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Monthly Archives: January 2019

MId90’s

In Jonah Hill’s first hand at directing and screenwriting is the story of Stevie (“Sunburn”), played by Sunny Suljic, who lives in Los Angeles and is frequently beaten up by his older brother. Stevie finds a new set of older role models in a skater group. The boys of mixed ages introduce him to skating and usher him into adulthood in a way that his family can’t. Overall, I liked the film. The writing and the directing reminded me of Richard Linklater’s earliest films like Slacker; the camera works to merely observe without complicated plot and without judgment. I was …

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The Upside

In this remake of the French film Intouchables (2012), Phil (Bryan Cranston) is a millionaire who was in an accident that left him a quadriplegic. During his search for a caretaker, Dell (Kevin Hart) barges into an interview being overseen by Phil’s business manager Yvonne (Nicole Kidman); he really doesn’t want the job, he just needs a signature to prove he is looking for work. Phil decides to hire Dell, which is the beginning of their friendship. This is based on the true story of a friendship of two very different men with different backgrounds. The film is okay; the …

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The Guilty

(Denmark):  Asgar has been assigned from patrol to a desk job answering 911 calls. He clearly doesn’t want to be there, has a chip on his shoulder, and doesn’t seem to care about the fate of the callers. Then a woman named Iben calls and claims she has been abducted. The entire film is shot in the police station where he takes the calls, and for almost the entire movie, Asgar is the only one you see. This is an amazing piece of film crafting. The film most closely resembles Locke, shot entirely in the car as Locke is driving; …

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Madeline’s Madeline

Madeline (Helena Howard, in her first appearance) has joined an experimental theater group. Still in high school, she lives with her mom (Miranda July), and their relationship is strained; they do not get along, and Madeline feels that her mom doesn’t understand her. She takes to the director of the theater group Evangeline (Molly Parker), who seems to be a “surrogate mother” to Madeline as she exploits Madeline for her own interests. I really enjoyed the film; it is intriguing to see an experimental theater setting embedded in a rather experimental film. During the film, the lines between what is …

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Vice

This film explores Dick Cheney’s rise from his heavy partying and fighting days post-college to his tenure as vice president to President Bush. Actually, it is a film about Dick and Lynne Cheney – his wife seems to have played a significant role in his ascent to power. I had some misgivings on seeing the film – the last thing I wanted to watch was a story about Dick Cheney. I would have been happy to have him retired from my memory. The film overall is a bit of a mess. I found it rather tedious in places, and it …

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The House that Jack Built

This is the latest film from Lars von Trier, the controversial (and very creative) film director who managed (surprise) to create another like film. The film tells the story of the serial killer Mr. Sophistication, played by Matt Dillon, in five incidents, starting with his first killing and following his career through more gruesome murders. It is difficult to describe the film. It functions as a basic horror film, with some incidents creepier than others. Through a continuing (and sometimes fascinating) conversation with Verge (we find out about halfway through who Verge is and his purpose), the film attempts to …

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If Beale Street Could Talk

The story is based on the book by James Baldwin of the same name, and concerns two young people, Tish (played by KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), an aspiring artist. Both grew up together and are in love. Just as they were ready to start their lives together, Fonny is arrested and sent to jail for the rape of a woman on the other side of town. This is a wonderful film and enhances Barry Jenkin’s (director of last year’s Best Picture Oscar winner Moonlight) reputation as a beautiful storyteller and someone who extracts great performances from his actors. …

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Aquaman

Jason Momoa plays Aquaman, the half-human, half-aquatic creature who can coexist equally well in both realms. When he was very young, he lost his mother to the depths when she had to return to her kingdom in order to save her son’s life. As an adult, Mera (Amber Heard) comes to the surface to warn Aquaman about an impending war between the kingdoms above and below. I will start off by saying that overall, the movie was fun, but it also suffers. While Momoa is certainly an impressive-looking superhero above and below the seas, it would have been nice if …

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Logan

Hugh Jackman plays Logan in the year 2029. Most of the mutants are gone now, and Logan, Professor X, and Caliban are hiding in the desert. All of them are getting sick and losing their abilities to heal themselves. One day, a woman approaches Logan with a request to protect a young girl by taking her to North Dakota. Reluctantly, Logan agrees only at the insistence of Professor X. I did not watch the two other Wolverine films, so I am sure I have lost parts of the backstory; however, it turns out that the film stands on its own. …

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The Other Side of the Wind

This film is a restoration of the final film by Orson Welles, “The Other Side of the Wind”, a Hollywood satire. Jake Hannaford (played brilliantly by John Huston) is a fading director who is attempting a comeback in this final film, one that would be considered an arthouse film today. The movie has three different stories going on: The film itself in which you are the viewer, the making of the film, and the critique of the film (and a critique of the critique of the film). Each of these is interwoven into a satire-laced commentary on Hollywood and how …

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