Sunday, April 10, 2016

MOVIE REVIEWS #115-PART 3 OF 3: "SHAUN THE SHEEP: MOVIE", "CARTEL LAND", "MR. HOLMES", "COP CAR", "GOOD KILL", "MEDITERRANEA", "MERU", "THE SEVEN FIVE", "DELI MAN", "MATT SHEPARD IS A FRIEND OF MINE", "ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS", and "CONTAINMENT"! and SOME SPECIAL REVIEWS!

Whew, alright, I'm finally done with these batches of reviews . I know, it's a lot, but I've gotten through every film I've seen from 2015, over the past few months B.W.C., Before Working Computer, so that's it. I've still seen a bunch, a buuuunnnnnnnnnch of other movies in that time, so in the interest of time and sanity, before we get to the reviews proper, instead I'm just going to go over each film and give you no more than 25 words on each one. Wait-wait, WHAT!? Wait, I didn't agree to that. Hey EDITOR, what the hell!?

(EDITOR makes trumpet sounds like adults in "Peanuts")

No, I don't want to narrow myself.

(EDITOR trumpet sounds)

No, I'm not writing full reviews on them, this is already taking too much time, so I-,

(EDITOR trumpet sounds)

Well, I'm sorry but what if I go over a bit?

(EDITOR trumpet sounds)

What do you mean pay the penalty?

(EDITOR trumpet sounds)

I have to what? No, I don't want to answer stupid questions about my personal tastes and preferences in film and television, I'm the guy who analyzes quality, I don't have personal tastes! I'm NOT-A-FAN, remember!

(EDITOR trumpet sounds)

Why do I have to listen to you? This is my blog, why do I even have you working for me; I can just fire you, you know.

(EDITOR makes foreboding trumpet sounds)

Okay, okay, you don't have to tell people about-, "the thing", we'll, okay 25 words or less, or answer personal questions, deal. Stupid blackmailing Editor,

(EDITOR loud trumpet boom)

I said, nice, good-looking Editor, you are. Whew. Okay, let's go these done, and- ahem, limit myself to 25 words or less.


25 WORDS OR LESS SPECIAL REVIEWS!

ABOUT ELLY (2015) Director: Asghar Farhadi

5 STARS



I'm not reviewing this 'cause it's Farhadi's first film, even though it hit American theaters last year, it was made six years ago, but it's a great movie and Farhadi's one of the best directors in the world.

(PENALTY)

Oh, c'mon, how much over was I?

(TRUMPET SOUNDS)

8 words! Aaaaah! Okay, give me the question.

Is there a film that when you were younger it was awesome.... but when you watch it now you wonder what you were thinking? 

(Long pause)
Um, hmm. honestly, not really with movies, but with television, I used to really love "Popples" as a kid. I don't know what I was thinking, I just had the VHS at the time. Alright, next film.


CAMP X-RAY (2014) Director: Peter Sangler

5 STARS



Oh, great film about the friendship between a Gitmo prisoner and a soldier, Kristen Stewart and Payman Maadi are amazing, really special, wonderful film.


RUN & JUMP (2014) Director: Steph Green

4 STARS



Interesting film about an Irish family who's had a young family member suffer a stroke and the American psychiatrist who lives and studies the family. I recommend it.

(PENALTY)

DAMMIT!

What's a movie that triggered your will to educate yourself on a particular topic? 

Um-, I-eh, again this is more television than film that inspires me that way, like getting into geography by watching "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?" or something like that. Film-wise, I guess "Magnolia" is probably when I subconsciously knew that I'd probably get into film though.


PROXY (2014) Director: Zach Parker

4 1/2 STARS



Ooh, shit. Yeah, tough film to watch, but it was very good. Kind of a modern-day "Rosemary's Baby", it's intense, but I'm definitely recommending it,


NON-STOP (2014) Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

1 1/2 STARS



Oh, I'm being generous with the stars, this was stupid. It's entertaining-stupid I guess, but yeah, really dumb action movie.


THE KINGDOM OF DREAMS AND MADNESS (2014) Director: Mami Sunada

4 1/2 STARS



Oh, great documentary about Studio Ghibli, really inspiring film about the behind the scenes of them making Miyazaki's "The Wind Rises". Beautiful film.


LUCKY THEM (2014) Director: Megan Griffiths

2 STARS



Oh, interesting but insipid indy film about a rock journalist looking for that "mysterious enigmatic rock star from the past who hasn't recorded in blah, blah, blah, eh, it has it's moments, but I didn't care for it.

(PENALTY)

Oh, Jesus fucking Christ, this is way too hard!

What is your favorite "Older Disney" Animated and Live-Action movies? 

Oh c'mon, I don't want to answer a "Favorite" question!? Oh Jesus Christ, really? Um, I don't know, I don't really have favorites. Um, well what the hell does "Older" Disney even mean-, Um, I guess for animated, probably "Lady and the Tramp", I guess. For live-action, I don't know if I'd call it a "Favorite", I don't really have favorites, but the one I've probably thought about the most in recent years, believe it or not, "Pollyanna". There's some stuff, subtext-wise that I find interesting.


WHITEY:  UNITED STATES OF AMERICA VS. JAMES J. BULGER (2014) Director: Joe Berlinger

4 1/2 STARS



Oh, this was good. It's the documentary about the criminal trial for the Boston mobster that's the inspiration for Nicholson in "The Departed" and Depp in "Black Mass", very good film.

(PENALTY)

Oh fucking hell, c'mon!!!! (Growl)

Have your personal experiences ever effected the way you see a film?

Oh, actually that's not that bad a question. Um, yes, but I couldn't express how per se. Having an autistic brother films like "Rain Man" and "The Miracle Worker" effect me more, 'cause I personally relate to some of the experiences, and I-eh, I will never sit through "Mercury Rising" again, that film, ugh, that was so-, ugh. But of course, we're always effected in some way by our own um, precedents and experiences and knowledge, I do think, it's usually important to try and separate that however and try to see if a movie works despite that our own personal feelings, but yeah, it's okay to be effected, it's just also important to recognize why you're so effected and then try to correctly analyze those thoughts separate from the film as much as one can.


AT MIDDLETON (2014) Director: Adam Rodgers

1 1/2 STARS



Oh this film was so boring. It should've been good, Garcia, Farmiga, they're parents looking at colleges with their kids and then they separate from the group and it's a little "Before Sunrise" on campus, but oh, it's not that interesting. The characters are barely written, it's just boring, an idea and nothing else.

(PENALTY)

Ah, fuck, c'mon!

Who are your top five favorite actors? 

Oh, really!!! UGGGGH!!! Top five, favorite actors. Um, any question like this, is basically come down to how I feel that day. Today, I'd say, Edward G. Robinson, um, Humphrey Bogart, Groucho Marx, um, I don't know, Paul Giamatti, and-eh, (shrugs) Gerard Depardieu. I wouldn't-, I don't know if they're my favorites, they're just the names that come to my mind immediately.


VIOLETTE (2014) Director: Martin Provost

3 STARS



It's a French biopic about author Violette Ludec; I don't know a lot about her, but it was okay. Little erratic and boring, but I didn't hate it.

(PENALTY)

Oh c'mon, that can't have been more than 25! ...23, 24, 20- GRRRR! Okay, we should only be counting, nouns, verbs and adjectives!

Who is your favorite Rocky opponent? 

LOL, um, I don't know, Thunderlips. No, I'm-, I don't know, um, probably Apollo Creed.


SIDDHARTH (2014) Director: Richie Mehta

4 STARS



Oh, really tough-to-watch Indian film about a family whose son gets kidnapped after they send him to work in a factory across the country. Eh, it's a bit of a message movie but it's a good one. Not the most fun thing to watch, but yeah, it's worth looking for.

(PENALTY)
Fuck. Alright, what is it?

What are your top 3 Mel Gibson movies? 

(Eye rolls, annoyed sigh) Okay, um, "Lethal Weapon", obviously, um, "Signs", I do think that's Shyamalan's best film, it's the only one I can actually sit down and watch more than once and still enjoy it. Annnnnd-da-um, hmm, I think I'll go with "Maverick" actually. His best film as a director btw, is "Apocalypto", but I'm not really a fan of his directing work in general. Yeah, "Lethal Weapon", "Signs" and "Maverick" those are Mel Gibson at his best, to me. I guess I should've picked a "Mad Max" film, but I-eh, I don't really think of them as Gibson movies, I see Gibson, these are the films I see and think of.

Alright, before we go on, how many more do I have?

17 

Haha, no really how many more of these do I have?

Oh, you're right, it's 16, not 17. Sorry, I miscounted.

Oh fuck- c'mon! Jesus, I'm about to cry here. Ugh! (Deep breath, deep breath, sigh) Alright, what's next?


THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK (1997) Director: Steven Spie-

WAIT! What year is that film from? '97? No, no, if it's not within the last two years of movies I've seen, I don't have to review it. Anything left after 2014?

(No answer)

NO!? Alright, then we're done with this shit. Oh fucking Christ, thank God. I am never doing this shit again. If you guys want to know about my opinions on any of these movies here:

"The Lost World: Jurassic Park" (1997)
"Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974" (1974)
"The Chumscrubber" (2005)
"Mother of George" (2013)
"How to Make Money Selling Drugs" (2013)
"That's My Boy" (2012)
"Friday Night" (2003)
"Jurassic Park III" (2001)
"Reality" (2013)
"Out in the Dark" (2013)
"Girl Rising" (2013)
"Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story" (2013)
"Burn" (2012)
"Horror House" (2008)
"Belle and the Beast: A Christian Romance (aka Belle and the Beast: A Latter-Day Tale)" (2007)

Just contact me, through one of my FB pages, Twitter, comment on the blog below, etc, ask me on any of them, and in this case, you can ask me one, other whatever, dumb question, you want, and I'll answer it there, not in just 25 words. Ugh! Yeah, I don't care if anybody says I write too much, or whatever, people who underwrite aren't trying hard enough. Ugh, enough of this crap, let's get to it, so I can end this and get back to modern times and review films I've actually seen the week I'm reviewing them.  Here we good, let's get to PART 3!, THE FINALE of this week's MOVIE REVIEWS! Thank fucking God!


SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE (2015) Directors: Mark Burton and Richard Starzak

4 STARS



Going into "Shaun the Sheep Movie" the Oscar-nominated animated film based on the British TV series, the only thing I knew about "Shaun the Sheep" was, uh, well, that he exists. (Shrugs) Sorry, I missed this completely until now and really didn't have any real knowledge of what the hell I was getting into with this film. I then saw the Aardman Animations logo however and quickly knew I was in relatively safe hands. Aardman Animation if you don't know, are the stop-motion and now computer animation group behind Wallace and Gromit, and "Creature Comforts" among others. They are the premiere animation department of the United Kingdom, and they're work has won multiple awards worldwide including three or four Oscars. "Shaun the Sheep Movie" their latest is basically, "Shaun: Sheep in the City", but that's pretty okay with me. Shaun (Justin Fletcher) is a sheep, who lives on a farm with Farmer (John Sparkes) and the dog Bitzer (Sparkes, again) and there's numerous other Sheep in two straight lines, the youngest one was Timmy (Fletcher, again, and I have no idea why I went with the weird "Madeleine" reference there, it's pretty irrelevant to everything actually, well other than the fact that "Madeleine" is awesome!) and Timmy's protective mother, Timmy's Mum, (Kate Harbour). You know, I've given the actors' names who portray the characters' voices but that's stretching it actually, they don't really have voices. There's no dialogue in this movie, unless you count some of the lyrics in the songs that are heard, but this is basically a silent film. The characters do talk to each other and are incredibly expressive, but it's all bleats and grunts and gasps, and that's all that's needed. It's a delightful little tale about Shaun, in an effort to take a day off from, um, I guess being sheep (Shrugs) accidentally gets Farmer to lose his memory and get stuck in town, where he inadvertently becomes the next big name is hairstyling, so Shaun, Bitzer and the rest of the Sheep have to navigate the Big City, in search of Farmer, who they must help regain his memory and come back home, all the while avoiding the ever more insane animal catcher, Trumper (Omaj Djalilli) who's out to capture Shaun and the rest of the Sheep, and Bitzer. I mean, there's nothing deep or meaningful but it's just a quirky wonderful little story, told beautifully by people who are absolute masters at telling quirky wonderful little stories. I'm definitely gonna try to look into "Shaun the Sheep", the TV series after having seen the movie, it's one of the most delightful little films I've seen this year. If you love Aardman Animation, then you'll love this one, it's arguably their best feature film so far.


CARTEL LAND (2015) Director: Matthew Heineman

4 STARS



I don't think I'm going to be making the most shocking or damning statement when I say that the War on Drugs, is a losing battle that we never should've tried to fight in the first place. This is probably not news to any reasonable-thinking person on the left and right side of the aisles. That said, personally when it comes to drugs and the drug war, honestly, I don't get it. I mean, I get that others do, that people are addicted and it is a plight on society, and that there needs to be a more vigorous effort put in on addiction treatment as oppose to combating the cartels, but that said, trying to understand the drug war, as somebody who has never taken drugs or ever felt the need to and was frankly rarely-if-ever in a situation where the situation would ever even come up, it's always been a bit foreign. I don't think it's as simple as the idea of "Just Say No", ever pretended that it was, but at the same time, I don't quite get why the answer would have ever been "Yes" to begin with? I guess that's what always confuses me about many of these drug movies and drug documentaries lately. "Cartel Land", the Oscar-nominated documentary from Matthew Heineman, takes place in both Mexico and in Arizona, the border area to Michoacan, which is about a 1,000 miles south of the U.S. border and is probably where the most violent of the drug cartels, the Knights Templar operates and runs the city through fear, intimidation and beheadings, lots of beheadings, among other gruesome deaths Vlad the Impaler would be proud of. After an opening scene that's returned to at the end, showing masked meth cookers which, in of itself is quite shocking, but the movie then follows two groups of people. In Arizona, it's a group called the Arizona Border Recon vigilantes, led by a former meth-head, Tom Foley, who's leading the pack to take down undocumented illegals who try entering the state. Arizona has been the home of some of the most atrocious recent laws revolving around eradicating illegal immigrants lately, and it's clear that they're beyond delusional. Foley talks about looking for work and seeing his jobs taken over and we see them getting excited by watching Fox News before "patrolling" the border. That said, it's pretty clear to me watching the Mexico side of the border that those trying to get across have damn good reason to try to leave and they ain't exactly the ones causing the so-called problems with the cartel that so far comparatively, have only taken idle footsteps across the U.S. border. In Mexico, one Dr, Jose Miguel Mirelles has started a civilian-based paramilitary group that works outside the government to conduct the cartel. This has caused him great distressed and at the time of the film's release was currently in jail, and it's not completely sure whether his motives are completely true or if he himself has enterprises at work. "Cartel Land", to me, was repetitive and not necessarily new insights, but more, an interesting look at new aspects of the drug war, that were interesting but, it was also rough-to-watch, not just content-wise it was also just wasn't overly-entertaining to me. It's a hit-over-your-head documentary with the brutal realism and I think the best documentaries are doing a little more than that, but that's a minor critique from me. It doesn't completely succeed, but I can see what it was trying and it mostly did it well, so I'm recommending it, I can think of other more interesting films in the drug war subgenre of documentaries at the moment, but it's still pretty powerful. I think it's a bit two movies shoved together instead of the ideal that he's going for of two similar sides of the same affair but still, it worked enough; you won't forget it for awhile.



MR. HOLMES (2015) Director: Bill Condon

3 1/2 STARS



Like everybody else who's ever had even a passing casual fascination with the detective genre, I like many before, have at some point decided to dive into arthur Conan Doyle's most famous character, the great Sherlock Holmes. Holmes, played here by Sir Ian McKellan,here in "Mr. Holmes" is not at all much like Doyle's brilliant if not, egotistical and eccentric quixotic detective. Actually, in this universe, Holmes is not the creation of Doyle, he's the creation of Dr. Watson, who apparently took the cases and stories that Holmes, who doesn't live at 221B Baker Street, although he is friendly enough with the actual occupant that any real cases can be sent his way if needed, Holmes has since been long retired and growing ever more senile. He's just come back from a recent trip to Japan to retrieve an herb called prickly ash, that supposedly could at least delay the effects of senility enough for him, to write the real story behind his last case. Or supposed last case, while there is something familiar about this story about a husband Thomas (Patrick Kennedy) concerned that his wife Hattie (Ann Kelmot) might leave him, or worst while under the instruction of her suspicious music instructor Madame Schirmer (Frances de la Tour) but after doing a little research, I think the Holmes mystery inside this film itself is made-up, so what we got here, is a fictionalized version of a fictional character (And yes, this is based on a recent novel, not at related in canon or related at all to any of Doyle's works) trying to correctly and more accurately, re-tell a fictional story that was written about him. Okay, admittedly, that might be one backflip too many for some of you, but you know what, we've had fictionalized Sherlock Holmes tales and stories before, hell, I can think of two of them on television now, in "Sherlock" and "Elementary", that's not even counting "House, M.D.", and lest we forget, or wish we could forget, the two Guy Ritchie "Sherlock Holmes" films with Robert Downey, Jr. that took way more creative license than "Mr. Holmes" is taking, and those are all just recent examples, so I think we're than willing to accept this Sherlock Holmes as much or as well as a direct remake of any of his books. The movie even makes fun of some of the Holmes archetypes, like the coonskin cap, which is not mentioned in any Doyle tale btw, or his love of smoking a pipe, which apparently was true to this Holmes, but after the legend of Holmes became the fact, he switched to a cigar. He's now, rarely smoking, he's moved to the country, and now lives with a disgruntled housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney, wasted here btw) who's looking for the first job out of town as soon as Holmes is put away, along with her young son Roger (Milo Parker) who is interested in mystery stories and try hard to keep Sherlock aware enough to recall that final case and what it was exactly that caused him to retire. That's really the meat of the relationship, the relationship between those two characters, and it's pretty good. Not what I would've expected, but it works here well enough. And yeah, Laura Linney's part is somewhat one-note. The film was directed by Bill Condon, who's got a history of being a bit erratic as a writer/director, most people mostly know him nowadays for directing the last two "Twilight" movies, which, I haven't seen yet, but I remember most of his other films pretty well, and except for writing the screenplay for "Chicago", he seems to mostly like unconventional biopic narrative, or at least, stories about famous characters, in this case a fictional famous character, that's character and less story. His best film is "Kinsey" with Liam Neeson and Laura Linney, not wasted in that film which earned her an Oscar-nomination, but since then, on top of the "Twilight"'s, he's also made the forgettable Julian Assange biopic, "The Fifth Estate", and before that, the music version of "Dreamgirls", a film that I'm particular despondent towards, although granted, I don't think he had a good musical to work with to begin with, but, ugh. (Eddie Murphy was robbed though) However, the movie that "Mr. Holmes" is clearly most similar to is "Gods and Monsters", his breakout movie that starred McKellan as "Frankenstein" director James Whale, an aging, dying old man who also only has a maid as his main outlet to the outside world. I respect that film as a character piece, but I vastly prefer "Mr. Holmes", As interesting a character as Whale was and is, that movie basically meanders around until we get to his eventual suicide, "Mr. Holmes" is about an aging character who's struggling to find the will to survive, at least long enough to remember key parts of his past. He's a shell of his former self, but he's still quite an interesting and mostly active character. This is Condon's best film in years, so I'm definitely recommending, but yeah, I can see an argument that there's no real reason for this film to exist, but, I warmed up to it enough. It might not be a Sherlock Holmes that I wanted, but it's a good, different Holmes that's done and told well. I was entertained, it kept me guessing, there's some great pieces of ambiguity storytelling..., there's more than enough here that works.


COP CAR (2015) Director: John Watts

2 1/2 STARS



Roger Ebert once referred to a movie as an "unsprung screwball comedy, slowed down to real-life speed,"; he said that in a review of Curtis Hanson's underrated masterpiece "Wonder Boys", which is about as far away from "Cop Car" as you can get, but the line remained in my mind as I watch "Cop Car". It's a goofy but fun premise of a film, and yet, I had a little bit of a hard time really warming up to it. I think a few screwball comedies can work at real-life speed, but there's a reason why most of the best screwballs happen at the quickest, breakneck speed possible. The movie begins with a couple of ten-year-old runaways, Travis and Harrison (James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford) who are walking through, a-, was it a desert landscape or a plains landscape? God, I only watched this movie yesterday, uh, it takes place somewhere in the midwest, and anyway, between trying to catch snakes and trying out cus words, they spot, a cop car, just there, in some secluded area behind the trees. At first, they're worried that a cop might catch them and bring them back home, but they don't see an officer there and the cars were left there. They're already on the run, and with long walks ahead, they figure, what the hell, steal the car. The cop, turns out to be the town's Sheriff (Kevin Bacon) was doing some somewhat unsavory things, returns to find the car missing. He can't report it missing, so he has to hide the fact with the dispatcher (Kyra Sedgwick) that the car's stolen, while still trying to figure out how to find it, and who took it. This is, basically all there is to the film. There's some other development, and characters played by Camryn Manheim and Shea Whigham come into play, but the movie, while it does go into the absurd and the absurdly stupid, it doesn't really go into them. If anything, it's almost too smart, the cop is swarmy and a big cliche, complete with a bad '70s pornstache, but he actually thinks through his problem quite intelligently and even the kids, while occasionally coming up with dumb ideas like testing the bulletproof vests they find in the car, they're not completely dumb either; they seem to work out their problems well too. And they the realistic amount of time to figure out these problems too. I think that's my major problem with "Cop Car", it's supposed to be a hilarious independent comedy but really, it's just a little too slow. I found myself falling asleep during this movie one-too many times and then, waking up minutes later, feeling like I didn't miss anything important, and I really hadn't. There's a few interesting developments and again, they kinda make sense and are thoughtful, intelligent, but, it's almost like, they had a great concept and treated it, just a little too realistic. It's trying to be too smart, and too cute for it's own good instead of just being funny. "Cop Car" isn't bad, it's actually quite witty and at time emotional, but I don't know, I can't quite recommend it. I just found myself, waiting around for the inevitable to happen, a little too much. This is a good, 45-minute short film, spread out to a just under 90-minute movie. I don't know, I won't stop anybody from watching it, but this was just a comedy that, didn't make me laugh enough to recommend. I think if it was a little-less slowed down to real-life speed, I might've enjoyed it more.


GOOD KILL (2015) Director: Andrew Niccol

4 1/2 STARS




I seem to be one of the few people who consistently tends to defends Andrew Niccol's work, especially his recent work. I'm probably one of the few, despite the heavy-handedness of it all, who actually thought pretty highly of "In Time", which tried most critics, although I did reach my limit of defending him when it came to "The Host", one of the truly most horrible, boring film experiences I've had to suffer through. Although, that's part of the problem with him, ever since he broke onto the scene with the screenplay to "The Truman Show" and made his directorial debut with "Gattaca", he's kinda been pegged as a science-fiction filmmaker, and one who, worst sin of sins, like ideas more than say, action. "The Host" aside, and unfortunately I haven't seen "S1mone" yet, but I typically think highly his work, and there is another side to him, and it's seems to be a fascination with warfare. Arguably his best film as a director is "Lord of War", a seriously overlooked film with Nicholas Cage as an arms dealer who sells to, whatever country's having a war that week. (It's one of Cage's very best performances as well) and now he's given us, "Good Kill", this time focuses not on the profiteer, but on the soldier an air force fighter pilot, Maj. Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke). Everyday he flies over Afghanistan or Iraq and drops bombs onto suspected terrorists and criminals. He does this at Nellis Air Force Base, outside Las Vegas, NV, before he goes home to his wife, Molly (January Jones) and kid Jesse (Sachie Capitani) each-, well, most nights. (Oh, and like every other Las Vegas based production, conflict of warning, there's a decent possibility that I probably know or knows somebody who knows somebody who's worked on the film, should've put that at the top. Oh well.)  There's been a lot of talk about drones, not as much about the people who actually control them. I doubt that this film is a super-accurate portrayal of them, the same way that I doubt "The Hurt Locker" speaks for all the EOD teams in Iraq. but that said, I have met one or two of these drone pilots over the pilots, and I can't help but think they relate a little to this film. Egan spends his days in a lock box that looks like a trailer/school portable, where inside, he stands guard over Afghanistan and Iraq. Looking for suspicious activity, hovering, watching, trying to determine whether or not something or another is a "Good Kill", and then blowing them up from the sky, seen only through video periscope image that's unusually clear, he looks over the country. He hates the job. It's tough enough training to be a pilot for all your life only to be susquestered in a hot room in middle of Mojave Desert, much less the concept of going home for the day after fighting in a war, and blowing up suspected Taliban cohorts, and otherwise just watching over a country that's halfway around the world, especially if you're trained to put your life on the line in battle, not, play real-life X-Box. (And yes, the video game company did indeed help develop the technology.) He is unfortunately for him, the best at the position, which is why his boss, Lt. Colonel Jack Jones (Bruce Greenwood) isn't interested in transferring him, not that he could. The only fellow soldier he sorta gets along with is a young airmen named Vera (Zoe Kravitz) and that's a slightly dangerous and tenuous friendship, while the relationship with his wife at home becomes more and more tension-filled and fragile. Then, he gets a mission that's top secret from the CIA that he has to follow through on, but the more he looks at this mission, the less and less he agrees with it, and of course, begins to suspect that the higher-ups aren't exactly as exact when it comes to finding and killing the terrorists. "Good Kill" is a really special portrayal of a complex new character, and while it trends towards the melodramatic, it's really intense and satisfying. One of the more overlooked films of last year and it deserves to find an audience. It's definitely in the vein of "The Hurt Locker" where it's not so much a war movie as it is, a journey into the mindset of a particular soldier, and I won't claim it's as good as that film was, it isn't, but it's pretty damn good.


MEDITERRANEA (2015) Director: Joseph Carpignano

4 STARS



Somewhere, somehow, somebody must've kicked Ayiva (Koudous Seihon) around some, at least enough to make him go on a deadly, dangerous journey across three African countries and take, what we'll generously call a "boat", to as close to Italy as he and the dozens of other people could get before somebody seeing them floating out there. Okay, I know, technically Ayiva and Abas (Alassane Sy) are not refugees, (I'm just gonna presume you all easily caught the Tom Petty "Refugee" reference and know what the hell I'm talking about, 'cause, I...-, no, not explaining this) but I couldn't help but think about refugees, particularly the Syrian refugees who are right now, ostracized, not just by America, for reasons of,... I don't know, people are idiot racists. If you don't know the processes with which  refugees go through, just to be refugees and then have to go live in some country not chosen by them to then live, go seek out the clip from "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" and educate yourself. "Mediterranea" follows Ayiva, mainly as him and Abas, and several others make this arduous journey, he's originally from Burkina Faso, and as far as I know that's the first time I can even remember seeing a movie character from that Central African country. We see them struggle to get through both Algeria and then Libya before making that doomed boat trip. They survive and make it to Italy, and struggle to get work, the main job they find is picking oranges, and even then, they're mostly ostracized from everybody else. At one point, a young nine-year-old, continually just throws Ayiva's box of oranges onto the ground. There's numerous other incidents of how poorly these immigrants are treated, and it's basically a movie about, well, the life and journey of a migrant and nothing more. They have a three-month permit, but after that, they need a steady job, and papers which they don't have. Ayiva befriends one interesting character, a young black marketeer/tradesman Pio (Pio Amata) who's too young to be smoking, be too worldly for anybody to not give him a cigarette when he asks, especially since they're already buying ipods and other such devices from him. "Mediterranea" is pretty simple in it's intention and it succeeds. It's the first feature film from director Joseph Carpignano, who's split most of his life between New York City and Italy, so he probably has some sympathies towards being a man, suddenly plopped down into a strange world and culture he doesn't understand, and has probably noticed ever-growing migrations throughout much of Europe, that's pretty undocumented generally. Fatih Akih for instance, often makes movies about the Turkish population in Germany for instance and things like that, and it's more than reasonable to believe that desolate and distraught Africans would travels over a desert and through the world's largest Sea just to make it to a better life in Italy, and yes, that would cause a lot of tensions and boiled up racism to start exploding, but to the film's credit, it also shows them trying to accept the new norm, and we even see some generous people trying to help them out. "Mediterranea" is a good first feature about the immigrant experience, one that's not documented much in film, hell, it's one of the few I can even think of that I've seen that's not about immigrants coming to America. "Dirty Pretty Things" comes to mind I guess, but that was a thriller about other things, this is about the experience as seen from Ayiva's perspective. It's not all bad, but you can see he's constantly wondering if it wouldn't be better to go back. I'm sure even in the best of circumstances that thought crosses a lot of immigrants minds, much less ones going from one unfriendly environment to another.



MERU (2015) Directors: Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

3 STARS



(Looking down at list of movies I'm reviewing)

I gave this film 3 STARS, really? Uh, okay. Hmm. For some reason I thought I had been somewhat harder on this film, but I guess I was nicer to it. I think it's just partially, me getting overwhelmed lately with particular kinds of films, and I swear, for reasons that I can't completely understand I keep running into and watching films that are strikingly similar, and one of them, oddly enough has been this documentary subgenre about, either mountain climbing or surviving in some sort of dangerous climate or profession, and honestly I'm getting tired of them they start to blur together. Like everybody else, I pretty much give these films a pass, if for nothing else the amazing cinematography, which basically means I'm basically congratulating a movie for actually being able to shoot in a part of the world that's not conducive to filmmaking, or even setting up a camera and tripod without freezing to death or falling off a mountain and into a ice crevice. "Meru" is the name of a notoriously difficult-to-climb Himalayan mountain, it's not as big as Mt. Everest, although it's still 21,000 ft. high, or so, but nobody's ever been able to climb it and survive. On top of everything else, the main culprit is the design at the top of the mountain, famously and correctly called "The Shark Fin" by climbers, is just-, it's a giant flat thousands of feet tale piece of rock that looks like a shark fin at the top of the mountain; not that I'd ever be so inclined, but I wouldn't have any idea how to climb that thing. Even the locals who will at least escort and your equipment up Everest, to a point, they don't even dare try to conquer "Meru". Of course, what did Sir Edmund Hillary say when asked why he did climb Everest? 'Cause it was there. And that's basically why Conrad Ankar, one of the world's most prolific of mountain climbers has attempted it before, and this time, is determined to try again. We see actually see two different attempts by Ankar and his team, many of which, suffer some serious setbacks and injuries during the climb and the training for it, one of them is seriously putting his life on the line just going after a horrific brain injury from before, but they go for the glory and because, well, it's there. They have wives and kids and/or family who cares about them and would probably rather not see them risk their lives again just to say they climbed the unclimbable, the in-climb-ab-,no, that can't be right. the impossible-to-climb mountain. Like I said, I've seen other films like this recently, this is probably the best one to sit back and watch in awe, but when you're not doing that, or just, fearing for the climbers to, not die, basically, I don't really know why else you'd watch "Meru", but yeah, in hindsight, while I don't recall the movie as well as I probably wish I could, or should've, it's still an amazing accomplishment and adventure to document, and the fact that this is documented, is pretty amazing.


THE SEVEN FIVE (2015) Director: Tiller Russell

4 1/2 STARS



I had a friend once who, let's just say was a more conservative leaning than I was, and he was always a bit shocked at how I was so anti-police, you could say, at least in the political abstract. I've never voted to give the cops pay raises or anything like that, and I don't think more police on the street will help deter crime or anything. If anything it'll more-than-like just help exacerbate police corruption. More police to take out the bad guys, then more illegal activities the cops could take over, or better yet, keep the bad guys on the street, just steal their money and drugs and whatnot, 'cause, hey we're the cops, what are they gonna do, go to us, to report their stolen drug money? That's pretty much the logic of Michael Dowd, the ringleader as it were of Long Island's Seven-Five station, the most corrupt police station in New York's history and possibly ever. He spent eleven years in jail eventually, but not before spending the eighties basically being the head of one of the biggest crime syndicates in New York, all working at the police force. He still claims he was a good cop, although he still thinks that the job of a police officer is to never rat on their partner no matter what. He even mentions how, during the initiation and Academy classes, the uppers cops would come in and talk about how there were two ways to go, basically to Internal Affairs, or to make money on the streets. This movie is basically the real-life version of "Goodfellas" just told with the backgrounds and settings of "The Departed". Dowd, is probably the one who would've been corrupt no matter what, his partner Ken Eurell was more honest at first, but yeah, you see the guy steal and steal and steal and then deal and nothing keeps happenings, and sometimes he would forget to even pick up his check 'cause he'd make thousands a day going into the ghetto and just stealing all the drug dealer money he came across, I-eh, I get it. That's something that's never brought up, it's almost inevitable. It's so tempting in that position of power, protected by the thin blue line, and even if they weren't, why would you not? I've seen some criticize "The Seven Five" because of how it sometimes seems to overly paint these characters positively, but I think it's even-handed enough, and I think it matches the characters personalities, and the tone of the movie, accurately reflects their mindsets at the time, of these cops. The world they lived in, and the Seven-Five police district was their oyster. The strange thing about Dowd is that, he probably would've made and in many cases did seem to be a good cop, and I do think one good cop is better than twenty bad-to-average ones, particularly the corrupt ones, and let's face it, the more cops there are, the less likely they'll be good qualified cops. Ask Miami in the eighties about that when they tried to boost their police force to equate the numbers of the cartels how well that worked. It's still, overall just amazing how horrible corruption is for everyone. I wouldn't even be against the idea if it actually didn't take away from people doing their jobs as police, or whatever they're jobs actually are; all forms of corruption, as far as I can tell, is just a way to get paid for not doing whatever job one has, and "The Seven Five" is no exception. It's an enlightening and powerful, well-made documentary, that is a bit talky at times, but gives us some incredible insight into this world and gives us the real characters involved. We see how both sides of the blue line work, both in committing the crimes and going down the spiral into the criminal and we also see the cows, looking at how they think and investigate and the differences are startling. One IA agent, talked about seeing Dowd the first time, just walking out of the station in his uniform one day, and he immediately thought "perp", not cop, just based on instinct, and how it haunted him for years. You never ever heard that kind of intuitiveness out of Dowd, not that that's always reliable, but yeah, if you do this enough, it wouldn't be so unpredictable most of the time.


DELI MAN (2015) Director: Erik Greenberg Anjou

4 1/2 STARS



Technically, I'm born and raised in Las Vegas, technically, I've spent literally all my life here, but, while there's a few exceptions, nobody actually is, "from" Las Vegas, we're all from, somewhere else and we somehow ended up in Vegas. That's true of most people who live here, and there's very clear signs in many of us exactly where we're probably originally from. My family's from the Philadelphia/South Jersey area, and there's certain East Coast things, you can tell I, and many others in fact, gravitate towards, and lot of them are food. Hell, just today, I went to eat at my local Philly Cheesesteak place, 'cause, well, I-, I had to. I was craving it, and short of paying the airfare back and forth just to hit up Geno's (Or Pat's, I like Pat's too, don't hate me, Pat's people) I'm gonna take the best closest thing I can get at that moment. I'm not just limited to Philadelphia delicacies, (and yes, I lot of these signs about our actual homeplace are food-based, but not all) there's food all up and down the East Coast. New York Cheesecake, Atlantic City salt water taffy and sea foam fudge, New England Clam Chowder, (Sorry, Manhattan), New York-style pizza, yeah. And one I absolutely love, Jewish deli. Oh, I love Jewish Deli. I love the lunchmeats, I love bagels, oh, I love Jewish delis, and there's so few of them, it's a damn crying shame. I mean, I'm more of a roast beef guy than a pastrami on rye guy admittedly but still, the environment, the food, there's just something so right, about going to eat at a real, true Jewish deli. Let's just say, people are always shocked at how much lunchmeat we not only buy at the deli counter, but how much meat we put in my family's sandwiches, (and thin-cut meat, really thin, and I have two grandfathers who were butchers, so don't give that bullshit that something's thin enough when it isn't, I know.) So yeah, as a foodie, as a man fascinated with historical pieces of Americana, and just as an east coaster who'd probably in another lifetime, would still be sitting down and enjoying the chatter of old Jewish men, while I devour a giant sandwich, I'm already predisposed to liking a documentary about the deli. I don't know who wouldn't be predisposed to enjoying stuff like this, I guess vegetarians maybe, but even then, get some bagels, and some smear, I mean, that's good enough for me, and beside the food, the culture and history of the deli, is so rich. We get a few notable famous names talking about eating and working at the deli, Jerry Stiller, Larry King and Fyvush Finkel make some talking head appearance, and it's really nice to see Finkel in particular but the real focus of "Deli Man", is Ziggy Gruber, the owner of Kenny's & Ziggy's Deli in Houston and arguably the most successful and biggest deli currently in the United States. At the dawn of the industrial revolution and the rise of immigration especially in New York, the deli would become the staple of American cuisine for the lower class. It's tough to imagine now that one could get a nice hoagie of all that beef and cheese on their lunch breaks and it would only cost them a nickel, yes time's have changed, but still, even with inflation, the food was cheap and oh, so mouth-watering good, just thinking about it. (Man, I need to go on a diet) Today, when there used to be over a thousand delis just in New York City, there's fewer than 200 in America, and the number is ever-dwindling. Gruber, who grew up in the deli, keeps the tradition alive. We see him, early in the morning meeting the delivery men with the meats, smoking and cooking them for hours on end, making the sauces, the juices, oh, all these great foods. He's out to preserve the culture of the immigrants and their recipes, often searching for the most obscure foods and preparations trying to revive them. Food, is a much more ever-changing medium than we may realize sometimes, so it is good to preserve these things. We see a bit of his personal life, trying to stay in shape, exercising, even doing acupuncture for his back. Ziggy is a character, he is young, but he's one of those young guys who's always been an aging Jew telling stories about his families while serving the food at your table. Hell, there's a part of me that's like that and has always been and I'm way younger. So, yeah, I'm predisposed to this, but this is a fun movie. You know, like-, I know documentaries get a bad rap, and sometimes, yeah, it's a lot of depressing subject matter, but there are lighter, funnier, more breezy documentaries out there, this is one of them. "Deli Man", is just a fun movie about, a deli man, who loves his work and the deli, and about other people who love delis just as much. See it on a full stomach if you can, 'cause you'll get hungry quickly, but yeah, this isn't the greatest or most groundbreaking anything, but it's a fun documentary about a subject I think nearly all of us can get behind. And pity those who don't, but more food for me then.


MATT SHEPARD IS A FRIEND OF MINE (2015) Director: Michelle Josue

4 STARS



I-, I think if your my age, then you get a unsettling and disturbing chill that runs down the back of your neck and spine when you even here the name Matthew Shepard. I can't quite explain it, and maybe it's just me, but there's a certain amount, just horrid sadness that goes with the story. I swear to God, you want to look at how my generation's been so insistently pro-LGBT community in the last twenty, forcing our way through such things gay marriage, eliminating Don't Ask, Don't Tell, etc. It has a lot to do with how, a lot of us, myself included, just kind found ourselves so upended and emotionally offended at the atrocious death of Matthew Shepard. I even remember very distinctly a MTV-produced dramatization of the event that disturbed me immensely. The only thing, I can compare it to,- I've heard Jewish people talk about going to Germany, I've heard this a few times, Joel Gray in particular I remember talking about this, just even the second he stepped off the plane, there's this sense of, infinite sadness, like something bad happened here, close. I know that seems a bit heavy-handed a comparison, but yeah, just hearing the name gives me that feeling, and I doubt I'm alone in that. For those who aren't familiar Matthew Shepard was a 19-year-old gay student at the University of Wyoming, who was beaten, tortured, robbed, and driven out into the middle of a field, miles away from the nearest house, and tied to a fence and left to die by two men, who pretending to be gay in order to gain his trust; it is to this day the defining gaybashing hate crime, maybe ever. In 2009, the Matthew Shepard James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law by President Obama. The movie is a documentary, made with the help of his family including Shepard's mother Judy, who now runs his foundation and by Michele Josue, who indeed was one of Matthew's friend, although I do get the sense, that like many others, she wishes that she probably would've liked to have known him a bit more. We see a rare look into his family and home movies of Matt himself. He actually had a pretty unique life, having lived in a boarding house in Switzerland while his family lived in Saudi Arabia of all places for much of his life, and he lived in Colorado and North Carolina too before going to college in Wyoming. He was an actor and creative type as well; I have no idea what would've happened to Matthew Shepard if things had gone differently, but things didn't tragically and "Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine" is one sad reminder that we never got a chance to find out what Matthew Shepard would become. It's an important film, especially for those young people who might want to know a bit about the psyche of the generation before them, this movie might give them a little insight into that.


ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS (2015) Director: Mark Hartley

4 STARS



Cannon Films, oh boy. Well, first of all, let's talk about Director Mark Hartley, 'cause he's kinda making a weird name for himself, as he is the go-to documentary director when it comes to detailing the history of cinematic schlock. He has done some non-documentary movies, "Patrick" most notably, one of the latest in a long line of horror movies that take place in a psychiatric institution of some kind, but mostly, he seems responsible for films like "Machete Maidens Unleashed" which I actually reviewed years ago, about the American movies made in the Philippines by exploitation filmmakers and studios because it was cheaper to make movies there, during the Marcos reign. In fact, this is the second movie he's made, that uses the phrase "The Wild, Untold Story of..." in the subtitle of his film after "Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation". I had to look it up too, since that film I haven't seen yet, but Ozploitation is the name given to the movement of ultra-low budget Australian, exploitation films (Shrugs, okay) that began popping up in the late '70s after the introduction of the R rating and is considered apart of the early movement that would develop into the Australian New Wave. Don't worry if you've never heard the term before, this would stump even the most knowledgeable of underground world cinema historians and it's partly because, "Ozploitation" is not a common term to describe this Australian film movement now, and especially not at the time, that's because he made the term up. It was actually Quentin Tarantino who penned the term "Aussieploitation", to describe these films, but he shortened it to, Oz-ploitation, which- no, that doesn't really work, 'cause I don't hear the syllable "Oz" and think "Aus-tralia" I think Dorothy and Toto, so I-um-, (flips hand,  signalling never mind) Anyway, his latest movie is about Cannon Films, which does begin earlier with them being a distribution company who made their original name by being one of their first major achievements was distributing softcore Swedish porn films with English dubbing, and yes those films were pretty popular in the early '70s, at the height of the posh era for porn, but this story is mainly about Cannon Films after they were taken over by Israeli cousins and filmmakers Menaham Golan and Yoram Globus. They-eh, well how do I explain them and the films they made. You ever happen to be home on a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon and going through the local channels, you run into some low budget '80s action movie with Dolph Lundgren or somebody like that, which has a title that's a sequel to a movie you never heard of don't remember? Cannon Films probably made it. Golan & Globus loved making movie, they made them quick and preferably as cheap as possible, and many of them. How cheap and how quick, this is actually the second documentary this year made about Cannon Films. Golan & Globus, didn't participate in this film, because after they were asked to interview for the project, they decided instead to make their own, and true to form, their film, "The Go-Go Boys" beat this film to theaters. I haven't seen "The Go-Go Boys" yet, so I can't comment on that film, but this one, gives us a bit of an inside glimpse into the world of Cannon Films and the Israeli cousins. They loved jumping on trends and then making a movie about them, and bought out the rights for superheroes, including making "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace", which inevitably came close to bankrupting them, and they had a smart idea to buy theater chains throughout the UK, so their movies would constantly play there, and eventually there business practices, which, yeah seem particularly sketchy, unsurprisingly. Cannon probably had more delusions of grandeur than the other major studios, (Although calling Canon a major studio is a bit of a stretch.) but they did take more risks than all the others. But yeah, they're more well-known for "Death Wish" sequels, than much else. "Electric Boogaloo..." is entertaining, wild, completely unbelievable and kinetically entertaining to watch, even if it doesn't quite make much sense. So, it's pretty much like most Canon films, or at least how Cannon Films operated it seems. It's an entertaining documentary, and I can't wait for Hartley to dive into even more forgotten subsections of exploitation films and filmmaking. How about a film about the European softcore porn industry in the '60s and '70s, that would be interesting.


CONTAINMENT (2015) Director: Neil McEnery West

2 1/2 STARS



(Sigh) You remember that article I wrote about how there's too many movies out there and how critics were getting bogged down by arbitrary theatrical screenings of vanity project independent films that really shouldn't be in theaters? Well, here's the link if you don't remember that, it's right here:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2015/06/ny-times-choosing-not-to-review-every.html

"Containment" isn't quite one of those films I'm talking about, but it's kinda close to it. The movie got a 100% review on Rottentomatoes.com, which is probably how it ended up on my Netflix account, but I should've looked a little closer. 100% is still pretty good on RC btw, and it did get nine positive reviews, but none from any of their "Top Critics". Although I'm a little surprised to find that Mary Ann Johanson isn't considered a Top Critic, I guess because she just has a website like me, but still she's been doing it a lot longer, although even reading her brief review on the film now, it seems like even she's stretching more than I am-, well, not more than I am, but yeah,-, where was I going with this? Um-, well, there's not much to say about "Containment". It's not a bad movie per se, it's got a decent idea at the center, it doesn't do anything horrible or horribly wrong, shot well enough, acted well enough, etc. etc. It's just,-, it's just, I can't think of a reason for anybody to see it. It did open theatrically briefly, probably out of contractual obligation, but as those N.Y. Times have brought up, that's not a good enough reason for them to review a film anymore, and that's unfortunate. It's still enough for me technically, but I should rethink that policy. The movie begins with all the characters in an apartment building/complex, suddenly waking up to find that, they can't get out. Not only out of the apartment, but even out of their rooms as the doors have been glued shut. The phone lines are soon torn down, and they're trapped, just looking out the window and seeing, people in HASMAT suits, and clearly something's gone wrong, but they're not telling anyone anything. Quickly the walls start getting smashed down and the neighbors start trying to figure out what exactly they have to, or can do to get answers. It's not dumb about the situation they're in, it's mostly thought-through how these characters might react and, while I would've gone a different direction with the material, there's nothing wrong with how they went with it here, but there's also nothing's that's particularly compelling about the film, or something that we seen somewhere else before and done better. Still, I like the idea and concept, but yeah, this is a decent average film from a decent young filmmaker, it is his first film, but if I'm looking at this film and thinking, "Is this the guy who I definitely, positively, have to see the next film this guy makes?" then, the answer's no. .

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