Day 360 – Hotel Artemis

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Movie Title: Hotel Artemis

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 34 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Hotel Artemis has a great cast, a lot of style, but not a lot of substance. The Hotel Artemis has clients that are exclusively criminals. They pay a membership fee for top flight illegal medical care. The Nurse (Jodie Foster) has been running the hotel for twenty-two years and has maintained a strict set of rules that dictate the hotel’s behavior. Los Angeles is locked in an insane, sustained, state of rioting. Water has been privatized to a large corporation and the poor are rioting. Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) has just botched a heist and his brother is shot to bits. He takes him to the hotel for medical treatment, but during the heist his brother incidentally robbed one of the biggest criminals in the city. He isn’t taking it lying down. At the same time, The Nurse is forced to compromise her rules to take in someone she cares about, and it could end the business. The rules are interesting, but they seem like they would never have worked in the first place.

The technology and style of the hotel are very cool. There is nano technology and 3D printed livers. It reminds me of the hotel in John Wick, but with a different cast of characters, and much more high tech. The use of music to cure The Nurse’s many phobias is cool and she has clearly suffered some trauma. The problem is that the story has far too many little details that are not explored enough. At a certain point they should have started trimming back on the details that would not be further explored. The plot comes together for the most part, but there are some holes in that too.

The cast is great. Jodie Foster plays her leading role well. It is supplemented by Sterling K. Brown, Jeff Goldblum, Sofia Boutelia, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day, and Dave Bautista. They all work together really well and keep the movie compelling.

Verdict:

Hotel Artemis is a fun movie without too much substance. It is still a good popcorn ride even with all its flaws. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Kin (2018)

Day 359 – Krampus (Merry Christmas!)

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Movie Title: Krampus

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 38 min.

Rated: PG-13

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Krampus is a Christmas movie for those that are sick of the saccharine nature of many Christmas yarns. On Christmas you are forced to spend time and exchange gifts with people that you ordinarily wouldn’t go out of your way to see. There is a lot of stress associated with the holiday and the crass commercialism associated with it is nauseating. The opening sequence of Krampus is terrific and really sets the mood as people beat each other to a pulp over the latest toys and otherwise debauch a toy store.

The movie proceeds in a Christmas Vacation style where Tom (Adam Scott) and Sarah (Toni Collette) have their family come over. They are a bunch of country folk that think Tom and Sarah are soft as grapes and that they are the genuine salt of the Earth. Max (Emjay Anthony) is the youngest son of Tom and Sarah and he is the last of the bunch to still take a joy in Christmas. This Christmas finally sucked it out of him. His parents are fighting, his sister can’t stand him, and the extended family are a bunch of mutants that no one would want to spend a second with. He wishes something could be done about it and he gets his wish.

A storm rolls in and socks the town in snow. The family loses electricity. Tom and Sarah’s daughter Beth goes to see her boyfriend and check on the situation, but she never returns. When Tom and Howard go to check on the girls they discover creatures roaming the streets slaughtering the populace. They are attacked, but escape to their home. Things get precipitously worse from there as Krampus and his minions assault the family. The action ostensibly has some roots in some decision Adam’s grandmother made, but that part of the movie doesn’t make the most sense. Ultimately, the family needs to see if they can rediscover the true meaning of Christmas while under assault from some creatures sporting some really fun designs. Some of them seem like they could have sprung from the mind of Guillermo del Toro. The ending is fun and totally gives me an idea of something I would like to add to my Christmas tree if I ever get one up again.

Verdict:

Krampus reflects the real problem with Christmas and gives a clear solution to the problem; a hell beast that keeps everyone in line. Let us keep our fingers crossed. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Hotel Artemis (2018)

Day 358 – Gone With The Wind / Pop Chart Lab Scratch #18 (The Final Scratch!)

 

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Movie Title: Gone With The Wind

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 3 hr. 58 min.

Rated: Passed

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Gone With The Wind is a well made movie about an idealized south that is not only nauseating, but never existed. It embraces every sickening view that white southerners developed about a genteel south following the war right down to “the lost cause” attitude that the south allegedly knew they were fighting. This is symbolized in the form of a ragged flag during the siege of Atlanta and espoused from the mouths of many of its characters not the least of which would be leading man Clark Gable. The movie lacks any of the brutality associated with slavery. The most violent it gets is a slap across the face of a feeble minded female slave. Slavery is presented as being so gentle that the slaves should have been happy with their lot. The only people that seem to suffer from any ill effects from the war are the white characters who are put below their dignity by having to do field work and losing their money. Slavery is barely discussed at all.

This nonsense gets more disgusting after the war is over as the Union soldiers are referred to as The Great Invader (didn’t hear that when they fired at Fort Sumter or marched into the north) while the returning confederate soldiers are referred to as glorious cavaliers. The downfall of southern society is shown as white people being forced to pick cotton and do manual labor. You know, the things slaves used to do. Yankee prisons are referred to as if they could be the worst place on Earth while union prisoners rotted in Andersonville. All of these false narratives developed after the war in order to justify racism, keeping black people out of society, and to perpetuate the idea of a benevolent south.

All these historical atrocities are juxtaposed against a beautifully made movie. The costumes are beautifully crafted. The set pieces, scenery, and matte painting are beautiful. The characters of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara are terrific. They are both scoundrels that do not fit into their genteel society. They chew the scenery and banter with each other beautifully. Their on screen chemistry is unmatched. Many of the other performances are well done as well. The story is decent despite its flaws though the two core performances along with that of love interest Ashley (Leslie Howard) and Mammy (Hattie McDaniel) carry the narrative. The movie becomes extremely tedious down the stretch, but Gable’s walk off ending is a terrific way to wrap up the movie.

Verdict:

The movie is simultaneously a great epic and a historical atrocity. It is a must see movie as one of the two American masterpieces that glorified racism and the south along with D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation. See it, but don’t believe it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Krampus (2015)

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)