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Thursday
Apr062017

The Ticket (2016)

Throughout The Ticket, director Ido Fluk and screenwriter Sharon Mashihi present nightmarish, claustrophobic interpretations of blindness to convey the sensory prison from which their main character, James (Dan Stevens), has miraculously escaped. When the call-center employee awakens one morning to find his sight restored after decades of darkness, he immediately binges on earthly pleasures, abandoning the God to whom he’d previously sent daily prayers of gratitude. The story goes astray in act two, as the film, like James, enamored of its own conceit, takes on a much grander identity than it was ever meant to possess. The idea of James’ mortgage-broker employer setting up a shell charity in churches and schools to entrap customers by ostensibly helping them eliminate debt is compelling. But The Ticket is not The Big Short, and every attendant subplot tacked on to James’ descent into Hell detracts from our ability to truly appreciate his fall.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #212 to hear Ian's interview with writer/director Ido Fluk!

Monday
Apr032017

Landline (2017)

Like all independent filmmakers, Matthew Aaron wears many hats on his third feature, Landline—not the least of which is a baseball cap representing his beloved Chicago Cubs. It takes singular vision and ungodly determination to get a movie off the ground, so I don’t blame Aaron for swinging for the fences as writer, director, producer, editor, and star. But the unfocused Landline loses sight of its premise early on. Following a sex-video scandal, ad executive Ted Gout (Aaron) strives to rid himself of modern technology. There are side-plots aplenty: one, a misunderstanding about Ted’s husband’s relationship with a childhood friend; one, a babysitting misadventure involving pot; still another pitting Ted against a social-media-savvy coworker for the all-important Cubs account. Any of these could be a movie. The effect of stuffing them all into one film is akin to reading an online article in which every third word is a hyperlink.

Check out Kicking the Seat Podcast episodes 209 and 211 for our double-header Landline interviews with Matthew Aaron and co-star Jim O'Heir!

Friday
Mar312017

T2 Trainspotting (2017)

First thing’s first: T2 Trainspotting is a lame title, a faux-clever swipe at the Terminator 2 ad campaign meant to, I guess, evoke nostalgia and mischief by intertwining two of the 1990s’ most important films. It’s also an apt encapsulation of Danny Boyle’s note-perfect sequel. Twenty-one years ago, four tragicomic Scottish hoodlums jumped from Irvine Welsh’s novel onto the big screen, stunning audiences with smack-soaked, pop-punk misadventures. Two decades on, they’re pathetic middle-aged men, forever chasing highs that were never as pure as they’d imagined by substituting careers and/or revenge for opiates. It’s fair to say that T2 (gag) isn’t as energetic or as fresh as the original, but neither are the characters and conventions that made it possible. Some will see only diminished returns in this call-back-heavy sequel, ignoring at their peril the flashing track signals that admonish us to savor every stop before the end of the line.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #210 to hear Ian and HollywoodChicago.com's Pat "The Über Critic" McDonald just say "Yes" to T2 Trainspotting!

Wednesday
Mar292017

Turbo Kid (2015)

If you want to relegate a movie to the back of my viewing queue, guaranteed, call it a “throwback”—especially an “80s throwback”. I’m still picking nostalgia-bomb shrapnel out of my scalp from aesthetically sound, zero-calorie homages like It Follows and The Lords of Salem. Fortunately, rather than coasting on the so-cheesy-it’s-bad-but-also-great vibes established by BMX movies and no-budget, post-apocalypse thrillers of the era, the French-Canadian trio behind Turbo Kid put in the hard work of writing a bona fide three-act plot, constructing inventive gore gags that invoke laughter first and revulsion second, and giving us characters not only to root for, but also remember (especially Laurence LeBoeuf’s eternal-optimist sidekick, Apple). Yes, there’s geek catnip aplenty, like our hero’s Power-Glove-esque gauntlet and the fact that Michael Ironside plays the villain, but this is a real film whose unique identity scavenges the burnt-out hull of genre movies past to build something durable.

Friday
Mar242017

Song to Song (2017)

“You get used to drifting, waiting.” This sleepy bit of narration from Ryan Gosling’s character in Song to Song proves that writer/director Terrence Malick is officially screwing with us. The Austin, TX-set drama centers on a love triangle, which becomes a love square, and then a love pentagon. Even those descriptions are insufficient, as they imply shape and dimension—two of many essential cinematic qualities that come up lacking in Malick’s two-plus-hour assemblage of rehearsal footage, location scouting, and camera tests. As sure as thirteen patrons left the screening I attended, my mind drifted to alternate-universe movies where Rooney Mara’s character stops complaining about life and actually lives it; where Natalie Portman convincingly plays a struggling waitress/teacher; where the minute allotted to Val Kilmer’s crazed rock star becomes a three-hour road picture, co-starring Iggy Pop; and where more holds my attention than a brief game of “Six Degrees of Ridley Scott”.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #205 to hear Ian and HollywoodChicago.com's Pat "The Über Critic" McDonald muster a funeral hymn for Song to Song!