2018 Blind Spot Series: The Seventh Seal

What I knew going in: Apparently nothing. 

A knight, Antonius Block (Max Von Sydow) and his squire (Gunnar Bj√∂rnstrand) are returning home from the crusades when Block meets death personified. (Bengt Ekerot) He doesn't feel it's his time, so he challenges Death to a game of chess. As they play, their game affects the lives of others around them as the Black Death begins to sweep across the lands. 

I know I've said this before, but Ingmar Bergman is a filmmaker who I was not aware of at all until I became a movie blogger. I was never very good at looking further back into the history of cinema to begin with, so when the Blind Spot opportunity came along, I've had a Bergman film nearly every year. Why am I bringing this up again? Because in my Bergman research I mixed this film up with a different one. See, I thought this was one of the films in his Faith trilogy, which I meant to finish after watching Winter Light. I keep a lists of films I want to watch and I change the order of said lists often, Apparently somewhere down the line I messed up my Bergman one, because I was expecting this to be a heavy drama and it was essentially the opposite. 

It was kind of a nice surprise after preparing myself for it. The Seventh Seal has an airiness to it. Ekerot is startling as death. He's continuously very unsettling to look at but for a film about dying they manage not to drown in that sorrow.

Max Von Sydow was so handsome back then, I loved watching him in this. Bibi Andersson is also wonderful to watch. Unfortunately not all the other characters are as dynamic as those two. Occasionally I had trouble remembering who was who, even though this isn't a long film.

This may not have been the film I was expecting, but I enjoyed it very much. Especially with how popular it seems to be among Bergman fans.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I want knowledge." - Antonius Block (Max Von Sydow)

Indie Gems: We Don't Belong Here

Ground yourself.

Nancy Green (Catherine Keener) is no stranger to mental illness. Not only does she show signs of it, so do 3/4 of her children. Madeline (Annie Starke) is the well adjusted one. Elisa (Riley Keough) is estranged from her mother and has gone on to become a famous singer. The only daughter still living at home, Lily (Kaitlyn Denver) whose not taking her meds. When her only son Max (Anton Yelchin) goes missing, Nancy begins to re-evaluate her life. 

There's no way around this, We Don't Belong Here is technically not a good movie. The dialogue is full of platitudes. It feels like it was hacked apart in the editing room and the side stories don't mesh well. But despite that, I enjoyed watching this.

I always feel like I'm drawn to stories where the main character feels uncomfortable. I don't know why, but that describes Lily well. Her therapist says she's bipolar, but she doesn't want to be on medication. She's the one sibling linking Max and Elisa back to the family, and Denver is a great actress. I think she carries this film well. The acting across the board is excellent, Anton was heart breaking, Riley (and Kaitlyn) both have lovely singing voices that I didn't know about. And Maya Rudolph and Molly Shannon even show up too.

I just wish this film was better. I feel like director Peer Pedersen chose to shoot this like a music video instead of focusing on the core plot. Because of that, we drift from scene to scene, then abruptly cut away. Then an elaborate dream sequence throws everything out of whack for a minute. I really did like this movie, it kept my interest, but I can't ignore the editing here. It just didn't work.

And ugh, I miss Anton. 

Grade: C+

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable quote: "I love you, so I'll take you home." - Elisa (Riley Keough)

Thursday Movie Picks: Childhood Favorites

This week, Wanderer wants to take us back to our Childhood favorites. Who doesn't love talking about films they enjoyed as a child? I do. Here are some of my favorites. 

1) The Secret of NIMH

I did a post back in August where I ranked all of Don Bluth's films and this was my number one. I loved watching this as a kid and still do. It's one of my all time favorite animated films.

2) A Little Princess

While I liked Shirley Temple's version, the 1995 film was so much more magical to me. I even had a plastic version of the same locket in the film. 

3) The Last Unicorn

My sister is a decade older than me and this was one of her favorites that ended up being one of mine as well. It's weird as fuck when you watch it now but I really liked it back then. 

Review: Thoroughbreds

What do you feel?

Amanda (Olivia Cooke) feels nothing. Never joy, hate, love. She's just good at pretending. When a former friend, Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) comes back in her life as a tutor, Amanda see's that Lily's seemingly perfect life isn't so. She hates her stepfather, Mark. (Paul Sparks) Amanda suggests killing him, and Lily at the end of her rope considers it. 

This was at Sundance last year, and it's Anton Yelchin's final film. Of course I wanted to see it for him at the very least. He plays a skeezy drug dealer, but still. 

Thoroughbreds is an interesting take on unlikely friendships. Both Cooke and Taylor-Joy excel in their roles. When I saw the previews, I wondered whether or not they should've switched characters just based on what I had seen them in previously, but they were perfect where they are. A film like this would fail of the lead actresses couldn't carry their parts, because really a lot of the scenes are just Amanda and Lily talking, but these two are wonderful.

The film has a very interesting score and that also sets it apart. At times the film comes up short, but overall I really enjoyed it. I'm still shocked my theater got this in the first place. Per Box Office Mojo this only opened in around 500 theaters this week. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Were you using the technique?" - Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy)

Review: A Wrinkle in Time

Be a warrior

Meg's (Storm Reid) father (Chris Pine) disappeared without a trace four years ago. Since then, she's no longer the top student she once was. She's angry, and nothing makes sense. Strange things start happening when her younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) introduces her and her friend Calvin (Levi Miller) to three women they've never seen before. Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) Their father is alive and they must cross through time and space to reach him.

I never read the beloved book, but I still wanted to see this. I love director Ava DuVernay and I wanted to see how she handles a potential block buster like this. It's also nice sometimes to not have the written word to compare it too. Unfortunately, even going in without knowing the story didn't stop the glaring issues.

First thing, I love the story. I really do, it's inspiring to see a young girl be in touch with herself, acknowledge her faults, and use all of that to save others. I found that aspect very moving. What doesn't help this already strong story is the dialogue. It's full of platitudes and the side characters like the bully, the principle, the teachers, they're all caricatures. Maybe this is the fault of the book, but I found myself rolling my eyes often whenever one of them had lines. But that's not even the worst part.

It's the actors. I'm not sure what happened here. Ava's directed excellent performances out of so so material before in Selma, but I felt like no direction was given to the child actors in this film. Storm Reid is good for the most part. I can't wait to see her in something again because I think she'll have a long career. But at the beginning, she's only given "stoic" just as Miller feels like he's only been given "obsessed." Calvin spends the entire film looking madly in love with Meg, which is fine but I've seen this kid emote before, he should've been given more. On the flip side, McCabe should've been toned down. He is completely over the top and cringeworthy to watch. I've also never been this annoyed with hearing a character's name since "Jeliza-Rose" in Tideland. My God. I never want to hear the name "Charles Wallace" again. 

I don't know how I would've felt about this film having read the novel first. But right now, I'm disappointed because I wanted so desperately to love this. I liked the cast, and Disney usually has a good hand on these things. When I asked my son if he liked this film as we left the theater, he responded with "It's fine, but I don't want to watch it again." This is after begging to see it. I guess we were both underwhelmed.

Recommended: No

Grade: C-

Memorable Quote: "That's right, your beautiful faults." - Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon)

Thursday Movie Picks: Just One Day

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is movies that all take place in one day. I had all these horror movies in mind and then I realized I need to save those for Halloween. Here's what I came up with.

1) 12 Angry Men

This is one of my all time favorite films to come out of my Blind Spot list. Not only does this take place in one day, but the majority of the film is set in one room.

2) The 25th Hour

Another film I love, it's pretty out there and at times brutal to watch. But I absolutely love the cast.

3) Do The Right Thing

Another product of my Blind Spot list. This film about racial tension is nearly 30 years old, but is still so relevant today. 

Indie Gems: Una

I need answers, but I don't know the question.

When Una (Rooney Mara) was 13, she ran off with her adult neighbor, Ray. (Ben Mendelsohn) After their relationship turned sexual, he abandoned her, then spent a short amount of time in prison for what he had done. He got a new name, a new job, and a new life. Una didn't. And 15 years later she still has questions and feelings and she finally gets to a point where she tracks him down and confronts him.

Una brings in an interesting and little talked about voice to the sexual abuse conversation. What happens when the victim still has feelings for their abuser? What happens when they aren't allowed to move on? And how should we look at those abusers after they have been "rehabilitated?" We all want to think that Una went to therapy, came to terms with what happened to hear and was allowed to move on, but she wasn't. Her parents kept her in the same town, and the same house. Like she says to Ray at one point in the film "You got to change your name. I had to keep mine." It's so unfair for her to still be in this position. Una herself doesn't seem to know what exactly she wants from Ray. An apology or an acknowledgement of her feelings. That felt very real to me. She just wanted to talk to him about what happened. There's a flashback of his trial earlier on where she asks the police officer to give him a message from her. Now she's living out her message.

Mara is excellent here. Una is understandably very melancholy and Mara plays those types of characters well. She also tackles an English accent well. I felt like she was actually from England. She didn't put on the "Nowhere, United Kingdom" accent that many do. Mendelsohn has a hard job as well. He has to humanize a sexual predator and make us wonder if he really did feel terrible for what he had did and moved on from it. Riz Ahmed also has a supporting role as Scott, Ray's coworker whom Una meets, which was a surprise to me. I didn't realize he was in this. I had only heard of this movie after Alex talked about how much he loves Mara's performance in it. 

The film is based on a play called Blackbird, and you can tell by the set pieces it wasn't originally intended for cinema. I think the director did a great job of making it more cinematic by including flashbacks of Una when she was younger with Ray. And he does it without actually showing any sexual acts, which I was thankful for. The film does flounder towards the end. Like its not sure what to do with itself. Or maybe that was intended. Where do you go from there?

Grade: A-

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "Does she know?" - Una (Rooney Mara)