Monday, May 9, 2016

Green Room & Captain America: Civil War -

“Green Room”

This is one of the most suspenseful, taut, and intense films I have seen in the past two years. Jeremy Saunier delivers one of the most realistic horror films to come down the pike and he does it without resorting to cheap scares, supernatural artifices, or a faceless killer. This is about human drama taken to an extreme- the violence is sudden and gory, the emotions are real and intense, and there’s no such thing as a one-dimensional character no matter what you may think of the players involved. This is what horror should be- it should defy the cookie cutter definitions often placed on the genre and it should terrify us. It should dig in deep and do very bad things to our brains.

The “Ain’t Rights” are a touring punk band living out of a van as they wind up some tour dates promoting their latest vinyl album- because these are “true” punks, living the lifestyle and refusing to “sell out” with social media or downloads and being everything “punk” is supposed to be about. When their most recent gig cancels, they wind up picking up an extra gig a little out of the way in a backwoods “skinhead” bar. They’re not entirely in their element and the danger signs are all there, especially when they open up with a Dead Kennedy’s cover designed to antagonize their audience. But the band kind of wins some respect and the skinheads start moshing to the rest of their set- and the band is getting cleared out so the headliner can take the Green Room. They just forgot their cell phone, so a quick little run inside-

And that’s when things go to hell real quickly. As witnesses to a murder scene, the band is quarantined to the Green Room once again and the Nazi’s are stuck trying to figure out the best way to get rid of them without drawing attention to the bar. Tensions escalate quickly as the band gets a certain measure of control- but they’re trapped and the Skinheads surround them and it’s only a matter of time until something gives.

Anton Yelchin headlines the protagonists and delivers the best performance I’ve so far seen in his young career. He’s a confused young man who doesn’t know how much danger he really is in- and when blood is shed, we know that absolutely no one is safe in this film. Patrick Stewart gives a chilling performance as the leader of the Skinheads, a cool and collected businessman who seems more concerned with the dangers of a possible fire hazard than he does with the well being of any individual. He doesn’t waste time twirling a mustache in this film- everything he does has a purpose and he truly has a sense of the dangers facing him and his group.

But truly standing out in his performance is Macon Blair. The long time Saunier collaborator delivers one of the most nuanced performances as the bar manager. He’s a man who believes in “the Cause” but experiences the conflict of his actions with his humanity. The responsibility for much of the films experiences rest on his shoulder- he makes several early calls that will ultimately lead everyone down a dark rabbit hole and he’s faced with the consequences of those calls.

Don’t expect to feel good while watching this film- don’t expect that you will walk out of the theater cheering or high fiving one another. You’ll be stunned, horrified, a little confused, and maybe worn ragged by the experience. And that’s what a horror film is supposed to do.

5 out of 5.See this in the theaters before it leaves!!!

Captain America: Civil War

The American political climate is tense and fevered and very dangerous. And the story of Civil War reflects the very same climate we are currently faced with- the idea of liberty vs. security and what it means to the individual as opposed to the group. There is an idea that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few- so when the Avengers are faced with the consequences for their heroism, each member of the team must make a difficult choice. Do they comply with oversight regulations or are they going to be the ones who make the decisions for themselves?

The choice is easy for Tony Stark- whose character arc from the first film is a series of glimpses in to the repercussions of his inventions and the violence it has brought to the world. He needs to make it right and if there’s some sort of oversight, that will relieve him of a sense of responsibility. And he urges the other members of the Avengers to sign the same Accord- but Steven Rogers, Captain America, tells Stark that the same oversight that may feel better about having the Avengers under control might send the Avengers on missions where the team doesn’t feel it’s needed. They may refuse to send the Avengers where they are needed. Rogers realizes that signing the Accord removes his choice- and he refuses to comply.

That alone is an interesting premise for the film- but the stakes are increased when a desperate Zemo uses the split in order to enact a long devised plan based on the information available from the first several films of the Marvel Universe. He has a way to trigger the Winter Soldier, he has access to information that will implicate the Soldier in a terrible crime, and he has the unwitting help of several World Governments to keep our heroes on the run or divided.

Look, we get a lot of guest appearances throughout the film- nearly all the Avengers show up, we get Ant-Man fresh off his own successful venture, we get a brand new Spiderman all set to debut in his next feature film, and we get The Black Panther as he gets set to pounce on his own film debut with Marvel’s next wave in 2017. But the film boils down to six characters who will be long affected by the consequences of this war- Iron Man, Captain America, Black Panther, The Winter Soldier, and Zemo. These are the people most heavily involved and revelations peel back the layers of respect and friendship between Stark and Rogers, exposing divided loyalties and personal animosity never truly seen. Zemo is a brilliant, patient, and methodical villain. The Winter Soldier (Bucky) is a man who is clearly suffering from years of abuse and brain washing- and The Black Panther is a man driven by vengeance but open to the idea of justice.

4 out of 5.

Songs for a New World @ Paper Wing Theatre

“Songs of a New World”


No, seriously, that’s the first word I thought of when I tried to sit here and figure out where to begin- “Songs for a New World” is a seriously ballsy show that takes a bunch of risks where it could have chosen to play much safer. Director Noah Reeves dresses his stage in newspaper print from top to bottom with only four major pieces of furniture to tell the small tales that make up the whole of the show- it’s minimalism that carries a bold statement- it’s small but it’s everything. It’s and the newsprint reflects the vastness of what the show wants to accomplish. And when the music begins, we are immediately struck with the next risky venture- the cast moves forward without the aid of microphones.

And it caught me off guard.

“Songs For a New World” is a musical piece of performance art where the cast (2 men, 2 women) take on various roles representing people who have come to a moment of decision in their lives. Whether it comes to love, finance, liberty, war, or the dreams of a High School Basketball player; each of the characters represented are caught in a moment in their lives where one decision could mean the world. And the vocal pieces here are difficult, with challenging pitches and word play. And all four performers step on the stage without the aid of a microphone so these pieces need to be loud in the near 80 seat capacity theater- they need to sing loudly enough to match the accompaniment. They need to project their voices so everyone can hear them- and as I sat near the back of the theater, I was immediately aware of the challenge facing these performers.

And it works.

The four actors had chemistry with one another and there was a sense of support for one another as they represented the many tales being told- each of them remained present in the moment, even if they were not the focus of attention. I was really impressed with these performances and these vocalists.

4 out of 5.