Silent Saturday: The Seashell and the Clergyman

1928 surrealist drama

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A dreamy love triangle between a clergyman, a general, and a seashell.

Surrealist cinema from Germaine Dulac from a script by Antonin Artaud that predates An Andalusian Dog by a year. There's a clear narrative and a character torn to pieces by temptation and desire, but the movie's paced like a dream with imagery that won't make much sense outside of the subconscious. The movie's often beautiful, filled with scenes utilizing camera trickery and wacky special effects. It's a must-see if you're into this sort of thing.

Artaud didn't like this movie as much as I did.

My favorite thing about it might be the way Alex Allin, who plays the clergyman, runs.

Oh, and there are boobs in this one. As I think I've mentioned before, I love seeing breasts in silent movies.

As a bonus, I saw Fernand Leger's avant-garde Ballet Mecanique from 1924 based on the recommendation of a friend. Wild stuff, that one, with a score that could drive people mad. Everybody in the room with me while I watched The Seashell and the Clergyman were upset with the music in that one. It was a modern thing. I'm not sure the original had a score at all.

Ballet Mecanique was as hypnotic as The Seashell and the Clergyman although they are two different forms of hypnotism. The former hits you with a barrage of imagery and leaves you little time to put things together. The latter moves as slowly as a dream that you can't get out of and puts you under this kind of quiet spell.

Murder on the Orient Express

2017 murder mystery

Rating: 14/20

Plot: The world's greatest detective and his mustache attempt to solve a murder that has taken place on a train.

That mustache is something else. I like when facial hair is almost a character on its own. I think I need to make a list some day, especially since those are enormously popular on my blog. Top Ten Best Movie Beards and Mustaches!

I like a lot of what Branagh has done here. His Poirot is pretty great, nailing this humor and misanthropy with the character that draws me to him. I like smart movie characters, and it's fun to watch Poirot do his thing. The most interesting thing about this movie is the moral dilemma Poirot finds himself in. He's in nearly every scene if not every scene, so by the time he's placed in this quandary, you can't help but put yourself in his shoes and try to figure out what you'd do in his situation.

The ensemble cast is great although there's so much of a focus on Poirot that they don't really become characters. They're just suspects and murder victims instead. It's a lot of talent to waste on suspects and murder victims, especially when they don't have all that much to do. In addition to that, what keeps this from being great is that the mystery itself is not all that interesting. As the pieces come together, you really don't care about any of that as much as you cared about how the train or the scenery surrounding the train looked, the cinematography and cutesy camera angles, and the choreography of so many characters in the confines of this train. But it's all so well acted and beautifully shot that you forgive it for having a story that doesn't really matter all that much.

When you really think about it, this one's super depressing, isn't it?

There's one great shot that I really loved that reminded me of a famous painting.

So is this a one-off vanity project for Branagh, or does he have more of these in him? It certainly seemed to set things up for a sequel, but is there enough of an audience for these kind of grand, slightly old-fashioned movies?

Descendants 2

2017 sequel

Rating: 8/20 (Buster: 20/20)

Plot: Mal, the one with purple hair, starts to wonder if she really belongs in the land with all the good descendants. She gets in a fight with the offspring of the Beast and Belle and goes back to the island, causing all sorts of problems when the others go to bring her back.

I didn't think this movie would ever end.

This adds Ursula's daughter. Now, I know Ursula died in The Little Mermaid. She's alive in this one though you only get to see a tentacle. That was enough to sexually arouse me, of course, but I wanted you to know that up front so that you're not disappointed. This also throws in the offspring of Gaston, another character who must have reproduced posthumously. And then there's Captain Hook's boy who, for whatever reason, carries a fake hook around. I guess it's not determined what happens to Hook at the end of Peter Pan, is it?

I'm praying that Mr. Smee's children are in Descendants 3.

There's something off with the message of this movie. I don't like how it categorizes people into these two categories--villains and people who aren't villains. Thematically, this seems to make an argument that there is a lot of gray area, but when you really look at it, some of these characters--the principal villains in this--are trapped by circumstances they can't really seem to control. That makes the whole thing seem unfair, and I don't like it.

This movie has a talking dog. At one point, it says, "Amazeballs."

After this was over, I asked Buster if she thought Disney spent more on these movies or on their nightly fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom. She didn't seem to have a clue what I was asking. You just can't talk to some people.

Some guy named Thomas Doherty plays Captain Hook's son, Harry, and he's either got a naturally colorful face or he's wearing loads of makeup. His performance is so over-the-top and campy that I couldn't take my eyes off him. 

Seriously, I've spent way too much time watching and writing about these movies this weekend. I have to find something else to do now.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

2017 comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A surgeon is faced with a dilemma when a teenager he's befriended starts to get creepy.

Yorgos Lanthimos, it seems, can only make one type of movie, and if you've seen Dogtooth or The Lobster, you know what you're getting into with The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The dialogue is stiff, lifeless; the storytelling is enigmatic; the mood is cold, almost sterile. The aforementioned earlier films (I'm not talking about Alps, by the way, because I don't really remember it) are a little more otherworldly. They only sort of feel like they can take place in our world. This one is firmly in our world though with a bit of something like magical realism. There are odd moments, and in typical Lanthimos fashion, they go unexplained.

Something unexplained--the symbolism of French fries. When you see this movie, let's have a discussion about those French fries. I didn't get it.

The narrative is about as straightforward as it gets, ironically. You could tell somebody the story of the movie and describe the characters and fool them into thinking it's a typical psychological drama. I struggled with what the movie was saying thematically. Maybe we can talk about that, too, after we talk about the French fries. I'm also not up on my Greek drama and only vaguely remember what this whole "sacred deer" thing is all about, but I'm not sure that's all that important.

What might surprise a lot of people is that this is a comedy. It's an extremely dark comedy, but it's a comedy. The dialogue's got a lot of little gems, delivered deadpan by the actors. Lanthimos's comedic dialogue has this way of making every single actor seem like a straight-man looking for a banana-man. There aren't punchlines, just phrasings and collections of words that would make you chuckle if you weren't a little creeped out by how god-damn stiff everything was. Colin Farrell and his beard show no emotion even though you know he's filled with emotion. He doesn't even really show much emotion when he's angrily telling his son that he's going to shave his head and make him eat his hair. Nicole Kidman sometimes reminds me of a statue on-screen anyway, so she fits right into Lanthimos's world, stoically delivering lines about making mashed potatoes even though the couple's kids are dying. I'm also pleased that she's still not afraid to get naked at her age. The kids are both fine, but it's really Barry Keoghan who shines the most as Martin, the creepy kid. His performance is haunting, and if you insist on calling him the villain of the movie, he's a very good one.

There really aren't a lot of other characters in this. There are some who float around the hospital. Martin's got a mom, the dad's got a buddy who's an anesthesiologist. I think that's about it. That probably adds to the uneasy vibe.

Oh, and the score! Ligeti made it in here, probably making it seem that much more like a lost Kubrick movie with a little more humor. Oh, hell, we know The Shining had its funny moments, too. There are times when this was almost visual plagiarism, and the Ligeti sealed it. Maybe Kidman disrobing helped with that, too.

Watches and watchbands, hair of both the head and armpit variety, and the allusions to French fries. If it means nothing, the film still works as a character study of a guy in an impossibly bleak situation. And, as I said, a very grim and almost impossibly tense psychological drama. I'll tell you this--the guy knows how to grab you with an opening scene, and he knows how to leave you confused with an enigmatic final scene. It's well worth checking out if you liked Lanthimos's other movies.

This is the second theater experience this year in which a stranger has felt the need to tell me that she didn't understand the movie.


2015 made-for-television action musical

Rating: 7/20 (Buster: 20/20; Jen: fell asleep)

Plot: Descendants of Disney villains are freed from their island exile when the son of Belle and the Beast becomes king. The quartet of young villains--Jafar's kid, the Evil Queen's daughter, Maleficent's daughter, and Cruella Deville's son--have a secret agenda to steal the Fairy Godmother's wand. They all fall in love with each other.

I spent this entire movie confused about how some of these children were conceived. How did Jafar find himself somebody to start a family with, for example? The Evil Queen and Maleficent, I think, both died. With the good guys, I couldn't stop thinking about who knocked up the Fairy Godmother or who slept Dopey.

I mean, Dopey? Imagine Dopey having sex.

The whole thing makes me want to dive into the art of erotic fanfiction.

I tried to talk to Jen about this afterward, but she didn't want to discuss it. We had a fight, and it was the source of great stress.

More stressful were the songs in this, abysmal pop music that seems blaring no matter how much you turn down the television. There's even a rap version of "Be Our Guest" because that's exactly what the world needs.

I don't want to talk about the special effects. I'd have to spoil the climax in which Maleficent turns into a dragon and tries to kill everybody. Suffice it to say, the effects are almost Birdemic-esque.

Ok, I've spent enough time with Descendants. Except I watched the sequel and will have to watch other sequels because Buster thinks I enjoy them. When you have an 8-year-old, you have to pretend to enjoy some total shit.

John Wick: Chapter Two

2017 action sequel

Rating: 15/20 (Dylan: 14/20)

Plot: John Wick, brought out of his short retirement in the events captured in his first movie, finds himself with a huge bounty on his head. He tries to connect with his new dog.

As my faithful readers might recall, I didn't like the first movie very much. I didn't like Keanu Reeves, at least when he was talking, and I thought the action scenes were redundant and predictable. It probably should have kept me from watching this one actually. I had plans to watch the first one again because I was wondering if I had been unfair to the poor movie. See, the main reason I hated it, more than likely, was because there's a guy I don't like very much who really liked it.

Instead, I reminded myself of the details of Chapter One by reading a plot synopsis and then dove right into Chapter Two. I'm glad I did because it's really good! Wick the character grows exactly how much you'd expect him to--that would be not at all--but this isn't the kind of movie that needs character development. In fact, something like character development is just going to get in the way with something like this. This doesn't worry about creating characters or including an unnecessary love interest or even throwing in many twists and turns. With an action flick like John Wick: Chapter Two, they're more interested in lighting a fuse and then watching Keanu Reeves run around killing everybody in the world. Seriously, it's Weng Weng type numbers we're talking about here.

But most of it is so beautiful! They find such great backdrops for Reeves and the unfortunate men (mostly) and women (a couple) to shoot. This is in-your-face stylistically with scenes taking place in fairly-well-lit catacombs and even an art museum. With nearly every action scene, the setting gives us lots to see, and at times, it's unfortunate that blood has to get splattered on things. If the rest of this series is just the director looking for interesting places for Reeves to do his killing and then choreographing said killing, I'll be pleased.

This installment brought back John Leguizamo and brought in the great Peter Stormare, Laurence Fishburne, and, most awesomely, Franco Nero. Franco Nero! I also liked the mute female assassin Ares played by Ruby Rose. Maybe they should have gone ahead and made Keanu Reeves mute, too.

There's one line he delivers that made me laugh, but I can't remember what it was. It wasn't supposed to be funny though.

This is set up for a Chapter Three, and although Reeves won't be any younger or more talented, I'll still look forward to it.

The FP

2011 comedy

Rating: 9/20

Plot: Futuristic gangs compete for territory by competing in a dancing video game.

I thought this would be fun in a good-bad movie sort of way, but the novelty wore off more quickly than any movie I've seen in recent memory, and I ended up barely able to even finish. The slangy lingo of the dialogue is initially fun, and watching the dopey dance-off was a hoot the first time. The Trost brothers, the writing/directing duo, seem to be making a parody of 80's underdog sports movies, but other than the ludicrous idea and maybe the visual of those boots seen on the above poster, there's really nothing funny about it. The effort on an obviously DIY production with seemingly no budget at all is appreciated, but this isn't a movie I'd recommend to anybody.

Only the Brave

2017 fire movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: The true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots heroically battling forest fires.

Miles Teller has become a distraction. You'd think he could play a punk fairly easily since the guy seems to be a punk, but his character--at the center of far too many scenes in this--just doesn't feel natural. However, he sort of grew on me as this went on. Josh Brolin and Jeff Bridges grumble their lines as you'd expect them to. I'm growing a little tired of Bridges' gravelly thing. It seems like he's phoning in these roles the last few years, slightly adapting the same character over and over again. I want the guy to have another meaty, fun role. The rest of these guys are just sort of around. There are too many of them to provide adequate depth, and their brotherhood or whatever you want to call it starts to get a little redundant after a few fires.

Those fires sure look good. I assume there are no CGI effects, that the makers of this just started forest fires and then put some helmets on Taylor Kitsch and Miles Teller, and told them to run around and try not to burn themselves. There's lots of grit here, the actors spending lots of time covered in sweat and filth. There's an intensity to the fire scenes, and there's this raw, almost beautiful fierceness that almost makes you root for the blazes even though you don't get any cliched scenes where you find out about their families.

I'm surprised I haven't heard animal rights people throwing a fit over the scenes where they catch a bear on fire and have it run through Josh Brolin's dreams. I didn't like that, one because it looked too much like the cover of a European heavy metal group album cover (none specific) and also because it's the kind of dream sequence that can only happen in a movie like this.

This isn't a bad movie at all, but it's not helped by a history of these kinds of these kinds of true-story Hollywood pictures, like The Perfect Storm, that pits manly men against the elements while their significant others stand helplessly and worry about them. The story of these Hotshots is one that should definitely have been told, and it's an entertaining enough movie. Just don't expect anything new here. And brace yourself for a lot of Miles Teller.

Thor: Ragnarok

2017 superhero movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Thor has to save his glittery kingdom and probably the cosmos from his diabolical but kinda hot sister.

Well, shit my pants and call me Slappy because after suffering through the first two Thor movies--Thor and Thor II: Funky Elves--and swearing that I was done with this particular superhero/god, I ended up enjoying the hell out of this one. I was mildly interested after I found out Taika Waititi was involved, and even more interested after seeing some fun previews. Whereas I thought the other two Thor movies were stumbling, nearly incoherent affairs, I thought this one struck the right consistent tone from the beginning. At times, it almost seems like a parody of a Marvel movie, but it never crosses the line. Waititi, et al., magically succeed in taking these characters and their story seriously without taking anything too seriously. It's quite the high-wire juggling act, and a misstep here or there could have been disastrous. He nails it though!

What Chris Hemsworth does with this character has really grown on me, and I'm not just talking about the scene where he's not wearing a shirt. Hiddleston is still just about perfect as Loki although his whole trickster thing has to be getting a little old even for diehard Thor fans. I thought Cate Blanchett's character brought just the right amount of mayhem and dark humor as the villainess, and I'm glad that she got loads of opportunities to swing swords around and be a badass instead of just kind of standing in the background while henchmen did all her dirty work. Hulk doesn't do much for me, but his rapport with Hemsworth is fun, and I really enjoyed the scenes with Mark Ruffalo. Tessa Thompson's another strong female character, wearing almost as much cliche as she is armor, and Idris Elba shines as a character who was probably in the other movies but whom I've forgotten about because I don't have much of a movie memory. Oh, and Jeff Goldblum! What can you say about Jeff Goldblum? He plays some kook called The Grandmaster, and it's almost impossible not to have fun while watching him having fun playing this character. Finally, Waititi himself voices a rock character, and nearly everything that character says is hilarious.

This Marvel movie is as vibrant and colorful as Guardians of the Galaxy and much more consistent than the second installment of that franchise. The special effects dazzle, the action sequences titillate, and the pace makes the movie feel like it's about a half an hour long. In fact, I still can't believe this movie was 2 hours and 10 minutes. It moved so briskly, and it's the rare superhero movie that I actually wanted to spend more time with.

It's also the rare Marvel movie that I'd be interested in seeing again. I wouldn't mind revisiting Jeff Goldblum's trash planet, rewatching that fight on the Mario Kart Rainbow Road, or seeing Thor and The Hulk pound each other in the gladiator-style arena again. And I'd love to pay more attention to Mark Mothersbaugh's score, which I really loved. There's also a great use of "Immigrant Song," something I was sure was actually used similarly in Guardians of the Galaxy. I was wrong about that though.

As I watched this, I wondered whether Marvel superfans would dig it or not. I guess they like the Guardians movies, and those are pretty goofy. It seems that Thor: Ragnarok is beloved. I wonder if this particular incarnation of Thor is close to the comic book version of the superhero. Should I revisit the other two Thor movies again? Maybe I took them too seriously?

I'm rambling a bit, but it doesn't matter because nobody is reading this far. This was the most fun I've had with a superhero movie in a while, and while some nerds may disagree with me, this is better than both the recent Spider-man and Wonder Woman movies.

What are there now--22 of these Marvel movies? I'm starting to appreciate the vision and ambition of telling one story over so many movies and with so many characters. I'm still not sure how it all will come together because I'm not smart enough to understand what these Infinity Stones are all about.

The Shining (Redux)

1980 horror classic

Rating: 17/20

Plot: I already wrote about this movie right here, and the plot synopsis, in my opinion, is as good as it gets.

I got the chance to see this in a movie theater on my birthday, and I noticed that I didn't really give it a proper write-up when I saw it several years ago.

This probably won't be a very good effort either.

You know what I think I'm going to do? I think I'll do a numbered list. Those seem really popular.

1) This performance by Jack Nicholson might be my favorite performance of all time. I'm surprised he recovered.

2) I think this movie might have driven Shelley Duvall crazy.

3) I don't like the scene where Danny's finger keeps saying "Redrum!" in that weird voice.

4) Scatman Crothers has a sweet bachelor pad.

5) I really feel sorry for Scatman's character. He leaves that bachelor pad, flies from Florida to Colorado (Colorado, right?), drives that snow mobile thing hours to the hotel, and then gets axed in the chest and making the whole endeavor completely meaningless. What a way to go.

6) I know you think you've seen the scene with the guy in the bear/dog suit performing fellatio on the old gentleman, but you haven't seen that scene until you've seen it on the big screen. I might have left my seat in the theater and cheered. I can't remember.

7) What a terrific score, perfectly complimenting the unsettling quality of the visuals and slow-burn of Nicholson's unhinging.

8) What are the best movies about writer's block? The Shining, Barton Fink? I know I had another in my head earlier.

9) I really wanted to make this a list of ten things, but I'm struggling here.

10) My friend Josh sent me a link to this article several months ago. I had it in mind as I watched this time, and It's hard to argue with what the author is saying.


2017 black comedy

Rating: 11/20

Plot: The character Matt Damon plays finds his life turned upside-down when some unwanted visitors come over.

The Coens wrote this and then apparently realized that they had already made this movie and put it aside. That didn't bother Clooney though who combined it with another story and let her rip. While it all sounds exciting on paper, it's unfortunately a huge misstep for everybody involved.

The actors--Damon, Moore, loads of extras, and especially a scene-stealing Oscar Isaacs--do what they can with sub-par material, but the movie just isn't funny enough, dramatic enough, realistic enough, stylish enough, or complex enough to work. It's a movie with a lot of Coen-esque moments, just like you'd expect going in, but it feels kind of like a garage band deciding to cover the hits of The Beatles or something. Some of the right notes are hit, and some of the songs sound kind of like how the originals sounded, but there's still something blandly off about the whole endeavor. You can only almost tap your foot to the thing.

Most annoying was that side-plot with a black family that has moved into the all-white suburb. I know Clooney has the best of intentions here, but the social commentary coming from their plight just seems forced and ineffective. In a way, the very realistic--although it's kind of a Hollywoodized realism that feels a bit hyperbolic--drama that unfolds with that family is almost pushed aside to focus on the story with Matt Damon's family. The violent threats, harassment, and heartache the black family endures is marginalized because the white people's story is a little more unpredictable and entertaining. It's like, Clooney is saying, "Look at how terrible racism and bigotry is!" and then saying, "But never mind that, everybody, because Matt Damon and his sister-in-law are probably screwing each other!"

Now it's very possible that Clooney is smarter than me and that that is the whole point of his movie. If it is, I'll reevaluate. 

I saw this movie with a theater filled with elderly people, by the way. I'm not sure if it was some sort of senior discount deal or not, but it was a bunch of old people and then me. I didn't ask them what they thought of the movie. I didn't hear any of them cheering the racists on, so that's good.

The Babysitter

2017 horror-comedy

Rating: 13/20

Plot: A kid becomes alarmed when his babysitter invites her friends over for some Satanic rituals.

This is directed by somebody calling himself McG.

Here's another movie that made me almost unbelievably depressed. I watched this around my birthday, and most of my thoughts centered on how attractive I thought Samara Weaving was from certain angles. I felt pervy anyway, but then I checked her age and saw that she was born a couple months before I graduated from high school and felt even more pervy.

This movie is vivacious enough and almost entirely tongue-in-cheek, but it's burdened a bit by cliches. I kind of had fun, however, despite the depression felt from getting older while lusting after women who stay the same age.

Free Fire

2017 shoot 'em up movie

Rating: 11/20

Plot: A gun deal in an abandoned warehouse goes wrong, and a bunch of people get their asses shot off.

The previews for this promised an epic shootout with some characters who might be fun to watch shooting at each other. The shooting starts after about 20-25 minutes, and it doesn't let up until the very end. I'm not sure what I expected exactly. It's precisely what you'd expect a movie that is two-thirds epic shootout to be.

Anyway, the only thing I need to write about is that this uses John "Fucking" Denver yet again, making it the fourth movie to feature his music prominently. It's not "Take Me Home, Country Roads" this time. But it's still John Denver. I like John Denver as much as the next guy, but enough is enough.

I got the title right this time. In my last review to mention the John Denver song, I called it "Take Me Home, Country Road." I thought John Denver just needed one road to get home, like it was a straight shot from wherever he is in that song to wherever his home is. Apparently, he needs multiple roads.

The Addams Family

1991 comedy

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Shady people try to get their hands on the riches of the titular family. 

I nearly wrote about Daddy's Home again instead of watching this movie. I'm not sure what's happened to my memory. 

I don't think anybody really cares about my feelings about a movie that came out 26 years ago, yet the cosmos is forcing me once again to log in, steal a poster from somewhere, and type those feelings. 

Well, the joke is on you. And the cosmos. Because I don't really have any thoughts about The Addams Family

This is the second time I've seen Carel Struychken recently though. I suppose that's something, but only if you're extremely dangerous for something. 

I liked some of the performances in this. And I thought Anjelica Huston looked really good. And so did Christopher Lloyd. 

There. Are you happy, cosmos? 

Patton Oswalt: Annihilation

2017 comedy special

Rating: no rating

Plot: Patton Oswalt grabs at low-hanging Trump fruit and talks about becoming a widower.

I don't remember if I put stand-up comedy on this blog or not. Do I? Should I?

I like Oswalt and think he's a really decent human being and a very intelligent guy though he wouldn't make a list of my all-time favorite stand-up comedians. And I don't think this is one of his best stand-up specials. It's not one that I'd be interested in seeing again, and I didn't think anything here belongs with his best material. Listening to him talk about having to inform his daughter that her mother had passed away was touching.