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: “Need for Speed”

Starring
Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots, Dominic Cooper, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez, Dakota Johnson
Director
Scott Waugh

It’s amazing that it’s taken this long for another studio to exploit the success of the “Fast and Furious” franchise with a racing movie of its own, but considering that Electronic Arts’ “Need for Speed” video game series (from which the film gets its name) predates the adventures of Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Connor by several years, you can hardly blame DreamWorks for wanting a piece of the pie. Casting Aaron Paul, hot off his Emmy-winning role on “Breaking Bad,” as the leading man was a surefire way to drum up interest, but it was ultimately a wasted effort, because “Need for Speed” has so many other problems that finding the right actor should have been the least of Scott Waugh’s concerns.

Paul plays Tobey Marshall, a small-town mechanic who moonlights as an illegal street racer. When the debt starts piling up at the garage that he inherited from his late father, Tobey is handed a lifeline by former rival Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), who hires Tobey and his crew to finish building a custom Shelby Mustang worth millions. But after Dino’s ego is bruised and he challenges Tobey to a race to prove his superiority, one of Tobey’s friends is killed in the process, landing him in prison while Dino gets away scot-free. Several years later, Tobey is released from jail and ready to exact his revenge, but in order to do so, he needs a car capable of competing in the top secret, invite-only race called the DeLeon, where he knows Dino will be. Teaming up with the gearhead daughter (Imogen Poots) of the man who purchased the Shelby, the pair embarks on a race against the clock to get from New York to San Francisco in time for the event, all while evading the various law enforcement authorities chasing them.

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