Review: Free Fire

Shoot outs for all.

It's 1978 and two Irish men, Frank (Michael Smiley) and Chris (Cillian Murphy) meet up with their contact Justine (Brie Larson) to buy some guns. They bring along Bernie (Enzo Clienti) and Steveo (Sam Riley) to help load up the goods. They meet the arms dealers, Ord, (Armie Hammer) Vernon, (Shartlo Copley) Martin, (Babou Ceesay) Gordon (Noah Taylor) and Harry. (Jack Reynor) What should be an easy exchange goes wrong in just about every way possible.

I estimate that about 75 of this 90 minute movie take place in an active shoot out. No one gets to stand upright for more than 2 seconds after that. These characters all manage to get shot in some part of their bodies so the spend the rest of the film crawling, hiding, and you guessed it, shooting. It's a hard narrative to keep interesting but the cast are so charismatic that they make it work. Mostly.

Larson, Murphy, Ceesay, and Reynor were my favorites. Armie Hammer was the one that surprised me the most. This role really suit him well. But I need to take a second to complain about billing. And yes, I realize I'm being the pettiest person who ever pettied right now, but I have no idea why Hammer and Copley are billed above Murphy and Larson. I mean, technically I know why, contracts and what not but it makes no sense. Hammer and Copley are arguably slightly lower on the popularity scale than Larson (an Oscar winner) and Murphy. (A Golden Globe nominee) Screen time wise, I think Larson and Murphy slightly edge the other two out as well. But isn't the point of winning and being nominated for awards to kind of bump you up on the billing list? I hope Larson made as much as these other dudes. She deserves it. 

Rant aside, like I said. This movie is mainly a shoot out, there's not a whole lot to elaborate on without getting spoilery. It's a far from perfect film but made for an enjoyable watch.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "You take what you want, girl." - Chris (Cillian Murphy)


Indie Gems: Ceremony

Maybe it's meant to be?

Sam (Michael Angarano) and Marshall (Reece Thompson) are going on a weekend getaway. Marshall thinks its to re-establish their friendship after he's been holed up in his apartment suffering from depression for a year. Sam has other plans. These plans include crashing a party at a beach house to stop his lover, Zoe (Uma Thurman) from getting married to Whit. (Lee Pace)

This isn't the typical love triangle. Zoe isn't marring an asshole. In fact, Whit seems pretty decent, and they look like a good pair. Sam just can't accept being - as Marshall puts it - "a mistress." 

Angarano gives a very energetic performance. He and Thompson have great chemistry and their back and forth banter was great. They would get close to talking about their feelings, then get side tracked with something else. It felt very realistic. Thurman, Pace, and Jake Johnson give good performances in their supporting roles, but it's Angarano and Thompsons' show.

For lack of a better word, the film is a bit spazzy but that made me enjoy it even more.

Grade: B

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "If you would've told me the truth I would've listened to you." - Marshall (Reece Thompson)


Thursday Movie Picks: A Disappearance

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is about disappearances. I could probably do a theme within a theme using Julianne Moore movies alone, but I'll try to avoid that.

1) Brick

Brendon attempts to uncovering the story behind the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend in this high school noir. This is one of the few movies that is so amazing that I can excuse the fact that most of these actors don't look like teenagers. 

2) Changeling 

I loved this movie. Angelina Jolie may be kind of ridiculous in real life but I thought she was great here. The only low point was Jeffrey Donovan and his ever changing accent. 

3) Oldboy

Dae-Su disappears for 15 years and he's understandably pretty pissed about it. This movie is exactly as good as everyone says it is. 

2017 Blind Spot Series: In The Bedroom


What I knew going in: I had seen bits and pieces of this movie before, just never in the right order.

Matt and Ruth Fowler (Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek) are not thrilled that their college age son, Frank (Nick Stahl) is dating an older woman, Natalie with kids. (Marisa Tomei) Although their relationship is a happy one, Frank is showing signs of wanting to skip out on college, and Natalie has an abusive ex-husband, Richard (William Mapother) who is proving to be a problem. 

In The Bedroom is a good film that could've been great. I feel a bit strange saying this, because I think Wilkinson and Spacek are very talented actors, they're just not very exciting ones. After Stahl and Tomei stop appearing on screen consistently, the film ends up dragging a bit. It's not that the story isn't there, because this is a very interesting character study on Matt and Ruth's marriage and lives after tragedy strikes them. But it just felt like it was missing something after starting off so well.

The acting is very good all around, Tomei being my favorite. Wilkinson gets the most to do and carries the film well. The editing was very choppy. I think they were trying to avoid being grittier than they could've been, but the result is that this film that was released in 2001 feels like it could've came from the early 90's. It just needed a bit more polishing to match how strong the story itself is.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "If he's like this now we're gonna be in trouble." - Frank (Nick Stahl)

Indie Gems: Paterson

Observe.

Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey. Yes, he's aware of the irony. He leads a quite life that is so routine he literally wakes up at the same time every day without an alarm clock. He loves to write poetry, but he doesn't share it. His wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) is his biggest supporter, but also his polar opposite. She's spontaneous and ever changing. She encourages him to step out of his box.

I love Adam Driver. I love that he's getting so much attention lately as he's a very fine actor and he gives a wonderful, understated performance here. This type of film needs an interesting actor like him. I'm not trying to insult the film itself when I say that nothing happens. This is just a day in the life type film. We see Paterson writing, listening to the other people on the bus talk. (Bonus, the two teenagers talking about anarchy are the leads from Moonrise Kingdom and it's so perfect)

Films like this are tricky because you need the sense that the lead character is going to change, and we get that with Paterson. His future could be bright if he wanted it to be. He would start something grand. 

Grade: B

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "If it's for you, it's a love poem." - Paterson (Adam Driver)

Thursday Movie Picks: Rivalries

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is Rivalries. There's plenty to chose from this week, so allow me to get to it so I can post quicker than my rivals...or something.

1) Bring It On

You don't get much better than a rivalry between the Toros and the Clovers. I lived for this movie as a teen, and I still think it's good fun now. 

2) Talladega Nights

Ricky Bobby and Jean Girard's Nascar rival made for a hilarious film. I loved the fake commercials they did at the end of the credits too. "If you don't like Big Red then fuck you!"

3)  Black Swan

Nina may think Lily is her biggest rival, but in all actuality, her rival is with herself. 

Review: T2 Trainspotting

"That high cunty voice."

Renton (Ewan McGregor) is a mostly changed man. He's a far cry from the heroin addict we saw take off with a bunch of cash in 1996's original. (Side note, I can't believe that movie is 20 years old) He comes back to Edinburgh intending to pay off his debts to Spub (Ewen Bremner) and Simon. (Johnny Lee Miller) Only Simone isn't ready to let bygones be bygones. He plans on hurting Renton again. Then there's Begbie (Robert Carlyle) freshly escaped from prison and even less happy to hear about Renton than Simon. 

Director Danny Boyle makes it easy on you if you don't re-watch the original right before seeing this. He stitches in scenes from the first one as a reminder to what these lads went to, and I found that welcomed. I'm not sure, even after watching this if Trainspotting actually needed a sequel. Nothing profound happens, but it's nice to see everyone back together again.

The fact paced dialogue, the great performances, the stylish shots, those stay the same. T2 relies on nostalgia and occasionally takes a bit too long to get to the point. It's fairly predictable on top of that, but the laughs I got from it were worth it. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "She's too young for you." - Diane (Kelly Macdonald)

Indie Gems: I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore

Well that's just mean.

Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) is a lonely woman who comes home to find her house burglarized one day. They've stolen her lap top, her grandmother's silver and some medications from her. The police are completely indifferent to helping her so she enlists the help of her strange neighbor, Tony (Elijah Wood) to try to locate the thieves.

The is the directorial debut of actor Macon Blair, who also wrote it. To be honest, this film is pretty messy but directors rarely start out perfect. I think he has a lot of potential because the story was very quirky. It's strange how a movie can be enjoyable and kind of a trainwreck at the same time. I liked this. I was never bored, even though pace wise it is kind of slow. I think it's because whenever the film would slow down, something outrageously funny would happen and it would pull me back in. 

Lynskey is wonderful as always. She's so underrated and she continuously puts out amazing work. She's got to be on the Oscar stage one of these days. Elijah Wood is also fun. 

While not perfect, the film makes for a nice watch on Netflix, especially for the actors.

Grade: B-

Watched on: Netflix Instant

Memorable Quote: "You're gonna look, right?" - Ruth (Melanie Lynskey)

Thursday Movie Picks: Cars

VARRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM, bitches. This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is about cars. I have to say, if there's one topic I find so utterly boring, it's cars. The extent of my car knowledge is basically that I know how to change a tire. I've never been interested. I've had so many people see a vintage car and ask me "Doesn't that look amazing?" only for me to respond with "....k" So in honor of my disinterest, I've decided to choose three car movies I hate.

1) Cars

This is one of the most annoying cartoons I've ever seen. I don't understand how it's popular, Pixar didn't even try. 

2) Speed Racer

This movie can only be described as the equivalent of having a two hour seizure.

3) Gone in 60 Seconds

God, this movie. I went on a date in junior high where the boy I was with rented it. It didn't work out. 

DVD Review: The Edge of Seventeen

We've all been there.

Being a teenager sucks. Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) knows. She's awkward, she doesn't fit in and her only friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) hooked up with her brother, Darian. (Blake Jenner) What is she going to do?

I didn't think this movie would be for me. I was a little petty over the title, as there's another film called Edge of Seventeen. But glowing reviews made me change my mind. I never expected it to resonate with me like this. 

Nadine, at times is a really hard character to like. She's quite cruel, even if she doesn't always mean it. She doesn't have a filter. But she's also depressed and awkward and I felt like I could relate to her so much. The crippling loneliness 
and the feeling of no one to turn to. I felt that way at seventeen too. I didn't lash out quite the way Nadine did. But I got that part of her. 

Hailee Steinfeld finally shows that spark she had in True Grit that seems to have been lost in her other work. She's good, she really is. Richardson doesn't have a lot to do but she's always adorable. Woody Harrelson playing the teacher Nadine singles out and Kyra Sedgwick as her self absorbed mother were also very strong in their small parts.

The film was a bit uneven, much of that can be attributed to Nadine's character, but it's a good watch for anyone who experienced awkwardness in high school. I never expected to shed tears over it. (That's probably just me, right?) 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Your head is too big for your body and there's nothing you can do about it." - Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld)

Indie Gems: The Eyes of my Mother

Way to go, Dad.

Francisca (played by Olivia Bond as a child then Kika Magalhaes as an adult) lives in the secluded countryside with her parents. (Diana Agostini and Paul Nazak) Her mother is a former surgeon and teaches her not to be afraid of cutting things open, then sewing them up. One day, a tragedy happens that shapes Francisca forever and completely changes her outlook on life.

To call this movie "fucking creepy" is a massive understatement. This isn't a horror film that's going to get you with jump scares, but like my last Indie Gem The Living and the Dead, it's one that's going to make you uncomfortable the entire time you're watching it. 

Kika Magalhaes plays Francisca with a quiet naivety that's perfect for the tone of this film. I never questioned how she was able to pull off the things she did when she's so unassuming. If I have one complaint, it's that this didn't need to be shot in black and white. I think color would've added to the tone and made it more menacing. 

The less you know about this film, the better, and at a short 77 minutes, it's an easy watch.

Grade: B+

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "I need you to show me." - Charlie (Will Brill)

Thursday Movie Picks: Period Dramas - TV Edition

It's another TV edition this week. Wanderer asks us to choose TV shows that are period dramas. I don't watch too many of these. Most recently I tried to watch Taboo and ended up falling asleep. I started watching Deadwood, but I haven't gotten far with it so I had to cheat a bit with my last pick.

1) Boardwalk Empire

This show took place in Atlantic City in the 20's. It was very well acted and produced. Not perfect, in fact, they killed off one character far too early that really damaged the show, but not badly enough to stop watching. Plus Michael Shannon got to lose his shit and kill a a few people, which is always fun. 

2)The Crown

Having heard good things about this Netflix drama and seeing all the awards they won, I decided to give it a shot and it's pretty good. I'll definitely watch season 2. I didn't realize Prince Phillip was such a dick. (Maybe he isn't, I'm too lazy to research the Monarchy to find out)

3) Mad Men

Here's my somewhat of a stretch. I tried to get into Mad Men but never found it to be very interesting, though I've probably seen at least 20 or so episodes of it. I think if I sat down and watched, I'd probably enjoy it more. It was very well acted and pretty to look at. 

Review: Life

Fuck ups: The Movie

A team of scientists are on board the International Space Station. There's David Jordan, (Jake Gyllenhaal) Sho Murakami,(Hiroyuki Sanada) Rory Adams, (Ryan Reynolds) Miranda North, (Rebecca Ferguson) Hugh Derry, (Ariyon Bakare) and their commander Ekaterina Golovkina. (Olga Dihovichnaya) They're studying a life form that they've pulled off Mars in a controlled environment. But of course, mistakes are made and the life form evolves too rapidly and begins to cause problems to say the least.

I wasn't planning on seeing this film. I lost the "what movie should we see?" debate but I have to admit it ended up being better than I thought it would. It was never boring, but it doesn't really add anything new to the sci fi horror genre. This movie could've practically been connected to the Alien trilogy. It didn't have many original thoughts. 

The acting was good. I cared about all of the characters even though they get put in some fairly ridiculous situations. But they're a nice diverse group. I rooted for them all. The thing that stands out the most about this film is the ending, it's pretty ballsy. It deserves credit for that. 

Recommended: Rental.

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "Come on, Calvin..." - Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare)

Review: My Life as a Zucchini

Life is hard.

Courgette (Erick Abbate) is a 9 year old boy who lives with his alcoholic mother. She calls him "Zucchini" which he insists on being called after he's taken away from her and sent to live at a group home by a policeman named Raymond (Nick Offerman) At first he has trouble fitting in, but when a new girl Camille (Ness Krell) comes to live at the home, he develops a crush that causes him to open up a bit more.

I didn't realize at first that I was going to see the English dub of this Oscar nominated cartoon from Switzerland. At first, it bothered me a bit, not getting to hear it in French, but the moment Offerman started speaking that all went away. His voice, like many of the others is perfect.

An animated movie about a foster home is a hard sell, but My Life as a Zucchini manages to explore some very heavy themes all while keeping it somewhat light. The children are beautifully naive at times, and at others so sad and fragile. It reminded me at times of Short Term 12, only told from the child's perspective. I can't help but feel so much affection for this film. It doesn't have any missteps.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A+

Memorable Quote: "There's no one left to love us." - Simon (Romy Beckman)

2017 Blind Spot Series: What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?


What I knew going in: I knew of the feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Also stupid trivia fact: This was the movie playing at the theater in the House of Wax remake.

Baby Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) was once a child star. At some point, her sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) became a better actress and took all the limelight. Not wanting to be a brat like Jane, Blanche wrote it in her contract that Jane must get a movie every time she does. Years later, Blanche is confined to a wheelchair and relies on her sister, now a serious drunk for help. 

I wanted to see this one before Feud started airing on FX.(I watched this in February) I'm so glad I rushed because it was amazing. Davis is absolutely marvelous as the washed up Jane. Crawford's Blanche gets to be very kind and pleasant, so it's Davis that gets to have all the fun.

The way the film is shot is very dated. It tries hard to avoid any type of gore that could stem from the story, but the atmosphere is perfect. The ending came as a shock to me, and I found it morbidly fascinating in the same way I enjoyed Sunset Boulevard. If the film has one fault, it's a subplot surrounding a piano player (Victor Buono) who comes in to help Jane with her come back. The story itself makes sense, but Buono is so terrible that I'm shocked he was given an Oscar nomination for this. Luckily, it's such a small part it's easy to ignore his acting and focus on the real stars of the show.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A+

Memorable Quote: "Oh Blanche, you know we have rats in the cellar?" - Baby Jane Hudson (Bette Davis)

Thursday Movie Picks: Underdogs

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is one you probably won't see coming. It's the underdogs. The ones we either don't see or root for despite not being the obvious choice. There's a lot to choose from this week, here are some that I enjoy.

1) Zootopia

I actually had a different pick here at first, then I realized I wanted to use it later. Luckily, Allie accidentally posted her Underdog picks a few months ago and I was so inspired by one of her choices that I stole it. lol Judy is the perfect underdog.  

2) Dodgeball

This is one of my all time favorite comedies. It's completely ridiculous but how can you not love this thrown together dodgeball team?

3) The Replacements

This one is more for the nostalgia factor. My friend and I used to watch this DVD quite a bit in high school when we couldn't decide on something else. It's not the greatest, but it brings back good memories. 

Review: The Belko Experiment

These benefits are not worth it.

In Bogota, Columbia there is an office building on the outskirts of of the city belonging to Belko Industries. It seems just like any other day for their employees, until they notice the heightened security. They assume it's just a threat and push on. There's Mike ( John Gallagher Jr.) who's in a relationship with Leandra (Adria Arjona) Leandra has to put up with the unwanted advances of Wendell.(John C. McGinley) There's Dany (Melonie Diaz) who is just starting her first day. And then there's COO Barry (Tony Goldwyn) trying to take charge. In total, 80 people are in the Belko building today. Suddenly, a loud speaker goes off and an unknown voice informs the employees that if they don't kill a certain number of their colleagues, these people will double that.

It's impossible to ignore the political undertones of this movie. I don't think it was intentional. James Gunn wrote this film a while ago, but I couldn't help but think of Trump's America when watching it. There's the rich white guys, who literally line up people over 60 and shoot them in the head. Then there's the group of other men, women, minorities that are trying to find some other way to get out of this without killing each other. It's easy to see which group you're rooting for.

What The Belko Experiment manages to do in its less than 90 minute run time is pretty grand. It got me to care about enough of these characters even though there wasn't time to completely flesh everyone out. Nice security guard? Fuck yeah, I like him. The group of employees who welcome Dany with open arms and jokes? Please live. And of course John Gallagher Jr. I love this guy, he's great here. The acting is good all around.

It borrows heavily from others like Battle Royale and The Cabin in The Woods but it's gory fun. I'm sure you won't see another film where someone epically beats someone else to death with a tape dispenser. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "You think the government is doing this?" - Leandra (Adria Arjona)

A few thoughts on 37...

Or how not to make a "day in the life of a historical event" film.


*Spoilers ahead for 37, Bobby, and Orange is the New Black*

I decided to forego my traditional review format for a little film I watched on Netflix recently called 37. (As I'm sure you'll be able to tell from this post, I would've given it an F)

37 is a fictional account about the large group of bystanders that either saw or heard Kitty Genovese being murdered and did nothing about it. Kitty was a real person, as anyone who has ever taken an American criminal justice class would know and what happened to her was awful. What drew me to select this film? Well, to be honest, I started thinking of Orange is the New Black again, and how upset I was that they killed off Poussey. So when I saw Samira Wiley's face on it, I thought "why not?"

The film tries to make us care. Wiley and Michael Potts play a black couple moving into a white neighborhood in the 60's. Maria Dizzia and Jamie Harrold are absentee parents who punish their kids way too often. Sophia Lillis plays a girl (who clearly has OCD and isn't getting help for it) that lives with her grandparents after her mother did something bad that is never addressed. Kind of interesting, right? Sophia's character is the only one that interacts with Kitty for more than 2 seconds, and only once. 

I've sat on this for a while before writing it. I thought "Am I being too hard on these characters because they ignored a crime?" I don't think so. They're really just terribly written. I need to compare this to another film that was about fictional characters that centered around another real life crime, and that's Bobby, The 2006 film about Bobby Kennedy's murder. I know it wasn't hit with critics. Rotten Tomatoes has the critics score of 46% vs the audience's 72% but I really liked it and compared to 37, it's a masterpiece.

The main thing Bobby did better than 37 was how it tied its characters to RFK. In Bobby we meet people working with his campaign, others who are inspired by him, ones who are dreading the work that comes along with his visit. While RFK is only seen in archived footage, he actually feels like a character. Kitty is a footnote. They didn't need to use her name at all, they could've used her case as inspiration and created someone new, but nope. They dragged her name into this mess.

Another thing is the characters themselves. On paper, their conflicts sound interesting, but the script gives them no weight. The dialogue is stilted, the arguments eventually feel repetitive and forced. It presents far more questions than answers.

Then there's the climax, Kitty's murder, which happens within the last 10 minutes of the film. They at least tried to get the accuracy of how the attack went down, but they take it a step further and make their characters look even dumber than their real life counterparts for ignoring it. (Many thought it was a domestic dispute) Here, a kid who yells outside his window for her murderer to leave her alone is told by his dad to shine his flashlight towards the sink so he can fix it...at 3:00am. Another bystander who sees Kitty bleeding out in the hallway is taken a step further to actually witness her rape as well. And even though it's shot mostly in shadows it feels exploitative. They make little Debbie's grandparents look inept as she runs from their apartment, skipping down the halls at 3:00 am. Then the film tries to absolve all of this by using an "arty" shot of the police lights shining on the apartment building.

The timing of this movie is strange enough, with a documentary from Kitty's brother about trying to find the truth of these claims, The Witness also being released last year. That one is also on Netflix, and if you're going to choose one, go with that. 

I think I'm ranting because I don't have a new Indie Gem to post this week. The last few indie films I've watched haven't been gem worthy. I suppose I could've re-posted the last few since no one read them, but hey, ranting can be therapeutic, right? 

Did you watch this film? What are your thoughts?

Thursday Movie Picks: The Ancient World

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is movies set in the ancient world. To be honest, I hate most movies that fall into this theme. I have no idea why, I have nothing against the theme itself. I just feel like this is a pretty easy one to fuck up. Here are a few that I enjoy

1) Troy

I swear I don't like this movie just because Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom are super hot....okay, that's most of it. 

2) 300

This one I actually do like, it was different and those slow motion shots were great.

3) Hercules

I was tempted to use the Rock version just for the line "fucking centaurs" but I legitimately love this cartoon. The Muses' for life. 

DVD Review: Denial

Really, British legal system?

Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) is a professor and historian living in Atlanta, GA. She publishes a book about Holocaust denial and in it, she calls a spade a spade and refers to a man named David Irving (Timothy Spall) as a denier. He in turn, sues her for libel in England where she's forced to prove that SHE is the correct one because that's how the legal system works. Luckily for her, she has two very competent lawyers, Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson) and Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott) to guide her along the way.

This is based on a true story and immediately grabbed my interest. I wrote a lengthy paper on Holocaust deniers in high school after encountering one and being baffled that these people actually exist. I wish I could remember the books I referenced in that paper. I almost wonder if Lipstadt's was one of them. 

The film's strongest moments are in the courtroom. Before the trial happens, I found the dialogue to be kind of stilted. It was like the plot fumbles along until it finds its purpose in court. That's where the movie sticks, but not enough to make it extraordinary.

The acting is great. Weisz plays Deborah very well (and apparently nails her accent if you've met her) Timothy Spall was perfectly punchable as Irving. I just wish the film overall was better. It lacked something that I can't quite put my finger on.

Recommended: Sure, it's a decent DVD rental.

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "Is it the Diana thing?" - Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott)

Review: Kong: Skull Island

He's a God here.

Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) work for a a mysterious company and are heading a mission to a remote island in the south Pacific that has gone mostly unnoticed due to a storm that constantly surrounds it. All they have is satellite images and a hunch of what could be there. They meet up with with a group of soldiers that were just about to come home from the Vietnam war, Colonel Samuel L. Jackson, (Samuel L. Jackson) Mills, (Jason Mitchell) Cole, (Shea Whigham) Slivko (Thomas Mann) among others. A few scientists San, and Nieves (Tian Jing and John Oritiz) a photo journalist, Weaver (Brie Larson) and a British tracker Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and set off for the island. There, they encounter Kong, and a lot more. 

Monster movies tend to have bland characters and thus, you don't really care for them and only want to see carnage. That's half true for Kong. I did care about what happens to a few of them, like those played by John C. Reilly, Larson, Hawkins, Jing, Mitchelle and Mann. The rest range from red shirts to characters who's actions are solely plot conveniences. Jackson is playing himself, which isn't a bad thing. Samuel L. Jackson is pretty fucking cool, but his character's actions become frustrating. Tom Hiddleston is horribly miscast, he's supposed to be this badass tracker but he spends most of the film posing.

It's obvious the filmmakers were big fans of Apocalypse Now. We saw that in the posters, and there's shots that mirror what we saw there too, and it's beautiful. The cinematography and special effects in this film are really lovely. 

It's your typical monster flick, I had fun with it. I cared about Kong, half the cast, and there was never a dull moment. There's also a scene after the credits that ties this film in with another we already saw, it's definitely worth sticking around for.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable quote: "They sound like birds, but they're fucking ants." - Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly)

Indie Gems: The Living and the Dead

Does anything ever go right in a huge creepy mansion?

"Ex-Lord" Donald Brocklebank (the late Roger Lloyd Pack) owns a sprawling mansion that's falling apart. On top of that, he has to take care of his bed ridden wife, Nancy (Kate Fahy) and his mentally ill son, James. (Leo Bill) When Donald is called away to settle his bankruptcy, he hires a nurse to look after Nancy. James isn't very pleased with that, and is determined to take care of his mother himself. He locks the nurse out, and stops taking his own medication. Of course, everything goes down hill.

This might be one of the most effective horror movies I've ever seen. Nearly everything about it was hard to watch. There's no supernatural forces here. It's all about mental illness, it's difficulty, and what happens when it's not managed. The film handles that subject with care. Leo Bill could've easily given a disrespectful performance here, but he doesn't. Fahy and Pack are also very strong in their parts. Fahy has the most uncomfortable role as a mother who doesn't want her son to care for her. And Pack wears the burden of all of this on his face so clearly.

The way the film is shot however, won't be for everyone. Since the house they live in his so big, a lot of the scenes of James going from one part to another are sped up quickly with loud music. They also don't tell a linear story, and we see glimpses of the future in direct contrast with what's happening "now." Because of that, it's easy to guess how the films ends. 

Grade: B-

Watched on: Netflix DVD.

Memorable Quote: "I just wanted you to trust me." - James (Leo Bill)

Thursday Movie Picks: Remakes/Sequels You'd Want To See

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is very different from what we're used to. These movies don't actually exist yet. Wanderer asks us which sequels and/or remakes of films we would actually like to see? That's a good question. At first I thought I'd only stick with sequels, then I remembered an entire trilogy of films that should be remade. 

1) Moonlight

Our time with Chiron wasn't finished, damn it! I needed to see what happened to him and Kevin. I don't even need a full on sequel, just give me 20 more minutes. My curiosity is endless.  

2)  The Star Wars Prequels

I would redo all of these and remove them from canon. When we meet Anakin, he would already be an adult. There would be no Jar Jar, less politics, and no midicholrians. 

3) Ain't Them Bodies Saints

I would like a sequel that shows Ruth and Patrick actually living a good life together. 

Bonus: The Harry Potter Series - This is a bonus because I'd like to cherry pick, remake wise. Let's just cast someone else as Hermione and give all of Ron's great lines that were given to other characters back to him and show that he's equal to Ron and Hermione and not some goofy sidekick that has to stand in the background. So basically, no Emma Watson, no Steve Kloves, and lets lose Alfonso Cuaron for good measure too. Everyone else can stay.

Review: Logan

She's just like you.

It's 2029, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is one of the few mutants left. There's no more X-Men, he isn't healing like he used to. He cares for Charles Xavier, (Patrick Stewart) who now suffers from Alzheimers in a secret location on the Mexican boarder. Then he crosses paths with a new mutant. An experiment, Laura (Dafne Keen) who is being pursued by the organization that made her. Charles and Logan must get her to the Canadian border to safety.

Nothing will ever make up for the continuity clusterfuck that has become the X-Men franchise, but Logan almost does. We've watched Logan through so many time lines, that's it hard not to take his new state personally. He's beat down, ill, has no nope. He's reluctant to help Laura. It's all Charles's idea at first, and it's hard to watch him in his current state as well.

Logan makes the best use of it's new R rating. It's brutal and gritty, which is exactly the way it needed to be. I don't think this story could've been told as well without it. You also experience a sense of real loss, which isn't common in super hero films.

Jackman is great, he always has been as Wolverine. The entire cast is strong, even the smaller parts, like a family that takes them in for the night during their travels are exceptional. 

Logan may be predictable, but it's one of those instances where that's okay. I haven't liked an X-Men movie completely since X2, this was everything I had hoped it would be.  I'm glad this film got to be Jackman's send off. (Unless of course they retcon him into the Avengers movies.)

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "I always know it's you, I just don't recognize you sometimes." - Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart)

Review: Get Out

Never meet the parents.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is meeting his girlfriend, Rose's (Allison Williams) parents for the first time. He's concerned about how they'll take him as a black man dating their white daughter. But she brushes off his concerns. When he arrives he realizes that something far more sinister is happening when he sees her parents' black employees acting strangely.

The minute I saw this trailer, with Kaluuya and Jordan Peele's names on it, I knew I had to see it. I expected this to be more of a comedy than a horror film, but it isn't. While it's absolutely hilarious at times, it gets downright creepy in several places. It's far scarier than I would've expected it to be. 

I feel like I can't do justice in describing the most important thing about Get Out, which is how it handles race. Every time I type something, it just feels wrong or stupid. Someone said it better elsewhere. To me, it brought forth the "I don't see color" discussion, which is something my parents always told me growing up, but now I feel different about. It erases struggles. The way Rose's family greets Chris at first shows that. I wish I could explain it better. 

I've been in love with Kaluuya ever since I saw him in the short lived series The Fades. I love that he's the lead here. While I can't stand Allison Williams on Girls, her casting is actually kind of perfect here despite her limited ability. To explain why would be a massive spoiler. 

The film does have a few pacing issues towards the end. There's a side story with Chris's friend, a TSA agent named Rod (LilRel Howery) that's so amazing. While it probably contributed to the slower feel, I don't even care. I loved it.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Indie Gems: Frank & Lola

"We're a mess."

Frank (Michael Shannon) is a chef is Las Vegas. His girlfriend, Lola (Imogen Poots) is fresh out of college and is working as a graphic designer. After a rough spot in their relationship, Frank learns about a man in Lola's past named Alan (Michael Nyqvist) and while he goes to Paris for an audition to be executive chef at a new restaurant, he decides to pay him a visit.

I really enjoy short crime/thrillers. Red Eye is another that comes to mind. Frank & Lola clocks in at 88 minutes and doesn't give us time to drag. It's also a very understated thriller. No car chases, no one gets murdered. At the heart of it, it's really about these two people deciding how much their relationship means to them. 

Shannon and Poots are both very good. They have believable chemistry and despite how cold they are to each out in various points of the film, you want them to work out. 

Grade: B

Memorable quote: "What should I order?" - Lola (Imogen Poots)

Thursday Movie Picks: On The Run

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves probably doesn't want you to know where it is. It's all about characters that are on the run from something or someone. I tried to think outside of the box a little, since all the films that first came to mind are very popular (Bonnie and Clyde, Natural Born Killers, No Country for Old Men, Catch Me If You Can, etc) Here's what I came up with

1) Dirty Girl

Danielle decides to run away from home and she ends up taking her classmate Clarke, and their bag of flour that they're supposed to be pretending is their baby with her. It has a horrible title but is actually a lovely little film.

2) Looper

Joe's job as a "Looper" means he has to eventually "close his loop" IE kill his future self as part of his job description, but when he fails to do that, he ends up on the run from the Gat Men as he tries to find out who the mysterious "Rain Maker" is. I love this film from director Ryan Johnson. I can't wait to see how he handles the next Star Wars movie.

3) Mouth to Mouth

Sherry manages to run away from her mother twice in this film. We meet her when she's joining a street gang called S.P.A.R.K (Street people armed with radical knowledge) Her life is a disaster, so I don't blame her for the multiple times she does try to run away from someone. Ellen Page gives a great angsty performance here, and she actually shaved her head for this part.