Category Archives: Movie

Aardvark

Bill I’s Rating – 4 out of 5

You gotta like a writer/director (Brian Shoaf in this case) who names his movie in part because it will be listed first alphabetically in Netflix.  (so no, “aardvark” has no relationship to the plot, although there are clips from the zoo of an aardvark at various points) This film transcends genres.

Is it a creepy horror? The lead character, Josh, (wonderfully played by Zachary Quinto) shows up for his first psychotherapy session with a weird haircut (think punk rock star wannabe), a blank stare, and an obsession with his “genius” TV star brother. Is he psychotic, schizo, a serial killer with a super depressing apartment to fit? He “sees” his brother everywhere, in the homeless lady in the alley (“he’s a master of disguise”), in the neighborhood cop who entices him to joy ride on some stolen bikes, in the local teenage bullies. Flashbacks reveal he may have been bullied by his brother as an 8 year old.

Is it a comedy? The young, fragile, therapist, Emily (another great portrayal, by Jenny Slate), might be seeing her first client, and she gives bad advice, becomes emotional (not because of excessive empathy but because of self pity), begins an unethical relationship with said TV star brother (Jon Hamm playing a version of himself), who at one point calls in her client, Josh, for an emergency session basically to find out more about the handsome stud brother.

Is it a love story? Josh meets a “normal” pretty girl on the street who for some reason seems attracted to him, even after being invited in to watch TV in the serial killer-like apartment. They go on walking dates, starting with meeting at the local gas station. Too bad Josh doesn’t ask for her cell number or address, meaning he needs to walk around town hoping to run into her for his next date, haha.

The movie has a cool ending, tying up loose emotional ends and (spoiler alert) no one has been tied up, slashed, raped, or married. Perfect film festival entry and I recommend it for those of you who don’t need to see the typical Hollywood blockbuster.

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Abundant Acreage Available

Bill I’s Rating – 3 out of 5

An independent movie with a budget of maybe $1-2 million, with literally only 5 actors and 2 sets (a farm house, and the tobacco farm itself), this very well acted, well written, artfully  filmed piece may earn close to what it cost but not much more because I can’t imagine who is its target audience other than art film aficionados with time on their hands. It’s not an upbeat 80 minutes, starting from the first scene of a brother and sister (terrific as always Amy Adams, who must be the first choice of every director who needs his leading lady to look like she either worked on a farm all her life or is a working class bartender type with a Boston accent, and Terry Kinney) burying their recently deceased dad’s ashes in the middle of the farm. The brother is a super Jesus lover who argues the ashes need to be placed in “consecrated grounds”, aka a cemetery, while Amy’s character is insistent that they belongs right where he plowed all his life. So their relationship looks rocky but they revert to typical brother sister routine, which apparently they have been doing for 50 years, no spouses in sight. Then all of a sudden 3 old dudes show up with their tent planted on the farm, and it is either a sinister or harmless situation, so Amy brings her rifle to the confrontation. They are 3 brothers who (I was going to say spoiler alert but I’m confident anyone reading this other than Bill C. will not be going to the theater to see the film) grew up on the farm till their parents sold it (actually the mom sold it while the dad was in jail for a short while) to Amy’s dad. What do the brothers want? They won’t say directly, we can only guess, but they are alternately goofy, foul mouthed (well, only the one who had a stroke, who used to be nice but the stroke destroyed only the nice part of his brain leaving the nasty untouched or even enhanced), naïve, deceptive, and directionless. I’d describe more but the plot is not that interesting. The focus of the film according to the writer/director, Angus MacLachlan, in his comments after the film, is the land, and the North Carolina place itself, where he is from. Martin Scorcese is executive producer, and it is definitely well done, but I am hoping to be more interested and excited about the next 7 Tribeca Film Fest selections I will see.

 

Logan

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Logan is set in post apocalyptic (for the mutants) 2029 with Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) both in ill health and in hiding.  While there’s tons of good action this is also a more thoughtful and somber super hero movie than most dealing with  issues relevant in today’s society.

Patrick and Jackman give excellent performances with the Professor having seizure/mental issues and Jackman  shows different emotions  and he still wrestles with his issues of how to handle  the destruction he causes and hurting those he cares about.   Dafne King also does a great jobs as a young mutant on the run.  This probably could have been tightened up a bit to be closer than two hours and while I liked the plot at times it was predictable.

As with Deadpool last year, this is not for kids – tons of bloody violence.  But for those who like a good action movie this is worth seeing.

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John Wick: Chapter 2

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

If you are just looking for totally escapist, ridiculous action movie with a very high body count to kill  two hours this is the movie for you!

Keanu Reeves reprises his role as John Wick, hired assassin extraordinaire!  Keanu is perfect for this role as he doesn’t really need to act, talks very little but does a great job with fighting, loading his gun and just killing an incredible number of people (since most of these people he kills are fellow assassinsI didn’t feel too bad rooting for him).  Until this comes out in DVD and someone can continually pause the movie I don’t think there will be an accurate count. Keanu is sort of the baby Liam Neeson in terms of being able to star in an action movie well into his 50s (although I think Keanu does more of his own stunts).

The set pieces are never boring (although of course they are ridiculous) and if you like this type of movie definitely check it out.

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I am Not Your Negro

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

I Am Not Your Negro is a thought provoking documentary about race relations in America.  It is based on an unfinished project by author James Baldwin exploring race relations using Baldwin’s remembrances of murdered civil rights leaders (and friends) Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X as a jumping off point.  The film uses archival footage of events in the 60’s + Baldwin interview/speaking engagements as well as footage of more recent events.  Samuel L. Jackson provides additional narration based on Baldwin’s writings.

Unfortunately, despite Baldwin having died 30 years ago much of what he said and wrote is still relevant today and this film is worth seeing

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Paterson

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

As a public service right here I will provide a short quiz you can take in order to determine whether you should see this film, as follows:

  1. Are you curious what Adam Driver’s character from Girls would be like after a lobotomy?
  2. How about watching Adam Driver appear in almost every scene in a movie while not moving any facial muscles?
  3. Are you tired of movies that are driven by plots, and have dramatic and compelling scenes?
  4. Do you have heart problems and need a movie to not cause your heart to go above resting state?
  5. Would you like to see what it’s like for a bus driver to go on his route every day?
  6. Did you ever wonder what would happen if a city bus stopped working in the middle of the route?
  7. Do you like to see sets of twins make appearances at unexpected times throughout a movie?
  8. Do you like poetry, and would you like to see an ordinary person compose poetry on the fly, writing about ordinary objects such as matchsticks?
  9. Do you live in, or work in, or were you born in, Paterson New Jersey?
  10. Are you walking outside in the cold and need a warm, quiet place to sit for a couple of hours?

If you answered yes to any of those questions then by all means go see Paterson!

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Lion

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

The first half is somewhat reminiscent of Slumdog Millionaire in that it focuses on the plight of a 5 year old boy from a poor rural family in India. He and his older brother, whom he adores, spend their days jumping freight trains to steal coal, then turn over their booty to their hard working mom. It’s not much of a spoiler to disclose that the boy gets lost, and without cell phones, or even phones, or even a correct town name or name of his mother other than mum, there’s no chance he will be found. Stuck in a child’s prison (aka an “orphanage”), he ends up being adopted by a family in Australia, and the rest I will not tell here. The actor playing the young boy is amazing, and the scenes of beauty (at first, by his home) and then chaos (in Calcutta) and danger at every turn are amazing. It got a little slow for me when 20 years go by and the boy is now living a normal life in Tasmania (more amazing scenery by the coast). It picks up at the end, and what an ending. Dev Patel as the grown up boy, and Rooney Mara as his love interest, are both very good. Nicole Kidman as his adoptive mother I thought was a little overly dramatic. Very cool photos during the credits of the actual boy/man whose story the movie is based on. Highly recommended for ALL ages.

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

I liked this as well and for many of the reasons that Bill articulated.  While this shows great beauty in India it also shows tremendous poverty and the incredibly tough life the poor have.  As Bill states, both actors playing Saroo are excellent (Dev Patel starred in Slumdog Millionaire also).  A very moving ending and definitely stay during the closing credits.

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Hacksaw Ridge

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Hacksaw Ridge is based on the true story of Desmond Doss. During WWII, serving in the Pacific, he became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor while serving as a medic.

I almost felt I was getting two movies for the price of one.  The first hour is Doss growing up, family turmoil, falling in love, enlisting and standing up for his desire to serve in a capacity that does not  require him to kill.  The second half is the story of his participation in the battle for Okinawa, his incredible bravery while sticking to his principles.  The war scenes are extremely well made but also incredibly violent (so if you don’t like disturbing war images skip this film).

This is Mel Gibson’s first directorial effort in 10 years (time flies),  It’s a well made film and it does it good job in telling the story of Desmond Doss (stay for the closing credits to see pictures/interviews with Doss and others).  My biggest knock was there are parts (in both halfs) that felt formulaic and all the expected caricatures of characters in an army barracks were provided.

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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.

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

I’m not sure why I saw this movie either.  There was so much hype about this book that I read it before the movie came out.  I didn’t really like it because there were no characters in the book that I liked.  I guess I watched the movie to see if they made any more characters more likable.  Maybe a little but this won’t make my top ten list.

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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.

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