Gringo

March 8, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: David Oyelowo, Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron
Directed by: Nash Edgerton (“The Square”)
Written by: Anthony Tambakis (“Warrior”) and Matthew Stone (“Intolerable Cruelty”)

It’s been a decade since filmmaker Nash Edgerton, brother of actor/director Joel Edgerton (“The Gift”), released his first feature film, “The Square,” an exciting Australian crime drama that finds a unique way of telling a typical bag-of-money story without going through the same tired tropes (it’s comparable to 1998’s “A Simple Plan”).

With “Gringo,” Edgerton, even with an impressive cast, which includes his brother in a lead role, can’t recapture the same kind of thrills his debut movie provided. Leading the way is actor David Oyelowo (“Selma”) as Harold, a mid-level manager who fakes his own kidnapping in Mexico while helping his horrible bosses Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton) and Elaine Markinson (Charlize Theron) close a deal on a marijuana pill that could make their pharmaceutical company tons of cash. The biggest problem with “Gringo” is that there are far too many unnecessary subplots, which the weak narrative can’t support.

Plus, besides Harold, the majority of the characters are so unlikeable, it’s impossible to invest much into them. If the dark comical personality traits of Richard and Elaine worked better, it would be a different story, but none of what they do or say feels authentic or even satirical enough to keep the film’s tone from going off the rails. “Gringo” definitely has a nasty streak, but Edgerton and crew fail to make it cut deep enough.

Ep. 109 – The Cloverfield Paradox

February 12, 2018 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week, Jerrod and Cody tackled the surprise Netflix release of “The Cloverfield Paradox,” plus a quick rundown of the trailers that aired during The Big Game.

(There are some audio issues with Cody’s track that we can’t overcome, sorry he sounds like a robot.)

Click here to download the episode!

A Most Violent Year

January 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo
Directed by: J.C. Chandor (“All is Lost”)
Written by: J.C. Chandor (“Margin Call”)

“I spent my whole life trying not to become a gangster,” businessman Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) says in “A Most Violent Year” when he feels he is losing a grip on everything he’s worked for his entire career. It’s the perfect line of dialogue and an obvious parallel to Ray Liotta’s iconic one-liner in 1990’s “Goodfellas”: “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” Although both men are relatively coming from the same New York City era, Abel , a Latino immigrant and owner of a heating oil business, isn’t cut from the same cloth. He isn’t too interested in putting a hit on the competition or laundering money through back alley deals. He wants to succeed, but only if he can do it the right way and through hard work. He demands legitimacy.

Obtaining the American Dream for him and his family, however, isn’t just a matter of staying on the straight and narrow. When a series of attacks on his company’s drivers becomes a detriment to his livelihood, Abel wants nothing more than to find out who is hurting his business and put a stop to it. With the city’s District Attorney (David Oyelowo) watching his every move, Abel and his mob-tied wife (Jessica Chastain) must decide how hard they will push back to ensure their ambitions are still in reach.

Atmospheric, intense, and minimal in its delivery, “A Most Violent Year” might be the anti-“Goodfellas,” but it’s a gripping achievement Martin Scorsese would value wholeheartedly. Director/writer J.C. Chandor, who was nominated for an Oscar for his 2011 dramatic thriller “Margin Call” about the U.S. financial crisis of 2007, tops himself here with a throwback film that feels just as authentic as anything directors Sidney Lumet or Scorsese put out 30 years ago. The narrative packs a substantial punch, especially with the powerful albeit understated performances by Isaac and Chastain, the latter of whom was snubbed of an Oscar nomination in favor of a merely adequate Meryl Streep in “Into the Woods.”

While the title of the film may confuse the average moviegoer (since there’s not much “violence” to be spoken of), the risk of it happening at any given moment is what is most palpable. Watching Abel to see if he will inevitably crack under pressure is a fascinating look into a fully fleshed out character walking a fine line between doing what is respectable and what is easy. There is a reason the word “moral” is in Abel’s last name. Whether he lives up to it or not is part of the intrigue.

Selma

January 9, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo
Directed by: Ava DuVernay (“Middle of Nowhere”)
Written by: Paul Webb (debut)

As such an important figure in the history of the United States, it is equal parts incredible and perplexing to think that there has yet to be a biopic of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. First out of the gate, however, is Ava DuVernay’s “Selma,” and despite a few roadblocks in production, her film feels very much worth the wait.

In 1965, African Americans were legally allowed to vote, yet many in the South were still facing unfair restrictions as they tried to register. Unable to get President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) to pass a law prohibiting these unfair voting restrictions, civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and other members of his movement decide to organize a march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama as the culmination of a series of dangerous protests.

Any discussion of “Selma” starts and ends with David Oyelowo’s electric portrayal of Dr. King. As magnetic as any performance this year, Oyelowo completely embodies King, bringing life, nuance, and often times subtlety to a larger-than-life figure. Oyelowo is, of course, at his absolute finest when he is delivering energetic and intense speeches, yet there are smaller moments such as a scene with the father of a member of the movement who has been killed that really show the depth of performance. As his foil, a hard-edged Wilkinson makes for a great LBJ, stonewalling King in his quest for legislation.

In an interesting wrinkle, the rights to King’s actual speeches reside with another studio and were not able to be purchased by the filmmakers of “Selma.” As such, director DuVernay was tasked with re-writing King’s speeches for the film. Her work is exceptional, as she is able to skirt by copyright law and give the character rousing material sounding exactly like King’s actual speeches. Of course, it helps to have Oyelowo giving her words such dramatic weight.

Though largely coincidental, “Selma” happens to be a film that is incredibly timely. Moviegoers will undoubtedly notice parallels between what they’ve seen on TV from Ferguson, Missouri and the events of the film, especially as police launch tear gas at protestors. If nothing else, the comparisons reinforce the still reverberating racial tension that reached a fever pitch in the most intense sequences of “Selma” and carry on through the country today.

By focusing on just the voting rights marches, screenwriter Paul Webb successfully avoids one of the most common pitfalls of biopics, which is casting too big of a net and spanning too much of a subjects life. In keeping things condensed, Webb’s story is able to resonate deeper and leads to a clean and powerful story arc. Anchored by Oyelowo’s performance, “Selma” is the rare Hollywood biopic that is as raw as it is polished and powerful, making it one of the better civil rights movies in recent memory.