Archive for May, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse

Posted in Action, Adventure, Science Fiction with tags on May 31, 2016 by Mark Hobin

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Let’s face it. You already know if you’re part of the of the audience receptive for one more X-Men movie. Apocalypse is the ninth installment in the X-Men film series (if you’re counting Deadpool). A certain level of skepticism is raised whether it’s warranted or not.  Honestly I was lukewarm to the idea of another one of these pictures. Color me surprised because there’s still a lot of entertainment packed into this admittedly messy picture. If you’re not rolling your eyes at the thought of an additional installment, then you’re at least primed to enjoy this.

In a nutshell, the plot concerns what happens when Professor Xavier’s class of super-powered mutants take on Apocalypse. Who’s this now?  Well apparently he was the world’s first mutant. He ruled ancient Egypt circa. 3600 BC before being buried alive by his followers. He awakens in 1983 pretty ticked off by humanity and wants to take over the world.  Naturally.

Bryan Singer is back in the director chair for the 4th time . He understands this franchise better than anyone. It’s set in the 1980s which occurs ten years after his critically and commercially successful X-Men: Days of Future Past. Apocalypse unquestionably pales in comparison to that movie. The computer graphics are wonky in parts and the narrative gets a bit chaotic with the numerous characters. There’s a bunch, but let’s reflect on that cast for a moment: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn and Kodi Smit-McPhee. This is a tightly wound orchestra of actors. It reads like a who’s who of great up and coming stars. The best and brightest of their generation in service of a special effects laden fantasy.

The drama absolutely benefits from the superior acting skills of that incredible ensemble. Ok so I’m a little miffed they hired Oscar Isaac, and then obscured him beneath pounds of makeup rendering him unrecognizable as the villain. That could’ve been anyone under that blue face. But Jennifer Lawrence who plays Mystique, gets to actually look like Jennifer Lawrence through most of the film. She takes on a greater role here. As Charles Xavier has done previously, it partially falls on Mystique’s shoulders to help lead and mentor the X-Men. Apocalypse still has some room to develop these personalities amongst the pyrotechnics, For example, the connection between Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) and her forgotten memories of Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is addressed. Their relationship is further deepened and the result is almost poignant.

If characterization and plot are truly what you crave, you probably should try an indie drama. Amazing action set pieces are the mark of a good superhero film. Apocalypse presents several that give virtually every individual the opportunity to shine. Magneto has retired from super-villany and so he has been working at a factory in Poland as Erik Lehnsherr. After an incident there reveals his true self, Magneto must confront a threat to his wife and daughter. Let’s just say, her locket is a lot more dangerous than you think. The return of the Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is an opportunity for another slow-motion rescue sequence in the middle of the movie. It’s a music video scored to the Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) and it’s dazzling. Professor X’s battle of shared consciousness with Apocalypse is a conflict that technically takes place in the mind. It’s an interesting concept that should be difficult to portray, but it’s executed in a most captivating way. And finally Sophie Turner as Jean Grey gets a chance to tap into something called the Phoenix Force in the film’s rousing payoff which ably juggles most of the cast. Yes, the entire climax rests on a lot of invincible people using their supernatural strengths to stop a godlike villain until one exhibits the greatest power to surpass them all. That’s not the optimal recipe for creating a heart-pounding conclusion but it’s certainly not boring. I’ll concede it may not be the best in the series (Days of Future Past). However this is far from the worst (X-Men Origins and The Wolverine). X-Men Apocalypse is enjoyable fun, sitting comfortably in the upper half of the X-Men franchise.

05-27-16

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Alice Through the Looking Glass

Posted in Action, Adventure, Family, Fantasy with tags on May 28, 2016 by Mark Hobin

 photo alice_through_the_looking_glass_ver8_zpsia3k2lst.jpg photo starrating-1andahalfstars.jpgHow to explain when a movie goes from being merely bad, to an out-and-out assault on the senses. That is the conundrum I’m faced with trying to make sense of Alice Through the Looking Glass. This is the followup to Tim Burton’s wildly successful hit that came out in the spring of 2010. Alice in Wonderland remarkably made $334 million in the U.S. alone. It was the 2nd biggest hit of that year (behind Toy Story 3), so you knew it was only a matter of time before they would make a sequel. Why it took more than half a decade is a question for Tim Burton. Highly successful screenwriter for Disney, Linda Wolverton (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King), is back, however Tim Burton is only a producer this time around. Apparently he really didn’t want to helm another one. The director’s job has been delegated to James Bobin (The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted). On paper, that sounds promising. I mildly enjoyed the original and was at least prepared to delight in the artistry of a sequel.

Flamboyance is the recipe again but magnified to the tenth power. That’s hard to imagine. The first was hardly a model of restraint, but it still had some semblance of a story. Although Alice in Wonderland threw out the plot of the book, it kept the characters and amped up the crazy. What it lacked in dramatic coherence it made up for in visual spectacle. So what exactly is the plot in the current installment? That’s a very good question. I still don’t have a good answer. Lewis Carroll’s book dealt with Alice’s attempts to become a Queen. His novel exploited the game of chess as a metaphor for the lack of control she had over the direction of her own life. An overriding theme concerned the feeling of loneliness as one grows older.

Linda Woolverton’s screenplay for Alice Through the Looking Glass has nothing to do with any of that. Ok fine, but what does it concern? The action inexplicably starts out on a ship in the ocean with Alice as the captain trying to outrun a trio of pirates. It’s a loud, chaotic beginning that feels like the climax of a completely different film. Then on to some nonsense regarding her ex-fiancé, Hamish Ascot (Leo Bill), and an exchange of that ship for her home. What does it all mean? Doesn’t really matter because everything is thrown aside when she walks through a mirror and ends up in Wonderland. The Mad Matter’s family is missing and Alice agrees to help. From what I can glean, this is the true thrust of the narrative. First, she visits a character called Time. He’s some bizarre demigod played by Sacha Baron Cohen in the only performance that manages to gain a modicum of our interest. He relishes the part and his commitment is palpable. Next Alice steals the Chronosphere and promptly travels back in time to change the past right after being told that is forbidden. Here the developments resemble Muppet Babies as we get junior versions of the Red Queen, the White Queen and the Mad Hatter. More stuff happens involving their childhood. The Jabberwocky appears. Alice wakes up in a mental hospital, diagnosed with female hysteria.  That’s not how it ends.  She goes back to Wonderland.  Yup again.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is a wackadoodle free-for-all with a CGI budget that’s roughly the GDP of an island nation. Every scene of this haphazardly plotted film bursts with more computer generated imagery than the human eye can even absorb. Each display vies for the viewer’s attention as effect is heaped upon effect. One exhibition competes with the next for space within the frame. There is little relief from the uninterrupted excess. The crowded extravaganza is so staggeringly overindulgent, it’s vulgar. I’ve played with kaleidoscopes that had a more coherent narrative. Meanwhile Johnny Depp minces with abandon as the Mad Hatter, lisping all the while in another fey performance so cloying it inspired me to brush my teeth afterward for fear I might get cavities. Helena Bonham Carter, so wonderful as the Red Queen in the last film, bickers with her sister to the point of annoyance. Her decades old hate for her sibling, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), revealed as having originated as a lie to the question “Who ate these tarts?”  There is little story. Just effects. Alice Through The Looking Glass is stridently obscene in its desire to distract and confuse. The production is focused on satiating the basest component of visual desire and nothing more. It’s offensive.

05-26-16

The Meddler

Posted in Comedy, Drama on May 26, 2016 by Mark Hobin

 photo meddler_zpsymwvy5tf.jpg photo starrating-3stars.jpgThese days, Susan Sarandon is more likely to make headlines with her political beliefs than her films. For the record, she was in the minor hit Tammy two years prior in 2014. However that was more of a comedic vehicle for Melissa McCarthy than an opportunity for the Oscar winner to stretch her acting chops. Curiously, this time around she has to share space in equal billing with Rose Byrne on the movie poster. Make no mistake, however, Susan Sarandon is the indisputable star of The Meddler. Byrne, along with the rest of the cast: J. K. Simmons, Cecily Strong and Jerrod Carmichael exist as bit parts in support of the seasoned actress.

Susan Sarandon plays Marnie, a lonely widow who has moved from one coast to the other so she can be with her screenwriter daughter, Lori.   Feeling isolated and heartbroken, Marnie has left her home in New York for LA. Actually that’s New Yawk — spelled that way because she has the exaggerated accent to match.  Marnie’s husband has only recently passed away and so she is adjusting to a fresh restart. As the title conveys, Marnie attempts to get involved in Lori’s life: leaving frequent messages on her cell phone, dropping by with little notice, offering unsolicited advice. When her own daughter proves resistant to her interference, Marnie readjusts her priorities and moves on to encroaching upon the lives of the people she meets. There is Lori’s gal pal, the Apple store clerk and an elderly woman at the hospital. How this “kibitzer” changes the lives of these people is rather unforeseeable.

The Meddler is a production of modest charms. This is an account concerning ordinary people dealing with ordinary things. That makes it somewhat forgettable in a way, but the script is better than what you predict. Writer-director Lorene Scafaria penned Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, one of my favorites from 2008. The Meddler is her 2nd time behind the director’s chair after 2012’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. She does a great job of elevating the tale above the atmosphere of what could have been a routine sitcom. Scafaria’s intelligent screenplay has something genuinely interesting to say about loss, grief and how those issues can affect us as we age.

The Meddler subverts expectations. As the narrative begins to play out, I kept anticipating that Marnie would become the butt of the joke, but she never does. Usually relegated as a background character, Susan Sarandon’s role is reminiscent of a sitcom trope I call “overbearing mom to celebrity comedian”. Yet she is not banished to the background of the story, she IS the story. The plot is lovingly constructed around her saga. She is sweetly sympathetic. She behaves like a caring mom, if perhaps a bit suffocating. If nothing else, the drama is a suitable showcase for the veteran performer. It’s nice to see that in 2016, great actresses of a certain age can still excel in indie films amidst all the FX and explosions of blockbuster Hollywood. This has been a recent trend. Sally Field and Helen Mirren have also scored this year with indie hits. Susan Sarandon’s achievement is more than enough reason to enjoy The Meddler.

05-19-16

The Nice Guys

Posted in Action, Comedy, Crime, Drama with tags on May 22, 2016 by Mark Hobin

 photo nice_guys_ver2_zpsk3d3imaa.jpg photo starrating-3stars.jpgBuddy film about Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a hapless private eye and Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), a paid enforcer. The pair team up to solve the seemingly unrelated disappearance of a runaway teen (Margaret Qualley), and the apparent suicide of porn starlet (Murielle Telio).

The Nice Guys was not only written but also directed by Shane Black.  A celebrated screenwriter, he penned Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. With its fast talking, neo-noir stylings, his script here could be inspired by the work of Raymond Chandler. That Oscar-nominated screenwriter and author was known for seminal detective novels like The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye. However Shane Black’s script isn’t as organized to bear comparison with Chandler’s writing. The plot is made up of various story threads thrown together in a dramatic blender that favors messy incongruity over twisty coherence.

The Nice Guys succeeds best when it’s going for laughs. Crowe is an effective straight man. Gosling is enjoyable as the comic relief. As hired muscle and private eye respectively, they make an amusing duo. Actress Angourie Rice plays Gosling’s 14 year old daughter, Holly March, a nice addition to the mix. Holly desperately wants to help her father out with his business, much to his dismay. She is an appealing presence, but she also brings out the more benevolent qualities of the two men. Their more iniquitous traits are downplayed when she is around. She steals every scene too. In fact, the narrative might have benefited if it had been simplified solely around a father-daughter crime fighting team.

The Nice Guys is at heart, a simple B-movie thriller dressed up as a period piece. The feature is a loving evocation of 1970s excess. Polyester suits, bom chicka wah wah guitar riffs and Playboy mansion style parties uplift the environment with a kitschy retro sheen.  That’s fun, but then there’s a lot of extraneous story nonsense here that is wholly unnecessary.  Less is more.  A basic tale is obstructed with a convoluted plot involving the mistaken identities of two lookalikes, the porn world, government corruption, and a whole lot of murders. One, in particular, is especially depressing because the victim gets away from the killer only to be murdered by him minutes later while hitchhiking to escape. Zany comedy mixed with violence is a difficult balancing act. The uneven tone can be off-putting. Still, there’s enough jokes and charisma to make up for the unsavory stretches that occasionally bring this production down. The slapdash recipe is generally a tasty one.

05-22-16

Decades Blogathon – The Ten Commandments (1956)

Posted in Adventure, Drama, History with tags on May 18, 2016 by Mark Hobin

The Decades Blogathon (2016) is an online event hosted by Mark (not me – another one) at Three Rows Back and Tom at Digital Shortbread. Two great movie review sites that invite like minded cinephiles to write about any particular film of their choosing. The only provision: choose a picture from any decade with the year ending in ‘6’ (given that it’s now 2016). That’s it.

It began on Monday, May 16 and contributions were limited to 20 so I feel honored to have been able to participate. Here’s my reflection on an old favorite:

three rows back

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May 17, 2016

Decades Blogathon – The Fountain (2006)

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1956Welcome to day three of the Decades Blogathon – 6 edition – hosted by myself and the one and only Tom from Digital Shortbread! The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the sixth year of the decade. Tom and I will run a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post); and today we feature this excellent contribution from Mark at Fast Film Review – Cecil B. DeMille’s epic The Ten Commandments.

This lavish, Technicolor extravaganza shot in VistaVision is Cecil B. DeMille’s last and most celebrated work. Remaking his own 1923 black and white silent movie, The Ten Commandments is a sumptuous religious epic.

Pure soap opera is woven into the Old Testament story about a man whose perspective changes when he realises his…

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Dough

Posted in Comedy, Drama on May 16, 2016 by Mark Hobin

 photo Dough_zpsuhvg2vma.jpg photo starrating-3stars.jpgUndemanding little piffle that concerns the elderly Jewish proprietor (Jonathan Pryce) of a struggling Kosher bakery in London’s East End . Nat has continued the vocation of his father. However his little business has fallen on hard times due to local competition. Rather than follow in Nat’s footsteps, his own married son (Daniel Caltagirone) has become a lawyer. He encourages Nat to sell the shop. To add insult to injury, Nat’s sole employee has recently quit to go work for what can only be referred to as his evil competitor, a grocery-store chain called Cotton’s. In a bind, he hesitantly hires Ayyash (Holder), a young Muslim immigrant (Jerome Holder) from Africa.

Dough is just as cliched as it sounds. Ayyash is a troubled teen who also happens to deal marijuana. Trying to juggle both jobs is not easy. Wacky shenanigans ensue. I won’t spoil a specific plot point because it is the only thing that occurs that is mildly unpredictable. Although even the trailer gives that away. Sprinkle in a villainous corporate type (Philip Davis), a local drug kingpin (Ian Hart), a love interest (Pauline Collins) and a story that wildly careens from sensitive drama into a zany heist movie. The store’s problems are ultimately fixed with a happy solution that seemingly solves all their woes out of thin air. The remedy is cheekily independent of all the convoluted developments we have endured. It renders everything we watched irrelevant, but then we wouldn’t have a movie, would we?

Dough is pleasant enough. If you’re looking for a sweet British confection that doesn’t tax your brain, you should be entertained. Jonathan Pryce and Jerome Holder are working with cardboard characters but they give them life. They are captivating despite the utter predictability of the narrative. I mean, how much do you wanna bet that these disparate individuals will eventually learn to embrace each other’s differences by the end? This is essentially one of those culture clash sitcoms from the 1970s with a few minor tweaks. Anyone remember Chico and the Man? I miss that show.

05-12-16

Sing Street

Posted in Drama, Music, Musical with tags on May 8, 2016 by Mark Hobin

 photo sing_street_zpsduq0wmav.jpg photo starrating-4andahalfstars.jpgA new film from director John Carney is reason to celebrate. The filmmaker specializes in low-budget indie pictures where music plays an integral part. He knows a thing or two about constructing a compelling romance too. Sweetness, optimism and soul – he includes all the things that turn a movie into something you want to keep close to your heart. Once won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for 2007. In 2013 Begin Again was nominated for the very same award. Now comes Sing Street and if there’s any justice, one of these tunes will get nominated too. Honestly I’d be happy if the entire Oscar category was made up of choices from this film. May I suggest “The Riddle Of The Model”, “Up”, “To Find You”, “Drive It Like You Stole It”, and “Girls”.  The songs are exuberant. What a delight that the substance of the emotional story, matches the music for sincerity and charm.

Sing Street is the sweet tale of a teen boy (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) in 1980s Dublin who likes a girl (Lucy Boynton) and forms a band just to impress her. The drama and their group, is named after Synge Street, an all-boys Catholic school run by the Christian Brothers that lead vocalist Conor attends. Largely autobiographical, it’s also the same school that director John Carney attended back in the corresponding decade. One day our young hero spies beautiful Raphina standing on the street. He starts a conversation. She seems disinterested. He invites her to be in their music video. She accepts. Just one problem. He doesn’t have a band.

The initial preparations sound like a set-up for failure, but we’re living in the 1980s where a little bit of know-how and a whole lot of confidence is all you need to succeed. Conor, who decides to call himself Cosmo, gradually assembles a rock group selected from his classmates. Truth be told, these kids have a lot of talent. I only wish we got to know their personalities a little better. I have never seen actor Ferdia Walsh-Peelo before, but he is positively winning. Lucy Boynton is Raphina his love interest who stars as the model in their video. Her influence is felt. She introduces the guys to hair gel and eyeliner, styling them in the New Romantic movement of inspirations like Haircut One Hundred and A Flock Of Seagulls. Their look gleefully straddles the line between amateurish and cool.

“The Riddle Of The Model” is the first single of their newly formed band. The accompanying video they shoot is pure joy. Fun and infectious, it’s edited like those primitive MTV videos of the early 1980s. It’s a testament to the quality of the arrangements that the original songs stand up alongside actual 80s hits by Hall & Oates, Duran Duran and The Cure. Their melodic style sort of imitates the new wave/pop hits of the era. They flourish but not without first encountering the requisite challenges that you know they’ll overcome by the time the drama is over. Conor deals with a tough classmate and an even tougher principal. No the narrative isn’t the most innovative thing in the world, but it sure is entertaining. Released in April and steadily expanding into May, this is the kind of little production that can easily get lost in a summer of superheroes, alien attacks and talking fish. Hopefully it will ultimately find a place in the hearts of the masses over the passage of time. It’s among the best movies I’ve seen this year.

04-28-16

Captain America: Civil War

Posted in Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Superhero on May 6, 2016 by Mark Hobin

 photo captain_america_civil_war_ver15_zps6veouhci.jpg photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgIt’s amazing how two superhero movies can share nearly identical themes, and yet be so different in what they achieve. It was just six short weeks prior that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released. Although the movie was a success at the box office, it received a critical drubbing from many viewers (this critic included). Now we have the release of Marvel’s latest opus, a movie built around the ultimate showdown between two warring factions of the Avengers. The motivation of revenge for the central antagonist is the same. Even the way in which to exact revenge is the same. Despite the similarities, the satisfaction derived from each film is a study in contrasts. Captain America: Civil War is the far superior picture. No surprise. By now, everyone knows Marvel has perfected the ongoing storyline across sequels down to a science.

If you’re not up on your Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, this is presented in name as a sequel to the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In that adventure, we learned that Captain America’s friend, Bucky Barnes was captured and experimented upon during WWII. He was brainwashed into a trained assassin using mind control. Although Civil War also concerns the much larger picture as to what happed more recently in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The number of civilian deaths as a result of the war in Sokovia has become a global concern. Can the Avengers be partially held accountable? The United Nations is preparing to pass the Sokovia Accords, an international agreement designed to limit and control the Avengers.

The Avengers are torn apart into two factions: one led by Captain America (Chris Evans) and the other by Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Captain America’s anti-registration squad is composed of Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Iron Man’s pro accord team is comprised of Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and War Machine (Don Cheadle). New VIPs Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) also join up on this side as well. Side note: Thor and the Hulk are conspicuously absent for reasons that seemed a little murky, but honestly this movie already has plenty of speaking parts. While their absence is noticeable, it’s not crucial.

If all this exposition and characters sounds complicated, it is. This is a superhero film that subscribes to the idea that bigger is better. More cast members, more battles, more run time. At almost 2 1/2 hours, this does seem long and a bit overblown. Yet the strengths far exceed the weaknesses. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely deserve a lot of credit for making sense of all these events and distilling it into a narrative we can still follow and enjoy. The big fight featuring the whole gang is fashioned as a centerpiece of the drama. The choreography is appropriately spectacular. Surprises await and the showdown is a delight. Although shaky camera work and rapid cuts do detract a little from the mostly rousing action sequences.

With all the personalities, Civil War, truly plays out like a third Avengers movie, besting Age of Ultron (2015) for emotional depth, but lacking the breezy joy of The Avengers (2012). The story is at its best in quieter moments when it focuses on the personality of the individual. The narrative gives clear, understandable reasons as to why each superhero aligns with the side that they do. Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr deserve major kudos for anchoring the production with sincere performances that captivate our attention. That’s not easy to do with a cast of this magnitude. In a film full of many highs, I did not expect Ant-Man & Spider-Man to be at the very top.  Both have amusing vignettes that make the promise of 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming and 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp something I am now willing to embrace rather than dread. Additionally the heavy emotional burden that Bucky Barnes carries as the Winter Soldier is emphasized. His relationship with Steve Rogers, his buddy since childhood, is affirmed as well. These cast members stand out in a roster that is uniformly excellent. I could cite more characters and the traits that make them interesting but that would spoil the fun of discovery. It’s their complex backstories that help secure our interest in the personal dynamics of these people. They give the heroes depth. That is what makes Captain America: Civil War so gosh darn entertaining.

05-05-16

Green Room

Posted in Crime, Horror, Thriller with tags on May 2, 2016 by Mark Hobin

 photo green_room_ver2_zpsszgyt22s.jpg photo starrating-3stars.jpgThe release of writer-director Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival heralded an important new talent. Only his second feature, it was the winner of the FIPRESCI award that year. The chronicle was ostensibly about an emotionally damaged, shadow of a man, out for revenge. What made that grisly thriller so much more than just a routine genre exercise, was that we somehow sympathized with the lead character and his plight.

Now Saulnier is back with Green Room, another well constructed, but no less gruesome, labor of malevolence. It concerns The Ain’t Rights, a down and out punk band from the East Coast, desperate for a paying gig. They appear to be in their mid-20s. Despite their youth, the four group members (played by Alia Shawkat, Anton Yelchin, Callum Turner and Joe Cole) have a kind of a been-there-seen-it-all world weariness that is rather amusing. They steal gas by siphoning it out of other cars, wake up in a cornfield because the driver fell asleep, and attend a podcast interview that is incredibly awkward. A question about their favorite “desert island band” becomes an amusing running gag throughout the entire picture right up through to the very last line of dialogue. The movie teases with humorous asides initially, but humor is not really the fabric of the film.

The proper tale begins when the foursome is booked to play a gig at a remote club in the woods outside Portland, Oregon. Unbeknownst to them, the bar is actually a popular hangout for neo-Nazi skinheads. The young punk rockers aren’t too keen on white supremacists, but they need the cash, so they play their set for the rowdy patrons and collect their money. As they’re about to leave, an extremely tense situation develops and the band is prevented from leaving by the skinhead bouncers. This is all under the direction of the club’s owner, Darcy, a calm white supremacist leader, portrayed in an inspired bit of casting by Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Patrick Stewart. A less than committed skinhead (Imogen Poots), becomes an unexpected ally of our protagonists.

At first the band tries to calmly talk their way out of a sticky situation, but their negotiations fail. Now it’s punks vs. skinheads in an all out game of cat and mouse. The drama begins intelligently with words but ends morbidly with slaughter.  Ah but what are the stakes? There is an assortment of random human beings, but character development is anemic at best. Without that emotional connection, our desire to even give a care is severely diminished. Director Jeremy Saulnier relies on rising tension and it works for awhile. However after 60 minutes, the dialogue becomes less needed to further developments. Gore emerges as the story in the final third. Le carnage extraordinaire is the ultimate agenda for the day. People are sliced, diced and mutilated with guns, machetes and killer dogs. It’s competently done I suppose, but it’s not as terrifying as the intense standoff that came before it. It’s exactly what I expected would happen and after Blue Ruin, I expect more from Mr. Saulnier.

04-24-16