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49 reviews in total 
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Christine (2016/I)
Hall hits it out of the park., 1 June 2017

Rebecca Hall is mesmerizing in her portrayal of Sarasota, Florida TV news personality, Christine Chubbuck, who shot and killed herself on air in 1974.

Since the release of this film, there have been think pieces written using Chubbuck's suicide as a touchstone for musings on the nature of journalism, then and now, and its impact on her actions. But what we see in this film, and which likely cuts closer to the truth, is that Chubbuck was a young woman with crippling emotional problems who was finally overwhelmed by them.

Unmarried and a virgin at 29 going on 30, yet desperately wanting a husband and children; needing a cystic ovary removed reducing her chances of ever getting pregnant; feeling thwarted in her ambition to move forward in her on-air career (for which she seemed hopelessly unsuited in an era when happy talk newscasts with young, perky blonde newsreaders was becoming THE format du jour); still living with her mother (in what looked like her childhood bedroom), an aging woman trying to live the hippie lifestyle; having a hopeless crush on a co-worker already involved with another - one doesn't need to look any further to understand the sense of utter hopelessness that drove her to put a gun to her head.

The strength of the film is in Hall's characterization. We see Chubbuck's extreme awkwardness and abrasiveness in almost all her social interactions; her desperate need for close relationships yet pushing people away when they reach out to her. Her pain is almost palpable. Chubbuck believed at 29 she was a failure at life. There doesn't seem to be anything more to her suicide than that.

The film perfectly captures the zeitgeist of the times. In fact, it looks and feels as though it was shot in 1974, rather than 2016 (the array of polyester clothing is amazing, and the soundtrack is 1974 top 40 hits and Watergate).

Warning: this is not an uplifting film. It's the sad story of a sad woman that has transmuted into Internet urban legend because of the myths surrounding what happened to the videotape of her death.

Not just a film, but a piece of America's socio-cultural history, 7 April 2017

For a truly insightful look at America's pervasive "Red Scare" culture of the 1950s, one need look no further than Don Siegel's (original) 1956 "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", wherein the pod people are metaphors for the near universal fear of a "Godless, soulless" Communist takeover coming from within via sleeper agents born, raised, and trained to seamlessly blend in with American society (they look, talk, and seem just like us, but are alien and out to destroy us). Everything one needs to know about America's fear of Communism in the 1950s is contained in this film. This is Scifi at its very best, as social commentary as well as a potent art form and a valuable historical source.

The Witch (2015)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Not at all what was expected., 10 February 2017

This is more of a historical psychological thriller than a Hollywood blood and guts horror film.

The film is a loving and accurate recreation of Puritan New England in the 1600s with everything from the language to the sets being authentic to the period. That in and of itself makes it fascinating to watch. Having lived in Virginia, where the Jamestown Settlement and the 1600s sometimes can seem like they happened the day before yesterday, I especially enjoyed the film. The location, in Ontario, reminded me of rural Virginia in winter, which made me quite homesick. So the film might have affected me more than some other audience members.

The Witch is a fascinating glimpse into Christianity as practiced by 17th century Puritans. Satan and Evil are almost tangible presences in the woods and wilderness of the New World, while God is a distant, cold, and demanding being who must be constantly begged for forgiveness and mercy, since all human thoughts, words, and deeds seem to be gravely sinful and offensive to his eyes.

A family of seven (parents, four children, and an infant) are exiled from their plantation community for not adhering to the accepted interpretation of scripture. They build a farm at a distance from the plantation near a frightening wood. The farm is failing (the family won't have food to last the winter). Meanwhile, the infant has been snatched from the oldest daughter while in her care at the edge of the wood. From this point on the family either descends into madness or is destroyed by Satan in the form of a witch who lives nearby in the woods. How the family's disintegration is interpreted will depend on which century's point of view you choose to use.

14 out of 27 people found the following review useful:
Warning. Don't attempt to view this without your skeptic's glasses., 21 January 2017

I'm a former Catholic who left the Church not long after reaching my teens. Watching this reminded me why I left, although the film is not really about Catholicism per se but seems to have been meant to capitalize on the current craze for the paranormal – ghosts, time travelers, ESP, demonology, etc.

The film features Catholic clergy and paranormal investigators as well as a couple of people who profited from its subject, the late, former Jesuit priest and well-known exorcist, Malachi Martin. It also contains some old video clips and audio recordings of Martin as well as of some purported exorcisms (but nothing at all juicy or substantive is offered up in these).

With every word uttered by Martin in the film (surely, he kissed the Blarney Stone), I became more convinced he was just a charming, eloquent con man who preyed on gullible Catholics uncomfortable with changes in the Church and having difficulty aligning their Catholic world view with the rapid advances in science and technology in the last half of the 20th century.

Besides, there's always been a large measure of show business in Catholic rites and rituals. After all it was the only entertainment available for the impoverished masses throughout most of European history. As its ultimate carnival act, exorcism had it all -- the terror of the pit, the horrors of possession, and the thrill and exaltation of salvation. Hollywood didn't invent but merely regurgitated a tried and true horror formula that was around for centuries.

Anyway, Malachi Martin surely was no saint, as some in the film seem to believe, but only a carny barker who was good at getting people into his tent.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Disappointing and not up to the critics' hype, 13 January 2017

Good actors gave terrific performances in a disappointing film. There really isn't much of a story. The film is just an extended chase scene and the little mysteries it presents along the way aren't very compelling. The weak ending reminded me just a bit of Netflix "Stranger Things", except in this case the Upside Down could be called the On Top.

Some critics described the film as thoughtful scifi (I guess if it's not based on a Marvel Comic, they think it's deep and meaningful), but it was pretty thin - all atmosphere with no underlying theme or substance. It's not up to the level of a really thoughtful scifi film such as Arrival, which leaves its audience contemplating how language can not only be a barrier to communication, but also shape and limit our perceptions of reality.

I had great hopes for this film because Nichols' earlier, "Take Shelter", was an insightful exploration of the onset of schizophrenia and its impending disastrous impact on an individual and his family.

But with "Midnight Special, it seems as though Nichols is devolving rather than evolving as a filmmaker.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Not very interesting people in interesting costumes . . ., 3 October 2016

It seems mostly filmed in Seattle, where people make highly inflated salaries working in Big Tech. Listening to most of the interviewees trying to defend a very anachronistic, backward looking movement as somehow being "pro-tech" was just a hoot. It's amazing the twisted logic some used to explain or justify Steampunk. I guess they wanted to keep those high-paying tech jobs so they were being very careful to not offend the hands that feed them so well.

Steampunk looks really, really cool (the art, the artifacts, the costumes). Steampunk fiction is, well, just science fiction set in the past rather than the present or the future. It doesn't break any new ground; there's nothing revolutionary about it.

Judging by this, Steampunk's primary appeal is limited to over- educated, upper middle class tech nerds. I wish I could say the film is a look at an interesting subculture and it's values. But really after watching it the only thing I see as interesting about the Steampunk movement are the handicrafts and costumes.

Not a very well done documentary. If there's something compelling about the movement or the people in it, you'd never know it from watching this film.

5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
What are people throwing shade on this movie?, 28 July 2016

Pluses: 1. Great cast. Really good chemistry among them. Terrific performances from all. Mary Elizabeth Winstead gets better with every film she makes. 2. Story keeps you guessing until the end. 3. There are references in it to some popular films in the genre (that are likely film maker favorites) from the past 30 years or so. 4. Director shows great promise while still early in his career. 4. Story more important than special effects or pointless action sequences (always a plus for me). 5. Sound effects, usually unappreciated in non-action films, well used to add to the intensity of the drama.

Minuses: 1. We've probably all seen John Goodman play a similar character before. 2. There's a possible murder that took place prior to the film, a plot device never resolved.

Since the film has the word "Cloverfield" in the title, a lot of dim light bulbs thought this was a prequel or sequel to the other film and bad mouthed it because it isn't. Using Cloverfield in the title was likely just another reference to a favorite film.

Some people didn't understand the ending. Huh? They must have fallen asleep during the rest of the movie (when they realized it wasn't Cloverfield 2) or this generation is dumber than I fear it might be. The actions of Winstead's character at the end of the film make perfect sense in light of a monologue she delivered earlier, which apparently was ignored by those whining about the ending.

Don't listen to the naysayers. It isn't high art, but it's an entertaining film that will hold your attention to the end.

A junkie who just happened to be talented . . ., 27 May 2016

Beautifully filmed by a fashion photographer, Bruce Weber, nevertheless the ugliness of Chet Baker's life overtakes the beautiful images on screen. In Western culture, we equate physical beauty and/or exceptional talent with a depth of soul and substance that are often lacking if we look closely with cool objectivity at those we idolize for those traits. Great beauty or great talent aren't always bestowed on the good or the worthy, and Baker is evidence of that. He was a manipulative drug addict who likely would have wound up a petty criminal if he didn't incidentally have much more than a passing musical talent. It didn't hurt that when he was very young he also had the chiseled good looks of a movie star, looks later ravaged by decades of heroin use. Interviews with the women in his life reveal a strung out moocher who knew how to use their obsessions with him to support his drug habit, taking advantage of their romantic projections of a tortured soul onto a loser with some musical talent. One of them, jazz singer Ruth Young, states flatly that for Baker music was just a way to get drugs. In an interview with Baker at the end of the film, Weber asks about his current state of constant pain due to being cut off from drugs until he gets to Amsterdam. Baker refuses to rise to the bait and open up about the destruction addiction has wrought in his life. Ironically, Baker subsequently jumped, fell or was pushed to his death from his hotel window in Amsterdam. The film appears to have been meant as an homage to Baker, but instead reveals the ugly little drug addict he was. There is another myth in Western culture, the myth that in order to create the mind must be unfettered through use of drugs. After watching this, one can't help but wonder how much of Baker's creativity and talent were stunted rather than enhanced by heroin.

All too true . . ., 21 May 2016

Twenty years of my life were spent working in housing finance economics. I got out in the early 90s after the first housing crash (when the savings & loan industry also collapsed). The things I saw that inevitably led to that first crash at the end of the 1980s, were repeated on a grander scale and with even more arrogance, greed, and callous criminality than what went before, and led to the economic crash of 2008. This film, while meant as entertainment, is also a primer on what led to the worldwide economic downturn as well as what is still wrong with financial markets today since no substantive changes have been made to prevent a recurrence. Nevertheless, it's a very watchable film with terrific performances from the entire cast, including many who are essentially walk-ons with only a few lines. It's neither dry nor dull. In fact, it's very entertaining, depressing as it can be when you realize that almost every bit of it is true.

18 out of 36 people found the following review useful:
Meh, 15 May 2016

No, it's not a horror movie. It's a psychological drama, and one that's not very well done. It feels like a film from a novice who's trying too hard to be clever while at the same time emotionally deep and not delivering the goods on either because he doesn't yet have the life or professional experience to do so successfully. I found it boring rather than suspenseful and my mind kept wandering. The lint on my living room carpet was more engaging at times. It seems to be an early film from someone who may or may not develop into an interesting filmmaker. It's just too soon to tell from this. But there are a few moments in the film to make one hopeful. On the other hand, if this is a filmmaker who's been around the block a few times, a career re- assessment seems overdue.

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