Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Sports a voice, lacks everything else...
The strongest thing I can attribute to Surviving Me: The 9 Circles of Sophie is that it most certainly has a voice behind its screenplay, directions and thoughts it intends to provoke. That voice is Leah Yanaton, and throughout her talk afterwards it was clear just how passionate she was for the art of film, poetry, and showing her vision. Through what she described as plenty of turmoil in her own life, multiple incidents of sexual assault and harassment included, her voice very clearly was injected-into the ideas and characters presented in Surviving Me, which certainly makes it a loud film and one with clear intentions.
All of that said...I cannot truly will myself to call it a good film, as it has so many issues riddling it that it ends up as a cinematic equivalent of a megaphone; the words and message is most certainly loud, but is it clear? Does it work cohesively as one thought or piece? In my mind, the answer is a less overwhelmingly-positive one.
Surviving Me is an independent production, very clearly, and thus many of the pitfalls of that fact come with it. The camerawork is rather iffy, at times coming off as something out of television. It has a quality of cheapness to it, which cannot be avoided when attributing its lower budget, so that is understood at the very least. That said, plenty of very cheap-looking independent films have transcended these budgetary constraints and excelled through its content. Its editing, its characters, etc etc.
The problem becomes, however, that the film also has issues in these regards just as well.
The editing is excruciatingly choppy at times, with certain particular points like the sex scenes becoming very difficult to keep track of or view due to the quick cutting and lack of cohesiveness. Certain continuity issues arise through these cuts, which only made the issues that much more glaring to me as an audience member and frustrated me because a good scene could certainly be assembled from what was filmed, but it simply didn't work for me.
The characters, aside from the eponymous Sophie herself, also feel very unfortunately underdeveloped. In fact, and I will be openly honest about this, I almost feel that all of Yanaton's characters here are treated as sex objects without self-awareness. Leah Yanaton's talk regarding her dismay at seeing women turned-into sex objects in the early 21st century was an argument and viewpoint I certainly sympathized with and agreed with...but on that very same token, I found it contradictory to hear that viewpoint so stressed after seeing a piece in which a young adult male is treated as a bumbling male companion that is appreciated but criticized for his lack of sexual prowess and a young adult female who's only truly memorable character trait was her sexually-active lifestyle and constant references to sex.
Perhaps this was part of Yanaton's point? Perhaps it was an intentional decision in the writing stage to display the excess and over-fixation of society on the sexual lifestyle and Sophie's losing of herself into the very same cultural obsession...but for myself at least, I did not find that idea stressed enough for the excess and lack of character for these two examples to be enough to forgive it as artistic direction. It struck me as shallow character writing, and frankly, contradictory to the intended message of the film regarding the objectification of female and male bodies. I am not bothered in the slightest by an abundance of sexual activity in a film, even when you make it a central point of a character's personality, but when it comes at the expense of character and contrasts with your film's message...lines become fuzzy, messages become lost, and my intrigue becomes confusion and skepticism.
As I said before, I think Yanaton has a very clear vision and a very loud voice. This film was clearly from the bottom of her heart, and she seemed like a fantastic woman and a passionate screenwriter. However, I think what hurts this film most in my mind is the confusing, mixed messages it sends across. Much as I can hear what the intention was from Leah after the film is over...the message itself gets lost amidst confusing editing, weak characters, and cinematic values that are rather concerning and contradictory to the film's intended meaning.
A strong voice and extremely good intentions, but a very messy and unfortunately confusing piece in the end...
Take the most ornate, well-lit art house film.
Cross-breed that with the most off-the-wall, gritty, grindhouse pulp horror film you've ever seen.
Now add NICOLAS CAGE to that equation.
Boil that cauldron of insane ingredients together, you get "MANDY", one of the most visually spectacular films I think I have ever seen, and one of the wildest rides I have had the pleasure to take in this spectacular year of great cinema.
Choosing where to begin, I find myself inclined to talk about the direction of this, by sophomore director Panos Cosmatos ("Beyond The Black Rainbow"). This film is every bit of "style-over-substance", but it's spectacle is more than enough to overpower any desire of meaning you seek in this. This is a RIDE.
Bright neon against thick fogs of smoke. Faces changing all in one shot. Heavy Metal-style animated sequences. Nicolas Cage having a CHAINSAW DUEL.
Cosmatos throws every single possible thing at the wall in this film, all in its pulpy, gritty, insane, bloody perfection and imperfection...and by the end of it, nearly all of those fluids stick.
The score is done by the late and dearly missed Johann Johannsson. His work here is SPECTACULAR, crafting a hybrid of 80's-era synth straight from groundhouse horror films and a hard rock undertone that make this the ultimate backdrop for the insane imagery we witness throughout. From minute one, this film ENVELOPS you in its sound, in all its aggressive and mystifying glory.
The performances are all perfect for its pulpy, over-the-top tone. Nicolas Cage, for all of his negatives, is absolutely beastly in this and will make you cry, make you laugh and make you absolutely terrified to even look at him. I'd dare say this is career-reigniting for him, and no man in Hollywood deserves it more. He sells his soul to this role. Andrea Riseborough is also phenomenal in what she manages to get in, along with the rest of a bonkers cast that sells this world and tone better than anyone has in recent memory.
This film is available on digital right now, but if this is in theaters anywhere close to you, it is WORTH IT to seek this out. This is an otherworldly film that needs to be seen to be believed, and I cannot see anybody leaving this film without their jaw hitting the floor at least once.
I highly recommend you see "Mandy", whether on digital or in theaters, right this second. It is seriously an insane trip of a film, and certainly one of my absolute favorite films of this year thus far.
This is one that you need to SEE to BELIEVE...
All over the place...
What an strangely so-so, oddly-conceived, painfully mixed bag this film is...
"Slice" is the strange story of Small Town, USA...which also happens to harbor various monsters in it, such as ghosts, witches and werewolves. It also runs primarily off of food delivery services, specifically a tiny little pizza place that may very well be the gates to Hell.
...See, from that log line alone, one would be HOOKED to see what goes down in this film, no?...
"Slice" is the writing and directorial debut of Austin Vesely, who previously directed music videos, and also the acting debut of Chance The Rapper, who has worked with Vesely before (And, to be quite honest, is in this film so little it's a wonder why he gets top billing...). While I want to believe this was a concept the two of them dreamed-up one strange night, I cannot be totally sure.
What I CAN be totally sure of is how much this film works and doesn't work is completely inconsistent, which is truly a shame because there's plenty of things I really enjoyed here...and plenty of things that were absolutely dreadful.
"Slice" fancies itself very much in the same threads of a 80's B-movie run amok. Much of the film is very tongue-in-cheek, the world is played for laughs quite often, and the horror is downplayed often to show how ridiculous the story is getting and keeps borrowing strands of other lore to incorporate and stack the strangeness.
In this case, the screenplay is the one to blame, and the screenplay in its content is hardly lacking in quality. Plenty of monster movie lore is touched-up and taken-from to plant the seeds of an interesting world this film can take place in, and for a long while the tone and world really did mesh and created a fun little world to run around in.
The issue becomes clear about halfway through the film, however; the film's script lands about as often as a shotgun hits a rifle target. That's to say, it is ALL OVER the place, scattershot, throws every bullet at every angle, and rarely hits its bulls-eye.
The script feels cobbled-together, constantly trying to balance about five different sub-plots in a run-time that barely qualifies as a feature-length film (82 minutes? Come on now...). Various characters are established and then never seen again, or are woefully underutilized (You cast Joe Keery and Hannibal Burress and use them for 2-3 scenes MAX? C'mon now...).
Add-in that the humor sometimes hits, sometimes does not. There are big laughs in here, but at other times, the script or the actors can't seem to stick the landing and thus creates giant joke bombs where the film truly needs them most. There was clearly a FUNNY script here, but either the talent or revisions let it down.
Speaking of revisions...Good gravy, was the climax of this film ever hacked-apart and cobbled-together. It feels so patchwork and unfinished in how swift they simply try to end the film, I almost wonder if they simply did not have anything left in the budget to complete it. The cinematography was poor, the editing was poor, the makeup and effects were poor...Everything was just noticeably bad, and not something that should've been in a film that (Presumably) was slated for a theatrical release.
The concept also feels very much wasted in such a short film that never delivers on the promise of the premise. We get these opening moments where we are introduced to a world where humans, ghosts and other supernatural creatures co-exist...yet there's not much fun had with that concept beyond a few jokes and the climax, which simply falls flat on its face. An opportunity was missed with a concept this insane and destined to be fun, and it seems only half the fun was had with the idea.
For all things negative that I have to say...there do exist some bright spots to this otherwise disappointing and confusing venture.
The cinematography can actually be quite good at times, particularly when lighting is played with. It almost achieves its desired effect of an 80's B-level schlock film, something akin to 'The Monster Squad' if it were made in 2018. While in some moments the film looks like a TV sitcom, in rare cases I can really admire what work went into the staging.
The score is also nothing to shrug at, as its use of Synth somewhat works in its favor as another 80's callback. Clearly there was inspiration here, and it mostly works in the film itself. If it had made itself more prevalent, perhaps the score could've saved some more face.
I also can't help but touch-upon the premise again and the world this film "tries" to create, despite its minimal effort. It really is an oddly FUN, weird world it builds for us early on. Much as little is ever developed with it, I really would've loved to see a better writer and a better director and a bigger budget tackle it.
But in the end...this film is a mess. A mess of good things, but a mess of bad things just as well. A great score, great cinematography and a strangely interesting concept are counteracted by a poor script, a terrible climax, and technical aspects that seem just as inconsistent as this entire film seems to be.
For me, I almost dare to give this film extra points because I actually enjoyed some parts of it enough to say I didn't "Hate" it...but at the same time, I know I can't in good conscious recommend it.
It's an ambitious, poorly-executed, disappointing, slightly-interesting mixed bag, for me...
For all the people who ever tried (And failed) to make a compelling thriller about the internet, from "Unfriended" to "Megan Is Missing", I have news for you:
Someone finally did it.
"Searching" is quite possibly the first film I've seen that truly treats the internet as the entity it is without any silly exaggerations, fake websites, ignorance or judgement. Instead, this film treats it as a platform to tell a compelling mystery story with an excellent performance by John Cho and a quite honestly revolutionary sense of direction at its center.
"Searching" concerns itself primarily with the character of David Kim, played by John Cho (Of 'Harold & Kumar' fame), who's daughter goes missing suddenly and is only left with a trail of breadcrumbs that exist entirely on the internet. Whether it be social media, text logs or anything in-between, the film becomes a frantic search to find his missing daughter.
The film itself is an odd hybrid of the Found Footage genre and of an actual narrative film. What I mean by this is that we still see close ups, we still hear a musical score, and still see various camera tricks incorporated into the film, but our vantage point is limited only to a screen and what may appear on it. Because of this, the direction expertly resorts to showing many forms of multi-media to paint a story that a feature film could tell. From the film's wide-spanning opening (Which is oddly reminiscent of Pixar's "Up" in more ways than one) to every direction it goes beyond that, the film stays in its proverbial lane and uses its media and its story platform to tell a compelling story within its mean.
This execution, by first-time director Aneesh Chaganty, is done BRILLIANTLY. There is not a single moment where you do not buy what is occurring on-screen when it comes to the way these sites and media function (Aside from a few hiccups that I will get into later), and it truly shows an understanding of both the limits of this scope and of the media they used to tell this story. Crazy as it sounds, it is an incredible accomplishment seen here by Chaganty that the film remained comprehensible, well-directed, and ended up as the first film of its genre to ever incorporate social media properly.
Speaking of which, it is a delight that we do not get any fake websites in this film. What I mean by this is, there is no "sub-in" for Youtube or Facebook or anything of that like. Facebook is Facebook, Youtube is Youtube, Tumblr is Tumblr, etc etc. It is both a treat to those who look for authenticity in this concept that not only did the crew know what they were talking about, but also to see that they trusted audience to expect realism and no substitute. Fake social media sites in film is out, and incorporating the quite real social media sites around us is IN..and I couldn't be happier.
This could perhaps be enough for a downright experimental film to be considered serviceable, but what truly elevates this even further is John Cho's fantastic performance as a father at his wit's end fighting to find his daughter. Though we only get small bursts of the clear talent and commitment he has for this role, by the time the film was over even his own mouse cursor and movements depicted by his searching through the internet had its own injected 'character' to it.
Despite how well the film is executed, a few flaws do hold it back from being a masterpiece by a first-time director. The climax of the film and the conclusion we reach to the mystery itself is a bit fantastical and hard-to-buy for my tastes, though it hardly ruins the entire film structurally. In addition, Michelle La as the daughter character is not especially good in the scenes she is featured in, which was perhaps why the only scenes I never felt entirely invested were the ones where she was front-and-center. Considering this is her first feature film role, that's perhaps simply inexperience coming to the fore, but it still hurts the film when her scenes are sandwich between a fantastic performance by John Cho.
Along with these problems with story and performances, the minuscule details between the lines of the film's internet setting are a tad fuzzy. Namely things regarding the service YouChat and how it is presented, along with the tiniest nitpicks in presentation like the mouse cursor moving so buttery-smoothly it became hard to buy. In addition, my feelings toward the film having a background score are a tad mixed, though I grew to accept it as the film went on. Simply a matter of tastes.
All of that said, "Searching" is a quite masterfully done thriller with an execution that is truly a marvel to behold. Never has this genre of found footage been able to crack the concept of painting a thrilling film through the scope of a computer screen until now. With the internet seemingly 'cracked' by these writers and directors, however, this film ends up a first of its kind and quite the investing ride to take at the theatre.
I highly recommend you see this film and support something so indie and so unique. It's really unlike anything that's in theatres right now~
A MASSIVE let-down...
Pretty much let-down every tempered expectation I had for it, and ended up delving-into every realm of mediocrity, convention and 'Been-There-Done-That' imaginable.
The direction is intriguing at times, and even a few motifs and shots in the film were unique and unexpected. However, everything else about this film is so FLAT. I understand this is a teen romance/drama, as well as the fact that it's a Netflix original film, but that really doesn't excuse the film from looking so visually boring.
The concept this film brandishes, which was what initially enticed me into seeing it at the promise of a unique and interesting story of mysticism leading to an exploration of past loves and school romance, ends up utterly wasted in the long run. Beyond the first twenty minutes or so, we are then treated to a VERY run-of-the-mill, VERY cliched story of a popular boy dating the popular girl for jealousy and teen drama and all of that wonderfully gooey jazz that we have seen played-out in countless other teen shows and teen romance films. For such an interesting premise, it is an utter tragedy that the film completely forgets about this setup and opts for something so bland and uninteresting.
Not to mention, it opts to shrug-aside this setup and simply focus on this uninteresting romance at the center of the film, and instead has the gall to tease more of this concept being explored in an after-credits scene that only serves to highlight even further how a good idea was forgotten about in the midst of this.
Its portrayal of high school and how "KIDS 'DESE DAYS" talk and communicate is also woefully executed, especially when you consider this film is releasing hot off the tails of "Eighth Grade", a film that understands far better how teens of this current generation communicate and act. Ironically enough, that film was written and directed by a man and avoided most of the cliches and pitfalls that this film, written by Sofia Alvarez and directed by Susan Johnson, falls victim to. After seeing a film execute this far better only a month ago, seeing a film that falls victim to Degrassi-era cliches just stings, and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Something I CAN give credit for is that the lead performances, played by Lana Condor and Noah Centineo, are competently done and do help carry the film to at least be "Watchable". I think Lana certainly has the chops to be a leading actress for bigger and better things, which at least makes me happy to know there's something salvageable from this.
But other than that..."To All The Boys I've Loved Before" is simply a tired retread of cliches we've seen before, only with the enticing details of a new paint job and a tag promising something unique attached to it. In that sense, the film feels like a thrift store jacket.
Promising to be something unique on the outside, but once it is well-worn, it slowly begins to fall apart over time.
Hopefully that's a cool metaphor for all the hip, happening kids. Gucci!
Eighth Grade (2018)
THE FILM for this current generation
Full disclosure: Middle school was the worst years of my life and nothing will ever change that from being the case.
That's perhaps why I find myself so baffled by what Bo Burnham has accomplished with his writing/directorial debut and the newest of A24's heavyweight lineup of independent films.
Bo Burnham, using some sort of voodoo magic and perhaps an animal sacrifice or two, has managed to not only boil-down all of the awkwardness, unsureness, experimenting, anxiety and emotions of this period of life down to a science, but he also has managed to write what is quite possibly one of the most honest and realistic portrayals of a teenage girl that I have ever seen.
To preface; I absolutely adore Bo Burnham, but I was fairly skeptical entering a film that he himself directed and wrote. With all the creative decisions of a pretty small film under him, this could have easily devolved into disaster if he didn't have the chops.
But, to perhaps no one's surprise, one of the most creative stand-up comedians in the game right now debuted with one of the best portrayals of our teenage years and this current generation, which figures coming from the man who's career began from humble beginnings in the early ages of Youtube.
"Eighth Grade" is the story of Kayla Day, played by unknown-until-now Elsie Fisher, and her final days in eighth grade and all the awkward, weird, joyous and miserable ways those days can transpire. These are presented to us in perhaps slightly disjointed manner, but they almost feel anecdotal in their manner. Plus, as I can attest and ANY middle schooler can attest, all those days and experiences eventually blend-in at some point...
What I feel the need to point out immediately is the absolutely incredible performance by Elsie Fisher, who executes what I think is THE GREATEST portrayal of a teenager I have ever seen put to film. She doesn't deliver lines like an actor, but instead with all the unevenness and unsure feelings one would come to expect. She doesn't look like a supermodel so you buy every single second of her self-doubt, her nerves and anxieties. Even as a 21-year old male, there is so much in her performance and the character she creates in Kayla Day that I STILL related massively to her. I absolutely think this is a star-making performance, and if Elsie Fisher doesn't get an Academy Award nomination, the Academy will have egg on their face.
In addition to Elsie Fisher, we get wonderful supporting performances from the likes of Josh Hamilton as her father, along with a bundle of other teen actors who are just as honest in their interpretation of adolescences as Bo Burnham's writing is. There is not a single performance I did not buy in this film, which makes all the emotions and ways you can relate to this that much more visceral in their nature.
To go off of that, Bo Burnham's screenplay is something of an odd beast that ends up working anyway. Rather than character arcs or any real setups, this feel ends up feeling staggered in its way it tells various instances and scenarios Kayla goes through, which works to its advantage in the way it easily weaves. In addition, as I said before, the way all of these teenagers are written is the complete opposite of the over-blown and silly portrayals we see in work like "Mean Girls" or any other Disney Channel or Young Adult work you could find. This is HONEST, and Bo Burnham seems to have found a seemingly John Hughes-esque talent of capturing what this current generation is all about and how it operates.
Which perhaps brings me to this film's most powerful aspect, but potentially also its only real weakness.
This film is going to be THE cult film of a generation. Specifically, this one. The "Smart Phone Generation", as some derisively call my generation and the ones after us.
So much of this film paints a portrait of these kids growing-up in a confusing time with an even more confusing climate of the internet and social media floating around them. Granted, I don't believe it is touched-on quite as well as last year's "Ingrid Goes West" (Which completely DESTROYS the foundations of social media and critiques it viciously), but it holds its cards close to its hands as it shows Kayla and everyone growing-up in a previous generation that is trying its hardest to keep up and understand them, while they continue to move at light-speed and learn everything, repeat everything, and see the world from their smart phone screens and laptop screens. It's an understated theme to the film, and I think that's what truly makes this film an ESSENTIAL film for the Millenial generation to witness and relate massively to, and know that there is someone out there who understands and can tell stories they can connect to. If any film taps-into the culture of today from a child's perspective, it's most certainly this one.
That said, this is a double-edged sword. This film could potentially become a time-capsule and soon become outdated and lose its relevance with how timely it attempts to be. While all the smart phones, social media sites and Rick & Morty references are working in the wheelhouse here and now, it has the potential to become VERY outdated and seemingly tacky in about 10-15 years, and I am a firm believer that a truly classic film should remain timeless in some aspects. My fear is that this film could potentially end up dating itself, which isn't a terrible fate for a film that is so definitively THIS GENERATION, but that's perhaps a slight negative.
Along with this, there's obviously a few odds and ends that come from the fact that Bo Burnham is a first-time director. He attempts visual motifs with his cinematography, but they eventually recede as the film progresses and we get odd choices of handheld camera work instead. It feels hardly artificial and genuine, for certain, but it lacks a real punch and artistry that I think was needed to push this even harder. Along with it, I think he pushes towards "breaking points" in certain scenes of the film that could really create powerful, effective scenes of drama, but it seems he's afraid of going just that extra length to punch us with the emotion of it. If you see the film, you will know the exact scenes I am describing in this fashion.
All of that said, and all of my concerns aside...this is a truly spectacular film for all it does right. It feels personal, it feels like it is made from the ground-up for this generation and understands it better than an Hollywood screenwriter could, is acted honestly and never shies away from trying to articulate EXACTLY what these years of life were like.
And for me to see the worst years of my life interpreted on the big screen...that's a pretty good feeling.
Pretty terrifying and awkward and cringe-y. But pretty good.
Sorry to Bother You (2018)
If "Get Out" deserved to win an Academy Award for how original it was, "Sorry To Bother You" deserves to win about five times that amount.
Where to begin with "Sorry To Bother You"...
This film is bonkers. Off-the-wall. Flamboyantly and unapologetically original. This film is ITSELF, and I cannot say I have seen many films like this.
"Sorry To Bother You" is the writing and directorial debut for musician Boots Riley, a previous contributor to the world of film as a songwriter for films such as "Superbad" or "The Losers".
This film, however, has contents within that are no simple single. It has treasures worth an entire LP to dig through, and I cannot stress enough that it is a piece worth checking-out.
The sense of style that Riley's direction features here is so off-the-wall and unlike anything I have seen this year, it really differentiates itself from the rest of the pack for this summer's field of films. Transitions from scene-to-scene are unique, the characters are entertaining and all identifiable to what they serve for this film's story.
The ideas incorporated into this big, massive stew of a film that combines quite fantastic comedy writing with societal and racial commentary that really does cut deep at times is what makes it such a tremendous thing to stomach. I would dare call it 'overwhelming' for some viewers, if it were not so crazy and insane at some points that most 'normal' audience members would be driven-off already by then.
Rather than what I found to be unfocused commentary that was featured in "Get Out", Riley's script manages to be an unholy, caffeinated lovechild of "Office Space" and "Get Out", worming its way into a position of being not only a hilarious comment on the workforce of today, but also how race and society factor-in as well.
Along with this, the performances are all first-rate in every regard. Lakeith Stanfield is bought every second as our protagonist that is torn-between playing the system and being himself in a society that is adapt-or-die, his supporting cast keeps things upbeat, and the voice-over performances/cameo appearances by David Cross and Patton Oswalt make every moment they appear an incredibly fun time.
That said, this film's penchant for insanity and turning the wick to 11 at every chance is where I feel some people may be lost. The story by the time it reaches its climax becomes somewhat muddled amidst all the insanity the third act decides to unleash upon the audience. This film's only true crime is that perhaps it is a bit "much" in some regards.
However, for a film that very much fancies 'Style' over 'Substance', this one has all the style in the world. Funny, poignant, and overall a hell of a ride, "Sorry To Bother You" is one of the most unique and creative films I have seen so far this year.
You can keep "Get Out". THIS is my cup of tea.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
So I think I can officially say it this time:
This is the first Marvel film I can undoubtedly say I thought was bad. VERY bad, as a matter of fact.
Let's start from the beginning; I enjoyed the first 'Ant-Man' film. It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. It reeks of re-writes and five different people working on its script. That said, it's imaginative and fun and I can at least roll with it and find it amusing at its worst lows and creative at its highest highs.
But this...this...this just felt like it was there to just be 'there'.
The characters: Paul Rudd is Paul Rudd. That may sound like a joke, but in all honesty, I have trouble finding a character in Scott Lang beyond "Paul Rudd". His character lacks any real depth, and I find it a struggle to truly care for him by the end of this film or even grasp onto a new development of his character that resulted in his film. He gives off the AIR of being likeable, and I DO like Paul Rudd's performance in this, but other than that...he's an actor playing himself. I don't see "Scott Lang". I see "Paul Rudd".
Michael Douglas? Again, I LOVE Michael Douglas as an actor, but...he spouts technobabble, we're left confused as to what it all means, and we end up just seeing Hank Pymm as a dispensary of science talk and lacking a character. This entire film is about him and his quest to find his wife...yet we never get anything intimate for his character beyond a scene or two (Which are played for laughs anyway, so who cares?).
Evangeline Lily and Michelle Pfeiffer, however, suffer the most here. Never have I seen such flat female characters in a superhero film since the mid-2000's of half-baked Marvel adaptation films. Hope Van Dyne is positioned as such a vital character in this film (Her character's name is IN THE TITLE), yet she feels completely jammed into a "Badass girl who kicks you" stereotype with little-to-no depth. For a character who we were "promised" would be vital to this film, I know very little about her beyond what I already knew from the first film.
Pfeiffer suffers just as much, as she too is treated as only the role of "Woman who must be rescued". We get no development of her character as they search for her, no characterization, no scene that at least gives us an idea of what she was like or what she did.
But what development we DO get is expressed through some truly awful sequences where the events of the first film are needlessly recapped, character backstories are flipped through and swatted-away just so the writers can say they included it, and take away any and all depth that could be explored with these characters.
Instead, everything is FLAT. And I think that word describes this film perfectly. "Flat".
"Flat" is what the characters are. "Flat" is the cinematography and lighting of the film that looks like any other cut-and-dry comedy film with no inventiveness or seeming effort to make this look creative.
And "Flat" is how the humor of this screenplay falls. For the thousands of swings this film takes at humor, it lands it about 20 times, and misses all the rest. The theater I was in was awkwardly quiet, simply because it was trying TOO HARD to be funny. The wit of the first film worked far better in that it didn't need to TRY to be funny.
Instead, we have Michael Pena and Paul Rudd's heist friends rambling in scenes that feel improved and landing no jokes whatsoever. Other than a few scenes that were indeed humorous and garnered a big laugh or two from the audience and myself...clearly, the audience wasn't feeling it.
And neither was I.
In addition, the editing for this film incited a rare reaction of mine where I felt total whiplash in a jump from one scene to another. Quite literally, one transition from a scene to another was the most jarring and disjointed thing I've ever seen, and it left myself and my girlfriend audibly asking ourselves in our theatre seats if we just missed an entire scene. Not good at all.
All that considered...I didn't absolutely hate every aspect of this film. The action scenes where they play with size are still mildly interesting, although even they can't save this film as they lack the ambition and creativeness that the first had. Paul Rudd is entertaining enough as...Paul Rudd, and even a few scenes involving Michael Pena and his friends elicit a chuckle or two.
That said...I can't help but feel this film is an utter mess. A mess of mediocrity, poor editing, poor character writing, 2-3 action scenes that are nothing beyond "Serviceable", and attempts at humor that throws the entire buffet at you...but in the end, you only end up with empty calories.
And that's how I feel about this film. Empty.
...+1 whole point for that Tim Heidecker cameo, though...
Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
Let me put it simply.
This is one of the most perfect documentaries I've ever seen about one of the most perfect humans to ever exist.
Go see this as soon as possible and regain your faith in humanity.
American Animals (2018)
"Ocean's Eleven" meets "The Social Network" & "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"
"American Animals" follows a pretty simple story. One about growing-up, friends, young adulthood...
...oh, and robbing a library of books worth millions of dollars...That little detail, too.
I can't say I've ever seen any heist film like this one, though.
What makes this concept so captivating and so unique compared to other legendary heist films like 'Ocean's Eleven', 'The Italian Job' and others is that this film revolves around both a certain sense of nihilism and adolescence. In a way, I would call this film the unholy love-child of "Ocean's Eleven", "The Social Network" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off".
The thing that sets this film apart from the others in its genre is just how REAL everything becomes by the time we watch these college kids, all aimless and without a clue, try to chase the American Dream through the most devious way possible. Spearheaded by spectacular leading performances by Barry Keoghan and Evan Peters, this film is not about a heist. Rather, this film is about nihilism, and growing-up in just about the scariest way possible.
The film itself grows-up as we go, as we open with a sense of style and editing that is snappy and fast-paced. The style of young adult; alive and frantic. Everything is bright lights and pop songs, all while our protagonists see themselves as 'good guys' as they plot a heroic heist of a library and its priceless books. The theater I was in was happily rolling-along, audience laughing heartily with the silly antics.
But suddenly, just as we as audiences want to see this heist succeed, and we suddenly see it unfold...the consequences hit. The laughing becomes weaker and weaker until we as audiences reach a similar realization as the characters do; this is real life.
While the film's style of pseudo-documentary mixed with fiction was not exactly the most smoothly-executed (At times it felt jerky and almost gimmicky), it eventually comes back into play as the teaching tool of the entire film. The film's points it chooses to make, both light and dark, are powerful through this very medium. Its pacing and choices of editing, specifically a change by the second half that evolves the entire film into something completely different, were what flipped the proverbial coin for me as an audience member.
The evolving state of this film, the proverbial 'growing-up' it symbolized to me as an audience member, was what truly made it impactful and transcended this film from a "Good" one to a "Great" one.
This film is not about a heist. Rather, it is a film about growing-up THROUGH a heist. Indeed, as many billed it to be, "American Animals" is like no heist film before it. Thankfully, that's for all the right reasons.
I seriously recommend seeing this indie darling of a film. While rough around the edges and lacking an entirely-bulletproof execution, I think this is one of the most interesting films I've seen thus far this year.
It, quite literally, 'grows up' as you watch it.
Incredibles 2 (2018)
Let me spin you a bit of a Greek tragedy here; Coming back to a world and characters I loved 14 years ago when I saw the original at my 8th birthday party, only to discover something terrible.
I'm not going to sugarcoat it: Incredibles 2 was IMMENSELY disappointing.
Even as I sat in the middle of a dark theater, filled to the brim with people who were laughing and enjoying a film that seemed to turn so many nostalgia dials in the room...I just could not join them in letting my nostalgia glasses take control.
Because, in the end, with nostalgia put aside, this is a HEAVILY flawed film, and considering it's something of this magnitude, I simply can't let that slide.
So, with that said, let's slip our Nostalgia Goggles OFF for a moment, and let's begin...shall we?
'Incredibles 2' has been hyped for lord knows how long, as it is perhaps one of the few worlds that Pixar (And Brad Bird as well) created that had something to build-upon and create something new and different with a second installment. Unlike films like 'Cars 2' or 'Monsters University', a sequel truly felt necessary in a world where the market has become so saturated with superhero films. With all that considered, it seemed like a no-brainer that another Incredibles film could work in this current landscape and provide a new outlook on the genre of superhero films, just as the original film did back in 2004.
Only problem is, I think they forgot to write a new film.
My main gripe with 'Incredibles 2' is just how recycled and empty the entire experience feels. The film, without any self-awareness or irony about it, essentially carbon copies most of the plot-threads from the original film, only switching it up to provide parallels to the original. While this could have worked if executed cleverly, we instead receive these same plot points, played-out by different characters, but lacking most of the depth the first film.
The film intends to use Helen as the main character this time, which initially intrigued me in that it was an interesting twist on the original to give Elastigirl the main action/conflict and giving Bob the family struggle after we saw his story told in the original. Instead, however, we get a Helen sub-plot that feels so half-baked and without any depth to it, it truly might as well have just been pulled from the film and we would not have lost much.
None of the conflict of the original film is present. The themes of family and the struggles that come with being that are so surface level it borders on the cliche in some respects. Helen is given NOTHING to be her own character in this, and instead is given action scenes to play-out and a sub-plot that only serves to remind me how much better the first film was. Rather than giving us a great and in-depth character plot for Helen, we get something so weak and honestly regressive for how hard this film brandishes itself to be a feminist advocate that I would dare say it's offensive how shallow Helen's character arc and story comes off in this.
Bob's story arc doesn't fare much better. The concept of flipping the script and giving him the family to run and learning how to be a proper father on his own is an interesting way to parallel the first film and the story it gave him...but instead, we are only given small glimpses at the depth this story can provide.
Instead, make way for funny comic relief Jack-Jack scenes! Watch him fight a cartoon raccoon for 5 minutes! Watch everyone try to take care of the baby for 5 minutes! Funny poop joke! Funny baby sound!
Hopefully, you're beginning to see my point. This film, for all its attempts to TRY and prove it has depth and a reason to exist, lacks all the depth of the first film and lacks a reason to truly exist.
I found myself asking, at some point in the theater, "Why does this film NEED to exist?". Why did this story need to be told? What does this story tell us that the first one couldn't?
I think the answer is simply this; this film exists because it was going to make money.
This film feels so unnecessary in the thick of things. After 14 years, you mean to tell me you cannot do anything better than copying the plot of the first film, then writing a screenplay that lacks any of the depth from the original? You can't give us a compelling, introspective story about Helen dealing with being an extremely famous superhero AND a mother? You can't give us a deep story regarding Bob balancing being a father and his wish to be a superhero again? You can't give us ANY reason to invest emotionally into this film?
That, quite frankly, is frustrating beyond belief.
Not everything is bad in this film, much as I am deriding it. In fact, there IS a lot of fantastic stuff in this. The animation looks spectacular in every scene, the action scenes are actually tremendous to watch and were the few times I had my eyes glued to the screen, and the brass-y and jazz-y score by Michael Giacchino is just as excellent as the first film's. Indeed, there ARE great things in this film.
However...if you're going to make us wait 14 years to do something new with this endlessly-interesting world you built, you need to do something NEW and INTERESTING with a sequel like this. Not copy the first film, attempt weak commentary that has already been done better in other media, and expect us not to notice otherwise.
I'm tremendously disappointed in Brad Bird. I'm tremendously disappointed with Pixar. But most of all, I'm tremendously disappointed with 'Incredibles 2'.
But hey...at least we still have the first film, right?
An Unconventional Horror Thrill Ride
In this age of horror being very much reliant on the gimmicks and unique right hooks to the audience to get them into the seats, it's not entirely common that one sees a good old fashioned spook-house horror film.
No gimmicks. No twists. Just a film that does its absolute best to get your skin crawling, nerves tightened, and heart pounding.
'Hereditary', as you may imagine, is one of those films.
'Hereditary' is about as simple as a horror movie nowadays can come; terrible circumstances befall a seemingly ordinary family, these circumstances lead to discoveries of something terrible in their family tree, and soon enough things come apart rather quickly.
What this film excels at is all in the technicals. The performances are all beyond convincing and do the job selling the understated terror this film has to offer. Specifically, Toni Collette delivers in a manner that had even my skin crawling.
What is also noticeable when it comes to this film's strengths is the excellent cinematography. While it is perhaps not as flashy and noticeable as 'Upgrade' and its revolutionary camera-work that I raved about, this film accomplishes a more suitable sense of suspense and nerve-wracking tension through it. Whether in-motion or standing completely still, the camera makes itself apparent in this film and works beyond effectively.
The only thing of it is, this film is not for you if you prefer a straightforward and conventional horror film. The first act is very much a slow burn, while the rest of the film builds its horror and tension in ways that I do not believe a general audience would appreciate quite as much. It's not abstract, but considering it lacks the conventions of jumpscares and instead relies on atmosphere, mood, and its performances to scare...that perhaps explains a bit why the film is striking the general audience as so polarizing.
But, if you can appreciate a slow, creepy, atmospheric film that aims directly to make your skin crawl and make you shuffle in your seat, I think you'll truly enjoy the ride this film takes you on.
Unconventional, scary as hell, but perhaps not perfect in what it aspires to do, 'Hereditary' is still a scary time for all the right reasons.
Brutal. Dark. Hilarious. Exciting. Fun.
What. A. Film.
It's honestly incredibly challenging to simply describe what 'Upgrade' is. Is it Sci-Fi? Is it Horror? Is it Action? Is it Comedy?
I'll tell you what it is in the shortest form possible, however.
It. Is. AWESOME.
'Upgrade' was perhaps the most fun I have had at a theatre so far this year. Whether it be through sick thrills of action, incredible feats of filmmaking, great performances worth recognizing, or even simply the feeling this film gives of a sleek action/sci-fi that is pumped full of the strongest steroids and adrenaline imaginable...this film has it all.
'Upgrade' deals with a mechanic, Grey Trace, who through tragedy and opportunity, is endowed with abilities incomprehensible to us...and that is ALL I will tell you, as giving even the tiniest bit more away would honestly ruin all of the surprises and fun that awaits you once you enter the domain of this film.
What I CAN tell you is that what follows you blindly entering this brisk 95 minute trip into sci-fi/action insanity is pure spectacle from the often-told story of Man and Machine. However, as even the posters tell you, this story of Grey Trace and his newfound abilities is not about man. It's not about machine. It's MORE.
And "More" is precisely what this film brings to the table. After a slower burn of a start, the remainder of our runtime is like a thrill ride at an amusement park that you never want to get off of. Incredible and downright revolutionary cinematography and fight choreography. A droning soundtrack that brings up echoes of Brad Fiedel's work in 'The Terminator'. A pitch-black sense of humor that is executed perfectly for the film's tone. A struggle of Man versus Machine that seems something of a send-up to 'RoboCop', only with 21st century parts...and coked out of its mind.
With an apparently micro-budget and backing from the folks at Blumhouse, what manages to be created here is what I believe has the makings of an essential Sci-Fi cult classic. The feeling of being in a theatre to see this, hearing cheers and awed reactions from fellow audience members, grasping the atmosphere of it all...this film BEGS to be seen, and begs to be enjoyed for the incredible, spectacular little Indie film it is. This film, and the experience seeing it with a full theatre, is what this medium is MADE FOR.
In conclusion, what I can tell you is this; if this film is playing anywhere NEAR you, I urge you to get off your computer and go see it immediately. This is by far the most fun film I have seen so far this year, and I think everyone should support a great piece of Indie filmmaking like this so we can show Hollywood what kind of products we want to see. A product like THIS ONE.
'Upgrade' is brutal. 'Upgrade' is tragic. 'Upgrade' is dark. 'Upgrade' is revolutionary. 'Upgrade' is hilarious. 'Upgrade' is fun.
But most of all, in my opinion at least, 'Upgrade' is PERFECT.
Go. See. This. Now.
The Green Fog (2017)
A fun little experiment
It's incredibly hard to give this film a proper "review", considering it'd be a stretch to even consider this a proper "film" in the first place.
My initial impressions were that this was an amateur sort of "video collage" of random film clips in and around the San Francisco area in a neat-yet-uninteresting montage style. I wasn't impressed, and almost annoyed that I had invested my time in what seemed to essentially be a video collage of San Francisco movie clips.
But then, the intrigue kicked-in once I began to read between the lines and look at the framework. Like any good mystery, all it took was a little detective work to find the roots of a classic buried deep within this experimental little bugger.
In the long run, I find myself impressed by this film for the sheer power of editing, the commitment to creating a certain story from hundreds of clips to make something that felt even vaguely coherent, and additionally the amount of work it must have taken to gather all these clips together in the first place.
That said, I seriously do not recommend entering this expecting a "film". If anything, this is a glorified editing project that has admirable execution. It feels clunky as an experimental piece tends to feel, and for a film that brandishes a brisk run-time of barely over an hour, this still drags in places. Again, simply the pitfalls of this being an experimental art-piece, not really a feature-length film.
It isn't perfect, but as a video editor who admires editing challenges such as this, I can certainly appreciate the artistry that went into this.
Not a great film, but as an art project or exhibit? It's a fun little gem~
First Reformed (2017)
'Taxi Driver' meets Christianity in character piece of Academy Award-worthy proportions
In terms of stories of religion and faith, it is not very often that I see ones that present me with an interesting story that shows a quandary of beliefs. It is also not often that I see stories of religion and faith that feature a character and performance that is on-par with that of Travis Bickle from 'Taxi Driver'.
In 'First Reformed', I got both, and it is absolutely enthralling.
Ethan Hawke stars as Reverend Holler, a man of strong religious beliefs that gets caught in the crossfire of a changing world, both in the realm of the church and of business. Thus, he spirals-into an inner turmoil that threatens to break more than just himself.
'First Reformed' pits the world of the church and Christianity of a yesteryear against the world of religion now, which is just as full of its own questionable pitfalls as classical religion is viewed to hold. Now, personally, I lack a horse in this battle of ethics.
At the same time, however, the subject was so intriguing to behold as the main conflict and themes of this intriguing story of 'religion-gone-Taxi Driver' that I couldn't help but stay deeply-entrenched in the conflict we see Ethan Hawke's character in.
Classical vs. Modern. Mega-churches vs. Traditionalist churches. Man vs. Society. We see all these conflicts unfold within 'First Reformed' and its tightly-packed run-time.
All the while, this conflict is portrayed in pitch-perfect fashion by Ethan Hawke, who delivers what I can only describe as his greatest performance of his career. His is truly next-level in this film, and I cannot describe enough to you about how captivating it is to watch Hawke in this film. He is spectacular in this, and an early frontrunner for the Academy Award without a doubt in my mind.
This film is not without its own bundle of flaws, to be fair. Certain sequences me made question the intent and decisions made by director Paul Schrader, and the ending itself is something I'm still not terribly sure I agree with in terms of its content. However, these flaws are not truly enough to take away from how much I abundantly enjoyed the majority of this film.
In the end, this film is all about faith. Faith being challenged. Faith being destroyed by a changing society around you. Faith's duality in man. Ultimately, the film is about Faith, and how Hope and Despair are ultimately intertwined in such an unsure and changing time in our world.
In the world of film, the tales of religion vary from spectacular to the mundane. In this case, I feel it falls somewhere on the higher end. While not spectacular, 'First Reformed' is certainly one of the best pieces of film that 2018 has had to offer thus far.
Once it hits wider release, you should definitely check it out. I guarantee the faith you put in it will be worth it~
Deadpool 2 (2018)
Better than the original in just about every facet
It's finally here! The film all those creepy people at conventions who mistake cosplay for invasion of personal space will be quoting for years on end!
To preface real quickly: I truly liked the first Deadpool film. While I never believed it was as big of a 'game-changer' as most people branded it, other than it being the first R-rated superhero smash hit, I thought it was an entertaining and simple film that deserved most of the adoration it got from its fans.
This, though?...Wow, let's talk about this...
Deadpool 2, as most sequels do, takes its predecessor and cranks everything to 11. The jokes are flying at the audience faster, the stakes are heightened, the action is heightened, likely triple the amount of characters, a plot that is somehow jumbled and bloated in comparison to the original's simple one...
...And in the end, what we get is actually an absolutely great time at the cinemas.
Don't get me wrong, this film is flawed. Its CG work is still absolutely horrid and little was improved from the first film, its characters lack much depth beyond a kiddie pool, and the plot somehow manages to feel overstuffed compared to the first's minimal plot, as it feels as if it has two Second Acts and two Third Acts.
But...gosh-darnit...this film is simply the most consistently hilarious comedy that has been released thus far this year.
From the first minute of this film, as one would expect from a Deadpool sequel, the jokes are flying fast and furious toward you. In terms of how many of them land...to give you a fair ratio, if one joke falls flat, about nine of them land.
This film is HILARIOUS, and while it never has anything too in-depth to commentate on regarding the superhero genre of film, which is coming dangerously close to the state of 'over-saturation', this deviation of the genre and take-nothing-serious approach is more fun than any DCEU film has managed to be, even when they try to be.
Dialogue gags, sight gags, editing gags, even an incredible credits sequence that comes straight out of nowhere that managed to both leave me in hysterics and somehow top the first film's excellent opening sequence, this film brings an entire arsenal of jokes that work nine-out-of-ten times. A ratio like that, I think any mainstream comedy would kill for.
The cinematography here is also surprisingly well-done in terms of action and choreography, which comes as no surprise to me considering the film was directed by one half of the creative team behind 'John Wick' (David Leitch), with cinematography by the man who did the INCREDIBLE camera work for the same film (Jonathan Sela). Whereas the first film looked muddy and ugly in its low-budget glory, this film trades that for action scenes and sequences that really do look FANTASTIC at times. When the scenes are allowed to be practical, and the ugly CG is traded-in for actual actors, these action sequences look great.
So yes, this film is not perfect. It certainly has flaws in plot flow, its FX department, and still doesn't truly commentate on the superhero genre in any way, shape, or form.
But with THAT said; this film is consistently hilarious, features great action, has an unending sense of fun that never ceases...and yes, has the best post-credits sequence ever.
I've thought hard about it, but...I think this is an instance where the sequel surpassed the original. Go nuts, internet!
You Were Never Really Here (2017)
A great performance by Joaquin Phoenix, but that's about it
A great performance by Joaquin Phoenix and good cinematography is squandered by strange editing choices, a weak script, and an overall lack of clarity in what the film aimed to achieve.
Worth seeing if you want to see a great performance from Phoenix, but otherwise? Skip it.
Intriguing, albeit a bit unfocused
"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts"
There's perhaps no stories in film more fascinating than those about our mothers. In a way, a mother has to play multiple roles, as Shakespeare described, which makes them better actors than most. They make up all parts in order to satisfy those who they love or simply tolerate, which makes the emotional core of stories about motherhood and parenthood that much more fascinating.
In "Tully", however, I don't think I have ever seen the concept of a Mother needing to play multiple roles done in a more intriguing execution.
The newest film from duo Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody (The directing/writing team behind "Juno" and "Young Adult") "Tully" truly is a film about motherhood, but it is also a film about not losing yourself in the process. It is about how motherhood can indeed drive you crazy. It is indeed a film about a lot of things, some of them absolutely insane, which made it the fascinating little film I managed to find it.
The strengths of this film are prominently the performances, as Charlize Theron simply knocks it out of the park. You buy every second of her as Marlo, an overworked and teetering-on-depressed mother of three who's struggle comes from life and what it expects of her. In addition, we also have Mackenzie Adams as Tully, her "night nanny", who plays-off brilliantly with her and makes for a really lovely chemistry between them. If anything was a massive plus for this film, the performances are that.
The screenplay also manages to be an interesting enigma in of itself, as I cannot fully describe it as "realism" or "surrealism". What I CAN describe it as, however, is "great". It is a great piece of writing that never feels forced in its efforts, though its main pitfalls come from its pacing.
The pacing is a bit aimless, and at times I had to wonder where the real structure was. It feels as if we make it two acts in, but the third act really only deflates and we find ourselves in a dead-end. Even with the film's admittingly intriguing twist it decides to take to steer its course in another direction entirely, I almost feel the film's third act was underdeveloped and needed more foundation to give us the full impact of this direction Cody and Reitman decided to take.
With that in-mind, the film feels uneven at its worst. It could have truly used more to it than a nice screenplay with good performances with an interesting twist to its concept. While "I want more!" is not a terrible complaint for a film, I feel this one needed more to it if one were to really leave this film feeling they had been told a great story that they never saw coming.
In the end, "Tully" doesn't truly re-invent the wheel, nor does it fall into too many pitfalls. Armed with great performances and a script that isn't too complex but just interesting enough, I think the film is a different enough twist on the classic mother story to be worth a look. It doesn't do anything terrible, and its performances and screenplay are what make it rise above standard fare.
In the end, I recommend seeing it for Charlize Theron alone, a woman who is seemingly so good at playing every role she is given. Much like a mother is expected to do so, in a way. In that sense, she was perfectly-casted, no?
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
A Herculean feat of Screenwriting and Directing
I'm not a big "fan" of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Just wanted to get that out of the way right here and now before people begin to question my allegiance or my bias of where I stand before I start this review.
As I have told many people, I do not blindly follow this series of films wherever they may go. I enjoy Marvel when they make GOOD films, just as I would any other studio, director, writer, etc.
In some cases, I find the MCU films to feel almost "cookie-cutter" when they are at their worst. The acting is fine, the action is fine, cinematography is typically 'safe' and doesn't break new ground as often as a series of this magnitude really should. No real risks are taken. I think of 'safe' when I think of many of their films, which isn't BAD, per-say, but I wish these films would be more risky in how they handle their material.
Try something new...Trying something daring...Try something DIFFERENT...
Well. My wishes were granted. In spades.
'Avengers: Infinity War' is not a perfect film. In fact, it's not even the best film in the MCU. However, it was absolutely EVERYTHING it was billing itself to be. It IS new. It IS daring. It IS different.
But let's un-pack that before I lose myself here. Because there's certainly A LOT to talk about...in NO SPOILER terms ;)
The tone of this film, without giving anything major away, is by far the bleakest of any of these films have dared to go. This storyline and these characters that they have been teasing for 10 years are now paying-off massively, as we are now seeing real consequence in this world that has been established. Your favorite characters are here, yes, but they ARE at-risk against a threat that isn't treated lightly. There isn't any awful Yo Mama jokes like in TLJ to dilute the drama and tone.
This is DARK, and the Russo Brothers do not let you off of that ride for you or the childrens' comfort level, which is precisely what I think this part of the story needed. The many comparisons I have seen to 'Empire Strikes Back' are not invalid, as its tone, manner, and even themes are extremely similar in more ways than one.
I can tell the Russo Brothers, fresh off of 'Winter Soldier' and 'Civil War', were allowed to make a film that resembles their film, and not a studio mandate. They make decisions that I KNOW will be extremely unpopular with a lot of people, but unlike a certain franchise tentpole, this film does it without self-destructing the reason we come for these films, which is intrinsically the characters and this massive, sprawling story.
Let's move on to that topic, The Characters. By far the strongest bone in this film's body is the characters and character interaction, as most Marvel films seem to excel at. After 10 years, we see all of these characters we've grown to love come-together and interact, and my goodness is it everything we have been waiting for. The dialogue here is sharp when it needs to be witty, is slow when we reach the emotional valleys, it can even reach heartwarming and heartbreaking at some points depending on what connection you have forged with these characters over the last few years.
A character I find particularly captivating in this film, however, is the antagonist itself. Thanos, believe it or not, is an extremely interesting character once we see him and learn what he's all about and capable of. This isn't another case of "big bad Marvel bad guy man". He is genuinely a character I find fascinating, which shows Marvel took notes as far as I'm concerned. If anyone's fear was that they would get him wrong after 6 years of building him up, consider those fears squashed. This is a Marvel VILLAIN, and I mean that in the best way possible.
To combine both prior points, hats off to screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely for managing to juggle all of these characters and such a massive story and manage to make it COHERENT. Under many other writers' watches, this likely would have been A MESS, but the way the story progressed and characters were incorporated was, for the most part, expertly done. Every character gets a moment of their own, the ones we truly care for get integral arcs over the film's massive run-time, and in the end we hardly feel that certain characters were left out of the proceedings. I wondered how they would manage all of these characters, and they managed to walk the tightrope without falling.
The score is also a welcome and noticeable addition, as the talents of composer Alan Silvestri ('Back to the Future', 'The Avengers', 'Predator') were brought back for this film. There are plenty of excellent pieces of music in the film, along with the Avengers theme itself (The only noticeable orchestral pieces these films really has ever had), and it is welcome to have excellent music in these films again after the disaster Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman presented to us in 'Age of Ultron'. The music only adds to the feel of the film, which is what good movie music should rightfully do.
Now, all of this considered, this film is NOT perfect. In fact, a couple glaring flaws made themselves apparent throughout the film, though they were moreso "Tiny cracks" than "Gaping holes", so to speak.
For starters, the action cinematography is actually shockingly bad in the early half of the film. At some points, I could barely tell what was even supposed to be happening. The fights in the early part of the film suffer from SCS, or should I say "Shaky Cam Syndrome", as we are over-stimulated and shown too much CG in these portions to process what we're supposed to be looking at. That said, the action cinematography does improve as the film moves along, so this isn't a problem that knocks-out the foundations of the film. However, the action early on is NOTICEABLY bad, which certainly hurts.
Editing at times was also rather choppy, as odd choices are made in some portions of the film that made me scratch my head. I can't name anything in particular, though most of my issues with the editing stemmed from odd transitions and segues that almost looked like "abandoned transitions", where an attempt was seemingly made to stitch two scenes together...and then proceeded to be hacked-and-slashed to trim 2 seconds off the run-time, for some odd reason.
And that's perhaps my only real issue with this film; the flow of the film. So much of it feels as if it's begging to be smoother, but instead there are sequences where it simply feels too long or too short in places. At some points, we will be on a plot thread, cut-away from it, and will not return to said thread until 20-25 minutes later. I genuinely feel that this sort of thing could have been fixed with a better editor, or simply a smoother-written story, though considering how already miraculous it is that this film managed to be coherent with how much it had to juggle, perhaps the odder pacing was only a by-product of trying to assemble all of this together.
But in the end, is this massive assemblage of Marvel films and characters a success? Is this the film that is worth all the hype of 10 years and an entire film franchise has been leading up to?
'Infinity War' is a tremendously fun time at the cinemas. It is quite literally an 'Epic', sprawling across so many characters, universes, worlds, tones, etc. This film feels like an event, which it may very well be, and I can safely say the Russo Brothers and writers Markus and McFeely as well pulled off a miracle and made such a Herculean task of a film into something I think is a great summer blockbuster and a tremendous first part of what is sure to be a grand finale for this universe we've seen grow over a decade.
I may not be a huge Marvel fan, but this is certainly a GOOD film. In fact, I'd dare say a GREAT one.
A Quiet Place (2018)
A Conventional take on the Unconventional
In horror cinema nowadays, the traditions of slasher flicks and torture films have been replaced. Now, it's all about high concept and gimmicks that sell the films. A simple idea that grabs the intrigue of an audience member that is up to the director to decide whether it is a worth one to stretch into a 90+ minute film. In that sense, we are getting more experimental horror films than ever before in this modern age of cinema, especially with companies like Blumhouse and A24 rolling the dice on small budget, high-concept films.
For the film 'A Quiet Place', the gimmick is simply silence...and I cannot lie, if this is an indicator of where mainstream horror is heading, the genre may not be as far-gone as so many people deemed it only a few short years ago.
'A Quiet Place' is a horror film with a concept so simple yet so fascinating; antagonists who have incredible hearing can only be stifled by not making any loud noises whatsoever. Thus, a majority of this briskly-paced 90 minute film is executed in near-silence. Characters speak through sign language. Acting is mostly done through movement and expression. Everything is done subtly and without a need to pander or 'dumb it down', for the most part.
Admittingly, I expected this effect and technique to be broken almost immediately, but what I received was commitment to this concept. With a few rare exceptions, the film owns the advantages and disadvantages this decision comes with, and makes for an intriguing theatre experience as you sit in a multiplex theatre with crowds of others, nervously pinned to your seat in the highest of high tension scenes. In THIS space, someone can hear you munch popcorn.
What also impresses me regarding this film is its use of sound design, perhaps obviously enough. A particular choice is made for one character that creates for an interesting sequence or two regarding sound, which were highlights for this film when it came to its tension scenes.
That said, this film isn't without faults, and pretty glaring ones at that. At multiple points, the film falls into the typical genre pitfalls of cliche and logic holes. A certain 'rule' of the world they establish actually threatened to wreck my suspension of disbelief at one point, though I stuck with the film simply because it was so fascinating in what it aimed to achieve. Even so, various scenes feel like they were producer-mandated and had fingerprints of people who "know what a horror movie should be like". It reeks of cliche at times, which is a shame considering how unconventional the initial concept was and how much open space it had to do some intriguing things.
Along with these leaps of logic and simply dumb things I noticed while watching it, the sheer feeling of "polish" throughout the film was unfortunately hard to miss. Seeing as this was handled by Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes production company, it was unfortunate to see various scenes lost in their feeling of grit once I looked in the back and started to realize how much the scene looked like a SET and not an environment that was lived-in.
I feel, if this screenplay and concept was handled by someone like Trey Edward Schultz ("It Comes At Night", one of my favorites of 2017) and a studio like A24 or Blumhouse, this could have been a landmark film in the horror genre. This could have received the gritty, unrelenting and unique direction such a concept needs to thrive. Instead, what we get is a polished version of an idea that so desperately wants to be unleashed in full execution. Instead, we get the studio-mandated version, which isn't BAD by any means...but not as great as it should have been. The phrase "A conventional take on the unconventional" continues to reverb in my mind, and I think this describes the film perfectly.
All of that said, I cannot say this film does not excel in many regards. The concept is something we haven't seen executed on this kind of scale in recent memory, the performances all suit the film perfectly, the sound design is top-notch, the world-building is actually quite excellent and give us a believable method to how this family lives in a world where no one can make a sound, and some scenes are actually quite proficient at piling-on tension.
Amidst genre pitfalls and cliches, 'A Quiet Place' manages to be a good time at the theatre that was pleasantly self-contained and without too much silliness. For a 90 minute gauntlet of horror and suspense with an interesting premise, I think much of the current cinemas producing schlock horror could learn a thing or two from the execution of this film. Considering this film's incredible first weekend take, I think audiences are interested in cool concepts for a horror film like this as well.
If silence is indeed golden, this film isn't quite 4 karat, but it most certainly is up there...
Snatching Mediocrity from the jaws of Intrigue
There's a part of me that absolutely adores it when a filmmaker goes the experimental route and tries something that's never really been done before.
And while this isn't the first time this sort of filming technique has been used for a film, I had to say, I was rather intrigued when I was sitting down for "Unsane", the new film by Steve Soderbergh ('Ocean's Eleven', 'Contagion', 'Magic Mike').
To explain: 'Unsane' was entirely filmed on an iPhone 7 camera in only ten days, which is incredible in that it was made entirely in secrecy by a big name director such as Soderbergh. The budget also barely pokes over $1 million total. By all accounts, this is as INDIE as a big name director can get.
So you probably will start asking yourself: "How does it look?"
To me...I think the film would have been LESS interesting if it was filmed in the typical method of high quality digital cameras. I know I always use the term "nightmarish" to describe claustrophobic cinematography in films, but this film looks like a NIGHTMARE. Fluorescent lighting and angles look warped and distorted, as if our characters are living in a German expressionist film, close ups look terrifying as we see every emotional detail of these characters in sketchy quality that only a phone camera could really capture in full. The whole film looks like a fever dream, and unlike 'Tangerine' (The first feature film to be filmed on an iPhone), this film truly has a "reason" to be filmed in this style.
To me, the experiment Steve Soderbergh tested here WORKED. The cinematography is its own style, and when a film can define itself with that sort of technique, it has certainly succeeded.
Going hand-in-hand with this great cinematography is the surprising performance by Claire Foy, who is admittingly quite good in her role of a person you have to decide if you think is crazy or not crazy. She does have a few slip-ups where you can hear her British accent come out...but other than that, she is a convincing central character and I bought every emotion coming out of her.
So it probably sounds like I really enjoyed this film thus far, correct?
The problem is, I enjoyed the first TWO-THIRDS of this film. After that, I think this film absolutely falls apart and loses everything I thought it had going for it.
A certain sequence in the film that looks absolutely SPECTACULAR is really the last time I connected with the film before a certain plot detail and twist begins to make itself apparent. As it began to unfold, I thought "There's no way they'd go with something THIS stock and basic..."
Unfortunately, they do, and by the time the film is running-down its last 15-20 minutes, my intrigue had been sapped and I was left simply to watch a film that was going through the motions. A crime that films can commit is being "Bad", for sure, but a worse crime a film can commit is being "Boring". The third act of this film is guilty of exactly that. It's stock and went exactly as I predicted it would, which truly hurts.
And let us discuss THE ENDING, which I think may be one of the worst of the last few years, right alongside 'The Devil Inside', 'Skyline' or 'The Florida Project'. The ending is such a sloppy and slapdash piece of cinema that I really wonder WHY they even bothered to shoot it. It's boring, cliche, has yet to really make much sense to me since I saw it (I saw this film on Tuesday, by the way...), it looks TERRIBLE in comparison with the rest of the film, and leaves us on a freeze-frame shot that looked completely unplanned and clearly done as a way to say "Yep! That's the end!". While I could've seen something more developed working in a similar vein, this just felt awful and like a last-ditch effort to end the film in an 'unresolved' manner, which this film never had the course for after its third act. Simply awful.
In the end, I left this film feeling extremely disappointed, really. I was enjoying the film quite a bit up until a certain point, where everything just seemed to fall into the pits of the cliched and been-there-done-that. Perhaps it was partly my fault for expecting more out of a film that promised a unique look and story about sanity, but in the end, I can blame the film as well for squandering such an incredible opportunity to make an interesting psychological thriller/horror film with such a weak third act. It PAINS ME that this film couldn't be good all the way through.
...THAT SAID...I really cannot say enough about the cinematography in this film. Steve Soderbergh's work in this (Yes, he directed AND filmed this!) looks absolutely stellar, even for an iPhone camera, and makes it worth seeing just for curiosity's sake alone. I feel it works far better than it did for 'Tangerine', and clicks with me on a level that it puts you in the perspective of our protagonist, who is struggling with her sanity in a place that is a proverbial nightmare. The film looks like a bad dream, and in the end, that appealed to me on that level of loving to see experimenting in film.
It's just a shame that the intriguing experimentation meant a sacrifice for an intriguing story and third act. This could have been a far better film than it was. In the end, it lands somewhere in the middle for me...though I REALLY wish it didn't...
Isle of Dogs (2018)
How could you NOT love it?
In my experience, Wes Anderson films have always made great date films.
Not even joking. My first proper movie date was with my girlfriend was when we saw The Grand Budapest Hotel. We instantly fell in love with it, and it's a night I still remember fondly for the experience we had in a theater that consisted mainly of us and one other couple. It was simply magical.
And that, perhaps, is what makes me love Wes Anderson's work so much; it's simply movie magic. The man can take any setup he pleases and turn it into a whimsical, silly, but somehow all the same "Important" piece of film that holds its own weight. In short, Wes Anderson has made himself an icon when it comes to the quirky and whimsy in film. His films are a warm blanket that I love to wrap myself in.
In 'Isle of Dogs', the immediate strengths of Wes Anderson are apparent: the worlds he builds. The world of Megasaki and Trash Island are all realized in vivid detail, complete with a massive array of characters on both human and animal ends that one can recall and adore. Rather than the recent disappointment of 'Black Panther', where characterization took a backseat, this film OOZES character and a rich world you can feel. You can show me images of characters from this film and from their appearance ALONE I can tell you a story about them and what I enjoyed about them. The colorful and vast array of characters is something I think I loved most about this film, and still sticks with me even as I write this review.
What else has to be admired regarding this film is its respectful and quite incredible treatment of Japanese culture and art. Right from the get-go, Anderson makes it apparent he WANTS the culture to envelope us. All Japanese characters speak Japanese. Only 1-2 humans speak English. The dogs only speak "English" for the benefit of our understanding of their dialogue. Megasaki LOOKS like Japan. Japanese text is constantly displayed and is translated in subtitles for only our benefit. There is clear respect paid to the culture Wes wishes to show us, and for having that courage to not simplify it out of sheer convenience, I admire his work here.
Additionally, the homages to Japanese cinema, specifically Kurosawa, were welcome beyond all belief in this film. This film is hardly a zany and swift-moving animated film that one sees in this day and age. Heck, it is not even in the same league of movement and speed as Fantastic Mr. Fox was. Rather, this is a film that runs on its own pace, derived from Japanese cinema, and finds its footing in that delivery. It is a crisp, complete-feeling film that FEELS like a 2-hour film, but in the end, it barely coasts over 100 minute total...but it feels absolutely perfect in the time we are given in this rich world. In fact, by the time the film ended, I wanted MORE of the world I had seen.
The animation, as if you are even remotely surprised, is GORGEOUS. Every frame, and I mean EVERY FRAME, is just magnificent to look at. Where Fantastic Mr. Fox had the warm cinematography on its side, Isle of Dogs sports a bleaker texture, though it manages to create its own charm that way. You feel the characters' emotions through their well-animated faces, you can see every hair on the dogs' bodies move, you feel every movement of this film and adore it for how charming and Wes Anderson-y it is. Thankfully, the only thing you can NOT feel is the scent of Trash Island...
The only thing that has bugged me since seeing this film, however, is how little time the film has to really have FUN. The film is surprisingly played straight in most regards when it comes to conflict, and its tone is whimsy in some regards, but the laughs are surprisingly not as common as you would suspect them to be in a Wes Anderson product. This is not a case of a cultural barrier, but perhaps simply that the story Anderson chose to tell was far more important than including all the laughs he could. The tone of this film is "different" than most of his films, which is perhaps a good thing. It works for the film...but for most, I imagine "different Wes Anderson" won't click with everyone.
The lack of too much "fun" is noticeable, however, in that we do not see too much of the silly side of this world Wes Anderson has built. We get occasional glimpses and gags that are classic Anderson and certainly hit, but by the end, it is a surprisingly serious tone the film chooses to maintain in its climax. Again, this WORKS, but I wonder how much more I would have loved the film if it were as child-like and fun as Fantastic Mr. Fox or Grand Budapest Hotel tended to be.
The sometimes-noticeable lack of "fun", however, does not detract entirely from the enjoyment of the film itself. It is just as quirky and out-there in the best ways possible as any other Wes Anderson film, and thanks to that, the film simply beams with charm. Whether it be its animation style, Anderson's unique direction, or the fantastically unique score by Alexandre Desplate, this film sticks-out as any good Wes Anderson film should.
That said, the strongest thing (Aside from the animation) about this film is its subtle message it attempts to strike. This film is one about companionship and love, which is a feeling that often goes hand-in-paw with the subject of dogs and pets. If you have ever been a dog owner, this film WILL strike a chord with you, as it has some very important things to say about our relationship with them that I think often goes understated.
Dogs are a connection. Dogs are a beacon of loyalty and family. "Dogs" don't need to be dogs. Dogs are man's best friend.
How could you not love dogs?
How could you not love a Wes Anderson film ABOUT dogs?
The Florida Project (2017)
TRASH...in the best way possible
'The Florida Project' is probably one of the more interesting animals of 2017 for me.
I was extremely excited to finally see this film, as I had heard praise showered upon it for multiple aspects of it. I was told it was a great Indie film, was trashy and unapologetic, and was told the performances were all spectacular. Heck, I even stayed in the same 1-mile stretch of Kissimmee, Florida that this was filmed in only a week or so ago!
In the end, though...this film is TRASH.
When I say 'trash', I don't mean it in the deriding, demeaning manner. I mean it in the FEEL of the film. This film spends its time covering a surprisingly ignored but very much present reality of the bottom class of modern American society.
Taking place in the shadow of Disney World in Florida, this film strives to depict the harshness of the lives that these people face. I am almost reminded of the film 'Gummo', which depicted the life of slums in Ohio in an extremely similar manner. In fact, I would almost consider this a companion piece to that film. Considering this comes 20 years after the release of Gummo, I can believe they are tightly interwoven in their 'film DNA', so to speak.
But enough about me comparing this to cult indie films. You probably want to hear me tell you whether it's GOOD or BAD, right? Whether it lives up to the hype or if it's 'overrated'?
In the end, I feel it is an odd mix of both.
The performances in this film are SPECTACULAR. Willem Dafoe turns in a subtle performance that has the most humanity I've seen from a character he's played in a long time. I'm almost upset that Sam Rockwell turned-in as good of a performance as he did in 'Three Billboards', because this is easily one of Dafoe's best performances and easily could have won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor if it wasn't such a tight year for it.
The real highlight of the performances featured here, however, is 7-year old Brooklynn Prince. Having worked with children for 6-7 years now, I cannot tell you how PERFECT they captured the way children speak in this film. They behave exactly as I'd imagine them to, and Brooklynn manages to capture a rough, childlike innocence that is really at the center of a story about children and the places they grow up in that influence them, positively or negatively. If there's anything I can point to that works at an incredibly high level, it is certainly the child acting. I cannot imagine a world where Prince does not have a career in the next 5-10 years.
Other than the performances, another attribute the film has going for it is its gorgeous, sun-baked cinematography. Filmed on 35 mm film (Except for one sequence which we'll discuss later...), shots in this film evoke postcard-like imagery that makes the environment shine. Whether its something grungy and disgusting or natural and beautiful, this film looks incredible even on the smallest possible screens. Massive praise to Alexis Zabe, who'd likely get an Oscar nomination if Blade Runner 2049 didn't exist.
The points of contention begin to arrive and the film becomes subjective when it comes to the story itself. Coming from my point of view, a man who really LIKES three-act structure and a coherent story, this film...really does not have a story at all. It is about a poor community that struggles to live with each other, perhaps? Or perhaps it is about children and what society does to corrupt them? Or perhaps it is a critique of society in general? I could not tell you, as the film flows freely and lets its imagery speak for itself.
At times, the film feels bloated. There was a certain point around the hour and a half mark where I truly began to feel the film drag its knuckles and lose me. Again, a sacrifice that comes from such a free-form concept for a film, but it's not as if the film is "too long", as some have complained. It is simply just a very loose film, which requires a patient audience. Thankfully, I am patient. But not everyone is.
Finally, we come to the thing that has gained infamy about this film; the ending. While I will not dare spoil the ending, it...is indeed as bad as everyone has made it out to be. It's jarring, it doesn't really work with any of the plot threads or character attributes established, and due to the nature of it, it is not even filmed in 35 mm and can retain the beauty of the rest of the film. It feels unneeded, and almost as if director Sean Baker struggled to find a cohesive way to end the film. If you ask me, endings to independent films are ALLOWED to be abrupt, which is why this attempt at a 'tying it with a bow' ending feels cliche, jarring, and just...bad.
All of that aside, and with flaws taken into account...I think this film is still absolutely lovely. The performances are all excellent and sell me that the characters I see are fleshed-out, real people. The cinematography looks postcard-esque and captures a city I have been to and can validate is spot-on in its depiction.
'The Florida Project' is uneven, but perhaps it has all the right to be. It is about characters who are rough around the edges and have their own issues, which we simply watch as their lives move along and they simply try to live by their means. It is a fascinating look at a part of the country that we sometimes forget exists, and I certainly can say I was not upset that I gave it my time of day.
Despite it being rough and uneven, even by an indie film's standards, I recommend you give it a look! I think there's something to love for everyone in this film.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
A 21st Century Masterpiece
I have a...history...with Blade Runner.
Coming upon the new generation of viewers that I've opened the 1982 classic to, I've found that its reception is far more mixed and ponderous than the undying cult following it has acquired in the 30+ years since the original's flop of a release.
Unlike the love many pour upon it from that era, many of my friends I have introduced it to have often exited it feeling indifferent about its story and characters, but strongly about the visual style and the world that Ridley Scott intended to create with it.
My personal opinion? The original is a visual masterpiece. Its look and feel are unlike any other film from the 1980's, and I will die with the opinion that it is the best-looking film of that era by my side.
Why do I bring this up? Because I believe Blade Runner 2049 is a revamp that successfully weds everything that I love about Blade Runner and everything that it was lacking that left my friends confused. This is the 'Blade Runner' for a new generation, and my goodness, is it a mean machine.
It goes without saying that this film looks SPECTACULAR. It is quite honestly one of the few films in this era that I can look at and buy EVERYTHING that is on-screen. The world is vivid as it was back in 1982, and I cannot knock the gorgeous, Oscar-winning cinematography by Roger Deakins. Every frame of this film, quite literally, is a painting I would want hung on my wall. If you need ONE REASON to see this film, see it to just LOOK at it.
The story, unlike the unsure one in the original cult classic, has a direction here that is clear and mostly straightforward. It remains just as mysterious in its tone as the original, and it still is most certainly a neo-noir tale, but I feel as if its necessary upgrades make it a more palatable film for modern audiences. If the story of the original felt 'empty', this is hardly that.
The performances, how little there are, are obviously all incredible. I can hardly see the Ryan Gosling who starred in La La Land just a short year ago in the role of Agent K, Jared Leto completely redeems himself from his awful turn as The Joker, and Ana de Armas is beautifully subtle in a rather integral role to the film. Harrison Ford is also in the film, for a period that isn't as long as you likely wish he was, but he's in it just enough to service the story and NOT just the fans. It works.
And that's the phrase I choose to describe this film with. It WORKS. Everything that could have been absolutely sloppy about a Blade Runner sequel is completely erased by the time you make it halfway through this film. It does not feel like some Hollywood producer drudged-up the name just to bank-off something recognizable.
This film has LOVE put into it. Director Denis Villeneuve clearly adores the previous work, the world it established, and everything he is building with this film. It feels like it has heart, it looks like it has heart, and in the end...it DOES have that heart necessary for a sequel to one of the most iconic films of all time.
In the end, I am very torn. I need many more viewings before I can absolutely be sure of myself on this judgement...
...but I think Blade Runner 2049 may end up being one of the best films of the early 21st century.
But that is for time and you to decide. Go out and see it so you may judge for yourself. Much as this film "bombed" at the box office, I think a proper audience will save this masterpiece from becoming more than just tears in rain...
Game Night (2018)
A fun, darkly comedic detour
A comedy that has actual DIRECTING behind it along with some interesting visuals and cracks at Edgar Wright-styled editing tricks, 'Game Night' is actually quite entertaining for what is, by-and-by, a mainstream dark comedy.
The film's cinematography at times is crafted to appear like the events we are witnessing are all part of a board-game itself, which presents interesting visuals for action scenes and establishing shots.
Other things to note that are exceptional is the synth-based score, which is NOT what I was expecting to get coming into a comedy. Whether or not it "fits" the film, I would debate, but I found it fun.
Along with these is the performance by Jesse Plemons, which is wonderfully deadpan and creepy. Most of the laughs come from his brilliant performance, I found, and all of them are certainly earned.
My problems, however, come in the form of that there is just simply too much fat that wasn't trimmed from the film that make it lumber about. The film itself is only a brisk hour-and-40 minutes, but I will admit firsthand that this film DRAGS in portions. I cannot believe that a film that felt that long was only 100 minutes. Scenes drag-on to cram in references to other movies, or to try to get additional laughs from an audience that can feel the length just a bit. It feels convoluted at certain points, and I would argue some less-patient audience members would start checking their watches with this film.
In addition, a clear inspiration to these filmmakers was director Edgar Wright's work, as much of the editing tricks and shots are clearly inspired by his own "flavor" of comedy. In the end, they work and look great when they're included...but I then have to ask myself: "Do they BELONG in this film?". In the end, it just makes it feel more and more like Diet Edgar Wright.
That said, I cannot say I DIDN'T have a good time with this film. When it's funny, it is FUNNY, and I can't say I dislike a comedy with clear direction and writing that doesn't sound like it was written by committee.
If you need some time to kill and want a fun little detour of dark comedy, this isn't such a bad one to check out.