Category Archives: Action

I’ve been lost on Kong: Skull Island

IMG_1710.JPGWell, I survived my movie challenge last year and (partially) as a result it’s been eight months since I’ve worked on this blog.

It’s fitting that my writing perch now has a view of my signed Mike Birbiglia poster (taken from the poster sale by a former coworker at the ol’ Edina Cinema) because my last post here was about Birbiglia’s film “Don’t Think Twice.” He did a Q&A about the film after the July 2016 screening at the Lagoon Cinema and, other than his obviously flawless and brilliant response to the questions I kept telling myself I would ask if I had the courage, I remember the breeze of comedic genius as he walked by my aisle seat to the front of the theater. Maybe I’ll meet him someday, but at the same time it’s enough for me to sit and listen and admire that he can sell out huge theaters and at the same time spend weeks touring to different cities doing Q&A’s and teaching improv classes to local comedians.

I could talk and write about him forever, but I didn’t come back here only to gush about Mike Birbiglia.

BUT I could keep going about him … no? Okay fine.

I know you’re all wondering about the side effects of watching 366 movies in one year (you can see the full list here) and I will say (Captain Obvious – be on alert, I’m about to steal your thunder) it’s too many movies and I think I missed some of the impact they would have had if I watched them at the pace of a normal person.

That said, there’s a good chance I would never get around to some of the classics and obscure films I made it through — “It Happened One Night,” “Charade,” “Prayer of the Rollerboys,” and “The Story of Ricky” come to mind.

This brings to mind another side effect of the challenge, any time someone asks me what my favorite or most memorable films are from last year, the answer always changes.

I should just carry my movie notebook around with me so I can consult the list and make sure I am really delivering the goods. (Dating tip: read from your movie, shopping, pet name, dream vacation, etc. list when things get awkward.)

I do have a movie notebook with my list now, which is another benefit of the challenge, although it makes me wish I had kept one all along so I would have a record of everything I’ve seen; and a tool for those extremely awkward date moments — like when a guy says you have nice veins. Um, so have you seen “Working Girl?”

This year, I only have nine movies to refer to compared to 75 by the end of this day last year when I watched “Upstream Color” and “That Touch of Mink.” Don’t ask me what they’re about.

The last movie I saw was “Kong: Skull Island” — mainly to see my girl Brie Larson and my boy Marc Evan Jackson, who delivers some great one-liners — my favorite being “Oh dear.” I can’t give away the context to that line, but just wait until you see it.

Since the beginning of the year I’ve also watched “Jackie,” “Pitch Perfect,” “Julieta,” “20th Century Women,” “Sing,” “Moonlight,” “Split,” “Baby Mama,” and the aforementioned “Kong: Skull Island.”

I knew very little about the film before seeing it and learned, from another former co-worker at the ol’ Edina Cinema when I stopped in there the other day, that the director– Jordan Vogt-Roberts — also made “The Kings of Summer.”

It’s an indie film that didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved, in my opinion, and represents a new trend of those directors breaking into the Hollywood blockbuster world with positive results: witty scripts and comedic actors coupled with special effects and action.

Another example: Colin Trevorrow made “Jurassic World” in addition to “Safety Not Guaranteed,” thus bringing together Chris Pratt, Lauren Lapkus and Jake Johnson and some pesky dinosaurs.

“Kong: Skull Island” has the right mix of action, humor (John C. Reilly) and heart and I hope the trend represented by the work of Vogt-Roberts and Trevorrow (who is making a “Jurassic World” sequel) continues.

As for me and my movie-watching challenge plans for the future, I think it’s to be continued …

I’ll see what I want to see and what I’m in the mood for this year (something I couldn’t always do in 2016) and next year might embark on a challenge of a smaller scale than 366 movies.

There are a lot out there I need and want to see and perhaps I’ll be ready to put some lipstick on and watch a ton of movies, again, by 2018.

Until then, I leave you with this reminder from Paul F. Tompkins to see ‘Kong: Skull Island” and one from me to see “The Kings of Summer.”

Movie Week in Review: More Spies and Romance and just a little 1980s action flick.

Hey hey all you international people of mystery. I just watched Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery again, taking me back to my high school days and watching it a lot in college, with the added treat of being able to see it on the big screen.

I saw one of my favorite comedians, Kurt Braunholer, at Acme Comedy Club last night and, after making sure to awkwardly introduce myself to him, got the bat signal there would be a midnight screening of the aforementioned Austin Powers at the  ol’ Edina Cinema.

The comedy show and then laughing a lot along with my theater compatriots made for a good night and all-in-all the ingenious Austin Power worth watching again. I have been trying to stay away from repeat watches, but some films warrant a pass this year.

I also watched Can’t Buy Me Love since I last stopped here on the Internet. I wasn’t going to count it in my challenge until it set in again how behind I am. It’s okay though because I think the film is a respectable work among the 1980s classics we all know and love that also delivered McDreamy long before he would be on Grey’s Anatomy for what seemed like decades.

The first season of that show was its best and, while I watched several others, I recommend  Can’t Buy Me Love if you’re in the mood for more Patrick Dempsey.

I also fit in an unknown (to me) 1980s gem, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, this week featuring future TV starlets Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt as rebellious private school students by day and aspiring “Dance TV” contestants by night.

Janey (Parker) is raised by a military father who installs alarms on their apartment building windows and interrupts her phone calls, but that’s not going to stop her from dancing … especially after she meets Lynne (Hunt.) Lynne encourages Janey to break the rules in order to spend weeks rehearsing in an uncomfortable leotard and the opportunity to be on national television.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun was part of the trifecta of other early-1980s dance films like Flashdance and Footloose and certainly helped set the stage for the genre. It was also a refreshing visit back to the 1980s before Can’t Buy Me Love because I knew little about the film and because now I have several ideas for this year’s Halloween costume.

Moving on, the theme of spies and romance (including Austin Powers) was still part of my selections this week … primarily in Notorious.

The 1946 Alfred Hitchcock film explores politics in near post-World War II society times and the powers of “suave spymaster” (as described in 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) T.R. Devlin to convince Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) to be his mole on a mission to investigate Nazis in hiding in Argentina.

Huberman, as the daughter on of a convicted traitor, ends up being perfect for the job but is faced with mixed feelings about Devlin’s (Cary Grant) motives and whether she can ultimately trust him.

I love one of the first shots of Devlin in the film as he sits at a party hosted by Huberman not long after her father’s conviction. He is completely in the dark and shadows and, as Alicia sees him come into the light, there is an instant spark leading them on a troubled path to the mission in Argentina and the complications in their relationship.

review625.jpgNotorious is a flawless and brilliant work by Hitchcock as he continued to explore common themes and characters in the film in partnership with regular star Bergman and writer Ben Hecht. They also pushed the boundaries of the production code with the longest on-screen kiss between Alicia and T.R. that brought to light chemistry between Grant and Bergman.

Another film this week, April and the Extraordinary World, pushed cinematic boundaries in terms of its animation style and creativity, at least of what I’ve seen.

I’ll refer you over to a post about the film on Joyless Creatures that says it all in such a way that is as much of an artistic accomplishment as the French film, which specifically explores post-war society survival, invention and family bonds.

My initial reaction to April and the Extraordinary World was that it’s so imaginative and unique in my world of film and now I remain inspired by the story and its style. Plus there is a talking cat to tie it all together.

The Accidental Tourist also has a strong presence of an animal used as a literary tool in the form of Macon Leary’s (William Hurt) troubled Corgi who acts after the death of Leary’s son and divorce from Sarah (Kathleen Turner.)

Enter Muriel (Geena Davis in an Oscar-winning performance) who watches the dog while Leary must travel for work to write his next travel guide for businessmen.

Muriel instantly takes to pursuing Macon, which leads to an up-and-down relationship as he tries to figure things out with Sarah and process the loss of his son. The film is heavier than I thought it would be and centers on the exploration of relationships, loss and family.

There are some humorous undertones and comic relief, although mostly in a deadpan style by all the characters, a classic line being “He ate my turkey and didn’t get sick.”

The Accidental Tourist has been on my list to watch for a while and it must have been fate that a copy was available this week at the library, in addition to the consistent three copies of American Sniper and The Imitation Game.

maxresdefaultAnother fateful encounter at the library was with a lone copy Die Hard, resulting in the fact that “yippee-ki-yay-motherfucker” is now part of my vernacular (or at least my internal monologue.)

That’s obviously one of the most famous one-liners from the 1988 film, but some of my favorites also include “cute toy” when John McClane has to use the computer at his wife’s office building as well as his commentary on terrorists’ shoe sizes and the plight of TV dinners as he worms his way through a heating vent trying to find Hans Gruber.

“You bet your ass I wish to proceed.”

The special effects in Die Hard alone set it apart in the world of cinema and action movies, especially for 1988, and certainly increased Bruce Willis’ star factor.

I think Die Hard, even having just seen it, holds up and has universal appeal. I may be partial to independent films and have a weakness for romantic comedies, but Die Hard really has it all.

Yeah baby. (Too bad that also wasn’t one of John McClane’s lines.)







90 of 366: Glengarry Glen Ross (and a surprise.)

Kevin Spacey and Jack Lemmon.

Well I now know I could not work in a real estate office after watching Glengarry Glen Ross this week. All the phone calls to try to get sales and Alec Baldwin yelling, not to mention constant pouring rain, would just be too stressful for me.

It was even a little stressful just watching the movie, which shows the skill of David Mamet (who also wrote the play it’s based on) and director James Foley to make the grind of a highly competitive — and shady — real estate office feel, well, real.

Baldwin is only in one scene early in the film, in which he rails on the real estate team about the “leads” they need to pursue and sets to tone for the anxiety and stress I was talking about. His speech ultimately causes the characters to go to all lengths to make their sales quota and get to work on the best leads.

Kevin Spacey is the boss of the office, John Williamson, who controls the leads his team receives only if they are successful on other sales; presenting a true psychological test of their will and trust between all the characters.

At first the team, Shelley “The Machine” Levene (Jack Lemmon); Ricky Roma (Al Pacino); George Aaronow (Alan Arkin); and Dave Moss (Ed Harris); seems simply earnest to do their work but it doesn’t take long for some to turn on each other and the office as a whole to get their hands on the best leads.

As the rain continues and the characters toggle their time between the office, the restaurant across the street, phone booths and house calls to customers seemingly at all hours of the night, it is eventually robbed and causes an investigation into who on the team could be responsible.

While there were several more locations in the film than could be used in a stage production, it still felt like a play to me with the intense focus on individual characters in various scenes and their dialogue.

The intensity only builds throughout the film until a final showdown between Shelley and John that exemplifies another of its strong points; the acting. Lemmon especially had a stand-out role because of the mystery of his character, but the entire cast had performances that made it hard to pick a favorite.

Glengarry Glen Ross has many layers that make it a solid play-turned-film and just remember, “Coffee is for closers.”

The Story of Ricky

I also watched a surprise film this week as movie #91 thanks to what may be my new favorite thing at my new favorite place, Tape Freaks at the Trylon Microcinema.

The hosts pick a film each month based on a theme and give away clues on their blog leading up to the screening. This month’s was a movie you know based on seeing clips on YouTube. I couldn’t think of anything that would be, and didn’t know about the clue factor until I went to my first Tape Freaks screening, so I was truly surprised. The chosen presentation was Riki Oh: The Story of Ricky, a 1991 martial arts film about a man in prison using his superpowers, essentially, to fight rival prisoners and guards for the greater good.

Ricky’s powers allow him to severely injure or kill fellow prisoners, even without weapons, and any wounds he sustains will heal so he can continue to fight the injustice in prison. It is a combination of campy/gratuitous violence that overall turns the film more into a dark comedy within the horror and action genre.

It was fun to have no idea what I was in for with Tape Freaks and The Story of Ricky is such a film that, even if you plan to watch it one day, it pushes the boundaries to present an unexpected, entertaining story.

That is all for now.

“And it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe.
It will never do anyhow.”

Bob Dylan – Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.





84 of 366: Witness

Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis in Witness

“I didn’t kill my wife!” Oops, wrong Harrison Ford movie. I actually haven’t seen a lot of Dr. Kimble’s work now that a I did a deep-dive on his filmography, but I can at least cross Witness off the list for movie No. 84 of my challenge.

Witness probably would have been better to watch within a decade of its 1985 release, but it has some components that hold up and others that border on it being like a made-for-TV movie.

It does have a certain level of cheesiness in its attempt to mix a good cop vs. bad cop drama with a tale about life in Pennsylvania’s Amish country; but I’m willing to push that all aside for the forbidden will-they-or-won’t-they romance plot line between Ford (John Book) and Rachel (a pre-Top Gun Kelly McGillis.)

Rachel and Book meet after her son Samuel (Lukas Haas) witnesses the murder of a police officer and they are taken under his wing as he investigates the crime.

Spoiler alert for anyone who actually hasn’t seen it: This wasn’t a random crime and in fact Book’s boss Schaeffer (Josef Sommer) and narcotics officer McFee (Danny Glover) were behind the whole thing.

Book figures the safest place for them to go is back to their Amish farm so he can work on the case in hiding and recover from gunshot wounds at the hands McFee. Also, it’s clearly so he can fall in love with Rachel, only to learn that they cannot be together.

Book is not welcome on the farm at first, but n as he wakes up at 4:30 a.m. to milk cows and takes it upon himself to fix a birdhouse on the property, Rachel’s family decides he’s not all that bad.

The investigation part of the story falls by the wayside a bit at this point because how is a cop supposed to do any work without a phone and a smoke-filled police station with the coffee flowing at all hours of the day?

The setting of the film in Amish country takes away the opportunity for most common cop movie themes to be in place, but director Peter Weir managed to sneak in a few.

For example, Rachel insists he keeps his gun hidden and unloaded so Samuel can’t find it and they have to mention it several times in the film. Of course that decision was destined to come back to hurt Book later when McFee shows up to try to finish what he started.

Luckily it wasn’t enough to prevent Book from being the hero and saving the day, at which point he is seen smoking a cigarette on the farm and leaning against a car with his other cop buddies.

The final scene concludes what I assume was also everyone’s favorite part of the story circa 1985, Book and Rachel’s future. Of course all you see is an extended stare between the characters before he heads back to the city and have to assume she wasn’t going to be able to follow him in the next buggy.

All in all I imagine Witness holds up for people who saw it before and I found it to be an entertaining flashback to 1980s cop dramas that also piqued my interest in watching more of Ford’s films from that era.

And now for a non-related quote my girl Brie Larson posted on Instagram. From poet David Whyte:

“Rest is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be. Rest is not stasis but the essence of giving and receiving. Rest is an act of remembering, imaginatively and intellectually, but also physiologically and physically. To rest is to become present in a different way than through action, and especially to give up on the will as the prime motivator of endeavor, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals. To rest is to give up on worrying and fretting and the sense that there is something wrong with the world unless we put it right; to rest is to fall back, literally or figuratively from outer targets, not even to a sense of inner accomplishment or an imagined state of attained stillness, but to a different kind of meeting place, a living, breathing state of natural exchange…”






69 of 366: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot


Let me tell you a little story.

I had two fillings today at the dentist and here’s how the conversation with the dental hygienist, I’ll call her Lois, went down before I got settled in the dentist’s chair, had needles jammed into my cheek and threw on a pair of Blue Blocker sunglasses just to make the experience even better.

Lois: So do you guys have any trips planned this summer? (Interesting question seeing as I did in fact walk into the office alone.)

Me: No, no plans.

Lois: Do you have kids?

Me: No.

Lois: Are you married?

Me: No.

Lois: Do you have any pets?

Me: Yes, I have a cat.

Lois: (In the most condescending tone possible to I guess reassure me that having a cat compensates for being single without kids, which I was by no means complaining about): Well, there you go.

At that point I said screw it, I am going to quit my job typing away in a cubicle and be a field reporter in Afghanistan (as long as I can make it home on the weekends to work at the movie theater and have these sunglasses.)

Okay, that second part didn’t happen, but it is what journalist Kim Barker did when she was seeking a new adventure in life, inspiring her memoir, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan and then a movie based on it, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Tina Fey, who stars in the film as journalist Kim Baker, had a hand in getting it made after reading the book and the screenplay is written by Robert Carlock (of 30 Rock fame).

At first I thought Baker’s (I wonder why they changed the name ever so slightly) character wasn’t developed enough before she embarked on her journey to Afghanistan, but the rest of the film makes up for that by slowly displaying who she is as she figures out her true mission while covering the war.

Baker’s decision to become an embedded journalist was impulsive, and she continues on that path with choices in some of her coverage — putting herself and others in danger — but soon realizes it’s as much about the next great story as it is about shedding light on why what news there was in Afghanistan during that time (2003-2006) wasn’t being covered.

Fey is joined in the cast by Margot Robbie as a competing journalist/friend Tonya Vanderpoel, Martin Freeman as photographer/love interest Iain MacKelpie and Christopher Abbott as Fahim, Kim’s guide throughout most of her journalistic adventures.

Fey delivers the standout performance, especially after more of her character’s true persona was established, and presents the right balance between humor (obviously a strong suit for the actress) some suspense, and drama.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot works because it is based on a true story and character, although it’s interesting Barker and Fey didn’t consult much on how she was portrayed in the film, giving Fey some more creative power there, according to an interview with Barker in Vanity Fair.

I’m just waiting for the magazine to call me now for an exclusive piece on what happened during the rest of my dentist appointment. I’m sure Tina Fey is already interested in playing me in the movie version.

I’ll give her creative liberties with my character, too, as long as she wears the Blue Blockers.

Tonight from Emily V. Gordon: “You have a choice in what your creative effort actually is–it is your choice to define it. Some people think we’re supposed to have a hobby, a true passion in life, that should ideally be our career as well. This may or may not be true. There can be creative expression in any job, no matter how menial; there can be satisfaction in any job.”






68 of 366: 10 Cloverfield Lane


The story in 10 Cloverfield Lane successfully spans across several genres of film including thriller, suspense, mystery and action all the way to a monster movie.

I am waiting until after I finish writing about it to go on a deep-dive about the ending and underlying themes so as not to influence my opinion of the film, but I am really excited to learn about the method behind director Dan Trachtenberg’s brilliant madness.

I won’t include the big spoilers in this review, but fair warning it’s hard to write about the film without including some of the specifics.

So you can stop reading now if you want … … …

The trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane doesn’t give much away, which is imperative with this kind of film, other than to reveal that there is a car accident early on in the story (I think that’s in the plot description, too.) The character of Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is introduced not long before the accident, which is one of the many moments that caused me to look away from the screen. I did see enough of it to know that it sets the tone for the suspense and surprises to expect during the rest of the film.

After the accident, Michelle ends up in a seemingly post-apocalyptic  bunker belonging to Howard (John Goodman) and soon learns there is another captive there – Emmett, played by John Gallagher Jr.

I need a moment to interrupt the regularly scheduled programming and gush about Gallagher Jr., who is becoming my new “it boy,” or one of them as there is no way I can neglect the likes of Paul Dano, JGL, Matt Damon and don’t even get me started on my comedy crushes.

Gallagher Jr. was excellent in Short Term 12 and The Newsroom, even though I wasn’t a huge fan of that show and I like his beard in 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Back to that subject, it is the directorial feature-film debut for Trachtenberg with J.J. Abrams producing and a host of story developers and screenplay writers including Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle (director of one of my favorite movies,Whiplash) on board.

After Michelle’s accident, the film explores whether what’s good and evil is inside of the bunker with Howard or outside where he says there has been an attack and the air is contaminated. He says he saved Michelle’s life after the accident by bringing her there.

Michelle always has some doubt that what Howard is saying is true and she is stuck deciding whether what is outside is a bigger threat or if it’s Howard.

For awhile the bunker even seems like a happy place with Emmett there and as the characters listen to music, play games and watch movies.

Of course the dark side of it all was never too far away and there was an effective build of anticipation throughout the story while the three characters were together. Then, the story took a new and unexpected turn that still fit in with the overall plot.

This is the part where I can’t get really specific (I know I haven’t done well with that so far), but just knowing there is a twist won’t ruin the complete surprises in 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Winstead as the hero, Goodman as the creepy captor and Gallagher Jr. as the mysterious, good-hearted sidekick, give solid individual performances and work well together in the film. It also has a strong presence of music … not just the tunes playing on the jukebox …but in the score that fits perfectly with the most suspenseful moments. It’s especially prominent in the first scene with the accident, which is before the opening credits even start, and continues throughout, much like in It Follows or Drive.

I didn’t see Cloverfield before this film, and I’ve heard they are mostly not related, but I am intrigued by that story now and to compare the two. 10 Cloverfield Lane also opens up the franchise to include movies, not necessarily a sequel, and Dan Trachtenberg definitely has promise if he continues to lead the project in collaboration with Abrams and the aforementioned writers.

More advice from Emily V. Gordon, especially if you happen to find yourself stuck in a bunker stocked with craft supplies, “You have a choice to release your creative efforts into the world.”






67 of 366: Deliverance

deliverance 2

What’s the plan Lewis? WHAT’S THE PLAN?

I feel like I am probably one of the few people that never saw Deliverance, but I did now and I’ll never forget it. I needed to watch two movies yesterday and my plan was to watch part of Deliverance in the morning and then do my errands and such. (riveting stuff, I know.) But I could not turn the movie off after about 30 minutes as Lewis (Burt Reynolds), Ed (Jon Voight), Bobby (Ned Beatty) and Drew (Ronny Cox) embarked on the canoe trip from hell.

Early on Ed asked Lewis if there were snakes out there (which would be my top concern, too), but that was the least of their problems.

The four friends decided to take the trip before the Cahulawassee River Georgia was turned into a lake, but they were not alone in the wilderness. There were no snakes that I saw, but mountain men run wild in the Cahulawassee neighborhood.

I won’t spoil it at all but Lewis, Ed, Bobby and Drew are faced with decisions that test their morals, strength, friendship and survival while on their trip, filmed in South Carolina and on the Chattooga River in Georgia.

From the beginning there was the sense, and visualization through the camera work, that someone was watching the group, even when they thought they had solved their problems.

Lewis is the leader of the group, but each friend has to take their turn deciding what to do to stay alive, especially after Lewis is injured on the river. Ed steps up a lot of the time but it’s evident he is worried about whether they will survive and be able to leave what happened on the river behind.

Deliverance is like Stand by Me but even more terrifying and suspenseful as it displays the themes of morals and the value of friendship and trust.

It’s also beautifully filmed and I don’t know how they accomplished the action sequences in such a realistic fashion as the group navigates rapids on the river and they almost drown in one scene. I could read more about it, especially since Deliverance is recommended in 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, but I’d rather leave it a mystery for now.

A tip of advice for anyone who owns that book and is watching the films, don’t read the whole plot synopsis, there are spoilers. Just look at the title, read the first few sentences and mark-away with Post-it notes, which I enjoy doing a little too much.

Then watch Deliverance.

Perhaps the fellows out there on the river in Georgia could have used a copy of Emily V. Gordon’s Super You to help in their time of crisis.

She writes, “We are all captains of our own ships, and we have enough to worry about just keeping ourselves afloat.”



63 of 366: Sicario



Every once and a while a movie comes along with a style and performances that make you lose sight of the fact you are watching something created on screen through special effects, makeup, acting, etc.

Sicario is that way nearly from the beginning as FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is thrust into fighting against the Mexican drug cartel as well as her superiors who are supposedly in that same fight with the same purpose.

Macer, after a FBI task force mission at a drug house with hostages in Arizona does not go entirely as planned, is recruited to put her tactical skills toward combating the drug cartel as long as she technically volunteers to do it.

She does so after much coaxing from Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and is soon in the midst of what could be a corrupt plan to stop the top drug lord in Mexico by, ultimately, any means necessary.

Graver and another agent Alejandro, played by Benecio Del Toro, are the force behind that plan while Macer tries to do her job and protect people.

The story is often told from Macer’s point of view in a literary sense as her character develops on screen as well as through the use of style points and cinematography to show the viewer what she is experiencing.

Director Denis Villeneuve keeps the camera at bay from the characters’ actions and conversations in other scenes, including one of the first times that Macer confronts Graver after one of their early missions.

In between the action of shoot-outs at the Mexican border and in Juarez, the center of what is happening in Sicario is focused on morals, right vs. wrong and power and who has enough of those combined to be in full control.

Alejandro’s character certainly comes into play there as he borders between Macer’s biggest defender on the surface to being her biggest enemy. He is always there, but is it for protection of a fellow agent or other reasons?

Villeneuve and writer Taylor Sheridan keep just enough mystery there until the very end when Macer is faced with the truth and a decision that brings trust, morals and revenge all into play.

I get chills just thinking about the final scenes in Sicario and how effectively the individual character dynamics are mixed with the larger themes of corruption and crime in the film.

The three stars of the film, Blunt, Brolin and Del Toro, are fantastic and contribute to the sense that their physical and moral struggles are real rather than a cinematic story.

It’s a film I wish I could watch again this year, but I know there is no time for that. At least I have other titles from Villeneuve to watch, including Enemy and the upcoming Story of Your Life with my girl Amy Adams. Sicario will hook you on Villeneuve’s style of film making and creative choices as well as Emily Blunt’s versatility as an actress who  can take on any role without flaw. (Check out Looper and The Adjustment Bureau if you haven’t seen those.)

To end this with a quote, which I am going to get back into doing, I turned to the final page of my signed copy of That Is All by John Hodgman.

He writes, “And thank you for your kind attention, all the way to the end. All I can say is THANK YOU. That is all.”







59 of 366: Deadpool


I’ll admit some references and the full background of Deadpool were probably lost on me when I saw it last night, but what I did gather as the key characteristics and motives for the “anti hero” and especially the over-the-top style of the film did not work for me.

My friend, who knew the general build of the character going into the film, said one of Deadpool’s traits is that he breaks the fourth wall.

I noticed that early on and just thought the extent the style is used as well as continually making a point that Deadpool isn’t a typical super hero comic book movie or character were unnecessary.

I can appreciate and understand the filmmakers wouldn’t want to stray away from who Deadpool is in the comic books, but a little bit of restraint would have gone a long way in bringing his character to life in a full movie. Why not just make an “anti hero” movie rather than overtly show how and why you’re making one?

The idea could have been refreshing to watch play out and I usually enjoy movies based on comic books, even without ever having read them, but the creative minds behind Deadpool seemed to be trying too hard.

I did find some scenes funny, but the comedy that played as more immature and for cheap laughs took Deadpool down even more for me.

However, anyone who knows me as a comedy nerd will understand that T.J. Miller’s role as Weasel, who is probably Wade/Deadpool’s closest friend and confidant, was my favorite part of the film. His deadpan jokes as Wade’s story as an immortal man with a revenge mission was developed worked well in between the action scenes and gratuitous violence.

It’s at this point that I feel like I am missing something in the reasoning behind the style of the movie and doubting my opinions, maybe because I was really excited to see Deadpool and really wanted to like it.

While Deadpool is a new take on the flood of comic book movies in the last decade or more and a new character, I didn’t find much beneath the surface of that idea and wanted less – not more – from it by the end.

41 of 366: Hot Fuzz

hot fuzz

I just did a quick 30 on the exercise bike (I have to keep up with my workouts f I am going to wear a swimsuit every day as my challenge in 2017), but I also did my share of thinking about Hot Fuzz and Simon Pegg’s comedy leading-man status in Hollywood.

Pegg co-wrote Hot Fuzz with director Edgar Wright (The World’s End, Shaun of the Dead) and stars in the film with frequent acting partner and friend Nick Frost.

Their comedic talent is the perfect balance as Pegg plays Sgt. Nicholas Angel, a transplant to the supposed safest village in England, and joins Frost (Danny Butterman) on the streets catching shoplifters and wrangling a wayward swan.

But Sgt. Angel, as the top cop with a high arrest and crime-solving record that he is, senses there is more to the village’s characters and motives than meets the eye when people start dying in “accidents.”

As the accident (murder) spree continues, Angel and Butterman form a friendship and bond during a night of watching Point Break and Bad Boys II before ultimately saving the day and taking down the village’s high society of criminals.

Hot Fuzz is a perfect homage to the comedy genre in film with its own take on action and effective editing techniques that match the fast-paced sequences and bring a creative touch to the whole picture.

I started watching Hot Fuzz last night (Valentine’s Day in case you missed it), which I learned in a deep-dive on his IMDb page also happens to be Simon Pegg’s birthday. Imagine that. I don’t know if Pegg will ever star in a straight-up romance (following the “zombie rom-com” Shaun of the Dead) and in between his roles in Hollywood blockbusters and comedies, but I think he could pull it off.

His birth name is Simon John Beckingham, after all. Doesn’t get more romantic than that.