Raising Arizona

“Well this is a strange little movie, though I should have expected as much from the Coen brothers. Yet another previously unseen classic that I knew I should have come across long ago in my movie travels. It’s mentioned in a Bowling For Soup song that I now can’t get out of my head.

I can’t get over how young Nicholas Cage looks. Between the age and the stache, I’m having a hard time processing that that’s him. So I guess it’s true, that he was once a better actor who once chose better films. To be fair, I know there’s been some tax trouble that’s led him to take a bunch of “”paycheck movies””, so you have to admire his taking responsability, but still, he needs help with his choices.

This story is just so absurd, and the characters are just so intellectually challenged, it’s a bit tough to buy. I think I’m too logical for my own good. Still, it’s sweet and funny, and certainly unique. I get why it’s a modern classic.”

The Babadook

“Slow week for movies. The new releases I had on my calendar were all limited to only NYC/LA. Luckily the Brattle was having one of its area premiers, showing The Babadook. This film was already getting a reputation as being utterly terrifying and incredibly well done. I have to concur.

The film is about an overtaxed single mother, dealing with her hyperactive and overly imaginitive son. He’s scared of pretty much everything, and is in constant need of attention and reassurance. One night a mysterious book appears on his shelf, telling the tale of Mister Babadook, an unfriendly creature that will come for him in the night. His mother tries to calm him, but before long, she too gives into the nightmare that may have actually invaded their house.

As a horror film, this was expertly done. It wasn’t just a single gimmick, which is the problem that plagues a lot of horror films. Oh no run from the scary man with a knife/gun/chainsaw! Oh no, ghosts are gonna jump out at you as you walk thru the house/graveyard/catacombs! Oh no weird things are happening in the hotel room/school/theme park! Oh no, don’t get bit by the zombie/werewolf/Megan Fox! This film started off as a creepy creature lurking in the house, and they did nail that. The sounds, the inexplicable appearances of certain objects, the mystery, all of it very good for a superficial scare. Just thinking about the sound of ba ba ba dook dook DOOK is freaking me the \m/ out. But then it went deeper. It played on more fears, some of which are deeper or more psychological. Fear of not being able to handle your child. Fear of losing your child. Fear of losing control over your own actions. Fear of losing your sanity.

There was also some foreshadowing involving the family pet that had me on edge thru the whole thing. Simply for that, I don’t know if I could watch this movie again. It reminded me of a dream a few months back that I’d killed one of the cats as part of a Hunger Games meets Saw scenario. It left me with a horribly sick feeling for weeks. Being afraid of seeing that on screen brought back all those icky feelings. But at the same time, that’s a pretty impressive testament to this film. Sure, there’s lots of movies I feel I don’t ever need to watch again. Usually, it’s because their bad. It’s rare that it’s because the film is too effective at what it sets out to accomplish. In this case, to reuse a phrase from earlier, freaking me the \m/ out

The Babadook – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

The Gambler

“I can’t figure out how to start this one. But I’m out of Candy Crush lives on FB and mobile, and I’ve told myself that the longer I procrastinate, the more of Transformers Age of Extinction (which is playing in the background) I’ll have to watch.

I got to see this as an Advance earlier this week, and as an added bonus, there was a Q&A with director Rupert Wyatt following. That was actually very helpful in putting some of the movie into perspective. Not sure if it made me like it any better, but at least I understood some of the reasoning behind things.

The Gambler stars a superb Mark Wahlberg as our titular Gambler. Gambler by night, literature professor by day. He gets in a little over his head and finds himself on a deadline fending off loan sharks. I adore Wahlberg and thought he did a spectacular job leading this film with his understated charm, but I couldn’t really sympathize with his character, which kept me from really getting into the film.

The problem for me is that I couldn’t rationalize his behavior. In the opening scene, he quickly gambles away thousands of dollars in a seemingly reckless manner. Then he goes and borrows more. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Watching him gamble, my brain is doing the math. Okay, you won, so put aside half of that, and then. Oh you’re doubling down. Whew you won. NOW, put aside what you owe your bookie and just bet the rest. And we’re doubling down again. Your funeral, buddy.

Now, I get that if he played the way that I do, we wouldn’t have a movie. I’m often the first one to make that counter argument when people complain about films (see also: Interstellar). I just couldn’t get past it this time. The only thing I could do to go along for the ride is to recognize it as an addiction, a compulsion he can’t really help and I can’t fully understand.

However, in the Q&A following the film, Wyatt was adamant that this film was not about addiction. The original on which it was loosely based was, but this story was different. It was about trying to achieve redemption by hitting bottom. I further struggled with that concept. I like to play things safe. Keep a little cushion I can always fall back on if things get too tough. Wahlberg’s gambler pushed himself to the point where on the flip of a coin (not literally, though it might as well have been), he’d either be dead or completely free. The tagline for the film further drives this point home: “”The only way out is all in””. It makes sense, but it’s not a way that I want to live my life.

Besides Wahlberg, there were some other great performances: Brie Larson (who seems to have grown up beautifully since the last films I saw her in, which were actually kinda recent), John Goodman, Jessica Lange. I just wish I could have enjoyed the action unfolding more so that I could fully appreciate their performances.

The Gambler – \m/ \m/”

The King of Comedy

“Just because a movie (BluRay even!) costs 4 bucks on Black Friday doesn’t automatically make it bad. In fact, if you look hard enough, you can even find some really good and often underappreciated classics. The King of Comedy did not deserve such a bargain fate, but I’m really glad it came my way.

Robert DeNiro teams up once again with Martin Scorsese for a sort of dark comedy. DeNiro’s Rupert Pupkin is a struggling stand up comedian, looking for his big break. He hopes that break will come from the Johnny Carson of the era, the bigshot late night talk show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). Pupkin’s attempts to get Langord’s attention get more and more desperate and absurd.

Parts of this were uncomfortable. I very much don’t like to be caught in places or situations where I shouldn’t be, and so much of this was Pupkin inserting himself into those places. The worst being when he brought his would be girlfriend to Langford’s house without her knowing what the full score was. I was embarrassed and humiliated for her. DeNiro did a fantastic job playing self entitled and creepy, with a humorous undertone that isn’t typically associated with him. The acting was great and so was the story. Very unique and interesting, and there was so much pointed humor thrown in. I particularly liked the cue cards scene, but constantly there were unexpected gags and lines thrown all over the place.

I don’t know, I just loved this and thought it was an unexpected masterpiece from a well respected duo.”

Horrible Bosses 2

“Here’s another one of those strange “”I don’t know if I liked it”” situations. Seems to be coming up quite a bit. I didn’t find most of the jokes funny, and some of the absurdity of the plot was a bit much to handle, but I loved the characters (and actors) and I always had to know what was going to happen next. I think that’s how I felt the first time around with Horrible Bosses too.

I will give them points for how they set up the sequel, since at first glance it doesn’t seem sequel-able. In the original film, friends Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), Nick (Jason Bateman), and Dale (Charlie Day) each had soul sucking jobs at three different companies and out of frustration planned to kill the horrible bosses that they work for. In the sequel, our hapless heroes (?) are now their own horrible bosses, trying to run a small business and getting in over their heads with a horrible investor (Christoph Waltz) and his son (Chris pine). So besides some appearances from the original bosses (Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston) sort of shoe horned into this story, we’re just picking up later with our same characters and we have a different meaning to the title. That works.

They’re just a fun group of guys to watch, and our three leads have a very clear rapport and chemistry. Teaming up a bit with Pine playfully shook up the dynamic and gave us a new side to this generally more serious actor. It was also a treat to see 2 time Oscar winner and Tarantino collaborator Waltz play up being bad and also be silly at the same time.

Some bits didn’t work. Some was too over the top. But every single one of those guys sold it, at least tricking you into thinking you were having a good time. Will this be a lifetime classic? Probably not. Was it a fun couple hours at the movies? Eh, sure. Why not.

Horrible Bosses 2 – \m/ \m/ \m/”