Thursday, September 29, 2016

MOVIE REVIEWS #124: "DEADPOOL", "ZOOTOPIA", "KNIGHT OF CUPS", "SONGS MY BROTHERS TAUGHT ME", "SPECTRE", "JOY", "ANOMALISA", "45 YEARS", "THE 100-YEAR-OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED", "SISTERS", "THE INTERN", "THE GIRL IN THE BOOK", "THE GIFT", "APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR", "EAST SIDE SUSHI", and "MAX (Yakim)" Whew!

Oh Christ,  (Deep exhale) Finally finished. Sorry for the delays everyone, but with all that time and the multiple blogs devoted to the Primetime Emmys, and still watching movies at my regular rate, and not to mention, the nine other careers and jobs I have outside of this thing that I devote my time to before I ever get to this, so, yes, we're back to movie reviews. And there's still a bunch of crap that I really should mention, but it seems like everyone else has talked about Donald Trump, so I'll keep that to my Facebook posts so that moronic toy-playing trolls can pretend to put words together and call them arguments, so let's get to the other things going on.

Yeah, I've seen Rolling Stone Magazine, Top 100 Television shows list, and I mostly found it-eh, mostly funny to be honest. It's not a bad list, in fact, I was happy that it included a few shows like "Broad City" and "Jeopardy!" and even a reality show, a terrible one, but understandable considering it's a music reality show, (Although they could've picked "The Voice" which is ten times better than "American Idol" ever was, but, oh well.) If there's anything I really hate about the list it's that the top four shows are drama series, which, no, comedy series are the ones that survive and remain relevant and popular over time, not dramas. And yeah, I stand by that "The Wire" isn't good enough to be on a Top 100 list; it's a good show, not a great one, certainly not #2. (Snorts)

I had some backlash over my Lena Dunham post, most of it, ironically enough focused more on the Facebook introduction, which, yeah, I admit, was a little convoluted. I try to keep those, creative but also interesting enough to grab everyone's attention, and I went a little too much towards the creative side on that one, admittedly. I think it still would've work conceptually, had I thought about it longer, and had other options other than just my trademark CAPITALIZATION OF WORDS, option, but yeah, in hindsight it could've been handled better, but other than that, I still find people who are still this vicious and mean-spirited and just wrong about Dunham and many other women, it's not just her not by a longshot, it's really disturbing sexism, and frankly, I'm not gonna stop calling it out. It's systematic of a bigger problem and frankly, that problem needs to be discussed and confronted.

Oh, I wrote down a note to mention something about Colin Kaepernick, um, probably had something to do with how it's stupid to actually have the national anthem at sporting events to begin with, which it is, by the way. And if you go back in history, the only reason it was ever played to begin with was because it was popular with baseball crowds, especially around wartime, and, you know, for pomp and circumstances I do get it at times, like major times, like the Super Bowl of something of that nature, but every game? Please. Sinead O'Connor once refused to play at a New Jersey arena because they required the national anthem to be played before every event there, which, A. O'Connor's from Ireland, so I can see why she got upset, but B. that's ridiculous, you don't need to do that; there's no reason to do it, and frankly there's so little reason for it, I don't get why protests by athletes during it haven't occurred more often. It's the first time I remember this happening since, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf in the '90s, and that was partially a Religious protest for him, as far as I can tell that's the only reason to have it, to protest the problems in the country. For the record, I think the Pledge of Allegiance before every class is also total bullshit, but whatever. (5-year-old pledging allegiance to a country, how the hell are we not more screwed up than we are?) I like it when it's the Olympics, at least that makes sense, since you're representing the country, but for a James Madison vs. Columbia field hockey game, or whatever, yeah, I don't know why anybody should give a damn. Anyway, I'm sure hundreds of other have already said something akin to that, so let's get to the movies I didn't get to review this week, and there were a bunch, so I'll try to be quick.

I watched "For a Woman", which I think was supposed this sorta, old-time, sweeping romance epic, eh, it was okay, I don't think it was anything special. Finally got around to "The Anniversary Party", a cute little film from Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming, about one of the Los Angeles party nights that goes too far; probably a little too realistic for some, but I enjoyed it, it was funny and quirky, nice little independent film. I wish I could've written on Frederick Weisman's "National Gallery", he's receiving an Honorary Oscar soon for his lifetime of documentary filmmaking; I really love "At Berkeley" which I wish I had seen earlier than I did, so I could've included it for consideration for my OYL Awards and my Top Ten Lists, "National Gallery", is not that good. "At Berkeley" there was new things going on everywhere you looked, the 4 1/2 hours flew by fast, but the London National Gallery is cool, and there's some interesting behind the scenes stuff, but I still felt like I was on a tour of a museum  for most of it, and yeah, even at it's most entertaining, that can be really trying. It's not horrible or anything, I recommend it, but, yeah, be weary. "Character" was the 1997 Oscar Winner for Best Foreign Language Film, this one was from The Netherlands, but I don't think it was that good. It's one of those movie that's told to us through a conceit that, really makes no sense when you think about it. I think it would in book form, it's based on a famous Dutch novel, but as a film, you're just waiting around for what you know's gonna happen. It should've been a shorter film too, way too much sprawling. And finally, "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan", the latest from Wayne Wang, who's somebody I don't talk enough about, 'cause I really haven't seen his most noteworthy films. He's most noted for "The Joy Luck Club", and one of the few without-a-doubt Hollywood directors who's Asian-American, as in born in America, by the way, don't mention Ang Lee in the comments or something, he was the first big one to breakthrough. He's an okay filmmaker, and I like "Snow Flower..." although it is a bit of a mess at times with multiple stories all connected through the same characters narrative, it's kinda like if "The Fountain", sorta made sense and was written by Ron Bass. But, I enjoyed it, and I'll try to get to "The Joy Luck Club", one day. I-, I know I should, but I have a really low tolerance for Amy Tan sometimes, so.... God, has she ever written anything that wasn't just talking about her mother? I'm sure she has, but I'll be damned if I ever run into it.

Alright, I've held you guys up enough, with a got lots of big movie to review, films from this year, finally, Oscar winners and nominees from last year, and plenty more big films, so let's get to this supersized edition of our MOVIE REVIEWS!


DEADPOOL (2016) Director: Tim Miller (aka An Overpaid Tool)

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Oh-kay, I know I'm not a comic book guy, but who the hell is "Deadpool"?! I mean, are we just making comic book movies out of any damn thing now. I mean, no I don't and didn't exactly know every one of the Avengers, but I had heard of "The Avenger"; up until now, I've at least heard of every single one of the comic book adaptations until now. I knew who Captain America was, I knew Spider-Man of course, I know the Incredible Hulk, I knew Green Lantern, I knew of Iron Man, these are characters that have long histories and are ingrained into pop culture; this is the first time since "Daredevil" that I've honestly found myself at a loss of who the hell this superhero is! Okay, I really thought "Daredevil" was a great film, so that didn't bother me so much. Well, maybe I can go before that, "Blade" I never heard of. And apparently, "Steel" was not only a superhero, but I don't even remember that movie when it came out? Okay, maybe there's been a few ones that I was clueless on going in, but yeah, this is a Marvel film, and the first one recently that has completely left me clueless. I-, came in completely blind on it. so, what makes "Deadpool" interesting enough to have a movie in this universe?

Huh, well the opening credits seem to be some sort of weird indication that this is a little stranger than what I'm used to. (Wait, I'm "used to" these superhero movies now; that can't be the right way to put that. There's gotta be another way to say that; I'm definitely not "used to" them.) A little darker, a little more, self-aware....

(Couple hours later)

Okay, this is definitely one of the more unique films I've ever seen. Apparently "Deadpool" is Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), who I though was Troy Aikman's backup quarterback for the last few years of his career, and he is in the X-Men universe, which I hope is different from the rest of the Marvel universe, 'cause that would be stupid, praising the world of superpowers in "The Avengers" from the Mutants who are fighting for civil rights in the "X-Men", so I hope that's not a thing. (Leave your comments below, Comic Book People) okay, he's particularly murderous and violent and the movie begins with a comical fight with police and multiple flashback about how Deadpool became so. He was always a hitman of sorts, and before that he was Special Forces. Everything was fine, he had a grungy garage, he had his favorite bar, where he can be his anti-social self and occasionally pick up a chick or two or bet on who's gonna be the next person to die; I can think of some strip clubs in Vegas like that. He then falls in love with a local hooker, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) who is delightfully just as egotistical a sociopath as he is, and they engage is some wonderfully eccentric and dubious sexual practice. Deadpool likes pegging apparently, except during lent. (Apparently Deadpool is a Christian as well, huh.) As Deadpool mentions, this film is a love story. And like all great love stories, somebody gets cancer. (Wait, that "Love Story" was terrible, what the hell is he talking about? I'll stand by that, "Love Story" was terrible and "Daredevil" was damn-near great.) Anyway, with death being near, he decides to take up an experimental treatment by somebody who he clearly shouldn't have done that from,  Ajax (Ed Skrein) and it makes him, self-healing, although it also heavily deforms him and apparently what Ajax was doing is essentially inserting a mutant gene into him, to make him a mutant. (Wait, mutants are made, in this universe! Okay, hold on, I've- (Deep breath pause) I've got like a thousand questions; I thought the whole point of X-Men was that they were born mutant, that's why...- okay, you know what, I don't care.) Anyway, the movie is just strange and fun, and different. It's an R-rated, comedy and it's frankly a breath of fresh air in this wave of comic book movies that seem to never end. Yeah, it's way, way too self-aware but you know at this moment in time, I appreciate it. I don't know if I"ll feel the same like five or ten years from now, I'll admit and I don't care if Cable's in the sequel, hell I don't care if there is a sequel, although I do appreciate the John Hughesian way he informed us of that, but for the moment this is just a unique and fun little venture that I can appreciate.


ZOOTOPIA (2016) Directors: Byron Howard and Rich Moore; Co-Director: Jared Bush

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"Zootopia" takes place in a world where animals have become tamed and civilized instead of humans, because Disney is still just fucking with anybody who buys that Disney Universe theory. Wait, this is a Disney movie? Yeah, that was a Disney logo, which is weird, 'cause this movie does seem to feel and resemble more the vain of most Dreamworks movies but anyway-, the title comes from the name of the idyllic big city where all the animals predator and prey live side-by-side with each other and in their own habitat-based areas and it's where a young country rabbit, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) wants to become the first rabbit on the police force. She achieves this, although she finds out that she's not particularly welcomed or for that matter, her work is not particularly satisfying at first. She's resorted to meter maid duty by Chief Bobo (Idris Elba) and she gets conned out of money by a conniving fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman, in a well-cast role this week) who is a hustler, his main one being, reselling ice cream as frozen ice pops. Not thrilled at these developments, she eventually makes her first capture and arrest as she takes out a weasel, Duke Weaselton (Alan Tudyk, doing an amazing Steve Buscemi impression) who seemed to be stealing onions from a store. This earns her enough respect from Bobo, along with some nudging from Bellweather (Jenny Slate) the Assistant to Mayor Lionheart (J.K. Simmons) who's got her back as she says, "Us small animals needs to stick together" and she gets 48 hours to investigate one of the numerous missing mammal cases that has been bogging down the police, in this case, a search for a missing young otter. There's little on the case, but she manages to get Nick to help her sort through the underworld. This leads eventually to Mr. Big (Maurice LaMarche) the local crime boss, and if you don't know the joke that's about to happen due to his name, well, congratulations on recently learning how to read. Mr. Big informs them that the Otter sudden started going crazy and attacked his limo driver, Jerry (John DiMaggio) who then himself soon starts to go through some kind of primal attack phase and attacks both Nick and Judy, seemingly without reason. However, he goes missing after they escape and are unable to turn him into the police. I'm worried, about how much I should give away from here on in, it gets into some of the stranger metaphorical aspects from here and, (Sigh) basically a debate arises about whether or not the predators are actually capable of being tamed and this causes some protests, many of them led by a famous pop singer, Gazelle (Shakira, don't think she's that important to the movie) I'd insert the arbitrary "Insert Donald Trump joke" line here, but honestly it's so blatantly obvious that I don't even think I should do that. I have no idea whether some of this was intentional and it didn't help that I watched this on the day of the first Presidential debate, but, symbolism aside, at it's core, this is actually a pretty routine and basic cop story. Judy Hopps is a good base character, but yeah, there's a lot of animal jokes and puns at the corners of the screen. This isn't a bad movie by any means, in fact, I think I would really enjoy a sequel or even a television series based on it; I suspect it would remind me of something like "Bonkers" only in a more fantastical world, which might actually be more appropriate. (Yeah, I liked "Bonkers" what about it?) That said, the villain reveal was predictable and yeah, I'm not sure we needed a story with so much subtext going on and they beat the moral into the ground, there's a lot of bad, obvious dialogue about it, and to be honest, it's way too simplistic a moral. As an animated movie, it's perfectly fine though, and it's even a decent detective story so I can't necessarily complain too much but this could've definitely been better. And I wasn't crazy about the long music sequence at the end, which, I don't know, maybe it'll get the movie a Best Song Oscar nomination although I was mostly unimpressed by it. I guess the appeal of the movie are the jokes about who does what in this animal Utopia, well, "Zootopia" and some of those I groaned at, like the sloths working at the DMV; I don't know about you, but I always going to the DMV when I'm there, but, yeah, sure, DMV is slow jokes, whatever, but enough of them do hit. I guess I'm very mixed, but it's a recommendation, but yeah, I expect a lot better from Disney.


KNIGHT OF CUPS (2016) Director: Terrence Malick

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There's a smug foreign musician character in "Knight of Cups" played by Antonio Banderas who talks about women as though they're ice cream flavors. It's not a new line, I've heard it many times before from similar characters and I was ready to dismiss it immediately as the ramblings of an egocentric womanizer, but then I thought about it for a second. Most of my closest friends are female, in fact quite a few of them are, I'm not exactly a romantic the way Rick (Christian Bale) the protagonist hero in "Knight of Cups" is, but, the analysis that, we want certain women, based on the mood were in, that's, that's not untrue I hate to say. There's certain people I'd want around me when I want to talk, or when I want to go on an adventure, or who I call for late-night booty, or who I call to just hang and have deep conversations with, and that's true of everybody, we distinguish the people in our lives in many different ways, many different parts of our lives are separated and represented by those people in our lives. I think that's ultimately what "Knight of Cups" is about. I think, at least that's what I got out of it. It's not like Malick has ever given a damn about narrative before and this time, he might as well have completely abandoned it if he in fact didn't, but there are some clues. For starters, the title, for those who aren't familiar, Knight of Cups is a tarot card. Now, I'm borrowing from Wikipedia here, I'm a little rusty on my tarot, but the knight of cups is usually described as somebody who is constantly bored, and in constant need of stimulation. He's also artistic and refined and he represents a person who is amiable, intelligent, full of high principles but he is a dreamer who can easily be persuaded or discouraged. Yeah, this is probably the tarot cards that represents most actors, performers, models, artists, musicians, etc. and if he's upright, he can represent change and new romantic excitements and if he's upside-down, he's an unreliable and reckless fraud who can't discern where truth and lies ends. (Insert your own Donald Trump joke here) That explains a lot of the actions and the character, but tarot in literature in general has a totally separate meaning, when it comes up, it's usually a sign of fraud and false prophets in general, basically, very little good comes when a tarot reader comes into a piece of literature and the person who goes to them for guidance, is usually damned by it. The movie swings widely between Los Angeles, Las Vegas, the desert, mostly experiences in Rick's life, usually with whatever woman he's hanging out at usually it involves some kind of spiritual or sexual journey, or both. Other times, it's just escapist fun. What's he escaping from? Mostly his family, a brother, Barry (Wes Bentley) who seems to mostly be lost in the world, reflecting upon Malick's own brother who committed suicide most suspect. There's also his parents, Joseph and Ruth (Brian Dennehy and Cherry Jones) as well as his job, he's a Hollywood screenwriter who seem completely disinterested in this chosen profession. Another interesting take for Malick, who has spent decades between movies at times. It's actually kinda amazing he's put out this much, three movies in the last five years, on top of a documentary and two more films in production, one's already completed. He seems to have sudden had an incredible burst of creative output and perhaps "Knight of Cups" is his explanation of what he's been doing most of the time when he spent it not making films. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it doesn't surprise me that it starts with quotes from "Pilgrim's Progress" and a scene at a tarot reader with another in his long line of exotic playmates, and by the end, he's in a church, talking to a priest. Does either one lead to answers, or is it all apart of the search. Either way, I found "Knight of Cups" fascinating. It's not "The Tree of Life" or even the underrated "To the Wonder", but it's pure stream of consciousness, it's thoughts and memories divided by ideas on those thoughts and memories, and just like all our they're pretty random. If you all knew about the tangents I go on when I write these reviews that I end up deleting before I publish you'd be thinking I'm going off on sound and fury signifying nothing too. Hmm, sound and fury signifying nothing, kinda like, what you're experiencing when your getting your tarot cards read?


SONGS MY BROTHERS TAUGHT ME (2016) Director: Chloe Zhao

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In some ways, "Songs My Brothers Taught Me" seems more like a mosiac of randomness than "Knight of Cups" does sometimes, although the film it probably has the most in common with is Peter Bogdanovich's "The Last Picture Show". Still though, there were a few narrative threads that the audience could grab ahold of in that film, "Songs...", is much more sporadic, although that's not a bad thing. The movie, the first feature from Writer/Director Chloe Zhao, takes place on the Lakota Reservation, although it's a bit of a stretch calling this a Native-American film since Zhao is actually Chinese-American that was born in Beijing, but then again, there's so few movies about Native Americans, that I'm more-or-less inclined to count this. The movie does have touches that make this feel more like folklore than reality. The main character is named Johnny Winters (John Reddy), it sounds like a name that could've come out of an old western; I almost feel like "Shane" might show up out of nowhere in this film. Johnny is one of 25 kids from their father who had nine wives and now, he's been killed in a fire and the kids are basically on their own, especially since Johnny's mother, Lisa (Irene Bedard) is a born-again Christian, who's barely able to take care of herself and has abandoned her family before, so basically the movie is about how the kids take care of themselves. Johnny for instance is a bootlegger and works in some other illegal activities. His girlfriend Aurelia (Taysha Fuller) is an aspiring lawyer. There's a great scene in a classroom where kids ponder who they think they'll be when they grow up. There's some other relatives and friends that come in and out of the movie, a lot of them are former convicts, few of them are rarely in the most ideal circumstances for themselves. Actually, now that I think about, the movie almost feels like Richard Linklater's "Waking Life", just drifting for one idea and one character to the next and occasionally it focuses in on something or someone it finds interesting. It's narrated by Johnny Winters at times, but that's there mostly for mood and occasionally. Some have compared it to a documentary and yeah, it could be. There's not many professional actors here, and a few people play characters similar to their real names. It's an easy way to get authenticity but it works. "Songs My Brothers Taught Me", is one of the few entries into a modern look at a struggling, dying Native American reservation, and as a film, it's a beautiful mosaic, both mythic in tone and scope, but utterly brutal in it's depiction. This is a very impressive debut feature.


SPECTRE (2015) Director: Sam Mendes

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It feels like yesterday when Daniel Craig was named as the new James Bond, but amazingly "Spectre" is now his fourth film, and it sure feels much seems it will be his last as most of the rumors and news seems to indicate, although who knows for sure. It does feel like it's the end of this reboot era of James Bond; "Spectre" can easily be confused with the most traditional James Bond film yet that Daniel Craig's done, and let's be clear, it's been a great run for James Bond and this strange attempt to reboot and start the franchise over from the literal beginning. I might argue that "Casino Royale" might be the best James Bond movie, it's right up there with "Goldfinger" in my mind, and it's interesting that they did make a somewhat unusual decision to connect all these Craig movies. "Quantum of Solace" is definitely the weakest of the bunch and not a good movie, but I can forgive it as an experimental take on the Bond franchise and with "Skyfall", another damn-near great Bond film, and another experimental one that focused also more on M than on Bond, himself, was a link movie that could conceivably be the end of the origin story of James Bond and now we come to the more to "Spectre", is this the end? Well, we get a lot of the traditional Bond tropes here, the complicated relationship with, well in this case, the new M (Joseph Fiennes) who's taken over for Dame Judi Dench, although her character is not forgotten, and we even see for the first time, the Craig Bond going to Q (Ben Winshaw) for gadgets and supplies for the next mission, which Bond is not technically supposed to be going on, but he's convinced Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) to help him out, and I love how Q is actually more of a computer and hacking expert as opposed to just being the gadget guy in think iteration, especially since the entire movie is based around the idea of privacy and a MI-6 merger, at the behest of one of the lesser villains in this film, C, (Andrew Scott) who is determined to eliminate the Double-0 program in favor of information gathering and drones. He's the weak link as there's no two sides to him. Bond gets a Bond girl too in this one that's brought along for the ride, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux, which is about as obvious a casting choice this film could've made) the daughter of a former enemy of Bond, Mr. White, (Jesper Christiansen, who's appeared in a couple of these recent Bond films as well) who's life is in danger by "Spectre", Soon however, Bond's worldwide investigating and searching leads to Spectre,  a secret group of international supervillains, led by [CHARACTER NAME DELETED] (Christoph Waltz, in a shockingly even more obvious casting choice than Lea Seydoux's) who is pretty perfect here to be honest. If ever there was an actor who was born to be a Bond villain, it's Christoph Waltz. I'm not sure this is a special Bond film, it's definitely as intense and entertaining as the best of them, but yeah, this movie seems to be trying to have it all. It's continuing the same story from the previous films, actually making it more the focus and elaborating on it more than ever in fact, but it's also clearly, pushing the James Bond character and persona back into it's older tropes. I don't quite know what to make of it, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. It feels like a great piece of ridiculous popcorn action entertainment the way Bond movies are, so I guess it works here, and works well. Sam Mendes was always a strange choice to take over the franchise but I can't say there's anything wrong with him as a director here, but the action makes sense and continues onward, it's not simply Bond's story, there's numerous other characters on both good and evil's side that are growing and fascinating, the new characters work as well, and the action scenes are intense Craig's great stoneface reactions even during the most death-defying and comedic of moments, is quite enjoyable. It might not be the best Bond, and maybe not the way I'd like to see Craig leave, if he does, the franchise, I don't think I can ask more of a Bond movie than I got here.


JOY (2015) Director: David O. Russell

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So there's quite a few things I like to believe I'm capable or have in fact done at some point, but "inventor" is definitely not one of them. I consider myself creative and most people who know me will agree with that, but actually inventing something, a product, something that's physical, built with one's hands, um, yeah, I gotta be honest, that's something that I've never fully been able to accomplish, not even in the slightest. I can't even pretend to claim that I came up with an idea before others came up with that idea and patented it. I-eh, it's truly embarrassing the few attempts I've ever tried to make in the world of inventing, so I have a great respect for people who actually are physically able to take an abstract idea and make it a concrete reality and are willing to file all those patents and copyrights and follow through on the business side of things. So yeah, I can almost guarantee that I will never be on "Shark Tank". So, for that reason alone, I have an affection for "Joy" David O. Russell's latest feature. The film is the story of Joy Mangano (Oscar-nominee Jennifer Lawrence) the inventor of the self-wringing mop. The Miracle Mop, which allows you to wring out without having to squeeze it yourself, which is exactly the kind of idea I never would've been able to have, truly genius. She was a single mother, who's husband Tony (Edgar Ramirez) lived in their basement as he struggled away being a lounge singer, her mother Terry (Virginia Madsen, who still get enough decent work) sits at home most days taping, rewatching and being obsessed with her favorite soap operas. (Man, is it nice to see Susan Lucci on a movie screen, ain't it?) Her father, Rudy (Robert De Niro) runs a mechanic shop has also suddenly been forced to move back in after breaking up with his last girlfriend, only to dive right into another, Trudy (Isabella Rossellini). If it seems like I'm describing a different movie, uh-yeah, it does seem like a discombobulated mess at times, "Joy". Russell's always been a bit tonally-erratic in his films, even his best films, and that's the thing that makes his so special as a director, but it's also what makes him so erratic and this is one of the erratic ones. I'm recommending it, because of Lawrence's performance, as well as the performances of others and the parts that are intriguing as done really well, but it's still a bit of a mess overall. Bradley Cooper shows up, as he does in Russell movies with Lawrence now, as Neil Walker, although I don't quite understand how his character is written. After they're unable to sell the product to other mop companies or get into retailers on their own, Joy takes a shot on getting the product on a little-known cable company based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania called Quality Value Convenience. Yeah, I didn't know that's what QVC stood for either, so I made sure to write it down. Actually this look inside the early days of QVC is quite interesting, and we get some glimpse of their process, like how their early idea to have celebrities branding and selling items basically invented that empire. There's a slightly surreal cameo where we see Melissa Rivers, portraying Joan Rivers, shockingly well, and Joy's fight to get her product on the network, portrayed as she wants it done, even if that means selling it herself. There's also a fight she has with the manufacturers that could've been a whole other movie, but that gets settled quickly. Honestly, it's worth a watch, but this is a mess of a movie. The structure is all weird, the Great Grandmother (Diane Ladd) narrator feels like it was from an earlier draft and just never got written out. "Joy" is a nice little story, but it is a little story, it's enough of one for Russell and co-writer Annie Mumolo, who co-wrote "Bridesmaids" with Kristen Wiig, to take and twist using his typical eccentricities to make pop on the screen, but it's not really enough of a story to make a movie. I'm torn on this one, but I guess I'll recommend it, for mostly being good despite that issue, but yeah, this is one of Russell's weaker films. It's still a million times better than "Accidental Love" though.


ANOMALISA (2015) Directors: Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson

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I had heard that Charlie Kaufman had started working in the world of animation for awhile, he worked on the series, "Moral Oral", but until now I haven't seen his work in that medium and this introduction to it, is, well, it's definitely him and definitely unique. At first it doesn't quite seem that way, in fact for much of the movie I wondered why he was even bothering with the animation; this is a film that technically could very easily be shot and made with live-action. Technically, it could, but still, there was something going on. I didn't bother looking into the voice actors before looking into the film but I started realizing something weird about them very quickly. The main character, Richard Stone (David Thewlis) would run into or talk to people as he left the airport and checked into his Cincinnati hotel room, The Fregoli, and it was startling how, everybody seemed to sound the same. Especially the women all seemed to have the same voice. Eventually I realized what was going on, and indeed everybody sounded the same, for a reason; it was the same voice actor, (Tom Noonan) playing "Everybody Else", and this includes Richard's wife and kid, a taxi driver, a waiter, a worker at a sex shop, even an ex-girlfriend named Bella that he meets up and has a drink with, in a desperate attempt to...-, well I probably shouldn't say what he's searching for. Actually I probably couldn't say if I tried. He's in town because he's a motivational speaker 'cause he wrote some business self-help book about customer service of all things and he's surprisingly popular because of it. Still, why that choice? Well, I can think one Charlie Kaufman scene that that reminds me of, that great scene in "Being John Malkovich" where Malkovich has gone into his own portal, although there's also something else from that movie that's he's brought into here, puppets. His choice of animation is stop-motion, and yeah, that sounds about right. Everything is stop-motion, including a really surreal scene where they recreate a scene of "My Man Godfrey" that Richard watches on TV in his room for a moment. (That's really impressive when you realize that they didn't have to do that.) He eventually does leave the confines of his hotel room, and he goes and hangs out with a couple girls staying at the hotel Emily and Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Lisa, is the one that the movie is titled after and yes, she's the only other performer in the movie and it's obvious to both Richard and us that she's someone special. I won't explain why she is, but it's when the movie really shines when the two of them end up together in his room and have a sweet and sensitive flirtation that leads to their one-night stand. (And yes, it's shown, the one-night stand, this is the first R-rated movie to receive an Oscar nomination for Outstanding Animated Feature) There's a lot in this movie, a lot of implications and dreamy nightmarish surreal imagery that feel right out of the most nightmarish Kaufman scenarios he's ever come up with, and yet strangely, if you were to ask me what exactly is "Anomalisa" about, I'd probably tell you that it's basically about the moments between these two people at this exact moment when they're meeting each other and nothing else. Not even necessarily the implications that they're shared experiences entails, not even necessarily the personal demons that Richard's fighting in his mind that cause him to have the breakdown at his speaking engagement. Strangely, the movie this may actually most remind me of is Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation" also about two strangers in the same foreign hotel who shared their time with each other while they have the few moments together they have. That's probably what truly makes Lisa such an amazing character, especially in Richard's eyes, 'cause they simply empathize with each other, or at least, she can empathize with him and he wants desperately to empathize with her, or somebody. It actually makes sense, with how we see the world in general, everybody can essentially be blurs who we sort through and disregard until we get to the person we really want to be with and learn about. In terms of Kaufman's most famous themes, human nature and the comedy thereof, as and the constant struggles of connecting the thoughts in our mind to the realities of the world, this movie is ironically his most bare and straightforward; even the gimmicks aren't really gimmicks that he's imploring here. It's probably the animation that helps remind us just how real these missed connections and our distrustful paranoia thoughts actually are. You know, so many movies, even great movies, I can watch and experience and enjoy and they don't necessarily stick with you afterwards, but "Anomalisa" is a movie that I've done nothing but think about ever since I saw it, and whether you appreciate or even like it after seeing it, I'm pretty sure most will be thinking about it as well.


45 YEARS (2015) Director: Andrew Haigh

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I've spent a couple days now thinking back on "45 Years", the latest from Andrew Haigh, who made previously made the wonderful, "Weekend" which took place, over a weekend and gave us a glimpse into the sexual and personal escapades into a couple's life, both men and both of them, pretty young comparably, in their mid-to-late twenties. I remember liking that film, but I remember the tone of that movie more than anything else. He also has done the critically-acclaimed HBO comedy series, "Looking", which I've only seen an episode or two of and I don't really think I got a grasp of that film. It's somewhere between "Queer as Folk" and "Girls", but I couldn't tell you where on that spectrum it is. So, he is interested in the personal dynamics of relationships and, in general that's always gonna be a good place to be, there's always gonna be interesting aspect to explore there, but it's still a little strange that he jumped to looking at the relationship between a much older couple in "45 Years". (He himself, at the time of making the movie, he himself was only in his early '40s.) Kate and Geoff Mercer (Oscar-nominee Charlotte Rampling, his first nomination, which is wrong on a 100 different levels and Tom Courtenay) are celebrating their 45th Anniversary in a week, and it's a big celebration. They were supposed to have this huge party for their 40th, but it had to be cancelled because Geoff was going through a medical scare at the time, so their making up for it here. A week before, Geoff gets a letter about an ex-girlfriend, Katya. a few years before they met, Katya fell into an ice crevice off of a Swiss mountain, frozen in ice and now, they believe to have found her. Ice melting or whatever, they've found her frozen preserve body. Kate's never heard or known about Katya until now, and ever since the news, he's started reflecting on her more, and it's starting to infiltrate their marriage and giving Kate second thoughts and realizations as they inch closer to their Anniversary party in a week. Geoff's behavior starts to change. He starts seeking out old photos and writing of Katya, even old scents. He claims he's over her and is still in love with Kate, but Kate isn't so sure. Rampling's seen in every shot of the movie and it's a really good, subtle performance. The movie itself..., well, the movie it reminds me the most of is oddly, "The Dead", John Huston's last film, which was based on the James Joyce short story of the same name. That movie was also about, essentially a couple who share in a revelation one of them has after it's revealed that one of them was in love with someone else who passed before they met and they never actually go over their passing. That revelation was at the end of the movie though, here it's at the beginning and therefore it doesn't just reflect on the revelation it really dives into all the thoughts and realizations that something like that can mean, to have spent one's whole life not realizing that the person they love and have spent their entire life with was in love with someone else, or maybe was never in love with you? Or was never the person you thought they were to begin with. That's what makes "45 Years" stick with you; it's explores that thought, but still leaves us pondering it's implications, long after the party is over.


THE 100-YEAR-OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED (2015) Director: Felix Herngren

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Most of the reviews, both positive and negative I read about, (Deep breath inhale) "The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared" (Exhale), seem to be insistent on comparing the movie to "Forrest Gump". Honestly, that wasn't a movie that came to my mind when I was watching it; it actually kinda reminded me more of one of those sprawling whimsical foreign movie that maybe Lasse Hallstrom used to make, although definitely more like one of his lesser ones. I do get the comparison to "Forrest Gump" though, but that movie, say what you want about it, it never felt like it lagged, it always went from one thing to the other fairly smoothly. "The 100-Year-Old Man..." goes from one thing to another, but it's also gets sidetracked quite a bit. The centenarian is Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson) who was spending his twilight years at a nursing home along with his pet dog Molotov until he was killed by a fox. He then decided to blow up the fox, which he does and then, he climbs out the window and heads for the train station. While there, he steals a suitcase and then takes the next train to where nobody in particular is and steals a suitcase that a skinhead named Bulten (Simon Sappenen) insisted he watch for him. Eventually, the police, lead by Chief Investigator Aronsson (Ralph Carlsson) eventually realize he's missing and now it's a chase movie, except it's not. It's part quirky chase movie and part faux biopic where we see Allan throughout the years, from as young as nine, and seeing his father get killed after trying to start a political movement after inventing the condom, to his fascination with dynamite that led to prison sentences and then joining the Spanish-American War where he befriended Franco (Koldo Losada) to crossing the Ocean and eventually working on the Manhattan Project, 'cause again, he's an explosion expert/enthusiast and it does go from major historical event to major historical event from there. Honestly, I found most of these ventures, interesting, I think I preferred the bumbling attempts to catch him as they chase him as opposed to these little vignettes, although they had their moments. I'm told that Robert Gustafsson is considered one of the great comedians in Sweden and this film became one of the most successful Swedish films of all-time, ranking 3rd in worldwide box office, only behind two of the "The Millennium Trilogy" movies. The movie was nominated for an Oscar for it's makeup, which is actually quite subtle and impressive, although the last time a movie got nominated most notably for making a young comic actor look like he was a thousand years old was "Bad Grandpa", so I hope to god that doesn't mean that Robert Gustafsson is Sweden's version of Johnny Knoxville. As to the movie; I was bored through most of it. There's two sides to the movie, the modern-day escape and chase and the historical comedic fumblings through life part, and neither one really fully engrasped me. Eh, maybe this works on some level better over in Europe, but the two clashing movies for me, just never really gelled.


SISTERS (2015) Director: Jason Moore

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Well, let's start with the obvious, "Sisters" is a much better movie than the previous Tina & Amy film collaboration, "Baby Mama", which, admittedly I didn't think was horrible but it certainly wasn't a special or memorable piece of comedy and didn't show either of them at their comedic best. Hell, Poehler was playing a teenage girl in that film despite being in her late thirties when the film was made and while she was talented enough and did look young enough to pull that off, it didn't seem natural and frankly that conceit works better in an "SNL" sketch than a feature film. But, here, both of them coming off multiple successful films and television shows and co-host the Golden Globes three or four times together, yeah, they basically already are "Sisters" in our mind, comedy-wise, talent-wise, backgrounds, they're pretty much paired together forever as though they are sisters. Hell, they even won the Guest Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy together this year. So just on that conceit, I'm practically already half-way to recommending "Sisters", and the movie itself is enough to put it over. This time Amy is Maura Ellis, the more adult, in terms of behavior at least of the Ellis sisters. She's a long-divorced nurse who helps with the homeless and whoever else needs it whenever she can and basically spent her life as the party mom, especially to her sister Kate (Fey) who is the fuck-up. She's had multiple jobs and homes, and none of them have ever set, and she's so barely capable of being a single parent to her much more mature daughter Haley (Madison Davenport) who herself spends all her time away from her daughter, staying at more mature friends and relatives, waiting for her to graduate college or her mother to get herself together, whichever comes first. Then, they find out that their parents, Bucky and Deana (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) are selling their childhood home and both of them suddenly find their way home to Orlando to convince them to stop. They're already too late as they've moved into a retirement community. With a few days before the final inspections, they decide to go out with a bang, and throw one last legendary Ellis Sister party, for all their old hometown friends. Essentially, this is any movie where the parents are gone for the weekend and the teenagers throw the party that eventually destroys the house. but this is a good twist on it. You get all the great comedy actors around to play their high school friends and enemies, most of whom are well into their adult lives, and decide to spend this night to put the kids to bed early and have that one last sex, drugs and rock'n'roll night of debauchery, or as close as they can get. This is actually surprisingly fairly common when old high school classmates get together, I can say that from experience, although, no, houses don't usually get this irrevocably destroyed, but then again, I don't think there were any "Sisters" quite like these two. There's some great supporting work from Samantha Bee, Maya Rudolph, John Leguizamo, Bobby Moynihan, Rachet Dratch, Kate McKinnon, most strangely enough John Cena, again, boy after this and "Trainwreck" it's really startling just how good a comic actor Cena can be. I'm not even being facetious, I'm half-expecting to do a great job hosting the Oscars in a year or two at the rate he's going. (Shrugs) Who knew? "Sisters" isn't anything deep or great but it's certainly a lot of great fun and it's just some great comediennes at the top of their game and, well, not necessarily "having fun", 'cause it's not a "fun" movie, like an "Ocean's Eleven" or something, they take it seriously the drama and the comedy and it's just a great showcase for some of the best in the game do what they do best and doing it together, which they all do better at than anyone else as well.


THE INTERN (2015) Director: Nancy Meyers

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Wow, it's been quite a while since Nancy Meyers sprung on us her latest tightly-wrapped secret project, six years. That's by far the longest break she's ever had between films. She has a tendency to be a bit of a punchline in the same way that say, Nora Ephron was before she passed away a few years ago, and it's- it's not hard to see why. Both of them seemed to write and sometimes direct these very idyllic light comedic; "idyllic" in the sense that they usually focus on what some might consider the upper yuppie crowd of elites who don't have real problems and seem to have houses and lives that are generally way out of proportion to their occupations. They're fantasies for the most part and that's not inherently a bad thing; I myself actually quite like a lot of her films. Her last film, "It's Complicated" was a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, cause Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin and Meryl Street really sold their performances and characters, and I believe there's a lot to like about "The Holiday", it's got some problems sure, but I think it holds up pretty well. She even started off her career pretty well, getting an Oscar nomination for co-writing "Private Benjamin" with Charles Shyer among other and they collaborated on their project for a while until Meyers went into directing and is probably more accurate person to compare to Meyers. Shyer's not a bad director by any means, but you can legitimately call him a hack; he's got more than a few modern-day remakes on his resume, Decent ones, like "Alfie" and both "Father of the Bride" films, and he was a producer on Nancy Meyers's first directing project, the remake of "The Parent Trap", the one with Lindsay Lohan. So yeah, they fit together in more ways than one, and they shouldn't step too far outside of this light comedy realm, especially if you've seen Shyer's worst film, "The Affair of the Necklace", yikes. But, back to Meyers, and like I said, I don't really hate a lot of her films, but I think it wasn't until "The Intern" did I really kinda realize what her actual problem is as a writer. Well, "problem" is the wrong word, but her limitation, is that, she's not really writing drama as she is, "Adventure". I know, "Adventure films" and Nancy Meyers don't seem to go together, but think it through, "Private Benjamin" a young privileged white woman makes a rash decision to join the U.S. Army and then, things happen. Her second screenplay, "Irreconcilable Differences", a young Drew Barrymore sues her parents for emancipation and things happens, (Sometimes these films end up weirdly prophetic). "Baby Boom", A workaholic professional Diane Keaton suddenly has to deal with taking care of a baby, and things happen. About the only time she sticks to a formula is when it's basically already provided for her, like the screenplays for the "Father of the Bride" remakes. everything else is basically a situation that's extended into a film. "Something's Gotta Give" is a pretty good example, arguably her best and most famous directing work, a lot happens in that movie, and there's multiple romances and partner switching, although strangely none of it involving a Frances McDormand character that has absolutely nothing to do, not quite sure how she pulled that off, but what it's really about is this one thing that happened on a weekend, this old Jack Nicholson character had a heart attack. The whole movie revolves around that, even the Diane Keaton character writes the weekend into a play in the film, but basically the movie is a long game of "Yes, and" that seemed to be her answer to "As Good As It Gets". And then, the young doctor comes in and starts hitting on the mother, and then, she's having an affair, and then,... "The Holiday", two women switch houses for a couple weeks, Meryl Streep revels in the adventure of dating two men, they're not about conflict, like most drama and most comedy should be, they're about, going on this little journey that these characters never went on before and that's it. That can be good, but there's a reason why it's possible you've seen every movie I've mentioned that she's been apart of and this is the first time you've thought about them ever since seeing them. "The Intern" is maybe the worst iteration of this yet, it's about a retired old man, Ben (Robert De Niro), who decides, to take a job as a Senior Intern, emphasis on "Senior" at an internet startup company, more specifically working as the personal assistant to the company's boss, Jules (Anne Hathaway) a young entrepreneur who runs of those non-traditional office environments. More relaxed dress code, open space, she rides her bike all over the office to get in exercise and get from place-to-place quicker, very hands on approach, but you know, it's definitely more Zappos than it is Wall Street. And there's a lot of good potential here with this idea, there's a good deal that can come of this, on both sides and De Niro is underrated as a comic actor and Hathaway is more-than-capable of this material, and we get some, but not a lot. Mostly we end up getting a nice touching little friendship bloom, but the only real pieces of drama are about whether or not Jules will hire a CEO to help run her company. No, I'm dead serious, that's the conflict, her conflict, "Do I hire a CEO?". Well, I won't spoil whether she does or not, but that's-, I mean, I like inner conflict as much as the next guy but, holy hell, that's not dramatic. It's so not dramatic that we don't get a better sense of why this is a conflict until much later in the movie when we dig into her personal life, involving her house-husband Matt (Anders Holm) who we find out is having an affair. Ben gets a lovelife too, as he starts going with another one of the older co-workers, Fiona (Rene Russo) but that's a pretty minor subplot. There's some nice backstory about Ben that we learn about, he used to work for a phone book company for instance, and he's been bored since his wife passed, but yeah, there's nothing going on in this movie. It's a fun little adventure for Ben to peak on this world for a little bit, and make some friends and do some minor work for a new kind of company, and learn how to use a modern computer, but he doesn't really change during the movie, and it's hard to even say Jules changes too. Like I said, it's a nice little adventure, and sometimes that's enough to carry a film, you need more than this to make a good one.


THE GIRL IN THE BOOK (2015) Director: Marya Cohn

✰✰✰1/2



The strength of "The Girl in the Book" is that it's story is told well, not that it's told in any particularly different or unique way. It's flaw is that, in hindsight it feels rather simplistic. Now, that's not inherently a bad thing, but when you do break it down, it still seems like a story about a grown-up fuck-up and then we find out, why she's such a fuck-up as an adult, and of course it's something that happened to her as a kid. That's not a criticism, it's psychology more than anything else, The movie begins with Alice Harvey (Emily VanCamp) a 29-year-old junior book publisher and writer, who's mostly trying to work her way up, although it's not exactly easy for her, although she's not exactly trying hard either. She's got writer's block and she spends her nights drinking and getting laid, she's a bit of a mess, not quite Charlize Theron's character in "Young Adult", but not far off either. But then soon, someone re-enters her life, a famous author named Milan (Michael Nyqvist) who became famous years earlier for writing a novel that was based on their relationship, when she was a fifteen-year-old (Ana Mulvoy-Ten). The movie cuts back and forth between the past and the present and the thing that I felt was most interesting was the actual relationship and yeah, how the line between predator and lust in blurred to say the least. Well, actually it's not that blurry to be honest, but it is knieving. I don't think we know whether or not it was his plan all along as he befriending and started mentoring Alice as a writer but it very easily could've been, or maybe the actual fact that they were together so often and getting to know each other led to his infatuation. He's never had a more successful-selling novel since and the thing that he's most known for from that novel is how accurately he was able to portray the teenage girl, and he's constantly bombarded with questions from reporters about how he was able to do that so well. The film is the debut feature from Marya Cohn, who has one of those Imdb resumes that I'd make fun of if it wasn't for the fact that it's probably gonna look similar to mine in the future. Despite some sporadic work in the early nineties, she's spent the last twenty years as a professor at NYU and it's clear that this is a more professional-looking film than one would expect for a debut feature. I don't know however, I still feel disconnected with the movie, I'm sitting through a third time now as I write this and I just can help but think that there's more powerful films of this nature. "Blue Car" comes to mind, which is a film that took place entirely with the main character as a teenager, but there were other differences with that film, for instance, we also saw the main character's troubled home life that lead to her spending more time with, in that film it was a high school teacher, and the eventual affair was a sudden act of betrayal as much as anything else. In here, as a young girl, she's portrayed very naively and innocently. That's probably more realistic but I'm not quite sure it entirely holds up, us seeing where she was and then see who she would become. Or, at least who she is now. That still feels like a nitpick but for the most part, "The Girl in the Book" does this pretty well, and it's only in hindsight do you really start to somewhat question it as a story, as a film, it's really well-acted and well-told and does a great job at skimming over some of the more coincidental and cliched parts of the movie. I look forward to Marya Cohn's next film, to see if I can get a better grasp of her style and intent and maybe take another look at "The Girl in the Book" later and see if I can get a better appreciation of it. Still, it's quite good though for what it is.


THE GIFT (2015) Director: Joel Edgerton

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I'm a bit shocked to see such universal praise laid onto Joel Edgerton's "The Gift". I know he's an in-actor right now, and he has come up with a good film before as he wrote the screenplay for the Coen-esque Australian film noir, "The Square" which also deals with a few characters in a crime story that revolves around the past and leads to violence, but "The Gift"? This movie really highly-praised and I'm barely recommending it despite the fact that the movie really left me with a sinking feeling that I was basically watching the worst kind of despicable characters the ones who don't realize how despicable they are. Of course that might be because I'm sick of Jason Bateman playing this character. Bateman is Simon and him and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are returning to his hometown of Chicago after many years and coincidentally they run into Gordo (Edgerton) an old high school classmate of Simon. When I say that I'm tired of Bateman playing this character, I mean, this swarmy character that he plays that seems and sincere because he's nice and sincere from his image and possibly his character from "Arrested Development" but then there's been many movie roles where that percentage has been circumvented in order to make his character be more of an asshole. Here, he's an asshole. Not that, he's necessary wrong at how he's been alarmed at Gordo's behavior as they begin trying to befriend him. He's a bit of an awkward fellow, and apparently he was also somewhat like that in the past as well. After a few times he's an uninvited and sometimes invited guest and some of his actions are weird, they ask him to not be around so much. Then suddenly, they believe he has been acting out when they're not there, and some other suspicious activities that makes them call the police, but there's not much for them to be able to do. As the movie goes on, it becomes more clear, (Well, more clear to an audience who hasn't seen this shtick from Bateman recently/before) Or better, it becomes more clear, just who Bateman is, at least to his wife, who starts investigating the purported incidents that involved Simon and Gordo back in high school, and what exactly happened between them. She herself has just suffered a miscarriage and is recovering from a drug addiction, but she's seeing things clearly to know that there's a problem. Honestly, I'm debating whether to recommend this movie or not. I think it's not particularly shocking where it goes, while the revelation are interesting and how they're revealed is unique, I basically could figure out the few possible scenarios that the film could play out. I know some believe that Bateman helped this movie, and for what it's worth, it is a good performance, but I think that it was really bad casting. In fact, I think this film would've been better had Edgerton and Bateman switched roles. It would mean Edgerton would have to direct himself act, probably than he'd like or want to do but I think it would work better. You just know that he's untrustworthy from the beginning and I guess the reveal is how untrustworthy but I don't think that works as well as others think. There is a lot done well, the acting, the directing is quite skillful and the fact that he is trying something a little different with what would typically be a more traditional genre piece and for the most part he succeeds, although all I basically saw was a reminder that bullies are awful in high school and when they grow up they turn out to be awful adults. Not an untrue fact necessarily, but it's not exactly as entertaining a thing to discover as I thing Mr. Edgerton thinks it is, especially when, it's pretty clear-cut pretty early that that's what he is.


APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR (2015) Director: Desiree Akhavan

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I've seen a couple reviews of "Appropriate Behavior" immediately compare the film to Lena Dunham's "Girls", which (Shrugs) I guess isn't a terrible comparison, although I think a more appropriate comparison might be something like "(500) Days of Summer", it's a nonlinear story about Shirin (Director Desiree Akhavan), a young Persian-American Brooklynite who's struggling to get through her breakup with her loved one, Maxine, (Rebecca Henderson) while also struggling to go forward in her career. She's a not-out bisexual, at least to her traditional Persian family and the movie goes back and forth from during and after the relationship and breakup and see how during both parts, how she's a trainwreck of a person who stumbles away through her late '20s. She goes from girls to guys in terms of affairs, she's needy, she's desperate to show she's doing well even when it's clear she's not, and she's barely capable of holding down a job. She somehow manages to get one as a film teacher for five-year-olds, which itself is a bit of a yuppie thing to have, although even barely being able to make sure the kids don't break the camera, she's doing well enough to keep the job according to Ken (Scott Adsit) one of the parents of one of the kids that got her the job. Akhavan wrote and directed the film and it's more about the tone that the story, and she does an amazing job, the movie and performance, in a very different way, reminds me of Jenny Slate's in "Obvious Child" another similar movie about a lost New York 20-something. It's a mess structurally, but as an emotional journey into her mind, it's quite powerful and I never knew where the film was going next. "Appropriate Behavior" is a really strong first film from a very talented young writer/director/actress, and I can't wait to see where her career goes from her. Perhaps and HBO show would be a nice next step....


EAST SIDE SUSHI (2015) Director: Anthony Lucero

✰✰1/2



Honestly, there's not much to say about "East Side Sushi", which is infuriating for a critic like me. There's nothing really wrong with it, in fact, it's kinda cute, delightful, there's nothing in it that will in any way offend or shock anybody and it's a perfectly pleasant little film with a few really cool characters. I'm not recommending it, barely, but I'm not gonna stop anybody from watching it, it's just that, it's nothing new or special. I've seen this movie before, many times, and this is a very cute, first movie, light version of that story. And, even taking into account that it's a food movie, which, yes, I'm a foodie, I'll admit that, but I've seen this done as a foodie movie before too. It's-, well, not technically the first feature film from writer/director Anthony Lucero, he directed a documentary very early in his career, but most of his recent credits, curiously were in either editing or especially in visual effects until now. That would normally worry me, considering the last movie I saw from a guy who had little more than a visual effects background that moved to directing, (Ugh, I still get nightmares about "Snow White & the Huntsman", how the fuck did that movie get a sequel?!) but no, this guy is definitely a capable director, although some more experience behind the camera will make him better. The movie is about a single mother Mexican chef Juana (Diana Elizabeth Torres) who's struggling to get and keep work. She at first has a fruit stand, that gets robbed and in desperation for work, she starts working at a Japanese restaurant instead. At first, she and her family are unsure of what to make of it, these new tastes and flavors, but one of the restaurant's chefs, Aki (Yutaka Takeuchi) takes her under his wing, despite the admonish of Mr. Yoshida (Roji Oyama), his boss, who doesn't think a woman and a Mexican woman at that can make a good sushi chef. If you've seen one of the thousand of movies with this plot, you can pretty much guess point-by-point how this plays out, including the Sushi contest that she enters at the end, which had a nice touch of only being shown online, something surprisingly realistic for a small movie, but I was bored. Maybe if it was gone through, maybe one more draft of the script, I might recommend it, there was some dialogue that was a bit, lacking in nuance and very direct, that could've been improved upon, but I don't know, I can't be too harsh on "East Side Sushi". For what it is, it works well enough, and I can't bring myself to tell someone not to see it. If you run into it, it's a fine little indy, but I think Lucero can do better for his next film, and I've just seen this story too many times before. It's a very reluctant negative review.


MAX (2015)

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Ugh, why am I reviewing this. Oh God, okay, so, "Max". Not, "Mad Max...", just "Max". I can think of one pretty good movie called "Max", that starred John Cusack and was about Adolf Hitler's years as an artist, but that's not the film I'm talking about, this one's about a dog. A military dog actually, who was trained and fought alongside a soldier, Kyle Wincott (Robbie Amell), however his trainer gets killed during an attack and now homeside, the dog has suffered from PTSD, (Which, is apparently a thing, I looked it up.) Kyle's family, decides to take the dog, especially since he's taken a particular liking to Kyle's younger brother Justin (Josh Wiggins). Kyle doesn't quite get along with his parents, Ray and Pamela (Thomas Haden, Church and Lauren Graham-,what the hell-, ugh! Sigh, really? You remember when the whole thing of "Gilmore Girls" was that she had her kid when she was like, 15 or something, so she was clearly too young to normally have a high school-age daughter and still young enough to be a cool sex symbol, who you can easily see as a flirtatious quirky hot girl? (Sigh) Yeah, and now she's just playing a regular mother character in everything these days. God she's been so poorly typecast over the years.) who haven't really seen eye-to-eye with Kyle over the years. Kyle spends most of his day on the couch, playing and sometimes downloading video games to sell to others, and generally rebelling against the actions of his brother and his father who was a hero marine during the Kuwait War and Kyle looked up to. He now runs a storage place that Kyle should be working at, but he's not interested. After Max gets close to him however, he starts to change and gains a bit of responsibility, along with a girlfriend, Carmen (Mia Xitiall) a cousin of his friend, Chuy (Dejon LaQuake) who's a bit of an exaggerated Mexican stereotype, but he means well. (Sigh) Why am I ...- ugh,- anyway, there's also Tyler (Luke Kleintank) who is a fellow marine and Kyle's best friend, except he's a bad guy, because-, um, uh, well, because, frankly, and it's him and his actions, which mostly involve, getting his friend killed, stealing weapons before being discharged from the military and then heading home to where he sells guns and weapons to Mexican gangs, and...- why I am watching this? This kids' film about a dog, I mean, it's got a few things that's cool about it, but, I mean, why not make a movie about a military dog in the military and leave it there, make it a war movie, not this sanitized kids movie, with so many extra cliches that weren't needed. Why am I-, wait, I forgot to put who Directed this, who did direct this?

Director: Boaz Yakim

Oh no, I like him! Is that why this thing flew up my Netflix! Goddammit! (Sigh) Okay, um, I'm gonna have to back up here, Boaz Yakim is not necessarily a household, but you're probably more familiar with his work than you think. He started out as a hack screenwriter in Hollywood and fater being really frustrated with one film, he left for Paris, swearing that he wouldn't return until he had created something truly special and when he finally did, four years later, he made one of the most underrated movies of the 1990s, "Fresh", a wonderful film about an inner-city kid who ends up using his smarts and skillset learned through playing chess with a mysterious father figure in the park, to take down multiple gangs and seek revenge for their violence. It's really that should be mentioned in the same breath as "Boyz N the Hood" and "Menace II Society", but I doubt most people even remember that film. Since then, he's still made some good movies, albeit, usually under his more traditional Hollywood umbrella, most notably, he wrote and directed "Remember the Titans". which isn't anything special even for a sports movie, but it's still a pretty damn good one. He's even worked on some interesting screenplay, most recently the "Now You See Me" films. He's got an eclectic resume. but (Sigh), yeah, I normally don't bag on him, because you know, there's nothing wrong with selling out and making blockbusters and family films, and he can do them well, and yeah, I've forgiven the "From Dusk Till Dawn 2..."'s and "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" and "Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time" which sounds like a sequel like the other two but unfortunately wasn't, 'cause he's got one really good one, and like Orson Welles, that's all you really need, and sure, he might have his heart in the right place here, but I-eh, I know how much more talented he can be, and yeah, this might be the last straw here for me. Even in this family film subgenre he can and has done much better, on page and on screen. So yeah, Mr. Yakim, I think it might be time to take a couple years off in Paris again, just a suggestion.





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