Green Room

MV5BMjU1ODQ5NzA0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDg5MTA5NzE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,675,1000_AL_Green Room is a bleak, ultra-violent and unrelentingly dark film: it is the stuff of nightmares. Those sensitive to horrific, realistic violence should not watch this.

At the start of the film, a series of mishaps leads a punk rock band to accept a gig at a secluded white supremacist bar, where one of the band members witnesses the aftermath of a murder. The band members are locked in a room with a hulking, armed neo-Nazi guarding them. The band turns the tables on the guard and a deadly, brutal cat-and-mouse game ensues with lethal results.

The violence is brutal, pervasive and meant to be visceral and disturbing. In particular, the neo-Nazis turn  a vicious pit bull on one of the members of the band; the camera does not shy away from showing the dogs ripping the band member to shreds.

Much like Jeremy Saulnier’s previous effort, Blue Ruin, Green Room deals with the real-world violence and and the effect that it has on people who are in way over their heads. Green Room ups the ante with an onslaught of brutality that is hard to watch at times. The strength of the film is that real-world violence is not sanitized nor glorified; the violence is shown to be truly what it is: ugly, vicious and permanently life-altering.

The film stars Anton Yelchin (in one of his final roles), Alia Shawkat, Imogen Poots and Patrick Stewart. Stewart is particularly compelling as the leader of the white supremacists. He gives an understated, but chilling performance as a man who casually orders the vicious deaths of those who might expose his criminal enterprise.

Worth a look for the compelling story and the strength of the lead actors.

Skip it if unsettling violence bothers you.

Click on the following link to place a hold:

Green Room

-Steve

 

 

 

 

Quirky Movies: Mr. Right

mr rightMr. Right is a quirky movie, sometimes self-consciously so, but the strength of the two leads, Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick make for an eminently enjoyable viewing experience. The writing is crisp and witty and at just over an hour and a half run time, the action never lets up. Kudos to the writer, who remained on point and didn’t waste any time on unnecessary sub plots.

Sam Rockwell (in fine form as always) plays Mr. Right/Francis, a hit man who is on the run from his employers. It seems he has developed a conscience and no longer wants to kill people for a living, except those who have hired him. He becomes sort of a “reverse hit man.”

Anna Kendrick plays Martha, a woman who has just recently gone through a painful breakup. Martha is flighty, even exhibiting Manic Pixie Dream Girl(TM) tendencies. Martha meets Francis and they hit it off; she seems to think that he is the “perfect” guy. Of course his fatal flaw is that he is a hit man (albeit a remorseful one) but once she finds out his secret, she decides that what they have is real and wants to make it work. When Francis jokes about killing people it isn’t clear whether Martha just doesn’t believe him or just doesn’t care.  Of course, Francis’ past catches up with him in the form of Tim Roth, a former partner and current hit man with unclear allegiances. Roth turns in a fine performance.

One criticism is that there is  17-year age gap between Martha and Francis. However, the chemistry between the two actors is so palpable it never feels creepy or inappropriate. The cutesy dialog would have been unbearable had it been delivered by lesser actors but astonishingly, Rockwell and Kendrick make it work.

Although it is a fairly violent movie, most of the violence is played for laughs. Rockwell’s patented dance moves are incorporated into the movie as a bizarre unarmed hand-to-hand combat style.  Because Francis is a hit man, there is a fair amount of shooting and killing.

Worth a look if you like offbeat, quirky rom-coms about offbeat, quirky characters.

Skip it if quirky Manic Pixie Dream Girls(TM) are not your thing.

Click on the following link to place a hold:

Mr. Right

  • Steve

 

 

 

Broadcast News

MV5BMTkxODk0NzExOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjQyODQyNA@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_Broadcast News is the story of a love triangle between a dim-witted but good looking news anchor, Tom Grunick (played by William Hurt), a cynical, smart but average looking reporter, Aaron Altman (played by Albert Brooks) and a flighty, neurotic news producer Jane Craig (played by Holly Hunter).

Tom isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but he has the looks and ability to remain cool and calm on the air, so he is on the fast track to becoming the next big news anchor.

Aaron is smart (even intellectually arrogant) and an accomplished writer, but is average looking and worse, he can’t remain composed on the air. He is also in love with Jane, but lacks the confidence to tell her.

Jane is a neurotic mess;  a driven workaholic which makes her an effective news producer. She falls for Tom because of his looks and charming personality but unfortunately he represents everything she despises about network broadcast news: Tom is mostly style over substance and is none-too-bright.

Although Broadcast News was released in 1987, its central theme of trend of style over substance in the evening news is still timely. Sharp dialog and smart writing make this a wickedly funny movie:

Tom Grunick: What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?

Aaron Altman: Keep it to yourself.

In another wickedly funny scene, Aaron is given a chance to read the nightly news, but fails miserably: he sweats so bad that his viewers call in expressing concern that he might be having a heart attack.

Underlying the comedy is a serious subject: dumbing down the news to the point where flash and style win out over substance, which is done by the gradual but constant eroding of standards bit by bit. This film was a harbinger of what televised news would become.

Worth a look if you like smart, intelligent comedic movies with a timely, serious subject.

Skip it if you are expecting a screwball comedy.

Click on the following link to place a hold:

-Steve

Bingeable TV: Longmire

MV5BMTgwNzUyNjUxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzgyNjE4MTE@._V1_SY1000_SX750_AL_Longmire is the story of Walt Longmire, the sheriff of fictional Absoroka County in Wyoming. As the series starts, Longmire is looking into the death of his wife which may or may not have been caused by foul play. Assisting him are Longmire’s attorney daughter, Cady (played by Cassidy Freeman) and Longmire’s best friend, Henry Standing Bear (played by Lou Diamond Phillips.)

Longmire also has to cope with re-election as one one of his deputies, Branch Connally (played by Bailey Chase) is running against him for Sheriff. Connally is the son of a local wealthy landowner, so he has money to back his bid for Sheriff.

Australian Robert Taylor is perfectly cast as Longmire, who is unflappable and charismatic, yet is still reeling from the recent death of his wife. Taylor delivers his lines in a perfect, flat Midwestern drawl; it’s hard to believe he is really from Australia.

Rounding out the cast are Katee Sackhoff as “Vic” Moretti, Adam Bartley as “The Ferg (Longmire’s deputies), and A. Martinez as Jacob Nighthorse (Longmire’s nemesis.)

Much of the series deals with issues of Native Americans living on a nearby reservation. Relations with the tribal police are strained due to Longmire’s arrest of the former police for corruption. There is palpable distrust between the whites and the Natives.

Each season is only 10 episodes, so the writing is lean, spare and only focuses only on plot development. There is no fluff to distract from the narrative. Longmire is played as a good man, but with flaws. Another nice touch is that Longmire’s love interests are played by age-appropriate actresses (Longmire is in his early 50s.)

Longmire is based on the best-selling series of mysteries by Craig Johnson.

Click on the following links to place holds:

Longmire Season 1

Longmire Season 2

Longmire Season 3

Worth a look if you like compelling police dramas with well-drawn characters.

-Steve

 

Book Review: Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

16058610I am an ardent fan of book groups-they are a wonderful way to discover new titles and discuss them with old and new friends over a glass of the adult beverage of one’s choice. In one of my groups we meet, read and discuss books and life 11 out of 12 months a year. Then comes December and we play. We pick a restaurant, purchase a paperback book and wrap it beautifully, then ask the server to give out the books to us at random (that way we don’t know who our book is from until we open). At our December 2015 meeting I received (from Diane) Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall.

This wonderful coming-of-age novel is set in Mississippi in the summer of 1963, the eve of the Civil Rights movement. Starla Claudelle is a feisty red-headed nine-year-old who lives in the small town of Cayuga Springs with her resentful grandmother, Mamie, determined to make Starla into a proper young lady. Being grounded over Independence Day  is too much for Starla who makes an impromptu decision to run away to Nashville to live with her mother who is trying to break into the music business. Starla’s father works on an oil rig so running off to him is not an option.

While walking  out of town, Starla is offered a ride by a black woman, Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. She happily accepts a ride, with the ultimate goal of reaching her mother in Nashville. As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 Southern segregation.

Crandall perfectly captures the voice and the innocence of a nine-year-old caught up in a time and place that is quickly losing its innocence. Whistling Past the Graveyard will resonate with readers who enjoyed The Help and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Click on the link to place this book on hold: Whistling Past the Graveyard

-Sarah

 

Book Review The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

the-passenger-lisa-lutzI came to read this on the strong recommendation of one of our regular patrons, thank you Beverly!

Lutz takes a break from the Spellmans in this standalone thriller introducing us to Tanya Dubois, the enigmatic heroine who is the unhappy wife of the deceased Frank Dubois, who took a fatal, unassisted tumble down the basement stairs of their Waterloo, Wis. home.

Fearing the police will think she pushed Frank, Tanya decides to get out of Waterloo as fast as possible, and she holes up in a sleazy motel, the first of many she’ll stay in, to call the mysterious Mr. Oliver, who grudgingly agrees to supply her with a new identity and some starter cash. It is clear he’s done it before. Tanya briefly becomes Amelia Keen in Austin, Tex., where she meets the beguiling but dangerous bartender Blue. The reader quickly learns that Amelia and Blue each have unsavory pasts, and the agreement the women reach sends both of them off with new names.

While the pacing falters in places and the final reveal lack wallop-you may figure out the ending before Lutz is ready to reveal it- Lutz’s complex web of finely-honed characters will keep you turning the pages.

To place a hold, click on the link The Passenger.

-Sarah

The Boy

theboyThe Boy is an unsettling horror flick, using the well-worn device of a doll which may or may not be alive.

Lauren Cohan (of the Walking Dead) stars as Greta, a woman with a dark secret hoping to escape her past. She gains employment in England as a nanny for the Heelshires, whom have hired her to look after their “son,” Brahms. As it turns out Brahms is a creepy life-size doll. At first Greta chuckles at the idea, but soon realizes that there is nothing humorous about her situation. Especially since the Heelshires treat the doll as a real boy.

Soon after Greta gets settled in, the Heelshires go on vacation, leaving her alone in the house to take care of Brahms with a set of rules to follow. At first Greta ignores the rules and odd things start to happen: her clothing disappears, Brahms appears to have moved of his own volition. Greta soon comes to understand that there is more to Brahms than meets the eye. She starts “caring ” for him by following the rules to the letter.

The dark secret from Greta’s past surfaces, forcing a startling conclusion with deadly consequences.

The Boy is rated PG-13 for violence and terror, and for some thematic material. The violence is fairly mild, all things considered. The movie relies more on the creep factor than horrific, bloody violence to create a palpable sense of dread. While the movies does rely on the animated doll horror trope, the conclusion took me by surprise. Of course, as with most movies of this sort, the ending leaves room to make The Boy 2.

Click on the following link to place a hold:

The Boy

Worth a look if you like horror or unsettling movies.

Skip it if animated dolls give you the heebie jeebies.

-Steve