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Monday
Jun192017

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

During “vampire chic’s” brief pop resurgence a few years ago, there were a handful of alternatives to Twilight and The Vampire Diaries, if you knew where to look. At the movies, Daybreakers and Only Lovers Left Alive reminded us of the subgenre’s inherent blood and brains. On TV, True Blood gave the vapors to audiences whose idea of cinematic third base was watching Taylor Lautner go shirtless. Gnawing at the fringes was A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Ana Lily Amirpour’s black-and-white Farsi fantasy about the relationship between dreamy-eyed grifter Arash (Arash Marandi) and the sullen, nameless bloodsucker (Sheila Vand) who stalks his town. Alternately goofy, gruesome, loathsome, and lovely, Amirpour’s feature debut examines the prison of the moment through the prism of eternity—packing more visual and dramatic intrigue into two hours than an entire soap or saga, and offering a wild children-of-the-night story for people who aren’t children.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #232 and #233 for a look at the movies of Ana Lily Amirpour--and an interview with the filmmaker herself!

Thursday
Jun152017

Cars 3 (2017)

Wanna hear a secret? Of this summer’s two feminism-fueled blockbusters, Cars 3 is the superior model. Director Brian Fee and a screenwriting pit crew look past Cars 2’s violent, Mater-centric spy antics, and return the series to its G-rated roots—without sacrificing Pixar’s unique brand of life lessons that are applicable to adults and kids in equal measure. When a cocky, state-of-the-art racer named Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) threatens to erase seasoned champion Lightning McQueen’s (Owen Wilson) legacy, Lightning teams up with no-nonsense female trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) to stage a comeback. Don’t dismiss the dreaded second sequel as a CGI Rocky IV clone. This is Cristela’s story as much as it is Lightning’s, an empowering and heartfelt lesson in overt bigotry, as well as the soft, insidious, dream-killing ideas that limit societal advancement. Through perseverance and teamwork, Cruz changes hearts and minds, beginning with her own. No superpowers required.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #231 to hear Ian and Keeping it Reel's David Fowlie race to the defense of Cars 3!

Tuesday
Jun132017

Band Aid (2017)

Band Aid is the best kind of bait-and-switch indie comedy. Its cute premise and primetime-TV cast could just entice mainstream moviegoers into discovering that writer/director Zoe Lister-Jones' unique, vital voice obliterates the conventional rom-com characterizations they've been spoon-fed for decades. Lister-Jones and Adam Pally star as Anna and Ben, two thirty-something, married artists struggling with career ruts, romantic complacency, and another issue I won't spoil. The only way to survive their constant arguments, they learn, is to infuse them with rhythm and rhyme. Aided by an eccentric neighbor/drummer (Fred Armisen), the couple begins performing in public and soon becomes a club-scene sensation. Because Band Aid is not really about a band, Lister-Jones spares us the predictably happy (or predictably sad) plot points and resolutions, focusing instead on rich, honest words and surprisingly brutal performances--resulting in a sharp, tragicomic film that lets neither its characters nor its audience off the hook.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #230 to hear Ian's quick jam session with Band Aid writer/director Zoe Lister-Jones!!

Tuesday
Jun132017

Wakefield (2017)

Wakefield lacks the ambition and gonzo artistry of Trainspotting, A Clockwork Orange, or American Psycho. However, Robin Swicord's film is a rare, dark poem mined from the exploits of a truly wretched human being. Though attorney Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston) never kills anything except time, he only cares about people and things he can possess. One night, Howard decides to not come home from work. He spends a year spying on his family from the loft above their garage. Swicord, Cranston, and Jennifer Garner (as the beleaguered Mrs. Wakefield) expose every nook of our narrator’s fragile psyche. But Wakefield doesn’t care if you think the protagonist’s journey from self-absorbed bully to semi-self-actualized dumpster diver is a new-millennium American Beauty--or the nail in the coffin for cinematic portrayals of affluent white males in crisis. Its only demand is that you engage with The Other and recognize part of yourself within it.

Monday
Jun052017

Middle Man (2017)

What a pathetic state of affairs. Barely a month into blockbuster season, audiences have already begun kicking over mega-budget studio tent poles left and right.* Good. All the more opportunity to discover films like Ned Crowley's delightfully ghoulish Middle Man. Accountant Lenny Freeman (Jim O'Heir) quits his day job to pursue stand-up comedy. While driving to Las Vegas for a TV talent show audition, he picks up a charismatic and very talkative young hitchhiker (Andrew J. West), who's also a serial killer (natch). Turns out Lenny is a few punch lines short of a set himself, and Middle Man slowly transforms from charming-yet-predictable road movie into a genre-junking blend of The King of Comedy and The Hitcher. If imagination, talent, and passion were currency, Crowley's crowd-funded assemblage of revelatory performances and memorable dialogue would get the Transformers 5 treatment.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #229, to hear Middle Man star Jim O'Heir and writer/director Ned Crowley tell Ian where the bodies are buried!

*For every Wonder Woman, a Baywatch drowns just off the coastline.