Day 357 – The Equalizer 2

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Movie Title: The Equalizer 2

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 1 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

The Equalizer 2 reconnects us with our beloved Bostonian enforcer with ethics played by Denzel Washington. Robert McCall roams the streets of Boston connecting with locals and helping them with their problems. In this edition he does some of this while driving for Lyft. This movie adds McCall’s former handler to the picture. Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) helps connect McCall with high profile cases that require specialized attention from a man that is technically dead.

The original movie had a much crisper narrative and a better flow to all of the action. The core narrative doesn’t come together until almost an hour into the movie and good samaritan McCall is less interesting the second time around. Ultimately, a close associate of McCall ends up murdered by a hit squad. McCall sets out on a classic quest for revenge to strike back at the murderers.

Much like the first movie, The Equalizer 2 works to convince you that the world is a terrifying place occupied by mainly non-English speaking criminals. One of the main characters is murdered in Brussels, Belgium a city that featured 43 murders in 2017 which is significantly less than New Orleans for example which is on pace for about 148 murders in 2018.

Verdict:

The Equalizer 2 is an inferior movie to the original, but it is still a decent action flick if you can get over the terrible pacing. Take it or leave it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Gone With The Wind (1939)

Day 356 – Black Mass

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Movie Title: Black Mass

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 3 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Black Mass is the story of notorious Boston gangster and infamous informant James “Whitey” Bulger. Bulger (Johnny Depp) formed an alliance with FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) that granted him practical immunity in forging and operating a large scale criminal enterprise that dabbled in every imaginable vice. The forging of this alliance and its eventual disintegration is the focal point of the movie. It begins with the taking down of La Cosa Nostra in South Boston, which helped bring Bulger into the good graces of the FBI and proceeds through Bulger’s notorious dealings that compromised the relationship.

One of my concerns going into the movie is that it would glamorize Whitey Bulger the way Henry Hill was glamorized in Goodfellas. Black Mass is so successful at not glamorizing the crime you would assume that everyone living in Boston is in fact practically a mutant. Depp’s performance is masterful. He looks the part, but more importantly he oozes with a sinister malice that at times takes over the screen. During one particular scene at Connolly’s home Depp creates an air of absolute mystery about what his actions will be. He seems perpetually on the edge of violence. Aside from leaving out Bulger’s notorious case of halitosis there are not many flaws with Depp’s portrayal. Many of the other roles play out beautifully. Rory Cochrane is perfect as Stephen Flemmi and David Harbour is fantastic as FBI agent John Morris who was much dirtier in real life than his film portrayal. Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson, Peter Sarsgaard, Jesse Plemons, and Corey Stoll are perfect in smaller roles.

Some of the other performances are decidedly less even. Joel Edgerton did not feel right for the majority of the movie. Watching him try to act like a gangster or a South Boston tough did not feel right. He couldn’t pull off being brash, but his performance played better down the stretch when his character became more compromised. Similarly, Benedict Cumberbatch did not feel right as Billy Bulger. Unlike Depp, Cumberbatch does not look the part, and I’m not sure how well he played it. It was a decent performance, but he did not seem appropriately cast.

It was also very cool to see the classic cars and how they turned Revere Beach into Miami.

Verdict:

Black Mass portrays Whitey Bulger the way he should be; as a criminal and a snitch. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: The Equalizer 2 (2018)

Day 353 & Day 354 & Day 355 – The Grapes of Wrath & Princess Mononoke & Inside Out

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Movie Title: The Grapes of Wrath

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 9 min.

Rated: Passed

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

The Grapes of Wrath is the cinematic incarnation of John Steinbeck’s classic novel of the same name. It stars Henry Fonda in the role of Tom Joad who stars in a story highly modified by screen writer Nunnally Johnson and directed by John Ford. The Grapes of Wrath is set during the Great Depression beginning in Oklahoma and ending in a California scarcely better than their home state.

Tom Joad is fresh out of prison on a manslaughter charge, so he returns to the family homestead. He finds it bereft. His family are sharecroppers and they are being forced off the land by a nebulous bank back east. They quickly find themselves starving and hit the road for California where they hear rumors of plentiful work and good living conditions. They face many hardships on their journey ranging from simple mechanical problems, financial problems, prejudice, all the way to outright violence. The trip is hard, but it gets harder when they reach California and discover it also has no opportunity for remedying their poverty.

Henry Fonda is terrific as Joad, but the real show stealer is Jane Darwell as Ma Joad. She won an Oscar for her performance and it was well deserved. While the movie changes quite a lot it is faithful to the spirit of the novel. It loses the novels breast feeding ending, but maintains Steinbeck’s dabbles with socialism. The Grapes of Wrath is noteworthy because it made in 1940 on the very heels of the depression and it doesn’t pull any punches.

Verdict:

The Grapes of Wrath is a noteworthy movie on many levels and is still as relevant today as ever. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Princess Mononoke (1997)

 

Movie Title: Princess Mononoke

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 14 min.

Rated: PG-13

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Princess Mononoke is the story of one man’s quest to seek balance between humans and nature. Ashitaka (Billy Crudup) is a local prince. When an enormous boar possessed by a demon attacks his village he answers the call, but is not left unscathed in the battle. His wound is a mark from the beast that will eventually result in his death. The local wise woman removes a hunk of iron from the creatures flank. She tells Ashitaka to find the source of the iron and to try and do good with what remains of his life.

Ashitaka descends into a world of nature gods being corrupted by humans and turned into demons. The gods are ancient creatures that protect the forest, but the forest is being cleared to fuel an iron foundry by Lady Eboshi. Lady Eboshi (Minnie Driver) couldn’t care less about the forest. She forges a pact with Jigo (Billy Bob Thornton) to ill the nature god that inhabits the forest and protects it. The nature god has various forces at its disposal, but so too does Lady Eboshi. The two forces battle as Ashitaka tries to strike balance between the two.

Ultimately, no one wins. The movie has deep messages about the impermanence of mankind’s desires and achievements and the cyclical nature of life. It is a masterpiece. The English adaptation by Neil Gaiman is quite good and the voice acting is top notch featuring Keith David, Gillian Anderson, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Claire Danes among others. Not to mention the movie contains a touching story about a man and his loyal elk.

Verdict:

Princess Mononoke is a great movie. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Inside Out (2015)

 

Movie Title: Inside Out

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Rated: PG

Who did I watch with?: 6 Orange

Where did I watch it?: Work

Review:

Inside Out is a great story about dealing with early adolescence and the tumultuous emotions that come with it. Riley lives with her parents in Minnesota. Life is great. She loves hockey, has friends, and likes going to school. Suddenly, her entire life is uprooted and moved to San Francisco. Her internal emotions Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger are forced to deal with the changes.

It seems manageable until Joy and Sadness are lost in the recesses of Riley’s mind. The structure of the mind is great and perfect for talking about regulating emotions. At Riley’s core is a set of core memories. These are linked by her emotions to islands that are important to her such as family island, hockey island, etc. But, different emotions can color those memories in different ways and break the connections to the islands. There is also short term memory, abstract thinking, and various other components of actual human memory that help drive the story.

The voice work is great featuring Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith in the two main roles, but with plenty of support from Richard Kind, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, and others. It is also very funny and has a great reference to the 1974 Chinatown that you know is just in there for nerds.

Verdict:

Inside Out is a funny, poignant, well structured movie. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Black Mass (2015)

Day 350 & Day 351 & Day 352 – American Beauty & The Lives of Others & American Psycho

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Movie Title: American Beauty

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 2 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

American Beauty is the story of the Burnham family at the peak of their collapse. Kevin Spacey narrates the story from beyond the grave. The narrative is so good that it is easy to forget about this narrative element over the course of the movie and still be surprised when Spacey ends up in a body bag at the end.

Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) is done. His whole life is a catastrophe. His marriage is a farce. His daughter hates him. He lacks a spine of any kind. Things start to look up for Lester when he meets his daughter’s young friend Angela (Mena Suvari) and immediately begins to execute a plan that will lead to them having a casual fling. He begins to fantasize about her and those fantasies bleed into his reality. Suddenly, Lester is no longer the staid and steady man he has been. He begins to unleash all the aggression and passion he has been storing up inside himself and begins to assert himself over his reality.

This doesn’t sit well with anyone in his life. His wife (Annette Benning) becomes even more estranged and starts to take an interest in fellow realtor Buddy Kane. His daughter Jane (Thora Birch) begins to spend significant amounts of time with the neighbor Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley) who films her and sells drugs. His mother is a basket case already and his father is just looking for reasons to smack Ricky around. Ricky is different though and doesn’t much care what anyone thinks about him. Everyone begins to pursue their own ends.

American Beauty is about conformity and breaking free from malaise, but it is also about the consequences of doing such a thing in a society as conservative as today’s America.

Verdict:

American Beauty is a perfect movie and it is certainly one that could not be made today (for various reasons.) See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: The Lives of Others (2006)

 

Movie Title: The Lives of Others

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 17 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

The Lives of Others is a story about the East German Police otherwise known as the Stasi and their massive surveillance campaign against its own citizens. The Stasi were set up to root out people that did not truly believe in the communist party and see them punished. Agent Wiesler is as good as anyone at rooting these people out. He has recently received a new assignment from Anton Grubitz, a higher up in the party, that is working on behalf of a central committee member.

Grubitz asserts that this new case will be good for Wiesler’s career. His target is writer Georg Dreyman and his actress girlfriend Christa-Maria Sieland. What Wiesler soon realizes is that Georg and Sieland are not up to anything, but he is being pressured by higher ups to find something. When he realizes there is no justice in pursuing Georg or Christa-Maria he begins to cover up for them. This is fine when it comes to covering up their western newspapers, but he soon becomes obsessed with their lives and covers up significant transgressions against the communist party.

The story is extremely compelling and the relationship that is formed between two strangers in the face of systematic oppression is fascinating. The ending is beautiful.

Verdict:

The Lives of Others is essential viewing in this or any other political climate. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: American Psycho (2000)

 

Movie Title: American Psycho

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: JR and Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

American Psycho has a fantastic cast that play some of the most vapid characters ever put on film. Christian Bale plays the physically immaculate yet internally vapid Patrick Bateman. Josh Lucas, Reese Witherspoon, Jared Leto, Willem Dafoe, and Reg E. Cathey have roles of various importance all of which are beautifully played and all more or less equally soulless. That internal emptiness is what drives the plot. It is the 1980s and everything is superficial. The best scenes in the movie are the ones that involve the most superficial elements such as business cards, suits, or girls. Bateman is unique because his mask of sanity is slipping away. All he wants to do is kill people in ways that entertain him. This ranges from coworkers to prostitutes. It may be the only thing that he truly takes joy in. It may sound like a horror movie and in many ways it is, but it is also hysterically funny in an extremely dark way.

American Psycho is the story of Patrick Bateman’s prolific serial killing career, but the real question in the movie is what is actually happening? The movie works in a surreal atmosphere. Bateman is a frustrated yuppy that has lost control of his murderous impulses, but his violence spills over in obvious ways that would prove difficult to cover up. While dragging a body in an overnight bag through a lobby covered in blood Bateman is asked where he got the bag. It is not particularly feasible. Is Bateman relating events the way they occurred? Is Bateman benefiting from multiple cases of mistaken identity? Is it all something that he is drawing in his journal or part of a day dream? It is impossible to say, but that is what makes it so fun.

Verdict:

American Psycho is depraved and it perfectly encapsulates the 80s. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Day 347 & Day 348 & Day 349 – Incredibles 2 & The Breakfast Club & The Third Man

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Movie Title: Incredibles 2

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 58 min.

Rated: PG

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Incredibles 2 is the long awaited sequel to 2004’s The Incredibles. All the big stars return despite some serious confusion on my part about the timeline of events. The story is supposedly taking place fifteen years after the events of the first movie, but none of the characters have aged. The story is simple. Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) wants superheroes return to prominence. He has money and resources at his disposal and has every intent of making it happen. He has teamed up with his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) who is a technical guru that has developed all kinds of new technology that keeps making their company money.

In order for this to work Winston recruits Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) to be the front woman of the company. She is less destructive than her husband Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and therefore more useful from a marketing perspective. Bob has to stay home and take care of the kids as Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack are all dealing with various issues. These subplots add humor to the story without overwhelming the main narrative. In my opinion this is the more interesting part of the story. Meanwhile, Elastigirl has to deal with a new villain. The Screenslaver can take over people’s minds and get them to do anything they want including insidious crimes. The Screenslaver has some silly belief about superheroes emasculating regular people and preventing them from taking charge of their own lives.

Eventually the two stories merge together into an overlapping story replete with entertainment.

Verdict:

It is at least as good as the original. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: The Breakfast Club (1985)

 

Movie Title: The Breakfast Club

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 37 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

The Breakfast Club is an 80s classic directed by classic 80s director John Hughes. Five high school students are imprisoned in their local high school for various crimes and misdemeanors. They represent different cliques within the school and are there for different reasons. They are naturally rebellious and fight against the man embodied here in the form of a teacher named Richard Vernon. Vernon (Paul Gleason) is a jerk. Over the course of the day they fight against Vernon and come to terms with one another.

John Bender played by Judd Nelson stands out as the most remarkable performance, but it also features a very young Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez, and heart throb Molly Ringwald. John Hughes basically reinvented the genre of teen comedy in the 1980s and The Breakfast Club was one of the movies that helped do that. Without Hughes you don’t get Judd Apatow or a string of other directors that work in the comedy genre today. The Breakfast Club is witty, inappropriate, and much like the rest of the 80s lacks a sense of realism. However, it has more than enough charm to make up for any of its short comings and the performances from the actors are great.

Verdict:

The Breakfast Club along with several other Hughes movies are essential viewing. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: The Third Man (1949)

 

Movie Title: The Third Man (1949)

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.

Rated: Not Rated

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

The Third Man was a movie I desperately wanted to like, but I was never able to figure out the appeal of the movie. Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) is a down on his luck writer that has moved to post-World War II Vienna. He is planning to meet up with a friend named Harry Lime who has promised him a job. The problem is that Lime is dead. But, when Martins starts asking questions he realizes that the stories don’t add up. He thinks Lime was murdered and starts looking into it.

What he discovers horrifies him. Lime was involved in a plot to distribute watered down penicillin to children at extreme rates. He made a killing and left many children dead or maimed in his wake. The authorities were after him. The huge problem with the movie is that the central mystery is not even remotely compelling. Orson Welles was billed as being one of the movie’s stars yet as it progresses over a long period of time and he has yet to appear on screen you know who the third man must be. It is also painfully obvious what role that man was playing. The movie is saved from doldrums by beautiful cinematography, an M.C. Escher-esque sewer chase scene, and a great ending, but the central flaw seriously detracts from the movie.

Verdict:

Cotten and Welles both delivered passable, but far from brilliant performances. The story has huge problems that greatly interfered with my enjoyment of the movie. Skip it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: American Beauty (1999)

Day 344 & Day 345 & Day 346 – The Stepford Wives (1975) & M & The Sting

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Movie Title: The Stepford Wives

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 55 min.

Rated: PG

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

The Stepford Wives is based on the fantastic novel of the same name by Ira Levin who was also the mastermind behind Rosemary’s Baby one of the greatest horror stories of all time. Joanna and Walter Eberhart have just moved to the town of Stepford, Connecticut from New York City. They have two young children and they are looking forward to a quieter life in the countryside. Joanna works in the house, but has a developing photography career. Walter works in a vaguely defined business related to electronics.

After living in the town for a short period of time, Walter joins the local men’s association. He begins spending a lot of time outside of the house and Joanna resents it. Joanna starts to talk with the women around time and she begins to realize that they are bizarre. They are obsessed with housework and domestic tasks. They have no personal lives. Slowly the truth comes out about the men’s association and what they are doing with the women in town. Will Joanna be able to escape the fate of the other women in town? The ending is horrifying.

Verdict:

The Stepford Wives is a great movie about the objectification of women. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: M (1931)

 

Movie Title: M

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 39 min.

Rated: Not Rated

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

M is a masterwork by Fritz Lang who is also well known for his silent science fiction epic Metropolis. I have never been a big fan of Metropolis and I went into M with a bit of trepidation. M is a genre defining movie that set the tone for an entire genre.

There is a murderer out and about in a German town killing children. The opening scene depicting the first murder is chilling and iconic. The police are under tremendous pressure to catch the murderer, but they have had absolutely no success. In order to correct the situation they are collecting criminals at random all over town hoping to catch the killer. This is putting a serious damper on crime around town. The top echelon of the criminal underworld get together and decide that they are going to catch the murderer on their own in order to restore their criminal enterprises.

The plot turns into a race between the cops and the crooks to see who can find the murderer first. The movie features Peter Lorre in a particularly disturbing role early in his career. He does a great job portraying a serial killer. The twists and turns involved in catching him are great and required excellent staging. The mix between sound and silence is also perfect. All these elements may make M one of the earliest psychological thrillers. The ending is great.

Verdict:

M is a great, genre defining work. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: The Sting (1973)

 

Movie Title: The Sting

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 9 min.

Rated: PG

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

The Sting is a classic heist movie that reunited Paul Newman and Robert Redford after their success in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) is a small time grifter that gets into it with a big time mob figure from New York by accident. His close friend and associate Luther Coleman is killed by his goons for revenge. Hooker is on the hit list as well, but he is ducking his assassins.

Hooker then hooks up (symbol crash) with Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) who is a master grifter intent on taking Hooker’s game to the next level. They develop a complex con designed to get revenge against Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) who is the man that burned Hooker’s associates. The story is told in sequences broken up by beautiful title cards. The plot is somewhat predictable, but it is more about the journey than the destination. Newman and Redford had great on screen chemistry. Shaw does a fantastic job portraying anger issues and Charles Durning has a nice turn as a crooked cop. Watching the con play out is a lot of fun. The movie doesn’t have a lot of depth, but it has superb style.

Verdict:

The Sting is a great con movie that significantly influenced the genre. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Incredibles 2 (2018)

Day 341 & Day 342 & Day 343 – Office Christmas Party & The City of the Dead & Eighth Grade

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Movie Title: Office Christmas Party

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Office Christmas Party is an absolutely stupid comedy along the lines of The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard or Step Brothers which is to say that more people should be a fan of it. The movie has tons of star power. Jason Bateman stars as an office manager alongside technical guru Olivia Munn, the mind warped boss played by T.J. Miller of Deadpool fame, Bateman’s assistant is played by the awkward Kate MacKinnon, and the star power is closed out with Jennifer Anniston as the demonic corporate overlord. This does not account for the large number of familiar role players that fill out the cast and do a great job.

The plot is simple. Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller) has to try and save his company when his sister Carol (Jennifer Anniston) threatens to close down his branch of the company. The only way to do this is to close a major account and only one such account is on the horizon. Josh Parker (Jason Bateman), Tracey Hughes (Olivia Munn), and Vanstone all head to a meeting with Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance) who is disgusted by modern corporate culture and barely gives them the time of day. In order to show off their corporate culture they decide to throw an absolutely over the top Christmas party and invite Davis to it. The party devolves into mayhem as everyone involves has their own interests and Clay Vanstone jettisons the remainder of his personal wealth to make it a success. Things get absolutely ridiculous and reindeer are involved. It’s great.

Verdict:

Office Christmas Party is super, stupid, fun. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: The City of the Dead (1960)

 

Movie Title: The City of the Dead

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 18 min.

Rated: PG-13

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

The City of the Dead is a witch story from the 1960s that features a young Christopher Lee. The first act is pretty interesting while the second act falters from repeating too much of the first act’s plot.

Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) is taking a college class taught by Alan Driscoll. Driscoll (Christopher Lee) is a historian with a specialty in witchcraft that spins a tale about a town in Massachusetts called Wormwood. He encourages Barlow to go there to study witchcraft. She does and discovers that the town may still be populated by the townspeople that lived there in the 17th century. She discovers this only to face the wrath of the townspeople who use her in their twisted satanic plot. When she goes missing her fiancee and brother come to try and find her only to make the same discoveries. This discovery period is kind of boring because it is so predictable. The end piece is pretty interesting and includes a cross that kills people with its shadow for some completely unexplained reason.

Verdict:

The City of the Dead has an interesting opening scene that involves burning a witch and has some cool cinematography. The first half is good, but the second half is far less interesting. The ending is pretty cool. I liked it, but I would say take it or leave it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Eighth Grade (2018)

 

Movie Title: Eighth Grade

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Eighth Grade tells the story of Kayla Day’s (Elsie Fisher) last week of middle school. Kayla is incredibly awkward and has few to no friends. She does not fit in with her peers and is very quiet. She makes videos and posts them on Youtube as advice columns which are tangentially true. Her dad Mark (Josh Hamilton) is trying his best to raise her on his own, but she is moody and secretive and he is more than a little awkward himself. She is incredibly down on herself and is trying to reach out to make other people like her even though they pretty much suck themselves.

Because she is in eighth grade, she has no perspective on where her life is going and starts reaching out to the wrong people. She starts by going to a birthday party for a girl she barely knows and doesn’t really like in order to fit in and then goes on to hang out with a bunch of high school students who take advantage of her. She is enamored with a boy who is an absolute tool. The movie flows in a very stream of consciousness kind of way and captures all the awkwardness of middle school that most of us would like to forget while maintaning a light sense of humor. By the end she gains a sense of perspective she lacked at the beginning.

Verdict:

The movie is simultaneously sweet while being a little too realistic. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: The Stepford Wives (1975)

Day 338 & Day 339 & Day 340 – Grave of the Fireflies & Toy Story 2 & Toy Story 3

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Movie Title: Grave of the Fireflies

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 29 min.

Rated: Not Rated

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Grave of the Fireflies is one of the most depressing movies I have ever seen. The movie focuses on the fate of two Japanese children during World War II. Seita is a high school aged boy. His father is in the Navy and his mother is raising him in a nice home in a small Japanese city. His sister Setsuko is around 5 or 6 years old and adores her older brother.

As predicted, U.S. bombers fire bombed the city. Their mother went ahead to the air raid shelter, but the two children were trapped behind while trying to store food. The siblings escaped to a distance and watched the house burn to the ground. After the fire is put under control and most of the city is burned to the ground Seita goes to find his mother. He finds her in the hospital horribly burned over nearly 100% of her body. There is no medical treatment available and she is left to sit on a gymnasium floor until she expires. The body is burned almost immediately.

Seita decides to absorb the pain and try to make things livable for his little sister. They go to live with unforgiving relatives who see them as ingrates while taking advantage of them. Seita decides that is it no fit to place live and they go to live in an abandoned hole in the side of a lakeside hill. There they are hit hard by the wartime shortages and the eventual surrender of Japan which leaves Seita temporarily elated. The children must struggle to survive and maintain a hope. It is a struggle that appears to be a losing battle and leads to one of the most tear jerking endings imaginable.

As a student of history, I know of all the Japanese flaws during World War II. The rape of Nanking and the horrors inflicted on the Chinese are comparable to the Holocaust in Europe in terms of statistics. I also firmly believe the U.S. decision to bomb the island into rubble and drop the atom bombs was the right strategic decision. What makes Grave of the Fireflies such a great film is that it removes the political element and puts the entire focus on the human toll of war. The human toll of war is why war should be avoided if at all possible because the human suffering is unimaginable. It is a heart wrenching movie. For an interesting non-fiction take on the events in this movie I highly recommend The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara an extremely interesting character studies on one of the most controversial American figures of the 20th century.

Verdict:

It is a great anti-war movie. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Toy Story 2 (1999)

 

Movie Title: Toy Story 2

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Rated: G

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Toy Story 2 is a solid, if unspectacular, follow up to the original. Woody (Tom Hanks) is trying to save a fellow toy named Wheezy the Penguin who is being sold at a yard sale. Woody is recognized as a classic collector’s item by Al the Toy Collector (Wayne Knight) who insists on having him. But, Andy’s mom won’t budge. Al steals Woody and takes him back to his toy shop. Woody completes Al’s insane collection of Woody related memorabilia including Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl (Joan Cusack) and Stinky Pete the Prospector (Kelsey Grammar) new and in the box.

Al is planning on shipping the whole lot of them off to an obsessive collector in Japan that will pay Al a hefty price. The group will end up in a museum together for a long time. Woody is tempted. Andy is growing up and Woody knows his time with him is short. He is feeling worn out and believes Andy might even throw him away soon. But, Woody’s old gang isn’t willing to let him be lost to the museum and they come to rescue him.

The voice acting of some of the guests is good, but somewhat wasted. Kelsey Grammar is great as Stiny Pete, but I felt like Wayne Knight was severely under utilized. The movie has mature messages about seeking immortality versus living in the now and taking risks which is great. But, Al the Toy Collector could have have been a far more interesting character that focused on America’s conspicuous consumption and unhealthy collecting habits. Instead he is just money hungry. I feel like there is a better story to be told with the character. The regular cast of characters all do their jobs just fine.

Verdict:

Toy Story 2 is not nearly as good as the original and the second act is pretty weak. Despite that it is still a pretty good animated tale from the best in the business. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Toy Story 3 (2010)

 

Movie Title: Toy Story 3

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.

Rated: G

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Toy Story 3 returned the original group of toys to the big screen for the first time in eleven years. Andy is going away to college and his mom has decreed that he needs to group all his possessions as trash, storage, or something he is taking with him. In a huge mix up the toys destined for the attic were accidentally thrown away by Andy’s mom beginning their quest.

The toys end up in the care of Sunny Side Day Care and the toys think they have landed in heaven. It is run by a benevolent overlord  named Lotso voiced ably by Ned Beatty. Everything seems fine until they realize the paradise they thought they walked into is revealed to be a glorified prison. Toy Story 3 mirrors many prison break stories, but also mirrors the hard luck stories of gangsters often seen on scream. Lotso had a rough life that transformed him into the toy seen in the movie. The majority of the movie is a prison break as the group tries to outsmart Lotso and his minions in order to escape from the day care center. It is a great tale that is reminiscent of some really great escape movies. Pun intended.

The latter half of the movie is touching and the end could bring a tear to your eye if you have a soft spot for nostalgia.

Verdict:

Toy Story 3 is a touching story of letting go and moving on as well as staying connected with the nostalgia of youth. It layers all this in with an escape movie that would make Steve McQueen proud. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Office Christmas Party (2016)

Day 335 & Day 336 & Day 337 – Your Name. & Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs & Sorry To Bother You

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Movie Title: Your Name.

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 46 min.

Rated: PG

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Your Name. is an anime that is a combination between Freaky Friday and a movie I watched earlier this year called Coherence with a few interesting twists thrown in.

Taki is a young man that lives in Tokyo. He works at a restaurant, graduates from school, and decides to become a landscape architect over the course of the film. He has robust friendships and seems to be leading a good life, but he feels empty.

Mitsuha is a high school aged girl that lives in a rural area of Japan around a large lake. Her family cares for the local Shinto shrine and her estranged father is the mayor of the town. They are working to prepare for an upcoming festival and Mitsuha is trying to maintain a social life at school. She also feels empty.

This is because Taki and Mitsuha are switching bodies on alternating days because of a comet that is passing by the planet. Eventually they realize what is going on and begin to communicate with each other. Eventually, the two fall for each other while living each other’s lives. But, when the comet passes they become separated from each other with no recollection of how to find each other. The doubt about whether this odd reunion will ever happen drives the plot forward.

Verdict:

The premise is interesting because it isn’t clear whether or not they will ever meet each other and the movie has enough ambiguity to keep it interesting. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

 

Movie Title: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 23 min.

Rated: G

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is dull as dust. It is a retelling of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale that has not an iota of character depth. Snow White is a downtrodden, pretty, and stupid princess. Prince Charming (or whatever his name is) is as superficial as it gets. The evil sister is only obsessed with her beauty. The dwarfs are a yawn, especially Dopey who is not even remotely endearing. The humor is as flat as it gets. The story isn’t worth summarizing because everyone knows it.

The only mark in Snow White’s favor is the animation which was well done especially for 1937. So, from a technical standpoint it is absolutely worth seeing. It was also the first animated film to be nominated for an Oscar, so that puts a mark in its favor as well.

Verdict:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has not aged well and is not worth watching. Skip it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Sorry To Bother You (2018)

 

Movie Title: Sorry To Bother You

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 51 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Sorry to Bother You is a modern commentary on being black in America as well as America’s work culture that would make Spike Lee proud. Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is unemployed and living in his uncle’s garage with his fiancee Detroit. Detroit (Tessa Thompson) is an artist with an anti-authoritarian streak and Green is right there along with her. But, they are both dead broke and Green’s uncle will have his house repossessed if he doesn’t make a huge payment soon.

Cassius gets a job working as a telemarketer where Langston (Danny Glover) teacher him how to be successful by pretending to be white. Eventually Cassius helps his friend Salvador (Jermaine Fowler) and his girlfriend get a job there too. While Detroit, Salvador, and a union organizer nicknamed Squeeze (Steven Yuen) go down the path of trying to unionize the office Cassius sets his eyes on a different prize. Cassius wants to become a power caller, but once he does he spirals up into a dystopian trap. He can earn an insane amount of wealth for himself, but only if he rampantly exploits others for a company that could easily serve as a parallel for Amazon or Wal-Mart.

These companies are quite literally willing to take away people’s humanity and enslave them to make a profit. Once Cassius sees this he needs to make a choice about whether he can reconcile his beliefs with the paycheck he is getting until it gets even more personal than that.

Verdict:

Sorry to Bother You is a brilliant directorial debut by Boots Riley. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Grave of the Flies (1988)

November Summary

November 1st: Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
November 2nd: Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)
November 3rd: Solaris (1971)
November 4th: The Exterminating Angel (1962)
November 5th: V for Vendetta (2005)
November 6th: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)
November 7th: Spring Breakers (2012)
November 8th: The Devil’s Candy (2015)
November 9th: They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018)
November 10th: Overlord (2018)
November 11th: Stalker (1979)
November 12th: Ocean’s 8 (2018)
November 13th: Slender Man (2018)
November 14th: Instant Family (2018)
November 15th: Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018)
November 16th: Hearts Beat Loud (2018)
November 17th: Mandy (2018)
November 18th: Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916)
November 19th: Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
November 20th: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
November 21st: All About Eve (1950)
November 22nd: Hush (2016)
November 23rd: Double Indemnity (1944)
November 24th: It Happened One Night (1934)
November 25th: Creep (2014)
November 26th: Creep 2 (2017)
November 27th: The Wizard of Oz (1939)
November 28th: Skyscraper (2018)
November 29th: Circle (2015)
November 30th: The General (1926)

The Best of October: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010) and Hearts Beat Loud (2018)

I watched a lot of classics this month, so I decided to leave them out of this, but of the classic movies I watched this month my favorite by far was The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Humphrey Bogart is one of the best scenery chewers in cinematic history and his turn opposite Walter Huston in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is fantastic.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is the best horror comedy since Evil Dead II which puts it against some truly great movies like Army of Darkness, Shaun of the Dead, and The Cabin in the Woods. Those movies are classics of the genre in their own rights. What they all have in common is charismatic star performances and Alan Tudyk is terrific.

Hearts Beat Loud falls into the uncommon record store genre which I love. High Fidelity is one of my favorite movies and Hearts Beat Loud has all the charm of that movie, but for a more mature audience. It is possible to imagine Nick Offerman as the very grown up character John Cusack plays in High Fidelity. It has a great supporting cast and great music that puts it all together.

The Worst of October: Slender Man (2018) and Stalker (1979)

I didn’t pan Slender Man in my review like a lot of people did, but it is highly uninspired and unoriginal. Nothing about it felt good including the performances, but I have seen far worse in the horror genre. With that said, it is quite simply not worth seeing.

Stalker makes my list because of how disappointing I found it. It is full of metaphysical musings about life and the plot becomes irrelevant fairly quickly. This movie is often ranked highly in the science fiction genre and makes a lot of lists of “Best Science Fiction Movies You Haven’t Seen!” but I couldn’t disagree more. This is all the more true when compared with this year’s Annihilation which was heavily influenced by Stalker. It is so heavily influenced it could probably be called a remake. But, it fixes many of the problems Stalker had. It blends its musings with action and beautiful effects. Annihilation is must see.