Day 332 & Day 333 & Day 334 – Skyscraper & Circle & The General

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Movie Title: Skyscraper

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.

Rated: PG-13

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Skyscraper is one of the latest in Dwayne Johnson’s most recent string of big budget action movies. As usual, he is great. He plays a former FBI agent that worked in hostage situations. Several years ago, he had a mission go wrong and a bomb was detonated in his face during a hostage crisis. He suffered significant burns and lost his left leg. The doctor that helped him in surgery married him and now they have two lovely children together. He has just taken a new job to look into the security surrounding a new 255 story mega skyscraper constructed in Hong Kong. His friend and former FBI agent got him the job. He went corporate after being injured on the same mission.

But, all is not as it seems. Ben (Pablo Schreiber) has other plans and is using Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) to unlock the buildings security for him. There is something inside the building that he and his associates want. Naturally, Will’s family is also inside the building and he goes to great lengths to rescue them. Once the premise is set up it is as paint by numbers as it comes. The villains are unbelievably campy. The action is fun if unoriginal. The chemistry between Will, his wife (Neve Campbell), and children is non-existent. But, who really cares when your doing crazy CGI laden stunts on a 255 story building!

Verdict:

Skyscraper is far from original and it has significant flaws. But, if you are just looking for a rollicking 80s style action movie with some cool effects there is no reason you can’t enjoy it. Take it or leave it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Circle (2015)

 

Movie Title: Circle

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 27 min.

Rated: Not Rated

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

To be completely honest, I watched this movie by accident. I mistook it for The Circle, a 2017 technological drama starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Karen Gillan, and Bill Paxton. It is supposed to be terrible, but I was still interested in seeing it. I quickly realized I was not watching the right movie, but I was committed.

Circle has a very simple premise. Fifty strangers have been abducted by aliens and are placed in a circle where they get to choose who will live and who will die. They can not move. If they do they die. They can not choose not to participate or the machine will decide at random. Everyone involved can cast a vote for who they think should be the next to die, but the people in the circle can only see their own vote. The group members are given no criteria to go by, but have to decide who will live and who will die in the group. After analyzing the pattern of the voting mechanism the group realizes that whoever is the last man standing will likely walk out alive.

For awhile, this was interesting, but ultimately it became tedious. I was very interested to see who would make it to the end especially when it boiled down to the last few people. The end tells you a lot about human nature and I would tend to agree with who the writer/director picked as the survivor. The problem is that the movie misses a lot of opportunities. It had an opportunity to lend some kind of social commentary to itself very easily. It doesn’t. This would have been alright if some kind of closure was provided at the end of the movie, but the ending is damn near completely vapid. It leaves so much unresolved as to make it uninteresting without some kind of point to it all.

There is also a serious shark jumping moment at the end of the movie where all sense of suspending disbelief is basically lost.

Verdict:

Circle has an interesting premise, but has a weak conclusion that greatly harms the movie. Take it or leave it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: The General (1926)

 

Movie Title: The General

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min. (IMDb lists the running time for this movie at 1 hr. and 7 min., but the cut I watched is unquestionably longer. I tried to do some research on it, but didn’t reach a conclusion.)

Rated: Passed

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

The General is a high spirited silent comedy that romps through a civil war train heist. Johnnie Gray (Buster Keaton) is a railroad engineer in the south at the outbreak of the Civil War. He is madly in love with Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack) who will not have him unless he enlists in the army. He tries too, but is rejected because of his post on the railroad. He is considered more valuable in that position.

This sits just fine with him until Annabelle is captured by a group of marauding Union soldiers whose mission is to cut off Confederate rail lines. In the process they steal the two things that Johnnie loves; Annabelle and his train The General. The movie has some genuinely hilarious moments, but is not roll on the ground funny. It does maintain a general lightness to the events that keeps it interesting throughout. It is also interesting from a technical standpoint. The movie has big set pieces involving armies on maneuver and very clever stunts involving the train. Some of the latter moments with the train are fantastic. The practical effects of the 1920s required them to destroy actual trains which is great to watch on film. There are also several very sweet scenes between Johnnie and Annabelle including one where she gets doused by a water tower that is both funny and adorable. The battle at the end may have inspired some of the shots from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly which is one of my all-time favorite movies.

Verdict:

The General is a masterpiece of early movie making. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Your Name. (2016)

Day 329 & Day 330 & Day 331 – Creep & Creep 2 & The Wizard of Oz

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Movie Title: Creep

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 17 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Creep is a minimalist movie starring Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass. Aaron (Patrick Brice) is a freelance videographer responding to an add on Craig’s List. The add is looking for someone to do some undisclosed video work at the rate of $1,000 dollars a day. When he arrives he meets Josef (Mark Duplass) who is not at all what he expected. He claims to be terminally ill and wants to make a video for his young son to help him remember his father. It quickly becomes apparent that Josef may not be who he appears to be. He is deliciously creepy (symbol crash) as he has a tubby time and chews the scenery in beautiful fashion. It is a creative use of shaky camera footage that I thought had nothing left to offer.

Verdict:

Creep is a story made by its performances and its unique medium. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Creep 2 (2017)

 

Movie Title: Creep 2

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 18 min.

Rated: Not Rated

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Creep 2 picks up where Creep left off. It starts off with the same premise, but Aaron (Mark Duplass) has a new name and has lost his passion for murder. He hires Sara (Desiree Akhavan) a Youtuber that has her own series called Encounters to be his new videographer. In Encounters, Sara documents creepy personal ads on Craig’s List by responding to them and psychoanalyzing the posters. When she meets Aaron, he quickly tells her that he is a serial killer. He wants to do something different to try and regain his passion for murder. She sticks around because she sees him as a fast track to greater internet stardom. Their relationship quickly becomes disturbing.

Verdict:

Creep 2 is just as wild as the original and well worth watching. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

 

Movie Title: The Wizard of Oz

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.

Rated: PG

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

The Wizard of Oz is a perennial classic starring Judy Garland and a fantastically well-trained Cairn terrier named Terry. It is iconic from its settings to its characters to its songs. It has aged well across the years. It starts off in sepia tone and transitions to one of the first successful films to use technicolor. Dorothy (Judy Garland) is swept away in a tornado with her dog Toto to the land of Oz after Dorothy tried to run away from home. In the process she crushes the Wicked Witch of the East and acquires the ruby slippers which sets the plot in motion. Her rivalry with the Wicked Witch of the West develops and she sets off on a quest to meet the titular Wizard of Oz. She travels the yellow brick road and encounters the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and my personal favorite the Lion.

She encounters the delightful little munchkins, sees the verdant green Emerald City, and duels the maniacally evil flying monkeys. Some of the parts are even ripped off in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings when Sam and Frodo are trying to enter Mordor. Dorothy even finds time to take part in a good old fashioned murder. It really is a much more sinister movie than it appears to be if you look below the surface. Ultimately, Dorothy finds out she could have made it home all along because of the power of love or whatever because aside from the charm of some of its characters it really is very hokey.

Verdict:

It is a great fantasy / dream sequence that everyone knows the plot to whether they have seen it or not. You might as well put it all in context. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Skyscraper (2018)

Day 326 & Day 327 & Day 328 – Hush & Double Indemnity & It Happened One Night / Pop Chart Lab Scratch #17

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Movie Title: Hush

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 22 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Hush is a simple and straight forward thriller. Maddie (Kate Siegel) is a deaf writer that has decided to alienate herself from humanity. She lives in the middle of the woods with only one neighbor close by. They are friendly with one another. After a visit where they discuss her latest novel, her neighbor is murdered and the murderer discovers that she is completely deaf when he rubs the dead woman’s body against Maddie’s window.

The Man (John Gallagher Jr.) is not a masked killer. He takes it off pretty quickly. He ineffectually stalks and torments Maddie through the night as Maddie makes attempts to outwit him. The story is very straightforward and there is no character depth whatsoever. You already know as much about Maddie as I do and the killer has no depth beyond a persistent sadism.

Verdict:

It is a simple yet effective thriller. It also isn’t anything you haven’t seen before. Take it or leave it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Double Indemnity (1944)

 

Movie Title: Double Indemnity

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 47 min.

Rated: Passed

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Double Indemnity is a classic film-noir starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson. Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) is an insurance salesman with loose morals. He stops by the residence of one Mr. Dietrichson to renew some auto insurance policies that have lapsed. He is immediately struck by Phyllis Dietrichson and falls head over heels for her. She is a kept woman that hates her husband. She is inquisitive about taking out a life insurance policy on her husband without him knowing. Neff sees through this immediately, but he is taken. He is quickly in for a penny which becomes a pound.

Neff decides he is going to go along with it. He makes the plans and plans to do the deed himself with Phyllis’s cooperation and help. After Mr. Dietrichson turns up dead, Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson)  an insurance investigator starts looking into the death. Keyes works with Neff closely and a game of cat and mouse ensues. He doesn’t want to pay out the double indemnity on the life insurance policy to Phyllis. He thinks everything is shady and starts turning the screws on everyone involved as Neff slowly realizes he may have been played the whole time.

The whole movie is done through a recorder in Keyes’ office as Neff makes a confession of the deeds he has done. The narration is masterful and MacMurray’s voice is terrific.

Verdict:

Double Indemnity is one of the greatest film-noir ever made. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: It Happened One Night (1934)

 

Movie Title: It Happened One Night

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.

Rated: Not Rated

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

It Happened One Night stars Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert as unlikely lovers in what could likely be considered the original romantic comedy. Peter (Clark Gable) is a down on his luck newspaper reporter. He has just been fired from his most recent job. Ellie (Claudette Colbert) is a rich heiress that has married a man named King Westley against her father’s wishes. Andrews, her father, insists on having the marriage annulled. Ellie quite literally jumps ship and goes on the run from her father in order to reach her husband in New York.

On the way Peter and Ellie run into one another. Peter sees a story and Ellie sees security for her escape attempt. They spend a lot of time together and go through screwball situations that are endearing and amusing. Gable and Colbert both do a beautiful job of chewing the scenery and it is a lot of fun. Toward the end they become estranged, but this builds to a beautiful climax at the altar to put the finishing touches on what is truly a great movie.

Verdict:

It Happened One Night is a fun and touching story with humor that translates from the 1930s to today. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Creep (2014)

Day 323 & Day 324 & Day 325 – Singin’ in the Rain & The Treasure of the Sierra Madre & All About Eve / Pop Chart Lab Scratch #16

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Movie Title: Singin’ in the Rain

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.

Rated: G

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Singin’ in the Rain stars Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds as a silent film star and an up and coming starlet in the new age of Hollywood. Singin’ in the Rain is set in the late 1920s in the wake of the release of The Jazz Singer. The Jazz Singer was one of the first talking pictures and one of the first theatrical musicals.

Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) are a silent film tandem that have had phenomenal success. Despite Lockwood and Lamont appearing to be romantically linked the truth is far from it. They are both rather conceited and Lockwood can scarcely tolerate his shrill moving picture companion. Lockwood runs into Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) while trying to escape from his adoring fans. He jumps into her car and she mistakes him for a thief. Lockwood runs into Selden again at a film premiere celebration where she is serving as the entertainment. Lockwood falls for her immediately though she tries to steer well clear of him after an incident with Lamont.

SingLockwood and Lamont begin shooting their first talking picture and it is a disaster. But, Lockwood comes up with a way to salvage the picture that will give Selden a chance to launch her career. The movie is genuinely funny and has nice bit roles from Donald O’Connor and Millard Mitchell. The story is sweet and well shot, but the musical numbers are the spirit of the movie. Several of the numbers were original, but several others were lifted from the 1920s film Broadway Melody which gives the movie more 1920s spirit.

Verdict:

Singin’ in the Rain is clearly the greatest musical Hollywood has ever produced. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

 

Movie Title: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 6 min.

Rated: Passed

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is carried by its trio of stars to make it one of the greatest westerns ever made. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) and Curtin (Tim Holt) are two down on their luck Americans living in Mexico. Both are swindled out of their money by an unscrupulous contractor after working the same job. Dobbs and Curtin have the last laugh when they run into the contractor in a bar and beat him bloody. They take what is owed to them, but now they need to get out of the city.

They remember the words of an old man they ran into staying in a cheap hotel about gold prospecting and set out to find him. Howard (Walter Huston) is an expert gold prospector and show the two the ropes. They head into the Sierra Madre mountains where they find a rich vein of gold, but things quickly spiral. Dobbs is neurotic that his partners are going to kill him and take his share. This tension builds as Howard and Curtin grow increasingly more careful around the near psychopathic Dobbs.

Bogart’s performance as Dobbs is fantastic. He physically and mentally transforms on screen into the character until it consumes him. Holt serves nicely in his role and doesn’t much up the works. Holt was always a western genre player and knew how to play the role. Director John Huston shot a beautiful movie, but his father Walter Huston steals the show as the grizzled gold prospector with a unique spirit.

Verdict:

It has a Shakespearean feel to it and a beautiful ending. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: All About Eve (1950)

 

Movie Title: All About Eve

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 18 min.

Rated: Not Rated

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

As the title suggests, All About Eve is the story of an up and coming actress named Eve and how she made it big on Broadway. Eve (Anne Baxter) is introduced to her favorite stage actress by Karen (Celeste Holm) the wife of a famous writer. Margo (Bette Davis) is her favorite actress and she is obsessed with her. She has attended every performance for her most recent play and has a heart breaking story to go with her to boot. Eve is taken into Margo’s household entourage, but she soon oversteps her boundaries and Eve wants nothing more than to be rid of her.

Margo reaches out to her contacts in the theater community to try and find her a job and pushes her into the arena of Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) a theater commentator. This soon spirals as Eve begins social and professional climbing through the ranks while Margo feels alienated by age and her newfound associations. Some old relationships turn toxic as she becomes even more of a diva than she was before.

All About Eve is really all about Hollywood and how bones are made on the way to stardom. It is a fascinating commentary with some devilish performances and unique twists. It also features a young Marilyn Monroe in a small role a few years before she would blow up with Some Like It Hot. The choice of Monroe and some of the other actresses in the story also make the movie feel very meta in retrospect.

Verdict:

It is a great and twisted story that also rings very true. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Double Indemnity (1944)

Day 322 – Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages

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Movie Title: Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 47 min.

Rated: Passed

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Intolerance is the story of love’s conflict with hate across the span of human civilizations. It follows several different story lines including a story from ancient Babylon, the story of Christ, the story of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in 1572, and a contemporary story from the early 20th century about the oppression of the temperance movement. These stories are cut up with repeated cuts of Eternal Motherhood and the stories are not told in sequence. The stories show that hate across time has led to the downfall of individuals and civilizations.

The Babylonian and contemporary stories stand out as the most remarkable. The Babylonian story features amazing costuming and set pieces. It also has incredible special effects for 1916 and a few brutal scenes of violence. The sheer scale of the battle sequences are amazing and feature hundreds of extras in individual scenes. It tells the stories of two high priests that worship different gods. One wishes to see Ishtar proclaimed Babylon’s chief god while the other believes it should be Bel. The losing priest decides to betray the city to Cyrus so that he may proclaim Bel the chief god of the city. At the same time, a boy named the Rhapsode and a young maiden pursue and repel each other. It is a great story.

The contemporary segment of the temperance movement is depressing and also serves as a reminder that their are many people that believe in the same rigidity of one hundred years ago today. A girl called The Dear One and her husband named The Boy suffer cruelly. A spinster harasses her brother for money. She wants to use this money to uplift the poor. The brother cuts worker’s wages by 10% in order to fund his sister’s projects. This initiates their trouble after the workers strike and are fired upon by soldiers. The Boy resorts to crime, but tries to give it up for The Dear One only to be framed. He is sent to prison and The Dear One is left alone with a new baby. The baby is then taken away by the temperance workers because she is an “unfit” mother. This leads to a worsening spiral of lust and crime that results in death.

Verdict:

It takes a little time to get used to the flow of the movie, but once you pick up the narrative it is easy to follow. It is a visually rich movie with some pieces being more interesting than others. It is a classic movie from the age of silent films and should be seen. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Day 320 & Day 321 – Hearts Beat Loud & Mandy

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Movie Title: Hearts Beat Loud

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 37 min.

Rated: PG-13

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Hearts Beat Loud puts forward an easily lovable cast that captures the imagination while forming a family drama for the modern age. Frank Fisher (Nick Offerman) is a single father that runs a record store in Red Hook, New Jersey. On a side note, this movie gives it a very different feel than The Strain which is an awful show also set in Red Hook. Frank’s wife is dead and he has had to raise his daughter alone for a long time. Sam Fisher (Kiersey Clemons) is off to UCLA when the next semester starts to begin her medical career. Both of these characters feel like they are going to be losing a lot. Frank wants to support Sam, but he has many sacrifices to make for her dreams to work out. Sam doesn’t want to leave behind the people she loves and harm them in the process.

All of the characters are intertwined into what feels like an authentic web. Frank needs to take care of his aging mother who will be taking Sam’s room when she moves out. Mom just can’t stop shoplifting and has early signs of dementia. Frank had a music career that ultimately failed, but he is trying to rekindle a musical project with his daughter. This collaboration produces some great songs that make up the heart of the movie. Frank doesn’t want Sam to leave, but refuses to put too much pressure on her. Frank is also pursuing a relationship with his landlord (Toni Collette) and shuttering his failing record store to work at a charcuterie. He needs to pay the bills for Sam to go to college after all. He works a lot of this out with his bartender friend played by Ted Danson. It feels like a real life.

At the same time, Same feels like she is hurting others by pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor. She recognizes that she has musical talent, but is concerned about pursuing it. She has a girlfriend that she truly loves and doesn’t want to leave behind. She also really misses her mother and wants to get away to see if she can make it on her own. It is not clear until the end what path she will take.

The acting is great. Nick Offerman shows off his acting chops in a fairly serious role. Kiersey Clemons is a phenomenal talent that should take off in the near future. There are nice performances in small roles by Toni Collette and Ted Danson. Jeff Tweedy from Wilco makes a nice cameo appearance. It is a great cast of characters.

Verdict:

It is a great drama with beautiful music a la The Postal Service. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Mandy (2018)

 

Movie Title: Mandy

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 1 min.

Rated: Not Rated

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Mandy is a surrealist trip about a couple trying to survive a cult leaders devious machinations. Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) live in a cabin in the woods in a secluded forest. Everything is nice and peaceful until an insane cult obsessed with drugs, sex, and worshiping evil forces beyond human understanding. The cult’s leader clearly seems to modeled after the recently deceased Charles Manson. The role itself seems like it would have been perfect for the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The movie is broken down into vignettes each of which have their own bizarre elements. Initially it seems like there might not be any other people int he world aside from Red and Mandy. Their home has all the feel of a closed environment. This environment is interrupted in the second act when the lunatics arrive. The cult is not only extremely high, but also has access to evil materials. These artifacts are literally used to summon demon bikers from hell.

I was initially disappointed because I thought that the movie itself would be campier, but after I got over my disappointment the movie is truly the pinnacle of grindhouse movie making. It blends movie making styles, has a crawling pace with sparse dialogue, and great character performances. Nicolas Cage is fantastic once he takes over the screen. Character actor Bill Duke also makes a nice appearance. At the end it becomes a surrealist revenge flick and it is great at that too.

Verdict:

It is a great movie if you go into it expecting a slow burn. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916)

Day 317 & Day 318 & Day 319 – Slender Man & Instant Family & Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

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Movie Title: Slender Man

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.

Rated: PG-13

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Slender Man received terrible reviews upon release and was not screened for critics which is usually a bad sign. There was pending litigation over the movie because of the use of the character from the original creepypasta story. The movie itself suffers from these shortcomings, but not as much as I expected.

A group of non-descript high school girls are head over heels for a group of high school boys. They really want to hang out with them, but they are rejected. Instead they go and hang out in the basement of their friend’s house while her alcoholic dad sleeps it off upstairs. Because they are bored teenagers they start surfing the internet watching silly videos until one of them confesses they know what the boys are up to. The boys are planning to summon the Slender Man by doing a ritual found in some stupid internet video. Unwittingly, the girls stumble upon the same ritual with a link to tons of videos proving the existence of the Slender Man. The girls conduct the ritual and things begin to go bad very quickly.

One of the girls disappears on a school field trip never to be seen again. The others begin to have their sanity slowly deteriorate. The movie tries to build suspense around whether or not the girls will be able to avoid the fate of their friend, but unfortunately I didn’t really care. There performances were pretty lame, however I did find the design of the Slender Man himself to be a bit creepy and there was some nice imagery at points. The movie was not terrifying by any stretch, but it had its moments.

The biggest problem with the movie is that if you’ve seen any horror movie before then you’ve seen this movie. The Slender Man is supposed to be what makes this one stands out, but he is not compelling enough to build a movie around. All that is left is a paint by numbers horror movie. Which is not to say that the movie is bad. It isn’t. I certainly did not find the terrible reviews panning it as the worst movie ever made to be justified. It just doesn’t stand out as anything unique or special.

Verdict:

I didn’t hate it, but it is highly unoriginal. Skip it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Instant Family (2018)

 

Movie Title: Instant Family

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 59 min.

Rated: PG-13

Who did I watch with?: Josh S.

Where did I watch it?: Providence Place Cinemas 16 – Providence, RI

Review:

Instant Family is a dramedy starring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as a couple that have decided to start a family a bit late in the game. They have business pressures, family pressures, and had just never put aside the time to start a family. Ultimately, the couple make the decision to adopt children though they don’t really know why. They go to classes led by the duo of Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro who tell them it isn’t going to be easy in no uncertain terms.

Pete (Wahlberg) and Ellie (Byrne) settle on adopting Lizzy (Isabela Moner) but she does not come alone. She comes with Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz) her younger siblings and a lot of attitude. The movie definitely has some funny moments, but also has many that fall flat as Pete and Ellie grapple with the reality of parenting and adopting kids that have been through a lot. The comedic elements tend to play out in the group therapy sessions the couple attends while the drama plays out with the family. Things get more interesting as extended family is introduced and the movie addresses a lot of stereotypes about kids in foster care that have been taken away from their families. Ultimately, the movie takes many sad turns to reach its conclusion while still being an inspiring story for the holiday season.

One miscellaneous comment to whoever is in charge of details. If the couple are house flippers, shouldn’t Mark Wahlberg know he has to back butter those tiles. Tisk tisk.

Verdict:

Much like life, there is more work and drama then comedy, but it is a genuinely sweet and meaningful story. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018)

 

Movie Title: Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 24 min.

Rated: PG

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies follows the titans dreams of movie stardom. Instead of focusing on a hero and villain facing off the Teen Titans are just looking for stardom. They want a movie made about them, but they are considered a joke. Batman’s car and utility belt are both getting movies ahead of Robin and the gang. They hatch several schemes to try and achieve movie stardom which are genuinely funny and are really pretty dark for a kids movie.

The first half of the movie has a lot of great musical elements that even includes a generic inspirational song by Michael Bolton that is fantastic. In the second half it loses momentum as it swings away from the whimsical elements that made the first half great. As the action shifts to focus on Robin’s rivalry with Deathstroke (Will Arnett) the pace slows down and so do the laughs. The action doesn’t keep pace with the humor and is not nearly as good though Will Arnett did a nice job voicing Deathstroke along with quite a few other notable celebrity appearances including Nicolas Cage as the voice of Superman.

The movie wraps predictably, but has a great moment at the end. I would have loved to have been in a theater full of families to see that play out along with a deep cut DC universe joke that was fantastic.

Verdict:

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is a fun, musically driven story, until it isn’t. It is definitely a great kids movie that has moments even as its opening half fades into a traditional superhero story. Despite its short comings it is still a good time for all ages. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Hearts Beat Loud (2018)

Day 314 & Day 315 & Day 316 – Overlord & Stalker & Ocean’s 8

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Movie Title: Overlord

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 49 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Stephie and Keegan

Where did I watch it?: Regal Stadium 12 – Swansea, MA

Review:

Overlord is a revival of the World War II Nazi exploitation genre that had a brief fad in the late 70s. It is also heavily influenced by the Wolfenstein and Call of Duty series zombie mode. The movie starts with a bang. Our main character is Boyce (Jovan Adepo) who is none too comfortable in his role as a combat soldier. His fellow soldiers think he will let them down in battle. They think he’s a coward. Then their plane is shot down. Most of his crew does not survive and the greatly short staffed unit still needs to carry out their mission in preparation for D-Day. Suddenly, the mission is practically a suicide.

The movie builds very slowly as an unwitting Nazi officer is captured by the allies and interrogated. The characters are generally poorly played and the walking Italian-American from Brooklyn stereotype is extremely annoying. During an intelligence run they discover bizarre experiments going on in the medical facility beneath the church they are supposed to bomb. The experiments are designed to give the Nazis relentless soldiers that are extremely difficult to kill. The mission becomes more complex as a local woman and her son get involved. Ultimately, the soldiers must destroy the medical facility as well as the radio tower that was their original mission.

Verdict:

The wait is worth it once the action kicks in and you are able to forget about the poor performances and stereotypical characters. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Stalker (1979)

 

Movie Title: Stalker

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 42 min.

Rated: Not Rated

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Stalker is a misleading movie. The stalker is a new profession in the world of the movie. After a meteorite fell to Earth, the despotic government aims to keep people out. Inside the Zone is a room which will grant people’s wishes. Despite attempts to keep people out of the zone and keep it a secret the word has leaked out. Stalkers can lead people through the treacherous zone which is supposedly layered with a myriad of traps and missteps. None of them are ever sprung which eventually leads to some boredom with the movie’s plot. The characters start off very interesting, but ultimately their individual character traits become near meaningless as their intentions are revealed. The mystique of the Zone ultimately fades away when it becomes clear that nothing is going to happen in the Zone and that the Zone and the room within is just an allegory for something else.

The movie is beautifully shot, but as it drags on there is a lot of metaphysical babble about the meaning of the Zone and how it is manipulating the world around them. There is a lot of discussion on whether or not the room should exist. The movie treads the line of the Soviet censor. Is it pro-communist? At certain points it certainly seems to be, especially when they are discussing how the only way to be happy is through suffering. Is it autobiographical? It certainly could be. Tarkovsky had difficulties with the Soviet censors when his previous picture was produced and he certainly suffered a degree of depression related to its lack of distribution. Is it an anti-Soviet movie? Possibly. The Soviet government outlawed religion and many other things that provided hope for average people. In this regard it is similar to the Darren Aronofsky movie mother! that I watched earlier this year and detested. Ultimately, the movie is so uninteresting that the questions behind the plot become irrelevant. I felt no desire to think about the admittedly complex layers of history, philosophy, and Soviet censorship that the movie is addressing.

Verdict:

The other significant flaw with the movie is that this year’s Annihilation was a vastly superior version of this movie that also had action along with the philosophical elements. Skip it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Ocean’s 8 (2018)

 

Movie Title: Ocean’s 8

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 50 min.

Rated: PG-13

Who did I watch with?: Stephie, Mom, and Dad

Where did I watch it?: Parent’s House

Review:

Ocean’s 8 brings back the Ocean’s series that George Clooney successfully rebooted in the early 2000s. This time the leading roles are played by Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett taking over the leading roles from George Clooney and Brad Pitt. The crew is an all-female cast a la the most recent Ghostbusters movie. The trend of rebooting series with all-female casts to make a social commentary about equality has been very hit or miss. I have very mixed feelings about this especially when it comes to the most recent Ghostbusters where the gimmick of an all-female cast overshadowed all other elements of the movie.

Ocean’s 8 has the same style and same spirit of the Clooney rendition, but brings in a new story. The plot involves putting a crew together to try and rob a rather expensive necklace from the neck of Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) at the Met Gala. The movie has strong cinematography along with excellent costuming. Stephie went to high school with the person in charge of costuming on this movie which is one of the reasons I was interested in seeing it. The characters are simple, but effective. They all fill their roles and Bullock adds most of the spice. The plot is fun and it is enjoyable to watch the caper unfold. The cast is full of stars and has strong chemistry.

Verdict:

I am hoping for more movies in the Bullock led series. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Slender Man (2018)

Day 313 – They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

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Movie Title: They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 38 min.

Rated: Unrated

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is a documentary about the last fifteen years of Orson Welles life. Orson Welles was viewed as a film making genius early in his career with Citizen Kane and War of the Worlds. But, this faded later in his career. He lacked commercial success later in his career and became a pariah in Hollywood. He moved to Europe where he spent most of the latter stages of his life. But, with his time dwindling he decided he wanted to craft a masterpiece as a capstone to his career.

He began work on a film called The Other Side of the Wind designed to mirror Welles life though he denied that. The film became a quagmire on the level with Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. It delves into Welles’ life both personal and professional as he worked on this project. It is a fascinating look at the man and the movie maker.

Verdict:

Welles was a genius, but he was also cursed for his unorthodox approach to film making. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Overlord (2018)

Day 310 & Day 311 & Day 312 – Tucker and Dale vs. Evil & Spring Breakers & The Devil’s Candy

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Movie Title: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 29 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a delightful horror-comedy romp through hillbilly infested backwoods. It is almost certainly a parody of movies like Wrong Turn where good old fashioned country people are portrayed more or less as monsters. They have superhuman strength. They are inbred and mutated. That is exactly how the college students in Tucker and Dale vs. Evil perceive the country folk around them. They look down on them and they think that they are all out to rape and murder them.

However, Tucker and Dale are much simpler than that. Tucker (Tyler Labine) just wants to talk to some girls and go away for a nice long weekend while Dale (Alan Tudyk) is just looking for some quiet time fishing with his friend. They also plan to spend some time fixing up their new vacation home cabin. The horror tropes begin immediately at a gas station where the college students are attempting to buy beer and continue when Tucker and Dale arrive at the cabin. It was the outpost of a group of serial killing hillbillies that slaughtered some college students twenty years ago.

What follows is a comedy of errors as the college students perceive the hillbillies as murdering psychopaths and the hillbillies think of the college students as deranged lunatics that are part of a suicide cult. The beautiful Katrina Bowden plays Allison, a girl who ends up torn between the two groups. It is a very funny movie with great gags that play on every imaginable horror trope. But, it also has a message that reminds me of an Elvis Costello song where he asks “what’s so funny about peace love and understanding?”

Verdict:

It is a movie that I think is perfect for the divided and fractious America that exists today. Everyone should see it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Spring Breakers (2012)

 

Movie Title: Spring Breakers

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:

On the surface Spring Breakers is a very dim movie. Four nondescript college girls want to go on spring break, but they are broke. Instead of getting a job or doing something productive they hold up a restaurant which somehow gets them enough money to go to Florida for a week (though it feels much longer in movie time.) While they are in Florida they party until they are arrested. They spent the night in lockup. In the morning the judge tells them they need to pay a fine to be released, but they are out of money. A man who named himself Alien (James Franco) is watching in the court room for just such a scenario. He bails them out and tries to recruit them into his growing crime organization.

This description probably makes it sound like there is a general coherence to the plot of the movie. There isn’t. I scarcely even knew any of the character’s names. I only realized that Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens were playing two of the lead characters. The movie is stylistically rich, but plot light. The first thirty minutes is more or less a compilation of nattily clad people in various party scenes. The movie then wanders from bizarre image to bizarre image. Alien laying in a bed surrounded by weapons while the girls take advantage of him by pretending guns are sex toys. It is strange. There is also a great scene where Alien plays a piano by the pool while they collectively sing a Brittney Spears song.

Despite its shallowness Spring Breakers has style and a message. There is always something colorful moving or otherwise occurring on screen. It is a brash movie. But it is also about the vapidity and shallowness of an entire generation. No one needs to do anything to survive. It is all about the surface and the most shallow processes of thinking are driving a lot of people through their lives.

Verdict:

It is definitely a movie worth seeing. There are beautiful people, pure oddities, and comedy too. Yet, it is all so sad. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: The Devil’s Candy (2015)

 

Movie Title: The Devil’s Candy

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 19 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Holiday Inn Express – Worcester, MA

Review:

The Devil’s Candy is a demonic possession horror movie with some fun stylistic elements. Jesse, Zooey, and Astrid Hellman have all just moved into a new house in rural Texas. Jesse is a painter. Zooey is a hairdresser. Astrid is trying to make it in a new school where she is a misfit. The family is very into metal and all the music in the soundtrack is metal music. They have just bought their dream home with the natural demonic movie catch that the last family that lived there all died. An old woman fell down the stairs and her distraught husband blew his brains out or so the realtor claims. Never trust a realtor.

The mysterious piece is the couple’s son Ray Smilie. He was committed to an asylum and living at home. He plays loud music to keep the voices away. He is unhinged. He comes back to torment the family. At the same time, Jesse is hearing the same voice as Ray and it is shaping his artistic output. The artwork he creates is incredible, but also deeply troubling. The two are bound to clash, especially when Ray takes an interest in Jesse’s daughter.

Verdict:

It has great flair and a reasonably strong final act. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018)