Thursday Movie Picks: The Woods

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is everyone's favorite creepy place to hang out alone: the woods. It's really hard not to go completely with the horror route this week. Here's what I came up with. 

1) The Cabin the Woods

I gave myself one horror pick because I love this movie so much. It's still hilarious no matter how many times I re-watch it. 

2) The Hunt for the Wilderpeople

This wonderful little film that takes place in the New Zealand bush was one of my favorites from last year. 

3) Once Upon a Forest

I used to watch this movie all the time when I was a kid. It's about some woodland critters (not the South Park kind) who try to find a rare plant to save one of their sick friends (who was voiced by Elisabeth Moss, which I never knew before)  To make this childhood story even more lame, the only reason I had this on VHS in the first place was because I won it at my local roller rink for winning the "Four Corners" game.

2017 Blind Spot Series: Do The Right Thing

It's gonna get hotter. 

What I knew going in: Aside from the themes about racial divide, not much at all.

Sal (Danny Aiello) owns a pizza place in Brooklyn. His customers are almost exclusively black due to the area he built in. His racist son, Pino (John Turturro) thinks he should relocate, but he refuses. One day one of his customers, Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito) asks why he only has photos of Italian American white men and no black men on his walls. This disagreement turns into Buggin Out attempting to boycott the pizzeria, which continues to escalate throughout the day. Mookie (Spike Lee) A friend of Buggin, but an employee of Sal finds himself caught in the middle.

Doing "day in the life" films can be difficult. It's hard to follow someone, or a few people around for a set period of time if their story doesn't progress or shift in any way. Do The Right Thing makes it look easy. There's a lot going on in this film. Through Mookie's eyes, we meet all of his neighbors. Some more memorable than others but every single one felt like they served a purpose.

It's hard for me to describe how this film was shot. To me, it looks like a music video, and it absolutely works. The camera is often above our character, shooting them at a downwards angle. It's not afraid to get in their personal space. I imagine that's how Lee wanted his audience to feel. Like we needed to get in there to understand the importance of it all.

It's so strange for me to see Esposito in a role like this after being so used to him as the methodical Gus Fring in Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul.  I'm glad Lee cast himself in this as well. The acting is great all around, especially from the supporting cast. I felt myself getting very defensive of Roger Guenveur Smith's Smiley several times. But I can't for the life of me figure out why out of all these people, Aiello ended up with the lone acting Oscar nomination. He's good, don't get me wrong, but I didn't feel that he was the strongest.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "You should boycott the barber that fucked up your head."  - Sweet Dick Willie (Robin Harris)

DVD Review: Your Name

What is this life?

Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) is a teenager living in a small town in Japan who dreams of living in Tokyo. Taki (Ry√Ľnosuke Kamiki) is a teenager living an overly scheduled life in Tokyo where he attends school and works part time at an Italian restaurant. Some nights they have dreams where they live the other's lives, and they start to communicate by leaving notes for each other to make those "dreams" easier. 

I'm not familiar with writer/director Makoto Shinkai's work, but when I read a few reviews for this film a while back, I knew immediately I wanted to see it. I was happy to see that it was an option to watch on my long flight to Europe last week. 

The story itself is quite amusing. Obviously you can't just seamlessly transition into living someone else's life. Mitsuha and Taki make a ton of mistakes in each other bodies. Mitsuha also attempts to help Taki's dating life much to his embarrassment. Taki doesn't try to change anything about Mitsuha's life, except for the fact that he fondles her/his breasts every time because he's a teenage boy.

The latter half of the film started to get messy once the two attempt to meet each other and see that their bond is even stranger than before. That got slightly irritating to watch as I just wish they would've hurried up a bit. (Admittedly, that could've just been the long flight too) But Your Name is a memorable anime that will stick with me for a long time. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I hate this life! Please make me a handsome Tokyo boy in my next life! - Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi)

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies Based on True Events

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is all about real life. There's a sea of bio pics and movies inspired by famous murders out there. I'll be surprised if there's a lot of overlap at all. I ended up doing a theme within a theme without realizing it. All three of the movies I chose feature James Franco

1) True Story

Christian Longo murdered his wife and three children, then fled to Mexico using the alias of Mike Finkel, a New York Times reporter. He then tells his story to the real Finkel while in prison. Even knowing the case behind this, the film still managed to make you wonder if things were going to be different. 

2) Lovelace

The true story of Linda Lovelace who was pushed into the adult film industry by her creep of a husband and was frequently abused by several people in the business before getting herself out. Amanda Seyfried gives her career best in the lead role, the entire cast is very strong. 

3) 127 Hours

Aron Ralston goes mountain climbing alone in Utah and ends up with his arm wedged between a boulder after falling down a crevasse. He ends up having to cut off his own arm with a small knife in order to free himself. This film was beautifully shot by Danny Boyle.  

Thursday Movie Picks: Double Features

This week, Wanderer asks us to choose films we think make a good double feature. There are endless possibilities here. This is what I came up with.

1) 2:37/Elephant

Both of these movies involve tragedies set in high schools. At one time, 2:37 was accused of ripping Elephant off but aside from one tracking shot, I think they're very different looks into how the worse thing imaginable can happen within a school.

2) Black Sheep/Tommy Boy

Nostalgia pick! I used to watch these two films back to back all the time when I was a kid. In fact, sometimes when I think of a specific scene, I struggle to remember which movie it was from.

3) The Big Short/99 Homes

Both of these movies tackle the American housing crisis in 2008, but they look at it from different sides. The Big Short shows us the rich Wall Street workers that pulled it off, and 99 Homes shows us the poor people that suffered. 

Review: Wonder Woman

Nevertheless, she persisted. 

We've already met Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) in Batman v Superman but in her solo film we see her as Diana, a princess in her hidden land of warrior women called Themyscira. They're sworn to protect man from Ares, the God of war. When a WWI pilot, Steve (Chris Pine) breaches their barrier and washes up on shore. Diane goes with him to help save innocent lives after he tells her of the Great War. 

DCEU finally has a film on their hands that isn't a complete trainwreck, and that feels good. But am I going to lose a little blogger cred here if I say that I didn't like all of it? Don't get me wrong. The majority of this film is amazing. The first time we see Diana dawn her costume, walk into "No Man's Land" solo, with her perfect theme music picking up at just the right moment was masterful. I couldn't believe how emotional I felt watching it. It was stunning, I thought I was actually going to cry for a minute, but the climatic fight scene at the end is horrendous. They had elegant and strangely gorgeous fight choreography through out, but the 3rd act sacrifices all that to special effects that don't live up. I'm actually shocked that something so bad happened in a film that was so good right up until that moment.

Thankfully, that's not enough to sour the movie. Gal Gadot really captures Diana's naivety. Whether she's seeing a baby or tasting ice cream for the first time, it's so sincere to witness. Because of that, I couldn't really get behind her and Steve's eventual romance. Or at least one part of it. It just felt strange. Pine does a good job too. He's an actor I always find easy to watch. The supporting cast is diverse and fun, with the exception of David Thewlis for reasons I can't really get into without spoiling. But most of all, I'm so happy for director Patty Jenkins. She hasn't directed a feature since 2003 and she opened this one to 100 million. Now that's wonderful.

I think it's a testament to how great comic book movies can be when they make us love characters we didn't when reading said comic books. I never liked Wonder Woman until now. Just like I didn't care about Iron Man until Robert Downey Jr. stepped into his shoes. Gadot and that glorious theme music will make me root for her from here on out.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "Well...that's neat." - Steve Trevor (Chris Pine)

Indie Gems: The Girl With All The Gifts

I'm like you.

When we first meet Melanie (Sennia Nanua) she's a normal looking girl. Aside from the fact that she lives in a cell block, and has to be transferred to her school room via restrained wheelchair, along with several other students every morning. It doesn't take long to explain why Melanie and her classmates are different. She has an innocent crush on her teacher, Ms. Justineau (Gemma Arterton) who has to be repeatedly told she's not "a real child." When all hell breaks lose, and the zombies (or in this case "hungries") on the outside break their way into the once safe compound, Melanie, Ms. Justineau, and a few others must flee to find a safe place.

I read the book last year and enjoyed it. The film does a great job of fast tracking the novel. Not much has changed. Just enough to keep the story moving but all they key elements are still there. This is one of the most fascinating takes on the zombie apocalypse I've seen in some time. And for a film that only had a 4M budget, it looks fantastic.

Nanua shines in her debut. Her persona is exactly how I pictured Melanie, friendly, eager to learn, and so kind. The same can't be said for Arterton, who I've never cared much for. (I was also picturing someone like Ruth Negga or Naomie Harris when reading) The supporting cast of Glenn Close, Paddy Considine and Fisayo Akinade are much stronger. 

I don't even think this got a U.S theatrical release and if it did it was only in a few theaters, but it deserved more than that.

Grade: A-

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "She looks at me like I'm Jesus." - Ms. Justineau (Gemma Arterton)