Category Archives: Movie Review

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Movie Review – Fifty Shades Freed

Category : Movie Review

Director: James Foley

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan

Year: 2018

This might surprise you, as I’m a 30-something man with a taste for sci-fi and Oscars dramas, but I kinda like the Fifty Shades franchise.  And no, it isn’t just because of Dakota Johnson, although she is very sexy and I won’t deny that her body is a bit of factor.  But it goes beyond that; I actually enjoy the smutty abandon of this series, how they are, especially with the first film, shouting a big “screw you!” in the face of the industry, completely giving in to the money and the sex.  Fifty Shades of Grey was pretty hot, it didn’t shy away from controversy, and I was shocked when I rather liked it.  Fifty Shades Darker wasn’t actually much darker, became a silly soap opera, left most of the bondage behind, and focused on the romance element, all of which was a bit of a let down, but I think we all expected a descent.  I predicted a leap off a cliff face with the last installment, and in that way Fifty Shades Freed did not disappoint; it’s one of the worst films you will ever see.

Ana and Christian are married, and they’ll just have to deal with the fact that he sometimes still wants to control her, while she often wants to flaunt the fact that she won’t be controlled.  They vow to make it work, even though he gets jealous and she gets rebellious; that’s what every married couple deals with, right?  Sure, every newlywed is wading through the world of BDSM, jet-setting to Paris, and running multiple successful companies, all while secret crazy people are trying to destroy their lives.  Wait, what?  That’s just the Grey way, and it’s no outdoor picnic.  Someone is trying to sabotage Ana and Christian’s relationship, they are doing a pretty good job of that themselves at the same time, and there may be a little bundle of joy on the way as well.  But love conquers all, especially love in handcuffs.

I said it about the last installment and I’ll say it again; if what you came to see are Dakota Johnson’s nipples, then you’re in for a treat.  They are basically the stars of the film, and I don’t really understand why, since the majority of audience members are women who came because they read the books, think Christian is hot, and want to see their own secret fantasies portrayed on camera.  At least that’s what I assume, maybe I’m wrong, because the studio seems to think that what we want are shots of Ana in various states of undress, which I’m all for, but I also don’t think that’s a great base for a film.  Other than the fact that she looks great, and that the movie has an ending that I actually thought was smart, with a good wrapped-up feeling that will satisfy those who were invested in the series, there is absolutely nothing positive to say about this final chapter.

Fifty Freed is less actual cinema and more a USA Network original, like an episode of Silk Stockings but with a backstory, Thomas Crown Affair wealth, and a Red Room filled with butt plugs.  It loses the intrigue of the first, the romance of the second, and instead focuses on two really boring things: manufactured couples fights that end with make-up sex and a generic villain story line hovering in the periphery like a cracked shell.  All we get is bickering, mixed with conversations about how marriage is hard, and the stupidest thriller outline you have ever seen, laden with cliches that are hard to imagine that actual brains thought would work.  The acting goes from bad to worse, the side characters are ridiculous/pointless beyond compare, and if you were to write this entire plot down and read it to yourself aloud, you might actually fall over dead from sheer embarrassment.  Although I didn’t hate it originally, I’m so glad this franchise is over.  Not only did the last part destroy any fragile credibility that it might have earned, but it’s also something none of us need in our lives: fantasy, real, sex, or otherwise.

My rating: ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Black Panther

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ryan Coogler

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan

Year: 2018

Black Panther was cinematically introduced in Captain America: Civil War, and he was definitely one of its strongest parts.  That character is completely and roundly awesome, with a few superpowers, a ton of natural skill, and a backstory to give him depth.  We’ve seen him out of his element, kicking ass, seeking revenge, now we get a look at his homeland, Wakanda, a place of secrecy and beauty more like Krypton than NYC, the hidden gem that houses the precious vibranium.  If you’re into comics and MU movies, you’ve been looking forward to this one, a longer look at one of the cooler cats that fight with the mighty Avengers.  And I’ve got good news for you; it doesn’t disappoint.  Black Panther is part origin story, part new adventure, a fresh take on the genre, with a cast that will knock your socks off and an underlying message that doesn’t let you leave without riding the wave.

The king is dead; long live the king.  A new Black Panther has come to the throne after the death of the great Wakandan ruler, his son claiming the title and defeating the challengers to earn the right to rule his people.  He is already housing Captain America’s friend Bucky Barnes, but his nation is also hiding vibranium-laced supertechnology that they keep solely to themselves, both to keep dangerous weapons out of evil hands and to protect their beautiful land.  Black Panther wants only to keep his people safe, while others close to him want to help the outside world, a prospect that comes with its own problems.  But the outside world is coming in, whether they want it to or not, in the form of Erik Killmonger, a trained murderer with a secret past.  His appearance will rock the Wankandan way of life, and will also change the fate of the entire world.

Chadwick Boseman is becoming the biopic king, which isn’t my favorite genre, but there’s no denying his ability to assume a real life role.  What makes him great is his ability to also weave yards of his natural talent into the true character, to show us that he has skills beyond simple copy work.  42, Get on Up, Marshall; these films by themselves aren’t phenomenal, but you can see a rising star working his way up through every one.  Boseman was also Floyd Little in The Express, a role that’s close to my heart, being a Broncos fan, and he was also an athlete in Draft Day, another football flick, this time fictional.  The guy can do it all, and is only now blossoming into a major film actor at the age of 40; he looks and seems half that age.  He is a perfect choice for T’Challa, delivers another excellent performance in the Universe, and should be a staple to the Marvel diet going forward.

And then there are the dozen co-stars around him, a few more than needed perhaps, because the plot does get a little cloudy at times, but solid nonetheless.  Nyong’o, Jordan, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis; again, perhaps a little overkill.  I thought Michael B. Jordan stole the show, while Martin Freeman was completely pointless and Angela Bassett was cringe-worthy.  With all these side actors, you need side stories, and that’s where Black Panther was at its worst.  When we should have been focusing on the epic battle between Panther and Killmonger, we were watching Kaluuya on a rhino instead, which was both odd and completely unnecessary.  The film could have been slightly more focused and tightly-woven, but that’s probably my only major critique.  The cinematography was breathtaking, the African cultural elements felt real when they could so easily have felt forced, and the messages behind the story (isolationism, xenophobia, compounding wrongs) were too bright to miss.  Watch this latest addition to a franchise that is quickly turning into a legacy with confidence, pride, and an eye toward the horizon.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – The Squid and the Whale

Category : Movie Review

Director: Noah Baumbach

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney

Year: 2005

Noah Baumbach has always been someone I’ve allowed into my life because of his connection to Wes Anderson, my favorite director, not specifically because I love his individual work.  The Squid and the Whale was his first of what I would consider his canon, almost an experience modeled after an Anderson flick before he found his own voice and started doing his Ben Stiller/Greta Gerwig work, which are the films he’s most famous for: Greenberg, Frances Ha, While We’re Young, Mistress America.  His most recent movie, The Meyerowitz Stories, is by far his best work, and it seems like he’s finally been able to combine his voice with a style that it more accessible to audiences.  But here we revisit the success that got him started, an extremely personal movie that might hit a little too close to home.

Living in a family of two literary PhDs and a much younger brother isn’t easy, especially when you’re constantly caught between the superpowers that are your parents, their petty attacks, their massive egos, and the fights that never stop.  Walt and his brother Frank are about to become reservable property, shared between their divorcing parents like shelters at a metro park, enjoying the feeling of being wanted but dreading the push & pull.  Walt begins despising his mother, insulting his own girlfriend, and lying about original song lyrics, while Frank does much worse; masturbating in school until people think he’s becoming a psychopath.  Neither are handling their parents’ breakup very well, while Bernard & Joan Berkman squabble like children and deal with it even worse.

My parents are divorced, it happened when I was a teenager, so I understand where Baumbach is coming from, and the reality of his experience bleeds through this film into your living room whether you want it to or not.  Write what you know, that’s the best literary advice you’re ever going to get, and that’s why this is Baumbach’s strong start.  His girlfriend, Great Gerwig, followed that advice when creating Lady Bird, which is my favorite film of 2017, so I’d say that it’s something every artist ought to remember.  Back to Squid and Whale, which is so real it’s uncomfortable, which is the point, almost to a degree where you’d like to turn away.  Some of the sexual aspects do become a little unnerving, and some will say Baumbach went too far; that’s for you to decide.  But the music, the set, the side actors (Billy Baldwin, Anna Paquin, even Alexandra Daddario has a extra’s role); it all works, it’s a memorable film, and what’s more, I think it’s something that stands out as a movie that needs to be seen at least once in order to understand the entire, and much larger tapestry.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – The Royal Tenenbaums

Category : Movie Review

Director: Wes Anderson

Starring: Gene Hackman, Luke Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller

Anjelica Huston, Danny Glover, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Kumar Pallana

Year: 2001

The Royal Tenenbaums is the best film I have ever seen, and therefor my absolute, all-time favorite.  I refuse to qualify that opinion too much, but I will say this; it was released at a very important time in my life, when I was cementing my taste in movies, and when I was going through a lot personally, so I understand how that can affect things.  But I still hold that it is an amazing cinematic accomplishment as well, something that should go down in the history books for its artistic originality and perfection of plot.  It was released in January 2002, just in time for the Oscars, but it received very little attention.  It was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, and Gene Hackman won the Golden Globe for Best Actor, but other than that it was mostly overlooked.  Fine by me, that just means that I can keep it a little more to myself, this wonderful story that washes magically over me every time I watch it, this beautiful experience that I’ll never forget.

The Tenenbaums are a family of geniuses, living at 111 Archer Avenue in complete dysfunction.  Royal is a lawyer, a crafty man, a self-described asshole.  Etheline is an archeologist, and raises their three children.  Richie is a tennis prodigy, Chas is a business tycoon in a child’s body, and Margot may be adopted but she’s also a talented playwright.  As the years pass, the family grows further and further apart, the parents separating and the children failing at spreading their proverbial wings to become the magnificent creatures they showed the promise of metamorphosing into.  When Royal, disbarred and living in a hotel, goes broke, he creates an imaginary illness so that he might have a second chance with his family.  They have all moved home to deal with their own personal tragedies, and so everyone finds themselves under one roof again, wallowing in self-pity and the bitterness of past grievances.

Sounds depressing, and it would be were it not for the exact elements that make this film so incredible.  The art of this movie will blow your mind; the house, the costumes, the decorations, the pinks & yellows, each scene crafted to be a photograph you could hang in your living room with pride.  The humor is sometimes subtle, sometimes silly, but it always feels realistic in a fantastical way, if such a thing can exist.  And the characters, how they are all individually painted, how each of them work through the problems of growing up and growing old in their own, unique, screwed up ways.  This blending of beautiful ingredients keeps the story from sinking into a somber place, and gives audiences hope that it will all end well.  Anderson has never been better, and while each of his films is wildly original and lovingly weird, Royal Tenenbaums takes the cake.  How could it not with this cast, this wonderful blend of actors who perhaps all have never been better or delivered more acutely a character to define a career by.  And we can’t forget the music; I hate to be grandiose, but this is the best soundtrack in cinema history.  I accept that this movie is different, that not every audience member will want to partake of something so rich, but I also can’t understand how someone could not see what I’m seeing when I sit down to watch this masterpiece again & again, how they could not feel what this lovely spectacle makes me feel.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Saturn 3

Category : Movie Review

Director: Stanley Donen

Starring: Farah Fawcett, Kirk Douglas, Harvey Keitel

Year: 1980

Stanley Donen is a name you might not recognize, but I bet you’ve heard of the films he directed.  Singin’ in the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Funny Face, Damn Yankees, Charade, Bedazzled (the original); these are some of the most famous classic films ever created.  It’s hilarious and bit sad that he would direct Saturn 3 in 1980, and that it would spell the end of his career.  The guy is still alive today, he’s 93 years old, but the complete disaster that was Saturn 3 closed the curtain on his filmmaking days.  You can tell why when you watch it now; it’s an awful attempt at sci-fi, a horribly acting piece of drivel that tries to be so many other good movies and just completely fails.

In the future, Earth will be a wasteland of high pollution and population, a place which mankind will look to leave.  Near Saturn, scientists will work to create new food sources for humans back on the home planet, helping them survive but also paving the way for them to leave and explore the stars.  Alex & Adam work hand in hand in isolation to produce nutrition, and they don’t mind their loneliness; they have their work and they have each other.  But their idyllic existence is about to be broken by a rogue engineer who thinks he can change the world.  Benson is trained (somewhat) in the creation of a new robot named Hector, one that should be able to rapidly increase productivity.  But Hector takes his personality from his programmer, and Benson isn’t exactly a boy scout.

You can forgive a few oddities from retro sci-fi; it’s a strange genre and they had some strange ideas of how to get audiences excited.  Boobs, of course, and fake blood, and maybe a robot or an alien to make things interesting.  Sometimes it worked (2001: A Space Odyssey), sometimes it became a cult classic (Barbarella), but sometimes it crashed and burned, like Saturn 3.  There isn’t a Saturn 1 or Saturn 2, thank God, the title is the name of the rock the scientists work on, and I’m so glad they didn’t decide to make any sequels either.  You’d think, by the stars in it, that it might work, but you’d be wrong.  Douglas was OK, an aging screen legend who had just enough left in the tank to show off his butt and try to convince us that he was a hero.  Fawcett was terrible, a waif of a character who wore diaphanous robes and needed rescued.  And then there was Keitel, who was about as abysmal as you can imagine, in a role that probably wouldn’t have worked no matter who the actor was.  This is a genre flick to forget about, not even bad enough to call fun, not anywhere near good enough to give second thought.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – The Cloverfield Paradox

Category : Movie Review

Director: Julius Onah

Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daniel Brühl, David Oyelowo

Year: 2018

Back when Cloverfield Paradox was called God Particle, I was intensely excited for its eventual release.  There was always some mystery surrounding when exactly that would be, but that was fine with me, and it was part of the buildup behind another piece to an unpredictable franchise.  I was not prepared, however, for it to be released straight to Netflix immediately after the Super Bowl the same night we were given a trailer for the film.  But again, fine by me, a surprise release, an atypical route, it only made me more pumped to watch.  Which was exactly the point, make audiences feel like we absolutely needed to stay up and see what was happening, make us believe that something special was coming.  When in reality, what was actually happening was that we were being fooled into consuming a terrible sci-fi flick, tricked into sitting down to what will most likely remain one of the worst movies of 2018.

As Earth’s resources run low, the entire planet moves closer & closer to global war.  Russia, Germany, England, China, the US; each super-power wants the little that’s left to keep the light on, and each is willing to fight to get it.  But there is a possible scenario to avoid bloodshed, although it’s a long shot at best.  In space, a team of scientists are working on the most powerful particle accelerator ever built, a machine that can release limitless energy from the very particles that make up our universe.  Sounds great, if it worked, but so far it doesn’t.  And as the years tick by, the situation on Earth grows graver, while the scientists become more desperate to solve the problem, or watch civilization completely collapse.  Oh, and there’s one more thing; their meddling with the very fabric of the galaxy could rip open a hole between alternate dimensions, throwing multiple realities into complete chaos.  Good luck guys, don’t screw up.

It all started with Cloverfield, the shockingly good hand-held horror flick, and it continued with 10 Cloverfield Lane, another intense piece of cinema set in the same wacky, monstrous universe but taking audiences down a different part.  There was reason to be excited about this third installment, and it was believed that it would tie the films together, answer some questions, give us a sense where this franchise was headed.  But if this is the path it’s going down, no one is going to follow it.  Paradox is simply an awful space story, a good idea gone so wrong that you can hardly believe your eyes and ears.  First, it does answer some questions, but I’m not sure big fans of the series will be happy with the results.  I don’t care intensely, but I do wish Donal Logue hadn’t told us specifically what was going to happen in the first 10 minutes, leaving the rest of the plot to devolve and splinter into tiny dramas that were each individually horrendous.  Gugu was dreadful, her single-tear-intense-look overused to the point of pain.  I love Bruhl, but his character was dumb.  And the other actors were a bunch of b-listers: Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz, Elizabeth Debicki.  10 Cloverfield Lane was so much better, Life was so incredibly more entertaining and captivating; how they got this movie this wrong will perhaps always be a mystery, one that I doubt anyone cares to solve.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 


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DVD Review – The Flight of Dragons

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.

Starring: John Ritter, Harry Morgan, James Earl Jones

Year: 1982

Many of us have heard of, watched, or grew up with the offbeat animation of the 70s and 80s, which includes The Hobbit, The Return of the King, and The Last Unicorn.  We’ve also seen the beloved Christmas classic canon, much of it stop-motion, that appears on local stations every holiday season, like Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.  All of these dated gems are a creation of Rankin/Bass Productions, a company that thrived on its variety of animation, and went out of business in 1987.  But one extra classic oddity escaped my notice over the years, The Flight of Dragons, a film done by this same group, in the same style, and with the same resulting magic.

The Movie

The magic of the Universe is slowly losing its power, as science grows in dominance and people lose faith in the wonder of the unknown.  In the land of dragons and fantasy, it is of utmost importance to hold on to the waning magic, before it is all lost and no other dimension can access this creative force.  Four wizards rule the land, and they must come together to create a haven for all things magical, one that can be tapped into but will always be protected.  Carolinus of the green magic brings his three brothers together to will this realm into existence, but the fourth, the dark red wizard of war, Ommadon, wants nothing of the plan.  He’ll bring men under his control, let them battle themselves until only he survives, until all the Universe is his to command.

In order to stop this wicked plan, Carolinus must send forth a quest to steal the crown of Ommadon, thus allowing the other three wizards to create the magical oasis.  A powerful dragon will go, so will a noble knight, but one more warrior is needed, and he must be the most unique of all.  He must come from another time, another place, another dimension, a land called Boston and an era called The 80s.  Peter Dickenson, a man of both science and of fantasy, a genius with his head in the clouds, but someone who knows nothing of fighting, must come join the merry band as they embark upon a doomed adventure.  They will encounter evil magic, nasty creatures, crafty elves, beautiful maidens, and ultimately their destinies.

1982 goodness at your fingertips in every cell, The Flight of Dragons is a slice of Americana that we didn’t know we had but now we desperately need to own.  When it came out it went straight to video, and it isn’t as well-known as its contemporaries, but it is easily as good.  If you’ve seen the trippy classics of this era you’ll known exactly what you’re getting into, and honestly this one isn’t even quite as weird.  I was surprised that they took the time in each scene to explain the story, to make sure we weren’t lost in the fantasy.  This resulted in less adventure time and some lack of character development, especially toward the end when we met characters that joined the quest but they basically got zero screen time, but it was worth it to have a plot that made sense.

The voices on display here are a welcome addition to the entertaining animation, and you’ll recognize some iconic ones right away.  John Ritter as the hero is cool, especially since he’s passed, this is now another way to revisit his talent and his humor.  Harry Morgan is the lead wizard, best known for his role on M*A*S*H.  And James Earl Jones lends his bass tones to the villain, which of course fits perfectly.  There are some dragons, some dragon lore, some wood elves, a few beautiful princesses, a giant, castles, evil spells; what more could you ask for from this genre?  My kids absolutely loved The Flight of Dragons, I was impressed as well, and if you missed this gem growing up, make sure to give it a shot now.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (1080p HD 16×9), the Blu-ray version of this old film isn’t half bad, but of course doesn’t hold a candle to modern Blu-ray discs.  The animation stands up on its own though, its quality cannot be denied, regardless of how far we’ve come since the 80s.  The colors are nice, the transfer was handled well, and you won’t be disappointed in the visuals.

Audio – The disc was done in DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0 Mono, with an option of English SDH subtitles.  That’s it as far as the audio goes, except for an original song by Don McLean which, I mean, come on, you can’t beat that.  The sound has a certain amount of age to it, but that’s to be expected, and I don’t remember a ton of warble or problems, so that’s a positive.

Extras – The only special feature on the Blu-ray is the option to watch the Standard Definition Television Version.

Final Thoughts

Highly Recommended.  I’m lucky to have found this film and to have watched it with my family.  It’s a movie that’s right down my aisle; fantasy, animated, the 80s.  But somehow I missed it, didn’t even know it existed, and I’m glad that’s remedied now.  If you enjoyed the similar hits from this era, you’ll enjoy this one too; it’s surprising that only a couple thousand people have rated it on IMDb, but the few who have gave it a 7.8/10 composite, which is nothing to sneeze at.  A folk music theme song, some celebrity voice-overs, the “science” of dragon flight; really, it’s a gift.  The video is rather well done, the audio is fine, there’s only the one extra, so the technical aspects are a mixed bag, but one one is coming in expecting much more than that.  Watch with confidence and for a special experience.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


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Movie Review – Grosse Pointe Blank

Category : Movie Review

Director: George Armitage

Starring: John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Dan Aykroyd

Year: 1997

I did not watch this film when it first came out in 1997, which I think was a good thing, because it gave me time to fall in love with its leads in other pictures, to return to Grosse Pointe with an appreciation and a love that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  First, Minnie Driver in Good Will Hunting was my 15-year-old crush, there was nothing quite like her special character, that hair, and those eyes.  Second, I grew up loving John Cusack for Natty Gann and Say Anything, but High Fidelity was something else all together, and I was ready to take a bullet for the guy.  Seeing them both in a love story like Grosse Pointe Blank, albeit a strange and bloody romance, was a dream come true, and I’ll never forget how perfect they were together.  It only makes it better that I follow them both on Twitter, that they are advocates for what I believe in, and that I can revisit them on DVD any time I want to.

Martin Blank is an assassin, and a pretty good one at that, though the industry is getting a little saturated and there seem to be too many hitmen hired for competing targets.  It’s a stressful job, and Martin wrestles with it daily; not the actual killing really, but the idea that he’s floating around with no purpose, that he might be meant for something more than this.  A chance to find out arises when a new assignment takes him to the very city in which he grew up, Grosse Pointe, Michigan, just outside of Detroit.  He arrives just in time for his 10-year high school reunion, although he’s more terrified of seeing old friends than he is of being killed by a rival gunman.  But before the murder in the town or even the party at the old gymnasium, Martin will have to face the girl he left waiting on prom night, Debi, the girl who he once loved and has been trying unsuccessfully to forget for the last decade.

It’s almost as if this movie was made to commemorate Cusack’s 80s success, to play the songs and work the magic that still gets us where it hurts the most, still carries a certain nostalgia that we will never forget.  I was born in the middle of the 80s, so I don’t remember it that well, I’m a 90s kid I guess, but that doesn’t stop that special time period, and especially its films, from holding a wonderful, memorable place in my heart.  Grosse Pointe Blank is a throwback, a time capsule opening, a reminder of what made cinema from that era great, and who better to walk you down memory lane than Cusack.  Driver is great addition to the stroll, so talented and so beautiful, the perfect girl-that-got-away.  Dan Aykroyd has probably never been better, as the raging lunatic assassin, and a few other cameos will leap to your attention as well: Alan Arkin, Hank Azaria, Jeremy Piven, Joan Cusack of course.  This film is simply a great time caught on camera, as funny as it is heartfelt, as wacky as it is revealing, something you can watch over & over again.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Ingrid Goes West

Category : Movie Review

Director: Matt Spicer

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, Wyatt Russell

Year: 2017

Always game to mock/critique the trends in society that they view as banal, moronic, or ill-formed, filmmakers and artists of all kinds are now setting their sights on the culture of social media, especially millennials and the seemingly inauthentic manner in which they communicate.  Black Mirror did a poignant episode starring Bryce Dallas Howard on the dangers of how desperate we can be for the approval of others, especially as it pertains to our online personas, and now Matt Spicer delivers his own take on the exposure of this strange ritualistic behavior with Ingrid Goes West.  The message is delivered early; not everything you see on your phone is real, and your happiness shouldn’t depend on how many followers you have/how often they like your pictures of avocado toast.  But then there’s still a movie to watch, and that’s when things go downhill.

Ingrid spends some time in a mental institution banned from her phone after she becomes obsessed with an Instagram celebrity and attacks her when she isn’t invited to the poor girl’s wedding.  So now she’s got a restraining order under her name, her mother just died, and life basically sucks.  To pick herself back up again, Ingrid zeroes in on another young woman who seems to have it all put together; Taylor from Venice Beach.  She’s featured in a magazine, she travels the world, she eats beautiful foods, every day is an adventure, and she captures it all for her fans to see.  With the money left to her after the funeral, Ingrid heads out to California to reinvent herself and start over, which basically means following Taylor around, copying everything she does, stealing her dog, returning it as a hero, and beginning a friendship based on nothing but absolute lies.

Count me in as someone who has always been phenomenally aggravated by the amount of bullshit on social media platforms like Facebook, and I don’t even dive into Instachat or Snapgram or whatever you call it, I try my best to stay above.  Every “blessed”, every “YOLO”, every “foodgasm”; I’m sure I’ve taken a selfie or two, but I try to stay away from the Pumpkin Spice-scented world of fake sentimentality and competitive posturing.  Anyway, now that we’ve established that I’m obviously a person on an elevated plane of enlightenment, I got the gist of Spicer’s point, and he’s right in many ways, highlighting the stupidest things we do and say on the internet.  But that’s where the positives end.  The foundation of the film, the acting, the flow, the timing, the resolution; all of these things were inaccurately accomplished, amateuristically done, and you could always tell that no one actually knew where this movie was going.  In the end, it goes basically nowhere, and that’s disappointing.  Plaza & Olsen were fine in their uncomplicated roles, and Russell was forgettable as the straight man/boyfriend/voice of reason.  Billy Magnussen with a small part probably stole the show, while O’Shea Jackson Jr floundered because, duh, he’s not really an actor.  I was expecting something a little more edgy, but what I got was typical fare, neither awful nor incredible, something that deserves no second glance until it’s done again, this time with much more bite.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Beatriz at Dinner

Category : Movie Review

Director: Miguel Arteta

Starring: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Connie Britton

Year: 2017

Daniel Quinn made sure to mention in Ishmael that societal collapse is a global problem, that there aren’t magical groups of wise people who know the answers to life’s questions but are keeping it to themselves, it’s just that they’ve found what works for them and they aren’t trying to force the rest of the world to conform.  He called it the inaccuracy of the Noble Savage Theory, that being one with the planet doesn’t make you a better person, that Native Americans and Amazon tribesmen don’t have all the answers, even if they have successful practices that Americans, for example, can learn from.  Anyway, that has very little to do with Beatriz at Dinner, but it struck me that the filmmakers, while trying to be poignant, fell back on the concept that doing yoga and smoothing auras is a sign that you’re one of the few that gets it, or that one group is on the pathway to enlightenment while the rest of us flounder.  It’s ironic that the film did just that, for while it has something important to say, it didn’t seem to know exactly how to verbalize the words, nor how to convince audiences to listen.

Beatriz is a healer.  She does massage, aroma therapy, Reiki; you name it and if it’s granola she does it.  She even has goats as pets, and of course she’s a vegetarian; you can go ahead and categorize Beatriz, she’s mostly an example anyway, not exactly an individual character.  She does work at the cancer center in Los Angeles, but she also sees private clients for session at their homes, especially rich clients who can pay to have her drive to their mansion.  One evening, while at an appointment with a wealthy woman who she has known for years, Beatriz’ car breaks down, and she has no way to get home.  No problem, Kathy & Grant are having a celebratory dinner party, but one more guest won’t make a difference, and they are happy to have Beatriz.  Only, Beatriz won’t be happy to meet the guests, as Doug is a famous millionaire who makes his money off of ruining the land, killing the animals, and erecting the mini-mall.  Two different viewpoints clash during dessert, and the evening will not end well.

I don’t even know if we can call them metaphors, perhaps parallels is a better term, but regardless, the meaning behind the action in Beatriz at Dinner is fairly obvious and never cares to be subtle.  The point is to make a point, after all, so why be circumspect.  The problem is, neither Arteta nor Mike White, who wrote the screenplay, are talented enough to give us the important information in a way that still smells like a quality film.  They tried to slip the medicine into the slice of ham, but we caught them; they simply weren’t sneaky enough.  Not that they would have to force feed me; I’m a Liberal, I like animals, I hate asshole millionaires, I’m with Beatriz.  But the fact that they weren’t deft in any way made the movie feel clunky, and that’s bothersome.  Hayek & Lithgow were solid, the run time was super short, so it’s all easy to swallow, if we’re staying with that analogy, I just don’t think I’d ever ask for seconds.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆