You Should Be Watching: October 4-10

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 Conjuring

Year: 2013

Director: James Wan

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Mackenzie Foy, Joey King, Shanley Caswell, Kyla Deaver, Hayley McFarland, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Sterling Jerins, Joseph Bishara, Marion Guyot, Morganna Bridgers, Amy Tipton, Zach Pappas, Rose Bachtel, James D. Nelson

What’s October without a horror recommendation? James Wan’s The Conjuring, which launched a whole new horror-verse, is like a big budget version of the wildly popular Paranormal Activity, which set off its own series. Wan draws out a similar trepidation, tension, and terror but with a more fully fleshed out world and mythology. The central characters, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are paranormal investigators and demonologists based loosely on a real life couple and case. They are invited to investigate the paranormal events haunting the Perron family. Ron Livingston plays the father Roger and Lili Taylor his wife Carolyn. They have recently moved into an old farmhouse along with their 5 daughters. They each see, hear, and experience an unexplainable presence, at times seemingly innocent and others expressing frightening malevolence.

In addition to the Warrens’ character development both as individuals and as a couple, this film’s strength builds through its underlying dread, lightened only by the many cuts from night to daytime, representing the passing of another night and a hopeful return to safety until night falls again. There’s an inescapable sense of entrapment as plausible reasons why the family doesn’t move away enhance the dread even more. In a world that wants to pretend nothing exists beyond the physical, The Conjuring exists to remind us that there might just be more to the supernatural world than we realize.


Polytechnique

        

Year: 2009

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Genre: Crime, Drama, History

Cast: Maxim Gaudette, Sébastien Huberdeau, Karine Vanasse, Evelyne Brochu, Martin Watier, Johanne-Marie Tremblay, Natalie Hamel-Roy, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Pierre Leblanc, Francesca Barcenas, Ève Duranceau

Following a nine-year gap after his sophomore effort, the yet unknown Denis Villeneuve directed this masterful and terrifying dramatization of the Montreal Massacre, a 1989 school shooting that based on the emotional weight of this film seems to have had a profound effect on him. It bleeds pain, terror, and sadness. Even at this early stage of his career, the fingerprints of his trademark style are evident–gorgeous, slow-paced cinematography, matching ominous music, mysterious characters, and brooding drama punctuated by intense, realistic violence.

Minimal dialogue means the actors have to show not tell the nightmare they are experiencing or in the case of the killer, enacting. Villeneuve’s tight focus on individual characters in the moment enables the viewer to intimately feel the experience. We are sickened by the evil heart of the shooter, saddened at the hurtful comments one of the female victims receives, and shocked at the sudden cold, brutal, Terminator-like violence of the killer as we reel in disbelief that there is no one to stop him.


Ball of Fire

Year: 1941

Director: Howard Hawks

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Cast: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, S.Z. Sakall, Henry Travers, Oskar Homolka, Tully Marshall, Leonid Kinskey, Richard Haydn, Aubrey Mather, Dana Andrews, Allen Jenkins, Elisha Cook Jr., Aldrich Bowker, Dan Duryea, Ralph Peters, Kathleen Howard, Mary Field, Charles Lane, Charles Arnt 

Not just screwball comedy. Howard Hawks creatively infuses romance and borderline noir drama with major chemistry between Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck who play Professor Bertram Potts and nightclub performer Katherine “Sugarpuss” O’Shea. Stanwyck practically takes the lead as she plays Sugarpuss with cool confidence, largely in control. An air of tension is established with never knowing for sure if her demonstrated feelings for Professor Potts are genuine. She is very convincing no matter what her intentions are. Cooper, while obviously intelligent, is delightfully awkward as Potts, trying to resist Sugarpuss’ advances.

Hawks uses many unique & memorable ideas & visuals, such as Sugarpuss stepping up on the books for some yum-yum, a wet washcloth bit, crazy amounts of obscure slang, Potts talking to Sugarpuss’ “Daddy”, and the whole initial setup of 8 professors living together for a multi-year project to create a definitive encyclopedia. The ending is also really clever as it makes use of the unique characteristics of each of the professors.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

October 5
The Beauty Inside (2015)
The BFG (2016)

October 7
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

October 13
The Babadook (2014)

October 14
Seven Pounds (2008)

October 16
Donnie Darko (2001)

October 21
The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

October 24
Big Eyes (2014)
Queen of Katwe (2016)

October 27
Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)

AMAZON PRIME

October 15
The Fits (2016)

October 16
Louder Than Bombs (2016)

FILMSTRUCK

October 5
Infernal Affairs (2002)
The Narrow Margin (1952)
The Thing from Another World (1951)
White Heat (1949)

October 12
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

October 19
Casa de Lava (1994)
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

October 26
Barry Lyndon (1975)
Ace in the Hole (1951)
Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
Footlight Parade (1933)
Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
Guys and Dolls (1955)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Stalag 17 (1953)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Tabu (2012)
What’s Up, Doc? (1972)
Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

October 31
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

HULU

October 31
13 Going on 30 (2004)
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Babe (1995)
Barfly (1987)
Bull Durham (1988)
Eight Men Out (1988)
The Elephant Man (1980)
High Noon (1952)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Point Break (1991)
Rabbit Hole (2010)
Rescue Dawn (2006)
The Rock (1996)
Sixteen Candles (1984)
Sleepers (1996)
Spaceballs (1987)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Unbreakable (2000)
Witness (1985)


JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

The Green Mile (1999)
Life of Brian (1979)
Black Dynamite (2009)
Blade (1998)
Blade II (2002)
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Empire Records (1995)
Hold the Dark (2018)
Mystic River (2003)
The NeverEnding Story (1984)
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
The Shining (1980)
V for Vendetta (2005)

AMAZON PRIME

Bitter Moon (1992)
Carrie (1976)
Election (1999)
Hoop Dreams (1994)
A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
For a Few Dollars More (1965)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
The General (1998)
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Gods and Monsters (1998)
House of Usher (1960)
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967)
The Illusionist (2006)
Let Me In (2010)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Raging Bull (1980)
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
RoboCop (1987)
Saving Face (2004)
Starship Troopers (1997)
The Strangers (2008)
To Sleep with Anger (1990)
Trees Lounge (1996)
The Untouchables (1987)
Wild Bill (2011)

FILMSTRUCK

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

HULU

American Psycho (2000)
Bitter Moon (1992)
Cinderella Man (2005)
Closer (2004)
Dheepan (2015)
Election (1999)
Frida (2002)
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Gods and Monsters (1998)
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
Insomnia (2002)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
The Music Never Stopped (2011)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Others (2001)
Platoon (1986)
[REC] (2007)
Raging Bull (1980)
RBG (2018)
RoboCop (1987)
Starship Troopers (1997)
Trees Lounge (1996)
Wild Bill (2011)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

October 5
Malevolent – NETFLIX FILM (2018)
Private Life – NETFLIX FILM (2018)

October 10
22 July – NETFLIX FILM (2018)

AMAZON PRIME

October 6
A Prayer Before Dawn (2017)

October 11
Monster’s Ball (2001)
The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018)

HULU

October 6
Lowlife (2017)
Pyewacket (2018)


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.

You Should Be Watching: July 19-25

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.

This week I’m highlighting a change of pace food-focused indie film from Jon Favreau (expiring soon), a surreal mindbender from Denis Villeneuve, and another all-time classic from Charlie Chaplin.

This month is your last chance to see Finding Dory on Netflix, Gran Torino and The Hurt Locker on Amazon Prime, and classics like His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo, and Taxi Driver on FilmStruck. Now streaming are titles such as Room, Mary and the Witch’s Flower, and The Spectacular Now on Netflix and The Philadelphia Story and the Judy Garland version of A Star Is Born on FilmStruck.

 


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


Chef

Year: 2014

Director: Jon Favreau

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Cast: Jon Favreau, Sofía Vergara, Emjay Anthony, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale, Amy Sedaris, Robert Downey Jr., Russell Peters, Chase Grimm, Will Schutze, Gloria Sandoval, Jose C. Hernandez, Alberto Salas, Alfredo Ortiz

 

When he’s not busy making movies or in a past life, Jon Favreau—who plays main character Carl Casper—seems to have spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen and frequenting food trucks. As writer, director, and lead actor on this picture, his love for the world of food shines through, as does his frustration with artists being told how they have to make their art  and critics–professional and otherwise–putting down the art.

Casper is a head chef at a high-class restaurant in Los Angeles, but he’s fed up with being told how to make his dishes and blows up at a stuffy, influential critic both on Twitter and in person after receiving a scathing review. With his reputation now trashed and unable to make the dishes he knows would be loved, he leaves the restaurant and has to figure out what’s next for him career-wise and what to do about his relationships with his estranged son Percy (Emjay Anthony) and his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara).

In all, Chef is a unique look at the classic middle age crisis but in the modern world of friendly divorces and social media, where emotions run wild, reputations are changed in a moment, and news today is gone tomorrow.

EXPIRING: Last day to watch on Amazon Prime is July 27


 

Enemy

Year: 2013

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini, Joshua Peace, Tim Post, Kedar Brown, Megan Mane, Misha Highstead, Alexis Uiga, Darryl Dinn, Kiran Friesen, Loretta Yu, Stephen R. Hart, Paul Stephen

 

Despite it being far more surreal than any of his other films Denis Villeneuve’s (Blade Runner 2049, Arrival) fingerprints can be seen all over Enemy, from pacing to atmospheric score to thematic color design. It is sublimely edited, attention-grabbing throughout, and terrifically haunting in its direction. For what it’s worth, even his use of nudity, while graphic, is limited and more artistic than titillating.

But none of it works without Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as two radically different characters who look the same, one a professor named Adam Bell, the other a small-time actor named Daniel St. Claire, who Adam stumbles upon after renting one of his movies. Unable to shake the reality that Daniel is a mirror image of himself, Adam becomes obsessed with him. And it only gets stranger and more challenging and confusing from there. It’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between dreams, reality, imagination, and symbolism, and why the heck spiders keep appearing. But despite the likelihood that the film will leave you in utter confusion, it’s a fascinating experience with knockout performances, an incredible score, and wonderfully creative visual design.


 

City Lights

  

Year: 1931

Director: Charlie Chaplin

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Florence Lee, Harry Myers, Al Ernest Garcia, Hank Mann, Albert Austin, Eddie Baker, Henry Bergman, Buster Brodie, Jeanne Carpenter, Tom Dempsey, James Donnelly, Ray Erlenborn, Robert Graves, Charles Hammond, Jean Harlow, Joseph Herrick, Austen Jewell, Willie Keeler, Robert Parrish John Rand, W.C. Robinson, Cy Slocum, Tony Stabenau, Mark Strong, Tiny Ward, Stanhope Wheatcroft, Florence Wix

 

A delightful film through and through, full of laughter, awe, and heartwarming goodness, but it also embraces the reality of the hard times. You can’t help but root for Charlie Chaplin’s character The Tramp. He has such a good heart and keeps finding himself a victim of circumstance, for better and worse. Virginia Cherill as his love interest is so cute and  great at playing blind. Their on-screen chemistry is special.

There is a lyrical quality to the film that uses the perfect choreography of movement and wonderful musical score to keep each scene flowing smoothly into the next. Incredible timing is needed to make the interactions work as they need to, but Chaplin is such an expert, he makes it all look easy.

There are diverse settings, and the film is chock full of gags, but one of the highlights is the boxing match. Its choreography is among the most creative of its type. And not only is that entire sequence laugh-out-loud funny, both before and during the match, it’s also thrilling and suspenseful. If you only see one Chaplin film, make it City Lights. It’s a true joy to experience.

 


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

July 29
Assassination (2015)

July 31
Finding Dory (2016)
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

 

AMAZON PRIME

July 19
Embrace of the Serpent

July 27
Chef

July 30
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Wild Bill (1995)

July 31
A Christmas Story (1983)
Gran Torino (2008)
The Hurt Locker (2009)

 

FILMSTRUCK

July 20
Blow-Up (1966)
Rififi (1955)
Thieves’ Highway (1949)

July 27
All the President’s Men (1976)
Ball of Fire (1941)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
His Girl Friday (1940)
The Killing Fields (1984)
Rio Bravo (1959)

July 28
Night and the City (1950)

July 31
Taxi Driver (1976)

August 3
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927)
Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
Marty (1955)
Network (1976)

August 4
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)
The Phantom of Liberty (1974)

August 10
The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)
Dogtooth (2009)
Magnolia (1999)
Nights of Cabiria (1957)
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)


 

JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Enemy (2013)
Locke (2013)
Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017)
Obvious Child (2014)
Room (2015)
The Rover (2014)
The Spectacular Now (2013)
The Stranger (1946)
Under the Skin (2013)

 

AMAZON PRIME

The Doors (1991)
Return to Me (2000)
Walking Tall (1973)

 

FILMSTRUCK

Gaslight (1944)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
A Star Is Born (1954)
Two Women (1960)

 

HULU

Cold in July (2014)
The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008)


 

COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

July 20
Father of the Year—NETFLIX FILM (2018)

July 22
An Education (2009)

 

AMAZON PRIME

July 24
How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2017)

 

HULU

July 20
Embrace of the Serpent (2015)

July 25
Black Cop (2017)

 


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.

Episode 079: Blade Runner 2049

For the second week in a row we’ve got replicant fever and are trying to answer that nagging question, “Do androids dream of electric sheep?” Blade Runner 2049 inspires us to honor its epic length with some extended conversation of our own. There is plenty to discuss in the incredible new film from Denis Villeneuve so join us for an in-depth journey as we explore the film’s emotional and philosophical impact on us.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:02:14

(Aaron – My Little Pony: The Movie)
(Patrick – Clue)

Blade Runner 2049 Review – 0:19:05

The Connecting Point – 1:34:45

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MOVIE REVIEW: Blade Runner 2049

BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)



GOING IN

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner holds a special place in my heart. Over countless viewings the film has continued to evoke emotional and intellectual responses from me, often times new and unexpected. It is the film that ushered in my love of a good artificial intelligence story, a sub-genre that today I consider my favorite. The ideas it brings forth and leads us to consider are hefty ones. It is brilliant in most every way and is firmly placed in my Top 5 favorite films of all-time. And now we have a sequel…

To be honest, I wasn’t excited when this film was announced. Part of what makes Blade Runner so fascinating is the ambiguity. Will a sequel ruin all of that, and could it even lower my enjoyment of the original? These are very real fears for me. Over time, though, I’ve grown more excited about this project. Director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins have the vision and style to make them a perfect artistic fit.  The casting of Ryan Gosling and Jared Leto entice me, as does the return of Harrison Ford. This film couldn’t be in better hands. But the skeptic in me remains, and Blade Runner 2049 meeting my expectations may prove a difficult task.



COMING OUT

For once, Hollywood got it right. The studios worked very hard to encourage no spoilers be released from early Blade Runner 2049 screenings and that decision will result in a much better experience for filmgoers. The story being told is intriguing and provocative, a believable next step in the evolution of replicants that continues the original film’s exploration of what it means to be alive. As it should be expected, the question of who is and isn’t human lingers and gives rise to doubt. The concept of love and what role it plays in having a soul is also examined. A particular relationship between characters, one of whom is a holographic A.I., was among my favorite parts of the film and provided an emotional center that resonated with me.

That same A.I. is one of several new technological advancements that the world has seen in its 30 years since the original Blade Runner took place. Police Department cruisers are considerably cooler and now have enhancements like a detachable drone and weaponry. Synthetic farming is briefly shown and looks fascinating. Other new tech includes things like a portable replicant scanner and what serves as an upgraded Voight-Kampff machine that helps humans keep replicants operating between the lines.

When it comes to visuals, Roger Deakins’ cinematography is incredible. This is not the hard-boiled Blade Runner of the past that was filmed almost entirely in darkness. Everything here is shiny and futuristic. It is a gorgeous film to behold and I’ll be extremely surprised if Deakins isn’t raising a golden Oscar statue at the 2018 Academy Awards. It’s clear that he and Villeueve have a passion for the material and their artistic genius is without question.

But…

Thought-provoking as it may be, I had an incredibly hard time connecting emotionally with the primary plot. The themes were not deepened in a way that moved me and the entire world felt very cold. Numerous recreations of moments from the original film seemed cheap and were distracting. This is a long film and it feels long. Many will likely be bored, and though I wouldn’t count myself among them, I definitely felt many scenes could have been shorter without losing any of their impact. When I saw Blade Runner 2049‘s running time I expected much more in-depth world-building than actually exists.

VERDICT

Admittedly, I had high expectations for Blade Runner 2049 and in some ways those were met. This is a visually stunning film and for a while it was nice exploring new, but familiar, themes in this universe. Harrison Ford’s return was wonderful and most of the performances were perfectly fine. But what I didn’t find Blade Runner 2049 to be is particularly inspired. Villeneuve shockingly plays it safe and doesn’t expand on the world in any meaningful ways. Sure, there may be some meaning for a few characters, but larger implications are left completely unexplored and some plot lines just dropped as suddenly as if the film had run out of reel and nothing could be added. While I find the original Blade Runner to be infinitely re-watchable, as of this writing I don’t see myself desiring to revisit the long slog of Blade Runner 2049 again. When graded against science fiction films in general, Blade Runner 2049 is an above average entry. But this feels now more than ever like a sequel that we didn’t need, and when graded against its compelling and great source material, it sadly falls very short.

Rating:


UPDATE

Having now seen the film a second time, I feel it is important to update this review. Upon repeat viewing, divorced from expectations of what I thought the sequel should be, I was able to enjoy the film completely for what it actually is. Instead of finding the film cold and emotionless, I experienced quite a few moments of deep connection to different characters. The unique thing about Blade Runner 2049 is that it will not draw your attention to these moments through the use of manipulative music or exposition. You have to be paying attention, and if you are, the payoff is a powerful and moving one. I also had far less problems with the thematic content of the film. The new direction that Villeneuve has chosen to take this series is a logical step forward and though questions are once again left unanswered, they made me crave and yearn for more details, not less. Yes, the runtime is exceptionally long and it’s understandable that some viewers were yawning in my theater, but I was entranced and could have easily lived inside this world for another hour plus.

Sometimes expectations can thoroughly derail a filmgoing experience and I believe that is what happened to me. Discussing both that topic and the many emotional/philosophical story beats of Blade Runner 2049 on our podcast helped me to realize just how much I appreciate and adore this film. I love it. I cannot wait to see it again, and again, and again. I want more from Villeneuve. I want resolutions and new characters and new mysteries. Blade Runner 2049 is an exceptional work of art and deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible.

New 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.