DVD Review: Split

It's the voices.

Dennis (James McAvoy) is a troubled man diagnosed with 23 different personalities. His therapist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley) thinks he's a marvel, but his constant emails for emergency meetings have her concerned. And that's for good reason, seeing as he's just kidnapped three teenager girls; the troubled Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her two red shirts classmates Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia. (Jessica Sula) Casey is the passive one. She doesn't want to fight, she wants to listen and figure this out first. Things start to escalate.

I gave up M. Night Shyamalan movies long ago because they're trash. But when this one got good reviews, I decided I'd give it a chance as I'm a big fan of James McAvoy. He does not disappoint. He's absolutely wonderful in this film and really gets to show off his versatile acting chops, but I have to wonder if this film is getting over praised because Shyamalan didn't massively fuck up again?

Spoilers are coming

Split, in all honestly was pretty dull. It had some good ideas but it never properly built the dread a film like this should rely on. It was always obviously Casey would make it out, and her two friends would not. They're essentially afterthoughts in this film. Just two people to up the body count. The "big Shyamalan twist" at the end was the reappearance of Bruce Willis' character from Unbreakable, which I give him credit as no one saw that coming. But that wasn't even the thing that stuck with me at the end. It was the last look Casey gave the police officer when they said her uncle was here to pick her up.

That same uncle who from various flashbacks we're shown has been sexually abusing Casey since she was a small child. This is meant to explain why Casey is "different" from Claire and Marcia, self harms, cuts class, etc. But I don't think M. Night was the right director to handle something as terrible and triggering as sexual abuse. It felt insincere in his hands. Like it was just another thing he wanted to use to shock. 

Recommended: No

Grade: C-

Memorable Quote: "I'll let you know when I hear something that makes sense." - Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy)

Thursday Movie Picks: The Woods

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is everyone's favorite creepy place to hang out alone: the woods. It's really hard not to go completely with the horror route this week. Here's what I came up with. 

1) The Cabin the Woods

I gave myself one horror pick because I love this movie so much. It's still hilarious no matter how many times I re-watch it. 

2) The Hunt for the Wilderpeople

This wonderful little film that takes place in the New Zealand bush was one of my favorites from last year. 

3) Once Upon a Forest

I used to watch this movie all the time when I was a kid. It's about some woodland critters (not the South Park kind) who try to find a rare plant to save one of their sick friends (who was voiced by Elisabeth Moss, which I never knew before)  To make this childhood story even more lame, the only reason I had this on VHS in the first place was because I won it at my local roller rink for winning the "Four Corners" game.

2017 Blind Spot Series: Do The Right Thing

It's gonna get hotter. 

What I knew going in: Aside from the themes about racial divide, not much at all.

Sal (Danny Aiello) owns a pizza place in Brooklyn. His customers are almost exclusively black due to the area he built in. His racist son, Pino (John Turturro) thinks he should relocate, but he refuses. One day one of his customers, Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito) asks why he only has photos of Italian American white men and no black men on his walls. This disagreement turns into Buggin Out attempting to boycott the pizzeria, which continues to escalate throughout the day. Mookie (Spike Lee) A friend of Buggin, but an employee of Sal finds himself caught in the middle.

Doing "day in the life" films can be difficult. It's hard to follow someone, or a few people around for a set period of time if their story doesn't progress or shift in any way. Do The Right Thing makes it look easy. There's a lot going on in this film. Through Mookie's eyes, we meet all of his neighbors. Some more memorable than others but every single one felt like they served a purpose.

It's hard for me to describe how this film was shot. To me, it looks like a music video, and it absolutely works. The camera is often above our character, shooting them at a downwards angle. It's not afraid to get in their personal space. I imagine that's how Lee wanted his audience to feel. Like we needed to get in there to understand the importance of it all.

It's so strange for me to see Esposito in a role like this after being so used to him as the methodical Gus Fring in Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul.  I'm glad Lee cast himself in this as well. The acting is great all around, especially from the supporting cast. I felt myself getting very defensive of Roger Guenveur Smith's Smiley several times. But I can't for the life of me figure out why out of all these people, Aiello ended up with the lone acting Oscar nomination. He's good, don't get me wrong, but I didn't feel that he was the strongest.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "You should boycott the barber that fucked up your head."  - Sweet Dick Willie (Robin Harris)

DVD Review: Your Name

What is this life?

Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) is a teenager living in a small town in Japan who dreams of living in Tokyo. Taki (Ry√Ľnosuke Kamiki) is a teenager living an overly scheduled life in Tokyo where he attends school and works part time at an Italian restaurant. Some nights they have dreams where they live the other's lives, and they start to communicate by leaving notes for each other to make those "dreams" easier. 

I'm not familiar with writer/director Makoto Shinkai's work, but when I read a few reviews for this film a while back, I knew immediately I wanted to see it. I was happy to see that it was an option to watch on my long flight to Europe last week. 

The story itself is quite amusing. Obviously you can't just seamlessly transition into living someone else's life. Mitsuha and Taki make a ton of mistakes in each other bodies. Mitsuha also attempts to help Taki's dating life much to his embarrassment. Taki doesn't try to change anything about Mitsuha's life, except for the fact that he fondles her/his breasts every time because he's a teenage boy.

The latter half of the film started to get messy once the two attempt to meet each other and see that their bond is even stranger than before. That got slightly irritating to watch as I just wish they would've hurried up a bit. (Admittedly, that could've just been the long flight too) But Your Name is a memorable anime that will stick with me for a long time. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I hate this life! Please make me a handsome Tokyo boy in my next life! - Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi)

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies Based on True Events

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is all about real life. There's a sea of bio pics and movies inspired by famous murders out there. I'll be surprised if there's a lot of overlap at all. I ended up doing a theme within a theme without realizing it. All three of the movies I chose feature James Franco

1) True Story

Christian Longo murdered his wife and three children, then fled to Mexico using the alias of Mike Finkel, a New York Times reporter. He then tells his story to the real Finkel while in prison. Even knowing the case behind this, the film still managed to make you wonder if things were going to be different. 

2) Lovelace

The true story of Linda Lovelace who was pushed into the adult film industry by her creep of a husband and was frequently abused by several people in the business before getting herself out. Amanda Seyfried gives her career best in the lead role, the entire cast is very strong. 

3) 127 Hours

Aron Ralston goes mountain climbing alone in Utah and ends up with his arm wedged between a boulder after falling down a crevasse. He ends up having to cut off his own arm with a small knife in order to free himself. This film was beautifully shot by Danny Boyle.  

Thursday Movie Picks: Double Features

This week, Wanderer asks us to choose films we think make a good double feature. There are endless possibilities here. This is what I came up with.

1) 2:37/Elephant

Both of these movies involve tragedies set in high schools. At one time, 2:37 was accused of ripping Elephant off but aside from one tracking shot, I think they're very different looks into how the worse thing imaginable can happen within a school.

2) Black Sheep/Tommy Boy

Nostalgia pick! I used to watch these two films back to back all the time when I was a kid. In fact, sometimes when I think of a specific scene, I struggle to remember which movie it was from.

3) The Big Short/99 Homes

Both of these movies tackle the American housing crisis in 2008, but they look at it from different sides. The Big Short shows us the rich Wall Street workers that pulled it off, and 99 Homes shows us the poor people that suffered. 

Review: Wonder Woman

Nevertheless, she persisted. 

We've already met Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) in Batman v Superman but in her solo film we see her as Diana, a princess in her hidden land of warrior women called Themyscira. They're sworn to protect man from Ares, the God of war. When a WWI pilot, Steve (Chris Pine) breaches their barrier and washes up on shore. Diane goes with him to help save innocent lives after he tells her of the Great War. 

DCEU finally has a film on their hands that isn't a complete trainwreck, and that feels good. But am I going to lose a little blogger cred here if I say that I didn't like all of it? Don't get me wrong. The majority of this film is amazing. The first time we see Diana dawn her costume, walk into "No Man's Land" solo, with her perfect theme music picking up at just the right moment was masterful. I couldn't believe how emotional I felt watching it. It was stunning, I thought I was actually going to cry for a minute, but the climatic fight scene at the end is horrendous. They had elegant and strangely gorgeous fight choreography through out, but the 3rd act sacrifices all that to special effects that don't live up. I'm actually shocked that something so bad happened in a film that was so good right up until that moment.

Thankfully, that's not enough to sour the movie. Gal Gadot really captures Diana's naivety. Whether she's seeing a baby or tasting ice cream for the first time, it's so sincere to witness. Because of that, I couldn't really get behind her and Steve's eventual romance. Or at least one part of it. It just felt strange. Pine does a good job too. He's an actor I always find easy to watch. The supporting cast is diverse and fun, with the exception of David Thewlis for reasons I can't really get into without spoiling. But most of all, I'm so happy for director Patty Jenkins. She hasn't directed a feature since 2003 and she opened this one to 100 million. Now that's wonderful.

I think it's a testament to how great comic book movies can be when they make us love characters we didn't when reading said comic books. I never liked Wonder Woman until now. Just like I didn't care about Iron Man until Robert Downey Jr. stepped into his shoes. Gadot and that glorious theme music will make me root for her from here on out.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "Well...that's neat." - Steve Trevor (Chris Pine)

Indie Gems: The Girl With All The Gifts

I'm like you.

When we first meet Melanie (Sennia Nanua) she's a normal looking girl. Aside from the fact that she lives in a cell block, and has to be transferred to her school room via restrained wheelchair, along with several other students every morning. It doesn't take long to explain why Melanie and her classmates are different. She has an innocent crush on her teacher, Ms. Justineau (Gemma Arterton) who has to be repeatedly told she's not "a real child." When all hell breaks lose, and the zombies (or in this case "hungries") on the outside break their way into the once safe compound, Melanie, Ms. Justineau, and a few others must flee to find a safe place.

I read the book last year and enjoyed it. The film does a great job of fast tracking the novel. Not much has changed. Just enough to keep the story moving but all they key elements are still there. This is one of the most fascinating takes on the zombie apocalypse I've seen in some time. And for a film that only had a 4M budget, it looks fantastic.

Nanua shines in her debut. Her persona is exactly how I pictured Melanie, friendly, eager to learn, and so kind. The same can't be said for Arterton, who I've never cared much for. (I was also picturing someone like Ruth Negga or Naomie Harris when reading) The supporting cast of Glenn Close, Paddy Considine and Fisayo Akinade are much stronger. 

I don't even think this got a U.S theatrical release and if it did it was only in a few theaters, but it deserved more than that.

Grade: A-

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "She looks at me like I'm Jesus." - Ms. Justineau (Gemma Arterton)

Thursday Movie Picks: Tall Buildings

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is about movies featuring a tall buildings. There's probably a bunch of really obvious ones I'm missing but I could think of two.  I decided to use my 3rd pick as more of a pun. Here's what I came up with. 

1)  Man on Wire

This wonderful documentary was about a man named Philippe Petit who hung a tight rope between the Twin towers and walked across. It almost plays out like a heist. 

2) The Walk

This is the movie version of Man on Wire starring my favorite actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Sure, it's not the documentary but it was a good film and managed to use 3D filming to its advantage. 

3) Annie

"This floor better shine like the top of the Chrysler building!"

Review: Alien: Covenant

Careful, it's slippery in here.

When a solar storm causes damage to their ship and the death of their captain, the crew of the Covenant, a colonization mission to a planet galaxies away find themselves a little hesitant to go back into hypersleep to continue their mission. After picking up a transmission of someone singing a song from Earth, the new captain Oram (Billy Crudup) decides they should make a pit stop to the planet it is coming from as the terrain looks almost similar to the planet they were heading too anyways. Daniels (Katherine Waterston) objects to the plan, saying it's "too good to be true" but is ignored. On this planet, the crew and their android Walter (Michael Fassbender, with a sexy voice) encounter the xenomorphs and the shipwrecked android from Prometheus, David (Fassbender again, with a creepy voice) Things go horribly wrong.

I had a discussion with someone recently, who doesn't like horror films as much as I do about "people making bad decisions to advance the plot." It has to happen in horror films, it just does. People have to make mistakes. If your lucky, you'll get films like The Cabin in the Woods, Hush, and the first Alien film to make them look believable. The problem with Covenant is that they don't. This is the same problem Prometheus had. Sure, lean over that alien pod after a dude you just met, who is acting shady as fuck leads you there. Watch out for that blood, especially when you're holding a huge gun. 

Covenant could've been so much better, but I felt like the writers forced too many events to make things end on their terms. And what this movie ends up doing to Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace from the previous film) is lame at best and offensive at worst. The final 3rd of this film is a predictable mess.

It's not a complete failure. Fassbender is great, I kind of hate myself for thinking his Walter accent was pretty hot, but the subtext between he and David was just weird. I felt like they were trying to insinuate two totally opposite ideas. Danny McBride, who I normally only like in small doses was probably my favorite part of the film. He had a lot of heart. Waterston, despite being given the galaxy's worst haircut does a good job in her Ripley-esq role. Though I can't help but think of her and get completely annoyed with what they ended up doing with her. 

Recommended: If you're an Alien fan. Or a gore fan.

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "What was that, sugar dick?" - Faris (Amy Seimetz)

Quick Ramblings: Documentary Edition

I've watched some very thought provoking documentaries lately. I haven't had a lot of time to blog, mostly everything I've been posting has been queued, so here are some quick thoughts on what I watched. 

Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992
When you think of the LA Riots and what you learned about them in school - you think of Rodney King. The names James Mincey Jr or Edward Song or Latasha Harlins don't come to mind, at least not at first. This documentary shows the unrest had begun long before King was beaten. The interviews conducted here are very in depth. (and in some cases, like the arresting officer trying to minimize Mincey's death and the affect it would have on his then expecting girlfriend was infuriating) They talked with several survivors, witnesses, police officers. They're each given adequate time to tell their stories as well and this is where the documentary excels. 

This is one I hope is shown in schools, or at least recommended to keep the discussion going. My only complaint was with my local ABC station. There was severe weather going on during our broadcast, so the weather indicator at the bottom was often covering up the names of who was speaking. 

I Am Heath Ledger
I knew this was going to be tough to watch. Heath Ledger was my favorite actor. At the time, I had never quite reacted to a celebrity death with such sadness as I did his. I still remember where I was, sitting at my office at work. 

I felt like a voyeur watching his personal footage. I see why they used it, but some of the times I just felt like they maybe could've used something else to get around that particular part. I liked the interviews with his friends and family. It was especially nice hearing from his personal non actor friends. Of course, no Michelle Williams but I don't see her talking about Heath in depth for a very long time. Over all, it did feel quite rushed. There were so many more people I wish we could've heard from.

The Keepers
Netflix's newest entry into their true crime series follows the murder of a nun named Cathy Cesnik in 1969. Over the course of the seven episode documentary, the subject shifts from murder to systematic abuse within the Catholic Church. It focuses less on who killed Cathy, but why her murder happened. All of this started because of two of Sister Cathy's former students started investigating on their own, and that's inspiring in its own right. There's conspiracy theories all over the internet but you can't deny that sometimes good comes from people pouring over case files on the internet.

This case is bleak. When I think about how I felt after watching Making a Murderer, and then this, that hope for resolve is missing. Most of the people who probably know the answers as to what happened to Sister Cathy are dead, and the ones alive likely won't talk. Of course, the Archdioceses isn't going be of much help either. The head of the sex crimes division at the time manages to be of even less help. 

I Am Not Your Negro
First off, it's ridiculous how long it took me to finally see this movie. You'd think earning an Oscar nomination would be enough to get this film in more theaters, but apparently not. It came nowhere near me and I had to wait for Netflix to get the DVD. This is about writer James Baldwin's unfinished text on race in America. He talks about the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. Malcom X and Medgar Evers. The documentary expands on them, which I think the film does very well. It made good use of historical footage and clips from films that were relevant to the discussion. (Although I wish I could unsee that Solider Blue clip)

Indie Gems: Small Crimes

That has to be a new record.

Joe Denton (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is a former cop who is released from prison after a six year sentence for attempted murder. His folks (Robert Forster and Jacki Weaver) don't really know what to make of him. While he wants to do right by everyone so he can see his daughters again, he gets sucked right back into the same mess by his former partner Dan. (Gary Cole)

Movies like this are fairly predictable, but that's okay. I like seeing Nikolaj in a role like this after watching him as Jaime Lannister for so many years. The rest of the cast was good too. Even though you had an idea of what was going to happen, I was interested through out and still managed to be surprised by a few events.

Macon Blair, who also has a small and very memorable part in this is proving to be a really interesting writer. I can't wait to see what he does next.

Grade: B

Watched on: Netflix Instant

Memorable Quote: "It hurts. I carry it." - Joe (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)

Thursday Movie Picks: Time Travel - TV edition

It's another TV edition at Wandering Through The Shelves. This week she asks us to choose TV shows that feature time travel. I know there's a lot of shows with this theme. Here's what I came up with. 

1) Are You Afraid of the Dark?

While this show was technically about teenagers telling scary stories around a camp fire, there were a number of those that dealt with time travel. The one I'm thinking of is when a student finds a necklace in her locker, she's able to travel back in time and see an explosion that killed the fellow student who was wearing it nearly 30 years before. 

2) Inuyasha

This anime is about a girl who falls through a well and transports herself back to feudal era Japan. It's kind of ridiculous but it's my favorite anime. 

3) Futurama

Fry is a pizza delivery man who ends up frozen in 1999 and wakes up in 2999. This show was always stupid fun. 

2017 Blind Spot Series: Sleepers

What I knew going in: The entire plot. 

Shakes(Joseph Perrino), Michael (Brad Renfro), Tommy (Jonathan Tucker), and John (Geoffrey Wigdor) are four friends growing up in Hell's Kitchen. When a prank they play goes disastrously wrong, they're sent to a reform school where they are subjected to an unspeakable amount of violence. We cut to more than 10 years later and they're all grown up. (and played by Jason Patric, Brad Pitt, Billy Cudup and Ron Eldnard) They plan on taking revenge against the guards at the reform school, but they need the help of the one stable adult in their lives, Father Bobby. (Robert De Niro)

This was one of those films where I had heard so much about it and had seen bits and pieces that I felt like I had already watched the entire thing. I'm glad I finally sat down and got it in one sitting, but man is this film long. They could've shaved off about 30 minutes of it.

The story was harrowing but so fascinating. They did a good job of balancing the story between past and present, even though it got a bit long. Personally, I wanted more from the court room scenes. What I loved was the use of narration. I know that gimmick isn't popular but I love it, especially when it's done right like it is here.

Despite the strong cast, acting wise the only one that really stood out to me was Robert DeNiro. His face when Shakes tells him what happened at the reform school was heartbreaking. Watching him try to keep it straight while processing all of that information was extraordinary. Don't get me wrong, everyone is good. But De Niro knocked it out of the park.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I always keep the stubs." - Father Bobby (Robert De Niro)

My Movie Alphabet Part Two

Mettel Ray's "My Movie Alphabet" is what lead me to her wonderful blog in the first place. I had a great time participating and now she's hosting another one! Head over to her blog for a full list of rules. Like she suggested, I didn't look at my original alphabet before posting. I had 5 1/2 repeats. (Yes, I'm counting the X-Men one as a half because I just used a different X-Men film) Most of them being my long time favorite actors. I did bend Mettel's rules quite a bit in the last one so actually following them this time around probably helped. 

Here's my new alphabet. I apologize if some of the photos are blurry, I actually ended up doing most of this on my phone so I'd meet the deadline.

((500) Days of Summer, 10 Things I Hate About You, 50/50)

(Amy Adams, Adam Driver, Arrival, Anton Yelchin)

(Brie Larson, Brad Pitt, Brick, Brooklyn)

(Captain America: Civil War, Cronenberg, David, Colin Farrell, Christine)

(Dreamland, Danai Gurira,the Dark Knight)

(Evan Rachel Wood, Ellen Page, Ezra Miller)

(Franco, James, Factory Girl, Freeman, Morgan)

(God Help The Girl, Gangs of New York, Gone Girl, Green Room)

(Harry Potter, the Handmaiden, Her, How To Train Your Dragon 2)

(Idris Elba, In Bruges, Inception, Infinitely Polar Bear)

(Jaws 2, Jurassic Park, Jackie, Jesse Eisenberg)

(Kidman, Nicole, Kill Bill vol 1, Kids Are All Right, Kate Winslet)

(Lord of the Rings, Lion, Looper, Laura Linney)

(Mahersala Ali, Michael Kenneth Williams, Moonrise Kingdom, Mad Max: Fury Road)

(Never Let Me Go, Nick Fury, Nocturnal Animals )

(Olsen, Elizabeth, Odd Thomas, Oduye, Adepero, Obvious Child)

(Paul Dano, Paul Rudd, Prisoners, )

(Quicksilver, Quiz Show)

(the Ring, Rogue One, Room, )

(Song of the Sea, Se7en, Sicario, Scorcese, Martin)

(Trainspotting, To Kill A Mockingbird, Tallulah, Tilda Swinton)

 (Up, Usual Suspects, Universe, Marvel Cinematic)

 (Viggo Mortensen, Viola Davis, V for Vendetta)

(Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Whitaker, Forest, Wolf of Wall Street, What Maisie Knew)

(X2: X-men United, X-Men)

(Y Tu Mama Tambien, You guys (no seriously, you fellow movie bloggers. You're the best)

 (Zombieland, Zero Day)

 Thank you for hosting, Mettel Ray! Here's to many more blogging years for you.