The Last House on the Left

I can see how watching horror could make me not trust strangers very much. Holy smokes, this is a whack in the side of the head, a kick ass horror film that when it starts just doesn’t quit. How about you? How much would you trust wounded strangers? Maybe your answer to that depends on whether you’ve seen this film yet.

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I found myself asking as I watched this, “Can people be this mean?” I’ve hardly ever seen anything so brutal, of course I have though. How about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. That rape scene is probably the most needlessly graphic scene I have ever endured. Let’s just say, this film approaches that in many of its scenes.

After having been a huge fan of Breaking Bad as it was coming out each week, it was a trip to see Aaron Paul in this film. He plays a similar character in that he doesn’t give a fuck. Apart from the leader of his group, I’d say Paul’s character is the most frightening. For that reason, he is also fun to watch. A few times I did get bored as I smelled the fragrance of I Know What you Did Last Summer and other formulaic 90’s horror films.

Basically, it’s this: create an evil character by making him to horrible things to innocent people. Next, have those innocent people fight back. Make murderers out of good people and being the audience’s approval along for the ride. There, I might call that a plot spoiler but there is so much more here worth checking out. I recommend it to fans of the genre. Don’t expect something new or visionary but expect to be blown away by this revenge tale.

http://youtu.be/AR4qYK6W0eU

The Nice Guys

When you watch comedy duos, the question arises at times of which is the most pathetic. In this film, we do have a sort of comedy duo, although the comedy is far between confused scenes that don’t seem to know what they are.

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I’d recommend the comedy in this film. The other stuff, like plot, characterization, and suspense are quite wanting. The two actors have a pretty good sense of what works and what doesn’t and when they stick to the comedy, it definitely works with me. There is a story though I had a hard time really getting what it was. There is some nudity, since part of the plot involves a naked magazine publisher. So, with the strongest parts being nudity and comedy, you may find the demographic that enjoys the film.

I don’t think it’s possible to see these two in a film and be bored. They are amazing actors who have built a following on solid performances. They command the screen. The ridiculous situations and irony all over the place kept me laughing and entertained. I would have liked to see the film dispense with the mystery plot and simply focus on the comedy of these two. There were times it reminded me of Laurel and Hardy. Nonetheless, the film works in the genre I have said and it wasn’t a complete let down. I recommend it as a mostly engaging comedy for fans of Crowe and Gosling as well as fans of the genre.

Oh, and one more thing this movie has going for it is a very credible presentation of 70’s appearance and nostalgia. From the cars to the wardrobe, a lot of work went successfully into that. It’s a lot of fun.

Morris from America

As a coming of age story, I’m not sure this is much different from what we’ve seen in the past. Then again, Morris is one of two black people studying German and attending a German high school. That factoid does make it quite different, even though the basics of sexual curiosities and partying are the same. Unfortunately for this film, I saw a much better coming-of-age film at the end of 2016 called Moonlight. This one paled in comparison.

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There are spoliers ahead. Morris and his dad are in Germany. His father tells him they are the only two black men in the area. Morris, being around 14 or so, has to learn the German language and get along with a pretty abusive group of teens. You can feel his frustration day by day. He has his rapping that keeps him entertained. When a school talent show comes up, he decides to try out. The result is anything but productive.

The father and son have a unique relationship. The father will not deny when he has said curse words and punished his son for rapping them. His reasoning is slightly different though for his son. He wants his son’s raps to be rooted in reality and not in hip hop profanity. It’s almost as if however the father wouldn’t mind the profanity if the son really were living out the lyrics.

I have to be honest, I had a hard time finishing this one. There is a girl, as his father says there always will be, she is very odd. She asks Morris how long his dick is at one point and then next minute she’s kissing another guy in front of him. She’s a very dangerous person. At the same time, she seems to care for Morris so it’s complicated. As a coming of age drama with some comedy, I’d recommend it to young adults. There is some rave dancing and drug use and some of this is interesting to watch and listen to. Ultimately though, I think just a handful of people will enjoy and “get” this film. I can’t really tell you their exact demographic but I’m sure they’re out there. As for me? I would pass on this one.

Certain Women

There’s a type of movie that doesn’t adhere to the Hollywood formula. I call it an “art film.” Certain Women falls into that category for me. It doesn’t care to explain the three stories pasted together. Yet, the name as a banner is speaking to me saying, “There is a deeper meaning here for you to find.” I felt a similar way about Birdman and many independent films I’ve seen.

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The cinematography is pristine. All stories encapsulate parts of America. The second film especially really makes you feel like you’re camping among the characters. There are three women who take their place, each in her own story. The acting women are big names in film so the humble independent feel of the film belies that.

The film feels intentionally slow. Luckily for us, the actresses are so good, time travels quickly through these stories. I’m not sure what the director means by “certain women” but I was left feeling as if these three certain women can change the world. It could be reasoned that the fourth woman is the one watching the film. Certain women can change their world. They don’t need to be perfect, just resolute in their vision. It could be argued that each of these women are like that. I recommend this to fans of the actresses as well as people interested in the change women can bring to the world, however small.

Miss Stevens

The high school dramedy must be one of the biggest genres to break into with a film. People watch films like The Breakfast Club and Fast Times at Ridgemont High over and over again until their dying day. This film doesn’t come close to breaking in. In plain English, it’s awful. I call it a “wanna-be” high school dramedy.

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This film is about a high school English teacher who volunteers to take three high school teens to a drama competition. It is an overnight and she has her own hotel room as somewhere in the hotel the three unstable teens have their own rooms. I should have known when this was explained that this film was not based in reality.

There are numerous times when the teacher smokes while with the kids. She often leaves them unattended. She appears to be giving the most disturbed young man a chance to grow and go off his medication. When she doesn’t like his reactions, she blames him and tries calling the Principal back home. She is the one to blame because she is the one in charge.

In between all the “drama” (literally) we see all sorts of dysfunction. Writing as someone who has worked in the public school system for 17 years, I can tell you this movie is a legal nightmare and definitely not healthy for any of the characters involved. “Well, Damien it’s a comedy!” You might say. It’s not in the least bit funny. If you have a different view, let’s start a conversation in the comments. As for me, I can’t recommend this to anyone except to give an example of what high school dramedy should NOT look like.

Little Men

How quick we humans are as young people to judge our parents actions. Young men as a general rule think they know everything, so why aren’t grown-ups asking? It’s because youth has a lot to learn, in spite of their energetic ideas and passions.

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In this story, we have two young men, pre high school it would appear. They are friends because ones mother is a seamstress in a tailor/dressmaker shop that the other parents own. It was handed down by one boy’s grandfather which makes that boy just slightly more wealthy than the other boy. It is in fact enough to matter.

There is a clear distinction between the filthy rich and the poor lining the homeless shelters but the lines that exist in the middle class are not as defined. The “landlord” son has different ideas from his parents when they decide to sell the store. That’s when things get quite ugly with the other boy’s mom. It shows a separation of values based on income and education.

This is a truly gritty, well-made drama. It was a nice surprise for me at the end of 2016. I recommend it to fans of Kinnear as well as lovers of well-produced dramatic films.

The Walking Dead

Zombies! Where have they come from and into modern culture? I’d say George Romero might tell us. His B&W low-budget scares in 1968’s Night of the Living Dead scared a generation and continue to do so up to the present day. There are some similarities in every zombie movie. Some eat only brains, some move slow, and some move fast. The common denominator is that they’re dead … and they’re walking!

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Rick Grimes is the central character but there are many many more side characters. This show can often appear like a soap opera. Of course, in between some of the sappy lines you have buck knives slamming into zombie skulls, putting them out of their misery. There is something here for everyone: abject violence (and I mean that adjective 100%), romance and sex, gore, horror, thrills, mystery … a whole lot of all these things and more.

Currently, there is a power struggle going on with a dictator of sorts. How should we treat dictators? If you say we should rise up against them to take them down, just remember there are no organized systems to protect you. I am enjoying this season quite a bit as we see what this psychopathic leader will do and more importantly, how long will the people let him.

What I find most cool about TWD is the way people treat each other in a zombie apocalypse. It tackles issues of sociology and government. Some segments resemble The Lord of the Flies and others Utopia. It’s not just about zombies you see, you get a look at us and how we are. Us, of course, meaning humanity. After 5 seasons, it has less to do with stabbing them in the brain and more to do with how we will rebuild the world. The dead are walking but just ahead, so are we. I highly recommend this as a binge watch to anyone really but horror and drama fans the most.