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The Visit: Is M.Night Shyalaman Back?!

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visit1A nearly unforgivable prank was played on me over the weekend when I was asked by my lovely lady if I wanted to go to the movies after work. It was a particularly tough workweek and I couldn’t think of a better way to unwind that didn’t involve copious amounts of alcohol and/or guns. The two rarely mix well so I said ‘sure’, without thinking to ask what it was we were going to see.

Knowing that we were going to the Alamo Drafthouse, I may have been too distracted to ask for any details about the movie. You know, important little details like ‘what’s it about?’ or ‘who’s in it?’ or, as I learned that night, ‘who wrote and directed this film?’ The fact that The Alamo serves my favorite beer (Yonkers IPA) and has unlimited refills on popcorn, was enough of a reason to sit through just about anything for 2 hours.

The fact that The Alamo serves my favorite beer (Yonkers IPA) and has unlimited refills on popcorn, was enough of a reason to sit through just about anything for 2 hours.

We arrive 10 minutes early. Unfortunately that’s way too late to get tickets that aren’t in the front row. It’s a Friday night after all so I guess that’s to be expected. Normally, having to sit in the front row would be reason enough to wait until the next show or just find another theatre. But, we were already there so for whatever reason (Yonkers IPA), we decided to stay.

We order our drinks and popcorn just as the last of the previews are finishing up. I’m only slightly more informed about the movie because I walked past the poster as we were entering the theatre… “The Visit.” Never heard of it. In my head I hoped this wasn’t a documentary about menstrual cycles. I’m just basing that on the title…meh, it didn’t matter if it was. Yonkers IPA. I see our server with our drinks. Cue the libations. The lights dim to a dull glow. Cue the opening credits. What appeared next on the screen let me know that I should be afraid for the next 2 hours. I should be very afraid. “Written and Directed by M.Night Shyamalan” Cue the WTF?! HOW DID I LET THIS SHIT HAPPEN?!

Never, in the history of movie going, has such an audible “AW SHIT!!!” been let out by audience member that the people 3 screens over could hear it. Was that out loud? Sorry, it was supposed to be in my head. It wasn’t the kind of “Awwww SHIT!!” you bellow out when your favorite song comes on in ‘da club’. No. This was the other kind. The kind of “AW SHIT!” you yell out when you step in a big pile of ACTUAL shit. In this case, it was a big pile of what I thought was going to be eye shit. That’s right. Shit. Just for your eyes.

If I gave you a million guesses as to what the last watchable M.Night movie was, you’d probably guess it on the first try. Go ahead. I’ll wait. That’s right, it was The Sixth Sense. Since then it has been a downhill slide of shit. That’s right a slide made of shit. Built specifically for M.Night movies to ride on before they hit movie screens and shit in your eyes. With that being said, you would be surprised to know that this film was surprisingly enjoyable.

In my head I hoped this wasn’t a documentary about menstrual cycles.

I wanted to write a full review for The Visit but it would be hard to without giving away the simple plot. After seeing it, I actually read one review that gave away the whole story in 25 sentences. So much for spoiler alerts. Basically two teens (Olivia DeJonge as Becca and Ed Oxenbould as Tyler) go to visit their grandparents, whom they’ve never met. They’re old. They do creepy shit…kinda like real grandparents. Strange stuff starts to happen. The end. Seriously, if I told you more than that, you wouldn’t have to go see it.

visit2If you know anything about M.Night films, there are two things you can count on. 1. It’s not going to be scary but there will be a few cheap scares in there. 2. There will be some kind of plot twist. He doesn’t disappoint with either though, the plot twist was pretty weak and predictable. What I was surprised about was how entertaining the two teen actors were and how many laughs there were throughout the movie.  Ed Oxenbould steals the show hands down as aspiring white rapper Tyler and Olivia DeJonge is not far behind with a exceptional performance considering who wrote the script.

This is easily, for me at least, M.Night Shyamalan’s second best movie. Was it a great movie? No. I don’t even know if I’d call it a good movie, but it was certainly worth the price of admission. Go see it.

Thought provoking, inspiring, witty, charming, charismatic and handsome. None of these terms have ever been used to describe Richard Sean Airy. Instead, he is a fat, cat owning, water head having, Krispy Kreme eating son of a B!#$% whose ego is as wide as it is tall. If you like biting sarcasm, cringe worthy puns and a whole lot of cynicism on the side then this Dick will be right up your alley. @dickseanairy on Twitter

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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.

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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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Eighth Grade is a Triumph of Bad Skin and Baby Fat

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“Thirteen-year-old Kayla endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she makes her way through the last week of middle school–the end of her thus far disastrous eighth grade year before she begins high school.” 

That IMDB quote above sums up the story of Eighth Grade, but captures none of the nuances of Bo Burnham’s clever directorial debut. And that’s fine, because putting a finer point on the story might limit the audience in the same way giving the film an R rating did. Yes, this is some heady stuff, some of the sexual references may seem a bit too adult for your average thirteen year old. Still, this isn’t 1977, where your only choice for seeing naked humans might be sneaking onto the bookmobile and leafing through old copies of National Geographic. This is 2018, where all things good and bad are a thumb swipe away.

I would guess that thirteen year olds today know way more than I ever did at thirteen, and maybe more than I did at twenty. We insult them by suggesting they can’t navigate the sexual subjects Mr. Burnham handles with aplomb in Eighth Grade.

In a true breakout performance, Elsie Fisher plays Kayla, whose YouTube channel gets as many hits as she has friends… which is to say none. She’s a square peg at school who never came out of the shell she was in when she made that shoebox time capsule three years ago.

Kayla makes a few last ditch efforts to fit in before the school year ends, even if that means pretending she’s something that she isn’t. Or at least isn’t yet. Does she make all the right choices? No. Did you?

I saw the film with parents of young children and wondered if it played out like a horror movie to them. One scene in particular of a high schooler forcing a game of truth or dare on Kayla in the dark backseat of his car is appropriately creepy and expertly directed. Not to say that it’s a dark film, just a complex one. Even the trope that social media masks the truth more than reveals it is handled with a light touch. There’s a ton of laughs even if some make you uncomfortable.

Like last years Lady Bird, Eighth Grade succeeds in balancing the notion of what we are supposed to be with what we are becoming – and while most of us are not in eighth grade anymore, we are always becoming.

The cast of Eighth Grade take questions at Alamo Draft House in Brooklyn.

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