Deepwater Horizon

Bill I’s Rating – 3.5 out of 5

Disaster flicks have both come a long way, and stayed the same, from back in the day, such as 1972’s Poseidon Adventure. Similarities: A huge structure, which encounters a problem that quickly escalates into total destruction, while our characters take heroic, mostly, actions to rescue others, and try to escape with their lives. Come a long way in that the super HD reality of the structure is incredible, with the feeling that you are inside the oil rig (yes, that’s the name of it, Deepwater Horizon, true story), with things popping, dials rising into the red, water blowing gaskets (or whatever they blow), and fire and explosions go off while people get blown away, injured, jump into the fiery water, helicopters rescue, etc. I knew the story going in (oil rig blew up after it’s corporate owner, BP, cut corners in safety measures), but the suspense is high and overall great action throughout.

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The Girl on the Train

Bill I’s Rating – 3 out of 5

I was going to avoid this film due to its relatively low score on Rotten Tomatoes but when I read a positive recommendation from my friend Leslie Waltzer, I decided to give it a shot on a slow weekend. It’s been compared to Gone Girl, and I agree with those comparisons that it’s not as good, but still kept my attention, and watching Emily Blunt’s excellent portrayal of aforementioned train girl, she is captivating, while I tried to figure out what’s going on. Is she nuts, obsessive, schizophrenic, scorned ex-wife, jealous wannabe trophy wife, deluded alcoholic, or a sane person just trying to do the right thing. I won’t tell here. I can recommend a much better film, The Ones Below.

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Birth of a Nation

Bill I’s Rating – 4 out of 5

I resisted seeing this film due to the recently made public story of the director and actor, Nate Parker, being accused of rape years ago. It’s the Woody Allen, Roman Polanski issue, where I refuse to patronize these “artists” who have abused women/girls, whether or not they have been convicted. But, spurred on by a tweet from actor Hal Holbrook, along with Gabrielle Union’s online encouragement, I decided to see the film, and I’m glad I did. It’s very well done, incredible portrayal of slavery life on southern plantations in 1809.  Beyond what are now cliche characters (vicious plantation manager, maternal slave owner, incredibly cruel plantation owners, house slave, cotton pickers, etc.) it showed how religion was used to give hope of a rewarding after-life to those toiling this life’s hell, as well as to strike fear of a demanding God to obey their masters. Nat Turner does his duty, including being carted around to nearby plantations as the preacher who will keep the slaves obedient and in line, while their labor is extracted in the way one would ride one’s horse as long as possible while spending as little money and food as possible, no personal love or care necessary. Until a line is crossed, which in this case is rape and beating of his wife. Articles have been written protesting this subservient role of the black women, who in this film are powerless and serve as a reason, an affront to the men’s egos, who passively nod their heads while they see their men go off to act on violent, and certainly suicidal, rebellion. It becomes a revenge film at the end, portraying some graphic violence, and not in the Tarantino “fun violence” sense. The final scenes of “strange fruit” hanging from the trees are haunting, as is the crowd’s animal like lashing out as Nat is brought to the hangman. It made me think, has it really been only 200 hundred years since Americans acted this way? Slavery continued until 150 years ago. Lynchings and the KKK continued to occur until when, only 60 years ago? Civil rights violence with Bull Connor and the March in Selma was in the 60s. Haven’t we progress so far since then? Are we really such a progressive society? That’s a different film. In fact, such a film was made; I reviewed Fruitvale Station only 3 years ago.

The Birth of a Nation Movie Review


Fantastic Fest 2016

This was my third year attending Fantastic Fest and I now look forward to this every year.  Fantastic Fest is the largest genre film festival in the U.S. and features horror, science fiction, action, fantasy, foreign , and cult or anything else that strikes Tim League’s fancy.   The festival is wholly contained  in Austin at the Alamo South Lamar theater (except for special events) so there are no worries about traveling to other venues to make it to a film on time.  You  pick the movies you’d like to see the following day  online and that evening receive your schedule.  You don’t always get your first choice but being forced out of your comfort zone is not a bad thing,   you usually get your first or second choices and you don’t have to worry about whether you’ll get into the movie you go to.

In addition to the movies with directors, producers, and actors in attendance, there were several events and parties at the neighboring The Highball, including  podcasts with Leonard Maltin  and the  Doug Loves Movies podcast with Doug Benson.

Here are a few that  I really enjoyed (not in any specific order):

The Invisible Guest – This movie from Spain is a very good mystery/thriller with lots of plot twists and turns.

The Handmaiden – This and the next two are excellent films from South Korea.The Handmaiden is the latest from Chan-Wook Park, the director of Oldboy.  This film is set in the 1930s and their are more twists and turns in this one than in the Invisible Guest above!  I think this will be released in the U.S. in the next few weeks.

Age of Shadows – This one is also set in the 30s (maybe 40s) in Japan occupied Korea.  A Korean police chief is ordered by his Japanese superiors to hunt down members of the Korean resistance.   His allegiances are tested!

Asura: The City of Madness – The story of a corrupt cop who is caught between the corrupt mayor he works for as an enforcer and the district attorney.   Very atmospheric with lots of violence.  The director could have probably chosen a more subtle final act but he went for all the gusto.

Toni Erdmann – A funny and touching German movie about a man trying to reconnect with his adult daughter in unconventional ways.  Very funny with some important life lessons.

The Crew – An excellent French heist thriller.  This is a  taut, action packed 81 minutes

Arrival – Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner star in this mystery, science fiction drama as scientist trying to communicate with aliens before an apocalypse can occur.  This opens in November.


Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Weiner is an excellent documentary about Anthony Weiner’s ill-advised run for NYC mayor a couple of years ago.  He attempted to resurrect his political career two years after resigning from Congress due to a sexting scandal.

Just following his campaign would have been fascinating enough, but the filmmakers got lucky when new sexting allegations popped up and caused his campaign to implode. There are lots of fascinating things to watch: the political campaign and its workings, the press coverage,  his dealing with the scandal, and the increasingly-strained relationship between Weiner and his wife (a top Clinton advisor).

The film is thought-provoking.  Parts  are funny and others are painful to watch. The question I hoped would be answered is why he would allow this film to be made.  Late in the film he was asked that question, but didn’t answer. My view is that, due to his ego, he expected this to be a film about a great political comeback story.  This film is never dull and highly recommended.


Rotten Tomatoes



Captain America: Civil War

Bill I’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Why are Iron Man and Captain America fighting each other when there is a real bad guy out loose? I can’t tell you but it strained my suspension of disbelief. You have to sit back and enjoy the action, including a slew of other action heroes, the most fun being a young Spider “Man” and Ant Man. The plot is mega stupid, but the actors are terrific as is the action. A lot of fun, and will be a super huge blockbuster.

Morris from America

Bill I’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Another Montclair Film Festival superb, surprising, film. Similar to another film fest I reviewed, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, this has as its main character a 13 year-old boy (Markees Christmas, in what I assume is his debut, so great) who is in a foreign environment (Heidelberg, Germany in this case), surrounded by unfriendlies (his school mates), and channeling his inner gangster (he’s a wannabee gangster rapper). Craig Robinson is great as his dad, a former soccer player turned coach, who has a unique style of parenting (his wife recently died), and figuring out to deal with his unhappy son. There’s a girl involved, and some embarrassing episodes and an understanding German tutor who gives Morris some motherly attention. This should be a big hit if it gets publicity. See it if you can!

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Bill I’s Rating: 4 out of 5

I had a ticket to a different film at the Montclair Film Festival, but went to the wrong theater and ended up seeing this which totally delighted me. Aspects of Home Alone: boy left alone (this boy actually runs away from his foster home), pursued by some mean people (meanest being the Child Welfare lady), and finding an adventure in the local wilderness (instead of Central Park this kid ends up in the New Zealand bush). With some great characters, and spectacular scenery, and what I consider an Oscar worthy performance by the kid, I loved this. Great for kids of all ages, with only a little wild boar violent episode, and some close call rifle shots.

Donald Cried

Bill I’s Rating: 3 out of 5

A low budget film at the Montclair Film Festival that has recently been picked up by a distributor, this is a great character study of two old high school friends who reconnect after many years in their hometown of Warwick Rhode Island. Peter is a Wall Street financier, successful and in no way ready to enjoy returning to Warwick to take care of his grandma’s estate and funeral. He loses his wallet on the way and ends up depending on Donald, an unforgettable character played by the director and writer, Kris Avedisian. Over the course of 24 hours the two go through a roller coaster of emotions and experiences, encountering old “friends”, crushes, and haunts along the way. I can’t do justice to the realness, (enhanced by the hand held camera) but I will say that my wife was really upset afterwards due to the Donald character, who is the super clingy friend who literally won’t leave you alone. I really liked it!

Syl Johnson: Any Way the Wind Blows

Bill I’s Rating: 3 out of 5

Straightforward documentary, played at the Montclair Film Festival, about a great soul singer, Syl Johnson, who never got much acclaim. In fact, I had never even heard of him. He was almost Al Green, and unluckily missed his big shot. He appeared on Soul Train, toured extensively, including today as an 80 something year old, and had a couple of top 100 hit songs. But some key people did find out about him and his songs: Wu Tang Clan, Jay Z, Snoop Dogg and literally hundreds of hip hop artists who sampled him in their songs. Syl is an interesting character, both proud of his accomplishments, resentful he never gained mainstream success, and loving the attention wherever he can get it. The documentary coincided with the release of a $75 boxed set of his catalog, that got a Grammy nomination (for engineering, although Syl perceived it as his). Very cool to hear how his work was sampled, and how good the original songs are. Check him out, and look for this documentary if it gets released.