Category Archives: Jay

Broken Diamonds

The Premise: Scott (Ben Platt) is finally following his dreams all the way to Paris to become a writer. But the universe is a bitch, and by way of obstacles, Ben’s got a newly dead dad, a mother lost to dementia, and a sister, Cindy (Lola Kirke), who is normally hospitalized with schizophrenia is about to become unhospitalized, unmedicated, and very much Scott’s problem. Is he his sister’s keeper?

The Verdict: Movies about mental illness often flirt with exploitation, and while Cindy’s character, and her plight, do serve her brother’s growth and character arc, Broken Diamonds tries to paint a full picture of an illness that is disruptive and damaging and sometimes just part of the package. Platt and Kirke are both very good, very watchable, and the story benefits from its small scope. Schizophrenia is a family disease. Their family has suffered together, and apart. It has left its members battered. It has demanded sacrifice. Platt is of course very good at showing us the inner turmoil of deciding when enough is enough, but it is Kirke who has the heavy load, allowing Cindy to be a woman who is more than just sick. Emotional but undemonstrative, Broken Diamonds is character-driven and intimate, an interesting exploration of the complicated equation between siblings.

Directed by: Peter Sattler, starring Ben Platt, Lola Kirk, Yvette Nicole Brown; find it July 23rd in theatres and on demand.

Pig

John Wick’s wrath was incited by the slaughter of his beloved dog. For hermit Rob (Nicolas Cage), it’s his bunny rabbit. Just kidding. It’s his PIG!

The Premise: Rob the Recluse has been living the shack life for 15 years, his only companion a pig with whom he gathers truffles, trading them for supplies with Amir (Alex Wolff) on a weekly basis, his only contact with the outside world. But when Rob is attacked and his pig stolen, he’s forced to re-enter society to track down his esteemed swine and bring her home. In the city, we come to understand what caused Rob to leave it behind in the first place, and we get to know the man he was before the trauma.

The Verdict: Surprisingly, a win. Although Cage has had some cult favourites over the past decade, this is his true return to acting as opposed to Nic Cage impression he’s been doing on camera for years. A tale of love and loss, Cage is toned down, identifiably human, quietly emotive, broken in humbling ways. We’ve been accustomed to “Cage Rage” and maniacal acting from him for so long, it’s a nice reminder that he can, indeed, turn in a moving performance. Rob is a man desperately holding on to the one thing in his life that still has meaning, and Cage is strangely enough the perfect delivery guy.

Gunpowder Milkshake

Spoiler alert: I’m pretty sure the milkshake’s actually just vanilla.

Public safety notice: Don’t eat gunpowder. It’s not delicious and it also might set your toots on fire.

Friendly piece of advice: Chocolate beats vanilla. Peanut-butter-brownie’s even better. Salted-caramel-pretzel is the best.

Movie premise: Sam (Karen Gillan) is abandoned as a child by her assassin mom after a bloody diner gun-battle. Sam grows up to be a hitman herself, working for The Firm, led by a greasy guy named Nathan (Paul Giamatti). Sam’s last hit has gotten her into some hot oil: despite merely doing her job, she happens to have killed the son of a very important, and very vindictive man, who has sworn revenge. Even The Firm is upset with her, sending her on a mea culpa mission to recover stolen money, which she learned belatedly (ie after shooting the guy) is intended for ransom to save the dude’s young daughter. Sam takes it upon herself to rush the guy to the hitman hospital, and herself to the rendez vous point to try to save the kid, but at every turn Sam’s only making more enemies, and it’s increasingly unlikely she’ll get out of this thing alive.

My verdict: Derivative. The best parts of the movie are copied directly from other movies. Parts not directly plagiarized flag a bit. Director Navot Papushado is not a needle drop savant; I’ve seen some directors brilliantly and subversively pair an unexpected song with an action sequence, but Papushado is never going to be one of them. The action sequences are actually pretty fun (especially when “librarians” Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, and Angela Bassett get in on the action), but the terrible music trips them up and tempers our enjoyment. Not really worth the watch unless you’re desperate for some action – or unless you’re trying to convince a producer that a librarian spinoff would be a much more intriguing idea.

A Few Quick Reviews

The Tomorrow War

The Premise: Time travelers from just 30 years in the future arrive in present day to plead for soldiers for their potentially world-ending war, and those sent to battle the blood-thirsty aliens are unlikely to return.

The Verdict: Nothing special, but a decent popcorn flick and plenty of action.

Directed by Chris McKay, starring Chris Pratt, JK Simmons, Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson; find it on Amazon Prime

Black Widow

The Premise: In this Marvel prequel, Black Widow is confronted by her past as a spy and the people she once considered family.

The Verdict: Sean thought it was good, I thought it was convoluted and boring. Certainly not Marvel’s best but an okay stand-alone if you’re desperate for some super hero action.

Directed by Cate Shortland, starring Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz; find it on Disney Plus (for an additional fee) and in theatres

A Quiet Place II

The Premise: Immediately following the events of the first film, mom Evelyn leads her daughter, son, and newborn baby away, exposing them to the dangers of the outside world, in an attempt to bring their solution to any remaining survivors.

The Verdict: A surprisingly satisfying sequel, the film manages to recapture some of what made the first one so special while expanding its universe.

Directed by John Krasinski, starring Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cillian Murphy; find it on Amazon Prime

In The Heights

The Premise: Bodega owner Usnavi dreams about a better life outside of Washington Heights in the middle of a sweaty summer blackout.

The verdict: Culturally rich and exceptionally vibrant, this is a modern musical rooted in hope.

Directed by Jon M. Chu, starring Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera; find it in theatres and on VOD

Cruella

The Premise: Disney’s Dalmatian-obsessed villain gets an origin story.

The Verdict: Visually stunning and loaded with great performances from Emma Stone and Emma Thompson, I’d have no problem recommending this if it was a stand-alone film, but as a prequel to 101 Dalmatians, it doesn’t quite get to where it’s going.

Directed by Craig Gillespie, starring Emma Stone, Emma Thompson; find it on Disney Plus (for an additional fee)

Thunder Force

Okay, I’ll say it: I liked it.

I don’t typically think Melissa McCarthy is at her best when her husband Ben Falcone writes for and directs her and this movie hasn’t exactly changed my mind about that, but it was just good enough to make me smile.

McCarthy’s charm is her saving grace; even when she’s not exercising the full spectrum of her talent, she’s still extremely watchable. Joined in Thunder Force by Octavia Spencer, these two ladies have fun chemistry and an even funner premise. A mutation has rendered a handful of lucky sociopaths into supervillains, but unfortunately for the world, no heroic counterparts exist. Thankfully Emily (Spencer) is a real brain, and she’s developed a special treatment that would grant the kind of powers so people could really fight back. It’s possibly that Emily and her childhood friend Lydia (McCarthy) are not the best choices to receive this treatment, but let’s not dwell. It’s happening. Lydia’s getting super strong and Emily’s going invisible and you better believe Lydia’s pretty pissed that Emily’s training is so much easier than hers. Of course, the training’s going to pale in comparison to fighting Chicago’s worst villain lineup, including The Crab (Jason Bateman), The King (Bobby Canavale), and Laser (Pom Klementieff).

Thunder Force is 100% stupid of course, but also like 55% funny. My laughter was often out of sheer confusion, but the kind of confusion that’s curious and maybe even a little awed. It’s still not a great equation but I’ll take it. I may even watch it twice.

SXSW 2021: Sound of Violence

Alexis is a helpful, happy little girl at the age of 10, and although she’s lost her hearing in an accident, she still loves to listen to music. But when she not only witnesses the brutal murder of her mother, but intervenes, managing to kill the assailant with a meat tenderizer, something very strange happens. The experience awakens synesthetic abilities; spontaneously recovering her hearing, Alexis also discovers that she can “see” sound – the sound of violence in particular.

Cut to: Alexis (Jasmin Savoy Brown) is now a young woman, pursuing her passion through academia. Everything seems to be going well for her, despite having been orphaned and survived a tragedy at such a young age. But not even Alexis’ closest friend and roommate Marie (Lili Simmons) knows that Alexis’ hearing is once again in flux, and before she loses it again, she’s determined to complete her masterpiece. Of course, the addictive synesthesia that haunts and inspires her requires some increasingly gruesome sound design. The music she creates is accompanied by orgasmic cinematography, fueling her obsession with bloody, graphic violence and its beautiful sounds.

Sound of Violence is indeed a horror film; Alexis may be a composer, but the pursuit of her music sends her on a killing spree that will rank this film quite high in terms of gore. You’ll come to distinguish the sounds of hearts being perforated, skin being peeled from bone, bloody stumps still plucking at stringed instruments, blood pouring out of orifices from too much song. It’s a symphony unlike any other. It pushes past conventional boundaries, and I’ll admit, the movie lost me on more than one occasion, having asked of me just a little too much. But those inclined to horror will appreciate the marriage of savagery and sound – not music to my ears, perhaps, not exactly a pop tune meant for radio, but a rare orchestral piece whose movements will surely awaken something in you.

The Marksman

Jim is an aging rancher and recent widower who still patrols his land along the Arizona border to protect his few remaining cattle even though he’s about to lose everything to the bank. Once in a while he spots IAs (illegal aliens) sneaking across his land, and he dutifully reports them to his stepdaughter Sarah, who works for border patrol. But one day Jim (Liam Neeson) comes across a young Mexican boy and his mother, who aren’t just smuggling themselves across the border, they’re fleeing the cartel. And the cartel is SUPER motivated to eliminate them! Which is how cowboy saviour Jim becomes the unlikely defender of a kid named Miguel (Jacob Perez) against the assassins whom will pursue them both across the United States.

The Marksman feels more like a Clint Eastwood movie than a Liam Neeson movie; a mildly racist old man, patriotic through and through, becomes marginally less racist through an unlikely friendship/ white saviour relationship with a person of colour.

Jim and Miguel, in an epic, odd couple road trip, are pursued by both border patrol, including Sarah (Katheryn Winnick), and a Mexican drug cartel led by the evil Mauricio (Juan Pablo Raba), who are super invested in murdering a ten year old kid who probably knows less than nothing. But this is the premise, and while you don’t have to believe in it whole-heartedly, you do have to at least accept it in order to enjoy this action-thriller spanning from Arizona to Chicago, which is quite a commitment.

There isn’t anything new or terribly exciting about this movie. You’ve seen it, you’ve been mildly amused by it. Liam Neeson is of course watchable as ever, though he’s getting pretty grizzled, and not a super believable southern cowboy. Director Robert Lorenz puts in the bare minimum effort. He’s not making a masterpiece here, he’s making a fairly disposable movie about an old, implausible guy taking the law into his own hands, with his own guns. Do you need The Marksman in your life? Absolutely not. But if you love old white dudes realizing that illegal aliens are people too, you could do worse than Liam Neeson.

SXSW 2021: WeWork Or The Making And Breaking Of A $47 Billion Unicorn

Adam Neumann really, really wanted to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. Or Jesus Christ. I’m not sure which he thought was more attainable, but either way he founded a real estate company and ran it like a tech company, and he was its messianic leader.

Maybe you know about WeWork. Not long ago, it was the next big thing in terms of office space. Aimed at freelancers, entrepreneurs, and start-ups, it wasn’t just a flexible, communal place to work, it was a lifestyle choice. Adam Neumann claimed he wanted to change the world, but first, he’d change the way we work. Charismatic like a cult leader and with an inflated sense of self also like a cult leader, Neumann talked a big game, attracting clients, employees, followers, and crucially, investors. And office space was just the first stop on his quest to dominate the world; next came housing, and education. But as WeWork readied for an IPO, a company that was once valued at an astounding 47 billion dollars went from magical unicorn to bloated corpse in a brisk 6 week death spiral that shocked the heck out of everyone.

What happened? Hulu’s glad you asked, and they can’t wait to tell you all about it.

A Week Away

Greetings from my toilet! I don’t normally write movie reviews from my bathroom but I’ve recently developed a severe intolerance to dairy and it seems imprudent to risk sitting anywhere else.

Yes, this movie is THAT cheesy.

Will (Kevin Quinn) is a teenage orphan and a bad apple. Stealing a cop car is the last straw that gets him kicked out of the group home so as a last resort he gets sent to summer camp. Which is actually church camp. And at church camp, in apparently just the space of a single week, a certain young lady helps him develop a crush on Jesus and saves him from himself. Avery (Bailee Madison) is the pastor’s daughter and has a dead mom herself, so they really bond over seeing their dead loved ones again in heaven one day. Hypothetically, of course, which is what atheists call faith.

Faith is great but prayers are not going to get you through this movie, and that’s because this isn’t just a teenage romance that puts marriage on the table but not kissing, it’s also a musical! An eerily perky, God-centric musical with the absolute cheesiest, boppiest choreography I’ve ever seen in my whole life. Generally I like a good musical, and I don’t mind a sappy teenage romance, but this movie made me hate them both, made me hate movies generally, made me hate even cheese, and cheese is practically my religion.

This movie is unabashedly Christian, though I do think paintball and confetti cannons are rather obvious ways to trick kids into thinking Jesus is cool, and I think tricking anyone into religion is technically a cult. But a cult with an arts and crafts cabin and tater tots on Tuesdays. Care to join? It’s currently recruiting on Netflix.