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Weekend Rundown: Roar, Wild Tales, True Story

April showers are upon us and it’s the perfect time to hole up in a theater and watch movies. There’s some fun films now playing that I highly recommend checking out. Wild Tales and Roar are at the top of the list.

Let’s start with Roar. Holy shit, this movie is a trip. It’s definitely one of the more astonishing and outlandish cinematic experiences I’ve had. I’m surprised that I had never heard of it until recently and that it was a flop on it’s initial release in 1981. The film stars Tippi Hedren (The Birds, Marnie), her real-life husband Noel Marshall, Tippi’s daughter Melanie Griffith, and nearly 150 wild animals including  lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, cougars, and jaguars. No CGI, the untrained, unpredictable animals were allowed to romp around freely with the cameras rolling, and several people sustained serious injuries, including everybody mentioned previously.

Tippi broke her leg when she fell off of an elephant. Another time she required 38 stitches after a lioness bit her on the back of the head. Both incidents are in the film. Melanie was mauled and required facial reconstructive surgery. Noel was hospitalized with multiple injuries and it took him years to completely recover. Cinematographer Jon de Bont (Speed) was scalped and required over 200 stitches. Their sacrifices led to countless jaw-dropping scenes in a movie that (for all the drama off-screen) is actually quite pleasant and fun. The festive music helps set the tone, as do the joyous performances.

The imagery is beautiful and though terrifying at times, the big cats are playful and their personalities shine on-screen. The other animals are cool too. There’s lots of scenic wildlife and a killer shot of a giraffe running fast next to a man on a motorcycle.

It’s been said that Roar is like a live-action version of The Lion King and parts of it feel that way. One can’t help but draw comparisons to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds too. Both films feature Tippi Hedren, in a house, getting attacked by wild animals. The Birds is more deliberate. Every shot is carefully constructed and expertly brought to life with a mix of real birds, fake birds, and practical effects. Roar is less polished and doesn’t have much of a story, but it’s more spontaneous and organic. The cats are the stars of the show, but Noel Marshall is the batshit crazy ringleader in the middle of it all, acting like he’s one of the pride. It’s fascinating to watch him interact with the animals and no CGI or effects can give you the uneasy feeling of seeing humans mobbed by dozens of real lions.

4 out of 5 Nerdskulls

Roar is back in theaters thanks to Drafthouse Films.

It is currently playing in Houston at Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park.

Check here to find the theater nearest you.

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Wild Tales is the most fun I’ve had at the movies in a long time. Judging by the audience’s raucous reaction, they really enjoyed it too. The 2015 Oscar nominee (Best Foreign Film) is an anthology movie from Argentina consisting of 6 unrelated shorts tied together by a unifying theme of revenge. It’s brutal and hilarious with a wicked sense of humor and it is the most seen Argentine film of all-time.

There isn’t a weak entry in the bunch, but three of the six stand out: a tale of road rage gone too far, a story about the victim of a crooked car towing service (played by Ricardo Darin), and the best wedding reception ever captured on film. I can’t wait to see it again and I’ve been telling everybody I know to go see it so we can talk about it. Wild Tales isn’t super deep but it doesn’t need to be. It makes the most out of it’s format and is supremely entertaining. It’s probably my favorite anthology film since… ever.

4.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls

Wild Tales is now playing in Houston at Sundance Cinemas.

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True Story finds Jonah Hill and James Franco at their most serious. Hill plays disgraced New York Times writer Michael Finkel and Franco is Christian Longo, a man accused of murdering his wife and kids. When Finkel learns that Longo assumed his identity, he writes him a letter and starts visiting him in prison. Finkel trades writing tips for Longo’s side of the story.

The leads do a solid job and their one-on-one sequences are my favorite thing about the movie. I’m a Jonah Hill fan; he’s consistently good and I look forward to seeing him in more serious roles. Franco can be hit-or-miss but he nails the crazy killer eyes and he and Hill work well together in an understated manner. True Story is engaging but the final product is mostly forgettable. The story, based on Michael Finkel’s memoir, is just so-so. Still, it’s worth a watch.

3 out of 5 Nerdskulls

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Enjoy the weekend!

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Salty Winters once said, "Everything I learned I learned from the movies." He was quoting Audrey Hepburn.