‘Chappaquiddick’: Just Another Political Drama

By Julia Wilson, Edited by Anthony Peyton

Every year tends to bring its slew of American political dramas and this year has been no different. Last year, there was the Academy Award nominated film The Post, and now there’s Chappaquiddick.

Chappaquiddick follows the incident that occurred on July 18, 1969 on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts in which then Senator Ted Kennedy (played by Jason Clarke) drove his car with both him and passenger Mary Jo Kopechne (played by Kate Mara) off a narrow bridge into the channel. Kennedy was able to escape the car, however Kopechne was not and died. Kopechne’s death is widely attributed to Kennedy’s negligence as he was intoxicated, driving recklessly without a license, and failed to report the accident until the next morning.

Chappaquiddick succeeded in the angle it chose to take on this story. It sought to tell the truth about this incident the best it could. It was not favorable to Kennedy and well demonstrated the negligence he showed that night.

The film also provided a quite interesting and much needed commentary on corruption in politics. Corruption in politics is something that everyone knows about, but rarely want to talk about. Especially when it involves the widely loved yet highly corrupted Kennedy family. However, Chappaquiddick forces audiences to see this corruption and consider how this kind of corruption is taking place in today’s political climate.

One instance of this in the film is a scene that goes back and forth between Kennedy taking a bath and getting dressed at his hotel, and Kopechne is slowly dying still trapped in the car. The film also emphasizes how Kennedy is much more worried about his image than the fact that a woman died. This, coupled with its portrayal of the attempt to cover up the incident as much as possible, confronted audiences with the idea of political corruption.

Besides the angle of the story there isn’t anything else particularly noteworthy about Chappaquiddick. Its score was in no way compelling and the direction was overall unimpressive. It lacked any sort of new approach to such an overdone genre. It failed in the same way The Post did by following the almost formulaic method to making these movies.

Unlike Jackie, which featured a phenomenal score and direction, and I, Tonya, which stood out with its use of comedic interviews and breaking the fourth wall as a guide for the story, Chappaquiddick felt like every other American political drama you have ever seen.

Another place Chappaquiddick failed was in its acting. One thing in particular that bothered me about the acting was the failed attempt at an East Coast accent. Ed Helms, who played Kennedy’s cousin Joe Gargan, was especially guilty of this. He was also very inconsistent with this accent and by the end of the film he had pretty much completely stopped using it. Clarke, who played Kennedy, was also guilty of this. I also felt that Clarke’s approach to Kennedy was inauthentic and lazy.

Even though Chappaquiddick was formatted exactly how you would expect it to be, it did somewhat redeem itself with its commentary on political corruption.


My Rating: 67%

Acting: 2/4

Cinematography: 2.5/4

Story: 3.5/4

Enjoyability: 2.7/4

 

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‘Blockers’: Physical Comedy Done Right

By Julia Wilson, Edited by Anthony Peyton

If 2018 has shown us anything, it’s that comedy is alive and well. We’ve had Game Night, Isle of Dogs, and Death of Stalin to name just a few. Now we have Blockers, a physical comedy that toes the line between absolutely ridiculous and slapstick comedy perfectly.

Blockers follows three invested parents, Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (John Cena), and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) who stumble upon their daughters’ group chat opened up on one of their laptops. After decoding the flurry of emojis appearing on screen, they figure out that their daughters, Julie (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), and Sam (Gideon Adlon),   have made a pact to all lose their virginity on prom night. This leads them on a wild pursuit to find their daughters and stop them from losing their virginity.

One of the things I loved about this film is that it accomplishes something most comedies can’t: physical, crude humor without going over the top and becoming cringeworthy. This movie is no stranger to ridiculous scenes. This includes one where Barinholtz’s character Hunter pulls up on top of a limo singing Dynamite by Taio Cruz and one where all the teenagers are simultaneously throwing up in that limo. However, these scenes are spread out enough that it works, mixed in with more tame, conversational humor.

The film is the directorial debut of Kay Cannon (writer of the Pitch Perfect series) and I must say I am very impressed. Unlike other films where every single scene is trying to outdo the one before it in terms of absurdity, this film rides the line of ridiculous comedy while still staying sensical.

Not only was Blockers hilarious, but it provided an interesting yet refreshing commentary on how losing your virginity is perceived differently for different genders. Since the film is about parents trying to stop their daughters from having sex, there is a lot of criticism coming from other characters in the film about how females are often thought of as “damsels in distress” and how having sex is a bad thing but when males do it it’s celebrated.

One instance of this is when Mitchell’s wife (Sarayu Blue) finds out what the other three parents are doing and tries to stop them. She points out that if their kids were boys they wouldn’t be having such an extreme reaction to them trying to lose their virginity.

Another unexpected storyline was one about Hunter’s daughter Sam figuring out that she’s gay. Throughout the film there is a girl at her school that she is crushing on, but Sam hasn’t come out to either of her parents, her friends, or really even herself. This subplot of a young girl figuring out her sexuality was definitely unexpected in a movie where there is actually a scene where John Cena chugs beer up his butt, but it ended up fitting nicely and was part of what kept this movie from going overboard.

Blockers really was everything that a big blockbuster comedy should be. It was genuinely funny, authentic, and at times even heartwarming. A true breath of fresh air in a genre that so often goes wrong.


My Rating: 81%

Acting: 3/4

Cinematography: 2.5/4

Story: 3.5/4

Enjoyability: 4/4

 

Silence is Deadly has New Meaning in ‘A Quiet Place’

By Anthony Peyton, Edited by Olivia Norwood

Over the last fifteen years, ‘scary’ has become practically extinct and falsely used in horror cinema. This was revived in all its power first with 2017’s Get Out and now 2018’s A Quiet Place.

Welcome to a world where silence is an absolute necessity. If you don’t abide by that rule, you die. Family of four Evelyn (Emily Blunt), Lee (John Krasinski), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and Regan (Millicent Simmonds) provide us with exactly how important silence is and what will happen if anyone makes a sound as the focus of 2018’s first horror thriller.

Trust me, no one wants to see what happens if you make a noise. Unless you want to see very realistic spider-like monsters whose faces can separate into pieces, which I know you do. That’s not sarcastic, either. Props to the video editors who have learned how to make monsters not look CGI.

Krasinski, who starred as the unforgettable Jim in The Office, comes to light as the director and does everything necessary to prove himself as just the horror director that we needed. And, while we’re at it, the horror actor we needed.

All four of the actors give a strong performance, each could very well be seen as their best performance. That is not something that comes across often enough from the horror genre.

This movie uses suspense to its full advantage as most horror movies do, or at least try to. A Quiet Place, however, uses it the best. Imagine sitting through thirty minutes of pure silence before a monster lets out a high pitched squeal so close to your ear that your eardrum is exploding while you want to pee your pants. Something is wrong with you if you don’t flinch a little.

A Quiet Place 3
Courtesy of Platinum Dunes

 

I’ll be truthful, when I first saw this movie trailer i thought it was going to be just another awful horror movie like those of The Curse of Lizzie Borden and the entire Wrong Turn series. I couldn’t be happier that I was wrong.

Beyond the scary, the torture, and the suspense, there laid a deeper family touch to it. By that, I mean that it provided a look into how an innocent family of four would react to such a difficult situation as having to stay silent for the rest of their lives which most people put at the top of their list for biggest fears.

A Quiet Place has set a new bar for horror thrillers. Combining a completely stand-alone unique story with splendid actors who have genuine chemistry (Blunt and Krasinski are married in real life) makes for a brilliant masterpiece that’s quickly becoming the best horror movie of 2018.


My Rating: 90%

Acting: 3.7/4

Cinematography: 3.3/4

Story: 3.7/4

Enjoyability; 3.7/4

Film Forecast Friday: April 6th

By Anthony Peyton and Olivia Norwood

On Friday, April 6th, we have….

  1. A Quiet Place
  2. Chappaquiddick
  3. Blockers
  4. You Were Never Really Here
  5. The Miracle Season
  6. Lean on Pete

Anthony’s Prediction:

First things first, I think ‘The Miracle Season’ is going to crash at the box office. It doesn’t have a huge variety of strong actors and it never seemed to have a very solid story in the first place unless you just so happen to be a high school volleyball player.

‘You Were Never Really Here’ could be a hit or miss, but I’m shooting for more of a miss. Luckily, it has Joaquin Phoenix (‘Her’), so maybe that will balance it’s already-been-done before type of story. ‘Lean on Pete’ honestly seems like it will be a cute movie. Yes, cute. But that’s about as far as I’ll go with that one. I don’t think it’ll be a great movie or a popular one by any means, but it’ll be there for a movie to watch.

On the other hand, ‘Blockers’ and ‘Chappaquiddick’ seem like they are both going to do just as well as each other. Neither are super anticipated, but both seem like they could potentially have their moments (I mean, Blockers has John Cena in it, which is always something to uncomfortably cringe at).

The biggest hit for week one of April will definitely be ‘A Quiet Place’. It’s a horror movie – a strange one at that – and it should be quite the start for incoming 2018 horror movies.

Liv’s Prediction:

First of all, I disagree that ‘The Miracle Season’ will crash at the box office. Coming from the director of  ‘Soul Surfer’, Sean McNamara, I think the film has a clear knowledge of who its audience is and will definitely appeal to the teenage girl crowd.

Although I love Joaquin Phoenix, I don’t see his new thriller ‘You Were Never Really Here’ being a hit at the box office. I do, however, see it being widely respected among film lovers. On the other hand, ‘Lean on Pete’ could do quite well. People love films about horses and this seems to be the one that would even reach an indie audience.

‘Blockers’ will do just fine at the box office. It’s a comedy with the widely loved John Cena. ‘Nuff said. However, the new thriller ‘A Quiet Place’ is going to be a huge hit considering how much coverage it has gotten (Go Marketing!) and that it has Jim from ‘The Office’.

A Must-Not See: ‘Tyler Perry’s Acrimony’

By Julia Wilson, Edited by Anthony Peyton

In Tyler Perry’s newest film, Taraji P. Henson stars as Melinda Moore-Gayle, a hardworking wife who grows tired of her husband’s unwillingness to work due to his fixation with his rechargeable battery invention that has gone nowhere for the past 18 years.

Shortly after Melinda finally divorces her husband Robert (Lyriq Bent), he sells his battery invention, becomes a multi-millionaire, and finds a new wife (who he previously had cheated on Melinda with when they first started dating). Watching Robert and his new wife live the life Melinda believes she deserves after supporting Robert for all those years causes her to become furious and all hell breaks loose.

For me, this film lacked in pretty much every way. The plot was ridiculous and not at all believable. The whole battery obsession I found odd, and then the fact that it sold and he became a millionaire directly after their divorce was even more ridiculous.

The film skips over 18 years of time at one point and literally nothing has changed which I find very hard to believe. By the end, I just couldn’t believe what I was watching. I kept finding myself thinking, “oh my God how is there more?”

The film was supposed to have a very serious tone, but the story was so absurd that I just couldn’t take any of it seriously. The film also made several lame attempts at comedy that just fell flat and were completely cringeworthy.

The set was so poorly done it was almost comedic. Almost every outdoor scene was done in front of a green screen and it was very easy to tell. At times it felt more like a bad YouTube video than a film in theaters.

One of the biggest downfalls of this film for me was the fact that I found myself not caring about any of the characters. I wasn’t really rooting for any of them. Part of this was due to the fact that the acting was very forced which made it hard to engage with any of the characters. Henson’s acting was the only one that was even somewhat redeemable, while the rest were forcing  emotions.

I started out somewhat sympathetic to Melinda because she is so hardworking, but then she grows into this psychotic, jealous woman who will stop at nothing to get the life she thinks she is entitled to. She goes to completely unnecessary and extreme lengths to try and get her way back into Robert’s life after she divorced him and he gave her a portion of his earnings even though they were already divorced. Robert’s character was just stagnant and I never really knew where he stood or what he wanted. Melinda’s entire family was very hypocritical and didn’t really contribute much to the story.

The general progression of the story was very odd. It was framed with random dictionary entries of words that describe Melinda’s feelings at any given point in the movie. For instance, the movie starts with a dictionary entry for the word acrimony which means bitterness or ill feeling. Everytime one of these came up on the screen it just felt very out of place to me, especially since it takes nearly half the movie for the second one to pop up. I think this could have been an interesting element if it was used more consistently, but it wasn’t.

Overall, Tyler Perry’s Acrimony did one thing right: the title. Because I definitely left with a general bitterness and a strong ill feeling.


My Rating: 20%

Acting: 1.5/4

Cinematography: 1/4

Story: 1.3/4

Enjoyability: 1.5/4

Levels of Paranoia: An ‘Unsane’ Review

By Anthony Peyton, Edited by Olivia Norwood

Psychological thrillers are off to a wild start this year with the murderous Thoroughbreds and now moving onto another darkened thriller called Unsane. The difference? This one makes you question whether you are paranoid or just out of your mind.

Paranoia is a feeling that many psychiatrists, counselors, and therapists may mistake for schizophrenia, depression, or even insanity. Those same psychiatrists may use this feeling-portrayed-as-a-disease to recommend an actual psych evaluation. People may think you are insane when you are something much different.

You are Unsane.

Shot entirely using a phone camera, director Steven Soderbergh and writers James Greer and Jonathan Bernstein tell the dark story of a formerly suicidal woman named Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) who is a victim of severe stalking by an ex-boyfriend.

Even after filing restraining order after restraining order, she still continually felt as if she was being watched. Maybe you’ve felt that feeling. The feeling of someone staring at you behind the park bench you took a break on during your morning jog. The feeling that maybe someone is staring through your window from the street outside. Sawyer Valentini felt all of these things.

It goes to show that sometimes paranoia isn’t your brain tricking you into believing a false entity. Paranoia can be your brain warning you of what is actually happening.

That is where the story begins and that is the path it follows. It explodes into a tense reawakening of just how far someone will go to get what they want.

Foy (The Crown, Breathe) delivers as good of a performance as anyone who only has a phone camera to work with, while still successfully making the audience question whether her character is genuinely insane or in her right mind.

She co-stars alongside Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project, If I Stay), who plays the seemingly unstoppable stalker in a performance that successfully portrays the absolute darkness of borderline personality disorder disguised as a man who will do anything for “love”.

There were very few bad acting moments from the cast (which also included Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple, and Aimee Mullins). The acting itself helped to make this movie better than many this year by having every single actor stick to their character precisely and accurately to give each one the ability to be despised or adored by the audience.

Set in a mental institution for much of the film, Soderbergh uses rapid twisting camera angles to resemble the mind of a mental institution patient. In regards to Valentini, it makes her constant paranoia seem like she is, in fact, insane.

Even as an audience member, it’s hard not to question Valentini’s obsessive accusations of seeing her stalker everywhere. She thinks she sees him in restaurants, at her job, her house, anywhere that she goes. This is the case with the entire movie.

It provides a very important study of the difference between insanity and simple paranoia, which can also be the difference between being viewed as mentally unstable and just fearful. It shows just how hard it can be to recognize these within people, and the trust and believability used in keeping someone healthy.

Unsane is just dark enough to give us everything we need in a psychological thriller; fear, creativity, commendatory acting, and the ability to screw the minds of every shaking audience member.


My Rating: 85%

Acting: 3.1/4

Cinematography: 3.2/4

Story: 3.9/4

Enjoyability: 3.4/4

‘The Basketball Diaries’: A Change In Coming of Age

By Olivia Norwood, Edited by Anthony Peyton

Coming of age has always been a popular genre among film but it tends to always be about the same thing. A light hearted drama about a suburban teen who struggles to find their identity while exploring the many aspects of growing up. Occasionally, you’ll find a darker approach to this subject such as Girl, Interrupted and The Virgin Suicides. But those films were made possible because of the unconventional 1995 film, The Basketball Diaries.

It centers on a young basketball player Jim Carroll (Leonardo DiCaprio) who lives in the rough neighborhoods of New York City with his single mother. After the death of his best friend, Jim soon spirals into the dangerous world of drugs, prostitution, homelessness, and theft.

Jim’s story is one that many would rather not tell when it comes to adolescents. He doesn’t come from a middle-class home and doesn’t have the same opportunities as other kids. He’s poor and comes from a neighborhood that is infested with drugs and crime. Kids, like himself, have dreams and goals but sometimes their environment swallows them whole and they’re pressured into the life that they wanted to escape.

Jim wanted to be a writer and he was obviously gifted, which is evident through the narration of his diary entries. Unfortunately, he gets caught up in the rough scene of New York City and his dreams become non-existent.

But that isn’t all that the film shows. It also gives us a look at the coming of age story for boys, which we don’t often see. Girls and boys have different versions of growing up, that is a known fact.The Rumspringa of a boy’s life is especially unique as it consists of rebellion and proving your manhood through sex and violence. Jim deals with these complexities while also having an addiction that leads him to stealing and selling his body for the money that pays for it.

So, why is this important?

Well, this story changes what being a teenager means. It doesn’t always involve a first car, dating, prom, or graduation. For most teens, it’s darker and more life-altering. They don’t get to grow up like the rest of us. For them, growing up is more like a shortcut to adulthood. Jim Carroll is of the many teens that these things happen to and they don’t just exist in 1995. They exist here and now in 2018.

The Basketball Diaries forced the industry to look at and tell the stories of people who aren’t as privileged and give the Jim Carroll’s of the world a voice. It affected the coming of age films to follow and proved to everyone that they could be just as successful as a John Hughes movie.