Thankful for movies


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Samuel the Lamanite (2006)

From my brother: ...we decided to watch Samuel the next Sunday, and--wow. Just wow. It uses the War On Christmas as its jumping off point, then it seems to draw inspiration equally from 3 Nephi and Robin Hood Men In Tights.... Samuel is mostly creative liberties. It's so unabashedly silly, it's nearly a parody. But I sort of love it. So, naturally, we needed to check this out.

The War on Christmas framing led to a lot of unintentional ironies. Rich white people being persecuted by a vaguely British and effete superintendent of schools is not actually very muck like genocide, if you'll forgive me for saying so. The frame, in my opinion, is a disaster tonally and religiously. That and I didn't like the songs. The songs made it's hour-and-eight-minutes runtime feel much, much longer.

That said, the in-Zarahemla scenes had a lot of wit. Some of the gags (the gate code, the split arrows) get genuine laughs, and the bizarre choices sprinkled throughout (French accents, weather-guaging apparatus) keep it cartoonishly absurd, making the whole thing just that much more amusing.

I'm guessing the people who made this wanted to make genuine entertainment but figured they could only sell it by nodding to the irrational worries of an upper-middle-class, white, Mormon audience. That's my guess.

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Early Man (2018)

So this is a very entertaining movie that really only suffers by comparison. It has lots of zany Aardman chaos but doesn't live up to the Pirates standard. It's a good sports comedy but falls short of the comidic-action genius of Shaolin Soccer. Hognob's a great funny animal but he's no Gromit or Shaun.

To be clear: Very fun movie!

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The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956)

I'm not sure now how I heard about this, but it sounded charmingly anticapitalist, so why not?

So it's not really anticapitalist. It's just antiunethicalcapitalst. That's all.

Anyway, it's not a terrific movie, but it did provide regular big laughs and it's certainly charmers. As a whole, it's aged fairly well. Most of the sexual politics aren't that bad (compared to expectations). The main thing you'll come away with is a wonder if capitalism were ever really so healthy. I suspect it was more so then, in a time with less income inequality etc etc, but I also wonder if it's a bit of a gloss.

Anyway, I did thread on the movie as I watched it, if you're interested.

Extra Ordinary (2019)

I don't remember how I first heard of this (maybe just seeing the poster on Kanopy? maybe at some movie blog I was visiting for some other reason?); the trailer intrigued but I have so many to-watch movies and I couldn't imagine it making the top of the list anytime soon.

But then Maeve Higgins became our favorite new panelist on Wait Wait and then we heard her interviewed somewhere about the movie and I put it together and, here we are!

It's very funny. Perhaps a nice palette cleanser after watching Ghost Story.

In short, Maeve plays a woman with powers to clear up ghosts but after a childhood disaster does not want to exercise her Talent. But then a satanist comes to town (Will Forte in a role that should be paired with his work in Don Verdean) and she has no choice. Plus, you know, she gets to meet a nice guy (etc etc but NOT etc). My only complaint is that someone in continuity should have done a better job with the progression of the eclipse. Otherwise, wonderful.

I haven't seen many possession movies, so this, I am pretty sure, is now my favorite.

(Also, the door was a nice nod to Sixth Sense.)

Just Mercy (2019)

Couple side comments. I've seen the writer/director's first couple movies and I'm impressed. Plus, he always hires Brie Larson. And, in this film, one of my most favorite character actors, Tim Blake Nelson, does more great work. That was a fun discovery.

But this movie is more than cool casting by an interesting director. And it is oool casting. I really understand Jamie Foxx now and I'm wondering why we ever watch movies without Michael B. Jordan---and the acting was terrific up and down the line---but this movie is rousing and inspiring. I'm hoping it'll stick with my kids and that they'll want to do something with their lives that will really matter. That makes a difference.

And seriously: Why do we still have the death penalty? How can we be so low? And what will it take to get us to change?

We need to be better. I'm glad we have prophets like Bryan Stevenson to show us the way.

Amazon Prime
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

I didn't read this tweet closely enough. It was only the first minute, white credits on black background, excellent score. I could have stopped satisfied and not gotten sucked into a post-midnight movie. But I did. And there was no good moment to start. It was perplexing and witty and clever and fun. Although a few things revealed themselves just before they happened, the uncertainties were always greater.

Plus, you have the ever-pleasant Walter Matthau as your host, moment to moment, and surprising people I didn't know until they were older, like Jerry Stiller.

And a very nice closing shot that I can't imagine a modern action movie willing to even attempt. (Maybe the remake?)

So good it was that the Big O, on his way to bed, paused to watch the first few allegedly very compelling minutes and stuck around for the whole thing. The compelling ending just never stopped!

And oh, hey. I've never seen it, but is this where the baddies in Reservoir Dogs got their names?

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Missing Link (2019)

This is an absolutely beautiful film. The sets, the characters, the animation, the acting both voice and body.

And it is true that I have not always appreciated Laika films on first viewing, but I really think this one has some flaws. The kids were confused by how much time was passing and we all kept audibly expressing skepticism regarding the tracker's tracking ability. A few more key details---the tracker tracking, for instance, or the leads getting along better---these small details would have made the rest of the film work better.

I'm also not sure the jokey attempts to address allworldonelanguageism quite worked.

In other words, a beautiful film---engaging, funny, etc---and maybe one that will improve on further viewing, but, as of now, just a so-so success in story and emotion.

Amazon Prime
I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

Second time watching. I still will repeat all the compliments, but I did notice a couple things that seemed off. One is the film's simplicity by which I mean its ignoring of Baldwin's sexuality (discussed here and here, if you want something more thoughtful). Lady Steed's good response to this complaint is that, ultimately, the film is not about Baldwin. It is about race in America with Baldwin's thinking as our conduit. And this, I think, is true, but I think it fails to capture the full majesty of his thinking, which is complex and nuanced to the point of upsetting potential colleagues and collaborators whose vision of the path forward was reduced and simplified in order to more easily market.

There is, of course, place for that. Vital place for that. But I think to think the thinkers have a sizeable portion in shaping our future. Oversimplification leads to oversimplification and while, yes, love is the answer, love is not a plan or a roadmap or even a thorough understanding.

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1917 (2019)

This was our Armistice Day film (I see it was also in theaters again today; I hope they do that again on a year when seeing a movie makes sense) and a fine choice. I told the younger boys they could watch it (the younger took me up on this). It is, after all, much less violent than a Marvel movie. It's just much more honest as to what that violence means.

I suspect the Great War will remain our Great Metaphor for the futility of war for some time yet. Its saeculum has come to an end and yet nothing gets so quickly to the waste and brutality and core evil of nations slaughtering nations. The reasons are as nonsense as any war, but there is no abstraction as to the bloody results themselves.

I can't think of a better way to honor the dead than to admit how brutal and stupid were their deaths.

While remembering that the individual men themselves could and often did retain their honor and their goodness and their humanity.

Happy Veterans Day.

Amazon Prime
The Last Man on Earth (1964)

I thought that this was a black-and-white film, but when it showed up in color I didn't even question it even though it certainly looked colorized. It wasn't until the blood was black that it sunk that I'd been snookered.
I just finished reading the source material and now I'm going to work through the three film adaptations, chonologically, starting here.

This movie is supposed to be happening in America, but the scenery and cars are not the least American and, with one (maybe two) exception(s), none of the characters pass as American-sounding. And! when the news broadcast cuts to "his excellency the mayor of the state," it becomes clear that they weren't trying that hard to make an American movie.

It has other flaws. Vincent Price, for all his wonders, cannot convincingly wield a mallet or throw tear gas. I realized, as I was watching this, that most of my favorite Vincent Price roles are on radio shows. He's great at radio.

One last complaint: I'm not sure some of the details of plot (eg, the difference between living and dead vampires) make sense without knowing the book.

That said, not a bad film. I enjoyed it. It moves at a pretty slow pace up until the very end. The little girl is AMAYZING (was this her only film??). It almost does intersting things visually at the end. But, finally, it's a fairly forgettable Italian movie of the era. Disappointing, but not that disappointing. Just found out Lady Steed has always wanted to see it. I would be willing to watch it again.

Amazon Prime
Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Son three offered his sister three movies to watch adn this is the description she chose.

It's weird how this movie is a cluster of annoying cliches and yet is somehow honest and fun and true. How does that even happen?

I hear the other movies in the trilogy are also good. Perhaps we should try them sometime.

In the meantime, all that really matters, is that she did kung fu until bedtime.

our dvd
Jurassic Park (1993)

On Unspooled a couple times they've discussed whether Jaws or Jurassic Park is a better movie and, really, who cares? But I do love Jurassic Park as much as any movie. My first viewing will be the one film-going experience I'm certain to keep all the way to my final senescence.

It might have my favorite John Williams theme. It has my favorite cast of characters. It's the smartest balance of humor and scares.

It is the standard by which other movies must be judged. That's all there is to it.

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Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

The kids start clapping and I start crying and just when I think I might stop Pedro's family starts celebrating his election and then just when I think I'm done Deb shows up and When in Rome starts playing this song I never even heard before 2004 in a theater when I first saw Napoleon Dynamite.

It's hard to express how much I love this movie.

And the baby loved every time some John Swihart music showed up. Win win win win win win win.

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Ford v Ferrari (2019)

So, first of all, it's a very good movie. Exquisitely crafted. Flawless from top to bottom. In fact, that's its only problem. And while I hate people using craftsmanship as an insult, this is what they mean. The film obeys every rule. Allows no callback to remain uncalledback. Every sound must have its echo. Every needed nod must be nodded. This film knows the rules and follows them perfectly. If you've never seen a movie before, you'll be blown away. If you have seen a movie before, you'll be impressed how well it runs.

If the cast hadn't been so excellent, the arrow signs and signifiers would have been awkward and annoying, but this cast can make them work. And the racing scenes are among the best I've ever seen. Between the excellent cast, the excellent sets and props, the excellent racing, the excellent construction, and the backdrops just down the street where I grew up, I finished 100% satisfied. It is, in other words, exactly the sort of movie that deserves a slew of Academy Awards nominations. And doesn't really need to win any of them.

library dvd
Arthur Christmas (2011)

I have a deeply ingrained skepticism for Santa films. So many of them misrub my fur from start to finish. But recently I saw the (entertaining and potentially not-stupid) trailer to this film and noted it was from Aardman and decided why not?

Even so, my skpeticism made it hard to give myself entirely over to the movie even though I was enjoying it. In my mind I was already writing this review about all the ways it fell short.

But then, in the final act, it won me over. It didn't change what it was, it just settled into itself more fully and came alive as its own thing. And I believed.

I would watch it next year.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

I haven't read or seen Taming of the Shrew since high school so I can't really say how well it tracks. I can see why people like it. I've kind of grown to hate high-school romances, but I get the appeal. And it's a pretty brilliant cross-section of late-90s post-grunge pop. I also get the appeal of the soundtrack.

As high-school movies go, solid. But I can't really see me seeing it again. Maaaayybe if I teach Shrew, but otherwise, nah. Sorry, kids.

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