Time: 119 Minutes Cast:
Andrea Riseborough as Leslie “Lee” Rowlands
Allison Janney as Nancy
Marc Maron as Sweeney
Andre Royo as Royal
Owen Teague as James
Stephen Root as Dutch
James Landry Hebert as Pete Director: Michael Morris
A single mother turns to alcoholism after using up all the prize money she received after winning the lottery. She soon finds the chance to turn her life around when a motel owner offers her a job.
Recently there’s been increased attention put onto To Leslie. To give some backstory, in January, lots of A list actors including Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow and Edward Norton were lauding Andrea Riseborough’s performance in a smaller movie called To Leslie, even pushing for her to get nominated at the Oscars. Surely enough, the biggest surprise at the most recent Oscars nominations was Riseborough being among the 5 nominated for Best Actress. Regardless, I decided to watch the movie without thinking too much about the awards. I’d say that overall it’s a decent movie, that is helped by great performances.
To Leslie is yet another character study about a struggling addict and there really isn’t anything new about this one. The writing has its issues with some clunky dialogue, cliched conflicts and arguments, and some pacing issues, especially in the first hour. The first half seemed like even more of the white poverty porn which we’ve seen a lot of, and it was a real slog to get through (and not in a good way). However, at the point where Marc Maron’s character is introduced into the plot, it picked up for me. A lot more humanity is on display, and I was more engaged with the story and characters. The ending might be a bit cliché, but it still hits in the way that it was intending to.
This is very much an actor’s movie. To Leslie really served as an acting showcase for Andrea Riseborough and she’s great, really elevating the movie with her work here. She conveys so much and brings a lot of life to her character Leslie. The destructive and struggling alcoholic character has been done many times before, but Riseborough adds a real humanity to this familiar story. So yes, the hype for her performance is deserved. It doesn’t end at Riseborough, there is a good supporting cast too. Marc Maron was a surprise, and gives a nuanced, empathetic and down to earth performance as someone who decides to give Leslie a chance. Allison Janney and Owen Teague make the most of their screentime, and they sell their roles incredibly well.
This is director Michael Morris’s debut film, and it was pretty good. It is well shot and captures the setting well, and there are some good uses of music.
To Leslie is a smaller drama and character study that is familiar and predictable, but solid overall. It’s carried by the great performances, especially from Andrea Riseborough. The movie (and possibly even its lead performance) will likely remain overshadowed by the Oscar nomination controversy. I don’t think it’s a great movie, but for what it’s worth, it might be worth checking out for the acting at least.
Time: 137 Minutes Age Rating: Violence, horror & suicide Cast:
James Badge Dale as James Lasombra
Marin Ireland as Nora Quail
Stephen Root as Arthur Parsons
Ron Canada as Detective Villiers
Robert Aramayo as Garrett
Joel Courtney as Brandon Maibaum
Sasha Frolova as Amanda Quail Director: David Prior
On the trail of a missing girl, an ex-cop comes across a secretive group attempting to summon a terrifying supernatural entity.
I went into The Empty Man blind and unaware of what to expect from it. All I knew was that it was a horror movie whose release was essentially shafted during the merger between Disney and Fox, but gained positive word of mouth. Knowing only that, I went into the movie open minded and I think that it may well be one of the most pleasant surprises from 2021.
For what it’s worth, I do think it’s worth going into The Empty Man not knowing anything about it. The plot at first sounds like another creepypasta like the Slender Man, and the premise is simple at first as its about a missing girl and the protagonist detective trying to figure out what happened to her. However over time it becomes more than what is expected. Essentially The Empty Man is a psychological detective thriller with a supernatural element. It is definitely horror, but more of a hybrid horror film which mixes grim detective thriller with elements of cosmic horror and surreal doomsday cults. There’s even a surprising amount of existential dread throughout, with a constant ominous tone which keeps you unnerved throughout. There are some compelling ideas and the film isn’t afraid of being ambiguous at times. The opening 25 minutes are really strong, and it is practically its own movie as it seems so far removed from the rest of the film, but still ties back into the main plot in a meaningful way. I found the plot compelling and riveting as it takes its twists and turns, and I wanted to see where it would go. The final act is captivating and it has one of the most memorable horror endings in recent years. The movie is very long at around 2 hours and 20 minutes long, and it is definitely a slow burner, so it requires a lot of patience. However I was so invested with what was happening that the runtime didn’t prove to be a problem, even if the pacing stumbles here and there.
The acting from everyone is good but it mostly comes down to the lead played by James Badge Dale as a detective investigating the missing girl. It’s a very strong performance and he does very well at carrying the movie himself. He effectively captures the terror, confusion and even the pitch black humour of the character, and he was compelling to watch throughout the film.
This is David Prior’s directorial debut, and this is a very confident and great first film from him, with evidently a clear vision. Prior has actually worked with David Fincher and you feel his influence throughout, especially when it comes to the investigation side of the story. The Empty Man is incredibly well shot with beautiful and moody cinematography. The visuals are interesting and the imagery is memorable. There’s also a very haunting sound design which goes towards helping its ominous atmosphere. The scares themselves mostly come from the eerie atmosphere and thick tension, and they are very effective.
The Empty Man definitely won’t work for everyone, its slow pace and more subdued nature might turn some people off. However I thought it was great, a great mix of investigation thriller with cosmic and cult horror, making for a very effective film and one of the best horror films of 2021. I’m interested in whatever David Prior does next; I hope he gets to direct more because his work here is fantastic.
Time: 133 Minutes Age Rating: Cast: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Tim Blake Nelson as Buster Scruggs
Willie Watson as The Kid
David Krumholtz as Frenchman in Saloon
E. E. Bell as Saloon Piano Player
Tom Proctor as Cantina Bad Man
Clancy Brown as Çurly Joe
James Franco as Cowboy
Stephen Root as Teller
Ralph Ineson as The Man in Black
Jesse Luken as Drover
Liam Neeson as Impresario
Harry Melling as Artist (Harrison)
All Gold Canyon
Tom Waits as Prospector
Sam Dillon as Young Man
The Gal Who Got Rattled
Zoe Kazan as Alice Longabaugh
Bill Heck as Billy Knapp
Grainger Hines as Mr. Arthur
Jackamoe Buzzell as Boarder #3
Jefferson Mays as Gilbert Longabaugh
Ethan Dubin as Matt
The Mortal Remains
Tyne Daly as Lady (Mrs. Betjeman)
Brendan Gleeson as Irishman (Clarence)
Jonjo O’Neill as Englishman (Thigpen)
Saul Rubinek as Frenchman (René)
Chelcie Ross as Trapper Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
An anthology film comprised of six stories, each dealing with a different aspect of life in the Old West.
The Coen Brothers have done some good movies in the past but I can never tell how much I’ll like their movies. Hail Caesar wasn’t particularly liked loved a lot of people but I really liked it, whereas their beloved movies Fargo and Inside Llewyn Davis I liked but didn’t love, not to mention I didn’t like their comedy ‘classic’ Raising Arizona at all. This isn’t the first Western movie that they have done, with No Country for Old Men and True Grit showing that they are great with the genre, but it is the first anthology movie that they’ve done. It’s such a weird idea for them and I really didn’t know what to expect. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a odd mix of western stories written and directed by The Coen Brothers that range from okay to actually pretty good. I’m glad I watched it but it’s far from the filmmaking duo’s best.
Now the movie is split into 6 different chapters and it’s just impossible for me to talk about the movie on a whole without talking about them individually. Therefore, I’ll separate my review by the individual chapters. The first chapter is The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. It’s about Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson), a cheerful outlaw and singer who comes across other outlaws and hilarity and chaos insures. So much of this chapter is cartoonish and over the top, I was entertained by it but I was expecting much more. Really the highlight of this chapter was the titular character of Buster Scruggs played by Tim Blake Nelson. He’s so over the top and full of energy that it’s fun to watch him, he’s almost like a cartoon character put into live action. While all of the chapters were directed well, this was particularly well directed and put together. Though it was fun, by the end it just comes across as a fun skit written and directed by The Coen Brothers rather than them actually making part of a movie. I’m not exactly sure why they decided to name the whole movie after this chapter, it’s way shorter than I thought it would be and was just sort of funny and that’s it. While I had fun with this chapter, it did make me nervous about the rest of the movie, and whether it would be just fun western skits for the entirety of the movie. Know that despite what I said, I actually had a lot of fun with it and it’s really good. I just wish that it was longer and had more of a purpose.
The second chapter is titled Near Algodones and stars James Franco as a cowboy who tries to perform a robbery. The best thing I can say about it indicates at least that each chapter of this movie will have a different tone and story, it’s not cartoonishly goofy as Buster Scruggs and is a little more serious, yet it has some effective dark comedy and James Franco is also good in a role that we don’t usually see him in. Again though, it feels so incredibly short, around the length of Buster Scruggs and probably even shorter. The whole movie is 2 hours and 10 minutes long yet they couldn’t seem to make each of them at least 20 minutes long. The found footage anthology movie V/H/S seemed to have longer segments. However, it’s not just that it’s short, while Buster Scruggs can get by with it being a goofy comedic skit, Near Algodones is a more serious story, and so doesn’t have that to fall back on. While it wasn’t bad by any means, there wasn’t really anything particularly interesting or even that entertaining about this chapter, outside of some slightly humorous moments. Having watched this segment, I had even more worries about how the overall movie would be.
The third chapter is titled Meal Ticket, starring Liam Neeson as an travelling impresario with an armless and legless artist played by Harry Melling. Again, significantly different tone and type of story and it was such a weird choice of story to make in the western setting, especially in contrast to the previous two stories. However, it’s from this point that things started to look up for the overall movie. It didn’t really have any comedy whatsoever, thankfully though it is done much better than Near Algodones. It’s about as long as the Buster Scruggs segment yet we actually get to learn more about the characters and their situations. Both Neeson and Melling are also great in their roles and their subtle performances made the chapter even better. This story isn’t what you’d typically think of when it comes to western stories but it really works for this movie. It’s a lot more atmospheric and darker from the others, also with a rather bleak ending which fits right along with The Coen Brothers’ other dark endings, all around Meal Ticket was pretty decent.
The fourth chapter is titled All Gold Canyon and is about Tom Waits as a prospector who arrives in a mountain valley and decides to dig for gold, again, very different kind of story compared to the others. Something that’s immediately different is the setting. The first two segments were very desert-western based, and the third mostly took place at towns in night. The fourth chapter however takes place in a beautiful and green field, making it by far the most visually stunning of all the segments. It’s longer than the previous segments and is the easiest to watch of all the segments. It’s really just Tom Waits in the story in terms of characters, and he carries it very well. Overall one of the better chapters of the movie.
The fifth chapter is titled The Gal Who Got Rattled, which is about a woman (Zoe Kazan) and her brother (Jefferson Mays), who are traveling in a wagon train towards Oregon. Now I heard from some people how the movie falls apart from this segment as well as the 6th chapter. It doesn’t feel like a typical Coen Brothers’ movie, both in concept and in terms of writing and dialogue. It is also the longest of the 6 segments, and is more drawn out with a slower pace, which feels really jarring compared to the prior segments which moved rather fast. I will say that it does feel like the most well rounded of the stories. Most of the other chapters feel like either brief snapshots of what the stories as full complete movies could be, or random skits. The Gal Who Got Rattled on the other hand actually works as a short film on its own, with characters effectively fleshed out. You could probably even see the segment turned into a full length movie. The actors all did a great job with their performances particularly Zoe Kazan, Bill Heck and Grainger Hines. Although it’s very out of place compared to the other chapters, The Gal Who Got Rattled is at the very least one of the better segments.
The sixth chapter is titled The Mortal Remains, and is about five people who ride in a stagecoach together to Fort Morgan. It feels like such a weird story to end the movie. Admittedly while I was on board with every chapter leading up to this, when it got to this one I sort of switched off. After the 30+ minute long segment of The Gal Who Got Rattled which was on such a large scale, it felt like an alright place for the movie to stop. However it was immediately followed by 5 people just talking, and through a lot of it, I just didn’t care what was going on, at least before the halfway point. That’s not to say that there aren’t some good moments to it though, after the halfway point it does pick up quite a bit, also Jonjo O’Neil, Brendan Gleeson, Saul Rubinek, Tyne Daly and Chelcie Ross were quite good in their roles. However it still is one of the weaker of the stories.
To summarise: whether you like The Ballad of Buster Scruggs or not, there’s no arguing that it really feels like a Coen Brothers movie… well there are at least plenty of glimpses of it. A lot of the direction and writing, especially the dialogue and dark comedy feels quite a bit like The Coen Brothers’ work. I can see some of these segments working as entire full length stories. Since they titled the movie after the first chapter, I couldn’t see why they didn’t just make the whole movie about that. And if The Coen Brothers’ were committed to doing a bunch of short stories, it might’ve been better if they just made it a mini series, 6 episodes with each episode ranging from 40 minutes to an hour. They don’t really have any connections to each other whatsoever, and each of the stories don’t really seem to serve any point except to every time come to the conclusion that it was rough living in the Wild West. That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of good things to this movie. It is visually stunning throughout all the segments and are directed well, and the actors do great jobs, particularly Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan and Bill Heck.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a bit of a mixed bag, while all the chapters are well directed and acted, much of the segments are way too short and aren’t interesting enough and as mentioned above aren’t as great as you’d hope given who worked on them. If you’re a fan of The Coen Brothers, I’d say definitely check it out, it’s on Netflix and will just be 2 hours and 10 minutes of your time. As for the rest of you, I’m not entirely sure I can recommend it. Despite my thoughts on some of the segments and the overall movie, I will praise the Coen Brothers for at least trying something different. It is one of their weakest movies though.
Time: Minutes Age Rating: Violence, offensive language and horror Cast:
Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington
Allison Williams as Rose Armitage
Bradley Whitford as Dean Armitage
Catherine Keener as Missy Armitage
Caleb Landry Jones as Jeremy Armitage
Lil Rel Howery as Rod Williams
Betty Gabriel as Georgina
Marcus Henderson as Walter
LaKeith Stanfield as Logan King
Stephen Root as Jim Hudson Director: Jordan Peele
Now that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined.
Get Out is a movie that has been getting a lot of attention recently, and has already been called one of the best films of 2017. While it looked interesting, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it. After finally seeing it, I have to say that Get Out really deserves all the hype, it really surprised me. It is both a great horror movie, as well as a great comedy. Jordan Peele has directed a great social commentary on modern racism, while at the same time creating a great horror movie.
I was riveted from start to finish in this movie. Get Out has the perfect mix of horror and comedy. Horror comedies are extremely difficult to get right but this film nailed it, it knew when to have scares and when to have comedy, and none of these moments felt tonally out of place. This movie wasn’t that scary to me personally (granted most horror movies don’t really scare me) but it is very well crafted. Until the last act, most of the ‘scares’ aren’t that significant, but there is a constant feeling of uneasiness, as you know that something is off, you don’t know what it is. At the same time this movie is hilarious, sometimes some of the scares and ‘weird’ moments are for comedy, the dialogue at times can be really funny, especially between Chris and his friend Rod, and the comedy (when present) never detracts from the scares or tension. Of course the mix of horror and comedy isn’t just what makes the movie work so well, this film is smartly written by Jordan Peele. This movie is honestly one of the best written horror movies in recent years. The social commentary of Get Out is absolutely genius, which Peele explores in very subtle bits of dialogue, symbolism and writing. The racism aspect of the film is actually more in depth and complex than you may think, its not just that the girlfriend’s family is racist and doesn’t like Chris, there’s a lot more to it. So many things in this movie really does reflect today’s society, from the dialogue, to the way people act. In fact I’d say the most unrealistic thing in the movie is that someone uses Bing as a search engine. I won’t reveal too much about the movie as I don’t want to ruin any surprises, I’ll let you experience all this for yourself.
The acting from everyone was really good. Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams are very convincing as this couple who are basically surrounded by uncomfortable people. Kaluuya particularly was great, no matter your race it is very easy to relate to his character Chris, and Daniel’s acting played a big part in that working effectively. The girlfriend’s family members with Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener and Caleb Landry Jones were also great, very unsettling but at the same time not too over the top. If there’s a showstealer performance it is of Lil Rel Howery as Chris’s friend, there are many moments when they talk on the phone. He was so hilarious, and the interactions with him and Chris were incredible entertaining.
The film is very well directed overall. It’s clear that Jordan Peele knows and loves horror, and he directs it excellently here. The scares were very well implemented throughout the movie, there aren’t many jump scares and when they are there, they are effective and well placed. The film looks absolutely stunning, and the visuals are amazing. This movie does have a lot of subtle visual symbolism, which Peele inserted into the movie in such a great way. The soundtrack by Michael Abels was really effective, and added a lot to the horror and suspense.
Get Out is one of the best horror movies in recent years. Smart, creepy and hilarious all at the same time, it’s no surprise why this film has been met with such critical acclaim. It seems that Peele has created a new type of horror/thriller, the ‘social thriller’. Apparently he’s planning on making more of these types of movies, and I’m very intrigued. He’s shown his talents as a director and writer with Get Out, so I can’t wait to see more of his work. If you are a fan of horror, I definitely recommend checking this out. Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of horror I suggest watching it. It’s one of the best movies of the year.