Thursday, May 22, 2014

What I've Been Watching May 2014

So a lot of football blogs present a semi-regular "what I've been reading" post. I've thought of doing this, and while I enjoy reading the occasional book, I don't read quite enough to present more than a half dozen books. What I do do outside of football, is watch a ton of movies. In this post I'm going to detail some of my favorites, both new and old, domestic and foreign, that I've watched in the last half year.

Nebraska (2013) - This was a slower film, that built as you watched it. With moments of humor, sadness, and happiness, the advertising for this film in my opinion was a bit misleading. The main character is the old man, but the story is really about his son. In that way, I found myself really connecting with this film, and it stayed with me after watching.

Death at a Funeral (2007) - The original English version, I found this movie to be quite funny in an absurd way. Good watch when in the mood for something a bit strange and dark. It's a real mix of highbrow and lowbrow, and pulls it off well, as you'd expect when directed by the voice of Miss Piggy (Frank Oz)

Do the Right Thing (1989) - I'm unequivocally not the biggest Spike Lee fan (though he has some very good movies, such as Malcolm X), but Do the Right Thing is a movie that makes you think. That's the power of it. I was a bit embarrassed that it wasn't one that I had seen before, but I'm glad I saw it. You don't have to agree or disagree with the actions of the characters in the movie, nor should you always. That's one of the best was Lee plays this movie, he just presents the characters, and shows the perspectives of everyone involved, proving that the reality of race in America is still much more than simply black and white.

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) - I watched this movie without realizing who the title character really was, as they never say his name until the end. In my mind, that made it much better (so I won't spoil it for you). But this was an interesting adventure between two friends that travel Argentina by Motorcycle.

Far from Heaven (2002) - Race, sexuality, well, pretty much all modern day hot topics, dealt with in a 1950's environment. Not an easy watch, but always interesting in the perspectives in brings.

JSA: Joint Security Area (2000) - I'm a sucker for movies about Korea and the tensions between "brothers" from the North and South. There have been several other good movies on the topic, but this one does a pretty good job making real characters out of soldiers on both sides. There are tons of good movies coming out of South Korea these days, and while this isn't the best, it is worth a watch.

Saving Mr. Banks (2013) - So I grew up a really big fan of all things Disney. In this movie, Hanks does a great job (in his 2nd best performance of the year) playing the man. More than that, it's exactly what you'd expect. If you don't want to watch a Disney-fied, somewhat cheesy, glossy film about the making of Mary Poppins, don't watch this. If you want an fairly easy movie for the family, and one that you can just enjoy for being a feel good movie, this is a good feel good movie.

Fruitvale Station (2013) - An independent movie from 2013, and one that early on was getting a lot of Oscar Buzz. From the lead actor (Michael B. Morgan) to the good direction and good editing, this movie was made with a high pedigree. It helps, also, that the story is incredibly powerful.

American Hustle (2013) - David O Russell has been on a bit of a hot streak of late. While I didn't like this as much as his previous attempt, and the movie dragged on a bit long, there is no denying that the characters are as interesting as they get. And that's what Russel is able to bring from his great cast that includes Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, and Louis C.K.

Ordinary People (1980) - On the heals of best picture winner Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), you get this movie, about a family struggling from the inside out. It's not easy to watch if you grew up in a similar environment - a family from the suburbs that struggles to find love - but if you did at all, you'll likely find the connection. Very powerful, winner of best picture for 1981.

Brave (2012) - Pixar almost always makes a great movie. And while this is far from their best, it is still a great entry into the animated film category. And you can't do wrong going Celtic. Certainly worth a watch if you have kids or have an hour and a half and want something easy to enjoy.

Margin Call (2011) - Start making a movie by casting Kevin Spacey and you're on the right track. In this film, we look at an investment bank over a 24-hour period at the early stages of the financial crisis. If you were strongly affected by the crisis, there will be things in this movie that make you angry and frustrated, there likely will anyway, but it is good and does strike a bit of a nerve.

Dances With Wolves (1990) - I call myself a movie fan and hadn't seen this one. One of the few Westerns that I had not yet seen, I had put it off for a while because of it's length. But on a free weekend I finally got around to seeing the Oscar winner for best picture of 1991, and it didn't disappoint. Costner tends to let things play out quite slowly, letting the film do a lot of the talking, but that works in the setting and adds to the strength of the movie.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) - A great movie coming out of Turkey (and one of the many movie titles that begin as "Once Upon a Time..."), this movie is about a group of men that set out in search of a dead body. It uses the full two and a half hours to let each character come into focus, but there isn't a wasted second in that time. Beautifully shot, definitely recommend for any fan of foreign movies.

Hachi (2009) - If you have a soft spot for dogs (I do), this is a movie you'll like. Based on a true story (quite bastardized, but it still works), it's just a good, heart-warming story of a man and his dog. And if your dog watches TV like mine, it may fall in love with the on-screen Akita, like my dog seemed to. Also really recommend the Japanese original if you can find it.

Mafioso (1962) - I tend to not like the Italian movies of the 50s and 60s, as I think they went over board on the avant garde and too often lacked plot and entertainment for the sake of what they considered art. That said, Mafioso passes the test of a good old-fashioned 1960s dramedey.

The Hunt (2012) - I only saw one movie more powerful in the past year (12 Years a Slave, which I thought was the best movie of 2013), but this really acts as a warning against the verdict by public opinion. In today's age, with many of the current events surrounding schools and sexual abuse, this movie couldn't be more topical. And this one is not only powerful, but entertaining. At times hard to get through, but very well acted and paced, and doesn't rub your nose in what is already a hard subject to watch.

The Dead (1987) - Based on the short story by James Joyce (also very good), this was the great John Huston's (The African Queen, The Maltese Falcon) last film. A bit slow, so you have to be in the mood to pay attention to every little bit, the movie sucks you in if you're willing to give it a chance. I actually watched this one twice, the first time not giving the movie the proper respect, before watching it again and coming away really loving it. But again, it's a movie you have to watch distraction-free.

Girl Shy (1924) and Safety Last (1923) - Charlie Chaplin is the most well known (and the most versatile), Buster Keaton is, in my opinion, the funniest, but Harold Lloyd belongs in the same class as a silent film star. Like most movies at the time, the plots are somewhat minimal, but the physical comedy mixed with the subtle comedy of the day makes these enjoyable if you like the kind.

The Lady Killers (1955) - The Coen brothers would eventually remake this movie, and while they are two of my favorites, the original in this case takes the cake. A bit better paced, and with top notch acting, this movie utilized Alec Guinness wonderfully and brought Peter Sellers to stardom.

Movies for the Summer. While winter is more my time to shine, there are a few blockbusters I'm looking forward to getting out and seeing this summer or when they come out on video.

Locke follows Tom Hardy in a car for 90 minutes but looks great, as do several other movies that were technically released but will gain wider release this Fall (Under the Skin and Joe (despite being a Nick Cage movie))

Godzilla I still haven't seen. Edge of Tomorrow should be a good sci-fi film, and regardless of what you think of Tom Cruise, he does tend to make a good blockbuster movie. I really liked How to Train Your Dragon, and while I'm not a fan of there being a sequel, the sequel is getting quite a bit of insider buzz - I'll catch How to Train Your Dragon 2 on video. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes looks too badass to miss. Who knows what to expect from the Matrix directors with Jupiter Ascending (it'll either be awesome of a huge bust). That should get me through summer (I'm sure I'll catch a lot of the super hero movies on video and a few others as well). And then it heats right back up again.

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