by Adam Riske and Rob DiCristino
Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.
Rob: Something tells me Brightburn will be a Redbox pickup a few months from now. I’m in no rush. My first pick is one that you recommended a while back, and that’s Stephen Merchant’s Fighting with My Family. It’s hard to say this without sounding patronizing, but this movie is really, well, cute! Your girl Florence Pugh shines as real-life WWE star Paige, a young outcast fighting her way from a DIY westling family in England (led by the ever-awesome Nick Frost and Lena Headey) into the international spotlight. And look, I have to admit that I’ve never been a wrestling fan. I know WWE is the official sport of Film Twitter, but I honestly didn’t know until the closing credits that Paige was a real person. It was a pleasant surprise! I was also worried that WWE’s direct involvement in the film’s production would turn it into a glorified commercial, but — Rock cameos aside — Merchant focuses on the humanity of the piece in a beautiful and cathartic way. I really enjoyed this one.
John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum. I really went out on a limb recommending that one, didn’t I? I’m in awe of Keanu Reeves, especially in the John Wick films. His physicality is incredible, and I really dig how these movies broaden the kinds of action with every new entry. The first 30 minutes of Parabellum are so high-octane that I was worn out in the middle and needed to amp myself back up for the finale (which is terrific unto itself). I think this is the type of film that will work well on cable because I can pick it up anywhere and watch it in sprints instead of as a marathon. Not everything in the John Wick movies works for me (I’ve said before that I’m 50-50 on all things The Continental/The High Table), but this new movie has more than five showcase moments that will keep me returning to it in the future. Plus, Mark Dacascos! There is nothing better in 2019 cinema so far than Mark Dacascos in John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum.
Dogtooth, the second feature from co-writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos. I’m a fan of Lanthimos’ filmography, overall, but rarely are they pleasant viewing experiences. His strict, claustrophobic formalism makes me feel so uncomfortable in my own skin that I just want to drink bleach and hide from the world. Yay, cinema! Every layer of Dogtooth is as awkward and sterile as the characters who populate it. The sex scenes are soulless and clinical enough to make you swear off physical intimacy for the rest of your life. The violence is absolutely brutal (I’d never thought to use a VHS tape as a melee weapon), but somehow not as brutal as the characters’ forced isolation and arrested development. Its genius is its horrific subtlety; the terror comes in our reflection as an audience, not what we’re seeing on screen. It’s in the implication. This one will be giving me nightmares for quite a while. The cat scene. Yikes.
Joel Schumacher has some kick ass movies. It bums me out that people only remember his bad ones.
Rob: My last pick is Shane Black’s The Predator. Maybe it’s because all the negative chatter had my expectations very low, but I thought it was two-thirds of a decent enough action movie. It’s certainly got some ideas that — though maybe not executed at their best possible level — might make for an interesting larger Predator universe at some point. The only other thing that really worked for me as a Shane Black fan was the fast and easy camaraderie between the unit. I loved that being military gave them a common language that went beyond machismo and into a kind of cynical bravery. I can’t say the dialogue or character building was all that great, but there were lots of little moments (especially from Sterling K. Brown and Thomas Jane) that worked. The truth is that I’d like to see this group of people do almost ANYTHING else together. I was reminded of other bands of misfits, like those on Community or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Adam: For sure. Reserved Seating will be off for the next couple of weeks but back strong before the end of the month. Until next time…
Rob: These seats are reserved.