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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Category Archives: 7-7.5/10

Ruby Sparks (2012)

Secretly, all men want a Manic Pixie Dream Girl to spend the rest of their lives with.

Writer Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) is sort of like the literary definition of what it means to be a “one-hit wonder”. The guy had that one book that practically took the whole reading world by storm, and then somehow fell off the face of the planet without a clue or idea of what his next book might be. As his fans continue to wait more and more desperately for what he has next to bring to the table, he can’t seem to get his head around the fact that he simply has nothing. That is, until he starts writing about the latest creation in his head: Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan). At first, Ruby only appears to him in his dreams and in his writing, but suddenly it becomes all too real and Calvin realizes that he actually has a real-life girlfriend that goes by the name of “Ruby Sparks” and will do anything and everything he writes about her doing.

And there you have it: The male fantasy, given to one geeky, antisocial writer. What a waste!

"Hello? Police? Yes, I have an intruding-hipster in my house that won't stop making all my meals vegan and telling me how the man is wrong, man. I need back-up assistance!"

“Hello? Police? Yes, I have an intruding-hipster in my house that won’t stop making all my meals vegan and telling me how the man is wrong, man. I need back-up assistance!”

Ruby Sparks, like a lot of other indies of its own kind, deals with an originally wacky and quirky idea, but you know what? It milks it for all that it’s worth. It’s hard to take it entirely seriously, until you realize that, after awhile, the movie itself is in order to deal with the greater aspects of life, like, for instance, love itself. Ruby Sparks shows us how no matter where we go in life, no matter who we date, or no matter how much we try to change the other person, that idea and sense of love will always be there, as much as we may injure and toy around with it. A person can change their look, style, views, friends, favorite places to eat, etc., but they can’t change the inner-self that makes them a person, especially one that deserves to be loved by anybody or anyone. People forget about that because you think about that one person not being with you and how much he/she has changed without you around to talk or be with, when in reality, they are still the same person, just with some changes here and there.

In other words, the bolts and crannies may be loosened, but the gears are still turning and moving the way they once did.

 

So yeah, Ruby Sparks can be funny and a little silly, but it’s also very deep and has something to say. Where it begins to run its unfortunate course is within the actual characters themselves of Calvin and Ruby. You see, the double-edged sword behind Calvin and Ruby is that you love them when they’re together and being all cute with one another, but once they get away from all the cuteness and start getting semi-serious, mad, and sad, then, you begin to realize that they aren’t as likable as you had once imagined. I don’t know if Ruby can count since she is practically a character that was made on the page and does next whatever Calvin rights her to do, but he sure as hell can since he’s not a real nice dude to begin with.

Maybe I’m alone on this boat, but I’m not always there rooting for the “troubled-soul of a writer who can’t come up with an idea and treats everybody around him like crap”-aspect of most movies. I do get that writers going through writer’s block tend to be awful to those around them, no matter who it is around them, but Calvin turns out to be just an unpleasant guy that you can’t really seem to be happy with when he’s happy, or even sad when he’s sad. You just sort of don’t care. Or, if you do care, it’s mainly for Ruby since the poor gal actually loves the dude for who he is, rather than what he should be in her mind, something he can’t seem to avoid with everybody he runs into.

Prefers long walks on the beach. Wow, that Ruby girl is so unique....

Prefers long walks on the beach. Wow, that Ruby girl is so unique….

That’s not to say that Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano aren’t good in this movie, whether they be together or separate, it’s just that their characters aren’t written as well as the ideas and thoughts of the premise were. That’s especially surprising since Kazan wrote the screenplay herself, and you’d think that there would be more to her characters than just stock, but that’s sadly not the case. Dano does what he can to make Calvin a nice, charming-enough dude to stand to be around, but it doesn’t amount to much other than another case of a guy who can’t seem to check himself into reality just yet. Kazan is good as Ruby, which also helps since the chick is literally as cute as a button that I hope to see more of in the near-future.

But not like a hipster. Please, no more of that.

Though the leads don’t knock anything out the park, the supporting cast is at least better and worth mentioning. Chris Messina plays Calvin’s slightly jealous, envious brother that wants to have the same advantages that Calvin has in his easy-going life, but just can’t because he’s married, has a kid, and a little thing called “responsibilities”. Messina is great at these types of roles and always finds a way to make them the least bit likeable, even if the characters he plays do seem a bit dick-ish, at a first glance. Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas play their parents that are the old-school, stoner hippies that haven’t realized ‘Nam ended some time long ago; it’s nice to see Elliott Gould working again, even if it is just a small-role as Calvin’s just-as-inspired therapist; and Steve Coogan, once again, plays a dastardly character.

Consensus: The idea behind Ruby Sparks is smarter and more thought-out than the actual characters, but Kazan’s writing always remains compelling and interesting, even when it does detour in obvious territories like the fight every couple should have, or the thing that’s keeping them from really loving each other. However, this time, it’s with a twist!

7 / 10

"The girl of his dreams", or, "A girl he can't see because the sun is practically beaming down on his face."

“The girl of his dreams”, or, “A girl he can’t see because the sun is practically beaming down on his face.”

Photos Courtesy of: Fox Searchlight

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First They Killed My Father (2017)

What a world we live in.

Loung Ung (Sareum Srey Moch) is just like any other 5-year-old girl. She loves her Ma (Sveng Socheata), her Pa (Phoeung Kompheak), and the rest of her family. Her father’s a government worker, so of course they live a relatively cushy, pain-free life where they get to have all sorts of food and watch all the TV they want. It’s a pretty nice life for a five-year-old, but it all changes when the Khmer Rouge assumes power over Cambodia in 1975 and forces Loung and her family out on the streets. For the next year, Loung’s life will consist of travelling to camps across the country, where they will be interned and forced to work, follow rules, and do whatever those with all of the power say they have to do. Loung has no clue what’s going on, nor should she; however, her family does and it’s why she ends up getting split-up with all of them, and sent to a child soldier camp. There, she learns the gruesome art of killing and all of the fun tricks and trades that come with it. But Loung wants her family back and she’s absolutely determined to find them, wherever there may be. But in Cambodia, at this point in time, danger lurked everywhere you looked.

Five-year-olds – they never have a clue what’s going on! Damn kids!

First They Killed My Father is probably the best movie Angelina Jolie has directed so far. Granted, that’s not saying a whole lot, but it still proves that there truly is some talent and skill underneath all of that obvious ambition and passion fully on-display. Whereas her past three movies have all felt like she had something to say and didn’t quite know how to get it out onto the screen, or better yet, what to even do with it, First They Killed My Father shows Jolie getting her point across, but in the most simple way possible:

By just letting the story play-out, exactly as it would for a five-year-old like Loung.

And that’s the actual beauty of First They Killed My Father – everything we see, hear, feel, is all through the eyes, ears, and gaze of Loung. In this sense, the movie almost feels like a dream, constantly swishing and swooshing from one event, to the other, but it’s effective. It gives us a human look and feel on the true brutality of the Cambodian Genocide, but doesn’t ever feel like it’s dramatizing it; it feels like we are in her head and because of that, it’s hard not to look away.

And yes, for the first hour or so, First They Killed My Father is a small, somewhat quiet, and incredibly subtle picture about a very large, very disastrous, and very disturbing part of our planet’s history. Jolie doesn’t seem to be in any particular rush to tell this story, or get any point across – she just tells the story, like it’s meant to be told, without her getting in the way and ruining everything. That seems to have been the problem with mostly all of Jolie’s flicks, as she constantly finds herself somehow getting in lost in translation, or not really knowing how to make certain stuff work, but this time around, she’s got it down well enough to where it registers and never lets us forget that, oh yeah, she’s quite talented.

Waste of perfectly good bamboo.

That said, still not a perfect movie.

If anything, it’s a very impressive one that shows us Jolie is capable of making a good movie, if not a great one. But for now, First They Killed My Father will have to stay in the group of the former, especially with the final hour. See, what happens about halfway through, is that when the story does escalate into becoming something far more violent and action-packed, it feels different; we still see everything through the eyes of Loung, but the movie’s pace picks up and it’s a tad jarring.

Rather than remaining a quiet, almost meditative flick, everything’s all ramped-up, with blood, guts, limbs, bombs, and weapons flying everywhere. It’s still somewhat effective, because it never takes us away from the true tragedy of what actually happened, but it does feel like a different movie entirely and because of that, it can’t help but feel a little messy. It took me out of the film a bit and had me forgetting about the previous hour I just saw, where a director was truly soaking in the material, not getting in the way, and not being too over-the-top about it.

That all changes, unfortunately, and shows that we’re still a bit away from getting Jolie’s masterpiece. Maybe someday very, very soon.

Consensus: Artfully and surprisingly tastefully directed, First They Killed My Father is a dramatic and moving improvement on Jolie’s past flicks, but also keeps her a slight bit away from achieving true greatness.

7.5 / 10

With this and Beasts of No Nation, maybe Netflix’s niche is child-soldiers? I don’t know. Just saying.

Photos Courtesy of: Netflix

Year of the Dog (2007)

Save the animals. Don’t save yourself.

Peggy (Molly Shannon) seems to have a pretty normal and relatively safe life going for her. She’s surrounded by friends and family, as well as her beloved beagle that she cares for each and every chance she gets. She’s not married and doesn’t have any kids of her own, so basically, it’s her one and only responsibility. But after the beagle dies, Peggy soon begins to look for all sorts of ways to fill the void in her life. This leads her to getting involved with people she doesn’t quite care for, watching over her friends’ kids, and also doing other monotonous tasks that only a person in the sort of funk she’s in, would ever be bothered with. But then, Peggy gets the grand idea: “Save” all of the dogs in the world. Meaning, it’s time that she doesn’t just adopt one dog, or hell, even two, but maybe like, I don’t know, 15 at a time. Why, though? Is it grief? Or is just because Peggy literally wants to save every dog in the world and believes that she can, slowly by surely, dog-by-dog?

That’s how it all starts: With just one dog.

One of the great things about Mike White and his writing is that no matter how zany, or silly, or downright wacky his characters and their stories can get, he always has a certain love and respect that never seems to go away. In the case of the Year of the Dog, with Peggy, we see a generally goofy, sad, lonely little woman who seems like she could easily just be the punchline to every joke. And, for awhile at least, that’s what she is; Year of the Dog is the kind of movie that likes to poke fun at its main protagonist, while also realizing that there are people out there in the real world just like her and rather than making fun, maybe we should just accept them.

While, of course, also making jokes at their expense.

But still, that’s why White’s writing is so good here – he knows how to develop this character in small, interesting and actual funny ways, without ever seeming like he’s trying too hard. The comedy can verge on being “cringe”, but in a way, White actually dials it back enough to where we get a sense for the languid pacing and it actually works. We begin to realize that the movie isn’t really as slow, as much as it’s just taking its time, allowing us to see certain aspects of Peggy’s life and those around her.

Hey, guys! Here’s Peter Sarsgaard playing a normal human being! Wow!

It also helps give us more time to pay close-attention to Molly Shannon’s great work as Peggy, once again showing us why she’s one of the more underrated SNL talents to ever come around. It’s odd because when she was on that show, Shannon was mostly known for being over-the-top and crazy, but in almost everything that she’s touched since, including this, the roles have mostly stayed down-played and silent. You can almost sense that she’s maybe trying to prove a point, but you can also tell that she’s just genuinely trying to give herself a challenge as an actress and show the whole world what she can do.

And as Peggy, she does a lot, without it ever seeming like it. It’s a very small, subtle performance, but there’s a lot to watch here, what with the character’s constant quirks and oddities, making her actually a very compelling presence on the screen. We don’t know what she’s going to do next, or to whom, and for that, she’s always watchable and constantly keeping this movie interesting, even when it seems like nothing is happening.

But that’s sort of the beauty about a Mike White film: Nothing seems as if it’s happening, but in a way, everything is.

Consensus: With a solid lead performance from Shannon, Year of the Dog gets by despite some odd quirks, but also remembers to keep its heart and humor.

7 / 10

I think everyone aspires to have this car, with all these same types of furry friends in it.

Photos Courtesy of: Plan B Entertainment

Little Evil (2017)

Every dad gets static from their kids. Especially the ones that aren’t even their DNA.

Gary (Adam Scott) is doing the best that he can as step-dad to Lucas (Owen Atlas), but as most step-dads know, it’s not all that easy. For one, he loves Lucas’ mother (Evangeline Lilly), but also knows how hard it is to compete with the father of Lucas, whoever the hell he may be. Also though, Lucas may be, what we call, “evil”. In fact, literally so. It gets quite scary for Gary, who does whatever he can to connect to the kid and become something of a father-figure, but for some reason, it just doesn’t seem to work – there’s something about Lucas that is weird and dangerous. It’s something that Gary, along with a fellow league of bewildered step-dads investigate just to find out what’s really going on Lucas’ head and whether or not he can be saved/helped. But when someone’s possibly the descendant of the Antichrist, it’s very hard to save them.

Yup. Toates normal.

Like, at all.

A few years ago, writer/director Eli Craig made a snappy, funny, and intelligent little horror-comedy called Tucker and Dale v. Evil. It’s hard to say what was so genius about it, other than that it turned the horror-genre on its ears and used a one-joke premise to its fullest extreme. Just when you thought the movie was done making jokes at its own expense and was going to run out of stuff to do, say, or even work with, guess what? It went that extra mile. But it was also funny, too, and not in that kind of smarmy, look-at-me kind of way – it was a genuinely funny and interesting horror-comedy that kind of had something to say, but better yet, had something to do.

Which is why Little Evil still kind of works, but seven years later, also can’t help but feel like a bit of disappointment.

It’s still a funny movie, though. Like Tucker and Dale, it’s very much a one-note premise that constantly reinvents itself in goofy, even wackier ways that honestly didn’t even seem imaginable. Craig seems to be parodying the Omen, and other “demon-child” movies, but also seems to be having a good time exploring the facts of life when it comes to being a step-father.

Which is to say that the movie has a heart and something on its mind, although, by the same token, doesn’t go as far as it possibly wants to, or even should. It’s literally under 90 minutes, and because of that, it can’t help but feel a little too quick, a little too swift, and most of all, a little too rushed. It’s still funny, with the jokes both making fun of the premise, as well as benefiting from, working, but there’s still something there just not fully connecting. Don’t know what it is, but yeah, you can sort of feel it.

But then again, the ensemble is so much fun to watch and be around that, at the end of the day, does it even matter?

With a mother like that, would a demon-child even matter?

Adam Scott, as usual, plays a perfect every-man as Gary, the stepdad who tries so desperately to be loved and respected by his stepson, yet, just can’t seem to catch a break. There’s some heartbreak to be had there with what I just said, but the movie doesn’t bother to go as deep as it probably wants to – Scott does, though, and it’s why, the performance comes off any better than it probably should have. He’s funny and knows when to tell the best joke, but there’s something deeper and darker there that makes the movie a bit more interesting, rather than just being a barrel of silly jokes about demons and children.

As his wife, Evangeline Lilly is charming and as cute-as-a-button, as usual, whereas Owen Atlas, when he’s not being terribly scary, also has some nice little moments as Lucas. The real stand-out, however, is Bridget Everett as Al, another stepdad that’s along with Gary for this wild ride. Yes, it is a joke: Having Everett play, basically, a man, but it’s a joke that works, time and time again. She’s easily the one having the best and most fun, constantly cracking jokes and seeming like the life of whatever party is being held. It’s nice to see Everett get a chance to be funny, as usual, but also have it pay-off in a movie that’s so deserving of her.

You know. Unlike Fun Mom Dinner.

Consensus: While a small step-down from his debut, Craig’s Little Evil is still a funny and relatively enjoyable piece of horror-comedy that doesn’t quite have the stamina to go as deep as it perhaps would like to.

7 / 10

Yeah, it’s okay, man. Just look at the mother.

Photos Courtesy of: Netflix 

Band Aid (2017)

Who says music can’t save lives?!?

Ben (Adam Pally) and Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) have been married for quite some time, but from what it seems like, they may not totally last. They can’t stop fighting about whatever is on their mind, nor do they ever seem to have any enjoyable times together. That all begins to change, however, when they both realize that maybe, just maybe, they can use their skills as musicians as a way to cope and mend the fences between them two and hell, maybe even use it as therapy. But to start working on that all, they need to get a band together, which then eventually adds neighbor Dave (Fred Armisen) who, despite being a little weird, means well and is there to not just help the band out on the drums, but to help both Ben and Anna out, too. But with the songs working and coming together in a solidly-catchy fashion, does that mean that everything’s all peachy-kin for the couple? Or, are they back to their usual screaming and fighting-bouts that seem to come out of nowhere and end up at about the same place?

Pictured: Their only moment of happiness together.

For awhile, Band Aid seems like it’s going to be one of these kitschy, awfully cutesy movies about a bunch of young, happenin’ hipsters getting together, forming a band, and performing even kitschier, cuter songs about love, life, and well, sex. But then, writer/director/producer/star Zoe Lister-Jones throws us a curve-ball and keeps the focus on the characters, their relationships, and just what’s at the core of everything that’s going on. Sure, the catchy music is there to be used a device to help us navigate through the story, but really, it’s about this relationship, no matter what.

And yes, it actually works.

In fact, it works almost too much. Lister-Jones has a knack for writing smart, honest dialogue that doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard to be raw and gritty, but just make us think a little bit. The fights these two have, while sometimes long and over-winding, are also entertaining and interesting to listen to, because they feel like the kinds of arguments actual, real people would have. You could almost go so far as to say it’s all “relatable”, but I feel as if that’s already a given; it’s the kind of movie that makes you love these characters because you identify with them, but also hate them for the same exact reason, and in return, hate yourself.

It’s the kind of writing that isn’t flashy, but real and it’s what kept me so interested in Band Aid. Even when it seemed like some of these characters were a little too insufferable and the whole music-angle was a bit too obvious of a way to show us, the world, that the cast can ACTUALLY PLAY THEIR INSTRUMENTS, the dialogue kept drawing me back in. It actually goes towards some very dark and sad places, and while for any lesser writer or director, it would be a severe misstep, it actually comes together and works here; the songs themselves may be poppy, light and awfully catchy, but behind them are painfully hurtful feelings of anguish and depression that don’t ever seem to go away, no matter how many choruses are sung about them.

“TURN IT DOWNNNN.”

Just makes you want to pick up the guitar and start beltin’ out some tunes yourself, eh?

Anyway, yeah, Lister-Jones is incredibly talented behind the camera, but is also equally just as talented in front of it. She’s a smart director to not keep the focus solely on her character, but it also makes you want to see more of her; she has this kind of presence where she seems like the smartest person in the room, what with her perfect deadpan, but also isn’t afraid to get vulnerable here, showing us some slight weaknesses to a strong persona. Her chemistry with Pally also helps, because they not only work as a couple who seem to be in love, but also as a couple who can’t seem to stop hurting the hell out of one another with their non-stop insults. Even Fred Armisen shows up here and plays what could have been an awfully conventional and one-note character, actually turns out to be rather sweet and kind, even if, yeah, he’s a bit creepy.

There’s more to every character here and it’s just like the way it is in life.

Consensus: Band Aid may present itself as another “let’s make a band”-sub-genre of kitschy indies, but actually prefers to dig deep into its characters and relationship at the center of its well-acted ensemble.

7 / 10

Power trio. I give ’em two months.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Trip to Spain (2017)

I’d take these guys on a trip to the beach over my family any day.

After their first two trips together, people can’t get enough of Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan together. So, to give the people what they want, they are put together for a third time, to travel a different country, chow down on some of the finest meals, drink some of the best liquor, see all of the sights, meet interesting people, and oh yeah, do all of the impressions that they can think of. And honestly, since their last trip to Italy, things have changed for both guys; Steve was nominated for an Oscar and can’t stop talking about it, meanwhile, Rob’s popularity has only gotten bigger and better, with him starring in various mainstream flicks. The two have a lot alike, but they also have more differences, too, meaning that, at times, their trip can sometimes be light and fun, while other times, can be a little dark and intense. Mostly though, they’re just happy to be together, hanging out and waxing on about life, if only as a way to get away from the mess of their personal lives.

Smile, you’re in good company.

It’s actually interesting that both Rob and Steve continue to do these Trip movies, because as famous as they both each seem to get, they still find ways to sort of blend in with the real world around them. In fact, the more famous they each get, the better these movies get, as it helps us not just understand what the hell they’re talking about more and more, but it gives it this sort of no-holds-barred feeling that these conversations would, and should, take.

And some goes for their ages, because as weird as it may sound, the older they get, the more interesting it is to hear what they’re talking about. They’ve accepted old age, the ideas from society, and certain responsibilities that come along with it, and while they may not be all that happy about it, they’re going to live on and do whatever they want and can. It’s rather nice to see a movie that accepts growing up and aging as an honest fact of life, without embracing it too much to where it’s trying to be silly and cute.

People get old. Case closed. No shut up and move on.

And yes, for the third outing, the Trip to Spain works, even if it does feel a little bit more tired this time around. Then again, that’s probably on-purpose; these guys, as humans, are beginning to slow down. Nowadays, they can’t bother to go on and on with all of the non-stop impersonations of Michael Caine, Richard Burton, John Hurt, Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore, Sean Connery, and oh yeah, Mick freakin’ Jagger (although the best one is done by Coogan, singing as David Bowie), and they let it be known. Rather than just laughing and going along with it now, they sort of just ignore it and move on. That’s how life is, as a whole, and it’s interesting to see these two guys, who more than likely made the script up as they went along, don’t really hide from that fact.

NO. MORE. IMPERSONATIONS.

And really, the only way to critique this movie is to critique how Rob and Steve are in it, because really, they’re the movie. And yes, they’re fine, funny and always lovely to watch, no matter where it is they are, or what it is that they’re doing in their lives. It’s actually rather sweet to see these guys still palling around, hanging out, and enjoying the good days, even when it seems like they’ve both gone in two different directions with their own respective careers; how close they are in real life is already known, but the movie gives the perception that they never actually see one another, except for only one of these yearly trips. That said, they’re still charming as ever and without one of them, who knows how these movies would do.

Cause honestly, the story’s can get a little odd and melodramatic, especially with Spain‘s. Late in the third act, there’s supposed to be a twist of sorts that doesn’t fully fit together, nor does it really matter – we’re supposed to care about these certain truths being brought to us, but honestly, it doesn’t wholly matter. The last movie actually had a few shocks and twists that worked, this time around, there aren’t many. And when there are some, they don’t quite nail.

We just want to hear the impersonations. That’s all.

Consensus: Like its stars, the Trip to Spain may be showing its age with this being the third outing for both Steve and Rob, but still, they remain as funny and as charming as ever.

7 / 10

Pictured: Leaked set photos from Terry Gilliam’s “Don Quixote”.

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

Logan Lucky (2017)

NASCAR just got actually, well, fun.

West Virginia family man Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) has got a lot of issues right now in his life and money’s just holding him back from everything. He just lost his job, he’s got a bunch of child-support payments to pay, and oh yeah, may lose his house. Basically, he’s in a pinch and the only way he can see of getting out of it is walking in on a large sum of cash. But how? Well, that’s why he decides to team up with his one-armed brother Clyde (Adam Driver) and sister Mellie (Riley Keough) to steal money from the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. Jimmy also recruits demolition expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) to help them break into the track’s underground system. But of course, this takes a lot of planning, not just with Joe Bang being in the slammer and needing to be broken out, but because the heist is supposed to take place during the most popular NASCAR race of the whole year. How the hell can they pull this off? Will the Logan family-curse continue to live on?

It’s all in the facial-hair.

Though he technically hasn’t been out of the game since his so-called retirement after Side Effects in 2013, there’s just something nice and sweet about having Steven Soderbergh back to making movies again. Sure, it helped that Logan Lucky is a solid movie and a return-to-form for Soderbergh, but even if it wasn’t quite the joy it turned out to be, it would still remind us why it’s a good thing to have Soderbergh around in our world, making movies, as opposed to not having him around and making movies. The man is an artistic genius who finds a way to make what he wants, when he wants, however he wants, regardless of fame, fortune, or budget constraints.

Basically, he’s what any aspiring film-maker hopes to be. And Logan Lucky is, like I said before, a solid reminder of that.

And it’s not like Logan Lucky is a perfect flick; the comedy bits can be a bit straining and stupid, the pace meanders for awhile, and the characters, other than the Logan brothers, don’t feel as developed as they should be. But that said, it’s still a fun movie that shows us the lighter-side to Soderbergh that hasn’t been seen in quite some time. No, he knows breaking down genre conventions, or boundaries here, but what he is doing is offering us a good time, no alcohol or illegal substances required, which is a nice thing to have in the late-summer movie season, when it seems like everything’s getting a whole lot dumber and more dull.

Bond who?!?

But nope. Logan Lucky is anything but dull. It shows that Soderbergh isn’t afraid to goof on himself on a bit, while still giving us all of the trademarks we’ve learn to love and expect from him. The score is still jazzy; the pace is still breezy; the camera-work is still tight and efficient; and the performances, while not always working, are still surprising. Sure, Driver, Tatum, and Keough are great as the dynamic trio, but it’s pretty cool to see the likes of Hilary Swank, Katie Holmes, Jim O’Heir, Sebastian Stan, Seth MacFarlane, Katherine Waterston, and most of all, Daniel Craig, show up here and try to bring some light and fun to these proceedings.

Once again, not all of these performances work – Seth MacFarlane’s role as a British manager who loves social media, for some reason, feels incredibly out-of-place – but it’s a nice ensemble that reminds us all what Soderbergh can do when he’s just having fun. It helps that the story plays out in an exciting, thrilling manner, with the heist itself continuing to get more and more compelling to watch, but it’s all about the tone and the mood, and in Logan Lucky, it’s a fun one.

That’s all it needed to be and that’s all it is. Stop asking for anything more, people!

Consensus: Stepping away from his much more serious pieces, Logan Lucky is a solid return-to-form for Soderbergh who shines, utilizing a talented ensemble and having an overall good time.

7.5 / 10

Finally. A bright new future with Stevie back.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Erin Brockovich (2000)

Can always count on men to be horny!

Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) is a single mother of three who, after losing a personal injury lawsuit, asks her lawyer, Ed Masry (Albert Finney), if he can help her find a job, since she has a pretty rough time holding one down. Because, in all honesty, Erin’s a bit of a problem for most employers out there – she’s brash, loud, and likes to speak her mind. So yeah, she can be a bit of a handful, which is why Ed hesitates to hire her, time and time again. Eventually, he gives her work as a file clerk in his office, and she runs across some information on a little-known case filed against Pacific Gas and Electric. She then begins digging into the particulars of the case, convinced that the facts simply don’t add up, and persuades Ed to allow her to do further research. Somehow, through non-stop research and eyewitness accounts on her own time and dime, Erin discovers not just a cover-up, but a potential health-crisis that has yet to be addressed in the slightest, leaving it up to Erin and Ed to have to band together and stick it against the big-wigs of the corporate world.

All the biker dudes love big boobs!

Steven Soderbergh loves to flirt with the idea of formula and most of all, mainstream film-making. Even if his most mainstream films (the Ocean’s trilogy), honestly feel more like homages and exercises in style, rather than an attempt at selling-out and just collecting a quick, easy paycheck. Granted, Soderbergh likes to have the studio money floating around for whatever weird, small, and unique indie he wants to make after the big, mainstream flick, but still, it’s not like his soul is being sold. His mainstream movies, like Erin Brockovich, still have a heart, a soul, and a passion to them that make them a step above our average, mainstream fare.

Even if it is, at the end of the day, average, mainstream fare.

That said, Soderbergh gets away with a lot in Erin Brockovich; he gets to play around with the idea of a biopic and how to tell a story, without focusing too much on the facts. See, most biopics of this nature get way too bogged-down by what happened, where, why, and the context of it all, which is dumb, because half of the stuff in these movies is just creative licenses after all. While there are still a lot of moments where it feels like we’re checking off certain facts and pieces of Brockovich’s life throughout, Soderbergh does know how to remind us that, underneath the case, is a real human being.

“Hi, I’m Julia Roberts, playing a normal, everyday gal from the South, who also happens to look like Julia Roberts.”

And as a result, it feels much more like a character-study, rather than a by-the-numbers biopic. Sure, having the case in here helps us get a better context of why she matters and why we’re having this story told to us, but Soderbergh also doesn’t forget to develop this character over time, allowing us to see more sides to her compelling, if sometimes flawed, persona. It’s neat that Brockovich was actually so involved and so accepting of this film (she actually shows up as a waitress), because the movie doesn’t always let her down easy – it can sometimes judge her and not let her forgive and forget, but that’s okay. The movie is showing us the true side to a person who, beyond all of the flaws of her character, wanted to do what was right, even if it didn’t totally convenience her.

Oh and it definitely helps that Julia Roberts was portraying her, too.

Yes, even though Roberts can mostly appear to be sleep-walking through almost every role she takes nowadays, there was a time, when the world of pop-culture and tabloids were done fawning over her, when Roberts was considered to be one of the best actresses working in the biz. And yes, even though it’s obvious to point out her Oscar-winning role here as her best ever, there’s no denying the fact that it’s a great role, as is, because it allows her to utilize all of the skills that we came to know and love her for. She’s not just beautiful, but she’s also lovely, funny, charming, and oh yeah, a bit of a hard-ass when push comes to shove and as Brockovich, Roberts gets the chance to let a little loose in a role that gives her not just enough to work with, but even dig in deeper with, too. It’s honestly the kind of role that Roberts has been working for ever since and it’s a shame that we haven’t seen another one from her since.

Steven? Will you come ‘a knockin’?

Consensus: As far as conventional biopics go, Erin Brockovich is one of the better ones out there, with an attentive eye to detail that not only remembers to develop its subject, but also give us a story to care about.

7.5 / 10

Where are these lawyers now! Get to Flint!

Photos Courtesy of: Brockovich

Wind River (2017)

Those poor white people. Right?

US Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is sent to the Wind River Indian Reservation, where he will hopefully be able to track, find, and kill a bunch of mountain lions who have been killing all of the livestock. While searching for them, he stumbles upon the body of a woman, who, from what it seems like, was raped, possibly murdered, and left to freeze in the below-zero snow. After catching wind of this, the FBI sends in rookie agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), who seems like she’s not just unprepared for the harsh winter of Wyoming, but for this case in general. Because she doesn’t really know the area that well, how to navigate through it all, and/or whether what the rules are, she depends a lot on Cory, who is also now taking an extra interest in this case, for personal reasons. The two begin to stumble upon a rather dark and vicious secret lying within the mountains and makes them not just question their own humanity, but the United States’ history, altogether.

FBI? Really?

Wind River is the directorial debut of writer/director Taylor Sheridan who, both with Sicario and Hell or High Water, seems to have found his niche. He loves these tales of crime, violence, and darkness that start off slow and melodic, only to then burst into full-fledged blood, guts, bullets, octane, and guns. And it’s interesting because while Wind River feels a lot like those two other movies, something is oddly missing.

Still don’t know what it is, but you can feel it.

Either way, as a director Sheridan is fine; he captures the deadly cold of this winter-y landscape and shows it as a solid backdrop for even more viciousness and deadliness that we eventually start to see. He gets a bit out-of-hand with all of the visual symbolism and expository dialogue, but as a whole, he knows when to shut up, give us action, characters, and a plot that’s interesting to follow along with. And I know that sounds like film-making 101, but you’d be surprised how many movies screw things up for themselves, just by getting a little distracted by other stuff that doesn’t matter.

Wind River, as a whole, is a pretty straightforward tale of humans acting at their worst, but also at their best, and because of that Sheridan does a lot with very little. He’s able to draw us into this setting, understand its history, the characters, and why these characters matter. Renner’s Cory, while feeling like he may have initially been a Native American in the first few drafts, still works as a white guy because he has a certain connection this land, to these people, and to what they represent; it also helps that the movie does sort of call him out for trying to be a white savior, making it seem fine that he’s a white guy, trying to save the day. Sheridan’s writing isn’t very stylish, but he’s got a certain noir-aspect about him that works in making us know everything we need to know about these characters, without getting too carried away.

Eh. Doesn’t look so bad.

It’s constantly moving and that’s why Wind River works.

And as Cory, Renner is quite good; he’s his usual charming-self, although he doesn’t overplay that too much. He’s still a screwed-up guy who has had to deal with a lot in his life and doesn’t allow us to forget about it. His chemistry with Elizabeth Olsen is also pretty good, in that the movie never allows it to get too romanticized or cloying. They’re just both trying to figure out this case, who the baddies are, and do their jobs, like normal, everyday human beings who want to make the world a better place.

Olsen is also very good in this role, despite being very young and seeming in-over-her-head. But then again, that’s sort of the point, so it works out well; Gil Birmingham, who shined last year in Hell or High Water, has a nice few emotional scenes that work well; Graham Greene, as usual, is great, giving us a lot of comedy to go along with a lot of the seriousness; and Jon Bernthal, in a few scenes or so, does a great job, too. However, it’s his role and a few others that I have a problem going on further about because, well, the movie sort of surprises us with these characters randomly by the end.

But hey, just see it and you’ll know what I’m speaking of.

Consensus: Cold, dark and pretty brutal, Wind River may not measure up to Sheridan’s past two movies, but still fits in well with them, providing plenty of solid thrills, to go along with the chills.

7 / 10

Always depend on the whites to come in and save the day.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Atomic Blonde (2017)

Were the 80’s really all that cool?

Agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) can take care of herself, regardless of if she’s on a mission or not. She kicks ass, takes names, and doesn’t really give a flyin’ hoot about authority, or who exactly she’s pissing off – in other words, she’s the total bad-ass. And she’s got a new mission somewhere in Berlin, where she’ll be sent alone to retrieve a priceless dossier from within the city, that is already going through its own changes, what with the Berlin Wall being prepared to being taken down and ripped apart. While there, she partners with station chief David Percival (James McAvoy), to help get her up and around Berlin, as well as clue her into who is to trust, and who isn’t. However, it becomes very clear to Lorraine that it doesn’t matter who you think you can trust, because you can’t trust a single person. Not even a fellow agent from Paris (Sofia Boutella), who may mean well, but also may have some dirty little secrets that she’s hiding from Lorraine, for the sake of her own agenda. Basically, it a cold, rough game of spies-versus-spies and we’re all just sitting by and watching it.

Uh, yeah. I’m going to leave this one alone and let it speak for itself.

Atomic Blonde absolutely wreaks and oozes with so much style, that it works despite itself. It’s the kind of movie that definitely tries so very hard to be “hip and cool”, but in a retro, 80’s-glam kind of way that eventually, you just sort of have to understand that that’s what it’s going for, accept it for what it is, and actually enjoy it. After all, it’s a movie set in the 80’s and feels like it could have been made in that decade, what with the glitzy, bright, flashy colors, talk of spies, Communists, and oh yeah, the New Wave tunes.

Oh man, the New Wave tunes. How could one forget?

Anyway, director David Leitch keeps with the spirit of the graphic novels here and it’s a smart move on his take, because Atomic Blonde, for all its plot issues, never takes itself too seriously. It’s a cold, dark, menacing, and sometimes brutally violent movie, but its tongue is placed firmly in its cheek and it never seems to forget that fact; the fact that we actually have a movie as violent as this, that’s also still able to crack jokes, is a surprise, considering the market for these kinds of movies seems to have been cornered by Tarantino. But nope, thankfully Leitch doesn’t forget where the story and style came from and yes, it helps this sometimes bitter pill go down easily.

Oh and of course, the action. Man, oh man, the action. Leitch is a smart director of action because he knows that in order for the violence/action to be grueling and compelling, well, we actually have to see it. All of the constant craziness of the shaky-cam doesn’t do anything else but cause constant headaches and confusion – sometimes, seeing someone get shot in the face, or kicked in the balls, without any jumping or crazy editing, makes a movie all the more fun. And with Atomic Blonde, there’s plenty of shooting, punching, kicking, bleeding, falling, and death, but because we can see it all, it’s a lot more fun and actually makes you feel it.

And yes, we can easily talk about the 8-minute or so sequence in which Charlize Theron literally goes around a stair-well, kicking a bunch of dudes asses in what appears to be a single-shot sequence. It’s clearly edited in a way to make you think that, but that’s besides the point: The point is that the action works and that’s all it needed to.

Clearly shot around the same time as Split. And yes, someone forgot to tell McAvoy.

And because of the action, the movie’s better off, because the story isn’t quite helping.

Of course, these kinds of spy-thrillers are best known for their MacGuffin premises, where an agent has to get something, from someone dangerous, in an even far more dangerous place, but that’s why the simplicity works so well. We’re used to it and not asked to care all that much about everything else. Atomic Blonde, in a way, sort of gets this wrong and sort of can’t seem to come up with a solid plot-line, mission, or even characters to fully help it out. Theron is a total and absolute bad-ass as Lorraine, but even she feels a little short-sighted; it’s as if the character was only given bullet-points of development on purpose for the sole sake of getting a sequel.

Still, Theron’s good at what she does here and one of the better actresses today who can make a lot of the silly dialogue, work. Other actors like James McAvoy and Sofia Boutella, while definitely talented, also feel like they don’t get a whole lot of time to fully develop, or go beyond the surface. Even Toby Jones and John Goodman, who spend most of the movie sitting at a desk and just spouting exposition, still feel a little more developed in their laid-back, grizzled ways – the others, not so much and it’s a shame. Perhaps, if the sequels do come around, we’ll get more.

Until then, who knows. Just watch and enjoy the ass-kickery.

Consensus: With so much style and action on frequent-display, Atomic Blonde is fun and consistently entertaining, even if it definitely needed some help on its script.

7 / 10

Do your thing, Charlize!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Wakefield (2017)

Sometimes, you just need to get away. But not all that far.

From the outside, Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston) seemingly has it all. Two lovely kids, a lovely wife (Jennifer Garner), a solid job in the city, and a cushy, easygoing household out in the New York suburbs. It’s what every man at his age and of his stature would want, but for some reason, Howard doesn’t want it. Like any of it. In fact, he hates his wife, hates his job, hates his house, hates the people he’s surrounded by, and while he doesn’t hate the kids, he comes close. So, when he’s stuck outside in the shed for a short amount of time, he gets the grand idea of staying up there, without being seen or spotted, and just watch his family all from afar. At first, it’s an entertaining diversion from the real world, with real responsibilities and all of that, but eventually, it becomes almost far too serious in nature. After a short while, it isn’t long before Howard gets the grand idea of just staying in that shed, with no plans of ever being found, or letting anyone know just where the hell he’s at, what he’s doing, and what his plans are, once all of this gets far too serious. Issue is, that it eventually does get too serious, but Howard can’t seem to want to leave that damn shed.

That’s the look every person gets when it’s time to break free. If only just a slight bit.

Wakefield‘s premise is so wacky and rather silly, that it honestly depends on if you’re absolutely, undeniably willing to go along with it. If you don’t, then the movie’s just not going to work. But if you do, it’s a fun, sometimes hilarious ride that tells us a little bit about all of these characters and most importantly, allows us to peer into the lives of some normal, everyday individuals who we would have never thought we’d want to see a movie about.

But of course, the movie does help itself by not ever taking itself all that seriously which, when your premise is basically about a dude, up in a shed, watching everything going on in his house from afar, while narrating everything, and essentially, getting crazier, dirtier, and smellier, means a whole heck of a lot. In fact, Wakefield itself could have easily gotten old and tiring after the first half-hour, where it became all too clear just what this movie was going to be about, how it was going to spend its time, and what it was going to be doing, time and time again. But for some reason, writer/director Robin Swicord doesn’t allow for it to ever get that way.

If anything, she allows the material to pop-off the screen and be more, well, fun than it ever had any right to be.

The fact that we actually get to know more about Howard, if only through him and his narration, helps us out entirely. Of course, the movie’s narrative-device is always a little bit tricky, because everything we’re being told through him, is never made clear enough to where we can fully trust what he’s saying, or not. It’s not hard to imagine watching this movie again for the small, itty, bitty clues about what Howard’s telling the truth about, and what he isn’t, but because he’s possibly an unreliable narrator, everything we’re told is a lot more compelling, than if he was just to sit us down by the campfire and tell us folk-tales of yesteryear.

Leaving Jennifer Garner? Don’t know how on-board I am with that, pal.

Granted, hearing said tales from Bryan Cranston wouldn’t have been all that bad, but what I’m trying to say is this: Wakefield could have easily been a useless bore, but it wasn’t. We find out about this guy, his life, and get to enjoy the time we spend with him even if, at times, it can tend to get a little claustrophobic. Then again, that’s probably the point; the more uncomfortable he feels and the crazier he gets, the more we feel the same way because, after all, we’re trapped with the guy. The movie does attempt to try and be this survival-thriller on the side of its character-building, but in reality, doesn’t get too bothered and remembers that it’s all about Cranston reminiscing on his life.

And man, what reminiscences they are.

It’s interesting to see Cranston in a role like this, because it’s not all that far detached from Walter White; like him, Howard Wakefield is a normal, suburban, middle-class father who wants to break away from the chains of society and figure out what it’s like to live a little dangerously. Granted, how deep he gets is a little goofier this time around, but still, Cranston remains compelling through it all. It’s fun to just sit there and listen to what he has to say, even if mostly all of it could be bull-shit; there’s a certain degree of anger and rage simmering from within that’s easy to feel and because of that, it’s neat to see when and where he pops off.

Cause who doesn’t appreciate a solid Cranston freak-out?

Exactly.

Consensus: Even with the odd premise, Wakefield works because it’s smart, funny, and incredibly well-acted from Cranston, who anchors the whole movie throughout.

7.5 / 10

Ew.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Girls Trip (2017)

Damn. I miss my girls.

It’s been a very, very long time since best friends Ryan (Regina Hall), Sasha (Queen Latifah), Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Dina (Tiffany Haddish) all got together and just acted wild and crazy. After all, they’re all grown up with Ryan becoming a huge celebrity/author, Lisa becoming a mother and divorcee who doesn’t get out much, Sasha becoming a gossip-blogger, and Dina, well, not really doing much except losing jobs and not really knowing what’s going on around her. That said, it’s about time that they all got together and they do so when they travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival. Of course, they’re there because it’s all on Ryan’s tab, but it’s also because they just miss what they used to have and need to remember what it was like to just have a good time with your girlfriends. But certain issues with their personal lives, how much time has passed, and certain secrets, constantly hold them back from fully loving and exploring the weekend like they should. Eventually, it’s all going to come to a head and, possibly, it may result in this being the last trip these gals ever take together again.

Hopefully not United.

Girls Trip is everything that Rough Night should have been, minus the whole dead-stripper angle. It’s funny, well-written, fun, well-acted, and absolutely feels like you’re involved with the same exact party that these gals are in, committing all sorts of crazy, wild and wacky shenanigans. Of course, it does help that a good portion of the movie, as well as the jokes themselves, are in fact scripted and not just made up on the spot by whoever’s turn it is to speak, but still, that almost doesn’t matter.

The fact is that Girls Trip is funny and deserves to be seen.

It’s the kind of movie that gets off to a slow start because it’s trying to find its groove and has to develop certain things like conflict, characters, etc., but after awhile, gets itself together and all of a sudden, becomes a great time. It’s the kind of studio-comedy that does all the things that are necessary to make a big-budget, studio-comedy work, but so rarely actually do; instead of putting together a neat premise, with funny jokes, and even more interesting characters, everything’s just sort of jumbled together and made up, in hopes that the audience doesn’t know or even care.

But with Rough Night and the House, it’s hard not to notice these issues. It’s a sign that more and more studio-comedies need to be heavily scripted and oh yeah, funnier, too. Once again, all of these gals are to be thanked for keeping this movie as funny as it needs to be, but writers Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver deserve a little shout-out, too – not just because they wrote a script with ridiculous situations and funny jokes, but because they actually went the extra mile into having us, believe it or not, care.

So. Much. Gossip.

Girls Trip reminds me a bit of Bridesmaids in that it definitely features gals being just as dirty, just as naughty, and just as raunchy as the guys, but also in that it’s a so-called “chick flick” that feels very honest and rash about women friendships and the certain bond that can be created with them. It doesn’t back away from showing just how these women all connect to one another, why they were friends were in the first place, and why they may all give a hoot about what happens to the other, at the end of the day. They could have all been types, too, but thankfully, the movie actually gives them all personalities and certain tics about them that make them, well, human.

Crazy, right?

But like I said, the cast helps out with this, too. Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith (nice little Set it Off reunion), and the show-stopper, Tiffany Haddish, are all great here and help one another out, whenever it seems like the jokes may be slacking. However, that so rarely happens because there’s just a certain wild and crazy energy to this all that makes you not just feel like you’re apart of all the fun, but that you’re getting to know these gals better, as time goes on, too. Rather than making us feel like we’re hanging out with a bunch of strangers that we could care very little, or less about, we actually get to know, understand, and at the end, come to love them. Sure, they may be problematic and a little flawed, but if anything, that allows them to become more human and understandable, therefore, making the time spent with them (which is a bit long, by the way), all the more enjoyable.

Consensus: Fun, exciting, and oh yeah, pretty darn funny, Girls Trip features women doing their thing, having fun, not making any excuses for it, and oh yeah, reminding Hollywood what can happen when a little more thought is put into crafting an effective studio-comedy.

7.5 / 10

Not raining? Oh wait. Never mind. It’s style.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Five Minutes of Heaven (2009)

Forgive. Forget. Go a little crazy.

During the 1970s in Northern Ireland, times were tough and they were onlu getting tougher. The IRA was running rampant and people were dropping dead, for no real reasons other than because, well, it was a sign of the times. One such person was Joe Griffin’s older brother gets shot dead by the teenage leader of a UVF. It’s disturbed Joe so much that, all of these years later, now, as an older fella (James Nesbitt), he can’t quite get by in life. He is still haunted by that murder, as well as the memory of it, along with his brother. And it’s why, now nearly thirty years later, Joe is finally ready to meet his brother’s killer, Alistair Little (Liam Neeson), on live TV, with all sorts of producers and agents standing around, expecting some sort of huge emotional breakthrough that only reality television can provide. And well, they’ll most likely get that, except in this case, they won’t be expecting; see, Joe didn’t show up to this meeting for reconciliation, but to extract revenge for all of the pain and anguish that Alistair has caused on his life. It’s just a matter of getting the deed done that matters most.

The most adult game of “hide-n-go-seek” I’ve ever seen.

Five Minutes of Heaven, no matter which way you put it, works best because of the two great performances in the leads, mostly Nesbitt as the strange, deranged and incredibly disturbed Joe. Nesbitt’s a pretty great actor and has been able to play these kind of angry roles before, but never this deranged and crazy, and it’s a nice change-of-pace for him, because while he could have easily gone overboard, he never does. Instead, he plays it short, small, and subtle, making this person’s pain felt the whole time throughout; we know that the man is suffering, but the movie doesn’t have to tell us that at all. Just one look at Nesbitt’s upset face is more than enough to clue us in to what’s really wrong.

And yeah, Liam Neeson is good, too, but he doesn’t show up nearly as much as Nesbitt. That said, he provides a very interesting character who, in any other movie, would have easily been a cold-hearted and evil villain, without any heart, soul, or humanity to be found. But instead, he’s actually a much rather soft and understood man, who has guilt, who feels shame, and wants to be forgiven for all of the awful actions that he’s caused, giving us a chance to see the true human underneath the brooding.

In other words, two great performances in an otherwise fine movie.

Halloween or IRA?

All that said, Five Minutes of Heaven is still a good movie because it asks all sorts of questions about guilt, forgiveness, death, life, and sadness, but also seems interested in actually answering them. We’re told that old wounds can heal with time and separation, but at the same time, we see someone as torn-up and destroyed as Joe, that almost all of that goes out the window. The movie doesn’t always get the chance to answer everything it wants, but the ideas and elements of the story it brings up, guess what? It actually develops and seems to go somewhere with.

Even if the ending is a bit silly. But hey, not all movies have to be absolutely, positively perfect. Sometimes, all they have to do is make you think, watch, and get excited, if only for short, brief instances. Five Minutes of Heaven sort of does that, but also allows for us to feast our eyes on two of the best Irish actors working today.

Aside from the one and only Colin Farrell. I mean, honestly, how charming is that guy!

Consensus: Benefiting from two amazing performances in Nesbitt and Neeson, Five Minutes of Heaven is a smart, challenging thriller that has more on its mind than guns and murder.

7.5 / 10

Some men just want to watch random cars burn.

Photos Courtesy of: Michael McVey, SkiffleboomFlick Diary

Lady Macbeth (2017)

Arranged marriages are all the rage.

In the year 1865 in rural England, a young woman, Katherine (Florence Pugh), is in a loveless marriage to an older man, Alexander (Paul Hilton). She doesn’t care for the man and in fact, he’s quite awful to her, but she puts up with it all because her father couldn’t take care of her any longer and now she’s got plenty of time to just sit around, drink, and eat, while occasionally having to sexually satisfy her hubby who, for some odd reason, doesn’t actually like being physically intimate. Either way, yeah, Katherine’s not happy about the arrangement, which is why she takes full advantage of the freedom she gets when her husband heads out for a business trip and is planning on being gone for quite some time. But her idea of “freedom” gets to be a bit much when she starts something of a relationship with the helper (Cosmo Jarvis), who enjoys having some hot, steamy sex with the lady of the house, but at the same time, also understands the dangers. This is something that Katherine doesn’t fully take into consideration and it all comes back to hit her in the face when people start coming around and sniffing about her place, wondering what’s going on.

Stop smiling!

Lady Macbeth is a pretty bleak film and because of that, it’s actually pretty hard to enjoy. Even in its 89 minutes, it’s quite repetitive and almost feeling like its script was written without any dialogue at all, but instead, just actions and sounds. In that way, it’s a movie that deserves and requires a lot of time, focus and attention, but mostly, it gets by on being a little dark, a little creepy, and a little eerie.

And yeah, that’s about it.

It does deserve to be said that director William Oldroyd approaches the material well; like stated before, there’s a lot of long, silent pauses where you can literally just hear the wind hitting the windows outside. Some may find this “boring”, but it works in this movie’s favor because it helps create an odd sense that something isn’t quite right here, even before bad stuff actually does start happening. And even when the supposed “bad stuff” does begin to happen, the movie thankfully doesn’t delve into any of the melodramatics you’d expect it to – it’s just chilling and creepy and that’s all it needed to be to get the job done.

Oh lord, The dreaded vial!

And yes, Florence Pugh is also pretty great in the lead role as Katherine who, over the hour-and-a-half, does a lot of changing (literally and figuratively), and finds a way to make all of the sides to her, at the very least, believable. That’s hard to do, too, with a character who we initially feel sympathy for, but know very little about, other than that she’s poor, in a crappy situation, and obviously miserable. However, Pugh has a certain look to her that makes any scene she’s in (which is every one), watchable, because she’s always on-edge and seeming like she’s one step ahead of us.

But like I said before, Lady Macbeth works because it is so chilling and, at times, disturbing. But at other times, it can’t help but feel like the same scene, over and over again, only just continuing on and on until it eventually hits the conclusion. Maybe this was intentional to give us a better sense of how empty and lame these character’s lives were, but it also does help but feel like a waste, even when the movie, like stated before, is so short in the first place. It’s one thing to not really have much of a script, but to have one, with, essentially, the same scene happening, over and over again.

It’s just lazy, honestly.

But man oh man. Thank heavens for Florence Pugh. That gal’s going to go some places.

Consensus: As short as it may be, Lady Macbeth still gets by as a chilling and upsetting psychological thriller, anchored by a solid performance from Pugh.

7 / 10

There’s that happiness again!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (2017)

Can’t trust anybody. Not even randomly kind Jewish men.

Norman (Richard Gere), a New York fixer, knows the right people and can get things done. He also can tend to be a bit overzealous and, as a result, begin to scare more people away, than actually bring them in and closer. Often too, his tactics can be a little odd and rub certain people the wrong way. But then again, those are the kinds of people Norman doesn’t want to really work with, which is why when an Israeli dignitary named Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi) comes to the city, Norman decides to impress the man by buying him some very expensive shoes and seeing if they can build on some sort of friendship. It works and he establishes a strong connection to the man, and it helps him when Eshel becomes Israel prime minister a few years later and, get this, actually remembers Norman and wants him to help out in his office. Norman accepts, but also wishes that he was a lot closer to Eshel and the inner-workings. Eventually, this causes issues for both men and will ultimately prove to be Norman’s unraveling, where his real life, all the secrets and lies that he’s kept throughout the years, finally come to lie.

“Trust me, it’s cold out.”

Norman feels like it’s based on a true story, but it really isn’t. In a way, writer/director Joseph Cedar seems to be basing this story off the numerous individuals who work in the strategy-world portion of politics and he doesn’t seem to be frowning upon them, nor even glamorizing them – in fact, he’s more or less just giving them the fair-shake they probably deserve. Political fixers, so often, are seen as heartless, tactful, and evil-doers who find a way to win and keep at it, no matter what. Why on Earth we look down upon these people as less than human, when in reality, they’re just really good at their jobs. And in Norman, the idea we get about political-fixers, as well as the title-character, is that being good at your job is one thing, but being a good and smart human being is another.

Although, that’s what I think.

See, the small issue with Norman is that the movie never really knows just what proves to be his actual fall-from-grace, because honestly, we never really get to see the rise, either. Of course, the word “Moderate” in the title probably says it all, but honestly, when your movie is built around the fact that your lead character doesn’t really accomplish a whole lot, yet, still falls down dramatically off the social-ladder, it’s hard to really feel any pain or emotion. We may care for this character, or even what he’s doing, but if we really don’t get the sense of what’s being accomplished and lost, then really, what’s the point?

Well, Israel’s got enough problems on its plate, honestly.

If anything, Norman proves to be another solid showcase for Richard Gere who, so late in his life, almost doesn’t care how big the movies he’s doing are. By now, he’s so happy to be able to work with these three-dimensional, interesting characters, that he’ll take the budget on, regardless. And as the title-character, Gere’s quite good here; he has every opportunity to play it silly and cartoonish, but thankfully, he strays away from that. In fact, what we see with Gere’s portrayal is a small, rather smart man who also just wants to be recognized, praised, and above all else, loved.

In a way, if you look closer and closer into Norman, the movie does show itself as an intimate character-study of this one relatively troubled man who, despite seeming to have it all, still wants a little more. Cedar is a smart director to know when to get in the way of his ensemble, but because he doesn’t and they’re all good, we see more sides to these characters than ever expected, especially Gere’s Norman. He begins to show his true shadows and signs that, once broken down, unveil a very unexcited and disappointing man. The movie doesn’t really hit as hard, or as heavy as it should, but considering there’s Gere here, it’s safe to say that he’s still an interesting enough character to watch wheel-and-deal for over two-hours.

Anybody else, anywhere else, probably would have been a pain.

Consensus: Though it never really delivers going any deeper than it should have, Norman still works as a smart, interesting character-study, anchored by an even better Richard Gere performance.

7 / 10

Someone give him a hug already!

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

The Big Sick (2017)

Disease can kill. But also heal. Right? Not sure.

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is a Pakistani comic living in the windy city of Chicago and, along with his fellow comics, is just trying to get by and hopefully, hit the big-time. But his whole life begins to change when he meets an American graduate student named Emily (Zoe Kazan) at one of his stand-up shows and immediately, the two hit it off. The only issue standing in the way of their relationship is that Kumail’s parents want him to get married within his religion. If he doesn’t comply, then guess? He’s practically kicked out of the family and never allowed to contact them ever again. It’s a shame, but it’s something that Kumail, despite his family’s best wishes, has sort of been trying to live against. Which is why Emily doesn’t know how to react to all of this. As a result, they break-up and Kumail is left back to dating women within his religion. But then, suddenly, Emily is in a coma and even worse, her parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter), travel all the way up up from North Carolina to see what’s happening with their daughter. It puts Kumail in an awkward situation, but it also makes him want to not just give this family a shot, but possibly even the relationship a shot. When she wakes up, that is.

Is this love? Or just a stand-in?

And here’s the real kicker: It’s all true. Yup. Co-writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon are, get this, a real life married-couple who met exactly like this and because of that, we’re allowed to sit back, watch and enjoy their dark, twisted, sometimes funny, but always sweet romance blossom (?). Which is odd because the Big Sick takes on so many different plot-threads and tones, that it’s a true wonder how any of it comes together in a cohesive manner, or at all.

Director Michael Showlater knows what he’s doing with this kind of material, in that he knows how to play-up the laughs, but also the sadness and sometimes weightiness of it, too. It’s a slippery-slope that Showlater balances around and while he doesn’t always make it work perfectly, the balancing act is way more skillful, the more you think about it and realize that he’s taking somebody’s else’s own material/life, and doing it all justice. It’s nothing flashy, it’s nothing spectacular, and it sure as hell isn’t anything surprising – it’s just sweet and rather good-natured.

Basically like nothing else the guy has ever done before, which is all the more surprising.

But still, it deserves to be noted that another famous figure had a hand in this pie, and it was Judd Apatow. And yes, you feel every bit of it. See, the Big Sick is one of those comedies that deals with a blog plot, but also likes to get side-tracked every so often by random subplots, characters, and jokes that, sometimes work, and other times, don’t. In this movie’s case, it’s hard not to imagine this movie slicing out at least ten-to-15-minutes worth of footage, because after the two-hour mark, it can feel a bit straining.

That look when you can’t decide whether to head for the hills or not.

And it’s not as if the material isn’t funny, or interesting enough – it’s just that it’s all so predictable that, after awhile, you just want it to get over with. We know that Emily survives, we know that she wakes up to smell the cauliflower (or in this case, Kumail), and we know that the two eventually fall in love and get married. So, honestly, why is it taking so long to get there? And better yet, where’s the rest of the story in the film? We get all of this talk about arraigned-marriages and the sort of controversy surrounding Kumail’s companionship to a white woman, but when it comes time to tell that part of the story, the movie sort of lingers over it.

It’s as if, oh no, it wasn’t a problem in the first place.

Either way, I’m clearly taking away a lot from the Big Sick and I shouldn’t; it’s a funny, heartfelt, and well-acted movie that doesn’t live up to all of the insane praise it’s been getting from every person and their grand-mother, but it’s still a nice, small, and sweet diversion from all of the loudness of the summer blockbusters. It’s the kind of movie that people can go into, expecting a romantic-comedy, getting one, but also being a little happy that there was a little more going on than just two attractive and talented people finding one another, falling in love, and yeah, getting married. It’s also a movie about culture, about family, and no matter how insane they both may all drive us, they are, after all, what makes us, us.

So it’s best to just appreciate it all for what it is and shut the hell up!

Consensus: Despite being overly long and uneven, the Big Sick still works because it’s funny, heartfelt, and an interesting rom-com that goes beyond the usual conventions of the formula.

7 / 10

See? They’re all fine!

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Alright. No more reboots!

After being recruited by the one and only Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and kicking all sorts of ass in the so-called “Civil War”, 15-year-old Peter Parker (Tom Holland), when he isn’t in school, cutting class, or crushing hard on his fellow classmate (Laura Harrier), he’s throwing on his red and blue jumpsuit, shootin’ webs, and yes, stoppin’ crime. The only issue is that he was given specific instructions not to act out in this manner, or else, he wouldn’t be allowed in the Avengers, something Peter has wanted since day one. But Peter thinks that he can keep a low-profile, until real bad stuff starts happening, like when a low-level arms-dealer (Michael Keaton), begins selling highly illegal and dangerous weapons to all sorts of criminals on the streets. Sure, he was supposed to stay cool and calm, but after awhile, Peter just can’t stand by and let this happen, which means that it’s time for him to get involved and kick some butt. The only issue is that he’s got so much pressure, both at home and at school, that he doesn’t quite know how to juggle everything with his personal life and still, at the end of the day, save the world.

Just your friendly dorky neighborhood Peter Parker, everyone!

Such is a daily dilemma for all superheros, I presume.

So yeah, first things first: Spider-Man: Homecoming is, get this, not necessarily an origin story. Believe it or not, what we got to see of Spidey in Civil War was basically all we needed to know about him; he’s fun, goofy, quick-witted, and oh yeah, brash. That’s basically. Co-writer/director Jon Watts, as well as the five other writers here (Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, and Erik Sommers) are all smart enough to know that by now, we’ve seen and understood all that there is to know and understood about Peter Parker, his upbringing, where he came from, and all of the backstory that usually plagues another origin-story such as this.

Instead of showing us his first steps, or better yet, the first time he learned how to swing a web, we actually get character-development for Peter, as well as all of those that surround him. Sure, there’s plot about growing up, this baddie lurking somewhere in the distance, and of course, all of the tie-ins to previous Marvel stuff, but really, the movie is all about the characters, how they work with one another, and how exactly they work in this universe. It’s the small things that make these mega-budget, loud, and bombastic summer blockbusters so worth while and it’s why Marvel’s got a solid formula to keep on working with.

Which means that, yes, Homecoming is a swing and a hit. It’s not a home-run, but it’s definitely a solid piece of Marvel entertainment that feels like it’s not just giving us a nice peak inside this already large universe, but also allowing us to get used to these characters for future installments to come. For someone such as myself, who grew up on and adored the Sam Raimi Spider-Man flicks, it’s a little difficult to fully take in this new band of trustees, but after this first showing, they could grow on me. They’re easy-to-like, charming and yes, different enough from the original to where it doesn’t feel like we have to sit down, compare and contrast the two products the whole time.

Wait. Batman? Birdman? Some dude called “Vulture”? What’s going on?!?

Instead, it’s just nice to sit down and appreciate a popcorn superhero flick for being, well, exactly what it sets out to be: Fun.

End of story.

And if we are going to compare, then yes, it’s safe to say that Tom Holland more than fits into the role of Peter Parker because he’s not playing a total and complete dweeb. Sure, Maguire’s take is still heartfelt enough, but really, Holland’s Parker is portrayed more as of a bit of a smart-ass, who also happens to be incredibly smart. Holland’s fun to watch as Parker, but it also helps that he feels and looks like an actual kid; Maguire and Andrew Garfield were both nearly 30-years-old, playing a high-school-aged Parker, seeming like they were just doing dress up for October the 31st. With Holland in the role, he seems like an actual high-school kid, stuck in this sort of situation and because of that, it helps to relate to the kid a bit more.

And really, with our superhero flicks, isn’t that all we want? Someone we can root for, sympathize with, and even identify with? Probably not, but hey, it works for me.

Consensus: Fun, quick, and pretty smart for a superhero flick, Homecoming proves that Spider-Man doesn’t need another damn origin-story, but does need/get/deserve a solid bit of players to look forward to seeing in the near-future.

7.5 / 10

Brought to you by Jansport.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Cartel Land (2015)

Drugs and guns, yes, are bad.

It’s a well-known fact that the Mexican Drug War is a pretty awful one and it only seems to get worse as the years go by, with more laws being passed, and criminal acts being pushed away to the side. But what makes these Wars so awful is the fact that the  cartels that run so rampant in/around Mexico, seem to be getting away with it all. After all, they’ve got so many connections in government that they are, essentially, protected and free to do whatever they want. Cries from fellow citizens who have fallen prey, or victim to the cartel and their vicious ways, continue to go unheard from everyone involved with the Mexican government, as well as to the American government who, oddly enough, always make it a point to set out and take down drugs, whenever the world is watching and the cameras are set on them. It’s almost as if these cartels need to be stopped, but if not by the government, then by who? Enter Dr. José Mireles, a Michoacán-based physician who is a man of the people, for the people, and is essentially deciding that it’s time to arm fellow citizens who want to stop these cartels’ evil reign, thus creating the Autodefensas. This is an account of the non-stop battle and just how far and wide it’s willing to go.

Yep. Sorry, pal. No one really cares about you and your “American” ways.

Above all else, director Matthew Heineman deserves a huge amount of credit for, literally, putting his life on the line here, getting down, dirty, and not shying away from showing the absolute nit, grit and sometimes disturbing parts of this world. Not to mention that, yeah, the guy easily puts himself in some pretty dangerous situations where even he himself could have been killed and left without a film to finish. But because he was so willing to take the risk, he got some truly eye-opening footage that only news-outlets like CNN, or FOX, only dream that they could get and talk about.

And for that alone, Cartel Land is well worth the watch.

It provides a bird’s-eye view of what’s really happening in this awful and downright sadistic drug-war, without ever batting an eye away from the truly disgusting nature of it all. While it’s easy to assume that Heineman himself has an agenda here of showing the good guys taking down the bad guys, one by one, little by little, it soon becomes clear that in this war, nothing is ever black and white, therefore, nor should the documentary. It’s safe to say that Heineman, whether intentionally or not, got a lot of footage that should seem sneaky and awfully scary, but it also seems like these cartels and Autodefensas truly liked him around – it’s like they say, “no exposure, is bad exposure”.

But what works best in Cartel Land‘s favor is that, even though Heineman is able to get a lot of great, absolutely stunning footage, he’s also able to show that there’s more going on beneath the surface of this war. The idea that the Autodefensas who so clearly want to take down the cartel, sooner than later, end up adapting to the same tactics and maneuvers as them, is an obvious road the movie takes, but it also deserves to be seen. It calls into question just what constitutes a certain level of death and violence, but also what really matters: Human lives, or dignity?

See? This is what us Americans really want!

In Cartel Land, there’s no easy answers and it’s why the movie’s hard to shake off.

The only aspect of it that is easy to shake off and, honestly, a downside to an otherwise compelling flick is the B-story Heineman takes it upon himself to constantly fall back on. Every so often, whenever the film is focusing on the Autodefensa and Mireles, it’s focusing on a man named Tim “Nailer” Foley, the leader of Arizona Border Recon, who is fighting the battle on the front-lines of the Border. It should be interesting stuff, but honestly, feels a little misplaced; Heineman seems to be showing this man’s adventure and dangerous journey to help make better sense of what’s going on down deep inside of Mexico, but it doesn’t quite resonate. If anything, it just takes away from any of the intensity made from everything involved with the actual cartels.

Not that this material wouldn’t already be interesting elsewhere, it’s just that everything else Heineman seems to be getting and doing with the cartels, is already plenty enough, so why pack on anymore?

Consensus: With a stunning and shocking amount of footage taken at such close-lengths to everything, Cartel Land is pretty exciting and eye-opening, as well as a thoughtful and interesting look at the current war on drugs and why, unfortunately, it’s basically a lost cause for all involved.

7.5 / 10 

It’s not legal, but hey, I’d take him as our President. Hell, I’d take anyone at this point.

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

Get Me Roger Stone (2017)

I don’t want me Roger Stone, but I want me a Roger Stone-type, if there’s such a distinction.

You may have heard the name before, but you sure as hell don’t know the face, or the actual accomplishments. To put it as simple as this: Roger Stone is the main reason why there’s been so many Republicans in office these past many decades. If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have had Nixon, Reagen, Bush, and sure as hell not Trump, in office. But how? Better yet, why? Well, those are two very hard questions to answer, but through as much detail and insider-information as he can possibly give us, Roger Stone will fill us in on a few of his little secrets, and why the hell he’s stuck around so many of these conservatives in the first place.

Monopoly guy?

Or better yet, why he’s still sticking around Trump, despite the guy apparently not having anymore use for him.

Get Me Roger Stone comes ridiculously, almost dangerously close to seeming like a puff-piece for someone who, no doubt about it, is great at their job, but is also a bit of a dick. But how much of a dick is he, really? Or hell, the better question would be just how much of him is actually a dick, and how much of it is a put-on for the rest of the world of media? In all honesty, Get Me Roger Stone never comes up with the answer to that burning question, but it still remains an entertaining portrait of a man you didn’t think you wanted to know anything about in the first place.

Like at all.

Because see, what Get Me Roger Stone does, and does well, is that despite giving us a solid portrait of this challenging, arrogant man, it also makes us realize the obvious truth that, yeah, those people on the other side of the political-spectrum, despite believing in asinine, outdated and prejudicial ideas about society, are still human beings. Get Me Roger Stone is a smart movie in that it shows why Roger Stone, as a voice for all the Republicans and Conservatives out there in the world, still deserves to be hear and, at the very least, understood; we don’t have to agree with the guy, but like you or I, he’s got thoughts and opinions and yeah, they ought to be heard.

Oh, now Tricky Dick? Get me the actual Roger Stone!

Then again, the movie is smart enough in that it doesn’t make any apologies for the guys actions, either. More often than not, Stone will reveal something almost shocking to the camera about his dirty tricks, and sure, while it may seem like he’s a bad person for doing the sort of stuff he essentially brags about, the movie also makes us realize that, hey, it’s his job to be this dirty. And better yet, he’s also doing his job; almost every politician that he’s helped back up has become President, when it seemed like they didn’t have a prayer of ever getting into office.

Sure, he’s a dick. No doubt about it. But man, he sure knows politics.

And that’s all Get Me Roger Stone comes down to. By the end it starts to get serious and discuss Trump, but really, it’s a light, entertaining and sometimes hilarious look at the backstabbing, the gossip, and playtime that is politics. It’s a movie that’s as in love with the idea of politics, as much as it is with Roger Stone, or people just like him, but it also can’t forget that there is something fascinating about this guy, the way he carries himself, and just why he’s been so under-the-radar. After all, with a winning-record like his, maybe he should have been President, rather than Code Orange?

Actually, then again, nope. I’m fine. Let’s just get someone else and quick.

Consensus: Maybe not the deepest, most thought-provoking documentary about the blue politicians out there in the world, Get Me Roger Stone is still a fun, entertaining and insightful look at this one man, his career, as well as the rough, tough, but impressive job he has to do in order to win.

7 / 10

Oh, and second though, never mind. This one’s already tainted. Get me another one.

Photos Courtesy of: ViceNational ReviewRoger Ebert

The Beguiled (2017)

Racism wasn’t the only thing fought in the Civil War, it seems.

Out somewhere in the deep South, during the Civil War, lies a school for girls where, for the most part, the word of the gospel is spoken about. Managed by Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman), the girls all stick together, depending on each other to not just get by in a rough time like this, but remember that at the end of this dreadful war, there will be a life to continue on living. But being tucked away from the rest of the world and society, even during a time like this, can be awfully dangerous. And it all comes to head when an injured soldier by the name of John McBurney (Colin Farrell) is found by the girls and eventually, taken in. He has an injured leg and rather than going right back out there into the battlefield, the ladies all decide to help him out, feeding him, bathing him, clothing him, and yes, allowing him to eventually heal up to near-perfection, so that he can be back on fighting the good fight. But McBurney’s got a little something more on his mind and considering that there’s about five or six women, all alone, in a house with him, he decides to take total advantage of the situation at hand.

Someone better pass her the damn salt, already!

So yeah, I bet you see what I did there. If not, I took the same plot-synposis I put for the review of the original Beguiled, here, and just took out some of the old names, and put in the new ones. Does it make a lick of a difference? Nope, not really, and that’s sort of the point.

In a sense, the Beguiled is kind of an unnecessary remake; it’s not as if the original needed much of a re-working, or update, nor was it like the world was clamoring to hear this story of sexual-politics play-out all over again, but this time, with different people involved. It’s odd, actually, because these kinds of remakes are the ones that folks like myself rag and tag on Hollywood for constantly making; the kind of remakes where it doesn’t seem like anyone should care about why it exists, or better yet, what it means for the rest of the world of film. But yeah, at the same time, I sort of don’t care because the Beguiled, as a remake and sort of update, it works.

Granted, it’s still unnecessary and only a slight bit better than the original, so take it all with a grain of salt.

But that said, writer/director Sofia Coppola does a solid job of down-playing everything this time around. Whereas with the original, everything was literally spelled-out to us in an narration, Coppola takes the smart move in allowing for the actors to tell us what to think, feel, and understand. Coppola hasn’t always made the best movies around, but she sure as hell knows how to handle actors and when it comes to getting a dirty, deep, and rather scary story off the ground, she’s effective; she keeps things just subtle enough to the point of where we don’t really know what’s next to expect, even if, yeah, we already saw the original.

So Irish. So charming. So dangerous.

And even all that aside, the Beguiled is still a solid, little thriller. It’s not the kind of movie that will win awards or break box-office records (then again, would it even want to?), but it provides a nice bit of steamy, sweaty, and gritty entertainment for 90 or so minutes, with some of the best actors in the biz, and Coppola showing a sure hand, once again, at directing. Also, it’s just nice to see Coppola trying something new and not trying to discuss the sadness and disparity in the lives of celebrities – a theme that, yeah, we already knew and understood over a decade ago with Lost in Translation.

But yeah, everyone here is good.

It’s hard to compare the performances of the original, to those of this remake, because like the movies themselves, they’re still pretty different in their small, subtle ways. For instance, Nicole Kidman’s Martha Farnsworth, while still commandeering and stern like Geraldine Page’s from the original, also has a darker side to her that’s only somewhat hinted at in the first. Same goes with Farrell’s McBurney who, despite not quite reaching the same heights Eastwood did in the original, still shows that there’s possibly a meaner, uglier side to this man and all of his charms. It’s actually an interesting performance that, quite frankly, I wish was given more of an opportunity to flesh itself out more and more. At the same time, though, less time for Farrell, meant more time for actual women on the screen like Kidman, Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, and Addison Riecke, so yeah, it’s a little hard to complain.

I guess I should just be pretty thankful we have a movie, for once, with a big-budget, where women take over the solid majority of the cast. Let’s hope it’s a sign of more things to come, that honestly, should have already been coming already, dammit!

Ugh. Hollywood.

Consensus: Darker, meaner and way more subtle, this remake of the Beguiled improves slightly on the original, but also offers a great cast and solid return-to-form for Sofia Coppola.

7.5 / 10

Everyone’s waiting, John. So hurry your ass up.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire