Jan - Feb 2017

W/ Family

Monster Trucks  Monster trucks and tentacles. Say no more! OK, I'll say more, the film gave me farm envy, and apparently I just need to move to squamish to enjoy that sort of landscape, as that's where the film got captured. Like Pete's Dragon, this film oversold unnecessary villains, supported underdog heroes, and overall despite all adversity delivered some decent messaging around acceptance and environmental consciousness I'm not sad to see imprinted on my impressionable six year old offspring.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople Beautiful, clever, funny, sad, well crafted / shot / writ. I adore this film. It's not The Snapper, true, but damn close. I really want to go to New Zealand already, and now, so does my offspring.

Kubo and the Two Strings Stop motion mastery, and beautiful story to boot.

Eddie the Eagle Wolverine teaches an awkward Brit to jump from suicidal heights. Inspirational, retro, and heartwarming. Would make a great double feature with Cool Runnings.

Masterminds Regrettably not titled as the true life case was called in newspapers, The Hillbilly Heist. Regardless, a fun watch, and all the better to discover that the real events were even more batshoot crazy than the film depicts. 

Scooby-Doo! and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery This spiritual homage to Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park steps into some serious Eternia territory with a subtle nod if you squint to King Diamond and Misfits for following up on the greasepaint tip. Nary a wink even towards Insane Clown Posse, cause they're really not kid appropriate. And that's saying something after King Diamond and Misfits. 

The Secret Life of Pets I would've been ok keeping these things secret, but my offspring likes it, so five stars. Kidding, two stars.

Cats & Dogs This made me laugh out loud a couple times, though to go open kimono, that includes realizing Jeff Goldblum is prominently in the cast. It's not an awful film, rather, it creates a state wherein I need to ask questions, none of them pleasant or serving the story in any way. For instance, how about instead of a high tech center of earth travelling spy ring you instead prevent, or at least, rescue boxes of puppies left on the side of the road such as my rescue dog was, one of seven, three of which didn't survive. How about you canine cyber geniuses locate and punish the monsters that run animal fight rings, or kill off sled huskies after their owners go bankrupt? I know, I'm whining about a film for kids, however I couldn't sit and stay as my suspension of disbelief rolled over and played dead. The more Spy Kids high tech the dogs threw out, the less I felt able to play fetch. I love our mutt, and in that film's reality, he wouldn't exist.

Jurassic Park A classic. If you don't like this film, warts and a whole lot of hold onto your butts, GFYS.

Max Steel To quote the version of Joker the Olsen Twins may have snuffed, "Why so serious?" Seriously, have you seen the toys? They're cute, as in, their the makers of Barbie trying to make something macho / masculine / male. Mattel's record for boy toys is pretty dismal, Google "mattel boy toys" and see what I mean. Not four rows down and Wonder Woman shows up, since Mattel has some crazy sort of deathgrip deal on DC properties that manifests as creepy knock offs of Chinatown toys for the Batman finale film, or bizarrely scale incompatible alternatives sort of related to the various films and TV shows DC is squeezing out with the puckered earnestness of a snail in heat. Max Steel toys, while wildly all over the place for thematic cohesion, at least on a few notable occasions put Mattel in the whereabouts of Hasbro's GI Joe. Articulation, cut of jib, and general sense of having an array of armaments set Max apart from the usual licensed fare Mattel schills, or any version of Ken and his friends, and again apart from the steroids in the water wonderland of He-Man. The film elects to go gritty, to equate a coming of power to a coming of age and by that I mean puberty, and even then no hilarity ensues. American Pie this is not. Though frankly, all things considered, such as how anyone under 16 has never heard of Max Steel, perhaps this film could've been more playful, or at least, more emboldened by things like depth, breadth, or merit. It's well crafted yet completely, utterly deprived of joy throughout. We know who the villain is by get go, as in, my six year old watching exclaimed, "That's the bad guy!" and I nod, agreeing, only to have to wait another hour for the film to stop holding out on the both of us. This film feels, like most Mattel products, like a bad date at an early, impressionable age. Also, this film probably owes Portal some royalties for leveraging their floating robot eyeball aesthetic, though admittedly they did a great job of it.

A Series of Unfortunate Events  Brilliant, though a bit over labored and greenscreen evident, and don't mind a bit. The child actors charm their way onto your heart like a pacemaker.

Skin Wars Season 2 Better than the first season as all the really annoying asshats were given shame shower exits early. Overall the craftsmanship of pieces might've been better in the first season, but that's pretty subjective, hard to say, and the late season 2 pieces have been bonkers brilliant.

White Rabbit Project Season 1 I enjoy this and yet inevitably end up missing Mythbusters back when the whole gang was together, regardless of that debilitating nightmare I had once wherein the group openly mocked me while Jamie fired me and Adam loudly lamented my ever being an intern on the show, all because I didn't know what some sort of speciality wrench was, and maybe because I'd accidentally spilled a tub of fire toed tarantulas all over the green room Drew Barrymore was sitting in. I didn't even know they had or needed a green room. When do the Mythbusters do interviews or celebrity cameos? 

Project Mc² What a pile of... Wait, my son likes it, let's see where this goes... 

Supergirl Season 1 Is this part of DC continuity? Oh, wait, DC doesn't care about that. Then why would I care about this? One episode in and I'm pulling the eject cord. Offspring checked out after the plane rescue, apparently disappointed the bridge wasn't taken out. Never cared for Ally McBeal either, so that artifact isn't a draw. Maybe if they'd included the Super Pets

Lego Batman Funny, layer stacked (pardon the pun), and while not as deep seeded as the Lego Movie, it manages to erect a sensible side-quel that speaks to the breadth of Batman brand manifestations without leaving anyone feeling over or under served, the quality or a great lampoon, roast, or homage. This film is done with love and an earnestly deep appreciation of a brand with almost a century's worth of heritage aka baggage. That a fun resolution exploiting an inevitable childhood epiphany; the sweet moment when you realize you can stick lego people together and make human centipedes (not in kind with and German horror films of suspect surgical significance). The modularity of Lego is splendid to see applied to extending brand across a sort of fourth wall obliterating Mad Magazine style parody, such that my offspring and I were excited about the September release of a Ninjago film in similar vein, despite never caring much about that line or toys.

W/ Wife

Taboo Brilliant. Gorgeous. Amen.

The Magnificent Seven  Solid in some ways, pop fluff in others, pretty to watch while often letting the meat fall out of it's mouth mid-chew. Guess I wanted / hoped for more of a Revenant take on the Seven Samurai.

Hell or High Water Solid, savory to watch, and channeling a lot of what makes Elmore Leonard crime novels work. Not perfect, but well worth watching.

The Expanse Season 2 Ongoing and reflecting increased production value, while somehow at the same time neglecting a lot of the secondary stories and world building aspects that helped me feel more invested and connected. Not bad, just strangely missing the unph of the first season.

Daredevil Season 2 More meandering and whiny than the first season, with an Elektra Assassin that seemed somewhat removed from the Frank Miller / Bill Sienkiewicz version I'd grown up with, and a well cast Punisher that needed to get his skull on, stat. Despite the goofy ninjas and Stockholm Syndrome blood doped children of the ward, in all a decent ride that perhaps will see it's way clear to focus more on Daredevil and less on introducing spinoffs in the next season. That said, though, looking forward to Punisher getting his own show, and sending Rosario Dawson on over to Luke Cage gets my applause. 

Westworld Series Tasty, and while imperfect, has potential for next season. Can't wait.

Westworld Classic, and can see how much is being homaged in the HBO series. Though I wish the series onboarded this and its sequel's intros that sampled television coverage of the parks and their patrons. The TV series lacks a worthwhile sense of the world outside the park, deliberately for season one I'm sure because of the Memento time folding, but one can hope for season two, because now that we're up to speed, things can get real and real could become very, very wonderfully strange.

London Has Fallen Strangely more cohesive and vaguely more viable than the first one, but really, it's perennial Christmas favorite Die Hard with a Presidential pretext ala Air Force One sans plane, and it delivers a joyous joyride through the woods of implausibility and over the river of credibility to smash into Grandma's gregarious house of gratuitous gravatas. 

Jim Jefferies "Freedumb" It's solid, as expected, and yet you can tell he's growing up because he's drafting a deeper slew of observations than he used to deliriously skid over in the day. Not a bad thing, not a bit, just be forewarned that if you expected him to top his stories of clearing foreign objects from his backside with chopsticks, you'll likely be disappointed.

The Nice Guys Well crafted, entertaining, and something like if 48 Hours and Boogie Nights had a baby.

Fook Club

Fire in Babylon Thanks to this film, I know think I can understand the sport of cricket. And reggae. I'm likely wrong on both counts, but a solid watch I quite enjoyed for the cultural perspectives alone.

Solo

Triple 9 Watchable, host of great character actors, and a host of implausible turns. The character arcs of Casey Affleck and his uncle in the film, Woody Harrelson, do a lot to stand the film up, though all of the cast delivers as though Martin Scorsese were directing, instead of the Australian music video director who has a great sense of cinematography, but not so much a sense of narrative as we've seen previously in his adaptation of The Road.

American Ultra Watchable, though ultimately I just want to see the protagonist get a haircut, and my reward for hanging in there is that in the epilogue, he has. The Equalizer this is not.

Defendor If you expect Cheers slapstick or Orgazmo, maybe give this a pass. This is more of a soft shouldered, less gothy Crow. Maybe Sling Blade meets Crow was their elevator pitch. Enjoyed the phases of / visibility of the moon narrative thread. 

Cop Car I'll admit, the ambiguous ending annoys me, the unknowing of future circumstance, that investments to date might have future manifest yields however now we'll never know. Otherwise, I dig this film like a shallow grave. The quiet spaces, the authenticity of kids and their ill informed imaginations and collaborative sense of entitlement, the Cohen Brother's style of wide open road movie views, of non-manipulative and atmospheric soundtrack, and the general believability of the people and items living in the narrative. While it's not a perfect film, the effort speaks to a student of Blood Simple that's driving in the right direction.

The Straight Story Can't believe this is a David Lynch film, and yet as a work of a master craftsman and storyteller, a person willing to let a story breath, characters speak and be considered - by audience and by fellow characters - is so deeply refreshing. From the reveal of Harry Dean Stanton as the protagonist's brother, to the way all the neighborhood naysayers fell away behind the trudging mower, I adore this film. Sure, Sissy Spacek's star power is distracting. So is her affected stammer in this role. Shrug. Life is weird, if you bother to look. That's a statement from a lot of David Lynch's films, though here I believe the most majestically realized. I don't mean that this is necessarily his best film. I do mean this film demonstrates David Lynch as a master craftsman. 

Criminal Surprisingly solid, largely for how convincingly Kevin Costner plays the evolution of Jerico's character from violent redneck sociopath to considered agent with enough raw tenacity to get rough as need arose, as of course it did in this actioner. Fun cast and satisfying conclusion that assured, should a sequel get made, I'd check it out once it hit Netflix, which with this sort of fare, is really where stuff like this should live anyway, and I say that with zero irony or disrespect.

Swiss Army Man Doesn't so much go off the rails as refuses to admit there are any while clinging madly to several, as often as not the third one though the electricity is not always on. Kudos to the art department for their cargo culture renditions of urban life, making the mundane magical through reckless recreation. Not a perfect film, and a largely wanting conclusion, and unfortunately stippled with an unsteady tone that seemed to be schizophrenic between wanting to go for American Pie sophomoric slapstick shocks one moment to Spike Jonze artistry of the absurd at others. Over and unevenly layered, too much feels unresolved without sufficient evidence to draw meaningful posthumous conclusions. 

The Finest Hours I admit I enjoyed this film. I admit that because there are portions of this film I sat through the way I sit through a line up in a government office to get something signed or stamped. I sat through aspects and plot points / devices being over explained to me with a grin and a nod, because I could feel from the quality of the production design and the beauty of those likely CGI waves the cinematographer and editor kept cutting away too that my patience would be rewarded with water slicked, flooding industrial porn that just kept giving, moaning, sloshing, and heaving from stern to bitter end. The real story is amazing, and while I don't agree with some of the liberties Disney took to add drama to an already gobsmacker dramatic occurrence, I do feel the film honored the character and for the most part the magnitude of the event. Nutshell, the film set you up to give a hoot about George 'Tiny' Myers before he get's skull crushed against the side of the broken tanker he'd hoped to flee. Probably for the best the film didn't depict the accurate details of Tiny's demise. Think filling between cookies pressed between a giant's fingers and you'll understand why that'd have been a far less tenable a tale to tell.

Futureworld Contains possibly the most unsettling scene with Yul Brynner ever cast upon a silver screen thanks to a pretty clever narrative device to resurrect a dead character for a sequel. Also contains a lot of high end math modelled 3D graphics that would've been bleeding edge expensive in 1976, paving the way for Max Headroom to follow something like 20 minutes into the future and almost a decade later in '85.

The Wave Despite the annihilation delivered during this disaster film, I now have a new destination to take my family to for vacation in the foreseeable future. Thanks to this film, should a rock slide occur, I now know what to listen for, and further, who to choke to death with my thighs should they threaten to drown my son. 

Appleseed Alpha Fabulous character design, wonderful end boss monster, and loads of Japan style posturing and posits that ask you, the audience, to not ask too much of them, the entertainers. Two Horns mouth animations will prove worth the price of entry, though overall the film is essentially a serial episode made into a film and sadly sans the rest of a series. 

The Purge Election Year A deeply guilty pleasure that continues to surprise and impress. Cultish to the core, and without a doubt suddenly far more credible a premise thanks to the red hats electing who they did.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension Classic. Brilliant. Needs a TV series of credible writing and production design.

Luke Cage Season 1 OMG. Solid. Referential. Incredible soundtrack - available on Spotify if you search Marvel's Luke Cage Soundtrack. Sweet Christmas, I love this series.

Michael Che "Matters" Almost as considered as Dave Chappelle, worthwhile watching.

Jen Kirkman "Just Keep Livin'?" Delicious, even when she's utterly off putting, which is never.

The Rezort Judging from the number of heretofore unheard of production companies responsible for this film, likely not a big budget film, and that's completely ok. Can see that it has a lukewarm reception on IMDB and Netflix, and have to wonder if that's because it's not scary enough, or gory enough, or big budget enough to speak to younger demographics. Owes tremendous royalties to Jurassic Park, Charlie Brooker's Dead Set, and several levels of nod to the wonderful zombie themed Newsflesh series of novels by Mira Grant that I deeply hope get optioned and cinefied ASAP. Channelling A Modest Proposal, the film makes an absurdist proposal that after the dead take a bite out of mankind, perhaps we should mask our problem peoples as further culprits to allow our cash paying elite to reduce those problem numbers for us guilt free. That's a big bold move, frankly, and not something I've to date encountered in film, TV, or literature thus far. Quoting the morally challenged resort owner in the film, "Every apocalypse deserves an after party." That's not creepy foreshadowing at all after seeing Trump get elected.

Run All Night What's not to love about watching seasoned character actors in a simple criminal quandary film with a local neighborhood focus and narrow timeframe? Common deserves a shout out. Not easy for an actor to make Liam Neeson appear disadvantaged.

Man in the High Castle Season 1 is very smart on a lot of levels. Production design, historical parallelism, cultural conjecture, and general geopolitical landscape feel fully considered, reasonably extrapolated, and deliciously alien as a parallel reality should. There's for sure moments in the narrative where I feel the characters should and would have known better, moments that jarred me out of the viewer seat and I'm left hoping season two pays those heavy handed plot moments off. Feel like the series is trying to hard to convince me to care about the characters that keep making really dumb mistakes at the same time as it's working to build an empathy for oppressive characters that want to honor and serve the best for their empires while keeping their families safe and out of their overlord's eye. 

Kathleen Madigan "Bothering Jesus" As ever, the comedic counterpart to Louis Black delivers, though not as emotionally edgy or perhaps introspective as her last special. She's polished and professional, but her last show came after a stint performing for the troops abroad, and you can feel the difference.

Welcome to the Punch Decent crime film despite how unlikely James McAvoy feels as an action hero crime stopper. For one, expected with his Professor X history to be a criminal mind profiler, and for two, expected him to use his mind to do more than mull over his past failings through the course of the film. 

Swelter Solid little crime film. Not perfect, and most characters feel starved for time to develop. Very strange role for Jean Claude Van Damme, though not complaining, except that here an actor's celebrity distracted from his role, character, and circumstances.  Maybe that bluff was intentional. Still felt disappointed. Like seeing Ronald McDonald fold because the Burger King turned up with an uncut dill.

Skiptrace Wonderful filming locations, and enjoyed the Mongolian segment for the comedy, music, costumes, and countryside. Overall, this thing is ill informed and evidence that the Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon collaborative international buddy movie era may have passed. I'm still a bit baffled that Jackie and Adam Sandler haven't teamed up yet. 

Spectral Solid urban ghetto war zone production design, and as ridiculous as the premise seemed, ultimately the film pays off well. Won't lie, though, the pack mule troop support machines that show up in the climax of the film were wonderful enough that every time one met its end was like Old Yeller all over again. 

Violet & Daisy (review pending) I'd heard that this is the last project James Gandolfini worked on before passing, and like BIll Paxton and so many others. far too young for the calibre of craftsmanship he brought to his contributions. Checking IMDB, appears that The Drop with that wunderkind Tom Hardy might actually be the final project benefitting from James Gandolfini juice. I'll have to track The Drop down. Meantime, stoic Saoirse Ronan is good to discover starring in this, as her indie cred is mighty with roles like Hanna and How I live Now. Watch out for character actor heavyweight Danny Trejo to drop by. Enjoyed the general tone, and the narrative intersection of hired killers with teenage nativities and misinformed priorities.