Tag Archives: Green Room

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)

[BS Note: This film is currently available for streaming on Netflix]

Winning the Grand Jury Prize in the Dramatic category at this year’s Sundance, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore received significant buzz, despite having one of the most onerous titles since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It is the directorial debut of Macon Blair, star of the intense thriller Blue Ruin. Like that film, this is also a revenge story. Ruth (Melanie Lynskey; Happy Christmas), a regular woman somewhere in suburban America, finds her house broken into with her furniture ransacked and her laptop and her grandmother’s silver missing. She calls the police, but, after their apparent disinterest, she decides to find the culprits herself, teaming up with her strange neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood; The Lord of the Rings).

Like 2015’s Wild Tales, this a story of normal people being pushed just beyond their limits until they finally break and act out. The film paints Ruth as the kind, unsung altruist in a world of selfishness. She spends he days caring for strangers as a nurse and treats others with respect. Yet, she doesn’t see that same kind of goodness in those around her. Other people litter, are rude, and cut in line. She feels lost and alone. The robbery and the ineffectual police response are what set her off on a path of assertiveness that eventually becomes aggression. This growth is empowering as she finally takes charge of her life and gets the things she wants and deserves.

Ruth and Tony are an unlikely, but strangely appropriate, pairing.

The film’s biggest surprise is Elijah Wood. His eccentric, religious loner is the perfect complement to Ruth. While she feels suffocated by the world, Wood’s Tony is barely even aware of it. He walks around listening to his metal and disconnected from anything or anyone around him. He decides to help Ruth because of his sense of justice, but is obviously unfamiliar with anything even remotely close to real crimes. Where others would bring a baseball bat as a weapon, he brings shuriken and a morning star, claiming to know how to use them. His strangeness is balanced by his innocence and he proves to be the perfect counter to Ruth’s increasing hostility. He is not only her companion, but is also her moral center, reminding her of what is right, what is wrong, and why she started her mission in the first place.

Blair’s choice of story and directing style are clearly influenced by his friend and frequent collaborator Jeremy Saulnier (Green Room). He uses the same stripped-down approach and also favors characters in the margins of society. The difference is that where Saulnier goes for the pure tension and gore of a genre film, Blair brings comedy. He is still able to create tense scenarios, but they are result of his characters’ own comical failures. Their fumblings are caused by their own inexperience and unintentionally raise the stakes as Ruth and Tony mess up even the simplest of tasks. They find themselves embroiled in increasingly dangerous schemes with little idea of how to remedy the situation. This comedic tone makes I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore a funny and liberating revenge thriller with agreeably offbeat leads.

4/5 stars.

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

The reboot of the Star Trek movie franchise was never as successful as its box office results would imply. The first film was a passable start but the second was mostly a retread with a blundering plot. Both film’s suffered from director J. J. Abrams’s (Lost) biggest flaws: overreliance on nostalgia and initially appealing but ultimately unsatisfying mysteries. After Star Trek Into Darkness recycled the plot of its predecessor, it had seemed that the writers were out of ideas, but the series returned this year with Star Trek Beyond. The Enterprise is sent on a rescue mission to an uncharted nebula only to soon be destroyed a swarm of spacecraft controlled by an alien named Krall (Idris Elba; Prometheus) forcing them to abandon ship to the nearby planet. Split up, the crew has to find each other and stop Krall before he finds an ancient device on board that would allow him to use his swarm to attack bases and planets.

The films are increasingly feeling like extended $150 million dollar television episodes. That has both benefits and downsides. It frees the movies to be relatively independent of each other but has also leads to a significant amount of repetition. The sources of conflict are the same: Kirk doesn’t think he lives up to his father, Spock doesn’t know how to manage his duty to his people, and Uhura and Spock’s relationship is still “complicated” even though they break up at the start of the film. The plot is overly familiar and the relationships don’t show growth from the previous entries. It’s difficult to avoid the thought that the producers, and possibly the fans, value familiarity above all else.

Pegg's dialogue is barely intelligible.
Pegg’s dialogue is barely intelligible.

The script tries to bring an even lighter tone to the series. Co-written by Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz), the screenplay incorporates jokes throughout the film. However, these attempts at humor are almost always the same jokes made in the previous films (Spock doesn’t understand emotions, etc.). Repeating the same punchlines means few of the setups actually produce any laughs. They aren’t helped by the acting either. Chris Pine as Kirk (Hell or High Water) continues his typical stiff performance, vainly attempting to show charisma and Bones (Karl Urban; Dredd) delivers all his lines as if starring in an early 1930s talkie, overacted with shtick to spare. Even the minor roles do not hold up with several actors using irritating speech choices. Anton Yelchin’s (Green Room) Russian accent as Chekov appears to have been based off a comedian’s standup routine and Pegg as Scotty sounds like he is auditioning for the part of Groundskeeper Willie on The Simpsons. The weak script combined with worse acting thwart the desired humor.

With a different director at the helm, the film’s action has a new look. Justin Lin (Fast & Furious 6) has handled large scale action many times before and his experience shows off. Set pieces are more clearly composed and more playful than ever before. In particular, the film’s climax relies on a plot device that will annoy some, but for the rest leads to an uproarious and gleeful display of demolition. Even though the majority of the effects appear to be computer generated, Lin is able to keep them exciting with his quick pacing. Thanks to Lin’s efforts, Star Trek Beyond’s spirited action scenes outweigh the poor writing and wooden performances, producing an adequate  entry in this middling franchise.

3/5 stars.

Green Room (2016)

A lot of bands spend time living out of a van and traveling from gig to gig. For hardcore bands, the venues can range from heavy to dangerous. Green Room, the third film from writer-director Jeremy Saulnier, follows a little known heavy metal band as they tour. Struggling to make ends meet after a canceled concert, a journalist friend gets them the chance to headline at a place his cousin knows. What he doesn’t tell the band is that this show is in the middle of nowhere at a bar filled with white supremacists. A normal person would immediately turn around and get the hell out of there, but this is an metal band. So what they do? They get on stage and open with a new song whose only lines are “Nazi Punks! Nazi Punks! FUCK OFF!!!”.

The bulk of the movie is about the aftermath of their concert. Surprisingly, it’s not the lyrics that get them in trouble but rather an event they mistakenly witness in the titular green room. Now a liability to the owner of the venue, the band is stuck in the middle of the woods locked in the green room unable to get help. What happens next? That is where Green Room separates itself from Saulnier’s previous film, Blue Ruin.

This band is hard, man.

Green Room has noticeably lesser ambitions than its predecessor. Blue Ruin was a taut deconstruction of its genre. The hero wasn’t a John Wayne-like badass. He was a regular person, unskilled in violence. It was the rare revenge movie where violence had consequences for everyone involved. While Green Room retains the high level of suspense, it chooses to stay within the confines of its genre – a slasher movie with a metal band and white supremacists instead of teenagers and a serial killer. The limited nature of the film does however lessen the overall impact when compared to Blue Ruin.

Saulnier again shows off his skills as a director. His visuals (he was also the cinematographer on Blue Ruin) continue to excel, using the serene forests to contrast with the dingy, propaganda-laden interiors. The film is well paced with tension built and released on point. The moments of violence, of which there are many, are visceral and significantly more explicit than most R-rated features. From hacked but not severed limbs to bullet-ridden heads, the gruesome details are happily displayed. Macon Blair (Blue Ruin) plays the role of the club manager and is again immediately sympathetic as the slightly incompetent everyman put in a difficult situation. Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation) is the pragmatic owner who has to clean up the mess. Stewart’s performance is adequate, but he is perhaps miscast as he isn’t able to exhibit the degree of villainy needed for the role to be believable. Green Room has modest goals, but its creators have more than enough skill to achieve them. It won’t be acclaimed for its scope, but as a slasher film, it thrills and shocks with ruthless precision.

4/5 stars.