“Get Out”

“My man,” “This thang,” and “Black is in fashion,” are just three of the awkward and inappropriate lines Bradley Whitford’s Dean utters to Daniel Kaluuya’s Chris in “Get Out.” This is a horror movie that’s more satirical than most modern horror movies.

The laid back and artistic Chris is seeing the beautiful and independent Rose (Allison Williams). They’re getting serious, so it’s time for Chris to meet Rose’s parents at her grandiose childhood home. Her father Dean is a neurosurgeon who tries too hard to be cool, while her mother Missy (Catherine Keener) is a hypnotherapist who wants to know about Chris’s darkest secrets.

In addition to the awkward dinner, Chris notices some strange behavior from the African American residents, and when he’s bluntly told to “get out,” he finds it’s easier said than done. That’s all you need to know about the plot!

“Get Out”  has everything I want in a horror movie, and then some. Eerie visuals and atmosphere, ominous music, a small amount of gore that isn’t distracting, restrained jump scares, an even balance between horror and humor, and social commentary. “Get Out” is a callback to some of the best horror films of the 70s and 80s, while holding its own.

Jordan Peele of “Key and Peele” shows off his love of horror films in his directorial debut. From the opening tracking shot to a thrilling climax, Peele keeps us white knuckling while laughing simultaneously.

Peele does a great job commentating on racism without being preachy about it. “Get Out” takes jabs at the racists who think they aren’t racist. Just because Dean says, “I would have voted for Obama a third term,” that doesn’t mean he’s the liberal saint he sells himself as.

Each cast member does a great job diving into their characters. Kaluuya plays Chris as a cool-yet-vulnerable man who wants to be treated as a person. Williams is cool and spunky as Rose, who acknowledges her family’s bigotry and won’t stand for it. Whitford and Keener are an even balance of menacing and quirky, taking a unique spin on the overbearing parent character arc.

The standout performance goes to the hilarious Lil Rel Howery as Chris’s friend, Rod. He takes the cliched comic relief best friend and plays him as a concerned secondary protagonist.

“Get Out” holds a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and rightfully so. It’s a social commentary that humbly states racism is still active, even if people think it isn’t.

Grade: A

 

“John Wick: Chapter 2”

Keanu Reeves needs to keep making action movies because his stunt work in “John Wick: Chapter 2” is impeccable. He tops his work in the film’s predecessor.

Picking up where the first one ended, Wick reclaims his car and settles back into retirement with an adorable unnamed pit bull. When crime boss Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) asks Wick to pull off an impossible job, Wick is forced into it due to a blood oath. Wick soon finds himself double crossed and shooting his way out of both Rome and New York, as he finds a contract put on him.

“John Wick: Chapter 2” starts with a bang, combining a car chase with mixed martial arts in innovative fashion. It’s one of several versatile and jaw-dropping action sequences. While “Chapter 1” was mostly shooting, “Chapter 2” features knife fights, stealth kills, foot chases, and one epic gunfight in the Roman Catacombs where Reeves shows off impressive weapons training.

The action in “Chapter 2” ranges from brutal and intense (there’s a pencil kill that tops “The Dark Knight”) to plain ridiculous (look out for a never-ending stair scene). It’s even in both categories and Reeves once again delivers a restrained performance.

Director Chad Stahelski further expands the world building by diving deeper into the Continental’s rules and benefits, featuring some darkly funny moments. We even learn how large the assassin guild is since nearly everyone in “Chapter 2” is an assassin.

While “Chapter 2” improves in its world building and action sequences, it sadly declines in writing and gritty tone. Wick is fighting for survival, which isn’t as edgy or compelling as him seeking revenge. Santino isn’t nearly smug or despicable like the Tarasovs from “Chapter 1,” either.

The final act comes off forced and anti-climactic, but this is forgivable due to the film’s relentless pace and world building. Now when is “Chapter 3” coming out again?

Grade: B+

Special 100th Post!

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It’s my 100th post! It’s hard to believe that in summer of 2015, I launched Donttalkaboutmovies.net with my review of Jurassic World. I want to thank everyone who’s followed my site since then, and I have a special treat.

I took a voting poll last month on what my readers wanted between an about me story and a top 10 all-time favorite movies countdown. Since I honor the popular vote, let the countdown begin!

10) Drive (Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn) (2011) – I saw this film in theaters, expecting a cool thriller with Ryan Gosling as a charming criminal. Drive is more than that. It’s a tribute to 80’s Neo-Noir, the French New Wave era, and even Slasher films. Gosling has received criticism for playing quiet characters, but his facial expressions highlight a number of the Driver’s emotions. He’s charming, awkward, protective, loyal, sad, and violent, making  the Driver one of the most complex characters in recent years.

9) Blade Runner (Dir. Ridley Scott) (1982) – Blade Runner is a science fiction film I see something new about every time I watch it. It’s not only an artsy hybrid of science fiction and Neo-Noir, it’s a commentary on death, life, and existentialism. Harrison Ford’s on-set misery bolsters Deckard’s own moral ambiguity. Without Blade Runner, we wouldn’t have been introduced to Christopher Nolan or Denis Villeneuve.

8) Se7en (Dir. David Fincher) (1995) – Okay, so I like Neo-Noir, but Se7en is more a horror film to me. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman’s buddy cop chemistry adds much-needed charm to this grim tale of nihilism. Special shout out to the iconic “What’s in the box?” scene, and its legacy.

7) The Dark Knight (Dir. Christopher Nolan) (2008) – I honestly have nothing special to say about The Dark Knight that other people haven’t already said. I will say it’s an epic superhero film that set the standard for modern superhero and action films, but you probably heard that already.

6) Aliens (Dir. James Cameron) (1986) – Aliens is the action film that both thrilled and terrified me. I first saw Aliens when I was nine, and my dad regretted letting me watch it then (lots of nightmares). From today’s standing point, I admire Aliens because it pulled off the near-impossible task of topping Alien. Alien is a brilliantly artistic horror film, while Aliens is a nonstop action-packed ride. Sure, it’s funnier and lighter than Alien, but it still maintains Alien’s fierce horror and shocking gore effects. Game over, man!

5) The Thing (Dir. John Carpenter) (1982) – The Thing, along with Carpenter’s other films, is part of my annual October horror marathon. It’s sad Carpenter’s career nearly ended due to The Thing’s financial losses. This is a horror film with gruesome effects, a cynical tone, and one of my favorite morally ambiguous endings.

4) Boogie Nights (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson) (1997) – Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the greatest filmmakers. He makes an epic ensemble comedy reminiscent of Scorsese and Kubrick’s finest works. Anderson also has a talent for taking rather mediocre actors and directing top-notch performances out of them (Mark Wahlberg and Burt Reynolds in this case).

3) True Romance (Dir. Tony Scott) (1993) – My compatibility test film is also Quentin Tarantino’s best film of his filmography. I know he didn’t direct True Romance, but this Bonnie & Clyde-esque film has his charm, dark humor, and sharp dialogue. It’s a brilliant blend of romantic comedy, crime, and action genres, and it’s also my favorite romantic comedy.

2) The Big Lebowski (Dir. The Coen Brothers) (1998) – Jeff Bridges’s The Dude is my movie role model. The Coen Brothers combine Film Noir with Stoner Comedy and Art-House film, creating a surreal and hilarious experience. I’m still grateful my mom showed me The Big Lebowski. The Dude abides!

1) Fight Club (Dir. David Fincher) (1999) – Fincher made Se7en, Zodiac, and The Social Network, but Fight Club is his masterpiece. It’s a transgressive work of art, bringing out the best in both Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. In a way, it’s underrated because without Fincher’s vision, we wouldn’t have gotten other great works like USA’s Mr. Robot. I wouldn’t have gotten into film without Fight Club.

Honorable Mentions: The Departed, Toy Story, The Shining, Inglourious Basterds, Shaun of the Dead, and There Will Be Blood.

Thanks again for taking the time to read this post, along with the remaining donttalkaboutmovies posts. Stay tuned!

“The Lego Batman Movie”

I hope Zack Snyder took notes on “The Lego Batman Movie.” Unlike last year’s “Batman vs. Superman,” “The Lego Batman Movie” explores Batman’s greatest fears and flaws! It’s also hilarious.

Batman (Will Arnett) has once again thwarted The Joker’s (Zach Galifianakis) plans to destroy Gotham. He’s done more harm than good because now Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) has outlawed vigilantism and The Joker has an even greater plan to destroy Gotham. It’s more psychologically dangerous for Batman because he must accept he needs help to win.

Much like 2014’s “The Lego Movie,” “The Lego Batman Movie” is fast-paced, packed with meta humor, and has the energy of an action movie. The laughs are consistent from the opening logo alone.

The writers did their homework because “The Lego Batman Movie” is packed with several Easter eggs and references to previous comic books and films. Between referencing The Joker’s “plan with the two boats” (“The Dark Knight”) or featuring the mutant gang (from “The Dark Knight Returns” comic), “The Lego Batman Movie” caters to Batman fans.

In terms of voice acting, Arnett is the perfect voice actor for Batman. He not only makes fun of Batman with his dry humor, but also acts with vulnerability, similar to his work in “Bojack Horseman.” Galifianakis delivers one of his best performances as The Joker. Between these two, they brilliantly depict why Batman and Joker need each other. Michael Cera once again delivers a great voice performance and has a bright future as a voice actor. His voice his perfect for Robin’s enthusiasm and naivety.

The film gets sweet when exploring Batman’s flaws and shows why he lives an isolated lifestyle. He wants to have a family, but is afraid of letting people in after what happened to his parents. This is a refreshing spin on an overdone story arc.

DC has struggled since “Man of Steel,” “Batman vs. Superman,” and “Suicide Squad” were all dark, angsty, loud, and overly violent films that favored destruction over storytelling. “The Lego Batman Movie” might be mildly fast-paced, but at least the narrative knows when to focus on its characters.

Grade: A-

“The Space Between Us”

Gary Oldman utters the phrase, “You had one job,” halfway into “The Space Between us.” Correction, the screenwriters had one job.

Nathaniel Shepard (Oldman) launches a space expedition to colonize Mars. When the lead astronaut discovers she’s pregnant and dies in childbirth, the orphaned Gardner (Asa Butterfield) grows up on Mars. He eventually returns to Earth, only for Nathaniel to realize that Gardner can’t physically handle the planet’s gravity. And a chase begins.

“The Space Between Us” is “The Martian” meets a young adult novel, minus the scientific accuracy. I wish I had a glass of wine watching this movie because it’s cheesy as hell. How is it a human can’t physically handle one planet versus another?

The writers rely too heavily on conveniences and exposition and there isn’t any real suspense or drama. It’s amazing how many times Gardner and his love interest Tulsa (Britt Robertson) successfully steal a car with the keys left inside.

Butterfield and Robertson both have good chemistry and their back stories make them fitting star-crossed lovers. Carla Gugino plays Gardner’s mother-like guardian and her performance is fine, but the script weighs her down. Oldman is quite frenetic, as he rotates from supportive to antagonistic. Once we get to the ending, we understand why Nathaniel is this way.

I feel like the writers had a strong character-driven script, but were forced to make heavy rewrites in favor of the romance. The romantic scenes are occasionally witty and sweet, but mostly awkward. Maybe the producers shouldn’t have forced that?

“The Space Between Us” isn’t bad as Rotten Tomatoes says (it has an 11% approval), but that doesn’t mean it’s a good movie either. We have a strong roster of sci-fi movies this year, so I’m sure “The Space Between Us” will soon be forgotten.

Grade: C