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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Macon Blair

Small Crimes (2017)

You can’t go home. Like ever. Especially if you’re an a-hole.

Joe Denton (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) a former cop, returns home after a six-year stint after attempted murder on his deceased partner, and well, let’s just say that no one really likes him. His dad (Robert Forster) is more forgiving than his mother (Jacki Weaver) is, meanwhile, old friends become new enemies who take to spitting in his food at restaurants. But still, Joe has to do something, which is why he decides to stay in town a little longer, and complete whatever it is that he has to do. But in order to do it, he’s going to have to befriend a local nurse (Molly Parker), who, good for him, doesn’t know a single thing about his checkered-past. Like I said though, everyone else does and it makes Joe’s life, not just an endangered one, but one that’s not so perfect when you’re living in a small town, full of sometimes dangerous and mad people. For Joe though, he’s just going to have to stick to his job and see if he can complete it, with his head still in-tact.

Co-writer and actor Macon Blair is an interesting talent. Literally no one had ever heard of him, or his name five years ago, but now, all of a sudden, in the past three years, he’s become one of indie’s hottest talents, starring in and also writing/directing some cool features. It makes you think where he’s been all this time and just what else he’s got ready to bring to the table.

A little rugged, but still hot.

Which is why Small Crimes is so disappointing.

Cause not only is Blair co-writing it, but he’s co-writing it with director E.L. Katz, who a few years ago, made a cruel, dark, twisted, but surprisingly smart Cheap Thrills. You’d think that these two talents’ penchant for dark, seedy tales of violence and crime would come together perfectly like peanut butter and fluff, but for some reason, that doesn’t happen. Instead, the movie proves that perhaps their styles are far too different and weird to actually come together at all, resulting in a movie that’s all mixed-up in tones, subplots, and characters that either don’t make any sense, or aren’t interesting enough to even get invested in.

Basically, it’s a big step down for both of these folks and it makes you wonder just what happened? Because honestly, there’s a good, and rather fun story to be had here, with a small-town full of murder and deceit and lies, but it gets lost in the shuffle. There’s a romantic subplot, there’s a family-conflict, there’s issues concerning Joe’s case, and yeah, there’s a whole lot more for, mind you, a movie that’s a little over 90 minutes.

But a jumble isn’t such a bad thing, really, so long as it’s all interesting. But in Small Crimes, it’s just not. There’s not really much of a character who’s compelling to keep the movie watchable, nor is there really any conflict with the story, because, oh, that’s right, they never really clue us into what the hell Joe’s actually getting up into. Movies like this bug me, where they tell you certain details of what’s happening, but not everything – think of a riddle, but instead of deciphering what the message means, you have to think of what part is missing. It’s an annoying contrivance for certain stories like this to feel like they’re one step ahead of you, when in reality, they’re just holding back for no reason.

A little scared, but still hot.

Sometimes, telling the audience what’s happening, isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, it may help your movie out a bit.

And in the case of Small Crimes, it would have definitely helped out. Cause instead, we sit and watch as this Joe guy, gets ready to commit a crime, that we’re not too sure about, and/or for what reasons. The movie either expects us to put the pieces of the puzzle together, or better yet, just wait for some more info to come around. In some cases, storytelling like this can work and seem smart, but here, it’s just aggravating.

The only aspect in which Small Crimes seems to work is when the action of the story comes together, and well, it’s actually pretty brave, disturbing and dirty, the way it ought to be. But then, by that point, the movie has already lost some adrenaline and energy, making it seem like a little too late and perhaps, even a wasted opportunity. Because when you have a cast this stacked, with a premise so simple and promising, you have to wonder where it all went wrong, or better yet, why?

But then again, who cares?

Consensus: Small Crimes had promise to work with the talent involved, but it ends up being a mish-mash of plot, characters, and tones, that just never seem to rub against one another well.

4 / 10

A little bloody, but still hot.

Photos Courtesy of: Bloody Disgusting

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I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)

largLock the door next time! Come on!

When Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) decides that she’s had enough of it and quits her nursing job, she expects to live out the rest of her life the way she wants to. She can drink, smoke, read, listen to music, and eat ice cream all day, and not have a thing in the world to worry about. That all changes when one day, she comes home to her house burglarized, with some of her most treasured possessions gone, without a clue in the world of where it may have gone to. Though she does call the police, they don’t seem to really care, leaving Ruth to set out and find who robbed her house, by herself. But she soon realizes that it could be a very dangerous job for one woman to do by herself, leading her to invite random neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood) along for this adventure of sorts. Tony’s more than ready to crack down on these two-bit criminals, until the both of them learn that they are dealing with much bigger fish and they aren’t going to fry easily.

Or yeah, something like that.

He was a boy.

He was a boy.

Writer/director Macon Blair is making his directorial debut here and while you may not know the name, you definitely know the face. He’s been in both of Jeremy Saulnier’s movies (Blue Ruin, Green Room), and is slowly, but surely, making a name for himself out there in the indie-world, which is why it’s interesting to see him try his hand at writing and directing movies. Cause if anything, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore feels a lot like a Saulnier movie, but instead of being drop-deadly, bleakly serious, it’s got a bit of a comedic-edge to it.

Initially, the movie seems like any other indie-comedy, with long, silent breaks of weird bits and pieces of comedy followed in, but slowly, and surely, the movie starts to show its true colors. Blair’s writing is, at the very least, interesting here, because he never quite picks a genre that he wants to work with; it’s a dark comedy for sure, but how dark and how funny the movie is going to stay, is never quite sure. We get these brief signs that the story’s going to take a viciously upsetting turn, but when and where is never quite known, and the mystery of it all is quite compelling.

And then, it gets viciously upsetting and all of a sudden, it feels like a whole different movie entirely.

See, as much as I don’t want to do this, Saulnier’s two movies so far, have absolutely benefited from the fact that they’re mean and serious, almost from the very start. They don’t try to crack any jokes, make light of a situation, and they sure as hell don’t loll-gag. They get right to the point and don’t leave us waiting. And that’s why they both work as well as they do – the violence we eventually get in those movies is stark and chilling, but sort of expected and germane, because the mood of the whole piece was already stern in the first place.

She was a girl.

She was a girl.

That’s why Blair’s movie doesn’t quite gel as well as it should. It doesn’t take itself seriously enough to fully work as a deadly serious thriller, nor does it goof around enough to work as a comedy. If anything, it’s a weird, odd, and twisted version of the two and in that sense, it’s definitely worth watching. Blair’s ambition to combine these two genres, so to speak, doesn’t fully come together as well as he may have wanted, but it’s worth noting that he at least tries and is at least semi-successful.

Shouldn’t that account for something?

Where Blair got really lucky was in the casting of both Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood as this odd couple of sorts. Lynskey hasn’t always been considered “a scary presence”, but here, she shows that beyond her everyday woman appeal, there’s something meaner lingering. We don’t quite know what it is, or how it’s going to present itself, but we know it’s there and she’s interesting to watch because of that. Wood’s also very good in this role as Tony, a sort-of weirdo who knows karate and has numb-chucks. Normally, this kind of character would be used as a non-stop punch-line and never taken seriously, but Blair’s writing for him and Wood’s portrayal of him, shows that there’s actually a sweet soul stuck deep down inside of this goofy guy. He may think he’s a lot tougher than he is, but then again, who doesn’t? Together, the two have a nice chemistry that gets to play out in small, yet cute ways, showing that perhaps Blair could have just focused on them and left it at that.

Cause when Blair does show the “robbers”, of sorts, like I said, the movie acts very dark and serious. It also doesn’t help that these characters seem as if they’re from another movie entirely; one that’s way more over-the-top than this one here. So yeah, it doesn’t help them anymore and only takes away from Lynskey and Wood’s great moments together.

Consensus: With a darker edge than most comedies, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is an interesting watch, but also uneven, taking a more sinister and meaner approach to its material that doesn’t quite gel so well with the funnier, more human bits of itself.

6.5 / 10

Can I make it anymore obvious?

Can I make it anymore obvious?

Photos Courtesy of: Collider

Gold (2017)

Greed is sort of good, so long as your ugly, bald and fat.

After his father dies, Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) is left without much to do in his life. He was so successful for so very long, but now, without the inspiration of his dear old daddy to help him out, he’s basically hitting rock bottom, drinking, smoking and eating a whole lot more than he used to. Even though his wife (Bryce Dallas Howard) is there to cheer him on every step of the way, there’s still something just dragging Kenny down and not making him able to catch that big break just yet. Then, out of nowhere, it hits him: Set out on an adventure to the uncharted jungles of Indonesia and look for gold. Kenny feels that this idea is great enough that he could get funding from just about any person with half a brain – unfortunately, that doesn’t happen. Instead, Kenny has to reach out to a local businessman, Michael Acosta (Édgar Ramírez), to help him on this adventure and see just what kind of gold mine they’re actually working with here. Turns out, there’s a whole lot of it hidden, and now, it’s up to Kenny and Michael to get it all out, make a whole lot of money, and not get dragged down by other various greedy sons-of-bitches.

"Trust me, bro. I can smell the gold. Or it could be my liver rotting away."

“Trust me, bro. I can smell the gold. Or it could be my liver rotting away.”

It’s interesting to compare Gold and director Stephen Gaghan’s last movie, Syriana, to one another because while they definitely have a lot in common, they’re also quite different in many ways, too. For one, they’re both movies that preach about billionaires, greedy businessman, and the whole mentality of making more money, by any means, at whatever costs. However, while the later was far more ambitious, taking on what were basically four different subplots all at once, it also happens to be the far more boring of the two.

Gold, on the other hand, is quite a wild ride.

The only issue is that it does take some time to get going. For at least the first hour or so, it seems like the movie doesn’t quite know what it wants to be; does it want to poke fun at this overweight, balding businessman who can’t seem to get the idea that he’s just lost “it”, or, does it want to celebrate him for the courage, the drive and bravura that it takes for him to get up, each and every day, expecting to make millions and millions of dollars? Gaghan, for the longest time, seems like he doesn’t quite know and it’s why the first-half of Gold is probably going to start people off on the wrong foot.

Because after said first-half, things are a whole lot better, in that they’re quicker, more interesting and most of all, just fun. After a short while of not knowing what it wants to say or do, Gold eventually figures out that making there’s some true joy and loveliness to be had in making all of this money; it seems as if it’s never going to end and basically, the world is your oyster. Gaghan cranks up the pace and all of a sudden, rather than having a dark, dramatic and rather slow piece about businessmen doing whatever they can to stay afloat, we get a dark, yet, slightly comedic, and rather exciting piece about businessmen making all sorts of money and having a great time doing it.

What? You're telling me you wouldn't trust this guy with your livelihood?

What? You’re telling me you wouldn’t trust this guy with your livelihood?

It’s not hard to get swept up in all of this fun and excitement, either, which is why Gaghan deserves praise for knowing just how to tell this story, the right way. Because even while it’s all fun and games, the movie still does have a little something to say about the ridiculousness and cut-throat world that all of these men seem to inhabit and it turns the movie on its head a bit. Of course, the Founder explores the same ideas and probably does a better job, but the fact that Gold does, at the very least, try and discuss these very real issues, is smart and makes it feel like something far more different than one would expect from the first-half.

And yes, it also gives McConaughey to have a great time with this role, too.

Of course, Gold will probably be best remembered for the absolute dressing-down and uglying-up of McConaughey in a role that gives him weird teeth, a potbelly, and a balding hair-piece. While it may seem like a showy-stunt to show us all just what lengths McConaughey will go to, it still works for the character; this Kenny Wells can be so vile and disgusting at times, it’s hard not to feel irked by him, if only by his appearance alone. That said, McConaughey is more than capable of showing the dark sides of this character and it’s hard to take your eyes off of him, even when it seems like the movie’s getting a whole lot more nuts and convoluted.

And yeah, the rest of the ensemble is pretty amazing, too. Édgar Ramírez has a nice chemistry with McConaughey, making it seem like the two could be more than just business-partners, but actual buddies; Bryce Dallas Howard doesn’t have a whole lot to do, but does have a few moments to shine; Corey Stoll and Bill Camp show up as vindictive and toothless Wall Street dudes and are perfect at it; Bruce Greenwood has an odd British accent, for some reason; Toby Kebbell puts on a weird American accent, for some reason; and yeah, there’s more.

Just know this: Gold is fun. End of story.

Consensus: Despite starting off relatively weak, Gold gets going and shows us that greed isn’t good, but with a great cast and lively pace, it’s hard not to enjoy.

7 / 10

See! Making money is fun! Now shut up!

See! Making money is fun! Now shut up!

Photos Courtesy of: Hollywood Reporter, Indiewire

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

Blue Ruin (2014)

One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure. Even a shotgun.

Dwight (Macon Blair) is a man who has spent the past couple of years of his life as a drifter, going from one place to another, living off of scraps and just trying his hardest to get by with the limited-resources and near-death car that he has. However, one day while sleeping near the beach, he hears news that his parent’s killer is out of jail and walking as a free man, something Dwight isn’t too happy to hear. So, with this newfound, somewhat life-changing news, Dwight decides to take it upon himself to find his alleged parent’s killer, and get a little revenge himself. Dwight actually succeeds in doing so, but he screws up the plan by telling somebody, leaving his car behind and putting the rest of his family in harm’s way of being hunted down and killed. Dwight knows this, so he decides to take matters into his own hands by getting his sister and her two kids out of the house, where he waits patiently for the moment in which the guy he killed’s family to come around and see if they can end things, once and for all.

Sounds simple, right? Well, that’s because, believe it or not, it totally is. However, in this case, simplicity works wonders.

See, with a thriller like this, what matters is that a viewer gets sucked in right from the very start. This not only gets the viewer’s interest locked and ready-to-go for the rest of the film’s proceedings, but also lets you know that you’re working with a movie that’s actually trying. Not just trying in the way that it wants you to feel tense and have an idea that you have no idea of what the hell is going to happen, but trying to bring you into this story, for all of its thrills, chills, spills and happenings, even if they aren’t as fully fleshed-out as they should be.

Jeez Louise, man. Get a razor!

Jeez Louise, man. Get a razor!

With Blue Ruin, getting sucked into everything was what happened right away. To be honest, I didn’t have a clue as to what to expect from this movie, what it was about or even what was going to happen – all I knew was that it was good and that I needed to see it. That was enough for me to decide that it was worth the watch, and I was not wrong; all because of the opening and how it grabbed me right from the bat.

“What exactly did it do?”, might you ask? Well, it was very quiet and eerie, but not in an obvious way. As soon as we see this Dwight guy (who I continued to confuse with Daniel Bryan), we notice that he’s a bit dazed. He doesn’t have a home, barely any money, uses his street smarts to survive, barely at all talks, and just lives each day by itself. However, there’s something about his character, as well as the performance that Macon Blair gives that makes him so compelling from the very start. He may be all bearded-up and look like a member of Duck Dynasty, but there’s something about the way in which his eyes look so desperate and sad that doesn’t really fit.

In other words, he has the appearance of an alligator-scalping redneck, but his eyes tell us something, or better yet, somebody else quite different lies deep underneath. That’s why once this story actually gets going and throws into it’s cruel, deep and dark world of violence, cruelty, and bloodshed, all in the name of “family values”, it’s hard to lose sight of what really keeps this movie interesting, and that’s Dwight himself.

I’ve never, ever seen Macon Blair before, but something tells me that I definitely should be in the near future, because the guy’s pretty damn great. He doesn’t say much, but then again, he doesn’t need to; all he does is use his eyes and the sad, tired, worn-down look on his face, and we basically get an idea of who this person was back in the day before this tragedy was bestowed upon him, and how it’s changed him to be the person he is today. Once he does shave all of that hair off of his face and head, not only does he look like my neighbor, the average, everyday Joe Schmo, but his performance takes on a whole new life. We see what he looks like and the type of person he is underneath all of that scraggly hair, but it doesn’t matter. He’s still the same person and because of that, we still care about him, his journey, and the ways he continuously tries to save his own, as well as his loved ones’ lives.

Aw, much better!

Aw, much better!

Which brings me back to the movie itself – the type of thriller that doesn’t re-invent the genre by any means, but does enough that it feels fresh and somewhat original. For anybody that’s ever read an Elmore Leonard novel (like yours truly), you’ll get a sense that writer/director Jeremy Saulnier may have totally been inspired by those cold-hearted, crime novels of yesteryear. However, where those books are usually a balancing-act between comedy, drama, and violence, this movie is just straight-up violence and drama, almost the whole way through. Less violence than say drama, but when guns are shot, blood and guts do shed, and it’s very graphic.

However, it’s never graphic. The violence, the drama, and even the handful of moments in which comedy rears its strange head (mostly because of Devin Ratray showing up as a gun-aficionado), all feel deliberately used and made to add up to something. A bigger idea about the world in which we live in, where people feel the need to make up for lost times by violence, murder, raping and pillaging? I’m not sure. In fact, if I did have to say that there was something a tad bit sour about this movie, it’s that it definitely doesn’t seem to build to much else except “revenge is cool, but sometimes not”, and is rather abrupt. But that said, the movie still thrilled me the whole way through, even when it threw every twist, turn, and wrench it could think of. Rarely does that happen in which I don’t expect that; but so rarely does it happen in which I actually embrace the unpredictability to everything.

Consensus: Simple, small, and reserved, yet, tense and unpredictable as well, Blue Ruin isn’t the type of thriller that will change the way we think of the genre those movies belong to, but it does, and it will prove that there are better, brighter futures ahead for all talents involved.

8 / 10 = Matinee!! 

Don't miss....don't miss...don't miss...

Don’t miss….don’t miss…don’t miss…

Photo’s Credit to: ColliderJobloComingSoon.net