Movie Reviews Archives for 2017-02

Regional Media Movie Review "Collide"

“Collide,” starring Nicholas Hoult, Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley has been sitting on a shelf for three years. Do I need to tell you much more about “Collide” than that fact? Okay, fine, movie reviews are required to be more than two lines so I will do my best to discuss the merits of “Collide” but again, if you understand the nature of the Hollywood release schedule, the fact that a movie has sat on a shelf for so long is very, very telling.

“Collide” stars Nicholas Hoult as Casey, an American living in Germany and making a living as a small-time drug dealer. Casey decides to give up drug dealing when he meets and falls in love with Juliette (Felicity Jones), a fellow American ex-pat turned bartender. Things are looking up for the young couple in love until it is revealed that Juliette has a severe movie disease and needs an expense plot point to save her life.

To get the money for Juliette’s transplant Casey takes a job from Geran (Ben Kingsley), his former drug dealing boss. The job pays just enough to pay for Juliette’s surgery (KISMET!) but is very dangerous. Casey and a partner must steal millions of dollars in cocaine from Germany’s biggest drug dealer, Hagen Kahl (Anthony Hopkins). The plan is silly and over-stuffed and naturally doesn’t go as planned. Kahl figures out who Casey is, takes Juliette hostage and the stage is set for a lot of shouting into cellphones and car chases only slightly noisier than the shouting.

Speaking of shouting, does Ben Kingsley remember a time when he wasn’t shouting? Once a well thought of character actor, Kingsley has receded well into parody. Many critics, myself included, used to joke about Kingsley simply nabbing paychecks by accepting every role he’s offered. It’s not funny anymore. Sir Ben has morphed from the actor we laughed along with as he hammed his way through “Bloodrayne” or “The Last Legion” to that actor we pity for having lost his touch.

Anthony Hopkins hasn’t quite sunk to Sir Ben’s depths but he is not far off. Hopkins gives Kingsley a run for his money in the not giving a single damn about his performance. Hopkins can still put a bit of sizzle into his hammy monologues but “Collide” contains far too many instances of Hopkins monologuing just to keep himself awake in a scene.

Poor Nicholas Hoult is caught in the crossfire of the senior hams and is rendered bland in comparison. In his desperate attempt to take seriously the silliness he’s given to deliver and endure; Hoult is amiable but wholly defeated. It is yeoman’s work to take serious the over-complicated silliness of “Collide” and it is hard to fault Hoult, an otherwise handsome and welcome presence, for being tired and overwhelmed.

Full disclosure, “Collide” was delayed because it’s original distributor, Relativity Media, went out business and not necessarily because it isn’t any good. Of course, if the film were good it likely would have been bought out and released sometime in the last three years. Why the film is in theaters nationwide now is a mystery likely linked to a contractual obligation of some s

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Regional Media Movie Review "Get Out"

There isn’t much to write about “Get Out,” the new horror-thriller from writer-director Jordan Peele. Not that “Get Out” isn’t brilliant, it is and I am happy to write that. No, I just don’t want to spoil the myriad pleasures of “Get Out” by telling you too much about it. The film’s trailer gives away too much already, a full-scale review would likely only take away from what should be a surprising, shocking, funny and edgy ride that Jordan Peele has concocted.

“Get Out” stars newcomer Daniel Kaluuya as Chris, a TSA employee and budding photographer who is nervous about the upcoming weekend. Chris is headed to Connecticut to meet his girlfriend’s parents for the first time. This would-be nerve wracking for anyone but Chris has the extra edge of being a young black man who is dating a young white woman, Rose (“Girls” star Allison Williams), who hasn’t told her parents who is coming to dinner.

While Rose assures Chris that her parents won’t care about his ethnicity, Chris’s best friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery, stealing the whole movie) instructs his friend not to go. Putting aside Rod’s seemingly comical warning, Chris loves Rose and figures one weekend in Connecticut won’t kill him. Upon arriving the Armitage estate, Chris meets the parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), each extra awkward in their overly ingratiating, white liberal manner; Dean assures Chris he would have voted for Obama a third time.

Things quickly get weird however when Chris is introduced to the help, Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Henderson). While Chris assumes that fellow black people will make him feel more comfortable, Georgina and Walter are anything but welcoming. In fact, something is quite menacing in their manner. They act and speak like aliens inhabiting the bodies of black people with nothing familiar about them.

I will stop with the plot description there as to avoid any potential spoilers. I can say however that the portrayals of Georgina and Walter are some of the most biting and universal satire we’ve seen in some time. Walter and Georgina implicate all of us from Chris to each member of the audience in the way we expect people to be one way. We expect Georgina and Walter to have familiar, stereotypical traits. We may not know what those traits are specifically but each of us has a model for Georgina and Walter to live into and it is disturbing when they don’t live into it, for us and for Chris.

White liberal guilt is in for quite a workout in “Get Out” as the film takes a few sharps stabs at the way in which those who don’t consider themselves racist pat ourselves on the backs for the ways we aren’t racist. Newsflash, you are not supposed to be a racist. You don’t get a cookie simply for being better than those who would commit hate crimes. “Get Out” is a perfect jab right to the consciousness of the complacent masses who believe simply having elected a black President has made this a post-racial society.

Don’t be mistaken however, the politics are much subtler and implied in “Get Out” than in the outward example I am giving you here. “Get Out” is first and foremost a horror thriller that uses race as a catalyst. Jordan Peele has said in interviews that he simply wanted to make a movie he’d never seen before and he’s certainly created something original. “Get Out” has horror beats and even a touch of science fiction, often the best genres for subtle satire, but it’s also brilliantly funny, channeling the incredibly sharp wit of its creator.

Again, I don’t want to give anything away about “Get Out.” With that said, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that Lil Rel Howery steals this whole movie. Howery, a stand-up comedian by trade, is put in place as comic relief but just wait, Peele fills out this character in ways that the Coen Brothers might appreciate. Watching Howery I was reminded, in a rather obscure way, of John Goodman’s Walter in “The Big Lebowski.” You will need to see the movie to understand why I say that and probably need to be a huge Coen Brothers fan as well, nevertheless, Howery deserves the praise of the comparison.

“Get Out” ranks next to “Split” as one of the best movies I have seen in the last 12 months. That each has arrived so early in 2017 is a wonder, we usually aren’t this well spoiled early in the year. Usually, the first two months of any year Hollywood clears the shelves of the dreck they are contractually obligated to release. Does this mean 2017 will be better than any other year? No, but at the very least we have two early masterworks to enjoy for the rest of the year. 

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Regional Media Movie Review Rock Dog

To complain that “Rock Dog” is a low-quality bit of animated flotsam is something akin to complaining about the wind blowing, that’s simply it’s nature. “Rock Dog” is animated cash in from China that isn’t meant to be good but rather is intended as a product, and a cheap one at that. China may still be under the boot of Communism but the burgeoning capitalists working their way around the government have learned a thing or two from Hollywood charlatans who pump out product rather than art or even the modest bit of fluffy entertainment.

“Rock Dog” features the voice of Luke Wilson, a paragon of youthful enthusiasm at a mere 45 years old, as teenage mastiff singer Bodi. Bodi lives on Snow Mountain with his bruising mastiff daddy Khampa (J.K Simmons) who has seemingly planned Bodi’s life for him. Like his dad, Bodi is expected to become a guard dog, protecting the simple and sweet sheep of Snow Mountain from the dastardly and deadly wolves, led by Linnux (Lewis Black).

Bodi however, dreams of music and when a radio falls from the sky from a passing airplane Bodi finds his muse in a rock singer named Angus Scattergood (Eddie Izzard). With dreams of having Angus teach him about music, Bodi leaves his family behind to travel to the city and join a band. Unfortunately, the wolves see Bodi leaving and see it as a chance to attack the village. Can Bodi achieve his dreams and still find a way to protect Snow Mountain? Will you care?

Don’t let this incredibly funny voice cast fool you, “Rock Dog” has only three laughs. Mostly “Rock Dog” seems to exist. The story is rudimentary, as my description indicates, when it isn’t filling time with nonsense about wrestling a murderous bear or padding things further with voiceover from Sam Elliott as, ugh,….. Fleetwood Yak. Somewhere several screenwriters high fived over that pun.

No, Fleetwood Yak is not one of the three laughs in the movie, though it did rank among the uncountable groans. No, Eddie Izzard’s rock star cat was responsible for the laughs “Rock Dog” inspires. One comes when he is forced into a bit of old school Warner Brothers slapstick, the second when he feels guilty for stealing a song from Bodi and is shamed by his robot butler and the last wasn’t memorable enough for me to recount but I can at least admit the laugh was there.

Does a negative review of “Rock Dog” matter in any way? Of course, not. Most parents don’t care what they throw in front of their small child’s consciousness. That said, for the few parents who do care, for the parents who are vigilant and give thought and care to what their children consume, this review is for you. This review says don’t waste your child’s developing brain cells on this. It’s not that “Rock Dog” is offensive or even bad for the children who do see it. Rather, that “Rock Dog” isn’t worth the 89 minutes your child could be reading or imagining or exploring a worthy work of pop entertainment. This review is for anyone who actually read all the way to the end of a review of “Rock Dog.” 

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Regional Media Film Critic Sean Patrick Predicts the Oscars

It’s time for the Oscars and time for those of us supposed experts to weigh in with our picks. Let’s get this one thing straight, of course the Oscars are subjective and do not reflect, could not reflect, what everyone believes are the best movies or performances. If it was a fan vote Star Wars Rogue One or one of a myriad of Superhero adventures would likely win Best Picture.
Instead, a group of very knowledgeable people in the field of film have gathered to attempt to aggregate their opposing tastes into something that reflects what the industry believes is the best of the best. It’s not perfect, but it’s still a whole lot of fun to talk about and debate. This is my tiny contribution to that conversation.


Best Picture


My choice would be Arrival but that’s not gonna happen. I am of two minds on this one. On the one hand La La Land was near record setting in nominations. On the other hand, last year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy is undoubtedly weighing on voters regardless of the call to simply choose the best of the best. Regardless of the controversy, there are great arguments in favor of either Moonlight or Hidden Figures but it would be naïve to assume that the controversy doesn’t increase each film’s chances this year. That said, I am still picking La La Land to win based on its popularity, artistry and the fact that it has the broadest appeal of all of the nominees.


Winner La La Land


Best Actor


Not much conversation here, Denzel wins for Fences.


Winner Denzel Washington for Fences


Best Actress


This race pretty much ended when Taraji P. Henson wasn’t nominated for Hidden Figures. Emma Stone will take home her first Oscar for her lovely performance in La La Land.


Winner Emma Stone La La Land


Best Supporting Actor


A month ago I would have said that Mahershala Ali was a shoe-in to take home the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. But in the run up the ballots being cast Dev Patel has been getting an immense amount of attention. Putting aside the fact that Patel really is the lead actor in Lion, his performance is deeply emotional and personal and the film is a global smash. That’s not to say that Ali isn’t as good but his film has a far tougher subject matter and is much less seen than the wide appeal Lion.


Winner Dev Patel Lion 


Best Supporting Actress


Yet another no contest category, Viola Davis will win for Fences


Winner Viola Davis Fences


Best Director


Damian Chazelle La La Land


Best Animated Feature


The Red Turtle


Best Cinematography


La La Land


Best Costume Design


La La Land


Best Documentary Feature


I Am Not Your Negro


Best Documentary Short Subject


Extremis


Best Film Editing


La La Land


Best Foreign Language Film


Toni Erdmann


Best Makeup and Hair


Star Trek Beyond


Best Original Song


City of Stars from La La Land


Best Production Design


La La Land


Best Animated Short


Pear Cider and Cigarette


Best Live Action Short


Extremis Interviews


Best Sound Editing


Hacksaw Ridge

 

Best Sound Mixing

 

Hacksaw Ridge


Best Visual Effects


Rogue One A Star Wars Story


Best Adapted Screenplay


Moonlight


Best Original Screenplay


Manchester by the Sea

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