[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 13 – Ghost Stories (2017)

Director: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman

Cast: Andy Nyman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther, Martin Freeman

Screenplay: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman

98 mins. Not Rated.

 

On the recent subject of anthology horror films, today we’ll be looking at Ghost Stories, a unique and interesting twist on the idea of anthologies. It’s not really an anthology, and it also has a level of anthology-style to it with a very interesting framing device. Let’s talk about it.

Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman) a professor known for his skeptical viewpoint of ghosts and the afterlife. He runs a documentary-style show that debunks paranormal events and stories, and when he is given a file with three cases of unexplained paranormal circumstances, he discovers that each of these ghost stories blurs the lines between what is real and what is not.

I had been told many great things about Ghost Stories and as I was watching Professor Goodman going through each of the cases, I kept wondering why. Each of these cases felt like something that I’d seen before, something I expected, something unsurprising. So why is it a good movie? About halfway through the film, I stopped wondering about that. There’s a reason why these stories feel familiar and why they seem unsurprising and expected. There’s a hidden connection among the stories and the effect they have on Professor Goodman.

Andy Nyman does some very solid acting as Professor Goodman, and, in fact, each of the three characters leading the three stories are both relatable and well-performed. I particularly liked Paul Whitehouse (The Death of Stalin, Alice Through the Looking Glass) as Tony Matthews, the central character of the first story. He’s an actor I don’t have a lot of experience watching, and his character arc in the first story mirrors a lot of how I would go through the experience of a haunting. That’s not to fault either Alex Lawther (The Imitation Game, TV’s The End of the F***ing World) in the second story or Martin Freeman (Black Panther, Cargo) in the third. Each story works much better in hindsight after understand the complete path of the film.

Ghost Stories is a wildly psychotic and enjoyable film. Its faults lie in a muddled first half meant to set up the big reveal at the end of the film. I’m also not entirely sure if the film is very re-watchable, but I’d like to see it at least once more to put all the pieces together. I’d highly recommend it for a fun puzzle of a movie, one that stuck with me after watching it. These Ghost Stories are well worth hearing.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 12 – Mom and Dad (2017)

Director: Brian Taylor

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Lance Henriksen, Robert T. Cunningham, Brionne Taylor, Samantha Lemole

Screenplay: Brian Taylor

86 mins. Rated R for disturbing horror violence, language throughout, some sexual content/nudity and teen drug use.

 

I wasn’t a big fan of the directing duo of Neveldine/Taylor. Their work is very stylized in a way that just never works for me. Now, one of the two directors, Brian Taylor (Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, TV’s Happy!) has gone out on his own to write and direct Mom and Dad. So what does a film with half of Neveldine/Taylor look like?

Teenager Carly (Anne Winters, Night School, TV’s 13 Reasons Why) and her brother Josh (Zackary Arthur, The 5th Wave, Mississippi Requiem) are brats. They don’t get along with each other, and they don’t really get along with their parents, but they are forced to work together in order to survive an insane 24-hour period in which all parents become enraged and try to kill their own kids.

Let me be clear here. Nicolas Cage (Face/Off, The Croods), as patriarch Brent, is so perfectly cast for this film. I read somewhere that Cage said this is his favorite film of his from the past decade, and I can see why. He’s playing himself. He’s insane in the movie. He’s insane in real life. This is Nicolas Cage doing exactly what he wants on a playground built for him. Selma Blair (Cruel Intentions, After) does fine work as matriarch Kendall, but it’s Cage who owns every scene he’s in. The supporting cast here is fine enough for the material, but make no mistake; this is Nick Cage’s movie.

Brian Taylor’s direction is still quite similar to his work with Neveldine/Taylor, but to a lesser extent. He has some style that works here but he also takes time to outline his world with the rules by presenting scenes that flesh out most of the rules even if he never fully fleshes out the characters. At the same time, his style takes over near the end and the film falls apart because of it. Sadly, the ending is a messy downer that doesn’t really cross the finish line.

Mom and Dad is a mostly-winning genre film that succeeds where others have failed, and it has a nice tight runtime with a lot of flashy fun. Its failures exist in failing to work in really strong characters and an ending that falls absolutely flat. It’s still a lot of fun to watch and the good outweighs the bad, but it isn’t without its failings.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 11 – XX (2017)

Director: Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama, Annie Clark, Jovanka Vuckovic

Cast: Natalie Brown, Melanie Lynskey, Breeda Wool, Christina Kirk, Jonathan Watton, Peter DaCunha

Screenplay: Jovanka Vuckovic, Roxanne Benjamin, Annie Clark, Karyn Kusama

80 mins. Rated R for horror violence, language and brief drug use.

 

It seems like anthologies are coming back in a big way. For me, at least, they never left, but they are being brought forth more and more as of recent in an independent setting. The problem with them, as I’ve said before, is that they can be hit-or-miss, which can be a major problem. There’s also a question of theme and framing, and that’s what made XX such an interesting addition to the canon. As far as theme goes, it’s all based around the writer/directors, who are all women. I think the idea of an all-female horror anthology sounds very intriguing, especially as I’ve been quite aware of the limited opportunities for female storytellers in film. What a great way to introduce and boost female voices. But does the film work?

The framing device for XX is pretty simplistic and more of a visual feast of disturbing stop-motion images. The four stories begin with an adaptation of Jack Ketchum’s The Box about a family that goes through a change when one of the children stops eating. In The Birthday Party, a mother attempting to throw a birthday party for her child comes across a horrifying scene and decides to hide it from the partygoers. In Don’t Fall, four friends discover strange cave paintings while camping in the desert. In Her Only Living Son, a mother trying to protect her strange son as he gets closer to 18 begins to unravel.

The most incredible feat of XX is that, of the four stories, there isn’t a flat-out bad story among them. I really enjoyed The Box, Don’t Fall, and Her Only Living Son, whereas I didn’t love The Birthday Party, but The Birthday Party isn’t a bad story. It’s just good while the others are great. The thing about The Birthday Party is that I was more confused by what the hell was actually happening, and I thought there’d be more to it at the end.

The Box was an interesting short film based on the Jack Ketchum story. I haven’t been a huge fan of the very little amount of Ketchum work I’d read, but I loved how infuriating The Box was. It isn’t a fun short film. I was frustrated watching it, but I couldn’t look away, and it’s one of the best compliments I can give to the story.

Don’t Fall is, I believe the shortest of the shorts, and it’s a pretty strong outing that is very surface level but very well-crafted nonetheless. It’s just entertaining all around.

Her Only Living Son is an amalgam of a lot of things I’d been seeing throughout the earlier stories. There was frustration, there was confusion, there was technical achievement, and it was disturbing, strange and memorable all the same.

XX is a great collection of short films that mostly works throughout the entirety of its short runtime. My favorite short in the set is the first, The Box, but each one gives a lot to love and a lot to rewatch. It’s one of the best anthologies in recent years. Go see it.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

It (2017)

Director: Andy Muschietti

Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard

Screenplay: Chase Palmer, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman

135 mins. Rated R for violence/horror, bloody images, and for language.

 

It seemed like It was never going to get the new adaptation fans have been clamoring for. The project had Cary Joji Fukunaga and Will Poulter originally in place after several unsuccessful attempts, and then Fukunaga left the project and Poulter was replaced. Then, director Andy Muscietti (Mama) surfaced to lead the project, something I was so sure about. I liked Mama, but it was a smaller, more intimate tale, and It is a big booming horror epic. As pics started to drop from the production, I’ll admit that I was unimpressed, and it was only after seeing the film that I realized how wrong I was.

It’s the summer of 1989, and the small town of Derry has been ravaged by a string of disappearances involving children, but Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher, St. Vincent, The Book of Henry) isn’t willing to accept that his younger brother Georgie is gone, and he routinely brings his friends, Richie (Finn Wolfhard, Dog Days, TV’s Stranger Things), Eddie, and Stan, down to the Barrens, a marshy area where the sewers empty out, to look for his body. As the summer goes on, the group adds Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor, 42, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween), Beverly (Sophia Lillis, Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase, TV’s Sharp Objects), and Mike, and each of them is plagued by a strange manifestation they call It, a creature that regularly takes the shape of a clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård, Deadpool 2, Assassination Nation).

The studio envisioned It as a two-part adaptation of the weighty tome that Stephen King wrote in the 1980s, and this film is an adaption of roughly half of the novel, which jumps back and forth in time seeing the Losers Club as children and adults returning to Derry to finish what they started. For the film, this time as children is the entire focus of the film, a move I actually believe helped the organization of the story much better than jamming the whole book in and trying to do it justice. This is a case of a two-part film that actually needs it.

Each of the kids does a tremendous job in the film at developing a character amidst all the goings on with It, with particular emphasis given to Sophia Lillis as Beverly and Finn Wolfhard as Richie. Lillis gives a nuanced and layered performance as the only female member of the Losers Club, and her collaboration with Muscietti creates a well-dimensioned girl who is dealing with a lot. Beverly was always the best character in the book, too, so it’s great to see her given justice here.

In that same way, I was surprised by how good Finn Wolfhard is as Richie. Wolfhard is of course known for Stranger Things, a series that takes a lot of influence from Stephen King and, at times, It, so I was worried that Wolfhard’s character would be too close to what we see in Stranger Things, but he plays Richie so well as such a different character. Richie is the goofball with the nasty speech and a whole lot of fear, and Finn does him justice.

All that aside, the other tough role to fill here is Pennywise. Coming off the miniseries, Tim Curry’s take on Pennywise the Dancing Clown is the best piece of the puzzle, so finding someone who can give a new take on the creepy clown is a tough sell. I was actually all for Will Poulter, and I was pretty irked when he ended up not getting the part, but Skarsgård just knocks it out of the park. He plays Pennywise with the understanding that this is just one form of It, a very old and very powerful entity, and Pennywise comes across as a favorite form but also as a skin worn by a creature. When he shows his endless rows of teeth, Pennywise’s eyes kind of slough away like they were a snakeskin coming undone. It’s a horrible-looking fantastically-performed boogeyman.

For a lengthy film like this, it’s rather forgotten how smoothly the movie runs. Every time I watch it, I don’t realize the two-hour-plus runtime moving along at a juggernaut pace. There’s so much to cover that it never gets boring. In fact, the screenplay does a solid job at adapting the spirit of the source material instead of just being a carbon-copy of the book set to film. There are major differences about the individual fears that each of the Losers Club have, and the changes are made for a variety of different wholly-understandable reasons. Some of them would’ve been very tough to put to film in a workable way, and others were of the specific time period of the novel (the Losers are in the 50s in the book), and some were cut or rearranged for timing. Now, as much as I loved the werewolf sequences of the book, I understand that the film is not the book, and it’s respectable in that way.

There is a significant flaw for me, though, and it’s this: It wasn’t scary. It pains me to say it, but I wasn’t scared at all. I really thought this would be the one to get me, but it didn’t. There’s some spooky individual moments (watch the librarian in the early scene with Ben), but overall it didn’t give me that shiver-myself-to-sleep vibe I was really hoping for. It’s still more than entertaining for its tale of childhood friendships and monsters and grief, but I just wanted it to be scary.

It is a fantastic adaptation of half of Stephen King’s source material. For a film that had some laughable early production stills, Andy Muschietti really pulled it off and I’m all the more excited for It: Chapter Two. This was a well-constructed story of friendship akin to other classics of the genre like Stand by Me, and apart from lacking in the scares for this writer, it is a wonderfully entertaining thrill-ride.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

800 Posts! Thank you!

Hey everyone,

for those of you that have been readers for awhile, you’ll know I like to celebrate the little moments, and I had one a few days ago when I published my review for Hobbs & Shaw. That review ended up being the 800th post for this site! It’s rather fitting because many of the Fast & Furious reviews I have written have been among the most popular reviews on the site!

I cannot thank you faithful and maybe first-time readers for tuning in, reading and contributing to the discussion. This has morphed from a hobby to a passion to a daily requirement for sanity, and it’s because of the kind words of so many of you that have helped with that.

All that being said, I’m going to leave a list of the most popular reviews and posts on the site since it started. Feel free to peruse and gander at your choosing.

 

  1. Turbo Charged Prelude (2003)
  2. Poltergeist (1982)
  3. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
  4. Frankenstein (1994)
  5. Leprechaun (1993)
  6. 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
  7. The Thing (1982)
  8. Zootopia (2016)
  9. The Fast and the Furious (2001)
  10. The Fly (1986)

Here’s hoping Hobbs & Shaw ends up on this this. Three of the Fast & Furious films have ended up on the most-read list, including a short film prequel to the second film. It always strikes me at how many people have looked at the Leprechaun posts I have done. It seems year-round that that post gets views and I don’t understand it, to be perfectly honest.

So there you have it. Thanks again for reading, even if only once. I truly appreciate all of you readers and I only ask that you help like, comment, subscribe and share to keep independent content creators like myself going. All film is truly subjective, so if you’ve never interacted on the site, I urge you to do so. If you loved a movie I hated, let me know your opinion, and if you hated something I really love, I want to know why. That’s part of what makes this part of movie fandom so special. Thanks again!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2019oscardeathrace] The Wife (2017)

Director: Bjorn Runge

Cast: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Max Irons, Harry Lloyd, Annie Starke, Elizabeth McGovern

Screenplay: Jane Anderson

99 mins. Rated R for language and some sexual content.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role [Glenn Close] [Pending]

 

The Wife is a movie that has slipped by unnoticed by the public and, if not for the nomination of Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction, Father Figures), it may have disappeared entirely. I was well-aware of the love that has been thrown her way for this performance, so I hunted down a copy of the film knowing very little about it. The question being lobbed around by film pundits and critics is whether or not Close was nominated for her performance in the film or her career.

Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce, Tomorrow Never Dies, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote) has just been informed that he is to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. His wife, Joan (Close) is overjoyed for her husband, and the two depart for Stockholm. As the ceremony draws closer, Joan confronts her choices in her life that led her to this point as she is pursued by a frustrated biographer, Nathanial Bone (Christian Slater, True Romance, TV’s Mr. Robot), searching for the couple’s secret.

The question of whether or not Close’s performance is worthy is a simple one: it is. Now, I wouldn’t say she gives the best performance of the year, but hers is a role filled with emotion and visual flair. She acts with her eyes in a sometimes muted performance that flows with regret and frustration in what could be called a late mid-life crisis as the secrets of her past come forth. It’s an incredibly moving story marred by historical and cultural shifts. I felt myself emotionally broken watching Joan as she discovers what she’s been missing with her own life. I won’t get into specifically spoilery territory but it is something to watch her bare her soul.

Merit should also be given to Pryce and Slater for their terrific turns. Slater is engaging and secretive, always holding his cards close. His performance is similar to the small bit he played in Interview with the Vampire. Pryce, though, is multi-layered, a man with regrets of his own who has seemingly lost touch with himself and doesn’t see the world through a realistic lens. His isn’t a likable character for the most part, but his is definitely an understandable character. What’s fascinating about the duality between Pryce’s Joe and Close’s Joan is just how close they are to each other while being two sides of the same coin. There are shades of both husband and wife in each of us.

Outside of the production design and sets, there isn’t a whole lot of technical flair to the film. Director Bjorn Runge (Daybreak, Happy End) tends to let his focus stick to the characters. The screenplay from Jane Anderson (Olive Kitteridge, Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson) is elegant and slowly burns to an intense and emotional finale, one that stayed with me long after leaving the theater.

The Wife isn’t flashy or visually evocative in the way that so many films are. It is beautiful and nuanced and the type of film that most people aren’t likely to see. That shouldn’t take away from the story and the characters which are well-performed and heartbreakingly realistic. This is a film I would implore you to see as soon as you can.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Justice League (2017)

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons

Screenplay: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon

120 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action.

 

It took me over a year to finally watch Justice League. I picked up the film last year, and I just didn’t have the nerve to see it. After all the craziness going on behind the scenes, it felt as though this film just got destroyed by problem after problem. I read some reports from early set visits on Justice League, and the overall mood was quite good. Then, the problems began. Not all of these can be blamed on any one particular person. Director Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch) had to step away from the film after the sudden death of a family member, a move I will never blame him for. So as far as the finished film goes, how does Justice League fair?

It’s been some time since the death of Superman (Henry Cavill, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible – Fallout) at the hands of Doomsday, and the world has mostly moved on. But Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, Argo, The Accountant) cannot. He is haunted by the power he witnessed by the enemy due to a dream he witness of winged creatures and an Armageddon in the potentially near-future. His mission is to build a team of protectors. With Diana Prince (Gal Gadot, Furious 7, Ralph Breaks the Internet) already joined up, they focus on recruiting Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa, Conan the Barbarian, Braven), Barry Allen (Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald), and Victor Stone (Ray Fisher, TV’s True Detective) to the cause. Bruce and Diana find their mission ever more difficult with the arrival of Steppenwolf, a military officer from Apokolips, in search of the mythical Mother Boxes, three cubes capable of immense power.

I’m not usually a guy for high expectations with blockbuster fare. I personally find that smaller films can have just as much impact as larger ones in the blockbuster landscape. For example, Ant-Man is a fairly low-stakes superhero film when compared to something like Avengers: Infinity War (sorry for making my point with MCU films here). The one area where this thinking doesn’t count is the team-up films. When you have a film like Justice League, it needs to be big. It needs to have those memorable set pieces. Justice League’s biggest problem is that it’s forgettable. I just watched a night or two ago and I have trouble placing most of the action. Not much of the set pieces register in my mind. That’s a problem. This should be the one that reminds fans that the DCEU has stumbled in the past but they’re making up for it here and into the future. Snyder’s departure from the film didn’t cause this problem. Warner Bros did.

In response to criticism, Warner Bros stated that Justice League would have a shorter run time. At least, that’s the statement. At no point in any of the DCEU films, outside of Man of Steel, was the run time every really an issue for me. They are lengthy films but the DCEU always kind of branded itself with an epic quality maybe even more so than the MCU was. Warner Bros responded to criticism that wasn’t really there and shorted the run time, allowing for more butts in seats to see this movie. They responded to criticism that the films are too dark. Again, not an issue that I encountered outside of the brooding Man of Steel, but I just think they respond to any criticism big or small and it damages their plan.

I found Justice League, at the time I watched it, to be more enjoyable than anticipated. I feel like it sets up the team dynamic pretty nicely, and I like where it set the trajectory of future installments of the DCEU, but as a film, it also suffers some of the problems of Avengers: Age of Ultron, where it completes some arcs we’ve seen started and starts some new arcs but the meat of the film is missing. This is especially apparent with the portrayal of Steppenwolf, performed through Mo-Cap by Ciaran Hinds, a tremendously gifted actor. Steppenwolf’s scenes were altered and sliced up, turning a potentially frightening villain into a flat, one-dimensional CG target. It kind of makes Justice League seem like another example of Suicide Squad, a film with great heroes on a flimsy mission.

I really enjoyed the few moments of interaction between members of the Justice League themselves. I just wish we had more of them. For example, Superman is on the front cover and appeared in the trailers, so it’s safe to say he’s in the movie. He’s been through a lot in this cinematic universe, and I feel like he needs screentime to really showcase it. I would liken his struggle closer to Tony Stark’s from Iron Man 3. He’s been through some shit, but he never gets the time for us to connect with him. They could have utilized Lois Lane (Amy Adams, Arrival, Enchanted) to connect us to this higher being, but they choose not to.

Ben Affleck is yet again at the top of his game here with Bruce Wayne and Batman. I’ve been saying for a long time now that he’s the best part of the DCEU and I stand by that claim. It’s a shame he’s been brunted with all these problems that have soured his experience because he’s a damn capable actor/director/writer who really could have spear-headed this whole world, but alas, that’s the way it goes.

Gal Gadot is also quite well-suited for her character. She plays Diana with a sense for saving and protecting, and it doesn’t come off all that cliché or silly. She gets more to do here than she did in Batman v Superman coming off her solo film with such high praise.

The real standout for me was Jason Momoa’s turn as Arthur Curry. He played Aquaman in such a different way than I had planned given what little the audience has to go on so far. I didn’t expect to see such a pessimistic asshole interpretation, but it’s all done in jest with an understanding of his place within the team, and I loved every scene with him as they all brimmed with fun.

I think the plotting of Justice League wasn’t wrong from the beginning, though. I remember hearing word from some of the involved crew that the film was initially to open with the large-scale battle for the Mother Boxes and a Lord of the Rings-style opening narration to set up the mysticism around these items. That intrigued me, the idea that DC was perhaps treating this film like an epic in the style of Lord of the Rings was very exciting. The finished film opens with a live-video of Superman that really just doesn’t sit well.

Justice League stumbles a lot throughout, and it had a rocky road leading to its release (can you say Mustache-gate?), but it isn’t the worst thing to come from the DCEU, and maybe that’s its biggest sin. This should have been IT. This should have been the one to really knock it out of the park. Instead, it’s mildly forgettable and very simplistic. It makes me sad because, while I still enjoyed it, there’s issues abound and I really want the DCEU to survive and thrive. This just isn’t doing it.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, click here.

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, click here.

For my review of David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, click here.

For my review of Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman, click here.

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[#2018oscardeathrace] The Florida Project (2017)

Director: Sean Baker

Cast: Willem Dafoe, Brooklyn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto, Christopher Rivera, Caleb Landry Jones

Screenplay: Sean Baker, Chris Bergen

111 mins. Rated R for language throughout, disturbing behavior, sexual references and some drug material.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role [Willem Dafoe] [Pending]

 

Many critics believe that The Florida Project was snubbed for Best Picture this year. Let me weigh in yet again.

The Florida Project follows Moonee (Brooklyn Prince, Robo-Dog: Airborne) and her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) who live in the Magic Castle, a cheap motel near Disney World. Moonee is not disciplined by her mother and takes part in mooching, stealing, and rudeness with friends Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and Dicky. Magic Castle’s manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe, Shadow of a Vampire, Death Note) tries to keep the peace, but Halley’s inability to take responsibility for her child causes many guests to complain. Bobby is torn between his duties as a manager and his concern for the well-being of the children.

I wasn’t a big fan of The Florida Project. As I say a lot, a character doesn’t have to be likable as long as they are interesting. The only character I found to be compelling and interesting in the film is Dafoe’s Bobby. His performance is strong and real. You can see the strain of his decisions weighing on him.

I really didn’t like Halley as a character. I felt bad for her child as I’ve seen this kind of thing play out in real life. The film was real and believable in a lot of ways, but these weren’t compelling characters that I wanted to spend time with, and Halley especially was more annoying and one-note.

The technical aspects are strong, though, with director Sean Baker (Tangerine, Starlet) again using his strong visual sense to fill the screen with gorgeous albeit tragic images. It’s one of the saving graces of an overall disappointing and depressing film.

I might catch some flack here for my opinion on The Florida Project, but overall, I wasn’t nearly as taken by the film as others clearly were. That’s the great thing about film. I hope you enjoy it, but I certainly didn’t. Short of Dafoe’s incredible work and the lovely cinematography, The Florida Project didn’t work for me.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[#2018oscardeathrace] Baby Driver (2017)

Director: Edgar Wright

Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Eiza Gonzales, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal

Screenplay: Edgar Wright

112 mins. Rated R for violence and language throughout.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Film Editing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing [Pending]

 

I missed out on Baby Driver last year. I made the attempt several times to get to the theater to catch it, but each time, I ended up missing out on it. It hit home video and I picked it up, and for months, it sat on my watch pile. Thankfully, I needed to check it off my Oscar Death Race. So here we are.

Baby (Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars, Allegiant) is a getaway driver who works somewhat freelance for Doc (Kevin Spacey, American Beauty, TV’s House of Cards). He suffers from tinnitus, and he plays music to drown it out. He is working his way toward paying off a debt to Doc and finally being free when he meets Debora (Lily James, Cinderella, Darkest Hour), an attractive diner waitress he falls head over heels for. Baby sees a future for him and Debora that is without crime, but when Doc pulls him back in, Baby finds himself in a situation where he is forced to betray everything he knows to escape.

This is the first film from writer/director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) since completing his Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, and it’s a hell of a way to break out of the wheelhouse. Wright’s direction is strongly tuned to the music (he reportedly wrote each scene with a specific song in mind and sent an iPod with a playlist out with each copy of the screenplay) so that the film feels like a big concert action film. His writing gives the feeling of larger-than-life characters existing within a realistic landscape.

Ansel Elgort shines as Baby with a performance mostly physical. Elgort uses his body language as dialogue here to react to the building tension, especially in the final act of the film, but everyone in this film feels so strongly placed, from Lily James’s Debora to Jon Hamm (Marjorie Prime, TV’s Mad Men) as Buddy (Buddy was written with Hamm in mind, and rightfully so). I also really liked Jon Bernthal (The Wolf of Wall Street, Pilgrimage) as Griff, though I would have liked to see more of him. To be fair, though, Jon Bernthal should be in every film.

I wasn’t all that taken with Jamie Foxx (Ray, Sleepless) as Bats, though. It just felt like he took his character from Horrible Bosses and reused him here. He isn’t terribly interesting and I would have liked to see someone else embody that psychotic thief.

But the real star of the movie here is the soundtrack and Wright’s expert handling of the action set pieces. This movie got my toes tapping more than once throughout the runtime. Wright’s focus on practical driving over CGI as much as possible helps to maintain a good pace for the film, one that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Baby Driver is one of the best action films of the last decade. It’s an enjoyable romp with terrific performances and a lot of heart both in front of and behind the camera. A passion project from Wright, the movie is similar to the director’s previous work in that it’s wholly rewatchable and endlessly fun. This is one to seek out if you missed it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, click here.

 

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