The Exploding Girl

College can be a rough time, even for those who are 100% healthy. In this case, we have a protagonist with epilepsy. She’s trying to find love that eludes her time and time again.

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I like films like this that look almost like hidden camera footage. When a girl and her roommate stay up watching TV, hanging off the couch talking about life, you are among them. It’s really a hard time when you’re out of high school in your early years of adulthood. You want the job, the enjoyment, and the love that culture promises and yet, it doesn’t translate that way.

We see a girl who is stuck in unrequited love, trying to improve a relationship tat is sadly one-sided. When one is new at love, there is so much that has to be learned the hard way. Then, there is the “Ducky” type of friend who shares her apartment. Is their friendship destined to stay platonic or will it grow into a sexual thing.

Thes are the basic elements of this film. My wife thought it dragged on a bit. I, on the other hand, liked the mysterious ether-like feeling of the film. For me, it was a peering into the life of a brave young girl with no answers. I found it inspiring in an odd way. Maybe because I don’t yet have the answers and I felt for her in that stage of life. I recommend it as a thoughtful romantic drama.

4.

The Edge of Seventeen

This film was marketed incorrectly and that’s too bad. I think some will pass on it because it looks like Emma Stone getting an easy a or some derivative of a party and sex themed high school movie. It’s not like that at all.

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This film is about real people going through changes in life. It has dark segments and dark comedy as well. There are elements of the high school comedy but they only serve to drive the depth of the story. It is all interwoven especially well.

This film shows what its film-making generation can do at a pristine level. Instead of relying on recycled paradigms of successful party films.

The acting is great. I’d say her brother is too huge and too buff. I might have opted for a more “Ducky” sort.

Other than his though, which is only just less than perfect, all the performances are fantastic.

One topic delved into is the mental-health topic of depression. With high schoolers, it can be hard to draw a clear line between regular growing pains and depression. This films shows the blurred line and then lets the audience draw its own distinction.

The protagonist is beautiful, I hope to see her in more films. I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I recommend it to all, preteens through adults.

Snowden

I’ve seen paranoia around the ideas of NSA among friends and co-workers. I thought most of it was unfounded until I saw this film, Snowden. I’ll modify what I just said just a hair, I’ll replace the word “paranoia with “awareness.” People need to be aware of the surveillance going on in our private lives.

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Snowden is quite a character. I really enjoyed watching this movie. I can’t say I would give up a posh home in Hawaii and a romantic lover just to inform the press about the snooping the government does. That’s just what he did though. Furthermore, he’s given up any chance of walking down Central Park or swimming at the California beaches. He did it for “us?”

Most of us know our employers monitor our internet use along with things like keystrokes on our work computers. They could have cameras everywhere and often do because they are your employer and they’ll fire us if we don’t like it. What I didn’t know until I saw this enlightening true story is that they have access to our wi-fi and other monitoring mechanisms in our homes. They monitor the world in hopes of preventing terrorism. I guess it’s working pretty well right? There hasn’t been another 9-11?

We see Snowden rise up in the ranks of the FBI and reveal for us the many ways the NSA peers into our private lives. It’s fairly well done. The way one reacts to is will depend on ones political sensitivities. Snowden is a real guy. You can Google him. AS a movie this is pretty good. It’s the subject matter that truly makes it worth the watch. But as you do, just remember, they may be watching you. You might ask yourself, as I did, if Snowden is a hero or just a guy who had enough. I recommend it for fans of the drama and mystery genres as well as those interested in the subject of internet privacy.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hands on activities are always better for kids. Getting away from a desk and into the wilderness would be an effective way to foster problem solving skills in a child. What’s more, real life problems yield better solutions than ones in book at a desk in a public school. These are ideals I agree with, even as a public school teacher myself.

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This is a quirky and strange movie if you don’t pour some sort of meaning into it. Early on, I had a meaning I got from it and that’s why I think I enjoyed it so much. I’ll tell you what it was, as long as you remember that movies are like all art: you get out what you perceive from it.

The evil social worker lady represented the restrictive educational policies of George Bush. They were called. as most will recall, “No Child Left Behind.” She in fact repeats this phrase many times as her battle cry to find the protagonist. It’s also derived from the bumper sticker wisdom: “All who wander are not lost.”

This film looks a lot like Moonrise Kingdom in its silliness and campy presentation. Some will find humor in that alone. A preteen juvenile delinquent keeps escaping from school and eventually, after his caretaker aunt dies, he goes on a wilderness expedition with his “step-uncle.” A bunch of stuff happens, some interesting, some funny, some dull. At any rate, it becomes another aphorism: “Life is a journey.” It’s made to show how much more this child gets out of surviving with his uncle than he would in public school, or the juvenile correctional system anyway. The actors are all speaking in australian accents which makes it seem like an independent film (which in fact it is).

If you’re willing to sit through a whole movie of goofiness to see this director’s point about open and unbridled education, you’ll probably laugh a lot. I’ve seen better quirkiness like this in the film Nacho Libre. That’s also about an underdog who emerges victorious … and the jokes are funny. I’d recommend this film for fans of understated humor and who don’t agree with restrictive educational policies. I’d say it will be liked six and one half-dozen the other by the general public.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Asking me to rate a Harry Potter spinoff/prequel is a lot like asking a mean old man in the mid 1950’s to rate a Beatles album. To him it’s shit. To me this is shit. I was twisting and turning in my seat the entire time. I related with very little, which is an important feature for me in a film.

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I had some interest in the Harry Potter films, emphasize SOME, but this new film has just enough in it to keep the die-hard-trekkie types reeled in. I even saw a compatriot teacher I recognized dressed in a Harry Potter hooded witch costume, replete with wand and glasses. That’s when I knew I really shouldn’t have come.

I won’t waste your time saying much about this film, I’m simply not qualified due to my lack of interest in Harry Potter films. The beasts are as cool as to be expected. J.K Rowling is a billionaire from her many Harry exploits so it stands to reason she would spare no expense in creating cool CGI beasts. The trouble is, you don’t see them much. In fact, you have to wait very long before you get to gaze upon them for any length of time. I loved some of these beasts. They should have had them gracing the screen much more than they did.

I won’t attempt to give you the story line here because it isn’t interesting and this film really didn’t resonate with me enough to care to do that. I usually give a summary, here I won’t it isn’t worth your time. I haven’t walked out of a film in several years. The last one I recall walking out on was The Passion of the Christ (2004). I’ve actually never reviewed that film and for good reason. It falls into the Mel Gibson line of beating the hell out of the protagonist. I guess I wasnt in the mood that day.

Eddie Redmayne was just ok in this. I wanted to slap him he mumbled so much. I wasn’t impressed by his wand either. Why is Ezra Miller in this? I usually like him too but all I could think about when seeing him was: “Oh crap, another big name actor that will merit making a backstory thereby making this film longer.”

I could go on but I won’t.

The only people I can recommend this for are those with Harry Potter action figures and costumery. They are so starved for a new film, they may enjoy this one. As for me? I’m glad I walked out and went through the mall to buy my wife See’s caramels instead.

The Revenant

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu, known most recently for directing “Birdman,” has created a visually stunning movie of survival and revenge. It’s clearly the fruit of much labor on behalf of the director and all the actors. It shows and works in the movie. Unfortunately the audience has to labor as well through a lot of slow scenes, some of which are probably unnecessary.

The two main roles are played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Their characters are rough, gritty, and at times difficult to watch. There are some scenes in this film that made even me feel like hiding my eyes. Is this any surprise since this movie is about frontiersmen surviving in sub zero temperatures. There are Indians, hatchets, musket type rifles, buffalo, and bears. Aside: This film contains the most frightening bear maul I’ve ever seen on film. Even Paul Bunyan would recoil.

Short synopsis: Hugh Glass is a frontiersman alongside Jon Fitzgerald and a group of rough ones. They are making their way through the snowy forest terrain. Through a course of events and a bear mauling of Hugh, the story becomes one of survival. Hugh is determined to survive the attack and take revenge on those who abandoned him for dead.

My conclusions: There is a signature drum soundtrack but not as extensive as the one in “Birdman.” The camera pans and zooms are also signature of Iñárritu. It’s a long sit but I can say that fans of “Birdman” and westerns about revenge will probably really enjoy this movie. The cinematography is incredible. My wife and I actually felt cold in some of the scenes even though we had a raging fire going with the heater on. Movie lovers and reviewers especially will enjoy this movie. I foresee Oscar nods. It’s one of the best of 2015 for sure. I did find it overly long and belabored at times though and that made it lose a star with me.

Oklahoma City (2017)

My Rating: 10/10 – The largest act of domestic terrorism is the Oklahoma City bombing. It’s a travesty and a tragedy we must never forget lest it happen again. If you don’t know how or why this happened, this documentary would be an excellent way to find out. It’s streaming now on Netflix.

This was a History Channel documentary that was acquired by Netflix and is now streaming. I found it to be very well directed and edited. Putting thousands of clips together for a film like this has to be painstaking. They do an excellent job of interspersing time from the present to before the bombing to the events and climate that led up to Timothy McVeigh’s unspeakable act.

With a Republican in the White House now, it can seem trite to discuss gun rights. It’s a Republican interest and has been for centuries. But in the 90’s, there was a Democrat in the White House and for some odd unknown reasons, Republicans felt Bill Clinton and the system were determined to take their guns. This caused racist gun-rights focused groups to rise up. One religious based group was the following of David Koresh. I’m not equating Republicans with psychotics but they lay out how the climate started a spark that became a bomb.

Most people over 40 will remember WACO and the Koresh cult standoff. This event is played out in detail through interviews, narration, news clips of the day, diagrams, maps, and animation.

People who are old enough but have forgotten the bombing should see this film. It shows how a twisted mind can nurture its own hate and how conspiracy theorist groups can nurture that mind to do unspeakable terrorism. I think we live in a time where we should all study these reasons. If we can find out the reasons, maybe we can spot the terrorists before they strike.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I was disturbed yet also very entertained by some aspects of this film. At the same time, it was educational in seeing into the mind of hate. The way it uses media to tell the story is remarkable. I know Republicans as a whole moan about their right to have assault weapons as such but I think this film will make them see this is not the best banner argument for freedom in our time. On the other hand, my wife noted to me that it would be scary if the government didn’t allow us to protect ourselves at all. So, I think there are neutral positions in the film that allow the viewer to make her/his own decisions. I recommend this or anyone over say 9 or 10 years old. Even still, kids that young should see it with a parent handy to explain some of the twisted violent stuff.

10/10

Nocturnal Animals

It’s a rural crime thriller where Michael Shannon plays the detective in a dusty desert town. But that’s just one part. The other half is something else. That’s right, a movie within a book … or something like that.

I like weird films when they come together well. This one does as good as could be expected. The real fin is the world Michael Shannon’s character inhabits. He’s a man on a mission and he’ll do whatever is needed to see justice is enforced. Gyllenhaal is a character in the same story. He’s a sort of “softie” in a hellish situation. In this film, the unthinkable happens to him and he’s forced to deal with it. This is a brutal situation, did I mention that?

Amy Adams character is almost reclusive. She has a job and friends it seems so she probably isn’t a reclusive in all truth. Still, she sits and READS and feels the things that no one should feel. I don’t even think she should feel them. But this is a vengeance film. It’s not the kind you’d think but it is vengeance just the same. If all is fair in love and war, then how about crime on a deserted road? Perhaps the title is the hey, I’m not saying that. I am saying you’ll have to make up your mind. It’s the age-old question of what makes us moral creatures, or are we? Are some among us so cold that they could do these things and do these creatures continue unaffected.

In the end, in love and war, should we step aside and ask second guess ourselves? The truth is so brutal, maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe we’re all nocturnal animals? This is something to think about when you see this film.

Sully

Tom Hanks once again plays an average American and gives the world someone to believe in. Captain Sully is a decorated pilot who has to crash-land an airplane in the Hudson river. It’s a compelling story for sure but some viewers may find it dull and mundane. If you were ever curious about what happened in this news story, filmmaker Clint Eastwood has a video tale to tale you.

The rest of this review contains spoilers.

To borrow from David Spade: I liked this movie better when it was Flight. One thing I notice with older film makers like Clint Eastwood is that they tend to make movies they think will make a historical contribution. This is admirable but be advised these types of films are often not exciting. In fact, they can be quite boring.

There is great acting in this film but that’s not enough to justify this story being a movie. I think a tv special would have been a better suited genre. I did like the ending, it surprised me. When the panel somehow had a paradigm shift and suspended all judgement of Sully, it was gratifying. Just like in Flight, he is in a lot of trouble the entire length of the film. Unfortunately for me, I feel the story dragged on and I just didn’t find the science that makes up at least 50% of the investigation and the movie interesting. I can’t recommend this film for anyone but that’s not to say pilots and fans of the real sully won’t like it.

O Brother Where Art Thou?

This kind of humor hits fast and hard with some people, for others it has to grow on them a bit. Regardless, for my “folding money” this is some of the funniest stuff in film. I’ve seen this film probably 10 times and it just gets funnier every time I see it. A mix of early Americana and the Odyssey by Homer makes for this hilarious film of crime, salvation, old country/folk music, and comedy.

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I wasn’t really a Clooney fan until I saw this film. He has a recurring line he says that always cracks me up, “We’re in a tight spot.” The fact of the matter is, they are quite often in a tight spot. The cat and mouse chases are most of what makes this film a laugh a minute.

In an allegory to Homer’s Odyssey, some men escape from prison to go on the road. They make their way through recording on the radio, meeting interesting people, escaping close calls with the Ku Klux Klan, and a few other scenes you have to see to truly “get.”

John Goodman reminds them “it’s all about the money” and beats them all with a stick. That’s a funny scene but this film is about a lot more than just money, it has soul. I recommend this film for fans of the Cohen Brothers’ films and those into bluegrass roots and music. Watch it with an open mind since it is not straight ahead comedy. If you can get what it’s doing, you’ll have a good old-time enjoying this country folk crime ride. This film ranks in my top 15 for sure.