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Vice Review : Risky But Rewarding

McKay seems intent on telling the tale in as energetic and entertaining a fashion as possible

Caffeinated Clint

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Director:

Adam McKay

Cast:

Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Alison Pill

Run time:

2 hr 12 mins

Rating:

Like the chubby kid left to be a final pick on footy team-selection day, it’s gonna probably be hard going for Adam McKay’s newest.

If a fictional film like “Star Wars : The Last Jedi” can divide fans, because of mixed takes on whether or not a legendary character was handled correctly and respectfully, imagine the 140 characters some – including a large allotment of critics – will be using up on a film about a real life person, in this case former Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney, who may or may not have acted or behaved in the exact manner the film portrays. Twitter is gonna need some extra cooler jets when this thing hits.

So how does one judge a film like that? On its artistic merits alone? Do you try and separate truth from fiction and just enjoy what’s at hand? Do you simply leave your political beliefs at the door and invest yourself in an entertaining story? The answer may lie in your opinion of Oliver Stone’s “JFK” or how many times you’ve read Machiavelli.

It’s going to be different for every viewer, but one thing’s for sure, there’s no denying “Vice” is an ambitious and imaginatively-structured film. Much like his housing crisis drama, which was littered with stars and seemingly edited by Winona Ryder’s character from “Reality Bites”, Adam McKay’s expose on the 46th Vice President of the United States is primarily concerned in telling its story with as many clever cuts and cameos as possible, so that at no time does it start to resemble the weighty, slightly more niche period piece it might’ve otherwise been. So if you like some fizz with your facts… drink up!

The film retraces the steps of former VP ‘Dick’ Cheney who began as an unassuming bureaucratic Washington insider but ultimately stepped into a position that offered him immense power. As Vice President to George W. Bush, Cheney was able to reshape the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.

With clever narration (it’s a spoiler to say any more, really), a hilarious mid-movie sequence that tricks the audience into believing the film is ending, and some entertaining, sometimes loud turns (particularly from Sam Rockwell, who is dynamite as George W.Bush), McKay seems intent on telling the tale in as energetic and entertaining a fashion as possible.

On that level, the film is a success.

Performance-wise, the all-star cast are as solid as the walls at Pennsylvania Avenue, with an unrecognizable Christian Bale disappearing into the role of the odious and seemingly merciless politico, and Amy Adams, always a delight, as equally ambitious and Lady Macbeth-like as Lynne Cheney.
Along with Rockwell’s fun and faultless turn as Bush, there’s also top turns from the likes of the versatile Steve Carell as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Tyler Perry as National Security Advisor Colin Powell, and Justin Kirk as adviser Scooter Libby.

The script, penned by McKay, is where folks will likely come to fisticuffs over – depending or not on whether they believe Cheney was given a fair shake here. The thing has been laced together as a dark comedy as opposed to serious Stone-structured political drama. To be fair, ‘Dick’ is played as almost Scrooge-like by Bale, with his menacing determination and clear absence of empathy, so it almost makes sense to go that route.

As the title card to the film tells us, little is known about Dick Cheney and that’s why, for a large part of the film, McKay was forced to resort to extrapolation and guesswork to fill in gaps. In one clever moment, an entire conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Cheney is told in Shakespearean verse.

Like his previous film, McKay’s Cheney biopic is less concerned with precision and palms than it seems to be reveling in the filmmaker’s traditional caustic jocularity and sanctimoniousness. And that, coupled with whatever pin you wore on Election Day, will help decide whether the movie is for you.

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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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Film Reviews

Five Feet Apart review : a glorified episode of Grey’s Anatomy

An effective portray of Cystic Fibrosis nestled into a predictable love-story

K.T Simpson

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I have this controversial rule, that I’ll generally avoid a movie where the poster depicts someone with a tube up their nose. This has nothing to do with ignorance, or disgust, but merely the fact that I go to the movies to be entertained, not deeply depressed. Having said that, the woes of reviewing films means I have to sometimes go against my better judgement, and watch a movie about some dying kids.

Seventeen year-old Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) has Cystic Fibrosis, and as a result spends a lot of her time at the hospital getting treatment after treatment. As an incurable disease, most of what she does is manage the symptoms with the aim to lengthen her life. Her current stint in hospital sees her in a ward with fellow ‘CFers’, including best friend Poe (Moises Arias) and new hunk-a-spunk Will (Cole Sprouse), whom she initially [predictably] finds frustrating, as his lack of routine is incredibly vexing to control-freak Stella.

As with any teen-drama, Stella’s feelings of anger and frustration quickly turn to the smitten, and thus a love story begins, but unlike most others and the teens can’t go too close to each other – as CFers are a huge risk to one another in terms of passing on symptoms and illness.

“Five Feet Apart” plays out a little like Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”: the star-crossed lovers who can’t be together, and stubborn nurse Barb (Kimberley Hebert Gregory) forbidding the two to go near each other. What we have here, dear readers, is an over-the-top episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” – you will see each turn in the story come from a mile away, and the forced emotions come from a soundtrack of all the sad songs in today’s catalogue – not to mention the ‘starter kit’ for sad films: forbidden teen romance and death.

Don’t let my description put you off, as my heart of stone has a wall bigger than Trump’s planned border protecting it. “Five Feet Apart” is a touching (excuse that horrific pun) story, and those who are particularly vulnerable to a sob story will come out of the cinema red-faced and blotchy.

Where “Five Feet Apart” excels is in its ability to bring awareness to a terrible, and dare I say misunderstood, disease. My review is in no way a mocking of the severity of those who suffer, and I applaud director Justin Baldoni for his sensitivity in portraying its effects.

Further, actress Richardson is the standout of the film, outshining her “Riverdale” co-star Sprouse. Though predictable, “Five Feet Apart” is charming and if you want a depression-session : this is where to find it.

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