drama

Review: ‘A Ghost Story’ is a haunting, complex moviegoing experience

Director: David Lowery

Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara


Synopsis: In this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife (IMDb). 

Rated: R

Year: 2017

Complete with sheet and dark eyeholes, a man’s restless spirit rises from the corner’s table. From there he begins a trippy journey where he learns about love, loss, and liberation. It sounds whacky, but David Lowery’s (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and Pete’s Dragon) supernatural drama is deceptively simple and user-friendly.

There isn’t much going on in terms of story and aside from some haunting cinematography, the film is visually uncomplicated. Even its two leads (though they do solid work here) seem moot next to Lowery’s creative vision.

Recent Oscar winner Casey Affleck plays “C,” a musician (at least a wannabe one). Rooney Mara is “M.” Not much is known about this couple other than they live together in a small Texas house and share some semblance of a romantic bond.

Of course all that’s by design. Fewer distractions means viewers can more readily engage with A Ghost Story‘s rich, spiritual subtext and enjoy the imagination on display.

After unexpectedly biting the big one mere feet from their front patio, “C” returns home via the afterlife whereupon he discovers a grieving “M.” Though he reaches out to comfort his lamenting love, she feels nothing and has no idea he’s there.

We get an idea of just how badly “M” misses “C” during a five-minute take where she buries her sorrow in an entire chocolate pie. Lowery’s questionable tendency to linger in moments like this for what feels to be an eternity will surely test the patience of even the artiest artists in the audience. Thankfully, those moments are few and far between.

“M” even brings home unidentified men to console her, much the chagrin of our silent specter, whose dismay causes the lights to flicker. “M” eventually moves out and on with her life; her lover’s snared soul staying put within the confines of the house he so loved in life.

It’s simultaneously surprising and refreshing just how much Lowery gets us to care about a blanket with holes in it simply by flipping the light switch a few times or having the ghost lean ever so slightly to the side. It’s a testament to the strong visual storyteller Lowery is.

As the sands of time shift on, a lonely “C” witnesses both the future and past of his home, with very few constants save for the occasional subtitled exchange with the apparition haunting the neighboring lot. This is just one example of how Lowery cleverly combines different religious beliefs into a fresh, inventive vision of the afterlife that hasn’t been depicted before in cinema.

Lowery’s decision to curve the edges of the frame gives off the illusion that the whole thing was shot on home video. This gives A Ghost Story a more intimate feel and further highlights the director’s unique creative vision.

Grade: A

What did you all think of A Ghost Story? Was it too artsy, fartsy for you? Let us know in the comments below!

‘A Ghost Story’– Video Review

A Ghost Story is quietly one of the best films of 2017. Hear more about it in our video review!

What did ya’ll think about A Ghost Story? Do you enjoy deep thinking films? Hit us up in the comments and let us know!

Review: ‘The Dark Tower’ flimsily stands atop solid foundation

Hollywood has been looking to Stephen King for adaptable source material for decades now. Some projects have become classic works of cinema, such as The Shawshank Redemption or The Shining. Others have been cast aside and forgotten like many of the restless spirits in King’s works.

Despite widely varying results, there is an obvious hunger for seeing King’s nightmarish imagination play out on the silver screen. Still, many have opted out of adapting The Dark Tower series, which is largely considered King’s magnum opus.

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Fast forward to 2017. Not only do we have a live-action retelling of Stephen King’s iconic novel, but it features two of the biggest stars on the planet in Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. And while the collision of so much talent may seem like the cosmic workings of a greater power (a turtle, perhaps?), I’m afraid this iteration of The Dark Tower is doomed to the limbo of forgotten Stephen King movies.

That isn’t to say The Dark Tower is an outright mess. It isn’t. It’s actually pretty fun throughout thanks to occasional flashes of inspired world building and a strong outing by Elba as the heralded gunslinger, the last in a long line of badass cowboys who guard The Dark Tower from forces that would do it harm.

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Matthew McConaughey’s Man in Black is one of those forces. He’s a powerful sorcerer who causes people to stop breathing or hate their own mother (no, really) by simply waving his hand. However, the Man in Black does more damage to the actual movie he’s in than anything.

Whereas the gunslinger seeks revenge for the death of those closest to him, no such motivation is given to the Man in Black. He wants to raise The Dark Tower and destroy the universe because he’s evil and that’s the type of thing evil characters in these types of stories do. It comes off as if no attention was spared to his development. Not even the Academy Award winning  McConaughey sparks any excitement from the one note writing. He delivers each eye-rolling line with spectacular boredom.

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But the Man in Black is only one convention inside an overly conventional film. Oozing from the mind of Stephen King, The Dark Tower movie should at least feel like a singular experience. Nobody tells the types of stories he tells and his creative influences are felt even during the most lackluster of his adaptations.

I knew where this movie was headed the moment Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) had his doodling pad ripped from his hands by the school bully, right down to the laughable final showdown. And I was right. You don’t have to possess any Shine to be able to predict each next step in this fantastical journey.

Grade: C+

What did you all think about The Dark Tower? Did you have fun with it? And what did you think about Matthew McConaughey in this role? Let us know in the comments section below!

Detroit– Video Review

Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film Detroit hit theaters this weekend and we got to sit down with a very special guest to discuss our thoughts!

What did you all think about Detroit? Did it leave an impact on you? Leave a comment below and let us know!

False advertising & ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ review

War for the Planet of the Apes rounds out one of the greatest trilogies of the 21st century. It also featured a blatantly false marketing campaign. We talk about both in our video review!

 

What do you all think? Does the new ‘Apes’ franchise belong in the discussion of one of the all-time best trilogies and did you feel lied to by the marketing campaign at all? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Colossal (2017)- Movie Review

Director: Nach Vigalondo

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson, Dan Stevens

Synopsis: Gloria is an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in NY and move back home. When reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, she gradually comes to the realization that she is somehow connected to this phenomenon (source: IMDb).

Rating: R

Colossal isn’t for everybody. Though early on (with the exception of a bizarre but brief prologue) it starts down the path to becoming your typical rom-com, Writer-Director Nacho Vigalondo ultimately leads his film down a road much less traveled. It’s an occasionally bumpy road but one which offers sights the likes you’ve never seen. For some, the destination won’t be worth the while. But for those who like to stray from the beaten path, Colossal is worth the trip.

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Anne Hathaway is a powerhouse performer who doesn’t rely on extravagant makeup or costuming to disappear into a role. Here, she simply becomes Gloria, a depressed thirty-something-year-old party girl who is dumped by her well put together boyfriend (Dan Stevens) after a seemingly endless string of drunken nights out and moves back to her costal hometown in order to figure her life out.

Enter SNL son Jason Sudeikis. He is largely in his wheelhouse here as Oscar, the obligatory nice guy from Gloria’s past who offers her a job at his bar to help her get back on her feet (a setup that would feel right at home in a Nicholas Sparks novel).  He’s witty and charming and as the film goes on, it gets tough to figure him out. It’s about this point where the film’s attention shifts from comedy to heavy drama.

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While all of this is going on of course, there’s the Godzilla-like monster that’s terrorizing Seoul, South Korea. It’s enough on its own to leave Gloria speechless. The revelation, then, that the creature seems to mimic her own movements changes everything for her.

Some of the conflicts and character motivations that arise and change as a result of this realization feel more natural than others. In the spirit of not giving too much away, I will say that I was not completely sold on how everything unfolded in the third act. Despite this, I still walked out of Colossal feeling it was time well spent. Its quirky spin and strong performances make it a singular experience.

Grade: B+

Have you seen Colossal? If so, what did you think? If not, are you excited to watch it? Let us know in the comments below!

Going in Style (2017)– Review

Director: Zach Braff

Starring: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Joey King, Ann-Margret, Christopher Lloyd 

Synopsis: Desperate to pay the bills and come through for their loved ones, three lifelong pals risk it all by embarking on a daring bid to knock off the very bank that absconded with their money (source: IMDb). 

Rating: PG-13

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Hollywood remakes have gotten a bad rap the last couple years and understandably so. Largely, their existence is justified through brand recognition rather than social application. Going in Style, a contemporary take on the 1979 Martin Brest film of the same name, is stuck somewhere in between.

Thematically, this senior-centered heist comedy has aged relatively well. Caine, Freeman, and Arkin play three life-long pals who, in their old age, decide to rob their bank as payback for leaving them virtually penniless after their employer outsources their jobs. And though desperation drives these men past the point of absurdity for comedic sake, at its core this is an unfortunate reality for far too many Americans. Fortunately, Director Zach Braff (I know, right!?) acknowledges this and makes a point to highlight the dire impact this has not only on our three protagonists but also their loved ones, though a few scenes feel out of place and almost forced as if to make the point as clear as possible.

While spry thematically, Going in Style struggles to keep up in the story department. As they themselves point out, these men are not criminals. I never bought them as bank robbers, even while they were robbing a bank. This becomes especially troubling when you consider the security-tight world we and presumably these characters now live in. It doesn’t help that Braff himself seems to acknowledge these narrative setbacks by practically skipping over the transition from doddery gentlemen into legitimate crooks with a five-minute montage featuring John Ortiz as the obligatory mentor/master thief.

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Speaking of John Ortiz, Going in Style reinforces some pretty negative, outdated stereotypes about race and gender. Ortiz himself is a walking, talking trope with a perplexingly inconsistent accent. Of course the drug stupored mastermind behind the heist is a hard edged Latino with a soft spot for cute animals. Likewise, Kenan Thompson makes a particularly offensive run as the quintessential wise-cracking African American security guard. Ann-Margret disappoints as one of the horniest grandmothers in cinema whose only goal throughout the film is to seduce and sleep with Alan Arkin’s character. It’s a shame too seeing is how the script was penned by Theodore Melfi off the heels of Hidden Figures, a film about the furthering of opportunities for women and minorities.

Thankfully most of the film’s runtime is spent on the three leads and their chemistry is positively heartwarming. I couldn’t help but smile every time they lovingly poked fun at each other’s aging state or when they would embrace for legitimate displays of affection. Even when some of the broader slapstick fell flat (and it often does), I was immediately won back over by the trio’s charm, proving that just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s not in style.

Grade: B-

Anyone plan on checking out Going in Style this weekend? If so, let us know your thoughts in the comment section!