Movie Reviews: Roman J. Israel, Esq

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What is an esquire?

Either google the term if you have zero patience, or watch how Denzel Washington delivers an answer as Roman J. Israel, Esq, a man with a crisis of conscience.

This is a common theme in many adult films. I personally like George Clooney in Michael Clayton as he explores a similar theme, also in the legal world. Maybe this is why we don’t predominantly like attorneys. They are expensive, shallow, and the nature of their work treat their clients as dollar signs. This theme runs deep through the film as Denzel’s character has to weigh a life of servitude for the greater good, or giving in to the monetary demons on his shoulders.

Choices are made, and you can probably guess the arc. If you watched Nightcrawler, an excellent film also by Dan Gilroy (who also saved Rogue One in reshoots), you’ll know there is a new master in Hollywood. Gilroy understands pacing, character arcs, and how to deliver an ending against a narrative.

People, understandably, hope for some Hollywood type ending. In legal dramas, this often culminates in some victorious legal decision. But the story is often more about the case or criminal. A film directed by Dan Gilroy is always about someone’s journey, the decision they have to make, and the consequences of their actions. Watch Nightcrawler, the end of Rogue One, and Roman J. Esquire and compare.

I read a few other reviews, mostly centering on Denzel getting nominated for an Oscar again, but they hoped for more. Others called the film weird.

I thought it was tremendous masterwork done by a storyteller. I look forward to the next decade of Dan Gilroy films. They have you thinking afterward, “what was that about?” In current cinema, there are only a few other directors I hold in this regard: Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, and Nicholas Winding Refn. I don’t exactly have to love all of their films, but I love the artistry they display in a commercialized business.

I think this is Denzel’s best work in many years. He’s plays basically the same character in most of his films, likely due to director/producer decisions, so that people know exactly what they are paying for. He is kind of crusty, kind of tough, and usually to the point. Roman J. Israel is crusty, however isn’t tough, is kind of chicken, stammers on tangents and lacks social manners.

And what else. Colin Farrell. That Colin Farrell. The one who was In Bruges, not the one in SWAT. The one pushing himself in The Lobster, not the one evading capture in Total Recall. The one who dabbles in indie films with exploratory storytelling. Not the one looking for the big payday. The character actor. A good character actor.

Dan Gilroy, please please please keep the films coming. I know $11 million isn’t exactly the box office producers want, but film as an art form needs more stories like this, and adults need to support it in the future, otherwise over-saturation of sequels/prequels/animation/reboots/comic stories will somehow get worse. Film itself is going through a similar crisis of conscience. There is a tradeoff in this industry, like many others (like Facebook filtering the fake paid posts, but not all, or Google disabling fake news accounts, but still allowing Tai Lopez to pump Bitcoin courses to dumb millennials), which I now ponder the morning after. Movie reviewers are not exactly a philosophical bunch, so I understand how most were quick to type up their reviews and few actually thought about the art. I can only imagine them attending a new art exhibit.

Movie Rating: 9.5/10 Armenian Rewards

 

 

Movie Reviews: Drive

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Drive directed by Nicholas Winding Refn

I first remember seeing the preview for Drive in the theater.

I thought it was going to be a giant turd and refused to check it out. The marketing powers that be took it upon themselves in their infinite marketing wisdom to make it look like an action packed thrill ride as if it was the Fast and the Furious. They could’t have been more confused at appealing to people to watch it.

About 7 months later I finally watched the movie as it hit DVD. I barely rented it, you know, in one of those (is this movie even worth wasting my time with because I know it’ll be shit) moments. I think I went and got some food and popped in the DVD and pressed play while in the back of my mind thinking I could always just hit stop.

From the first two minutes I realized I was watching artistry at work. The director had a vision and they were going for it. When I say “it” I mean they were disregarding the rules of commercial filmmaking and attempting to make a perfect film. I don’t use that term lightly because to me, there might be only 1-2 movies per year that could be classified as a masterpiece.

After watching Drive, I concluded instantly it was the masterpiece of 2011.

It was probably 10:30pm when I finished and did something I’ve only done once since.

I watched the movie again in a true back-to-back, Shining-repetition. I simply couldn’t believe what I just saw. This wasn’t just a masterpiece. This was a damn perfect movie.

From the get go, the cinematography and music took control of the film. The director was not afraid to slowly let the scenes run a few seconds long even when no dialogue was taking place. The acting is an inspiring thing to watch. I’m not sure if it’s because they are not speaking as much dialogue they are forced to listen to every word rather than remember lines that they act more naturally or not.

The story is pretty straight forward, but there is a noticeable difference when an auteur is behind the camera. Originally, Hugh Jackman was planning to make some bullshit Fast and the Furious type movie which I can only imagine would have been worse than any Nicolas Cage movie the last 4 years. Thank god Ryan Gosling decided to go the artist route and get a director with talent to helm the picture.

I’m not going to get into the plot. See the damn movie if you haven’t. After I watched the movie a second time I went on Facebook and emailed every movie buff I knew and told them to see the movie and that I would pay. (This is totally weird and only happens once a decade). I needed to talk to somebody about this. I was crushed, kind of like the first time I saw Once Upon a Time in the West. This is what filmmaking should be. Tell a story the best way you can in the best format you can.

Sometimes less is more.

As for me, I continued watching Drive for a week straight. I studied every scene and tried to unravel what the secret was. I think I figured out what worked for me: An uncompromising vision. The only time I felt this in awe of an uncompromising vision since then was when I saw Mad Max: Fury Road. Holy shit I was blown away, especially by the first 30 minutes. Uncompromising vision to make the best film possible is something that doesn’t happen to often when the budget is over $10 million where focus groups, studio marketing, toy tie-ins, happy meals, soundtracks, book rehashings, tv spinoffs, and the almightily possibility of a sequel/reboot/remake/requel is considered.

Drive is a movie of uncompromising vision that didn’t give a rats ass about anything except telling the best possible story in 90 minutes.

It is a perfect movie.

QUEST REVIEWER: NATALIE THE NITPICKER 

I’m like so totally confused to what Matt is like totally saying, cuz, like, I really didn’t know what was going on in the movie. I mean, Ryan Gosling is totally cute usually, but he was a bit weird wearing a satin jacket with a yellow scorpion on the back and not talking much. I just didn’t understand why the girl just didn’t totally hook up with him and skip town with all that money, because I totally would have even though he really did totally smash in that skull like it was a watermelon. I’m from the south, so I’ve seen so many watermelons smashed like that, so it didn’t bother me one bit. 

Overall Rating: 10/10 Satin Jackets