Tag Archives: Jack Reynor

“Detroit”

LOUISA: 4 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

The evocative and unnerving “Detroit” tells the true story of a trio of young African American men who were murdered at the Algiers Motel during the chaos and civil unrest of the 1967 Detroit race riots. Seven other black men and two white women were harassed and beaten by prejudiced police officers in that motel and if you take away the retro setting, it’s a thought provoking look at racial tension that’s sadly still relevant 50 years later.

This movie will make you angry, but it’ll make you angry for all the right reasons.

Those critical of the subject matter in this film are going to be the loudest dissenters, throwing around words like “irresponsible” and “anti-cop.” They’re going to accuse the studio of encouraging riots or inciting violence against police. Step back for a second and think: what does that say about the state of race relations in our country? If the portrayal of the police force is what disturbs you about this film, then you are the problem. No matter if you think the filmmaking is good or bad, this movie should empower everyone who sees it to stand up whenever they spot injustice, police brutality, or gross violations of a person’s civil rights.

Director Kathryn Bigelow has crafted a film that’s large in size and scope (with a nearly two and a half hour runtime). She puts her trademark shaky cam to good use, but it never becomes too distracting because here it works in the most unsettling way, making the audience feel like they have been thrust right in the middle of these riots. The riot scenes are incredibly accurate and meticulously detailed, framed by design to make you uncomfortable. I’m still not convinced that Bigelow deserves the accolades she’s always earned as a director, but her straightforward style (paired with an equally sincere script from her long time collaborator Mark Boal) is a good fit for the material.

It isn’t only the cultural relevance that makes this movie a success. The performances, no doubt difficult roles for everyone involved, are effective and disturbing on multiple levels. To spew racial epitaphs as police officers (Will Poulter, Jack Reynor, and Ben O’Toole) would be just as emotionally trying for an actor as taking that abuse as a black man (Anthony Mackie, Jacob Latimore, John Boyega, and Algee Smith). It would’ve been easy for a handful to fall into the overacting trap, yet not one performance rings false.

The accuracy of this retelling of events is up in the air, as the film seems to go to great lengths to create a sort of cinematic CYA letter over the end credits. There are many things portrayed that don’t make any sense (why wouldn’t teens confess that someone in the building had a starter pistol and instead choose to subject themselves to police brutality?) But even if it turns out only half the historical truths are correctly dramatized, it’s still chilling. Bigelow inserts plenty of historical footage to lend a disturbing credibility, from actual video interviews and news broadcasts to archival photographs of newspaper headlines.

The movie’s bookends are a bit of a puzzler because they do the film no favors. It opens with a strangely out of place story told in an animated folk art style and ends with a heavily religious theme that feels contrived and tacked on.

Even if the film isn’t perfect, “Detroit” is a powerfully disturbing thing to experience, a story that many in the younger generation don’t know about. It’s a cautionary tale of racial injustice that sadly feels more relevant than ever in our current political climate. It’s a story that deserves to be told and remembered. It’s a tragic history lesson from the past that everyone should wish Americans didn’t need in 2017.

“Free Fire”

LOUISA: 2.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

The disappointing “Free Fire” feels like one of those movies that was conceptualized over a 3 a.m. cup of coffee in a booth at a late night diner. “Let’s make a 70s era throwback movie that ends in an hour-long bloody shootout set to a classic John Denver song!” It’s a five minute idea that’s stretched into a 90 minute “Reservoir Dogs” rip off. The overly simplistic screenplay and clunky direction from Ben Wheatley make this film quite the yawner.

The film is set in the 1970s for no reason whatsoever, and the period costumes and hairstyles are second rate at best. The loose story centers around a gun deal gone horribly wrong. The film begins with a fun introduction to the group of characters (including Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Sam Riley, Sharlto Copley, Cillian Murphy, and Jack Reynor), but the background setups are all too brief and pointless, as the film quickly becomes nothing more than a loud, bloodstained, and overly long shootout in a decrepit warehouse. There are a few early glimmers of greatness from Hammer and Riley, but Larson and Reynor are completely wasted. There’s a lot of shooting and yelling and a lot of bloody injuries, but all of it lacks substance to the point where after a while, it’s not even enjoyable anymore.

The story starts off kind of great, but it quickly becomes clear that the film lacks any kind of depth. All of the action takes place in one warehouse, and if you’re going to have the balls to set a movie in a limited, confined setting, you’d better be ready to — pardon the pun — bring the big guns. Wheatley does bring some heavy ammunition, but his film fails to measure up as either an action tour de force, genre thriller, or a commentary on gun culture.

“Sing Street”

LOUISA:   5 STARS      MATT:    5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

I can’t fault director John Carney for sticking with his trademark formula; he is, after all, batting 1,000 with “Once” and “Begin Again.” “Sing Street” adds to his holy trinity of exemplary music themed tales.

This musical coming of age film is set in Ireland in the 1980s. Our hero is 15 year old schoolboy Conor / Cosmo (newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who, trying to escape an unhappy home environment and coping with being the new kid at his private Catholic school, forms a rag-tag rock band to attempt to impress a wayward wannabe model (Lucy Boynton). The ridiculously talented young cast (including Mark McKenna, Ben Carolan, and a standout star-making performance from Jack Reynor as the wise older brother) is immensely likeable, and the catchy original songs will leave you tapping your feet long after you leave the theater.

Underscored with themes of friendship and brotherly love, the movie’s main focus is on the pure, unrivaled joy of creating art. If you are a musician or a fan of music, this is an absolute must-see (this movie is a genuine pleasure for creative types and will undoubtedly be savored even by those who aren’t). As the boys scribble lyrics in pencil and write their own songs (or film their own hilarious new wave music videos), it reminds us to always follow our dreams and continuously forge ahead with our personal artistic expression, even in the face of failure.

As with all of writer/director Carney’s best films, “Sing Street” not only celebrates music (accompanied by a tremendous original and classic 1980s era soundtrack) but shows a very deep understanding of the importance of music in ordinary people’s lives. Music can serve as the best type of therapy to help us through sadness and tough times, liberating us from the worst the world has to offer. Music brings us love and wonder and happiness and allows us to escape (there’s a phenomenal fantasy sequence in the film that I didn’t want to see end)! Most of all, this movie is a love letter to youthful creative exuberance, artistic expression and indestructible imagination.

I loved this movie so much and I hope you’ll seek it out. It’s funny, it’s touching, it’s wistful, and it’s fantastic.

MATT SAYS:

Having fallen in love with “Begin Again” (number one on my Top 10 list for 2014), I was excited to see Director John Carney‘s follow-up movie, “Sing Street.” I was not disappointed.

“Sing Street” is about Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a teenager growing up in a recession-stricken Dublin during the eighties. The love for music he shares with his older brother provides an escape for both of them from parents (Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy) who constantly fight, and a way for him to deal with his own problems at school (bullies and a strict and overbearing Catholic school headmaster). Heavily influenced by new wave bands like Duran Duran and The Cure and movies like “Back to the Future,” Conor puts together a band of his schoolmates and starts shooting music videos starring Raphina (Lucy Boynton), the aspiring model who lives across the street. His band gives him purpose. It is his music, not his problems, that define Conor.

No filmmaker better understands the power of music to uplift, attract, inspire, or redeem better than Carney. No director has been better able to communicate that power through film. Even people like me (I am not huge music fan) get it after watching a John Carney movie. In “Sing Street,” the characters once again find purpose in themselves and in each other through their art. Music provides the driving force for their lives, their attraction to and love for one another. And at its core, “Sing Street” is about that love – romantic love, brotherly love, and love between friends – that forms the beating heart and soul of the movie. It’s both joyous and profoundly touching.

“Sing Street” is a worthy successor to “Begin Again” and features songs that are even catchier than those in its predecessor (I still can’t get “Drive it Like You Stole It” out of my head, and it’s been almost three months since I saw the movie). While all of the actors do fine jobs, Jack Reynor is an absolute standout as Conor’s brother, Brendan. You read it here first: this guy is going to be one of our next big breakout stars.

I enthusiastically recommend you see “Sing Street” as soon as you can. If you have a pulse, you’ll love it.