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Film reviews that are companion pieces designed to be read before and after your viewing.
Everything is Less Awesome
Five years removed from the infectious first installment, comes a serviceable extension of a story that already had a proper ending. The subtitle The Second Part is surely a half truth considering how this narrative slapped together by the original writers Christopher Miller and Phil Lord seems tacked on in a "Oh let's take a victory lap then" sense. The new director Mike Mitchell is planted into a zero sum game as he tries to reignite the novelty of the first film while propelling a more mature plot that Miller and Lord insisted on being needlessly convoluted. This sequel comes off as a afterthought worthy to stand beside the other spinoff LEGO films, but lacks all of the magic of its predecessor.
The magic present in The LEGO Movie resides in the playful allegory of capitalism mixed with the earned nostalgia of the animation's medium. Not to mention the brilliant reveal of a child's imagination directing the entire story. These are all elements revisited the second time around, but the trick has already been explained by the magician. The world of Brickville goes through sufficient changes almost immediately once toddler-sized LEGO creations attack with unrivaled fury. The brick civilization reverts to a Mad Max world after the invincible fat-bricked organisms regularly search and destroy anything colorful or shiny.
Through some less-than-subtle live action mirage shots early in the film, its apparent that Finn (Jadon Sand) the boy mastermind in the first film is being plagued by his younger sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince). Her entry-level LEGO creations clash with his more involved and complex structures, and the result is a sibling pair never learning to play in symbiosis. Of course this conflict is merely implied before the lazy live action finale that resolves the paper thin dispute, and wholly lacks the gusto of the first movie's twist. The jig is already up from scene one of the sequel, because we are aware of the children's narrative dictatorship, so none of the LEGO characters' sentience ever feels authentic.
Chris Pratt returns to voice Emmet a happy-go-lucky construction worker who retains a life of cheer in the apocalyptic wasteland. Elizabeth Banks also reprises her role as Lucy, the brawn and brains to Emmet's fumbling optimism. Lucy desperately attempts to calibrate Emmet's persona to something more appropriate to the ruined world they now live in, but he maintains the "everything is awesome" outlook that figures problematic in a much more adult environment. In a hardly tongue-in-cheek fashion, a character outright states the thesis of the movie to be "a statement on the waning affects of adolescence on imagination." This stands as the most egregious example of "meta exploitation," but several runner ups tail close behind.
Falling victim to exhausting cleverness, LEGO Movie 2 doesn't know when to edit its goofs. When you merely reformat the first film's plot to fit another child builder, new additions need to elevate the otherwise regurgitated formula. These additions include ramping up the meta meter to 11 and including two more banger tracks to hopefully burrow into the viewers' minds. The main attraction song here has a hook the repeats endlessly, "This song's gonna get stuck inside your head." Oh and I mustn't forget the cameos, which come with This is the End regularity, and if you can imagine, with far less originality.
I didn't waste your time by running you down a plot synopsis for good reason. The film plays with your expectations in a cheap and unearned fashion without offering any reasonable explanation upon the conclusion other than, "We just wanted to plant red herrings, because...reasons." Screenwriters will go to great (and absurd) lengths to make an unoriginal script appear more interesting. This parasitic sequel will deliver many chuckles and feels to audiences that have already surrendered to the committee-made trajectory of the LEGO universe, but I feel somber for those choosing to double feature this lackadaisical copy with its bold predecessor.
Escape Room (2019)
SONY's New Saw Franchise Knows How to Clear a Room
Exactly one year after his last feature film that saw him ending (fingers-crossed) the outlived Insidious franchise, Adam Robitel returns to begin another franchise that surely will not have the lifespan of the one it is imitating. He delivers a pilot installment that maybe only Jason Blum would be proud of, hitting various Blumhouse beats with more enthusiasm than even last year's game-to-film adaption Truth or Dare managed. These Blumian (a descriptor I am pained to invent) tropes include characters reading aloud text like a zealous mother, a clunky ten minute group ice-breaking session that clinically checks all the expository boxes, and the "twist-ception(s)".
Six individuals all receive the same elegantly quirky puzzle box from colleagues and loved ones. Ben, a grocery boy, attempts to use brute force to open the cube, while Zoey, a physics student scribbles diagrams and notes as she unlocks what is an invitation to the world's most immersive escape room. Jason, a financial wizard, utilizes YouTube tutorials to crack his gift, and apparently the $10,000 prize for escaping still appeals to a man who initially expected a Prius key when his package first arrived. After all the participants are gathered in a waiting room of a seemingly barren high-rise, we're introduced to a happy-go-lucky trucker dad, a gamer boy turned escape room enthusiast, and an intimidating woman (her caricature is revealed later) rounding out the players now trapped in what will become an architecturally perplexing series of rooms.
The clues scattered throughout the rooms are just barely more subtle than the hints plopped into the dialogue revealing the unifying trait of all the participants. It is far from a spoiler to comment on how painfully obvious that the escape room is more a social experiment than a game. However, our gamer boy Danny tries his darndest to immerse us into the game by effectively giving a "Escape Rooms 101" lecture to the gang. Trucker dad Mike eats this up with great appreciation as will many audiences who aren't privy to the new entertainment craze. This goes beyond exposition dumping, and feels eerily similar to an in-game tutorial, which oddly enough, doesn't feel right in a movie.
Where the film lacks creativity in character development, its set design flourishes with imaginative decisions that tie into the players' pasts with relative frequency, providing a human anchor to an otherwise procedural death trot similar to the cult beloved Cube. An upside down jukebox bar steals the show by offering the most integrated use of clues worthy of an indie walking simulator game remake. But collect all the rooms together, and the difficulty curve resembles a goose bump: not challenging in the slightest. I knew that this would be where this film lived or died, and it perished early into the first room when I hacked the game's system and saw a much more efficient solution involving glasses and a couch. I effectively mentally speed-ran the rooms in an effort to milk joy from my viewing.
If predictability is the film's greatest sin, then the dialogue is the lesser sin. The performances from the auxiliary characters are particularly rigid, but this too can be blamed on down-right lazy writing that at one point has a college professor give our wiz kid Zoey an extracurricular homework assignment of "doing one thing that scares you". Yet I'm still fearful of a potentially greater sin lurking in the closing moments of what I'll call the fourth act of an otherwise brisk movie: the sequel(s) option. The same blue-balls Netflix original series "binge me some more daddy" gut punch arose, and now SONY's plan was revealed. Once again, I do not view this as being in the spoiler family, because what is inevitable is inevitable.
Now only time will tell if they can rise to sustained success that Twisted Pictures basked in with the 8-film series chronicling a sinister puzzle designer. The difference here is tragically obvious, Escape Room's puzzle designer is totally morally deprived. There must be a method to the madness, this mastermind only has business propelling their madness, which I'm saddened to report doesn't generate the intriguing tension between torturer and victim that its gorier predecessors at least attempted to balance. Speaking of gore, my first "so PG-13 is what we're going to do?" badge of 2019 goes to this gem for copying the formula, but diluting it in the process. A worthy excuse to create a dungeon crawler thriller I will admit, but contrary to gamer boy Danny's hilariously ignorant exclamation after barely evading flames, this one is far from immersive.
Vox Lux (2018)
Casting Decisions with Incestuous Vibes
The sophomore effort from actor turned director (boy is this becoming a trend) Brady Corbet is dying to be inventive. The ambition to break conventions certainly plays as charming, but in the "look at the adorable child ad libbing this karaoke song" brand of charming. His experimenting begins early on with half of the end credits appearing over a long shot documenting a static scene of our protagonist bathing in the tragedy that will ignite the jumpy life events shown later. This is only a couple scenes deep into the movie, and it is also ineffective (partially because there's no apparent intended effect). Even so, this quirk remains the most forgivable of Corbet's decisions.
The voice of Willem Dafoe acts as a Virgil figure narrating Celeste's (Natalie Portman) fortunate misfortunes that led to her pop stardom. Celeste's crucible event occurs in a middle school classroom with musical notations plastered all over the walls. She sits attentive and diligent, eager to be trained by her clarinet-totting teacher. A boy adorned in glam mascara and eclipsed eyes enters, interrupting the roll call with more than words. What follows has been labelled as "birth" by a handy title screen demarcating the film's Act One. Divided into a prologue, two acts, and a finale, we're hardly treated to an essential utilization of the segmented narrative that filmmakers such as Lars von Trier have perfected.
Teenage Celeste is played by the rather mechanical Raffey Cassidy, who also plays (drum roll, kind sir) Celeste's daughter Albertine. This would initially appear as rather cunning way of allowing a substance-dependent adult Celeste to be maternally reminded of her squandered youth and innocence, however, the film makes no effort to support this surrealist reading. In fact it has the gumption to re-use yet another actress once the timeline shifts from 1999 to 2017. Eleanor, Celeste's older sister, is played by the less rigid Stacy Martin both as a teen and a 30 plus year old adult. To recap: Celeste gets to hop into a Natalie Portman body after 18 years, but Eleanor stays put. Much credit to Martin here for differentiating teen from adult in tastefully understated ways; the growth and grime that Celeste shoves her through shines through as adult Eleanor withstands verbal barrages one moment, then caresses her tormentor sister's head backstage in the next.
The young sisters compose a song to perform at a prayer vigil being held for the community torn asunder by the act of evil that has placed Celeste in a neck brace, an accessory that will change into scarfs and chokers as her fame blossoms. Eleanor deserves total writing credits, but Celeste is the one being wheeled out onto the church's stage. Local news recording the vigil cracks open the lid of possibilities, and the sisters have an anthem on their hands once they adjust the lyrics changing "the I's to we's". Immediately (and I mean immediately; no transition) the girls are led into a recording studio by The Manager (Jude Law). This is actually how he is credited, signifying how one-minded he acts in relation to Celeste. He uses all means necessary to build and maintain Celeste's pop royalty. Celeste's father appear once, and his face is obscured nailing in the reality of no parental nurture available to the budding star.
Her legal guardianship is ultimately pushed onto Eleanor, who will also take on that role for Celeste's own daughter. The film plants this as one of several consequences when one decides to sell their image. This act of self-marketing is compared curiously to radical nihilism with Dafoe decoding the film's intent over well executed camcorder montage footage implemented to advance the sister's slide into a vicious cycle of reliance upon one another. Celeste is nothing without Eleanor, completely unstable without her caring touch and intimate knowledge of her sister's greatest curse. Eleanor, however, is entirely supported financially by her hollow sister, and Albertine might be the only daughter she may ever have. All of Eleanor's talent and wisdom isn't stolen by Celeste, but given away freely. Reminiscent of the documentary Whitney revealing the relentless blood pact within the Houston family, the sister's entanglement carries the emotional heft of a film that otherwise blindly stabs at shocking imagery.
I will briefly mention an intriguing reading introduced by the narrator in the film's closing minutes. Without giving any detail, it's one of those scapegoat twilight revelations that can give Corbet an out for some of the issues I have expressed here. Strangely enough, I am grateful for this bit of spice for it allows the mind to wonder, combing through all the previous events. You're encouraged to view them with a surrealist lens, and some devious theory might pop up. This by no means corrects all the prior flaws, but it does allow you to imagine a better film within the otherwise static one that was ultimately delivered. Special mention to the pop songs crafted for Celeste by Sia, providing the vapid lyrical representation of a genre designed "to make people feel happy". What is unknown is that these hit-makers are far from happy.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
The Follow Up to Moonlight Pulls No Punches
Innocent imprisonment of black males will stand as the largest blemish in modern American history, and its a travesty that has fueled the fury of cinema's definitive black auteur. Alonzo (Stephan James), or "Fonny" amongst family, is the victim in this tale. An aspiring sculptor carving away at foraged wood with stolen tools from the school he left due to lack of stimulation. His love and arguably equally victimized Tish (KiKi Layne) is attacked by flashbacks of them two in tiny tank tops covering each other with soap suds in their innocent pre-romantic childhood. She speaks of an ignorance towards each other's bodies; how they were unaware of the opposing beauty up until a night of Fonny's patient coaxing to join their flesh. It is this intense premarital marriage of skin that indirectly sets off a grievous series of events that will slam a glass divide between the two.
The sequencing of these events are inter-spliced between the current timeline that has Tish battling to make way for the life Fonny has placed in her. The most compelling scenes of her turmoil are front-loaded, surrounding her reveal of the pregnancy to her and Fonny's family respectively. The dichotomy of the two is stark and incredibly revealing. She incrementally shares the news first to her mother (Regina King), who immediately becomes her champion and facilitates a smooth delivery of the news to the rest of the family. This is achieved by breaking out a three quarters full gin bottle still in its original box, and is accurately identified as "special occasion" material by the prematurely jovial dad (Colman Domingo). The news initially goes down as rough as the liquor, but mama calibrates the mood by mostly reminding the house what they are drinking and to who they're drinking it to.
Total acceptance is flooded on Tish, and the celebratory spirits kick in. This is when mama decides to push her luck and invite Fonny's family over while the bottle is still open. What ensues is an internal conflict that depressingly mirrors the same strife that both these black families have been handcuffed by for eternity. When everyone is against you, you need family to be for you. This pack mentality is essential to survival and will allow some unsavory lengths to uphold it. Later Tish's father states "the white man wants us to worry about money", but then adds that he has never had money to be worried about. The target on their backs won't disappear, but all the shooting has made them expert dodgers.
Jenkins has brought back the same crew who helped bring his landmark Moonlight to life. This time adapting the work of James Baldwin, the director seems only slightly shackled to the source material. Curious omissions is a trademark of adapted films, and this is no exception. The difference though lies in the emotional heft of what is included. We're given singular scenes of characters that brand their faces on the back of our eyelids. The only repetitive sequences are the prison meetings between the lovers, and this contrast allows the glass confessionals to transcend all the tropes usually encountered in this cinematic situation. A sly score combines atonal themes into a stubborn harmony that is emotionally manipulative in all the right ways.
Tish provides a commentary-like voice over during the dream and political passages. Her words feel ripped straight from Baldwin's novel in these segments, and unfortunately create a chasm between the 19 year old meek character and her internal monologue. However, they provide some of the most profound moments in the film by articulating the macro stakes of American blackness branching out of the micro story of her fighting for Fonny's release. The most potent of these occurrences come when she dissects the differences between the etiquette of black and white men who approach her department store perfume station. The chilling details and thoughtful exclusions are what allow this film to yank at one's social consciousness. The real shame is this story remaining relevant today.
The Upside (2017)
Kevin Hart Reprises His Get Hard Character Without Permission
Welcome to the latest American sullying of a beloved foreign film. The 2011 blockbuster French The Intouchables currently stands as #40 on IMDb's Top Rated Movies, and is the original film that inspired this Americanized knock-off. Truth be told, the casting of Kevin Hart very nearly works, however, either Neil Burger's lack of a backbone or taste allows Hart to ad lib his brand of squeaky hyperbolic comedy to invade otherwise convincing dramatic performance. After Hart's fourth mispronounced word (because his character's lack of education is apparently a punch-line), my patience officially evaporated.
Hart plays an ex-con (this is merely a guess for the film doesn't care to provide his background) on probation named Dell. He has to complete employment papers that send him all over NYC to various employers who he only views as signatures and not viable restarts. This job scavenger hunt leads him to billionaire Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston) who is shopping for a new "life auxiliary". After waiting a reasonable amount of time in Phillip's penthouse foyer, Dell bursts in on an interview ahead of his, and insists on grabbing the boss man's signature and getting out of this place he certainly doesn't belong in. Phillip, however, has other ideas.
A quadriplegic bound to a motorized chair, Phillip is wealthy enough to buy the Mets, but appears completely empty inside. When Dell barges in, Phillip sees a shinning opportunity. He is dead set on finding an care-giver that doesn't adore him out of fear that his "do not resuscitate" wishes will be unmet. As Dell will say later, "I will DNR your ass right now," making him the ideal and wholly unqualified candidate. After a verbal tussle, Phillip plants the idea of Dell working for him much to the chagrin of his personal assistant Yvonne, played curiously by Nicole Kidman. This casting choice elevates the film while simultaneously detracting from it. Kidman, an Australian actress, fluctuates from different accents, which is shocking considering her brilliant history of nailing American intonation, which would've suited this role arguably better.
The cultural exchange between the two men is the epicenter of the feel-goodness that the film's marketing has rode into the ground. Hart's only slightly believable criminal character uses rudeness and insensitivity to sell his background which only leads to an intolerable caricature lacking almost all nuance. Cranston performs with only everything north of his neck, and proves to convey a delightful sense of adventure when faced with Hart's theatrics. Their chemistry does produce a respectable amount of chuckles and smiles, but never long enough to make you forget that Hart is desperately trying to hijack each moment.
Dell brings weed to the relationship, Phillip brings opera. The symbiotic nature of their friendship highlights how ridiculous each has lived without the other. The more ambitious (if not perfectly executed) scenes has Dell selectively smashing Phillip's heirlooms upon his request after the paralyzed man's anger demands a physical, explosive catharsis. These are the moments where cracks appear in the film making but also where the story almost rises above the comedic shackles of the otherwise charming comedian turned actor.
I must admit to laughing my ass off at two moments in particular, but these sequences stole the show in inappropriate manners, and left it challenging to remember the film as a whole, effectively eclipsing the larger narrative. One of the rare instances of laughs being a negative attribute, but I cannot deny the joy that comes with the frustration. An overall hollow, star-carried remake; Hollywood rapes yet another intellectual property.
On the Basis of Sex (2018)
Notorious RBG Gets an Origin Story Prequel
Last year's documentary feature RBG blew the lid open on the legend that is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That playful biography hinted at the stubbornness in her youth while casting a rather paint by numbers ascension to her seat on the Supreme Court. Rookie writer Daniel Stiepleman wisely chooses to narrow his focus on her law school education up to the first case Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) tried, which would ignite a series of sex discrimination rulings for the next several decades. This sounds like a short passage of her life, but it unfortunately is not. With no law firm hiring her regardless of her first in class marks, Ruth would initially settle, then flourish, as a law professor at Rutgers.
Every excuse in the book is given as to why she can't practice law in 1960's New York. One firm had already hired a woman (heaven-forbid having two), another asks her to apply for a secretarial position, and the last is worried about the partners' wives' potential jealousy. Up to this point we've seen Ruth graduate not only herself, but partially for her husband (Armie Hammer) as well. Martin Ginsburg was attacked by testicular cancer during Ruth's first year of school, and she becomes his surrogate sitting in all his classes and dictating all his papers as his weak shell of a body recovers on the couch. Oh, and she periodically checks on their newborn between studies.
In one of the more visually arresting shots of the film, we have a bird's eye angle of a typewriter with two folders on each side, one marked "Ruth", the other "Marty". Ruth's hands rip out the freshly written paper, placing it in a folder, then stacks the two to leave the dining room table that has been transformed into their joint office. The other standout visual comes right out of the gate scored with the intimidating yet promising Harvard fight song. A sea of men's dress coats swarm the frame, but we're given peeks of a dress and bouncing brunette hair. The fabric of the dress is the lightest color in the composition, and immediately we know to watch out for Ruth.
I can't help but to categorize this as a politically important top-notch Hallmark movie. The stakes, although grounded in historical reality, still feel fabricated to an extent. Major players in the run up to the Frontiero v. Richardson case mentioned above feel dramatized and needlessly confrontational. I understand Stiepleman's dilemma here: How does one make litigation sexy? Unfortunately it's not writing in flat confrontations where there are no consequences. The Hallmark vibe then comes along when our protagonist can't fail if she tries. Ruth's setbacks are consistently sugar-coated and her victories are equally zoomed past.
Her relationship to her strong-willed daughter produces some of the more heart-warming and painfully cheesy scenes in the film. Jane Ginsburg (Cailee Spaeny) is enthralled with women's liberation movements and debates regularly with her legal-minded mother. Jane's knowledge is so dynamic that it feels almost inappropriate coming out of her teenage lips. This is due to her relentless mother that questions her entire thought process. Her dad will tell her that Ruth's mother did the same to her as a child, and the pressure being forced onto Jane is merely a weird brand of compassion. Ruth's social skills took a backseat to her determination, and only hints of that break through in this script unfortunately.
Although grateful of seeing this story landing on big screens, I can't help but be disappointed in the lack of ambition here. Usually these films slap up the epilogue lines further sharing the history that the character would go on to make and you have a "Damn," moment. That will certainly be present for some viewers unaware of the Ginsburg family's contributions to civil rights, but I fear this feeling will be absent to those intimate with Ruth's struggles and triumphs. I root for very few films, because that isn't my job, but I couldn't help to do so with this one, which makes me all the more disappointed by the final product. I'm doubtless this story has unrivaled potential, but this adaption merely broke even.
World's First Feature-Length Fragrance Commercial
Here lies the unwanted, unofficial final installment in the Matthew McConaughty sailor/treasure hunter trilogy accompanied by Sahara and Fool's Gold. Steven Knight follows up 2013's excellent Locke with this more ambitious (sci-fi?) melodrama. Locke being a minimal "Let's film Tom Hardy during a car ride" effort that wowed everyone with its staying power. This film could've easily been "Let's film Matthew McConaughey during a fishing trip" and would've been a much more compelling narrative. The "expansive" environment of the film's world spreads the logic of the premise so thin that pores begin to appear as soon as the opening act.
McConaughey plays Baker Dill, a renegade ex-pat that takes tourists out to fish tuna. He's also harbors a Moby Dick-esque obsession with a giant fish he calls Justice. If that sounds like a painfully obvious thematic motif, then you would be spot on. Baker's fixation with the creature frequently jeopardizes his excursion business, which puts himself in financial potholes. Then enters the most elementary conflict possible: Our protagonist is broke, and needs to make personal compromises to become rich. Baker's financial salvation arrives in his ex-wife Karen (Anne Hathaway) who has married up to possibly a construction tycoon (this is my best guess).
Karen reveals the history of abuse that her current husband Frank (Jason Clarke) has dished out on her and Baker's son, Patrick. She offers Baker a proposition that would rid her of a slave master husband, and award Baker the funds to avoid prostituting his body and skills ever again. The remainder of the plot has us stuck to Baker as he goes through the rose pedal "I do it; I don't" charade. The brevity of this review is a result of the most lazy twist in recent memory, that makes spoiling the otherwise unsatisfying turn all too easy due to its painfully early reveal.
The grand meta-plot crashes in the door midway through the second act, and blows its load suddenly and all at once. We are literally served up a character whose sole purpose is to break the twist to Baker. After some rough housing from Baker, this mysterious prophet spills the beans with zero nuance, and the film ruins itself at a blistering pace. Then (as to pull a rug over the vomit) the film has Baker questioning the prophet's proclamation for what seems like eternity (Eternity would've been a more apt title upon further thought) regardless of the blatant signs plastered all around him.
Too often movies hide behind plot-twists to avoid scrutiny, and this one cowards behind a skinny palm tree rather pathetically. Knight attempts to cash in on a video game industry that he clearly has no understanding of (I promise that checks out after you *if you* subject yourself to this film). If it weren't for the spoiler-free creed I hold myself to, then I would detail in full all the cringe-worthy missteps taken by this revision-free script. I suppose Knight wins this round, considering he has created an inscrutable film. The only winners are the viewers playing a cheeky drinking game whenever McConaughty's ass appears on screen. Screw it. Spoiler alert: The buns appear in four separate scenes.
The Room Meets Facing the Giants
We've all met that overzealous dad who is more coach than parent. They use athletics as metaphor to excuse the emotional neglect resulting from vicariously living through their offspring. Their children become surrogates for their own desires; scholarships and sponsorships trump happiness and independence. The "pride" of these groomers always feels self-serving and Douglas Burke is not immune to this phenomena. Quick clarification: Surfer isn't a movie in the traditional sense, rather it's a highlight reel (or mixtape as the kids call it) of Burke's son Sage's progression as a budding surfer. This highlight reel was then inter-spliced with footage that some might mistake as narrative film.
Before treading further into this gorgeous disaster-piece, I must state upfront that I adore this attempt at filmmaking quite nearly as much as I despise it. Don't let the pesky number at the bottom of this page define this hybrid film/promotional reel. The laughter and perplexity that assaults you as the viewer leads to a cerebral whiplash that leaves your head lighter than air. I now know how it feels to chortle to exhaustion, and it rates as a Schedule I drug. Yes, we have a worthy entry into the so-bad-that-it's-good camp of movies, but even then Surfer feels a world apart. Swap the political agenda in Birdemic: Shock and Terror with an equally preachy biblical mysticism; transplant Tommy Wiseau's extraterrestrial method acting into Doug here, and you have all the ingredients to grow a cult following.
Enough qualifications though. We met Sage, a handsome wavy-haired teen, on a boardwalk cutting up squid for bait. He has turned to fishing after a nasty spill on a giant wave which almost cost him his life. This is the Fear so delicately elucidated in the film's subtitle. After a good serving of internal monologue, Sage catches a man on his line, who turns out to be a reincarnation of his deceased father who has been crafted out of a squid and sent from the spirit realm. Stay with me. Sage then sits as his squid dad delivers a shaky sermon on how Fear predates the garden of Eden, how whales cry every time a man fails, and how human blood releases warriors (among other things). Sage listens patiently and lies whenever his spirit daddy asks if he's tracking along.
Throughout the pseudo-biblical lesson, it becomes apparent that pops wants his son to ride the waves again. Sage questions why papa ghost is so fixated on him surfing again, and literally asks "Do you want me to do what you never could do?" This causes a Wiseau freak out from his dad that ends in him barrel rolling back into the sea. Before his departure, Sage's father gives his boy coordinates to a military hospital along with a doctor's name and a needlessly long passcode. I'll let your mind wonder from here, but basically the rest of the film has us loosely following Sage train to face the next big wave and his Fear in the process.
Burke has elicited the Christian sports direct-to-video essence that Facing the Giants spun into a multi-million dollar industry while also marketing his son and select surf equipment manufacturers. I am uncertain to label this as either an achievement or gross misconduct. Whichever it might be, Surfer remains a delight capable of unparalleled torment that is orbited by rupturing laughter. Brilliance shines through some cracks when Burke flexes his poetic voice in two epic recitals; one from a younger dream-version Sage, and another from the poet dad himself. The later rolls off with a beatnik authenticity, begging to be analyzed and decoded. But like Ginsburg or Bukowski before him, Burke's soliloquies are best experienced as a shocking rush of words into one's defenseless face.
A massive one take shot is the greater context for this poetic diversion, and is complete with a multitude of misread lines, although I'm still unsure if the dialogue present bares any resemblance to the script that may or may not have been finished. What results is a product that reeks of freedom. Freedom to improvise, to fail audio syncs, to look into the camera, and to (definitely) film unauthorized extras. Surfer has zero cares in the world, and this attitude pounds you into your seat at moments; at other times it elevates you into the joyride that is a dad making a feature length film to brag about his son's surfing. The continuity errors became my many goofy friends, and the persistent (by persistent I mean over every single second of the run-time) score/one-song soundtrack became the official elevator music for the nine levels of hell. However, this might be the most pleasant descent since "Lisa!" was ringing in my ears.
Shyamalan Screams, "Remember My Hits?"
Remember when Unbreakable stood as a defensible film in the Shyamalan canon? Well M. Night seems set on sullying even his stand alone convention-defying superhero movie of 2000. In true "this is why we can't have good things" fashion, Shyamalan shoehorned his last film Spilt, a deeply problematic portrayal of Dissociative Identity Disorder, into the universe of Unbreakable, and we all collectively sighed knowing he was going spend his next movie justifying the mess he created by pointing back to his glory days. Imagine a dad at a barbeque boasting about his time as an All-American wide receiver, but another dad questions his credentials so the former athlete yanks a pigskin from his son's hands, instructing his critic to throw him a slant route. Now feel the anguish of this old timer tripping over his legs, bringing the good times to a halt with a trip to the ER. Glass is that catastrophic trip, and we are the mortified son.
I suppose I am required to summarize the endless chain of asinine plot conveniences that is the narrative of the film. I will do so, but not gladly. Bruce Willis slumps into his opening frames (and I mean slumps, possibly the most half-assed character reprisal ever) as David Dunn, the vigilante of Unbreakable now with his son Joseph operating as his dispatcher/Alfred. Joseph is also a reprisal role for the then child actor Spencer Treat Clark, and if 19 years did anything it was to steal away any ounce of chemistry from the father-son pair. David has made a nasty little habit out of bruising up petty criminals, but his son encourages a grander target: the multiple personality kidnapper and primary subject of Split.
In comes the infinitely transformable James McAvoy, whose scenes are shot with far less ambition and exposing editing which doesn't retain the magic of his last outing as "The Beast". More accurately he shifts through numerous identities which step in and out of "the light", and whose ultimate manifestation is a vein-popping, wall-scaling animal possessing strength only equaled by David. After a series of contrived plot beats, we're given an early showdown between the two that apparently was a big, elaborate mouse trap? Honestly your guess is as good as mine, seeing as there's no way to justify letting four girls be imprisoned by a murderer for the sake of luring in a man whose number you clearly have. I'm speaking to the mysterious agency that seems to collect supernatural individuals in hopes of convincing them they are ordinary.
Now if I lost you with that last paragraph; the film did the same to me. Sarah Paulson does her best to make sense of this logical idiom as she plays Dr. Staple, a psychiatrist whose field is "superhero debunking" (note I'm simplifying Shyamalan's arduously clunky title). She is tasked by an unknown agency to prove these two superhumans of their "delusions of grandeur". Add in an unexplained appearance of Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) from the Unbreakable film, and you have yourself a trio. Although this movie bears his title, Jackson sits sedated like a vegetable for a unhealthy chunk of the runtime in order to pull one of a crowded few Shyamalan twists in the third act.
The greatest annoyance here is Shyamalan's overt reliance on the visual motifs of his previously successful films. Fights in the rain, jumping out of high windows, and close ups of characters that have been duped are all present here. He recreates with zero creativity and prays that nostalgia wows reptilian-brained viewers. Add a meta narrative on par with Lady in the Water that creeps up to tell you why he has created a superior superhero franchise, and my fury is damn well justified. This is not acceptable, and is more manipulative than the comic book movies he is trying to bash.
I have no doubts that this will land on an audience that has been starving for a further installment in their most beloved genre-bending movies that was Unbreakable. But I would ask them to look into Willis' eyes here. Peer into the emptiness and convince me that he thought this was a good idea. Lars von Trier did a power move by critiquing all his films with original footage vignettes plopped into the middle of last year's The House the Jack Built. That was bold and effective, if not masturbatory. Shyamalan's pillaging of his previous movies is nauseating and pathetic, but with no vile nature. You just feel sad for the guy after your anger subsides.
My Friend Dahmer (2017)
We Praise the Unusual
The Midwest is incubating a monster, and he's in every club photo. A slouched posture and taboo interests define the young Dahmer. Roadkill is his closest companion, and acids are his most trusted tools. A hunger for dark meat and classmate laughs, he stages spasms to build his brand.
John has watched Dahmer with a talent scout's eye, and he sees great potential. founding the Jeff Dahmer Fan Club, John perpetuates Dahmer's lewd antics. John aspires to illustrate comics one day, and chooses Dahmer as his flagship endeavor, utilizing the awkward gold that the future killer exudes.
Fishing twists into sinister explorations when Jeff reels a creature in, and animal traps feed a vacuous curiosity for the misplaced biologist. With a mother clawing into the household's fabric, and a lame duck father, Jeff loves both far too much and crumbles under the failings of his bearers.
A hunter in training without a trainer, Jeff is sloppy and overt. He spooks his first victims and broadcasts his desires in horn-rimmed eyes. Alcohol becomes the tether to reality, enabling him to traverse even the murkiest social waters. Jeff has no mentor for the science he wishes to pursue.
Meyers fails to unearth the psychology of criminal innovation. Relying heavily on pre-established lore and fanfare, nothing appears on the screen that shocks or entices further study. The cookie cutter high school friend plot might be factual, but it makes for an uninteresting lens on a rather interesting individual. No motive rises to the surface, and no transformation commands the trajectory of Dahmer's descent into homoerotic blood bathing.
120 battements par minute (2017)
Ashes are Edible
A story with a particular historical moment in mind has been rendered timeless. A random first generation Gameboy generates a temporal whiplash, as the film's events are portrayed as contemporary catastrophes. Silence equates to death, and the team meeting in a college lecture hall has dwindling numbers, yet deafening shouts.
A prejudicial plague scorches France, bringing an already tight-knit community into a blood brotherhood. ACT UP is a guerrilla group full of eventual corpses. The HIV epidemic has threatened their love and survival. Pharmaceutical companies have cubical indifference as antidotes are sluggishly distributed by financial logistics.
As the non-violent vigilantes face just as many internal conflicts as press-generated woes, their operations grow in scale and creativity. Their weekly conferences have an intentional cadence complete with respectful snaps, hisses, and hand signals designed to facilitate the mutual understanding that has gone extinct beyond the university walls.
Sean is one of he founding members, and has some of the worst test results. He is the loudest in any given demonstration, and celebrates harder than all his peers. ACT UP is Sean's final lifeline, and his involvement resounds as a funeral dirge among a thunderous parade.
Campillo has delivered another dialogue driven barrage of human desperation. The sprinkling of establishing shots offer a reprieve from the claustrophobic disputes between the positives and the businessmen impartial to death. An important angle to an understated tragedy that shaped legislation in the most vital ways.
Pain is Contagious
Questions and accusations go hand in hand when everyone knows everyone. Mildred has thrown up a three-part whooper of an interrogative just on the outskirts of town, just so any newcomers are privy to the neglect that burns through her faded, but defiant jumpsuit.
The billboards' target lands on Chief Willoughby, a rugged yet compassionate family man, who loves saying "goddamn", and his force provides all the opportunities to pull it out. A man capable of viewing the larger picture in a speck of a town, he spatters red in attempts to wipe the advertising demons out of mind.
Mildred has always spoken with her hands, and the moment she once spoke spiteful words haunts her to this day. Holy men, and blue men have no chance of cooling her. They are all culpable for the breakfast silences and cereal fights. Her son, Robbie, writhes in discomfort as she disregards reputation with crotch kicks and viral marketing.
Officer Dixon is more of a short fuse than a racist, but particular sins float to the surface. His actions are deplorable, yet his heart rests in his momma's lap. He is the canine companion of Willoughby, and acts in contradiction to the Chief's every command. This zealot disciple might just be an incarnate desire emerging from a red wall.
The inter-connectivity of small town living makes for scolding tempers and egregious lack of judgments. When a big city crime creeps into their preservation, Ebbing inhabitants end up making unlikely friends and easy enemies. Arson becomes untraceable, but the motive is as clear as the pain of a lost child, or perhaps husband.
McDonagh has wrangled his wacky surrealism into a heart-stabbing community drama complete with genuine surprises and courageous late chapter restraint. Falling in love with the most slimy characters reveals how truly empathetic his vision was in creating a mystery with no clues and only heartache and growth.
Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017)
Childhood Erodes When Anonymity Does
The Great War has left Britain in a fog, stuttering to find appropriate entertainment. Alan Milne has emerged from the trenches to the stage, and mistakes spotlights for turret fire. While introducing his first post-war production, mythical bees hover around his battered creative sphere.
Comedy plays became outdated with his brothers' carcasses. Alan is dead set on chronicling the atrocities that ransacked Europe, but his schedule is full of dinner parties requiring top notch smiles. The urban bustle does not just affect his writing, but also his connection to the newborn that has practically been handed to a surrogate mother.
Billy Moon is the little boy's name in the Milne's house, but Christopher Robin is the name that appears on the birth certificate and in millions of hardbacks. Billy's nanny, Olive, has becomes the child's compass in an ever evolving media circus that goes unnoticed by the man who stirred it up.
Alan has turned writing break play dates into research as he plagiarizes his son's blossoming creativity. His pursuits of an anti-war manifesto shifts to fiscally minded child book authorship. The exploits of this extracurricular bonding are resounded in a revealing exchange:
Billy asks his father, "Are you writing a book? I thought we were just having fun?" Alan answers, "We're writing a book and we're having fun."
Roping his son into this deceptive co-authorship will create a damaging identity crisis for the boy as he grows in an age where another Great War is brewing. The Christopher Robin and the blush toys offer a touchstone of comfort for aching families across the globe, but the cost for this phenomena is a childhood robbery.
No, Pedophilia Isn't Funny
Welcome to the most lazy and offensive $25 million production in recent memory. Where else can you find a rejoiced elderly pedophile with a sewer drain for a mouth, and a monolithic 10 plus minute static blocked shot-reserve-shot improv session in every scene.
This film is truly at odds with its audience. Flaunting its privilege with needlessly racy innuendos and genuinely vomit-worthy rape praise. The central conflict revolves around a recently of-age daughter trying to attend a frat party on a secluded lake.
Tiffany has just turned 18, and she's hungry for wasted college guys. Her plans last year were foiled by her pesky little ID, but today she scuttles to a stop in front of the frat house in her brand new Mini. Flaunting her driver's license and school uniform, she immediately has caricature males contorting their horny faces.
With separated parents, Tiffany has diverse avenues to get what she wants. Her father still thinks petting zoos are applicable birthday fanfare, whereas her mother does not even bat an eye at twilight tent hookups. Both are irresponsibly dense, and impossibly unbelievable. The comedy sketch mentality never stops, but it is also never funny.
The narrative only exists to shovel cheap twists into your expressionless face. Every decision has been made contrary to logic, and the result is a film that is brutally contrived and anti- humorous. Any surviving laughs are instantaneously slaughtered by some form of crude and medieval sexual deviance. A truly poisonous direction for the family-centric series, a deceptive turn that deserves no forgiveness.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Jokes Don't Save Lives
Restrained in chains and dangling above a hellish inferno, Thor seems a bit more jovial this time around. The serious face has withered away, and a sarcastic comedian prances through battles with lackadaisical flair. The stoicism has been traded in for improvised one-liners, a calling card of his Avenger co-workers.
Cannon story lines are immediately abandoned as this third installment grinds itself into an intergalactic buddy cop movie. Studios love to beat a winning formula into submission, and dilute all originality from newcomer directors. The structure of banished, enslaved, regrouped, and returned is about as fresh as gas station pizza.
The reconciliation at the start of the narrative is drunk with convenience, and the cameo-ridden moments of the first act are more rushed than a 6th grade science project. The film desperately reaches for compelling set pieces, however, the cliché and predictable plot advancements reveal half-baked CGI, and sloppy line deliveries.
Brothers, who evidently have an unlimited number of do-overs, have lazy, quick-serve conflict. The Hulk has a clunky motivation and tags along because of reasons. And Valkyrie has about the most blatantly constructed redemption backstory you could give an one off character.
A story that embraces the absurd offers a fluffy, yet enjoyable rainbow ride into family feuds. Bleak late battle decisions dish out compelling conclusions, and the easy way out erodes with existential U-turns. The least serious Thor has stumbled upon the most intimate conflict in his reign, and he's only barely emotionally capable of vanquishing his sibling foe.
Patience is Nonnegotiable
Dina reaches for a stranger's hand, unaware of the social constructs that have ruled this action taboo. She's a woman that overflows with honesty and is incapable of deceit. Grasping the assistant's hand, Dina compassionately squeezes, knowing that a drill in her mouth pales in comparison to the blades of her past.
After far too long, Dina has chosen to marry again. Scott is the most personable Walmart employee in town, and has an obsession for his sports teams and Evanescence. Dina's vice is plush toys the Kardashians. Together they only share interest in one another.
Scott's ESPN app chimes audible tension as Dina sighs at her scatterbrained finance. Dina's not-so-subtle seductions fly clear over Scott's head, but it is impossible to scold his density. The truth is that Scott's confidence has always been in limited supply, while Dina has floated to the surface of hell.
Scott tells Dina that he would be dead if he had lived her life. They are trying to savage their remaining years, but childlike innocence might clog their engines. Terrors of Dina's past spill out of her mouth, but the faucet of exposition is throttled to perfection by the filmmakers.
Love hands out second chances, and patience does not always appear kind. The complexities of joining grow more compelling when the subjects are honest to a fault. Life becomes more the television programming, evolving into terrible foot massages and onomatopoeic kisses.
Dina offers the intangible "perspective". She becomes irritated, but always for appropriate reasons. More so, she articulates her frustrations openly. This skill has been pushed into the recesses of human expression. Peering into Dina's struggles and triumphs inspire a straight-forward, authentic approach to living, one that looks a little funny, but the laughter fills the gashes.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
The Devil Needs An Invite
Tragedies are best played out in secret. The participants must be self-conscious to a fault, and the curse facilitator needs to have an insatiable score to settle. A Cincinnati suburb is fashioned into a Greek amphitheater, and the gods of wine and harvest are the only ones watching.
This deadly production has a singular moral, but it is not being taught to the audience. Steven, the star surgeon is the unfortunate recipient of this mythical lesson. With a wife retrofitted to his peculiar kinks, a son quick to adjust career paths, and a daughter who is an A+ expert on the horrors he faces, Steven has yet to make a sacrifice worthy of his current comfort.
Martin sticks like gum on Steven's sole. The boy's leverage is secret and potent, easily masked by tidy alibis and half truths. Steven passes professional blame onto anesthesiologists for malpractice fatalities. Step one is to properly administer sleep. The knife wielders rarely are the killers. Martin wishes to change that.
Steven has outstretched his wings, cradling Martin in nondescript diners and parking garages. When he gives the young man a watch that dwarfs his own, Martin's attachment reaches the final phase. One last peace offering remains before a game of addition spirals into subtraction.
Survival will be reduced to haircuts and epic recitals. The suburban theater bloats with situational irony, the plot engulfs sexuality and innocence in the same gulp. The modern mansion shrinks to a living room, and the villain disappears into coffee mugs at an incomplete booth.
The city with medical advances ten or more years beyond their sun- burst automobiles would suggest, has no answer for the scientific Steven. His careful domestic construction falls apart with about as much explanation as Bill Murray's temporal tornado. The killing cannot be left up to chance no matter how much he spins around the goddess' command.
Loving Vincent (2017)
Canvases Are Windows Not Doors
When a humble Dutch painter dies under a set of precarious village stories, an impromptu detective vacations in the artist's final inn. This amateur sleuth is the son of the postman that shepherded the letters of Van Gogh. When a final undelivered letter arises, the gray beard passes the duty off to his bar fight prone son.
The letter's contents are preserved in obscurity, and only the recipient is known. The brother of Van Gogh has an endless gap of correspondence that the young Armand has been commissioned to fill. A simple delivery soon transpires into an entangling film noir melodrama.
Lies fly loose in this homey countryside community. Everyone wishes to claim a piece of the genius. Some deny connection altogether. Armand does not have any horses in the race beside his unquenchable thirst for truth. A pursuit that leads to innkeeper flings and drunken tussles.
A film that dissects its subject in the most honest form, oil oozes character, and scrapes define setting. The toil of over 100 artist and 853 establishing paintings leave an undeniable mark of care. Each frame speaks to the playful tinkering that brought still figures to live.
A celebration of Van Gogh's tumultuous life, and an examination of his curious demise, the postmortem play chooses to remember the painter in unassuming vignettes and ordinary tasks. A man burdened by finances and plagued by aristocratic contemporaries, he weaved about a drab lifestyle with obsessive dedication to his craft.
Van Gogh could turn the most ordinary into a fascinating exploration of form and expression. His rain-soaked canvases tell a tale of uncompromising devotion when the world punished legacy creators. His death marked the greatest "what if" in art history, a question that will spark a dangerous journey for Armand.
The Florida Project (2017)
Roofs Require More Than Money
A motel cul-de-sac has swallowed stacked rows of squatters. The pastel exteriors and novelty signs paint a twinkling sheen that covers welfare moans. Reservations are made in carefully segmented intervals, and the guests are never described as permanent. A purgatory for those with child ankle weights.
Bobby is the benevolent duke of the castle, a man residing beside his subjects, more of a servant than a ruler. His neck is always exposed, and his gracious disposition steamrolls his body into a doormat. Bobby's highest loyalty is to the children, unschooled, unchaperoned, and undisciplined.
The little Moonee is the three-foot terror that attempts to usurp the throne with prohibited ice cream and science experiments. She has recruited a rag tag team of mini hustlers. Stealing cues from her mother, Halley, she works the streets in significantly more innocent ways, yet retains the same sinister motive.
Stuck protecting doomed fragments of families, Bobby builds a secret charity under the nose of regional management. An alternative lodging option for families not fortunate enough to stay within the Kingdom, his operation melds Floridian and out-of-state sensibilities in often vicious ways.
Scams and unsanctioned transactions of service comprise the income of drowning mothers. Abandon crack houses and hurricane remnants provide jungle gym sanctuaries for foulmouthed but imaginative rug rats. The safaris and mystery hunts culminate in vibrant childhoods undervalued by the state.
A war of financial attrition rages as Moonee becomes a giant prune in a bathtub play prison. Bobby trusts Halley at an unreasonable level, but he is trying to rewrite a history that has pushed his last "Halley" beyond communication. Parenthood becomes rather arbitrary when predators are loose. A motel manager can even be a father in a pinch, but the kids are bound for a custody cyclone.
Thank You for Your Service (2017)
Damage Inflicted is Damage Gained
Brotherhoods start out of necessity and bloom into linked cadavers. Three men return to slanted homes. Adam is astonished by the mere existence of his youngest child. Solo is greeted by his wife's grappling hooks of procreation. And Billy sleeps on the floor of his gutted home, void of a fiancé.
Hell has not remained on that distant continent like their calendars promised. The horrors of sand drenched casualties have hitchhiked on their neural railroads. Ghosts creep over lingerie laced shoulders, and lovers' spit transforms into a nightmare's bloody rain.
Adam was the human bloodhound responsible for sniffing out explosives. His success rate was alarming, but the one percent failure accounted for all the trauma he needed to spiral into self- loathing. Now in his pickup truck, he cannot locate any dangers. They are all internal, and basic training never equipped him to fight these enemies.
He leads his comrades even after their deployment when it becomes evident that unseen scars need treatment. Clogged VA waiting rooms pull like quicksand, and Adam reverts to unconventional line skipping. The civilian workers hiding behind glass can never weigh the significance of their work, because wars are ran by those in mahogany and leather cocoons.
Gratitude is rather expensive when the service is death. Solo claims that the military saved his life, but it only postponed his addiction and strengthened it in the process. Adam's tough facade breaks down quicker than his stoicism can paint over. Intake surveys elegantly tell the real stories of combat on a 1 to 5 spectrum.
You Cannot Dig And Bury At The Same Time
Tricky Nixon's tale has been exhausted by cinema, but we have not heard from one source on the matter. Mark Felt was the rightful successor to J. Edgar Hoover as the head of the FBI. After a subtext ridden discussion with Presidential aids, Felt made it explicitly clear that he was an autonomous truth seeking and truth hiding man.
This camouflaged interview would be the start of the most negligent hires in U.S. federal history. An outsider, capitol hill type marches in to take to coveted position that Felt has been slaving away at for decades. His wife seems more outraged than him, and grudge blooms like a tumor in his ego.
When shady intel hits surrounding the DNC, Felt proceeds with a vigorous investigation only to be stonewalled by his new ignorant boss. Dipping into the forbidden case, he stumbles upon damning evidence that will taint the entire executive branch. But this is only the beginning of Felt's crusades.
Through diner debriefings with a trusted undercover journalist, Felt becomes the romanticized informant by the name of Deepthroat. A federal agent that is in so deep with the corrupt governmental Holy of Holies that his reputation grows into newspaper folklore.
Whether his mission was fueled by truth-seeking or pure vengeance, Felt toppled a modern Tower of Babel over coffee and pie. He used resources as unlawfully as his suspects, but this is a staple of Bureau dealings. A professional snitch, or prophetic whistle-blower?
At the base of this vigilante persona lies a father longing for the return of his daughter. This too is a dilemma he sees fit to implement unsanctioned resources into. Ultimately, Felt's cases were dangerously self-serving, and his legend does not fit his ambitions.
Hell Is Man Created
The planet has become a victim of weather. You read that correctly, the ecosystem is the antagonist here. Not the bloating population of ignorant inhabitants, but rather good ole mother nature. A story drowning in conservative ideology, harmful alternative facts bubble to the surface.
Not only is humanity immune from their responsibility in the deteriorating climate, but they are depicted as saviors of the world they trashed. This is a rescue mission fueled by dormant guilt. No one speaks of the true causes for perplexing reasons, and an infuriating cycle of deflection tears up capital hill.
When the "fix" for a blistering weather system begins to turn into a doomsday weapon, casualties on Earth are impersonal and only service a terribly conceived twist that is equally laughable and obvious. Nothing is taken seriously for such serious stakes, rendering the entire plot unbelievable and contrived.
The porous story-line has characters being swallowed whole into oblivion, and others materialize from thin air. The tired "brothers at odds" subplot offers pitiful attempts at resolution, and forced romances detract from possibly suspenseful moments.
When you dodge the blame, then you are begging for it to come back to bite you. Correctly identifying the enemy needs to be the first step in problem solving. When an entire species is handed a pardon, hell will fester quietly and then all of a sudden erupt with judgmental fury.
Only the Brave (2017)
Toughness Is Learned Not Taught
Mustard coats descend upon a vegetated mountain side. They have come to destroy the greenery that has occupied these lands for decades. Their mission is the antithesis of malicious; a benevolent act of preservation through deforestation. A wall of flames is about to lick up their neighbors, so these trees pay the ultimate sacrifice.
The men chisel and saw into the timber martyrs in hopes of establishing a unmovable Line. A miniature trench forms in the loose soil, and brush is doused with liquid fire. The wildfire has reached the checkered flag, and these men will have the best seats on the track.
Superintendent Marsh has been chasing the flames since before his crew's existence. A man that has surrendered all ambitions of fatherhood, now the great father figure of a rowdy pack of men. His wife, Amanda, has signed a contract with him, and together they pursue their respective work with insatiable vigor.
Marsh's ultimate goal is to become Hot Shot certified. His would be the first municipal crew to achieve this accreditation, and many risks have been made to open the door. His intuition trumps protocol, and his superiors stubbornly acknowledge his genius.
Working the crew harder than any of his contemporaries, Marsh pushes expectations out of sight. Giving absurd opportunities to deadbeats and giant heads, his kindness almost levels out his brutality. A man without a family of his own has the lives of over a dozen families hovering above his hardhat.
Jennifer just might be the only woman that could love Marsh the way he requires. More stern than her partner, she elicits a vulnerable ooze from Marsh that has been wicked from the multitude of close calls and disappointments out on the battlefield. She never settles for edited stories, and he benefits from these pillow trials.
Followers Deform The Message
A cathedral of torture unfolds before five contestants. A game show of confession with a grand prize of seeing daylight once again. Your host has seemingly risen from the dead to curate one last exhibition. The sets are crude, and the puzzles are obvious, almost as if this is a trial run of sorts.
Regardless of the polish on these traps and offering tables, the lucky participants quiver in reverence. The god pulling the levers in this moral maze has twisted ethics into sport, and forgiveness into blood sacrifice. The showrunner claims to sit above vengeance, yet some of his targets have a curious proximity to him.
Admirers of this engineer's work eagerly await his resurrection. They steal blueprints and analyze soliloquies to keep his spirit alive. The doctrine of the saw has nourished a secret following whose mass is held in the deep web. Obscure like their father, they drink in a communion of newscast carcasses.
Jigsaw's apprentices have doubled as apostles, and the story of genuine confession is spread in an intimate farmhouse full of potential converts. This crusade of truth has a slim chance of reaching justification. In fact, this installment throws all hints of honorable killing away in exchange for a truly hilarious and nonsensical reveal.
When a series has self-mutilated itself for as long as the Saw franchise has, one must wonder if a meta-narrative is hiding there. Like watching a sorry loser adjust rules to extend their survival in a menial backyard game, the John Kramer legend has done it again, shoveling incoherent twists to pump life into a paler than clouds body.
Domestic Disputes Are Just Quiet Injustices
A slice of heaven apparently requires ethnic cleansing. Suburbicon, USA was built on a vanilla coated dream that would purge imperfections before they even arose. After an influx of settlers and subsequent infrastructure booms, the town now boasts magazine praises and smug superiority.
Welcoming families from all over the great nation, their open arms coil into right angles and fists. An utterly normal and incredibly fitting nuclear family of three trot into town with proper clothing and mail subscriptions. The boy loves baseball and wrangling garden beasts, and the parents drive a class correct automobile.
Unfortunately, the arrivals' skin does not match the desired aesthetic of the homeowners association. Airy property line posts grow into picket barriers, and bedtime stories are accompanied by a mob score. Andy is told by his parent to never let them see his fear, but the confederate threat draped on the window sill turns an ideological war into something sinister.
Andy's sole refuge lies in the leather glove that ushered in a friendship with his backdoor neighbor, Nicky. No matter how dicey the neighborhood becomes, the boys can fall back on tossing an insignificant ball across the original posts. Nicky has turmoil transpiring internally, while Andy's demons bark outside of police barricades.
Nicky's family has hardships, but they are all self inflicted. His father has grown dull, and his mother apathetic. The domestic lining starts to chip, then flushes altogether into a self-profiteering abyss. External attacks can be swiftly dealt with, and zero public questioning surrounds their shady dealings. They are about to drown in their own privilege.
Repulsion is never justified. Society has been mislabeling deviants since the beginning, but the golden age of America had a particularly putrid way of expressing their prejudice. Nothing is inherently earned when mortality is at the reins. "We shall overcome" is owned by those who were owned.