Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Emayatzy Corinealdi

Miles Ahead (2016)

He didn’t pee his pants, but he was still cool.

After taking over the world of jazz and music altogether, Miles Davis (Don Cheadle), for one reason or another, inexplicably left the public eye, left to scour and hang out in his apartment, where people couldn’t bother him, nor could they even ask him questions about the next album he’ll make. It was just Miles, his music, his drugs, his booze, and his occasional friend popping on through. One day, however, he gets a knock from Rolling Stone writer Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor) who absolutely insists on getting a one-on-one story with Miles, if not just for the music, but for the sake of his fans around the world. While Miles doesn’t necessarily agree to a story, he does allow for Dave to hang around with him on these next few days, where he’ll go to his label, get in fights with high-as-hell college kids, and think hard and long about the past love he had with a woman named Frances (Emayatzy Corinealdi) – someone he clearly still loves, misses and wants back in his life, even if she doesn’t want anything to do with him, or the drugged-up life he’s created for himself.

Pretty fly for a white guy.

Pretty fly for a white guy.

There’s no denying that Don Cheadle got to make the Miles Davis biopic he has been so clearly and passionately been trying to do for nearly his whole career. And thankfully, that kind of biopic isn’t the typical, run-of-the-mill pieces we’re all so used to and annoyed of. Sure, if you have an interesting enough subject to work with, I bet using the old formula of rags-to-riches may work, but for someone like Miles Davis, it doesn’t seem to fit. If anything, a biopic made about the man, the myth, and yes, the legend, needs to be as idiosyncratic, as unpredictable, and as wild as the man himself was.

And yes, Don Cheadle gets a chance to make that movie.

Does it always work? No, not really. But is it at least entertaining and a lot better than some of the yawn-inducing passion projects we’ve seen from Hollywood stars cut from the same cloth as Don Cheadle? Yes, and that’s perhaps its best attribute.

Throughout Miles Ahead, Miles Davis is seen as a bad-ass who takes his gun out, points it at people, kicks people’s asses, says what he wants, does what he wants, and doesn’t like to mince words or emotions with people he doesn’t care about, or at all. What Miles Davis wants to do, as we can tell from this movie, is just live the life he wants to live. That’s why, for the longest time, Miles Ahead plays very much like a toned-down, but relaxed character-study where, occasionally, we’ll get a random action-sequence with Miles Davis running for his life, or getting in a car-chase, or shooting random people, but we’ll still get those smaller, more humane moments of character where we get a chance to see Miles Davis as the man behind the legend.

Sure, we’ll see and get to hear a lot of what we expected from Davis, but at its heart, Miles Ahead wants to also show that there was a more painful and aching heart deep within Miles Davis that didn’t always shine through with the people around him, but was definitely around and made him the rough, tough and ragged some people obviously saw him as. That’s probably why, as Miles Davis, Don Cheadle was a great choice; Cheadle himself can do meek and mild quite well, as well being funny and gritty, all at the same time. Even when it seems like Miles Davis is a mean, almost despicable human being who doesn’t care for those who actually love and support him, Cheadle will show a small bit of humanity that will make us sympathize with this character a bit more, even while we’re laughing at everything he does.

That said, Miles Ahead is definitely an uneven movie.

There's always one lady to ruin a man's soul. This is that lady.

There’s always one lady to ruin a man’s soul. This is that lady.

You can definitely tell that Miles Ahead is Cheadle’s first movie as a director, because it doesn’t always tonally work. Certain sequences where someone’s shot, beat-up or severely injured, will be played for laughs, in a dark kind of way, whereas in the next scene, we’ll get a flashback to a time when life was lovelier and simpler for Davis. It’s good that we get these scenes and in a way, I don’t mind the scenes of violence and ass-kicking, but after awhile, you start to question what kind of movie Cheadle wanted to make. Did he want to make a heartfelt, detailed and emotional tribute to the man we all knew as Miles Davis? Or does he want to make a fun, exciting and wild tale about Miles Davis, someone who, yes made some great music, but also took plenty of pleasure in knocking people out when push came to shove?

Honestly, I never fully figured that out. However, I will give Cheadle credit for at least trying something new, fun and interesting with the biopic formula. Cause, if anything, I wished the movie would have been more about Davis hanging out/around with Ewan McGregor’s Dave Braden. McGregor, believe it or not, is actually quite charming here and gives Braden a personality that goes beyond just being an annoying, overly clingy journalist who just hounds Davis for answers to his questions. Together, too, they have a great bit of chemistry that is definitely unusual, but still works because they share something of an understanding that there’s a certain love of music between the two and therefore, they need a little excitement out of life. Even though Braden may not be a totally interesting character, he and Davis still feel like the oddest, if well-matched buddies ever put on the screen.

Especially in a musical biopic of Miles Davis.

Consensus: As Cheadle’s directorial debut, Miles Ahead works as a nice, well-acted change-of-pace from the typical biopic formula, but also feels a bit uneven and could have definitely benefited from a few reworkings.

7 / 10

Please let me drink with you!

Miles! I want to party with you!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Advertisements

The Invitation (2016)

Yeah, next time, steer clear of those dinner-party invites from exes.

Will (Logan Marshall-Green) drives with his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) to a home in Hollywood Hills where his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard), is hosting a dinner party with her new husband David (Michiel Huisman). Will hasn’t seen Eden in quite some time and hasn’t even met David yet, so already, he’s a bit tense. However, he knows that everything will be all fine and dandy once he gets there, enjoys the fine wine that’s being constantly handed to him all willy nilly, and relax for a change. After all, a good portion of his life has been covered in tension and anguish, so it’s nice that he’s at least going to his ex-wife’s place, hopefully to build back up some bridges, as well as creating new ones. When Will gets there, however, he can’t help but be a little spooked out. For some reason, Will starts seeing things that may or may not be there; a half-naked girl no one seems to know, some random, much older fella nobody else has a clue about, either, all show up and make Will, as well as others feel uneasy. However, Eden and David know this, so they decide to eventually tell everybody what this whole little shindig is about and made for, and needless to say, it shocks a lot of people, or most importantly, Will.

Lumberjack-looking bro #1.

Lumberjack-looking bro #1.

The Invitation is the the perfect definition of a “taut thriller”. Director Karyn Kusama doesn’t allow for things to get off too fast or too crazy early on – instead, she just takes her time, slowly meandering from one place to another, giving us a little something to hold onto, and slowly, but most surely, building up more and more tension as she runs along. The movie itself, you could argue, does take an awful long enough time to get going, to the point of where it almost feels manipulative, but there’s something oddly spooky and chilly in the air about the Invitation that makes it worth watching, even in its sillier, more boring moments.

For instance, there’s never the slightest clue of what’s going to be revealed, or what’s going to happen at the end of the movie.

Okay, that’s a lie. Watching the Invitation, I myself couldn’t help but feel like I knew where the story was going about halfway through, and while I wasn’t necessarily proven wrong, I still can’t say that I was ticked-off about it, either. The movie already did a fine enough job of getting me involved with this little dinner-party, even if I didn’t know a single thing about any of these characters or why they matter, however, it’s such a slow-burn, and an interesting one at that, that sometimes, it almost doesn’t matter how goofy the reveal can be. Sometimes, all you need is a little intrigue to keep things guiding along and all can practically can be forgiven.

And hell, you could make the same argument about Kusama as a director. After the tremendous Girlfight, sadly, she got stuck in a bit of Hollywood limbo as most fresh, young and ambitious directors who want to take on the world tend to be stuck in. Aeon Flux wanted to be bad-ass and cool, but instead, was just boring, and Jennifer’s Body, despite being a whole lot like everything else that Diablo Cody’s ever done, with a darker spin, still didn’t fully work as a horror-comedy. Now, however, Kusama has found her sweet spot, working with a story that’s both mysterious, dark and oddly enough, just weird enough to make it seem like she’s playing back to her old friends that put her on the map in the first place.

Of course, the script by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi is also pretty damn good, too, but it’s Kusama who is able to translate this all and make it appear as suspenseful as you can get, when all you really have is people talking, that really surprised me. Small, single-location, almost character-driven thrillers such as this work for me, when they’re done especially right. While I wouldn’t necessarily say that the Invitation is “character-driven” per se, it still deals with a good handful of characters that you can at least identify with and get a good feel for, even if you don’t care for them, or know that they’re up to no good.

Basically, it’s any dinner-party, ever, where some people you like, and others, you don’t.

And, lumberjack-looking bro #2.

And, lumberjack-looking bro #2.

We’ve all been to one of them, right?

Anyway, the cast here is fine. Logan Marshall-Green’s Will was a tad bit boring, but he still shows himself to be an interesting enough protagonist to make sense of why he’s our eyes and ears for this story; Emayatzy Corinealdi is sweet and smart as Kira; Tammy Blanchard is very strange and off-putting as Eden, although perfectly so; Michiel Huisman is both every bit of charming and sinister as you expect him to be as David, although it could be a tad difficult to tell him and Marshall-Green apart (although, I guess the joke here is that Eden sure as hell has a “type” in that she likes dudes with huge beards and an interesting, if slightly pretentious personality); and John Carroll Lynch, who seems to come out of nowhere just to be “the creepy guy”, is, well, perfect at it and need I say more?

In fact, the Invitation plays out in such a way that I won’t spoil it for you here. It’s both freaky, fun and interesting, if also a tad bit silly. Movies like this that take themselves so seriously always seem to set themselves up for scrutiny when they let their freak flag fly and let loose. Surely, there’s nothing wrong with this when it’s a bit of fun, but when your movie starts off as an interesting, conversation-sparking tale about death, grief, sadness and failed marriages, it’s hard not to wonder what happened when everything all of a sudden turns into a grind house flick.

Then again, maybe this is just how L.A. dinner parties are.

Damn, I need to move out of Philly and fast.

Consensus: By elevating the tension as it runs along, the Invitation is both a suspenseful, but fun bit of dark-thriller that may not have a whole lot to say, but does a fine enough job with what it’s got to make an impression.

7 / 10

When somebody stands up and starts to give a speech at a dinner-party, that's when you know it's time to call the Uber. Or just run the hell out.

When somebody stands up and starts to give a speech at a dinner-party, that’s when you know it’s time to call the Uber. Or just run the hell out.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire