The Girl on the Train (2016) 4/5

I really enjoyed this film, even after IMDB and RT gave it poor scores. This is one example of when you shouldn’t listen to the critics 100%. It’s a mystery and thriller with Emily Blunt, one of my favorite actors. This film is a winner in my book.

R | 1h 52min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller | 7 October 2016 (USA)
A divorcee becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation that promises to send shockwaves throughout her life.
Director: Tate Taylor
Writers: Erin Cressida Wilson (screenplay), Paula Hawkins (novel)
Stars: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson

Whodunnit? That’s what we have here. I think it’s close to impossible to guess until about 1/2 way through. At that point people are likely to have differences of opinion. Blunt’s figure is trying to find out why she is so afraid of herself. To start, we find her fear is based on listening to the bad others say about her, including her ex-husband. The stuff she hears is so awful, she drowns herself in drinking. Most people would just drink themselves to death but not her. She sets out to figure out why these people say these things. To her, they don’t “seem like her.”

It’s a thriller for sure and one of the best of 2016 in my opinion. The unfurling of the truth is a bit melodramatic, I was hoping for more, but certainly exciting. For fans of Emily and the thriller genre in general, I highly recommend this.

4/5 Shamrocks
4/5 Shamrocks

Amadeus (1984)

Why are gifted musicians crazy? It’s true, they really are. Wolfgang Amadeus was among the most loopy. He had a woman in his life who truly cared for him but basically his private life was a train wreck but didn’t he make beautiful tunes?

R | 2h 40min | Biography, Drama, History | 19 September 1984 (USA)
The incredible story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, told by his peer and secret rival Antonio Salieri – now confined to an insane asylum.
Director: Milos Forman
Writers: Peter Shaffer (original stage play), Peter Shaffer (original screenplay)
Stars: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge

Another item we see in this film is the evil mentor, the Obi Wan who seeks to take down and destroy his apprentice. You can’t blame Salieri for hating Mozart, after all he was practically composing out of the womb. He had “an ear” while others only had hard work and traditional training on their side.

In Mozart we see an annoying freak. We also so a tortured young man who was “above” us all. He heard the songs of the gods and brought them down to us. This is a highly entertaining film, despite a few lagging and questionably accurate segments. If you think it looks boring because of the classical music though, think again. I recommend this film to lovers of music, history, and passion filled biographies.

4/5 Shamrocks
4/5 Shamrocks

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

IMDB’s number one movie shouldn’t be fucked with right? Well, it has its imperfections. The reason they picked Tim Robbins will always be a mystery to me. All the other casting is good. It’s an inspired Stephen King novel and that’s why it’s good (and the only reason why), in my opinion.

Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.
Director: Frank Darabont
Writers: Stephen King (short story “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”), Frank Darabont (screenplay)
Stars: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton

Most people who see this film have a visceral reaction. It’s not boring in any way. I like prison films and this is sort of a sing-song one. Still, it’s a great prison film and I like it a lot.

You get to see what happens on the inside from a kinder, gentler, machine gun lens. Part of that is due to Stephen King. You know, he is very tame compared to some of the other horror writers. There is a bent in a lot of his stuff against traditional religion. I can definitely relate with that bent.

There is also a lot of Murphy’s Law. I probably don’t need to recommend this since it’s done quite well for decades on its own. Still, I recommend it to fans of prison movies and Stephen King’s outlook on things. Beware of a sing-song nature. This isn’t the hard, deep stuff of life as it claims to be.

3/5 Shamrocks
3/5 Shamrocks

 

The Godfather

Everybody knows the Godfather right? Well, that isn’t necessarily true. I think people about my age take it for granted as an amazing classic. We assume all movie fans have it memorized. I know my podcast cohort isn’t fond of it. As strange as that sounds, I must accept it is true. I’ll tell you what appeals to me about it.

R | 2h 55min | Crime, Drama | 24 March 1972 (USA)
The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writers: Mario Puzo (screenplay), Francis Ford Coppola (screenplay)
Stars: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan

There’s something powerful about Don Corleone. He’s amassed wealth and an empire entire outside of society’s machine. He has become a new machine. He does “favors,” usually entailing crimes, for the butcher, the baker, and the candle-stick maker. Then they owe their allegiance to him and his family mafia. What we see in the film is a powerful crime family made up of those people, built one by one.

There is a bunch of violence but it’s righteous. You get me, I get you back. That’s how it works in the mafia. This film changed the world and especially changed movies. The way things are done now is warped in a twisted and beautiful way little bit because of the Godfather. I recommend this film to people who can take righteous violence and who enjoy amazing period pieces with thick character development. Also, who can miss the best of Marlon Brando?

5/5 Shamrocks
5/5 Shamrocks

Network (1976)

In these days of the Hunger Games, this movie makes a pale statement. Still, it was fun watching this 1976 film make its statement against the media, specifically the news. Some of it even reminded me of the stuff trump is pulling these days (lowercase is intentional).

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The story is basically in a news station. A crazy newscaster who the world has grown used to and familiar with has a psychotic break and begins making promises that he will take his life on television. Instead of getting rid of him, the network sees the ratings go up and puts him on camera again and again.

We see the greed of the network from all angles. We also see the sheep-like nature of the audience. There is a culminating event that wraps the whole cynical point up nicely. There are some great classic actors in their 30’s like Faye Dunaway. I love films from 1976 and thereabouts. They are simply showing the buildings and attire of the day and yet it looks like the best retro modern films can offer.

I recommend this film mostly for political cynics. Besides that, it’s a tense but well made drama from 1976. I recommend to all.

Manchester by the Sea

I went into this film expecting too much I think. It’s getting unheard-of high scores on all the major rating sites. It didn’t merit that in my view.  It looked like a romance, it isn’t. It looked like a chance for actors to shine for Oscars, it wasn’t.

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The story here is fairly simple, though it’s presented in and out of sequential time. That makes it a little harder to get your head around. Casey Affleck is a handyman, a dad, and a husband. He does the unthinkable. He suffers the unimaginable. Of course it’s devastating and sad. It’s told by jumping around in time. When his brother dies, he is chosen to take care of his brother’s son. That alone could have been the theme of the movie but there is something else big, ferocious, sad, and overwhelming that almost overshadows it.

The problem with this film is that it only offers a surface image of it’s many situations. Stories are delved into and not fully developed through the characters. You’ll find tears well placed but it wasn’t enough to bring me into the movie. I saw it, heard it, and interpreted it but only to see what was happening. There was only one spot where I really felt what was happening. The scene way after the tragedy when Michelle Williams’ character meets up with Casey Affleck’s is certainly a tear-jerker moment.

I have always found Casey Affleck to be a flat character. In this film, he is once again flat. I’m very surprised this film has received so much acclaim. Specifically, I wonder why so much praise has been given to Casey. He does an ok job but I think almost any actor could walk in his shoes here. This is a decent film worth watching. I recommend it but not as high as the critics seem to be doing. But, art is relative and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My final word? It’s a decent to very-good drama, that’s it.

Split

This one is tough to offer you a review of. The first hour is excellent. You see subtleties in McAvoy’s acting and M. Night’s directing that draw you in, entertain you, and even educate you about this mental illness. It’s all done in a respectful way. After that point, the movie becomes a slow trainwreck and culminates in the worst twist M. Night has ever offered.

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We get a glimpse into the field of psychotherapy in the first half of the film. It’s intriguing to watch a therapist demonstrate trust with a client and test the boundaries between personalities in this case. Many reviewers are asking “who was your favorite personality?” Most are naming the 9 year old child because he’s innocent and fun and it seemed he had the most screen time.

This film could have had an 8/10 from me and stood as an amazing view into multiple personality disorder. The problem is the second half along with M. Night’s signature “twist.” There is no twist in the actual film. There are some supernatural things that can’t be explained away without one though. Therefore, there is a twist. It’s like eating sushi and oysters on the half-shell when all of a sudden you’re force fed an oversized Snickers bar. M. Night, how could you make such a connection? I wanted to like this film but I have more class and style than that. I am really let down by the twist in this film, it eradicates the movie as a stand-alone film. It might as well have never been made, after such a twist. I can recommend the first hour, no more.

Steve Jobs

This was a daring second movie about Steve Jobs. The first, you may know, failed miserably. This film has an urgency and a sour tone to it making it impossible to look away from. It presents Jobs the man as a mess socially and in personal relationships. Despite that, it shows how he developed the incredible imac. Instead of trying to tell the whole story, it focused on a slice in time.

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The relationship with his daughter is the most notable here. It chronicles the beginning where he basically tried to deny she was his up to the end of the film that ends with the imac being unveiled. She holds out hope to really know her dad throughout the film but sadly, it is a very slow process of him accepting her. Some things he says about her are ice-cold, I found this part of the film very sad. I never knew this side of the man.

The film raises the age-old concept that geniuses are not good at personal relationships. In addition, it adds an element of Jobs being a shrewd businessman. Everybody knows shrewd businessmen aren’t good at relationships either. So, we are left with a vignette of a man who invented the Apple computer and alienated almost everyone around him. This film paints that picture and shows you a slice of time where you see how he was. It’s not a feel good film but it’s great nostalgia for computer lovers who lived through the 80’s Apple boom. I recommend this film as a drama with much to talk about over coffee afterward.

Watchlist Completed 1/13/2017

As has been my custom lately, I picked a week’s worth of films to watch and review. Here’s are the fruits of my labors. Two are absolutely amazing, some are medium and one is to be missed at all costs!

  1. The Walk 01/12/17 A stunning spectacle and how he made it happen. Fear of heights folks will be challenged!
  2. Krisha 01/12/17 This tried to be something with all its might, so I gave it 2 stars.
  3. The Confirmation 01/11/17 The best film I saw last week! Thoroughly enjoyable drama of father and son on a quest where both grow and learn.
  4. Margot at the Wedding 01/11/17  Wanted to … just couldn’t like this one.
  5. It Had to Be You 01/10/17 Quite excellent romantic comedy. I can’t fault it for anything! Great comedy presented in a somewhat similar way but with it’s own modern charm.
  6. The Infiltrator 01/14/17 1] Dud alert.

The Infiltrator

This is one of those stories about the guy in the background and what’s he’s all about. Despite the film centering on the Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar, it watches more like a “Where are they now” episode on Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston.

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Having seen all seasons of Narcos in their entirety, I was hoping this would be more on Pablo Escobar. It wasn’t, in fact, he wasn’t even in it. I actually thought from the trailers that Bejamin Bratt was playing Escobar and was oddly curious about that. As it turned out, Escobar never graces the screen and this film is just a jumbled mess we’ve seen the likes of before. An undercover writer and cop decides to take part in a sting that will take down Escobar. Namely, the undercover dude is Bryan Cranston, who incidentally looks way too old for the part.

There is some stuff like, I dunno bowling, drinking beer, a few scantily clad women which there are never enough of in bad films. There is very little character development and I say that because I don’t care what is happening to anyone throughout the film. I don’t recommend this film. Pass if you get the chance.