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: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD (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 HOLLARS review

Okay, I’m on board with this one. Not much to say about it, other than it looks funny and well-acted. But let’s look at the talent in front of and behind the camera.

Co-starring and directing is John Krasinski, whom you might recognize from this year’s 13 HOURS and from the smash hit TV show THE OFFICE. This will mark his first big project, but he has directed before. An unknown movie that no one’s probably heard of called BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN (2009), as well as a few episodes of THE OFFICE. Good luck, dude.

The rest of the cast is pretty big, so I’ll just be brief. Co-staring in this dramedy is Margo Martindale (this year’s MOTHER’S DAY, and TV shows THE AMERICANS and THE MILLERS), Sharlto Copley (this year’s HARDCORE HENRY, CHAPPIE [2015], and TV show POWERS), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (this year’s SWISS ARMY MAN and 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE), Anna Kendrick (this year’s MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES, the Pitch Perfect films, and INTO THE WOODS [2014]), and so many more.

Penning the script it James “Jim” C. Strouse. He hasn’t done many screenplays, but you might recognize such works as GRACE IS GONE (2007) and LONESOME JIM (2005). Beyond him, I’m not familiar with the works of the rest. Josh Ritter is doing the music. He was (or is) part of a band called The Royal City Band and Paste magazine put him their list of “100 Greatest Living Songwriters” back in 2006. Never heard of him, personally. Eric Allan Edwards is the director of photography, and the only thing I recognize is his work on this year’s DIRTY GRANDPA, which… no. Oh, and he was also the D.O.P. for movies KNOCKED UP (2007) and THE BREAK-UP (2006).

Overall, the cast has me excited and I’m really looking forward to this. But enough dribble. Onward! This is my honest opinion of THE HOLLARS.

(SUMMARY)

Sally Hollar (Margo Martindale) unfortunately has a stroke that lands her in the hospital. Upon hearing the news, her youngest son John (John Krasinski) returns to him small town home to be with his distraught father Don (Richard Jenkins) and divorced brother Ron (Sharlto Copley). So begins this family’s unhappy yet quirky reunion together as their individual troubles surface and come to grips with them.

(REVIEW)

Disappointing. I do not think this was a very good movie.

There is a ton of Oscar buzz surrounding Martindale’s performance in this film. Sad to say, I have to be a naysayer. Martindale is not bad, per se, but I was expecting something that would have me in the fetal position and go home to give my own mother a big hug. Instead, I got a solid performance and the reasons why she didn’t emotionally hit me that hard is for the same reasons this movie didn’t work for me as a whole.

I have to express my disappointment in the writing. So many moments in this flick feel useless. For example, one of the first issues brought forth in John’s personal crap is possibly running into his high school ex-girlfriend, Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Why is this such an issue? So they dated in high school. John’s moved on. He’s got a girlfriend, Rebecca (Anna Kendrick), that he loves and is about to become a father. Gwen’s moved on, married Jason (Charlie Day), who’s the nurse taking care of Sally, and they have a child. So with both of them moved on, why does this need to be a plot thread? It’s clear that Gwen still has feelings for him, due to her planting a hard kiss on his lips, and proclaiming that her relationship with Jason isn’t working out. An argument could also be made that he does secretly have feelings for her, as he does seem constantly nervous about meeting up with her again, and showing up at her home with flowers. But none of this amounts to anything in the rest of the movie. This entire subplot is tackled in one scene and never addressed again in another scene, or even really referenced. This entire fifteen minute section of the movie was an excuse to get Rebecca to come down from the city to the small town. That’s freakin’ ridiculous.

Also, I couldn’t stand Jenkins. Okay, he’s not bad, but where I blame Strouse for how unnecessary the Gwen subplot it, I definitely blame Krasinski for this one. In several scenes, Jenkins will suddenly cry hysterically over the situation. It’s not built up in any way. It just happens because… bad directing! But to make matters worse, and I’m not exaggerating here, Don will literally start crying like a baby and in just a few seconds after being told everything will be alright, he’ll stop crying almost instantaneously. *face palm* That’s not how emotions work! Look, I’m one to talk. I’ve cried during plenty of movies in my life. But every time it happens, it’s been built up to from something else. There’s an emotional journey taking place and it’s easy and relatable to follow. But Don will literally just ball out of nowhere and recover from that… like a bad actor, which he isn’t!

***SPOILERS***

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Another issue presented in the story is when Sally admits to John that if she could do anything different in her life, she wouldn’t have married Don. The reveal is a legit shock, and it isn’t revealed right away why she said it. So there’s this lingering build-up to the reasons for her words. John takes his mom to a restaurant before she gets her surgery and brings up the subject one more time. You know what it’s all built up to? Quoting a dude who said “life sucks, enjoy the little things,” you know, in a famous philosophical person way, which to her means, “I just focus on the good times we had.” What the fuck?! You blurt out to your son that you wouldn’t have married his father, let that big ole question mark fester in his mind only to give him a proverbial middle finger later on?! What the hell is the matter with you lady?! Your brain tumor isn’t an adequate excuse!

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***END SPOILERS***

Oh my god, and I can’t believe I almost forgot about Ron. Man, Copley is a terrific actor and mocap performer. I’m a huge fan of this man’s work. But how exactly he got roped into this dreadful role is beyond me. So far, I’ve narrowed it down to either bribery, or witchcraft. Neither would surprise me. Ron is a guy divorced from his wife and he barely gets to see his two daughters. What does he do to make the situation better? He stalks his ex-wife, parking outside her house and watching her through a pair of binoculars, gets his kids out of school without informing his ex to visit their grandmother, and even climbs into their bedroom from outside. Anyone looking at that sight would immediately call the cops and cry pedophile. Which happens! Okay, it’s just because he paid his kids an unsanctioned visit. And just as he’s about to be hauled away by the police, his ex’s boyfriend, Reverend Dan (Josh Groban), somehow just bails him out and takes him out for food and whatever. Oh my god, this is Copley’s worst role of his career and it’s heartbreaking to say that.

So, is there anything good about the movie? Well, yeah, Kendrick is actually a thousand kinds of adorable as the pregnant girlfriend and saves it for me for being the only character I actually liked. She got her boyfriend a flight back to his home, had a taxi drive from the city to be with that same kind-of-jerk boyfriend that can’t talk to the mother of his child like a real person by almost insulting her pregnancy, and among several other amazing things. She’s awesome as usual. And Charlie Day was a delightful jackass.

Beyond them? Um… not really, and even then, you could argue I was willing to grasp onto anything that would save this sinking ship and my excuse for “saved” was Kendrick, but yeah, this movie still wasn’t good. I can’t even really call it bad because the actors are fine enough, but because the writing is so unfocused and many plot points are… pointless, there’s really nothing here for me to recommend. I think you should skip this one, but I will point out that in the auditorium I was in, I was the only one not laughing.

My honest rating for THE HOLLARS: a weak 3/5

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Upcoming review:

  • A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS
    • trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2Jd6COX9Q0