Friday, July 31, 2015

Straight Outta Compton

If you strip it down to its most basic elements, Straight Outta Compton isn't all that different from any other music biopic: it charts the humble origins, meteoric rise, staggering success, and eventual fall of a popular group. But thanks to its blistering energy and superstar performances from the lead actors, the film manages to transcend its formula, delivering a captivating portrayal of young men whose music changed the national conversation and had a massive impact on pop culture.

Straight Outta Compton
Director: F. Gary Gray
Starring: O'Shea Jackson Jr, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti


Friday, July 24, 2015

Paper Towns

If you've seen the trailers for Paper Towns, you'd be forgiven if you thought it looked like a load of Manic Pixie Dream Girl garbage, in which the hot, whimsical girl teaches a shy nice guy to come out of his shell by taking him on a grand adventure. For God's sake, the last line of dialogue in the first trailer is "Everyone gets a miracle. My miracle was Margo Roth Spiegelman." The marketing is really leaning into the whole MPDG thing.

Thankfully, the movie itself takes a surprising turn: it does contain some of those elements, but it subverts that trope instead of celebrating it, and along the way it turns into one of the most truthful expressions of teenage friendship I've seen in a long time.

Paper Towns
Director: Jake Schreier
Starring: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Self/Less

I haven't always loved Tarsem Singh's films, but his ability to create stunning, elegant visuals has at least made his career interesting to follow. Unfortunately, none of his impressive visual skills are on display in Self/Less, a by-the-numbers sci-fi thriller that could have been directed by just about any competent filmmaker. It's a decent movie, but there's nothing in it to identify it as a Tarsem film, and that X factor was what I was hoping would take this film to the next level.

Self/Less
Director: Tarsem Singh
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, Matthew Goode