The world Martin McDonagh creates in his latest flick Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is one where there are no consequences for the horrible things we do to one another. It’s of course not necessarily a rule as some actions do carry consequences, but not in the traditional sense of how we expect those to be punished for things like–kicking children in their genitals, throwing people out of windows or throwing molotov cocktails at a police station. It’s also the type of world where the characters in spite of all their flaws and curt behavior to one another have an underlying care for one another that’s not uncommon amongst small town folk. It may only come out during some of the more dire situations and stuffed down even under duress, but it’s there and McDonagh encapsulates it brilliantly.
Several months following the brutal rape and murder of Angela Hayes her mother, Mildred (Frances McDormand) is struck suddenly with an outside-the-box idea while driving home along the highway where her daughter’s crime occurred. There, three tattered billboards stand, unused since the 80’s and Mildred wants to use them to send a message to the small town’s chief of police Bill (Woody Harrelson). The message is simple–that she hasn’t forgotten that no killer has been caught and wants answers. The billboards are innoffensive but concise and have an adverse effect on the police’s overall empathy for Mildred even as Bill regrets how the case turned out. They do however get the town stirred up which leads to the towns underlying tensions to manifest in wild and potentially dangerous ways. (more…)
We as horror fans are lucky to have Mike Flanagan. The man is making concepts that have no right work, do so in spectacular fashion. From murderous mirrors, or a killer stalking a deaf victim all the way to making the original Ouija suck a little less–now if only someone would help Before I Wake finally see the light of day.
Now, we’ve got Gerald’s Game. A movie that, in large part, takes place in a single location. Jessie (Carla Gugino) and her hubby Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) decide to take a trip to their lake house and in an effort to spice if their marriage Gerald handcuffs Jessie to the bed. However, when Gerald’s role playing fantasy goes awry he suffers a heart attack and dies before he can uncuff Jessie. Left in an impossible situation she is forced to confront her traumatic past while searching for any clue that help her escape the cuffs.
How fitting for the latest Netflix Original to come out in 2017 just a month after we experienced a total solar eclipse. A similar event plays a pivotal role in Jessie’s psychological journey. The tole of emotional wounds coming to a head as she sits on the bed waiting for her death or for help to arrive. As her mind begins to crack she envisions versions of herself and her husband moving freely throughout as part of her internal thought process–both taunting her and trying help her thing logically in her predicament.
Gerald’s Game unfolds as a dramatic psychological thriller. Part drama about a married couple’s struggles at keeping the romance alive due to hidden desires and other deeper emotional scars and part survival thriller. Gugino crushes both aspects of her character–a woman who’s dodged childhood trauma her hold life and one driven to survive when forced to examine her actions that lead her to being handcuffed to that bed. Greenwood too, compliments Gugino as a force of masculinity with complicated ties to Jessie’s deep seeded troubles. In the end the film also delivers just enough cringeworthy violence and bone chilling sound effects to gratify genre fans looking for the cherry-on-top.
Like any minimalist thriller the struggle is keeping the audience riveted–Flanagan and co-writer Jeff Howard spin some incredible sequences of psychological barbs between characters. Combined with Flanagan’s visual prowess to stage a scene for maximum creep factor to provide some stiff competition to Pennywise and The Losers Club for best King adaptation of 2017.
Widely considered one of many unfilmable King novels, Flanagan makes it look like a walk in the park. Gerald’s Game is taught, suspenseful and magnificently performed–but a shame that the vast majority of the populism will only be able to experience it on the small screen.
Beer Recommendation: None at this time. Sorry, you kinky pervs.
Movie nerds bristle with excitement at the idea of a new year and a new movie from visionary director, Darren Aronofsky. Blake Swan made so many swoon at the filmmaker’s artistic prowess and delivered a gold statue at the feet of Natalie Portman. Oh, what marvelous treasures must be waiting for us with the allignment of such a bold innovative voice and stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. The film opens and like a George R.R. Martin like twist the fans and critics alike are lining up to take turns diving a dagger into Aronofsky’s divisive vision.
I never do this, but to truly dig below the surface of mother! I feel it’s important to delve into some context of why people are so split–why some might worship Aronofsky’s artistic expression while others might take their ticket stub and use it as some part of a voodoo ritual that culminates in the director’s untimely demise. Before we venture into those treacherous waters let me say this–mother! is a work of art. An interpretive painting that disgusts you, but strangely you feel compelled to keep starring and marvel at its audacity. Pretentious as that sounds, it’s a cinematic voice that should be encouraged even if it’s not something mainstream audiences have the stomach for. I encourage moviegoers to take the plunge into Aronofsky’s troubling psyche, but be forewarned that when you come out on the other side, remember…it was your choice to actually do so. (more…)
Don’t get swept up in thinking nostalgia is what lends to your percepted fond memories of the original 90’s IT mini-series. It’s pretty bad. Apart from Tim Curry’s always steady and reliable acting chops the mini-series is borderline unwatchable. Luckily, a fondness for the original is not a prerequisite for digging deep into MAMA director, Andy Muschietti’s delightful adaptation.
Not without its own issues (but we’ll get to that) the latest IT pulls from the classic Stephen King novel of the same name in which a handful of bullied youths that make up The Losers Club must band together to fight an ancient evil residing in their quaint town of Derry. Iconically, the evil takes the form of many of the character’s deepest fears, but it’s hands down favorite apprearance is a f***** up clown by the name of Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). This adaptation finds Pennywise’s design that if a Victorian era clown with fiendishly evil facial expressions, but played interestingly enough by Skarsgård–alternating from over-the-top giggles to a guttural sinister tone that’s as inconsistent as it is unsettling at times. (more…)
The sights and sounds of war. That’s what Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is all about. Forget character and forget telling individual stories–this movie wants to put the audience on the front lines of land, air and sea to deliver an experience. Make no mistake, Dunkirk is one of the most incredible and unique cinematic experiences you’re likely to experience–and while there are a number of prolific filmmakers, few operate with such technical skill quite like Nolan.
The film tells the story of British forces trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk simultaneously awaiting rescue and intermittent air attacks at the hands of Nazi forces. Nolan’s focus is that of human resolve and wordless heroism. It is true, there are few characters you can attach yourself too, but that’s not the point. Dunkirk is a film you simply live as an audience member. In the grips of war, the British forces are constantly being bombed from the air as they await military boats to take them home–said boats are themselves under attack, so the soldiers are in a harrowing fight for survival. Dunkirk’s entirety pulls the audience from those breathless sequences to show intercutting sequences of a civilian boat headed to the beach to help save soldiers and the air forces en route to pick off the enemy planes attacking the boats. (more…)
With great power, comes great responsibility, John Watts. It’s one thing to have Spidey somewhat back in the hands of Marvel Studios, it’s a whole other thing to deliver a portrayal of Peter Parker’s alter ego that can wipe the slate clean from sins passed. Watts has come from ultra low budget horror, Clown, to helming what is hands down the greatest Spider-Man film to date.
Sam Raimi and Marc Webb both tried and–to certain degrees–failed to deliver crowd pleasing adventures for everyone’s favorite web-slinger. While these were not the first efforts to bring the character to the screen in one way or another, of the most modern attempts it would seem the third time (third iteration anyway) was the charm. Tom Holland’s first appearance in Captain America: Civil War gave legions of fans hope for the impending reboot as it certainly appeared that finally the tone and personality of Peter Parker and his arachnid alias had been captured. Spider-Man: Homecoming extends that and more with nearly the entire high school setting. (more…)
Busy time of year folks, so apologies to anyone who actually looks forward to my latest reviews. I didn’t want everything I’ve seen to fall by the wayside, so here are some brief thoughts on everything I’ve seen so far in 2017 but haven’t had time to sit down and put full write ups on. Sit back relax and “enjoy” some candid hot takes on these 2017 releases!
Kong: Skull Island – Come for the star studded cast then shove them aside for the awesome creature fights. Kong is visually impressive, but it lacks humanity in a pretty comical way. The characters very much feel like empty shells taking us from one place to another to be bait for the eventual breathtaking spectacle of the Kong fights. In spite of the lack of characters to hang your hat on this was still a pretty tremendous and crowd pleasing theater experience. Rating: B+
Gifted – Sort of let this one get lost in the shuffle. This is a very understated film. There was almost no marketing push and it just sort of appeared in theaters with little to no fanfare. If its still out there though, get out and see it. I could have used a little more closure for some of the relationships and perhaps a little more emotion out of Chris Evans’ character, but this has been the most affective dramas so far this year that also happens to have a pretty delightful sense of humor. Rating: A-(more…)
Let’s be honest with one another–the Fifty Shades series is an easy target for snarky critics. There’s not much of a challenge in sitting down and pinpointing every illogical turn the movie takes and every laughable line of dialogue uttered by actors who seem as tickled about what they are saying as we are hearing it. It’s hard to take a breath, collect oneself and approach a movie like Fifty Shades Darker and pick out why you should see it–and trust me, no one involved has made it easy.
For every one thing good you can say about James Foley’s film there are a handful more pushing into the spotlight to ruining it for the rest of us. Yet we march on–Fifty Shades Darker picks up shortly after the first film as Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) continues to creepily pine for the plain Jane, Anastasia (Dakota Johnson). After a half-hearted attempt to brush him off, Anastasia agrees to meet with Christian to renegotiate the terms of their “arrangement”. As they embark on their new relationship Christian’s past and Anastasia’s vanilla sex appeal proves to be a little more complicated than they anticipated. (more…)
Life is a beautiful thing. It’s complex, subjectively fulfilling and in various ways, sad. Denis Villeneuve excels in conveying humanity and emotion in the most beautiful and hideous ways. Prisoners, Enemy and Sicario are incredible examples of just how dark the filmmaker views the human condition so it’s only right that with Arrival he introduces extraterrestrials to have a heady and heart-wrenching talk with us humans.
Arrival is high end science fiction. A thinking person’s genre flick. Villeneuve drops a handful of alien spacecrafts into our world and a less discerning movie-goer salivates while waiting for the eye-popping VFX and ariel dogfights. However, when your main character, Louise (Amy Adams), being a linguist and her side kick, Ian (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist, sent to decrypt and analyze alien language to engage in deep conversation there just isn’t room for devastating city-wide explosions and laser beams. (more…)
Ben 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…)