Day 6 – Dunkirk

Resized_20180106_080057

Movie Title: Dunkirk

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. and 46 min.

Rated: PG-13

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Before starting my review I have to say that I am predisposed to disliking Christopher Nolan’s movies. Outside of his Batman trilogy, which was excellent, his movies are hit or miss with The Prestige being the only one I would consider to be truly excellent. I have particular disdain for Inception and Interstellar. Inception sacrificed any true excitement to concept. The concept was not particularly complicated or overly compelling. Interstellar was fantastic, until the reveal, which was incredibly disappointing. I was very concerned going into Dunkirk that it would, like these other movies, sacrifice potential excellence, for concept.

The film opens following a platoon of troops through the streets of Dunkirk in search of water. Leaflets are dropped on them indicating they are surrounded and ultimately doomed. As revealed through dialogue later in the movie, roughly 400,000 soldiers are in the city of Dunkirk. British soldiers line up at the sea waiting for rescue, but between the air and naval support of the Germans, as well as Britain’s reluctance to throw much into the rescue effort, hopelessness begins to set in.

We get to learn very little about Tommy, the British soldier encountered with his platoon. Fionn Whitehead does a great job playing the role despite sparse dialogue. After following his initial encounter and reaching the beach where he will wait for rescue the story diverges into three separate segments. Tommy’s segment is called The Mole. At this point the movie introduces a time mechanic with each of three stories taking place over a different, but overlapping period of time. Unlike Nolan’s other movies where the mechanic involved can become gimmicky; the time mechanic really helps to improve the movie and add drama. The Mole segment of the story documents Tommy’s attempts to reach a ship out of Dunkirk and back to England.

The second segment is called The Sea and shows Mr. Dawson, his son Peter, and his son’s friend George being called upon by the British Navy to participate in the rescue. Loaded with life boats they set sail for the French coast. Along the way they pick up an unnamed shell shocked British soldier played by Cillian Murphy who requires the crew to make tactical and later moral choices.

The third segment entitled The Air presents the air combat of a small squadron of planes ordered to provide cover for the retreating ships. Farrier, played by Tom Hardy and Peter, played by Tom Glynn-Carney participate in several dog fights that result in their planes being damaged. Farrier must continually monitor his fuel and Peter has limited control of his steering. Ultimately, they must make decisions about whether or not they will be making it back to Britain.

At roughly the one hour mark the stories begin to congeal and the combination of the stories ramps up the drama. Nolan makes some surprising directorial choices that work out well. A scene showing all the ships that came to Dunkirk to rescue people provides an idea of scale for the extraction. The different time variants instead of being a distraction aids the movie considerably.

Special nod goes to Kenneth Branagh who does an excellent job playing Commander Bolton who is in charge of the rescue efforts. His scenes help provide context for what is happening in the larger scheme of the movie. A nod also goes to Hans Zimmer for moving away from the atonal mess of Inception and Interstellar and truly producing a soundtrack for this movie that is excellent.

Verdict:

Dunkirk is is a visually striking, beautifully shot movie. It has fairly sparse dialogue at times and the moments of action are less bang bang and more drawn out. Ultimately, it is not a war movie, but a drama about the lives of a few men in the context of a large scale military action. That drama is excellent. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Today’s Run:

Time: 16 minutes and 43 seconds

Distance: 1 mile

I ran a mile and walked a mile today, walking one lap, and running the next. I was a little bit slower this time, but it likely has to do with running through snow for part of the route and running carefully on some ice patches for part of the route. On the whole I felt like I ran harder today though it doesn’t show on the time. Feeling good.

Day 5: Snow Day 2! – Insidious: The Last Key

Resized_20180105_215924
First movie in the theaters this year.

Movie Title: Insidious: The Last Key

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. and 43 min.

Rated: PG-13

Who did I watch with?: Keegan

Where did I watch it?: Showcase Cinemas – Seekonk, MA

Review:

The movie opens with a flashback to Elise Rainier’s childhood, which prominently features an abusive father, a dead mother, and a terrified little brother. Her family is not comfortable with the “gifts” that Elise possesses and her father takes it out on her with physical and mental abuse. Flashbacks to Elise’s childhood feature prominently in the movie and the movie is much more about her than the other Insidious films. In my previous reviews I described Elise as a compelling character, but that does not prove to be the case for Insidious: The Last Key.

Elise is called by Ted Garza, a man who recently purchased Elise’s childhood home. He has quickly realized this was a bad idea. After Elise arrives it is discovered that all is not as it seems in the home and the exploration of Elise’s history is mundane despite its depravity. One is left to wonder how Elise didn’t know what was going on and how she came out so well adjusted at the end. The story flits around different aspects of the houses and Elise’s history, ultimately making a huge course correction about halfway through the movie that makes it feel like the plots of two scripts were thrown together.

One of the problems with the movie aside from its lack of focus is that the characters of Specs and Tucker who return to this movie come off far creepier than the demon haunting Elise’s childhood home. Their scenes with Melissa and Imogen Rainier are supposed to be cute, but just come off as inappropriate. They feel very appropriate for the Hollywood we’ve had revealed behind the scenes over the course of the past year. I have never been so unsettled by red Jello.

Another significant problem is the creature itself. Much like in Insidious: Chapter 3 nothing is done to establish the origin of the creature possessing the house. It is implied it was created because of the executions occurring at the nearby prison, but no investigation is done into its origins and that was one of the strengths earlier in the series. There was a search for what the creature was and what it wanted and this has none of that investigative quality attached to it.

Lastly, the movie ditches a lot of the things that made the previous movies strong, including, once again, diminished quality in the music department. This time they went as far as to dump the screeching music that accompanies the title sequence and it doesn’t get any better from there. The ending is predictable and far less harrowing than the other movies. It never felt like there was really a whole lot at stake.

Random note; they should have know that guy was crazy. Who wears a hat like that?

Verdict:

The movie is an inconsistent mess from start to finish. While it has its moments, it tells an unnecessary story that no longer feels like it has any real connection to the original, despite Leigh Whannell’s best attempts to put in nods to the original movie. On the whole it isn’t unwatchable, but it isn’t very entertaining either. Skip it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Dunkirk (2017)

Today’s Run:

I have decided to use the Mayo Clinic’s 7 week 5K training for beginners to be ready to run a 5k by the end of February or early March depending on when one is happening. Day 2 of their program calls for a brisk 30 minute walk, so that is what I did. This was also probably a good thing because my road is still 50% ice from yesterday storm.

Resized_20180105_004715
This is not the surface of the moon. It is the drift against my back door. The road isn’t much better.

Day 4: Snow Day! – Insidious: Chapter 3

Resized_20180104_125621

Movie Title: Insidious: Chapter 3

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. and 37 min.

Rated: PG-13

Who did I watch with?: Stephie

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Insidious: Chapter 3 is a prequel that takes place a few years before the Lambert haunting featured in Insidious. The story starts with a teenage girl named Quinn Brenner paying a visit to Elise Rainier’s house because she wants to talk with her mom who recently passed away. Elise reaches out to her mother and immediately regrets the decision, sending Quinn away. The next day, Quinn attends an audition for an acting school in New York. Quinn sees a man waving at her on two separate occasions. While leaving the theater Quinn is involved in a severe accident. Quinn’s recovery and subsequent limitations because of the accident make the story around her haunting more compelling.

There are many hints that there is a demon lurking in the shadows, but no one seems to take any of them too seriously. There is an old woman in the building who makes creepy proclamations, but everyone just thinks she is crazy. A bell rings by itself and cracks start appearing in the ceiling accompanied by loud banging noises. Footprints made of blood or tar (it is never really made clear) are found in the vacant apartment above them and despite the obvious creep factor involved, Quinn’s dad brushes it off. Finally, after some bizarre supernatural events, Quinn’s dad finally takes the situation seriously.

The look of the demon was very interesting, but no motivation or explanation for it is provided. For some reason it wants others to suffer and judging by some of the decisions made in the script it has had a lot of victims. The ending is also hokey as hell and could have come straight out of Touched by an Angel.

This movie has significantly more flaws than the previous movies. The movie plods along for nearly an hour before the action really starts to ramp up, which puts it in sharp contrast with the brisk pace of the other two movies. The previous movies took place in single family homes. This one takes place in an apartment building. Despite that, none of the neighbors seem to here the ruckus being raised by malevolent spirits next door. This is not a real apartment complex. Several characters are introduced and their minimal story arcs don’t really go anywhere. The music is extremely spare and that was the best part of the first movie. I also didn’t really need an origin story for Elise Rainier and how she got into the business of helping people that are being haunted. It is also not a particularly great origin story because Elise is revealed to be the cause of all the problems in these movies. I wanted her to be more of a bad ass, but as it turns out if she had stayed home alone and locked the door, none of this would have happened! That’s a real bummer.

Pierce and Laika Review (The Doggos):

For movies that feature a dog, my mutts like to get their own two cents in. Despite the fact that Pierce spent the early portion of the movie begging Zane for lobster bisque and the second half of the movie sleeping and that Laika got some solid sleep in, they have also have an opinion!

Resized_20180104_152058
Why no bisque? – Pierce

Particularly about Warren, Elise’s reddish golden retriever. They would like to praise him for his helpfulness in demon hunting and human companionship! They would also like to congratulate Warren on his successful judging. We do it when Papa eats ice cream out of the container, but your judging was much more effective. Good job Warren!

Verdict:

See it or skip it. If you’ve seen the others and feel the need to see all the movies in the series go ahead. Just don’t expect anything great. If you haven’t seen the others or don’t feel compelled to see another, skip it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Insidious: The Last Key (2018)

Today’s Run:

No run today, foot of snow, time to shovel (or call the plow man!)

 

 

Day 3 – Insidious: Chapter 2

Resized_20180103_165453

Movie Title: Insidious: Chapter 2

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. and 46 min.

Rated: PG-13

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Because this is a sequel, this review will contain some SPOILERS!

Insidious: Chapter 2 opens with a flashback to when Josh Lambert was a child in 1986 and visits a scene that was discussed during the climax of the first movie. Elise Rainier’s murder is being investigated by the police and his wife Renai Lambert is certain that he did not kill her. Once the police clear Josh everyone seems content to twiddle their thumbs until the murderer reveals themselves.

Josh Lambert, played by Patrick Wilson, gets by pretty well for a spirit just removed from another realm. As we saw that particular Hellscape unfold in the first movie the rapid transformation from ethereal dead to living human being goes pretty well. However, that transformation is not quite enough to convince his wife that there is absolutely nothing wrong with him. He does things you would expect him to do and is pretty convincing to open the movie, but that, as usual, doesn’t last.

Insidious: Chapter 2 reuses many of the stylistic elements from Insidious, but doesn’t pull them off as well. The story meanders a bit and while it ultimately comes back together it is not as cohesive as the single minded linear storytelling of the 1st movie. The movie also takes no time whatsoever to start having next level crazy things happen. There is a piano playing through a radio followed immediately by full bodied apparitions. There is no slow build and the movie doesn’t maintain the same level of creepiness as the first movie does, which is not to say there are not frightening moments in the movie. Some of the editing is a little choppier and the sound quality, which was the bread and butter of the 1st, is not on the same level.

Steve Coulter is introduced as Carl, a new character that worked with Elise on Josh’s original case in 1986. He is not as compelling as Elise and his method of communicating with the dead through dice is not as compelling as Elise’s steampunk gas mask. Carl’s story doesn’t seem to fit at first, but ultimately they stumble onto something horrifying that explains certain elements of the first movie, and gives this movie a purpose.

While the movie is entertaining overall, it does require one further massive suspension of disbelief that is more significant than the first movie. I liked it. Ultimately, if you are willing to soak in the rest of the mumbo jumbo from the movie than what is one more leap onto the suspension of disbelief train.

The resolution leaves it in a precarious place to make more sequels, which likely explains why Insidious: Chapter 3 and the upcoming Insidious: The Last Key are both prequels to the original movie. Despite this the movie does end on a cliffhanger, albeit, not a very compelling one, that I don’t believe will be resolved in the series.

Verdict:

On the whole if you liked the first movie you will probably like this one. Insidious is required viewing for this movie and if you haven’t seen the original much of this movie will not make a lot of sense. The new story eventually becomes compelling and while it isn’t as good as the first it is still a good movie.

See it, if you saw the original and liked it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

Today’s Run:

Time: 16 minutes and 23 seconds

Distance: 1 mile

I didn’t feel terrible afterwards, so I feel like this was a good start. I also walked another mile alternating between running and walking. I walked one lap around the block and ran the next. My loop is roughly .3 miles. I drove it in the car and it came out to 1 mile pretty much square. It is unlikely I am going to be able to run tomorrow as we are expecting anywhere from 8-12 inches of snow, so likely back running on Friday.

Day 2 – Insidious

Resized_20180102_161713

Movie Title: Insidious

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. and 43 min.

Rated: PG-13

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Insidious starts off as a standard fare haunted house movie, but quickly moves in a direction more like The Exorcist. The Lambert family is moving into a new home. It is hinted that there is something that they are trying to get away from by moving, but it is never elaborated on. Things, as they typically do in this genre, start to go sideways slowly. Some music books that were left on a shelf end up on the floor, there are strange sounds in the attic, things appear other places, and faint voices echo in the house. All of which made me think they really should have just bought a dog to help keep the burglars and poltergeists away. Soon after moving into the new house their son Dalton goes into the attic, falls off a ladder, and ends up in a coma. When things go from bad to worse the family picks up and moves, but that doesn’t solve their problems either. I always love it when characters move from one newly purchased home to another newly purchased home with nary a frame of celluloid in between. Which begs the question, are all horror movie victims made of money? Also, does the poltergeist come with some extra cash in my bank account? I would think about volunteering for a haunting if that were the case.

I have no personal belief in an afterlife or in ghost stories, but I love this type of movie. So, going in my willingness to suspend disbelief is already very high. However, as the movie goes on, the premise becomes increasingly ridiculous culminating in a climax that seems at best improbable. The ultimate solution also strikes me as something that would have fit in just fine with Poltergeist if they had better special effects in 1982.

The real star of the show is the music and the sound effects. They are thoroughly haunting, ranging from frenetic instrumentals to slight background noises that ratchet up the tension. As the sound effects jar and jangle your nerves the movie effectively generates horror with more than just jump scares. From a house alarm to the sound of hands being pressed against cold glass, the faint flickers of horror slink in the background and drive the movie forward beautifully.

The artistic style of the movie also helps draw in the viewer. Some of the set designs toward the resolution were beautiful in very creepy ways. While at the same time the movie was visually stimulating, the design choices didn’t necessarily make a lot of sense. I love the look of old still film equipment, but I feel like they didn’t need it seeing as they also brought modern equipment with them. Likewise, the steampunk gas mask that Elise Rainier wears with Specs looks really cool, but didn’t necessarily feel like a practical way to go forward with what they were doing.

Lastly, in a random aside, it feels like Patrick Wilson based his role in The Conjuring off of Lin Shaye’s performance of Elise Rainier. He really ought to thank her if he hasn’t.

Teacher Review:

I have a special fondness for characters that are teachers because I am a teacher and Insidious contains our first teacher of the year. Our leading man, Patrick Wilson’s character, Josh Lambert is a high school teacher. After freaky things start going down at home, Mr. Lambert takes the liberty of calling his wife and letting her know he’ll be a little late. A little late turns into 10:30 and 11:30 over the course of what seems to be more than one night. While some teachers certainly work long hours, no one is at school that late. In fact I’m pretty sure you would be setting off alarms. In an even more ridiculous plot point, he tells his wife that his principal is having him grade papers to make extra money. If I had been drinking something I would have spit. Hey, James Wan and Leigh Wannell, teachers don’t get overtime for grading papers. However, I will take the time to give you an F in your representation of the teaching profession.

Verdict:

Despite using some horror movie cliches and a climax that ultimately doesn’t work for me, the movie is effectively horrifying. It kept me on the edge of my seat with a truly gripping atmosphere and artistic style. The ending keeps the movie from reaching its full potential, but doesn’t ever completely jump the shark.

See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Health:

I got my diet on track today with the help of some excellent meal preparation last night and I started using a tracker to help me figure out what I am consuming. I dug out my cold weather running clothes and my running shoes tonight because it is a balmy 16 degrees and tomorrow is only going to be slightly better. I am going for my first run, starting small, tomorrow.

Day 1 – A Cure for Wellness (Happy New Year!)

Resized_20180101_095258
My trusty steed.

Movie Title: A Cure for Wellness

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. and 26 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

A Cure for Wellness is a flawed movie that I found to be captivating. The movie begins in a New York financial office where our main character Lockhart, played ably by Dane DeHaan, is sent on a mission to retrieve Pembroke, a partner in the firm, from a health resort in Switzerland. The company received a note, narrated in a Jigsaw-esque voice, that everyone at the firm believes indicates that Pembroke is out of his gourd. Lockhart doesn’t seem interested in going, but Lockhart it seems has been involved in some shady business practices, and the firm doesn’t hesitate for a second to blackmail him into taking the job. They also seem to have some skeletons in their closets and are looking to pass them off onto Pembroke. At first it seems that Lockhart would fit in better in Wolf of Wall Street, but after receiving the worst limo service in history, the movie slowly moves into more of an Eyes Wide Shut direction.

The imagery and cinematography are gorgeous. From winding trips through mountain passes to idyllic panoramas the filming locations and set pieces are beautiful and stick out as being one of the movies best features. The music, which initially seemed like it should belong in a standard horror movie starring children, really helped to build tension and atmosphere as the movie developed. The imagery in the movie is also very important. Early in the movie there is a body with only its feet sticking out from a bank of computer screens full of investment information. Imagery such as this help to develop the movies central idea though it reaches it in a meandering fashion.

For most of the 2nd act of the movie we enter into a series of events surrounding the angsty, insomnia laden, guilt ridden Lockhart. Lockhart becomes suspicious of the place fairly quickly. As Lockhart descends into madness he wanders through some of the worst medical confidentiality ever practiced and even worse medical procedures. Lockhart questions his own sanity as the world goes mad around him. While trying to gain access to the increasingly more elusive Pembroke and help himself struggle through an increasingly deteriorating mental state, Lockhart forges a friendship with Hannah, a very young patient at the hospital. She attempts to help him persevere through his condition. Last night, during New Year’s Eve festivities, we played the game Speak Out! which involves putting prosthetics in your mouth and trying to talk. You say something and your partner has to decipher what it is you were trying to say. I don’t know if I would play that game tonight after watching the movie.

26165206_10215279964812468_6042418195345568200_n
So. Much. Drooling.

One of the things the movie suffers from is some very heavy handed foreshadowing. One of the central props in the movie is a ballerina music box and the repetition of the concept of dreaming.  With lines like “that’s because she doesn’t know she’s dreaming” and “she’s dreaming, she just doesn’t know it,” being repeated frequently it leads you to make assumptions about Lockhart’s character. The backstory of the town and its relationship with the people on the mountain is also subject to a slow reveal. I suffer from having the inability to sit through a mystery. I have to try and solve it. I solved this one with more than an hour left in the movie. Normally, that would make me dissatisfied, but I found the journey to be greater than the destination.

The movie suffers from other flaws as well. The patients in the spa are supposed to be some of the richest and most powerful people in the world. Despite that, they come off as helpless, with behavior and actions that are incredibly inconsistent. There are also some supernatural events and medical procedures that are never adequately explained, a pointless scene that would make Louis C.K. proud, and the fact that the main character doesn’t understand how a toilet works for nearly an hour of running time the movie is still something to be seen.

Verdict:

As long as don’t go into the movie expecting a fast pace or non-stop action the movie is very enjoyable. The movie definitely has a slow build and could have been edited for length. It is beautiful though and the cinematography is fantastic. It presents a mystery that is greater than the sum of its parts and ultimately reaches a satisfying conclusion.

See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Insidious (2010)

Health:

Today, I am focusing on nutrition and setting myself up to be successful in the new year. If a nutritionist were to get a full picture of my dietary habits they would be appalled. I am throwing things away that I no longer want to have around the house and heading to the grocery store to stock up on healthy options. I need to get my nutrition in order or else I don’t feel exercise will be productive no matter what I do.

Showtime…

Tomorrow, I will be setting off on my quest to watch 365 movies in 365 days. I will also be setting off on my quest to go from couch to marathon runner. Obviously, there will be some baby steps to start. If it sounds interesting stick around…it could be an interesting ride.

Tomorrow’s Movie: A Cure for Wellness (2016)