Tag Archives: brie larson

Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire


How many shady, degenerate 70’s era Boston lowlifes does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Doesn’t matter, they’re too busy shooting at each other, the lightbulbs and everything that moves in Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, the best film of the year so far. After an arms deal gone royally wrong, we get to spend a joyous, breezy hour and a half watching these halfwit scumbags blast each other to kingdom come in a not so abandoned warehouse, unfolding in real time and at a pace that has our pulses racing faster than the magazine clips can defecate shell casings. Wheatley’s output hasn’t been my cup of tea so far, but he’s won me over with this lighthearted, ballistic mini-masterpiece. It’s what I call a ‘low concept high concept’ flick, which I’m sure someone has said before, but suck it. A bunch of childish idiots in a roomful of heavy artillery, the bullets are bound to soon be flying as fast as the dry insults. The deal is simple: meet, sell a bunch of rifles to help the IRA cause, and be on their way. That’s not to be the case though, for as soon as one of them recognizes another party’s member from a violent scuffle prior, tensions mount until that first shot rings out. From there on in it’s a ‘childish game of paintball’ (to quote a friend) that escalates into a deafening fire fight filled with acidic humour and John Denver music, a hilariously counterintuitive soundtrack choice. Armie Hammer is priceless as Ord, cool as a cucumber and constantly lighting up joints mid-gunplay. Sharlto Cooley chews scenery as Vern, the preening peacock of the group, Brie Larson kicks ass and takes names, Cillian Murphy underplays the IRA consort while Michael Smiley, the butt of the geriatric jokes, gets in everyone’s face even before things go south. Patrick Bergin, Babou Ceesay, Noah Taylor, Enzo Cilenti and Jack Reynor also get their licks, but the performance of the film goes to Sam Riley, a criminally overlooked talent who’s been laying somewhat low recently. His character Stevo is indirectly the reason for all this mayhem, and he’s a walking disaster, the sleaziest little reprobate you can imagine. Riley plays him balls out and doesn’t hold back, I really wish we saw more of him in films these days. All of these bozos positively ventilate each other with bullets, no one not sustaining at least two or three gunshot wounds somewhere on their body, and once the Reservoir Dogs esque conclusion rolls around, we know that few will be left standing. Clocking in at a rapid fire ninety minutes, this is surefire entertainment for not only action fans, but anyone who loves movies, it’s a perfect example of the reason I go to the theatre. Cheerfully violent, casually profane and hysterically unapologetic. Just the way I like em’.

-Nate Hill

WRONG: DULL ISLAND

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He’s bigger, he’s better and he’s back. He’s King Kong, and this time he is not going to be dragged off Skull Island and taken back to civilization to be paraded around till he takes exception to being someone’s meal ticket, breaks loose his chains and starts a city smashing rampage which ends with a barrage of bullets and a long fall to the asphalt below.

No folks, this time round Kong, now the size of a mountain, is hanging out and keeping the peace on his island. That is until and group of curious humans, led by an alleged Bear Grylls, Tom Hiddleston, Oscar winner Brie Larson who shifts between looking wide-eyed at things and taking photos, John Goodman who knows the truth is out there and Samuel L. Jackson. When you absolutely, positively have to kill every monkey in the room – accept no substitute. This group headlines a cast of who-gives-a-shit characters on a trip to Skull Island where everything is big. Even the ants apparently, but that’s a set piece too far.

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The journey to the island is mandatory – montage and music stuff. Then we break through the perpetual storm clouds and have ourselves a bit of an Avatar moment as the crew marvel at the grandeur and beauty of this lost wilderness. Then Kong shows up and goes apeshit. He smashes up the Apocalypse Now homage and then walks off to enjoy a little calamari, ’cause they just don’t make bananas that big. So,  with the cast all over the place, Tom and snap-happy Brie and their group are headed from the rendezvous point, Sam and John and that guy who played Private Wilson in Tigerland, plus the other soldiers are off to get some more guns to aid in Sam’s desire to turn the King into fried funky monkey meat.

There’s a giant spider that should make Jon Peters happy. There’s the Watcher in the Water moment. The Soldier who writes to his son bites it, or gets bitten by something unusual, but we don’t get the exposition till we meet up with John C. Reilly looking like his character Gershon Gruen from The Extra Man, minus the collection of souvenirs and the no-testicle high voice. This guy though gives the film a pulse. Oh, and he was the pilot from the beginning, SPOILER! He’s been hanging out on the island with the tribe that speech forgot, waiting to come in and add some much needed comic relief. Turns out there are huge nasties that you can call whatever you want under the ground that Kong has kept from emerging to prominence and getting there own spin-off movie.

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This task used to be in the hands of more Kongs, but there is a ‘big one’ of these things that lay waste to them. Now Kong is the only one left who can keep cool, sit tight and keep the creatures in there holes. Of course this film falls into the cash-cow category. They brought back Godzilla, now they make a Kong that’s to scale, in order for the pair to have a decent scrap. But sadly it is a joyless ride. Predictable, laughable, with (and I’m quoting a prior review I’ve read) cardboard cut-out characters that are simply there to fill in the time between Kong and his monster-bashing bits. Heck my son started talking at least 45 minutes out from the end. This tells me that he is board out of his mind and I was with him. But I tried to hang on. I did not fall asleep like I did after the first fifteen minutes of the Conan remake. I have since completely avoided the try-again versions of Clash of the Titans, RoboCop, Ben Hur, Point Break, Total Recall as so on and so forth.

There is a line from James Ivory’s Surviving Picasso in which Anthony Hopkins, as the title character, refers to the methods of artists who have found fame and fortune. He says they make themselves little cake-molds and bake cakes, one after the other, all the same. He then  stresses to Natascha McElhone’s Francoise, not to become your own connoisseur. This is extremely relevant and typical of the modern Hollywood. There is little to no attempt at originality, and if there is, it takes place within a film that fits into the friendly confines of a pre-branded property.

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But the big ape lives and walks off into the center of his jungle home. He survives his encounter with dim-witted humanity, only to go off and fortify himself for the coming sequels and, quick note on cinematography, Larry Fong gets to send a love letter to his buddy Zack Snyder with a little samurai sword in green smoke action. We have reached that point in the history of the movies dear readers, in which the dead horse has been flogged so often that they have been whipping the bones. Soon all that will be left is the dust of said bones under foot. What are we to expect then? I’m reminded of one of Kevin Costner’s lines from his summation speech in JFK, “perhaps it will become a generational thing.” Ten years goes by  and it’ll be, “Well, time to drag a King Kong movie out again.”

Sam Jackson buys the farm much like he does in Deep Blue Sea, swiftly and unexpected, at least for him. I’m starting to believe Hollywood is looking at us the same way. Here we stand, full of confidence, about to witness triumph in whatever form it may appear. Then it becomes like the lead up to the first ever screening of the Phantom Menace. The audience was cheering, poised, ready for the planets to align in complete and utter harmony. The Fox logo. The Lucasfilm logo. A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away. Star Wars. If you watch the documentary The People Vs. George Lucas, one interviewees describes this as perhaps one the greatest moments in cinema history, then, then the film started.

I think it is a frequent occurrence today. There is so much pomp and pageantry surrounding these tent-pole movies that more often than not bad, because to achieve the same level as the hype generated is near impossible. Mind you, there are a few that defy this convention but they are few and far between.

So my favorite Kong is still the one I grew up with, the John Guillermin 1976 version.

People tell me they hate that one too. But to each his own. Kong will most likely be back in a decade after this lot. He’ll be half the size of the planet, ripped and ready to rumble against the Independence Day giant aliens when they decide to return to the best place in the universe, Planet Earth: home and the re-imagination of the adaptation of the sequel of the remake.

He’ll take a huge crap in his mighty hand and fling it at them. Oh if only…

The Dude in the Audience

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Room: A review by Nate Hill

It’s hard for me to fully express the staggering impression that Room left on me using only the written word, but I’ll have a go at it anyway. First I’ll say that it’s hands down my favourite film of the year thus far, and I left the theatre with many emotions swelling in me, affected in a way the only a small group of films have been able do for me. It’s a patient, mature study in psychology and a sweeping symphony of complicated emotions revolving around a terrible, tragic situation that seems like a well of hurt and pain until in climbs it’s way out into a tenderly heartfelt, incredibly life affirming resolution that never dips into half assed melodrama and feels earned and appropriate. The film casts such a powerful spell that it briefly changed the concept of time for me; Upon arriving near the end, I felt as if years had actually passed for me in theatre since I embarked on the film’s journey. The camera, script and actors kept me so intimately close to the characters for the duration of the piece and made me love and care for them so much that it brought me right into their timeline with an intimacy that rarely happens for me in cinema. Now on to the actors. What brave, compelling work from every single performer on screen, right down to the bit parts. Every role castes with a sharp eye for detail and reverent contemplation of who is right for what, creating a roster of heavy hitters and up and comers to be reckoned with. Brie Larson gives a beyond award worthy turn as Joy, a girl who was kidnapped at a young age and held captive by a horrible man (Sean Bridgers, displaying smouldering volatility in terrifying proportions) who impregnates her. She raises the child in the dour, tiny garden shed he keeps her in. Faced with the unthinkable task of creating a nurturing environment for her little one, she tells him that the shed is ‘Room’, their kingdom, and that the people he sees on their little TV are fake, imparting that they and their captor are the only real ones and there is no outside world. This reminds just how mouldable our minds are when we are small, and the film beautifully explores the psychological ramifications of how we raise our young, how nature vs. nurture comes into play in startling ways during the darkest of times, and the decisions we are forced to make on our own to ensure that our children are safe, even when things have gone beyond wrong, as they have for the poor girl. Old Nick, as she nicknames their captor, rapes her every few days, and treats the two of them like animals. Her son Jack reaches an age where escape becomes vital in his mothers eyes, and she takes her chance, orchestrating a harebrained ditch effort to break free, which is my favourite sequence of the film. It’s also one of the most tension filled, seat gripping scenes I’ve ever seen, as the character buildup has set our personal stakes epically high, which co,vines with the excellent set up makes for a clammy nightmare of an escape. The director makes the fascinating choice not to us any music at all until they reach freedom, which I noted. As soon as they are out, I let out a cathartic, audible sigh of relief, as the dank hell they undeservedly spent almost a decade in gives way to a vibrant, strange new world for little Jack. The camera takes his perspective and pores over every aspect of the outside realm with the patience and curiosity it takes to place us in his psyche, a child viewing the world in its entirety and true form for the very first time, essentially a second birth, a theme which the film handles marvellously. I must speak about Jacob Tremblay, a Vancouver native who plays Jack and gives the most soul wrenching performance I’ve ever seen from a child actor. The levels of sheer intuition and innocent truth he infuses in his work at such a young age are just unbelievable, and he should be in the riding for Oscar gold as well. Larson and him have uncanny chemistry, the love shown in the early scenes a blooming Rose of hope that fends off the looming darkness they dwell in, which is tested by the inevitable complications they face upon entering the real world once again. Larson burst onto the scene with 21 Jump Street and Don Jon, fun but inconsequential fluff. Here she shows us that she means business, and wants to tell stories that are important, and show audiences what it means to be human through her work. I look forward to where this extraordinary girl takes us in her next cinematic journey. Joan Allen makes subtly heartbreaking work as Joy’s mother, William H. Macy is briefly present as her Dad, Tom McCamus makes compassionate work of her stepdad and like I said, everyone else is superb, right down to the day players. I was crippled by emotion and raw with nerve jangling suspense after this one, exiting the theatre soaring on the high I eternally strive for in my cinematic adventures. The fact that only one theatre in Vancouver is playing this one is an affront to the universe. Get down to Tinseltown and see this one before it’s gone. You’ll thank me.