Day 18 – Crimson Peak

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Movie Title: Crimson Peak

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. and 59 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Crimson Peak opens with a funeral. Edith Cushing’s mother is dead. It does not take long for her ghostly visage to appear before young Edith warning her to beware of Crimson Peak. Edith is the daughter of wealthy builder Carter Cushing and an aspiring writer. Her father wants her to take part in Buffalo’s turn of the century upper class society, but she is resistant. That is, until the magnificent Thomas Sharpe shows up on the scene. He appreciates her work, pulls her away from her books, and gets her into the social scene. This draws the ire of many young women, taken with Mr. Sharpe, not the least of which is Mr. Sharpe’s sister Lucille. Ultimately, the Sharpe’s seek a return to their native home in Cumberland, England concluding a strong first act.

The movie is beautifully set. The furnishings are lovely and the hotels are opulent. Even when it comes to the bath houses it echoes of gilded age glory. The wardrobes are equally taking. The effects used for the house in England are terrific as well contrasting old world money with a unique form of decay.

That is where the positives end. The second act is a slog. Several earlier subplots are left completely unresolved. It features one of the most incompetent cases of detective work ever. The movie tries to hint that all is not as it seems, but the overarching problem is you probably figured it out already. Sadly, I had solved most of the mystery before the 1st half of the movie was over. The movie also played up its horror elements and then left them largely on the shelf. It is a bizarre gilded age romance with some ghosts who really play very little part in the movie.

Verdict:

This movie has an identity crisis. While it has some nice sets and an interesting first half, it doesn’t do anything with it, and it all falls apart in the second half. It is also extremely predictable. Skip it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Doctor Strange (2016)

Today’s Run:

I did not feel so great today and I’m thinking I probably should go to the doctor’s soon. With that said, I did 30 minutes of walking, and my customary 1.5 miles. Tomorrow will be an off day before a run on Saturday.

 

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Day 17: Snow Day 3! – Baby Driver

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Movie Title: Baby Driver

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. and 52 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver opens with a thrilling chase sequence following a bank heist by Griff, Buddy, and Darling, code names utilized by characters played by Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, and Eliza Gonzalez respectively. The movie has its fair share of cool chase scenes, that were actually exciting, and well choreographed. Parts of it reminded me of the first time I saw the original Gone in 60 Seconds and how cool I thought those scenes were when I was a kid. It was also a nice change of pace from some of the absurd and boring chase sequences I’ve seen in several movies lately.

It is immediately apparent that the movie is going to be music driven. Every action in Baby’s life is linked to music and this helps provide style and drive the plot of the movie. Pun intended. The title sequence is unique and sets up the music video like vibe parts of the movie have.

The rotating crew of robbers employed by Doc have no great respect for Baby aside from his ability to expertly steer a car. Griff wastes no time busting Baby’s balls over his silence and perceived aloofness. Other characters follow suit. It is quickly revealed that Baby is not just your typical hold up man and that if he could get out he probably would. He also comes off as either traumatized or borderline autistic with some of his mannerisms. This includes Baby’s love story which is both unique and disturbing. Baby’s infatuation with Debora played by Lily James is sweet, but also has stalker-like qualities. Debora would scarcely pass the Bechdel test, but the relationship successfully adds drama and works as a plot driver in the movie. Again, intended.

The performances are solid throughout, but especially from Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm. Both of whom take turns as absolute psychopaths that are only really good at one thing, which is stealing from other people. This movie also features Kevin Spacey in an important role. I know it is popular to ignore movies featuring or produced by the serial sex offenders of Hollywood because they are after all dirt bags, but don’t pass this over just because we found out Kevin Spacey really is his House of Cards character.

Verdict:

While the movie draws on certain stereotypes of the heist genre including one last jobs, set ups, and jobs that are clearly going to go wrong, Baby Driver transcends that with a cool concept and an action packed finale. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Crimson Peak (2015)

Today’s Run:

Time: 14:54

Distance: 1 mile

I did not run yesterday. I came home and tried, but was coughing up all kinds of garbage again shortly. However, today I am feeling a lot better. I was happy to see that my run shaved five seconds off my previous time despite taking three days off in a row. I think running also helped me get some of the last of it out of my system. Feeling really good.

Day 16 – The Bad Batch

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Movie Title: The Bad Batch

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. and 58 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

During the opening credits of the movie it is revealed that the Bad Batch is a specialized prisoner category used in the Texas hinterlands. Inmates are tattooed and left behind a large barbed wire fence. It is lawless country designed to let the inmates run the asylum. The area is a wasteland where many of the natives have resorted to cannibalism. Our leading actress Arlen, played by Suki Waterhouse, does not take long to realize the harshness of her new desert prison.

Both dialogue and entertainment value are sparse. The entertainment value gets sparser as the movie goes on. The movie wastes no time getting gritty, unfortunately the grit is not compelling or typically meaningful. The world is not overly convincing. The stylized elements are boring and the pace is brutally slow. An editor needed to take a hatchet to this movie, but if they removed every scene that proved to be irrelevant there would have been a grand total of 30 minutes running time left.

The talent in the movie is also criminally under utilized. Momoa is tanning or otherwise skulking around on a moped for the majority of the movie. Giovanni Ribisi rants and raves in very limited screen time. Keanu Reeves does not show up until the 48-minute mark and also has a very limited role, which rings of nonsense in the dystopian hell his role inhabits. Jim Carrey does not utter a single solitary line and only has one scene that deliberately tries to be funny. It isn’t. The movie depends largely on its world building, but its world building is largely unconvincing. There is a community of men and women who only seem to lift weights and eat people. There is no possibility they could survive in such a fashion for long, but they are not shown doing anything else. Another community has significant resources in terms of electricity, but scarcely appear to have anything to eat. No one is seen to have direct access to water despite the desert climate. The towns appear wholly scavenged, yet they can chemically produce enough drugs for an entire population.

While the movie was billed as having a love story, it is nearly impossible to care about because the rest of the movie is such a mess. When you ultimately figure out who the love story is between (it takes quite awhile) you can basically just sit and scratch your head.

The Bad Batch is all style and no substance. There is very little to this movie aside from the world. The performances are either wasted or terrible. There is a concept and talent and no idea what to do with it. So, instead of plot we get 10+ minute drug trip sequences looking at stars in the desert that end up having little to no bearing on the movie.

Verdict:

The Bad Batch has a few cool sequences, but on the whole it is just a mess that barely strings together in any coherent way. Skip it.

Pop Chart Lab: First Scratch

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12 Years a Slave, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Get Out

Tomorrow’s Movie: Baby Driver (2017)

Today’s Run:

I am going home to run right now. I came home to find my low hanging internet cables were taken out by my trash truck, so I am parked outside the library right now. I will post today’s run tomorrow.

Day 15: Martin Luther King Day – Get Out / Pop Chart Lab Scratch #1

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Yeah, my palm tree is looking a little sick.

Movie Title: Get Out

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. and 44 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

The movie opens with an unnamed black man getting kidnapped in the suburbs after a car turns around to follow him. The movie then cuts to the title screen before introducing Chris Washington and Rose Armitage played by Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams respectively. They meet up at Chris’s apartment and discuss their upcoming weekend to visit Armitage’s parents. Washington wants to know if her parents know that he’s black. She tells them her parents aren’t racist and the most he’ll be subjected to is some prattling about Obama’s greatness. She further builds her credentials by more or less telling a cop to fuck off after asking to check Washington’s ID after a minor traffic incident.

After arriving at the house Mr. and Mrs. Armitage are immediately disarming. They comment on how they are “huggers” and try to make him feel welcome. But, things are immediately disjointed. The groundskeeper appears menacing, the housekeeper behaves oddly, the basement is sealed up, and Mrs. Armitage wants to hypnotize him. That’s when the rest of the family shows up. They are there to celebrate an anniversary for grandfather Armitage who passed away, but is kept in everyone’s memory. Every single one makes at least one comment that is offhandedly racist.

The movie is disconcerting the whole way through and even after you figure out what is going to happen there is someone to root for. Kaluuya’s performance is particularly excellent, especially in scenes where he needs to portray a lot of internal drama with little external affect. The idea of white people casually demeaning black people while simultaneously co-opting their culture is not subtle, but it is all too relevant. The immediate example that comes to mind as being especially like the film is a virulent racist like Donald Sterling, the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, winning awards from the NAACP (which he bought and paid for) to cover up for his fanatical tirades against socializing with black people. This is all summed up nicely in a small role by Stephen Root, one of the few characters in the movie that doesn’t seem to have a lot of racist motivations.

Verdict:

The movie builds tension throughout and the ending is terrific. It also has a message about a problem that is all too real in America today without being at all preachy. See it.

Pop Chart Lab:

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This is also my first entry that will scratch a tab on my new 100 Essential Films poster by Pop Chart Labs. This super cool poster is like a scratch ticket. Each film has an image and then once you have seen the movie you can scratch it off. I pictured the last three films on the list as I have already seen Mad Max: Fury Road and 12 Years a Slave both of which were excellent. I will be posting a picture of the scratch off tomorrow. Special thanks to Casey DeMello for showing me this!

The next film off this list will be The Hurt Locker, which I have not seen yet.

Tomorrow’s Movie: The Bad Batch (2017)

Today’s Run:

I am still not feeling well from yesterday. I’m coughing up all kinds of crap and having a hard time breathing. I am hoping to feel better tomorrow and run.

Day 14 – Atomic Blonde

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The name is Blonde. Lorraine Blonde.

Movie Title: Atomic Blonde

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. and 55 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Set against the fall of the Berlin Wall, Atomic Blonde opens with the assassination of a British agent by the Soviets in Berlin. James Gascoine, the assassinated agent, is ferrying a list of spies that came from a Stasi double agent code named Spyglass. Charlize Theron’s, Lorraine Broughton is introduced already battered and bruised setting up the flashback frame narrative that contextualizes the movie. She is being interrogated by a British and an American agent played by Toby Jones and John Goodman respectively as things have clearly gone sideways.

Broughton is then sent to acquire the list under the auspices of recovering Gascoine’s body. To do this, she needs to connect with MI6’s leading man in Berlin, David Percival, played by James McAvoy. Percival has gone native and appears sketchy right from the get go. The spy craft is set against the backdrop of hedonistic night clubs and upscale locales on either side of the wall. It quickly becomes apparent that there is a double agent in their midst going by the code name Satchel. Acquiring the list and ferreting out the spy becomes the round about purpose of the movie.

Atomic Blonde has violent and beautifully shot action sequences in the vein of John Wick. The action is set to a classic 80s soundtrack that hits, mostly, the right notes. Broughton drinks Stoli and kicks ass, spying her way to the top. The problem is despite all of that, the movie is pretty dull for long stretches and has a story riddled with holes. The movie is slow paced and what is supposed to be exciting lacks all gravitas. The movie becomes very predicable and the ending is completely unsatisfying. The motivations for all the characters involved are fuzzy at best. Charlize Theron rocks, but ultimately the movie set around her does not.

Verdict:

Despite some cool action sequences, the story barely strings it all together. The ending leaves much to be desired and so much more could have been done with the frame narrative they used. An implementation of an unreliable narrator could have been interesting. But, it all ends up being way too straight forward. Despite some moments, skip it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Get Out (2017)

Today’s Run:

Last night I went to the Patriots game and had a great time. However, today I am paying for it. I was sick part of the week and that came back a little. I am also still hungover and exhausted. My head is pounding and I’m coughing up all kinds of crap. I will run tomorrow.

Day 13 – It Comes at Night

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Movie Title: It Comes at Night

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. and 31 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

The film opens with a disheveled and battered looking man talking to his daughter who is wearing a respirator. He is dying. They put him in a wheel barrel, roll him outside, and shoot him before burning the body. It Comes at Night is set during the time of a new plague, one that seems to rival the Bubonic plague. Over a four year period from 1347 to 1351 between 30% and 50% of Europe’s population perished. This is further driven home by displaying one of my favorite paintings, The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, in the home. During Bruegel’s life war and disease ravaged Europe. These themes set the tone for the movie.

Life is far from idyllic, but it is relatively calm until a man breaks into the home. Out of fear, the man is assaulted and tied to a tree outside to see if he proves to be a carrier of the disease. The man is interrogated and ultimately his family comes to live with that of Paul and Sarah played by Joel Edgerton and Carmen Ejogo respectively.

The movie has a very slow pace and its hour and thirty minute running time crawls by. Even though the movie often lacks for action, drama is built in many ways over the course of the movie. Having played a considerable amount of the video game Fallout 4, life in Paul and Sarah’s home struck me as what life might be like in a Fallout settlement. Life is pretty mundane. They cut wood. They cook meals. They pump water. But, there is a lurking terror and suspicion at all times.

Part of this movie is a coming of age story for Paul and Sarah’s son Travis played by Kelvin Harrison Jr. He is forced to witness terrible events and subjected to a lot of personal pain that he is expected to absorb because of the turbulent times in which he lives. He suffers from a lot of symptoms of PTSD and believes he has visions of death hunting him.

The movie also has a message that is pertinent in the age of building walls, which the movie favors. By trusting the strangers, Paul and Sarah open up their closed off family to pain. The outsiders can never be trusted and that point is driven home again and again. Not sticking to isolation and nativism can lead to a terrible cost and an uncertain future.

Verdict:

It Comes at Night is not an action movie or a horror movie. It is a drama set in troubling times. It has some interesting images and themes. If you go in with the right expectations it is an enjoyable experience. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Atomic Blonde (2017)

Today’s Run:

The sun came out this morning! I walked today for 30 minutes and got in my customary, at this point, 1.5 miles. Tomorrow, will be a running / walking day.

Day 12 – The Commuter

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Taken on the Spartacus Express on a Dog Day Afternoon

Movie Title: The Commuter

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. and 44 min.

Rated: PG-13

Who did I watch with?: Stephie and Keegan

Where did I watch it?: Regal Stadium Theaters – Swansea, MA

Review:

The Commuter opens with a puzzling montage showing Michael MacCauley’s wholesome family life. If you’re confused by the editing it’s o.k. He only has one son. MacCauley, played by Liam Neeson, is dropped off at his train to catch his daily into New York City. He’s been on this route for ten years and you get to meet all the regulars that MacCauley knows just from riding the train! It’s very exciting. There’s Walt and Tony and so many more!

MacCauley arrives at work where we find out his family is in a crippling amount of debt. He appears to be living the American dream, but in reality is broke. It appears the movie wanted to offer some commentary on American financial services, literally offering up a fuck you to Goldman Sachs, but ultimately that doesn’t go anywhere.

Shortly after arriving at work, MacCauley is fired from his job as part of a vast nonsensical conspiracy. Despite losing his job, MacCauley goes to get a few beers with his former partner on the NYPD. All of this culminates with MacCauley being offered a job, that really isn’t a job, on his commute back home. Given any level of thought, nothing about his trip home makes any sense.

Calling the plot to the movie paper thin would be an insult to paper. There is nary a single element of the plot that makes any sense at all and once all of those pieces start to stick together it becomes like a wet wadded up newspaper. It also seems like the director or writer watched a couple of classic movies and decided to rip off iconic moments from them in the trashiest ways possible. There were a few parts where I literally could not believe what I was watching. In the last sentence you can actually replace “were a few parts,” with “was a movie.” I’m also not sure that the director was familiar with how trains work in any way, to the point where I’m not sure he has even been on a train. Basic physics were thrown out the window in favor of poor CGI and the major twists and turns in the story could not have been more predictable.

Verdict:

The Commuter is a mashup of some other really good movie moments, with some stuff thrown in to connect it all together, and it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Skip it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: It Comes at Night (2017)

Today’s Run:

No run today. It has been a deluge most of the day. The couple feet of snow that was on the ground and the massive drifts have almost melted completely, but I couldn’t make it around the block without being soaked to the skin. Back at it tomorrow.

Day 11 – Raw

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Movie Title: Raw

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. and 39 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Raw opens with a girl running in front of a car, seemingly deliberately causing it to crash. The movie then cuts to the title screen before introducing us to Justine a quiet vegetarian being dropped off for her first days of college at a veterinary school.

Justine is immediately dragged out of bed in a hazing ritual where she meets up with her sister Alexia. Judging from the experience it seems like I should have gone to veterinary school in Belgium. In the morning they begin their veterinary training with an interesting experiment on a horse. The hazing rituals increase until Justine is forced to make an ethical choice. She caves faster than a pop up tent.

Things then go…poorly. Justine does not enjoy the college experience and then she begins to develop some rather peculiar eating habits. These scenes aren’t horrific as much as they are just kind of gross. Mostly, it is just a really odd coming of age story that I really didn’t develop a lot of affection for. It builds to a predictable and reasonably satisfying climax. Usually, movies like this have some kind of social commentary on the meat industry. I didn’t see one, but I honestly wasn’t looking very hard.

Random note, this has to be the most poorly supervised college campuses anywhere in the world.

Verdict:

It has a few shocking moments, primarily of the gross out variety, but it is definitely not a must see movie. See it if it sounds like your bag, but otherwise skip it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: The Commuter (2018)

Today’s Run:

Time: 14:59

Distance: 1 mile

Today, I walked 1 mile and then ran 1 mile in alternating laps. I did a good deal better with my time this time going down from 16:43 to 14:59. I went hard at the beginning and I am going to try and go harder for longer next time. Tomorrow will be a walking day.

Day 10 – Jackie Brown

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Movie Title: Jackie Brown

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. and 34 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

This is my first review of a movie that is not contemporary, so I hope these go over well. I have not seen three Quentin Tarantino movies and this was one of them. I still need to see The Hateful Eight and Kill Bill Vol. 2. I saw Kill Bill Vol. 2 in theaters, but was a little inebriated, and I don’t recall much of the movie. So, I need to see it. This is not Tarantino’s best work, but it is still damn good.

The movie opens with flight attendant Jackie Brown, played like an absolute badass by Pam Grier, hustling to her plane because she’s late. After the title sequence we get introduced to Ordell Robbie played by Samuel L. Jackson, his ex-con associate Louis Gara played by Robert De Niro, and his Robbie’s play thing Melanie Ralston played by Bridget Fonda. They are hanging out in Ralston’s apartment watching one of the best movies within a movie ever called Chicks Who Love Guns, which is basically just good looking women shooting exotic weapons. During this exposition we find out that Gara is fresh out of jail after a four year stint for armed robbery and Robbie is making a lot of quick money selling guns. Ralston just wants to get high. A match made in heaven.

We quickly see that Robbie isn’t someone to mess around with after a scene with Max Cherry, a bail bondsmen in a steely turn by Robert Forster, and subsequent dealings with Beaumont Livingston played by Chris Tucker. Coming back from Mexico, Jackie Brown is busted with 50,000 dollars and 2 ounces of cocaine. Robbie has sinister intent for Brown after she gets busted, but the story quickly turns into a story about who can pull off the ultimate double cross and make it out alive as Robbie talks non-stop about the 500,000 dollars he has stowed away in a Mexican vault.

There is a lot to like about this movie, especially the featuring of a lot of middle aged characters. It has commentaries about love, achievement, and yes, money as one reaches the years of life where you start to reflect on your accomplishments. It is a good heist movie with a Rashomon-like plot sequence during the climax, but it is better looked at as a movie filled with great performances including turns by Michael Keaton and Sid Haig in a small role.

Verdict:

Tarantino is reliable. He does not direct bad movies and Jackie Brown is no exception. It is not his strongest film, but it is better than a lot of other things in the marketplace. The performances are strong and the movie as a whole is very entertaining. Enjoy the ride. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Raw (2016)

Today’s Run:

Today, I took as a rest day because my back was barking a little bit and it was a scheduled rest day anyway. Tomorrow, will be a run/walk combination.

Day 9 – Wind River

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Movie Title: Wind River

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. and 47 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Wind River opens with a girl running across a frigid countryside then quick cutting to a flock of sheep following the opening title screen. Cory Lambert, played perfectly by Jeremy Renner, is introduced as a local agent for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. While out looking to cull local predators on the Wind River Indian Reservation, Lambert finds the body of the girl from the title sequence.

The girl appears to be a murder victim and the FBI is called in. FBI agent Jane Banner, played well by Elizabeth Olsen is not used to the terrain of north-central Wyoming and asks for Lambert’s help in solving the murder. After inspecting the body she begins to interview suspects and sees the depressing conditions that are present on the reservation. You can practically feel the cold and depressing nature of it coming through the screen. It is suspected that a family nearby may be involved in the girl’s disappearance and the pace of the investigation picks up swiftly.

The crime drama portion of the movie is excellent, but the movie is dominated by Renner’s performance. Lambert has a past that has consumed his life and he sees helping in this case to be the way to seek redemption for not just himself, but for the girl’s family who are devastated by multiple family tragedies simultaneously. The action is intense and has parts that would fit in well with any revenge movie. But, ultimately this is not just a journey into one man’s pain. It is about the pain of a region and a people and it captures that perfectly.

Verdict:

My review may be short today, but I don’t want to spoil anything about the movie with too much detail. The scenery is stark, yet beautiful, the story compelling, and the performances excellent. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Jackie Brown (1997)

Today’s Run:

Time: ???

Distance: 1.5 miles

Weigh In: -7.4 lbs.

Today, I walked 1.5 miles and then ran 1.5 miles in alternating laps. My phone died partway through, so I unfortunately don’t have a time. I can you tell you that it wasn’t fast. That’s a certainty. I did my first weigh in since completely changing my diet. I had started to eat better before the new year, but really committed more since then. I will be weighing in every week or two. But, I think 7 lbs. is a good start. Tomorrow, I will either walk 30 minutes or rest. Not sure yet.