Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

Like most animated pictures these days there is a story aimed at children that also has a subtext for adults to follow.  In this story Kubo is challenging his elders to consider paradigm changes that were initiated by his parents.  Societal views are always evolving and the only way to ease the constant transition is to be compassionate and forgiving. Continue reading “Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)”

Witch, The (2015)

This directorial debut for Eggers was pretty intense.  I feel like this is what people were expecting when The Village, by M. Night Shyamalan, was released.  This film follows a puritan family exiled from their village to the edges of a forest.  The film shifts from a thriller to a horror relatively quickly and keeps us guessing as to what is going on until the absolute end. Continue reading “Witch, The (2015)”

Arrival (2016)

Villenueve has been successful with several movies in recent years, including Prisoners and Sicario.  In his latest film, Arrival, he takes on a the concept of time and memory.  In the opening sequence we hear Louise, played by Amy Adams, say,” Memory is a strange thing… It doesn’t work like I thought it did.  We are so bound by time; by its order.”  Villenueve is priming us for a thoughtful journey that focuses on time, memory, linguistics, and humanitarianism on a global and personal scale.  I found the techniques that Villenueve used to weave his story together to be refreshing and surprising.  Language plays such a huge roll in this film in both the script and the cinematography.  There is a poetic vision that seems to shine through so many aspects of the film, the landscapes, the aliens, and their vessels, to name a few.  The cyclical nature of the universe also comes across in this film, from the opening shot to the credits there are countless circles, rings, halos.  The screenplay by Eric Heisserer is one of the best of the year.  I can’t say enough about this film except for that it is a must see.  I know I will need to watch it again.

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Stand by Me (1986)

There are so many good adventure flicks of the 80’s and this is one of them.  Based on The Body, by Stephen King, Stand By Me is the tale of four boys on an adventure to find a dead body.  As most coming-of-ago movies do, it tells a story of growth and companionship.  The film is a snapshot of life where kids are both learning who they are and challenging themselves to be better.  The cast could not be better with Wil Wheaton as the shy, guarded kid, River Phoenix as the strong and understanding one (despite coming from a family of criminals), Corey Feldman as his usual loud mouth character (only this time with an abused background), and Jerry O’Connell as the chubby kid.  Each character is vividly different from one another and each actor is able to embody their role to a tee.  Rob Reiner, in his prime, created a fun and dramatic story that at first glance would not seem to appeal to an older audience.

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Dark Days (2000)

Who knew that under the streets of New York, in abandoned subway tunnels, there were communities of vagabonds, drug addicts, and other transients slowly piecing together homes.  This intense and fascinating documentary shows what life is like for these people living in the most unusual manner and their struggle to make something of themselves. Marc Singer created an intimate experience that is enhanced by the fact it is in black and white.

By living in the community himself, for months, Singer was able to capture a ‘day in the life’ of this underground community that has fallen into complete complacency.  Each individual has their own story and path that brought them there.  However, the “safety” and consistency of the tunnels allows them to put their guard down.  The illusion of safety keeps them in the tunnel and exposed to disease, drugs, danger of getting hit by trains, and anything else the tunnel offers.  If this film shows us anything, it shows us how resilient the human race can be.  The scrappy hustlers living under New York city will be the ones to follow if there is ever an apocalypse.  This may have been dark days for this community, but the film brings an inspirational  and relentless message.

DJ Shadow’s soundtrack compliments the tone and vibe of the imagery perfectly.  DJ Shadow is able to amplify the energy throughout the film whether it be darkness or inspiration.  A soundtrack is such an important aspect of a great film and Dark Days is no exception.

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L’Armee des ombres(Army of Shadows) (1969)

I saw the 2006 re-release of L’Armee des ombres and it was my introduction into Melville and French film.  The movie starts off slow and progressively picks up steam, always keeping the viewer on their toes and never knowing who to trust.  Melville’s L’Armee des ombres is a dreary and lonely look at resistance and revolution.  Also, Lino bears a distracting resemblance to Kevin Spacey, or is it just me?  This should be a must see if you are attracted to dark French films or are interested in finding out.

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Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The (2007)

This film is not just a biographical drama, but a psychological roller coaster. Each role is well written and complex, allowing the actors to really dive in and take the viewer along for the ride.  We learn to love characters we should hate and learn to hate characters we should love.  From the title alone the audience knows where the film is going.  As we get to know the difference between Jesse James the man and Jesse James the myth it becomes challenging to root for his survival or demise.  At the same time, Casey Affleck’s performance is tremendous and conjures up ambivalence that teeters back and forth until the credits.  It is rare that the protagonist in a film is also the antagonist.  In addition to that, the cinematography was stunning and vibrant. Although this film seemed to fly under the radar when it was released, perhaps it was just overshadowed by its contemporaries: There Will be Blood and No Country for Old Men.  I highly recommend this movie.

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Secretary (2002)

ScreenThis movie touches on some, more than, risqué subject matter that just dives deeper and deeper as the movie progresses.  The cyclical format of the film persists from the start until just before the end.  This seems to play on the use of both classical and operant conditioning found in the film.  The ever present and in your face masochistic theme is not a new concept behind a film, but this one is also a comedy.  At the end of the day, if you like Maggie Gyllenhaal in kinky situations than this is your movie.

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A State of Mind (2005)

A spectacular movie that shows what North Korea is really like on a day to day basis.  Daniel Gordon takes the viewer through the day after day regiments and daily life for gymnasts that train all year for a chance to perform in the Pyongyang Mass Games.  These games are a large spectacle that are a kin to the opening ceremonies for the olympics, only on  grandeur scale.  The purpose of these Mass Games are best described by Jong-il Kim, “Mass gymnastics play an important role in training schoolchildren to acquire these communist qualities.”  Gordon and his crew were able to get so close and behind the scenes of, what appears to be, typical life in North Korea.  In the process they enlighten the viewer with, sometimes shocking, culture differences.  It is fascinating to see how the United States is perceived from within North Korea and the role propaganda plays in the North Korean psyche.

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