Sunday, November 27, 2016

Loving [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB () (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Loving [2016] (written and directed by Jeff Nichols [wikip] [IMDb]) is a lovely, unpretentious picture about a quiet couple of rural Virginia introverts who nonetheless helped change history.

Mildred (played by Ruth Negga) and Richard (played by Joel Edgarton) Loving were born and grew-up in a part of rural Virginia so marginalized / so far "from the beaten path" that they honestly did not "see color."  Blacks and whites, all poor, mixed also with long departed (expelled / wiped out) Native Americans, lived (and loved) side-by-side in / around their hamlet of Central Point in Caroline County, Virginia since basically forever.  Honestly, the only "crime" that two committed was that they decided to try to make their union official -- a Marriage.  And that then caused them their grief.

For at the time, 1958, it was illegal for a couple of differing races to marry in the State of Virginia.  Yes, up until the Civil Rights Era, Virginia and the rest of the Jim Crow South had its OWN versions of the Nazi Era Nuremberg Laws / South African Apartheid Laws -- in Virginia the statute at issue was its Racial Integrity Act of 1924 which criminalized the marriage of a white person with a person of color.

So to get Married, the two had to go North to Washington, D.C. to do so.  They then returned to their home in Central Point, VA to continue their lives, believing themselves to be now married, only to have their home raided by the Country Sheriff and their men (at 2 AM) and arrested for violating said Virginia "Racial Integrity" statute.  FACING JAIL TIME (mind you Mildred was pregnant), their lawyer pled them a deal: In return for pleading GUILTY to violating the statute forbidding inter-racial marriage, their SENTENCE was suspended ON THE CONDITION THAT THEY LEAVE THE STATE AND NOT RETURN FOR 25 YEARS, if they returned, they'd have to serve time in prison.

The two moved out a cousin of Mildred's who lived in Washington, D.C.  But being country folks, living in the city was never a good fit for them and they did pine to return.  After the famous Civil Rights March on Washington in 1963, Mildred wrote then President Kennedy's brother Robert Kennedy, then Attorney General, for help.  He referred her letter to the ACLU which then contacted Mildred and Robert to take-up their case.  The rest of the film takes it from there ...

Among the "textural aspects" that this film gets right is its presentation of the relationship between the Lovings and the young, enthusiastic, perhaps still necessarily naive lawyers Bernie Cohen and Phil Hirschkop (played respectively by Nick Kroll and Jon Bass) from the ACLU who represented them.  The two lawyers saw themselves as Fighting Injustice (which they were) and Making History (which they ended up doing).  But Mildred and Richard Loving just wanted ... to go home.

Honestly, a lovely, understated film about a truly momentous moment in the struggle for Racial Equality in this country shown ... truly "with feet on the ground."

Great job folks, great job!

 << NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Rules Don't Apply [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (L) (3 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Rules Don't Apply [2016] (screenplay and directed by Warren Beatty, story by Warren Beatty and Bo Goldman) may be a film "more for our times" than director Beatty and the rest of Hollywood ever would have thought.  With the country having apparently chosen to give the country back to obscenely rich, eccentric (and all but unaccountable) old white men, a film about the utterly bizarre (and _controlling_) billionaire Howard Hughes gives us a taste for what we're in for.

The film's actually about two "little people" who find themselves as trapped by Hughes' power / money as a couple of insects mesmerized by a gas lantern at night.  One was Marla Mabrey (played by Lily Collins)  who arrived wide-eyed to Hollywood along with her less trusting Baptist mother (played wonderfully by Annette Bening) at the beginning of the story, having been hired as a "contract actress" for Howard Hughes' RKO Studio after being crowned "Apple Blossom Queen" in some sort of a talent / beauty competition back home in rural Virginia.  The second was Frank Forbes (played by Alden Ehrenreich) about Marla's age, a young / good honest Methodist boy from Fresno (again basically rural) California who had just landed a job with Hughes' studio "as a driver" (though it was clear that he considered this job as "getting his foot in the door" of Hughes' Corporation, akin to getting a job "in the mail room" at a big bank / corporation "out East").  Driving Marla and her mother to the Cage, er Hollywood Mansion, where they'd be staying ... alone ... was Frank's very first assignment on his very first day "on the job" ...

It was clear that both Marla and Frank had ambitions.  Both were willing to work hard and arrived in Hollywood quite wide-eyed / optimistic.  What becomes clear ... and this honestly offers a really frightening insight into what we can come to expect (again) in the coming years in this country ... is that their WIDE-EYED OPTIMISM / WILLINGNESS TO WORK HARD _DIDN'T MATTER_.  The ONLY thing that seemed to matter was what Howard Hughes (played wonderfully in ever smiling but eccentric / paranoid / megalomaniacal... fashion by Warren Beatty himself) wanted.  And Howard Hughes, a BILLIONAIRE, _didn't_ "feel the need" ... to do much... ;-/.

Soooo ... we Viewers come to see honestly to our HORROR that Howard Hughes apparently had DOZENS of "contract actresses" who he'd _house_ (and pay) ACTUALLY QUITE WELL -- again Marla (and her mother) were handed A MANSION for their living quarters -- BUT were LITERALLY kept as "kept women" ... "a harem" ... with NOTHING TO DO.  Yes, they were all "hired" / brought to Hollywood as "contract actresses" BUT ... Howard Hughes, disorganized as he was (disorganized because HE WAS NUTS...), REALLY HAD NO WORK FOR THEM.

Did he at least sleep with them?  No, not really ... he apparently was too disorganized for much of that as well.  Did he at least let them get it on with others?  NO.  He had his managers enforce a sadistic "no tolerance for fraternization" rule between the "contract actresses" and their "drivers" (the only people they'd ever really see), the drivers effectively becoming "the eunuchs" in this insane equation.

And that's how the "land of Howard Hughes" seemed to run ... on one man's insane genius.  And he seemed too rich / powerful for ANYONE of his other employees / managers to tell him the truth ... that he was crazy ... lest, of course, they'd be fired.

Could this go on forever?  Well ... go see the film ... And if you find this whole story frighteningly familiar ... well Life does imitate Art sometimes.

So dear friends, welcome (perhaps) "Back to the Future" ... honestly a great if frightening film about what _may_ come to us ... again.

 << NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Allied [2016]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L) (4 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (P. Sobczynski) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Allied [2016] (directed by Robert Zemeckis, screenplay by Steven Knight) is an EXCELLENT 1940s / World War II "period piece" MADE IN THE STYLE of 1940s "High Romance / High Drama" film-making -- heck the first third of the movie even takes place in Casablanca ;-) -- this is a film for film lovers ;-).

Starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, he a Canadian intelligence officer, she apparently a French resistance fighter who escaped to Morocco from Paris, the two meet and fall in love in Casablanca on a mission to assassinate the German ambassador there.   Much quite and necessarily melo(dramatic) ensues ...

I don't want to say much more.   I do think a little of the "timeline" in the film is a little "off" as I don't think that the Germans were still launching full-on Bombing Raids on London in 1943.  Lobbing V-1s and later shooting V-2s, yes.  But I don't think that they were sending in the bombers by then.  But what's a mistake or two with historical facts when High Love and Romance is at stake.

Honestly, utter catnip for an Oscar Nomination or two (Best Actor / Actress) ... or three, four or five (Best Director, Screenplay and Film) ... and certainly pleasant to watch ... if at times through the tears ;-)

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Moana [2016]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-II) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review

Moana [2016] (co-directed by Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker and Chris Williams, screenplay by Jared Bush, story by Ron Clements, John Musker, Chris Williams, Don Hall, Pamela Ribon, Aaron Kandell and Jordan Kandell) is a cute, positive and arguably empowering Disney animated feature, that nevertheless would probably cause some initial (and even some  lingering) concern for a fair number of Catholic / Christian parents.  Yet as with all challenges, IMHO it becomes an invitation for Parents and their Families to deepen their understanding of their own Faith, even as as they interact with greater knowledge with their friends and neighbors who may well be of differing Faiths and Cultural traditions.

The story here tells that of a Polynesian Princess heroine named Moana (voiced by Auli'i Cravalho) who is  "Chosen by the Ocean" to "Restore the Original Order of Things" / "Save her People" and it is told from the perspective of the Polynesian Culture from which the story originates.

As such, right at the beginning of the film, Viewers are presented a non-Biblical (Polynesian-inspired) Creation story -- explaining (1) how things began (the Creation of the World as the Sea-Faring Polynesian People knew it) and (2) why things came to be the way they were (how if not Sin then at least Decay entered into the World...).  The introduction sets-up and informs the rest of the story.

At this point Christian Parents could find themselves somewhat challenged as to how to put this story into the context of the Christian Faith that they are trying to teach their kids.  Not only is the Polynesian Creation story rather (but not completely) different from those encountered in the first chapters of Genesis, but the Polynesian Creation story also has different characters:

In the Polynesian inspired Creation story presented: In the Beginning, when the world was but Ocean, it was the Goddess Te Fiti who Brought Life into the World, and then a Demigod named Maui (voiced in the film by Dwayne Johnson) pulled Islands out of the Ocean with his Fishhook on which People could live.     

Christian parents can be reminded here that the very first verse of the Bible begins with: "In the Beginning, when the Earth had no form, God's spirit breathed upon the Waters, and God said ..." (Genesis 1:1-2).  Later that God "made a dome to separate the 'Waters above' from those 'below' and called 'the Waters above Sky" (Genesis 1:6-8) and afterwards, "on the third day", God ordered collected "the Waters below into a single basin to make dry land appear, calling the Land  'Earth' and the Waters 'Sea.'" (Genesis 1:9-10).

I mention this to remind Readers here that the Polynesian inspired Creation story presented in this film is _not_ entirely unlike that of the Biblical one, each inspired, in good part, on the Experiences of the Cultures that invented them.  But I would continue then to _underline_ that there is certainly MORE being SAID in the Biblical Creation story (as probably in the Polynesian one) than simply presenting a "Flow Chart" for the Creation of the World.

This is because the Catholic Church, while appreciating, even Glorying in, the beautiful Symbolic Language of the first chapters of Genesis -- The First Chapter of Genesis is proclaimed in its Entirety as the First Reading at the Easter Vigil each year -- nonetheless considers their "Spirit" (their underlying Theology) more important than the "dead letter" of the Words [cf CCC #390].  What has been understood to be be the "underlying Theology" of the first chapter of Genesis?  That: (1) God Exists, (2) God Created Everything, (3) God Created Everything IN A PURPOSEFUL MANNER and WITH A PURPOSE IN MIND.  Indeed, the structure of the Genesis 1 account appears to be similar and arguably _a response to_ the Babylonian Creation account, the Enuma Elish, which had the world created as an "accidental result" of a "Cosmic War" (basically each time a Babylonian God or Goddess died in the course of the Cosmic Battle, something sprouted out of the Corpse...).  As such, at its core, the Biblical proclamation with regards to the Universe (All That Is) is that the Universe has a God-ordained Purpose / Meaning.  This would distinguish it from any number of other Creation stories interested in simply explaining "how things came to be."  

Further, while it _indeed_ "could be fun" for a Catholic / Christian family to compare Moana, the princess heroine in this film, TO MARY (also a teenager CHOSEN to HELP SAVE THE WORLD) and "demigod" Maui to a combination of Jesus (Son of God), the Greek god Prometheus (who also sought to help people / humanity), and even Lucifer (a powerful angel who got greedy), THE KEY DIFFERENCE between THE CURRENT DISNEY STORY and the STORY OF JESUS is that while FEW / NO ONE would argue that Moana / Maui "really existed" that's EXACTLY what we Christians proclaim about Jesus, THAT HE (and his human mother, Mary) REALLY DID: "The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:14).

Yes, that is AWESOME (in the True sense of the word) -- that Jesus would "embody," indeed INCARNATE God and (all that was Written about God) in our World in himself -- but then that's again EXACTLY what what the Church has Proclaimed about Jesus for 2000 years: that "[Christ Jesus] is the image of the invisible God" [Col 1:15] and was NOT "just a story" ... separating him from any number of other stories about other mythological, legendary or story-book heroes ... like the ones here in this film.

Anyway, "with all that in mind" ;-) ;-) ... enjoy the story here ;-).  It is really cute.  Little kids will _really like_ "the coconut people" ;-).

But please don't let this story (or others like it) "bring down your faith."

Jesus / Our Faith are in a different category ;-).  

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

AFI FEST 2016 - 2 - Crosscurrent (orig. Chang jiang tu) [2016] / Godless (orig. Bezbog) [2016] / Layla M. [2016]

Among the films that played recently at the  2016 AFI Fest here in Hollywood, I was able to see the following:

Crosscurrent (orig. Chang jiang tu ) [2016] [IMDb] [AW] (written and directed by Yang Chao [IMDb] [AW]) is a visually beautiful, heavily Buddhism inspired reflection on timelessness and change as it follows the captain of a smallish-to-midsized family owned freighter taking a somewhat questionable cargo (a load of some kind of "illegal fish") up the Yangtze River from Shanghai to destination(s) ... _somewhere_ "West."

As he's about to start The Journey, he both spots / takes-note-of a beautiful if seemingly random Young Woman on a neighboring vessel in Port and comes across a Book of Poetry (imagine that) left by someone who had made that Journey, up the Yangtze River, some time before.

He then repeatedly runs into the Young Woman on his Journey and she always seems a step or two ahead of him.  And with regards to the Book, perhaps its most interesting characteristic would be that though written by someone who took this Journey Upriver as well, it was NOT ancient, but rather simply written by a random Sailor who made the Journey "in 1985."  But this would be classic Buddhism: What's 10, 20 or even a 1,000 years if one's talking of taking a Timeless Journey (if ever carried on the CHANGING Current of Time) ;-).  And indeed even since 1985, there were some fairly MASSIVE changes in the Geography of this Journey -- the Three Gorges Dam had since been built and some of the cities (!) referred to by the anonymous sailor were either inundated completely or moved.  And yet, there was the Eternal Yangtze River, changed "somewhat" but also Flowing as ever before.

Dear Readers, this is _not_ a "fast moving film."  Indeed, some of the critics have complained about its (to them) "lack of direction."  But as both a Travelogue -- the Buddhist shrines at Digang (Digangzhen) and Pengze, Zhang Fei Temple by Yunyang (moved recently as a result of the Three Gorges Dam), and  Fengdu are highlighted -- and as a Reflection on the Flow of Time, the film's really quite Excellent ;-) -- 4 Stars

Godless (orig. Bezbog) [2016] [IMDb] [CEu] (written and directed by [CEu]) is a small, contemporary BULGARIAN film about the very traditional (orthodox) Christian themes of Conversion / Repentance and Redemption.  A young visiting "home care" nurse named Gana (Hanna, played by Irena Ivanova [IMDb] [CEu]) is introduced to Viewers as an already thoroughly "hardened by life" / cynical sort of person -- we see her "supplementing her income" by STEALING the I.D. cards of the elderly persons that she visits.  She gives the stolen I.D. cards to her boyfriend who in turn sells them to the Mob under the protection of 30-years-on corrupt local police official (hence he's "been in the trough" since BEFORE the fall of Communism) who then use the I.D. for all kinds of Identity Theft type crimes (draining bank accounts, taking out ridiculous loans in the old people's names, etc).  

Well, one of the new "old people" she's asked to start taking care of is an old, formerly jailed by the Communists, Choir Director of a small nearby Orthodox Church.  He invites her to hear his Choir, and it's THE FIRST TIME in a VERY LONG TIME that she's experienced ANYTHING so Innocent / Beautiful.  And so, yes, she starts to have a Crisis of Conscience.  Can she continue to rip-off her Elderly charges as she had so cynically / matter-of-factly done before?  And yet, she's ALSO "tied up with the mob" and so it's NOT EASY to "walk away."  Excellent, and naturally very sad film -- 3 1/2 Stars 

Layla M. [2016] [IMDb] [CEu] (directed and cowritten by Mijke de Jong [IMDb] [CEu] along with Jan Eilander [IMDb] [CEu]) is an excellent DUTCH "scared straight" style film about a young darker-skinned teenager named Layla (played with SPOT-ON teenage arrogance / naivité by Nora El Koussour [IMDb] [CEu]), the daughter of Moroccan immigrants but growing-up in Amsterdam, who despite being at least partially RIGHT about the racially inspired injustices that she and her friends / family experience, MAKES SOME TERRIBLY TRAGIC CHOICES: 

She runs off with her cute, slightly older, "knows a koranic verse or two" (but at HIS YOUNG AGE, ONLY "one or two...") / "just starting to grow a beard..." similarly young, coffee-and-milk-complected Arab-growing-up-in-Amsterdam boyfriend, who she "met online" hence UNDER THE RADAR of her already quite worried parents (They're NOT dumb, but short of locking her up, one simply _can't_ watch a kid _all the time_).  She marries him and, well, essentially _joins_ I.S.I.S. (!!) with him ... -- CHOICES that, of course, COME TO HAVE INCREDIBLY SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES.  

The genius of the film is that it PLAYS IT STRAIGHT _all the way_ through.  Viewers completely understand this young girl ... AND YET by the end of the film NO ONE, not even the young potential real-life Laylas out there would miss the film's message: Layla made some REALLY, REALLY BAD CHOICES that for which she was going to pay: There's simply no future for the wife of a probable suicide bomber.  None, except PERHAPS blowing oneself us as well, and THAT by definition ENDS one's future right then and there.  So no growing-up, no kids, no life like your parents or other family.  And if one doesn't do that ... just a REALLY LONG TIME IN JAIL (or returning to become a rest-of-one's-life burden to one's family).  Excellent film -- 4+ Stars

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

AFI Fest 2016 - 1 - Kill Me Please (Mate-me Por Favor) [2015] / Harmonium (orig. Fuchi ni tatsu) [2016] / Panamerican Machinery (orig. Maquinaria Panamericana) [2016]

Among the films that played recently at the  2016 AFI Fest here in Hollywood, I was able to see the following:

Kill Me Please (orig. Mate-me Por Favor) [2015] [IMDb] []*(written and directed by Anita Rocha da Silveira [IMDb] []*) is a campy (if still decidedly _upscale_ ...) BRAZILIAN John Hughes-like film about a group of 15 year-old girls living in an new subdivision of high-rises somewhere at the edge of Rio de Janeiro where there were RAPES/MURDERS, usually of young (often teenage) women, happening in the still existing scrublands all around.  Where were the parents?  Well, that appeared to be part of the problem.  In classic John Hughes-like fashion, they're not around.  The parents of Bia (played wonderfully by Valentina Herszage [IMDb] []*) the film's heroine are divorced and though Bia's been living nominally with her mother and increasingly creepy / disheveled older brother, ma' has a new boyfriend (presumably somewhere "in the city") and so she's NEVER AROUND as are none of the other parents (and the teenagers' school teachers / coaches play nominal presences in their lives).  So the teens, not unlike the teenagers in The Maze Runner [2014] are left pretty much to their own devices even as there are truly inexplicable things -- RAPES / MURDERS -- taking place "in the scrublands" / "bushes" ALL AROUND.

Since this is a contemporary Brazilian film, religion does play a role.  It's a somewhat goofy one, but not altogether disrespectful.  After all there were TERRIBLE THINGS happening "all around" and so the teenagers would come together to pray -- in a wildly exaggerated teen-oriented charismatic / evangelical manner.  But then, honestly, in the absence of any parents or any other credible civil authority, it became a totally reasonable response to a terribly frightening situation.

All in all, the film could make for an entry to a VERY INTERESTING film festival / series featuring young women directors focusing on the experiences of young women today.  Other entries could include The Virgin Suicides [1998] and The Bling Ring [2015] by Sofia CoppolaA Girl Walks Home Alone At Night [2014] by Iranian-American Ana Lily Amirpour, Girlhood (orig. Band de Filles) [2014] by Franchwoman Céline Sciamma and the Oscar nominated Mustang [2015] by Turkish-French director Deniz Gamze Ergüven... -- 3 Stars

Harmonium (orig. Fuchi Ni Tatsu) [2016] [IMDb] [AW] (written and directed by Kôji Fukada [IMDb] [AW]) is an Cannes En Certain Regard award winning JAPANESE psychological thriller about a recently released prisoner named Kusataro Yasaka (played spectacularly with quite / unspoken RAGE - by Tadanobu Asano [IMDb] [AW]) who after serving-out a sentence of some 10 years, decides to reenter the life of his once best friend Toshio Suzuoka (played by Kanji Furutachi [IMDb] [AW]).

For his part, Toshio has spent the last 8-10 years building his life, having taken over his (Toshio's) since deceased father's machine-shop business, gotten married to a lovely, quite innocent-proper / morally straight (Protestant Christian) wife Fumie (played again wonderfully by Mariko Tsutsui [IMDb] [AW]) and together with Fumie has come to have a cute-as-a-button 8-year-old daughter named Hutaru (played by Momone Shinokawa [IMDb] [AW]).

And yet, there, one day, at the front day of his shop, stands ... Toshio's once BFF Kusataro and ... Kusataro asks Toshio for some help.  How can Toshio refuse?  And yet ... of course ... Fumie, his wife, knows NOTHING of who this former best friend, was.  And yet (again), she's a lovely, young, humble Christian wife/mother who's been taught to trust / defer to her husband and (also) to be kind to and "help the stranger."

Of course this can't possibly go well, and (mild Spoiler Alert...) IT DOESN'T.  Still one can not but feel for the wife, Fumie, who, after all, HAS DONE EVERYTHING ACCORDING TO THE WAY SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO, and yet, WHAT A NIGHTMARE UNFOLDS ALL AROUND HER.  Great and often _very sad_ film -- 3 1/2 Stars.

Panamerican Machinery (orig. Maquinaria Panamericana) [2016] [IMDb] []* (directed and screenplay cowritten by Joaquin del Paso [IMDb] []*) is an award winning feature-length MEXICAN parable / social satirical piece that played recently at the 2016 AFI Fest here in Hollywood:

The President of a quite random if also quite large "Civil Engineering Firm" just one day ... dies.  He's just found dead in his chair one morning.

Well, needless to say, the employees are "shocked" as they would naturally be upon hearing of the sudden death of any boss, coworker or acquaintance of theirs.  However, soon it becomes clear that this death was going to have more impact on their lives than other such deaths as they are informed by the Firm's chief accountant (and snake of a man) (played wonderfully by Javier Zaragoza [IMDb] []*) that the Firm "hasn't produced anything in years" and had existed only because of the now dead boss lazily kept it afloat with his own money.  But OMG, now he's dead.  What now?

The chief accountant recommends that the employees all barricade themselves in the firm's compound (while _he_ burns all its financial records ;-).  A random, public accountant comes by for random accounting business.  The employees "arrest her," tie her up and throw her into a bathroom which starts to serve as a make-shift jail.  One or another of the employees gets the sense to try to just leave ... After all, her job (like everybody else's in the place) is now over.  Why not just try to start anew?  Again, the hysterical employees catch her before she "jumps the fence" and throw _her_ into their make-shift jail as well.

Why are they doing this?  Can't THEY ALL see that their future at this firm is over?  Well, obviously they're scared.  But scared of what?  Scared of the future?  Scared of having to have to work again?   Just complacent?  The film does make for an amusing social commentary -- 3 1/2 Stars 

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Edge of Seventeen [2016]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (1/2 Star)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (J. Hessenger) review

The Edge of Seventeen [2016] (written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig) while NOT as completely awful as The To Do List [2013] continues a string of more-or-less obviously culturally left-wing propaganda pieces trying to be "next generation John Hughes"-like productions.

In the current film, otherwise promising young actress Hailee Steinfeld plays Nadine an already socially awkward sixteen year-old "with a story" -- her dad (played by Eric Keenleyside), who she dearly loved / counted on, died of suddenly of a heart-attack when she was 13 -- is driven to the edge when her best and arguably only friend Krista (played by Haley Lu Richardson) suddenly starts dating Nadine's hot/far more popular older brother Darian (played by Blake Jenner):

Shocked, dismayed, threatened, Nadine pleads: "Krista, it's either me or him.  It can't be both.  I've had your back for nearly 10 years, and my brother's an a-hole.  You have to choose ... now."    

Shocked now as well and offended by the threat, Krista picks ... you know ... and the rest of the film unspools from there.

Now, what would there be to _not_ like about a film with a set-up like this?  Almost ANY viewer would immediately identify with Nadine's feelings / situation.

The problem that I had with the film was with the soullessness of what follows.  To the cultural Left, God MUST be Dead.  And to be honest, if the film at least just left God "dead," I'd have far kinder words to say about the film -- even if the film, more or less obviously presents a case of "a teenage Job" ;-).  Instead, the film's maker(s) need to have God ridiculed:

In a totally gratuitous scene, Nadine is shown SITTING ON THE TOILET and THERE decides for some reason to PRAY.  Yet two seconds into her "prayer" she returns to complaining to God about how HE was "never there for her."  And at the end of her "prayer" and apparently her "movement" she reaches for the toilet paper and ...

Liberals reading this Blog, if you ever doubt WHY Donald Trump was elected President THINK OF THAT SCENE.  That was 2 minutes offered to MILLIONS of _captive viewers_ THAT DID NOTHING (added NOTHING to the story) BUT GRATUITOUSLY INSULT THE FAITH OF TENS OF MILLIONS OF SAID VIEWERS.   That's why Donald Trump is President -- because of DECADES of stupid, gratuitous insults (OVER and OVER) such as this.   

Franco too, did not become DICTATOR in Spain in a vacuum.  He BECAME the REASONABLE CHOICE for Spain because the Left CHOSE to "shoot up nuns."  Say what???  Yes, the looney Communists of Spain would STORM CONVENTS and _shoot-up nuns_ ... in up-to-then Super CATHOLIC Spain.  One of the nuns they shot-up in this way, María Francisca Ricart Olmos, OSM is now a Blessed from my religious order (the Servites).  Generally speaking, when a Party chooses to pointlessly / gratuitously _shoot-up nuns_, they literally LOSE "THE WAR" ...

I mention this because Left often has an utter blindness as to how they piss people off.  It doesn't take "a Racist" to get PISSED-OFF at the sight of NUNS being shot-up.  It doesn't take "a Racist" to get pissed-off at the depiction of "Prayer as Bowel Movement."

And that is why I am disappointed and ANGRY that those who could have made a very good film here CHOSE to STUPIDLY CHEAPEN IT by _making it_ a CULTURAL LEFT-WING PROPAGANDA PIECE. 

With sadness ... 1/2 Star.

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Bleed For This [2016]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J.P. McCarthy) review
Los Angeles Times (M. Phillips) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Bleed For This [2016] (directed and screenplay by Ben Younger, screen story by Ben Younger, Angelo Pizzo and Pippa Bianco) is an appropriately R-rated (Parents please do note ...) quite-to-thoroughly-engrossing biopic / blue collar boxing movie.  Simplifying things _a bit_, the film tells the story of the truly stunning comeback of boxer Vinny Paz / Pazienza (played to Oscar Nomination worthy heights by Miles Teller).

Vinny Paz / Pazienza would not have become deserving of a movie about his life (but then _absolutely_ so) if not for (1) what happened to him (a few weeks after winning the WBA middle weight boxing title, he got into a head-on car crash leaving him with a broken neck) and (2) how he responded to it (DESPITE HAVING A BROKEN NECK, and having to wear a mechanical contraption called "a halo" attached to his torso / skull FOR SIX MONTHS so that his neck bones would heal, he never gave up his desire to return to boxing and _recapturing_ his title, which .. GO SEE THE MOVIE).

I mean MOVIES EXIST FOR MOVIES LIKE THIS.  It really is an absolutely incredible story about truly _never_ giving up.

Now there are problems with the movie, among them THE (FOUL) LANGUAGE.  Now Dear Readers do understand that I grew-up in Chicago and just spent the last 12 years back in Chicago serving at a lovely if also linguistically colorful blue collar / ethnic parish in Chicago, so I'm largely "tone deaf" to expletives.  But I do have to agree with the reviewer for the USCCB (Catholic Bishops' Conference) website (link as always above) who does complain about the language.  EVEN IF such language is (kinda) "real," it's certainly NOT edifying.  And honestly, it's a bit exaggerated, as are hookers and strippers all around in the film.  Again, Parents do note that this is an R-rated film and deservedly so ...

Still it is one heck of a story, just one that one (unlike the Rocky movies) one would be insane to show to a twelve year old ...

Good job folks, but you also should be somewhat ashamed ...

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Friday, November 18, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-II) (3 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them [2016] (directed by David Yates, screenplay by J.K. Rowling [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb] based on her book written under pseudonym [GR] [WCat] [Amzn]) is a generally fun Harry Potter prequel that also would seem to have borrowed visually / conceptually from the Men in Black movies, and thematically from Marvel Comics X-Men series.

Set in Prohibition Era New York of the 1920s, the "Wizarding community" States-side at the time is portrayed in the film as being decidedly _underground_ if also quite _thriving_.  Yes, there was a fairly prominent / loud "Anti-Wizarding" movement (which in many respects looked like any/all "anti-Vice" movements of the time).  Yet, as with Prohibition itself at the time, there was a "live and let live" attitude taken by the Authorities: so long as the Wizarding community "kept to itself" (didn't "cause trouble" / didn't "flaunt" its presence publicly) the civil Authorities left it alone, indeed, to the point that the "Wizarding community" was portrayed as having its own (underground) "parallel government."

The existence of this "parallel government" is actually / interestingly shown as causing its own problems ... those "at the top" of this "parallel social pyramid" / "government" actually seemed to _want_ to "keep things the way they were" with Magic "repressed" and the "Wizarding community" remaining "underground".  Why?  Because said repression actually kept _them_ "the Elites" in this community "in charge."  Fascinating ;-)

But this repression had its costs, especially on "the young" of the "wizarding community" as they had (unsurprisingly) difficulty "repressing" their "magical powers."

So into this just under the surface "pot boiler" enters an English "Magi-zoologist" named Newt Scamander (played quite wonderfully in a slightly "fish out of water" sense by Eddie Redmayne).  He comes to the States with a suitcase full of strange "Fantastic Beasts" knowing that, yes, they were _nominally_ "illegal" but really _not with a clue_ as to what kind of a chaos he's bringing to the States with his very peculiar "baggage."  A few of his magical beasts "get out" of his bag, and ... the rest of the story ensues ;-).

Among that which ensues is Newt's running into an America circa-1920s "every man" named Jacob Kowalski (played wonderfully, if honestly, why didn't the film-makers CAST AN ACTUAL POLISH AMERICAN ACTOR TO PLAY THE ROLE, by Dan Fogler) who enters the story with "a very little Dream" of opening up a small "Polish style Bakery" (in part in honor of his sainted, once baking, grandmother) and found to his dismay that it was _not_ going to be easy to get "a start-up loan" -- with the Quintessentially "Anglo" banker telling him in effect "to make money son, you're gonna have to have money to begin with."

AS A MILD SPOILER, Kowalski's running into the parallel Wizarding World does actually come to help him out.  But before he finds said help, he's plunged into an "Alice in Wonderland" world that before entering it, he honestly would have never ever imagined.  All he had wanted to do is to quit his job "at the cannery" and "sell PACZKIS (pronounced "poonchkis") for a living" in honor of his sainted grandmother.  (Dear Readers, if you haven't had pączki (basically a Polish style "Bismark" or "Danish") in your life, YOU HAVE MISSED OUT ;-).  And yet, before he could get to open his little Polish bakery, what Marvels he had to witness / endure ...  

Anyway, the film becomes an interesting social parable reminding us of the various parallel subcultures that exist around us and the ultimate value of "helping each other out" even if we don't necessarily understand all that is going on in the said subcultures around us.

So, set nominally in 1920s New York, and largely about "Wizarding" ... it's a story that's remains largely "about us" even today.

Good job folks, pretty good job ;-).

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Friday, November 11, 2016

Arrival [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McCarthy) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (A.A.Dowd) review

Arrival [2016] directed by Denis Villeneuve, screenplay by Eric Heisserer, based on the story "Story of your Life" [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Ted Chiang [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is a quite thoughtful / cerebral (read also rather _slow moving_ if beautifully shot) "first contact" Sci-Fi story that has _much more in common_ with 2001: A Space Odyssey [1968] than, well, the shoot-em-up Independence Day [1996, 2016] scenarios.

This is not to say that the arrival of twelve _enormous_ stone monolith-like objects from (...??) to earth, piloted apparently by a race of "septopods" (with _big_ octopus-like heads and seven elephant-trunk-like appendages), was not scary.  And yes, governments / intelligence services all around the world were scrambling to get answers to the obvious questions: Why were they here?  Where did they come from?  What did they want?

Yet, when U.S. Army Colonel Weber (played dead-on by Forest Whitaker) comes, hat-in-hand, to Ivy-League linguistics professor Dr. Louise Banks (played wonderfully by Amy Adams), it's clear that getting answers to these urgent questions was not going to be easy:  How do these aliens communicate at all?

The film becomes a fascinating meditation on the very nature of language, taking adage that "every language we learn gives us a new/different way of perceive the world" to a, well, SciFi-ish extreme ;-).  Still one fascinating if certainly "cerebral" (if also beautifully shot) movie.

Good job!

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Trolls [2016]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-II) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (0 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (G. Ihnat) review

Trolls [2016] (directed by Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn, screenplay by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, story by Erica Rivinoja, based on the Troll Dolls [wikip] created by Thomas Dam [wikip] [IMDb]) is an obvious loony-left (if highly commercial) entry into the nation's culture wars that most Viewers would probably wish they were not part of:

The film is about a race of HAPPY-GO-LUCKY (let's just call them "gay" in the pre-1960s sense of the word), RAINBOW-COLORED "TROLLS" who begin the film CAGED by a sullen, uncouth, green-colored REPTILIAN race of giants called "Bergens" who believed that the _only way_ that they could find happiness was if they ATE (destroyed the happiness of) said Trolls. 

Honestly folks, except for the "splash of Neon color" and the inversion of the Good and Evil characters, this film could have been produced by Goebbels & Co.

Now Readers, don't get me wrong.  I have repeatedly denounced Right-Wing propaganda products posing as children's films on my Blog, notably Hop [2011], Hoodwinked 2 [2011] and even the more-or-less obvious racism present in the scripting of Despicable 2 [2013].  I have also viewed and reviewed positively various well-done / _intelligent_ (and appropriately rated) LGBTQ-themed films over the years, including Beginners [2011] / Best Exotic Marigold Hotel [2011], Love is all You Need [2012], Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? [2013], Stranger by the Lake [2013], Call Me Marianna [2015] and Carol [2015].

What I object to here, object to almost universally, and then _especially_ when it comes to CHILDREN'S FILMS (!) is a simplistic portrayal of GOOD vs EVIL especially when Viewers (remember these would be KIDS) are pushed into viewing ENTIRE GROUPS OF PEOPLE as "BAD" / "EVIL."

Yes, in as much as "the big / clumsy / ugly Bergens" justified their EATING (radically destroying the happiness) of the "cute as a button" Trolls as their _only way_ to "finding happiness" that would be EVIL.  But ... WHAT / WHO ARE WE ACTUALLY (!) TALKING ABOUT HERE?? 

Zero stars for hammer-over-the-head propaganda pieces.  Zero stars.

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Dr. Strange [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (A.J. Bastien) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Dr. Strange [2016] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Scott Derrickson along with Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill, based on the Comic [MC] [wikip] by Steve Ditko [wikip] [GR] [IMDb]) while on a purely artistic / technical level is simply spectacular (well worth the 3D glasses if one would wish to pay the $3-4 extra / ticket to view the film that way) is perhaps the most problematic (of the Marvel based films) to date for a Catholic (re)viewer like me.

I write this as both basically a fan of the Marvel comics based films to date and a as reviewer, who though writing from a Catholic perspective, recognizes that artists (including comic book writers / graphic novelists as well as film makers) in a free society clearly have the right to produce any work that they wish.

That said, artists / film makers, etc need to expect their their works will be critiqued and at times criticized by (re)viewers holding any number of values (and yes, at times, quite organized belief systems) including someone like me.

I write that this film has proven to be the "most problematic" of the Marvel based films thus-far because in numerous instances the story's writers / film-makers here appeared to chose to portray Christianity as "in league with" Darkness / the Enemy.

The film's chief villain, a certain Kaecilus (played by Mads Mikkelsen), who appeared to be seeking to move our world into a realm of Darkness, is shown meeting with his followers IN A CHRISTIAN (AND ARGUABLY A CATHOLIC) CHURCH.  Worse, for some reason the film's makers choose to argue (and repeatedly) that the possibility of ETERNAL LIFE is SOMETHING TO BE AVOIDED and arguably EVIL while FINITENESS is somehow by definition GOOD.

Tell that to a mother who's lost her kid to cancer / a car accident ... (or to a kid who loses his or her mother to cancer or a car accident).   In such cases, FINITENESS is self-evidently UNJUST and Christianity, quite FUNDAMENTALLY, seeks to REDRESS this self-evident INJUSTICE with its DOCTRINE OF ETERNAL LIFE -- that not even Death has the Final Word on one's life, that the Final Word belongs to God, and God's Final Word for us is Life with Him and Each Other for Eternity.  That would _seem_ like self-evidently a REALLY GOOD DEAL (Good News [TM]) for someone who's facing untimely death or the untimely death of a loved one.  And yet in this story "Eternal Life" is portrayed, repeatedly (and arguably quite dogmatically) as somehow "in league with Evil."

And I'm just saying that this is _Strange_ ...

Indeed in the film, the story's chief protagonist, Dr. Stephen Strange [MC] [wikip] [IMDb] (played by Benedict Cumberpatch), found himself staring squarely at the INJUSTICE of the FINITENESS of his own life.  He entered the story as a super-talented (if also arrogant) neurosurgeon only to find his life radically altered in a split second, when while driving a split moment's glance at an MRI on his cellphone caused him to smash his car in a way that shattered his hands (to the point that he could _never operate again_) and nearly cost him his Life.   Such a high Penalty for such a small Mistake.

That accident and its consequences forced him to set off on what inevitably _became_ a different kind of quest (from excellence in the narrow field of neurosurgery to something BEYOND IT) ... and much ensued.

Yet, that which ensued ... _need not_ have gone in a way that made CHRISTIANITY (or its hope in Eternal Life) "an Enemy" ... that was a choice made by the storytellers here.

And Dear Readers, I have no problem at all that the film's protagonist chose to go to Nepal to seek a more EASTERN (more HINDU / BUDDHIST) answer to his dilemma.  I'm just saying that CHRISTIANITY / a belief in Eternal Life need not be the enemy.  Indeed, I would hope that it'd be _a good part_ of the solution ;-).

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Keeping up with the Joneses [2016]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (2 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Walsh) review (P. Sobczynski) review
AVClub (K. Rife) review

Keeping up with the Joneses [2016] (directed by Greg Mottola, screenplay by Michael LeSieur) is a film that I WISH I HAD CAUGHT EARLIER.  I chose to see it only this week (two weeks after its release during a lull in my calendar) because A LOT of the critics (above) DIDN'T PARTICULARLY LIKE IT and SOME EVEN HATED IT).  Yet, as I was watching the film, I realized that as in the case _of a number of other comedies_ about quite _regular people_ -- Katherine Heigl's One for the Money [2012], and Kevin James' Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 [2014] come-to-mind -- listening to the mainstream critics here was DEFINITELY A MISTAKE.

The film begins by introducing us to Jeff and Karen Gaffney (played wonderfully by Zach Galifianakis and Ilsa Fisher respectively) a _nice_ 40-something college educated / "professional" couple bidding goodbye to their two 8-12 yr old boys (we never really see them) who were boarding a bus for a two week "summer camp." They then drive back to their quite nice / spacious home "on a coul de sac" in some random middle-upper-middle class suburb (somewhere near Atlanta apparently).  Their neighbors were all similarly college educated professionals, living in similar quite nice / quite spacious homes.  Zach worked in "human resources" for a nearby defense contractor.  Apparently, a number of his neighbors worked (on the engineering side) of same said defense contractor.  Karen apparently had a degree in interior decorating and, in as much as she could find work, "worked from home."

The nature of Jeff and Karen's jobs is important here because there is an element of "loser" to them.  While most of the employees at Jeff's firm worked on "classified" projects (designing missile components, etc) Jeff had the very "pedestrian" (and _unclassified_) job of keeping these highly competent employees "happy" and "working as a team" (rather than resenting / undermining each other on account of their large but quite bruiseable egos ;-).  Karen, on the other hand, presumably started out an architecture major and came to focus on interior design because one's more likely to find work.  But in the process she's also reduced her horizons from "designing great structures" to "helping to redesign a neighbor's bathroom" (they wanted to "add a urinal" ;-) and _hoping_ that the neighbors would end-up paying her for the job ...

So on the one hand, their lives _were_ tranquil: They "made it", _look_ where they were living.  On the other hand, they're "kinda losers" on a street where the neighbors living in similar houses seemed to be doing _far more exciting things_ and seemed to have the money for "extra frills" (like adding that urinal to a bathroom) even if such "frills" seemed, even from "a step or two away" SOOO STUIUUPID ...

Into this world of soul deadening bbq-fork-in-hand pastel-colored banality enters a new couple, Tim and Natalie Jones (played again wonderfully with the requisite by Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot -- they must have had a blast playing their roles ;-), who immediately _don't seem to fit_.  Why?

Well, they buy the house next door to the Gaffneys "with cash."  Part time "real estate agent" neighbor Meg Craverston (played by Maribeth Monroe), for whom and her missile designing husband Dan (played by Matt Walsh) Karen is redesigning the bathroom to add that famous urinal, DOES NOT MIND that the Joneses would be buying their house "with cash" (It saves her work / worry about the sale still possibly falling through).  BUT it's immediately odd Karen (and should be to a fair amount of the film's Viewers).  WHO would do that?  Yes, the house and the neighborhood (with its lovely tranquil coul de sac) was nice.  Yes, the Joneses, who apparently had the money to pay for their quite nice house (on a street of similarly nice houses) with cash, were certainly _free do so_.  BUT ... honestly, "if one had that kind of money ... to buy a house like that on a street like that in cash ... WHY buy a house there?   Consenting to a simple mortgage, a couple like that COULD BUY A HOUSE ANYWHERE ... on an EVEN NICER, MORE INTERESTING STREET in a MORE INTERESTING / EXOTIC PLACE.

Well, of course, the Joneses "have their reason(s)" for buying that house on that street in that way, reasons that become ever clear(er) as the story progresses ... But it's fun to see _the only ones_ to catch the oddity in the Joneses entering into their quite suburban tranquility there "in the coul de sac" would be, "the most average / banal of them all," Karen and Jeff Gaffney.

And it's then interesting to watch what follows.  Because as lowly / pedestrian as Jeff and Karen Gaffney's lives may seem, they actually have a lot to offer the (seemingly) far more interesting / exotic Tim and Natalie.  

Indeed, by the film's end, I have to admit, I JUST LOVED IT ;-).  Everyone matters.  Everyone has something to give to others.  A great, great, initially pedestrian suburban tale ;-).   

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Screamfest L.A. 2016

One of the joys of having been transferred down to Southern California from Chicago is proving to be gaining access to a whole new level of film festivals including this "kick" -- the annual Scream Fest L.A. -- apparently held each year in Hollywood around Halloween Time ;-).  Of the films that played at the Festival, I saw the following (and a couple of them should make it to the cinemas or at least art-houses around the country):

Happy Hunting [2016] (R) (written and directed by Joe Dietsch and Louie (Lucian) Gibson) was an AMERICAN "Horror-ish" (something of a "Splatter") movie about "Warren Novak" (played by Martin Dingle Wall) a "regular guy" with some issues, who drove into a sleepy Arizona border town on his way to eventually cross into Mexico to resolve some of said issues only to discover that said "sleepy little border town" had some doozies of its own: A once / "back in the day" "hunters' paradise," all the game in the area had been hunted-down / wiped-out long ago.  So ... the townsfolk resorted to creating a new tradition:  Each year, they'd round-up and then chase / hunt-down and kill some of their more problematic residents or passersby.  Well, poor Novak (his name literally meaning "New Guy") came into the wrong town at the wrong time.  With something of a drinking problem, he soon found himself in the local clink only to be driven out the next day to the outskirts of town to be one of the sacrificial victims in this town's demented attempt to preserve its "proud hunting tradition."  For as its folksy Sheriff (played by Greg Sturm) put it: "Without Tradition, what else do ya have left? Nothing."   Much along the lines of "Mulberry meets The Purge [2013-2016] / The Hunger Games [2013-2016]" ensues ... ;-) -- 2 1/2 Stars

The House (orig. Huset) [2016] (would be R) (written and directed by Reinert Kiil) was a NORWEGIAN entry to the Festival. Set during in the mountainous hinterlands of the country during Nazi Occupation, two German soldiers, an officer and an enlisted man (played by Frederik von Lüttichau and Mats Reinhardt respectively) with a captured Norwegian resistance fighter (played by Sondre Krogtoft Larsen) in tow, seeking to find shelter for the night in the midst of a if not driving snowstorm then just a steady, steady, no reason to believe that it would end soon, snowfall, come upon a seemingly nondescript if uninhabited (perhaps for the winter) House in said Countryside, which they then enter only to find, of course, that this was _really_ "the wrong house" to have come to.  From dreams, flashbacks and/visions that all three experience, it becomes clear that the house had some sort of a Tormented / Evil history in the Past (some sort of an Exorcism had been performed there in the Past, and indeed one of the rooms is just covered by Crosses, all of them hanging upside down ... never a good sign).  They _don't_ seem to be able TO LEAVE the environs of this House that they've entered.  Sure, they could make it outside -- into the steady but unending snow -- make it even fifty or so feet into the woods, but then somehow and always they'd find themselves waking-up again "in the House."  Why?  Was the House "cursed?" (well, Yes...) but there seemed to be something more going on.  It all made for a quite interesting Norwegian "Nazi occupation themed" Twilight Zone-ish [1959-1964] [wikip] [IMDb] film [1] [2] [3] -- 3 Stars.

Lake Bodom [2016] [IMDb] [CEu] (would be R) (directed and cowritten by Taneli Mustonen [IMDb] [CEu] along with Aleksi Hyvärinen [IMDb] [CEu]) a FINNISH / ESTONIAN "Friday the 13th-ish" film THOUGH INSPIRED BY AN ACTUAL 1960 incident in which three Finnish teenagers were actually murdered (and a fourth wounded) while camping by a Finnish lake named Bodom some 22 km outside of Helsinki.  In the current film, four teenagers (played by Mikael Gabriel [IMDb] [CEu], Santeri Helinheimo Mäntylä [IMDb] [CEu], Mimosa Willamo [IMDb] [CEu] and Nelly Hirst-Gee [IMDb] [CEu]) come to the Lake near the Anniversary of the notorious murder, ostensibly because Elias, the nerdiest of the group, "had a new theory about 'what really happened'" back in 1960.  All of the other teens had their own reasons for coming along, among them, of course "that they were teenagers" and ... BUT in any case, like in the recent Blair Witch [2016] remake, the new four start "dropping like flies ..."  What was going on?  Well that's the film, and actually though with its requisite (but actually not terribly exaggerated) amount of blood / gore, there's quite literally a certain "campiness" / humor to the movie and its various often quite funny plot twists.  All in all, though certainly a B-movie, certainly not a bad one -- 2 1/2 Stars.

Inicuo: The Brotherhood [2016] (orig. Inicuo: La Hermanidad) [IMDb] []* (would be R) (written and directed by Alejandro Alegre [IMDb] []*) was a MEXICAN entry to the Festival that proved simply too Dark for me to stay through.  It was the only film in the Festival that I saw that I got up and left from (Dear Readers, as I've written before [1] [2] [3], just because one buys a ticket to a movie does not mean that one has to sit through the entirety of a film.  There are films that for any number of reasons one could decide: "Okay, I've had enough," and just get-up and leave.  The film here was about a twenty something young adult named Federico (played by Isaac Perez Calzada [IMDb] []*) who after experiencing a good deal of pain and betrayals in his life founded a Cult that sought to perform Ritual Revenge on those perceived to have hurt him / the other members of his Group (the Cult).  Again, pretty Dark stuff ... I suppose it reminds viewers that (1) Betrayals / Evil exist and, actually, (2) that Revenge is NOT EXACTLY the "best approach" in dealing said Evil (even if Evil doers would perhaps deserve their due).  Still IMHO the film takes Viewers on a truly Dark path to make the point -- 1 1/2 Stars

The Unseen [2016] (would be R) (written and directed by Geoff Redknap) was a CANADIAN entry to the Festival that may feel to many, especially younger viewers, to be at least partly inspired by the Marvel Comics Wolverine movies.  Ten years back, seemingly regular guy, logger Bob Langmore (played by Aden Young) for reasons unclear upped and simply left his former wife Darlene (played by Camille Sullivan) and then 7 year old daughter Amelia (played now as a 17-year old by Max Chadburn) leaving a terrible hole in their lives that neither had been able to fully patch.  Yet despite obvious anger by both toward their former husband / father, Darlene comes to the conclusion that she simply has to look him up again because Amelia now was beginning to act very, very strange.  What was going on?  Well the story that unspools gives new context to Bob's previous abandonment of his family and is portrayed, at least in part symbolically, in a truly spectacular cinematic fashion.  Honestly, this film ought to win awards for its cinematography / makeup and even screenwriting / direction or at minimum open doors for the artists/film-makers responsible!  Excellecnt job here! -- 3 Stars.

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>