I’m Back

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After much travelling and adventuring, I am back. I’m working at the bookstore and trying to find a better paying job. There will be down time. So, I’ve decided to come back to you all. Posts will follow. I’m actually thinking of doing a very large multi-part segment feature numerous movie recommendations as I am quite broke and won’t be getting to the cinema much.

So look out for that. Thanks.

Film Review : Spotlight (2015)

IMDB Score – 8.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 97%
Metacritic Score – 93/100

Directed By – Tom McCarthy
Starring – Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d’Arcy James, Neal Huff, and Billy Crudup

The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was sitting in my Intro to Journalism class with excitement in my bones because I had finally gotten to the point where I was going to learn how to become something I’ve wanted to become since I was a kid, a journalist. Well, thanks to the very mediocre standards at a particular country college in New Jersey, that dream was, and still is, put on hold. Frankly, I wasn’t a big fan of newspaper journalism. I didn’t care about what was said in the town meeting this weekend because it most likely involved Mrs. Phelp’s rose bush and how she couldn’t expand it due to the stupid creek next to her house which should be filled up. I don’t care about Mrs. Phelps. I wanted and still want to be a conflict journalist. The real dream is travel the world and report on stories that aren’t so readily available to be told. Stories that Vice started to do before they started writing articles on what food is the best before anal sex. I wanted to expose crime and change how people saw the world. This would entail exposing the world as a dark evil place filled with criminals, but at least the rosey colored glasses would be puled back a bit. That dream has been put on hold while I try figure out my life in more immediate ways. That doesn’t however keep me from planning such adventures. They’re still present in my mind. They came back up to the surface in a big way after finishing Tom McCarthy’s 2015 film that thankfully doesn’t star Adam Sandler, Spotlight.

You read the synopsis at the top. You read the newspapers ten years ago. The Catholic Church is fucked up. Like, REALLY REALLY fucked up. My interest in this film was tied to the journalism aspect as I described in the first paragraph, but I also wanted to see how a major market film would handle this kind of subject matter. I turned out to be very pleased with how they decided to do it.

Spotlight is basically This century’s “All the Presidents Men”. Yes, I’m aware that this observation has been realized and written down by probably every single person who has ever talked about this film this year. It does however ring true. McCarthy decided to stay close to the procedural side of telling this story and skip all the shiny dressings that usually accompanies a salad like this. With Spotlight, you have just basic ingredients, except these ingredients are made with extreme care and focus. Gone are the things like romantic ties between main characters. Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton don’t have a secret love fling. Swirling orchestral music isn’t harpooned at us whenever something emotional or powerful happens. The film lets us do all the work when it comes down to feelings and it’s to the films credit that by the end, my gut has been falcon punched into infinity. The film stands for itself and that’s really what I loved about it. The camera work wasn’t flashy but you can really notice it in small movements during pivotal scenes toward the end. McCarthy didn’t paint a new and unheard of masterpiece with his camera, rather he decided to hunker down and make every damn shot and cut count. It’s a reason why the film got nominated for editing, director, and screenplay. Those three things are what make this film special to me. It’s a technically perfect film as far as pace and tone goes, especially with the dark subject matter. It would almost be insulting to try to throw in cheesy love triangles when talking about something as serious as the rape of A LOT OF KIDS BY PRIESTS.

Speaking of subject matter, uhhhh yeah, it’s pretty horrible. The interviews with the victims and in one case, one of the men responsible, were done extremely well. McAdams does her best work here. I’m honestly a little perplexed why she got nominated for this role as I thought that Charlize Theron was phenomenal in Mad Max, but it’s not like McAdams was in any way bad. It wasn’t special to me. Mark Ruffalo however deserved his nomination. The dude killed it like he usually does. Keaton and the rest of the cast were perfect in their roles and you can’t really go wrong with casting Stanley Tucci in anything. The cast were perfect in their handling of such dark and disturbing subject matter. They were just as invested in their roles as the journalists they were portraying were in theirs.

The film is nominated for Best Picture and honestly, I wouldn’t be upset if it won. It’s not a special effects marvel like The Revenant or Mad Max, but it does what it does perfectly and that is tell the story of one of the biggest scandals of the last couple hundred years. It’s a haunting film that stuck with me for a while after I saw it and will hopefully shed a little more light on the church. My journalism path may be on hold, but I’m happy there was a film this year dedicated to the craft of reporting stories that aren’t getting any light.

4.5/5



Film Review : Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

IMDB SCORE – 7.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 82%
Metacritic Score – 74/100

Directed By – Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Starring – Thomas Mann, Olivia Cook, RJ Cyler, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal, and Katherine Hughes

High schooler Greg, who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl, finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer.

Haven’t we seen this movie like ten times in the last couple years? Coming of age film about a couple high school kids and, *gasp*, one of them has cancer and is dying. Honestly, I didn’t care that the film was about this kind of subject matter. What I care about is can the film take such a common theme and do something different. I wanted an emotional punch but I wanted the hit to come from a different angle instead of dangling it in front of me and then predictably going right for the gut. I first heard about the film when it won the Jury Grand Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. I’ve pretty much loved every single jury prize winner so that alone was enough to get me to watch this. I’ve been busy as hell since the beginning of the summer, so I finally got a chance to sit down and give this a view and I’ll be damned if the movie didn’t deliver a blowout blind shot that I didn’t see coming.

The film started out pretty standard. High school kids with more wit than a Monty Python sketch going to a high school that would never exist in this country…ever. If I had any problems with the film it was the few details such as this that irked me a bit. The high school was too surreal and played up. It really seemed like a high school out of a novel instead of a realistic depiction of what those years are like for kids. The overall tone of the film however did not come off fake and forced. This is mostly due to the stellar acting from the three leads, especially Mann and Cook. Olivia Cook played a dying girl better than anybody who has tried in Hollywood over the last decade and the emotional punches came from scenes that she was in. That isn’t to say that Mann didn’t deliver either. The scene where he talks about his regrets was especially moving and wonderfully well acted. RJ Cyler is a natural and the cameo parents and teachers were an added bonus. You really can’t go wrong making Nick Offerman your weird dad.

The direction and cinematography was top notch as well. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon isn’t really a well known name but I can see him being an indie favorite for a long time after this. He had help. The biggest surprise on the credits went to seeing Chung-hoon Chung as the films DP. Best known for filming pretty much everything Park Chan Wook has done, his presence was felt throughout the film with these unique filming angles that call back to films such as Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.

The score of the film was also fantastic. The film took a rollercoaster right to the heart in the last 20 minutes of the movie and two pivotal scenes were punctuated by excellent song choices in “Remember Me as the Time of Day” by Explosions in the Sky and “The Big Ship” by Brian Eno. Both songs are filled with emotion and they just drove the power and emotion of the two scenes right home. It’s honestly a big reason why the film is sticking with me so much. It kind of reminds me of the end of I, Origins where music and cinematography can just send a film over the top for me. That, and the cast has to hit it out of the park, which they certainly did in this film.

There you have it. Sundance has spoken again. As mentioned before, the only real negatives of the film was some of the unrealistic and over inflated depictions of high school and some definite “I only wrote this to be unique” style dialogue. It didn’t distract though. I loved the film.

4.5/5




Film Review : Sicario (2015)

IMDB Score – 8.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 93%

Directed By – Denis Villenuvue
Starring – Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Victor Garber, Jon Berntha, Daniel Kaluuya, Jeffery Donovan, Maximiliano Hernández, and Julio Cedillo

An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.

I’m back. No explanation needed. I’m back.

I’m confronted with an interesting question after today. Who is the best working director in the present time? Before this morning, the answer was simple, Paul Thomas Anderson. How could it not be him? The Master? Masterpiece. There Will Be Blood? Masterpiece. I have Inherent Vice coming into my mailbox for a second viewing tomorrow, but after the first viewing, it seems his latest effort has fallen short of such previous accolades. What other directors deserve such mention? Well, if Shane Carruth could put out more than one film every eight years I’d say he deserves mention. The Coen brothers have been as consistent as anybody working today but it’s that consistency that seems to prevent them from pushing themselves to the top in my opinion. I’m a man of change, a man of ever evolving interests and I need a director that encompasses such a viewpoint. Insert Denis Villenueve. Like Paul Thomas Anderson, Villenuve has a very broad and diverse resume of films. He’s covered psychological thrillers with Enemy, drama with Prisoners and Incendies, and even the art house quiet film that is Maelstrom. Let me get this out of the way, Incendies is one of my favorite films of all time. It slays me, every time. I’ve been hooked to Villenuve ever since he opened Incendies with a close up shot of a middle eastern child soldier set to Radiohead’s “You and Whose Army”. Prisoners was haunting. Enemy was baffling. Now, he comes along with a film like Sicario and I’m left puzzling over whether this auteur from Canada could really be my favorite working director I still don’t have a clear answer, but honestly, right now, I think I have a feeling. Denis Villenuve may just have beat out PTA for the top spot in my highly coveted favorite director position. It’s an honor both earned, and deserved. Let us talk about his latest film…Sicario.

Has a film started out with such a bang before?

Jesus. What a way to open a film.

The thought of a SWAT team operation is reserved for the pivotal action set piece in most films and here we have Villenuvue opening his film with a full on tactical assault on a house in what seems to be Walter Whites neighborhood. What follows is nothing short of horror. I’m sitting in my chair, nails deep in my arm rests and it’s only been fifteen minutes into the film. I know what I’m dealing with and I know what is at stake.

I live in New Jersey. That is a far ways away from Mexico. I don’t really understand what it is like living next to such a country. I mean, I live next to New York. I’ve walked those streets. Never have I felt like I was in any danger. Mexico? That’s another world altogether. I can’t even imagine living in Juarez if it’s anything like how it’s portrayed in this film. It is hell on Earth, a warzone dolled up like a functioning city. In a way, this was the most shocking part of this film, that such a place can exist.

Villenueve knows what the fuck he is doing. This story is actually kind of simple. You take a cop from a Kidnapping division and insert her into a big boy league narcotics assault division. These people know how to get results. They laugh at fear. An average director would take such a premise and throw glitter at it, add a couple CGI action scenes and call it a day. Not Villneuve. There isn’t a single scene in this film that doesn’t reek with the smell of dread. The opening sequences only set a precedent that is carried out throughout the duration of the film. This is life. This is Juarez. Get used used to it. I was blown away by the rawness and overall bleak nature that Villenuve showed us in nearly every scene. Sure there were some scenes of humor, like the shot of Josh Brolin sitting in a meeting room wearing sandals as if they weren’t talking about a psychotic drug lord, but rather who was going to bring the potato salad to the company picnic. These moments are always snuffed out though with a musical score that reminds the viewer…hey, this is real shit. This isn’t some run of the mill TV episode about how the drug trade is supposed to work. This is why I love Villenueve. He doesn’t sugar coat anything. He doesn’t hold back when you think they should. He has close ups of rotting dead corpses. The has lingering shots of bodies hanging from Juarez overpasses. If the general tone is supposed to be horrific and uneasy, he’s going to show you. It’s reason why this film sticks out over the rest. It’s a raw hellride of momentous proportion.

Jesus, I haven’t even mentioned the acting. I’m not a big defender on the importance of awards season, but if Benicio Del Tori and Emily Blunt don’t get recognition for their roles in this film then there is something rotten in the state of Denmark if you know what I mean. Blunt carries the film for the most part with an absolutely dedicated and harrowing performance. She does this however, knowing, that this really isn’t her film. She isn’t really the main character in my opinion. Sure she gets the most screen time and fully takes advantage of this by giving a career performance, but this sin’t her film.

This is Benicio Del Toro’s film.

We’ve all seen what this man can do. He’s a virtuoso. A chameleon. His performance in this film only goes to show he’s one of the mot underrated actors working in Hollywood today. Del Toro SLAYS this role. His importance to the mission within the film is questioned throughout the run time but only towards the end do we know why his character is so important to the film and this is where Del Toro really shines as a menacing force. Every time he’s on screen I reel back with anticipation on what he’s going to do next. Even when he’s in a situation where the action should be the main player, he’s taking over the scene with his presence. By the end, you don’t know whether he’s somebody you should root for or somebody you should root against, and he plays this uncertainty brilliantly. He shines.

Cudos to my man Roger Deakins. I mean, I really don’t have to say that. He’s a master of his craft and only proves so again with his gorgeous cinematography. This film is all over the spectrum visually with scenes coming at night when the horizon is open with a Mexican sky unlike any other. His night vision and thermal camera scenes are perfect and engaging. Villenuve and Deakins team up to provide what is easily the most intense and “on the edge of your seat” harrowing extraction scene through Juarez that holds up to any action scene in recent history. I can’t stress that enough. From the moment they left in their caravan til the moment they arrived back at the base, I was enthralled. It’s easily one of the most adrenaline fueled scenes in recent memory for me. I loved it. I had to catch my breath at the end of it.

I just can’t say enough about this film. It’s a raw and brutal telling about the Mexican drug trade and doesn’t shy away from showing what horror such a business can show. The camera work, acting, musical score, and story pacing are top of their game good and I’m literally drooling at the chance to see this again. I’ve been a big fan of Denis Villenuve for years now and he never ceases to let me down. With all the “action” films released this year, besides Mad Max, this is your chance to see a film that not only provides top of its class action, but also a story and visual presence that will linger and make you think long after the credits roll. It’s my film of the year so far.

5/5




Film Review : Inside Out (2015)

IMDB Score – 8.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 98%
Metacritic Score – 94/100

Directed By – Pete Doctor
Starring – Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, and Kaitlyn Dias

After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school.

I’m back. It’s been a few weeks since my last review. I’ve been busy with work and trying to get rid of this flat tire I have for a stomach. Work and gym can take up a large portion of your day. I finally got out to the theater since the debacle that was Jurassic World. Ant Man and Trainwreck should be following this shortly, but first I had to get out to see something I’ve been waiting for a long time to see…PIXAR BACK IN FORM!

I’ll start this by saying that I have not seen Cars 2 or Brave. I hated the first Cars movie and I just haven’t gotten around to seeing Brave. I will say however that it has been a long time since we got the four film streak of Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, and Toy Story 3. I missed those days. Finally an original idea comes back into our minds with the help of the wonder animators over at Pixar. It has to do with the brain. It has awesome voice actors I love. I’m in. I’m ready. Let’s get to this.

I have to comment on the short that preceded the film first. Guys, it was nice. I know a lot of people are REALLY digging it, my friend who saw the movie with me included, but I don’t see the huge deal. The short is about a volcano out in the ocean and how he would like a lady volcano to do whatever it is volcanoes are supposed to do when they have feelings and presumably sex organs. The whole thing is sung in a Hawaiian ukulele song by the who main characters. It was nice. I didn’t really get emotional like other people did because it was a simple story that got dark but you just KNEW it was going to get happy again. It. was. nice. Moving on…

I loved the film. There is a certain point that the great films by Pixar reach where it is hard to rank them as to which one is your favorite. I feel, on a first viewing, that Inside Out can join those rankings. I’m talking about Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall-E, and The Incredibles status. They took a fresh idea and built this fully functioning world that not only came off believable, but sucked you into the film by connecting so deeply through emotion. I mean, that’s what this whole film is about right? Emotions? Inside Out takes emotions and highlights just how powerful and important they can be in our life. I’ve always held the idea that you need to be in tune with all of your emotions to be a balanced person and this film just took that idea and ran with it.

If for some reason you haven’t seen the previews…here’s the premise. Riley is a 12 year old girl living with her parents in Minnesota. Inside her head is a vast network of “things” that help work Riley’s brain. The key five figures in this world are her basic emotions Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and disgust. They control how Riley feels throughout her life in their little headquarters. Riley has to move to California and that act sets in motion a series of events that cause Joy and Sadness to have to work together to figure out how to save this little girl from turning into an emotionless teenager we have all seen on Law and Order SVU.

That’s some deep shit. I don’t even know of kids are supposed to GET all of that stuff. I mean, there are plenty of adults, myself included, that have no grasp of how their emotions work. Asking kids to understand these deep philosophical and neurological ideas was a task that Pixar subsequently fucking nailed. NAILED.

The script was able to balance the line between showing us what was going on inside Riley’s head and what was going on outside of her head perfectly. It was never confusing and it was always concise and fluent. I can’t say enough about the script really. It’s kind of flawless. The only thing I can say is that my favorite character Bing Bong happens to be a recycled Toy Story-esque character who has been forgotten after the child they love has grown up. It still didn’t prevent Bing Bong from being my favorite character. I won’t even explain Bing Bong cause I had no idea he was in the movie until I saw it and the fucking cotton candy elephant knocked me on my ass.

Speaking of that, Pixar has once again proven that it can handle some SERIOUS emotional circumstances with grace and without coming off too heavy handed. Scenes in this film are just as emotionally powerful as the beginning of UP, the end of Finding Nemo, and of course “THAT” scene in Toy Story 3. Especially with Bing Bong. Oh, Bing Bong. I love you so.

The film just tackled growing up so damn well. You don’t know how to feel. You want what you had when you were a kid and full of joy. Things start going in the other direction and sadness all of a sudden has a bigger role to play in your life. Kids have to be able to learn how to deal with sadness and realize that it’s a perfectly normal and important part of life and Inside Out delivered that message beautifully. The thing I love most about the film though is that there were no real heroic acts of triumph or superheros overcoming a villain. There was no villain in this film. Not even a hint of one. This allows kids to be able to get the true meaning of the film which is that you’re not always going to succeed in life. There is going to be sadness and things will change but if you try your best to go with that wave of life then you should be able to come out okay. I thought it was a much better film than say Wreck It Ralph which has similar vibes but ultimately fizzles out by the end.

Did I mention the film is also hilarious? I did forget that. There was a goddamn Chinatown reference in this. CHINATOWN REFERENCE. I loved it. The voice acting was top notch from Poehler Black, and Smith and the world building made me wish the film were four hours long. I could spend all day with the memory janitors. Hysterical.

See the film. It’s a return to top form for Pixar and a serious look at how our emotions shape and change our lives. It’s a great film for kids going through such changes or parents who have a kids going through those changes. Maybe you’re just like me and got all teary eyed because it reminded me of how I went through that period of my life and how I’m handling THIS one. Great job Pixar.

5/5