TV Review – Black Mirror: Crocodile

Black Mirror: Crocodile (2017)
Written by Charlie Brooker
Directed by John Hillcoat

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Fifteen years ago, on their way home from a club, Rob and Mia hit a cyclist and proceed to toss his body and bike into a lake. Now, Mia is a successful architect who is on a business trip in the city. While she is there, Mia commits a second heinous act and appears to cover this one up as well. However, Shazia an insurance claims investigator is traveling down a path that will come colliding with Mia’s. Shazia uses a new form of technology that uses sensory input to create video images of people’s memories. This way the insurance company has a more accurate gauge of the events that happened. An accident occurs outside Mia’s hotel window the night she makes a decision out of desperation, and she ends up on the list of witnesses to interview.

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Movie Review – I Just Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore

I Just Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore (2017)
Written & Directed by Macon Blair

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Ruth is a woman who feels that the world around her is becoming crueler and more self-centered. It starts on a day where an acidic racist patient dies, a neighbor’s dog continually uses her yard as a bathroom, and she returns from work to find her house burglarized. They’ve taken prescription meds, a laptop, and her grandmother’s silverware set. The police seem unconcerned, and it appears Ruth may have left her own backdoor unlocked. This is the breaking point, and she seeks out an unlikely alliance with her neighbor, Tony. Together they go on a vigilante mission to regain her stolen property and confront the people behind the robbery.

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Movie Review – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
Written & Directed by Martin McDonagh

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Mildred Hayes isn’t even a year into mourning the rape and murder of her daughter when she strikes upon an idea. She rents the three billboards just outside of her town of Ebbing and posts the following message:

“Raped while dying.”

“Still no arrests?”

“How come, Chief Willoughby?”

The billboards immediately draw the ire of the local law who see Mildred as being unreasonable and lacking understanding of their point of view in the investigation. Officer Jason Dixon, a cop rumored to have tortured a black suspect while in custody, is particularly angered and attempts to circumvent the law to get the billboards taken down to no avail. The community begins to disparage Mildred for this choice, but she holds fast believing that she can find some sort of redemption for her daughter.

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Movie Review – Baby Driver

Baby Driver
Written & Directed by Edgar Wright

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In the Southern metropolis of Atlanta lives Baby, the best wheelman your heist could hire. He’s under the thumb of Doc (Kevin Spacey), a man who makes the jobs happen. The rest of the crews may change, but Baby is the one constant, Doc’s lucky charm. What makes Baby different than all the rest is that he’s always cranking the tunes, using the rhythm of his music to drive the car, life his life, and fall in love. Everything changes when Baby meets Deborah (Lily James), a waitress who wants to leave town and just drive while the radio blares on the speakers. Baby struggles to extricate himself from the mire of crime he’s drowning in, surrounded by lowlifes and sociopaths (Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, etc.). Will he get free and ride into the sunset with Deborah or will this be the day the music dies?

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Movie Review – Hounds of Love

Hounds of Love (2016)
Written & Directed by Ben Young

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It’s 1987 in Perth, Western Australia and Evelyn and John are on the hunt. What they hunt for are lone young women whom they abducted, sexually and physically violate, and then kill. Teenage Vicki is distraught over her parents pending divorce and slips out at night to attend a party. Her path crosses with the predatory couple who lure her to their home with the promise of weed and a drink. Once inside her nightmare begins and she learns about their interpersonal conflicts she uses it in her fight to survive.

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Movie Review – King Cobra

King Cobra (2016, dir. Justin Kelly)

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Sean Lockhart wants to make it in the movies. He intends to become a director and helm great films. He’s taking a rather unorthodox path by first changing his name to Brent Corrigan and then moving in with a man named Stephen. Stephen runs King Cobra, a gay pornography website and Brent is becoming his biggest star. Simultaneously, we’re introduced to Joe and Harlow, a pair of male escorts in a committed relationship. Joe never hesitates to indulge Harlow and provide him with every extravagance. Harlow carries the trauma of abuse from his stepfather, and this had caused Joe to become almost psychotically protective of him. These two pairs of men are on a trajectory towards each other. The events of this story will end in betrayal and murder. This is the story of King Cobra.

The film is based on real events, though director Kelly has taken a lot of liberty with the facts. The real life Sean Lockhart has expressed much disdain over the way the film portrays queer culture. Via Twitter he stated, “I gave them permission to use my name but explicitly made it clear that their story was heinous & not sanctioned. They told me they couldn’t change their screenplay after we entered negotiations.” Director Justin Kelly is a gay man himself and has stated that his interest in the film came from a more true crime angle that happened to feature representation of “different kinds of gay characters.” I find that both men have some very solid ideas and interpretations of the final product. There are some incredibly strong moments, but flaws are still present that degrade what could be a fascinating film.

The two most solid performances, in my opinion, are Christian Slater as Stephen and Keegan Allen of Harlow. Slater walks a very fine line with Stephen as both a lecherous older man getting off on young guys and a very isolated gay man from an older generation who didn’t have a support network for coming out. He is still publicly closeted and tells Brent a painful story about his first experience with another man and how his friends ostracized him after finding out. The film doesn’t come down black or white on the issue of Stephen exploiting  Brent, we are left to decide what their relationship was.

When you first glimpse Keegan Allen, you’ll likely think of Joaquin Phoenix, and there is a strong physical resemblance. Another resemblance is that Allen is arguably the strongest actor in this picture. The character of Harlow has many layers and Allen makes interesting choices about how to play him. There is genuine love from Harlow to Joe and a desire to be monogamous with him. Joe, knowing that their finances are crippling them and keeping this from his partner, forces Harlow to continue meeting with clients. My hope is that we continue to see Keegan Allen in films because I get the sense there are some great performances there.

The most glaring problem with King Cobra seems to be a glaring issue in a lot of films: James Franco. Franco produced this film and chose to play Joe, the manic abusive lover of Harlow. I can’t say I understand a single choice Franco makes when it comes to playing this character but everything he does seems to pull the viewer out of the film. You’ll have a scene that is setting a muted, layered tone and then Franco comes on the screen and it devolves into dark comedy. He plays a complete caricature. The film has a lot of gratuitous simulated gay sex and the sex that appears as part of the porn productions is expectedly smutty but makes sense. Franco’s most explicit sex scene is such a joke I can’t imagine audiences not howling in laughter at his horrible performance.

King Cobra is a true crime film that plays with the idea of being a moody, independent film but falls into but ends up becoming borderline exploitative. There are some interesting performances, but they aren’t given the support needed to become great. There was the opportunity to explore some intriguing themes: the generation gap in the gay community, the American culture’s obsession with appearing wealthy. But every time one of these themes emerges it is just as quickly dropped.

 

The Nice Guys (2016, dir. Shane Black)

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Shane Black is one of the fathers of what would become the 1980s buddy cop genre. His addition was Lethal Weapon, written when Black was 23 years old. Black’s career experienced a slump in the 90s and early 2000s when he wrote and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. With this film, Black returned to play with the genre he helped create while poking fun at the movie industry. Some critics disliked the self-awareness of the picture even though it had very sharp, funny dialogue. The Nice Guys has found a nice middle ground, where it plays with genre conventions while also delivering a self-contained mystery film.

Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is a grizzled private investigator who specializes in helping young women and girls deal with creeps. This crosses his path with who he believes is a creep, Holland March (Ryan Gosling). March is actually a fellow private eye, except he’s a buffoon. The two, along with March’s precocious early teens daughter (Angourie Rice) become embroiled in a mystery that involves the death of a porn star, an enigmatic college student on the run, and the Detroit auto industry.

The Nice Guys does a lot right. It balances being a 1980s buddy cop film set in the late 1970s, as well as being a variation on the film noir genre. There are a lot of failures in the film. Our protagonists are very flawed, as every good noir should have, and they comically fumble and deal with more serious dramatic character flaws. Healy is a man who goes to violence as his first resort and has to deal with a challenge to that way of thinking. March is more of the comic relief, but has his own guilt about the way he’s raised his daughter and how he caused his marriage to go to ruins. The balance between these two and the lynch pin of the entire film is Holly, March’s daughter played by the remarkable Angourie Rice. If this film had been made in the 1970s this is the Tatum O’Neal role.

The mystery is complex and labyrinthine, but with enough clues being delivered through dialogue that a viewer can figure things out as they go. The film does present a hyper-realized 1970s. Driving down Hollywood Boulevard we see posters for a litany of films from the era, characters read newspapers talking about the gas crisis and Los Angeles’ severe smog. In the end, not much of these elements add to up to anything life changing. The resolution of the mystery is fairly straightforward, but keeping in line with the down endings of traditional noir. What The Nice Guys does provide is a fun alternative to the more overblown CGI-fests that typically flood our movie screens this time of year. The film is an enjoyable throwback to a style of film not made often.