Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Category Archives: 8-8.5/10

Don’t Think Twice (2016)

Don’t always try to be a comic. Not everyone likes a non-stop jokester.

The Commune has been an improv troupe for as long as the downtown New York comedy scene has been around. Some have obviously gone onto bigger, way better things, whereas there have been quite a few, that have either given up on comedy altogether, or still stayed with the comedy troupe, in hopes that, one day, they’ll soon catch that big break. Miles (Mike Birbiglia) has been with the troupe the longest, and not only wonders what he’s to do next with his career, but also what to do about his life, when it comes to starting a family and getting a stable job. Same goes for everyone else, like the spoiled Lindsay (Tami Sagher), who still gets allowance from her wealthy parents, like Allison and Bill (Kate Micucci and Chris Gethard), two comedians who have hopes and ambitions of getting their comic-book careers off the ground, and especially like Samantha and Jack (Gillian Jacobs and Keegan-Michael Key), the couple of the group who, despite not always seeing eye-to-eye, have stuck together through it all. However, one of the members is now getting a shot at stardom and it puts every other member’s lives and careers into perspective.

We get it, you improv.

We get it, you improv.

Comedies about comedians are kind of hard to do. For one, you have to be funny, but at the same time, you also have to do so in a way that’s smart and relateable enough for the audience to get and understand just where it is your coming from. For writer/director/star Mike Birbiglia, it’s clear that the comedy world, can be a very sad one, where missed opportunities and chances occur on a daily basis and no matter what, it’s going to be a constant push-and-pull; some days, you’ll think that you’ve finally been noticed and all of your wildest hopes and dreams can happen, whereas other days, you’ll feel as if you screwed the pooch and lost all hope and promise for the world. At the same time, Birbiglia also knows that the comedy world, if you’re lucky enough, can be a place to meet all sorts of lovely and kind people who not only make you laugh, but also are there to give you a hug when you need it the most.

Don’t Think Twice is the kind of movie you expect to be all sorts of corny, preachy, and not all that funny; like improv itself, you can only go so far to the point where you’re hitting every obvious convention on the head. But Birbiglia, who made an impressive directorial debut in Sleepwalk With Me, seems to understand that there’s a certain level of heart to make the humor work, as well as vice versa. Sure, we can laugh at some of the things that these characters do and say, whether on the stage or not, but sometimes, what makes the humor more compelling and fun is that we know these characters, understand their personalities, and see exactly where they’re coming from.

May not sound like much, but trust me, in the comedy world, it means everything.

That’s why Birbiglia improves on his debut here, as he not only shows a skill in taking all of these different subplots and giving them their own spotlight, but also knows how to make them all somewhat important enough to where we do care about this troupe, what happens to them when one of them leaves, and just what each and everyone of them bring to the world of comedy. It would have been incredibly easy for each one of these characters to be as nauseatingly annoying as the next, but somehow, Birbiglia makes us care and most of all, laugh with them. Like with his debut, it’s clear that the story comes from a soft place in Birbiglia’s heart and he wears his heart on his sleeve, almost each and every scene he gets the chance to, whether the scenes be funny or not.

But it’s not just Birbiglia’s movie and it’s not just his performance – there’s a whole slew of others that make this movie well worth it and make us understand better why these stories matter. Because every character gets their own personality/subplot/hobby, they all come off as three-dimensional characters, even if there are a few that could have been dispensable in the long run. Sure, Micucci’s, Gethard’s, Sagher’s characters don’t really shake the movie quite as much as Key, Jacobs and Birbiglia do, but there’s time and dedication to them, that makes them more than just the side-performers who are around just because Birbiglia wanted to work with them.

Cheer up, Mike. Your life isn't really all that sad and miserable in reality.

Cheer up, Mike. Your life isn’t really all that sad and miserable in reality.

Then again, Key, Jacobs and Birbiglia truly are astounding in this movie and it’s hard not to think about them long after.

Birbiglia, despite giving his ensemble plenty to do, still comes off as heartfelt and humane as the pathetic Miles, who has long reached his expiration date in the comedy scene and is hanging on to it by a thread. You feel bad for him, even if, at the same time, you want him to grow up already. Then, there’s Jacobs as Samantha, who really understands how to make a sometimes unlikable character, seem sympathetic. She does some silly, downright idiotic things throughout the flick, but Jacobs makes you feel for her, more and more as the flick goes on and it’s hard not to fall in love with her, as if the world hasn’t already been doing so for the past few years or so.

But really, it’s Keegan-Michael Key who steals the movie, showing us that, yes, beyond all of the wacky impersonations, the screaming, and the joking around, he truly can act. As Jack, Key has the hardest role to pull-off, because he has to be both a nice guy, as well as a bit of a dick at the same time, and honestly, we never hate him as much as we should. During the comedy scenes, Key is on fire as always, but when it’s just him, laying his heart out, it’s surprising, because it all works so well. We like this guy and we feel for him, even when he’s thrown into a corner and has to do something that may hurt those around him. It’s a great performance that I hope to see more of from him in the future.

Hopefully, that’ll also give Birbiglia an incentive to make more movies.

Consensus: Funny, smart, and heartfelt, without ever overdoing it, Don’t Think Twice finds Mike Birbiglia expressing his love for the comedy world, while also realizing the pain and heartbreak that can come along with it.

8 / 10

Funny friends stick together and annoy each other mercilessly.

Funny friends stick together and annoy each other mercilessly.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Dirty Dozen (1967)

Who doesn’t want to go out and kill some Nazis?

Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) is assigned an unusual and top-secret pre-invasion mission: Take a small unit of soldiers convicted of felonies and turn them into a commando squad to be sent on a special mission. The mission is an airborne infiltration and assault on a chateau near Rennes in Brittany. And the incentives for those felons who survive the mission is that they will have their sentences commuted. It quickly becomes clear that both Reisman and his superiors regard the operation as a near suicide mission and expect that few, if any of the felons will return.

The first hour-and-a-half of the Dirty Dozen is as good as you can get. There’s plenty of action, jokes, and cool, macho-stuff going on between a bunch of guys that will just get any dude watching it, feeling inspired that they now have to act like this in order to get whatever it is that they want. Not saying that going around and shootin’ up Nazis left and right will get you anywhere, but acting big and tough like these guys seems like it could get you going somewhere in life even if it just by pure intimidation.

Now he knows not to back-talk.

Now he knows not to back-talk.

It’s the typical man movie, for better and for probably worse, depending on who you’re talking to.

Where this film works is the fact that it takes what we usually expect with a WWII movie, flip it on its side, and give us a flick that not only has a whole lot of humor, but also a bunch of violence that seems like these film-makers take pride in showing on the screen. Back in those days before this little ditty hit, WWII flicks were pretty grim, dark, and depressing, as they should be because that’s what war was. Instead, we get an action-filled ride with humor, murder, and a couple of really cool pieces of violence against the enemy at the time, and when it’s all said and over, we all jump up in the air and say, “Yay!”. It was a very risky move taking what was essentially a very touchy subject all those 22 years later, and make light of, but it works well because the movie’s not trying too hard to be funny in a way that’s offensive. It just has a light sense of humor that works, given the setting and all that.

However, as great as this film may be for totally taking these war movies conventions and giving them a nice “edge”, we still seem to get something very similar to them by the end of this flick just when they decide to get all serious on us. Right about the half-way mark, when it seems like all of these crooks have had their fun, had their training, and had their time to shine, they get shipped off to do the big mission they were assigned to do in the first place and that’s where things started to get a little fishy for me, just by how the tone switched up very dramatically.

Don’t get me wrong here, this film is barely ever boring, but it’s just that the last hour of this movie seemed to face problems with the fact that they couldn’t really escape the idea of some of these people dying combat, having their last words, and never being able to walk the face of Earth again. I don’t care what war flick you’re making, nine times out of ten, you’re going to have to come to this fact and show it in your movie, which is what this film does here, it’s just a shame that it takes more away from the film than actually give it any dramatic depth. We care for these characters and whenever one of them goes down, we feel for them, but it also feels very uneven. It’s as if director Robert Aldrich didn’t know how far he wanted to go with the comedy, nor did he know how far he wanted to go with the violence and death, either.

It’s sort of a mixture between the two and it doesn’t quite bode well for the final-half.

Either way though, the cast is pretty great, featuring a who’s who of absolute bad-asses.

Eh, don't look behind you but I think Charlie Bronson's there.

Eh, don’t look behind you but I think Charlie Bronson’s there.

Lee Marvin leads the movie Major John Reisman, someone who doesn’t take a single bit of back-talk at all, but he’s also not necessarily the hard-nosed drill instructor we’re so used to seeing and hearing in these kinds of movie. He’s not screaming or yelling curses, he’s not taking them down and making them all little playthings in front of everybody else, and he sure as hell isn’t making his soldiers be respectable to him and call him “sir” and whatnot. Basically, this guy doesn’t get on these cases about much and just makes a deal with them – you do your job, I’ll do mine, and maybe, just maybe, we can both get out of here alive and you may get free for good. It’s a pretty strong deal that this dozen makes with Reisman and what better person to make that deal than Lee Marvin. I got to tell you, this guy is cool and pretty bad-ass when he needs to be.

But honestly, Marvin’s just the tip of the iceberg, like I’ve mentioned before. There’s a whole slew of famous peeps from this dozen like Charles Bronson (before he started taking a hobby in vigilantism), Donald Sutherland (before Kiefer started trying to take his legacy), Telly Savalas (before he got his stint on Kojak), Jim Brown (after he just retired from kicking booty in football and before he started going off and kicking more booty in films) and John Cassavetes (before his indie film-making career took over the world). There’s plenty more that are apart of that dozen and they’re all amazing, and add side performances for Ernest Borgnine and George Kennedy to the supporting cast and you got yourself a bunch of dudes, who know what they’re doing, how to do it, and how to make it fun while still maintaining that level of respect that usually comes with the actors of these statures.

Wow. I’ve literally grown more hair on my chest.

Consensus: The Dirty Dozen suffers a bit from unevenness, but still features plenty of kick-ass moments of action, violence, blood, and Nazis being killed and also some great performances from a cast that is just filled with a who’s who of bad-ass, male actors from the 60’s.

8 / 10

If only I was as cool.

If only I was as cool.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins, FilmDROID

Deconstructing Harry (1997)

Screw too many women, trust me, you get screwed, too.

Harry Block (Woody Allen) has had a pretty crazy and unfortunate life. He’s been with many women, has made many mistakes, and has a lot of opinions that don’t always make him the most popular guy in the room. And now, he’s gaining fame and fortune off of all of that by putting into a new book of his, one that people love, with the exception of the few he’s actually writing about. Most of the women from his past have disowned him, which depresses Harry to a great degree. However, the only thing keeping him alive and well is the fact that he has a son, who he knows will have a bright future. Also, Harry finds out that the university that once kicked him out, now wants him back for a ceremony to honor him and all of his accomplishments. This gives Harry an idea: Take his son with him on this trip and allow for all sorts of fun and adventure to occur. Little does Harry know that he’s kidnapping his son to go along for the ride with him, along with the likes of a friend (Bob Balaban) and hooker (Hazzelle Goodman).

Way more loyal than Annie Hall.

Way more loyal than Annie Hall.

Due to the fact that Woody Allen likes to make a movie almost every year, a lot of people tend to get on his case. Obviously, some movies are better than others and, especially as of late, it appears like some of them aren’t even worth watching, but because they’re movies by Woody Allen and feature great talent in front of the screen, people can’t help but see what he’s got cooking up next. After all, a bad Woody Allen movie is at least better than most of what we seem to get out there, right?

Well, either way, where it seems like some of the issues with Woody releasing a new movie every year is that the movies tend to all follow the same formulas, ideas and themes of all of his movies. They’re mostly all lighthearted affairs that have to do with dysfunctional families, Judaism, forbidden love, sex, writing, poetry, classical music, jazz, or anything else of these natures. They’re all very similar and it honestly makes me wonder why Woody himself doesn’t bother to go deeper and darker with himself, or his material.

Cause, honestly, Deconstructing Harry is that perfect example of what Woody Allen can do when he decides to throw all caution to the wind and just not appease to anyone. While some of themes and ideas may be the same from before, here, they’re much more darker and sinister; rather than appearing to play for the big and broad laughs, Woody’s going for something much more meaner and angry, where it appears that he does in fact have an ax to grind.

Who is he grinding it at/for?

Well, no one in particular, but it allows for Deconstructing Harry to be better than most of his other flicks, because it proves that the guy actually has a point. He’s not just making a movie because he’s got the budget, the stars, and an inchworm of an idea that he’ll decide to play around with after the first-half – nope, this time Woody is going for the kisser and not apologizing for it. This is all to say that Deconstructing Harry is quite funny, but in a far different way that makes me feel better about Woody Allen, the writer – his jokes aren’t necessarily played-up for the smarter people of the crowd, but more for anyone who appreciates a good joke when they’re given one.

It sounds so stupid in hindsight, but honestly, good, consistent humor in a Woody Allen movie can sometimes be hard to find. Sure, every once and awhile, you’ll get a sly or witty line passed by some character here and there, but here, Woody’s throwing out jokes left and right. Do they all work? Not really – the whole bit involving Billy Crystal as the Devil could have probably bit the dust in the editing-room – however, the moments where the comedy works, it really works and is worthy of a big, howling laugh.

Focus on the finer things in life.

Focus on the finer things in life.

Yes, I know, it sounds stupid, but trust me, it totally matters.

But it’s not like Deconstructing Harry is better than most other Woody Allen movies because it’s darker and funnier (although, those are two attributes that help it), but because what Woody himself seems to be talking about is interesting. Harry Block’s life is such a whirlwind filled with heartbreak, anger, resentment, and controversy, that writing about it, gets him into hot water with those around him and eventually, he alienates himself from the rest of the world. Clearly, Woody seems to be channeling his own, inner-most demons and it’s neat to see play-out, as Woody himself definitely feels guilty for hurting the people that he’s hurt in the past, but also knows that the same hurt that he’s caused, is the same kind that’s brought him so much fame, fortune and respect in the biz.

So yeah, Woody’s talking about himself a lot here, but it works. Woody himself is quite good in the movie, but really, he’s meant to let others do all the work for him and show that they’re worthy of being here. People like Tobey Maguire, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Robin Williams, Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore, Kirstie Alley, and others, don’t have a whole lot of screen-time, but are still funny and well worth their short time here. Why none of these people have bothered to show up in a Woody Allen movie is beyond me, but then again, maybe they, too, don’t want to waste time on something that’s going to just be “mediocre”.

Then again, neither do I, and I still can’t stop watching his movies.

Consensus: With a darker, more energetic edge, Deconstructing Harry shows a meaner side of Woody Allen that we hardly ever see, that’s both funny and interesting.

8 / 10

Everyone loves Woody. Except obvious people.

Everyone loves Woody. Except obvious people.

Photos Courtesy of: A Woody a Week

Paradise Now (2005)

Walking around all day with a bomb strapped across your chest would probably already feel like death.

Lifelong friends, Said and Khaled (Kais Nashef and Ali Suliman) lead a normal life, working together in a garage and never discussing politics or religion. Having sometime ago volunteered to become suicide bombers they now learn that they’ve been chosen for the next mission and that it will begin in only 24 hours.

Being that this is a terribly touchy subject, not many people feel the need to even go out there and give this film a shot because it tries to humanize people who do terribly heinous things. Is there a problem with that? No, not really. But the problem would be to not give this film a chance it so rightfully deserves in my mind.

Director Hany Abu-Assad does something different with this type of subject material that will get in anybody’s mind because he does one thing that nobody ever wants to hear or see: Sympathy for suicide bombers. Now, don’t get me wrong, those people who strap bombs to their chest just so they can blow it up (along with themselves) in crowded areas full of soldiers, innocents, and civilians are not the people we should feel totally sorry for. But, this film does show us that these people are still human beings none the less, and they all have the same types of decisions and consequences that we have as well, it’s just different in a way.

"Are you ready? No pressure or anything?"

“Are you ready? No pressure or anything?”

That’s what’s interesting about Abu-Assad’s direction, as he paints a portrait of two kids that we don’t really think we would be able to stand in a film like this, yet, he somehow gets us to feel sympathy for them even when it seems like they have no remorse or no care for the pain they are about to cause. These kids don’t really know what they’re about to do, until it finally comes up and then they are sort of left wondering just what the hell they wanted to do in the first place. We see that these two guys believe in violence for freedom, but then, that starts to change once they wonder that maybe, just maybe, all of the problems that these two sides are fighting about, could be resolved in many other, different ways rather than just going around and blowing yourselves up. It provides a lot of food for thought as it makes you see why these kids think the way they do in the first place, and then why they all of a sudden start to change their minds once they are actually confronted with the idea of death staring them right in the face.

You would think that a film that seems so pro-Palestinian would almost be unwatchable, especially if you’re an American, but that’s not really the case. The movie isn’t “pro” or “anti”, it’s just “human”. It takes the life of these humans first and foremost, beyond anything else resembling politics or institutions. The movie itself doesn’t seem to have a problem asking us the hard questions and allowing for there to be actual answers left in the air. It’s risky film-making, especially for subject material as troubling as this, but it works all the same.

Why more film-makers can’t bother to do this is beyond me.

"Can't breathe? Eh, well it's okay."

“Can’t breathe? Eh, well it’s okay.”

Perhaps where this film really falters is in it’s writing that sometimes comes off as very smart and insightful, but also seems a bit too dramatic. There are moments that occur in the latter half of the film, where certain characters start to break into long montages that don’t really seem like they would happen in real life, regardless of the situation. There’s one point where a character is literally just sitting down, starts talking about his dad, goes on about his childhood, and somehow ends up circling it all around to what he thinks is right and what he thinks is wrong about Palestine. It could have been a great and very memorable scene had it actually rang a true note at all.

But other than that, the rest of the film is quite fine. The most powerful aspect of this movie are the two performances given by Kais Nashef and Ali Suliman who both play the friends that have to go through with this whole suicide bombing. Both performances keep you on the edge of your seat because they both show you a lot about how they are, how they change, and what they may, or may not do next. There’s a great amount integrity to them that makes them seem like guys who really want to do this and believe in what they are doing, but then they all of a sudden start to have reservations and you see a bit of an innocent, scared side to them as you would probably see through any human being put in the same situation as them. They are both perfect together, and have a nice chemistry that feels like they’ve been life-long buds and it’s heart-breaking to think that these guys have all lived their lives together and are planning to end their lives that way as well, except they’re under a lot darker stipulations now.

Consensus: Paradise Now may be a difficult film, in terms of subject material, as well as presentation, but it gets by on the heart and humanity of its script, and emotional performances from its two leads.

8.5 / 10

"You see this place, man. One day, it's going to be all ours to blow up."

“You see this place, man. One day, it’s going to be all ours to blow up.”

Photos Courtesy of: Cinema Escapist, Little Daya

Blow Out (1981)

Sound guys never get the respect they deserve.

Jack Terry (John Travolta) is a sound-effects technician for movies who, while recording sounds for a low-budget slasher film, mistakenly captures audio evidence of an assassination involving a presidential hopeful. While Jack feels as if he may be a bit paranoid, especially from what everyone around him says, he still believes it to be true and makes it his mission to stop this assassination at once. Along the way, he meets Sally Bedina (Nancy Allen), a young lady who befriends Jack and gives him a second chance at life, even if looming under the horizon is someone looking to kill both of them.

No matter what Brian De Palma does as a director, he will always been known as one of the more successful Alfred Hitchcock impersonators, but you have to think about it: Any director that laces themselves into a dark and twisted tale of suspense and paranoia, is essentially doing Hitchcock, right? Well, yes, and kinda no. De Palma is obviously channeling Hitchcock here, but he lets it all work out on his own just by having an underlining sense of dread and tension throughout. Right from the goofy first-shot to the painfully depressing last one, we are immersed in this story as we have no idea how everything is going to turn out.

Who's worse to work with? Celebrities, or owls?

Who’s worse to work with? Celebrities, or owls?

You could say that’s how Hitchcock movies are, but by the same token, so are De Palma’s movies, too.

In fact, it’s the great ones that really keep you on-edge, which Blow Out definitely is.

Instead of just letting the story tell itself off, De Palma allows himself to bring out some real tricks up his sleeve. The camera is constantly moving around in this film to give us this frantic feel that Jack is going through but even when it isn’t, it still had me on the tip-of-my-toes, because there’s still an air of tension. Scenes like when Jack is deconstructing the film to match the sounds with the images is a surprisingly neat scene because of how much detail De Palma layered this scene and to also show easily manipulated film and audio can be, just at the switch of a button. But other times when the camera is moving, it really messes with your head like one scene where the camera is going around on a 360 axis in Jack’s studio as he is frantically looking around for his lost footage that seems to have been replaced, or taken from him. It’s a cool scene that shows you what De Palma can and could do with the most generic plots, just by tilting the camera one way or another.

And sure, you could call them “gimmicks”, but they really do help keep this unpredictable story moving, even when it seems like De Palma himself wants to take some time out of the mystery and build characters. Which wouldn’t have been a problem so much had the characters been all the neat in the first place; like, say, for instance, Nancy Allen’s Sally. Trust me, I know why she’s in this movie and why De Palma feels the endless need to have her role mean something in the greater-scheme, but really, her hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold character is stale and Allen, at times at least, wasn’t always the best actress to call on for these sorts of things.

That Brian De Palma: A true American.

That Brian De Palma: A true American.

But of course, with one bad performance, comes one, very good one and this is where John Travolta comes in.

Travolta does a great job letting us feel the type of paranoia and craziness that’s going inside of his head throughout this whole mystery, however, what really makes this character and performance work is how they treat him. When you usually have a hero-like character in these films, they are treated like latter-day Saints that can almost do no wrong whatsoever and always fight the good battle. The difference here is that this character, no matter how much evidence he proves or no matter what he says, he’s always looked at as a bit of a conspiracy-nut just because he’s a little strange. Never has a film really made us look at a hero, the same way as everybody else did in the film, quite like this before and it works in making us realize that maybe we can’t be too sure that he’ll eventually come out on top after all. And if he does, at what cost? It’s a great piece of character development that De Palma proves he can do very well, and Travolta gives off his best performance of the whole 80’s decade, his career almost died in.

Thankfully though, thirteen years later, he was saved.

Also, bonus points for being in Philly and featuring a kick-ass villainous performance from John Lithgow. Honestly, you can’t have enough movies set in Philly, nor can you have enough of John Lithgow just being a scary and sinister human specimen that we definitely know he’s capable of being.

Consensus: Despite the usual missteps found in some of De Palma’s work, Blow Out is an intense, unpredictable, weird and downright bleak conspiracy-thriller that never clues you in on what to think or believe, but for all of the right reasons.

8.5 / 10

John was still very confused in 1981.

John was still very confused in 1981.

Photos Courtesy of: Criterion, One Perfect Shot

Happiness (1998)

Is all sex good? Or only some? Ugh! High school didn’t teach me anything!

Three sisters (Jane Adams, Laura Flynn Boyle, Cynthia Stevenson) all seem to be facing problems in their lives, but they aren’t the only ones. A husband (Dylan Baker) is struggling with being the right role model for his son, while also struggling with his pedophile-like ways; a socially-awkward man (Philip Seymour Hoffman) can’t bed the woman he wants the most; and an aging, married couple (Ben Gazzara and Louise Lasser) run into problems when one-half decides to sleep around and see whether or not they can be happy.

As is usually the case with Todd Solondz’s movies, almost every aspect of these stories are in some way, form, or shape, disturbing. It doesn’t matter whether they concern two people coming together, finding love, or some aging-couple trying to figure out if they are good enough for one another, because somehow, someway, Solondz is going to find his way to make it as disturbing as he can. For most writers/directors, this blatant attempt at really messing with our general taste for decency would seem rather showy and annoying, but for Solondz, it can sometimes works very well because the characters in his flick tend not to have much decency, either.

Just go for it, bro. What have you got to lose?

Just go for it, bro. What have you got to lose?

Then again, when you’re human, who needs such a silly thing as “decency”?

And that’s basically the whole point of Happiness: What it means to “be human”. A lot of the movie has to deal with sexual coming-of-age, masturbation, pedophilia, aging, philandering, and all of that other happy, joyful stuff, but the movie still treats all of these matters with some respect. Rather than having each story seem like it could only happen in a movie, where people speak and act as if they are in a movie, Solondz makes it seem like every character is a real-life person, you just don’t know it because underneath the whole charade and appearance, their real selves are waiting to come out.

Solondz knows that he is uncovering some real, brutal truths about what makes us human here, and he does not shy away from it in the least bit. This is refreshing to see because you need a guy who’s going to slap you in the face, tell you what’s going on in reality, and never let you forget about it. Sometimes, the grotesque dirty talk can be a tad overboard, but he still kept it grounded to where you could see people having conversations like this everyday. It’s just all a matter of what type of people I’m talking about because, as this flick will show you, there are some strange human specimens out there that are just waiting to be noticed, loved, and find happiness.

But hey, we’re all human, so don’t we all deserve a little bit of love, respect, and, well, happiness? Solondz argues this idea, but because his writing is so smart, it works. We care for these characters and understand them, even if we know that they’re sad and sometimes vile creatures.

And yes, the cast is so good that it helps us watch them more and more.

Out of the whole flick, Dylan Baker probably has the hardest role to make work, because of how creepy and unsettling his character is, but yet, also has to stay relatively sympathetic as well, to sort of make us feel like we can see where the hell he is coming from when he wants to touch little boys. It’s not supposed to work, but somehow, he makes it work. As the perfectly-named Bill Maplewood, Baker plays that type of dude you see in the park with his family, that looks so regular, happy, and joyful, but, deep down inside, is the most dark and disturbing soul imaginable. He’s that one in a million dude that seems to find away to hide who he really is from the outside world. Baker not only makes this guy creepy as hell, but also makes him seem like a real person in the way he is so desperate to make himself pleased and happy, that he will go to the end of the Earth to achieve it. It’s not an easy role, but it’s one that Baker plays with effortlessly, allowing us to see everything there is to see about this man.

But yeah, he’s not the only solid one in the cast, as there’s plenty more.

The era of blind dates; they'll never end.

The era of blind dates; they’ll never end.

Playing another creep in this movie is Philip Seymour Hoffman as that weird dude in high school, who you never talked to, got shoved into lockers, was too afraid to take showers after gym class, and never spoke a word to anybody. However, the thing about Hoffman’s character in this movie is that he seems like the quintessential geek that always looks at porn and breathes down the hot girl’s neck, but you feel as if there is more to him than just that heavy-sweating and non-stop boners. Hoffman makes this guy interesting, as if more and more layers are going to be popping out of him at any second, but you never really get that and to be honest, we didn’t really need it. We see how he can be nice and find his true, inner-self, but there does come a point where you wonder just who he really is, other than that nerd you stay away from on the street.

And then there’s Jane Adams as the youngest of the three sisters who seems to be having the most problems with her life, for the main reason that she just can’t seem to get a grip on things. She knows that she wants to be happy, make money, be loved, find that special someone, start a family, and be successful, but she just doesn’t know how. The story that she has where she gets all hot and ready with a student of hers (Jared Harris, who has an odd Russian accent here) doesn’t really light up the screen, but the way she acts and looks the whole movie does. You can tell she’s confused, scared, and upset with where her life has gone, but you can also tell that she’s searching for the answers whenever they come to her quick enough.

Only time will tell with this poor soul.

But those three performances are, unfortunately, where the compliments for this cast and these characters somewhat stop, because they don’t all work. The problem I seemed to have had with Solondz’s framing-device is that there seem to be about five different stories going on at the same time, and maybe only two-and-a-half of them are even interesting. The others? Ehh, not so much.

The one story that should have really re-located our hearts to our stomach should have been the one with Ben Gazzara and Louise Lasser as the old, married-couple that are hitting an incredibly rough patch. So rough, that the one thinks that it’s time they call “a break” for a bit. What’s bothersome about this subplot is that it’s rarely focused on, but when it is, it seems to bring everything else down with it because it doesn’t tell us anything new or doesn’t even seem to be turning it’s wheels. It seems to just give Solondz a bit more freedom to play around with old people banging. It doesn’t work and only took away from the film. But there’s other stories here that are at fault as well, but mainly it’s Solondz’s.

Once again, he wants to disturb us, and that works.

Mission accomplished, I have to assume.

Consensus: Not everything in the dark and disturbing Happiness works perfectly well, but it’s amazing cast really does allow for these characters to come off the screen.

8.5 / 10

Daddy's got some issues he's got to work through.

Daddy’s got some issues he’s got to work through.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Aflixionado, Claude’s Corner

The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Come on, ghosts! Let’s try and play nice now, ya hear!

With all of the hype and infamy surrounding the Amityville horrors, paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) have become something of overnight celebrities. Everyone wants to know more about them, but they also want to question them more and figure out if everything that they say, or do with ghosts is actually real, or all just a put-on. For this reason alone, Ed and Lorraine decide to take something of a sabbatical from the paranormal-busting world and just focus on getting back to reality, where they can continue to raise their family in a carefree, quiet environment. However, when they hear about a family being terrorized somewhere in England, the Warrens can’t help but feel inspired for one more battle against the dead. This time, though, they may have met their match. And with Lorraine losing her touch with reality and starting to battle more and more with the dead and dark spirits that have been haunting since she started seeing them, it’s all coming to head and this may be the most dangerous mission they’ve had to work with yet.

Oh, those silly, little children. Always seeing dead people.

Oh, those silly, little children. Always seeing dead people.

The first Conjuring, if anything, was a fun horror movie. While a lot of people shrieked, screamed, hooted and hollered during it, the movie, at least from my point-of-view, wasn’t all that scary; sure, it had some jumps here and there, but it seemed like the movie was less about the jumps and more about the tension, the suspense and the thrill of waiting to be scared and actually having it happen. James Wan is a smart director in that he doesn’t just throw everything at us, altogether and at once – he takes time to build his pieces, so that we get a clear picture of what we’re heading into, only to then pull the rug from underneath us and have us not knowing just what the hell to expect next.

That’s why, underneath it all, the first Conjuring was a fun movie. It wasn’t great and it, for me at least, wasn’t this terrifying experience that made me go home scared of turning the lights off when I went to bed. It was a normal horror movie in that it had a simple premise, a simple ghost, and simple characters, without trying to go any further on any of that; it had a ghost who needed to be taken out of a house and well, that’s exactly what happened.

But the only reason why I bring so much of this up is because the Conjuring 2 is a step-up from the original and shows that James Wan isn’t just trying to make the same movie, over and over again.

Sure, he has the scares, the jumps, the spooks, and the ghosts on full-display here, but once again, there’s more to it than just that. In making it seem like the almost indestructible Warrens are up against the grain here, Wan has made sure that this ghost is as evil and maniacal as you can get. In fact, I’d say that the first hour of the movie is dedicated solely to this family getting slowly tormented by this spirit who, for lack of a better word, just wants people out of “his house”. Why? Well, the movie goes into a little bit of that, too, but it doesn’t always matter, because the scares are there and we know that when the Warrens come around, everything’s going to be all fine and dandy, right?

Well, no. Not really.

Wan makes the Conjuring 2 out to be a do-or-die experience where anything could go wrong, at any second, and the unpredictable nature of the spirit takes over the story and has us hoping for the best, but also expecting the worst. After all, it’s a horror movie, so obviously, bad stuff has to happen to good people, regardless of whether we want it to, or not. Wan knows this, which is why he actually allows for there to be character-development with all of the characters, not just the Warren’s.

Because the family getting terrorized by this spirit is, after all, a middle-to-low class family just getting by, with a husband who is out and about, living a different life with a neighbor, a daughter who sees things in her sleep, and a boy who has a stuttering problem, we really sympathize with them. We aren’t doing it because, oh yeah, ghosts suck and all of that, but because do they really deserve this? Obviously, no family in their right mind deserves it, but Wan really does make us ache for these characters and it’s why we really want to see the Warrens show up and, essentially, save the day.

Pretty.

Van Gogh would be proud.

But once again, Wan is a smart enough director to know that not everything can be so simple and laid-out, even in a horror movie like this. Surprisingly, there’s more to the relationship between Ed and Lorraine than the first movie ever touched on and through this second installment, Wan shows us that they really are each other’s world and without the other, they’d be nothing in this life, or the next. It’s actually kind of sweet and makes these two characters appear less as just “religious ghostbusters”, and more as a married-couple who want to help those around them, while also trying to make sure that they still come home to one another, alive, well, and happy to go on another day on solid ground.

And really, that’s why the Conjuring 2 is better than the first.

Wan seems like he’s more interested in going darker and deeper into this story than ever before and not just leaving everything on the surface-level. The movie does run a tad too long, however, a lot of the reason why it’s over two hours, is because there is more time dedicated to character-development, as well as more opportunities for Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga to work with material that is, fine at best, but still gives them something to do, rather than just yell at goofy-looking spirits.

In fact, yeah, let’s try and work on those spirits next time, okay VFX team?

Cool.

Consensus: By adding an extra level of depth and emotion to the proceedings, the Conjuring 2 packs more of an emotional wallop to go along with all of the effective jumps and scares.

8 / 10

Does she not have any posters?

Does she not have any posters?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Nice Guys (2016)

Who ya gonna call? Two studs!

It’s 1977 in Los Angeles, and Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a bit down-on-his-luck. His wife has just died, he’s left to care for his teenage daughter all by himself, and he’s got a job as a private investigator that sometimes pays the bills, and sometimes doesn’t. However, there’s a new case that comes his way when a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) mysteriously disappears. While Holland is sure enough that he can solve the case on his own, a local enforcer, Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), comes into the picture, vowing to find Amelia as well. The two don’t get along fully well, but hey, they’re willing to push aside differences to solve the case and make a few bit of dollars in the process as well. What the two run into while in the case, though, is probably more than they bargained for, what with shady government agencies, hitmen, and the porn community, all involved in one way, or another.

He doesn't drive, but he takes pics, too. Man. Talk about a total package.

He doesn’t drive, but he takes pics, too. Man. Talk about a total package.

The best thing that Shane Black has ever done for himself and his career is become a director. Once he was able to do that, he didn’t have to worry about any director messing-up, or misinterpreting his vision, but instead, just know that what he wanted to see, was what he was going to get. Case closed. All of his movies have all been pretty great, but with the Nice Guys, it feels as if he’s finally found that sweet spot in cinema that may make or break him.

Meaning, if people don’t go out to the Nice Guys, Hollywood may stop allowing for Shane Black to work carelessly on his own projects and just keep him to name-brands. However, if people do go out to the Nice Guys, which they totally should, Hollywood will not only reward originality and creativity in the biz, but reward Black himself.

But honestly, it doesn’t matter because whichever way you put it, there’s no denying the Nice Guys is just a fun time from beginning to end, and Black is all to thank for that.

Clearly, it’s a buddy action-comedy, given the fact that this is a Shane Black movie, but it doesn’t feel like a well-worn thread; instead, Black himself finds new and interesting ways to not only surprise us, but himself as well. You think you have a clear-cut idea of where this story is going to go, what with the convention and all that, but nope, Black will take a step to the right or left and beat away from the path we’ve all seen before. I can’t go into great detail about what I’m going on and on about, but if you’ve ever seen a Shane Black movie, you get where I’m going; the dude follows the beat to his drum and that’s great. He does it better than anyone else, mostly because he created the damn drum in the first place.

And this is all to say that the Nice Guys is the perfect kind of summer blockbuster you’d want to see. It’s pace is breezy, its sunny-set location is relaxing, it’s jokes deliver, it’s action is exciting and unpredictable, and most of all, the characters themselves are so great and well-written, that it’s hard to find a stand-out here. Black brings in a lot of colorful beings, but mostly all of them are better than the last and after awhile, you start to wonder if he’s got any more in him.

Then, you soon find out that yes. Yes he does.

With Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, Shane Black has found his perfect odd-buddies. Crowe is the rough, tough and ragged figure that loves to solve every problem/argument with a fist and a gun, whereas Gosling is the kind of cowardly figure who definitely uses his brain to get by, but has no capability in fighting or kicking ass. The two obviously clash, but to watch Crowe and Gosling bicker and banter with one another, is an absolute joy. The two really seemed to have get along during filming and even if they didn’t, they do a great job at hiding it.

Cheer up, Russ! You're in a Shane Black flick!

Cheer up, Russ! You’re in a Shane Black flick!

But it isn’t just about the joking around and busting-of-balls that makes these two characters such a blast to watch. Over time, as the movie rolls on and the case that they’re following gets more and more deadly, we get to find out more about these guys, their pasts and how, in ways that they don’t even know, are pretty similar. A lot of this can be attributed to Black’s script, but really, it’s Gosling and Crowe who do a lot of heavy-lifting and make the smaller, more quieter moments in between all of the guns, blood and cars, much more meaningful than you’d expect with a movie like this. Sure, Black keeps them funny, but there’s a heart and soul deep inside of these characters and it keeps the adventure worth sitting through.

It also helps that there’s so many others in the cast that are fun to watch, too.

Angourie Rice plays Gosling’s daughter and while she could have easily been another annoying, precocious child character, she shows that she’s smart, but also still very immature and can’t always handle every situation perfectly, just like any kid would act; Matt Bomer shows up briefly as a scary, vindictive hitman who makes his presence known in an awesome shoot-out; and Kim Basinger, in some limited screen-time, shows up as a shadowy figure, reminds the boys that she’s around to play as well and won’t let the screen get stolen from her.

That’s Basinger for ya. Always stealing that spotlight.

So yeah. I guess the real question is should you see the Nice Guys? The answer is yes. However, I feel like not many people will. Neither Gosling, Black, or Crowe are the box-office draws that they once were, but to me, that doesn’t matter. The Nice Guys is a great time; it isn’t perfect, but then again, what is?

“A lot of stuff,” you could say, but who cares? Just see the movie, dammit!

Consensus: With Black’s well-written script and smart direction, the Nice Guys is a laugh-out-loud, thrill-ride from beginning to end that benefits from a wonderful bit of chemistry between Crowe and Gosling.

8.5 / 10

Oh, Ry and Russ up to their silly shenanigans again!

Oh, Ry and Russ up to their silly shenanigans again!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Lethal Weapon (1987)

Buddy cop movies: Yeah, we’re too old for that s**t.

Following the death of his wife, Los Angeles police detective Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) seems to have lost his mind a whole lot and gone totally off the deep end. While he is still working cases to the best of his abilities, he’s also become reckless, to the point of where he’s not only putting his own life in the line of danger, but those around him as well. However, when he’s reassigned and partnered with Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), he can’t help but clash with the older, by-the-books guy. Murtaugh is much more of a straight and narrow family man, whereas Riggs is a wild card who can’t be tamed, nor tied down and automatically, the two find stuff to bicker and banter about, even if none of it really matters to the job. But one fateful day, together, they uncover a massive drug-trafficking ring. Now, they have something to investigate and go after, which also means that they both have to learn how to trust one another and makes sure that they’ve both got the other’s back, even as dangerous as the situations can sometimes be.

Uh oh, everybody. Mel's about to snap. Look out!

Uh oh, everybody. Mel’s about to snap. Look out!

Lethal Weapon is a difficult movie to review all of these years later, because of how far, wide and weird the buddy-cop genre has gotten. There’s been many iterations over the years and while you definitely can’t say that Lethal Weapon invented it by any means, you can definitely make the argument that it helped popularize it and bring it back to the mainstream masses. After all, it showed that it didn’t matter odd your two buddies were – as long as they had a nice bit of chemistry and the movie itself was fun, then guess what? They can be as much of polar opposites as you want them to be!

And yes, Lethal Weapon definitely benefits from the great duo of Danny Glover and Mel Gibson – neither of whom were huge names by this point, but were slowly making their presences known to the audience out there. For some reason, they just gel so perfectly together like a solidly put-together sandwich of peanut butter and jelly on white; Glover is hard-as-nails and all about doing it the old school way, whereas Gibson is all about being a wild child no matter where he goes. It’s kind of corny, but because it’s Shane Black writing the script, believe me, it’s far from it.

Okay, maybe it is corny, but that’s sort of the point.

You can tell that Black has an affinity for these characters and this genre of action that, whenever he gets the chance to let his creative genius fly, he can’t help but let loose. So many conventions and cliches that writers would get attacked and put on a stick for, somehow, Black doesn’t have to go through; mostly, it’s due to the fact that his writing is two different things at the same time. One, it’s a homage to the kinds of movies he loves, but on the other hand, it’s also the same kind of movie that he’s creating and parodying, in and of itself. Anybody will tell you the best parody movies are the kinds that take on a serious route as they run on along and quite making wisecracks about stuff that always happen; Black never stops with the wisecracks, but it’s always fun to watch and listen to, even when, yet again, it feels like this has all been done before.

But that’s sort of the blessing and the curse of being released in 1987. For one, it was the heyday of action movies and right before they all took off the map to become the supreme juggernauts that they still continue to be until this very day, but it’s also placed in such a spot in movie history, that it’s hard to judge and base it on what’s considered “hip”, “cool”, and “in” nowadays. Black has clearly gone on to create better stuff in the years since, but Lethal Weapon will always and forever be his baby; it has his stamp all over it, to the point where it makes you wonder if anyone else could have written this and been as successful as he was.

Yup. He says it.

Yup. He says it.

But none of that jabbering matters.

What does matter in a movie such as this that the humor delivers, the action kicks all the right butt, and the characters are at least somewhat likable. Gibson and Glover are so immensely talented that they could have been playing pet rocks for all we knew – they’d still fire on all cylinders. It’s especially great to see the one role that really sent Gibson over into the American mainstream, where he portrays a wild fire, who may be a bit of a bad boy, but also the kind that saves the day at the end of everything. It’s a mixture of both sides that always kept Gibson interesting and mysterious, but especially so here.

And yeah, Glover’s great, too. He has the great line of the movie, obviously, but even the scenes with his family feel honest and pertinent to creating a bigger picture of who this character is. The dinner-scene between Murtaugh’s family and Riggs is entertaining, but also interesting in that it gives us a breather right slap dab in the middle, but doesn’t feel like it’s wasting anyone’s time or money. It’s just settling down so that we get to know these characters and their talented performers. No problem with that, as long as the bullets go flying and the cars do explode.

Which they do.

Plenty. Of. Times.

Consensus: Lethal Weapon will forever stand the test of time for being solidly entertaining buddy-cop flick, even if its been awfully duplicated over the years.

8 / 10

It's Shane Black so, uh, duh explosions.

It’s Shane Black so, uh, duh explosions.

Photos Courtesy of: Last Road Reviews

The Lobster (2016)

Crustacean, or everlasting love? Trust me, not as easy as you’d think.

After being dumped by his wife, David (Colin Farrell) has to find a mate in 45 days, or else he’ll be turned into an animal of his choosing. And to help him find the best possible mate, he gets taken to a fancy resort of sorts where he meets and hangs around with fellow other single people, all looking for that special someone before they too, turn into animals and roam their Earth as they so please. While there’s a few people David sets his sights on, eventually, he turns to the neurotic, but awfully fun woman (Rachel Weisz) who doesn’t really have a name, and no other discernible features, other than that she’s near-sighted, just as he is. The two eventually fall for one another and start to sense something real and passionate between one another, but there’s a bit of a problem. See, because they exist in this world where they have to prove their love to the rest of the world, they constantly have to battle with the conglomerates around them, that can either range from evil, controlling hotel managers, to evil, controlling rebellion leaders.

Take your pick, ladies.

Take your pick, ladies.

Though I saw it nearly three weeks ago, I can’t seem to get the Lobster out of my head. It’s the same feeling I had with co-writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos’ last movie (Dogtooth), but for different reasons. With that movie, I couldn’t get out of my head the fact that I was so disturbed and surprised by it, that even a thought of its twists and turns, just absolutely shook me to my core. The more and more that I begin to think about that movie, the more I’m quite confused about whether I liked it (which I think I did), or I loved it for its brash boldness (which I think it was).

With the Lobster, I have the same thoughts running through my head, where I don’t know if I love the movie (which I come very close to doing), or if I just think it’s a tad better and more focused than Dogtooth (I don’t know).

If anything though, it should be noted that the Lobster is unlike any other movie you’ll see this year, for better, as well as possibly for worse, depending on who you are. The Lobster is a very odd hybrid of a movie that’s a combination of sci-fi, comedy, drama, romance, action, and murder, all of which come into play throughout the movie in some very effective doses and it’s hard not to get interested by each and every step that Lanthimos takes with it. On the surface, the Lobster likes to poke jokes at this world, the people in it and how it would never, ever happen, but at the same time, Lanthimos himself takes it quite seriously to where we actually get a feeling for the world we’re thrown into and constantly learn more and more things about it as it goes along.

There’s an small bit of detail concerning why there are so many animals walking around in shots in the movie and once it’s revealed to us why this is the case (in an incredibly subtle way, mind you), it not only takes on a whole new life as something tragic, but downright tearful. Lanthimos makes to show his characters for being the absolute worst that they can be when it comes to obtaining love and/or using it as a way to live another day as a human, but at his very core, he’s still a human being that also wants to appreciate these people for what they are, and the fact that they all have hearts, feelings and emotions, just like you or I. Even the whole angle of how everyone seems to fall in love with one another through superficial ways is, yes, played-up for laughs, but sooner than later, starts to get far more serious and telling, as people actually start to react to love in different, sometimes horrifying ways.

Of course, Lanthimos plays mostly all of this dark material up for laughs and you know what? I laughed.

I hated myself for it, but there’s something just so darkly sinister about all of this material, that it’s almost a joke how far and willing Lanthimos is to let this material get as pitch black as it can be, while still maintaining some sort of humor in the process. Sure, everything and everyone here is so screwed-up and disturbing, but hey, sometimes that can be a little fun; Lanthimos, like I said before, takes this material seriously, but also enjoys trying to poke holes in it, as if he was so in love with his creation, that he also wanted to destroy it so he didn’t seem like too much of a pretentious crap.

Basically how anyone eats on a first date.

Basically how anyone eats on a first date.

And I got to give it to Lanthimos for assembling a solid cast here, all of whom probably read this script and had no idea what the hell to expect, but we’re still so interested that they probably thought, “Hey, it’s an experience, right?” Colin Farrell is hilarious to look at as David, the chubby, pathetic protagonist we come to know, love and sympathize with, even when it seems like he enjoys doing terrible things; John C. Reilly shows up as a very sad man with a lisp who has barely any chance of finding his true love, but because he’s John C. Reilly, it’s hard not to hope and wish for the best; Ben Whishaw plays an overly aggressive man with a limp who will do anything to find true love and I do mean anything; Olivia Colman plays the seemingly fake hotel manager who orders so many people to fall in love, that you wonder if she actually is herself; Léa Seydoux plays a leader of the rebellious group who stays in the woods called “the Loners” and is as steely and as mysterious as they come; and yes, there’s Rachel Weisz, stealing the show as Short Sighted Woman (and no, I’m not making that up).

Weisz is great in just about anything, but here, she really delivers. For one, she’s playing a character that we’re never too sure about, but makes it appear as if she does have some semblance of humanity, that once her and David do start to connect and come together, in awfully hilarious ways, it is, believe it or not, quite romantic. The two do have chemistry and even though they’re placed in some obviously awkward situations, they both make it work and have us believe that true love in this world does exist, even if it all seems to make everyone go mad and do terribly evil things to one another.

But hey, maybe that’s how Lanthimos pictures love as: It makes people go insane and act out in ways that they’d never have done so before.

Still though, despite all of my clear love and adoration for this flick, there’s a part of me that wants to be angry at Lanthimos for not allowing for the Lobster to go any further than it could have.

In the last-act, the movie becomes very plot-heavy and starts to feel as if it’s really building up to something big, but then, well, sort of ends. Lanthimos does this quite a couple of times throughout, where it feels like he’s going somewhere with a certain idea, or plot-thread, but then, all of a sudden, backs away from it; I don’t know if he’s doing that on purpose to toy with us, or if he just gets bored easily, but its noticeable and can get a tad annoying. However, the way the movie end, while interesting, definitely leaves a lot up in the air and really, I don’t know if it needed to be. The movie was never really about a mystery – it was more about whether or not true love could exist in this world where it seems all so calculated and made-up from the very beginning.

Whether or not Lanthimos knew or thought that, is totally up in the air.

Consensus: For what it’s worth, the Lobster is unlike anything you’ll see all year, with a heartbreaking and hilarious script that doesn’t always deliver like it should, but in the off-chance that it does, it’s extremely effective.

8.5 / 10

It's like True Dective season 2, except holy cow, so much better.

It’s like True Detective season 2, except holy cow, so much better.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Family Fang (2016)

Life’s a joke anyway. So yeah, make some stuff up while you’re at it.

Ever since they were just little kids, Buster and Annie Fang (Jason Bateman and Nicole Kidman) have always felt like they were a part of some big joke in life and never really their own person. Most of this was due to the fact that their parents were well-known con artists that would sometimes stage crazy, nearly dangerous scenes in real life, and more often than not, it was Buster and Annie who were usually huge parts of making sure that the elaborate scams went into play. Now, many years later, Buster and Annie are having a bit of trouble adjusting to their adult-lives, with their own careers; Buster is a writer who had one good book, one bad one, and can’t seem to make up his mind about what he wants to do with this next one, whereas with Annie, she’s a mediocre actress who, for the first time ever, just did a nude scene. And even though Annie and Buster have changed an awful lot, believe it or not, their parents are still the same as they used to be, thinking of new and exciting ways to screw with the people around them. However, when they both go missing, Buster and Annie don’t quite know what to make of it. Do they take it as serious and actually face the fact that they may be lost out there in the world? Or, do they take it as another one of their long-running gags that they’re using as a way to be “artistic”?

Yes, mom and dad, kids really do grow up fast.

Yes, mom and dad, kids really do grow up fast.

What’s interesting about the Family Fang is that even though you’d automatically assume that this is, yet again, another drab, depressing and pretentious piece of Sundance-filmmaking, surprisingly enough, it doesn’t turn out that way. This is probably due to the fact that behind the camera, is none other than Jason Bateman himself. Rather than drowning in the sorrow and misery that can sometimes seems all that’s inside of these characters, Bateman does decide to go for a lighter, sometimes funnier-route, where we’re laughing more at the fact of how weird this family-dynamic is, rather than laughing along with it.

Trust me, there’s a big distinction.

There’s a solid blend between the comedy and drama here that, while I thought worked in Bateman’s directorial debut, Bad Words, still works here, but on a much smaller and subdued scale. Bateman isn’t demanding our emotions, nor is he trying to ask for us to love him, the movie, or these characters – he’s just giving us a story that may be a bit odd, but still resonates because, at the end of the day, it’s really about family, love and finding your true self. Sure, it’s most definitely corny, but Bateman finds a way to get to these themes and messages without overplaying his hand too much to where it feels like cues a movie like this takes.

And then yeah, his performance as Buster is pretty solid, too. For once, it seems like Bateman himself has found that perfect balance between the both sides of his persona. While we’ve seen him try to be dark, dramatic and serious before, more often than not, it feels as if he may just be making a statement about it, or the movies themselves haven’t been that good to really keep up with what he was doing (the Gift is the very, very rare exception). Here, as Buster, Bateman finds just the right sweet spot to where we see this character as a very serious person, but by the same token, still someone who can make a wisecrack every so often, just as Jason Bateman characters tend to do.

Uh oh. Is Jason Bateman trying to "out-act" Nicole Kidman? Look out!

Uh oh. Is Jason Bateman trying to “out-act” Nicole Kidman? Look out!

But as good as Bateman is in the role, it was really nice to see Nicole Kidman get a good role to work with as Annie. While Kidman has been one of the best actresses working today, lately, it seems as if she hasn’t been given a role worthy of her immense talents; there’s been some brief, bright and shining moments of that old light that used to shine all of the time, no matter what project she took up, but unfortunately, not as many around to where I’ve gotten excited about seeing her name pop-up for something. However, as Annie, Kidman gets a chance to show off her more funnier-skills as an actress, as well as remind people that she can, yes, act dramatically.

She and Bateman do that both very well, which is why their dynamic as a brother and sister, works quite well.

If anything, too, it’s actually damn relatable. Given that the story itself may be a bit on the weird side, the fact that Bateman is able to make it appear like the Fangs are just like any other family out there in the world, is a true testament to the kind of director he could be, with more and more time behind the camera. We get a sense of who these characters are, what they’re all about, and while it may come-off as a bit unbelievable, the movie still makes an effort to allow us to see them for all that they are.

It sounds really tedious, I know, but certain attention to characters and their relationships to one another is, unfortunately, often times, too rare to find around these days. Bateman does that right and then some, allowing for his talented cast to work with the material as much as they are able and willing to. Even though he has maybe only 15 minutes in the whole film, Christopher Walken leaves a lasting impression as the Fang father, who may or may not be a total dick for what he made his kids do when they were younger. But because it’s Christopher Walken, you start to think of him less as a “good guy”, or “bad guy”, but more of just “a guy”, and that’s the true greatness of the Family Fang.

Wow. Did I really like it that much? Guess so.

Consensus: The Family Fang benefits from the fact that Jason Bateman is a capable enough director to balance out heart, humor and character detail, to where everything and everyone gets their time to shine in subtle, but effective ways.

8 / 10

Yeah. Hated it when my parents made me do this, too.

Yeah. Hated it when my parents made me do this, too.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Zootopia (2016)

It’s like the actual United States of America. But with animals!

From when she was just a little bunny, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) was always told that she wasn’t going to amount to much. Because of that adversity in her life, Judy trained for years and years to become a cop in the wonderfully huge and grand melting-pot that is Zootopia, a place where all kinds of creatures can live together in perfect peace and harmony. Eventually, Judy’s dream comes true and she finds herself living in Zootopia, with a solid job as a cop. However, she soon finds out that her job won’t amount to much other than just putting tickets on people’s cars. Though she’s disappointed by this, Judy still remains restless and ready to take on any obstacle she meets out there in the real world, which leads her to Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a sly and cunning fox, who she has a fear of, just based solely on the fact that fox and rabbits aren’t supposed to get along. Using Nick, Judy discovers a missing otter’s case, which leads her to uncovering a greater conspiracy that involves the police chief, the mayor, and plenty other people in power.

Don't call her "cute". Even if, yes, she totally is.

Don’t call her “cute”. Even if, yes, she totally is.

Last summer, when Inside Out came out, a lot of people were going on and on about how it was, essentially, a “kids movie for adults”. And they weren’t wrong. Sure, the animation, the colorful and wild-looking characters were clearly to attract the kids and get them interested in the first place, but really, the plot, the message and the mechanics of it all weren’t really for kids. After all, no kid would have been able to understand “the id”, “the psychosis”, or anything of that psychological nature, nor would they ever be able to understand just what the characters were searching for, or trying to accomplish. In some ways, that’s why I loved the movie, however, I also realize that perhaps the movie was maybe just a tad too smart for its own good, or even for its own audience.

That said, Zootopia is the kind of animated movie made to grab kids’ attention, but really meant to connect with the older-ones who get stuck bringing their kids in the first place.

And that’s a good thing. For one, Zootopia is a solid animated movie that, yes, looks as great and as detailed as ever. Every character, from the sloths, to the lions, to the cheetahs, the foxes, to polar bears, to the bunnies, to whichever you want to call them, all look lovely and pleasantly cartoonish. However, my main adoration for this movie comes in the way it approaches its universe. It’s the kind of movie that has a smart and relatively interesting idea, but rather than using it to rely on a lame plot or kiddie-jokes, instead, it goes balls to the walls with what it can do.

The story is a cross between a police procedural and coming-of-age-tale, but instead, with a rabbit and a fox in the interracial buddy-cop roles. And while for any lesser-movie, they’d just have that idea and leave it there, Zootopia decides to run wild with it and allow for the movie to build both of these characters up, give them personalities, and allow for them to go on throughout this whole world. After all, certain parts of this world that the movie has created for itself is so inventive and creative, that after awhile, it becomes clear that the movie’s dealing with a lot, but not really losing control of itself.

It has a message. It has a message. And most importantly, it has a story.

Granted, the story can sometimes go on and on and for the sake of telling the movie’s central message (racism and treating others for what they look like, and not who they are, is bad), but it still kept me interested. The movie brings up other points about gentrification, xenophobia, and social-classes that do hit, but it isn’t always actually about them; if anything, it’s just using them as a way to make their story feel and sound more important than it may already be perceived as. Of course, one could go on for days with think-pieces out the wahzoo about what Zootopia is trying to say, but none of it really matters, because guess what? The movie’s just a fun piece of animation.

I imagine this is the same smirk Jason Bateman holds on his face each and every day.

I imagine this is the same smirk Jason Bateman holds on his face each and every day.

Sure, it’s definitely made with the adults in mind, but it’s also a good movie for kids in that there’s a lot of the typical humor you’d expect for them to laugh at and love. However, there’s also smarter, more witty jokes aimed at the adults that have to deal with the social and racial constructs of this world, references to movies like the Godfather and Chinatown (among others), and the fact that each and everyone of these animals are supposed to be portraying an aspect of the real world. It’s all so goofy, but so much fun that you don’t care how far they go with these ideas.

You’ll just be happy that someone’s thinking this creatively for once.

And this is all the more surprising considering that there’s at least three directors (Byron Howard, Jared Bush, Rich Moore) and two writers (Jared Bush and Phil Johnston) working together. Normally, this spells out an uneasy, messy and uneven bit of trouble, but surprisingly, everybody came together here to create some neat and funny ideas, without ever seeming like they’re just throwing stuff in for the sake of it. And yes, the voice cast is also pretty solid, too. Ginnifer Goodwin is bright and sunny; Jason Bateman is as cool as a cucumber; Idris Elba is brass and brawny; and yeah, there’s others. Just know that Zootopia is a fine piece of animation that, if you haven’t already, just check it out.

It has something to say, but more importantly, has something to do with itself, rather than just waste your time because it’s already gotten your money.

Consensus: With smart ideas and messages about the real world we live in, yet, using animated animals to take humans places, Zootopia is not only cute, but awfully inventive and interesting, even when it seems to be preaching an awful lot.

8 / 10 

Oh, sloths. So silly.

Oh, sloths. So silly. Yet, a little creepy-looking.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Sing Street (2016)

Start a band. Score chicks. Live your life. Be cool forever.

Growing up in Dublin during the 80’s can be a pretty rough time, especially if you’re Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). Conor doesn’t look as tough, or nearly as masculine as the other boys, so he’s constantly teased and messed with for that reason; his parents are on the brink of divorce; and his older brother (Jack Reynor), when he isn’t spouting witticisms about rock ‘n roll, sits around the house, smoking. Conor doesn’t really know what he wants to do with his life, until he meets the vivacious and lovely Raphina (Lucy Boynton), an older, but totally cool chick. While Conor doesn’t know if he has a chance or not, he decides to find some buddies, start a band, and start making music videos, considering that it’s the thing to do around that time when people like Phil Collins and Duran Duran were owning the airwaves with these pieces of art to accompany their music. Of course, he wants Raphina to be in the video, which she’s more than happy with, but also doesn’t want to lead Conor, because after all, she has a boyfriend and he’s very confused about what he wants in life. However, it’s the music that gives him an idea and help him through even the roughest and toughest times in his teen life.

That's how the magic starts. Two dudes, a guitar and some cheesy lyrics about love and heartbreak.

That’s how the magic starts. Two dudes, a guitar and some cheesy lyrics about love and heartbreak.

With Once, it was interesting to see how writer/director John Carney was able to carve-out a musical, out of realistic situations. Budding musicians would meet on the streets, or in stores, sing songs about heartbreak, love, life and all that good stuff, and because the music was so strong, the singers were so good, and the lyrics were so heartfelt, it didn’t matter how cheesy it would be. In the world that Carney makes, you believe it because it is at least based in some form of reality that, yeah, even if people do walk around, singing to one another, it’s still at least somewhat believable, and, believe it or not, lovely to listen to.

With Begin Again, Carney sort of lost himself a bit. While the cast and the music was strong, the movie itself was so sentimental and sappy at times, that I wondered if I was watching a Spielberg flick. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fine movie that I much enjoyed listening to afterwards (Adam Levine’s songs were pretty great), but it was placed in such a fictional and almost incredibly unrealistic world that it was sometimes too hard for me to take seriously. The gritty, raw and heartfelt position he took with Once, was somehow lost in the wind, only to have cheesy Hollywood sentimentality take over.

However, with Sing Street, Carney somehow bounces back to the world he once knew and worked with, even if, yes, some things are a tad cheesy and unbelievable.

Most importantly though, you can tell that this is a story that’s close to Carney’s heart and soul. While it’s not known how much of this is autobiographical, you still get the sense that Carney is writing and portraying a time of his life that he looks back on with pleasantness, as well as some sadness. He misses feeling like a young teen who was absolutely willing and capable of taking on the whole world around him, regardless of if anybody wanted to listen to him in the first place.

Also, you get a sense that, through the songs, Carney is really working through all of the genres and styles that showed up and were the bee’s knees during the mid-to-late-80’s. Through Conor, we see him take on new wave, and punk, and soul, and even pop, to where he’s writing awfully catchy songs and coming up with even more inventive and neat music videos, some of which are so funny, entertaining and kitschy, that you can’t believe anybody would be able to make it all up, let alone a bunch of angsty teens.

But still, in the world of John Carney, it somehow works.

But it's okay, 'cause you'll get all the cool girls.

But it’s okay, ’cause you’ll get all the cool babes.

Not only do the songs work and are more than likely to get in your head, they also tell us more and more about this character that go past and beyond just him being sad, or mad, or lonely, or happy. We get a few dream-sequences in which Conor thinks about the life he wishes he had, especially when it comes to music, where everyone loves him, wants to be him, and most importantly, his family is all happy and back together again. However, at the same time, the sad realization of the real world kicks in and it’s sometimes heartbreaking to see his tender soul hurt and ruined, even if you get the general idea that’ll get better for a good-looking, incredibly talented 15-year-old such as himself.

After all, if he continues to write as good as songs as he’s been writing, he’ll be able to do anything he wants.

That’s why, as Conor, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo does a pretty solid job giving us a real, understandable teen who doesn’t always do or say the right things, and yes, may be definitely confused about what he wants with his life, but who isn’t at that age? When you’re 15, the only thing you want is to be heard, understood and respected amongst your peers and taken in as a adult, even if, you know full well that won’t happen. Conor’s the kind of protagonist in a story like this that we can all relate to and enjoy, even when it seems like he doesn’t have the full picture in his head. But that’s okay, because you know what? He’s 15-years-old and he’ll have plenty of time to make up his mind.

As for everybody else, they’re all pretty charming and lovely, too, even in Carney’s world of cuteness. Lucy Boynton is gorgeous, but also kind of sweet as the tortured and sad Raphina; Aidan Gillen plays Conor’s dad who may or may not be a dick, but always says what’s on his mind; and Jack Reynor, in an absolutely scene-stealing role as Conor’s older brother, gives us the kind of heart and soul a movie like this needed. Reynor comes in every so often, smoking weed or tobacco, says whatever’s on his mind and, occasionally, teaching Conor a life lesson that he can learn to live by and make better decisions with. However, the movie doesn’t overdo this character and it’s why, if anything in this movie does feel real, it’s him. He helps Conor become more of a man than anyone, or anything else in this movie, and he’s the kind of character that you could meet in real life, love and want to hang out with, time and time again.

Even if it is Jack Reynor and the dude is probably very busy and doesn’t have time to spend with you.

Consensus: Even if its set in a world of unrealistic proportions, Sing Street is still sweet, earnest, and heartfelt enough that it works as a lively, if immensely entertaining coming-of-ager, with great songs to back it all up.

8 / 10

"Hey, teachers! Leave those kids alone!"

“Hey, teachers! Leave those kids alone!”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Run Lola Run (1998)

And I don’t even think she stopped for water.

Here’s the plot, see if you can keep up with it: Lola (Franka Potente) needs $100,000 for her boyfriend, Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu). Why? Well, dumb-ass Manni received $100,000 for a drug deal he made, but made the stupid mistake of leaving it on the subway for some bum to take and run away with. Now, Lola has to pick up the scrapes and hopefully Manni’s life, as she runs all-over-the-place to get him some money, save his life, and keep their love alive and well.

Oh, and it’s all done to the glorious-beats of the techno/rave music that was a total hit in the late 90’s.

Can’t ever forget about that.

Seeing as the 90’s were a decade where things that were hip and cool, actually were, hip and cool, it should came as to no surprise that this was one of those sleeper-hits nobody knew about, especially if you didn’t live in France, but it somehow touched the mainstream there, here, and the rest of the world. Hell, when people still run to this day, they just usually shout; “Run! (Insert person’s name here)! Run!” Then again, you could say that it was already done four years before, what with Forrest Gump. But whatever side of the fence you were on, you can’t make any means about it: this movie was cool, and you know what?

Still is cool.

What makes this movie so cool, is the fact that everybody working behind-the-camera (most importantly, writer/director Tom Tykwer) seem to be having the absolute times of their lives with this flick and their own way of telling this story the way they want to. Here’s the thing about this movie: You think that it’s just going to be this girl running around trying to save her boy-toy from doing something completely stupid and getting killed doing so, but it isn’t like that. The story is told three different times, with Lola running into and affecting all of these people’s lives differently each time. Some are funny, some are sad, but plain and simply, it’s a cool way of telling a story the way they want to. It’s a gimmick, sure, but it’s one that’s fun and actually brings out the best in the story.

She just keeps going.....

She just keeps going…..

But the way of telling this movie tells it’s story isn’t what makes it so different – it’s the direction itself. There is pulsating beat backing the film up the whole time and you are constantly moving at a tip-top pace that never seems to end and doesn’t want to let you go. Because of that, you never lose the excitement throughout your whole body and therefore, never actually lose interest in the story.

Is the story a little bit cheesy with characters that seem to do stupid things and not really care for one another? Well, yeah.

But that doesn’t matter when a movie like this is having as much as fun as it seems to be. Rarely do I ever get to see a flick that screws around with it’s camera-angles, score, and scenes as much as this movie does without seeming pretentious in the least bit, but Tywker pulls off something impressive that is worth a look, especially if your friends have been bugging you for forever to see this, like mine have been.

Also, it doesn’t even matter if you hate that trance music that was so big in those ecstasy clubs from the late-9o’s, because it works so well for the movie. Each and every time you feel the adrenaline-rush from Lola running, you feel as if you are on the ride with her. The camera follows her at just the right space and time; the music plays and ends perfectly whenever it needs to tell a story; and the twists and turns couldn’t come at smarter times. Basically, this isn’t a movie – it’s an experience to see if you like whenever a director can do something nutty with a conventional premise like this, put his stamp on it, and never let you forget what it is that you are watching.

....and going.....

….and going…..

Even though this movie couldn’t be any less concerned with what it is that they do, the performances from the cast are still well worth the watch, even if it isn’t like the movie’s depending on them for much. Franka Potente does what she can as Lola, and if there is any shining moment to her performance in this movie, it’s just the fact that she ran. A lot. Her boy, played by Moritz Bleibtreu, is solid in this, even if they do seem like an odd-pair to be together. But then again, the whole movie is practically dedicated to them being separated, her trying to find him in twenty minutes, and them left to wonder if they can make it alive or not.

Like any couple who are truly in love,.

Consensus: Run Lola Run won’t win any points in making you feel something for characters or it’s plot, but what it will win points in is originality with it’s story-structure, it’s style, and the way it makes you laugh, while holding onto the edge of your seat because you have no clue what the hell is exactly going to happen.

8 / 10

Lola

….and, oh. She stopped.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.Com.Au, Mubi

The Jungle Book (2016)

Why can’t all animals of the jungle get along and jam out?

In this reboot, we find young Mowgli (bright and spirited newcomer Neel Sethi) running around the hills with his wolf family. Although Mowgli himself is not in fact a wolf, he was raised as one when he was just a little baby and ever since then, has been called “man cub”. While every animal in the jungle seems to be used to and fine with Mogwli, one such beast does not. Here enters Shere Khan (Idris Elba), an evil, maniacal and fearsome tiger who lets his presence be known everywhere he goes, who demands that Mowgli leave the jungle, before it’s too late. Mogwli does leave the jungle and head for land where humans exist, but on the way, he meets a colorful list of characters and other beasts of the jungle. There’s Baloo (Bill Murray), the free-spirited, warm and fuzzy bear that meets Mogwli and strikes up of a nice friendship with him; there’s Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), a snidely, slithering snake who may be taking advantage of the young and meek Mogwli; and most of all, there’s an ape named King Louie (Christopher Walken) who tries to strike up a deal with Mogwli.

Chimps....

Chimps….

Did we really need a reboot of the Jungle Book? Especially one in 3D? Probably not, but hell, it surprisingly feels good to have one that’s this great. Jon Favreau’s been a solid director for as long as he’s taken up time behind the lenses, and while he hasn’t always had the best of movies (looking at you, Cowboys & Aliens), there’s no denying that there’s something about the guy’s artistry and passion that make him a solid film-maker. And all of that same artistry and passion that’s been showing in the past decade or so, is out in full, bright spirit with the Jungle Book; the kind of big-budget blockbuster that you’d expect to be a totally soulless, lifeless and utterly boring cash-cow trying to bring a tale as old as time for the new generation of kids.

However, it’s very far from.

If anything, the Jungle Book is as fun as you can get with a blockbuster right now. What with the summer season looming on the horizon, it’s nice to get a blockbuster that, yes, is big, ambitious and a tad loud, but also isn’t bloated by any means. I don’t know if Favreau himself had any affinity or love for the Jungle Book original story or movie, or if he just saw a nice paycheck gig to work with, but either way, he seems dedicated to making this material work more than it ought to.

And most of that shines through the absolutely breathtaking and beautiful CGI. In the post-Avatar world we live in, it’s nice to see a movie that uses the 3D format to its advantage, rather than just being slapped-on by a studio so that they can get more money and dimly light the screens some more. Obviously, there’s been some good 3D movies in the past few years, but for the most part, none of them have really used it to their advantage to allow for their story to pop-off and excite the audience anymore, or better yet, add an element to the movie, that makes it worth spending all of that money to see in the theaters.

Except for the Jungle Book.

Here, it seems like Favreau knows that working with 3D can be fun, when you use it right. You don’t have to chuck each and everything at the audience to make them shriek and duck (although that does happen a few times here, but it’s fine, because it’s fun), nor do you have to make it seem like your story doesn’t exist without it – you can most definitely have a fun time with it and allow for it to draw audiences into the world your creating more. Here, in the wide, vast and wild world of this jungle that Mogwli and all of these characters live and survive in, it’s hard not to feel like what we’re seeing is just a small part, of a very big world and it’s these scenes where we get to see it adventured out into that makes the Jungle Book, at times, exhilarating.

and snakes....

and snakes….

But what Favreau does best with the Jungle Book is that he gives us a kids movie that, yes, can also be for adults, but mostly for the whole family. While there’s plenty of scary and downright terrifying situations that happen here, Favreau never seems to overdo the sheer terror, but he also doesn’t downplay it, either. In this jungle, we know that anything and anyone can come, get you, and make you their lunch, while also knowing that there truly is something beautiful and majestic about these creatures that live in it, too. Favreau seems to love this world that he’s creating, but he also doesn’t forget to show that there’s some true danger for those who live in it. But have no fear, parents – your kids will not be scared s***less. If anything, they’ll be slightly chilled, but then, have it all go away when they get a look at the pretty, sometimes cute, but always believable elephants, wolves, bears, monkeys, buffalo, and plenty others.

And yes, this kids will also love all of the wonderfully colorful and lovely character who pop-up every now and then, just like kids, almost 50 years ago, fell in love with the same ones.

Except this time, they’re more life-like, detailed and most importantly, voiced by famous people!

Is there a reason why these characters should be voiced by famous actors? Not really. Some of the times, with movies such as this, the voice-acting can get so distracting that you just start to picture the famous actor, cozying up on a couch, drinking some fine Scotch, smoking a cigar, and pleasantly reading their lines, while also readying for their huge paychecks. And that happens here; actors like Lupita Nyong’o, Giancarlo Esposito, Scarlett Johansson, and Ben Kingsley, seem as if they’re just delivering their lines in their mansions, which isn’t to say that their bad, but just kind of plain and ordinary.

Others, like Idris Elba, Christopher Walken, and most of all, Bill Murray, actually bring their characters to full life and give us a reason as to why they deserve to be chosen in the first place. Elba is scary and menacing as the equally scary and menacing Shere Khan; Christopher Walken adds a funny, almost ironic tone and feel to the surprisingly scary King Louie; and Bill Murray, with all of the warmth and love in the world, makes Baloo appear all the more lovable and heartfelt than ever before. And yeah, making his big-screen debut, Neel Sethi is fine as Mogwli, but the story doesn’t always concern him or his acting skills; mostly, it just wants him to run around, yell stuff, and just seem like a kid, which he does fine with.

Oh, the days of youth. How I miss them so.

Consensus: Exciting, beautiful, and emotional, the Jungle Book hits all of the right notes that the original animated flick did many years ago, however, on a greater, far more grander scale – one that Jon Favreau is perfectly capable of handling.

8 / 10

...and bears! Oh my!

…and bears! Oh my!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

If Van Halen was the soundtrack to your college life, chances are, you did a lot of partyin’.

It’s the dog days of summer and college freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) is getting ready for this new period in his life. He moves into the baseball house’s place, expecting for the next few days to be a wild ride of beer, sex, drugs, jams, and an overall good time. Obviously, he gets that, but he also gets a lot more. As expected, there’s a lot of colorful and wild personalities in the house – some good, others, not so much. There’s the seniors McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), Finnegan (Glen Powell), Roper (Ryan Guzman), and Dale (Quinton Johnson), who clearly prove their dominance over everyone in the house, so that each and every underclassmen knows their place in the house. But at the same time, it’s still just a bunch of fun and games where the guys go out at night, cruising for ladies, and wherever the next party is. Meanwhile, Jake sets his sights on the cute and lovely Beverly (Zoey Deutch), a girl he literally just meets on the first day, but can’t help himself from trying to go out with, even if he doesn’t know a single thing about her, other than that she’s cute and she’s going to the same school as he is.

Bros hang at the bars.

Bros hang at the bars.

Everybody Wants Some!! has been referred to constantly as a sort of “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused and it makes perfect sense. One, it’s written and directed by Richard Linklater, so already that makes sense. But once you get past that obvious fact, you take into consideration the rest of the movie and how it is, essentially, a near-two-hour film where people just talk, hangout, drink beer, party, smoke weed, try to get laid, and have some philosophical conversations about life, love, death and all of that other fine stuff that young people usually get into conversations with when they’re feeling a bit tipsy and self-important.

Does that make Everybody Wants Some!! nearly as good as Dazed and Confused?

No, not really. But it’s still a pretty solid movie in its own right.

Even if there is no substantial plot to really guide the movie along, it doesn’t matter. When you’re working with someone as smart and as deftly aware as Linklater, it’s hard to get caught up in all of the mechanics of plot; all that matters is that the character’s are at least somewhat interesting to listen to, or be around, and that the conversations that they have aren’t nauseating beyond belief. And yes, most of the characters here are fun to listen to be and be around, they’re conversations can be easy-listening, and Linklater himself doesn’t really push for anything too hard or too long. If anything, after the 12-year-ordeal he had with Boyhood, it feels like Linklater is taking some time to sit back, relax and just do what he does best, while having a great time with it all.

And yeah, it works. Everybody Wants Some!! is a very enjoyable movie in that nothing happens, but that doesn’t matter because you’re happy to be around these people and slightly compelled to see where they go, or what they do next. Sure, some of them are more likable and believable than others, but for the most part, Linklater treats each and every character with the perfect amount of love and respect that you get a sense that he probably knew people like this in real life, or at least wish he had.

Since there are so many characters here, too, it’s sometimes too hard to really make up which ones are more important than others, but Linklater himself does a nice enough job of giving them enough of a distinguishable personality that makes them easy to identify, or actually care about. Our lead, Blake Jenner’s Jake is a simple, easygoing, and almost dough-eyed freshman who is our typical conduit for a story like this; his personality isn’t big or exciting, he’s just here to be our eyes and ears for this story. Because, after all, why would we be told any of this, or better yet, how? Jenner himself is fine and is generally, a likable presence. Linklater doesn’t ask much of him, which works fine, for both the movie, as well as Jenner.

Bros hang in vans.

Bros hang in vans.

Everybody else around Jenner, on the other hand, are a lot more fun and exciting than him, in terms of characters and their performances.

Tyler Hoechlin’s McReynolds is super competitive and seems like every captain of every sports team ever, for good reasons, as well as bad ones; Glen Powell’s Finnegan is a lot deeper and more interesting than the other jocks on the team, but also knows how to blend in and have a great time no matter where he goes; Wyatt Russell’s Willoughby is the closest person to being Matthew McConaughey’s Wooderson, in that he’s always got something nutty to say, but always seems to be in absolute peace and mind with himself and his surroundings, and it’s rather sweet to see the kind of friendship he and Jake build over these two-to-three days together; Quinton Johnson’s Dale takes it a lot easier on the freshman and always seems to be having a great time no matter where he’s at, or what it is that he’s doing; Temple Baker’s Plummer is basically the idiot of the group, but also shows off smarts in other areas that are surprising, but ultimately believable and make the character more fun to watch; and Zoey Deutch’s Beverly, is fine because Deutch herself is charming, but really, is perhaps the weakest part of the movie.

And this isn’t to say that Linklater shouldn’t have had her around at all; I think for a movie such as this, where jocks are doing and saying the things that they do and say here, it’s good to have a female presence that’s smart, strong, and doesn’t always stick in line with what people generally think of when it comes to college girls. However, whenever the movie wants to focus on her and Jake’s growing relationship, the movie begins to close to a halt and get in the way of the better parts of the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with Linklater wanting to take some time away from the bros and settle things down, but after about ten-to-twenty-minutes, it starts to wear out its welcome.

Which is to say that almost everything else about Everybody Wants Some!! is great, just not these parts.

Consensus: Everything you’ve come to learn, expect and love from Richard Linklater, is in full-effect with Everybody Wants Some!!, which will bring you back to the days of college, while simultaneously making you laugh and have a great time.

8.5 / 10 

And bros especially hang in lakes. With beers, mind you.

And bros especially hang in lakes. With beers, obviously.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Oslo, August 31st (2012)

Get high all of the time, or get married, have kids, and become boring? Slippery slope, ain’t it?

We first meet Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) trying to drown himself in a lake, but why? Well, we begin to find out that he’s a drug addict that’s been going clean for some time now, however, has to go back to his hometown for a job opportunity that will put him back on the social map: Oslo. Anders has had quite a history there, as most of us have probably had with our hometowns, but what separates Anders from most of us is that everybody he ever knew, loved, or ever wanted to be close to him, he shoved away all for a needle in the arm, a couple of pills down his throat, and some funky nose-candy to get all up in his nostrils. Basically, he’s burned almost every bridge he’s ever had, but now that he’s clean and ready to enter back into society, will they accept him back in? Or, has the damage already been done to where there’s no coming back?

In other words: Life’s just not easy for a drug-addict. Recovering, or still struggling.

Everyone will leave you.

Everyone will leave you.

Sad, but very much a reality.

Drugs are not easy to kick, because even when you feel as if your mind has already told you “no“, something in your body tells you “yes“. But this isn’t a discussion about drug addiction, the repercussions, the signs, or an excerpt of my upcoming autobiography, it’s about this story of Anders, a guy who could be you or me, but just so happens to have a huge drug problem that he has yet to fully get over. You can see that bits and pieces of his brain want to keep on the straight and narrow, and not give into the smack, however, you also know that it’s less about his brain turning him onto the drugs, and more of the people he talks with in this one fateful day.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the people surrounding Anders are the reason why he was a drugged-up fool at one point, but you can definitely tell that their interactions with him, as awkward or as pleasant as they may be, have some sort of effect on it. Anders goes around from person-to-person, tries to catch up with whoever will take his call and accept a meeting, and needless to say, nobody’s really all that hype to see him. Kind of sucks considering he’s spent all of this time in rehab trying to get back in the swing of things with regular, ordinary life, only to come back and totally get smacked by everybody in the face, but that’s the way life is most of the time, but most importantly: That’s how Anders’ life is, and it’s one that’s worth paying attention to.

Sure, the reasons for why he started his whole drug addiction back in the olden days are never fully explained, but it never feels like we need to know in order to get drawn to this story, or to this character more. We know that he was a drug addict, had a problem that he’s getting over, and is trying his downright hardest to get through it all in one piece, which I think is simple enough to make him a sympathetic character, if not a very troubled one, right? Well, that’s where this movie’s power really shows its face as not only do we start to feel bad for Anders as his story goes on, but also for the people he reconnects with.

For instance, the first and, in my mind, most memorable “catching up” session he has with anybody in this whole, entire film, happens in the first 20 minutes or so. It’s Anders’ old buddy who’s a bit pretentious, but who’s happy to see him. At the same time, however, the guy still doesn’t quite know how to still seem cool or tough since he has a wife and two kiddies now, and you can just tell that there’s something going on between these two. You don’t know if they hate each other and just want to start choking the other to death, or if they want to start clawing away each other’s clothes, and getting right down to it. Honestly, I know it sounds weird, but that’s what I was wondering throughout the whole conversation these two have, but what really got me was at the end of it when we are posed the question: “Who should we feel more bad for? The drug addict who has almost nothing left in his life, or the married-man with a wife, kids, respectable job, and no self-dignity present at all?”

Or leave you in the woods.

Or leave you in the woods.

Or anyone?

However, it’s not just that one character in particular that that question is brought up in this movie, it’s almost everybody that Anders meets, and/or catches back up with. All his old friends are either complete and total slobs, a-holes, or undeniably sad -whereas he is just somewhere in the middle. He has hope, and he knows that life will go on, but whether or not it will be with him alive or happy, is totally up in the air as for right now. Makes you wonder whether or not Anders is going to stick it straight through, man up, and beat the drug demon, or totally succumb to it all, realize that life isn’t worth living, and go down swinging, even if it is in a pool of your own throw-up.

And in case you haven’t been able to tell by all of the non-stop over-analyzing, Anders is such a great character to have a movie like this be centered around, as not only is he perfectly acted by Anders Danielsen Lie, but is given more dimensions than you could shake a stick out, and you wouldn’t even know. Everything we need to know about Anders is told to us throughout the conversations he has in this one day, and we get a clear picture of just who the type of person he was, and what he could be, if he decides to stick through life after all. However, we know that this guy has a bit of trouble going on in his mind, and it’s easy to see why he looks down upon most of the people he meets back up with, yet, at the same time, wants to be closer with.

He’s definitely not an easy character to read, except for the sad face he puts on plenty of times throughout the movie. But even then, you notice that there’s more thought and reasoning hiding underneath that sad face, and the interest will get to you, especially when you know a real life person just like Anders is out there, just waiting to be noticed, loved, and taken back in by the world he once knew. However, as we all know, that doesn’t usually happen and it’s a miserable fact to face.

Sad, but a reality.

Consensus: Maybe Oslo, August 31st isn’t required-viewing for somebody who’s just looking for a little pick-me-up after a crappy weekend, but it is still well worth the watch if you want a movie that challenges your perception on drug addiction, while also offering you plenty food for thought on the people that surround you in life, even when you’re at your lowest peak.

8.5 / 10

So you'll then be forced to take rides with random strangers. End of story.

So you’ll then be forced to take rides with random strangers. End of story.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Rush Hour (1998)

Oh, odd couples.

When a Chinese diplomat’s daughter is kidnapped in Los Angeles, Hong Kong Detective Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) and his ass-kicking ways are called to the scene to help and assist the FBI with the case. However, seeing as how they’re incredibly stubborn and self-righteous, the FBI doesn’t want anything to do with Lee. As a result, they dump Lee off on the LAPD, who assign wisecracking Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker) to watch over him. Carter is already in the doghouse of sorts for botching a case where explosives went off, people were hurt, and his career was in jeopardy. But Carter doesn’t know that he’s the laughing stock, so he takes this babysitting job of Lee as serious as a heart-attack, having no clue just who Lee is, or what he’s actually capable of doing. And even though they can’t stand one another, they choose to work together to solve the case on their own when they put two-and-two together and find out that the case is a whole lot shadier than they had expected.

The guys that fight crime together, sing Edwin Starr together.

The guys that fight crime together, sing Edwin Starr together.

Rush Hour, in no way, shape or form, tries to reinvent the buddy-cop genre. If anything, the movie’s pretty generic by those genre’s standards. Two incredibly different people, both cops, come together on a ridiculous case and bring their two, very different backgrounds to help one another out, solve the case, and even possibly, grow closer as human beings and friends. We’ve seen this formula time and time again, however, what makes Rush Hour so damn charming about it all is that Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker really do, surprisingly, make a great team.

Not only does it seem like they get a long great in real life, but it works out well for the movie. The twist here is that while Tucker’s Carter starts out as being awfully racist and thinking hardly nothing of Chan’s Lee, he soon grows to learn to appreciate Lee for not just being a human being, but also being one that kick some ass and just wants to solve crimes like him. Sure, you could say that it’s awfully corny and generic, but this at least somewhat makes up for the fact that most of the jokes aimed at Chan are racist and a tad offensive. Then again, this is the brand of comedy to expect from Tucker, and it’s pretty hard to sneer at when it’s actually pretty funny,

That’s why a movie as conventional, uneventful, and simple as Rush Hour, despite being awfully stupid when it comes to its plot and its jokes, still works.

It’s obvious that the studio here was trying their hardest to try and make Jackie Chan a big hit in the United States by partnering him with someone like Tucker, in a buddy-cop comedy no less. But as manipulative as this may be, it still works because, from what it seems, Tucker and Chan really do have great chemistry that shows both stars working well off of one another and adding a nice dose of heart to the proceedings as well. One scene in particular features Chan unknowingly calling a bunch of black characters the infamous “n-word”, where he then starts to battle and brawl each one, unbeknownst to Tucker who is elsewhere. While this scene may have all the social commentary of a rock, watching Jackie Chan lay the smack down on a bunch of black dudes for calling them an offensive word, somehow works.

After all, this is a movie directed by Brett Ratner, so you get what you come for.

That said, Ratner doesn’t get too much in the way of this material here. All he really has to do is set the camera down so that stars like Tucker and Chan can do their things, be fun, be exciting, be charming, be funny, and leave it all that. With that all taken into consideration, yeah, Ratner does a fine job. He doesn’t need to add his own directorial-spin onto the sometimes silly material, but instead, just allow enough time and space for Tucker and Chan to do what they do best.

"Daaaaaaamn."

“Daaaaaaamn.”

And because of this, the action scenes do tend to work. While they mostly rely on having Jackie Chan fly around like a wild goose with its head cut-off, it’s still awfully exciting to watch, and see how it incorporates itself into the story. There’s one sequence in which Chan has to fight a bunch of guys, but meanwhile, also ensure that a bunch of priceless, almost rare Chinese artifacts don’t break. It’s a nice spin on the typical kind of action-sequences we’re so used to seeing with movies like these, but made only better by the fact that it’s Chan himself doing all of his own stunts and seeming to put himself into harm’s way, every chance he gets.

Of course, Tucker gets to work his shine, too. However, as is mostly the case with Tucker, the enjoyment of the humor here will mostly rely on whether or not you’re a fan of Tucker in the first place. For me, I love the guy and feel like he’s a comedic genius, so yeah, obviously I was hooked here from the very beginning. But yeah, he’s definitely of an acquired taste and it makes sense why some people who don’t like Tucker’s brand of humor, may not like Rush Hour.

But it’s also pretty hard to hate Rush Hour when it’s just trying to be a fun movie that entertains you, makes you laugh, and offer you up an odd pairing of Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan.

The kind of pair that nobody ever thought would see the light of day, let alone, actually work.

Consensus: Though it doesn’t set out to reinvent the wheel by any means, what Rush Hour does best is that it offers up a fine blend of humor, action, and fun, also made better by the wonderful chemistry between Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan.

8 / 10

Look out, Hollywood. Jackie's taking over!

Look out, Hollywood. Jackie’s taking over!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

James White (2015)

WhiteposterSome kids just need to grow up. Especially when they’re nearly 30.

James White (Christopher Abbott) has been through a lot in his life, but at the same time, not really. While his father basically abandoned him at a young age and his mother (Cynthia Nixon) has been going through frequent battles with cancer, he has no job, no girlfriend, and no real place to live. But James feels as if life has chewed him up, spat him out and left him for dead, even if that hasn’t actually happened. But in order to get his back in-check and be prepared for what life has to throw at him, James decides to go to Mexico with his best pal (Scott Mescudi) where they drink, party, and do drugs, while also meeting the very young Jayne (Mackenzie Leigh). However, all of the fun comes to an end when James is called back home to tend to his mother and his needs – something he’s not quite ready for, especially when it turns out that her cancer has returned and it’s rougher than ever. Now, for James, it’s time to grow up and shut up, even if he can’t seem to do either.

Sometimes, Mr. Rager just wants to hug it out.

Sometimes, Mr. Rager just wants to hug it out.

We all know someone like James White. That self-pitiful, bratty, almost immature guy who cares only about himself, his needs and always has something to whine about. He’ll complain about not getting what he wants and being asked to do too much in his life, when, if you look at it, he’s not called on for anything. He is, for lack of a better term, a bum.

But that doesn’t make him any less interesting.

What’s neat about James White, both the character, as well as the movie, although, what’s the difference, is that the movie never tries to make any amends for the way James acts. In the first fifteen or so minutes, we see him pick a fight in a bar, let it settle down, and then start it all back up. Then, we also see him outright threaten a family member with violence at his father’s wake. There’s something to James that’s so despicable, yet, he’s so relatable that it’s hard to actually hate him; if anything, I quite enjoyed my time with James

Sure, you could say that writer/director Josh Mond is using James White as a way to spend time with an a-hole, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting. In a way, there’s always been something inherently compelling about what drives and draws a person to always constantly being an a-hole; something about how that character doesn’t give a crap about what people think of them or their actions, is, in a way, very intriguing. These types of people in life may bother us, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist, which is why every second spent with James White, watching as he navigates through his life filled with sex, booze, drugs, hotel rooms, and couches, I quite enjoyed.

You could say that I wasn’t supposed to, but somehow, that actually happened.

Mond keeps his focus so tight on White that it’s hard to stray away from him and to anyone else here. The movie uses close-up like its day job, where we are right up James navel cavities, not seeing what’s around him, but only peering down at him, seeing his eyes and that’s it. This is an effective, if very suffocating device, as it really draws us closer to this character; we may not get greater ideas of what kind of person he is, but it makes us feel trapped and alone with this guy, the way he would probably love and enjoy.

It also helps that Christopher Abbott is pretty damn great in this role, too. Even though Abbott was probably best known for his stint on Girls, time will probably change after this, and we’ll start to see more of him, which is great because he’s a naturalistic talent. As James White, Abbott gets a chance to do a lot, with seemingly, so little; while we get small outlines of who this character is, the movie leaves a lot up to Abbott to pick up the pieces and he does a good job with it. There’s this unpredictable feeling with James where we don’t know if he’s going to do something nice, or better yet, relatively sweet, or downright reprehensible, and screw-up his life anymore that he already has.

Just can't handle it right now.

Just can’t handle it right now.

Abbott, as well as Mond, keep us guessing, which is definitely a testament to the fine acting-display from Abbott – someone who deserves every role that’s probably getting thrown his way about right now.

Cynthia Nixon plays James’ mother, and even though a lot of what she has to do her is look and act sickly, especially given that her character is battling cancer, she does a good job with it. You get the feeling that she’s the warmth and love in James’ life that he so desperately holds onto and needs – not just to keep him alive, but to keep him from sleeping on the streets. They have a nice chemistry that isn’t always love-love, nor is it always hate-hate – as with any mother-son duo, they have issues, but they also have qualities that make them love the other and it’s nice to see.

If anything, James White doesn’t so much as lose focus by the end, as much as it just narrows it down more. To me, this was perhaps the weakest parts of the movie; while I understand that a story like this needed to narrow its focus down even more than it already has, there was still a part of me that was missing watching James go out into late night-NYC, cause all sorts of havoc and chicanery wherever he want. Then again, that’s not the movie I continued to get – instead, I got something that showed him more as a human being who, of course, may not be perfect, but still has any qualities like you or I and because of that, should be seen as a human being.

A very troubled, almost imperfect human being that I wanted to hang around more.

Why? I don’t know. Maybe I see a little bit of James within myself.

Consensus: With a stellar lead performance from Christopher Abbott, James White is an interesting look at a person’s life that we don’t always see portrayed in the movies.

8.5 / 10

Nothing like a son and a mother love. Even if the son is a spoiled brat.

Nothing like a son and a mother love. Even if the son is a spoiled brat.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (2011)

For the last time: Yes, you can kick it.

A Tribe Called Quest were a hip-hop/jazz-fusion group in the late-80’s/early-90’s who didn’t necessarily tear it up on the charts, but were respected enough that they’re legacy long lasted anyone or anything that may have been #1 at the time. Over the course of eight years, they released five albums – almost of all of which are near-masterpieces and considered to have changed the game of rap – went on tour, made plenty of money, and began to build bigger and bigger names for themselves. After all, Q-Tip, Phife, Jarobi, and Ali were just a bunch of kids from New York, looking to do something with their lives and music was the clear way. However, after plenty of inner-group tension and fighting, the band eventually went their separate ways, with plenty of bad blood felt between certain members. Obviously, every member would go on to do their own thing and poo-poo an idea of a reunion ever occurring, until, well, they do actually reunite, get back on-tour, start performing, and, believe it or not, teasing a soon-to-be-released sixth album. It seemed like everything was going great for A Tribe Called Quest again, but sometimes, old wounds stay open.

Somebody must have not gotten the memo about the hats.

Somebody must have not gotten the memo about the hats.

A Tribe Called Quest is probably the most important hip-hop group in all of the game of rap. While a lot of people will probably fight me to the ends of the Earth about that – to which I say, “bring it on” – the fact remains that A Tribe Called Quest created this innovative sound that was, in a way, their own. They were this nice hybrid of jazz, rock, rap, alternative, funk, and blues that wasn’t heard before, or hasn’t really been heard of since and it’s a shame, too, because so much rap nowadays could benefit from that. Don’t get me wrong, the rap game is still alive and well in today’s day and age, but still, there’s that slight feeling that it’s missing the same tenacity and style that A Tribe Called Quest had.

Even if you don’t like rap, they’re still a band that you have to at least respect; for doing what they did in the rap-world, at a time when it seemed like people were still belting out “Hammer time!“. They were slowly, but surely changing the way most of us listened to hip-hop and while you may not say that they’re absolute “originators”, they still did so much with the term “hip-hop”, went above and beyond it, and well, made a respectable name for themselves. You can’t despise hip-hop as much as you’d like, that’s up to you, but you’ve got to hand it to A Tribe Called Quest.

Hence why they’re documentary is still pretty great, even if it doesn’t quite reach the genius of the band themselves.

Michael Michael Rapaport, aside from being a pretty solid actor, seems very much at-home with his directorial debut here and it’s an interesting one. Clearly he has a love and affinity for the band and in that case, probably wouldn’t want to go too far and push these guy’s buttons, especially when there’s plenty of buttons to in fact push, but nope, he goes to the extra limits to see just what is on these guys’ minds and how they feel about certain other members of the band. Sure, he gets down to the nitty and the gritty of how the band started and all sorts of other lovely insights into how some of their most iconic sounds and raps were created/originated from, but he also goes the extra mile in seeing just what makes them all tick, whether it’s ticking in a good way, or bad way.

For a lot of people, they still don’t have the slightest idea why the band did originally break-up and exactly why there’s bad blood between anyone in the first place. What Rapaport shows is that, between Q-Tip and Phife, there was plenty of anger and resentment, however, it’s not always like that. After all, they’re not just band-mates, but buddies that love the same thing in music and work perfectly off of one another. Say what you will about musicians having a sort of God-complex – which Q-Tip definitely has – they have the ammunition to change a lot of people’s minds and worlds, which is why when Q-Tip and Phife were together, and on, they could have changed the world around them.

Of course, they did seem to fight an awful lot, too, so maybe changing the world’s a bit of a pipe dream.

Spin the black circle, Q-Tip.

Spin that black circle, Q-Tip!

But still, the movie shows that there’s not just a beautiful creative-process to the guys, but a real heart and soul to what makes them live and want to create music. Rapaport gets some of the deepest, darkest secrets from these guys, but it never seems exploitative; as a fan, you can sense that he’s so interested in just what the hell happened with these guys and how they’re still touring, even if, you know, there’s still some anger between them. He isn’t asking as a journalist, or gossip columnist, per se, but more as an admirer of fan boy, which sort of makes me wish the movie featured him just a tad more than it actually did. Then again, it’s not his story, so it makes sense why we don’t get a lot of him in the first place.

After all, it’s A Tribe Called Quest’s story and it’s a story worth listening and seeing, regardless of if you’re already a fan in the first place or not. It definitely helps if you’re a fan to begin with, as some of their more pointed moments are talked about at great lengths and it’s quite salivating, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Like the band’s music, the documentary is made for anyone to listen to watch, enjoy and take a little something out of. If you come away liking the band a whole lot more than you did, or taking on a newfound love of them, then good.

Just know that they were one of the greatest hip-hop acts to ever take the mic, which makes Phife Dawg’s passing all the more tragic.

RIP Phife. You’re always on point.

Consensus: Regardless of if you’re already a fan of A Tribe Called Quest or not, Beats Rhymes & Life will do a lot inform you about the band, as well as give you an inside scoop on some of the band’s inner-turmoils and dramas, without ever overdoing it, but instead, always appearing as a tribute to the one-of-a-kind act.

8.5 / 10

Did somebody forget to tie their shoes?

Did somebody forget to tie their shoes?

Photos Courtesy of: Cut the Crap Movie Reviews

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