Saturday, April 07, 2018

A Quiet Place / **** (PG-13)

Paramount Pictures

Evelyn Abbott: Emily Blunt
Lee Abbott: John Krasinski
Regan Abbott: Millicent Simmonds
Marcus Abbott: Noah Jupe

Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by John Krasinski. Written by Bryan Woods & Scott Beck and John Krasinski. Running time: 90 min. Rated PG-13 (for terror and some bloody images).

Noise is something we take for granted. There’s always noise. Even in the darkest moments of night when the world at large is resting, our world is filled with noise. I can hear the hum of trucks from the interstate a quarter of a mile away at night when everything else is quiet in the house. However, nothing ever seems as quiet as it does when you are startled awake in the night by a nightmare. At that moment, silence can be stifling. And when all seems as still as it can be, with that nightmare lingering in your brain, the slightest little sound—a creak in the floor, a branch on a window, the fractional settlements of a house that occur throughout a structure’s lifespan—can bring an uncontrollable start. That moment when you suddenly think that the breaking of the silence will cost you your life, that is where the entirety of the new horror movie, A Quiet Place, exists.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Ready Player One / *** (PG-13)

Warner Bros.
Parzival/Wade: Tye Sheridan
Art3mis/Samantha: Olivia Cooke
Sorrento: Ben Mendelsohn
Aech/Helen: Lena Waithe
I-R0k: T.J. Miller
Ogden Morrow: Simon Pegg
Anorak/Halliday: Mark Rylance

Warner Bros. presents a film directed by Steven Spielberg. Written by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline. Based on the novel by Ernest Cline. Running time: 140 min. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity and language).

There’s an interesting trend going on in filmmaking today that I don’t believe we’ve ever witnessed in cinematic history. It seems to have started at the dawn of the superhero movie, but has been building to a crescendo as more and more filmmakers who grew up in the 80s are coming into their own in Hollywood and are turning modern films into a sort of meta homage to the films of their youth. One of the filmmakers primarily responsible for the great popularity of cinema in the 80s was Steven Spielberg, who directed many of the iconic films of that era. With Ready Player One, it seems Spielberg has been inspired to up the meta level of modern filmmaking by making his own homage to the era that he was in great part responsible for building.

Spielberg chooses the right material for his meta gambit in his adaptation of Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One. Cline is making a name for himself as an 80s enthusiast—his second novel Armada is also heavily soaked in 80s nostalgia. I can’t imagine the nerdgasmic feeling that must’ve come over Cline when he discovered that Spielberg himself was interested in adapting his 80s nostalgia-centric novel. Anyway, Spielberg’s many professional connections to all things 80s and Cline’s obsession with them makes this a near perfect teaming of creative minds. Spielberg brings in frequent superhero scripter Zak Penn, also responsible for the story behind the equally nostalgia-driven Last Action Hero, to shore up Cline’s own screen adaptation.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Unsane / **½ (R)

Bleeker Street

Sawyer Valentini: Claire Foy
Nate Hoffman: Jay Pharoah
Violet: Juno Temple
David Strine: Joshua Leonard
Angela Valentini: Amy Irving

Bleeker Street Media and Fingerprint Releasing present a film directed by Steven Soderbergh. Written by Jonathan Bernstein & James Greer. Running time: 97 min. Rated R (for disturbing behavior, violence, language and sex references).

When reviewing a movie like Steven Soderbergh’s latest feature, Unsane, a critic is faced with a dilemma of split purposes. On the one hand, you are reviewing a thriller that depends upon the tropes of the genre and the storytellers’ abilities to surprise and create tension for the audience. On the other hand, you’re reviewing an experiment of sorts. Soderbergh’s second feature film back from his brief “retirement” is not the first feature film to be shot on an iPhone, but the success of such films—mostly in terms of box office—has yet to reach a point where any sort of verdict has been made as to an audience’s willingness to accept such a film medium as mainstream. For the most part, Soderbergh’s experiment is a success in that it doesn’t feel like an experiment in the slightest; which raises the question, why exactly was this screenplay chosen for this experiment?

The screenplay by Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer raises questions about the mental health industry in this country. These questions are important and legitimate, focusing on the very real practices of a select few voluntary admittance facilities that take advantage of their clients’ lack of knowledge about their rights and the willingness of insurance companies to cover such admittances without question for short periods of time. Unfortunately, other aspects of the screenplay bring into question the legitimacy of the mental health industry as a whole and could be seen as exploiting the realities of mental health issues for the purposes of schlock entertainment. I’m all for schlock, but there were times while watching this film that I felt uncomfortable about how little understanding the filmmakers were displaying in order to pump up the horror entertainment value of their story.

Monday, March 19, 2018

7 Days In Entebbe / *** (R)

Focus Features
Brigitte Kuhlmann: Rosamond Pike
Wilfred Böse: Daniel Brühl
Yitzhak Rabin: Lior Ashkenazi
Shimon Perez: Eddie Marzan
??: Ben Schnetzer
Patricia Martel: Andrea Deck
Jacques le Moine: Denis Ménochet

Focus Features presents a film directed by José Padilha. Written by Gregory Burke. Running time: 106 min. Rated PG-13 (for violence, thematic material, some drug use, smoking and brief strong language).

At Midnight of May 14, 1948 the Provisional Government of Israel declared the new State of Israel and applied for United Nations membership the very next day. Since then the State of Israel has been in conflict with the Palestinian people, who were displaced by the UN when the Israelis were given land the Palestinians claimed as their own. The conflict has frequently been bloody and involved the international community at large in the form of hijackings and violent protest throughout Europe. Even in writing these sentences I am wary of my word choices for fear of offending one side or the other. I have no dog in this race, but since it has been an international political issue for the entirety of my life, I am somewhat fascinated by the subject matter.

The new film 7 Days in Entebbe examines the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight by two Palestinians and two Germans, who took the fairly inspired and unexpected tactic of landing the plane in Entebbe, Uganda for negotiations under the protection of the unpredictable leader of that country, General Idi Amin. This is the fourth cinematic telling of this particular story, but the first to come after much of the details of the incident have been declassified by the Israeli government. The screenplay by Gregory Burke, who previously wrote the screenplay for the politically charged ’71, focuses on three different storylines. His first focus is on the two German hijackers, Brigitte Kuhlmann and Wilfred Böse, portrayed by the film’s biggest names Rosamond Pike and Daniel Brühl. The second examines the decision making process by the Israeli government, in particular the opposing viewpoints between then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Minister of Defense (and future Prime Minister) Shimon Peres. A third, less fact-based storyline follows an unnamed Israeli Defense Force soldier who is part of the elite commando unit Sayeret Matkal responsible for executing the risky rescue operation cooked up by Peres’s staff.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

My Favorite Music of 2017, part 2

In part two of My Favorite Music of 2017 we get to combine both of my extracurricular passions—music and movies (and a little TV). I listen to just about as much soundtrack music as I do popular music. I probably even try more soundtrack music out, but these are the ones I kept coming back to over and over again throughout the year. I divided the music into three categories—movie scores, television scores and compilation soundtracks. The compilations are new to this year’s entries. Popular music has long been an element in movies, and at about the time of the Miami Vice television series producers and studios realized that good music compilation soundtracks could be additional moneymakers. They soon became a staple. I kept this list down this year, because I really don’t listen to a whole lot of pop compilation albums. But there were a few entries that really struck me this year. Here are my favorite music soundtracks of 2017. (All release dates are 2017 unless noted).

Friday, March 16, 2018

My Favorite Music of 2017, part 1

2017 was one of the better years for music I can remember. Well, I should probably qualify that. It is a year in which I personally have been able to immerse myself in music more fully than I have in quite some time. Every year that I come around to making this list, I always start out thinking I’d like to say something about each of my entries. There are two reasons that I don’t. The first is that I’ve chosen 20 albums and 10 shorter format entries for this list and this is only part one. These are my popular music choices, while part two will consist of movie soundtrack entries. Were I to write about all 50 entries on this list, I’d be writing for most of 2018, and it’s already the middle of March. The second reason I don’t write about the music is that after going full bent on my favorite sounds for the past couple of months, I’ve come to the conclusion that the music really speaks for itself. This is my favorite music of 2018 (all in no particular order).

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Gringo / ** (R)

Amazon Studios
Harold Soyinka: David Oyelowo
Richard Rusk: Joel Edgerton
Elaine Markinson: Charlize Theron
Sunny: Amanda Seyfried
Mitch Rusk: Sharlto Copley
Bonnie Soyinka: Thandie Newton
Miles: Harry Treadaway
Angel Valverde: Yul Vazquez
Robert Vega: Hector Kostifakis
Jerry: Alan Ruck

Amazon Studios and STX Entertainment present a film directed by Nash Edgerton. Written by Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone. Running time: 110 min. Rated R (for language throughout, violence and sexual content).

The Edgerton’s appear to be a family of many talents. Hailing from Australia, Joel Edgerton is the better known of the brothers in the United States. He stars in his brother’s latest feature Gringo. Most would recognize him from leading roles in films like Warrior, The Great Gatsby, Exodus: Gods & Kings, Blank Mass, Loving and The Gift—which he also wrote and directed. His older brother Nash Edgerton directs Gringo. Gringo is Nash’s second feature film after the 2008 Australian thriller The Square, which took the top spot as my favorite film of that year. Gringo has some of the earmarks of that film but lacks its sharp tone and strong protagonist.