DON’T THINK TWICE
Any fan of Saturday Night Live will appreciate Mike Birbligia’s Don’t Think Twice. Birbligia wrote, directed, and starred in the story of a New York improve troupe and how things change when one member of the group (Jack played by Keegan-Michael Key, the Key of Key and Peele) gets his big break and lands a job at “Weekend Live”, the obvious substitute for SNL. This new development for the troupe makes them reexamine where their lives are heading and if there will be more to their improv dreams. The film specializes in its comedic aspects, best exemplified when it’s just nothing but this incredible ensemble cast on a stage doing their improv, but also deals with the brutal idea of what happens when your friend gets the thing you always wanted. The film shows their genuine excitement when Jack makes it big, but you can sense some jealousy in the air for the rest of the group: wondering why it wasn’t them that didn’t make it to “Weekend Live”. The film also explores the behind the scenes of what it takes to be on SNL from the auditions to going inside the writing room. This ensemble cast all get a chance to shine with the humor and drama, but it’s Keegan Michael Key who stands out with a layered performance as a conflicted man trying to embrace the future while unsuccessfully attempting to hold on to the past. Don’t Think Twice is a surprisingly profound look into the undiscovered world of improv. We get the highs that come with the territory, but also the lows, making it a no hold barred look as well. It’s a real roller coaster of emotions that brings the laughs, but also hits the heart.
“Your twenties are all about hope and then your thirties are all about realizing how dumb it was to hope”
No film this year gets as intimate and personal as Little Men does. At its core, the movie gets real about the consequences of gentrification and the separation that unfolds with social classes. Two boys played by Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri (the latter scoring a role in next year’s Spider-man: Homecoming) try to be above their parents’ scuffle involving a raised lease that one of the parents can’t afford for their failing jewelry store. As the feud escalates, the boys are dragged into fight. What makes Little Men so compelling is its main conflict and the fact that the situation is blameless. It’s a battle of realism versus idealism with both sides not really in the wrong here. A tough reality is brought forth that the movie tackles head on. We get stellar performances from the two boys, but it is Greg Kinnear that leaves an impact with the most understated performance of the year. It all culminates in an ending so simple, yet packs the biggest punch. Little Men is not a flashy movie; it’s a low key drama and the most human film of the year.
“One of the hardest things to realize when you’re a child is that your parents are people too… they care about things, they make mistakes, they try to do what they think is the right thing to do”
The truth is stranger than fiction; that is something made abundantly clear in the documentary, Tickled. David Farrier takes us into his life of television reporting, searching the world for light and quirky stories. He stumbles across “competitive endurance tickling”, but what happens next must be seen to be believed. This seemingly wacky tickling story right from the get go gets ugly and bizarre. Farrier goes deeper and deeper into this ticking empire only to find a faceless bully controlling the whole damn thing (going by the name of “Terri Tickle”). You truly can’t make this up. The interviews create a certain mythos for this Terri Tickle. They paint this larger than life figure that could destroy lives with the snap of a finger. The documentary has a sense of unpredictability that makes it so enthralling. This investigation contains juicy conspiracy and stunning turn of events at every corner that leave a lasting impact. When all is said and done, Tickled makes you think about power. Anybody can have it and hide behind a screen. Farrier makes for a great journalist to follow in this endeavor as his narration keeps things light even when things hit the fan. It’s a documentary that hooks you from the start about finding the faceless boogeyman.
“This tickling empire is way bigger than we could have ever imagined”
Hell or High Water
This is one badass film through and through. I could end this review right here because only one word describes this film: badass. In order to raise a certain amount of money (the reasons I will not spoil), two brothers, played impeccably by Chris Pine and Ben Foster, rob banks deep in the heart of Texas with a sheriff, played by Jeff Bridges, engaging in a cat and mouse game with the brothers. It’s a grimy, electrifying crime thriller set in the gorgeous Texas backdrop that is captured perfectly by the cinematography of Giles Nuttgens and director David Mackenzie. The stark contrast of the brothers make for a great dynamic: one that is short tempered and the other that is more calculated and calm. Chris Pine gives the best performance of his career, but Jeff Bridges steals the show as the southern drawl, “I’m getting too old for this sh*t” sheriff on the prowl. Pine stays subdued and quiet and Bridges brings the power to command the screen. This is top notch entertainment of characters with depth that also brings solid humor at just the right time to undercut the drama. It takes its time with the story with a satisfying as hell third act and specifically the climax. Must. Watch.
“Justice isn’t a crime”