The Autopsy of Jane Doe

We’ve all seen the autopsy room in the morgue on crime shows like CSI. What we haven’t seen is havoc in the same room. It’s remarkable when a film can create suspense and intrigue in just one room and The Autopsy of Jane Doe manages it well. I liked it a lot and certainly found it interesting. It’s rare when a film holds my attention this powerfully from credits to credits. I do have some reservations but overall I can highly recommend it.

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I like movies that take me somewhere I’ve never been and I don’t know where I’m going. This film started out like that as they hauled in a nameless cadaver and attempted to find a COD. Toward the middle and three-fourths region, it started getting really complicated. This worked for the plot and intrigue but I must admit I sort of lost what was happening.

I don’t like movies I don’t understand. There may be something more to this film I didn’t catch but I didn’t really care to watch it again and find that out. For that reason, I’d say the movie fails on one level. It’s exciting, gory, and suspenseful but at the same time it presents a backstory that really doesn’t fit as a puzzle piece. It works as it is and is certainly an enjoyable and scary film but I wish they would have made the solution to the mystery simpler. I didn’t get it.

I’n happy to reccomend this horror film to fans of the genre. If you saw it already, I’d love to get your comments. This is one we could talk about for hours. Anyone care to make me a backstory believer?

The Kings of Summer (No Spoilers)

This is a fun little movie that made it under my radar a few years ago. If you enjoy high school dramadies, your likely to enjoy this. In one Summer, 3 boys discover a Lord of the Flies land in the wilderness by their home. Their escape the focus and isn’t that what adolescent movies are all about? It’s a common theme but the characterization and sometimes tense dramatic portions are original and effective.

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This high school aged comedy/drama starts where the high school campus ends. Here we have three teenaged friends, unhappy with their home lives, who join together to leave the suburbs and build their own shack in the woods.

I think the angst of high school kids is pretty standard here. I remember wanting to move out of my parents house so badly at that age. I wasn’t financially prepared to so I had to wait. These boys don’t. They go through all the steps of building and preparing and their adventures along the way are quite engaging and heartwarming.

They do some drinking and smoking and of course they try all the things they couldn’t do back home. There are some interesting characters here as well. The main character’s father is quite interesting. He gets angry and has an opportunity to reconnect. Does he take that opportunity? You’ll have to see to find out. While comic in nature there are some serious scenes as well.

There is a girl as there always will be. Her role is similar to the “interloper” into the Little Rascals fort. The drama and tension there becomes evident as the boys find out whether she belongs or not. I found the father drama along with the girl conflicy quite easy to recall from childhood. I remembered these things that you go out and build a fort to discover. It’s a good watch and I’d recommend it to anyone but mostly to fans of the high school dramedy.

La La Land (With Spoilers)

This music based film keeps the old jazz of music and the spirit of LA life alive. At the same time, its given a showtune spin to capture the modern audience. I hope the young who are not familiar with song and dance are drawn in and turned on.

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People under 20 may not know of showtunes. this film is put together in such a way that it really promotes that music. Its likely to expose a lot more to the beauty and finesse of it. The tap dance number at dawn is truly a perfect scene. My favorite part is when her cell phone rings, a very fitting signal of return to reality.

I guess in many ways these two are in “La la land.” They are in love and not thinking about the future. The problem is that as one gets closer to her dreams, the other has to follow or go his own way. Its an argument for not getting too attached until you are close enough to your dreams.

The jazz piano and other instruments burn up the audio. Its great watching Gosling’s character work toward his goal of having his own club. Both lovers are exceptionally driven: She for her acting and he for his jazz club. It raises the question if what would you choose: live or your life’s passion? I like choice movies.

About 2/3 in, it got boring at times. I think at over 2 hours it could have been edited much shorter. What starts as fun and la la becomes a bit cumbersome and morose. It finally reemerges as happy again but we’re no longer in La La Land. We must live with the consequences of walking away from love for the sake of a dream. It’s tough, at the end, there wasnt a dry eye in the place. Below are photos I took of the world famous Arclight, Pasadena.

La La Land – Video Review (No Spoilers)

Will post my text review in a day or so. Great film, really enjoyed it. Movie meta stuff is below.

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Red Rock West

This review is my entry in Darren Lucas’ Opinion Battles Year 3 Round 1.

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Nicolas Cage is at his best in this film. He portrays the happy-go-lucky good old boy faced with a chance to do the wrong thing. Dennis Hopper stars in this as the trly bad man who lies. cheats, and steals. Cage learns that if he makes bad moral choices, a hailstorm of consequences rains down on him. Still, in his typical cage fashion, he struggles to stay true to himself.

There is some ironic humor here but mostly you see a guy down on his luck and out of gas accidentally stumbling into mishaps. They may seem small at first but very soon they become life and death events. You find yourself asking, “What would I do if that money were in my face?” and other everyman questions like this. In the final analysis, Cage is the everyman of acting. We like the films when we can see ourselves as him. He is nothing if not a character to identify with.

Another film where he is at his best is The Family Man but I choose this one because it is not very well known and is certainly a diamond in the rough. I hope you’ll vote for my choice in Opinion Battles.

Here’s the trailer for Red Rock West.

Ripper Street

This is a great tv show not because of its period dramatic scenery and wardrobe. It’s not great either because it’s like Downton Abbey meets a crime thriller. It’s an amazing show simply because it has a clever formula.

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Ripper Street takes its name from the famous killer of England’s past but the show is not about him. It starts out with a small group of policemen trying to decide if serial killings are linked to Jack the Ripper. We learn how this team goes through its rudimentary CSI and time specific police tools to solve a class. By the 3rd episode, we learn Jack the Ripper isn’t part of this show, he only inspired the title. It is after all a great title I’m sure you will agree.

It’s a good cast that runs this show. It really does make me think I am in the time period when I’m watching. Once the formula is established, it opens the way for so many stories. The many themes and visual effects keep this show interesting. Let me restate that the actors give it their all and they are brimming with talent. Timely characters appear here and there. For example, in season one we meet and see the Elephant man deliver dialog with other characters we hae become familiar with.

Because this show does follow a formula, I think a person could skip episodes and still get the story. It’s not necessarily “full” of personality but to those who get into period pieces and good crime stories, I recommend this show. You might call it a Downton Abbey crime drama.

Nacho Libre

When the brothers complain about his food, the cook in the monastery, Nacho Libre, says “Maybe I need a better duty.” He’s got a spirit you just can’t hold down.

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There are so many quotes from Nacho Libre being recited in my house of 5 all the year long. One example is when Nacho philosophizes to the sexy nun Incarnacion, “I know my clothes may hae the appearance of riches but beneath the clothes you find the man and beneath the man, you find his … nucleus.” This is the sort of depth/non-depth contrast you get in this comedy film. Little Chancho is sad to see Nacho storming out of the convent to be a wrestler so he offers him his “mother’s lucky machete” stating “you may need it.”

This may not be instant comedy to anyone who watches it the first time. I’ll admit, when my sister bought it for me a few years ago as a Christmas gift, I wasn’t impressed. But the jokes grow on you! After thinking about them and playng the jokes again, I was a full fledged fan for life. Go Nachoooooooo!

Nacho is an unwitting yet sincere monk trying to break into Mexican Luchador wrestling. It is so innocent yet so well delivered, Jack Black as Nacho should get a high comedy award for his work on this film.

Skeletor becomes his partner in the ring and together they seek fame and fortune at luchadors. Nacho tells the kids in the monastery, “I know the wrestlers get all the fancy creams and lotions.” The jokes just come one after the other.

There’s a wonderful ending and scenes in the final fight that are quite well filmed. In fact, the who film is very well choreographed and filmed. This film does not get the praise it deserves. Watch it at least twice before you judge.

After all the “language” of Nacho Libre must be acquired, even while it’s all in English. I recommend this to people who could use a good laugh.

The Hateful Eight

Spaghetti westerns and blood soaked pulp violence films, yeah! Bring ’em on. Quentin has put these together for us for many a year and many people thank him for it with their admission dollars. But is this particular film one of his best yet? Let’s take a look.

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One new thing is the bonking a woman on her head until blood runs down her toothless face. Are we meant to enjoy this? I think so. It’s pretty funny but not a laugh a minute.

The premise of the film is bounty hunters and thieves traveling across frozen terrain to cross paths in a warm cabin. In there is where all hell breaks loose and the shit starts to hit the fan.

I’ve seen worse gore and violence in a Tarantino film. It doesn’t knock you over the head that way. For me, this one was more dark comedy than anything else. It moves around a bit in time which makes it interesting. You’ll get mostly what you get in his other films. In fact, there isn’t much here we haven’t seen before, in spades.

I think the hallmark of a great film is one that draws influence from previous ideas but integrates them into a new idea. The “new” of it is missing in this film for me.

As a final thought: I’m a die-hard fan of Tarantino’s work but this one only gave me a few moments by the fire only to leave me cold.

House of Cards

Being a white educated male, I cringe at the way this film presents white educated males as ruthless and immoral in government.

I accept the presentation of white male politicians as such as probably true most of the time. A lot of new tv series are trying to present things as they are, as opposed to the sugar-coated version. That pretty much sums up what this tv show is all about.

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I have only seen the first 4 episodes but some spoilers may follow.

Kevin Spacey is the consummate politician and what’s more, he’s the consummate political advisor. He’s raising up a new mayor who obviously will suit his agenda. They way he grooms him is eye-opening. Every part of this show tears down perceptions of how politics work. Morality is virtually non-existent. It’s not necessarily important if things are sinister in politics, rather, it’s important only if they seem sinister or not.

Robin Wright plays Spacey’s wife. She seems ruthless in the episodes I have seen. I a feeling she’s going to really start revealing her evil plans very soon. She seems so resolved in her decisions. She chooses to not have an affair with a man she seems interested in and gives a speech telling why that is some excellent acting.

This show is very engaging and there are some great characters. It shows you what goes on behind the scene in elections and in elected position jobs. It is gong rather slowly here at the get go. It seems though as if it has the raw talent and story to get into some entertaining stuff down the road. I recommend it to drama/comedy fans.