Episode 135: Platoon

In honor of Veterans Day, we discuss Oliver Stone’s 1986 Best Picture winner, perhaps the most authentic fictional depiction of boots on the ground life in the Vietnam War and a harrowing look at battles both external and internal that forever changed the men who fought them. This is a hard film to watch, but it offers a lot of material for a great discussion. Join us for ours.

Platoon Review – 0:01:24

The Connecting Point – 0:53:52


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You Should Be Watching: August 31 – September 5

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


What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

    — Coming September 1

Year: 1993

Director: Lasse Hallström

Genre: Romance, Drama

Cast: Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Juliette Lewis, Mary Steenburgen, Darlene Cates, Laura Harrington, Mary Kate Schellhardt, Kevin Tighe, John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover, Penelope Branning, Tim Green, Susan Loughran, Robert B. Hedges, Mark Jordan, Cameron Finley, Brady Coleman, Tim Simek

Johnny Depp plays Gilbert Grape, a twenty-something stuck in the small Iowa town of Endora working as a grocery clerk. Despite the presence of his two sisters, he bears the weight of the world as he alone is obligated to care for his morbidly obese mother Bonnie (Darlene Cates) and his highly autistic 17-year-old brother Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio in one of his first roles). The whole family lives in an old rundown house that Bonnie hasn’t left in years due to depression from her husband’s suicide. Gilbert is losing the battle of trying to cope with his life when he meets Becky (Juliette Lewis), a carefree spirit who brings him happiness and draws his attention away from the drudgery of his responsibilities. Unfortunately, Arnie is one of those responsibilities, and unsupervised, he is a true danger to himself.

Between Lasse Hallström’s direction and Peter Hedges‘ script, the perfect balance is struck between melancholy and humor. The big surprise is DiCaprio stealing the entire show with his standout Oscar-nominated supporting actor performance. Through expression, voice, and mannerisms, there is nothing to differentiate him from an actual autistic person. He is truly dependent on others, providing genuine tension when he’s left to his own devices, whether getting stuck up on the town water tower or left alone in the bath, unable to help himself.


Gone Baby Gone

Year: 2007

Director: Ben Affleck

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery

Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, John Ashton, Amy Ryan, Amy Madigan, Titus Welliver, Michael Kenneth Williams, Edi Gathegi, Mark Margolis, Madeline O’Brien, Slaine, Matthew Maher, Trudi Goodman

By the mid 2000s, Ben Affleck’s acting career was in a shambles after a string of major flops. Something needed to change. So why not go behind the camera for once? Affleck joined Aaron Stockard to adapt Dennis Lehane’s source novel and found his cast, including leads Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan, who play private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro, as well as big names like Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris. The result was the directorial debut Gone Baby Gone, a critically acclaimed neo-noir crime drama about the search through Boston’s criminal underground for a missing little girl named Amanda.

This is a bleak, depressing, and uncomfortable film full of unlikeable people. Even Amanda’s mother is neglectful and self-centered. But this is the world we live in. The stunning revelations and impossible moral dilemma thrust on our characters unmercifully puts the viewer’s ethical judgment and fortitude to the test. There’s also the sense that apart from the main cast, these aren’t actors; they’re real Bostonians living real life, rough and raw, for better or worse.


Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

 — Expiring September 7

Year: 1954

Director: Stanley Donen

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Musical, Western

Cast: Howard Keel, Jeff Richards, Russ Tamblyn, Tommy Rall, Marc Platt, Jane Powell, Jacques d’Amboise, Julie Newmar, Matt Mattox, Nancy Kilgas, Betty Carr, Virginia Gibson, Ruta Lee, Norma Doggett, Ian Wolfe, Howard Petrie, Earl Barton, Dante DiPaolo, Kelly Brown, Matt Moore, Russell Simpson, Marjorie Wood, Jarma Lewis, Anna Q. Nilsson, Dick Rich

Set in the Oregon frontier of the mid-19th century, this is the story of Adam Pontipee, played by the deep-voiced Howard Keel, and his six brothers, Benjamin through Frank. They’re all uncouth backwoodsmen who rarely see women much less have any idea how to treat them or how to have any kind of manners really. Nevertheless, Adam comes to town to find a bride, and find one he does in the beautiful Milly, played by the tough but lovely Jane Powell, who also has a beautiful singing voice. Milly accepts his offer not knowing of the rest of the family that awaits her or what kind of man Adam is.

Despite moments of discomfort and awkwardness brought about by its sometimes pigheaded characters, this movie musical is a pure delight with catchy and memorable songs, creative, can’t take your eyes off it large-scale group choreography–especially during the barn-raising sequence, laughs a plenty, and a no-nonsense, take-charge heroine in Milly.

When I say Milly is a heroine, I mean she is the most important character in the story. She’s the one who takes on the role of taming this group of brothers and teaching them what respect and true masculinity looks like. Ironically, despite being the oldest, her new husband is the one most in need of maturing, despite what he himself thinks. He’s as stubborn as they come, and Milly, while quick to forgive and generous in heart, is not a doormat and is more than ready to stand up for herself and for the other girls who end up falling into her protection.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

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
PK (2014)
To The Wonder (2012)

September 13
Pete’s Dragon (2016)

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

September 15
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

September 27
The Imitation Game (2014)

AMAZON PRIME

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 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)

September 7
The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
The Band Wagon (1953)
Giant (1956)
Grand Illusion (1937)
Home from the Hill (1960)
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
Slacker (1990)
Some Came Running (1958)
Steamboat Round the Bend (1935)
Tea and Sympathy (1956)
The Thin Man Series (1934 – 1947)
Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954)

September 14
Advise & Consent (1962)
Easy Rider (1969)
Five Easy Pieces (1970)
Fruit of Paradise (1970)
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 (197
Night Moves (1975)

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

FILMSTRUCK

Captains Courageous (1937)
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Dead Ringers (1988)
Gunga Din (1939)
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
A Mighty Wind (2003)
North by Northwest (1959)
The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
Suspicion (1941)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Westworld (1973)

HULU

Crime + Punishment (2018)
Gangs of New York (2002)
mother! (2017)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

September 1
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Bruce Almighty (2003)
Groundhog Day (1993)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
King Kong (2005)
Nacho Libre (2006)
Pearl Harbor (2001)
Scarface (1983)
Unforgiven (1992)

September 2
The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
Lilo & Stitch (2002)

September 4
Black Panther (2018)

AMAZON PRIME

September 1
Chinatown (1974)
Blow Out (1981)
Dressed to Kill (1980)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Ghostbusters 2 (1989)
Hustle & Flow (2005)
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Miami Vice (2006)
Primal Fear (1996)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

HULU

August 31
The Terminator (1984)

September 1
13 Going On 30 (2004)
Adaptation. (2002)
Blow Out (1981)
City of God (2002)
Dressed to Kill (1980)
Field of Dreams (1989)
The Fly (1986)
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Primal Fear (1996)
Rushmore (1998)
Signs (2002)
Searching for Sugar Man (2012)
Sixteen Candles (1984)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Unbreakable (2000)
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

September 2
The English Patient (1996)


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.

What We Learned This Week: August 12-18

LESSON #1: MOVIEPASS IS A CARNIVAL OF BAD IDEAS— It was been wildly unpredictable and maddeningly entertaining to watch the swirling toilet that is MoviePass.  First, the company began limiting subscribers film choices.  Next, it was re-enrolling folks and forbidding cancellations. and then it was reporting a new $126 million dollar loss, prompting shareholders to sue.  Are we out of forks to stick in this beast?  That said, I enjoyed IndieWire’s David Ehrlich’s truthful parable this week defining the MoviePass clamor we feel as proof of loving the medium of film.  He’s dead on.  

LESSON #2: SPEAKING OF LOSSES, HULU ISN’T DOING MUCH BETTER— If you think $126 million is a ton of money, how worse does $1.5 billion sound?  Put on your Dr. Evil voice and say it to yourself.  The dollar amount is the annual loss staring Hulu in the face, one that follows $920 million loss last year.  That’s quite a haircut that stings like a beheading.  Even with that new Disney money and ownership stake arriving, are Hulu’s months numbered next?

LESSON #3: EVERYONE IS A LITTLE PRETENTIOUS OR A LITTLE MAINSTREAM. IT’S JUST TO WHAT DEGREE— I got a kick out of this score-generating quiz of sorts that made the rounds on social media. Enter a movie title on the Pretentious-O-Meter and see where it lands between pretentious and mass market.  The creators list their calculation and logic behind their metrics and it’s pretty brilliant.  Have fun on this little game for a few minutes (or hours)!

LESSON #4: WE’RE GOING TO MISS ROBERT REDFORD— The dashing 81-year-old redheaded founder of the Sundance Film Institute and icon of yesteryear announced recently his retirement from acting.  This September’s The Old Man & the Gun, his second collaboration with director David Lowery after Pete’s Dragon, will be his last.  To call it a “good” run is a gross understatement.  Redford had a GREAT run, a career of reverence and one with very few blemishes.  He’s always been high on my list of favorites and bests.  

LESSON #5: I BELIEVE AND TRUST MICHAEL CAINE— Even in ambiguity after eight years, I never really doubted my own drawn conclusion in theorizing the end of Christopher Nolan’s 2010 opus Inception.  Beloved actor Michael Caine went on record recently and cleared up the guessing game with a pretty trustworthy explanation, one of definitive fashion that might be as close to “once and for all” as we’re going to get.  

LESSON #6: IS JAMES BOND FUNNY ENOUGH ANYMORE?— Former James Bond franchise actor Pierce Brosnan remembers a time when 007 was as cheeky in tone as he was in smiles.  He commented recently about the brooding, solemn, and muscular current take on the classic character being portrayed by Daniel Craig.  Brosnan mildly bemoans the sharp decline in light humor that was a benchmark trait of his films as well as those that came before him.  Without naming names, he blames the straight-faced action hero types (think Jason Bourne and the tough guys played by Jason Statham, Liam Neeson, and Mark Wahlberg) competing with the Bond character in the action film marketplace.  I think Brosnan has a valid point.  As stellar and bold as Craig’s run has been, there is a noticeable measure of charm missing.

LESSON #7: DISNEY KNOWS HOW TO BEAT DEAD HORSES— Dwindling box office returns be damned! Walt Disney Pictures announced that the green light is still on for a sixth Pirates of the Caribbean film directed by Dead Men Tell No Tales helmer Joachim Rønning.  The sequel would like star the Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario characters recently introduced, but there’s no word yet on Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow or Bill Nighy’s return as the teaser-dropped Davey Jones.  I get these films play well overseas, but the series has run its mainstream course here domestically.  I’m telling you, unless your name is James Gunn, Disney doesn’t often know when or how to quit.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on Medium.com where he is one of the 50 “Top Writers” in the Movies category.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.

Minisode 31: Murder on the Orient Express

In this minisode we discuss Agatha Christie’s often adapted book to film, Murder on the Orient Express, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, along with Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Gad, Penelope Cruz, Leslie Odom Jr., Willem Dafoe, and a handful of other people potentially accused of murder. This story is special for a reason and we enjoy talking about the ethics and morality at play, while also gushing over a beautiful visual aesthetic in the film.

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

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MOVIE REVIEW: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

GOING IN

In all my years of devouring classic literature, I never read a single Agatha Christie novel. A travesty, I know. Arguably her most famous work, Murder on the Orient Express features the famous reoccurring detective Hercule Poirot. The story tells of thirteen stranded strangers on a luxurious train ride, one of them a murderer who Poirot must discover and stop before they kill again. As intriguing as the story is, I’ve intentionally avoided reading the novel or seeing the 1974 film that came before, and therefore will be able to go into this mystery spoiler-free. Branagh’s work is never short on panache and the all-star cast assembled points to an exciting cinematic game of whodunit, reminiscent of the board game Clue.


COMING OUT

For me, the success of movie mysteries is largely measured by the answer to two questions: “was it entertaining” and “did it keep me guessing until the end? ” Unexpectedly, the film is very much not a thriller. The style is theatrical in nature, which should be no surprise with Branagh directing, combined with some modern stylish cinematography. It felt very much like Branagh’s tone in Cinderella and made for a weird experience, which to be honest, did not always work for me. At many times I expected the energy of the film to increase as suspects were considered and the investigation grew nearer to resolution, but aside from one or two scenes this felt more like a stage play minus the heightened drama. And that leads into question number two, because despite not knowing the story and end result, I was certainly not guessing until the end. I’ll admit that I did not know every detail until Poirot’s classic reveal speech, but the clues were easy enough to read that it felt more like I was watching to discover how the detective would deal with the outcome versus whether he would learn the truth or not. The “whodunit” simply wasn’t filmed in such a way that lived up to my expectations for an exciting mystery and at times was downright boring.

So far, by my standards, Murder on the Orient Express does not succeed. What saved the experience for me, however, was the story itself. Though I don’t feel like this is a great adaptation, I was definitely intrigued by the moral implications that arose once the killer’s identity was revealed. The questions about justice, and what is right versus wrong, were compelling and it is easy to see why this is one of Agatha Christie’s most beloved stories. Talking through the implications of the ending on the drive home with my 14-year old made for great conversation.

With regards to the stellar cast, I feel a bit cheated. We simply don’t get enough time with each of the many characters to establish much of a connection. The acting is fine, although I’m quite tired of Johnny Depp as a gangster at this point, but no one really stands out because all of the characters are equal and overshadowed by the hero detective. Branagh really just can’t help himself here and his camera keeps Poirot in focus in almost nearly every scene. Those he isn’t in are filmed from his perspective.  There are so many closeups and monologues that the film starts to feel much more about him and less about the mystery. Branagh is no doubt a stellar actor and his presence serves the character well,  but his direction creates an unevenness to the style in Murder on the Orient Express that makes it feel awkward.

Verdict

I’m glad that I now know the story of Murder on the Orient Express. Christie’s tale is fantastic and is a unique scenario in murder mysteries. It brings up questions about justice, judgment, and forgiveness. Branagh’s adaptation is good, and I don’t regret seeing it, but instead of wanting to re-watch it, I am more compelled to seek out the source material and previous adaptations. Murder on the Orient Express is just an okay film. You can see better, but you could also see a whole lot worse.

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.

What We Learned This Week: April 30-May 6

LESSON #1: DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU MARKETING MAKES SUCCESSFUL MOVIES— With a June 2nd release on the horizon, little articles have begun to stack up talking about the marketing or lack thereof for Warner Bros.’s “Wonder Woman.”  Outrage is a strong word for those posts questioning the soft push of PR, but curiosity is definitely fitting.  Because it’s a female-centered film, the debate has naturally skewed to feminism and favoritism for negative buzz, even with the assumed logic for waiting through the early May competitors and a site like Forbes defending the marketing push strategy entirely.  People are questioning everything from studio confidence to the unseen film’s quality.  Let me help detach you from this quicksand of hype with the title statement of this lesson.  Marketing can no doubt boost a film’s buzz, but we’ve seen it overdone. Without question, the number one marketing tool that costs zero dollars for any studio is WORD OF MOUTH.  Good movies sell themselves.  Make a good movie and people will come, period.  Come back, June 2nd and pass judgment then.  Just be happy it hasn’t been marketed like this:

LESSON #2: JOHNNY DEPP REALLY IS THE ASSHOLE WE THOUGHT HE WAS— A scathing 45-page complaint was published this week from one of Johnny Depp’s former managers and, boy, oh boy, is it damning.  His aloof snob bit appears to not be an act.  The reports of domestic abuse surrounding Depp have been building for a while, but the new stuff coming to light adds even more mold to the old bread.  Indecent legal settlements, high personal demands, and crazy financial woes are just the bullet points.  I’ve called Johnny Depp a hack for years.  I think we can add a few more derogatory titles to his business card.

LESSON #3: THERE IS SO MUCH FUN TO BE HAD IN “GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2”— Aaron White and I from Feelin’ Film were lucky enough (thanks, press credentials!) to see “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” in advance and, hot damn, it is a whole lot of fun.  Here’s my review.  Without spoiling it (that’s the podcast’s job), there are so many morsels, nuggets, moments, traits, and choices that made the sequel a stellar piece of entertainment.  For a fun behind-the-scenes list, check out this piece from /Film.  Go see this film immediately.

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.