The Confirmation

How does a dad who’s seen as lazy and out of the picture for a reason win back his son’s respect and admiration? For starters, he offers to watch him while his mom goes on vacation. Two guys, hanging out. A kid and a woodworker who really should work more. This is a simple recipe for drama, and a fine one it is.

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When dad’s tools get stolen, the tension starts to build. Without the tools, dad cannot work. Here we see father and son set out to find the tools. Through this process we learn second-hand what dad’s life is like. The tools don’t turn up and father and son are left to spend time with each other and chat. There is a great scene where dad tells son what he thinks about religion. I couldn’t have put it better myself!

We see the son and father go through each his own transformation. That’s a sign of good writing. The significant particulars all happen for a reason that unfurls in the last 1/4 of the film. We learn the boundaries of this divorced family. Dad can coeexist with mom’s new husband.

This is a captivating story of a father-son relationship. I’d recommend it for anyone in or from a step-family. It’s also a story that shows the value in being a loving dad to your child. This was a surprise hit with me, definitely check it out.

Margot at the Wedding

I like artsy films that are just about people living their regular lives. Call me a minimalist. For that reason, I did enjoy this film. There is another caveat. However, there should be character development and some sort of a story. Both of those were lacking in this film.

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This is really a story of a woman who hovers over her child and journeys back to stay with her high school friend for a while after her divorce. You get to see how her over-protective and overly healthy take on everything affects her son.

I’m a big fan of Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jack Black but I felt the writing for them was disjointed and really didn’t create characters that lasted in my memory.

There is a conflict with a neighbor and some normal tensions that occur in a marriage with regards to flirting and such and then regretting it. The film really gives itself no reason to exist. It’s a shame a drama with such powerful actors never got off the ground. All I can guess is they were trying to make it like an independent film that has big names and that everybody loves even though it’s minimal. It didn’t work for me and I wouldn’t recommend it.

It Had to Be You

Once I realized I wasn’t seeing a gaunt Alyssa Milano in this film, I settled in and enjoyed a truly funny and modern love tale for our times. It wasn’t perfect, but the story was cute and it was a romance which always wins me points with my wife.

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So we have a female protagonist who is not ready to commit. This was seen last year in a big film by a stand up comedienne, it’s like that but totally different. This actress is younger and more unsure of her place in the world. That makes her more attractive I think. The couple in the film decide to give their relationship one last shot and there you have the basis for the plot.

Usually it’s the woman in movie that wants the man to commit. This is the other way around. They go through so much, and much of it is comical, to discover whether they are right or each other. He is a techie geek trying to get hired at Google. She is a music soundtrack artists doing whatever small ads and the like she can to pay the bills. When together, they shine like a post-modernist couple and I couldn’t help wanting to see them end up together.

This is a diamond in the rough as a date movie. If you can get a hold of it, you and your date will not be let down. I recommend it to fans of cutesy romances. It went over well at my house because my wife is very much one of those.

Green Room

If you knew punk like I did in the 1980’s, you should watch this if for no other reason than to see how much the punks of today have fucked it up. At the same time, there is a punk spirit still alive in this film that makes the film worth watching. It’s as violent as hell, so much so that is has been labeled as horror. I myself don’t agree it fits in that genre.

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The band is slumming it. I heard Michael Stipe talking about the early days of REM when they were in a van on “tour” of little America. They survived on bags of potatoes and beer. It’s the romance of the things that sounded so fun. I this film you see this same scenario only things aren’t going as well for this band as they did for REM.

There is some sort of scuffle in the venue they play and somehow, someone gets stabbed. The film grows in violence from that point to a raging crescendo of blood and gore that in some metaphorical way might be considered a video to a Sex Pistols song. Unfortunately for me, I got bored. Even though the cause was justified, the violence just seemed to predictable. The things we find below in within this jam house are also a bit predictable.

A lor of people were telling me the same thing about this film, so I’m surprised I felt the urge to see it. It’s not a bad movie per se but I just didn’t find anything worth running to the laptop over to share. For that reason, I don’t recommend Green Room unless your watchlist is about played dry and there’s nothing else really to watch.

A Monster Calls

I can usually identify why I liked a film straight off. In this case, I can’t. While I pore through this incredibly sad film in my head, I still have to review it so here goes. Let me tell you what it is.

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Here, we are in a boy’s dreams though are not revealed as such. In fact, we aren’t sure through the course what is dream and what is reality. Perhaps he’s a sleepwalker for all we know. This is an open-ended film in terms of interpretation. I read something yesterday that claimed the tree was cancer. I wonder. A recent film I liked that did a similar “open-ended” technique was Birdman.

Is there really a Birdman? Is there really a tree? What am I really seeing here? What is the purpose?

If riddles like this interest you as much as they do me, this film is for you. Films like this do not expect to be exactly understood, instead, they invite emotion and tone into the viewer experience. That becomes the meaning.

The acting is superb. There is really nothing child-like here or crafted for kids. There is a lot of amazing artwork reminiscent of the storytelling scenes in Kubo and the Two Strings. The boy and his mother are both artists, it is their bond to be as such. While I’m on the topic, the relationship between dying mother and son is tear-jerking, almost gut wrenching. I wonder why the film seemed aimed at kids with such sad grown-up themes here.

I thought the film was about the stages of grief but as the film progressed I realized it’s a more personal message than that. This book must have been written by someone who went through loss and used the tree monster as a vehicle to explained what must be learned through death. Yes, the theme is death.

There is much to be gained from going to this movie. IT might be helpful to someone who loses a parent or other loved one, but I’m not sure. Perhaps it would be better used for therapists and friends who have not experienced the loss to understand what the sufferer is going through. Without giving it away, I’ll leave you with my recommendation but only if you know going in these are grown up concepts that kids won’t truly get unless you have a hot chocolate with them afterward and dialog. Having said that, now that I’ve explained the theme of death and dark serious tone, I wholeheartedly recommend this for anyone. I liked it the same way you like sour candy, one of the sour low points of life we all experience and can not escape.

The Strangers

While the first 44 minutes could have been spent on better things like developing a rationale for a twist, character development of the intruders, or pretty much anything other than nothing, from the 45 minute point onward, this is a great intruder horror film.

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Since Scott Speedman for me usually signals a throwaway film, I should have listened to my instincts. Having said that, I did enjoy the middle to end of this film and especially the clever end. I’m not surprised they are making a sequel out of it because Hollywood does that with every decent film nowadays.

As for this one, it is a pretty good intruder film. I was reminded of more recent films such as Hush and You’re Next. Both films used masks to their advantage. The problem here is there is far too much time that nothing is happening. I will say bravo to the masks, the masks were scary.

The thing about masks though is that they are so easy to implement and they have a limited effect. When I watch them I can easily imagine the expressions on the face underneath. I think movie watchers in general cannot or do not bother to try which makes the masks ultra scary. To a filmmaker, it’s a budget prop. The story didn’t have much explanation to it. At the end you see a little of a cultic hint but not really. I suppose they are like a Manson family thing but we never hear why and we get virtually to characterization of these people. An opposite example is You’re Next where we learn everything nd that movie is about as scary as this one if not more so.

There are some holes here as I have mentioned but all in all I would recommend this to horror fans. Feel free to get a sandwich in the first half though.

Marnie

Terms for psychologists like “Analysts” are common in Hitchcock films. He seemed to be taken with the idea of the mind and its many shenanigans. Some of those caused it to commit crimes, even kill. Of course, since the films of Hitchcock we’ve had similar twists in films like Fight Club. The idea that the mind can take a plot far afield and back again is be dazzling to audiences. Hitchcock was one of the forerunners of this movie making component.

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Marnie is a mess. That is established early on. The question is, is she an habitual criminal or a survivor. Is there a difference in a court of law? I think not. You might be able to get someone off for their childhood trauma but more often than not, there are cases proving that judges and juries aren’t easily dismissing crime because of psychology.

This film is about layering. Hitchcock, from his first hallway cameo in the film, is working in every scene to develop the story of a tragedy. We’re not sure of what it is or the damage it has caused but it looms. We are led hither and yon: first to one possible conclusion and then to another. It isn’t until the ending scene that we have a complete picture of what happened.

Marnie didn’t receive the critical acclaim of other psychological thrillers of its time, like Psycho, but it is a deft painting of a woman with evil tendencies that the audience can’t help but find compassion for. This is a great Hitchcock film! I’m very thankful to Kristen Lopez for making me aware of it. She is set to be a guest on our podcast this week that will air sometime in January. The topic is simply “Hitchcock.” I recommend Marnie to Hitchcock fans and fans of thriller/drama movies from the 50’s and 60’s.