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Wednesday
Mar292017

Turbo Kid (2015)

If you want to relegate a movie to the back of my viewing queue, guaranteed, call it a “throwback”—especially an “80s throwback”. I’m still picking nostalgia-bomb shrapnel out of my scalp from aesthetically sound, zero-calorie homages like It Follows and The Lords of Salem. Fortunately, rather than coasting on the so-cheesy-it’s-bad-but-also-great vibes established by BMX movies and no-budget, post-apocalypse thrillers of the era, the French-Canadian trio behind Turbo Kid put in the hard work of writing a bona fide three-act plot, constructing inventive gore gags that invoke laughter first and revulsion second, and giving us characters not only to root for, but also remember (especially Laurence LeBoeuf’s eternal-optimist sidekick, Apple). Yes, there’s geek catnip aplenty, like our hero’s Power-Glove-esque gauntlet and the fact that Michael Ironside plays the villain, but this is a real film whose unique identity scavenges the burnt-out hull of genre movies past to build something durable.

Friday
Mar242017

Song to Song (2017)

“You get used to drifting, waiting.” This sleepy bit of narration from Ryan Gosling’s character in Song to Song proves that writer/director Terrence Malick is officially screwing with us. The Austin, TX-set drama centers on a love triangle, which becomes a love square, and then a love pentagon. Even those descriptions are insufficient, as they imply shape and dimension—two of many essential cinematic qualities that come up lacking in Malick’s two-plus-hour assemblage of rehearsal footage, location scouting, and camera tests. As sure as thirteen patrons left the screening I attended, my mind drifted to alternate-universe movies where Rooney Mara’s character stops complaining about life and actually lives it; where Natalie Portman convincingly plays a struggling waitress/teacher; where the minute allotted to Val Kilmer’s crazed rock star becomes a three-hour road picture, co-starring Iggy Pop; and where more holds my attention than a brief game of “Six Degrees of Ridley Scott”.

Thursday
Mar232017

Life (2017)

When the lights went up on Life, a colleague joked to the assembled critics that it was at least a better movie than Passengers—knowing full well he was sitting next to a bona fide (and bona fide lonely) fan of last year’s box office black hole. Passengers is ooky, dousing its beautiful cast and special effects in an unsettling rape allegory whose resolution can generously be described as morally complex. Now consider Daniel Espinosa’s umpteenth retread of Hollywood’s beloved Doomed Space Crew template (complete with a body-count story structure and hungry, unkillable critter), which offers nothing, says nothing, is nothing. Why watch this glorified YouTube compilation of scenes from Alien, Prometheus, Sunshine, and Gravity—starring an incredibly talented, attractive, and under-utilized cast? Why not revisit the works of masters Scott, Boyle, and Cuarón instead? Hell, throw Passengers into the mix. You’ll need a shower afterwards, but at least you’ll be awake.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #204 to hear Ian and Keeping it Reel's David Fowlie discuss the meaning of Life!

Thursday
Mar162017

The Belko Experiment (2017)

Office Space may be the definitive cinematic parody of workaday corporate life--which is why I can’t stand hearing people describe The Belko Experiment as a cross between Mike Judge's 1999 cult hit and Battle Royale, a Japanese thriller about murderous high school students. The characters in James Gunn’s screenplay are neither archetypes nor cartoons. They are mostly likable and certainly relatable lower- and middle-income employees who’ve been cruelly thrust into an impossible situation. Like Battle Royale, Belko takes place in a remote location, and centers on eighty office workers forced to kill each other for eight hours, lest they suffer terrible fates at the hands of their unseen captors. The exploding heads, mass shootings, and geyser-like stab wounds are chilling, not thrilling. They heighten an increasingly bleak set of moral quandaries that may just leave you questioning your faith in yourself, your friends, and the company that signs your paychecks.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #202 to hear Ian and Keeping it Reel's David Fowlie go bonkers for Belko!

Wednesday
Mar152017

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast is the rare movie whose form underscores its message. Sadly, Disney's latest 2D-to-live-action adaptation demands that audiences work really hard to suspend disbelief and discover loveliness beneath layers of garish, caked-on CGI. If you’ve seen the 1991 cartoon, you’ve seen this remake, save for a couple of new musical numbers and a poignant but nonsensical scene involving teleportation. Unlike Kenneth Branagh’s expansive and tactile Cinderella, Beauty relies too heavily on sloppy compositing and inconsistent character animation (primarily in the Beast’s face), which crowds out the whimsical, real-world sets and costumes. The film lacks visual splendor, but each performance is winning, and the songs will set your soul ablaze (just close your eyes during “Be Our Guest” and the titular ballroom dance number). In the moment, Condon’s spell hit me intermittently. With each passing hour, Beauty feels like a fairy tale I never quite believed.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #203 to hear Ian and Keeping it Reel's David Fowlie sing slightly different tunes about Beauty and the Beast!