Friday, November 27, 2015

Indie Gems: True Story

I just felt like I knew you.

Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill) is a writer for the New York Times who's fired after he fudges the details on a story. As he retreats back to Montana to his girlfriend, Jill (Felicity Jones) he learns of a man named Christian Longo (James Franco) who has just been arrested in Mexico for the murder of his wife and three children. While on the run, he was using the alias "Michael Finkel of the New York Times." Intrigued by why Longo would pick him, he visits him in prison and Longo promises to tell his story to only Finkel.

I knew about Christian Longo before I watched this film, so while some were disappointed by the lack of shock revelation at the end, I already knew what was true and what wasn't. That helped me enjoy it a bit more. I had no "shocking" expectations at all. Hill and Franco are both fine actors who are not getting enough credit for this movie. One of the biggest complaints I read is that they cast these two "comedic" actors opposite each other, completely ignoring that they're both Oscar nominees for dramas in the past. I'll admit, there was one fleeting moment where they're talking to each other that I half expected a dick joke, but it wasn't as distracting as some of the complaints suggested.

I like crime stories, mostly in the form of books and this film plays out like many that I've read. I enjoyed the pacing and the performances. I have to give the director credit for how he shot the flashbacks of Longo's family. Picking the most adorable children imaginable and having them show their complete trust in Christian before he did what he did could be manipulative in a way, but I thought it worked perfectly. No one sympathizes with Longo for a second.

This might not be the most memorable film that Hill, Jones, and Franco put out, but it works on many levels and has an interesting story to tell.

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Everyone deserves to have their story heard." - Mike (Jonah Hill)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies about Royalty

All hail Wandering Through the Shelves. This week's theme is movies about royalty. When all three picks don't immediately come to mind, I tend to use a little Google-fu for some reminders. This week, I realized that there's a lot of movies about royalty that I meant to see, but never got around to it. Here are some ones that I enjoy. (And I limited myself to one cartoon because I was prepared to go all Disney Princess on this)

1) The Other Boelyn Girl

I feel like this movie is kind of universally hated. I remember the film makers got a ton of shit for not actually casting British actresses in the lead roles. I just dig it for some reason. Even if I wanted to punch several people by the end of it.

2) Anastasia 

This is one of my favorite animated flicks and "Once Upon a Decemeber" is still one of the best songs to ever come from an animated movie.

3) Ever After

Guilty pleasure time!  The accents are bad, the story a bit silly, but I love this, damn it!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

2016 Independent Spirit Award Nominees + my thoughts

Woooooooooooooooooo awards season is upon us! Let's start with the most laid back award show there is; The Spirit Awards. I love these because they put more indies on my radar, but the trade is I haven't gotten a chance to see a lot of these. Here's a list of the nominees, my thoughts as always follow in green.

Best Feature
Beasts of No Nation
My theater is getting Spotlight this week so I'll get to check it out soon. Carol's awards buzz isn't dying any time soon either. 

Best Director
Sean Baker - Tangerine
Cary Joji Fukunaga - Beasts of No Nation
Todd Haynes - Carol
Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson - Anomalisa
Tom McCarthy - Spotlight
David Robert Mitchell - It Follows
I love that It Follows got so many nominations. It deserves them. I like seeing Fukanaga here even if Beasts lost its way towards the end.

Best Screenplay
Charlie Kaufman - Anomalisa
Donald Margulies - The End of the Tour
Phyllis Nagy - Carol
Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer - Spotlight
S. Craig Zahler - Bone Tomahawk
I'm happy to see End of the Tour here, such a wonderful little film. I'm psyched for Bone Tomahawk, I think it comes on Netflix in December.

Best First Feature
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
James White
Manos Sucias
Songs My Brothers Taught Me
As creepy as Diary of a Teenage Girl was, it was shot wonderfully and I loved the animation parts of it. I'm happy for them. I haven't seen the rest.

Best First Screenplay
Jesse Andrews - Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Jonas Carpignano - Mediterranea
Emma Donoghue - Room
Marielle Heller - The Diary of a Teenage Girl
John Magary, Russell Harbaugh, Myna Joseph - The Mend
Nice nod for Me and Earl, and I can't wait to see Room.

Best Male Lead
Christopher Abbott - James White
Abraham Attah- Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn - Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel - The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon - Mediterranea
Attah was so great in Beasts, he absolutely deserves to be there. I love that Jason Segel got a nod too. 

Best Female Lead
Cate Blanchett - Carol
Brie Larson - Room
Rooney Mara - Carol
Bel Powley - The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez - Tangerine
This is a nice nod for Bel. I'm kind of torn on Tangerine now after reading reviews saying it's overrated. 

Best Supporting Male
Kevin Corrigan - Results
Paul Dano - Love & Mercy
Idris Elba - Beasts of No Nation
Richard Jenkins - Bone Tomahawk
Michael Shannon - 99 Homes
PAUL DANO!!!! MICHAEL SHANNON!!! They were great in their respected movies. I'm glad they're getting some love. Elba was not good in Beasts, but he's gorgeous, so I'm over it.

Best Supporting Female
Robin Bartlett - H.
Marin Ireland - Glass Chin
Jennifer Jason Leigh - Anomalisa
Cynthia Nixon - James White
Mya Taylor - Tangerine
I have seen none of these. Whoops.

Best Documentary
Best of Enemies
Heart of a Dog
The Look of Silence
The Russian Woodpecker
Or these. 

Best International Film
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Embrace of the Serpent
Son of Saul
None here either, but I think Pigeon should win based on its title alone.

Best Cinematography
Beasts of No Nation
It Follows
Songs My Brothers Taught Me
So happy It Follows is in here. Same with Beasts.

Best Editing
Heaven Knows What
It Follows
Manos Sucias

John Cassavetes Award (Best Feature Under $500,000)
Christmas, Again
Heaven Knows What
Out of My Hand

Robert Altman Award (Best Ensemble)
Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award
Chloe Zhao
Felix Thompson
Robert Machoian & Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck

Piaget Producers Award 
Darren Dean
Mel Eslyn
Rebecca Green and Laura D. Smith

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

2015 Blind Spot Series: Bringing Up Baby

What I knew going in: It was another screwball comedy, and the director seems to think he mostly failed at it.

David (Cary Grant) is a paleontologist who is trying to secure a hefty donation for his museum, and also a missing dinosaur bone he needed to complete a skeleton. While out trying to impress the person who may be donating, he crosses paths with Susan (Katharine Hepburn) an irritating heiress who decides she loves him. She drags him into her shenanigans which involve a dog stealing his bone, and her pet leopard Baby escaping. 

 I had such a strange feeling while watching this. I could feel myself wanting to hate it, Susan is honestly the fucking worst. But I could never stop. It still had these very endearing moments despite me wanting to scream every now and then. 

Grant is always good, as is Hepburn. A lot seems to be made of her comedic timing in this film and how hard it was to get her to pull it off. I didn't notice, I thought it worked fine. It's hard not to love Grant, especially when he's playing such a charming idiot. The biggest question for me will be whether or not this film stays in my memory better than His Girl Friday did. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "You tried it in the tail yesterday and it didn't fit." - Alice ( Virginia Walker)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Rambling TV: Thoughts on The Walking Dead, Fargo, and Agents of SHIELD

Rambling film is a weekly series were I ramble about the things I watched on television.

The Walking Dead

We got another week of filler, but at least this filler was somewhat interesting, though very plot device-y.

Glen is back! Literally no one thought he was actually dead because of the way the powers that be and everyone involved with the show talked their way around it, but it was so nice to see him back. 

Rick, Carol, Morgan, and Michonne finally had a talk about Morgan's bullshit "all life is precious" mantra. Carol was seething that he let some Wolves go, Morgan tried to counter with "Well, Rick didn't kill me back in King's County, and if he did Daryl and Aaron would be dead." No, he knew you. Doesn't count. That conversation was not along enough though.

Other small things that happened: Rosita is a wonderful teacher. Poor Denise is getting tricked into helping Morgan, Maggie saw Glenn's signal, Ron is walking around obviously planning Carl's murder and no one seems to notice.

Oh, and the tower fell, knocking a hole in the wall and letting the walkers in. It was a beautiful scene, and now finally this season will pick up the pace again. I have to laugh a bit about how obvious the plot devices were in this film to get groups to split up. Carol leaving Judith with Jesse so she can get stuck with her, and Carol stuck with Morgan for example.


Can someone get Nick Offerman an Emmy? The guy was brilliant in this week's episode. I was so worried someone was going to shoot him during this stand off but he drunkenly talked his way out of it. It was perfect.

Can the Blumquists die already? They are seriously so stupid. I'm almost to the point where I can't tell who I want dead more, them or Dodd.

Agents of SHIELD


Okay, they threw in some bullshit about Jemma saying she loved Will even after she found out Hydra was tied into the group that sent Will, which makes no sense, but whatever. They kissed, this show will probably throw in another wrench somewhere in regards to them, but it was so sweet.

The Hydra tie in was actually really cool. Ward actually had more purpose to the episode besides lurking in the shadows, doing some mustache twirling villain dumb fuckery. 

It turns out Coulson was playing Rosalind just has hard as she was, only she genuinely seemed to have no idea what exactly was happening regarding the InHumans. 

IT Hunter was amazing. One thing SHIELD does really well is it's infiltration/heist scenarios, and this one was top notch.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Review: Mockingjay Part 2

War is hell. So are love triangles.

We pick up right where we left off in Mockingjay Part 1. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is recovering from being attacked by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who has been turned into a weapon against her by President Snow. (Donald Sutherland) Katniss begins to disagree with President Coin's (Julianne Moore) refusal to put her on the front lines to fight, so she takes matters into her own hands. She infiltrates the Capital along with a few familiar faces.

The supporting cast has a lot less to do this time around. Stanley Tucci and Gwendoline Christie have one scene a piece. Willow Shield's Primrose only has a few, same with Sam Caflin's Finnick and Jena Malone's Johanna. They sit out good portions of the movie. This film focuses so heavily on Katniss and her vendetta against Snow that nearly everyone else falls aside. 

Personally, I've always thought the first half of the Mockingjay novel was terribly boring. I was looking forward to the most interesting part to be adapted, so I was taken by surprise at how many problems this movie still managed to have. I already touched on the supporting players being pushed aside. Katniss and Peeta are the only ones whose feelings are even dwelled on. And speaking of not dwelling on other things - this film treats many of the big deaths as afterthoughts. One is spiced up a bit, the rest just happen and we move on. It's frustrating. My biggest gripe was the way the film was actually shot. It's as if they used some sort of filter to make everything darker, which makes sense in a war movie, but things are so dark that there's long stretches of the film where you can barely see what anyone is doing. And while the film did a great job at highlighting how awful war is, it also brought way too much attention to how silly the entire Katniss/Peeta/Gale love triangle really was. I already hated how they just threw away Katniss and Gale's friendship in the novel, the movie makes it stick out like a sore thumb how hard they tried to circumvent the two of them actually having a legitimate conversation about it. 

Even with it's flaws, I'm glad I saw Mockingjay 2. It's a series that wasn't perfect, but was a good read. I also have to point out what a powerhouse Jennifer Lawrence is. Yes, she can be obnoxious in interviews but when it's time for her to deliver, she does. Everything weighs heavily on Katniss and Lawrence shows it every second. 

Recommended: Yes, you already watched the other 3. Might as well. 

Grade: C+

Memorable quote: "If I had to put you through it all again to have this outcome, I would." - Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Indie Gems: The Reconstruction of William Zero


William (Conal Byrne) is a workaholic geneticist who causes a terrible accident that drives him and his wife, Jules (Seimetz) apart. The film then jumps to a later time, with William's twin brother helping him with his memory loss, only things are not what they seem.

I've been waiting for this movie for awhile because the insanely talented Melissa McBride has a small role. Too small, in fact, but at least it was something else to see her in.

This is a very small film, with McBride easily being the most well known. Director Dan Bush has worked with his star Byrne before, and this seems to be his most ambitious film yet.

Byrne did a great job here. He's on screen for nearly every second of this film, and he plays all the different variations of William. He's shaky at times, but not often. The only time the film really drags are the scenes with Steimetz. It didn't help that Jules is extremely underwritten. We barely know anything about her, and Steimetz doesn't seem to understand anything Jules says. Neither do we, in fact. I never understood her.

I love finding little films like this and I hope Bush and Byrne continue to get more work. Although it's a bit predictable at times, but the story was mostly solid and it's a quick 90 minute watch.

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "Yeah...I do science." - William (Conal Byrne)