10 Minutes Gone

Sometimes even our “Sucks Ass” rating seems too generous. This is one of those times.

MV5BYTcwNjNkOGMtNmQ1MS00NzdmLWJmNDAtOWU4ZTFhZDgyODRiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzI1NzMxNzM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,962_AL_Frank (Michael Chiklis) is the safe-cracking heart of a crew looking for a big score in Cincinnati, that will pay the crew $500,000. The opening credits make clear that Frank and his brother have spent a lot of time planning the heist using army men. Their crew is working for Rex (Bruce Willis), a big shot in a suit who’s overseeing the job from an empty floor in an office building. It’s supposed to be easy money but of course things go wrong. Frank gets knocked out during the chaos, and wakes up next to his brother’s dead body. The box they stole is also gone, and Frank is left to figure out who double-crossed them to keep the whole $500k for themselves.

You may remember a bad idea from a few years ago called MoviePass. The initial pitch was that for a set monthly fee you could see as many movies as you wanted. One small flaw in the scheme was that no movie theatres were participating, and in fact they actively spoke out against it. MoviePass pressed on anyway. The result was that MoviePass was buying tickets at full price from the theatre and giving them away for almost nothing (MoviePass’ monthly subscription fee was equal to one regular price ticket).

So after a while of giving away tickets while misleading their investors about their chances of making a profit (which were literally zero), MoviePass found itself millions and millions of dollars in debt. Not even changing the terms repeatedly without notice solved the problems caused by MoviePass’ horrible business model.

Most would have given up at that point, but not MoviePass. Its ace in the hole? Making its own movies and giving away tickets to them! 10 Minutes Gone was one of MoviePass’ first films, and it also happens to be the last.  That’s because MoviePass is now dead and gone, and it’s probably best if we agree to bury 10 Minutes Gone alongside it. Everything about this movie is awful. It is an abomination. It was probably MoviePass’ worst idea. And that’s saying a lot.

 

Luce

Luce is an athlete and a star student, respected by faculty and friends. He’s soon to be valedictorian of his class. His success is particularly celebrated because Luce was adopted from Eritrea at the age of 10. He seems to have made a miraculous transition, overcome his tragic past.

So it’s a little jarring to his adoptive parents Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter (Tim Roth) when his teacher calls them in with some news. Ms. Wilson (Octavia Spencer) shows them an essay he wrote supporting violence as a necessary means for freeing colonized people. Considering his background (child soldier?), Ms. Wilson thinks it’s prudent to search his locker, and presents them with her findings: illegal fireworks. With school security being such a high priority, Ms. Wilson knows that if anyone else were to find these, Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) would be in hot water. She hopes his parents can intervene at home. However, Amy and Peter are loathe to bring it up, wanting to preserve the trusting relationship that was built with such difficulty. This seems like a relatively small blip in an otherwise unblemished record. But Luce finds the evidence and isn’t happy about the doubt or the suspicions of either his parents or his teacher.

Things escalate from there of course. Ms. Wilson’s accusations accumulate, and their repercussions amplify. Ms. Wilson is unrelenting but other authority figures are unwilling to compromise Luce’s stellar reputation. It’s her world against his, Luce’s parents trapped somewhere in between, wanting to protect their son but also wondering if he’s truly escaped his past. What is the right move? And to whom are they obligated?

The film is disorienting and Harrison’s performance is sufficiently nuanced to leave us guessing: is he being profiled or is he capable of some very exacting vengeance? The film plays with stereotypes and symbols in a way that’s deliciously tangled, addressing racism in a way that reflects its complexity and inextricability. Luce excels at sustained tension and menace, leaving the audience without its footing.

This chilling drama will have you weighing the costs of conformity, considering the limits of parental responsibility, subverting the notion of assimilation. Luce is uncomfortable but essential.

TIFF19: Ford v Ferrari

Full disclosure: I saw Ford v. Ferrari at last September’s Toronto International Film Festival. I enjoyed it. It was probably in my top three movies there. But you know what? I never got around to writing a review for it. I just wasn’t inspired. I still haven’t figured out why.

Ford+V+Ferrari+Movie+PosterI loved the cars. I remember chasing after the Ford GT40 in Gran Turismo and/or Forza (driving games from the late 90s or early 2000s) and it being totally worth the “work”. And like those games, Ford v. Ferrari puts the viewer in the driver’s seat at the legendary 24 Hours of LeMans (which, coincidentally, was one of the races I had to win in my video game quest, with lots of pauses).

I love the story. It’s based on true events as designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) team up with the Ford Motor Company to build a car that is able to compete with Ferrari’s racers. It’s a classic underdog tale twice over, as Ford had no racing pedigree at the time, and Ford wanted no part of Miles. But as often happens in movies and in real life that becomes movies, these spare parts were thrown together and triumphed against all odds – sort of. Ford got its trophy, Miles got the short end of the stick, and Shelby made a whole lot more classic cars, many of which you’ve seen in other movies (Bad Boys’ Shelby 427 Cobra and Gone in 60 Seconds’ Shelby GT500).

I liked the film. Damon and Bale have a nice chemistry. The script is clever and funny. The story translates well to the big screen. The effects are great.

And yet, Ford v. Ferrari would never have been in my list of best picture nominees for this year’s Academy Awards. It makes sense; it is a deserving nominee. I guess there were just a number of other movies this year that appealed to me and connected with me more than Ford v. Ferrari. Us, The Farewell, Knives Out, Ad AstraBombshell and Honey Boy, to name a few. But there are only so many spots. Ford v. Ferrari is really good, so I guess just make sure to see the others too!

Birds Of Prey

This is the Harley Quinn that Margot Robbie deserves. That we all deserve, really, away from the male gaze and into the capable hands of director Cathy Yan, writer Christina Hodson, and with Robbie herself producing.

Harley to Black Canary: “Do you know what a harlequin is? A harlequin’s role is to serve. It’s nothing without a master. No one gives two shits who we are, beyond that.” Harley Quinn has broken up with her on-again-off-again longtime love, the Joker, this time for good. Without him as an anchor, she knows she’s vulnerable. Under his protection, no one could touch her, but it turns out she’s accumulated quite a few enemies, and now that she’s untethered, they’re gunning for her. Number one on her tail: a guy who calls himself the Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), who seems to think of himself as a rival to the Joker, though he styles himself more like a Miami Vice drug lord. He does have a bit of a fetish for peeling people’s faces off, though, so don’t go underestimating him. The only way Harley can keep her keister safe is to find the missing diamond he and literally every bad guy in Gotham would like to get their greedy paws on.

In Harley’s sparkly shoes, Robbie proves she can make this role her own, and without her emo boyfriend in tow, Harley Quinn is actually an interesting character in her own right. Her origin is glossed over with a couple of smartly and quickly tossed lines; the rest of the film is devoted to amped up action sequences. Yan doesn’t just have some tricks up her sleeve, she’s got entire confetti cannons up there, glitter bombs and rainbow grenades. Her violence is slick and beautiful, set to a perfect array of pop tunes you’ll be stomping your feet to even as someone one screen’s getting their skull caved in.

I’ve seen far too many reviews mention ‘female empowerment’ (of course in a derogatory manner, eye roll) and I can only assume those people are a) men and b) morons. Did anyone refer to the Avengers movies as ‘male empowerment”? No? Yeah, didn’t think so. Birds of Prey is better than 99% of the other DC movies released in the last decade, and if it happens to star women, well, so be it. This is not about female empowerment, it’s about empowered females, women with their own agency, women who can save themselves and best their male antagonists. The only thing being fetishized here is a breakfast sandwich. Feel threatened by that? Maybe you could do with a little male empowerment yourself. I believe the Batman franchise was built on the theory of overcompensation.

Meanwhile, Robbie has built herself a fearsome army: Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, and even young Ella Jay Basco. And none of them are rolling around on the ground crying about mommy Martha.

Can’t get enough? We’ve got more thoughts on Birds of Prey here.

Horse Girl

Sarah (Alison Brie) is a socially awkward woman who never really grew out of her girlhood horse phase. It’s clear to everyone but her that she’s not really welcome at the stables anymore, but she visits her old horse Willow even more diligently than she visits her childhood friend who was injured in a riding accident.

But horses are the least of Sarah’s problems. She’s a sleepwalker and she’s finding that her troubling lucid dreams are starting to leak into her waking life. She’s losing time, finding her body bruised, and since she’s a big fan of supernatural shows, she’s prone to those kinds of explanations. Is she a clone? An alien abductee?

And what’s really interesting is when she meets a guy and he had to decide if he’s horny enough to put up with her crazy. Because it’s clear that her mental health is deteriorating. Whereas before she seemed quirky if cringy, now her behaviour is getting harder to ignore or excuse. Her boss Joan (Molly Shannon) hardly knows how to help her but she doesn’t have many other non-equine friends.

As things fall apart, so does the narrative structure of the film. It’s clear Sarah has been an unreliable narrator, but for how long? What’s real? We doubt ourselves and her story far more than she does.

The very talented Alison Brie produces and is co-writer as well; she owns this story because she has created it, crafted it. Sarah slides down a slippery slope, and the descent is gives Brie a chance to show a muscularity in her performance that we haven’t seen before.

I wish the film were a little more sure of itself. Director Jeff Baena is reluctant to come down on one side or the other but the ambiguity starts to wear thin and push the bounds of credibility. It was thoughtfulness and sensitivity that pulled us in, and we lose a bit of that toward the end. Horse Girl is for an audience comfortable with oddball films and open endings.

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

Timmy Failure has a misleading name, because he’s anything but. He may be young (11), but he’s the best detective in town (Portland). He and his partner, an imaginary 1500lb polar bear named Total, run the agency, called Total Failures, together. This may have been Timmy’s first mistake. Total is not the diligent and responsible polar bear he first appeared to be.

Timmy (Winslow Fegley), easily identified by his mullet and his red scarf (if not by his polar bear partner), roams the mean streets of Portland on the failure mobile, which looks suspiciously like a segway. But his case of the missing backpack is usurped by the case of the missing segway (eep!) which is in turn usurped by just trying to survive the 5th grade, his mom’s new boyfriend, his school’s rigid anti-bear policy, and the Russian spies overtaking his city. Gulp.

Winslow Fegley is a delightfully odd kid who pulls off charming and quirky in equal measure, exactly the kind of weirdo who’s a pleasure to watch. The whole cast, largely unknown, and largely children, are surprisingly talented and likable. It’s a good fit for a script that excels at being offbeat. Even the polar bear sidekick looks terrific, a visual witticism crashing about on screen. Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is almost like a Wes Anderson starter movie, tonally odd but in a way I quickly became addicted to. I imagine this is the kind of movie the whole family can actually enjoy, its clever moments more than enough to keep adults entertained and the protagonist’s wacky antics enthralling for all ages.

Timmy Failure is a great piece of original programming for Disney+ and I wouldn’t mind a bit if there was more just like it (sequel?) on the way.

After Everything

If Elliot hit on me the way he hit on Mia, he wouldn’t have gotten the time of day. Clearly Tinder has desensitized her – an unwanted intrusion and the implicit assumption that women somehow owe some kind of interaction to all men who ring the doorbell aren’t enough to dissuade her. She consents to a date, her roommates encouraging her to “get her dick wet” and he confesses: he was just diagnosed with cancer yesterday. It’s life threatening, and more importantly, sex threatening (ie, a tumor on his pubic bone, specifically Ewing’s sarcoma, if you’re the type who likes to Web MD that shit). With sex off the table, Elliot’s going to have to relearn how to talk to women!

So anyway, this puts kind of an awkward pressure on their relationship for a couple of kids in their early 20s who weren’t necessarily looking for anything serious. This pressure cooker means they get to know each other very intensely and soon they’re inseparable: chemo, radiation, surgery, and even a bucket list for broke 20somethings. The other people in his life get a little jealous that Mia’s monopolizing all his time, but they’re living like these might be his last days, because these might be his last days.

Jeremy Allen White and Mia Monroe are excellent as two people on this impossible trajectory. Either their love is doomed…or it’s doomed. Youth and passion may be enough to plow through the indignities of a medical crisis, but what happens outside those bounds? What will they even have to talk about if not tumors and ports and hair loss? Even if forever isn’t exactly a long time, it’s still further ahead than either of them has ever though. Cancer has launched them into a premature adulthood, which may be a flimsy premise for a love story. You think that illness is going to be the greatest test, but lots of mundane things topple relationships with deeper roots than theirs.

P.S.: it’s National Wear Red Day!