Monday, February 13, 2017

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

It's only February and I already have a favorite movie of 2017! Yes, I love JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 that much. Next month there are at least 2 films that could knock it down, but it's doubtful. LOGAN, a movie I've wanted to see since the very first trailer. The final Wolverine movie looks like the solo film I've been wanting since X-MEN! I expect great things, and word is I'm going to get them. The only problem now is that JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 has set the bar extremely high!

The other movie arriving in just a few short weeks is KONG: SKULL ISLAND. Why this isn't a summer release I just don't know? That might be the tale tell sign the film isn't that good? But those trailers are amazing!

Folks, even GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: VOL. 2 and STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI now has a run for their money!

Okay, I think thats enough convincing you on how much I loved JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2.

The sequel picks up pretty close to where the last movie left off.* John is tying up loose ends and getting his car back. And immediately we have one of the greatest actions scenes in the film! There was a brief moment where I was almost convinced this first scene was better than my all time favorite action scene? The House of Blue Leaves scene from KILL BILL! Not to worry, KILL BILL is still king (if just barely)**

Our favorite Boogyman gets his car back and is finally ready to retire, a second time. The moment is short lived when Wick is visited by the man who helped him retire originally. A slimy European by the name of Santino (what a great name) has come to collect his debt. Wick begs him not to, but a blood oath is a hard one to forget.

Santino cannot take no for an answer and takes a rocket launcher to John Wicks home (big mistake). Left with no choice, Wick honors the blood oath. Only to immediately regret it when he is told his mark. The sister of Santino, Gianna. Gianna is next in line to run the crime family, and Santino just can't have that.

You can sense right away that something just isn't right about all of this, so Wick prepares for war. And you guessed it, Wick gets double crossed! And Santino being the pussy that he is puts a hit on John Wick for Seven Million Dollars! But Santino forgot one thing, you can't kill the boogyman.

Preparing myself for JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 I did something I normally don't do, I did not watch any trailers. None. I went in fresh, and it was amazing! Risky for sure but I knew I was in good hands with the same writer and director returning. If Fox leaves them alone then I'm sure their DEADPOOL 2 will be amazing!

So without giving away too much what can I say that I love about this movie? Let's start with how the sequel expands on my favorite thing about the original, the world building. In the first film I absolutely loved the secret society of assassins. So cool that they have their own rules, currency, and exclusive hotel.

CHAPTER 2 delves into this more with glorious detail. I'm sure it was in all the trailers but I loved the montage of Wick getting his guns, blueprints, and tailor made suit. So fun!

Second to the world building is of course the action. There is so much bombastic gunplay in this movie that even I started to feel a bit concerned. It was only for a brief moment because I don't mix stylized movie violence with politics. But yeah, there is way more gun-fu this time around, just like any good action movie sequel should have!

And third, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 has a glorified cameo that had me grinning ear to ear! And no, I'm not talking about Morpheus.

You know, there's not really anything in this movie that I hated? I wasn't too impressed with the ending at first but once I got home and thought about the film all night, I changed my opinion.

One criticism I have is the future of the franchise. I do not want any sequel to be a prequel. The audience doesn't need to see a movie about John Wick's first assignment. Laugh all you want but you know it's true! The moment Keanu decides to call it quits, the studio will pull the lame prequel card. But, I'm optimistic something that dumb will never happen as long as the original filmmakers stay with the franchise.

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER TWO is highly recommended!

*If this was still the days of VHS I would make my own super edit of both films back to back. I'd cut out the end credits and have CHAPTER 2 start seamlessly.

** I'm mainly talking about domestic Action movies. THE RAID and THE RAID 2 I think are better action movies than KILL BILL or JOHN WICK 1 & 2.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

TRUE ROMANCE

The timeline is hazy when I first saw the film TRUE ROMANCE? I turn 40 next month so it's probably only going to get worse. But seriously, I really think I rented the VHS before I even knew who Quentin Tarantino was! TRUE ROMANCE is a 1993 film written by Tarantino and directed by the late Tony Scott. And make no mistake it is a Tony Scott film, but any cinephile knows that TRUE ROMANCE is set in the Tarantino universe.

My fondest memory of TRUE ROMANCE is when I rented the DVD. We had just got our first DVD player and the movie was a free rental. With it being Rated R I was going to watch it on my day off while my parents were at work. Turns out the disc would not play due to an excessive amount of fingerprints.

Later that day my dad assisted me in cleaning the DVD. Silly me had forgotten just how lurid the language was in the opening scene (I actually thought said scene was later on in the film) of the movie. Before I realized what was happening, the movie still dirty, skipped to some "locker room" talk. To make matters worse, my mom was in the room. The look on my dads face was priceless! I dug myself out of a hole that day I can tell you!

Runaway lovers Clarence and Alabama play a dangerous game when they come into possession of a suitcase full of cocaine. They set off to sunny Los Angeles in hopes of selling the contraband and begin a new life. Hot on their trail is both sides of the law who have other ideas

The film is still known to this day for it's great ensemble cast, hip-wit dialogue, and stylized direction. It is probably my favorite Tony Scott film and it contains one of my all time favorite scenes written by Quentin Tarantino. For those that must know, it's the infamous monologue between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken. Check it out on YouTube (NSFW), but you should just really watch the movie.

I love so much how Tarantino considers this a romantic comedy. I like also how he corrects people who ask him if he'd ever consider making a romantic film. And lastly, I love most of all that the main character Clarence (Christian Slater) is a fictional version of Quentin himself!

All of this love for TRUE ROMANCE came later, because like I mentioned earlier, I had no idea who wrote the film when I first saw it. My initial interest in TRUE ROMANCE was because of the films star. I was a fan of both GLEAMING THE CUBE and PUMP UP THE VOLUME, so naturally I was interested in TRUE ROMANCE.

I instantly thought the film was very cool! Here we have a main character who loves movies and works in a comic book store! As a teenager I always wanted to work in a comic book store or video store. So I kinda identified with Clarence a little bit. I just don't think the voice of my conscious would be Elvis (no disrespect).

Let's put the films hip-wit aside for a brief moment and marvel how gorgeous TRUE ROMANCE looks. I love how Tony Scott overuses the 'Magic Hour Shot' in all of his movies! Also, nobody shoots a smokey room like Tony does! Man, I miss him.

If you were to watch TRUE ROMANCE today, there is no denying Tarantino wrote it. No denying! It's his universe. The events of PULP FICTION could take place the same day Clarence and Alabama arrive in L.A. And if you want to get real nerdy, TRUE ROMANCE takes place before RESERVOIR DOGS.

With me being the Quentin Tarantino fan that I am, some of you might be wondering if I wish he had directed TRUE ROMANCE? The answer is no. I love Tony Scott's style and what he brought to the film. I can guess, but we'll never be sure what TRUE ROMANCE would've looked like if Tarantino had directed it?

In conclusion, I recommend TRUE ROMANCE. if you like a good pulp romantic comedy. If anything, folks should get a kick out of the ensemble cast. Look for James Gandolfini and a young Brad Pitt.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

THE NEON DEMON

One of my favorite films of 2016 was THE NEON DEMON. For a time it was my favorite film of last year simply because I could not stop thinking about it! Style over substance, or more like substance hidden within the style. The movie inspired me to try and tackle my first ever analysis review.

THE NEON DEMON is full of bizarre and interesting images. What do all the different colors symbolize? What does the leopard in the motel room signify? And, there is a fair share of foreshadowing dialog it seems? There's no way I can cover everything without rambling on and on about this or that, so I promise to keep this nice and neat.

This post was meant for last year but I wanted to watch THE NEON DEMON several times so I could better prepare an analysis. I listened to the director's commentary during certain scenes to see if my theories were correct about what meant what. It turns out that most of what I thought was deep and full of meaning was just stuff the director thought was cool. A common trait from filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn.

So because of this, THE NEON DEMON dropped below my Top 10 Favorites of 2016.

From here on out there's going to be heavy spoilers, so if you haven't seen the film yet come back after you have.

The IMDB synopsis for THE NEON DEMON reads as follows, "When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has".

After reading that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who or what the Neon Demon is. The easiest answer is that it's narcissism. That the world of modeling if not careful can turn you into a "neon demon".

Our main character is Jesse, a young beautiful woman who has moved to L.A. for a shot at stardom in the modeling world. She is a natural. Young, pretty, and innocent. Jesse has everything the other seasoned models want. Very quickly Jesse becomes friends with Ruby who is a makeup artist. They go to a party and meet up with two other models.

Getting dolled up in the restroom, the girls have a lurid discussion on lipstick. Ruby explains that colors of lipstick are named after food and sex. An example would be Pink Passion, you get the idea. During this conversation Jesse gets asked if she is food or sex? Something to think about.

After a few more photo shoots Jesse gets noticed more and more and eventually lands a big fashion runway show. The more she gets noticed the more dangerous things get for her. This is where the director takes omens to a fetish like extreme. The color red and blue are predominant in THE NEON DEMON. For the sake of the plot it's safe to say that the color red signifies danger, and blue seems to mean narcissism (I think).

At one point a leopard appears is Jesse's motel room, a bad omen for sure.

After loosing a spot on the fashion show one of the models attacks Jesse in a vampire like way. Classic Refn!

I won't ruin the ending but the question posed to Jesse at the beginning of the film, is she food or sex, is asked again in a sort of allegorical conclusion.

THE NEON DEMON is probably pretentious artful trash, but I love it! The "neon demon" scene is worth the price of admission.

Watching the movie I learned something about myself and our society. We're too consumed with the objectification of beauty and women. It's a bad habit that will be hard to break.

In conclusion, I highly recommend THE NEON DEMON because I loved it. Now a disclaimer; this film IS NOT for everyone, viewer discretion is advised. For content and because it's an art house horror film (Heh)!

SAY ANYTHING

I'm a Lloyd Dobler. Unfortunately, I'm a terrible Lloyd Dobler.

SAY ANYTHING is probably my favorite Comedy Romance movie. There was a time in my life where I identified with it the moment I watched it! The noble underachiever trying to woo the prettiest girl in school. Hanging up the phone multiple times before even dialing one digit. Kickboxing the air after she says yes on the phone. Being a fly on the wall at the party you take her to, just to make sure she's having a good time. While my story is different than Lloyd's, I can relate to all of these things!

The one thing I should have done is blast Peter Gabriel from a boom box while standing in a front yard! Okay, not literally but something bad ass romantic along those lines.

As you can probably guess I am a romantic. And it's probably not a good thing. Why? Because I get my ideas from movies. It's a good thing that I'm too much of a realist to know the crap from the movies don't work. And if it ever did, I should be mindful of the woman I just won over?

Enough about me, let's get back to the wonderful and warm hearted romantic comedy SAY ANYTHING.

Watching the film with older eyes the thing I like most about SAY ANYTHING is how honest the movie is. It feels genuine and not just full of fairy tale fluff. For once (it seems) the guy is after a girl for her smarts and because she's interesting. The fact that Diane is also very pretty is the cherry on top.

Unfortunately Lloyd has a very steep hill to climb because a underachiever and class valedictorian don't mix well. But Diane gives Lloyd a shot because she can see the honesty in him. They become boyfriend and girlfriend and fall in love. When it's time to meet the parents, that's when things get ugly.

Diane's father disapproves of Lloyd, and what parent of a valedictorian wouldn't? Her dad being a overprotected parent doesn't help matters much either. There is some family drama, turns out dad has been a little hypocritical with the father daughter pact of trusting one another. Due to the stress of this, Diane ends things with Lloyd. Cue the bad ass boom box scene!

I won't spoil the ending but of course Lloyd and Diana get back together. The way the events play out is still great to this day, and doesn't feel like rom com fluff.

Why I love this movie:

1. The boom box scene! What everyone remembers the most about SAY ANYTHING, and I couldn't agree more.

2. Writer/Director Cameron Crowe

3. Amazing talented cast.

4. SAY ANYTHING is a romantic comedy/drama that feels real.

5. Lloyd Dobler has excellent taste in women.

In conclusion, I highly recommend SAY ANYTHING. This Valentine's Day snuggle up with your significant other and rent or buy this classic.

I have a few more treats for ya coming soon. Happy Valentine's Day!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

NEIGHBORS (1981)

While I was writing a post about STRIPES, I remembered another comedy from 1981. Not that it really matters but I think maybe now NEIGHBORS was in fact the first R rated movie I ever saw? Not as good as STRIPES but I remember liking it. What can a 5 year old like about an R rated comedy? Obviously I was too young for the adult humor, so I probably just laughed because my dad did. Too young for the jokes, I think it was just how crazy and bizarre the humor got that kept my attention.

Growing up I always wanted to watch NEIGHBORS again. This was due to me becoming a big fan of The Blues Brothers. It bothered my parents so much that the VHS tape finally got tapped over. Having rewatched the movie since then I think it was because the movie just wasn't that great, not because of adult humor.

Earl's (Belushi) peaceful suburban life is about to get turned upside down when the new neighbors move in next door. The new neighbors, Vic and Ramona impose themselves on Earl and his family. Doing weird things like offering to get take-out but asking Earl to pay for it. But Earl notices that the Vic just goes back to his house and cooks the meal? There is a prank gone terribly wrong involving a truck rolling into a swamp. Not to mention endless flirtatious advances from the clearly oversexed Ramona.

The list of weirdness and rudeness goes on. But is all of this happening or is Earl making a big deal out of nothing? Or could Vic and Ramona actually be saving Earl from his everyday day to day life?

Knowing a bit about the films production history I can see why NEIGHBORS is kinda forgotten. I don't know if the reason is explained in detail somewhere, but it's a known fact that the film's starts did not get along with the movie's director. Problems began at the very beginning.

Typically known for always playing the loud and obnoxious type, Belushi was going to play the straight man this time around. And Aykroyd was going to play crazy for a change. This switch was made by the actors themselves just prior to filming. In my opinion the "experiment" worked out just fine. But ultimately I feel this was just the first attempt to sabotage a production they no longer wanted part of.

Things got so bad that Belushi reached out to his buddy John Landis and asked him to direct the film. When that didn't work, the two stars tried to convince the studio to let them direct the picture. In the end like the movie or not the production was a nightmare. The lead actors displeased and bad test screenings lead to re-edits and re-shoots. In the end as the films tagline suggests, "A Comedic Nightmare".

It's a shame NEIGHBORS would become John Belushi's final movie, he died less than four months after the films release. According to his friend and colleague Aykroyd, John was doing good kicking his drug habit but the crew on NEIGHBORS didn't do him any favors. Tragic.

So with watching it again just recently it's sad to say that NEIGHBORS isn't some hidden gem. But despite it's flaws I still find it an interesting and sometimes funny film to watch. Also this time around I noticed a few weird subplots that went no where. Probably due to the re-edits I'd imagine?

Despite their disdain for their director, Belushi and Aykroyd keep it professional and they do a good job with the characters. I love how crazy and flamboyant Vic (Aykroyd) is throughout the film, especially the first half. And Belushi does fine work playing Earl, the man too serious to have any fun.

NEIGHBORS is one of those movies that I'd show friends at a movie night. One of those "I betcha never heard of this movie", and pair it with a double feature along side THE BURBS.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

STRIPES

Sometimes I wonder what was the very first movie I remember watching? I don't think I'll ever remember, but it was probably something Disney. I do however remember my first R rated movie! It was the 1981 comedy classic STRIPES! I had to have be at least five years old, and it was either on HBO or my my dad rented it on VHS. The exact timeline is going to be hazey, but one thing was for sure and that was Bill Murray was a staple in the Cox household.

Besides STAR WARS and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK I loved comedies as a kid. The big three for me were CADDYSHACK, NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION, and of course STRIPES. if you couldn't tell, SNL was a family favorite!

Like I was saying, I remember my first R rated movie. I think my dad's logic was that a five year old wouldn't remember the bad language or nudity. If it ever got really bad I always just had to cover my eyes. But being the good parents my mom and dad were, it was once in a blue moon that I ever got to watch STRIPES. I remember now, it was taped off of HBO.

I think my dad was a huge Bill Murray fan because of the comedians anarchist approach, like with all the SNL alum. And he was also a fan probably because of Murray's rising popularity!

If I was forced to make a list right now of my all time favorite comedies, STRIPES would probably be number one on that list. I know it's my second most watched Bill Murray comedy. The most watched obviously being GHOSTBUSTERS. There was another Bill Murray comedy that I wore out the VHS tape watching, and that was MEATBALLS. Now, I love MEATBALLS but it is no where near good as STRIPES. I bring this up to point out the fact that I think it's the writing that makes the difference.

Both MEATBALLS and STRIPES were directed by Ivan Reitman. Bill and Ivan had something good going with MEATBALLS but whatever they did next had to be better. Enter Harold Ramis, a talented writer who helped make STRIPES the classic it still is today. And just a few years later this talented group along with Dan Aykroyd made GHOSTBUSTERS. Amazing!

For those who don't know, STRIPES is a slob of a movie about two down and outers, Tripp and Rusty, who join the Army just for the hell of it. It is this first half of the film that is the strongest and funniest. During basic training Tripp (Murray) gives Sargent Hulka hell. I still love the montage of basic training duties where Tripp is always slacking off resulting in him doing push-ups.

But my absolute favorite is still the impromptu marching formation the platoon performed at graduation.

It's still funny but once basic training is over the film's second half isn't as strong. Tripp and Rusty take two lovely MP officers for a joy ride to the Swiss Alps in a new state of the art Army secret weapon vehicle disguised as an RV. Come to find out the rest of their platoon is held hostage behind the Iron Curtain. It's a crazy climax in vein of ANIMAL HOUSE and BLUES BROTHERS. What was the deal with crazy endings to comedies in the late Seventies and early Eighties?

In conclusion, I still think STRIPES holds up well for a Bill Murray comedy. If you're a fan but haven't seen this one, I highly recommend you give it a watch.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

LIVE BY NIGHT

Who would have thought that Ben Affleck would become one of the greatest American directors working today? Not me. But it's true, after three consecutive good if not great films and Oscar for Best Director, Ben is a force to be reckoned with. I for one like his style, after his second film THE TOWN, I told myself I'll give all his future films a chance.

When it was announced that Afleck's new film was going to be a gangster movie, I couldn't wait! Within about a month of the films wide release a fair share of bad reviews began trickling in. That's disappointing! I'm still going to see it reguardless of reviews or a low RT score. Why? Because he's earned it.

Well, the critics were right about this one. LIVE BY NIGHT is sort of a stinker. I'd really like to know the history of this film getting made. In the credits I noticed Leonardo DiCaprio was one of the producers of the movie. After thinking about it I could totally see him in the role of Joe, the main character. So it made me wonder if over time the project finally fell on Affleck's lap?

I also began to wonder if LIVE BY NIGHT was meant to be Ben Affleck's masterpiece? With lots of awkwardly placed voice-over narration, this first thing I thought was there must have been some studio pressure to cut the films run time down. LIVE BY NIGHT really feels to me like a 180 minute movie cut down to about 128 minutes. Because of this the 2 hour and 8 minute run time feels like 4 hours. I cannot speak for the source material the film was adapted from, but a film like LIVE BY NIGHT needs to breathe.

Joe Coughlin (Affleck) is a "outlaw" who likes it just fine being a petty thief robbing banks from time to time. After an affair with a boss man's girl, Joe is double crossed and left for dead. Out of prison he plots his revenge. In order to do this he partners up with his former boss's competition Maso Pescatore. Mr. Pescatore sets Joe up nicely in Tampa, Florida to run illegal booze and open a casino.

Joe quickly does great for awhile but runs into some problems with the KKK. The KKK become a problem because of Joe's Italian crime boss roots and also his new Cuban girlfriend. Another problem is that of a police chief and his born again Christian daughter.

You can already see how epic this story is getting. It's not long before you can tell what everything is leading up to in LIVE BY NIGHT. It's just that when it does happen it gets there too quickly. Or not fast enough! The pacing of the film felt very jarring at times. I've seen enough of these type of movies where I was loving the choices Affleck was making when telling this story, but too many times things fell flat.

I knew beforehand that it took awhile for the ball to get rolling with LIVE BY NIGHT. GONE GIRL delayed production and I'm sure the same could be said about BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE. Maybe too much on Ben's plate is a reason LIVE BY NIGHT comes across as a little bit tired?

In conclusion, I recommend LIVE BY NIGHT. As I've begun writing this post I've grown to like the film a little bit more. It's got issues, but if a Director's Cut ever came out, I'd purchase it day one.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2

It took a few years but I have now finally blogged about all 8 films in the Friday The 13th franchise released by Paramount Pictures. And no I didn't save the best for last with FRIDAY THE 13TH PART II, It just ended up being the one I haven't talked about yet.

There was a time when FRIDAY THE 13TH PART II was my least favorite entry in the series. Over time I've grown to appreciate it. So much so that I now actually think it is a better movie than the original. Heavily edited gore and Hillbilly Jason being the only things going against the film. Other than that, the sequel has better characters, more production value, and it's a better directed film.

When comparing the two films FRIDAY THE 13TH will always beat PART II in the kills and gore department, hands down. But in terms of direction and camera work the sequel wins. While FRIDAY THE 13TH has it's moments of good tension building and inventive kills, the rest of the movie is flat and kinda boring.

Even though I think the sequel is a better film it too has it's fair share of problems. The main one being censored gore, a issue that will continue to haunt the series (except part 4). Like the original, there are moments where FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 is down right boring. The film begins with a overlong recap dream sequence. I'm sure in 1981 this was fine with fans, getting everyone pumped. But it's long and drawn out, plus Jason going outside of Camp Crystal Lake territory to kill someone feels odd and out of place. The final issue I have is Jason himself. Hillbilly Jason just doesn't work for me, and it never will.

Speaking of Jason, time to point out the elephant in the room, Jason Voorhees. After FRIDAY THE 13TH became a huge hit Paramount Pictures wanted a sequel. Director Sean S. Cunningham liked the idea and presented a anthology concept. Paramount said no, we want Jason. Due to artistic differences Cunningham left the project.

While I like Jason as the killer, his being alive is kind of a plot hole. If Jason is alive, why then did his mother go on a murderous rampage to avenge her son's drowning? A huge plot hole for sure, but it makes for a great campfire story.

Now that the problems are out of the way it's time to talk about what I like. While all these films can be summed up as “Teenagers in Peril” movies with the characters only motivation is to be killed off by Jason, I do like the counselors in PART 2. Yes they are paper thin but likable, a trait long gone in horror, especially in slashers.

Before Tommy Jarvis became the closest thing to a “protagonist” in the series, there was hope for Ginny. Breaking the mold of the traditional Scream Queen, actor Amy Steel in my opinion set a new gold standard for strong willed “Final Girl” characters. The producers had a really good character with Ginny, it's a shame Amy never came back.

I mentioned earlier that FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 is a better made film than the original, and it's true. Hands down Steve Miner is a better director than Sean S. Cunningham. It just boils down to that Miner is a better filmmaker. There is a little more substance in Miner's film, and it's got a few darkly comical moments too. There is a scene with a cute dog roaming the woods who runs into Jason, the very next shot is hot dogs cooking on a grill. It's hilarious!

It seems to me that the first four films in the series add something iconic to the franchise as a whole. In the original movie it's the twist ending, PART 2 is Jason's shrine to his dead mother, Part 3 is the first appearance of the classic hockey mask, and THE FINAL CHAPTER introduces the most popular protagonist of the series, Tommy Jarvis. In conclusion, I highly recommend FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2. It's Jason's first legit appearance, the cast of camp counselors are better, and like I've said a few times already it's a better looking film than the original. You can tell the studio put a little extra money into the production.

So when the next Friday the 13th rolls around gather some friends put on a pot of coffee and marathon the first four movies!

Happy belated Friday the 13th!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

LA LA LAND

If you were to search this blog's archive or browse my movie collection you'd think I don't like musicals. Which reminds me, I really should review THE WIZARD OF OZ sometime! But yeah, I like musicals. The high school musical was probably my first foray into being a “critic” (for the record I do not consider myself a critic).

Deep down I think I always wanted to be a director. But there was a time that I wanted to be an actor. In grade school my grandma and her friend had season passes to Springfield Little Theater. I was always happy when I got to go! The most memorable ones were 'Little Shop of Horrors' and 'Wizard of Oz'. Because of my love for plays my parents enrolled me a summer school course for acting/performing arts. I didn't much care for it.

As a pre-teen and young teenager one of my favorite things to do was go see high school plays. 'Grease' was my favorite*. Back in Seventh grade I remember going to a high school production. It was a blast! I had fun comparing it to the film version and a Springfield Little Theater production (I think).

As I got older my interests changed a lot. I was big into comic books and drawing. Music became a big deal to me. Mainly the bands from the Northwest, the Seattle sound was what I was into. And movies really really started to become important to me. The films of Kevin Smith, Wes Anderson, and Quentin Tarantino. These guys made me want to become a filmmaker.

So Indie Comedies and stylized violence dominated my late teens and twenties. The Musical genre became a distant memory to me. A childish thing I outgrew. And a genre that only drama class alums and Academy Award members could appreciate.

Then something weird happened. I forget the year, but during awards season I made an effort to watch CHICAGO ironically (Yes, I long for the day that a super stylized action film wins Best Picture). Turns out, I loved the movie! The spectacle of it most of all! I loved the production value of the movie. My appreciation for CHICAGO taught me that the Musical is a genre to be reckoned with and by nature cinematic!

I only saw CHICAGO that one time which I hear is perfectly okay because the film is overrated anyways. What? That's fine because while CHICAGO reinforced the cinematic importance of the Musical, it was a Broadway musical and classic film that made me love the genre!

10 years ago I went to spend a few vacation days in New York City. One thing I wasn't looking forward to on the itinerary was seeing 'Wicked' on Broadway. The main reason was because of the price of the ticket. Ouch! Now I don't know if it was worth every penny (honestly it is), but seeing the show was an experience I'll never forget. I'm sure the material played a part but it was the performances and production that blew me away!

More recently I went to see the film SINGIN' IN THE RAIN on the big screen. The only thing that could top that experience would be a pristine 35mm film print presentation. As of now SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is my favorite musical film. Because of it I have sought out several other movies just like it. In doing so I've found myself liking very few of them.

The reason I don't talk much about the genre is because I'm very picky.

If the music is good I guess I'm not picky? Example; I was going to say I also don't like a musical if all the dialogue is sing-song, like REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA. But that's not true, because I loved SWEENEY TOOD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET. It just goes to show that there is no accounting for taste, and you like what you like because you just do.

This all brings me to why LA LA LAND is my favorite film of 2016. I didn't want to alter my list at first because I already had my choices picked and SING STREET would be tough to beat. Secondly, I didn't want to have my viewing experience of LA LA LAND be tarnished with me wondering if it'll be my favorite film of 2016 after all?

About halfway through the film I knew I loved it, but I was going to leave my list alone. Then it was during the drive home and listening to the soundtrack on Spotify when I got home that my mind began to change.

LA LA LAND is kinda a personal movie to me right now. It's a film about not giving up on your dreams. I'm at a point in my life where it's well past “Poop or get off the pot”. But lucky for me I have nothing to hold me back to pursue my passion, and failure wouldn't put me into debt.

In LA LA LAND, Hollywood is a magical place where dreams come true. The prologue sets up that dreamers movie to L.A to make it big. They all have a story (song) about trekking to California from their nothing hometown. It's here that we meet Mia (Emma Stone) who is an aspiring actress. At first you'd think she's terrible, but that's not it at all. The problem is that in her hometown she was probably one in a million, but here she's one million in a billion.

After a disappointing party and walking home because of a towed car she hears some amazing piano coming from a nightclub. It's here that we're introduced to Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a talented piano player/musician who loves jazz. He loves jazz so much that his dream is to open his own nightclub.

The two meet and fall in love becoming each others muse. Eventually they realize though that probably the best way to reach their dreams is to go separate ways.

That's the best synopsis I can give without ruining the movie. In many ways LA LA LAND is a throwback to the classic musicals. Every shot in the film is magic. Shot in CinemaScope, the dance numbers are big and immersive. All the musical numbers are great and the final sequence at the end of the film is worth the price of admission alone.

While probably corny and cliche without the musical numbers it was the films message that really got to me. Never give up on your dreams (whatever they may be) even if it costs you something. Stepping out of your comfort zone or leaving a relationship is probably what it's going to take to make those dreams happen. In other words, life is all about risk.

Not everybody's dream will come true, but the point LA LA LAND is trying to make (I think) is that every dream is worth fighting for.

LA LA LAND is highly recommended!

* 'Grease' is not my favorite musical of all time or anything like that. Just at the time I enjoyed seeing different high school productions of it.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking Forward to in 2017

2017 is the year I turn 40. Wow, hard to believe! It's also the year where I'm going to be so busy I can't see straight. For starters I have 3 months to loose 50 pounds before my birthday. It's a lifestyle change not a resolution! Secondly, 2017 is the year I'm going to start making movies. And last but not least, transition to a website instead of a blog. For the past few weeks I've been analyzing too much that I can't continue to review movies and make movies at the same time? That I can't do both? Challenge accepted!

I'm ready for 2017. Seeing that I already posted my favorite movies of year, I figured I'd get one more post in before the end of 2016. With Springfield getting it's very own Alamo Drafthouse in Spring of 2017, I thought it'd be nice to list my most anticipated films of 2017. It's still early, but there is already a good amount on the slate for next year. Let's get to it shall we!

And as far as order goes, lets rank them from least to most anticipated. I think 15 should be enough! Keep in mind these will be mostly genre films and summer blockbusters.

LA LA LAND

Yes I know, this film was released last year but we're probably getting it in theaters early 2017 if at all? I loved the directors last film WHIPLASH and I greatly appreciate old Hollywood musicals, and LA LA LAND looks like one if you ask me!

SILENCE

Another 2016 release, but the film doesn't get a wide release until January. Don't let me down Springfield!

LIVE BY NIGHT

Okay, this is the last 2016 release I swear. Same situation as SILENCE, and with Afleck notorious for casting beautiful people in his gritty crime dramas (THE TOWN), the major multiplexes shouldn't have a problem releasing it?

JUSTICE LEAGUE

A DC Comics superhero team-up movie, of course I'm looking forward to this it! Hopefully Warner Bros has heard the constructive criticism as they continue to move forward with the DCEU. I just hope they don't hire Trailer Park to edit these movies anymore?

GHOST IN THE SHELL

This is probably going to be weird and terrible, but in a good way I'm hopping. And let's be honest, fans of the original animated film are going to roast it anyway. Nerds are a hard sell, which is good but...

BLADE RUNNER 2049

Even with a visionary director at the helm, I don't see how they can pull this off? I bet they do!

THOR: RAGNAROK

This better be Thor and Hulk having adventures in space and we get to see Space-Gladiator Hulk!

A CURE FOR WELLNESS

Super creepy asylum film from the director of THE RING. Sold! Plus it looks very inspired from 70's cinema. Double sold!

ALIEN: COVENANT

Fans of the franchise and haters of PROMETHEUS should be pleased. I think they heard your complaints.

WONDER WOMAN

The wait for a Wonder Woman is finally over! Why did it take so long for a superhero movie like this to come out? The trailer is fantastic. Cannot wait!

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER TWO

I'm ready for another story in this universe. LOGAN

Potential to be the greatest comic book movie ever!

KONG: SKULL ISLAND

Favorite film of the year excitement on this one! Fingers crossed this will be the first movie I see at Alamo Drafthouse!

STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII

Will we find out who Rey's parents are? Will Kylo Ren betray the Dark Side like his grandpa? I cannot wait to find out!

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

Super predictable pick I know but there is a reason this is probably everybody's most anticipated film of 2017!

Happy New Year!!!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Disappointments of 2016

At first I really wasn't going to do one of these lists this year because with time, money, and Rotten Tomatoes why watch bad movies at all? The future of my blog is uncertain in 2017. I may be revamping a switching to an actual website next year. It'll be written reviews with the intent of video blogs and YouTube channel eventually.

But, I received some constructive criticism the other day that might make me scrap the whole thing. If I am not a member of the press or have connections to get early screeners for movies, I shouldn't give Hollywood my money to continue to produce crappy movies. This person has a point, and it's making me rethink some things.

So this years list is more of a selection of disappointments rather than 'Worst' movies I saw. It's going to be a mixture really. And maybe disappointments are far greater punishment? No, not really.

Top 10 Disappointments of 2016 (10 – 1)

JASON BOURNE

For a good part of the year this movie was between 'Close But No Cigar' and 'Disappointments'. It came down to this and HARDCORE HENRY. I'm not a fan of either, but JASON BOURNE has no excuse for how terrible it is. Shame on the actor and director for laughing all the way to the bank I actually went to see this on a Thursday night with a large group of fans, and NONE of them liked it.

THE BOY

I remember the trailers for this and I couldn't take it seriously. Sorry, but evil dolls just don't do it for me unless they are named Chucky. It wasn't until a recommendation from BirthMoviesDeath that made me wanna check it out.

THE BOY was never going to set the horror world on fire, but I found myself enjoying the movie quite a bit. Then the ending ruined all of that! And I'm not talking about the twist. Toward the end a dumb ex-boyfriend character shows up out of the blue to create drama and suspense that the movie didn't warrant or need. Dumb.

MR. RIGHT

Written by Max Landis and directed by somebody. On paper this movie kinda works but on screen it just keeps getting worse and worse. The only thing that saves this movie are it's two stars, Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick. They are both having fun with their characters and salvaging what they can to make MR. RIGHT worth watching. I personally think the director needs to watch more tough guy movies and rely less on goons saying the 'F' word.

HARD TARGET 2

It breaks my heart to have this movie on this list, but HARD TARGET 2 definitely earned it. Not even one of Hollywood's greatest action stars working today saved this movie. I hate that Scott Adkins is in this! His appearance in DOCTOR STRANGE makes up for it.

HARD TARGET 2 reminded me of those terrible Rambo knock-offs from the late 80's and early 90's. The good old days of when two mounted machine guns on a motorcycle is better than one! Cool!!!!

THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY

Comedies really shouldn't be on lists like these, because what I find unfunny someone else will think it's hilarious. Too much of what this film was going for punch line wise I just didn't care for. But we call agree the movie is probably better than FIFTY SHADES OF BLACK.

HOW TO BE SINGLE

Again, comedies really shouldn't be on the list but this movie was a chore. Rebel Wilson is amazing but here she kinda got on my nerves. And Dakota Johnson has ZERO star power whatsoever!

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES

Not crazy enough and not rated R. A PG-13 zombie movie when there is a popular television show that's more graphic than most horror films? Get real.

THE FOREST

Jump scare, dream. Jump scare, dream. Wash and repeat.

INDEPENDENCE DAY RESURGENCE

If this is one of the worst or most disappointing movies I've seen this year then I'm probably doing pretty good. I lay it all out in my review, check it out. But it's worth repeating that the studio messed up big time by not showing up to Will Smith's house with a dump truck of cash!

CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON: SWORD OF DESTINY

Awe yeah! Martial arts and wu shu action from the director of IRON MONKEY and action choreographer of THE MATRIX! What could go wrong? Everything apparently. Probably not the worst film of 2016, but it sure pissed me off!

Thanks for reading! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Favorites of 2016

This year wasn't a great year for film. A lot of the one's I wanted to love ended up being just okay. And let's face it Summer movies sucked in 2016! Either I'm getting older or they're getting stupider? The answer is both. But, I have a feeling 2017 is going to rock in terms of cinema!

To help ease the pain of January we've got SILENCE and LIVE BY NIGHT to look forward to. And we got LEGO BATMAN MOVIE and JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2 helping us through February. Then in Spring of 2017, things are going to start becoming awesome with Springfield, MO getting it's very own Alamo Drafthouse theater! I cannot wait.

Before I list my favorite movies of 2016 there are some films I haven't seen yet, LA LA LAND and MANCHESTER BY THE SEA were two movies that I was really hoping to see but probably won't get to until next year? Oh well. And as always if there is a critical darling that's not on my list it's because I probably haven't seen it, or didn't think it was as good as the 10 I picked.

Let's get to it shall we!

First, some honorable mentions: 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS, CAPTAIN AMERICA – CIVIL WAR, and THE NEON DEMON.

Top 10 Favorites Of 2016 (10 – 1)

EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!

When I heard that Richard Linklater was making a spiritual sequel to his 1992 film DAZED AND CONFUSED I like everybody else was skeptical. At least it wasn't going to be an actual sequel, that was good news! But could Linklater repeat the brilliance of his sophomore film without it being just a repeat? The answer is yes. The similarities are there and obvious, but I actual found the film to have more in common with his debut feature SLACKER. They're not all masterpieces but I've learned to never doubt the auteur Richard Linklater.

EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

I haven't been a teenager in quite awhile but I can't help but think that this film is the real deal. EDGE OF SEVENTEEN is the funniest and most important teenage coming-of-age film I've seen in a long time. I think moviegoers are afraid of real these days, especially real women. Nadine, who is the main character in this is a hot-mess and audiences don't like uncomfortable. They want Disney or 90's Alicia Silverstone.

THE HANDMAIDEN

From the director of OLDBOY, that's the only reason I saw this film. If not for Chan-wook Park I probably wouldn't have giving the film a shot. THE HANDMAIDEN is proof that I'll continue to watch anything from the director. I'm planning on a full review for Valentine's Day next year, so look forward to that! This film made me blush. Who says the erotic thriller is dead? Maybe fluff like FIFTY SHADES OF GREY but not THE HANDMAIDEN, nope, no sir.

DOCTOR STRANGE

In a time where comic book movie fatigue is starting to rear it's ugly head, Marvel Studios pulls a stunt like DOCTOR STRANGE and totally redeems the origin story superhero films that fans are getting tired of.

ARRIVAL

I think I like last year's SICARIO better, but Denis Villeneuve is a genius and I cannot wait for BLADE RUNNER 2049!!

ARRIVAL is great for being the alien invasion film it is not. That's all I can really say other than I highly recommend seeing the movie.

GREEN ROOM

I'm happy as a clam to finally have a grindhouse horror film on my 'Favorites' list. A beautifully shot drive-in movie is how I describe GREEN ROOM, and I love that!

HELL OR HIGH WATER

A movie about two brothers who only rob banks to pay off a mortgage with a Texas Ranger hot on their trail. The trailers for this made the movie look like a run-of-the-mill DTV release. The movie is anything but that! Highly recommended for those who love 70's cinema.

THE NICE GUYS

Shane Black just needs to go ahead and write and direct all the movies! That's going a little overboard I know, but damn, I just love Black's style. He is a master in pulp, double feature this with his KISS KISS BANG BANG and you'll know what I mean. This pairs very well with PULP FICTION so I'm told, and I 100% believe that!

And my favorite movie of 2016 is...

SING STREET

I haven't stopped thinking about this movie since I saw it. When it came out on Blu-Ray I let four or five people borrow it! A review is coming soon. Seriously, any of my top 5 picks could be number one, and up until 1/06/17, SING STREET was it. But not anymore.

And my favorite movie of 2016 is...

LA LA LAND

I almost didn't update my list but thinking about LA LA LAND overnight I couldn't stop help myself. The film is just pure musical magic. And what I think the movie is really about hit close to home. My review says it all!

Thanks for reading! I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

ROGUE ONE

It's hard to imagine that a year ago STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS was released in theaters. And thus a new tradition is born, a new Star Wars film at the end of every year! It's weird to me that these movies are going to continue after I die. Will I want to even see the new Star Wars when I'm 75?

When news broke about the first Star Wars Anthology film being about the Rebel spies stealing plans for the Death Star, I thought it sounded brilliant. I love the men-on-a-mission genre. THE DIRTY DOZEN and THE GUNS OF NAVARONE are two of my favorite war films. The only doubts I had of ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY was if it was a story that needed to be told? The opening crawl of STAR WARS told us basic information, and our imagination did the rest. Was this new movie just an excuse to have Darth Vader (a.k.a brand recognition) appear in the new cannon?

The verdict is still out if I think this is a “necessary” Star Wars film? That doesn't imply that I didn't like the movie because ROGUE ONE is pretty awesome! It's a war movie set in the Star Wars universe, WHERE EAGLES DARE with Droids! What's not to like!

Days if not hours leading up to seeing the film my anticipation was getting the best of me. Debating with friends on how much this “standalone” film was going to compare with the Episodes? It was confirmed by Lucasfilm that there would be no crawl at the beginning of the movie. Those are only for the Skywalker saga. That actually makes sense but now begs the question, what other things will be missing? The Star Wars logo? The famous Kurosawa transition swipes?

After the Lucasfilm logo and the most famous blue lettered title card in cinema history, the movie begins! No Star Wars theme or crawl. This was jarring at first but a nitpick that was easily forgiven and forgotten.

Like I mentioned earlier, ROGUE ONE is a war movie. For years the Empire has secretly been building a battle station rumored to destroy planets. An Imperial pilot has defected and has vital information regarding the technological terror the Empire has constructed. Galen Erso, the engineer who designed the weapon for the battle station has a message for his old friend and extremist Saw Gerrera about said weapon. Rebellion Intelligence learn from this and sends Cassian Andor to intercept. Cassian finds Erso's daughter Jyn, in hopes of convincing Saw to tell the Alliance everything he knows.

Jyn learns of the trap that her father designed into the Death Star so that it can be destroyed. At the Rebels secret base it is decided that this information is too vague to launch an attack upon the Empire. It's up to Jyn and a band of rogues to steal the data that could save the galaxy.

SPOILERS!!

While I really really like ROGUE ONE it goes without saying that I have issues with the film. First of all the characters aren't that memorable, unlike last years STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS. The other issue I have is the return of classic characters. Since ROGUE ONE is a prequel to STAR WARS we see Grand Moff Tarkin. Instead of casting an actor who resembles the late Peter Cushing and apply prosthetic facial makeup, the filmmakers decided to go with CGI?

I've seen the movie twice and the first time was in 3D IMAX, the CGI face I didn't find too distracting. But when I watched it a second time in a regular theater, the CGI was super noticeable. The technology is getting better but I don't think will ever be perfect.

Speaking of CGI the next scene I wanna mention is the final shot. Love it or hate it, it's one of those seemingly mandatory shots in any spin-off tying together the main story. Yes, I'm talking about Princess Leia. I like the scene because I'm a Star Wars geek. But completely understand why folks would hate it and deem it pointless. It does seem like a gag for the fans sitting up in the cheap seats.

In fact, I wish the film would have ended with Jyn and Cassian's dying embrace. Too much of a downer I know. That might have be too bleak?

But I gotta give Disney credit for allowing ROGUE ONE to go as dark as it did! In the beginning of STAR WARS I felt is was always implied that the Empire killed the spies who stole the Death Star plans. And like any good suicide mission film, nobody in ROGUE ONE was coming back home.

I would have put money down that Disney mandated the character of Jyn and at least two others safely escape the Empire. Turns out I was wrong, and I'm happy about that.

The first two acts of ROGUE ONE are pretty slow with some nice action beats sprinkled here and there. I found the cloak and dagger stuff interesting. All the intercepting of transmissions involving the Intel of the Imperial defector, Saw, and Galen felt like an old school spy/war movie.

But it's the films final act that earns ROGUE ONE it's full admission price. The attack of Scarif is the catalyst for STAR WARS. It's the opening crawl come to life. Was it necessary? Probably not, but for those fans who always dreamed that this universe was bigger than the Skywalker family, Episode IV is now even better because of it.

I don't know for how long (probably since 1977) but among fans of STAR WARS there has been a debatable plot-hole in the film. That of the Death Star's weakness, the thermal exhaust port. The design flaw has been the butt of the joke for many fans of the film. ROGUE ONE has fixed that. From now on it will be kinda cool knowing that Galen Erso made the flaw on purpose. He gave the Death Star a fuse.

Now the moment you're probably all wondering, what did I think about Darth Vader? I'm happy to announce that Vader is back! Back to the Vader we know and love. George Lucas dropped the ball big time with the character in REVENGE OF THE SITH.

Vader is awesome in ROGUE ONE! The film gives him the menace that we remember in the original trilogy. He has his own castle in the movie! And despite what Lucas tried to make us think, Anakin is not in that suit 24/7. Which reminds me, the suit. The suit is a throwback to how the design looked in STAR WARS. They did a fantastic job. I wanna believe the costume was practical but I'm unsure? What looked CGI to me could have been crisp digital projection?

But let's talk about that castle for a bit. Way before REVENGE OF THE SITH the Obi-Wan and Anakin duel on a lava planet was already cannon. In the early stages of per-production on EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, Lucas toyed with the idea that Darth Vader lived in a castle on a lava planet. A planet where Anakin became more machine than man.

I swear that when I was younger a friend of mine had a Star Wars comic book that showed Obi-Wan defeating Anakin on a lava planet! Maybe it was a origin of Vader issue? Regardless, I love the fact that this was cannon before Episode III. And that ROGUE ONE does a bit of retcon when it comes to the prequels. Meaning, the new film might be using notes and concept ideas that predate REVENGE OF THE SITH by a long shot Yeah, Vader probably lives on Mustafar as a tragic reminder to himself of the monster he's become. But was it always called Mustafar?

There is only one lightsaber in ROGUE ONE and rightfully so! Probably my favorite Darth Vader moment is when the Imperials board a Rebel cruiser. The Rebel soldiers are ready for battle! Scared but ready. The fear on their faces when Vader appears tells you everything you need to know about the Dark Lord of the Sith's reputation in the galaxy!

Due to budget and special effects limitations the classic lightsaber duel from STAR WARS is pretty un-spectacular by today's standards. So in the new film when Vader goes all Jason Voorhees with his lightsaber, it feels somewhat out of place. The scene becomes glorified fan fiction. I normally hate fan fiction but here I give it a pass.

ROGUE ONE needed to have Darth Vader be scary and kick ass. For far too long has the character been the mascot for Star Wars. Everything from hip-hop dancing at Disneyland, car commercials, and greeting cards it was time to remind people that Vader was once the greatest film villain ever!

In conclusion, I highly recommend ROGUE ONE. Is the film "necessary"? I think so, and so will other Star Wars fans. It's a great war film first and a good Star Wars story second. I just hope the Han Solo movie doesn't end with him and Chewbacca setting a course to Mos Eisley?

And I almost forgot to mention K-2SO. He's great! A welcomed tradition of memorable droid characters in the Star Wars universe. But contrary to popular critic belief, K-2SO is not the only memorable thing in the movie.

May the Force be with you!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS is a 2016 film written and directed by fashion designer Tom Ford. It is his second movie following 2009's A SINGLE MAN, which was a critical darling. I am unfamiliar with the world of fashion but after watching only his second directorial feature, the man should get behind the camera more often.

With a film staring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal you'd think such star power would have NOCTURNAL ANIMALS playing nationwide? I love going to my local art-house movie theater, but given the chance, I'm picking the multiplex. It's a matter of better presentation, sorry. So as I was saying, two big movie stars and no wide release? Weird. It wasn't until the movie started that I realized why this wasn't playing across the hall from MOANA.

The opening minutes of NOCTURNAL AMIMALS is the most awkward time I've had in a theater this year. A bunch of middle aged obese women dancing around in nothing but their birthday suit. Awkward. I started to wonder if this was Tom Ford's attempt to be David Lynch? At this moment the context of the naked women became clear, we're watching an art exhibit show. There is a meaning behind them but I best leave that to those better at film analysis.

Susan (Amy Adams) a art gallery owner one day receives a manuscript from her ex husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), whom she hasn't spoken to or seen in years. She begins to read the book and quickly discovers it mirrors their relationship.

When we first meet Susan she is a very lonely woman. Which explains her exhibit of naked overweight women. The women are happy and liberated. Susan is not. A lot of empty spaces occupy her home. And the relationship with her womanizing new husband appears unhealthy and toxic. Susan begins to read the book and she gets hooked. At first it's because of how much the story reminds her of what she did to Edward. This is one of three narratives shown non linearly in the film. The novel is second narrative.

The novel is about one man's revenge against those who raped and murdered his wife and child. With the help of a Texas lawman they track the men down and plan to kill them. Without getting too spoiler-ish the events in the book mirror why Susan and Edward ended their marriage. More accurately, why Susan wanted to get a divorce.

The third narrative is how our main characters met, fell in love, and got divorced. This is where the film really gets interesting and cool, or too 'on the nose' depending on your taste. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS is a film that requires undivided attention.

Once we start seeing how Susan and Edward met and fell in love, director Tom Ford starts giving us awesome visual cues. One example; in the manuscript narrative, the mother and daughter are found dead on a red couch. In the past narrative we see Susan telling Edward that she wants a divorce, she's sitting on a red couch.

That was an easy example, there are tougher ones that I won't spoil. The ending is a big one that I'm still trying to figure out. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS is indeed a revenge story but it also might be the best thing to ever happen to Susan. Edward may have hurt her and helped her at the same time?

I was expecting more of a straight forward film noir with NOCTURNAL ANIMALS. But glad I got a more complex movie instead.

In conclusion, I'm only recommending NOCTURNAL ANIMALS to movie buffs. I could see a lot of moviegoers hating the three narrative structure of the film. Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal are good as always!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

MOANA

2016 has kinda been the year of the animated film for me. I've seen five this year. Five in the theater, that's a new adult record for me. I'm I ashamed? No. All of them have been very good if not great! To be honest most Disney Animated and Pixar films give the live action stuff a run for their money. That's a scary thought. Not from a creative perspective but a business one. Do movie goers only flock to the theater to see Disney films anymore? That's a opinion I may tackle some other time. Today I'm talking about MOANA.

I almost took a pass on seeing MOANA at the theater. With already seeing ZOOTOPIA and FINDING DORY, I felt MOANA could wait till Netflix. It's a good thing I didn't wait, because MOANA rocks on the big screen. We're well on our way to Winter 2016 so it was inviting to see an animation style lush with color and Polynesian culture. The music is good as well!

This is a animated musical so you gotta talk about the music. You've got the guy wrote the HAMILTON Broadway musical co-writing some of the songs. While I cannot vouch for HAMILTON , I do know that Lin-Manuel Miranda is talented. The songs in MOANA are proof, plus the new cantina song he wrote for STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS is awesome!

But the ultimate credit for the music in MOANA has to go to the directors of the movie, Ron Clements and John Musker. Among others they directed ALADDIN and THE LITTLE MERMAID, so right there it's a automatic win. I had a friend in high school who had the ALADDIN soundtrack. We listened to that thing ironically for the most part, but those songs were catchy I'll admit.

So of course MOANA is about Moana, a young woman who will one day rule her people. But Moana has no interest in such things and would rather go sailing beyond the reef and explore the sea. Her chieftain father will have no such thing as it is forbidden for anyone to go past the reef.

Years go by and something (as in a curse) has been slowly killing the plant life on the island. Moana and her grandmother know the cure is out beyond the reef. The sea has always had a special bond with Moana. She knows it's up to her to find Maui, the demi-god, who according to the myth is responsible for the curse because he stole/lost an important stone.

Against her father's will Moana sets sail to find Maui and return the stone to where it belongs. And it's here where our adventure finally begins.

I say finally because it feels like the film takes forever to get the adventure going. I know this is a kids movie so it's normal for exposition to get repeated, but I clearly felt a redundancy issue with MOANA. There were too many false starts to the adventure in my opinion.

Once Moana and Maui meet the real fun begins. I felt myself getting lost in the mythology of the film. The search for Maui's hook-staff was my favorite part. Our two heroes have to dive into some kind of monster realm to steal back the hook-staff from a giant crab. It reminded me of CLASH OF THE TITANS or a SINBAD film.

It also made me think of another animated film that was released this year. I found myself getting a tad bit distracted thinking about KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS during some key moments. But that's okay, stuff like that is bound to happen in movies. Blame it on coincidence and the writings of Joseph Campbell.

In conclusion, I highly recommend MOANA if you're a fan of Disney animated films. It's a beautiful movie to look at with fun mythological adventure, the songs are great too.