Time Share

RATING: [C+|👎]

A wild and mesmerizing route into an absurd capitalist world of time share extravaganza, where one man is made to feel the intoxicating sensations of being used and abused by corporate avarice. A second-rate film with traces of Wes Anderson and Yorgos Lanthimos, filled with a consummate level of entertainment and frustration. A film about one man’s series of unfortunate events as he’s made to play the song and dance of an opportunistic environment of worldly succession when his only desire is to be left alone and allow his family to heal.

A strange film to say the least, but thoroughly enjoyable.

(there will be flamingos)

RATING: C+

Hold the Dark

RATING: [C-|👎]

You like to think you’re devoted to your child. And you tell people this, “I’d do anything for ’em, anything.” And…it feels correct in your mouth when you say it, and you just go ahead with your life.

Russell Core

Hold the Dark is an interesting film, to say the least. It touches on profound topics such as grief and mourning, justice, and “closure.” The film attempts to deal with these topics, but they tend to get lost in the theme. The primary theme has to deal with wolves, both literal and metaphorical. Both the “wolves in sheep’s clothing” and the “sheepdog metaphor” can be seen at play in their contrasting juxtaposition.

Since this page is more focused on the technical aspects of film making and not the nuances of story telling and thematic arches, I’ll digress from the latter point. That in mind, please forgive me if I mention distinctions between the two metaphors from this point forward. The reason for that is simply because so much of the sordid story has those elements finely engrained.

Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright) is an author who has dedicated his work to the study of wolves, and has been asked to investigate the death of a young boy in a rural Yup’ik village by the boy’s mother, Medora Slone (Riley Keough). Medora believes her son was taken and killed by a pack of wolves, and wants Russell to find evidence of this as well as cull one of the suspected animals before her husband, Vernon (Alexander Skarsgård), returns from his deployment. Vernon is sent home due to a battlefield injury, and finds his wife missing and his son deceased.

From that summary alone, know that antidepressants will compliment your viewing snacks. Russell figures out his real part to play in the story in the beginning of the second act, stating that he thinks he needs to “tell her story.” In that sense, and without giving spoilers, that’s where the concept of “closure” comes in to play.

As expected from Wright, he delivers the same quality of performance that audiences have come to expect from him. Keough performs her role in a manner that is jarring yet oddly convincing, whereas Skarsgård plays a rigid role that is quite telling of his character’s overly controlled nature.

There’s a clear line between people who fall in the category of sheepdogs, and those that more closely resemble a wolf in sheep’s clothing (and sometimes in sheepdog’s clothing). This is visually presented to great effect in the film! While this is used for foreshadowing, it’s more frequently used for distinguishing the proper archetypes of the characters.

As a whole, Hold the Dark is a decent film with a story that is reminiscent of Eastern European classics, that is to say simple and melancholy. However, this doesn’t tend to bode well in film, and is sparsely delivered to give the audience a point of reflection. For example, The Brothers Bloom excelled with this style of ending in the fact that is delivered a clear happiness wrapped in the more depressing aspects. Hold the Dark on the other hand only presents a slimmer of happiness that is so vague it’s lost in the darker elements.

I’ve voiced my concerns about Netflix Originals before, and this is an improvement. But only just. Quality actors, quality directing, and a good story are all great elements of a film, but they don’t mean much if the whole of the story leaves the audience confused and conflicted.

RATING: C-

Back to School

A Review of Two High-School Comedies

TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE

Covering our bases with this recent release getting high-marks (93% | 7.1/10) from the usual gallery and as expected, it is a tough watch. After Harvard University was accused of actively discriminating against Asian-American applicants, the Hollywood community suddenly began embracing films catered to the Asia-American market (e.g. Crazy Rich Asians). And as with this film, the quality is certainly not deserving of the praise. Compared to any high school film by John Hughes, this is complete trash and deserving of the Netflix Original release.

The film is about an Asian girl without any discernible features who enters a completely non-sensical pact with the presumed Prom King to pretend-date in order to attract another identical looking future bachelorette contestant and of course, his being white was problematic for the intersectionality community. Having spent enough time together, they both, predictably, decide to forego their other options and just date each other for realz. The main character (Lana Condor) has a stereotypical free-spirited single best-friend who goes to EDM-shows and wears black Panama hats sold at her local Urban Outfitters.

The film adds nothing new to the old genre tropes of the inexplicable female high-schooler loser who ends up with her school’s top prize except this film has none of the creativity of former like-minded attempts and none of the quirky dialogue in John Hughes’ films. 

I'm talking about a real shitbomb.

I almost euthanized myself 45 minutes in, but decided to stick it out in hopes that at least the soundtrack retained its early quality (e.g. Wild Nothing, Blood Orange), which, of course it did not. Unless you’re a teenager or Joe Reid (Netflix manages to come out with their best rom-com yet”), this film is going to be a complete waste of your time. Here are three rom-coms better from just this year. But don’t waste your time on them, either.

Go watch Pretty in Pink.

Go watch Edge of Seventeen.

Go watch Lady Bird.

Avoid this film.

Boys .jpg

RATING: D


BLOCKERS

Another gem of the high-school blend. Certainly not as boring as the film above, but equally incompetent from the standpoint of writing and perfect frat propaganda for move-in day. There was an actual moment in the film where one of the characters goes on a rant dropping a number of feminist buzzwords like gender equality, which signaled early that we’re dealing with immensely superficial writers. And yet the critics largely embraced the film, for obvious reasons like:

(1) It promotes the hook-up culture for girls — congratulating them (“a woman among girls”) for losing their virginity like boys congratulate themselves in the locker rooms after every “conquest.”

(2) It advocates for ending the so-called double-standard window that women shouldn’t demean themselves by being as promiscuous as boys and portraying parents, like John Cena, as traditional rubes stuck in the 1920s.

(3) Endorses the idea of coming out as gay in high-school (which the film above also had), which makes Love, Simon seem like an immensely competent and serious product.

Etc…

Nothing about this film makes it any better than, say Neighbors but for this messaging that the critics continuously have to endorse with their inflated reviews — which begs the question why films averaging Ds are labeled as fresh on Rotten Tomatoes?

In the end, Brian & Jim Kehoe have proven very little as writers except their competence in making the next American Pie sequel. Justin Chang (L.A. Times) gets it right: “what derails Blockers in the end is a curious lack of imagination, an inability to think beyond the raunch-com genre’s most sentimental clichés.”

Others did not.

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly) called the film “deep-down . . . pretty conservative,” which makes sense since The National Review has been publishing an awful lot of support for the lavishness of indiscriminate sex after a night of taking drugs from boys with ponytails whose last names you can’t recall or trying to test the waters of your heterosexuality by treating boys like lab rats. How about a new rule for Entertainment Weekly: anyone who uses “butt-chugging a 40-ounce beer” in the same breath as  “hilarious new comedy” should be sent to cover cat shows instead of offering his opinions on teen comedies.

Just saying, kinda weird.

blockers.jpg

RATING: D+

How It Ends

RATING: [D-|👎]

Begin with the end in mind.

[Stephen Covey]

You might be wondering why a film review would start off with a mantra often given to business majors, but I assure you the answer is quite simple: it seems that the writers had never heard of this concept before. This is especially ironic as the main character, Will (Theo James), is asked multiple times within the first fifteen minutes if he has a plan! It might have seemed a good idea at the time of the script’s initial writing, but it still begs the question of how no solid ending was dreamed up through the rest of production. An excuse of an explanation for the whole premise of the film would have been more satisfying than having the main characters trying to outrun a cloud of what could be just about anything to fit the two main theories pitched to Will throughout the course of the story.

This really is a perfect example of how important an ending is. I started watching this with exceptionally low expectations, thinking that this was an attempt to relive the “better” days of disaster movies. Instead, the film opens with a wholly unlikable professional millennial dead-set on marrying his now pregnant girlfriend, Sam (Kat Graham) . . . despite the fact that her father, Tom (Forest Whitaker), can’t stand Will. Even though that premise is as generic as corn flakes, the story progresses in such a manner that you actually come to respect and somewhat admire Will through his growth, and the same can be said for Tom. The characters in this film actually had a vague semblance of personal depth, and the acting of both characters was exceptionally well done considering the material.

Since the film is in essence a disaster movie, it would be expected that the “disaster” in question would have some sort of concrete explanation, especially since the disaster is what puts the whole plot in motion. Of course, as alluded to at the beginning of this review, the speculative “explanations” of the overarching disaster vary from a super volcano erupting, to the start of WWIII and a thousand years of nuclear winter. The plot itself is interesting since the whole story takes place over the course of a week, where somehow all of civilization breaks down to resemble The Purge by the end of the film. The cynic in me thought it could be quite likely, but perhaps nobody really knows how civilization would “realistically” dissolve in the event of an impending apocalypse.

To summarize, don’t waste your time with How It Ends. Sure, it comes with your Netflix subscription, and it does have at least one good actor (two, if you count Theo James), but those two facts don’t excuse Netflix’s acquisition strategy of throwing cash at whatever seems new and “edgy” at the film festivals. The frequency of bad films going straight to Netflix is starting to give “Netflix Originals” the same clout as “Direct to Home Video” releases, and I can’t help but wonder what Netflix as a company is thinking by investing in so many bad films…speaking of “beginning with the end in mind”.

RATING: D-

 

La Forêt

RATING: [C-|👎]

As is the nature of Netflix Originals, Delinda Jacobs’s The Forest is a French crime mini-series that feels like a completion project ripping off the creative works of better filmmakers. An unfulfilled esoteric narrative filmed in the beautiful northern forests of France hints at some rooted mystery just around the corner until you turn that bend and realize that the writers had nothing better to offer.

The series traces an all too familiar plot of a small town murder mystery where everyone and no one is a suspect and things are strangely appearing that end up rooted in a mundane explanation. A wild card village citizen who decides to commit her independent spirit to solving the mystery, while finding her own familial story in the process. Sexual tension across the board. Cops being largely useless and seemingly easy to lie to. A saddening demonstration of the corruption of the youth in no small measure due to the lax sexual expectation placed on children (especially French society). Generally unlikable people across the board with alot of warm bodies who do little else than walk around. A melancholy developing dynamic between the town-folks with liars and thieves handing out plot hole fixers.

The show comes nowhere near to a creative development worth watching past the first three episodes. Where a mini-series is supposed to develop and introduce layers to the complex web of fine-tuned writing, The Forest is an exercise in futility comparable to watching hamsters running theirs wheels. weaving narrative that attempts to overlap with the plot-murder that takes an all too familiar feel-good dive into a family  melodrama. And in the end, an immesely boring villain that makes it oh so much easier to appreciate how perfectly casted Glenn Fleshler was in True Detective.

For people who really like crime dramas, it’s not the worst thing in the world, and certainly after Dark, I wish that Netflix had more foreign crime dramas, but much better crime shows exist* for you to waste your time here unless you’ve seen them all.

RATING: C-


*  Here are 5:

  1. The Fall
  2. Mindhunter
  3. Dark
  4. Broadchurch
  5. Luther

And if you can get you hands on True Detective (season one), that is the place to start.

Netflix Originals — Romcom

Ali’s Wedding, Set It Up, Alex Strangelove.

I chose to briefly review these three recent Netflix comedies because each one has received a favorable score on Rotten Tomatoes: Ali’s Wedding ( 92% | 7/10 | 24 Reviews ), Alex Strangelove ( 86% | 6.4/10 | 21 Reviews ), & Set It Up ( 94% | 7.3/10 | 34 Reviews).

The results should not shock anyone

Ali’s Wedding 

Mildly entertaining and for all practical purpose an interesting cross-cultural (Iraq-Australia) comedy that demonstrates the stifling of women in Muslim communities. It tells the story of Ali (Osamah Sami) and the lie he told to retain the respects of his family. The arranged marriage that he was all to unwilling to entertain. And a number of important cultural themes that get lost in the film’s incessant effort to make light of the situation. By curtains close, I think we all know what will happen.

ali

RATING: C | 👎

 Alex Strangelove 

This is a feel-good coming-out film in the vein of Love, Simon that channels Glee and American Pie while having no lasting impact and no real attempt in making a good film. Redundant high school drama with a cringeworthy ending entailing a full-blown jubilation of acceptance. I understand the purpose of the film, but glamorizing the reality of the situation does not to prepare the gay community for what may otherwise be a very difficult moment in their lives. And making more bad films about the gay community makes it no more acceptable than the faith community showering their respective audiences with feel good injections. Craig Johnson is not a serious filmmaker; his only intentions here was to recycle old tropes wrapped in established Hollywood themes in order to raise his own profile. And, the critics are rewarding him for it.

If people want to see a better version of this theme, go see Beach Rats (incidentally including the same actress, Madeline Weinstein).

Strangelove

RATING: D | 👎

 Set It Up 

In the hierarchy of roles where top dog gets to treat the underlings like crap in a barrel, the Set It Up serves to show that films too can find a home among the mindless vagabonds of creative output. Starring Zoey Deuch (not to be confused with Haley Lu Richardson) and some guy who tries to imitate Max Greenfiled (Schmidty!), this banal romcom, typically reserved for the Christmas season, is a cynical parent trap parody that lives of the fumes of an incorrigible generation of film watchers who take after Wall-E in finding treasure in what is undeniably garbage. The one exception: Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt).

Of course, film critics loved it. Probably none more than Jeffrey Lyles (Lyles’ Movie Files) whose taste is personified by a 9.5/10 rating and this hopeless review: “[t]his is the kind of romantic comedy some exec should be busy congratulating themselves for backing and producing.”

set it up

RATING:   D | 👎

July

Here is what we’re excited to see this month

IN THEATRES

 WHITNEY – July 6 

Documentary about Whitney Houston from Kevin MacDonald, a capable director (Last King of Scotland, State of Play) and an Oscar winner for One Day in September, a documentary on the group Black September that held Israeli athletes hostage at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich.

whitneyTrailer.

DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT – July 13

The new Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Milk) film starring Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, and Jack Black is about John Callahan, while on his rocky path to sobriety after a life-changing accident, discovers the healing power of art, willing his injured hands into drawing hilarious, often controversial cartoons, which bring him a new lease on life.

Dont WorryTrailer.

GENERATION WEALTH – July 20 

Lauren Greenfield brings her new documentary that has an important premise: investigates the pathologies that have created the richest society the world has ever seen.

wealth
Trailer.

McQUEEN – July 20

Another documentary, this one about the famed and eccentric fashion designer, Alexander McQueen, who hung himself at age 40.

McQueenTrailer.

BLINDSPOTTING – July 20

Lifelong friends Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal co-wrote and star in this timely and wildly entertaining story about the intersection of race and class, set against the backdrop of a rapidly gentrifying Oakland. It does not look great, but I’ve heard many people raving about it at the Atlanta Film Festival and so far the critics (for what it’s worth) have joined in.

blindspottingTrailer.

STREAMING

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: New 2018: Freshly Brewed (July 6th Netflix)

Arguably the GOAT when it comes to comedy, Jerry Seinfeld comes out with another season of CICGC (does that work??). This season includes Jerry Lewis, Dana Carvey, Kate McKinnon, Alec Baldwin, Brian Regan, Ellen DeGeneres, Zach Galifianakis, John Mulaney, Dave Chappelle, Neal Brennan, Tracy Morgan, and Hasan Minhaj.

34599675_1584714118306594_5450660763909750784_n.0

Trailer.

Sharp Objects (July 8th on HBO)

After the unforgettable season of Westworld on HBO, they needed a replacement. Using the director of Big Little Lies, the producer of Get Out, Amy Adams, and the writer of Gone Girl, they seek to replace Westworld on Sunday nights with the new miniseries Sharp Objects.

Trailer.

Father of the Year (July 20 on Netflix)
A group of friends become divided when they attempt to decide whose father is better.  As they grow older, the argument shifts to whose father is worst. Directed by Tyler Spidel. Starring David Spade, Nat Faxon, Joey Bragg, Matt Shively, and Dridget Mendler.
Father of the Year
Zoe (July 20 on Amazon)
A look into what happens when scientists try to perfect love.  Directed by Drake Doremus and starring Ewan McGregor, Lea Seydoux, and Rashida Jones.
Zoe
How It Ends (July 27 on Netflix)

The plot centers on a mysterious apacalyptic event that turns the roads into mayhem and a young father who will stop at nothing to get home to his pregnant wife on the other side of the country. Directed by David M. Rosenthal and starring Theo James, Forest Whitaker, and Kat Graham.

 how it ends

Trailer.

Netflix:

  • Jurassic Park (July 1)
  • Boondock Saints (July 1)
  • Chocolat (July 1)
  • Spanglish (July 1)
  • Blue Valentine (July 5)
  • Gone Baby Gone (July 12)
  • Her (July 29)

Amazon Prime

  • American Psycho (July 1)
  • Zodiac (July 1)
  • Gran Torino (July 1)
  • Mulholland Drive (July 1)
  • The Brothers Bloom (July 1)

Hulu

  • The Manchurian Candidate (July 1)
  • Midnight in Paris (July 1)
  • The Brothers Bloom (July 1)
  • Braveheart (July 1)
  • The Legend of Bagger Vance (July 1)

HBO

  • Princess Bride (July 1)
  • Being John Malkovich (July 1)
  • Good Will Hunting (July 1)
  • Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind (July 16)