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Rhythm is what ties everything in this movie together. Rhythm defines Edgar Wright’s style.

Edgar Wright had a disappointing couple of years, I think. Getting over all that work he put into Ant-Man must have been rough but I’m so glad it meant that this movie, which Wright first developed in the 90’s, got to exist. As pointed out elsewhere, Wright might have a little Marvel still stuck in his teeth but ultimately I think everybody is going to agree that he hasn’t lost a step. Baby Driver is full of the inventive filmmaking and action he’s known for while also being vastly different from his other movies.

What most people are saying about Baby Driver is how fun and entertaining it is. I’ll echo that while also adding that it’s a surprisingly dark and consequence-laden movie. Wright has always been deft with tonal shifts and messing with genre conventions and while Baby Driver does balance a light-hearted romantic tone with some heavier elements, it’s actually kind of refreshingly straightforward when it comes to its genre. Wright has made his version of a Michael Mann film in a film where every character thinks they are in their own movie. Wright’s genius here is that he’s making all those movies by referencing, recycling, nodding, and reinventing parts of them.

I think Baby Driver is destined to be a crowd-pleaser. There’s too much to like about it and it’s kind of universally appealing, I think. Part of that is the really joyous way it uses music, and part of it is just that everybody loves a crime movie. If there are any complaints to be made, they’ll probably arise from the nuts and bolts mechanics of the story and its somewhat misleading structure. The last act will not fully work for everyone, but I think it’s not going to really damage anyone’s enjoyment of the movie overall. I’ll talk about these issues later, but I really think they are likely to end up being footnotes on a masterpiece.

SPOILERS RACING BY!

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Has there been any other modern tank movies?

Fury, good as it is anyway, will be the tank movie for a long time to come. There are plenty of war movies featuring and emphasizing aspects of specific battles, specific war material, or specific ideas. Fury is for tanks what Saving Private Ryan was for Normandy. It is also one of the only war movies I can remember that is both about war and also avoids condescending instruction in war movie tropes like camaraderie, wickedness, and costs inherent to war. In other words, Fury treats you like you’ve seen a fucking war movie before.

It’s hard to imagine how awesome that is until you realize just how common movies pat you on the head and spend way too much time rehashing the same “band of brothers” or “war is hell” cliches as if it’s your first time. It’s not like Fury isn’t about those things, it’s just presented the ideas to you in a more honest, more raw and visceral way. In a sense, it’s left to you to pick up those threads in the duality of the characters (who are fittingly both good and bad men) and the horrific things they see and do.

David Ayer (writing and directing) has made many films about the collision between virtue and corruption in men. His films walk a fine line in portraying a familiar, heroic masculinity that is often a double-edged sword. His characters in Fury are treated as both heroes and scoundrels during the course of the film, but above all else they’re always human. The confident storytelling and rousing score (one of the best of the year) go together with the novelty (don’t underestimate this) of the focus on tank battles and tactics to create a great, great film. Read the rest of this entry »

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DiCaprio was born to do this.

The Wolf of Wall Street is another in the series of controversial, but wholly awesome, movies released in 2013. Like Spring Breakers (and actually a great companion piece to it), it is being chalked up by the odiously politically correct as some sort of glorification of the debauchery, violence, and criminal acts that it portrays. The reality is a lot more complicated than that. The complexity of the tendencies for humans to succumb to greed and amorality is very much a theme of the film. To not notice this is to simply refute the very presence of complexity in favor of presumably comforting fictions about moral absolutes or the ever-present notion that depiction equals endorsement.

I’m into the complexity of this. I’m into how it shows the audience the destructive consequences of these lifestyles, including legal ramifications, while also inviting the audience to think about how society is complicit in the behavior of wretched men and women. Spring Breakers and The Counselor both contain the same accusation that Wolf makes. People get away with this shit because we let them. Because we celebrate greed and debauchery and exploitation. Though those other two films are focused on their own specific areas, Wolf shoots straight for the single greatest social and political issue of our time: the consequences of unregulated capitalism.

Martin Scorsese is in his 70’s and is still the master. It helps that his complex, thematically nuance film is wrapped in an entertaining, funny, scathing, and energetic cinematic package. This is a three hour long movie that moves like it’s half as long. It’s a remix of Goodfellas in the best possible ways. It’s got great performances from reliable master actors, and surprisingly deft performances from newcomers or the less seasoned. Ignore the misguided haters, they’ve got preconceived notions and confirmation biases, and see this for yourself. Listen carefully to the thesis delivered by Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) and how it underlines that even legal stock trading is an exploitative enterprise. Watch those faces at the very end of the film, those hungry pathetic faces, who know what Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) has done but do not care. They want to be rich.

You, me, everyone we know. We’d all like to be rich on some level. We all have lengths we’d be willing to go to get there. We can all feel, in spite of ourselves, the degenerative fun of some of the things Belfort and his friends do. Scorsese is asking us how far is too far. He’s inviting us to see where our lines are and use that realization to feed back into an awareness of the things we did laugh at or find amusing.  Read the rest of this entry »

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