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Swartacus [2017] FILM

 

Synecdoche, New York [2008] * * * * *

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Life is a Rubik's Cube. You spend it beautifully crafting one giant panel of color, while simultaneously fucking up the other five panels.


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Swartacus [2017] FILM

 

Ida [2013] * * * * *

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Full disclosure: I am Polish. My mom's side of the family is 100% Polish and can be traced back to the mother country. I also grew up Catholic. My grandparents were fanatical Polish Catholics who made us go to Catholic school. We went to church DURING school every Friday and then had to be altar boys during mass that Sunday.

So maybe this film struck a bit of a chord with me.... I was always fascinated by the lifestyles of the Nuns that were my teachers. How did they get this way? Was it by choice? It couldn't be any fun living this way could it?

This film doesn't necessarily answer those questions, but it is beautiful. It is also dark and haunting. You start out rooting for an angelic cherub of a woman on the brink of taking her vows. You root for her to get wild with her crazy Auntie and try some sin on for size.

This is when the film grabs you, shakes you, flips you upside down and gets you to root for her NOT to sin... your soul starts screaming: "Run back to your safe, warm church cocoon, beautiful angelic woman!"

It does all of this in a scant hour and twenty minutes. Along the way there are of course ruminations on life, death and what it means to have free will.

I know this film won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film... but how on earth did it not get nominated for Best Picture? ...or at least Best Cinematography? This film is shot in gorgeous black and white. Each scene carefully constructed and meticulously framed. I found myself getting lost in every stark image. So much so that I would have to rewind because I missed some of the subtitles. But those didn't matter... this is a film that does not even need dialogue. Everything is poetically portrayed through visuals.

I love the way Director Pawlikowski frames head shots in the lower corner of the screen. Each shot of the angelic Ida seems like she is in a confessional booth. I love the way the characters in two-shots are almost suffocated with too much head room. Almost as if a malevolent force is pulling them down to the depths of the frame.... Or perhaps a different, equally as powerful force is continually looking down on them and making them seem small from above?

There are so many perfect shots that I won't ruin them all by bumbling through them here....

There is however one that will stick with me. An early morning shot of Ida and her long estranged Aunt entering a graveyard with a package. As they try to break through a rusted old gate, the sun's rays hits them so perfectly it's as if the hand of God itself is gently caressing them.

This is an immersive experience in film perfection and craftsmanship. Anyone with even a passing interest in the medium should take an hour and twenty minutes to let this breathtaking piece of art wash over them.


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Chad S. Walsky [2017] FILM

 

Collateral [2004] * * * * *

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"A guy gets on the subway and dies. Think anybody'll notice?"

Vincent - a great white shark in a $3000 suit - arrives in Los Angeles to carry out five contract killings. Max - a complacent cab driver with unfulfilled aspirations - happens to pick him up. Thus begins Collateral's bloody descent into the belly of Los Angeles for a night of self-discovery.

And murder. Lots of murder.

Michael Mann takes a standard cat-and-mouse thriller and elevates it to a propulsive character study. Vincent spews phony, defensive statements about how his work "is just a job", and props up his bullshit by referencing how little Max cares about the people of Rwanda (always justifying things, this guy). Max is so meek that he can't follow through on the urge to ask a beautiful attorney out, and lies to everyone (himself included) about the big plans that are just a couple of breaks away.

Frankly, both men are full of shit. Vincent talks about how humans are just specks of dust one minute, but flashes anguish after killing a man he seemingly just connected with the next. There is a tight close up of Cruise's face late in the movie that clearly shows Vincent's internal conflict. Cruise really does some nuanced work here, and it's always impressive how well he sells scenes of physicality. This is Tom Cruise's best performance by a mile, and proves he's more than just a walking grin who's tight with Lord Xenu. I just wish he'd challenge himself like this more often (or at least work with Mann or P.T.A. again).

But none of it would work without a strong sparring partner, and Foxx is up for the challenge. The early scene with Jada Pinkett Smith tells us everything we need to know about Max, and the movie wouldn't work without Foxx nailing it. Max has let his failings define him, and the confidence he once had is a distant memory. It's not until Vincent's inhumanity finally breaks Max, do we get to see a man capable of controlling his own destiny.

Of course what really pulls everything together is Michael Mann. Does anyone make the city a character quite like Mann does? It all seems so simple, but his shit BREATHES when it's on screen. He never lets his audience settle in or get used to patterns. A kinetic feel pulsates through every frame of this movie and really helps put the viewer in that cab. Every Mann movie seems to have at least a couple show stopping set pieces that everyone should see, and Collateral is no exception. Here are my three favorites:

- The shootout at Club Fever. Classic Mann. Tactical, authentic, and brutal. The way Cruise stalks through that club zeroing in on his target while the strobe lights flicker is beautiful. Organized chaos.

- The introduction to Mark Ruffalo's character, Detective Fanning. A blaring guitar riff, a hood mounted camera, a revving engine, and a tracking shot introduction to a murder scene tell me everything I need to know about this guy. He's a fucking badass.

- The jazz club scene with Max, Vincent, and Daniel (Barry Shabaka Henley). My favorite scene in the film. The reveal, and the look on the actors' faces, really takes my breath away. I never fail to be stung by that Miles Davis story. Brutal. And Foxx's forwarded apology to Felix towards the end hits you again. Perfectly constructed from start to finish.

Well, those are my rambling, barely coherent thoughts on Collateral. Lots of sound, lots of fury. But also a real examination of people coming to terms with who they are, and who they want to be. It does matter. We matter. Don't waste any of it.


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Chad S. Walsky [2017] FILM

 

What We Do in the Shadows [2014] * * * *

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"I think of it like this. If you are going to eat a sandwich, you would just enjoy it more if you knew no one had fucked it." - Vladislav the Vampire debating the merits of drinking virgin blood

Imagine if Christopher Guest decided to direct a season of MTV's The Real World, but instead of chronicling attention starved twentysomethings he examined the day-to-day exploits of vampires and cast Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords? That just begins to describe the batshit-crazy and laugh out loud funny What We Do in the Shadows.

Basically, four vampires decide to bypass the clichéd Castle lifestyle and rent a four-bedroom flat in New Zealand. But, instead of some Gothic nightmare chronicling a group viscous bloodsuckers, the film looks at more mundane issues like whose turn is it to wash dishes, and why won't Petyr (the 8000 year old Nosferatu who lives in the basement) clean up the bones and spinal cords strewn about. The movie does a great job of taking the piss out of almost every vampire myth ever put to film. Part of the fun is spotting all of the references from the vampire movies we've seen over the years: The Lost Boys, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Twilight, Interview with the Vampire, Nosferatu, Salem's Lot, and probably a dozen others. This is how you do satire, people.

I have no idea why it took me so long to catch up with this, but I'm glad I did. Great performances from a group of New Zealand's funniest people, some genuinely great special effects, and most importantly, funny and sharp writing that had me howling. This movie most certainly doesn't SUCK. Hey ooooooo!


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Chad S. Walsky [2017] FILM

 

The Hateful Eight [2015] * * * *

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I'm not even sure where to start with Quentin Tarantino's bloated, barbaric, brilliant, and blood-spattered opus known as The Hateful Eight. It's been a few days and I'm still digesting it. In fact, that's an apt analogy. It's like a huge steaming pan of the richest, meatiest, cheesiest lasagna you've ever had. Tons of flavor, perfectly cooked, and tasty as hell. But I wonder if the chef made too much, and just because it tastes so good should I really keep eating it? After a couple of days, and some Pepto-Bismol, my answer is a resounding YES.

There is no denying that Quentin Tarantino is a man of excess. From his running times, to the graphic violence, to the n-word drops, to his rambling scenes of dialogue, QT really doesn't like to be reigned in. Most viewers already know what they've signed up for when they sit down to watch one his flicks. But The Hateful Eight REALLY lets him indulge in ways that may turn off some moviegoers - ALL of his tricks are on display.

But a funny thing happens in between all of the exploding heads, contemporary music, rambling monologues and salty language - Tarantino made the most thoughtful movie of his career. Not a message movie by any means, but a movie with something to say. No spoilers here, but the arc between two characters is the most emotionally invested QT's had me since Robert Forster looked longingly at Pam Grier 20 years ago. The final scene left me smiling ear-to-ear, and confirms a beating heart underneath all of the graphic violence and Gunsmoke callbacks. It's interesting to see the two characters bond over a mutual HATRED of something and have it feel cathartic to the viewer when they act on it. Well, this viewer at least.

As for the movie itself, it's dynamite. I read QT screened John Carpenter's The Thing before they started filming, and I can see why. Lots of raised eyebrows and red herrings, a sense of dread over every frame. To say the characters have trust issues would be an understatement, and QT turns the screws like a true master. The score creeps up on you like the bony hand of the grim reaper, and then rolls over you like the four horseman of the apocalypse - it's a character on its own. The 70mm is truly glorious, but I would've preferred some more exterior shots truth be told. Oh well. The monster screen still works wonders inside the cabin though, particularly during a scene where Jennifer Jason Leigh is in the foreground, and Kurt Russell is performing almost a mini-movie off to the side. Its a goddamn hoot. The acting is great across the board, with Sam Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Walton Goggins being the high water marks. In a perfect world, Sam Jackson takes home an Oscar. His unfathomably cruel story to Bruce Dern could ONLY be delivered by Sam Jackson, and it immediately becomes one of the greatest scenes in Tarantino history.

In closing, I love the way a Quentin Tarantino movie reinforces my LOVE of movies. His passion is so clear it bleeds through the screen. Maybe he should mix in a salad once in a while, but I'll take a bit of heartburn if it means comfort food like this. A truly delicious meal by a 3 star Michelin Chef. More please.


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Isaak von Seggern [2017] FILM

 

Skyfall [2012] * * * *

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[*Spoilers*]

Yeah woohoo Skyfall

(Shoots a party popper)

I have been thinking recently whether or not the 22 films that were made before this one were worth it so that we could get Skyfall. And after about 1.5 second(s) of carefully managed deliberation which included drawing a timeline, as well as a ven-diagram, a graph, a pie chart and a meeting with the United States House of Representatives, as well as a "formal" meeting with Monica Lewinsky I have come to a firm decision that I think encapsulates the entire argument and compromises fairly in the favor of both sides.

FUCK NO!

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!

I would take five Bond films that are as amazing as Skyfall, line their kids out in the street in front of the parents, burn those little fuckers into a cookie crumble consistency, before shooting each of the adults in the back of the head like the diseased peasant scum they are, if it meant no more Bond movies.

Below is my very lengthy (holy shit I didn't even know this many words existed) actual real 100% grass-fed review, which is something I don't do often so without further ado...

Skyfall is here anyway and it's, in my opinion, one of the best action films of the 21st century. I really am not a huge fan of pure action films. I find most of them just to be dumb entertainment, however, Skyfall has won me over ladies and gentlemen. For the first time in the entirety of the series, I actually cared about the characters. I like You Only Live Twice and Goldfinger because they are so outrageous, but Skyfall actually has great character development and themes.

In my opinion, this is lightyears ahead in quality in comparison to Casino Royale. Craig has been in one pretty good very nice Bond film, and one not so good very water monopoly heavy Bond film, and it shows, because he really knows how to work this character now. He plays Bond as this grizzled, almost war veteran like guy, who is finally not a caricature, but a real believable human being that struggles with this monumentous job he has and that he isn't getting any younger doing it. I have never really been on the Judi Dench M train, but she gives in my opinion, an Oscar-worthy performance that is so multi-layered and convincing, that if the movie was all about her, I would have been just as interested. If Javier Bardem didn't outdo himself in Pirates of the Caribbean 5: Dead Men Tell No Tales, I would say this is his best performance, and that is still with Mother! in mind. He plays easily and by far the only villain from the Bond franchise that was even remotely menacing. The scene where he straight up just shoots that girl is horrific and unexpected, and he will probably not be outdone in the series for a long while.

The story is great, the cinematography, while not really exhibiting any sort of distinguishable style, is phenomenal, and there is very little seizure editing like in Quantum of Solace. The whole movie feels, at least to me, like the finale of the series, or at least to Craig's Bond. I was reminded of the weighty feeling that the last Harry Potter movie carries, so it's kind of strange that Spectre exists, and even more strange is that Sam Mendes was the person to do it. Killing M, while Bond proves that M16 is essential to the country's survival, and the series would have had a great melancholy sort of ending if they just finally stopped.

However that is all rather irrelevant, and I should probably get to what I didn't like about the movie before it gets too late. I am not a fan of the opening scene, as it is just too much. I'm sorry but you can't have me take your serious action movie seriously, and open it up with a sequence where you drive motorcycles on top of roofs, before jumping onto a train, where Bond is shot and falls a distance that would 110% kill any human being, Daniel Craig action man or not. It is still a cool and original idea though, so it doesn't really irk me too much. The other thing that makes me scratch my head, is the way that M dies. She dies from an off-handed bullet she caught in the previous firefight, from presumably some random extra. It would have been so much more meaningful if Bardem killed her in the church before killing himself. However for them to kill her period is a great step in showing that no character, even M, is invincible and that there are consequences to her actions, which is a first for the series.


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Reviews by Morg [2017] FILM

 

Following [1998] *

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As far as super lo-fi indie film noir goes, it's not terrible. As far as well written stories with a strong sense of character go, it's not good. Why is this in black and white? Was it that the camera Nolan apparently used himself was such a piece of garbage that he felt it'd be a better movie without color? Because aside from its gratuitous language, there's no color in sight.

Comparatively to his more recent work, we learn a few things about how Nolan has, and hasn't, evolved over time. The more I think about it, his strongest and weakest attributes are both present here. Aside from creating a good looking film, which this is not, he's become much better at drawing out, at the very least, a unique plot concept. Unfortunately, just as in this, the Dark Knight trilogy, The Prestige, and Inception, his only drawback is the lack of realistic or sensible script. He has become much better with visual direction, and I'm sure having much more money to play with is a huge reason why, but he hasn't improved much in the art of telling a story with actors. We also see his unhealthy obsession with twist endings began at a very young age.

I'd be down for him to re-do this now and see if he can actually make me care about something as unrelatable and bland as a guy who likes to follow people for people's sake. I think he plagiarized the idea from my 7th grade nephew's journal.


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Swartacus [2017] FILM

 

Song to Song [2017] * *

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Dong to Dong.

That was going to be my juvenile 3 word review of Terry Malick's latest, a wishy washy rehash of 2012's dud To the Wonder.

However, due to my undying devotion to Malick and staunch defense of the majority of his filmography, I will leave a few words and a prayer that this is the last of Terry's experimental autobiographical dalliances.

My take on the whole mess is such:

Malick has his own world in that only he and he alone can understand. It is a gorgeously shot parallel universe that some people love and others want no party to.

For me this world has two poles of extreme cinematic boundary pushing genius - they are Tree of Life and Knight of Cups. These are brilliant musings from a wise old eccentric commentating on his own life experience. The rest of his films (the non-autobiographicals - your New Worlds, your Thin Red Lines, etc.) exist in between these two poles.

Then you have Wonder and Song which exist as satellite moons orbiting Malick's pristine and pretentious little world. They are spin-offs... they are autobiographical micro-worlds so tiny that they only can be understood by Malick himself. It's on these droll little satellites where Malick deigns to comment on relationships, coupledom and all of his love triangle rubbish.

I personally do not care for these films (how many times can we see couples wordlessly roll around fully clothed on unadorned mattresses or in glorious fields of green grass?).

My personal belief is that Malick did this type of film the right way the first time - with his masterpiece Badlands. Any other time he has attempted to broach these themes I have been completely turned off (this includes Days of Heaven).

This film fails on many levels... but mostly in the acting. Rooney Mara and Gosling are horrifyingly bad. Fassbender and Portman are given nothing of substance to do. Blanchett is completely miscast.

I am liking this more than Wonder simply because it takes place in the Austin music scene and there are so many awesome (though extremely brief) cameos from musicians and Val Kilmer (Kilmer's very existence here proves Malick still has the impish sense of humor we saw glimpses of in Badlands).

The music itself is fantastic, though I don't understand the card before the film which states that the filmmakers wish you to "play it loud" - the songs come in 5 second snippets and blow by so fast they barely register.

Nobody involved here can carry a film like Christian Bale and we don't have a loose overarching theme like Tree (or even something like the tarot card segments in Cups).

This one is what it is, folks... and I hate to say that it is the "stereotypical Malick" his detractors hate him for... beautiful scenery poorly edited.

On top of that is the sobering realization that the best acting performance comes from musician Patti Smith, who shows more genuine emotion and realism in two 30 second scenes than Mara, Gosling, Fassbender and friends can summon in the other 128 minutes.


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Swartacus [2017] FILM

 

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan [1989] * * * *

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The first two R rated films I ever saw in a theater were Friday the 13th films (parts 7 and 8). My friend's mom apparently wanted to get rid of us for a couple hours and would handwrite a note to the theater manager allowing us into R rated movies. I was dumped at the theater nearly every weekend to watch Out of Africa, Hoosiers, Scrooged, Rocky V or the GoBots movie over and over again. I saw Out of Africa three times in the theater as a 10 year old and I was ready to rip someone's balls off because they wouldn't let me into the PG-13 rated The Color Purple. Anywhoo... all this changed a few years later when Brad Cordes' mom could stand our shenanigans no longer and chauffeured us to Jason 7.

I remember being really excited and still sort of scared by the hockey mask wearing psychotic then. However - this quickly changed with the arrival of Jason takes Manhattan a year later. I had moved from 12 to 13 years old and was starting to look at the world with a more cynical eye.

Therefore this film will always represent a sort of "coming-of-age" for me. It is the first time I realized there was such a thing as "unintentional" comedy and the fact that a "serious" movie could go completely over-the-top. This is also where I split off from many people my age and left the horror genre behind.

I've always loved comedic violence - the really, really cartoony kind. When Daffy Duck would get slapped and his bill flipped around to the back of his head... that was everything to me. At the time of my first Jason experiences I had also begun to "write" comic books with a neighbor kid. He had this whole world of made-up characters that he took extremely seriously. We would get in actual fistfights because I made the comics too "funny". He had an indestructible character named "Blockbuster" (he was made of cement blocks)... so of course I immediately made a character that mocked his character that I named "Asphalt". Then I created an episodic "crossover" comic in which Asphalt hit Blockbuster with one punch and in the next frame he was just a pile of tiny cement blocks. This enraged my friend and fisticuffs and hurt feelings ensued.

I now believe my actions were directly influenced by the scene in Manhattan where a high school boxing student attempts to box Jason on an NYC rooftop. Jason then "rope-a-dopes" him like Muhammad Ali until he runs out of steam. Jason goes on to literally decapitate the poor lad with one punch. Then his head flies off the rooftop, rolls down the side of the building and into a dumpster. The dumpster lid then slams shut for comedic effect. It. Is. Awesome.

This film has the all time greatest comedic kills ever. Jason causing blunt force death trauma via a pink electric guitar, Jason watching our Heroine getting an arm load of heroin and then piercing the thug with his own needle... thus inadvertently preventing a rape, Jason going into a sauna and killing a high school hunk with a giant sauna rock, and of course the severed head gag that keeps on giving (Jason eventually hangs the boxer's head in a cop car like an Air Freshener). I still find all of this to be unbelievably hilarious.

The unintentional comedy drifts further into uncharted waters as the survivors of Jason's grad party cruise massacre row all night in the fog only to magically end up next to... the Statue of Liberty!?? Then the film continues to pile on the layers of stupidity by having Jason swim to Manhattan and arrive conveniently at the exact same dock at the exact same time as the survivors?! And what happens 3 minutes after arriving in NYC to any tourist? The survivors get mugged and their daughter is kidnapped by thugs!? hahahaha

Hell I could write an entire review on the glorious wooden stiffness of Peter Mark Richman (a journeyman "that guy" who is a vagrant's version of Robert Stack).

So long story longer.... I think this rewatch is like finding the Rosetta Stone or "Rosebud" of my cinematic existence. All of my guilty pleasures and cinematic touchstones can be traced back to either this film or Raising Arizona (which came out on video around the same time and was also replayed 8 times a day on Showtime). It was a fantastically insipid time for film... a ridiculous nether region caught between Reagan's War on Drugs and the explosion of 90s independent film. Films like this will always inspire me and invoke the kind of pure unadulterated nostalgia that can melt my cold, blackened middle-aged heart.

As a fun coda to this rambling, inconsequential screed....

I will tell you what became of my short-lived comic book career. A few weeks after our dust-up, my neighborhood pal and I reconciled. Eventually I was allowed to help him with his little comic book universe again. After I lulled him into a false sense of security and he let me alone with his "intellectual property" again... I quickly resurrected my "Asphalt" character and had him punch his new Spider-Man knock-off guy so hard that he went through the earth and popped up in a rice paddy next to an Asian farmer in one of those pointy hats. As you might expect my buddy went full tilt apeshit on me, and I was banished to just playing with his muscle men toys (remember those?).

And with that... my comic book career was kaput at the tender age of 13. I then took up skateboarding for the next few years and worshipped at the unholy altar of Christian Slater's Gleaming the Cube.

Perhaps a rewatch of that is in order as well?


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jmunky [2017] FILM

 

It [2017] * *

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I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure leaving out the underage gang bang (as written by Stephen King) was a wise decision. Apart from the very occasional moment of brilliance, I didn't find the clown-villain captivating or scary. The most dangerous part in my mind was the rock fight, someone could've lost an eye. I was actually bored throughout most of the movie; I ended up fixating on the bits of popcorn stuck in my throat and nearly went mad as they wouldn't dislodge. Fuck you, popcorn, I've had it with you, it's over. The movie? There will be dichotomy of opinion. Lovers and haters. No prizes for guessing where I stand.


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jmunky [2017] CONFECTIONERY

 

See's Candies * * * * *

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I'm on the 5:2 diet. 5 helpings of cake and 2 helpings of See's Candies, per hour. I look like Marlon Brando on his island, except I don't have a harem/2 Oscar wins/an island. When purchasing See's Candies I always order the "John Candy Pack", which is a bulk buy. Make sure to enter secret code "FATASS" at checkout and you get 15% off!


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audreyv [2017] FILM

 

Dracula A.D. 1972 [1972] * * *

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"You're talking about black mass and that kind of jazz, yeah?
...So, why don't we give it a whirl!"

This is the type of film that sustains me... A bunch hip 70s youth peer pressure each other into performing black magic "for giggles". One of them, sporting a fabulous mullet, happens to be the great-granddaughter of Dr. Van Helsing, and wouldn't you know it, her gang ends up summoning Christopher Lee as Dracula. Lee does not get near enough screen time, and I totally zoned out for most of the ending, but the whole thing is still silly and fast-paced enough to be completely enjoyable.

The blaxploitation-inspired soundtrack is used absolutely hilariously; hearing it played over hysterical screams made my day. But the soundtrack is not NEARLY as funny as the CLICHÉ ANAGRAM SCENE during which I SHRIEKED. Again, this is a total Audrey movie and I could only recommend it to people who love garbage OR to Mitchell and Webb fans since the main guy who performs the ritual looks so much like Robert Webb at times it's amazing. I live.


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audreyv [2017] FILM

 

Sisters [1973] * *

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For a while I thought this would be the most genuinely watchable De Palma film I've seen; the opening was strange and funny and I didn't know where things were gonna go, but it all got pretty derailed an hour in which I suppose I should have expected. I felt the heavy influence of Hitchcock worked well, mainly when used for humor as in the silly usage of binoculars and private detectives. Until the third act there was definitely some restraint in style when comparing to other De Palma films I've seen, which for me is a plus, although I guess it rendered the film more generic. The ending does switch things up though and while I didn't enjoy where it went it was at least visually interesting.

The 70s are my personal favorite fashion era so it's always nice to see them in action. I didn't mind the split screen, and it's pretty cool that Bernard Herrmann agreed to do the music. Unfortunately I was just left very dissatisfied overall and I'm calling it quits; this was my last De Palma.


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Chad S. Walsky [2017] FILM

 

Ant-Man [2015] * * *

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"Ant-Man" is a rather enjoyable and surprisingly funny heist movie that avoids getting bogged down in too much Marvel Mythology. That was nice for a change.

The story is pretty run-of-the-mill (I'm pretty sure it's the same plot as Iron Man 1) but Rudd and Douglas are great, and the script has some genuinely funny moments. The vibe of the picture was more Guardians of the Galaxy than Age of Ultron and I think that was the best approach for the material. I mean, this movie has more in common with Honey, I shrunk the Kids than The Dark Knight.

Of course I wonder what Edgar Wright could've created, but that ship has long sailed. What we're left with is an interesting "little" Marvel movie that's actually FUN.


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Chad S. Walsky [2017] FILM

 

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films [2014] * * * *

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Video Vision.

That was the video store of my youth, and the place where I rented A LOT of movies in the mid 1980's. I can still remember picking out a movie and praying that the title or cover wouldn't make my mom say, "Put it back, weirdo." But as time went on, she'd just roll her eyes and let me rent ALMOST any piece of garbage I wanted (for some reason "Scarface" was a no-go, wtf?). I just had no idea just how much of that glorious trash came from a little studio called Cannon Films.

One anecdote from "Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films" sums up the company's philosophy perfectly: having just signed a fresh-faced American martial artist named Chuck Norris, Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus (who owned Cannon Films) were itching to get him into a movie ASAP. With Rambo still a hot commodity, the brothers came up with their own Vietnam vet wreaking havoc story called Missing in Action. So, they send some guy named Lance Hool into the jungle to make this opus, script be damned (the did have a poster). About 3/4's through the shoot the brothers are so convinced they have a masterpiece on their hands, they decide to save money and just shoot a sequel back to back. Boom. They send a new director, Joe Zito, into the jungle to make a follow up to Missing in Action called Missing in Action 2! Well, the new director gets to the set and starts to look over Missing in Action's completed footage. It's total shit. Poorly shot and badly acted even for Cannon. The director insists that if Missing in Action comes out as is, it will kill any chance at his sequel being profitable. So on the fly the brothers decide that the completed Missing in Action will now be a prequel called Missing in Action 2: The Beginning!! The yet unfilmed Missing in Action 2 will now be Missing in Action 1!?! What about the story you ask? No problem, they just make it up over the phone as they go. Bottom line, those movies made money. That's the Cannon way.

The movie is filled with crazy shit like that. These guys were movie-loving business men with an emphasis on BUSINESS. But, movies like Over the Top, American Ninja, Cobra, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Exterminator 2, Masters of the Universe, Kickboxer, Revenge of the Ninja, and 100 others helped form the tastes that I have today. Take that as you will.

Oh, one quick note: Cannon Films started by making a bunch of softcore "adult" flicks so the first part of the movie has more beaver pelts than a frontier trading post. Just a heads up.


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Chad S. Walsky [2017] FILM

 

Love & Mercy [2014] * * * *

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"I was standing in a bar
And watching all the people there
Oh, the loneliness in this world
Well it's just not fair" - Love & Mercy, Brian Wilson

Love & Mercy is the rare musical bio pic that doesn't give you a simple, glossy overview of an artist's life. Instead it submerges the viewer inside the subject's head, and shows us that being brilliant doesn't excuse you from darkness. The subject here is Beach Boys co-founder and musical icon Brian Wilson, and what a fascinating case he turns out to be.

The direction from Bill Pohlad is harmonious and perfectly matched for the material. It's impressive how seamlessly he melded two separate stories (the creation of Pet Sounds and the Dr. Landy years) into one great movie. The acting is solid across the board (Cusack, Giamatti, and Banks all do great work) but this is Paul Dano's show. What a layered, emotional, and heartbreaking performance that's never showy. I'd love to see him sneak out a nomination.

But I most appreciated the way the film dealt with mental illness. Flirting with genius in one scene and madness the next, it keeps the viewer teetering throughout. Exuberance and pure joy from a compliment, quickly contrasting with the paralyzing fear from the voices in your head. It all sounds clichéd, and maybe it is, but it's done with honesty and the emotions I felt were earned.

A movie I'll certainly visit again.


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Biscoito18 [2017] FILM

 

Kill List [2011] * * * *

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As in Quentin Tarantino's films, "Kill List" naturally depicts the daily lives of violent people, humanizing them and trying to deconstruct the idea that they are completely different from the rest of society. After all, a hired killer also has wife, son and friends. And he also worries about unpaid bills, domestic chores, and middle-aged crises.

The main difference is that the director Ben Wheatley tries to pass a more dramatic and realistic vision, without exaggeration, plastic beauty and iconic characters. Both in appearance and personality, the characters are ordinary and this is reflected in their homes, clothes and simple scenarios (but with excellent lighting work). This imperfection and naturalness is what makes "Kill List" so disturbing because it makes everything extremely believable, normal and banal, including murder.

Watch the protagonist's work here isn't like plunge into a world of style, full of pop references and nostalgic glamor. On the contrary. The characters know that what they do is wrong and are constantly battling their own consciences and relieving their guilt during violent breakouts. The highlight is the hammer scene that starts the gore in the movie in a frighteningly realistic way.

There is no happiness in their lives. There are only a few happy moments that are always covered by an eternal shadow of fear and anxiety that insists on putting an end to those moments as quickly as possible. Most shockingly, the characters seem to be accustomed to dodging hopelessness by focusing on day-to-day chores. If they stop to think, they stop altogether.

As the pieces fit together and the scenes become more devilish, at the same time, unfortunately, the film begins to lose originality and it becomes evident how shallow is the mythology of the villains and their motivations. The end, in addition to being quite predictable, is very rushed.

Recognized as one of the most disturbing films of this decade by many fans of the genre, "Kill List" is a harrowing film with a depressing and frighteningly relatable atmosphere about condemned souls who, in order to continue living, must believe that an absolution will come, even if deep down they know it is a lie.


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Biscoito18 [2017] FILM

 

Don't Look Now [1973] * * * *

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"Don't Look Now" is full of red herrings, scenarios/moments that blend reality with delirium and an odd editing that combines opposing moments and focuses on banal details. This may end up irritating some people eager to discover the ultimate mystery, but this film is completely focused on the path rather than the destination.

The twist itself wasn't that important, and in fact to me it was one of the most direct solutions to the mystery. What was really important was to build inside the mind of the beholder a dreamlike atmosphere. Like in a nightmare where you run after your goal (in this case, a vision of a dead daughter) but never reach it.

In addition, the director seems to focus on portraying, above all, the feeling of constant discomfort. An eternal yellow light over the protagonist's head highlighted by excessive focus on scenario details and reactions of the characters around (often unimportant).

Few films have been able to portray with such perfection, the sex between two people who have known and loved each other for so long. Fantastic scene that manages to convey the organic relationship between the animality of the sexual act and the ordinariness of the daily life of a couple.

The revelation of the killer's face is like a mockery of something so precious, so desired. The ultimate deception personified in the twisted image of something pure.

"Don't Look Now" is a huge paranoia that mixes mourning with mediumship, the strange with the ordinary, as it traverses the narrow and decadent alleyways and tiny bridges of a gloomy Venice, chasing a wolf wearing a red cape.


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Biscoito18 [2017] FILM

 

It [2017] * * * * *

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The feeling of "horror" is different from "terror". Basically, "terror" is the feeling of anxiety and fear that precedes a scary moment (a scare), the torturous anticipation of something horrible that is bound to happen. Your heart speeds up, your pupils dilate, your hands become cold and your hearing is sharpened. However, "horror" is the feeling of revulsion, the shock of witnessing something horrible that freezes your senses and squeezes your throat.

In short, "terror" is the fear of looking into the abyss, and "horror" is the petrifying contemplation of the abyss in all its horrifying glory.

Stephen King himself recognizes the difference between the two and even adds a third feeling: the repulsion. For him, the finest emotion is terror, followed by horror, and finally repulsion which would be the least noble sensation of the three.

Why am I talking about this? Because I've come to realize, by reading several reviews, that a lot of people still get confused with these emotions. Using a recent example: some people complain about James Wan's films that create a lot of anticipation and dread, but, at the time of the scare, they don't present a truly horrifying image and the scare itself is just a loud noise. This is because their focus is on the feeling of terror, and they do it extremely well.

Now some people are complaining that "IT" doesn't build their scares effectively, using the "right time". This film, despite having scenes involving the three emotions cited by Stephen King, focuses much more on the feeling of horror, on the contemplation of the creature in all its details and frightful tics, of its voice and in the horrible images that it forces the children to face.

Bill Skarsgard was simply magnificent playing the mythical Pennywise, the dancing clown, which until recently was still considered a cult villain, and now, thanks to his exquisite interpretation, enters the hall of the greatest and most famous horror icons of all times. Everybody in the room breathed deeply every time he appeared on the screen.

I love the fact that Bill himself was responsible for several small (but very important) features of the clown like excessive salivation and eyes looking in different directions (a trick made by himself, without CGI). I feel like a huge horror star was born in front of my eyes.

IT assumes a wide variety of forms, always embodying the greatest fears of its victims, the Losers' Club members, from the fear of clown, of germs or of scary painting to the fear of having to face and accept the horrible death of loved ones.

Speaking of which, Georgie's fate in the first few minutes is brutal. I was shocked. Pure feeling of horror that stayed with me throughout the movie. The crowded theater was completely muted at the moment. Chilling to say the least.

During the film, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) continues being a main element to create some of the scariest scenes. Especially when his brother Bill finds him in the basement of his house. Another extremely horrifying moment.

I loved the fact that the trailers, unlike what usually happens, have left out the most striking and scary parts of the scenes that have been shown. There isn't a single scene that has been fully exposed by the trailers. And that's very important because the trailers surpassed records in views and a lot of people (like me) abused the replay button. Wait until you see what happens during the slideshow scene.

All the compliments to the children's cast are well deserved. They nailed it! Completely credible performances, as well as the dialogues full of little sexual jokes typical of children of this age and moments of pure and beautiful naivete.

Everyone had their moment to shine, even the main bully played by Nicholas Hamilton. It's almost impossible to choose a favorite. They're all very charismatic and have remarkable scenes and quotes. But by the audience's reaction, the two preferred of the majority seem to be Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and Richie (Finn Wolfhard). People cheered in their scenes!

The impact of the creature's apparitions is valued by the intimacy created between the audience and the characters, especially in relation to characters with deeper fears like Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), Beverly (Sophia Lillis) and Mike (Chosen Jacobs). Every attack against them was more horrifying, and especially heartbreaking.

The production is rich and accurate when combining the tones of the bucolic scenery with the clothes and objects used. I was surprised to find that this movie cost "only" 35 million!

Obviously there're changes at the end of the film compared to the books to make everything less confusing and sexual. Although the final "battle" was still a bit confusing, it could've been much worse if they had tried to do what the book describes.

CGI is great and well done in most scenes, but unnecessary and/or messy in a few others, such as in a sewer scene where a balloon bursts in front of the camera, the creature's teeth in some shots, and especially in the final scenario that uses a lot of special effects. But in relation to the whole, these are small mistakes.

In addition, some scenes fall into the repetition of having the character saved at the last moment and more characters could've been killed, but as this film is just the first chapter (as the final credits confirmed), it's justifiable. Also, the creature is strengthened by the fear of the children, so it makes sense that it often appears only to scare them and increase their fear until the right time comes.

"IT" is like a complex nightmare becoming a reality. Excellent actors, a director who knows how to value what is important in the plot, a beautiful production, a striking soundtrack and at the center of everything, the rebirth of a horror icon through young and competent hands. A tale about the triumph of children's innocent love and friendship over the horrors of the violence and indifference of the adult world.


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Reviews by Morg [2017] FILM

 

The Great Gatsby [1974] * *

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The original Mr. Steal Yo Girl.


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Reviews by Morg [2017] FILM

 

Hacksaw Ridge [2016] *

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Firstly, the story of the real Desmond Doss is wonderful, and I mean no disrespect here. That said, I can't decide what Mel is trying to say? Is war glorious or horrible? On one hand, we get preached at for over two hours about avoiding killing at all costs, but on another, the climactic shot of the film is Andrew Garfield slow-motion bicycle kicking a grenade at some tricky Japanese. Aside from mixed messages, the war scenes seemed like more of an excuse to push the boundaries of desensitizing gore than an attempt to connect audiences to the treachery of warfare. It actually makes me like Braveheart less because I see how similar the tropes are. However, where Braveheart glorifies warfare for the right reasons, this doesn't seem to know how it feels about conflict at all. And Gibson projects this confusion by just giving us some full frontal violence. All the dangers of having a bloodthirsty warmongering director make a WW2 film about pacifism are realized right before our eyes. It ended up losing any touch of intrinsic emotional punch and just got stale.

I'm sorry, but I don't pity Doss here, at least not in the way Garfield portrays him as such a baby. There's a fine line between being a respectable pacifist and looking like an all out wuss, and Hacksaw Ridge is on the wrong side of that line until Doss turns into basically Christ, but his personality still doesn't quite get there. Besides, Jesus beat up a bunch of greedy people with a homemade whip anyways. More so, almost everyone seemed to portray caricatures of people from other war movies. Vaughn is brilliant, but the orchestration of that homage to Full Metal Jacket was unnecessary and a bit awkward if you're a Kubrick fan, and I definitely don't think of Stanley when I go to watch a Mel Gibson film, ever. In the end though, I suppose one could say there's some good camerawork, and again, Vince Vaughn absolutely rules.


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Reviews by Morg [2017] FILM

 

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou [2004] * *

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Somebody hit that QUIRK!!!

Wes Anderson shoots that kind of movie, and boy is he self-aware, in both positive and negative ways. I wanted to make portraits from every shot of this movie, gosh is it lovely, but it gets a bit distracting with how quirky everything HAS to be. However, I gotta admit that tour of the boat like an old fashion doll house made my heart flutter. Bill Murray crushes his role, but you probably already knew that. Owen Wilson is Owen Wilson, for better or worse. It's got a solid plot and a good script, but it drowns in its own style, and some nice character closure was lost as a result. I adore the guitarist playing David Bowie in Portuguese. It really helped with pacing to have him separate the acts so smoothly. This is dense with symbolism, rich in cinematography, and a bit full of itself stylistically, but if you want a movie that feels equal parts fashion show and night at the theatre, go for it. The thematic elements are neat, though famously classic. It kind of has an Old Man and the Sea vibe, but with more fun. Probably not as good as reading some gosh darn Hemingway though. I think of every older Wes project as the runway leading up to Grand Budapest, so I suppose I can't be too disappointed here.


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Reviews by Morg [2017] FILM

 

Frank [2014] * * * *

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I highly recommend this documentary about Radiohead and their upcoming release.


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Reviews by Morg [2017] FILM

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story [2016] * *

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It has all the good and bad of Godzilla (2014), including powerful visuals, a dangerous monster lurking in the shadows (Vader/the Death Star), poorly developed characters, completely unnecessary rabbit trails, and a plot fueled by convenience. The element of team intimacy and trust that the good guys have with one another comes out of nowhere and lacks the necessary sense of authenticity. Except for Jyn, Cassian, Krennic, and K-2SO, none of the supporting minor characters are given to us in a way that elicits attachment, which is why killing them off one by one doesn't give the audience the supposed punch it intends to. One may think that with so many characters in one movie, viewers should be satisfied that it hits more than it misses. The problem here is that though some of the aforementioned heroes do well, Disney's marketing department is already taking it too far by trying to elevate them all to a Boba Fettish-tier legend status, when they didn't really do all that much to begin with... kinda like Boba Fett, but without all the history of fan-based mythos and years of imagining Sarlacc pit escapism. I don't remember most of the other's names (also like in Godzilla), and the film would have done better if the blind guy and his big friend were omitted altogether.

CGI Tarkin is fine, and it's not worth a complaint. It's the best looking Star Wars yet, which is one of the main reasons I gave this another shot after seeing it opening night last year. And despite all of the annoying fan service scattered throughout, like C-3PO and R2-D2, and that whole Vader scene where nothing valuable happens, it tied in nicely with the greater overarching narrative of the series. The hallway scene gives me goosebumps, and should be considered one of the most iconic moments in the series, but I still would have loved if they had spent some time actually developing Vader's character, rather than just making him a one-sided villain. It's something you can only really fall into while making allowances for some pretty major storytelling issues, but for those millions of hardcore fans who love spending long chilly Saturday evenings jerking off to photos of the Death Star (you know who you are), it's probably a cathartic and wonderful experience (just like jerking off to photos of the Death Star). A script rewrite and cast reduction from being truly wonderful. The Prometheus of Star Wars films. And as my friend Jordan said, "It feels straight outa the EU."


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Reviews by Morg [2017] FILM

 

Jiro Dreams of Sushi [2011] * * * * *

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The documentary is a form of filmmaking which attempts to capture the essence of an important and valuable subject in its truest form for the sake of exposing the world to a powerful or wonderful part of its whole. It is not an attempt to be showy, stylish, or take on the essence of high art. In fact, the worst documentaries are the ones that make these mistakes. Rather, it is the rejection of the notion of being considered high art in order to showcase something the filmmaker, and hopefully the viewer, deem to hold a similar sense of value. Jiro Dreams of Sushi conforms to the nature of its genre in the most successfully formulated piece of documentary filmmaking to be seen by yours truly so far, and in its reflection of the subjects at hand, they share traits such as simplicity, purity, and excellence. Please, watch with your undivided attention, because this old Japanese chef deserves it.


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Reviews by Morg [2017] FILM

 

Arrival [2016] * * * *

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In his short story "Garden of the Forking Paths," Jorge Luis Borges attempted to reshape the paradigm within which we conceptualize time. He rejected the Newtonian notion that time flows linearly, from one point straight to another. Instead, Borges attempts to convince the reader of the existence of the multiverse, a system of alternating realities springing from each possible differentiation in the outcome of events. In one universe, I watched Arrival. In another, I scrolled through Facebook for two hours instead. In a third, I went for a long walk and met the love of my life. All three happened, but I only get to experience one from my current perspective. See Prismo's box in Adventure Time for a great representation. Where Sir Isaac Newton's theory looks like a straight line, Borges' appears much more like a cluster of lines going everywhere, each breaking off infinitely. He described this in metaphor to be like paths in a confusing and unsolvable labyrinth. One minor aspect of this would be that if we could understand reality from a perspective such as Borges', the past and future would cease to register as opposed ends of a line.

Arrival takes this singular aspect of Borges' thought and expounds on it in the formalization of Science Fiction, i.e. asking, "What would happen if _____?" The actors are emotionally engaging vehicles heading towards an intensely fun thought experiment put to a brooding and lovely score and pretty visuals. However, I'm getting really sick of movies being shot to look so metallic and bleak. That tone reminds of the stuff D.C. is making. I think it would pair nicely with Edge of Tomorrow, if you feel like getting wrecked by Borges 'til the sun comes up. I recommend.


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jmunky [2017] FILM

 

Bicycle Thieves [1948] * * *

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Get a grip, man. Someone stole your bicycle - get over it.


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Chad S. Walsky [2017] FILM

 

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. [2015] * *

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The Man from H.U.N.K.L.E. is filled with exotic locations, beautiful people, and international intrigue. It's also boring as hell.

I went into U.N.C.L.E. with modest expectations based on the lukewarm response and lackluster trailers. But I had been hearing it was a fun, old school spy romp filled with all the stuff that made the old Bond films fun. If anything, it made me appreciate the grim realness of the current Bond films more than I already do. U.N.C.L.E. just never found the right balance of humor and action, and just hoped it could get by on the charms of the game cast. It couldn't.

But so I don't sound like a total buzz kill, there was one flat-out amazing sequence that earned two stars on its own: the nighttime boat escape/midnight snack. Everything the movie tried too hard to do for 90% of its run time, it completely nails in one virtuoso scene. That was fun. The rest, not so much.

I love eye candy, but it wasn't enough here. Lame bad guys, low stakes, and way too many jokes that just fall flat (and also kill any tension the movie had been hoping to build) really put this is the pass category for me.


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Chad S. Walsky [2017] FILM

 

Spotlight [2015] * * * *

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Spotlight centers around the Boston Globe's 2003 Pulitzer prize winning story about the child abuse cover-up inside the Boston Archdiocese. That story led to the discovery of thousands of pedophiles across the world, and showed the lengths the church went to "take care of their own". That could be a turn off for some, but I urge you to see it. Like, right now. It's that good.

Part of what makes this film so exceptional is the avoidance of any agenda, or viewer manipulation. This is a movie about determination, dedication, and truth above all. There isn't one sensationalized moment in the entire picture and in lesser hands this could've easily turned into a preachy mess. If the movie tries to say anything, it's that real journalism is still vital to this country.

There isn't an ounce of fat on the crackling script. It NEVER lags and almost feels like a thriller, with direction that's assured but never flashy. The sprawling cast is as great as you've heard, and the deep supporting roles give the movie a real emotional wallop (the details from costume to casting are flawless here). There isn't a weak spot in the lineup, and I think Keaton's work here is even more impressive than Birdman. And Stanley Tucci is a goddamn national treasure. Give him an Oscar already. Just a flawless ensemble performance from top to bottom. I think it can stand right beside other great investigative films like The Insider, All the President's Men, Shattered Glass and even Zodiac.

In closing, Spotlight was a most satisfying and rewarding trip to the cinema.


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Chad S. Walsky [2017] FILM

 

Fifty Shades of Grey [2015] *

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I LOVE trashy cinematic smut. Movies like Wild Orchid, Body Heat, 9 1/2 Weeks, Color of Night, Dressed to Kill, Body Double, Basic Instinct and a host of others were exciting and dangerous for a pasty farm kid like me. Pure trash packed with graphic nudity and a lot of edginess. They were like action movies for my penis and I loved them.

I came across Fifty Shades of Grey on HBO and decided to give it a go. Bad Choice. Not only was it a poorly acted, nonsensical shitfest, it was less erotic than the blurry TV screens I used to peer at hoping for a random boob to show up through my parents blocked cable. Hell, I've been more riveted watching backroomcastingcouch.com. Safe, boring, and above all, stupid.

Basically some rich douche with mommy issues who likes fisting and buttplugs meets the only 21 year old virgin in NYC and kind of gets her to like bondage too. But eventually she just loves him for him and wants to skip having a rolling pin shoved in her anus. That's basically it. We're left wondering if these two ballbags are going to find happiness. We can only hope. *fart*

Considering the book was created by a TWILIGHT fan-fiction writer under the pseudonym "Snowqueen Icedragon", I guess I was expecting a lot more.


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audreyv [2017] FILM

 

The Brood [1979] * *

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There's a fascinating color palette at work here; light with lots of yellow, red and beige. Thus concludes my positive responses to this film...

The story revolves around a family experiencing a whole host of problems: murder, abuse, mental illness, etcetera... They are tormented by a tiny killer humanoid; later there are more tiny killer humanoids; it wasn't at all scary to me (which is a huge problem I'm having with this horror marathon so far!). I think a big issue is that none of the characters are that interesting aside from radical therapist Oliver Reed. Also I don't usually have strong opinions on scores but I found the music so bland and overbearing here. The story kind of comes together at the end but at that point I was already on my phone looking for a Gene Kelly movie to watch next.


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audreyv [2017] FILM

 

Creature from the Black Lagoon [1954] * * *

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Honestly who doesn't love paleontology?! A mysterious partial fossil is found in the jungle and a group of scientists travels down to try to discover more. There is a spirit of adventure and apprehension in the air as the team travels down an area of the Amazon River which, as they remind each other, has sat undisturbed for millions of years. There is a bit of science filler talk of course, but I couldn't help but enjoy it as it's all on subjects I study myself.

As you may suspect, all does not go well around the black lagoon! Two people are killed at the camp before the rest of the group arrives, which does concern the others, but honestly not as much as I would feel is rational. The general mood is 'Ah well I guess a jaguar got hungry or something!' Of course the real trouble erupts when the attractive science-minded young lady decides to take a swim. There is a lovely underwater scene as the men go after the creature; one aims to shoot it with a harpoon while the other tries to shoot a photo. From then on it kind of devolves into a game of cat and mouse that doesn't get wildly thrilling or anything, but at 80 minutes long this is certainly worth a watch for the classic-minded.


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audreyv [2017] FILM

 

Daughters of Darkness [1971] * *

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This was somewhat of an endurance test for me. The clear star of the film is the mysterious Countess Bathory played wonderfully by Delphine Seyrig, who apparently was the cinematographer, producer and director of an 80s documentary about women in the film industry ('Sois belle et tais-toi'), so at least I learned about that and will try to watch it soon. This movie is light on blood or visual horror; instead the characters sit and discuss murders and dismemberments, which I didn't find particularly thrilling. There are two curious plots at work, that of the countess and that of a young newlywed couple. Their stories intertwine with gratuitous nudity but I'll let you find out for yourself how it ends because, well, I didn't make it that far! A film for those with patience.


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Isaak von Seggern [2017] FILM

 

It [2017] * *

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There is a scene in this movie, where the cast of Stand by Me engages in a no holds barred "rock fight" with the bullies, but all of them are somehow magically impervious to taking a fucking rock to the head. Which is kinda how I would describe watching this movie. Being hit in the head with a large rock repeatedly, but unable to lose consciousness from the force or pain, forced to live in a painful cycle of throwing and getting hit by rocks in the head for nearly two and a half hours.

IT is the funniest goddamn movie to come out in theaters this year. Forget Lego Batman, forget The Little Hours, forget Detroit, this is the funniest movie, maybe of all time. Bill Skarsgard dresses up like a clown, runs a weed whacker through the middle of his hair, and eats a balloon to get the biggest forehead in cinematic history, knocking Ben Affleck into firm second place.

He then spends the first hour and a half doing inconsequential jump scares to elongate the runtime when each of the kids is alone, without any real sense of direction given to the movie until the last 45 minutes. This then being intercut with stranger things kid saying fuck and dick, so that all the 12 year old twenty year olds in the audience could just have a goof and a gaff and a half, namely the one sitting directly to my right who would do a sort of laugh-yell and full on clap like he just saw some AT-STs every time the kid made a "fucking your mom" or aids joke, which was more often than you might expect.

This movie is just unnecessary. In the blissful fictional reality where The Emoji Movie doesn't exist, if you were to ask a young not dashing with little prospects on the horizon, Isaak from 3 months ago what he thought the stupidest looking movie coming out was, he would have undoubtedly said IT. After seeing the film, he was wrong, but only a little bit. I rate this movie as highly as I do because it is so enjoyable, even if for the wrong reasons. Seeing IT by myself opening night is probably one of my favorite movie experiences this year, even with all of the people in the theater and their shenanigans. All of its attempts to be scary fall flat and gradually become hilarious as the movie goes on, coupled with the stereotypical done-for-the-trillionth-time teen melodrama, we get a real winner in failed horror and drama all around. There is a single shot in this movie that I found to be incredibly terrifying, but besides that, it is as cookie cutter horror as it comes. On the plus side, it is never for a moment boring, and I would actually happily rewatch it, but not because I found it effective in really any other way than it just being dumb.

Someday, many years from now, when my career as a year round Christmas themed porn director has washed up and I am penniless, I will move to Taiwan to live as a Buddhist monk. One day after I have been there for fifteen or so years, one of the young disciples (we will call him Pai-Han for the sake of this story), will run up to me and ask "Isaak, what was the cinematic climate like in September of the year 2017"? and I will sigh, look off at the sun set behind the valley that curves up into the mountains, and whisper "It was Bill Skarsgard dressed like a pedophile clown having a seizure while running towards the camera for a jump scare". Then I will turn to Pai-Han, grab him by his waist, and yell "YOU'LL FLOAT TOO" before football throwing him off the side of the mountain.

Pai-Han will not float too.

Pai-Han does not deserve IT, but it came anyway and it's being hailed by critics as the greatest achievement in horror filmmaking since Pocahontas 2.


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Isaak von Seggern [2017] FILM

 

City Lights [1931] * * * *

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There is something very wholesome about City Lights, that plays as the basis for all of the comedy in the film. Mostly it is Charlie Chaplin's performance as the iconic Tramp character, but I think it is also the very nature of the film itself and how it treats all of its characters. It's also how the film tells its story, as well as reveals its point, through its humor. Meaning the "gags" are not just there to be funny, nor do they slow down what is happening, but the characters and themes are revealed through its comedy instead. Charlie Chaplin was different from everyone else when this film came out and has yet to be even currently, contested in his brand of humor. Where the humor of Buster Keaton would rely specifically on the outlandish and highly dangerous stunts, Chaplin finds humor in taking normal everyday scenarios and then making them ridiculous.

The reason The Tramp is such a great character, and in turn why City Lights is so great, is because everyone can relate to him. He is just a regular guy who is trying to live his life one day at a time. Even though the film is silent, there is a great "line" (or intertitle) that The Tramp says to the drunk gentleman character when they initially meet. "Tomorrow the birds will sing", which I think says more about The Tramp than any realistic advice he could give to someone trying to drown themselves. You can tell when he says this, that this is something he has probably told himself many a time, and are words he lives by. A character that is poor, but trying to live life to the best of their ability with a positive outlook, is something I think a lot of people connect with because the character is so human.

So even when he does these rather ridiculous sequences, such as the scene with the boxing match, or the opening sequence, it's funny to watch and believable, because he himself is relatable. Not only is he relatable and memorable, but so is the drunk gentleman, and the blind girl, and her grandmother, and really everyone else in the film. The scene where The Tramp and The Gentleman are drinking, and he is pouring the liquor into Chaplin's underwear is so great, because it's funny, it's believable, but it also shows how wasteful and careless The Gentleman is, which are hallmarks of his character. So the film progresses just as much through the drama, as it does through its own humor, which is really quite ingenious. The other great example of this is that boxing sequence. The first time I saw this movie, I was so surprised that the "joke" wasn't that The Tramp goes down in one punch. Surprisingly, he manages to hold his own through simultaneously the funniest and tensest scene in the film. So even when he does eventually go down, it feels earned, and not just a predictable one-note throw away laugh. It's a great example of defamiliarization because I think most people probably see that scene and think exactly what I thought, but Chaplin subverts the audience's expectations and makes something way more fun and memorable because of it. We also see in this, after all the build up of him not wanting to actually fight, that he is not a coward, but that he stands up for himself and at the very least, tries to win the prize money honestly. We see through his actions that he really loves this girl, so much so that he would take a beating for her.

City Lights is all about people trying to survive in the city. Whether it's The Gentleman, The Blind Girl, The Grandmother, The Boxer, or The Tramp himself, all of these people are just trying to make it in the city. Each of them has their own struggles in the city, and that is what the film finds it's drama, and where Chaplin turns it into comedy. If you were to explain the film to someone who didn't know Charlie Chaplin, it might sound like a rather depressing film. A homeless man tries to keep a depressed drunkard from killing himself, who drinks so much that he can't even remember the homeless man, who must then struggle to pay rent for his blind girlfriend and her grandmother. It doesn't sound like a happy movie (even if it wraps up nicely), however, Chaplin is able to find humor in situations where there doesn't seem to be any, and that is why City Lights succeeds.


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