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Out in Theaters: ‘LIFE’

Life is deja vu. Not life itself mind you – let’s say that debate for the existentialist philosophers – but Life, the hacky, trashy alien thriller from director Daniel Espinosa. From a distance, the trailers for the film suggested a film that borrowed heavily from Ridley Scott’s treasured Alien but we’re all smart enough to know that trailers are just marketing tools, often constructed to stimulate nostalgia nodules to sell a product to audiences. So imagine my shock when Life was quite literally nothing less than a watered-down, unimaginative, worthless thieving of one of my favorite films of all time. Seriously, how in the actual fuck is this happening? Let’s examine. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘NOCTURNAL ANIMALS’

In 2009, Austin, Texas native and noted fashion designer Tom Ford made his feature film debut with A Single Man. A delirious and stunningly photographed vision quest through loss and grief, A Single Man defined Ford as a filmmaker whose haute couture background greatly influenced his aesthetic and in turn his very process. Earning a Best Actor nomination for Colin Firth, A Single Man also established Ford as an actor’s director and helped in turn attract the likes of two of Hollywood’s finest, Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams, for his latest feature, Nocturnal Animals. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘DEMOLITION’

Life has a tendency to zip forward on a single, amusement ride track until something or someone comes barreling out of the shadows of entropy to buck your stated momentum and set you serendipitously down a new path. 17th century physicist Isaac Newton described the phenomenon in which colliding forces impress upon one another an equal and opposite reaction in his famous Third Law, which describes both why someone struck by a moving vehicle would find their chest caved in and someone catching a bad edge going a cool 30 mph on decade old skis would find their wrist contorted in all kinds of wrong directions. Read More

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SXSW ’16 Review: ‘DEMOLITION’

Life has a tendency to zip forward on a single, amusement ride track until something or someone comes barreling out of the shadows of entropy to buck your stated momentum and set you serendipitously down a new path. 17th century physicist Isaac Newton described the phenomenon in which colliding forces impress upon one another an equal and opposite reaction in his famous Third Law, which describes both why someone struck by a moving vehicle would find their chest caved in and someone catching a bad edge going a cool 30 mph on decade old skis would find their wrist contorted in all kinds of wrong directions. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘EVEREST’

Human beings simply aren’t built to function at the cruising altitude of a 747. At 29,000 feet, you body is literally dying. Lack of oxygen becomes a toxic, poisoning the brain and forcing your body to shut down non-vital organs. At such heights, it’s near impossible to breathe without a tank of O. Beholding Everest on a proper IMAX screen, I too found myself gasping for air. It’s literally breathtaking. Read More

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Out in Theaters: SOUTHPAW

It’s been since 2001’s Training Day that Antoine Fuqua has delivered a true knockout. Southpaw is no exception. The Pittsburg-born director has faced no challenges scraping together talent; amassing casts and crews that regularly featured A-listers at the top of their game, screenwriters on the fast track to success, composers in highest demand. He also hasn’t been treated to a movie falling on the fresh side of the spectrum since 2001. Sure, The Equalizer eeked by on Denzel Washington’s cool, collected killing spree antics but critics (and audiences) knew that Fuqua’s product was less than perfect. And this gets us to Southpaw, a film that’s definitively less than perfect. Read More

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Out in Theaters: NIGHTCRAWLER

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With a name as innocuous as Louis Bloom, you wouldn’t initially suspect the lead character of Nightcrawler to be so dangerous. But the virulent Lou is the kind of guy who dissolves into shadows; who feeds vampirically in the darkness. He’s not a villain so much as a force of nature. Silent but deadly. His politeness is alarming, starkly juxtaposed by the edgy vibration of his piercing, bulbous eyes. His word choice; precise as a bone saw. His demeanor; direct but detached. Like a drone. He’s a bug-eyed Terminator sans the metallic endoskeleton; a top-knotted Patrick Bateman without the 401K. In the role, Jake Gyllenhaal is angelic. He’s equally demonic. He’s perfect mopping up uncomfortable silences, guttural laughs and wry grins like a janitor in a milking cow factory.

Caught in the high beams of a night patrolman, Lou materializes from the shadows like an apparition. A ghoulish grin masking his face. He notes his trespassing is accidental. He also notes the pricy hunk of watch adorning the wrist of the Paul Blart eying him with petulant suspicion. The next scene, it’s Lou wearing the watch.

Throughout the film, Lou’s facial expressions percolate with a kind of serpentine other-worldliness. As if his tongue could dart from his mouth at any moment to nip at the night air. It doesn’t. He remains squarely within the realm of the human. No matter how inhumane he is. A testament to Dan Gilroy‘s narrow degree of restraint and Gyllenhaal’s tightrope-walking ability.

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When we meet Lou, he’s a drifter; fencing fences and manhole covers. Begging for jobs with an armory of interview-friendly terminology and all the manicured motions of a “respectable” human being. At a car crash, he yanks his beatermobile to the shoulder to observe its burny grotesqueries and runs into Joe Loder, a TV news freelancer who roams the nights to capture domestic implosions on film. Loder (Bill Paxton) says the job is hell. The next scene, Lou has camera in tow, hunting down the next suburban calamity. It isn’t long before he’s whipping up his own crime scenes and hiring a slacky intern (Riz Ahmed).

In his junker motorcade of journalistic un-tegrity, Lou rips a hole through the banality of the LA night, hunting down the next big tragedy like a slobbering machine, manipulating it when need be and selling it off to the news producer running the graveyard shift, Nina (Rene Russo). Camcorders are his business cards. Bloody car crashes his boardrooms. Murdered families, the money shot coup de grâce to end a good night on.

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Nina knows the business is blood sport. Local news is nothing but modern day gladiatorial work. She’s titillated by promises of gory plane crashes. B&E’s are her bee’s knees. She wets herself over triple homicides. Russo holds the performance together by the skin of her teeth, refusing to reveal weakness behind that modernized beehive and liberal thrashing of makeup. As the tension mounts between Lou and Nina, a new dynamic takes shape: one that’s uproariously creepy and carnally delicious. Watching Lou sic Nina is watching the hungry wolf lick his chops before he preys.

Piggybacking on my earlier Patrick Bateman comparison, Nightcrawler deals in a similar brand of corporate black humor as American Psycho, taking aim at the blanket sensationalization of news and, to a lesser degree, our woeful economic state. It’s wickedly funny in a deadpan, threatening kind of way – like Nick Nolte – with Gyllenhaal’s knockout performance informing the laughs like a conductor with a rosewood baton. He is the slaughterer of the lamb, we the vultures come to pick the bones. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll eat up the meaty sarcasm like roast beef on Christmas.

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To see the transformation of the shmuck with the Wall Street name from lowly drifter to certifiable media mogul is enough reason to see the film, even though it drags along some basic fixer-uppers that stick out uncomfortably. James Newton Howard‘s score – the man responsible for music-ing such clunkers as Maleficent, Parkland, After Earth, Snow White and the Huntsman, Green Lantern, The Green Hornet, The Tourist and more – often feels out of place, as if it were teleported in from an entirely different movie from an entirely different genre. Howard was scoring a straight thriller as we watched a brutally dark comedy unfold. It’s never in junction with the piece so much as it detracts from it with blast after blast of heavy-handed straightforwardness and a tonal lack of understanding the subtle transformations of character. Were Trent Reznor or Cliff Martinez behind the music, it would have stood out that much more.

Further, the film lacks an entirely solid starting and finishing point. The meat in between is so tender, so perfect, but it kind of drifts in and drifts out without the slap in the face that I both wanted and expected. Come on, punch me. I can handle it. But I guess it makes metaphorical sense for a movie of this nature to creep in and creep out without warning. If not for those few minor miscalculations, Nightcrawler could have driven itself into a sheer state of perfection.

A nightcrawler, not to be confused with the blue Russian teleport from the X-Men comics, is a bottom feeder. A succubus. A drive by job with a camera. They find you in your weakest moments – battered, bloodied and broken – and display it for the world to see. There’s no scruples in the line of work; no lines. It’s a brawl. A exploitative, invasive, harrowing brawl. And the public eats it up like pigs at the stye. They feed on it like vampires. They need it. The supply and demand chain is self-fulfilling. The watchers become the watched. Karma’s a bitch. Nightcrawler finds its target audience like a lumpy tumor, poking it and prodding it with the precision of a surgeon. It’s often equally as brilliant. Lou likes to say that if you’re seeing him, it’s the worst day of your life. Quite the opposite can be said about this film.

A

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Out in Theaters: ENEMY

“Enemy”
Directed Denis Villeneuve
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini
Erotic Thriller
90 Mins
R

Enemy.jpg

Doppelgangers have been contemplated endlessly in history. Shortly before he died, Abraham Lincoln wrote in his diary that he had dreamt an encounter with his doppelganger. It’s an eerie concept:  two completely identical copies in the same dimension. Cloning isn’t natural, it’s dangerous, un-Godly. Dopplegangers bring out the evil inside.

“Chaos is order yet undeciphered,” flashes on the screen in deep yellow font. Enemy tricks and weaves, flowing its way through psyche until you’re left wondering what’s true and false, what’s real and what’s not.

Enemy is steganography in its purest form. Every twist and turn holds some truth within the winding web Director Denis Villeneuve spins. All is hidden in plain sight, or maybe it isn’t hidden at all.

The film is based on a Spanish novel, The Double, which looks into the life of a man who meets his exact replica, a man who can ruin his life. Jake Gyllenhaal is a history teacher at a university in Toronto. He lectures about time, about Mesopotamian empires. These empires use distractions to divert the masses, to entertain them and keep them at bay. History repeats itself. Time is a flat circle.

But the film doesn’t begin there. Another Jake Gyllenhaal walks through a dimly lit corridor, sliding a key into an austere door, revealing a strange underground club of ponderous-looking men. There’s a main stage. A pregnant woman masturbates in front of them. She orgasms. Gyllenhaal buries his face in his hands. He’s shocked.

Then, the main attraction. A woman walks out with a silver platter. She disrobes, pulls the lid off the silver plate. Out steps a tarantula crawling around the stage.

Gyllenhaal—the history teacher—he’s boring. We’re not sure who that just was at that Tarantula mess, but it definitely wasn’t him. It couldn’t have been. This man’s too clean-cut. His evenings are spent tangled in bed railing his girlfriend, falling asleep alone when she goes home. His days are spent delivering the same lecture, over and over again. History repeats itself. Time is a flat circle.

One day a colleague tells him to check out a movie. What movie? Any movie. Sure, why not? Not like he’s got much else to do.

Gyllenhaal rents a random film, pops it into his laptop. A deep organ sounds, the score eviscerating the scene, ripping the emotions out of you: there’s another Jake Gyllenhaal, an extra in the film dressed as a bellhop.

Enemy_2.jpg
Enemy
catches you quick, pinning you down, choking you to the edge of that last breath. Things cavalcade, piling on until the tension boils over. Contributing foremost is the sound design, which is monstrous, creeping and crawling like an eight-legged beast on your skin, making you shiver at the slightest touch. The organ tones, the elegiac score pulsate and drip their venom in your deepest corners. Daniel Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans spin a masterpiece, weaving you and garroting you until you turn blue.

Villeneuve is no stranger to quirky set design. Rooms in the film are eerily dressed, calling attention to the empty space as if there’s something lurking underneath, inside, everywhere. Every set piece has an uncanny quality. A bed with green sheets takes on the appearance of a murderer. For a film that relies so heavily on symbology to confuse and contort, Enemy’s set-work is a masterpiece.

Enemy has an incandescent glow to it, a yellow hue mixed in with the dark shadows. Villeneuve wipes his color pallet clean save a gelatinous yellow and a ghastly black. Walls ooze a chaotic nausea. This film uses color psychology to wreck your psyche, gnaw at you with anxiety on the brain. Every symbol, every color in Enemy is carefully thought out, fine-tuned to bring out the soul’s deepest fears and terrors. It’s a creepy brand of traumatic.

We mustn’t forget Jake Gyllenhaal, however, who here collaborates with Villeneuve again after their work on Prisoners. Gyllenhaal has two credits in Enemy, possibly more. He plays too men, completely identical yet separately unique. When they meet, their temperaments flash. One is aggressive, almost murderous; the other is terrified, squirmish. They pull up their shirts to reveal the same scar. Were they born on the same day? History repeats itself. Time is a flat circle.

What occurs as Enemy progresses is quaking, the earth below your feet seems to tremor faster and faster, moving its way up the Richter scale. A floating Tarantula as big as a Goodyear blimp slinks its way over Toronto. A woman’s body with a Tarantula’s head walks upside down through a corridor. At 90 minutes, it shrinks and expands the mind, then ends abruptly with no questions answered. Enemy is a rollercoaster personally designed by the Devil. Twist and turn, crash and burn.

Billed as an erotic psycho-thriller, Enemy is bare as “After Dark” on CineMax, but far more violently erotic. Naked bodies contort together, almost like two spiders dancing on a delicate web. Aggressive, deep thrusts and hollow moans add to the erogenous aura that swallows the theater whole. Villeneuve uses sex like a weapon, goring open the mind’s thoughts and bleeding them out like venom. Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon are splendid in their supporting roles. They make writhing spine-tinglingly sexy.

I have never left a theater so thoroughly mind-wrecked. Gyllenhaal’s gritty performance combined with all the production elements that Villeneuve flaunts breaks this story open. They subject you to their hegemony then trap you in it. The story is captivating, corrosive. It scared the shit out of me then left me fallow. This is more mysterious than Memento, more intricate than Inception. Enemy is the movie you’re too afraid not to watch twice. It will take a while to decipher this psychosomatic chaos.

A-

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Out in Theaters: ENEMY

“Enemy”
Directed Denis Villeneuve
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini
Erotic Thriller
90 Mins
R

Enemy.jpg

Doppelgangers have been contemplated endlessly in history. Shortly before he died, Abraham Lincoln wrote in his diary that he had dreamt an encounter with his doppelganger. It’s an eerie concept:  two completely identical copies in the same dimension. Cloning isn’t natural, it’s dangerous, un-Godly. Dopplegangers bring out the evil inside.

“Chaos is order yet undeciphered,” flashes on the screen in deep yellow font. Enemy tricks and weaves, flowing its way through the psyche until you’re left wondering what’s true and false, what’s real and what’s not.

Enemy is steganography in its purest form. Every twist and turn holds some truth within the winding web director Denis Villeneuve spins. All is hidden in plain sight, or maybe it isn’t hidden at all.

The film is based on a Spanish novel, The Double, which looks into the life of a man who meets his exact replica, a man who can ruin his life. Jake Gyllenhaal is a history teacher at a university in Toronto. He lectures about time, about Mesopotamian empires. These empires use distractions to divert the masses, to entertain them and keep them at bay. History repeats itself. Time is a flat circle.

But the film doesn’t begin there. Another Jake Gyllenhaal walks through a dimly lit corridor, sliding a key into an austere door, revealing a strange underground club of ponderous-looking men. There’s a main stage. A pregnant woman masturbates in front of them. She orgasms. Gyllenhaal buries his face in his hands. He’s shocked.

Then, the main attraction. A woman walks out with a silver platter. She disrobes, pulls the lid off the silver plate. Out steps a tarantula crawling around the stage.

Gyllenhaal—the history teacher—he’s boring. We’re not sure who that just was at that Tarantula mess, but it definitely wasn’t him. It couldn’t have been. This man’s too clean-cut. He spends his evenings tangled in bed railing his girlfriend, falling asleep alone when she goes home. His days are spent delivering the same lecture, over and over again. History repeats itself. Time is a flat circle.

One day a colleague tells him to check out a movie made in the local scene. Sure, why not? Not like he’s got much else to do.

Gyllenhaal rents the film, pops it into his laptop. A deep organ sounds, the score eviscerating the scene, ripping the emotions out of you: there’s another Jake Gyllenhaal, an extra in the film dressed as a bellhop.

Enemy_2.jpg
Enemy
catches you quick, pinning you down, choking you to the edge of that last breath. Things cavalcade, piling on until the tension boils over. Contributing foremost is the sound design, which is monstrous, creeping and crawling like an eight-legged beast on your skin, making you shiver at the slightest touch. The organ tones, the elegiac score pulsate and drip their venom in your deepest corners. Daniel Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans spin a masterpiece, weaving you and garroting you until you turn blue.

Villeneuve is no stranger to quirky set design. Rooms in the film are eerily dressed, calling attention to the empty space as if there’s something lurking underneath, inside, everywhere. Every set piece has an uncanny quality. A bed with green sheets takes on the appearance of a murderer. For a film that relies so heavily on symbology to confuse and contort, Enemy’s set-work is a masterpiece.

Enemy also has an incandescent glow to it, a yellow hue mixed in with the dark shadows. Villeneuve wipes his color pallet clean save a gelatinous yellow and a ghastly black. Walls ooze a chaotic nausea. This film uses the psychology of color to wreck your psyche, gnaw at you with anxiety on the brain. Every symbol, every color in Enemy is carefully thought out, fine-tuned to bring out the soul’s deepest fears and terrors. It’s a creepy brand of traumatic.

We mustn’t forget Jake Gyllenhaal, however, who here collaborates with Villeneuve again after their work on Prisoners (even though this was filmed before that). Gyllenhaal has two credits in Enemy, possibly more. He plays too men, completely identical yet separately unique. When they meet, their temperaments flash. One is aggressive, almost murderous; the other is terrified, squirmish. They pull up their shirts to reveal the same scar. Were they born on the same day? History repeats itself. Time is a flat circle.

What occurs as Enemy progresses is quaking, the earth below your feet seems to tremor faster and faster, moving its way up the Richter scale. A floating Tarantula as big as a Goodyear blimp slinks its way over Toronto. A woman’s body with a Tarantula’s head walks upside down through a corridor. At 90 minutes, it shrinks and expands the mind, then ends abruptly with no questions answered. Enemy is a rollercoaster personally designed by the Devil. Twist and turn, crash and burn.

Billed as an erotic psycho-thriller, Enemy is bare as “After Dark” on CineMax, but far more violently erotic. Naked bodies contort together, almost like two spiders dancing on a delicate web. Aggressive, deep thrusts and hollow moans add to the erogenous aura that swallows the theater whole. Villeneuve uses sex like a weapon, goring open the mind’s thoughts and bleeding them out like venom. Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon are splendid in their supporting roles. They make writhing spine-tinglingly sexy.

I have never left a theater so thoroughly mind-wrecked. Gyllenhaal’s gritty performance combined with all the production elements that Villeneuve flaunts breaks this story open. They subject you to their hegemony then trap you in it. The story is captivating, corrosive. It scared the shit out of me then left me fallow. This is more mysterious than Memento, more intricate than Inception. Enemy is the movie you’re too afraid not to watch twice. It will take a while to decipher this psychosomatic chaos.

A-

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