Monday, February 27, 2017

Green Room (2015) ****

If you thought Oregon was just hippies and homebrewers, think again. The Pacific Northwest has a thriving White Supremacist scene. “Green Room” is a smart, backwoods horror flick about a punk band that runs afoul of some of these Neo-Nazis.

Living desperately from gig to gig, siphoning gas to keep their van going, and sleeping wherever they can, the punk band, the Ain't Rights, can't really afford to say no to a paying gig. They are leery of an offer to play a rural,White Supremacist venue, but they are assured they will be out before dark, and skinheads are really nothing new to a punk band, anyway. When a member of the band witnesses a murder, however, things get complicated. The Ain't Rights find themselves hostage, locked in a dressing room. While the skinheads, led by a chilling Patrick Stewart, figure out what to do with them, the band try to figure out an escape, assisted by the dead girl's friend (Imogen Poots).

“Green Room” earns a hard-R rating for the kind of violence that will give you nightmares. It isn't just the gore that will get your heart rate up, the constant menace is terrifying. Don't expect everyone to make it out alive or un-mangled. For those willing to deal with some serious horror, however, you are in for a treat. This is a smart, thrilling horror flick, beautifully filmed, with excellent performances. Patrick Stewart is terrifyingly convincing as the head neo-Nazi, and not just because of his shaved head. Anton Yelchin, who played Chekov on the new Star Trek movies and died this past year, is outstanding.

By definition, characters in horror movies make bad decisions. The difference between good and bad horror is whether those bad decisions are character-driven or plot-driven. Character-driven decisions are made by characters who have been developed so that their mistakes make sense for that character and that situation. Plot-driven decisions, the product of lazy storytelling, are frustratingly nonsensical, and only occur because the progression of the plot demands them. In “Green Room,” the characters do some stupid things, but they are the kind of stupid things young,inexperienced people might do. Their bad decisions are character-driven, and that's what elevates this film above its genre.

4 stars out of 5

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Everybody Wants Some!! (2016) ***

“Everybody Wants Some!!,” the newest film from Richard Linklater, has been touted as a spiritual sequel to the 1993 classic “Dazed and Confused.” It is not a true sequel, in that none of the “Dazed and Confused” characters appear, but rather a film in the same vein, about a bunch of young people experiencing high times to good music. Where “Dazed and Confused” followed several different characters on the last day of high school, “Everybody Wants Some!!” is all from the perspective of a baseball hotshot named Jake (Blake Jenner) as he shows up to start college. In the wild, move-in weekend before classes start, Jake gets to know his new baseball teammates, gets hazed by them, and parties with them at various bars and houses. He also meets a cute chick.

“Dazed and Confused” became a classic, in part because it viewed this single day of high school from so many different perspectives. You got to hang out with jocks, brains, stoners, and cheerleaders, and the takeaway was “We're all kind of the same.” “Everybody Wants Some!” takes a swing at that universality, as Jake and his friends party with punks one night, theater people the next, but they only scratch the surface. This movie is funny, and well worth watching, but it's no classic. Still, you'd have to have a heart of stone to dislike this film about a bunch of buff, young jocks hooking up with sexy chicks, to a soundtrack of classic rock, disco, punk, old-school rap, and even some country. The movie truly has something for everyone.

3 stars out of 5