Movie Review: Locke (2014)

If I told you about a 90-minute movie where everything takes place within the interior of a car and there are no car chases, you probably wouldn’t be interested in seeing it.

What if this movie starred Tom Hardy? Okay, maybe you would be a teeny bit interested. But that is a pretty big maybe, right?

Well, Locke is that movie and I have to tell you: It is pretty darn brilliant!

The movie stars Hardy as Ivan Locke, a man making an evening drive from his workplace into London. The movie takes place almost in real time. In the beginning of the film, Locke makes a phone call while driving and explains to the other person that he is on his way and will arrive in about 90 minutes which is about the length of the film.

The film and the camera itself focuses on Locke as the other characters only “appear” via speaker phone. There are calls home as Locke explains to his sons that he won’t be coming home that evening. Calls to an employee and his boss take place to coordinate logistics for the next day’s construction job. There are also calls with a woman named Bethan who at one point asks, “Have you even told your wife someone is having your baby?”

Oh my. Not to make a pun, but that really sets the stage for one interesting ride.

With Locke the filmmakers show that one doesn’t need explosions or special effects to create a thrilling ride for audiences. Each phone call is a desperate attempt by Locke to prevent his world from crumbling around him. The minimalist nature of the film combined with the intensity of the story make for an emotional ride for the audience. You become the passenger in a car going to an unknown place yet you are curious how you will get there.

Locke is written and directed by Steven Knight.




Robin Williams’ Best Role?

The news of Robin Williams’ death today at the age of 63 was definitely a shocker. Williams was a great comedic talent, of course, but he also had some great dramatic roles in his repertoire.

My favorite Robin Williams film was One Hour Photo. In this film Williams played Seymour Parrish, an employee at a one hour photo lab. Seymour is a lonely man who lives through the pictures he develops. These pictures fill a void and he becomes obsessed with one particular young family. Through this family’s pictures he observes what he deems to be an injustice and takes it upon himself to right this wrong.

This is a dark film and I loved how it showed a different side of Williams’ acting talent. I don’t recall this film getting a lot of publicity when it first came out. This 2002 film came out one year before Lost In Translation, another film starring a traditionally comedic actor, Bill Murray, in a dramatic role. At times I’ve wondered if the timing was switched, if One Hour Photo had come out after Translation, if people would have been more open to seeing a comedic actor in a dramatic role. Nevertheless, Photo is a gem of a film and I highly recommend watching it.



What Have You Done To Me Marvel?

So, where do I begin?

I watched Captain America: Winter Soldier yesterday. Absolutely loved it! Even better than the first one and a great piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

But today I had a revelation. Marvel movies have so many Easter eggs. And I’m not talking about just the additional scenes that are placed during and at the end of the films’ closing credits (seriously, if you get up or stop any of these films before these play out, you are missing on setups for the next films!). The films often contain subtle and easily overlooked nuggets that reference other parts of the MCU.

Since I’ve never read Marvel comics (or any comic for that matter), I often discover that I have missed some important details. Usually this happens after I read a review or listen to a podcast. These reviewers will mention something, pointing out its importance in the MCU, and I feel compelled to learn more about “it”, whatever “it” is.

For example, in the middle of the closing credits for Winter Soldier, two characters are introduced. Having read about the credits scene. I knew who these people were. But I felt compelled to learn more about them. Turns out they are kind of important and, if they are in future films, they present a possible challenge as (SEMI SPOILER!) their dad is a major character in another film studio’s superhero franchise.

Confused yet?

Okay, so all of this means that I can’t feel like I can just watch the movies in a casual manner. I know that a casual approach to the films means I am missing out on some clues that connect the dots between the films.

Oh! Oh! Oh! Let’s not forget the freaking Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show on ABC! There are plot lines and characters from that show that play into the movies and certain elements of the movies play into the show as well. It’s a never ending cycle of Marvel madness!

So between the movies and the TV show and trying to learn about all the connecting plot lines and hidden references- it’s almost like homework to stay on top of everything happening in the Marvel films. Maybe I’m over-complicating it, but I do hate the idea of missing out on these hidden treasures. I almost feel like I have to Encyclopedia Brown every film. Oooh! Did you catch that reference? What did they mean by that? Did I just see…?

Argh! Even now I am watching Thor and looking at every little detail to see if I am missing something. I know I probably am. And that’s (probably) okay. In the end, that’s really part of the fun. The Marvel universe was created with so many crossovers that seeking all the subtle hints makes it kind of a cinematic scavenger hunt. We watch and see what we can catch and if we miss something, we still have an amazing film to watch all over again. And when we watch it a second (or third or tenth) time, this new knowledge means we look at the film in a new light.

Even as I write that last sentence, I feel compelled to go see Winter Soldier again. I wonder how long I can hold off before I head back to the theater.



Now (Not) Playing in Theaters: Roqberry The Movie

Are you watching the Oscars tonight? I plan to watch Ellen’s opening and then flip back and forth between this and other shows. I do hope 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture and I hope either Steve McQueen or Alfonso Cuaron gets Best Director. Other than that- really not that interested.

Although I did watch E! Red Carpet and Giuliana Rancic’s dress is amazing tonight!

Okay, so the Oscars got me thinking about that age-old question: who would play you in a movie?

Hmmm… Big question. The weight of the world rests on my answers, I know. But I am going to up the ante to include who would be behind the camera as well. So here it goes.

If my film was going to be an indie comedy, I want Kerry Washington in the role as roqberry in a film written and directed by Nicole Holofcener. Mindy Kaling would play my best friend in the film (love her) and my love interest would be played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (super love him!).

But if my film was going to be a suspenseful drama, Ms. Washington would still play me but the film would be written and directed by the Coen brothers or maybe Steve McQueen. Best friend would now be played by Michael Fassbender but we have that “are we or aren’t we?” kind of friendship. Which causes all kinds of deliciously sexy tension! But this leads me, I mean, Kerry to fall into the arms of Jeremy Renner who Michael despises and the two of them fight over me and one of them dies but I… Oops, I mean Kerry gets framed for it and has to work with a retired detective played by Sean Penn to clear her name.

Hmmm… I would actually see that movie. And the Oscar for Best Daydream goes to…



What To Watch: Time of Death on Showtime

Have you ever had that feeling when you hear about or see a trailer for a show or movie and the subject matter is so important and relevant that everyone- including you- should watch it. Yet at the same time you are scared sh–less to actually do it?

That is the feeling I had after seeing this trailer for the upcoming Showtime documentary series called Time of Death. This series takes an intimate look at the final weeks, days and moments of life. Obviously death is an event we will all have to face and is one of “those conversations” we need to have with our loved ones. I’m sure this series will spark many of us to have that talk.

The series premieres Friday, November 1 at 9 PM ET/PT.

And no, I have not yet decided if I am going to watch it. Even though I know I should.



My Own Not-So-Frightful Film Festival

One of my guilty pleasures is having my own movie or TV show marathons. Maybe it’s watching a movie trilogy, several films by the same director or watching an entire season of a great show. But now that we’re approaching the holiday season, my cinematic thoughts often turn to marathons that center on holiday-themed films. And for October, that means Halloween

I have often fantasized about hosting my own film festival and if I did that, here are some films I’d include in a Halloween-themed festival. Nothing too scary, hence why I call it a “Not-So-Frightful Film Festival”.

Nightmare Before Christmas
Can you think of another movie that works as well at Halloween as it does during Christmas? This film was directed by Henry Selick (who also directed one of my other favorite films Coraline) and produced by Tim Burton. It definitely has Burton’s aesthetic and the soundtrack by Danny Elfman is so catchy and delightful.

Loved this animated tale from Tim Burton about a boy who loses his dog and goes to great lengths to bring his beloved pet back.

Battle Royale
If you thought the movie Hunger Games was a lightweight, you may want to give Battle Royale a viewing. The similarities between these two films is uncanny: both are based on novels, both are centered on teens who fight to the death for the entertainment of others. The fact that the novel BR came out nine years before Games has caused many to accuse Games author Suzanne Collins of ripping off the concept (although Collins has denied knowing about the book before creating her novels). Watch Battle Royale and then watch Hunger Games. You be the judge. While we’re at it…

Hunger Games
Go ahead and add this to the festival lineup. Ripoff or not, still a good film. Can’t wait for the sequel later this year!

Shaun of the Dead
A brilliant rom-com-zom film. That’s right- a romantic comedy zombie film. This film successfully tickled the zombie genre’s funny bone.

28 Days Later
In this film zombies weren’t slow moving creatures. Oh no. They ran- really fast. Great from beginning to end.

This little indie film takes a chapter from The Blair Witch Project with film makers seeking trolls. A little cheesy but still a good film that is at times suspenseful.

Nightwatch and Daywatch
Oh, where do I begin with these two films. Here is the plot: humans with special powers, The Others, are aligned with either the light or the dark. The Others are equally matched between the two factions and have called a truce. But as part of that truce they keep tabs on each other. Hence the titles, Nightwatch and Daywatch. Visually trippy films. Prepare your jaw to be dropped!

Super 8
I love this movie about kids whose film project coincides with a train accident that unleashes something terrible in the town. I have described this film as The Goonies meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Film to Watch: Spinning Plates

My love for documentaries is, um, well-documented (insert drum riff!). And I can tell a film releasing later this month is going to be added to my favorites list.

Spinning Plates gives viewers a firsthand look at restaurants. Everyone goes to restaurants. Some of us do it every day while others do it maybe once a month. Often our goal is simply to get good food (duh). But other times we want an experience. That experience could be an over-the-top culinary journey that we will talk about for years. Maybe it is that local restaurant that everyone goes to for Sunday brunch, where our fellow patrons are like an extended family. Maybe it is that little Italian restaurant that looks like a dive but offers the most authentic dishes this side of Italy.

Okay, now think about the driving force behind those experiences. The chefs. The owners. They don’t just serve food. They are helping to feed our souls. The upcoming documentary Spinning Plates goes behind the counter to show three stories of what it is like to run restaurants in America. While each restaurant is different, the stories are similar. It takes guts to open a restaurant. To open one’s doors and serve food. The passion that these restauranteurs show may change your mind about your favorite local restaurant. Or maybe you will be encouraged to break the cycle of visiting chain restaurants and visit more local ones.

Spinning Plates opens in limited release October 25.