Movie Review: Blair Witch

blairwitch_posterTurbulent, clever and frightening. Those are just a few of the most important takeaways from Adam Wingard’s, Blair Witch. Enthusiastic reviewers all over the internet like to throw around some lofty and hyperbolic quotes such as “game changer” or “one of the scariest movies ever made,” with the best of intentions. While the enthusiasm is catchy, Adam Wingard’s Blair Witch doesn’t fully embody either of those aforementioned descriptors.

Folks just can’t stay out of the Black Hills Woods as James (James Allen McCune) discovers a video online recovered from the outskirts of the woods that he believes shows his sister, Heather. Convinced she’s still alive James corrals three of his closest friends to venture into the Black Hills to figure out what happened to her.

Screenwriter Simon Barrett and director Wingard obviously use the original film as the basic bone structure for their unique take. The duo deviate from what we know about The Blair Witch Project simply to extrapolate a mythology of their own based on aspects of what we’ve already seen or suspected. This results in some of the film’s most interesting aspects, without innovating within the genre itself. (more…)

Movie Review: Morgan

morgan_posterFor Ridley Scott the apple seems to have not fallen far from the tree. The respected director’s son, Luke Scott, has made his directorial debut and for what it’s worth, it’s a good looking movie that- in stretches- channels Ridley’s work. However, that apple’s got a big ugly worm slithering it’s way around somewhere as Luke’s debut flick, Morgan, shows signs of a filmmaker with significant growing pains to work through.

Morgan starts off well enough as we are introduced to corporate risk analyst, Lee (Kate Mara). She’s been assigned to assess the viability of a top secret project in the boonies, Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy), a genetically altered human with violent tendencies awaiting a psyche evaluation that may influence Lee’s course of action- aka whether or not she will terminate Morgan’s existence.

To this point we’ve started off well enough. Scott is able to build tension and set the table for a tense if comically inept psyche evaluation conducted by the great Paul Giamatti. At the conclusion of this meeting the film descends into chaos- in service to the plot and in quality simultaneously. (more…)

Blu-ray Review: High-Rise

highrise_bluray_tgofBen Wheatley’s High-Rise carries a dreamlike look and feel, but is as far from euphoric in its overall impact. Boosted by breathtaking cinematography High-Rise is all at once a marvel to look at and frustrating to experience.

The film follows the exploits of residents within one of newly erected high-rise, with Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) being the newest inhabitant. Not long after Laing takes up residence the folks on lower floors begin to revolt against the building’s creator and residents of the upper floors.

It would be lovely to expand upon the premise, but essentially that’s the crux of High-Rise, in spite of the higher minded hijinx that Wheatley conducts with an elegant ease. Perhaps though, his intentions of the J.G. Ballard adaptation never feel entirely clear. There is of course socioeconomic implications abound, the problem is that there isn’t much in the way of structure to anything happening on screen.  (more…)

2016 Great Nebraska Beerfest Preview

img_0978One of Nebraska’s largest craft beer festivals returns and for the 3rd year in a row Werner Park plays host. Having attended the fest for the past four years, I have to say the ballpark is perfect for outdoor beer sampling and having a baseball field as the backdrop makes this particular beer and baseball fanatic very happy. The venue offers plenty of shade and a comfortable breeze often flows through the concourse.

This year’s festival sees the return of many local and regional favorites bringing their beer for fans to enjoy as well as a slew of new breweries. Recent events certainly cast a shadow for some as the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission stepped in and blocked homebrewers and non-licensed breweries in planning from participating and pouring their beer for thirsty patrons. Upcoming breweries like Marto, Code Beer Co, Jukes Ale Works, Get Lost, Kros Strain, and Vis Major are among the previously announced participants that will now be absent when the doors open at 12:30pm for the VIP session and 2pm for general admission ticket holders. (more…)

Movie Review: I Am Not a Serial Killer

iamnotaserialkiller_posterDan Wells’ John Wayne Cleaver trilogy is certainly not your typical set of YA novels. Not having read them myself and seeing Billy O’Brien’s adaptation I would have to assume the books have more in common with the works of Jeff Lindsay than that of Suzanne Collins. The delineation of course moot as I Am Not a Serial Killer distances itself from either categorization with something of a supernatural twist.

Similarities aside, the film adaptation puts us along the path of the aforementioned John Cleaver (Max Records). A kid who by most indications seems normal; he loves seems to love his mother, he occasionally looks in on his elderly neighbors, and has a crush on a cute girl in school. However, John is a diagnosed sociopath who spends time discussing his violent urges with his psychologist and how to suppress them. For instance, whenever John feels the need to hurt someone, he simply smiles and pays them a compliment- a strategy that to this point has worked. However, a series of murders in his town peaks his interest as the killer takes a new body part with every victim and leaves a puddle of black muck behind. Using his unique instincts John seeks out the culprit, but what he finds might just tear down all the work he’s done to calm the monster dwelling inside of himself.  (more…)

Movie Review: Don’t Breathe

dontbreathe_tgofposterIf there’s ever been an argument for going out of your way to avoid any and all trailers for a movie, Don’t Breathe asserts itself as one of the strongest examples in recent memory. Since that ship has sailed for many (including this reviewer) it at least feels good to report that in spite of being soiled on a couple of solid turns, Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead follow up is a near masterpiece of tension and dread.

The premise is simple; three young thieves (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Daniel Zovatto) target a blind man (played Stephen Lang) who may be sitting on a fortune. What was supposed to be the biggest and easiest score of their lives turns into a nightmare as the man proves to be more resourceful than they could have imagined.

Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues script is lean and savage, letting the visuals do most of the heavy lifting. There’s so much happening on the screen from scene to scene it’s nearly impossible to notice how light on dialogue the film is. The use of language and lack thereof makes the depth of character and motivation uncommonly deep. (more…)

TGoF Hangover: Suicide Squad & Bad Moms

On this edition of TGoF Hangover we examine two movies. One I was super pumped for and refused to believe it was anything less than amazing and the other a flick I couldn’t have cared less about before being dragged to it. The result is a dramatic switcharoo that I could never have predicted.

Suicide Squad

Well, here we are. The dust has somewhat settled and comic book nerds and movie critica are poised across from each other ready to have at it in an epic battle. Rotten Tomatoes continues to be an increasingly misunderstood tool in today’s society while the general public refuses to accept not everyone agrees on every movie. So much so that they become so angry and contradict themselves by saying everyone else is wrong and only positive stances are right. Batman Vs. Superman Dawn of Justice lit that fire earlier this year and Suicide Squad doused that dwindling flame in gasoline.

As someone who understands there are two sides to cinematic enjoyment and is not a die hard comic nerd I’m here to say that I can see where people will like Suicide Squad, but for my money it is not a good movie. David Ayer had all the right pieces to make the movie that everyone was hyped for in the trailers, but there seems to be a disconnect as to what the finished puzzle was supposed to be. The result is a jumbled mess with bits and pieces right where they are supposed to be.  (more…)

TGoF Hangover: Fantasia Film Festival (Final Round)

anotherevil_posterThe last batch of Fantasia Reviews is a doozy, so why don’t we just hop right in, shall we?

Another Evil

As a huge fan of HBO’s Silicon Valley I was extremely intrigued to check out one of the show’s sporadic writers, Carson Mell’s, directorial debut. Another Evil explores the uncomfortable world of bringing in an emotionally fragile individual into your vacation home to exorcise ghosts that are cramping your style–we’ve all been there, am I right?

The film is bolstered by a uniquely unsettling performance from Mark Proksch as Os, the socially challenged exorcist on the verge of divorce and a potential midlife crisis. In many ways his work calls to mind the great Mark Duplass and his performance in Creep, except…ya know, there are demons. As the audience we know there’s something supernatural afoot so Os’ intentions at first seem on the level, but after a while it’s unclear if he really has a gift or if he’s a lunatic with a glove that emits radio static. It all culminates with a troubling finale that drives home the ultra dark comedy by transforming into an even darker horror/thriller–with a touch of drama. (more…)

Movie Review: Hell or High Water

hellorhighwater_poster_tgofSmall town USA is rarely captured with the authenticity represented in David Mackenzie’s latest, Hell or High Water. Taylor Sheridan’s masterfully written screenplay certainly drives it all home and spot on performances from Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges are just icing on the dusty cake.

A western in the time of conceal carries, iPhones, and security cameras. Hell or High Water’s contagious aesthetic lends to the timely economic message at the center of the film. Pine stars as Toby a poor rancher with a plan to rob a branch of banks, with the help of his brother Tanner (Foster), before the bank can foreclose on his ranch and seize control. Standing in their way is a grizzled Texas Ranger, Marcus (Jeff Bridges), hot on their trail.

There’s more to the story, but it behooves oneself to let Mackenzie and Sheridan settle you in and experience their story with as few details as possible. If it helps, picture Hell or High Water as the west Texas cousin of Ben Affleck’s, The Town. A handful of small town bank robberies low on gunplay and casualties allow the tension to slowly build. With the help of a wicked sense of humor the last act hits like a ton of bricks. (more…)

Beer Review: Poolside Ale by Bell’s Brewing Company

bellspoolside_tgofI’m not always open to venturing outside of my comfort zone when it comes to beer styles I enjoy on a regular basis. In my efforts to change that fact I’ve discovered a few things about myself while also finding some beers that I had been missing out on. One of the things I found out about myself is that there are few beers as addicting or supremely as a well made Pilsner.

While that has absolutely nothing to do with the beer up for review, it’s at least worth noting at the top here leading in to the review (it is my prerogative after all until someone else starts calling the shots). A second thing I found out is that I might also have a thing for Belgian Wits. Bell’s Poolside Ale fits comfortably in that category and like Avery’s Liliko’i Kepolo, it injects an intense fruit component that’s super refreshing during the summer months.

Now, I have yet to crack one of these bad boys open poolside, but make no mistake, it would taste mighty refreshing floating around on a lazy summer afternoon whether it be in a pool, lake, ocean or just chilling in your tub in the air conditioning. (more…)