A Movie Blog About Movie Logs, plus SPECTRE and INSIDE OUT

Another of my New Year’s resolutions at the start of 2015 was to keep a movie log. This was (is) primarily inspired by Stephen Soderbergh’s meticulous log of both things he’s seen and read with dates and number of episodes watched, etc. But surely other critics whose work I read keep similar logs and it seemed like a good habit to get into.

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For the record: I saw 92 movies last year, 17 of which were released in 2015. I saw the majority of them before June, then I really fell off, so I hope to set a good pace and keep it going for 2016. I wrote about 28 movies, which is more than I’ve written about anything ever before. I surprised myself by how much I had to say about Guardians of the Galaxy and Age of Ultron and superhero movies in general. I surprised myself by some of the movies I didn’t plan on writing about, but after watching decided I had to write about such as A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. I surprised myself by how quick 1000 words goes and how long 5000 words is (too long).

Anyway, I kept things pretty straightforward and rigid with my movie blogs last year because I wanted them to look and feel like any film writing you might come across on your casual stroll through the internet looking to read about a movie. But this year one of my goals is to blog more along the lines of my train of thought (we’ll get to Inside Out in a bit) to hopefully strike more of a balance between personal and professional. Maybe you’ll learn something about me and maybe I’ll learn even more about myself. Thanks for reading and I hope you will continue to do so. Continue reading “A Movie Blog About Movie Logs, plus SPECTRE and INSIDE OUT”

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Movie Log Movie Blog: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

I like to take my time with these superhero movies because, what’s the rush? I get why one would be excited; if you consider comics a central part of your life and have been waiting years to see your favorites come to life on screen then sure, get in line and check it out first weekend, or throw on a costume and attend a screening. But for me, at this point, I know that one is just a building block for another, and there will be more to come all the way into 2020 and beyond.

Early confession: I liked Zack Snyder’s 300, and I liked Watchmen even more, but maybe Man of Steel was the one that ruined seeing superhero movies in theaters for me. I was excited to see a visually stunning, detailed, and expansive Superman come to Earth and find his roots in Metropolis with the Kents, the Daily Planet, and Lois Lane (shouts to Amy Adams, even if her filmography has been all over the place lately). But what we got was too much: a movie whose innovative action, world building, and subsequent world destruction spreads far but doesn’t dig deep, resulting in a lot of sound and fury merely setting up a series of sequels. So now I’m cynical, skeptical, and in no rush to see the next one, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Ben Affleck as Batman doesn’t help either. I could go for more Gone Girl Ben Affleck, but keep getting them superhero checks while the getting’s good. Anyway, where some 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros. and DC Comics adaptations have misstepped, the Disney/Marvel productions have shown why they’re the kings of this superhero reboot machine by delivering consistency and reverence while expanding the scope of their universe.

Before I sat down to watch Guardians of the Galaxy over a year later, I didn’t know anything about the Guardians of the Galaxy, and I’m thankful for that because it allowed me to enjoy the movie for what was put on screen. I try as much as I can to talk about these movies (the same is true, but to a lesser extent, with music) as just about what happens on screen, mostly because I’m ignorant of what happens in the source material. It’s not that the source material is irrelevant, but not enough critics assess the movie as a thing in and of itself.

What I did hear about Guardians was mostly good; that it was surprisingly entertaining for old folks and youngins alike, with a solid soundtrack top to bottom, and that Chris Pratt had ascended to the top of the action movie mountain with his turn as Star-Lord (solidified by the success of Jurassic World, which I haven’t yet seen). Still, even after hearing decent to good words about the next Marvel installment, Avengers: Age of Ultron, it wasn’t until after a long run of 70s movies and other iconic American films that it was time to take off my serious movie watching glasses and settle in for some movies made for our mass consumption and enjoyment — and that meant catching up with some superheroes and villains.


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Movie Log Movie Blog: BLUE VELVET

I didn’t write about any movies in July, but it was the month I watched the most movies in so far this year. That’s partly because the BBC released a 100 greatest American films list, which is interesting on a number of levels, but more so gives me a new list of movies to watch.

I caught up with Robert Altman via McCabe & Mrs. Miller, the epic Nashville, the weirder than expected 3 Women, and the L.A. detective noir The Long Goodbye. I also went back and watched Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather just so I could watch The Godfather Part 2 for the first time, and I marathoned them back to back (for the record,
Part 1 is better). However, I didn’t feel like writing about any of them until I caught up with David Lynch and finally watched his acclaimed 1986 film Blue Velvet — currently streaming on Netflix.

Blue Velvet concerns Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan), who has returned home from college to Lumberton, North Carolina to visit his father who has suffered a sudden stroke. Passing through a nearby field, Jeffrey happens upon a human ear, riddled with ants and slightly decomposing. Rather than carry on with his day the endlessly curious Jeffrey bags the ear and heads down to the police station.
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Movie Log Movie Blog: WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?

Even though I’ve been on some no new blog ish lately, I have been trying to get back into the swing of watching lots of movies. For instance I finally went out and saw Mad Max: Fury Road at an Alamo Drafthouse (I suggest you do the same while you still can), and streamed
Edge of Tomorrow on HBO GO (I wonder how many times Emily Blunt had to do the cobra pose as a bewildered Tom Cruise — is there any other kind? — approached).

Also, oddly enough, I’ve seen a few good music documentaries over the last few months. In April I made it through the 4 hour, 2 part
Sinatra: All or Nothing documentary produced by HBO and directed by Alex Gibney; and the other day I revisited Shut Up and Play The Hits, the LCD Soundsystem documentary of their final show at Madison Square Garden. However, this post is about Nina Simone and the new documentary directed by Liz Garbus, produced by and now streaming on Netflix, What Happened, Miss Simone?
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Movie Log Movie Blog: A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT

New to Netflix this week: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) is a movie with a real sense of style, which I think is the most important aspect of the vampire genre. I’m usually dismissive of vampire films because they tend to be campy, trite, and largely predictable, but
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is none of those things. Setting the black & white aside for a minute, Director Ana Lily Amirpour makes some nice stylistic choices I haven’t seen in many, if any other films.

The film opens with a wanna-be James Dean we come to know as Arash (Arash Marandi), apparently stealing a cat before heading home in his cool car. We quickly learn he’s not quite that cool when the drug dealer his junkie father (Marshall Manesh) has become indebted to shows up to collect and leaves with Arash’s car. The dealer, Saeed (Dominic Rains), takes the car and picks up a hooker (Mozhan Marnò), presumably his hooker, as she hands him cash and refuses to give back her cut without a free blowjob. While enjoying himself, he sees a figure in the rearview mirror, but when he turns with a start The Girl is gone.
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Movie Log Movie Blog: EX MACHINA

Ex Machina, the first feature film from British Director Alex Garland, is an accessible and engaging modern science fiction film I’m glad to have seen in theaters.

Though contained to the enclave of unfathomably rich tech CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), Garland takes us to and through a mountain lair with many laboratories and mysterious rooms, each of them well designed to look both natural and modern. To that end the film is lit with natural light during daytime recreational bonding between Nathan and Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), and flooded with pristine white and occasionally delirious red artificial light at night. Light chats along sounds of a running stream and nature for miles are as arresting as the opposing terse dialog in dense, claustrophobic rooms.

Caleb, a computer engineer at Nathan’s social media company, finds himself at Nathan’s home as a sort of prize. What Caleb has won is an opportunity to perform a Turing Test on the latest prototype of the company’s latest top secret project, Ava (Alicia Vikander); an artificially intelligent android of Nathan’s creation, harnessing the whole of our social interactions around the world. Nathan has chosen Caleb as he feels he’s finally ready to introduce his Ava to another human to see how real she seems, how humanly she behaves with a stranger.
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Movie Log Movie Blog: THE GUEST, A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES

Let the record show that if you recommend I watch something, it may take up to two months for me to get around to it (you should also know that if you lend me a book you might not get it back for up to six months, I know, worst possible person).

Earlier this year my friend Caponio recommended The Guest (2014) starring Dan Stevens. True story, a few weeks before that I was looking at Dan Stevens’ filmography to try and see what he’d been up to since leaving Downton Abbey to pursue other interests and randomly joked about The Guest out of all of them. I don’t hate Dan Stevens, I just have a strong feelings of resentment for how things went down on Downton Abbey.

Anyway, now that the Oscars have passed I have time for some action thrillers, and I’ll be honest I enjoyed The Guest featuring ‘Merican Dan Stevens as an unnerving veteran come to pay respects to the family of a fallen friend more than I expected.


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