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Don’t Breathe is almost awesome. Almost. It doesn’t quite hit that perfect mark.

Despite its flaws, Don’t Breathe still reigns supreme over every other current box office offering. Don’t spend your money on anything else in theaters right now. Granted, September is such a shitty month for new releases, but this movie is a tense, somewhat mysterious nail-biter.

I don’t know if I would necessarily label Don’t Breathe as a horror movie, but it is an effective thriller with common horror elements. If you categorize it in the horror genre, then Don’t Breathe is one of the best horror movies over the past few years. This film is substantially better than the creative but uneven It Follows as well as the unimaginably boring and overhyped The Babadook. While Don’t Breathe serves up its fair share of chilling scenarios, this movie doesn’t take itself too seriously.

It’s a difficult balancing act. At times, Don’t Breathe even borders on intensely creepy. However, there were also a few over-the-top goofy moments to instill fun. I wanted more of that batshit crazy feeling from someone like Sam Raimi—who was actually a producer on this movie.

Don’t Breathe is the rare type that manages to be simultaneously entertaining and frustrating.

the-blind-man

This movie opens with one of my biggest pet peeves: a flash-forward to later in the film.  This scene shows The Blind Man (played perfectly by Stephen Lang) dragging a blonde girl down the street. For anyone with a brain, too much information is revealed in that quick span. I found myself impatiently waiting for the movie to catch up to that moment, which only happens somewhere in the third act. You cheapen the journey when you advertise the destination at the very beginning.

Who do that?  It adds nothing and makes no narrative sense.

In the most basic terms, that weird storytelling crutch immediately lets the audience know The Blind Man isn’t really the sympathetic victim you might expect from someone who is the target of a robbery. Although people have relentlessly bitched about The Blind Man’s actions and motivations, I’m completely fine with moral ambiguity. I don’t need a good person to root for in a movie.

Just let me discover the characters as the events unfold.

money-rocky-and-alex

Rocky, Alex, and Money are the three teenagers who have turned to robbing homes to make enough money to hopefully leave Detroit. I can certainly understand why everyone would want to leave that shithole. Detroit actually serves as a phenomenal backdrop for a horror movie with numerous neighborhoods completely abandoned. Since Alex uses the keys from his dad’s security company, these ne’er-do-wells never use a gun because there are no people in the house when they execute the robbery. Alex is played admirably by Dylan Minnette—who always looks familiar, but you can never quite put your finger on where or why you remember him. Money is your standard, cookie-cutter thug and Daniel Zovatto plays him in  forgettable fashion. Cornrows always look ridiculous on white people. The best out of this funky bunch is Rocky—played by Jane Levy, who more people should know from the underrated and criminally short-lived network TV comedy Suburgatory.

The entire reason these teenagers target The Blind Man is because his daughter was run over by a wealthy woman. He was awarded a $300,000 settlement that’s likely still in his house. This is probably the point where you should start to feel bad for The Blind Man, but that sympathy already started eroding a bit after seeing him drag a blonde girl down the street in the opening. Naturally, everything is not quite as it seems once the teenagers break into the Blind Man’s house.

To this movie’s credit, the twists and turns keep the story moving while making the audience creep closer and closer to the edge of their seats. When The Blind Man’s sinister intentions are revealed, Don’t Breathe takes a real dark turn. Even though he’s an Army veteran who just lost his daughter, The Blind Man is a bad guy. Bad guys do bad things. No one should be surprised when that happens.

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I’m carefully trying not to spoil Don’t Breathe, but I think the success of this movie is in the discussion afterwards. Horror movies don’t often generate conversations, but it’s hard not to talk about the third act of Don’t Breathe. Unfortunately, the movie suffers from the absolute inability of the writers (director Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues) to end the story. I counted six different conclusions included in the filming that they could have reasonably settled on to just finish the fucking movie.

Don’t Breathe mercifully ends with a disappointing standard horror cliché. In between the regrettably bad beginning and sloppy endings, there is an incredibly engaging and entertaining thriller. Although I set the bar high because it has a promising premise, this is easily a more memorable movie than the overwhelming majority of garbage shown in theaters this summer.

I cannot guarantee everyone will enjoy Don’t Breathe. But I can guarantee you won’t look at turkey or even be able to think of Thanksgiving the same ever again.

shock

4 out of 5 stars

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Taika Waititi is a name you need to remember. Boy is quite an achievement for Taika, who wrote, directed, and also co-starred in this movie. As a result of Waititi’s work, he’s now directing Thor: Ragnarok. That’s a monumental leap for this New Zealand director, but I have no doubt that Waititi will do a phenomenal job. You can tell the man has a fine-tuned yet frenetic mind for comedy. After watching this movie, I wanted to see his whole catalog, but I also have a strong desire to see more of Taika in front of the screen. I dare you not to like this man. Waititi exudes charisma.

Boy is the story of Alamein—an 11-year-old boy who lives in a small New Zealand town with his grandma, younger brother (Rocky), and various little cousins. Everyone refers to Alamein as “Boy.” He hates it. Boy was named after his father, Alamein, who left when he was young. Forget about good memories, he doesn’t have any memories with his dad. While he still worships his estranged father, Boy’s other idol is Michael Jackson, which makes a little more sense since this movie is set in the mid-80’s. Seeing him try to impress a girl and miserably failing at moonwalking is a subtle, delightful highlight.

The movie is just pure childish enjoyment. It’s like bubbles being blown in your face.

Thriller

Boy tells fantastical stories of his father, which are acted out in these hilarious daydream-esque sequences. When a kid in school claims his dad is in jail with Boy’s father, Boy tells him that Alamein tunneled out and killed two guards with only a spoon to escape. This movie utilizes humor to distract and somewhat transcend what is actually an extremely sad situation of desperate poverty. Boy is basically an orphan being raised by his grandma and he’s constantly being picked on.

One of the only things that has stuck with him is when a teacher says he has potential.

Boy doesn’t even know what potential means. Oddly, his grandma suddenly leaves for a funeral, which (as the oldest) puts Boy in charge of all the little kids in their shanty. However, Alamein happens to come back home out of nowhere with two guys from his “gang”—The Crazy Horses.

Crazy Horses

Hijinks ensue. It’s clear Alamein is a total shithead. But in a fun way.

Alamein occasionally dons an army helmet with Shogun written on it, which is what he wants everyone to call him. No one takes him seriously. However, Boy still sees the best in him—to the point of delusion. Boy wants to connect with his father, but Alamein really just wants to find his old stash of cash he hid in the backyard before going to jail. Although this movie is an absolute treasure cove of comedic gold, there is beating heart at its core that makes this all possible and feel real.

To Taika Waititi’s credit, this movie is incredibly well-written and the story feels genuine. I always smiled whenever Taika was on the screen. But James Rolleston is the other standout star as the titular Boy. Even the adorable Te Aho Eketone-Whitu is memorable in his role as Rocky. This movie employs a colorful cast of bit characters (amazingly, mostly children) that leave their little marks on the movie.

Rocky, Boy, and Alamein

I’ll concede that this movie isn’t for everyone. Very few can satisfy the whole range of people.

Boy lacks that widespread appeal—especially since some people are completely opposed to any type of cuteness or quirk. This movie also meanders a bit in the second act, but Boy is a remarkable independent film that’s already helped Taika Waititi’s career explode. I’ve been awaiting an opportunity to watch his most recent movie, Hunt for the Wilderpeople—seemingly another zany comedy-drama set in New Zealand. After Waititi knocks Thor: Ragnarok out of the park, I can only hope that success opens more doors for him while also guiding others to watch his smaller independent movies like Boy. I hope Boy finds the audience it deserves because it strikes a chord that warms the cockles.

Boy has been a difficult movie for me to describe. It is intrinsically unique. I don’t know how to really frame this movie and put it into words. It’s a leap of faith. I had no idea what was in store for me when I decided to watch this movie on Netflix. But I’ll never be able to forget it. If you are in the mood for a heartfelt comedy, then take the leap of faith with me and watch Boy streaming on Netflix.

Alamein might disappoint you, but Boy never will.

Taika Kitty

4.5 out of 5 stars

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It’s hard for me to trust anyone who has never thought about suicide.

None of us will make it out of this life alive. At some point or another, we will all die.

Wanting some control over when your time is up is a very human thought.

If you’re in pain (of any sort), it’s a natural desire to want to end that suffering. That doesn’t mean you should end your life to end that suffering. But the thought itself is something that we all experience. Anyone with a hint of self-awareness questions their place—why they’re here and how they fit in the world.

Some people just don’t fit and don’t want to fit into this world. We didn’t ask to be here.

Before I Disappear heavily explores these types of dark themes with a very deft hand.

This movie opens with the main character, Richie (played by Shawn Christensen), working his literal shit job cleaning toilets at a nightclub. After opening stall after stall to see the revolting horror show that awaits, Richie finds a girl dead from a heroin overdose. It’s the last straw for Richie—who is still in mourning after his girlfriend, Vista (played by Isabelle McNally), died from a heroin overdose. That drug has ruined his life and he’s had enough.

When he gets back to his apartment, Richie starts a bath and grabs a razorblade so he can join his love in the next life. But then the phone rings. Just like that, he’s roped back into existence.

Red Bath

After 5 or so years of not talking to his sister, Maggie (played by Emmy Rossum), she calls Richie in her time of need and she asks one favor: pick up and look after her daughter, Sophia (played by Fatima Ptacek), while she is unable to do so herself. This mission becomes Richie’s sole reason to live—at least for the moment.

I fucking love this movie. Before I Disappear feels like the movie equivalent of Alice in Chains. The subject matter is inescapably depressing, but it’s enjoyable to sulk and soak in the darkness. Sometimes it’s just nice to sit in a room by yourself with no lights and think about life. That’s the type of odd satisfaction I derive from Before I Disappear. At this point, the number of times I’ve watched this movie is creeping up into double-digits.

Regardless of how many times I watch it, I will never get sick of this movie.

On every repeat viewing, it draws the same strong emotional response.

Richie and Sophia

The heart of this movie is the interaction between Richie and Sophia. I don’t recognize Shawn Christensen, but he is incredibly solid in this performance as a man at the end of his rope. You feel the void in Richie’s soul. That feels like it is completely the result of Shawn Christensen’s work put into the character. Before I Disappear comes off as an intensely personal story for writer/director/actor Shawn Christensen.

This film certainly captures the despair of depression and drug addiction like no other.

But don’t worry, there is still plenty of dark humor to savor in Before I Disappear.

A lot of the laughs come as a result of Richie’s irritation with people. However, the shining star of this movie is Fatima Ptacek as Sophia. Apparently, Fatima is the voice of Dora the Explorer. However, she is phenomenal in this more adult role. With a vibrant presence, you can’t help but smile when she is on the screen. Just by her actions and demeanor, you can tell that Sophia is a goody-goody raised by a strong, independent mother. It shines through in the character. Amidst all of this chaos, the only thing Sophia wants to do is schoolwork.

Bonding

Richie and Sophia have a perfect blend of odd couple chemistry. You see these characters form a relationship after starting off as relative strangers forced together as a result of this weird situation. Their budding camaraderie is adorable, and they grow closer as the night grows longer. With nowhere else to go, Richie and Sophia explore the seedy underbelly that is Richie’s life in New York City.

Before I Disappear is surprisingly even-handed with comedy and drama, but this movie isn’t afraid to go to dark places. Richie is abrasive, but you still can’t help but like him. He’s a guy with a good heart, and he feels like a genuine person rather than a two-dimensional character. You don’t know the exact destination, but you want everything to work out for this guy on his journey. Even if he just wants to get back to his cold, red bath.

Death

While you are with Richie the entire time, the audience is only fed bits and pieces of Maggie’s story—until near the end when it is a necessity. However, Emmy Rossum makes an impact with her limited time on the screen. When they finally reveal where Maggie is and why she’s there, you experience her feelings and that realization washes over you at the same time as the character. Essentially, her carefully crafted business world is a facade that she is trying to keep from crumbling down. She has to stay strong for herself and her daughter.

Maggie

Before I Disappear might be a slow build, but it is undoubtedly worth the wait. No punches are pulled in this movie. By the time it was over, I felt emotionally pummeled. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone—especially those who enjoy movies that can make them emotional. I’m not afraid to cry while watching a movie, and Before I Disappear earns its tears. I couldn’t help but experience those same feelings on every repeated viewing.

In my eyes, Before I Disappear is a special achievement. This movie perfectly hits its intended spots and the result provides a valuable refuge from the outside world. Everyone should watch Before I Disappear and it is still streaming on Netflix. If you don’t like this movie, then I don’t think you need to come back to this website.

Ugly Cry Face

5 out of 5 stars

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Do not accept The Invitation.

Ignore the misdirection from critics, this is not an enjoyable experience.

In fact, I would nominate this as one of the worst dinner experiences captured on film.

The Invitation is a bizarre, boring mess developed from disjointed parts.

Within the first 5 minutes, there’s a casual mercy-killing of a coyote by someone with a tire iron after they accidentally hit it with their car on the way to a dinner party. That’s the type of movie you are in store for with The Invitation. A group of friends is gathering together in the Hollywood Hills for a dinner party hosted by Eden (played by Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband, David (played by Michiel Huisman). Eden is the ex-wife of Will (played by Logan Marshall-Green), and they separated after their child died a couple years ago. This party is the first time these friends have seen each other in more than 2 years. Even with that excuse, none of these people seemed like actual friends.

I praised Goodbye World because that movie brought together a cast of characters and managed to make them feel like they had authentic interactions. In The Invitation, no one seems like they want to be at this dinner party. I don’t blame them, I wouldn’t have wanted to be there either. Despite several openings, everyone decides to stay and suffer through the unwavering awkwardness.

Tammy Blanchard

The obvious elephant in the room this whole time is the death of Will and Eden’s son, Ty. Eden appears to have moved on with the help of David and a spiritual help group called “The Invitation.” Will is visibly still suffering and the movie shows flashbacks to their once loving, wholesome lives when their son was alive. At the dinner party, the tension between Eden and Will is clear and they blow up during an argument in front of everyone. I would have quickly gotten the hell out of there. However, Eden and David make things even more awkward by showing a video of someone dying by assisted suicide with the help of “The Invitation.” Needless to say, their sales pitch was not effective.

Although I was intrigued by the mystery of the setup, that momentum was not maintained.

I almost fell asleep thanks to glacial pacing and heavy reliance on flat dialogue between fake friends. While the intention may have been to build tension, I was bored by the whole sequence of events because it felt telegraphed and removed any hint of mystery. You know exactly where this movie is going, which makes the destination extremely disappointing when they finally arrive there.

The Invitation is interminably dull and not deserving of its self-imposed “thriller” label.

Logan Marshall-Green

Logan Marshall-Green is Tom Hardy’s doppelganger. He makes a lot of shocked faces with various expressions of dismay in this movie. Alas, he is Not Tom Hardy. Michiel Huisman is easily most known as Daario Naharis from Game of Thrones. I don’t recognize Tammy Blanchard from anything, but she has a face that perfectly portrays crazy—which was used beautifully in this movie.

No amount of great acting could have saved The Invitation. Not Tom Hardy acted his poor little heart out. But it still didn’t change the fact that he’s Not Tom Hardy. Daario is basically Daario. He is a suave character with mysterious intentions. The psychological chess match between Daario and Not Tom Hardy is the only interesting, ongoing dynamic, and they didn’t know each other before the party.

Daario and Not Tom Hardy

Clocking in at 1 hour and 40 minutes, the Invitation is a painful watch. I wanted to abort this movie after the first act. Why is this highly rated? While this is a polished effort from Karyn Kusama, the writing from Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi was not up to par with Kusama’s directing ability.

As a result, the Invitation is like an evening with an ether rag over your face.

Don’t be fooled by the buzz, this is not a good movie. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

Bewildered

2 out of 5 stars

Emilia Apple

Emilia Clarke | Fiona Apple

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For months now, I have been eagerly anticipating watching Green Room.

However, that anticipation turned to dread when I heard the awful news about Anton Yelchin.

I wish I had the opportunity to watch Green Room without the knowledge of his death in my head. It was inescapable—it was always on my mind whenever he was on the screen. Although I’m profoundly sad that I won’t get to see any more Anton Yelchin performances, this movie will forever serve as a superb reminder of his supreme talent. Anton was just one of many reasons to love this movie.

Anton Yelchin

Green Room is about a punk rock group called “The Ain’t Rights” who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In particular, Anton Yelchin’s character (Pat) sees something he shouldn’t have seen in the green room of a neo-Nazi skinhead bar. It takes a little while to arrive at that point, but the story explodes from there. In the first act, there’s a strong sense of foreboding and impending doom.

The group has their backs against the wall as they are trapped in the green room while both parties try to determine what to do. One of the best lines in the movie comes from Macon Blair’s character, Gabe, “We’re not keeping you here, you’re just staying.” Gabe is the right-hand man of neo-Nazi leader Darcy who is played by Patrick Stewart. It is very clear who is in charge of this situation.

The other members of “The Ain’t Rights” are played by Alia Shawkat (Sam), Joe Cole (Reece), and Callum Turner (Tiger). You probably recognize Alia Shawkat as Maeby from Arrested Development and Joe Cole as John Shelby from Peaky Blinders. I had no idea who the hell Callum Turner was before this movie, but Turner joins Shawkat and Cole with impressive performances in their supporting roles. Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier makes “The Ain’t Rights” a believable punk rock group.

The Ain't Rights

One of the hallmarks of Saulnier is his ability to create and capture gritty realism.

In that respect, Green Room is no different than Blue Ruin—Saulnier’s previous film. The violence is real and visceral. At one point, it is literally hard to stomach. Using the actual neo-Nazi movement in the Pacific Northwest as the backdrop only makes this movie feel more authentic.

Personally, I am a big fan of Jeremy Saulnier’s style. Although the story isn’t spectacular, Green Room is a claustrophobic thriller. While I was watching this movie, I couldn’t help but imagine myself in the same scenario. What would you do? Everyone wants to picture themselves as Rambo mowing through the bad guys. But the reality is that this group has nowhere to go. The odds are stacked against them.

Even if they manage to make it out of the green room alive, then they have to find a way out of the club. If they can escape the club alive, then they have to traverse the woods and find a way back to civilization from the middle of nowhere. There are no cops coming to save you.

Everyone’s fight-or-flight instincts are put to the ultimate test in this movie.

Green Room is incredibly bleak but unbelievably tense. I wish there was more of an entertaining element to mix up the dreary drama like some dark humor or an over-the-top performance from Patrick Stewart. But that’s just my desire for cinematic moments. Instead, Saulnier’s intention seems to be making unbelievably believable movies—as if he’s filming real life. His success is undeniable.

The evil in this movie is palpable. The force of their will feels unrelenting. As Patrick Stewart’s character (Darcy, leader of the neo-Nazis) says, “It’s not a party. It’ s a movement.” These villains are menacing in pursuit of their goal, but utterly practical in their determination to wipe out the opposition.

Patrick Stewart

This movie will continue to stick in my mind for several reasons. While Anton Yelchin will have further appearances in movies released after his death, Green Room is a fitting goodbye to such a talented young actor. You can see the promise Yelchin held through his performance as Pat. It was heartbreaking to see the fear in his eyes and to hear his voice crack while trying to handle the overwhelming pressure. Hopefully, people will eventually find this gem and enjoy Green Room as much as I did.

I hated to see this movie come to an end. I just wanted the ride to continue.

Ride

4.5 out of 5 stars

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If someone drilled a hole in Charlie Kaufman’s skull and tried to extract a movie idea, then the result might be something similar to The Lobster. Unfortunately, this movie lacks Charlie Kaufman’s signature type of style and substance because it’s in the hands of an inferior talent. The ambition does not match the execution. I wanted to like The Lobster, but this is soulless quirk without any fun.

The Lobster is like a feature-length film version of Asperger’s syndrome.

Why was this movie made? Considering the central theme is about relationships and finding love, The Lobster fails to provide anything worthwhile on the subject. Society pressures people into relationships—that’s about it. This movie has a whole lot of nothing to offer the audience. I don’t like tearing down a movie, but I’ll be one of the lone voices deriding this fresh, steaming turd.

I’m shocked that there are people who enjoyed the experience of The Lobster.

Colin Farrell

Colin Farrell does his best with the material, but the dialogue is entirely too stilted. It caused physical pain to listen to people speak. Kudos to anyone who forced themselves to suffer past the movie’s first act. If you are one of those people, I would love to learn why you tortured yourself.

Before we go any further, let’s just state the premise of the movie for anyone who is unaware.

This movie is set in a future where The City sends single people to The Hotel to find a romantic partner. If you’re not successful within your 45 days, then you get turned into the animal of your choice. David (played by Colin Farrell) would like to be a lobster if he doesn’t find love.

Somehow, The Lobster is a drab, absurdist drama that refuses to provide levity.

More Colin Farrell

I don’t know why you would drag down this preposterous premise by embedding it in a dystopian future. I think we can all realize the ridiculousness and appreciate the absurdity without having to ground it in a gritty, joyless environment. This movie would have been instantly improved by just making this a magical hotel with the same type of consequences looming for failure. Tweak the story by having Colin Farrell’s character unwittingly arrive at the hotel for an extended stay—only to learn he has to find love before he leaves or else he’s turned into the animal of his choice.

You could still touch on the same points while also adding humor to lift up the material.  There is an astonishing lack of laughs in The Lobster.  Instead, this is a tough slog to endure.  This movie figuratively beats a dead horse and it literally beats a dead dog.

Director and co-writer Yorgos Lanthimos handled this movie with zero subtlety.

Despite a 2-hour runtime, there’s a frustrating lack of substance in The Lobster.

I still commend Lanthimos for the audacity of the premise, but I cannot think of one person I could recommend this movie to and reasonably expect them to enjoy it. Personally, I find it much more interesting to think and talk about the idea of this movie than the actual movie.

Leave The Lobster to die its slow, dull death in the grave it dug for itself.

Grave

1.5 out of 5 stars