MOVIE REVIEW: Ralph Breaks the Internet


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: September 21-26

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


Ben-Hur

 — Expires Sept. 28

Year: 1959

Director: William Wyler

Genre: Adventure, Drama, History

Cast: Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd, Hugh Griffith, Martha Scott, Cathy O’Donnell, Frank Thring, Sam Jaffe, Ady Berber, Finlay Currie, André Morell, Terence Longdon, Lando Buzzanca, Giuliano Gemma, Marina Berti, Robert Brown, Liana Del Balzo, Enzo Fiermonte

With 11 Academy Awards won–a record yet to be surpassed–, a career-defining performance by the dynamic, self-assured Charlton Heston as the titular Judah Ben-Hur, and the largest budget and most elaborate sets of its time, William Wyler’s Ben-Hur is a monumental achievement and the very definition of Hollywood epic. Everything about it is huge, from the 10,000 extras to the centerpiece chariot race, to the 3 1/2-hour runtime to Miklós Rózsa’s majestic score. Adapted from the 1880 Lew Wallace novel and a remake of the 1925 silent film, Ben-Hur is in the vein of the classic BIble epics, even interacts with events in the Biblical narrative, but remains its own story.

Judah is an early first century Jewish nobleman living in Jerusalem who is knowingly and wrongfully accused of attempted murder by his once childhood friend Messala (Stephen Boyd). Now a Roman commander, Messala shows himself willing to destroy the life of a family he once held dear all for the sake of Rome’s glory. The betrayed Judah will have to endure intense undeserved hardship and face his desire for revenge as he struggles to get back what he lost and encounters one who was more deserving of revenge than anyone who has ever lived.


We Need to Talk About Kevin

      

Year: 2011

Director: Lynne Ramsay

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Cast: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller, Jasper Newell, Rock Duer, Ashley Gerasimovich, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Alex Manette, Kenneth Franklin, Leslie Lyles, Paul Diomede, Michael Campbell, J. Mallory McCree, Mark Elliot, Wilson, James Chen, Lauren Fox, Blake DeLong, Andy Gershenzon

This is a dismal but important film by a director who has made a career of such films, Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here)The story centers on the lives of Franklin and Eva Khatchadourian (John C. Reilly and Tilda Swinton) and their troubled son Kevin. All three actors who play Kevin at his different ages–Rock Duer, Jasper Newell, and Ezra Miller–display such smug, manipulative attitudes it is downright scary. Franklin acts as a cautionary figure. He is easily manipulated by Kevin, receiving all of his love and affection, and refuses to listen to his wife and look deeper, causing his relationship with Eva to fracture. Eva falls into misery and isolation because her child has a clear predilection towards rebellion, manipulation, and downright evil from the time he was born.

The narrative jumps around the timeline of their lives, but a painful sense of dread hangs throughout as Kevin’s true nature becomes increasingly difficult to ignore as well as the knowledge that there are many Kevins in the real world. But by God’s grace, any one of us could be a Kevin or have a child like him.


The Third Man

Year: 1949

Director: Carol Reed

Genre: Film-noir, Mystery, Thriller

Cast: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee, Paul Hörbiger, Ernst Deutsch, Siegfried Breuer, Erich Ponto, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Hedwig Bleibtreu, Alexis Chesnakov, Thomas Gallagher, Herbert Halbik, Hannah Norbert, Eric Pohlmann, Carol Reed, Annie Rosar, Frederick Schrecker, Hugo Schuster, Karel Stepanek, Brother Theodore, Jenny Werner

Voted the greatest British film of all time by the British Film Institute in 1999, the Third Man is a film-noir like no other. It starts out as a merely an intriguing murder mystery where a writer named Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) has arrived in Vienna at the invitation of his childhood friend Harry Lime only to find out he has died, but it becomes something else entirely as the story, written by Graham Greene, develops.

With the genre already being rooted in German expressionism, director Carol Reed takes the idea and runs with it, creating one of the most distinctive combinations of sight and sound on film. From the outset, the energy and tension of the film is established through Anton Karas‘ musical score, consisting of a single instrument, the zither. Reed uses Dutch angles galore that perfectly enhance the off-kilter tone of mystery and the post war environment itself without ever coming across as pretentious. And Robert Krasker’s Academy Award winning stark black and white cinematography sets a deep contrast between shadow and light to further accent the mood. Not only is the film set in post WWII Vienna, which becomes a character itself, but many of the Austrians speak German, which is often left unsubtitled, putting the audience in the same state of confusion as Holly as he tries to work out the mystery of Harry Lime.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

September 22
Trollhunter (2010)

September 25
The Assassin (2015)

September 27
The Imitation Game (2014)

September 29
The Commitments (1991)

September 30
The Departed (2006)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Life Is Beautiful (1997)
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Rust and Bone (2012)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Menace II Society (1993)
Cinderella Man (2005)
Inside Man (2006)
The Lost Boys (1987)

AMAZON PRIME

September 23
Shutter Island (2010)

September 29
Carrie (1976)
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Miami Blues (1990)
Spaceballs (1987)
Stargate (1994)

September 30
American Psycho (2000)
Angel Heart (1987)
Babel (2006)
The Brothers Bloom (2008)
The Crow (1994)
Gone with the Wind (1939)
The Graduate (1967)
Hoosiers (1986)
Insomnia (2002)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Rabbit Hole (2010)
V for Vendetta (2005)
Witness (1985)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)

October 1
Raging Bull (1980)

October 3
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

FILMSTRUCK

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)

October 5
White Heat (1949)
Infernal Affairs (2002)
The Narrow Margin (1952)
The Thing from Another World (1951)
Gigi (1958)

October 12
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

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

The Endless (2017)
Role Models (2008)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
The Third Man (1949)
The Witch (2015)

AMAZON PRIME

Angels Wear White (2017)
The Big Combo (1955)
Blow Out (1981)
Charade (1963)
The Conformist (1970)
Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
Kansas City Confidential (1952)
Locke (2013)
One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005)
Western (2017)
Wild Bill (2011)
Woman on the Run (1950)
Zombie (1979)

FILMSTRUCK

Ball of Fire (1941)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)
Full Moon in Paris (1984)
Wuthering Heights (1939)

HULU

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
The Queen (2006)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

September 21
Nappily Ever After–NETFLIX FILM (2018)

September 25
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

AMAZON PRIME

September 21
My Little Pony: The Movie (2017)

HULU

September 21
My Little Pony: The Movie (2017)

September 24
Iris (2001)


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.

Minisode 16: Kong: Skull Island

Don Shanahan joins the show for a discussion about the return of Kong to the big screen. This latest monster movie provides plenty of thrilling, towering action sequences that are worthy of the King. We talk about the different style of creature features over the years and whether or not character development is necessary for a good blockbuster. So push play on this episode and find out why we think Kong is back and here to stay.

Download this Episode 


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

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Feelin’ It: Kong: Skull Island Review

Rating:

The hype surrounding Kong: Skull Island had a decidedly Apocalypse Now feel to it. Based on the trailers and posters we’d seen, it appeared that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts was going to do his best at a Francis Ford Coppola impression. Were we truly about to see the merging of a dramatically brilliant war film with the unapologetic campiness of a monster-focused blockbuster? In a sense, we did. And what’s really crazy is… it worked.

Where Vogt-Roberts draws inspiration, however, is not from the dramatic human stories we see in war epics like Apocalypse Now. Instead, he focuses on using the beautifully shot landscapes, often bathed in fire or backed by a burning sun, to give the adventure on Skull Island a Vietnam flare. The colors, especially red and orange, are bright and the island itself is incredible to look at on a big screen. With its lush jungles, towering mountains, and various unique animal species, there is never a moment where we do not feel in complete awe of the locale. Additionally, he takes cues from classic Vietnam pictures in the way his action is shot. Often it has a horror feel to it, with blood splatters and the loss of limbs displaying the true terrors of a fight against something so much more powerful and primal than our characters have ever seen. The action is fast-paced and has that blockbuster intensity that gets blood pumping. And it is in this stylized action (brought to us by long time Zack Snyder cinematographer Larry Fong) that we begin to really understand what kind of film Kong: Skull Island is supposed to be. 

Above all else, this monster movie is meant to be FUN. If you’re expecting this A-list cast of award-winning actors to wow you with incredible dramatic performances, you’re going to be highly disappointed. If, however, you like your monster movies classic style, with a dose of campiness and a focus on the monsters themselves, you are in for a treat. Our main characters are mostly given back stories, with the inexplicable exception of Tian Jing’s biologist (?) who hardly is ever even noticed, and they fulfill the roles required of them with aplomb. Essentially they seem to serve as varying viewpoints on how the discovery of Kong and Skull Island should be handled. Samuel L. Jackson, for example, is perfect as the commander who just isn’t ready to hang up his rifle and is willing to lead his unit into harm’s way to hold on for one minute more and one last fight, regardless of any logic that may say otherwise.  This movie is about Kong, though, and by keeping the character stories from overpowering the narrative Vogt-Roberts allows us to never get dragged down into the drama, instead simply using the humans as a means of getting us from big action sequence to monster fight in an entertaining and often humorous manner. Not much is felt for the ones who perish and that is by design, because this isn’t really their story. It also would have been easy to let Brie Larson’s character become a love interest of the ape, for old time’s sake, but the restraint shown here instead paints a more “realistic” picture of two species trying to understand each other via non-verbal communication and then protecting those who’ve protected you.

Thankfully this is a story about the island, about Kong and its other less friendly inhabitants. They are rightfully the star of this picture and every scene with Kong in it is incredible. Particularly, his shining monster vs. monster moment is worth the price of admission alone and the creature design throughout is stunning, the perfect mix of creepy and amazing. Also of note (though not a beast) is John C. Reilly who steals every scene he’s in and serves as much more than just a comedic side note, but rather the heart of the human component in the film.

After suffering through Hollywood’s recent attempts at more serious monster movie fare, it was absolutely refreshing to sit with my 12-year old son, mouth agape, ooh’ing and aah’ing as a gigantic towering ape did the exact things a gigantic towering ape should do in this scenario. It was just over-the-top enough to hit the right notes without becoming a drawback. From the looks of the post-credits scene, it appears that we’re in for a connected world of monster films with some A-list stars continuing forward. So while Kong may not quite have been a perfect film, it’s a solid effort and serves as a fantastic starting point to build around, much like Marvel has accomplished with its comic book universe.

Emotional Takeaway: EXCITEMENT
Not only for its big screen thrills and frantic, stylized action sequences, but because Kong ushers in a new era of monster movies for this generation to enjoy. Here’s hoping we embrace these films with a childlike passion and let pure blockbuster fun reignite our over-dramatized movie-going souls. See it on a big screen, let yourself go, and just enjoy the ride. The King is back.