All posts by billc

Weiner

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.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

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Hardcore Henry

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Think of Hardcore Henry as a first person point of view shooter video game made into a movie.   The film makers used Go Pro cameras to achieve the first person effect.   Until the very end (due to a reflective shot) you never even see Henry  – just what he is looking at.  He doesn’t speak either!

When deciding whether  to see this movie, forget my rating and just consider the following:

  • If you think you’ll get nauseous due to the herky jerky action due to filming from cameras attached to peoples heads then skip this movie.
  • If you don’t like tons of violence skip this movie.
  • If you care about a plot or interesting characters skip this movie.
  • If you want 90 minutes of non-stop action with an incredibly high body count then go!
  • If you want some laughs (I’m not sure they were all intended) then go.
  • If you want a very unique movie that you’ll probably remember for a while then go.

For me, this turned out to be a good movie for a snowy afternoon in April while visiting relatives in Pennsylvania.

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SXSW 2016 – Part 2

Below are the hilights from the final few days of SXSW

Movies

The American Epic Sessions – This will be on PBS at some point and is the 4th episode in the series.  20 musical acts were brought into record using original recording equipment from the 1920s that allowed 3 minute recordings.  Interesting with excellent music

Morris from America – Morris has to move to Germany and live with his father.  It is interesting to see how he adjusts to both his new environs and full time life with dad.

And Punching the Cloud – A good comedy (I assume) based on real life experience of struggling comedian Henry Phillips.  He has to decide whether to sell out and go for the big bucks or stay true to himself.

Bang! The Bert Berns Story – A good documentary about 1960s song writer/music producer Bert Berns.  His hits include Hang on Sloopy and he had mob ties which adds to the interest.

My Blind Brother – A good full length romantic comedy based on a short that first debuted at SXSW in 2003.  Two brothers (Nick Kroll and Adam Scott) both fall in love with the same girl (Jenny Slate who was great in Obvious Child).

Music

I saw about 20 bands and here are my top few (not in order)

  • Jake Bugg
  • Avett Brothers
  • Lucius
  • Thao and the Get Down Stay Down
  • Leon Russell
  • Iggy Pop

 

SXSW 2016 – Part 1

Here are some very quick reviews of my favorite movies from SXSW so far.  There are still 4 days to go.

Don’t Think Twice – This is one of my favorites so far.  When it is released in July I recommend it for everyone.  The comedian Mike Birbiglia directs a great ensemble cast.  A successful improv group is at a crossroads.  Some will find more success while others need to decide if this is the life for them.  This movie is both very funny and very moving.  The next day  I went to a taping of Leonard Maltin’s podcast with Birbiglia and Ira  Glas (a producer) as guests.  It should be available in a week or two and I recommend that also.

Tower – An excellent documentary on an early mass shooting incident that took place at the University of Texas Tower in Austin in 1966.  This focused on the survivors (both those that were shot and those that helped either rescue victims or take down the shooter).  Most of the people (who are now mostly in their late 60s or 70s) participated in a Q+A afterwards.   Ironically (and sadly), the 50th anniversary of this shooting on August 1 will also be the day the  new ‘campus carry’ law allowing guns on campus goes into effect in Texas.

Newtown – Another great, very moving  documentary on an American campus shooting tragedy.  This also focused on the victims – both the dead and their survivors.    Twenty 6 and 7 year olds and six educators were killed by a mentally disturbed person with guns they should not have had access to.  Sadly, not enough is being done to prevent future events but hopefully movies like these will help change that.

Everybody Works Some – This is the newest Richard Linklater film.  It opens soon and is being marketed as a natural follow on to his early 90s hit Dazed and Confused.  It’s a semi-autobiographical film of his first few days on campus before classes start as a freshman on his college baseball team.  Its sort of a coming of age movie, has it’s funny moments but also some heart.  I liked it but it’s not as good as Dazed and Confused (and nowhere close to Boyhood).

Gleason – This is a great documentary about Steve Gleason and his wife.  Gleason used to play football for the New Orleans Saints (and is famous for blocking a  punt that lead to a key score in the first game back in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina).  Shortly after retiring and one month after finding his wife was pregnant he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS).  It’s an unflinching look at the toll the disease takes but also shows the courage the couple has as they deal with this horrible disease.  This is often tough to watch but it’s worth the effort.  They were both there for the Q+A.

The Bandit – An entertaining documentary about Burt Reynolds, Hal Needham and the making of Smokey and the Bandit.  I think this will be on CMT later in the year and while not great is worth checking out.  Reynolds was there for a Q+A.

In a Valley of Violence – An homage to some old westerns (it most reminded me of The Outlaw Josey Wales).  If you like westerns this is worth seeing.

Demolition – A good movie, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, as he struggles to deal with the death of his wife.  Gyllenhaal definitely takes on unique roles.  This movie won’t be for everyone but has good performances.

The Trust – Two cops plan a heist.  It stars Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood.   Lots of tension and some humor.  if you are a fan of Cage’s quirkiness he doesn’t disappoint.

Operation Avalanche – A good comedy about how the CIA faked the moon landing (they really didn’t)

Hunt for the Wilderpeople – This is an Australian  comedy about a city kid that goes to live with a foster family in the Australian bush country.  Unique and funny.

Hail, Caesar!

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Hail, Caesar is the most recent comedy by the Coen Brothers.  The film is entertaining and had several funny scenes. I enjoyed it, but this is not one of their best.

Hail, Caesar is an homage to different movies genres of the 40s and 50s, including Esther Williams films, Gene Kelly musicals, singing cowboy films and more sophisticated films as well as the Hollywood system of that era.  That might have been some deeper meaning, but if there was, it escaped me.

The movie had a great cast, but there were so many characters that many of them didn’t have enough screen time to sink their teeth into their roles. The exceptions to that were Alden Ehrenreich (who I had not heard of) and Ralph Fiennes, who had a great scene together.

Overall I liked Hail, Caesar, but it did not meet my expectations.

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I also enjoyed this film, maybe a little more than Bill C. It varied depending on the scene, because the plot is certainly nothing to write here about. Memorable scenes: 1) Channing Tatum channeling his inner Gene Kelly, with an R rated take, and thanks to Coen brothers for fitting in the whole choreography; 2) the cowboy star, played by Alden Ehrenreich (as Bill described above…holy cow, where did they find this guy who can do incredible cowboy roping tricks!), trying to act in a English upper class sitting room scene with Ralph Fiennes’ director coaching him on the proper dialect; 3) Scarlett Johannsen in an incredible water ballet scene followed by some salty language and practical, down to earth approach to having a child out of wedlock in the studio system; 3) George Clooney playing a bumbling, semi-idiot Hollywood star. Josh Brolin is solid as the strict Catholic movie studio head honcho who tries to keep it all together.

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Best of 2015

While we were slackers in terms of writing reviews, we were not slackers in terms of seeing lots of movies.  Here’s our picks for the best of 2015.

 Bill IBill C
Best Movies1 Spotlight
2 The Big Short
3 The Revenant
4 Trainwreck
5 Brooklyn
6 Sicario
7 Bridge of Spies
8 Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens
9 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
10 The Martian
11 Creed
12 Trumbo
13 Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation
14 Focus
15 Selma
16 Ex Machina
17 The Gift
18 Mr. Holmes
19 Straight Outa Compton
20 Hateful Eight
21 Southpaw
22 Chi-Raq
23 Spy
24 A Most Violent Year
25 Crimson Peak
26 MacFarland, USA
27 The Age of Adaline
28 Girlhood
29 Mad Max – Fury Road
30 Kingsman: The Secret Service
31 Grandma
32 Carol
33 Sisters
34 The Night Before
35 Phoenix
36 The Intern
37 Magic Mike XXL
38 Entourage
39 Black Mass
40 Furious 7
41 Aloha
42 Dope
43 Ricki and the Flash
44 Ted 2
1 The Big Short
2 The Martian
3 Trainwreck
4 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
5 Star Wars: The Force Awakens
6 Mad Max: Fury Road
7 Spotlight
8 Bridge of Spies
9 Son of Saul
10 Sicario
11 Victoria
12 Inside Out
13 Ex Machina
14 Selma
15 Brooklyn
16 The Revenant
17 The Hateful Eight
18 The Gift
19 Straight Outta Compton
20 Green Room
21 Creed
22 Carol
23 Love & Mercy
24 Trumbo
25 Room
Best Documentaries1 Amy
2 Mavis
3 Best of Enemies
4 Meru
5 Raiders
6 Peace Officer
7 By Sidney Lumet
8 Twinsters
9 Being Evel
10 Man Vs. Snake

Bill I’s Best of 2015 Comments

Narrative Films

1. Spotlight – thrilling combination of investigative reporting combined with a spot-on portrayal of how the sexual abuse of children is covered up and repressed until courageous survivors come forward

2. The Big Short – making global financial meltdown understandable and enjoyable to watch

3. The Revenant – Stunning scenes in terms of the natural environment, including a bear mauling Leo. A work of art that captivated me much more then the director’s last one, Birdman.

4. Trainwreck – many hysterical scenes, I’d love to see it again

5. Brooklyn – epic period piece, perfectly done

6. Sicario – brutal action, the other side of Breaking Bad

7.  Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens – JJ Abrams does it again!

8. Bridge of Spies – true story told very well

9. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – I had no idea what to expect, and got blown away

10. The Martian – how much time and money does it take to rescue Matt Damon?

11. Creed – Rocky is revitalized as a mentor, and young Creed is his inspiration

Bill C’s Best of 2015 Comments

1. The Big Short – Great job of making an important, potentially dry  topic both informative and entertaining

2. The Martian – Accoring to the golden Globes this is the best comedy of the year!  But the visual and dram were exceptional with a little humor.

3. Trainwreck – Really the best comedy of the year.  Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow made a great movie and Hebron James, comedian, was a revelation.  I did see it again.

4. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Moving story + coming of age story told with touching humor.

5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Great re-invigoration of series

6. Mad Max: Fury Road– A great, non-stop ride

7. Spotlight – Another story that needed to be told. A modern day ‘All the President’s Men’

8. Bridge of Spies – Steven Spielberg also still makes great movies

9. Son of Saul – A brutal concentration camp story of a Jewish prisoner trying to give his son with a proper Jewish burial

10. Sicario – Drug war from the good(?) guys side

11. Victoria – This is a two hour movie with a single take! Amazing to watch

12. Inside Out – Another really good, touching Pixar film

Fantastic Fest 2015 – Part 1

This is the second year I’ve attended Fantastic Fest.  It’s the largest ‘genre’ film fest in the U.S. and is held at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar Location in Austin.  Here is a link to my post last year which gives a more detailed description of the fest.  I really enjoy this fest as it has some great movies from all over the world and many you are not likely to see anywhere else.  It also has some great activities going on at The Highball .  Here is a link to the schedule (which includes the Highball activities).

Here are some hilights from the first 4 days (this goes for 8 days):

Victoria

A really cool German film.  They made this   2 hour 15 minute movie in a single take  as they move through multiple locations in Berlin.   The single take was incredibly impressive.  The movie follows Victoria as she parties, meets some people and makes some increasingly bad decisions.  Very interesting.

Anomalisa

Charlie Kaufman’s latest.  This is all done in stop motion animation  This is an exploration of one man’s psyche and sort of depressing. I think I liked it more for the animation and because of the Q+A with Kaufman.  This film was also preceded by Don Hertzfeldt’s latest cartoon which was good  (and he was there too).

The Brand New Testament 

A French comedy about God’s daughter going off to find her own apostles and writing a new testament.  Very funny (although some might be offended).

Son of Saul

This won awards  at Cannes and is a great but very sad/depressing film.  It takes place in a concentration camp during WWII over a day when one of the Jews that is forced to help the Nazis in the concentration camps finds what he believes is his dead sons body and wants to have a proper Jewish burial. Very powerful.

High-Rise

This is like last years Snowpiercer about class struggles but takes place in a high rise instead of a  moving train.  Entertaining but too long.  See Snowpiercer instead.

Liza the Fox Fairy

I liked this one a lot.  A dark comedy about a woman striving for true love.  Very unique with a musical ghost.

Man vs. Snake

One of my all time favorite documentaries is ‘King of Kong’. It’s about Steve Wiebe trying to set a world record in Donkey Kong and is both hilarious and moving.  Man vs. Snake is a documentary about the quest to get a billion points in a lesser know video game called Nibbler.  This is also a funny documentary with lots off twists  and turns.  It’s good but I’d still recommend King of Kong first.

Schneider vs. Bax

Another good dark comedy. This one is about 2 hit man assigned to kill each other.

Klown Forever

This is a sequel to a Borat like comedy that I really loved called Klown.  Klown was hilarious, totally inappropriate and unique.  The sequel is good, but not as good as the original.

Black Mass

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Black Mass is the story of crime boss Whitey Bulger and his relationship with the FBI prior to his 16 year life as a fugitive.

I liked this a lot.  It is reminiscent of Goodfellas (although not as good).  Johnny Depp gives a great performance as Bulger – nice as can be one minute and then a psychotic murderer the next.  Joel Egerton (who Bill and I both liked in The Gift) was also awesome as Bulger’s FBI handler.  He gives a really nuanced performance as someone heading into the abyss as he lets Bulger use him and forgets what his true role is.

This also has a great supporting cast.   Benedict  Cumberbatch plays Bulger’s brother, a powerful Boston politician.  Peter Sarsgaard is terrific as a drug addict.    David Harbour is also a standout as an FBI agent.

If you like this type of movie  (and don’t mind violence) this is definitely worth seeing.

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

I liked it a lot, same as Bill C, although my rating is closer to a 4- or even 3+, because it’s not close to Goodfellas or Departed (another film that is based on Whitey Bulger, although fictional). I think I liked Ben Affleck’s Town better. This film apparently sticks close to the book written by Boston Globe reporters. I lived in Boston during the heydey of Whitey, and all I knew was that the major crime figure in town was free to walk around while his brother Billy ran the state senate, as the most powerful politician around. This movie doesn’t show really the crimes other than whacking his enemies, or supposed friends, or his scheming, rather it’s a character study of a sociopath, played compellingly by Johnny Depp, and the incredible gullibility/blindness/one-mindedness of the FBI as they focus on the Italian mafia as they let Whitey do his thing, supposedly giving them valuable information, which of course is mostly bogus or invented by his Southie buddy on the FBI. I really liked when they cut to the Winter Hill Gang members who end up informing on Whitey, in order to shave years off their sentences. So, overall an enjoyable couple of hours, and standout performance by Depp and others, but a somewhat cliche story portrayed in a straightforward fashion.

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Grandma

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Grandma stars Lily Tomlin in the title role helping to get her granddaughter through  a personal crisis.  It’s sort of a one day road movie with Tomling revisiting some past and current relationships as she tries to get the money to help her granddaughter.  It has it’s good moments and Tomlin’s characters is able to explore and hopefully resolve some of her past/current relationships along the way.

I liked it but I’m not sure it will stay with me very long.  If you’re a fan of Tomlin check it out.

IMDB

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Mistress America

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig team up again in this new comedy.  As in the entertaining Frances Ha, they share writing credits and Baumbach direct while Gerwig stars.  If you liked Frances Ha you will probably like this.

Gerwig stars along with Lola Kirke.  Kirk plays Tracy, a college freshman in NYC who is  lonely and bored.  Tracy meets Brooke (Gerwig), soon to be her step sister, and Brooke show her how to open up and try to get more out of life. Though Brooke’s plans don’t always work out she is going for all the gusto.

Greta Gerwig is one of my favorite actresses during the past 10 years and, as usual, doesn’t disappoint.

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