Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Director: Jon Watts

Cast: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J.B. Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei

Screenplay: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

129 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive content.

 

Well, Endgame is all done. We’ve culminated the MCU to our hearts’ content. There isn’t anything else to say, right? Oh, there’s another one already? Oh. Hey, everyone! Spider-Man is alive!

It’s been eight months since The Blip was reversed, and Peter Parker (Tom Holland, The Impossible, Pilgrimage) is still reeling from the death of his mentor and friend, Tony Stark. He’s been in the spotlight more and more since that time, scrutinized and studied, with reporters and people everywhere asking who will be the next Iron Man. Peter is more than happy to be leaving the country on a class trip to Europe for the summer, as it will give him a break from Spider-Man and allow him to have some more time with MJ (Zendaya, The Greatest Showman, Duck Duck Goose). Peter quickly discovers that he cannot escape his responsibilities as Spider-Man, though, when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction, The Hitman’s Bodyguard) comes looking for him. Fury has a mission for him: to team up with Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler, Velvet Buzzsaw), a hero from another universe that was destroyed by the Elementals, which have now found their way to our Earth. Can Peter juggle his class trip with his duties as an Avenger?

Kevin Feige was right when he called Far From Home the finale of Phase 3. In a lot of ways, it ties up a lot of the threads hanging on from Endgame in its own interesting way. It’s a more lighthearted finale to Phase 3 while also forever changing the MCU going forward. As a coda to The Infinity Saga, it is a powerful one, and it is a more MCU-centric film than a straightforward Spider-Man adventure.

Tom Holland is amazing as ever, this being his fifth outing as the web-slinger. He truly is the best version of Peter Parker I’ve seen. He embodies all that teenage high-school Peter Parker should, and yet, he is wise in some ways beyond his years because of all the things he’s been through in his short time as Spider-Man.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s work as Mysterio didn’t completely work in the movie. There were times I liked what he was doing and times I really didn’t. I think it boils down to the way his character was written because it did jump around a bit. I liked the way Mysterio translated from the comics to the film but I would have liked to dive into his character a lot more. It would have made his arc all the more powerful.

Zendaya’s version of MJ is much more fleshed out this time around and it works really well for the film, especially with how the possible relationship elements with Peter play out. She isn’t weird and quirky for the sake of it but just she finds interest in some of the more morbid elements of history and society. It’s a nerves thing, and you could call it out if you want, but there’s enough subtlety to give her a fascinating arc.

What’s so great about the film is how each character, major and minor, seemingly gets an arc in the film. It’s not extremely fleshed out, but there’s a lot going on and many of the minor characters get some sort of growth throughout the film.

I will say this. There are two post-credits scenes in the film and you have to see both. The first one is very important to Spider-Man’s story (it just should have been the end of the film and not a post-credits scene), and the other is major in the overall MCU story. You cannot miss these scenes!

Spider-Man: Far From Home juggles a lot of elements, and it works pretty well in that way. It does feel like it is cleaning up a lot of plot threads instead of focusing on Peter as much as I would have liked, but it does a great job with the classic Peter-doesn’t-want-to-be-Spider-Man story that all of the second installment Spider-Man films have done. I would have liked a better written Mysterio and a little tighter focus on Peter and company, but overall, this was an exhilarating sendoff to Phase 3, one very worth seeing.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger, click here.

For my review of Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Leythum’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Avengers: Endgame, click here.

Netflix Nabs Film Adaption of Ubisoft’s The Division

We’ve been hearing murmurs of a film adaption of the Tom Clancy video game The Division for a little while now, and it appears the film has found a distributor in Netflix.

The film will star Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Chastain and is set to be helmed by Deadpool 2 director David Leitch.

It’s exciting to see Netflix making another big play in acquiring a video game adaptation. Properties like The Division feel like an easier transition from video game to film, and I personally think that hardcore gamers who see The Division pop up on their Netflix queue would have no reason not to give it a try.

But it also has that Tom Clancy name on it, a property title all its own. Film adaptations of Clancy’s books have been profitable, so it will be interesting to see if this one can corner markets of viewers from multiple streams of entertainment. I think it’s a power play that is set to do well.

The game tells the story of a pandemic moving through New York City in which the city turns to chaos and riot. It is not known what character Chastain would be playing but Gyllenhaal will be an agent within the Strategic Homeland Division who will be working to quell the chaos and outbreak.

So what do you think? Did you play The Division? Will you be tuning in for the film on Netflix? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

Director: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, Billy Magnussen, John Malkovich, Mig Macario

Screenplay: Dan Gilroy

113 mins. Rated R for violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and brief drug use.

 

Velvet Buzzsaw surprised everyone when its first trailer aired. I had heard of the project but little more the fact that Writer/Director Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler, Roman J. Israel, Esq.) was working on it. The trailer seemingly presented the film as a satirical look at the art world and its critics before diving off the deep end into straight-up horror, something I did not expect. While the finished film struggles between these two halves, it’s overall a fun and stylized ride.

Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain, The Sisters Brothers) is a scathingly high-brow art critic who, frustrated with his sex life with his current partner, strikes up a romantic entanglement with friend Josephina (Zawe Ashton, Blitz, Guerilla). When Josephina finds a dead artist in her apartment building, she steals his paintings. The artist’s work fascinates the critics and artists of the scene with the sheer quantity of creations he has, and Morf’s inner circle profit from his work, but then people start dying in a myriad of strange ways, all surrounding the artist. As Morf and the others attempt to uncover the mystery of the dead artist, they learn that they are quickly running out of time.

The first half of Velvet Buzzsaw is a critique and satire about the nature of the art world and the critics within it. It’s a strong setup for the film and establishes our characters pretty nicely as people who have murky respect for one another as long as it doesn’t conflict with their own personal goals. The big problem with the narrative is that transition to the second half of the film. Dan Gilroy is an excellent storyteller, but he misses the mark with the horror elements of the film. The satire is strong, the horror is weak and cliché. It’s missing that flavor that I know he is capable of. Nightcrawler has elements of horror but Velvet Buzzsaw trips over itself trying to get there.

The film has some strong performances, particularly from Gyllenhaal and Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine, TV’s Wanderlust). Gyllenhaal plays himself with both likable and unlikable traits. He isn’t afraid to be an asshole. Collette’s Gretchen is someone climbing to where she wants to be who finds quickly the monstrous qualities that she has within her. It’s a good outing for the Academy Award-snubbed actress.

John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich, Bird Box) appears in the film as Piers, an artist worried he has lost his touch. His character is like so many others in the film in that he is great in the satirical sense but doesn’t have much to do in the latter portion of the film.

Overall, the horror in the film is fun when it works, but too often it doesn’t. Velvet Buzzsaw is still worth your time with another great outing for Gyllenhaal and Collette, and horror fans might be willing to overlook some of the problems with the second half. I was able to, and I found that I enjoyed the film altogether, but it’s perhaps Gilroy’s most messy film as a director.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, click here.

[Early Review] Okja (2017)

Director: Bong Joon-Ho

Cast: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Seo-Hyun Ahn, Byun Hee-Bong, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Yun Je-Mun, Shirley Henderson, Daniel Henshall, Devon Bostick, Choi Woo-Shik, Giancarlo Esposito, Jake Gyllenhaal

Screenplay: Bong Joon-Ho, Jon Ronson

118 mins. Not Rated.

 

Well, have I got a movie for you today!

Okja is the story of a young girl named Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn, The Housemaid, Monster) who lives on a farm in South Korea with her grandfather and a unique animal, a superpig named Okja. For ten years, Mija and her grandfather have been raising Okja to win a competition against other superpig farmers around the country. Mija is overjoyed when the judge, TV personality and zoologist Dr. Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal, Donnie Darko, Life) selects Okja as the winner. But when she learns of what will happen to Okja upon returning to the United States and to its true owner, Mirando Corporation, she sets out to free him and, along the way, gains help from Jay (Paul Dano, Little Miss Sunshine, Swiss Army Man) and his ALF (Animal Liberation Front) team. Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin, War Machine), the CEO of Mirando, will stop at nothing to use Okja for her own greedy plans in this strange and unique new film from Bong Joon-Ho (Snowpiercer, Mother).

Now, I get it. Reading that synopsis wouldn’t exactly hype me for a film, and in lesser hands, I’d believe this film to be destined for failure. But with this director, I became more and more excited to see it.

And Okja has a lot going for it. With Bong Joon-Ho’s direction  and powerful writing, the cardinal message shines clear but with enough layers to make the discussion following an important one. The use of the CG superpig allows enough separation from reality for the film to make thought-provoking statements and ask serious questions behind the guise of a science-fiction adventure.

The performances here aid in crafting the unique vision presented, specifically Tilda Swinton as Lucy Mirando, a villain with motivations and an understandable approach but one that doesn’t always have the right methods to solve her problems. Then, there’s the standout work from Jake Gyllenhaal, who steals every scene as the over-the-top Wilcox, an unhinged failing TV personality who lost his fanbase years ago. Paul Dano and Giancarlo Esposito (The Usual Suspects, The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials) also turn in great work, the latter portraying Frank Dawson, Lucy’s right-hand man, but the work from Seo-Hyun Ahn as Mija rises up to match her fellow performers. The young actress’s ability to play to a CG superpig and hold her own in scenes with much more accomplished actors is strong in its own right.

It frustrates me that a film like Okja was booed at Cannes for having the Netflix banner in front of its opening titles. The streaming giant has more than proved itself in recent years, and Okja stands among the best of their original films. I’ll say it simple: it’s the best film I’ve seen this year so far. This is a film that balances humor with deep political satire and genuinely heartbreaking moments. I don’t care if this film changes your mind on its subject matter. It didn’t completely change mine, but I’m happy for the interesting viewpoint it offers. This is one that will stick with you. It will make you believe in a superpig.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Life (2017)

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya

Screenplay: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

103 mins. Rated R for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and horror.

 

Yeah, I’ve seen Life. I saw it last night, and I really want to talk about it, but don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil it, and count yourself lucky for that.

Life has a similar premise to many before it. A group of astronauts aboard the International Space Station come across irrefutable proof of existence beyond Earth when they discover a microscopic being on a Mars probe. The crew mistakes the lifeform of being friendly when they soon discover it will do anything to survive and grow.

Let’s talk about all the good in this movie because the good outweighs the bad. First of all, hats off to the marketing department for not ruining all the exciting twists and turns of the film in the marketing and trailers. I still saw some of it coming a mile away, but it helped to not have it flat-out ruined for me.

Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, Nocturnal Animals) and Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, Criminal) absolutely steal the show in this ensemble piece but all the performances are above par here. I particularly found myself intrigued by Ariyon Bakare (TV’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Hugh, a paraplegic charged with studying the lifeform, coyly nicknamed Calvin.

Props to director Daniel Espinosa (Safe House, Child 44) for the pacing and getting as much as possible from the premise and the set. He allows the confined set to breathe and flourish. There’s some gorgeous camerawork similar to 2013’s Gravity, but it is impressive nonetheless.

And I would be disappointed in myself for not recognizing the excellent score from Jon Ekstrand. His music jumps between grandiose space epic and claustrophobic horror film, and it works really well.

Okay, so let’s talk negatives, because there are two. The biggest, and most disappointing, is the screenplay. I can’t even believe I’m saying this, because I love the writing of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland, G.I. Joe: Retaliation), but the screenplay hopped between exciting and completely stupid. There are things that characters, and we’re talking NASA-trained astronauts, do in this film that are so shockingly stupid that it’s hard to ignore. Then, there are moments that are meant to come across as genuine and heartfelt that would be difficult for anyone to glean. For example, Gyllenhaal’s David Jordan reads from Goodnight Moon, and it doesn’t work at all. I can’t blame for Gyllenhaal for trying, because the scene just doesn’t work. And the ending. The ending is just plain wrong. A big copout poorly written that comes off as expected and uninteresting.

The other issue with the film is the release date. This film is coming out too close to Alien: Covenant in a world where we’ve already seen Prometheus and Gravity, and Life comes off as a carbon copy because of it. Simple mistakes like the way the title is displayed hearken back to Alien, and it makes Life look bad by comparison. It’s just bad timing.

Life has more wins than losses, but it just doesn’t excel where better films have. Still, 2017 hasn’t had the best start, so it’s one of the better films I’ve seen this year. This movie is worth checking out in theaters, preferably as soon as possible to avoid spoilers for the most shocking moments.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen Life? What did you think? And what’s your favorite first contact moment from film? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

July 2015 Preview

 

Wow. Jurassic World, nice job in June. But July is flat-out huge. There are so many major releases and highly anticipated films on the way to a theater near you. So let’s jump in and see what there is to all this mess of movies.

Obligatory Note: Again, I haven’t seen these films at the time of this post. This is merely a discussion based on my abilities to read these films from the outside, and I’m good at it, too, so take it with a grain of salt, and if you see something different, let me know!

 

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Faith of Our Fathers

I’m not really going to get into this film very much. These “Christian” film releases in recent years have all been just terrible. I’m not saying anything about the religion, so don’t put me in that bucket. I’m a religious person by trade, but these films are terribly made. They aren’t well-written. They aren’t well-acted. They aren’t well-directed. They just aren’t good. This one will likely not change that.

 

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Magic Mike XXL

Magic Mike was a critical success due to Steven Soderbergh. It was a financial success due to Channing Tatum and his merry men of male dancers. Soderbergh isn’t returning to direct this sequel, but he is editing and providing cinematography duties to director Gregory Jacobs. I don’t think Magic Mike XXL will deliver on the same critical aspects that the original had, but I happen to think that Channing Tatum’s abilities to carry a film as well as provide high-level pelvic thrusting should bring the sequel to moderate financial success.

 

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Terminator Genisys

Now for the people that won’t be seeing Faith of Our Fathers or Magic Mike XXL. Finally, after hopping around several studios, the Terminator franchise has arrived once again with Terminator Genisys. This film reboots the franchise in a similar way to last month’s Jurassic World, while not retconning the previous films but really focusing on staying true to the original. I love the idea of revisiting the original film in a way similar to the Star Trek franchise, and I think it stays organic to the rhythm of where the series has been heading. Really, it’s the only logical step to take the franchise. Do I think it looks good? Not sure. I think it looks interesting, but this film’s visual effects were not ready when the first trailer released, and I’m not sure if they ever did get finished. I want to like it. I want to. I just can’t say I know it is going to be great.

 

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Amy

The Amy Winehouse documentary doesn’t seem interesting to me. I never found her life to be all that exciting to learn about. I didn’t care for her music, and I can’t say I was surprised when her addiction caught up to her. Skip.

 

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The Gallows

The Gallows is a new found-footage (damn) horror film about a school play titled The Gallows that accidentally resulted in the death of a student during its initial run 22 years back. Now, the school wants to get the play up and going, and several students realize that some stories are best kept from being told. I like this idea but I’m already playing out all the horrible ways that this film will be represented. There are ways to make this film the right way, but I don’t see it happening the right way.

 

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Minions

Minions is the newest property in the Despicable Me franchise. It is presented as a prequel focused on Gru’s minions years before he meets them. Looking at the trailer, I actually really like this film for more than the cute factor. It has a truly morbid sense of style that I think it embraces this morbidity quite well for a film like this. I see definite potential here.

 

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Self/Less

Self/Less is a remake of the 1966 John Frankenheimer film Seconds and is directed by Tarsem Singh. In it, Ben Kingsley plays a man dying of cancer who has his consciousness transferred into the body of a younger healthier man played by Ryan Reynolds. I like the idea, but I’m concerned about the possible connections I was making with Limitless and Transcendence. Elements of this idea have cropped up before to mixed results.

 

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Ant-Man

Well, if you thought selling Guardians of the Galaxy was tough, try selling Ant-Man, the newest member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe hoping to build on the success of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Starring Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, Ant-Man has an interesting style to it, focusing on creating a fun superhero film to take the franchise back from the seriousness that has been building in the recent films. It looks like a lot of film, but many are aware of the film’s troubles past with previous director Edgar Wright and especially off of Joss Whedon’s personal implosion following the release of the second Avengers film, people will be wary of this one, but I hope it brings people in to at least give it a try.

 

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Mr. Holmes

Ian McKellan is perfectly cast as the 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes in 1947. It isn’t related to the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes series or the CBS series Elementary. It also appears to be a much more calculated piece, very much like the original series of stories from Arthur Conan Doyle. Mr. Holmes will be a critical hit, I know it was much loved when it screened at BIFF back in February.

 

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Trainwreck

I like Judd Apatow. I do not like Amy Schumer. He directed. She starred and wrote. I’m not going to waste my time.

 

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Paper Towns

I didn’t see A Fault in Our Stars. I’m sure it was fine. I don’t like when an author’s adaptation is successful, every other property is picked up immediately and thrown at the screen. The same thing happened with Gillian Flynn after Gone Girl. I think Paper Towns actually sounds pretty interesting and I will be seeing it.

 

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Southpaw

Man, Jake Gyllenhaal really wants an Oscar! In Southpaw, Gyllenhaal’s transformation into boxer Billy Hope who is unable to get out of the world of boxing to spend more time with his family. When tragedy strikes, Hope discovers that boxing is all he knows. From an outside perspective, these types of movies become great character pieces but not exactly great films. I foresee Gyllenhaal’s nomination but not much else.

 

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Pixels

I know you want to like Pixels. I want to like Pixels. I know I’m not going to like Pixels. I get the feeling you won’t like Pixels. Damn Pixels.

 

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Vacation

I have a lot of hope that the reboot to Vacation will reinvigorate this franchise. The idea of Vacation is eternal, especially when you keep the family line of the Griswolds with the ever-evolving dynamic with the children. It looks hilarious, too.

 

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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

The fifth Mission: Impossible follows in the franchise of three other great action pics and also Mission: Impossible 2. In Rogue Nation, we get the whole team together for another romping globe-trotting pic that sets Ethan Hunt and his team against the Syndicate. This film adds a level of vengeance and finality to the film even though I know that Tom Cruise isn’t finished with this series. I hope Christopher McQuarrie can handle this series and keep it alive because I’ve enjoyed my time with it.

 

So there you have it, here is your final tally.

Best Bets: Minions, Ant-Man, Mr. Holmes, Vacation, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

On the Bubble: Magic Mike XXL, Terminator Genisys, The Gallows, Self/Less, Paper Towns, Southpaw

Likely Misses: Faith of Our Fathers, Amy, Trainwreck, Pixels

 

So what do you think? What are you most excited to see this month and why? Let me know!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Nightcrawler (2014)

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Director: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton

Screenplay: Dan Gilroy

117 mins. Rated R for violence including graphic images, and for language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Original Screenplay

 

In Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut, Nightcrawler, we meet Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal, Donnie Darko, Accidental Love), a severe sociopath looking for something to be great at. When he comes across a collision on the highway, he meets Joe Loder (Bill Paxton, Titanic, Edge of Tomorrow), a man who makes his living being the first man on the scene with a camera, ready to sell his footage to the highest bidding news outlet. He is a nightcrawler. Louis Bloom takes his specific and strange set of skills to this new obsession, and a new fascination in Nina Romina (Rene Russo, Outbreak, Thor: The Dark World), a woman who takes interest in Louis’ footage. As Bloom falls deeper and deeper into fractured sanity, his skills improve, and his methods evolve with truly terrifying results.

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Gyllenhaal is completely unnerving as Bloom here, and his mental transformation is almost more impressive than his physical transformation, and Bloom’s arc is very much like the car crash which ignites his passion: something horrifying to witness, but impossible to look away. He is met on his playing field by Russo’s Romina, an aging ex-anchor who very much misses the limelight. She uses Bloom as he uses her. There is something creepily affectionate about their relationship. Paxton provides a likability to his unlikable Joe Loder. These are characters we don’t like, but we can’t stop viewing.

Gilroy’s cinematography could use some work. The film doesn’t move in the way it should. The pacing doesn’t have the beats it should to make the film flow right. The film’s score complements Gyllenhaal’s performance well. In fact, the entirety of the film exists to turn you away from it. The whole film is enjoyable once but not a film I could watch again.

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Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler is a moody character study. Men like Bloom exist, and that is perhaps the most terrifying takeaway from this film. Gyllenhaal deserves recognition for once again proving that he is at the top of his game and is the reason his character is so unlikably likable.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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