Sunday, December 20, 2015

American Ultra reviewed

Glib Review of 
American Ultra
- Directed By Nima Nourizadeh

Max Landis scripted this at times funny, at times kind of creepy and weird dramedy about a stoner (Jesse Eisenberg) who turns out to be a deadly sleeper agent for the CIA. Eisenberg nails the stoner part, and the deadly assassin part with equal aplomb. This might be my favourite performance for both him and Kirsten Stewart, who I didn’t recognize right away, watching the movie. No dead eyed staring from her in this picture, like in Runaways K-Stew brings her actual acting chops to bear, and is good in a role that starts off great, realistic in it’s portrayal of the slightly more together girlfriend of the stoner cartoonist who has a pathological fear of leaving their small Virginia town.

Movies are quite often kind of disappointing for me, rarely living up to trailers, or word of mouth. My expectations of this film were low based on lukewarm to pretty good reviews from friends, and based on the trailer, which made it seem kitschier than it actually is. The flick definitely has some quirks, but it’s not hokey, silly at times, but in a good way. There are some great supporting performances from Topher Grace, in easily the meatiest (some great villainous monologuing) thing I have seen him in since Traffic, as well as Tony Hale (Veep, Arrested Development and so much more) and Connie Britton, who kills it as the one decent human being working for the CIA.

The action scenes are fairly well choreographed, and unconfusing in their jump cutting and so on. John Leguizamo, and Walton Goggins are mostly wasted as comic/pathos appeals in the film. They each could have used a scene or two of character building, and the entire film would be raised up a notch or two. That may be my only real criticism of the film. Don’t turn off the credits right away either, as the ending animation caps the whole thing up nicely. I wish more films played with the titles in this way, at either end of the movie.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised that American Ultra delivered much of what I hoped it would given the premise. Definitely worth renting, if only to bask in the lack of Twilighty-dead eye stares from K. Stew, and of course the weirdly good action scenes and scariness from Eisenberg. I genuinely enjoyed the movie, its maybe not the best ‘sleeper agent story’ ever; but it delves a bit into the absurdity of doing this kind of thing, and doing this kind of thing to someone. And, it has tongues firmly in cheeks much of the time. 

8.1111 different grocery store items that can be disturbing lethal outta 10

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Ant-Man Reviewed

Glib Review of Ant-Man
- Directed By Peyton Reed

I liked a great many things about Ant-Man. The action scenes were good, the sfx I thought were quite good, the story was an interesting spin on a Marvel character I know very well, having been a comics nerd since the early 70’s. The changes in character from the comics to film universe are pretty reasonable. I thought Paul Rudd was great, as was Michael Douglas, and Evangeline Lily. I liked the family dynamic, and Bobby Cannavale is always great. The scene, not to spoil anything, with The Falcon is one of the best 'getting to know you' superhero fights on film. but.... but something about this movie bugged me.


True story though. I am having a hard time putting my finger on it. But the things I thought gummed up the works, were Lang’s sidekick ethnic stereotype buddies in crime. Michael Pena gave it his all, but a lot of the humour these guys were supposed to add fell flat for me, which messed up the pacing, that and the villain, having Cross become Yellowjacket, rather than ‘Crossfire’, the villain he becomes in the comics is a twist I really like, but the whole thing played out with less gravitas, less something than the concept needed. Again, for me, it was just the pacing. The movie lagged as it sprinted to the finish. I’m not sure exactly how I would have done it differently, but it needed something else. Maybe the Hope not getting to be the Wasp yet subplot got in the way? I liked how it played out though, obviously leading to an “and The Wasp” movie, if this one did well enough, which I think it has.

It’s a comic book movie, which means it can never be as sophisticated as an actual comic book, and it does a good job of continuity cherry picking, that as a comics fan I appreciated. First shot is the Milgrom Building! See, for me that was really meaningful. Most moviegoers scratch their heads at my *squee.* I think I will have to watch it again in a few months or something, to see if I can figure out what slowed the movie down so much for me. So many things I liked, but my reaction at the end was kind of ho hum. 

6.8548 Ethnic Stereotype minions who aren’t very funny outta 10

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Wolfpack, under the radar Docu-Gem

Glib reviews Of recent DVDs

The Wolfpack
-Directed By Crystal Moselle

Do you like documentaries about charming but creepy outsider weirdo artists or families? Who doesn’t? I keep thinking that film makers are going to run out of odd but relatable weirdo families to follow around. Lucky for me, and director Moselle, that hasn’t happened yet. 

I don’t want to spoil it much, but the premise is simple. An alternative couple who find the world around them to be super toxic, decide to have a lot of kids, and to home school and raise the kids in public housing in the lower east side of Manhattan. They have seven kids, 6 boys who don’t seem to have much age difference between them, the oldest being maybe 20 or 21, it seems. They rarely venture outside, but of course make their own fun in the apartment. they do so by recreating their favourite movies from scratch, using quite ingenious home made costumes and props that bring to mind that cult hit from a few years ago, Be Kind Rewind. the brothers, (and the much younger sister, who is more background in the film than anything) all named with early Sanskrit names, Govinda, Bhagavan, Krsna, Jagadisa, Mukunda, Narayana.

Of course eventually, and again this is what the film is about, they do start engaging a bit more in the world, stepping outside their father’s iron rule. There are a lot of great narrative structure choices here by the film makers that build suspense, and create a tension that echoes the kids, and the mother’s struggles to have some autonomy under the father’s vague anti society ethos. You find out why they are called ‘Wolfpack,’ simply by seeing how they interact as a unit and alone within the confines of their apartment, and outside as well. 

I don’t have any real criticism of the narrative, though I would like to see a down the road sequel, to see how these folks are doing after a few more years.  One thing I really think they do well, is differentiate these boys, becoming men, from each other, when they do kind of blend, and sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart, by the end you see that they are not just part of a pack, but individuals going through their own stuff. You can gain some understanding of where the parents are/were coming from with what could be seen as a very abusive and off kilter upbringing. Mostly the kids are delightfully off kilter. Humans can surpass their circumstances whether they are aware of doing so or not.

Lovely documentary.

8.5 Convincing Batman costumes made from yoga mats and cereal boxes outta 10