Watchlist to Complete by 1/14/2017

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My notes: I’ve been meaning to see the Bryan Cranston film for ages. Really glad to have it on my watchlist. The crimes of Pablo Escobar are significant and I’ve enjoyed other film takes on his life in the past. The Jack Black film looks good. I am atually half-way through it already. I love films about people and this one definitely paints a loely palette of several. There is an independent film in the bunch that also falls into the people category.

I’ve wanted to see the film on Petit and the twin tower walk for a while. I’ll report back on how it was of course. Finally, this Clive Owen film looks quite promising as well. I shall report back to you on or around the due date :)

My list on IMDb

Another Watchlist Completed 1/7/2017

Last week was the last of my vacation and I set out to review at least 5 films before going back to teaching my wonderful students. I was more than successful. I did not however manage to review Cronos due to time constraints. I saw several more movies however in addition to my watchlist: A Monster Calls, Marnie, and North by Northwest. To comment on my list, you can do so here or click on the image below to be taken to the list on IMDB. I appreciate you comments either place. Thank you in advance.

Links to my reviews (Jan ’17 Date, Title link, # of comments)

Green Room

If you knew punk like I did in the 1980’s, you should watch this if for no other reason than to see how much the punks of today have fucked it up. At the same time, there is a punk spirit still alive in this film that makes the film worth watching. It’s as violent as hell, so much so that is has been labeled as horror. I myself don’t agree it fits in that genre.

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The band is slumming it. I heard Michael Stipe talking about the early days of REM when they were in a van on “tour” of little America. They survived on bags of potatoes and beer. It’s the romance of the things that sounded so fun. I this film you see this same scenario only things aren’t going as well for this band as they did for REM.

There is some sort of scuffle in the venue they play and somehow, someone gets stabbed. The film grows in violence from that point to a raging crescendo of blood and gore that in some metaphorical way might be considered a video to a Sex Pistols song. Unfortunately for me, I got bored. Even though the cause was justified, the violence just seemed to predictable. The things we find below in within this jam house are also a bit predictable.

A lor of people were telling me the same thing about this film, so I’m surprised I felt the urge to see it. It’s not a bad movie per se but I just didn’t find anything worth running to the laptop over to share. For that reason, I don’t recommend Green Room unless your watchlist is about played dry and there’s nothing else really to watch.

A Monster Calls

I can usually identify why I liked a film straight off. In this case, I can’t. While I pore through this incredibly sad film in my head, I still have to review it so here goes. Let me tell you what it is.

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Here, we are in a boy’s dreams though are not revealed as such. In fact, we aren’t sure through the course what is dream and what is reality. Perhaps he’s a sleepwalker for all we know. This is an open-ended film in terms of interpretation. I read something yesterday that claimed the tree was cancer. I wonder. A recent film I liked that did a similar “open-ended” technique was Birdman.

Is there really a Birdman? Is there really a tree? What am I really seeing here? What is the purpose?

If riddles like this interest you as much as they do me, this film is for you. Films like this do not expect to be exactly understood, instead, they invite emotion and tone into the viewer experience. That becomes the meaning.

The acting is superb. There is really nothing child-like here or crafted for kids. There is a lot of amazing artwork reminiscent of the storytelling scenes in Kubo and the Two Strings. The boy and his mother are both artists, it is their bond to be as such. While I’m on the topic, the relationship between dying mother and son is tear-jerking, almost gut wrenching. I wonder why the film seemed aimed at kids with such sad grown-up themes here.

I thought the film was about the stages of grief but as the film progressed I realized it’s a more personal message than that. This book must have been written by someone who went through loss and used the tree monster as a vehicle to explained what must be learned through death. Yes, the theme is death.

There is much to be gained from going to this movie. IT might be helpful to someone who loses a parent or other loved one, but I’m not sure. Perhaps it would be better used for therapists and friends who have not experienced the loss to understand what the sufferer is going through. Without giving it away, I’ll leave you with my recommendation but only if you know going in these are grown up concepts that kids won’t truly get unless you have a hot chocolate with them afterward and dialog. Having said that, now that I’ve explained the theme of death and dark serious tone, I wholeheartedly recommend this for anyone. I liked it the same way you like sour candy, one of the sour low points of life we all experience and can not escape.

The Strangers

While the first 44 minutes could have been spent on better things like developing a rationale for a twist, character development of the intruders, or pretty much anything other than nothing, from the 45 minute point onward, this is a great intruder horror film.

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Since Scott Speedman for me usually signals a throwaway film, I should have listened to my instincts. Having said that, I did enjoy the middle to end of this film and especially the clever end. I’m not surprised they are making a sequel out of it because Hollywood does that with every decent film nowadays.

As for this one, it is a pretty good intruder film. I was reminded of more recent films such as Hush and You’re Next. Both films used masks to their advantage. The problem here is there is far too much time that nothing is happening. I will say bravo to the masks, the masks were scary.

The thing about masks though is that they are so easy to implement and they have a limited effect. When I watch them I can easily imagine the expressions on the face underneath. I think movie watchers in general cannot or do not bother to try which makes the masks ultra scary. To a filmmaker, it’s a budget prop. The story didn’t have much explanation to it. At the end you see a little of a cultic hint but not really. I suppose they are like a Manson family thing but we never hear why and we get virtually to characterization of these people. An opposite example is You’re Next where we learn everything nd that movie is about as scary as this one if not more so.

There are some holes here as I have mentioned but all in all I would recommend this to horror fans. Feel free to get a sandwich in the first half though.

Marnie

Terms for psychologists like “Analysts” are common in Hitchcock films. He seemed to be taken with the idea of the mind and its many shenanigans. Some of those caused it to commit crimes, even kill. Of course, since the films of Hitchcock we’ve had similar twists in films like Fight Club. The idea that the mind can take a plot far afield and back again is be dazzling to audiences. Hitchcock was one of the forerunners of this movie making component.

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Marnie is a mess. That is established early on. The question is, is she an habitual criminal or a survivor. Is there a difference in a court of law? I think not. You might be able to get someone off for their childhood trauma but more often than not, there are cases proving that judges and juries aren’t easily dismissing crime because of psychology.

This film is about layering. Hitchcock, from his first hallway cameo in the film, is working in every scene to develop the story of a tragedy. We’re not sure of what it is or the damage it has caused but it looms. We are led hither and yon: first to one possible conclusion and then to another. It isn’t until the ending scene that we have a complete picture of what happened.

Marnie didn’t receive the critical acclaim of other psychological thrillers of its time, like Psycho, but it is a deft painting of a woman with evil tendencies that the audience can’t help but find compassion for. This is a great Hitchcock film! I’m very thankful to Kristen Lopez for making me aware of it. She is set to be a guest on our podcast this week that will air sometime in January. The topic is simply “Hitchcock.” I recommend Marnie to Hitchcock fans and fans of thriller/drama movies from the 50’s and 60’s.

The Last House on the Left

I can see how watching horror could make me not trust strangers very much. Holy smokes, this is a whack in the side of the head, a kick ass horror film that when it starts just doesn’t quit. How about you? How much would you trust wounded strangers? Maybe your answer to that depends on whether you’ve seen this film yet.

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I found myself asking as I watched this, “Can people be this mean?” I’ve hardly ever seen anything so brutal, of course I have though. How about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. That rape scene is probably the most needlessly graphic scene I have ever endured. Let’s just say, this film approaches that in many of its scenes.

After having been a huge fan of Breaking Bad as it was coming out each week, it was a trip to see Aaron Paul in this film. He plays a similar character in that he doesn’t give a fuck. Apart from the leader of his group, I’d say Paul’s character is the most frightening. For that reason, he is also fun to watch. A few times I did get bored as I smelled the fragrance of I Know What you Did Last Summer and other formulaic 90’s horror films.

Basically, it’s this: create an evil character by making him to horrible things to innocent people. Next, have those innocent people fight back. Make murderers out of good people and being the audience’s approval along for the ride. There, I might call that a plot spoiler but there is so much more here worth checking out. I recommend it to fans of the genre. Don’t expect something new or visionary but expect to be blown away by this revenge tale.

The Nice Guys

When you watch comedy duos, the question arises at times of which is the most pathetic. In this film, we do have a sort of comedy duo, although the comedy is far between confused scenes that don’t seem to know what they are.

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I’d recommend the comedy in this film. The other stuff, like plot, characterization, and suspense are quite wanting. The two actors have a pretty good sense of what works and what doesn’t and when they stick to the comedy, it definitely works with me. There is a story though I had a hard time really getting what it was. There is some nudity, since part of the plot involves a naked magazine publisher. So, with the strongest parts being nudity and comedy, you may find the demographic that enjoys the film.

I don’t think it’s possible to see these two in a film and be bored. They are amazing actors who have built a following on solid performances. They command the screen. The ridiculous situations and irony all over the place kept me laughing and entertained. I would have liked to see the film dispense with the mystery plot and simply focus on the comedy of these two. There were times it reminded me of Laurel and Hardy. Nonetheless, the film works in the genre I have said and it wasn’t a complete let down. I recommend it as a mostly engaging comedy for fans of Crowe and Gosling as well as fans of the genre.

Oh, and one more thing this movie has going for it is a very credible presentation of 70’s appearance and nostalgia. From the cars to the wardrobe, a lot of work went successfully into that. It’s a lot of fun.

Watchlist: 5 Films to Review by 1/8/2017

I have one more week of vacation and I intend to review at east these 5 films before I go back to teaching my wonderful students. To comment on my list, you can do so here or click on the image below to be taken to the list on IMDB. I’ll appreciate you comments either place. Thank you in advance.

 

Finished a Watch List – 1/3/2017

Oh what a feeling! I seem to be able to keep up the pace of one film/one review a day. There were a few gem moments in this bunch of films but quite a few discards as well. Little Men was by far the best for me. I hope you enjoy my reviews, linked below in watched order, not rating. BTW, it would make my day if some of you commented here or on the IMDB list page. Thanks!

  1. Morris from America 01/02/17
  2. Certain Women 01/01/17
  3. Miss Stevens 12/31/16
  4. Little Men 12/30/16
  5. The Eyes of My Mother 12/29/16
  6. Sing 12/28/16

Click on the screenshot below to visit my list on IMDB.