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Predictable, Derivative, Waste of Time
This is a classic case of just because you have some money doesn't mean you should make a movie. I don't know what these folks wanted to accomplish with this nonsense. When the entire tragic moment that drives the lead into this story rests on the simple solution of "just put the strap behind you and keep the lap part on" you're off to a bad start. I suppose many lives are changed by missing one simple thing that could have saved them, but this was so mind numbingly lame I just groaned.
Speaking of mind numbing, the story is so predictable it's embarrassing. You see every turn coming from a mile away. Not only is it predictable, it is derivative of so many other films that it's sad to think of all the people who wasted their money financing this drivel.
The casting is so basic it is yet another thing that makes this film so horribly boring. Casting against type might have saved this a little bit. It still would be a stupid movie, but maybe it would have had some interesting actors to watch. Instead they are so on the face standard they may as well just have been blurry Caucasian figures.
One thing I didn't think of until I overheard someone else mention it was that all the female characters are horrible people. They have no redeeming qualities whatsoever and at least one or two really could have. Did the wife really have to be such an unhelpful and selfish nag? Couldn't the flower lady have been a sweetheart? They honestly did nothing to help propel or serve the story, so why treat them with such a chauvinistic hand? If the Bechdel Test is something you consider, this film fails spectacularly.
This film has played quite a few festivals (that's where I saw it) and the only reason I can see as to why is it at times has somewhat high production value for an indie. But when you think of all the potentially interesting stories they could have told in this sleepy town, full of quirky and interesting characters and distressed looks, you just hate that they wasted their time on this and you just wasted 90 minutes of your life. Your 90 minutes are better spent elsewhere.
The Leisure Class (2015)
Effie Brown was right all along
This movie is a disaster from start to finish.
It made me lose a lot of faith in Len Amato at HBO, as he was constantly saying how great the script was getting and that Jason Mann "was a real film maker." Maybe he is, but this entire project is no indication of that. The only truth tellers here were Effie Brown, and Ben Affleck who at least had the courage and diplomatic phrasing to say "this is not my taste, and he's going to have to stand behind this movie even more based on how hard he fought." I'll briefly hit some points, because spending too much time on this trite nonsense is a waste.
1. The script is terrible. The characters are derivative and uninspired. What was all the love for Pete Jones about? There is nothing quality about any of the writing. Not one single line.
2. The camera work is weak to say the least. The framing for most shots is off, which is something that should keep this DP from ever working again. Mann fought so hard for film (which was totally irrelevant when you see how basic and style free the movie looks), when he should have fought for a DP with vision and style. Instead he got a boring looking movie with no visual spark.
3. It is not funny. They kept calling this a comedy of manners, ala Oscar Wilde. But Oscar Wilde was a wordsmith and could turn a phrase like no other. The writing here is boring, derivative, and imagination free. Additionally, note to Jason Mann, accents alone do not make comedy. While he loved the improvisation coming from his two lead males, nothing they improvised was funny. There was nothing coming out of their mouths that was unique or special, their own kind of comedy, ala Robin Williams. Even the wild situations were not funny. Just an epic fail on ever level comedy-wise and story-wise (Hey Mann, that is a Billy Wilder reference. You should look into his work, he was funny, and clean funny, not rim-job unfunny.) 4. Lack of diversity. This is perhaps where Effie Brown was the most right. In what political dynasty world do those involved have no black or brown friends and colleagues? You need a diverse pot to win elections. And yeah, it was supposed to be the north east, WASP country, but there are still black folks up there. It was not the only thing Effie was right about, obviously. But it was indeed glaring. If you had no party scenes, a single location flick with a cast of 5, you could get away with an all white cast. But when you have a sea of background, you can pepper it with a reality based group. Even the guy in the car accident could have been a person of color. But even he was white. This is another element of director failure. He needed to step up and address this, which would have taken 5 seconds.
In the end, this is easily the worst of all the Project Greenlight films, and that is saying a lot. It makes you truly question the value of the entire contest and those picking the winner. I understand you want a reality show to have drama, but trust me, even a good movie has drama behind the scenes. Perhaps even more drama than this had. And wouldn't it have been grand if the production was wrought with strife and in the end, this young director delivered a gem? Oh, what could have been.
A Case of You (2013)
Standard Rom-Com Tropes - VERY WHITE
Caught this because I'm a fan of Justin Long and Evan Rachel Wood. The director also has a strong reputation.
The movie isn't bad, as my title states, it's a pretty standard, and by that I mean tired, rom-com. Nothing new here. The script has a few funny lines, visually it's uninspired.
I would not consider this a true indie because it features a cast of all-stars. Here is the problem with that - They are all white. Everyone! The film takes place in one of the most diverse cities on earth and yet everyone in the movie is white. Ordinarily I don't notice the white washing in movies, but this one really stood out. I think it stood out precisely because of how many famous people play secondary roles. They are roles that have no specific ethnicity or gender, and yet this casting director and director chose only white folks. Anyone could have played those parts, and likely better. Seriously Vince Vaughn; what are you even doing in this movie? I'm not particularly a Kevin Hart fan, but he could have played the role and at least you'd have had one person of color in a major supporting role. Instead the only diversity comes from throw away roles. Not actual parts at all, just folks on camera. I really can't understand how none of the producers mentioned this in pre-production. If you have these known talents in your film, that means you have the budget to give anyone a day rate. You could have actually showcased the true diversity of this city and America. Instead it's just a tired trope, derivative movie, featuring a cast of well know white actors. Simple casting parity with the same script and story would have made the whole thing more interesting.
He doesn't say much, does he
I went into this film expecting a modest budget Irish history film, but it turns out the budget had to have been quite good. There is plenty of action, lots of locations, and it's period so all the cars and exteriors had to be accurate. None of that comes cheap. So it is definitely not what I would call an indie film.
Jack O'Connell is making his way up, and STARRED UP was quite good, so I was excited to check this out. O'Connell is good at emoting. He can be on screen and do nothing but you can feel his fear, his pain, his panic, and that is all important on film. But as I watched this film I kept wondering; How does he audition for this part... if he even had to? The character says very little through the film. I mean, VERY LITTLE. It is all emoting. So what did he do, just run around, get gassed, and they filmed it to see if he made good faces for the camera? In any event, O'Connell gets the job done.
The real scene stealer in this film is the young boy who befriends O'Connell's, Gary. He is only billed as LOYALIST CHILD, but the actors name is Corey McKinley. He kills it. When he is on screen you can't look away. He is funny and brave and dangerous and vulnerable. He was my favorite part of the film.
The movie ends at least 3 times. This is always problematic. When a director can't see that we don't need every single little moment after the climax to resolve it all and they add everything, it leaves no mystery or wonder. That is what happens here. It should have ended after his final meeting with the superiors and he walks alone down the hall. We get everything we need from that. Returning him to his brother is fine, but it could have come before this scene and we would have had the same impact. Everything thereafter is fairly tacked on, new story stuff and unnecessary. Overall it is a pretty good film though. If you're a Jack O'Connell fan, it's a must see.
Appropriate Behavior (2014)
A slow build
I was excited to see this indie and for a low budget film in NYC it is quite well done. Being that is was a Sundance film I was expecting something really revelatory. Unfortunately it really wasn't. It took a long time to get going. The whole first half of the film was essentially exposition in the form of complaining. Nothing was really happening to the characters. They weren't doing or experiencing anything. Instead we learn the characters history as she complains about losing her girlfriend to friends and deals with her family dynamic. While none of that is bad per say, it certainly wasn't that engaging.
The film picks up speed after that and we get to see our lead actually experience things. However the star/writer/director utilizes flashbacks to tell the tale of how she got here, but the cuts backward and forward have no style, they are just cuts. So the film feels awkward and you get confused as to where you are in time too easily. Maybe it was intentional, as the lead is really off kilter as her life is put in shambles. But for this viewer, it didn't really work. You always eventually figure out where the timeline is, but it takes a while into each new scene to know. There are many ways to make flashbacks and jumping around in time work for an audience, but none of them are used and therefore it's all just basic editing and cutting and it feels clunky.
In conclusion, this is a competent first feature. You have to commend anyone who finishes a feature and does so competently. It isn't a perfect movie, but what is? It could have used some more work with the script and structure. Visually it's fine, but again not a revelation in indie cinematography. Can't really fault them for that though, as you only have just so many locations and it is mostly people talking. If you get too artsy with that it can be detrimental to the simple story being told. If you like indies and new filmmakers you could definitely do worse, but you can also definitely do better. For other films in this vein, millennial, edgy indie, OBVIOUS CHILD is far stronger.