Rated R for Rhododendron. Because that's as weird of an answer as anything else in this movie.
DIRECTOR: Yorgos Lanthimos
The class consensus when it came to the buzz about this movie? "I heard that weird was weird and gross." They say that like it's a bad thing. Okay, the movie is pretty gross. There's some really uncomfortable parts with the movie and I would feel mortified if my mom was in the room watching this one, but that grossness is almost unique in the way that it is presented.
The class was right. The movie is extremely bizarre. I can see why this film is up for an Academy Award for original screenplay rather than any other category because the script is something wholly unique in itself. The movie is science fiction in the broadest sense of the genre. This has to be a futuristic world because of the change in societal norms and the way that the government functions. The only new technology that establishes this as some other world than present day is the invention of an Animal Transformation Room, which we know exists simply because of the door that leads to that room. Besides that, we don't have a ton differentiating the world of The Lobster from Cincinnati, OH...or somewhere in Ireland because of everyone's dialect minus John C. Reilly. But the thing that makes this movie somehow different from the 1984 realities is the fact that the movie is wildly unapologetic for the the world that it presents and the fact that it doesn't even attempt to explain why this world is like it is. The world is weird because the weirdness pushes the story. If the movie wasn't weird, it would be a film about sad people. Although I like movies about sad people because it means I'm a better person. (Wait, I don't actually think that, right?)
I have to criticize the marketing department for putting the most miss-the-mark critiques with their trailers. The movie constantly promotes the idea that this is the romance movie for the 21st Century. Um, shut up? I think that's my response. This movie is about a romance, but in no way is the movie even remotely romantic. Okay, my wife was probably rooting for the relationship between Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, but even she had to admit that the movie tried its darndest to make us not relate to them. That's maybe what defines this movie as a separate genre. It is about a relationship, but just the very nature of that word kind of cheapens what's really going on here. It's just insanity. It is about a coupling that makes me want to scream practical advice at the screen, but I can't because A) it's a movie that has already been filmed , B) these are fictional character living in a groovy far-out reality and C) because my advice couldn't possibly exist in this world. There is no relating to this movie and there probably isn't too much to learn from their relationship.
Thie emotional experience is centered around the guffaws. It's the discomfort of not knowing what the heck is going on screen and loving that it takes me to uncomfortable places. While I keep preaching that there is nothing that really parallels my existence, the movie hides a weird truth behind it. Their actions are so mundane and so honest in their absurdity. If I handed you a jarful of pickled onions for Christmas, you should respond with confusion, "Why would you give me this on a Wednesday?" The movie sets this tone up fabulously. So in the weirdest sense, there is a love story here. But in our reality, you shouldn't be taking part in this love story. I'd worry about you.
This is a new one. I couldn't find a rating on IMDB. Not even "Unrated." Just nothing where it was supposed to be. If I was to rate it, I would rate it "R". But I'm not. So just realize that there are a bunch of filthy jokes and stories.
DIRECTOR: Jordan Brady
I love documentaries about comedians. I'm beating you to the punch: they are full of dirty jokes, but I find the lifestyle of the comedian to be fascinating. I've listening to a criminal amount of podcasts interviewing comedians and they all tell similar stories, but there is a certain starving artist quality to a stand up's lifestyle. They all tell about how little they're paid and how club owners, for the most part, are the worst. I Am Road Comic tells many of the same stories, but with a budget in mind for the actual documentary itself. Considering that I'm watching the 30 for 30 documentary about O.J. Simpson right now, I have to put I Am Road Comic into the category of extremely cheaply made movies. I got super lucky to find the still that I used at the top because nothing on Google Images was really all that high res. We have to let Jordan Brady a little off the hook for how cheap the movie looks considering that the movie even addresses how cheap the movie was to make.
I never saw I Am Comic. The only reason that we started watching this one is because it was on Netflix and I didn't want to go to bed. I'm a child. I have never made any bones about this. I hear I Am Comic is pretty good, so I don't want to discourage Jordan Brady from making more of these. I hear the next in the series is about comedians who go into war zones to perform for troops. I might see that one too. The problem with this movie is that it really lacks scope. I don't know if it is the budget that is holding back the content, but I only got to peek into the life of Wayne Federman and how one stop on a tour really affected him and his opening act. The first review that is still on this website is a review of Harmontown and that gives more of an insight into what the road does to someone's act. It shows the bickering and the disgust of having to do the same thing over and over again for variable shows. I Am Road Comic really does a fantastic job about destroying Jack Didley's, but the audience was fairly responsive to the act. Does this mean that the comedian is going to get a similar reception nationwide? The movie hints at horror stories from the road, but these are the same stories we have heard time and time again. The point of the documentary is to see the insanity that the road presents. Rather, it was more like watching the somewhat boring weekend in the tri-cities.
An odd choice for the movie was the inclusion of T.J. Miller's performance in San Diego. Miller, a more well-known comedian than Federman, talks about being on the final leg of a tour and performing to sold out audiences. Perhaps it was a contrast to what Federman was going through in the Tri-Cities, but there was something almost more compelling about his story. My guess is that Brady and the audience didn't really consider San Diego as a prime example of being a road comedian and I'm sure it was simply happenstance that Jordan Brady was able to run into him while performing in an area that wasn't unreachable. Miller seems to be an interesting subject as well, (not to disparage Federman and company) because he is much more about the craft of comedy rather than the business end of a poorly paid gig. I'm not saying that Federman and company's story wasn't worth telling. I think it should have just been balanced out with the other end of the spectrum. The movie is 68 minutes. There seems to be so much to explore that I just don't get why the movie ends where it does.
But the best part of the comedy doc is that it is meant to be funny. Yes, the stories are funny. Some of the more charming moments of the film are the candid interviews with people like Marc Maron, Pete Holmes, W. Kamau Bell, Jim Norton, and Doug Benson. But this is podcasting. There is so little to the visual element to this movie that I just am disappointed by the possibility of something better.
TV-MA? IMDB, you are confusing the living daylights out of me. I know the MPAA isn't around yet, but why are we using the TV ratings standard?
DIRECTOR: Mike Nichols
Stupid theatre degree. All I can do is think about how I would stage this. I have a long relationship with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I owned a copy of a book that contained both Edward Albee's Zoo Story and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Every couple of years, I swear I'm going to sit down and read them. I get through Zoo Story a bunch of times and then stop. I never start the one that's more famous. Man alive, this story is dark. I like dark stuff, but this is a dark world with dark people who want to make other people dark. That's not always an easy watch.
Edward Albee is a puzzle. When the theme of the film is about truth and lies, it makes it extremely hard to follow what is going on. Characters tease and play and drop nuggets of truth hidden among piles and piles of cruel lies. If I watch this again, I know I can get something else out of it. I'm sure that the movie is just loaded with foreshadowing. Some of it is obvious. The use of the gun umbrella (which, by the way, I need. April 18 is my birthday. You're welcome, Internet.) is this moment of character shift and gives a preview about the killing of a character. I'm trying to keep it vague enough to avoid spoilers, but the movie is more about character exploration than it is about specific plot points. I mentioned how the movie is particularly dark. That comes from the characters. The characters are wholly unlikable. I know that there has been a push for the antihero lately. But even Walter White is likable in the sense that you kind of want him to get away with it. I honestly want to fix Martha and George. Sure, that's a weird Messiah complex on my part, but these people just seem so miserable and so unhappy that there is a disconnect from society.
But the unlikable characters doesn't affect my like for the movie. These terrible human beings bring out emotions that are hard to define in English. I'm sure that there's a German word for it. They have words for every emotion. But my reaction was laughter from sheer discomfort. My mind didn't know how to process the quality of the evil wit that I was experiencing. There's a lot of people responsible for my emotional breakdown and I'd like to thank all of them for destroying me as a person. Mike Nichols, between the camera angles and the editing, paces the move beautifully. So much is told between what is said and what is left unsaid. I've already preached how much I like Albee (I LIKE HIM!), but the even more bizarre combination is Elizabeth Taylor (whom I tried referring to as "Liz", but then felt like a real jerk) and Richard Burton. What kind of marital suicide were they shooting for when they agreed to take on this role? How could you not place your relationship as collateral for a nuanced performance? My wife, the Queen of Wikipedia, told me how this film affected them. They kept seeing George and Martha instead of Taylor and Burton. I'm going to go with a "duh". I don't mean to belittle their problems. They were plastered all over the tabloids and everyone knows every dirty detail. I think of intense method actors like Daniel Day Lewis and think that they sacrifice everything for their craft. I don't know if Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton knew what they were sacrificing for this role, but it is very impressive.
Part of my love for this movie is in the supporting roles. I'd like to point out that I had no idea that was a young George Segal until Wikipedia Queen told me. That's pretty cool. But Nick and Honey's abandoning of social conventions, while reading slightly bizarre, was intriguing. I liked Nick, but I loved Sandy Dennis's Honey even more. The addition of an innocent character in the midst of the vitriol really kept the movie somewhat relatable. I don't know why they just didn't leave, but I don't care. I think of the part in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, where the killer tells the protagonist that it was more abhorrent to offend someone than to worry about self-preservation. Maybe there's something there. Perhaps we are so obsessed with what is expected of us that we dare not question sanity because that is a bigger crime than self-destruction.
But what do I know? I'm not a biology teacher or a math teacher or a history teacher. I also don't throw raging booze parties until sunup.
PG. I'm depressed enough as it is having to write this. Don't make me go on another tirade over the death of G.
DIRECTOR: Adam Shankman
Do you know who wrote this movie? Oh, Sweet Christmas. I was depressed knowing I had to write a review for this movie, and then I saw who wrote it. I feel like a million bucks right now. Ready for this? Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant. They wrote a book all about how these kinds of movies are so easy to write and that they make mad bank off of these kinds of films. It explains so much. This and Herbie: Fully Loaded. I thought I lived in a world where The Pacifier was someone's big break into Hollywood. I thought someone poured his heart and soul into this stinking pile of garbage and wept over what he hath wrought. Nope. Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant: comic geniuses who know what to write for any specific audience. Everything here was a choice and now I'm peeling back the layers of sanity that have plastered my life.
I was mainly wondering what kind of checklist this movie was following. (Apparently I say "paint-by-numbers" too often. This movie isn't "paint-by-numbers" exactly. "Paint-by-numbers.") There are live action little kid tropes all over this movie and it was shocking to see how many of these tropes could be fit into 95 minutes. I would use bullets, but I feel like that would just padding out the length of this review. Let's see: Muscle bound guy who doesn't get kids learns to like kids, old lady with silly accent, "a duck isn't supposed to be a pet", toddler has very specific demands, girl scouts beat up boys, old out of shape guy wearing something wildly unflattering, "minivans aren't supposed to be in car chases", rebellious kids learn lesson from military training, underground military base made entirely out of stainless steel and lasers, main guy gets the girl simply because she is the only viable lady, "the guy who organized this whole thing is actually the secret bad guy", somehow the stupid things in life lead to your defeat of the bad guy, etc. I know the list goes on and on, but I think I actually got wide-eyed watching this movie and listing the amount of just hardcore cliches that showed up. There's barely a movie here, but it simply is little kid catnip. I honestly use a lot of just plain silliness with my kids because it cracks them up. I cracked a smile a few times because at one point, I just had to let go of my desperation for any kind of cohesion and laughed at a grown man doing a panda dance.
Vin Diesel is never...great? I'm trying to find a nice way to say that, but he's not. He's actually never really all that good. I like his personality. I hear he's a big Dungeons and Dragons fan and that gives him some nerd clout. But every movie I've seen with him has usually been pretty sub par. Often, it is the movie's fault. It's not my cup of tea. Some of you will be screaming Pitch Black, but I didn't really dig that one either. Looking at a really young Vin Diesel, I can't believe how much he's improved since then. Again, I can't ever say that he is a good actor now, but I'm saying he is just abysmal in this movie. He has one emotion and it is the same throughout. Part of the problem is that there is supposed to be a character arc for Shane Wolfe. (Gah...even the name.) He's supposed to be visibly upset by having to take care of these children. His military training that distances him from relationships is supposed to get in the way of understanding these kids. The words even say that, but his delivery is the same from the beginning of the movie to the end. That even performance makes it look like, "I know how to handle children. The children have been handled." There's no major transition from his gruff exterior to a regular guy who loves these kids. He just says "I love these kids" and that's the change. A lot rides on delivering at least a mediocre performance. The Pacifier is missing its most essential cliche, the darned theme.
The most bizarre part of this movie is how many people genuinely love it. Everything I'm writing right now is probably pure blasphemy. We've discussed that some movies should never be revisited or discovered after a certain age. I am way off on the age level that this movie is intended for. I can't help noticing the cracks in things and I realistically probably went into this movie wanting to hate it. I remember when this came out and rolling my eyes really hard because I had just graduated from college. This movie was never meant for me and the trailers already pointed out how forgotten this movie would be. I'm sorry if I'm crushing dreams here. Again, I'm a big fan of you standing next to your fandom, regardless of others' opinions. If I had to preach this movie, I can now say that I've seen yet another Lauren Graham movie. I could try convincing myself that this is a very bizarre alternate season of Gilmore Girls. Also, Brad Garrett is hamming it up pretty well. I don't know what emotional arc he went through to end up in the production of Sound of Music, but its there.
Oh, those tropes. "Bully likes musical theatre" and "Male bully wears women's clothing." I knew I forgot something.
My personal war with the MPAA has taken a pause. PG-13 is pretty accurate for this one. I could even see PG, but plane crashes are scary. I'm sure someone dropped some language and didn't pick it up.
DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood
The best thing that I forgot while I watched this movie? Clint Eastwood directed it. I was anti-Eastwood when I kept seeing previews for Million Dollar Baby back in the day. It looked emotionally manipulative and cheap. After watching a ton of Eastwood movies since then, I can say that I was wrong. At least, I convinced myself that I was wrong. Eastwood's films are mostly inspirational heartbreaks, with the exception of Gran Torino, which is just kinda cool and uncomfortably racist at times. But Sully ends and I see the "Written and Directed by Clint Eastwood" across the screen? Yup. Makes so much sense. I never get that experience anymore. I always know when I'm about to sit down for a Clint Eastwood movie, so this was a new experience.
My biggest criticism of Sully has to be how Hollywood it feels at times. The structure is too "little guy versus the machine courtroom drama", which seems to have been done before. This movie might be the example of how the biopic is almost fiction in itself. In a week where we get "Alternative Facts" as a hashtag, this might be the closest thing to acceptable alternative facts. My brother-in-law is reading the real Sully's autobiography and it is pretty much just about his marriage for the most part. The guy liked to fly and the movie communicates that idea pretty clearly. But this is a movie about a good man's destruction and it seems like that was inflated for the sake of drama. Lord knows that there isn't much to watch about a guy who is really good at landing planes on water and everyone loves him. The guy was a national hero eight years ago. And that's where Eastwood does a smart thing and manipulates the audience pretty well.
As a culture, we don't have many Sully Sullenbergers. I'm not saying that he's Gandhi, but the one thing that was always communicated across the media was that this guy was a true hero. We always want to punch holes in our heroes because most people are just normal people. Their politics don't align with everyone's so people want to tear them apart. Look at Ken Bone. Yeah, there's a name you haven't thought of in a while, right? The guy was far from a hero, but he was representative of us. We needed to root for the little nerd who asked a generic question to some of the most powerful people on the planet. Everyone loved him for a short amount of time and then, within the week, we scoured his Twitter account and grabbed some creepy stuff out of context. Now you probably hate yourself for even thinking about him, right? Sully wasn't that. But Eastwood showed how close he was to becoming that. In a world where people attack their own political parties and affiliations because others aren't as extreme as they are, we see that a man who saved everyone on a crashing plane can still almost get crucified because we need to find fault in the guy. I'd hate to be the real Sully. He's not allowed to get drunk or misspeak in public. The dude right now can't be misinterpreted because he's batting a thousand.
Eastwood knows how to shoot a movie. I have imdb up right now, so I could easily look up the Director of Cinematography, but I'm on a time crunch so I wrote a long sentence instead. The movie is super pretty and I have to applaud how the movie made an internal monologue come to life without resorting to cheap narration. After all, the events that we are all aware of would take a toll on the most hardened flyer. That's what I find more interesting than anything. It is about paranoia and the fallibility of memory. As a guy who is literally second guessing this entire review, I can't imagine how critical I would be about having to crash land a plane so close to the largest metropolis in the world. Eastwood pulls it off and it is compelling. Part of that can be attributed to the nuance of Tom Hanks. If you talk to me in real life, you'll know my weird man crush on Tom Hanks. It's just that I want to hang out with him. He collects antique typewriters, you know? The guy holds a movie together. He never goes as far as impersonation of the actual person, but I do forget that I'm watching Tom Hanks at times. (Not for long, buddy! We'll go typewriter shopping! I promise!) Pairing him up with Aaron Eckhart is also gold. I am so used to seeing Aaron Eckhart play the same parts over and over again, it's cool to see him in a kind of joe-shmoe roll. He's always the center of attention and in this, he's just a guy who is impressed by Sully. That's cool. I mean, Aaron Eckhart has a mustache in this one guys. A. Mustache.
Perhaps Eastwood is emotionally manipulative. The thing is, he's really good at it. He might make a string of inspirational stuff, but the stuff is always really well made and really worth watching. The man better live into his one-thirties because I need me some well made emotional sabotage with a sprinkle of patriotism.
G. This movie gets a G. Way to go, Powaqqatsi. You are the movie that proves that you can get a G Rating and be live action. It had to be you. I'd like to state that there is nudity in this movie. Sure, National Geographic style nudity, but I'm just stating facts.
DIRECTOR: Godfrey Reggio
Can I be mad? Am I allowed to be mad while reviewing this? I'm starting this review about fifteen minutes after the movie ended. With a movie without a formal narrative and no dialogue, my brain is in overdrive the entire time and I planned out what I was going to write in advance. I did my best to no-cell-phone this movie and I made it most of the way. The last twenty minutes, somehow, dragged more than the previous 1 hr 20, so I eventually crashed and just reloaded Facebook over and over in the background. No I'm not addicted. No you can't throw me in as a bad guy, representing the destruction of eastern culture at the hands of the West. Shut up. I'm just going to cheer myself up with the fact that this is a Cannon Film and giggle myself to sleep in my big American bed.
By itself, this movie might have a degree of validity. If this wasn't the second entry in the wacky anti-Western avant-garde trilogy, the message could be something cool. But this movie is a direct follow-up to a movie about humanity is destroying the world around them through its malaise, obesity, and technological dependence. I griped about it on end, but acknowledged that there's something there. Powaqqatsi, you ruined it for me. The big problem is the oversimplified worldview that this movie presents. The structure is very similar to Koyaanisqatsi. Show a bunch of pretty images to the music of Phillip Glass (but it's not all his this time!) and then follow it up with how modern innovation has completely ruined that innocence. That has some merit when it comes to environmentalism, but it doesn't hold as much weight as a commentary on the value of culture. This movie takes a parallel tone, but focuses more on how the third world has cultural beauty. The twist is the commercialism of the West and how it corrupts the Third World. It's a statement that he is making and I can't say that the West hasn't corrupted the rest of the world. It's just that the movie is full of images of celebrations going on worldwide. It has a Planet Earth feel to the whole things. Look how everyone is in celebration with each other, smiling and dancing in slow motion. The world is a great place, isn't it? Cut to a montage of American commercials and then show sad people in the Third World. C'mon. The part that really makes me mad is that it is such an oversimplification of everything. Americans have parades too. Americans have culture. Americans have sadness and misery and joy and the same things that everyone else has. If you filmed me at a parade in slow motion to something that sounds like the Chariots of Fire soundtrack, I'm sure it would be inspirational as well.
But every time I have gone abroad, I have seen such joy and sadness from within. Isn't this glorification of another culture just a well-intentioned version of the Noble Savage? By denying a culture its complexity and removing responsibility from them, isn't the movement being just a tad bit racist to them? There are good and bad people everywhere. Blaming all of their problems on Coca Cola just cheapens their struggle. I can't say that Coca Cola is helping anyone in the Third World, but just showing a montage of commercials and then sad people comes off as preachy and self-congratulating. The world has always been a beautiful and terrible place. What if we took awful people to task like we did in Koyaanisqatsi? Give it some depth, not just pretty pictures.
I have one more of these movies to go and I don't know what the message is going to be. I don't know how I'll necessarily be able to write one of these. Again, the movie is extremely well shot. I can't understate how this is in the vein of Planet Earth in terms of cinematography. The world is a crazy beautiful place and the movie sets a tone very quickly with its use of juxtaposed images. I'm playing the soundtrack again to try to recapture the mood of the movie and it is doing a good job. I just wish it wasn't so judgey and it was a bit more productive. I can't help but comparing this movie to a gallery piece that is just too on the nose with its message. Rather than slowly trying to shape its audience, it just shows a garbage can on fire with the word "America" written across the side. It could be really well done, but I'd prefer nuance.
Unrated. But let's call a baby carriage that transforms into weapons a baby carriage that transforms into weapons. This movie is SUPER R. Like...all the R. You know what? I'm going to break my own rule and color this red.
DIRECTOR: Kenji Misumi
Okay, be ready for a much grumpier tone. I wrote a tank of a review. A. Tank. And then it all vanished. I don't know what I clicked. If you think I clicked "Cut", I did not because there was no "Paste" to follow it up. It just doesn't exist anymore. But I'm going to try to capture the spirit of the original review but add some more insight. Either that, or I'll get really bored and just give up with "Swords are fun."
Last night, my wife had her girls' group. Apparently, I'm a husband and am not allowed to enjoy sea salt caramel dark chocolate and gossip, so I was exiled to the basement where I watched a whole bunch of Japanese ultraviolence. That really worked out for everyone because I'm pretty sure that Lauren wouldn't be down for a phenomenal amount of Japanese ultraviolence. The best part is that she bought me this box set! I love how many of my Christmas gifts are some of the most offensive things imaginable. I need to tweak my Amazon wishlist...or do I?
To really appreciate this movie, you have to know a little bit about its background. Back when I was working at Thomas Video (another one of these stories!), people used to rent out Shogun Assassin all of the time. Shogun Assassin is one of the most violent Japanese movies I can think of because it is an amalgamation of all of the movies in the Lone Wolf and Cub series. The way I understand it is that they cut these into two movies. Japan is really into serialized movies. They make multiple movies within the same franchise within the same year. It's something to behold. Also, one day I'll finish my Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman box set, but that's just my brain making connections. Lone Wolf and Cub was an extremely violent manga series in Japan at the time and took the samurai genre to a new level of insane ultraviolence. Of course, Japan knows how to tell a story and there are long periods of walking and plot, so America had to cut all that out and just so needless violence from six movies back to back. (I wrote this way better the first time, but I refuse to take a third pass at this. My day has been consumed by this review..)
The biggest weakness that I bring to being a fan of samurai films is that I always forget how Japanese class structures worked. By the end of the movie, I always kind of get it, but I'm no way an expert. The good news is that these movies often telegraph who the bad guy is. I know what misdeed was done in this film, but I only have a small indication to why they did it. I thought I started to really grasp the power dynamic, but then it all got turned on its head with one scene with Ogami Itto wearing an outfit that wasn't allowed to be attacked. I don't get it, but whatever. The movie is fine if it simply becomes the hero v. everyone else. Lone Wolf and Cub probably suffers most from the aimlessness of the protagonist. This is the first movie of a six movie series. This is a great origin story, but the actual goal is something that completely hits the background of this tale. We know the purpose of the wandering ronin and the child, but he really does nothing to advance that plot. Rather, we are given a glimpse into the life of a ronin who can pretty much kill anything.
The world of Lone Wolf and Cub is something really bizarre. The movie establishes the surreal tone early on with the appearance of a madwoman demanding to breastfeed the samurai's child. The characters accept this as commonplace and that's an interesting way to start a movie about absolute madness. No one really reacts rationally in this world and this moment establishes that as the world that meant to be inhabited. I have to applaud director Kenji Misumi for taking such a broad stance. Again, he's adapting a famous manga and many directors have tried to capture the bonkers world of the funny pages, often unsuccessfully. I can't help but think back to Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever and how it completely immerses itself in what it thinks comic books is like. Comic books are only a medium sure, but they do often have a heightened sense of reality. The audience must bring a sense of open mindedness to these worlds, but Misumi lets the audience to know what to expect. While not anywhere near the most troubling or bizarre thing that this movie presents, it definitely establishes the rules of this world. On top of that, Misumi does something even cooler with the editing and sound of this film. The movie almost uses subliminal / strobe like effects with many of the suspenseful moments. As a guy who watches quite a few samurai films, I have to guess that Misumi is simply trying to cordon off his film as something more unique than those of his predecessors. The cool thing is that none of that is really needed considering the brutality of the Lone Wolf and Cub movies, but it does help that he's not taking the easy way out.
The 1970s have a very specific look to them in terms of colorization. The movies are both vibrant and bleak. Watching this on blu-ray was a heck of a choice because the colors just pop. It is almost otherworldly with the opening just screaming color. Yeah, this is stupid of me to point out, but the very red-paint blood of the 1970s sticks out even more, which I always find cool.
I know I'm beating a dead horse (what a way to start a paragraph about violence!) but this movie is violent without apology. Within one movie, I became desensitized to how violent it really was. Trying to find a still for this review, I found this beautiful evening shot of Itto against the sunset and I almost posted it. But I was so broken as a human being that I didn't even take note of the recently decapitated foe squirting blood in the foreground of the image. The movie just bathes in blood and perhaps that's not a great thing. The movie is definitely in the guilty pleasure category, but it isn't cheap altogether. I will never say that this movie takes the high road, but the story has merit and there is a fair bit of pacing here that takes its time. But then it just provides macho unreality and I don't really feel like apologizing for that. Yeah, this movie couldn't exist today unless Quentin Tarantino took a shot at it, but the movie is enjoyable. It kind of falls into the same category as James Bond. I have a love for these movies, but I acknowledge that they can appear very chauvinistic and made for man children. But I do unironically love these kinds of movies and I'd hate to see them disappear. Perhaps I need to watch them in small doses, but I do like them. But let's be as clear as possible. I only recommend these movies to the troubled. If you aren't into these kinds of movies, please don't start. There are healthier outlets out there. Honestly, there are so many great movies in the world that you can go your entire life without seeing a Lone Wolf and Cub movie and still be a film powerhouse. I enjoy it, and I don't expect you to.
I know that there were probably tons of discussions about making this one an R-Rating because it would be "cool." PG-13. R wouldn't have made it any better. If anything, it would just make it more EXTREEEMMMMMEEEE!
DIRECTOR: David Ayer
Do you understand how hard it was to find a high quality still from this movie that wasn't clearly a publicity shot or something overused in the trailer. I had to settle for that pic above. The aspect ratio is all wrong on it, but it almost doesn't seem posed. Listen, Suicide Squad, I didn't love you to begin with. It makes me dislike you even more when I have to deal with over advertisement.
Suicide Squad is the first of the big budget superhero movies I refused to see in theaters. Man of Steel had a fantastic trailer and I thought it was going to be brilliant. It wasn't. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice also had solid trailers, but I had the sneaking suspicion that it was going to be terrible. It was. Suicide Squad had an abysmal trailer with good music and everyone swore that it was going to be great. I thought they were all crazy and I was right. The weird part is that Suicide Squad is the best movie in the DCEU. That's more of a commentary on the DCEU than it is on Suicide Squad.
Before things get too out of control and bashy, (because I know that this movie was destroyed online) I want to talk about the good things that came out of this film. The movie has a little bit more fun than its predecessors. I read one of the critiques that the soundtrack was a response to how well the trailer was received (by everyone but me). The soundtrack is mighty cool, albeit almost wholly unrelated to the events on screen. Also, that intro almost sold me. Very similar to the Fantastic Four reboot, the beginning of the movie kinda tricked me into thinkig that this movie might be way more quality than what the masses were saying. Like Fantastic Four however, the movie takes a sharp turn into Garbagetown, but I'm not there yet. The weirdest and best part of this movie is Will Smith. I don't understand Will Smith in this movie. The guy probably has his pick of characters that he could play. Marvel and DC have to have been courting this guy for a while. He's an A-List actor who is part of a weak ensemble movie? That's a very bizarre choice. On top of that, he's not playing someone like Lex Luthor or the Joker (which would have been amazing casting). He's playing Floyd Lawton aka Deadshot. Deadshot. I'm a big comics fan and I acknowledge that Deadshot is a B/C level villain. He's more of a cool costume than a cool character. He's a side story in the Arkham video games because there just isn't that much to him. But ignoring this choice, Will Smith knocks it out of the park. Smith makes his character the most engaging. While I can't say that there is a central protagonist to this movie, Smith engenders some substance into what could be a two-dimensional bad guy. I would honestly sooner watch a Will Smith helmed Deadshot movie sooner than watch a Suicide Squad sequel.
But that's about all that's really good about the movie. I don't mind a style and David Ayer is pretty clear with his stylistic choices. It's just that this movie reminded me of an Ed Hardy shirt the entire time. Everything about the aesthetics bugged the living daylights out of me. I know that there is an audience for this style, but I probably wouldn't get alone with them. Even worse, the style is covering up for the lack of content that the film clearly has a problem with. Pre-production meetings had to be filled with "Wouldn't it look cool if..." moments. And these were all just blah. I love style and I love having a clear voice, but that's all that was really going on here. This might be typical of the DCEU, helmed by Zack Snyder. Snyder is a guy who knows how to make something look really cool, but has missed the point on the emotional core of filmmaking. And its a shame. When The Dark Knight hit theaters, audiences were just starting to understand that superhero movies weren't simply defined by childhood. These weren't flat characters and they could be given depth. Perhaps the plot is bombastic, but these stories still reflected the human condition. What studios took from The Dark Knight is that "dark movies sell." Suicide Squad is the product of that studio belief.
The Joker exemplifies everything that is wrong with this movie. Honest to Pete, the movie could have simply been okay had Jared Leto's Joker not been in the movie. Everything about the character screams "trying too hard". When I saw the first images of the tattooed Joker, I gagged. But I trusted David Ayer and thought that there was a method to his madness. (Pun intended.) But he was the worst. He was the personification of Hot Topic. The Joker is meant to be terrifying because he is the unique serial killer. Instead, Jared Leto's Joker fell into every generic convention of serial killers from every other film. There was nothing unique about what I was watching. I know that it is an unfair job following Heath Ledger's Joker, but Leto was given an opportunity to mold the character into whatever he wanted. Instead, I read articles of insane method acting that led to the most bland character portrayal of all. If he was going to those insane lengths to play a character, I expected a nuanced understanding of what made the character tick. Some moments were there, but those were mostly scripted moments. Rather, having him lie down in a circle of knives told me nothing outside of the fact that he was bizarre. Inside the club, I honestly saw him more as Scarface (NOT THE BATMAN ROGUE!) than the Crowned Prince of Crime. It's a very weird and dishonest grounding of the character. As a more controversial point, I was also let down with Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn. I know she's getting her own movie, which I hope turns the character into something more interesting. But Harley wasn't charming or funny. Maybe it was the outfit that Ayer put her into, but I don't love trying to make Harley a sex object. (Now I have to yell at the Arkham games as well.) The few decent jokes were in the trailer, but I feel like Harley could have been such an opportunity that we didn't get in this one. It even teased me with a much more conservative Quinn in the flashbacks, but the blatant uncomfortableness with her outfit put a bad taste in my mouth.
As much as I want the DCEU to crash and burn so we can get a more optimistic tone to these movies, I strangely want Ben Affleck to have a successful outing as Batman. The guy is talented and passionate and these movies just are dour and sad. It's a weird thing to want only one thing to be successful, but I try not to be negative anymore.
Approved. I watched this with my kids in the room because it was subtitled, but it involves bad people being bad to one another. Olivia can read, but she chose to run around the house instead.
DIRECTOR: Jean Renoir
What happened to me? This used to be on every recommendation list I ever had. I have to give a bit of context. We just finished our "French Cinema of the 1920s and 1930s" unit. (Don't you wish you had my life?) I tried to think what movie would be the epitome of this era and the first thing that popped into my head? The Rules of the Game. The magnum opus by one of the greatest directors of all time! But it's been a while and I supposed I should have prepped it before showing the class. So last weekend, I sit down, hacking my lungs out and I start watching what I remembered to be one of my favorite movies. Only this time, I'm watching from the point of view of a teenager who has no experience with Renoir and French cinema and I used one of the unforgivable curses on this movie. It's kind of...boring?
Okay, I've established that I like boring. But there's always a part of me that wants other people to love movies the same way I do. I don't think there are many times to feel more vulnerable than when you want people to love a film or a work of art like you do. It's so uncomfortable. Watching this one as a pre-screening hurt so hard because I know that everyone in that room would have fallen asleep and disregarded it. But that's not necessarily a criticism on them. After all, a few of the people who might actually read this might be in the class. It's a very "deep-end-of-the-pool" film. Renoir is punctuating his career with a movie that was panned when he premiered it. It only gained a level of respect well after it was savaged by its initial audience. How can I expect anyone to just love it? I think I had fallen in love with The Lower Depths before I had seen this initially. (Two Lower Depths references in two reviews. Trust me, I'm really nervous about returning to that movie as well.) Renoir, a guy who made The Grand Illusion about the unrelenting spirit of man, spits on humanity as selfish and corrupt. The Rules of the Game is a bummer of a film. Like, I like when the protagonist is more of an anti-hero probably more than the next guy, but the characters here are pretty unlikable.
I do find it amusing that Renoir himself plays Octave, the only slightly human character in the movie. He's still slightly off of the morality train, but the choices he makes are at least understandable and relatable. But everyone else is just a piece of human garbage. The story is the Upstairs/Downstairs slash Downton Abbey tale (I had to write "slash" due to the unfortunate punctuation of the first title), but people are openly awful about their selfishness. I love Downton, but The Rules of the Game is meant to be critical of culture and Renoir chooses to state his morality clearly. This might have been also the first time where I watched the movie with a focus on the end of the movie as well because I was looking for setup. That lack of shock that I had this time might have influenced my overall opion of the movie. The shock is great, but it might have the problem of being viewed too many times and my comfort with the film.
The movie is still very gorgeous and beautifully shot. I do wonder if the skeleton sequence was a nod to Melies, but I do have him on the brain when it comes to constantly referrring to him in class. (There's a few names that just get beaten to death because of their innovations.) In terms of what we're discussing in class, The Rules of the Game proves everything about the French Golden Age of Cinema. it is extremely complex and very intellectual. It is challenging and literary. It has a degree of photogenie, which is super cool and it does seem very earnest. Well, minus Rolande Toutain's eyebrows, which will always put me off.
One performance I'd like to point out is that of Julien Carrette. We're watching The Grande Illusion right now because I thought it was more appealing to a class. (Hint: I was right. That movie is hitting a sweet spot right now.) Carrette is also in that movie playing a similar character to his part in The Rules of the Game. In Illusion, the character is likable, but again very forward and very physical in his comedy. Carrette plays the same thing here, but he is a scoundrel. The character is meant to be funny, almost mirroring Much Ado About Nothing levels of avoiding detection. But the character is a horrible human being. For a criticism about the upper class, the inclusion of this character is an odd choice. He is the everyman and he is truly awful. If anything, the only character I truly sympathize with is the watchman and he is meant to be the antagonist. I have the same reaction to Oklahoma!, so don't get me started. Why have this character be such a horrible human being? He destroys what he touches and always wants more. Going back to Much Ado, I notice similar characters in Shakespeare, but that character is usually in a story filled with moderately likable characters.
Perhaps I had it set up for me to really love it as much as when I saw it the first time. Renoir is a genius to me and one of my idols, but I couldn't get the same experience. I have to blame myself again because I know that there is something genius here. But I just left more depressed than before.
It takes place outside Boston. Of course this movie is going to use the f-bomb like a comma. R-rating. I'm not even looking it up. (Edit: I looked it up out of paranoia and was right. R.)
DIRECTOR: Kenneth Lonergan
People love crying at movies. Man alive, we just need it as a culture. I don't cry unless it's Christmas because I'm broken inside, but there are movies that simply need to exist to make us cry. Manchester by the Sea is about all the crying. If you don't cry like I don't cry, you just feel awful leaving. That cathartic release is that thing I'm craving and I wish I got it. That's not Manchester's fault. It's mine. This movie hit every button that was needed for sweet release and my dead soul just felt really sad without letting go. Some people consider themselves awesome for not crying. I ridicule myself. IF ONLY THIS TOOK PLACE AT CHRISTMAS!
Perhaps the role of film is to capture real experiences. We live a real moment vicariously. We feel what we feel in reality, but without the consequence of sadness. It's why we're happy that Annie finds Daddy Warbucks. We never want to be the orphan, but we do want to experience the reality of the moment. The first unit of my sophomore English class is about the fact that "fiction" doesn't mean "fake." There is truth in fiction. It's just that this specific story hasn't happened like how we experienced it. There is truth and that's what Manchester is. That's Manchester's greatest gift. I've dealt with death and funerals more than I should by this point. Some people have only experienced death from a grandparent or a removed relative. It is something very different when your direct family deals with death. What Lonergan does with Manchester is provide the sheer misery and annoyance that comes with having to deal with the immediate loss of a close loved one. There is a tedium and a stress that comes with working with funeral homes and lawyers. It is the last thing that you want to do, but it also provides the value of distracting your brain just enough to be responsible. I guess the whole process with funeral homes is symbiotic. It forces you to deal with your emotions later until you are ready. There is something about death that puts you into a different mode. Manchester by the Sea is specific because it activates the audience into triage mode. It's depressing, but not in the way a Hallmark movie is. (I'm sorry I keep attacking the fine people at the Hallmark Channel. They have done nothing to me, yet I wage war against them at every turn.)
Lee Chandler, portrayed by Casey Affleck, is a man who constantly takes an emotional beating. I don't know how to survive as Lee Chandler. I would hate even having to walk a mile in his shoes. While Affleck brings his typical intensity once again, I don't think that it is the largeness of his performance that separates Manchester by the Sea. He once again does what he is good at: drawing attention. People are raving about his performance and it is good, but what is more impressive is the understanding of what this character has gone through. Watching a clip of this movie out of context doesn't really provide an understanding of why this role is important. I'm sure that a clip will be shown at the Academy Awards. (He's gonna get the nomination, guys. People won't shut up about him.) People are going to wonder from that clip why he deserves to win. He kind of does, but not because of the scene performances. It is in the nuanced changes. It is in the fact that he lives the character. Lee Chandler can't do something huge. He can't punch walls. He can't cry in the rain. (He can and does punch people though.) This is about conversations and moments that seem like selfishness. His performance exists in relation to the grand picture. I applaud Lonergan, who not only directed the movie but also wrote it, in naming the movie Manchester by the Sea. The town is his enemy. Everything in this town hurts him. The trailer makes him look like a man child who can't accept responsibility, but his change can't be a light switch moment. That would cheapen everything that he goes through. Nicely done.
While I think Casey Affleck is great in pretty much everything (especially fake Dunkin' Donuts commercials), the real attention should go to Lucas Hedges as Patrick. Geez, he gets everything. Sure, Casey Affleck is going to get most of the attention for this movie, but I think that Hedges has such a great parallel performance and storyline that I can't determine which is more compelling. (Okay, it's Affleck, but that's because he has more to work with. I guess that is something that a story about a kid losing his dad is less traumatic than Affleck's story.) But he's allowed moments of levity that Affleck is not really given a right to explore. Hedges walks a really fine tightrope to maintaining tone while making the story accessible. If it wasn't for Hedges, this would just be a sad story about sad people, like The Lower Depths. (I like sad stories, guys!) But this is a sad story about real people who happen to be sad overall. On top of that, he makes his awful lifestyle appealing. There isn't a moment where Hedges feels like a sick puppy being kicked. He is a real person, warts and all. The warts don't make him evil at any point, but make him someone we know and relate to. We want to save him, sure. But more so, we want him to save himself.
This movie is going to wreck you. I don't even recommend it to everyone. There are people who don't need this in their lives. I guess this movie is dangerous in some ways. But there is nothing wrong with being sad. This is a healthy exploration of what death is and what it isn't. It isn't people breaking down and shattering dishes. It is in the stupidity and boringness of it all. It is about death not coming like a whirlwind, but in selfish moments and the absurdity of the whole situation.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.