‘Chi-Raq’ (2015) | R | 127 min.🎬🎬🎬🎬
The city of Chicago, in media, has been given the nickname of “Chi-Raq” due to the fact that it’s violence and gun related deaths outmatch the ones in war zones. To famed director Spike Lee, the city of Chicago is a beast that is fed by the wars between African-American men and the violence that proceeds that war. It’s this conceit that inspired Lee to create his latest complex and risqué film, “Chi-Raq.”
Taking inspiration from the Greek play “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes, the film follows a modern-day war between two gangs: the Spartans and the Trojans. Their fighting and violent tendencies in war come to a head in their community when their fighting inadvertently causes the death of a little girl. The sudden tragedy inspires the girlfriend of one of the gang leaders to form a protest that could put an end to the fighting.
The girlfriend, Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris), develops a plan to get all women to hold out sex from the men until they decide to make peace. This plan quickly gets attention from the media and spirals into a worldwide phenomenon. Borrowing heavily from the play, Lee even decides to utilize the rhyme scheme that exists in the play and use it in the film.
Boasted by Lee’s wonderfully unique filmmaking style, “Chi-Raq” is a risk-taking film where a majority of those risks pay off. The Greek theatrical elements mixed with satirical elements give the film a bite that’s going to be hard to shake off. Along with the clever techniques delivered by Lee, “Chi-Raq” also has powerful performances from Jennifer Hudson, Nick Cannon and John Cusack that only sweeten the deal.
Admittedly, much of the risks in “Chi-Raq” make the film feel uneven. However, there is still a lot in the film that is brilliant and unforgettable.
This film is available on Amazon Prime.
‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ (2016) | R | 117 min.🎬🎬🎬🎬
A master of the “slice of life” narrative, Richard Linklater is more preoccupied with dynamics and interaction rather than plot. The characters Linklater creates are colorful and unique in ways that can carry an entire movie and keep his audience engrossed the whole way through. This brand of filmmaking shines through with his latest film, “Everybody Wants Some!!”
The film opens with Jake (Blake Jenner), a college freshman, arriving to campus for the first time. As an athlete, Jake is sent to live in a house on campus that is filled with other athletes, some new like him and others who are seasoned collegiate athletes. Initially having a hard time adjusting, Jake quickly adapts to the groups’ quirky ways and begins his journey into the college lifestyle.
Taking place the weekend before classes start, viewers take a back seat and watch as Jake and his teammates drink, smoke and party their way through the weekend. As we get to know the colorful cast of characters and learn their quirks, the misadventures these young men face start a path of self-realization and reflection.
Anyone who is familiar with Linklater’s work (“Dazed and Confused” and “Boyhood”) know that each of his films have a sense of fluidity and realism. This basically means that Linklater tends to drift away from plot and narrative in order to explore themes of life and individualism. “Everybody Wants Some!!” is a perfect example of that storytelling as it is both ecstatically full of character and exuberant charm.
Although aimless in its plot, “Everybody Wants Some!!” is a fun and introspective look at college life and the young joys of freedom.
This film is available on Amazon Prime.
‘Come and Find Me’ (2016) | R | 112 min.🎬🎬
David (Aaron Paul), a graphic designer, has always seen his relationship with Claire (Annabelle Wallis) as a happy one. Never being able to sight a problem, David is left perplexed when Claire one day just goes missing. Not knowing if Claire is alive or dead, David struggles to find any answers for her whereabouts.
His search inadvertently leads David to details about Claire’s life that contrast with everything he has known about her. Upon learning these details, David finds himself in the crosshairs of dangerous people who are also looking for Claire. Before those people can find her, David has to track down Claire to protect her and find out who she really is.
Any of this plot sound familiar? Well, that’s where the problems with “Come and Find Me” begin to surface. It’s certainly an interesting concept and can be done well, but the script feels watered down by tropes set from other movies of its kind and never tries to make an identity for itself. It’s possible for a movie to be unoriginal and interesting, but the film only succeeds to be unoriginal and painfully dull.
Most disappointing about this film is the involvement of an actor like Aaron Paul. Anyone familiar with his work on “Breaking Bad” knows that Paul can give a powerful, charismatic and layered performance. None of that, though, is in “Come and Find Me” where Paul is sleepwalking through the entire film. It honestly feels like he took an Ambien cocktail before jumping in front of the camera.
There is a lot of promise to “Come and Find Me,” but the film struggles to be more than anything but serviceable.
This film is available on Netflix.
🎬 — Well, there goes 2 hours of my life!Straight to DVD.
🎬🎬 — Straight to DVD.
🎬🎬🎬 — Add to my queue.
🎬🎬🎬🎬 — A must see.
🎬🎬🎬🎬🎬 — Mind blown!