Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Stuff I Watched: Summer Edition

Here's all the stuff I watched since the first week of July!

The Revenant:  I finally got tired of waiting for this to show up on cable and just Redboxed it.  Was it the best movie of last year?  Meh.  I mean I certainly didn't enjoy it like Star Wars or The Martian.  It's your basic tale of survival and revenge.  In the 19th Century(?) in the wilderness, Leo DiCaprio is mauled by a bear and left for dead by the nasty Tom Hardy, who for added measure kills Leo's half-Indian son.  From there Leo crawls around, goes over a waterfall, eats raw buffalo, falls off a cliff on a horse, and then goes all Empire Strikes Back on the horse to shield himself from the cold.  All so he can inevitably track down Tom Hardy.  The end is reminiscent of Gladiator, though not with as good of music. A well made movie but not one you're going to watch over and over. (3/5) (Fun Fact:  You have to admire Alejandro Inarritu for having one of the most critically lauded movies in back-to-back years.  And they're so completely different too; I mean you go from modern Broadway in Birdman to this.  That's a real 180.)

Hail, Caesar:  This Coen Brothers "comedy" was sold as a movie star (George Clooney) is kidnapped and a bunch of movie stars go to find him.  Sounds zany, right?  Except that's not what happens.  Instead this is really "A Day in the Life of a Hollywood Studio Fixer."  Most of it focuses on Josh Brolin as the studio exec who deals with all the various headaches around the studio and manages the scandals.  Back in the early 50s when this takes place (or late 40s? whatever) there was still the dreaded "studio system" where actors were pretty much property.  Studios tried to manage every aspect of their lives, such as who they were dating, to make sure no bad press got out.  Anyway, there is a kidnapping, but it's pretty much just Brolin who goes looking.  He inadvertently involves a young Western star as well.  The many other cameos by Scarlett Johannson, Jonah Hill, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Coen Brothers favorite Frances McDormand, and Channing Tatum are largely pointless.  Kind of a "Look at all the famous people we know!" thing.  If the studio had marketed the actual story maybe I would have enjoyed it more instead of being annoyed at being hornswaggled. (2/5)

Life:  Don't confuse this with the decent comedy starring Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. This is about Team Edward trying to get pictures for Life magazine of the creepy kid from Chronicle, who is playing James Dean. Like other young stars who died early there's a tendency to make Dean seem deeper than he probably was. Mostly he is conflicted about wanting to do movies while not really wanting to be famous. It's especially hard in the Old studio system described above. A little slow but otherwise interesting. (3.5/5)

The Number 23:  A largely inert "thriller" where Jim Carrey is a dogcatcher whose wife buys him a weird book called The Number 23 and then he keeps seeing that number everywhere while the book itself seems to relate to his own life.  The solution involves a twist that probably violates a few laws of physics and/or medical science. (2/5)

Mimic 3:  I don't think I've seen the first two of these and I don't think I missed much.  For a horror movie this was really, really BORING.  Most of it is like a low-rent version of Rear Window as this creepy guy is spying on all his neighbors with a camera.  By the time the space roach or whatever shows up to start killing people it's too little, too late. (1/5)

Sing Street:  I got this Blu-Ray free from Amazon Vine which was the only reason I watched it.  But it wasn't bad.  A kid in Dublin in 1985 forms a band to impress a girl who wants to be a model.  So he has her in some music videos.  Meanwhile his family is slowly disintegrating.  Overall it's a light drama but it doesn't end too neatly, which is good. (3/5)  (Fun Fact:  the patriarch of the family is played by Littlefinger from Game of Thrones.  That was the only person I actually recognized.)

Mountain Men:  Tyler Labine's whole career has been playing chubby, good-hearted stoners in series like Reaper and Deadbeat.  Guess what he plays in this?  Yup, a chubby, good-hearted stoner whose brother comes to visit the small mountain town where he lives.  They go up to a remote cabin and get stuck.  It gets worse when his brother breaks his leg.  Mostly it's fun with the brothers reconnecting as they try to survive but it never really devolves into slapstick or anything lame like that. (3/5) (Fun Fact:  The film was written and directed by Cameron Labine, whom I assume is a relation.  Makes sense, right?)

He Never Died:  Henry Rollins plays a mysterious guy who sleeps alot and drinks blood in lieu of eating people.  He also has Deadpool-like healing abilities.  He meets a daughter who is kind of a drunk already at nineteen.  When she's kidnapped he eventually goes to rescue her.  It's kind of muddled and not really explained until the end who the hell he is or what's going on.  And he's really, really lazy about going to rescue his daughter.  The most fun is the deadpan attitude he maintains throughout, even when being stabbed or shot, which I guess is what happens when no one can kill you. (2/5)

Everly:  Selma Hayek is a woman who has been imprisoned in an apartment building that's full of whores to be used by Asian bad guys.  Then there's a lot of killing in sometimes inventive ways.  So it's fine if you want a lot of carnage without a lot of plot getting in the way. (2/5)

A Single Shot:  It's kind of like No Country for Old Men in that a poacher finds a bunch of drug money and then becomes the target of people wanting to get it back.  In this case he finds the money when he inadvertently shoots a girl who was squatting in an old quarry.  Unfortunately there's no killer as awesome as Javier Bardem with that cattle killing dealie, just some average biker guys.  At the end the guy could have probably helped himself if he'd watched Man on Fire or Darkman and known that if you get a finger cut off, you got to burn it with a cigarette lighter to cauterize it.  Anyway, it's a well-made, well-acted film with top-shelf talent like Sam Rockewell, Jeffrey Wright, and William H Macy. (3/5)

Project Almanac:  This is pretty much Chronicle only with time travel instead of superpowers.  A group of high school kids find instructions for a time machine hidden by the father of two of them and so they build.  They first go back a short time and do stupid shit like try to help one kid pass a test.  Then they buy a Powerball ticket.  But it all goes off the rails when the head nerd uses the machine to get a second take on a moment with a girl.  Then he finds that it's more like the Butterfly Effect than Quantum Leap in that he can't just right a single wrong and everything falls back in place.  The third act is a little bit of a letdown but overall it's probably better than I thought it'd be. (2.5/5) (Fun Fact:  They're supposed to be in Atlanta but none of the kids has an accent and there are hardly any black kids around, including none in the main cast.)

I'll Follow You Down:  Another time travel movie, but this one focuses on the human cost after a father (Rufus Sewell of Dark City and The Man in the High Castle) builds a time machine, travels back to 1946, and is murdered in an alley.  He left behind a wife (Gillian Anderson) and son (Haley Joel Osment, grown up from his The Sixth Sense days) with no clue of how or why he disappeared, which naturally scarred them.  Then the kid's grandpa (Victor Garber of Titanic and Legends of Tomorrow, the latter being appropriate) finds a bunch of notes on the time machine and he and the kid try to build one for themselves.  Except if they do the last 12 years won't really exist, which is largely good but there's also some bad things about it.  It was really well-done with a great ending that's sort of like Looper but a bit different. (4/5) (Fun Fact:  The title is also the name of a Gin Blossoms song from the 90s.)

Corman's World:  Roger Corman has directed more than 50 movies and produced upwards of 300!  They are almost exclusively tacky "B" movies.  He started in the 50s with monster movies then rebellious teenage movies before moving into exploitation movies in the 70s.  He built himself quite an empire in making movies for cheap.  What spoiled it for him in the 70s was the rise of the blockbuster, first Jaws and then Star Wars.  From there, "grindhouse" and drive-in movies became dinosaurs and Corman's power waned.  But he did launch the careers of many A-list stars and directors in Hollywood like Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorcese, and Robert de Niro.  He also gave Ron Howard his first gig as a director for a movie called Grand Theft Auto--no relation to the video game series that came 30 years later, right?  (Corman also directed a movie called The Fast & the Furious; does he get a cut of that franchise?) I was a little disappointed they didn't mention his aborted Fantastic Four movie in the 90s.  Though he was never nominated for any Oscars, Corman won a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 2009.  All this without any real formal training.  Of course I feel a kinship to people like that.  Anyway, it was a pretty fascinating documentary if you're interested in movies--especially bad movies. (4/5) (Fun Fact: Corman's only really serious movie--and biggest commercial flop--was an adaptation of the anti-segregation book The Intruder.  The movie was one of the first major roles for a then-unknown Canadian named William Shatner.  In a weird coincidence, the book was written by Charles Beaumont, who penned many episodes of The Twilight Zone, a show in which Shatner was featured twice.)

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio:  Based on a true story, Julianne Moore is a housewife in the 50s and 60s in Defiance, Ohio (duh) with a knack for winning contests, especially those involved with jingle writing.  This comes in handy since her man-child husband (Woody Harrellson) is bad with money and they have like 9 kids or something--I never tried to count them.  The only real drama involves their money woes.  It's mostly light-hearted fare that wouldn't upset anyone. Which is fine. (3/5)

Harley Davidson & the Marlboro Man:  Mickey Roure is Harley Davidson and Don Johnson is the Marlboro Man; they're two guys who ride motorcycles and hang out in bars.  When their favorite watering hole is threatened, they decide to rob an armored car, but instead of money it's loaded with a fictional drug called "Crystal Dream."  This late 80s movie takes place in "1996" but the fake drug and The Matrix-looking henchmen really serve no purpose.  I mean this could have easily taken place in the present time with a load of coke or heroin or whatever instead of the fake drug.  And at the end you don't even know if they saved their bar or not, so there's no real closure. (2/5) (Fun Fact:  Giancarlo Esposito, drug kingpin Gus Fring on Breaking Bad, plays the son of the bar owner--not the drug dealer.)

A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III:  Charlie Sheen plays a guy in Hollywood who's losing his mind--what a stretch!  He does a lot of wacky stuff like when his girlfriend breaks up with him, he throws a bag of her shoes off a cliff--and then his car ends up going the same way.  With Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman involved and the whimsical tone it seems like a knock-off of a Wes Anderson movie, though it was written and directed by Roman Coppola.  I didn't really pay a lot of attention to it for the most part. (2/5) (Fun Fact:  Is Charlie Sheen so fried that every character he plays now has to be named Charlie or Charles?  I mean Two and a Half Men, Anger Management, this movie, maybe even on Spin City when he did that...)

Assassins:  Sly Stallone is a veteran hitman who is stalked by a younger hitman (Antonio Banderas) as Stallone and a young Julianne Moore are trying to sell a computer disk with some secrets on it.  Fairly predictable but an OK way to kill 90 minutes or so. (2.5/5) (Fun Fact: In the mid-90s Stallone starred opposite future starlets Sandra Bullock, Julianne Moore, and Diane Lane in Demolition Man, Assassins, and Judge Dredd respectively.)

Wrong:  This is a surreal comedy where a man is looking for his lost dog.  For some reason he goes to a job he lost 3 months ago every day to just hang out to the consternation of everyone.  Equally confusing is it's always raining in the office or someone left the sprinklers on; I'm not sure what the deal was.  Then it turns out a Zen master stole the dog to like teach the guy a life lesson but the car they used got in a wreck and so the dog really is missing.  It's a slow, utterly bewildering movie.  To save you 90 minutes he eventually finds the dog. (2/5)

Benders:  This is very similar to FXX's The League as it involves a group of guys (and a woman) who are all involved in sports.  Only in this case it's rec league hockey in New York.  There's very little actual hockey and no NHL cameos or anything because I guess since it's on IFC they couldn't afford it.  Most of the show is their various hi-jinks about relationships and junk.  It's OK though not spectacular. (2.5/5)

Deathgasm:  A couple of metal-loving teens in New Zealand find an evil hymn in a Rick Astley record sleeve (because where else would it be?) and when they play the song it unleashes demons upon their town.  Basically the demons possess people into zombies, so it soon turns into the standard zombie movie plot of finding creative ways to kill people. Not a bad way to kill 85 minutes. (2.5/5)

Urban Legend:  Part of the 90s ironic horror movie craze that began with Scream, this features a lot of CW-type actors who are being murdered according to various urban legends like the killer in the backseat or the one who ambushes a couple at "lover's lane" and so on.  Once one character's backstory is told the killer is easy to figure out.  So it's not that great. (2.5/5) (Fun Fact:  Jared Leto is one of the stars trying to stop the serial killer and now he's playing the ultimate serial killer:  the Joker in Suicide Squad.)

Road Games:  This is a twist on the movies where people pick up a hitchhiker who then menaces them.  In this case two people hitchhiking in France get picked up by a guy who then menaces them for...reasons.  I'm not sure what the point of it really was or why some old guy takes one of the hitchhikers to take a picture of the hitchhiker eating a bowl of soup.  Maybe in France it makes more sense.  The "twist" at the end was something I figured pretty early on.(2/5)

The Legend of Gator Face:  A cute family movie about two boys who try to make an old man's wish of seeing the legendary "Gator Face" come true by making a rubber suit and pretending to be the creature.  Except they soon draw the attention of the town and then the National Guard.  As the government hunts for the imaginary creature, the boys run across the actual Gator Face.  It's kind of like ET, though less boring and more fun. (3/5)

Dirty Weekend:  An indie movie about two people stranded in Albuquerque on a plane delay.  They go into the city, where the uptight guy (Matthew Broderick) tries to figure out if he had an affair the last time he was in town.  Kinky sex is hinted at but never actually shown.  Overall it's a good adult dramedy. (3/5) (Fun Fact: I've been to Albuquerque three times and now I'm disappointed I never went looking for sex shops and gay bars.  If I were on a layover I'd just go look for more Breaking Bad sites.)

Fried:  To paraphrase from the Star Wars-esque crawl in the pilot episode:  this is the story of a manager who attempts to make a fried chicken shop in the UK slightly less shit.  It's a fast food workplace comedy that is pretty funny for the most part.  It has pretty much all the standard elements of the workplace comedy:  overzealous boss, zany employee who doesn't give a shit, and the workplace romance that most of the time is unrequited.  And like supermarket workplace shows like 10 Items or Less and Superstore, whether it's day or night the same core group of people is always there.  Having done two stints in fast food, that is never the case.  There are only six episodes so it doesn't take long to get caught up. (3/5)

Bojack Horseman Season 3:  Netflix kind of snuck this one in on me; they didn't even send me one of those "We added a show you might like" emails.  Anyway, this Netflix original series is an animates series about a horse who used to be a star in the 90s on a Full House-type show and has spent two seasons unsuccessfuly trying to get his life together.  Most of this season is like Christopher Gest's For Your Consideration about a bunch of washed-up actors who think they're going to be nominated for an Oscar...and then aren't but in the process receive a lot of hype and hoopla. This maintains the same dark tone as the previous seasons and then ends rather ambiguously as Bojack again becomes derailed by his own demons. (3/5)

Stranger Things:  Another Netflix Original that combines elements from The Goonies, Poltergeist, Carrie, and Alien.  In 1983 in a small Indiana town, a kid goes missing and his friends, mother, and local sheriff try to find him.  At the same time a girl with telekinesis escapes from a creepy government lab.  It was really interesting to see how the mystery would unfold.  The end leaves room for a sequel or they could do like American Horror Story and just do different stories every season.  But I definitely do want another season. (4/5)

Midnight Special:  Like I said on Twitter, if you like Stranger Things, you should watch this movie.  It's kind of the same thing, only without the 80s setting or Stephen King references.  The frustrating thing about the movie is it doesn't really try to set things up.  You're thrown right into the middle of it as Michael Shannon is trying to get his son with freaky powers out of Texas.  They're already on the road with another guy and a manhunt is already on the way.  Eventually you can piece together that Michael Shannon and Kirsten Dunst had this kid who has powers like being able to hear radios and satellites and his eyes light up with bright white light and he can speak in tongues.  A whole weird cult called "the Ranch" formed around him, turning his ramblings into scripture.  Anyway, Michael Shannon and the kid are heading towards some point to meet up with others like the kid.  Meanwhile they have the Ranch and the government (especially Kylo Ren) on their tail.  Like 10 Cloverfield Lane, when they actually show you what's going on at the end it's a little disappointing, though not nearly as dumb.  Anyway, it's definitely an interesting movie to watch and you might want to watch it more than once to see if you missed anything the first time.  Or not.  It's your life. (3.5/5) (Fun Fact:  At one point Adam Driver talks to the kid through a microphone and it really does sound like Kylo Ren.  I'm just saying.)

Dead Rising: Endgame:  This is the sequel to Dead Rising: Watchtower, both exclusively on Crackle and based on video games I never played.  Anyway, the first one was pretty amusing in that it focused a lot on insane weapons characters would create and cut to some foul-mouthed survivalist who literally wrote the book on surviving the zombie apocalypse.  This movie has none of that wit or charm.  It's just a dreary paint-by-numbers zombie movie.  (1/5)

The Jacket:  Adrien Brody is a soldier from the first Gulf War who's framed for killing a cop and winds up in a mental institution.  Kris Kristofferson uses him for experiments by shooting him up with some drugs, putting a straitjacket on him, and then stuffing him in a morgue locker.  It's like sensory deprivation experiments.  When he's in the jacket, Adrien Brody leaps forward 15 years to 2007 and finds out that's he's going to die New Year's Day 1993.  He keeps leaping back to 2007 to gather more clues about what happens and what the nasty doctor is up to.  I found it very engrossing to see how it would all work out.  And there's even a happy ending. (3.5/5)

Backtrack:  It's another supernatural mystery starring Adrien Brody.  This time he's an Australian shrink whose daughter got hit by a truck a year ago.  His marriage is unraveling and he's moved away from Sydney to take a job diagnosing patients.  Except he soon realizes all his patients died on 7/12/87 in a train accident.  A train accident in his hometown of False Creek (which False Creek sounds like a good movie title) that he might be responsible for.  Or is he?  Again it was pretty engrossing to see how the pieces kept changing until finally the truth is revealed.  Not so much of a happy ending. (3/5)

Father's Day:  Robin Williams and Billy Crystal are two guys who 17 years ago slept with the same girl.  One or the other might be the daddy of a boy, but the kid is following Sugar Ray on the road (since this was 1997) so they set off to find him.  Full of tired, predictable jokes but I suppose there are worse ways to waste 100 minutes. (2/5) (Fun Fact: There's a pointless cameo by Mel Gibson, because 1997.)

Seventh Son:  The director really should have won an award because it takes real talent to make two Oscar-winning actors (Julianne Moore and Jeff Bridges) look like complete hacks.  They chew so much scenery that there was probably nothing left on the lot when they finished filming.  (1/5)

Charlie Wilson's War:  It's kind of awkward to watch this  movie since it's about a Congressman in the 80s who prods America into arming the mujahadeen in Afghanistan to thwart the Russian invasion.  Among those mujahadeen was a guy named Osama bin Laden, though the movie makes no reference to him or the Taliban or September 11th.  It makes the issue as black-and-white as Rambo III despite that six years of hindsight should have given them a better perspective.  Really the idea the movie presents is that everything would have been fine if we had built them some more schools and roads and stuff after the Soviets left.  I doubt that would have been the case but then since this was written by Aaron Sorkin it doesn't really reflect reality anyway.  It's an entertaining movie but there are two World Trade Center-sized elephants in the room you just can't shake. (2/5)

Miami Vice:  The Michael Mann version of the 80s TV series is colorless and dull.  Doesn't help that the cheesy 80s music is replaced with Nickelback-sounding stuff. (1/5)

Metro:  Speaking of colorless and dull, this Eddie Murphy cop drama is just as bad.  With Eddie Murphy and Michael Rappaport as a sidekick you'd think there'd be a laugh or two, but not really.  It's a really poor imitation of the Lethal Weapon movies. (1/5) (Fun Fact:  the villain is played by Michael Westcott, who was also the villain in The Crow. He has such an awesome voice that really he should be doing voiceover work.)

Funny or Die Presents The Art of the Deal:  This is a hilarious spoof of Donald Trump's (ghostwritten) book The Art of the Deal.  It's made to look like a crappy TV movie of the week from the 80s and focuses on Trump trying to get the site of his (failed) Taj Mahal casino from Merv Griffin.  It features Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Alfred Molina, Christopher Lloyd, Patton Oswalt, and Alf!  With a theme song by Kenny Loggins.  It's a laugh riot, but also sad because much of it is probably true.  (4/5) (Fun Fact:  I had no idea Trump was played by Johnny Depp until the (real) credits.  That's some good makeup work!)

Voltron Legendary Defender:  This is a Netflix reboot of the 80s TV series.  Basically five young humans find five robot lions that form the mighty Voltron and do battle against the evil Zarkon and his empire.  The writing is a bit more mature than the classic series.  The plots form an actual narrative instead of just "bad guys create a Robeast and the Voltron lions fight it before forming Voltron and slicing it up with the blazing sword," the formula Power Rangers used in the 90s.  They shifted a few of the pilots and lions around so their costumes all match their lions.  Before Keith had the black lion, Lance the red lion, and Sven/Princess Allura the blue lion.  This time Keith is in red, Lance in blue, and a new guy named Shiro in the main black lion.  But the princess gets to fly the castle around and her skin can change colors, so that's some kind of compensation.  The new sword is lame compared to the old one, but Voltron gets some other sweet weapons like a shoulder cannon.  Oh and (spoiler alert!) Pidge is a girl!  Which maybe Pidge was supposed to be a girl in the original Japanese version or something but in the American release at least Pidge was a dude.  But a few episodes in it's revealed that she's impersonating a boy to hide from authorities while searching for her missing father and brother who were taken by Zarkon--something that isn't really wrapped up in the season. The only other thing that bothered me was how Lance and Curan the sorta butler guy were turned into clowns for the most part.  That was definitely not the case before--in the 80s version Curan was voiced by Optimus Prime himself!  Anyway, overall it's better than the old version and close enough to rekindle the nostalgia. (3/5) (Fun Fact:  Tyler Labine, who starred in Mountain Men above, is the voice of Hunk, aka the fat one.  Even animated, Labine is typecast I guess.)

The Wraith:  Before Robocop, Darkman, The Crow, or Chance of a Lifetime, there was this movie about a guy who comes back from the dead with superpowers to kill the people who killed him.  Or actually it's not so much superpowers as a super car--a prototype Dodge 4S from what IMDB said.  Charlie Sheen is the guy who comes back (somehow) with the cool car to murder a bunch of dumb 80s punks whose gang for some reason includes Clint Howard sporting Kramer hair.  One-by-one Charlie Sheen kills them all with his invincible car and a shotgun while wearing something that looks like a Borg costume with a motorcycle helmet over the head.  There's plenty of 80s cheese from the soundtrack to the hair and clothes that makes it a lot harder to take seriously than any of the movies (and book) mentioned above.  Maybe with more than $2.7M on the budget it could have been a little better.  Or not.  (2/5)  (Fun Fact:  One of the songs on the soundtrack is from Stan Bush, who that same year had two awesome tracks on the Transformers the Movie soundtrack.)

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane:  This is a raunchy slasher movie that really lacks two things to be really good:  creative kills and a sensible motive.  Otherwise it's kind of the standard scenario:  a bunch of teenagers go to one boy's father's ranch and are terrorized by a murderer.  It's pretty easy to guess who the murderer is from the opening scene 9 months earlier.  But then there's a twist at the end to make it slightly better.  The titular character (who puts the tit in titual, ba-zing!) is Mandy Lane, a hot junior who everyone wants because she hasn't put out.  So obviously she's the one who has to survive, right?  Because those are the horror movie rules. (2.5/5) (Fun Facts:  The movie was made in 2006 but not actually released in theaters until 2013 for...reasons that I assume are financial.  Mandy Lane is played by Amber Heard, whom you might have heard of--pun intended--due to her ugly divorce proceedings with Johnny Depp recently.)

Inspired Guns:  Two Mormon missionaries are mistaken for mob enforcers in a case of mistaken identity.  At the same time the head missionary is trying to break in an apprentice who worships Justin Bieber as well as get a couple to be baptized.  It's pretty fun but it's the kind of low-budget movie that could use some better actors. (2.5/5) (Fun Fact:  Though it's supposed to take place somewhere else, the movie was actually filmed in Salt Lake.  I checked but I didn't see Michael Offutt in the background anywhere. Haha.)

The Break-In:  This is a found footage movie shot with some dude's iPhone 6 and Droid Mini.  Basically there are some break-ins around a couple's neighborhood and they get increasingly paranoid.  The movie is only 71 minutes long and not all that much happens.  There are a few bump in the night scares.  The most terrifying part is when the main guy hears something and goes downstairs with a knife.  He surprises a burglar and stabs him a few times.  The burglar lands on the couch and the guy is panicking about what to do when the burglar open his eyes to lunge at the guy.  Eek!  While it's not a great movie it probably will make you check the locks on your doors and windows before you go to bed. (2.5/5) (Fun Fact: Since you aren't going to watch it, the big twist is that the guy sleepwalks when he's really stressed and ends up sleepwalking and stabbing his wife thinking she's a burglar.  Now you know.)

'71:  During "the Troubles" in Northern Ireland, a young British soldier is left behind after his unit tries to put down a protest.  He has to try to survive and get back to his lines.  Meanwhile both sides are looking for him, with some on both sides out to kill him.  It's well-made but I felt like the main character could have used a little more personality and definition. (3/5)

Ocean's Thirteen:  It's hard to say which was the less necessary "trilogy": these movies or the Hangover movies.  The second of these was so completely awful that this one is better but not by much.  Really this just seems to lazily echo the first movie (the good one) as Clooney, Pitt, Matt Damon, and company rob another casino , this one run by Al Pacino, who like the others is just cashing a paycheck.  Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones do not appear this time so there's not even a romantic subplot to help spice things up. (2/5)  (Fun Speculation:  Since Clooney, Pitt, and really everyone except Matt Damon and Don Cheadle--by virtue of Marvel movies--haven't had any hit movies lately, I wouldn't be surprised if they get desperate enough for another one of these sometime soon.  For the moment at least there's going to be a version with an all-female cast.)

Brain Dead:  This CBS mini-series is a wacky cross between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and House of Cards.  A meteor is taken to the DC area for study just as the government is going into another shutdown.  A bunch of creepy space bugs escape from the meteor and begin infesting people and literally eating their brains. When finished the bugs take control of the person and make them super-duper aggressive about their political views.  A drunk Republican senator (Tony Shalhoub) is transformed into a Republican so hard-line that even Rush Limbaugh would tell him to take it easy.  On the other side a Democratic senator becomes even more of a democratic socialist than Bernie Sanders.  Meanwhile another senator's sister (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) witnesses a guy's head explode and slowly starts to uncover the truth.  The only real downside is they don't get all that far into battling the alien conspiracy in the six 45-minute episodes.  I guess we'll have to wait until next summer (or whenever) to find out more.  The acapella recap of prior episodes before the current episode is hilarious; why can't more shows do that? (Fun Fact: Ridley Scott is an executive producer and who knows more about aliens infesting human bodies than him, right?  Only these aliens don't burst out of people's stomachs.)

The Adderall Diaries:  James Franco plays a writer whose memoir on his abusive childhood is exposed by his father, whom the writer claimed was dead.  (Which would have been really easy for someone to fact check, right?)   As his life spins out of control, the writer starts to realize that much of what he has believed (and written) is wrong.  It reminded me of the John Irving book Until I Find You; in the first part of that the narrator is a child and then later as an adult he realizes that much of what he narrated earlier was wrong and the father he thought was a monster was not.  In this case maybe the father isn't a hero; it's more like they're both to blame.  I just never understood why the reporter the writer meets (Amber Heard...remember her from like 6 entries ago in this post?) gets so pissed at him that she never wants to see him again.  Is she that much of a commitmentphobe that him saying "I love you" turned her off so much?  Hurm. (2.5/5)  (Fun Fact:  Writer/Director Pamela Radonowsky should really have done some homework on publishing.  First, Cynthia Nixon plays James Franco's "editor" but the way she's setting up deals for him and not working with any one publisher makes her an agent, not an editor.  Agents sell your shit to editors.  Franco's a novelist; he should have known that!  Also, she talks about a contract with Random House and a contract with Penguin...except they merged a couple of years ago.  Maybe they still have separate contracts, but the way she talked about them made it sound like they were completely separate entities.)

Restitution:  This movie would have been fine if it had been a parody of an action movie.  Instead it plays it straight and so is just completely ridiculous.  Mostly because the main character looks like he should be selling insurance or handing out Books of Mormon.  If you don't believe me, here's his IMDB page.  He's so low-energy on top of it that it's impossible to believe he could go around investigating a murder and kicking butt.  Mena Suvari gamely plays his love interest and Tom Arnold is the sidekick who must have been directed to act as annoying as possible--which wasn't a strech for him.  Maybe with some better actors and effects this could have worked, but it just doesn't. (2/5)  (Fun Fact:  The movie was filmed in Detroit, much of it along the waterfront.  I took a picture of a shot from the credits that shows the two places where I used to work in Detroit from 2002-2015, which would be during when this was filmed in 2011.)
Red is the UAW-GM CHR building and blue is the Fisher Building
Everybody's Fine:  Robert de Niro is a recently widowed father who plans a big get-together with his kids.  When they all cancel on him, he decides to visit them individually.  So he goes to New York, Chicago, Denver, and Vegas trying to reconnect with them, but they all still lie and keep secrets from him, mostly about how (un)successful they are and about the kid in New York, who is missing in Mexico.  It's a good light family drama.  It's surprising how in touch with each other the kids all are; if not for Facebook I'd hardly ever hear from my siblings.  And they'd hardly ever hear from me. But I guess some family's are better than others. (3/5)  (Fun Fact:  Sometime this year a story went viral about a grandpa who planned a big barbecue for his grandkids and no one came.  Life imitates art!)

Blood Orgy of the She-Devils:  This isn't a Roger Corman movie (see Corman's World above) but it's in that vein.  There's a witch and she hypnotizes women and sacrifices men and...whatever.  You call a movie "blood orgy" you might at least have some sex or boobs in it.  I'm just saying. The scariest part was the credits with these freaky eyes staring at you while creepy music plays.  (1/5)

Phoenix:  A decent late 90s thriller where Ray Liotta and his buddies are crooked cops in Phoenix.  When Liotta gets in debt with gangsters thanks to his gambling addiction, he and his buddies come up with the scheme to rob Gus from Breaking Bad--and not by rigging an old man to explode.  It doesn't end well.  For some reason Anjelica Huston is in this movie as a bartender, though she contributes almost nothing to the plot.  I mean I'm sure they could have got some middle-aged broad for a lot cheaper.  Anyway, it was OK though not anything special. (2.5/5)

Band of Robbers:  This comedy features a modern-day adult Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.  After Huck gets out of prison, Tom Sawyer ropes him into a search for an elusive treasure.  I haven't read Tom Sawyer in like 25 years or so, so I can't be sure exactly how close it sticks to the plot of that book.  But it is fun and I think they do a good job of capturing the characters. (4/5) (Fun Fact:  Tom's maybe-girlfriend Becky is played by Supergirl Melissa Benoist, which was really the only name I recognized.)

Internet Famous:  Five Internet "stars" are invited to the Web Awards for a talent competition.  The winner gets to have their own TV show.  We get to see the contestants and their insecurities.  This was actually a lot better than it has any right to be, being a low-budget comedy with a mostly-unknown cast.  Some really funny stuff that pokes fun at our "viral" obsessed culture from both sides of the screen. (3.5/5) (Fun Fact:  I think the "Chocolate Rain" guy was the only person I actually recognized in this.  Fun Speculation:  One of the contestants has a series of funny cat videos and everyone wants to see the cat, not the guy.  I'm sure Butler Blue III's handler feels the same jealousy.)

Just Buried:  A nerdy young guy (Jay Baruchel) returns home and inherits his father's funeral home that ironically is also dying.  But when he accidentally runs over someone, he and the girl who works there (Rose Byne) find a new way to drum up business:  murder! As you might expect, it soon spins out of control.  It's a fairly decent black comedy. (3/5)

Order of Chaos:  So there's this yuppie in San Francisco and this other yuppie moves in next door and starts working with him.  And somehow driving him insane.  It was pretty boring and I mostly lost interest in it. (1/5)

Expelled:  A would-be Ferris Bueller, albeit far less competent, is expelled from school and goes to great lengths to try to keep his parents from finding out.  His parents are just about the worst ever as their one kid is expelled and another is flunking out of military school.  It's amusing but seriously, Ferris Bueller or even Parker Lewis are way better operators than this kid. (2.5/5)

The Peanuts Movie:  It's cutesy and nonthreatening, like pretty much all the TV specials and comic strips.  Lovable loser Charlie Brown is on a quixotic quest to win the heart of a red-haired girl, but as always the best part is Snoopy.  There's a subplot where he's writing a story about trying to save Fifi, a French poodle terrorized by the Red Baron in WWI.  Really, next time just make the whole movie about Snoopy. (3/5)

King Jack:  A coming-of-age story about a teenage boy in upstate New York who is tormented by bullies and scared of girls.  His younger cousin comes to visit and things with the bullies and girls escalate.  The moral of the story is don't antagonize the bullies because it will just escalate the situation.  Non-violent resistance, like Gandhi and MLK.  It manages to handle serious issues without turning into an after-school special.  (3.5/5)

Kalifornia:  In this early 90s movie, a couple of twentysomething hipsters (David Duchovny pre-X-Files and someone who didn't get famous) are going to tour murder sites to write a book.  They post an ad at a college that's answered by a couple of rednecks (Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis) who are actually looking to run from the law.  At first they have fun but eventually it starts to go bad.  This was good...for a while, but it seemed to drag a bit. (2.5/5)

The Limey:  An old British guy (Terence Stamp) gets out of prison to find out his daughter died under mysterious circumstances.  He goes to LA to track down a music producer (Peter Fonda) responsible for her death.  He finds Peter Fonda pretty easily thanks to Luis Guzman so then it kind of drags on a bit as well. (2.5/5)

Z for Zachariah:  After some kind of a nuclear event, a young farm girl named Ann (Margot Robbie) is living by herself in an untained bit of land.  Then she comes across a middle-aged black guy in a funny-looking radiation suit (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and nurses him back to health.  They're rebuilding civilization when Chris Pine shows up.  You know what they say:  two's company, but three's a crowd.  Margot Robbie hits it off with Chris Pine, which makes Chiwetel Ejiofor jealous.  Spoiler:  when they're working by a waterfall, Chiwetel Ejiofor lets Chris Pine fall to his death, using that Batman Begins logic of:  I don't have to kill you, but I don't have to save you either.  And that's where it ends for the most part.  I think it would have been interesting if she'd gotten pregnant with Chris Pine's baby and how awkward that would be. But whatever. (3/5) (Fun Fact:  There's no one named Zachariah in the movie.)

Machete:  This was spun out of a fake trailer from Grindhouse.  It's an over-the-top action movie where Danny Trejo kills a bunch of bad guys (Steven Seagal, Robert de Niro, and Jeff Fahey) who are smuggling drugs and stuff.  It's campy fun. (2.5/5) (Fun Fact:  Robert de Niro's state senator goes a step farther than Trump by not just calling for a border fence but an electrified border fence!)

Leverage:  This was a show on AMC from about 2008-2012 but it never developed the following of Mad Men or Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead.  It's about a group of thieves who are sort of like the A-Team, using their skills to help people who have been taken advantage of by bad people.  Most episodes are like the A-Team meets Ocean's Eleven as the caper unravels.  Like a smaller version of the Ocean's Eleven crew, there's a mastermind, a grifter, a cat burglar, a computer hacker, and the muscle.  It's a pretty fun show and like with caper movies it's fun to see how they're going to get the bad guy.  Usually it takes a couple of turns along the way.  Other than AMC's site I don't know if you can stream it anywhere but they usually show marathons Sunday on ION TV. (3/5) (Fun Fact:  Jonathan Frakes directs a few episodes of the series and in one of these episodes Brent Spiner and Armin Shimmerman guest star for a mini ST TNG reunion.)

Keanu:  The title was named for Keanu Reeves, the star of John Wick, about a hitman who goes to great lengths to avenge his dog.  Only in this case two nerds (Comedy Central stars Key & Peele) go searching for their cat and get confused for hitmen.  There's something very 80s about the whole story with its case of mistaken identity--and the George Michael song cues.  Overall it's pretty funny as Key & Peele get increasingly over their heads to recover their beloved cat. (3/5) (Fun Fact:  Keanu Reeves does the voice of his namesake during a drug trip.)

Criminal:  Last year in Self/Less Ryan Reynolds had Ben Kingsley take over his brain.  This year Reynolds takes over the brain of Kevin Costner, which is a huge downgrade if you ask me.  I mean that'd be like getting your brain stuffed into your dad.  Ugh.  Anyway, the idea is that there's a cyberterrorist on the loose and Ryan Reynolds had some important stuff in his brain that to try to get it out they have Tommy Lee Jones perform risky surgery to put the brain patterns of Ryan Reynolds into Kevin Costner, who is the eponymous criminal with some kind of weird brain condition that left lots of stem cells in his brain.  A lot of it then is sort of like The Bourne Identity as he unlocks memories and hidden skills while rampaging through London and punching lots of people and generally being the ugly American.  It's OK but not the greatest. (2.5/5) (Fun Fact:  Ryan Reynolds has a thing for body swapping movies with this, Self/Less, The Change-Up, and RIPD where he appeared as someone else to other people who saw him.  It gives me the idea:  maybe I should go pitch Chance of a Lifetime to him.  He's a little young for Steve Fischer, but the math would hold up so that he could have an adult daughter so long as he was a young father.  Come on, dude, let's make it happen!)

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus:  An unusual movie for Spike Lee as it's essentially a vampire movie.  Only not traditional vampires.  A guy inherits a cursed artifact and gains the hankering for blood.  He doesn't have fangs so he kind of does it the traditional way.  As the body count rises, he meets a woman and they fall in love.  After the wedding he reveals his secret and she becomes a "vampire" like him. Then there's some gratuitous lesbian action.  It would be better if it weren't so strangely lethargic.  Maybe some better actors would have helped.  (2.5/5)  (Fun Fact:  This was based on an older movie called Ganji and Hess, which I haven't seen.)

Body:  On XMas Eve, three college girls break into an unoccupied mansion owned by a family one girl babysit for.  They have a good time drinking the family's booze and playing their video games and stuff--until the caretaker shows up.  When they accidentally push him down the stairs, they have to decide what to do with the body.  For a movie that was only 75 minutes long with no recognizable actors it was really good.  The short run time probably makes it easier to maintain the tension, but a few more twists might have been good.  Or just gratuitous lesbian action. (3/5)

After:  In a situation out of The Twilight Zone, two strangers who meet on a bus get into an accident and wake up in their hometown--only there's no one around!  And a weird barrier of darkness and a creepy monster.  As they try to find a way out, the man and woman realize their lives have crossed paths before with disastrous results.  It's another small film that is well-made and very engaging.  It's actually better without the monster because of course they didn't have tons of money for top-notch CGI.  (3/5)

No Escape:  Owen Wilson and his family go to Thailand just when the president of that country is assassinated.  From there they have to escape the country with the help of Pierce Brosnan and his Asian helper who goes by the name Kenny Roger--you know, like the singer and chicken restaurant guy.  There's a definite air of colonialism as most of the movie is Owen Wilson and family running from marauding brown people who want to murder them for no reason at all.  Those brown people aren't given names, lines in English, or anything resembling characterization; they're just nasty jerks who want to kill the evil Americans.  If there's one backhanded compliment, at least they didn't make this a found footage-style movie.  Ugh.  That's the only way to have made this lamer. (1/5) (Fun Fact:  The opening title uses the exact outlined red font and zoom in technique as every episode of Stranger Things on Netflix.  Yet they aren't made by the same people so it's a weird coincidence.)

I Survived a Zombie Holocaust:  A film crew in New Zealand is making a movie about zombies and then, yup, you guessed it, real zombies show up and begin eating everyone.  A couple of go-fers are left trying to survive the madness.  Not terribly original but it has some funny moments. (2.5/5)

Startup:  This new Crackle series is like Silicon Valley meets Breaking Bad.  In Miami, a Cuban hacker, South Beach rich kid, and Haitian gangster join forces to create a Bitcoin surrogate.  There's also a crooked FBI agent played by Martin Freeman who sort of gets on their case.  The series is a bit slow moving; most of it is they get some money, lose that money, and then get some more money, etc.  And it would be nice if Martin Freeman's cop were a little more connected to the rest of the gang.  Otherwise it's a good show. (3/5) (Fun Fact:  Offutt should appreciate that Crackle subsidizes their original shows with commercials, unlike Netflix.)

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