Netflix Movie Review: Fyre

I remember when all of the drama around the Fyre Festival was happening, and I remember thinking how unrealistic the whole event sounded. I didn’t follow the story too closely, and I didn’t know all of the facts but I wasn’t at all surprised by the things this documentary revealed.

Fyre was a startup that aimed at pairing artists and creative acts with vendors and event planners. As a marketing initiative, the creators of the platform decided to throw this festival that was sold as a luxury event. Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned and everything quickly spiraled out of control.

The documentary follows the lead up to the event, and the final disastrous launch. I guess what did surprise me was how much video content was available from the people involved with the event. I don’t know how Netflix got the rights to things, or why the people involved let them have the rights but it helped to craft a very compelling story. Perhaps the people involved sold the rights to Netflix to pay for some of their legal bills.

I’m not surprised at how things spiraled out of control because I feel like it was pretty representative of how the Tech industry works. The big difference was that there were more immediate high stakes to fill but the approach to the festival was very similar to how startups work. There’s an idea, people get excited about said idea, they start pitching it to investors before having anything to show for progress, and then they try to figure out how to deliver once they have the money. Usually there is a longer timeframe between getting funding and delivering a product but with the festival it was crunch time the entire time.

The documentary was pretty basic in its approach to storytelling, and like I said, the most surprising, and compelling aspect of it was how much of the content was from the main people involved. While it is a little hard to drum up sympathy for people who have the ability to shell out thousands of dollars for a weekend festival, they were still cheated, and what the promoters of the festival did is fraud in my mind. The documentary made a good case for this and shined a light on some of the dangers of this current startup investment culture.


Movie Review: Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights

I recently watched Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights for a podcast I was going to be on. I hadn’t ever really had any interest in it, partly because I wasn’t a big fan of the original, and partly because it didn’t look very good.

I did watch the original Dirty Dancing right before watching this one, and I have to say, my original impression of it was changed. I really liked it the second time around, and had a lot of fun while watching it. Then I rented Havana Nights on Amazon to do my homework for the podcast.

This is an interesting addition to the franchise because it is actually a prequel, and it is apparently based on true events. Set during the Cuban revolution, it follows an American girl who moves to Havana with her family and gets swept away with Cuban music and a young man who helps teach her the ways of Cuban dance.

Overall I thought the film was perfectly fine. The chemistry between the two leads wasn’t strong, and the dancing didn’t seem that “dirty” to me but it was still a fairly light-hearted flick (despite the assassination attempt at the end).

If you want some more detailed thoughts and analysis, check out the podcast I was on here.

Movie Review: BlacKkKlansman

I was trying to catch up on all of the Best Picture nominees I hadn’t seen yet, and with Roma out of the way, it was time to see if I could find BlacKkKlansman somewhere. Thankfully Amazon came through, though $6 seemed a bit high for a streaming rental. Still, I was able to watch it and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

I had heard a lot of good things about the movie but in a way that made me a bit nervous. I was worried this was just going to be another critical darling that people were puffing up but ended up not being that great a film (The Favourite, I’m looking at you). Thankfully this wasn’t the case. It was a pretty well made film about an interesting story, with excellent performances.

I don’t know anything about the actual facts of the story the film is based on, other than that there was an African American detective that successfully integrated the Ku Klux Klan. I have heard that the depiction of events is fairly close to the truth. Considering that, the story itself is really impressive, and Spike Lee demonstrates his talent as a director in telling it in a straightforward, no-nonsense way. I do think some things are a bit heavy handed at times but generally I found the flow of the film smooth.

The film looks great, and as I mentioned the performances are wonderful. Obviously Adam Driver has gotten some awards attention, and it is well deserved. He has a couple of moving moments, especially the one where his character briefly discusses his Jewish heritage with his partner, and how this assignment has made him think about it differently. However, it is John David Washington as Ron Stallworth that I was most impressed by. He plays the detective as a cool, level-headed guy who kind of stumbles into this ridiculous series of events. I thought he had a strong presence on screen, and I appreciated that his performance wasn’t overstated.

I also thought there were some interesting parallels drawn between the student activist group and the Klan, thought whether or not they were intended is unclear. There just seemed to be some similar rhetoric about tolerance, or lack thereof. This is especially strong when Stallworth’s girlfriend flat out refuses to accept that as a police officer they can have a relationship moving forward. Her prejudice against the police can’t even be subdued by her boyfriend, or his views on the world. Intolerance can come in many forms, and Stallworth stands in the middle of all these groups trying to find a balance between frustration, anger, and progress.

In the end, BlackKkKlansman was a really satisfying viewing experience. I liked the film a lot, and thought it was well made. The performances were outstanding, the pacing was good, and the music was fitting. More than this, the film was an interesting commentary on race, tolerance, and prejudice.

Netflix Movie Review: Roma

Finally saw Roma this past weekend. I’ll be honest, I only watched it because it was nominated. I had no interest in it outside of that aspect of its appeal. I have been pretty good at viewing all of the best picture nominees the last few years thanks to the AMC Best Picture Showcase. Unfortunately due to the nature of the film’s release (it’s a Netflix movie that had the limited run in independent theaters required to be considered by the Academy) AMC is not featuring it in its lineup for the BPS. So, I watched it in its intended environment: streaming on my TV with a basic home audio setup.

For the first twenty minutes of the film (better known as the opening credits) I thought there was an issue with my stereo. The audio is very quiet and it was only at the end of the film, when the preview for the next Netflix film started and that audio nearly blew out my speakers, that I realized how low the audio for this film was. I guess I could have just turned the volume off since I was reading the subtitles anyway and still had trouble hearing any of the other audio. Although then I would have missed the appearance of a song from Jesus Christ Superstar, which was my favorite moment in the film.

As to the story, the film centers on a year in the life of a live-in maid in Mexico City in the early 70s. Beyond that setup there isn’t much structure to the story. There are some seemingly pivotal events that happen in this woman’s life but there isn’t a frame of reference for how influential these events will end up being. I found the characters all fairly bland and the pace of the film excruciatingly slow. I paused the film at one point (because you can do that with a streaming service, and interrupt the flow of the experience) and actually cursed out loud when I realized I wasn’t even an hour into it.

I think the film looks fine. Some people have praised its Cinematography but I found the contrast too low, and didn’t feel like the look of the film was that unique or exciting. Maybe my thoughts would have been different if I’d seen it on an actual theater screen and could see the details.

Overall I thought the film was fine, if only as a mediocre viewing experience. I didn’t hate it but I also didn’t see anything “Best Picture” worthy in it. I think my biggest complaint is one that many people have echoed. This to me is a TV movie. It was released on a streaming service and wasn’t made widely available for theatrical release. As such, it’s viewing is going to be dependent on the quality of setup for each person that watches it. I mentioned the audio and look of the movie, both of which I had issues with that might not have been problematic in a theater setting. If the Oscars are for the best films of the year, what distinguishes films from television-based content if not the release platforms of the pieces? I think a great film should transcend the viewing platform issues but I also think that movies made for theatrical releases should be seen in a theater because there often is something extra added to the experience. As many times as I’ve seen Jaws, I always love seeing it with a live audience and surround sound. Watching it at home on blu ray is nice but it’s not the same as seeing an entire theater jump and scream at a forty-four year old movie. I still don’t think Roma would have been a great film had I seen it in a theater but I would have been less bothered by its nomination. As for its current inclusion, I think it sets a precedent for future considerations that will inevitably push the accolades for, and maybe even the art of, good filmmaking farther from the original intent of the craft.

Sequel Rights Podcast – Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights

This week I was a guest on Sequel Rights, a podcast that takes a look at all the films in a particular franchise. I had the pleasure of appearing on the Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights episode. Check it out below to hear our thoughts.

January Film Wrap Up

For detailed reviews of all the movies I saw in the month of January, watch my Wrap Up. For just a few quick thoughts on each of the films I saw, here is a brief reflection.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Really great animation, and an interesting story. Thought the hype was a little overrated but overall really enjoyed the film.

Disappointing last minute turn of events that didn’t make any sense, and made the previous hour and a half feel pointless. The acting was okay and the film looked great but there was no action for a majority of the film, and the dialogue wasn’t that great.

The Kid Who Would Be King
This was actually quite entertaining. The kids were all pretty good and the story had a good message. The special effects weren’t the best and some of the plotlines were a bit cheesy and predictable but in the end it was entertaining for the two hours I spent watching it.