Who Needs Film Critics? – The Drop and The Guest

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I considered no longer writing my thoughts about movies. I started to feel like the jerk who told everyone at a birthday party that the cake they were eating was going to make them fat. So what if The Guardians of The Galaxy mistook pop culture references for wit and was more concerned at winking at the audience about how funny and hip it was that it never allowed audiences to lose themselves in the movie? The whole universe seemed to love it, so who was I to ruin it by showing everyone how wrong they were and that it was just a two hour episode of The Family Guy?

Then I remembered at birthday parties when people ask me why I’m not eating the cake I usually end up sharing my vegan philosophy and describing the evils of factory farming. So hell, I might as well ruin your night at the movies too. Here are my thoughts on a couple I just saw.

I tend to like things with simple titles especially crime movies and novels, so maybe that’s one of the reasons the new movie The Drop disappointed me so. It had a great cast, it was a genre I enjoy in gritty street crime, and it was directed by Michael Roskam who made a good Belgian movie in Bullhead. But maybe the director’s international pedigree is the problem.  I’m not sure if they get intimidated by movie stars or if it’s a language barrier, but there’s a long line of talented foreign directors who make a mess when they get to Hollywood. Tom Tykwer went from Run Lola Run to Cloud Atlas. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck did the fantastic The Lives of Others to the terrible The Tourist. Roskam follows that tradition.

It’s not that The Drop is bad, it’s merely pointless. The plot of a Brooklyn bartender finding a stray dog and getting caught  in the middle of a heist at the bar he works at relies too heavily on coincidence to take seriously. It takes place in one of those neighborhoods where everyone is a criminal or is sleeping with one, and while the actors in it are good from Tom Hardy to Noomi Rapace (who can’t decide if she should use an American accent or not), it does waste the last movie we’ll ever get to see James Gandolfini in with a thankless part that makes you feel bad for laughing at him as he struggles to run away from a crime. The late Tony Soprano deserved better and so do you.

So go see The Guest. It pays homage to B movies from the 1980’s with a synthesizer heavy score and a story with only one concern, to ratchet up the tension. A family grieving about a son lost to war welcomes a soldier into their home. The guest says he was best friends with the dead son and ingratiates himself into their lives. Then he raises hell. There are no real explanations for his motives, nor is one needed. While it does not provoke deep thoughts or show you something you have not seen before, The Guest does provide cheap thrills and laughs and best of all it isn’t Guardians of the Galaxy.

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