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If Beale Street Could Talk Review : a perfect diamond of a film

A flawless film with some of the best performances

K.T Simpson

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Director:

Barry Jenkins

Cast:

KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Michael Beach, Dave Franco, Diego Luna

Run time:

117 minutes

Rating:

2018 may go down as the year when everything old became new again. Especially in films. Messages (and misdeeds) from the past were brought to cinemas in new, fresh styles but the messages were not lost. Films like “Black Panther” and “Blackkksman” made audiences, both black and white, take a look at the world around them and demand that it change. 2019 continues that path with the latest film from “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins, “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Tish (Layne) and Vonny (James) are young and in love. Vonny is an artist with dreams of opening his own gallery. Sadly, they live in a time when society, and even members of their own families, are not as supportive as they should be. They find their love challenged when Vonny is arrested and charged with committing a brutal rape. We know he’s innocent but, thanks to a racist cop (the creepy Ed Skrein) and a victim (Emily Rios in a very strong performance) who has fled the country, the deck is already stacked against him.

As someone that has always enjoyed reading, I was well aware of the late James Baldwin. He was an author who was not afraid to write about the world as he saw it, no matter the view. Director Jenkins, who shared the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar in 2016 for “Moonlight” – and will surely be nominated again for his work here – has kept the novel’s 1970s setting intact, but the tale told could easily have been placed in today’s world, a place where institutionalized racism is still an ongoing problem.

Jenkins has assembled a skilled cast of actors, both new and old, to shoulder the emotional impact of the story. In her first feature film, Ms. Layne is the heart and voice of the film (Tish narrates the story as it progresses). Her bright eyes and constant smile tell the audience that she is in love and will always be, no matter the consequences. Mr. James, who has portrayed such historically important characters as John Lewis and Jesse Owens, is also strong. He is a strong black man in an era when some parts of society confused “strong” with “trouble.” As Tish’s mother, Sharon, Regina King delivers one of the best performances in ANY film released this year. In their review of “Beale Street,” Entertainment Weekly plainly asked “Will someone please give Regina King an Oscar already?” I wholeheartedly agree!

A film that makes you think, like the perfect diamond, is rare. “If Beale Street Could Talk” is flawless.

Film Reviews

Dragged Across Concrete review : Gibson is back!

Will have Gibson’s fans demanding a new “Lethal Weapon” film immediately

Caffeinated Clint

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Some filmmakers are quite content keeping the dial set at an effective but unwavering 1 or 2, but S.Craig Zahler doesn’t believe in cranking anything into gear that isn’t turned all the way up.
Like his precious two films (“Bone Tomahawk”, “Brawl in Cell Block H”), it’s not easy to cool after Zahler’s newest.

“Dragged Across Concrete” is the type of sweat-inducing, white-knuckle chin-drooper that not even the securest of celluloid split air systems can quench. This thing clams up the skin, dries up the throat and jettisons the heart rate … and by golly, you’ll love it for it.

Gibson and Vaughan play overzealous cops – the former, the more grizzled and senior – who got suspended from the force due to what they see as an absurd leak from the “entertainment media” or “news”.

In order to get the compensation they feel they deserve, Ridgeman – whose wife has MS and daughter has been assaulted numerous times in their rough neighborhood – and Lurasetti decide to snatch the loot from a ruthless mobster and his team of bank-robbers.

With heart-stopping story drifts, shockingly realistic violence and ticker-pausing suspense, “Dragged Across Concrete” is a film that even the most detached and pessimistic of film-fan will be swept up in.

With so many of today’s action-thrillers spoonfeeding their audience like a tot midway through an episode of “Sesame Street”, it’s refreshing to see a movie that asks the audiences to connect the dots, lets actions speak more often than words, and doesn’t succumb to the projected, habitual Hollywood-style ending.

This is also a film where nothing – and no one – is black and white. While not nearly as nasty as the sadistic villains of the piece, Gibson and Vaughn’s coppers also aren’t Boy Scouts. Constantly cutting corners, not necessarily looking out for the greater good and too anxious and concerned with their own concerns to be role models to a city (or, in Gibson’s case, a daughter), these are two men out to look out for themselves.

Acting-wise, there’s no undercooked spots in the dish. Gibson, in particular, is pitch-perfect for the role of the bushed, over-it cop who, at times, resembles a forlorn Harry Callahan and at other times, an older, less chirpy take on (his “Lethal Weapon” character) Martin Riggs. Just seeing Gibson back, firing on all cylinders, both performance-wise and in a physical sense, will have fans demanding a new “Lethal Weapon” film immediately. He’s still got it – he just hasn’t been in anything this good in a while, so it’s been hard to know.

Vaughn, as the ‘straight’ sidekick, is conventionally good too — but particularly so in his chatty scenes with Gibson, of which there are some absolute corkers.

The supporting cast – which includes Don Johnson, Jennifer Carpenter and Michael Jai White – are all doing fine work here, but they’ve far less scene numbers to impress than the anchors.

Zahler seems to be taking his cue from some of the gritty, unapologetic pot boilers of the ‘70s – even, Walter Hill’s ‘90s looter-thriller “Trespass” – and the wave of crime novels that preceded them. There are big, long chunks of dialogue about nothing that would normally work better in a paperback than they would on film, and there’s grotesque blood-splattering kills that you’d normally only get in on Eli Roth retrospective reel, but with Zahler’s smart and unpredictable screenplay and carefully played performances by the leads, the nontraditional elements blend into the world of “Dragged Across Concrete” effortlessly.

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Film Reviews

Us review : a hell of a night at the movies

The latest from “Get Out” director Jordan Peele

Mike Smith

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It used to be that, when I thought of Jordan Peele, I thought of his character, Raffi, the baseball player who used to over congratulate his teammates by yelling “Slap Ass!” and whacking them on the backside. Then he won an Oscar. Which means when I sat down to watch Peele’s newest creation, “Us,” my expectations had been raised. And, wow, was I not disappointed. In this reviewer’s humble opinion, Peele has created a new horror masterpiece.

1986. A time of movies on VHS tapes and Hands Across America (which I actually participated in). It’s a beautiful night on the boardwalk as little Adelaide Wilson (Madison Curry) and her parents take a stroll. Her mother excuses herself, reminding her husband to watch the little girl. He doesn’t and the little girl wanders down to the beach, where she enters a house of mirrors.

Not the best place to lose yourself.

There is so much I want to tell you about this film, but to do so would spoil one hell of a night at the movies. Like his Oscar-winning debut film, “Get Out,” Peele has found a way to combine drama, humor and horror in such a perfect way that I found myself, literally, on the edge of my seat during the screening. I haven’t done that since I was 16 and snuck into a re-issue of “The Exorcist.”

To even go into slight detail about the performances would be a major spoiler so I will just say that, like “Get Out,” Peele has assembled an amazing cast with much to do and many ways to do it. Peele’s direction is fluid, keeping the story moving at an almost breakneck pace. During the end credits he thanks many of the filmmakers he admires, including Steven Spielberg, whose work obviously influenced some of the shots in the film. And, if I could, I’d give the film an extra star for dressing one of the characters in a JAWS shirt!

Don’t walk, run to the theatre to see “Us.” And be prepared to run some more!

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Film Reviews

The Dirt review : fast-paced and not suitable for children

Get the Jack Daniels and skinny jeans at the ready!

K.T Simpson

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If you’ve read “The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band” by Neil Strauss, or even if you know anything about Mötley Crüe, you know you’re in for a wild ride with Netflix’s “The Dirt” – the comedy-drama biopic based on the aforementioned book. And a mere 5 minutes in, you’ll know that this film isn’t going to sugar-coat anything, with happenings that are probably too inappropriate to even mention in a film review beginning the story.

“The Dirt” introduces us to the backstory of Mötley Crüe, and through the trials and tribulations of their fast-moving career. With success comes tragedy, and the band generally spend more money on drugs than most of us will ever see in our lifetime – which ultimately makes them a little bit (read: a lot) unlikeable. But such is the story of how the glam metal band found fame in the ‘80s, where music comes second to partying and groupies.

Honestly, nothing is off limits for Mötley Crüe and “The Dirt” shows it. No girl is off limits – regardless if you’re already in a relationship or if it’s the partner of someone else in the band – no drug is unobtainable, and no hotel room will ever be the same when the band has something to do with it.

Casting-wise, “The Dirt” nails it. Douglas Booth as Nikki Sixx is the standout, depicting the troubled life of an abandoned teen who finds solace in music and way too much heroin – and a cocktail of other drugs and alcohol. Supported by Colson Baker aka Machine Gun Kelly as Tommy Lee, Iwan Rheon as Mick Mars, and Daniel Webber as Vince Neil, the group bounce off each other very well and are a believable representation of Mötley Crüe.

As with any hour-and-a-half biopic about a decade of events, there’s simply not enough time to touch upon everything important about Mötley Crüe and their individual stories. As such, the film feels like it rushes through a lot, and is mostly focused on the antics the boys get up to, rather than the creation of the music that we all know so well.

Director Jeff Tremaine is also responsible for the “Jackass” movies, and that really shows through “The Dirt” in its direction style. It’s fast-paced and at time feels a little out of its depth – however coincidentally representing the band to an absolute T.

While you may have mixed opinions on each band member, you have to hand it to them for perseverance and for setting a new precedent with glam metal – and music in general. “The Dirt” really finds its material in their bad-boy antics, but what we really want to see is the suspended spinning drum kit and the pyro-technics that support their live show. If you want to see the latter, then perhaps track down one of their live DVDs and watch that. Ultimately, “The Dirt” wants you to see the nitty gritty, the cocaine snorting, the uninhibited sex, the family tragedies, and the arguments.

What I can promise you, however, is that you will want to blast “Dr Feelgood” at top volume in your living room, and swig some Jack Daniels straight from the bottle – or at least put a respectable size shot of it with some Coke in a glass, we are adults afterall.

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