‘The Walking Dead’ S07 Finale

Be warned, I’m not happy. Tiger, Tiger … I thought this was an improvement but not much better than what this soap opera has been lately.

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The reason I still watch this show is because it’s on Sunday nights and my family likes it. Every week I get less and less interested in what the millionaires who make it want to say. I know Negan is in the comic lol ut he needs to die. This isn’t because I fear him or anyone should but rather because he is a boring character that simply does the same thing over and over.

The show has lost its zombie appeal almost completely. It seemed once the human stories played backup for the zombie reality. Now its flipped. We have ti sit through tears and crap side dialog about people who are dead or who are in other camps. I truly hope this show improves.

Negan gets wise to Rick and his plans. He captures some people. It looks like Rick or people close to him will die. There is an intervening hand (or paw) at the end.

What I’d like to see is less of a “war” with Negan and more about how the zombie world is rebuilding itself and innovation is taking over. If you’re a fan, you’ve probably seen it, if not, this is not the one to come in on. Dull and mundane. Does anyone really care if she killed herself as a sacrifice to become a zombie? I won’t get into detail but feel free to in the comments.

2/5

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Article first published as Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close on Blogcritics.
At a time of enlightenment about Autism, this film sheds a realistic light that’s not always easy to watch.

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Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was directed by Stephen Daldry, known for The Reader, Billy Elliot, and the Hours. It has been advertised as a stunning, avant garde movie centering on how the 9-11 tragedy affects one family. It centers around Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), a nine-year-old boy who is hell bent on discovering a remnant of his father’s past. His father is Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks), a jeweler, who dies in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The last remnant, as it were, he has left behind for his son is a cryptic key. Oskar finds in a vase in the closet after his father is dead. He is from then on driven and fixated on finding the lock that the key opens. This generates a plot of pseudo adventures meeting all sorts of people and devising all sorts of elaborate schemes along the way. What about the twin towers? That was my burning question most of the movie. Make no mistake: this film is not so much about 911. Instead it is more akin to a public service announcement for Asperger’s syndrome, or some garden variety diagnosis of a tortured genius nine year old. Oskar Schell apparently has license to scream horrible words at his mother, (Sandra Bullock) because of his unique disorder. He rolls on the floor, bangs his hands against furniture, and shows utter frustration when his “genius” ideas are thwarted. I could get into the unrealistic amounts of time he is alone to carry out his adventures but I won’t. I also won’t get into the ridiculous cussing exchanges (equally implausible) he has with the security guard (John Goodman) of his building as he comes and goes. I don’t think this movie is meant to be realistic, it’s up to something else. I am not sure I know what it is. It is definitely hard to follow. Fortunately, we can find some compassion for the boy and that held my interest for some of the film.

Of course, anyone would have sympathy for Oskar. He lost his father who was seemingly his best friend to the tragedy we now refer to as 9-11. Still, it doesn’t excuse his disdain for his mother and the strange fixations he leaps headlong into to find the origin of the key. Along the way, he meets a nice, quiet (mute in fact), man who rents a room from his grandmother. He is aptly called “The Renter” (Max von Sydow). He accompanies Oskar on his key expedition which is very difficult because the old man cannot speak. In a way, the renter is best suited to Oskar: he never talks back. The renter is Oskar’s long lost mute grandfather and ironically becomes the only voice of reason. In my opinion, Max von Sydow gives the most compelling performance in the movie. I must add also that there isn’t much competition.

Oskar is very taken with his own “clever” ideas and likes to tell people about them with every opportunity. His lines are annoying and they are delivered with an equally unsettling voice. There isn’t much more to the story than Oskar finding the lock for the key. The mystery’s end is not exciting and he doesn’t seem to advance much in is grieving process for his dad.

I think this movie failed to impress me because it was not about what it advertised. A movie can get away with that when it is such a powerful film you forget you were cheated by the ads. In my opinion, this movie used 9-11 as a “bait-and-switch theme to get people into the theater. There is only minimal reminiscing about the tragedy. On the other hand, the movie centers on Oskar who is not an emotionally well young man. We therefore have nothing to relate with. The boy’s actions are annoying and obtuse, he treats his mother atrociously. I can’t relate with how a kid like that sees his mother and the world. We want to relate with Oskar but the feelings never come. Then there is the theme of 9-11. We want to relate with that but it has such a small small place in the movie. I think it would have been better to either make a well developed movie about 9-11 -or- to make a movie with a decent script about Asperger’s syndrome. They didn’t do that though so what we are left with is a movie with an extremely long title and an incredibly flat plot. I was very let down by this movie and the way it promoted itself to be something it was not. If you like the actors, it is worth seeing. If you want to re-examine 9-11 or anything “real” about the grieving process, or Asbergers for that matter, stay incredibly far away from this one. While this movie may be extremely loud & incredibly close on one level, it is most decidedly not incredibly deep.

Toni Erdmann (2016)

This was a oddly enjoyable multilingual experience. It has comedy, relationship drama, and a surprisingly large amount of nudity! While it may sound hard to believe, it’s all in there and it works to make this an amazing film.


Toni Erdmann
“A practical joking father tries to reconnect with his hard working daughter by creating an outrageous alter ego and posing as her CEO’s life coach.” -IMDB
Cast
Sandra Hüller Ines Conradi
Peter Simonischek Winfried
Michael Wittenborn Henneberg
Thomas Loibl Gerald
Directed by
Maren Ade
Written by
Maren Ade
Other Info
Comedy, Drama
R
Sun 25 Dec 2016 UTC
162min
IMDB Rating: 7.6

I’m giving subtitles more of a chance and with this film, I sure am glad of that. This is one of the funniest films I’ve seen in recent years and it’s filled with relationships and real people to make the 2 hour running time go quickly. Oh, and then there’s the nudity. It supports the comedy well. It’s not Benny Hill by any means, in fact the nudity jokes are actually intellectual in fact.

Ok, now that I’ve piqued the interest of pervs out there like myself, I’ll get into the plot.

Toni is a retired guy in his late sixties, maybe older who is constantly playing practical jokes on people, especially his family. He’s played by a powerful actor with goofiness and finesse. The film is about 2/3 in German so make sure you can give the subtitles your full attention. One of his gags early in the film concerns the impersonation of his “brother” who ordered unmentionables. His daughter is a workaholic and after having been retired, he sets himself down the road of reconnecting with her while she is at work. The results are quite hilarious and at times very touching.

Final Thought
This is a diamond in the rough that I have missed for a while since I up to now haven’t liked watching subtitled films. When I decided to give it a shot, I was very pleased and realized the subtitles were not a hindrance at all. The comedy is top notch and sure to bring a belly laugh. The relationship between father and daughter is also a very touching story and worth the watch as well. The nudity towards the end is laugh a minute. I can find no fault in this film, for that reason I highly recommend it to all.

5/5

An Innocent Man (1989)

This post is part of Movie Rob’s Genre Grandeur challenge. Jay Cluitt of the LAMB and Life vs. Film stepped in to choose the genre: Prison Films. You can read this post over at Rob’s Genre Grandeur page as well as all the other reviews by blog film critics on prison films. At any rate, here’s what I thought of An Innocent Man with Tom Selleck.

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This film stands as my favorite prison film because of the directing, acting, and story. I’ll start out with the director: Peter Yates was a renowned director long before this film. He had directed throughout the 60’s and 70’s and is probably most known in that time for his film The Deep written by Peter Benchley (Jaws). He made action movies that pulled no punches. I think he was perfect to tell this story, it’s action from credits to credits. More than that though, it gives an innocent man a challenge: How to survive time in jail.

There is some amazing acting in this film. Tom Selleck is incredible as the “oaf” happy-go-lucky man who’s simply in love and happy at his job. What better guy to pin a murder on right? Selleck transforms his almost buffoon-like happy character in a victim and then a fighter. The viewer easily lives vicariously through that character. They should have a ride at an amusement park themed after the plot. It is indeed a roller coaster but one I very much enjoyed riding.

I just want to emphasize Selleck is no bit actor in this, as some may expect him to be. He takes this role and makes it his own. The viewer is meant to be right there in prison with him planning, scheming to get out, and prove his innocence. There is one other actor I cannot leave out of my review: F. Murray Abraham. He is one of the most underrated actors of our time. I loved him in Amadeus and every time I see he’s in a film I try to see it. He has done much to demonstrate power in acting. He plays Virgil, the mentor figure of Selleck’s character. My favorite quote from him is: “Someone messes with me in here, it’s their life.”

To summarize the film: you get a vignette of a few years in prison. Danny Scalise is a happy-go-lucky married blue collar guy who gets framed for a drug job and a murder he didn’t do. We the audience see that clearly. A couple of crooked cops make a terrible mistake picking him as the fall guy and as he is arrested for the crime and is doing time, Scalise becomes much more jaded about the system and begins to exact a process of revenge. The cops end up regretting framing this “innocent man.” Mostly this is not because of who he was going into jail but after what his time there has made him.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This is not a masterpiece of the 1980’s but it sends a powerful message and stands as my favorite prison movie. While in prison, the main character must stand for himself even when it means killing. It is kill or be killed there. Because I think most people who watch movies wonder what they would do in prison to survive. You work with what you have in prison, that’s the message here. To keep your dignity you may have to do barbaric things. Those who don’t may be killed or raed within an inch of their lives, repeatedly, daily. To avoid getting attacked would you attach first? I think Selleck’s “everyman” personality and image fits perfectly in this role. Finally, it wraps just like an 1980’s movie, what’s wrong with happy endings?

5/5

Real Steel (2011)

Here is a truly fun film for kids and adults with the urge to have their own downtown underground fighting robot.

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Last night my wife and I sneaked out leaving the brother to babysit and saw Real Steel is about robot boxing. Yep, it’s that simple and that great! I have to say, I wasn’t too excited to see it. The idea of robots punching each other for 2 hours didn’t really pique my interest. But I am happy to recommend it now as a fun family film, with some fight scenes, that has all the charm of the Karate Kid and cgi as good as Transformers.

It was directed by Shawn Levy (Night at the MuseumBig Fat Liar …) and stars Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, and newcomer Kevin Durand. Jackman plays Charlie, an ex prize fighter who now slums as a robot coach (of sorts). Jackman discovers he has a son, Max, and try as he might to do otherwise, he is destined to partner up with his 13 year old son throughout the movie. Charlie and Max try their hand at robot management and coaching but it has mixed results. It isn’t until they have a few shared experiences that they acquire a new, plain, yet mysterious powerful robots. What that power is remains to unfold. Together they discover the worth of teamwork and the analog body in sync with the digital robot technology. I won’t give away anymore about the plot but know that it’s quite a fun ride.

Evangeline Lilly plays Bailey, Jackman’s ex. She is the calming force in his life even now that they are not together. They share a little romance that sizzles off the screen. Max is just happy-go-lucky. He ends up getting a dad and a prize fighting robot in the deal. There is not a while lot of real life character development but for what this movie is, an action movie, that isn’t required. Atom is the robot. You end up feeling like he is an actual person. He is the classic underdog fighter with no chance and a small physique. The twist is that he is not a human, like Rocky from the 70’s, but rather a steel fighting machine. He never says to his corner man to “cut me” but several comparisons are obvious, as well as to the Karate Kid.

All in all, this movie isn’t very real amid the steel. That being said, you will cheer when the good robots win fights. It is just the right time for this sort of movie to be made. Technology makes these things seem like real chunks of 1,000 pound metal to watch, enjoy, and give a high five to. While weak on the storyline and character development, this is the ideal underdog movie for the kids of today. And for those of us in our slightly older years, we should suspend disbelief so this movie can please us as well.

3/5

Intruders

“He WAS your friend, NOW he’s a doorstop.”

Fans of “Panic Room” may really like this one. A group of under thirtysomething males break into the protagonist’s home on a tip there is cash there. She surprises them and delivers some top-shelf girl kickass.

Intruders (2015)
Cast
Beth Riesgraf

as Anna Rook

Rory Culkin

as Dan Cooper

Jack Kesy

as J.P. Henson

Directed by
Adam Schindler

 

Written by
T.J. Cimfel
David White

 

Other Info

Drama, Horror, Thriller
Rated R
1h 30min

This is a girl kicks ass movie but there’s is another element. Madness keeps her in the house where she has remained ever “since daddy died” which we are given no exact time on. She nursed her cancer stricken adult brother in the house for years until he died and then even at his funeral she still will not leave the house. So, her madness is an extra element not always seen in “girl kickass” movies.

Beth Riesgraf plays Anna Rook, the heroine/protagonist. She is well known for her role on “Leverage” which I must admit, I now want to see more of. She’s very talent with a ton of potential. This is an excellent revenge type role but it wasn’t received well by the critics. I hope Beth Riesgraf gets roles that get her more exposure, she’s very talented. By the way, if you remember Rory Culkin from “Signs” as a child actor, he reappears in this film as the delivery guy. Buy, his look has changed.

I’d say this film is mostly a thriller and less horror that the posters promote it as. We do find out some horror elements exist like the frozen hand in the freezer and the makeshift dungeon in the basement. Still, this is a thriller with a fairly decent script that holds the viewer’s attention. It has a strong concluding scene that I fond very creative. Overall, I highly recommend it. As is my common theme lately in my reviews, you can’t always trust Rotten Tomatoes. This is a creative and fun thriller with an added mental illness factor. It spent a little too much time developing the relationship with her dying brother and I found that cumbersome. Still, I enjoyed it and highly recommend it. Now I’m off to watch “leverage.”

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Edge_of_Tomorrow_PosterI have to tell you about this movie, it’s a breath of fresh air in a 2014 Summer of mostly dull movies. This one flies above the rest. It’s concept is not unique but if you see this movie, you’ll be talking about it for days. It’s a bit like Groundhog day in concept. By that I mean, the same way Bill Murray’s character has to keep reliving the same day over and over again until he gets it right. In this case, the conflict is fighting aliens, and scary ones at that.

We see a funny Tom Cruise for a change. I recently saw “Oblivion,” an example of his serious sci-fi side in an excellent film.

He was the rough and tough sci-fi action hero. In “Edge of Tomorrow” it’s a lot of that but with laugh-a-minute deadpan humor thrown into the mix. Much of this humor consists of Emily Blunt beating him to a pulp to train him day after repeated day: hence the title “Edge of Tomorrow.” I liked this movie for many reasons and therefore highly recommend it. I am going to try and avoid spoilers on this blog because I know a lot of people like to leave the movie a mystery as they watch it unfold. Suffice it to say, the critics of all the major movie sites say the same thing as I.

Have you seen this film? What are your thoughts?

‘Wildlike’ – A Sleepy Hiking Film of Surprising Suspense

The indie film Wildlike is a hidden gem from 2015 that was recently added to Netflix. The director, Frank Hall Green, uses the Alaskan wilderness as backdrop for a suspenseful story. Starring in Wildlike are Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek) and Ella Purnell (Maleficent) who make this film a unique diamond in the rough.

img_9922Ella Purnell stars as Mackenzie, a 14 year old girl who’s been abandoned by her drug addicted mother. While in the care of her uncle, she is sexually abused, and flees to a nearby Alaskan hiking trail. That’s where she crosses path with Bruce Greenwood’s character, Rene.

Bruce Greenwood is the most recognizable star in the movie and he does a magnificent job trying to understand and help the troubled teen. He’s been in films as big as Star Trek and thankfully for us fans he accepted this role even though it was an independent film. The friendship between Mackenzie and Rene is fascinating and appears it could save her. Watching it develop is one of the best parts of the film though so I won’t describe it more than that.

Mackenzie is an interesting and powerful character as well. Not many of us know what it would be like as a 14 year old girl who was sexually molested. Some will say she should have told the police but others could argue the police might Bruce Greenwoodbelieve the aggressor, making a return to him inevitable. Ella Purnell dons the signature troubled-teen mascara that we see gradually reduced through the film as she begins to trust Rene. She shows us the fear involved for victims. She is a survivor and sticks close to him. Rene has profound reasons for being on the trail as well. The trail could be a metaphor that we all have our own pain to walk off. Both actors do a great job in their hiking dialog.

The suspense starts in the form of a bear on the trail and then culminates with the abusive uncle stalking Mackenzie. When Rene and the uncle finally meet, some may hope the uncle gets beaten to a pulp. They don’t show that. Instead, as with other themes in the movie, they infer it and the viewer is left to decide for her/himself.

wildlike_stillThis film has done quite well for its first time director, Frank Hall Green. It has been invited to over 75 film festivals and has won 16 Best Film awards. It’s nice to see such an understated film that allows the viewer to come to her/his own conclusions has done so well. It’s also understated and tasteful in the way that ordinarily graphic scenes like the sexual abuse is not shown but rather inferred. This is a stylistic choice of Green. By way of trivia, the IMDB page for the movie states that Frank Hall Green hiked in the exact park where the wilderness scenes were filmed and the path in the film was based on paths he and his family hiked.
I found this film a pleasant surprise. I expected a sleepy hiking film and instead got amazing outdoor cinematography with a suspenseful/thriller. I love movies that juxtapose a good story with stellar visuals. I’m reminded of Fargo as an example. Frank Hall Green is already at work on other projects but I hope a lot of people get a chance to enjoy Wildlike.

Life (2017)

Director Daniel Espinosa has given us a great space action horror flick. There’s a good lesson here too that we’ve seen before in movies like Jurassic Park: Don’t mess with nature.

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It starts like any other space team film. You might even expect the label predictable. still, if you want a Big Mac, there’s nothing better to satisfy your hunger. People who liked Alien and Gravity will like this film. Scene for scene it’s a lot of the same stuff. Creature is brought aboard, impossible to kill. Yeah. There is an ending eerily similar to Gravity but I will spare you the twist.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This is a great ride. While parts seeem highly borrowed, I chose to enjoy it and let it rock me. I would have liked to have seen something more scientifically illuminating as the trailer and title alluded to. Still it’s a great thriller with horror elements that fans of these genres will enjoy. A lot of work clearly went into this. Too bad it’s a rehashed plot. Most people will enjoy it.

3/5