Quick Movie Reviews (Beastie Boys Story, Extraction, & Sea Fever)

Beastie Boys Story

As multi-layered as the massively influential group it chronicles, Spike Jonze’s Beastie Boys Story is many things at the same time. It’s a document of a live event at Brooklyn’s King Theater last year, that was produced and directed by Jonze himself, at which Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) and Mike Diamond (Mike D) alternated telling the story of their lives in front of clips and pictures from the incredible trajectory of the Beastie Boys. But this is more than a mere fan service slide show. It’s a joyous, compelling story of maturing, and the impacts that creative freedom can have guiding that change. Of course, it also becomes something of a eulogy to Adam Yauch (MCA), who passed away in 2012 from cancer. But it’s deeply telling that you feel his presence here more than his absence. He influenced everyone in that room, from his lifelong best friends on the stage to the fans in the audience to the director behind the camera. Making Beastie Boys Story an ode to how creative passion and expression lives beyond its inception to impact people around the world and for generations to come.

It might be important to say that going into this film I was already a fairly large fan of the Beastie Boys. And since Diamond and Horovitz never perform any of their music during the show, newcomers to the allure of the Beastie Boys sound may find themselves wondering why the crowds shriek at every snippet of music. However, I would say that there’s a fair amount to appreciate from this documentary even for people who gave up on the boys after Licensed to Ill or those who, somehow, have never heard of them in the first place. Joking and laughing their way through their life stories, Horovitz and Mike D hit all the major beats that you’d expect but they do so with a joy that’s always been reflected in their best work. They tell most of their stories with a smile, recounting the early days when they really just rode a rollercoaster that was being designed by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, and became household names in the process. The anecdotes in the first half of Beastie Boys Story are pretty great. Hearing the early touring stories with Run DMC are endlessly enjoyable.

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Image via Apple

From the start, you feel you have an instant camaraderie with Diamond and Horovitz, and their story registers with such instant familiarity, and while they don’t reveal a lot of new information, they personalize the drama to an extent that gives it fresh currency. Going from middle-school punk rockers who came to the attention of Def Jam to the newly autonomous experimenters of Paul’s Boutique and Check Your Head to the sophisticated artists of Hello Nasty every aspect of the Beastie Boys’ compositional story sounds like it’s building on the previous installment. Diamond and Horovitz’s detailed explanations confirm just how much that was the truth. But all the history of the Beastie Boys isn’t without its valleys. The film about them gains depth when its hosts address how their flaws influenced the way they behaved in the future. Ad-Rock dejectedly reads the lyrics to “Girls,” which he wasn’t even exactly proud of then, and the guys discuss how the frat-bro image they were mocking in songs like “Fight for Your Right” kind of became who they were and, worse, how their friends saw them. They were young kids when they became household names, and while their descent into the darker side of fame isn’t the focus of Beastie Boys Story, it’s not ignored either.

What’s remarkable about the storytelling here is how Jonze, Horovitz, and Diamond capture the concept of evolution. Those lyrics to “Girls” eight years later have a counterpart in “Sure Shot.” In one of the film’s most powerful moments, Ad-Rock and Mike D discuss how they have been confronted by the sexist aspects of their rise to fame leading to accusations of hypocrisy later in life. It’s there where Diamond shares what Horovitz’s response was: “I’d rather be a hypocrite than the same person forever.” It’s one of the many authentic moments in Beastie Boys Story, however nothing registers as such than when Horovitz sits at the foot of the stage for a teary-eyed anecdote about the group’s last show and speaking on the immense impact Yauch had not just on the music but on his and Diamond’s lives. Yauch’s death provided a permanent blockade to the future of the Beastie Boys, and watching this spry, energetic documentary makes it clear that their journey met an abrupt end. Yet Beastie Boys Story resurrects the group’s appeal on their own terms, playing off fandom that crosses generations and genres while putting it in context. Beastie Boys Story is an expedition down the lane of memories, watching nostalgia rendered into an elegy about the human capacity to change and the importance that creative freedom can play with such a change. It’s moving, generous, infectious, and poignant.

Grade: B+

Beastie Boys Story is available to stream on Apple TV+

Extraction

The first line of dialogue spoken by Chris Hemsworth in the new Netflix action movie Extraction is “Hold my beer.” It’s right after that where his character — former soldier turned mercenary Tyler Rake — jumps off a cliff into the quarry reservoir below. That sense of braggadocio and one-uping pulses faintly through the film, but its weighed down by an odd need to seem serious, too. The directorial debut from Sam Hargrave, a longtime second-unit director and stunt coordinator, Extraction would probably be better if it just doubled down on being goofy and dumb. Instead, although the movie does indeed have a solid action sequence or two, they are interspersed with dramatic scenes that feel increasingly belabored, giving the movie a peculiar stop-start rhythm as it makes its way to a lumbering, extended gun battle final set piece.

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Image via Netflix

Extraction is written by Avengers: Endgame (amongst other Marvel entries) co-director Joe Russo, who produced the movie along with his brother and filmmaking partner Anthony Russo, and the movie’s first solid action sequence has Hemsworth battling a roomful of henchmen in close-quarters combat that finds him using fists, feet, a tin can, a table, a wall, and a garden rake as weapons to beat and kill. Hemsworth has been hired to rescue a kidnapped teenage boy (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the innocent son of a kingpin drug dealer in India snatched by one of his father’s rivals, and it’s actually duller than it sounds. The film’s most mixed sequence is by far a large chase sequence that sees Hemsworth and the boy attempt escape a small city fortified by the villain’s men. The sequence is designed to play as a twelve-minute single take, traveling to multiple locations throughout. It comes with thrilling moments, but often for me it came with groans: Seeing the sequence continuously and obviously stitched together (sometimes even going through full glass windows) came as eye-rolling and tedious than thrilling. An extended scene with David Harbour as a compatriot of Hemsworth’s who provides temporary relief and shelter seems to be what Hargrave is aiming for this movie to be all along, a character-driven exchange topped off by a brutal hand-to-hand fight. Too bad that the “characters” in this movie are devoid of arcs and almost completely empty. Occasionally the stunt/action choreography brings a much needed thrill but for the vast amount of its two-hour runtime, Extraction is dull, vapid tedium.

Grade: C

Extraction is available to stream on Netflix

Sea Fever

Sea Fever debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last September, and in the months since, this moody Irish monster movie has taken on a new relevance. Set aboard a fishing boat, the film starts Dougray Scott as a desperate captain who leads his crew into forbidden waters. When the vessel gets snagged by a strange leviathan, it’s up to visiting marine biology student Siobhán (Hermione Corfield) to figure out what this beast actually is, and why its ejecta is poisoning the ship’s water supply and infecting the men and women aboard.

Writer-director Neasa Hardiman, a TV veteran, mostly keeps her debut feature at the level of a claustrophobic psychological thriller, saving her special effects budget for the few undersea glances we get of the glowing, multi-tentacled beast. Throughout, she might have actually benefitted if she’d emulated her clear influences more shamelessly, or at least a bit more clearly. Beyond her pretty gnarly spin on Alien‘s famous chest-buster sequence, nothing here rise to comparable levels of intensity, paranoia, or queasiness. Then again, there’s also something refreshing about Sea Fever‘s minimalism — the way it keeps everything in the realm of both plausible behavior and some semblance of “realism.” With her smaller budget, Hardiman resists from going into full-scale Hollywood bombast, continually keeping things with some creditability.

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Image via Gunpowder & Sky

One might wish that the film better amplified the drama of its claustrophobic scenario. At eighty-nine-minutes, it’s almost too fleet to properly set up the primary conflict between the systematic and the more messily human impulses of everyone else on board; schematic though that divide is, Sea Fever tackles it with almost too much restraint — this material called for a few more shouting matches. All the same, there’s no denying that the movie eventually reaches a confrontation of disturbing relevance. Displaying a collection of ordinary people in close quarters, stressing about a highly transmittable threat, we later see Siobhán make the case that they can’t return to dry land until they know for sure they’re all not infected in some way — a logical conclusion that’s met with understandable but illogical resistance. Essentially, Sea Fever becomes a horror movie about someone trying to convince people to stay in quarantine for the sake of everyone else. It becomes science fiction largely in the possibility that she could even succeed. While its influences can be obvious, Sea Fever‘s minimalism and unnerving resonance keeps its gripping.

Grade: B-

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