The Art of Self-Defense

The Art of Self-Defense hit a few festivals before it got its wider release. I had so much hype built up towards it that I will say, right now, I might have liked it more had my expectations been more regular. And that sucks.

It does have a lot going for it. A24, a quirky film where Eisenberg can showcase his talents, and more.

And you know, its about karate! We haven’t had many dojo based films in awhile. The last one I really remember is The Foot-Fist Way. It was another smaller indie film with a weird humor sense. And it was okay. Maybe the real reason this came out is Cobra Kai. People love that series.

Punch
Punch

Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) is a little bitch. Maybe because he has a common lady name, but he is passive, quiet, and lonely. He lives at home with a little tiny dog. He goes to work. He doesn’t go on vacations. Gosh. He is an accountant. Gross.

Well one night he gets home and realizes he is out of dog food. Having to walk to the store in the middle of the night is scary, more so with recent reports of motorcycle people running around and beating people up. Sure enough, he gets mugged, put into a small coma, and in drastic need from rest.

While he is away from work, he wants to change his life. No, not a vacation. Getting a gun! That will help defend himself. But there is a waiting period. While waiting, he instead finds a karate dojo, led by Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), who talks in such a charismatic way. He makes Casey feel special, he gives him goals in life, he gives him a meaning. He is also going to help him become a better man.

But the more and more involved he gets in the class, the more Casey is realizing he is in something bigger than he bargained for.

Also starring Imogen Poots, Steve Terada, Phillip Andre Botello, and Hauke Bahr.

Kick
Kick.

I will do my duty to defy expectations by not talking a lot about how this movie was in terms of the genre. Because it turns out, that ruined it a bit for me. What you can and should know is that it is a Dark Comedy very much so based on the genre.

This is a swell role for Eisenberg. He is able to definitely to act his way into this character and it feels like a natural fit, unlike a lot of other recent roles. Poots really dives down into her character as well, and was unlike any other role I’ve ever seen her in.

I think Nivola is the real star and talking point here. That character is just so unique, brave, and twisted. It is hard to describe and compare him to other roles that might seem similar. It is just bizarre, and I love it.

A lot of surprises are in store for The Art Of Self-Defense, but ones that are welcome to the Sports karate genre of film.

3 out of 4.

I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter

Sometimes a court case comes along that captures the attention of America, either because of how terrible it is, or how silly it is. OJ was the case of the century in the 1900’s. We had the Hot Coffee case that the media ran away with and influenced the public about, without going into the real details surrounding the case. We have courtroom drama shows, courtroom drama movies.

We love the law, but we we love it when people break the law and do bad things to have this drama.

I Love You, Now Die looks at a recent case of which you most definitely heard about and have a strong reaction to. Two teens, one dead boy. Suicide. And on his phone, dozens of text messages for him to kill himself from his girlfriend, including maybe telling him to get back into his truck which was how he eventually went out, when he was having second thoughts.

Have you heard it? I bet you have. And from that, we were all thinking the same thing. “That Bitch!”

However, media blurbs and unresearched news might be the real story here.

nowdie
That’s the woman who you are calling a bitch.

The 24/7 news media cycle is constantly going, constantly searching for clicks and ad revenue, because the newspaper is dying. So anything to get people to click your site is great, anything juicy or disturbing. And yes, the facts about this case are disturbing. The outcome of the death is disturbing.

But what about the history? What about the years before that July 12th, 2014 moment? What is the greater context?

This documentary is in 2 parts, overall over two hours long. The first part goes over the case against Michelle Carter, what was argued in court, the texts, and all of that. The second part focuses on the defense, using the same evidence, the same laws, to argue something very different. And of course the second part includes verdicts, reasoning, and the appeals.

And you know what? This documentary reminded me about Hot Coffee. I went into Hot Coffee thinking one thing, and left with a new opinion. Documentaries that can effectually change your opinions are a magical lamp of desire. Most of the time, I either watch because I agree, or disagree and hate it the whole time.

In attempts to remain unbiased, they didn’t have a voiceover reading texts, adding inflections or sarcasm or anything. So there is a lot of reading of the text messages between Carter and the boyfriend and other people involved.

The only reason I am not giving it a 4/4 is because in their attempts to stay unbiased, they got really biased at parts. During some of the text exchanges, they had somewhat scary background images. The faces of the couples distorted, with lots of distortion and strange background music. It made those aspects feel clearly a lot more “evil” versus the more generic backgrounds used throughout most of it.

This documentary does such an amazing job of showing both sides equally and fairly, it is a bit sad to see it mess up a few times on those details.

Either way, this is an important documentary, and one that reminds us to check things out and not just take a shitty news article for face value.

3 out of 4.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

First, Jake Gyllenhaal was announced to be Mysterio. Then they said it was only a rumor. Then they confirmed Gyllenhaal for Mysterio! Could it be? One of my favorite young-ish actors playing my favorite Spider-Man villain? Is this the best time line?

Well, real life tells me no, this is not. But Spider-Man: Far From Home is the end of Phase 3 of the MCU after the very big Avengers: Endgame. It knows it can’t be as big as that last movie, so it needs to something unique to close out the phase, to bring some aftermath closure.

But lets talk more about Gyllenhaal. First of all, this is not his first time playing a superhero! A lot of you have forgotten, but after Vincent Chase starred in the mega-hit Aquaman in the 2000’s, he decided to go against his contract and not film the sequel Gyllenhaal stepped in  and it was okay. But a lot of people don’t do good in their first superhero role. Just ask Ryan Reynolds!

Gyllenhaal
Oh my god, he is so dreamy.

Events after Endgame are wrecking with everyone’s lives. Some people grew for five years, others are in a changed world. A few of our heroes are now gone forever (really though?) and others need to step up. And Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is now still in high school. Can he be that hero? Can he be the new Iron Man?

Eh, life is hard, and the world is safe for now. So let’s go on vacation. It’s summer. He needs to grieve, he needs to be a kid, he needs to put Spider-Man for awhile. He wants to woo MJ (Zendaya) off of her feet in Paris. Paris?! Yeah, a school trip to visit science places in Europe, with his best friends and frenemies. Good, no villains in Italy.

What’s that? Weird large elementals, destroying parts of Europe? Apparently they came from some other dimension. Maybe some time warp after all the infinity nonsense? All we know is that Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) has fought these elementals before, seems to be able to defeat them, and came from an Earth that killed his entire planet. Sad times. Maybe he can be our new Iron Man?

Also starring Angourie Rice, Jon Favreau, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Marisa Tomei, Martin Starr, J.B. Smoove, Tony Revolori, and of course, Jacob Batalon.

mysterio
Who was this movie about? Mysteriooooooooo.

Spidey, Spidey, Spidey. What cha gonna do? What cha gonna do when they rely on you?

Far From Home does not pull as close to as many punches as Endgame, and not even on an emotional level. I didn’t cry. It was a relatively safe movie, very local, and on its own doesn’t fully feel like a closure to Phase 3. It does help explain some of the post-snap snafu and that is nice. It moves Peter’s story on and that is nice.

What it does well is when it goes really full Mysterio. This master illusionist going off on illusions was really cool. That is something comics and cartoons can do with ease, but in a movie? Well, it worked well. I wish we got to see Bruce Campbell do it in the 2000’s, but that is okay. Gyllenhaal was great in what he needed to do, but it is not his best acting either.

Now I have a big gripe with the mid credits scene. No spoilers. It is probably the best mid or post credit scene in this films history. It is amazing. And it is important. It really should have ended the main film pre-credits and not be seen as an extra. I know all of the credit scenes count as the film, but for purists, really, give me that moment before the credits role. Let the closure be real. Don’t make it extra.

Spider-Man: Far From Home will do well, and honestly, probably should have come out a little bit later. People are still riding a post Endgame high. Their endorphins have not been superhero reset, and overall it is a decent superhero movie without reaching the better heights.

Sorry Gyllenhaal. Please do more hero work.

3 out of 4.

Rocketman

When it comes to musical biopics, I am really all for them. Give me the stories of these icons of our youth and our future. Give me their stories of overcoming the odds, of being famous, of maintaining any level of humbleness. Just give it to me if it is worth being a story.

And I was looking forward to Rocketman, despite the trailers making it seem very unrealistic, because it was going to for theatricality and style instead of just substance.

And no matter what, we have to compare Rocketman to Bohemian Rhapsody. Both about gay icons and music. And Bohemian Rhapsody is very controversial due to its treatment of the main character, who died twenty years ago. Were they respectful? Was it just a standard biopic? all of that? Well, Rocketman has to try and elevate past the noise of the controversy, ideally by not featuring any controversy. We shall see how that unfolds.

devil
Well aren’t you a handsome devil.
Elton Hercules John (Taron Egerton) was a musical icon once he got it big, hit after hit, known for his extravagance, stage shows and more. Sure, he wasn’t the first to do this, but he was unique in his own rights, and helped lead the way to plenty of performers going all out.

Rocketman tells the story of Elton John’s life, from Elton John’s point of view. And more importantly, it is being told during an AA meeting about his past, when his drug and alcohol consumption has reached his breaking point and he realizes he needs help.

Most of the film, besides his rise to fame and increased levels of flamboyance, is his relationship with his mom (Bryce Dallas Howard) which seems to start out somewhat positive while also maintaining a huge level of shame, and his relationship with his best friend/songwriter Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), who helped create all of his hits, because apparently lyrics are John’s weak point.

And you know, eventually his rise after he kicked all the bad influences out of his life! And if you are hoping to hear some Lion King songs, you have to wait a month for a different film.

Also featuring Matthew Illesley and Kit Connor as little Elton Johns, and Tom Bennett, Gemma Jones, Richard Madden, and Steven Mackintosh.

sunglasses
These are terrible sunglasses, not for the design, but for not blocking any sun.
It is very important to note that Elton John is very much alive right now at the time of this writing and involved in this movie being made, so it is all from his point of view. It isn’t a strict biography of factual events, but more a fun retelling of his life, with important points that he wanted to highlight to define who he is as a person and why he went certain places in his life.

And at the same time, this is a “musical” and biopic, where the focus on around half of the stories are more there for story purposes and less performance pieces. That means we get singing, dancing, choreography, great sets, basically a lot of sweet music videos.  When the first song hit and it was like a standard musical, I was ready to be floored.

I will say that the first half felt overall more exciting than the second. Although some bigger songs are in the second half, they are a lot more standard and less elaborate so that was a bit disappointing. I probably most enjoyed Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting which was probably the second or third song. I will also say they went with very unique choices when it came to song choices, because there were plenty of songs I didn’t know that made the cut with ones I was hoping for barely mentioned. But what do I know, I am not a John fanatic or anything.

More importantly, when compared to Bohemian Rhapsody, I definitely prefer Rocketman. One of my biggest problems with BR was how they treated his sexuality, coming across as filmmakers as very homophobic and anti-Mercury’s lifestyle. And despite this entire movie taking place in some sort of AA meeting with flashbacks, clearly noting problems in John’s lifestyle, it wasn’t blamed on his sexuality. Just good old fashioned poor upbringing and a lack of support structure from those who claimed to be loved ones.

John’s sexuality is important for this movie to exist, as is his non-sexual relationships. And all of them are treated with respect and not a disdain.

Now, I did wish it was a little bit better overall, but it was still a good step in the right direction. Hopefully the next film we get is for David Bowie, and then maybe finish it up with George Michael. Let’s get all alternative sexually up in these theaters.

3 out of 4.

Toy Story 4

Controversially, I did not love Toy Story 3. I thought it was average. I did like it more than Toy Story 2 though, but the first Toy Story was still my favorite.

Oh sure, it made me cry like a sane person, but I didn’t like its main arc with Lotso Bear and it put a damper on the whole thing. But also like everyone else, it felt like a natural end to the series and was happy to see their ending.

Now, then they announced a Toy Story 4. This was terrible news. Not just because of the ending of three, but because Pixar has been splurting out sequels to everything the last few years, very few OC, and they have been average to poor. Toy Story 4 meant the end to their sequels for awhile, but it also felt like it shouldn’t even exist.

The plot had to overcome quite a few hurdles, and couldn’t just be a regular good movie, in order to justify its existence.

forky
Telling a spork about the birds and the bees can take awhile.

The first thing TS4 did was give us a flashback as to what happened to Bo Peep (Annie Potts). Now, in real life, between TS2 and TS3, they just decided to drop Bo Peep because Barbie was on board to lend its brand and that is more powerful. They wanted Barbie for the first movie, and they said no, because why would they give their stuff to an first movie studio?

Anyways, that becomes a very relevant plot to the movie now. Because of course, Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and gang are with Bonnie, a young girl, who might have different interests than a cowboy. In fact, in her first day of Kindergarten orientation, she makes a new friend out of trash named Forky (Tony Hale). Surprisingly, this trash creation is somehow able to come alive, but he doesn’t identify as a toy, and this causes a lot of conflict.

Woody takes it on his own to make sure that Forky doesn’t try to kill himself, for the betterment of Bonnie. Because damn it, Woody just wants to make his child happy, even if he isn’t actively played with.

This leads them on an adventure, leads us surprisingly back to Bo Peep, and through a lot of weirder places.

Also featuring the returnees of Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, Don Rickles (but barely because he died), Joan Cusack, and Kristen Schaal. But it also features the voices of new toys and people played by Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Kay, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Bonnie Hunt, Carl Weathers, and Madeleine McGraw.


Porcelain dolls have really gained their mobility.

Did Toy Story 4 make me cry? Of course it did. Twice! And that surprised me, because reports from friends had them not crying, but I’ve always been an emotional wreck. But remember, just because I cried does not make it a good movie.

Thankfully, Toy Story 4 is a good movie. It “fixed” the issue that I had with the last installment, in that good and bad characters are able to experience growth and change based on their circumstances. Relatively early in the movie you can sort of tell a few things that will happen by the end, and that is totally okay. You can accept the foregone conclusions early enough about a few of them and go on the ride and brace yourself before the end. Knowing where you will end up is fine, if you don’t know how you will get there. And on the journey to the end, it went plenty of unexpected places with surprises along the way.

And honestly, it feels like a great ending. Most people said after 3 that it was the perfect ending and not to mess with it. And a lot of people are saying that after 4. But I disagree, really it feels like the start of a lot of potential adventures on multiple fronts. Because lets face it, in this franchise with a large ensemble cast (that just gets more and more ensemble-y), many many characters were reduced to just a few lines. In fact, some arguably main tier characters had a few moments, but clearly the focus was on Woody and Bo Peep only. Buzz was humorous side character and Jessie had maybe only a few more lines than Slinky Dog.

I will put that there will be money on a Toy Story 5 in the future. Not just side short films for TV like the Toy Story of Terror event. And this time I will look forward to that. Just give me more original movies first Pixar.

3 out of 4.

Us

I just think we need to be apart for a bit. I think there is a disconnect, a dethering, if you will. But overall, I want to make it clear, it’s not you, it’s…Us.

That was me talking to all the other movies I could have watched recently, but knew that nothing was going to stop be from seeing Us. The second movie directed/written/produced by Jordan Peele, who gave us the wildly great and successful Get Out two years prior.

This sequel is incredibly different with its theme, and probably “subtle messages”, and that is wonderful. It can be hard for directors to try new things, and Peele is ready to branch out right away. For example, Us looks a lot more like a horror film than Get Out did, so I expect to be much more of a bitch while watching it, and hiding from the screen in front of me.

us
This is me ready to face the scares of the movie (If the movie was the staircase).

Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) and her family are relatively successful in life, and able to enjoy some of the finer things. Her husband (Winston Duke) is very outgoing and funny, her daughter (Shahadi Wright Joseph) is in track, and her youngest boy (Evan Alex), sort of a weird one, likes magic and masks and playing jokes. They are at least wealthy enough to go on vacations to a summer home that they also own on a lake. Okay yeah, that is pretty wealthy. Two homes? Like, one they don’t even rent out because they have a lot of personal belongings there that they can just leave all year. Really nice.

Well, Adelaide doesn’t like that area. The lake is fine. But in a nearby city, she had an incident in her childhood that changed her life forever. It scared her. Made her sheltered. All because she just wandered off.

And why did they have a vacation home near a place she fears? Eh, friend pressure probably.

Regardless. That night, some goddamn people in red bodysuit outfits show up outside of their residence. And they are mean, they look crazy, they have weapons and large sharp scissors. And they look just like them.

Also starring Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, and Madison Curry.

baddies
Twinsies!

So much going on in Us, so little place to discuss. First of all, this is the sort of film that will invoke better discussion once it is seen and can be freely talked about without a care for spoilers. So any of that cannot take place in this review. Trying to throw out what everything means or represents, which I have already seen and heard a lot of theories. Some bat shit, some not. That is great for any movie.

Instead, lets focus on other things. Namely, the score. Holy shit, there was some good music in this movie. Haunting, pulls you in, and really fills you with that sense of dread. Getting stabbed with scissors can be scary, but they made those scissors extra scary. The camera work was top notch, we were able to see a lot despite most most of the “action” taking place at night. They didn’t hide what was going on. Well, they did hide a lot of the gore that they could have showed. We got blood splatter, and off camera kills that are left to the audience to fill in some of the gorier blanks.

I loved loved loved Nyong’o in this. She had a lot of power and works really well in the horror genre. Duke, who has been in like, three movies now and a small role in Modern Family, has a big screen presence and does a lot to both lighten the mood and protect his family the best he can. I also think the two kid actors did great. Shoutout to Moss for being in her second doppleganger film as well.

Overall, I do think the story gets a little bit muddled at times. I think the direction goes more places than one would expect, and so it can’t focus on a few aspects to make itself truly great. This is scarier than Get Out, but not as deep. It is still a solid film. Some people hate the ending, and I admit, I didn’t love it for various reasons, but I think it didn’t detract from the movie as a whole.

3 out of 4.

Triple Frontier

Triple. Frontier. Triple the normal amounts of frontier. What designates multiple frontiers?

Like, in the USA, we only really have one frontier I think, and that is one way to describe the West.

Are they just going into three different big areas? Is this a metaphor meaning three times the number of normal plot twists?

All I really know is that I hate spelling frontier. My natural instinct is to spell it as fronteir, and this movie may be my downfall.

TAble
Five people, maybe they will split into three groups?

South America apparently has a lot of drug lords, as movies like bringing this to our attention. And thanks to Santiago ‘Pope’ Garcia (Oscar Isaac), one of them might finally get taken down. Gabriel Martin Lorea (Reynaldo Gallegos) has been wrecking havoc for years, and Pope has been working the area trying to get him. And finally, he is in his reach. He has found his compound, he has scouted it, they are ready.

But he needs a team. Sure he works for the military already as special ops, but the pay is shit and the danger is high. He wants his team to be his old team, who all retired and are struggling. His old team (Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal, and Garrett Hedlund) have all moved on, but why would they risk their lives again? Apparently, the government will give them a percentage of the cash they recover, assuming they also take down Lorea.

That will pay for college. That will pay for lots of things. That is worth the chance.

But a simple heist of a drug lord will of course cause a lot of issues, maybe some death, and maybe some twists. How much is actually worth the cost?

Also starring Adria Arjona.

Guns
Just a couple of bad ass mercenaries, trying to harass the locals.

Triple Frontier is actually a film by J.C. Chandor, who brought us Margin Call and A Most Violent Year, the former that I loved a lot and the latter which was highly praised. I was excited to see him constantly changing his style and genre, to see what he could bring to the action genre.

This film is a bit of a messy one, but I found it still to be highly entertaining. I love it when Affleck gets to play more asshole characters, we know it was his bread and butter back in the day with Mallrats. I think the whole team worked really well, and Hedlund was my surprise standout. They gave him a lot of personality for someone who was probably the lowest billing of the group. Isaac also kicked butt and I appreciated the effort he gave to the project.

I still don’t understand the title. But I appreciate the scenery and the struggles the group went through. They all felt like a real team, not stereotypes, but people trying to get by who also happen to be great at shooting guns. A strong and unique film in this genre type.

3 out of 4.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Another installment of potentially the best Dreamworks franchise they have going for them. Shrek ended off poorly, Kung Fu Panda 3 ended up being a bit more lackluster than the first two. Will the dragon franchise have the same fate?

To catch us up on the series, The first How to Train Your Dragon I only thought was okay. I was annoyed a major plot point was the refusal of adult characters to listen, despite overwhelming evidence. The second one was a masterpiece in an already strong year for animated movies, I believe I barely put Big Hero 6 above it. I was excited for where the franchise was going and had great ideas and theories, and was willing to wait.

And honestly, from the look of the posters, and various screen grabs (I didn’t see the trailer), I don’t believe How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is going where it could have possibly gone.

I will also note the disappointing title, dropping the 3 and adding a subtitle, seems like a poor move. The Hidden World doesn’t draw me in at all, feeling generic. We shall see though!

Pose
Now if the dragons turn into clowns, we might have a real series!

Set about a year after the events of the second film, we have our new Chieftain Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) trying to do the right thing. The right thing is to find and rescue dragons, bring them back to their home, so they can be free and happy. Dragon raiders are real, and they are kidnapping the dragons and wanting to take them into a dragon army to kill things!

Hiccup still leads his band of youngish riders, all with the same personalities (America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Kit Harrington, and Justin Rupple doing the best T.J. Miller impression ever) and his mom (Cate Blanchett) helping him figure out his way.

Their home is getting crowded. They need more space. Can he move his entire people and dragon population to find a suitable home? And if so, what about the potential Hidden World his dad (Gerard Butler) used to talk about, a place where only Dragons could go and live? His dad wanted to put up a wall to protect them, and he wants to just live near it to protect the dragons.

But of course, some other dragon raiders are angry. We got a new bad guy, who is better than the last bad guy, who wants to just kill Toothless, not capture him, and that will let them capture the rest of the dragons for you know, evil reasons. So they have that going against them.

Also starring the voice work of F. Murray Abraham and Craig Ferguson.

Aww
Ohhh, sparkly.

Alright, I can’t get this out of my head. Being a reviewer you are supposed to just judge on what was given, not always on what it could be. But I thought it was really clear what they were going to do with the third movie. I thought it would be darker and deal with harder questions.

Hiccup was gaining power. He had the new most-alpha Dragon, so every dragon would listen to them. He was getting a shit ton of power. They may have their boats and weapons, but they have dragons, nothing will stop them. This would unintentionally make them the new bad guy. Regular communities would probably naturally be frightened by them, since everyone is afraid of dragons, and maybe even rise up to try and bring them down. This would lead to a situation where they realize they need to protect the dragons, without holding them all at their homes, due to the misunderstandings, and let the dragons be free and teach everyone to let them be free. You know, something like that.

But! No, we got a world no one talked about before, barely in the future, and a girl Nightfury for Romance. To be fair, some of the elements were used, about realizing they cannot just live with this giant army of dragons, but in a much safer way.

The way they picked was still pretty good. Most of the characters felt unique and had decent plot elements, except for the Snotlout/Erek one. It was definitely gorgeous and had some pretty intense fight scenes throughout it. And hey, the ending was beautiful in its own right, putting us at a good “end point” to the series, and we got to see Hiccup with a beard. Very important stuff.

Overall, despite my bit of disappointment in some of the plot direction, this is a really solid film. This means this whole thing is a really solid franchise, and is going to be remembered as Dreamworks’ best animated franchise. Not monetarily maybe, but it definitely has surpassed Shrek and Kung Fu Panda in my book.

3 out of 4.

Never Look Away

Never Look Away is a foreign film I would have never noticed if it wasn’t nominated for Oscars. Not only one Oscar, Foreign Film, but also Cinematography.

So I decided to watch this one in theaters instead of Happy Death Day 2U (which is getting good reviews?). I pulled into the lobby a good 30 minutes before showtime, not really sure what to expect, and then after I pulled out my phone to see the rough plot outline, I was shocked. Aghast. The run time of this movie is 3 hours and 6 minutes.

There is nothing wrong with a long run time. It is just something that you should know about before going into it. I was prepared for The Wolf of Wall Street, and Lincoln. I had napped ahead of time. But this is a time when I had nothing to help me keep myself awake or get going.

So instead I just ran around for 30 minutes hyping myself up. A film about art and Nazis does not usually seem like one that you would “hype” up about. And that explains why I went into the film like a strange excited little man.

Art1
Art! Paintings! Nazis! Annnnd MURDER!

When Kurt Barnert (Tom Schilling) was a young lad, he lived with his extended family outside of the city of Dresden. It is the 1940’s, art is shunned if it isn’t realistic, and he wants to draw. He takes a liking to his free spirited aunt, Elisabeth May (Saskia Rosendahl) who teaches him to look for the truth in things, to live, to see the injustices around him.

And then she is eventually killed in a gas chamber. Not for being Jewish, but for having bad genes, schizophrenia they say, and they can’t let that pass on. Sucks!

Eventually Kurt grew up, still into art, and now Germany having lost the war. Germany is also split up, with him on the Eastern side, not yet a physical barrier to separate them. He gets into art school, learns to make murals and perfect realistic portraits and hates his life. This isn’t art. This isn’t important.

He needs to get to the west, to find out love, and truth, and beauty. Then he can maybe unlock his real potential.

Also starring Paula Beer, Sebastian Koch, Oliver Masucci, and Hanno Koffler.

Art2
Sure is a lot of pictures in this movie of a guy doing art. What a surprise!

This film is supposed to be a biography, except there is no artist named Kurt Barnert who fits the story. How can that be!?

It it actually based on the life of Gerhard Richter, who has similarities with the plot and the major paintings by the end, but it seems like Richter didn’t want this story to happen. Here is a really long article about it. It didn’t come out as inspired by a true story, but it is better to put this as a fictional story and just pretend it is all made up. Inspired by World War II, then we don’t have to worry about accuracy.

And this is a story that goes hard in a lot of ways. They show a lot, death, nakedness, and the struggles of art. It is a film about finding your true passions, and made with a lot of passion. I ended up having to run out to pee at some point (its long, remember), and was surprised it had already been over 2 hours. It didn’t drag in the slightest. A film about not the most exciting topics ended up being really entertaining.

It was about love. Achieving success. And not necessarily about revenge, but overcoming demons certainly.

A really strong film, but one I definitely won’t see again, for the obvious reasons.

3 out of 4.

Movie Roundup – Indies 2018 Part 1

Welcome to a Movie Roundup! A movie roundup features a few films that I didn’t feel like making full reviews for, but needed to get basic reviews out there for completionist reasons. It also helps me deal with my backlog. It may have a theme, and today’s theme is Indies 2018 (Part 1)! Basically, the indie movies I had missed, and need to really review, or else. Are these all really indie movies? Heck if I know. Some certainly are. Go with it.

Being on a movie round up doesn’t mean a movie is inherently bad, or good, or meh. I can feature any rating on here! So don’t assume the worst! I will also just post the reviews in alphabetical order.


Indies 2018 Part 1

Arizona

Arizona is a weird movie to talk about, because it is a dark comedy. A lot of dark comedies go into just such strange corners of the room. And you know, are funny, but usually involve death, or extreme “edgy” jokes. It could easily just go into some crude territory that is a poor taste and lose its viewers. Arizona is a lot more grounded in reality and about one person who is clearly losing his marbles, and using his size and gun skills to try and fix things.

I was shocked by Arizona, surprised, and I couldn’t believe no on was talking about. Dark comedies are almost always a hard sell, but this one was a great one compared to other similar movies in recent years. Our leads were believable, the setting was something easily relatable (an empty residential community after the 2008 housing collapse), that is also a bit unsettling. Yes, some aspects of this are a bit terrifying. And hilarious.

Arizona I think really works and it is a shame that it had almost no push for visibility.

3 out of 4.

Arizona

Bad Samaritan

Bad Samaritan is an example of a film that I really liked the idea about, but did not execute great.

We have a thief breaking in to steal and while there, they found someone clearly held captive. What do they do? A similar plot line was used in Don’t Breathe and used a bit better in that film. Instead, a majority of the movie takes place after the initial find and is more of a cat and mouse battle between our thief and the evil guy, played by David Tennant.

And the cat and mouse game is lame. The villain doesn’t seem smart, it seems ridiculous. He is flawed with a god complex without showing us why he even warrants a god complex. It goes completely ridiculous, moves away from a more grounded in reality movie, and doesn’t really give us the moral quandaries that the plot line suggests.

Forgettable film on every level, unfortunately.

1 out of 4.

bad

Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade is an example of a pretty well known film, and one you’d be more surprised to see that I did not have a full review upon. It was an immediate success, and had all the praise, and has spirit award nominations!

And yet, that’s why I have the round up. Things happen.

Eighth Grade is a pretty great and uncomfortable film. I cannot say that this is an accurate portrayal of what middle school girls are thinking and go through, because I am not one of them. It seems very accurate, and our lead does a wonderful job of riding that awkwardness and navigating through her school life. Bo Burnham‘s transition from comedy musician to director/writer seems to go flawlessly, and I wonder if he just had a lot of smart people on his side to make this work.

Eighth Grade is uncomfortable, awwkard, completely modern and set in the now, and probably something that a lot of people will want to read.

3 out of 4.

8th grade

Izzy Gets The Fuck Across Town

What drew me to Izzy Gets The Fuck Across Town is the title. Of course. I mean if you are going to be bold and swear at me, I think you need to bring it. It made me think of older films like Igby Goes Down, about these run down people with strange I names.

And hey, it had Mackenzie Davis, an actress who I think hasn’t gotten her fair shake yet. Haven’t you seen Tully? She is great! And despite how great she may be, this movie felt like a chore to get through. We have have movies about miserable people and they can be great movies, but this is one where I just wanted it to hurry and get to the final point. And once it did, it was lackluster.

I don’t remember much about this movie, but I do remember that it had no hype for a reason. The fuck did not give it notoriety.

1 out of 4.

Izzy

Summer of 84

Finally, we are going to talk about a movie that I think we average, for most of the film. Set in the ’80s with a group of kids, trying to solve a mystery of missing kids. They think it could be the local, single middle aged cop. Maybe he is taking kids and killing them? No, that can’t be.

Well, I won’t say if it was, or was not, of course. But the story the story is not unique. However…the ending was pretty damn good. It amped up the intensity, it went places I didn’t expect, and it left me with a little bit of dread. It is not a common way to end a film, and leaves it open ended in a good way. It turned a middling film into a film that I wanted to talk to people about, just to see if they saw it for the ending.

3 out of 4.

Summer

Overall, this is a really good list of indie films to check with. At least three of them I rated highly, and two of them I did not. Indie seem to have a better chance of giving me quality, you just have to take a dive and go into them knowing that they have a lot less hype around them on average.

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