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.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

God's Not Dead 2

***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! There were so many unanswered questions in the first one. For example, like "Why was this made to begin with?"



God’s Not Dead 2 – 1 out of 5


I tortured myself with God’s Not Dead when it was available to rent but it really wasn’t that bad.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s a terrible, self-righteous movie that perpetuates the myth that Christians are somehow persecuted despite the fact that the leaders they elect wanna deny certain people the right to get married because their precious book tells them to and they even want to prevent certain religions from entering the country (they also like to cry about a fictitious War on Christmas despite the fact we start celebrating it the day before Halloween) but despite this delusion that the film is pushing it was freaking hilarious.  It literally was a meme that your crazy religious, Anti-Obama with subtle racist tendencies Aunt would email you come to life and it was filled with bad acting and a laughable plot.  Since I had a good time riffing on the thing I was kinda excited to see what new level of whining its sequel; God’s Not Dead 2 Electric Boogaloo, would bring.  Sadly, it just wasn’t as funny as the first film.

I don't even need to put a caption here for this one, do I?



After answering a student’s question about Jesus, teacher Grace Wesley (Melissa Joan Hart) comes under fire from the school board.  They believe she is pushing her faith on the students and demand that she apologizes but she refuses and won’t do that to Jesus.  Now the case goes to court where a young, hungry and faithful lawyer (Jesse Metcalfe) does battle against the evil lawyer (Ray Wise) who literally states he wants to prove God is dead (this film isn’t very subtle).  Can Grace win?  Will God help her?  Will Jesus show up as a character witness?  Will Starbucks pay for the audacity of spitting in God’s face by having a plain red cup for the holidays last year?  Will they prove that God is truly not dead or will we need a third film to prove that?

I have no other reason to include this screenshot of Pat Boone other than
the fact I paused the film at just the right time to get this amusing image.



If there is one good thing I can say about God’s Not Dead 2 is the fact that some of the performances are genuinely good.  Ray Wise may be playing a laughable caricature of a character (whom I am literally shocked the writers just didn’t name Satan McSecular) but he’s still doing a fantastic job.  Additionally, Ernie Hudson is playing the judge in the trial and he’s also doing a terrific job at bringing his character to life.  Sure, neither character is really believable (none of them are in this one) but there isn’t a butt-load of awful performances like the first film thanks to these guys.  The rest of the performances are pretty uninspired and forgettable, however.  If there’s a second good thing about this feature is that it’s edited together competently and the camera work isn’t too shabby.  While it isn’t filled with dynamic camera work, it does look fairly decent.  Where this film fails is in its awful writing.



I was really hoping for a cameo from the Scoleri brothers in this one.
Not to give away any spoilers but this character is
really amusing.  She's this odd punk-like character
and there's this big reveal that she's a devote Christian.
It was actually presented as if it was something
incredible.  It was pretty funny.
Ignoring the subject material of the story for a moment, God’s Not Dead 2 is hindered greatly by a central story that isn’t really feathered out or developed well and is compensated terribly by B-storylines that feel superfluous at best and a complete waste of time at worst.  The film tries too hard to shoehorn in characters from the last film and they just don’t do anything to really move the film forward. You have the atheist who had cancer in the first film but is miraculously cured once she accepts Jesus into her life (Praise be to bad writing.  I bet the starving children of the world will appreciate no miracles being diverted to them in order to prove that heretic wrong!), there’s a college student who is insanely curious about Christianity but ends up being disowned by his father because of it and there’s the visiting preacher friend of the face of these films, the main preacher; Pastor Dave (A.R. White).  Hell, they even force a throwaway character from the last film into the story and even grant him an entire monologue about his character now having a new job.  While ostensibly these characters have some minor impact on the plot and the events in the courtroom, the reality is they are just not needed.  The film could have existed without them because they all feel like lazy plot devices and some of them don’t get any real resolution to their own issues.  They literally serve no purpose other than to pan things out—which is a huge problem because this damn movie is almost 2 hours long and it ends up feeling like it is 4 because there is literally no suspense, intrigue or tension at any moment in or out of the trial.
First he kills Laura Palmer and now he wants to
destroy God?!?


I’m capable of suspending disbelief as good as anyone else but the subject material of God’s Not Dead 2 is pretty hard to swallow.  It might be due to the reality that our media (both mainstream and social) is constantly bombarding us with American Christians trying to claim that they are the most persecuted people currently in existence as they cry victim when gays want rights, when someone says “Happy Holidays” or will refer to a decorated tree as “holiday tree,” they flip out over Starbucks having a red cup for the holiday season and we’ve all heard the diatribes based on fraudulent historical claims that make the argument that we are a “Christian Nation.”  These Christian propaganda films are just the next level of butthurt and, at their basic cores, they are all the same.  God’s Not Dead tried to argue that college professors are turning your Jesus-loving kids into hateful, angry atheists (they’re not, by the way) and this sequel is trying to make the argument that the government is trying to keep God out of the schools and literally out to prove within the limits of the law that he doesn’t exist.  Yep, this movie that exists in a country where only Christian holidays are legally recognized as paid holidays and where a majority of the elected officials are of their same religion has a government that wants to murder the idea of God (Not to mention that if there really was this War on Christianity, you would think people would step in to stop films like this from being released).  The reality set forth in every fantasy, science fiction and comic book film are more realistic and easier to believe than what this film is portraying.

Remember when Hart was a bride of Satan in Sabrina the Teenage Witch?


The biggest problem this story has goes even further down its self-righteous rabbit hole as the whole conflict is predicated on a very flimsy moment (granted the first one had a paper thin premise, too).  The trial comes about because Grace answers a student’s question about the comparisons between the teachings of Jesus and the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi.  Grace isn’t preaching but answering a question and, with the exception of the most antitheist person in existence, most people will admit that Grace wasn’t preaching or forcefully trying to convert some students.  However, the writer’s try really hard to make something out of nothing with this whole incident and it’s really hard to take the film seriously—and even harder when the film starts to argue that this is a slippery slope and will lead to the government demanding all preachers to hand in their sermons for inspection.  This film is basically the equivalent of that person you know on Facebook that claims bibles are not allowed in schools—when, in reality, they are but they are just not allowed to be forced reading for students in classes (unless it’s a religious studies class, of course).  The undeniable reality of this movie is that its entire narrative could have been undone if every character wasn’t written like moronic monsters who laughably want to destroy Christianity like some weird kind of Christian fiction super villain.

Plus, who can believe this dreamboat is a lawyer?


While God’s Not Dead 2 has some competent camera work, it can’t save the mess of a story the movie is.  None of the characters are really deep or interesting and everything we learn about them is something you can easily predict when the film starts (if they even get any development or learn anything that they weren’t already holding onto at the beginning).  There’s no tension to the courtroom moments, no palpable drama and no smooth flow to the plot.  Hell, if it wasn’t for the decent camera work and editing this feature would have received my score of zero because it plays out in the manner that you’d expect it to but does so without even being mildly entertaining in the process—and since the film is so self-righteous in its victim mentality, this factor is even more grating because it’s akin to experiencing someone’s fan fiction where they spend most of their time complaining that no one understands them only to have them win in the most contrived way possible in the end.  However, the film does offer up a single, really great joke in its conclusion.  The movie literally has a post-credit sequence that sets up the the third film like this is some kind of damn Marvel movie.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Purge: Election Year

***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! After this election, this combined with Idiocracy is our new future.


The Purge:  Election Year – 3 out of 5

The first film in The Purge franchise had a decent concept that I enjoyed but ultimately was luke-warm towards the final product.  Home invasion films are things that, in theory, should scare the hell out of me because the idea of my private sanctuary being invaded is terrifying but this horror subgenre doesn’t really get me that creeped out.  The sequel, however, I really enjoyed because it was more of an action/horror film with thriller elements that showed just how ugly our society has the potential to get if this concept was actually put into practice—plus, I really dug Frank Grillo in the lead role.  For this latest release, The Purge:  Election Year, I was anticipating the entertainment that I got from the last one and, with this horror show that was this last election, the feature felt like it might have been the most poignant of them all.  But was it though?

Bubba is in the film...and tells the Purgers all about the different ways
to prepare shrimp.

Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) rose to prominence in the political world after her family was victimized by The Purge when she was younger.  Her mission is to eliminate the practice; one that seems to intentionally target the poor, homeless, minorities and makes the privileged even more wealthy.  At her side is Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), her head of security.  As the dreaded 12-hour event that allows all crime to be legal nears, Barnes goes into overdrive to make sure she will be secure in her home.  Unfortunately, there is a mole in her security team that wants to see the Senator and presidential nominee eliminated so The Purge can continue.  Now Charlie and Leo are on the run out in the open in the wilds of The Purge trying to make it through the night so that she can continue to get her message to the people and try to change the country.

Look at this nerd with her glasses and desire to make her country safer
and better.

Seriously, why isn't Grillo in more action movies?
He's great!
Overall, Election Year isn’t a terrible addition to a mildly entertaining franchise.  There are some genuinely shocking moments that, given how some people acted at a certain orange man’s rallies, are made all the more frightening because this no longer feels like fiction and more like a prediction of how things could end up with a horrible select group of people and the performances within it are pretty good.  Once again, I really enjoyed Frank Grillo in his role and would really like to see this guy show up in more action films because I really think he has what it takes to be a leading, action role type of guy.  Additionally, the story isn’t too bad and progresses the thoughts laid out in the first and last film fairly well—hell, it even has an ending that promises that there could be more in the future…whether we really need them or not.  The one thing that really killed this movie for me, though, was the complete lack of subtlety.

He went from killing vampires to this?!?  Why, Abe, why?

I take it he's the villian...
The metaphors and themes played up in these movies have always been fairly on the nose.  The way the story shows a clear line between the wage gag and race as it concerns who is the Purge-er and who is the Purge-ees has been fairly obvious.  However, in this third go-around, the hammering home of the idea that it’s the lower class and non-whites who are the victims in these events is painted so painfully obvious that it’s pretty laughable.  I like the themes this film delivers and how it showcases who are the real victims in an endeavor like this and who are the sick sacks that would flourish and would gain from The Purge but when you have one of the antagonist literally as a Neo-Nazi skinhead complete with “White Power” and Rebel Confederate flag patches on his uniform and tattoos of swastikas on his head, you kinda have driven passed creative and subtle means of storytelling and have delivered your message and morals with all the delicacy and precision of a nuclear bomb.  It really made the film more laughable than meaningful.

Probably not the most practical thing to wear when you are Purging.

At its heart, The Purge:  Election Year is serviceable but not terribly memorable.  While there are some moments of shock, there’s nothing about it that really leaves an impact beyond how lazy and obvious the film’s themes feel.  Some of the characters that Leo and the Senator run into are decent and easy to be engaged with but you can’t escape the laziness this script provided as the antagonists are cardboard cutout stereotypes and are just as blatant and obvious as the themes provided.  Most of them seemed on the verge of laughing manically while they twirled their mustache and tied damsels to train tracks.  It never gets truly terribly and is marginally better than most horror franchises are by the time they get to the third film but it’s ultimately forgettable and probably to the point that this franchise is over.