The Nice Guys (2016) Movie Review

The Nice Guys is the latest film from writer/director Shane Black. The film stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as detectives in 1977 Los Angeles searching for a girl who is involved in some shady dealings.

Shane Black is known for creating films such as Lethal Weapon and Iron Man 3. I had no real exposure to Black’s films prior to watching The Nice Guys.

I regret not seeing this movie in theaters because it is truly a fantastic film. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are both perfectly cast and there is a ton of humor in the film. I don’t usually laugh at movies but this film had so many moments that were simply hilarious. I was pleasantly surprised at just how funny this film was.

The Nice Guys also succeeds on a technical level. You just know while watching that Black and company made every effort to make this film as good as possible. This is most visible in the production design meant to replicate a 1977 Los Angeles setting. Every scene in the movie feels perfect and the plot slowly builds to an incredible climax.

This is the kind of movie that I hope to watch again because I know there will be details that I missed the first time around. From experience I know that if I feel willing to watch a movie twice, then that movie is something special.

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The Lobster Review: Dark yet Hilarious

The Lobster is the latest film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, a Greek filmmaker known for the film DogtoothThe Lobster represents a huge step in the career of Lanthimos. It his first film to receive widespread exposure and stars Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, and John C. Reilly.

The Lobster is set in a dystopian society where all single people must live in a hotel where they have 45 days to find a partner. Those who fail to find a partner are turned into an animal of their choice. Colin Farrel’s character David is sent to this hotel after his wife leaves him for another man. David picks the titular lobster as his animal of choice. David is an interesting character. He’s an architect who rarely says more than he needs to. David eventually tries to seduce the most heartless woman in the hotel. David and the heartless woman become a couple but the heartless woman soon learn that David has more emotion than he lets on. So the heartless woman kills David’s dog/brother leading David to cry in the bathroom. Under dire circumstances, David incapacitates the heartless woman and escapes from the hotel. Going much further into the plot of this film would perhaps reveal too much. Here’s what you need to know: The premise of this film is both inventive and terrifying

The first thing I should tell you is that I found The Lobster hilarious. If you appreciate dark humor, then you will absolutely enjoy this film. The first half of this film is especially entertaining when it utilizes its bizarre premise for humor. The various procedures and rules of the hotel are designed to foster pairing between the guests no matter the cost. For example, masturbation is a punishable offense, yet sexual stimulation by the hotel maid is mandatory. Having now seen two of Lanthimos’s films, I can see the beginning of a pattern. Both Dogtooth and The Lobster place characters in tragic yet hilariously absurd situations. That this technique works is a testament to Lanthimos’s cinematic skill.

The Lobster is separated into two parts. The first half taking place in the hotel while the second follows David’s escape into the forest where he meets the loners and a woman who becomes his natural partner. The world of the loners in the forest is as intricate as the world of the hotel. The loners abide by oppressive rules similar to the inhabitants of the hotel. No matter where David goes, he will be suffer from oppression, specifically focused on the rules of attraction. If David possesses any one motivation, it is to circumvent these rules undiscovered. David is an independent thinker in a sea of single-minded dogma. At its core, The Lobster is a film about the desire to rebel against the rules of society.

I really enjoyed this film. Apart from the interesting story, I also found the cinematography and score to be both effective elements of the film. Lanthimos is definitely a filmmaker to watch and it will be interesting to see where he goes next.

 

 

The Diary of a Teenage Girl Review

Here’s a movie that you probably didn’t know existed. It didn’t get oscar buzz or win awards but I think it’s one of the best movies that came out in 2015. The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a coming-of-age comedy/drama based on a graphic novel of the same name. It premiered at Sundance and had a limited release in August of 2015. It’s the story of a 15-year-old girl named Minnie who has an affair with her mother’s boyfriend named Monroe. With this kind of taboo relationship it’s easy to label it as statutory rape because that is what the law says. This movie does not give you that easy answer. The relationship between Minnie and Monroe is consensual. It’s easy to understand why a teenage girl would be attracted to an older man and vice versa. Their relationship is more natural and healthy than most relationships depicted in the media.

I love movies that don’t provide easy answers, mix different tones and possess human characters. This movie does all of those things. It could definitely be watched a second time as there is a ton of information and meaning packed into its shots. The team responsible for making this movie had a solid idea of what they wanted to accomplish.

When a movie is adapted from a source it can be difficult to determine what is original. A good rule of thumb is to look at what the author of the original work has said about the adapted work. In this case author Phoebe Gloeckner has not said very much, according to Wikipedia. The only revealing tidbit is that that writer/director Marielle Heller first created a play before the film so she was probably the most qualified person to make this film.

If you are at all interested in strong female characters, taboo relationships or good movies, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is required viewing. The world needs more movies like this one. It’s unfortunate that the film did not reach a wider audience but maybe that is a good thing. In a few years I could absolutely see this movie having a devoted cult following.

 

The Witch (2016) Review

There’s something about watching a movie you don’t quite understand. You can appreciate what’s happening but you know that you are missing something on a deeper level. The Witch feels like a documentary about a typical New England family in the 17th century. It’s an incredibly immersive world and everything about it feels real. The Witch may be one of the most perfect movies that I have seen. It accomplishes something that few horror films have. I do not hesitate in calling The Witch my favorite horror movie of all-time.

There’s a certain “je ne sais quois” feeling to The Witch. Something lurks beneath the surface. Something unsettling yet subtle. A feeling that is both terrifying and ecstatic. It has something to do with the supernatural elements of the film. So many horror movies are unwilling to give a face to the horror. Let the audience imagine the horror because their minds will always create something more horrifying than what actually exists on screen. The Witch plays this game for a little while but it also does not. We actually see the titular witch early in the movie when she steals the family’s baby. There is a truly haunting sequence where the witch slaughters the baby and rubs its blood on her body and broomstick. It’s unequivocally terrifying and it gives you an idea of what the family is up against.

The Witch is a bit slow at times, but I was always engaged with what was happening. Everything is authentic to its time period. I will definitely be watching this film with subtitles as soon as possible. I can’t recommend this film enough. I am so happy that I had the opportunity to see it in theaters. I was recently terminated from my movie theater job so I am no longer able to see free movies in theaters. The Witch will go down as the last film I saw as a movie theater employee.

This is a somewhat short review. I will not be writing on this site as frequently because I will have to start paying for movies again. But fear not loyal readers because I will still be writing about whatever I am streaming via Netflix or watching through some other method. If you came to my site for hot takes on the latest blockbusters hitting the big screen, then you will be disappointed.

Congrats on making it to the final paragraph. If you are still reading, give me a recommendation of something to watch on Netflix or wherever. I will be eternally grateful for your sharing of taste.

 

The Gift is an Effective but Flawed Psychological Thriller

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The Gift is an effective thriller that suffers from a flawed ending. Joel Edgerton’s film stars Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as a seemingly happy couple starting a new chapter of their lives. Simon (Jason Bateman) becomes reacquainted with an old school chum named Gordo (played by Edgerton himself). It becomes clear that these two men share a sinister history and the nature of this history is the mystery of the film. (Spoilers lie ahead).

As the movie progresses, Simon’s real character is revealed and it is not pretty. Simon was a bully in the past and does not seem to be much better in the present. He manipulates his wife and ruins a co-worker’s career to get a promotion. He’s a rude dude who resorts to childish tactics such as name-calling and physical violence. It’s thrilling to slowly learn the extent of Simon’s wickedness. Edgerton is skilled at revealing just enough satisfying clues while keeping the audience guessing what will come next. The Gift has as much narrative tension as any film this year and that is reason enough to recommend it.

Here’s the thing, the movie concludes on a note that left me scratching my head. In the end, the film settles on being a revenge narrative, similar to a film like Oldboy. We find out that Gordo has filmed himself sneaking into Simon’s home wearing a monkey mask, while Robyn is passed out. This raises the question of whether or not Gordo has rapes Robyn. This behavior departs sharply from the actions previously taken by Gordo and its definitely a bummer ending. While I wanted to see Simon get his comeuppance, it’s hard to wish this kind of trauma on anyone, even an abusive bully. It’s a remarkably black ending for a film that travels through so many shades of grey. I recommend The gift because it will entertain but please be aware that most will leave with a sour taste in their mouth.