Mini Reviews: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) + Wind River (2017)

Happy Monday everyone! It’s been a pretty hectic week last week with freelance gigs, script updates, etc. There’s a hint of Spring (finally!) after such a long and pretty miserable Winter, in fact, we pretty much hibernated most weekends the past couple of months. Well, that gave us a chance to catch up on a bunch of new-to-me movies. Today I’ve got a pair of excellent, moody crime thrillers that both took place in the Winter months.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker.

Directed by: David Fincher
Screenplay by: Steven Zaillian

For a while I sort of avoided this adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s crime novel (part of the Millennium trilogy), both the Swedish version and this English language version. I just thought it’d be too violent and that I wouldn’t enjoy it. But well, my hubby and I were in the mood for a good crime noir, and since we both liked Gone Girl, we thought we’d give this one a shot. Well, I wasn’t disappointed.

David Fincher is a master in building suspense even with relatively little action. I quite like Daniel Craig as the disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who’s hired by a retired CEO Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to investigate the disappearance of his grandniece Harriet. Vanger exposed some really strange family dynamics which lives up to his descriptions, and then some. The film took its time before Mikael and Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) meets, as their story runs in parallel until their eventual meet-up.

I knew going into this that this is a violent film, especially dealing with brutal sexual assault and rape, but still, it’s quite harrowing to watch. The way Lisbeth retaliates for this brutality has that ‘wish fulfillment’ fantasy, as the wicked assailant has no idea who he’s dealing with. Mara’s transformation as Lisbeth is astounding and she completely lost herself in the role as the brilliant but antisocial hacker. I thought Mara’s a bit of an unusual choice to play her, but she pulled it off. Lisbeth is quite a mesmerizing and intimidating character, an undoubtedly challenging-but-flashy role every prominent actress would want to portray.

What I like most about this movie is the way the story unfolds. I actually like the deliberate, almost unhurried pace, but every moment is never without a sense of dread. Fincher’s direction is superb, using the setting (in Sweden and various Nordic countries) to great effect in conveying the perfect mood for the film. It’s the kind of mystery thriller that fully immerses you in the story and rewards your patience. Stellan Skarsgård is pretty memorable here as well in a quiet, but sinister role as Harriet’s brother.

I have to say though, the scenes towards the end with Lisbeth inhabiting a completely different persona as a femme fatale is feels a bit off from the rest of the film. The hurried pacing and more glamorous setting makes it feel like a Bond movie (with Lisbeth playing ‘Jane’ Bond) which is amusing given Craig’s casting. Honestly, it took me out of the movie a bit. I enjoyed watching the scenes, it’s just that the whole thing feels incredulous. Perhaps that is the point, Lisbeth going way out of her comfort zone to help someone she cares about.

Despite the gruesome scenes, I actually like this film enough that I might even rewatch it at some point. There are SO much details during the investigation that I likely missed a few things. It also got me intrigued to see the original Swedish versions starring Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth.

WIND RIVER (2017)

A veteran hunter helps an FBI agent investigate the murder of a young woman on a Wyoming Native American reservation.

Written & Directed by: Taylor Sheridan

After seeing The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, my hubby and I are craving for more mystery thrillers. I was impressed by Taylor Sheridan‘s impressive writing in Sicario, but haven’t seen anything else he’s done since. Well, he’s definitely no ‘one hit wonder.’

The film opens with a card that says “inspired by true events,” which makes the scene that follows all the more excruciating to watch. A panic-stricken young woman is running in a vast snowy land on the Wind River Indian Reservation with barely enough clothing to survive the harsh climate. Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), an expert tracker working for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Agency, discovered her frozen body and alerted the FBI. The Feds sent a rookie agent, Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) who arrived from Las Vegas and soon realized this case is way in over her head.

The unlikely partnership between Lambert and Banner is the core of the story and it’s intriguing to watch. The fact that Renner and Olsen worked together in Avengers: Age of Ultron two years prior is amusing, but it’s a testament to their acting that I quickly forgot about that fact as the film progressed. I love that Sheridan’s just as concerned with his characters as he is with solving a murder case, putting this film far and above a typical CSI or Law & Order’s ‘whodunnit’ episode. Soon we learn about Lambert’s past and why this case is so hugely personal to him. Sheridan also toys with our expectations, in a good way, in the way he presents the murder suspects. I’m also impressed by the skilled use of flashback to tell a crucial detail, without spoon-feeding the audience too much details. I also appreciate that the film is not gratuitously violent nor gory.

Renner is particularly strong here in a soulful, emotionally-grounded performance as a man who’ve been through hell and back. Lambert offers a nice contrast to the inexperienced Banner, teaching her the ropes without being condescending. Veteran character actor Graham Greene as the Tribal Police chief Ben plays a crucial role here. “This is the land of you’re on your own.” Ben sheds lights into how the Native American community like Wind River is marginalized and barely gets the attention they deserve, as evidenced by the lack of federal support Banner gets to solve this case. I like Jon Bernthal‘s casting as well which again toys with our expectations given the tough guy roles he often plays.

The desolate setting here is a character in itself, in which the location is pivotal to the story. It’s a bleak film to be sure, but a deeply engrossing one and it’s not without hope. That scene towards the end of Lambert and his friend Martin (Gil Birmingham) is a powerful one that ties well with an earlier scene after the girl’s body’s just discovered. I find myself engrossed in this slow-burn mystery, which also rewards your patience with a satisfying ending. I’d say it’s a pretty strong directorial debut from Sheridan, though it made me curious to see how the film would look like under someone like David Fincher. In any case, Sheridan is definitely a gifted writer and a promising director, I’m definitely keen on seeing more of his work in the future!


So have you seen either one of these films? I’d love to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review: PILGRIMAGE (2017)

It’s been ages since I’ve got time to write a review, but I knew I had to write one for this after I saw it last weekend.

I’ve mentioned PILGRIMAGE all the way back in January 2016. It’s been a long time coming but I’m glad I got to see it on the big screen (though it’s a shame it’s only playing in a single theatre in Twin Cities suburbs with odd screen times!)

In 13th century Ireland, a group of monks must escort a sacred relic across an Irish landscape fraught with peril.

The premise is simple, but it’s packs a punch in terms of its thought-provoking story and the unrelenting violence these monks face along the journey. It opens with a horrific stoning of Saint Matthias, the apostle chosen to replace Judas Iscariot following his betrayal. The barren landscape of Ireland, an island on the edge of the world is striking… there’s otherworldly feel to this raw, beautifully-shot film that immediately grabs your attention.

I saw this film mainly for the French actor Stanley Weber who plays a Cistercian priest, Brother Geraldus, and boy did he make quite an entrance. He came to the monastery and soon the monks are on a pilgrimage to escort a holy relic all the way to Rome. Naturally there’s tension mounting between the monks themselves, each have their own views of the significance of this relic.

Pilgrimage explores the themes of what faith means to people. It’s not a deep study of the subject, but it certainly makes a compelling case about religious fanaticism and that radical ‘faith’ can ultimately lead to radical consequences. The film is more of an ensemble cast comprised of four main characters, Tom Holland as Brother Diarmuid (the novice), Stanley Weber as the Cisterian, Jon Bernthal (the mute with a violent past) and Richard Armitage (Norman knight Raymond). I’d say Bernthal is perhaps the most fascinating of the four, simply because of his charismatic, wordless performance that makes you wonder throughout just exactly who this man is. He’s loyal to a fault to the monks but you know he’s a ruthless and dangerous man. It’s a physical role but that demands a quiet menace which Bernthal pulls off with aplomb.

Acting-wise, Holland, Bernthal and Weber are the most memorable to me. Armitage is good but I feel like he’s basically reprising his role as Guy of Gisborne in BBC Robin Hood, though his French is rather impressive. Interesting that Holland and Bernthal are now part of the lucrative Marvel Cinematic Universe (as Spiderman and Punisher respectively), but they’re both such talented actors that I hope they’ll continue to seek out smaller work such as this one that stretch their acting ability. Weber might not be a household name yet despite being cast in season 2 of Outlander, but he’s certainly got the charisma and acting chops of a leading man.

The film is quite violent, especially the attack in the woods that left practically everyone slashed, chopped and bludgeoned to death. There’s also a torture scene involving a Medieval torture device that sure made me wince. The action didn’t let up until the very end, set in a desolate beach that really takes your breath away. It’s so refreshing to see something unique that doesn’t fit the Hollywood mold. This is one of those rare films that’s not based on any literary works but is an original script by Jamie Hannigan. I love that director Brendan Muldowney also uses many languages in the film, Gaelic, French, Latin, English. I also appreciate that the film is shot on location, you can practically feel the misty air and cold breeze as you’re watching the film, which adds to the intense, gritty and bloody realism of the film.

If this is playing near you, I urge you to see it on the big screen. We need to support original films like this one as it’s becoming even more of a rarity. Made with a shoestring budget yet generates a big impact, I certainly don’t mind seeing this again on Bluray. I so agree with Keith’s review that big budgets aren’t essential to good moviemaking… and this film is definitely a testament of that.



Have you seen ‘PILGRIMAGE’? Well, what did you think? 

Weekend Roundup: Quick review of BABY DRIVER (2017)

Happy [almost] Fourth of July weekend! It’s not really a long weekend for me as I’ll be working both Monday AND Wednesday, though the office is pretty much dead today with everyone taking a day off.

Last week was a pretty hectic one, hence I hadn’t even posted anything other than my short film update. Well, as if making movies wasn’t nerve wracking enough, I also launched a crowdfunding campaign is Kickstarter campaign last week. We had a good start but we still have a long way to go before we reach our goal.

Shout out to Paula, Shivani, Mark, and Nostra for your tremendous support on various social media channels!

This weekend I did manage to fit in a movie night… and it was a ton of fun!

Move over Guardians of the Galaxy. I think the movie w/ the best retro soundtrack this year belongs to Baby Driver. It’s also one helluva heist action flick that gets your blood pumpin’ from start to finish.

I like Edgar Wright and his Three Flavours Cornetto film trilogy (especially Hot Fuzz!) but for some reason I haven’t been paying much attention to Baby Driver. I think I only read an article a while back when it was a hit at SXSW and then of course I was intrigued by the stellar reviews (97% on Rotten Tomatoes!) So naturally I had a high expectations going into this movie. Fortunately it didn’t disappoint!

I dig car chases!! I grew up w/ two brothers and played with matchbox cars instead of Barbie dolls as a kid so I always enjoy a thrilling car chase in the movies! Man, what an opening scene!! You can watch how they made it in this featurette. That’s perhaps one of the best car chases since the first Transporter flick, but this time we’ve got a kid at the wheel with a cutesy name Baby (Ansel Elgort). Yep it’s B-A-B-Y. Hence the title.

It’s obvious Wright himself is a big fan of heist movies and crazy car chases, and it shows. He’s also got an ear for music, and music is truly the fuel for this exciting ride. You go see this for the action, but there’s also a pretty compelling story and a character worth rooting for. Elgort isn’t the most charismatic young actor but he acquits himself well here and it’s easy to root for Baby who’s had a tragic past and wants out of the crime business. He’s surrounded by a fun supporting cast: Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Eiza González, and Lily James as Baby’s love interest. I’d say it’s quite inspired casting, especially in regards to Jon Hamm. The romance between Lily and Ansel seems deliberately too cutesy, cheesy even, but it’s kind of sweet, too.

In a way, Baby Driver is a heist flick & coming-of-age movie in one. And that makes it refreshingly original, as we see this kid who gets picked on and taken advantage of finally breaking free and coming into his own. The rather restrained ending is quite a pleasant surprise to me given how many blockbusters seem to go for deafeningly-bombastic finale.

So if you’re in the mood for fun music, crazy action and some sweet little romance, you can’t go wrong with Baby Driver.This movie’s also got heart to go with all the cool moves. And of course, plenty of Wright’s cheeky brand of humor too.

4Reels


Have you seen ‘BABY DRIVER’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: The Accountant (2016)

accountantbnr

It’s kind of an interesting choice for Ben Affleck to do this movie in the same year as Batman V Superman. Some people call this one as an unconventional superhero movie about an autistic accountant, and it wouldn’t be wrong as there’s certainly traces of Bruce Wayne in the film protagonist, Christian Wolff. Heck even his name sounds like a superhero alter-ego, though I whisper to my hubby during the movie ‘Bruce Wayne wouldn’t be caught dead in a Ford F-150!

accountant_benaffleck

From the time Christian was a boy, he’s a whiz with numbers. The movie opens with him working on a puzzle at a child psychiatric office with his parents and his younger brother. There’s constant flashback on him being taught by his military dad, and the film makes a point to contrast him with his more ‘normal’ sibling. Though he works at a small town CPA office in a nondescript strip mall, of course our protagonist is more than meets the eye. As it turns out, he’s been offering freelance services to some of the world’s most dangerous criminal organizations. The head of the Treasury Department’s crime unit, Ray King (J.K. Simmons), has been investigating Christian for some time and with the help of his new protégé Marybeth (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), he’s closing in on him.

accountant_simmons_robinson One of the most amusing moments is when Christian takes on a job with a robotics company where he meets Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), an accounting clerk who discovered a discrepancy involving millions of dollars. Naturally the accounting whiz only needs a single night 15-years worth of bookkeeping to figure out the exact sum. Kendrick’s vivacious personality is a fun contrast to Affleck’s forlorn and subdued’s character, though the supposed ‘romance’ between the two can only be described as awkward. Yes Christian is supposed to be socially impaired but the scene comes across as completely weird that it takes me out of the movie. Too bad Kendrick’s role is actually pretty small here as the movie could use a bit more of her dynamic energy.

accountant_kendrick_affleck

The concept is actually interesting but the overwrought script by Bill Dubuque (who also wrote the tedious The Judge) packed way too much into a 2-hour film. There are countless flashbacks that become repetitive real fast, especially when practically every single character gets a backstory. The scene when King talked about his encounter with Christian could’ve easily been trimmed down considerably as it threatens to grind the movie to a halt. The way Marybeth investigates Christian also plays out like an episode of Law & Order or CSI. This is the second film from Gavin O’Connor I saw, the first time being Warrior which I think is an excellent drama also involving a pair of brothers. Can’t say I’m impressed with his work here, it made me think if the film would’ve been better had Affleck himself had directed this.

accountant_bernthal

The third act is when we get Batfleck vs. Punisher, as Jon Bernthal played the head of security of the company Bat… er Christian is hellbent on taking down. Somehow it escaped me that Affleck has played Daredevil once too, so the fight scene at the end is also Daredevil vs. Punisher! Ok so as a superhero fan, the casting makes the mano a mano more amusing than it otherwise would, but the twist might actually harken memories from BVS, though it’s not quite as insipid as the ‘Martha’ fiasco. I just think it’s so on-the-nose that it took the thrill of finding out the twist and it’s actually quite cringe-worthy the more you think about it. I do like Bernthal here though, no doubt he’s great in action scenes but his character is actually not devoid of personality. At least he gets his chance to shine briefly unlike John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor whose talents are largely wasted.

accountant_benaffleck2

Overall I feel that this movie has a lot of potential that’s not fully realized. Just as some teachers would say to students that they’re not applying themselves, I feel the same about this movie. Despite all that clutter and sluggish pacing, there are some entertaining moments, hence my generous rating. That scene where we first see Christian in action at a farmhouse involving two hired goons is probably my favorite part in the movie. I guess I have a thing for nerdy superhero and this is practically Affleck’s version of Clark Kent. I read somewhere that Warner Bros wants to create a franchise out of this movie. Meh, that’d be so ill-advised given how incredibly bloated the superhero genre has been, and really, we already have Affleck playing a sullen, wealthy, bad-ass superhero who clearly has issues.

3Reels


Have you seen ‘The Accountant’? Well what did you think?

Weekend Roundup: Musings on the first half of Daredevil season 2

DaredevilSeason2

My hubby and I usually would spend 15-20 minutes just browsing iTunes and Netflix and agonize over what to watch. So we’re sure glad Daredevil Season 2 dropped on Netflix last Friday, as we know what we’ll be bingeing on all weekend. But our extent of ‘binging’ is actually just 3 episodes a day, so we’re only about halfway through season 2 with 7 episodes in, but that’s not bad considering it took us nearly 3 months to finish Jessica Jones!

I don’t usually blog about Netflix stuff but that seems to be the case the past couple of weeks. It’s a coincidence really, but hey, they do churn out quality stuff and this season of Daredevil sure is another winner in my book. As I mentioned in my Jessica Jones‘ post that it took a while for me to warm up to the character and the show. Well, not so w/ Daredevil as the same with season 1, I was immediately hooked. Once one episode ended, we couldn’t wait for another one!

Since I haven’t finished the entire season yet, I’ll just briefly list some of my favorite things about what I’ve seen so far, without revealing any spoiler (if I do, I’ll be sure to warn you).

What I’m liking so far:

The Punisher. Boy, Jon Bernthal‘s casting is just brilliant. There’s a lot of hype about his character but he did NOT disappoint. He fit the character like a glove and he’s the quintessential antihero, someone I sympathize with despite his obvious flaws. I have to say I don’t miss Wilson Fisk at all this season, and in terms of both having a rather tragic past, I think Punisher is far more compelling. At least so far anyways.

Daredevil2_Punisher

I can’t wait to see more of his backstory revealed, which only makes me want to see an entire season on him. That’s saying something given that I’ve never been all that interested in this character before and have skipped all of the cinematic adaptations so far. I’d even watch a movie of The Punisher w/ Jon Bernthal in the role!

Daredevil2_PunisherXray

I’ve always liked Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) since season 1 but I love her even more this time around. She’s acting like a investigative journalist here, as she gets dragged deeper into about Frank’s story. This girl’s got some chutzpah! I mean she has no superpower but she’d readily walk into things that’d likely get her in trouble. I absolutely admire her and I’m glad to see Karen gets more screen time this season.

Daredevil2_Karen

The key member of Nelson & Murdock, as well as Matt’s indispensable BFF, is the extremely affable Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson). He’s rather underused in first season so I’m thrilled he’s also got more screen time and Henson got a few chances to shine in the role. I love how much he genuinely cares for his BFF and he’s not afraid to get in his face if he thinks Matt’s in over his head (which is quite often). I also love the fact that they utilized his legal training, as well as an admirable oratory skills, to good use. I’m not going to mention which scene, but when you see it, you’d want to stand and clap. Well done Foggy!!

Daredevil2_Foggy

Now, I haven’t decided how I feel about Elodie Young as Elektra Natchios yet at this point. So far her character arc is a rich, spoiled brat who’s pretty persuasive to get men (including Matt) to do her bidding. Well, the French actress certainly fits the femme fatale role well, though at times she seems to try to be too sexy that it’s irritating. I do like the playfulness of her banter with Matt, it actually gives a nice contrast to the unrelentingly-dark storyline of the Punisher.

Daredevil2_Elektra

Of course, Charlie Cox himself is still awesome as the title character. He’s even more comfortable in the role and it’s great to see his character grow and evolve. His concern for Hell’s Kitchen is unmistakable, but he’s a bit more world-weary (naturally so) and still ravaged by guilt. He’s also more careful about getting involved romantically, for fear that he’d mess things up.

And for a show called Daredevil, we expect some awesome fight scenes. The fight scenes between Daredevil and The Punisher sure is a highlight. The rooftop scene between the two are fantastically-done because it isn’t just fight, fight, fight but there’s plenty of conversations between them. I LOVE that Netflix doesn’t skimp on character development. (spoiler alert!) As you would see on ep. 4, Bernthal has one long emotional monologue at the cemetery that’s wonderful to watch.

Daredevil2_Matt_Frank

But Daredevil also got plenty of opportunities beating up goons and hooligans from one episode to the next. The hallway fight scene below is pretty darn cool! I wonder if the director(s) got some inspiration from The Raid movies for this scene in particular.

daredevil-ep2-hallwayfight
Thanks hypeable.com for this awesome gif

But as cool as those fight scenes are, without a truly compelling story, I wouldn’t be inclined to keep watching. The morality tale of Daredevil is well-written and the inner conflict of the masked hero is what makes him intriguing to watch. With the arrival of Punisher who’s got his own brand of justice, that moral dilemma is even more palpable. Like Batman, Daredevil is a vigilante who doesn’t believe he has the right to take a life, no matter how bad the crime the villain has committed. The difference is that Daredevil is depicted as being a devout Catholic. Season 2 doesn’t shy away from the faith aspect and whether you agree or not with his views, it’s certainly make for a thought-provoking discussion.

Daredevil_Catholicism

As I’ve just finished episode 7 within an hour I posted this, I think season 2 is just as strong as the first one. At least based on what I’ve seen so far. Interesting that based on Rotten Tomatoes score, season 2 is a step down, and the critics consensus said ‘… the additions of Punisher and Elektra can’t quite fill the void left by Wilson Fisk’ Huh? Ok so maybe so about Elektra, but I definitely LOVE the Punisher character more than Fisk. Heh, that goes to show why I don’t always trust the professional critics.

Anyhoo, can’t wait to catch up w/ the rest of the season. Hopefully I’ll be done by next weekend!


So what did you watch this weekend? If you also binged on Daredevil season 2, I’d love to hear what YOU think!

FlixChatter Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

MeEarlDyingGirlBanner

There’s something so refreshingly frank about this movie right from the start. Though it deals with a difficult subject of terminal illness, the movie is both heartwarming and genuinely funny. The ‘Me’ in the title is Greg (Thomas Mann), who spends most of his free time making parodies of classic films with his friend, whom he refers to as his co-worker, Earl (RJ Cyler). One day his mom tells him that one of his high school mates has cancer and she basically pesters him to spend time with her. His constant protests prove to be futile, so Greg reluctantly visits Rachel (Olivia Cooke) and frankly tells her that he’s there because his mom told him so. He practically begs Rachel to let him hang out with her as his mom would ‘give him hell’ if he doesn’t.
MeEarlDyingGirl_pic1

I was sold on this movie right from this very scene. It reminds me of the 2011 dramedy 50/50 with Joseph Gordon-Levitt which also deals with cancer in a lighthearted-yet-profound way. But Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a smaller, more intimate film and it’s also a lot quirkier. Greg and Earl made for a rather unlikely duo but they’re a hoot to watch as they watch classic movies together and then make a whole bunch of parody movies of them in their spare time. Both of them are a bit of a social outcast and so this movie-making hobby is sort of a release for both of them to channel their frustration as well as creativity. So when one of Rachel’s friends found out that they like to make movies, they’re tasked with making a film about her.

There’s a laid-back vibe to this movie that adds to its indie charm. From the way the characters interact with each other to the seamless way things unfold, it’s a journey that’s rather easy to digest and one that doesn’t feel emotionally manipulative. That last part is tricky given the subject matter, yet director Alfonso Goméz-Rejón stays away from clichés or cloying over-sentimentality that could threaten to weigh this movie down. Also props to Jesse Andrews who wrote both the novel AND the screenplay. I love that the film doesn’t ask us to pity Rachel, and the character is adamant about that in her initial conversation with Greg. She faces her illness head on just as this movie also doesn’t sugar-coat Rachel’s illness and how she, as well as those around her, deals with it.

MeEarlDyingGirl_pic2

I like that there’s mostly unknown in the entire cast. The most famous cast member is Nick Offerman, who along with Connie Britton as Greg’s parents add a dose of eccentricities to the movie. Initially I felt that Molly Shannon as Rachel’s mom was perhaps a bit miscast here as you just kept expecting her to do something totally bonkers, but in the end it turns out to be a rather restrained performance from her. It’s also a bit odd to see Jon Bernthal here as Greg’s history teacher who let the two boys have lunch and watch movies in his office. I guess I just never saw him in this kind of role before but I like his understated performance and his character is integral to the moral of the story.

MeEarlDyingGirl_pic4The stars of the film however, is Mann, Cooke and Cyler as the three unlikely friends. The three young actors embody their roles pretty well and Cooke especially had the difficult task of convincing us that she’s indeed ill. The friendship theme run deep in this film, and it’s truly the heart of the film. The scenes ofMeEarlDyingGirl_SockworkOrange Greg and Earl talking about their parody movies are genuinely funny, so are the titles they come up with, i.e. A Sockwork Orange, Senior Citizen Kane, Rosemary Baby Carrots, The 400 Bros, etc. The movie incorporates some animated sequences which gives it a surreal vibe, but it never detracts us from the friendship storyline.

The third act proved to be the most emotional and I find myself tearing up quite a bit towards the end. I suppose you could say the ending is pretty predictable, yet the scene of Greg coming to terms with the situation hit me harder than I thought it would. There have been a lot of dialog throughout the movie up until the finale, but there’s no words necessary to convey the sentiment of the finale. I think it’s fitting that the filmmaker let the scene speak for itself, which made it feel all the more poignant.

Overall though, I like this movie but I wouldn’t say that I’m in love with it. There are some high-school moments that don’t resonate as well with me, and at times some of the supporting characters felt too cartoonish. Strangely enough, I also don’t feel as much an emotional connection with Rachel as I thought I would, but perhaps the story is more about Greg than about her. That said, I do think it’s an outstanding feature film debut from Goméz-Rejón and he’s certainly a director to watch for.

MeEarlDyingGirl_pic3

I listened to an NPR’s Fresh Air interview with Goméz-Rejón who talked about how losing his dad shaped his approach to the film. It’s apparent that this film was a personal project for him and I think his personal experience made this film feel more authentic. He also talked about working as Martin Scorsese‘s personal assistant in his early 20s so he’s definitely learned from the best. The Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize is well-deserved and I have a feeling this would stand as one of the best high school films of this generation. If this is playing near you, I hope you go out and check this one out folks, a refreshingly original story that’d make a great antidote to all the sequels/reboots of the Summer and beyond.

4Reels


Have you seen this one? Curious to hear what YOU think!

FlixChatter Review: FURY (2014)

TedSaydalavongBanner

FURY_2014_poster

Hollywood loves making films about WWII and to their credit they produced some great ones. In my opinion, Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line were the last great films about this war. And even though I loved Inglorious Basterds, I don’t count it as true WWII film, if you saw it then you know what I mean by that. This latest one from writer/director David Ayer has an A-list leading man and huge budget, but unfortunately it’s just another by-the-numbers war film.

It’s April 1945 and the war is almost over, as the film opens we see an aftermath of a huge battle and the only people left alive were a group of American soldiers inside a tank named Fury. Its commander is Don Collier (Brad Pitt) and his crewmen are not happy with him since one of their teammates was killed in the battle and they blamed him. After some bickering, they head back to their base camp to get their next assignment. A young recruit named Norman (Logan Lerman) introduced himself to Collier and said he was told he’s now under Collier’s command. Upon seeing the young soldier, Collier was not happy but he has no choice but bring Norman on board. After receiving his next mission from his boss Captain Waggoner (the always great Jason Isaacs), Collier and his men set out to take down more Nazis. As the film moves on, it became pretty generic in this genre, we see big battles, body limbs gets torn apart, the young soldier gets picked on by older soldiers and of course they accept him once he proved himself in the battlefield.

FURY_2014_stillsPitt gave a solid performance as the leader but seeing him in perfect shape and his hair never seem to get messy during the battle scenes really didn’t make his character more believable. When I saw the trailer for this film, I thought he might do another Aldo Raines but thankfully his performance was more grounded than in Tarantino’s flick. The most surprising performance to me was Shia LaBeouf, he’s the man of faith in the group and I thought he was quite good in the role. After seeing him in all those awful Transformers movies, I just couldn’t stand him but here he actually gave a good performance. Unfortunately the rest of the cast members got stuck with clichéd roles. Jon Bernthal is again being cast as the “bad” guy on the team and even though he did a good job, we’ve seen this kind of character many times before. Michael Peña is the token minority character and he’s supposed to be the comic relief guy, in some scenes he’s funny but again we’ve seen this too many times before. Lerman’s Norman is supposed to be the heart and soul of the team since he’s the “innocent” one but he’s not a strong actor so he didn’t really make an impression on me. I think Ayer tried to make his character very similar to that of Charlie Sheen in Platoon but it didn’t work because he’s a supporting character. The film might’ve worked better had it been told from Norman’s perspective and have a better actor in the role.

FURY_2014_still

David Ayer has been living off the success of his early writing gigs, he wrote the first Fast & Furious film and later that same year another film he wrote became a success, Training Day. As a director, none of his films were successful and here I think he tried too hard to make a “serious” film. There’s a scene halfway way through the film that totally dragged and I wish he’d left it on the cutting room floor, I think I understood what he’s trying to say with that scene but to me it’s just a waste of time since it never really amount to anything significance later in the story. The battle scenes were well staged but seeing green and red laser beams was kind of weird, I’ve never seen a real gun battle in real life so maybe when guns are fired, they shoot out laser beam like that.

Technically Fury is a success but overall it’s just another run of the mill war film that we’ve seen way too many times before. Maybe with a better script, the film could’ve worked better, but there are so many great films out there about this subject that it’s hard to make anything new.
twoandahalfreels
TedS_post


Have you seen FURY? Well, what did you think?