Thursday, May 11, 2017

Guest Review: Manchester by the Sea (2016)

by Koshcat

I recently watched Manchester by the Sea, which won the award for Best Screenplay, starring Casey Affleck, which he won a Best Actor Academy Award. It was written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan who also wrote Gangs of New York.

The plot is fairly straight forward. (Spoiler Alerts) Lee Chandler (Affleck) has experienced a horrible tragedy losing his family. He is more than depressed and has completely checked out of life. He now works as a janitor for minimum wage and living quarters which is a small, one-room, basement apartment in Boston. The only time he feels anything is when he drinks too much and then picks unnecessary fights with strangers. Prior to this he was life-loving, loved his wife and kids, and spent glorious times with his brother, Joe, and nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), on their fishing boat. Since the tragedy, he has cut off just about everything and everyone from his previous life. The only tether is to his brother, Joe, who won’t allow Lee to totally cut him off.
His brother has been diagnosed with a heart condition where he is occasionally hospitalized and, when that happens, Lee will return to temporarily take care of Patrick. Patrick’s mother is an alcoholic and unreliable as a parent. The movie starts with Lee getting a call that his brother, Joe, is in the hospital with a myocardial infarction. He quickly leaves to see his brother but it takes him about 90 minutes to get from his home to the hospital. Unfortunately, he doesn’t arrive in time and his brother has died. It is now his responsibility to deal with his brother’s estate and discovers that his brother has made him Patrick’s guardian.

When Lee had left town, Patrick was a young boy. Now he is a 16 and firmly entrenched in the Manchester community with multiple friends and activities. His dream is to take over his dad’s boat. Lee has trouble with the responsibility thrust upon him but more importantly he struggles with the pain and memories of his past, told through flashbacks. Patrick refuses to leave Manchester and move to Boston to live with his uncle. Patrick is also in contact with his estranged mother, who has dried out, and arranges a meeting with her. However, it doesn’t go well.
Lee is trying to find a way to stay in Manchester. It was his mistake that led to his children’s death. While many, including his ex-wife and mother of his children, have forgiven him, there are others, including himself, who cannot. In the end, he has found a way to allow Patrick to stay in Manchester. Lee can’t move back but has found a job much closer and is looking for an apartment with an extra bedroom so Patrick can visit. The end shows Lee and Patrick on now his boat fishing much like they did when Patrick was a boy.

I thought this movie was very well written, directed, shot, and acted. It is not an uplifting story but more similar to the movie Ordinary People. While the ending doesn’t have some incredible redemption or uplifting message, it does give just a glimmer of hope. Lee is heart-broken and in pain. Everyone he has loved has either left or been taken from him. He loved Patrick as a son but fears more pain if he allows himself to get too close. Why should he? He will just suffer more pain and it is easier to be numb. Dealing with numb people is very frustrating because you feel like just shaking them really hard with a couple of good slaps to wake them from their stupor. However, it is a very effective defense mechanism. What makes this movie uplifting is Lee is going to try. It isn’t much but it is a sliver of an opening. He tells Patrick that he can’t move back. That is different from won’t. He wants to be there for Patrick but it is too painful. However, he wants to be in Patrick’s life. Initially, Patrick doesn’t understand primarily because he is self-centered teenager but at the end he matures a little and accepts what Lee will give him. More than accepts-he embraces it. This is growth, maturity, and reality. Healing from a tragedy like they have endured is in small steps. And as each small step is met with a positive outcome, it makes it easier to make the next one. Also, if the small step doesn’t work it is small enough that you can try again. Patrick is forced to grow up too fast but has people in his life who want to help and support him. Lee made sure the foundations are in place. Patrick’s wants are egocentric but not unreasonable. Lee cannot take on the responsibility and possible pain of being Patrick’s father. However, he can be his friend and eventually perhaps his uncle again.
Reading reviews on Amazon, people are all over the place on how they felt about the movie. A third thought is was one of the best movies ever and a third thought is was one of the worst. If you liked movies such as Ordinary People, you will like this movie. I do agree with one reviewer who mentioned that you have to have the right frame of mind to watch it. He had watched it twice and hated it the first time. The second time he was more open about the movie and loved it. There have been articles written as to why some people like movies that make them feel sad and it has to do with being compassionate. Movies like these seem to make people feel more compassionate about others around them who are in pain. It is thought that this compassion helps make a stronger sense of society by bringing us closer to one another.

I haven’t seen the other movies where actors were also up for an award, but Casey does a great job going back and forth between the two different lives. Personally, I think Casey is a better actor than his brother and he continues to improve. In addition, he generally favors smaller, more intimate movies rather than big block busters. This may have to do with personality differences between the two brothers. Before Matt Damon went off the deep end, he gave an interesting interview. He stated that after he and Ben became famous, Matt had trouble dealing with the fame. He married a non-celebrity woman and they have 3 children. They tend to keep their private life out of the lime-light. According to Matt, Ben is just the opposite. He thrives in the public eye and doesn’t seem to let negative press about his private life bother him. We may be trying to judge Casey against his brother, which probably isn’t fair to either.
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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Film Friday: Sausage Party (2016)

This is going to be short. That is all this movie deserves. I was looking forward to this one. The commercials were brilliant at making this look like a clever and funny film. It’s not.

The idea behind this film is quite promising. All the things you buy in the grocer store are conscious. They think people are gods and that Heaven is where you go when people buy you. They are about to find out, however, that life with humans is a hellish horror movie as they will find themselves cut up, baked alive, used to wipe butts, etc. A great idea.

It’s too bad nobody competent worked on the film.
Do you want to know what this film is like? Imagine six of the douchebag-iest teenagers you’ve ever met. These are the kind of retards for whom low-hanging fruit is unobtainable Shakespearian brilliance. Now imagine said douchebags deciding to take this idea and work it into the raunchiest thing they can come up with. Yep. Every sentence is flooded with hate-filled cusswords. Every “idea” – I hesitate even to use the word here – is about sex... but not sex in the sense that normal people know it. Imagine a gang of uneducated Mexicans standing on the street corner shouting obscenities at hookers.

There you have it. This was Sausage Party.

Oh look, he’s a hotdog. Did you know that means he’s shaped like a penis? Ha ha ha! Fuck dude, that’s fan-fucking-awesome-tastic. Fuck. Hey, she’s a bun. “Get it? And she’s sooooo fucking tight.” Fuck that's brilliant, you c*nt bitches! That’s fucking hilarious, motherfucker. Fuck, dude. That’s fucking comedy gold, fuckers.

We turned it off after five minutes.
You know, I can’t help but compare this to South Park. South Park the movie was genius. They were known for pushing the envelop on television. And when they got to do the movie (Bigger Longer and Uncut... a circumcision joke in the title that most people miss), everyone expected they would swear a lot. So they did. But they didn’t just swear. No, they turned the idea of swearing into a social statement. Their characters swore with purpose and with panache. It was clever. It was funny. You couldn’t help but laugh when they swore. Heck, you went home singing the “Uncle Fucker” song. Every swear word in South Park was chosen for a particular purpose.

Sausage Party is just a bunch of retard douchebags trying to say something their little minds think is cool. It is Mexican day labor swearing at you on the street. Pathetic.
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Friday, February 3, 2017

Film Friday: Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

I finally got the chance to see Superman v. Batman. Yee haw. What a ride... to nowhere.

“Plot”

Ok. This has some twists and turns, so take notes if you need to. The guy who founded Facebook wants to kill Superman because somethingsomething God. Wonder Woman is in the movie. Facebook tricks Ben Affleck into fighting Superman but he loses, so Facebook sends a generic blobby muscle creature to do it. Superman, Affleck and Wonder Woman kill it, and Superman fakes his death.
Got it? Don’t worry if you don’t, you’ll have about an hour long pointless fight scene you can use as time to think about it. You might want to bring a book.

Who's A Bad Boy?

So what can I say? DC sure knows how not to put together a movie. To sum up this stink-burger, it is fake liberal “drama” randomly sprinkled between tremendous sound and fury signifying nothing.

Here’s the thing. The back half of the movie is designed for idiots who like shiny lights. The front half of the movie needs to offer some explanation for the back half, or people complain. So the front half needed to figure out why Batman and Superman would fight. The answer, originally offered, comes from modern liberalism. Modern liberals are conflicted cowards (except when attacking people “who deserve it”), ergo they think that all heroes must be conflicted types who see the faces of the people “they killed” when they sleep. And naturally, "they killed" anyone they didn't save.
Indeed, the story starts with the public turning against Superman because people died whenever he tried to save the planet. Ergo, Superman is the menace... not the thing that would have killed everyone. That makes no sense except to snowflakes, but Hollywood is packed with snowflakes and “strong” women... the greatest snowflakes of them all.

So Superman is bad.
Now we need to hate Batman, so he brands a couple child molesters and rapists and that shows that vigilantes are just sadistic criminals who target other criminals, making them worse than the people they stop... the standard Hollywood view. “No one is above the law, unless it’s for the right reasons, and stopping criminals is not the right reason!”

So Batman is bad.

Now we just... huh. Crap. This explanation didn’t get us to where we need to be. //scratches head Wait! I know! Lex Facebook send nastygrams to Batman and Superman making them think... You know what? Let’s just cut to the fighting.
There were only two things that interested me in this film. The first was that the bad Senator who tries to make Superman a villain is a Democrat from Kentucky. Why a Democrat? Democrats are never bad. Hmm. Then it hit me. This was Affleck’s dig at his estranged wife, Jennifer Garner, a Democrat from Kentucky. LOL! Niiiiiice!

The other thing is this. The initial discussion of how the public could come to hate Superman offered a promising social commentary on modern cynicism. The problem was, it never fleshed it out. To do this, the film should have been smaller with Superman and Batman in closer contact and coming to dislike the other. The story should be told through assistants who represent the two positions. The cynicism needs to grow: cynical logic being used... increasingly self-aggrandizing armchair quarterbacking... the rise of conspiracy theories believed through confirmation bias and growing paranoia... a growing acceptance of extreme solutions and positions, leading to violence... and then the arrival of opportunism – journalists first, then academics, comedians and finally politicians. Team Batman falls for this, as does the vocal public. Team Superman understands genuine goodness, real logic, actual facts, and the importance of good faith. The fight starts until they remind Batman that the majority of the public isn't this stupid and doesn't deserve to be lumped with the sh*tbirds.

Unfortunately, that would make for a strong, emotional film... not a shiny stupid one. Hollywood also doesn't understand what Superman needs to understand; good faith, logic and lack of cynicism are like a foreign language to them. So Facebook’s plan it is!

Thoughts?
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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Film Friday: Rogue One (2016)

Rogue One is a flawed, shallow movie with indifferent characters and barely the semblance of a plot. This movie is the See Spot Run of science-fiction. It makes The Force Awakens look like Moby Dick. But it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it a lot while watching it, though I don’t really want to see it again. Ultimately, it doesn’t bode well for future Star Wars movies, however.

The Plot

The story opens with Imperial Weapon Designer Orson Krennic arriving in Scotland with a squad of troops to force genius scientist Galen Erso to come design the Death Star. Erso is played by Le Chiff from Casino Royale. Le Chiff buys time for his daughter Gin, er Jyn, to escape into the hands of Rebel “extremist” Forest Whitaker. Let’s call her GirlPower.
Fifteen years later, Rebel spy Cassian Andor, frees the now grown up GirlPower from prison on the desert moon Jedha when he’s searching for an escaped Imperial pilot who knows something about Le Chiff. Andor has a sarcastic Imperial droid he’s reprogrammed to help him. This is K-2SO, who says whatever he’s thinking and is quite fun, but doesn’t matter to the plot.
As Andor and GirlPower argue with Whitaker, the Empire test fires the Death Star at Jedha and blows up the planet in slow motion. Andor and GirlPower escape with the pilot along with this blind Chinese monk who is a total rip-off of Seraph from The Matrix II. Rebel command gives them the assignment to go “rescue” Le Chiff, which really means Andor is supposed to kill him. Le Chiff gets killed, but not by Andor, but he tells GirlPower where to find the plans to the Death Star first... Jamaica. They decide to attack the beach, against orders. There’s a battle. The story ends and they heavily sell the idea that this is seconds before the opening scene of Star Wars.
Gee, I hope you could follow all those twists and turns.

The Two Sides of This Film

Let’s start with the good. The film is fun the first time through. It is also visually stunning. It is a little dark and smudged at times, but overall it is very pretty when it gets going. The scenes on Scarif, on Jedha and anything Imperial are beautiful. The Rebel base on Yavin was exactly what it should have been. The CGI world of Eadu was kind of crappy Clone Wars-y, but it was forgivable because it was short.
The acting was passable. Though the fact I couldn’t remember anybody’s name was a bad sign. GirlPower was indifferent, but Andor was quite good. Krennic was good and had the only depth. Le Chiff was good, but was underused. It was nice in theory to see some of the Star Wars actors appear again in the combat scenes, but having a brain I knew exactly where they had taken these lines from the Star Wars attack on the Death Star and that felt cheap to me – they claim the lines are unused, but they are only unused in the Lucas butchered versions. The Vader scene lacked punch. The Leah scene was nicely done. The Grand Moff Tarkin stuff got his character wrong.

SarcBot was pretty awesome. He was probably my favorite character. Once again, Alan Tudyk did a phenomenal job of giving the perfect voice to a character; he’s perhaps the greatest voice actor of all time. The character itself was fun too. They did a great job of mixing machine and comic relief and little bits of awesome with him. It’s too bad his role was so small.
I really liked Seraph too, though he was in the wrong film. In fact, Seraph was a problem. Not only was Seraph stolen from The Matrix II, but he didn’t fit in this film’s world. Seraph had powers unseen before in Star Wars which nearly matched those of the Force. The felt wrong in this universe, which has always been presented as a realistic world except for the Force. This felt like a violation of the rules. Still, he was one of the most likeable characters and I liked watching him. Though, when the guy who shouldn’t be in your movie is the highlight, then you’ve done something wrong.
The plot existed. It was enough to make the film work given the special circumstances here, which is that we know the Star Wars world already and we know where this one would end, so it just needed to achieve a couple plot points. It could have used more plot, but it didn't technically need it. Still, it boggles the mind that a movie claimed to be “written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, from a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta” could be so underpowered. How do four people write a story and yet manage to come up with less plot than an initial impression? There is no character drama in this film. No character development. There are no twists, no turns, no clever or unexpected moments. The plot is literally a straight line: learn about plans and go get them. There are no subplots, no twists, no growth, no ebb and flow, and no hurdles.

This is what worries me most. Disney is planning to spin Star Wars into a million new films and this is a very bad start. This film has no plot, no depth and no characters you give a crap about. It makes the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise seem like high drama. There was nothing original or innovative or even clever in this film. It was pretty pabulum.
Even the attempts to give it meaning were crap. You had the father-daughter relationship that generated about three lines of pretend motivation and otherwise generated nothing in the way of emotion or interest. If you weren’t paying attention in the first five minutes, I doubt you would even have known that Le Chiff was GirlPower’s father. You had this fake new cliché moment where everyone suddenly whines at Andor for whatever bad things he’s done on behalf of the resistance, only to have him give a passionless speech about how he lives with that everyday. Wahhh. For a guy whose character shows no emotions whatsoever, this was really an out-of-place speech. What’s more, why the other people he’s just saved and who have volunteered to go on this mission would lament the “bad things” he’s done is utter nonsense. This is New Liberalism not being able to grasp that heroes aren’t tortured souls.

If this becomes the formula then we are looking at some crap films ahead. We are looking at straight-line plots with indifferent heroes meant to echo the original Star Wars cast and who feel the need to give character-development speeches right before they blow something up for some reason you don’t care about. Not good.
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