Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Cody Burns

Green Room (2016)

What’s worse sitting in? The green room? Or, the waiting room?

The Ain’t Rights are a punk band trying to make it big on their own. By showing up at and playing random bowling alleys, coffee shops, and basements across the country, they’re able to make a living and still be happy with what they do, even if it seems like they’re living off of any scraps they can find. But finally, they feel as if their big break has finally come with Oregon, where they have a pretty solid gig booked through a local college station. Problem is, it doesn’t quite work out and the guy who is seemingly responsible for it getting screwed up, wants to make amends by getting them a gig somewhere out in the deep, dark woods, where they’ll be playing for a whole slew of Nazi skinheads. While the band is initially against this idea, they realize that they need the money and could probably work well in the venue. However, once they get there, everything that they expect to go wrong, goes wrong and now, they’re stuck in a situation that none of them know how to get out of alive, or without losing some sort of body-part in the process.

It's more teal than anything, but yeah, I guess you could consider that room "green".

It’s more teal than anything, but yeah, I guess you could consider that room “green”.

Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s debut (Blue Ruin), wasn’t the greatest movie ever made, but seemed to do so much, with so little, that it left me surprised and excited. It took what was supposed to be a very conventional revenge story, gave it a greater sense of mystery, suspense, tension, and emotion that doesn’t seem to come with those kinds of stories anymore, and it had me absolutely on-edge for what the guy had to bring next. After all, he can do small wonders with a tired-formula like the “revenge-thriller”, what’s not to say that he can’t do it for every genre, right?

Well, I was absolutely right to get excited because Green Room isn’t at all what I expected it to be, and I loved it for that.

To be honest, Green Room isn’t nearly as deep or as meaningful as Blue Ruin may have been; there aren’t any moments of bare, human-drama, nor is there any actual insight into the human-condition, other than just what happens when you give scared people weapons to play with. But honestly, that’s fine; Green Room is most definitely its own kind of beast that doesn’t need a lot of character development, or heartfelt themes about life and love to get by. What it needs to do is keep its audience excited, tense, and frightened as to what’s going to happen next to all of these characters next.

And yes, that’s exactly what ends up happening. But while I may definitely may make the movie seem like just an action-thriller, without hardly anything brewing underneath the surface, don’t worry, there’s something more to scratch at. Sure, you may have to really dig your fingernails in, but eventually, you’ll find something worth holding on to that makes all of the blood, guts, gore and overzealous violence not seem like a waste of time, money and blood squibs.

After all, it seems like Saulnier knows that he’s dealing with some crazy, over-the-top material and doesn’t try to hold back from that one bit. In all honesty, when the plot gets going and heavy, it’s as bone-chilling and as suspenseful as any thriller/horror flick I’ve seen in quite some time and it never seems to go exactly where you think it is. Saulnier creates this terrifying air that anything bad can, and most likely will, happen here – it’s just a matter of when, where and to whom that makes this movie even more rough.

But trust me, in this case, “rough” is a good thing.

Saulnier may have a lot of violence here, but really, he isn’t using it because that’s all he’s got, or that’s all he wants to say; the violence is as in-your-face, shocking and realistic as you’d believe it, that it almost makes this story harder-to-watch. We don’t get much character-development here for everyone, but for the few that we do, the idea that they could literally be killed-off at any second, makes Green Room all the more of an antsy picture. In a way, you get the sense that Saulnier is tormenting us, while simultaneously, having the time of his life behind the camera, but it seems a lot less manipulative than I make it sound.

What Green Room is, essentially, is a grimy, dirty, disgusting and trashy grindhouse flick that doesn’t try to be anything else but that. Sure, there’s an opportunity here for Saulnier to make a point about race and the divide it creates in this country, but that’s for a much different movie, and not here. What Saulnier really wants to do is give the audience all of the violence in the world, while also reminding us that even if we do like what we see and are getting something of a kick out of it, that there are human lives at-stake here.

Jehovah's witnesses, they are not.

Jehovah’s witnesses, they are not.

Sounds really depressing and serious, but somehow, it works so perfectly.

Oh and yes, the cast is pretty great, too, even if there are some odd, almost questionable decisions made. Everyone in the band is fine and even though none of them are really given much more depth than just “scared kids who think they’re a lot tougher and angrier than they actually are”, it’s still easy to feel something for them in this crappy situation and almost want for them to all make it out alive by the end. You know it’s not really possible, but still, there’s a feeling that’s way too hard to deny. And yes, while Anton Yelchin and Alia Shawkat are fine fits, oddly enough, it’s people like Imogen Poots and Patrick Stewart who, honestly, don’t really fit too perfectly into this story.

Don’t get me wrong, both are pretty good, but Stewart seems like he can’t decided on whether or not he wants to do an American accent, or stick with his British one, as well as the same for Poots. Maybe this is more of a nitpick than anything, but it was a tad distracting, especially when we were getting these brief moments of actual honest, down-to-Earth character development. What’s most surprising is that the best of the bunch is probably Macon Blair, who was the star of Blue Ruin and seems to be the least experienced out of everyone here, yet, also brings the most depth and understatements to a character who is really hard to pull off. We never know what side he’s on, if he’s telling the truth, and whether or not he’s really just being taken advantage of, but really, it’s hard to take your eyes off of him.

More of him, as well as Saulnier, please.

Consensus: With a gritty, absolutely brutal tone, Green Room takes no prisoners and doesn’t let go of its audience, until everyone feels as dirty and as ugly as the movie’s characters can be.

9 / 10

"She wouldn't dance with another! Woo, when I saw her standing there!"

“She wouldn’t dance with another! Woo, when I saw her standing there!”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Advertisements

Wild (2014)

I just walked from my living-room to the kitchen, so why am I still addicted to heroin?

One day, 30-ish-year-old Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) decides to do a 1,000 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, all by her lonesome-self. Why is this? Well, after years of drug abuse, random sex with strangers, the loss of her mother (Laura Dern), a few pregnancy scares, and her recent divorce, Cheryl has about had it up to here with life and finally realizes that in order for her to finally change it all, she has to get away from it all and focus her attention on another part of her life: Survival. This means, for Cheryl, she has to eat a lot of cold oatmeal, stay hydrated, stay warm, not die, and sure as hell not get raped by any of the huge creep-o’s that may, or may not be out there in the wilderness, just waiting for a little thing like her to come around into their little wooden-hut. Mostly though, Cheryl just wants to change her life and along her journey, she meets people that are sometimes in the same situation as her, or are just simply hiking for the hell of it.

Just like the Energizer Bunny, she just keeps going....

Just like the Energizer Bunny, she just keeps going….

You know, like we all do.

On the outside looking into a movie like Wild, I cannot help myself one bit to not just scoff at a piece that includes someone played by Reese Witherspoon hiking on an Eat Pray Love-style journey of self-discovery, all because she shot up heroin, had promiscuous sex with a bunch of Randy’s, and got a divorce, because she had promiscuous sex with a bunch of Randy’s. To me, not only does it sound like not “my type of thing”, but it seems like pure Oscar-bait for Witherspoon to show her “range”, and also to see her as a bad-ass kind of gal. Call me harsh, call me what you will, but I know when a movie intrigues me and this was not one of them.

But, from the inside of this movie looking out, I can easily say that not only did it turn out to be “my type of thing”, but Witherspoon more than proved herself capable of being hot, sassy little mama who screws, shoots up, and divorces, whatever she wants, when she wants, and how she chooses to do so.

I never thought I’d ever be typing that in my life, but such is the case when you have a little surprise like this on your hands.

And most of that is due to director Jean-Marc Vallée’s handling of this material and not just letting it tell itself; Vallée gets us inside the mind of this Cheryl Strayed character, shows us what she’s thinking, when she’s thinking, why, and how it affects her current journey in life. Though it gets a bit over-the-top with all of the constant smarmy-narration from Strayed, Vallée still does a nice enough job of putting us slap dab in the middle of this woman’s life and the journey she’s embarking on, and making us actually care for her. Sure, he may utilize more flashbacks than two whole episodes of Lost, but they’re flashbacks that work and allow us to grow closer to this character, the more and more that we know about her.

And trust me, that’s not an easy feet, especially when you have Reese Witherspoon playing the main character, but there’s something about her here that really shocked me and actually puts her whole career into perspective, as a matter of fact. See, it’s not that I dislike Witherspoon as an actress – I think she’s immensely talented and, in the past, has proven to be quite versatile in what she’s chosen, and for how much cash. But lately, it seems that the Reese we all once knew and loved as Elle Woods (or as Tracy Flick, for all you cool 90’s kids out there), has gone the way of the Dodo and would much rather take a huge pay-cut to star in movies where dashing, handsome-as-hell men fight to the death for her and leave her going, “Oh, golly!”

Well, my friends, you no longer have to be scared because it seems like the Reese Witherspoon we all loved is back and this time, she’s rawer than ever! Meaning, that yes, Witherspoon does get quite naked in here and shows us elements to her abilities as an actress that none of us have ever seen before, and it all works. She’s compelling, smart and gives much insight into the type of damaged woman you can still like and care for, even if she’s made some pretty dumb mistakes in the past, and especially to people who don’t at all deserve it. The role could have easily been another large check for Witherspoon, but she puts so much effort into it that it actually pays off and has me so excited to see what she has next. Because, quite frankly, with all of the hits on her hands, by now, she can do whatever she damn well pleases with her career.

....and going......

….and going……

Quite like Cheryl Strayed.

Anyway, all that aside, Wild isn’t perfect. There are moments where it seems to fall back on “are they, or aren’t they rapists” aspect of its story and while it may bring tension to the story, it feels constantly thrown in there, if only to just keep peoples eyes open and watching the screen. But that isn’t to say Cheryl Strayed’s adventure isn’t, as is, already intriguing, or even, ever so slightly, inspirational, because, yes, it is. Though Vallée doesn’t hit us over-the-head too many times with making us feel like we should love this person more and more as she goes on with our journey, it’s still easy to do so. Not because she’s been through a whole hell of a lot to begin with, but because she actually wants to make amends for it all.

The real reason as to why she actually gets up one day and decides to say, “Aw, fuck it! Time for a 1,000 mile hike”, is a question that the movie brings up, never explicitly answers, and leaves hanging like a sad flower that’s been without water for too long. But it doesn’t need to. With giving us many insights into Strayed’s past-life, we get the impression that she needs this more than anything. However, rather than being a total baby and seeming like she’s running away from her problems, it seems more like she’s walking towards a new life, that will probably have its fair share of problems. However, she’s constantly learning and understanding that life will always get better. Sometimes though, you just have to take advantage of it, get up, and see what’s out there in this huge canvas we call “Earth”.

Okay, now I’m definitely getting sappy here. Damn you, Reese!

Consensus: With a compelling lead performance from a very dedicated Reese Witherspoon, Wild gets past any of the problems it may have with its narrative and reminds its audience about the small pleasures in life, even if they don’t always come right away.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

...and, yup, you guessed it, still going......

…and, yup, you guessed it, still going……

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz