Film Critic, Film Programmer, Film Lover, Nap Taker. In no particular order.

Movie Review: THE ROVER


In 2010, writer/director David Michôd established his name in the film industry with his first feature, the terrific, gritty tale of gangster life in Australia, Animal Kingdom. Michôd continues his exploration of the thug life in his sophomore follow up, The Rover, a story set in a dystopian future 10 years after a major financial collapse. When money is usually the root of all problems (“Cash Rules Everything Around Me.” — Wu-Tang), the only way to survive is to steal or die trying.

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Quoted in the Trailer for ‘Life Itself,’ the Documentary on the Late, Great Roger Ebert

Extremely honored to have my review quoted in the trailer for LIFE ITSELF, the documentary on the late, great Roger Ebert. Wow. 

Watch: http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/magnolia/lifeitself/

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The Most Daring Giveaway, Ever: Win Drafthouse Films’ ‘Cheap Thrills’ On Blu-ray

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This Contest is now over. 

The winner is DJ Kento — please don’t set yourself on fire anymore. (Look for my email.)

I’ve teamed up with Drafthouse Films and Cinedigm to give one copy of CHEAP THRILLS on Blu-ray. If you dare to enter, here’s how you can win: EMAIL ME the craziest dare you’ve ever done — it’s OK to lie, but you better make it believable. I’ll pick the most batshit crazy entry and will announce on Sunday, March 25th. Good luck, movie lovers!

CHEAP THRILLS releases on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download tomorrow.

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Dallas! Come See ‘LOCKE’ With Me, Followed By A Q&A With Writer/Director Steven Knight

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Longest title ever — apologies. 

This Thursday, A24 is will have LOCKE’s writer and director Steven Knight (writer, David Cronenberg’s EASTERN PROMISES) in Dallas for a Q&A following a screening of a the film. The moderator? Yours truly. 

Want to go? Below is your free ticket to ride. Print it out and bring it with you to the theater. Heads up — it’s first-come, first-serve, so get there early. A good hour should work. (There’s a bar, so you and your +1 can trade off going in for a drink.)

See you there, move lovers!

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Interview: ‘Blue Ruin’ writer/director JEREMY SAULNIER and star MACON BLAIR

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[Editor’s Note: This interview was originally published on Film Threat.]

Blue Ruin is the biggest success story to come out of (Warning: pun ahead) the blue this year. Tapped out on funding to finish the film, writer/director Jeremy Saulnier took to Kickstarter. Shortly after, he met his goal of $35K (and a few grand more). After he finished the final cut of the film, it went on to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival Director’s Fortnight, where it won the FIPRESCI Award (fun tidbit: winning this prestigious prize puts Saulnier in the same company as Paul Thomas Anderson, Jean-Luc Godard, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Terrence Malick, Aki Kaurismäki, Pedro Almodóvar and Michael Haneke, to name a few(. That’s a pretty damn good start if you ask me.

Blue Ruin started making the festival rounds and it’s all I heard about after it screened at Fantastic Fest. “Blue Ruin! You must see Blue Ruin!” pounded Twitter. Walking into it blind, I finally got my chance to see it at Sundance. This unconventional revenge movie is so violent and relentlessly suspenseful… if you can sit through it and not have that holy-shit-something-insane-is-about-to-happen squint on your face once during one of its extreme scenes, dear reader, you’re a lot tougher than I. 

A day before moving from New York, I interviewed Saulnier and star Macon Blair (who’s performance is staggeringly batshit-crazy good). We talked about the usual interview stuff — the making of Blue Ruin, taking a financial leap of faith, Kickstarter, eating croissants, etc. — but I got a lot of good answers out of them and this is perhaps one of the best interviews I’ve ever done. Enjoy. 

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Movie Review: ‘Brick Mansions’

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[Editor’s Note: This review was originally published on Film Threat.]

I really wanted to give Brick Mansions a fair chance at standing alone as its own film, but after exiting the theater, it’s damn near impossible. To give you an idea of how bad Brick Mansions is, comparing different themes from this remake and the original film is pretty important. One should always give a remake a fair chance, even though most of the time they are really bad, and Brick Mansions is really bad.

Brick Mansions is an American remake of the awesome French action hit District B13. I can’t tell you if it’s a shot-for-shot remake, but I can say the story is close to being the same. This time around, the location is set in Detroit in 2018. Half of the city is sectioned off by huge walls. On the grungy side, brick mansions that were once luxurious places to live are now occupied by drug dealers, thugs, the poor, vagrants, and anyone who isn’t considered upper-class. How they initially divided these people, the movie never bothers to explain.

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Movie Review: ‘Blue Ruin’

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[Editor’s Note: This review was originally written and posted at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.]

Revenge is a dish best served with a knife, a crossbow and semi-automatic rifles in Jeremy Saulnier’s bloody and brilliant sophomore feature, Blue Ruin.

When Blue Ruin opens, a drifter named Dwight (Mason Blair) is coasting through life on a beach. He’s dirty, living on a steady diet of trashcan food, and his face looks as if it’s never felt a clean shave. He breaks into houses just to take a bath, however his presence shows he’s not a bad or harmful man — he’s just trying to survive. Things aren’t so bad, this bum has built a home and life for himself at a place where things are simple and uncomplicated.

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Dallas International Film Festival 2014 Review: ‘CHILD OF GOD’ Lacks Everything Except One Incredible Performance From Scott Haze

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There are better Cormac McCarthy movies than James Franco’s grotty Child of God, an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning author’s novel of the same name. Yes, the same McCarthy who wrote No Country for Old Men and The Road.

Set in the 1960s in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it small town, Child of God begins with Lester Ballard (Scott Haze) being stripped of the house he grew up in since he was born. He has no choice but to let it be sold — his parents, the people who owned the house, are gone. His father killed himself when he was born and his mama ran off with another fella when Lester was young. He’s in his mid-thirties and has been squatting in this house until now.

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Tribeca 2014 Review: The Jury Has Reached a Verdict: ‘ALEX OF VENICE’ is Guilty of Being Great

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Life is hard, struggle is real. There should be a class in college that teaches about how life really works — lots of disappointment, heartbreak and starting over when you thought your life was set. This is perhaps the most personal kind of curveball life throws at you and for some people, it happens a lot. Life is hard, struggle is real. But you can change and you can heal your wounds and carry on. To quote the great Broken Social Scene, “All the time we get by trying to figure out our lives.” 

Alex of Venice stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the titular character, Alex, an attorney currently fighting to save the planet. She’s a tender heart who’s looking out for the Earth — as well as people years from now we will never meet, walking the same mountains as others did 100 years before. Preservation is where her heart beats. Alex lives with her 10-year-old son Dylan (Skylar Gaertner, who seems more grown up than most actors his age), her husband George (Chris Messina, who also directed the film), and her absent-minded, pot-smoking, free-spirited, washed-up actor father Robert (Don Johnson, in a knockout performance).

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New York, I Love You, But I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane

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Often people ask me if I’ve lost my mind, and normally the answer is yes, but this time it’s a little different. For the last few weeks, I’ve been telling folks close to me that I’m leaving New York and moving back to my hometown, Dallas, TX. Then I get that deer-in-headlights have-you-lost-your-fucking-mind look. I’m used to that look, so let me explain.

Being a film critic / journalist / blogger / whatever-you-want-to-call-me has afforded me the ability to travel and live around the world. I’ve been to France, Germany, London and Canada, and lived in Los Angeles and New York back-to-back, respectively. As a writer, I’ve covered Cannes, Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, LAFF, TIFF, AFI, DIFF, AFF, Comic-Con, and every film festival I’ve ever dreamed of covering (a lot of IFFs, I’ll tell you that much). This sounds awesome as I type it — and I’m extremely grateful for it all — but I’m not sure how many are aware how lonely it can get traveling solo and moving around so much. When Gordon and the Whale was alive and kicking, I had a second family and a lot of us attended festivals together. Once I shut that down, life took its course as it tends to do and everyone (thankfully) went on to bigger and badder things. GATW afforded all of us that and it makes me incredibly happy to know it.

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Dallas International Film Festival 2014 Review: ‘WE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE’

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[Editor’s Note: This review was originally published on Film Threat.]

Sue (Mackenzie Davis) and Bobby (Jeremy Allen White) gotta get out of this place. They’re both smart kids, but stuck in a bad town. A town where the sun don’t shine and the only thing to do is get into mischief and trouble. Good thing is that they both have been accepted to excellent colleges and it seems to be their ticket to freedom and a better life. They’re both incredibly smart and love to debate trivial things — there’s a great scene at the beginning of the film where they talk Whataburger’s biscuits and gravy, if the meal should be plural or just biscuit and gravy since it’s, well, just one biscuit being eaten. Their chatter is endearing.

Before they can head off to school, trouble in paradise smacks them right in the face. BJ (Logan Huffman), Sue’s kind of boyfriend, is a self-serving idiot who steals a lot of money from a bad man named Giff. Just about the only character development we get from BJ is that he’s a sonofabitch. Maybe he’s lonely — after all, he’s the only one of the three not going to college and will be stuck in this town everyone’s trying to leave — or maybe he’s losing his mind from boredom, but there’s no denying he’s a real piece of work.

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Movie Review: David Gordon Green’s ‘JOE’

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[Editor’s Note: This review was originally published on Film Threat.]

“…be nice until it’s time to not be nice.” – Dalton, Road House

Joe is a special breed of a movie for Nicolas Cage, and perhaps the greatest performance of his career. He’s an ex-convict turn straight shooter living in a small town in Texas. During the day he manages a group of folks who poison dead trees so the bigger bosses can come in, chop them down, and plant new, fresh ones. While not working, Joe passes the time drinking and visiting a popular whorehouse. It’s OK though, none of this gets him in trouble (except for when the law harasses him for no good reason, or a guy with a menacing scar sometimes shoots at him for reasons unknown).

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Movie Review: Check-in to ‘THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL’ and Leave Profoundly Happy

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Note: This review was originally published on Film Threat. 

Welcome to the place where you can enjoy what matters most in life: laughter, love and adventure. A place where the most important thing is you. A place where anything can and will happen. Welcome to The Grand Budapest Hotel: An intimate and charming retreat with supreme comfort and guest-themed hospitality. 

There are a diverse number of people that guests will meet during their stay at The Grand Budapest Hotel. The friendly staff is led by concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), his trusty sidekick and Lobby Boy, Zero (Tony Revolori), the hotel’s baker and Zero’s girlfriend Agatha (Saoirse Ronan), and at some point in the timeline, M. Jean (Jason Schwartzman). If guests get in any trouble while on vacation, Ludwig (Harvey Keitel) and his sidekicks will bail you out. If guests need a lawyer, look no further than Deputy Kovacs (the always marvelous Jeff Goldblum); and of course, the hotel management will always have your back, including M. Ivan (Bill Murray), M. Chuck (Owen Wilson) and more. I am leaving out a lot of names for the purpose of awe, and to reserve some surprises for when you visit The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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SXSW 2014 Review: ‘WOLF AT THE DOOR’ Huffs, Puffs, and Blows Sweet Love Goodbye

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Note: This review was originally published on Twitch

In the fairytale classic  the Three Little Pigs, — you guessed it — three little pigs set out in the world to find their fortune. Things come to an abrupt halt, however, when an asshole big bad wolf comes into the picture to destroy everything they’ve literally built for their lives. This is also the setting for A Wolf At The Door, an intense drama about haste decisions and the inevitable consequences that follow. 

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Giveaway: Win Drafthouse Films’ ‘MS. 45’ on DVD!

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This giveaway is now over. Winners are: Leslie Stinson and Josh Gressett. Please check your email to claim the movie!

Ah, yes, another fantastic release from Drafthouse Films, the ultimate revenge thriller, Ms. 45

I’ve once again teamed up with Drafthouse and Cinedigm to give two copies of the film on DVD. To enter, EMAIL ME your favorite revenge film and why (please put MS. 45 in the subject line). I’ll pick the two most deranged answers and will announce on Monday, March 17th. Have a blast, movie lovers!

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