Lady Bird


2017 coming-of-age dramedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Christine spends her senior year trying to get out of Sacramento.

There are a lot of these sorts of coming-of-age movies with awkward characters trying to find their place in the world or an identity or a way to survive. This one isn't a narrative as much as it is a bunch of fragments of this slightly-but-not-exaggeratedly-eccentric character put in chronological order. It's a little like flipping through a visual diary, and although you might not feel like you actually have a handle on Christine or Lady Bird or whatever she decides to call herself, you wind up connecting with her and really getting to know her. She's as complex as a young adult. Her problems are realistic, and it's not just a movie realism either which makes the whole thing work that much better. Very little of what happens even seems worthy of being in a movie. Mother-daughter relationship strains, job loss and financial woes, general ennui, friendship troubles, boy troubles, underwhelming youthful sex. It's all pretty mundane, but it's mundane in a remarkable way.

There are a lot of poignant moments throughout, but I was most touched by the scenes with Lady Bird played by Saoirse Ronan, a woman with a first name that can't actually be pronounced and her mother played by Laurie Metcalf. And that's odd because I'm not a daughter or a mother. Even during the moments in this movie where their relationship is at its most problematic, you can see that there's a deep love at the center of it. That's not easy to pull off without a bunch of dumb dialogue between characters that explains that. "But Dad, she gets on my nerves! I can't stand when she comes into my room without knocking!" "Oh, sweetie, you know you love your mother very much." "You're right, Dad. I really do." That sort of thing, followed by the wiping of copious tears. With Lady Bird, that mutual love is understated, subtle, and like the miniature conflicts disrupting Christine's world, it just feels very authentic.

There's no real exposition here. All you need to know about these characters' past is provided when you watch the main character intentionally tumble out of a moving vehicle and break her arm. And although there are times when a real central conflict threatens to emerge and maybe start to build up to something, there's really nothing you'd call a rising action or climax either. As far as the denouement, that's to be determined later on, probably in a sequel that will never happen. First-time director Greta Gerwig's movie is a refreshing anti-story, memory snapshots piled on memory snapshots. It's playful and it pokes, and it's just the right amount of funny and just the right amount of angst.

I subtracted a point from my rating because of Dave Matthews, a major pet peeve.

I'm trying to think of a coming-of-age movie male character who I would want to hook up with Lady Bird. If you've seen this, what match-up do you think would work?

Oh, one thing I almost forgot to mention but that was alarming to me. This movie takes place in 2002, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks are alluded to a few times. In a way, this was a period piece, and when I think about how long ago 9/11 actually was, it makes me wonder where my life has gone. Time certainly does move rapidly the older you get.

Boss Baby


2017 animated movie

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

Plot: The arrival of a baby brother threatens an imaginative 7-year-old's halcyon existence.

Expectations were very low for this, and to be honest, I expected to be annoyed by the whole endeavor; however, I was hooked by some imaginative 2D-looking animation and vibrant characterization for the main character who is not, as you'd probably imagine, the titular infant. Tim is the kind of 7-year-old you can like, probably because his adult version is voiced by the irresistible Tobey Maguire. The animation style matches the overload of imagination that makes children around that age so much fun. Think Andy in Toy Story, but there might be a little Sid mixed in with him, too.

Like another Pixar classic (yes, I'm referring to Up), if you take all of this at face value, it doesn't make any sense, too far-fetched to take seriously at all. And I like to take my animated movies seriously, friends. This narrative works much better as a metaphor for the emotions an only child goes through when a new sibling comes into the household and the eventual bonding of those siblings than it does a wildly unbelievable tale of a talking entrepreneurial baby and his older brother trying to save the world--and some weird puffy and pristine baby-producing heaven-esque world--from a Buscemi-voiced character who wants to unleash puppies that never age. It all gets way too silly even if you go into your animated films expecting nothing but colors and silliness.

I laughed a couple of times, and Buster seemed to enjoy herself. There might be too much of a dependence on fart jokes, but I guess that's what the little tykes are enjoying these days. The whole thing breezes by, and although it does fall apart a bit in its last third, it doesn't do it nearly as offensively as a lot of animated features I could name. And it does end in a sort of sweet way although there's one big moment featuring the opening of a package that almost made me sick to my stomach.

Like all animated movies I've seen recently, I spent a lot of the movie wondering which voice actors have sexually harassed or even assaulted women. Is that healthy?

The Raid 2


2014 sequel

Rating: 15/20

Plot: The cop guy from the first movie infiltrates a crime syndicate.

The first Raid movie was almost wall-to-wall action, and it might as well have been completely plotless. This plot is far more complex. But I'm not sure anybody watches a movie like this for the plot. No, this is all about the bone-crunching action, and it delivers that by the wheelbarrow, likely more than you'll need to satiate your need for that sort of thing. The action choreography doesn't seem possibly. Note a prison yard filled with mud and about a hundred inmates and a scene that appears to be one unbroken shot. The timing of all of that mayhem, the power of that brutality, and the creativity of the violence is impressive, both visceral and artful. It was absolutely insane. Later, star Iko Uwais channels Bruce Lee in The Game of Death as he moves past adversaries to get to the big boss. No, it's not entirely realistic, but as choreographed fisticuffs come, I'm not sure you can find better. I remarked to my son, who was in the same room but not watching this one, that it really looked like people were being hurt in these fight scenes and stunts. There's a little Jackie Chan in there with the use of props and the use of human beings colliding with grounds and walls in ways that caused my teeth to hurt a little bit.

There's a lady with hammers, a guy with a baseball bat, and a dude named The Assassin who probably deserve their own prequels. There's a bit in this where they juxtapose these three characters doing their thing in different settings, and it made me shit my pants. I'm not even kidding.

This is definitely worth watching if you're a fan of the genre.

Justice League


2017 superhero movie

Rating: 11/20

Plot: Batman assembles a team of good guys to save the world from a boring villain who is trying to collect boxes.

This isn't even as good as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, probably because it didn't have a bunch of Eisenberg. It's also not as good as the overrated Wonder Woman from earlier this year. I think DC's strategy involves a deluge of Wonder Woman, giving her many opportunities to do a lot of things in slow motion. I'll write about some of the problems with this movie below, but the tacky attempts at mild sexuality might have bugged me the most. Loads of Wonder Woman doing things in slow motion for the guys, and an extended scene with Henry Cavill floating around without a shirt on for no reason for the ladies. And loads of the impossibly-shaped Jason Momoa without a shirt on for both the guys and gals.

Sex appeal aside, I'm not really a fan of any of these incarnations of these superheros. I don't think Gal Gadot can act, but she can do things in slow motion which is probably all that matters. She looks great in the suit. Cavill's got a stupid-looking suit, and I just don't like him as Superman very much. Am I supposed to even mention that he's in this movie? Momoa looks the part, but he doesn't do much to give the character any personality at all, and Ezra Miller's Flash (The Flash?) just comes across as annoying. I sort of like Affleck, but apparently, I shouldn't get used to him. Maybe I should say that I like him when he's Batman; his Bruce Wayne doesn't feel right.

The biggest issue with this is that there's absolutely no emotional resonance here. Nothing that happens here has impact. There's a major twist that just sort of happens. Character conflicts are silly and insignificant, probably there more for comic relief than anything else. The bad guy's metallic insect minions are really cool, but the antagonist himself, a special effect named Steppenwolf, is about the least charismatic villain I've ever seen in a comic book movie. Fight scenes just kind of happen. I think I even fell asleep during the climactic action sequence where the Justice Leaguers fail to really come together on screen as a team and instead just kind of do a bunch of things in close proximity of each other. There are special effects, and things happen very very quickly, and then it's over and you don't really feel like enough happened to make the two hours worth your time.

Oh, shit. I forgot there's a cyborg in this movie. Let me see what his name is. Oh, it's just Cyborg. Well, I didn't like him either.

This wasn't as deadly serious as Batman v Superman, but it also didn't have any subtext at all. It was just a story about superheros fighting bad guys, and it didn't really succeed in being just that. In a time where these DC superheros need to make a huge statement to let Marvel know they're in the game, this movie and its characters just kind of go through the motions and end up entirely forgettable.

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.

Descendants


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.

Suburbicon


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.

Superargo and the Faceless Giants


1968 Italian/Spanish action movie

Rating: 7/20 (Dylan: 16/20)

Plot: Somebody's kidnapping world-class athletes and using them to make an army of faceless giants, and it's up to former wrestler Superargo and his sidekick Kamir to stop him.

"I can't put my confidence in an agent who calls himself Superargo and wears a mask and a cape and that red outfit."

Fans of El Santo and Blue Demon movies might enjoy being slightly disappointed in this, the second of the Superargo movies. Superargo, as he explains, wears that red outfit and mask and cape because it's what he wore as a wrestler and had some good luck with it. I'm not sure why he, like El Santo, feels the need to wear it all the time, but I'm not going to question the guy. I'm also not sure why a wrestling outfit needs to be bulletproof, but that did set up one of my favorite moments in this movie where the bad guys are shooting at Superargo and a bunch of people as their elevator opens, and our hero--despite it being revealed earlier that his costume was bulletproof--jumps out of the way, allowing the people behind him to be shot.

Superargo. like Santo, is skilled in hand-to-hand combat. His best move is one where he gets a running start and then hops and launches himself at two or three faceless giants. At one point, he does leap from the ground to a window about five stories up. The leap is accompanied by a slide whistle, much to my delight. There were no superpowers shown before that although he does have the power to read minds apparently, a skill learned from his turban-donning sidekick Kamir. Later, we see Superargo display this neat little trick where he's chasing somebody in the woods, grabs a tree branch, hoists himself into the tree, and then somehow manages to jump down in front of the person he had been chasing. He also has a car that, with the push of a button, can have all these blades and shit poking out of it, setting up a ridiculous poorly-edited action sequence where he drives around and knocks down a bunch of the faceless giants, some who are very nearly within reach of the things protruding from the vehicle.

Those faceless giants aren't really faceless, by the way. They all kind of look like Miles Teller to me. They aren't a very menacing lot even though they're armed with flails. They're definitely not giants. And I was really confused about how these things were controlled. The bad guy would just sit in a car and fiddle with a couple of knobs. Later, he's in his cavernous evil lair fiddling with some knobs, and at one point he turns things all the way up to 70. I was on the edge of my seat at that point, but it turns out that 70 was the exact same as 60 or 50.

Superargo is played by Giovanni Gianfriglia (aka Ken Wood), and sidekick Kamir is played by Aldo Sambrell, a guy who was in several notable spaghetti westerns and who doesn't look happy to be in this movie at all. Gianfriglia (Wood) is as bland as Adam West's Batman though not nearly as charming. He looks good in the suit and has a fine mandible which I suppose is all that really matters.

The good guys win in the end, of course, but the villain's demise is worth sticking around for. That is, if you've ever wanted to see a pile of leaves kill a person.


Ghostbusters (Redux)


1984 comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: I already wrote about this movie right here. If you need a well-written plot synopsis for this movie you've very likely already seen, check there.

This was shown at my local theater, and I couldn't resist seeing a twenty foot tall Rick Moranis. There were five other people in the theater with me who wanted to same thing, and when Louis Tulley first appeared--opening his apartment door to talk to Sigourney Weaver--there was a palpable excitement in the crowd. A buzz. One person started vibrating in his seat. Somebody touched himself inappropriately again and again. Somebody moaned, "My God, my God, my God."

By the third time Rick Moranis appeared on the screen, we all had our pants off.

I don't think Ghostbusters is a movie that gets better with age, and I don't think it's a movie that needs to be seen more than once. I think I've seen it four times though, probably because of Rick Moranis.

That reminds me--I believe I had planned to do a Rick Moranis Fest a while back. Why didn't I do that?

I saw this movie in the theater in 1984. It was the first time I saw Bill Murray, I believe. I like that my movie theater shows old movies so that I can relive childhood memories like this. I think I was even wearing the same pair of pants although, as mentioned, they did not stay on for the duration of the motion picture.

Daddy's Home


2015 comedy

Rating: 6/20

Plot: As Brad finally starts to connect with his two step-children, their biological father Dusty pops into the picture.

This comedy made me very, very sad, and I'm not sure comedies are supposed to do that.

I was sleepy and lying in bed and decided to start this movie because I'd seen previews for the sequel. I was in the mood to see Mark Wahlberg's bare chest, and out of all my streaming options, this seemed to give me the best chance for that. In case you're wondering--yes, his bare chest is in this movie, and he doesn't seem to have any body hair.

It took me about two minutes to shut this off. All it took was for Will Ferrell, providing narration about how much he loves his life to get the audience up to speed, to say the words "I love my Ford Flex," egregiously diving into a car commercial right from the start. I had had enough, and the movie hadn't even introduced a conflict at all.

A couple of days later, after the yearning for Wahlberg's hairless chest became too strong, I resumed Daddy's Home. It was, my friends, a mistake that I'm going to have to live with for the rest of my life.

And not only did they double down on the Ford Flex advertising by bookending another reference at the end, but there was also blatant product placement for the following:

--Starburst, the name of the candy being mentioned by at least three characters during a scene where Wahlberg's spending time with his kids
--Cinnabon, in a recurring gag where Wahlberg either made cinnamon rolls for his family or bought some from Cinnabon and pretended that he had made them
--Red Bull, after Wahlberg has built a treehouse and a skateboard ramp in a single day in the backyard and there's a Red Bull stand in the background for some reason
--Bud Light, the preferred adult beverage for these awful characters
--Red Roof Inn
--Cinnamon Toast Crunch, mentioned in the same breath as Red Roof Inn

I'm not sure how the characters read some of these whorish lines with straight faces.

I nearly cried several times, but it wasn't related to the product placement. Not entirely.

And that's all I have to say about Daddy's Home.

My Little Pony: The Movie


2017 animated pony movie

Rating: 11/20 (Buster: 20/20)

Plot: Ponies are trying to throw a party or put on a concert and are interrupted when a unicorn with a busted horn shows up with some monsters and trashes things. Some guy calling himself Storm King is behind the whole thing. Some of the ponies--the ones whose names some parents might know--escape and go to find help.

I went on a little date with my best friend to see this movie. Afterward, we went to the grocery store to get supplies for S'mores. She had a good time, and that's really all that matters.

I'm not sure I'm the audience for this movie. There was one other family in the theater, and then there really was an adult male sitting by himself. He had a big tub of popcorn. I'm not sure what his deal was.

I don't know what to say about this movie. It was colorful enough, but it had some terrible songs in it and none of the humor worked. Also, I'm fairly positive that everything that happens in this movie is something that's already happened in another animated feature. I don't really like these ponies, but again, I'm probably not the audience for this.

Innocence


2004 drama

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Girls grow up in a boarding school where they learn to dance.

This is another Lucile Hadzihalilovic flick, and it's a good companion piece to Evolution. The characters at the center of all this are pre-pubescent girls. In Evolution, it's boys. Like Evolution, this bewilders poetically, intentionally leaving loose threads and remaining open to interpretation. I think the symbolism and meaning of this one might be a little more obvious, however. That's not to say I actually understood this completely because I didn't. But with caterpillars, walls, legs, and trains, it felt a little more explicit. The movie's frequently without dialogue, and along with the deliberate pace, it leaves you a lot of space to collect your thoughts. It's frequently beautiful, especially in opening and closing shots of swirly water. You're given plenty of opportunities to recognize recurring images and ideas and try to piece it all together into something that makes sense.

Structurally, there's three parts to the story. The first is with a new arrival to the boarding school. New arrivals show up in a coffin for some reason, and after some colored ribbon exchanging, we follow that little girl around as she gets acclimated to her new surroundings and learns what her new home is all about. At the same time, the viewer gets acclimated to this new environment, one that feels very familiar and at the same time completely strange. Then, there's a shift to an older girl who wants to be selected to leave the boarding school by the woman who comes along and selects one of them for that. Then, there's a new main character, one of the oldest girls, who is just about ready to move on from the boarding school. It's an interesting way to show the audience what this place means at different stages in a girl's life without having them follow or even care that much about one character.

The style is detached, cold and clinical. Along with the way this movie takes its time to get anywhere, I can imagine that would be really frustrating for a lot of people. Fans of enigmatic cinema, however, would probably really enjoy this. I'm not sure I want to guess what Hadzihalilovic's actual intentions were. If they were to paint a picture of the emotions that a girl goes through when becoming a woman, I think it might be fairly successful. I don't know if that was it though.

I've started to hate writing about movies like this and Evolution. I feel like these write-ups are even worse than the normal things I write. I need to stick to disaster movies, I guess.

I'm not going to proofread this. If you make a typo in a forest, and there's nobody around to read it, does it make a sound?

Julie and Jack


2003 romantic drama

Rating: 3/20

Plot: Jack, struggling in love and microchip sales, meets Julie online and falls madly in love with her. Julie seems to love him as well, but she will only meet him in some virtual reality world and refuses to tell him anything about her past. He decides to investigate.

As you can tell from the professionally-made poster up there, this is from James Nguyen, the director of the Birdemic movies. This had been on my radar for a while, but I was waiting around for the Bad Movie Club members to watch it with me. I've given up on a lot of things lately, and my Bad Movie Club friends are just one of those things.

This starts as poorly as any movie I can remember with a shot of clouds and a pan flute. There's a promise of a special appearance by Tippi Hedren, and knowing that this is what Tippi Hedren's career has become is enough to make anybody miserable.

This doesn't have the abysmal special effects or environment propaganda to make this is special as Birdemic, but I think anybody who's seen that would know this was a Nguyen production without being told that. Characters say lines that seem to have been written by somebody who learned English from watching soap operas. Scenes are strangely paced. Long chunks of movie pass by without anything happening at all. There are three or four sales meetings, some containing applause.

If Tarantino has a thing for feet, Nguyen obviously has a thing for sales. The repeated motif making a connection between capitalism and sex is almost alarming. Of course, the character who brings that up, Jack's friend Mark, is a total dick, a wannabe Casanova who has two of the most awkward examples of coitus interruptus you're likely to see in a movie. He's played by Will Springhorn with what might be the worst performance in this although the guy who plays Bill (Lee Boren) gives him a run for his money. Bill, also a dick, is Mark's rival at work, and he steals every single scene that he's in. Well, he steals it and sets it on fire and pees on it. That feels more accurate. Most of the performances aren't actually that bad. The guy who plays Jack--Justin Kunkle--is trying very very hard. His career, by the way, went nowhere. He was in a couple of shorts and no other feature-length film.

This movie might break the record for having the most scenes that don't actually need to be in the movie. Of this movie's 90 minutes, I'd say about 80 of them aren't really necessary. It takes about 35 minutes for the movie to even find a real plot. About 25 minutes is taken up by a dating montage that shows off the sights of San Francisco. If Birdemic was Nguyen's clumsy homage to Hitchcock's Birds, this is quite obviously his Vertigo. Most of the movie has Jack running around like either a detective or a stalker, depending on your perspective.

My favorite moments:

--a really awkward church service
--anything with Bill
--a print-out at a college party that says Alpha Pi but has the word Alpha and the symbol for Pi

If you laugh at how this movie ends, you should feel very bad about yourself as a human being.

Ghosthouse


1988 ghosthouse movie

Rating: 7/20 (Dylan: 6/20)

Plot: A guy with a ham radio hears something creepy, and he and his girlfriend decide to investigate. They befriend some other morons and try to survive. . .dramatic pause. . .the ghosthouse.

This would probably rate a 4/5 on the bad movie scale. It's more entertaining than Geostorm could ever hope to be!

This is from director Umberto Lenzi, but he used the pseudonym Humphrey Humbert for this one. I'm not sure if that name is funny or if I'm just kind of an idiot. Lenzi also directed movies as Humphrey Longan, Humphrey Milestone, and Hank Milestone.

Things start with a murder, and then there's a little girl with a clown doll or sometimes just the clown doll, and then there's a bunch of violence as the kids try to figure out what's going on. Good luck, kids, because I don't think this makes a lick of sense!

If you like gore, Ghosthouse has a little bit. Characters you won't care about are killed with axes, mirrors, fan blades, hammers, a guillotine, and milk. To be honest, the milk doesn't actually kill off the character. He survives the milk. A repetitive musical motif that sounds like carnival music mixed with backwards goat giggling gets more ridiculous the more it pops up. I could never quite be sure if the characters were hearing that or not.

Lenzi successfully creates a creepy vibe in some scenes, but it's impossible to maintain with a story this silly and with performances this poor. It's probably not the kids' fault as they have very few lines that sound like things actual human beings would say. The female characters do scream adequately. I'll give them that. A couple side characters are really great. Willy M. Moon plays a hitchhiker who pops into the movie for no reason and then pops in a little later on, also for no reason. He's a prankster, and his use of a skeleton arm at least made me laugh if nobody else seemed to appreciate it. Hernest Mc. Kimnoro plays a custodian at the cemetery, and he's really terrific. I think Lenzi must have actually found the guy at the cemetery. Sadly, this is his only performance.

This includes a shocking twist ending that made my son and me giggle.

Geostorm


2017 disaster movie

Rating: 8/20

Plot: Somebody starts using our weather-controlling satellites for nefarious purposes, and it's up to two nondescript action heroes to stop them.

I'm trying to increase this blog's popularity by watching more current blockbusters and less 60s films from countries that no longer exist. If well-written reviews of big-budget action movies that have been out less than a week don't get me more views, I don't know what will!

I may have irritated the people sitting behind me because I laughed inappropriately a few times.

Throw all logic out the window when you see this. In fact, you might want to watch this in the most illogical way possible. Put your pants over your face, or sit "Indian style" on the theater seat while facing the wrong direction and shovel popcorn down the back of your shirt. Or leave your seat during one of the many action-packed scenes in Geostorm (like the one where there's hail or maybe the one where there's lightning or maybe the one where there's lots of water or maybe the one where there's explosions or maybe the one where there's screaming or maybe the one where there's punching) and walk up to another theater patron and slap him or her across the face as fiercely as you can. That person will likely say, "What the hell? Why did you do that?" Answer: "Well, why did they do THAT?" and point at the screen. And then slap the person a second time. They'll understand.

As I usually do, I went to the theater with a water bottle shoved down the front of my pants. First, I need to stay hydrated for a movie like Geostorm, and I'm not paying movie theater prices for a beverage. Second, it's got to help my chances with the ladies, right? Anyway, the story of me sneaking a water bottle into the movie theater would probably be more entertaining than much of what happened in this movie.

Every time one of the character said the title of this movie, I want to stand up on my theater seat, grab my crotch, and scream, "Fuck yeah!" I refrained. And that's because I've grown as a human being.

I blame the terrorists. Instead of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear bombs, dirty bombs, biological warfare, guns, trucks, or whatever else we've heard about on the news, I think our enemies are finally trying to damage us where it really counts--our intellect. Their weapons? Hollywood action movie cliches and an insane abandoning of logic! And boring characters. I could spoil the entire movie for you right now, but you're going to know exactly who the bad guys are no matter how hard the writers of this try to fool you, exactly who's going to live to see the end of the movie, and exactly who's going to be hugging whom while blandly dramatic music plays.

Laugh #1: The second time a character said "Geostorm!"
Laugh #2: A scene where a guy gets hit by a car.
Laugh #3: When the president answers a question asked by Ed Harris's character.
Laugh #4: I can't tell you because it would give away that Gerald Butler's character survives to see the end of this movie even though there's no way he should have survived.

You know what I thought was surprisingly bad, by the way? The special effects? The space station stuff looked pretty good, but the disaster-movie stuff looked pretty awful. Of course, I'm not sure how they could make buildings falling over like dominoes ever look realistic since I don't think that could actually happen, but I still expected them to at least get the effects right. Disaster movies from ten or even twenty years ago look just as realistic as this one. Come on, Gerald Butler! You can do better than that!

Note: I'm not 100% sure Gerald Butler had anything to do with this movies CGI destruction effects.

You know what the worst thing about this movie is? I think people are going to connect climate change, something that is very real and very scary, to this movie and use it to disprove that there's any such thing. I'll bring climate change up, and somebody is going to say, "Whatever, libtard snowflake! You really think geostorms could actually happen?" And I'll tell you what. If that happens, I'm going straight for the crotch!

You may be asking yourself, "Why did you even go to the theater to see this movie, Shane? You should have known that you wouldn't have liked this one."

My reply: Why the hell do I do anything that I do? I'm happy with the decisions that I'm making in my life, and I'd rather you not question them.

That, friends, was an incredibly well-written review.

The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (maybe The Outrageous Baron Munchausen)


1962 fantasy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Munchausen gains a moon man sidekick who becomes his romantic rival as they save a princess.

This was recommended by my friend Eric, a guy who apparently knows my movie tastes quite well. I think I'm going to have to replace Silent Saturday with Czech Saturday next year, by the way. What do you think of that idea?

I just laughed at how I asked a question to an audience I know doesn't exist. I might as well have just shouted at my bookshelf.

This whimsical tale of the fantastical Munchausen sure is a lot of fun. There's some fun silent-era humor, a mix of live action with different animation styles and puppets, and loads of surreal visuals. This starts by showing evolution--footprints to footprints and a frog morphing into a rocket--before taking us to a ludicrous moon inhabited by Cyrano de Bergerac and some guys in top hats. I had a smile immediately, and it didn't let up with the animation mash-up--some Python-esque and some that reminded me a bit of Melies. I like seeing flesh 'n' blood characters walking around in hand-drawn worlds, and when puppets are added, you know I'm probably going to end up aroused. I think the more quaint the special effects in this, the more I loved what I was seeing. I enjoyed the music, too, always quirky and frequently surprising.

After a cool ship pulled by pegai (the plural of pegasus--I looked it up), a floating spacesuit, dancing grapes, a 3-handed chess opponent, a red strobe-lit bit of swashbuckling, lots and lots of red velvet smoke, a puppet vulture knocking over a horse skeleton, invisible telescopes, a pipe-smoking ship, a "theater of destruction," a shot of moonlight shining on a boat, sea monster puppets, harpoon penetration, a line of bouncing umbrellas, that bird from The Giant Claw, a great underwater sequence including a seahorse ride, the aquatic charms of mermaids, cannonball travel, an animated history of our hero's romantic exploits, the Mona Lisa's posterior, impotent cannons, and a floating doffed hat, it all ends much, much too soon. I don't know the director, Karel Zeman, but I'm going to be seeing a lot of his stuff next year when I start up Czech Saturdays.

Also--I'm pretty sure this movie is actually about something. The princess at one corner of a love triangle that sort of develops has to choose between science and whimsy and fantasy. I think there's some kind of point being made. I don't know if I agree with her decision or not, but perhaps we can discuss that in the comments.

Ha! Now I've not only suggested that somebody might leave me a comment but I've also made the assumption that somebody who reads my blog would actually want to talk about this movie.

Here's another poster since the one above is creased:


Silent Saturday: A Cottage on Dartmoor


1929 silent drama

Rating: 15/20

Plot: After a guy escapes from jail and winds up in some woman's house, a flashback shows how their encounter isn't exactly a chance one.

This is also called Escape from Dartmoor apparently.

I don't know a lot about silent movies from England unless they're the couple I've seen from Alfred Hitchcock. This is a late silent movie and probably as good or better than almost every talkie that came out in 1929. At the top of my head, I can't think of any movies I've seen from 1929.

OK, I got sidetracked and looked up movies from 1929. Man with a Movie Camera, Pandora's Box, Un Chien Andalou, and Diary of a Lost Girl are all superior silent movies, and I didn't skim across any movies with sound that I've seen except Cocoanuts, and that's not a very good Marx Brothers movie at all. But I digress.

I'll say this--I love how leafless trees look in black and white movies. There are quite a few really nice shots in this. There are great angles--and one slightly experimental moment--in a scene where there's a razor and a throat. That's probably a spoiler. I also loved the way a dizzying sequence in a theater was edited, a great and wild clash of visuals and sound. That scene, like a few others in this, was way too long though. This movie should have clocked in at just over an hour instead of the 90 minutes it was. I can forgive the length, however, because of the scarcity of intertitles. The first doesn't show up until around the 7-minute mark (just the word "Joe!"), and the story is told adequately without any words.

"Joe" is played by Uno Henning, a guy who would find the playing of the popular card game he shares a name with to be really confusing. Every time somebody would be down to one card, they'd say "Uno" and he'd have to say "What?" I'd rather watch that than Cocoanuts again, I think. Henning's performance in this is really good if "looking rapey in most of his scenes" qualifies as being really good.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)


2017 comedic drama

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A father's three children come together to celebrate his sculpting career.

If you knew going in that the Meyerowitz patriarch was a failed artist and that his trio of children didn't think he was a great father, you could almost write this Noah Baumbach movie in your head before you see it. That doesn't make it any less entertaining though. Of course, it's that kind of entertainment you feel a little guilty about, like you're laughing at characters rather than laughing with them. Or even at characters who would never in a million years think they're being laughed at. This is the broken kind of family of creatives that you'd expect from Baumbach, and you couldn't ask for a better ensemble cast to bring them to life. Dustin Hoffman is Dustin Hoffman, a guy who just kind of shows up at this stage of his career because he's really not got much to prove. He still shows here that he can make material that is already pretty good just a little bit better. Ben Stiller's character isn't far removed from his role in The Royal Tenenbaums, in fact very likely a distant cousin, and I almost always enjoy seeing Stiller playing these characters who are in a constant state of smolder. Characters walking around with hunched shoulders and always just on the edge are just the types of characters he plays best. Adam Sandler proves once again that he's not a complete joke. There were times in this where his performance actually touched me a little bit, and one of those might have even been when he was singing a goofy song. Elizabeth Marvel is great as the daughter even though her character is mostly asked to stand out of the way and let the guys do their thing. And Emma Thompson's also really good, especially at tricking me into thinking she's Shelley Long.

This might be the best Netflix movie I've seen. It's also very likely Adam Sandler's best movie since Punch-Drunk Love although it's unfair for me to speculate on that because I haven't seen too many of them. Maybe it's time I do an Adam Sandler Fest and fill in those gaps in my movie education.

Baumbach gives Stroszek a shout-out in this one, by the way.

Oh, one more thing. Adam Driver is in this. At this point, I should probably just tell you when he's not in a movie.

Possession


1981 drama

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A man tries to put his marriage back together but can't because his wife is sleeping with an octopus.

Going in, I knew this movie was going to be strange, but I thought it was just going to be because of the octopus sex scene. The first half of the movie, aside from some very strange overacting by everybody involved and especially Sam Neill, is a fairly normal domestic drama. It's a domestic drama turned up to 11 or 12, but it's still pedestrian enough. Once that octopus comes in and the characters start sawing at themselves with a meat cutter, things get very strange and never let up.

Director Andrzej Zulawski was going through his own divorce as he made this, and you can't help but wonder how much of this is intensely personal. At the same time, I wondered if this was actually a dark comedy. A fight scene filled with snarling and slapping and ending with the wife stepping in front of a truck and the husband randomly deciding to play soccer with some children? The worst private detective in the world? That scene with the meat saw? Ballet moves during a fight scene between Neill and his romantic rival? The weird performances? There's so much silliness even though the tone isn't comedic at all. The camera looms, always lurking around these characters, never quite sitting still. There's a haunting quality to the cinematography that makes it almost impossible for this to be a comedy, but I'm still going to think it was anyway.

Ok, it's not a comedy.

I started off wondering what the hell Sam Neill was doing, but gradually, the other performers caught up with him. leading me to believe that the performers were intentionally acting this way. Every line is strained, every gesture is exaggerated, and every interaction feels like it's going to end in violence. A lot of them do, the characters frequently leaving scenes with blood on them. Neill's consistent here, and I ended up really liking his performance. Even stranger was Heinz Bennent as his rival, always twirling and gesticulating like no actual person ever would. It's incoherent gesticulation. But it's Isabelle Adjani's performances here that absolutely floored me. She plays the wife as well as the couple's son's teacher, and it's as the wife that she just dazzles. The movie's title would lead one to believe this is about demonic possession or something, and although it's not quite that, you wouldn't know that if you watched Adjani's performance with the sound off. She writhes and screams like she's trying to force demons from her body through every orifice she's got, and it's an amazing performance. There's a scene with just her that takes place in a subway, and holy hell, it's the kind of thing that is just going to stay with me. It's just so great!

I have to go do something else right now. (Note: Not sex with an octopus man.)

The Belko Experiment


2016 violent drama

Rating: 9/20

Plot: Employees in a Colombian office building are locked in and forced to kill each other.

Modern makers of cinematic gore have certainly fallen in love with squelchy sound effects. This, more than any movie in recent memory, overuses squelches.

This is a really cynical movie, but that cynicism never rings true. It's poorly written with too-obvious satire and an attempt at some dark humor that just doesn't work at all. The idea isn't even very good, and I'd definitely expect James Gunn to do something a little more creative than just borrowing from Battle Royale or maybe High-Rise. The Belko Experiment has the skin of something dangerous and unpredictable and fresh, but you don't have to dig below that surface to discover that it's not any of those things.

I came very close to shutting this down about halfway through.

Buster's Mal Heart


2016 drama

Rating: 13/20

Plot: A hotel desk clerk meets a conspiracy theorist and then dives head first into one of the earth's two assholes.

This had real potential, starting with a cover of a Tom Waits' song ("God's Away on Business"), a nonlinear structure that keeps you guessing, and some cool transitions (dug that winding of a crank transitioning into a shot of a fishing rod). Unfortunately, it just doesn't add up to much, feels a bit unfinished thematically, and makes you wonder if that nonlinear structure actually adds to anything. This bounces between three distinct time periods, one which might be only in the character's head, and while that's easy enough to get a handle on, there's messiness elsewhere. References to Biblical Jonah, Y2K fears, the aforementioned pair of Earth assholes, and other nonsense muddy things. There's intrigue, but it starts to get a little redundant, and once you figure out the movie's big twist--which you might, especially now that I've told you there's a big twist--the homestretch just seems extraneous.

I also didn't like the title of this movie.

DJ Qualls is in this movie. He used to be a pet peeve of mine, but I think I've started to appreciate him. I'm not sure who Rami Malek is, but I've apparently seen him in some things and he's going to be playing Freddie Mercury in an upcoming movie. I thought he was pretty good here.

Legend


2015 English gangster movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Twin gangsters do gangster things.

This was a frustrating movie as it really had potential to be something special with the pair of performances by the great Tom Hardy at the heart of the thing. The guy just fascinates me with everything he does, so while I was really not all that excited to see another gangster flick, I needed to see how Hardy tackled two roles. And tackle them he does! He scowls, he screams, he drools, he pierces, he eviscerates, he punches, he spouts, he spits, and he charms. I like his rapport with himself in scenes where both brothers are present, and the movie magic used to have them engage in fisticuffs is flawless. It's been a while since I've seen Freaky Friday, but I don't remember Hayley Mills punching herself.

Now that I think about it, I really want to see a movie where Hayley Mills beats herself up.

I imagine it would be extremely difficult for an artist to pull this off and make it look so effortless. I know the twin thing has been done again and again--even by the great Nicolas Cage--but what Hardy does to make these two characters actually two characters rather than just carbon copies of the same guy is amazing. There was never a moment in the movie where I wasn't convinced that I was actually watching two different performers who happened to look nearly identical play these Krays. It's not just the glasses and slightly-different hair either. It's subtle body language, lip curls, eyebrow movements. Hardy pulls a lot of tricks out to make this happen, and it works so incredibly well.

I like some of the writing, I thought love interest Emily Browning was really cute, and I always always love seeing David Thewlis. I had problems with nearly everything else--storytelling flaws, side characters who muddied things, weird music choices, a general lack of flare, some unnecessary scenes--but none of it was enough to make those Hardy performances not worth watching.

The Foreigner


2017 action movie

Rating: 10/20

Plot: An elderly Jackie Chan hunts down the terrorists who blew up his daughter.

This isn't normally something that I'd see in a theater, but I saw the above poster and thought watching Jackie Chan fight a gigantic Pierce Brosnan might be fun. Not only did the above poster lie about their even being a gigantic Pierce Brosnan in the movie, but it's also not any fun at all. This is the least fun I've ever had watching a Jackie Chan movie. The story and its characters are derivative, there's nothing at all new with any of the action sequences, and the movie's tone is way too somber. Maybe I'm alone here (I definitely was alone in the theater, allowing me to enjoy the movie sans pants), but I don't want my Jackie Chan movies to be ultra-serious.

I'm not sure if Jackie Chan has it any more. If he doesn't, he's not a guy who has to make any excuses or apologize. The man is 63 years old, and considering I'm twenty years younger and can barely get out of bed in the morning, watching him do what he does in the limited action sequences here is remarkable. I assume he still does all or most of his own stunts, mostly bouncing off walls or slamming into the ground, and there's still a little of the old Jackie Chan in that body of his. He's still got that trademark wince, too, the little thing he does at the ends of some of his stunts to sell it to the audience. Sadly, he's just not the salesman that he used to be. Besides, there's only 3 1/2 action sequences in this anyway, and none of them show anything new to an audience of one hungry for fun action scenes or do anything old well enough to make up for it. Mostly, Jackie Chan just mopes around and sets up traps and explosives like he's Rambo.

Pierce Brosnan is probably capable of being a force even if he's not gigantic. His character here has all kinds of meaty potential, but it's never realized. Really, neither his character or Jackie Chan's character feels like he even needs to be in the movie. That's likely a problem.

I've grown weary of thumping and thunking techno music in these kinds of action movies. Is it because I'm old?