“The Wedding Guest”

The worse movie of the year happens to be an Indian “Bonnie and Clyde”. Dev Patel’s character is still connected to a hotel, but don’t see this latest hook-up if you are looking for his warmth and charm.

The screenplay, if one can call it that, is horrendous. Michael Winterbottom as both script writer and director is to blame. His comedy/drama “ The Trip To Italy” ( 2014) was so much more satisfying with its sharp editing and with its characters, who were worth caring about. Winterbottom should stick to lighter fare. Noir is hard to do. Love of money is just too shallow as an impetus to fuel this duo. A back story may have helped, but as written, this story is an effort to watch.

Both Jay ( Dev Patel) and Samira ( Radhika Apte) are liars, and they are snake-like in their contortions to steal and kill for pure mercenary ends. There is no ideology here, just pathological self-interest in beating the game. There is some smarts needed to parlay four passports, plan for car exchanges, and border crossings; but, we have seen this kind of underground network many times before. International sim-cards and throw away cell phones have lost their cool.

Patel is good at giving orders: “ You stay here.” “ Put your hair up”.  A sub-theme may be stretched out to include women as their own agents, yet who wishes to be like this creepy, bold planning  male. Samira has her own plan to pocket her former fiance’s family gemstones. Patel’s character just wants a cut. He seems romantically inclined to a girl more despicable than he is. Her first boyfriend side kick is shot by Jay, and Samira helps drag the corpse off the road. She watches Jay torch the body without shedding a tear. Later,  Samira’s swim in a hotel pool is stupidly set to add something sexy to the screen. The soundtrack is cloying and poorly done.

If India is a perfect place to get lost in, the UK is not the place to educate the masses in morals. These are British educated, bad people who are impossible to  like. One scene that is particularly off-putting has Jay, who lies that his real name is Joseph, tries to scare Samira at a  hideaway beach house. He picks up a rock and jabs it toward her as if a live toad would scare her, or that juvenile antics could be equated with this character.  This one glimpse of silliness is the Dev Patel of previous better films, it does not jive with Jay, and is never seen again.

The ending has Jay calling Samira’s name after she has long escaped with half his money and half the jewels. His cell rings and she says that she will miss him. Viewers won’t miss either one.

“Cold In July”

I was expecting “Cold In July” with Micheal Hall of “Dexter” fame to be a thriller with glimmers of “Cape Fear”, “Straw Dogs” and Clint Eastwood revenge sparkles; but what I got was much more. Let’s say a morality tale with exquisite depth! Find this film and savor the pacing, the suspense, the characterizations and the photography of Ryan Samul. Samul’s frames of half car sides and half foreground are fresh and artful. His slow motion and pan shots campy with gas price signage, hog callers and pimped-out cars:  All capturing East Texas in 1989. One scene has Michael Hall, as Dane, turn blood-red in psychological reflection of the mayhem.

The screenplay writer, Jim Mickle, is also the director. His use of comic relief close to perfection. I would not be surprised at an Oscar nod for best book adaptation. The source material is the novel of the same name. I was so impressed with the story that I checked author Joe Lansdale out on Amazon. Unknown to me,  he is an award winning sixty-two year old Texan with over thirty novels in this thriller genre. The hardback I wished to purchase was listed for 135 dollars, and alas the used hardback was 59. Collectors have taken note.

Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell’s son,Wyatt Russell, plays the vilest part imaginable. His character works for “The Dixie Mafia”, again a new world for me. Sam Shephard portrays Ben, the newly released ex-con, and is outstanding. His relationship with Jim Bob, played by Don Johnson is based on a Korean War experience that saved Jim Bob’s life. Age has been kind to Johnson: his eyes glint with energy to spare. Besides the war buddy history, Jim Boy bursts on the screen as a private investigator whose eccentricities steal more than a few scenes. Michael Hall is praise-worthy, too. From his wife- protecting lies to his outbursts misdirected at his toddler,Dane (Hall) moves from framer/salesman to truth-seeking macho gun slinger.

But now to the morality tale,which I can not divulge without spoiling the joy. Just let me say that this film so well mixes the strata of classes that real growth and human understanding sing out: guns and blood be damned.

“Nightcrawler”

“Nightcrawler was a perfect creepy-crawling film to see on Halloween. Jake Gyllenhaal worms his way into your psyche as Lou Bloom. He walks like a man,talks like a man, but has no humanity. Lots of things are absent in Lou: no morals, no empathy, no ethics. Though, he does have a business plan with the vocabulary and the buzz words to push his grisly video ambulance chasing forward.

Gyllenhaal,33, and thirty-three pounds lighter, does some of his best work to date. We see an inner glow that is close to maniacal with utterly sharp cheek bones that would pierce a colleague who would dare to question his authority. This film is a satirical noir that mocks the entrepreneurial spirit and the language of start-ups. We are beyond the “cautionary tale” here and into the horror.

L.A. Looks hollow and ghastly,as does Rene Russo as the tawdry Nina. What won’t people do for a job?!  Riz Alymed,as Rick,the side-kick, is as haunting in his own way. I did not recognize Bill Paxton. He was so his character.  Age can give you this: One can lose oneself in a part because one is so sure of one’s real self. Jake,however, is the real star here. You will love his  rubber band hair snaps while fearing that there might be more of Jake’s Lou’s out there.