Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Thief in the Night

In the first five minutes of Nightcrawler, we meet Louis Bloom who is in the middle of stealing a wire fence to sell it for scrap.  While he's at it, he also attacks and steals a watch from a security guard who catches him in the act.  So right off the bat, we know that Louis, as embodied by a eerily emaciated Jake Gyllenhaal, is not the most scrupulous person on earth.  Yet Louis is not content with being a petty thief as he repeatedly asks any and everyone he encounters for a job.  But no luck--he is a bit creepy and a thief, after all.  But then he stumbles upon a profession he actually has a knack for--riding around L.A. at night and trolling the police scanners to get video footage of crime scenes and accidents to sell to a television news producer played by Renee Russo. As Louis gets more successful at "nightcrawling" and his business becomes more lucrative, the lines between documenting the news and creating the news begin to dissipate.  Indeed, Louis is not above blackmail, sabotage, obstruction, and murder to get the best footage first.  As Louis states, if you see him hovering about, you're probably having the worst night of your life.  I thoroughly "enjoyed" Nightcrawler as a dark character study of a talented "twerp" with no moral compass and a perverse view of the world.  [Just imagine if Bill Gates had used his genius for evil; you'd get someone like Louis Bloom.]  Nightcrawler is also somewhat of a critical social commentary about the television news media.  Nina, the t.v. news producer played by Russo, is convinced her viewers only want to see violent suburban crimes with rich white victims and horrific accidents.  Is that all we want to see or is that all we're shown?

Nightcrawler is currently playing in Atlanta at Phipps Plaza.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Costume Change

I was underwhelmed by Beyond the Lights.  I think it was because the film was mostly focused on the point at which the protagonist Noni had already achieved mainstream success as a singer in the fickle music industry.  While the messages about the negative  trappings of fame and the misogyny in the record business rang true, I didn’t feel I had much vested in Noni as a fully-realized character.  Rather than experiencing a full character arc, we are treated to what is essentially a costume change where Noni goes from a Rihanna/Nicki Minaj mash-up to Corinne Bailey Rae.  I get the sentiment of an artist’s struggle to be true to herself, but I would have liked to have seen more of how Noni achieved her success and what made her tick.  As I walked out of the theater, I still had no idea why Noni was contemplating death just at the moment where her career is about to rocket forward. And while the romantic relationship between Noni and Kaz, the cop that saves Noni from herself, is sweet, it isn’t that dynamic. [And the subplot of Kaz’s dalliance with a career in politics is never fully fleshed out either.]  Also, for a movie about the music industry, the music in the film was decidedly lackluster. [The only musical bright spots were a few emotional renditions of Nina Simone’s “Blackbird,” a song which has great importance to Noni in the story]. Despite all the negativity that’s going on in this review, I will say that I really like the lead actors--Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Noni and Nate Parker as Kaz. Their acting abilities are far better than the material they were given in this film.  I also like the film’s director Gina Prince-Blythewood who, over the years, has managed to bring universal stories featuring black people to the big and small screen.  But, if you want to see the true force of her work, Love & Basketball is the far superior film and has a better soundtrack to boot.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Jazz & Candy


The percussion-filled score for Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) was written by jazz drummer Antonio Sanchez and its sleek cacophony is a perfect companion to this dark dramedy starring Michael Keaton.  Keaton plays Riggan Thompson, an aging actor whose main claim to fame was a movie superhero called Birdman.  The film follows Riggan as he tries to resurrect his acting career by staging a Broadway play he has written and is directing.  Riggan, however, has a loose relationship with reality and is plagued by his Birdman alter ego.  Riggan's connection to reality becomes more tenuous the closer he gets to the opening night of his play.  What I have described thus far is an accurate description of the movie.  But, at its core, Birdman is really about the fear and anxiety that go hand-in-hand with trying to do something that makes us relevant as human beings.  Who hasn't wrestled with the voices in their head and the unsteady footsteps that accompany the fear of failure?  Birdman writer and director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu does a nice job of juxtaposing the vagaries of the theatre and acting worlds with the magical realism that is the onscreen manifestation of Riggan's psyche.  Keaton is a force as are his co-stars Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, and Zach Galifinakis (who plays the most normal person in the film).  Just like an astute jazz performance, Birdman is both frenetic and familiar in its pace, leaving you scattered but whole.


I think Gone Girl is probably the best film I've seen this year.  And I'm going to give all credit to the writer here--Gillian Flynn who wrote the book on which the movie is based and wrote the screenplay.  No, I have not yet read the book and so I went in with no knowledge of the story, no preconceptions, and no expectations.  I had only seen the trailers.  I can only  liken the experience of watching Gone Girl to a dark piece of gooey chocolate filled luscious goodness.  Before it hits your tongue, you're in a good place, but when you've taken a bite you might have reached Nirvana.  Gone Girl is just dark twisty good fun.  And the best part is that it ends in a place you might not want to be, but you sure had a hell of a time getting there.  The basic premise is that Nick Dunne's wife Amy has "gone" missing and no one knows why or what has happened to her.  Nick (Ben Affleck), at first a sympathetic character, soon becomes a suspect and the twists and turns ratchet up from there.  I'm not a super fan of Affleck's acting (I think he is a much better director), but I thought he did a pretty decent job here.  Rosamund Pike's embodiment of Amy really carried much of the movie.  But again, I think it's the writing, more so than the acting and directing (sorry David Fincher), that makes Gone Girl so good.  Nothing is better than a juicy story with mystery, blood, and intrigue.  Even Tyler Perry as Nick's slick lawyer couldn't muck it up.  Whether you've read the book or not, you're in for a sinfully delightful good time.  Get gone.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Horror Movie Trivia Contest


Just in time for Halloween.  

Answer all of the below trivia questions correctly and you could win a digital download code of the 1999 cult classic The Blair Witch Project from Lionsgate.  All entries must be sent to by 11:59 P.M. EST on November 3, 2014 to be eligible.  The winner will be selected randomly from all correct entries timely submitted.  Please include your full name and mailing address with your entry.  Winner will be contacted by November 8, 2014.

  1.  How long did it take to shoot The Blair Witch Project?
  2. What horror novelist bought out an entire showing of the film 28 Days Later (my personal favorite horror movie) in New York City?
  3. What was the first horror film to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award?

 Have at it!

[Legal Stuff: Each household is only eligible to win One (1) Digital Download code for The Blair Witch Project via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.]