Monthly Archives: July 2017

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Movie Trailer – The Shape of Water

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg

Release: December 8th, 2017

Off the back of A Cure For Wellness, and I don’t even care.  This film will take the same, old school horror feel in a new direction, or at least to new characters, and that sounds good to me.  And these actors, my god: Hawkins, Shannon, Stuhlbarg (who is incredibly underrated), Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins.  If I could I would neglect my children and watch this movie right this instant.


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Movie Trailer – A Wrinkle in Time

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Ava DuVernay

Starring: Storm Reid, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Chris Pine

Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, Zach Galifianakis

Release: March 9th, 2018

Count me among the group who was shocked that DuVernay didn’t receive an Oscar nomination for Selma, one of the best films of the year and a movie that her hand helped sculpt.  But she’s not an experienced Hollywood director, and so we can’t just trust that all her films will be great, that she has the magic touch that we need to rush to the theatre to see.  This movie, for example, looks odd at best, and I predict that it goes the way of Tomorrowland.  I don’t trust these actors, none other than Chris Pine anyway, and I don’t think we’re about to see a surprising success.


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Movie Review – Dunkirk

Category : Movie Review

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy

Year: 2017

Inarguably excellent director Christopher Nolan creates another masterwork with Dunkirk, a lesser-known true story of the beginning of WWII and one of the tensest moments in European military history.  Nolan’s prowess is established, his fame well-deserved, his films excellent pieces of art as well as incredibly entertaining moments of original content.  Following, Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar; even the greats like Spielberg, Scorsese, and the Coen Brothers can’t boast as solid a filmography.  I guess the argument makes itself, and we should consider Nolan one of the best directors of our time, if not of all time.  His latest success is just another example of his impeccable style, his ability to take a story that others might butcher and turn it into something that we will never forget.

The Second World War begins with the complete defeat of England and France.  German forces have invaded the countries of their choice, have routed the European forces sent against them, and look to take complete control of the world within months if their progress remains unchecked.  British troops retreat to the city of Dunkirk on the coast, 400,000 strong sitting on the beaches awaiting transport across the Channel.  But transports aren’t coming, air support isn’t available, all other British forces are being held to England, awaiting the imminent Nazi attack, knowing that defending the island will be their only hope of survival.  And so the men of Dunkirk wait, as German planes pick them off, as dive bombers take out the few boats sent to their aid, as tanks roll ever closer, as their desperate last days tick off one by one.

Nolan takes what could have been turned into a standard war/action/adventure flick and makes it into something refreshingly special, a film that focuses on form at the same time as plot.  First, there aren’t many directors who can do that, and second, there are fewer who can do that well.  Nolan infuses his style into history, producing a wonderfully artistic version of reality without reverting to fantasies, dreams, and other existential musings, all of which would simply have clouded the intense actuality of the situation.  ‘Intense’ is a word you’ll hear too often describe this film, but that doesn’t make it an incorrect term, as it perfectly summarizes the feeling from start to finish.  Nolan and Hans Zimmer force audiences into an atmosphere of pressure and time, where each passing moment could mean death rather than redemption.

One of Nolan’s shorter films, the viewing flies by, as the action is non-stop and the horror of the situation never lets up.  The film is done in three simultaneous segments, land, sea, and air, with the story overlapping until all the pieces fall into place, this method only aiding the drama of that fateful week and helping audiences to understand the fear of an army who had no way home.  With these tricks to shatter our nerves and a hyper-focus on the true story, the acting became a side note to the visuals, but that doesn’t mean that all involved didn’t bring their best stuff.  Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden as pilots, Mark Rylance as a civilian sailor, Fionn Whitehead the lead who barely spoke, Kenneth Branagh and the James D’Arcy the officers, Cillian Murphy the shell-shocked solider; each part was both relevant and powerful, necessary as an addition to a greater whole.

This film is awesome in the truest sense of the word and should be appreciated by anyone with an eye for style.  It leaves a lot of the standard Hollywood ingredients behind, and therefore might bother those looking for a little more of an emotional connection, but it still boasts one of the most compelling true stories you will ever witness.  For my money, Interstellar is the same intensity but adds a perfect soundtrack and an incredibly touching emotional story, making it one of the best movies I have ever seen.  Dunkirk is a step below perhaps, because it doesn’t offer those added elements, but it still delivers some of the most captivating scenes ever brought to the screen and should be considered one of the very best movies of the year.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 

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Movie Trailer – The Layover

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: William H. Macy

Starring: Alexandra Daddario, Kate Upton, Matt Barr

Release: August 3rd, 2017

What the hell WHM, why are you doing this?  The only other film he has directed, Rudderless, was outstanding; do yourself a favor and check it out.  But this looks like pure comedy crap, that stuff we’ve seen a million times and any idiot can pump out.  Yes we like hot girls, yes we like cat fights, yes we like physical humor; humans are dumb like that.  But even we can smell shit most times, and this movie is rank.  I understand that people will see it anyway; Daddario and Upton are fine beyond description.  Just don’t expect it to be any good.


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Movie Trailer – Darkest Hour

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Joe Wright

Starring: Gary Oldman, Ben Mendelsohn, Lily James

Release: November 22, 2017

I smell Oscars.  First, Wright is a tremendous director: Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, Anna Karenina.  This story is right up his alley and I’d be shocked if he didn’t know exactly what to do with it.  Secondly, Oldman’s transformation is incredible, and I think he’s guaranteed an Oscar nomination if his performance is anywhere near as good.  Then there are Mendelsohn and James, two of my current favorite actors, which I couldn’t be happier about.  Add in one of the most compelling stories in history and you’ve got yourself a winner.


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Thought – Republican Hero

Category : Thought

A Republican in Congress needs to step up and save our country.  That they are reluctant to do so is mind-boggling, or perhaps shows their level of fear that their constituency has not yet arrived at the place presently occupied by a majority of the country, a place of understanding that Donald Trump is the worst possible President.  He is both an erratic man and a horrendous representative of the core values that our nation is supposed to honor, a strange and dangerous combination that is exemplified every time he opens his mouth.  Most of us understand this, his approval rating reflects that, but Congressional Republicans continue to work alongside him and for his agenda, a move I quite simply can’t understand.

And then there’s Russia, which is a toxic subject at best and a treasonous one at worst.  You & I have no idea what has happened, who colluded with who, which shape the investigation into all this will take, all we can do it bob along as the lawmakers and executives of our country stumble through the briar patch and hope not to get blinded.  But something smells rotten, anyone with a functional, political nose can tell you that, and it only further convinces most of us that the man running the show needs to be replaced as soon as is humanly possible.

I consider myself a Stolid Democrat, not a Bleeding Heart Liberal by any means.  I am level-headed, I vote unemotionally, but this past year’s election was a horse of a different color.  Donald Trump is a terrible person and a threat to our world.  His lunacy and his egotism make him an unstable leader; this was clear in the primaries, the debates, and is all the more crystal now.  His immediate removal from office should be of the highest concern to us all, Democrat or Republican, and differences need to be set aside until we find the legal means with which to do so.

All we need now is a high-ranking official to take a stand.  It can’t be someone who has been fighting the GOP all along, a person with bias who could be said to be tasting sour grapes.  We need a Republican with the balls to speak out and the ability to convince Trump supporters that the man they wanted as President because he could shake up the common order has become much more than a liability, has begun to vibrate with the dark powers of racism, nationalism, and despotism.

The closest we’ve come are John Kasich’s comments and John McCain’s wagging finger, but neither is enough to veer our juvenile President from his current path, to demand accountability for his actions, to uncover the truth behind the election.  What we need is a strong Republican to plant his or her feet and to say that the charade is over.  It’s not melodramatic to say that this person could go down as a hero who saved our country from disaster, who called out loudly when others were being silent, who risked losing rural votes, who did what was right.  As a Democrat, even I would applaud this person, I would follow them if they seemed to know the way, and I think many others would too.  It seems so simple and so advantageous, I don’t understand what they’re waiting for, and I won’t believe that the majority of Republicans actually think Donald Trump is both innocent of all crimes and mentally fit for office.  It’s time for someone to be daring, it’s time for Trump’s base to open their eyes, it’s time for Democrats to help if they can instead of looking forward to 2020; it’s time for a new President.

 


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Movie Trailer – Final Portrait

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Stanley Tucci

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Clemence Poesy

Release: August 18th, 2017

I trust both these actors, but the film itself looks pretty boring.  I hate to brush it aside so quickly, because it could very well turn out to be something very beautiful, but I just don’t see enough in this trailer to get me excited about the film.  Rush is a powerful actor, Hammer is an under-appreciated talent, so who knows, maybe they work magic.


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Movie Trailer – A Family Man

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Mark Williams

Starring: Gerard Butler, Gretchen Mol, Willem Dafoe, Alison Brie

Release: July 28th, 2017

I’m going to try to step into someone else’s shoes here for a second and say that there is probably an audience for this movie.  That audience isn’t me, I think it looks like crap, but I understand that some people enjoy this feel-good stuff, even if they’ve seen it before.  Again, I don’t, and I hate Gerard Butler trying to force his minimal talent into this lane.


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DVD Review – Alone in Berlin

Category : DVD Review

Director: Vincent Perez

Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Emma Thompson, Daniel Brühl

Year: 2016

The rise of the wonderful and incomparable Daniel Bruhl has been well-witnessed, at least among those who have been paying attention.  The German/Spanish actor has been hitting more home runs than not with his film choices, or perhaps his talent level helps lift each lucky movie he appears in.  Inglourious Basterds, Rush, A Most Wanted Man, Woman in Gold, The Colony, Civil War; he has range, enigma, he captivates, fascinates, and we’re seeing him smack dab in the middle of his prime.  What’s incredible about his role in Alone in Berlin is that it’s not even the lead, but he shines anyway.  And what’s incredible about the film itself is that it boasts such a young star but also sticks him in a package with two fantastic, proven veterans, making other features jealous of its wealth of plot and particulars.

The Movie

In Berlin in 1940, the War seems a simple, winnable thing, a destiny that all Germans share.  They celebrate the fall of France as Europe will some years later celebrate its own liberation, predicting an end to the conflict in a few weeks or months, when England assuredly falls.  Still, battles must be fought and men must die, including Hans, the only son of aging, working-class couple Otto & Anna Quangel.  They have always been hesitant to officially join the Nazi party, to support Hitler entirely, due largely to the fact that they are simple people without a heretic’s ideals.  When their son is killed, any reason for supporting the cause vanishes, and it is replaced by an angry spark that fans to flame.

Otto, hiding his handwriting, wearing gloves, and choosing random locations, begins dropping anti-Hitlerism propaganda throughout the city, small cards that call for the voice of the people to lift up, join together, and to defy a nation that is building itself on hate.  Anna joins in the charade, quickly becoming an accomplice to a crime that may seem harmless to some, but catches the eye and the ire of the SS.  Local investigators nickname the criminal the Hobgoblin, scrambling to find him before the upper echelon’s embarrassment turns to violence, before they are punished by a regime that lacks patience for those they deem unable to fulfill the duties they owe to their fatherland.

Bruhl plays the cop, Gleeson and Thompson the mother and father, all three combining to create a terrific trio that could carry a film were they given nothing but a few rags to wear and a few lines to spout.  Bruhl fits into this era so well, his accent and his demeanor matching the genre perfectly, down to the funny mustache that works so well.  Gleeson may have had the weakest German drawl, but it can’t be easy for an Irishman to pull that off, and his character was so excellent that any small flaws were quickly forgiven.  And Thompson was the glue that held the entire story together, offering Gleeson support when he needed it and creating another emotional layer to the film when one would have been good enough to get by.

The surprise was in the direction, since Perez does not have much experience, and this subject matter could easily weigh down whatever a filmmaker was trying to lift up.  There were scene choices throughout that caught my eye, an attention to detail and cinematography that was pleasantly unexpected.  The film flowed nicely without needing much action to drive it, the characters themselves picking up all the slack and pulling the plot along.  This time period is pretty awesome, from whichever perspective you want to view it, and we don’t often get to see what was happening deep within Germany at the time, so that was a nice change from the standard WWII war flick.  Alone in Berlin is laudably strong from start to finish, flying under-the-radar but deserving much more.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and filmed using a Sony CineAlta F65 camera, the video quality of the film is just above run-of-the-mill, solid but not amazing.  It captures the feel of the era just fine, without reaching Hollywood elite heights.  The cinematography is better than the actual picture, which is fine by me.

Audio – The DVD was done in English 5.1, with an option of English SDH or Spanish subtitles.  The sound quality of the film is fine, without anything memorable, but it does offer a strong backing soundtrack to help drive the plot.

Extras – There are two bonus features on the disc: interviews with cast/crew and a trailer for the film.

Final Thoughts

Highly Recommended.  If you are in the mood for some master-class acting set against an uncommon backdrop, Alone in Berlin is the flick for you.  Bruhl, Gleeson, and Thompson all deliver stellar performances, while fitting into the era with ease.  This is a story that needs to be told, an uncomplicated tale of ordinary people who did what they could in extraordinary times.  This isn’t a movie to take home a barrel full of awards, nor will it go down as one of the best WWII tales of all-time, but it can be appreciated for its simplicity and its grace, especially among such horror.  The video, audio, and extras are all only OK, so look elsewhere for technical marvels, but you won’t find them distracting either.  The film speaks clearly, views cleanly, and is easy to recommend.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 

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Movie Trailer – Lucky

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: John Carroll Lynch

Starring: Harry Dean Stanton

Release: September 29th, 2017

Wow, I think this film might be everything they say it is.  A legendary actor, an amateur director, and what a cast: David Lynch, Tom Skerritt, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr.  I’m in.