Monthly Archives: December 2017

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Movie Review – Good Time

Category : Movie Review

Director: Benny & Josh Safdie

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Year: 2017

Good Time is a combination of Drive, Victoria, The Rover, Training Day, and Trainspotting, an unpredictable, inner-city adventure that definitely won’t have a happy ending.  When I saw the trailer, I called the film an indie lovechild of The Rover and Drive that I couldn’t wait to meet, and it didn’t disappoint in the least.  Good Time is a realistic crime drama that relies on a quick pace and a smart use of character placement to push the story forward, while also keeping in mind the underlying emotion beneath the plot; the love between two separated brothers.  It’s this base that makes the film feel real, along with a slew of desperate people who make terrible decisions at the worst possible times.  You can’t help but watch though, you’re forced to rubber-neck, and in the end you’re very glad you did.

Connie Nikas has one priority and that’s his brother Nick, who is mentally handicapped.  He doesn’t want him to go for therapy, he doesn’t want him in some home, he wants to take care of Nick himself, providing for him in whatever way is necessary.  Connie isn’t exactly an upstanding citizen, and he uses Nick as his wingman in a back robbery, a heist that of course goes terribly wrong.  Nick is caught, Connie gets away, but he can’t live with himself for leaving his brother behind.  And when bailing the kid out isn’t an option because he doesn’t have the money, he’ll resort to less sane options.  So begins a night in the city of pure adrenaline and dumb luck, with the outcome up in the air, although we all know that the dice are always loaded.

Robert Pattinson is so talented it blows me away.  I know he’s the emo guy from Twilight, but I’ve successfully stayed away from that franchise, so I’ve never had to watch him act below himself.  I’ve only seen him succeed: Bel Ami, The Rover, Life, The Lost City of Z.  He’s simply great, and I hope everyone is starting to see that as he ages and as he makes better choices.  Pattinson is the star of Good Time and he relishes every moment, developing a cool character who is both smart and stupid at the same time.  I loved watching Connie create lies on the spot time and time again, it was a very enjoyable part of the movie, and Pattinson played it to perfection.  The music is so awesome throughout and it never stops, the pace is always fast except for a bit of a lull in the middle, the beginning and the end both featuring the brother Nick are incredibly deep, giving another level to the drama that is entirely separate from the crime side.  If you’ve seen and liked any combination of those movies I mentioned at the beginning, give this one a chance; I think you’ll dig it.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Thought – 2018 Oscar Update

Category : Thought

Three months ago I posted a list of 30 potential Best Picture Oscar contenders, plus a list of snubbed films that deserved consideration.  Since then, I’ve updated the list with reviews as I’ve seen the movies, including any personal favorites that hadn’t previously made the list.  As the Academy Awards draw closer, let’s take a look at an updated watchlist, a list that has taken into consideration those undervalued films that have risen up the ranks and those over-hyped movies that have taken a tumble.

This is the AwardsCircuit.com

ranking of top possible Academy Award contenders:

  1. The Post
  2. Dunkirk
  3. Lady Bird
  4. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  5. The Shape of Water
  6. Call Me By Your Name
  7. Mudbound
  8. Darkest Hour
  9. Phantom Thread
  10. The Florida Project
  11. Blade Runner 2049
  12. I, Tonya
  13. Get Out
  14. Last Flag Flying
  15. Detroit
  16. Battle of the Sexes
  17. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  18. Coco
  19. Molly’s Game
  20. Downsizing
  21. Stronger
  22. Wonderstruck
  23. Mother!
  24. Victoria and Abdul
  25. The Beguiled
  26. Logan
  27. The Greatest Showman
  28. All the Money in the World
  29. Wind River
  30. Wonder Wheel
  31. The Big Sick
  32. Hostiles
  33. Wonder Woman
  34. War for the Planet of the Apes
  35. The Disaster Artist
  36. Novitiate
  37. The Meyerowitz Stories
  38. Beauty and the Beast
  39. Breathe
  40. First They Killed My Father

Snubbed: The Current War, Frantz, Split, A Cure for Wellness, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Good Time, A Ghost Story, Cars 3, Wakefield, The Glass Castle, It Comes at Night, Okja, The Little Hours, The Foreigner, Thor:Ragnarok, Betting on Zero, Take Me, The Lost City of Z, Berlin Syndrome, Crown Heights, Baby Driver, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Graduation, Win It All, The Trip to Spain, War Machine, Life (2017).

Bumped Off: Suburbicon, Goodbye Christopher Robin, Mary Magdalene, Murder on the Orient Express.

 


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Movie Review – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Category : Movie Review

Director: Martin McDonagh

Starring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell

Year: 2017

Three Billboards is an early Oscar favorite, and I’m not really sure why.  It does boast a solid cast and a darkly entertaining, off-beat plot, so perhaps critics were primed to like it.  Audiences don’t seem to be on board, or just not watching, since the ratings numbers are quite low, even though the ratings themselves seen to be across-the-board high.  I guess everyone is due one film a year that the majority love and you just can’t fathom the praise, and Three Billboards must be mine, because as much as I wanted to enjoy it, I simply didn’t.  McDormand is great, the story is as wacky as it is frustrating, but I just kept ticking off negatives as I watched, without noticing enough positives to offset my dislike.

When Mildred Hayes’ daughter is killed, her world understandably crumbles, and she desires justice over all things.  But the police can’t find the killer, and months pass without an arrest being made, a fact that Mildred won’t accept.  So she does something about it, something rash, something bound to piss off the entire populace of her small town, specifically its law enforcement.  She rents three billboards, puts a bold message across the group, and waits for a response.  Well, a response is swift, as Police Chief Willoughby himself is named on the billboards, a man both the townsfolk and his fellow officers adore.  He is at a loss for how to solve the case, how to console this grieving mother, and how to do his job while dealing with a personal tragedy that makes things all the more complicated.

First the positives, because I’m not here to tear this film to shreds, I just don’t think it works in the ways that others think it does, and I don’t know why it’s still an Oscar frontrunner.  McDormand was great as the distraught mother, because she focused that pain and crafted it into sharp anger, something that I think happens often in a situation like this.  You move on, you crumple, or you get mad, and this character gets mad, something I appreciated seeing on screen.  Rockwell was probably even better, tremendous even, and could potentially see a Best Supporting nomination.  Also, something that really struck me as important was the way each character in the film was both good and bad, right and wrong, flawed but trying.  That felt very honest, that heroes aren’t obvious and villains don’t wear signs.

But that’s about it; what I didn’t like outweighed what I did.  Other than McDormand, the roles were more like cameos, which made no sense to me.  Woody Harrelson, Caleb Landry Jones, Kerry Condon, Abbie Cornish, Lucas Hedges, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes; I wanted someone to step up and show me some raw acting talent, but ever character was written as a side piece, making it impossible to make an impact on the outcome of the film.  When they did have a chance to speak up, the dialogue was awful, with a flippant use of emotion and no rhythm to the conversations whatsoever.  And this might sound odd, because I’m no prig, but they cussed too much.  Or, perhaps more accurately, they cussed too wrong, overusing and unnaturally using words like ‘cunt’ until it felt like they thought you’d think it was cool.  But it wasn’t, nothing about the style the film was done in was cool, or even respectable, and I’m not sure what director Martin McDonahg, who doesn’t have a ton of experience, was thinking.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: J.A. Bayona

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeff Goldblum

Release: June 22nd, 2018

This is an interesting director choice for this film, moving on from Colin Trevorrow who was in charge of the first Jurassic World.  He didn’t do bad, the movie was fine, but he’s just the writer here, Bayona steps in as the director.  He did The Impossible and A Monster Calls, one hit one miss, so we’ll see how he does here.  To me, the sequel looks identical to the original, except this time there’s a volcano.  I can’t imagine that’ll make things so much better, but that sequence falling into the water does look pretty cool.


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Movie Trailer – Please Stand By

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Ben Lewin

Starring: Dakota Fanning, Toni Collette, Alice Eve

Release: January 26th, 2018

From the guy who brought us The Sessions, which was OK, comes a road trip comedy/touching drama about how autism affects our families?  I’m not buying it.  Bad director, odd story, and honestly these actresses aren’t that great.  I wouldn’t trust any of them to carry this film across the finish line.


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Movie Review – Wonder Wheel

Category : Movie Review

Director: Woody Allen

Starring: Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, Jim Belushi

Year: 2017

Since 1988, Woody Allen has directed one movie per year, no more and no less.  In 1987 he did two, and in 1981, 1976, 1974, & 1970 he didn’t do any; otherwise the streak reaches back to 1969.  One feature every year, one shot at his patented style, one chance to impress audiences, and among the long list of his films are a handful of excellent ones, with a few that could be called all-time greats.  Putting any controversy about Allen aside (understanding that there are some that say that’s not possible, and I completely get that), he’s one of my favorite directors, based solely on his original, artistic, neurotic work, and I enjoy each year debating whether or not he’s still got it.  It’s been more miss than hit lately, or at least “meh” more than “yeah!”, as Woody tries to find an actor to replace himself as he ages.  This time around, he places the heavy mantle of his legacy and persona around the neck of a woman who is more than strong enough to bear the weight.

Coney Island in the 1950s was a slumping playground, an NYC getaway that had seen better days.  The patrons still came in the summer to eat hot dogs at Nathan’s and to get some sun on the beach, but not in their usual waves, and for the people who worked the pier, scratching by was status quo.  Humpty ran the carousel, his wife Ginny worked at a seafood restaurant, and her son Richie was a pyromaniac, so life wasn’t all cotton candy.  When Humpty’s daughter Carolina walked in looking for a place to lay low from her mobster husband, things got both better and worse in turns, especially when she and Ginny fell for the same sweet-talking lifeguard, an aspiring playwright named Mickey, creating a love triangle amid the hustling barkers and the ever-glowing lights.

Allen used to do his own movies, playing the nervous, chatty, over-thinking and over-wrought New Yorker to a tee, that’s part of the reason he has had so much success.  They say write what you know, and so he wrote parts for himself, created a version of himself, directed himself, watching himself as the praise rolled in.  Since he got older, he’s been trying to find a replacement.  Jesse Eisenberg seemed manageable, but in Wonder Wheel Allen casts a woman to play the hectic lead, and that was probably the best decision in the film.  Winslet was great as Ginny, with her worries and her headaches, a little hard to appreciate at the beginning but she grows on you by the end.  The men were the let-downs, Timberlake and Belushi, as both are only passable actors.  The movie reads like a stage performance, which is fine, and some of the shots with their unique use of color are just gorgeous.  But ultimately, the film feels like an under-rehearsed play with a star lead actress but not much else, a story that’s both mediocre and hard to care about.  Wonder Wheel had some early Oscar buzz, and it’s absolutely fine, there’s nothing specifically horrible about it.  I just don’t think it matches up with the best of 2017, and I don’t think we’ll hear much more about it.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Lean on Pete

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Andrew Haigh

Starring: Charlie Plummer, Steve Buscemi, Chloe Sevigny

Release: March 30th, 2018

Haigh’s last film was 45 Years, so I’d say he deserves our attention.  This is more indie, will rely on a young actor, but we’ve seen emotional dramas like this work before, and there’s no reason to think it won’t this time around.  It’s nice to see that funny-looking guy in a movie again, I don’t remember his name, he’s just funny-looking.  And I’m seriously looking forward to this film, I’ll trust A24 to deliver yet another beauty.


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Movie Trailer – 7 Days in Entebbe

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jose Padilha

Starring: Daniel Bruhl, Rosamund Pike, Eddie Marsan

Release: March 16th, 2018

This looks like a new version of Argo set in a different location and given a little more firepower.  It doesn’t have the star power or the Oscar aspirations though, but I think there’s a chance that it could still be a solid picture.  I really enjoy these actors and am looking forward to seeing what they can do.  They’ve proven themselves in other places, they just need to bring it here, and I think that they can.


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Sports – NFL Picks 2017, Week 14

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 14 Picks

(11-5 last week, 109-69 for the season)

Bye teams: none

 

NO @ Atl

Ind @ Buf

Dal @ NYG

Det @ TB

Oak @ KC

SF @ Hou

GB @ Cle

Chi @ Cin

Min @ Car

Was @ LAC

NYJ @ Den

Ten @ Ari

Phi @ LAR

Sea @ Jax

Bal @ Pit

NE @ Mia

 


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DVD Review – The Burning Bed

Category : DVD Review

Director: Robert Greenwald

Starring: Farrah Fawcett, Paul Le Mat, Richard Masur

Year: 1984

When your only  claim to fame is Xanadu, you know your career didn’t work out exactly the way you planned it.  At least Olivia Newton-John has Grease to fall back on, although her lack of literally any other movie to hang her hat on is shocking, especially considering how big a deal she was.  Obviously people quickly understood that she could sing, but she most definitely could not act.  I’ve actually seen what is basically Greenwald’s only other film of note other than a ton of documentaries that no one has seen; Breaking Up, a 1997 drama starring an up-and-coming Russell Crowe and Salma Hayek.  But that’s neither here nor there, and The Burning Bed is neither musical nor romance.  It’s a made-for-TV, true life horror story that brought the subject of abuse to American living rooms in a way that can’t be remembered without being applauded.

The Movie

Francine’s family were mountain people, which means they didn’t have much but they didn’t need much, that they valued hard work and personal pride above all things.  As Francine grew, she understood that she was beautiful, but she didn’t want to settle for simply being some handsome man’s wife.  She wanted to go to school, maybe get a job, maybe move to a bigger town, perhaps become someone important in a world that was opening up for women and revealing new opportunities every day.  But some people hold tight to the old beliefs that men are in charge, that they marry who they please, and that wives do what their husbands tell them to do.  Francine found herself in this type of relationship, through bad choices and bad luck, and it wasn’t easy to get out.

Mickey was a determined man, and when he set his sights on Francine he knew that he would talk her into marrying him.  Francine wanted to wait, to see the world first, but no one had ever made such a fuss over her, told her she was attractive, told her they loved her, that they couldn’t live without her.  So Mickey and Francine were married, despite not having jobs or a place to live.  Soon, Mickey’s evil temperament would make itself obvious, and he would beat Francine whenever she displeased him.  At first, she convinced herself she was to blame, later she would leave him, but by that time they had children together, and the well-being of her children was Francine’s top concern.  When she realized that she would never be able to get away from Mickey completely, she did something desperate, something terrible, but perhaps something necessary as well.

This film does open the conversation on abuse up in a way that only a strong story can, because sometimes we need to see it with our own eyes to believe it, as stupid as that sounds, and as ridiculous as it is that a simple film could be what it takes to get an important message across.  And this is a true story don’t forget, a real case of “battered-woman syndrome” in which the abusive situation the murderer was in came into play during their court case.  Because you can debate the ethics of the verdict, but the fact is that someone was killed here, and that victim was constantly trying to destroy the live of another victim.  Judge for yourself what the punishment should be, but this story forces us to give spousal abuse a face, and to think about the extremity of the mental damage inflicted as well.

It was a pretty big deal for sex symbol Farrah Fawcett to try a heavy drama like this, to put her acting talent on display when most people thought she was just a pretty face.  Logan’s Run, Sunburn, Saturn 3, Cannonball Run; she was just a blonde beauty, but this film opened the doors and Farrah pushed through.  Now, to be honest, her film career never really panned out, but she did do a lot of made-for-TV, true-life stuff in the late 80s, which became kind of her thing.  She’s not bad at all in The Burning Bed, a movie that could not have been very comfortable to create, and something that I see as very important, so I applaud her attempt.  Paul Le Mat plays a very convincing Mickey, and the entire film holds the 70s feel it was going for extremely well.  Is it the movie of the decade, of course not, but it has its historical value and its message, which isn’t nothing.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.33:1/1.78:1 (1920x1080p) and shot using Panaflex cameras and lenses by Panavision, the video quality of the Blu-ray disc is as poor as can be expected, but understandably so.  There is an option in the main menu of wide or full screen, but neither are tremendously appealing, as the clarity of the picture quality isn’t something you should expect to dazzle, and may even have been hurt by the transfer.

Audio – The Blu-ray was done in English, with subtitles in English available to turn on or off.  The audio quality of the disc is the same as the video; bad but not unexpected.  There is some sense that that the music was selected with purpose, but that’s about it.

Extras – The only special features are an interview with director Robert Greenwald and five trailer for other films.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  This might be Farrah Fawcett’s most notable role, and perhaps her strongest as well.  She tells an impacting story, never makes it about her as an actress, always keeps the message clear.  She isn’t aided by much around her except for one good co-star, so give credit where credit is due.  The film as a whole isn’t something extraordinary and won’t be remembered for its artistry.  But it shares with us something meaningful, and I’m appreciative of that.  The video is pretty bad, the audio the same, and there aren’t many extras, so look elsewhere for stellar technical attributes.  If you’ve never seen this film before, it’s worth your time, just don’t expect too much.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay