Week 41



Midsummer Night’s Dream (2017)- I don’t think I need or have the knowledge to review this as a play, but I would have loved to see this production in person. Taymor, known for her revolutionary takes on the Bard in both stage and film continues that tradition here. The scene transitions are beautiful and dreamy with excellent use of projection, wire work and backdrops. The true gem of the film is Kathryn Hunter who plays Puck. Her physicality is something I’ve never seen before. You (and I) would probably recognize her as a very minor one-scene character from the Harry Potter franchise.  If I had one criticism it’s the last act where they are staging a play within a play and I’m a bit over it at that point, but it’s unfair to critique a movie based on a play from hundreds of years ago. It just doesn’t have the same rules and it’s done just as well as the rest of the play.  Plus, what do I know?

C9 A7



Scanners- Ideally, all movies should be seen in theaters. It’s what they’re designed for, right?  I mean, some movies are fine going straight to Netflix but most movies are better enjoyed in a dark room full of strangers. It forces you to pay attention for better or worse. The good in Scanners is great and the bad is bad. The main character is not an actor, but he’s surrounded by great actors so that makes things worse. He’s also trying to emote in a film where a lot of action takes place in the mind of the characters and a lot of plot takes place without regard for logic. The leaps and bounds it makes in connecting dots is huge yet in this movie it doesn’t really matter.  It has wonderful camera work, stunning practical effects and perfect synthesizer score. And almost every gun is a shotgun for some reason.

C8 A6


Out of thin air

Out of thin Air- Documentaries are just fucking killing it these days. The blending of traditional filming with reenactments, drone footage, special effects, digital animation and interesting stories just make win after win. Something to note: This movie takes place in Iceland yet almost every person interviewed speaks English. You are so dumb, America.  I will concede that the tack they take in telling this story is difficult to follow. There is a lot of backtracking and retelling and dreams about possible events all spanning the course of about 40 years. But if you pay attention it’s not too confusing.

C7 A7



Propaganda (2014)- Here is the backstory to this movie: A translator travelling through North Korea is handed a tape on the sly which she smuggles out of the country. The video tape is an instructive video about the rest of the world’s evil ways, specifically capitalism, entertainment and advertising. This is spoken by a Korean Spy who has travelled abroad and studied people with an English woman (presumably the translator) narrating. This backstory is false and the movie is actually a mockumentary of sorts as a channel to criticize the aforementioned topics through a simpler scope. It could have just as easily been an alien reporting back to its home world on the strange goings on of Earth. I think it’s worth noting that it’s fake because it allows you to appreciate the construction of it and doesn’t lessen its lessons. Speaking of, the first half of the movie is dedicated mostly to history and propaganda tactics whereas the latter half leans heavily on conspiracy and specific entertainment targets. The former is much better than the latter.

C6 A5



Alphaville- Filming on the cheap can have its benefits. When Jaws was made, its lasting effect was what you don’t see is scarier than what you can. It’s not that they didn’t have the money, but they had so many problems with the shark that they had to get creative. Alphaville opts to save all the creativity for long shots and less on world building. Imagine Blade Runner but filmed in 1980s Los Angeles with zero futuristic technology, clothes or scenery.  The ideas here (robot overlords, pleasurebots, outer world colonies) couldn’t have existed without the idea of it being in the future but to show none of this world is unfortunate. Particularly aggravating are events that happen for no apparent reason. When our main character enters a room, someone is hiding behind a wall. They get in a shoot-out and the scene continues as if nothing happened. It’s mentioned later on, but there are other similar moments which occur for no reason.

One Good Thing: There is a long take from hotel lobby to bedroom that is very impressive.

Watch Instead: Blade Runner, World On A Wire

C6 A4



Whole- This is a short, low budget documentary about people that want to remove a part of their body.  Now called apotemnophilia, at the time (2004) the condition was so unknown that they were still working on terminology for it. Aside from just being informative, the presumed singularity of these individuals is a time capsule in itself. The internet is still a new place to many and the thought that they are alone is a possibility where today (I would argue) if you can think of a disorder or fetish, then someone else has it. Some may find this doc disturbing conceptually, but it shows real people struggling with body issues and that is an issue that even today we dealing with, whether it’s mainstream or on the fringes.

C6 A4


The last king of scotland

The Last King of Scotland- Forest Whitaker is a dark horse. If I asked you to name a role or movie that summed him up it would be difficult. In the almost 40 years that he’s been acting, I think his large frame and distinct voice (and lazy eye) have allowed him to maneuver beyond traditional black roles to be anything the movie calls for. And when I say black roles, the same typecasting can happen to white actors and I’m sure Whitaker has played more generic roles but everything about him seems one-of-a-kind. Eschewing that in-comparability, he flexes his impression skills here and creates a complex rendition of dictator Idi Amin that won him an Oscar. James McAvoy and Gillian Anderson round out the cast in an excellent film.

C8 A7


Men and Chicken

Men and Chicken- The first time I saw Mads Mikkelsen was in a guilty-pleasure of mine, King Arthur. The next time was Nicolas Winding Refn’s beautiful and violent Valhalla Rising. Then Casino Royale and Hannibal. Point is, I’ve always known him as a very serious actor but had I missed all those movies and seen this movie first, I would think that he is traditionally known for being a comedian in his country. He is so spot on with the cadence and tempo of his frustrating and socially awkward character that you forget he is a predominantly dramatic actor. The movie itself is just as odd and if you think you know where it’s headed, you’re wrong every time.  Between subject matter and subtitles, this is not for the average viewer but seasoned movie goers may want to give it a shot. Speaking of, did you know Eric Bana was known as a comedian in Australia before breaking out in Chopper?

C6 A4




Singin’ in the Rain- Where Anchors Aweigh seemed meandering and too long, Singin’ tightens everything up into a more cohesive story. Despite jumps in time, flashbacks and daydreams, the through line is solid and I never got lost. What an amazing movie that doesn’t really need my dumb ass to say anything about it but I will keep coming back to what is turning into a theme. If you think you’ve seen something but aren’t sure, watch it. You will usually see it with fresh eyes and appreciation (or criticism). Just watching new movies in theaters and on Netflix shouldn’t enable you to be a “fan of movies” but rather someone who is “bored of re-watching Parks and Rec”. Like any good hobby, it requires practice and with movies you have to stay current, move backwards and laterally from time to time and into other countries. If you watch enough and are trying to push your boundaries, you will have to drift into foreign and classic territory. Unless you’re just watching Hulu new releases to which I say god speed. I never would have watched Singin’ in the Rain if I hadn’t pushed my comfort level and I am richer for it. People are always looking for recommendations when they really don’t need to look further than AFI’s Top 100. It’s not gospel, but nothing is.

C9 A8


The fly

The Fly- Whew. Number 400 on my list. This was not planned and initially I thought my count was off. I had thought about shifting viewing patterns to make sure the 400th was something special but I just let the chips fall where they may and got lucky. There is one singular reason to see this movie and it is Jeff Goldblum. The script is good, Davis is fine and the special effects/production value are perfect but everything that is either on Goldblum’s personage or being said by him is bliss. Now, with that I include the makeup and practical effects done to his body throughout the course of the film, which was extensive. His range here should have gotten him a best actor nod at the least as he transforms from quirky, flirtatious geek to full on fly. There are about 6 personality traits in between those two stages.  The settings are minimal and most of the movie occurs in his apartment/lab but when they do venture it out it’s typically an important moment that doesn’t drag the plot. Speaking of, this movie feels long but it’s only because of the amount of things happening. You are dropped immediately into the plot and there are no breaks until the credits roll. This is a one man show and Goldblum delivers.

C8 A6



Blair Witch (2017)- I recently watched the original Blair Witch Project and I could sense the effect it had on me when I first watched it in theaters. Knowing the ending, twenty years and hundreds of found footage films later all produced a lessening effect on the progenitor of a genre but I could remember how I felt walking out of that first viewing. We didn’t know it was fake or, at the very least, suspected it might be real. It seems tame by today’s standards and many younger viewers can’t properly situate themselves in the era to view it. It’s almost impossible to watch movies in their original context which is why film language is so important in tying together the history. The newest entry in the Blair Witch saga is a sequel of sorts even though there actually was a sequel years ago. Where that sequel diverted entirely from the original, it at least attempted new, if entirely cash grabbing, territory. This sequel is more of an update on the original with new gear and new faces. The scares are the same and the mythos is expanded but it culminates in the same ending which for me felt hollow but who knows? Newcomers may remember it for the next 20 years.

C4 A4

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