"If victory favors me, I will protect your child with my life."

"I ask you not to worry about that possibility. Because my son and I live on the Demon Way in Hell, we're prepared to descend into Hell through the Six Realms and Four Lives."

Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

We Die Young

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

WE DIE YOUNG is an odd thing: a straight-to-VOD (now on DVD) Jean-Claude Van Damme movie that has some violence and plenty of crime – it opens with a flash-forward to a car chase to assure you of this – but really is kind of an indie drama with Van Damme in supporting character actor mode. The main character is actually Lucas, played by Elijah Rodriguez, who was the kid being pressured into working for the cartel in SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO. Lucas is a similar character, perhaps crossed with Casper from SIN NOMBRE. He’s a teen without parents raising a younger brother and feeling he has no choice but to be a bicycle riding drug runner for MS-13. In this one, though, he lives in the United States, in a DC neighborhood he says is a 20 minute bike ride from the White House.

Lucas narrates at the beginning as he rides around on his bike, dropping off large quantities of drugs like it’s his paper route. He explains that he works for “the most feared badass in DC,” Rincon (David Castaneda, also in DAY OF THE SOLDADO), who’s introduced threatening some dude who his guys dragged to him in his underwear, tied behind a motorcycle. Rincon manages to be kind of handsome and charismatic despite the crap tattooed all over his face. (I guess he’s allowed to have hair and the M and S aren’t gigantic like Li’l Mago’s in SIN NOMBRE.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Sin Nombre

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

After I watched MISS BALA (2011) a friend recommended SIN NOMBRE (2009). It’s a Spanish language film but it’s the feature debut of American writer-director Cary Fukunaga, before True Detective put him on more people’s radar. I remembered the title as an acclaimed movie but I didn’t even know what it was about, so the timeliness of the subject matter was accidental. It’s about our asshole in chief’s current favorite boogey man: people trying to leave violent situations in South America for the relative safety and promise of the United States.

Sayra (Paulina Gaitan, WE ARE WHAT WE ARE) is a Honduran teenager who joins her uncle and her estranged father in an organized group traveling north together. Or a “caravan” you might call it if you wanted it to sound very foreign. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot

Monday, April 8th, 2019

THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT is not the wacky SHARKNADO type bullshit that the title may bring to mind, but instead an odd, humble little character piece about aging, regret, loneliness and sacrifice. Its greatest strength is that it stars Sam Elliott (or as I call him, The Man Who Mentored Dalton and then Fought The Hulk). He plays Calvin Barr, who many decades ago gave up the love of his life (Caitlin FitzGerald, Rectify) for an important WWII tracking, infiltration and assassination mission that he could never tell anyone about, and in his old age has failed to either feel good about what he did or find another purpose for his life. Its second greatest strength is that it attempts the daredevil feat of telling us that outlandish alternate history tale, following it with his being recruited to save the world by finding and killing a sasquatch, and not treating any of it as something to laugh at.

Who does that? And who pulls it off? In this case it’s a first time feature writer/director named Robert D. Krzykowski.  (read the rest of this shit…)

First Reformed

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

FIRST REFORMED is another Paul Schrader broken-man-slowly-boiling-over character piece in the tradition of TAXI DRIVER and ROLLING THUNDER. This time his subject is Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke, DAYBREAKERS), the very nice and thoughtful reverend of a small 250 year old church in upstate New York that still exists because it’s a historical landmark. He sermonizes to about half a dozen people on Sundays, but his duties also include being a tour guide and stocking the gift shop.

He cares about the job, but it seems like it’s one of those transferred-to-Antarctica type situations. We slowly piece together some of the problems he has, the things he’s punishing himself for and how his life went south after the death of a son in the military. He writes journal entries in a spiral-bound composition notebook which we hear as calm, reasonable sounding voiceover, but sometimes he’ll casually drop in some bit that makes you do a double take, like when he laments, “If only I could pray.” Uh… you seem like a guy who would pray, is all I’m saying. (read the rest of this shit…)

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Monday, February 18th, 2019

In CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?, Melissa McCarthy (CHARLIE’S ANGELS) plays Lee Israel, a writer (this is based on her memoir) who’s maybe hit a rough patch. She’s had a book on the New York Times bestseller list, which she figures has gotta be worth something, but now her agent (Jane Curtin, CONEHEADS) tries to avoid her and has no interest in her planned Fannie Brice biography.

Lee gets fired from her day-going-into-late-night publishing industry job for being an asshole and for drinking, two of her defining characteristics. But her only friend – her cat – is sick, the vet won’t help until she pays her previous bills, and the used bookstore doesn’t want what she’s offering any more than the magazine editors want what she’s pitching.

So it starts in desperation. She figures out she can get money by selling a nice letter that Katharine Hepburn sent to Lee to thank her for a profile she wrote. Next she swipes a Fannie Brice letter from a research archive and tries to sell that, but the content is bland, so nobody offers her much. In a fit of frustration or smart-assed boldness she pops the letter in her typewriter and adds a witty postscript. And sure enough when she tries to sell it that raises its value. (read the rest of this shit…)

Vice

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

When I heard writer/director Adam McKay was doing a movie with Christian Bale (TERMINATOR SALVATION) playing Dick Cheney, I couldn’t picture what that would be, but I assumed I would love it. The former Saturday Night Live writer has much more experience in beloved Will Ferrell comedies than in Serious Important Movies, but I enjoyed THE BIG SHORT‘s novel and audacious attempt to make entertainment out of explaining the early 2000s housing bubble. Many worship ANCHORMAN or STEP BROTHERS, but for me it’s TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY that makes me laugh no matter which part I rewatch for the one-thousandth time on cable. Maybe people don’t think of it this, way, but to me it’s the best pop culture portrait of what was going on in our country during the Bush years. So I figured McKay had good instincts about this stuff. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Favourite

Monday, February 4th, 2019

THE FAVOURITE is the best picture nominated latest from director Yorgos Lanthimos, who I know from THE LOBSTER. I’m behind on this guy because I still haven’t even seen DOGTOOTH, let alone THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, but I get the feeling this is the least weird of his movies. It’s also the only one he doesn’t have a writing credit on, instead using a script by newcomer Deborah Davis (her first produced screenplay, even though she wrote the first draft 20 years ago!) and Australian TV writer Tony McNamara. It’s a historical costume drama about palace intrigue, nothing conceptually crazy going on here, but it has a distinctive off-kilter feel and biting humor not always beholden to things people would’ve said at the time. (read the rest of this shit…)

Green Book

Monday, January 28th, 2019

I was excited when I first heard of GREEN BOOK – a two-hander teaming two actors I love, Viggo Mortensen (AMERICAN YAKUZA) and Mahershala Ali (PREDATORS). I wanted to see that. And a true story drama but directed by Peter THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY Farrelly? That’s interesting. It wasn’t until I saw the second trailer that I had a sinking feeling of oh shit, is this some kind of respectability-politics-cures-racism bullshit? Oh no Viggo, what did you do? And then I started seeing really harsh reviews supporting those fears.

It was only after I saw the movie and tried to read up on it that I found out some relatives of Dr. Don Shirley, the classical pianist who Ali plays, strongly object to the movie. I’ve been struggling with this review since before the movie won the Best Comedy or Musical Golden Globe, which is when the good pitchforks were taken out of the china cabinet and sharpened. Now it’s also nominated for the best picture Oscar, taking up that bad guy slot as the movie that all cynical people assume will win and show how out of touch Hollywood is about race. (read the rest of this shit…)

If Beale Street Could Talk

Monday, January 14th, 2019

After MOONLIGHT I was gonna see the new Barry Jenkins movie no matter what. Didn’t have to ask what it was about. Probly wouldn’t sound like my thing anyway. If I had asked, the answer might’ve been something like “in early ’70s Harlem, a young woman and her family try to clear her fiance who has been falsely accused of rape.” But that would’ve been misleading because it’s not at all a thriller or a legal drama. There aren’t any plot twists or shocking revelations. We never see a courtroom. The background is the inescapable, self-perpetuating undertow of an unequal justice system, but the foreground is a story about love, not just between this couple but between them and their families.

Like MOONLIGHT it’s gorgeously lit and photographed by James Laxton (YOGA HOSERS), has thick mood and atmosphere, a strong sense of the character of its setting, and a cast full of revelatory performers, people you just want to be around, faces you want to (and get to) stare at in vivid closeup. The two lovers, Tish Rivers (KiKi Lane making a great debut) and Fonny Hunt (Stephan James, who played John Lewis in SELMA and Jesse Owens in RACE), absolutely beam with infatuation. We hear a little bit about them growing up as best friends, but we don’t need it. Their eyes tell us how enamored they are of each other.

But Fonny is, as Tish puts it, “behind glass” when she brings him news that they’re going to have a baby. And not for the last time we will hear firm, assurances that things will be okay, people will stick together, odds will be overcome. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Mule

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

Well, it’s a new year, and I’m keeping my tradition of kicking things off with a Clint Eastwood review. I think Warner Brothers may know about this practice, because they keep releasing his new movies at the end of December. (It’s not for Oscars – I heard they didn’t even screen this one for critics.)

Clint has been directing for almost 50 years. You don’t think of him as a guy who changes with the times, but he’s doing something to stay relevant at least some of the time. Here’s a guy from a couple eras ago still working while we have a cultural movement toward taking stock of our pop culture heroes, in some cases realizing that they were assholes the whole time, or worse. We find out about some horrible shit they’ve gotten away with or they say some shitty thing that makes us reconsider our respect for them.

This accountability is a good thing. Nobody should get away with abusing others just by being a movie star or rich or whatever. Personally I try not to have an itchy trigger finger on the “cancel” button though because I think there needs to be room for context and growth and making amends, if and when possible. But if you start to think some movie star has been a toxic force on the earth maybe it’s harder to enjoy watching them, say, appear in a weirdly titled Chinese propaganda movie starring Mike Tyson. I understand separating the art from the artist, but I can’t always do it. (read the rest of this shit…)