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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Before I Fall (2017)

High school is life. Then you die.

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

Uh oh. Mean girls!

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

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

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

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

“Why does everyone call me Leah?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 / 10

Damn millennials and their selfies.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Fist Fight (2017)

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Something, something, drugs. AHAHA!”

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

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

Which is, essentially, what it is.

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

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

5 / 10

Someone do something. Come on!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Wonder Woman (2017)

Alright DC. I see what you did there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, I’m done.

Come on, boys. Show a little more skin.

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

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

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

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

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

8.5 / 10

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

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Somersault (2004)

Growing up just got a lot harder.

Australian teenager Heidi (Abbie Cornish) is left with little choice but to leave home after she’s caught red-handed with her mother’s boyfriend. Without anyone in her life willing to help her out, or even talk to her, Heidi heads to Jindabyne, a tourist community where a lot of people are, yet, for some reason, Heidi still can’t seem to strike up a deal with anyone. No jobs, no places to sleep, nada. But then she meets Joe (Sam Worthington), a farmer who’s dealing with all sorts of personal problems at home and is more than happy to look for some sort of distraction in his life, even if it is in the form of Heidi. And yeah, the two get along real well, hell, even coming close to loving one another. But there’s some issues in Heidi’s life that constantly seem to come between her and happiness, as well as between her and Joe.

Just kiss and stop pretending to be happy!

Somersault is probably the dirtiest, grittiest, and naughtiest Lifetime movie ever made. It looks and sounds like one, yet, there’s people screwing, people getting naked, and people doing all sorts of drugs, to the point of where it feels like Lifetime After Dark, where the kids have all been tucked away and now it’s time for mom, dad and possibly, even the teenagers, to have a little bit of fun. This isn’t to say that the movie’s bad, by any means, but it is to say that it’s obvious there’s a market for these kinds of stories, and while most of them do deserve the big-screen treatment, some of them were probably better left off on the smaller-one.

Just like Somersault, unfortunately.

And this isn’t to say that there isn’t anything good with Somersault to be had, or better yet, seen. The lead performances from both Abbie Cornish and Sam Worthington are, well, great. There’s a reason why both have taken a stab at starring in Hollywood flicks, to certain degrees of success, because here, they both exude a certain amount of charm, amidst all of the sadness and pain they may be feeling. Cornish’s Heidi is a self-destructive being who seems like she’s about to fall apart in every scene, whereas Worthington’s Joe is a chill and collected lad who may also be pretty damn depressed. Together, they create a nice little relationship that is cute because they’re both so young and clearly have no idea just how dark, cruel, and unrelenting the world can get, but also because they have nice chemistry. Sure, Worthington has become a bit of a dull-presence on the screen, but believe it or not, at one time, he was the real deal and Joe’s a perfect performance to show that.

But despite these two being as good as they are, the movie always seems to fall back on soapy, melodramatic convention that, honestly, seems to betray said good performances. Writer/director Cate Shortland clearly deserves credit for telling a story that so many people would stick away from digging deep into, but she does and never goes back. Somersault is a sad, somewhat depressing tale about even more sad and depressed people just trying to navigate through life and understand what it is that can make them happy.

See? That’s more like it!

Or, at least, that’s what I think the movie’s about.

Honestly, after awhile, it seems like Shortland sort of loses focus on what she was setting out to do, or even tell, and just wanted to see how far she could go, getting people to partake in a whole bunch of nudity and awkward sex. Sometimes, there’s something quite compelling about watching all of that, but in Somersault, it feels like a crutch; rather than developing the story even more and really figuring out what’s going on, the movie falls back, gives us sex, nudity, drugs, and doesn’t want us to ask anymore questions.

Once again, it’s really the performances keeping this together, because at the end, Somersault just feels like a Lifetime movie, made with all sorts of dark and heavy emotions that are maybe grittier this time around, but still don’t fully ring true. Why Heidi is the way she is, never makes sense, and just seems like a moody teenager who does too many drugs and alcohol. Whereas with Joe, he’s just a sad fella. Why should we care?

Consensus: Somersault tries to dig in deep, but despite two solid performances from the leads, it mostly falls apart by relying far too much on convention and melodrama, better suited for TV.

5.5 / 10

Put clothes on you crazy Aussies!

Photos Courtesy of: Alchetron

My Kid Could Paint That (2007)

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

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

Suckers!

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

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

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

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

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

Can’t hide from shame, people!

Most definitely.

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

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

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

8 / 10

Sorry, kid. Stick to circles.

Photos Courtesy of: True Films

War Machine (2017)

War is bad, m’kay?

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

Grandpa?

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

You know, like Three Kings, for starters.

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

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

Two worlds collide.

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

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

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

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

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

6.5 / 10

Still muggin’ it, eh Brad?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Buster’s Mal Heart (2017)

Yeah, life can be weird.

There’s an eccentric mountain man named Buster (Rami Malek), who, for one reason or another, is surviving the winter by breaking into empty vacation homes in a remote community. While Buster isn’t his actual real name, he mostly acquired it by calling up local talk shows to rant and rave about the impending Inversion at the turn of the millennium. Of course, people just assume he is a total nut and leave it at that, but there’s actually more to Buster than just crazy and insane theories. Believe it or not, back in the day, or at least, so we think, he was a married-man, with a wife (Kate Lyn Sheil), a kid, and yes, in-laws that bothered the heck out of him. But he’s constantly by what happened to them, him, and the role that he may have played.

He’s a mountain man.

Buster’s Mal Heart is being described a whole lot as “a Donnie Darko-type” that means it’s just weird and supernatural enough to charm all the sci-fi loving nerds of the world, and also still realistic and humane enough to be, well, a movie for almost everyone. Although, to say the least, this movie isn’t for everyone; it’s a little weird, a little twisted, and most of all, a tad confusing. However, there’s something to be said for a movie that does seem to trust its audience in filling certain gaps that perhaps scenes or moments of obvious dialogue could.

It’s like, get this, writer/director Sarah Adina Smith knows we came to see her movie, to not just think, but also be a bit challenged.

That’s fine for me, because while it’s not an easy movie to fully immerse yourself in, Buster’s Mal Heart still does a lot of interesting and neat little tricks that make you think that the ideas are here, but maybe, just maybe, the execution may be a bit flawed. After all, it’s a morbid and rather sad movie about a dude losing his crap and why that all happens, without ever seeming to actually explain why it all went so downhill. Then, the movie does and it feels a little plain and conventional and a tad random, as if we didn’t really need an explanation in the first place.

That said, Smith takes her time with this story, developing it, and telling us what we need to know to keep us going. Seeing Buster as a squatting, fully-bearded mountain man is odd, but then seeing him as Jonah, the lonely, bored and rather odd hotel clerk, makes the movie even more odd. But it still works because we’re watching two stories be told to us, with a certain amount of deliberate pacing that helps us in the small, yet subtle and meaningful ways that work for weird movies such as this.

Marriott Inn better have a good Fire Wall.

Just like Donnie Darko, although, when compared, this movie clearly takes the cake.

Then again, was that already obvious in the first place?

Regardless, in the lead role, Rami Malek does a nice job showing us a normal, everyday dude who has some oddly weird and rather sinister thoughts and ideas brewing underneath the appearance. Watching Malek play a nut-ball can be occasionally amusing, but watching him as he loses all control, even when he’s with his family, or at his job, is actually more compelling. After all, watching a crazy person be crazy, while sometimes amusing, can often times get boring because, well, we know what they are and that’s it. However, watching a crazy person act normal, in everyday situations are way more compelling, mostly because we never fully know where they’re going to go, or when they’re going to let out the crazy cries. Malek does that well on Mr. Robot, but he does that especially well here and it makes me think that perhaps it’s time he take on more movie roles, rather than getting stuck on a crazily pretentious show that, with all hopes, will come back into our good graces when the second season premieres.

But that’s another story, another day, and hell, a whole site in general. Not this.

Consensus: While definitely odd and off-kilter, Buster’s Mal Heart still gets by on keeping itself just weird and clear enough to stay compelling, even when it veers into absolute weirdness that’s almost a little hard to explain.

6.5 / 10

We get it. You’re nuts. Let’s move on, shall we?

Photos Courtesy of: Everything is Everything, Gamechanger Films, Snowfort Pictures

Raw (2017)

Fine young cannibals.

Justine (Garance Marillier), a French vegetarian who lives a pretty carefree, normal life with her parents, is just getting ready to enter veterinarian school, where she’ll join her sister and other kids who want to one day be able to help all the animals of the world. But for Justine, who is going through a pretty rough and, at times, brutal rush week as a “rookie”, finds it a little hard to connect with people who seem to care so little for animals, yet, at the same time, want to still work to help them. Even weirder is the fact that Justine, who has been a vegetarian all her life, eats a raw rabbit kidney and suddenly, can’t get enough of meat, animal, or better yet, human. In fact, it begins to take over Justine’s life at this very crucial moment in her girlhood, where she’s starting to become more and more sexually active, discovering herself a bit, and hell, even falling for a guy, even if the guy is her roommate (Rabah Naït Oufella), and also happens to be gay. Not to mention her sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf ), seems to have the same issue with not being able to control her cravings for all things meat.

That’s how it starts. Bloody noses.

The central metaphor of Raw is pretty easy to figure out: Cannibalism is a lot like growing up, especially for a girl, right? Writer/director Julia Ducournau sort of knows that the idea in and of itself is a tad bit far-fetched, but believe it or not, she makes it work so much so that by the end of the movie, you may think, “Oh yeah, makes sense, right?” Either way, Raw is still a pretty great movie that jumbles together a horror story, with a coming-of-age one, that somehow works better with the later, but also deserves the former.

In other words, it’s a successful combination between the two that makes them both feel like peanut butter and jam, as opposed to peanut butter and mustard.

And yes, like I said before, Raw deals with a lot of coming-of-age themes like understanding your life, sexuality, and just where you work in the world, and it’s quite frequently insightful, smart, and well, sweet. Even without all of the blood, gore and gross-out stuff (of which there are many, and they’re actually all pretty great), Raw still feels like a genuine, honest and frank movie about coming-of-age and discovering just who the hell you are, what you like, and what the rest of your life is going to be like. It’s actually quite interesting to watch, as the movie could have easily been just about this girl’s cannibalism and the ways she tries to hide it, but instead, becomes a smart metaphor and peek inside the life of this girl, who’s just trying to know what she is and what she can bring to the world.

But it’s honestly not as lame as I make it sound, people. Raw is still a pretty brutal and disgusting movie that doesn’t hold back on making us feel sick to our stomach, which is a pretty big achievement on the part of Ducournau, who could have easily made each and every bit of the gross-out stuff a cop-out to just get weird and dark for no reason. While it’s hard to imagine cannibalism of this kind occurring without going unnoticed in a real world situation, Ducournau frames it all so well that it’s actually easy to believe these gals going around, eating all things meat, whether living or dead, getting away with it, and continuing on as if nothing ever happened. It’s silly and a little stupid, but hey, it works.

Will they, won’t they? Aw, who cares! Just sex already!

And sometimes, that’s all that counts.

Even by the end, when the horror begins to take center stage, the movie still doesn’t lose itself, mostly because by that point, it knows its own extremities and craziness that it’s decided to throw all caution to the wind and have a go of it. Once again, it works, but it does come from a soft spot in Ducournau’s heart that makes the movie feel like more of an excuse to just show disgusting, bloody stuff, again and again – there’s a story, with characters, and heartfelt emotions, just looking to be understood and developed.

And with Garance Marillier’s Justine, it’s hard not to be compelled. For one, Marillier has this look about her that is both cute and adorable, yet, also a little dangerous. Think the French Chloe Grace Moretz, but without all of the obvious and smart-ass wisecracks – in fact, just watching Marillier on-screen, without her even saying any dialogue, is tense enough and makes it seem like we’re getting to know her character better and better through that way, rather than having to listen to pounds and pounds of dialogue that, eventually, spell everything out. Justine goes through a huge transition throughout the whole movie and it’s Garance Marillier who not only makes us believe in it, but want to see where she goes, what she does, and the types of connections she makes; after all, she’s a smart girl who’s just trying to figure out who, or better yet, what the hell she is.

Same goes for her gay roommate, Rabah Naït Oufella’s Adrien who, despite obviously liking men, also seems to share a lot of scenes with Marillier where the possibility of them having hot, dirty, sweaty, freshman year sex, gets bigger and bigger. He’s a sweet character, though, and isn’t just used to be the “GBF”, or a punchline. Same goes for Ella Rumpf’s Alexia, who is pretty creepy just standing there, but also interesting to watch, because we’re never always sure about her motivations, how she feels, or what she’s going to do next. The movie could have easily been about her, too, but the fact that she’s a supporting character, just goes to show you the kind of strength on behalf of this movie’s writing.

Consensus: Even as silly as it gets, Raw always keeps itself in some grounded-reality, by being both a smart, insightful coming-of-age, as well as a dirty, disgusting and unfiltered body-horror flick, about body-horror.

8 / 10

Damn. Should have went to school in France.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

Come sail away and never come back. Seriously.

All of these years of screwing people over left and right has finally caught up with Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), who is now so down on his luck that he begins to feel the winds of ill-fortune blowing even more strongly than ever before. So when deadly ghost sailors led by his old nemesis, the evil Capt. Salazar (Javier Bardem), escape from the Devil’s Triangle, Jack is left to connect back with old friends and mates who will hopefully be able to get him out of this bind. But for Jack, his only hope of survival lies in seeking out the legendary Trident of Poseidon. However, it’s so hard to track down, he’ll have to strike up with some people who may know a thing or two of where it’s at, and just how the hell to get it. Enter Carina (Kaya Scodelario), a beautiful astronomer who uses her good-looks to her benefit, and Henry (Brenton Thwaites), a young lad apart of the British Navy who knows a thing or two about the high seas and the undead that will soon be hot on their tail. But it’s still Jack himself who can’t seem to get over the fact that all of this ill-will has finally come back to bite him in the rump.

These guys both have Oscars. Why are they here?

In all honesty, the first Pirates of the Caribbean is still, despite all of the bloated sequels to follow, a solid piece of entertainment. It’s fun, exciting, pretty funny, and oh yeah, features a top-notch ensemble of people who knew exactly what kind of material they were dealing with, and didn’t try too hard to really look for any deeper-meaning under the sea. It worked, not just making the franchise one of the most popular around, but reminded us that Johnny Depp, despite being a reliable name in the biz for a very long time prior, can carry a movie on his back.

Hell, people, the dude even got nominated for an Oscar. Literally. An Oscar. For a movie about a bunch of pirates and ghosts. What the hell?

But of course, time went by and the Pirates movies became irritating. They became longer, more overblown, and yeah, just dull. They could be fun, at times, but honestly, at nearly three hours, they all but worn out their welcome, even if people continued to pay to constantly see them. It’s sort of like the Transformers franchise in that it’s still popular, despite none of the movies really being all that good – people just like big, bloated and over-produced theater-rides and can’t help themselves but to get another.

And that’s why Dead Men Tell No Tales, while not terrible, or as awful as it should have been, should still be the final nail in the coffin for this already overlong franchise. After all, the fans of the original have probably stopped following just what Captain Jack and his matees are up to, not to mention that the reason for this franchise to continue on, doesn’t just seem ridiculous, but downright annoying. It’s a cash-cow for sure, but it’s the kind that doesn’t make any sense of its reason for existing – after awhile, it just gets sad to watch and makes you wonder, “What could have happened if they had just stopped after the first?”

Even you, Orlando!?!?

Well, there would have been quite a few people who wouldn’t have gotten filthy, stinkin’ rich, but who cares about all that?

Anyway, Dead Men Tell No Tales does have the occasional burst of action and excitement, but most of that has to do with an awe-inspiring set-piece that doesn’t contain pirate ships trying to blow each other up. There’s a bit with a guillotine early on that’s somewhat inventive, and hell, even by the end, there’s a bit that clearly rips-off the Bible, but hey, it’s neat to watch and takes full advantage of the 3D IMAX. But aside from those two bits, the rest of the movie is a bit of a blur.

It’s paced well, sure, but after awhile, it’s hard to ever really care just what’s going on, what has to be accomplished, and who may, or may not, come out of this alive. The characters try to still be charming and lovely, but even they feel like they’re just replacements, like Scodelario and Thwaites’ characters who, unfortunately, have to be related to other characters already apart of the franchise. While everyone in the cast is still fine and doing what they’re doing, it’s still hard not to feel like maybe, just perhaps, their efforts would be better suited elsewhere.

You know, like something that isn’t a freakin’ Pirates movie for gosh sakes.

Consensus: Even at two-hours-and-nine-minutes, Dead Men Tell No Tales still feels a bit long, with only bits and pieces of inspiration and excitement to be found, amongst another entry into an already overplayed franchise.

5 / 10

Okay, I can see why Johnny’s here. Which, by now, is just sad to admit.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Head Games (2012)

So, don’t play sports?

Ever play a sport and you took a really big hit? Such a big hit, in fact, that your whole head feels like water, you start seeing stars, and you automatically get dizzy, leading to a huge rush of sickness? Well, yeah, that’s called a “concussion”. But while those out there may push it off as something that happens in sports, especially when you’re doing a great and heavy job for you, as well as your team, it’s actually not supposed to happen as often it does. In fact, one concussion is more than enough for you, your head, and your brain to handle, making it all the more crucial that you don’t get any concussions. But how? Stay away from sports altogether? Or do we join them, with certain safety precautions, in hopes that people don’t get concussions and end up living normal, safe lives?

Honestly, the answers just aren’t easy.

Please, guys. Just don’t hit each other. Possibly hug?

Head Games subject-material, also feels like it scratches the surface of its controversial topic. For instance, in today’s world, the concussion issue in professional sports is still somewhat of a hot-button topic that gets talked about again and again, but for some odd reason, there still has yet to be as much movement as there should be on it. Do these sorts of things take time to get going? Have people simply forgotten about these issues? Or, simply, is it just the way of the world that pressing issues that need to be addressed immediately, just don’t right away and take their good old damn time getting talked about and figured out?

Sadly, it seems like more of the later and it’s why Head Games, while smart, compelling, and raising all sorts of valid points, also feels like it never gets the opportunity to dig as it probably should have. And hell, even at a little over 80 minutes, the movie actually feels a little long; after about an hour or so, the message is clear and understood. What follows for the next 20 or so minutes just feels a tad bit like overkill. Something that probably could have been an interesting segment of SportsCenter, sadly, feels overlong and a bit repetitive.

Is what’s being repeated here, again and again, deserving of it? Of course, but at the same time, it can’t also help but feel like a documentary running out of places to go.

Kids. Just take the helmets off and go somewhere else. Anywhere but here.

But director Steve James does help Head Games in that he never seems to take the focus off of those who know about concussions in professional sports and aren’t afraid to let the world know about it. In fact, Head Games probably could have benefited from more interviews, both with people who have suffered concussions and brain-injuries as a result, or those who are starting out in sports and aren’t sure where to go, what with all of these people getting concussions and, as a result, losing their minds at an early age. But who we get, what these people speak about, and why they’ve decided to finally speak-up, are all important and matter to a little movie such as this, that not only seems to be taking on a bit of an underdog stance on its subject, but also seems like its preaching to a choir that’s heard their tune before, but for some reason, just won’t listen.

And this is where Head Games, like I’ve said before, gets a little troubling. It begins to dig in deep into Roger Goodell, the NFL, the NHL, and all other professional sports, for their weak-stances on the protection of its players and it’s clear that James, as well as everyone else, clearly wants the documentary to go somewhere with it all. But like I said before, the movie just sort of stops; the story is still ongoing and always developing, making Head Games, while a smart and informative movie about concussions and near-fatal injuries in the already violent world of professional sports, still feel like it has places to go, but it just never can quite get there.

Let’s hope that tide changes soon.

Consensus: Even while still feeling incomplete, mostly due to timing and whatnot, Head Games still paints a powerfully sad and honest picture at concussions in professional sports, why they’re something to fear with every bit of your life, and why something should be done about them immediately.

6.5 / 10

Same image as the poster, but it deserves to be repeated: DON’T PLAY FOOTBALL.

Photos Courtesy of: The Film LLC

The Interrupters (2011)

See? Not everybody has to kill each other.

In most cities throughout the country, there’s a great deal of violence that’s hard to turn away from. It’s tearing apart families, destroying societies, and most of all, killing many, many people who don’t deserve any bit of violence done towards them (not that anyone deserves to die, or be hurt in the first place, but you get my drift). This is when CeaseFire came together in hopes of doing one thing and one thing only: Interrupting violence. Made up entirely of ex-gang members who’ve done their time and seen the error of their ways, CeaseFire’s mission is to put an end to the violence epidemic among the youth of one of the harshest, meanest cities in the whole country, Chicago, by mediating conflicts before they escalate into murders. And while some people want to learn how to better themselves, as well as their own community, others don’t think that they can. After all, some feel as if they are too far along in life to turn back time and become peaceful, carefree members of society.

How wrong they are.

Hero #1

The Interrupters could have easily been the preachiest, most nauseating documentary ever made. It’s about how violence can be stopped through simple, small and kind actions, as well as action can be made, just not in the violent sense, to ensure that everyone walks away from a situation better and happier about their lives. It has the look and hell, even the feel of this kind of documentary that’s not necessarily hitting any sort of new nail on the head, but instead, just hammering away at one obvious point, again and again, until our minds are numb to it all and we just accept that this is how the world works, when in reality, it doesn’t.

And yes, the Interrupters can be a hard movie to get used to, especially whatever your preconceived notions about inner-cities, violence, and gangs, and all that jazz are. Even I myself went in with a little trepidation, having lived in Philly for quite some time, knowing what works, what doesn’t, and what’s all a hoax for middle-class white people, such as myself, to feel better about themselves.

But even I was shocked by how much the Interrupters, both the documentary, as well as the group themselves, work.

In fact, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before; in a time where violence seems to be happening every second in the world and is broadcast everywhere the next, it’s rather sweet and reassuring to see that there are people out there trying to stop this violence, once and for all, by any means. But what’s even more shocking is to see how it all plays out and, well, works – the movie is much more about the wins and success of the group, rather than the losses and defeats, however, both sides of the equation are shown here. The Interrupters shows us a group who’s mind-set it is to stop violence from occurring by calming people down and talking everything out, which sounds all hokey and stupid, until you actually see it work and somehow, all the cynicism goes away.

Hero’s #2 and #3

It’s as if, yes, the world can be changed through some heartfelt, meaningful conversations.

But the Interrupters is honestly more than just about this group, all the good that they’re doing, and what they can do for communities, but about the strength of the human condition in the first place. The fact that the group is run by ex-cons, who not just go out of their way to save people’s lives, but also put their owns on the line, is honestly surprising, but the fact that they all seem to know what they’re talking about and are 100% dedicated to making this group and its efforts work, is all the more shocking. It’s as if these people were tossed to the side as soon as they got out of jail, but rather than getting down in the dumps, they decided to make a difference and change people’s lives, the way they probably wish theirs would have.

It’s hard to go into specific examples, except to just know this: Everyone here is a flawed, but lovable human being. They try to make the world a better place and because of that, it’s hard to ever have issues with the things that they’ve done, said, or witnessed in the past. They’re past it now and are in desperate need to save people’s lives. If that doesn’t earn them at least some small bit of forgiveness, then I don’t know what does. Just stop the violence, people.

Please.

Consensus: Even at the center of the Interrupters, lies a hokey message about how we can all get along, but through the stories we hear and see play-out in front of our own eyes, it can’t help but feel honest, raw, and reassuring that all life is beautiful, no matter what kind.

8.5 / 10

Oh and of course, hero #4.

Photos Courtesy of: Cut the Crap Movie Reviews

Stevie (2002)

Always be a big brother.

After not seeing his younger friend for several years, documentary director Steve James decides to catch up with the Illinois boy he once mentored through the “Big Brother” system that so many schools adopt, yet, don’t ever seem to fully keep up with. Although, time has changed for both Steve James and Stephen Fielding. Steve is an accomplished, Oscar-nominated director, with a lovely wife and kids, whereas Stephen, at one time, a very dorky kid, is now a damaged adult who has had repeated problems with the law, with one serious charge that he possibly touched a younger relative in an appropriate spot. James knows this about Stephen, but rather than asking him why he did what he may have done, he decides to look back on Stephen’s life leading up to now, and tries to figure out just what went wrong.

Hey, it’s pretty hot out.

You’ve got to give it to Steve James for making a two-and-a-half-hour documentary about someone nobody else knows, but him. In that sense, he’s literally making a movie, for himself, and for his own conscience, so that he can help make sense of his life, his subject’s life, and figure out just what the hell went wrong along the line. Was it him? Was it Stevie? Was it Stevie’s family? Or, basically, was it just the way the world was turning for both parties involved?

In other words, this is basically one, long therapy-session for James, who also just so happened to film it all and release it for the whole world to see. A little pretentious and self-involved? Perhaps. However, Stevie, both the movie, as well as the person himself, are far from pretentious or self-involved, making it a bitterly long pill to swallow, but one that’s worth swallowing in the end.

That makes sense, right?

Either way, Stevie works best because it focuses on Stevie, just as much as it focuses on Steve James. See, the reason why the movie matters and is made in the first place, is because of their friendship and honestly, it’s a touching one. They both seem to genuinely have a love and respect for one another, even if time has passed them both by and they realize that while they were once big parts of each other’s lives at one point, that isn’t such the case any longer. James has gone on to make a name for himself and his family, whereas Stevie is still trying to grow up and keep his head out of trouble. It’s a sad, yet honest tale about how time passes, but somehow, those small relationships we had early on in our lives, still maintain and stay strong all of these years later, regardless of whether those involved with the relationship have changed a whole lot, or not.

In this case, yes, Stevie and Steve changed a whole lot, but they still find ways to connect and love one another, even if they’re still uncertain about where the time has gone for them. It’s an ode to their friendship and long-lasting bond, for sure, but it’s also one to the fact that the people we depend on the least, can sometimes be the ones to trust the most. Who knows if Steve James wanted to gain some fame and love from audience-members for reaching out to an old pal of his, or if he genuinely cared about his friend and wanted to shine a lot on who this special friend of his is?

Good old pals, reconnecting, almost two decades later. So okay, maybe not great pals.

Honestly, it’s hard to fully come to a conclusion of. A part of me feels like James is looking for adoration, but another part of me thinks that he’s genuinely sad and somewhat regretful over the separation he and Stevie have had for all of these years, so he just wanted his friend to have some shine in the spotlight.

Once again, I’m still not sure.

That said, Stevie, as a documentary, is still a smart and understated character-study about its subject, what brought him to become the way he was when the movie was being made, and whether or not he has any hope in this place we call “Earth”. While Stevie has no doubt done some heinous and terrible things, the movie does make the case that perhaps, just perhaps, it’s less of Stevie acting out and more of just the way of him acting the only way he knows how. James focuses on Stevie’s home life, with his family and his incredibly sweet and supportive wife, showing that no matter how hard he tries, there’s always someone, or something, pulling him back to do even more worse in the world. It’s sad to see, time and time again, but James knows this, so he offer small glimmer of hopes, in that we can see that Stevie knows he can do right and make up for his bad mistakes from his past, but when he will, or if he will, remain a whole entirely other question.

Maybe Stevie, 15 years later is coming soon?

Consensus: Though it probably didn’t need to be nearly two-and-a-half-hours, Stevie is still a smart, honest, and rather emotional character-study on its compelling, yet, incredibly flawed-subject, as well as on its director, Steve James himself, who actually offer some interesting spins on this story, too.

8 / 10

Doesn’t that look like someone who is in desperate need of a hug? Or a shave?

Photos Courtesy of: Kartemquin FilmsCritics At Large

Lovesong (2017)

You don’t know who your real besties are until you, well, bang ’em.

Sarah (Riley Keough) takes an impromptu road trip with her toddler daughter and her best friend Mindy (Jena Malone). After all, she and her husband haven’t been together for quite some time and not only does she feel a bit lonely and in desperate need of some companionship, but also to remember the good old days she had with Mindy. And for Mindy, it seems to be the same. However, the trip ends rather odd; there’s kissing, touching, hugging, and possibly even love-making. But for some odd reason, it’s hardly ever spoken of afterwards. Mindy leaves Sarah, takes the bus and is, essentially, off to live the rest of her life. Three years later, Mindy invites Sarah to be apart of her bridesmaids for her wedding. While Sarah is shocked she never heard much about the guy she’s marrying in the first place, she’s just happy to be remembered and part of this moment in Mindy’s life, even if there is still obviously some unspoken-stuff going on between them.

Uh oh. There’s that jealousy!

Lovesong is probably the kind of movie that pisses a lot of people off, especially those who already have a problem with indie/arthouse flicks. See, it’s not that it’s necessarily a very plot-heavy movie, that even features all that much direction; for the longest time, it literally seems like we’re just following these characters, without much of a rhyme, or reason why. Hell, there’s even long stretches of total and absolute silence, where the two characters are literally just staring at each other, or at somewhere into space and it makes you think if anyone’s going to say something, or even do anything.

But you know what? There’s something compelling in that and it’s why Lovesong is a nice little indie/arthouse flick, yes, made specifically with that audience in-mind, but is also a solid tale for the common, everyday movie-goer, too. Especially if those common, everyday movie-goers actually appreciate a movie that doesn’t spell each and everything out, nor does it seem to follow any sort of conventional/formulaic plot.

In a way, Lovesong moves the way it pleases and for that, it’s interesting to watch.

Co-writer/director So Yong Kim is smart in that she allows the story to play-out, without much of a push on her part, but by just solely depending on the writing and acting to all come together. It does, and it’s quite nice to see, what with the bulk of the movie being Jena Malone and Riley Keough, two of our finest actresses working today, clearly choking on words and biting their tongues, looking for certain things to say. What they want to say, what’s on their mind, and better yet, what they expect to come of all these words, honestly, is all up in the air. It’s sort of like real life: You don’t know what a person is going to say, or do, by something you do, or say, so sometimes, you have to just go out there and give it a shot, see what happens next. Or, yeah, just sit around, stare into that person’s eyes, and basically torture them to start speaking first.

Oh man. That awkward feeling of having to be friends with your friends’ friends who you don’t actually know.

Either way, Lovesong works both as a tale of friendship that may be a bit more than just two gals palling around, but also as a tale of two actual friends who, after all of this lost time, get back together and realize that maybe they’re closer than ever before. Whichever you choose to view the movie, Lovesong still works; in a way, it’s a universal tale, told very well, that can work for both gay, as well as straight audiences, and doesn’t feel like a certain group is excluded out of the feelings.

In other words, it’s a sweet and sad movie, but it may be able to make anyone cry. It doesn’t matter.

And yes, Keough and Malone are to be applauded for that because they’re both amazing here, showing off a more sensitive side to their appearances. Keough is especially impressive, playing this rather depressed girl who doesn’t quite know what she wants in terms of a sexual partner, but knows that she just wants to be happy and appreciate some form of life. It’s a subtle performance from an actress who has shown some very dark and scary edges to her as of late and it’s a true sign that she’s the real deal. Malone is also great, giving us a character that may seem a tad unsympathetic, due to the actions she commits throughout, but hey, don’t all humans screw up?

Especially your best friends?

Consensus: Sweet, small, and rather melancholy, Lovesong is a heartfelt tale of actual love and possible romance, but also allows for Malone and Keough to rise above the already-solid material.

7.5 / 10

It’s love, right? So cheer up a bit.

Photos Courtesy of: Strand Releasing

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)

As not seen on TV.

In the small, relatively folksy town of Deerfield, Washington, FBI Agent Desmond (Chris Isaak) inexplicably disappears while hunting for the man who murdered a teen girl. And although the killer is never found, Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), after experiencing all sorts of crazy dark visions and supernatural encounters, actually predicts that whoever did such a murder, will do another, and very soon. He’s right, because somewhere in the small, relatively folksy town of Twin Peaks, a high school girl named Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), will soon mate the same fate, however, she obviously doesn’t know. Instead, she spends most of her last days alive, hanging with friends, whoring herself out to dirt-bags, doing coke, and oh yeah, being pestered by her sometimes sadistic father (Ray Wise), who may, or may not, have more sinister intentions in his head.

Fire Walk with Me is obviously the perfect movie for fans of the TV show. It doesn’t just set everything up in a perfect little bow that we came to know and expect from the show, but actually makes the show, in ways, better. For instance, Fire Walk with Me, being that it’s movie, allows for David Lynch to unleash his darkest, meanest and cruelest tendencies, unlike anything he’s ever tried to do before, whereas with the show, it’s a lot more silly, odd, and well, somewhat light. Of course, the show has its dark moments, but when it comes to which piece is the darker, meaner of the two, Fire Walk with Me absolutely takes the cake.

Poor Laura. Someone give her a hug.

That said, it’s also one of Lynch’s lesser appreciated movies because, well, it’s not exactly that much of a mind-trick.

There are bits and pieces of it where Lynch loses control of reality and lets his freak-flag fly, but mostly, it’s actually subdued, so that he can make way for more time with Laura, these characters, and the awful situation that she’s in, all leading up to her death. It’s actually a pretty brave decision on the part of Lynch, who doesn’t just seem like he’s trying to tell the story that we spent nearly two seasons of episodes trying to know more and more about, but also get down deeper into the myth and the idea of Twin Peaks, in that the bright, sometimes shiny little town by the woods, while pretty on the outside, is also pretty dark, screwed-up, and ugly.

Really, really ugly.

But still, that’s why Fire Walk with Me, while definitely a flawed movie, still hits hard; it’s unrelenting and brutal, but it also comes from a soft spot in Lynch’s heart, clearly. While he’s not against showing these characters getting down and dirty with life, he also knows that there’s something about them that he feels for and sympathizes with. Mostly in the case of Laura, he understands that she has a rough life and doesn’t want her story to go unnoticed, which makes it a slight bit traumatizing to see just where her story goes and leads up to, even though yeah, we all know where it’s going.

And really, Fire Walk with Me works perfectly if you know Twin Peaks, the show, sort of love it, and accept it for all that it is. If you hadn’t seen the show, there’s sort of no point to seeing this; there’s one too many threads, call-backs and references that just work way better if you already have previous knowledge. Hell, even the few times that the movie does try to go back make a mention of the show, it’s a little sloppy.

Uh, what?

For example, Agent Cooper does show up here and there, every so often, but it’s so random and unnecessary, it just feels dumb. Same goes for an odd appearance by David Bowie, who literally bumbles his way through three minutes, and Kiefer Sutherland and Chris Isaak’s cop characters, who honestly don’t serve much of a purpose to the overall story. They’re all just added-on threads to a story that’s honestly kind of thin in the first place.

The only one who really matters here the most is Sheryl Lee’s Laura Palmer.

Lee, with a face that any camera could fall in love with, takes over every scene she has here, with sheer heartbreak and sadness, that she makes the movie better, just by showing up and giving it her all. While she was on the show and still great, she was playing two different characters, essentially – as the living, breathing, sexing, and snorting Laura Palmer, Lee is terrific. You feel for her every second, even when the movie seems to lose all control. Because, in a way, she has too, and it’s why it’s all the more tragic of a watch.

It almost makes you wish that she was in the show more. Something we’ll finally be able to see, hopefully with the show back, in all its glory.

Or maybe you. Never freakin’ know with David Lynch.

Consensus: Even though it’s got some random and weird issues, Fire Walk with Me is still a perfect tribute to those who loved the show, and also want to explore the darker side of the tale.

8.5 / 10

Fun times.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Risk (2017)

What’s up with all these hacker-bros and sex?

Filmmaker Laura Poitras, after being, once again, flagged by the United States Government as “Un-American” decides that it’s time to start following and documenting the life and times of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his team who, in the early 2010’s, was red hot with infamy and controversy from the whole entire world, for better and for worse. However, while the portrait of Assange starts off relatively nice and flattering, it soon turns ugly when it’s revealed that Assange is being accused of sexual-assault by a few women that he may, or may not have, had sex with. Then, it gets worse when Poitras herself begins to strike up a relationship with another hacker and WikiLeaks member in Jacob Appelbaum who, like Assange, is accused of committing the same sort of sex crimes. It all eventually piles up into more legal cases and issues that Poitras has no idea what to expect from next, especially since Assange himself is constantly changing before her very own eyes.

The government can’t find you if you’re underwater.

Risk is much like Citizenfour, in that we’re getting an up-close-and-personal view of this controversial and rare figure. But Risk is also like Citizenfour in that it’s sort of not really a documentary in the general sense, as much as it’s just a bunch of scenes, over and over again, watching some dude talk about technology, type on his computer, talk on the phone, and yeah, act really freakin’ paranoid. It’s crazy that Poitras got this kind of access to not just Snowden, but also Assange, especially when he was at the peak of his fame, but at the same time, there can be something said for a documentary that’s basically the same as its predecessor, except in this case, it’s someone who’s a lot less interesting to watch and hear from.

And why is that? Well, it comes down to a little thing we like to call “timing”.

See, Risk is the kind of documentary that not only feels a few years too late, but sort of also forgets to cover the most important and notable event that occurs later on (the Clinton documents being leaked during the election). It feels like the kind of movie that had a lot of footage to work with, some of it interesting, some of it not, and Poitras, being the smart film-maker that she is, has to choose from all of it. What she ends up allowing in the final product is fine, but once again, it’s a lot of the same stuff, over and over again.

But this time, like I said before, it’s with Assange who, in all honesty, just isn’t all that interesting to listen to. He goes on and on about hacking and the world wide web, but it kind of goes nowhere. You can tell that he’s just ranting, with no clear end in sight, and what’s weird is that Poitras never seems to edit any of it; it’s like she’s too nice to him to really make him out to be the fool that he is.

Assange. Julian Assange.

Which is why Risk does bring up an interesting point about Assange and this whole legion of hackervists who are, essentially, heroes to the underground political world, but may also be just as slummy and as dirty as the people they are going out after. It’s nice to see a movie not shy away from this fact and provide perfect and nitty, gritty detail to it all, but once again, it’s been done before and doesn’t feel totally fresh. It’s all about timing here, people, and yeah, Poitras was just a little late to the button.

It’s not her fault, it’s just how life works out in general.

Sometimes, you get to the right person, at the right time, like she did with Snowden, but other times, you get the right person, at the right time, sit on it for awhile and then, yeah, public-interest for said right person, goes out the window. Maybe that’s just my own personal feelings about Assange, WikiLeaks and his supposed “morals”, but really, it all comes down to whether or not this guy has anything compelling to say or do for an-hour-and-a-half in the spotlight and well, he really doesn’t. A simple blog post would have honestly been fine.

Consensus: Laura Poitras is brave and smart in getting the footage she needs, but Risk, at the same time, also feels like it’s late to the party, focusing on someone who, honestly, the public has lost interest in and has mostly just become a bit of a joke, with only some of that being highlighted and focused on here.

6 / 10

Now I see what Pam Anderson sees.

Photos Courtesy of: Marshall and the Movies, Variety, Rotten Tomatoes

Alien: Covenant (2017)

It’s basically Jason X, but in space. Oh, wait. Jason X was in space. Never mind. So basically, it’s Jason X.

Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy so that they can continue on with the human race, but this time, elsewhere, members aboard of the colony ship, Covenant, seem to be going just fine. However, disaster strikes when they’re ship is hit, killing the Captain (James Franco), leaving a new one to take his place (Billy Crudup). The odd thing about this Captain, however, is that he believes a little too much in faith, which makes him a bit detested by the rest of the crew, which would be fine and all normally, but makes their situation all the more heated when they discover a new planet. Rather than just continuing on with their journey, they decide to check out what this new planet is all about and believe it or not, it’s not exactly what they expected. Instead, it’s the planet where the dreaded Prometheus expedition crash-landed all of those years ago, and still harbors David (Michael Fassbender), the scariest robot around who is still, somehow, on and being creepy.

Tell me, could you hate a face like that?

The fact that Covenant is better than Prometheus, may not be saying much. The later is a flawed movie that, yes, while brimming with all sorts of ambitious ideas and themes about life, faith and science, also didn’t have much a plot, and even worse, lame characters. It was a sight to see on the big screen, but also felt like a hollow experience, made all the more disappointing by the fact that it was done by Ridley Scott, aka, the dude who kick-started the whole Alien franchise in the first place.

But now, Scott seems to be back in his comfort-zone with Covenant, the kind of Alien movie you’d expect an Alien movie to be. It’s tense, exciting, silly, scary, gory, and at times, pretty wild, but at the same time, also feels like every other horror movie we’ve ever seen done before, where instead of Freddy, or Jason, or hell, Leatherface, we’ve got a bunch of aliens, running around and taking people that we don’t care about, off one-by-one. Now, is that disappointing, too? Or, is it just something to expect?

Either way, Covenant can be a good movie to watch, for quite some time, because like Prometheus, it’s clear that a lot of attention and detail was put into how slick and cool the movie looked. But unlike Prometheus, it has some characters to care about (sort of), and most of all, a plot that’s easy to fall in-line with. Sure, it’s formulaic and a little conventional, with all sorts of exposition flying left-and-right, but it’s less of a metaphysical experiment than Prometheus was so, once again, it’s better.

But still, a tad bit disappointing. I don’t know why, either.

Not Ripley, but still has an odd hair-do. For some reason.

Because honestly, Scott does a solid job here. He knows how to racket up the tension, he knows how to take advantage of an A-list cast, and most importantly, he knows how to still shock and surprise us, but still, there’s a feeling had with the movie that’s all the same beats hit, again and again, time after time, and now, it seems like it’s just running out of ideas. Then again, maybe it’s not; Covenant does set itself up as a sequel, but also shows us that there’s a much larger, much grander universe out there, just waiting to be explored with more and more movies to follow.

So in a way, Covenant is like a refresher-course for those who were worried of the Alien franchise blowing and not having any reason for its return. Scott seems to have a genuine interest in where these stories can go and eventually, lead to, even if it seems like he’s taking his good old time, taking an opportunity to give us another trapped-in-space-by-aliens-tale, rather than, you know, exploring more and more.

Then again, it’s entertaining. it’s hard to have an issue with a movie when it’s doing that.

Even though, yes, it is a bit frustrating to watch such a talented and awesome ensemble, essentially, be left to just spout out a bunch of sci-fi gibberish, when they aren’t giving us frightened and freaked-out reaction-shots, but hey, it’s nice to have them around, right? The one who gets away the most is Michael Fassbender playing, get this, dual roles as one robot, and another one. But there’s a key difference in the way the two are – David is a cool, sophisticated robot with personality, whereas the new one, Walter, is much more advanced in that he doesn’t think for himself and is, basically, as dull as a doorknob. It works for Fassbender who has fun, both as a the square-edged dork, as well as the charmingly freaky David, and makes his scenes, genuinely intriguing, because you never know where they’re going to go, or lead to.

Something this movie needed more of, but once again, was still entertaining.

Consensus: While not necessarily a game-changer for the franchise, Covenant is still a fun, intense and rather exciting entry that showcases Scott doing what he does best, even if there is some disappointment in him not trying a bit more of something, well, new.

7.5 / 10

Everyone’s waiting, Ridley. Now kill ’em!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Inland Empire (2006)

Wait. What?

Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) is an accomplished actress who, after much time spent waiting and wondering, finally gets the role as the lead in On High in Blue Tomorrows. It’s supposed to be her comeback role, so to speak, so there’s a lot of pressure wearing on it, not to mention, a lot of pressure from her husband not to fall in love with her co-star Devon (Justin Theroux). Sure, it can be done, but the two are playing characters who are having an affair, making it a tad bit harder. However, the director (Jeremy Irons) trusts that both of them will keep it as professional as can be and will make sure that the movie comes out perfectly, because believe it or not, it’s been attempted before, but for some reason, the movie just hasn’t been made. Why, though? Eventually, Nikki and Devon find out and it causes both of them to start imagining weird, rather insane things, that they don’t know if is real, or not.

Wait, what?

Honestly, there’s a lot more to the premise of Inland Empire, in that there’s not just one story, but about three or four more of them, none of which make a single lick of sense, or better yet, ever seem to come together in a way that you’d imagine. Now, if sitting around for three hours and watching as a bunch of random stories get told to you in the most confusing manner imaginable sounds like a good time, then be my guest and enjoy the hell out of Inland Empire.

I, however, didn’t and just couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried. Sure, there were things to admire and of course, this is David Lynch we’re talking about here, so I can’t be all that surprised, but still, it just didn’t quite work for me. There was so much going on, without any rhyme or reason, that after awhile, I had to sort of give up and just accept the fact that the movie’s going way beyond my intelligence and I’m best to just let it do its thing and see if I can make it up in the end.

Spoiler alert: I couldn’t.

Sure, is that more of a problem with me, as opposed to the movie? Definitely, but by the same token, there is something to be said for a three-hour movie that not only feels every bit of it, but never seems to show any signs of actually going anywhere. Lynch is well-known for doing this sort of thing time and time again, and while it’s always had me happy and rather pleased, this go around, it just didn’t work. It seemed like too much meandering and craziness for the sake of being meandering and crazy, as if there wasn’t a whole lot of story, but weird and surreal imagery that Lynch just had to get out of his system.

And okay, it makes sense, because the look and feel of this movie is, above all else, freaky. Then again, how could it not? Filmed on a hand-held digital-camera, the movie is grainy, dirty and downright gritty, but in a way, it’s also more terrifying for that reason alone, often times feeling like a documentary, than another glitsed-up flick. Film itself can do wonders, but digital-video can also do the same, especially when you’re really trying to go for an aura of realism, even if, you know, there’s nothing realistic happening here.

No seriously, what?

And once again, that’s all me. The movie gets away doing its thing, but it’s so frustrating to watch, that no matter what Lynch does behind the camera and how much inspiration may come out of him, it just didn’t connect for me. There’s a lot going on here and a lot that randomly happens, but the only thing I could remember clearly in my head was a very few haunting-images, bunny-rabbits, a dance to “the Locomotion”, and a lot of walking down hallways.

Like, a lot.

But Laura Dern, all issues aside, is great here and gives it everything she’s got. There’s no denying that Dern’s probably perfect for Lynch’s creepy, twisted and warped mind, and it’s why her performance here, with so many shades shown, is something to watch. Even when it seems like the rest of the movie has gone far, far away, she’s always there, working her rump off and making sure that everything sticks together. She allows for it to do so, too, it’s just a shame that it didn’t fully connect at the end.

For me, at least.

Consensus: Absolutely confusing, weird and random, Inland Empire is a hard movie to get into, mostly due to its frustrating plot, but there is some art to be seen here.

5 / 10

See, even Laura doesn’t know.

Photos Courtesy of: Pretty Clever FilmsFour Three Film

The Straight Story (1999)

Get it? Because it’s not a total mind-f**k!

Alvin (Richard Farnsworth), an elderly World War II veteran, lives with his daughter Rose (Sissy Spacek), who has an intellectual disability. When Alvin hears that his estranged brother Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton) has suffered a stroke, he makes up his mind to go visit him and do it all, hopefully, before he dies and they’re both left to feel like they missed out. However, there’s an issue: Alvin doesn’t have a driver’s license and Lyle does live very far away. So what can Alvin do to travel all of this way to see his bro? Well, he hitches a trailer to his recently purchased thirty-year-old John Deere 110 Lawn Tractor, that has about the maximum speed of about 5 miles per hour, and sets off on the 240 mile journey from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion, Wisconsin. Of course, he runs into all sorts of colorful and rather normal characters throughout his journey, most of whom offer to drive him the whole way there, with others just telling him to give up. However, through it all, Alvin remains determined, knowing that this may not just be his last shot at regaining some happiness with his brother, but his last shot at regaining some happiness with life in general.

“Yeah, honey. You’re driving me mad. Literally.”

So the inside joke about the Straight Story is that, pun intended, there’s not much else to it, other than just what is exactly presented to us. It’s just a normal, everyday story, told in the most straightforward, easy-to-follow manner imaginable, without any curves or side-turns into the extreme or ambiguous. It is what it is, no questions, meditations, think-pieces, or re-watches necessary.

But the reason why this deserves to be said is because it’s directed by David Lynch who, for what seems like the first and perhaps, last time, ever, made a normal movie. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a problem with his many mind-benders that went on to make him famous and well-known, but at the same time, there’s something to be said for a dramatic change-of-pace like the Straight Story, where it literally seems like Lynch is a whole entirely new person, trying on a new piece of skin, seeing how it fits him, and working with it.

And yeah, it works.

The Straight Story is probably one of my favorites of Lynch’s because there are bits and pieces of it that feel like a Lynch film, what with the sometimes odd, awfully random character interactions, but it is still, after all, a movie in its own right. It’s slow, meditative and yes, old-timey, but there’s something truly charming and lovely in that that not only makes us feel like we’re watching the perfect movie for the whole family, but the perfect movie for anyone wanting a bit more drama and depth to their road-tales about elderly people. After all, there’s plenty out there like the Straight Story that feel it is necessary to dumb-down their material, for the sake of making silly jokes and ham-handed sentimentality.

But Lynch proves to be a smarter director than allowing himself to get caught up in all of that. He knows what the material deserves and doesn’t lose his sight on telling it, without trying to add some sort weird spark onto it. Sure, can it be a bit disappointing to see Lynch so ordinary and plain? Probably, yes. But like I said, a change-of-pace, especially one as solid as this, is a welcome one.

Gosh. Cheer up a bit, eh Richie?

It makes you wish that more idiosyncratic directors jumped out of their wheelhouse a bit and tried some new flavor for once.

That said, the Straight Story proves to be as much of a showcase for the skills that Lynch has, as much as it proves to be for the talent of the late, great and highly underrated Richard Farnsworth. As Alvin, Farnsworth gets a whole lot to do; while he is definitely playing an old-school, do-gooder who likes to wax on about the good old days, he’s also funny, charming and above all else, kind of sad. In fact, there’s a lot of sadness to this character – just by looking in Farnsworth’s pale blue eyes, you can tell that there’s just years and years of anguish and grief piling up, and it works absolutely well for building this character and helping us to understand just what there is about him. After all, he’s just another old guy who wants one last shot at life, so what else is there about him that can be offered?

A lot, it seems and it’s why Farnsworth’s a talent we still miss to this day. We just don’t know it.

Sissy Spacek is also quite good in the supporting role as his daughter, although at the same time, doesn’t get a whole lot to do, except have the occasional conversation with her daddy while he’s on his adventure. That’s probably how the whole rest of the cast plays-off as – they’re there to assist Farnsworth in all of his daily duties. Some are good (like a randomly pregnant teen), some aren’t (the woman who hits the dear is so over-the-top, I’m actually shocked it made it into the final-cut), but for the most part, they’re there to help us fully realize the world that David Lynch doesn’t often portray in his films: The simpler, kinder and more soft-spoken one where people aren’t all monsters and demons, but instead, actual nice, sweet people, who wouldn’t mind helping out an old-timer get to see his long, lost brother.

Consensus: Definitely a change-of-pace for Lynch, but a welcome one at that with a smart, attentive direction, witty, humanistic writing, and above all else, a great lead performance from Richard Farnsworth.

8.5 / 10

Pull him over!

Photos Courtesy of: Konangal Film Society

Lost Highway (1997)

Sometimes, you’ve just got to get off the road. Like, way off the road.

Cool and happenin’ jazz musician Fred (Bill Pullman) lives a pretty fine life with his lovely wife (Patricia Arquette). But for some reason, he constantly keeps on thinking that she’s having an affair, driving him to go a little bit nuts in the head. However, he is shocked when he discovers that she’s dead and is being framed for it all, without he himself knowing whether or not he actually did it. Meanwhile, I think, there’s a young mechanic named Pete (Balthazar Getty) who is suddenly drawn into a web of deceit by a temptress (Patricia Arquette) who is cheating on her gangster boyfriend (Robert Loggia). Are these two tales linked? And if so, by what?

Uh. I’ll take my chances at a Motel 6.

Lost Highway is, no surprise, another one of David Lynch’s mind-benders that probably takes more time to watch and decipher it, again and again, than is probably necessary. However, there’s also some fun to be had in that, what with the movie not forgetting to constantly throw small hints, clues and little bits and pieces at us that may or may not tell us the whole story, or may just lead us down a path towards more darkness and confusion than ever before. Then again, there’s some fun to be had in that, especially when Lynch himself seems to know of the maze he’s taking us on, rather making stuff as he goes along, as he can often sometimes seem to do.

And in Lost Highway, there’s some fun to be had, but also some annoyance, too. In a way, it’s hard to really pin-point what it is about this movie works and what doesn’t, as much as it’s easy to say what’s hitting its mark the way it’s intended to, and what isn’t. For Lynch here, it seems like he’s got the mood down perfectly; there’s a creepy air of neo-noir mystery, coldness, and darkness that actually makes it more interesting to watch, despite the slow pace and sometimes meandering story. But Lynch clearly put a lot of effort into the way the movie look, felt and sounded, with all aspects being top-notch and creating a very paranoid, sometimes eerie aura of danger lurking somewhere underneath, and it pays off.

Then, you get to the story and well, there’s a lot to be desired.

It’s not that Lynch made a mistake in telling these two different stories and demanding that we make the connection in our times, by ourselves, it’s just that they aren’t all that interesting to watch. Bill Pullman’s story has some interest-factor because of it seeming like an attack on the male-psyche, whereas Balthazar Getty’s seems to sort of go nowhere. It’s as if Lynch was so enchanted with Arquette in the first place, that he didn’t really care how much mileage he could get out of her – so long as she was willing to act in two, somewhat different roles, then so be it.

Like, is she even real?

And well, there’s not a problem with that, either, because Arquette is quite good in both roles, playing up her beauty and sweetness, as well as her possible viciousness and danger, too. Arquette’s dual roles, while showing her off as being both sleek and sexy, also give her a chance to fool around with the audience, not allowing us to know whether or not she’s a good person, a bad one, or even a person at all. After all, she could just be a figment of these two guys’ imaginations, as well as our owns. The movie doesn’t always make that clear and while it’s a solid job on Lynch’s part for keeping that guess up and about, it’s also a solid job on Arquette’s too for never losing our attention.

But it does deserve to be noted that Lost Highway, by a certain point, at least, does seem to have painted itself into a corner that it can’t get out of and when it’s all done, there’s a big question-mark left. While you can say that about practically every other Lynch flick, it feels more frustrating here, where it’s as if Lynch himself didn’t have the answers or conclusions, but instead, just wanted to take his good old time, going wherever he oh so pleased. Sure, that’s fine, mostly because it’s an entertaining and compelling watch, but sometimes, a little help here and there could definitely help.

Actually, I know they do. But hey, that’s why I am me and David Lynch is, thank heavens, David Lynch.

Consensus: Odd, creepy and downright freaky, Lost Highway highlights Lynch at his most subversive, but also shows that his knack for storytelling doesn’t always pan-out as well as he may intend.

7 / 10

Yeah, don’t ask.

Photos Courtesy of: Jay’s Analysis

Aliens (1986)

Aliens are pretty scary, but humans can be even worse.

After floating in space for 57 years, Lt. Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) shuttle is found by a deep space salvage team. Upon arriving at LV-426, the marines find only one survivor, a nine year old girl named Newt (Carrie Henn). And while no one on-board really knows who Newt exactly is, or why she was all by herself on this huge ship, Ripley takes a liking to her and trusts her with all her might. Little does she, nor everyone else know, that there’s literally a huge colony of aliens waiting to get rid of them all and it’s up to these rough and tough soldiers to step up, stand together, and get rid of the threat, because lord knows that if they don’t get rid of it in space, it may just come closer to hitting Earth and causing way more problems than they could have ever expected.

Say what you will about James Cameron, his scripts, his cheesiness, and his knack for going over-the-top, but the man can direct a freakin’ action movie, for gosh sakes. I mean, literally, there’s not a minute in Aliens that isn’t packed with some sort of fun, or intensity, or excitement in the air; it’s literally two-and-a-half-hours of pure, unabashed adrenaline, mixed in with some speed for even better times. While some movies like to pride themselves on being a piece of absolute energy from start-to-finish, very few of them actually are and it’s why Aliens, all of these years later, still reigns supreme as one of the best action movies of all-time.

Okay, so yeah, Jimmy Cameron clearly recycled some ideas.

That said? Is it stupid? Hell yeah, but with James Cameron, it works. See, whereas Alien was much more of a slow-burning horror-thriller, Aliens is way more of a slam-bang action-thriller, where instead of taking our time, feeling the mood, it’s a pure straight-shot from the get-go. While that may sound bad and a downgrade from the original, it actually works in the movie’s favor; we still get to feel the mood, we still get to know some of these characters, and yeah, we still get thrown on the edge of our seats. All the stuff that made the original so great are here still, but they’re just heightened to a point of where they seemed to have been replaced by something far better.

It’s like something we didn’t even know we needed.

But that’s why James Cameron is such a master at his craft – he knows what a movie-going audience wants and absolutely delivers on it all. Sure, he hasn’t met a cheesy one-liner he didn’t like, nor does he seem to stray away from macho-posturing, but it really doesn’t matter, because it’s so fun to watch and listen as these goofy characters all talk, scream, and pose their muscles. In other words, Aliens is the perfect movie for a nerd to enjoy and not feel threatened by, but also for the jocks to enjoy and not feel like they’re losing their reputation as one of the cool guys.

In other words, everyone can find something here to love and enjoy and at the end of the day, even get along.

See what I mean?

Now, isn’t that what movies were made for in the first place? Not just entertaining people, but bringing them together, no matter how different they may be from one another? To me, that’s what movies are about and it’s why Aliens, while definitely not the heartfelt, sentimental flick I’m making it out to be, is just a near-masterpiece. It’s got some stupid moments and Paul Reiser’s character, more often than not, feels like an unfortunate villain that the movie just falls back on for unnecessary conflict, but for the most part, every bit of it works.

And mostly, it all comes circling back to Sigourney Weaver in the title-role of Lt. Ripley. See, in the original, while Ripley was still a strong character, she wasn’t quite given nearly as much as she’s given to do here and it’s why Weaver’s performance tops everyone else’s here; she’s got presence and seems like she’s as tough as she makes herself out to be. But she’s also the kind of character that isn’t asking for us to love, adore, and praise her – she’s just a rough and rugged S.O.B. that isn’t afraid to stand up to those around her and speak her mind.

In other words, she’s the perfect woman. But also a little scary.

But that’s fine, because Weaver is great at these kinds of characters. After all, she’s practically made a career out of them and it seemed to have started with Ripley. While yes, even those on the side of her like Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn, and the late, always amazing Bill Paxton are great to watch and have here, it’s Ripley’s show the whole way through. She reminds us not why strong female characters matter first and foremost, but why strong characters matter in general.

Especially in something that is basically an alien shoot-em-up.

Consensus: While undeniably cheesy and over-the-top, Aliens is also undeniably fun, exciting, compelling, and perfectly directed by James Cameron, that you almost forget how great Weaver is in the lead role.

9.5 / 10

Move aside, fellas!

Photos Courtesy of: Horror Freak News