Thursday, January 19, 2017

Willow Creek

Bobcat Goldthwait tries his hand at horror and does a decent job of it in this found-footage Bigfoot flick. This is a better version of a "Blair Witch" movie than that god-awful "Blair Witch" sequel was. Just one couple camping in the woods, looking for Bigfoot, and all hell slowly breaks loose. There's a long, extended shot that lasts for several minutes without moving the camera at all towards the end. I thought I would end up being annoyed with it, but the tension build so nicely during it that I was genuinely impressed. I do think that there is a two-second shot at the end that simply doesn't need to be there, but that may be my personal preference for this type of film, which I truly do love. All in all, a good horror film. 3.5/5

Willow Creek on Netflix

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Owl and the Sparrow

This is a beautiful movie that made me cry real tears all through the end. It's full of heart and is in the spirit of "Amelie" with a ten-year old Vietnamese girl as the matchmaker. The acting is quite good, and little Han Thi Pham is adorable. I really enjoyed this, it's a very special film. 4/5

Owl and the Sparrow on Netflix

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Salt of the Earth

This documentary about the photographic career of SebastiĆ£o Salgado is extremely well done. Salgado's earlier photographs, particularly of the sufferings in Africa, are disturbing and devastating to view. I can't imagine the emotional pain he went through to capture those images of the dead and dying. On the other hand, his photographs of the beauty of the Earth for his Genesis project are awe-inspiring and full of life. It's remarkable how one man could capture so much beauty and pain in the course of his life. A very moving film. 5/5

The Salt of the Earth on Netflix

Monday, January 16, 2017

Everybody Wants Some

I tend to hate 80s parody comedies (case in point "Wet Hot American Summer"), so I was bracing to not like this. However, it wasn't a parody at all, but a real comedy that embraced and was set faithfully in 1980. The plot was engaging, the acting was really solid by an ensemble I wasn't familiar with, and it was both witty and dramatic in equal measure. I really enjoyed this, and I recommend it 4/5

Everybody Wants Some on Netflix

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Call Me Lucky

This is an amazing movie about a truly inspiring man who has lived a difficult and yet triumphant life. It's humbling to watch the journey of Barry Crimmins from flame-throwing comic to activist against child pornography. He's clearly come a long way, but, judging from the depth of his still-incinerating anger, I fear he has a ways left to go. Another winner from Bobcat Goldthwait. 5/5


Call Me Lucky on Netflix

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Creative Control

There's a lot to like about this sci-fi drama. The idea is intriguing and lives in the same world that "Her" does. The direction is beautiful and kept me engaged throughout. However, the acting is average at best. And, while it lives in the same world as "Her", "Her" is such a superior version of this story that it's badly outclassed. For a small indie drama with a limited budget, this is a good effort, but the script needed more fleshing out to take it from good to great. 3/5

Creative Control on Netflix

Friday, January 13, 2017

Louder Than Bombs

This new film by Joachim Trier, who made the spectacular "Oslo, August 31st", is another masterpiece. The non-linear story weaves through the film like bright threads in a tapestry. The effect of watching the past and present merge is magical, and Trier's direction brought a lush richness to the story that it needed. The acting by Byrne, Eisenberg, Huppert, and Druid is also perfection, and they all played off each other in such beautifully subtle ways. I adored this, it's just so lovely and tragic from beginning to end. One of the best I've seen this year. 5/5

Louder Than Bombs on Netflix

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sleep Tight

This psych thriller is deeply uncomfortable to watch at times. Luis Tosar is magnificent as the terribly creepy stalker, not because he made me squirm, but rather because I actually found myself rooting for him at times. It's a wonderfully nuanced portrayal, and it really made the film. And the ending is just devastating, truly. This is far better than most of the average stalker fare out there - I recommend it. 4/5

Sleep Tight on Netflix

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Reef

This is an intense shark thriller along the same lines as "Open Water" and "The Shallows", both of which I liked. The ending is a bit strained, but, as it's based on actual events, I can't exactly fault it for that. Solid acting and cinematography sold the tension of this - I enjoyed it. 3.5/5

The Reef on Netflix

Suicide Squad (The Extended Cut)

Wow, where to start. I held out on seeing this until I could see this extended cut that restored several minutes of the cut Joker footage. However, I was still massively disappointed. I don't think there ever was a good movie here. I say that because the very words that came out of everyone's mouths were trite. The plot was barely existent, and the over stylization did nothing to serve the story. Most of the acting was average at best. I got really annoyed at Margot Robbie pretty quickly for her in-and-out bad Snooki impression of a Jersey accent. The only thing I found interesting was Leto's Joker, and even that was a mixed blessing. I've never seen the Joker done quite like this. It's far more faithful to what I just saw in the animated "Killing Joke" than anything I've seen in live action yet. There was no trace of Leto on screen - he wholly became the role, and it was thrilling. That is, when you could tell he was improving and not being forced to deliver banal lines that didn't make sense with the character. Add in that many of the restored scenes show his utter brutality and contradicted the added "love story" with Harley, and it became a mess. I long to see what Leto will do when given a meaty script - I think that will be something amazing to see. As is, this movie is sad to me. It could have been so much more. 2.5/5

Suicide Squad on Netflix

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Sully

This was a good movie that could have been a great one. Hanks' Sully was acted to perfection, and Eastwood's direction, particularly in the action sequences, was very good. However, I think one Netflix reviewer put it perfectly when they said it felt like the plot was continually circling itself in a holding pattern. That's very accurate - it feels like the story is going nowhere for most of the film. We see a couple of flashbacks to Sully's youth, but we learn nothing. We see the crash a few ways, and the same sets of reactions from the same sets of people over and over again. The repetition got to me, and the lack of forward motion in the plot felt stagnant. I really felt the film should have been longer, taken more time to explore Sully's character, and to get a sense of how he managed to be so calm in the face of such peril. In my mind I keep comparing this film to "Flight" with Denzel Washington. I will remember "Flight" for the rest of my life, but I think I won't remember much about "Sully" six months from now, which is sad to me. 3.5/5

Sully on Netflix

Friday, January 6, 2017

Love & Friendship

I wasn't sure about how overly stylized the beginning of this Jane Austen adaptation was, but I fell in love with it quickly. The acting is superb across the board, the direction very picturesque, and the script tight and well paced. This is one of the better Austen films I've seen to date. 4/5

Love & Friendship on Netflix

[REC] 4: Apocalypse

After the abysmal third installment of this franchise, I was hesitant to watch the final film, but I was pleasantly relieved. The found-footage style is still gone, but that's actually appropriate, as the scope of the story has changed. We need to be able to see everything happening all over the plot, so losing that feature of the [REC] films was a good choice here. There were characters from all three films present, and the plots of all three movies came together in an interesting and (mostly) believable way. It was an appropriate ending, although I could have done without the comedic end tag. A satisfying ending to a mostly solid franchise. 4/5

[REC]4: Apocalypse on Netflix

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Blair Witch

I need to start this review by stating I am perhaps the biggest "The Blair Witch Project" fan in the world. I was so taken and transformed by the original 1999 film that I devoured any and all canonical material about the film/story, of which there was A LOT. So when I saw that this was an "official" Blair Witch sequel, and I saw that the feel of the trailer seemed right, I got really excited. However, this film let me down in a big way. Remember, the first Blair Witch was the first mainstream found-footage film, and Myrick and Sanchez did everything right. Everything we see was film that could be recovered, and we never saw one single sign of the Witch. That last point is important, because by never showing us the Witch (or anything strange or supernatural at all for that matter), the Witch could have been anywhere or everywhere. But by the half way point in this "sequel", we not only begin seeing footage that could not have been recovered, but we see supernatural events unfolding. And the end... I don't even want to dignify it by talking about it. It's cheap and stale and violates everything that was awesome and sacred about the first film. Why Myrick and Sanchez produced this or allowed it to be called a sequel is beyond me, but I, as a long time fan of the original, am horribly disappointed. 2/5

Blair Witch on Netflix

American Honey

This was a truly exceptional film, one of the best that I've seen from last year. The only reason I docked it a star was that it was at least thirty minutes too long and it dragged slowly at times. Sasha Lane made her acting debut in this, and I think she has a bright future ahead of her. The nuances in her acting were those of a more seasoned actress, and I was surprised to learn this was her first film. Riley Keough and Shia LaBeouf was also both outstanding and the three had tremendous chemistry together. The direction was wondrously lush and full of layered metaphor. This film lives in the same world as "Hick" and "Dixieland", and that's high praise from me. Highly recommended. 4/5

American Honey on Netflix