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Jersey Girl (2004)
Sad and sweet.
Oliver is a publicist working in NYC with a good success rate and a demanding schedule. He meets Gertie Steiney and his life is changed. The second huge change in his life comes when Gertie gets pregnant and dies giving birth to their daughter.
Oliver's father Bart helps him out with daughter Gertie up to a point. Then Bart demands that Oliver start acting like Gertie's father. The third huge change in Oliver's life comes when he makes the mistake of taking his daughter to work, resulting in his catastrophic firing.
Most of the film is about the period seven years after the firing, when Oliver meets Maya, and Gertie's big personality starts to show itself.
Does Oliver ever get his old life back?
Hangar 10 (2014)
Look for gold, find aliens.
The Three Acts:
The initial tableaux: Boyfriend Gus, girlfriend Sally, and Sally's old friend Jake set out with metal detectors and the like to discover some missing gold in the Suffolk area in England. They stop at a pub which Gus had used as a base when he found a Roman coin sometime back. Fliers at the pub note UFO activity. Right. Just before they start the actual search, Jake mentions that a military helicopter has been circling the area near them for hours.
They start in nearby accessible plowed fields. They find nothing, so the meandering continues.
Delineation of conflicts: Gus is a jerk; Sally and Jake put up with him. Jake is a jerk; Gus and Sally put up with him.
They do much of the search in the dark, and have some navigation difficulties in the woods (Rendlesham Forest). They are in a spot of danger from hostile forces that discover them.
Resolution: Will the aliens get them?
The Traveler (2010)
Cops pay for guilty secret.
The Three Acts:
The initial tableaux: The film starts with a short depiction of the abduction of a young girl by an out-of- focus kidnapper.
We jump forward a year to the present day on a rainy Christmas Eve night.
Desk Sargeant Gulloy is a fussy man who is the omega male of the group at the Sheriff's station. He does not care for the loud, foul, disgusting speech of his coworkers at the station, or their generally inconsiderate actions, like leaving the door open for the cold and rain to flow in, canceling the central heating. His passive aggressive approach clashes with the classless alphas early and often.
The interactions of the four deputies are primitive and adolescent. Evidently psych tests were not required to obtain their jobs. Detective Black is the father of Mary, the girl abducted in the first scene.
To complete the initial scenery, Mr Nobody enters the station, and tells Gulloy that he would like to confess to murder. The state cops come by to tell them that they are going to close down the off ramp from the Interstate due to a major accident. The station will be more isolated than usual, and many things are not working due to the holiday. That's where we are when the action of the story begins.
Delineation of conflicts: The deputies and the desk sergeant despise each other. The detective's wife is phasing into a breakup with him. The detective is held in contempt by the deputies since he was promoted over them to detective. The detective is in a depressed phase since he has not been able to solve his daughter's disappearance.
Mr Nobody is not especially compliant with the orders of the cops. Clearly, he holds them in contempt, and the cops are not happy with his lack of obedience.
Have they already met Mr Nobody? Will any of them get a bit of closure about their failed pursuit of Mary's murderer?
Resolution: The police think they have a confessed murderer. Only late in the film do they realise that his confessions are to their detriment.
Man Up (2015)
Blind date with the wrong person.
The Three Acts:
The initial tableaux: Single 34 year old Nancy goes to a loud themed mixer hosted by a hotel at the insistence of her married sister Elaine. It's another failure.
Nancy heads via train to an anniversary party at the house of their parents, Fran and Bert. Nancy sits down and talks to Elaine. Across from her is Jessica, who had listened to her telephone conversation with Elaine. Jessica lends Nancy a self-help book meant to help her meet her true match. The train stops; Jessica gets off without taking the book. When Nancy wakes up, she tries to find Jessica to return the book, but meets Jack instead. (Jessica buys another copy; she had left her old copy on purpose, but Nancy does not know that.)
Jack thinks Nancy is his blind date since she has the book. Jack has a pleasant manner, and does a Hannibal Lecter impression. Partly because Lecter is one of Nancy's favourite movie characters, she decides to let Jack keep thinking she's his date. Jessica shows up with her new copy of the book a good 90 seconds too late.
Delineation of conflicts: First, there is the lie that started their relationship. Jack and Nancy head into an evening together under false impressions. Nancy has several opportunities in their conversation to correct the misapprehension, but fails to do so.
During the date, they encounter some baggage from each side. There is Jack's ex, or soon to be ex, Hilary, whom they meet with Hilary's new significant other. Then there is Sean, whom Nancy has known for many years but does not remember. Unfortunately for Nancy, Sean's a bit of a stalker.
Jack is a bit battle weary from the recently failed marriage. Nancy is in a negativity phase since she has had so many disappointments in a row.
Then there is the party with Fran and Bert. Elaine and Fran want Nancy to write something to commemorate the 40 years of wedded bliss. When might that happen during this busy day?
Hell and Back (2015)
Wild, irreverent supernatural ride.
The Three Acts:
The initial tableaux: Remy and Augie work at a run-down carnival, Remy as a hawker, and Augie as the handyman/fixer. The biggest attraction is called 'Gates to H*ll' and it breaks down recurrently. The budget is limited for spare parts and safety features, 'run-down' is probably a stable state, especially after the bank foreclosure. Their life-long friend Curt has responsibilities at the park, but no authority. Curt's boss is a dedicated zoned-out doper. Will there be upgrades to make the park competitive, or even safe? Probably not.
Remy looks for some hail Mary action to save the park, but instead settles on a book of Madame Zonar's concerning Beelzebub. Curt asks Remy for a mint, and Remy gets Curt to seal a blood oath on the book that he will pay back the mint. Curt openly admits that he lied. This breaking of the oath activates the dormant Gates of H*ll ride. Curt gets pulled down. While the vortex is still active, Remy and Augie follow into H*ll, so as to find Curt and save his sorry self.
Delineation of conflicts: The Devil would like to have sex with Barb the Angel. Barb knows this, and leverages it into having the Devil find Remy and Augie, so that she can get 'save the misplaced mortals' off her To Do list.
Remy and Augie are looking for Orpheus, since he was able to walk out of hell with a person who was condemned. Deema the half-demon is looking for Orpheus for her own reasons.
One of the demon unions is p#ssed that there have not been enough sacrifices lately. Curt gets nominated, largely to his ill-considered speech, and his sacrifice becomes a big event in Hell.
Curt tries negotiating directly with the Devil, who has to deal with the demon union.
Resolution: Can the protagonists save Curt? Will Curt save himself?
Fire City: End of Days (2015)
Chaos generated by a demon with a kind heart.
The Three Acts:
The initial tableaux: In a poor rental building reside humans and demons. The humans are not aware of the demons, who feed off the misery of the humans.
On the human side, in one apartment are Frank and Lisa. Frank has rage issues and beats up Lisa now and then. In another apartment are 11 year old Sara, daughter of Jane. Jane is a chronic drunk who periodically passes out before sexually satisfying live-in boyfriend Andre, who is not Sara's father. Archie lives in a third apartment with Ruth, but treats his despair regarding his life with alcohol and Amber's attention on the side.
On the demon side, Tripp, Mace, and Helo are the same demon type and live together somewhat contentiously in one apartment. The bulky demon Ford is older and studies 'demon science' whatever that is, and spends a lot of time trying to manufacture good luck for himself. Cornelia lives by herself, is an 'interpreter', and has lots of paraphernalia for divination. Amber lives alone, and feeds off the despair of men when she has sex with them.
The protagonist is Atum Vine who appears as human to the humans; to them he's the super. The demons see him as a demon, and see him as the one who guarantees misery, or lacking that, some fresh drugs.
Delineation of conflicts: Very early in the film, Sara runs from Andre, who traps her in the basement. He is enraged that Jane has passed out, and threatens Sara with rape. Vine intervenes since this might disrupt the balance. Vine does not like the cops in his building, for one thing.
Unfortunately for the demons, the real reason that Vine intervened was that he felt compassion for Sara. That odd change in this demon heart breaks everything.
There is a lot of consternation over this, especially after Cornelia diagnoses that Vine is the problem. Then it hits the fan.
Resolution: Despite resistance from all other demon parties, Vine needs to create a new balance. Will he get any help on this?
Remake of a Twilight Zone episode.
The initial tableaux: Nurse Ana and graphic novelist Freddy ride an almost deserted bus back to their common home town of Pearl. As it turns out, both live on Canon street. There's an accident, but both seem to wake up the next morning. The kicker is that there is no telephone service and no other people.
Delineation of conflicts: The protagonists have to realize that they are dead. The two leads here are more stupid than most. Instead of being an 18 minute film, this dog lasts for 90 minutes.
This is an old horror cliché dating back at least to the Twilight Zone, the early version in black and white. More recently, The Frozen (also 2012) did it again.
Early in their explorations of Pearl and environs, they see a storm that surrounds the town on all sides. It moves in at 0.08 miles per hour, so they have about two or three days total. Attempts to penetrate the slow dark storm are rebuffed soundly.
Resolution: Do they find an escape? Be sure to watch the final 3 minutes.
Terribly ineffective Tao wizard.
The initial tableaux: A short tale is told of demons being contained by a flute being played. It was to be played for 3000 consecutive days, but the player miscounted.
So we have a comedy.
The monsters get loose and take possession of the flute. Transfers of mastery among humans fails repeatedly.
The incomplete Tao wizard Woo-Chi causes a lot of trouble to obtain the obtain the flute. His master saves his neck and gets the flute. A second master, Hwa-dam, fights him for the flute, which is broken in the process. Since it is split, perhaps the monsters will be contained.
The master of Woo-Chi is killed by Hwa-dam, but Woo-Chi is blamed for it. He is cursed to imprisonment for 500 years, and awakens in the present. The break occurs at 46 minutes into the 135 minute film.
We switch to current times; the monsters are present, the flute is still broken.
Delineation of conflicts: The monsters would like to be free and remain free using the restored flute. The guardians, or whatever, of the flute free Woo-Chi from his prison inside a painting. He is not interested in defeating the monsters and restoring the flute. The guardians, the Shin-shun, work on his ego, which has plenty of soft spots. The monsters try to kill all of them to get the two pieces of the flute.
There's a subplot about a young woman whom Woo-Chi meets in the past. He also thinks he meets her again in the present. This was not done well at all, but got all too many minutes of screen time.
Resolution: Who cares?
A Picture of You (2013)
Relentlessly boring vanity film.
The Three Acts:
The initial tableaux: Brother Kyle and sister Jen travel from New York City to clean up details in rural Pennsylvania after the death of their mother. Kyle and Jen are estranged at best. Nothing goes all that smoothly as they traverse the house room by room.
Delineation of conflicts: Kyle took care of Judy as her health declined and as his divorce from Sara was in grim stages. Jen skipped most of that. Kyle does not forget, and Jen basically does not care. Kyle ends up packing all the house except the library since the self- involved Jen wants to look at every page in every book, and there are hundreds of books: Judy was a local college professor in some sort of humanities discipline.
Judy was the only Asian in many square miles of only blue-eyed Northern Europeans. Both Kyle and Jen make the joke 'Did you just racially profile me?' when the locals (who all loved Judy) easily identify them as Judy's children. This is tiresome after a while. Plus there was more of that hierarchy of sort of language.
Kyle is resentful of Jen's narcissism, and does not much care for her friends.
The siblings see some quite personal photos of their mother on her computer. First they want to keep it quiet, but then Jen gets the strong urge to find out who the other party might be.
Resolution: The brother and sister patch things up a bit, and they know a bit more about their mother.
The Veil (2016)
Fools go where they should not.
The Three Acts:
The initial tableaux: Jim Jacobs runs a cult camp at Heaven's Veil Ranch, circa 1982. He's a self- appointed mage who does miraculous healing and the like. He does meditation, astral projections, telekinesis, and whatever else will inspire loyalty. His big draw, though, is promising techniques to gain eternal life.
The trick is, one has to die first before getting the big dividend. Indeed, every one at Heaven's Veil does die back in 1982, save for Sarah Hope.
Spin forward to the present, roughly. Sarah Hope is recruited by Maggie Price and her brother Christian to do a documentary on the Ranch. Maggie's father was the FBI agent in charge of investigating the Veil, and he ended up hanging himself when Maggie was three years old.
Delineation of conflicts: As one might expect, things start to go badly soon after the film starts.
The caretaker of Heaven's Veil was not all that welcoming. Film crew member Ed takes the group's van and kills himself by running into a tree at high speed. The group is more than a bit isolated by distance, since they are now all on foot.
Sarah finds the more secret parts of the place, which include multiple films of the inner workings of Jim Jacobs' group. The filmmakers hope to find out what the driving forces were behind the mass death at Heaven's Veil. Does something or someone at the Veil want those secrets kept secret?
Resolution: The film jumped the shark around 53:00 in. The transition from somewhat reasonable thriller to wholesale supernatural bullshit was sudden. The turnabout at the end was well-written, but I had long since quit caring.