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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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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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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Movie Review: ‘THE VISITOR’ Returns From 1979 to Peck Out Your Eyes and Make You Like It

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Good vs. evil! Abortion! Potty-mouthed asshole children! Frank Nero as Jesus? Frank Nero as Jesus! Shelly Winters power-slaps! How to fight off bullies on the ice skating rink! Lance Henrikson getting his ass kicked by a plastic falcon! This is The Visitor, a super low budget horror film from 1979.

There’s a lot of fun going on in The Visitor, but I really couldn’t tell you what it’s about. It’s a bizarre circus of magic and mayhem, and stars Sam Peckinpah (director of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia and The Wild Bunch), Lance Henriksen (Aliens), Glenn Ford (Clark Kent’s dad in Superman 1979), Franco Nero (Django) Shelley Winters (The Poseidon Adventure, Lolita, Night of the Hunter) and John Huston (The Maltese Falcon) as people of good and bad higher power trying to get inside the head of and brainwash an 8-year-old girl with telekinesis powers and an attitude that will put any Hollywood diva to shame. Things will go one of two ways: 1) good or 2) the opposite of good.

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AFTERNOON DELIGHT Captures the Challenges of Seeking Love, Happiness, and Peace

Poor Rachel (Kathryn Hahn). Although she’s married to the man of her dreams, Jeff (Josh Radnor), leads a really nice lifestyle, and has a healthy son, she’s bored as hell as a stay-at-home housewife. Her friends are starting to suck, because they all have day jobs and/or do normal mom things. And Jeff never wants to have sex. They high five in passing more often than they copulate, and Jeff even has an unspoken “no sex tonight” safe phrase when they’re going to bed.

In an attempt to spice up their sex life, she, along with Jeff and some of their friends, go to a strip club. Here’s where it gets, well, a bit odd. After getting a lap dance from a young stripper named McKenna (Juno Temple), Rachel’s curiosity and boredom get the best of her, and she takes it upon herself to help McKenna out of her current unhealthy lifestyle. Things will go one of two ways: 1) Genius. 2) Stupidly bad.

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Sundance Review: Gregg Araki’s ‘White Bird In A Blizzard” Starring Shailene Woodley, Eva Green & More

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Note: This review was originally written and posted for Indiewire’s The Playlist. Please click on this link and support their site. 

By now, devoted cinephiles likely know what to expect going into a Gregg Araki movie: sex-crazed teens, an overabundance of nudity (sometimes pretty, sometimes not), a dream-like story wrapped snugly in a nightmare and a killer soundtrack. However, it would be lazy for someone to call it trash cinema—there’s a lot of feeling in his films (please watch “Mysterious Skin” now). Araki is a brilliant director who finds a great deal of meaning in stories of teenage angst and sexual desire, and is perhaps the finest example of coming-of-rage cinema. His latest film, “White Bird in a Blizzard,” is his most grownup film to date, but never deviates far from his comfort zone.

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Sundance Review: ‘Rudderless’ Is A Remarkable Directorial Debut From William H. Macy

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Note: This review was originally written and posted for Indiewire’s The Playlist. Please click on this link and support their site. 

So let it be known throughout the land: William H. Macy has balls of steel. In addition to juggling a busy, successful film and television career, he’s taken on a new role—filmmaker. His first feature film, “Rudderless,” is a poignant story that explores finding happiness in the midst of loss and pain. And you know what? It’s really damn good.

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Sundance 2014 Review: Roger Ebert Doc ‘Life Itself’ A Profoundly Moving Story About One Of Cinema’s Greatest Superheroes

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Note: This review was originally written and posted for Indiewire’s The Playlist. Please click on this link and support their site. 

Without question, Roger Ebert is the most recognizable figure in American film criticism, possibly even international criticism, and deservingly so. Ebert helped curious minds alive today better understand movies and what they were trying to say, moving past the obvious and always finding something deeper. “Life Itself” is based on Ebert’s memoir of the same name, but the film goes far beyond the book’s last page. This documentary actually started shooting months before Ebert knew he was going to die, and the bulk of the focus is on his many relentless and rigorous battles to stay alive, as well as highs and lows in his life — there’s no soft-pedalling here. One very admirable trait about Ebert — when he learned he was going to die, and very soon, he wanted the show to go on.

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Sundance 2014 Review: Blue Ruin

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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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