PG-13: I can get behind this. No commentary necessary.
DIRECTOR: Garth Davis
Do you know how many people hyped this up for me? All of them! All of the people hyped this up for me. How can I go into a movie objective when everyone lost their minds over this movie? Answer: I can't. I really wanted to love it and I really wanted to hate it. There was a conflict for my very soul based on how much I would like it. I now discover that I'm both a good person and a bad person simultaneously. I bet the filmmakers weren't aiming for that. You know, the final judgment of my eternal soul? Anyway, the movie's pretty good. Not great, but very good.
Oh, you want more? Fine. Lion falls into that weird category of film that I kind of get icky about. Perhaps this makes me sound super progressive or liberal or just an idiot, but this is another one of those movies where a well-off white family saves an underprivileged non-white person from his own people. I'm looking at you, The Help and The Blind Side. I don't know. It feels a little bit like this is a way to assuage guilt. Yes, I know it is a true story, as are the other ones. But the audience for this film plays a part in its intent. The producers know who is going to spend money on this movie and, golly, are we going to placate them! I will say that Lion is a less culpable compared to the other films I mentioned, but every time I see that trope, I can't help but roll my eyes. It taints the film for me.
But the movie flies when it comes to understanding its aesthetics and characters. So let's put the political rant on the side and actually analyze the film. Perhaps it is my stupid brain connecting Dev Patel to Slumdog Millionaire, but I really got the vibe that this movie had the look of a Danny Boyle movie. The camera captures both the paradoxical identity of India. It is simultaneously the most beautiful place in the world and the most terrifying. Perhaps that is what makes India so intriguing to me is that it seems to be surreal to my Western ideology. It is a bizarre alternate world and Garth Davis understands that. The movie's opening is the same shot as the trailer and it establishes the look of the movie extremely quickly. Few movies really allow a setting to influence a tone so quickly and so completely as Lion. The use of simplicity and the desperation to return home to this place of beauty is palpable. It is odd that when I was searching for images that I kept getting results with the wrong aspect ratio. That's such a crime because the cinematic quality to this movie partially defines it. There's a shot of Saroo running through the quarry that melts me over and over again. Well, mainly because they show that shot over and over, but it is effective! Maybe that's why the Australia section of the film lacks the artistry that India presented. Sorry, Australia, but the only really jaw dropping shot in Australia was on top of the mountain. Like, every shot in India absolutely crushes my soul. He climbs through garbage at one point and all I could think was "Yes. This." That's not a healthy attitude,but that has to do with Davis's eye for India.
Dev Patel is great. He does a solid job and I feel like I'm neglecting by not gushing about his performance. But in my mind, this has to be a competition because I'm me. That kid? That kid. Guys. That kid. Sunny Pawar. He is something. Sure, he's got the kid thing going for him, but that level of vulnerability is crushing. Again, this is my dad sense coming into play and I acknowledge that is the only reason I have a functioning soul. My kids have made me fearful for children in peril. But Sunny Pawar portrays the kid with just the right amount of understanding of what is happening. The scene in the train (The movie should have been called The Train) is one of true terror. Dev Patel didn't have as much to work with, so I guess this whole paragraph is unfair. Patel's character arc involves alienating the people around him and that is a slow burn. He doesn't have the high highs and the low lows which Pawar has to deal with in every scene. So maybe it isn't supposed to be a competition, but I do find the scenes with Pawar far more engaging. There is a bit of padding that also comes with Patel's section of film. Watching a guy being mean to those he loves because he's busy Google Mapsing things isn't the most riveting footage, but that is mercifully very short.
The best thing that I can really say about this movie is that is about the relationships. A research movie is a hard sell, but looking at how a man looks for identity in a world that seems larger than life is weirdly compelling. I don't know if it ever really is the perfect film that everyone at Villa has been telling me about, but it is very good. I can see why it didn't win Best Picture, but there is a cinematography credit that should have seen the light of day.
This movie is "Approved." Not by me. By someone else. He's probably dead. Ooooh...dark.
DIRECTOR: Henry Hathaway
Boy, oh boy. I have a really bad case of "I Don't Want to Write This." I'm not even going to pretend that it sounds like a disease because I don't want to write this. I didn't even want to watch it past the first ten minutes. I'm going to get ahead of you on this one. The movie isn't horrible. It's considered a classic and that's fine. It's just that this movie was something I powered through because it was not up my alley and now I feel responsible to write a lot on it. Yay for me, I guess?
The problem with The Desert Fox is that it is some deep-end-of-the-ocean stuff. There is no transition into Rommel's life. This is for military war buffs and NO ONE ELSE! I get it. Everyone should be into history and all of that and I'm ashamed that I'm not more into it. But this is a military movie for military strategists and golly, that does not meet me. I like war movies. Okay, I like some war movies, but those are the ones that have a human interest piece in them. What makes this movie somewhat of a crime in my mind is that Rommel's story is actually pretty interesting and I could see a movie being fascinating about him. But rather than present a through line in the story, examining Rommel's change throughout a single narrative, the movie jumps around to major moments in his campaigns and then looks at his emotional state at the moment.
For those that don't know, and I don't really find it a spoiler when talking about major moments in history, Rommel was an extremely talented field marshal for the Nazis. (Oh? You didn't know? The protagonist of this movie is a Nazi. Yup.) The guy killed hundreds of Allied forces (again, this is something that he is being admired for) under his tenure as commander or whatnot. But the emotional core of this film is the fact that he sees that Hitler is slipping and losing his mind and control of the war, so he engages in some light treason until his eventual death. If you don't know this going into the movie, I can see how this movie might be even more frustrating than what I dealt with and my mediocre reception to the movie. i know that this format works because I really enjoyed Valkyrie. The "Operation: Valkyrie" story even makes a cameo in The Desert Fox and I wanted to watch more of that. Yeah, it's weird that all these military nerds love Rommel so much considering that he slaughtered so many good people, but it is even weirder that we couldn't spend more time with Rommel as a human being. That's the story that is clearly being told. But (and this is where the movie makes me mad) every time we had some emotional tie to the character, the film cuts to a narrator and stock footage of the war going on. So months and years pass between every scene and the actual Rommel arc might only be 45 minutes long. A good portion of the movie is devoted to letting the audience know how good Rommel is as a soldier and strategist. I believed that Rommel was really good at killing good guys from the opening narration / crawl. I didn't need constant reminders that he was good at it. It's that part of Jurassic Park where they're on the tour and they can't see the unfertilized egg. I, too, wanted to break the restraints and focus on how Rommel was taking all of this information.
On top of everything, considering that Rommel was such a bigwig during the war, James Mason's Rommel is wildly passive in his own storyline. Most of the movie has people coming to him and telling him why he should rebel against Hitler and his subsequent reactions. This is probably how it happened. This movie is too military nerdy to heed the needs of a functional narrative and is slavish to the facts of history. But that doesn't make for good storytelling. He makes few choices and the only actual tension that comes from Rommel's treason is the opening scene and they Valkyrie attempt, which has nothing to actually do with Rommel. Rommel had a life. He had a wife and a kid (kids?). The filmmakers have loving interactions with these characters and we knew that he was quite close to his family, but what about all of the deliberation about the company he keeps. What about half-confessions and moral decision making? He rather simply is a passenger to all of the events around him, so who cares?
I watch a lot of British things. I'm normally of the camp that Brits don't have to do other accents when playing other characters. (Captain Jean-Luc Picard, I'm looking at you. The universal translator shouldn't make you sound British.) But the entire movie has Brits as Nazis and I had to guess that this was just to make the evil guys that we just beat in the war sound like our friends. (So why are British people always bad guys? Do you see the conundrum we've created?) James Mason is very noble and I think that's the only thing that really made him fill in for Rommel. He reacts well, but he also carries himself with a bit of British aristocracy for the movie to right true. The only German character who has a German accent is Hitler, but that's because he'd sound hilarious as a Brit. Also, everyone's got a real mean Hitler impression.
I don't know. I really like the idea of the movie that's only for nerds. But this movie just seemed blind to the fact that this movie wasn't to be for everyone. It assumed that everyone would be riveted by the details of Rommel's strategies and, let me tell you, it is kind of boring. Anyway, i would love to see a story about Rommel, despite his constant slaughter of the good guys. I just want to see it from a stronger narrative perspective.
Still rated PG, despite the fact that practically none of the new CG characters are wearing clothes. Clothes were too hard to render.
DIRECTOR: George Lucas
Yes, I put that this movie was released in 1997. If I have to write that this is a different movie (which, admittedly, I don't have to), I should put information about how this movie is noticeably different from the previous movie. It really is a happy accident that I'm writing this review on May 4th. Who knows? Maybe Weebly will find it in their digital hearts to promote something Star Wars related on Star Wars day. It worked for the Oscars, right?
The last review I did for the 1977 edition of Star Wars bemoaned how George Lucas used to be this young and hungry director, excited to change the world through film. The guy had to be a nerd. Before Star Wars, he directed another science fiction film and a film about the cars he used to like. That nerd was so eager. He had so much to say. I think this is where the break happened where that nerd grew up and George Lucas the millionaire happened. (Maybe Weebly won't post this. I'm just destroying a guy who has been destroyed hundreds of times before on his holiday. Happy birthday, George. Here's a bag of broken glass in the form of a review.) Especially starting with A New Hope, the movie just looks like a different film. I think I've mentioned Topher Grace's obsession with how editing kind of changes a film and I think that might be right. Adding scenes to a movie just feels kind of cheap. The delicate narrative that was in place before now takes a backseat to an awareness of the medium. We've been talking a lot about David Lynch in film class because one of the students has gone Twin Peaks crazy. Lynch understood that he didn't want the audience too comfortable with what they were watching so he intentionally pulled a Bertolt Brecht and alienated them as often as possible. While that has never been my favorite philosophy while narratives, I can respect the intention behind this. Lucas never went into Star Wars with this attitude. He wanted to make an emotionally vulnerable movie that seems muddled and lost in CG soup. Every time I watch the Han Solo / Jabba scene, I look to see how jarring the moment is. The landspeeder in Mos Eisley looks like it is an afterthought to the circus that is going on. If he could achieve these moments in '77, we would have lost focus on our characters.
I'm going through the old films in an attempt to watch the "Machete Cut". (I don't know when I'm going to watch my copy of Rogue One.) I got the saga for my birthday and I hate owning things that I haven't watched my copy of. I'm aware of the sadness that is my life. You need not remind me. The best thing about this is the copy of the print. I didn't think that the difference between my DVDs and the Blu-ray would matter, but it kind of really does. This seems childish and stupid, but the color black is where my jaw drops. (I hear it too! I know. I'm sorry I care. Geez.) On the old DVD transfers, there's the infamous square around TIE fighters that was never seen on a low-res print. DVD was the weird place where the print was good enough that you could see the faults in the special effects, but not so high def that you could really do anything about it. Blu-ray kind of changed that. The space scenes are very impressive and I love watching something that feels real. I don't mean to get back on my old anti-CG horse (He's a very old and beaten horse that eats real carrots), but I compare the (admittedly cool) sequence from the beginning of Revenge of the Sith to even the simple TIE fighter vs. Millennium Falcon sequence of A New Hope. It is very simple, but it is nerve wracking. Yes, the scene in Revenge of the Sith might be my favorite sequence in a movie I don't really care for, but I also acknowledge that there's nothing scary about it. I don't know what it is. Perhaps it is the level of disaster that I've seen in every blockbuster movie for the past generation that has made me numb, but watching models fly by seems weirdly more engaging. Yeah, yeah. I would use CG too if I got to film a movie, but I've never denied that I'm a hypocrite.
I had fun watching this one again. The same beats are still in there and, while the CG definitely distracts from the main plot, the root emotions are there. I choose not to Google how many adjustments have been made to this film since 1997 because that's just going to depress me. The gunfire in Mos Eisley between Greedo and Han looked nearly simultaneous. I know it doesn't make it better, but it is still weird how Greedo misses at point blank range. Han Solo still seems cool, but he isn't as scary. (You know? How you always thought of Han Solo as scary? No? Okay.) I guess I'm becoming more and more of a Star Wars guy because of these movies. I loved having my kids cuddle up with me and watch these on my day off. Part of experiencing these movies, I guess, is just accepting that this is the way it is now. There are far more evils in the world and I would never dare to tell my kids how my versions were better when I was a kid. That is the dark side of nerddom, making others feel bad about what they like. I have the original prints on Laserdisc (cool!) and when they're teenagers, I might show it to them. For all I know, they might hate Star Wars by the time they could become film snobs. But I do admire what these movies do for my son. He gets scared at everything because he's three. But you know what he loves? Star Wars. That might disappear in a year, but I wanted him to see A New Hope because the first one isn't depressing and it is a great adventure story.
Okay, I distracted him during the dianoga scene. But could you blame me for avoiding trash monster nightmares?
TV-MA. Why doesn't the MPAA give a rating to Netflix movies? Wait! Do I want the MPAA to get their filthy paws over something else? Never mind. TV-MA is fine.
DIRECTOR: Joe Swanberg
The worst thing I can do is catch up on my reviews. I then watch one movie and think, "Gee, I only have one movie review to do. I can wait." Five movies later.
I watched this during Spring Break as one of the first films of the warm weather. I set up the garage and had family over and we could all agree that this movie would meet the needs of everyone. After all, Jake Johnson is charming and my wife would leave me for him in a heartbeat. She might deny it, but I know she'd be a liar. I like him too, but I was hoping for something with a little more grit. So Win It All has the distinction of filling my wife's rom com needs as well as my need for human drama and ripping apart of people's souls.
At the end of the day, this is a story of addiction. The fact that it is a gambling addiction doesn't alter from the fact that Eddie has an addictive personality. Sorry to all of the Eddies out there, but Eddie just sounds like a person with an addictive personality. It's a bit on the nose. I know that Jake Johnson wrote the script as well and he definitely nails the concept of what reality around addiction must be like. I applaud the fact that he rarely relies on caricatures to tell his story. Eddie's life is terrible, but not unreasonably so. Eddie makes remarkably stupid choices, but those stupid choices come in scenarios that kind of make sense. But the most interesting aspect about this look at addiction is the fact that his road to redemption is not one that I see in Trainspotting, with people clawing at walls and climbing into toilets. Rather, people look at him like he's an idiot, but a good-natured idiot who honestly wants to repent. I really love the way this movie takes a turn. The moment that Eddie begins looking for redemption, we all thought we knew what direction this movie was going to take. We thought we were going to go through a series of scenes where we thought rock bottom wasn't really rock bottom. But no.
Eddie's low point is very human. Sure, the situation is larger than life. No one hands an addict that amount of money and says "Don't look at it." But his situation of making a small moment spiral out of control is very telling about the nature of addiction. Eddie did something that he knew was dumb on a small scale and it got away from him quickly. It was at a moment that he thought he was in charge and in control. This is what makes the ending so appropriately frustrating. There was no right answer when it came to Eddie getting out of this problem. SPOILERS BECAUSE I KINDA HAVE TO: Eddie's choice to gamble away a lot of money in a high stakes game and all of the sudden win felt cheap and perfect at the same time. Perhaps it was in Johnson's performance or the direction, but there is a turn where Eddie seems free of his addiction. Those aren't the right words. He will never be free of it, but he will move on from it. The heart attack may seem out of left field, but it also seems like a clean reset button on his life. He needed some physical verification of his change in personality. We could look at that moment as the death of the addict and the rebirth as the family man. As part of that, the movie really ends on a dead stop, forcing the viewer to wonder if he had really changed at all. Yet, and this might be all on me, I am convinced of his redemption. I seem hypocritical because I hate when someone does evil to achieve a greater good. But Eddie took what he knew. That moment seemed sacrificial to him. He stooped below himself to gamble in that moment and the devil returned in full force. We catch a glimpse of that evil in him, when he tries to gamble more than he needs. That is the nature of addiction and that is what the film is portraying. I kind of love it.
The love story is great, but it also is a bit confusing in the long run. Eva gives conflicting information and I find it ridiculous that she really is enamored with Eddie. (Bee-tee-dubs, I really hope I have the right name on this one. There isn't a ton of information online and I'm dropping names like I know who they are.) She meets these three drunk guys who are putting on an obvious show and that's cool with her? Also, I feel like there was a backstory that was dropped overall. It is somewhat of that Hollywood fantasy of a very attractive, put together person would be completely smitten by a schlub because he's funny once in a while. I don't really buy the relationship, but I'm sure my wife does because she's a doctor and finds Nick Miller adorable. Anyway...
This movie has got an amazing cast and I love how Netflix is promoting it as a Keegan Michael-Key movie. Let's establish: he is great in this. Considering that this is a dramedy, he walks that tightrope beautifully. He has very funny lines and perfect delivery. He also really gets the tone of the whole thing and never takes it outside the bounds of reality. He is someone who is genuinely funny in real life. There was one speech of his that kind of rang false, but it didn't really crush his character or the movie. I'm talking about the "repeat after me" speech. It went on just too long and felt like it was included for laughs or catharsis at times and I don't know if I really got that at all. The other actor, who is wildly ignored in publicity, is Joe Lo Truglio. I'm becoming such a big fan of his. Yes, I like The State, but when Lo Truglio shows up in a film, I know his performance is going to be solid. Like Keegan Michael-Key, he understands the delicate balance this film gives off. He's also in an unenviable position of having to make a stock character extremely rounded. We've seen the older, more successful brother taking care of a deadbeat loser and we know how that is supposed to go. Adam Scott did a phenomenal job mocking that character in Step Brothers. But Lo Truglio gives a performance where the character does his best in a crappy situation. Sometimes he is a bit too generous when he should be more guarded. Sometimes he is too harsh when Eddie need sympathy. But that is reality and I love that. His best intentions help Eddie when he needs it; it just goes slower than it should sometimes.
The movie is extremely solid, but I don't know if I'll ever explore it again. It is a fascinating look at gambling and the direction mixed with the performances deliver a nuanced look into this world.
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.