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Out in Theaters: ‘GREEN ROOM’

Hot from the critical heralding of Blue Ruin, Jeremy Saulnier returns to the world of white trash and movies with colors in their title with Green Room. An ultraviolet fantasy of viscus and vengeance, Green Room is as unapologetic as a Misfits album, as dead-serious as a KKK rally and as boastfully savage as a scalping. Characters find themselves torn to kibble by attack dogs, slashed to crimson ropes by box cutters and blasted in the face at point blank range with shotguns. Read More

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Out In Theaters: ‘KNIGHT OF CUPS’

Terrence Malick’s latest game of twiddle sticks cinema peppers the landscape of celebrity ennui with vacuous narrative threads and listless visual poetry. A meandering, overlong death march towards nothingness, the latest from the American auteur is a showcase of a man who’s more than worn out his welcome, who has drip-dried every ounce of juice from the same re-wrung fruit  but still yet splashed it up on the screen like a car wreck. Anyone familiar with Malick’s filmography knows to expect little more of Knight of Cups than Christian Bale wandering the corridors of celebrity mansions, beautiful beach fronts and abandoned, dilapidated buildings while whispered trite reveries titter on in the background, theoretically contributing to a greater sense of purpose (that is just not there). In that regard, Malick has played to his devout audience bullheadedly,  ignoring any and all critiques of his last critical flounder, To The Wonder,  pursuing his own self-parodying style to pertinacious rigidity. Read More

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Sundance ’16 Review: ‘GREEN ROOM’

Hot from the critical heralding of Blue Ruin, Jeremy Saulnier returns to the world of white trash and movies with colors in their title with Green Room. An ultraviolet fantasy of viscus and vengeance, Green Room is as unapologetic as a Misfits album, as dead-serious as a KKK rally and as boastfully savage as a scalping. Characters find themselves torn to kibble by attack dogs, slashed to crimson ropes by box cutters and blasted in the face at point blank range with shotguns. Read More

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Out in Theaters: NEED FOR SPEED

“Need for Speed”
Directed by Scott Waugh
Starring Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots, Dominic Cooper, Rami Malek, Harrison Gilbertson, Ramon Rodriquez, Michael Keaton
Action, Crime, Drama
121 Mins
PG-13

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Need For Speed
is the kind of movie that the descriptor “high octane” was conceived for. It’s dumb but technically competent enough to pander to the NASCAR hillbilly types and Formula One engine snobs at once. But with neck-breaking car stunts and tightrope tension, it’ll keep your posterior numb and your adrenaline glands humming. Promising that if you get up for a bathroom break, you’re sure to miss something, Need for Speed rockets forth at breakneck speeds, blasting past the roadblocks of story beats and into head-on collisions with nonsense. In the very least, Scott Waugh has seemed to eek past the first set of crash dummy drafts as the undeniably cinematic experience he presents seems more finely tuned than one might first expect. It’s no Chauser but, at the very least, it won’t require you to strap in for a crash course on idiocracy.  

Setting the events to a ticking clock is a bit of a stroke of genius on screenwriter George Gatin‘s behalf as this provides the perfect framework for a movie about fast cars driving fast that has little to offer outside of the temptation of increasingly sleeker, and more European, cars set against an Imogen Poots stripping down layers by the ten minute marker. It’s seduction 101 and it works wonders.

As a movie based on a video game, Speed hits all the marks of mainstream adaptation one would expect, complete with shameless product placement and leggy blondes to ogle at. But beneath the veneer of corporate construction, this is a movie that reaches slightly above the plastic wrappings of strict VG adaptations. There’s obvious fun taking place beyond the lens and, thankfully, it’s the kind of fun we can actually revel in.

Michael Keaton, for one, is having the time of his life and his hammy performance as the illusive Monarch is representative of Need for Speed at large. As he goofs into the mic, accessorized with gaudy, almost Elvis-esque, shades and a flashy wardrobe, he’s the ridiculous meta commentary this kind of movie needs. He’s the outlet for the film’s sarcastic self-mockery and only with his kind of wink-wink-nudge-nudge attitude is Need for Speed able to get away with all its gravity-defying shenanigans.

Piping hot off the untouchable success of Breaking Bad, Aaron Paul is given a chance to reinvent his image in this more mainstream, but still mostly antihero, personality. Moving away from his persona of forlorn but corruptible Jesse Pinkman and into a guy that we can feasibly buy as a studio action figure, Paul, like Jesse in his fleeting moments, has started down a long and windy road. Even though he’s been (mostly) shaved clean and (as far as we know) isn’t at any point addicted to meth, he shares the chiseled brand of intensity – raging yet dopey – that we’ve come to know spending time with Jesse. For his part though, Paul’s still immensely watchable. We see the gears work as Paul faces the canals of yet another moral trauma; the ticktock of a man on the edge of his rope. No one does wounded like Paul. He’s got haunted down pat.

But regardless of how many times Paul and Waugn try to push the idea that Need for Speed is nothing like Fast and the Furious, don’t believe a word of it. What we’ve got here is very much in the same wheelhouse and a good hair below in quality. Beyond the cars, crimes and carnage, the biggest similarity is the ensemble-driven cast. Speed, whether intentionally or not, seeks to recreate a familiar team of interracial, eclectic banditos. We’ve got the wisecracking black man, the reliable Latino, the standard cut white dude and a vaguely Middle Eastern mechanical genius. It is a surprise however that Scott Mescudi (or Kid Cudi as he’s known in hip hop circles) stands out most amongst a dudery that includes Dominic Cooper, Rami Malek, Harrison Gilbertson and Ramon Rodriquez. I guess there’s something behind the unadulterated charisma of rappers that translates well into onscreen supporting characters. Who knew?

C

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Out in Theaters: THAT AWKWARD MOMENT

“That Awkward Moment”
Directed by Tom Gormican
Starring Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, Imogen Poots, Mackenzie Davis, Jessica Lucas
Comedy, Romance
94 Mins
R

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A butt ugly rom-com masquerading as a dude’s night out, That Awkward Moment sees women fawning over tools and douchebags for their tooliness and douchebaggery. After all, ain’t women just the dumbest?!

This farce of a comedy is so tone deaf to the complex intricacies of gender that it’s so ruthlessly trying to break down that audiences on either side of the genitalia fence will find themselves scoffing in affronted disbelief. I mean, this is a movie that presumes that all guys live for the next one night stand and find commitment on the same level as getting capped in the knee. Women, no matter how beautiful and talented, on the other hand find themselves lucky just to be in the presence of these idols of douche. No matter how many times their needs are forgotten, ignored or actively trampled, they’ll always come running back because… guys are hot. AMIRIGHT?

After stunning breakout performances last year, it’s a certifiable shame to see Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan’s considerable talent put to absolute waste in this turd sandwich of a film. Teller manages to slide in the only few chuckles but even his jesting persona is overcast with a torrent of sleaze, the main ingredient this film has served up. Even though he’s the only one actually committing here, Michael B. Jordan might as well have been phased in from another brand of C-grade rom-com as his super-sized cheesy, level 11 cliché romantic subplot butts heads with the should-be elbow nudging plot line going on with the other fellas.

This rehashed bro dramedy, or bramedy, is at it’s core a collection of defunct disparate pieces blended together in a distasteful stock of familiar genre truisms. There’s the heavily muscled front man (Efron), a chick-bangin’ machine who drinks whiskey and dresses like every day is a frat party; the wingman best friend (Teller), another go-getter of epic lady-scoring potential; and the heartbroken third (Jordan) trying to get the wind back beneath his cuckolded wings.

Efron’s leading lady and central foil, Imogen Poots, though undeniably adorable, is as intellectually and emotionally stagnant as the picture itself. But let’s give credit where credit is due, she is gorgeous. Even beyond that orbit of eye makeup, she is simply stunning. Unfortunately for her, her looks can only carry her so far and when her performance isn’t even able to keep her American accent in check, there’s signs of a serious breakdown. She plays cute fine but I’m not convinced she’s trying. It’s one thing to be natural, it’s quite another to just stand in front of a camera acting like yourself and riding into the sunset on your looks.

Speaking of capitalizing in the old looks department, Zac Efron here has the depth of a hair gel commercial. Arrogant, dimwitted and cocky, with a bad and flagrantly sexist attitude to boot, Efron’s brand of bro ho is the epitome of how Americans ought not self-represent. That Awkward Moment tells us early on that this is the generation lead by the selfish. It then goes on to cram that point down our throats for the next grueling 95 minutes. No one is more of a shining beacon of selfish oaf than Efron. And though he’s not to blame for the heinously unpleasant script (that comes courtesy of debut director Tom Gormican) he fails to bring an ounce of humanity to the picture. Frankly, I could never see him on the screen again and be all the happier for it. Unlike his co-stars, Efron is a dying star; he’s burned bright and will soon fizzle out.

Hateful and misogynist dreck that The Awkward Moment is all just boils down to a less clever modern retelling of Josh Harnett‘s 40 Days and 40 Nights, tone deaf to how distasteful its message is and blind to the unblinking plagiarism of a thousand different rom coms. Basically devoid of comedy, this is a strange beast that really has no audience and chastises the audience it does have. While comedies tend to be more male-centric and rom-coms most certainly female-centric, this is a film that guys will find repugnant and girls will be insulted by. It must be hoping to find its audience amongst the pea-brained and unscrupulous. As for the title, I’m not sure exactly which awkward moment the film is referring to as there were so many jokes left hanging in the air, waiting for the other shoe to drop, that the whole affair is one long, half-wincing awkward moment. At least they hit the nail on the head somewhere.

D

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