Posts Tagged ‘Netflix’

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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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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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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.

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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.

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5 out of 5 stars

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Why haven’t I heard about Standoff before? Who do I blame for this? I must correct this mistake.

Please help me in this endeavor and go watch Standoff now while it is streaming on Netflix.

Standoff is a fucking fantastic movie with an unexpected emotional impact. This movie works because of the dynamic between the three main actors—Thomas Jane (as Carter), Laurence Fishburne (as Sade), and Ella Ballentine (as Isabelle). The premise is simple and self-explained in the title. This is a standoff between Carter and Sade with Isabelle stuck in the middle. It is good against evil.

Black Mask Killer

Larry Fishburne plays a sadistic contract killer by the name of Sade who dresses in all black with a hood for a mask. This guy really doesn’t like people seeing his face. It’s a big pet peeve. But when he is straight-up murdering a family at a funeral in the cemetery, Sade stupidly removes his mask to give a rousing speech before then finishing the job. Sloppy work for a trained professional.

However, Isabelle (a young orphan) was also at the cemetery and she just happened to be taking pictures—as sort of a coping mechanism. Isabelle was the only one left alive at the cemetery and she runs for her life to the nearest place, which is Carter’s farmhouse. The little girl was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but she stumbles into the arms of the right person at the right time.

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The ensuing standoff is a tense thriller that hinges on the cat-and-mouse game between Carter and Sade. The desperation is palpable. Both parties have an objective and they are committed to carry through their mission by any means necessary. Although the movie takes momentary pauses, the pace is impressive. And the movie doesn’t overstay its welcome at an hour and a half.

I would like to think this is also a satisfying “fuck you” from Laurence Fishburne to anyone who says he’s lost something after settling in with a nice cushy network TV gig. How much scenery does Laurence Fishburne in Standoff? All of the scenery. There is devastation everywhere in his wake. It’s all gone when he’s done. The character of Sade is rich for that type of exploitation, and Fishburne does a masterful job of making this psychopath seem believable. He is a delightfully sick fuck in this movie.

Thomas Jane

Opposite Laurence Fisburne is Thomas Jane, who is equally magnificent. Thomas Jane doesn’t get the best roles in the best movies, but he’s always more than up to the task if given the appropriate material. I would believe Thomas Jane if he was cast as any type of character. In Standoff, Jane plays a troubled man named Carter who is haunted by his past and about to kill himself when we meet him.

Ella Ballentine

But young Ella Ballentine holds her own sharing the screen with these professional actors. This little girl is clearly capable of big things. That doesn’t always translate when child actors grow up, but she seems like a mini-Brie Larson—especially in terms of appearance. Isabelle also goes by the nickname “Bird” but she may or may not like it. This poor little girl has seen some shit and gone through enough heartbreak for several lifetimes. Whatever happens, you just want her to be okay.

Director Adam Alleca probably benefited from a trio of phenomenal acting performances. This is his directorial debut, but I would give any future project of his a chance based on this movie. Standoff’s story and pacing give this movie a little bit of style to raise it above the typical fodder.

Perhaps I enjoyed Standoff more because it blindsided me, but I genuinely believe there is something here for everyone to enjoy. At the very least, Standoff certainly deserves more than it’s middling 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It may not be an all-time great, but it is an entertaining thriller that’s grounded by an emotional core. Give it a try. Who wouldn’t enjoy this movie?

No One

4 out of 5 stars

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Typically, I don’t write reviews of documentaries. It’s almost impossible to talk about a documentary without spoiling the narrative—most of the fun comes from actually watching the story unfold. But this documentary is special and I feel the need to share it with others because it strikes a very real, genuine chord. Chances are that you know someone who has been in a similar situation.

As a kid, I grew up loving wrestling. I remember going to a friend’s house (pretty much every month over a span of years) to watch pay-per-views. Toggling back and forth watching Monday night war between WCW’s Nitro and WWF’s Raw. My childhood in the 90s was the heyday of professional wrestling. For whatever reason, it was inescapable. At this point, I don’t even know how long it has been since I’ve watched even a second of wrestling, but it was a part of my childhood so a certain part of that will always stick with me. On the base level, it’s about acting—creating and portraying a character and making people believe it. I believed Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

He creeped me out to the core. Now he creeps me out for a different reason.

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In his prime, Jake “The Snake” Roberts was a god among men. From watching this documentary, it’s hard to tell how much of that was a character. You don’t know where the real Aurelian Smith ends and where Jake “The Snake” Roberts begins. This man survived horrific abuse as a child, but he still can’t outrun those memories. His past has shaped his life, but that doesn’t have to continue.

Without any hyperbole, The Resurrection of Jake the Snake is one of the best documentaries I have ever watched. And I just did a Top 30 Streaming 5-Star Documentaries list. This movie absolutely belongs on that list. But don’t just take my word for it. You can watch this documentary right now streaming on Netflix. I implore you to take an hour and a half out of your day to watch this movie.

The Resurrection of Jake the Snake is about so much more than wrestling. This is a movie about addiction and the overwhelming difficulty of trying to overcome those demons. During this last week, I have watched this documentary three times. I never re-watch documentaries, but this was worth it. The emotions hit me each and every time. I don’t feel like I can oversell this movie.

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While it probably ascends to a higher plane for anyone who was a fan of wrestling, the story of battling alcoholism and drug addiction is the heart of this documentary. Basically, this is an incredible, feature-length version of an episode of Intervention. After starting with fall the of Jake “The Snake” and his descent into self-destruction (then at 300 pounds), this movie starts to give you some hope.

Long-time friend and former wrestler Diamond Dallas Page has taken Jake in to try to help him literally reshape himself. Director Steve Yu never made a movie before this so I don’t know if he just struck gold with the subject or if he’s a reason for the success. But it is a credit to the filmmaker that this movie didn’t become a long infomercial for DDP Yoga. Diamond Dallas Page’s fitness program does a phenomenal job of selling itself with the results it creates. The movie stays focused on the aspect of addiction and its impact. On film, I have never witnessed a more raw look into how that can rip apart a family and ruin the lives of several people. It is an ongoing battle with so many highs and lows.

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I was ruined when Dallas and Jake make the phone call to Scott Hall. It is fucking heartbreaking to see him. Halfway into the movie, it emphatically drives the point home that coming clean and overcoming addiction isn’t like you can just flip a switch and start fresh. It is a fight that never stops.

The Resurrection of Jake the Snake is a story about Jake but it also transcends him by using his life as a prism from which to view addiction. It is equally pessimistic and optimistic. It is riveting, fascinating, and unavoidably tragic to watch. However, you can’t help but walk away feeling hopeful and positive.

You might not expect where it starts and and where it ends.

But if you are a human being, you will enjoy the journey.

If you don’t, you know what you deserve.

Bang

5 out of 5 stars

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Finally, we need to talk about We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Just in time for Mother’s Day! Go hug your mom before you watch this movie.

It’s been a few years since I first watched this movie, and I’ve forced myself to watch it a couple more times. I love the content and the story, but this movie adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s book (of the same name) is a frustrating experience. Much like Kevin and his problems, I have avoided talking about it because it’s nearly impossible to talk about my issues without spoiling the movie.

I hope you watch We Need to Talk About Kevin. This movie is streaming on Netflix and you should give it a chance for Tilda Swinton alone. The acting is captivating and as close to perfect as possible. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Tilda Swinton (Eva) and John C. Reilly (Franklin) are terrific. The shocker is that Ezra Miller is outstanding as the titular Kevin. This is the only thing I have enjoyed Ezra Miller in—though I now remember him in a small recurring role on the TV show Californication. Even Jasper Newell and Rock Duer perform admirably as the younger versions of Kevin. The casting is so impressive because Jasper and Rock both resemble Ezra Miller so well. Ashley Gerasimovich is also solid when she’s on the screen as the younger sister (Celia). These actors deserved to be in a better movie.

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That’s not to say We Need to Talk About Kevin is a bad movie.

It is not bad, per se. But I consider it a massive disappointment and missed opportunity.

Personally, I still found parts of this movie to appreciate despite its downfalls. I just have no idea who this was made for and why anyone without a critic’s mindset would like this movie. According to the ratings on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, the audience actually appears to enjoy this movie as much as the critics enjoy their own farts. My qualms are not with the acting or source material.

I believe We Need to Talk About Kevin fails as a whole because the story is not told coherently—due to director Lynne Ramsay who co-wrote the screenplay with Rory Stewart Kinnear.

But why does this method of storytelling fail?

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Spoilers galore.

We know exactly what happens within the first 5 minutes.

I understand how the narrative of the book was told reflexively from Eva’s point of view looking back on her life, family, what Kevin did, and how she is trying to cope with the fallout. That way of storytelling does not work with the medium of film. Why? Because it removes all of the suspense and tension.

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Instead of being the thriller that it is incorrectly billed as, this movie immediately turns into a melancholy drama. For 2 hours, you are forced to watch Tilda Swinton shift from postpartum depression after Kevin’s birth to zoned-out, zonked, and just going through the motions in the present day. The flashbacks with Keivn are inarguably the best parts of this movie. From the start, the movie teases a massacre at the high school with police cars and parents outside screaming.

It is a complete disservice because it removes all of the emotional impact—taking what should have been a very powerful punch and spreading it incredibly thin across the entire runtime.

Telling the story in a straightforward manner would have kept the audience on the edge of their seats wondering what the hell Kevin was going to do rather than already being aware of the end result. On top of knowing Kevin committed a school massacre, you also know he killed his sister and dad. Apparently, that is supposed to be a big reveal in the book because the story is told through Eva’s letters written to her (presumed) estranged husband. But when you don’t see John C. Reilly or their kid in the present-day scenes in the movie, you absolutely know they are dead along with everyone else. When the movie finally catches up and shows the flashback to the day of the massacre, it didn’t make me feel any certain way. I was just glad they finally arrived at the destination.

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In a sense, showing you countless scenes of Tilda Swinton’s character gripping with guilt challenges the audience to be bored with the emotional gravity. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was among the bored. And I’m someone who actually liked this movie. But it felt like beating a dead horse.

The way this story unfolds is counterintuitive to the point they’re trying to make.

The question at the heart of this movie: who is at fault? Who can we blame?

Water

No one, really. A lot of factors are involved—no one handled anything properly and both parents probably made it worse—but I don’t feel like anyone is truly responsible. Not even Kevin himself. It’s a battle of nature and nurture rather than nature vs. nurture. Maybe I’m completely wrong (it certainly is possible), but that is not the sense that I got from watching this movie.

Because of her overwhelming guilt, Eva takes responsibility for the massacre in this movie. Tilda’s character even agrees to pay damages to the victims, which forced her to sell the house and her business—financially ruining her already ruined life. Director Lynne Ramsay alludes to the blood on her hands with several heavy-handed scenes of Eva trying to remove red paint that was thrown on her house and car. She has blood on her hands and is washing her red hands clean.

Through the flashbacks, you see Eva physically and emotionally abuse Kevin from a young age. She hits him, breaks his arm, and openly doesn’t love him. Without a doubt, Kevin is a twat, but he never deserved any of that. It is no surprise to see the way he turned out with his visible rage and disgust for his mother. The movie also glazes over any of the father’s culpability by ignoring the obvious issues and warning flags. John C. Reilly’s character is the one who encouraged Kevin using his bow and arrow—giving him the best equipment, which Kevin turned into a murder weapon.

To a degree, it feels like genetics and his awful abusive mother at fault.

Shrill Shrew

I can’t help but blame Lynne Ramsay for that. I can’t imagine that was her intention, but it was the result. I love Tilda Swinton and she was superb with her shell-shocked look, but her character came across a shrill shrew. After a while, it becomes too hard to sympathize with Eva.

On the other hand, I was extremely engaged and invested in every scene with Ezra Miller. I kept wanting more He was a charismatic, mysterious sociopath. One scene where Kevin is talking about people on TV watching TV (because people like him are on the TV) is extraordinarily effect and evoked memories of Mickey Knox’s TV interview with Robert Downey Jr. in Natural Born Killers. I consider that quite a compliment to Ezra Miller to compare him to that iconic Woody Harrelson performance.

I wanted to bathe in that fucked-up brain.

Context

You get so few opportunities to see things from Kevin’s perspective. I didn’t need that to be the entire movie, but this depiction does not give you any satisfying introspection. With such a great character, I wanted more nuance. In the movie, Kevin is simply evil and his mother is being crippled with guilt trying to come to terms with things because she feels directly responsible.

As a result, Kevin is more of a one-dimensional villain.

I feel like the positive reception is a sign We Need to Talk About Kevin found its audience. However, I cannot recommend this movie to the general public. It’s not for a wide audience. This movie is only for an art-type crowd that can appreciate a slow, largely dull way of storytelling.

Happy

Based on the acting and the actual story, this is deserving of 5 stars. But the way We Need to Talk About Kevin was told is not deserving of 5 stars. It was an act of self-mutilation. I enjoyed certain aspects, but I cannot say I loved it as a whole. Half of the time, this completed missed the mark. Maybe it could be salvaged with a wildly different edit to give it an entirely new emotional feeling.

I’m sorry for burdening you with that novel reviewing a movie based on a novel.

I just needed to talk to someone about Kevin. Even if that someone was myself.

Point

2.5 out of 5 stars