Atomic Blonde

2017 spy thriller

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Spies clash as the Berlin Wall comes down.

I don't pop in spy movies very often because they confuse me. Atomic Blonde definitely confused me. My son makes fun of me because he thinks every movie I see confuses me, but I don't think this one was my fault. The music was distracting, there were some kids in the front of the theater who kept making noise, and the story wasn't exactly clearly told.

I was reminded of John Wick while watching this, and it turns out there's a good reason for that--first-time director David Leitch co-directed it. The fight scenes are easily the best part of the movie. It all sounds and looks painful, and you just know stuntmen are being injured left and right during the making of this thing. The fight choreography is creative, and Charlize Theron moves so well in them, a beautiful ballet of bone-crunching and face-shootings and key-stabbings. She can carry a movie as an action superstar with any action superstar--Chuck Norris, Stallone, Van Damme, even Weng Weng.

One fight scene that starts in a staircase, moves to an apartment, and ends in a car chase really stands out. It lasts for over ten minutes and appears to be one unbroken shot. They cheated, like Hitchcock with Rope, but it was enough to fool me. I was stunned by how much work had to go into that thing for everybody involved--the performers, the choreographer, the director, the sound effects dudes, the special effects guys. Very impressive.

The story could have used some work or at the very least included some footnotes or something so that I could follow along a little better. By the time the twists were revealed, I wasn't even sure if they were twists or if I just missed something from earlier. James McAvoy continues to have a hot 2017 with another great role, and the great Toby Jones in is there. Theron is ok even if the character doesn't have a lot of range for her to work with. I'm not sure range is her thing anyway.

And there's lesbianism! A lesbian spy thriller! What more could a guy ask for? Why was I even worried about the plot?


2017 movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A poet struggles through writer's block while his wife remodels his home that was partially destroyed in a fire. Unexpected guests wreak havoc. But good news! There's a bun in the oven!

This will go down as one of my more memorable movie theater experiences. There's a scene that erupts in complete chaos, and it's one of the most brilliantly choreographed bits of craziness I've seen in a movie in a long, long time. And I was thinking of the other people in the theater and knowing that they probably weren't enjoying this nearly as much as me, and I kind of got angry at them. I wanted to yell insults. I refrained. After the movie, a guy behind me let out a moany "Shit." I also heard a "What the fuck?" at one point in the movie.

I don't want to say too much about this movie. The religious symbols are obvious, and Aronofsky's unapologetically pretentious. He's also an auteur, and this is a movie experience like nothing else I've really seen. That alone makes it worth seeing. It's a movie that I think will sit with anybody who watches it for a long time, and that's whether they love or hate it. It's the perfect example of one of those love it or hate it movies. I doubt there's an in-between with Mother!

Jennifer Lawrence is almost distracting, but there's a purity to the way she looks that makes her perfect for this character. Her nipples make an appearance early on. An artsy-fartsy movie like this seems like a brave role for her at this stage of her career. Bardem is as great as he always is. There's a tired passion to his character, and although he doesn't quite have a physical rapport with Lawrence, I thought he was perfect for the role. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer are also good, especially in a scene where the former violently coughs. Kristen Wiig also pops in, apparently just to remind me that I can't tell her and Vera Farmiga apart.

I was looking at the cast list just now and noticed that somebody named Gitz Crazyboy plays "Hewer" in this. It's his only acting role so far, but he's definitely an up-and-comer. Nobody has a name in this movie; it's all philanderer, wanderer, neophyte, whoremonger, drunkard, idler, fool, and--my personal favorite--pisser. I looked up Gregg Bello, the guy who plays "Pisser" in this. He's been in a few other things, but he seems to make it into all of Aronofsky's movies. In Noah, he plays a character called Testu-col.

Casting director: So, Mr. Bello, what other movies have I possibly seen you in?
Bello: Well, I was in a few Aronofsky movies.
Casting director: Oh, yeah? Who did you play?
Bello: I don't want to brag or anything, but I played Testu-col in Noah and Pisser in Mother!

A great use of sound, sharp editing, and terrific cinematography makes this an absorbing experience, the kind of movie that grabs you and doesn't let go. This never leaves the one setting--a gorgeous but kind of ludicrous house--and we see everything unfold from Jennifer Lawrence's perspective. There's a tangible claustrophobia during some scenes; you feel trapped in this location. There was one escape--an exit door--but my eyes were fixed on the screen, and I don't know if anybody departed early or not.

I really don't want to say more. This is the type of movie where you just need to sit and stare at a black screen for a while to let it settle. It'll nauseate some while moving others, and I don't think I could even argue with somebody who said they hated it. I think it's probably going to be one of the best movies of the year, however, and unlike anything I've seen before.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

2017 sci-fi superhero sequel

Rating: 11/20 (Dylan: 4/20)

Plot: Starfucker (or whatever his name is) meets his daddy.

Everybody seems to be trying very, very hard with this one. I enjoyed the first installment. It was goofy, and it didn't always make sense, but I liked it for the most part. This one I nearly hated.

Kurt Russell was a confusing addition, starting with a younger CGI version and ending with something that looked like outtakes from Lawnmower Man. As with Thor, there's some sci-fi spiritualism that muddies everything up. The action scenes are almost intolerably long. The tone is inconsistent, ranging from way too wacky to way too serious. The special effects are often a little ugly although some admittedly are creative and beautiful. The humor doesn't work very well. The music is oppressive. There are too many characters. And people love that baby tree far more than they should.

I'm in a terrible mood right now, likely because I'm being forced against my will to write blog entries about movies I don't even like.


2017 horror movie

Rating: 15/20 (Abbey: 17/20)

Plot: Children are repulsed by a friendly clown.

I've shattered my personal record for watching the most movies called It in one calendar year.

It's rare for me to be writing about a movie that everybody is currently seeing. I debated not even doing it, just kind of rambling on for a bit about how I don't want to write this blog anymore and then clicking the little orange "publish" button to get on to the next one. However, I did enjoy this movie--both as a story and as a theater experience.

I liked the rapport with the kids, a similar rapport that the kids in Stranger Things have. At first, I thought their vulgarity was a little forced, but I thought about how I was as a kid when my friends and I were alone in the same decade these kids exist, and it was pretty spot on. One of the kids actually is in Stranger Things. I thought they all were actually, and I think I even told somebody that the next day. Finn Wolfhard has the best name and gets the funniest material. I think I connected with him the most because he kind of looked like I did when I was that age. Same socks and everything! I was really impressed with Sophia Lillis who really has a bright future ahead of her.

Bill Skarsgard plays Pennywise, and it's the type of performance that I'd imagine can drive a poor actor bonkers. It doesn't take that much for a clown to be scary anyway, but the way Skarsgard is shot in this--this little trick where they manage to make him sneak up on you even when you know he's there, clever angles--makes him extra terrifying. There are times when he can't quite walk that straight line between campy and creepy, but it's a horror character bound to be as memorable as any of those 80's horror icons.

Pennywise is more effective because he, like all the best villains and monsters, represents something, the clown being only one manifestation. And as fear incarnate, he's much more likely to leave a lasting impression than most horror guys. The child protagonists are mostly characterized by their fears--religious pressures, abusive fathers, bullies, slaughtered animals, missing brothers, puberty, and, of course, clowns. Their fears become palpable as Pennywise shapeshifts and trash talks, but their friendship winds up being more powerful. It makes the theme as heavy handed as the symbolism in a way, but it's a powerful and refreshing message nonetheless.

Steven King's work doesn't always translate to the big screen, but this one works. I don't have the memory to compare this to the television mini-series, but I can tell you that this one has more dick jokes.

War of the Planet of the Apes

2017 sequel to a sequel

Rating: 15/20

Plot: The ape saga continues!

In case you've forgotten:

I hated the first movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I planned on half-watching the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes but ended up loving it. And I actually looked forward to this third one. I halfway prepared to be disappointed, but I ended up really liking it, too. It was the first Apes movie I've seen on the big screen, and it was in a lot of ways a perfect summer blockbuster.

Honestly, I think I just like watching monkeys talking. In a lot of ways, I'm a very simple man with very simple needs. I'm a fan of the Ernest movies, for example. And some days, you just need to be entertained by talking animals. Or a talking Ernest.

I have to say this--I've completely come around on what Andy Serkis does. I always used to make fun of that and probably somewhere on this blog said it wasn't real acting, but I've grown to appreciate it. One, I think they've gotten a lot better. Two, it really does bring these CGI characters to life in realistic ways. The special effects in this movie aren't always perfect. You can see through them, if you know what I mean, at times. But there are times when I actually was fooled into thinking this was a real ape on the screen, and that is pretty amazing.

But as I said--I'm a simple guy. Maybe a more complex guy or a smarter guy wouldn't be fooled by that at all.

All I'm saying is can you imagine what those theater goers who were freaked out by seeing that train on screen for the first time would say if you showed them a talking ape?

This movie is awfully war-ish, and there are some parallels to current events if you stretch things a bit and allow the real world to bleed into this. There are harrowing moments, lots of action, and Woody Harrelson's bald head. Actually, imagine what early theater patrons would say if you showed them Woody Harrelson!

I guess more of these will have to be made as the bridge from Rise to damn dirty apes putting their hands on Charlton Heston. And this reminds me--I've not even seen all the original Planet of the Apes series. I should revisit those sometime.

Spider-Man Homecoming

2017 superhero movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Spider-Man battles Michael Keaton in a very expensive-looking movie.

I'm completely drained here, folks. I don't know how I can go on. It's almost getting to the point where I hate movies. If this blog is my personal hell, I think Michael Keaton's eyebrows are in the 8th circle of it.

Look at that poster, by the way. I think it might be the worst thing I've ever seen. There's so much going on there, and a lot of it is just so ugly.

A lot of this movie is a little ugly, too, although there were some things I liked about it. I like Tom Holland's version of Spider-Man fine even though he never shuts up. My comic book fan friend tells me that's consistent with the comic book character though. Some of the action scenes are well done although there are some sketchy special effects and some things that just don't make much sense at all. It's hard to care about anything going on in the action scenes because the movie's too bright and cartoonish for any of the characters to actually get hurt. Keaton's pretty good as a villain, mostly because he really knows how to work his eyebrows. And I liked the rapport between Holland and Ned or Holland and Iron Man. There are some funny moments. In fact, the comedic bits work better than the action sequences.

Other than that, it was just more of the same. I don't know how long it'll take the rest of America to be burnt out on these Marvel superhero things, but I'm just about there. Who's next? Another turn for Thor, right? I think he's got a sex scene with the Hulk in this next one, so I'll probably see that. And then more Avengers? This just is never going to end, is it?

Logan Lucky

2017 heist comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A pair of unlucky brothers try to pull off a heist at a NASCAR event.

Another mildly amusing but ultimately disappointing trip to the theater. What am I doing with my life?

Steven Soderbergh came out of retirement to make this movie, and I can't believe it was because it was because he was just inspired or moved by a muse or anything like that. Why couldn't he have given us something more like Schizopolis instead of another Oceans retread? This is almost a paint-by-numbers heist movie, dumping an intricate scheme into the laps of a pair of losers and having it take place at a NASCAR track. Everything's pretty much predictable, even the little flashback sequence which I believe was supposed to make me slap my knee and say, "Well, shucks! I didn't see that coming at all! Hot damn!"

I enjoyed Adam Driver's quiet performance, and it's fun seeing Channing Tatum continue to evolve and take on a variety of characters. Daniel Craig's performance is almost funny, more in the way it seems like he wants to play something that is as far away from James Bond as humanly possible. However, the script just isn't funny. It seems like all of the humor is based on the characters being from West Virginia and having funny accents. There's a novelty to the whole thing at first, but after a while, it becomes a little tedious.

Dwight Yoakam, as he always does, steals every scene he's in.

But I don't want to say anything else positive about this movie because the worst thing that's ever happened in a film is in this movie. And that would be Hilary Swank's performance as an FBI agent. What the hell is going on with her? She sounds like she had her vocal cords recently removed and replaced and hasn't gotten used to them yet. It's a monotone tough guy voice, all delivered while she just stands there stiffly and glares at things. It's one of the most surprising terrible performances I've ever seen in a movie. I'm not the biggest Swank fan anyway, but it's just shocking that something so awful would make it to the screen.

I think there's going to be a sequel to this which seems like a waste of everybody's time. Of course, this is coming from a guy who has spent ten years writing poorly about movies on a blog.

Wonder Woman

2017 superheroine movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Wonder Woman's origin story, but only because the world needed yet another superhero origin story.

Here's the movie that proves that a comic book movie with a female protagonist can be just as stupid as one with a male protagonist. Predictable and predictably dull, this thing just clunks along, flatly hitting all the notes that it's supposed to. There's big, big music, an oppressive amount of slow-motion action sequences, really spotty special effects, and lots of excuses to remind the theater audience just how long Gal Gadot's legs are. Scenes on Wonder Woman's home island or interdimensional planet or whatever the hell it was were boring, and the action sequences with the preposterous villain were cartoony and gross.

As a warm-blooded male, I enjoyed watching Gal Gadot and her aforementioned gams, but I wasn't convinced she's a good actress. I guess the role does require her to be completely emotionless to a certain extent, but I'm not even sure she pulled that off very well. The fish-out-of-water part of the story line, similar to that first Thor movie, wasn't clever or funny, only succeeding in making the heroine seem helpless or needy. Chris Pine is nondescript enough to not distract attention from the star of the show while David Thewlis adds a bit of gravitas with a role that should have been a little juicier, or at least a little less goofy, than it ended up being.

The day I saw this, my dad told me how great it was. It wasn't the first time he lied to me.

By the way, I've seen the previews for the upcoming Justice League movie, and it looks like a lot more slow-motion action scenes are lined up for Wonder Woman. So if you like seeing those legs kicking bad guys in slow-motion, you won't have to wait long.


2017 war movie

Rating: 17/20 (Dylan: 16/20)

Plot: Trapped Allied soldiers try to escape the titular city as Germans try to kill them.

More war movie hero-making on the big screen, but this time, I felt the humanity a little more. This was a visceral experience. You feel the claustrophobia, the gunfire, the plane swoops, the motion sickness on boats, the water rushing into cockpits, and all the rest of the craziness of war. That Christopher Nolan can make a film, and in Dunkirk, he concocts this perfect marriage of visuals, sound effects, motion, and practical special effects to create what end up being the most intense army man action sequences I think I've ever seen.

I loved the structure, three converging stories that take place over a week, a day, and an hour.

Now I've developed a pain in my abdomen, likely the result of this blog. I asked Dylan to finish this, but he refuses. "I don't know what to say, Dad. It's your blog."

Even my family has turned against me. I'm damned to write these blog entries myself, I guess.

Wind River

2017 drama

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Animal bounty hunter Cory Lambert is called on to help solve the mystery of his deceased daughter's murdered friend. He and an FBI agent who might be out of her element ride around on a snowmobile on a Native American reservation and get ready to shoot people.

This from Taylor Sheridan who wrote Hell or High Water and Sicario, but I didn't think it was as good as either of those. You really have to enjoy snow and violence, I guess. The snow is an interesting clean and bright contrast to the darkness at the heart of the movie. The mystery unfurls in some surprising ways until you get to the end of the movie and realize that it's kind of like most contemporary mysteries, like a completed Lego piece made up of borrowed Legos from other sets. I had trouble emotionally connecting to anything because few of the characters--and certainly not any of them who had any chance of dying--were developed very well. The action turns violent and as bleakly silly as you'd expect from a Hollywood production before a message about missing Native American women on reservations is tacked on to try to give the whole thing some substance. Sorry, Mr. Sheridan, but it really seemed like it was all violence for the sake of violence. This was an entertainment, not a public service announcement.

I'm not the biggest fan of Jeremy Renner, and here, he's playing the exact sort of tough guy you'd expect in something like this. He doesn't do it poorly, but I didn't find the character that engaging. He was just a guy haunted by his past who was really good at what he did, but there are tons of characters out there like that. Elizabeth Olsen plays the FBI agent, a character who we're made to think is a strong female character but who ends up being nothing more than a love interest for Renner to save. I did like the character played by Apesanahkwat.

Nick Cave sort of moans over the proceedings, and the story is gripping enough to keep the average person interested until the end, but there just wasn't anything fresh or anything deep about this one.

Perfect Blue

1997 anime

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A pop singer has a bit of a mental breakdown after leaving her group to pursue a career in acting.

This flows like an animated David Lynch movie. I'm not a fan of anime, but the style of the storytelling and the use of an unreliable narration keeps things interesting. It's definitely a very adult cartoon as there is a very graphic rape scene, so you should watch this with your seven-year-old daughter like I did.

I feel like I'd need to watch this again, get some more saliva in there in order to help unravel what is fantasy, hallucination, and reality in Mima's story.

This was directed by Satoshi Kon who made Paprika, another rare anime movie that I enjoyed, at least more than my brother did. I don't know. Maybe I would like anime more if I watched it more often.


2015 artsy horror-ish film

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A young boy grows up with the types of questions that all young boys have. Why are there only mothers and boys on this island? Why do we all have to go to the hospital? Why are you and all those other ladies rolling around naked in the mud together, Mommy? Why doesn't anybody care about that dead kid? Wait a second--am I pregnant?

Quiet, bemusing, and visually poetic, this is a film that grabs at you and keeps you intrigued until the finale. Since I didn't understand what it was getting at, I'm going to go with the "It's open to interpretation" analysis, though I do have my own ideas. Of course, I can say that I have my own ideas even if I don't and get away with it for a few reasons:

1) Nobody reads this.
2) Anybody reading this is unlikely to call me on it, probably because this isn't a widely-seen movie.
3) If I am called on it, I am really good at just making crap up. I'd start with feminism and go from there.

I don't know director Lucile Hadzihalilovic other than she's got a whopper of a name and that Evolution was her first movie in 11 years. Oh, and she co-wrote Enter the Void with Gaspar Noe.

The Wave

2015 Norwegian disaster movie

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Fjord mayhem!

What the hell am I doing with my life? I saw this on Netflix and thought I remembered reading about it being really good. The only thing it proves is that Norwegians can make disaster movies just as dumb as Americans can.

I lost interest in the characters and the plot, and I got frustrated because the actress--Ane Dahl Torp--looked a little like Nicole Kidman but was never naked.

The director's name is appropriate. It's Roar Uthaug which is actually Norwegian for "Loud Blockbuster." You can look that up if you want, but I'd rather you just trust me that it's accurate information.

Silent Saturday: A Man There Was

1917 Swedish drama

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A guy boats away to look for food for his town during war times. He gets himself captured, and by the time he returns, his family is gone. He lives a bitter life until something happens which requires him to decide between revenge and forgiveness.

This is based on a poetic work by Henrik Ibsen. Ibsen is considered one of the greats, but let's see the fucker write a plot synopsis that well.

This is the second recent Silent Saturday featuring the work of Victor Sjostrom, a guy who must have been a blast at parties. This, according to Wikipedia, is "the start of the golden age of Swedish silent film." It's good, featuring great landscape and waterscapes typical of Sjostrom's best work. I liked the character so much that I talked about this movie the next day with my 7th grade students. They didn't give a shit.

As good as this movie is, it certainly has some ugly poster choices. Which is worse--the one above or this thing?

I should have watched this during my famous "Man" movie streak! I like to bring that up whenever possible because it's the only thing I really have to be proud of with this movie blog. I certainly can't be proud of doing this for more years than I've had readers. That should probably be a source of great shame actually.

Haunted Honeymoon

1986 comedy

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Read the title.

This film that killed Gilda Radner isn't funny, and I don't know why I made it to the end of it. I guess I was in the mood to hear Gene Wilder screaming about something, but he seems really tired here, as if directing and acting at the same time took too much out of him. Tommy Wiseau seems to have no problem doing it though.

When I saw that this movie was the next one that I had to write about, I very nearly decided to delete the blog and toss my laptop into the backyard. Like Sisyphus and his stupid rock, I just can't stop doing this. I'm exactly like a Sisyphus who is uncomfortably aroused at the sight of Dom DeLuise in a dress.

This is a comedy that I didn't even consider laughing at. It really put me in a gloomy mood and ruined an entire Saturday. I watched it because it was on television, and I was interested in the commercials.