DETROIT review

Man, I really should have paid attention in history class. I assume it’s a racially charged film. No duh, 1967 white cops in a black neighborhood, that goes without saying. But I suppose what sets this film apart is the star-studded and fairly interesting cast. I’m mostly referring to Will Poulter, who seems like he’s playing a cop who is in charge, even though he looks like he’s in high school. No offense to the man of course, he’s twenty-four years old, but just the way his face is structured, I almost don’t buy him as someone giving orders. But it’s not like I’ve seen the film and for all I know, his performance overshadows his baby face. To be fair, he is a great actor, so I’m sure that’ll be the case.

Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we have John Boyega (THE CIRCLE [2017], STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS [2015], ATTACK THE BLOCK [2011], and upcoming films STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI [2017] and PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING [2018]), Will Poulter (THE REVENANT [2015], THE MAZE RUNNER [2014], and THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER [2010]), and Anthony Mackie (TRIPLE 9 [2016], CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER [2014], PAIN & GAIN [2013], and Marvel’s upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]). In support, we have Algee Smith (EARTH TO ECHO [2014]), Jacob Latimore (SLEIGHT [2017], COLLATERAL BEAUTY [2016], and THE MAZE RUNNER [2014]), Jack Reynor (FREE FIRE [2017], SING STREET [2016], TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION [2014], and the upcoming JUNGLE BOOK [2018]), John Krasinski (THE HOLLARS [2016], 13 HOURS [2016], TV show THE OFFICE, and upcoming TV show JACK RYAN), and Kaitlyn Dever (video game UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF’S END [2016], and TV shows LAST MAN STANDING and JUSTIFIED).

Now for the crew. Directing is Kathryn Bigelow, known for ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012), THE HURT LOCKER (2008), and POINT BREAK (1991). Penning the screenplay is Mark Boal, known for ZERO DARK THIRTY, THE HURT LOCKER, and IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH (2007). Composing the score is the always amazing James Newton Howard, known for FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (2016), THE HUNGER GAMES (2012), M. Night Shyamalan’s LADY IN THE WATER (2006), and the upcoming FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM 2 (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Barry Ackroyd, known for JASON BOURNE (2016), THE HURT LOCKER (2008), and UNITED 93 (2006).

Overall, yeah, this looks like it’s going to be good. Some great talent in front of and behind the camera, so I’m thinking we can expect a quality film here. Let me at it.

This is my honest opinion of: DETROIT

(SUMMARY)

Set in 1967 Detroit, Michigan. Racial tension between the black community and law-enforcement is at an all-time high and the city has become a war-zone, with officers gunning down black people in the streets for little to no cause and covering their tracks with lies and false evidence. Within the local Algiers Motel, a black teenager, fed up with the police and the mistreatment of black, fires a few blank rounds at the police to scare them, but the result is the police thinking it’s a sniper attack and the motel is raided and so ensues a night of humiliation, beatings, and murder.

(REVIEW)

I feel a little conflicted. It’s good, but I’m not sure just how good I feel about it. Definitely, the one thing I will say is don’t see it if you’re expecting a story with a happy ending. It’s not sad, or anything, but my buddy whom I saw it with said it best, “It’s depressing.”

I can’t say how long this review will be, but let’s see how I do.

First and foremost, the acting is spectacular. On the villainous side, Poulter threw me to the ground, shoved a pole in my back, and wiped the floor with me because he was so despicable, so fucking monstrous that he quite possibly stole the show. Not that I have a mind to catch on to “themes” of movies all the time, but one of them was just how low and depraved these men could get in this time period and what they managed to get away with. They will even take an act like praying, a symbolic gesture of peace, clarity, and hope, and use it to traumatize and horrify, forcing them to recite a prayer at the threat of death. And their behavior and attitude isn’t just reserved for the people of color. No, they’ll mistreat the white women too. It’s incredibly hard to watch. But the act of threatening alone isn’t enough if the victims aren’t scared out of their minds and boy howdy did I believe they were. Man, I hope shooting on that set that things were chill between everyone because even though it’s acting, I can see things getting out of hand and someone decking each other simply out of reaction, but I highly doubt that ever happened. Stories like Shia Lebeouf knocking out Tom Hardy are pretty isolated incidents. Either way, everyone did amazing and you could cut the fear in their eyes with a chainsaw and not make a scratch. If you wanted a real horror film to watch that features no monsters, this is well worth that experience.

I suppose another aspect that I can appreciate is the restraint that this movie had to not have Julie (Hannah Murray) or Karen (Dever) raped by the cops. While I’m sure that didn’t happen in the incident anyway, I can definitely see some studio big-wig trying to throw that “creative liberty” in there all in the name of “added dramatic effect.” You can’t convince me it hasn’t happened before. It sure looked like it was going to go that route what with the constant close-ups of the two women’s backsides and the animalistic men ogling over them. Hell, I was ready to rip my hair out after Julie’s clothes were ripped off. I was calling it, that’s where it was going to happen. But nope, the humiliation and the implication in the men’s eyes was more than enough, and honestly, a lot more effective.

Other than there being a great deal intensity and visceral stress and fear that you feel alongside the victims, there’s not a whole lot of praise to be spoken. It’s just holding a magnifying glass on an incident which perfectly captured the tension between two sides of a conflict and what the law was clearly there to protect at the time, and it wasn’t always its citizens.

Although, having done no real research, and certainly not having the resources that the crew had while putting this movie together, one element did bother the crap out of me. Carl (Jason Mitchell) used a pistol with blanks when he wanted to scare the cops. When the cops raid the place looking for the gun, they keep shouting for it, but… why don’t they explain that it’s not real, or didn’t have real bullets? They spent hours getting questioned and it’s like they honest to God didn’t know anything about a real gun. Is a real gun so indistinguishable from a fake one, or a real one with no real ammo? I don’t know, I grew up with paintball, airsoft, and cap guns, as well as watching a whole ton of action movies. I think I could tell the difference. These people, scared or not, really didn’t say anything?! Maybe this is a weird detail overlooked by the movie, but… yeah, that seemed off to me.

Overall, this movie isn’t for the feint of heart and it certainly shouldn’t be seen if you’re looking for a crowd pleaser. But it’s the 1960’s in one of the most crime-ridden cities in America, even to this day. This movie’s setting alone was an indication that a happy ending was never going to be in the cards. But it’s worth watching. It’s a powerful piece that will stay with you. I think a detail or two can be questioned, but it’s a good film. It’s no “must see” of the year, but if you have even a passing interest, I do recommend it.

My honest rating for DETROIT: 4/5

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THE BIG SHORT (transfer) review

These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.

Alright, who among you actually knew what this movie was about? I don’t mean that you cheated and looked online and found out, I’m talking about the average person who watched the trailers and that was it… just the trailers. Did you know what it was about? No? Neither did I. All I knew was that early critical reviews were calling it one of the best films of the year, and I liked most of the cast. Not sure how much stock I was putting in the early reviews, but I was sure interested in seeing how much I agree with critics, so… yeah, and I needed a movie to wash out the awful proverbial taste that horrible Chipmunks movie left in my mouth, so away I went.

Starring: Steve Carell (CAFÉ SOCIETY [2016], FREEHELD [2015], FOXCATCHER [2014], and upcoming films DESPICABLE ME 3 [2017] and… what the hell?! MINECRAFT: THE MOVIE [2019]???), Christian Bale (THE PROMISE [2017], 3:10 TO YUMA [2007], AMERICAN PSYCHO [2000], and the upcoming JUNGLE BOOK [2018]), Ryan Gosling (SONG TO SONG [2017], THE NICE GUYS [2016], REMEMBER THE TITANS [2000], and the upcoming BLADE RUNNER 2049 [2017]), and Brad Pitt (ALLIED [2016], FURY [2014], MEGAMIND [2010], and upcoming films WAR MACHINE [2017] and WORLD WAR Z 2, due out… who knows when)

Directed and co-written by: Adam McKay (ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES [2013], THE OTHER GUYS [2010], and STEP BROTHERS [2008]). Co-written by: Charles Randolph (LOVE & OTHER DRUGS [2010] and THE INTERPRETER [2005]). Composed by: Nicholas Britell (2016’s MOONLIGHT, A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS, FREE STATE OF JONES, and the upcoming OCEAN’S EIGHT [2018]). Cinematography by: Barry Ackroyd (JASON BOURNE [2016], CAPTAIN PHILLIPS [2013], and UNITED 93 [2006]).

(SUMMARY)

It’s about how a group of relatively unrelated men predicted the collapse of the economic system (what we refer to now as the recession) and took measures to exploiting the inevitable end to secure themselves for the future.

(REVIEW)

For those of you that read my review of SICARIO (2015), I basically called it a “smart-person’s” movie: a movie that is well above my personal intelligence level and therefore cannot fully grasp what the movie is doing, saying, or getting at. This… is much the same way. Of course, the hilarious thing is that this movie kind of talks down on me. Not that I find that insulting, it’s almost like this movie KNOWS it’s a smart person’s movie. They have scenes where they remember how I’m not a smart person, and literally break the fourth wall and say something like, “Here’s a naked Margot Robbie in a bath to explain.” Now, as a red-blooded American male, I can appreciate this imagery, but come on guys, I’m WAY too distracted by that to pay attention. Believe it or not, NAKED WOMEN DO NOT HELP ME UNDERSTAND COMPLEX SHIT!!!

But I digress, is the movie really good?

Like I said, not a smart guy, so I can’t say. But, I can say something about the performances that have been praised up the asshole. And you know what? Yeah, the performances are… solid. Let me be particular: Steve Carell as Mark Baum. Seriously, maximum douche in this movie, but in the most awesome of ways. No joke, his reputation as that half-wit from ANCHORMAN is well behind him with performances like this. He’s intense, he’s fast-talking, he’s… incredible. The price of admission is worth it for him alone.

What’s kind of weird, though, is everyone else. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not… BAD per se, but they’re not nearly as strongly written as Carell. I can’t put my finger on it, but Ryan Gosling as Jared Vennett annoyed the piss out of me. I don’t even hate the man, he’s a fine actor, but… man, his voice, his physicality… I wanted him off screen as much as possible. Maybe I just hate his character and not his performance, who the fuck knows. But this I can’t get past is Christian Bale as Michael Burry and Brad Pitt as Ben Rickert. Bale is SHOCKINGLY dull in this. We get it, you like to listen to hard rock! Not too much diving into his personality. Even if someone were to tell me that he was great, come on, he’s no Carell. And Pitt? He’s barely in the movie. Seriously, he’s a VERY side character and all of the advertisements make general audiences think he’s a main character. Pretty sure we aren’t introduced to him until half an hour into the damn story. And same deal, he’s dull… well, again, at least by comparison to Carell who just OWNS this movie. If you see the movie, tell me I’m wrong, please!

Whatever, it’s hard for me to critique fairly without knowing full well what’s really going on. I get GENERAL ideas, but nothing too concrete, but I guess that’s more than I thought I was going to get. It’s a fun watch to see many of these characters do their thing, but honestly, Carell makes this movie for me. No one else is bad, just not delivering a performance like him.

A strong 3/5

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