Thursday, December 1, 2016

Spotlight

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  THIS SPACE FOR RENT.



Spotlight – 5 out of 5

Films that involve heavy subject material and that are loaded with drama are always the films I have the hardest time coming up with opening paragraphs for.  Other films I rely on personal experience to parallel myself to the movie or I just fall back on making jokes to get the ball rolling but with a film like Spotlight I’m at an impasse.  Jokes feel disrespectful and I definitely don’t have personal experience to fall back on with this so what’s a dude to do?  I mean, I think I wasted enough time talking about how I have nothing to talk about in the opening paragraph where I can probably just go on to the next step and start the synopses, right?  I guess I’ll just do that.

What did we ever do as a human species that allowed us to get the gift
that is Michael Keaton?

Based on a true story, this film centers on a new editor named Marty Baron (Live Schreiber) moving into the Boston Globe in 2001.  He speaks with the editor of the Spotlight team, Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton), and talks him into investigating accusations of sexual assault of young children by local priests and the ensuing cover up that occurs.  The team; Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Ben Bradlee, Jr. (John Slattrey) and Walter Robinson, start to dig in and find out the truth is worse than they feared and what they are working on will have a deep impact on their city and the entire world.

"My next mission for this paper:  Remove any and all traces of Family Circus."

Simply put, Spotlight is an incredibly movie.  The story is heavy and dramatic but never presented in a way that feels too “Oscar bait-y”—if that makes sense.  While a film like this could easily come off as pretentious, the whole story had a very real and grounded feel to it.  It comes off how a bio-pic should be and that is without any over-the-top drama.  There’s nothing hammy going on about this one and it made for a story that was even more engaging and enthralling.

Look at that, real journalism.  Now it's just fake news and clickbait articles
that involve stupid things that will apparently "blow your mind."

Being super serious here but is there anything
Stanley Tucci can't do?
Adding to the film’s realistic and grounded feel are the performances.  There is a huge cast here and it is overflowing with top shelf talent.  Everyone from Keaton, McAdams and Ruffalo to the likes of Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup and even Richard Jenkins (who was uncredited in his role) are all incredible with what they are delivering.  Just like the story, they all feel real and no one is giving an over-the-top performance or coming off like they are revving up the dramatic tension to 11.  From the little humanistic touches of every actor’s non-verbal communication to the way everyone interacts amazingly together during scenes and showed real chemistry really came together to form a film that was something amazing.

I feel like I should reference Dr. Manhattan here but really don't want to put
the effort in.  Oh, let's just make this a caption contest.  Do the work
for me!

I found no downside to Spotlight beyond the idea that replay value might be low.  This is something I mention a lot in my reviews because this is an important element to me and it does has some impact on my score.  Often, really great dramatic films that are similar to this one I will give perfect or near-perfect scores but concede that replay value is low because too often the same effect the film originally gives on a dramatic level is lost with repeat viewings or the subject material is so heavy that sitting through it again might be emotionally difficult.  Spotlight is sorta on this level as I imagine the impact would come close to the initial viewing but it doesn’t have the gratification fix that would make it a film I would envision myself watching again.

"What are you asking me about my refrigerator?"

In the end, Spotlight is one of those films that seems like it would exist solely to win awards but ends up feeling way more meaningful.  The performances are incredible and the story is able to deliver something tangible without having to resort to making the entire feature too obviously dramatic.

The Shallows

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  This movie has terrible conflict resolution.  Never once did she try to hug it out with the shark.




The Shallows – 4 out of 5

I’m a pretty big fan of shark movies—especially the bad ones.  Actually, most of them are bad.  The only good one I can think of is Jaws because all others are just silly—and there’s nothing wrong with silly shark movies because they can be damn fun.  However, when I saw the trailers for The Shallows and heard its reviews, I started to wonder if I was about to sit through another legit good shark movie.  You know what?  It actually was!

This part is from a GoPro video and, let's be honest, once those things became
popular we all kinda wanted to see something like this happen.

After an emotionally traumatic incident hits her life, young medical student Nancy (Blake Lively) retreats to a very secluded beach in Mexico and decides to surf out her feelings and contemplate her future.  However, while alone in the waters, she discovers a whale carcass floating nearby and is attacked by a great white after accidentally wandering into its feeding area.  With a severely injured leg, Nancy clings to life on a rocky outcrop waiting for her chance to escape; however, this shark isn’t done with her (she interrupted its meal of whale, for crying out loud) and it is stalking her in the dark waters that surround her.

The ocean is a disgusting place.

You're my hero, Steven Seagull!
Overall, The Shallows is a well-crafted thriller that might have some moments of being too over-the-top but still does a fantastic job of telling a simple and effective story.  Blake Lively had a lot riding on her being the sole focus of the film (if you exclude the side character of Steven Seagull—don’t worry, he makes sense in the story) and she takes that challenge and dominates it.  The story does a decent job of developing her where you care enough about her to want to survive in theory but Lively’s performance—whether it is her at her weakest from the pain or when she is in full badass mode ready to look death in the face and spit in it—really made me an active participant of the film and had me cheering on her survival in practice.

At one point, it becomes an Avatar sequel.

Visually the film is stunning as director Jaume Collet-Serra makes the locales, whether they are on the beach, or the waves or under the sea, all look incredible and gorgeous.  He also does a tremendous job of crafting tension and suspense with the action.  While there are long moments where the shark isn’t seen, the film never really made me forget it was out there.  Sometimes sequences like this where a survival movie takes a break from the action the momentum can slow down so poorly that the movie just becomes a series of heart-pounding moments with a lot of boring filler in-between but The Shallows never felt like this and the suspense and tension is kept at such a pace that you always felt like some shit was going to go down around the corner.

Of course, Blake Lively looks majestic with a surfboard.
I would just look like a flopping idiot who is constantly on the verge of
wiping out.

If there is a downside to The Shallows is that the ending battle between surfer and shark is a tad silly—but only when you step back and take a long look at it.  The film is so well paced and structured that, in the heat of the moment, I had no problem with the very badass way Nancy’s great white troubles come to an end but it doesn’t change the fact it is super over-the-top—however, Jaws ends with the shark literally jumping on to the end of the boat so there’s that—suspension of disbelief.  It’s a bit like the ending to Jurassic World:  Yeah, it’s silly that it basically boils down to a dinosaur version of a pro-wrestling match but that doesn’t change the fact it’s damn fun to watch and experience.  

Shit, the shark almost looks like it is enjoying this.

The Shallows ultimately proved to be one of those rare shark movies that didn’t have to be based on a silly premise like mixing the sharks with tornadoes or making the hunter a ghost or something.  It even goes a step further by actually being a well-made shark movie—those are even rarer!  It does a fantastic job with suspense and action and Blake Lively does a tremendous job of carrying the film.  And Steven Seagull isn’t too bad himself.

Steven Seagull deserves his own spin-off, dammit!

The Lobster

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  When I rented this I said, "I'll have The Lobster."  Then I laughed and laughed and the cashier told me to get out before he threw the DVD at my head.



The Lobster – 4 out of 5

I remember reading an article about this film when it went into production and just hearing what it was going to be about had me sold.  I like strange tales and movies that make me wonder what the hell I am watching for a majority of the time it’s on and, with the subject material of the plot fitting that, this one seemed like it would be right up my alley.  So, was The Lobster a unique, slightly odd film I could get behind or was it not worth my time?  As usual, pretend you don’t see the score when I ask questions like this.

I don't even want to put a caption here because this is just a nice photo.

In a dystopian society, being alone is not a good thing and when a person finds themselves without a partner, they are sent to a hotel where they are given 45 days to find someone or they are transformed into an animal.  After David’s (Colin Farrell) wife leaves him for someone else, he finds himself heading to that very hotel with his brother—who was turned into a dog—at his side.  While he ultimately meets someone, he finds that he doesn’t want to be a part of this society and escapes to join with a group that calls themselves The Loners.  They are completely the opposite of the society as they forbid relationships of any kind.  Unfortunately, David meets a woman in the group (Rachel Weisz) and the two start to fall for each other.

I don't know.  The hotel looks like my kind of party!

The thing that really brought me to the dance with The Lobster is the story.  Just the idea of a reality where you have to have a partner or you end up being transformed into an animal is something that just sounds crazy enough for my weirdo brain to dig.  I never bothered to see a trailer and the only other information I allowed myself to gather was who was in the cast—which also included John C. Reilly and I love that guy!  So, it should be noted that I went into the film pretty green and with very little knowledge of what was going to occur.  Hell, I didn’t even bother to see what the critical consensus was on Rotten Tomatoes. 
The thing that really struck me about the film after it was over is the fact, to me, it felt like an oddball movie with a strange concept that one would see in the 70s (they loved their weird visions of the future) but mixed with a heavy dose of our modern dramas and filmmaking approaches that we see in our current indie films.  These elements came together to really form a movie that was dry, bleak, interesting, kinda hopeful in a weird way, and intriguing all at the same time.

I don't know how anyone can NOT love John C. Reilly.
And I still hold firm that there should be a bio-pic of P.T. Barnum
with Reilly as Barnum.

While there are elements of the film that disappointed me—for example, there’s a plot point I really would have liked to see more of (Spoiler Alert:  It’s the part that involved changing people into animals.  I wanna see a whole documentary-style film that centers on that element) and the film doesn’t offer a lot of replay value in it for me but, overall, I was pretty impressed.  There was an amazing balance this film struck that seemed to have every facet of its creation mirroring one another.  The performances were very subdued, the fact it was filmed only with natural light, no makeup was used on the actors, and it has a story that is fairly over-the-top but never executed in a way to make it appear over-the-top all came together to make a film that was very simple and incredible effective.

Let's get a spin-off that shows the story of the guy who was turned into
the flamingo.

There’s no flash or real exploration of dynamic visual style in this movie (even though the simplicity of the whole film itself is a sort of exploration) and that, on the surface, can make The Lobster appear to be very boring to many viewers.  Hell, I’ll admit that this film is not for everyone because it is in this dry, deadpan delivery that holds the magic.  The entire film just felt otherworldly and odd but, at the same time, approachable and down-to-earth and I think that stems from how the film isn’t too gaudy in its editing, lighting or acting.  While the stoic approach that director Yorgos Lanthimos took bears the potential for lots of audience members to be turned off by The Lobster, I found a film that I was strangely absorbed into and couldn’t turn away from.

Don't as for fucks from The Loners because none they shall give.

The Lobster is a unique and simply crafted film that offers up some interesting ideas about human companionship and the role it plays in our society.  While I didn’t find a movie that I will ever watch again, I won’t deny that I was enamored with its one-of-a-kind story, striking simplicity and dry presentation.  However, I still would love to see a documentary-like approach to the whole “turning people into animals” thing.  That element sorta reminded me of Overdrawn at the Memory Bank.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Green Room

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I'm glad my experiences with Green Rooms were never like this when I did stand up comedy.



Green Room – 5 out of 5

When I think about Patrick Stewart the word “villain” doesn’t come to mind and the idea of him playing a “white supremacist” is way out of the ballpark.  I normally think of him as a kind, brilliant leader who is filled with wisdom and compassion…and I think of him as being a charming, amusing fellow in his everyday life.  So, when I heard him doing press for Green Room and stating that he was not only the antagonist in the film but a leader of some skinheads, my interests was heightened and I really wanted to see if he could play a convincing Neo-Nazi (and, at the same time, didn’t know if I was ready to see that).  So, how did he do playing the scumbag?  How was the rest of the film in comparison?  Well, as you can tell by the score, pretty good!

It's way too easy to make a Trump rally joke here.

While touring through the Pacific Northwest, the punk band the Ain’t Rights—Pat (Anton Yelchin, rest in peace), Reece (Joe Cole), Sam (Alia Shawkat) and Tiger (Callum Turner)—end up accepting a gig at a questionable venue.  Desperate for the cash, the struggling group accepts this gig after a promoter at the last show failed to live up to his promise.  The biggest problem is the venue is for a white supremacist group but it seems like it’ll be an in-and-out performance so it can’t be that bad; however, when the group is leaving they stumble upon a murder being committed by the headliners and they are now trapped in the green room of the venue (oh, that’s how they got the title).  Now the owner of the club and leader of the skinheads; Darcy (Patrick Stewart), will stop at nothing to silence them and protect his cause.

Reminds me of the time I did stand up in a record store for 5 people.
  

Yelchin, you were taken from us too soon, man.
Without a doubt, Green Room is a fantastic thriller that delivers on some great tension, horrifying sequences of violence and has fantastic performances.  The movie also does a tremendous job of developing characters without ever feeling like you are being subjected to development.  Dialogue is mixed with subtle clues and hints to the background of these people and when this is blended with the a “lived-in” approach to the reality that the story takes place in, it makes for a feature that feels authentic and terrifyingly real—and that just makes the stakes even that more horrifying.  For example, Darcy and his team of white supremacists throw around a lot of jargon and slang that pertains to their organization and director/writer Jeremy Saulnier did such a great job of crafting the script and presenting the story that you never feel lost at what they are saying or like you need the film to stop and explain this in further detail for you.  From the moment the story begins, I felt like I was in an established universe of this band the Ain’t Rights and it really made me feel both invested in their situation and anxious as hell over the terror they were experiencing.

With that flag, it is once again too easy to make a Trump supporter joke.

And speaking of terror, this movie really delivers on it.  Green Room works magic with creating suspense and tension as we watch this band involved in a seemingly impossible situation and it also brings in some truly shocking gore moments.  While this film is far away from those gore porn horror films, there are moments of violence that are 100% shocking and hard to watch.  Since the film doesn’t overly use this factor and that keeps these moments jaw-dropping.  Additionally, the film capitalizes excellently on a great slow-burn pace and a tremendous use of color and shadow to set the tone and atmosphere.  When all this is combined like some kind of thriller version of Voltron, it creates heart-pounding sequences of the protagonists trying to escape and a film that just does a tremendous job at keeping you on the edge of your seat.

What the hell is that haircut?

Finally, you can’t overlook the performances in this film.  There isn’t a single character that isn’t pulling their weight in this movie.  Everyone plays off each other so well and every character feels so damn legit that it was easy to lose myself in the cast.  Special mention has to be made to Anton Yelchin and Patrick Stewart.  Both have proven to be tremendous talents in the past and they once again showed their chops in this movie.  And an even special-er mention has to made about Stewart because he is chilling as hell as the character of Darcy.  I never thought he would ever spook me as a villain in a film but he did it!

After he ordered his men to kill the band, I really wanted him to say, "Make it so."

Overall, Green Room is a very suspenseful and fantastically executed thriller.  The story is solid, the pacing is great, the performances are unparalleled and the shock factor delivers.  The only downside I have for the film is that I don’t think it has much replay value to it and the odds of me ever watching it again are pretty slim.  That aside, the film was very entertaining with its unnerving story and presentation.