Wednesday
May012019

"DREAMLAND" // TRIBECA 2019 FILM FESTIVAL

BY MATEO MORENO

Director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte's new Dustbowl Era Western drama DREAMLAND is now playing at the Tribeca Film Festival and is a dreamy, thrilling nod to all of the Westerns that came before it. We are led into the film by a voice over, performed here by an unseen Lola Kirke, as Phoebe Evans. She's looking back at her life 20 years ago and telling us about the unforgettable drought filled Summer that was also marked by the sudden appearance of a bank robber, fugitive Allison Wells (Margot Robbie). Her half-brother Eugene's (Finn Cole) father disappeared and his mother remarried Phoebe's father. Eugene spends his days messing around town with a friend and stealing dime store Detective Stories, dreaming of placing himself into one someday. Well, that day comes sooner than he though with the appearance of Allison Wells. The Sherriff announces a bounty for anyone who can catch the fugitive, and since his family desperately needs the money, he decides to find her himself. Unbeknownst to him, Allison has hidden herself in his family’s barn and desperately needs some medical attention from a gunshot wound in her leg. He finds her, and she immediately disputes the claim that she's a killer, while fully acknowledging that she did indeed rob that bank. Is she lying to get him to trust her, playing him like a fiddle? Or is she a girl who truly needs someone to hear the truth? Either way, he falls under her spell and they launch into their very own Detective Story.

 

Cinematographer Lyle Vincent shoots the film with a poetic beauty and it truly is a stunning film to behold. The two leads are dynamic throughout, grasping onto a strong chemistry between them. Margot Robbie plays her bank robber with a mysterious grace, never allowing Allison to be a simple cut and dry character. She's a complicated mess and shines every time she's on screen. Finn Cole, fresh from Peaky Blinders, is equally great here, playing Eugene with a striking innocence that is undercut slowly as the film moves along with the burning sensation that his life needs to be more than it is. Darby Camp, as the young version of Phoebe, plays the childlike innocence perfectly and is consistently believable. As the parents, Travis Fimmel is a complex man, full of intensity and rage yet you feel that there's something hiding behind all that anger. And Kerry Condon turns in a strong supporting performance as Eugene's doting and caring Mother.

 

DREAMLAND is a stunning throwback film, one that moves with an intended ease, letting the tension, mystery, and romance sneak in at its own pace. You may not want to live in this town, but you'll be glad that you drove through it.

 

GRADE: A-
WRITTEN BY Nicolaas Zwart DIRECTED BY Miles Joris-Peyrafitte STARRING Margot Robbie, Finn Cole, Travis Fimmel, Kerry Condon, Garrett Hedlund, Darby Camp. Playing as part of the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. For more information: http://www.tribecafilm.com/filmguide/dreamland-2019
Wednesday
May012019

"BLOW THE MAN DOWN" // TRIBECA 2019 REVIEW

BY MATEO MORENO

Lost somewhere along many of small towns are secrets. Some not so impressive, some that will never be told, and some that the entire town seems to be in on. That last description can describe the Maine fishing town that BLOW THE MAN DOWN takes place in. It’s a town lost in time and one that’s not begging to be found.

The Connolly sisters (Sophie Lowe, Morgan Saylor) are here for their Mother’s funeral. Priscilla (Lowe) is the good girl, determined to keep the family’s name strong in this town. Mary Beth (Saylor) is a woman who can’t be pinned down and although she was there for her Mother in the end, she’s ready to hit the road. Their Mother’s best friends (June Squibb, Annette O’Toole, Marceline Hugot) are a trio of older women who seems light and innocent but hold a lot of power in this town. A friend from their younger days, the always electric Margo Martindale, own the town brothel and seems indebted to the women.

However, that’s all just the backing of the town’s story. The plot of the film kicks in when Mary Beth ends up going home with a guy whose bad news and attacks her. When he ends up dead, the sisters devise a cover-up, which sets all the pieces in motion. And that’s not even the only dead body that appears. This quiet, innocent town is anything but, and the ghosts of the past can’t stay buried for long.

 

The entire cast are sly, moody, and overall perfect. Danielle Krudy & Bridget Savage Cole’s script is punctuated with great dialogue and a whip smart plot that keeps you intrigued, as long as you keep paying attention. BLOW THE MAN DOWN takes the typical elements of a mystery and twists them around, making them feel fresh and unsettling. It’s a sharp film, one that will linger with you, long after the fog clears away.

 

VERDICT: MUST SEE
GRADE: A
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy STARRING Morgan Saylor, Sophie Lowe, Margo Martindale, June Squibb, Annette O'Toole, Marceline Hugot. Playing as part of the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. For more information: http://www.tribecafilm.com/filmguide/blow-the-man-down-2019
Wednesday
Feb202019

AGAIN AND AGAIN...AGAIN // A FILM REVIEW OF "HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U"

BY MATEO MORENO

Happy Death Day, the 2017 low budget hit from BlumHouse Productions, was Groundhog Day meets Scream. It was a clever mix of satire and horror, taking the lead character of Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) and making her the mean girl who becomes the nice girl after having to relive her birthday over and over when she’s killed at the end of each day. So she wakes up again and again, slowly figuring out clues on how to figure out who her killer is. It’s fast paced and fun, and a refreshing take on the low-budget horror genre. Since it ended up grossing $125 million on a paltry $4.8 million budget, an inevitable sequel wasn’t a surprise. But what was a surprise is that the sequel would play with other genre’s and match (if not improve) the cleverness of the original.

 

HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U reunites the entire original cast and starts up right after the first film ends. But we start the film following a very minor character from the first film – Ryan Phan (Phi Vu). You’ll remember him as Carter’s roommate who keeps entering the room at an inappropriate time. Here, we see him head towards his room and enter, just like he does in the original film. When his roommate kicks him out of his own room, he ends up meeting up with other friends of his and gets murdered himself. What follows is Tree having to team up with her new boyfriend Carter (Israel Broussard), his roommate Ryan, and his friends Samar (Suraj Sharma) and Dre (Sarah Yarkin) to solve yet another murder in a looping day. But this time, the story veers from Horror to Sci-Fi as we start playing with alternate timelines in a very clever addition to a genre that usually just repeats the first films formula.

 

As Tree starts reliving the days again, she starts noticing small changes, like her frenemy Danielle (Rachel Matthews) is slightly different, as is Carter and her killer roommate Lori (Ruby Modine). And in this reality, her Mother is still alive. So is it worth actually solving this loop if she can be happy for once? Like I said, it’s a different path than the original, but still keeps the same brand of dark humor and zaniness that made the first film shine. Jessica Rothe is just as charming and strong here as she was in the original, with her comic timing and strong presence on screen. Israel Broussard has more to do here and also is quite good. Phi Vu, Rachel Matthews, and Ruby Modine have the biggest changes since the first, with new personalities for Danielle and Lori and a fully fleshed out character arc for a one-joke character that fully works. Rounding out the cast, Suraj Sharma and Sarah Yarkin are warm and charming and help fill out the zaniness of the sci-fi edition.

 

Writer/Director Christopher Landon really delivers a delightful surprise here, one that’s funny, consistent and original. Not every joke lands, and not every addition feels necessary, but you admire the grand design he’s going for. And even though the mid-credit tag feels more like a joke than a set up for a sequel, after seeing what they can do by mixing two genres, I’m game for a third repeat to the land of the creepy baby mask killers.

 

MATEO'S GRADE: B+

WRITTEN BY Christopher Landon, Scott Lobdell DIRECTED BY Christopher Landon STARRING Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Rachel Matthews, Ruby Modine, Steve Zissis, Charles Aitken, Lauren Clifton, Jason Bayle, Missy Yager. Now playing in cinemas.