummy can be occasionally fun and entertaining, but also feels like it’s a step-down for everyone involved, especially a randomly cast Cruise.

5 / 10

Uh oh. Chris Martin may have an issue here.

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

Krisha (2016)

Jesus. Just stay home and have a nice TV dinner.

Thanksgiving is a time not just made for celebration, but good times, relaxation, and also getting to spend time with your loved ones. And in some ways, it’s even better to do that with family who you haven’t seen in quite some time – not to just let them know how you’re doing, but also what they’re up to and trying to figure out how to ensure that a constant dialogue is kept from there on out. However, for Krisha (Krisha Fairchild), Thanksgiving is going to be a bit of a ride, what with practically her whole family, not really liking her. See, Krisha’s got a bit of a drug-problem that has, unfortunately, turned her into a bit of a nut-ball, pushing members of her family further and further away. But most importantly, it’s the friendship with her estranged son (Trey Edward Shults) that she longs for the most and, honestly, she may not get her way. How she reacts to it will either make, or totally break the holiday spirit.

Getting there…..

The neat idea about Krisha is that it’s basically like every other movie concerning a holiday dinner, in which long, lost family-members get back together, reunite, drink, eat, yuck about, and eventually, get into sparring bouts over silly stuff that doesn’t really matter, but this time, with much more style. See, writer/director Trey Edward Shults pulls-off this neat idea where Krisha, the movie, is basically a horror movie, without any monsters, ghouls, or well, anything scary all that happening. It’s building up tension in the everyday normality of life, that it almost seems obvious, deliberate and a bit showy, but it’s also quite fun to watch – not just because it can be awfully relatable, but Shults may be something with his style.

Then again, maybe he’s not.

In fact, there’s a good portion that Krisha was just such an easy idea to shoot and make a full-length feature-flick out of, without having to spend a whole lot of money with, that it probably was done for that reason. There’s no real point made about families, the spirit of Thanksgiving, or even alcoholism; basically, we’re just watching a family-reunion and dinner that was essentially doomed from the start. Sounds conventional for sure, but what Shults does with the material is interesting, in the small, subtle, yet effective ways that he constantly frames it all like a never-ending horror-chiller, where everything is about to go all up in flames, a train is about to crash, and the world is going to end, and well, all we can do is sit back and watch.

Yup. Sounds exactly like Thanksgiving dinner to me.

Getting closer…..

Anyway, Shults gets a lot of mileage out of his cast here, most of whom are actually just his own family in the first place. Hell, even Shults himself shows up in the movie and gives probably the worst performance of the whole ensemble, which makes you wonder if he just needed someone to fill that role and couldn’t get anyone at the last minute, or is he going to be a softcore version of Tarantino, casting himself in these bit roles in his great movies, making him seem more and more like an egomaniac? I don’t know and well, it doesn’t totally matter, because behind the camera, he does a solid job; he keeps it moving, somewhat exciting, and pretty tense, even when it feels like literally nothing is going to happen.

But of course, a great deal of that praise deserves to go towards Shult’s real-life aunt, Krisha Fairchild, who I haven’t seen before and it’s a damn shame. It’s actually interesting that Shults seems to cast his whole family here, because even with the exception of him, they can mostly all act – Krisha is probably the most perfect and obvious example of that because while she’s playing a pretty loud, big and showy role at times, she still knows how to dial it down a smidge to where we do see a human being underneath all of the craziness. In a way, Fairchild reminds me a lot of Gena Rowlands here, in that she can be so over-the-top and unpredictable, you can’t keep your eyes off of her, but you also know that there’s some bridge of humanity, that it makes her even more watchable.

In this case, then yeah, casting your family is a smart idea. Just don’t turn into the Smith’s over there, Shults.

Consensus: While a bit showy and pretentious, even despite its awfully simple premise, Krisha still works by taking a different approach to familiar material, and also allowing for its lead to run rings.

6.5 / 10

Yup. Full-blown crazy.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Before I Fall (2017)

High school is life. Then you die.

Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) seems to have everything that a girl in high school could ever possibly want. She’s popular, she’s got a loving boyfriend (Kian Lawley), who may, or may not be ready to take her virginity, a solid group of gal pals, and oh yeah a seemingly perfect future, filled with fame, fortune, and plenty of good times to be had. But that all changes when, after a late night party, Samantha and all of her friends are killed in a car-accident. But rather than living the rest of her existence in what some may refer to as “the afterlife”, Samantha instead relives her final day, over and over again, falling asleep, and waking up to the same day. At first, Samantha has no clue what’s happening, so she lashes out and gets reckless. But after awhile, she starts to realize that maybe this is a calling, hell, maybe even a sign for her to start treating those around her with respect, love and admiration. Cause after all, a lot can happen in a day and hell, sometimes, just a day, can make a whole difference.

Uh oh. Mean girls!

So yeah, Before I Fall is, essentially, the YA Groundhog Day and by now, I think we’ve seen enough spins on that same narrative trick, in all honesty. And hell, it’s not like it’s not worth trying to see just how Hollywood can change around the gimmick, but after awhile, it’s hard to find anything else new out of it. We get it, life is beautiful and it’s a thing we shouldn’t take for granted.

Hell, even Ferris Bueller told us that, and he didn’t need a single gimmick.

However, Before I Fall is still a nice, rather enjoyable piece of YA-fiction that doesn’t quite strain itself to be more important than it actually is, but instead, stick to its roots and show us that high school, while a confusing and sometimes silly point in all of our lives, has a greater effect on our own well-being than we actually think. Before I Fall doesn’t try to say that high school is life, or that high school is greatest time of it, but it does say that it’s a time where you’re still growing, understanding, and realizing just who the hell you, your friends, and family are. It’s also the same time in which you think long and hard about where you want to set the course for the rest of your life, which can be both a problem, as well as a beautiful thing.

But at the same time, Before I Fall is still a sappy, melodramatic and rather cheesy YA movie that deals with honest feelings about coming-of-age, but also feels like it’s a little too ordinary and orchestrated to be as painfully real as it wants. Before she got involved with this, director Ry Russo-Young has actually been hopping around the indie-world, making small, intimate, and rather quiet movies about day-to-day humans and the connections that they have. They aren’t great movies, but they’re at least pretty interesting to watch.

“Why does everyone call me Leah?”

That is to say that Before I Fall feels like another one of her small, quiet and intimate indies, but at the same time, still made for a huge audience that probably would hate those movies. Meaning this one, isn’t all that subtle, loves to spell things out and yes, even go so far as to have a way-too-hip-and-cool soundtrack that feels like it just wants to be bought at a Best Buy (they still exist, right?).

That said, it is hard to hate on a movie, and a mainstream one at that, that’s all about being nice, kind and loving to those around you, and realizing who’s ugly, mean and distasteful. It’s not something new, or better yet, ground-breaking to see in a YA movie dealing with high school kids, but hey, it’s worth pointing out in the first place.

And oh yeah, it’s worth pointing out that Zoey Deutch is charming as hell.

While it’s hard to get past the fact that she’s the daughter of Lea Thompson (mostly because they look so ridiculously alike), Deutch still has a certain thing about her where she’s pretty, but also a lot smarter than you’d think. Over time, we start to see that there’s more to be seen and understood about Samantha, which makes her character more interesting and compelling over time, and Deutch handles it well. While she was definitely better in Everybody Wants Some!! (mostly because Richard Linklater is God and knows how to write women incredibly well), she’s still good here and shows us that she’s ready to be the new teen idol.

Hm. Sort of like, I don’t know, her mom?

Consensus: A tad cheesy, melodramatic and soapy, Before I Fall is another YA flick that feels like it has more to say, but mostly falls back on its occasionally clever premise and gimmick.

6 / 10

Damn millennials and their selfies.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Fist Fight (2017)

Honestly, I myself would have just wanted to brawl with one of my teachers.

It’s the last day of school, and for most people, they’re just worried about getting pranked and having to remember the shame for the rest of the summer. But for Andy (Charlie Day), he’s just worried about getting his ass kicked or not. See, it all started when Andy ran into Ron (Ice Cube), the history teacher who is a bit of a hot-head and not the nicest guy around, and accidentally ratted him out to the principal (Dean Norris) for doing something extremely bad. Ron doesn’t like snitches, so he challenges Andy to a brawl, in the parking-lot, right after school. Everyone hears about it, which leads to many people getting in Andy’s head, messing with him, and driving him even further to madness than ever before. Which is an issue for Andy, especially on a day like this, where he actually has to be at his daughter’s talent show by the end of the day and, you know, not worrying about getting his ass kicked.

Don’t look, Charlie. He’s about to quote an two-decade’s old NWA song.

There’s something to be said for most mainstream comedies out there in the world today that feel as if they were written with a paintbrush. Most of them just have a plot, have a few characters, and other broad spectrum of the story, but for the most part, don’t really have much else filled. It’s almost as if they’re just written for the sake of being written, so that big stars can sign onto them and the projects can get funding, made, and released to the world to see.

What happens in between, honestly, is all up in the air and made up on the spot, and that’s feel like what happens with Fist Fight, another studio comedy that relies heavily on improv, but ultimately, doesn’t have that many jokes to sustain its already overlong run-time and premise. That said, there is some humor to be found, which is mostly always the case when you have reliable comedy talents in it like Charlie Day, Tracy Morgan, Ice Cube, Jillian Bell, and, uh, Christina Hendricks? Believe it or not, everyone’s pretty funny here and adds a few zingers every so often to make it seem like the movie isn’t just one lame joke, over and over again.

That’s typically the case with improv: Some of it is good, some of it isn’t. But most of it is, and can be, entertaining to watch.

“Something, something, drugs. AHAHA!”

That said, Fist Fight also feels like the kind of comedy where there isn’t all that much else to it, except funny people, playing around, collecting a paycheck, and trying to make the most of it. It’s not even that it feels soulless, as much as it just feels a bit boring, because you know that there’s really nothing in this that makes these talents want to work their hardest and best; Bell is a perfect example of this, as she literally starts off the movie, saying that she wants to bang a student, but that she’s also on meth. Sure, Jillian Bell is always funny, and is definitely funny here, but when you start the movie off with those two extremes, it’s a little hard to fall back on anything else.

And oh yeah, the plot, too. See, one of the interesting things about Fist Fight is that there is, believe it or not, some interesting commentary to be had about the school-system and how, in ways, it will literally drive two respectable, likable teachers, to the brink of madness and feel as if they have to beat the hell out of each other, just to keep their jobs. It’s a bit of an extreme example, for sure, but it also helps Fist Fight seem like more than just a lot of jokes and some story.

Which is, essentially, what it is.

And no, I’m not crapping on Fist Fight for not having more interesting ideas, or better yet, even more plot to work with; it’s a comedy and by default, has to be funny. If that’s the case, then yes, Fist Fight is a serviceable comedy that has laughs to offer. But like I said, not much else.

Consensus: Even with a solid cast who can handle goofy material like this well, Fist Fight also feels a bit underdeveloped and like every other studio comedy ever made.

5 / 10

Someone do something. Come on!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Wonder Woman (2017)

Alright DC. I see what you did there.

Before she was ever known as the rough, tough, fearless, and absolutely beautiful Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), she was also Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. However, Diana always longed for something more than just kicking ass and taking names, as being and raised on a sheltered island paradise, she never really got to see the outside world. But that all changes when she meets an American pilot Steve (Chris Pine) who tells her about the massive conflict that’s raging in the outside world, between the Germans and the U.S., meaning, WWI. Diana believes that the threat may actually be Ares, the ruthless and evil God that her family has spoken about for so very long, so she joins Steve along for the ride, to see if she can stop the pain and death from happening. Cause after all, Diana just wants peace, regardless of who is against it, and it’s something that Steve, as well as fellow other humans who meet her, soon to start to realize.

Hey, Diana? I think it’s a bit chilly out there in no man’s land.

It’s not a surprise to anyone that DC has got a lot of catching up to do. Marvel practically owns the name and the game when it comes to the superhero movie market and by now, it’s not even worth the battle. They’ve been around the longest and the far more superior brand that it’s probably best just to let them do their thing and wait for it all to die out, as all things once popular do.

But now, Wonder Woman shows up and all of a sudden, Marvel’s got something to work against. Sure, a lot of the praise from Wonder Woman comes from the fact that, so far, the two other DC movies have been lacking and messy as hell, but a good portion of the praise comes from the fact that Wonder Woman is a solid movie, filled with action, fun, excitement, humor, heart, romance, sci-fi, and yes, just enough references to keep everyone pleased with what they’re watching, as well as looking forward to what’s next to come. In ways, Wonder Woman is an origin story which, by now, has become so tiring and uninteresting, but somehow, director Patty Jenkins makes it all work, making Wonder Woman, look and feel like an old-fashioned Hollywood flick that our grandparents would probably enjoy the hell out of.

But by the same token, Wonder Woman is still a solid movie, old-fashioned or not.

It looks like a superhero movie and literally deals with a super, duper Amazonian woman who can deflect bullets with her shields and lasso people to death with a golden, glowing rope, but it’s also just a typical action swashbuckler, filled with action, bullets, death, a bit of blood, and oh yeah, monsters. So maybe that last part is a bit out there, but still, you get the point: Patty Jenkins and everyone aboard came together to make a movie that’s not just a loving ode to Wonder Woman and other superheros just like her, but the power of peace, love and tranquility. It’s a little difficult to talk about that in a movie where, of course, every issues is solved with fists, kicks, and death grips, but still, it matters in a movie like this.

Oh and yeah, it’s a movie about women being the most powerful ones in the room, but the rest of society just not knowing it, understanding it, or even wanting to accept. A lot of the humor here is placed on Wonder Woman being a lot more talented and smarter than most of the men around her, which is used for ironic chuckles, but also takes on a more serious-meaning, especially when we look at the world we live in today. Honestly, I’m not one for drawing paralles between a movie that is so obviously fiction, it’s not even funny, to the real, hard, and honest world, but sometimes, it’s hard to look away from this stuff.

Sometimes, it just needs to be restated that women rule, boys drool, and guess what, we’re all equal. So shut up to those who don’t believe the same!

Okay, I’m done.

Come on, boys. Show a little more skin.

But like I said before, Wonder Woman is light, breezy, and not all that serious of a movie, which definitely has to do with the tone, but also has to do with Gal Gadot’s downright star-making turn as Wonder Woman. Sure, this isn’t her first outing as the kick-ass princess, but for the sake of the argument, let’s say it is, because not only does Gadot get to show the world her true talents that Dawn of Justice wouldn’t allow for us to see, but she also gives us the most compelling superhero in quite some time. While Batman and Superman, in the DC world, are all conflicted with their feelings of honesty and of course, the daddy issues, Wonder Woman is a superhero that battles the reality that the world is an ugly place that even someone like her, can’t make better.

Is it a bit cheesy? Sure, but it works so well because Gadot is believable every second here. It helps that she’s gorgeous-as-hell, but it also helps that she has a nice presence about herself, where she’s not afraid to look sexy and daring, but also a little goofy. She reminds me of all the insanely hot girls from my high school who I didn’t bother with, not because they were out of my league (which they were), but because they didn’t have a lick of personality to them (which was also true, but honestly, it didn’t stop me from asking half of those girls out).

Either way, Gadot is amazing here and her chemistry with the always dependable Chris Pine, is another sight to behold. Honestly, I’d watch a movie where it was just to the two of them having a meet-cute and watching as the clouds aligned, but in the midst of all the action, CGI, and general craziness, they create something beautiful and honest. It doesn’t just give me hope for this franchise, but also for the real world, where it doesn’t matter who, or what, or where you are, you will always find somebody to love.

Okay, maybe a bit deep there, but you get the idea.

Consensus: Smart, exciting, and heartfelt, Wonder Woman is the first real good movie of the DC universe, but also a solid superhero movie in its own right, proving why, honestly, woman truly do rule the world. Get used to it, fellas.

8.5 / 10

Wait, is Gal Gadot auditioning for a role as a Sith Lord? Because I totally buy it!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

My Kid Could Paint That (2007)

Hey, I’ve never seen Da Vinci paint, so who knows if he really did it?

Ever since she was a little girl, Marla Olmstead watched her dad paint. So, at age four, she decided to take up the hobby and wouldn’t you know it? The little gal had some skills! While her paintings may have been random shapes, sizes, colors, and ideas, for some reason, the art world took notice; her age was a huge factor in her popularity, but also because the art world likes expressionistic paintings, like the ones she created, and embraced them no matter who they came from. Eventually, the rest of the world was taking notice to Marla and her extreme talent, which, as expected, led to a lot of praise, but at the same time, questions. After a 60 Minutes piece goes live on-air, Marla’s paintings are question and discussed as to whether or not she actually did paint them, or simply put, just acted and said that she did, so that the paintings could get sold to the highest-bidder? Or possibly, perhaps, she did do the paintings, but maybe not to the fullest-extent that the world was lead to believe? Meanwhile, it’s her parents, Mark and Laura, who seem to be in the spotlight more and more, due to their possible assistance in these profitable creations.

Suckers!

It’s hard to totally talk about My Kid Could Paint That without really getting down to what your own personal thoughts and beliefs on this actual controversy is. The movie itself, for the first-half, is actually pretty boring and feels like nothing more than a lame, amateurish student-project that probably would have been better suited as a ten-minute special for TV, rather than a half-hour puff-piece about this little girl who can create some surprisingly detailed paintings. It’s as if director Amir Bar-Lev couldn’t believe it himself that she could paint all of this stuff, and wanted to be there first and foremost, see what all the fuss was about. Even if you don’t believe she did any of the paintings, the first-half is still a bore, not because you’re waiting for the ax to drop and questions to arise, but because it just seems so one-note and repetitive, that it can’t help but feel like a slog.

Then, it all changes and all of a sudden, the first-half makes sense.

See, for Bar-Lev, it seems like the first-half is mostly used as a way to introduce us to these people, their personalities, and just exactly what he saw, when he first started to film the movie. It’s not as if he’s saying that these people are great, or deserve to be adored, but more or less, seen as possible human beings, right before the world gets an idea of who they are and whether or not they are building up some sort of scam. It’s brave that Bar-Lev continued on with the project when, just about halfway through filming, everything starts to crumble for both the subjects, as well as him, but it’s even braver that he didn’t seemed to get swamped-up into everything.

See, My Kid Could Paint That could have been, and possibly, even should have been, a total and complete hatchet-job on Marla and the family that possibly used her for their own self-worth. Whether or not you believe she did these paintings, doesn’t quite matter once the answers seemed to be brought up, but Bar-Lev, for his part at least, tries to stay as neutral as can be; he never passes all that much judgement on what he thinks to be true, and even when he does, it’s with such kindness and courtesy that you know he even feels bad saying anything.

But once again, the movie isn’t just about the paintings, first and foremost. Sure, the movie is about who made these paintings and what constitutes and actual artist, but it’s also about the art world itself and whether or not a world that lives and breaths on lies and deception, can honestly be sympathized with, when it’s tooled with. Maybe Marla did the paintings? Or maybe she didn’t? Either way, the art world looked upset and pissed-off, and in ways, isn’t there something to be said for that, regardless of who created said paintings in the first place?

Can’t hide from shame, people!

Most definitely.

But then again, it’s also why Bar-Lev is a smart enough film-maker to make My Kid Could Paint That about so much more than the art world, and whether or not Marla created these paintings. There are certain twists and turns that you don’t see coming, but all seem natural in the day-to-day life. For example, Bar-Lev doesn’t just simply tell us what to believe is actually real, or isn’t, who’s lying, or who isn’t, but more or less, keeps the camera on these people as they talk and try to explain themselves. It’s simple film-making, for sure, but it can be quite effective, especially when you have such a hot-button topic as this, with people who couldn’t be more ambiguous as to what the truth is, or isn’t.

Once again, whether or not Marla did these paintings, almost doesn’t matter. It’s the idea of something like this happening that’s probably more compelling and it’s why Bar-Lev deserves praise. He caught something in the knick of time, but rather than jumping on it and going all bananas, seemed to cool himself down and remember that there’s something more beneath what is just seen on the canvas.

Consensus: Despite a slow start, My Kid Could Paint That gets more compelling once its actual story comes into focus, where more and more questions seem to get asked, without clear, definitive answers made all that known to us.

8 / 10

Sorry, kid. Stick to circles.

Photos Courtesy of: True Films

War Machine (2017)

War is bad, m’kay?

Four-star General Glen McMahon (Brad Pitt) is one of the most respected men in the Army and it’s why all of the men that he surrounds himself with, not only just stand by every word he says, but also seem to have his back no matter what. Which is why when he’s sent to Afghanistan to bring the war to an end, they can’t help but do whatever it is that he asks of them. But it’s a rough situation McMahon and his men find themselves in; for one, they have to do the impossible tasks of stopping insurgencies for constantly forming and killing people. Second of all, they have to ensure that the politicians the U.S. wants in Afghanistan’s office, actually do get elected, so that they can promote “peace and tranquility”, despite the fact that the U.S. actually invaded Afghanistan in the first place. All that said, McMahon is a class-act and more than up to the task, but after a short while, even he finds himself on the receiving-end of all sorts of screw-ups that don’t seem to be coming from his directly, but somehow, he’s getting the blame for. When is he going to crack?

Grandpa?

War Machine is an odd movie in that it’s no doubt a satire on the war in Afghanistan, and how the U.S. clearly had no idea how to end its conflict without looking dirty, mean and downright brutal, but it’s also a movie that tries to go a bit deeper and ask us how we get there in the first place. In that sense, the movie doesn’t quite work; War Machine is a movie that’s far too enamored with its silly, sometimes off-the-wall characters and the situations they find themselves in, to really get all that involved with what really causes war and conflict between two nations to begin with. Sure, are those ideas played with here? Yes, they are, but they almost seem like they don’t go far enough to really stick the knife in and twist it, like all good satires do.

You know, like Three Kings, for starters.

But hey, War Machine isn’t Three Kings, which isn’t a good thing, or a bad one – it’s just a thing. They’re both satires that make fun of the war, as well as the people who find themselves wrapped-up in them, but the former clearly has a certain angle it’s wanting to take, getting down into the PR-side of it all. In fact, War Machine does work best when it’s trying to develop just how a country can look when they’re not just trying to end a war they sort of started, but just how they can do it all without looking like the evil and maniacal beings that they probably are. It’s an interesting conflict that already sits next to other interesting conflicts to be seen here, but it also makes me feel like War Machine could have been longer.

Then again, at two hours, the movie doesn’t feel long, nor does it ever really drag. It moves, even if it can’t always figure out a perfect tone to stick with, but that’s normal with most satires. Having fun and making jokes are easy to do, but when it comes to turning that other cheek and getting all serious, then yeah, it’s a little bit more difficult. That said, writer/director David Michôd does a solid job here transitioning between the many threads of plot and tone, even if by the end, it still sort of feels like it may have benefited from some more developing on certain ends.

Two worlds collide.

For example, while it was nice we got see some heart and humanity behind Pitt’s McMahon, where was everybody else’s in this insanely-stacked cast? After all, the movie does sort of pride itself on the fact that McMahon’s surrounded by this rag-tag group of goobers, who may also be efficient at their jobs, or may just be good enough that McMahon lets them slide on doing rather dumb stuff. In fact, a much more developed and concise movie probably would have kept the focus fully on this group alone and sort of had all of the other stuff go by the waist side. Because, yeah, when you have Anthony Michael Hall, John Magaro, RJ Cyler, Tilda Swinton, Ben Kingsley, Scoot McNairy, Will Poulter, Griffin Dunne, Alan Ruck, Emory Cohen, Keith Stanfield, and hell, even Topher Grace here, feeling as if they’re maybe, I don’t know, a bit dumped around, it’s a shame.

But hey, at least Pitt’s good, right? As always? Right?

Well, actually yes. See, while all of the reviews have been criticizing his role as just another goofy and rugged take on Aldo Raine, but this time, older and with grayer hair, it actually worked for me. In a way, it was nice to see Pitt take on a role that was clearly meant for an older fella (which he is), in which he gets to be both charming, as well as a little stern. Some of his mannerisms are a bit over-the-top and maybe put-upon, but it’s hard to get annoyed by them after awhile, especially once we see this character away from the spotlight and just chatting it up with those around him, especially in the lovely, yet, rather sad scenes he has with his wife, as played by Meg Tilly. Pitt may be playing a character here for sure, but he tries to go deeper and the movie helps him in that regard.

Is it his finest hour? Nope, but hey, it’s still a joy to watch.

Consensus: Tonally uneven and a bit underdeveloped, War Machine could have benefited from some more time, perhaps, but thanks to a smart message and solid cast, it goes by easy.

6.5 / 10

Still muggin’ it, eh Brad?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire