Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

“Two things were all I needed to know to put this way up on my list: the title and Tina Fey in the lead role. Nothing else mattered, I was there!

Fey stars as real life journalist Kim Baker, who in an attempt to reboot her life, takes a job doing wartime coverage in Afganistan. Of course, the way things turn out are nothing she could have predicted and once she settles in, she becomes rather attached to this non-conventional lifestyle.

This one fits fairly snuggly in the “”dramedy”” category. It has a light tone, and there are plenty of moments of levity, but there’s a solid story of struggle behind it. Fey shone brilliantly, in what is possibly her strongest film role to date. I actually really like this more serious (yet still funny at times) side of her, and would love to see her do more.

I also was simply fascinated with the subject matter. I found myself thinking back to 13 Hours…Benghazi from earlier this year in that they both gave a very approachable look at a part of the world that we Americans just don’t like to think about. Yes, it’s scary at times, but these films show that it’s so much more than that. I’m not exactly running to Expedia to book a flight out there, but I do feel like I can appreciate it so much more now.

Whiskey TF had some great supporting characters in Margot Robbie and Martin Freeman, both just as engaging as Fey. I’m running out of things to say as the clock ticks closer to bedtime, but my point is that this was an overall solid movie. Interesting, just the right amount of funny, and brilliantly cast

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”

Cloverfield

“A trailer for 10 Cloverfield Ln dropped a few weeks ago and people went insane. The film had been on nobody’s radar (not even mine), and now we’ve got this wrapped in secret sequel to a successful film whose release was also shrouded in mystery. I’ll leave the squee-ing over the details of that sequel for it’s inevitable write up. First, I wanted to revisit the original and give myself a refresher on that phenomenon.

Anyone remember the original mania back in 2008? A mysterious trailer began making its rounds, and every mention of it provided more questions than answers. What did we know before we saw it? It was some sort of large scale disaster movie, told through found footage. But what was the disaster? Why was NYC in peril (yet again)? Who were these people running around? And what the heck is this movie? People weren’t able to catch the title (I heard many mistakenly think it was Bad Robot, which is the production company), and once they did, it only added to the mystery. It was eventually revealed that the name really didn’t mean much. It was the cross street outside the filmmakers’ office window. (My next trip to LA, my buddy was sure to point out Cloverfield Blvd every time we passed it).

My first priority in watching this was I wanted to see what long forgotten cast members have gone on to bigger and better. Right away, “”OMG that’s TJ Miller!”” You don’t see much of him, as he’s the one “”documenting”” for most of the time, but it does mean we constantly have his color commentary. Those of you more familiar with his work (including the recent Deadpool) know he’s genius at improvisation, a skill which was put to much use here. A few minutes later “”What? Lizzy Caplan? In a post Mean Girls world, wouldn’t we have recognized her sooner?”” Apparently not. And one more actress who looked familiar, I later learned was Dr Adams towards the end of House.

So clearly I didn’t remember the cast. There wasn’t much else I did remember. Something about running through the subway tunnels. There may have been a helicopter. There’s a party and then a Godzilla-esque creature attacks. I mean, I guess there’s not really much else you need to know besides that.

It sort of holds up. There’s a lot of camera trickery at play to A)maintain the mystery by selectively showing things and B)keep within a minimalist budget. On those fronts it totally works. I think it can get away with never really answering questions because it makes sure the focus is on getting our cast to safety and not in figuring out what’s going on. Yeah, some people do dumb things, but that’s every movie.

One other surprise, I hadn’t realized this was written by Drew Goddard. The same Drew Goddard whose Academy Award nomination for The Martian screenplay I reveled in. The same who wrote Cabin in the Woods with Joss Whedon (and contributed to his various other ventures). Alas, he appears unattached to the next installment, but this was quite a springboard for his career.

Anyways, let’s bring on the sequel!”

Triple 9

“For the first time in at least a couple years, I did something unthinkable. I went over a week without going to the movies! *gasp* I was in Vegas for my birthday and it just wasn’t feasible to squeeze in a movie. It did take some effort to convince myself that would be okay. The next thing to do was convince myself that I didn’t wanna see the movies that were coming out that week. And it would have worked, except that I really love Late Night tv, and actors from that week’s movies were doing the talk show circuit and got me to wanting to see stuff. Crap.

And I was so close on getting away with not caring about this one. I hadn’t seen a trailer at all. Reviews were abysmal. But the cast, oh my God, the cast. Norman Reedus, Aaron Paul, Chiwetel Ejiofer, Clifton Collins Jr, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Kate Winslet (?!), Anthony Mackie, and Gal Gadot. And even if it wasn’t good, it sounded right up my alley. Some guys are pulling a heist of some sort, and they figure the best way to buy themselves some time before the police responded was to pull a 999 farther out. 999 is code for “”officer down””, and they made such a point of saying 999 multiple times during the movie. It could have been a drinking game.

Yeah it wasn’t that great. Kinda predictable. Maybe too many people to manage. Dark, which I liked, but nothing really new. It did feel like the sort of thing my Daddy would have picked to rent from Blockbuster, so I appreciated that vibe. Also, no idea what the heck Kate Winslet was thinking in taking this role. Maybe just wanted to do something way against type, even if it was well beneath her? The world may never know

Triple 9 – \m/ \m/ \n”

Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2

SLC Punk is one of my absolute all time favorite movies. It follows a couple of young punks, fresh out of high school, in an opressive small town, trying to figure out what’s next in their lives. I can relate. Like a lot. Plus, so many of their ideals and values correspond with me own. Like really, this movie could have been about me to some extent.

Naturally, feelings were mixed when I heard about a sequel. On the one hand, of course I want more of one of my favorite stories ever. I want to revisit favorite characters and inhabit a whole new part of their world for an hour or two. But on the other, how often do these things really work out?

Punk’s Dead had a very small release, mostly just hitting the festival circuit. I’d occassionally see Devon Sawa (who was in both) tweet something about it. I’d get momentarily excited and then forget as I went on with my life.

Then something popped up in my FB feed. There was a screening in Boston being organized if they could get enough interest. I signed up immediately. The threshold was reached and the screening was on. There was a crudely Sharpie-d sign outside the auditorium and I got giddy. I walked in and found punks of all varieties filling the seats. That made me even giddier.

The sequel picks up about 19 years after the original. Unbeknownst to him at the time, when Heroin Bob (um spoiler alert for the first movie) accidentally OD’s and dies, his girlfriend Trish is pregnant. Now punk baby Ross is all growed up. He classifies himself as a death punk or goth punk, and is more straight edge than even the straight edge kids. When he gets his heart broken, he goes off on a bender with some friends. Since that behavior is out of character, Trish freaks when she finds out and tries to find him. Lots of self discovery ensues. Heroin Bob narrates from the afterlife. We won’t discuss the bad baldcap that goes with his ‘hawk

For me, what was cool about this movie is that I would have been about Ross’s age in the 2005 setting (I’m less than 2 years older than him), so I was watching it all through that lens, although I wish I was as cool back then as his gal pal Penny. Not a whole lot going on, mostly just Ross trying to figure out who he is and what he’s doing, not unlike what his dad and BFFF Stevo did the first time around. I’m not too sure how I feel about Ross. He was a little whiny, and actor Ben Schnetzer (who is awesome in Pride, which you should really check out) seemed to be trying to do his best Michael Goorjian (Bob) impression.

What was really cool was checking in with some favorite characters. As previously mentioned, Devon Sawa is back as Sean, as is James Duval (who I just learned was Frank in Donnie Darko ?!) as John the (now former) Mod (now death metal dude), and Adam Pascal as ladies’ man Eddie. Sawa and Duval in particular stole every scene they were in.

Also great, Bob’s explanation on the subdivisions of punk. Mostly I’m just happy that he included my flavor, pop punk, and that he says he likes it all. I know pop punk isn’t the most badass of the bunch, but we can’t choose what speaks to us and what we respond to, but I’m proud to be part of the scene.

And the scene seemed to enjoy the movie. Lots of cheers and laughter at appropriate places. Listening in on conversations on the way out, most people enjoyed the same things I did. Now, would I recommend this to someone that hasn’t seen the first? Nope, and what the heck are you waiting for? But if you do have strong feels about the first and are not inherently turned off by sequels, this was a nice revisit to a fun little world of outcasts.

Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2 – \m/ \m/ \m/”

Risen

“In my previous post, I talked about a trend in horror movies in recent years. On the absolutely opposite end of the spectrum, the past few years have seen a surge in faith based films. They’ve been seeming to incrementally increase in quality as they increase in reach. What was once a niche genre of poorly made uplifting films has started attracting bigger stars and audiences. I’ve mostly avoided them. I don’t have a problem with their message (in truth except for a few minor details, they line up with my beliefs), I have a problem with their quality and with their story. See the thing is, I was raised in a very Christian family (who avoiding missing Church on Sundays if possible, plus various other functions during the week), and I went to Catholic school. I’ve heard it all, in every way you can imagine. I’m not about to spend my weekend movie time hearing more of the same.

That was my initial reaction and aversion to Risen. How many times have I heard the Easter story, and how can you possibly make it fresh? Then I realized, this actually was perspective I hadn’t heard. This movie follows a solider who’s tasked with finding the body of the supposedly risen Messiah, so that they could disprove him once and for all. Except for a few songs in Jesus Christ Superstar, I’d only ever heard the believers’ side of the story, and hadn’t heard anything from those on the other side. That was enough to intrigue me. The cast including legit actor Joseph Fiennes with some help from Tom Felton made me think that maybe the quality of the film would be up to par. At the very least the acting would be.

And for the first half of the movie, it was kinda interesting. It played out like a suspenseful mystery, chasing down stories of sightings and busting into places shaking down answers from people. But then, things shifted about halfway through, and we were suddenly in overly familiar territory. And the rest of the film was, as I’d feared, yet another retread that didn’t offer up much new information.

I did appreciate seeing this story from a more secular viewpoint. In truth, I don’t know how much this falls into the faith based category or if it’s more mainstream that’s hoping to tap into that. I approached it as the later. In college, one of my favorite classes was The Bible as a literature class. It took the faith aspect out of it and analyzed it like any other book. This felt kinda similar.

What I didn’t really expect was that even though I wasn’t too enthused by well known events unfolding, there was a comfort in the familiarity of it. It made some sense why Christians have been flocking to these kind of films to reaffirm their faith. I’m not likely to run out to see the next one of these. I feel like The Big Guy and I have reached a nice understanding with each other on where I am with things, and if nothing else, I left feeling comfortable with that. It was nice.

Risen – \m/ \m/ \m/”

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

“””May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead”” goes the Irish toast. And “”may you not watch this film when too high or too low in spirits”” I say. This movie is heavy and depressing as anything you’ll ever watch.

I’ve actually been putting this one off for a bit. I wanted to watch it during the first go round on the movie wall, but I chose something else (I’m not in front of the movie wall, so I can’t see what it was). I had time to watch it after Atonement, but it would not be a good idea to watch those back to back unless you removed all sharp objects and heavy medication from my apartment.

Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman star as brothers who devise a plan to rob their parents’ jewelry store. Something goes horribly horribly wrong (debated spoiling what, but I’ll maintain the mystery, even though it happens pretty early on) and they’re left to deal with the fallout.

So if it’s as depressing as I say it is (it is!) why put myself through it? It’s amazing work from the cast that also includes Marissa Tomei, Amy Ryan, and Michael Shannon (just before breaking thru in Revolutionary Road). I’d say it’s one of PSH’s best performances, but really, you could say that about just about any of them. It is, however, one of his lesser known ones, and therefore is a hidden gem worth discovering.

A quick illustration on how below the radar this film release was. I saw it back at the Coolidge Corner theater in Brookline, one of my favorite places for indie films. They have 4 (I think it may be 5 now) screening rooms. The first is a large, typical auditorium. Room 2 is a smaller size, but still within normal bounds. Three gets significantly smaller. Four is my favorite. That’s where this was. Screening room four has about 20 couch-like seats, and a tiny projector like you’d expect in an office. It’s an incredibly intimate setting, and I just love how unique it is. I’m sure there are others like it, but I’ve never encountered them. I should try and make my way back there again.

One thing I’d forgotten, I really like the jumping timeline. The reference point is the robbery, and we see scenes before or after (with a helpful X days before/after), and each jump takes you to a different character’s point of view, mostly Hawke and PSH. It’s not even a little bit confusing. The story and events are clear. You just slowly get a clearer picture of the motive and the context of events leading up and out of that ill fated day. Very effective.”