17 thoughts on “movies mmxx

  1. Not really my review, but something I wrote about Just Mercy for a thing at work.

    Just Mercy (2019)
    Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Tim Blake Nelson. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.

    Destin Daniel Cretton directed Just Mercy and he’s from Maui, so I’d encourage you to see it just to support local-grown Japanese American film-directing talent even if the film weren’t loaded with killer acting. But it is, so go see it for that.

    Michael B. Jordan plays a young Harvard Law grad working with death row inmates, assisted by Brie Larson and pretty much nobody else. Jamie Foxx is an inmate whose conviction appears questionable, and while it seems to the lawyer that a retrial is called for, other forces disagree.

    As in most courtroom dramas, some characters say and do things you’re not sure they could, but while the script is difficult to believe in a couple of big places, the film makes up for it with excellent acting and a story worth telling.

    Jordan, Foxx, Larson, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. (baby Ice Cube!) are all outstanding. Foxx was nominated for a SAG award and will likely be nominated for several others, yet the real knockout performance is Tim Blake Nelson’s, which honestly left me amazed. I’ve seen him in twelve movies (and you probably have too), and while he always turns side characters into interesting people, I couldn’t have guessed he had this in him. He’ll break your heart.

    So will this movie, which reminds us that we are deeply, terribly flawed—collectively and personally—while reminding us there is hope for redemption.


  2. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
    Dir. Stanley Kramer

    This was a blockbuster adventure comedy, with a star-studded ensemble cast, including Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Jonathan Winters, Ethel Merman, among others.

    The opening scene instantly drew me into this: A man driving erratically on a cliff-side road, passes three cars and then flies over the cliff. Three men from the three cars stop and run down the cliff and find a bloodied man, who tells him of a millions of dollars buried in a park. Thus begins a race between the three to get the treasure.

    While the plot and pacing of the film was solid, unfortunately, much of the comedy fell flat for me. At some point, I kept thinking about how this had potential for a modern update, and the casting of a director and modifying of the film preoccupied much of my viewing. Steven Spielberg was one filmmaker that came to mind, and I thought that the film would be more of an adventure, with some comedy on the side, versus the other way around–sort of like the tone of Midnight Run, perhaps. The thing is, it would be a really expensive film, and a big gamble, but blockbusters are the main type of film Hollywood seems interested in.

    1. My sister and I loved this film when we were growing up, even though we didn’t know enough to recognize the cameos. I’d say there were two modern updates: both of the Cannonball Run films.

    2. When I say updates, I mean something closer to a remake. For example, the idea of three or more groups finding about a treasure and then racing and/or double-crossing the other to get to the treasure first. Actually, I would be open to removing the treasure and replacing it with something else–e.g., assassinating someone or bringing in a fugitive, although the latter would basically be Midnight Run, I guess.

      Actually the idea probably isn’t that great, although the action set pieces could be fun with a great action director like Spielberg or James Cameron. Another idea: make it with little or no dialogue. Maybe it could be set in a post-apocalyptic world where everyone has to wear gas masks all the time. (Now it’s sounding too much like Road Warrior.

  3. Under the Silver Lake (2019)
    Dir. Davie Robert Mitchell
    Starring: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, etc.

    I think this is something Mitchell and Penny would find interesting, and I would recommend seeing it without knowing much about it. I don’t watch a lot of movies these days, so take this with a grain of salt, but this movie stayed with me–so much so that I watched it a second time.

    The basic story of the film involves a 30 year old guy who meets a beautiful girl in his apartment complex. The next day she’s gone, including all her stuff from her apartment. The guy spends the rest of the film looking for her.

    If this were made 20-30 years ago, it would feel like a post-modern Gen-X movie, and on some level it kinda feels like a retro movie. Maybe one could think of it as an updated Gen-X movie. While watching the movie, I felt like it was tapping into the current zeitgeist, taking humorous (whether acerbic or good-natured may depend on the viewer) shots at twenty or thirty-somethings in the process. Interestingly, I think the barbs directed at the twenty and thirty-somethings in this film could probably apply to the same group in the past thirty years. So one could say the film wants skewer or tease everyone–or at least Gen-Xers and the generations following them.

  4. Mitchell,

    Did you say you saw First Reformed? I recall you expressed ambivalence about the third act. Or am I mixing you up with someone else?

    1. Spoilers

      I’m guessing where the film took a bad turn for you was the same for me. It started with the priest becoming sympathetic with the environmental movement. I believe a political awakening over the environment can have a spiritual connection, but with this character the link didn’t seem strong, clear, and convincing for me.

      The film went even more astray, for me, basically losing me emotionally, when he contemplated wearing the suicide vest during the 250 church anniversary.

      Finally, I felt the ending, which seemed symbolic, especially with the barbed wire and then the embrace with the widow, felt a little hollow or left me dissatisfied. That was my first reaction, anyway. Maybe if I think about the film more, I feel differently, Off the top of my head, the widow feels like a representation of…God’s spirit, a renewing, life-giving spirit. The romantic and/or sexual elements may function more in a figurative rather than a literal way. Having said that, it didn’t really work for me, not totally, not initially. Again, I’ll have to think about this more.

      1. (spoilers for First Reformed)

        The suicide vest thing made sense to me — I didn’t like it, but it didn’t turn me off. It was the flying through the air sequence that turned it for me.

    2. I can see why the sequence turned you off. Right before that scene, I was worried the film would follow a cliched route of the relationship between a priest and beautiful woman taking a sexual/romantic turn. A part of me may have been relieved or more satisfied with a more mystical slant.

      But in either case, I didn’t feel emotionally attached to the priest, and I think this is because I didn’t find Hawke’s performance, especially the religious and spiritual aspects, convincing.

  5. 92 in the Shade (1975)
    Dir. Thomas McGuane
    Starring: Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Harry Dean Stanton, Burgess Meredith, etc.

    I don’t know if “Florida crazy” is a real term, but based on comments and anecdotes of I’ve heard, it a phrase that has formed in my mind. This is a movie that has a whole lot of Florida crazy–at least in the characters. A young man, Tom, wants to be a fishing guide–a person who takes people to good fishing spots in little skiffs. There’s a long time guide, Nichol Dance (Oates), who, while seemingly friendly to the young man, threatens to kill him if he becomes a guide. The plot is secondary. This is more a film about the characters. Actually, this is film more about the dialogue. McGuane is a novelist and screenwriter, not a filmmaker, and not only does the film seem bland cinematically, but the characters aren’t well-drawn or well-acted. The dialogue is the best part of the movie in my opinion, and I can see why good actors would be drawn to this film.

  6. A Boy and His Dog (1975)
    Dir. L.Q. Jones
    Starring: Don Johnson, etc.

    Based on a Harlan Ellison novella, this is a post-apocalyptic film about a horny young man and his dog. What makes this story interesting is the telepathic link between the boy and the dog. The dog not only can speak and understand English, he’s a lot smarter than the young man. Really their relationship and the dog, brought to life by the voice of Tim McIntire, was the best part of the movie. Everything else was cheap and trashy–the type of movie you’d see in USA late night. (I suspect others will recognize McIntire’s voice. I believe he’s done a lot of voiceovers, as a narrator for 70’s documentaries? or commercials.)

  7. Bleach (2018)
    Dir. Shinsuke Sato

    Apparently based on a manga, this is a live action Japanese film about a high school student who accidentally becomes a “soul-reaper.” Some people when they die become discontented spirts monsters that consume the souls of others. Soul repears “kill” these monsters and send them to the “other side.” OK, that may not be totally correct, but that’s the general idea.

    While I didn’t think this was a really good film, I was surprised that it kept my attention and entertained me as much as it did. One reason was the female actor who plays a soul reaper who serves as guide and trainer. I thought she was well-cast, and liked her character. Ultimately, this is one of those movies that was entertaining, and at third act, you know how good the movie will be will depend on the ending. Unfortunately for me, the ending was a let down.

  8. The Ballad of Lefty Brown (2017)
    Dir. Josh Moshe
    Starring: Bill Pullman, Peter Fonda, Jim Caviezel, etc.

    The sidekick is a familiar archetype of Westerns. I suspect the best are mostly harmless, but they are likable, with loyalty being one of their best traits. Suppose a Western centered around a sidekick? I can’t think of many Westerns that have done this, but this is one that does this. Perhaps, that may not sound interesting, but Bill Pullman, in the sidekick role, starts off the film on a promising note–specifically Pullman’s depiction of Brown. At the same time, this also contributed to some disappointment in the film. (More later.)

    The story is about the long-time sidekick wanting to do one last service for his partner.

    In a way, Pullman and the movie depict the titular character as inept, maybe a little slow, and there is one or two scenes where I wondered if he was cowardly. In the third act, these qualities seem to vanish, and the film moved into a more conventional Hollywood Western. That disappointed me, although maybe the film wasn’t to blame for my initial expectations–that is, maybe I was projecting.

    I also didn’t care for the casting of the Tom and Wild Bill characters, especially for the former. Better casting for parts could have elevated the film quite a bit for me.

  9. Mitchell,

    Are you still subscribing to the criterion channel? I’m considering using their 14-day free trial, and I’m wondering if they have their entire catalogue available. When I went to the site to browse the films, it didn’t seem like they have everything that’s available on BR/DVD. (I know they have some films that are not on BR/DVD, yet, but I would have assumed they’d have everything that’s on BR/DVD.)

    1. No, they rotate things in and out. But you’ll almost surely find 14 days’ worth of stuff to keep yourself amused.

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