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Waves (2019) Review

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Waves

Time: 135 Minutes
Cast:
Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Tyler Williams
Lucas Hedges as Luke
Taylor Russell as Emily Williams
Alexa Demie as Alexis Lopez
Renée Elise Goldsberry as Catherine Williams
Sterling K. Brown as Ronald Williams
Director: Trey Edward Shults

Set against the vibrant landscape of South Florida, and featuring an astonishing ensemble of award-winning actors and breakouts alike. Waves traces the epic emotional journey of a suburban African-American family – led by a well-intentioned but domineering father – as they navigate love, forgiveness and coming together in the aftermath of a loss. From acclaimed director Trey Edward Shults, Waves is a heartrending story about the universal capacity for compassion and growth even in the darkest of times.

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I’ve been hearing a bunch of things about Waves for the past months. I recognised some of the actors like Sterling J. Brown and I recognise the director from his work on It Comes at Night, which I thought was pretty good. The reactions had been interesting, some have been highly praising it as one of the best of the year, others couldn’t stand it and downright hated it. I had no idea how I’d feel about it, but I was actually quite surprised by how much I loved Waves.

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Much of Waves is best seen not knowing too much going in, so I’ll refrain from spoilers as best as I can. Much of the talk surrounding this movie has been how it’s essentially split into two very different and distinct halves, and I’ve noticed a lot of people loving the first half and bored with the second, or hating the first half and starting to like the movie during the second. The first half has some of the most electric filmmaking I’ve seen in a while, and indeed the story in this part is pretty tense too, as things build up towards… something. The second half is a lot more quiet and calm in comparison. For me I personally loved both parts. While I was into the first half, the second half was essential for the movie sticking really the landing, and I never felt bored during that. I was locked into the story and characters throughout, and indeed it’s an emotionally powerful story, and is very affecting, with a number of heartbreaking scenes throughout. The only gripe I guess I might have is that the ending is a little abrupt, even just 30 seconds longer would’ve made it better.

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Waves has a great ensemble cast, and they all perform excellently, with the likes of Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell, Sterling K. Brown, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Alexa Demie and Lucas Hedges. They all give some of the best performances of their careers, emotionally intense and powerful. Biggest surprise was from Taylor Russell, who really shines in the second half, and essentially carries that portion. Even if the rest of the movie won’t work for you, I think you’ll at least be impressed on an acting level.

WAVES

I was already impressed by Trey Edward Shults’s work on It Comes at Night, but I’m even more impressed with what he did with Waves. So much of this movie is sensory overload, mainly the first half, with the camera work, the music and sound, it’s can be really overwhelming. I get for some people it may be too much but I for one liked it for that. Waves is also a gorgeous looking movie from beginning to end, with a great colour palette that worked perfectly with the movie. There’s even some aspect ratio changes at points that oddly enough fitted the narrative. I don’t recognise really any of the songs used in the movie, and indeed I’m not part of the specific audience that the soundtrack is very much built towards, but there’s a great playlist here, and I thought it accompanied the plot appropriately. The score itself is also really good, I kept wondering why it sounded somewhat familiar and it turns out it was by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who of course composed music for The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl and more. Their work on Waves is amongst their best scores, and that’s saying a lot.

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Waves is definitely not going to work for everyone, for me though, I kind of loved it, an emotionally powerful gut punch that I’m still thinking about. It was written directed excellently, and the ensemble performances were outstanding. It surprisingly ended up one of my favourite movies of 2019. While I know that some people will hate the movie, I still do recommend seeing it for yourself, because there’s a lot of great things here.

Mid90s (2018) Review

Time: 84 Minutes
Cast:
Sunny Suljic as Stevie
Katherine Waterston as Dabney
Lucas Hedges as Ian
Gio Galicia as Ruben
Na-kel Smith as Ray
Olan Prenatt as Fuckshit
Ryder McLaughlin as Fourth Grade
Alexa Demie as Estee
Director: Jonah Hill

In 1990s Los Angeles, 13-year-old Stevie (Sunny Suljic) escapes his turbulent home life by hanging out with a new group of friends he meets at a local skate shop, plunging him into a world of fun, danger and excitement.

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All I knew about Mid90s going in was that it involved skaters and was Jonah Hill’s directorial debut. With that said, I heard some divided reactions to it so I didn’t know how I would feel about it. While I do like the movie a little bit, it wasn’t as great as I was hoping it would be. With that said, that’s not to say that there aren’t some very solid aspects to it.

I really wasn’t feeling Mid90s when it started, not that it didn’t have some good aspects in the first half though. For one, there is a certain amount of grittiness to it that you don’t really see in other coming of age stories. The dialogue (mainly between the kid characters) seems to be keeping with how people spoke in the 90s. Now I didn’t grow up in the 90s or in the skater area, so I’m not sure how accurate this movie is in portraying that. However, considering that it’s a personal movie for Jonah Hill, I’ll assume that it’s authentic. However the movie still had its issues. The characters aren’t really fleshed out all that much, and we don’t really get to learn about them, so we don’t really get to care about any of them outside of the lead character. The story can be rather rough, and seems more like a bunch of snapshots of life rather than a focussed and structured story. Not that this method of storytelling can’t work, its just that it tends to have some drawbacks when used and have the potential to feel very unfocussed and not really moving towards anything, and you can really feel it here. Then there’s a certain uncomfortable scene halfway into the movie involving the lead character (aged 13 years old by the way) and a much older girl which other people have also talked about. I’m not necessarily criticising the idea of the scene because I’m guessing it’s meant to be uncomfortable, but all I’ll say is that that this sequence played out for too long and having a minor actor being part of that scene was irresponsible to say the least, especially when they could’ve cut the scene 3/4ths in and get the same effect and thereby avoiding any problems. Ironically it’s after this scene where the movie considerably improves with the second half, as the movie gets a lot more serious and darker. We also get to learn just a little more about some of the characters and it seems to actually be moving towards something. However, we still don’t really get to learn enough about the characters, and that second half is basically 40 minutes long and when it ends its rather abrupt.

The acting all around was great and one of the best parts of the movie. Sunny Suljic is great in the lead role as Stevie, he’s only been in a few things (most notably The Killing of a Sacred Deer) but here he gives a really good performance (it definitely helps that his character gets the most depth and development out of any of the characters). The other skaters that Stevie befriended were also good but Na-kel Smith was particularly a standout. Stevie’s mother and brother played by Katherine Waterston and Lucas Hedges are also great. Really despite the lack of characterisation, the actors do really well in their roles.

Jonah Hill made his directorial debut here and he did a great job here. Immediately you’ll notice that this film is shot as 4:3, giving it a nostalgic look to it. It all seems very authentic and gritty and fully in the 90s. You can tell that it is a lower budget movie, and that actually added to the movie, making it seem more personal. The music was also really good and fitted the time period and the movie very well.

Mid90s doesn’t completely work but there’s things to admire that it does. It’s very rough and unfocussed but you can feel some genuine passion behind it, and it picks up much more in the second half. The direction and performances are also quite solid. If you’re the least bit curious about Mid90s, I’d say to check it out. It’s still a decent movie, just not as great as I wished that it was.