Author: thelobbyreviews

It (2017) Film Review

By Piece of Garbage Reviewer #456723423462485628934756891734625

It is both one of the best comedy films of 2017 if you’re a cynical asshole like me, and one of the worst films of 2017 in general, if you’re a cynical asshole like me.

It is not a film to be seen alone, and It is not a film to be seen in a theater with other cynical assholes. No, It is a film to see in theaters with members from the general populace. Average folk. Mainstream consumers. Normies. People who actually jump at jumpscares, get startled loud noises, and almost puke at imagery that’s disturbing but not too disturbing, ’cause god forbid you show an image that crosses the line that makes you lose millions at the box office.

I know it seems like it from how I’m describing it, but this movie isn’t horrible. It’s a competent enough film; it’s fine from a technical aspect, with good cinematography, good moments of special effects, and some moments of good sound design. The characters are fine, well acted, good at conveying emotions. However, there’s a balance of competency and unintentional hilarity, a yin and yang if you will. For every good moment, there’s a bad one. This film is chaotic neutral, and its beautiful flaw is quite simple:

It tries to make balloons scary.

From here on out there’s spoilers because I can’t talk about this movie without talking about very specific scenes. Also, I haven’t read the book because I don’t feel like it and I don’t need it to review a film. Film’s film, let it stand on its own.

Personal Context: I didn’t really want to see It, if I’m being honest. I’m not a big fan of horror, excluding a few films (The Shining, the original Evil Dead trilogy, and Cabin in the Woods, basically), and I thought that I would be more or less terrified if I went and saw it. However, I had two friends who wanted to see it and I tagged along because I need any excuse to do something with my life. In the theater were us, a family of seven with a small child, a few couples, and a few groups. Not that much activity, basically.

The Film: The film starts and it’s main kid one (I don’t know their names, blow me) and his little brother, and if you’ve seen the trailer, you already know that the little brother is fucked. It’s not a surprise that eventually he’s gonna get eaten or whatever, but the film uses suspenseful music during these parts where he’s alone in a basement getting wax for the paper boat in the trailer as if the clown in the basement, which I think is just rude. It wouldn’t be rude if the clown was there, and the film just murders the little brother in the first two minutes just to show off the people who watched the trailer and the cynics like me, but they didn’t so screw the filmmakers on this issue.  Eventually the kid does go out and uses his paper boat during the rain, and he hits his head on the barricade or whatever and I laughed at that, and it’s basically beat for beat what happens in the trailer when he meets the clown in the sewer, except for some added dialogue and actually showing the kid get brutally almost killed.

I’m gonna give this film a lot of shit, but one thing I love about this film is that, for the most part, when it gets violent with these kids, they don’t hold back. When the little brother is attacked by the clown, the clown rips his fucking arm off and he’s bleeding profusely, and it’s mixing with the rain water and he just gets dragged down in the sewer. It doesn’t hold back where most films would with these kids. Kinda on topic, the kids curse all the fucking time and talk about sex and shit, and it’s beautiful.

Back to the film: After this scene, I kinda realized that if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen 90% of the film, minus some filler, violence, and cursing, and I was bored for the first 40 minutes. There were moments that I liked, mostly involving the kids hanging out. One of the members is a smartass and he’s golden in the film, saying dumb things and getting the laughs, and the dynamic between the group is good, but I didn’t really care for the emotional stuff. The film doesn’t delve into the emotional strain of the older brother too much, and it skips the whole year after he dies so we don’t have much time to establish a stronger connection between the characters. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s weak and it would’ve benefited from more time to develop it. It’s kinda just dropped on us and we have to make sense of it from so little.

Anyway, we get introduced to the characters of the main gang, and the black kid is the least developed of them all because of what I can only assume is systemic Hollywood racism, and it’s basic run of the mill stuff until about forty minutes in. I haven’t talked too much on the horror elements, because I can’t describe it more than I did at the beginning: Excluding a few moments, it’s basically jumpscares, loud noises, and somewhat disturbing imagery. These aren’t scary, they’re just startling, yet the film plays it off as and thinks that most of these are. And it’s in this one scene, forty minutes in, where I began to see this film not as a horror film, but an unintentional spoof of horror films.

The female gang member is in the bathroom and the sink drainage just starts to talk to her, and she talks back. For some reason, I don’t know why, in her head the best thing to do is get a tape measure and just put it into the sink as far as it can. At this point I start laughing a little bit, but not too much. She then reaches the bottom and begins to pull the tape back up, and at the four inches mark there’s blood is on it. Then this demonic hair in the sink shoots up and captures her, covering her and then, beautifully, blood just shoots up at full force, gallons a second, onto her face, body, and the whole bathroom for a solid minute. Thank god the movie was so loud, because I was laughing so hard at this scene straight out of Evil Dead that I would’ve been a disturbance to everyone in the theater. And this is just the beginning of a solid hour worth of laughs that’s just so great. The next scene is the big brother who goes into the little brother’s room and grabs a Lego turtle I assume the little brother made and two minutes later he drops it and the movie cuts to it hitting the floor as if it meant something, and I laughed for a good 20 seconds. Then, no joke, when the whole gang (minus the black kid. Again, systemic racism) sees the blood, knowing it’s in their imagination, goes into a cleanup montage that I know was intentionally funny, but in a horror film, it felt so out of place from the one off jokes that the kids were making. The smartass saying funny smartass shit made sense, the cleanup montage didn’t.

Those were subjectively funny things I found within the film, the rest of what I found funny revolves around the experience itself. For example, every goddamn time a red balloon would come into the frame people would gasp (one of my friends would say “oh god no”) and I laughed at that, and every time something happened that was in the trailer and people still freaked out about it, I laughed. Other than that, I know I would’ve been bored a majority of the time.

Plotwise, the clown fucks with them all, they all disband, then regroup when the chick gets taken, and they go save her, and it’s supposed to be heroic at the end. It is in the literal sense, but with how disconnected I felt with the characters, the most I could think about it was “okay cool, sure.” They win the battle, and they all leave and that’s the end.

 

Afterword: I mentioned in the beginning this idea of yin and yang, and the reason why is because I think the reason I was not thrilled for it was because of how evenly it’s spread between good and bad. I like the characters and they’re well acted, but I don’t care for them because of a relatively poor emotional connection. I like some of the special effects and some of the camerawork, but some effects look (I guess purposefully?) goofy and some shots are lackluster and bland. The kids cursed but they also shit out exposition. It’s so split down the middle that half of the film I was laughing my ass off and the other half I was waiting for it to end. The film had to be either better or even worse for me to care more for it, but it’s just middle. It’s meant for people in the middle of the bell curve: People who like a challenge but only if it’s easy to complete, and It is an easy challenge. It’s only good for the rest of us if you walk in with very low expectations and are in a mindset to deconstruct it, and perhaps laugh at its absurdity at a cost of waiting for it to end at the beginning and the end.

It’s chaotic, and it’s neutral.

5/10

Advertisements

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.