Bleed For This

“The best (or at least a very good) cure for a bad day? A tummy full of Ben and Jerry’s and a night at the movies. While my movie had been chosen because of scheduling, a boxing movie is good for those circumstances. Everyone loves a feel good underdog story, which is what you get with most sports films, this sport in particular. Why else do you think there’s so many of ’em? Rocky, The Fighter, Southpaw, Warrior (MMA, but close enough), Creed (okay that’s still Rocky), and the list goes on. The flipside to that though is that there really isn’t a whole lot new to offer when another one gets added to the list.

This time around, Miles Teller stars as Vinny Pazienza, real life world champion boxer. When trying to pull himself up from a career slump, he’s in a major car accident that leaves him with a broken neck. Rather than taking the safer medical procedure that would guarantee recovery but prevent him from fighting, he takes a much riskier approach that could either leave him paralyzed or allow him to return to the ring. Three guesses how that turns out.

If there’s a reason to see it, besides banking on the predictability of feels, it’s Aaron Eckhart, as Paz’s trainer. His best role since Thank You For Smoking, easily, and a complete transformation for him. Teller was pretty good too, also one of his better roles, but I preferred to focus on Eckhart.

It was kinda back and forth as to whether or not I’d make it to the movie. I wouldn’t have really missed much. Since it all worked out, there’s no question it beat a night in at home (especially that night), but it wouldn’t have been worth additional effort. You’ve seen this before, and you’ll undoubtedly see it again.

Bleed For This – \m/ \m/ \m/”

Nocturnal Animals

“Among the many many things I love about living in LA now, I think one of the coolest is the potential for special appearances. In Boston, I’d get to get to screenings with filmmakers or actors once or twice a year. Here, they occur regularly. So I was able to go to a screening of Nocturnal Animals with writer/director (and fashion designer) Tom Ford answering questions after. Also, had I been paying more attention, I could have flipped my double feature schedule and seen producer Matt Damon at Manchester By the Sea, but alas, I’ll hafta wait until later to see him. I’m sure it’ll happen.

But we’re not here to lament missing Matt Damon. We’re here to talk about Tom Ford and Nocturnal Animals. First off, let me just say how I’ve been anxiously awaiting Ford’s long overdue follow up to A Single Man. I cannot say enough good things about that film, from how beautiful and stylish it looked and felt, to the compelling and emotional story, to one of the most shocking and affecting endings I’ve ever experienced. I feel like if anyone could earn their way onto my favorite directors list with just one movie, it’d be Ford for A Single Man.

Nocturnal Animals is even more my speed. It’s darker and goes more towards psychological thriller (yay!), plus it stars Amy Adams and Jake “”Donnie Darko”” Gyllenhaal (yay!!). Adams is an art dealer living a very cold and stoic life in a cold and stoic world. She receives a package from her ex-husband (Gyllenhaal) and finds in it the manuscript for a book he’s written. She dives deep into the pages of a story about a family attacked on the side of the road and starts to see an unsettling parallel between his characters and their previous life together.

There’s really three parts to the film: Amy reading in the present, Jake’s story, and flashbacks to their backstory. While the three have very different events occurring, there’s still a connection between them and reactions that are felt across each. Ford pointed out a couple examples after the film where there’d be an event in one timeline, which would cut to a scene in the next that somehow had an appropriate response to what was previously on screen despite them occurring independently. Pretty cool.

Even though this one may seem more my style, I’d still prefer A Single Man. That intimate film had far more substance than this more ambitious outing. But at the very least, this was gorgeous to look at. It’s Ford’s special touch that keeps this from being just a run of the mill thriller and instead makes it visually stunning.

Nocturnal Animals – \m/ \m/ \m/”

Manchester By the Sea

“Can I just call my pick for screenplay now? I’m not even sure if it counts as original or adapted, but dang it, Manchester By the Sea is one of the best written films I’ve encountered. It was so beautiful and so human.

Okay, so let’s get into it. Casey Affleck has to return to his small Massachusetts hometown when his brother (Kyle Chandler) dies. He’s meant to be the guardian for his teenage nephew (Lucas Hodges), which is not something he’s prepared for, and this town is not somewhere he wants to stay.

So here’s why I loved the screenplay. One, the story itself was emotional and interesting. That quick summary is basically the surface of it; there was a whole other layer I wasn’t expecting that dealt with Affleck’s past. And oh boy it was intense. But even more so what I loved was the subtle humor. Even in some of the darker moments, the normal human reactions or unsuspecting glimpses of levity were brilliant. I’m not talking laugh out loud funny. I’m talking, a quick and quiet chuckle from me, but maybe not much reaction from the packed auditorium. And that’s what felt so real to me. A film with heavy subject matter doesn’t need to be all doom and gloom. We react with sarcasm and disbelief and a whole spectrum of responses.

It’s easy for me to make such an early pick for screenplay since it’s not one of the categories I’m most invested in. Those would be the acting ones. It’s too soon to say if Affleck is gonna be my pick, but at the very least I do champion him for a nomination. Such a solid effort from him that’s certainly praiseworthy.

Yeah so limited release right now, but hopefully wider soon, so check it out. I think the ratings for the other movies I watched this weekend were hurt in comparison since none of them were to the level of this movie. A bit more small-scale than I like my Best Pictures, but it’s still a possible contender there too.

Manchester By the Sea – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Edge of Seventeen

“I think this is one of the hardest movies I’ve ever watched, or at least it in recent memory. This gets right what so many teen comedies get wrong, and the accuracy was painful. I felt a ball of anxiety in my chest lighting up thru the whole thing.

Hailee Steinfeld stars as 17 year old Nadine, who’s life is completely over. Or at least that’s what an overly dramatic teenage girl would have you believe. Nadine is moody and cynical and lonely and angsty and basically everything that a teenage girl really is, and everything I’m embarrassed to have been. That was what was hard to watch (in a good way). What also made it tough was how her alienation mimicked my own high school experience, although socially she somehow still had it slightly more together than I did.

The best part tho was seeing Steinfield go toe to toe with Woody Harrelson, the friendly teacher these movies always seem to feature. Hailee reminds us how she got an Oscar nomination a few years back and Woody reminds us why we love him. Their banter was priceless, and the reason to watch this. Well that and the honesty in the writing.

Edge of Seventeen – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”

Moonlight

“I don’t think I’ve heard this movie mentioned once without including a comment about how good someone thought or heard it was. And the raves were growing more and more numerous, especially peaking my curiosity with some Oscar talk. We know I can’t resist that. I actually thought about going last week. I’d figured out a plan to escape to watch it while Mom did some shopping, but when the time came I was just so mentally exhausted from the previous week, I couldn’t do it. I opted to re-watch Doctor Strange instead so I could just relax. But of course that meant it smushed into the following week’s schedule, which was already packed with new releases. This is the cross I bear.

Moonlight is told in three acts, following a young black man in Miami. We see him first as a child, then a teen, then a young adult, each played by a different actor. He lives on the wrong side of town, attracting the wrong kind of trouble, and also wrestling with his homosexuality. The film is being praised for its honest and real portrayal of a life neglected. A friend who was born and raised in Miami that saw this film also added that it was the most accurate portrayal of their hometown that they’ve ever seen.

Here’s where my mixed feels and perspectives come in. Yes, this is an important film with a compelling story. Especially in the current political and emotional climate in this country, I think it’s imperative that we learn about other people’s perspectives and struggles. These untold stories are crucial in understanding each other. That said, it’s not something to see if you want entertainment. The pacing is slow, with not a lot of plot movement. It also has a solid indie movie vibe, which isn’t for everyone. But that’s not why you go to a movie like this.

I certainly made the right choice in postponing this another week until I was in the right mindset. Even if it’s not something that’s about me or even for me, I want to see more of these stories being told, and I’m happy to have supported it.

Moonlight – \m/ \m/ \m/”

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

“I cannot possibly convey how excited I am to return to the Wizarding World. Yes these universe expansions can be hit or miss (case in point, Star Wars 1-3 vs 7), but the fact that this was written by JK Rowling, who has kept her twitter aflutter over the years with more and more details about this world she’s created gave me hope. Afterall, this universe is so full and rich, that there have to be infinitely more stories to explore, with or without the boy who lived.

With Beasts, we travel back in time and across the ocean to meet Newt Scamander, the man who would write the book that shares its title with the film, which will one day be a respected textbook at Hogwarts. He arrives in 1926 New York with a TARDIS-sque case full of magical creatures. At this point in time, tension is high between wizards and non-wizards (known stateside as No-Maj’s, as opposed to Muggles across the pond). When some of his creatures get loose, Newt has to covertly recover them, while staying under the radar of both the No-Maj’s and his fellow wizards. But it turns out, there might be a bigger bad than anything found in his case.

As someone who devours all of this wizard stuff like a tall cold glass of Butterbeer, I loved being back here and getting a whole new history and lore. There were some slight references to things you know, and things you’d know if you were really hardcore and paying very close attention, but most of it was shiny and new. That was the real fun of the film. And true to form, there were heavier themes going on than just spell casting and chasing animals. I don’t wanna spoil things, but the revelation as to what the big bad was was completely brilliant in a very Rowling way. Unique and poignant, with so many allegorical applications.

The cast, of course, perfect, including a brief cameo that gets me really excited for the series to continue. But yeah, no need to go gushing about how great they all were. Eddie Redmayne, Collin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, etc etc.

All that said, I did feel a twinge underwhelmed. I realize that most of that is just the inevitable overhype letdown, but I think it’s even more because this is just a beginning. We’re trying to establish a lot of new stuff in a familiar location, and there’s not a lot of room to dive too deep. Also, being a film without a book feels a bit thin since it doesn’t have as rich source material. Still, high hopes for going forward. HP is gonna be hard to top, and I don’t think this ever really will, but it’ll still be a magical journey

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”

Arrival

“How do you make a movie with aliens that’s not about aliens? One that’s more about humanity than anything else? The answer to that is Denis Villenueve’s Arrival. Amy Adams stars as a linguist who is recruited by the military to communicate with the mysterious aliens who have landed on our planet.

I found it absolutely fascinating, the concept of sharing language across two different species. I think I was more into the science of it than the suspense of why the aliens are here. Then again, part of my lesser interest in the plot itself was that it was such a slow burn of suspense, that I would have been frustrated paying any more attention. I will say though that the payoff was rather satisfying. Well mostly. Not all questions were answered, but a few things I picked up on that weren’t quite right were actually supporting a pretty gnarly twist that I did not see coming.

Amy Adams is getting some awards buzz for this, and while I’m very much in favor of her winning her overdue Oscar (after multiple fruitless nominations), this role doesn’t do it for me. She’s taken on a lot of serious stuff lately, and I really miss her bubbly Enchanted days. And the performances I wanted her to win for were The Fighter or American Hustle, where she was lively and against type. She’s too restrained here for me. But let’s continue this chat after I see Nocturnal Animals.

Yeah so this was a kind of a weird and sparse post, but it was a weird and minimal movie. I liked it though. It’s certainly less mainstream than most of what’s clogging up the multiplexes

Arrival – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m”

Imperium

“This has been an incredibly difficult week (I’m writing on 11/12, though this’ll post later) to say the least, not just for me, but for much of the country. But first, let’s backtrack to a more blissful time. This past Sunday. I was doing my usual Sunday morning check for new releases and sale items on Best Buy. Yes, this has been a weekly ritual for years. I had just _finally_ cleared out my new DVD queue (between the move and trying to get thru the Dawson’s Creek series box set, things got piled up), so I was looking for something new. I’d really wanted to see Imperium when it was in theaters, but the release was so small and quick, it didn’t happen. The DVD was released about two weeks ago, but I passed, thinking I’d wait for Netflix and/or a sale. But when I saw it there on my wishlist at a reasonable price, I felt a very overwhelming desire to watch it. Sure, what the hell. It arrived this past Wed, the day after Election Day.

I was already thinking I’d want to watch it that movie as soon as I got it, but in the context of what happened, I felt it even stronger. Inspired by true events, Imperium stars Daniel Radcliffe as an FBI agent who goes undercover with a group of white supremacists, in order to thwart any potential terrorist plans. I wanted to watch this right then because I wanted to understand the other side.

Generally speaking, I try to keep politics off my blog, and really I try to limit my political discussions to myself and YouTube clips. Like religion, I have my beliefs and you have yours, and it’s all cool. I’m happy to tell you what I think and listen to what you do, but I will only do so if prompted, and I won’t try to change your mind and respectfully ask that you do the same. But Tuesdays’ results left me terrified on several levels. Yes I’m worried a bout various policy changes being rolled back and about the economy and other concerns. But what freaks me out the most is how a campaign rooted in so much hatred and fear took hold of this country and what that means for our future. That’s what I can’t wrap my head around still, and I felt this film would offer a unique opportunity into the more extreme of those mindsets.

And it did. Where some of us see the spirit of inclusion and the blending of cultures as a good and progressive thing, there are people out there who mourn for the loss of their culture and values in the process. They see their way of life as dying out. That’s something I hadn’t been sensitive to. Now obviously their extreme ways of combating this aren’t anything I remotely agree with, but I can see where their desperation is coming from. And I sincerely hope that some common ground can be found before we tear each other apart.

But this is a movie blog, so let’s get back to talking about the movie itself. Of course the easy film of comparison would be American History X, which is an infinitely better film (it’s gonna be tough to ever top that one on this subject), but other than the spotlight on white supremacy, the two are incredibly different. That film gives us the perspective of an insider looking out, whereas Imperium shows us an outsider looking in. Not to mention the completely different motives of our protagonists.

In most respects, Imperium really was your typical undercover agent film, beat by beat. It was the unique setting and details of the story that made it interesting. As a huge fan of Danielle Radcliffe, I was also just curious to see him take something on drastically different from anything he’s done. That seems to be his MO, how far away from his previous roles can he go. Of course he killed it, and I would like to see him tap into this level of intensity again.

Undoubtedly this film will be streaming at some point soon, as is usually the case nowadays with these smaller films. If anything explained in the previous paragraph piques your interest, it’s worth checking out, but I’m not expecting it to make much of a mark on the industry.”

Loving

“In what universe would I go see a movie called Loving? Um the universe in which it’s the first major Oscar contender of the year. And it’s a film about so much more than a relationship, it’s about how the struggles of discrimination affect individuals, and it’s a story that’s still all too relevant.

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star as Richard and Mildred Loving. He’s white. She’s not. And they live in 1950’s Virginia. Their marriage is illegal under current state law, and in order to escape jail time, they are forced to leave their home state. After a few quiet years in exile, they enlist some lawyers to take the case all the way up to the Supreme Court. This quiet couple only cared about being able to live their private lives out in peace with their family, but their courage granted a very basic civil right to the whole country. Wow that line was cheesy.

It’s really a beautiful and understated story. Much of what I read about the film highlights how for a story about a game changing court case, there’s really not a whole lot of courtroom scenes. This isn’t about arguments for and against or the spectacle of a life altering court decision. This is about seeing how individuals are affected when they’re oppressed. Life goes on, but it would be just a little easier if things were different.

I just wanna take a second to call out Joel Edgerton. He’s held my attention for a while (prolly since Warrior), and I love what an unassuming chameleon he is. I’ve seen him melt into vastly different roles, each one as far away from the next as the one before, and he does it yet again here. I’ve seen him be powerful, and now I’m seeing him be softspoken and subtle and sweet. I like it. His costar is getting even more attention since she’s the more tenacious of the two. Perhaps the Oscars not be so white this year.

The one flaw in the film for me was that the pacing dragged a little bit. There were times when not a lot was happening, but I do see how that was kind of the point. It mirrored their very slowly progressing lives. Just doesn’t make for as much entertainment, but I realize that’s not exactly what this film was meant to be about. I’m really interested to see how it adds to the conversation about the current state of things in this country.

Loving – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”

Hacksaw Ridge

“Let’s see if I can write this while my head is hurting. Could be interesting.

Well here’s a spin on the classic soldier going into war story. We’ve seen Full Metal Jacket and Jarhead and Platoon and hell, even Forrest Gump where we see a solider go thru his training and then be dropped out in the battlefield. And we see our soldier overcome internal struggles and defeat outside enemies. But we haven’t seen that soldier without a gun. That’s a twist.

Andrew Garfield stars in this Mel Gibson directed war flick as Desmond Doss, a real life WWII soldier who voluntarily enlisted to fight, but refused to take human life or even touch a weapon. His aim was to save whatever life he could on the battlefield. We’ve basically got three parts of the film. First a quick view of his life and glimpse into his character. Second his struggles in training camp and the fight to be allowed to not fight. Third we see him in action.

This film surprised me by being very faith affirming for me personally. His story is one that is truly unbelievable, that he could not only survive unarmed on the battlefield but save a mind boggling amount of his fellow soldiers. Yeah, the tone of the film may have hit a bit harder on the preaching than I would have liked, but I did find the message of faith and perseverance moving. Again, it caught me off guard, since I usually roll my eyes at such things. Sometimes you just kinda need that reassurance that there is some light in the darkness of this world.

I should warn though that the battle scenes are some Private Ryan level intensity and gore. Kind of a weird juxtaposition with the tone I’d previously described, but maybe that stark contrast is why it was so effective. Anyways, it won’t replace Jacket as my favorite film in the genre, but I feel like it was worthwhile for me to have seen this film.

Hacksaw Ridge – \m/ \m/ \m/”