Movie Review: “Keanu”

Starring
Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Tiffany Haddish, Method Man, Jason Mitchell, Will Forte, Nia Long
Director
Peter Atencio

After gaining popularity with their eponymous Comedy Central sketch show, it was only a matter of time before Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele made the jump to the big screen. The duo’s debut feature “Keanu,” co-written by Peele and frequent collaborator Alex Rubens, may not be as steeped in political and racial humor as some of their funnier skits, but it’s an enjoyable and often hilarious action-comedy that serves as the perfect showcase for Key and Peele’s excellent onscreen chemistry. Apart from perhaps Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, there isn’t a better comedy team in the business, and when combined with a cute-as-a-button tabby kitten that looks adorable even while dodging bullets amid a deadly gangland shootout, it’s no surprise that “Keanu” leaves you with a big smile plastered on your face.

The audience first meets the titular feline during the aforementioned massacre, barely escaping after his drug lord owner is killed by a pair of silent assassins and eventually landing on the doorstep of recently dumped stoner Rell (Peele), whose spirits are quickly lifted by the lovable kitten, which he renames Keanu. A few weeks later, Rell returns home from a night out with his cousin Clarence (Key) to find his place ransacked and Keanu stolen. Following up on a tip from Rell’s drug dealer neighbor (Will Forte), whose apartment was the intended target, the cousins go undercover as a pair of hardened thugs named Tectonic and Shark Tank to retrieve Keanu from the gang responsible for the robbery. Their leader Cheddar (Method Man) has already taken a shine to the kitten, but he agrees to give him up if Rell and Clarence – whom he mistakes for the Allentown Brothers (also played by Key and Peele), the assassins from the opening – tag along with his crew on an upcoming drug deal. Meanwhile, the real Allentown Brothers, who have fallen for the kitten as well (did I mention he’s really cute?), are hot on their trail.

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Movie Review: “Green Room”

Starring
Anton Yelchin, Patrick Stewart, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Mark Webber, Macon Blair
Director
Jeremy Saulnier

Jeremy Saulnier’s sophomore feature “Blue Ruin” established him as a director to keep an eye on. The revenge tale was a brutal, dramatically rich and intense thriller. With his third feature, “Green Room,” Saulnier dials things up a few notches, delivering his most propulsive and unshakeable experience yet.

Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole) and Tiger (Callum Turner) are members of the punk rock band The Ain’t Rights, a group barely scraping by to get from gig to gig. After an embarrassing performance at a Mexican restaurant, the group gets desperate and, against their better judgement, end up playing at a bar packed with white supremacists, led by the imposing but calm Darcy Banker (Sir Patrick Stewart). After the band members witness a murder in the green room (a.k.a. the waiting room for musicians), they must fight to survive the night with the assistance of Amber (Imogen Poots), a mysterious but incredibly capable and violent friend of the deceased.

With a brisk 95-minute runtime, Saulnier’s film is a well-oiled thriller without a single ounce of fat on it. Every scene, every shot and every character helps build this driving energy, which manages to keep growing throughout the film. There are no narrative pit stops in “Green Room” — it’s just mean and lean storytelling, rarely ever allowing the characters to catch their breath and collect their thoughts. This story is always on the move, even when the lead ensemble is stuck in the green room for a large portion of the film.

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Movie Review: “High-Rise”

Starring
Tom Hiddleston, Luke Evans, Sienna Miller, Elisabeth Moss, Jeremy Irons, James Purefoy, Keeley Hawes
Director
Ben Wheatley

Producer Jeremy Thomas has been trying to bring J.G. Ballard’s acclaimed novel, “High-Rise,” to the big screen for almost 40 years, despite many claiming that the book was unfilmable. He probably should have heeded those warnings, because while Thomas finally got his wish with the help of director Ben Wheatley, the resulting product is a stylish but empty adaptation that doesn’t resonate as much today as it would have in the late 1970s, the dystopian setting of Ballard’s Thatcher-era satire. In many respects, it feels like a movie lost in time. Though Wheatley has shown great potential with some of his earlier films, “High-Rise” is yet another disappointment following the tedious, psychedelic head trip of “A Field in England” that hooks you with its intriguing premise but slowly loses its grasp as the story spirals out of control.

Tom Hiddleston stars as Dr. Robert Laing, the newest resident of a luxury apartment building that has all the conveniences and commodities of modern life without ever having to go outside. But while the high-rise seems like paradise on the surface, Laing notices a simmering tension between the upper-class tenants who live on the top floors and the middle-class tenants confined to the lower levels. The building’s reclusive architect, Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons), chalks it up to “teething problems,” but when an increasing series of power outages and structural flaws begin to affect the standard of living – particularly among the poorer residents – that tension boils over, leading to a literal class war that devolves into a barbaric wasteland of debauchery and destruction. Oh, and the odd barbecued dog’s leg as well.

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Movie Review: “The Huntsman: Winter’s War”

Starring
Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron, Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith
Director
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Snow White and the Huntsman” wasn’t a terrible movie, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that was craving another installment, especially one without its titular heroine. Plans for a proper sequel were reportedly axed in the aftermath of Kristen Stewart’s scandalous affair with director Rupert Sanders, so Universal forged ahead with a Huntsman-centric film instead, relegating Snow White to a mere footnote. (Though she’s still hanging around the kingdom somewhere, she’s only mentioned in passing.) That may seem a bit harsh for a would-be franchise originally built around the Snow White tale, but the studio has tried to distract from Stewart’s absence with the casting of A-listers like Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain. However, while both actresses help to class up the movie, no amount of talent can save “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” from its dull and completely pointless existence.

In a lengthy prologue set before the events of “Snow White and the Huntsman,” we learn that the evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) has a younger sister named Freya (Blunt), who flees to the north to rule her own kingdom after a tragic betrayal turns her heart ice-cold and awakens her dormant magical powers. In order to conquer the land, Freya trains an army of Huntsmen using orphaned children from the nearby villages and forbids them to love. But when she discovers that two of her best warriors, Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Chastain), have developed a secret relationship over the years and plan to defy Freya by running away together, she sentences them to death.

Eric miraculously survives, and seven years later, he’s living a peaceful life within Snow White’s kingdom following Ravenna’s demise. However, when her Magic Mirror is stolen while being transported to a place called the Sanctuary, where its dark power can be contained, Eric teams up with a pair of boisterous dwarfs (Nick Frost’s returning Nion and Rob Brydon’s newbie Gryff) to track it down before it falls into the wrong hands. During his journey, Eric crosses paths with a very much alive Sara – whose death, it turns out, was simply a trick played on him by the ice queen – and must regain her trust to stop Freya from retrieving the mirror for her own nefarious reasons.

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Movie Review: “Everybody Wants Some!!”

Starring
Blake Jenner, Glen Powell, J. Quinton Johnson, Temple Baker, Zoey Deutch, Wyatt Russell, Austin Amelio, Tyler Hoechlin, Ryan Guzman
Director
Richard Linklater

Nobody makes “slice of life” movies quite like Richard Linklater. From his directorial debut “Slacker,” to the 1993 cult classic “Dazed and Confused,” to the Oscar-nominated “Boyhood,” Linklater thrives at creating films that you experience rather than simply watch. His latest movie, “Everybody Wants Some!!,” has been proclaimed as a spiritual sequel to both “Dazed and Confused” and “Boyhood,” and although its connection to the latter is tenuous at best (based solely on the idea that the new film picks up where the other story left off), “Everybody Wants Some!!” shares more in common with the former. In addition to having a similar vibe, Linklater’s coming-of-age companion piece explores many of the same themes and is once again fueled by an awesome soundtrack.

While “Dazed and Confused” followed the adventures of various social cliques on the last day of school in 1976, “Everybody Wants Some!!” focuses exclusively on a rowdy college baseball team in southern Texas. Due to student overcrowding, the university has provided the team with a pair of houses off-campus for the players to live in without any adult supervision. That freedom comes with a couple conditions – namely, no alcohol inside the house or female guests upstairs – but it doesn’t stop the self-entitled group of athletes from breaking those rules immediately and often over the course of one party-filled weekend in the summer of 1980 before classes are scheduled to begin. That’s pretty much the full extent of the story, as the guys amble around town trying to pick up women while passing the time with beer, competitions, more beer, stupid pranks, still more beer and even a little baseball.

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