‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’ is an unsettling abomination

Skip this movie all together.


Yorgis Lanthismos’ new film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, is going to make a lot of people very angry-and for good reason. Heart warmer or proud cynic, the end of this film is going to challenge you in a number of ways, pushing you down a staircase in slow motion. I didn’t care for it. Let me tell you why.

Steven Murphy (a disheveled yet happily Irish tongued Colin Farrell) has the American Dream in a headlock. He is a world renowned cardiovascular surgeon with a wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman), running a successful ophthalmologist clinic, and two kids, Bob (Sunny Suljic) and Kim (Raffey Cassidy), experiencing normal problems like haircuts and singing lessons.

And then there’s the mysterious Martin (Barry Keoghan), whom Steven has taken an interest in due to Martin’s ambition to be a surgeon as well and some other unknown reason that you find out later on. Something’s not right about this kid, and his literal speaking manner is the smallest problem. Let’s just say Martin kicks the leg out from under the family’s happy life and things get progressively worse. Such as sudden paralysis and bloody eyed worse.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is the first time I’ve laughed out loud in a theater at a film that was actually horrifying me. Lanthimos’ thriller is as unsettling as a two hour dental visit, with Martin’s true intentions unfolding as the running time climbs.

When Steven is faced with the toughest decision a parent would ever have to make, you will think about leaving the theater. But then you won’t, staying locked into your seat in order to see what he actually decides in the end.

The script is full of overly simplistic and literal communication that dries out the emotional connection. Even the 12 and 14 year children of the Murphy’s will seem like they have a computer chip inside their body instead of a heart. Maybe that was on purpose, or perhaps Lanthimos doesn’t want you to feel anything.

I’ll be honest with you: this movie doesn’t make for a good time. You won’t want to take your girlfriend for pie after this. Maybe a sad piece of angel food cake in a darkly lit kitchen, because this is a cold film.

After I left the theater, I was asked what I thought. At first, I had no answer. Most of the critics around me lacked an answer as well. Then it hit me on my way back to my car.

This isn’t the kind of movie you can easily call trash or gold. The film looks gorgeous and is well-made. Yes, the film’s first and second acts are thought provoking, but the third act just made me shake my shoulders in utter despair.

If I had to compare this film to another, it would be Darren Aronoksky’s recent film, the highly controversial Mother! That film was equally maddening and got more extreme as the plot twists stacked up, but the writer/director knew what he was doing and more importantly, where he was going. When the end came, it fit the previous act. The Killing of a Sacred Deer’s ending did not and carried zero purpose. 

It just made me mad.

Avoid this film unless you want an unsettling,  unintentionally funny, and ultimately pleasure-less experience. Save it for that time when you have a high fever, stomach ache and bad back all at once. The look on your face will match this film’s heart: angry and hollow.

Watch Mother! instead.

‘Lady Bird’: A triumph for Greta Gerwig

Honesty is this film’s key recipe

Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is having a tough time. She constantly butts heads with her sweet yet thorny mother (Laurie Metcalf), along with the constant boy drama and decision making that hits a woman in her senior year of high school, and her doting father (Tracy Letts) may be suffering from depression. All the while, Christine wants to break out of small town boredom in Sacramento, California to a college far far away. She’s dealing with a lot.

You’ve seen this story told before, but Greta Gerwig makes it feel fresh and personal again in her directorial debut, Lady Bird. Gerwig is a fine actress, but she is a much better filmmaker. You’ll leave this film feeling every single emotion that Gerwig intended.

I love a film that can be heartwarming without pointing its arrow directly at the viewer’s heart. Instead, a film may simply trigger something inside of you, awake a memory perhaps-or make you suddenly relive a part of your past that had been buried for quite some time. Lady Bird does that and wisely blends drama, comedy, and some romance into a realistic portrait of teenage rebellion.

“Lady Bird” is what Christine desperately wants people to call her, like a private shield to deflect attention to where she lives-“on the wrong side of the tracks-while trying to understand whether her mother loves or dislikes her.

The chemistry between Ronan and Metcalf as two women who have way too much in common but are too blinded emotionally to notice it makes the film what it is. They share the most scenes together in the film and create a devastatingly honest portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship. Right when you think Gerwig’s tale may dip into easy going melodrama and try to manipulate the audience, a sharp cut of dark humor slices through the film.

Lady Bird reminded me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower in that it warmed you up while being honest at the same time. Most films have to stretch outside the border of realism to make you feel good; this film does not. Gerwig’s tale has confidence, and a fair dose of humor to balance out the heavier themes in play.

The supporting cast is potent without trying to do too much. Outside of the exemplary work from Ronan and Metcalf, Letts is very good as the afflicted yet loving father whose “good cop” nature balances Metcalf’s cold streak. Beanie Feldstein is very good as Christine’s best friend, Julie. The two of them share a few hilarious scenes, including a tearful rendition of Dave Matthews Band’s hit song, “Crash into Me”.

I mean, any film that plays a great D.M.B. song three times pushes it closer to a thumbs up review from this critic. Thankfully, Lady Bird is a lot better than the last time I heard Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash” in a movie, which was 1997’s Excess Baggage.

A big part of Lady Bird is about the difficulty of a bird flying away from its nest, aka a teenager breaking off from her hometown and family for bigger and better things. As much as Christine hates to admit it, Sacramento is a part of her no matter what, and that really affected me. Growing up in South City, I carry parts of my hometown wherever I go, and it simply never goes away.

Movies are extra special when they don’t just help you escape, but also relate to something in your personal life.

There’s a moment towards the end where Christine talks about the feelings she had when she first drove through her hometown. It’s a subtle yet emotional part of the film that you know was a method process for Gerwig. It made me think about the first time I drove down Kingshighway and Chippewa, looking at my old neighborhood (and current one) with a new pair of “lenses”.

Lady Bird isn’t another teenager lost in translation flick; it’s a brutally honest take on the ties that bind a young person to their family and childhood. How no matter what, we are our past, for better or worse.

Greta Gerwig’s film made me feel something. Go see if it has the same effect on you. There may be a few laughs along the way.

‘The Florida Project’: Lack of focus wastes talented cast

Dafoe’s earnest performance can’t save misguided film.

The Florida Project has good intentions, a fine cast, but ends up saying very little that we didn’t already know.

Sean Baker co-wrote and directed this feature about a young Moonee (newcomer Brooklynn Prince) growing up in the slummier regions of Florida at The Magic Castle hotel, right next to the magical confines of Disney World. A play on the Philadelphia photographer Jacob Riis’ classic quote: “Where there is church, the devil lives next door.”

For Moonee, the world is a giant playground and full of opportunities to create mischief with her friends (Valeria Cotto’s Jancey and Christopher Riveria’s Scooty) while bonding with her troublesome mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite, the true breakout star of the film). Then there’s the stern yet kindhearted hotel manager, Bobby (Willem Dafoe).

Right off the bat, Baker establishes that the kids in this film aren’t your normal darling angels, when they spit on a stranger’s car repeatedly for ten minutes. This pales in comparison to the other things these kids do in the film, which includes setting a fire in an abandoned hotel and messing with the Wifi in the hotel, much to the chagrin of Bobby. Calling them rebellious is selling them short. These kids make Dennis the Menace look like a harmless do-gooder.

Have I hooked you yet? No. Well, that’s because not much happens in this movie. There is no central plot point or general lever to swing down on in the two hour film. It’s a couple weeks in the life of the other side of the human population: the broke yet good time seeking freeloaders who scrap for every penny and hope for a handout since they spent their cash on hair dye and cigarettes.

There is no real plot. A subplot with Bobby’s son (late addition Caleb Landry Jones) goes nowhere and is dumped midway through the film. Small scenes involving a pedophile and a rift between friends carry ferocity, but they don’t propel the film enough. They are tiny specs in a movie full of setup, but no follow-through.

The Florida Project would have made for a great 8-10 hour mini-series on HBO or Showtime, so perhaps the story could expand and breathe into something unique and complete. Instead, the end just slams the door on you without any sense of closure.

Sure, there’s something about the isolation that goes on in a kid’s mind, especially when their parents make poor choices. A kid has little idea what is right or wrong until their parent sets the perimeters, but a thousand films have showed us that and layered it into a better story.

The only thing that makes this film recommendable is the acting. Dafoe is strong as usual, imbuing Bobby with a quiet dignity and grace that unleashes the hunger for his backstory instead of merely existing as a stand-in character. Vinaite is a force to reckon with and gives Halley something extra. Prince challenges your patience with Moonee, but creates a dual-sided character instead of a typical bratty kid. The cast is authentic, but they are running around a remote landscape with no real plan.

I’d save your ten bucks for something more complete and true, like Blade Runner 2049 or Lucky. Catch The Florida Project on Blu Ray as a parental advisory: how NOT to raise your kids. Continue reading “‘The Florida Project’: Lack of focus wastes talented cast”

‘Thor: Ragnarok’: Proof that Marvel knows how to have fun

Thank you Taika Waititi for finally giving Thor a sense of humor.

The comedy in Thor: Ragnarok, the third solo adventure for the God of Asgard, is the key ingredient that makes this cinematic adventure a slice of delight amid the early rush of Oscar season.

Let’s be honest. After the first two Thor films, I was ready to move Chris Hemsworth’s avenger into the “supporting” department of Marvel. Like Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, there was only so much to the character that an isolated story ran dry too quickly. You were good with a partial serving instead of an entire dish. Continue reading “‘Thor: Ragnarok’: Proof that Marvel knows how to have fun”

Five things I’ve learned from driving for Uber

After four months on the job, a few things I’ve learned.

When you drive for Uber, the skepticism around the profession and rumor mills are put to rest. Everybody thinks about driving for Uber, but stay away due to certain issues ranging from anxiety around strangers, a certain cash flow expectation, and general paranoia about picking up Tom Cruise from Collateral.

Today marks the three month anniversary of driving for the San Francisco based profession, and I love it for a few good reasons. I’ll get to those later after I debunk some common Uber myths. Let’s start with five.

1) Uber drivers should talk

A subtle greeting is a good thing when a stranger gets into the car, because it breaks the ice and shuts down the suspicions of a new rider. Let’s be honest, you have no idea what’s picking you up on the street, so a greeting works. Remember this: Uber riders want to talk. 95 percent of the time, the rider starts or continues a conversation with me, not the other way around. If I stay silent, the ride becomes uncomfortable, thus ending with a bad rating and zero tip. Judging from my 4.96 (out of 5) rating over 550 rides, I am doing it right.

2) Yes, we know where we are going

You see that navigation on our dashboard showing the map and streets? It’s called Uber Navigation and it works. Sure, there will be times where the Siri rounding lady will run us into a traffic jam or deadend street, but more often than not, so will a human guide. I can’t tell you how many times navigation got me out of a bad spot or saved me minutes. Certain riders think they know every route so well and most of the time I listen to the paying customer, but we do know where we are going. Trust me. Continue reading “Five things I’ve learned from driving for Uber”

Here’s What I Know, Volume #13: Stanton arousal, “lit” issues, Mel Gibson comeback, and the need for cold weather

All the fucks that are fit to print.

Hello there, folks. While the regular writing gigs allow me to distribute opinions far and wide, I do feel the slight urge of restriction when I type. The trigger finger denial. As in, being unable to say certain things in a certain manner. So I come here, and release some hot air.

Shall we dance? Hit the fucking button. Let this bullet round of H.W.I.K. Volume #13 commence! 1,000 words or less, here we go.

  • People say “lit” too much. Like way too much. I know Tony X, the late to the party Blues fan, started this a couple years ago, but can we please kill it? During a conversation that took place in my backseat, a couple women said it ten times in an eight minute ride. TEN! It’s lazy. Get a better word. I’ll file this in the “bruh” category of nonsense.
  • What isn’t lazy? The well-timed usage of the word “fuck”. It can’t be printed on certain news websites or said on AM radio air, but damn it, the word isn’t useless or indicative of a lesser mind. Some of the wisest minds I’ve been around slung this word like it was released from the jaws of Poe, Hemingway, and Franklin. You can’t overuse it, but please feel free to unleash it when needed. Anybody who thinks it’s lazy or inappropriate needs to lighten the fuck up.
  • Uber Driver update: Four months in and I like my job, but there’s one sad confession. St. Louis city is dead as a fucking (see what I mean) door nail when there’s no sporting event downtown. I mean nothing. When the Cardinals were playing, I averaged up to 500 dollars a week. Now, it dips down to 300 dollars. Maybe it is due to the fact that our city is the second most dangerous city in the country. A few of my riders have taken four dollar Uber rides right across downtown because of a fear of getting mugged. I can’t blame them.
  • In case you didn’t notice or couldn’t care less, I’m back on the air. Every Friday WGNU from 6-8 in the evening and every Tuesday at four in the afternoon on 590 The Fan. Slowly, but surely, I am doing what I want to do and getting paid for it. I don’t crack the bank in half with my earnings, but I’m pecking away. It feels good. I worked in hot ass warehouses for close to eight years. Have you worked in a warehouse? It’s far from glamorous and a rough way to make a living. I don’t miss it at all, and every time work without dirt covering my face and soreness in my knees, I smile.
  • This is the first year that the NFL is losing relevance. I don’t hear as much about it as usual and fans are walking away. The recklessness of the league, danger of the game, or the straight outta assholeville workings of Roger Goodell are all fine reasons, but I think it’s just losing excitement. How about those Rams? You can’t tell me Stan Kroenke told Jeff Fisher to tank those games. That team didn’t change that much from last year or the years before. They went from average to pretty good in a short period. Crooked bullshit. No thanks. I haven’t watched a single quarter this year, and I used to watch from noon to sundown.
  • Giancarlo Stanton is a once in a lifetime talent. Marketable superstar and mayor of studville. Do what you have to do in order to get him. If it costs Alex Reyes, so be it. I’ve crossed that bridge. You are giving yourself at least 5-8 extra wins for one player over the next three years. Reward comes with risk. The Cardinals and John Mozeliak must be bold this winter. 

  • The Blues are playing good hockey, but there are some cracks in their facade. Back to back losses have made them a less than white hot shit 13-5-1. However, they are still first in the Western Conference and set up well to finish the month. Their special teams are shit and Jake Allen isn’t an elite goaltender. If they don’t fix these areas, you can kiss the second round of playoffs goodbye.
  • It’s Hot Stove season in the MLB, folks. Remember, don’t believe a fucking thing you hear before it’s a reality. Rumors, sources, and reported statements are like itchy assholes in dry cold weather. If you scratch it, the area will only inflame and get worse.
  • Frank Grillo and Mel Gibson are making a movie together next year, and I have no problem with it. Is Gibson a good person? Probably not. Did he say some demonic shit once upon a time (or back in 2013)? Yes. But he didn’t molest or sexually abuse a 14 year old kid, so let’s keep him out of Spacey-ville. He’s said a lot in his life, paid for it with years of his career lost, but he’s making a comeback. I am all for it. He’s a valuable player in Hollywood, proven by his Hacksaw Ridge Oscar showing. He’s not perfect, but compared to the new shit in Hollywood, he’s far from the worst.
  • How far and fast can one person fall? Look at Louis C.K. A week ago, he had a film set for distribution, HBO deal, FX deal, and a publicist. Today, he has none of those. All for beating off in front of five women, which I am not condoning at all. He had a cup of coffee with the heat and paid the price. BUT…he will work again. He took the hit, fell down, but unlike Spacey and Weinstein, will be back.
  • I interviewed Wheelman director Jeremy Rush today, and among the juicy things discussed over the 30 minute chat, was about the need for original films in today’s cinema landscape. No superheroes, reboots, or remakes. Just proudly made original stories like Wheelman and Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Writer/director jobs that feel personal, different, and say something. We need more of those. Stop going for the easy cash, make-believe bastards. Be better.
  • For fucks sake, can we please get COLD weather in the Midwest? The temperatures go down, sneak back up, and then trickle down. This makes the human body feel like absolute dogshit. Make up your mind, mother nature. Give me the cold weather. I like it. I love it. I want some more of it…now. Thanks.

1,100 words. Close enough.

I appreciate the time. Be good.


‘All I See Is You’ is one of the worst movies of 2017

You’ll never get these minutes back

What if you had the chance to restore something in that life that had been unfairly taken away at a young age?

Marc Forster’s latest film, All I See Is You, explores these questions with meandering and rather unpleasing results. Imagine an empty bottle floating down a lake endlessly, and that’s this movie.

All I saw here was absolute incoherent shit.

Gina (Blake Lively) is a gorgeous and young blind woman who is suddenly granted sight in her right eye by her doctor (Danny Huston) due to a cutting edge procedure. Her husband, James (Jason Clarke), is initially supportive of her new ability and life, but becomes skeptical when Gina’s behavior begins to change, and her freedom blooms.

As her sight gives way to certain paranoia and trepidation in their home in Bangkok, Thailand, Gina and Clarke are stricken with the idea of change and control. What if the person closest to you only preferred you a certain way? James’ problem with Gina runs deeper than pure sight, as Forster’s movie messes up a bed that is made up of jealousy and betrayal.

The problem is you don’t care much about Gina or James, so their future prospects become more dim as Forster’s two hour film climbs towards its climax and resolution. Clarke and Lively don’t build an ounce of chemistry, so the audience is grasping at straws in the end.

At first, you will sympathize with Lively’s Gina, who is encountering a brand new world full of color and opportunity. Then, you’ll wonder about James’ position for a scene or two. The two try to put suture after suture on their union, but it doesn’t work.

All I Can See Is You can’t decide what it wants to be, melodramatic obsessive drama or slow moving thriller, and that lack of focus cripples your investment in the characters. The trailer and plot description make it out to be some mad moving thriller, but it’s painfully slow. It’s half drama with a squeeze of thrills that all fall flat to the screenplay’s (written by Forster and Sean Conway) lack of direction and identity.

Forster could have turned James into something sinister or presented something fresh, but instead he just made an unlikable guy more invisible. A major plot twist is seen from a mile away 45 minutes before the rest of the film catches up, and the end of the film just stops abruptly without resolution.

The acting isn’t bad, but doesn’t contain much flavor to elevate the material. Lively is gorgeous and willing to dig in, but she’s working on hollowed ground here-and she doesn’t have the chops to hold this film up. Clarke is very talented, but he’s stuck playing a well-known stereotype that moviegoers will frown at. The supporting cast contains a bunch of stray faces that seem recognizable from more interesting movies.

The pacing resembles a snail sprinting, which only pushes the viewer further away, while the imagery and cinematography belongs in a traveler’s guide. The music is hopeful, but doesn’t push the story much.

When I left this film, I told the Allied rep waiting for feedback, “what was that?!”

If I were you, I’d skip All I See Is You altogether, because all I saw was nothing.