You Should Be Watching: September 13-19

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 VVitch

    — Moving from Prime to Netflix on Sep. 17

Year: 2015

Director: Robert Eggers

Genre: Mystery, Horror

Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson, Bathsheba Garnett, Sarah Stephens, Julian Richings, Wahab Chaudhry, Axtun Henry Dube, Athan Conrad Dube, Vivien Moore, Karen Kaeja, Brandy Leary, R. Hope Terry, Carrie Eklund, Madlen Sopadzhiyan

No doubt about it, The Witch is very, very dark, as many classic fairy tales are, but those willing to enter in will find a challenging tale providing much worthy of grappling with. Between the design, dialogue taken straight from period sources, and natural lighting of this debut feature film from writer and director Robert Eggers, this film feels intensely, oppressively of its time, like being taken back into the 1600s and being thrust inside a Puritan’s nightmare, the type of nightmare that led to the paranoia of the Salem witch trials. That’s not to say the Puritan lifestyle was inherently oppressive. But any fear, left unchecked can spin out of control.

The family in this story, headed up by the father William (Ralph Ineson) and mother Katherine (Kate Dickie) have left the leadership and community of their former church body, each claiming the other is false in their faith. Now isolated and with each member of the family struggling with their secret sins, they are especially vulnerable to evil oppression. It’s not that they aren’t putting up a fight. They pray. They discuss Scripture. Outwardly, they try to glorify God. But its unclear where each of their hearts lie.

As eldest daughter Thomasin and the one largely responsible for the younger children, Anya Taylor-Joy owns the film from the first frame to the last. She is who we as the audience focus on. We see her parents’ struggles through her eyes. We see the actions of the younger children through her eyes. She is convincing no matter whether she’s trying to express truth or spinning a lie until it’s unclear if her obvious lies are lies at all. One thing is certain. With her parents often being distracted and the family living in isolation, there’s little to keep her grounded.


The Queen

   — Coming Sep. 15

Year: 2006

Director: Stephen Frears

Genre: Biography, Drama, History

Cast: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Helen McCrory, Alex Jennings, Roger Allam, Sylvia Syms, Paul Barrett, Tim McMullan, Douglas Reith, Mark Bazeley, Robin Soans, Lola Peploe, Joyce Henderson, Pat Laffan, Amanda Hadingue, John McGlynn, Gray O’Brien, Dolina MacLennan, Julian Firth

It’s hard to believe now with the public obsession over the weddings of Prince William and Prince Harry and the massive popularity of television series such as The Crown as well as British television in generalbut the British royal family used to be of little interest to those outside of Great Britain itself. Regardless of the monarchy’s role in government, the lack of attention enabled them to live mostly insulated lives, free to make decisions apart from public pressure. What changed all that? Princess Diana. By marrying into the royal family, her celebrity spread far and wide, bringing deep focus onto the monarchy and the family as a whole. What complicated it further? Diana’s divorce and subsequent death a year later.

With strong, believable performances across the board including Helen Mirren winning a Best Actress Oscar for her inhabiting the very look and essence of Queen Elizabeth II, Stephen Frear’s The Queen dives deep into the conflict immediately following Diana’s death, which speaks even to today’s society where the public routinely makes demands of the private lives of others, especially those with power. In this case, new Prime Minister Tony Blair–played by Michael Sheen–as the public’s spokesperson is pushing for the royal family to honor Diana with a show of mourning only a royal would receive. The queen and especially her husband Prince Philip are outraged that such a demand would be made of them, especially since it was their son from whom Diana divorced. James Cromwell as Philip exudes deep frustration. He is emphatic about protecting his wife the queen and their status as royals and all the heritage that comes with it, but he lacks control to do anything about the changes that feel increasingly inevitable.


White Heat

Year: 1949

Director: Raoul Walsh

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Cast: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, Margaret Wycherly, Steve Cochran, John Archer, Wally Cassell, Fred Clark, Paul Guilfoyle, Ford Rainey, Robert Foulk, Ian MacDonald, Robert Osterloh, Sherry Hall, Joel Allen, Claudia Barrett, Ray Bennett, Marshall Bradford, Chet Brandenburg, Robert Carson 

Cream of the crop when it comes to classic gangster movies. The script is full of colorful dialogue and creative plotting. James Cagney is at the top of his game as the gang leader Cody Jarrett. Despite his diminutive stature, he’s tough as nails–no hesitation in killing a man, even taking out one of his own who’s become an inconvenience or a risk. But he’s also a mama’s boy, though Ma (Margaret Wycherly) is just as ruthless as he is, albeit tender to him. And he’s vulnerable due to his penchant to trust those he is close to as well as due to recurring sudden, raging, debilitating headaches and a propensity towards insanity.

Virginia Mayo, plays Cody’s multi-faceted wife Verna. Her uncouth, free-spirited personality shines through along with her fear and duplicity. Finally, Edmond O’Brien is the undercover agent Hank Fallon whose job it is to quickly ingratiate himself with Jarrett so he can draw out an even bigger fish. There are great moments of suspense as any hint of the truth could get him killed in a flash. But the tension doesn’t only serve Hank. Others lives are in danger at one point or another also.

That other side of this film that makes it fascinating is the police work. Unlike the criminals, not much is revealed about the character and personal lives of the investigators. Instead, there’s a heavy focus on procedure, including detailed steps they take to track their suspects and tighten the noose, making for a unique time capsule and a lesson on the origins of today’s surveillance technology. It’s particularly surprising to see cell phones and vehicle bugs used for tracking show up in a film from the mid-twentieth century.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

September 13
Pete’s Dragon (2016)

September 14
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)
Half Nelson (2006)

September 15
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

September 27
The Imitation Game (2014)

AMAZON PRIME

September 15
Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

September 17
The Witch (2016)

September 23
Shutter Island (2010)

FILMSTRUCK

September 14
Advise & Consent (1962)
Easy Rider (1969)
Five Easy Pieces (1970)
Fruit of Paradise (1970)
The Last Picture Show (1971)
The Night of the Iguana (1964)
A Patch of Blue (1965)
Queen Christina (1933)
Seven Days in May (1964)
Splendor in the Grass (1961)
The Thief of Bagdad (1924)

September 21
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)
Mean Streets (1973)
Night Moves (1975)

September 28
Accattone (1961)
Being There (1979)
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925)
Ben-Hur (1959)
The Breaking Point (1950)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
East of Eden (1955)
The Gospel According to Matthew (1964)
JFK (1991)
Kes (1969)
Local Hero (1983)
The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
The Pianist (2002)
Rain Man (1988)
The Right Stuff (1983)
The Roaring Twenties (1939)
Teorema (1968)
Winter Soldier (1972)

HULU

September 30
American Psycho (2000)
Angel Heart (1987)
Babel (2006)
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Bound (1996)
The Brothers Bloom (2008)
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Field of Dreams (1989)
Hoosiers (1986)
The Ladies Man (1961)
Miami Blues (1990)
Rabbit Hole (2010)
The Rock (1996)
Sleepers (1996)
Spaceballs (1987)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Witness (1985)


JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Next Gen–NETFLIX FILM (2018)
On My Skin–NETFLIX FILM (2018)

AMAZON PRIME

Beyond the Lights (2014)
Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Pumpkinhead (1988)
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Stronger (2017)

FILMSTRUCK

Billy Liar (1963)
Cluny Brown (1946)
The Doll (1919)
Hamlet (1996)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Stroszek (1977)
The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927)

HULU

Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)
Stronger (2017)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

September 14
Bleach–NETFLIX FILM (2018)
The Angel–NETFLIX FILM (2018)
The Land of Steady Habits–NETFLIX FILM (2018)

September 16
Role Models (2008)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

September 17
The Witch (2015)

HULU

September 15
The Queen (2006)

September 16
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)


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.

By Request 005: The Mist

Aaron reacts to The Mist, the 2007 Frank Darabont adaptation of Stephen King’s creepy novella.

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Music: “Something Elated” – Broke For Free

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Predator

 

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.

MOVIE REVIEW: Mandy

 

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 23-29

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 Exorcist

 — August 30 is last day to watch

Year: 1973

Director: William Friedkin

Genre: Horror, Drama, Thriller

Cast: Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, William O’Malley, Jack MacGowran, Barton Heyman, Peter Masterson, Rudolf Schündler, Robert Symonds, Titos Vandis, Donna Mitchell, Robert Gerringer, Mercedes McCambridge, Eileen Dietz

Even if you’ve never seen The Exorcist, you’re probably familiar with its premise of a young girl named Regan finding her body the battleground between a powerful demon and the priests trying to exorcise it (Max von Sydow and Jason Miller). But what makes it so effective and worth seeing, even beyond William Friedkin’s masterful direction, is the grave authenticity William Blatty’s script provides to its subject matter, without so much as a wink at the camera, and the characters caught up in it.

Ellen Burstyn is a mother on a desperate search for answers to her daughter’s ever-worsening condition. Linda Blair is her daughter Regan, who having played with a Ouija board now finds herself host to the worst kind of guest. Regan’s increasingly disturbing state of body and mind is all the more shocking given her cuteness and sweet disposition at the start.

The film invites deep thought and discussion of the spiritual world, from the nature of faith to God’s providence and sovereignty to questions about the impact of physical and mental health versus that of angels and demons and where the two diverge. As badly as the doctors want Regan’s problem to be something they can physically see in the brain or have treated as a mental health issue, the evidence grows increasingly undeniable that the cause is supernatural.


Escape from Alcatraz

        — August 30 is last day to watch

Year: 1979

Director: Don Siegel

Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan, Roberts Blossom, Jack Thibeau, Fred Ward, Paul Benjamin, Larry Hankin, Bruce M. Fischer, Frank Ronzio, Fred Stuthman, David Cryer Hank Brandt, Ray K. Goman, Blair Burrows

Escape from Alcatraz details the most famous prison break in American history. While both the film and the real life escape involved several inmates, the vast majority of the film’s focus is on Frank Morris, played by Clint Eastwood. Most of the character and emotional beats are seen through his eyes. It’s a fascinating exploration into the problem solving process and the risks needing to be taken for people to escape an inescapable prison.

But the film doesn’t work unless the audience cares to some extent about Frank and his accomplices. To this end, J. Campbell Bruce’s script provides very few details about the crimes that sent these convicts to the island prison. Instead, we see men trapped in cages and dehumanized by a hard warden (Patrick McGoohan), who prevents them at a whim from having niceties that would make their incarceration at least palatable. Once the audience feels sympathizes with the prisoners for being treated unfairly in a hopeless situation, it’s easy to be sucked into the means of their escape and want them to succeed. Clint himself is a big part of that as well with his no-nonsense motivated yet compassionate manner.


My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown

  — August 31 is last day to watch

Year: 1989

Director: Jim Sheridan

Genre: Biography, Drama

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker, Alison Whelan, Declan Croghan, Eanna MacLiam, Marie Conmee, Kirsten Sheridan, Cyril Cusack, Phelim Drew, Ruth McCabe, Fiona Shaw, Ray McAnally, Pat Laffan, Derry Power

Christy Brown was an Irishman born into extreme poverty and having a severe case of cerebral palsy that even as an adult left him unable to control any part of his body but his left foot. Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of the adult Christy is one more example for why the now retired actor is one of the most acclaimed in film history. His chameleon-like level and skill of intense physical acting is nothing short of astonishing. It’s difficult to believe the man on the screen doesn’t have cerebral palsy himself. Christy goes through a wide range of capabilities and emotional states, and Lewis nails them all. Even the child who played young Christy was remarkable in his short screen time.

It’s heartwarming to see that despite all of his trouble interacting with the world around him, Christy always had friends, siblings, and especially his mother support him, especially since his father is so dismissive of him most of his life. However, this film is not about them and so they do not receive a lot of development in the script. The focus throughout is on the struggle and triumph of being Christy Brown.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

August 24
The Road (2009)

August 25
Gangs of New York (2002)
Night Will Fall (2014)

August 26
White God (2014)

August 27
Ernest & Celestine (2012)
Wrinkles (2011)

August 29
Destiny (1921)

August 31
Batman Begins (2005)
Casino (1995)
The Dark Knight (2008)
Dead Poets Society (1989)
The Descent (2005)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009)
It Might Get Loud (2008)
Man on Wire (2008)
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

September 4
To The Wonder (2012)

AMAZON PRIME

August 23
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

August 24
Captain Fantastic (2016)

August 29
Dirty Dancing (1987)

August 30
The ’Burbs (1989)
Boy (2010)
Breathing (2011)
A Bullet for the General (1966)
Companeros (1970)
Computer Chess (2013)
David and Lisa (1962)
Deep Red (1975)
Django (1966)
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Event Horizon (1997)
Keoma (1976)
The Last Waltz (1978)
Opera (1987)
The Return of Ringo (1965)
The Running Man (1987)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

August 31
Anthropoid (2016)
The Big Racket (1976)
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Capote (2005)
Dead Man Walking (1995)
Death at a Funeral (2007)
A Fistful Of Dynamite (1971)
The Flowers of War (2011)
The Hurt Locker (2008)
Inferno (1980)
The Natural (1984)
Raging Bull (1980)
Red River (1948)
Stories We Tell (2012)
Training Day (2001)
Trees Lounge (1996)

FILMSTRUCK

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

Peter Rabbit (2018)
The Motive – NETFLIX FILM (2017)
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – NETFLIX FILM (2018)

AMAZON PRIME

Unsane (2018)

FILMSTRUCK

My Brilliant Career (1979)
On Golden Pond (1981)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

HULU

A Ciambra (2017)
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
Minding the Gap — HULU DOCUMENTARY (2018)
Role Models (2008)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

August 24
The After Party — NETFLIX FILM (2018)

AMAZON PRIME

August 26
mother! (2017)

HULU

August 26
Gangs of New York (2002)
mother! (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.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Meg

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.

Minisode 045: Interview with The Endless Directors, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead

Indie Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are making a name for themselves with smart, strange, sci-fi, horror films that explore big ideas grounded in emotionally layered characters. Their latest film, The Endless, is available now on Blu-Ray and VOD after a brief theatrical run and is one of the best films of 2018 most have not seen yet. In this interview we talk with Benson and Moorhead about working as a director duo, the challenges and benefits of indie filmmaking, the universe their three films exist in, and we also hear what stories have emotionally impacted them.

Most of this interview can be listened to without seeing the films, but we encourage you to seek out their fantastic filmography to get the most out of this discussion.

Spoiler Section (not major, but light) – 0:29:49

Guests Pick an Emotionally Impactful Film –  0:43:57


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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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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!

MOVIE REVIEW: Hereditary

HEREDITARY (2018)

2 Hours and 7 Minutes (R)

It’s the morning after I saw Hereditary and I’m still alive. I didn’t have a nightmare, and I slept just fine. I guess it’s not quite the scariest movie ever made? That being said, there is plenty of frightening imagery and a very chilly atmosphere throughout that do contribute to one heck of a tense viewing experience. This directorial debut by Ari Aster may not be a perfectly tuned gem, but it offers something fresh and terrifying in ways audiences are not used to seeing.

Hereditary is the story of a family’s struggle to overcome the tragic fate which seems destined to befall them. Annie (Toni Collette), a miniature design artist, has recently lost her mother, a woman whom with she had a fractured and contentious relationship with. She is torn between feelings of sadness over the death, and also guilt over a lack of it. In the aftermath of her mother’s absence she begins to discover spiritual secrets that hint at a very dark past, one that has greatly impacted Annie’s two children, Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro).

There honestly isn’t much more that can be said about the narrative without diminishing the surprises to come. What transpires is a horror tale heavily influenced by Greek tragedy. For the first two acts, it is the definition of slow-burn. The aforementioned atmosphere is cold and dark with an air of dread hanging over the family constantly. The scares come infrequently and often Aster misdirects by lingering in a scene long enough to get audience expectations up before moving on without giving the jump scare we are conditioned to receive. What is most frightening in this section is the depth and pain of the family drama at the film’s heart. It shouldn’t be shocking that a family with evil secrets in their DNA have relationship issues, and these play out deliciously with Collette leading the way. Her performance is probably the best one I’ve ever seen in a horror film by a leading lady, and that includes The Exorcist. Her ability to emote crippling grief, fear, rage, and pain is unbelievable. Luckily we spend most of our time with her because she is absolutely the film’s greatest strength. Unfortunately, this also serves as an accidental detriment, because her children simply can’t live up to the powerful work she puts in. Wolff, in particular, is asked to carry a heavy load, but simply isn’t on Collette’s level. This draws attention to the fact that there is acting happening and pulled me out of the film at times. Gabriel Byrne, playing Annie’s husband Steve, is up to task in a much smaller role, though. His quiet patience and strength as he consistently tries to hold his dysfunctional family together despite the unraveling happening before him is inspiring and resulted in a great amount of empathy for his character.

The cinematography in Hereditary is also awfully good. Annie’s miniature workshop provides the basis for quite a few interesting scenes and the camera’s focus on characters having a breakdown (which happens a lot) really creates a sense of closeness that heightens their emotional release. Likewise the score contributes greatly to the overall perilous mood, and even more so the sound editing is fantastic and a major factor in keeping the audience on the edge at all times. For movies to become classic they need something iconic that can be referenced in future generations, and much like the singing of “Time Is On My Side” in Fallen, the use of tongue clicking in Hereditary will be implanted in your memory forever.

Despite many strengths, the film does disappoint in ways. The third act is a major tonal shift that some may feel is warranted due to the build-up before, but it was jarring and unenjoyable for me. Throughout the story it also felt to me like horror tropes were being checked off of a list and when the supernatural was shown it took away from my enjoyment of the subtle horror displayed within the pulse-pounding mysterious and emotional family drama. This final act took all of that supernatural stuff and cranked it up to 11, providing the shock factor missing previously and ending with a punch that may have been unexpected but left me with the lingering question of, “Do I even care”?

VERDICT

Hereditary is no doubt an audacious debut from a new filmmaker that will likely be talked about all year long and potentially feature heavily in the end-of-year awards conversation. Toni Collette’s performance is stunning and will by itself terrify many viewers. The horror story at the heart of Hereditary, though, is not something tremendously unique. Though the method of revealing its dark secrets is fresh, the evil here is forgettable. If you’re looking for jump scares, this probably isn’t the film for you. But if you enjoyed A24’s previous release The VVitch, you’ll most likely fall in love with the first two acts of this as well. That final act is truly the separating point. Where some see instant classic and walk away shaken and unable to sleep, I was simply annoyed and left feeling that an opportunity for true greatness was just missed.

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.

You Should Be Watching: May 17-23

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. I highlight films that come with my personal recommendation as well as provide a list of notable titles that are coming and going so you’re sure not to miss out on the good stuff.

 


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


Oculus

Year: 2013

Director: Mike Flanagan

Genre: Horror

Cast: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, James Lafferty, Rory Cochrane, Kate Siegel, Garrett Ryan, Katie Parker, Miguel Sandoval, Annalise Basso

 

I’ll be honest with you. I have relatively limited experience with horror. But I still believe that Oculus, a nightmarish puzzle box of a film directed, co-written, and edited by Mike Flanagan, is one of the most wickedly intelligent films in the genre. The genius is evident in the setup. By having Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites), brother to Kaylie (Karen Gillan) be a just-released patient of a mental institution because of a violent act he carried out as a child, sanity is already in question. Kaylie is convinced the whole affair began because of a haunted mirror and is committed to destroying it before it destroys them. But what’s easier to believe, that someone is crazy or that they’re under the influence of the supernatural?

Through Flanagan’s careful editing of the past and the present, and through keeping it unclear whether what the camera is presenting is real or imagined, the audience is continually kept off balance along with the siblings. Flanagan makes wonderful use of darkness and light throughout to maintain the ideal, haunting atmosphere, and the character motivations and actions are right on target, not easily second guessed. The terror is subtle yet just brutal enough to convey the true horror of the situation, and I can’t say enough good things about Karen Gillan. Her performance here reminded me why I loved her so much in Doctor Who.


 

Harakiri

  

Year: 1962

Director: Masaki Kobayashi

Genre: History, Action, Drama

Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Rentarô Mikuni, Shima Iwashita, Akira Ishihama, Yoshio Inaba, Masao Mishima, Kei Satō, Ichirô Nakatani, Hisashi Igawa, Tôru Takeuchi, Tatsuo Matsumura, Akiji Kobayashi, Kôichi Hayashi, Ryûtarô Gomi, Nakajirô Tomita, Kenzô Tanaka, Shôtarô Hayashi, Tetsurō Tamba

 

Masaki Kobayashi’s Harakiri is a true masterpiece of Japanese samurai storytelling, deserving every bit as much praise as more popular fare such as Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Everything from the artistry to the intricately woven plot to the carefully developed emotion to the presentation of a time and a people long past is pure excellence. To begin the film, Hanshiro Tsugumo (Tatsuya Nakadai) is introduced, stoic and seeming in full control at all times, which makes his stated intentions all the more confusing and shocking. He is an older samurai who comes to the house of a feudal lord with the claim that he is willing to commit the ritual suicide known as hara-kiri. But first he must be allowed to tell a story.

The bulk of this film is the presentation of that story and its aftermath, and let me tell you, it’s possibly the most exquisitely crafted story I’ve ever experienced through film, and it will keep you hanging on every frame. Through non-linear flashbacks, Kobayashi introduces the audience to each relevant character, their experiences, and the implications of those experiences at the precise moments needed to maximize intellectual engagement and emotional impact, leading to a progressive series of light-bulb moments as the full truth of the situation is gradually revealed.


 

The Flowers of War

    

Year: 2011

Director: Zhang Yimou

Genre: Drama, History, War

Cast: Christian Bale, Ni Ni, Tong Dawei, Zhang Xinyi, Shigeo Kobayashi, Atsuro Watabe, Shawn Dou, Paul Schneider

 

Many people recognize Zhang Yimou’s 2002 film Hero to be a classic of Chinese cinema, with its eye-popping visuals nothing less than poetry in film form. Cut to 2011, and we have The Flowers of War, Yimou’s highly underrated, culturally diverse war film starring Christian Bale and set during Japan’s rape of Nanking in 1937 that seems to have fallen through the cracks of cultural awareness.    Through a contrast of visuals and characters, Yimou demonstrates the horrors of war and the beauty of sacrifice, especially when learned by the disreputable and self-centered.

Bale shines as the American John Miller, a self-indulgent mortician, who cares for nothing but his own comfort and pleasure as he seeks a quick payday on his way out of Nanking before it’s completely overrun by brutal Japanese soldiers. His unlikely counterpart is Yu Mo (Ni Ni), the leader of a group of prostitutes who are also trying to escape the city. Together with a group of schoolgirls, they all end up together, seeking sanctuary and survival at the girls’ convent. Zhang Yimou and his DP Zhao Xiaoding created a beautiful film about a horrifying event. The plotting is creative, and a wholly human face, with all of its cracks and blemishes is put on our unlikely hero, the innocent schoolgirls, and the prostitutes, many of whom were forced unwillingly into that life at a frighteningly early age.

 


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

May 21
Inglourious Basterds (2009)

May 27
Middle of Nowhere (2012)

May 29
The Jungle Book (2016)

 

AMAZON PRIME

May 18
Creed (2015)

May 30
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
1984 (1984)
Breakdown (1997)
Regarding Henry (1991)

 

FILMSTRUCK

May 18
Luchino Visconti:

La Terra Trema (1948)
The Leopard (1963)
Rocco and His Brothers (1960)

May 25
Carol Reed:

The Fallen Idol (1948)
The Third Man (1949)

May 31
High Noon (1952)

June 1
House of Flying Daggers (2004)
A Night At The Opera (1935)

June 8
Christopher Guest:

Best in Show (2000)
Waiting for Guffman (1996)

Elia Kazan:

On the Waterfront (1954)
A Face in the Crowd (1957)


 

JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)
Phantom of the Opera (2004)

 

AMAZON PRIME

Winter’s Bone (2010)

 

FILMSTRUCK

Billy Wilder:

Ace in the Hole (1951)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Stalag 17 (1953)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

All the President’s Men (1976)
Dark Passage (1947)
Key Largo (1948)
The Killing Fields (1984)
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Stella Dallas (1937)
To Have and Have Not (1944)

 

HULU

In the Fade (2017)
Still Mine (2010)


 

COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

May 18
Cargo — NETFLIX FILM (2017)
Catching Feelings — NETFLIX FILM (2017)

May 19
Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
Small Town Crime (2017)

May 24
The Survivor’s Guide to Prison (2018)

 

AMAZON PRIME

May 19
Beatriz at Dinner (2017)

 

HULU

May 19
Beatriz at Dinner (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.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Endless

THE ENDLESS (2018)

1 Hour and 51 Minutes (Not Rated)

Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson – who serve as directors, writer, cinematographer, and stars –  of The Endless, seem like the kind of guys you would see sitting at a bar debating deep science fiction concepts over a beer. Much like Shane Carruth, these guys are incredibly smart and talented, but dedicated to telling their stories in a particular way (one that would definitely not go over well in the big studio world). Their last effort, Spring, was a romance horror mash-up that was thoroughly thought-provoking and at all times beautiful. In that film they employed great restraint in keeping the horror elements just on the periphery of the sci-fi rom-com, and in The Endless they have once again used that skill to great effect.

The Endless is the story of two brothers, Justin and Aaron Smith (Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead) who grew up in a “UFO Death Cult” but escaped in what seems to be their late teen years. Ten years later, Aaron receives a taped goodbye message from their cultist family and it triggers his already strong PTSD and conflicted feelings about Justin leading them to escape. After much debate, Justin reluctantly agrees to return to the cult for a visit, and that’s when things start getting really weird.

It’s impossible to say much about The Endless‘ story without spoiling a wonderful experience. When the brothers do arrive at Camp Arcadia (clearly deriving its name from the utopian symbol of pastoral simplicity), they find cult leader Hal (Tate Ellington) and the rest of the members to look almost exactly as they had when the brothers left 10 years prior. This strange phenomena is the least of the odd occurrences that begin to take place, but begins to shape the brothers’ diverging reactions to what is going on. Aaron is open to hearing what Hal has to say and approaches the visit from a place of faith and trust. Justin, on the contrary, is extremely cynical and full of doubt, constantly trying to rationalize the unexplained things they see and hear. The film progresses in a way that is increasingly trippy and reminiscent of Lost. The horror elements callback to the Cthulu mythos and cultists worshiping the Elder Gods. Where Benson and Moorhead succeed in creating something unique, though, is that aforementioned restraint. The camera tricks, the cinematography, and the score do all the heavy lifting. Instead of seeing monsters, it’s what we don’t see that has us on edge. And the general likability of the cult presents a scenario where we’re not even always sure what out come to root for.

Despite the high concept sci-fi horror of the story, at its heart is a tale of brotherhood. Two men struggling to cope with what life has dealt them, learning to forgive and trust, and ultimately having to choose a reality that is best for them. Justin and Aaron not only do a fantastic work with the direction, script, and technical elements, but their acting is engaging and fully believable. Their a quiet vulnerability in their interactions that likely is the result of years of close friendship and they carry the film’s emotional weight well.

As is often the case with high concept films, explanations can tend to derail some of the more mysterious portions of a story. There is definitely a period in the middle of the film where some exposition feels a little bit too long and convoluted, making for a slightly longer than necessary runtime and an unfortunate dip in the suspense. Still, that doesn’t derail the enjoyment and fascination of watching The Endless play out at all, and it’s evident that Benson and Moorhead have a masterpiece lurking within them just waiting to come out.

VERDICT

The Endless opens with this quote from author H.P. Lovecraft: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is the fear of the Unknown.” Benson and Moorhead capture this sense of fear generated from the unknown perfectly. The creepy cult and strange happening around Camp Arcadia are a unique backdrop to explore both their big sci-fi ideas and more grounded story of brotherhood. The Endless is unlike other movies being made, and though it’s not quite the masterpiece Benson and Moorhead clearly have in themthe passion that went into this unique and intriguing film shows. It absolutely should not be missed and with so much to unpack it will no doubt be even richer with subsequent viewings.

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.