With Pooh and Marquise at Factoria AMC
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is simultaneously vintage Tarantino and remixed. Like many QT projects, there are multiple storylines coming to life on the screen: there is the main one about Rick Dalton (DiCaprio), a fading 60's Hollywood Western star whose shattered self esteem is only kept flickering by his best friend/ gopher/ stunt man Cliff Booth (Pitt); Booth's own arc surrounding his encounter with Charles Manson's acolytes after giving one of them a ride to their ranch; and a glimpse at the approach to stardom of Sharon Tate (Robbie) as she escalates through the levels of Hollywood power tiers at a turning point in her career. But there is one more storyline here under the surface and that is of Tarantino's love letter to that lost era of Hollywood. There is not much of the witty dialogue we have come to expect from the master auteur to support this vision, the devil is in the long real time shots of avenues and skylines recreated in beautiful form. This nod is prevalent through the entire two and a half hours, but it takes up most of the first third with not much else, which I unfortunately grew weary of. However, once Once gets past this lovefest and starts getting some story behind these admittedly gorgeous shots, its where the movie hits the red carpet running. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood retells the Tate murders in the same way Inglorious Bastards retells Hitler's demise, in that those landmark pieces of time in real life history are merely end points of a much more involved journey of Tarantino's creation. That journey is bolstered as usual by top notch performances by all involved, Hollywood showing again how much of a love of their own they have for the iconic director. Every player involved is on their A-game here.
With Kina at home
I took the first John Wick too seriously, and I apologize. I didn't understand that it was supposed to be ridiculous across the board, and even if Wick himself had a sad backstory, it was really just a generic engine to power the beautiful bloodletting that followed. In that sense, dialogue in this series is fourth fiddle. Real world consequences of mass shootouts are not being considered in any capacity. Once I grasped those types of things, I was much more susceptible to the beauty that director Chad Stahelski is capable of administering which created a good environment for me to watch John Wick: Chapter 2 in. Common--one of the main antagonists in this sequel--is a great foil for Keanu. They are kind of mirror images of each other: flat, monotone talking styles, a flair for action but not so much dramatic, couple of cool looking mofos who do better the less they talk. I'm fans of both, no matter how that came out, and it was a lot of fun watching them go at it here. Ruby Rose also pops up as an antagonist, proving she also has the chops to be a bad ass and making me just a smidgen more interested to see what she does in the forthcoming Batgirl tv series. Wick 2 rolls a little long at 2 hours and small change, but its definitely a fun and loud escape when one is in the mood for those types of extravaganzas.
A former police officer and current militia man hears the sounds of a fierce gun battle and then scanner reports of officers being fired upon at a nearby funeral. Racing to his group's headquarters, he and the leader of the group quickly deduce that the gunman is likely a member of their militia. In an effort to keep police from finding their way to the compound and storming it, they decide to interrogate the members to fish out the rogue and offer him dead or alive to authorities to save the collective. Rookie writer/director Henry Dunham has crafted a story rife with potential in a rarely explored area of separatist groups. He populates his cast with a great group of character actors, inserting them into a single setting of a warehouse that quickly feels claustrophobic despite its size. To compound this, Dunham keeps the warehouse barely lit, and when there is light, its contrast shatters the shadows blindingly, creating a ambiance not unlike a horror film. Little sounds of metal shifting throughout Standoff's short run add to the effect, making viewers wonder sometimes if this film might turn into some kind of zombie or vampirefest out of nowhere. That mood does wonders for Standoff's theme of paranoia that is prevalent all the way through. I would not be surprised at all if Dunham said one day that John Carpenter's The Thing or the first Alien were big inspirations. These things are what's great about The Standoff at Sparrow Creek. But sadly, Dunham loses himself in his script. What starts out as a fresh spin on the classic whodunit scenario quickly falls victim to a tragic earthquake of incoherence. Characters spew their life stories with no motivation, the protagonist offers an origin tale that eschews ridiculousness, the finale entertaining visually but too implausible on further review. And its a shame too, because this really had the ingredients for being something special.
With Bella at home
Wow! Shymalan has had one of the most up and down careers in Hollywood and sadly, more down than up. But he is back with a vengeance here, producing a top tier thriller about a schizophrenic man (McAvoy) who has kidnapped three girls . This is one of those edge of your seat experiences that keeps audiences glued and its all locked in by a magnificent performance (performances?) by McAvoy, who simply shatters any questions on where he is at on a talent chart.
With Bella and Marq at Leavenworth lake house
Oh man. What a let down. I had supremely high hopes going into Us with as much as I enjoyed Get Out and the hype that surrounded Us upon its release. A thrilling trailer only added to my anticipation. But Us is too much for its own good. It revolves around Adelaide and Gabe Wilson (Lupita Nyong'o and Winston Duke) and their two children Zora and Jason (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex), all of whom are on vacation in California. When Gabe suggests a visit to the beach at Santa Cruz where Adelaide grew up, secrets from her childhood invite a set of doppelgangers which are horrifying and hostile copies of her own family. This sounds pretty sharp on paper. But Peele seems more interested in hidden meanings and hiding Easter eggs than he does in crafting a plot that is coherent and potent. Nyong'o and Duke are only adequate in their roles, and I found the doppelganger version of Nyong'o to not be as creepy as she was trying to be. Wright Joseph and Alex really stand out in their dual roles though, as does Elizabeth Moss who makes a couple of short appearances. The other big positive is that Peele demonstrates he is a solid tactician behind the camera, producing some of the most memorable shots of 2018. These positives help balance out the messy, head scratching storyline that maybe I'm just not smart enough to enjoy.
There are two ways to look at Hell House LLC. One is from the traditional critical point of view where--as it should be--everything worth criticizing is fair game. In that sense, Hell House LLC is typical found footage fare. The story is actually kind of cool in that a Halloween haunted house production crew take up shop in a supposedly really haunted abandoned hotel. It was interesting to see the crew build their house, and their scare scenes offer an effective creepy setting for the real scares to be born from. The acting from the unknowns is decent enough, and the story moves forward at a decent if also predictable pace. But sadly, director Stephen Cognetti is unable to take advantage of the landscape he set for himself. There are too many run of the mill things in his presentation that we have seen many times before and not enough gumph to set this one apart from the pack. Now the other lens to look at this from is when you take in the fact that this is Cognetti's first full length feature. If he were a friend of mine, I'd be really proud of him. There is enough here where he shows he has some potential. There is a sequel and I enjoyed this one enough to want to check it out. So couple viewpoints on an otherwise average movie, but in a universe I wouldn't mind looking at again. And that says something.
With myself at our place in NYC
No one has style like Chow Yun Fat and Tony Leung with John Woo holding the maestro stick. Hard Boiled is a testimony of how Woo took Hollywood action and one upped it with the showmanship of a ballet choreographer. Everything you see in modern action owes to Woo and Hard Boiled is one of his greatest. The pencil thin plot has not aged well but Fat and Leung let their charisma make up for it.
Message From the King comes across like a combo of John Wick and a neo-noir crime flick, but doesn't really knock anything out in either arena. The action is average, and the noir part not much better. There is a lot of talent here in Chadwick Boseman, Alfred Molina, Natalie Martinez, and Luke Evans, but sadly even that cast can't bring the final product to a higher level.
One of the most hard hitting docs I have seen in a minute, while conversely delivering its punches with a light hand. South Bureau Homicide deals with the most violent sections of Los Angeles, the police who investigate the murders, and the community who are left to hold the pieces after tragedy rattles any semblance of solace. Directors Mark Burman and Mike Cooley present these stories as they are, covering in equal light the side of the cops who have to find these killers and the frustrated residents who are weary of the violence. The doc is only an hour and 18 minutes long, but there are numerous moments that will hit you in the chest and sit with you for a long time.
Its tough to do a movie about a real life killer and do it well. You have a lot of pressure to making a killer deadly without glorifying him, there are considerations to the victim’s families that are a huge factor. But done right, the final work can be gripping. 10 Rillington Place is one of those types of movies. It tells the story of John Christie and one of his particular heinous crimes involving Tim and Beryl Evans. Christie is played by Richard Attenborough with quiet malice, an intelligent psychopath who is terrifying without being cool, and I only say that last part because being deadly is so often depicted in a sensationalized light. Instead, he is just creepy here, which to me is appropriate. Making that creepiness so recognizable is no easy feat, but John Hurt runs right along with him, sensational playing the slow thinking Tim Evans in a role that could have been easily overdone. But Hurt’s chops are on full display here. There are moments when you feel like you can see the gears turning in his head as revelations slowly make their way to the forefront of his cranium, Hurt fully capturing how just because a man has lower IQ does not make them a cartoon. Its tough to do a movie about a real life killer and do it well. You have a lot of pressure to making a killer dangerous without glorifying him, there are considerations to the victim’s families that are a huge factor. But done right, the final work can be gripping. 10 Rillington Place is one of those types of movies. It tells the story of John Christie and one of his particular heinous crimes involving Tim and Beryl Evans. Christie is played by Richard Attenborough with quiet malice, an intelligent psychopath who is terrifying without being cool, and I only say that last part because being deadly is so often depicted in a sensationalized light. Instead, he is just creepy here, which to me is appropriate. Making that creepiness so recognizable is no easy feat, but John Hurt runs right along with him, sensational playing the slow thinking Tim Evans in a role that could have been easily overdone. But Hurt’s chops are on full display here. There are moments when you feel like you can see the gears turning in his head as revelations slowly make their way to the forefront of his cranium, Hurt fully capturing how just because a man has lower IQ does not make them a cartoon. It’s a very layered performance and one I will remember. As to the story being told, it’s a compelling one. The end result is just as relevant today with capital punishment, abortion, and criminal investigation techniques all under the magnifying glass here. 10 Rillington Place takes just a bit to get you locked in, but once it has you, it has you. As to the story being told, it’s a compelling one. The end result is just as relevant today with capital punishment, abortion, and criminal investigation techniques all under the magnifying glass here. 10 Rillington Place takes just a bit to get you locked in, but once it has you, it has you.
One of the few old school kung fu flicks that bends genres, that I have seen at least. Five former students of the Venom Clan who don't know all of each other's identities all seek to find a treasure hid by the clan leader. When the clan leader is nearing death, he sends a sixth student to find the other five and find out whose motives are with honor and whose aren't. Each student has their own style of fighting and expertise and the sixth knows all their styles, but is not on the level of any of the others. It all makes for a great mystery to go along with the top tier choreography. This is Chang Cheh's clinic on filmmaking.
With Kina at home
Not terrible, not great either. If you are in the mood for an old, 80s type of splatterfest, this will take you back to it. Its a fun trot for fans of watching people meet gruesome demises, and I can say I fall in that lot as long as there is some kind of story to go with it. And Terrifier offers up just enough of something to spin between the kill scenes with its psychotic clown on the prowl over Halloween. Its all very silly in its presentation, never taking itself too seriously which is fine enough for a single watch. Nothing I'd ever come back to though.
At home on Shudder
I have heard that Shudder has some decent offerings for original content. I was up late and this one was a little over an hour long, so I figured I would give it a spin. I really hope this isn't par for the course in what the young network has to offer. The Witch in the Window is bad in many ways. Its biggest flaw is just how boring it is. It has a long intro before it gets going--and I say gets going with sarcasm--kinda trying out one of those Deer Hunter numbers where you bond with the players in the first act. But I didn't really like that approach even in that classic, and Witch in the Window never makes up for that slow trod onward. It starts with a long look at a son spending some time with his oft-absent padre, the two trying to get the father/son bonding thing going while working on a house the dad is trying to flip. But its boring stuff and over its course you don't grow to care about either of these two. And when the "scary" part starts in, its all run of the mill, now you see the witch, now you don't type of action, inducing yawns and glances at the watch in an effort it will somehow get viewers to the ending. This could have got a 1 star save one very brief creepy moment in the middle that got past all the boringness and cliche horror tropes. Watch something else.
With Kina and Fudge at Kent AMC IMAX
Here are the things that were wrong with Endgame: Its unnecessarily long, it does not do the best job at intertwining non-Avenger characters into the story, and it has a few moments that are stretches even for a movie based in a universe where just about anything goes. Outside of that, its what we would expect from the grand daddy ending that everyone has been waiting for. There is great action, hilarious and heartbreaking moments, and what feels like true closure to the first book of the MCU. Very small gripes here, Endgame narrowly misses the mark of being one of the best MCU entries. Narrowly.
Average rating: 6.5