Andrew Milito's Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Rating History

The Monster
The Monster (2016)
4 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

The Monster, a rare misfire from everyone's favorite innovative distributor on the rise, A24, is a great example of wasted potential. It's not a particularly original idea for a film, having been done by countless personal dramas masquerading as horror films, but there's enough compelling ideas here that could allow this to be a solid addition to that unofficial genre. Themes of alcoholism and the constant lurking dangers of such an addiction, both short and long term, are present here, and on paper, tying these struggles to the physical struggles within the film itself is endlessly compelling. The slow burn pace allows for plenty of character development, mostly through flashbacks to our two main characters leading up to their current situation, and helps establish relationships and attempts to let us become truly invested in our leads before all hell breaks loose. While this slow pacing is indeed nice for storytelling purposes, it hinders the film as a whole. The film starts to feel disjointed, jumping immediately from slow-burn tension to loud startles and more relentless scares, and it takes up until the midpoint for anything to truly start happening. As far as these characters go, they're serviceable: both Zoe Kazan and Ella Ballentine are both committed to their roles, and work well enough as individual parts of a whole, but there's something about their chemistry that just doesn't click, and not because the story necessitates some tension between them. One half of writer/director Bryan Bertino's involvement works here: the film is well-shot and shows a nice eye for practical effects (although the titular monster's design is disappointingly uninspired and derivative). It's the way this story is structured that keeps this film from being anything more than a middling horror drama, overshadowed by much better films with similar ideas.

Palo Alto
Palo Alto (2014)
6 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

What's the point of a coming-of-age story if the subjects that come of age are so unlikeable? Such is the problem with Palo Alto, the directorial debut of Gia Coppola, based on the memoir by James Franco. Following the intersecting stories of three troubled teens in the titular California city, these struggles should allow for some degree of empathy, but they just don't. It's hard to become invested in a trio of characters whose lives allow them to attend parties, get drunk and smoke weed on a regular basis, and generally have life well-off for them. When the characters face consequences for their constant rebellion and mischief, they mope around for how bad their life is, and then immediately go back to doing the same things they were reprimanded. In a similar vein, it's hard to relate to a questionable relationship between student and teacher, or an alcoholic who mindlessly gets himself in more trouble, or a borderline psycho whose personality rides not only the line of being dangerous, but is extremely obnoxious. There's no character here to truly immerse ourselves into, and that serves as a detriment to what could be a free-floating slice-of-life film about a section of the country that many might not be all that familiar with.

The problem is trying to pinpoint why this story doesn't work. Surely it's not the direction of first-timer Gia Coppola, who shows the same technical skill of aunt Sofia. It's likely not Franco's source material, a series of semi-autobiographical short stories that, in theory, could work as a sort of Dazed and Confused esque tale of teenage troubles intertwining. It's not the acting: the three leads, Emma Roberts, Nat Wolff, and Jack Kilmer (son of Val, who has a very minor role of his own), all fit their roles well, but are simply stuck playing very unlikeable characters. Perhaps it's Coppola's adaptation of Franco's work itself. Maybe it's an accurate portrayal of the Palo Alto teen lifestyle, but when accuracy takes away from levity, it takes away more than it gives an in-depth look at such lifestyles.

Jackie (2016)
9 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Before we're given even a single frame of Pablo Larraín's Jackie, something is immediately evident: this is not a typical movie. Mica Levi's score kicks in with a chilling intro song, a sharp mid-to-low arrangement of strings that feels downright otherworldly. As the film truly begins, and this story truly begins, it becomes more and more evident that this is not a typical biopic. This is not a glowing, glamorous film that follows the typical narrative conventions of the biopic in telling the story of perhaps the most famous woman to ever live in the White House.

This is a horror movie. An Aronofsky-esque nightmare, which is only fitting with his involvement in the production (he was once slated to direct before the reigns went to Larraín). It's jarring at first, but it's undeniably fitting for the story of a woman who has no idea how to progress with her life following the assassination of her husband. A woman who's mind may as well be imploding from within as she juggles holding back tears in favor of forced smiles. It's that post-assassination time period that the film focuses almost entirely on, putting aside much of Jackie Kennedy's upbringing and pre-White House life. In that regard, it's less a biopic than a character study of grief, backed by a performance from Natalie Portman that shows a true understanding of how Jackie Kennedy must have felt at that time. From her posture to her spot-on voice, Portman completely embodies Jackie, which only makes the mental breakdown of her character all the more powerful.

It's fitting that this film comes at that time in between presidents. One of Jackie Kennedy's strongest beliefs, one that Larraín and writer Noah Oppenheim establish as a central theme of the film, was the idea that the inhabitants of the White House are something more than just some citizens who get to temporarily control the state of the nation. It's a position defined by legacy. In the film (and outside of the film as well), the lyrics of the finale of the musical Camelot are featured prominently: "Don't ever let it be forgot / That once there was a spot / For one brief shining moment that was Camelot." Amidst the horror, a nation living in fear of such an ugly event, and a First Lady who's mind is collapsing, Jackie Kennedy offered up a message of hope. A message not only for herself, but for everyone.

Shotgun Stories
10 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

The least explosive film you could get out of a title like Shotgun Stories, Jeff Nichols' subdued storytelling is really quite beautiful. It's a revenge film at its core, but much of the film is simply a quaint look at lives in blue collar America. It's lots of little conversations between trying to fix a beaten-down van or a game of basketball. Michael Shannon leads the film with a quiet intensity that, in a way, parallels this story. Directorial debuts don't get much better than this.