Blaze

This is one of the many reviews that have come out of WorldFest in Houston. Check the WorldFest tag to see them all!

Opening the festival was Blaze. Now, last year the opening film was LBJ and about a famous person I actually heard about before, with bigger names attached, and a goddamn amazing director.

This one is about a vague country star who never reached his full famous potential, died pretty young, and is directed by Ethan Hawke, who has not done a lot of directing.

This is a good film for a biography, because I would rather learn a shit ton about someone who I haven´t heard everything before. Biographies should actually teach us about new people things. That is, assuming their story is actually worth hearing. I´m looking at you boring biographies about famous people that are just…well, shit.

Woods
Oh cute, matching outfits with no one around to say its cute.

Blaze Foley (Ben Dickey), or Michael if you knew him before he was trying to become a famous singer, had a soul that was built for telling stories. These stories were generally musical in nature, which made it a good thing that he also could play that guitar. He had a life of growing up with song, thanks to his family being part of a traveling family band.

The story that we hear about in Blaze is his whole adult life’s tale. About how he met his future wife, Sybil (Alia Shawkat), a Jewish actress who appreciated the woods as much as this large cowboy. In fact, they lived in a shack in the woods for several years rent free, living off the land and no electricity.

We get to see him moving to the big cities with the intention of selling his tunes and making it famous in the country music scene. Including leaving his wife behind to tour with a friend (Josh Hamilton) in an old truck down the south. And also their move to the bigger city of Chicago to tackle the blues crowd, since he figured his music was sort of country and the blues, given how sad they all were. We also get to see him get a record contract, and coincidentally, let that all go to shit as well.

This is all juxtaposed with his final concert, which was recorded life, the day before he was shot and killed protecting a friend.

Also starring Wyatt Russell, Sam Rockwell, Charlie Sexton, Steve Zahn, and Kris Kristofferson.

Truck
Life is like being on the back of a truck. You know, fast and no seat belts.

Blaze is a slow burn, which is not what the title implies. Blaze implies a film where everything happens quickly and maybe even burns out, well before it should have. Which is a good metaphor for Blaze the person. But is it a metaphor if its his name? I don´t know how hyperboles work.

The film telling the story interlaced among big moments, early moments, and still ending with the natural ending was a great choice. Getting to hear his ¨friends¨ tell stories about his life provided a great tool for exposition, and the fact that the rest was presumably based on his wife´s book of his life gave it a very personal touch.

As a music fan, I can say it was a bit of a low point for me. I never was really engaged in the many songs sung, as they were all so slow and soulful, and felt more akin to background music while the stories unfolded. Hard to change the music if it is based on a real source though.

Overall the story just felt okay to me. The reason it ended with such a high rating though was due to the acting, especially from Dickey and Shawkat. I don´t actually know Dickey from anything else, but he transformed into this Blaze character, along with all of his imperfections. It never felt like an actor, it just felt like this artist I was completely unaware of.

Blaze is well acted, and tells the story of someone you also likely don´t know. It is debatable if it is a story that needs to be told, but hey, they told it anyways.

3 out of 4.

Ingrid Goes West

Way back a long time ago, when I saw the movie Colossal, I had just learned about Neon Films, a distribution company run by Alamo Drafthouse. Colossal was amazing and everyone should see it. I believe Colossal was their first big release.

They had trailers for two other films specifically from them as well, Buster’s Mal Heart, and Ingrid Goes West. Both trailers were really well done, and I knew I wanted to see both of this films. I thought Neon was starting off really strong.

Well, Buster’s Mal Heart was indeed weird, but not something I could get behind. And Ingrid Goes West I decided to wait until it could be rented, because my wife was also really interested in it, especially since we were watching Parks and Rec at the time. Again, another delay, but that is okay, still hit it in 2017.

BFF
Did they both just conquer some natievs? Whats with the victory signs?

Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) just loves her friends, like, a lot. I mean, mostly she stays in her room, eating junk food, but thanks to social media she can keep up with their posts and going ons. She is one like away from joining in on the fun. But fun time is over, because Charlotte (Meredith Hagner) had the gall to get married, not invite Ingrid, and also imply all of her friends were with her on that special night. That bitch. So Ingrid heads over to the wedding to crash it and give her a piece of her name, putting her in a mental institution for awhile and giving her a restraining order.

Once Ingrid gets better, she heads home to an empty home, her mom now dead and gone. With Charlotte’s Instagram now set to private, Ingrid has to find a new BFF. And that is how she found Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). A social media pseudo celebrity, the type with a ton of followers so she can make money by posting images of products. She lived a perfect life, one that Ingrid would like to become.

And since she has all this inheritance money, she upends her life, flies to California and hopes to find Taylor to become real life BFFs with her, not just internet pals. She can become popular and awesome too. She rents a small apartment owned by the neighbor, Dan Pinto (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and sets off to be friends with Taylor at any cost. At. Any. Cost.

Also featuring Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen, and Pom Klementieff.

bf
Ice Cube’s son gets real warm with Aubrey Plaza.

Films that are about mental illnesses have a lot of weight to them. For example, a few years ago I watched the movie Young Adult, when my reviews were still poorly written but frequent. I used words like crazy to describe her and eventually realized that what I was doing was not okay to do. I didn’t get that movie.

Now, old (and as an intellectual~~), I understand more the right way and wrong way to speak about certain things, and other times I still don’t fucking care (hooray swearing in reviews). I just also know that if you are going to make a film about someone with a mental illness and their illness shouldn’t be the brunt of the jokes. Jokes can happen, but if you are just making fun of illnesses, that is bad. And honestly, at this point, I really can’t tell if it goes too far in Ingrid Goes West.

Ingrid is a tragic character, who gets obsessed with what she feels is perfection, until things go to ruin. We get to see her in an institution, and who knows why she is like that, or when her mom died and if it is related. Characters getting pissed off at Ingrid over her actions? Totally justifiable in the movie. But the movie makers made a choice and chose to not make their movie in a way that seems to understand that they can’t just call a character mentally unstable and run with it. There needs to be justification, a reason, some sort of closure, and not just a gag.

And again, since it seems like it is hard to tell if they really treated it with the appropriate gloves, it probably means they didn’t. I can see elements there, just not enough.

The film on its own wasn’t really that funny though. It took awhile to really get going, maybe they were going for realism. Jackson Jr. was hilarious though, every time he was on screen I ended up laughing, which is maybe the only reason this made it to a 2.

2 out of 4.

Goon: Last of the Enforcers

I. Love. Goon.

I did not do a best of list of 2011, but if I did, Goon would have certainly been on in it. It was such a surprise of a film. I don’t except a lot out of hockey movies, nor do I expect a lot out of Seann William Scott films, but something magical came together to give a movie that was hilarious, brutal, but still full of heart at the same time. And it told a different sort of hockey story. A different sort of underdog.

It was the perfect storm.

And then they said there would be a sequel. This time it would be written and directed by Jay Baruchel who wrote the first film. It would be Goon: Last of the Enforcers and it would come out eventually.

So it took six years yes. And Canada had it released in theaters briefly in March with no knowledge of when it would come to America, theatrically, DVD, or otherwise. And at some point it was just here, I saw the Blu-Ray at used movie store. I freaked out, excited, and scared.

As much as I loved Goon, I had big fears that a sequel would just be utter shit, as a lot of comedy sequels tend to do.

Train
Turning the whole thing from a comedy into a romance is a bold choice as well.

Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) is ready to start a new season as a Halifax Highlander, but with a big change. He is going to be the captain. This upcoming season is a bit of a weird one, as there is a lockout in the NHL, so more and better players are in their league than normal and people are actually noticing them for once, including the media. They have a new owner, Hyrum Cain (Callum Keith Rennie) a former player himself.

During their first game, Glatt gets into a bloody fight with Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell), an up and coming violent winner, and yes, son of their new owner. Glatt gets his ass handed to him and his right arm injured, putting him out potentially for good. His right hand is so messed up, if he fights again, it will quickly get fractured and fuck it up permanently.

So Glatt is ready to retire on that note. Eva (Alison Pill), his now wife, is also pregnant and worried about him, so he gets a steady job in some insurance company. He hangs his skates up for his family, as the Highlanders begin to lose and lose. The owner makes changes that seem to threaten the franchise and the careers of his friends. That is not good. There is no way Glatt could come back, right? Not with an inability to fight. He would just have to be a player mostly. It might be crazy enough to work…

Also returning are basically everyone from before: Marc-Andre Grondlin, Liev Schreiber, Kim Coates, Jay Baruchel, Jonathan Cherry, George Tchortov, Karl Graboshas, Trent Pardy, and Richard Clark. It also brings in Elisha Cuthbert and T.J. Miller!

New Guy
New guy definitely wins the beard game if anything.

A lot of the same happens in the Goon sequel, thankfully. We still have the locker room playful banter that makes up a decent portion of the original. A lot of the skaters are the same. The old captain has retired and is now just a coach, along with the same old coach as well. Just a new owner, a new player, and the same supporting cast.

Pill’s character has changed for the worse. She is worried about her husband, and pregnant, but she really doesn’t get to have a lot of good moments unlike the first film. She rocked originally when she was a hot mess, but I guess it is development. Glatt feels like the same old character, which feels great, although the time between the films is a bit up in the air. I definitely enjoyed seeing Rhea in a roll that felt natural as well.

Unfortunately, Russell’s new antagonist, though threatening, was all over the place. They tried to place it all under just anger issues, but it is really hard to understand him as a person, and feels like he would just do what a writer wants, not like how an actual person might react.

Jokes are still there, they just didn’t hit as hard. Some really funny moments, but I have already forgotten basically every best moment, unlike the best moments from Goon which I have quoted for years.

All in all, it is just an okay film. It won’t tarnish the memory of the first film, but also, it is one I won’t ever need to go back and see again. Oh well. Just don’t make it a trilogy and end it poorly.

2 out of 4.

Table 19

Ah, Anna Kendrick. She had six movies come out in 2016, and I was disappointed in the five I saw. I am sad to say The Hollars, which looks great, I still haven’t gotten around to.

I used to love Anna Kendrick, since I saw her in Rocket Science and Up In The Air. But her choices that don’t involve singing in the movies have been bad choices, and that really just sucks.

So on that note, I wasn’t rushing to see Table 19. For a lot of reasons, but even the Anna Kendrick appeal was losing its lure on me. At this point it just feels like I should just wait until Pitch Perfect 3 before trying to trust her again.

Camera
And then Kendrick might have more than one person following her around for paparazzi.

Ah the joys of a wedding. What a splendid time where people come together to laugh, sing, dance, be merry, all in celebration of the love of a couple!

Except for those who feel like they had a pity invite or shouldn’t be there. Or maybe people there for alternative reasons. Or maybe you are just Eloise (Anna Kendrick). A month ago you were the bridesmaid, but you bailed out of the wedding due to an awkward situation. You are great friends with the bride (Rya Meyers), but you were also dating her brother, Teddy (Wyatt Russell), the best man. And a month before the wedding, he broke up with you over text. Oh yeah, lot of confusion now over what you should do. ‘

But Eloise still shows up! She decides to come anyways, for her friend, and maybe for rekindling love, but it is awkward. And she is now put at Table 19, with the random people who they couldn’t put anywhere else. The people who came but really, why?

Like Jerry (Craig Robinson) and Bina Kepp (Lisa Kudrow), who own a diner, have a lose connection to a family member of the bride, and sort of hate each other. There is Renzo (Tony Revolori), a high school student looking to just get lucky, who is young and unaware of how to be social. We have Walter (Stephen Merchant), a cousin who is awkward and a criminal. And we have Jo (June Squibb), the bride’s first nanny who they love so dearly, maybe.

Eloise now has to exist in misery with this group of strangers who have issues, while hoping she doesn’t also accidentally ruin the entire wedding.

Also starring Andrew Daly, Amandra Crew, Charles Green, Jay Klaitz, Margo Martindale, Richard Haylor, and Thomas Cocquerel.

Freaks
Oh my god look at these freaks and weirdos.

Table 19 is a shocking film. Not in the extreme graphic language, violence, or nudity way. Not in the amount of laughs that it provides. But how different it was from its advertising, which most people would assume is a comedy with a bunch of weirdos, doing weird stuff. But it was hardly ever funny. There were some amusing bits, but it was extremely lacking on the actual humor.

Yep, we have a drama comedy that is more drama, with a bit of romance. It just drives the film into the average territory as it goes for several genres without excelling at any of them. If you have read certain films this year that I have reviewed, like Get Out or Colossal, I praised them for their genre bending. But the difference between them and Table 19 is that when the genres change, each the movie is awesome on each level. Table 19 is just middling, where the shifting doesn’t help it but hinder it.

Sure, it is realistic. But a lot of the story lines feel like missed opportunities. Kudrow/Robinson story felt like it didn’t help anything, Merchant’s story didn’t feel finished, and Revolori’s plot was just disappointing. The only other character to have a decent story was Squibb, who really brought the whole film together.

Table 19 has some cute moments and the occasional laugh. But the selling points of the film are how Kendrick and Squibb carry themselves throughout the movie, the realism they bring to the whole thing, to give the film a little bit of heart.

2 out of 4.

Shimmer Lake

Studies have shown that reviews that feature “Lake” in the title end up being better than expected when writing said review.

Of course, my only review before this was the movie Flakes, which was, I admit, better than I imagined it would be. It was quirky, off beat.

Shimmer Lake, it has plenty of quirky actors in it, but I am not sure how off beat it will end up being. I did go in with low expectations, despite the Lake theory, and as you can see, hey, it was better than I imagined.

Interviews
There was less sexual tension in this movie than I imagined as well. Look at that gap between police officers!

Shimmer Lake is also a story told in reverse. Similar to Memento, sure, but it is on a day by day basis. We start our story on Friday, and we see how the entirety of Friday plays out, then we see Thursday, all the way to Tuesday.

Because you see, on Tuesday, there was a bank robbery. And this is a small town, Shimmer Lake, so everybody knows everybody, and heck, a lot of them are related. Like or Sheriff Zeke (Benjamin Walker), whose brother, Andy (Rainn Wilson), a lawyer, just helped rob a bank on Tuesday. Andy worked with two other locals (Wyatt Russell, Mark Rendall) robbed a bank when it had a well known surplus, and Zeke was shot in the theft.

And now they are still about the town, Zeke is sure of it.

We just have to figure out how all the players are involved, which of course is revealed slowly while telling us backwards. We also have a judge (John Michael Higgins), a couple of FBI helpers (Rob Corddry, Ron Livingston), the deputy (Adam Pally), and the wife of a robber (Stephanie Sigman), and somehow one or more of them are involved.

And don’t worry, the lake is not the answer to the mystery.

Table
Blueprints and alcohol are the best items to help with a bank robbery.

About three fourths of the way into this movie, I wondered why it was being told in reverse. It didn’t seem to be adding really anything extra to the story. It seemed to be Memento-ing because people liked Memento.

But of course by the end it all became a bit more clear. And yes, Shimmer Lake is a film that will be better the second go around. I don’t know if I will ever really watch it a second time, but I would like to see what clues give it all away and make this story tick.

It was a bit hard to label this movie, because there are a lot of actors who are mostly in comedy films filling out the roster, and I think that adds a strange aesthetic to the whole film. I am calling it a Dark Comedy in that regard, because it is normally comic actors acting serious, in events that are larger than life.

Shimmer Lake isn’t a film that is reinventing the wheel or adding something entirely new to the industry. But it does try to stand out and, as I implied earlier, ends up being a better ride than expected.

3 out of 4.

Everybody Wants Some!!

Despite my many claims to be in love with Richard Linklater (damn the Before trilogy, making me melt like butter), I actually haven’t seen a lot of his work. Meaning for the most part, his older work has evaded me.

Yes, that includes Dazed and Confused. I know, I know. I such. And yes, it is free on Amazon Prime right now. I still haven’t gotten around to it. The only reason I bring it up is that I heard this film, Everybody Wants Some!! is a spiritual successor to Dazed and Confused. It has none of the same characters, but it is set in the 1980’s instead of the 70’s, and college instead of high school.

See! That’s all that matters right? I am totally ready for a movie that is confident enough to have two exclamation points in its title, with neither of them representing musical status. (Yes, I understand the Van Halen song title connection too, I’m hip guys!).

Nipples
I’m so hip I want to point out the man nipples on the left. You’re welcome.

Summer is over, it is 1980, and it is time for college. Our main character is Jake (Blake Jenner), a hot shot pitcher from his high school team. He picked this made up Texas college because they are amazing at baseball, and he wants to win and join the MLB. In fact, the team lives together in a couple houses off campus, perfect for partying and beers. His roommate Billy (Will Brittain) is obsessed with his girlfriend at home, constantly on the phone, also a freshman pitcher.

It should be noted there are no baseball games here. This is the fall, baseball is played in spring. Hell, there is barely baseball practice yet. In this film we get like, one practice and that is it.

This film is about athletic dudes, being in college, being bros, and having fun. And a shit ton of hazing, mini-competitions, partying, looking for girls, general house issues and so on and so on.

And of course it features a huge cast. We have smooth talking Finnegan (Glen Powell), philosophizing Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), ultra competitive McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), Roper (Ryan Guzman), and Dale (J. Quinton Johnson). Also a few ladies, Zoey Deutch and Dora Madison.

But also a lot more dudes. Like Tanner Kalina, Austin Amelio, Temple Baker, Juston Street, and Forrest Vickery. And more, but I am tired of linking them.

Stashe
Several sweet stashes exist in every scene, seriously.

It is really dang hard to talk about just what in the hell Everybody Wants Some!! is about. Thankfully, it isn’t that hard to talk about why the movie is good.

First up, the guys had a lot of personality. Everyone was different, but everyone felt real. I was excited to see Powell and Jenner as major roles as well. Powell played Chad in Scream Queens season 1 and was arguably the best character ever made. Jenner was the winner of season 2 of The Glee Project, which was a reality show to get on Glee, became a main character and apparently is in fucking movies now. Crazy. Jenner did a fine job, Powell was fantastic. Russell also played a wonderful character with an amusing plot line.

The film itself is also decently funny. Again, it is almost entirely just shenanigans between teammates. Hanging out, shooing the shit, hitting the bong, whatever you wanna call it. Just people existing.

It can be a sports movie without really any sports it turns out. It can be a good film despite having no reason to even exist. This is a definition of a “fun” movie for me. Not exploding action blockbusters, which have tons of problems and a bad plot. But a film like this where it is just about fun. And Everybody Wants to have Fun. (Sure, also it can be pretty sexist, but it is going for accuracy of the time, not a statement of how people should behave).

3 out of 4.

22 Jump Street

If I told you four years ago that not only would a 21 Jump Street comedy be made, but that Jonah Hill would be involved, and they’d have a sequel called 22 Jump Street, you would have kicked me in the nuts. Then publicly shamed me for being a terrible person. You also may have been slightly confused at the oddly specific-ness of that foretelling.

For all intents and purposes, 21 Jump Street should not have done as well as it did. But it ended up being funny, making a lot of money, and here we are. And this time, they don’t care what you think.

Fuck You
Picture speaks for itself.

College! That is where our heroes, Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) are going. Same aliases. There is a new new drug that has its own list of side effects that killed a girl. So they are going to infiltrate the dealer, find the supplier and take them down. Hmm, same plot too.

But this time it is different. Because in College, people can be free thinkers. You also don’t need a hall pass.

This time, Jenko is going to try out for football looking for dealers, where he meets the quarterback Zook (Wyatt Russell), who is basically Jenko’s clone and instant best friend.

Schmidt is going the art kids route, looking for drama and poetry geeks who might be hitting the WHYPHY up hard. That is where he meets Maya (Amber Stevens) and gets a girlfriend out of it. It isn’t creepy like the last movie, because she is of age.

But no! It is not just the same! After all, their bosses are still played by Ice Cube and Nick Offerman. Because that makes sense. But the new thug bad guy is Peter Stormare. That is different. Not to mention we have people from Workaholics, like Jillian Bell and uhh. That might be it.

Basically, what is important though is that they have the same blanket set as I do in real life.

Rocket Car

After viewing, I determine that 22 Jump Street was like one very long and elaborate inside joke. That would be annoying normally, but here is the good news. You are in on the joke, too. It all makes sense, because you are a person who saw the first film and understands that everything probably has an extra layer of meaning to it.

That’s right. This film is really aware of itself/meta/whatever you want to call it. And it will beat you over head with the jokes and at least for me, it didn’t get stale at all. Not only did it just keep building and building, along with an increase in action, but they didn’t even stop when the movie ended. It had to be one of the more amazing/funny credits I have ever seen. And they didn’t even fill the credits with dumb outtakes or anything.

Tatum might just be a comedy guy. Hill’s character had its moments, mostly dealing with one fight scene near the end and his interactions with Ice Cube, but Tatum had so many laugh out loud lines and moments. Only a few were shown in the trailer. The “lightbulb” scene with Tatum might be the funniest thing I have seen in a movie in over a year. Just thinking about it makes me laugh.

I feel like I am giving out this rating far too much over the last few weeks, but seriously, movies are really earning their keep this summer. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are comedy gods and they should be worshiped as such.

4 out of 4.

We Are What We Are

I have found the month of October to be pretty disappointing in regards to major horror releases. All we got for a wide release was the Carrie remake. There aren’t even any Paranormal Activities, because the next one got pushed back to January. Yes, I find them pretty bad now, but come on, just Carrie?

That is where the indie theaters step in. They have one more addition to the month, We Are What We Are, a remake of a Mexican film of the same name from a few years prior. Well, same name, but in Spanish.

Dinner
The religious elements are exemplified in the foreign version, where every male is named Jesus.

The Parker family is a strange family. They mostly keep to themselves, the dad, Frank (Bill Sage), his two daughters, Rose (Julia Garner) and Iris (Ambyr Childers), and their younger brother who doesn’t know much, Rory (Jack Gore).

Doesn’t know much? Yeah, because he is young and hasn’t learned a lot yet. He knows about Jesus. But he hasn’t learned anything about math, or science, or books, or their family secret.

Oooh, a family secret. You can probably figure out what it is. Look at the creepy fucking photos. I mean, I could tell what their secret was just by reading a small plot description and seeing the cover.

Well, they totally do that. But then a big rain storm happens, and it causes flooding. Flooding that might accidentally tear up enough ground to reveal their secret, that they have kept in the family hidden for over a hundred years. I am sure no one in the town is smart enough to figure it out. Oh, except for the wily Doc Barrow (Michael Parks), who doesn’t know he is about to discover a secret that big, but is just looking for his missing daughter, and enlists the help of a local deputy (Wyatt Russell).

Beasts
That ain’t bean juice there, fellas.

Outside of their family secret, there is not a lot of surprising things about this movie. It is not your standard horror, that is for sure. There isn’t a killer stalking victims throughout, all of the deaths are quick and not built up for tension.

In fact, the whole movie is kind of set up like a regular drama. It moves incredibly slow, with the family just doing their thing, the doctor just doing his investigation, until a confrontation near the end. Because of the downpour, the dad is off doing other things, and so the two daughters have to take part in their family activity for the first real time on their own. So that is a bit awkward and creepy.

I really enjoyed the ending, I think it made sense from the build up. However, the time it took for the build up to occur is what killed me. It is a rather slow moving movie. Even though the payoff at the end is worth it, I still dislike how I wasn’t really scared or completely freaked out until that point. At that point I wanted to vomit a little bit.

But hey, at least we have an alternative scary movie this month in theaters…kind of!

2 out of 4.