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?

Mother!


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.

It


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.

Dunkirk


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.

Evolution


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.

3-Iron


2004 South Korean drama

Rating: 16/20

Plot: An abused wife is whisked away by a young man who enjoys breaking in people's houses and doing the laundry.

Ki-duk Kim--director of Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. . .and Spring and Moebius--is quickly becoming a new favorite director. And if you want to see examples of what this blog looked like when the author gave a shit, you can click on those links and read other entries.

Kim's pacing and tone give this a unique--although very Asian--feel. There's a mystique that I wouldn't imagine is easy to manufacture. It's aided by dreamy cinematography and a lack of dialogue. In fact, the romantic leads don't say a single word to each other. Still, their connection feels very real. Actually, it might be authentic and moving because the superficiality of language doesn't get in the way. The final third of the film adds mysticism to the poetics; it almost becomes a romantic ghost story.

As with Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. . .and Spring, I feel like I need a stronger grasp on Buddhism to fully appreciate this movie.

Silent Saturday: The Penalty


1920 drama

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Lon Chaney's got no legs.

A dopey ending attempting to over-explain the main character's motivations nearly sunk this intriguing story with yet another impressive Chaney performance. He was the Daniel Day-Lewis of the 1920s, and in this movie, he actually had his legs surgically removed in order to take on the role.

I think I'd rather chop off my legs than write another blog entry. I've become extremely depressed.

My Life as a Zucchini


2016 French cartoon

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Zucchini makes friends at an orphanage.

These are some weird-looking children. I figured this would be right up my alley since it's both French and stop-animated, but although it's charming enough, I didn't really love it.

Nick Offerman's in this one, too. The guy's becoming ubiquitous.

The depiction of bullying didn't really work, and a lot of the sentimentality in this felt a little forced.

I think Emma watched this one with me, but I don't remember if she gave it a rating. It was years ago, back when she was a young adult. Now she's a middle-aged woman living with her cats.

Silent Saturday: The Wind


1928 drama

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A pretty girl gets her hair messed up.

How am I supposed to remember the intricate details of plots to movies that I saw over a month ago? Why are you people expecting me to write anything coherently here? I watch slightly more movies than the average person, and all the plots just sort of run together, especially if I try to cram weeks of movies into a stream of blog entries in one afternoon like I'm trying to do today. So if you want anything insightful, you should go somewhere else and just leave me alone.

I think I watched this because it was Lillian Gish's birthday. If she were alive today, she'd be around 125 years old, and I'd still probably want to have a sexual encounter with her.

The Founder


2017 drama

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Ray Kroc steals ideas from a pair of brothers and then builds an empire that likely kills millions around the world every year.

This very safe, breezy drama is worth watching though it's a bit generic. Michael Keaton brings his Cal Ripken eyebrows. They're villainous eyebrows which must be why he's being cast as a villain more and more. Here, he's a more effective villain than in the recent Spider-man movie because his eyebrows are more fervent.

My main gripe with this would probably be that there's no impact to the drama. It's hard to take actors like Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch seriously even though I liked them both. The whole thing's just a little too light. There's almost some exploration of McDonalds as some sort of new American church with juxtapositions of cross, flag, and golden arches shots, but Keaton's Kroc never really becomes the cult leader he could have been in this.

I did enjoy watching hamburgers being made rapidly, the crazy burger ballet. I wish I had been a live when fast food was made by people who look somewhat clean. I would have bumped this up a point if it included a scene where cows and/or chickens were being slaughtered.

Bad Movie Club: Things


1989 Canadian horror movie

Bad Movie Rating: 5/5 (Johnny: 3/5; Josh: 4/5)

Rating: 2/20

Plot: Fertility experiments result in things, the Canadian equivalent of monsters.

My only hope with this movie is that lots of people rented it because porn star Amber Lynn "acts" in it and then had to endure the opening dream sequence scene. At least her fans are able to discover that she can almost read, so that's something.

I'd wanted to watch this "infamous abomination"  with the Bad Movie Club Jockasses for a while now, and it was certainly worth the wait. Andrew Jordan got his one shot at writing and directing a horror masterpiece, and he delivered a giant piece of cinematic defecate with Things. Poorly dubbed and even more poorly written, it kind of festers and stumbles, completely unclear about where it wants to go and winding up going nowhere. The performances are exactly what you'd expect with a pair of goons named Barry J. Gillis (who was in the Bee Gees) and Bruce Roach leading the way. However, it's baffling performance by Jan W. Pachul, unfortunately with his only film credit, who pops in at the end as a doctor who steals the show.

This ends with the words "You have just experienced Things," almost like the movie is making fun of us for getting to the end. "Ha ha," says the movie, "you actually sat through this trainwreck!"

Bob Roberts


1992 satirical comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A right-winger folk singer runs for congress.

This sure was prescient, and that really depressed me.

Congratulations to Tim Robbins who manages to be about the most punchable movie character in history in this movie. He wrote and directed and starred in this thing, and he did the music with his brother David Robbins.

Dig Two Graves


2014 movie that I apparently watched

Rating: 10/20

Plot: A young girl befriends three guys with great tastes in hats as she tries to get over her brother's tragic death.

You'd better dig a third grave and put this movie in it. Hi-yo!

Ted Levine's performance almost makes this watchable.

I came to the old blog here because I felt like the universe wanted me to, but now I'm not so sure. Most of me thinks that writing blog entries about movies I can't remember at 2:35 in the morning is a terrible idea, but there's a part of me--my fingers mostly--that thinks it's exactly what I should be doing. I'm listening to Tom Waits' Bone Machine, an album that has been a part of me for 25 years now. My relationship with this album is almost sexual, and I love the thing more than even my cat.

I realize there's a misplaced modifier up there, but I'm too lazy to fix that. I'm writing at 2:35 in the morning, not not remembering things at 2:35 in the morning. I know that, you know that, and if you point it out, you're an asshole just kicking a guy when he's down.

So dig a fourth grave and put yourself inside it. Hi-yo!

Wool 100%


2006 Japanese movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Two sisters collect junk and sketch pictures, but their lives are interrupted by a girl who screams about having to knit.

It's been something like a month and a half since I wrote anything on here, but I've seen a lot of movies. This one is the exact sort of quirky thing I usually end up liking a lot more than anybody I know. The soundtrack's got more tuba than most people could tolerate, and it was likely that, along with the ear-piercing screams of the intruder, that annoyed my wife. She refused to watch the movie but was in close proximity the entire time, and commented more than once. I think I may have given the movie a bonus point because of that.

I like the allegorical flavor, almost like a clumsy fairy tale. I'm not exactly sure what it was I was supposed to get from the experience, only some vague feminist themes, but I did enjoy it very much. The highlight was an unexpected and breathtaking animated sequence that I had to rewind and watch twice.

Do you rewind a dvd? Is it still called that or is there another word for it? When I last did a blog entry, dvd's were still in their infancy, so I'm not down with the lingo.

Silent Saturday: It


1927 romantic comedy

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A shopgirl falls for the boss and attempts to use his goofy friend to get to him. Luckily, she's got IT.

This is what the Bananarama were singing about in that mid-80's "Venus" song.

Actually, I want to talk about something else for a bit if you don't mind. The Emoji Movie. I'm in a fantasy movie box office league where my league mates and I drafted four movies. I went with The Emoji Movie in the third round after seeing a preview and deciding it's just the sort of movie that would make way too much money in a country that elected an orange reality show host as president. Subsequent previews and a lack of buzz worried me. And then the reviews started pouring in. It was at an impressive 0% on Rotten Tomatoes; it's now shot up to a 6% which still, if I understand numbers well enough, isn't very good. I looked it up on imdb, and it's currently sitting at a 1.4 which makes it the 16th lowest-rated movie on the site.

I haven't seen The Emoji Movie yet, but since I live my life like I'm in some sort of self-enforced purgatory, I probably will. The thought has put me in a deep depression that I'm not sure I will recover from.

Today would have been Clara Bow's 112th birthday. I read a bit about her, and she seemed to be a complete floozy. Anyway, watching a Clara Bow movie for Silent Saturday made sense, and this is what I found. It's a decent romantic comedy, and Bow has an infectious enthusiasm that makes this movie, one that's pretty weak on story, a little better. She's childlike, and her character is manipulative. But it's in a cute way and she's a decent person, so you root for her anyway. A woman in charge for a 1927 comedy is nice to see anyway, almost making up for the laissez faire portrayal of sexual harassment in the workplace.

As much as I liked Bow's character, I enjoyed William Austin, the guy playing "Monty" Montogomery (the boss's pal), even more. He's delightful goofy, almost to the point where he's annoying enough to ruin the whole movie. There's a great scene where he's looking in a mirror, trying to decide whether he's got "it" or not, and says (via an intertitle), "Old fruit! You still got it!" He reminded me of myself, and that's probably why I connected with that character so much.

There's also a sequence filmed at Coney Island. I love seeing those terrifyingly dangerous amusement park rides in these silent movies.

I just looked at myself naked in a mirror. I don't have it. And my depression deepens.

Before Sunrise


1995 romantic movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Two strangers on a train meet and spend several hours walking around Vienna while having conversations that real people probably wouldn't have. They might have had sex, too.

Did they have sex? I needed a phallic symbol or a Hitchockian train going through a tunnel to let me know if they did. Maybe they'll talk about it in the sequel--Before Sunset.

I'm not the biggest Ethan Hawke fan in the world. He's too twitchy. He's twitchy here, too, but Julie Delpy kind of bleeds into him and makes him better. I think he does the same for her, too. The dialogue--though not all that realistic--is really good in this, but there's a great chemistry that this entire movie balances on top of that just really works. And that kiss on the ferris wheel, probably because they were turned on by remembering that scene in The Third Man? Man, that's really something.

I have avoided this movie for years, mostly because all of the posters for it look a little like that one up there. I expected to be a little bored. However, I found myself captivated--as captivated as the two characters were, maybe, even though there is even less of a chance that I've had sex recently--from the moment these two meet. They meander through the city and meet people and have conversations in typical Linklater ways, and through the process, we learn about love and death and time.

This is the second movie I've seen in a row where characters are walking around a city I've never been to. If I would have thought ahead, I could have made turned this into a Characters Walking Around a City I've Never Been To Fest.

I can't recall characters I've seen recently who I've connected with more than these two. Their story filled me with conflicting feelings of joy and melancholy.

I'll give the sequels a spin eventually. Hopefully, I'll find out whether or not they had sex.

Adrift in Tokyo


2007 buddy comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A debt collector offers to pay for a student's debts if he walks around Tokyo with him.

Quirky yet somewhat insightful fun from Japan. The developing friendship is lovely, both characters becoming more likable as the movie goes on. They're played by Joe Odagiri and Tomokazu Miura, both who do a great job of balancing the humor and the pathos. Their story's got a few twists and turns, some more predictable than others, and they meet a lot of eccentric personalities. The episodes work like non-sequiturs most of the time, charming even if they're a bit goofy.

At the very least, I don't have to go to Tokyo now. I've seen it all with the journey of these two.

This movie starts with a shot of a tube of Aquafresh toothpaste. I believe that breaks the record for the quickest product placement ever.

Silent Saturday: The Big Parade


1925 war movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Three young men enlist and shuffle off to Europe to fight in World War I.

War movies isn't my favorite genre, but this is a really good one. It doesn't seem all that difficult to humanize characters who are going off to war; it can be done with cliche and melodrama. Here, King Vidor humanizes a tobacco-chewing laborer, a stocky bartending bull of a man, and a rich kid about as naturally as you're likely to see in a movie from the mid-20s. Vidor takes the time to make these characters, their friendships, and their romantic feelings very real before he spends time dehumanizing war. Scenes where characters are bonding over a chunk of cake or courting with a barrel over a head go beyond just being cute and really make these characters authentic enough to really care about.

The first half of the movie has a heartbreaking romantic subplot that really becomes the central plot. It's sweet, the intertitles struggling to show us how much of an obstacle language is. John Gilbert is fine as our main character, a love-struck soldier, and Renee Adoree is just cute enough to fall in love with even though you can't understand a word she says. It's typical silent romance fodder, but it works here because it clashes so violently with the final hour of the movie.

That final hour is almost all war. Plane action! Explosions! Falling trees! The war strategy--marching through the woods and getting shot at--never made sense to me, but the scenes showing the violence and terror of the battlefield were enthralling. It really shows that contemporary filmmakers, like Mel Gibson with Hacksaw Ridge, haven't done much to improve on what was being done in this silent war drama. It looked like archive footage a lot of the times, but I'm pretty sure it was all movie magic.

There are lots of great shots and scenes in this one--the training, focusing on soldier faces during some marching, enthusiasm and apprehension and pride; a red cross cutting through the grays of 1920's film; a scene with Gilbert and an enemy soldier and a cigarette; a dilapidated town, maybe a set and maybe leftover destruction from the actual Great War; a zoom to a mother's expression; a line of silhouetted refugees; a make-shift hospital with streams of angelic light; a heroic, limping return that almost looked animated to me. So much stands out and makes the war and romance narratives, which are really nothing that we haven't seen in the last 90 years, something that will stick with me for a while.


Most of the intertitles for this movie were lyrics for "We're in the Army Now."

I thought this was early for the MGM lion, but then I remembered (or maybe I looked up) that its first appearance was before He Who Gets Slapped, a movie I saw earlier this year. It's strange seeing the lion without an audible growl.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?


1969 drama

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A marathon dance competition tests the limits of desperate participants.

Yowsa, yowsa, yowsa! What a cynical movie this is!

Is Bruce Derns hiding in every movie I see? I'm on a little two-movie Bruce Derns streak. It's a one-movie Red Buttons streak, and it's a one-movie Jane Fonda streak.

This is gritty and relentless drama, filmed in a way that I actually felt like characters dying onscreen were the actual actors and actresses being filmed as they succumbed. I don't think that's the case with any of them.

I enjoy looking at Jane Fonda and thought she was great, but I really liked Gig Young's performance. He reminded me of Richard Dawson, but with more yowsa.

I had doubts that disco balls existed during the Great Depression, but apparently, they were really popular in 20s dance halls. I doubt they were called "disco balls" back then though.

The Trip


1967 drug movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A guy takes acid.

Hey, it's Angelo Rossitto again! There's another little fellow on a merry-go-round who, in one very important scene, screams "Bay of Pigs!" for no reason at all.

That might sound silly, but most of this is earnest. It's not a cautionary tale like Reefer Madness exactly, but wide-eyed Peter Fonda's trip isn't a laughing matter. This slice of psychedelicsploitation (word?) is very much a product of its time, but it's a fascinating one. There's some great kaleidoscopic sex, some visual non-sequiturs, and a terrific scene where Fonda is enjoying a washing machine.

Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and screenwriter Jack Nicholson took LSD in preparation for this thing, and director Roger Corman (who also--surprise!--used the drug) uses every trick in the book to try to mimic the effects of that particular hallucinogenic. I've not tried any hallucinogenic at all and can't verify the accuracy of the imagery. It looked trippy enough to me.

I enjoyed the score, mostly provided by Mike Bloomfield's group, The Electric Flag. Gram Parsons is seen playing music early in this movie, but I believe those sounds were replaced with something more psychedelic.

Another music tidbit: Bruce Dern's character quotes the Beatles with "Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream."

The Cardboard Bernini


2012 documentary

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A documentary about a guy named James Grashow, an artist who works with cardboard.

I like documentaries about artists. I've never heard of James Grashow, but apparently, I have seen his artwork on album covers for people like Wendy Carlos and Jethro Tull. Initially, I thought his work was a little silly, and I thought the giant piece at the center of this documentary--the cardboard Baroque fountain seen above--was ridiculous. As this went on, the art grew on me, mostly because of how meticulously he worked, his philosophies on artistic endeavors, and the details in the corrugated sculptures themselves.

This is, as Grashow himself puts it, a look at an artist "facing disaster and surviving." The fountain winds up outside an art museum where it's subjected to the elements and, as you might expect, crumbles and melts. His mentality and willingness to say something about the transience of art adds another dimension to his work. His medium allows his audiences to see the art all the way to its end. We've got limbless Aphrodites and faded frescoes, but there's something dismally poetic about watching how quickly Grashow's beautiful works in cardboard crumble into nothing and are tossed in a dumpster.

I have a serious gripe with the music in this thing. It was mixed too loud and had an annoyingly inconsistent mix of jazz and twang.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared


2013 comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Read the title. It's pretty accurate.

Yet another poorly-written review for a movie that I got a good chuckle from. Why? Because I'm 1) the type of person who will actually type "got a good chuckle from" and 2) the type of person who is sickened by himself when he types things like "got a good chuckle from."

This is like a more-focused, Swedish Forrest Gump. It doesn't have America's sweetheart, Tom Hanks, or a guy named Bubba, but the flashbacks weave in and out of some of the world's more explosive parts of history in a similar way. The narrative bounces between the present--a wacky adventure story involving a buttload of money and some thugs and an elephant--and the character's colorful past. It's whimsical and fun.

I'd give this movie a make-up award if I had one in my end-of-the-year posts. Robert Gustafsson is only about 9 years older than me, but I was almost convinced that he really was a 100-year-old man.

The Tenant


1976 movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A guy rents himself an apartment.

Do I really have to type anything here? I'm just not feeling it, but I'm so behind with this blog and feel like I have to.

I wanted to type something about how pedophiles make the best movies, but I thought that would be too controversial and probably lose all 2 1/2 of my readers.

I'd imagine it would be difficult for an actor or actress to work with Polanski. Do they justify it with something like, "Well, yeah, he raped a 13 year old, but did you see how good Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby are?"

I'll say one thing about the guy--he's a distraction as an actor. And this movie is all him! I got used to the shape of his face and his accent eventually and ended up finding him amusing.

Here's another question: Sharon Tate? He must have been quite the charmer before he became an admitted statutory rapist.

This is another quality review. You're welcome!

Dear White People


2014 satirical comedy

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Four black students at an Ivy League college deal with controversy.

This movie seemed so sure of itself. The satire felt a little obvious, and not all of the humor landed. It was easier to connect with some of the four central characters and their flaws more than others.

This seems like just the right time for this movie and its themes. I appreciated the effort more than I liked the movie, however.

Those looking for answers aren't really going to get them here. This is that type of movie that does a great job raising issues and asking questions, but it doesn't really provide any easy answers. Of course, there likely isn't any easy answer out there.

Demon



2015 horror comedy

Rating: 13/20

Plot: A demon ruins a wedding and the subsequent reception.

Really, it's not a demon. It's a ghost.

This horror-comedy isn't scary at all, and I have reasons to believe it would be funnier in Poland. I liked the pace and atmosphere, but after a while, things felt redundant. The ending also was a bit of a let-down.

Sadly, director Marcin Wrona killed himself while this was being shown at festivals. This will probably be his last movie.

Get Out


2017 horror film

Rating: 15/20 (Jen: 13/20)

Plot: A black guy has an uneasy experience when his white girlfriend takes him home to meet the parents.

I feel like I need more time with this one to decode it. I'm not completely sure I understood its theme or who exactly the target was. I'd love to discuss it in the comments, but I know nobody reads this or has any interest in leaving a comment.

The first half impressed me more with the solid performances and the not-so-sneaky satire on casual racism, white privilege, and overreaching liberal social justice. It's not different from the traditional horror movie set up except shadows of monsters and creepy noises or menacing flashes are replaced with white people saying disturbing things. Once the vibe is set and the unfortunately protagonist starts figuring things out, it transforms into something a little closer to generic horror complete with the sorts of cliches you might expect. There's still an underlying dark humor and some smart references (consider, for example, the role cotton plays in one key scene) that keeps it all a little more interesting.

I don't like this movie's title.

I would like to see this again to unpack it all a little more. My wife thought it was too creepy. I blame Stephen Root, who played a blind guy again.

If you want to talk about the alternate ending (or the original ending) of this, I'd love to do that, too.

David Lynch: The Art Life


2017 documentary

Rating: 14/20

Plot: David Lynch makes some art and talks about when he was younger. And that's only because a human being isn't capable of talking about himself when he's older.

I'm not able to watch the new season of Twin Peaks yet, and I was happy this popped up on one of my streaming services to help make up for that. Lynch is a fascinating dude with an insane amount of creativity and talent in multiple fields, and I could probably listen to him talking about himself for hours. I also like his voice, and that really helps.

There's nothing revolutionary here. Lynch, the only voice you hear in this thing, takes his time telling story after story. Some of them are trivial, some of them are tangential, and some are completely pointless. And although they don't really paint a complete picture of the artist as a young man or really explain his paintings, sculptures, or films, they do adequately lay out a series of events that explain how the man was influenced to become an artist.

This also shows a ton of his work if you want some nightmare fuel.

David Lynch: The Art Life is great for fans and much better than this other mess of a documentary.

The Great Rupert


1950 squirrel movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A talented squirrel helps people out.

The guy was here to fix our internet while I had this on. I think my wife thought it was humiliatin', but I'm pretty sure the guy was digging it. I didn't realize that it was a Christmas movie when I put it on, but that's not really a problem. People can appreciate a little Christmas in July, right?

The major problem was that I had to hide a boner from a stranger. It wasn't the George Pal stop-animated squirrel that got my juices going--proverbially. No, it was actually the antics of Jimmy Durante that stimulated those muscles and caused the blood to flow to that particular part of my anatomy. I was on a couch, and I don't think he noticed. If he did, he probably thought it was because of the squirrel. And that, my friends, really would have been humiliatin' because who gets hard because of an animated squirrel?

The next time a stranger is in my home to fix something, I'll make sure I'm watching something less arousing.

Buster Keaton Shorts--Part 5 (Final Part)


Shorts from 1922-1923

This will conclude my series on Buster Keaton's wonderful short work he did during the first part of his career as a stone-faced genius. Some day, I'll tackle the stuff he did after the talkies came along. I know there are a few gems in there.

Again, these shorts were released on dvd/blu-ray by Kino Lorber in association with Lobster Films if you want to check them out. And you should because they're great! Most of them are also available on Youtube or various other spots online.

"My Wife's Relations" 


Because of a language mishap/misunderstanding, Buster finds himself accidentally married. Yeast issues, a sneeze fest, and melodramatic snoring ensue. Joe Roberts, three other large brothers, and a bully of a father have their way with Buster, tossing him around plenty in some effort to convince the audience that he must weigh about forty-five pounds.

The best scene in this short involves posing for a picture. This one just sort of ends without ending, so I'm wondering if part of it is lost. I think there was an alternate ending on the dvd, but I don't remember if I watched it.

This isn't one of his better shorts.

"The Blacksmith"


Neither is this one. This is another example of Buster giving himself a job and then showing simultaneous ineptitude and ingenuity. You get to see him make breakfast, burn himself, struggle with a magnet, change a tire with the help of a balloon, fix a guy's car, and help a lady with her saddle issues, all in the exact ways you might expect Buster Keaton to do all those things. It's humorously clever if not uproariously funny.

This starts by quoting Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. A lot of people don't like--or more accurately, don't think they like--silent movies. When you combine silent film with American fireside poetry, you're really going to lose your audience.

The ending is cute, mostly involving a horse getting filthy--non-sexually. There were actually two completely different endings included on the dvd though, the second with a chase scene with big Joe Roberts, a clever steering wheel gag, and a hot little silhouette strip scene. I preferred the second version.

My favorite moment is a quiet one after Virginia Fox (I think) has dropped off a horse to get shoes when Buster, in pantomime, tries to describe shoes to the horse.

"The Frozen North" 


Keaton's also called a surrealist by other surrealists, and it's probably because of films like this one. It's not just that the plot is a stream-of-consciousness, incoherent mess. It's that this is yet another one of his shorts where the punchline reveals that it's all a dream sequence. He leaned on that idea pretty heavily.

This one's a little mean spirited. Not only is Buster's character a villain who both robs and kills and abuses poor Sybil Seely, but this whole thing was apparently written and made to attack William S. Hart who had attacked Keaton's friend Fatty after his arrest.

It's got its moments, especially if you enjoy snow-related humor. Buster's travel options, improvised snow shoes, and competitive ice fishing are near highlights. As a whole, it's not all that entertaining, and without any context, the satire just doesn't work all that well.

"Daydreams" 


I really like the premise of this one. Buster's character, in order to get the girl, has to go off and make good to impress her father. He updates his love interest with letters on his progress, the reality being significantly different from the original interpretations. As you'd expect with Keaton, jobs as a janitor, street cleaner, animal hospital worker, and theater extra don't go very well.

There are two highlights in this one. One is his escape during a chase scene where he grabs onto a street car and winds up horizontal as it picks up speed. The second is a more famous scene where he's trapped in a riverboat's paddle wheel. Just perfect bits of physical comedy.

It kind of feels like pieces are missing from "Daydreams," and although it builds momentum as it goes, it's not really all that cohesive. The ending is also very depressing.

"The Electric House" 


There are a few times when Keaton managed to injure himself with his stunts. While working with an escalator, similar to Chaplin's in a couple of his films, he broke his leg with this one. This project was shelved and then redone a couple years later.

Buster plays a botany student who is mistakenly given an engineering degree and a task of redoing a house. The first half sets up the whole thing, a brief exposition giving us the source of the conflict before Buster shows off his various inventions in the electric house. The house at the center of this displays his fascination and talents with gadgets. It's unclear how a botanist is able to execute all of this, but who cares about stuff like that in a silent comedy short?

The second half involves the antagonist--the actual engineer and a real son of a bitch--getting his revenge by sabotaging the house's gadgets. It's the kind of inventive comedy that people who love Buster Keaton's work love.

So who is funnier on an escalator--Keaton or Chaplin? I'm not going to express an opinion, but I will say Buster takes the more painful route to get laughs. It was kind of his thing.

Oh, Keaton also shows off his pool skills in this, similar to that fantastic scene in Sherlock Jr.

"The Balloonatic" 


He did work with trains, boats, automobiles, and motorcycles; here, Buster tries his luck with a hot-air balloon. And there's a bear.

I'm not sure "balloonatic" is a real word, by the way. I'd look it up, but I don't want to end up on an FBI watch list.

This opens in an amusement park, and I think my favorite thing about the whole short is that Buster's character is only there because he's horny. He fails at that, winds up in the balloon, and then meets a hot little gal out in the wilderness after he lands. There's some boating, some fishing, and some spoiled chivalry as Buster woos his new special lady friend. No, ladies and gentlemen, there is not a sex scene.

If there had been, I would have been happy with either the bear or Phyllis Haver and would have blown a hole in my pants if it was both. All I can say about the latter is that the bathing suit she sported for this thing worked for me. I became as randy as a Buster Keaton scouring an amusement park for some tail. The former--the furrier of the two--is the exact same bear Chaplin would use similarly in The Gold Rush. So how about that?

Ok, I'd better not try to slip that past you. Of course, there is no "you" anyway. Nobody is reading this with the possible exception of me in the distant future, possibly on my death bed when I'm looking back at my life's work and wondering what the hell I did with my time. But I'm not 100% sure the bear in The Gold Rush and "The Balloonatic" were the same bear. I think I remember reading that in the notes included with the dvds, but I often have memories of events that didn't actually happen. So you probably shouldn't trust any of this shit.

This has a very sweet ending. You can probably trust that although it is subjective.

I apologize for this write-up getting a little PG-13.

"The Love Nest" 


Finally, we have "The Love Nest," a short that is unique in that it is the only one where Keaton took sole writing and directing credit. This melancholy short has Buster at sea once again, sometimes with a ridiculous beard. There's more funny fishing, an irritable captain played by Joe Roberts, and some pirates. There's also stock footage of whales and battleships.

There are some funny moments here, and yet again, Keaton decides to end things with the "It's all a dream!" gimmick. Sorry, I probably should have warned you about that spoiler.

That's it. I'm tired of writing about Buster Keaton's shorts. I hope you enjoyed the whole thing, and if I didn't make it clear enough in my writing, know that I absolutely love everything Buster Keaton ever did and wholeheartedly recommend you check this stuff out on your own. "Cops," "One Week," "The Goat," "The Boat," and "Neighbors" are probably the best ones to start with, but after you enjoy those, you'll likely want to watch them all.

A Cure for Wellness


2017 horror mystery

Rating: 12/20

Plot: An aspiring executive is sent to a wellness center in the Swiss Alps to retrieve the company's big boss. It's a mysteriously difficult challenge, and it's made even more difficult when he becomes a patient as well.

I enjoy Gore Verbinski movies--the underappreciated Mousehunt, the unfairly-maligned The Lone Ranger, the underrated Rango, at least the first Pirates movie--so I looked forward to this weirdo horror movie. Things start out well enough, intriguing with the flashy visuals and an awe-inspiring locale that is shot mysteriously. The vibe is haunting, and the naked elderly people Verbinski allows us to get a glimpse of only got me more excited. The film had a quiet energy, and Verbinski's cinematic magic tricks kept things interesting for the first half of the movie. I even liked the countless shots that I would call completely pointless--a camera angle from the side of a train, a magnified mother's eye, a reflection in a deer trophy eyeball.

That quiet energy couldn't be maintained, however, and this movie just got sillier and sillier as it went on. The main problem might be that it's simply too long. At 2 1/2 hours, this got to be a bit of an endurance test. Impressionistic flashbacks, a protagonist who was a little flat, visual redundancy, loads of unanswered questions. It just got to be a little too much.

Dane DeHaan plays the main character, a sort of straight man in a befuddling world. He's got the type of face that makes him difficult to root for, but there's also nothing redeeming about his character as a human being to make an audience want to root for the guy. He seemed like he could be an illegitimate Trump son, and that's never a good thing. The other characters kind of succeed in being part of the strange background, but it was difficult to connect with any of them either.

Although the hospital's intentions and the conflict are all tidied up eventually, I wasn't completely satisfied. All these symbols--the water, most obviously; ballerinas; eels; deer; teeth--seemed obvious enough but failed to add up to anything significant. And Verbinski and screenwriter Justin Haythe seemed like they wanted to say something about the 1%, about capitalism and greed, or about something that would make Bernie Sanders a fan of the movie, but they frustratingly never got there.

A movie like this can't succeed on its impressive visuals alone. As you'd expect from a Verbinski movie, this is a really pretty movie, and some of the imagery, since it's a horror film, are successfully creepy and capable of lingering in the nightmares. But the length, the lack of engaging characters, and the ultimate emptiness of the whole thing keep it from being anything I'd ever care to see again.

Oh, and The Weather Man! Another really good Gore Verbinski movie.

The Accountant


2016 drama

Rating: 11/20

Plot: An autistic accountant shoots a bunch of people.

Bad news, everybody. Ben Affleck might not be Batman for much longer.

I only popped this in the dvd player because I get excited when people do math in movies.

Ben Affleck's character is wonderfully well rounded. Well, if knowing exactly three things about a character makes that character well rounded. Here are those three things in the order that I bought into them.

1) A guy who kills people. Affleck appears to know how to hold a gun, and the punching seems are realistic enough.

2) An autistic guy. I'm glad there's an autistic movie hero, but this seemed like cliched, Hollywood autism. It doesn't seem written with a good understanding of autism.

3) An accountant. Ben Affleck just doesn't seem like the kind of person who can do math.

Anna Kendrick is in this for some reason. I'm probably missing the point when I say that she and Affleck had absolutely no rapport. I mean, his character does have difficulty emotionally connecting with others. Their characters just didn't work for me though. Maybe they should have cast one of his nannies.

I don't know why I watched this in the first place. I also don't know why I finished it. I was bored early on, and the story was really predictable.

Silent Saturday: Flirting with Fate and Mystery of the Leaping Fish


1916 comedy

Rating: 13/20

Plot: An artist, following a stream of terrible luck, decides to take his own life. He can't quite do it on his own and hires a hitman named Automatic Joe to do the deed. But what will happen when he changes his mind?

That might be the worst movie cover art I've ever put on my blog.

It's been a lot of Douglas Fairbanks for these Silent Saturdays. He's sort of the opposite of Buster Keaton in a way. Or at least the opposite of a stone-face. Instead, he usually performs with this boyish glee. Most of this movie finds his character in a melancholy state though. Now don't get me wrong--I enjoy watching Douglas Fairbanks bounce around the screen. He's a charismatic bundle of energy. He's not always a great actor, however, and it's hard to buy the character he's portraying here. Part of the problem is that this film leans heavily on lengthy intertitles. That hurts Fairbanks as an actor because it's a lot more telling than showing. It's almost as if Fairbanks couldn't handle the emotions on his own and needed words to help the audience explain them.

I enjoyed George Beranger more as Automatic Joe. He spends most of his screen time, it seems, striking poses for the audience.

The second half of the movie is probably more entertaining than the first. You could watch the first half of this and not even realize it's a comedy. It's just one unfortunate thing after another happening to the poor protagonist until he reaches a breaking point. The second half has a few chase scenes but mostly is about characters wearing fake beards.

In a way, the story reminded me a little of The End, that Burt Reynolds/Dom Deluise black comedy. No, there wasn't anybody in this who had the raw sexuality of Dom Deluise, but the suicidal-guy-changing-his-mind storyline was similar.


I had a little time, so I watched "The Mystery of the Leaping Fish," also from 1916. This was a surprising delight, and it was very strange. It's a story by Tod Browning and is sort of like a psychedelic Sherlock Holmes. Fairbanks plays a "scientific detective" who happens to be addicted to cocaine. As you might expect from a 1916 comedy, the drug use is accompanied by a slide whistle. Cocaine actually seems to have an effect on Fairbanks' character similar to Popeye and his spinach. His name is actually Coke Ennyday, by the way. He drives a checkered car with a guy sitting upright in the back playing a horn. He also has all these weird tools, the kinds of things I guess a "scientific detective" might have, like a periscope, weird doors, and a top-hat telescope. It's creative, weird fun, only slightly ruined by a dopey, meta ending.

Bessie Love plays Inane, described as "the little fish blower." I think that's supposed to be dirty.

Recommended if you enjoy cocaine.