Author: thelobbyreviews

Baby Driver

By a Film Student and Writer with No Passion to either Write or Make Films.

(I know the films usually reviewed on this site are underground and indie or some shit, but this film is worth it.)

Edgar Wright is a genius writer-director, mostly because he’s British. Responsible for the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy consisting of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End, as well as Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Wright has created four amazing films and has already proved that he’s a master of his craft. So it’s no surprise that Baby Driver is, in some ways, a masterpiece.

Baby Driver focuses on getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort), a young man with tinnitus who listens to music nonstop to drown out the constant ringing in his ears. His boss (Kevin Spacey) has Baby under his thumb after Baby took his car and his product and crashed it, and uses Baby and his skills as payback. Of course, Baby isn’t a huge fan of working for him or being in the crime game, and wants out after meeting Debora (Lily James), a passionate music lover who wants out of her life as a simple waitress at a diner.

What makes this movie fantastic is the soundtrack, editing, choreography, and cinematography. The soundtrack takes a baseline established by earlier Tarantino works (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction) and, more recently, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy duology and expands it to include a wide variety of genres and time periods that have great dramatic qualities that works not only as a solid mix to listen to but works in the film. The editing and choreography of the film really takes this soundtrack a step further, with the entirety of the movie’s cuts and a majority of the character’s moves syncing to the beats of the soundtrack in flawless motion. The cinematography and shots made this film too, with a wide array of long, extended takes that let you sink in the moment, the movements, and the music, especially during the chase scenes. It really lets you soak in the action on screen.

While technically this film is borderline flawless, a few hiccups come from the characters. The characters were fine, but weren’t entirely fleshed out. The love interest between Baby and Debora in the film feels two dimensional at points, and though it works for what it is, it could have used extra time progressing or have extra focus on it. The counter example is Buddy and Darling (Jon Hamm and Eiza González), partners in crime who work with Baby. They actually have moderately decent chemistry and good emotion throughout and you feel for them, despite the fact that they’re criminals. There wasn’t much else on the emotional appeal, though some hints of emotion come through Baby and his past. It’s also worth noting that, despite the characters being somewhat weak, the writing itself is pretty damn good, and the dialogue between characters is smartly written.

Overall, the film is smart, filled with fun scenes and great action with minor flaws that are still minuscule all things considered. I strongly recommend this film.

Baby Driver is currently in theaters. Go pay for a ticket and watch it, it’s worth it. If you’re interested, Edgar Wright recently did a Reddit AMA around the film, which you can read here.

★★★★☆

13 Cameras

13 Cameras

By Nikki Busalacchi

I recently learned about a guy on YouTube who purposely gets bitten by bugs and snakes to show his audience, but warns them to never try it at home. I never thought I would be that guy, but at 9pm yesterday evening, I found myself watching a horror movie – wait for it – on the treadmill. While I survived this one unscathed, I’m gonna preface this one with a don’t try this at home.

Ryan (PJ McCabe) and Claire (Brianne Moncrief), a pregnant couple, rent a seemingly cozy house from Gerald (Neville Archambault), the creepiest landlord you could imagine. Immediately, it’s revealed that Gerald has wired the entire house with cameras and microphones – right down to the bathroom shower. Although Gerald’s intentions start out as “harmless” voyeurism, issues within the marriage inspire Gerald to take matters into his own hands. Carefully timing his house calls and quickly befriending the family dog with frequent fast food deliveries, Claire and Ryan have no idea what’s going on right under their noses – or just how dangerous their situation is becoming. However, slipups all around leave the marriage hanging on by a thread, and danger lurking behind every locked door. The moral of the story: if you’re renting, change your locks.

Was it a good movie? Absolutely. Did it give me the heebie-jeebies? Hell yes. Was I satisfied with the ending? For sure, but maybe that’s because I’m a little bit of a sociopath. Another directorial debut, this film was a rollercoaster of emotion – from the creepy homeowner to the hot homewrecker, it’s unlikely that you won’t have an opinion about every character at the end of the hour and a half. If you have any issue with cheating, the parallel plot involving Ryan and his assistant Hannah will make your blood boil – and this involvement, unbeknownst to all of them, puts them in even more danger than you might guess.

Visually, it was a guilty pleasure to watch a vulnerable couple from the better side of 13 cameras, and the dramatic irony of Ryan’s affair and Gerald’s close calls left me sweating more than usual. The realistic situation allows for a long-lasting fear – I checked my shower thoroughly before turning it on – and though the entire film is shot within the house, clips of Gerald watching from his own apartment shed light on the personalities and diversities of the characters. If you’re not the jump-scare or blood-and-guts type, don’t worry, 13 Cameras is tame in terms of gore and surprises. Psychologically, however, this film will get under your skin. All in all, a good flick for movie night if you don’t have a landlord.

★★★☆☆

Available on Netflix and Amazon Video for $2.99 rental.

 

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore

By Nikki Busalacchi

While I’m a movie buff in general, I’m ready to admit that I have a bit of a horror obsession. Really, you name it, I’ve probably seen it twice (and I probably lost some sleep over it, too), so it was a bit of a struggle for me to click out of the horror/thriller genre and into something else. Right after horror on my short list of favorites is independent films, though, and Netflix’s indie selection came through with the film I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, directed by Macon Blair. The blurb reads “She was tired of being a doormat. Getting robbed was the last straw. Now she and her weirdo neighbor are fighting back,” and while none of these statements apply to me in the slightest, they had me at weirdo.

Ruth Kimke (Melanie Lynskey), a depressed nursing assistant, seems to get the short end of the stick in every aspect of her life. From a stranger spoiling her book to an asshole letting his dog shit on her lawn every day, she admits to her best friend (Lee Eddy) that she feels like she’s drowning. But when her house is robbed and the police are hesitant to put forth any effort, it’s the last straw for Ruth. As she befriends her hard rock-loving neighbor, Tony, (played by fucking Elijah Wood, if you can believe it) – who is also pretty skilled at combat and has a passion for justice and the Lord – she decides to take matters into her own hands.

After following her phone to the location of her stolen laptop, armed with Tony and his throwing stars, she manages to gather some information about a consignment shop that’s been selling stolen things. Ruth and Tony take their newfound knowledge and courage along with them to get her things back, unaware that a group of violent thieves is behind the steal-and-sell operation. After some amateur detective work – including using a cereal box police badge to talk to the parents of the thief who’d been in Ruth’s house – things take a turn for the worse, and the two vigilantes find themselves in way over their heads.

In this relatable-film-turned-what-the-fuck-is-going-on, Melanie Lynskey’s performance as a strong female lead is refreshing, well-executed, and even seems to be a subtle nod to breaking gender roles. Ruth pushes her way through daily letdowns and realistic wrong-place-wrong-time scenarios (with the help of Clonazepam), allowing for an oh shit, I’ve been there feel. While most of us haven’t tracked down petty criminals with a Bible-thumping sidekick or stolen lawn art (yeah, that’s a thing), the progression of the friendship built onscreen and the not unreasonable request for people to just stop being assholes, Jesus, do an exceptional job at reeling in an audience. A wild ride from start to finish, this award-winning Netflix original puts a new spin on plot progression: while I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore starts off slow and depressing, lessons learned, doubts abolished, and opportunities taken lead to a pretty exciting and fast-paced last act – one that tests Ruth’s dedication to her values and her relationships.

Visually enticing and logically put together, this movie left me feeling just a little more confident and capable – and also glad that I don’t have to think about stealing back my anti-depressants. Aside from some secondhand embarrassment for the main characters at key points in their journey, I Don’t Feel at Home is a feel-good film that I would recommend to anyone interested in crime dramas, thrillers, or comedies – and frankly, this indie film deserves more recognition.

Available on Netflix.

★★★★☆

They Look Like People

They Look Like People

By Nikki Busalacchi

If you’re looking for a film to take your mind off your own sick, twisted mental illness(es), They Look Like People provides the perfect distraction – and follows the life of Wyatt (MacLeod Andrews), a guy with a sick and twisted mental illness. Shot, edited, written, produced, and directed by Perry Blackshear, this indie psychological thriller marks his directorial debut (and as far as debuts go, this one was a banger).

It’s evident from the start of the film that Wyatt is slightly troubled. In a parallel montage, Christian, (Evan Dumouchel) faces his own struggles, and things get a little awkward when the long-lost friendship is rekindled as Wyatt stumbles back into town. While Christian is preoccupied with “dominating” at his job, getting over the loss of his girlfriend, and asking out his boss, Wyatt’s set of issues are quickly revealed to be much more sinister. After Christian insists Wyatt crash in his apartment, Wyatt receives a series of late-night phone calls from a caller whose voice and number are disguised. He receives sets of instructions, and ominous warnings: there is an alien species whose only goal is to infect innocent humans, and they look like people.

As Christian and Wyatt become closer, and information on the alien species becomes more specific, it’s clear that Wyatt struggles with handling the responsibility of being the sole combatant in the impending war – with unique skill sets comes great responsibility, of course. He begins to make his own late-night phone calls to a therapist, but has a difficult time differentiating between the real, the imagined, and the alien. Arming himself with power tools, gas masks, and eventually sulfuric acid, the line between reality and fiction is blurred for Wyatt – and the audience as well. As an internal battle rages on, Wyatt must decide if he should confess his fears to his best friend, and whether Christian will even believe him; but this hesitation could mean the difference between life and death.

Without a doubt, the suspense of Wyatt’s troubles, and the curiosity about just what the fuck is going on, are the best parts of this film. Though, admittedly, I’m not the greatest at predicting plot twists and finales, They Look Like People felt more like a journey of self-discovery through horror, mystery, and thrill than a movie whose only purpose is to achieve an end goal. Throughout the film, I found myself becoming attached to and concerned for the main character, quietly hoping for his success and relief from the burden and fear of alien knowledge.

Additionally, while each new scene leaves the audience questioning whether Wyatt’s experiences are real or hallucinated, Perry Blackshear does an excellent job of touching on the delicate subject of mental illness, and alludes to the dangers of isolation. References to Wyatt’s past reveal that he had struggled with other burdensome thoughts before, and while it’s made clear that sometimes therapists aren’t a solution for everything, it’s also obvious that he has experienced – and will continue to experience – unwavering support from his friends and family. Whether taken at face value as a creepy horror flick, or seen as a metaphor for internal struggles, They Look Like People is an hour and twenty minutes of scary, suspenseful, and satisfying.

Available on Hulu and Amazon Video for $1.99 rental.

★★★★☆

Stop Making Sense

 

By Some Asshole Who Thinks He Can Review Movies.

Concert films are a rare breed of documentary film, and it kind of makes sense when you stop to think about it. Concert films attempt to recreate the energy, excitement, and feeling of being part of the experience, usually to no or very little effect (unless you’re appealing to 12-year-old girls who fetishize boy bands. Looking at you, One Direction: Where We Are). And the reason for this is because it’s not that dynamic of an experience: Most bands follow similar set ups for live performances, the camera angles are usually the same, and it’s music you’ve heard before, performed exactly as it is in the studio. The whole purpose of a concert is to be there in real life, but it’s nothing worth looking back on.

Unless, of course, you put on a show, a performance, something with life, energy, and movement, and Stop Making Sense puts that show on.

Performed and recorded in three performances, Stop Making Sense is the concert film by Talking Heads, the new wave and rock band with hits like “Once in a Lifetime,” “Burning Down the House,” and “Take Me to the River.” These songs, and plenty of others, are included in the film as well as the accompanying album of the same name. However, the songs alone are not reason enough to make a concert film a film, nor does it give reason to watch a live performance. I mean, if it sounds exactly like the studio, what really changes? A little bit of audience applause at the end of songs and some added noise here or there?  However, Talking Heads take their songs in this concert and performs them differently from their studio counterparts, often creating better versions of their songs. An obvious example is a personal favorite “Life During Wartime.” The studio version is okay, nothing really special in my opinion, but the live version is filled with such energy that it’s probably one of the best performances of the film and a song I listen to repeat. (It should also be worth noting that the live version is 2 minutes longer than the studio version, if you want an idea of how epic it is in scale.)

So the music is better, of course, but what about watching it? Sure the live album is great but what about the visual aspects? Well, it’s great shit. It starts slow with a performance of “Psycho Killer,” with lead singer and guitarist David Byrne walking on stage alone with a boombox and an acoustic guitar, and performs the song with the box playing a small beat as Byrne goes insane as he plays the guitar, going as far as to tumble and slip as he plays, as well as to create feedback through a nearby amplifier. Slowly, more band members join in as more songs play, and eventually all the members and background singers are together on stage and they play “Burning Down the House” and the rest of their set as one cohesive unit, synching movements and beats to make the performance of a lifetime. To go back on “Life During Wartime,” Byrne and company jog in place during most of the song, moving with fluidity as he sings and eventually runs around the stage as a spotlight follows him.

If there’s one complaint with the show that can take away from the viewing experience, it’s the frequent desynchronization of the audio and video. It’s not necessarily noticeable the first time viewing, but I slowly saw it lose its place as the drums played or as Byrne sang some verses. It’s mostly hidden through the camera angles and distance, but once you see it, it sticks throughout. It does take some of the experience away, but it’s still a pretty damn good film.

Overall, if you’re a Talking Heads fan, I definitely recommend watching it, and if you enjoy a few of their songs, it’s worth a try.

Stop Making Sense is available through Amazon to buy or rent, and is included in the Sundance add-on. There’s also clips of some performances on YouTube if you look up specific songs as live versions, but it’s your call as to how you watch it. I don’t care.

★★★★☆

The Possession

The Possession

By Nikki Busalacchi

With a title like The Possession, little imagination is required to predict the plot and genre of this seemingly generic film. But Nazis and anti-Semites beware: this possession does set itself apart with one key element – a Jewish demon. (Yay, representation!)

Kicking off with a healthy dose of dramatic irony, viewers watch an old woman battle with an invisible force attached to a mysterious wooden box she keeps on her mantle. When it meets her ball-peen hammer with bone-crunching force, a flash-forward displays a divorced father, Clyde, (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) buying the same box for his ten year old daughter, Emily (Natasha Calis). As far as foreshadowing goes, this one hits the nail on the head; as the young girl passes the woman’s bedroom window, her shouts of warning from a full-body cast should have struck a cord with somebody… 

As the plot progresses, Clyde and his ex-wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) begin to realize that their daughter’s changing behavior and growing obsessions have less to do with the divorce and more to do with her “friend in the box.” Through a few leads, Clyde discovers that the the box is not only of Jewish origin, but contains a dybbuk named Abyzou – a fragmented, evil spirit that must inhabit a human host. After a desperate visit to the Brooklyn Hasidic community and rejection from most of the synagogue, one rabbi named Tzadok (played by Matisyahu, a real Jew and a rapper to boot) agrees to help Clyde, and offers his services for an exorcism.

In terms of exorcism movies, The Possession is pretty tame. More of a thriller than a jump-scare horror, this title poses no heart attack risk – that is, unless creepy crawlies get under your skin. While moths and eerie MRI scans accompany sporadic bleeding and ghoulish wind, adrenaline ran low throughout the film. Visually, however, this picture is beautifully developed; as Emily’s obsession with the box draws her further away from her friends and family, her wardrobe and appearance begin to fade into the same darkness as the theme of the film.

While one could argue that a supernatural film might be riddled with discrepancies to begin with, only one minor plot hole was obvious to me: on the way to help Emily, Tzadok discovers that the demon’s name is Abyzou. He translates this from Hebrew, and explains that it means “the taker of children.” However, in the final battle with the demon, a character – who is not a child – is briefly possessed by the same demon. Aside from this flub, however, no major questions remained unanswered. The film, which was released in 2012, leaves on a cliffhanger, though it’s uncertain whether the taker of children will return to claim another victim anytime soon.

★★★☆☆

Available on Amazon Video for $2.99 rental.

I Sell The Dead

I Sell The Dead

By Nikki Busalacchi

It was 1:30am when I selected the 2008 horror/comedy I Sell the Dead from the Hulu “horror and suspense” category. Admittedly, I had glossed over the fact that it was a humorous film before pressing play, but in hindsight it probably saved me from some paranormal-themed nightmares.

While the opening scene of this dark Irish comedy features 18th century grave robber Willie Grimes (played by Larry Fessenden) being beheaded via guillotine, much of the movie is told in the flashbacks of his partner, Arthur Blake (Dominic Magnahan), as he details his life of crime to Father Duffy (Ron Perlman) before he faces the same blade. The Grimes-Blake partnership begins under the blackmail-fueled employment of the corpse-obsessed Doctor Quint (Angus Scrimm) many years prior, but their luck turns around when they unearth a vampire during their search for a fresh body and seek revenge. As word quickly spreads of their innate ability to find and unearth the undead, their fame and wealth steadily increase. Competition against the House of Murphy – a psychopathic burn victim, a monstrous oaf, and their vicious leader – makes the paranormal business a little more dangerous, however, and the ending plot twist leaves you with one piece of wise advice: never trust a corpse.

Director Glenn McQuaid, also known for his short film Tuesday the 17th in the horror anthology V/H/S, did well with his budget of $450 thousand. While lighting and costume special effects – especially that of the “undead” – were subpar at times, McQuaid’s choice of setting, dialogue, and actors led this film to success. During some scene progressions, live action is transitioned to comic book still, which is not only out of place in a Victorian era movie, but a quick Google search reveals that the comic book by the same title was first published a year after the movie was released. However, the dark humor aids in the smooth plot advancement and the likability of the characters. Character development within Arthur’s flashbacks is realistic and leaves the audience both enthralled in the action-packed story and rooting for the antagonists. Aside from the supernatural encounters and the occasional gory death, the movie’s overtones lean toward humorous more than frightening, and the ending plot twist proves to be both surprising and entertaining, and neatly wraps up a clever and witty movie – though the final clip leaves us wondering if a sequel is somewhere on the horizon.

★★★☆☆

Available on Hulu.