Joss Whedon’s In Your Eyes: A Review by Nate Hill 

JOSS WHEDON ALERT
Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about In Your Eyes, a lovely little romantic/fantasy/drama written by the J Man, concerning a boy and girl who have shared a strange psychic bond over hundreds of miles since they were kids, despite never having met. 

  Its a slightly unconventional romance, a charming, breezy little piece that took me by surprise, having known nothing about it going in except Whedon’s involvment. It starts with his lovely script, laying down the bones for two adorable leads (Zoe Kazan and Michael Stahl David) to go to work. Dylan and Rebecca have never met. They live on opposite sides of the US, and lead considerably different lives. They would have nothing in common if it weren’t for an odd metaphysical connection. They can periodically (and often at inconvenient times) see into each others lives like a perceptive window, complete with senses like smell, taste and touch. When they are growing up its confusing and stunted, but I imagine it blossoms along with every other attribute, and suddenly they’ve discovered they’re not both crazy, and that there’s a real person on the other end of this bewitching mutual conduit. Soon they are communicating, much to the puzzlement of everyone else in their lives, who just observes them talking to themselves like loons. Romance isn’t far off, as we can well guess, and soon they are deeply in love in spite of their differences and the great gulf of distance between them. He’s a troubled fellow with a criminal past, a lenghthy RAP sheet and a nosy parole officer (Steve Harris). She’s a mild mannered, fragile girl married to a prissy control freak of a Doctor (Mark Fuerstein). Both of their lives are continuously disrupted by their relationship until they’re at the brink of crisis, and it seems the only way out is to find one a other in person. The almost supernatural aspect of their connection  is treated frankly, like more of a biological anomaly as opposed to ghostly gimmicks. It can be seen as Whedon exploring the nature of love in our world, finding “the one” who is always out there, somewhere, waiting. Or are they? The real hero is his incredibly down to earth script, an easy going, hilarious and poignant piece of writing. The cast is from all walks of Hollywood and includes Nikki Reed, Shameless’s Steve Howey, Richard Rhiele and a priceless cameo from Dirty Dancing’s Jennifer Grey, who is starting to look like a character from Desperate Housewives. Kazan and David are just the cutest, most earnest couple I’ve seen in a romantic film of late. She’s unsure, passionate and intuitive, he’s a scrappy patchwork teddy bear and together they’re perfect, capturing the essence of the relationship in a single very unique sex scene, nestled in with all of their “spiritual Skype” bonding, and eventual face to face meeting. Whedon loves his characters, right down to the bit parts and it shows. His writing is never short of sterling, and this one is another winner for him. 

Joss Whedon’s In Your Eyes: A Review by Nate Hill 

JOSS WHEDON ALERT
Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about In Your Eyes, a lovely little romantic/fantasy/drama written by the J Man, concerning a boy and girl who have shared a strange psychic bond over hundreds of miles since they were kids, despite never having met. 

  Its a slightly unconventional romance, a charming, breezy little piece that took me by surprise, having known nothing about it going in except Whedon’s involvment. It starts with his lovely script, laying down the bones for two adorable leads (Zoe Kazan and Michael Stahl David) to go to work. Dylan and Rebecca have never met. They live on opposite sides of the US, and lead considerably different lives. They would have nothing in common if it weren’t for an odd metaphysical connection. They can periodically (and often at inconvenient times) see into each others lives like a perceptive window, complete with senses like smell, taste and touch. When they are growing up its confusing and stunted, but I imagine it blossoms along with every other attribute, and suddenly they’ve discovered they’re not both crazy, and that there’s a real person on the other end of this bewitching mutual conduit. Soon they are communicating, much to the puzzlement of everyone else in their lives, who just observes them talking to themselves like loons. Romance isn’t far off, as we can well guess, and soon they are deeply in love in spite of their differences and the great gulf of distance between them. He’s a troubled fellow with a criminal past, a lenghthy RAP sheet and a nosy parole officer (Steve Harris). She’s a mild mannered, fragile girl married to a prissy control freak of a Doctor (Mark Fuerstein). Both of their lives are continuously disrupted by their relationship until they’re at the brink of crisis, and it seems the only way out is to find one a other in person. The almost supernatural aspect of their connection  is treated frankly, like more of a biological anomaly as opposed to ghostly gimmicks. It can be seen as Whedon exploring the nature of love in our world, finding “the one” who is always out there, somewhere, waiting. Or are they? The real hero is his incredibly down to earth script, an easy going, hilarious and poignant piece of writing. The cast is from all walks of Hollywood and includes Nikki Reed, Shameless’s Steve Howey, Richard Rhiele and a priceless cameo from Dirty Dancing’s Jennifer Grey, who is starting to look like a character from Desperate Housewives. Kazan and David are just the cutest, most earnest couple I’ve seen in a romantic film of late. She’s unsure, passionate and intuitive, he’s a scrappy patchwork teddy bear and together they’re perfect, capturing the essence of the relationship in a single very unique sex scene, nestled in with all of their “spiritual Skype” bonding, and eventual face to face meeting. Whedon loves his characters, right down to the bit parts and it shows. His writing is never short of sterling, and this one is another winner for him. 

HARD BOILED – A REVIEW BY J.D. LAFRANCE

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In retrospect, John Woo’s Hard Boiled (1992) can be seen as his audition reel for Hollywood. And what a helluva audition reel it was – a masterfully orchestrated magnum opus of mayhem. After its release, he moved to the United States and started over (directing a Jean Claude-Van Damme film no less – ouch!). Woo’s film took the gangster melodrama, that he started with A Better Tomorrow (1986), to the next level. In doing so, he created what is arguably the greatest action film ever made.

We are introduced to a city mired in crime and corruption – one that is at the mercy of the Triads, gun smuggling gangsters with very little regard for human life as evident from the bloody shoot-out in a teahouse that kicks off the film. We are also introduced to a police officer named Tequila (Chow Yun-Fat), a one-man army with two guns in his hands; able to gun down bad guys while sliding down a banister (which has since become one of the iconic images from the movie). However, when the gangsters kill his partner, Tequila makes it his life’s goal to take them all down, the law be damned. He eventually crosses paths with Tony (Tony Leung), an undercover cop working deep within the Triads as an efficient killer. So deep, in fact, that he’s beginning to lose his original identity. Once Tequila discovers Tony’s true identity, they team-up for a show-stopping finale that can only be described as a bullet-ridden blow-out of epic proportions.

Hard Boiled is structured around three major action set pieces: the teahouse shoot-out that introduces Tequila, a warehouse gun battle where the cop meets his undercover counterpart, and the hospital showdown where the two men team-up to take down the bad guys. Each sequence is more ambitious than the one that came before and this culminates in the hospital battle that includes an impressive three-minute action sequence without any edits – virtually unheard of in an action film, especially one with as much mayhem as this one.

Woo plays with action film conventions by imparting intentionally sappy, sentimental moments like Tequila rescuing a room full of babies from gangsters and then gives it a mischievous twist by having one baby pee on the fire that started on the cop’s leg after he outran an explosion with said child.

While Woo purists cite The Killer (1989) as his finest achievement, Hard Boiled tops it in terms of kinetic action and choreography. While the previous film may deal with weightier themes, the latter film has a stronger foil to interact with Chow Yun-Fat. The chemistry between him and Tony Leung is excellent. Their characters start off as antagonists but over the course of the film they become allies, developing the kind of deep, meaningful bond that a lot of characters in Woo films share with one another. Tequila’s girlfriend (Teresa Mo) almost seems like an afterthought. After all, how can she compete with what Tequila and Tony go through together over the course of the film?

hard2Hard Boiled was Woo’s last Hong Kong film and this caused some critics to speculate that the film reflected his conflict between staying in a country he loved but that was facing an uncertain future, and leaving it for a prosperous new beginning. This metaphor was said to be expressed symbolically in the besieged hospital at the film’s finale. It represented Woo’s state of mind at the time: does he stay in a place that will potentially kill him, or escape and live but at a cost. The cost was the many restrictions that the Hollywood studios imposed on his first two American films, Hard Target (1993) and Broken Arrow (1996). It wasn’t until Face/Off (1997) that he was able to finally cut loose stylistically but it still felt like highlights from his Hong Kong output. This makes fans nostalgic for his older films and is why Hard Boiled has stood the test of time. It is still superior to any action film that has been made since.

DON’T BREATHE: A Review by Joel Copling

Rating in Stars: *** (out of ****)
Cast:  Jane Levy, Stephen Lang, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto
Director: Fede Alvarez
MPAA Rating: R (for terror, violence, disturbing content, and language throughout including sexual references)
Running Time: 1:28
Release Date: 08/26/16

There is a lot to commend in Don’t Breathe, a compact thriller that seeks to perform a volte-face on the home-invasion movie. Here we are asked to sympathize with the intruders, who form a trio of protagonists, specifically with regard to their victim, here positioned as the antagonist. For the first hour, the screenplay by Rodo Ayagues and director Fede Alvarez essentially splits the difference. We understand the motivations of the intruders, for whom the burglary represents the only method by which they might escape their current living situation. We empathize with the victim, who is blind, presumably divorced or widowed, grieving father to a girl who died in a car accident, and a veteran of the Gulf War, the well-documented effects of which are more than likely at the center of this man’s sad existence.

The film, then, seeks to apply all of this emotional baggage to a horror exercise, and it’s an effective one, not least because of how Alvarez and cinematographer Pedro Luque navigate the geography of the centerpiece house. It rests in a deserted suburb of Detroit, a canny decision on the parts of screenwriters who understand that much of this story’s impact will come from the fact that there is no one for miles around. The house is in shabby condition but kept well-maintained by its owner. The number of rooms in the house suggests a once-happier life, poisoned, perhaps, by years of grief and neglect. The basement, though, is another matter entirely.

What (or who) might reside in that basement is a question answered almost the moment the halfway mark of the film is reached, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The set-up is terrific, especially as we are introduced to the three anti-protagonists. In descending order of moral clarity, there is Alex (Dylan Minnette), the son of the man who runs the security company that provides the locks to houses he burgles with two others; he spends the majority of the film questioning the escalating legal circumstances of this particular burglary. Rocky (Jane Levy) has survived a terrible childhood with a disengaged, oft-abusive mother, only to see her younger sister faced with the same possible childhood; her wish is to escape to California. Money (Daniel Zovatto) is Rocky’s boyfriend, who proposes they hit this particular home, believing it to hold $300,000 from a legal settlement.

We never learn the name of the blind man whom they target, but it’s really of no enormous consequence to the director and his co-writer, nor does it seem to be of great importance to Stephen Lang, an actor whose performance here is heavily focused on the man’s physicality. Lang is convincing enough that the man’s blindness never doesn’t seem like a lack of sight (Think of the many actors who treat physical handicaps as having a built-in toggle switch and know that this is not one of those instances), and his swift gait as he moves inexorably forward is downright unsettling. A lot of the film rests on believing this man poses a threat, and on that front, it is very effective.

What (or who) resides in the basement is also important, though it would be criminal to reveal anything further. What I can reveal is that the cloudy morality of the final act is troubling, particularly in a scene that hinges upon a threat of sexual domination seemingly for the thrill of it and muddies whatever might follow it. Alvarez also interrupts his solid method with some narrative silliness (An extended sequence involving the man’s foaming, growling dog is marred by obvious fakery), but it matters little in the long run. Don’t Breathe is a crafty thriller for so long that a recommendation in spite of such hiccups is easy to make.

DON’T BREATHE – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

​”Who’s there?”

There’s no other way to put this; DON’T BREATHE is fucking gnarly.  Set inside a singular house, a group of young friends set to rob a blind man for an easy “once in a lifetime” heist.  Sounds simple enough.

Except the blind man is Stephen Lang.

Fede Alvarez is one of the best young directors currently working in Hollywood.  His EVIL DEAD remake, which at the time seemed incredibly unnecessary, remains to be one of the best remakes of recent years (very much akin to Marcus Nispel’s fantastic TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake).  Alvarez is an absolute maestro behind the camera.

While the film could have been just another run of the mill genric horror/thriller film, it excels with Avarez’s razor sharp eye and the casting of Stephen Lang in one of his most sinister and brutal turns yet.

Lang is one of my favorite actors.  The guy has been in so many great films, projected so many great characters, yet he never has been held to a typecast.  In this film, he takes the big bad antagonist and obliterates the screen with his physical intensity.  He’s a blind man, with a dark secret, who surpasses any and all boundaries to keep it safe.

Alvarez creates a small and intimate film, that builds and layers suspense to the point where you are constantly squirming in your seat and find yourself looking away from the transgressive visuals and sounds protruding off the screen.  If you enjoyed the dark nature of GREEN ROOM, you’re going to love DON’T BREATHE.

PAUL WILLIAMS’ DEALING: OR THE BERKELEY-TO-BOSTON FORTY-BRICK LOST-BAG BLUES — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues is one of my favorite recent obscure cinematic finds. Available on DVD thru Warner’s Archives label, this is a sly, strange, and totally cool movie that juggles genres and tones all the way up until the surprisingly nasty finale. Directed by Paul Williams (Out of It, The Revolutionary), Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues was released in 1972, and was based on the novel by Michael and Douglas Chrichton under the pseudonym Michael Douglas(!). The plot centers on a Harvard law grad student, played by the interesting if a bit stiff Robert F. Lyons, who decides to smuggle of massive shipment of marijuana from Berkeley to Boston after doing numerous smaller-scaled jobs. Along for the ride is Barbara Hershey, in all of her youthful, gorgeous splendor, as the reluctant pseudo-girlfriend who decides to help with the big score, but soon finds herself in way over her pretty head. And can she fully be trusted?

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Produced by cinematic legend Ed Pressman (Conan the Barbarian, American Psycho, Walker, Blue Steel, Wall Street, Phantom of the Paradise), Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues has the distinction of having one of longest official titles in movie history. The film also sports a nifty supporting cast including John Lithgow (in his film debut as a shifty pot dealer), Charles Durning as a shady cop, Paul Sorvino as a cabbie, and the prolific character actor Victor Argo. The jazzy and offbeat musical score by Michael Small contributed to the overall stoniness of the entire picture. It was also very well shot by cinematographer Edward R. Brown (The Hot Rock, Lovin’ Molly), who gave the film a laid back vibe while still keeping things visually interesting. Funny, weirdly sexy, offbeat, and dangerous in spots, this is a unique item that would likely please many viewers who are looking for something totally unexpected.

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