MOVIE REVIEW: The House with a Clock in Its Walls

 

 

 


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

You Should Be Watching: August 16-22

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


The Aviator

Year: 2004

Director: Martin Scorsese

Genre: Biography, Drama, History

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, Ian Holm, Jude Law, Kelli Garner, Danny Huston, Brent Spiner, Willem Dafoe, Gwen Stefani, Adam Scott, Matt Ross, Frances Conroy, Stanley DeSantis, Keith Campbell, Amy Sloan, Kevin O’Rourke, Nellie Sciutto, Edward Herrmann, Kenneth Welsh, J.C. MacKenzie, Jacob Davich, Sam Hennings, Vince Giordano, Jason Cavalier, Rufus Wainwright

Nominated for a whopping 11 Academy Awards and winner of 5, Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, headlined by the magnificent Leonardo DiCaprio is a star-studded, technically masterful, sprawling epic full of period music, design, and color about the larger than life Howard Hughes, an insanely wealthy and driven man who could do it all. He flew planes, made movies, and had an insatiable entrepreneurial spirit. His contributions to the disparate worlds of film and flight technology echo into today. He was also one of the most eccentric characters in American history, which was only worsened by hearing loss and other mounting injuries and an extreme case of OCD that eventually turned him into a complete recluse.

It’s difficult to believe Leonardo DiCaprio, who perfectly inhabits the brilliant, obsessive Hughes, did not win the Oscar he was nominated for, as it’s truly the work of a master actor, full of nuance, vulnerability, and energy. This is not to take away from the other deserving winners from this film, including Cate Blanchett, who presents a pitch-perfect Katharine Hepburn, Hughes’ long-term girlfriend and a spirited eccentric herself. The Aviator is an experience that is as joyful as it is tragic.

 


Pather Panchali

  

Year: 1955

Director: Satyajit Ray

Genre: Drama

Cast: Kanu Bannerjee, Karuna Bannerjee, Chunibala Devi, Uma Das Gupta, Subir Banerjee, Runki Banerjee, Reba Devi, Aparna Devi, Tulsi Chakraborty, Haren Banerjee, Rampada Das, Nibhanani Devi, Rama Gangopadhaya, Roma Ganguli, Binoy Mukherjee, Haridhan Nag, Harimohan Nag, Kshirod Roy, Suren Roy

With this stunning debut and the first film in what’s known as The Apu Trilogy, Satyajit Ray shows the touch of a master in handling the complex and contrasting emotional, familial, and economical dynamics at play in this story of a family living in the jungles of Bengal facing abject poverty. While each member of the central family contributes to the narrative, casting Chunibala Devi for the elderly cousin Indir was inspired. She’s like the fragile, upbeat, super old grandma who puts a smile on your face and whom you can’t help but love . Seeing the continued breakdown of her body and the harsh treatment she receives from her cousin (by marriage) Sarbojaya (Karuna Bannerjee) is painful.

The children, Durga (Uma Das Gupta) and Apu (Subir Banerjee) are relatively carefree, but Durga tends to make her mother’s challenging life even more so, though in contrast, she has a special relationship with Indir. Their father Harihar (Kanu Bannerjee) is optimistic about their future but largely absent as he’s gone months at a time trying to earn money as a writer, which leaves Sarbojaya trying to provide for her family with basically nothing. She’s often hard and bitter and even unnecessarily mean at times. She’s also a fiercely proud woman who refuses to ask for help.

She pays a stiff price for them, but her actions based on her extreme circumstances only seem outrageous at face value and when contrasted to those around her who are in happier spirits. It puts into perspective what our own attitudes would be like if faced with enduring her circumstances. Consider how we treat others when we’re having nothing more than a bad day. It’s a call for compassion and a reminder that we can always use more empathy for those around us.


The Second Mother

   

Year: 2015

Director: Anna Muylaert

Genre: Drama

Cast: Regina Casé, Michel Joelsas, Camila Márdila, Karine Teles, Lourenço Mutarelli, Helena Albergaria, Luis Miranda, Luci Pereira, Hugo Villavicenzio, Theo Werneck, Alex Rusjar, Thaissa Reis, Milcéia Vicente, Bete Dorgan, Andrey Lima Lopes

An engaging story about the complexities of inter-class and family relationships, especially when the status quo is shaken up. Val, played by Regina Casé, is a live-in maid for a wealthy family. She has a better relationship with their son Fabinho (Michel Joelsas) than his own mother does and no relationship with her estranged daughter Jessica (Camila Márdila), who resents her having moved away despite it being to provide her a better life. Suddenly, Jessica, needing a place to stay while she studies for her university entrance exam reaches out to Val, who receives permission to let her stay, hopefully not long. Her presence creates a complex new dynamic to the home and in her relationship with her mother.

Director Anna Muylaert has a careful eye for representing the separation between upper-class family represented in this film and the hired live-in help who serve them, namely Val. She also shows how important being present is as the son, Fabinho treats Val like a mother. Also, by Jessica refusing to recognize the class distinction and making herself at home, the distinctions themselves are brought into focus as well as inherent difficulties of the parent/child relationship across generational lines as well as differences in opinion of acceptable behavior. It’s a simple story but an affecting one.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

August 24
The Road (2009)

August 26
White God (2014)

AMAZON PRIME

August 23
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

August 24
Captain Fantastic (2016)

August 29
Dirty Dancing (1987)

FILMSTRUCK

August 17
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)
The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982)
Escape from New York (1981)
The Falls (1980)
Hairspray (1988)
A Zed & Two Noughts (1985)

August 20
Frances Ha (2012)

August 24
Act of Violence (1949)
Boy (2010)
Casablanca (1942)
The Freshman (1925)
From Here to Eternity (1953)
Get Carter (1971)
The Little Foxes (1941)
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Nine Queens (2000)
Now, Voyager (1942)
The Producers (1967)
Stella Dallas (1937)
Swing Time (1936)
Top Hat (1935)
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

August 31
Badlands (1973)
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)
The Exorcist (1973)
Gun Crazy (1950)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
Kameradschaft (1931)
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
The Searchers (1956)
They Live by Night (1948)
Tootsie (1982)
Westfront 1918 (1930)
You Only Live Once (1937)

HULU

August 31
Across the Universe (2007)
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
The ’Burbs (1989)
Clue (1985)
Dead Man Walking (1995)
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Event Horizon (1997)
Hellboy (2004)
My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989)
Primal Fear (1996)
Rain Man (1988)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Trainspotting (1996)


JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)
Hostiles (2017)
No Country for Old Men (2007)

AMAZON PRIME

The Birth of a Nation (1915)
Carnage (2011)
The City of the Dead (1960)
The Damned United (2009)
The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005)
Every Little Step (2008)
A Field in England (2013)
General Della Rovere (1959)
Hope and Glory (1987)
The Hunt for Red October (1990)
In Syria (2017)
La Femme Nikita (1990)
Lean on Pete (2017)
Long Weekend (1978)
The Marquise of O (1976)
Mood Indigo (2013)
Ms .45 (1981)
Passport to Pimlico (1949)
The Second Mother (2015)
Tangerines (2013)
They Call Me Jeeg (2015)
Wake in Fright (1971)
Why We Fight (2005)
Zodiac (2007)

FILMSTRUCK

Heroes for Sale (1933)
Phoenix (2014)
A Star Is Born (1937)
Westward the Women (1951)
Wild Boys of the Road (1933)

HULU

Borg vs McEnroe (2017)
The Cage Fighter (2017)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

August 17

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – NETFLIX FILM
The Motive – NETFLIX FILM

HULU

August 17
Minding The Gap – HULU DOCUMENTARY (2018)

August 23
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

MOVIE REVIEW: Ocean’s 8

OCEAN’S 8 (2018)

1 Hour and 50 Minutes (PG-13)

There is something magnetic about this film series. The crew up of unique and attractive personalities , the detailed planning, the intricate heist, and (almost always) the twist are all elements we love to see come together in a new way. But even when they don’t have anything drastically special to offer the genre, as long as the story is good and the cast sells it, we’re willing to be entertained. For this go-around, Steven Soderbergh exits the director’s chair and passes the torch Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Seabiscuit). Missing is the former’s saturating color palette, replaced by a brighter and crisper one that serves the New York City setting well. Remaining is the recognizable mosaic filming style that Soderbergh utilized in Ocean’s 11-13, replicated by Ross to great effect.

Story-wise, Ocean’s 8 is fairly simple. Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), estranged sister of series protagonist Danny Ocean, is being released from prison and seeking to assemble a crew for a major heist. Having spent her entire sentence planning the detailed job, she wants no part of her brother’s advice to move on from the criminal life and wastes no time in reuniting with longtime friend and partner in crime Lou (Cate Blanchett). From there the film follows a familiar structure as Debbie finds the players necessary to pull off stealing a $150 million necklace during the annual star-studded Met Gala. For this job, Debbie wants an all-girl squad, because in her opinion “A him gets noticed, a her gets ignored.” The crew includes the usual roles required: Nine Ball (Rhianna) the hacker, Amita (Mindy Kaling) the jewelry expert, Tammy (Sarah Paulson) the suburban mom and fence, Constance (Awkwafina) the quick-handed thief, and Rose (Helena Bonham-Carter) the fashion designer, whose job is to ensure that superstar actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) is wearing the diamonds the crew intends to steal. There is quite a bit of the film spent on the planning phase of the heist and it is quite enjoyable learning about the various members of the team and their unique talents and personalities. Understandably, they cannot all have top billing and those actresses not named Sandra, Cate, or Anne are truly supporting characters. They are given just enough development, but don’t expect deeply personal backstories and character arcs. All of the cast members fill their roles fantastically, though, with Awkwafina’s humor and Rhianna’s snarky intelligence standing out.

Debbie, however, is definitely in this for more than just the money. In a sense, the film touches on the very real problem many criminals face. When it’s time to come back to society the only thing they know is what put them behind bars in the first place. If that’s what your good at, and your entire family history involves said criminal activity, why would you do anything else? And she is good at this. Very good. The plan is very cool and includes some modern tech like 3D printing. Many things that happen (including a late third act surprise) require a sense of disbelief because if one thing goes wrong, it all falls apart. But in a way these heist films are like superhero stories – doing the impossible is part of the appeal.

One of the best parts of the Ocean’s series has always been seeing bonafide movie stars come together and exist in this somewhat meta universe where celebrity cameos are a common thing. Sandra Bullock is great as Debbie and Blanchett is her usual perfect self. The chemistry between these two is especially good and their relationship is probably one of the things I would have enjoyed spending more time developing. The real stunner of the cast, though, is Anne Hathaway. Her silly charm is just adorable to behold and she provides plenty of laughs as she steals every scene she is in. The guys that feature in the film are fine and serve their purpose, too, but neither Richard Armitage or James Corden do anything memorable. This is about the ladies, of course, and it’s presented in a way that is both respectful of the films that came before and freshly empowering as a thing all its own.

VERDICT

For me, Ocean’s 8 is likely to be the film in the series that I revisit the most. It’s fast fun from start to finish with great humor, strong cast chemistry, amazing costume design, and an exciting heist. It doesn’t offer the depth of relationships present in some of the other films or the most difficult heist, but it never stops being entertaining and does not try to force becoming something that isn’t a natural fit. If this is the start of a new trilogy, I’m absolutely in favor of it, and can’t wait to see what Debbie Ocean and her crazy crew cook up next.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 084: Thor: Ragnarok

For this week’s episode we find ourselves leaving travelling with the mighty Thor on his third solo adventure. Indie filmmaker Taika Waititi takes the reigns of the MCU and molds Thor: Ragnarok with his signature comedic style. The result is an aesthetically unique, visually striking, and hilarious new superhero film. But is that enough? We both enjoyed the film, but its absence of emotional weight provides us with an opportunity for a big conversation about how important stakes are in the comic book film genre.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:04

Aaron (The Room)
Patrick (Burnt)

THOR: RAGNAROK Review – 0:20:21

The Connecting Point – 1:11:49

Contact

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Download this Episode 


Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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MOVIE REVIEW: Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)




Going In

More like Thor: Ragnarock ‘n Roll, amirite? From what we’ve seen in trailers, Taika Waititi’s film looks to be a wild ride bursting with color, sound, and laughs. I am admittedly burned out on the superhero genre, but Thor: Ragnarok could be something fresh instead of the standard Marvel fare, and that gives me hope. Embracing the Asgardian mythology and combining Thor’s world with one of my favorite comic book stories (Planet Hulk) provides opportunities galore for rich storytelling. I have faith in Waititi and expect that at the very least he and this impressively assembled cast will provide viewers with a fun time at the movies.


COMING OUT

If Thor: Ragnarok is one thing, it’s funny.  No, that’s not a strong enough word. It’s hilarious. Laugh out loud funny. Multiple times. For those who are familiar with Taika Waititi’s filmography this should come as no surprise. The man’s comedic timing is truly great, and his role (you didn’t even know he was acting in the film did you?) steals the show. As a director, Waititi sets the film firmly in its comedic tone right from the start, and it never lets up. Almost everyone gets in the action, from Jeff Goldblum’s eccentric and entertaining Grandmaster to Tessa Thompson’s alcoholic but strong Valkyrie, and of course Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) have plenty of fantastic banter between them. Thor: Ragnarok‘s humor really is its strongest feature and it’s some of the best the MCU has to offer.

But what about the story? If you’re looking for this to be the Marvel film that bucks the routine style of previous films, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The incredible electronic, neon, fantasy aesthetic is a very cool coat of paint on the same old formula. Heroic actions and sacrifice just don’t have much weight to them because everything is a joke in this world. There were numerous conversations where I thought that meaningful character development was coming, but there is never a dramatic payoff. The humor is a constant undercurrent and while it makes the film a lot of fun to watch, it has no depth or staying power because we never connect with the characters or events on anything more than a surface level.

That’s not to say that characters don’t have arcs – they do. This is a hero’s journey for Thor, but other characters must also find out who they truly are if Asgard is going to be saved from the Goddess of Death. That goddess, played by the incredible Cate Blanchett, had potential to be one of the best Marvel villains. Her backstory is intriguing and the film does a great job with the Norse mythology as a whole. Unfortunately, she has little to do other than sling knives around and recite history. She does definitely bring it in the action department, though, and is a worthy foe for Thor and his team. When she’s at her strongest and Thor goes full God of Thunder, it is a sight to see.

Verdict

Thor: Ragnarok plays in an exciting new genre for Marvel. Its overall aesthetic and tone commit fully to the comedic nature of the MCU and results in one of the funniest Marvel films to date. If a fun, entertaining, visually striking, and hilarious experience is what you’re after, this is a must see. It’s too bad that Waititi couldn’t give it a little more depth and heart, though, because that’s what would have truly been something new. As it stands, Thor: Ragnarok will wow you for a few hours, but you’re likely to forget all about it in a few days.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

MOVIE REVIEW: Song to Song

Song to Song (2017)

Song to Song is the latest film from auteur Terrence Malick, one of Hollywood’s most reclusive and polarizing directors. It’s story follows a young guitarist named Faye (Rooney Mara) who begins an affair with hotshot record producer Cook (Michael Fassbender), secretly hoping that his name and influence will result in a boon to her career. Soon after, she meets BV (Ryan Gosling), a singer-songwriter working with Cook, and begins a relationship with him that blossoms into something more real than anything Cook could ever provide. Over the course of the film these three interact to varying degrees. We see romance, love gained, love lost, fear, jealousy, lies, depression, and a wealth of poor choices. It is a powerful look at the pitfalls which can come with power and fame, and the dangers of building your life around those who have it. In the end, though, the film offers a sense of hope and understanding that is profoundly moving.

It has been written that Song to Song is narratively sparse, but I must wholeheartedly disagree. In fact, I consider the film to have one of the best scripts of the year. Malick’s style can be jarring at times, certainly, as he aggressively cuts between perspective and time with no explanation whatsoever, but I never found the film difficult to follow.  Whereas most films feature lengthy scenes to progress plot, what Malick does is utilize brief moments with perfectly spoken dialogue to convey where on the emotional journey a character is at a given time. These emotional changes from scene to scene serve as markers that move the story forward. When combined with the incredible, masterful cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki, this creates a film that viewers can connect with and relate to, recalling fleeting memories from their own past. You won’t have to have walked the exact path of the characters in Song to Song to resonate with their experiences.

The title of Song to Song couldn’t be more appropriate. Malick’s film flows like a record as it takes you on this realistic life journey. It begins with the powerful electronic beats of South African hip hop group Die Antwood and ends with an orchestral composition from classical composer Claude Debussy. It is incredible just how well the soundtrack transitions between musical styles, all of which seem to perfectly compliment the particular scene in which they appear. And like a soundtrack, the visual cuts and editing style of Song to Song are reminiscent of listening to a soundtrack, sometimes skipping ahead… from song to song.

Where the film truly develops into something special, though, is in its final 10-20 minutes. Here the film comes together and pays off the journey by offering hope. Forgiveness and mercy are learned, and love is finally understood. The language used even evokes the well-known Biblical parable of the prodigal son. It could as much reference the return to a commitment of faith as that of a realized devotion to true love. It is in this redemption that we see the state of happiness we endlessly search for can be achieved, it just may not look like we thought it would.

Verdict

For those willing to meet Malick halfway and open themselves to engaging with the film, Song to Song offers an emotionally visceral experience. Its dialogue is lyrical poetry that works perfectly in concert with Lubezki’s stunning cinematography, an expertly balanced soundtrack, and fine acting performances all around. This may be some of the least abstract and aimless work Malick has ever produced, while also being among his best. Song to Song is a film that needs to be more than just seen, it demands to be felt.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 060: Cinderella

“Have courage, and be kind” is advice that resonates throughout Disney’s 2015 live-action adaptation of this animated classic. Luckily for us, it’s easy to be kind to this wonderful and enchanting retelling of a beloved fairy tale. So go ahead and settle in, push play, and we promise to have you home by midnight. It’s a lovely conversation and we’ll hope you join us.

Cinderella Review – 0:05:08

The Connecting Point – 0:55:52

Download this Episode 


Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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Rate/Review us on iTunes and on your podcast app of choice! It helps bring us exposure so that we can get more people involved in the conversation. Thank you!