Kyle Langenbach

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7 Good Start

About Kyle Langenbach

  1. Let's just get this out there up front - Allison Janney sticks the triple axel and should get the best supporting actress oscar. She was so good that I wish she had been on screen the entire film. (and she did too, given her character has a quick insert shot saying "So my storyline got lost, eh?" That was really funny) We all know the story, and the first thing we read on screen is that the film is based on "wildly conflicting, true stories" gathered from interviews with Harding and Gillooly. So that does lead you to either take what happens next at face value, or take a side on who to believe. Since the majority of the film shows her as a sympathetic character, I just went with that and didn't try to determine the truth. Her guilt/innocence notwithstanding, there is still a lot of stuff that went on in her life that was compelling to watch. Going from "redneck, white trash" to #1 skater in the world to ostracized villain is an extremely volatile, fascinating ride. And we all know that it doesn't end with rainbows and roses, which creates that cloud of doom (sort of like watching Titanic - you know that boat's gonna sink at some point - the clock is always ticking) The tone of the film was perfect. Tons of laugh out loud moments, interjected with some heavy material to give it depth, only to go back to being funny again. The editing was on point to make that all work. The characters were based on real people and some were pretty horrible human beings. Her mother - Janney's character - was rotten all the way through and am really glad they didn't sugar coat her to create a feel good ending. The choice to break the 4th wall and have the actors speak to us directly at points was a great one. Sometimes that can backfire but here it works well. Watching the skating scenes I found myself sort of rooting for Tonya, given the hardships that she had to go through to get there. (Again, this is independent of her guilt/innocence.) Either way she had a pretty awful upbringing and going into the elite figure skating world is about as far a journey as it gets. Robbie does a great job playing Tonya (but not enough to win the oscar over McDormand) and from what I've read she trained to skate for many hours. The shame is that with all the CG trickery these days I didn't know that until after I saw it. Interestingly, Tonya's famous triple axel in '91 had to be CG'd as the two pro skater doubles ultimately couldn't do it, which just gives you more respect for what Harding did. There wasn't really much not to like in this film. Solid all the way around. Was it great? No. I won't be watching it again like Goodfellas. Was it worth the 2 hours? Yes. It was entertaining, gave some interesting insight into an historical moment in sports, and Janney's performance should earn her the gold. Grade: B+
  2. I also wished it had gone a bit longer for a more definitive resolution, and there could have been a major emotional payoff (no spoilers BUT, after musing a bit, I think it actually works better in that it is left to the viewer to imagine what would have happened, which gives it an everlasting quality....
  3. I think kids will get one thing from it while adults get another. That's the magic of Pixar - they tell stories on multiple levels so that they aren't just "cartoons".
  4. Took me a long time to finally see this film but I'm really glad I did. And, as with almost every film they produce, Pixar delivers on their motto, "Warning: Kleenex required". The story focuses on a small Mexican boy who loves music, but is banned by his family from playing because his great, great grandfather abandoned the family to become a famous musician. Not to be stopped by his passion, we follow his journey to the world of the undead on the Dia de los Muertos celebration where he meets former family members and the twists and turns follow. The pace of the story is for the most part good, with just a little dead weight here and there. The plot is pretty simple on the surface which helps move things along fairly well, albeit with some unevenness. The visuals are really rich and unique - especially in the dead world. Incredibly complex but with sort of an old school magical feel (think Fantasia 2.0) Lots of humor - the sidekick, stray and messed up dog, Dante, is hilarious. But as with all Pixar films, there is also plenty of subtext to be had, and that is what makes their films classics. Once the twist is revealed it steps into another gear. A pretty dark one at that too, for Pixar. But it was a great way to hammer home the message. And there's no shortage of loss in this film either - when it happens, how it happens, you will be reaching for the kleenex if you have even the slightest hint of a pulse. Its RT rating is 97%, which I think may be a bit high (I would put a few other Pixar films ahead of this). But given I wasn't able to leave with a dry eye (damn you guys...again), it could be argued that's what ultimately counts. If it hits you that hard in the feels, mission accomplished. Grade: A-
  5. This film is anything but a disaster. I never saw "The Room", the 2003 film that this is based on. But for those not in the know, it is considered to literally be the worst film ever made. So James Franco decided to make a behind the scenes film about the making of the worst film ever made. And it works. Franco plays the director of the Room, Tommy Wiseau. Rather than try to explain why that is funny, just google him and watch clips. Describing him with words is basically impossible, but suffice to say he's a very, very weird bird. This is in large part a buddy film - Tommy convinces his best friend Greg to go to LA and become famous actors. When things don't work out as planned, Tommy decides to make his own film and show Hollywood how great he is. What makes the film work so well is that you end up rooting for him to succeed, even though he is kind of a jerk. He truly believes in what he's doing. But you realize he's also incredibly broken - he is so socially awkward that no one wants to be around him. But deep down is really a decent guy (at least that's how Franco paints him). So when he and Greg start to conflict over Tommy's actions screwing up Greg's life, it gains a bit of honest tension. Still, the unique awkwardness of Tommy is what drives the comedy full tilt. This is definitely one of those times where you say "you can't make this s*** up", as can be seen in the Room and from outtakes from that film. I don't know how much liberty Franco took with the narrative, but it flows pretty well and it arcs in a fairly standard way. No big surprises - it's just a solid, funny, weird and sometimes uncomfortable (in a good way) ride through a piece of "cinematic history". Grade: B
  6. It was the best of times, and the worst of times. **** SPOILERS AHEAD!!!! **** The Best of Times Simply put, all the character stuff was the best part of the film. Rian Johnson really hit all the right notes with the emotional aspects. He cashed in pretty much all of the remaining capital from the original trilogy, and did it very well. Three examples - the scene with Yoda showing up and berating “young Skywalker” like he did over 30 years ago in Empire was pitch perfect. Then the scene where Luke is resisting helping Rey and the rebellion, and R2 shows him the original video of Leia pleading for help from Obi Wan. “That was a cheap move.” Superb. But the capper was the scene with Luke and Leia in the end. Don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. As for the new character arcs, the interplay between Rey and Kylo was dynamic and complex. There was definitely the struggle of light vs dark, but in ways that weren’t so black and white. They both blurred the lines at various points and not until the fight scene did you really know which way it was going to go. Rey and Luke was a great turn on the master/student we’ve seen in the other films, with a mix of familiar tones but with subtle twists. The humor was well done too. The new mechanic Rose was a great addition to the cast and plays a role that hasn’t been present in SW films before and liked how she fit into the whole gang. No need to talk about the music. John Williams. Enuff said. Hope he lives to 100 and does the next trilogy and beyond. He even wove in some classic riffs at just the right moments that still give the goose bumps. Shout out to one of the coolest visual scenes when Admiral Holdu (Laura Dern) rams the First Order fleet at light speed. The choice to make is silent was masterful and really was an amazing shot. And then of course, the Luke/Kylo fight. Brilliant. And when Luke takes his final look into the dual suns and then fades away, once again not a dry eye to be found. The Worst of Times And now for the head scratching bad stuff. The opening scene with the first battle in space looked amazing. But this is one of those best/worst scenarios that was just really hard to swallow. The logistics/idea behind the battle were, simply put, STUPID. The idea that a First Order (heretofore FO) "Dreadnaught" - an insanely big and insanely cool mega starship - can get brought down by a single Xwing shooting all of the guns off the deck so that a group of "bombers" can literally "drop" bombs in space (which is zero gravity for those keeping score at home) on it is just so dumb on its face I can't for the life of me understand how that made it into the script. Right off the bat I was asked to swallow a gallon of stupid which was completely unnecessary. I get that there is unrealistic artificial gravity in the ships, but this is beyond the pale for no good reason. But even more unforgiving was what was used as the "ticking clock" mechanism to drive the tension for the rest of the film. So the rebel ships (all 3 of them) are flying just fast enough in front of the FO ships so that the FO ships can't overtake them, but they can still shoot at them. The FO won't send out their TIE fighters because they can't be "protected" by the FO star destroyers at that distance. So the 12 hour “chase” begins. So much Swiss cheese with this it’s hard to know where to start. They have 10 massive ships, with likely 100s of fighters. Highly doubt they ultimately wouldn’t have taken out the 3 measly ships even without cover. OR…..ok, so the FO ships can’t overtake them at sub light speed…. why not have half of them jump to light speed, do a U-turn and pop back in in front of them? Just such a stupid concept. Might have let it go had it not be the central core of the plot. The entire sub plot with Finn and Rose having to go to a gambling world to find a code cracker to get onto the emperor’s ship to deactivate some kind of light speed GPS was another fail. Overly complicated, nonsensical and well..BORING. And it didn’t even matter given they already had a plan to dump off to a planet by way of cloaked transports. And don’t get me started with Admiral Holdu saying she had to stay back and “pilot” the ship. It’s called autopilot. It just had to keep going straight. Yes, she did the kamikaze run, but that was unplanned. Poe had very little to do after the initial scene and the final scene except whine. To be honest he is my least favorite character and very two dimensional. Not overly crazy about Finn either, but at least has the “former traitor” trope which played well in TFA. But, also already kind of tired of it. IMO he should have died by flying into the portable Death Star. (side note - they just HAD to have a Death Star in it, even if not in the form of a death ball. 5 films and counting) And then what I call the Keystone Cops effect. The First Order was largely full of useless, bumbling idiots. Yes that has been present in all the SW films, but Vader was so evil and deadly that he gave the Empire gravitas regardless. But Kylo doesn’t have that kind of presence. He’s been beaten more than once, he yells and loses control, people don’t cower from him, etc. That’s fine given Kylo’s arc, but I never took the FO seriously. That has the effect of making the threat to the rebels much, much weaker. Not to mention Hux is a whiny emo cream puff compared to Grand Moff Tarkin. Finally, we got nothing on who Snoke was, and he went down way too easily. Maybe something in IX but not counting on it. Overall Thoughts The pacing just didn’t have any momentum. It stopped and started too many times, and was just not that compelling as a story. Rain did copy a bit too much from the OT with the obvious Hoth scene; the emperor scene (Snoke/Rey/Kylo = Emperor/Luke/Vader, and while the rebels are getting killed in the background); the cantina (although that’s forgiveable); Rey's dark forest scene (which fell completely flat compared to Luke seeing his face in Vader’s mask). But, unlike JJ Xerox Abrams, he at least tried to twist them a bit to make them more original. And the great individual scenes helped offset the uneven, silly story line to the point where I left feeling ok. Disappointed, but not pissed off like TFA. Expectations for IX are in the basement given it’s JJ, so here’s hoping Rian’s next trilogy charts new waters. I think we’ve seen enough “empire vs rebellion” stories and really want to see something different set in the SW universe we all know and love. (if they mention the death star in any way, I’m throwing popcorn) There's only so much you can do with the same trope after 8 (soon to be 9) films. (Although to be fair, 1-3, as bad as they were written/directed/acted, at least moved into different territory) Grade: B-
  7. Ladies and gentlemen we finally have the Best Picture of the year. What an incredible film. (Just wish the name had been a tad shorter) From the beginning right up until the end I was completely engrossed. Martin McDonagh wrote and directed it, and the fact that he is a playwright makes total sense. The writing was perfect - every line had a purpose and the wit was razor sharp. No dead lines. The characters were all three dimensional - no cardboard cut out stereotypes. In fact, just when you think he was giving you one, they do something that turns it on its head. And it was never just for shock value - there was a reason for everything that they did. That is one of my biggest sticklers in films and Martin passed with flying colors. Frances McDormand is in familiar territory a la Fargo and kills it. Oscar worthy turn as the justice seeking mother of her murdered daughter. Woody Harrelson could have been the typical sheriff but offers so much more. And one of my favorites - Sam Rockwell - has so many subtle layers to his performance that he should also get an oscar nom. Sam's mother was just full on creepy as it gets. The pacing was perfect. He kept pulling you along - not too fast, but not too slow - and I really couldn't guess what would happen next. There are several extremely emotional scenes (no spoilers) that were amazing. One in particular was handled more originally and powerfully here than in any other film in recent memory. From the time it happened, to the following scenes immediately afterward, the mix of drama and comedic elements was masterfully done. Really don't think I've seen anything like it before. As for the story itself, it's pretty simple and tight. We see the top level story of a mother trying to get justice for her daughter, and the cops who aren't willing to help as the trail is ice cold. But underneath that are the complexities of each character's own personal struggle and how they clash and then connect, which really is the meat of the film. No character is an angel - they all have warts - and that made for great cinema. My only "complaint" is the ending. Not giving it away, but as Luke said, it did not go the way I thought it would. I honestly was upset - not because I didn't like it, but because I wanted to continue the ride for a little longer. Take the exit and drive by the three billboards. Absolutely worth the trip. Grade: A+
  8. This was most definitely a flightless bird. Talk about a snoozer. I had pretty high expectations going in given the super hight RT ratings. (side note - I'm starting to have some concern over the legitimacy of them recently) But it is really a story without a story. It ticks every box of what a "slice of life" film about a high school teenager coming of age story has....poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks (her words, literally) has the nerdy, unpopular best friend who she unceremoniously ditches for the pretty but shallow popular rich girl when she has the chance...dates the hot guy of her dreams but then realizes he is an ass, so it all blows up and she goes back to her nerdy bff again. And then there is the fighting with mom over going to a college they can't afford, and the father who is the depressed yet nice guy who tries to be the referee. Honestly there is zero new ground in this film (thematically and otherwise) so in order for it to work, the writing and emotional aspects have to be out of the park. While the performances were all very good (Ronan and Metcalf did the best they could with the material), there just wasn't any real movement in the story. It felt like all the cliched boxes were ticked, and that was that. No deep dive into the real pain of the situation (of which there really wasn't any to begin with, other than the lack of money to go to college), no real tension or crisis. The parts where the mom tries to reconcile things with her could have been impactful, but they didn't show/tell me why she was the way she was other than one, single throw away line about her mother being an abusive alcoholic. Need to give me more than that for me to get invested. Now, one could argue "but it is a comedy", and that would be ok. BUT, that would assume there is actual humor in it. I think I laughed once, maybe twice. Again it goes back to the writing. Just. Not. Funny. Not sure how it got such rave reviews but the only reason I'm not giving it an F is for the good acting. But this is one bird that need to go the way of the dodo. Grade: D
  9. While I don't think this should win best picture, Oldman should win best actor. He didn't play Churchill, he was Churchill (a la Daniel Day Lewis in basically every role he takes on) The story details the few weeks leading up to the battle of Dunkirk in May of 1940, where Churchill is abruptly named Prime Minister. Seeing how he had to overcome a lot of resistance and ignorance in the govt, and then weave his way through some incredibly difficult and gut wrenching decisions - like sending 4,000 men to their deaths in order to save 380,000 - was pretty intense. Given the gravity of the situation with Hitler advancing into France and Belgium, with England being next, it's not hard to create a tense atmosphere. Oldman chews the scenery right and left and takes no prisoners. But he's not all bluster and fire - we also see the human and more vulnerable side of him as well. His relationship with his wife and his assistant showed him to be very much a flawed yet compassionate person at times...and, someone who like the rest of us sometimes doubts himself. But he claws his way to his ultimate place in history as one of the greatest wartime leaders. Long/short - wIthout his incredible performance, I don't think the film is anything special. It was shot well, the pace was good, sound, etc., but this is one of those times where story really does equal character. And with someone as complex and eclectic as Churchill, set against the true story of the imminent threat of destruction by the Nazi regime, it doesn't need much else. He just had to pull us into the fray with him and have us hold on for the ride. Not much else to say - just go see it for Oldman. Grade: A-
  10. After seeing Lady Bird's 99% and now Phantom's 91%, I'm now officially concerned about the legitimacy of RT's rating system. There is just no way to match those to reality. I'll first just say that Day Lewis is in my top 5 actors of all time. He completely transforms into his characters and he always brings it hard. While he is truly convincing again as usual, the script just wasn't very good. For example, the first real conflict didn't come until an hour into the film. I don't need explosions and gunfire every minute, and I very much appreciate a slow burn to a story, but conflict is the heart of drama. If you are waiting that long you know there is a problem. And then when that conflict happens, you think, ok, that was a bit out of left field but I can go with it. It is PTA after all. Except, it doesn't go anywhere. Vicky Krieps is fantastic - she goes toe to toe with Lewis and it works on that level - but the dialog meanders and the tension doesn't keep ratcheting up. Krieps obsession with Lewis went both too far and not far enough (if that makes sense). The potential was there but it was poorly executed. A big issue for me is the climax. It makes NO sense on the part of Lewis' character. Don't want to spoil it, but his reaction to her last action makes NO sense. So all the meandering leads to a conclusion that felt illogical and unearned. In fact it felt like PTA suddenly realized he had to end this story and jammed the last 10 min in to get some kind of resolution. It just wasn't cohesive at all. Sure it's PTA and I get his brand of eccentricity, but unlike his great films like There Will Be Blood (also starring Lewis), Boogie Nights and Magnolia, this film simmered but never boiled. Lesley Manville also puts in a great performance as Lewis' business partner, although we don't get into her backstory to know why or who she is, or her motivations. We just have to take what she is now on face value. She is a supporting character so that's somewhat understandable when you are pressed for time, but this story had tons of room to flesh her out to a more fulfilling arc. Overall the acting - as in Lady Bird - was very, very good. I suppose that is what is carrying these films to get the high ratings. But at some point the rest of the film has to be interesting as well and this one was just full of threads that went nowhere. Hence the title is quite apropos. Grade: C
  11. Thanks Damian! I really wanted to love Dunkirk. Really. But ultimately, I just couldn't. Unlike Saving Private Ryan, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and other great war stories, Dunkirk didn't have any memorable characters. As a result, I watched without getting engaged. In fact, we really don't get to know anyone, and the "main" character had maybe 10 lines. So, it was hard to project and connect on a personal level. I'm sure that was the intent - Nolan is clearly no rookie - but as a choice it had the effect of keeping me at arm’s length. It was edited in classic Nolan style, with a slow but steady pace and layering of scenes. The Nolan-esque time shifts were also well done. The audio/visuals were incredible (the Spitfire sequences set the bar for WW2 aerial shots, and the engine sounds were simply the best I've ever heard) Zimmer's score added increasing tension where there otherwise wouldn't have been. But overall it felt like one long, never ending sequence, sort of meandering from scene to scene without ever setting the hook, so to speak. Except for the opening scene, I never felt like the walls were closing in. They mentioned "the Germans are coming" but we never see or hear them. Here and there a few planes would fly over and drop some bombs, but you'd expect a lot more carnage given the English/French were literally sitting ducks on the beach. And this may sound strange given it's a war film, but there was almost no blood or gore. When you think about Ryan, the horrific images of the brutal carnage are seared into your mind's eye. While people died in this film, it never punched you in the face. As a result, it wasn't that visceral, and I never felt anxious or in danger. Finally, there was no real climax, just the general idea that the war would go on. Which kind of makes sense I guess, given the lack of any plot or character arcs. But for me that made it all the more unmemorable. Overall it felt like a warm glass of milk, a film without an edge. Pleasant enough, but still warm milk. Ryan, Jacket, Platoon were like big shots of hot, flaming whiskey. You know you should stop, but you keep drinking anyway because you're all in and don't have any choice. 3 out of 5 stars.