Movies

Marjorie Prime (2017)

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I’ve been putting off writing this review for days now because Marjorie Prime is a movie I really thought I’d like. I waited for it for months before I finally got a chance to watch it and not surprisingly, I didn’t really like it. It’s basically about some version of our world where you can get holograms of someone who’s passed away. You talk to them about who they were, tell them stories about their lives and hopefully try to get some closure. Very interesting premise and I thought it’d be right up my alley, but it wasn’t and I’m not even sure why.

The first 15 or 20 minutes were just so boring and slow that I didn’t even want to finish the movie. I held out for a bit longer and then the movie took an unexpected turn that made it much more watchable. I figured I’d be following the first hologram’s progression through most of the movie, but you don’t… you end up following several. The first hologram you’re introduced to after it’s already learned who it is; it’s been “alive” for days or weeks at this point. You’re able to witness the ideal moment in the hologram’s existence where it feels like the person you knew. Then the second one is introduced much earlier in its life and you start to see how it has to learn things about itself before it can feel real. The third one is even more raw because it’s brand new. It has to be told who it is, how it died, what their relationships are like and so on. It’s in this last hologram that we really start to see the flaws in this system.

What I got out of this movie is that, while it’d be great to have your loved one back, it isn’t really them and can’t ever be them. All they are is who you imagine them to be in your head. If you loved them you might tell the hologram all of the happy memories you have, while if you have some deep resentments towards that person you might tell it stories that really hurt you. If that person wronged you, it could be very therapeutic to talk it out, but if they didn’t then to me it’s just a way for you to never let go and I don’t think that’s healthy.

This was an interesting review. I didn’t want to write it because I had nothing to say, but as I struggled to come up with something to write, I started realizing that, while the first 15 minutes were sort of boring, the movie as a whole had a lot to say. I guess it’s a movie you really need to think about. Would you ever use this service? Who would you use it on? Would you use it to hold on to the happy memories or try and resolve the unhappy ones? Can’t say if I’d recommend this because obviously I found it a little boring, but if any of these ideas or questions intrigued you then maybe give it a shot.

Verdict: 6.5/10 At least in the holographic AI revolution there’s no way they can murder us

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Movies

Weekend Binge #1

The Weekend Binge is a new series of blog posts I’ll be writing where I rattle off some reviews of the movies I binge watched on the weekend. Sometimes I just like chain watching movies and don’t really have the time to give them all a full post, but I’d still like to talk about them. So here we go!


Band Aid (2017)

This movie reminds me a lot of Patti Cake$ because of the way this couple creates their songs. It’s very organic and it all happens in the moment. Some of the songs were pretty funny and the leads had great chemistry. Writing songs about their fights is an interesting idea, and the movie was entertaining to watch. There were some extremely awkward moments though. Like so awkward that I didn’t even want to watch them. Most of the scenes with Fred Armisen just made me cringe. I think they played the awkward weird neighbour card a little too much. Also, the ending wrapped itself up a little too quickly and I think it would’ve been better served to take its time tying up all the loose ends.

Overall this is sort of a fun movie, but it deals with some heavy topics. I enjoyed it a lot and if you like Patti Cake$ I think you’ll like this one too.

Verdict: 8/10 A band aid for the heart


Frank & Lola (2016)

I really wanted to like this movie, and while I enjoyed the story, I felt like the acting just left a little too much to be desired. Most of the time I just wanted to slap Frank and make him say something. He barely says a word through most of the movie. He’ll take like 10 seconds to answer someone and when he does answer them, it’s in this low voice and it’s really slow. In his job interview, the conversation was something like, “Did you use a truffle?” – “…Yes.” – “That wasn’t in the basket.” – “…Ok.” – end of scene. All that aside, I was semi-invested in them as a couple and was rooting for them at the end of the movie.

This one isn’t terrible, but it’s not great. If you’re in the mood for something really… really… slow… you might like this.

Verdict: …6.7 …/ …10


Logan Lucky (2017)

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I did not expect to like this movie at all. I saw it and vaguely recall hearing that it was good, but I didn’t know what it was about. Turns out it’s a hillbilly bank robbery movie and a pretty funny one at that. The chemistry between the characters was very good and I actually laughed out loud. The heist was interesting and I didn’t expect what happened at the end. While not a huge change to the heist movie formula, it took me by surprise and I love surprises.

This is a very good movie. It’s a lot of fun, has Kylo Ren as a one armed bartender, some sexy car shots, and a great ending. Definitely worth a watch.

Verdict: 8.2/10 Logan Lucky to have been in the presence of a car as beautiful as that Mustang


November Criminals (2017)

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This movie didn’t really appeal to me, but I’m a fan of Ansel Elgort after seeing him in Baby Driver, a movie I loved so much that I watched it back to back. He tried so hard in this movie, but the script and plot just couldn’t be overcome. None of the character’s actions felt genuine. It was like the writers wanted certain things to happen so they forced the characters to do things they would never do and made no sense. Then the movie kept repeating its themes over and over again. I think the audience is smart enough to realize why he’s looking into his friend’s death, they don’t need to be beaten over the head with it. In the end, I just felt like this was a pointless movie with nothing new to offer to the solving a crime genre.

If you’ve never seen a crime solving drama before, maybe you’ll find this interesting. Personally, I didn’t really care why the kid died or who did it… I was just not invested through most of it. I hope both the leads can get out of the teen dramas and start doing some more adult movies because they’re both excellent actors and I want to see them in more excellent movies.

Verdict: 5/10 Maybe next time just call the police?


Crown Heights (2017)

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Last but not least, a movie that shows I don’t change. I’m still judging movies based on where they played. This one was also part of the Sundance film festival along with Patti Cake$ and was one of the only reasons why I decided to watch it. I didn’t have very high expectations, but this was actually pretty good. I’m a huge fan of these wrongful conviction, crime solving movies and this was one of the good ones. The biggest thing that sets this apart from other movies in this genre is the way the story is presented. You see almost nothing of the prosecution’s case in the beginning, it’s all from Colin’s perspective and you’re left wondering why all these stupid kids keep lying. Later on in the film, you start to see why they said the things they said. It’s one of the first movies I’ve seen that gives some insight into what the so called witnesses were thinking or feeling during the case. This is based on a true story so I guess the outcome really shouldn’t have surprised me, nonetheless I was a little surprised by how it ended. Usually these movies follow a specific formula: meet the main character, crime happens, character is arrested and convicted, friends/family/interested third party takes up the case, character is retried and wins the case. This movie hit all of those beats, but changes it ever so slightly at the end and it almost gives me hope for the US justice system.

If you like this type of movie, definitely give this one a watch. It’s near the top of the pile and will get you pretty fired up. There are lots of ups and downs and “how can this happen?!” moments.

Verdict: 8.3/10 If someone dies in your neighborhood, maybe just leave the country to be safe…

 

Movies

The Birds (1963)

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It’s time to take things back, way back to 1963 with some classic Hitchcock. The Birds is about birds that attack people for literally no reason. This movie starts out extremely slow, taking almost 20 minutes for things to really get going. When they do get going, there are some very interesting suspenseful scenes, but the bird effects are just too old to be taken seriously. I love when Melanie is sitting in the school yard and it keeps cutting back and forth between her and the playground with more and more birds showing up each cut. Any of the scenes with a massive amount of real birds just standing around preparing to attack was pretty suspenseful. I’m still wondering how they managed to get so many birds to stay still for so long. It’s impressive for any movie, let alone a movie from 50 years ago.

Sadly, as cool as those scenes were, the scenes with the bird effects were equally as bad. I know, I know… this is from 1963 so I shouldn’t have expected amazing effects, but I couldn’t stop laughing. The characters are clearly swatting at nothing and the blood was that unrealistic light red color. It’s a shame, but it was hard for me to find this scary or thrilling just because it was so old.

The effects are just a product of their time and there isn’t much that can be done about that, but story is something that could transcend time if done well. This story, however, ends with no explanation and was one of the most frustrating endings I’ve seen in months. It felt like it was building up to something, and then it just showed the end credits and I’m left wondering why the hell the birds attacked in the first place. They kept hinting that somehow the love birds Melanie brought might be involved, or Melanie herself might be the cause and then it amounted to nothing. Not only do we not find out, but after being attacked by birds, Cathy still wants to bring the love birds with them… and Mitch agrees! They’ve just been attacked by birds and people have died, but they’re still fine with taking birds with them.

On top of the dated effects and lack of story, the acting is so hot and cold. The mother has an amazing scene where she opens up to Melanie about why she doesn’t like Mitch dating women, but it’s contrasted with a mostly wooden performance from Melanie. I’m almost starting to think Melanie is the reason why the birds are attacking because she doesn’t seem to even care what’s happening. They find Annie dead and Cathy is telling the story through so many tears she can barely talk… while Melanie looks on with no expression on her face. At least Mitch looks somewhat concerned about what’s going on, and the rest of the supporting cast does a good enough job. It’s just a shame that I found the main character so uninteresting and boring.

I’d say to give this one a watch at least once since it’s such a classic, but it really isn’t that great of a movie and it certainly doesn’t stand the test of time for me. Think I’ll skip this one in next year’s horror movie binge month.

Verdict: 6.8/10 Needs more real birds

Movies

High and Low (1963)

This is going to be an uncharacteristically long review this time around because I have a lot to say about this film. High and Low, or Tengoku to jigoku, is a film directed by Akira Kurosawa. It’s about a man who loses everything when his chauffeur’s son is kidnapped and held for ransom. The movie is essentially broken up into 3 acts: the ransom, finding the kidnapper and arresting the kidnapper.

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In the first act, Gondo is a high up executive of a shoe company who is attempting a take over so that he can create quality shoes that he believes the public deserves. Right off the bat, he’s a very likable and heroic character. He stands up against all the executives who are dead set on producing the cheapest shoes for maximum profit. This man actually has morals and a good work ethic, and I was really rooting for him to take over the company. Of course that isn’t going to happen because he gets a phone call saying that his son has been kidnapped and to get him back he must pay 30 million in ransom. Very quickly, he finds out that it was actually his chauffeur’s son instead and he says something to the chauffeur to the effect of, “It’s okay, he’ll let him go when he realizes he has the wrong kid.” It’s this false optimism you get when you know something bad is coming, and you just don’t want to face the ugly truth until you absolutely have to. After the police are phoned in, they tell him things aren’t going to work out that way and the kid isn’t going to just be released. The next 20 or 30 minutes of the film are intense as Gondo slowly comes to the realization that he has to pay the 30 million. He knows that his life is ruined whether he pays it or not, but he can’t just let a child be killed. I felt every minute of this movie up until the boy is re-united with his father. It was just great writing and acting all around.

However, I wouldn’t be me if I couldn’t find something that made me scratch my head in confusion. Once Gondo realizes that he has to pay the ransom, he phones up his bank and almost word for word says, “It’s Gondo from National Shoe. I need 30 million delivered to my house in non-sequential bills.” And they actually give it to him! No security question, no pin number, they just hand it right over. If it’s this easy to have 30 million delivered to your house why didn’t the kidnapper just spend some time learning to mimic his voice then make the call himself? Even for 1963 this seems a little ridiculous.

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I can look past that though and move on to the second act which is about the police trying to find out who the kidnapper is. They have a large team of detectives on the case that use interesting clues to start building up a profile on the guy. They use the different sounds of trolleys, the placement of the sun when the ransom call was made, and they even stopped every car of the model they were after just in case the plates were changed. I found those little details quite entertaining and for me it injected some realism into the film. Now, I’m not sure if this was just the subtitles that I was using, but one guy stands up and says, “I met with The National Shoe executives. What a bunch of assholes,” and I just laughed out loud. His deadpan delivery and the fact that they seriously are a bunch of assholes was perfect. At that point, I was pretty much convinced that it was someone in the company that kidnapped his son, or one of them hired someone so that Gondo couldn’t purchase the shares to take control of the company. The timing of it all seemed too perfect. Literally, right as he is getting the money together, he gets this phone call out of nowhere. Sadly, it started to look like I was wrong as they closed in on the man responsible and finally got a name.

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This leads into the third act where the movie started to slow down a little bit for me. They know who the kidnapper is and now they’re trying to arrest him. However, they don’t want him to just get 15 years, they want him to be executed. The way they go about it didn’t really work for me because they pretty much bait him into trying to re-kill the heroin addicts that he killed earlier in the movie. I’m not a detective or anything, but I feel like this is entrapment. I don’t think you can try to coax someone into committing a crime and have it hold up in court. Not only that, but a woman died because of it. If they just arrested him immediately she would still be alive, albeit still a withdrawing heroin addict, but at least she wouldn’t be dead. The ending just left me feeling sad for everyone involved. Gondo sounded like a man who started at the bottom and worked his way up the ladder through hard work, but the kidnapper just sees him as some rich guy that doesn’t deserve what he has. This guy was clearly mentally ill, and because of that, Gondo’s, and even the chauffeur’s, family has to suffer.

Even though the third act let me down, I really did enjoy this film. It was exciting, interesting and well written. I highly recommend this movie if you like crime dramas.

This is Bwaffles from the Waffleton Post, can I have a Verdict of 9/10 delivered to High and Low?

Movies

The Maltese Falcon & Citizen Kane (1941)

There was a time before I started my crazy journey where I couldn’t sit through a black and white movie. Now, I’m starting to almost like them more than colour. Maybe it gives my mind something to work for by trying to fill in the colour blanks… maybe it’s simply the style of film that happened to be around during the black and white period. Who can really say for sure? Regardless, I took a double dip into 1941 today and watched 2 black and white classics.

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The first is The Maltese Falcon, a film-noir about a private detective who gets caught up in the middle of some murders and a statue of a bird. I’d say I’ve really enjoyed about 50% of the film-noir’s I’ve seen. This movie fits right in because I enjoyed about 50% of it. I liked the beginning up to about half way then I started to lose interest. I’m not a huge fan of the film-noirs that in the last 10 minutes have the main character figure out the entire mystery. It’s kind of like most of the movie is just to entertain then at the end they go “Ok, so here’s what happened if you were still interested.” It just seems like lazy writing to me that they feel the need to explain everything at the very end, instead of giving us pieces of information throughout the movie so that maybe we could piece it together ourselves. Or, they could’ve had Spade talk more about his theory a little earlier. The bottom line is that this was just alright for me and that’s really all I have to say about it… it’s time to move on to something a little different.

Orson Welles standing on stacks of newspapers in a scene from the film 'Citizen Kane', 1941. (Photo by RKO Radio Pictures/Getty Images)

The second movie I watched is what some consider the greatest movie ever made. Yeah, you know the one… Citizen Kane. How can I even go about discussing a movie with this kind of reputation? Well, I’m reminded of a post I read where someone mentioned how they never met anyone who legitimately liked this movie and could answer the question “What did you like about it?” without regurgitating lines about cinematography from articles or reviews. So that is exactly what I’ll do. Here is why I liked Citizen Kane, regurgitating only lines from my own brain.

The pacing and execution of the story was, for the lack of a better word, rhythmic. It was like being caught in wave after wave of exquisite storytelling. The movie starts off (after the whole Rosebud scene of course) with a really broad summary of Kane’s life–this is the bottom of the wave. The reporters read from his father’s memoirs which gives them a run down of his life from when he was a child. We get more details that flesh out the initial summary that was given, like how Kane got his wealth and how he got started in the newspaper–this is the top of the wave. As the memoirs go on, the details start becoming more vague–bottom of the wave again. The reporters then go talk to his friend who knew him at the paper and we find out some of the details behind the headlines we saw while we were on the last wave–back to the top of the wave. Near the end of this one, we get some vague details about Kane and his opera theater–brought down once again. Finally, the reporters go and talk to Kane’s ex-wife who fills us in on the details about the opera theater–brought right back up. After her story, we are suddenly thrown from the top of the wave when we hear the reported at Kane’s house say that we may never know just what Rosebud means. Just as suddenly, we’re picked up and taken to the top of the final wave in the very last shot of the sleigh on fire. Any movie that manages to leave me at the top of a wave will keep my brain thinking after the credits have rolled and that’s usually a very good thing.

However, story alone does not make a movie great… so it’s a good thing this one also had some pretty good dialogue, acting and camera work. My favorite line is from Kane’s father, “He thinks it’d be fun to run a newspaper…” Why is that my favorite? I guess because I wasn’t expecting it and it made me laugh. When he delivers it, he breaks the fourth wall and stares right into the camera at me. My favorite moment of acting is after Kane’s speech when he is talking to Emily in the car. She asks him if he will come with her to see his “mistress” and he doesn’t say anything right away, but you can see it in his face. You know how they say acting is about action and reaction? This is a great reaction… you can read the scene right off their faces, no words are even needed. He’s thinking “Oh shit,  the jig is up.” and she’s thinking “You asshole, get in this car right now… I know what you did.” Finally, my favorite shot will have to be when the camera starts on the roof of the El Rancho and zooms in through the sign then looks down through the glass roof and transitions into the interior of the building all in one mostly fluid shot. It was one of the shots that stood out for me and was pretty nice for 1941.

I can’t lie and say I was exactly looking forward to watching this movie, but I have to say it more than lived up to it’s reputation and some day in the future I think I will watch it again. The Maltese Falcon, not so much.

The Maltese Falcon Verdict: 7/10

Citizen Kane Verdict: 9/10

Movies

Rashomon (1950)

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There isn’t much else I can say other than this movie has messed with my head. I wasn’t really too interested in it for the first 20 minutes or so, then I started to realize what the plot was about and began enjoying it more and more with each version of the story that was told. This was like Life of Pi but with even more versions of the story. Normally I don’t like being lied to or tricked in a movie cause usually it’s done in a cheap way to throw some twist in because the writers got lazy. In this case, the trick/twist/lie was that the guy with the axe that found the body didn’t tell the story as it really happened. I pretty much assumed that it happened how I saw it on screen, only later did I realize that the whole movie was about as accurate as a friend telling you a story about something amazing they did 20 years ago or a 5 year old telling you how your new 60″ TV screen was cracked. People have a tendency to lie to cover their asses or make themselves seem better than they are. This movie really played with that and by the end had me scratching my head. Maybe one version was right, maybe none of them were right. I feel like the woman’s story was more accurate because she admitted to killing someone which I don’t think a lot of people would do in court… especially if everyone else was saying how she didn’t do it. Although, if everyone is saying it wasn’t her then maybe her saying it really was her is a lie and she really didn’t do it. Or maybe the movie was saying that men lie and women tell the truth, but that they’re cold blooded killers. Quite the puzzler and is worthy of a repeat viewing down the line.

Now, if I may, as is tradition I will go into the things that I somewhat disliked. The laughing was incredibly over the top and actually pretty annoying near the end. I suppose in everyone’s version of the story they may have embellished things a little to make Tajomaru seem more insane and evil, but that doesn’t really explain why he laughed like a madman at the court. Perhaps he is just a madman after all, it doesn’t make the laugh any less annoying though. I was also not too impressed with the court scenes. I guess this movie was 12 years older than Harakiri, but I loved the talking scenes in that movie so much more. In this one it was very one sided… almost as if we were the judge… woah. You know what, that was actually kind of awesome. And the “judge” never asked the questions, it was always the one telling the story that sort of repeated the question and then answered it. It was like we were in the movie the entire time! Ok I guess I can’t say anything bad about that, but this next part I really didn’t like, I promise. The scenes like when the guy with the axe was walking through the woods reminded me a lot of a silent movie. Exaggerated movements, no speech and constant music. I will admit here that I am not a fan of silent movies. I’ve seen 3 or 4 of them and it just didn’t do it for me. A lot of the comedic elements in this movie didn’t really do it for me either. Maybe you had to live in Japan in the 40s to truly get that kind of humor, but I didn’t and it pulled me out of the movie whenever it happened.

It took quite a bit of pondering to write this post and as a result of that and of my mid-sentence realization I have decided to give a better verdict to this film. For a 1950 movie, I think the story was excellent and the camera work was just as fantastic. I can see why this movie is on so many top lists now. It wasn’t my favorite old Japanese movie, but it definitely makes me more interested to watch the others I have on my list.

Verdict: 8/10 AHAHAHAHAHA

Movies

Zodiac (2007) Take #2

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I feel like shaking things up a little bit so I’m going to write a review on my first re-watch of Zodiac. Sometimes when you re-watch something you pick up on all the things you missed the first time around, whether they’re good or bad, so Zodiac will be appealing its original verdict in hopes of coming out with something a little higher.

Take #1 Verdict: 8/10

I remember the first time I watched this movie I was pleasantly surprised. It held my attention the entire time and it even made me curious enough to read up on the real Zodiac killer. I’m a fan of the who done it, find the perp detective movies and this movie really delivers. It has the right pacing, good characters and acting in general, and has a bit of humour to break the tension. I particularly liked the interactions between Paul and Robert like the discussion about Robert’s office nickname and when Robert orders the Aqua Velva drink, although I’ll never understand people that order a drink and then leave some left in the glass… they wasted so much alcohol. I mean you see the waitress walking away with a couple glasses in her hand and there are some left on the table, I bet that’s almost a full glass that they wasted. And it must not be very strong because neither of them look too drunk after drinking 3-4 glasses each…

But moving on from the weak wasted drinks, something that equally disturbed me on take #2 was the stabbing scene by the lake. I’m not really squeamish when it comes to that kind of thing but I found it incredibly hard to watch. It was entirely too realistic sounding and looking for me to be able to activate my desensitization powers. Yeah so what, I covered my eyes and couldn’t watch it… I’m only human dammit! But one of the things I like about this movie is that the murders were all tastefully done and they didn’t try to gore it up or do it for the shock factor alone. Every scene had its place. However, some of the suspense was lost on take #2, specifically in the basement scene near the end. Obviously for take #1 I had no idea what was going to happen so my eyes were glued to the screen, but I knew Robert wasn’t about to get Zodiac killed this time and I could relax a bit. The rest of the film though was just as enjoyable as I remembered it being the first time around.

David Fincher is making a run at becoming my favourite director because for some reason I end up liking almost all of his movies, with the exception of The Game which was pretty awful. All the main characters were great in their roles and the story was captivating throughout it’s entire 2h 42m runtime. With that in mind, if I could give out partial points for my verdicts I would, but the rules are pretty strict in these cases and I am left with no choice but to affirm the original verdict… but damn was it close to moving up a point.

Take #2 Verdict: 8/10