Ads 468x60px

Get Social with 'Reel Talk'

Thursday, July 27, 2017

SUBURBICON Trailer: The Suburbs are Just as Disturbing and Buckwild as You Always Suspected

Literally every single time I think that I want to move to the suburbs when I grow up, I think about every single horror movie and the fact most heinous, unsolved murders happen in Suburbia. Then I think, nah I'm good.

I thought of this as I watched the trailer for director George Clooney's upcoming twisted dramedy rooted in picket fence-land, SURBURBICON. Like most his films, it's as dark as it is hilarious, and stars Matt Damon. So, he's definitely got a type. However, I can't say I was too hot on his last film, The Monuments Men. Let's hope this is significantly better.  Official synopsis:

Suburbicon is a peaceful, idyllic suburban community with affordable homes and manicured lawns…the perfect place to raise a family, and in the summer of 1959, the Lodge family is doing just that. But the tranquil surface masks a disturbing reality, as husband and father Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) must navigate the town’s dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit, and violence. This is a tale of very flawed people making very bad choices. This is Suburbicon.

Can I also just say, more Oscar Isaac in everything, please? Thanks in advance. 

SUBURBICON is in theaters October 2.

Monday, July 24, 2017


I'l have to assume that there will come a day when a black woman headlining a film isn't cause for a think piece, social media hashtag, and a parade. But today is still not that day. And I don't think I ever want to not celebrate the fact that a woman like Jessica Williams--irreverent, nose-ringed, confident but not sassy -- executive produced and stars in a film that was written just for her (by a white guy, no less). But sadly, THE INCREDIBLE JESSICA JAMES is only isn't up to par with the tremendous talent of the former Daily Show correspondent, who still brings her keen observational comedy and wit to this Netflix romantic comedy only to have it wasted.

Like anything involving Williams, THE INCREDIBLE JESSICA JAMES does play against type. It's a romcom that doesn't adhere to the typical girl meets boy, he breaks her heart, she runs after him, he's not ready to commit to her, then much later runs to find her when he is through man whoring around town format. Though the title character and Williams's alter ego is aching over a breakup, triggering her to passive aggressively plan dates with guys she's not interested in to places where she hopes she'll bump into her ex (Lakeith Stanfield), she is still very much in control of her situation. An aspiring screenwriter, Jessica meets Boone (Chris Dowd) on one of these non-date dates and ends up kinda liking him, at least enough to sleep with him. So, they have a thing, and it's light and fun until his baggage ends up getting between them and their situation becomes no longer tolerable.

But, the film is hollow and as scattered as its protagonist (who, to be fair, is also razor-sharp, ambitious, and delightfully feminist). The plot is paper thin, unorganized, and fails to make an impact. And I'm baffled by the fact that the story seems to take place in a metropolitan city, yet Jessica and her ex are the only people of color. Jessica's dates are all white. Her bestie Tasha (Noël Wells) is white. And the only places they seem to go are coffee shops and hipster joints (not like black folks don't like coffee or random bars, but I question it with these optics). It's like writer/director Jim Strouse (the white guy I mentioned earlier) saw Williams's talent, but could only write her in his dominant gaze of whiteness. Which is woefully problematic, a lost opportunity.

While Williams herself is magnetic and commanding in the role, she's just not given enough character development or substantial material to really use this vehicle to catapult her to the status of which she is so deserving.

THE INCREDIBLE JESSICA JAMES launches exclusively on Netflix July 28.

Watch the teaser trailer:

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The WONDER WOMAN Origin Story About to Rock Your World

Well, I'll be doggone. The Wonder Woman comic was inspired by two badass queer women? And we get to see their story on the big screen, written and directed by a queer woman of color (Angela Robinson, known for The L Word and True Blood)? Oh Hollywood gods, you get it wrong so many times, but when you're right it is so so good!

Set in 1940s, PROFESSOR MARSTON & THE WONDER WOMEN is an origin story that stars Luke Evans as Harvard psychologist and Wonder Woman creator Dr. William Moulton Marston and Rebecca Hall stars as his wife Elizabeth, while Bella Heathcote plays their lover. More in the official synopsis:

While Marston's feminist superhero was criticized by censors for her 'sexual perversity', he was keeping a secret that could have destroyed him. Marston's muses for the Wonder Woman character were his wife Elizabeth Marston and their lover Olive Byrne, two empowered women who defied convention: working with Marston on human behavior research -- while building a hidden life with him that rivaled the greatest of superhero disguises.

Please, please, please be good. This could be epic, y'all. 

Here for Rebecca Hall, here for Angela Robinson, and here to look at Luke Evans. Bring it. My body is ready for it all. 

PROFESSOR MARSTON & THE WONDER WOMEN hits theaters everywhere October 27, 2017!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Quickie Review: LANDLINE Starring Jenny Slate, Edie Falco, and John Turturro

For what it's worth, LANDLINE is just about the most harmless film you'll watch this year. It's not bad. It's not great. But it is unremarkable.The most interesting thing about it is the fact that it's set in the 90s, making it a bit of a nostalgia trip and a reminder of how strange yet glorious that era was with its backpack purses, homemade mixtapes consisting of songs dubbed from the radio, and mom jeans. It was organized lunacy and we loved it.

But the film relies on this too heavily. It becomes clearly very early on that there is nothing more compelling about it. Certainly not the story, which is essentially about a family dealing with its individual existential crises -- none of which are particularly groundbreaking. There's Dana (Jenny Slate), engaged to be married to her l, longtime beau , Ben (Jay Duplass), when she regrettably hooks up with an old flame Nate (Finn Wittrock) for a frivolous affair. Her sister Ali (Abby Quinn) is in an experimental phase of her life, halfway committing to everything including her boyfriend (Marquis Rodriguez), drugs, and her unsatisfying home life. Pat (Edie Falco) is the tough-as-nails matriarch who may have just realized how cripplingly unhappy she is at home. And Alan (John Turturro) is the "the good cop" of the family, the dad who's always been too worried about his daughters hating him to discipline them, and whose passivity has made him the wilted wallflower in the house, unseen and ignored. Each of them is propelled to make a series of poor choices that serve as the climax of the film.

The thing is, it's too play-by-numbers and aggressively unspecial. This is from the same director (Gillian Robespierre), who gave us the wonderfully unexpected Obvious Child starring Slate. But LANDLINE doesn't have the same magic. It's shockingly...basic. The story and characters are stale, even despite the solid cast, which is the film's only sell point. But good chemistry between the actors (Slate is always a sure bet) and witty one liners aren't enough for today's more sophisticated indie audience craving something that sticks in their minds long after watching it. LANDLINE is at times endearing, funny, and crushing, but it is instantly forgettable.

Rating: C- (*** out of *****)

Amazon Studios will release LANDLINE in theaters Friday, July 21.
Watch the trailer:

Friday, July 7, 2017


Make no mistake: what we've seen with the latest contributions to the Planet of the Apes franchise is in a word, spectacular. From the special effects to the astonishing performances led by Andy Serkis as the impenetrable ape Caesar are worth the price of admission alone. In this modern, somewhat anarchic sociopolitical era in which words like resistance and self-empowerment are merely a state of being rather than aspirations, there's something deeply comforting and humanistic about a species fiercely protecting their right to exist. So much so that they're willing to fight for it.

Which brings us to WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES. We're reached that point in this threequel when the usual tactics of mild but steady aggression and militancy are no match to good ole American warfare, machine weapons, minefields, and torture. And that's just where we're at in this movie. After losing his wife and son, Caesar is compelled to go off into the middle of battle and fight on his own, even if it means sacrificing himself.  But of course, his posse--including Maurice (Karin Konoval)--doesn't let him go out on his own in good conscious. They follow him as he is lured right into the lion's den, so to speak.

Traveling across snowy mountains and dangerous terrain, they confidently combat the elements, until they come across one young girl (Amiah Miller), a mute, who somehow ends up being a part of their crew, even coming to their aid at their most vulnerable.

Now wait, for a franchise that has shepherded the very notion of authority and agency of a marginalized nation, inserting someone, a white girl at that, to be their lucky charm and miraculously circumvent capture of her own is counterproductive with the entire franchise's theme, and utterly unnecessary. Why, as we reach this culminating point in the franchise, is this even a thing? I have to tell you, I was perplexed and even angered by this.

It just seems so arbitrary, and really futile to have a quiet young white girl, a picture of innocence, tag along with this crew that already has their hands full with actual life and death drama. Is it to appeal to larger audiences (I mean, does this franchise really have an audience problem though)? Was the idea of a civil uprising in the midst of war too much for director/co-writer Matt Reeves, who may have been trying to move away from the narrative's racial themes? And so is that why we now have a silly little ape "Bad Ape" (Steve Zahn), for comic relief? I mean, we're in the middle of a major war that could annihilate the apes. Things are dire. Apes are dying left and right. And this is the culminating film in a franchise. We really don't need to have either of these characters, especially as Caesar himself is coming dangerously close to his own fate, and realizing his legacy among his comrades.

Not that Zahn and Miller aren't solid in their roles (this is the best work I've seen from Zahn in years); it's just that there's so much else here in the film that is in fact great. By this point in Caesar's story, we see the community he has led, the camaraderie and friendships he has nurtured and maintained. We see his strength and his vulnerability, effects of fighting endlessly for years, and a realization that he may not win this war but that he has not much else to lose except his surviving son, who he knows will be well taken care of. There's a complex, layered story here that is deeply captivating, but that is peppered with these frivolous add-ons that do nothing for what makes this series so great. And that's problematic.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Woody Harrelson's role in the film as Caesar's arch nemesis The Colonel. In true Harrelson form, he chews up scenery in a way that is both dramatic and hilarious, but he gets the point across. Caesar wants him dead, and therefore we want him dead. And he's just...a bad guy. That's made very clear here. Say what you want, but Harrelson has always been and still is very fun to watch. Does it work here? Eh, file it in the same folder as Zahn's performance. It's as perplexing as it is enjoyable. He makes it work for him.

All in all, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is as heart-wrenching as it is disappointing at times, with still some of the best performances we've seen from non-human characters in a long while. It's meant to be experienced on the big screen, and you're meant to be transported to this astonishing community, and want to fight their fight with them. For that, they succeed on all bases.

Rating: B (**** out of *****)

Share This Post
Blogger Templates