11/5 Movie Trip

Paul McGuire Grimes, creator of Paul’s Trip to the Movies, reviews three new movies out in theaters or streaming services.

THE HARDER THEY FALL (Netflix)

I knew from the first moment I saw the trailer for The Harder They Fall, I’d love it. As a young boy, Nat Love witnessed the death of his parents at the hands of an outlaw named Rufus Buck, played by Idris Elba. That event would forever scar Nat Love and now as an adult he’s formed the Nat Love Gang. He’s now played by Jonathan Majors (Loki, Lovecraft Country). The Nat Love Gang is one of a few rival gangs around the areas of Redwood City and Douglastown. Nat learns that Rufus Buck will be released from prison and gets his gang ready for any potential conflict that could arise. Rufus has his own gang, and his release has everyone talking. Nat’s former flame, Stagecoach Mary, states, “The name Rufus Buck instills fear.”

-The Harder They Fall comes from the creative mind of writer/director Jeymes Samuel. It’s easy to see his distinct vision through every aspect of the film. Samuel has long loved the western genre but rarely saw one with Black cowboys and cowgirls despite the very real presence they had in this era of American history.

-He set out to make this film drawing inspiration from real life figures like Deadwood Dick who Nat Love is based, there’s Cuffee a female soldier who enlisted in the US Army while posing as a man, and Delroy Lindo’s Bass Reeves who was a real historical figure from the era. And yes, others are given fun names like Treacherous Trudy and Cherokee Bill.

-Jeymes Samuel places this film in the proper time period and location like you would find for any Jon Wayne or Clint Eastwood western, and yet his style is that of a Quentin Tarantino film, who has also made his share of western-inspired films. Samuel is not afraid of copious blood splatter with the shoot-outs and duels, he uses split screens, and his wordy script is quite clever and wickedly funny.

– The Harder They Fall has one of my favorite ensembles of the year. It’s apparent this cast is all having a blast leading into the style and fun of their characters. You can’t take your eyes of Jonathan Majors whose character Nat Love is self-assured and confident and is described as an “outlaw who robs outlaws” Idris Elba has a menacing and towering presence over anyone who dares cross him. I can’t forget to mention Regina King who makes Treacherous Trudy the kind of role we haven’t see from her yet.

-Jeymes Samuel has a fresh and invigorating take on the classic western. It’s an entertaining romp from start to finish. He’s an artist on the rise with a distinct voice and vision, and I can’t wait to see what’s next from him.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS

 

LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (in theaters)

Just in time for Halloween is a haunting tale of passion and dreams from moving to the big city to pursue something larger than life to the nightmares we can’t shake. Thomasin McKenzie stars as Eloise, a budding fashion designer who sets out for London to attend the London College of Fashion. Her granny tries to warn her of the dangerous road that lies ahead, but Eloise dismisses her overprotective ways. She’s an independent, self-assured young woman who rents her own apartment after being mocked by the other schoolgirls. She’s always been drawn to the glitz and glamour of the 1960s London scene, and in her dreams, she’s transported back to a nightclub in that very part of Soho. It’s there she meets a mysterious singer named Sandie. Eloise’s infatuation with Sandie morphs from dreams to nightmares playing into a darker reality she’s unsure of anymore.

-Writer/director Edgar Wright’s passion for music is always infused into his films. There are so many distinct music choices throughout the film, it’s apparent that the Kinks and Petula Clark’s Downtown are driving Wright, his actors and these characters.

-As Sandie, Anya Taylor-Joy does her own singing with “Downtown” that aptly fits the flashy allure of that part of town. These 1960s dreams provide a stark contrast from the rainy and dreary contemporary London Wright puts Eloise in as she struggles with school. It all looks and feels like a hypnotic dream from this stylish chanteuse to the sinister and ugly underworld.

-Things don’t make sense to Eloise and that’s the game for the audience in putting the pieces together. Naturally, Edgar Wright throws in a few red herrings trying to throw the audience off track.

-Thomasin McKenzie has a very natural presence on screen and the youthful, innocent qualities play right into the aura Eloise has about herself that then descends into this slow burn manic unrest. Anya Taylor-Joy completely captures the 1960s period and nails the enigmatic qualities about Sandie that draw Eloise in. It should go without saying that Terence Stamp and Dame Diana Rigg are pitch-perfect in their supporting roles.

-Edgar Wright has made Last Night in Soho into a Nightmare on Elm Street meets Stanley Kubrick meets David Lynch. There’s no denying the look and design to the film, but that too often seemed to be the focus instead of digging deeper into the effects of this psychological mind twist Eloise finds herself in.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS

 

FINCH (AppleTV+)

There are not many actors who could pull off a movie about a man, his robot, and his dog. Leave it to Tom Hanks to make the film Finch a compelling story about the human condition. The world has become a post-apocalyptic waste land and Finch Weinberg is one of the sole-remaining survivors. It’s a barren wasteland of dust and sand in every major city. Finch lives in an underground bunker in St. Louis with his dog Goodyear and a land rover. His current focus is building a fully functioning robot companion. As this AI droid becomes more advanced, it predicts a storm hitting St. Louis. Finch realizes their compound is no longer safe and heads out in a RV with Goodyear, his landrover, and his new droid which he names Jeff to find better shelter.

-Finch is essentially a two-person road trip type of movie, it just happens to be that the other companion is a fully-functioning AI. There’s some easy humor between the two of them as we literally watch Jeff “come to life” from being made of basic parts and found objects to a highly intelligent droid.

-The first half of the film seems a little rough. It’s a bit mechanic with the act of building Jeff and the adventure of hitting the road.

-It really starts to come together in the back half as the stakes become higher for Finch when it’s revealed why he built Jeff. We see Finch at his most vulnerable moments, his mortality waning, and that time is dwindling away for many reasons. I started to feel a connection between Finch and Jeff and a connection between myself and them in this second half.

-This also gives Tom Hanks and Caleb Landry Jones more to play with as Jeff becomes fully formed. Jones does an admirable job of making an android a character we want to invest in as he fills Jeff with innocence and wonder.

-Tom Hanks gives another solid performance that should touch the heart and soul like he always does.

-Finch the movie is clearly playing on a few existential crises both in terms of climate change and technology. It certainly acts as a warning as to what will happen if we destroy our ozone layer. I then thought about our use of technology and our over-reliance on that. By the end, it’s clear the filmmakers want to remind us that Finch is about the human condition and human experience.

-It’s a movie that kind of sneaks up on you with a touching ending if you’re willing to lean in and give it a try. And you may even need a Kleenex.

RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS

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