Thursday Movie Picks: Cults/Secret Societies

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is cults. I've talked about my weird obsession with religious cults before. It's morbidly fascinating. It was easy to find three films that I love for this theme. In fact, It was hard settling on the 3rd choice.

1) Martha Marcy May Marlene

Lizzie Olsen's debut movie is about a girl who escapes from a cult and goes to live with her sister after having zero contact with her family for over two years. The ending of this film is left open, but just imaging what could happen next is very terrifying in itself. 

2) The Master

Freddie is kind of a drunken mess when he happens upon Lancaster Dodd and his very persuasive Cause. Paul Thomas Anderson took inspiration from Scientology for this film and it features amazing performances from Phililp Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams. 

3) Red State

This is the least "Kevin Smith" movie Kevin Smith has ever made. It's about three guys who answer an online ad for sex and wind up in the hands of a religious fundamentalist cult. It's so different and very surprising. It was tough for me to narrow it down between this, Sound of my Voice, and Faults, two other cult films I really enjoy.

Review: The Hollars

You should call more.

John Hollar (John Krasinski) lives in New York working at a publishing office that he hates. His girlfriend Rebecca (Anna Kendrick) is pregnant, but he won't marry her despite her being a very caring and understanding person. He gets a phone call that his mother, Sally (Margo Martindale) has just found out she has a brain tumor and must go into surgery. He leaves back to his hometown in somewhereville, USA to spend time with his mother, father Don(Richard Jenkins) and his older brother, Ron. (Sharlto Copley, barely hanging on to an American accent)

The Hollars gives off an immediate Garden State vibe, and unfortunately it can't shake it despite its wonderful cast. Don't get me wrong, the film has a lot of heart. And in those moments, it shines, but for the rest of it it staggers around between over the top and forced. There's a scene in the film where John is swinging on a rope swing over a river, fully clothed. You know that rope is going to break and he'll fall in. The film does this often, it becomes very predictable.

Money problems? Check. Drama with the upcoming baby? check. The ex that tries to get in the picture? Check, check, check. It all feels very unnatural. John has dinner with his high school sweetheart who isn't over him, despite (I'm assuming) everyone involved being in their late 30's. An awful lot of time to get over something like that.  Ron takes issue with his ex wife moving on to another man in the most contrived dialogue imaginable and makes some of the dumbest decisions I've ever seen. The film also tries to go out of its way to excuse John for not committing to Rebecca, despite her not doing a single thing to warrant it.

Martindale is the absolute star of this. She's wonderfully sweet as Sally and you're on her side throughout. Kendrick comes close behind her as Rebecca. Jenkins is always reliable, but even he feels like he's trying too hard here. This is just another example of a bad movie happening to a good cast.

Recommended: No

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "You won't know you're okay until you get there." - Sally (Margo Martindale)

Rambling TV: Thoughts on Mr. Robot, Stranger Things and Agents of SHIELD

Another thing I've been slacking on. I haven't done one of these since Game of Thrones ended, but here's some thoughts on what I've been watching on TV lately.

Agents of SHIELD

SHIELD came back for its 4th season this past Tuesday, and they're heavily promoting Ghost Rider. I was a bit worried about how he would look on TV. Agents of SHIELD tends to get really over ambitious with their budget, and sometimes the SFX look awful, but Ghost Rider was not a casualty of that. He looked great, possibly even better than the film version. The move to the 10:00 pm time slot was welcomed too, as we got to see Rider murder a bunch of people. 

Of course, the show still makes the mistake of focusing too much on Daisy. She's still the least interesting character and Chloe Bennett continues to be a very bland actress. It's a bit disappointing she's our eyes to Ghost Rider at this point.

We still don't know who the new director is, only that Simmons has been promoted to his personal staff and currently outranks the rest of her team. May's not too thrilled with that. 

Mr. Robot

The season finale was last week, and it ended on a cliffhanger that makes me wish season 3 started tomorrow. I liked this season, I know it had a lot of critics though.

For the life of me, I can't understand why anyone would bitch about the episodes being longer. It's more story and the story is good. It's not like The Walking Dead where they stretch a very one dimensional story into 90 minutes. 

I was happy to be right about the jail/mental hospital theory. There's so many theories out there about this show. Tyrell finally returned at the end of the season. I personally don't care much about him as a character, even though his wife is deliciously bat shit, but it looks like he's here to stay.

I liked the introduction of Dom and seeing things from the FBI's point of view.

Angela and Elliot FINALLY kissed! That makes me happy.

Stranger Things

Everyone and their mom watched this show, right? It was delightful. I liked the creepy Stephen King vibes it had and they really found a great cast of kids. 

I love seeing David Harbour in something too, I enjoyed him in The Newsroom.

Fuck Nancy though, right? Who the fuck goes back to Steve? Steve's face begs to be punched.

I'm looking forward to season two, but they really need to cut down on the press. They're going to over expose these kids if they're not careful.

Rambling TV is a series where I ramble semi coherently about the things I watch on television. Usually there's wine involved in writing things. Click the gifs to be redirected to their makers. 

2016 Blind Spot Series: The Apartment

Okay, now I'm back on track. This is my 2nd Blind Spot for the month since I missed out in August. 

What I knew going in: That Billy Wilder directed it. 

CC Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is a lower level employee at an insurance company who has been letting his bosses use his nearby apartment for their liaisons. When he's up for a promotion, another big wig, Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) wants in on the arrangement too. Baxter finds out the hard way that one of Sheldrake's hook ups happens to be Fran, (Shirley MacLaine) a woman who Baxter has a crush on.

Billy Wilder has been one of the more interesting directors to grace my Blind Spot lists. I notice that I don't often find classic films funny. I'm used to the raunchier stuff they have nowadays, I guess. But Wilder's films always make me laugh. This one is no exception. It's not a through and through comedy. Actually, the tone changes quite drastically with whoever is on screen. When it's Baxter, it's funny. When it's Fran, it's quite tragic. I like that is so seamlessly went between the two. 

Jack Lemmon has such a wonderful presence, has does MacLaine, I enjoyed watching them together. In an effort to squeeze in two Blind Spots in one month, I ended up watching this on YouTube instead of waiting for my DVD from Netflix, which was probably a mistake considering they sped up the voices to (I assume) avoid copyright infringement. It did make a few things more amusing, I suppose. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable quote: "Certainly  not, I'm a happily married man" - Kirkeby (David Lewis)

Indie Gems: Louder Than Bombs

Selective Memories.

Three years ago, Isabelle, (Isabelle Huppert) an accoplished war photographer died in a car crash. Now, someone is planning on writing an article about her death and it brings her husband Gene (Gabriel Byrne) young son, Conrad (Devin Druid) and adult son Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) together for the first time in a while and forces them to come to a mutual understanding of how they remember her.

This is director Joachim Trier's first English language film, he did the wonderful Oslo, August 31st. He approaches Bombs in the same way. It's very quiet and almost cerebral. We spend a lot of time in our characters' heads listening to their narration. Sometimes they're not reliable narrators, or other people say what's in their minds. It's an interesting approach. 

Devin Druid gives the strongest performance here, as he's tasked with being the most angry and kept in the dark about his mother's death. Gene is somewhat resenting her and Jonah worships her. He may be another moody teen but circumstance makes him more interesting than most.

I do wish the film would've elaborated on a few more things, mainly a sub story with Jonah and his wife. Aside from that, this was a very enjoyable film.

Grade: B

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "You know, if I had a girl, I'd never lie to her." - Conrad (Devin Druid)

Thursday Movie Picks: Teen Angst

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is something we all go through; teen angst. This also happens to be a topic I suggested when Wanderer was asking for them. Why did I suggest it? As a one time angsty teen, I find those characters the easiest to relate to at times. Here's three of my favorite movies where teen angst plays a part.

1) Thirteen

Tracey is the ultimate angsty teen. She's angry, she cuts herself, she does whatever her new friend Evie tells her so that she fits in, even if it means drinking, doing drugs and making out with strange dudes. I think this is the best movie about a rebellious teen out there. 

2) Short Term 12

Though Jayden is not the star of this film, her anger reminds Grace of her own youth, and she knows Jayden has a very good reason for being the way she is, and not one she's going to be willing to admit any time soon. 

3) Fish Tank

Mia is angry, really angry. Her only outlet is dancing and even that's not going to be enough to cope with the massive amount of shit she gets herself in. 

2016 Blind Spot Series: JFK

Since I fell behind on this last month I'm hoping to do two of these in September.

What I knew going in: The plot

The film follows New Orleans DA Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) as he attempts to prove that the murder of President John F. Kennedy was a conspiracy that involved more than one shooter. 

We're all to the point where we kind of at least believe there was a conspiracy, right? That alone made me interested in checking this out. One thing I didn't notice before I put this movie on my Blind Spot's over three hours long. THREE + hours of Kevin Costner whom I barely tolerate as it is. I suddenly started dreading this a bit. I attempted to watch it on an airplane (Which I found out later when I got the DVD in the mail was actually heavily edited so I had to start over anyways) and one minute I'm watching a long Kennedy montage, then the next "We're now beginning our descent into...." Whoops. (but bonus: I NEVER sleep on planes)

Anyways, I psyched myself up for this movie in the worst way and it ended up being pretty interesting. It's certainly way too long, but it wasn't as hard as I was expecting it to be. That being said, I am confused on its "masterpiece" status.

How did this get editing and cinematography Oscars? There's some parts that I feel are very masterful, but others that were so choppy it was almost distracting.

How did Tommy Lee Jones end up with an Oscar nomination? He literally does nothing of note. Kevin Bacon, in my opinion was the best actor in this film. Was it because Jones playing an allegedly gay character was ground breaking at the time? I'm scratching my head over that one. 

Coster, despite how much I normally dislike him was actually very good. He kept my attention during this marathon of a movie. Gary Oldman was also impressive as Lee Harvey Oswald. 

Don't get me wrong, JFK is a good film, but I stop myself from calling it "great" or even something I'd consider watching again. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "Back, and to the left." - Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner)