Film Review: INGRID GOES WEST (USA 2017) ***1/2

INGRID GOES WESTAn unhinged social media stalker moves to LA and insinuates herself into the life of an Instagram star.

Director: Matt Spicer
Writers: David Branson Smith, Matt Spicer
Stars: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr.

Review by Gilbert Seah
 
Actress Aubrey Plaza has been busy in the production chair lately with her recent THE LITTLE HOURS, a naughty little comedy about misbehaving nuns and now with INGRID GOES WEST, again a naughty little comedy but with more drama about a misbehaving Ingrid. Plaza stars in both films, creating a niche for herself as in DIRTY GRANDPA always playing a misbehaving youth.

INGRID GOES WEST (great title, by the way), is a more ambitious project with a stronger narrative this making way for a better picture. INGRID GOES WEST is the most accomplished of all the Aubrey Plaza films so that fans of hers are aware. She play a psycho habitual stalker desperate to make friends at all costs, including causing grievous bodily harm to her targets and herself.

When the film begins, she has already stalked Charlotte who has got a restraining oder on her. Yet Ingrid (Plaza) shows up at Charlotte’s wedding and pepper sprays her during the wedding dance. Ingrid is then institutionalized. The sudden passing away of her mother leaving her a large sum of money, $60,000 in cash allows her to carry on her stalking comfortably till all hell breaks lose. The coming across of the money is an excuse for the story to have its character continue her exploits.

Plaza’s character reminds one immediately of Anna Faris, the lead in Gregg Araki’s SMILEY FACE, in which the f***ed up lead goes around the entire film causing drama and damage to herself and every person around her. In this story, Ingrid’s new target in Instagram celebrity Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen) and her artist husband (Wyatt Russell). Taylor and Ingrid initially hit it along, with Ingrid stalking her half the time photographing everything without her knowledge. Ingrid also has an admirer, her black landlord (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), who she eventually has a relationship with. His obsession with everything Batman proves a lot of laugh-out loud jokes. But things get tough with the appearance of Taylor’s obnoxious but good-looking buffed up drug taking drunken brother, Nicky (Billy Magnussen) who finds out the truth about Ingrid’s motives. He blackmails her and things get out of control.

The film rarely contains a dull moment. When things start to smoothen out, one can always count on Ingrid to f*** things up again.

The film also contains a soundtrack of popular 80’s and 90’s tunes that keep the spirit of the film going.

One of the rare achievements of the film, courtesy of both actress Plaza and writer/director Spicer is the creation of a character that is such an alpha female loser that the audience wishes the worst on her and that all her plots be foiled. Yet the character created is one to sympathized.

The film’s one flaw is the tacked on unhappy ending. The ending is predictable for a film with a story centring on social media. Apart from that, this is one totally entertaining f***ed up movie about a f***ed up person doing f***ed up things. The film debuted at Sundance 2017, where it won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for co-writers Spicer and David Branson Smith.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP4vD1tWbPU
 

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Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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captain_america_civil_warCAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (USA 2016) ***
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Daniel Bruhl, Frank Grillo

Reveiw by Gilbert Seah

Judging from the box-office successful but critically panned BATMAN V. SUPERMAN, audiences love to see their super heroes battle one another – never mind the reason, never mind who wins, and never mind anything else. In this latest Marvel superhero movie, there are lots more of the same. It is a dream come true for current action fans as there is a full 15 minute action fight scene during which two factions of super heroes battle it out with each other.

The film begins with establishing the reason for the formation of the two factions. It is a world disaster in which innocent people are killed in Nigeria following a criminal being pursued by the Avengers. As a result of the collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps, one led by Steve Rogers aka Captain America (the handsome hunk Luke Evans) and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s Ironman (played by Robert Downey Jr.) surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.

This is an AVENGERS film despite the Captain America title. Other Marvel heroes on display here include Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the Winter Soldier of the film title (Sebastian Stan), Falcon from the IRONMAN films (Anthony Mackie), Hawkeye with his arrows (Jeremy Renner), Vision (Paul Bettany), Spider-man (Tom Holland) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) the latter two providing most of the humour in the film. But the script by a multiple of writers includes many one-liners that only Marvel fans will find funny, or whoever is in the mood. But the one-liners are quite mediocre and no match compared to those found in other action films like the DIE HARD or TERMINATOR films.

So there is one faction led by Ironman with Spidey, Faclon and Spider and the other by Captain America, Winter soldier and Hawkeye. There is an extended fight scene between the two leaders as well but no one really comes out the outright victor. The heroes use their powers like Spidey his web, America his shield and Hawkeye his arrows.

The film running at almost two and a half hours is surprisingly short on both story and character development. The script contains lots of repetitions on the need to control the Avengers i.e. to substantiate the rivalry between the two groups. All this tends to be a tad boring after a while, not to mention that the matter is never resolved at the end and the film set up for a sequel.

Not much is demanded in the acting department for an action film of this nature except for the actors to look good. And they all look very bulked up or pretty as the case may be. This reviewer never liked Robert Downey Jr. as an actor (in Sherlock Holmes, IRONMAN and other films) or in person for his wise-cracking smart-ass attitude. So, the best line in the film delivered by Black Widow to him: “Are you incapable of letting go of your ego for one Goddamned second?” gave me a big smile.

CAPTAIN AMERICA is a film that would delight action Marvel fans, but those serious in their taste of cinema – might want to take all this with a pinch (or rather, heap) of salt.

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I SAW THE LIGHT, Movie Review

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isawthelightI SAW THE LIGHT (USA 2015) **
Directed by Marc Abraham

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Maddie Hasson

Review by Gilbert Seah

The biopic of hank Williams I SAW THE LIGHT begins with Williams saying that he is impervious of what people think and that he does what he likes. The first scene then shows Williams sucking up to his marriage judge on how he loves his newly bride when the judge tells Williams how he gets up early and la-de-da-de-dah. The conflict of what is perceived and what is revealed on screen is the start of the problem of the film. The script says one thing and the film says another.

Running at over two hours, the film shows more of the bad and uncontrollable character of Hank Williams than his genius. His hard drinking, his disregard for tolerance of his loving wife overshadows his genius and talent. And it is this genius ad talent that is what audiences who come to see this film want to see.

Hank Williams had a short life. He died at the young age of 29 of heart failure due as the film informs to his hard drinking. The film shows and emphasizes much of the drinking with Williams always holding a bottle of beer, particularly in the early hours of the morning. He does not say much, but downs his beer.
Though his life was short, the film dos not reveal much of the singer’s musical background or work. The film appears more determined to show his personal life. His song writing, rehearsing and performances take second fiddle to his problems with his marriage and drinking. The film traces the difficulty of Williams getting into the grand old Opry, which is an important part in the singer’s life.

The film spend some time with interviews of Williams’ publisher Fred Rose (played by Bradley Whitford) though not much information is disseminated during these segments, that are shot in black and white.

Director Marc Abraham has made better films like the unforgettable CHILDREN OF Men and the remake DAWN OF THE DEAD. He is clearly good at demonstrating drama and this is evident in I SAW THE LIGHT.

It is an odd choice to pick British actor Tim Hiddleston to play an American country singer. One can only imagine the hard work Hiddelston and to undergo to speak with a southern western accent less to imitate Williams’ mannerisms and behaviour.

It is rare that the film shows Williams and his wife, Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen) performing. The segment (at the film’ s start) shows the reason both are an item together and how they bond despite marital problems. Again, the fight that ensues is paid more importance than the band’s performance.

The western atmosphere of the film is effectively created as are the sets and performances. But the film is a tad boring and no one really wants to spend two hours learning of Williams faults.

The title ironically called I SAY THE LIGHT fails to reveal Williams’ work and genius. The film only takes off when his songs are played, particularly during the end credits.

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