Now Available: July 3, 2018

Welcome to Now Available, where we’ll give you a quick review of a film we didn’t cover when it was released in theaters that’s releasing for home viewing this week, along with a list of everything else and where you can see our coverage on it. 

It’s 1982 and Lebanon is embroiled in civil war. Former US Diplomat Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm) is compelled to return to the city where his wife was murdered ten years earlier to negotiate the return of a kidnapped former colleague. Racing against the timeline of the abductors, Skiles must attempt to meet their demands while navigating around multiple obstacles in the form of the State Department and the CIA.

Brad Anderson’s Beirut is a tense thriller that’s elevated by what may be my favorite film role in Jon Hamm’s career. For the most part, I’ve found Hamm’s dramatic film roles to be pretty bland, but as any Mad Men fan could tell you, playing a highly functional alcoholic with the keen ability to tell people what it is they want to hear is right in his wheelhouse, in fact it might be his wheelhouse. Rosamund Pike is, of course, great, and a little under utilized, as CIA officer and Skiles’ handler Sandy Crowder. When the story threatens to get bogged down with one too many complications, Hamm and Pike never let it become anything less than interesting. The cinematography is occasionally too dark, but for the most part it’s perfect in its dirty, gritty aesthetic. The story is intriguing, although occasionally it threatens to spin too tangled a web. Setting the story against the backdrop of an actual historical war is a nice touch that gives even the calmer moments a sense of urgency. 

Overall, while it doesn’t do anything to really separate itself in the genre, strong performances make the film worth checking out. Beirut is a pretty solid choice for a quiet Sunday night on the sofa.

Also available this week:

Blockers: You can read my review of this fun twist on the teen sex comedy here.

7 Days in Entebbe

Borg vs. McEnroe

Finding Your Feet

Journey’s End

Ismael’s Ghosts

Another Wolf Cop

The Female Mind

The Cured


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 116: Independence Day

Happy 4th of July! To celebrate this patriotic American holiday, we are finally getting around to discussing the beloved sci-fi adventure film, Independence Day. Josh from LSG Media’s Science Fiction Film Podcast joins us to as we try to figure out why so many love the cheesy nature of this film, but reject similar dialogue and plots in other movies. Spoiler alert, we definitely talk about “the speech” and even play it, too, so get ready to wipe your eyes and pump your fist!

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:30

(Aaron – Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Beirut)
(Patrick – The West Wing Weekly/Aaron Sorkin)
(Josh – Anthropoid, Mr. Nobody)

Independence Day Review – 0:19:06

The Connecting Point – 1:17:39


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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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MOVIE REVIEW: Sicario: Day of the Soldado

SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO (2018)

When the man behind a suicide bombing at a Kansas City supermarket is revealed to have entered the country through the border between Texas and Mexico, the President of the United States is in a position to officially deem human trafficking a terrorist activity, giving them more latitude to deal with the controversial issue. With the intention of waging a battle on this new front in the war on terror, Josh Brolin’s Matt Graver and his team are given the task of firing the first shot.

“It might get dirty.”

“Dirty is why you’re here.”

Stefano Sollima’s Sicario: Day of the Soldado is the follow up to Denis Villeneuve’s outstanding Sicario that no one really knew we needed but were all, nevertheless, curious to see. Gone is Emily Blunt’s Kate Macer, the young FBI agent who served as the conscience and the audience stand in in the first film. Returning are Graver and Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), as well as their unorthodox, but unarguably effective, ways of dealing with troubles at the border. Their plan is simple. They are going to kidnap the 16 year old daughter of the cartel kingpin who killed Alejandro’s family and make it look like it was another cartel. The intention is to start a turf war between cartels so that the war on trafficking will be fought against distracted opponents. But of course, nothing is simple at the border.

To tell more would be to give too much away. Sollima has managed to craft a follow-up that perfectly inhabits the world created in Sicario. Villeneuve had a way of putting his camera in places that made the audience feel like they were in the vehicle crossing the border or in the hidden tunnels used to traffic drugs. Sollima, especially in action sequences, gives us that same perspective, heightening the tension with every note of Hildur Guonadottir’s haunting score. One of the biggest obstacles to a sequel in my mind was going to be that the protagonist (I use that term loosely) of this film was going to be a guy who we saw murder women and children in the first film. Taylor Sheridan is able to more fully round out the character of Alejandro in a way that doesn’t ask the audience to root for him but also doesn’t allow him to be despised. Once again, Del Toro is electric in the role, but at this point in his career, saying that Benicio Del Toro is great is pretty redundant because he’s just fantastic in everything. Most of the tales that Hollywood tells of hitmen either glamorize or bring a sense of humor to the profession. S:DotS shows us the blunt reality of the job, but Del Toro never lets Alejandro become a monster. Speaking of redundant, Josh Brolin is also fantastic as Graver. His character isn’t fleshed out too much more (other than apparently he’s left his flip-flops behind for a comfy pair of Crocs), but being in the dark about his past is what makes his character work so well. Isabela Moner shows a deep inner strength as Isabel Reyes, the kidnapped teen, even as she’s completely terrified and in the dark as to what’s happening to her.

This film is tight, this film is tense, and this film is timely. Child separation, human trafficking, terrorism…those are all things that you can read about on the front page of your newspaper tomorrow morning. And Sicario: Day of the Soldado doesn’t presume to have any answers to these issues. While the original gave us Kate Mercer and her earnestness and her moral compass to see this world through, this film kind of just makes us sit in the filth and be disgusted (hopefully) by the machinations on both sides of this volatile scenario. There aren’t winners. There aren’t losers. It’s all just dirty.

So don’t go see Sicario: Day of the Soldado if you need a couple of hour diversion from your problems. But if you want a thoughtful, well-executed thriller, you’re not afraid to sit with a bit of ambiguity, and you enjoyed (or at least saw) the first installment, I think it’s worth your time.

Rating:


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

MOVIE REVIEW: Ant-Man and the Wasp

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (2018)

2 Hours and 5 Minutes (PG-13)

Riding the summer movie coattails of Avengers: Infinity War, the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Ant-Man And The Wasp. Our lovable insect-sized hero is back in the clutches of the law, struggling to learn how to balance being a father, a business owner and a superhero.

Paul Rudd is back as Scott Lang, the Robin Hood-esque burglar, 2 years after his Civil War appearance in Germany. Having stolen his suit to take part in the battle, Scott landed himself on house arrest; his actions also alienated both Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and her father Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), unintentionally making them criminal conspirators. Having been the only person to go “sub-atomic” and survive, emotions are put aside when Dr. Pym and Hope insert themselves back into Scott’s life to extract any subconscious memories he has of his time in the Quantum Realm. Hope and Hank need Scott’s connection to the Quantum Realm in the hopes of saving Janet van Dyne, the original Wasp, who disappeared there decades ago. Hope suits up as “The Wasp” and this duo is back together just in time to face an enemy more powerful than they’ve ever faced. Ghost (Hannah John-Kaman) is an accidental science experiment who molecular instability allows her to phase through objects, coming in handy when she steals Pym technology for her own means.

Peyton Reed returns to the director’s chair for this sequel, bringing with him the same comedic wit and pure joy that was present in the first film. My favorite thing about the Ant-Man films is that the stakes are relatively high, but they’re not nearly as dire as they are in most MCU movies, where it seems like the fate of the entire universe is always at stake. Scott’s adorably dense yet somehow qualified ex-con friends are back,  played by Michael Peña, T.I. and David Dastmalchian, providing off-beat humor without drawing too much attention from the plot. Character growth was present in Hope and Scott, while we got a small glimpse into the past mistakes Dr. Pym made. At times the script felt like it was lacking in some stylistic ways, which could easily be explained by Edgar Wright not joining the team for this film; some of Rudd’s jokes seemed forced and unnatural, a few scenes seemed rushed without being able to fully play out their potential, etc. However, the fight/stunt scenes were well choreographed, the visual effects were blended seamlessly, and I’m still eager to see what Ant-Man and the Wasp get into next.

Once again, Reed has managed to somehow create a comic heist film but on a much larger scale, blending in elements of science fiction and physics, all while still adhering to the rules within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

PS: There are 2 post-credit scenes: the first, I was definitely not ready for but the second is completely useless and there’s no point in waiting for it.

Rating:


Erynne Hundley is Seattle-based writer and freelance film critic, currently writing and editing articles for Essentially Erynne. She prides herself on crafting spoiler-free film reviews that balance franchise history, stylistic approach, script interpretation, and the emotional turmoil the final piece creates. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram for article updates.

Now Available: June 26, 2018

Welcome to our newest feature, Now Available, where we’ll give you a quick review of a film we didn’t cover when it was released in theaters that’s releasing for home viewing this week, along with a list of everything else and where you can see our coverage on it. 

They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and Melinda Moore-Gayle (Taraji P. Henson) is a living embodiment of that statement. After spending 18 years supporting her deadbeat inventor husband only to see him hit it big after they split, she’s out to get the life she was promised at any cost. But is her assessment of the situation coming from reality or a damaged and skewed perception? These are the questions one is left to ponder in Tyler Perry’s Acrimony.

Since this is Feelin’ Film, I’ll start with the positive. Acrimony doesn’t telegraph where it’s going. What I mean by that is that with about 20 minutes left I said aloud to myself, “Hmm, how is this going to end?” I watch 300-400 movies a year. It’s not very often that I don’t know where a film is headed. Whenever it happens, it’s always a pleasant surprise. I’ll give Perry kudos for that. Furthermore, Henson is absolutely great in the film. I’ve been a fan of hers since she was a supporting character on CBS’s great Person of Interest and I’m ecstatic that her performances in shows like Fox’s Empire and movies like Hidden Figures have resulted in her being given more prominent roles. She absolutely deserves better than this. None of the rest of the cast makes any sort of an impression at all. They might as well not even exist. On top of that, the pacing is awful, which exacerbates its bloated 2 hour run-time. It continually breaks rule number one of storytelling, repeatedly telling us how bad Melinda’s temper is when they could’ve simply spent time showing the audience the lengths of her fury.  In the end, I think that Perry has some good ideas for his Fatal Attraction-esque tale of a damaged relationship leading to betrayal and rage, but he falls well short in the execution. A movie that kept me guessing throughout with a standout lead performance really shouldn’t leave me feeling both bored and relieved that it’s over. But here we are.

Also available this week:

The Endless: Aaron was a big fan of this one when he reviewed it here back in April and FF had the chance to spend some time with the film’s creators in an interview here.

Antarctica: In The Footsteps of the Emperor (a documentary by the director of March of the Penguins).

Gemini

In Darkness


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. 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

Support us on Patreon & get awesome rewards:

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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!

Episode 115: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Episode 115 may prove to be the least positive in our show’s history, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t feeling this film. We try and go beyond what doesn’t work by having a discussion about why this kind of storytelling is still financially successful. We also chat about the series as a whole and compare this newest entry to its predecessors. Joining us for this episode is first-time guest and contributor, the author of our weekly #YouShouldBeWatching article, Jacob Neff.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:08

(Aaron – Making Fun: The Story of Funko)
(Patrick – Hearts Beat Loud)
(Jacob – Jurassic Park series & J.A. Bayona filmography)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Review – 0:18:45

The Connecting Point – 1:07:08


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Download this Episode 


Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

Support us on Patreon & get awesome rewards:

or you can support us through Paypal as well. Select the link below and make your one-time or recurring contribution.

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!

Episode 114: Incredibles 2

It took us two tries but our second attempt succeeded in producing Episode 114: Incredibles 2. We are joined by returning guest Blaine Grimes (who also joined the show for Episode 36: The Incredibles) for this conversation about Brad Bird’s action-packed, culturally relevant, family superhero extravaganza. A sequel anxiously awaited for 14 years creates a lot expectations. Hear whether we felt the film lived up to ours or not in this fun discussion.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:02:40

(Aaron – Tag)
(Blaine – National Treasure 1 & 2)

Incredibles 2 Review – 0:11:00

The Connecting Point – 1:09:04


Contact


Join the Facebook Discussion Group

Download this Episode 


Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

Support us on Patreon & get awesome rewards:

or you can support us through Paypal as well. Select the link below and make your one-time or recurring contribution.

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: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM (2018)

2 Hours and 8 Minutes (PG-13)

Jurassic World, though never coming close to the brilliance of Steven Spielberg’s classic original, managed to be quite a bit of fun due to two things: Chris Pratt and dinosaurs. It’s really hard to screw up Chris Pratt and dinosaurs, after all. Even a guy who got fired from a Star Wars movie managed. So give Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom credit because it accomplished something I didn’t think was possible by doing that very thing. This film is a lot of things, and I sure wish that “fun” had been one of them.

The plot takes the normal ridiculousness and suspension of belief that this series employs and takes it to a whole other level. So much so that it’s almost embarrassing to recap it. It’s 3 years after the events of Jurassic World and Isla Nublar’s dormant volcano has awakened. The Dinosaur Protection Group (DPG), led by former park manager and Indominus rex attack survivor Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), is lobbying for the government to step in and protect the once again endangered species, but much of the world does not agree and believes letting the dinosaurs die from natural causes is the right choice. In swoops the wealthy Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) and his young accounts manager Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) with a plan, offering to provide the resources and a private island for dinosaur evacuation if Claire can recruit dinosaur trainer and maybe sorta former boyfriend Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to assist in the capture of Blue (the somewhat domesticated velociraptor now loose on the island) and other targeted species. Because the film needs to check some boxes, Claire brings along two of her DPG team members – Zia (Daniella Pineda) the fierce feminist veterinarian and Franklin (Justice Smith) the scaredy-cat, nerdy, socially awkward systems analyst (BECAUSE WE HAVE TO HAVE ONE OF THOSE, RIGHT?)

The plot from there continues to progress in increasingly unrealistic, dumbfounded ways, leading us through laughably bad (and repetitive) villains while eventually arriving at killer dinosaurs in a haunted house because they escaped the secret underground lab beneath a mansion. Other absolutely ridiculous moments include a tranquilized person trying to roll out of the way of lava, a lengthy underwater escape scene where the rules of holding your breath don’t apply, an animal trainer having hand-to-hand combat skills that can compete with hired mercenaries, and multiple characters making decisions that are clearly the worst option just to advance the plot. There’s also one major surprise that brings up an enormous ethical dilemma but is completely breezed over. I suppose that’s something that will be addressed more heavily in the next installment as this entry is definitely focused on being a bridge between what we’ve known in the series thus far and something they hope can be much more heady and thought-provoking (which, I’ll admit, would be a very cool concept if it was in a focused story told with appropriate weight, seriousness, and emotional resonance).

Tonally, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is all over the place. It is at its best in a few very tense moments of terror. If the entire film had been built around this dark, scary aspect of the dinosaurs it could have worked much better. I thoroughly enjoyed some of the kills and predatory actions involving dinos. But the first half plays out similar to a video game with huge set pieces of big action and comedy. In fact, one aspect of the film involving an auction reminds me heavily of a section in Uncharted 4, and then other parts of the adventure feel very much like director J.A. Bayona is trying to turn Owen into Indiana Jones. If the action was good, this would be okay, but it’s mostly not. The CGI from the volcano is awful and another scene where Blue is making a quick escape late in the film looks so terrible that the audience laughed out loud. Bayona frequently frames characters in relation to the background just to get an epic looking shot and seemingly ignores any actual reason for them to be in these positions. He also is absolutely obsessed with character close-ups. It felt like these were meant to evoke emotional responses, but not once in the film did I ever care about the human relationships. I did find some sweetness to the little bit of backstory we get about Owen and Blue, but the emotional depth that I’m used to seeing from Bayona just isn’t there. If it was, I could be forgiving; instead by the end everyone had constantly acted so stupidly that I just found myself rooting for the dinosaurs and hoping all of the humans went extinct.

VERDICT

I typically enjoy blockbusters and am used to being a defender of “big, dumb fun” but Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, for all its non-stop action, nearly lulled me to sleep and left me with one of the biggest feelings of disappointment I’ve had in a long time. To waste Chris Pratt and dinosaurs in a boring film that has exactly zero memorable moments is an egregious sin. This could very well be my least favorite entry in the series and I can’t see myself ever watching it again.

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.

Now Available: June 19, 2018

Welcome to our newest feature, Now Available, where we’ll give you a quick review of a film we didn’t cover when it was released in theaters that’s releasing for home viewing this week, along with a list of everything else and where you can see our coverage on it. 

Taking place in the year 67 a.d., Paul, Apostle of Christ follows famed author and physician Luke (Jim Caviezel) as he interviews Paul (James Faulkner), the apostle responsible for writing roughly half of the Biblical New Testament, and interacts with the persecuted church of Rome lead by Aquilla (John Lynch) and his wife Priscilla (Joanne Whalley). Will he be able to use his pen to record the last words of the church father or will his presence attract the ire of Mauritias (Oliver Martinez), the Roman jailer tasked with keeping tabs on Nero’s prized prisoner?

I tend to be one of the faith-based film genre’s biggest critics. For the most part, besides their obvious deficits in terms of production quality, I find that they generally brashly wear their message on their sleeve…and their chest and their hat and their pants with the subtlety of the advertising on a NASCAR driver. While this film doesn’t completely avoid that pitfall, I found that it largely overcomes that with grounded performances lead by the always solid Caviezel and quieter, more contemplative musings on what it means to defend your faith. Filmed in Malta, it looks great and director Andrew Hyatt does a great job from the word go of allowing the audience to sense the danger in which these early Christ followers lived. Whether you’re a person of faith or not, Paul, Apostle of Christ shows a piece of history that is both fascinating and has significance for the world we live in today. It’s not merely good for the genre, it’s just pretty good in general.

Also available this week:

Pacific Rim: Uprising: See Aaron’s original review of this sequel here and hear the guys chat about it on the podcast here (if you’re like me and want to rewatch the original first, they talked about that one here).

The Death of Stalin 

Unsane

Midnight Sun


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.