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‘Sorry to Bother You’ Just Might

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It’s impossible to review Boots Riley’s directorial debut Sorry to Bother You without giving too much away. Before I spoil the surprises, let me say there is much to like about this surrealist dark comedy even as the film tries to toss you from the roller-coaster at regular intervals.

Cassius Green, the young African-American telemarketer played by Lakeith Stanfield, learns that faking a white voice on the phone is the only way to make money when cold calling. David Cross supplies the overdubbed white voice.

The thought of unionizing with his underpaid co-workers is thrown out the window when Cassius is promoted to Power Caller. Power Callers sell a whole different product – a work/life opportunity called WorryFree that is ostensibly slave labor. This doesn’t sit well with his unionizing friends, nor his artist/activist girlfriend Detroit, played by the impure-thought-inducing Tessa Thompson. Cassius has a choice to make that becomes clearer as the plot dives into absolute absurdity.

Nothing may prepare you for the half-horse half-human workhorses that show up in the third act.

Nothing may prepare you for the half-horse half-human workhorses that show up in the third act. Their B-movie bodies (replete with certain horse-like appendages) steal any bit of nuance from the story.

Armie Hammer plays Steve Lift, CEO of WorryFree, with a keen interest in leveraging Cassius as a “Martin Luther King type” workhorse he can control from the inside. Yes, there’s something to offend anyone that doesn’t know how to digest satire – from Detroit’s Murder Murder Murder earrings, to one dimensional white villains, an orgy scene, a two worded rap, and more horse peen than you can shake a stick at.

Yet it somehow works, at least for me. Reminds me of a time in the late eighties to mid-nineties when movies could be looser, made on the cheap, and weren’t expected to gross a hundred million dollars to be successful. Sorry to Bother You cost a little over three million and has made about fifteen as of this writing.

I’m not saying Boots Riley’s debut is comparable to, say, Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, but it does set the stage for his Do The Right Thing.

Using a host of pen names, Eric Curran has been blogging in one form or another for well over 10 years. He's a partner at One Track Mine, and also runs the blog Jealous Foodies.

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Daniel Ortiz Rants on: The Nun

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A priest with a haunted past and a novice on the threshold of her final vows are sent by the Vatican to investigate the death of a young nun in Romania and confront a malevolent force in the form of a demonic nun.

Before I get into this review, lets talk briefly about The Conjuring cinematic universe. Now, the first Conjuring, I didn’t find it scary, but I did find it very entertaining. The second Conjuring I found to be pretty creepy. Both of these movies were directed by James Wan who also directed Insidious 1 & 2. When it comes to horror, some of his stories have continuity problems, and plot conveniences, but the man really knows how to utilize creepiness and maintain real and unexpected jump scares. It gets you invested in the movie based on fear alone. He’s so good at it, he was able to spawn spinoff films, first with the Annabelle series and now with The Nun.

The problem is that he doesn’t lend his directorial skills to these extended films, and well…they end up falling flat. I will give credit to Annabelle 2: Uprising (as I like to call it). It was better than the first one, but it was definitely no masterpiece.

Now with that brief history of the CCU (as I like to call it) out of the way, lets keep the critique of The Nun short and sweet. It was doo doo.

At the very least I assumed that the film would touch on some things that would play against my faith, but this felt like a story that even Catholics would say, “Dude, you guys have some great imaginations!” It felt entirely too tame, extremely predictable and the story was way too outlandish.

The characters were boring, bland and unforgettable. The demon nun was even boring and lacked a coherent or credible background story. It made me realize that you can take the same character, and one Director make magic it while the other makes smoke and mirrors.

Lets keep the critique of The Nun short and sweet. It was doo doo.

The jump-scares were literally stand-scares. I predicted every single moment that was supposed to be a, “catch you off guard” scare scene, and found myself highly annoyed by the trope of following an ambiguous figure pacing vigorously away from the main protagonists while the protagonist chased them down some dark corridor or smoky forest.

As usual, they try to tie this back to the original Conjuring movie, but it was weak, and you barely remember the original scene in the first place.

Overall Grade: D

It wasn’t good. That’s the end all of it. I would suggest staying home and re-watching The Conjuring 1 & 2. You will get much more out of watching these films. I would also suggest leaving these cinematic universes to Marvel and D.C……just Marvel.


The Nun
Horror, Mystery, Thriller
September 2018
Director: Corin Hardy
New Line Cinema
1 hour 36 minutes
IMDB reference click here

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Review: Blackkklansman

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“Ron Stallworth, an African-American police officer from Colorado, successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan with the help of a white surrogate, who eventually becomes head of the local branch.”

1534992123915Spike Lee’s work has always taken a unique look at the black perspective in America. His earlier works were filled with social commentary that tended to put a magnifying glass on the racial turmoil and bleakness of the black experience. He found a way to make humor out of every day circumstances, then blend it seamlessly with an overall message of human nature within race relations whether good or very bad.

Unfortunately, his later works have suffered a lack of that perfect blend.  They often shift tones so rapidly, his audience can’t comprehend what type of emotion to investment in. I feel that this film suffers from that extreme tone shift.

Not only does the story lack a certain cohesion, there wasn’t any true sense of danger the audience could feel the protagonists were in. The interpretation of the Klansmen was so inept, they failed to do simple things like search a new recruit for a wire or do a thorough background check. Now, I never want to give any credit to the KKK, but one would think a criminal organization such as this one would take the necessary measures to make sure their prospects were legit.

The acting was somewhat decent, but often the levels of racism seemed cartoonish and more ignorant than threatening. Even the character of Ron Stallworth came off as a 90’s black comedian impersonating a white man (even when he wasn’t on the phone). I don’t blame this on the actors but more on the direction.

The racism seemed cartoonish and more ignorant than threatening.

Spike Lee also added commentary in the middle and after the movie that was loosely related to the overall story and once again switch emotional tones between funny moments and brutal stories of racial tensions in America. The soundtrack also seemed to be off. Serious moments weren’t reflected in what we heard and this is integral to creating urgency within the viewer.

Overall Grade: C

Even with my harsh rant, I don’t think its a bad watch. I actually encourage folks to go see this movie for the historical relevance. I just think that the constant shift in tone, sound and emotions muddy down what would otherwise be considered a pretty bad-ass story.

Blackkklansman
Biography, Comedy, Crime
August 2018
Director: Spike Lee
Legendary Entertainment/Blumhouse
2 hour 15 minutes
IMDB reference click here

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Amazon Prime Hidden Gem: Brawl in Cell Block 99

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“A former boxer-turned-drug runner lands in a prison battleground after a deal gets deadly.”

Earlier this year I was watching a panel of critics list their top ten favorite movies of 2017. Of course you had ITGet Out and others that we heard many times over, but one of the critics was extremely excited about a movie called Brawl in Cell block 99.

He said it was Vince Vaughn like he’s never seen him before and he had an excitement about it that was quite unique to the other critic’s reactions. The rest of the panel brushed him off (obviously never seeing the movie), but his enthusiasm intrigued me. A month or so later I saw Amazon Prime had the film available, so I decided to watch it.

The film starts as a slow burn, really fleshing out Vaughn’s character and the circumstances rising within his life. It gives you a great introspection of the downward spiral he is going through within his career and marriage, but quickly reveals that he is a fixer. It also gives you a glimpse early into the rage this man holds inside that he has full control over. A rage you can see has gotten him in and out of a lot of situations prior to where the film started.

As he continues, you can see this isn’t Vince Vaughn from Wedding CrashersAnchorman or The Intern. This is the dramatic Vince Vaughn we haven’t seen in a long time. Actually it was a new Vaughn. One that had gotten bigger and much more intimidating. The title may fool you a bit, but this film is about a man on a sound rampage.

He goes into prison during the latter part of the movie and when this happens, the film actually shifts a few notches within a matter of scenes. Facing a predicament that threatens his family, he is forced to do some extremely brutal acts with an unforgiving nature that makes you question what you’re watching.

This isn’t Vince Vaughn from Wedding Crashers, this is a new Vince Vaughn.

The beauty of the film is how his brutal nature is so violent and aggressive, but yet so controlled and calculated. It was almost poetic how his character managed to tread this line so effortlessly and with an unflinching understanding of using his force to get exactly what he wanted.

I will say that at times this movie does get into absurd levels of violence that reminded me of Quentin Tarantino’s direction in Inglorious Basterds or Django Unchained. It didn’t fit the flow of the rest of the movie, and took you out of it at moments, but the violence was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Even though disjointed, I was willing to accept it because of the Director’s gall to inject that level of cartoonish antics into such brutality.

Overall Grade: B+

This film was a great watch. Vince Vaughn was definitely a beast and really took this part seriously. The dialogue and environment building is palpable and the threats are unimaginable. You actually begin to root for this brute force of nature to win as he continues to encounter further unthinkable challenges, and handles them with his three best weapons: His two hands and his mind. Watch it! It’s good!

Brawl in Cell Block 99
Crime, Drama
October 2017
Director: S. Craig Zahler
RLJE Films
2 hours 12 minutes
IMDB reference click here

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