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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Oswalt on Trump, a bar fight, G-rated porn descriptions, and the nightmare of being a widower, 18 October 2017

With Patton Oswalt: Annihilation - aka, here's what life is like in 2017 - I'm not sure if I've seen a stand-up comedy special end on such a stark, philosophical note since Carlin's Jammin' in New York (which was, you know, about how to let go of the world itself). Oswalt's genius is taking us through such a horrible tale like becoming a widower - and, yes, one knows logically he's done this material in other clubs and venues, but not for a second do we doubt he's only barely holding himself together on stage as he tells us and the Chicago audience about telling his daughter her mother is dead - while still weaving in enough jokes that the line between a usual bit with set-up and payoff and simply... laying it all out for us, is blurred.

It's also not *all* about the "I'm-now-a-Widower" state he's in, as he also riffs wonderfully on Trump (just enough that it doesn't get tired), a fight outside a triangle of bars that had an epic, DC/Marvel superhero event quality in the weirdest way possible (at least to how I saw it), and what happens if you want to pitch a G-rated kids movie but using porn descriptions. Hell, he does crowd work at one point - I have to think part of that was the conscious level of, 'well, how in god's name to I transition into "my wife is dead" material', but at the same time it feels like he's being doing it forever - and this is the first I can remember seeing him do it that didn't involve a heckler, and it's all in a warm, mocking spirit.

There are a handful of times that I can think a joke didn't land *quite* as hard as Oswalt meant to, but I could care less; this is his most outstanding work since 2009, and the piece about the late Mrs Oswalt, Michelle McNamara, is among the great pieces I've ever seen in a stand-up special. It goes beyond stand-up into that achingly painful terrain Lenny Bruce mined decades ago.

fascinating, typical, excellent performances, unique subject matter, OK production, 18 October 2017

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women is an example where the subject matter surpasses the quality of the filmmaking. There's absolutely nothing *wrong* with Angela Robinson's direction here (her script is a little better, at least in the first half, at creating a specific time and place which is the academia of the late 20's and early 1930's), but there's also nothing that distinguishes it from other movies, or with the kind of musical score that chimes in at just the right cues and markers for emotional punch. What distinguishes it, however, is its story and that in the three leads - Evans, Hall and Heathcote - Robinson finds actors who are game to dig into some juicy melodrama with a deliciously sexual bent... or rather, that's not totally true. This is showing that what was deemed as sexual deviancy and even criminal behavior for a time (being homosexual or bi-sexual or what have you) was as normal as everyday love and heterosexual-monogamous sex. It's everyone else's reactions - the neighbors and Child-Psychologist woman that makes up the framing device for the story - that gives the wrong perceptions.

I don't know if this is true to life really, but then what is exactly (I'd put this right in the same league as, say, Hidden Figures, and I'd doubt that to be so true to life across the board); what matters is if a certain spirit of the time and period can be captured, and at the very least Robinson does that. A lot of the character development and interactions between William and Elizabeth and Olive at its most compelling reminded me of the (underrated/underseen) Showtime series Masters of Sex, which was also about the clashes with intellectuals and sex and what the limits are and how to go past them. Of course that was just the surface of that show, but much of what went on there with Masters and Johnson I found reflected here, that style of dialog and interactions where these distinct personalities come up against one another and how... well, love comes into play.

Ironic that one of Marston's granddaughters denounced the film saying that it was completely inaccurate, since one of the things that comes up in the story is what it means to have a private relationship (or, in the case of Marston and his wife and Olivia, relationships plural, a true triangle where everyone loved everybody), and that a society that often prides itself on being private will break that and be condescending and even (in the case of their kids) violent if it comes down to it. I also liked how Robinson shot the sexual pieces, which are few or even only a couple of times, but distinct for the music choices (very bluesy, nothing at all modern, refreshing in that sense), and when Olivia somehow via the, uh, bondage store owner comes into the Wonder Woman costume... and then Marston takes it a step further with the ropes and bondage and so on.

This isn't a groundbreaking document relating to Wonder Woman, however, and in fact despite this device (ala Social Network and countless other biopics) that has William in the hot-seat under threat of the comic being cancelled, Diana Prince doesn't come into it until the second half of the movie. I liked that though; there's plenty of time to get to know these three people (and, briefly, Olivia's fiancée), and then showing the use of the lie detector in its earliest incarnation, which Marston also created (but didn't patent, I think the movie tells us?) When it loses its footing for me is actually in the second half, though only a little, since the focus in the first seemed to be equally the three leads - with Hall being the stand-out, in part since Elizabeth is written as someone who can't not be the inspiration in some way for Wonder Woman - whereas in the second it's more on William, until the last couple of scenes.

Those final moments do bring some strong pathos for us, and it gives the movie closure as far as it being more about this trio and how strong their love was. Again, who knows if it's true at all or a lot of BS. Does it work as a movie though? Mostly it does, and I think it serves as not only a companion piece to Masters of Sex but to other, er, idiosyncratic movies that dance with light and dark themes of sex like Gyllenhall in Hysteria some years back. or to a lessor extent Kinsey. Even, or especially, the scenes where the three are lie-detcting one another have a sensual, ethereal quality that Robinson can grasp, not to mention Heathcote could get more work from this role if she's seen by the right people. If only she was more distinctive as a visual stylist.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
In brief: come for Jackie Chan, stay for Pierce Brosnan being friggin awesome., 18 October 2017

The Foreigner is one of the movies that is good to spend a car ride once it's done considering certain things, like, for example, why Jackie Chan is even in the movie. One could argue that if you took him out you would still have a sturdy plot involving (so-called?) IRA people, with Brosnan as the government man who was an A-Okay IRA guy once and the intrigue involving these bombings and prisoners possibly being released in exchange and shady dealings and etc etc etc. But then it hit me: in any significant bombing, particularly in the past several years (which in Europe, England especially, not IRA, but it's not something that seems completely impossible), there are those who get killed, perhaps "collateral damage" one might try to say, and so little attention gets paid to them. So Chan may have sort of special super-movie-secret-forces powers, but one could say he's fighting for everyone who is left to wait while the greater political powers shuffle boards around and wait for one side to crack.

In other words, it's a bit of those older IRA thrillers from the 90's (didn't Boorman do one, The General I think, and of course In the Name of the Father, but that's a whole other dramatic beast) with a touch of Taken, but it's also Chan showing us that he can act in such an extremely subtle way that it's easy to miss how nakedly emotional his performance is. He's going to be remembered in his celebrity eulogies for his comedies and how his martial arts skills were closer to ballet and dance than anything else (I'm sure 100 other critics have noted but, yeah, the Buster Keaton of Kung-Fu), but he is not to be underestimated for his dramatic chops, and to go head to head here with Pierce Brosnan, who is especially bringing his A-game, is impressive. He's not just doing a Liam Neeson or Bronson shtick; he's created a character full of complete pain that is bottomless, and though nothing can fill it, his Quan will take all the people down that have to go (in a rather polite way of doing it too). I haven't seen Chan in a movie, at a cineplex at least, since 2009's Shinjuku Incident. He also was full-on dramatic there; here, he goes deeper.

A moment for Brosnan: I haven't seen him this good since The Matador, which may have been ten years ago (sheesh, him, Campbell since Green Lantern, this is a quasi-comeback movie, isn't it?) I admired how skillfully Brosnan navigates this man's growing desperation, which kicks off in the first scene we see him in as his nice, calm time with his mistress is broken by the news of this bombing. From there each scene brings him further and further into the s***, and while Brosnan gets to flip out and use the string of expletives that an Irishman slugging down whiskeys here and there (in moderation, of course, but perhaps not enough all things considered), a lot of his performance is there in the face, in the eyes, as he tries to control his voice and keep it all about the growing desperation that he can't show to too many at all around him. If the prospect of yet another Jackie Chan beats people up movie sounds not enticing, Brosnan should be.

Does this mean the movie is a must-see? For the acting it is - the supporting players all around them are totally solid too, I imagine most more local players in Ireland and the UK - but the story is only OKAY. I feel like this scenario has a lot of procedural beats that should be air-tight, and in the moment they work, but there are also holes that could be punched through (don't ask me to point them out now, I'm sure CinemaSins will get to them eventually, but some of them involve some scenes in the woods and that's all I'll say). The very end also seemed like a cheat; it may not be a big deal, but it leaves a potential moment of tragedy that isn't realized, all because a character makes a decision that doesn't sound logical at all after everything that's gone on (more tragic for us to experience, not for Quan exactly). The best thing about the technical aspects are that Campbell knows what he wants and can get it all filmed, his action scenes are shot competently but with a few too many cuts (not like Greengrass-level many, but more than I care to see with Chan, who can still do most of his own stunts and fights I wager). And the score is Daft Punk lite, which is cool.

This is better in some ways and more involving than it had any right to be, and the writing doesn't lag much in its 112 minute run time which makes it never dull (at least for me). I'm not sure how well I'll remember it a year from now (aside from the two leads), but it gets the job done it sets out to do, and Chan shows he's finding interesting things to do as he goes into his later years - to put it another way, if he has to play a guy that doesn't fight at all, he can still turn in work better than a hundred or a thousand others. 7.5/10

As Peter Venkmann once said: "Now, there's something you don't see everyday." truly one-of-a-kind, 11 October 2017

Thundercrack! is a true original in the world of cinema, one of those hybrids that defies one genre even as it dabbles and sticks its 160 minute (yes, *160 minute*) run-time in-to (ahem) every genre orifice it can. It's a dark comedy, and yet its also extremely campy (on purpose, like I imagine this was written and performed for a tiny off-off-off-off-off-OFF-off Broadway production in the early 70's, and certainly Marion Eaton plays to all the balconies); it's shot in a 16mm black and white style that evokes Romero with Night of the Living Dead and, more-so, Faces by Cassavetes, and while the cinematography is rich it doesn't stick long for either relationship drama or stark horror; it *does* have some horror elements, or rather some parts that mock the idea of what a horror movie is. I direct you in the immediate path of the gorilla and a character who may or may not be locked behind a door...

Oh, and did I mention it's a porno? Because that is what it primarily is. This is f***ing, but it's also 1970's people f***ing and it's hairy (one of the women, god bless her, I could tell didn't shave her legs) and sweaty and it's an equal-opportunity sex movie. Director Curt McDowell and writer George Kuchar have their scenario set simply as this: Eaton is a mad woman living by herself in her home (as she readily tells anyone who even half-listens, her husband is dead and kept... in places, and her son "does not exist), and due to some accidents and other mishaps on the road nearby while it's raining (ala, uh, Psycho I guess?) they all have to crash at her place for the night. She'll feed them, and (again, akin to Psycho) may have a peeping-tom set-up to look in on her non-existent son's bedroom which is lined with sex toys and images galore and... yeah, everyone ends up f***ing each other. A lot.

I saw someone else on Letterboxd describe this as being like a haunted house film where the ghosts are instead (gulp) stains that are left after the sex acts. That's not a bad way to go about it, but I think that undersells just how insane this whole production is. Kuchar's script is incredibly tasteless, but it knows it is and embraces it, and Eaton is digging so deep into this character's psychosis that you're not sure if she'll be genuinely-great at being like a Blanche Dubois crossed with the old lady from Hansel & Gretel, or so not great at it that it works a different way. And I should also mention there's an intermission - yes, a goddamn intermission - where one can settle for ten minutes and think about what has transpired just before. Indeed the filmmakers even give us a set-piece where Mrs. Gert Hammond describes what happens to her husband, in a long monologue we can only half hear due to the only halfway passable sound recording, and the way it's shot and edited is... mesmerizing.

... And then after the intermission, Bing shows up for the rest of the run time (he's introduced briefly early in the film but then disappears while everyone else shows up), and so does the gorilla. This is when the movie gets... really good.

I think Kuchar may be the best of the non-Eaton actors here - no wonder, likely, since he wrote it - but he actually has a lot to play. While he didn't write it originally for himself, he knows just what to do to make this, uh, ex-circus worker who somehow through one odd night got the attention of a female gorilla seem completely compelling. And through that, naturally, more laughs and crazy humor emerge. It seems even weirder for me to try and criticize any of these other performers since this is, I must stress again, an *adult film* in all that entails: this is graphic sex - straight and, eventually, gay - but it's also inventive right off the bat with some of the, uh, toys that get used. But how does one judge performers when they may not have been picked for their acting prowess but because they can keep "it" up or look good without a blouse on? It's fair to say some of the cast finds the crisp campiness in Kuchar's dialog, and some (the good-hearted wife of the country star character) are not.

I'm sure I could try to criticize the production quality either, but what good would that do except to make me look like a fool for trying? This is something that can't really be considered a typical porn film because there's much, much higher ambition to the filmmaking (at least on the whole) and even in simply shooting it in rough 16mm black and white; it can't be regular sexsploitation because it's too long (a legitimate flaw I think, though exactly where to cut is hard to say); it's not something that you could easily show an art-house crowd because of the sex since it goes beyond even the typical breaking-point limits like Romance or In the Realm of the Senses. It's basically a wild underground experiment that doesn't give two million hells what you think of it. It knows what it wants to do, and Curt McDowell and his team want to surprise the audience and, hopefully they think, their audience will be in on the joke. It may be a very long, over-sized joke, but you know what they say about long, over-sized things...

Thundercrack isn't great, but why carp? Like mother! (another movie with an exclamation point at the end), it exists in the world that it's in, and we can either take it or we can't. I did, for the most part.

Spielberg (2017) (TV)
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
the "George Gerswhin" of American cinema (as per Coppola's compassion) in this very good profile and truly in-depth look at an oeuvre, 8 October 2017

With Spielberg, we have another profile of yet another hugely influential American filmmaker on the heels of De Palma and By Sidney Lumet. And... when it's this filmmaker and this story and this group of films, I don't think for at least some of them (yes, even Jaws and lessor known ones like Empire of the Sun) enough can be spoken about them. It takes often a miracle for a movie to come out good let alone great, and Steven Spielberg has at least nine or ten masterpieces to his name.

I'm glad this one on Spielberg via Susan Lacy (a veteran go-to for American Masters docs) goes the full route on the career and the man in as much depth as possible. Though it lacks much about Hook, Lost World and Always (the latter's not here at all, the former is mentioned for five seconds as an example of 'sometimes he has failed'), I think I need what is presented here as the man's own words on his work, and his colleagues, AND especially the critical community, from Hoberman to AO Scott. You actually get a sense of not only Spielberg's growth or... No, wait, growth is the wrong word since he was already doing what he did so well in 74 and 74 & 75 and even Duel (that shot of the truck going off the bridge is a gorgeous monster movie moment in all cinema), more like a maturity and an expanding sense of what a movie can be. He has his complexities - who else can have Jurassic Park and Munich in his resume - but the critics point that out along with the objective fact that he is to film the major force in Hollywood in the past 45 years.

But it would be one thing if it is all "its the greatest guy ever" etc. This shows that Spielberg hasn't always known what to do on every film; seeing him making Schindlers List and Saving Private Ryan, his two Oscar wins, one gets the sense he had to figure out what to do day to day, and yet that also came out of many years of *doing* it, of understanding and getting even deeper than he already was. This doc does a great job is giving to the audience, whether they've known this about Spielberg before or not, that making ET and Schindler's List were no more or less exceptional efforts on what humanity is all about in all of its highs and lows, its just that an audience will take Nazis more seriously than aliens.

Or... Who knows? But through every anecdote and story from Spielberg, his sisters and parents, his fellow (now elder) "movie brats" who were as Lucas describes their version of Paris in the 1920s (and I think hes right), there's a full portrait of everything with this man. And that's what is the same and yet done unique unto itself as the De Palma and Lumet films. It's not *too* glossed over about what hes been in life (as someone admits about him, "hes a nerd. A lovable nerd, but still a nerd") and yet it cant help but be inspiring and I hope will be an inspiration for future filmmakers who didn't live through seeing Jurassic Park or Ryan or Minority Report or even Lincoln (one of those films that is still somehow underrated despite being a commercial and critical hit) in a first run. It didn't all come out of nowhere ultimately; the message that one comes away with is that passion and inspiration is crucial, but hard work and not showing fear in the process (though one may have it) is key.

Before he could only make so many..., 8 October 2017

In 2036: Nexus Dawn (and Nexus, for those who may recall, is a key word in the Blade Runner universe for those darn replicant), somehow Jared Leto has a better Joker scene in a Blade Runner short film prequel than he did throughout his entire actual performance as the Joker. This is not to say it is so much in the performance as it is in the writing, that sense of unpredictable menace which his character brings to the others he is in front of as they sort of discuss "prohibition" against creating replicants coming to a close. Or, of course, not, as it turns out to be here.

I enjoyed this short, though mostly for Leto - who, again, I now am excited to see what he does in the full 2049 film - and for the cinematography. It's a tricky thing to come to this as it is meant (I guess like how there were other prequel-appendix shorts to Alien Covenant) to provide some other context before we see 2049. But on the other hand, where is the context for *who these* characters are? I can pick up enough parts from the trailer and this to get who Leto is playing. Everyone else, however, make it more uncertain and it had the feel of a fan film of some kind. I also wasn't a fan of the editing, how Scott cuts together his beautiful digital cinematography and lit shots together, a little jumbled. All this said I liked the dark and menacing tone, I liked the whole purpose of where it leads to (the "man" next to Leto in the scene and what he does), and I'm further intrigued to check out more shorts.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Cruise the Gringo, 8 October 2017

I don't know if Doug Liman only needs to make Tom Cruise movies from now one, but the reverse is probably true: Edge of Tomorrow and now American Made are the two stand-out Cruise movies since he last paired with Spielberg in 2005 (I mean to say that movies that aren't franchises not named Mission Impossible, those 4 and 5 sequels are a lot of fun, but not much beyond the surface entertainment). Barry Seale offers Cruise a thing that feels almost fresh for him in this day and age like... An arc to his chsrzcter (how about that! Development even if its in smaller doses) But it's also impressive how Seals is a genuinely nice and cool-but-not-completely cool films; if this was done 30 years ago, I could picture Burt Reynolds in this kind of character: the wholly charismatic, polite, sometimes befuddled but confident southern gent who is also a criminal bastard.

Will it win awards? Eh no, but it doesn't need to be that either. Maybe its from coming off of the worst Cruise movie in recent memory, The Mummy, but that's not it, or just it. Liman finds an extremely loose shooting style, maybe *too* loose, where his camera is off kilter at many times, but at the same time it isn't incoherent in the mis en scene of it. It has a purpose; we are in the period of late 70s and early 80s chaos but its a chaos that is... Well, sort of half sanctioned by the united states government. We shouldn't be able to believe the story Seale leaves for us - in a typical but fine fashion that does work into the final act of the film in a clever way, or clever-er than usual as far as what Seale is needing to do - but we do, and there's an underlying satire to it all that cant help but make it feel less like another Blow or Infiltrator (though some carry over of DNA is here from that) than a more Southern-baked, less hedonistic Wolf of Wall Street. In other words, it's often wildly funny and twisted, but it is about something very real at the core: American imperialism and exceptionalism.

It tickles me to think of all those people in the American heartland who love Tom Cruise coming to what they think is another fun mindless thriller, and it indicts a hero to many in America, Ronald Reagan, who they either forget or choose to ignore was involved directly snd indirectly in a lot of criminal s***. Its almost like you cant help but like or even love Seale and by extention Cruise: hes not fully a drug trafficker and hes not personally training the Contras. He's the guy that gets your stuff from point A to B. Thank goodness Cruise took this movie on!

Tom Waits as a Punch & Judy puppeteer. almost enough said, but there's more, 3 October 2017

This is a semi-forgotten film that got advertised largely by the presence of Tom Waits. This isn't unnatural since he was the most recognizable face in the film - there are a couple of character actors from Britain, Bill Paterson and Alex Norton, who have appeared in many things, and Charlotte Coleman - but the film was (or, if it is at all today, continues to be) sold on Waits, and of course he is the major reason to see the film. This doesn't mean to say the movie is *bad*, and it actually is enjoyable and engaging in parts. The main problem at the script level is that the two filmmakers don't know how to keep the tonal glue together, and not even Waits' cool can save that.

This is a movie that reminds me a little of something from Guy Ritchie (especially those bits where the two gangsters argue about crabs and shellfish and such nonsense in the car) or Roeg/Camell's Performance where a criminal on the run due to gambling debts takes a job as an "Entertainer's Assistant" and becomes part of the work of a young mute woman, Laura, and the man who does the Punch & Judy puppet show for local kids, Silva, played by Waits. It's a scattershot kind of story, in ways both good and not so good, but it's all anchored by Waits' performance. I wish I could tell you Damon Lowry (uh, who?) brings the goods as well, but he's only 'fine' as one might say. The other performers only bring so much, i.e. one actor you can tell is a bad guy due to a ponytail.

Matter of fact, without him in it and how he has a very particular physicality (watch how he can as an actor inhabit a space so seemingly with little effort and slink about an actress like the one playing Ms J in a scene) and that voice, which is truly distinctive, this movie wouldn't be very memorable at all. What the filmmakers are trying to do is what the title suggests, create a 'fairy-tale' out of a story that has a lot of elements of crime and the underworld and seedy things like violence and rape (that second thing comes out of *nowhere* in the story, simply as a plot device for Johnny that could have been done in a more clever or less typical way). They aren't at all poor directors and in fact have a good sense of where to put the camera and locations and where to set the scene. It's at the script where things feel... odd and unresolved at points. Think like if Guy Ritchie during his crime movie hey-day only put in half the work that was needed.

And yet, while the whole never quite comes together and a certain "twist" that really isn't doesn't work at all involving a character's supposed death, I enjoyed this more than I expected. Again a good lot of this comes down to being a fan of Waits and how he clearly took what was a fairly standard "cool" guy on paper and made him... legitimately cool, and that he can be in a leather jacket and smoke a cigarette but that isn't what does the acting for him, it's him and his soul and what he is as a person. If the rest of the story and the cast rose up to his level then this would be more highly regarded today. But it's not so here we are with an obscurity that is seeing another light of day due to Amazon Prime.

Flatliners (2017)
30 out of 37 people found the following review useful:
More like... STUPID-LINERS RIGHT?, 30 September 2017

Look, a lot of remakes or reboots or whatever you want to call them (Rebooquel sounds like something that might come from outer space so the less said the better), they are the same because they are based on the foundations of either good or great films - sometimes they can be something else that is interesting, but with the rare exceptions they don't improve on the originals. Flatliners had the potential, however, to be something more since the 1990 Joel Schumacher film was not very good, though it certainly had its ambitions and young stars who were game for a Frankenstein-cum-Elm-Street premise. The saddest thing is the remake does nothing visually to distinguish itself, and more infuriatingly does diddly squat at the script level to find new ideas for its premise.

Think about it: you can get someone to use some medical equipment to stop your heart, wait for a minute or two (or more!) while you are dead, and then can resurrect you so one can see what you went through while in that almost-all-gone phase of deadness. Is there a "light" at the end of the tunnel, or anything else? That's the meat that the 1990 Flatliners hung itself on, and while the script was mostly (surprisingly) under-cooked, in Schumacher there were no lack of off the wall visual ideas and the production design was off-balance, but it was certainly never boring. The 2017 Flatliners from the Swedish "Dragon Tattoo" director Oprev (and written by, of all people, the guy who scripted Source Code) is not interesting visually or striking in any way. This has the visual panache of tax attorney.

There is also some major mistaking going on at the casting level; at the least when you had that movie back in the 90's, you had that cast who had charisma to burn and could play off each other well (Oliver Platt had something to prove, man!) Here, with the exception of Ellen Page, no one is really bringing anything to the table and what the filmmakers have them do through the run time is either run-of-the-mill in terms of the story, or they kill off the *one* character that could keep us engaged with the material. Oh, and Keifer Sutherland shows up as discount House, MD, and what COULD be a connection to the original film - is this a sequel, may-hap - never materializes, making it simply an easy paycheck.

Why was this made if not a chance to explore some narrative or visual possibilities in the genre? Why not make it scary and push the R rating (this is PG-13) for audiences who are ready for a dark, suspenseful psychological thriller where young medical students who should know better have to grapple with the bad s*** they've done? This Flatliners isn't interested in that, either, and each character (Page included, and I don't count Diego Luna as he's the one who doesn't go for the flatlilining, and all we know about him is he's an ex-fireman, so who cares) has one note and only one trauma they have to re-experience in their half-hallucination-half-real state. The flaws from the original are not corrected, and the laziness amplifies it all. Not to mention at 110 minutes this feels punishingly long, and when the aforementioned character is out of the picture there's another half hour to go that feels like FIVE hours.

This is bland, stale, overheated garbage that made me literally BOO in my seat once it was done, not for anyone in particular in the theater, just because I could do it. It's one thing to get a remake that disappoints simply for existing (i.e. Ghostbusters last year), but it's another when you see what could have been in the hands of a twisted, hungry auteur out to show some shocking things - picture, for example, Tarsem circa The Cell, or Leos Carax or something - or a filmmaker who might want to just use the material for a straight drama and not go for the horror, which could also be done. Instead, Flatliners is stupid when it's not dull, and yet it's not stupid often enough to be an overall enjoyably bad movie (I did laugh here and there, but too little and too late). It's everything that is wrong with what SONY is currently doing in an overlong 110 minute package.

Stronger (2017/I)
7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
bares its heart and is both exceptional in its rending of its heart and its humor., 24 September 2017

One of the pleasantries of frequenting movies in the theater : when you go in maybe expecting a decent Gyllenhall performance in what will probably be another sappy true life story and.... Its one of the best faakkin movies of the year (as a Bostonian would say)! David Gordon Green exceeds any expectations by pulling no punches, but at the same time crafting a tender and difficult love story (this could probably be on a double bill with the Big Sick, kind of the reverse side of that maybe). Also Tatiana Maslany shows why she will be around for a while (one hopes) post Orphan Black, and Clancy Brown reminds us why hes still a national treasure in about ten minutes of screen time (as Jeff Bauman's father).

It's raw, it doesn't pull away, but the filmmaking has a perfect kind of dramatic (and at times surprisingly comedy) touch that never goes too far, never draws out tears like a manipulative bastard. It's wonderful in that encouraging sense that while Bauman helped to ultimately inspire those simply by, you know, not just not dying but that he didn't give up, this director, who might be unique among his peers as a kind of art-house journeyman if that makes sense, crafts another film loaded to the brim with deeply emotional performances that resonate because of Gyllenhall but also everyone else around him. This is a film rich with an atmosphere that is that Boston in certain movies (The Fighter is another) where it feels like you're there.

Stronger is a case of a filmmaker and cast and entire production going beyond the lines of the usual by taking it down to the level of the basic, and yet it has and wrestles with truly existential problems: if one is still alive, perhaps by a little luck but also from the help of someone else, how do you cope with everyone calling you a hero when you feel like anything but? In other words, it shirks at phoniness, and carries the spirit of what I imagine is Bauman himself. Well well done!

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