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Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

The lives of three young women and why they became punk revolutionaries is the main idea of “Pussy Riot: a Punk Prayer.”

pussy_riot-a_punk_prayer_poster-213x300-9389614It’s a real situation and a real “group” (instead of a band) that protests the Soviet Union through punk songs and performance art. They claim to be non-violent, which is good. In some of their protest situations they have been threatened and violence has been enacted against them. Three visionaries of the group: Mariya Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova occupy the film’s content and their stories are inspiring or enraging depending on your political and moral point of view. I found these three women and their art hugely inspirational. I think we forget in America what freedom is and that at some point, it needs to be sacrificed for.

These three women feel that Russia needs to get more progressive. By that I mean, women should be allowed to have a life with or without men.

They also feel there should be a clear separation between church and state. More than anything, they detest the policies of Vladimir Putin, the current leader of the Soviet Union. Many of their songs decry his regime. I liked the open and forward thinking of the women but some of their techniques, such as the naming of their group and some past indiscretions on film, in my opinion are not as universally embraceable as they could be. I’m writing a review about their documentary but I cringe a little creating the title with the word “pussy” in it. Is there another way we could name this group without fanning the flames of the conservatives? I am no revolutionary but I might recommend to Pussy Riot a slightly more marketable and palatable approach to its persona.

These women spend at least 6 months in jail (I lost track after all the updates and frankly am too lazy to look up this significant particular). When they address the court or the press, it is breathtaking. They scribble tomes while behind bars and nearly every time they read their words, they are met with unguarded applause. These is something to these revolutionaries but the movie feels at times as if much of it is staged. If not staged, the movie sometimes feels like HBO camera crews are betting on a worldwide interest in a documentary. This to me is gauche. Not everything can be captured in a documentary. Would Johnny Rotten want to be followed by HBO? How about Ghandi? Hmmm, maybe? Having said that, this movie reminds me of the times I fought to be outside the “system.” So many people these days, especially our youth, accept their position playing video games and being bored. We don’t have to accept the role society gives us. We can break out and be original. It could start by protesting the things we dislike in society. I wonder if many American kids would risk going to jail to try and make the government change. Let’s hope more American kids get that message from Pussy Riot.

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Walt Before Mickey

“I am working on a new style of animation that I know you will be interested in.” -Walt Disney

Directed by
Khoa Le

Writing Credits
Arthur L. Bernstein, Armando Gutierrez, Timothy Susanin, Frank Licari

Cast
Jodie Sweetin
as Charlotte Disney
Jon Heder
as Roy Disney
David Henrie
as Rudy Ising

Who doesn’t love Disneyland and Mickey Mouse? The mysterious background of the Disney empire is unveiled in the park itself in several exhibits, in books, and other media. Unfortunately it has never graced the silver screen, until now.

This film is a delight to watch but I can’t say the performances are Oscar worthy. It actually presented like the kid of movie you’d see inside the park about Walt. The lines are delivered in a rote fashion and the characters are not  very developed. All this just goes to show you how powerful Disney’s story is. I enjoyed every minute of it.

We see into Walt’s early family life. His father was not supportive. Still later on, he did provide a small financial contribution to Walt’s first company. At one point Walt says, “We don’t know anything about business, but we’ll learn.” He and his hired hands do learn things at the school of hard knocks. He is cheated in a scandalous move by none other than the Felix the Cat creator.

If you ever wondered how Walt Disney got started, this is a good one to go see. Don’t go in expecting an amazing biography but you will see a compelling beginning of a miraculous man’s creative life.

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Baby Driver (2017)

This film has done extremely well at the box office. It’s an exciting tale of a young man with an interesting history and an uncanny talent for driving a getaway car. I’d be remiss to not mention there is some great music in the background here.

Baby Driver (2017)
R | 1h 52min | Action, Crime, Music | 28 June 2017 (USA)
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After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.
Director: Edgar Wright
Writer: Edgar Wright
Stars: Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm

The director had this idea for quite some time before it became a film. I always enjoy movies where the director had a long term vision he fought for. Before this film, his accolades include Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and The World’s End (2013), made with recurrent collaborators Simon Pegg, Nira Park and Nick Frost. While still in the prime of his career, he has proven he is a capable director.

The casting was effective but perhaps one of the weaker aspects. Kevin Spacey sort of worked as the killer boss who grows a heart. We needed more hate for Baby from Jamie Foxx, that could have saved his impression with me. The actor who played “Baby,” Ansel Elgort, is 23 but appears to be much much younger in his skinny jeans and RayBans. I think some younger viewers will identify with his character because he is in fact so young looking and doing such a crafted thing as driving a getaway car. It’s fantasy on so many levels.

I loved the choice to cast Lily James. She is the most normal, well developed, character in the film. And mind you, there is very little character development here: it’s a car chase film.

The story is, in a shortened way, that a boy is an orphan and learns to drive really really well. Then he becomes a getaway driver. Then he wants out and meets a waitress. He doesn’t get out. There are several heists and exhibitions of speed. He gets arrested. The girl dotes on him. The boy gets out. His name is not really Baby (big surprise) it’s Miles and the movie ends in a dreamlike sequence of Miles driving off into the sunset with the girl.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really had fun watching this film. I was actually surprised how much I liked it, the title was a little off-putting. There are lots of car chase movies out there and as time moves forward there are likely to be more. This is a cool movie. I don’t know if it’s as “special” as a lot of people are saying. It is probably because some scenes are synchronized to the music and that is undeniably cool. The story of the protagonist was lacking for me, I didn’t buy in. I didn’t like most the songs chosen and I felt the bad guys were miscast. Those aren’t important issues though, this is a winner film. If you go for a fun car chase and heist film, you’ll get your money’s worth. I recommend it.

7/10

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The Girl on the Train (2016) 4/5

I really enjoyed this film, even after IMDB and RT gave it poor scores. This is one example of when you shouldn’t listen to the critics 100%. It’s a mystery and thriller with Emily Blunt, one of my favorite actors. This film is a winner in my book.

girltrain-201x300-1-1-4555408R | 1h 52min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller | 7 October 2016 (USA)
A divorcee becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation that promises to send shockwaves throughout her life.
Director: Tate Taylor
Writers: Erin Cressida Wilson (screenplay), Paula Hawkins (novel)
Stars: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson

Whodunnit? That’s what we have here. I think it’s close to impossible to guess until about 1/2 way through. At that point people are likely to have differences of opinion. Blunt’s figure is trying to find out why she is so afraid of herself. To start, we find her fear is based on listening to the bad others say about her, including her ex-husband. The stuff she hears is so awful, she drowns herself in drinking. Most people would just drink themselves to death but not her. She sets out to figure out why these people say these things. To her, they don’t “seem like her.”

It’s a thriller for sure and one of the best of 2016 in my opinion. The unfurling of the truth is a bit melodramatic, I was hoping for more, but certainly exciting. For fans of Emily and the thriller genre in general, I highly recommend this.

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4/5 Shamrocks

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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

IMDB’s number one movie shouldn’t be fucked with right? Well, it has its imperfections. The reason they picked Tim Robbins will always be a mystery to me. All the other casting is good. It’s an inspired Stephen King novel and that’s why it’s good (and the only reason why), in my opinion.

srposter-202x300-1-1-4771261Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.
Director: Frank Darabont
Writers: Stephen King (short story “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”), Frank Darabont (screenplay)
Stars: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton

Most people who see this film have a visceral reaction. It’s not boring in any way. I like prison films and this is sort of a sing-song one. Still, it’s a great prison film and I like it a lot.

You get to see what happens on the inside from a kinder, gentler, machine gun lens. Part of that is due to Stephen King. You know, he is very tame compared to some of the other horror writers. There is a bent in a lot of his stuff against traditional religion. I can definitely relate with that bent.

There is also a lot of Murphy’s Law. I probably don’t need to recommend this since it’s done quite well for decades on its own. Still, I recommend it to fans of prison movies and Stephen King’s outlook on things. Beware of a sing-song nature. This isn’t the hard, deep stuff of life as it claims to be.

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3/5 Shamrocks

 

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The Godfather

Everybody knows the Godfather right? Well, that isn’t necessarily true. I think people about my age take it for granted as an amazing classic. We assume all movie fans have it memorized. I know my podcast cohort isn’t fond of it. As strange as that sounds, I must accept it is true. I’ll tell you what appeals to me about it.

godfather-211x300-1-1-2611190R | 2h 55min | Crime, Drama | 24 March 1972 (USA)
The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writers: Mario Puzo (screenplay), Francis Ford Coppola (screenplay)
Stars: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan

There’s something powerful about Don Corleone. He’s amassed wealth and an empire entire outside of society’s machine. He has become a new machine. He does “favors,” usually entailing crimes, for the butcher, the baker, and the candle-stick maker. Then they owe their allegiance to him and his family mafia. What we see in the film is a powerful crime family made up of those people, built one by one.

There is a bunch of violence but it’s righteous. You get me, I get you back. That’s how it works in the mafia. This film changed the world and especially changed movies. The way things are done now is warped in a twisted and beautiful way little bit because of the Godfather. I recommend this film to people who can take righteous violence and who enjoy amazing period pieces with thick character development. Also, who can miss the best of Marlon Brando?

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5/5 Shamrocks