Saturday, March 12, 2016

Back in the Hassle

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Well… this week didn’t go as planned. Wednesday morning, I awoke at 2 AM with a pain in my lower back… and I couldn’t really move. I don’t know what had happened, I didn’t feel like a sharp pain to initiate it or anything… but my lower back was basically worthless at that point. So I gingerly rolled out of bed to do my business… and just tried to relax. Well, I woke up that morning… and basically couldn’t really walk my back was so stiff. Not a good sign. So I called into work & basically relaxed the whole day giving it heat therapy & rest… and I ended up doing it again on Thursday just to be safe (decided after taking a hot shower in the morning & it didn’t really feel like a good idea). The good news… my back is feeling better now… I worked on Friday… and I got to catch up on some movies… and they were all pretty good… so in short, check all of these movies out.
First up was “Ex Machina” starring Downhall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac & Alicia Vikander. This movie is about a young programmer (Gleeson) who wins a trip to spend a week with the company’s mysterious& brilliant owner (Isaac) at his expansive isolated estate… and help him with a special project. The project… is to test his new artificial intelligence software… which happens to be located inside of a well-proportioned automaton (Vikander). What follows is a great little tale that’s… a lot like an episode of the Twilight Zone of Black Mirror or something… where the people involved question what makes a human human… and a human being… and a personality or soul? My impresssions from this movie… were first & foremost, it’s BEAUTIFULLY shot! The location of the estate & the esthetic of the interior… are spot on perfect. The acting… pretty damn impressive as well. The sequence of plot devices… somewhat predictable… but then takes sudden twists & turns from the norm. Definitely go check this movie out!
Next up was last year’s Best Pictures winner & the first in a running theme of movies about voices in your head from the past 15 months or so… and that’s “Birdman” starring Michael Keaton, Zach Galifinakis, Emma Stone, Edward Norton & others. The movie itself is a pretty standard story about a former superhero actor (Keaton) who is trying to put on a Broadway play… but is having difficulties along the way with his lead actor (Norton), his daughter (Stone), his ex-wife, his potential baby mama, and most importantly… his own insecurities & frailties. That sounds like a pretty lame & boring story, right? Well… the reason this movie won Best Picture is the way that it’s shot… it’s essentially a bunch of long continuious shots that are superbly acted & placed along the way. It all takes place within the same block or two I think… at least in the story. I was a little skeptical of this movie going in after all the buzz from last year… but it’s definitely well worth it. There’s really not a dull moment… there are some cool effects (probably CGI but hard to tell) that are thrown in to keep you on your toes like “What is happening?” and on the edge of your seat. Definitely check this movie out if you haven’t already.
Next up was a movie about internal voices called “The Voices” starring Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton & Anna Kendrick… but it seems that very few people have even heard of it. This is about a man (Reynolds) who works at a faucet& fixture plant… and he’s just trying to keep his life in order with the help of his therapist, his job, and even trying to socialize with the work hottie accountant (Arterton) and her friends (including Kendrick). There’s just one problem… he’s schizophrenic… and he hasn’t been taking his meds apparently… because then he would lose his best friends… his dog & cat (also voiced by Reynolds). The movie is… one of those interesting mixes of funny, twisted & poignant. You essentially see the whole movie through the main character’s eyes… but he’s obviously not a trustworthy storyteller. There are some parts that are a little graphic & not for the squeamish… but if you can put up with a little gore & dark matter… then by all means, check it out. It’s not “Saw” or anything on that level, but there’s a bit of corn syrup used.
Next up was the movie for children of all ages “Inside Out” starring the voice talents of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, & Lewis Black. This movie is more the softer side of schizophrenia… okay, it’s not really that at all. It centers around a young girl & the changes going on in her life… and how they affect the voices (moods?) inside of her head that help her to operate the complicated pidge-podge that is her fragile young mind. This little girl moves from Minnesota to San Francisco… and of course her life is flipped upside down… and her parents are having issues… and then there’s wacky adventures inside of her head led by Joy & Sadness… and cameos by Fear, Anger & Disgust. I mean… Pixar just makes good movies. You all know that. The story is usually concise, insert fart jokes, a little adult humor, boom! The movie is fun. Heck, there may have been even a few dusty moments towards the end… but yeah, if you were going to watch it, you already have. If not, check it out now that it’s on video.
Next up was “Black Mass” starring Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Kevin Bacon, Benedict Cumberbatch & others in the story of notorious Boston area gangster James “Whitey” Bulger in 1970’s to 90’s. Basically it’s the story of a gruff guy (Depp) who was selling some drugs, running some numbers & doing some other horrible criminal things… and then he stepped his game up when he formed an alliance with an FBI agent (Edgerton) as an informant to basically run the competition out of town… all while his brother (Cumberbatch) is in the state senate. I mean… that’s the movie. You see Depp’s character become more & more of a brutal sociopath… and all of his former friends eventually turn on him if not just out of fear of his actions… but the movie is still pretty intense & the performances are strong. Now, a lot of liberties have been taken with the facts to make the true events a little more “movie” but yeah… this movie can be difficult to watch or pay attention to… except that the situations get really tense. Unfortunately… this is probably the least rewatchable of the movies that I’ve seen the past few days… but still pretty good. Check it out if you liked “The Departed” and can stand the Boston accents.
Last up is last year’s “Gone Girl” starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry and a great ensemble cast. The movie starts with a man (Affleck) who returns home to find that his wife is missing… and there appears to be a struggle, so he called the cops to report a missing person. Over the course of the next few days though (and flashbacks to past events & learning more of the situation), the only person that really seems to benefit from his wife being gone… is him… and all of the evidence is pointing towards him… and things just get worse… and worse. The movie starts out as your typical missing person kind of movie… but then takes a LOT of twists & turns and becomes essentially a murder mystery meets a social commentary on social media & the 24-hour news cycle… and it REALLY becomes frustrating towards the end with how rooted in reality it is. Towards the end, there are a few moments where I was like “Ugh… why don’t you just do this? Then everything will unravel the way you like it” but alas… it’s a dark, twisted tale & I highly recommend that you watch it. Don’t be scared of the 2.5 hour runtime! It’s worth it & is rarely boring… as long as you’re paying attention to the movie & not checking your phone… then you’re probably not going to understand what’s going on. Then again, that’s really how you should watch a movie anyway. Just my humble opinion…
Lastly… coming soon… Episode 2 of the Everything I Learned From Movies Podcast featuring the legendary 1995 masterpiece – Congo!!! Currently available on Netflix… so check it out… check out our podcast & let us know what you think on the website, Facebook or Twitter. Get a shout-out on the podcast & we can answer your questions. Until then, have a great weekend everybody!!!

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