Knuckleball is a new thriller directed by Michael Peterson and starring Michael Ironside and Munro Chambers (both the stars of cult hit Turbo Kid). The film, marketed as an “R-rated Home Alone”, follows a boy who must fight to survive when targeted and alone on an isolated farm in the dead of winter. The film has played at festivals including the 2018 Fantasia Film Festival.
Ultimately, I felt like this film’s biggest problem was an overall lack of clarity. There were a few really great moments in the film, but those moments weren't connected by a narrative that was coherent or cohesive. At its most basic level, the film is a survival thriller, and it works at that. I'd say the comparison to Home Alone is a little bit much, as the portion of the film similar to that only takes up about ten minutes of the film's runtime. Instead, I'd say the film shares more in common with typical home invasion horror films. The film does a decent job of hitting all of the beats of the standard home invasion film and raises the stakes adequately by the third act. That being said, there are some elements in the film that just made it feel messy. For example, there are some subplots and parts of the backstory are never fully explained in a way that is confusing and unsatisfying. Additionally, I'd say that the film suffers from a lack of strong character development. That being said, the film's sporadic strong moments keep it entertaining and watchable.
The film's execution is pretty solid. There are some pretty interesting set-pieces, and some solid visuals. Much of the cinematography is strong, with great compositions used to build suspense or elicit fear from the audience. This is especially the case in the last half of the film, when the intensity ramps up and the horror-thriller elements begin. The score is great, too, with some very eerie points that accent the film quite well. Additionally, I thought that the cast was rather impressive. Michael Ironside's role is very mysterious, and he does a good job of capturing that feeling. In moments, he seems to provide a sense of false security to the film, which definitely works in its favor. Additionally, Munro Chambers delivers a strong performance in his role. He does a good job of being intimidating and yet also oddly charming at the same time, nailing the character's duplicitous qualities.
Overall, I didn't think that Knuckleball was a bad film, but it also could have been a lot stronger. The bones of a great film are there, but it just didn't fully deliver. Had the film been a little clearer and more coherent, I think it had the potential to be really strong.
Knuckleball hits select theaters and VOD October 5.
Big Tuna's Rating: C-
How Did I Watch It?: A press screener.
Had I Seen It Before?: No.
Would I Watch It Again?: Probably not.
Fahrenheit 11/9 is Michael Moore's newest documentary, a "spiritual sequel" in a way to his groundbreaking Fahrenheit 9/11. This film deals with the 2016 Election and Donald Trump, asking the questions of how we got here and how can we get out.
The film is far more typical than most of Moore's other films. Unfortunately, it just doesn't have the depth or impact that he is known for. Instead of being based on passion, it instead feels like the film is based on anger, not aiming to cause change, but aiming to incite anger. This makes the film far less successful and gives it an insincere feel. The film also has major issues in pacing and plotting. The film is very much all over the place, jumping from one topic to the next in rapid succession. It isn't just a film about Trump— it's a film about Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, the Flint water crisis, and the Parkland school shooting all in one. The connections between these events are loose at best, and that is the way it comes across in the film too. Instead of making a specific political statement, Moore instead opts to make a blanket notion that is quite generic. The style of the film is also far more generic, mostly comprised of footage narrated by Moore, which is disappointing.
That being said, it's not all bad. There are moments in which Moore's signature documentary style shines through. For example, he does a "stunt" in which he uses a tank of water from Flint to water the Governor of Michigan's lawn. Moments like these are the best in the film, as they are the most enjoyable and most effective. The film is relatively enjoyable as a whole. Whether you agree or disagree with the politics contained in the film, the ability of either side to make a fool of themselves is humorous. Additionally, the soundtrack goes a long way in keeping the film moving despite its long run time, and I appreciate that.
Overall, I enjoyed Fahrenheit 11/9. It's definitely on the weaker end of Michael Moore's filmography, but it is definitely far more developed than his last Trump "film", Michael Moore in Trumpland. This isn't something you absolutely have to see, though.
Big Tuna's Rating: B
How Did I Watch It?: In theaters.
Had I Seen It Before?: No.
Would I Watch it Again?: Probably not.
A Star is Born is the latest iteration of the "star-crossed lovers" story that has been done three times before: once in 1937, once in 1954, and once in 1976. This version is helmed by Bradley Cooper and stars Cooper and Lady Gaga. The film (if you don't know already) follows an aging and alcoholic musician who helps a young singer find fame while his own career spirals downward. It is one of the buzziest films to come out of the fall festival circuit, and it absolutely lives up to the hype.
I must admit that this film isn't perfect, but it's pretty d**n close. I think that the first two acts of the movie are slightly better than the third act, but the drop is extremely slight, from nearly perfect to "only" amazing. I truly found myself absorbed in this film, as its story is thoroughly interesting and the character development is highly compelling. My only real complaint is that the finale was not as emotionally resonant as it could have been, although the film far makes up for this in its other emotionally impactful moments. I think that the fact that the story has been done so many time speaks to how well it lands with audiences, and that is destined to be the case with this version, too. The lead characters are both likable, the story of their romance is likable, and the chemistry between the actors is great. Perhaps most refreshing is that the film never falls into melodramatic territory, instead feeling like a real portrait of love and fame. The film also does a good job of modernizing the story (one of the main purposes of remakes), without beating it over the head of the audience. Additionally, the film is simply a joy to watch, a result of the combination of a heartwarming love story, a powerful rags-to-riches tale, and some very funny moments sprinkled in throughout.
Additionally, the film is undeniably very well-made. The visuals of the film are great, but the aural elements of the film (rightfully) steal the show. The screening I attended was presented in Dolby Cinema, and while I was initially a little confused as to why this film was presented in a premium format, it makes absolute sense after the fact. Because of the film's sound quality, compounded with the excellent quality of the sound system, I felt absolutely transported into the film. It felt like I was at an actual concert, which was a really cool feeling. I am in no way affiliated with or sponsored by Dolby, I just truly think that is the best experience with which you can see the film. I think that the soundtrack is absolutely wonderful. The songs are diverse, catchy, and meaningful. The standout is definitely "Shallow", but I loved all of the songs to some degree and plan to listen to the soundtrack frequently in the future. Additionally, I thought that the cast did an amazing job. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga both give phenomenal performances, and their chemistry together is uncanny. Lady Gaga's performance is particularly impressive, though, as her emotion really sold the film. Sam Elliot and Dave Chapelle also give strong supporting turns, complementing the leads well.
Overall, I absolutely loved A Star is Born. It is definitely one of my favorites of the year so far, and after re-watches, it may even get that coveted top spot. This is definitely not one to miss, as I'm sure it will continue to make quite a stir.
A Star is Born opens in theaters October 5.
A Star is Born
Big Tuna's Rating: A+
How Did I Watch It?: A press screening.
Had I Seen It Before?: No.
Would I Watch It Again?: Yes.
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I look at films as if through old red and blue 3D glasses— one lens is as art, one lens is as entertainment.
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