Archive for April, 2016

gr

*Note: portions of this review were originally published during coverage of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival

Director Jeremy Saulnier prefers no-frills violence, free of manicured choreography and unrealistic precision. In his films, like Blue Ruin and now Green Room, the characters are clumsy, prone to mistakes and victims to unpredictable chaos: like actual human beings.

In Green Room, an indie hardcore punk band is wrapping up a tour when they book a gig at a forested venue popular among the shaved-head-and-swastika-tattoo crowd. After their set, they witness an act of violence, triggering a chain of events that sees the band fighting for survival against a small army of aggressors led by a chillingly calm and sinister Patrick Stewart.

Lesser thespians playing against type might fall into mustache-twirling caricature. Perhaps the best treat of Green Room is watching the subdued Stewart, best known as the wise and pacifist  Jean-Luc Picard, icy cold and subdued as the shot-calling Darcy.

But Saulnier knows when to play, and when to hold, his Ace. Stewart makes a late entrance, after the already competent cast — including Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat and Ruin‘s Macon Blair — have set the stakes. The movie has a certain pulse to it, moving the action out, in and back out again of the titular green room, only to see its heroes encountering fresh hell at every turn.

After setting the chess board, every beat in Saulnier’s tight script feels natural and brutally real. But the film is also full of surprises, as Saulnier intentionally steers the action into seemingly predictable territory only to have a sly reversal tucked up his sleeve.

Grade: B+

*Green Room opens nationwide on Friday, April 29

Read Full Post »

everybody-wants-some-ping-pong.jpg

Director Richard Linklater has made a career out of under-spoken, meandering films that beautifully capture a romanticized version of normal people and their normal lives. The easy examples are Boyhood, Linklater’s painstaking 2014 opus that chronicled the slow aging of its protagonist and his family, and it’s sister project, the truly perfect Before trilogy, which checks in on lovers Jesse and Celine once each decade.

But even Linklater’s more commercial films hew to this theme. School of Rock, still Linklater’s most – and perhaps only – mainstream project, dials up the silly with Jack Black at its center, but gives equal time to an ensemble of unknown child actor-musicians. And Dazed and Confused, the 70’s-set godfather of the One Epic Night genre, is a sprawling mediation of young adulthood populated by a cast that has since matured to A-list status (chief among them a pre-fame Matthew McConaughey, waxing philosophical about life, man, and coining his “Alright, alright, alright” catchprase).

Which brings us to Everybody Wants Some!!, (yes, *two* exclamation points) the “spiritual sequel” to Dazed that easily delivers on the promise and expectations of its predecessor. Set at a Texas university and following the campus baseball team over a single weekend — that magical  Shangri-La after students have arrived for the fall but before classes have actually begun — Everybody riffs on brotherhood, identity, love, competition, and like, *life*, man, all while the surface motivations of the characters are to get druk, laid, and win baseball games.

While centered on Blake Jenner’s Jake, a wide-eyed freshman pitcher in awe of college living, the film is carried by its ensemble, with clear standouts in Willoughby  (Wyatt Russell in the McConaughey  role) and Finnegan (Glen Powell) a fast-talking, self-determined Adonis whose name is likely a reference to his role as a sympathetic Fagin to Jake’s Oliver Twist.

Everybody is happy to take its time, slowly pulling in more characters and ideas as the team makes its way from party to party, stopping for a discussion over a round of beers before making a wardrobe change and heading out again. At all points the plot is in no hurry to get anywhere, and once those stakes are set Linklater is able to breath his usual tricks into the script, coming at you sideways with poignant and effortless ruminations.

And perhaps the film’s greatest trick is the way its captures its period setting, not with flashy and obvious callbacks to days gone but by removing preoccupations. The effect is bolstered by a roving attention to 80s music — disco, punk and country make key appearances — and the film’s reliance on lesser-known talent, making it all the more believable that this story was set aside for three decades and only recently plucked from a shelf.

It’s a continuation of a great streak by Linklater, who has made a movie that anybody would want. I, for one, want some more.

Grade: A-

*Everybody Wants Some opens in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 22.

 

Read Full Post »