Archive for the ‘Film Review’ Category

Everybody Wants Some!!   Leave a comment

Fresh off directing one of the most ambitious films ever made, Richard Linklater moves on from Boyhood to young adulthood with Everybody Wants Some!! Titled after the great Van Halen song, Linklater pens a fun and honest look at college life in 1980. Many events in the film are loosely based off Linklater’s experiences as a college freshman athlete.

Our wide-eyed main character Jake starts us off driving down the highway in a ’72 Oldsmobile coupe blasting “My Sherona” before he anxiously arrives at his Texas-based college he’ll be attending for the next four years. Right off the bat we get well acquainted with his housemates/baseball teammates he’ll be living with for the next four years. Linklater smoothly introduces us to a slew of colorful characters that we’ve all probably met before throughout our own college experiences. As different as everyone might seem, there is a fun instant chemistry among the guys. Two evident things they can all agree on is that baseball and chasing tail are the current main priorities in life. One great scene early on is with some of the guys in the car looking for girls to invite to their upcoming party while singing along to every word of The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” I thought if this were today, most people would just be in the back seat texting. This is a time where people engaged with other humans because that’s all there was and I think the film really delivers on romanticizing the benefits of not having constant distractions in our lives. I love that there really isn’t one recognizable actor in this film. They all just look like guys you’d see in college. Not to take anything away from their performances of course, but I’m amazed how Linklater continually casts really genuine people which gives every one of his films a very genuine feel.

I guess “Everybody Wants Some!!” is being compared to his 1993 classic “Dazed and Confused” and rightly so. It only takes place a year after “Dazed” and the loose plot structures are similar. Both films focuses on short time frames. “Dazed” follows several students on the last day of school and ends after a late night party and “Everybody” takes place in the course of a weekend right before classes start. I still feel that both movies have their own swag. College just has a different feel than high school. Some student’s motives are similar like getting trashed and chasing tail, but these characters have more of a sense of who they are or who they’re likely going to be. In high school nobody knows squat. I liked the wise upperclassman character, Finn, who accepts that he most likely won’t play professional baseball but wants to appreciate it while it lasts. Most of the guys are in the same boat as well. They know that they’ve got it good right now being the scholarship athletes they are, but they understand that they’re peons when it’s all over. Call me a youngling, but I also found it fascinating that 18 was legal drinking age in 1980. So of course college wins over high school here.

Everybody Wants Some!! may not pan out to be the cult classic Dazed and Confused has become but I think it’s still a relevant observation of the high rolling college life of 1980. Regardless of the decade you grew up in, there’s a fun atmosphere this movie gives off that’s irresistible. Linklater captures all the subtle details from guys just hanging out talking about records to the cruel hazing that goes on for college freshmen. It also features one of the funnest  soundtracks I’ve heard in years: The Knack, Blondie, Van Halen, Dire Straits, and the Sugar Hill Gang captures the turn of the decade beautifully. And much like the soundtrack Everybody Wants Some!! is a well crafted and sensible adventure of the unknown transitions we all find ourselves stumbling through in life. I highly recommend this comedy as a great end of summer movie watch.

The Lobster   Leave a comment

lobster

There are certain movies that come out where you read the premise and get the general idea of how it might play out. The Lobster is not one of those movies.

After lazily skimming over the synopsis on IMDB I had to re-think what I had just read. In The Lobster according to The City laws single people are required to move to a specialized hotel in hopes of finding a partner. If they fail after 45 days they are forced to be transformed into an animal of their choice. There you have it. The most ridiculous plot I have ever heard of at least for a rom-com. Which is why I needed to see this by all means necessary.

David, played by Colin Farrell, has just checked into the hotel with a dog who was once his brother. David is recently separated from his wife of nearly 12 years who had cheated on him. Now it’s time for him to move on or he must become the animal of his choice which is a lobster.

There are some strict rules in the hotel. One of them is a ban on masturbation which we see is an offense punishable by a hand being inserted into a toaster. There are ways to add time to their stay by hunting down former guest who have escaped. They’re known as “the Loners.”

The guest are forced to attend dances to mix and mingle with each other. It’s also encouraged for people to find similar flaws which hint at compatibility such as nose bleeds, limps, lisps and near sightedness.

Desperate to avoid his impending animal transformation  David falsely convinces a cold hearted woman that they are a match by acting just as callus as she does. But she eventually sees through his ruse. David has no choice but to run to the forest and become one of the Loners.

As we’re introduced to the Loners we find that they have formed their own set of rules to counter the hotel. Masturbation is now fair game for all. Talking to the opposite sex is allowed but any flirting is prohibited. But David who is short sighted finds he is compatible with one of the Loners, a short sighted woman played by Rachel Weisz. She sees he’s a match as well. All hell breaks loose from here.

The Lobster is often layered with dark subtle humor but there are moments of absurd slapstick that you can’t help but laugh out loud. Seeing Colin Farrell kick a small girl in the shin had me in stitches. Odd tonal shifts are of the norm throughout the two hour film which doesn’t make it easily watchable for all viewers, but many will find the ridiculous setup enjoyable.

As a single male in my horrifyingly late twenties I couldn’t help but fantasize how my stay at the hotel would play out. Dead dog I would presume. Sadly I don’t see our society differing too much from this nightmare hotel. I think we put way too much pressure on ourselves to find love. I certainly grew up with the impression that I’d be married with kids by now. But alas I can’t even afford a studio apartment. Dating apps are a weird avenue no one should venture down but some people would do anything to not spend another minute alone.

Before we obsess about whether we’re compatible with the opposite sex we should first be compatible with ourselves. If that means choosing to be a lobster rather than the common dog then so be it. I, on the other hand, am not an animal!

IMG_2135.CR2

Miles Ahead of the Norm   2 comments

1140-don-cheadle-miles-ahead.imgcache.rev1458243827611.web

Moments before Miles Ahead graced the silver screen I sat in an empty theater with my mind racing with anticipation. I was excited, nervous, mostly embarrassed that I was the only twenty something in town interested in seeing a Jazz biopic. But there were bigger fish to fry here.

As a music biopic junkie this is the white whale I’ve been waiting for. Ever since I discovered the incredible works of Miles Davis during my sophomore year of high school I knew there had to be a great movie somewhere in his life. I’ve always considered his work a catalyst for opening up my taste in music and always thought a movie would have the same influence on the rest of the world. Easy enough.

At around the same time I was being blown away from hearing “Kind of Blue” for the first time, the smash hit biopic of Ray Charles was released. Yes it was somewhat depressing and hard to watch such a beloved artist do such un-PG-like things, but the music was fun, and Jamie Foxx was absolutely electric as Ray. A year later Johnny Cash’s biopic Walk the Line would follow in the same successful fashion. Jon Stewart called it a great remake of “Ray with white people.” Biopics were hot.

Its been over ten years since those movies came out and the music biopic genre has sort of been beaten to death with every cliche imaginable. I mean, did anyone really say to themselves, “Yes, we need a Bobby Darin movie!” or “Hey, I think Mark Anthony and J-Lo would absolutely kill it as Hector Lavoe and his wife!” But they keep coming and they keep sucking. Sometimes we get a treat like I’m Not There Yet or Get On Up, but as entertaining as they may be it’s still hard to escape the dreaded cliches of a music biopic. They even made a movie called Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story which perfectly pokes fun at every cringe worthy trope the genre has to offer: messed up childhood, rise to success, downfall to drugs, infidelity, and then a cheery recovery.

miles-davis-don-cheadle

This is where my nervousness for Miles Ahead comes into play. To be honest I never thought this movie would get made or even wanted it after all this time. I recall Don Cheadle being attached to direct, write, and star in this project for nearly a decade. He seemed like a perfect choice to play Miles. He had the look, range and the coolness down perfectly. But what studio would want to push a biopic of a Jazz musician that the average film goer probably hasn’t even heard of? The backing for the film was definitely an issue, but not as much as Cheadle’s unclear vision for this passion project. He knew an artist like Miles deserved more than just a run-of-the-mill crapfest we’ve seen time after time. And Mr. Cheadle made damn sure that wasn’t the case.

After pitching around ideas with the Davis family, Cheadle finally realized that the most important thing that this film needed to get right was the essence of Miles Davis. In the first scene we see an old Miles lecturing his interviewer: “If you’re gonna tell a story, come with some attitude. Don’t be all corny with this s***.” Suddenly I felt confident this was going to be something different.

We start off in the five year silent period of Miles Davis when he stopped releasing new material. He’s secluded himself into a hermit lifestyle in a messy New York apartment battling a creativity block of epic proportions. Aside from a few flashbacks this is about as historically accurate as the film gets right and deliberately so.

From there we’re introduced to David Brill (Ewan McGregor), a fictional Rolling Stone writer, peskily trying to get the inside scoop on Miles’s silence. They eventually become accomplices. Through this relationship we get some insight on Miles’s past flashing back to his genius work as a young composer and the struggles with his relationships and drug addiction throughout the years. While the flashbacks can tend to feel a bit cliche they blend appropriately with what Miles is dealing with in his current state as a tortured artist. We then find out there’s a secret tape session that Miles may have worked on at Columbia Records. Word gets out about this tape and people want it. Bad people. This is where the movie takes a real left turn. It’s now become a straight up caper with gangsters and gunfights.

MilesAheadpic3-600x400

In the midst of all this absurdity, involving one of my music heroes engaging in drive-by shootings that never really happened, I found myself completely immersed in all of it. Thanks to Don Cheadle’s masterful portrayal of Miles and his debut work behind the camera which is nothing short of brilliant. It all works on the same level that Davis’s music works; It’s brilliant but it’s always on the move looking for unique change. The 100 minute flow of Miles Ahead mirrors this exactly. Ewan McGregor mentioned in a real Rolling Stone interview, “It’s less a Miles biopic than an attempt to cast Miles in a caper flick that he *might* like to have been part of.” That’s a hell of a way to change it up.

Miles Ahead may not be perfect in every capacity, but it’s totally committed to what it set out to do. The music selection represents Miles’s essence spot on and is complimented by superb shooting from debut director Don Cheadle. And while some may have problems with the authenticity of the story, it never fails to be an interesting glimpse into the mind of a true genius. “Let’s be musical about this s***. Be wrong strong, otherwise lay the f*** out,” says Cheadle as Davis coaching his band before a studio recording. Thus sums up the ambition of this film perfectly. Miles Davis would eventually make his come back in the early 80’s experimenting with something different, engaging, and miles ahead of the norm.

miles-ahead-650