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.

Rocketman

When it comes to musical biopics, I am really all for them. Give me the stories of these icons of our youth and our future. Give me their stories of overcoming the odds, of being famous, of maintaining any level of humbleness. Just give it to me if it is worth being a story.

And I was looking forward to Rocketman, despite the trailers making it seem very unrealistic, because it was going to for theatricality and style instead of just substance.

And no matter what, we have to compare Rocketman to Bohemian Rhapsody. Both about gay icons and music. And Bohemian Rhapsody is very controversial due to its treatment of the main character, who died twenty years ago. Were they respectful? Was it just a standard biopic? all of that? Well, Rocketman has to try and elevate past the noise of the controversy, ideally by not featuring any controversy. We shall see how that unfolds.

devil
Well aren’t you a handsome devil.
Elton Hercules John (Taron Egerton) was a musical icon once he got it big, hit after hit, known for his extravagance, stage shows and more. Sure, he wasn’t the first to do this, but he was unique in his own rights, and helped lead the way to plenty of performers going all out.

Rocketman tells the story of Elton John’s life, from Elton John’s point of view. And more importantly, it is being told during an AA meeting about his past, when his drug and alcohol consumption has reached his breaking point and he realizes he needs help.

Most of the film, besides his rise to fame and increased levels of flamboyance, is his relationship with his mom (Bryce Dallas Howard) which seems to start out somewhat positive while also maintaining a huge level of shame, and his relationship with his best friend/songwriter Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), who helped create all of his hits, because apparently lyrics are John’s weak point.

And you know, eventually his rise after he kicked all the bad influences out of his life! And if you are hoping to hear some Lion King songs, you have to wait a month for a different film.

Also featuring Matthew Illesley and Kit Connor as little Elton Johns, and Tom Bennett, Gemma Jones, Richard Madden, and Steven Mackintosh.

sunglasses
These are terrible sunglasses, not for the design, but for not blocking any sun.
It is very important to note that Elton John is very much alive right now at the time of this writing and involved in this movie being made, so it is all from his point of view. It isn’t a strict biography of factual events, but more a fun retelling of his life, with important points that he wanted to highlight to define who he is as a person and why he went certain places in his life.

And at the same time, this is a “musical” and biopic, where the focus on around half of the stories are more there for story purposes and less performance pieces. That means we get singing, dancing, choreography, great sets, basically a lot of sweet music videos.  When the first song hit and it was like a standard musical, I was ready to be floored.

I will say that the first half felt overall more exciting than the second. Although some bigger songs are in the second half, they are a lot more standard and less elaborate so that was a bit disappointing. I probably most enjoyed Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting which was probably the second or third song. I will also say they went with very unique choices when it came to song choices, because there were plenty of songs I didn’t know that made the cut with ones I was hoping for barely mentioned. But what do I know, I am not a John fanatic or anything.

More importantly, when compared to Bohemian Rhapsody, I definitely prefer Rocketman. One of my biggest problems with BR was how they treated his sexuality, coming across as filmmakers as very homophobic and anti-Mercury’s lifestyle. And despite this entire movie taking place in some sort of AA meeting with flashbacks, clearly noting problems in John’s lifestyle, it wasn’t blamed on his sexuality. Just good old fashioned poor upbringing and a lack of support structure from those who claimed to be loved ones.

John’s sexuality is important for this movie to exist, as is his non-sexual relationships. And all of them are treated with respect and not a disdain.

Now, I did wish it was a little bit better overall, but it was still a good step in the right direction. Hopefully the next film we get is for David Bowie, and then maybe finish it up with George Michael. Let’s get all alternative sexually up in these theaters.

3 out of 4.

Toy Story 4

Controversially, I did not love Toy Story 3. I thought it was average. I did like it more than Toy Story 2 though, but the first Toy Story was still my favorite.

Oh sure, it made me cry like a sane person, but I didn’t like its main arc with Lotso Bear and it put a damper on the whole thing. But also like everyone else, it felt like a natural end to the series and was happy to see their ending.

Now, then they announced a Toy Story 4. This was terrible news. Not just because of the ending of three, but because Pixar has been splurting out sequels to everything the last few years, very few OC, and they have been average to poor. Toy Story 4 meant the end to their sequels for awhile, but it also felt like it shouldn’t even exist.

The plot had to overcome quite a few hurdles, and couldn’t just be a regular good movie, in order to justify its existence.

forky
Telling a spork about the birds and the bees can take awhile.

The first thing TS4 did was give us a flashback as to what happened to Bo Peep (Annie Potts). Now, in real life, between TS2 and TS3, they just decided to drop Bo Peep because Barbie was on board to lend its brand and that is more powerful. They wanted Barbie for the first movie, and they said no, because why would they give their stuff to an first movie studio?

Anyways, that becomes a very relevant plot to the movie now. Because of course, Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and gang are with Bonnie, a young girl, who might have different interests than a cowboy. In fact, in her first day of Kindergarten orientation, she makes a new friend out of trash named Forky (Tony Hale). Surprisingly, this trash creation is somehow able to come alive, but he doesn’t identify as a toy, and this causes a lot of conflict.

Woody takes it on his own to make sure that Forky doesn’t try to kill himself, for the betterment of Bonnie. Because damn it, Woody just wants to make his child happy, even if he isn’t actively played with.

This leads them on an adventure, leads us surprisingly back to Bo Peep, and through a lot of weirder places.

Also featuring the returnees of Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, Don Rickles (but barely because he died), Joan Cusack, and Kristen Schaal. But it also features the voices of new toys and people played by Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Kay, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Bonnie Hunt, Carl Weathers, and Madeleine McGraw.


Porcelain dolls have really gained their mobility.

Did Toy Story 4 make me cry? Of course it did. Twice! And that surprised me, because reports from friends had them not crying, but I’ve always been an emotional wreck. But remember, just because I cried does not make it a good movie.

Thankfully, Toy Story 4 is a good movie. It “fixed” the issue that I had with the last installment, in that good and bad characters are able to experience growth and change based on their circumstances. Relatively early in the movie you can sort of tell a few things that will happen by the end, and that is totally okay. You can accept the foregone conclusions early enough about a few of them and go on the ride and brace yourself before the end. Knowing where you will end up is fine, if you don’t know how you will get there. And on the journey to the end, it went plenty of unexpected places with surprises along the way.

And honestly, it feels like a great ending. Most people said after 3 that it was the perfect ending and not to mess with it. And a lot of people are saying that after 4. But I disagree, really it feels like the start of a lot of potential adventures on multiple fronts. Because lets face it, in this franchise with a large ensemble cast (that just gets more and more ensemble-y), many many characters were reduced to just a few lines. In fact, some arguably main tier characters had a few moments, but clearly the focus was on Woody and Bo Peep only. Buzz was humorous side character and Jessie had maybe only a few more lines than Slinky Dog.

I will put that there will be money on a Toy Story 5 in the future. Not just side short films for TV like the Toy Story of Terror event. And this time I will look forward to that. Just give me more original movies first Pixar.

3 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.

Paddleton

I am at the point where I will probably watch anything with Ray Romano in it. Anything, except for that show that made him super famous, because now its old and there is no way I can enjoy that show format. No way.

But older Romano? He has been kicking butt since he was Autistic in Parenthood.

Then he nailed it with The Big Sick. He is doing these fantastic drama/comedies that make us feel. So sure, tell me he is in a Netflix only film that is about death, drama, and comedy. I know I am going to see Paddleton as soon as I could.

Serve
Paddleton, where they use paddles a ton.

Michael (Mark Duplass) and Andy (Ray Romano) are best friends. By circumstance though. You see, they are neighbors as part of a duplex home scenario. Andy lives upstairs above Michael. And despite their age difference, it turns out that they are destined to be great pals.

They both love Kung Fu, home made pizza, and playing made up versions of Racquetball. There is a nice abandoned wall outdoors they can play against each other. They have a love for the same Kung Fu movie too, that not many people appreciate.

And then Michael got a diagnosis. He’s got cancer. Terminal stomach cancer. He could do some fighting to make himself last longer, but he realizes he will be miserable. So he wants to go out on his own terms. He knows there is medication he can take that will let himself die, sort of legally. Just apparently unethical so he will have to travel to get it.

Michael just wants to have one great time with his friend, before he is too weak. He wants to play their game, eat some pizza, watch Kung Fu, and then have his friend be there with him when he drugs himself to death. A pretty swell experience for Andy, I tell you what.

Also starring Kadeem Hardison and Alexandra Billings.

Couch
When they punch together, the enemy will surely vanquish.

Paddleton wrecked me. This is just a movie about two friends, wanting to be best buds forever, and realizing they can’t. The realization of one of them dying, the younger of the two, was something they never expected, certainly not this early in their lives.

The difference between them, as one has accepted his own death while the other can’t handle the responsibility and emotion that will come with losing his best bud, while also being the arm that metaphorically pulls the trigger.

And so we get laughs, and we get tears. We get quite a few powerful scenes discussing the idea of mortality and letting go, while also still finding parts of it amusing enough to laugh at. I couldn’t look away at the end. I knew what I wanted to happen at the end, and it went in my mind, the right direction.

This is a film that will stay in my mind for many years, and also be one I can rewatch and still connect to on an emotional level after several views. Like Steve Jobs!

4 out of 4.

Triple Frontier

Triple. Frontier. Triple the normal amounts of frontier. What designates multiple frontiers?

Like, in the USA, we only really have one frontier I think, and that is one way to describe the West.

Are they just going into three different big areas? Is this a metaphor meaning three times the number of normal plot twists?

All I really know is that I hate spelling frontier. My natural instinct is to spell it as fronteir, and this movie may be my downfall.

TAble
Five people, maybe they will split into three groups?

South America apparently has a lot of drug lords, as movies like bringing this to our attention. And thanks to Santiago ‘Pope’ Garcia (Oscar Isaac), one of them might finally get taken down. Gabriel Martin Lorea (Reynaldo Gallegos) has been wrecking havoc for years, and Pope has been working the area trying to get him. And finally, he is in his reach. He has found his compound, he has scouted it, they are ready.

But he needs a team. Sure he works for the military already as special ops, but the pay is shit and the danger is high. He wants his team to be his old team, who all retired and are struggling. His old team (Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal, and Garrett Hedlund) have all moved on, but why would they risk their lives again? Apparently, the government will give them a percentage of the cash they recover, assuming they also take down Lorea.

That will pay for college. That will pay for lots of things. That is worth the chance.

But a simple heist of a drug lord will of course cause a lot of issues, maybe some death, and maybe some twists. How much is actually worth the cost?

Also starring Adria Arjona.

Guns
Just a couple of bad ass mercenaries, trying to harass the locals.

Triple Frontier is actually a film by J.C. Chandor, who brought us Margin Call and A Most Violent Year, the former that I loved a lot and the latter which was highly praised. I was excited to see him constantly changing his style and genre, to see what he could bring to the action genre.

This film is a bit of a messy one, but I found it still to be highly entertaining. I love it when Affleck gets to play more asshole characters, we know it was his bread and butter back in the day with Mallrats. I think the whole team worked really well, and Hedlund was my surprise standout. They gave him a lot of personality for someone who was probably the lowest billing of the group. Isaac also kicked butt and I appreciated the effort he gave to the project.

I still don’t understand the title. But I appreciate the scenery and the struggles the group went through. They all felt like a real team, not stereotypes, but people trying to get by who also happen to be great at shooting guns. A strong and unique film in this genre type.

3 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.

Donnybrook

I was initially intrigued by Donnybrook a few months ago, solely on the title alone. It is a rarely used term for a brawl, and at this point, most used occasionally in a hockey game when the announcers are feeling frisky.

Now, in retrospect, this could just be a sequel/reboot of the movie Fighting, since its title isn’t really different. A movie about kicking the crap out of people, is that what I need to look forward to nowadays?

I know parts of the cast, I didn’t know the director, and I wasn’t sure where it might go. But theoretically, it could surprise me and go the way of Warrior, a film I probably watch at least once a year. Only time will tell!

kid punch
Teach a kid to punch, and he will never be hungry for life.

Out there in the woods, somewhere, there is a yearly brawl. One that people come from all over to watch, to bet on, and to compete in. It is of course popular. Why? Well one, you get to watch people beat the crap out of each other in a cage. No boxing gloves, not many rules (outside of no killing), and a lot of people getting the shit knocked out of them. Oh and there is a $100,000 prize.

That’s life changing money, but not any fool can enter. It also has a significant entry fee, that way only people are serious about probably just getting wrecked.

People come for various reasons, revenge, to save their family, debt, whatever. A few people are going to make there way to the fight, some leaving destruction in their path, some relatively easily. Who wins? Who dies? Who just comes close and falters? We shall see.

Starring Frank Grillo, Margaret Qualley, Jamie Bell, James Badge Dale, Chris Browning, and Pat Healy.

grillmaster
Barbed wire adds a little more of an unnecessary danger. Yay!

Donnybrook is an action movie, but it is also a drama. In fact, it is more drama than action. A lot slower of a movie than one would expect with the title, with bouts of extreme violence to shock you along the way.

And I just didn’t get it. It never drew me in. I didn’t care about the characters. I didn’t care who won, or even if there would be a final fight, to be honest. It dragged and felt too violent without the payoff.

I guess it is sort of like life. It sucks, bad things can happen, unexplainable bad things, and people can get hurt along the way, their dreams crushed. But it didn’t feel like a message that I needed that hadn’t been given before.

Those who want to see the violence and some extremes might enjoy it, but I think this movie would have a hard time finding an audience.

1 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.

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