Monday, February 27, 2017

Get Out

Movie Name: Get Out
Year of Release: 2017
Director: Jordan Peele
Stars: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Stephen Root, Lakeith Stanfield, LilRel Howery
Genre: Horror, Mystery
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6
View Trailer Here

After a successful and celebrated career as an actor and comedian, Jordan Peele has ventured into feature film directing, with a particularly interesting debut, in an unexpected genre. "Get Out" focuses on the story of a young mixed racial couple, comprised of Chris and Rose. Rose decides to introduce Chris to her family, and they go for a weekend at their place, somewhere in the South. Upon arrival, Chris notices that the family has a few live in employees, all of them black, and all of them behaving somewhat erratically. As the weekend goes on, Chris gets to interact more closely with the members of the family, including Rose's brother Jeremy, and Rose's mother Missy, a celebrated psychiatrist, who specializes in hypnotherapy. Chris who's in the throes of quitting smoking, is cornered by Missy one evening, and is suddenly hypnotized, and thrown into a trance. Things escalate and get progressively weirder when a bizarre party happens at the house.
Jordan Peele creates with "Get Out" a film that is populated with a tension that is progressively built. The apparent calmness that surrounds Rose's family, and their particular affluence, hides something darker, that is slowly unveiled and ultimately revealed as monstrous. It's a film that makes its scares based on a smart plot, and a feeling of unease that is progressively created, with little utilization of gore or brutal violence. The film lacks in terms of character development for the supporting characters (or even for Rose herself), but the premise manages to keep the viewers engaged and attentive. The performances from Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford and Stephen Root are engaging and nuanced, making the film highly enjoyable and watchable.
An interesting debut from an unexpected voice.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Best films of 2016

2016 was an interesting year for films. The comic book properties continued to deliver in terms of  box office revenue, some elevating the quality output, such as Scott Derrickson's "Doctor Strange", others simply not so inventive or interesting, such as Bryan Singer's "X-Men: Apocalypse". The Summer crop for big budget films, turned out to be quite mediocre, even with some great talent behind the lens (Duncan Jones's "Warcraft" was a missed opportunity), but the year ended with a few strong surprises from young directors and seasoned veterans, that made my list of great films for this year. I usually place my favorite film first on the list, and this year that place goes to Denis Villenuve's "Arrival".

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mark O'Brien, Tzi Ma, Abigail Pniowsky, Jadyn Malone, Julia Scarlett Dan, Larry Day

La La Land
Director: Damian Chazelle
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend, J.K. Simmons

Director: Pablo Larrain
Stars: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Crudup, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt, Richard E. Grant, John Carroll Lynch, Beth Grant, Max Casella, Corey Johnson, Caspar Phillipson, Ralph Brown

Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Ciaran Hinds, Shin'ya Tsukamoto, Tadanobu Asano, Issei Ogata, Yoshi Oida

Director: Barry Jenkins
Stars: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Alex R. Hibbert, Janelle Monae, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, Jharrel Jerome, Andre Holland, Patrick Decile

Kubo and the Two Strings
Director: Travis Knight
Stars: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, Matthew McConaughey, George Takei, Brenda Vaccaro, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Meyrick Murphy, Laura Miro, Alpha Takahashi, Minae Noji

The Neon Demon
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Stars: Elle Fanning, Karl Glusman, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Alessandro Nivola, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Desmond Harrington, Charles Baker, Jamie Clayton, Stacey Danger

20th Century Women
Director: Mike Mills
Stars: Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Lucas Jade Zumann, Thea Gill, Alison Elliott, Alia Shawkat

The Jungle Book
Director: Jon Favreau
Stars: Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Garry Shandling, Brighton Rose

Midnight Special
Director: Jeff Nichols
Stars: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Jaeden Lieberher, Sam Shepard, Bill Camp, Scott Haze, Paul Sparks, David Jensen

Special highlights should go to the following films that were equally impressive: Whit Stillman's Love and Friendship,  Robert Eggers' The Witch, Kleber Mendonca's Aquarius, J.A. Bayona's A Monster Calls, Steven Spielberg's The BFG, Andre Techine's Being 17, Park Chan-Wook's The Handmaiden and Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals. The films that simply failed on multiple levels include David Yates' The Legend of Tarzan, Anna Foerster's Underworld: Blood Wars and James Bobin's Alice Through the Looking Glass.


Movie Name: Lion
Year of Release: 2016
Director: Garth Davis
Stars: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Sunny Pawar, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Abhishek Bharate, Priyanka Bose, Deepti Naval, Divian Ladwa
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6
View Trailer Here

"Lion" is director Garth Davis' feature debut, following an acclaimed career as a commercials director, and his work alongside the phenomenal Jane Campion on the show "Top of the Lake". The film, based on a true story, focuses on a young boy, by the name of Saroo, who lives with his mother, brother and sister, in a remote and extremely poor village in India. Saroo and Guddu, both try to help the family as they can, by doing small tasks, and getting whatever pay they can. One evening trying to help out his older brother, Saroo goes with Guddu to get work at night, but ends up falling asleep. While looking for his brother, Saroo enters a decommissioned train, falls asleep, and much to his surprise in the morning, discovers the train has taken off and he's now miles and miles away from home. He finds himself in Calcutta, all alone, and unable to explain with precision where he's from. After a few mishaps he finds himself in an orphanage, and finally gets sent to Australia where he's adopted by a loving couple. Saroo grows up to be a well adjusted and dynamic young man, until he starts remembering the family he has back in India. This prompts a quest to find their whereabouts that totally consumes him.
"Lion" is a film with a fantastic premise, one where a young man manages to make contact with a life he thought lost forever, against all odds. It's a film that is sentimental and emotional, where there's a mix of "poverty porn" (where the camera almost revels in showcasing the poverty and destitution of some people), with a genuine aim to showcase the reality of people living below the poverty line. It's a film that has a heart, and that showcases that life does come with a surprising abundance of good people, who want to make a positive impact in the world. However, for dramatic purposes, it's a film that lacks in adding dimension to some of the supporting characters - Rooney Mara's Lucy has very little to do, the same going for David Wenham's John (who is even more in the periphery).  Dev Patel creates Saroo as a young man on a quest, a man who's thankful for what he has, but that is haunted by what he lost - and this is possibly one of his finest performances thus far. Nicole Kidman also gives a strong performance, but the highlight of the film turns out to be the young Sunny Pawar, who carries most of the first part of the film, and the cinematography from Greig Fraser, which is really stunning. It's an unbalanced film, something that the overtly dramatic and sentimental ending almost take to "film of the week" territory. There's still quite a lot to enjoy and it's a fairly strong debut.

Monday, February 13, 2017


Movie Name: Split
Year of Release: 2016
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Stars: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Brad William Henke, Sebastian Arcelus, Izzie Coffey, Neal Huff, Bruce Willis
Genre: Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6
View Trailer Here

Following the low budget "The Visit", director M. Night Shyamalan is back, with another low budget feature, this time around much more successful in all aspects. The film follows the story of Kevin, a young man with an ailment that results in him having multiple personalities (23 to be more precise). Kevin, under the guise of one of his domineering personalities, kidnaps three teenagers, and takes them to an underground bunker of unknown location. Of the three girls, Casey is the one who handles the situation with coldness, since she herself has had a past of abuse. Kevin's therapist, Dr. Fletcher, suspects something is wrong, and tries to aid him overcome his issues. All the while the girls are desperately trying to escape, without realizing that some personalities hidden within Kevin haven't surfaced yet.
"Split" is a film that marks a return for form for the director, after some dismal choices, that were both critically and commercially unsuccessful. The film creates a sense of claustrophobia that takes hold of the story and main characters, as they start to realize that their kidnapper has motivations that are beyond their comprehension. The film feels and looks impeccable and polished, and features engaging performances from James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy and the always reliable Betty Buckley. It's a film that showcases the director's traditional trademark, of slowly building tension, and for once, it works on quite a few fronts. An interesting effort from an inconsistent director.

Sunday, February 5, 2017


Movie Name: Zootopia
Year of Release: 2016
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
Stars: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, Shakira, Raymond S. Persi, Della Saba, Maurice LaMarche
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Adventure
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
View Trailer Here

Another huge success for Disney Studios, "Zootopia" is a great example of a well oiled production, which results in great entertainment for all generations. The film, focused in an animal only universe, follows Judy Hopps, a bunny/rabbit, who we find out, wants so very desperately to become a police officer. Judy manages to get accepted into Police Academy, and against all odds, becomes a police officer. She takes a job in the big metropolis of Zootopia, where all animals co-habit, and where she hopes to have an impact and help others. Much to her dismay, her supervisor assigns her meter maid tasks. In one of her patrols she meets Nick, a sly fox who makes his living through some very precise and ingenious hustles. Judy through her sheer initiative and persistence gets assigned to a challenging case, and it's up to her and Nick to figure out a situation that, if not resolved, can destroy the fabric of the city.
The directing team of "Zootopia" has worked in some very successful feature films for Disney (individually they have worked in "Tangled", "Wreck it Ralph" and "Moana"). "Zootopia" manages to be a film that conveys a message of diversity and inclusion, without being condescending or simplistic. It's a film that teaches a worthwhile lesson, in a humorous and adventurous fashion, all of this wrapped in a stunning animation that proves once again that Disney is top notch in terms of story/animation development. The story references other iconic film classics, and has some fantastic moments (such as the scenes taking place at the DMV). The voice work is impeccable, particularly the always fantastic Jason Bateman, who makes the suave Nick, both ingenious and heartfelt.
A very good feature worth watching.

Manchester by the Sea

Movie Name: Manchester by the Sea
Year of Release: 2016
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Stars: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, C.J. Wilson, Gretchen Moll, Matthew Broderick, Tate Donovan, Kara Hayward, Josh Hamilton, Anna Baryshnikov, Heather Burns, Tate Donovan, Tom Kemp
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
View Trailer Here

Renowned playwright and director Kenneth Lonergan is back, after his last feature "Margaret" suffered all sorts of mishaps to get released (the film was originally set to be released in 2007 and only got the theatrical release in 2011). "Manchester by the Sea" follows the story of Lee Chandler, a custodian in Boston, who is forced to go back to his hometown of Manchester, following the sudden death of his older brother Joe. Lee has reticence in coming back, due to some very traumatic events from his past, but does so due to his close relationship with his brother. He comes to realize that his brother left him as a legal guardian to his nephew Patrick and that will force him to move back to the area. As Lee settles in, the ghosts of past events come back, as does his ex wife, now re-married and expecting a child.
"Manchester by the Sea" is a film that focuses its story on a character who can't overcome the decisions that were made in the past. The central character, Lee, keeps his distance from everyone, avoids all contact, since he is unable to overcome the events that dramatically altered his life. It's a film that is anchored on that despair, but that balances it out with the introduction of young Patrick, who is filled with life and options. It's an interesting duality for a film that is all about character development, and how these characters wrestle with grief and with the aftermath of their decisions. Formally the film isn't very innovative - it's a subdued film, featuring three great performances, from Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams. The three of them make this a compelling viewing experience. Worth watching.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Special Promotion on Society6

My friends, as this new year keeps sailing on, I'm running my first promotion of items that are available on Society6. Please check my store there under, buy something for your sweetheart, and get a free T-shirt! Message me for more details. Thank you and spread the word.