REVIEW: Good Time

This is the first installment of Taylor’s “Final [Film] Countdown of 2017,” in which he rushes to watch as many good movies from 2017 as possible before the year’s Oscars ceremony.

Good Time isn’t a misnomer for a title, though “good” feels like the wrong word for it. It’s a tightly-wound, often-frenetic film, taking place over the course of a single night. Constantine and his brother rob a bank, only to get caught by the police. When his brother goes to jail, Constantine tries to raise the $10,000 necessary for his bail bond, going to increasingly desperate lengths.

The story goes to some unexpected places from there, with some genuinely surprising twists. I expected perhaps a bit more from the film’s final act, which goes out on a slight anticlimax given the thrilling nature of the rest of the movie. But Robert Pattinson does incredible work as Constantine throughout the film, and the rest of the film’s supporting cast–including Captain Phillips standout Barkhad Abdi–is pretty uniformly great.

Directors Ben and Josh Safdie have a strong sense of style but occasionally overuse it–during the first 10 minutes, in particular, I kept desperately wishing they would film in anything other than close-ups–but the style works increasingly as Constantine grows more desperate. The editing and music do a lot of heavy lifting to keep the story taut and gripping.

As far as what this movie’s in service of… I have a loose grip but I wish I knew more. Constantine discusses his destiny and feels fated to this path, but the movie’s final scene seems to undermine his arguments, presenting a case that everything that happens is a choice. The movie’s final scenes almost reflect the damage of unhindered free will, even as Constantine tries to assert that fate forced him to do it. Granted, this theme feels weakly supported by the film itself, but given the film’s taut nature, it may not have had time for much soul-searching.

Overall, I enjoyed Good Time, but I don’t think its absence from this year’s Academy Awards is any sort of grave snub.

Best Part: Robert Pattinson.

Worst Part: The first 10 minutes of directing. Maybe Jennifer Jason Leigh.

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Stranger Things Season 1 Episode 2 Review

The second episode, though not quite as strong as the first, is still a strong outing that reassures viewers this will be a quality series ahead. It’s hard to say I liked the final ten minutes of this episode, which were frankly terrifying, but they were incredibly effective.

I’m not sure that a whole lot of new information was discovered this episode. Mostly the boys meet Eleven, discover she has superpowers, and realize she’s connected with the monster and Will’s disappearance in some way. But the way they get there is pretty fascinating, and I’m really enjoying the series’ commitment to slow-burning the intriguing plot in favor of doing some character work.

Will’s “promise” explanation seems like Schrodinger’s promise to me, and I’ll be aghast if those words don’t pay off–either to wonderful or tragic end–by the end of the season.

I do find the flashback sequences slightly awkward within the show, especially since I’ve yet to be convinced any of the scenes are necessary. It’s good to see Will, but honestly I was already endeared to him by the “I rolled a 7” line in the premiere; I’m invested in his safe return. And what else do these flashbacks tell us? Jonathan and Will were somewhat close, and Eleven was traumatically locked in a room (both of which I could have guessed). I’m not opposed to the flashback device, I just wish it was slightly better deployed.

Either way, I’m looking forward to episode 3, which was singled out by the AV Club in their 2016 TV roundup as the best single episode of the season. Here’s hoping it’s marginally less terrifying than this one!

Stranger Things Season 1 Episode 1 Review

I am not the target audience for this show. “Stranger Things” is a love letter to movies like “E.T.” and “The Goonies.” I never saw those movies as a kid. In fact, I’ve still never seen the latter film. I wasn’t even alive during the ’80s. But boy do I love this show. “Stranger Things” is more than a nostalgia trip; it’s a good science fiction drama. Continue reading