Archives for posts with tag: Movies

Without intending to, the wife and I watched two action movies this weekend: Nonstop and Snowpiercer.

Nonstop vs Snowpiercer

Nonstop vs Snowpiercer

Both movies surprised us. Nonstop in that it was surprisingly bad and Snowpiercer in that more people aren’t talking about it.

Nonstop should have been a nice easy Liam Neeson-thriller – brave yet troubled guy saves the day – yet it fell flat. We found ourselves hung up on the logistics of the action and all the little improbabilities. Why was everyone so calm? How did the bomb get there? Are they really going with that movie trope? Oy.

Snowpiercer, on the other hand, quickly won us over. It’s dark. It’s weird. It’s beautiful. The director establishes the context for and the rules of this world from the first scene. An apocalyptic climate event has occurred. All life on earth is frozen – humans cannot survive outside. What is left of humanity lives on a train which circles the globe, piercing the snow, never stopping. Life on this train is defined by your class. The lowest of these classes wants to revolt.

Of these transportation based action films why is one so much better than the other? Is one story better than the other? Possibly. Is it the acting? Maybe. What about the cinematography? Perhaps. Above all these, I’d dare say, it’s the immersion into the movie world that matters most.

Nonstop takes us into a world we know – an airplane – and asks us to imagine a highly improbable situation. Snowpiercer takes us into an improbable future and asks us to exist there. There is no assumption that we would know what life is like on an ever moving train. It’s just a movie. Settle in and enjoy the film. You can’t ask for much more for an action movie – from any movie for that matter. As a side note, Tilda Swinton is fucking brilliant in this movie. She’s terrifying. She’s hilarious. She’s just plain weird. If for no other reason, you should see Snowpiercer for this glory:

snowpiercer tilda swinton God, she’s good.


In recent years the wife and I have made an effort to see as many Oscar nominated films as possible, including the shorts. This year we saw the short subject documentaries for the first time. If this is an option in your town go see it. Fill your pockets with candy. Buy some popcorn. Settle in.

In case you don’t get a chance (or maybe to start a conversation if you do) here are my mini reviews:

The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life


Going into a film about a Holocaust survivor, one expects tears. This documentary however, delivers those tears on more than one level. At 110, Alice Herz Sommer is the world’s oldest living Holocaust survivor. She and her son lived through the war due in large part to Alice’s skill as a pianist. If you’ve read Victor Frankl’s memoir Man’s Search for Meaning or you just want a dose of positivity you’ll dig this uplifting film.

Karama Has No Walls


Shot during the early days of Yemen’s 2011 student uprising, this film shook me to my core. A peaceful protest turns violent yet the protestors, students and journalist don’t flee. They walk towards the violence. They bare their chests and carry away the wounded. This is a revolution.

Cave Digger


Ra Paulette is republican nightmare (or wet dream). He is an archetypal hippie. He makes his living, however meager, as an artist whose art is digging caves into the malleable sandstone of the New Mexico desert. Something about this man rubbed me the wrong way. I can’t quite pin it down. Though the caves are indeed beautiful, my official review is, meh.

Facing Fear


Conceptually powerful, this film reaches for a lot. Twenty years ago a group of neo-Nazi teens nearly beat to death a young gay hustler in LA. Now, one of those teens is a former neo-Nazi and that hustler has gone legit. They both work at the Forgiveness Museum in LA. They present to groups on how they have grown into the people they are now. It seems like both men know what they are supposed to say, hell maybe they even know what they will say in few years. I’m just not sure how honest it is yet.

Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall


More than twenty years ago, Jack Hall, a veteran of WWII, killed a man. He would spend the rest of his life in prison for that murder. This film catalogs his last days in one of the nation’s only prison hospices. Emotions are raw. Edges are unhewn. I fucking loved this documentary. That’s all I have to say.

As much as I love Tom Hanks, he wasn’t the reason I wanted to see Captain Phillips. You may have heard a couple of Minneapolis boys sort of stole the show. Barkhad Abdi has even been nominated for a supporting actor Oscar:


I’m proud of him. I’m proud of this young man whom I’ve never met, who lives in a city that isn’t even my hometown. Maybe it’s a Midwest thing. Not many of us leave. Even fewer of us rise to stardom. When someone does it feels like he has done it for all of us.

But I digress, back to the movie, if you ignore the real life controversy, Captain Phillips is an exciting, completely watchable film. People try to succeed in life. Some win. Some lose.

The best part of the movie though was where we saw it – the Riverview Theater.

If you live in Minneapolis or happen to find yourself here for a couple of days, please go to the Riverview. Tickets are $3 (with $2 matinees), they use real butter on the popcorn, and the community atmosphere is what we’re all looking for at the movies – even if we forget sometimes. Everyone talks before the film and respectfully quiets as the curtains rise. Then, when the credits begin to roll, everyone claps.

Everyone claps. I fucking love it.

Within the first three minutes of American Hustle – a flash forward into the story – Amy Adams’ cleavage takes center stage:


The outfit doesn’t seem scene-appropriate but I think, hey I’ll go with it, this must make sense later. Perhaps she becomes a prostitute or her shirt rips or she has a skin condition that doesn’t allow her chest to be covered by fabric. Besides, no one is complaining about Amy Adam’s boobs. She should be quite proud of the body God and Hollywood gave her.

So we roll on and jump back in time. The story unfolds. A brilliant and complicated plot evolves. The movie is dotted with great one-liners and complex moral quandaries. Yet still, in 9 out of 10 scenes, there are Amy Adams’ boobs. Inexplicably exposed. In a shitty bar, on the street, in a high class club, in the winter winds of New Jersey. There they are:


I’m going to assume it’s the allergy. Here’s to you Amy Adams, you brave brave soul.

All the Oscar buzz and critical commentary bouncing around the interwebs finally convinced us to see Spike Jonze’s new film, Her, this weekend:


Her played out as many other romance tales before. Meet our boy, Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore. Theodore is in the midst of a midlife crisis. His job does not fulfill him. His marriage is over. A steady depression has alienated him from his friends. Enter our girl – in this case an OS – Samantha voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Together they find joy… until they don’t.

Beneath the standard romantic plot there lies something a bit terrifying. An anxiousness rose in my chest as the film progressed. I’m still trying to put my finger on what that was and where it came from, so bear with me here and feel free to disagree.

The terror doesn’t come from the growth of artificial intelligence. It doesn’t come from the way technological tentacles of dependence reach into every aspect of our lives – work, play, love. No, this movies shies away from that kind of commentary. I think the terror is rooted in the rather stable relationship between Samantha and Theodore. This human-OS relationship isn’t revolutionary, it’s dull. Theodore gets everything he needs from Samantha. Everything.

Yep that’s it. I find that complete satisfaction terrifying. Done.

*Added bonus – that my beautiful, nerdy wife pointed out – conversations about the movie can result in the most delightful grammatical missteps. Technically not errors since Her is a noun in this situation. “Her is really good. Her had a great plot and soundtrack. Her was just the right length.”
Nerdful giggles commence.

Buzz continues to grow around the documentary, Blackfish, since its release in July of 2013 yet, I’ve avoided the movie. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I’ve always feared opened water. The unknown beneath your feet, beneath the boat. That water is like a great height. One misstep and you could plunge to your death.

Enough about me. Back to the movie.


Blackfish profiles an orca named Tilikum from his capture in 1983 off the coast of Nova Scotia to his 2010 killing Sea World trainer, Dawn Brancheau. The movie is as much about how inhumane the confinement of killer whales is as it is about orca research. That’s really what makes this movie watchable. You know you’re going to be horrified but you may not expect to learn anything.

One of the most heartbreaking revelations of the movie is why, in the moment, Tilikum decided to kill two of his handlers. The question isn’t explicitly addressed but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. He pulled each of the trainers under at the end of a show. Each trainer died right before Tilikum was scheduled to go back into a tank with the female whales who abused him, who raked him with their teeth. The one joy in this giant animal’s life seemed to be spending time with humans and he didn’t want it to end.

Jesus that’s depressing. I think I just talked myself out of watching it.


Most of the conversation around Blue is the Warmest Color has revolved around the sex. And yes, there are three very explicit sex scenes. Scenes that, personally, I would rather not watch with a theater full of people. At the end of one such extended scene, a gay fella sitting in our row said “oh thank god that’s over.” But maybe that’s just me and puritanical friend.

Beyond the sensational sex scenes, the movie is pretty damn good. It is the portrait of a relationship, one that spans some awkward times. High school and college and first jobs. Young professional life. Our dear protagonists must find their footing in the world and with each other. Largely the emotions feel true – which gets big points in my book – and the acting is suburb (despite the fact that sweet Adele can’t remember to use a napkin when she eats):


With all the buzz around this movie, I hadn’t heard (or blocked out the fact) that it is three hours long. THREE! Like The Godfather and Schindler’s List and Titanic. THREE! I thought we were past that fad. I was more than a little wary of that benchmark but you shouldn’t be. I’m sure this movie will pop up at the Oscars so you might as well check it off your list.

The wife was out of town this weekend so I crawled into a hermit hole – just me and the dog against the world. It’s been a challenge crawling out today. Back at work. Back in the world. People expect so much more conversation than poodles. It’s ridiculous.

Anyway, I caught up on some zombie things with all my free time.

World War Z was an obvious first choice because I’m brave:


Running zombies don’t even scare me. Running zombies. Like sprinting, maniac zombies. Are you fucking kidding me? Boy did I miss my slow moving Walking Dead fellas. I didn’t give up and hide behind my hand because our terrifying zombie friends in WWZ make this orca noise – or some aquatic creature sound, sonar-ish – that’s simply not scary. That and I knew there weren’t going to kill gorgeous Brad Pitt with his casually long hair. Our narrator was safe. I’m not sure I recommend the movie though.

The thing I like about zombies is the apocalypse. How do people keep going? How does society crumble or rebuild? World War Z is about the outbreak. We have little sense of how anyone will rebuild. Thankfully I had two episodes of The Walking Dead waiting for me on Sunday to fix my zombie ennui.


After that sunny opening on the first episode with Rick in the garden, some fresh meat on the grill, some community, a little story-time/knife lesson for the kids, I thought we had some hope. A possibility of life. Nope. Everyone dies. Or nearly dies. At least Carol has the balls to teach the kids now to fight – though I’m not sure how I feel about her other ventures.

I like this show but it feels a little aimless right now. Maybe I just got spoiled by the brilliance of Breaking Bad. Wake up AMC, I’m counting on you to make my Sunday nights awesome.

This isn’t a movie about children of divorce – though I suppose the title doesn’t exactly suggest that it is. It’s a movie about stereotypes and one terrible couple (Catherine O’Hara and Richard Jenkins). It’s a comedy that’s more drama or maybe it’s a drama with a weird sense of humor. I’m just not sure. Maybe you’ll have a better time with it if you go in knowing that the movie is a little unsure of itself.


As a child of divorce myself, I have some opinions on the topic. I never have much patience for people who blame their adult problems on their parents’ divorce – though that feels like a controversial thing to say. What do I know about anyone else’s experience? Nothing. All I know is that my parents got divorced and that’s a thing that happened in my life. It’s not good or bad but it happened.

Enough of that hippie-dippy, psychoanalytic silliness.

Back to the move… I love Catherine O’Hara. She is quick and offensive and unexpectedly warm and a little gross. She’s great. She certainly as the best lines in this movie. Maybe I’ll have to go watch a Christopher Guest film to cleanse my palate.

The wife and I were a part of this weekend’s box office busting turnout for Gravity.


Between the two of us, the reviews are split. I loved it. She didn’t.

The movie is, at turns, gorgeous and gruesome. The latter I hadn’t expected. I expected tension and terror and isolation. The movie is so much more than that. Sandra Bullock, both in her spacesuit and out, proves worthy of the Oscar buzz that has been spinning for weeks.

Well, I thought so. The wife is less convinced.

She didn’t find the dialogue or the tension up to the hype. I’ll admit the screenplay won’t win any awards. The backstories are a little predictable but I’m ok with that. The focus is the terror. The vastness of space. I must disagree with her about the tension, however. I gripped her leg from the opening scene to the end. I couldn’t imagine how Bullock would survive each consecutive peril. How does a person function under such trauma? This was simply the most compelling action movie/big budget movie I’ve seen in years.

We don’t often disagree on movies – or much else. Maybe that’s a good sign for the movie. It’s worth talking about and pulling apart and finding the merits. Give it a go. Let me know if I’m in the minority on this one.

%d bloggers like this: