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Nickodemus [2017] MUSIC

 

Corinne Bailey Rae - The Sea [2010] * * * * *

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My journey to this album was literally years in the making. It all began when my father purchased Corinne Bailey Rae's first album back in 2006, I assume after hearing it on the radio or having it recommended to him by one of his friends. I often saw the jewel case in his car when I rode with him to and from work and sometimes on our short excursions into the Midwestern countryside in search of specialty meals and good wine. Despite all of this I don't think I ever actually listened to the album. I may have heard it absentmindedly a few times when he was preparing dinner.

It took nearly ten years for that fruit to ripen and by the time I finally noticed Corinne she already had two or three more albums out. My father began "liking" her posts on Facebook and they began popping up in my newsfeed. I became fascinated with her. Soon I was following her too. I eventually bought her first two albums, her self-titled debut and her second album, "The Sea".

Her debut had some solid performances though I ended up feeling like it lacked depth, more concerned with viral success than innovation. It was a far cry from the fantastic debuts of some of my other favorite female artists of that era, namely Fiona Apple's "Tidal" and Norah Jones' "Come Away with Me". Because of Bailey Rae's limited commercial success on her debut album, I feel "The Sea" has been overlooked compared to the attention Apple or Jones got later in their careers.

The album starts out strong with a teenage anthem titled, "Are You Here". To me, it is a throwback to more innocent days as a youth, growing up to discover the opposite sex for the first time. Perhaps it mirrors some of Bailey Rae's own experiences as a young adult. "Are You Here" is followed up by one of my favorite songs on the album, "I'd Do It All Again", an ode to acceptance and forgiveness. It's a song that makes me feel good about my scars and also proud of who I am. The only downfall of "I'd Do It All Again" is that the chorus is only lifted out of its savory depths once, in a crescendo so passionate that it practically makes my heart burst at the seams.

"The Blackest Lily" is a soulful funk that sounds like it would make the perfect bookend to a low budget indie flick. It speaks volumes of Bailey Rae's vulnerability and willingness to accept what life throws at her. It is reminiscent of another song that comes later in the album, "Paper Dolls". The naked reluctance and frustration in her words, namely in the lyrics "Nobody told me I could do something. Nobody told me I could be something", makes me wonder if she is singing about her first album and its sometimes forced "poppiness" and lack of a real, bare soul.

"Closer", the song that saw the most mainstream success, is a sexy, raw tribute to the likes of Marvin Gaye and Barry White. It's a good song to play while you're getting busy or just slow dancing in the kitchen with your significant other while washing the dishes. I can understand its commercial success, simply because it's fun to listen to. "Closer" is followed closely by quite possibly the deepest song on the album, "Love's On Its Way". I think the song speaks for itself so I would like to include a lyric:

I want to be able to say that I did more, more than pray.
I did more than just spend my money,
Just writing letters, than just going out marching.
I did more than talking and saying the right thing,
Wearing the right thing...
It's time for an uprising.

It is a powerful statement that somehow captures the current climate of the world in general, that as a civilization our priorities are not in the right place and all we are doing is spinning our wheels. Bailey Rae really seems to have her finger on the pulse of humanity on this track.

The final song that really stood out to me was the namesake of the album, "The Sea". In it Bailey Rae paints a picture of lovers separated by the ocean and a quiet acceptance of the ever expanding distance between hearts. It is sweet in its sullenness and could be interpreted as both unrequited longing or the end of a long term relationship. I really enjoy the bittersweet harmonies "The Sea" washes up on the shore.

The other songs that round up the album, "I Would Like to Call It Beauty", "Diving for Hearts" and "Little Wing", are less memorable for me. I enjoy listening to them but they don't speak to me as strongly as some of the other offerings. Every album has its highs and lows, and though "The Sea" has very few low points, it sometimes gets lost in a hazy fog rolling in from the water, gray and mundane.

The album is capped by a cover of Bob Marley's "Is This Love?" and although I enjoy Bailey Rae's interpretation, I don't feel as though it is one of the stronger songs on the album. She does bring a certain soul and relevancy to an old classic, which I can appreciate, but sometimes these standards are overdone. She was playing it safe and looking for a breakout with this entry and it shows.

Overall "The Sea" is one of the best female pop performances I have heard in years. The overall theme seems to be acceptance, as I have referenced that word several times in this review. Now, my only regret is that it took me seven years to discover it, especially when it was staring me right in the face. Bailey Rae has made more albums in the time since the release of "The Sea", but I am almost afraid to listen to them. This album feels so right to me that I fear anything more could be a disappointment. I suppose I should give her more credit and continue listening. I hope you will do the same.

The sea,
The majestic sea,
Breaks everything,
Crushes everything,
Cleans everything,
Takes everything,
From me...


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jmunky [2017] FILM

 

Steve Jobs [2015] * * * *

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Steve Jobs, the film, gets 4 stars - I knock a star off for just a tad too much talky melodrama. Steve Jobs, the man, also gets 4 stars - I knock a star off because, well, though a product design and marketing genius, he was evidently a bit of a c*nt.


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Biscoito18 [2017] FILM

 

The Strangers [2008] * * * *

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"The Strangers" is like a psychopath's wet dream. Young and attractive victims, beautiful and isolated scenery, full of places to hide.

A bucolic tone permeates the whole film, always highlighting points of light, usually yellowish, without much clarity.

An elegant cinematography and production that always values the long line silhouette (light poles, champagne glasses, the perfect posture of the characters, trees with long trunks, tall candles) through a play of light and shadow.

A lovely indirect lighting by candlelight, a romantic color palette and a camera with slight movements create an intimate and sensitive atmosphere, combining with Liv Tyler's delicacy and extreme lightness. She speaks in whispers and walks as if she's always balancing her body like a tower swaying in the wind, measuring each step and little movement.

The director, Bryan Bertino (also directed last year's "The Monster", and produced this year's amazing "The Blackcoat's Daughter") is very intelligent in highlighting the weakness and fragility of the victims' bodies. They are ordinary people, made of flesh, in panic. And they're still lightly drunk.

They try to make plans, but they can't put them into practice perfectly because the focus here is on realism. Quite the opposite of "You're Next", for example.

The exaggerated slowness annoys at times and certainly harms a second watch, but the slow pace combines with all the other aspects of the film and is essential to build the atmosphere of that endless night of pure tension where the characters are forever hiding from figures in the shadows.

It can be annoying to the audience that the strangers don't immediately attack the characters. But considering their side, the fun part is mostly watching the victims and feeling the power they have over them. They don't have to be in a hurry and they will enjoy every second before ending their beautiful prey.

I love the scene where Liv is crawling slowly through the leaves on the ground in the middle of the trees as the strangers stroll around, play in a swing, with the night wind blowing through the trees and the indirect lighting creating an almost cozy atmosphere, like a beautiful and chilling hell.

The lights go out and the third act begins bathed in the trembling light of the fireplace, with the figures marking their presences by playing light notes on the piano and walking freely around the stage. It's their domain now and there's no point in hiding anymore.

The ending of this movie is one of my all-time favorites. If you've never seen it, look for the unrated version, because the two extra minutes in the final sequence make a difference.

[---BEGIN SPOILERS---]
The scariest thing is that there's no motive other than just knowing what it feels like to kill someone. Awkwardly clutching the knife, feeling the blade cut through the tender flesh of the belly as they hear the victims' cries of pain. It's as if they were losing their virginity as killers so that next time it will be easier.

Only at the end we realize that the real protagonists are the strangers.
[---END SPOILERS---]

"The Strangers" is a "coming-of-age" tale for psychopaths.

A film that cares about its atmosphere beyond the visual part, balancing all the elements, combining the rhythm with the colors, the lights, the volume of the lines, the light movements of the body with the irregular movement of the camera etc.

More proof that less is more when you know how to value moments of impact.


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Biscoito18 [2017] FILM

 

Rasen [1998] * * *

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Also known as "Ring: Spiral", "Rasen" is the forgotten sequel of the huge J-horror classic "Ringu" (Ring). Both were made by the same studio and released in the same year. But while "Ringu" was based on the novel of the same by Koji Suzuki, "Rasen" was based on "Spiral", Suzuki's second novel in his "Ring" series.

In fact, this film is praised for its loyalty to the source material, and although it was, unfortunately, a box office/critical failure at the time and was replaced a year later by "Ringu 2" as the official sequel to "Ringu", "Rasen" won two sequels years later: "Sadako 3D"and "Sadako 3D 2", the former based on the novel "S" by Koji Suzuki.

It means that "Rasen" has its own timeline within the series, which consist of:

1. Ringu
2. Rasen
3. Sadako 3D
4. Sadako 3D 2

Now, talking about the film itself, "Rasen" has a good production and direction and some great acting.

If you're a fan of that modern and blueish monochromatic J-horror photography style, you'll love the simplicity with which this movie mounts its images. Nothing spectacular, but the basics well done and well framed.

The story involves mediumship, grief, rejection, reborn, shame for not having the courage to commit suicide, a supernatural viral infection (?), world domination, and, as if this wasn't enough, the fear of being killed by the bitch of the cursed tape.

A big problem is the overly slow pace. It's a slow "slowburn" that, despite having a slightly more mature storyline (including more sexual connotations with a naughty Sadako), ends up being weakened by the repetition of the protagonist's drama in the first hour.

The film does a great job in the first act, especially in the delirious sequences. The autopsy scene is short but grotesque and kinda reminded me of "Hellraiser", and I loved the way the director George Iida conducted the "family reunion" scene without showing the wife's face and making the transition from dream to nightmare through the protagonist's expressions.

These little details lost in the middle of the film show that it is a work of someone with a brain and passion for what he's doing, even if it isn't a masterpiece.

In the third act, Naughty Sadako's plan begins to be clear and the film becomes a crazy roller coaster of revelations. The rules of her curse here aren't so simple, although the way for salvation is the same.

[---BEGIN SPOILERS---]
Watching the cursed tape is no longer necessary for you to become a victim of the "supernatural virus" transmitted by her. Like a cursed STD, Sadako transmits herself through sex in order to be reborn.

Madness, but fun madness! Miki Nakatani's performance creates an eerie atmosphere. "She still lives inside me," she says as she literally plunges the protagonist into the water well of her soul.
[---END SPOILERS---]

Brace yourself, because what comes next is the apex of megalomania involving the intersection between science and supernatural. Completely crazy stuff that doesn't make much sense but at this point I felt I had already received much more than I could ever expect from this film.

"Rasen" is an interesting crazy journey that begins slowly, eerie and filled with clichés of the genre, and ends up turning into a frenzied swirl of revelations and possibilities that leaves you not knowing what the hell you just saw.


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Swartacus [2017] FILM

 

La La Land [2016] * * *

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On the surface I do not like anything about this. It's something my wife made me watch, it's another lame attempt to resuscitate a mostly dead genre, it's cheesy, it's splashy, and the song & dance numbers are like cat scratch fever on a chalkboard.

However, there's one thing this film has (besides a whole lotta moxie and impeccable craft)... and that is mood. And mood is hard to do. Mood can draw in even the most hardened cynic. The right mood can make the phone book interesting. It can work on a 7 min short, and it can keep you awake during a 3 hr and 45 min epic.

Ultimately Gosling and Stone drive the mood. You could be bathing in a highly choreographed technicolor dream fart one moment, but those two rip you right back to their age-old dilemma the next. Follow your dream or follow your main squeeze? At some point nearly every human will face this quandary, whether they are 17 or 75... gay, straight or somewhere in between. It's universal and old timey... just like jazz, musicals and jingle bells.

I'm hoping y'all made the right decision. If not... that's ok too... there's always alcohol and porn to fall back on.


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jmunky [2017] FILM

 

Whiplash [2014] * *

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This film is not credible. Wouldn't a teacher verbally demeaning and physically assaulting his students be dismissed immediately and end up as a defendant in court (especially in the age of the camera phone)? Or possibly even with the court system bypassed and a baseball bat strategically applied to his face one night? Or maybe his house trashed and his car set on fire? You get the idea. And I don't subscribe to the allegory excuse; this film is garbage plain and simple. But it is shot and edited really well, I give it that, hence the extra star.


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Swartacus [2017] FILM

 

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me [1992] * * * *

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I had to give this another go after being so thoroughly, impossibly impressed by Twin Peaks: The Return.

Sometime around 1999 or 2000, I watched Fire Walk with Me for the first time. I hadn't much initiation into Lynch's northwestern bizarro-world other than the fact that I had seen and loved Blue Velvet and Lost Highway... and vaguely remembered a couple episodes of the TV show from back when I was in 8th grade. Boy, did I do myself a disservice there... wowzers.

Well, as you might expect, from that moment forward this film got itself onto a list of my most reviled films. Yep, right up there with the Star Wars prequels, Lord of the Rings, and Johnny Depp's Alice in Wonderland atrocity. In my opinion, Fire Walk with Me represented self-indulgent auteur trash of the highest order, and I never had the stomach to try and watch it again.

So I give this a whirl the other day, and I realize there are quite a few seeds of Lynch's brilliance planted here. And while there are some things that seem to date it (supreme Ray Wise face anyone?)... this was indeed a loose hand-drawn sketch for the Sistine Chapel painting that The Return ended up being.

And if I'm being honest, how could I not want to revisit the world of Harry Dean Stanton's Carl Rodd and his amazingly lucid dialogue swimming unfettered in a sea of hallucination.

Some of my favorite Roddisms:

On a particular trailer in his court: "More popular than Uncle's Day at the whorehouse!"
On his world class java: "Imma make myself a cup a Good Mornin' America... ya'll want some?"
On his world view: "I've already gone places... I just wanna stay where I am."
Speaking as a cipher for the audience: "Damn these people are confusing."

While not being as jam-packed with kooky characters as an 18 episode series, it still has its fun with an early version of Lynch's screeching Gordon Cole, a possible True Detective season 4 pairing (Kiefer Sutherland and Chris Isaak), and a waaaay too short appearance by a southern drawling David Bowie.

Most importantly what this film has that the original series AND The Return did not is a shit hot performance from Sheryl Lee. She is absolutely electric in this and oozes sexuality, vulnerability, and bad vibes in equal measure. Lynch essentially wanted a chance to have Lee as an over-the-top Thanksgiving centerpiece in which to revolve exotic side dishes and condiments around. As Lynch himself said: "I was in love with the character of Laura Palmer and her contradictions: radiant on the surface but dying inside. I wanted to see her live, move and talk."

Watching Lee's performance in this made me appreciate the final episode (specifically the final scene) of The Return even more. It is heartbreaking, creepy, and transformative in an atmosphere only Lynch could create.

And how could I forget killer Bob? That guy still gives me nightmares (especially when mashed-up with supreme Ray Wise face). Yet nothing will ever be as scary as the Sheryl Lee/Ray Wise "wash your hands before dinner" sequence. The fact that something like that could come out of a human being and be depicted that perfectly on screen shakes me to my core. And of course the ending is so ridiculously operatic it's like a Godfather whacking. Juxtapose that with the final episode of The Return and your mind will be tangled in knots for weeks.

The Twin Peaks saga as a whole is David Lynch's masterwork. I firmly believe that now. It bleeds in and out of all of his work like a pulsing vein. It's no longer just an annoying fringe player that kicked his "surreal" years into high gear... it's now the thread that binds his entire filmography together.


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Chad S. Walsky [2017] FILM

 

The Accountant [2016] * * *

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Look, I'm pretty fucking stupid.

I make bad decisions and would be considered immature by any measure. I drink too much, smoke too much, swear too much, and eat shitty foods even though it's all slowly killing me. I'm not "book smart" and often use words I don't quite understand. I'm a narcissist and say offensive things on a daily basis that come back to bite me in the ass. I rarely learn lessons and get angry at trivial things. On top of all that I pretty much dismiss anything that doesn't immediately hold my attention and have ZERO INTEREST in expanding my horizons or advancing my education. Basically, at my core, I'm a dolt.

That said, I'm pretty fucking awesome (just kidding - but I'm actually a nice guy despite my obnoxious reviews). See, I carry myself with a manufactured confidence that masks my insecurities and flaws. I'm quick with a joke and have a machine gun laugh. I have a glare that could level a building but a smile that can warm ya from head to taint. I never let anyone I don't know see me with my guard down, and always make sure everyone knows I'm in control (even when I'm a stressed-out mess). I drive a Mercedes (douche). But all of that is superficial stuff that simply masks the water-brained, oversensitive, dingus that stands before you.

But that doesn't make me a bad guy. In fact, maybe that's why I liked The Accountant so much. On its surface it's a sleek, violent, and hardcore '90s throwback with some brainy ideas and really hardass moments. But the more you look, you realize it's pretty fucking dumb. And that's ok... the world has enough geniuses. Sometimes you just want a cool dude who cracks ya up, gets ya drunk, and takes ya to the strip club (not every night or you'll end up snorting coke off a switchblade behind a Denny's with a biker named Buffalo). That's The Accountant in a nutshell.

By now everyone knows the plot: Jennifer Lopez's ex-husband plays Christian Wolff (cool), a math savant with autism who is just as proficient with a Desert Eagle as he is with a 401k. See, his daddy knew the world was a cruel place, so once their deadbeat mom was out of the picture he could get to the business of teaching his boys wicked throat rips and Kung Fu kicks. Classic dad stuff. Cut to years later and Christian Wolff (so cool) is now cooking the books for some of the world's biggest criminals and the Feds are hot on his trail. With me so far? Good. Because it gets really, really stupid. But also really, really awesome. And that's my conflict - I know this is a dumb and possibly awful movie but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have fun. I think that's what matters most. Right?

Now, in no way can I defend the compromised agent subplot as anything other than terrible writing. Or the 10 minute scene of J.K. Simmons basically explaining the plot just so we're all on the same page. Or Anna Kendrick's "acting". Or the reveal relating to Jennifer Garner's ex-husband's radio contact. Or the big twist that reveals the identity of the rival hitman played by Jon Bernthal (although that one, I LOVED). It's all hogwash. But like most idiots, they can still be a lot of fun if you just lighten up a bit. Maybe take your pants off or steal your neighbor's lawn furniture. Go nuts.

Anyway, let's wrap this up. At the end of the day you get an interesting concept, no superheroes or extended universes, lots of cool guns doing cool gun shit (no, I don't own a gun and never will, but thanks for asking, hippie), Jon Bernthal in Air Force One high-tops and BluBlocker shades, George Bluth Sr prison cameo, Jim James from My Morning Jacket solo tune, and a God honest good performance from Matt Damon's ex-wife that anchors the movie and gives it real gravitas. Sure, The Accountant is stupid, but it's a helluva good time.

Just like me.


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Swartacus [2017] FILM

 

Making "The Shining" [1980] * * * *

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This is probably my favorite "making of" doc of all time. One of the most fascinating (and only) looks into Kubrick's process. The stuff with Nicholson and Duvall is priceless. So interesting how Jack is just willing to go with anything and everything Kubrick suggests... and Duvall is just completely wilting. Can you imagine how bananas a Napoleon flick with Kubrick and Jack would have been?

This film really shows why actors always ended up loving Stanley no matter how much he fucked with them. He demanded perfection and was willing to wait for it as long as it took. Gosh I would watch a four hour cut of this... 35 minutes is just too short. I watch it to get inspired sometimes. I can't imagine ever being that patient with anything.

If you watch one of the YouTube clips of this from the original British station that aired it, the producer does an interesting intro talking about how Stanley wanted final cut of this (he excised all of the shots he was in) and 18 year old Vivian fought for her cut. The producer was ultimately given the decision as Stanley kept sending over two cuts and not telling him which was which. He picked Vivian's every time.


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Isaak von Seggern [2017] FILM

 

Swing Kids [1993] *

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Kenneth Branagh's character is the only tolerable person to listen speak in this entire film, and he is the head of the fucking Nazis.

Whoever would have thought a movie about people trying to fight against the Nazis by dancing like they were one of those inflatable seizure tube-men you see at car lots would be a good idea?!

There is this scene where the main character is Swing dancing in this club, and Christian Bale busts in with the rest of the nazi bois, but he (the main character) keeps on dancing, and it's supposed to be this big moment like "ungh freedom of expression or whatever" and you want to know what happens? Christian Bale kicks his shit in with a metal bat, and then he gets dragged off to a concentration camp and THAT'S THE END OF THE MOVIE! Hollywood execs in the 90s did not give a singular fuuuuuuuucccckk! Can you imagine today if Wonder-Woman 2 comes out, and the end of the movie is Wonder-Woman losing her powers and getting shipped off to a concentration camp? There would be rioting in the streets, or lots of pg-13 swing dancing I guess if we are all playing by this movie's logic.

How this is a movie someone wanted to make and I can now sit in my room and watch, I do not know.

This was like meant to be a big Hollywood movie that was probably marketed to a wide audience. No one in 1993 was like "Hey honey, why don't we go pay to see the new Kenny B movie about Nazis kicking people's teeth in for dancing! It's pg-13 so we can even take the kids! And the moral of the story is great for kids too. If everyone else is doing one thing, but you're doing something else because you know in your heart it's right, you better watch out because you're going to Auschwitz, buddy!" And this man's wife would take a long drag from a cigarette not breaking eye contact even to blink...

AND SHE'D WHIP OUT A METAL BAT TO BREAK HIS KNEECAPS BECAUSE THIS MOVIE IS SO STUPID!!!

They don't even try to talk with a German accent either. If you take the Nazis out of the movie and just replace them with some sort of shitty British officials the movie would actually make a lot of sense. But no instead all the Hitler Youth look and talk like they were snatched either from Southern California or the banks of the River Thames. There is no historical accuracy to this except that at one point in history there was a group of racists called the Nazis, and they thought Swing Dancing looked stupid, which if I am being honest, is not all that unreasonable. You have to be doing pretty bad when I as an audience member am in tears laughing hysterically as the main character is bussed off to a concentration camp.

Also, I live in a place that was built in the '30s and I can confirm, that my bathroom looks like theirs, but that's about it. The realism starts and stops with the Nazis and tile flooring.

There is another scene towards the beginning of the film where the main character walks into his kitchen, and his mom is doing dishes, and his grandmother is just eating a stick of butter. And the mom turns around and she is like,

"wow you should not be eating a stick of butter"

...and takes it away from her. And then the main character just leaves the room and that is the entire scene, and it is never mentioned again.

I have nothing to add to that, I just hope that when I am as old as that lady was, I too will be so far gone that I won't mind just literally eating a stick of butter because my grandchildren have so much brain damage they will be trying to stop the North Korean invasion by dancing like they just drank too much Dasani and listening to Duke Ellington.

wE cAn bE hItLeR YoUtH bY dAy aNd SwInG kIdS bY nIgHt!

fuck off and die


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