Independence Day: Resurgence

“Twenty years ago I saw Independence Day with my Daddy. Yesterday (as of writing) I saw Independence Day: Resurgence with my Mom. Although on some level, I feel like I saw it with my Daddy too, as he was on my mind through most of it. And Mom’s review after the movie: “”It was so you, and so Daddy””

The buzz going in for the film wasn’t good, so I had my concerns. Here’s how I see it though. The original was one of the greatest blockbusters of all time, so the bar was impossibly high. Especially when you consider that twenty years ago, the special effects were groundbreaking, whereas today, every other week there’s a movie that’s blowing up national landmarks. With expectations properly set, I thought it was an acceptable sequel.

The most important thing was that the story did follow a logical progression. Okay, maybe the throwaway line about what happened to Will Smith’s character was a bit harsh, but otherwise, it followed well. It was fun picking up with some beloved characters, seeing where they were now. What I loved most was the portrait of a united Earth, where all petty differences had been put aside against a common enemy, and that unity continued in the decades after the way. God knows given some of the state of our world today, there’s a lot we could learn from this.

Okay so we’ve established that this was never gonna be as good as the first, and it wasn’t really anywhere close. Doesn’t mean I enjoyed it any less. The action was there, the characters we love were there. Maybe some of the story was forced, and the timeline may have been just a bit too rapid to believe, but I was with it. This will likely go down as another unnecessary sequel of 2016, but at least it was one of the more enjoyable ones.

Independence Day: Resurgence – \m/ \m/ \m/”

The Fountain

“I do love Darren Aronofsky. Requiem for a Dream is an all time favorite, and Black Swan an all time favorite Halloween costume (I even resurrected it this year for my yoga studio’s Halloween class and I won our costume contest, mostly by default since I kept my tutu on thru the whole practice whereas other people de-accessorized). The Fountain, however, just doesn’t do it for me.

This does, however, only make twice that I’ve seen it, so maybe it needs another go. The first time, I was into it and then confused. This time, I was a little bored, and then found myself continually rolling my eyes.

Hugh Jackman plays a doctor researching brain cancer, in hopes of curing his ailing wife Rachel Weisz. That much of the story I can get behind. Our two leads give truly impassioned performances, and it’s a strong and compelling story. But that’s not the only layer. There’s a story within the story where Weisz’s Izzi is writing a book about a Spanish conquistador searching for the fountain of youth or tree of life or whatever will make him rich and his queen immortal. I’m still with this layer. It makes sense and gives a beautiful parallel to our present day plotline. Where you lose me is with the futuristic (I think?) stuff with bald Hugh Jackman and the tree. It’s weird and it makes no sense, but it’s trying to come off as profound.

I played a bit of the behind the scenes features while I was wrapping up my gaming that night. I didn’t pay full attention, but I got the sense that when Aronofsky wrote this, he just thought it was cool. There wasn’t any sort of big universal truths or thinly veiled allegory he was going for. He just wanted to try something scifi, and that’s what we got. I could be entirely mischaracterizing him (again, I’m admitting to not paying attention to the whole thing), but I could see that. Maybe it’s a classic case of the viewer seeing a film thru their own lens, putting their own story on display. Or it’s a director just wanting to do something that looks cool. Regardless, I’ve either gotta give this film one more try and really focus, or just let it go. Given that he does have at least one clunker on his resume, I’m inclined to leave The Fountain alone”

Tickled

“I can count the number of docs I’ve seen in theaters on one hand and still have some fingers left over. But I saw this strange and quirky trailer when I was most recently at the Landmark. I was intrigued, but it was being released during a crunchy time schedule-wise and again, I don’t typically do docs. So I did some quick googling to find out where the story went to momentarily satisfy my curiosity and resigned myself to waiting for Netflix. Then I started hearing more and more about it, and I really wanted to see how it all played out. Like destiny, I got an email about an advance screening at the Landmark followed by a Q&A with filmmaker David Farrier. The timing was such that the movie would end right as my Mom landed to begin her two week stay here. She told me to call her when I was done, at which point she’d grab a cab and catch me as I arrived home.

I cannot remember the last time I was so absorbed by a film. There was not a wasted second or an instance where my mind wandered (and believe me, I have a lot of stuff for it to wander to right now). Complete undivided edge of my seat attention, and even a sense of anxiety kicking in a the stakes got higher and higher.

Okay, let’s take a step back. What is Tickled? The aforementioned David Farrier is a New Zealand journalist, who focuses on quirky human interest pieces. In searching for his next story, he came across videos of an extreme tickling competition. When he reached out to the company behind them, he received an exceedingly harsh and vitriolic response. Of course he couldn’t just let it go, and instead took a deep dive down the rabbit hole to find out exactly what was going on. And what he did find was a tangled web of deception and harassment, where many young boys were lured to make these “”competition”” tickling videos under false pretenses, and then had their lives ruined when they tried to distance themselves. Even if I wanted to divulge more of the story, you wouldn’t believe me. I couldn’t believe it. This whole David and Goliath story that needed to be told is one that also needs to be experienced.

I was able to get a Q in for an A after the film. I asked Farrier if going into the big confrontation towards the end if he knew what he was gonna say. Had he been practicing the conversation in his head (similar to how I was doing during the last 15 min of the film waiting for my chance to ask) or was he winging it? His response was that he thought he knew what he was gonna say, but in the moment he veered completely off course.

I feel like there’s so much I want to say about this film, but it speaks for itself if you just see it. So I’ll add in one more word of recommendation. If you have strong feelings against any kind of bullying (and seeing as how I’ve discussed my high school experience at length, we all know where I side), you’ll connect with this expertly crafted film.

Tickled – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

The Shining

“I just read the book, which meant it was time to revisit the movie. The book wasn’t my favorite King (that’s between The Green Mile or the recently read by me Pet Sematary), but it was still pretty solid. That said, I can totally understand why King was so upset with Kubrick’s interpretation.

Now let’s be real, Stanley Kubrick is the man, and I am not questioning his abilities as a filmmaker by any means. Conversely while King is the king of the page, his screen writing hasn’t been as strong. I knew there was a tension there, but I didn’t know exactly what it was. I wasn’t even halfway through the book when I figured out what was so wrong with the film. Rewatching confirmed my suspicions. Turns out, I was right.

The main disparity is the in the characterization of Jack Torrence. Actually, let’s take a step back. If I were to ask you who the villain of The Shining is, what would you respond? If you’re just going off the movie, you’d quickly say Jack. If you were going off the book, you’d probably respond The Overlook Hotel itself. See in the movie, Jack just goes kinda crazy from early on, and while there are some things going bump in the night around the hotel, he’s the main danger. In the book, he has a whole story and struggle. There’s an emphasis on his fight with alcoholism and a diminishing will to maintain his strength as his mind and faculties are being taken over. We read that whole story play out on the page, but it’s not there at all on screen.

And that’s one of the things that makes King so great. He writes such incredible and complex stories with tangible and three dimensional characters. The horror is secondary. I don’t know how far I was into Pet Sematary when I noticed that I was so absorbed in the lives of the family in the center of it, I forgot scary supernatural things were gonna happen, and I almost didn’t want them to. Okay let’s be real, I totally wanted them to, but the point is even without that, it would have still been a pretty cool story.

Jack’s not the only one sold short. Our young Danny is just your typical scared child, who happens to have an imaginary friend. That friend isn’t his protection or his connection to the darkness of the hotel. We don’ see that the child is wise beyond his years and intune with a world few know about. It gets glossed over pretty quickly.

That said, yes the film is pretty dang scary. It’s just scary for all the wrong reasons, with all the wrong focus. Would I still be feeling this way without having read the book? Honestly, I had been kinda bored with my previous viewings. Now I just know that I’m justified. When it comes to Kubrick, I’ll stick to Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket. I’ll stay with Mr King when I want my horror fix.”

Central Intelligence

“Been waiting for this one since it was filming here in Boston. I saw a bunch of extras opportunities that I wasn’t able to try and get in on (and one night shoot I hadn’t realized I could have done until the next day). Actually, what I’m most upset about was seeing Aaron Paul tweet that he’d be catching a movie at a local theater, which I saw the next day (D’oh!). Anyways, I’d just started following Dwayne Johnson on Instagram when filming was underway, and he always had some fun updates from the set. Plus, the combo of The Rock and Kevin Hart really got my attention.

So now that it’s here, eh. The high school all star (Hart) and punching bag (Johnson) reunite just before their 20th highschool reunion. The allstar is now a boring old accountant, while the dweeb is now a CIA agent, albeit as awkward as ever. I love the idea of awkward Rock, but it was a bit too awkward, didn’t feel quite right. The plotline was all over the place too, trying too hard to keep you guessing (I wasn’t) and wanting to be more action than comedy (it was light on both). Our leads were great, and as is often the case in Hart’s movies, I’d love to see this partnership again, but with better material.

I did like that we had some actually recognizable Boston locales. Well even if they said they were at the Common but they were really mostly at the Public Garden, it’s cool. I could at least recognize it. By the end I was having fun, it just took a while to get going. I was back and forth on the score (what do you do when you’re in between what’s meant to be an inbetween score). So for the love of Boston, I’m going higher, especially since it reflects my feeling leaving more than getting into it

Central Intelligence – \m/ \m/ \m/”

Finding Dory

“New Pixar is pretty great. Sequel Pixar, hit or miss. But one thing sequel Pixar always gets right is that it course corrects for the better loved characters. Switching focus from Sully to Mike in the Monsters world or Lightning McQueen to Mater in Cars land. Once Dory broke out and swam away with all of Finding Nemo, it makes sense that she get to star in her own sequel, even if it’s so far out from the original.

I was concerned during the first bit of the movie because we seemed to be hitting way too many similar beats to before. Thankfully, once the adventure really got started, the film branched out a bit more. Our Leonard Shelby-esque Dory (Memento reference!) gets a sudden flash of memory from her childhood, and she remembers her parents. She is determined to cross the ocean to find them, with or without the help of her pals/new family Marlin and Nemo.

All the Pixar signatures are there. Incredible animation, sweet humor, emotional teaching moments, and an impeccable cast. There’s a reason why this has become Ellen DeGenerous’ signature role and that’s because she’s a perfect fit. She has Dory’s heart and wit and innocent joy. Besides the returning Albert Brooks, we’re now joined by Eugene Levy, Diane Keaton, Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell, and others.

So yeah I had my concerns going in, but I ended up loving my time under the sea. The warm fuzzies were there. The laughter was there. The concern and suspense were there. And most of all the love was there: to, from, and throughout the screen. Wow that was incredibly sappy…

Finding Dory – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”