Reel Recap | August 2016

Looking for something to do on your Labor Day? Here’s reviews of movies still in theaters to catch up on.

 

Dont-Breathe-PosterDon’t Breathe

If you’ve seen the great trailer for Don’t Breathe then I’m afraid that you’ve seen most of the movie. All of the big moments; being caught by a blind man whose house you’re robbing, a friend being shot by him, the others ducking him as he searches rooms, him firing the gun at the dead friends cell phone, oh, and the kidnapped women he has on a wire harness in a type of greenhouse rape dungeon – all of those moments happen in the trailer. What’s left to show us? Well, there’s a menacing dog that provides the only true great jump scare that we haven’t seen. And then there’s this bit with a turkey baster that’s just… well, that’s something I wouldn’t spoil for you.

If the trailer didn’t already give you a play-by-play of the events like a Robert Zemeckis movie trailer does then the opening scene eliminates anything that happens in between that shot and the beginning as it is one of the last shots of the movie. The shot itself is an excellent one that slowly zooms into a neighborhood street in broad daylight as a girl is being drug by the hair unconscious to someplace we can only assume isn’t going to be good for her. This scene is more style than anything else, but it deprives the viewer of one more opportunity for suspense because after seeing that we can make assumptions about what happens to the other people she’s with. Details like this should have been cut or reworked in the earliest of drafts of the screenplay.

Director Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead remake) has a great sense for a moving camera and sweeping shots that give his films a kinetic urgency, but so far it’s more style than substance. If he had a great story that came first then I think he could deliver something that really works on every level, but don’t hold your breath for it being Don’t Breathe.

– Heath Scott

Note 1: It seems as if the “show everyone your whole hand in the trailer” marketing strategy has worked as Don’t Breathe is the number one movie two weeks in a row and opened with over $35 million domestically, a big debut for an original horror property.

Note 2: This film is violent. Like, punch people bluntly in the face multiple times in a row violent.

 

Kubo-and-the-Two-StringsKubo and the Two Strings

Kubo is the story of a boy who lives by a shoreside village with his ailing mother who he takes care of. It’s a quiet and simple life, but not an ordinary one. Every day he goes to the village to tell stories using a magical samisen—a three-stringed Japanese lute played with a large pick and the origami characters created from his music made with it. But his stories never finish their endings as Kubo must rush home before sunset every day or literal spirits from his past will return and reignite an age-old family vendetta.

As fate would have it, Kubo doesn’t make it home one night.

Kubo features a voice cast that includes Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, and Matthew McConaughey. Art Parkinson (Rickon Stark on Game of Thrones) voices the titular protagonist, the son of a legendary samurai who embarks on a magical quest once his mother’s wonderfully horrifying sisters glide over waters to get him.

In order to survive, Kubo must locate a magical suit of armor once worn by his late father, Hanzo, a legendary Samurai warrior. This quest is an amazing feat in visual storytelling and filmmaking. Time after time I am stunned by the quality of Laika’s films and Kubo is no different than other favorites of mine ParaNorman and CoralineLaika isn’t Pixar, but that’s only because they’re not as universally well known. On a comparative storytelling level they’re on par easily. Look at the efforts that go into making these stop motion wonders here.

Kubo and the Two Strings is thrilling, adventurous, scary, and heartwarming. Director Travis Knight and writer Chris Turner (director of ParaNorman) have given us easily one of the years best and I love the title so much more after seeing this film. If you love movies then you’ll love Kubo. If you must blink, do it now and then rush to see Kubo while it’s still in theaters.

– Heath Scott

 

nerve-posterNerve

At one point a drone with a camera flies in the face of a character hanging from a crane hundreds of feet off the ground and I stopped for a moment and realized something… That could really happen. That’s what’s scary about Nerve; it could happen. We live in a society that craves ‘likes’. We want to reach as many viewers possible. We’re all guilty of that, myself included as I obsess over how the reach of this post performs on Facebook and how many actual views it gets.

Nerve is a game where you can be a ‘Watcher‘ (for the steep price of $20 for one day) or a ‘Player‘. Completing dares within the allotted timeframe wins you money. You bail, you’re out. You snitch? Well, snitches get stitches.

Leads Emma Roberts (Vee) and Dave Franco (Ian) have a palatable chemistry and the movie moves at the pace one might think a teenage movie about a dangerous social media game and the dark web would. There’s a moment where the two are dared to drive a motorcycle 60 mph, only Ian is blindfolded and Vee must guide him. Myself and Janie were completely caught up in that scene. That’s when I knew something was working in Nerve.

Credit goes to directors Henry Joost and Ariel Shuman (Catfish, Paranormal Activity 3 & 4), for pulling it off. I wasn’t aware they were behind this, but after first seeing Catfish years ago and how it dealt with the darker side of the internet it made sense that Nerve was from them as well. If I was a teen I’m sure I would love this movie, but as a guy in his 30’s I still really liked it.

– Heath Scott


sausage-party-posterSausage Party

This is the raunchiest philosophical movie you’ll ever experience. Seth Rogen has created what others have only dreamed of: the longest sexual innuendo in cinematic history. Sausage Party offends in the best ways capitalizing on crude sex humor, stereotypical ethnic and racial profiling, and the clash between religious beliefs, emphasizing life after purchase.  Don’t let the animation fool you (like it did for the family with a 7-year-old next to me), this film is not family-friendly. They only seem like innocent talking food.

Sausage Party  stars an amazing ensemble cast including Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, James Franco (of course), Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd, Nick Kroll, David Krumholtz, Edward Norton and Salma Hayek (a lesbian taco). You expect this line-up to deliver and it does; whether its Norton’s Woody Allen impersonation as a bagel, Kroll’s alter-ego Bobby Bottleservice as a (literal) juicing douche or the irresistible, sexually frustrated taco portrayed by Hayek.

The story follows our leading sausage, Frank, on his journey to discover the truth behind his existence and what happens in ‘the great beyond’ after the gods take them home. They learn from the non-perishables that the truth is more terrifying than they could imagine and in a moment of enlightenment the entire entire grocery store goes full-blown orgy. The movie plays with the idea that if an end-game reward is absent, what’s the point of having morals, of following the rules? There are no limits.

I’m all for inappropriate jokes, but I think Sausage Party took it a little too far for me. Or maybe it was the 7-year-old next to me that really prevented me from enjoying myself fully. Either way, I knew what I was getting myself into and I loved every bit of it  (that’s what she said).

– Amy Casaletto

 

cafe-societyCafé Society 

In the 1930s, a young Bronx native named Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) moves to Hollywood in hopes of getting a job with his big wig agent to the stars Uncle (Steve Carell) leaving his brother Ben (Corey Stoll) back east to deal with his more entrepreneurial and dangerous ways of making a living. Bobby falls in love with his Uncle’s secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) after she shows him around Hollywood. Why? Beats me.

Eisenberg plays the ‘Woody Allen’ role maybe better than anyone I can remember with the exception of Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris to wonderful effect, but the lusting after Kristen Stewart is something I will never be able to understand. Her being cast as Snow White is perhaps the worst casting decision I can think of off the top of my head in recent years. I understand actresses like Scarlett Johansson, Emma Stone, and Penélope Cruz having been the desires of men in other Woody movies, but not Stewart.

Cynical Woody Allen is my least favorite version of Woody. Which doesn’t make much sense if you know his filmography. There’s something about this one that bothered me perhaps on a more personal level. While it isn’t as depressing as Blue Jasmine (nor as good) it left me more aggravated than anything because it’s written and acted well, but I didn’t really like any of the people the film was about and that’s okay sometimes. However, I won’t revisit this one like Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris, or Manhattan Murder Mystery.

– Heath Scott

 

War-Dogs-posterWar Dogs

Hip. Suspensful. Solid. War Dogs is based on a true story. Flaunting two stellar actors, Jonah Hill (Wolf of Wall Street, Moneyball) and Miles Teller (Whiplash, Two Night Stand), the movie’s trailer had me pumped to embark on a reckless get-rich-quick adventure. The film delivered; its memorable moments carrying the weaker links:

  • Best moments – Jonah Hill’s laugh. Every. Single. Time.
  • “Oh Shit” moments – Jonah Hill in the hood. Miles Teller in the trunk. Jonah Hill and Miles Teller on the elevator.
  • Funny moments – Miles massaging men. Jonah and Miles high AF while interviewing with the government. Jonah Hill’s laugh. Every. Single. Time. (Did I mention that?)
  • ‘Merica moments – Free gas in Iraq. Marlboro Man. Creedance Clearwater Revival and airplanes.
  • Bradley Cooper moments – All of them.

As a viewer, I felt satisfied, but still wishing for a little more. Perhaps I wanted a little more grit, or a tad more flash. I’m not sure, but to me, that’s on director Todd Phillips. With a cast, soundtrack and story like this, you’ve got lightening in a bottle. The camerawork and editing couldn’t seem to keep up with the pace. I kept waiting on it to become an action movie… it is called War Dogs after all. Maybe I was just looking in the wrong direction. Because for a comedy/drama based on a true story it was pretty damn good. How it will be categorized in the coming months should be interesting. War Dogs is definitely one to add to your watch list.

– Janie Pope

Heath Scott

His love of most things in entertainment can be summed up by having an English Bulldog named Spielberg and consistently asking if it’s Halloween yet.

Heath Scott

Heath Scott

His love of most things in entertainment can be summed up by having an English Bulldog named Spielberg and consistently asking if it’s Halloween yet.

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