New on Blu: THE WAILING, SWISS ARMY MAN, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

Do you even care to know how "gorgeous" the 1080P transfer looks? By now, you are well-versed in what transfers look like.

New on Blu is a new column from film pundit Chase Whale, exploring studio, arthouse, underground, exploitation and cult cinema released on Blu-ray and DVD from some of the most cutting-edge independent distributors around the U.S. He talks about the movie and whether it's worth a buy, rent, or avoid. 

This is a solid week for Blu-ray, but I’m only going to tell you about three I was sent, starting with THE WAILING, one of the best films of 2016. 

THE WAILING
 

Writer/Director Na Hong-Jin is untouchable. So far he’s three for three. His debut THE CHASER, left me chilled for days. THE YELLOW SEA, his sophomore feature, did the same. And now Hong-jin-s third, terrifying THE WAILING goes well above that trend. It will haunt you for days, maybe even weeks. 

THE WAILING doesn’t rely on many jump scares but what makes it so horrifying is the story itself. It challenges Heaven and Hell, good versus evil, God and the Devil. I’m certain this would be John Milton’s favorite film if he were alive today. 

That’s all I should say about THE WAILING. It’s best if you go in cold and watch the story unfold. This is one of the best films of the year and a must-own. Watch with a group of friends, so at the end y’all can argue over about the underlying message of this movie. I’m still trying to figure it out myself. 

Ps It's one of the only films in Rotten Tomatoes history that's at 100% Fresh with over 40 reviews. 

BUY. 

SWISS ARMY MAN

You can file SWISS ARMY MAN under “super fucking weird cinema.” Hank (THERE WILL BE BLOOD’s Paul Dano) is stuck on a small island and instead of discovering a volleyball, he finds a washed up corpse (played by Harry Potter himself). His name is Manny and he’s deader than Ja Rule’s career and farts a lot, and eventually starts…talking. Manny’s brain is like a child’s and Hank teaches him things, like what poop and masturbation are, and Manny still farts a lo. And they sing a catchy song together. Yeah, it gets weird. 

It’s wildly entertaining if you can put up with the relentless farting — Paul Dano bangs out a really charming performance as a desperate, maybe delusional, man trying to get off the purgatory of an island he’s stuck on. 

RENT. 

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

 

I watched this for the first time on Blu-ray. All movies should be seen in a theater, but sometimes it’s just not possible. 

When I watched Bryan Singer’s X-MEN: APOCALYPSE on Blu-ray for the first time, expecting to be blown away considering his X-MEN films keep getting better and better, but this film is empty and ugly. I would go as far as saying it’s the worst X-Men movie in the franchise (yes, Brat Ratner's movie is more entertaining this one). 

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE is slow, then bloated, and explodes with boredom, and will probably lull you to sleep before you even get to the end. I don’t know where it went wrong since the director is the one who made the X-Men franchise super popular, but we all have our bad days. 

Avoid. (Unless you are a die-hard X-Men fan, which means you’ve probably already seen it.)

New on Blu: THE SHALLOWS, WARCRAFT, THE NEON DEMON,

This week on home entertainment there are two young ladies battling sharks, both of a different breed. Duncan Jones (MOON) very passionate WARCRAFT has also released, and here are some thoughts. 

I didn't think visionary Nicolas Winding Refn could make a worse movie until I saw THE NEON DEMON. This is a film I can't go back and give it another try to see if my feelings change. I do this with ONLY GOD FORGIVES once a year and the results are the same: I hate you. I know Refn was under a lot of pressure after the massive success of DRIVE, and he didn't want people to think he was making DRIVE 2, but casting Gosling as the silent anti-hero again kind of chopped and screwed everything. ONLY GOD FORGIVES has one of the best titles in cinema, and a few cool scenes (The quick "Wanna fight?" moment is amazing), the movie forgot to have a plot and is just scenes cut together. 

In NEON DEMON, Jesse (Elle Fanning), young and naive, runs away to LA to become a model. She's got natural beauty and seems to be on the right track. Then she starts to hang with a group of vicious models Ruby (Jena Malone), Gigi (Bella Heathcote), and Sarah (Abbey Lee), who understand how cutthroat the modeling business is. 

Keanu Reeves makes an appearance as a pedophile apartment complex owner and his role is criminally underused. I want to see more of this vile Reeves, but we get just a glimpse. 

The PR company in control of handling NEON DEMON sent press eyeballs, and you will learn why at some point in the movie. Great marketing. 

NEON DEMON was co-written by two women, so I'm curious if the modeling world is really this ugly. (I sure hope not.)

If you are a Refn fan and/or model, I would say give this a rent. 

  In THE SHALLOWS, Blake Lively is battling a shark and it ain't gorgeous, conniving models like the ones Dakota fanning has to face in NEON DEMON.. It's one, smart, big hungry shark. This is a film that took me by surprise. In an industry that have sharks in tornadoes and doing other stupid shit, THE SHALLOWS is a true horrifying observation at the possibility of death at sea. it's scary, and tension runs high once the action gets going.  BUY. 

 

In THE SHALLOWS, Blake Lively is battling a shark and it ain't gorgeous, conniving models like the ones Dakota fanning has to face in NEON DEMON.. It's one, smart, big hungry shark. This is a film that took me by surprise. In an industry that have sharks in tornadoes and doing other stupid shit, THE SHALLOWS is a true horrifying observation at the possibility of death at sea. it's scary, and tension runs high once the action gets going. 

BUY

I didn't see this the way all movies are supposed to be seen -- in a theater -- but I still had a blast watching it. Some of it I couldn't follow because I didn't play the game, but I did enjoy the action and incredible Oscar-worthy CGI. This is one of many Blockbusters that got crushed by critics, and I'm not sure why. The real voices of film criticism have passed on, and I'm curious how they'd feel about this movie. Is it worth smashing because the story is a bit hard to follow, or deserves praise because of the non-stop entertainment? BUY.

I didn't see this the way all movies are supposed to be seen -- in a theater -- but I still had a blast watching it. Some of it I couldn't follow because I didn't play the game, but I did enjoy the action and incredible Oscar-worthy CGI. This is one of many Blockbusters that got crushed by critics, and I'm not sure why. The real voices of film criticism have passed on, and I'm curious how they'd feel about this movie. Is it worth smashing because the story is a bit hard to follow, or deserves praise because of the non-stop entertainment?

BUY.

Movie Review: EMBERS, Visceral Cinema with a Small Budget and Colossal Imagination

“Now is now. Now is now…Now is here.”

Imagine waking up one day with every memory zapped. I can only think of a few more things more terrifying than losing my memory: death, going blind or deaf, and not being able to eat pizza ever again.

In co-writer and director Claire Carré's terrific science fiction indie, Embers, we follow a handful of strangers as they wake up without memory of their past, so they maneuver through the neighborhoods trying to piece together what they can’t remember and don’t understand. The two leads are Jason Ritter (A Bag of Hammers) who plays Guy and Iva Gocheva as Girl (who is a marvel to watch. I hope we see more of her in the future.).

As the story progresses, we learn about Miranda (Greta Fernández), who is living with her father in a super-cool futuristic bunker (fancy lights, delicious furniture, and a Siri-like companion wired throughout the place which asks the same questions so Miranda will always remember important dates and events). These two may or may not know the what caused this epidemic.

Embers was co-written by Charles Spano (who also produced) and Carré (who edited the film as well), with Carré taking the director’s chair. What’s wildly impressive about Embers is it’s a crafty monster without J.J. Abrahams’ help, robots, space travel, aliens, or a major studio behind it.

It’s a transcending look at human connection during a chaotic and alarming time. 

I’ve seen a lot of low budget science fiction films and most fail hard because they rely on special effects to impress and tell their story, which ultimately makes the whole movie look cheap and unwatchable. This is where Carré outshines them all. She uses intelligent storytelling with dreary and pretty landscapes, as well as exceptional actors to lead us through their journey of discovery. I was bowled-over after watching this because it reminded me of one of my favorite science fiction films, Take Shelter (which did use CGI, but very minimal). Both films just use the actors to tell the story, which leads to a victorious finale. 

Moreover, every shot in the film is mesmerizing (this will be the handy work of a whole magnificent team of people). Carré and her team used locations that make it feel like the world did hit a reset button. Perhaps a post-apocalypse happened, but nobody got hurt, just reset. Every location is beautiful, even when they’re in a broken down church or collapsing building.

If you watch any movie this weekend, make it Claire Carré's wildly impressive science fiction indie, Embers -- visceral cinema with a small budget and colossal imagination.

Final thought: Carré is a director Hollywood needs. Give her creative freedom, a budget, and let her imagination run wild.

Embers is now available to rent and buy on iTunes: http://bit.ly/embersmovie

NEW ON BLU: WORKAHOLICS S6, KNIGHT OF CUPS

New on Blu is a new column from film pundit Chase Whale, exploring arthouse, underground, exploitation and cult cinema released on Blu-ray and DVD from some of the most cutting-edge independent distributors around the U.S.

*Note: More titles release every Tuesday, but I only am able to review what I am sent.

Adam Devine, Blake Anderson, Anders Holm are three of the funniest dudes working in Hollywood right now. They are on season six now and only one of them has broken into an in-demand film star (Devine), but all bring an equal share of hahas to the show. 

Workaholics is like The Office on crack. And mushrooms, lots of mushrooms. Like The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm, Workaholics gets repetitive, but the clever gags keep the laughs pounding the chest and the show is always fun to watch with a group after a fun night at the bar. 

Note: DVD only

KNIGHT OF CUPS is one of Terrence Malick's new anomalies that have come out as of late, and it's probably the best. With a stellar cast -- Christian Bale as the lead, Cate Blanchett, and Natalie Portman -- it helps with CUPS TREE OF LIFE-esque style of film. It's very quiet, and we watch as the the protagonist (Bale) tries to figure his place in this world while trying to figure out the world itself. 

Most Malick fans are going to eat this up like his others, but this isn't one from his oeuvre that's not for me. I will always have faith in him and his new films, some just don't hit me as hard as the others. 

New on Blu: HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, JEEPERS CREEPERS

New on Blu is a new column from film pundit Chase Whale, exploring arthouse, underground, exploitation and cult cinema released on Blu-ray and DVD from some of the most cutting-edge independent distributors around the U.S.

*Note: More titles release every Tuesday, but I only am able to review what I am sent.

It's here! It's here! It's here! I've been gawking about HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS ever since I first saw it at its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival. This is a terrific movie and will probably be my number one film of the year. I like to call it HOW SALLY FIELD GOT HER GROOVE BACK. She never lost it, but my God is she a tour-de-force of everything in this. 

DORIS will make you laugh, cry, laugh more, and fall in love with Sally Field all over again. If the Academy Award doesn't give her a nod for Best Actress, I'm going to riot. So far nobody has held a candle to her performance. 

Watch this movie and don't worry about thanking me. I'm just doing my job. 

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE took me by surprise. Like you, I didn't know what I was in for. By the end, I just wanted to talk about it all night. Like mastermind J.J. Abrahams has said, it's a "spiritual sequel" (a new phrase in Hollywood guaranteed to be soon watered down by goons wanting to make sequels or spin-offs of hit movies), and he held to his word. This is nothing like is predecessor CLOVERFIELD. Both John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead are dynamite, and their odd chemistry makes the movie more eerie and nail-biting than it's supposed to be. 

Like DORIS, this is a must own and I do hope I see both Goodman and Winstead's names come big, bad awards time. 

Review: DON'T THINK TWICE, A Sweet and Poignant Examination of Finding Solace in the Art World Hustle

Don't think twice, it's all right.” -- Bob Dylan

As an ambitious writer, I know the struggles of trying to live my dream -- laboring tirelessly at my art for a small audience, working depressing side jobs to make ends meet, living with friends and family because I don't have enough for rent, and watching colleagues I helped get started zoom past me at lightning speed. Don't Think Twice is a beautiful portrait of these struggles and finding solace in it. I love this film.

Mike Birbiglia writes, directs, and leads as Miles in Don't Think Twice, about an improv comedy troupe called The Commune. In his gang are some of the best comedians working today: Keegan-Michael Key as Jack, Chris Gethard as Bill, Gillian Jacobs as Samantha, Garfunkel and Oates’ Kat Micucci as Allison, and Tami Sagher as Lindsay. 

All six key players work whatever job they can get to keep the money flowing, but what keeps their spirit alive is their weekly improv show at Improv of America. Their comedy troupe is one of the most crafty there, which gives each member colossal dreams of making it on “Weekend Live,” which is an obvious caricature of Saturday Night Live. (The hard-as-nails, mean-as-hell owner of the show pops in a few times, and he's no doubt supposed to resemble SNL's Lorne Michaels, but I’m sure this was in good fun.) 

Well, good things always come to an end, and when one of the members of the group gets cast on “Weekend Live,” tension and fear set in with the rest of the troupe. 

Everyone pulls their comedic weight -- as well as some poignant moments -- to the movie, but the real standout of the film is Chris Gethard. Gethard has a spoken very publicly about his depression and has even mocked it on his own show, and here you can see the sadness in his soul when he's hard at work to make people laugh for just a few minutes. (Side note: Gethard's biggest fear is death of a family member and in the film, he has to lay someone close to him to rest. I imagine that couldn't have been easy, even it was just make believe.) There’s a moment in the film when he’s given up hope that he’s going to make and speaks a line that cut right through my soul: “I feel like your twenties are all about hope, and your thirties are all about realizing how dumb it was to hope.” A feeling many know too well. 

As the filmmaker, Birbiglia is just as natural and hilarious in front of the camera as he his behind it. Don't Think Twice is his second time in the writer-director's chair, and he's two for two. He nails his vision of the struggle and pain of turning improv into a full-time career flawlessly. His first feature, Sleepwalk with Me, was one of the best films of 2012, and now, Don't Think Twice is one of the best of 2016. What's prolific about this film is you don't need to love or care for improv to understand the film’s underlying message. This movie isn't about improv; it's about working hard at your art and finding peace in the struggle, and the harsh reality that you might not make it. 

Don't Think Twice isn't just a comedy -- Birbiglia directs all comedians to show their humanistic, vulnerable side -- it's about the fear of pursuing your dreams and facing the risk of failing. This is a bold move. This is what makes Don't Think Twice one of the best films of the year. 

The film opens in select theaters in the U.S. on Friday, July 22.

 

Review: HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE, the Most Endearing Buddy Comedy Adventure You’ll See This Year

Meet Ricky (a young, funny-as-hell newcomer, Julian Dennison). He’s a bit of a bad egg, but there’s hope for the little runt. He’s adopted by two farmers who live in the middle of nowhere: Hec (Sam Neill, like you’ve never seen him before; he’s never been better.), and Bella (Rima Te Wiata, one of New Zealand’s hidden treasures).

When child welfare and a cop pull up, they run off a long list of offenses Ricky has committed to make sure these two are aware of his run-ins with the law before fully committing: disobedience, stealing, spitting, running away, throwing rocks, kicking stuff, defacing stuff, burning stuff, loitering, and graffiti. And these are the only offenses they’ve caught him doing. He’s reminded “Nobody else wants you,” so he’s got no choice but to stick around. Luckily, Bella embraces Ricky with open arms. She’s thrilled to have him. Hec? Not so much. 

To Bella, Ricky looks like a delight. He’s short and as round as a plumb. The back of his jacket says “All Eyez on Me" and he dresses like he just walked off the set of a Kanye West music video. Bella and Hec get him a dog, and Ricky names him 2Pac. Nature is a place he probably only believed existed in books. 

This life isn’t for him and he tries to run away, only to be caught 218 yards away by Bella, who was hanging out and enjoying the scenery. 

Hec doesn’t want anything to do with him, and when Ricky tells him, “You're supposed to give me something to do,” Hec responds, “Yeah, leave me alone.” Cool with Ricky. 

However, tragedy strikes and these two clashing characters must come together when they both decide to live out in the forest while being hunted by police and child welfare. 

Every line spoken in this film is a knockout and goddamn hilarious. Taika Waititi is one of the best deadpan comedic writer-directors working today. If you’ve seen What We Do in the Shadows, Boy (where a kid dreams of meeting Michael Jackson), or his directorial debut, Eagle vs Shark, you’ll know what I’m talking about. He uses a lot of American pop culture references to nail those punchlines, and my face hurt from laughing so much. An excellent example: When Ricky is arguing with the child welfare witch, she calls him Sarah Connor, “but before she started doing pull-ups in Terminator 2.” It’s her way of calling him weak, but in one of the funniest ways possible using universally understood pop culture. Brilliant. 

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is based on Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump. I haven’t read this book, but I bought it right after seeing this film. I want to relive this adventure in its natural form and come back to Waititi's vision, which is a masterful comedy. 

Waititi is currently trying out Hollywood and directing the third installment in the Thor franchise, Thor: Ragnarok, and I’m both excited and fidgety about it because I don’t want Tinseltown to stain his humor — it’s too perfect. I’m hopeful he brings something new to the assembly line of superhero movies. 

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is like a road trip comedy but set in the woods. It has all the wit, and its crafty humor that will keep you laughing and entertained from beginning to end. See this movie as soon as you can.

New on Blu: THE WITCH, IP MAN TRILOGY, SONGS OF LAHORE

New on Blu is a new column from film pundit Chase Whale, exploring arthouse, underground, exploitation and cult cinema released on Blu-ray and DVD from some of the most cutting-edge independent distributors around the U.S.

*Note: More titles release every Tuesday, but I only am able to review what I am sent.

THE WITCH is a film that I didn't lose my shit over when I first saw it, but it kept itching at me, so I gave it two more viewings when I got my press copy on Blu-ray. It's well crafted, and even though I didn't live during the time it takes place (that I know of -- Chase Whale could be the second or fifth reincarnation), the time setting and atmosphere feels surgically accurate. THE WITCH is a mood piece that doesn't rely on jump scares, which is nice for a change. This movie wants to get inside your head and dance. And it does. The sound mix (English 5.1 DTS HD-MA) is also perfected to help the visuals already creeping through your brain. 

There aren't many special features for THE WITCH but it does come with a cool featurette on the folklore during the Puritan era. 

BUY. 

I didn't receive a copy of this, but I love IP MAN, and with my review last month's wild IP MAN 3, I wanted to give it some love. A must-own for IP MAN enthusiasts. 

NOTE: RELEASES MAY 20 ON DVD. 

There are quite a few reasons why you need to see SONGS OF LAHORE. The first being it's one of the few films with a 100% Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The second is that it's still making festival rounds and racking up well-deserved awards. The final is the documentary itself, about music. How many rock docs about musicians you know have you seen? A lot, I would guess. 

Time for something new. 

SONGS OF LAHORE is a refreshing take on the music documentary subgenre. A bonus is it doesn't run of 90 minutes, which seems to be the trend for documentaries these days, which can be overbearing and tiring. 

Step outside the Metallica docs, the White Stripes docs, and give a doc on profound music you've never heard of a chance. You'll be glad you did. 

New on Blu: THE REVENANT, IP MAN 3, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2

New on Blu is a new column from film pundit Chase Whale, exploring arthouse, underground, exploitation and cult cinema released on Blu-ray and DVD from some of the most cutting-edge independent distributors around the U.S.

*Note: More titles release every Tuesday, but I only am able to review what I am sent.

THE REVENANT is one of the wildest of the west movies ever made. The team behind it could not have been more foolproof. 

THE REVENANT at times can be a hard watch because of the sudden hyperviolence, but the journey is worth the ride. Watching a man alone, dying, in the freeze cold do what he cans to survive, just so he can get his revenge for his son's unjustified murder (done by a superb Tom Hardy.) 

The score in THE REVENANT is haunting as well as beautiful, and will stick with you for a weeks, perhaps months after. 

Verdict: This better already be on pre-order.

 

Is there anything more enjoyable than watch Donnie Yen beat the hell out of people when grand master Yuen Woo Ping (THE MATRIX TRILOGY, KILL BILL Duology) is one of the fighter choreographer? Not much, but in IP MAN 3, IP MAN 1-3 director says fuck it and throws, yes, Mike Tyson in the mix for Donnie Yen to go rounds with. If you already own IP MAN 1 and 2, I don't have to sell you, but if you haven't seen these films -- which I think is a crime -- do yourself a favor and get them. They fun, action-packed, and it's always a blast watch an energetic Donnie Yen on screen throwing fist faster than the eye can see. 

Some cool bonus features: behind-the-scenes, and interviews with Yen and Tyson, as well as a making-of. 

BUY BUY BUY. 

Last and certainly not least is THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, my favorite in the series. (Yes, I like this film better than part one. Wanna fight?)

Director returns to the director's chair for TCM 2, and turns its world upside down. This is the same rodeo you saw in part one (which really pissed off investors). TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 goes for the goofs, laughs, and is a straight comedy, which is part of it's charm. It doesn't take it serious and spoofs the God-awful horror movies that tried to mimic the original CHAINSAW MASSACRE but with boobs, bad kills, and worse dialogue.

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 is one of my favorite movies and I'm jazzed Scream Factory re-released it for us Blu-ray fans. Something you have no-doubt noticed about Scream Factory -- they go all out with the artwork, which is helping fanboys stock up on physical product during the time when you can get everything on digital. (It's just not as fun watching a movie without being able to put it in your collection on the wall. 

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 comes with a killer amount of special features but you need to buy it for the movie and watch it over and over and over. When you need a break, watch it again. I love this movie so much. 

New on Blu: STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

New on Blu is a new column from film pundit Chase Whale, exploring arthouse, underground, exploitation and cult cinema released on Blu-ray and DVD from some of the most cutting-edge independent distributors around the U.S.

*Note: More titles release every Tuesday, but I only am able to review what I am sent.

Most distributors were smart to let STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS release this week without competition. This title is going to rack up the sales and rightfully so. I'm not the biggest Star Wars fan, and I would go as far as saying I'm not a Star Wars fan, but J.J. Abrams just knows how to lit fire in excitement in any franchise. This title I will be watching over and over, just like I do with his take on STAR TREK, another franchise I'm unfamiliar with. I don't even need to write a review for this because you are already set on buying it, but it's my job and I'm here to tell you it's worth every penny. 

THE FORCE AWAKES comes with featurettes, behind-the-scenes, deleted scenes, and a lot more you Star Warriors are going to love. I'm sure you probably already have this on pre-order, but if you haven't do that now. The Rebels with thank you. 

The Revenant Review

What is The Revenant? A rip-roaring revenge adventure? A tale of survival? Or, perhaps a narrative on the firm bond between father and son. If I had to choose, I would say the very last one. The Revenant is about the power of love. (Don't worry, dudes, there's plenty of blood and guts that will leave you agape.)

This film does have revenge; it does show surviving in below zero temperature while bleeding out, but it boils down to hanging onto hope because of that electrifying jolt of love to keep going. Adam Sandler's Barry Egan perfectly sums it up in Paul Thomas Anderson's wacky and wonderful Punch-Drunk Love: "I have a love in my life, and it makes me stronger than anything you can imagine." I could end this review now with that quote. But I like to talk, so I'm going to keep going. Stay with me. 

The Revenant is set around the 1820s in fur trading expedition lead by Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio, in his best performance to date). With him is his half-Indian son Hawk, John Fitzgerald (a hardly recognizable Tom Hardy), Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), Bridger (Will Poulter, whose career is growing fast and furious), and a bunch of others who get slaughtered in grisly, violent ways. Disclaimer: The Revenant is extraordinarily violent and fiercely intense. It's necessary because everyone during the time period it's set: whites, blacks, Indians, and anyone you crossed paths with, were savages, and this movie shows how brutal some will go to survive. It's nasty, but blood is not spilled throughout the 156 minutes running time, so there are plenty of scenes just to stare at in pure amazement. 

After a brief but vicious battle (enriched with photography by Children of Men, Gravity, and Birdman's maestro Emmanuel Lubezki,) Glass and his crew are in a temporary safe zone, and he's on the hunt for more fur. The name of the game here is more fur, more money for their team when they get back home. This, dear reader, is when the shit hits the fan. As he's hunting, Glass sees a few cubs in shooting range. He points, and as he's about to fire, he hears a growl strong enough to make the hairs on your neck stand up and turns around to see one of the biggest grizzly bears ever put on screen and perhaps real life, which charges and attacks him. The camera doesn't cut once as we watch this beast tear Glass to shreds. This is the most slack-jawing part of the movie and must be seen on the big screen. Glass does make it out alive, barely, and you must see how yourself. This man is a warrior. Mentally and physically. 

I know it's been pirated, but the effect of this scene is not the same on some shitty compressed version. I have a DVD screener of the film because I'm a voter, but I have still gone to the theater again to see it because this movie is so mesmerizing on a giant screen and in the quality it is supposed to be seen in.  

I digress.

Glass' team finds him, and they carry him as long and far as they can. After deciding Glass is going to eventually bleed out and die, Captain Andrew Henry pays three people to stay with him until his last breath and give him a proper burial. One of those who stay back is Fitzgerald. This is a man who was once half-scalped and it's clear his brain was knocked loose in the process. He's not all there, but he's alive and functions enough to join a team and hunt.

Warning: Slight Spoilers Ahead. If You've Seen The Trailer, You Know What Happens. If you Have Not, Come Back And Read After Seeing The Film.

When the rest of the team leave, Fitzgerald throws a wrench in the promised plans and Glass is abandoned. He's alone and left with just a water canteen from Bridger that will come in handy later in the film.

The majority of the film is Glass' survival, but he hangs on through memories of the only two important people he had and lost (and let's be honest, luck and his infinite survival skills). His memories are what keep him fighting to stay alive.

This movie is based on real events, but I can't imagine the real Hugh Glass going through everything Leo's version does. Both the film and the story it's based on are jaw dropping. However, with precise directing from Alejandro González Iñárritu, striking photography from Lubezki, a beautiful score from Ryûichi Sakamoto, Carsten Nicolai, and Bryce Dessner, and one hell of a hypnotizing performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, who really goes for it in this film and shows he's will to get his hands dirty and isn't the pretty boy the media has made him out to be. All of this together makes The Revenant the most transcending film you'll see in theaters in perhaps your whole life. It's that great.

 

The Hateful Eight Review

The cinematically deranged Quentin Tarantino once again brings the wild back to the west. If you’ve you seen his wacky western Django Unchained (which you probably have or else you wouldn’t be reading this review, unless you’re my mom), then you know Tarantino’s West is like no other. It’s wild, it’s filthy, it’s dangerous, it’s hilarious, it’s bloody as hell, and it strays from the western norm. In Unchained, a Tupac mashup with James Brown supplies the music for the big bang finale — nobody can get away with that but Tarantino. Nobody. That’s the beauty of a Tarantino movie — you never know what the hell you’re getting yourself into. He has a big bag full of tricks. The Hateful Eight is no less batty than the rest of his catalogue, and is, in fact, just as glorious.

The Hateful Eight‘s story seems simple on the surface, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath is arrogance, madness, and death. Bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) is escorting criminal Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh, in a lethal scene-stealing supporting role) by stagecoach to Red Rock, where she’ll be hanged by the neck until she is dead, dead, dead for being a ruthless, cold-blooded killer. John Ruth is called The Hangman because he is a bounty hunter who doesn’t shoot his criminals to death, that’s too quick and easy; he likes to watch them hang until their neck breaks or their eyes become hollow.

It’s snowing outside, and Hangman hired a stagecoach driver (Tarantino now-regular and Michael Parks’ son, James Parks) to get them to Red Rock before a massive blizzard catches up to them.

On the journey, he bumps into Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson in one of his best roles to date), a former fighter for the North-turned-bounty hunter. Warren is famous for two things: burning down a jail cell with a bunch of white folks in it and having a letter written by Abraham Lincoln himself (which he holds close to the chest).

We are not sure of when the film takes place, but we do know that it’s a few years after the Civil War. The “N” word isn’t cool to use anymore but racial tension is still high, and since it’s a Tarantino film, he finds a humorous way to fit the word into the film. (Perhaps as a big "fuck you" to Spike Lee and all the others who give him trouble for using it so much in Django Unchained, a film that took place when that word was said daily on every plantation.)

Warren, with a pile of dead, wanted men, hitches a ride with Hangman and his prisoner to Red Rock to collect his bounty. After some attractive dialogue exchange and hilarious moments, they pick up another straggler, the alleged new sheriff for Red Rock, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins, who also gives a fascinating and spectacular supporting performance), whose horse also gave out in the snow trying to get giddyup to Red Rock. After he’s welcomed aboard, off to Red Rock they go.

Losing the battle to beat the blizzard to Red Rock, their course is altered, and they end up at Minnie’s Haberdashery. The plan: have a few drinks and hang around until the blizzard passes. But this is a Tarantino film, so fate has other mischievous plans for this possibly fortuitous situation.

Also killing time at the haberdashery is Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth, doing his best Christoph Waltz impersonation that’s undoubtedly on purpose — it would have been better just to cast Waltz but I’m sure he’s burned out on Tarantino roles and winning Oscars), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), General Sandy Smithers (the great Bruce Dern), and Bob (Demian Bichir). Now, my friends, you have met all of the hateful eight.

The Hateful Eight is a more conventional western, not as wacky as Django Unchained, but it’s everything you want from a Tarantino movie: high tension, deft and intuitive dialogue, and sudden, grisly violence. He’s also becoming more stable at throwing you completely off. The Hateful Eight is like a hip session of the board-game, Clue. Something isn’t right, and Warren knows something fishy is going on; but hold onto your horses, partner, right when you think you’ve figured it all out, Tarantino empties his big bag of tricks.

I’m going to stop there with plot details because this is a Tarantino film and there’s a hell of a lot more to it, and this review is already too long. Plus, I’m not going to be the fool who ruins the surprises for you.

It’s known Tarantino is a maestro at reviving careers and picking the right people for the role. One of the greatest casting decisions he’s ever made in his career was putting Jennifer Jason Leigh in this film as Daisy Domergue. She’s a scene-stealing maniac who shows us a side of her we’ve never seen before. Her Daisy is unhinged, complex, and completely insane. Tarantino’s films have never had a female antagonist (well, except for Kill Bill, which is a whole team consisting of three women and two men) and now he finally has his first female Basterd with comparable screen time to the other villains in the Tarantino universe. And Leigh chews up the screen. Nah, she devours it whole. This movie belongs to her. She’s a foul-mouthed muskrat in a brute, filthy man’s body. She’s sporting a black eye that Hangman gave her and every time he — or someone else — knocks her around, she doesn’t wince once in pain. She can take a punch better than most people you’ve seen on screen. Daisy is a real asshole who relishes in her punishment and pain. The best way to put it: she is a real badass.

Something peculiar that caught me eye was the opening shot of the film. It’s a wooden statue of Jesus on the cross covered in ice. The ice on his head is shaped like a KKK mask, and the film takes place not so long after the civil war. Coincidence? I think not. Tarantino is very meticulous and that shot was there for a reason.

My best guess is because lots of former slave-owning white folks are pissed they lost the war and still have that burning desire to punish African Americans, and even more since it’s now illegal. Remember what I told you, the “N” word is still used, but this time in a very comical way.

Every Tarantinoian© knows he’s a huge dork. He wanted to make Kill Bill into one long movie with an intermission but didn’t have enough clout then, but here he got his way. The Hateful Eight‘s running time is 167 minutes with a 15-minute intermission. It’s great for people with a small bladder and have to pee a lot, but this is a bold and possibly very bad move because once the average moviegoer learns of the running time, they may pass or walk out wanting a refund. Tarantino’s movies have made more money with each release, but this could be the one that backfires for being way too damn long. We will know soon.

What supports the above detractor of The Hateful Eight is that it’s very slow and takes some patience for the payoff. “Let’s slow this wayyyyy down,” Warren says while telling a story that will blow your mind; another character mentions patience too. I believe this is a little wink at the audience. Tarantino knows his film is long, but just wants us to wait patiently because he knows it’s worth it (and it is).

One thing is for certain: Tarantino is bringing back the western genre in whole new uncommon ways. (I can’t help but think that Monte Hellman would love this acid western.) Aside from his Django Unchained, I haven’t seen a western that was such a blast to watch since Kim Jee-woon’s The Good, the Bad, the Weird. There are more solid westerns that have floated around over the last few years, but none of them compare to the originality, excitement, and creativity as Tarantino’s.

Sure, the long running time makes The Hateful Eight Tarantino’s least accessible film, but if you are tolerant and can sit through the almost unbearable 167-minute tension, the third act will blow you away. This is Tarantino’s western bloodbath opera. He’s still got the goods in him because this Basterds’ work isn’t done.

[Note: This review was first published on Smells Like Screen Spirit.]

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Micro-Review

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: out of this world. his joy is owed to J.J. Abrams, who has successfully brought exciting life back into three major franchises: Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, and Star Wars. He's solid gold. God bless him. The Force Awakens is everything you hoped the last three George Lucas made: amazing. I don't need to tell you the plot because you already know from watching the trailer and/or don't live under a rock. As for the new characters, there's a reason Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver were chosen to lead the new franchise: they have enough pizzazz and appeal to keep us in wonder and awe, just like the movie. Aside from Terminator 2, this is the best sci-fi movie I've ever seen. Be a part or something special and see this in theaters as soon as you can. 

To emphasize how great this film is, here was my facial expression the entire time I was watching the film. 



Toronto International Film Festival 2015 Review: VICTORIA

Sebastian Schipper’s “Victoria” screened in the main competition section of the 65th Berlin International Film Festival where it won the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution for Cinematography and has been creating a buzz at festivals around the globe.)

Victoria wants you to know from the start it’s not messing around. The poster’s tagline says, “One Girl. One City. One Night. One Take.”Holy shit. It pulls no punches and informs what’s in store —a feature film shot in one take. Very ambitious and appetizing. This has been done before and in some pretty innovative ways: Timecode, Russian Ark, PVC-1, La Casa Muda (not the U.S. remake), and Unfriended. (It should be noted that Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope would have been a single take if digital cameras were available or print could hold the amount of 35 mm film he needed to achieve his goal.) The filmmakers and crew behind these films had the chutzpah to go for it, but Victoria pulls it off better and more captivating in every imaginable way.

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TIFF 2015 Review: BLACK Paints a Picture of the Violent, Seedy side of Brussels

When you're hanging with a posse who murder, steal, rape and share the bed with the same women and commit every crime imaginable, it's time to reassess your life. 

Black is a movie you will not forget once you see it. It sandwiches right in between City of God and Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. I know it's strange to place a movie in between these two stories, but it should paint a picture of the poetic violence that's in store for Black. 

Black is based on Dirk Bracke's novels Back/Black and follows two clashing gangs in Brussels, a group of Black Belgian nationals who call themselves The Black Bronx and a bunch of Moroccan thugs. Every gangbanger is young and naive and enjoys antagonizing and beating the shit out of their enemies. 

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Movie Review: THE SECOND MOTHER

(Veteran writer/director Anna Muylaert’s latest film The Second Mother made its debut at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and stars Regina Casé and Camila Márdila were awarded World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting. The film is out now in theaters courtesy of the fine folks at Oscilloscope.)

There’s a new movie in town that’s going to rule your world. It’s called The Second Mother, is written and directed by Anna Muylaert (The Year My Parents Went on Vacation), and stars Regina Casé (Me You Them), who the Academy better recognize for her masterful performance or I’m going to riot.

Taking place in São Paulo, The Second Mother is a character-focused story about workaholic Val (Casé), a live-in maid who works for rich and visibly unappreciative yuppies. (Val is the hardest working live-in maid you’ll ever see on screen, that I can guarantee.) Even though there are many big and pretty rooms in the place, Val is put to live in the smallest corner of the mansion. But that doesn’t bother her — she appreciates the living space to its fullest.

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