Tag Archives: Diego Luna

Gregory Jacob’s Criminal

Look up ‘hidden gem’ in the dictionary and you’ll find a one sheet for Gregory Jacobs’s Criminal. Alongside many others, but you catch my drift. This is a virtually unknown grifter flick that is smart, funny and really acidic and unpredictable in spots. It also has that low key ‘small movie’ feel, which is welcome in a con artist flick anyways because you can ditch the big budget gloss and focus more on story and character instead. John C. Reilly plays a middle aged con man here who, simply put, is a huge asshole, but has charmed his way through the hustling game and made some serious cash. He’s saddled with a rookie youngster (Diego Luna) who wants to learn the ropes, but the old guy basically wants nothing to do with him. It’s a sour partnership that never seems to quite gel, which provides suspense as to when the back stabbing will start. With the help of a feisty colleague (Maggie Gyllenhaal), their plan is to rob a wealthy, intimidating Scottish currency collector (the great Peter Mullan) for millions, using a carefully implemented bag of tricks and a vast contact network of fellow tricksters. As is the case with all great caper flicks, nothing is as it seems and the plot revelations are fast and heavy, in this one’s case packing a whallop of an unconventional twist ending. The terrific supporting cameo cast includes Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Brent Sexton, Michael Shannon, Malik Yoba, character actor Jack Conley and more. This is a hugely entertaining film, with an unlikeable protagonist whose arc is really a curious one to watch. Director Jacobs has only helmed two other flick, the Magic Mike sequel and the Emily Blunt horror vehicle Wind Chill, but he really shows a flair for fun exposition and labyrinthine plot turns here, as well as bringing out interesting qualities in his carefully picked actors. Steven Soderbergh also did uncredited screenplay work, which only adds to the capability and slickness. A treat.

-Nate Hill

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STAR WARS POWERCAST EPISODE III

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ATTENTION SPOILERS.  SPOILERS.  SPOILERS.  Frank and Tim FINALLY did another STAR WARS podcast.  This time we speak about the new standalone film, ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.  We dive in deep about the emotional impact, the cinematic influences, and where Disney takes the STAR WARS brand from here!

 

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

ROGUE ONE is the most surreal theatre experience of my life. Yes, it is a STAR WARS movie that’s very much akin to the seven previous films, yet it is completely different than anything we’ve seen before. In a very odd and perplexing way, ROGUE ONE may just be the best STAR WARS film ever made.

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Set months prior to the events in A NEW HOPE, we’re shown a world that we’ve never seen. The Rebellion is split in fractions, they aren’t painted with heroism, a lot of them are killers without morals all doing this for the greater good of the galaxy.

The call backs not only from the original trilogy but particularly the prequels perfectly thread the needle of anchoring this film in a familiar galaxy but with unfamiliar worlds and characters. The CGI resurrection of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin is a flawless effects achievement, and brings a weight of establishment and riches to the film.

The new characters are a perfect addition to the STAR WARS’ cinematic canon. Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, and Forest Whitaker are all wonderful, with Ben Mendelsohn stealing every scene he’s even. Even if he’s matched up against the CGI’d Cushing or Darth Vader, he is the standout.

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Bravo to Disney for making a very dark and dreary film. They haven’t done this before. They simultaneously made a film about the horrific personal repercussions of war while organically sliding it into George Lucas’ cinematic timeline. Disney had everything riding on this picture; THE FORCE AWAKENS was easy. They had the original cast, a continuation of the saga story on their side, but with ROGUE ONE they created someone new and fresh inside of a franchise that honestly didn’t need it to continue forward in public consciousness.

The new score from Michael Giacchino is absolutely wonderful. He does complete justice staying true to John Williams, yet he takes major liberties with some tracks we are already familiar with. Gregg Fraser’s cinematography is perfection. This is the best looking STAR WARS film to date, without a doubt. The aesthetic will please diehard original trilogy fans because we’re back to the utter dilapidation of the Galactic Empire.

Gareth Edwards, Kathleen Kennedy, and Tony Gilroy all deserve acclaim and recognition for the film that they have created. But without the brilliant mind of George Lucas, we would never have gotten this film. For all the undo and faux outrage Lucas constantly receives, none of this would have been made possible without him.

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What makes ROGUE ONE so very special isn’t just the Easter Egg’s, the callbacks, references to BLUE VELVET and APOCALYPSE NOW, and the cameos, it’s a film that is about hope in its purist form. It is about heroes. It is about championing what you believe in regardless of the odds and sacrifices made. And for a lot of us, this is the exact film we needed at this particular moment.

Blood Father: A Review by Nate Hill 

Blood Father is the best I’ve seen from Mel Gibson in years. Between extended cameos in the Machete and Expendables franchises and the underwhelming Get The Gringo, there just hasn’t been a film in a while that I thoroughly enjoyed and felt that cinematic rush I used to feel when watching his older, classic stuff. This has it all: a rough, rugged story line, an older, grizzled and disarmingly jacked up Mel, and a surprising rose of an emotional core that’s embedded in a violent bed of thorns which serves as our narrative. Later in his career Mel has been playing older, meaner versions of antiheros from his past, and one gets the comforting feeling that any of these jaded brutes could be the unofficial versions of those very same characters. Desert dwelling excon tattoo artist John Link could easily be an older Porter, the protagonist from my favourite Gibson film, Payback. I’d like to think that such parallels are deliberate on the filmmaker’s part. Whoever he is, Link has a long and checkered past of broken bridges and incarceration, etched like a road map onto his shaggy visage. When his troubled teenage daughter (Erin Moriarty, terrific here as well as this year’s Captain Fantastic) re-enters his life on the run from her psycho cartel brat of a boyfriend (Diego Luna), the fire in Link is kindled. Taking her on the run, he goes into ultimate protective dad mode and let’s the old forges of violence burn bright once again, in hopes of finding some kind of redemption. William H. Macy hangs around as Link’s AA sponsor, but the real supporting gem comes from legendary Michael Parks as Preacher, a vile neo nazi scumbag and former associate of Gibson’s. He’s icky and repellant, but coos with Park’s patented purr and steals his sequence of the film menacingly. The action is down and dirty, reigned in by an obvious small budget, but that comes as a welcome gift in a genre hampered by big style fireworks that smother story. Not here. The crucial part of it is Link and his daughter, and their glib back and forth that just hides the pathos we get to see in full bloom near the end. We wouldn’t give a damn about the whole deal if their relationship, and the actor’s chemistry, didn’t work. Gibson and Moriarty knock it out of the trailer park. I couldn’t give a laminated shit about whatever Gibson did or said to piss so many people off. That’s seperate from the work he does and should be treated as such. Everyone who stifled and shunned him professionallly for something which occurred in his personal life should be flogged. Nevertheless, I hope we get to see more stuff like this from him moving forward. He’s a bit older, a bit more rough around the edges, but goddammit he’s still our Mel. 

GUS VAN SANT’S MILK — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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In 2008, eclectic filmmaker Gus Van Sant released two films: Paranoid Park, a challenging and formally adventurous indie, and the more classically structured but no less emotionally stirring biopic Milk. I’ve long been fascinated by Van Sant’s interesting and unpredictable career, and his film about San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay politician in the U.S., remains as powerful now as it did when I first viewed it almost 10 years ago. Sean Penn delivered a splendid performance as Milk, and everyone around him, including James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, and Diego Luna all offered fantastic supporting turns. Dustin Lance Black’s sharp screenplay was heavily researched, the dialogue intelligently written, and the film carried a sense of the tragic almost from the beginning. Shot by the incomparable cinematographer Harris Savides, the film had a vibrant and period-authentic aesthetic, which helped to solidify the time and place of the socially combustible narrative. Harvey Milk stood up for the entire gay community in the United States when nobody else dared to speak up for what they knew was right. This made him both loved and hated; wherever he went and whatever he did, his actions provoked passionate responses from everyone who crossed paths with him. The level of conviction that Penn brought to the role of Milk was remarkable, as he fully jettisoned any lingering elements from previous performances, totally embodying the man in both body and spirit. Here was a man who decided that enough was enough – it was time to set things right for himself and everyone like him. Penn breezed through the film with likable ease, and because death hangs over the proceedings so ominously, there was genuine sadness when he met his ultimate fate.

The other actors were all up to the task as well. Franco, playing Milk’s lover and first campaign strategist Scott Smith, gave one of the best performances of his career; combined with his hilarious turn in Pineapple Express, 2008 was a banner year for Franco. Penn and Franco, from the first scene, generated real on-screen chemistry, making their relationship all the more special and affecting. Brolin was absolutely gripping as the confused and desperate Dan White, a man who may or may not have been gay himself, giving a chilling performance as a person unable to understand the potential differences in other people; it’s a role that could have been oppressively one-note, but Brolin brought layers of emotion and mental complexity to the role. Hirsch registered strongly as Cleve Jones, one of Milk’s political strategists, and Luna, playing Milk’s emotionally troubled boyfriend Jack Lira, brought skittish, nervous energy to every scene he appeared in; you never quite know what will happen when he appears on screen. Van Sant has led an extremely idiosyncratic career as a filmmaker, and after embarking on some seriously avant-garde works (Elephant, Gerry, Last Days, and the previously mentioned Paranoid Park unofficially form a rather brilliant quartet of minimalistic storytelling), it appeared as if he wanted to prove that he could still deliver a more traditional and commercially friendly piece of filmmaking, and that he did with this engaging, wholly engrossing time capsule. And in working with Savides for the fifth time on Milk, Van Sant seamlessly blended archival footage with vivid re-creations of San Francisco in the late 1970’s; the atmosphere that this film possesses feels tangible. It’s sort of like a visually thematic cousin to the work that Savides did on David Fincher’s masterful serial killer/journalism thriller Zodiac. Danny Elfman’s score was never intrusive yet offered wonderful moments of musical inspiration while Elliot Graham’s fluid editing kept the two-hour run time moving along at a swift but unhurried pace. As far as biopics go, this one is at the top of the pile.

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