Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Marine 5: Battleground

The Miz is back again as Jake Carter, the poor beleaguered ex-Marine who can't seem to find a job where people aren't shooting at him, and I'm happy to say this is a much better installment in the franchise than the last film was. The script is simple, but was everything it needed to be for a popcorn action flick. This fifth "Marine" film was packed to the gills with WWE stars, with solid and believable performances by Heath Slater, Maryse, Naomi, and Curtis Axel. The Miz ia awesome as always, and I like how he's allowing the cumulative emotional toll from the previous two films to build up and show through his performance in subtle ways. He is a profession and very proficient actor, and I'm glad he now owns this role. However, I have to say the true star of this film is Bo Dallas. His turn as the big bad boss in this was just tremendous. His range of emotion and commitment to the character was great. I predict he could have a long career in film, if only he can get that first push (a push, I might add, that he has been long deserving of and not getting in the WWE). This was a solid installment in the "Marine" franchise and a big improvement from the last film, and I hope The Miz gets a whole slew of new sequels to come. 3.5/5

The Marine 5: Battleground on Netflix

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Serbian Film

I couldn't find this very controversial film at Netflix, or on any mainstream platform, but I was able to finally seek it out and watch it. First thing - this isn't a horror film. The things that happen in this film are horrible and deeply disturbing, but this is a drama/thriller, not horror. Second thing - this film is deeply philosophical. I wondered why it was simply called "A Serbian Film", but now, having finally seen it, I see it couldn't be called anything else. It examines the culture of violence in Serbia, and when it became almost incidental to see or be a part of violent acts. It delves deeply into the nature of victimhood, of when you can blame someone for committing violence on others, and when forgiveness can be possible. These moral questions aren't subtle, but straightforwardly asked, and the escalating violence of the movie compels the viewer to decide when what they are seeing is too much, and when they feel they must, in good conscience, look away. I imagine not many viewers make it too the end, which is sad, because the final minutes of this movie are so profound and affecting I was stunned by them. Honestly, even given the horror of what I watched (and, to be clear, this is easily in the top five most disturbing films I've ever seen), there's nothing about this I would have changed. It's brilliant, it truly is. 5/5

A Serbian Film is not available on Netflix

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Gerald's Game

I don't remember this book well, but I do remember thinking it was certainly one of King's weaker offerings. When I saw Netflix had made it into a film, I was mystified how it would play on the screen, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good this was. Carla Gugino was mesmerizing in the lead role, and Bruce Greenwood was very solid as Gerald. I thought the way the script dealt with the setting of the film and the action within it was imaginative and extremely well thought-out. I do have to say I felt it came to a resolution far too quickly and easily. I don't remember it being that way in the book, and it was less than satisfying for me. I would have liked to see the tension play out longer, but, nonetheless, I thought this was a very good adaptation. 3.5/5

Gerald's Game on Netflix

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Attack

This Arabic drama manages to tell a very nuanced story about a incendiary topic, which is not an easy thing to do these days. We the viewers are never forced to take sides, and, because of that, we are allowed to feel the pain from all sides of this story. The acting is extremely good and is the glue that holds everything in this film together. I was captivated by this, and I definitely recommend it. 4/5

The Attack on Netflix

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Dark Was the Night

So here's the big problem with this movie. It's set in a northern town that sits at the southern end of a great big huge forest. Nearly everyone in this town has livestock, is a hunter, or knows a lot about woods and the creatures in them. So when something large and predatory starts hunting the hunters in the town, you would think these knowledgeable people would make certain very very basic assumptions about what is after them, with one really basic assumption being the key thing. And when I say basic, I mean a really BASIC thing any child would know about animals. The entire end of the movie banks on the fact that no one in the town ever thought about this REALLY BASIC thing. The "twist" of this film requires both the viewer and all the characters in this movie to be idiots and never think of this extraordinarily basic thing which I figured out about half way through. I swear I got hoarse yelling at the TV about what idiots everyone in this movie was. This is a shame because this movie has some great acting and beautiful cinematography, but, I'm sorry, that gaping plot hole was just a bit much for me. 3/5

Dark Was the Night on Netflix


This first film from Kate and  Laura Mulleavy is one of the most ambitious directorial debuts I've even seen. These women held nothing back and created a unique and visually stunning film that was utterly gorgeous. I've seen seasoned directors fail miserably trying to create half the atmosphere and photographic excellence that this film had. As far as the visuals go, I can't say a single thing against it. It's in the script where this film falls down. Much like "A Ghost Story", another recent visually stunning release, this film tries to accomplish much without dialogue or direct pieces of information upon which the viewer can understand the world. However, where "A Ghost Story" succeeded brilliantly, this film falters by leaving far too much unsaid. Without any kind of grasp as to the nature and gravity of the actions taken in this film, I couldn't relate to or connect with the characters. The denouement of this film was shocking, but I suspect, had I really understood the gravity of previous actions, I would have been completely devastated by it. I feel strongly that with a more fleshed out script this could have been an amazing film on every level, and I will be very interested to see what that Mulleavy women do next. 3.5/5

Woodshock on Netflix

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Bear

First thing - this is NOT a movie for children. It's very very dark for the most part with a lot of death in it. However, it's also incredibly lovely and tender with a lot of love in it. The questions this film asks are very profound, and I'm not sure there is a right or wrong response to any of them. The animation is just gorgeous, like constantly flowing watercolors. I loved everything about this. 5/5

The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Bear on Netflix

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Shrek 2

I saw the first "Shrek" a couple of months ago but didn't write it up at the time due to a massive migraine. I had liked it, found it rather clever, and rated it a solid 4 stars. I was hoping the sequel would live up to its predecessor, and it almost did.... almost. I thought it was a clever story, and the animation was gorgeous of course, but it lacked the heart the first had. The characters became much more stereotypical than in the first film, and Fiona's agency was severely reduced. I get what the script was going for, I do, but I never felt it hit the mark. I hope the third regains more of the magic of the first. 3/5

Shrek 2 on Netflix

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


I have heard it said about the films of Robert Bresson that you'll either love them or hate them. I'd didn't hate this, but I really didn't like it much either. The lack of professional actors was a big problem for me. I really wish directors didn't attempt this so often - looking at you, Werner Herzog - as it so rarely works out. The script was just confusing to me - it wasn't clear why anyone was acting so horribly, and by the end I was starting to get angry about it. I did love the picturesque direction, and some of the shots were really gorgeous. On the whole, though, this really didn't work for me, but I will give Bresson another chance or two. 2.5/5

Mouchette on Netflix

The Poughkeepsie Tapes

I don't know how I've never seen or heard of this film before. I'm frankly not even sure how it got on my queue, but boy, was this a revelation. Super low budget horror, more often than not, goes horridly wrong, because it become hard to suspend disbelief when the acting or the filming is done poorly. However, the Dowdle brothers took a micro budget and made an utterly real and completely believable world that was convincing enough I had to check Google to find out if what I was seeing was real or fiction. It was such a masterful film is every way - I was on the edge of my seat the whole movie trying to guess what was coming. Given the budget and time constraints of filming, it's amazing to me how great this was. I loved it, truly. 5/5

The Poughkeepsie Tapes on Netflix

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Glass Castle

I remember reading this memoir when it came out and being incredibly moved by it. When I saw they were making it into a film I was leery, but, when I saw the casting, I knew it would be a thing of beauty, and it was. Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson should both get nominations this year for their work in this film. In fact, the entire cast, including the youngest children, were all amazing and excelled in bringing the emotion of the story to life. Cretton's screenplay and direction was very intimate and moving. He had such a handle on the small nuances of the story, and it was really beautiful how it all came together. I was really affected by this, and I hope they remember this film during award season. 4.5/5

The Glass Castle on Netflix

Monday, November 6, 2017

Beatriz at Dinner

I'm not sure what to make of this film. I have to say at the outset that Salma Hayek was just phenomenal in this, and the rest of the cast turned in gold star performances as well. The direction was quite lovely with some truly beautiful photography. I'm just really stuck on the script. As the film develops, I found it harder and harder to understand what motives were driving the characters, and the ending left me truly baffled. I do freely admit that the point of this script is to force the viewer to question our beliefs about people and their behaviors, but I just felt I needed a bit more to go on to understand and appreciate the ending. I feel like there was some footage left on the cutting room floor that would have gone a long way to making this a more complete vision. As it is, I enjoyed it but felt it could be better. 3/5

Beatriz at Dinner on Netflix

Sunday, October 29, 2017


Okay, I straight up loved this. There was nothing about this feel-good film I didn't love. I cannot say anything bad about it, honestly. It was sweet, I loved the redemption story, and all the character work was awesome. I had no idea ScarJo could sing either, so that was a bonus for me. Loved this! 5/5

Sing on Netflix

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Collection

I only recent saw "The Collector" and was impressed by it quite a bit. I was interested to see if the sequel would live up to the standard the first did, and, by and large, it did. I somehow missed this when I watched the first film, but these two movies are written and directed by team that wrote the last half of the "Saw" franchise, Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. They even got Charlie Clouser to score "The Collection", so it seems like the "Saw" team may be back together for a new franchise I was also very happy to see Josh Stewart back in the lead role, as his solid acting really helped sell the first film. The direction and pace of the film were excellent again, but I will say I wish this film had a bit more meat to it. I wanted to know a little more about The Collector before this film ended, but, just from the final scenes, this won't be the last we see of him. A solid film, and I hope to see more in the future. 3.5/5

The Collection on Netflix

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Collector

If I'm being very honest, this is pure torture-porn with a premise I've seen before. However, this is some of the best high-violence horror I've seen in a while, and, given how much horror I watch, that's serious praise. Marcus Dunstan's direction is high-octane and creative, with shot-composition and lighting I don't see often in horror. Josh Stewart's acting was pretty damn solid for horror, as was most of the cast. Jerome Dillon's score was exceptional and kept the energy high. The traps were better than the similarly-themed "Saw II", and the premise better executed than in "The Hoarder" and "Don't Breathe", which are also similar plot-wise. I was thoroughly glued to my screen by this - a very impressive film. 4/5

The Collector on Netflix