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In all honesty, what did we do to deserve Swiss Army Man?

It’s hard to fathom a world in which a movie is made about a rotting corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) imbibed with magical properties that helps a marooned man (Paul Dano) survive isolation and navigate his way back to civilization. Maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise that the dead body of Harry Potter is enchanted with powers that defy explanation. But here we are. This is a real thing.

If some poor rube mistakenly stumbles on this movie, then Swiss Army Man serves up an instant reminder by beginning with Paul Dano riding Daniel Radcliffe like a jet ski while the corpse’s immensely strong farts propel them across the ocean. Yes, I just wrote that sentence. It’s a genuine description of what happens. I was certain this was a ridiculous dream sequence. I was wrong.

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Somehow, I’m fucking ecstatic that this movie exists.

Swiss Army Man is a wonderfully weird independent movie from the minds of Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan. I don’t know how The Daniels pulled this off, but these seemingly random ingredients come together to make an unbelievably outlandish, entertaining movie. The shocking charm of Swiss Army Man is disarming. Who else would have the balls to make this movie?

Many movies have gotten the one-of-a-kind label improperly slapped on them by critics.

Without hyperbole, this movie is truly one-of-a-kind. Nothing else like it exists.

Swiss Army Man is the picture-perfect definition of surrealism.

Paul Dano plays Hank—a man literally at the end of his rope. Hank is alone on a deserted island and ready to hang himself. At that moment, a body washes ashore and gives Hank hope. Once he finds out that the body is actually a bloated corpse with fierce flatulence, Hank then uses Harry Potter’s powerful farts in the aforementioned farting jet ski sequence to find the mainland.

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After those first 5 minutes, the boundary between dream and reality was shattered.

If you can make it 15 minutes into the movie, then you are in for a treat for the remainder.

Most of this movie involves Paul Dano’s character trying to bring the corpse back to life and teach him about things that might help him remember who he is or how he got there. I’m not kidding when I say Daniel Radcliffe’s time as an inanimate object is the best acting performance of his career. It’s a miracle that he wasn’t cracking up every second. He’s an incredibly believable dead body.

Basically, Swiss Army Man is like if Castaway just stayed with Tom Hanks on the island. Instead of befriending a volleyball, the main character finds a dead body to be his friend. The slightly reanimated corpse adopts the name Manny and starts to learn how to talk. While Daniel Radcliffe is at his best here when he’s doing a Weekend at Bernie’s impersonation, he gets his fair share of gems.

“If my best friend hides his farts from me, then what else is he hiding from me? And why does that thought make me feel so alone?” — Manny

It’s certainly childish, but I don’t give a fuck. Manny is a robust source of comedic relief as the Multi-Purpose Tool Guy. Paul Dano always brings me great joy, but he’s also extremely goofy. There is no “straight man” in Swiss Army Man. It’s still more than mere shits (and farts) and giggles.

Surprisingly, there’s a good amount of emotion in this movie.

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Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe occupy 99.9% of the screen time, but they bring their A-game in Swiss Army Man. Unfortunately, Mary Elizabeth Winstead only appears for 5 minutes. As soon a girl was shown in a small picture on Hank’s phone, I instantly recognized the actress. I know my MEW. As always, Mary Elizabeth Winstead shines whenever she’s on the screen.

Like most movies, Swiss Army Man probably outstays its welcome. I would have been happy if at least 15 minutes hit the cutting room floor. I still love this movie for what it is—a ballsy beacon of creativity. Only a small fraction will enjoy Swiss Army Man, but it will eventually find its audience.

I’m perfectly willing to accept that the events unfolding in this movie are simultaneously 100% real and completely fabricated within Hank’s head. In the end, I’m not even sure what happens. It doesn’t matter. Swiss Army Man literally ends with a character exclaiming, “What the fuck?!”

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It’s a fitting bow to wrap it up since I imagine that’s what the audience was saying to themselves at that exact moment. And throughout the entire movie. I know I was doing that.

In good conscience, I cannot recommend this movie to most people. I would be overcome with embarrassment if I suggested an acquaintance should watch this movie. You have to truly trust someone to say they should watch Swiss Army Man. Stoners would adore this movie, and it’s likely a 5-star movie if altered. Watching Swiss Army Man bone sober isn’t ideal, and it’s likely a 2-star movie if you don’t want silly humor. You definitely have to be in the right frame of mind.

Swiss Army Man is sublimely strange. I enjoyed every stupid moment.

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3.5 out of 5 stars

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Flynn! If a movie stars Paul Dano, Robert De Niro, and Julianne Moore, then you should certainly expect it to feature phenomenal acting. Being Flynn doesn’t disappoint. As well as above-average performances, the writing is also top-notch with so many quotable lines—mostly from De Niro’s character.

The delusions of grandeur are evident in the introduction…

“America has produced only three classic writers: Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger and me. I’m Jonathan Flynn. Everything I write is a masterpiece. And soon, very soon, I shall be known.” — Jonathan Flynn

Paul Weitz directed Being Flynn and wrote the screenplay based on the memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, by Nick Flynn. The story is simple. Nick works at a homeless shelter where his long-lost father (Jonathan) ends up staying after spending weeks on the cold streets.

Being Flynn is dreadfully depressing. Naturally, the pacing is also slow and methodical.

Since Nick is an aspiring writer and Jonathan proclaims everything he writes to be a masterpiece, this movie involves a lot of narration from Nick and Jonathan talking inside their own heads. At the very beginning, Paul Dano and Robert De Niro trade-off with dueling narrations. De Niro’s character delivers the delightful line, “Don’t worry. You’re back. Back in the hands of a master storyteller.”

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That one early remark tells you everything you need to know about Jonathan Flynn.

De Niro’s character revels in being a dismissive, narcissistic prick.

The dynamic of the troubled father-son relationship between Paul Dano (as Nick Flynn) and Robert De Niro (as Jonathan Flynn) feels genuinely believable. Give De Niro credit for that. Although he’s pretty much a despicable human being, you still manage to like Jonathan Flynn because of De Niro’s undeniable charm. It’s impressive to see an engaging performance from De Niro. When was the last surprising performance from De Niro in the past decade? When you don’t see something for so long, you start to question whether that type of performance is still achievable. The range on display by De Niro in Being Flynn will serve as a reminder as to why he’s one of the best actors ever.

I want more of this De Niro before the old coot kicks the bucket.

As much as I love De Niro, the blood pumping through the heart of this movie is Paul Dano. Nick Flynn isn’t necessarily a likeable character, but Dano captures the essence and angst of someone struggling to find a purpose. It’s unfortunate that Paul Dano perpetually looks like a meek, mild-mannered teenager. Eventually, people will realize Paul Dano is one of our finest young actors.

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While Nick Flynn is trying to make meaning out of his life, he uses writing as a way to express himself and release his emotions. It made my skin crawl to listen to Nick read his writing with such self-satisfaction. It’s an amazing lack of awareness that so many people have about themselves. I’ve had people tell me they enjoy my writing or art. But I’ll never believe them. Compliments never make me feel comfortable. Instead, my brain will find some flaw to try to negate the positive.

Things seem to be getting on the right track for Nick when he starts working at Harbor House—a men’s homeless shelter. However, that facade quickly crumbles when his father, Jonathan, enters the picture as a resident in need of a bed. Learning his absentee father is circling the drain leads Nick down a path of drugs and alcohol to escape. Jonathan causes daily disruptions at the homeless shelter, and he just generally wreaks havoc wherever he goes because he only seems to care about himself.

Unfortunately, these types of explosive people actually exist in real life. They are toxic.

How do you deal with them when it is someone in your own family?

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Although Dano and De Niro are the stars—along with Julianne Moore, in her limited screen time shown in flashbacks as Nick’s mother—Being Flynn employs a surprisingly good supporting cast. Olivia Thirlby is a strong pillar of support as Denise, the love interest and close friend of Nick. Thomas Middleditch and Chris Chalk help break up the monotony as Nick’s roomates (Richard and Ivan, respectively). Even Wes Studi is enjoyable as the stoic Captain of Harbor House. It’s a very small detail, but I fucking loved when he turns his chair to sit backwards in the classic “teacher trying to look cool and hip” pose.

I found a lot to enjoy about Being Flynn over several viewings. When I find a well-written, well-acted film, I like to savor it. Being Flynn isn’t as good of a two-man show as There Will Be Blood (also co-starring Paul Dano), but this movie is much more palatable for a broader audience.

Being Flynn is hardly the first movie to focus on homelessness. It’s a relatable topic and a realistic day-to-day fear for too many in this country who live paycheck-to-paycheck. However, most movies of this ilk don’t have the same amount of dark fun with this type of depressing subject.

Luckily, Being Flynn never stays dull and dreary for too long. Director and screenplay writer Paul Weitz knew when to pull the plane out of a nosedive at the right time. Basically, Robert De Niro took the reigns to say something stupid and racist. It was fun mocking his bigoted idiocy.

This is another movie I will fight you over if you don’t like it. Flynn!

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4.5 out of 5 stars

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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