REVIEW: “SUBURBICON” (2017) Paramount Pictures

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Oh Georgie and Matty – what have you done here!!! I mean I’m all for unique and different when it comes to filmmaking, but when a ‘unique’ film does absolutely nothing to intrigue its audience, aside from being somewhat tonal with a consistent setting, then it’s not really all that impressive in the end. With “SUBURBICON”, George Clooney’s latest attempt at direction, seems to leave a lot to be desired with trying to be a little too confident in itself when it came to presenting a powerful story. As is, I still don’t really know if this was supposed to be a story of racial history, a murder mystery, or somewhere in there was supposed to be a dark comedy. I found myself completely lost at times, when I don’t think we the audience, were supposed to be.

The quick run through as best I could understand it is 1950’s/60’s suburbia (you can catch that in the courtesy of the name) the first African-American family, The Mayers (Leith M Burke, Karimah Westbrook & Tony Espinosa) move in the all-white suburban town of “Suburbicon’. Then the neighbors from the back The Gardner’s, (Matt Damon, Julianne Moore & Noah Jupe) are tested when a group of men invade his home, killing his wife and leaving only his son and sister-in-law alive (also Julianne Moore). Falling for his wife’s sister and becoming a complete psychotic and uncontrollable man, this film quickly spirals out of control into a farce of random occurrences. Throughout the first act of this film, it seems like it’s going to be a satire that won’t hold anything back in terms of wackiness, but that’s very quickly thrown out the window, compensating with many subplots of murder and conspiracy. I found myself taken out of the film when the tone would shift this often, making for a very off-putting viewing experience.

Throughout the majority of this film, you’re asked to accept the horrible things that the main characters are doing, or just connect with Gardner’s young boy on an emotional level, but he’s not quite present enough in my opinion. Not until the third act do you really find yourself caring about some of the characters, which truly at that point, didn’t matter any more. This movie tries far too hard to be clever, funny, and surprising – so hard in fact that it just comes off as forced more often than not. You will find yourself along for a ride of random events and you won’t really know who to root for, let alone what or why it’s even happening or what the correlation is. Honestly there is zero correlation between the African-American family moving in and Matt Damon’s wife getting murdered. In fact, as you watch the movie you will notice that the African-American family actually plays no significant part in the actual plot of the movie as far as you can understand that plot to be. It is as if they are just there for filler and to maybe politicize the movie in some way – I’m truly not sure as it makes no sense. What is the driving point of the ‘dark comedy/murder mystery’ aspect and taking the viewer to watching how horrible this family is being treated. It wasn’t funny then and it’s not funny now – that this still happens. But that’s a whole different movie so again, why is it even here?

I may seem to be ripping this film apart for being uneven, but for all its flaws, there are actually one or two somewhat fun sequences involving an appearance by Claims Insurance Investigator Bud Cooper (Oscar Isaac). There is a lengthy scene when secrets are revealed and characters begin to evolve and Isaac elevated every moment of this portion of the film, but it almost is like they are grasping at straws by this point. You haven’t laughed yet, so it’s hard to really rustle one up by then. Up until that point, there really weren’t any characters to grasp onto, but the environment around them, along with the sets and the score, always helped to make the film feel more authentic than what its screenplay was presenting. This may sound confusing, but that’s due to the fact that this is a very confusing watch, and I’m thinking many will agree with me on that account.

From being written by Joel and Ethan Coen, to being directed by George Clooney, ‘Suburbicon’ just feels like a huge missed opportunity, due to the talent involved. Matt Damon and Julianne Moore both don’t deliver on performances here and feel about as average as you can get.

Overall, ‘Suburbicon’ is a film that will probably leave your mind as quickly as it came as it’s just a very forgettable film.

Grade: D
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: October 24, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
“SUBURBICON” will be released in theaters on Friday, October 27, 2017

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REVIEW: “STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS” (2015) Disney Pictures

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32 years after the original Star Wars exploded on our movie screens, the saga is set to continue here in The Force Awakens. Take note that this review is strictly a point of view and won’t contain to much storyline as you should see it for yourself, and definitely no spoilers. One thing before I continue on..Chewie..YOU ARE MY HERO!!!
As the opening log comes on the screen, we are immmediately taken back in time which has to be one of the happiest moments of the film. With that I will just spit it out that first and foremost, this is a good movie, though far far from a great one (It’s no Mad Max) And yes, I just said that.. So all the Star Wars fan-boys can step up now and sue me.. 😀

I’m as big a Star Wars fan as any though after Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace couldn’t even come close to comparing. Attack of the Clones was forgettable..Revenge of the Sith – didn’t even bother to see it at a theatre and actually waited for it to be on cable. And I won’t lie..I have a few issues with this film, though not all of them are bad.
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The opening 30 minutes are less than satisfying and to be completely honest was quite ‘lulz’. Here we are introduced to some new main characters Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac – who is terribly underused here). Finn is actually a stormtrooper, but get this..a stormtrooper with feelings?? no ..stormtroopers are not allowed those. But hey they are taking a risk here by doing that right – which is okay by me. Then Poe, who is head of the resistance pilots, gets captured and Finn helps him escape for which when Poe asks why, gets the answer of “Because it’s the right thing to do” what?? that’s just weak.. sorry but it is. It doesn’t fit in a Star Wars film. So as predicted they crash and it seems only Finn survives. But you also know that there is no way Poe is dead & gone, but this goes unexplained for some time, until he magically shows up later with barely a plausable explantion.

While she is no Furiosa, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has somewhat the same inplausability factor when we meet as her as she & Finn are all about saving each other within minutes of meeting. But then again, I like the risk-taking factor of appointing a strong female lead.
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Along with that part of the main cast, we are introduced to the mostly all Britsh/Irish (I guess a galaxy ‘far far away’ is now the U.K. ha!) cast of the Dark Side, notably General Hux (Domhnall Gleason), Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie – also terribly underused) to name just a few.

As expected, the robots especially BB8 (Bill Hader/Ben Schwartz – voice consultants), along with Chewbaca (Peter Mayhew) & Hans Solo (Harrison Ford) steal and deliver the best comedic one takes. While the new characters try, they fail quite miserably at trying to deliver cutesy one-liners that aren’t funny.
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While I loved the flashbacks to the Star Wars of old, including the graveyard of old spaceships, Hans Solo getting back onboard with his old ship is nothing less than classic. And who doesn’t want to see Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Solo reunite after years of separation?!! All these scenes and storylines are simply wonderful.

Another big risk and a sad heartbreaking one at that, is saying good-bye to one of the most iconic characters ever concieved in this galaxy or any other for that matter. Did it have to be done? Maybe so because it seems J.J. Abrams had to basically make us try to forget those three intermediate bad storylines and get us back on track to what is important. Though I found Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) to be one of my least favourite characters (and actors) as it just seems to simple to say Skywalker was good out of Vader’s bad, but yet Ren is bad out of Solo & Leia’s good.
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Last note: I’m not the biggest 3D fan, but this film is so enhanced by it, it’s worth it. The final scene of the movie is by far what makes it all worth-while to see this film – as it gives us something to look forward to in Episode VIII and it tells us it will be so much better.

Grade: B-
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“A MOST VIOLENT YEAR” (2014) – REVIEW ~ Incl. Q & A w/Cast & Dir/Prod/Writer

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Truth be told ~ A Most Violent Year could come off sounding like the most boring movie ever about the most dry industry ever. Set in New York City in 1981, Oscar Isaac plays “Abel Morales“, the owner of a heating oil company in the early 80’s when people, instead of having to deal with the electric or gas company for heating, they negotiated heating oil prices with the providers directly. Odd but true. But life has been good for Morales. Being an immigrant, he’s risen through the ranks from driver to owner, married a beautiful, smart woman, “Anna” (Jessica Chastain) who has a rather wealthy & somewhat connected father herself, “Bill” (Peter Gerety) and he’s just about to close the biggest deal of his life.
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But all is not well at Standard Oil. Abel is trying to negotiate a deal to expand their business and gain ground by getting “Josef” (Jerry Adler) and his devoutly Jewish, not completely on the up & up, family to agree to sell their highly-valued, much in demand property to him vs. the competition. And he has 30 days to make this happen. All the while, his company is under investigation for fraud, the bank has pulled out of their real estate deal, trucks of oil are being stolen left and right from Morales’ and to make matters worse, now his seemingly perfect home life is starting to show cracks. It’s definitely a ‘violent’ year for Morales but not in how you might imagine.
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A Most Violent Year plays out like a gangster movie but not like one I’ve ever seen before as it’s done in a refreshingly understated, non-sensationalist gangster movie way as these are guys who don’t even carry guns, and are actually committed to trying to conduct their business in a non-violent manner which may or may not work out for them. This is really about as far from a Scorsese type gangster flick you can get. There’s no real flash in either the direction or the acting as everything is on a very different balance here though I will say, while it might be slow at times, it is never dull. It’s like ‘Casino’ but minus everything that makes it loud, brash or wild. What’s left is a quiet, almost pensive exploration of one man’s year long struggle to keep his business and his life on the path he’s chosen. And sure, there’s the occasional flash of violence but it rarely involves our lead character directly. In fact, the key players ~ Abel, Anna, “Lawrence” (David Oyelowo), “Walsh” (Albert Brooks) and O’Leary ~ are all locked in a power struggle that rarely resorts to violence though some of them really want to use it, Abel feels business can be conducted without it. Instead, the group handle their differences in heated discussions, occasional emotional blowouts and the always to be expected backroom deal.
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When Anna emerges as not only the saviour of sorts, in a pivotal scene of shockingly good grit and Abel blows up at her, is where the film breaks some truly fascinating ground. Not only does Anna emerge as the badass gangster who’s playing the angles and saving the day, but you really start to question just how moral Abel is. It’s here that you see begin to see the layers of movie really begin to reveal themselves. In possibly one of the best on-foot chase scenes that I’ve ever seen in a movie with Morales in dress shoes no less, though the scene some might say comes a little late in the game, I couldn’t help but love every second of it.

The film cements itself together not only by excellent performances from Isaac, Chastain and the strong supporting cast, but by small things like the locations and a truly fantastic step back into this world with even a great wardrobe of the time making it all the more realistic. A Most Violent Year may not be my favourite film of the year, but it will definitely emerge as a contender during awards season.
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Note: Following the film was a fantastic Q & A with Dir/Writer: J.C. Chandor, Actors: Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac, Producers: Neal Dodson, Anna Gerb; who really gave a wonderful detailed explanation of the idea & set, even his trenchcoat idea behind the film. Truly, if you haven’t seen a J.C. Chandor movie, you’re missing out. Like, seriously missing out. So don’t skip A Most Violent Year either, you should see it and then head back and check out the director’s previous work like the wonderfully brilliant, “All is Lost” & “Margin Call

Grade: B-

**Seen on Monday, November 17th at a PGA screening at the Arclight Theaters (Hollywood) ~ A Most Violent Year opens December 31, 2014.
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(See grading scale)

“INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS” – Better late than never!

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So yes…I’m late on seeing this movie..blah blah blah.. there was just too many to see in such a short time there and I only have so much on the financial side that I can spend on it all!!! ..Moving on… I found this to be a refreshing, fun movie.. I don’t know much about all the beatnik/folk music era and while this was definitely not a history lesson, it gave a bit of insight to that and the struggle of all artists to find their niche and be successful and what they love to do. With some sadness, snarkyness, many many obstacles thrown in the way and outright laughter this movie succeeded in all of it.  I loved the performance of Oscar Issac and hope to see more of him in the future, the supporting cast was all pretty decent the only real possible standout being John Goodman.  And while this is a good Coen brothers movie, I understand why it wasn’t nominated for an Oscar and it’s not really of that caliber even though very entertaining.. And really..isn’t entertaining us all that we really need from a movie! 😀   Grade: B  #peggyatthemovies