Hail Satan?

Eye catching titles means you will definitely acknowledge its existence.

Hail Satan? is about the founding of The Satanic Temple (in 2013) and what the group has set out to accomplish in the years that follow. First and most importantly, The Satanic Temple is different than the Church of Satan. The Church of Satan has existed since the 60’s, but doesn’t really believe in Satan. Mostly atheist members doing stuff for fun, no sacrifices, some magic.

The Satanic Temple is also non-theistic in nature and not running around believing in Satan. However, their goals are social in nature. They are actively fighting for equality, for the separation of church and state, believe in education and freedom. Not radical causes, just thinks set up in our Constitution and amendments, mostly.

They are called The Satanic Temple though for buzz reasons. It gets articles printed, it drives the point home, and sure, there use the imagery because it frankly looks cool.

talk
Horns are optional.

Did you know people still protest things like this? Just the showing of the documentary in Houston at the Alamo Drafthouse had some Christian protesters against this documentary that they have not seen, on title alone.

Except for everyone that matters, this church isn’t a real church. They are doing it to make a point and we all agree on it and its awesome. They don’t think religion should play a part in politics. And to make this obvious, they try and put their religious imagery up when Christian imagery is allowed to make it more obvious for everyone. If the ten commandments get a statue outside of a court house, then they should be able to as well. If they aren’t allowed, they will sue.

Now, putting up their statue would be rad. But they ideally would not want every group to get to have a statue, but no groups at all, so that it can remain separate. And again, this is what people are protesting about stopping for dumb reasons.

The Satantic Temple just wants people to use their brains and follow the laws set out in our constitution, and protect freedoms. And they do it in a fun way.

Now this documentary highlights some of their work and their founding, but overall, it is a rather regular documentary at the end of it. Nothing too eye catching or illuminating by the end. It didn’t change me in any way. It just felt neat. An okay documentary that would be more important for someone who has never heard of this movement before.

2 out of 4.

Adolescence

I definitely feel as a movie reviewer I am more of a sell out. Where are all the weird movies? The straight to DVD films? The C class films? I used to review it all, now it is mostly theatrical releases, Netflix releases, and the occasional VOD. At least my documentaries tend to be less famous.

Well, heres a pledge. More VOD films! I will try to do one a week.

Starting with Adolescence! It is recently on VOD and has a few people you may have seen in other films and had a limited festival run. Remember, straight to video doesn’t mean bad.


Ah yes, youth, the future, old dude. Yes.

Adam (Mickey River) is an uncomfortable high school senior. He is good at writing, but he has a bad home life. His parents (Elisabeth Röhm, Michael Milford) argue a lot, over bills, jobs, fixing the bathroom for over a month, and so on. They are poor, but surviving, and this has made his life rather long and arduous. He is relatively smart though, a great writer and an artist as well. But he doesn’t apply himself for college.

He is also inexperienced with the ladies due to his shy and nervous nature. Somehow he has a really outgoing friend in Keith (Romeo Miller) who convinces him to skip school to go out and meet ladies. He is so smooth, he tries to feed him lines, and eventually a line works! Somehow, Alice (India Eisley) finds him enduring. She invites him and Keith to hang/party with friends.

One thing leads to another, and they are hanging out a lot more, and having sex. One thing leads to another, and they are doing hardcore drugs and skipping out on life, school, and friends! Oh no!

Also starring Jere Burns and Tommy Flanagan.


Manic Pixie Dream Girl? Maybe more just Manic Girl in this movie.

Adolescence tells a familiar story, youth has rough life and it becomes rougher thanks to drugs! And unfortunately, it also tells the familiar story in a familiar way.

The more tragic character in this movie is our girl, Alice, and she is used as a plot point for our male lead to realize that drugs are bad, and sometimes people you love need to be cut from your life. Sure. But again, it is nothing new.

The acting is done well from our two leads which is the main saving grace. A lot of nice yelling and shrieking and sad drug filled moments. It is awkward at times because River definitely doesn’t look like a high school senior, he looks damn near 30 and I have no idea his age now. He might just look really old and be closer to age appropriate, but he stands out for this reason.

This film also helped answer one other question. What happens to the artists who had kid rap names? Like Lil’ Romeo? Well, he is now just Romeo Miller, one of the actors in the movie, and doing his own adult movie thing. Aooarently they can just dop the lil part of their name and go on strong!

Also, bonus shout out to the toilet scene. It was really well framed and shot, best in the film.

2 out of 4.

Annabelle Comes Home

Fuck. I didn’t see Annabelle: Creation. That was the sequel to Annabelle. I didn’t like Annabelle. I haven’t liked any offshoot of The Conjuring, but I have liked the first and second of those a whole lot.

Anyways, I heard Annabelle: Creation was better than Annabelle? No idea. But I still went to see Annabelle Comes Home in theaters anyways, because film critics don’t always do homework.

The good news is I can say that you definitely don’t have to see either of those Annabelle movies to understand this one. I’d say, seeing The Conjuring movies helps fully grasp this one better.

reflectI also haven’t seen the La Llorona, and it probably affects this movie zero. Probably.

First of all, for context, this movie takes place…at the start and/or during and/or right after The Conjuring. We get to see the Warrens (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) collect the doll, place it in their home, bless it and all that. And then?

Rush off to a job! So close to Judy’s (Mckenna Grace) birthday, their daughter. And they cant take her on these scary things. So instead they leave her in a house with scary things. But it is okay for a few reasons. The room of artifacts is blessed weekly, has tons of protections, and many locks. And hey, they’ve had stuff for awhile and nothing bad has happened.

Plus they have a really swell babysitter in Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman), who is kind, takes care of Judy, and knows where to stay out of. She is not new at this.

What IS new about this situation is that Mary’s friend, Daniela (Katie Sarife) decided to stop by intrigued by the creepiness of the house. Sure enough, Daniela goes where she shouldn’t, lets some things open that she shouldn’t, and now the night is about to be full of terror.

Also starring Michael Cimino as hunky neighbor kid.

da fuq
What’s this? A fear unrelated to the title of the movie?

In Captain America: Civil War, it featured over 10 superheroes and villains, introduced new characters, featured a lot of fan service and was still pretty good. It also felt like Avengers 2.5 in a way, but it also still maintained that it was a Captain America movie the whole time, despite the extended cast.

Yes this is relevant to the review.

Annabelle Comes Home seems to want to be the Captain America: Civil War of the Warren Investigative universe. It is clearly a Conjuring-esque film, besides also featuring the Warrens, but in terms of the various threats. In each Conjuring film there is one main threat, but also a couple of minor ones. However, unlike Civil War, this did not do enough to feel like an Annabelle film.

In the other two Annabelle films, she is the lead, the star, the threat. In this film, her “power” makes all these other artifacts come to life and haunt accordingly, so much that each individual artifact seems to harass their own kid. And then a couple more for fun. Annabelle herself doesn’t seem scary, she is just a doll sitting there “mentally” doing things. The Conjuring films have these extra mini-horrors now in order to find what the fans like for their spinoff movies. This felt like they were throwing a dozen things at the screen just to hope for more spinoffs.

Annabelle Comes Home had a good sense of dread around it. But at the same time, I knew how the fate of all the characters would be by the end. It feels like a waste. This big evil powerful spirit doesn’t seem to really have an endgame here. Eventually they are just able to win, and scary stuff just remains scary, and I don’t know at what point was she ever planning on “winning” and getting the things she needed.

It has good scares. The plot is wack and the villain is wack. Just give me The Conjuring 3 already, please.

2 out of 4.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum? Oh fuck that. That title is awful. Is this a book? For a movie, your subtitle should be the words, or Chapter 3, but not both. And yes, it is different if the word chapter wasn’t there. But this title uses a colon and a dash? Who has got time for this?

This movie is now called John Wick 3, as everyone will end up calling it anyways.

Recap! John Wick was amazing! John Wick 2 expanded the universe and was weird and had extremely long fights in some tunnel. I don’t remember a lot about that movie, besides so much universe building, but it ended with Mr. Wick going on the run with everyone going to come after him with no help. I don’t remember how many dogs were involved.

doggos
Two times the dogs, two times the revenge…?
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is in New York City. Is that where the last one ended? I guess, it must have. Okay.

He has an hour to deal with his shit before he is excommunicated and can no longer use any of the services this band of guns for hire offer. Medical, dental, vision, banks, safe spots, gun places. Nothing. And a $14 million price tag on his head means every miscreant will risk it all to take him down.

Even his old friends (Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Laurence Fishburne) cannot really assist him. Sucks to suck.

Instead he has to call in old favors, that are super serious and above the excommunication. He wants to get to the top of the organization and reason with them so he can just live out his life and be normal. And along the way hundreds must die.

Also starring Halle Berry, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, and Jason Mantzoukas.

Horsies
A horse is really just a big doggo.

John Wick 3 is a roller coaster. There are highs, and lows, and frankly, by the end of this review I might change this rating based on how I feel. And unless I explicitly state it, you wouldn’t know it was changed, because this is a static writing page and not a video.

First of all, I liked the action more than John Wick 2. Early on a fight scene occurred in an antique weapon shop and was amazing. It was a bit egregious, but amusing, awesome, and painful to watch. The sound guy won’t win any awards for using the same breaking class sound over and over. It set the pace early on and I expected it would then become a non stop action movie that just had Wick going through waves of henchmen and bad guys until no one in the world remained.

But it did not do that. It was slower. There were several scenes of Wick having to convince people to help him, despite repercussions. Then we got an extended shootout that was only interesting because of dogs, because everything else was long takes and head shots and it wasn’t too creative in the long run. Then more slow, then more long fight scenes with boring battles. And finally, finally, the last last set of fights was so painful to watch, because apparently Wick lost all sorts of fighting ability and went through at least 10 walls of glass. These things would explode at a touch when the plot mattered, but other times barely crack if punched/kicked/hit with a weapon.

I understand that paragraph is uncomfortable to read, but looking back at the film, that is what I feel. It was visually pretty to look like, but the beginning was far better than the end, with the movie having no reason to be over two hours long.

The biggest problem I have with the movie though is that There is virtually no difference between the Wick at the beginning and the end of the film. This movie spent over two hours failing to tell a complete story. It decided to tease another film instead, leaving this one just…filler? The only problems solved are ones that were introduced in the film itself, not ones that the whole story has been working towards.

And that is messed up, given the makers of this franchise claiming before the second movie that it was “always a planned trilogy” despite the first being a completely fine stand alone movie and this one also ignoring that statement.

1 out of 4.

The Best of Enemies

True stories are sometimes fun. Sometimes they are true…ish and give us a topic like Green Book, which is barely about the actual Green Book and pretty damn disappointing.

Other times we get true stories that are like The Favourite, which are probably extremely fictionalized but based on real events and well acted so we let it pass.

And then we get something like The Best of Enemies. Another true story that seems to actually be based on real people and events, without making things offensive or skirting the issues that are important to the subject. Wait, this shows a Klansman in a favorable light? Alright, maybe not completely inoffensive.

Papers
And I got the tweets all ready to prove it.

Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) is a single mother and an activist living in Durham, NC. She runs Operation Breakthrough, which is to help poor black folks not get completely fucked over by the white man. And it is always a battle. Fighting for good homes to live in, fighting for decency, fighting for better schools. It is a full time job and one she will proudly take until it is fixed.

And then we have C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell), a poor white man who also happens to be the leader of the Durham chapter of the KKK. I should probably mention that this takes place in 1971, after the Civil Rights Act was passed and desegregation occurred. It had not occurred everywhere. For example, Durham! They still had white schools and black schools. And shockingly to no one, the black schools were older, overcrowded, with old supplies and not enough money compared to the white schools.

Well, one of the main elementary schools gets damaged in a fire, with most of it being unusable except a few classes. Clearly now they need to segregate, it is only fair. Nope. Council says to use those 8 classes and make them go to schools in shifts instead of disrupt another school.

The cowards that be in charge above that, when a lawsuit from the NAACP appears, decide to organize a “charette”. A term made by Bill Riddick (Babou Ceesay), where he comes in to organize the community to discuss the issues for a few weeks and have a senate vote on resolutions. Anything they overall decide to do, Durham will do. Even if that means segregation. And Riddick wants to make sure this is real and worthwhile, so he decides that Ann and C.P. should be the co-chairs of this event, overhear everything and give each side equal ground. Surely, this will lead to peace and harmony.

Also starring Wes Bentley, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Anne Heche, Bruce McGill, John Gallagher Jr., and Nicholas Logan.

Convo
This could get nominated for costume given the body suit Henson had to put on for this look.

Ack. Where to begin.

Well, Rockwell is being typecasted as a racist turned racist we can not hate fully at this point. From Three Billboards, to this, to…Vice (Kanye West says so). That’s not something he should continue.

I was worried about this film because from the title and looks of it, it almost made it seem like it is going to imply that people of these people are important and should be heard. And uhh, one of them is a racist KKK leader. The other is fighting for survival. That is the sort of story that puts a bad taste in your mouth before it gets started, so it is a hard thing for people to just accept and want to see. But yes, by the end, [SPOILERS] the guy saw the light in real life and did the right thing and helped schools segregate, turning his back on the KKK. He should be celebrated for that, but most of the film is putting him in a slightly positive light before the moment, as the change occurs and again, it feel uncomfortable.

Technically, this movie has a white savior problem. And that is hard to avoid when given the real story, a white guy did save the situation. It is a hard thing to balance, when it has to fully embrace the white savior as part of the real narrative.

Honestly, trying to accept this film as a story is hard, and only works and can be acceptable because it is real. If this was fiction, it would be a complete shitshow of a plot. This makes it hard to talk about as a reviewer, from purely a movie standpoint.

So let’s just finish by comparing it to Green Book. The acting in Green Book is better. The camera work in Green Book is crisper. But the plot is so far from reality and insulting, it does not get a pass for its story and its actual true bits are not worthy of praise. While The Best of Enemies is rougher around the edges, it at least sticks to the facts and is pretty informative of a story on this topic. It is one that likely would have been better done as a documentary though, to really get the feel for these people and not put us in the middle of this awkward narrative.

2 out of 4.

Greta

Halo, ich heiße Greta. Ja ja ja. I totally know german. I mean, ich spreche Deutsch.

Greta isn’t even about a German! But, I of course think of Hansel and Greta, who may not have been German either, but it is something I like to pretend.

Greta is a movie I knew nothing about going into, expect that it would probably be creepy.

“Creepy like a Greta on a Wednesday afternoon,” Hannibal, probably.

Stare
Ah yes, let’s stare at each other. That’s totally being Greta.

Frances McCullen (Chloë Grace Moretz), who is not Greta, is a Bostonian pretending to be a New Yorker. She is supposed to have a good spirit, trust people, be all loving. You know, not a typical New Yorker (or person from Boston. Should have made her from the Midwest). She is living in a loft with her friend, Erica Penn (Maika Monroe), whose family is rich and pays for the place.

Still though, New York is an experience. No real goals, just to get a job, see where life takes her.

And then she finds a bag on the train. A nice bag, with a wallet, some money, some random pills and shit. And so being the nice girl that she is, she finds the address and returns it in person to one Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert), which is of course an anagram for Egghead Rit.

She is old, lonely, but friendly, and Frances feels bad for her. So they share information, she helps her get a dog, and before she knows it, they are now having dinner dates and walks because they enjoy each others company. But Frances will quickly find out that Greta isn’t what she is claiming to be, and she might have other plans for Frances.

Floor
Typical stuff, like cleaning floors with your body.

Greta is not like normal villains. She is older, she is frail, and she is able to hold a lot in to herself. We see so much of her personality come out when she is doing the bad stuff, when she can fight through pain, when she dances around the house in a chaotic situation, her just sheer insanity.

Greta is a slower moving film, but it draws you in by having Moretz’s character determine something weird is going on really early and trying to avoid Greta as a lot of the film’s action. The ending gets a bit wild too, when we fully see what Greta is doing, has been doing, and more.

The ending is a bit of a crowd pleaser and goes a bit by the numbers, however. I thought it was a bit uninspired based on the rest of the film. It also does move at a relatively slow pace overall. I mean, we don’t have a high body count, and Greta isn’t very physical throughout most of it, so it is the creepiness of smaller actions that has to entertain the viewer. I personally felt myself battling with falling asleep in the middle of the movie, until certain events really picked things up.

Greta is still a good change of pace, and hopefully a good direction for thrillers in the future.

2 out of 4.

Fighting With My Family

Fighting With My Family is a topic that combines a few things: real life story, wrestling, and British people doing silly things. We haven’t had a title like this in awhile.

Directed by Stephen Merchant, who I had the pleasure of interviewing after the movie and you can read the interview here, it is the story of wrestler Paige. How she grew up in bumfuck England and somehow made it to the WWE, despite not being their typical female wrestler.

I can’t imagine if we had any actual bio films actually based on wrestlers. Documentaries, sure, but like a young Hulk Hogan movie? A young Rock? A young Macho Man Randy Savage? It is relatively interesting that the first one to get one is a woman wrestler named Paige, who is probably only big in the wrestling circuits.

Dreams
This is what dreams are made of.

Saraya Knight (Florence Pugh) did not have dreams of growing up to be a wrestling super star, she was indifferent to it. Sure she trained for it like every regular kid. Wait, what?

Oh, her parents are “professional” wrestlers. Her dad (Nick Frost) and mom (Lena Headey) run a very small wrestling company in their small community. Helps them stay clean off of drugs and violence. They train people, they put on shows, they have a good time. Saraya’s older brother, Zak (Jack Lowden), did have the dream his whole life. And thanks to a video, they both are going to have a chance to audition for the WWE!

And then they are going to have to deal with the fact that Saraya, who is going by Paige, made it to the next round of training, and Zak is still stuck at home. She took his dream. And the dream and training in America is going to be tough, lonely and destroy their whole dynamic.

But can she make it? (she can, we know that). And if she can make it, can she be a star? (also yes.) But what does she have to accomplish first? (okay good question).

Also starring Dwayne Johnson and Vince Vaughn.

ring
“First we kick each others ass, then we kick all of the other asses.”

Fighting With The Family is an enjoyable film but very much by the numbers. A long shot trains, gets betters, and does the unthinkable, and people love her. Along the way were hardships, that made her want to change, quit, and more, but she conquered them. Hooray!

So you aren’t getting anything new from the plot, just the setting. Wrestlers, British trailer trash, and Vince Vaughn playing himself as a talent coordinator.

However, it is clear the actors are really going all in for it. No one is trying to half ass this movie, there is high energy, especially from Headey/Frost. It is great to see The Rock be the Rock again and go all Rocky with it.

Pugh carries a lot of the film as well, and does a really good job for a young actress.

I think this film suffers a bit from trying to put too much story into a short amount of time. Things are rushed, and her struggles don’t seem super apparent. A lot of problems are more obvious communication issues so the audience just has to struggle until she gets her shit together.

But overall, not the worst movie about a WWE star that I have never heard about before.

2 out of 4.

Velvet Buzzsaw

Before Velvet Buzzsaw, Dan Gilroy has directed only two movies, and he is the writer of both of those films. The first one was Nightcrawler, a genius film and clearly one of the best of the year. It is haunting, and Jake Gyllenhaal gives one of his best performances of his life.

The second one was Roman J. Israel, Esq., which people like to ignore. I mean, Denzel Washington was nominated for acting from it, but it didn’t have Gyleenhaal so no one cared. It was not was well received as his first film.

This brings us back to Velvet Buzzsaw, which Gilroy again wrote and directed on his own. And because it is more horror based and has Gyllenhaal in it, people were notably excited and declared it would be just as good as Nightcrawler! Being released on Netflix isn’t an issue, because Netflix movies can be good!

People like to hype, I guess I am saying.

Art
Nothing scarier than hearing I would have to analyze and judge pieces of art.

It is really hard to pick a main character to really talk about in this movie, but they want us to focus on Gyllenhaal with advertising, so I will. Morf Vandewalt (Gyllenhaal), probably a fake name, is an art critic in LA, one of the most famous and prestigious. He does fine work, people like him, he knows how to describe things like any elitist art man.

One of the galleries he tends to review at has a young fledgling art dealer, Josephina (Zawe Ashton), who is having a stressful time in life. To top it all off, some man dies in her apartment, she finds the body, it makes her late for work and she is demoted. After finding out that all of his items are to be destroyed per his wishes, she checks on his cat and finds hundreds to thousands of pieces of art, all originals, all haunting and powerful.

This? This could be her chance. You know, to deceive some people, act like it is her client, sell his art, get big in the community. Everyone is instantly amazed by the art, including her boss (Rene Russo), they want in on the action, want a piece of that huge jackpot of money they are about to create.

But as soon as more research goes into the now deceased artist, they find he had a troubled past, and has a good reason to have wanted all of the artwork to be destroyed.

Also starring Billy Magnussen, Daveed Diggs, Toni Collette, John Malkovich, Natalia Dyer, and Tom Sturridge.

STare
Everyone uses the same Gyllenhaal staring picture in their reviews,
I WANT A DIFFERENT ONE OKAY?

Velvet Buzzsaw, both the title, and the premise, is one that is able to draw you in slowly. It is set in a world that most of us are not a part of, dealing, making, selling art and making it a focal point of their lives. The rich, the elite. And that makes it a good film to have people die in.

Too many horror films are killing off our teenagers at record numbers. What about these rich people? The snobby elites? Why not watch them die in creative art fueled ways?

The concept is fine, but it definitely lacks the creep factor. It doesn’t seem to fully embrace the thoughts of horrors, and instead we get a strange drama/horror hybrid, where enough people definitely die, but never in ways that really seem exciting to talk about. The final death was a bit wicked, but other than that, it is mostly generic crazy death things.

It would be more memorable if it just went harder in the genre, but this movie plays it safe. We don’t have enough horrors set in museums, which are clearly some of the creepiest places to be. This adds to the list, but doesn’t top that list.

2 out of 4.

High Flying Bird

It has been a good long while since I received a Netflix movie early for a screening, not including the Mowgli one, as they played that in theaters for us. When I got a notification about it, I was excited, but I admit, I assumed it would have been Velvet Buzzsaw.

Instead it was for High Flying Bird, which I admit I would have probably ignored on description alone, if not for two reasons. First, obviously, I need to review it if they ask, so they can ask me to review more (makes sense!). And two, it was directed by Steven Soderbergh! As a general rule of thumb, I should watch everything that this man creates, as I will like or love them more often than not.

Now I do recall that he said before after doing Unsane that he will film all of his future movies with iPhones, or something to that regard, which did give me hesitation. It gives it a unique feel, that sort of fit with Unsane, but might not work for everything.

Fist
We will get to the issue of him doing a movie about race politics as a white dude, later.

Ray (André Holland), not Ray Ray, is sports manager/agent/pr man for namely basketball players, at a hard time to be an agent. Because there is an NBA lockout going on, and if most of their clients aren’t getting paid, then they aren’t getting paid. This isn’t great for job security, morale, or anything, and the lockout has been going on for months.

Ray’s newest client is Erick (Melvin Gregg), who was recently drafted number one overall! However, being drafted doesn’t mean shit. HE hasn’t received a paycheck yet, despite needing to move and figure out how to pay for bills and promises he didn’t expect to worry about. He is getting into trouble, and is in a weird spot with his own job. He has signed a contract, but it hasn’t been able to get processed. He has a team, but he really doesn’t have a team. Grey area can suck.

Ray wants to end the lock out, and decides on a strange plan, involving his unsigned yet signed talent. It is something that can put his own job, his player’s job, and a lot of people out of business. But is it crazy enough to work and get these men back to playing ball?

Also starring Zazie Beetz, Zachary Quinto, Sonja Sohn, Bill Duke, and Kyle MacLachlan.

dinner
This restaurant is so fancy, they even look whiter just by being in here.

Some of the topics in this movie deal with slavery, and how modern things can be attributed to past slavery notions in the USA. It also has a majority black cast, all done by a white director. It is however written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who wrote Moonlight, and is clearly not white. It sounds to me like the idea for a story was met, and they just brought in a director who wanted to just do all of his filming with phones, let him do his directing/cinematography thing, while giving pretty important input that he couldn’t possibly fully understand.

And that is probably fine. A team of white people didn’t put this movie together. It is a story that is set in a realistic setting, with realistic people, circumstances, and realistic conclusions. It is sort of a fantasy in terms of how quickly it all concludes at the end, I honestly thought there would be at least 15 more minutes.

Overall, the film is under 90 minutes if we don’t include the credits, and has a lot more set up than the conclusion really deserves. It is rushed, and despite all of the set up, we still don’t get a set up to fully explain Ray’s idea, or elaborate on how things will go down. The ending plays off like we were watching a heist movie, and we have to see how Ray did it, but of course on a much smaller scale than a heist.

Not enough gets to actually happen in the film for me to love it, but the ideas are there. The acting is believable. The camera work is unnecessarily weird and I never really get fully immersed in that choice. High Flying Bird as a movie just is unable to reach as high as its title would imply.

2 out of 4.

Miss Bala

January being known as a dumping ground for films, so does that include February 1st? I mean, that is barely out of the month, most of the previous week is there!

Miss Bala is actually not an original film, but a remake of a 2011 film of the same name from Mexico. It looks like from casting and rough plot that they aren’t trying to change much, given the lead. This is what I would say is potentially a good example of a time to remake a foreign film. Why? Because I had not heard of the original.

Not that I, Gorgon Reviews, is the final say of what can be made in movies, but remaking something that was met with a lot of critical acclaim and famous is silly. If it is already great and well known, why bother? The things we should be remaking are the films that didn’t do well, or didn’t have a strong word of mouth. Because that means something may have actually gone wrong, and it could be improved on with a new version.

It is a smart way to not worry about comparisons. But for some reason, companies rarely do this, as they’d rather just rely on name recognition to make that money, good or bad. Oh well.

Also, the original Miss Bala did actually reach critical acclaim, but it just wasn’t seen by most of the world.

Pose
This doesn’t look like its in the middle of action, it looks incredibly posed.

This is not a movie about a girl named Bala, but instead a girl named Gloria (Gina Rodriguez), just like that other movie, Gloria. She works in LA as a make up artist, for models and sometimes celebrities, so she is pretty good. And she uses her talents for her friends, like her friend Suzu ( Cristina Rodlo). Suzu lives in Tijuana, which Gloria used to live in for a bit, but always feels a bit weird there. Judged for being an American and not perfect at Spanish.

Suzu is going into a pageant show for Miss Baja California (I have to assume Mexico pronounces it as Bala… and that is where the title comes from. Or its a Spanish pun that doesn’t translate to this film, who the hell knows), and Gloria is going to make her look good.

Unfortunately, the night before auditions really begin, they go to a nightclub to try to get an in with the owner and some dudes with guns bust in looking to kill. Gloria loses sight of her friend when running to safety, and has to spend the night worrying about her safety, since she cant seem to find her any hospitals. And when Gloria goes for help, she ends up getting kidnapped by the gun men who did the shooting, putting her life, her body, and her friend potentially at risk. But…are they really the bad guys?

Also starring Damián Alcázar, Ricardo Abarca, Ismael Cruz Cordova, and Anthony Mackie.

Money
They are trying to sell this movie on sex and dollars, yo.

Miss Bala is a film with a lot of twists and decisions for the main character. Sometimes too many twists can make a film feel annoying, because at a certain point, you don’t believe the twists any more and you just want it to get to the end to be done. One way to combat the twist fatigue is to have only two outcomes overall, so each twist just makes the viewer change sides. That way you cannot get overwhelmed, which seems to be the strategy with this movie. However, the twists feel extra pointless, because with only two sides, the stakes are low and it is still relatively easy to guess how the whole thing ends up.

If I had to say something nice, I liked that it featured a setting not traditionally given to women led films. It was definitely HER movie and her making a lot of decisions. Now, from these decisions, the audience can get quite annoyed with them and maybe even think they are poor, but they do seem to match the character and make sense for her. For the most part. It also didn’t solve all of its problems with violence. There was some smart moves in there, and a lot of panicked thinking. But this is not a gun toting heroine who is going to rid Tijuana of the cartel influence.

Despite all of that, this film doesn’t go too many new places. All of the side characters are still cardboard cutouts for the eventual resolution of the plot to unfold.

The ending itself is pretty silly and seemingly tries to set up something that no one would want, in a situation that would not happen. Overall, Miss Bala will probably easily find an American audience that loves it, but it still feels rather January.

2 out of 4.

1 2 3 68