Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

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Can we just forgive Mel Gibson already?

I know he made The Passion of the Christ, but I can forgive him for that.

Oh yeah, there’s all that racist stuff too. But he was drunk! Who among us hasn’t said some stupid shit when we’re drunk? I regret virtually everything I’ve ever done when drunk. There’s a kernel of truth in the saying that the real person reveals themselves when intoxicated. As a fan, I’m happy to have Mel Gibson back in my life.

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Get the Gringo is Mel Gibson at his best. His booze-soaked, chain-smoking best.

The premise is stunningly simple. Mel Gibson’s character is simply known as either the Driver or Gringo. He was the getaway driver of a robbery gone bad. Get the Gringo opens with the Driver leading the police on a chase with a dying accomplice bleeding all over the millions in their car. In a last-ditch attemptr, the Driver evades the cops and crashes the car into and over the border wall in order to get easier treatment in Mexico. The laughably corrupt Mexican cops that catch him take the millions in stolen money and throw the Driver into their shitty prison system on false charges—hoping to bury him forever. The setup of the story is nice and breezy.

Essentially, this is a revenge movie where Mel Gibson makes sure his enemies get their comeuppance. And oh shit, comeuppance is had. Mel’s character is the only white guy (hence, the Gringo) locked up in El Pueblito, which is a Mexican prison where the inmates run the asylum. If you have enough money, you can bring your family into the prison to live with you—while the kids can even continue going to school on the outside. The Gringo gets the lay of the land and starts to exploit his surroundings to improve his stature in the prison.

Get the Gringo has an enjoyable pace, but I found myself more in love with the acting than the actual story. Mel Gibson exudes charisma. This is the typical kind of gruff character that Mel Gibson knocks out of the park. Despite being an arguably shitty human being, I find Mel Gibson to be an extremely likeable actor.

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As great as Mel Gibson is in Get the Gringo, this movie is so memorable because of the Kid (played by Kevin Hernandez). I’ve seen Kevin Hernandez is a few things since this movie, but Get the Gringo will likely be the height of his career. Honestly, it feels like one of the best performances from a young child actor. The Kid has special privileges in El Pueblito because he is the only match for a liver transplant that the criminal leader of the prison, Javi (played by Daniel Giménez Cacho) needs—due to all of his drinking. No one can touch the Kid, and he can’t leave like the other kids. The budding friendship between the Gringo and the Kid is the highlight of this movie.

Most child actors are shit. I think reasonable people can agree about that. They’re kids, they can’t be trusted to be any good. What child should be working at that age? However, Kevin Hernandez perfectly encapsulates this character. He’s a wise-cracking, tough kid on the outside, but you can see he is scared to death on the inside. In his current circumstances, there’s nothing the Kid can do to save himself or his mother. But he wants to try to do so by killing Javi. He has no choice. His liver is no longer his own. Once Javi gives the go-ahead, they’ll cut the liver out of the Kid and transplant it into Javi so he can ruin another this one too with his binge drinking.

Naturally, the story snowballs and you find out more about the robbery gone bad. The Gringo stole those millions from an evil fuck named Frank (played by master of greasy creepitude, Peter Stormare). Frank wants that fucking money back. Nothing will stop him. Get the Gringo is wise to let Stormare chew scenery and gloriously over-act. Peter Stormare is phenomenal in everything, and I will fight you if you disagree.

There’s a few other solid performances from supporting actors, but the biggest secondary contribution comes from Peter Gerety. If the name isn’t familiar, maybe the many chins of Peter Gerety will remind you that he was the hefty Judge Phelan in The Wire. I’ve been grossed out by Gerety ever since I heard his character in The Wire say he “would love to throw a fuck” into a female character. The mental image that conjured will haunt my nightmares. Gerety is operating at peak creepiness as the Embassy Guy poking around in the Gringo’s business.

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Get the Gringo is a fun action adventure. This is the exact fucking type of movie that we as a nation have missed out on in the name of morality. Most people in the movie business are probably pieces of shit. I don’t care. Movies aren’t real. I can disassociate someone’s real life from what’s happening on a screen. It’s acting. Some people are weirded out by Tom Cruise now. Like Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise exudes charisma and he’s always entertaining in movies.

Maybe Mel Gibson still is a piece of shit. But people can change. His past, present, or future isn’t going to impact my enjoyment of his films. Get the Gringo is a fine example of the pure fun that we can have from watching Mel Gibson get back to work. Give the man some room to breathe and the freedom to perfect his craft.

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4.5 out of 5 stars

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I’m tickled by Taika Waititi’s sense of humor. Yes, tickled.

After watching Boy, I didn’t need to be sold on Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

But a grumpy, bearded Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) as a gruff outdoorsman was enough to make me ecstatic before the movie even started. As with Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is about an eccentric youth in New Zealand, which is yet another fabulous opportunity to show off that stunningly beautiful landscape. While Taika makes a cameo in this movie as well, he doesn’t get near the screen time or juicy role that he gave himself in Boy.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the story of Ricky Baker—a troubled foster youth in New Zealand.

Oh, and Ricky is a wannabe gangster. Hilariously so. He keeps it gangsta.

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The movie starts with Ricky being dropped off at the doorstep of Bella (played by Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (played by Sam Neill). Once Ricky takes a look at this backwoods hole in the wall, he turns right back around to the Child Services vehicle. Ricky gives no fucks—even though this is his last stop before juvy.

Rima Te Wiata is an incredibly endearing presence as Bella, who just loves Ricky unconditionally from the start. Ol’ “Uncle” Hec isn’t quite as caring and nurturing as Bella. Hec is much more comfortable in the bush than he is around other people. His interests don’t exactly align with Ricky Baker.

Sam Neill is an actor with surprising range. Of course, everyone recognizes him for his role as Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park. However, Sam Neill was spectacular in Seasons 1 and 2 of Peaky Blinders—where he plays a corrupt and menacing authority figure with misguided morals and a grudge against Cillian Murphy. In Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Sam Neill shows off his comedic chops as Hec.

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While the life of a kid in foster care isn’t exactly uplifting material, that’s the brilliance of Taika Waititi. With his outlandish, sometimes twisted sense of humor, Waititi’s exuberance finds the silver lining to turn a negative into a positive. I truly can’t wait to see more of Taika Waititi’s work.

Julian Dennison holds his own as Ricky Baker. He’s not in the same stratosphere as James Rolleston’s performance as Alamein in Boy. But there are some similarities between those characters. Instead of an adoration of Michael Jackson, Taika Waititi has the young male character infatuated with Tupac—naming his dog after the infamous rapper. Although Julian embodies this particular character well, I’d be surprised to ever see him again. I think it’s a credit to Taika that he’s capable of getting such great acting from young kids.

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How can you not feel relaxed and comfortable around that guy?

If you are one of the few who has watched Boy, then Hunt for the Wilderpeople is more of the same. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Boy was a superior film. Each movie shows off a different aspect of New Zealand and their sense of community. The audience is given a glimpse into what life can be like with the support of family or friends on that beautiful, sprawling expanse of wilderness.

It’s pretty majestical.

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4 out of 5 stars

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As a person, I love Rob Zombie.

As an artist, I appreciate his aesthetic.

As a director, Rob Zombie is a mixed bag trying to make an impact on the industry.

With his movies, I feel like a heroin addict chasing the dragon. It’s been more than 10 years since Rob Zombie’s best and only good movie, The Devil’s Rejects. I remember watching it in theaters when I was in high school, and I can’t tell you how many times I have watched it since. The Devil’s Rejects was fun, funny, and violent with a purpose. For the last decade, it feels like Rob Zombie has been trying to re-capture that magic. While Rob Zombie and John Carpenter have buried the hatchet regarding the recent “feud” regarding Zombie’s Halloween remakes, I agree with Carpenter’s sentiments—those movies were uninspired and unnecessary. I had no idea Rob Zombie’s Halloween II even existed.

After the success of The Devil’s Rejects, Rob Zombie was a hired gun on those Halloween remakes. It failed miserably, but Zombie still has talent as a director. In order to make his fucked-up vision a reality, I believe it needs to be an original Rob Zombie creation. Lords of Salem had promise as a story written by Rob Zombie, but it was so dreadfully boring and bogged down with exposition.

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When I heard about the premise of 31, I admit to being excited. The only thing I knew was the very basic ideathat some sadistic clowns kidnap a group of people and play a game to kill them one-by-one. Simple enough to catch my attention. Unfortunately, Rob Zombie doesn’t capitalize on the promise of that premise because the set-up is convoluted and full of tired old horror cliches.

Essentially, this movie feels like The Purge: Circus Clowns. Throw in a bit of the campy nature of the “stalkers” from The Running Man, and then you have the end result of 31. There are elements here that could have and should have made this an entertaining gore show. It’s pure speculation, but I imagine Rob Zombie’s decision to crowdfund this project impacted the bottom-line and his ability to translate this vision to film. But maybe that’s just an excuse that I’m making for him.

By setting the movie in the mid-70’s, Rob Zombie immediately gives 31 the same exact vibe of House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. That was not a wise decision, in my opinion. I understand if that was out of necessity to make the film cheaper, but it only comes across like Rob Zombie going to the ol’ familiar well yet again. I’ve had enough of this style—I wanted something new.

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My expectations for 31 weren’t unreasonable. Is an original horror movie too much to ask?

I have no explanation for the goofy self-imposed rules of the game that restrict the movie’s creativity. Case in point: the captured group of traveling carnies has to survive 12 hours in this compound against these killer clowns from nowhere. Do you know what movie franchise also has a 12-hour time frame of trying to survive a murder romp? The Purge! It’s the foundation of the whole franchise.

It’s a moronic decision that helps the audience continue to draw lines to other, better movies.

There’s also no reason for Malcolm McDowell to be in this movie other than the fact that he’s Malcolm McDowell. That’s enough of a reason most of the time. In 31, Malcolm McDowell (as Father Murder) is dressed up like a tranny with a powdered wig and makeup as if he is a British aristocrat. Along with Sister Serpent (played by Jane Carr) and Sister Dragon (Judy Geeson), the audience is led to believe that these three family members play the annual game of 31 where they employ sadistic clowns to murder the captives while they gamble on the odds and what happens.

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None of that makes any fucking sense, but I could have still forgiven 31 if the movie delivered its share of gruesome deaths and campy horror. Why couldn’t the set-up be simplified to a mysterious haunted house that pops up and opens the night before Halloween for a freak show of horrors? Since it’s Devil’s Night, the haunted house only invites 31 people and then they play their game.

A haunted house is fertile ground for weird, crazy shit to happen in a horror movie. Funhouse mirrors, strobing black lights, confusing mazes, and so many more opportunities to scare the audience. With the approach Rob Zombie actually employs, this movie comes across as a bad survival-horror video game. When the captured group of carnies wake up inside the game, they’re separated and each person is given some type of weapon—table leg, baseball bat, crowbar, and so on.

Despite dedicating a significant portion of the movie on these carnies, I had no emotional investment in any of them. Kevin Jackson played Levon, Meg Foster played Venus, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs played Panda, Jeff Daniel Phillips played Roscoe, and Sheri Moon Zombie played Charly. Many will have an issue with Sheri Moon’s casting, but she is a serviceable actress in a horror movie.

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In 31, she’s miscast as the main character, but I had several more important issues with this movie. Personally, I find it hard to blame Rob Zombie for wanting to put his wife in everything. However, an easy potential improvement would’ve been to make her play the character of Venus.

While the acting left a lot to be desired, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs’s portrayal of Panda was probably the biggest offense. The Jamaican accent that Hilton-Jacobs utilizes is horrendous. It’s a worthy entry in the Pantheon of Shitty Movie Accents. I wanted Panda dead as soon as I heard that accent.

Among the captured carnies, Jeff Daniel Phillips is the most likeable character—no surprise since he’s also the best actor out of the bunch. Roscoe was deserving of a substantially larger role, but the actor did an impressive job with the material. Count his relegation as another missed opportunity.

In comparison to the charisma-free victims, the clowns infuse some amusement at various points. In 31, these clowns are called The Heads: Sick-Head, Psycho-Head, Schizo-Head, Death-Head, Sex-Head, and Doom-Head. Stupid names aside, the clowns are differing degrees of fun.

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For a bizarre reason, the first clown to enter the game is Sick-Head (played admirably by Pancho Moler), who is a midget dressed up like a tiny little Hispanic Hitler clown—complete with a giant swastika on his chest. Psycho-Head and Schizo-Head are chainsaw-wielding clown brothers. Death and Sex feel like a dumb tacked-on BDSM duo, but I was dumbfounded to discover that the voice of Tommy Pickles from Rugrats (Elizabeth Daily) played Sex-Head. This could be seen as an insult, but I just assumed it was an old, washed-up porn star when I heard her childish voice.

Without question, Richard Brake was the shining beacon of joy as Doom-Head. I was always creeped out whenever his ugly mug graced the screen. There’s a scene where Doom-Head is fucking a whore from behind while watching Nosferatu. I don’t think Richard Brake has an ounce of fat on him so he looks like a skeleton with skin tightly stretched over the bones. His silhouette is haunting.

Doom-Head delivers an intense, menacing monologue to open the movie. That introduction was the most memorable part of the movie, but 31 failed to capitalize on that momentum. The action doesn’t pick back up until the audience is re-introduced to Doom-Head much later. After watching this performance, I want to travel to the alternate universe where Richard Brake is playing The Joker.

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I wanted to love this movie. After watching 31, it was hard to find aspects to even like—let alone love. Although this was a massive disappointment and wasted opportunity, I’m still trying to mine the movie for positives. It hurts me to say such bad things about one of my favorite entertainers.

If you only look at the editing and transitions, 31 seems like a severe regression as a movie for Rob Zombie. I know he’s a capable director, but those freeze frames and fades were the hallmarks of an amateur filmmaker. Baffling decisions were abound in this movie.

But yet, Rob Zombie still had an ace up his sleeve. We’re talking about a movie that focuses on sadistic killer clowns that doesn’t use Rob Zombie’s best clown. Where the fuck was Captain Spaulding?

Even if you keep literally everything else the same, including Captain Spaulding could have increased the overall rating of the movie by 2 stars for me. I demand more Sid Haig in my life. Since 31 chronologically took place before the settings of House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, it was possible to make this a prequel of sorts to show what Captain Spaulding was up to before connecting with the Firefly Family. Captain Spaulding would’ve wiped his ass with both of groups of these sorry sacks of shit (carnies and clowns) before eating bucket of fried chicken and tutti-fuckin-fruity ice cream.

“What’s the matter, kid?

Don’t ya like clowns? Why? Don’t we make ya laugh? Aren’t we fuckin’ funny? You best come up with an answer. Cuz I’m gonna come back here and check on you and your momma, and if you ain’t got a reason why you hate clowns, I’m gonna kill your whole fucking family.” — Captain Spaulding

Despite being disappointed with the way 31 turned out, I’m not ready to give up chasing the dragon yet. The Devil’s Rejects represents the best of contemporary horror movies while 31 is an example of the genre’s worst offerings. I’m willing to give Rob Zombie movies one more chance.

If another fatally flawed film is exposed, then I’ll have to cut him off forever.

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1.5 out of 5 stars

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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

Poster

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