Nightcrawler Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative

This film is a cautionary tale showing that if you give a shady person an inch they’ll take a mile. A channel producer decides to start skirting the rules and ultimately it doesn’t go over well. You definitely feel like things go very conveniently for the main character that’s for sure. The blackmail part gets annoying because you feel like Lou doesn’t really have nearly as much leverage as he claims but lets dive in here.

The movie starts with Lou sneaking into a warehouse to steal some wires. A security guard tries to stop him but forgets that if someone is trespassing then he’s probably dangerous. The realization hits the guard too late as he’s knocked out and Lou escapes. Still, Lou wants to do something more with his life than all of these little side jobs. One day he comes across an accident and sees “Nightcrawlers” filming the accident and selling it to the channels. He has finally found his calling, Lou wants to do that. Can he become the best accident film recorder there ever was?

Lou’s a very obsessive person and once he has his goal he just latches onto it. Lou always seems to be in the right place at the right time for a big scoop and that’s not luck but his own training. He learns the police codes and buys a portable scanner so he can listen in on their reports. Slowly but surely he grows into being one of the more reliable recorders around and then decides to swing his influence. He wants Nina, the current host of the evening news program and decides to blackmail her. If she doesn’t agree to be with him then he’ll sell the news somewhere else. Meanwhile his partner Rick has to decide if this job is really worth his life.

For me the Nina plot is definitely a miss because I don’t see how she was taken in so quickly. Lou claims that if he leaves then Nina will almost certainly be fired because her ratings are low. Nina shouldn’t have bit on the bait and just let him walked out. She has already been job hopping a lot so what’s one more time? Additionally, if she gives him the high ground now then there is no escaping after this part. By the end Nina seems to genuinely like him or at least the fact that he gives her good ratings which is all she cares about. I definitely found her to be a pretty bad character.

Then you have Lou who is quite deranged and basically one of the big villains here even though he is the main character. Keep in mind that the film opens with him assaulting an officer and he also threatens Rick with violence a few times. Lou is constantly threatening everyone and while he says that he has been practicing to live a more peaceful life, it’s clear that he could snap at any second. He even says that he just doesn’t like people by the end of the film which explains why he acts the way that he does.

It’s not that he’s fearless but Lou is very detached from everything which allows him to get up close with the recordings and to tamper with active crime scenes. You’re hoping that he’ll walk into the wrong crime scene at one point and that will ultimately be what puts him in a tough position. The guy certainly gets away with a whole lot. He talks a good game but that’s really all he’s got since most of the villains here do have guns.

Rick means well and he’s a nice guy but I do have to blame him for not leaving earlier. He knows exactly the kinds of things that Lou is doing by the mid point of the film. Early on you can excuse him because he doesn’t know much about Lou and he desperately needed a job. By the end of the film though? That excuse no longer applies, Rick just goes with it because the money is getting better and he’s lasted this long. Rick just stays in the game too long and when you work for a villain that’s always going to be a big risk.

Then you have the detective Frontieri. She doesn’t get a really big role or anything like that but does turn up near the end for a pair of confrontations with Lou. It’s a tough situation because it’s clear that she’s good at her job but it’s hard to find proof or clues when you’re up against someone as clever as Lou. He knows to hide his tracks rather well and you suspect Rick is here as a patsy if needed.

The film is engaging for a while as you see just how far Lou will go in order to get the scoop. The main issue here is as I mentioned before, it seems like he gets away with way too much because nobody wants to stand up to him. Both Nina and Rick could and should have handled things way differently. Lou would also not have been in a position to do nearly as well without them so suddenly you’re looking at a very different film. The accident to his rival also seemed to come out of nowhere. I thought Lou was going to sabotage him or something but in the end it seems like it really was all just coincidence. Lucky eh?

Since Lou is filming various crimes and such, we do see quite a lot of bloodied bodies and the like as the film goes on. It’s not super graphic like this was a horror film or anything but it is filmed like real events which can make this just as intense. I think the actual footage could have been left off screen or hidden a bit which would have been a good move from the film. I did like how it showed the newscasters just saying whatever the producer wanted them to say though. It shows how effectively they’re given a script and they seamlessly introduce that into their speech. That was probably even the most effective scene in the film because it was really handled well. You could totally picture this being the case in real news reports, particularly volatile ones.

Overall, Nightcrawler is an interesting film and it has the hard job of trying to use the main villain as the main character. It’s tough for that to work for an entire film, particularly if the villain has no sympathetic goal or rationale to at least make you understand why he’s doing this. Lou’s just crazy which doesn’t work so well for the lead. Additionally due to the very nature of the film, you do see some rather graphic crimes. The movie feels like a real newscast which is impressive but at the same time works to its own detriment as well. With more likable characters this film could have gone far but without anyone to really root for aside from the detective who appears once or twice, the film was ultimately doomed.

Overall 3/10

The Gazebo Review

Looks like it’s time for another comedy film involving a main character who’s in over his head and villains running around. The Gazebo is a solid film all around with a lot of suspense and crazy antics going on the whole time. This kind of film always has a lot of replay value and with the writing on point, it’s a film you can basically recommend to anyone. I can’t say I would ever be tempted to add a Gazebo to my backyard though.

Elliott is a writer/director who is super stressed out all the time. His blood pressure is up and the guy hasn’t been sleeping very well. Part of the reason for this is that he’s being blackmailed by a crook over an affair he had a while back. The guy is threatening to take this to the magazines and Elliott’s wife Nell would end up finding out. Elliott has been paying the guy off but at this point he’s pretty much out of money. He could sell the house but even after sabotaging it, Nell doesn’t want Elliott to sell it. Elliott believes he only has one option here…he has to murder the blackmailer.

Of course the whole film would have been over if Elliott had just told Nell from the start or better yet…if he had simply not had the affair at the start. He has a great marriage right now so that was definitely a terrible move. Even though it’s an event from before the film even started, it does mean that he’s not quite as sympathetic as he would be otherwise. He certainly goes in depth with his plan to wreck the house though. Whoever gets it next will definitely be in a whole lot of trouble.

For Elliott’s character, the fun is often in seeing him panic all the time. His voice cracks quite a lot as he really isn’t used to doing this kind of thing. There also tend to be a lot of people making house calls so his plans are interrupted a whole lot. Keeping a secret in a house like this is awful hard for him and the Gazebo ends up making things a lot trickier for him even though he initially thought it would save him a lot of trouble.

Meanwhile Nell is really solid here and she is the best character here. She defends Elliott a lot when the police come along and is doing well balancing her work career and home lifestyle. The Gazebo may not have thrilled Elliott but it was a nice thought since she was trying to get him a peaceful place to work. I also like how she handled a similar blackmail scheme that was targeted at her. She’s definitely not a character who stays on the defensive.

Elliott has a best friend named Harlow…but that guy is definitely pretty suspect. He does get a little overly familiar with Nell which Elliott notices and while it may just be the guy trying to be friendly…I wouldn’t trust him either. Harlow is trying to just do his duty as a detective so naturally some suspicion falls on Elliott. Ultimately you do get the impression he doesn’t want Elliott to be guilty but the hero does make himself seem super suspicious the whole time.

Elliott did adopt a pigeon named Herman early on in the film which was nice. The pigeon gets a solid role here and is always around to keep things light. He even had a solid role in the climax which was nice to see. The final scene made for one last gag to end things off on that even made a good amount of sense. I could see the event happening especially since caps are easily replaceable.

There are also a few supporting characters running around like the guy in charge of installing the Gazebo. That guy was cool and had great customer service. He did everything he could to maintain the Gazebo and even gave a lot of free advice. Then you have the lady trying to sell the house. She was certainly dedicated as she even worked after 10PM.

I feel like the various time periods mentioned in the film had to low key be a bit of a parody or part of the humor though. The construction guys would show up at 10:30PM, the lady showed people around the house close to 11:00PM, the best friend randomly entered the main character’s house after 1:30AM to chat, etc. It seems like the film intentionally had everyone enter the house super late and you just wonder if everything would usually be that late. Even Nell apparently always gets home close to midnight so I guess the shows are always late night plays. That part makes the most sense since if that’s the schedule then it’ll always be the same. The rest felt a little suspect.

The Gazebo is certainly a funny film most of the time but you also do get some scenes that feel like they have real danger to them. One such scene is when the villains capture Nell for example or when the blackmailer calls. The movie does a good job of building up some tension there to offset the rather light hearted nature of the film. On the whole I’d say it’s definitely a cheerful movie of course but it does have range.

Unsurprisingly the writing in the movie is very good. The characters all sound quite reasonable and even when hurling insults they tend to be polite. Well, Elliott is pretty direct in how he talks to people so he can just throw insults out rather plainly. While I wouldn’t say this is a film that is built around a bunch of twists, there is one particular aspect involving Elliott’s big confrontation that plays out throughout the movie. It takes a while before you know everything that happened as each character slowly gives Elliott more information that completely changes the situation every time. You have expect him to have a heart attack by the end.

Overall, The Gazebo is a fun film. It’s got a solid blend of funny scenes and some tension as Elliott continues to dig a deeper and deeper hole for himself. Every time a character misinterprets the situation and throws him a life line, he manages to get himself right back into trouble again. It’s a movie where the humor has held up quite well and the writing is good as expected. With a satisfying conclusion at the ready, this film won’t disappoint if you’re looking for a good time.

Overall 7/10

The Woman in the Window Review

It’s time to look at an old school film that shows how one dangerous decision can put you on the path to ruin. I’ll give the credit for not making the main character be an obvious cheat who you can’t sympathize with as he stays classy for the most part. I would still argue that he knew how his decision was pretty iffy though by how many times he mentions that he really shouldn’t be here. At the very least he doesn’t actually do anything serious. It’s a fun movie overall even if you aren’t rooting for the lead.

The film starts off with Richard making small talk with two of his buddies. Richard is sad that he can’t be reckless anymore since he has gotten to be too old. His friends point out that this is true so Richard better not get any ideas. That’s when Richard notices a lady behind a portrait and she invites him to her place for drinks. It’s nearly midnight but Richard doesn’t care so they head upstairs. That’s when a guy runs in and attacks Richard. Richard quickly murders him and hides the body in a forest, but can he stay out of the papers? After all, his friend is a detective so this can get very messy.

While the film is played straight for the most part, I do think it had a little fun with Richard’s character during the early part. Richard is so oblivious to life that he keeps on tipping off the cops on how guilty he is. When the detective finds out that the culprit has a cut on his palm Richard quickly points out that he has an identical cut. I suppose being over the top like this could throw the cops off the trail…but it’s just such an unnecessary risk. Realistically nobody suspects him at all at this point so why put himself out there. There is literally nothing to trace him to the murder as far as he knows. Then he continually says things that he shouldn’t know and even walks over to the spot where the corpse was before the cops officially show him. He makes a ton of rookie mistakes. The film did say early on that he is usually scatterbrained but this is taking that to a bit of an extreme.

He also leaves his pen at the scene of the crime which the villain naturally gets his hands on. So, there was a bodyguard assigned to the victim and now he has decided to blackmail Richard and Alice. This is definitely the weakest aspect of the film as it wasn’t really needed and I would have preferred the tension to be that the cops are slowly zeroing in on the heroes. Instead this guy works well as the fall guy I guess, but naturally the plot turns into Alice having to use her charms to get him to lower his guard. That’s still one of the most tired film cliches out there and it makes the plot pretty bad. Still, the film doesn’t go too far with it which is good so it doesn’t hurt the movie all that much. At most it takes 1 star off. I’m also glad that Richard realized that paying the guy off wouldn’t solve anything since he would just return for another installment at some point. Calling his bluff would be best, but the guy would probably just end up murdering them.

Initially I figured that Alice intentionally set up the meeting with Richard and the other guy to bump him off, but the film never really goes in that angle. As far as I can tell it was just coincidence and the film doesn’t make Alice appear to be malicious. I do like the fact that she is also fairly smart though as she gets some extra insurance from Richard in case he ends up ditching her. That’s definitely the kind of thing you want to do in these films because you can’t trust anyone. She handled the situation much better than Richard in general as she got all of the hard jobs and didn’t panic the way that he did.

As I mentioned I wasn’t a big fan of Richard. He was a much better character than he could have been, but at the same time you still were never going to root for the guy. He also decided to take the easy way out at the end which is definitely never the right call. The ending can be seen as a bit of a cop out but you can also look at it in a more meta sense. It’s pretty clear that the film was not supposed to end the way that it did and since the movie is an indie you always look for the hidden meanings. You could make the case that the ending is actually the dream as he passes over to the next plain. It’s like the film has its direct ending and then the layered one that you can add on. Either way it doesn’t look good for the lead. I do appreciate that the ending gave the film a quick humor moment that actually worked though. In general I thought the film had a good balance of humor and mystery.

What the film could have improved on to be even better would have been to focus on the detective plot more. The scenes with the detective were some of the best in the film. I liked how Richard kept giving himself away and the detective would act as if he started to suspect something. His boss was also pretty solid in that regard with the constant banter. Seeing more of them would have been a lot of fun and that could have ended up being the main plot instead of the black mail guy. There will always be a lot of “Could have” moments in a film of course, but this would have been a pretty easy alteration with a good result. Maybe even throw in a court scene since those are always awesome.

Overall, The Woman in the Window was a solid film. The writing is on point and the cast is pretty good. The film is never too exaggerated and stays realistic without being dreary. You’re able to root for the cops without necessarily rooting against Richard because you can at least make the case that he was never going to cheat and he certainly didn’t expect things to go sideways the way that they did. I’d also say that he had to defend himself the way that he did because he definitely wouldn’t have lived through the night otherwise. As the film explains in the beginning, self defense is certainly way different from murder. This would definitely be the former. If you haven’t seen a good noir film yet then this is the one to watch. It’s not the best one out there or anything, but it’ll give you a good idea of what the genre is all about and holds up well for itself.

Overall 6/10