My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Well, someone finally made the basketball equivalent of Moneyball. Though Hustle is a fictional and a more conventional sports movie, it shares much in common with Bennett Miller’s masterwork. Both films take the hard work going on off the field (or in this case, the court) seriously and in the process provide a humanist view of the sport.
Is it possible that Adam Sandler could be one of the best American actors working today? I’d argue that case based on his jaw-dropping performance in Uncut Gems and his grounded, emotional work here. This one features less showy acting but is equally impressive. The actor carries the picture from beginning to end and more than once moved me to near-tears. I love subtle, steady performances like this.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s backed by a great supporting cast including the never-better Queen Latifah and an ensemble of actual basketball players, coaches, and commentators. Whether it was Sandler’s idea or someone else’s, the inclusion of these professionals was a brilliant idea. It gives the movie, which sometimes flirts with Hollywood-cheesiness, a sense of realism.
In another era, the film would be a box office hit and probably receive multiple award nominations. But that’s not the day we live in. So queue it up on your TV or phone and get ready for something truly special.
Watched on Netflix.
Run Hide Fight (2020)
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
It took way too long to get around to watching this recent film from producer Dallas Sonnier. I recently collaborated with him on Terror on the Prairie, only increasing my curiosity to explore his full filmography.
Run Hide Fight definitely belongs among his best work. As I’ve said many times before, one thing that consistently stands out about Sonnier’s pictures is his dedication to a hard-hitting realism. From Bone to Brawl and perfected in Dragged Across Concrete, his best films possess the kind of grit we haven’t seen since the pulp films of the 70s and 80s. He also has a knack for picking scripts, demonstrated once again with this project that manages to handle the sensitive school shooting subject in a mostly effective way. It may not be what audiences want to see but there’s no doubt Dallas and team hit upon so many of the scary truths we’ve seen play out over and over again at these tragic events.
The acting is good, especially from rising Isabel May (I doubt the media or Hollywood industry will ever admit the importance of this film in her development). If I have any complaints about the picture, they’re directed at the last act. There’s a few contrived moments that distance the film from its otherwise grounded-nature. But it doesn’t take away from the film’s overall impact.
Watched on the Daily Wire.
They Live (1988)
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Had to show this to my girlfriend. Can you believe she’d never seen or heard of it? Just goes to show there are still plenty of people who still need to “put the sunglasses on”.
Carpenter’s sci-fi satire holds up. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, has lots of fun, and still manages to say more about American society then and now than most “message” movies combined. After this recent viewing, I’m more encouraged to write an article about Carpenter’s prophetic visions of what the world has become.
Watched on Shudder.
The Gift (2015)
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
This directorial effort from Joel Edgerton definitely shows his ability to maintain suspense. The problem is all the holes in the story and the believability of the characters.
From the start, it was hard to stomach that Rebecca Hall’s female protagonist would be so understanding (or oblivious) of Edgerton’s behavior. Would any woman behave this way with a relative stranger? It feels like she’s just doing what the screenplay needs her to do… I think the filmmakers miss two opportunities here: 1. Show that her lack of judgement is related to her continued drug use. 2. Turn the tables and have her be the suspicious one while Bateman is initially dismissive until the reveal.
It’s hard to talk about this movie without revealing spoilers. It’s so dependent on those little twists and turns. I will say that the whole concept has some deep flaws but if you’re just looking for a fairly clever thriller, you might want to give this a try.
Watched on Netflix