Review: The Night Before

Get in the Christmas Spirit.
10 years ago, Ethan's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) parents were killed right before Christmas. Since then, his childhood friends, Isaac (Seth Rogan) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have spent Christmas Eve with him partying in New York City. Most recently, they've been trying to secure tickets to an exclusive party called the Nutcracker Ball. Although Ethan isn't ready to let go of the tradition, Isaac is about to become a father and Chris is a famous NFL player, so this will be their final Christmas together. 

I've been looking forward to this film all year, even when it was boringly dubbed "Untitled Jonathan Levine Christmas Comedy" for months. This cast is fantastic, unfortunately the movie has quite a few cliches, and not nearly as many laughs as a cast like this deserves. 

Don't get me wrong, I did laugh during this, especially at the guys' drug dealer, Mr. Green. (Michael Shannon) but I felt like it could've been funnier. The dramatic plot device that forces Ethan, Isaac and Chris to split up for a short time in the film is such a mess that it's almost distracting, but as weird as this is about to sound....Miley Cyrus comes in and saves it.

The actors were great, obviously. They always are. Anyone reading my blog knows how much I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Mackie, Rogen, and Shannon were all great as well. The film is still pretty funny, and is probably one of the better comedies out this year, I just wanted a bit more.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "I've been told I have a quiet intensity about me." - Mr. Green (Michael Shannon)

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 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!

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
Anomalisa
Beasts of No Nation
Carol
Spotlight
Tangerine
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
Mediterranea
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
(T)error
Best of Enemies
Heart of a Dog
The Look of Silence
Meru
The Russian Woodpecker
Or these. 

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

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

Best Editing
Heaven Knows What
It Follows
Manos Sucias
Room
Spotlight


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

Robert Altman Award (Best Ensemble)
Spotlight
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

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)

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.

Fargo

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

FITZSIMMONS KISSED!!!!!

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.

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) 


Indie Gems: The Reconstruction of William Zero

#ProxyProblems

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) 





The Girl Week Blogathon: Dreamland



Dell over at Dell on Movies came up with this quick idea for a blogathon. This week he's been focusing on a different film each day with a female lead and asks us to do the same. I'm going to talk about the lead in one of my favorite independent films of all time, Dreamland. I reviewed it at the start of my blog way back in 2009. It's one of the films that kind of got me hooked on indies. So instead of a full blown review again, I'm going to list 5 things that make Audrey interesting.

1) She's caring. Her father is agoraphobic, and can't leave their desert trailer park without suffering panic attacks. Her best friend, Calista has recently been diagnosed with MS. She takes care of both them emotionally.

2) She's thoughtful. She's a talented writer, though she's finished high school, she's too afraid to go to college because that means leaving her family and friends to take care of themselves.

3) When she's not busy hiding her college acceptance letters in a box under her bed, she makes a little time for herself - hence her fuckbuddy, Abraham. 



4) She's curious. When a new boy, Mookie (yeah, people have weird names in this) even though Calista calls "dibs" on him right away. They have a connection and she lets it play out organically even thought she tells him up front that Calista would be better for him.

5) She's not another teen in a teen movie. Played by the severely underrated Agnes Bruckner, if this movie had a different director, a different screen writer, and was released by a major studio, it would be bland. Bruckner would've had to cover up her tattoos, which she has on display here (and I loved, because it's different) Her thoughtfulness would've been shown by her sitting her in bright colored room with white Christmas lights on the walls as she writes in her notebook, or maybe types it on her livejournal. The "love triangle" would've dominated the movie, and Audrey would drive away at the end of it while a Demi Lovato song played in the background. None of this happens here. Audrey is different. Her poetry, often told in voice overs is deep and very true to her. She never once falls into a category other than "intriguing."



Thanks for hosting, Dell!

Review: Suffragette

Votes for women!

Maud (Carey Mulligan) never considered herself a Suffragette. She's been working as a washer woman since she was seven. She's married to Sonny (Ben Winshaw) who at the beginning seems like an okay dude. They also have one son. She begins to notice more women joining the movement to secure women's rights to vote and for equal wages. Violet (Anne Marie Duff) catches her attention first, and when she accompanies her to speak, then ends up sharing her own testimony instead, Maud can't ignore it any longer. She's aided by Edith (Helene Bonham Carter) an educated nurse, and seemingly the only woman in this movie without an asshole for a husband. Emily (Natalie Press) and Alice (Romola Garai) round out the rest. 

Carey Mulligan is magnificent in this film. It's a joy to watch her go from this timid woman to one who chooses to stand up, just a little more each time to fight for her rights. Even when men like Inspector Steed (Brenden Gleeson) try to silence her. Anne Marie Duff is also wonderful and really should be on the poster over Meryl Streep, who literally has one scene in this entire film. (Though it is a powerful one)

A film like this is so important, and I love the inclusion of a timeline of years when women could vote in various countries that plays right before the credits do. It's sad that things like this are still going on in the world, and even sadder that I still hear some of the arguments the men in this film make today.

The pacing is a bit slow, it plays as if it's a slide show, like it's checking off big events in Muad's life, and that's unfortunate for a film so important. It's a very grey and depressing, but that's exactly what this entire movement was about. These laws were and still are depressing. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I'm just going to listen." - Maud (Carey Mulligan)

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

The Walking Dead

Show runner Scott Gimple loves himself a bottle episode, and this week we are "treated" with yet another one. Tonight only followed Sasha, Abraham and Daryl. 

I should no longer be surprised that TWD shoots itself in the foot momentum wise. This week, and the week before were very slow and not nearly up to par with episodes like J.S.S or Thank you. But Always Accountable was a step up from last week's Now.

Daryl's whole "redneck with a heart of gold" schtick fits well with his characters, but it's a shame they made him so careless this week. After being shot at by a bunch of randoms, he's held hostage by three people, Dwight (he's from the comic, we'll see him again) and two women, Tina, and (assuming) Sherry, but her name was never mentioned. They tie him up, threaten him, then when Tina passes out, he bails with their bag that's holding his crossbow. They shoot at him again. When he gets far enough away, he finds out he has their insulin. So he returns it, which I get, but then he stays with them after 1) All that hostage taking business and 2) He sees the kind of people they've just pissed off. Why make Daryl so ridiculously dumb in this situation? He could've given them their meds back and bailed. Instead he turns his back on them and they take his crossbow from him AGAIN. It's frustrating. 

Abe and Sasha were also making some questionable decisions tonight. Mainly Abe blatantly hitting on Sasha and for her to reply with "You need to take care of some things" instead of "Hey asshole, you're already happily dating Rosita." What the fuck is with this show and forced romances? It's even more jarring in an episode that featured two calls back to Caryl (That's the the potential Carol and Daryl relationship by the way) One that has been slow building, but ultimately makes the most sense.

Fargo

Monday's episode is the best of the season, and started off with a brutal ambush. The Gerhardts do not fuck around. Though neither does Mike, and he'll most certainly be using Simone against her own family. Can Dodd just die already though? His character is a piece of shit and Jeffrey Donovan is not a good actor. I just want it over with.

I'm also glad the Blumquists seems to be on their way to being arrested though I cheered Ed for defending himself during that fire. It's Peggy who I still can't understand. Does she have some deep dark secret that's about to come to light? There's no other way to defend her behaviors otherwise.

Agents of SHIELD

Another brilliant episode this week too. May didn't tell Bobbi about Andrew's secret, but she confronts Andrew himself right away. The whole team knows by the end of the episode.

I knew Phil and Rosalind were going to hook up, and like that final scene showed, she's going to screw him over unless Phil is already playing her.

There was more Fitzsimmons loveliness this week as well, with Fitz finding all of Jemma's recordings on her phone, as well as a key to who Will may work for. (Hint: Probably not NASA) and they seemed to confirm that they'll take their relationship to the next step this week. Although since this is Agents of SHIELD we're talking about, it will probably be short lived and I'll rage all over Twitter about it because that's what I do.

Review: Freeheld

"I'm only asking for equality"

Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) is a detective on the Ocean County police force and has been for about 23 years. She's a lesbian, but she keeps that a secret from her colleagues out of fear of discrimination. Even from her partner, Dane (Michael Shannon) who she's worked with for many years. She meets Stacie (Ellen Page) they fall in love, get a dog, a house, a domestic partnership and everything goes swimmingly until Laurel is diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and has to fight for her pension to go to Stacie.

I never saw the documentary short on Laurel and Stacie. I looked for it, but could never find a place to watch it. It made me wonder while watching this film how much Dane really did for them. The two women almost become supporting characters towards the back half of this film as they chose to follow Michael Shannon's Dane instead. It's hard to complain, because it's Michael Shannon and he's wonderful, but it seemed very jarring to go from Laurel's story to barely seeing her for 45 minutes. I suspect they did this so it didn't overwhelmingly feel like a "cancer movie."

The acting from Moore, Page, and Shannon is spot on and very emotional. I was afraid I'd think of Still Alice while watching Moore since she just came off that role, but I didn't. Not once, Laurel is very different. The only one that isn't really up to par is Steve Carrell, who plays a gay activist that comes in and tries to help sway the Freeholders. He's meant to be flamboyant, but Carrell was almost too theatrical. Especially compared to everyone else, he stuck out in a bad way.

I had high expectations for this film. It falters a bit in places, but it was still a good enough watch. It more than likely won't be a big Oscar contender like I thought it could, but I'm still glad I saw it, and I once again couldn't escape ugly cry face.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "That's a deal breaker." - Stacie (Ellen Page)

Fun Fact: Luke Grimes plays a fellow closeted gay cop in this film, which is hilarious to me because this is the same guy who dropped out of True Blood when he found out his character was bisexual and would have a gay sex scene. Yes, I know, he shouldn't have to do something he's not comfortable with. (Even though hello, you're on True Blood) but this was amusing.

Indie Gems: Bronson

Heeeeeeeere's Charlie

Michael Peterson (Tom Hardy) has been in prison for thirty four years. What started as a seven year sentence for robbing a post office escalated into a longer sentence due his love for fighting and taking people hostage. He goes by his alter ego Charles Bronson and becomes some what of a celebrity in the prison system.

This movie is weird as fuck. There's no other way to put. It's one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen. Nicholas Winding Refn is definitely the right director for this project. Everything is so theatrical and the music is wonderful. (This was pre-Drive, but since I saw Drive first, the soundtrack reminded me of that instead of the other way around.)

If you're a Tom Hardy fan, this is definitely a film you need to see. He's so energetic, scary, funny, menacing. I can't praise him enough. Plus the guy runs around naked for a good portion of the film so you have to give him props there. 

If you're in the mood for something brutally weird. This one is for you. 

Grade: B

Memorable quote: "Magic? You just pissed on a gypsy in the middle of fucking nowhere." - Paul (Matt King) 

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies about Music/Making Music

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is movies about making music. The only trick is, you can't use bio pics or movies about real life musicians. Here's what I came up with.

1) Once

This beautiful story about an unnamed Guy and Girl flourishes with the music they make. They only spend one week together, but you just know neither forgot each other after that.

2) Begin Again

Begin Again is one of my favorite movies in recent years, and it's also done by the same director who did Once. He knows how to make movies about struggling musicians for sure, and this one about a singer/songwriter and the man trying to produce the album is perfection.

3) Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Hedwig transitioned from a man to a woman in order to marry an American GI, however his surgery didn't go as planned so now poor Hedwig is playing her music in bars across the U.S while another boyfriend stole her songs and became famous off of them. This film is so fun and has brilliant performances. 

Bonus: This Is Spinal Tap - This was actually the first film that came to mind, but since the guys that played the members of Spinal Tap actually went on tour *as* them, I wasn't sure if it counts. Because doesn't this technically make Spinal tap real musicians? I don't know. The Piano was another that came to mind because the music played in that film is so lovely. 

DVD Review: Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter.

"Here, let me tell you how to drive to Fargo!"

This valuable piece of information is given to our title character, Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) by a tourism guy in the airport. Why yes ma'am, I can see you barely speak English so let me give you driving directions instead of taking one of the approximately 10 nonstop flights from this very airport. 

Kumiko is a lonely woman living in Tokyo who is obsessed with the movie Fargo and actually believes that it's real. Fed up with her awkward existence, she takes off with her company's credit card to go dig up the treasure buried in the film.

Rinko Kikuchi is an actress that really should be getting more roles. She was the best part of the mediocre Babel. I wish she was given more to do here. She was very believable as an awkward, soft spoken woman. She's silent much of the film, partly because she's shy, and partly because of the language barrier. I thought the film had some beautiful camera work and a fitting score, but overall it was too slow and uneventful. It gets better towards the end, but it doesn't make up for the meandering first half. 

Recommended: Yes for Rinko, and for the few brilliant moments the film truly has, just don't expect much. 

Grade: C


Memorable Quote: "My Carpal tunnel prevents me from assessing this situation" - Bus Driver (Earl Milton)

Review: Truth

"They don't get to smack us just for asking the question."

This happened when I was in high school. I worked three jobs to avoid going home until late at night and was very self involved. I vaguely remember my Government teacher talking about this. I don't think I actually took the time to read about it until years later. I didn't care. I grew up in a red state that was going to back Bush anyways. I wish I would've taken it a bit more seriously then.

Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) is a producer for 60 minutes who gets word of a story about President George W. Bush getting special treatment to go into the national guard to avoid Vietnam. She assembles a team of Mike Smith, (Topher Grace) Col. Roger Charles (Dennis Quad) and Lucy Scott (Elisabeth Moss) and gets to work. She's given a close in air date, so they do not properly verify the documents without a shadow of a doubt. She notifies anchor Dan Rather (Robert Redford) who puts his trust in Mary. They air the story and the following day, people being to dissect it as a fraud.

This film has a rough time by default. CBS refuses to advertise it. It's being accused of making martyrs out of people who didn't do their job properly. That aside, no matter where you lean politically, Truth is very engaging and well made. 

I can always appreciate when a film based on a real story can still feel suspenseful even when you know the ending, and that's how this felt. Many other reviews said this felt like it could've been on an episode of HBO's The Newsroom, I agree, and I think that's a massive compliment. Everything about how this film handles journalism is fascinating. Blanchett is an absolute treasure. She's wonderfully intense, vulnerable, and funny all at the same time. The scene where Mary is at her hearing, and she points out how people would rather whine about the documents being copies instead of listening to the real story is so well done. With the camera getting closer to her as she continues her rant. She doesn't get angrier the closer it gets, she stays just the right amount of angry the whole time. It's brilliant.

The supporting cast doesn't quite match up to the magnitude of Blanchett, though Grace, I thought in particular was very good. This isn't something I'm used to seeing him in. But the pacing is perfect and in my opinion presents a very fair analysis on what happened. They didn't sugar coat the mistakes made. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "What are you going to do? Tell them how we ruined modern journalism together?" - Mike Smith (Topher Grace)

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

Rambling TV is a weekly series were I rant, rave, and ramble about what I watched on TV this week.

The Walking Dead

Red shirts need loving too, and that's what this episode was about. Focusing on the Alexandrian red shirts who are mostly going to die in the episodes to come. So instead of seeing the fallout between Carol and Morgan's way of handling the Wolves, instead of Michonne telling Betsy about what David said (Betsy was that Alexandrian that slit her wrists and turned into a walker, by the way) instead of Rick running to immediately check on his children, we get the Alexandrians instead.

Background characters do need development, I'm not faulting that, I just wish this episode would've balanced it better, and shown more of Rick's group along side them. Then maybe it wouldn't have some off as such a failure.

The highlight of the episode was definitely Maggie and Aaron going to look for Glenn. She drops the "bombshell" that she's pregnant, and regrets burning that picture she did in S4. That was nice. Deanna was intense too, and superbly acted, but she also spent the entire episode wandering around.

Spencer acted like a douche. Ron acted like an emo teenager, picking the wussiest fist fight ever with Carl, then passive aggressively approaching Rick on the walls later. 

Tara and Denise got some loving, that I'm find with too as Tara is one of my favorites and I'm enjoying Denise so far. Their kiss wasn't the most annoying one of the episode though, for me, that was Rick and Jessie. Their lustful moment made sense in the comics, but in the show they're building it like an actual romance. It makes both of them look terrible. Rick just shot her husband, her son visibly hates him and Jessie herself told Rick to stay away from him. Then Jessie, who she could focusing on her children right now is instead making out with Rick in her garage? When her youngest son is refusing to come down stairs? I haven't been this annoyed with the direction Rick has been taken since Farmer Rick in episode for. It's frustrating to see my favorite character go through something like this. Jessie is his Lori proxy, which he needs to move on, but there shouldn't be romantic strings attached. That just makes it feel cheap.

Next week is all Daryl, Sasha, and Abe. Norman Reedus said there's a nice nod for Caryl shippers on the episode, so clearly I'm looking forward to that. 

Fargo

I want to punch Peggy in the face. There has to be a reason for her stupidity, right? I feel like I should've been rooting for her during her colleague's "No man should be able to tell you what to do" speech, but in this case, yeah. You should listen to your husband. He's actually thinking logically, in terms of financial security, where you want to waste money on a seminar that's probably bullshit. I can't even get behind Peggy from a feminist stand point. She's an idiot. 

The Gerhardts are declaring "war" which is exciting, and Lou is certainly onto them and the Bloomquists. 

Also how about that after sex scene? I haven't seen someone try so hard to cover up nudity since Jessica Alba's scenes in The Killer Inside Me. Expertly placed sheets, hair bra, man...that's effort. Boobs aren't okay, but talking about sticking your thumb in someone's ass is.

Agents of SHIELD.

Holy FUCK. This episode. I did not see that ending coming.

Let's start with Andrew, I thought he was dead two weeks ago. Well, he isn't. He's alive and talking. My initial reaction was "what a cop out" but that changed later on.

Jemma is starting to bother me with her manipulation of Fitz. She's not required to return his feelings at all, but she doesn't seem to really consider any of this other than "I know it's hard for you." Maybe she needs to be straight forward with her feelings to avoid this instead of acting like she's just saving Fitz in the on deck circle? I'm starting to think they haven't actually had much of a conversation on the matter. Even Hunter was like "Fitz, wtf don't help." Fitz was scene pulling up info on Will, so hopefully he finds something juicy that throws him off.

I loved seeing Bobbi and May kick ass. And I love how Hunter gave no fucks on his mission with Daisy and Mack. It was nice to see them all working together.

Did I actually just feel bad for Rosalind? I did. Ugh.

Powers Boothe makes his return from The Avengers. Remember, he was part of the council Nick Fury was talking to? The one that was totally okay with launching a missile at Manhattan? 

So back to that cop out. I thought having Andrew alive was a terrible idea, until May and Bobbi finally got a hold of Baby Von Strucker and he dropped this bombshell on them: Andrew is Lash, the monster they've been hunting since the beginning of this season. No hint whatsoever, though now it makes absolute sense why Lash never tried to kill Daisy, despite killing other Inhumans. It's going to be interesting to see how the team reacts, if May and Bobbi share this with them.

Law and Order: SVU

I never watch this show, but when I found out they were doing an episode based on the Duggar's scandals. I had to, and oh, it was glorious.

Of course not everything was spot on, they can't be that obvious, I guess. No baby voice from Michelle, and the parents in the end actually stood up for their daughter who had been raped, the real Duggars never would. There's also a part where they say "We don't care about the show" which literally made me LOL because Jim Bob and Michelle would never in a million years say that.

They also had the balls (and I'm assuming this helps them not get sued) to name drop the Duggars. 

Also can we just talk about "purity balls" for a second? They are so. fucking. creepy.

Indie Gems: What Richard Did

*rings bell* Shame. Shame. Shame.

Richard (Jack Reynor) is the popular kid in his Dublin school. Athletic, charming, the leader of his group of friends. He lands a new girlfriend in the summer between high school and university, Lara (Roisin Murphy) and everything seems to be going well. Then he does something that ruins it all.

This film does well with a slow burn. It takes its sweet time warming us up to Richard. To make sure we see just how much of a stand up guy he is before the event in our title happens. Reynor, little Irish Chris Pratt look-a-like that he is does well in the role. He's completely believable in both his lovable side, and when he inevitably falls apart.

Most of the actors in this film have few credits to their name. They look and feel very natural. While the film is strong, I do think it handles the aftermath of the incident a bit poorly. A bit more time could've been given to it, especially since the film clocks in at a short 88 minutes. 

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "Were you there?"  - Peter (Lars Mikkelson)


Thursday Movie Picks: Secret Agents/Spies

I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that involve listening to Wanderer at Wandering Through The Shelves, and picking movies weekly. You should too.

This week's theme is movies with spies/secret agents in them. There's so many to choose from, and a few I used already, so here's what I came up with.

1) The East

Sarah goes undercover to spy on a group of eco-terrorists. I love Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, they make a wonderful team, and this film is my favorite of theirs.

2) Skyfall

I don't like Bond movies. Blasphemy, I know, but this is the exception. It's just stunning.

3) The Bourne Supremacy

I always say that this film has one of the best car chases in cinema history. The Bourne trilogy is a fun ride, this one being my favorite. 

DVD Review: I Am Chris Farley

Good. Great. Grand. Wonderful

I used to think I was the perfect age for Chris Farley's audience at the height of his career. I was in grade school and thought he was hysterical. I loved any kind of physical comedy. After watching this doc, I realized there was no perfect age for Chris Farley. Everyone thought that guy was funny, no matter what age you were.

Being a fan of his, I was bummed when I missed this when it initially aired on FX, so I'm glad the DVD release came quickly. We hear from Chris' family, his former SNL friends/costars like David Spade, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Dan Aykroyd, Bob Odinkirk, etc. It's clear they all thought he was a genius comedian. 

It was nice to hear them talk. It could've easily been a rehash of his SNL skits, and while some of those are peppered in while they're talking about them, just listening to these people talk about his process was interesting. They don't hold back. They're quick to say how funny he was, but how he wasn't exactly a good writer when it came to skits. It's obvious that talking about his drug addiction is a sore spot. They feel defeated. 

As for new insight on Farley, there were a few things I didn't know that they talked about, like how Black Sheep was kind of a sore spot and put him into a relapse. That in particular stung for me because I fucking LOVE Black Sheep. It's nice to see a doc surrounding him as he really was larger than life, and someone I frequently watched when I was younger.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "He'd say, I don't want to play the pussy...but he really was a pussy." Tom Arnold

Review: Beasts of No Nation

Child. Solider. Killer.

In an unnamed country in Africa, Agu (Abraham Attah) is just a regular boy, trying to think of interesting ways to make money for his family. He has a loving home life, even though his country is on a brink of a civil war.Until the fighting ends up in his town. His family is separated, then murdered right in front of him. He runs, but is stopped by the rebels, lead by Commandant (Idris Elba) who force him to become a soldier. 

A film like this is brutal, and watching Agu go from such a carefree child into a murderer is heartbreaking. We're treated to voice overs every now and then, with Agu praying to God, at first helplessly, then almost as if he's trying to convince himself that this is the whole way. Attah gives one of the best performances of any child actor I've ever seen. Beasts is going to have a rough way to the Oscars as it is, but they should focus on him, because he truly deserves it. He over shadows everyone else, including Elba, who unfortunately is very miscast here. It was painfully obvious that he was the only one using a fake accent, and his true one kept trying to creep forward. Luckily it's Attah that is tasked with carrying the film.

It's nice to see Cary Joji Fukanaga back in action. After he expertly shot the first season of True Detective, he's back again as not only the director but the cinematographer as well. The film does suffer from pacing problems, especially towards the end. It starts to feel repetitive and and almost a little aimless. However it still deserves to be seen for Fukanaga, and Attah alone.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "It's an imagination TV." - Agu (Abraham Attah)


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

Rambling TV is a weekly series where I ramble/rant/rave about what I watched on TV this week.

The Walking Dead

I'm torn on this episode. It was hauntingly beautiful. The score was perfect, Morgan's transformation was legitimately frightening and the acting from both Lennie James and John Carrell Lynch was top notch, but ultimately, I feel like TWD is trying to manipulate me.

You may remember episode 4 of last season, arguably its worst, Slabtown, that focused on Beth. A background character who despite the lack of acting chops was pushed to the forefront to make us "care", then died a horrible death. That's what I feel like they're doing with Morgan, only he's more interesting and Lennie James is an amazing actor. 

Morgan gets 90 minutes (A tad too long) for us to see his amazing journey, to get attached to Eastman and Tabitha the goat, only for them to die in a ridiculous fashion. Morgan adapts Eastman's philosophy. It's wrong, by the way. In the world they live in now, all life isn't precious. People like The Governor, The Claimers, The Wolves are out there raping and killing, and they don't deserve to live. Look at the wolfs Morgan let go in episode 2? They almost killed Rick.  But still - we give a damn about Morgan. I always have. He'll keep this philosophy, even though it's doomed. He'll give us hope, that he can balance it...then he'll meet Lucille.

Any comic reader knows who Lucille is. And that's what I think Morgan's fate is. It's a damn shame, because James is such a good addition to this show, but they've set him up only to have him die a brutal death. I hope I'm wrong, but I doubt I am. 

Fargo

So we finally got to see the Gerhardt family in all their batshit glory. Whether it be threatening a police officer (Poor Lou got guns pulled on him twice in this episode) or burying a guy alive with steaming asphalt. These people are unstable. Oh, did I mention right before burying this guy, Dodd smacks around his daughter then yells "I wanted a son and I got four damn girls." Classy.

Peggy has totally killed somebody before this, right? Betsy essentially figured out the crime already, and Peggy was so nonchalant when she and Ed were crashing their car so it cannot be traced back to them. She's done something fucked up before.   

Agents of SHIELD


This entire episode was focused on Jemma when she was away on the desert planet she was transported to. Interesting, right? A strong, capable woman like Jemma surviving on her own...oh wait no, they decided to give her a fucking astronaut boyfriend instead. I get it, I do. I figured she'd run into someone else that was stuck there, and I get why she's fuck the only dude there in a hopeless situation, but it's such a slap in the face to Fitz. She spent most of that episode talking to Fitz, looking at his picture, then seemingly dropping him. If Fitz gets shoehorned into this "Best friend who's really right for you but you don't notice" trope I'm going to be so pissed. He's a better character then that, and I would've seriously rather watched an hour of Jemma talking to herself then getting a fucking love triangle.