You Should Be Watching: July 26 – Aug 1

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.

This week’s highlights include the lesser known but no less significant collaboration between Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, and Paul Schrader. Also, Paul King’s introduction to the world of a long beloved storybook bear. And finally, a Colombian filmmaker takes us on a dark and strange journey into the Amazon jungles of last century.

Say goodbye to Finding Dory, Jackie Brown, and 13 Assassins on Netflix, Gran Torino and The Hurt Locker on Amazon Prime, Taxi Driver and All Quiet on the Western Front on FilmStruck, and Braveheart on Hulu, all leaving very soon along with many others.

Say hello to the new August titles, such as Batman Begins and Her on Netflix, The Hurt Locker and High Noon on Amazon Prime, and Leaving Las Vegas, Lost in Translation, and Shaun of the Dead on Hulu.

 

 


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


Raging Bull

Year: 1980

Director: Martin Scorsese

Genre: Drama, Biography, Sport

Cast: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty, Frank Vincent, Nicholas Colasanto, Theresa Saldana, Mario Gallo, John Turturro, Joseph Bono, Frank Adonis, Charles Scorsese, Rita Bennett, Bernie Allen, Gene LeBell

A knockout, tour-de-force of filmmaking at all levels–acting, camera work, direction, script, sound design–and an unflinching biography of Jake LaMotta, a  talented boxer who had greatness in his grasp, but whose self-destructive, uncontrollable bouts of lust, jealousy, and rage sent him into a downward spiral.

Michael Chapman’s groundbreaking black and white cinematography grabs your attention from the opening titles. And Scorsese wears the neorealist influences on his sleeve, particularly that of the master Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti and his film Rocco and his Brothers. But his choices are often surprising as occasionally he will offset the intense visuals with dreamlike surrealism, complete with operatic score. The film received 8 well-deserved Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and took home two–Film Editing and Best Actor for Robert De Niro’s transformative performance. Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin provided the intricate script. The dialogue between Jake and his brother Joey (Joe Pesci) is as densely and carefully choreographed as the many fights, in and out of the ring.


 

Paddington

Year: 2014

Director: Paul King

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family, Animation

Cast: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Samuel Joslin, Madeleine Harris, Julie Walters, Nicole Kidman, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon, Madeleine Worrall, Tim Downie, Matt King, Simon Farnaby, Kayvan Novak, Matt Lucas

 

Whether or not you’ve seen one of this year’s best films that happens to feature that lovable bear with an affinity for marmalade, let me remind you that the original is quite the treat as well. Paddington is an energetic, surprisingly funny, and heartwarming reintroduction to a beloved character and the Brown family, who takes him in to their home. Director and co-writer Paul King sets the perfect balance between absurdity and clever humor, creating a storybook world that’s just a little more fantastical than our own where no one bats an eye at a talking bear even though they’ve never seen one.

The Brown family is easy to like, each member delightfully unique in their personalities and quirks, even and maybe especially the straight-laced father Henry played by Hugh Bonneville. Alternatively, the mother Mary (Sally Hawkins) is immediately taken in by Paddington, despite his proneness to accidentally creating messes. It’s also fun to see the variety of familiar faces such as Peter Capaldi as the nosy upstairs neighbor who wants the status quo upheld and Nicole Kidman as the dastardly villain. The music is also engaging, full of energy and remarkably diverse.


 

Embrace of the Serpent

  

Year: 2015

Director: Ciro Guerra

Genre: Adventure, Drama

Cast: Nilbio Torres, Antonio Bolivar, Brionne Davis, Jan Bijvoet, Luigi Sciamanna, Nicolás Cancino, Yauenkü Miguee

 

The plot of this striking film from Colombian filmmaker Ciro Guerra was inspired by the travel diaries of two South American explorers. In this story, they are two scientists separated by decades but with similar goals of finding the mysterious yakruna, a rare and sacred healing plant. The first scientist, a German named Theo von Martius (Jan Bijvoet), comes seeking a cure for his diseased body. The second, an American named Evan (Brionne Davis), intends to complete the journey Theo started.

Each end up securing the services of the same guide, the shaman Karamakate for their search into the deepest, darkest jungles of the Amazon. This bit of casting is particularly strong as the younger played by Nilbio Torres and the older by Antonio Bolívar seem like they could be the same person, though for better and worse, time has had a noticeable effect on both body and personality of the older.

The unique, remote environment and diversity in peoples rarely seen make this important viewing, but it does become quite the strange, dark, psychedelic road movie. It offers an impactful message about how society is drastically changed and long-standing culture is so quickly lost by the infiltration of outside influences, especially when that influence takes an authoritative even god-like role.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

July 29
Assassination (2015)

July 31
Max Manus: Man of War (2008)
Finding Dory (2016)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

August 4
13 Assassins (2010)

August 15
The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

 

AMAZON PRIME

July 27
Chef

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

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

August 1
The Club (2015)

 

FILMSTRUCK

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

July 28
Night and the City (1950)

July 31
Taxi Driver (1976)

August 3
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927)
Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
Marty (1955)
The Mission (1986)
Network (1976)

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

August 10
Altered States (1980)
The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)
Dogtooth (2009)
Falling Down (1993)
Magnolia (1999)
Nights of Cabiria (1957)
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Them! (1954)

August 12
The Last House on the Left (1972)

August 17
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)
The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982)
Escape from New York (1981)
The Falls (1980)
Hairspray (1988)
A Zed & Two Noughts (1985)

August 20
Frances Ha (2012)

 

HULU

July 31
Braveheart (1995)
Dirty Pretty Things (2002)
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
Hustle & Flow (2005)
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Traffic (2000)


 

JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Amy (2015)
Bolt (2008)
An Education (2009)
The End of the Tour (2015)
Ex Machina (2014)
A Most Violent Year (2014)
Slow West (2015)
Tusk (2014)

 

AMAZON PRIME

Capote (2005)
How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2017)
Raging Bull (1980)

 

FILMSTRUCK

High Sierra (1941)
The Time Machine (1960)

 

HULU

Angel Heart (1987)
Black Cop (2017)
Embrace of the Serpent (2015)

 


 

COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

July 29
Her (2013)

August 1
The Aviator (2004)
Batman Begins (2005)
Clerks (1994)
Constantine (2005)
Gran Torino (2008)
The Informant! (2009)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Steel Magnolias (1989)

 

AMAZON PRIME

August 1
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Cold War (2018)
The Elephant Man (1980)
Freedom Writers (2007)
Frequency (2000)
High Noon (1952)
Hoosiers (1986)
The Hurt Locker (2008)
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Joe (2013)
The Soloist (2009)
The Usual Suspects (1995)
Watchmen (2009)

 

HULU

August 1
Black Hawk Down (2001)
Cold War (2018)
The Elephant Man (1980)
High Noon (1952)
Hoosiers (1986)
The Hunt for Red October (1990)
The Hurricane (1999)
The Hurt Locker (2008)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Joe (2013)
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Lost in Translation (2003)
The Nasty Girl (1990)
Point Break (1991)
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
The Usual Suspects (1995)

 


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

Episode 112: Paddington 2

Grab a marmalade sandwich and get ready to smile as we discuss the surprise hit of 2018, a beary special, family-friendly film called Paddington 2. We also chat some about the adorable bear’s first adventure before getting into all of the reasons this sequel has charmed viewers old and young, critical and casual alike.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:21
(Aaron – Paddington, Adrift, Upgrade)
(Patrick – Paddington)

Paddington 2 Review – 0:16:39

The Connecting Point – 0:57:29


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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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What We Learned This Week: January 1-13

LESSON #1: EITHER BUSINESS IS BAD OR PEOPLE ARE FINDING THEIR ENTERTAINMENT ELSEWHERE— I have found that in the box office business, trends rarely lie.  Looking past inflation and price changes, the reported actual ticket sale counts are alarming according to the year-end news reported in several places.  A six percent drop is telling but not drastic.  “Lowest in 25 years” is a whole other thing.  To me, as I’ve stated in this column frequently, it’s all about the price point for family dollars.  The wave of unlimited TV and streaming options available at high quality and far lower costs than it takes to bring the average family of four to the multiplex with refreshments is becoming a no-brainer for those cost-minded folks.

LESSON #2: SPEAKING OF BUSINESS, APPLE MIGHT HAVE A COUNTERPUNCH TO DISNEY— Once Disney bought 21st Century Fox, they gained controlling percentage of Hulu Plus at the same time as they’ve been positioning to launch their own dedicated streaming platforms.  The target was placed on Netflixes back, especially after the Mouse House pulled all of their content off the platform to bring under their own roof.  Netflix might have found a benefactor and powerful one.  According to reports sourced by Citi, Apple is angling to buy Netflix with a billion dollar price tag.  Throw Amazon’s power in there, and this WWE triple threat match in a streaming ring just got big

LESSON #3: SPEAKING OF BUSINESS, KEEPING ADVOCATING FOR EQUAL PAY ACROSS GENDERS— You can try to slice it, refocus the points, or pretend to justify the reasons however you want, but the Mark Wahlberg/Michelle Williams All the Money in the World compensation disparity story that broke this week is kind of sh-tty no matter which way you play it.  It just flat-out looks bad.  I’m glad it’s getting investigated by the union (Screen Actors Guild).  I keep the benefit of the doubt going that good faith is out there or that contracts are this and other contracts are that.  For that to remain, a positive outcome (with a rolled head or two) must arrive or this will only incite more from an already fractured female demographic, and rightfully so.

LESSON #4: WE HAVE TO CONSIDER THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI A FULL-FLEGED OSCAR CONTENDER NOW— To me, the Golden Globes have been a joke, are a joke, and will remain a joke with some of their category distinctions, silly nominees, and oddball choices.  That said, the Golden Globes aren’t the only awards Sam Rockwell, Frances McDormand, and Martin McDonagh’s film are sweeping up.  The two actors have been surging and now stand as legitimate co-frontrunners with Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) and Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) who have dominated the Best Supporting Actor and Best Actress categories.  These dark horses aren’t so pitch black anymore.  By the way, you know which Golden Globe winner is not a real contender?  James Franco.  Via con dios, dude.

LESSON #5: THE STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI HATERS ARE GOING TO BE BUTTHURT FOR A LONG TIME— …and it’s going to be agonizing to deal with them.  Most of the haters are just harmless snobs and sub-trolls.  Their rants and forgettable and carry weak traction, like silly petitions to remove the latest film from canon.  However, some of them take it too far.  This recent story of Kelly Marie Tran dealing with racist and sexist comments is a prime example.  That’s the kind of crap that goes too far and isn’t “fansmanship” nitpicking over water cooler talk anymore.  That’s the hurtful garbage that needs to go and get a life.

LESSON #6: CIRCLE BACK TO THE BEST OF 2017— Rotten Tomatoes closed the 2017 calendar with their list of 100% Tomatometer films.  Seven titles never received a bad review.  Use JustWatch to seek them out in this boring and empty annual moviegoing wasteland known as January.  Liam Neeson flicks can only keep your attention so long.  If you want more films after those seven, you’ve got five top-ten lists right here on Feelin’ Film from your hosts and contributors.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  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 FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Paddington 2

PADDINGTON 2 (2018)


GOING IN

In 2014, a movie based on a children’s book about a talking bear who is discovered in Peru and moves to modern-day London, became an overwhelmingly positive critical success. I’d never have bet on this happening. But it did, and so much so that the British live-action/CGI hit has spawned a sequel. Paddington was recognized for being a warm-hearted family-friendly adventure full of charm, wit, and with a playful sense of humor. It was also filled with gags that made it just plain fun, and my family is excited to see where the immigrant bear’s story goes from here.

1 Hour and 43 Minutes Later.


COMING OUT

Rarely does a film so exceed my expectations that I’m left with a feeling of awe, but my face literally almost broke into pieces from the immensity of my smile as I sat watching one of the most perfect post-credit scenes I’ve ever witnessed follow-up a film so adorable that I wanted to hug it, then see it again immediately. The word awesome may be overused and have a wide range of application, but when expanded to its full definition of something that is “extremely impressive; inspiring great admiration”, it applies perfectly to Paddington 2.

Now with the origin story out of the way, director Paul King is able to show us what Paddington’s every day life in London is like with the Brown family. It still requires some suspension of disbelief to see humans interacting with a talking bear as if it’s routine, but it doesn’t take long to start feeling the joy that Paddington is bringing into the lives of everyone he interacts with and accept him for who he is, and not how he looks. Watching the Brown’s operate as a family is particularly sweet, and each member has their own personal issue of identity that they are dealing with in some manner. Each of these is introduced briefly and King’s ability to pay off each individual family member’s struggle while maintaining a balance of character focus throughout the film is a triumph. As for Paddington, he simply wants to find the best present possible for Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, and due to a bad case of wrong place/wrong time he ends up in the most unlikely of places… prison. The rest of the plot takes everyone on whimsical adventures, complete with treasure hunting, plenty of detective work, and hijinks on a train. The film has plenty to say about being yourself, having manners, and looking for the good in others, but it is never distracting and rather genuinely uplifting.

Along Paddington’s journey, one of the characters he meets is former star actor turned dog food salesman Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant). Phoenix wants what Paddington wants and serves as the villain of the film, and boy oh boy is Grant having the time of his life in this role. It’s impossible not to smile and laugh constantly because Grant’s performance evokes these involuntary reactions at every turn. While he doesn’t have the kind of Oscar-worthy moment that is thought of when awards are handed out for best acting work, his consistent greatness in playing this character perfectly should not be overlooked. Also hitting a home run with his performance as Knuckles McGinty, a prison cook, is Brendan Gleeson. McGinty and Paddington enter into a unique sort of friendship that is as much gut-busting fun as it is soft and caring. Paddington is the kind of bear who always looks on the bright side, after all, bringing people together and making the best of whatever situation he is in, and McGinty and the other prisoners find it as hard to resist his unrelenting kindness as audiences do his charm.

All of this is well and good, but what truly raises Paddington 2 to greatness is that it’s not just a wonderful family-friendly story full of laughter and smiles, but also a technical marvel. The blending of live-action and CGI work is really special, never once being noticeable or feeling out of place. The cinematography is always fantastic and often striking with vivid color. Many times I was reminded of Wes Anderson’s work, particularly in The Grand Budapest Hotel, by the way in which a variation of angles were used to frame characters and scenes in interesting ways (usually centered). That color, though, bursting off the screen as if it was alive, added so much to the overall joy of the experience and was a treat for the eyes.

VERDICT

Shocking as it may be to read this early in the year, Paddington 2 is a truly wonderful film that will stand as one of 2018’s best. As the sequel to a great film, this one is even better. More heart-warming, more hilarious, and with outstanding performances by Grant and Gleeson that set it apart from other animated and similar genre pictures. In a world that often gives plenty of reason to frown, Paddington will replace that with pure delight. Take the whole family to see it once, twice, or more. Spending time with this marmalade-loving bear will start your year at the movies off right.

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.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Shape of Water

THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017)


GOING IN

Guillermo del Toro makes gorgeous films. Whether it’s horror, comic book characters, live-action cartoon, or fantasy, the visual aspect of his movies is always a treat. Now he returns with his first straight fantasy since the much beloved Pan’s Labyrinth. Expectations are (understandably) very high for this story of a mute worker in a secret government lab who discovers what appears to be a merman, or the creature from the black lagoon. Set during the Cold War era, it won’t be surprising at all if someone tries to use this creature as a weapon. The film’s story is the kind of fantastical adventure that del Toro could do wonders with, and I expect a twist or two as well.


COMING OUT

Honestly, there is much to like about del Toro’s The Shape of Water. Sally Hawkins turns in an incredible, emotionally-driven silent performance as the mute protagonist Elisa Esposito. Her acting is noteworthy because so much of it requires facial expression and body language to convey nuanced changes in feeling. She is often acting opposite a creature that cannot communicate with her verbally and this results in an intriguing relationship as she sorts out ways to connect with him. It is the wide range of emotions she conveys that actually makes her stand out the most, though. At times tender and caring, other times sad and longing, and ultimately strong  and determined. Also turning in a great performance is Michael Shannon as the film’s antagonist, a cruel and abusive Colonel that discovered the creature (which he coldly refers to as an “asset”) and along with his superiors wants to dissect and study it for possible scientific advancement in space travel technology. Shannon owns this role of a villain and becomes easy to hate. It’s a top-notch portrayal of evil and there isn’t much complexity to his character – whether that’s for better or worse will depend on your taste.

Dan Lausten’s cinematography accents its mostly shadowy colors with moments of vivid color to highlight emotion. The whole film has a noir feel to it without ever being traditionally black and white. Since the majority of the story takes places inside of a bunker or apartment, there isn’t much sunlight in the picture, but it fits this dark fairy tale’s tone perfectly and at least gives the viewer something pretty to look at despite the film’s surprisingly violent content throughout. The creature design is unsurprisingly fantastic. He, of course, has some secrets to reveal and discovering what those were was interesting and eventually vital to the plot.

Where The Shape of Water doesn’t work is in the direction it takes with the relationship between Elisa and the creature. One of the first scenes we see is a fully exposed Hawkins pleasuring herself in the bathtub and that sets the tone for what is to come. Elisa is a woman who has sexual desires and conveying that is not a bad thing. However, del Toro’s method feels unnecessary and sets the tone for a disturbingly sexualized human/creature relationship. If you weren’t certain before, this is a very adult fairy tale, and this one underlying plot point can really derail the entire film for those who are turned off by it. Imagine for a moment if Beauty and the Beast’s love story included him remaining a Beast and the viewer was shown the two having a sexual relationship. What takes place in The Shape of Water is akin to that, minus a believable romance. Ultimately, the film does give the relationship some meaningful touches, with sacrifice and trust coming into play, but the overall path of it can be so off-putting that enjoying the film becomes impossible.

VERDICT

It’s too bad when a film is ruined by one particular choice. There was so much potential here for this to be an intriguing new dark fairy tale, but del Toro’s choice to sexualize a relationship that didn’t need it makes this a hard film to recommend to all viewers. The violence is more frequent than expected and also quite brutal at times, and there is no real hope of redemption for the villains. Despite a gorgeous aesthetic and score, these story elements made it difficult for me to enjoy and I’ll be a lot less likely to get excited about another del Toro adult fairy tale in the future because of it.

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.