DVD Review: Certain Women


Director Kelly Reichardt tells three different stories about women living in Montana. Laura (Laura Dern) is a lawyer trying to assist a client (Jared Harris) who has been screwed over by his employer after an accident. Gina (Michelle Williams) is building a new home but struggles with her moody teenager daughter along the way* And a Rancher (Lily Gladstone) wanders into a class being taught by Elizabeth (Kristen Stewart) and becomes fascinated with her.  

The * is because even after thinking about this film for a while, I still don't understand the point of Michelle William's segment. Which brings me to how I felt about this movie as a whole. I felt like I was watching two good ideas that were never elaborated on, and one afterthought. Gina's story being the afterthought. Laura's had the potential for a lot of drama. Her client holds someone hostage at one point and she diffuses the situation. But The Rancher (no really, that's how she's credited) and Elizabeth's story was the most intriguing. Theirs was the one I didn't want to end. Yet, all of these vignettes went out with a whimper. 

It's a similar problem I have with Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff. It had a great cast but I felt like the story went nowhere. I didn't have that problem with her last feature, Night Moves, which I enjoyed immensely. Certain Women is ultimately a commentary on loneliness in every day life. It brings up the long debate on whether or not movies need some sort of climax that changes its trajectory. I know I made that complaint about Manchester by the Sea last year, but comparing the two, it was a flawed statement on my part. Manchester was far more interesting than this, even if "nothing" happened in the end on that one either. 
I guess I'm just disappointed. I wanted this story about women directed by a woman to have a bit more. There were good bones here, but I was left unsatisfied. I like to take my movies home with me most of the time. I like to think about how characters would move forward after the credits roll. But this film didn't give me enough to go off of, even in my imagination. 

Recommended: No

Grade: C-

Memorable Quote: "Do you know anyone around here that could teach this class? - Elizabeth (Kristen Stewart) 

Thursday Movie Picks: TV Edition - Horror

We end our Halloween month over at Wandering Through The Shelves with TV shows. I haven't watched a lot of TV shows in the horror genre but here are a my three favorites.

1) True Blood

Seasons 1-3 were spectacular. Season 4 was great, but with a few issues. Seasons 5-7 was a clusterfuck. To this day, I have yet to see a show that started out as strong as True Blood did fall on its face so hard. (Though The Walking Dead is close) I recommend watching only the first four seasons then pretending Eric and Sookie ran off together. 

2) The Fades

This was a British show that was cancelled after one season, but starred the supremely talented Iain De Caestecker, Daniel Kaluuya, Natalie Dormer and Joe Dempise. It was about a teen who saw spirits of dead people, and the strange way they have to go. I wish it would've lasted longer

3) Tales From The Crypt

I loved watching this with my big sister when I was a kid. Most of the episodes went far over my head at the time, but I would definitely re-watch this show today. 

Review: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

All in the family.

Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman) is an artist in New York City. He didn't treat his first two children, Danny (Adam Sandler) and Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) very well. He saved all his affection for his youngest child, Matthew. (Ben Stiller) Now they're all reunited in New York and things are awkward to say the least.

I can't describe director Noah Baumbach's style. I mostly enjoy his work, but I rarely feel like revisiting any of them. This is another I likely won't go back to any time soon but I did enjoy watching it for what it was.

Adam Sandler, man that guy has been starved of good work. He's trying so hard here that he falls into the "over the top" category a bit, but you can see there's a good actor under there. As much as I joke about Adam Sandler movies, the guy does have talent and it was nice seeing him get to flex his chops a bit, even if it didn't always stick. Elizabeth Marvel, and Grace Van Patten (Playing Eliza, Danny's daughter) were the most interesting ones to me. I wanted to know more about Jean, even though her entire purpose was to be the forgotten one. A late reveal in her story brings on one of the strongest moments in the entire film. 

The editing was really choppy and I found that distracting. The level of dysfunction is almost too uncomfortable at times. I cringed during entire conversations between Harold and his children but I can't help but see how effective it really was.  For a film streaming on Netflix, this is a good enough watch.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "I can smash every car in this parking lot and it wouldn't un-fuck me up." - Jean (Elizabeth Marvel)

Review: 1922

Should've just gotten that divorce.

Wilfred James (Thomas Jane) is a farmin' man, damn it! He ain't moving to know city like his wife, Arlette (Molly Parker) wants. All the land they own is in her name, and she proposes selling it, splitting the difference and getting a divorce. The only problem is she wants their teenage son, Henry (Dylan Schmid) to live with her and Wilfred's fragile ego can't handle that. So he starts pitting Henry against his mother, and soon comes up with the genius plan to murder his wife instead. That karma though...

I never read the novella by Stephen King, but the trailer immediately intrigued me. Netflix must have spent all of $1922.00 on this because it looked cheap. And that's not a dig at films made on microbudget,.You can do amazing things with that, but compared to other films Netflix has put out, this is jarringly different. It's like they spent the bulk of it on all the rats they had to use. Which brings me to my next point, can animals be bad actors? These rats did not look like they were anywhere "naturally." A handler clearly placed them there and turned the camera on quickly. These rats looks straight up confused the entire time. 

Please let me know in the comments below if that complaint is too petty.

Thomas Jane's acting basically consists of using the most over the top old time farmer accent on the planet and not unclenching his teeth. (Seriously, watch him talk) Molly Parker is the most interesting actor here and she obviously doesn't get a ton of screen time.

As mediocre as this was, I wasn't bored at all. I was legitimately interested in seeing what happened next. I basked in the schadenfreude of bad things happening to Wilfred's dumbass. I just expected more.

Recommended: No

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "Money fixes everything." - Henry (Dylan Schmid)

Thursday Movie Picks: Halloween Edition - Body Horror

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves will kill your appetite: Body Horror. I'm mostly nice with the gifs so it's okay if you're reading this while eating breakfast.

1) Starry Eyes

This is about an actress that will do anything to make it big. Even selling her soul to a casting agency for a dangerous price. This was a great little film, but hard to find a non spoilery gif for.

2) Videodrome

This movie..... It was my Blind Spot for the month and it certainly lives up to its reputation as being weird as fuck and pretty gross. It's hard to describe.

3) Raw

This French film about a vegetarian who after getting forced to eat meat during a hazing finds out she's got more than just a little taste for meat. With all the snacking on human flesh that goes on in this flick, I think it qualifies as body horror. 

Honorable Mention: Tusk

Before I saw Raw, Tusk had my 3rd spot. I'm leaving it in as an honorable mention. A film about someone who is literally turned into a walrus deserves that. 

2017 Blind Spot Series: Videodrome

What I knew going in: That it was a popular body horror film. 

Max Renn (James Woods) runs a sleazy TV channel and is always on the look out for new material. He discovers a pirated tape called Videodrome which shows nonstop snuff. Max's girlfriend Nicki (Debbie Harry) wants to audition for it, and soon he's drawn into Videodrome's bigger picture.

Damn, this movie is weird. 

Director David Cronenberg was put on my radar with A History of Violence. Then he made Eastern Promises which is one of my favorite movies of all time. I've been meaning to go backwards in his filmography for a while and Videodrome is the one that gets mentioned the most. I can definitely see where some of his ideas for History of Violence at least came from. 

James Woods is naturally a creepy fucker so his casting is spot on. I really appreciate that Cronenberg didn't show a bunch of sexual violence. So many other horror directors would've taken the opportunity to go over the top with it and he didn't. With it's reputation with body horror, I was expecting a bit more of that, but what was in there did not disappoint.

I'm glad I finally watched this. It was a perfect way to start my October.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Long live the new flesh." - Max Renn (James Woods)

DVD Review: It Comes At Night

My nightmares have nightmares.

In a secluded cabin in the woods, Paul (Joel Edgerton) his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) are isolating themselves from a mysterious illness that has apparently spread over the world. It's never explained, so don't expect answers. One day, a man named Will (Christopher Abbott) tries to break into their home thinking it's abandoned. He also has a wife and son he's trying to protect. They decide it's the right thing to do to live together.

First things first, not a damn thing comes at night. (Except Travis' nightmares..I guess, if we're going to reach for something) The way this film was advertised after seeing the final product is baffling. When I saw the teaser of the door in the hall way and the families talking about who opened it. I thought it was going to be a possession type movie. When I learned about the illness, I wondered if we would get something like 28 Days Later's rage virus. Nope. It's just a suspenseful drama.

It's not bad for what it actually is. It builds tension well and the actors, particularly Harrison Jr who carries the film are very good. It's just not what I wanted it to be. This is even with expectations in place. I knew the title was misleading from other reviews I read. I will give the film extra points for the absolutely brutal ending. It really upped the fucked up factor.

Recommended: Yes if you know it's not going to be a horror movie, no if that's what you want it to be.

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "That could be how he found us." - Sarah (Carmen Ejogo)

Thursday Movie Picks: Halloween Edition - Dolls

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is a nightmare....dolls.

My grandmother was a doll maker. She's very good at it, but she's made her fair share of creepy ones. My older sister used to terrorize me with one we swear looked like a brown haired version of Chucky. Speaking of that little bastard, here are three dolls I'd love to avoid:

1) Child's Play 2

My parents let me watch the Child's Play movies when I was a kid because I explained to them that I understood they were fake. They were good about that with some horror movies. Child's Play 2 is my favorite of this ridiculous franchise. 

2) Puppet Master

Now this one, even though I knew it was fake scared the shit out of me for some reason. I could handle Chucky, but these dolls and puppets were too much.

3) May

Poor, lonely May. She just wanted friends. Now she's forced to make one herself..

Review: Blade Runner 2049

You bought yourself a war.

K (Ryan Gosling) is a Blade Runner hunting down old Replicant models. He unearths a mind blowing secret during a job. When his boss (Robin Wright) sends him to investigate further, he realizes he's also connected to it. 

This movie has been quite the hot topic over the weekend. It didn't make nearly what was expected of it at the box office, and that's a shame because this film is really good. I get it, general audiences don't like long movies if they're not from huge franchises. But don't let the hefty run time scare you off. Yes, you'll feel it. That's natural, but every bit of it is interesting. I compare it to something like Blue is the Warmest Color. That's a long film, but I wouldn't cut a thing. I liked taking all of it in. 

I'd say this is Ryan Gosling's show, but it's almost cinematographer Roger Deakins'. This world, while dark and depressing. (almost too dark at times, which is my biggest fault of the film) is stunningly beautiful. He combines practical shots with CGI so effortlessly. He's so overdue for an Oscar it's almost offensive. I hope he gets one for this. 

Gosling is very good. He's a very straightforward guy, he doesn't have a lot of emotional moments but he balances it so well and I felt for him. Sylvia Hoeks, who plays Luv, another Replicant hunting him is another standout. One thing you should not expect going in is a lot of Harrison Ford. He doesn't show up until the two hour mark and he doesn't have many scenes with Gosling. I expected them to be together more, but Ford does not disappoint.

My only critiques is that the film does get too dark at times. It fits the mood but I'd rather be able to see the actors more clearly. The supporting cast left me wanting to see more. Many of these actors we only spend a short amount of time with. 

I haven't seen the original Blade Runner in many years. I remember it well enough but the film is still very enjoyable even if it's not fresh in your memory.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I knew you were special." - Joi (Ana de Amas)

Thursday Movie Picks: Halloween Edition - Masks

It's one of my favorite times of the year! We're back for a month full of Halloween Editions from Wandering Through The Shelves. This week we're talking about masks. Serial killers love those things so I've got plenty to choose from. The only rule I gave myself was to not use one of "The Greats" ie: Jason Voorhees, Michael Meyers, Leatherface or Ghostface.

1) Hush

This is one of the best horror movies I've seen recently. A man terrorizes a deaf woman in her home. Normally I'm not for home invasion flicks but this one loses a lot of those tropes and does something fresh. This guy actually has the balls to remove his mask early on to go "Welp. Now you've seen me, I'm still killing you."

2) Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

This movie is more hilarious than scary, but serial killer Leslie Vernon gives a documentary film crew a behind the scenes look at some innocent folks he's about to terrorize. Look at that goofy mask. It would be scary if it was coming for you in the dark. 

3) Goosebumps: The Haunted Mask

Like any kid that grew up in the 90's. I loved me some Goosebumps. Of the books that were adapted into films, The Haunted Mask was always my favorite. I loved Carly-Beth and was afraid for her when this mask wouldn't come off. 

Indie Gems: Raw

That's one hell of an allergy.

Justine (Garance Marillier) is a young vegetarian who is attending her first year of vet school. Her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) already studies there as well. During a hazing, she's forced to eat raw rabbit kidneys, and Justine learns the hard way that her appetite for raw meat is not easily satiated.

Man, I could never try to be a part of anything that involves hazing. I would've lasted approximately 30 seconds at this school. The minute someone threw my mattress out a window I would've punched somebody in the dick and left. Justine is more determined than me though, so she sticks it out. What she thinks is a severe allergy to the kidneys she's forced to eat ends up being so much worse.

There's something fun about being grossed out during body horror films. That's not a label I expected to use going in but after the gore seen in this it's very fitting. It's not for you if you have a weak stomach. The part that made me squirm the most didn't even have to do with blood. You'll know when you see it.

Mariellier was perfect as this naive bookworm of a girl with Rumpf being her foil as the outgoing sister. I waited a long time to watch this, and it was worth the wait.

Grade: A

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable quote: "I can't. I'm a vegetarian." - Justine (Garance Marillier) 

DVD Review: All Eyez On Me

California Love

We follow the life of one of the greatest rappers in history, Tupac Shakur (Demetrius Shipp Jr.) from when he was a child being raised by his former Black Panter mother, Afeni (Danai Gurira) to moving to California and getting into the rap game. A good film about the life of Pac has been a long time coming.

And it turns out we're still waiting for that.

This movie should not have failed the way it did. Shipp really resembles Tupac. He has the mannerisms down perfectly. Danai Gurira is amazing as Afeni, she gets to show the emotions I wish Scott Gimple would allow her to show more often on The Walking Dead. But the direction of this movie just rained down too much negativity for this cast to salvage it all.

The biggest thing is this movie feels cheap. It's edited like a Lifetime movie. The characters often feel like they're speechifying instead of having actual conversations and while Pac truly witnessed some awful things, it's shot in a way that makes it almost too melodramatic. There's only so many times the camera can linger on him looking defeated while terrible shit happens a few yards away. 

On the supporting side the film does a few things right, like bringing in Jamal Woolard to play Biggie again, like he did in his own bio pic Notorious (which isn't perfect but is far better than this) But that one good thing doesn't erase what they attempted to do with Snoop Dogg (Jarrett Ellis), which is casting an actor that looks nothing like him and having his voice dubbed by the actual Snoop Dogg. Earlier in the film, I noticed that Shipp's lip syncing wasn't very believable, I almost take it back after seeing the disaster that was Snoop. 

I can see now why Joel Singleton walked away from this. I'd like to see him make a Tupac movie. Hell, they can use this same cast (minus Ellis) I have no issue with them. A strong script and a more skilled director would do wonders for this movie. 

Recommended: No

Grade: C-

Memorable Quote: "Use that platform to make a change." - Tupac Skatur (Demetrius Shipp Jr.)