Review: Boots Riley announces his presence with authority and absurd satire in ‘Sorry To Bother You’

There’s a moment early in the third act of Boots Riley’s “Sorry To Bother You” when the writer-director crosses a line.

It’s not the line, but only because there are several borders to increasingly absurd territory over the film’s runtime. It’s not completely non-sequitor, because anything less might stall the plot’s exponentially batshit crazy momentum.

And you can’t quite argue against it, because it’s a plot development that might hue quite close to normalcy—at least that’s what we come to believe after spending some time in Riley’s head. Continue reading →

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Avengers: Age of Ultron, a disenchanting and explicitly naiive roadmap for Marvel’s Phase Three

Avengers: Age of Ultron is opening to some fairly lofty expectations. Everyone knows it, what with the first Avengers premiering to nearly universal acclaim, bringing every comic book fanboy’s dream to life while garnering $1.5 billion in the process.

So yes, director Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Serenity) in some respects set the bar incredibly high for himself. But over the last year, it’s been raised even higher. Last year’s Marvel Cinematic Universe offerings – the noir thriller Captain America 2: Winter Soldier and Star Wars/Dirty Dozen mashup Guardians of the Galaxy – were some of the studio’s strongest outputs to date, and it was up to Whedon to keep the ball rolling.

He stumbles.

And, tragically, he starts with the titular villain, Ultron: James Spader (Boston Legal, The Blacklist, Lincoln), who voices the robotic nemesis, does his job. Whedon does not.

Ultron is scene-stealing, and it’s all thanks to Spader’s trademark verbal flourish, menacing and charming all at once. He would make an excellent Bond villain sometime just with the way he speaks, he’s so ostensibly threatening.

Spader brings Ultron to life – and literally so in a sequence that is gorgeously written and hauntingly brilliant, in the way it’s cinematically choreographed – but unfortunately it’s just downhill from there. Whedon simply can’t balance Spader’s euphemisms with the threat that Ultron poses. He ends up being underwhelming, comic relief more that we’d like. Which is a travesty given how horrifying the trailers built him up to be.

Oh, what could have been.

Oh, what could have been.

Loki, a constant highlight in MCU films, is a hard enough enemy to top in himself, but it seems like all the attention Whedon put on making Loki so endearing and mystifyingly brilliant in The Avengers was concentrated elsewhere.

That elsewhere being our heroes, banded together to finish off the remains of Hydra/S.H.I.E.L.D., albeit for only a time before cracks start to show. Age of Ultron once again does a great job balancing each hero’s contributions and showing off their abilities in battle and their humanity while not taking down enemies, especially – and invitingly – when it comes to Jeremy Renner’s (The Hurt Locker, American Hustle) Hawkeye, who has an exponentially larger role than he held in 2012’s The Avengers.

As with The Avengers, Whedon again shows his strength in the various little moments between huge action set pieces, as well as within them. The film is expectedly full of hilarious one-liners – heck, the very first bit of dialogue in the movie will make you laugh out loud – and there is even an unexpectedly human romantic storyline between Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanov. Their relationship is eloquently done, with just enough focus on it to detract from the world around them falling apart.

As awesome as the team is, it’s certainly not as exciting seeing them together on the screen this time around, which was what made the first Avengers so fascinating to behold. To compensate, Whedon goes noticeably darker with his sequel, something increasingly common in the MCU with recent films. The tone is about as consistent as you can be, and definitely puts the film on a different tier than Avengers, but not necessarily a higher tier.

There are some pacing issues too. It takes its sweet time on occasion, testing our patience, and Age of Ultron does have a small case of “How did you get here? Why are you here?” syndrome with some characters.

Be afraid, box office competition.

Be afraid, box office competition.

The plot isn’t exactly as straightforward as it could be, but in the increasingly interconnected and complex MCU web, when is anything ever simple anymore?

The premise is basic. Tony Stark has an idea. The idea goes berserk. Avengers assemble. It’s almost completely predictable, committing one of cinema’s cardinal sins. But Whedon covers his backside with new inclusions.

The bigger of which are the twins, themselves more interesting characters than Ultron ever hopes to be. While what drives Ultron is basically ripped off of Terminator, the motivations behind what drives Wanda and Pietro Maximoff – Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver – is much more down to earth and also much more sympathetic.

And interesting. Just much, much more interesting. Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass, Godzilla) and Elizabeth Olson (Godzilla, Oldboy) do a substantial amount with the limited exposure they have, something to be admired.

The twins also add an interesting new dynamic to the film’s action pieces, along with newcomer Vision. Whedon makes sure to get them their due diligence in what eventually becomes a pretty crowded field of players. Quicksilver doesn’t quite match the glory of Evan Peters’ iteration in X-Men: Days of Future Past, but he provides his own standout moment nonetheless.

Welcome to the party.

Welcome to the party.

Much of Age of Ultron’s two and a half hour running time can be attributed to his devotion to each individual hero, Thor’s “side mission” being the supremely weak link; it’s distracting and almost certainly there just to serve as a set-up for future MCU films (I mean, of course).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the growing rift between Captain American and Iron Man is fascinating to behold. We seen the two going at it as they did in Avengers, and they have even more at stake by being at each others’ throats this time around. Get excited, people. Captain America: Civil War should be a good one.

Wait. You're not Thor.

Wait. You’re not Thor.

But enough about plot and intimate moments. We know why we’re all here, why Age of Ultron is going to be filling up movie theaters for weeks to come – the action and spectacle!

Concerning explosions, flying cars and flying punches, this must be said: if you’ve seen the ten or so films in the MCU, you know what you’re getting. The action delivers at times, but in other moments it is mundane, kind of like you know you’ve seen a certain way Cap throws his shield at baddies fifty times before, or how you’ve become so familiar with Iron Man whizzing through the sky blowing up baddies.

At least they’re consistent, right?

That being said, out of the four or five distinct action set pieces, two of them stand out. The finale, obviously, is one of them. Michael Bay should take a few pointers from Marvel as to how to create action with weight and levity. Age of Ultron does an excellent job in his final, destructive act of infusing drama with the punches, actual consequences with each car or building that is blown up. The finale may run a tad long, but it’s something to behold, even though it is barely not just a rehash of Avengers’ New York City piece, with robots replacing alien invaders this time around.

And then there’s the Hulk vs. Iron Man Hulkbuster suit, without a doubt the most high-octane sequence of the film. Everyone wants to see the Hulk go out of his mind, and he does in a memorable sequence that the audience wouldn’t watching on repeat for an hour.

Maybe he should have been the primary antagonist. Avengers: Age of Hulk? No? Okay.

 

In a Nutshell

Whedon brings his strengths to the table with Age of Ultron, but also offers a glance at his weaknesses. If only he’d spent more time exploring the potential of Ultron himself, the film could have been much different.Thanks for the ride, Joss, but it’s time to hand the reins to the Russo brothers to finish off the Avengers’ story.

7.5 / 10

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments.

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffallo…ahh c’mon, you’ve seen this lineup before.

Directed by Joss Whedon

2015

 

 

David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at alex.695@hotmail.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

Fincher and Flynn – a macabre marriage resulting in Gone Girl

David Fincher is part of a special group of modern filmmakers, a group that includes the likes of Wes Anderson, Christopher Nolan, and Alfonso Cuaron. These directors are elite in their craft due to their consistency; they commit themselves to a certain style that is purely their own.

Masterpieces of modern film are usually the result. These directors are able to seamlessly create entire, engrossing worlds and convey moods more effectively than most.

But Fincher got off easy. The world of Gone Girl had already been created in Gillian Flynn’s exceptional 2012 novel from which the film is adapted.

Fincher just had to do what he does best: Bring Flynn’s macabre world to life using his style that fits it just right.

In essence, he was the perfect man for that job.

Gone Girl is part crime-procedural, part marriage drama with the disturbing foundations of a Tarantino film. It follows Nick Dunne as he has to manage being caught in multiple headlights when his wife, Amy, disappears on their 5th wedding anniversary. The did-he-or-didn’t-he suspicion plays out for about a third of the film…until the big twists start coming into play.

 

A collaboration for the ages

The genius minds of Fincher and Flynn couldn’t have synergized at a better time. In fact, why did it take this long?

There was some concern over how well the narrative style of Flynn’s novel would transition to the big screen. Would it be able to retain the suspense without giving away certain characters’ motives?

Worry no more. Flynn, who was actually chosen to write the script for the film, brings to life every detail of her conniving characters and the deceit-filled world they live in magnificently. Flynn’s signature dark wit, morbid atmosphere, and memorable characters, it’s all there. And the way the plot unfolds works is an absolute work of art, one that will leave you second-guessing everyone involved.

The Dunne's are in a pickle.

The Dunne’s are in a pickle.

Gone Girl is lengthy, clocking in at just around two and a half hours, but Flynn’s world is so sprawling that the film’s editors should get lots of credit for keeping it that short. There is nary a moment where the film drags; it paces along excellently and swiftly and it is one of the film’s many strengths.

 

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it

Fincher (The Social Network, Fight Club, Se7en) has brought many dark worlds, dark attitudes, and dark characters to life, to memorable effect. Gone Girl is no exception. It’s almost too easy for him at this point, because Flynn’s story is right up his alley.

Fincher employs his trademark tone and cinematic style to grandstanding effect. The way light sets the mood. The snappy dialogue. The numerous dramatic build-ups. The sweeping and intimate cinematography. His attention to detail is once again 20/20 and the result is a film as disturbing as the novel it is based upon, and that is saying something.

Did he? Didn't he? Could he? Would he?

Did he? Didn’t he? Could he? Would he?

The score plays a huge role in that disturbance. For the third time Fincher collaborates with Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – they won an Oscar for 2010’s The Social Network soundtrack – and for the third time, it is a fruitful partnership. The music in Gone Girl is unrelenting, it’s eerie, and it’s downright frightening at some points. The score has become a staple of Fincher’s films, as it should be.

Acting is also a huge part of Gone Girl’s success. Ben Affleck (Argo, The Town, Good Will Hunting) begins a career renaissance spanning multiple years. He is cold, naïve, and mysterious as the helpless Nick Dunne. Rosamund Pike (Pride & Prejudice, Jack Reacher) however takes it to another level altogether. She is terrifyingly visceral and viscerally terrifying from the onset as the damsel in distress Amy Elliott-Dunne. Forget watching Annabelle, Pike will haunt you with her performance. Her seething, goosebumps-inducing narration as the plot unfolds. Her unrelenting stare which will leave you guessing what emotions she’s feeling. Pike is Flynn’s Amy come to life in every way imaginable, and it’s a sight to behold, possibly multiple times.

Gone Girl will easily be the most polarizing film amongst audiences in 2014, a la The Wolf of Wall Street to a certain extent. The subject matter is especially interesting considering numerous current events, and Flynn’s themes are heavy-handed. Everything you know about the damsel in distress story will be turned on its head in the most devious and know-you-sideways way possible.

Of course, if you read Flynn’s hit novel, you are aware of said subject matter.

If you haven’t yet delved into the wonderfully sinister world of Gone Girl, buckle up.

It’s gonna be a fun ride.

 

In a Nutshell

Fincher continues a torrid run of creating masterpieces from existing historical and literate material. No other director could pull off Flynn’s gem of a novel as well as he does. Think you know what’s coming? Think again.

9.5 / 10 or Ever wonder how bad a marriage can get? Almost as bad as missing this film.

 

 

Gone Girl is rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language 

Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike

Directed by: David Fincher

2014