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Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

Windtalkers (second review)

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

tn_windtalkerswoozoneusaBWINDTALKERS is an American John Woo picture that I kinda hated at the time. I can prove it: here’s my review. But I watched it again and although I don’t really disagree with anything I said in that review, now I think it’s okay. Maybe this is because I watched the director’s cut, which is longer and more violent, like a real John Woo movie. Maybe it’s because I came to it with different hopes and expectations, having already not liked it. Or maybe it’s because I’ve grown and changed as a person and movie watcher since the last time. I suspect it’s a combination of all three.

This is Woo’s WWII movie, which makes sense because it’s about male bonding through violence, but also the evil of endless violence, and also a pretty invisible minority (the Navajo) reaching across cultural lines to achieve a common goal, much like Woo making movies in Hollywood. (read the rest of this shit…)

Monster

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

tn_monsterI’m about 13 years late on this one, but it turns out there’s a reason Charlize Theron got an Oscar for MONSTER. Jeez. Playing Aileen Wuornos, “the first female serial killer,” she not only transforms herself, she transforms Wuernos.

That first part got all the attention. Theron was a well known actress by that point, but in movies like 2 DAYS IN THE VALLEY, THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE, REINDEER GAMES and THE ITALIAN JOB her acting chops usually took back seat to her hotness. Here she wore fake teeth, bleached her eyebrows and had her skin looking freckled and rough, a pretty decent likeness of the real woman and (though it looks natural in the movie) extreme enough to get a bunch of attention. I actually think the most drastic part is the hair, though. The way the movie tells it she has the hair of a butch lesbian before she even discovers that she is one.

This is a love story. Aileen, going by Lee, decides rather than kill herself one rainy day she’ll take her last five bucks to a bar and get a beer. And this lonely young woman Selby (Christina Ricci, CASPER) approaches her, talks to her, buys her a pitcher. Aileen protests at first – “What is this, a gay place?” she had snorted to the bartender earlier – but she can’t really pass up a person being nice to her. Too rare. (read the rest of this shit…)

Beyond the Ring

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

tn_beyondtheringBEYOND THE RING is an amateurish underground fighting drama allegedly based on a true story and starring the Brazilian Taekwondo Grandmaster Andre Lima as himself. Depending on what parts of it are true it’s a deeply personal story and/or a weird vanity project.

In the movie Andre is a Taekwondo instructor (at one of his actual L.A. area schools it looks like), a widower and single father of teenage son Joseph (Joseph Nerlinger) and pre-teen daughter Jessica (Aycka Lima). He stopped competitive fighting after his wife’s death and gets real stubborn when his brother-in-law Patrick (Martin the bad guy in KARATE KID Kove) comes around trying to make sure he’s taking care of the family well and what not.

The hook is that one day Andre finds out his daughter has a brain tumor, and his insurance doesn’t cover her surgery, so he ends up taking an underground fight against a guy called Zulu (Justice Smith, BLOOD AND BONE, THOR) to try to raise the money. My assumption was that real life Lima really had a sick daughter and maybe did some kind of tournament fighting to pay for the surgery, not an illegal thing like this, but I’ve found some biographies of him online and none of them mention his family life at all. I guess this is one of those unverifiable martial arts tall tales, like how BLOODSPORT is supposed to be based on a real guy called Frank Dux who claims to have taken part in a real Kumite. But if the guy’s daughter (who I believe is playing herself in the movie?) didn’t really get sick that would be an unethical truth-stretching in my opinion. (read the rest of this shit…)

Steve Jobs

Monday, March 21st, 2016

tn_stevejobsLooking back through my notebook I discovered that I wrote most of a review of STEVE JOBS back when it was in theaters, but I never typed it up. I guess since it wasn’t nominated for best picture I didn’t catch that when I was doing all the pre-Oscars reviews. But I think it’s a movie worthy of more attention than it got, and it’s available on video and I use a Mac so it seems only fair to finish it.

Steve Jobs was a genius and also an asshole. That’s kinda the basics of Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay, and many of his other screenplays, and therefore I have to guess something he can relate to. Like his other computer history piece THE SOCIAL NETWORK I think this one leans in the direction of genius not justifying assholishness, but it seems to be a question he struggles with.

I’m a little – not alot – familiar with the playwright turned TV mastermind’s work. I know people who adore his shows Sports Night and The West Wing, and some who are masochistically fascinated with The Newsroom.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Let’s Get Bizzee

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

tn_letsgetbizzeeLET’S GET BIZZEE is a 1993 indie movie starring Doug E. Fresh, famed rapper, beatboxer and chief executive officer of The Get Fresh Crew. That’s right, it’s a Doug E. Fresh vehicle. Do you remember something like that ever existing? I don’t. But it does, preserved forever on VHS.

After seeing it, though, I understand why nobody ever talks about it. It has the dramatic quality of some crappy comedy like DISORDERLIES or something, but there aren’t many jokes in it, and zero that are funny. I think it might be intended as a serious drama about local politics.

Fresh – who now goes as D. Edward Fresh (I totally made that up) – plays Sam Baker, a kid who has just graduated high school. His mom says he needs a job and his ex-girlfriend says she needs $2,000 or she’s gonna tell his mom he has a baby. Meanwhile, the womanizing, limo-riding assemblyman Dillon (Anthony Chisholm, UP TIGHT, 13, CHI-RAQ) has made a deal to allow the projects to be destroyed and turned into condominiums. Sam is against it and does a little rap about it in the park, which leads to him hanging with a few local activist types and starting a petition against it. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Krays

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

tn_kraysRonnie and Reggie Kray were identical twin gangsters who ran London’s East End in the ’50s and ’60s. They owned night clubs (part of the movie SPARROWS CAN’T SING with Roy Kinnear was filmed in one of their clubs) and hung out with celebrities including Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra. Ronnie was gay, and was involved in a political scandal, allegedly having sex with and supplying men for the conservative politician Lord Boothby. The brothers were crazy and vicious and in ’69 got twin life sentences for different murders.

I’m not sure when they did all those weird stop motion films with the creepy dolls and shit.

THE KRAYS is a 1990 movie about the Krays, directed by Peter Medak (THE RULING CLASS, SPECIES II) and written by Philip Ridley (writer/director of THE REFLECTING SKIN and THE PASSION OF DARKLY NOON). I guess that combination is why it’s not a traditional gangster movie. It gives the twins a creepy DEAD RINGERS kinda vibe and spends less time than you’d think on their criminal activities.

In fact, the first 20 minutes is about their childhood. We see their traumatic experiences during the war, and how much time they spent surrounded by women while the men were off fighting. They were protected by their mother Violet (Billie Whitelaw, TWISTED NERVE, THE OMEN, SLAYGROUND) and spoiled by their Aunt Rose (Susan Fleetwood, CLASH OF THE TITANS). (read the rest of this shit…)

Brooklyn

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

tn_brooklynbestpictureBROOKLYN is my best-picture-nominee-completist viewing for this year. When the nominations were announced the only ones I hadn’t seen were THE REVENANT (which was about to come out and I was excited to see), ROOM (which I had been told was very good so I was already interested) and this one (no interest). And I’m not saying it changed my life or nothin, but it’s a good movie I never would’ve watched otherwise.

Saoirse (pronounced sur-shuh) Ronan plays Eilis (pronounced AY-lish) Lacey, a young woman who works in a shop in a small town in Ireland in 1952 (pronounced nyn-teen-fiff-tee-too). But she doesn’t get paid much and  people are starving and her older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott, RESIDENT EVIL) arranges for her to go to the U.S. where there might be better opportunities. A priest (Jim Broadbent, SUPERMAN IV) sets her up with a home at a boarding house, a job at a department store and even night classes in bookkeeping at a college.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Room

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

tn_roombestpictureROOM is a movie that would be better to know nothing about. I knew a little more than I should’ve, and that wasn’t too bad. But if you were planning on seeing it anyway, read this later.

It’s mostly a two-person movie: a mom (Brie Larson, GREENBERG) and her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay, THE SMURFS 2), who is turning five today. But they can’t go to Chuck E. Cheese or something because they live inside a small room that they can’t leave. It has no windows except for a skylight.

I wonder if they’ll do straight to video sequels like they did with CUBE. Hopefully they saved the set.

But they make do. She has the ingredients to make a humble birthday cake. No candles, though, which makes him cry. They decorate Room, as they call their world, with garbage, call objects by names like it’s Pee-wee’s Playhouse, do regular exercises and play games to keep their bodies and brains okay. They thread together a bunch of eggshells and draw a face on it: “Egg Snake is our longest and fanciest friend,” narrates Jack. Livin it up.

Like THE LOVELY BONES this is childish fantasy used as an escape from evil and tragedy. They don’t come out and say it at first, but Ma was kidnapped and locked in here at age 17, and gave birth two years later. So that tells you who the father is. (read the rest of this shit…)

Spotlight

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

tn_spotlightbestpictureSPOTLIGHT is another one of the best picture nominees. I’d already seen it anyway. It doesn’t seem to me like signs are pointing to it as a potential winner, but it definitely feels like your traditional perfectly-good-movie-that-wins-best-picture-and-makes-you-resent-it. Unlike BIRDMAN or ARGO it is not about actors or Hollywood, except in the sense that it allows actors to shine in a big cast with mouthfuls of dialogue. But the appeal is they get to portray professionalism, a courageous Fight Against the System, and a true story about a heavy topic: the massive cover-up of child sexual abuse among Catholic clergy.

It’s an ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN type deal. The Boston Globe‘s “Spotlight” team of reporters who do long-term investigative journalism sort of stumble across this thing, an old story that no one paid much attention to that has bigger implications. They talk to victims, look at records, connect the dots, do the math, and start to suspect that the atrocity is much bigger than anyone realized. If it’s 3% of priests, let’s see, how many priests are in Boston? And 3% of that is… HOLY SHIT, that’s too many molesters in my opinion.

They discover lawyers who were involved with settlements between the families and the church. The families were led to believe the church would punish the abusers and getting some money for the kid to live off of would be the best thing to do. Whoops. They just made them move and let them keep working. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Big Short

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

tn_bigshortbestpictureDo you remember the Will Ferrell movie THE OTHER GUYS, how the end credits were a big animated info graphic about the banking crisis? It connected to the scheme by the villains in the movie but seemed jarringly serious at the end of a cop movie parody from the director of ANCHORMAN where Ferrell carries a wooden gun, has an evil pimp alter ego and has a chief played by Michael Keaton who quotes TLC all the time and works a second job at Bed Bath & Beyond. That’s why it’s not completely out of the blue that its director Adam McKay has made his first non-comedy, THE BIG SHORT, which has been nominated for many awards including Oscars for best picture, director and adapted screenplay. This is not the classic funny-man-yearning-for-respectability-with-corny-Oscar-bait-movie gambit. This is a rage that’s been fighting to get out.

Based on the non-fiction book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Moneyball author Michael Lewis, the movie tells the stories of several small-timers and outsiders in the financial world who had the foresight to see that the housing market was built on fraud and was destined to collapse. They figured out a way to basically bet against the banks, who gladly accepted the offers because they believed their own lies. They thought these people were crazy and giving them free money. (read the rest of this shit…)