You Should Be Watching: June 14-20

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 I’m recommending an epic wartime trilogy about a man striving to live up to his pacifist ideals in 1940s Japan, an award-winning film about a mother and her son whose entire world is the room they live in, expiring from Amazon Prime soon, and lastly a fascinating documentary detailing the exploits of the man who famously walked a wire between the Twin Towers of Manhattan. Also, this week is  your last chance to catch Captain America: Civil War on Netflix.

 


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


 

The Human Condition Trilogy

Year: 1959, 1960, 1961

Director: Masaki Kobayashi

Genre: Drama, History, War

Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Michiyo Aratama, Chikage Awashima, Ineko Arima, Sô Yamamura, Akira Ishihama, Kôji Nanbara, Seiji Miyaguchi, Tôru Abe, Masao Mishima, Eitarô Ozawa, Kôji Mitsui, Akitake Kôno, Nobuo Nakamura, 山茶花 究, Eijirō Tōno, Shinsuke Ashida, Keiji Sada, Yasushi Nagata, Yoshio Kosugi, Toshiko Kobayashi, Taiji Tonoyama, Akira Tani, Junji Masuda, Torahiko Hamada, Teruko Kishi, Takamaru Sasaki, Akio Isono, Jun Ôtomo

 

The Human Condition, Masaki Kobayashi’s epic wartime trilogy is set in Japan during World War II. It represents one man’s complete journey to balance his drive to care for and protect the woman he loves against risking everything to live according to his idealistic principles. From technical details like his perfect blocking and shot construction to the universal concepts of romantic love, sacrifice, and the desire of all mankind to be treated with dignity, Kobayashi’s directorial and storytelling expertise shines through every frame, and his influence on future filmmakers is readily apparent, especially the threads between Part II and Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket as our hero experiences firsthand the brutality of the Japanese army.

Kobayashi centers our viewpoint firmly on Kaji (Tatsuya Nakadai) and his humble compassion right from the introduction, where we meet him and Michiko (Michiyo Aratama), the woman he loves. Kaji is a pacifist with socialist ideals, so despite them wanting to marry, he wants to protect her from the hardship a life with him would surely provide. At one point, Michiko fights to convince him to stand by and let injustice happen so that he won’t surely be killed for treason, and it’s one of the most powerful and heartrending scenes in cinema.

Throughout the trilogy, as Kaji goes from a metaphorical to a grueling literal journey, he continues to face internal conflict over his beliefs and his compassion for his fellow man. But between the utter exhaustion and delirium of himself and his companions, presented in the most visceral of ways, his growing inability to stop the cruelty around him slowly breaks down his resolve and his character. In this, his most broken down and desperate state, we see what is at his core that will drive him to hold on to his humanity.

EXPIRING: Last day to watch on FilmStruck channel is June 22. Will remain on Criterion channel


 

Room

Year: 2015

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Sean Bridgers, Tom McCamus, Amanda Brugel, Joe Pingue, Cas Anvar, Wendy Crewson, Kate Drummond, Randal Edwards, Jack Fulton, Justin Mader, Zarrin Darnell-Martin, Jee-Yun Lee, Ola Sturik, Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll, Rory O’Shea, Matt Gordon, Sandy McMaster, Chantelle Chung, Brad Wietersen, Derek Herd

 

For those few of you who have yet to see it, Room is an amazing film that will fill your heart with emotion, remind you of the powerful bond between mother and child, and challenge your perspective of the world around you. Brie Larson as Ma gives an Oscar-winning performance, and Jacob Tremblay as Ma’s son Jack gives an Oscar-deserving one. The premise is simple. Jack has lived his whole life in a small room with Ma. They receive a visitor every once in a while who gets them what they need to survive in exchange for sleeping with Ma while Jack goes and sleeps in the closet. Having given up hope of ever leaving the room and for the sake of Jack’s happiness, Ma has embraced the fiction the room is the world.

Their experience is grieving, the horror practically unimaginable. This is Larson at her most vulnerable, completely owning the reality of Ma’s wretched state and its effect on her body and mind. And Tremblay is a revelation. Even as a child actor, he makes it easy to believe the life experiences of Jack, his innocence, wonder, hurt, and anger are his own. This story presents a  fearful yet heavy reality of similar and even worse events occurring all around the world.

But It turns out to be a deeply layered film that sticks with you long after it’s over. Jack’s perspective relate to all of us in a philosophical, big picture, life-changing sense. But so did Ma’s in the sense of our day-to-day reality and how we bear the weight of our past. It’s not easy to take an all-too-common yet tragic story like this and have it say so much about life and death, good and evil, family, depression, perspective, burdens, sacrifice, the media, innocence, and wonder. But the combined efforts of both writer Emma Donoghue and director Lenny Abrahamson masterfully provided just that.

EXPIRING: Last day to watch is June 23


 

Man on Wire

Year: 2008

Director: James Marsh 

Genre: Documentary, History, Crime, Thriller

Cast: Philippe Petit, Jean François Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau, Annie Allix, David Forman, Alan Welner, Barry Greenhouse, Jim Moore

 

There’s a phenomenon that occurs now and then in the film world where the subject matter of an acclaimed documentary is sooner or later created as a narrative film. We see that currently with the movies about the life of Fred Rogers. But previously, this occurred with the awe-inspiring documentary I’m recommending, Man on Wire, which details the exploits of Phillippe Petit, a daredevil French high-wire walker who had an inner compulsion to perform increasingly dangerous feats of wirewalking. His ultimate obsession, as dramatized in Robert Zemeckis‘ 4th-wall-breaking film The Walk, was to attach a wire between the Twin Towers of Manhattan and walk from one side to the other.

What makes this film so fascinating and makes the aforementioned dramatization unnecessary, is its intercutting of interviews, archival footage, and re-enactments to clearly tell the compelling story of this strange yet entertaining showman who was driven to do the impossible and the band of friends and accomplices he compiled who would help him do so. As far Petit was concerned, the illegality of the feats he was compelled to perform meant nothing more than another obstacle. Nearly as much as danger itself, It is the forbidden, illegal nature of his plan to walk between the towers that infuses the film with tension and excitement. It plays very much like a heist film with all the detailed planning, setbacks, and specific windows of opportunity you’d expect, even though nothing is being stolen but an experience.


 

COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

June 15
Super (2010)

June 18
Theeb (2014)

June 24
Captain America: Civil War (2016)

June 29
On Golden Pond (1981)

 

AMAZON PRIME

June 15
Anomalisa (2015)

June 23
Room (2013)

 

FILMSTRUCK

June 15
City Lights (1931) *
A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
Metropolis (1927)
Peeping Tom (1960)
Wag the Dog (1997)

June 22
An American in Paris (1951)
An Angel at My Table (1990) *
The Human Condition I: No Greater Love (1959) *
The Human Condition II: Road to Eternity (1960) *
The Human Condition III: A Soldier’s Prayer (1961) *
The Piano (1993)

June 29
Dogville (2003) **
The Five Obstructions (2003)
The Italian Connection (1972)
The Music Man (1962)

June 30
Caliber 9 (1972)
It Happened One Night (1934)
The Ladykillers (1955)

*  Remaining on the Criterion channel
** Remaining on the FilmStruck channel

 

HULU

June 30
Zodiac (2007)
Stories We Tell (2012)
A Simple Plan (1998)
Project Nim (2011)
Marathon Man (1976)
A League of Their Own (1992)


 

JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Ali’s Wedding – NETFLIX FILM (2017)

 

AMAZON PRIME

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)
Precious (2009)
Red River (1948)

 

FILMSTRUCK

Arthur (1981)
Baby Doll (1956)
Cabaret (1972)
Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (1968)
Moses and Aaron (1975)
Of Mice and Men (1939)
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

 

HULU

Precious (2009)


 

COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

June 16
In Bruges (2008)

 

HULU

June 15
Middle of Nowhere (2012)
The Second Mother (2015)
Smoke (1995)
Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak (2009)

 


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.

You Should Be Watching: June 7-13

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 I’m recommending Baz Lurhmann’s charming directorial debut, an electric and moving exploration of the tempting and destructive power of greed set amidst the housing crisis, and a classic film full of high-stakes tension. There are also a whole bunch of great titles that arrived on streaming platforms this past week and several leaving as well.

 


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


Strictly Ballroom

Year: 1992

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Cast: Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Pat Thomson, Gia Carides, Peter Whitford, Barry Otto, John Hannan, Sonia Kruger, Kris McQuade, Pip Mushin, Antonio Vargas, Armonia Benedito, Lauren Hewett, Steve Grace, Paul Bertram, Todd McKenney, Kerry Shrimpton

Pretty much all Baz Luhrmann films share similar traits. They’re stylish, full of energy, from the editing to the music, and more than a little quirky. As Lurhmann’s endearing directorial debut, Strictly Ballroom offers all that and more wrapped up in an infectious package. It contains many poignant moments of humor and wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s also genre defying in the best way, essentially a romantic sports dramedy with a touch of mockumentary with the setting being a ballroom dancing competition.

The plot is your basic boy meets frumpy, overlooked girl who turns out to have hidden talent and a protective family and isn’t so frumpy after all, but it’s the characters, the relationships, the humor, and the choreography, and the family dynamics and history that make this movie extra special. Paul Mercurio as Scott Hastings is full of charisma and passion. He just wants to dance his heart out and doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, making him easy to root ford. He has wonderful chemistry with Tara Morice who plays Fran his would-be new partner after his last one left him, and it’s a sheer joy watching them dance together. There’s a lot more to Fran than meets the eye. The scene where Scott meets her family is a key turning point in the film as is him learning his parents’ past. There’s a little something here for everyone, so I would highly recommend it to pretty much everyone.


 

99 Homes

Year: 2014

Director: Ramin Bahrani

Genre: Drama

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern, Michael Shannon, Tim Guinee, J.D. Evermore, Noah Lomax, Clancy Brown, Nicole Barré, Cullen Moss, Wayne Pére, Judd Lormand, Gretchen Koerner, Yvonne Landry, Donna DuPlantier, Jordyn McDempsey, Gus Rhodes, John L. Armijo, Jayson Warner Smith, Ann Mahoney, Juan Gaspard, Nadiyah Skyy Taylor, Deneen Tyler, David Maldonado, Cynthia Santiago, Joni Bovill, Carl Palmer, Albert C. Bates, Tom Bui, Manu Narayan

 

In the vein of Wall Street comes this incredibly depressing yet extremely satisfying film that shows the tempting yet destructive power of greed and incremental moral compromise. Michael Shannon is scary good as Rick Carver, a ruthless and charismatic real estate broker, who will do whatever it takes to make as much money as he can, no matter who he hurts in the process. This includes him taking on an unlikely employee and ultimate partner whom he will have leverage over.

This man is Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a single father who along with his son and mother have been evicted from their home by this same Rick Carver. He’s desperate for an opportunity to earn the money necessary to get their home back, but desperation makes one forget about consequences to his actions. Garfield shows great range as he goes on this journey from one side of the evictions to the other, finding himself increasingly helpless to his greed, his lies, and Carver’s silver-tongued influence, leading him step-by-step down his moral decline. It’s a powerful lesson on how we rationalize sin and temptation.


 

The Wages of Fear

  

Year: 1953

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Thriller

Cast: Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Peter van Eyck, Folco Lulli, Véra Clouzot, Antonio Centa, Luis De Lima, Jo Dest, Darío Moreno, William Tubbs, Grégoire Gromoff, Joseph Palau-Fabre, Darling Légitimus, François Valorbe

 

With The Wages of Fear, Henri-Georges Clouzot created one of the most heightened and sustained exercises in tension found in classic cinema. Due to an oil field fire and no time for proper equipment, two pairs of desperate men, of which Mario (Yves Montand) and Jo (Charles Vanel) receive primary focus, are contracted to drive trucks full of extremely volatile nitroglycerine 300 miles across horrendous terrain and obstacles. And it is not tension for tension’s sake. The film exists as a cry of frustration towards the miserable and oppressive conditions encouraged by corporate imperialism and the unavoidable consequences of the resulting desperation.

To make the tension of the journey meaningful, Clouzot first establishes the hopelessness of the characters and their internal tensions caused by a sort of love triangle. He takes his time establishing the setting, an isolated town of poverty and sweltering heat in southern Mexico that’s surrounded by desert, and the pitiful lives of its inhabitants. The only way out is by airplane, but that takes money, and the town is all but controlled by the oppressive and manipulative company that owns the nearby oil fields and keeps jobs hard to come by. The friction that builds between the men who become drivers only add to the stress and fear that a truck could explode at any time, which takes toll after toll.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

June 9
Omar (2013)

June 11
Kano (2014)

June 15
Super (2010)

June 18
Theeb (2014)

June 24
Captain America: Civil War (2016)

June 29
On Golden Pond (1981)

 

AMAZON PRIME

June 7
Remember (2015)

June 9
Rosewater (2014)

June 15
Anomalisa (2015)

 

FILMSTRUCK

June 8
Christopher Guest:

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

Elia Kazan:

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

June 15
A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
Metropolis (1927)
Peeping Tom (1960)
Wag the Dog (1997)

June 22
An American in Paris (1951)
The Piano (1993)

June 30
Caliber 9 (1972)
It Happened One Night (1934)


JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Bad Genius (2017)
Blue Jasmine (2013)
The Departed (2006)
The King’s Speech (2010)
Miracle (2004)
National Treasure (2004)
Outside In (2017)
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

 

AMAZON PRIME

The Age of Innocence (1993)
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)
Breakdown (1997)
The ’Burbs (1989)
The Disaster Artist (2017)
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Event Horizon (1997)
Lady Bird (2017)
The Natural (1984)
The Running Man (1987)
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Stargate (1994)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Wonder Wheel — AMAZON ORIGINAL MOVIE (2017)

 

HULU

Apollo 13 (1995)
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Bull Durham (1988)
The ’Burbs (1989)
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Event Horizon (1997)
The Green Mile (1999)
Hellboy (2004)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Margin Call (2011)
My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989)
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
The Running Man (1987)
Stargate (1994)
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Trainspotting (1996)


 

COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

June 8
Ali’s Wedding – NETFLIX FILM (2017)

June 14
Cutie and the Boxer (2013)

 


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: Ocean’s 8

OCEAN’S 8 (2018)

1 Hour and 50 Minutes (PG-13)

There is something magnetic about this film series. The crew up of unique and attractive personalities , the detailed planning, the intricate heist, and (almost always) the twist are all elements we love to see come together in a new way. But even when they don’t have anything drastically special to offer the genre, as long as the story is good and the cast sells it, we’re willing to be entertained. For this go-around, Steven Soderbergh exits the director’s chair and passes the torch Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Seabiscuit). Missing is the former’s saturating color palette, replaced by a brighter and crisper one that serves the New York City setting well. Remaining is the recognizable mosaic filming style that Soderbergh utilized in Ocean’s 11-13, replicated by Ross to great effect.

Story-wise, Ocean’s 8 is fairly simple. Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), estranged sister of series protagonist Danny Ocean, is being released from prison and seeking to assemble a crew for a major heist. Having spent her entire sentence planning the detailed job, she wants no part of her brother’s advice to move on from the criminal life and wastes no time in reuniting with longtime friend and partner in crime Lou (Cate Blanchett). From there the film follows a familiar structure as Debbie finds the players necessary to pull off stealing a $150 million necklace during the annual star-studded Met Gala. For this job, Debbie wants an all-girl squad, because in her opinion “A him gets noticed, a her gets ignored.” The crew includes the usual roles required: Nine Ball (Rhianna) the hacker, Amita (Mindy Kaling) the jewelry expert, Tammy (Sarah Paulson) the suburban mom and fence, Constance (Awkwafina) the quick-handed thief, and Rose (Helena Bonham-Carter) the fashion designer, whose job is to ensure that superstar actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) is wearing the diamonds the crew intends to steal. There is quite a bit of the film spent on the planning phase of the heist and it is quite enjoyable learning about the various members of the team and their unique talents and personalities. Understandably, they cannot all have top billing and those actresses not named Sandra, Cate, or Anne are truly supporting characters. They are given just enough development, but don’t expect deeply personal backstories and character arcs. All of the cast members fill their roles fantastically, though, with Awkwafina’s humor and Rhianna’s snarky intelligence standing out.

Debbie, however, is definitely in this for more than just the money. In a sense, the film touches on the very real problem many criminals face. When it’s time to come back to society the only thing they know is what put them behind bars in the first place. If that’s what your good at, and your entire family history involves said criminal activity, why would you do anything else? And she is good at this. Very good. The plan is very cool and includes some modern tech like 3D printing. Many things that happen (including a late third act surprise) require a sense of disbelief because if one thing goes wrong, it all falls apart. But in a way these heist films are like superhero stories – doing the impossible is part of the appeal.

One of the best parts of the Ocean’s series has always been seeing bonafide movie stars come together and exist in this somewhat meta universe where celebrity cameos are a common thing. Sandra Bullock is great as Debbie and Blanchett is her usual perfect self. The chemistry between these two is especially good and their relationship is probably one of the things I would have enjoyed spending more time developing. The real stunner of the cast, though, is Anne Hathaway. Her silly charm is just adorable to behold and she provides plenty of laughs as she steals every scene she is in. The guys that feature in the film are fine and serve their purpose, too, but neither Richard Armitage or James Corden do anything memorable. This is about the ladies, of course, and it’s presented in a way that is both respectful of the films that came before and freshly empowering as a thing all its own.

VERDICT

For me, Ocean’s 8 is likely to be the film in the series that I revisit the most. It’s fast fun from start to finish with great humor, strong cast chemistry, amazing costume design, and an exciting heist. It doesn’t offer the depth of relationships present in some of the other films or the most difficult heist, but it never stops being entertaining and does not try to force becoming something that isn’t a natural fit. If this is the start of a new trilogy, I’m absolutely in favor of it, and can’t wait to see what Debbie Ocean and her crazy crew cook up next.

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.

MOVIE REVIEW: Hotel Artemis

HOTEL ARTEMIS (2018)

1 Hour and 34 Minutes (R)

“It’s a busy night in the Artemis.”

The setting is Los Angeles 2028, on a Wednesday (that’s important, or at least it’s repeated enough times to make you think it is). The city’s water supply has been privatized and a primary provider is cutting off access which results in the most violent riots in the city’s history. This is the backdrop for Sherman (Sterling K. Brown) and his brother’s attempt to rob a vault. But when things go south, the pair of criminals must seek medical attention in Hotel Artemis, a special membership-only resort for unsavory types. While at Artemis, Sherman runs into other various underworld characters including the dangerous and mysterious assassin Nice (Sofia Boutella), cocky and mouthy arms-dealer Acalpuco (Charlie Day), and the two caretakers of the hospital – Nurse (Jodie Foster) and Everest (Dave Bautista). Much brutal and violence in a stylized aesthetic ensues, while backed by an awesome pounding electronic Cliff Martinez score.

The best parts of Hotel Artemis sadly come only in pieces. Foster’s performance is wonderful, but like the rest of the cast her efforts are hampered by a sub-par script. Sure, there is humor that works and one-liners that result in hearty laughter, but with few exceptions the rushed character development isn’t deep enough to create the kind of emotional response the film is clearly hoping for. Likewise, the socioeconomic issue outside the hotel and the fun little futuristic tech (like freaking 3D printed organs) are never given much more than a nod either. And Jeff Goldbum’s excellent turn as the Hotel’s owner, The Wolf King of L.A., is unfortunately only a juicy cameo that also fails to pay off a major emotional turn.

The action, though, is one thing that this film has going for it throughout. It does take a bit of time to build up to, but it’s worth the wait seeing Dave Bautista and Sofia Boutella getting their fight on. Things get quite brutal and bloody, just as the tone of the film has implied they should, making for a rather exciting and enjoyable third act.

VERDICT

Fans of John Wick who go into Hotel Artemis expecting more of the same are sure to be at least somewhat disappointed. Though the film does provide some fun action and ideas, its hurried world-building and character development only hint at the potential this story has. Ultimately, Hotel Artemis offers very little that is unique or memorable, wasting a solid cast in a merely passable film that most won’t see and few who do will ever revisit.

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.

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.

MOVIE REVIEW: Upgrade

UPGRADE (2018)

I’m really going to miss Movie Pass. I’ll understand when it goes away. It makes sense that it would fail. But I’m going to really miss going to see a movie I’d never even heard of on the spur of the moment because it’s already paid for. Without Movie Pass, I never would have seen Upgrade.

Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade takes place in the near future and tells the story of Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green in a performance that will help me finally stop confusing him for Tom Hardy), a man who has just witnessed his wife’s murder and been paralyzed and left for dead by his attackers. When he’s given the opportunity to regain the use of his arms and legs thanks to an experimental new technology called STEM, he uses his new lease on life to hunt the people responsible for his wife’s death while attempting to stay one step ahead of the cop assigned to the case (Betty Gabriel). But it’s starting to look like there’s more to this STEM technology than meets the eye.

Upgrade is a tense, violent thriller with solid action and a dark sense of humor. While it’s not scary, it’s not difficult to see that Leigh Whannell cut his teeth in the horror genre as the film slowly builds to it’s frenzied third act. It creates a fascinating future world that feels real and lived in thanks to some cinematography by Stefan Duscio. You don’t have to suspend disbelief to buy into this being the way the world looks in just a few years. When you put those two together with a solid performance from Marshall-Green, it adds up to my favorite movie of the summer thus far.

If you’re suffering from franchise fatigue and craving an original, self-contained story outside of any cinematic universes this summer, you could do a lot worse than Upgrade. Did I mention it’s only 95 minutes long? It’s great! Thanks Movie Pass!

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.

Minisode 043: First Reformed

Fresh out of our screenings of First Reformed, we jump on the mic to talk through what we just saw. Paul Schrader’s latest film hit us hard with its intellectually profound script regarding matters of faith and environmentalism, providing plenty of questions and few answers. One of the strengths of the film is its ability to be a powerful conversation-starter, and this episode is proof of that.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Adrift

ADRIFT (2018)

1 Hour and 30 Minutes (PG-13)

The sea is both majestic and mysterious. As Richard (Sam Claflin) tells Tami (Shailene Woodley) on their first meeting, for him it offers beauty, peace, and the draw of “the infinite horizon”. But the sea is also dangerous, and for sailors braving its vast emptiness alone or in small groups, tragedy is but one mistake or unexpected storm away. Adrift tells the true story of this couple’s experiences as they encountered the category four storm Hurricane Raymond in September 1983 while delivering a 44-foot yacht from Tahiti to San Diego.

Director Baltasar Kormákur (Everest), open the film in the middle. Tami wakes up in the cabin of their capsized, now flooding vessel and frantically makes her way above deck to search for Richard. The chaos of this opening sequence is intriguing as it immediately puts the viewer on edge not knowing what to expect. It also frames Tami as a character so that we see her from a different perspective when meeting her pre-storm. After this opening moment, the film shifts to the past and begins to introduce us to the traveling young American dreamer, but this vision of her bloodied, trembling, and terrified lost at sea always lingers.

This unique structure continues throughout the film. Kormákur parallels the meeting of Richard, a 33-year old English sailor, and Tami with their attempt to survive after the storm renders their yacht immobile. It’s a refreshing way to tell a familiar story. We’ve seen this before, but instead of a straight narrative where boy meets girl, they sail off, encounter danger, and try to get home, we instead slowly have pieces of their relationship history (and personalities) revealed as we see alternate seeing them in various difficult situations while lost at sea. It also keeps us from having to sit through long stretches of Richard and Tami floating on the open water confined to their small boat, which is a big plus. What’s odd is that despite the film’s very tight 90-minute running time, it does feel longer than that.

The trials that Tami endures during her 41 days adrift are quite harrowing. Richard suffers major injuries during the storm and she must singlehandedly find a way to point the ship toward land, keep it afloat, stay fed and hydrated, and retain her sanity while he lays helpless at her side. Shailene Woodley definitely gives one of the better performances of her career, both capturing the adventurous spirit and joy in Tami when she meets Richard and falls in love and then later the immense battle with fear, panic, sickness, and despair she faces for over a month. Sam Claflin is wonderful, as well, and his chemistry with Woodley is fantastic, but for large portions of the film he doesn’t have much to do but groan, unfortunately.

The film features some beautiful cinematography, particularly when Robert Richardson utilizes aerial shots of islands being explored or to show the enormity of the ocean. There is also good use of close-up on the characters’ faces at key emotional moments that creates a sense of closeness for the audience and heightens our connection to what they are feeling. The score is okay. Serviceable but ordinary and forgettable. And the action of the storm itself is brief but definitely powerful. There is quite a bit of shakiness that ensues, so if you’re prone to sea sickness be aware and look away for a few seconds.

VERDICT

In the end, Adrift doesn’t leave a major mark on the survival film sub-genre. Its non-linear structure and the amazing fact that this really happened do keep it interesting, though, and Woodley shows incredible range in her performance as she navigates the intense emotional swings that the real Tami Oldham Ashcraft most certainly experienced. Due to a major third act development, I’m not sure the film would work as well a second time (or if you knew the outcome going into it), so my advice is to watch the film first and then read up on the even more amazing true story details afterward.

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 31 – June 6

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, I’m recommending one of my all-time favorite crime thrillers that doubles as a piercing character study of the everyman. Next, I have a classic pairing of Bogart and Hepburn on an adventure on the rivers of Africa. And finally, I’m recommending an intense Israeli courtroom drama about one woman’s quest for a divorce from a loveless marriage. And in the coming and going section, there are a whole bucketload of worthwhile movies coming to streaming in the first week of June including the arrival of Thor: Ragnarok to Netflix, Lady Bird to Amazon Prime, and Blade Runner 2049 to Hulu.

 

 


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


A Simple Plan

    

Year: 1998

Director: Sam Raimi

Genre: Thriller, Crime, Drama

Cast: Bill Paxton, Bridget Fonda, Billy Bob Thornton, Brent Briscoe, Chelcie Ross, Gary Cole, Becky Ann Baker, Tom Carey, Jack Walsh

 

To start my recommendations, I’m headed back to 90s crime thriller territory to a can’t miss film about good people doing evil things. It’s easy to watch films like The Wolf of Wall Street and… well, Wall Street and self-righteously sit back and condemn the greed on display. We’re not heartless and self-absorbed like those jerks, we think. We wouldn’t put the pursuit of money above literally everything else. We’re not evil like that. But greed is not so easily dismissed. Greed does in fact lie in the heart of good people. And when that greed takes hold, well, as the Bible says, the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.

The setup of A Simple Plan is just that, simple. Two kindly brothers, Hank and Jacob, and their good friend Lou (Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, Brent Briscoe) discover a crashed plane in the woods near their home with nothing but a dead pilot and over four million dollars in cash. What Sam Raimi does with this setup is to masterfully challenge his audience through the consequences of one seemingly rational decision after another by each of these characters along with Hank’s wife Sarah (Bridget Fonda) to reveal the horrifying things human nature can convince us to do out of greed and fear of getting caught. It is a film rightfully at the top of Raimi’s filmography, one of the best studies of human nature on film, and among the best performed roles of each of its stars. I cannot recommend <i>A Simple Plan</i> highly enough.


 

The African Queen

Year: 1951

Director: John Huston

Genre: Adventure, Romance, War, Drama

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley, Peter Bull, Theodore Bikel, Walter Gotell, Peter Swanwick, Richard Marner

 

Sure, it’s directed by John Huston, the man who gave us such adventure classics as The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Man Who Would Be King. Sure, it’s filmed on location in the jungles of Uganda and the Congo in lush technicolor. But what makes The African Queen really shine is the strength of its stars, that is Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Even playing the disheveled, ill-mannered boat captain Charlie Allnut, Bogie can’t help but charm. And with Hepburn as his near polar opposite, the straight-laced missionary Rose Sayer who has just seen her mission destroyed and the villagers run off by the Germans of World War I, the stage is set for this unlikely pair to set off on an unlikely adventure.

Through the trials of a handful of thrilling set pieces and especially the sharp, snappy dialogue and wonderful chemistry between Charlie and Rose, a relationship slowly begins to take shape. While neither expects the other to become something they’re not, they find satisfaction in learning about each other and looking out for their well-being, whether it’s Charlie taking ill or Rose about to dive into alligator-filled waters to get away from a horde of files. The more dirty, weary, and bedraggled the pair become, the more joy they find in simply being together and facing their obstacles as one. All in all, it’s a charming film showcasing Africa’s beauty and its exotic rivers and an inspiring story of love strengthened through trials.


 

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

  

Year: 2014

Director: Ronit Elkabetz, Shlomi Elkabetz

Genre: Drama

Cast: Ronit Elkabetz, Simon Abkarian, Menashe Noy, Gabi Amrani, Dalia Beger

 

For my final recommendation, I head to the oft-neglected area of Israeli film for a searing single-room setting courtroom drama. Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem presents the unfolding of hearing after hearing as Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz) and her lawyer implore the Jewish religious courts to give her a divorce from her husband Elisha (Simon Abkarian) whom she can’t abide and no longer lives with. He is completely unwilling to grant her the divorce she seeks. While he claims to want her back, to love her, the bitterness is evident on both their faces. The acting in this film is stellar. It’s amazing to watch the change in Elkabetz throughout the extended trial, whether through her nonverbal reactions or her slow burning frustration that eventually bubbles over.

This is actually the third film in the Gett Trilogy. Weird recommendation, I know. However, I absolutely do recommend it even as a standalone film, even though Viviane’s stated goal is to obtain a divorce. Let me be clear. I hate divorce. It approves of selfishness, makes one’s happiness the ultimate priority, excuses a lack of sacrificial love, and tears apart families. I hate how prevalent divorce is, especially in western society, where people treat their vow to love and cherish the other for as long as they both shall live with utter disregard. So why the recommendation? It’s a brilliant study of Jewish culture and its court system and the bitter consequence of a lack of love lived out, a love in word not in deed until even the words are gone. While on one hand this film is a call to reform the Jewish court system, on the other, it’s a powerful revelation of how marriages die. It acts as a powerful warning to all husbands and wives to give themselves fully to their spouses, to love them deeply and unselfishly.

 


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

May 31
8 Mile (2002)
Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015)
Men In Black (1997)
My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989)
Neerja (2016)
Oldboy (2003)
Scarface (1983)
Super (2010)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Resurrection of Jake the Snake (2015)
Training Day (2001)

June 24
Captain America: Civil War (2016)

June 29
On Golden Pond (1981)

 

AMAZON PRIME

May 31
From the Rocky Collection:

Rocky (1976)
Rocky II (1979)

From the James Bond Collection:

Dr. No (1962)
From Russia with Love (1963)
Goldfinger (1964)
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

June 7
Remember (2015)

June 9
Rosewater (2014)

 

FILMSTRUCK

May 31
High Noon (1952)

June 1
House of Flying Daggers (2004)
A Night At The Opera (1935)
Natural Born Killers (1994)

June 8
Christopher Guest:

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

Elia Kazan:

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

June 15
A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
Metropolis (1927)
Peeping Tom (1960)
Wag the Dog (1997)

June 22
An American in Paris (1951)
The Piano (1993)

 

HULU

May 31
1984 (1984)
Breakdown (1997)
Manhattan (1979)
The Secret of N.I.M.H. (1982)


 

JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Coco (2017)
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (2017)

 

FILMSTRUCK

Seven Beauties (1975)
The Unknown (1927)
Wendy and Lucy (2008)
The Women (1939)
Lolita (1962)
Grand Hotel (1932)

 

HULU

I, Tonya (2017)
Rain Man (1988)


 

COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

June 1
Blue Jasmine (2013)
The Departed (2006)
Miracle (2004)
National Treasure (2004)
Outside In (2017)

June 2
The King’s Speech (2010)

June 5
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

 

AMAZON PRIME

June 1
The Age of Innocence (1993)
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)
Breakdown (1997)
The ’Burbs (1989)
Day of the Dead (1985)
The Disaster Artist (2017)
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Event Horizon (1997)
The Natural (1984)
The Running Man (1987)
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Space Jam (1996)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Wonder Wheel — AMAZON ORIGINAL MOVIE (2017)

June 3
Lady Bird (2017)
Stargate (1994)

 

HULU

June 1
Apollo 13 (1995)
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Bull Durham (1988)
The ’Burbs (1989)
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Event Horizon (1997)
Hellboy (2004)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Margin Call (2011)
My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989)
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
The Running Man (1987)
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Trainspotting (1996)

June 2
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

June 3
Stargate (1994)

 


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.

The Evolution of Eastwood: ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ

ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (1979)

“I may have found a way out of here.” – Frank Morris

Aspiring writer Richard Tuggle had painstakingly researched and adapted a script about the only potentially successful escape attempt from the world’s most notorious prison. He submitted it to multiple agencies and was consistently rejected. Finally, he sought out the agent of Don Siegel and cleverly deceived a way to get his script to him. Siegel read the script and enjoyed it, passing it on to Eastwood as their next potential partnership.

Siegel and Eastwood, once close friends and frequent collaborators, had not made a film together since the original Dirty Harry (in which Eastwood had even directed a few scenes). Eastwood agreed to let his old friend direct if the film could be made through Malpaso Productions (Eastwood’s film company which had produced nearly every film in which he’d been involved since Hang ‘Em High). Siegel wanted production credit, however, and went around Eastwood to acquire the script directly. This choice created tension between the longstanding friends and would seal Escape from Alcatraz – their fifth collaboration – as their final one.

The film tells the true story of Frank Morris (Eastwood), who partnered with the Anglin brothers to mount an escape from the legendary Alcatraz prison in 1962. The film presents the prison warden (Patrick McGoohan) as a cold and cruel figure, choosing not to have him represent a real warden from the prison but rather a fictional archetype. The prisoners suffer various injustices at the hands of the guards and the warden, pushing Morris to develop a risky plan of escape.

Escape from Alcatraz is a different breed of thriller for Eastwood, allowing a deliberate pace to develop tension over an extended time rather than in a series of action bursts. The first half of the film is almost entirely dramatic in nature, establishing a variety of characters within the prison community and the various troubles the inmates suffer while there. Eventually the casualties and restrictions become too oppressive and the second half of the film becomes an escalating puzzle of tension as our characters struggle to enact their plan without being caught by the rigorous routines of the guards.

The performances are unanimously solid, featuring particularly strong turns from Robert Blossoms and Paul Benjamin (and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him appearance by Danny Glover in his feature film debut). Patrick McGoohan is expectedly dastardly in a role perfectly suited for his special brand of passive malevolence. The film’s script is also remarkable in its focus, despite having little in the way of spectacle or shock and nothing in the way of romance. Whether or not the facts presented are authentic, the film’s tone makes you think that this all went down precisely how you’re seeing it, including the unstated but heavily implied outcome of the escape itself.

The pairing of Eastwood and Siegel has typically yielded strong work from each of them (Coogan’s Bluff was a real dud to me, but Two Mules for Sister Sara, The Beguiled, and especially Dirty Harry are all standouts in Eastwood’s filmography). Escape from Alcatraz represents strong work yet again, albeit of a more restrained variety. It would be easy to sympathize with viewers who are put off by the bridled pace, but chances are strong that most viewers will find the steadily ratcheting tension rewarding and compelling.

It is unfortunate that this marked their last partnership, but it is not wholly unexpected. Eastwood had reached a point in his career where he’d had too many established hits (particularly as a director) and it’s easy to imagine that they’d both outgrown the mentor/performer dynamic that had flavored their earlier collaborations. Presumably, they patched up their differences prior to Siegel’s death in 1991, but there would never be another film from the pairing that was most directly responsible (apart from Sergio Leone’s western trilogy) for Eastwood’s rise and development as a star. As finales go, Escape from Alcatraz may not be the biggest possible hit, but it’s an impressive work nonetheless.


Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.