My Bloody Valentine

My score: 6/10. Now streaming on Amazon Prime. 90’s horror had a certain look about it that continued into the 00’s. IN this we see Kerr Smith pop up and in between the blood and gore, there’s an air of Dawson’s Creek that can’t be shaken. But this aint no creek, we’re in a mine now and there a killer loose.

My Bloody Valentine (2009)
R | 1h 41min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller | 16 January 2009 (USA)

Tom returns to his hometown on the tenth anniversary of the Valentine’s night massacre that claimed the lives of 22 people. Instead of a homecoming, Tom finds himself suspected of committing the murders, and it seems like his old flame is the only one that believes he’s innocent.
Director: Patrick Lussier
Writers: Todd Farmer (screenplay), Zane Smith (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
Stars: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith

Pros: A lot of action and blood. There is some nudity and scenes that are no holds barred. The brutality is fun and for a horror movie, I feel like you get your money’s worth.

Cons: The story is weak and the characters are very developed. It’s quite formulaic borrowing from all the slasher classics. There is n deep creepiness, more just slice and dice. Watches like a Buffy the Vampire Slayer et. al.

I enjoyed this one but wouldn’t recommend it as scary or interesting, just slasher fun. 6/10.

You Were Never Really Here

My Score 10/10. Now in theaters. At some level we all become the same person trying to get through her/his existence. Listen to my review in the player below.

Lynne Ramsey’s film portrays Joe at that point. He’s good at rescuing sex slaves but can he walk down the street without losing it? I’ve been a fan of Lynne Ramsay since I saw “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” She stood out as a director with something to say, or maybe what she has to say is that we need to be talking about that level we are all on.

You Were Never Really Here (2017)
R | 1h 29min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller | 6 April 2018 (USA)

A traumatized veteran, unafraid of violence, tracks down missing girls for a living. When a job spins out of control, Joe’s nightmares overtake him as a conspiracy is uncovered leading to what may be his death trip or his awakening.
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Writers: Lynne Ramsay (screenplay by), Jonathan Ames (based on the book by)
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts, Ekaterina Samsonov

Lynne Ramsay’s career started with her film “Ratcatcher.” Soon after that she directed “Morvern Callar.” These films, as I understand, are also about individuals deftly making it through a seriously fucked up situation. No one can tell these people about the world as they know what it’s about before you start. It’s dark. Still there is a beacon of survival that floats to the surface of the darkness. Her films are not filled with hope per se but they do show a way through. If there is one, we will find it. Is that hope? Maybe. Yeah, I think it is. There is a seriously jaded tone in her work and I am attracted to that. It’s as if she telling her audience she isn’t here to spoon feed them but lead them to drink at their own water source.

Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is definitely a seasoned professional, albeit jaded. He’s fucked up in the head from the war but he also knows a thing or two about saving young girls in sex slavery. Can you have one without the other? He’s not hung up on the deadly risk of his work because he seems to invite death. There are borderline hallucinatory scenes throughout. In the beginning we see him taking care of his aging mother and mock-asphyxiating himself in closet plastic. It flashes to a young by doing the same thing. We see him as seriously messed up individual who is making it as best he can unable to shake the demons and responsibilities of this world. When he picks up the hammer to do his “work” we see we’re dealing with a gifted pro but at the same time, he can handle a gun.

Joe’s use of a hammer as a weapon is a way of showing he cuts through the bullshit of appearances. To him, a gun is heavy. A hammer is light and gets it done quick. When he goes into houses, trying to find these girls he;s been hired to find, they are lived in but plain. These look just like “our” houses. I couldn’t help but think if the finger was pointing at middle America and the secret sins it hides at home. When they kill his mom, it’s one of the legs on his mental table. He doesn’t teeter, he crashes mentally. It’s hard to keep the line straight between good and evil, in fact it sort of dissolves into a vengeance chapter. As he lays on the floor with the dying assailant he holds his hand as if to say, “You aren’t fucked up man the world is.” And why does he take so much time burying him in the lake in an almost funeral like manner? Could he be thanking him for taking his mother to a better place? He seems reborn after this event. And how about the beautiful day outside? What was being said there?

I was very happy to see many critics agree this is a 100/100. It’s got very little dialog but the music acts as a narrator. It is incredible. Be ready for a slow burn that doesn’t do the work for you, you have to think and negotiate what this means for yourself. I loved it. 10/10.

The Wrestler

My score: 10/10. Mickey Rourke can sell anything onscreen. I find him to be one of the most emotive and credible actors living today. In this case, he’s playing a weathered wrestler at the end of his career. It’s very well made film and bring your tissue.

The Wrestler (2008)
R | 1h 49min | Drama, Sport | 30 January 2009 (USA)

A faded professional wrestler must retire, but finds his quest for a new life outside the ring a dispiriting struggle.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Robert D. Siegel (as Robert Siegel)
Stars: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

When you are hungry, you’ll do what you have to do to eat, or you’ll die. Now, add other needs to that equation: when you need the rent, when you’re lonely, when you’re empty inside, etc. People in desperate situations do desperate things. Darren Aronfsky has become quite famous this year for his “Mother!” film. I can’t attempt to unravel that here. Black Swan is another big hit of his. In that we see Natalie Portman’s character doing what she has to do to survive in her situation as well. It gets downright horrifying.

For me, “The Wrestler” is the best film of his. Marissa Tomei plays an older stripper who is not yeat at the end of her “career” and yet she sympathizes with her “client” who is all but completely burned out and washed up in his. If you’ve ever felt “done” with what you do, you will probably enjoy this film. It’sa universal situation for us humans who have limited time to do the best job we can. Again, bring your tissue.

A Quiet Place

My score: 10/10. Depeche Mode sang, “Enjoy the silence.” But I really don’t think anyone in this film is enjoying it. We are programmed to yell out when hurt, scared, or shocked. What would you do if that spelled your demise? This is the question I kept asking in in “A Quiet Place.” Listen to my 7 min review at the player below:

A Quiet Place (2018)
PG-13 | 1h 30min | Drama, Horror, Thriller | 6 April 2018 (USA)

A family is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound.
Director: John Krasinski
Writers: Bryan Woods (screenplay by), Scott Beck (screenplay by) | 3 more credits »
Stars: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds

John Krasinski is our director and a great one indeed. This is a film of 90 minutes that I literally wanted to be a lot longer. Trust me, my patience for long movies is characteristically low. In this case, it was done so well, I wanted to know what the characters did after the first credits appeared. That doesn’t mean I am asking for a sequel by the way, far be that from me. The central premise of being hunted by sound is powerful and it works so well. After that, the foreshadowing and character development worked together to make this film amazing. Tip of the hat to Krasinkski, who also plays the dad/husband of this family. I am utterly impressed with his work here.

A lot of times these days in films, directors use the rule of less is more when it comes to their monsters. They only show parts of the monster ad then the audience uses their far more powerful imagination. We are given the “full creature” in many scenes and this really makes the film work. We have an idea what it can do and maybe how it can be destroyed. Needless to say I am very impressed also with the CGI of this film. This is mostly because it serves the story.

I kept thinking in this film I was in “Signs.” It was like the same barbecue with different meat. Signs is more of a metaphysical/religious film whereas this one is just suspense all the way. The ending of both are birds of a feather and both films have amazing writing that makes the film worthy.

The acting is equally astounding. Metacritic has given this film an 85 and I must say I disagree. This film should be closer to 100. Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck) steals the show. All cast members deserve awards but her work as the deaf loving daughter broke my heart and I am sure everyone else’s in the theater as well. She was amazing and I await great things from her in the future.

Emily Blunt pays the mother with so much to lose if the creatures hear her. You feel her tedium. Noah Jupe is the brave young brother who knows what to do in the cse of a creature attack. This is labeled horror but it’s a lot about family and sacrifice. It’s suspense above all and though it starts a bit slow, patient audiences will be rewarded. In case you couldn’t tell, I recommend this film and give it a 10/10.

Near Dark

This is a forgotten gem of a vampire movie. How do you become one? How do you survive once you are one? And best of all, is Edward right that vampires shimmer in the daylight? My tongue is firmly in my cheek as I write these questions.

Near Dark (1987)
R | 1h 34min | Action, Crime, Drama | 1988 (Peru)

A small-town farmer’s son reluctantly joins a traveling group of vampires after he is turned on by a beautiful drifter.
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writers: Kathryn Bigelow, Eric Red
Stars: Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen

There is so much good to share about this film but really, I needed only two names to want to see it myself: Kathryn Bigelow and Bill Paxton. Bigelow directed this as her debut and she did a wonderful job. The camera angles, editing, acting, and overall tone all add up to a scary yet adventure filled film. Having recently seen “Detroit,” her latest endeavor and a very different themed film, I am struck by her ability to cross genres and make something highly entertaining in both.

Bill Paxton plays a very scary vampire. Something to note is the process vampires go through after they turn where they have to “feed” on human blood. It’s as psychological as it is physical. Oh and some may remember Jenny Wright, the actress that bites her lip so sexy in Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” she’s in this too. She is a vampire so she’s biting other people’s bodies this time. It was cool seeing here. She’s very mysterious and so far I like everything she’s done. The director, the actors, including a “beautiful drifter.”

Elephant

I love movies where I feel like I am among the characters. This was certainly that sort of film. Gus Van Sant must have meant it that way in that there appears to be no agenda presented on how we can stop school shootings. But the shootings are there nonetheless. We track several students and a few teachers and parents going about their morning. Little is explained as everything the director wants us to see is merely shown. This was not an easy film to watch but I like how it allowed me to see inside a school shooting and draw my own conclusions. Nothing was shoved down my throat.

Elephant (2003)
R | 1h 21min | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 14 November 2003 (USA)

Several ordinary high school students go through their daily routine as two others prepare for something more malevolent.
Director: Gus Van Sant
Writer: Gus Van Sant
Stars: Elias McConnell, Alex Frost, Eric Deulen

I couldn’t give this film anything less than a 9/10 because it is so powerful and so halting. The director Gus Van Sant, who we know as the director of “Good Will Hunting,” has made a piece of art that shows us what a school shooting scenario looks like. This could be used in think tanks as official people look for solutions and ways to conduct preparation drills. It is just a little more than a blank canvas, we pour our own meaning into it.

The director shows us the shooters at home getting their semi-automatic rifle delivered and then practicing shooting in the garage with no parents at home. He shows the leader playing beautiful piano while the other surfs the web for more guns. But the movie shows plenty of ways and extended moments where armed teachers or staff could take out the killers. In other words, the point of view is not limited to conservative or liberal. Like I said, no solutions are given, it’s not meant that way. If interested you can look at my review of another Van Sant film that works the same way: not a case study just a case of a juvenile to look at. That film is Paranoid Park.

The actors are all unknown to me. I did recognize the drunk dad though he has a small part. I read that Van Sant made enough money off of directing “Good Will Hunting” that he could enjoy the freedom of making non-commercial films. Shouldn’t every successful director see it that way? He has given the world an amazing case to study and come up with its own individualized solutions. This film came out in 2003 and it is made to mirror Columbine. In the years since its release, we’ve suffered so many more school shootings it’s frightening.

Watch this film with high schoolers and ages up from there. It is not for kids younger than that. Have a conversation based on this film. It is an amazing piece. So, why did I give it a 9/10 and not a perfect score? Probably because it truly offers very little hope. I for one would have enjoyed it more if there were some. Perhaps I’m asking too much. My other 9 points I granted it say the rest. I recommend this film 9/10.

Paranoid Park

It’s easy to judge young men who hang out at skateboard parks. “Get a job” we like to say and we look at them as children afraid to grow up, many times. But what about murder? The tragically hip youth of the millennials and Generation Y’s must come under scrutiny and judgement when murder is committed, mustn’t they?

Paranoid Park (2007)
R | 1h 25min | Crime, Drama, Mystery | 24 October 2007 (France)

A teenage skateboarder’s life begins to fray after he is involved in the accidental death of a security guard.
Director: Gus Van Sant
Writers: Gus Van Sant (screenplay), Blake Nelson (novel)
Stars: Gabe Nevins, Daniel Liu, Taylor Momsen

Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting”) is our director here and he is doing what he is great at: simply showing us an average day-in-the-life of his protagonist. When he picks up his skateboard to take with him on his journey, we are taken with him. We follow him, taking notes in this mystery. As the detective starts to unravel the facts, you may guess who the killer is before anyone in the room. Or, you may just postpone your judgement, waiting to see some hint of emotion in the protagonist’s eyes that will reveal it for you. You’ll be waiting forever.

This young man is cold and not innocent. There is something about him I hate in myself: laziness and indifference. If you find yourself cheering for him, I would question why. The final act serves to seal the deal of what I am trying to say about him. In the end we are left with the question of how should we view such a person and are we all like him in some way, a way we must avoid? This was an engaging film. I don’t think I’d recommend it in a huge way but it has an amazing director and the characters are certainly developed, when they’re supposed to be. I gave this one an 8/10 for the interested crowd.

Life is Sweet

Mike Leigh is a different sort of cool director. As I watched this film I kept thinking, “Something’s different about this movie.” It’s certainly a great and entertaining drama comedy but there is one big “under the hood” aspect that really makes it special.

Life Is Sweet (1990)
R | 1h 43min | Comedy, Drama | December 1991 (USA)

A waitress, her cook husband, & their twin daughters ponder their lives over a few weeks in a working-class suburb north of London.
Director: Mike Leigh
Writer: Mike Leigh
Stars: Alison Steadman, Jim Broadbent, Claire Skinner

When Mike Leigh makes a film, he hires the cast without a script. From there, he pays the actors to improv with the basic story and develop their own script which is later used for the movie. This is organic and it promises to make the film more human and realistic I think. The film doesn’t have a twist and there is no notable escalating of action. It works perfectly as is.

Seeing Jim Broadbent in this recalls Harry Potter. He is so much younger in this though. All the actors in this went on to have hearty UK roles in TV shows and movies. If you like British media, this would be a walk down memory lane for you to see these actors in their youth. We learn lessons like one parent is often a better provider than the other and there may be something wrong with a twin sister that we didn’t realize as a result of her odd behavior. She’s not just stuck in post-adolescence.

In keeping with the style of organic writing, the script is just people living their lives. You pay more attention to their wallpaper as they talk than to clues to solve any mysteries, because there are none. You do experience people who love each other and do what it takes to keep the day to day going. Isn’t that what we’re all doing, if we’re lucky?

This film was very enjoyable and I give it an 8/10.

Ep. 69 – American Splendor

I haven’t done a long written review on this one so I am posting the podcast I recorded. After picking this film based on its Metacritic score, I watched and learned of a unique talent in our times: Harvey Pekar (pronounced “Peek-are”). Listen to the episode below.

He was a comics artist who lived the artist’s life. I was hugely inspired by his story and specifically, Paul Giamatti’s portrayal of him in this film. I give it easily a 10/10 but be aware it is droll and sometimes very nerdy. In other words, it’s not for everyone. The film really touched me though and I talk about how at length in this episode. Thanks for listening, may Harvey Pekar rest in peace. My next film for commentary is “About Schmidt.” See you next time.

Movies I Watched Last Week 4/2/2018

 

Title My Rating out of 10
Gattaca 7
Out of the Furnace 8
The Vault 7
About Schmidt 7
American Splendor 8
La tortue rouge (The Red Turtle) 10
Chained 7
Home for the Holidays 5
Passengers 7
Another Year 7
The Angels’ Share 7
Ghost Rider 5
Permission 6
Pieces of April 8