Category: Uncategorized


The Eleven O’clock ( Australia)

The light one of the bunch and my personal ( enjoyable fav).

A wonderful comedy of errors occur when a psychiatrist must deal with a patient who suffers from delusions of grandeur and believes that he himself is the dr and the dr is the patient.

This was tight and wonderfully delivered. Not gonna win ( and nor should it when up against three highly relevant political motivated films).

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My nephew Emmet (USA)

Based on the true grotesque story of Mose Wright and his nephew Emmet who both dealt with the racist element prevalent in Mississippi circa 1955.

If you think this is a thing of the past, you need to open your eyes.

Heart wrenching and deeply emotional this should win the Oscar.

2018 Oscar nominated live action shorts

The Silent Girl (U.K.)

So upsettingly beautiful. This short concerns a young deaf girl, her short term “teacher” and her slap upside the head indifferent parents. This one hits the heart strings of how people ( in this case what should be living parents ) are more concerned with how they are perceived to the outside world than how their little girl gets on in the world at large.

Ends with some notes on the percentage of dead children born to hearing parents and the lack of support for the deaf in public schools ( at least in the U.K. not sure if these stats in the us )

Beautiful little film

A sluggish two hour Japanese Sci-fi flick. We are being invaded. The invaders send three envoys to better understand us, why? Who knows ‘cause it’s only going to take three days to overtake us according to those aliens that are already here. This movie has so many “huh? Why? What?” Moments ( for me) that completely derail the few interesting concepts of the film

Those conceits are these – the aliens in trying to understand us take “concepts” from us. They want to understand “work”, they make us picture it as we understand it ( words confuse things – great idea) and they simply take it from our mind. That “taking” lead to side-effects ( unfortunately those side-effects are not consistent and therefore are a missed opportunity – for example a bosses idea of work is removed and he becomes all play like a child – and that’s a great moment but it’s not explored and that’s the most fascinating part of this movie

Furthermore – spoiler ahead

Two hours and what is the point “love” humans love and therefore confound the aliens. Whoopie doo. Wow never seen that before. Could’ve been much more

Disappointed

Dekalb elementary (USA) my least favorite of the bunch. In this world of unfathomable amounts of school violence we have here a timley piece ( actually four out of the five are timely – and probably will always be so) concerning a young disturbed young man who takes a school hostage

it’s nice on its simplicity l, it speaks to our mental health situation in our society and gun control. But there is no meat

Spoilers

Nothing happens. The cops are humane, no one gets hurt. It’s a “nice” story but not imho Oscar worthy

He’s back folks. After a number of novels that have left me wondering what in the world happened to one of my favorite contemporary authors; Dean Koontz is back to form.

Ashley Bell does what some of Koontz’s best work does; defies genre. One of the things that always excited me about Koontz was the genre hopping that happened throughout his novels. What started as horror would end up being science fiction but only after passing through a corridor of psychological drama. Or one would begin as what you thought would be a science fiction tale only to end up being grounded in reality. Ashley Bell does this wonderfully.

Dean supplies many of the tropes that are incorporated in many (if not all) his novels. We have a strong woman character, a precocious child who is wise beyond her years, dogs that are short of being angelic beings and a hope for humanity and the strength of love that conquers all. None of this should be a surprise for anyone who has read more than half a dozen Koontz novels. Yet it is in his wonderfully fecund writing is Kootz ableto transcend what one would expect to be treading over tired ground.

Koontz truly is an expert in words.  His characters, good and bad, while on the surface seem almost to be carbon copies of each other from previous novels are imaginatively original. Bibi, our main character has so many qualities of Koontz’s historically powerful independent woman as does the main baddie.  However they are written with such complexity and love that they are alive and wholly original.

Now as I gush with a renewed love for Dean, I will say that I still have some reservations.  Dean still has a slight disdain for science compared to a belief in heavenly magic but again it’s in his gorgeous writing that it is not too much of a negative experience.

Koontz’s normal wit and humor filled writing is still in play, but it’s reined in enough not to be exhausting.

This novel does an expectional job of expressing Koontz’s obvious love, and somewhat Mary Sue high opinion of the power of literature and imagination.  How a powerful im  can alter and/or define reality is the main through line of this most recent tale.

I can’t recommend this novel highly enough for anyone that has been as disillusioned by the last slew of underperforming Koontz novels.  It’s not necessarily at the level of Koontz’s hay-day (Watchers, Lightning, Phantoms) or even (the last great one in my opinion; Life Expectancy (2004) but like I said at the top, it’s a return to form.

Many years ago there was a biography written of Dean Koontz (if you’re a return visitor you know my love of Koontz).  The biographer chose to open her book with a selection of first sentences from Deans bibliography.  Showing how brilliant Koontz was at gripping the audience from the get go.

Probobly just as long ago, I read a review of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose.  In it the author proposes that Eco warns readers that what is to follow is not going to be easy, it will require vigilance and some dedication.  You see most of the opening of The Name of the Rose is the, quite verbose, description of an Abby wall.  By describing such a enormous structure, Eco is building a wall between the novel and the readership essentially saying most readers will end up being unworthy to enter.

More ubiquitous would be the Star Destroyer that Star Wars opens with. A gigantic spaceship that devours the screen and dwarfs the small rebel alliance ship it chases.

All this to say, opening shots are used to define a film!  I took the long road but this is an essay; not a Twitter account.

Onto to the opening shot to a pretty awesome flick.  The Revenant opens on a long shot of a stream.  Water rippling through stones and small flora.  The sound of the forest light and still when compared to the water.  This shot foreshadows the long arduous journey our main hero will go on.  Simply shot yet gorgeous.  The tension is built by not showing us what is to come but what may be around the next bend.  The shot continues with a pair of boots, the camera swooping up to the barrels of guns and those whom are aiming for game.

The filmmaker and cameraman have the camera shooting from the bottom up giving us an expanse of the sky and forest, we are the dirt seeing what trods upon us; yet we are so close to the action we become part of it.

For much of the remainder of the film the camera retains much of this position, up close personal sometimes dizzying in it’s sweeping around. It’s used to such an extent that you’re both always aware of it but also so swept in the cacophony of the action that it’s probably the best use of 3D without the 3D.

What about the rest?  Acting?  Spot on.  Decaprio on every again uses his body more than his voice (other than some emotional grunting, but in character).  He has become quite a physical performer (see drunk scences in Wolf of Wall Street); many say this is “his” year (Oscar speaking).  I’m not sure of that; maybe a nod but a win?  It’s a great performance and maybe had his character had more to say I’d agree; but a great job nonetheless.

Tom Hardy?  I think I love him.  He has a wonderful way of disappearing into his roles (aside from an unmistakable drawl of sorts).  There is a scene about God that is going to be used for monologues for years to come.  Another possible Oscar nom for supporting actor.

Before we end I must speak to the screenplay.  If you know what the movie is about (and heaven forbid if I speak to something that may amount to a spoiler even though it’s the freakin’ plot) than you know what Decaprio’s (Glass) journey is for.  This film is based on a novel that is inspired by actual events.  Interestingly  enough in the book Glass’s gun is stolen not ……

This goes to to show how a screenplay can be adapted and how the original conceit of the source material ( the true story, the novel, the original movie) can be changed FOR THE BETTER.  This will be on my ever growing list of movies that are better than the book to battle that never ending argument.  By changing what Glass is after we gain a more emotional base and one most people can relate too as opposed to a rifle (no matter how important your guns are to you).

The characters in this film are human.  There is no perfectly good or perfectly bad arctype.  By the end of the film, you understand where both people can be viewed as both right and wrong, misunderstood yet pretty solid in their convictions.  Yes we know who the bad guy is and why; but it’s that last line ….. Oh it’s a bute!

Some people (my good friend and superior film critic L. Marcus Williams) pointed his issues with what he called “Terrence Mallick like dream scenes”.  I can see what he’s talking about, but while it may have lost a few “points” for me, it didn’t distract from the film enough to make me view this any less than one of the best films of the year.  Most assuredly on my top five.  Emotionally gripping and expertly filmed.

 

it’s been said, no one sets out to make a bad film, more than likely a very true statement.  Several may set out to make masterpieces at every go; fewer still come as close to actually succeeding at that as Tarantino.  Every image, every frame is a love letter to the silver screen.  His pacing is close to perfect and he extracts wonderful portrayals  of his larger than life characters from his cast and via that succeeds in getting just the right reactions from the audience.  Now, whether that be cringes, laughs or shouts is an individuals issue, but he knows when he’s going to get one of those from each and every person.

The Hateful Eight (QT’s eighth feature and a nod to Fellini’s 8 1/2 self-referencing title) is a star studded affair and quite a good time.  Filmed in “glorious 70 mm”, running time at 3 hours 7 minutes (if you see it with the intermission, and a film score by legend Ennio Morricone (who apparently had once said he would never score a QT film after he didn’t like how his music was used in Django, he obviously changed his tune), QT has given us quite a flick.

Eight ruffians find themselves stuck finding shelter together during a major blizzard.  A cowboy, a Mexican, a bounty hunter and his bounty, a hangman, a yet to sworn in sheriff, a black war hero turn bounty hunter and aged confederate soldier, all from different sides of the law and war they must survive the blizzard and each other.

This is a glorious movie going experience.  As I said above the filmmaking is so close to perfect.  The movie is beautiful to watch and such an amusing ride to go on.  The script gives each and every character life and a personality, no one is there just as cannon fodder.  The screen play finds equal amount conversation pieces, monologues and action (bloody bloody bloody action).

There is also the wonderful ability of QT to play with story structure, you kind of see it coming and don’t at the same time.

And there is what i feel keeps The Hateful Eight from being a masterpiece for awards season (it is no doubt one of the best films of the year).  The one thing missing from this film is any ounce of restraint; it is full blown self-indulgent movie making.  I say that as a negative however it doesn’t mean i enjoyed the film less due to it.  I know that sounds odd, but I enjoyed the film, a great deal.  But do to some of the moments that were so over the top it keeps the movie from being a 100 % masterpiece.  Tarantino, as a director does an amazing job of giving each and every scene time to breathe.  However some of those scenes could do with some shortening, maybe I’m getting old but sometime crass is good, sometimes crassness for crassness sake just doesn’t work for me; in this case it’s the repetition of certain elements that could have been cut.

That said, go see it!  Language and really really bloody scenes are abound so if that bothers you stay away.

-also i do believe that the non 70mm showing do not have the intermission so have an under 3 hour runtime (but not by much)

So tonight is the official premier of Doctor Who season 9 starring both Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. I will, of course be watching with an excitement generally held by children seeing their first magic trick (then again I still watch my magician friends with that apt attention still at 40). Anyway back to Doctor Who..
I was fortunate enough to catch entry into the pre-screening on Thursday evening at the School of Visual Arts theater here in NYC. What was originally advertised as a special screening of the first part of the opening two-parter (with an intro and Q&A by Missy herself, Michelle Gomez) turned out to be BOTH episodes. Holy crap we were elated.
The episodes; The Magicians Apprentice and The Witches Familiar, respectively were, in my not so humble opinion, fan-debadosie-tastic!! (a wonderful term from the film Sexy Beast). My initial reaction (and two days hence) I still think that. I will however not be able to tell how exactly the first episode works with a week wait for the second until tonight.

Several of the initial reviews have pointed out that this two parter is not a very good entry point to the series. This is a point of view that is becoming harder and harder for me to take a position on due to my deep dive into all Who since it came back on air ten years ago. Now this being a SPOILER FREE review I can only go so deep into the episode(s), but I’ll try to dissect a few points.

Again it must be said that I absolutely loved this opener. I throughly enjoyed last seasons opener as well, however I will point out that Deep Breath had it’s issues plot wise. Deep Breaths’ pacing and tone was fantastic and it was a great intro to this Doctors version of mania and intenseness. However there were several points within the episode (towards the end) that if looked into to deeply made no sense whats so ever. It was still an enjoyable episode. How does that tie into the present season opener? Basically all that to say I do not think that this two- parter falls into the same predicament. I can only hope that after tonights and next weeks (re) watch I feel the same. I honestly feel that the plot is pretty tight and the flow, pacing and tone is wonderful. There is a well done balance of humor and drama that Doctor Who generally always gets right somehow. There are some truly intense moments in this episode if you let yourself get swept away in it.

So lets get down to (some) nitty gritty. We open with a wonderful idea of a baddie; and while we more than likely will never see them again (based on how and where they are used) they are a wonderfully creepy idea and it’s pulled off well. And in the same opening we are introduced to a character that if you know old and new Who alike you’ll know. Of course I’m not going to say who it is but I think if you’re new to the series you won’t be terribly lost because I do feel that the episode (like 95% of New Who does) balances shout-outs, easter-eggs (of sorts) for seasoned fans with well scripted story line re-caps, if you will to get newer viewers up to speed rather quickly. There are some really neat classic Who images and references that made me and many classic Whovians clap and become rather giddy, but all in all while people not in know may not get them instead of pulling them out of the story I really do think all it will do is make them explore the history; which is a good thing.

Concerning the emotion that the story is made to evoke, I feel it hits on every level. Last season we dealt with whether or not the Doctor was a good man; the answer inevitably being that he wasn’t either a good man or bad but “an idiot” with a box that “helped people”. Many seasons deal with the idea of ramifications of the Doctor’s “meddling” as it were. So does this episode, but in a positive fashion. I really can’t wait till I can be a little more in depth. Enjoy the episode.

I can’t believe that it was four years ago that I re-read Robert McCammon’s first two novels and reviewed them here.  In that time I read both Night Boat & They Thirst (his 3rd and 4th books respectively), I could’ve sworn I reviewed them as well but I can’t find them so “Oh well”!

I’m back into McCammon and just re-read Mystery Walk, one of the first of his books after the Wolf’s Hour that I can remember reading.  It’s been years since I read this and I can clearly remember being pissed at the HBO show ‘Carnival” for (at this time I thought ) ripping off this book.  I still feel it was a slight rip from it but I can see how much I didn’t remember of the book.

A young man is born from a Indian shaman-esque stock and is able to let the souls of the dead that can’t find peace finally shed this mortal coil.  Another young man, the son of a preacher is found to have healing powers.  These two men and their families become intwined in a battle that is only the beginning, as an ancient evil “shape-changer” is after them both.

The fist third or so of the novel is the young life of Billy ( the one with the power to put the dead to rest) and his family (KKK member father, and Indian mother whose family line has the powers that Billy now has).  This is really my favorite part of the book, how the father, with his religious beliefs deal with his wife and his son having powers that he deems ungodly.  The revelation that he’s a KKK member and how the town deals the family is devastating when you realize that Billy father is, in truth a good man.  It takes time and patience after reading how he loves his son and his inner struggle with everything going on to finally realize that while, yes he does horrible things from our post civil rights POV but can still have pieces of good in him.  My only wish was that RRM took a little more time to deal with this and some domestic violence issues that his characters deal with.  My only thoughts are a) that wasn’t the story he was telling, b) being it was published in ’83, Robert more than likely wrote it before he hit 30 so maybe these things weren’t in the forefront of his agenda, c) he doesn’t actually care about those issues or he’s a minsogynstic racist (note – I do not believe C to be true).  My only hope is that he would deal with these issues differently 30 years later.

The second third (ish) introduces and deals with the preachers’ boy (Wayne) who can heal the sick and looks at again the relationship between father and son; father dealing with powers and truths he doesn’t truly want to be honest with and the oncoming battle between the two boys and it’s origins.  I felt that more time was given to Billy’s young life and travels than what was given to Wayne; not that his story was uninteresting, it was.  I just didn’t feel it was equal.  However I did enjoy how Billy’s relationship with his father was wrought with tension and the trajectory there in contrast to how Wayne’s relationship with his dad became tumultuous after a certain life changing event occurs.  It’s not written on the nose but is brilliantly done.

The final act is the meeting of the two boys and the final battle.  The big bad (ancient evil – a McCammon hallmark) is given no origin and while most of the time I rail against things with no origins I’m beginning to see that that is not what Robert cares about, he’s not in the business of creating creation myths about his monsters/heroes/mystic themes) just telling the stories that have those elements as fulcrums.  I noticed it now after reading this and his most recent The Border.  I can’t wait to see if I can back this thought up when I re-read the rest of his catalog.

Overall I still enjoyed Mystery Walk.  Out of his first 5 novels this is my favorite and I think the starting point at which he begins to really find his rhythm and the shape of things to come.  That said, Baal is number 2 (out of the first 5).