Cop Car

Cop Car has a nasty sense of humor. Rarely does a film put itself in these situations where there’s a twisted balance between laughing and cringing, especially when it involves children. But director Jon Watts thrives on it. He generates a dark comedy but with creepiness that is always lingering from scene to scene causing confusion on how the audience chooses to react. He’s a real trickster which is why it’s a shame he can’t keep it up throughout the entirety of his story. The bar is set too high in its savagely luring opening act for Watts to maintain or get back to that level.

We are left in the dark about most of the characters’ past, adding more machinations to an otherwise simple premise and it works in the film’s favor. It’s up to us to fill in the gaps, but there’s no denying trouble is following in their footsteps. However, we do know Travis (James Freedson-Jackson) and Harrison (Hays Wellford) are best friends who are running away from home. While naïve and clueless about the way the world works, they sure as hell aren’t timid. So when they see an abandoned cop car in the middle of nowhere, they have to take it for a spin. Kids their age have no choice. If only they knew who they stole from.

Kevin Bacon (with a sultry mustache) gives a forbidding, remorseless performance as a small town sheriff who thinks he’s smarter than he actually is. But to his credit, he appears to have gotten away successfully with quite a bit in his life. As his search for the two kids in his stolen cop car intensifies, he begins to untwine from the inside out.

Why go to hell and back for just a government-owned car you ask?

Let’s just say the sheriff left something in the trunk that he really needs to get rid of. And through it all, Bacon is having way too much fun. Good for him.

Cop Car is an unembellished, low-budget throwback thriller that leaves you with impressions of true potential, specifically when it comes to Watts. By putting center focus on the kids, he captures pure diverting, comedic moments from two young, rebellious souls. Unfortunately, these moments just aren’t meant to last. Surrounded by the violence and mayhem is an enthralling story that concludes by losing its fierceness while hanging on to its childlike innocence and sense of adventure. Undoubtedly a wild ride with a few bumps in the road, but it’s worth it.

 

Twitter: @SirBrandonV

Best of the Month: July 2015

Best Films

Amy

The Connection

Mission:Impossible-Rogue Nation

Trainwreck

 

Best Actor

Jean Dujardin- The Connection

Tom Cruise- Mission:Impossible-Rogue Nation

Jake Gyllenhaal- Southpaw

Paul Rudd- Ant-Man

Ian McKellen- Mr. Holmes

Gilles Lellouche- The Connection

Mark Ruffalo- Infinitely Polar Bear

 

Best Actress

Amy Schumer- Trainwreck

Zoe Saldana- Infinitely Polar Bear

Rachel McAdams- Southpaw

Rebecca Ferguson- Mission:Impossible- Rogue Nation

 

Best Director

Judd Apatow- Trainwreck

Cedric Jimenez- The Connection

Asif Kapadia- Amy

Christopher McQuarrie- Mission:Impossible- Rogue Nation

 

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The Stanford Prison Experiment

The Stanford Prison Experiment will make you question an individual’s choices when given a uniform, power, and authority. Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez forces you inside the “prison” where the boundaries are not just pushed but shoved. The mental and physical torment that occurs throughout the film can certainly be draining, but through all of the disgust, there is a fascination in what is unfolding before your eyes. College kids are stripped of their identities and dehumanized, and it’s shocking to witness the transformation of their behavior and what becomes acceptable. You may have read and are familiar about this infamous experiment that was supposed to last two weeks, but instead ended after just six days. There’s a reason for that. After seeing this for yourself, you’ll understand why.

On August 14, 1971, Dr. Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) turns a Stanford University hallway in to a prison for a study on the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard and the conflict between the two sides. Out of 75 students, 24 were selected and with a flip of a coin are chosen to either be a guard or prisoner for $15 a day. The guards get a uniform, sunglasses, and a baton while the prisoners are stripped of their clothes and names and given a dress with a number on it.

Let the mind games begin.

Quickly the realization sets in that this experiment is much more than that and being taken to the extreme. Zimbardo and his team sit back and watch the humiliation being endured while the madness slowly takes its toll. Even the doctor himself doesn’t realize that he has become part of his own research about the scary, unnerving side of human nature. Crudup’s portrayal as Zimbardo is packed with intimidation. He is in over his head, but never wants to admit it. What he is willing to let happen inside his “prison” for the sake of his work is what makes him so damn formidable. Not until the damage is already done does he realize what he’s become.

Ezra Miller (Perks of Being a Wallflower) plays Daniel but is mainly referred to as 8612, and he’s the rebel of the group. As things begin to intensify, he wants to fight back, but the rest of the inmates can’t see the danger of the guards’ power. Not yet anyway. On the other side, there is Chris (Michael Angarano), the overlord who first plants the fear before the other guards run rampant with it. Miller and Angarano give relentless performances, and for two very different reasons, make you feel their wrath. Those are the standout performances, but Alvarez gathered up a stunning young cast with each of them being electric in every scene. It’s mind-blowing the vulnerability that is shown by this cast, but perhaps expected given the harsh environment where everything you took for granted is ripped away.

After 40 years, this controversial yet thought-provoking study remains relevant. It speaks to us in undoubtedly disturbing volumes about the exploration of having control over an individual and how far you’re willing to go to find their breaking point. Alvarez keeps the audience claustrophobic and on lock-down throughout, letting every uncomfortable moment crawl over you.

The Stanford Prison Experiment is an insightful, visceral viewing experience that makes you wonder what a person is truly capable of. Deep down, I don’t think we want to know.

 

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Trainwreck

I know who Amy Schumer is and also know her humor may not be for everyone. With that said, I don’t watch her show on Comedy Central so trust me when I tell you I had no idea what she was capable of. But I sure as hell do now. Trainwreck gives her all of the anecdotes that’s necessary to create something that while nastily bitter, stays honest and funny. Get through the mean-spirited nature and you will find a heart of gold. The script in which she wrote and the stunning performance she gives, whether you like her jokes or not, there’s no way you will not take notice and embrace Schumer for what she has accomplished in this film.

Trainwreck is a first for director Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, This Is 40). There’s no Seth Rogen or Paul Rudd in sight. He is letting a female tell the story and guess what? She can be a lovable asshole too. The role reversal is undeniably vitalizing for the story. Schumer plays Amy, a woman who is taught at a very early age by her father (terrifically offensive Colin Quinn) that monogamy does not exist. She works for a sleazy magazine and since she despises sports, her editor (an unrecognizable and bitchy Tilda Swinton) chooses her to interview Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), a shining sports doctor who just happens to be best buds with LeBron James. Unexpectedly, sparks fly between the two, and they are going out more than once and staying over at each other’s places. Amy’s worst nightmare is becoming a reality. It’s called a relationship.

Brie Larson plays Amy’s sister who is living the “perfect” life. She’s married with kids and seems to have her shit together. These are things that Amy is unfamiliar with so she makes snarky comments, but you can sense a small scent of jealousy with every cutting word. Hader plays Aaron almost like a saint. His love and patience could win anyone over. He seems too good to be true which terrifies Amy. She cannot accept that she quite possibly found a good guy. In a drunken, twisted kind of way, she is going to have to face her fears.

While the spotlight is undoubtedly on Schumer, it’s the athletes in the movie that almost steal it away. Amar’e Stoudemire is a charming guy who actually plays a significant part involving surgery on his knee in order to make a grand return to the court. WWE superstar John Cena plays one of Amy’s lovers (can’t really call him a boyfriend) whose one ridiculous sex scene and many outbursts will shock and awe. And James plays a very heightened version of himself. An overly sensitive, needy basketball player who tries to save a buck wherever he goes. I know it feels like these dudes have no right being in a movie, but you will be surprised and impressed with how much they bring to the table.

What Bridesmaids did for Melissa McCarthy, Trainwreck will do for Schumer. In all of her glory, she never looks back and fully commits to her character. She is a beautiful disaster with a unique voice that flourishes in a film about growing up and willing to take a risk at getting your heart broken. This is one of Apatow’s very best with a hilariously raunchy leading lady. They make a perfect fit.

 

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Best of the Month: June 2015

Best Films

Dope

Inside Out

Spy

Jurassic World

 

Best Actor

Jason Statham- Spy

Shameik Moore- Dope

 

Best Actress

Melissa McCarthy- Spy

Blythe Danner- I’ll See You in My Dreams

 

Best Director

Rick Famuyiwa- Dope

Pete Docter- Inside Out

 

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Best Films of 2015 (so far)

That’s right. We are halfway through 2015. Trust me when I tell you time has flown by.

It’s nucking futs!

So here we are. My Best of 2015 (so far).

Normally, it’s a list consisting of my favorite movies of different genres, favorite actors, actresses & directors. However, I’m going to leave all of that for the end of the year. The only focus of this will be on my favorite films so far of 2015. But before you get all riled up, please feel free to check out my Best of the Month for the first 6 months. Thank you for your understanding.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Surprisingly impressive and a blast to watch. A sharp-wit,vulgar action spy movie that’s not afraid to combine fun and humor with plenty of bloodshed. Firth & Jackson are terrific & newcomer Egerton strongly holds his own.

Black Sea

Not much depth in this deep sea movie, but it’s still a solid thriller that’s crazy, thrilling and undoubtedly entertaining. There’s great direction & a commanding performance by Law steering the ship.

Good Kill

A modern war film where the push of a button can wipe away lives in less than 10 seconds. Hawke gives a spellbinding performance in a sternly authentic, apposite film about questionable tactics we use and the torment left behind.

Spy

A viciously hilarious yet surprisingly effective espionage thriller ran and owned by women. The cast is terrific but Jason Statham runs wild and has a blast picking on his own persona. Melissa McCarthy kicks ass and uses every scene to her advantage.

It Follows

Slow-burning, retro horror film that’s unsettling and undoubtedly inventive. With a stunning score that messes with the nerves and stellar performances and direction, it is cleverly refreshing in so many ways.

Iris

A blissful, intimate doc about a fashion icon who represents pure individualism with a never ending flow of curiosity & creativity.

Furious 7

You can’t help but love the rip-roaring, exhilarating action this franchise provides. After seven movies, they continue to outdo themselves. Completely unbelievable yet entertaining as hell with a very classy finale for Paul Walker.

’71

Filmed with intense urgency, this brutal ‘behind enemy lines’ film isn’t just about war but the politics that fuel it. It’s a tension-filled, immersive experience with Jack O’Connell giving another premier performance.

Mad Max: Fury Road

An unhinged, hell raising movie with exhilarating action and a hefty story about humanity in the wasteland. Tom Hardy’s Max is the quiet type but don’t mistake for weakness while Charlize Theron is a spellbinding badass.

Wild Tales

Revenge is the name of the game in this ferocious film told in six twisted, funny & relentless stories. It consists of recognizable situations yet with outrageous outcomes. You truly never know what a person is capable of.

Made In Japan

Tomi Fukiyama is a firecracker and it’s infectious. She wants to sing at the Grand Ole Opry one more time in this wonderfully inspiring doc about chasing dreams no matter who you are or where you’re from.

Inside Out

Pixar is back in top form with this unbelievably imaginative and soundly innovative film about growing up as our childhood slowly fades. Lead by a perfectly cast of voices,it explores why we think and act the way we do in a brilliant, witty manner. Best Pixar film since Toy Story 3, it messes with our minds and hearts on the canvas of enthralling, radiant animation.

Ex Machina

An intellectually provoking, supercool sci-fi thriller with myriad meanings and quite possibly a look in to our future. While impressively crafted from a first time director, it’s carried by three immensely chilling performances.

The Hunting Ground

A mighty doc that demands change. It’s a heartbreaking, infuriating tale about survivors of an overwhelming campus rape epidemic that has been ignored for far too long. Full of startling testimony whose voices must be heard.

Jurassic World

Nothing will replace the awe and magic of the original, but this revamped, energized sequel dazzles and thrills. It accomplishes what it was created to do—-let the dinos run wild while we get to have all the fun.

For Grace

An outstanding doc that was just suppose to be a young, driven chef creating his own restaurant. However, as the film unfolds, it becomes something much more captivating yet woeful. It’s about obsession, sacrifice & loss.

Love & Mercy

Told in an unconventional structure just like Brian Wilson himself. It’s an energetic, deranged yet tender biopic of a musically-gifted mad genius who gets lost & manipulated, but his love & devotion remains. Surrounded by a stout supporting cast, Paul Dano & John Cusack display distinctive struggles, but they do it in mesmerizing fashion.

Monkey Kingdom

It’s astonishing what this doc captures focusing on a troupe of monkeys whom resemble us more than we may ever admit. Disneynature never fails to fascinate and this one is no exception. It engages, educates & entertains.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

A sharply wit, crushing film about high school turmoil & the big C. It’s spectacularly innovative in its laughs, love & tears. Mann & Cooke shine with their heart and soul displayed for the world to see with the help of clever & zesty direction and a story that’s impactful & sincere.

Dope

Shameik Moore gives a prodigious, star-making performance in this keen and discerning film about three high school geeks from the streets who get an education about the drug business. It reeks of originality and coolness with an aberrant perspective of an unfamiliar culture for a lot of America.

Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey

Elegantly filmed in black & white, this enriching doc lets you behind the scenes of a one man show going strong for 60 years. Hal Holbrook breathes life into Twain and vice versa. It’s mastery at its finest.

What We Do in the Shadows

A vampire mockumentary that may come across as mindless, but far from it. It’s fresh, clever, funny & clearly made with love and affection for its bloodsucking topic.

Seymour: An Introduction

Ethan Hawke’s directing debut is a lovable doc about a pianist wiz whose passion and genuineness pours through every scene. Almost everything he says or plays connects in an emotional way. It’s music to the ears. Literally.

 

Have you seen any of these?! Then you best be gettin’ to it!

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Dope

From the start, Dope specifies itself literally with its definition and meaning, but that’s only the surface of this keen and discerning film about three high school nerds trying to survive in Inglewood, California. Writer-director Rick Famuyiwa applies old-school attitude and swag with young vitality and brainpower. His love for nostalgia is to behold and is the influential force in distinguishing its central characters along with their culture they embrace yet desperate to escape.

In a breakthrough role, Shameik Moore plays Malcolm, a flat-top rockin, Air Jordan wearin teenager destined to go from “The Bottoms” (nickname of the neighborhood he comes from) to Harvard. He fronts a punk band with his fellow best buddy misfits, Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons), all whom are growing up in the wrong era. Malcolm is summoned by gangsta Dom (A$AP Rocky) to fetch the hottest chick in the hood Nakia (Zoë Kravitz). But no so fast. Malcolm is crushing pretty hard over her as well. That’s why he finds himself at a club where Dom is throwing himself a birthday party, but when a shootout erupts, Malcolm finds Dom’s dope plus a gun in his backpack the next day at school. These geeks from the streets are about to get an education about the drug business.

Shit just got real. 

Clemons is sensational as a feisty lesbian that never backs down and Revolori has already proven to be an exceptional young actor after starring in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Along with Moore, their rapport feels more than natural and undeniably energetic. The world they know is trying to tear them down, but they ride their bikes with vengeance never being satisfied with the hand they were dealt. Malcolm is our leader and Moore gives a prodigious performance that is affable, wide-eyed, and tough when necessary. He’s nothing short of refreshing and a blast to watch.

Malcolm, Jib and Diggy get called a lot of things and appear very different from everyone else. But wouldn’t you know, by the end, we totally identify with their vulnerabilities, interests and longing for something more. Famuyiwa has made a combination of a vibrant comedy and an acute drama about social presumptions. And while it’s certainly not flawless, it remains effective. Dope reeks of originality and coolness with an aberrant perspective making it a frenzied, funny experience unlike any other. There’s a line in the film and it holds true throughout: Don’t settle for what’s expected.

Yep. We just got served.