Sweet Country

This is not your run of the mill western. For one thing it takes place in the 1920’s in the Outback bush of Australia. There isn’t much water and everybody looks thirsty as hell. That only adds to the frustration of scenes showing abject racism that occurred at that time. I’m glad awareness is raised in this film, it feel good to know that. Still, like the slavery of the states, it’s hard to watch sometimes, especially as a white man. We are guilty of so many crimes against colored people. I shook my head more than once asking “why?”

Sweet Country (2017)
R | 1h 53min | Adventure , Crime , Drama | 6 April 2018 (USA)
Australian western set on the Northern Territory frontier in the 1920s, where justice itself is put on trial when an aged Aboriginal farmhand shoots a white man in self-defense and goes on the run as a posse gathers to hunt him down.
Director: Warwick Thornton
Writers: Steven McGregor, David Tranter
Stars: Bryan Brown, Luka Magdeline Cole, Shanika Cole

We can do better as whites. There are 2 redeeming characters: one is played by Sam Neill and the other is the imported judge toward the end. These should be seen as white heroes because they stood for equality when ignorant whites threatened.

This is not a feel-good film but it is enjoyable in the Western and History genres. It’s also 2 hours long, be warned. 7/10.

Drugstore Cowboy

Watching junkies can’t be a fun day of movies. Still, when you get into the nitty gritty of the people who use drugs, it can be very interesting indeed. Addiction has been studied much since this film came out. They have learned a lot but there’s no substitute for watching good writing in a film on the topic. These addicts steal as well.

Drugstore Cowboy (1989) R | 1h 41min | Crime , Drama |  A pharmacy-robbing dope fiend and his crew pop pills and evade the law. Director: Gus Van Sant (as Gus Van Sant Jr.) Writers: James Fogle (novel), Gus Van Sant (screenplay) (as Gus Van Sant Jr.) | 1 more credit » Stars: Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, James Le Gros

Matt Dillon leads this film through shallow and deep waters. This group of traveling addicts hold up drug stare pharmacies for their fix. You see the dynamics of living among these people. There is some visual stuff to simulate drug experience. There is also a well written plot that really shows the mentality of these characters. You learn that addicts can come in all shapes and sizes and that maybe it shouldn’t be a crime to have a medical problem like this. This is a masterpiece, a must see. 10/10

Elle

Thrillers with rape and ambition are full of the “red” stuff of our existence. The forbidden fruits, the “dark side of the moon.” We have all that here in the story of “Elle.” This one scored in the 90’s on Metacritic but then again, foreign films with subtitles usually do better. I’d say it’s a worthy watch but in the 80’s? Hmmm. I’ll have to mull that score over.

Elle (2016)
R | 2h 10min | Crime , Drama , Thriller | 11 November 2016 (USA)
A successful businesswoman gets caught up in a game of cat and mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who raped her.
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Writers: Philippe Djian (novel), David Birke (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny

I was proud of her with her busy workaholic schedule to get medical help after the rape. I thought it was stupid she didn’t tell the cops. There were some clues I got early on that showed me who the rapist was but I won’t spoil that for you. There are some great actors in this and the mystery is interesting, albeit easy for me to figure out. As for my score, I enjoyed this film but it’s the same sort of rape and mystery film we see all the time. For that reason, I give it a 6/10.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

Ok, let’s dispense with logic for a moment and look at the pathos of this poster. You have creatures and freaky looking Halloween people coming out of a book. Try to tell me you don’t want to see those creatures? The CGI in this film is top notch. In fact, it’s a work of Sony Animation who are the geniuses behind the upcoming animated “Grinch” film, it looks amazing.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018) PG | 1h 30min | Adventure , Comedy , Family | 12 October 2018 (USA) Two young friends find a magic book that brings a ventriloquist’s dummy to life. Director: Ari Sandel Writers: Rob Lieber (screenplay by), Rob Lieber (story by) | 2 more credits » Stars: Wendi McLendon-Covey, Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor

Our director here is Ari Sandel. He is known for several movies but the one that sticks out the most is “The Duff.” He did a great job on this film but the reputation of Goosebumps precedes him.

This film will get you and your kids into the Halloween spirit. It’s well crafted and brilliantly acted. It’s not terribly original but that’s expected of a Goosebumps film. There is an interesting entrance by a familiar face at the end so wait for it! This is simple, yet pure, Halloween fun at the movies. I give it a 7/10.

Apostle

“The Witch” by Gareth Evans was understated. It was more a tale about family response to an inhuman religion tearing fathers and families against their daughters. This is what produced the Salem witch trials. Here we see another religious based horror in that same pattern but this time it’s an avowed cult and NOTHING here is understated.

Apostle (2018)
2h 10min | Horror , Mystery , Thriller | 12 October 2018 (USA)
In 1905, a drifter on a dangerous mission to rescue his kidnapped sister tangles with a sinister religious cult on an isolated island.
Director: Gareth Evans
Writer: Gareth Evans
Stars: Dan Stevens, Kristine Froseth, Lucy Boynton

Could Gareth Evans, our writer/director here be getting a style and theme? I wonder how many more the public will welcome? Maybe many. Period pieces thrive on Netflix and all streaming networks. Horror has a big draw as well. This isn’t a jump-scare variety though. This is the kind where you squirm at the thought of “what-if?”

Lucy Boynton shines once again in this, as she has in everything she’s done. I’ll never forget the first time she turned heads in “Sing Street.” Dan Stevens, from so many things but most memorable on a grand scale as “Beast” in “The Beauty and the Beast.” There are other stars in this as well. It has become just as prestigious I think to be in Netflix film as to be in feature film of the cinema.

I liked the period piece part of it. The costumes and building props were remarkable, making me feel as if I were transported back in time. I must say however that a similar and more effective message about cults has already been said in “The Village.” Look it up, it’s one of my all-time favorite psychological horrors. The best thing about it? The realism and presentation to show it COULD actually happen. That is missing in “Apostle.”

Comparing this to that, I felt this dragged on a bit long before moving into its complete BONKERS stage of the plot. It’s a fun ride from then on out but charm flies out the window. 7/10.

The Unforgiven

Lots of times we see the hero in a movie like this as a caring, conscientious savior. Not so here. The question for us is “what DOES he care about and why?” In this Western, we have Clint Eastwood’s character as our hero. He’s been a killer and a despised dude in his past but now we see something more resigned. In fact, we don’t know what he’s willing to do to these evil killers and hoodlums.

Unforgiven (1992)
R | 2h 10min | Drama , Western | 7 August 1992 (USA)
Retired Old West gunslinger William Munny reluctantly takes on one last job, with the help of his old partner and a young man.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: David Webb Peoples
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman

I think the dark nature of Eastwood’s character makes this film extra special as a revenge. It’s not a revenge Western until something awful is done, and early on in the film, it is. Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood’s characters represent the final season of a cowboy’s life. They watch and marvel at what the young bloods are willing to do. Never again, they say to themselves.

Gene Hackman’s character, the Sheriff, is pure evil. Ultimately his darkness brings it out by necessity in those around him. This is one of the best westerns out there. I highly recommend it. 10/10.

Hotel Artemis

It’s always nice to see Jodie Foster’s latest endeavors. In this one she plays a tough as nails nurse in a secret hotel/hospital for criminals. The concept of an apocalypse in Los Angeles isn’t too far from grasp. Put that together with Dave Bautista, Jeff Goldblum and an ensemble cast besides them and you have a really fun, engaging movie.

Hotel Artemis (2018)
R | 1h 34min | Action , Crime , Sci-Fi | 8 June 2018 (USA)
Set in riot-torn, near-future Los Angeles, ‘Hotel Artemis’ follows the Nurse, who runs a secret, members-only emergency room for criminals.
Director: Drew Pearce
Writer: Drew Pearce
Stars: Jodie Foster, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista

The director is no slouch. Drew Pearce is known for Iron Man 3 (2013) and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015). Clearly he has his hand on the pulse of action movies and that shows with this film.

The idea of criminal health care is interesting. Since they’re always being wounded in robberies and the like in movies, it makes sense to have a place like Artemis. Some want out and others want in. I suppose the difference is what that person wants for his or her destiny. Running out into the burning Los Angeles isn’t necessarily a dream come true. We see Foster’s character go through the problem solving process with this question as she navigates her future. She has been in the hotel for 20 years.

The story was too simple for all the characters. I think there were just too many of them. For some reason I didn’t have the buy in to interest me like it should. The action part of the pie is top notch and that’s what makes it fun. 7/10.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

All star casts are interesting. I think they do them for different reasons. Jack Black and Roomey Mara have tiny roles and rarely intersect with the protagonist. Jonah Hill has a great role but, again, he isn’t seen as much. It felt like the story was too weak to not sell the film on an ensemble, but maybe that’s just me.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (2018) R | 1h 54min | Biography , Comedy , Drama | 4 April 2018 (France) Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot Poster On the rocky path to sobriety after a life-changing accident, John Callahan discovers the healing power of art, willing his injured hands into drawing hilarious, often controversial cartoons, which bring him a new lease on life. Director: Gus Van Sant Writers: John Callahan (based on the book by), John Callahan (story by) | 4 more credits » Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara

Director of: Drugstore Cowboy, Good Will Hunting, My Own Private Idaho, Milk, Elephant, Psycho, Finding Forrester. Need I say more?

It’s a good film, not a great one. Most the time you are caught up in the life and close up front face of an alcoholic, you can almost smell the booze. His cartooning was interesting but took way too long to get integrated into the plot. It felt like it was trying to recapture the magic of “American Spelndor.” Harvey Pekar was a similar character I think, minus the booze and the crippling accident. I think John Callahan’s life and art deserved more in a film presentation.  6/10.

Hearts Beat Loud

After so many Music/Drama genre combos having come down the pike this past decade, you’d think there’d be a formula for them: an 11 song album of a pretend Irish band on itunes, the remaking of classic hits from a band like ABBA by movie stars like Meryl Streep, etc. I guess I was skeptical and waiting to see what this one would do. There were only 4 original songs in it. The title-sake song is amazing, the other three are more or less throwaways. Still, the usage and placement of these songs is highly effective and the film’s plot is written quite well also.

Hearts Beat Loud (2018) PG-13 | 1h 37min | Drama , Music | 8 June 2018 (USA) A father and daughter form an unlikely songwriting duo in the summer before she leaves for college. Director: Brett Haley Writers: Brett Haley, Marc Basch Stars: Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Blythe Danner

The director is known for “I’ll See You in My Dreams” (2015) and “The Hero” (2017). He’s clearly “in the pocket” creating a film a year or thereabouts. This is a touching film about a father and adult daughter going to college trying to start a band together. I thought the writing was excellent and the director was also the writer.

Middle-aged dads should see it. I’ll leave that there. Beyond that, it’s great for anyone looking for a relationship film (It’s quite touching) with some really grooving music. While speaking of the music, there is a long list in the credits of alt rock music used in the film. I will be seeking out that playlist and/or making one! Small budget films that focus on people are what it’s all about for me, I see nothing to criticize about this one. 10/10.

Hell Fest

As I walked into this house of horrors, aka the Cinemark theater in Anaheim, I had low expectations. As you may have noticed, I figure metascores into my movie selection these days more than I used to and this has received a 25/100. BUT horror movies always score low. While not perfect and at times derivative, this film surprised me how good it actually was.

Hell Fest (2018)
R | 1h 29min | Horror | 28 September 2018 (USA)
A masked serial killer turns a horror-themed amusement park into his own personal playground, terrorizing a group of friends while the rest of the patrons believe that it is all part of the show.
Director: Gregory Plotkin
Writers: Seth M. Sherwood (screenplay by), Blair Butler (screenplay by) | 3 more credits »
Stars: Bex Taylor-Klaus, Reign Edwards, Amy Forsyth

Our director is Gregory Plotkin known for “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” which I have not seen. Maybe I will now even though I paranormally despise the franchise. He has also been on many catsts and sets of films as famous at “Get Out.” The director stands out here in the choices that had to be made to get this film across. I had a few issues with the inside house stuff. The outside all made sense apart from the mock beheading. I will watch for Plotkin in the future and if I see something is playing with his name as director, I’ll see it. This movie is far from perfect or amazing though. Still, I want more so …

One question for when the Scooby Doo-like crew is in the haunted house: “Where are the other people?” They call it VIP but still, wouldn’t the cast inside the house get stored of waiting hours for just this group to come through? That I had a huge issue with. Other than that, it’s your basic slasher that derives heavily from “Friday the Thirteenth” and “Halloween.” If you go in wanting to have basic horror fun with a lot of merciless jump scares, this is the film for you! You will have fun, I did. For not making logical sense in house, it lost points with me but I will still recommend it with a good score, 7/10.