Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2019

Every FILM FEST 919 movie I watched, ranked

In October 2019, I attended my first ever film festival in entirety. I spent four days, from a Wednesday evening until a Sunday evening, living and breathing film appreciation. Although I did take breaks to sleep and eat, it was a very intensive sprint of watching as many movies as possible, without going insane. Although I hope to write individual reviews of each film, at the very least I wanted to look at all the movies in comparison to one another. Below, find my rankings of all the films I watched. To create this ranking, I looked at three aspects.

Enjoyment: Did I enjoy watching the film on a visceral level
Technical merit: Things like good acting, pretty to look at, screenplay, art of story, sound editing
Importance: How unique and important is that this story be told.

I then had to do some shifting to ease my conscience. But, just a disclaimer: I didn't any movies that were "bad" or "not worth seeing." The festival curators did an excellent job choosing …

Episode 7 The White Devil Revealed in Netflix Dark Season 2

Dark is one of the best Netflix original series to date. To see a description of the show and all of my episode recaps, go here.

Episode 7 The White Devil

Although I break the events down into the different time periods, during the episode, all the time periods are interwoven together in a way that juxtaposes the events together.

Hot take: The entire plot of this episode stays in the three core time periods of 2020, 1987, and 1954. In some ways, this is one of the most disturbing episodes of the season. Hannah proves once again to be one of the most unlikable people on the show. While no one is perfect, she seems to be the only person that has no moral compass. There is no one she thinks highly of than herself. It's questionable whether or not she even has that love for Jonas. She is the only one that intentionally causes harm to another person, with no guilt whatsoever. In addition, the person of Claudia wants to do good for someone, but ends up causing the thing she wanted to avoid…

Jennifer Kent's The Nightingale (2018): Brutal But Necessary Storytelling

Although Jennifer Kent's sophomore feature film The Nightingale is brutal and horrifying to watch, viewers ready to take the risk will appreciate a rare look at colonial Australian history, and the risks Kent took to create it.

It's 1825 somewhere in Tasmania, and Clare (Aisling Franciosi), an Irish convict serves her sentence in the servitude of Hawkins (Sam Claflin), a weak, narcissistic British military man with aspirations of grandeur and promotion. Although Clare is married, Hawkins feels some level of romantic interest in her, and considers her his property. He calls her his songbird and nightingale and asks her to perform music for his men. Clare feels she has served her time and wants to be free to live as a free woman and fulfill her roles as wife and mother. If you remember how Goeth felt about Helen in Schindler's List or Edwin felt about Patsey in 12 Years a Slave, you will get a good picture.

To put this in context, remember this is the early colonial days fo…

Episode 6 An Immutable Endless Cycle in Netflix Dark Season 2

Dark is one of the best Netflix original series to date. To see a description of the show and all of my episode recaps, go here.

Episode 6 An Endless Cycle

Hot take: Every Dark viewer has wanted for Jonas to get to wake up and start over fresh. Now that he has knowledge of what is possible, it's his chance to try and make things right. After being lead by Adam to enter the dark matter and return to the present-day world, he returns to the time before the series started, right before his dad's suicide. He believes if he can stop the suicide, he can set everything right again. This episode is unique in that the entire thing takes place in one time period, the year when the show began.

In 2019 - As we show begins, we see Jonas, but it's a Jonas without the neck scar. Michael/Mikkel are both still alive and co-existing in the same time period, and it's a beautiful day full of possibilities. However, we can see that life is weighing heavily on Michael. He doesn't really w…

Lulu Wang's The Farewell (2019): A Family-Centric Ruse

Very few family comedies or dramas manage to be realistic. Often the funny ones depict family units that are overly perfect or idealistic, and the serious ones rely on lots of upsetting family drama and tears to manipulate the audience into feeling something. Lulu Wang's The Farewell does neither and manages to provide a window into one Chinese family's reality and the way they deal with a family emergency.

To be fair, the realism was bound to be there as this story is based on a real event that happened, directed by one of the people to which it happened, and many of the scenes played out exactly as shown in real life. The monologues don't seem scripted because . . . they aren't. In the film, we meet Billi (Awkwafina), a young professional Chinese woman who lives in America. She adores her Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao) and is understandably upset when her parents tell her that Nai Nai has 3 months to live due to cancer. The family has decided that it's best that Nai Nai…

Episode 5 Mikkel Lost and Found (and Lost) in Netflix Dark Season 2

Dark is one of the best Netflix original series to date. To see a description of the show and all of my episode recaps, go here.

Episode 5 Lost and Found

Although I break the events down into the different time periods, during the episode, all the time periods are interwoven together in a way that juxtaposes the events together.

Hot take: Most of the action in this episode takes place in our "current" time of 2020. In the 1980s, we follow Claudia and Ulrich as they try to stop the inevitable. Both of them have emotional arcs because their motivations are clearly narrow-sighted. Ulrich just wants Mikkel back and thinks if he can return his son, all will be right again. Claudia wants to stop the bad from happening to both her dad and daughter. In 1921, our gaze is firmly locked on Jonas as he tries to stop calamity from happening to him, those he lives, and the whole earthly realm. His gaze has transcended his own good to those around him. He is willing to accept he may no longe…

Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019): Whose Story Is It?

Quentin Tarantino is known for many things: foot fetishes, a love of spaghetti westerns, martial arts films, alternative histories, lengthy monologues, and copious amounts of over-the-top violence and bloodshed. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (or OUATIH, as everyone seems to be calling it) keeps many of these elements, but the violence and bloodshed are almost nonexistent. When it does enter the picture, it's that much more shocking because of its noticeable absence throughout most of the film.

Rick Dalton, a fictional character, (Leonardo DiCaprio) feels certain his career won't last much longer. His reputation has sunk due to the fact that he always plays the villains who get beat up. It doesn't help that he's also an alcoholic. He thinks his career has sunk to a new low when he is offered a chance to make Italian Westerns. His stunt double and best friend, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), drives him around and does odd jobs around the house since unfortunate circumstances h…

Riley Stearns' The Art of Self-Defense (2019) Movie Review: Do NOT Talk About Night Class

In 1999, David Fincher directed the book to movie Fight Club, a dark stylized comedy about a group of men who form a "support group" of sorts called Fight Club, where they pair up for no holds barred unarmed first fights with one another. Organized by the charismatic Tyler Durden, for a time, the meetings seem to be a good thing. Things start to spiral when the hero realizes Tyler is no good and must be stopped.

In many surface ways, The Art of Self-Defense is quite similar. Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) walks around like he is apologizing for taking up oxygen. He lives alone with his dog and works at a boring, thankless job as an accountant. One day, Jesse is attacked on the street by some unidentified motorcycle riders. He's hospitalized for his wounds and takes some times off work.

On a walk around town, he overhears a karate class and goes into observe. He feels intrigued and inspired by what he sees and decide to sign up for classes. He hopes that he can "become wha…

Episode 4 The Travelers Team Up in Netflix Dark Season 2

Dark is one of the best Netflix original series to date. To see a description of the show and all of my episode recaps, go here.

Episode 4 The Travelers
Although I break the events down into the different time periods, during the episode, all the time periods are interwoven together in a way that juxtaposes the events together.

Most of this episode occurs in the "present," which is the year 2020. Whereas much of Dark revolves around characters feeling alone and doing things as an individual, in this episode, we see characters forming alliances and trying to work together. It's a coming together, where people share what they know with others. There are two groups that form in 2020 -- the teens and the adults.

In 2053 - The guard who helped Jonas escape from his prison cell walks outside the room where the dark matter blob is contained, only to be confronted by adult Elisabeth. The guard wants to know what is the blob? Elisabeth signs to her: It's the devil. I was rea…

Ari Aster's Midsommar (2019) Movie Review: Grief, Loss, and the Importance of Community

This review has two parts: the first part is a spoiler-free summary and review. A clearly marked asterisk row is followed by an analysis with spoilers.

Although Ari Aster's film Midsommar has received tons of buzz and hype as the must-see horror film of Summer 2019, what audiences may not realize is that underneath all the disturbing imagery and creepy vibes, this film has true things to say about grief, loss and the importance of community in healing after trauma.

Dani (Florence Pugh, Lady MacBeth) is the lone survivor of her nuclear family. She carries her tenable grief like a constant companion. Oh sure, she tries to be chipper and "cool" around her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor, Glassland), and his friends, Mark, Josh, and Pelle. But she craves support and understanding. She mourns alone. No one really seems to understand what she is going through.

Perhaps a trip out of town will be just the thing, so she accepts the half-hearted invitation to accompany Christia…

Episode 3 Ghosts Revisiting the Past of Winden in Netflix Dark Season 2

Dark is one of the best Netflix original series to date. To see a description of the show and all of my episode recaps, go here.

Episode 3 Ghosts
In episode 1, we viewed the extremes of Winden's history, at the edges, in the early past and the furthest future. In this episode, Claudia and Egon are on the hunt for information, while Helge and Ulrich continue to be pawns in the game. And Noah, who we considered the true villain may also be a pawn against his will. 

I break the events down into the different time periods, but during the episode, all the time periods are interwoven together in a way that is juxtaposes the events together. 

In 2053 - No storylines are explored in this time period. 

In 2020 - The 1980s Claudia time travels for the first time into the future and sees her daughter, Regina, sick, wearing her headscarf. Her emotions overwhelm her because she realizes she has been neglecting her daughter all this time. Her older self has told her that her time is limited. Is it h…

Episode 2 Dark Matter Starts Jonas on His Path in Netflix Dark Season 2

Dark is one of the best Netflix original series to date. To see a description of the show and all of my episode recaps, go here.

Episode 2 Dark Matter

In 2053, Jonas desperately wants to enter the blue/black pulsing blob because it appears to be a time portal. However, he lacks the power to keep the blob stabilized enough that it won't kill him upon contact. In order to get more fuel to power the machinery, Jonas will need to enter the "dead zone," only it's forbidden by the the current presiding figure, who we assume to be Elizabeth because she is deaf and using sign language to communicate.

Although he's caught on the way back, he is able to get the fuel he needs, although he's not unscathed and gains new scars. Jonas enters the particle, and we are curious about where he ends up. The guard from the future (as she's credited in the show notes) was visibly moved by both Jonas' pain and his situation. I was curious as to what her connection to Jonas …

Episode 1 Beginnings and Endings Kicks off Netflix Dark Season 2

Dark is one of the best Netflix original series to date. To see a description of the show and all of my episode recaps, go here.

Episode 1 Beginnings and Endings

Once again Dark starts in the middle of a storyline, and we are forced to fight to keep up. We open in 1921, with two men creating the gateway that will make all the dimension traveling possible. We see both the creation of the tunnel and the genesis of Noah as a prophet who is emboldened to do bidding to fulfill a prophecy of some kind.

In 2053, we see all of Winden leveled by some kind of apocalyptic event, obviously some kind of radiation. Most people died, although there were survivors. Jonas is living in his family home, despite the fact that it's trashed just like everything else. We see a calendar, marking down the days until the day of destruction happened. Jonas walks through all the buildings. It's work, but we can recognize the school, as well as the police station based on the remains. No one speaks, but J…

J.D. Dillard's Sleight (2016): An Empowering Origin Story Featuring a Person of Color

Shortly after Jordan Peele's Get Out came on screen and made waves for, among many things, its depiction of a smart and savvy hero of color, J.D. Dillard's Sleight hit theaters. This science fiction/superhero origin story mashup features Bo, a highly intelligent and loving young man, who makes money how he can to take care of his sister after the death of his mother. By day, he's a street magician who wows folks who pass by with card tricks and others sleights of hand. By night, he sells drugs to overeager millennials.

We see the secret to Bo's magic early on in the action, although we don't get the full picture until later in the movie. Suffice it to say there's a cost to his skills. Like Wolverine in the X-Men, every time he uses his powers, it hurts. Often we forget that being good at something often means sacrifice of some kind. As we learn about Bo and listen to him explain to his new girlfriend why he does it, we are even more intrigued by him as a perso…

Jim Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die (2019): A Smart Zombie Meta Movie

Strange things are happening in the town of Centerville. A local man named Farmer Frank (wearing a hat that says "Make American White Again") angrily reports that his chickens are missing and that Bob, the local hermit, must be the culprit. The local sheriffs, Chief Cliff Robertson and Officer Ronnie Peterson, are on the case. They don't really think Bob is the guilty party. As the pair investigates the crime, the rest of the town is introduced through various scenes, and everyone has an opinion about what's really going on. As the town come to the realization that the problem is zombies, people choose to hide out, run away, or fight to the death. 
Although that's an accurate description of the plot of this movie, it doesn't quite capture the essence of the film. Don't go in expecting to find your typical zombie movie with heroic characters and "last man standing" scenario. The Dead Don't Die is a zombie film, and at the same time attempts …

Michael Dougherty's Godzilla King of the Monsters (2019) Has Some Amazing Moments

Michael Dougherty's Godzilla King of the Monsters has some amazing moments. Although the film is heavy on family drama, and light on kaiju action, there is enough fodder to merit a trip to the local movie theater.

My first experience in seeing a Godzilla movie, believe it or not, occurred in 2014, when I went to see Gareth Edward's Godzilla. Although I try my best to keep up with current movies, monster movies never really captured my attention. My experience in 2014 was enough to change my mind. I went to see that film several times. The revelation that Godzilla was not the bad guy amazed me. I assumed that these films would play out like a King Kong flick, with everyone basically trying to kill them, with a few dissenters. Nope, the science community and military are glad to receive Godzilla's help when they need it, and then bid him adieu. It didn't take long for me to draw a connection between Godzilla and the Seven Samurai in that way.

This iteration of the radio…

Yes, You Can: Go to the Movies By Yourself

This is part of my Solo Living: Yes You Can series. Click here to find the intro and all the topics.

I almost feel like this post is unnecessary. But there may still be some people out there who can't imagine going out by themselves and buying a ticket in a theater where they will sit alone and finding it enjoyable.

Full truth -- I have been going to movies by myself since high school, and in all honesty, it's probably my preferred way to do it. Sometimes -- ON VERY RARE OCCASIONS -- I go to a theater with a friend. This person must be very special. They can't commit any of the movie theater sins, such as talking, texting, pointing out my emotions, and eating giant handfuls of popcorn, instead of one piece at a time, savoring it.

I recall the first time I experienced the cinema solo. I wanted to see Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner. I also wanted to see another movie, but I can't remember what it was. Maybe it was Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey.…

The Top Scenes from Cobra Kai Season 2

via GIPHY

I have been a fan of the Karate Kid movie franchise since it was released in 1984. The first three films were frequently viewed and quoted by my entire family all through my childhood. And still, to this day, I don't think a family visit goes by without my hearing a Daniel-san or "wax on; was off" reference thrown in for good measure, no matter the context.

The New Karate Kid and the Jackie Chan reboot didn't make much of an impression. Let's face it -- "put on your jacket; take off your jacket" just doesn't have the same ring to it as "wax on; wax off." So when I heard a TV show called Cobra Kai would be released on Youtube, with both Ralph Macchio and William Zabka in the cast, I was tickled but fairly positive it would be stupid. After all, how can you hope to make any successful Karate Kid picture without Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi?

To my dismay and delight, the show is amazing. It simultaneously pays homage to the original and…