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Visuals, whether it's photos, television shows, or movies, have the power to motivate and deeply affect us in ways that are difficult to imagine; only a true fan would understand. Once I walked out of that theater in 1982 I knew what I wanted to do.
I spent 25 years in the television industry preparing for my accent to making magic in Hollywood. I only made it as far as "Hollywood North". I lost my mind, became an addict, lost my money, lost my friends, went to prison for a long time, forced into treatment, got educated, and here I am. I can never go back to the industry I love, but I can admire it from here. I enjoy talking shop to filmmakers and artists and fans.
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Seven Seconds (2018)
Powerful. Moving. Painful.
Seven Seconds centers on a Jersey City PD narcotics team, and their possible cover-up of the hit and run of a black teenage boy. The team is headed by Sgt. Mike DiAngelo (a chilling David Lyons), resilient and respected among his team, and officers within the department. Mike, who has no children of his own, takes young, and mostly naïve, officers under his wing and shows them the ropes with some tough-love and conditioning. Think Denzel Washington's character in Training Day and you'll get a really good idea of Mike DiAngelo's personality.
DiAngelo's newest recruit is the young, soon-to-be-a-daddy, Pete Joblonski, a cop transferred in from a "better part of the city", at DiAngelo's behest. The two share a loose familial bond; but that's enough for DiAngelo to vouch for Pete and to know that he can trust him to fall-in-line when needed. Narc veterans "Manny" Gary Wilcox (a convincing Patrick Murney) and Felix Osorio (a shining Raúl Castillo) round-out the four-man Special Investigations and Gang Unit of the JCPD. This team will do virtually anything for their leader...no, scratch that, will do anything at all for DiAngelo. He is a god in their eyes.
It's the early-morning hours after Valentines Day, and Pete is rushing to the hospital to meet his pregnant wife. The roads are slick, the snow is falling. Pete is distracted on the phone. Without a visible cue to the audience, Pete slams on the breaks and wipes out. He's fine, but what's under the car is not. Thankfully, we're spared from the gory view. All we see is a bicycle tire spinning, and a homemade paper seagull attached to the frame...the significance of which becomes quite compelling when we do learn the nature of the two.
The driver of the bicycle is a young, black teenager named Brenton; a suspected "banger" from Jersey City's most feared gang. DiAngelo, with the rest of his team in the backseat of his seized-from-a-drug-dealer sports car, arrive on scene to find Pete still behind the wheel of his slightly damaged SUV, and a blood trail leading to a ditch. It's one's moral duty to render aid to someone who is injured. This thought would cross anyone's mind when seeing someone critically hurt, but a cop....well, they're obligated to help.
DiAngelo follows the blood trail to a ditch where he finds Brenton's broken body, and a serious pool of blood. What does he do? What any selfish cop would do. Fearing an incredible backlash from the (mostly black) community over the recklessness of a white cop's actions against a black kid, DiAngelo orders Pete to leave the scene, and instructs the rest of the team to clean up the evidence. Forget about the kid in the ditch, "He's nothing."
The boy's parents, devoted and pious Latrice and Isiah Butler (the brilliant Regina King and the marvelous Russell Hornsby) also become victims - right from the get go. Victims of an anachronistic system where the black population are at a disadvantage starting from birth. Does anyone care about their rights? Does anyone care about Brenton? As the story plays out over the full 10-episodes, we discover the answers to those questions and get an intimate look at why "Cops don't go to jail", especially if the victim is black.
The series has many twists and turns, most will be of the "blind-sided" type. This isn't your typical, "I know what's coming next" kind of plot, even though the story may seem similar to you. For whatever reason, we have this insatiable appetite for police procedural TV, going back at least 60-years with "77 Sunset Strip" (1958 - 1964). Hawaii Five-0, Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, Law and Order, LA Law, CSI, to name a few more. Certainly, there are a lot of shows on TV that "play the race card" and attack police for their bias. I admit I was a little skeptical of Seven Seconds at first because of that. Like those silly "coming of age" movies I'm so sick of watching, has this topic not been done enough? Are we not yet bored by dramatizations of white vs. black, race on race, BS shows? Why do we need to see another?
According to one website, of the last two-decades, ¼ of the top-40 shows on television are police-procedural. I've seen them all (shows like NYPD Blue, Law and Order, Homeland, The Wire) and there isn't a single show within the group of 10 that, at some point, didn't deal with race-relations and police bias. Most were fictional, some based on true events. The sad truth is, without real life stories, the writers would have nothing to write about, and we'd have a lot less TV to watch.
There is an element of truth to Seven Seconds. The series seems plausible, especially to those (black or white) who have had some dealings with the law. Mentions of the Ferguson, Missouri shooting come up, as do other similar real-life occurrences that have happened. We are reminded, again, of how archaic some things, some people are. Sadly.
This series is powerful, and moving, make no mistake. The characters are deep and complex. They have flaws and secrets. They are like you, me, and our neighbor. The production value is what you would expect from Netflix; no expense is spared to make everything as realistic as possible.
A favorite quote of mine is by Dante. It goes, "The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
That moral crisis is race relations within our own community, specifically with police. This has always been an issue during my lifetime (I'm middle-aged), as it was during my parents' and my grandparents'. Whether the place you call home is Jersey City, or Ferguson, or where I'm from, we have all seen parts of "Seven Seconds" play-out in real life. I know I have, in more ways than one. That's what makes this series hurt so much.
Everything Sucks! (2018)
Ironically, Everything Sucks! Doesn't Suck
For the review, scroll down to paragraph five. For the added bonus of my incoherent, gonzo-esque ramblings, start reading now.
Netflix releases their original series, (usually) all episodes, at midnight pacific time. When I binge on a new series I'm up exactly when it premieres. I live on the east coast so for me, 'up' means awake at 03:00. I don't have the luxury of being apart of the secret society known as the 'Netflix Media Center'. Neither do I know their classified handshake, nor possess the diamond-encrusted-Netflix-logo-pinky-finger ring each member is issued (folklore has it that Netflix founder Reed Hastings personally casts each ring in the basement of his medieval castle). So, I'm not privy to advanced streamed screenings of Netflix shows. Ironically, Netflix premieres for me are by 'appointment TV'. Thus, my appointment is set for 3 a.m.
I'm less of a critic and more of a fan who likes to write, so I don't mind paying for my streaming services. And, let's face it, my writing skills are as questionable as my photography skills were when I was making TV magic many years ago (just ask any of the warm props I worked with). But I digress.
It's now 3:00 am. It's quiet, the kids are asleep, the wife's somewhere else. Everything Sucks! has started. Beside me is my morning mocha (an addiction I'm not fond of). On my lap sits my HP-Mini (yes, laugh it up) where I am writing this. A few feet yonder is my work laptop, sitting on a spindly table that was bought for $1.00 at a yard sale in 1995 (how fitting!), streaming the show.
So, in short, this is not a rip-off of Stranger Things (thankfully). Whatever comparisons were/have been made are just asinine. Everything Sucks! is about a group of high school kids attending Boring High School in 1996. Boring is an actual city in Oregon (twinned with 'Dull, Scotland', and not too far away from 'Happy Valley'...seriously, you can't make this stuff up), with a population hovering close to 7500. I wanted to know the town's reaction to the series, but my email to Netlfix's PR rep for the show went without a response. Contacting the Boring CPO (Community Planning Organization) didn't get me anywhere either. I guess that's the difference between being a credible journalist and a hack like me.
Anyway, the series mainly focuses on Kate and Luke. Kate (Peyton Kennedy, impressive), a sophomore, thinks she's a lesbian and is seriously crushing on a girl in her class. She struggles to fit in with pretty much everyone but not because of her (rumored) homosexuality. She's nicknamed 'Plutonium' (as in stay-away-from) because her father, Ken (Patch Darragh), is the principal. Luke (the awesome Jahi Di'Allo Winston) is a freshman and has a serious crush on Kate. He earnestly strives to gain her interest and love, even knowing that the gossip about her sexual preference may be true. 'A' for effort, Luke.
They are both in the school's AV club, along with a few other dweebs: McQuaid (Rio Mangini), wicked smart way beyond his years, sporting nerdy 90s clothes and a 90s-cool slicked-back coiffure. Tyler (Quinn Liebling), the squeaky-voiced comic relief of the group, lives with an alcoholic step father and struggles to read at a 5th grade level; and Leslie (Abi Brittle), is super religious and secretly crushing on Tyler, who can't take the hint. Overseeing the group is the mellow Mr. Stargrove (series co-creator Ben York Jones - who was born to play this role by the look of it). Clearly, he's the coolest, most unboring Boring High teacher.
The AV club is battling with the overly-dramatic Drama Club. Scott Pocket (Connor Muhl) anchors the school-televised morning announcements along with Jessica Betts (Nicole McCullough); both are a-typical divas. The real pains-in-the-butt, however, are wannabe actors, and part-time couple, prima donna biatch Emaline (Sydney Sweeney - who you will grow to love as this series plays out) and primo uomo douchebag Oliver (a cunning Elijah Stevenson), who clearly missed his calling as a professional douchebag.
Everything Sucks! starts out kind of boring (lol!), but once the jitters work themselves out, and after we finally meet the entire awkward cast towards the end of the first episode, it becomes quite enjoyable. The series is more of a drama than a comedy; I'd say maybe a 60-40 split. I grew to like and care about the characters, even the douchebag. Peyton Kennedy (as Kate) plays her role with dignity and respect and one can hope that her performance inspires real-life LGBTQ youth to be comfortable in their skin. She delivers a powerful message with confidence. The entire cast delivers in style, and if you have a history like any of the characters they portray, you will get emotional. I did.
There's a lot of 90s nostalgia, and a soundtrack that brings back fond memories. Oasis, Tori Amos, Spin Doctors, Space Hog. Each episode runs about 23 minutes, on average. It's the perfect length. I was able to sit through the entire series without getting bored - which bodes well for Netflix because I am a part of the intended demographic (just barely, I graduated high school in 91). Ugh, I feel old.
The comedy is mainly smart, thankfully no slapstick or sight gags. At times I groaned at the jokes, but only because I remember laughing at them when I was a kid. Ugh, I was lame.
The shooting style is like that of Arrested Development - handheld, but not to the point of being nauseating. Tripod-cam would just feel out of sync for this show.
There are so many unanswered questions and the final scene in the season finale leaves the door wide open for another 10 episodes. I miss the show already.
Black Mirror (2011)
Anyone Who Knows What Love Is Will Understand
I binged the entire series (4 seasons) one weekend in 2018 (over 1,000 combined minutes in 19 episodes). Black Mirror has been reviewed ad-nauseum, and I have nothing more to add that will influence anyone's viewing decision either way. However, I will offer a brief opine and a selection of the best episodes for your consideration.
Each episode is a self-contained pseudo-science fiction story, running anywhere from 43 minutes to nearly 90 minutes. I can compare it to an updated version of The Twilight Zone, at least that's the first thing I thought of. Except, in Black Mirror the characters aren't really in another dimension per se, they're in the now and all the freaky stuff that happens is 'common' among the population.
Technology, and how it can affect (sometimes adversely) everyday life is the centerpiece of each episode. If you're looking for a feel-good series with predictable plots you're not going to find it in Black Mirror. You'll see the dark side of humanity and what people are capable of when this cool technology is exploited for all the wrong reasons: some of these episodes get really gloomy.
Although each story can stand on its own (you can afford to miss episodes and still know what's going on), I counted least seven chapters that briefly refer to another in the series (like a specific piece of technology, or a quote from a character). If you miss the reference, though, it's not going to totally throw you for a loop.
Among the dark themes, there is some humor. Odd, creepy humor. Don't feel weird or awkward laughing at certain situations that may otherwise be inappropriate. I was horrified after the first episode in season 1 (The National Anthem). Truly sickened, in fact. When I watched it a second time, I giggled like a mad-man. But it's that humor that makes Black Mirror a fun and addictive series to watch. Some of the 'laugh-out-loud' moments, for me, were in seeing justice get served to the deserving. What boundaries will they cross in the next season I wonder?
My favorite episodes are:
Season 1, Episode 3: The Entire History of You (9/10)
Season 2, Episode 2: White Bear (9/10)
Season 2, Episode 4: White Christmas (10/10)
Season 3, Episode 1: Nosedive (9/10)
Season 3, Episode 3: Shut Up and Dance (10/10)
Season 3, Episode 6: Hated in the Nation (9/10)
Season 4, Episode 3: Crocodile (9/10)
Season 4, Episode 6: Black Museum (9/10)
My Pick For Best Foreign Language Film 2018
If your spouse turned to you one day and asked, 'Explain to me now, how it happened that you were promising love and happiness and as a result I have only pain and disappointment?' how would you react to that?
The Russian film Nelyubov, or Loveless (the literal translation is 'Dislike', which works better IMHO), in short, is the story of a selfish married couple, Zhenya and Boris (Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin), on the brink of divorce and putting their young son, Alyosha (Matvey Novikov), in the middle of it. Alyosha disappears after a rather heated argument between the couple and now they must form a team to find the missing 12-year-old.
This isn't a happy family movie so be warned. There is no love here, and that you can feel and see. Neither Boris nor Zhenya love each other, and they never did. The marriage is one of convenience. Boris needs the marriage because of his Orthodox employer: it's policy to be married and have a family, and divorcing your spouse is worthy of dismissal. Zhenya, on the other hand needed marriage at one time to get away from her uncaring mother (Natalya Potapova). Now, Zhenya is screwing a much older man, Anton (Andris Keiss), and prefers the lifestyle that only he can offer; she is clearly a lot happier with him than with Boris and Alyosha. Boris, too, has a new relationship with a younger woman, Masha (Marina Vasileva), and she's already prego with his child. Alyosha is an after-thought.
These two 'parents of the year' are mean to each other, and Alyosha. The kid is an emotional wreck. In his mother's words, Alyosha is an 'unforgivable mistake'. Neither parent has time for this poor kid. Even when Alyosha goes missing, it takes both parents nearly two days to realize he's gone and they're both devoid of emotion when they do notice (you deal with it, no you deal with it - I'm busy). Sadly, even the government authorities seem to handle the case with the same care and concern.
The only issue I have with this movie is the English subtitles. The spoken Russian dialogue is quick at times, especially when there is an argument happening, and although the English subs keep up, they don't stay on the screen long enough to catch everything said (I had to stop and back up - a luxury those seeing this at a cinema don't get). Also, there are two lengthy scenes (30 seconds to 1 minute) in the movie when we see a news report on television. The reports refer to the civil war in Ukraine (the movie takes place in 2012) but there no translation of what is being said. How important these scenes are to the plot, I'm not sure.
Otherwise, Loveless is a moving film that will have you thinking long after the final credits roll. It will haunt you. Strong acting, strong script, strong cinematography. There are several shots that are without dialogue but are very informative on their own. They are meant to be reflective and thought provoking. God are they ever. Watch this film.
If Loveless doesn't win the Oscar® for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, it's political.
Fury follows a bad-ass tank crew and its bad-ass, grizzled, Nazi-hating, SS-killing leader, Sgt. Don 'Wardaddy' Collier (Brad Pitt). A new kid, Norman (Logan Lerman), joins the team - pretty much against his better judgement. He's never seen the inside of a tank before and hasn't even fired a gun since basic training. He's quite certain there's been a mistake and just wants to go home.
Norman is a military-trained typist. An excellent, experienced typist; 60-words a minute he can go. A worthwhile skill to have when you've got a superior officer dictating a memo, but does it work when you've got an entire division of Nazis shooting at you? Not exactly. Norman is teased relentlessly, and mercilessly slapped around by Wardaddy because he refuses to kill anyone. Norman's crewmates believe he'll get them all killed one day, and there's plenty of opportunity for that. Wardaddy is well respected by the Oldman (Jason Isaacs, whom you won't even recognize) and it's Wardaddy's crew that always get the call when there are Nazi's that need killing or Allies that need rescuing; a task that Wardaddy ruthlessly, and violently, carries out with gusto and a 'take no prisoners' attitude.
Fury shows the horrors of war quite explicitly. There is enough blood and gore in this movie to make any horror film make-up artist blush. I'm confident in saying that the actions displayed on screen in Fury happened in real life during the war - during any war - even though this particular story is fiction. It's that realism that makes this film sometimes hard to watch. 'War is hell' to quote William Tecumseh Sherman. Everything is so realistic and so genuine it's nauseating.
I began to hate Brad Pitt as this movie went on. He plays quite a jerk. You'll hate him too (if you don't already for some other reason). Same with Jon Bernthal (that's the guy who played Shane in The Walking Dead). He's a creepy war machine without a conscience. Shia LaBeouf plays a depressed bible-quoting, war-weary soldier, and you know something else, he's really good in this role! I was surprised, actually, because of, you know, his frequent meltdowns I figured he just went crazy and stopped acting. His character is a troubled and emotional young man, so it's not too far from reality (and the cut on his right cheek is real and self-inflicted prior to filming the movie). Logan Lerman is awesome. He's come a long way since The Butterfly Effect (2004), and I much prefer to see him in an intense role like this, surrounded by so much talent. Lerman feeds off the other actors and you can see it.
Sound mix is awesome, so is the cinematography (same guy who shot Suicide Squad and End of Watch). There is a good scene when some tanks get into a battle with some stubborn Nazis. There is one shot in particular that is awe-inspiring. You'll know which one I'm talking about when you see it. It's quite stunning. I don't use the term 'awe-inspiring' very often.
Overall, good movie, watch it when you can.
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Mind-Screwing In A Good Way
10 Cloverfield Lane, in short, is about a creepy dude, Howard (John Goodman), who claims there's been a chemical attack and that's the reasoning behind keeping a young woman, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), locked in a shelter under his equally-creepy farmhouse.
Michelle doesn't believe it, she thinks he's kidnapped her. She was in a car crash, and Creepy Dude saved her. Ok, sure, but let's go to the hospital, demands Michelle. Nope, the air is poisoned, creepy Howard confidently tells Michelle, who by now is really sketched out. Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) is also locked in the shelter, but he says it's by his choice. He knew about the shelter because he saw Creepy Dud building it a long time ago, so when the attack happened, Emmett rushed over to the farmhouse and essentially forced his way in. Sounds believable, right? Even Creepy Dude is locked in the shelter with them. Is Emmett in on this thing, too?
The story is pretty good and keeps you in the dark. Is creepy Howard telling the truth, or is he brainwashing these two victims? There's evidence of both. Creepy Dude keeps reminding Michelle that he saved her life and she should be a little more grateful. Can't she understand that? Creepy Dude is prone to violent outbursts, but don't worry he won't hurt you, it's just the stress. After all, no one really knows how long they'll all be underground. One year, two? That'll stress anyone out, for sure. Everything is pretty convincing; everyone's story makes sense. You'll be like, WTF?
I like horror movies that focus less on gore and more on storytelling to scare. This is one of those movies. It's trippy and mind-screwing in a good way. 10 Cloverfield Lane is well done.
Only 2200 Reviews Ahead Of Me! But I'll Still Write Something
Cloverfield, in short, is shot like a "found footage" documentary and follows a group of friends around Manhattan during a monster invasion.
Still interested? Read on. It's New York City, the site of many disasters (both imagined and real, unfortunately). One can assume that the events we are about to witness happened at some point in the past, because we're watching a video seized by the Department of Defense. The footage, recovered from an "area formerly known as Central Park", is clearly taken from a camera once owned by a young couple. We know this because we see them, on video, before and during the day of the invasion.
The couple attend a going away party for a mutual friend who is moving to Japan. It's at the party where we meet the cast of characters who later become the video journalists when the real fun begins. The building shakes, there's a power-outage lasting a few seconds, and there's a report on TV about a possible earthquake. Seems harmless, right? Like some giddy school children, the cameraman and his buddies head up to the roof to get a better look at a foundering ship spilling oil into the Hudson River. That's when all hell breaks loose. Luckily, they bring the camera along for the wild ride.
And so begins director Matt Reeves's ode to big scary monsters. Think of the videos you've seen on the news of war photographers running for their lives, all the while continuing to record. That's what Cloverfield is like except no one is dodging enemy fire; here it's giant bug-things they're running from. The "found-footage" genre of filmmaking isn't new, not even when Cloverfield was made 10-years ago. It's actually kind of lame, too. However, when I first saw this movie in 2008 I enjoyed it. Who doesn't appreciate seeing an apocalyptic monster invasion? They are magnificent!
Cloverfield is a good action, sci-fi, horror film that's fun to watch, even if the camera work is a little too jarring at times. I like how the movie uses very little CGI (but when CGI is used, it's excellent) and relies mostly on creative, budget-friendly filmmaking. Loud monster noises, blood-curdling screams, and one's own imagination fuel the fright. Think Jaws (1975): you knew there was something scary out there, but you couldn't see it. Everyone fears what they can't see.
Check out 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) and Netflix's The Cloverfield Paradox (2018). All three movies are related.
Friendship Bound In Mud
Mudbound, in short, is the story of two men, strangers from the same small Mississippi town, who return from WWII and find that things haven't changed much since they left.
Still interested? Read on. Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) is black, and a former Army sergeant who fought under General Patton on the front lines. Ronsel was respected, not only by his fellow soldiers but by the various communities in Europe he helped liberate. Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) is white, and a former captain in the Air Force who flew bombing missions over Germany. He too was respected by nearly everyone, but his own Pappy (Jonathan Banks), your typical racist, crusty old man.
Post war, Ronsel and Jamie return to a poor, muddy community they called home prior to WWII. Ronsel goes back to living with his mid-wife mother, Florence (Mary J. Blige), his father, Hap (Rob Morgan), and his brothers and sisters. Hap farms the land he lives on, and rents from, Jamie's brother, Henry (Jason Clarke). Jamie moves in with his brother Henry, his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan) and the racist old b****r, Pappy.
Ronsel and Jamie, though strangers before and during the war, eventually meet (as strangers in a small town usually do) and bond over their mutual military background. Raised by a racist father, Jamie is anything but and is willing to risk breaking rules and laws to protect his new friend Ronsel. As the two men soon find out, war heroes or not, their friendship is not welcome in 1945 Mississippi.
Mudbound, IMHO, is about a lot more than just what I wrote above but I really don't want to rehash everything everyone has already said. I'm not a critic, I'm just a fan of movies. I like that it is told from the perspective of more than one person. I like that the oppressed fight back. I like that I felt anger, happiness and sadness in all the right places, that's what a good movie is supposed to do to the viewer. I like that it's not predictable, even up to the very end I was surprised.
I like the cinematography. It's beautifully shot, something that's quite difficult when one's set is hatred, poverty and despair. I like that Rachel Morrison is responsible for that and she's being recognized by an Academy that has always ignored female DP's. I like the script (based on a novel), and the directing. This movie is watchable more than once.
Meh, It's OK, But Not Great
Knowing, in short, is about professor John (Nicolas Cage), an intelligent chap who cleverly decodes a message that was unearthed in a time capsule buried 50-years ago at his young son's school.
Still interested? Ok, read on. Inside of this time capsule are things like futuristic drawings and trinkets from 1959, left by school children of the day. In 2009, a new batch of children at the school open the capsule and, one by one, reach in and pull out a treasure. John's almost-as-clever son, Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), picks out a rather boring piece of paper filled only with numbers. It's almost befitting though. After all, the kid is very smart and has a future as an astrophysicist it seems. But he is a kid, man, and he notices that his classmates each got something cool, like hand drawn, colorful pictures imagining what life would be like in 2009 (think spaceships and jet packs). Like, where's the fun in a plain piece of paper full of stupid numbers?
Enter Dad, M.I.T. scholar John, who's a big fan of numbers. He finds Caleb's discovery rather fascinating, and, in fact, has uncovered something that no one else cares enough to believe. These numbers, when one looks close enough, each mean something significant. When properly sequenced, they foretell horrible disasters, past, present, and future. Life altering disasters!
Knowing, IMHO, isn't as great as some popular critics have called it. It's, meh, ok. I'm not a critic, I'm just a fan who opines. I like the idea behind Knowing, but I think Nick Cage sort of overacts a wee bit. He's been guilty of it a few times in other movies, too. Maybe that's what he's going for here with his character, but it doesn't really work for me. There's no need to scream at everyone (sure, I get it, people just don't believe him when he predicts disasters). Also, I found the script a little predictable, and believe me the irony is not lost on me.
One thing that is really cool in this film is the disasters we get to see. I must admit, even now, watching this film again 9-years later I find some of the CGI impressive. Sure, I did say "wow" a few times, and not like a "this is lame" kind of wow, either. It's good to watch once, then put it away for a few years and watch again. That's what I did, and now it's filed away - probably for another 9 years or so.
One Of Rockwell's Best Performances
Moon, in short, tells us the story of astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), who, along with his HAL-like computer friend GERTY (Kevin Spacey), is harvesting the moon's natural resources to help Earth's dwindling power supply. Sam has a three-year contract that is weeks away from ending and his replacement will soon arrive. Obviously, he's starting to get a little excited about going home, who wouldn't be, right? Especially since he's a father now; his wife, Tess (Dominique McElligott - to whom he can only communicate via a one-way recorded message), gave birth to their only child, a daughter, while he was at work, plus the isolation is clearly getting to him. It seems like the perfect time to high-tail it out of there. Almost too perfect, something is a little...off. Certainly, GERTY is good company, for a computer who can only display emotion by way of a small screen and creepy emojis, but, pardon the cliché, as the day for his leaving approaches, he has a really close-encounter that is far more entertaining. And life altering.
Moon, IMHO, when I first saw this movie in 2009 I loved it. I just saw it again, and I still love it. Even though it is quite obscure, and still not well promoted, it is a perfect independent film made with a minuscule $5 million budget. I knew as much about it in 2009 before I screened it the first time, as you may know right now. It's really all you need to know about the plot, any more and there'd be spoilers. Moon is one of Sam Rockwell's best films and best performances. It's not packed with explosions, gun fights and other distractions; none of that is needed here. It's good acting, good direction, and a good script.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Is It Ready To Be A Classic Film?
Blade Runner 2049, in short, takes place in the year 2049 (yep, it's true). Killing replicants is still a viable job and tasked with that duty now is a young stud named Officer K (Ryan Gosling). One stormy afternoon while minding his own business killing a minding-his-own-business replicant, K unearths a secret. A crime was committed 30-years-ago but the only evidence that's of any help is an old piece of carved wood and some numbers scratched on it. The suspect in the brutal crime may have been a replicant, and it's up to K to bring the skinner to justice the only way a good Blade Runner knows how: retirement. Enter old stud Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who disappeared 30-years-ago with the last known replicant ordered to be executed (let's call it what it is). Deckard knows how to hide - being hunted for decades will teach you a few things about that. It's K's hunch that Deckard may have a little insight into this mystery that's been slowly eating away at the young Blade Runner. Now he needs to find the old man before someone less friendly does.
Blade Runner 2049, IMHO, is a nice companion to the original 1982 masterpiece by Ridley Scott. I've pretty much said all I can without getting into spoilers, so I'll touch on the technical side. A movie like this requires strong, believable CGI. There must be attention to detail and it absolutely must look realistic - about as realistic as you can make fiction, I suppose. Blade Runner (1982) left us in awe with the special effects (winner of two Academy Awards® in that category). We've sort of become accustomed to great CGI now, and, for the most part, we know what CGI is capable of, so it's pretty hard to blow us away. Thus, CGI heavy movies also need a good story and good acting to hold our attention. Blade Runner 2049 has most of that. Director Denis Villeneuve (how sick was Sicario, right?) puts it all together and makes it sing beautifully, but not perfectly. It's too early to tell right now whether Blade Runner 2049 will become a classic like it's daddy; there will be plenty of nerds arguing about that - both for and against.
I just like watching movies; I'm a fan not a critic, and this movie is enjoyable to watch. One that I could probably see again without getting bored. Chances are, you'll feel the same way if you made it this far.
The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)
So That's What Happened
The Cloverfield Paradox, in short, is the story of a group of international astronauts hanging out on a space station and doing what scientists normally do in space. All's well until they start messing with things they shouldn't be messing with. There's this big fancy particle accelerator up there that can apparently solve the world's man-made energy crisis and avert an imminent war. The brainiacs have been trying to perfect this thing for two years, and they are so close. There are skeptics back on Earth, though, and many ominously warn of screwing with the God particle. As one pundit puts it, "This experiment could unleash chaos the likes of which we have never seen."
Understatement of the decade there. The astronauts don't heed the warnings and continue working. The experiment causes a paradox (a contradiction that's true); exactly what was predicted by the cynics. It's not possible, but it's happening. Weird things start developing on the ship, like, "how the hell does this strange person know who I am?" And, "What happened to Earth?" And "How did that get there?" And, most importantly, "WTF?" Yep, it's trippy.
The newest Cloverfield film explains what caused all the mayhem on Earth ten years ago. If you haven't seen Cloverfield (2008) and/or 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016), see them before you watch this one. Not that you really need to, but you'll enjoy this movie more if you do, and all three together show unique perspectives.
The action is intense. The CGI is awesome. The sound-mix worthy of an award. The comic relief is gold (best line in the movie, "That's my fuckin' arm!).
On the other hand, the foreign accents are stereotypical and reminiscent of cheesy b-movies. Awful, just, ugh...stop. Also, it's a little nerdy at times and completely unnecessary for the average viewer. It goes way over my head - I had to research what a particle accelerator actually does only to learn that it wasn't really necessary because it raised more questions than it answered.
If you weren't watching Super Bowl 52, or on social media that day, you never would have known about this movie until after its premiere. Keeping with the secretive nature of the Cloverfield franchise, the release of The Cloverfield Paradox (originally titled The God Particle during early development) was only confirmed a mere two hours before, thanks to a slick trailer seen during the game. Brilliant.
Blade Runner (1982)
Blade Runner CGI Is Still Relevant
Blade Runner, in short, is a futuristic tale about a guy (Harrison Ford) who goes after some rogue pseudo-humans, called replicants, who killed a bunch of people, stole a spaceship, and returned to Earth to find their creator.
Blade Runner, IMHO, has been reviewed ad nauseum since its release in 1982 so there isn't much more I can add to it. I will say, however, that despite this movie's advanced age, I only just recently screened it. So, since I missed the timing boat for reviewing, I'll quickly comment on the film's CGI (Computer Generated Imagery).
I consider myself a little bit of a nerd but I'm not really into the sci-fi genre like many-a-nerd - I enjoy sci-fi as much as any genre; I am a fan of all movies in general. I have seen countless films where CGI is an important part of the story telling, science fiction or not. Seeing Blade Runner less than 36 hours after binge-racing Altered Carbon (2018), the big-budget Netflix series that has been compared to Blade Runner, I noticed the 35-year-old CGI to be (still) quite impressive!
The scenery, the futuristic look and feel, of Blade Runner and Altered Carbon is nearly identical in its presentation (the same can be said for Ghost in the Shell with Scarlett Johansson and, yes, even the new Blade Runner). The only real noticeable differences are the overall length of each scene containing CGI, and its attention to detail (like more flashing lights and moving objects in the background). The reasoning behind this, one can presume, is overall cost and technology advancement. I remember in the early 1990's the price tag for basic CGI ran around $1000 per second of rendered video. I can imagine that in 1982 the cost was even more stupid, thus limiting the amount of time CGI could be used (add to that the cost of optical effects-like credits and other on-screen writing- and you're looking at a hefty bill).
Blade Runner's budget was $28 million in 1982. Based on an annual inflation rate of 2.64% per year, that budget would be something like $71.5 million now, or about $80 million less than the budget for Blade Runner 2049 ($150 million - coincidentally rumored to be Altered Carbon's 10-episode budget). Fast-forward to 2017 and pretty much anyone with a $600 laptop and the right software can create similar CGI if they have the time to invest in modeling and rendering. Can you imagine what Blade Runner would look like with today's CGI? Well, look no further than Blade Runner 2049. I must point out a little irony in that the Blade Runner from 1982 takes place in the futuristic 2019.
My point is, Blade Runner, from a technical stand-point, impressed me as much as Altered Carbon and Blade Runner 2049. Everything is relative, of course. So, one would expect somewhat more of a wow factor out of a new sci-fi release than one that may be older than themselves. Blade Runner (1982) CGI can still hold its own. I can vaguely remember when Blade Runner was first released the talk of Hollywood was the "special effects", as it was generally known back then. The movie was nominated for two Academy Awards ®: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Effects, Visual Effects. Today that's called Best Production Design and Best Visual Effects - two of Blade Runner 2049's five Oscar nominations this year.
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Laymen Will Love It, Nerds A Little Less So
Ghost in the Shell, in short, is a futuristic story about a young woman (Scarlett Johansson), saved from a horrible crash and then turned into a cyborg. She then becomes a lethal government killing machine, going after the world's worst criminals.
Ghost in the Shell, what I think: I watched this Movie because of all the hype surrounding the cyberpunk Netflix thriller, Altered Carbon (2018). A lot of comparisons have been made between the two (and Blade Runner), but, although there are some similarities, they are quite different. Scar-Jo plays the protagonist, Major. All that she remembers about the accident is that she drowned while immigrating to the country as a refugee on a raft. Both Major's parents were killed, and her body was damaged beyond repair. Her brain was saved, though, and a cybernetic-body custom built around it. Major is essentially a ghost in a shell with very little knowledge of her past life. She's told she is one-of-a-kind.
So Major transforms into an ass-kicker who can't feel pain, or fear, and uses this to her advantage to track down and arrest, or whatever, the worst-of-the-worst criminals no matter the human or financial cost. Life as a cyborg isn't as simple as you may think, especially when you're a potential golden goose for the company that built you. They have big plans for Major, and her team of partially-cyber-enhanced ass-kickers, but that platform seems to conflict with the government's own ideas.
The CGI is what you should expect out of a big-budget sci-fi thriller - excellent. The action is good, the sound-mix is awesome, the script is so-so. I thought Scar-Jo's acting was meh - sort of, well, robotic. She's an amazing actor, but this role of Major isn't for her. She has this weird gait about her when she walks that's difficult to get used to, even with the understanding that's she's pretty much a robot - super advanced, notwithstanding. The Terminator, Cyberdyne Systems Model 101, is less robotic when walking. For something as high-tech as Major's shell, her movements should be more fluid. But that's just the nerd in me.
Two things you'll LIKE about Ghost in a Shell: 1) Like I said, the CGI is great and Sci-fi fans will like it because it's similar to that of Blade Runner (I still can't help but be in awe of CGI technology when it comes to these types of movies). 2) Scarlett Johansson's fight scenes are well choreographed, and she can kick-ass with the best of them (see her in The Avengers).
Two things you'll DISLIKE: 1) The effort. This movie had so much potential. It doesn't live up to the hype. 2) The length. It's about 17 minutes longer than it should be.
Altered Carbon (2018)
A Well Done Adaptation Worthy Of Multiple Seasons
Altered Carbon, in short, is set in the future where your inner-self, your awareness, everything that makes you, you, is digitized, stored and given a new body for the right price.
Prisoner Takeshi Kovacs (a ripped Joel Kinnaman), is serving an indefinite sentence for a capital crime he claims he did not commit. Lying in a state of complete inertia for 250 years, he is awakened and purchased by wealthy businessman Laurens Bancroft (an awesomely creepy James Purefoy). Kovacs is promised a new lease on life, with a complete pardon for his crimes, if he can catch a killer. Bancroft's killer, in fact. Sound trippy? It is. In this future, one never really dies if one can afford to buy a new "sleeve", as it's called, or a body. One's consciousness, memories and all, can be stored and moved to a new sleeve should they face an expected and/or premature death. So in this world, one can be sixty-seven years old and look like a teenager, or they can have their mindfulness put into a body of their choosing - an enemy, perhaps, or even someone of a different gender or race. However, this "live, die, repeat" foolishness is under threat of being destroyed by a group who will undoubtedly surprise you.
Each episode is packed with valuable information that will slowly unravel the complex story. It's told through present tense and by Kovacs's flashbacks; it's as layered as an over-sized onion. There is mind-bending plot twists and mind-blowing CGI worthy of a $200 million blockbuster. It's well written, well directed, swell shot. Netflix's first sortie into an original Sci-Fi series will leave you wanting more. I binge-raced through this one, because I had to. Altered Carbon is another addictive show and well worth the 3:00am wake up call to be among the first to see it on day one.
Two things you'll LIKE about Altered Carbon: 1) The action and fight choreography is awesome. 2) It's got a great eerie soundtrack and includes an excellent version of a Rob Zombie song. Can you guess which one before you hear it?
Two things you'll DISLIKE: 1) You may feel like you have to take a break after the 5th episode because there is so much information to absorb. 2) You'll have to wait at least a year for Season 2.
The Kid (1921)
There Is Still Magic To See
The Kid, in short, is about The Tramp's exploits as a father figure to an orphaned boy that he first tries to get rid of.
What I think about The Kid is mostly good. The Tramp is, of course, Charlie Chaplin, one of the biggest movie stars of the time. The film is touted as being "6 reels of joy" in 1920's parlance. Today, it would be known more as a "film for the whole family" (rarely is a movie presented on film reels nowadays). Out for a stroll one day, The Tramp spots a baby that is nearly hurt by some debris being thrown out of a window. The Tramp rescues the boy but then tries his best to unload the child anywhere he can, however an annoying, seemingly omnipresent flat-foot quashes any ideas that come to mind. So, The Tramp takes in the boy and raises the child as his own after reading a note the mother left tucked inside his nappy. We play witness to The Tramp trying his best to raise the boy while still being a virtual vagabond. He teaches The Kid the family business and other nefarious undertakings they need to survive this cruel world. Hilarity ensues.
I'm always amazed at how silent film actors can get their message across without a voice to carry it. This movie has a newly-scored background, and only a few title cards to help the viewer understand where it's at. It's all enjoyable acting to watch, even if it's mostly slapstick humor we're laughing at. Jackie Coogan, billed as The Child, is The Kid of whom we're speaking. He really is quite adorable and can surprisingly act. Overall, this is a pleasant family film, and most will enjoy it. Maybe even your own kid will like it.
Two things you'll LIKE: 1) It's simple in its presentation, but still magical in a sense. Special effects, 1920's style! 2) It's the perfect length.
Two things you'll DISLIKE: 1) After years of watching widescreen, HD and 4K films having never seen a single foot of actual film, the 1.37:1 aspect ratio (think of a square), and not clear-as-crystal 35mm film, may be jarring to watch at first. 2) Slapstick comedy: does it still work?
The Russian Revolution (2017)
A Misleading Title
"The Russian Revolution", in short: A 47-minute documentary on the end of autocratic rule, and the beginning of what later became known as the Russian Revolution.
What I think: Less like a documentary on the Russian Revolution and more like a mini-biography on Alexander II, III, Nicholas the Bloody, and the prophetic Rasputin. It should be renamed to "The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty" because that's about 95% of this film's content. When there's 10 minutes left only then do we start to hear how Stalin, Lenin, and to a lesser degree Leon Trotsky, "inspired" a leaderless nation (Nicholas II stepped down after a disastrous reign) to "embrace" Bolshevism and turn away from autocratic rule after nearly three centuries.
This doc merely skims the surface of a major turning point in Russian history. So much is missing. "The Russian Revolution" could have been an awesome multi-part series. It's just a mess the way it is now. Pity.
Two things you'll LIKE about "The Russian Revolution:" 1) Good visuals (although most seem to be picked from the internet) and editing. 2) Good voice work by Jonathan Kydd. Soothing and commanding.
Two things you'll DISLIKE: 1) It moves quickly, too quickly. Blink and you may miss something. 2) There's no new information or pictures.
Dazed and Confused (1993)
Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.
What happened? I first saw this movie maybe 20-ish years ago. I loved it! I saw it again today, and I'm horrified!
First off, let me say this is a well written and well directed movie. Richard Linklater is one of the best storytellers in the industry. He certainly knows how to capture and interpret the ebb and flow of real life. The different emotions his films bring out in those who not only watch, but act in them, are genuine. Clearly, Linklater can successfully reproduce the feelings and era in which his films take place. Dazed and Confused is set in 1976. I can't remember the clothes without looking at old family photos. I can't remember the music without YouTube and Spotify. Looking through some of the user reviews posted 10-plus years ago by those who went through high school in the 1970's comment on how accurate this movie is. Really?
In short: Dazed and Confused (mostly) follows some high school freshmen as they try to escape getting paddled (spanked) by the seniors, and in some cases adults not even in school. A sort of "right-of-passage" to higher learning (hazing). There'll be guns, lots and lots of weed, and fights. There will be blood. Then there's Matthew McConaughey's character, Wooderson ("Alright, alright, alright."), a (much older) high school dropout who's looking to get back in. His intentions aren't all that noble, though. "That's what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age," he says while noticing a female freshman (9th grader). The boys flirt with teachers, and occasionally have a sexual remark about a fellow classmate, perhaps it accompanies a slap on the ass as they walk past.
Am I really so old that this whole thing horrifies me?
I know it's only movie. Certainly, Dazed and Confused is a little deeper than that, as my personal rating obviously reflects. It's about adolescence. It's about finding one's own way. It's about battling the trials and tribulations of growing up. It's all relative, and in this case, it's coming of age in 1976. Some of us lived through what this movie portrays, others, like me, went to high school in the mid-1980's and experienced a different culture. It was lame and boring. But in 20-years we'll be watching movies about high school life in the 2010's. How alarmed will we be then?
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Two things you'll LIKE about Dazed and Confused: 1) The nostalgia. 2) The emotions this movie will stir up.
Two things you'll DISLIKE: 1) The emotions this movie will stir up. 2) The thought of wondering what your own children are up to in school.
Darkest Hour (2017)
Oldman's Spot-On Performance Is Key
Darkest Hour, in short: In the early months of WWII, Winston Churchill was asked by the King of England to form a new government at a time when the Brits, and all of Europe, faced what seemed like insurmountable odds. Prime Minister Churchill had to decide whether his government should essentially capitulate and negotiate a peace deal with Hitler, or fight and face possible annihilation.
What I think: I saw this movie on the same day I saw Dunkirk (2017), not knowing that Darkest Hour makes several references to the "colossal military disaster", that affected more than 300,000 solders, on the west coast of France. Darkest Hour takes place around the same time that Dunkirk takes place: May 1940. Seeing the two movies back to back was a good idea (if not fun) and if you have the means and time I suggest doing the same thing. I won't get into the why's and how's of Churchill's appointment eight months after the U.K. declared war on Germany. For that, you can do some research, although the movie does briefly touch on it to give context. The focus of this film is on Churchill's first turbulent month in office; more specifically when and how to evacuate 300,000 soldiers from Dunkirk (or leave them to the Nazis), and if surrender to the most powerful army the world has ever known should be considered ("Do you want a swastika flying over Buckingham Palace?"). I think it's safe to assume everyone already knows the answer to what happened.
Two things you'll LIKE about Darkest Hour: 1) This isn't a war movie per se, it's about what occurs behind the scenes and what happens leading up to Churchill's rousing speech to Parliament on June 4, 1940, the day Operation Dynamo (the evac of Dunkirk) was complete (which is why this makes a good companion to the Dunkirk movie). Gary Oldman is nearly unrecognizable as Winston Churchill, the makeup job is amazing, as is his performance. Oldman's presentation of Churchill's unique speaking style is nearly spot on, as are his mannerisms and peculiar personality. Darkest Hour is dialogue heavy, but interesting enough to keep your attention (as if Oldman isn't enough to do that!). 2) As most period pieces are, awesome costumes and accurate design and construction of sets are paramount for authenticity. I've been to and seen the actual war cabinet room and bunkers where Churchill and his team spent most of the war, and it's pretty damn close as I refer to my photos. Darkest Hour is Oscar Nominated for both costume design and production design.
Two things you'll DISLIKE: 1) Coming in at just over two hours, your bladder may be ready to burst about the same time the film is ready to hit its climax. 2) Have you had enough of the subject matter yet? Hollywood has released war-era films ad nauseum since...well, almost forever. It's not going to stop anytime soon.
Suspense-filled Thriller With Only 2,940 Spoken Words
Dunkirk, in short: The story of when British, Belgium and French soldiers were trapped, surrounded, and all but abandoned by their government in a small French village. The call goes out to all civilian boats: bring our boys home.
Dunkirk, in my words: Propaganda leaflets are dropped from the sky by the Nazi Luftwaffe. A British soldier picks up a few, with the intention of using them as toilet paper. The notice reads, "We have you surrounded", then the bullets fly. So begins Christopher Nolan's latest film about the "colossal military disaster" that became an inspiration to an already frightened population less than one year into WWII. The soldiers are ordered to retreat to the coast and await their ride home. Thousands of men standing-by on a beach in Dunkirk, France. They can nearly see home - across the English Channel - from where they are positioned, out in the open, "like fish in a barrel" for the circling enemy planes. The Germans are closing in fast on their position. There is no fleet of battleships and frigates on the way to evacuate them, only a flotilla of patriotic civilians with their fishing boats and pleasure crafts; unarmed but fearless.
Things you'll LIKE about Dunkirk: 1) It is awesome. When it starts, it doesn't stop until the credits role. The story moves very quickly and is seamless. The music is suspenseful, building, and intense and works to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the 106-minute running time. The aerial photography is nothing short of spectacular as it closely captures RAF pilot Farrier (Tom Hardy) during his mission. 2) There is very little spoken dialogue but there's a lot of action and the story is shown from three key perspectives. The script I read had 23 pages of dialogue. 2,940 spoken words to be exact (I counted them myself). The entire script has 15,325 words in total, including described action scenes and screen direction. It works, and it works well.
Things you'll DISLIKE about Dunkirk: 1) This easily could have been a longer film, but it's not. As it is now, it's one of the shorter Christopher Nolan efforts at 106 minutes. Following (1998) is 69 minutes, Memento (2000) is 113 minutes. Dunkirk could have added another 15 minutes to the running time without changing the flow. 2) Guys, you may not like the One Direction dude (Harry Styles plays Alex) in this. However, you can take solace in knowing that he can act!
Get Out (2017)
Told You So
Get Out in short: An African-American man meets his white girlfriend's parents, and their friends, and notices that there's something a little strange going on.
Racial undertones surround this really good horror-mystery film directed by a guy who has a (mostly) comedy background, Jordan Peele. Peele wades into deep waters filled with many horror greats swimming about. The question is, does he manage to stay afloat in this pool of great talent? Get Out is not without a little satire, but it's not the cheese comedy and clichés you sometimes see in bad horror films, it works here, it's smart. But it is a horror film, after all, and a damn good one too. So yes, Peele's floaties are working just fine.
As a viewer, you instantly pick up the vibe going on right from the start. Director Jordan Peele, whose mother is white and father is black, sets the mood early and keeps reminding you of it. Chris, a black man, is dating a white woman, Rose. Nothing unusual about that, but for reasons that soon become clear, a big deal is made from it. Rose brings Chris home (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner-esq) to an affluent neighborhood filled with old money and old white people who "act as if they've never met a real black man before." Suddenly, the geriatric's are referring to black stereo types, like, "I'm a big fan of Tiger Woods," or, "Is it true what they say about black men in bed." People are getting creepy, if not rude, looking him over - sizing him up almost like cattle at an auction. Chris' best friend, Rod the TSA worker (and proud of it) ominously warns, "You don't go to a white girl's parent's house!" Even I began to feel sketched out!
Two things you'll LIKE about Get Out: 1) The story is brilliant. Peele also wrote the script (2018 Oscar nominee for both Original Screenplay and Director). It's unique and unexpected. 2) It's the best horror film since The Shining (1980).
Two things you'll DISLIKE: 1) You may be a little uncomfortable with the racial undertones at first, perhaps even embarrassed for your entire race (if you're white). Give the move a chance to make the point of it all. 2) It may be a few more years until you see a horror-mystery like this one again. Soak it up while you can.
Lady Bird (2017)
Call Me Lady Bird
Lady Bird in short: A coming of age story that takes place in 2002 Sacramento, California. The titular character is Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan-pronounced Ser-sha), but she prefers to be called by her nom de guerre, Lady Bird (I too would prefer that IRL, so much easier to remember). She has an emo brother, Miguel, a never-have-anything-nice-to-say mother, and a cool dad. This is a semi-autobiographical tale of director Greta Gerwig's own life.
Is there another term to use that describes a movie where the protagonist is around "that age"; you know, becoming more self-aware and transitioning from adolescence to adulthood, etcetera, other than "coming of age"? I didn't think so. So, this coming of age story follows Lady Bird on her journey through senior year at a co-ed private catholic school. She's poor and hates it almost as much as she hates the name "Christine", Sacramento, being a virgin, and so on. She wants out of Sacramento and would rather go to college out east, preferably New York, and not Davis - that's way too close. Lady Bird's private school classmates are mostly the rich, snobby type and nearly her polar opposite. The only reason why Lady Bird goes to this school, as her mother, Marion (the awesome Laurie Metcalf) likes to point out, is because Miguel witnessed something awful in public school. Like any awkward girl in a new school she tries to fit in by being someone she's not. Unfortunately, Lady Bird's goals transcend her actual circumstances. Hilarity ensues.
Two things you'll LIKE about "Lady Bird": 1) It's dry sense of humor. Example, "Don't worry I'm not gonna snitch on you," says Kyle. "I hope not, cause I'd kill your fuckin family," dead-pans Lady Bird. 2) Laurie Metcalf's version of your mother. She's Oscar nominated (2018) for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. Well earned.
Two things you'll DISLIKE: 1) Albeit witty and well-acted, the story is typical of most American coming of age films. Don't misunderstand, Ronan is brilliant in her role but avoid this movie if you're just sick of the genre. We've been there, done that. 2) Why the constant dissing of Sacramento?
The Shape of Water (2017)
E.T. Meets Splash
"The Shape of Water" in short: A mute woman has an unusual relationship with a strange creature captured in South America by the U.S. government.
It's the height of the cold war, circa 1950's, and tensions between communist U.S.S.R. and the U.S. are nearly equal to that of the competition between the two in the Space Race. Elisa and Zelda are janitors working the overnight shift at a top-secret government facility housing an amphibious creature that may give the U.S. a distinct advantage over the Soviets. Elisa, who is mute and communicates through sign language, forms an instant bond with the creature, who has an affinity, it seems, for hard boiled eggs. Zelda is Elisa's good friend, co-worker, and translator. The creature, however, needs no translator. It's an intelligent being.
Elisa spends her lunch hour in the lab communicating with the creature through sign. Witnessing these interactions is a scientist, Dr. Hoffstetler, charged with the creature's care. The man overseeing the entire secret government discovery is the creepy Richard Strickland, who reports to Five-Star General Hoyt. Strickland tries to convince his superior to mark the useless creature for death and dissection, a plan that doesn't sit well with Elisa and Hoffstetler. Hoyt has the power to make anyone disappear if he so chooses, a point that worries Strickland and influences his decisions later when all hell breaks loose.
Think of this movie as a cross between an R-rated ET (1982) meets an R-rated Splash (1984).
Two things you'll LIKE about "The Shape of Water": 1) It's hard to choose just two. The 13-Oscar nominations are well deserved. Everything flows nicely. Well-acted, designed, edited, directed, scripted, the list goes on. 2) Character actor Richard Jenkins (who is Oscar-nominated for Best Supporting Actor) plays Giles, a former alcoholic, current homosexual, down-on-his-luck advertising-agency-artist (whew) and is Elisa's friend and neighbor. He's awesome in this role and has one of the best line's in the movie (I won't spoil it).
Two things you'll DISLIKE: 1) If you're not a fan of Guillermo del Toro's unique style of film making, you will not like this movie. I am neither a fan nor a hater, but I still enjoyed the movie either way. 2) The subject matter. It's, uhm, odd (keep an open mind).
I, Tonya (2017)
Think Goodfellas If They Were Morons
"I Tonya" in short: The story of competitive figure skater Tonya Harding as told by Tonya and her henchmen: ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, bodyguard Shawn Eckardt (with apparent "training in counter-terrorism tactics"), and her mom, LaVona (who will not be winning any mother of the year awards).
If you're not familiar with why Tonya Harding and her thugs spent most of the mid-1990's as a punchline for a vast number of jokes on late-night TV, this is a good place to start...with a caveat.
"Based on irony free, wildly contradictory, totally true interviews with Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly" warns the title card in the beginning.
The "interviews" we see throughout the film are with the actors portraying the real people, with the idea, of course, that the actual interviews were conducted at some point. We also see clips from Tonya's bodyguard, a former tabloid journalist, and Tonya's mom (with a bird sitting on her shoulder that often steals the scene). Together, they tell the story of Tonya's life before, during and after "the incident."
"The incident" being referred to is the kneecapping of Harding rival, and apparent good friend, Nancy Kerrigan, during a practice session at the Cobo Arena in Detroit. Think of this like the Goodfellas (1990) if the Goodfellas were a bunch of white trash, moronic "boobs" (not my word) trying to pull off a hit.
Two things you'll LIKE about "I, TONYA": 1) It's funny! The story we saw on TV in the 1990's wasn't that humorous, but how it's told here is quite fun. 2) The acting (props to Allison Janney, who plays mom) the production design, the editing, the directing. Everything seamlessly works together to keep your interest from the very beginning.
Two things you'll DISLIKE: 1) A lot of the story is left out, apparently. I did some research after the film to see exactly how accurate this is. I knew a little about the incident, but nothing of the aftermath. Combine the film with some Wiki research afterwards for a more fulfilling experience! 2) Your feelings for the real people involved will change. I know that's vague, but it is what it is.
Favorite quote from the movie (Tonya to Jeff), "I really think you should just kill yourself."
Laugh Out Loud Funny
Ever since this movie was released it's had some sort of weird cult following. This movie is so bad, it's fun. I expect that's the reasoning behind the large following, so I suppose I can understand.
I've now made a special listing in my IMDb account for Awesomely Bad Movies. In the last two months I've see three movies that qualify for that directory (so far, this is not the worst one). Oddly, though, in addition to being atrocious they are kind of enjoyable in an abnormal sort of way. I mean seriously, in Sharknado a hammerhead shark flies through the sky and actually lands on a guy's head! How awesome is that? Plus, the dad from Home Alone is in it! Sure, he plays a sleazy alcoholic but, come on, he's the DAD FROM HOME ALONE!!! (RIP Mr. Heard)
The writing? Well, how's this for award winning dialogue: "He must have wanted a snack," says a shark bitten Australian dude.
"Shark's don't like vegemite!" responds witty a lifeguard.
Or, the biggest understatement of the movie, exclaimed by Sharnado's lead, Fin (pun intended I'm certain of it), "We gotta get outta here. Quick."
Well no shit.
When I was browsing Netflix, I noticed there are at least four more Sharnado movies just waiting to be consumed. I haven't seen those yet, but I intend on it. It's winter as I write this, so I'll need some cheering up as the weeks go by.
TWO things you'll LIKE about "Sharknado": 1) You'll see things you've never seen before in any other movie, that's for damn sure. 2) You'll no longer wonder what it looks like to kill sharks with a chainsaw.
TWO things you'll DISLIKE: 1) If you're a struggling artist, you'll be pissed off that a move like this got funding and ultimately licensed for release. If you're an actor, you'll be jealous of those who were hired on, saying to yourself, "That guy sucks, I could have done better!" And you'll be right. 2) The CGI (and there's a lot of it) is probably some of the worst you've seen. That seems to be pretty standard with these B-horror movies.