Monthly Archives: March 2018

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Movie Review – Heathers

Category : Movie Review

Director: Michael Lehmann

Starring: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty

Year: 1988

Heathers is like The Room; an awful film by any standard, but created with such fierce audacity that you are almost forced to love it anyway.  Ryder, Slater, Doherty; this cast is one of the worst in movie history, and yet somehow they came together to create an uncompromising cult classic.  This was director Michael Lehmann’s first stab at a feature film, he would go on to make certified clunkers Hudson Hawk, Airheads, My Giant, and 40 Days and 40 Nights, but somehow he created an 80s iconic that we still talk about today; go figure.

The Heathers are a group of high school girls who basically run the show.  As a unit, they are organized, goal-oriented, powerful, and popular, a pack of perfect specimens with (supposedly) perfect lives.  Veronica is also a member of the Heathers, turning the trio into a foursome, but her addition to the clique is based mostly on money and family, not on actual interest.  Veronica would like nothing more than to destroy the monster she has helped create, and she’s about to get her chance.  A new kid in town, Jason Dean, immediately catches her eye, and then convinces her that she doesn’t need the Heathers to be happy.  Actually, according to J.D., Veronica needs them to die in order to be happy, which is news to her.

I don’t know how, but Heathers is both bitching and bitchy at the same time.  It’s a pillar of 80s culture and film making, but it’s also terrible, a skit of a movie that, if it premiered today, we would call the worst thing since unsliced bread.  Ryder is a terrible actress, Slater is only copying Jack Nicholson, and the three Heathers aren’t any better.  It’s oddly violent, simply bizarre, and comes across as a sick joke that was somehow, for some reason, filmed.  But at the same time, it’s also time capsule gold.  The catchphrases, the clothes, the teenage angst; gift-wrapped for your enjoyment.  Some of the lines will go down as among the most quotable of all time, while others sink to the floor in a puddle of their vomit.  I’m not sure I’ve ever come across a movie that is more frenetic and straight up weird, nor do I quite know what to make of it.  As an 80s fan, Heathers is “very”; as a film critic, it really, really isn’t.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Below Her Mouth

Category : Movie Review

Director: April Mullen

Starring: Erika Linder, Natalie Krill

Year: 2016

Shot using an all-woman crew and focusing on a love story that has only one male character, April Mullen’s Below Her Mouth is a provocative and daring attempt to share something with audiences that might make them uncomfortable, and for no good reason.  We are used to seeing clothed men/naked women in sex scenes, we don’t bat an eye at heterosexual passion, and we are immune to many acts of aggressive sexuality, as long as it’s led by a dominant man.  But turn those roles on their heads, focus on a romance between two women, show without much edit their nights in bed (and days in baths) and we become much less comfortable.  If Mullen did anything it was to force us to examine our own biases and what we consider normal, a noble effort that deserves some respect, regardless of how the cinematic aspect of her project turned out.

Jasmine is a typical, successful, beautiful, responsible young woman who thinks that she’s happy in her current life.  She’s a fashion editor, she’s engaged, her fiancee is wealthy, she visits the occasional club to have just the one drink; her days might not be that exciting, but she knows where she’s headed, and doubtless she’s the envy of women all over the world.  Dallas is her antithesis; a free spirit, good with her hands, owns her own roofing company, is originally from Sweden, has a new girl at home every night, and lives as dangerously as she can.  The two meet while Jasmine’s fiancee is out of town, Dallas the pursuer, Jasmine reluctant yet feeling something she’s never felt before.  So begins a quick and wild affair, but with love hovering just outside the walls they have both build to keep from getting hurt, from getting too deep to ever escape.

This story isn’t one that we haven’t seen before, but it’s told from a woman’s perspective about women, and that makes all the difference.  It treats homosexuality as no different than heterosexuality, filled with doubts and lusts and promises and experiments, showing that falling in love is a universal madness that affects us all the same.  The sex scenes in the film feel more explicit at first because they feature two nude women, but when compared to what we’ve become used to seeing, what difference does a strap-on or some pubic hair really make?  Perhaps the movie should be categorized with Love, Blue is the Warmest Color, 9 Songs, or Room in Rome, but that doesn’t exactly make it scandalous.  Unfortunately, pushing the envelope doesn’t make it tremendous either, it only gets our attention, the theatrical side has to rise to the occasion, and it just wasn’t able to.  Krill is a working actress, though not famous, but Linder is a complete amateur, and neither woman was able to command the screen other than when they were in throes.  The acting just wasn’t good enough, the moments overwhelming the characters, with no talent rising up to support the emotional weight of the story.  The film was sexy, forceful, and simple, but was never going to work with these actors on board; we’ll have to wait for Mullen to try again.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Donnie Darko

Category : Movie Review

Director: Richard Kelly

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne

Year: 2001

Donnie Darko may not seem as deep, dark, and delightful to me at the age of 34 as it did at the age of 18, but this cult classic holds up, if a bit tenuously and despite flaws that seem more obvious now.  Writer/Director Richard Kelly would go on to do …absolutely nothing else …and this lack of success doesn’t seem surprising now, looking back, because nothing in this film shouts ‘masterpiece’.  What stands out are the delicate moments and performances that are still there to catch your attention if you’re looking for them, but the movie itself fails to wow if you take it as a whole.  I wouldn’t have said that 16-and-a-half years ago, but I’m a different audience member now, and the way I look at cinema has definitely shifted from heart to head, at least for the most part, a fact that doesn’t exactly bode well for Donnie Darko.

A young man from California named Donnie has the unusual habit of waking up in strange places around his hometown; golf fairways, rural streets, you name it.  His trouble sleeping is linked to his mental and emotional disorders, issues that he talks to a therapist about and takes medication to control.  His family is normal, happy, Donnie is extremely bright, he just can’t accept the supposed truths about the world, can’t find his place in the circle, and therefor can’t function without outbursts and extreme thoughts.  He gets lucky one night, as an evening’s sleepwalk takes him out of his house, away from a bedroom into which a jet engine will randomly fall one October morning.  This brush with death sets off a new series of hallucinations and manic musings, introduced by a man named Frank who is dressed in a freaky rabbit costume and comes to Donnie in his dreams.  Is he going insane, or is there some truth behind his delusions?

The final scene and its underscoring by Mad World is perhaps the reason this film gets so much credit; it ends on an extremely high note for, story-wise, ending on such an extremely low note.  This moment, like many others, has become iconic, and rightly so; Donnie Darko is a movie of special moments that film fanatics will never forget.  Donnie’s argument with his sister at the beginning, “chut up!”, Sparkle Motion, references to Graham Green and Richard Adams; I understand why I thought I loved this story when I was a teenager.  And the cast is killer; Patrick Swayze, Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle, Jena Malone, Seth Rogen, Ashley Tisdale, Jolene Purdy from OITNB.  The plot is a bit of a rabbit hole (pun intended), and you could spend days trying to piece together how the future connects to Donnie’s world, how he saved the universe, who’s trying to communicate with him; the director has a very detailed imagination.  But it all comes down to how much you can enjoy this wacky story, and although I remember liking it when I was young and impressionable more than I do now, there’s still a cult quality to this film that demands our attention and remembrance.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Sports – NFL 2018 Old Faces New Places

Category : Sports

The 2018 NFL season is almost here.  Before we start predicting who will win what, let’s take a look at the new places that some old faces have landed during the offseason.  Here are some free agents and traded players in fresh locations that might change the future of their new clubs:

Buffalo Bills – A.J. McCarron, QB – from Cincinnati Bengals

Buffalo Bills – Vontae Davis, CB – from Indianapolis Colts

Buffalo Bills – Star Latulelei, DT – Carolina Panthers

Miami Dolphins – Danny Amendola, WR – from New England Patriots

Miami Dolphins – Robert Quinn, DE – from Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins – Sheldon Richardson, DT – from Seattle Seahawks

New England Patriots – Jeremy Hill, RB – from Cincinnati Bengals

New England Patriots – Jason McCourty, CB – from Cleveland Browns

New England Patriots – Danny Shelton, DT – from Cleveland Browns

New England Patriots – Andrian Clayborn, DT – from Atlanta Falcons

New York Jets – Isaiah Crowell, RB – from Cleveland Browns

New York Jets – Teddy Bridgewater, QB – from Minnesota Vikings

New York Jets – Trumaine Johnson, CB – from Los Angeles Rams

Baltimore Ravens – Michael Crabtree, WR – from Oakland Raiders

Cincinnati Bengals – Cordy Glenn, OT – from Buffalo Bills

Cincinnati Bengals – Chris Baker, DT – from Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Cleveland Browns – Tyrod Taylor, QB – from Buffalo Bills

Cleveland Browns – Jarvis Landry, WR – from Miami Dolphins

Cleveland Browns – Carlos Hyde, RB – from San Francisco 49ers

Pittsburgh Steelers – Morgan Burnett, S – from Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans – Tyrann Mathieu, S – from Arizona Cardinals

Indianapolis Colts – Eric Ebron, TE – from Detroit Lions

Jacksonville Jaguars – A. Sefarian-Jenkins, TE – from New York Jets

Jacksonville Jaguars – Donte Moncrief, WR – from Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars – DJ Hayden, CB – from Detroit Lions

Jacksonville Jaguars – Andrew Norwell, OG – from Carolina Panthers

Tennessee Titans – Malcolm Butler, CB – from New England Patriots

Tennessee Titans – Dion Lewis, RB – from New England Patriots

Denver Broncos – Case Keenum, QB – from Minnesota Vikings

Denver Broncos – Delvin Breaux, CB – from New Orleans Saints

Kansas City Chiefs – Anthony Hitchens, LB – from Dallas Cowboys

Kansas City Chiefs – Sammy Watkins, WR – from Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles Chargers – Virgil Green, TE – from Denver Broncos

Oakland Raiders – Jordy Nelson, WR – from Green Bay Packers

Oakland Raiders – Doug Martin, RB – from Tampa Bay Buccaneers

New York Giants – Nate Solder, OT – from New England Patriots

New York Giants – Jonathan Stewart, RB – from Carolina Panthers

New York Giants – Alec Ogletree, LB – from Los Angeles Rams

Philadelphia Eagles – Haloti Ngata, DT – from Detroit Lions

Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Bennett, DE – from Seattle Seahawks

Washington Redskins – Alex Smith, QB – from Kansas City Chiefs

Chicago Bears – Cody Parkey, K – from Miami Dolphins

Chicago Bears – Allen Robinson, WR – from Jacksonville Jaguars

Chicago Bears – Trey Burton, TE – from Philadelphia Eagles

Detroit Lions – LaGarrette Blount, RB – from Philadelphia Eagles

Detroit Lions – DeShawn Shead, CB – from Seattle Seahawks

Green Bay Packers – Mo Wilkerson, DT – from New York Jets

Green Bay Packers – Jimmy Graham, TE – from Seattle Seahawks

Minnesota Vikings – Kirk Cousins, QB – from Washington Redskins

Carolina Panthers – Torrey Smith, WR – from Philadelphia Eagles

Carolina Panthers – Dontari Poe, DT – from Atlanta Falcons

New Orleans Saints – Patrick Robinson, CB – from Philadelphia Eagles

New Orleans Saints – Kurt Coleman, S – from Carolina Panthers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Ryan Jensen, C – from Baltimore Ravens

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Vinny Curry, DE – from Philadelphia Eagles

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jason Pierre-Paul, DE – from New York Giants

Arizona Cardinals – Andre Smith, OT – from Cincinnati Bengals

Arizona Cardinals – Justin Pugh, OT – from New York Giants

Arizona Cardinals – Sam Bradford, QB – from Minnesota Vikings

Los Angeles Rams – Aqib Talib, CB – from Denver Broncos

Los Angeles Rams – Marcus Peters, CB – from Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Rams – Sam Shields, CB – from Green Bay Packers

San Francisco 49ers – Jerrick McKinnon, RB – from Minnesota Vikings

San Francisco 49ers – Richard Sherman, CB– from Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks – Ed Dickson, TE – from Carolina Panthers

 


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Movie Trailer – Under the Silver Lake

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: David Robert Mitchell

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough

Release: June 22nd, 2018

How absolutely bizarre.  DRM wrote & directed It Follows, which earns him a little trust, and with these actors behind him, I’m ready to believe that this film will be as wonderful as it seems to have the potential to be.  BUT, I also think it looks like a strange re-imagining of (or at least in the vein of) Inherent Vice, which I didn’t really like.  Big Lebowski did that whole, trippy, random, neo-noir thing quite well, but how many others have repeated that success?  Can this?


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Movie Trailer – Tag

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jeff Tomsic

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms, Jon Hamm

Hannibal BuressIsla Fisher, Jake Johnson, Annabelle Wallis

Release: June 15th, 2018

I am shocked that this movie actually looks hilarious.


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DVD Review – True Love Ways

Category : DVD Review

Director: Mathiue Seiler

Starring: Anna Hausburg, Kai Michael Muller, David C. Bunners

Year: 2014

True Love Ways (which is a title that doesn’t really make any sense in English, I wonder what its native translation actually means) is a film that seems to have picked far too many specific niches to possibly be a movie that more than a very small number of audience members could really enjoy. German, noir, horror, black&white, bloody, trippy, sexual, snuff; there is almost too much to see, more than anyone can focus on without getting dizzy, despite the slow pace and the relatively simple story.  If the director had only chosen a narrower lane, he might have made his movie more accessible for a larger group.  As is, True Love Ways is a blur of ideas and a hard pill to swallow.

The Movie

Severine no longer wants to be with her boyfriend Tom, an unsettling feeling of discomfort creeping over her life and affecting her happiness with him.  It’s both physical and mental, this change, and all she wants is space.  She has been having a recurring dream about a stranger in a white car, someone coming to take her away from her trouble.  Tom doesn’t take the news well, impulsively confiding in a dark man in a bar, telling him about the sadness into which Severine is about to plunge him.  This man convinces Tom that he has a crafty solution to the problem and that, much like El Gallo, his theatrical abuse of the damsel will set a hero up to rise, Tom winning Severine back to him by “saving her” from harm.

But what Tom doesn’t know is that this sinister man has an evil plan.  He bugs Severine’s apartment, discovers her routine, and sets a trap that will deliver her into his and his partner’s hands.  What they will do with her then is beyond imagining, but they will not be returning her when they are finished.  Now Tom will have to become an actual knight in shining armor, but not before Severine must step up to save herself, taking violence away from the men who want to hurt her and turning it directly back on their unsuspecting souls.  She will have to reach deep down into some primal place in order to survive, and she will have to be willing to spill blood if she hopes to see tomorrow.

There are too many movies here to critique at once, too many ideas and styles splintering off the original, until the point is lost somewhere in the muddle.  It’s almost a throwback to an old, Teutonic, melodramatic, black&white, deeply-hidden genre flick that only a few know about and which they all consider a cult classic.  The odd camera work, the dangerous sensuality, the lack of standard plot elements, the absence of meaningful dialogue; it’s definitely intentional, definitely purposeful, but the result is almost too stylistic, too out there to be appreciated by, well, normal people.

Sometimes Seiler slips in a little magic; the giant stuffed bear, the tape-recorded vibrator, the killing in the woods, hiding behind the shelf in the catacombs.  There are moments that catch you off guard and will delight those looking for an off-beat version of the standard thriller storyline, surprising us when we didn’t think we were capable of being surprised any more, when we thought we had seen it all.  But these quick flashes of originality are buried beneath a bizarre plot and some nonsensical characters, until you get tired of sifting through the junk for the precious trinkets underneath.  Built upon too wide a range of concepts and influences, True Love Ways ends as a derailed train, and I’m not really sure where we were headed in the first place.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and shot in black&white, the video quality of the film is poor if we’re being critical, fine if we’re not.  The clarity of picture will not impress you, and there is obviously no color to speak of, so the visuals slide away under the story until they are completely forgotten.

Audio – The DVD was done in German 2.1 Stereo.  That’s it; no audio options, no language choices, nothing.  The music that forms the backing track is creepy and classic, but not of any significant quality.

Extras – There are no special features, no menus of any kind, on the disc.

Final Thoughts

Rent It.  Though not a terrible experience, watching this film is definitely a forgettable one.  There are elements that feel like homages to the cinema of the past, and that can be appreciated, but there isn’t enough in the way of new material to warrant much audience enjoyment.  The video isn’t great, neither is the audio, and there are no bonus features, so forget about any supporting technical aspects.  And the film needed some support, from somewhere, to carry it when its classic roots could hold it up no longer.  It lacked special qualities to keep it viable once you understood the nods and were ready for some new content, failing to becoming something independently entertaining, or even worth much of your time.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 

 


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Movie Review – Brad’s Status

Category : Movie Review

Director: Mike White

Starring: Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Jenna Fischer

Year: 2017

Ben Stiller had one hell of a 2017, with two of the better films he’s ever been a part of.  Not only was he at his best in them, but they were among the best of the year, a win-win if ever there was one.  Stiller is known as a goofball, but he’s shown as he’s aged that he can be much more than funny, that he has talent to display when he so chooses and/or when the project is right.  Walter Mitty was OK, Stiller directing himself, but The Meyerowitz Stories was something else entirely, Noah Baumbach delivering the strongest work of his career.  Now, with Brad’s Status, Stiller teams up with talented writer Mike White, takes the entire, heavy story on his shoulders, and shows that he can now be trusted to carry the load.

It’s time for an important right of passage; the college visits tour.  For Brad Sloan, it’s a time not only to take his son Troy to Boston to check out schools, but also to reflect on his own life, a timeline of missed opportunities and questionable choices.  Brad works in non-profit, while his college friends are all highly successful self-made millionaires.  One is already retired and lives on an island, one has the ear of the White House, one is a talented film director, one is a financial icon; it’s hard to feel good about yourself when you measure your happiness against private jets.  Troy just wants to find a school where he fits in, but he’ll have to contend with his father’s mini-nervous breakdown along the way.

The film starts with narration, which I’m not a fan of in dramas, but like in Wakefield, because it doesn’t disappear halfway through the plot, it works.  Usually I’m yelling at the screen that I want the actors to show me their emotions, I don’t need narrators to tell me what the characters are feeling, but in this instance it works perfectly, as we enter Brad’s mind and we never leave.  And it’s a complicated area, these emotions that he’s dealing with are extremely complex, as he tries his best to support his son while having to face the demons of his own past at the same time.  A touch of fantasy, some bitter regret, but mostly hope; this film is filled with elements for us all to relate to, especially parents with growing children.  Stiller has never been better, Abrams is perfect, and even though Jenna Fischer is such a bad actress that she couldn’t even play Pam well for more than the first half of The Office, we don’t see much of her so it’s OK.  Brad’s friends are a cool group; Luke Wilson, Jemaine Clement, Michael Sheen, Mike White.  And although White doesn’t direct much, he’s a veteran write, and knows how to weave a tale.  This film works on all levels, and I recommend it strongly; it’s an under-the-radar great and one of 2017’s most special.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Hot Fuzz

Category : Movie Review

Director: Edgar Wright

Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost

Year: 2007

It’s been almost 11 years since Hot Fuzz, Simon Pegg’s & Edgar Wright’s 2nd foray into the wacky, comedic, destructive world they created with Shaun of the Dead in 2004, and later added to with The World’s End in 2013.  Pegg became a certifiable star, with the M:I movies and the Star Trek franchise, while Wright recently wowed some audiences with Baby Driver.  Point is, they’ve had their fun in the past and have proven to be true talents in the present.  Hot Fuzz is a bit of a spoof and a jumping of the shark, but done just cleverly enough to make us forgive the insanity.  It’s British to the core and hilarious throughout, as entertaining a cinematic experience as you are likely to have.

Sergeant Nicholas Angel is an exemplary police officer, one of London’s finest, but he’s making the rest of his squad look bad.  He’s professional to a fault, takes his missions more seriously than his relationships, and has just been reassigned to the country where he’ll be a very big fish in a very small pond.  His new fellow officers are absolutely terrible, not taking anything seriously, never following protocol, and making a joke out of Angel’s love for upholding the law.  His only friend in this new home is the police chief’s son Danny, a tried and true companion, but an extremely bad policeman.  Nick & Danny will be tasked with unraveling a series of mysterious murders in a town that has almost zero crime, a statistic that is as suspicious as the seemingly perfect townsfolk themselves.

Pegg & Wright are a great pair of screenwriters, Pegg starring, Wright directing, both adding personal touches until the comedy is just right.  It’s sometimes over-the-top, often juvenile, but for some reason I never mind; maybe I’m forgiving of the British because their accents are so cool.  But seriously, the comedy works when it shouldn’t and really works in moments that are laugh-out-loud uproarious.  The action is also well-placed and well-paced, except perhaps at the very end, when it takes one too many liberties.  And then there’s the cast: Pegg, Frost, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Steve Coogan, Timothy Dalton, Jim Broadbent, Paddy Considine, Rafe Spall, Olivia Colman, Karl Johnson.  Pretty impressive, and there are also some surprise appearances and voice-overs to boot, sprinkles on the tasty cake that is this ultra-enjoyable movie, one that I would be happy to re-watch a hundred times.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Marielle Heller

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant

Release: October 19th, 2018

I am not a Melissa McCarthy fan, but this is a film I can get behind.  It’s not a stretch to say that she might be in Oscar contention.