Saturday, August 27, 2016

Suicide Squad / **½ (PG-13)

Deadshot: Will Smith
Harley Quinn: Margot Robbie
Boomerang: Jai Courtney
Rick Flagg: Joel Kinneman
June Moone/Enchantress: Cara Delevinge
El Diablo: Jay Hernandez
Katana: Karen Fukuhara
Killer Croc: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Amanda Waller: Viola Davis
The Joker: Jared Leto

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film written and directed by David Ayer. Based on the comic book created by John Ostrander and characters created by Ostrander, Bill Finger and Ross Andru. Running time: 123 min. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language).

DC Comics and Warner Bros. have finally brought the comic book battle to the cinemas, once again facing off against their arch nemesis Marvel. It took DC a long time to get their act together. While they were doing that Marvel wrote the book on a cinematic superhero universe. DC is playing catch up. They’ve already taken a good deal of flak for their first two entries “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”. The third, “Sucide Squad”, has likewise been a critical disaster, but not a box office one. It’s probably important to remember that the first two didn’t exactly slack at the box office either.

None of this really matters. The only thing that really matters is that Marvel took their time building their universe and DC wants to be where Marvel is right now. Marvel put out five films before they threw their heroes together in a team. DC put out 2, and one of those is pretty much a team up between three heroes, only one of which had a previous movie in this particular superhero universe. A total of three villains were introduced in those two movies, and now we get a superhero team made up of villains known as the Suicide Squad. They get their own movie, and we’ve never met any of them before. Batman makes an appearance, and a new version of the madman villain The Joker, with whom audiences are basically familiar from other films unrelated to this universe. But, neither of these previously revealed characters have anything to do with the Suicide Squad itself. What I’m taking a great deal of time to get at here—but DC has not—is that in the movie “Suicide Squad” we’ve got two hours to familiarize ourselves with nine new major characters and give them an engaging plot to survive, which just isn’t enough time.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Star Trek Beyond / ***½ (PG-13)

Captain James T. Kirk: Chris Pine
Commander Spock: Zachary Quinto
Doctor ‘Bones’ McCoy: Karl Urban
Lieutenant Uhura: Zoe Saldana
Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott: Simon Pegg
Sulu: John Cho
Chekov: Anton Yelchin
Jaylah: Sofia Boutella
Krall: Irdris Elba

Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by Justin Lin. Written by Simon Pegg & Doug Jung. Based on the “Star Trek” television series created by Gene Roddenberry. Running time: 122 min. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi action and violence).

I overheard a critic speaking recently who said that nostalgia doesn’t belong in criticism. I’m not so sure I agree with this, which is no surprise since I write from a very nostalgic point of view. I understand what this critic was saying. There is an objectiveness that is necessary in criticism and getting too nostalgic runs the danger of adopting the false entitlement of ownership that so many fans espouse these days, leading to much of the illegitimate criticism felt by franchises, such as the “Ghostbusters” reboot. However, I think it’s impossible to critique these franchises without acknowledging their reliance on what has come before. Of course, the best franchise films work just as well if you’ve never seen any entry in the series before, but most are made with the notion their audience is familiar with the franchise characters, tone and mythology.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—July 2016 Final Week

Downton Abbey, season 6 (2016) ****
Ghostbusters (2016) **½
The Shadow (1994) **
Star Trek Beyond (2016) ***½
Modern Family, season 7 (2015-2016) ***½
Jason Bourne (2016) ***
Androcles and the Lion (1952) ***

To call this the final week of July is a bit of a stretch. It’s more like the final half of the month. And this was all I watched in that time period. It was a busy time for both work and family that did not allow for much in terms of watching a screen for long periods of time.

My wife and I finally finished the BBC series “Downton Abbey” and couldn’t have been happier with it. It was consistently good and, like most British shows, did not outstay its welcome. I was happy with how the lives at the Abbey turned out, and while it might be nice to see how progress continued to change the class structure of British Royalty and their servants, it more than likely would’ve seemed more sad than what the results of progress really are. Like the elder generation, we all like our entertainment to stay the way it was.

In other television opinion, ABC’s “Modern Family” continues to quietly provide some of the most hilarious commentary on its titular subject matter. After seven seasons, you might expect some of the characters to become tired or irrelevant. You might think the barb would be dulled, but such is not the case with this series. It continues to pull out quality comedy from familial life without much change in style, structure or even cast. It’s quite remarkable.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ghostbusters / **½ (PG-13)

Erin Gilbert: Kristin Wiig
Abby Yates: Melissa McCarthy
Jillian Holtzman: Kate McKinnon
Patty Tolan: Leslie Jones
Rowan North: Neil Casey
Kevin: Chris Hemsworth

Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by Paul Feig. Written by Kate Dippold & Feig. Based on the 1984 movie by Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. Running time: 116 min. Rated PG-13 (for supernatural action and some crude humor).

The new reboot of the “Ghostbusters” franchise comes with a load of baggage, mostly having to do with the quite progressive idea of recasting the lead characters as women instead of men. I’ve never seen a beloved franchise so maligned by advance anti-buzz as this film. I’m a big believer in seeing the movie before forming an opinion about it. I guess it goes to show you how little progress we’ve made in this country in terms of equality that so many people have an issue with female heroes. People even criticized the editing of the first trailer as a negative point to avoid the fact that they were upset that their franchise had lost a Y chromosome. I’ve never seen the editing of a trailer criticized before. First trailers are usually poorly edited because they’re trying to tell a story before all the filming and effects have been completed.

Anyway, I think it is wonderful that this franchise was taken over by women. It is a great step forward to see women depicted as heroes while remaining women, instead of becoming over-sexualized props for the men they accompany. The main cast is wonderful. The Ghostbusters are just as iconic portrayed here by Kristin Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. They’re funny. They’re capable. They aren’t “real” because they exist in a fantasy, special effects laden universe of the paranormal; but they are women, with thoughts and actions unique to them and not existing in the service of men or even necessarily the plot of the movie. The new Ghostbusters are a shining example of where women in mainstream entertainment should be.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—July week 1

Featuring the films:
All the Right Moves (1983) ***
Andrei Rublev (1966) ****
Ghostbusters (1984) ****
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) ***½
The Shallows (2016) **½
Heaven’s Gate (1980) ***½
Ricki and the Flash (2015) **½
The Bourne Identity (2002) ***
The Bourne Supremacy (2004) ***½
Mannequin: On the Move (1991) ½*

I had a pretty good ten-day run of movies to start off July. I needed a football fix when I realized the Giants would face the Cowboys in a mere ten weeks, so I threw in a Tom Cruise high school classic, “All theRight Moves”. It’s actually pretty amazing that they gave Craig T. Nelson a sitcom where he plays a football coach after the ass he plays in this movie. I mean, yeah, he makes a pretty good football coach, but this ain’t the coach of his television show.

“Andrei Rublev” is one of the more unique biopics I’ve ever seen. At times it veers of into seemingly surreal settings and fantasy, yet it never loses track of its subject. It’s filled with those unique images that Werner Herzog says are lacking in modern cinema. Although it isn’t modern, it isn’t as old as it looks and feels in its execution. It’s a strange but wonderful treatment for an important Russian historical figure.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—June 2016

Featuring the films and shows:
The Flash, season 2 (2015-2016) ***½
Independence Day (1996) *½
All These Women (1964) ***
Party Over Here, season 1 (2016) *½
The Alphabet (1968) ***½
Always For Pleasure (1978) ****
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) ***
Arrow, season 4 (2015-2016) ***½
Grimm, season 5 (2015-2016) ***
The Do Over (2016) **
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) ***
Our Brand Is Crisis (2015) **½
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, season 1 (2015-2016) **½
Angie Tribeca, season 1 (2016) ****
New Girl, season 5 (2015-2016) ***
Piper (2016) ****
Finding Dory (2016) ***
Central Intelligence (2016) **½
The Boy Next Door (2015) *
Sleepy Hollow, season 3 (2015-2016) ***
Amarcord (1973) ****
The American Soldier (1970) ***
The Amputee, version 1 (1974) ***
Simply Irresistible (1999) ½*
Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) **
The Amputee, version 2 (1974) ***
Downton Abbey, season 5 (2015) ****
… And God Created Woman (1956) ***

Hopefully this will be my final full month summary of the year and for all time. Again, a great many movies and television finales to cover, so let’s get to it.

On the television front. I was running behind a bit on several series, so I finished up several series during the month of June. Most of them were comic book shows. “The Flash” continues to be the most fun comic book show on television, although “Supergirl” gave it a run this year. It was fitting that the second half of the season featured a crossover episode on Supergirl. Plus, it was like a bonus “Flash” episode. Didn’t the producers of “Arrow” say that this season wouldn’t be as dark as last seaon? I guess what they meant is that it would be darker. Heck, the team narrowly avoided nuclear Armageddon for its finale. That was after the crippling of Felicity, the failure of the Olicity relationship and the death of a main character. While Arrow teammates do have a tendency to come back from the dead, I think this one’s for real this time. I also finished the surpernatural fantasy shows “Grimm” and “Sleepy Hollow” this month. Both sustained their MOs, although “Sleepy Hollow” felt a little rockier, probably due to its new show runners. It’s renewal was a surprise, but I’ll stay on for another season. FOX’s stalwart sitcom New Girl also held steady for its 5th season.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—May 2016

Featuring the films and shows:
Special Correspondents (2016) **
Patton Oswalt: Talking for Clapping (2016) ***
A Trip To the Moon (1902) ****
Alice in the Cities (1974) ***½
Captain America: Civil War (2016) ***
Hell Comes To Frogtown (1988) no stars
Ali Wong: Baby Cobra (2016) ***
Mommie Dearest (1981) **
The 33 (2016) ***
Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island (1956) ****
The Apartment (1960) ****
Mr. Turner (2014) ***½
The Keeping Room (2015) ***
Jurassic World (2015) ***
On the Town (1949) ***
Main Street Today (1944) ***
Elementary, season 4 (24 43-min. eps. 2015-2016) ***
The Last Man On Earth, season 2 (18 23-min. eps. 2015-2016) ****
Castle (8 seasons, 173 eps. 2009-2016) ***
A Room With a View (1985) ****
Saturday Night Live, season 41 (21 105-min. eps. 2015-2016) ***
Supergirl, season 1 (20 43-min. eps. 2015-2016) ****
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) ****
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 4 (22 45-min. eps. 2015-2016) ****
Blindspot, season 1 (23 42-min. eps. 2015-2016) ***
Gotham, season 2 (22 42-min. eps. 2015-2016) ***½
The Avengers (1998) ½*
The Asphalt Jungle (1940) ***½
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) ***
All My Good Contrymen (1969) ****
All the Boys Are Named Patrick (1959) ***½
The Muppets (1 season, 17 eps. 2015-2016) **    

I’m so far behind that I’m forced to include the entire month of May in one post. I’ll have to do the same for June. With the end of the television season occurring in May, there are a great many individual shows and films I would like comment on in addition to my tweets, so let’s get to it.

OK. I checked out Ricky Gervais’s Netflix movie “Special Correspondents” and I have to say for all the freedom Netflix gives to their filmmakers, they seem to have a problem with their original film division. While that approach seems to work very well for their longer format series, it seems to result in feature films with a lack of energy. They need to be tightened up. Gervais is quite funny and he has a good premise here, but its approached with no urgency and suffers from it. We’ll return to this next month with Adam Sandler’s latest, “The Do Over”.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—April 2016 Week 4

Featuring the films:
Purple Rain (1984) **½
Alambrista! (1977) ****
Keanu (2016) ***
Dead Poet’s Society (1989) ***
Ant-Man (2015) ***
Solarbabies (1986) *

We’re just going to have to whip through most of this stuff so I can catch up to where I’m at today with movies and TV. This was the week after Prince died, so I kicked it off with “Purple Rain”, which I had never seen. Probably because I doubted it was very good. Despite the fact that we lost a great artist, I’m pretty sure I’m right in thinking that cinema wasn’t his best medium. This screening confirmed that belief. I then watched the wonderful 70’s film about Mexican illegals, “Alambastra!”, which should probably be seen by everyone who believes that immigrants are just living off of our sweat. I also saw Key & Peele’s first feature film “Keanu”, about their search for their lost gangsta cat. The movie capitalizes off their ability to convolute black stereotypes, but could use a little deeper foundation work. It was enjoyable enough though. I revisited “Dead Poet’s Society” and “Ant-Man” for the first time since my initial viewings. That was a much longer period of time for Poet’s. I still found the same problems I had 25 years ago with that one, but I liked “Ant-Man” even more the second time. Finally, the mind-boggling “Solarbabies” was my HDTGM movie for the week, truly begging the question, “How Did This Get Made?”

Monday, May 16, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—April 2016 Week 3

Featuring the films and show:
The Jungle Book (2016) ***½
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, season 3 (23 23-min. eps. 2015-2016) ****
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) ***½
Can’t Stop the Music (1980) no stars

Ah man! I have fallen behind again. This site has gone into the crapper, but I’m doing it, man.  I’m blaming the two year old. If I have any readers left, you’re just going to have to hang with me until he’s… I don’t know… 12? Anyway, These were the non-Ebertfest movies I watched and a TV season I finished during the two weeks I was watching the Ebertfest films.

I thought the latest live action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” was quite impressive. I really wasn’t sure what to think going into it. I didn’t think it looked good from the trailers, but the early buzz was that it was great. I loved the Disney animated version and just didn’t know what to think about seemingly live action animals talking. It’s the lowest form of family filmmaking.

I was struck while watching these animals talk to each other as if it’s actually something that happens in nature that CGI has come so far that it’s wrong to look at a movie like this as a live action movie. This is an animated movie, almost entirely. It uses actual live action elements with the frequency and artistry of the cartoon elements of the original “Pete’s Dragon”, another live action animated update coming from Disney this fall. But it’s the live element that is really foreign here and needs to be assimilated to the CGI we’re seeing, which has become just as dramatically artistic as hand drawn animated movies once were. The CGI here is remarkable.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—Ebertfest 2016

Featuring the films:
The Third Man (1949) ****
Crimson Peak (2015) ***
Grandma (2015) ****
Eve’s Bayou (1997) ***½
L’inhumaine  (1924) ***½
Northfork (2003) ***½
Body and Soul (1925) ***½
Love & Mercy (2015) ****
Blow Up (1980) ***½

I watched as many of the movies featured during the Roger Ebert Film Festival, as I do every year. One day I’ll make it back, but until then I’ll have to make do with streaming and rental services. I was not able to see the movies presented at this year’s festival that are still scheduled to be released this year. Those include the unofficial festival opener, “Everybody Wants Some!!”, but I have no doubt I will catch up with that one and the others I missed as soon as they become available to me.

I opened my Ebertfest with Carol Reed’s post-WWII thriller “The Third Man”. Part of my own collection of films, I’m surprised it took Ebertfest 18 years to get to this one. It’s a film that has been analyzed ad nauseam, so I won’t attempt one here. Instead I’d like to discuss its unusual score comprised entirely of zither music composed and performed by Anton Karas. It’s an unusual sound for a thriller. At first it seems almost out of place, like it belongs in a much more lighthearted plot. As the movie goes along, however, the music informs its unique feel. “The Third Man” is no ordinary thriller as it depends more on the absence of its threat than the presence of one. The zither music eventually becomes an identifying factor of the film’s unique feel and impact. While it seems alien and strange at first, by the final fade out, it’s hard to imagine any other type of music accompanying this story and these images.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—April 2016 Week 1

Featuring the films:
The Look of Silence (2015) ****
Pride (2014) **½
Foxcatcher (2014) ****
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1931) ****
Shake! Otis at Monterey (1986) ****

Wow! This was a very interesting week of movies for me. Only five this time as I continue to fall further behind on the DLM Challenge, but what a great collection of films they were.

First was this year’s Oscar nominated documentary “The Look of Silence”, a companion piece to Joshua Oppenheimer’s other Oscar nominated doc “The Act of Killing”, about the men behind the Indonesian death squads responsible for the genocide of their own people. The new doc looks at a family of one of their victims. A man who lost a brother is given the opportunity to confront his brother’s killers. There is no Hollywood revenge plot here, but what does unfold is a fascinating look at human nature and the way people react to genuine evil.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—March 2016 Final Week

Featuring the films and show:
Before Midnight (2013) ***½
The Quest (1996) *
Monterey Pop (1968) ****
You, Me and the Apocalypse, season 1 (10 45-min. eps. 2016) ****
Cradle Will Rock (1999) ***½
David Gilmour: Wider Horizons (2015) ***  

OK. I really am trying to catch up. I was also at a loss at how to label this week since most of the week took place during March, but most of film watching during it took place over the first weekend of April. You’ll just have to make do.

It was a mostly good week, if it weren’t for the second JCVD movie in a row watched for the podcast How Did This Get Made?. A couple weeks ago I discussed “Bloodsport” and for his directorial debut, “The Quest”, you can pretty much just transfer those thoughts over because the two movies are exactly the same. I mean there are some minor difference, like the fact that “The Quest” takes place in the 1920s and that it’s rated PG-13, but other than those insignificant details, pretty much the same movie.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—March 2016 Week 4

Featured films:
Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955) ***½
The Adventures of Tintin (2011) ***½
Batkid Begins (2015) ***
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) ***½
Superstore, season 1 (11 24-min. eps., 2016) ***
A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Forum (1966) **½

For my thoughts on “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, please refer to my full-length review. Before it was released, I joked that when I watched “Batkid Begins”, I had seen the only good Batman movie I would that week. This assessment was based on the negative buzz surrounding BvS. Despite critical derision, I actually enjoyed that movie. It didn’t have the heart of “Batkid Begins”, the documentary following a Make-a-Wish kid’s day as his favorite superhero.

That fourth week of March was also the week that started out with the tragedy in Brussels. I had a difficult time finding a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie that I felt was actually honoring Belgium, so I went for Steven Spielberg’s underrated animated “The Adventures of Tintin”, based on the comic books of Belgium cartoonist Georges Remi, who wrote under the name Hergé and based his title character in Brussels. The comic books were something I treasured as a child and Spielberg’s vision is a near perfect adaptation of Hergé’s work.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice / ***½ (PG-13)

Bruce Wayne/Batman: Ben Affleck
Clark Kent/Superman: Henry Cavill
Lois Lane: Amy Adams
Lex Luther: Jesse Eisenberg
Martha Kent: Diane Lane
Alfred Pennyworth: Jeremy Irons
Perry White: Laurence Fishburne
Senator Finch: Holly Hunter
Diana Prince/Wonder Woman: Gal Gadot
Wallace Keefe: Scoot McNairy
Anatoli Knyazev: Callan Mulvey

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film directed by Zack Snyder. Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer. Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Running time: 151 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality).

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” has been critically reviled. I expected to be in the critic’s camp on this one. I hated, hated, hated Zach Snyder’s “Man of Steel”. I revisited it a couple of weeks ago. It did not improve upon a second viewing. I’ve rarely approached a film with such dread as I did BvS. I have rarely been so pleasantly surprised. Ben Affleck is all the Batman and Bruce Wayne I wanted him to be. Henry Cavill is given a little more to do with Supes this time. Amy Adams’ Lois Lane even receives a little character development. And, I think even the critics who hated the movie think Gal Gadot kicks ass as Wonder Woman.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—March 2016 Week 3

Featuring the films:
The Covenant (2006) *
Bloodsport (1988) *
Good Will Hunting (1997) ***½
Big Game (2015) **
Pee Wee’s Big Holiday (2016) **  

Truthfully, it was not a good week of films in The Well. As such, I believe this week’s entry will be brief (This will also hopefully allow me to catch up again, since I’ve been running about a week behind for the month of March).

Renny Harlin’s Abercrombie & Fitch-inspired teen witch horror flick “The Covenant” and the world’s introduction to Jean Claude Van Damme “Bloodsport” were both watched expressly for the podcast “How Did This Get Made?” Needless to say, they were both just awful. The action adventure “Big Game”, from “Rare Exports” director Jalmari Helander, in which Samuel L. Jackson plays the POTUS being hunted in the Scandinavian wilderness, and the Netflix original “Peewee’s Big Holiday” each have their admirable aspects but just didn’t quite get there in terms of overall recommendation.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—March 2016 Week 2

Featuring the films:
Space Station 76 (2014) ***½
Wishful Drinking (2010) ***
Man of Steel (2013) *½
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) ****
Magic in the Moonlight (2014) **

Week 2 of March was five movies. Pretty simple. Pretty good.

“Space Station 76” was the surprise of the bunch. It’s set up like some sort of period space adventure spoof. With a costume and production design straight from the mid ‘70s, the movie begins like some sort of spoof exploring social issues that couldn’t have been mentioned at that time, like the class system, female equality in the workplace and homosexuality. As the plot moves along, however, its approach to these social issues becomes more serious and it turns into a serious drama with the flavoring of a movie like “The Ice Storm”. This might be a transition some audiences can’t make. It is quite unclear exactly for whom this movie is made, and yet it worked quite effectively on me.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—March 2016 Week 1

Featured shows and films:

Scream Queens, season 1 (13, 45-min. eps. 2015) **
The X-Files, season 10 (6, 45-min. eps, 2016) ***½
Agent Carter, season 2 (10, 45-min. eps. 2016) ***½
The Age of the Medici, mini-series (3, 90 min. eps. 1972-1973) **
The Witch (2016) ****
Gandhi (1982) ***½

It was a light week—lots of extracurricular activities for the kids this week—but I did finish up a few television shows and took in a couple of heavy investment movies. “Scream Queens” was a show I started watching as it aired and just had too much trouble getting into it. It seemed to suffer from a similar problem from creator Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s other horror anthology series “American Horror Story” in that each season seems to be too saturated in ideas and not enough in substance. The fact that “Scream Queens” is a comedy horror anthology helps in that respect, which is why I finally returned to it. After four or five episodes it seemed to calm down a little with turning in every horror idea the writers could think of, but as is also always the case with “American Horror Story” it seemed to take far too long to wrap things up. It would’ve worked much better with 10 episodes than it does with 13. It’ll have to have a damn good cast and very interesting premise to get me back in next season.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—February 2016 Week 4

Featured films:

One Million B.C. (1940) ***
Under the Volcano (1984) **½
Judgment at Nuremburg (1961) ****
Running On Empty (1988) ***½
The Gunfighter (1950) ***
Eddie the Eagle (2016) ***
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Tiger: Sword of Destiny (2016) **

It was a movie a day week. Can’t complain about that. I started the week off with a movie I fully expected to hate, the original Hollywood take on the origin of civilization in “One Million B.C.”, but its naïve take on caveman life was surprisingly entertaining with virtually no modern language dialogue. Sure the dinosaurs were obviously domesticated lizards with prosthetics and I’m pretty sure PETA would’ve had a problem with their treatment had they been protecting animals in films in 1940. It’s ridiculous, but fun.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—February 2016 Week 3

Featured films:
Abe Lincoln In Illinois (1940) ****
Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of National Lampoon (2015) ***
Marooned (1969) **
Teen Witch (1989) zero stars
The Thin Man (1934) ****
The Magnificent Seven (1960) ***
Race (2016) ***
A Boy and His Dog (1947) **
The Fortune Cookie (1966) ***
A Star Is Born (1976) ***

An even ten movies graced my eyes and brain this week. It started on a high note with the classic political drama “Abe Lincoln In Illinois”, which in light of this year’s political campaign reveals surprising parallels between Lincoln and Trump. Next I learned more than I knew about National Lampoon and discovered that “The Martian” had already been made as the 1969 visual effects Oscar winner “Marooned”, except that version lacked the charm and wit of Matt Damon and the vision and tension of Ridley Scott’s direction.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—February Week 2

Featured films:
Swing Shift (1984) ***
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015) ****
Key Largo (1948) ***½
I Origins (2014) ****
The Wind and the Lion (1975) **
Logan’s Run (1976) ***½
Deadpool (2016) ***½
Gigi (1958) *½

The big story of the week was “Deadpool”, which blasted the doors off the February box office, setting many numbers of records, including biggest February opening, biggest R-rated opening, and biggest opening by a first time director. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but my favorites of the week were the Kurt Cobain HBO documentary “Montage of Heck”, which does a great job of depicting the immense psychological pain the reluctant rock star endured; and the greatly undervalued sci-fi flick from the writer and director of “Another Earth”, “I Origins”. Once again, filmmaker Mike Cahill gives us a compelling science fiction that takes place in a world we can believe is our own reality. In it a scientist sets out to prove once and for all that God does not exist by isolating the tangible element that makes up what we feel is the soul and inadvertently may end up proving that reincarnation is real.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—February Week 1

Featured films:
Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto (1954) ****
Battle of the Bulge (1965) ***
I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932) ****
Backcountry (2015) ***
Cool Hand Luke (1967) ****
Hail, Caesar! (2016) ***
The Apple (1980) ½*
Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Canon Films (2015) ***
Neighbors (2014) ***
The Dirty Dozen (1967) ***
It Happened One Night (1934) ***½

Once again, I’m running behind, but not by a whole month this time. I think maybe by the Oscars I’ll have this new routine down. As you can see the first week of February was a productive one. 11 movies in total over the course of a week. That’ll help me with the Doug Loves Movies Challenge of watching 366 movies in 366 Days. It was mostly good fare, with a few greats and one sour apple thanks to the podcast How Did This Get Made? 

Monday, February 08, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—January Edition 2016

Featuring the films and television shows:

Selma, Thor: The Dark World, Jessica Jones, The Hateful Eight, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Beasts of No Nation, Brooklyn, Love & Mercy, The Revenant, The Big Short, Astor Barber All-Stars, Kazaam, Bone Tomahawk, Galaxy Quest, Mad Max: Fury Road, Streets of Fire, Cutthroat Island, Clouds of Sils Maria, Lost River, and Anomalisa.

I fear I’ve already failed with this new feature as I forgot to tweet many of the films I watched in January and I intended to do this as a weekly post for those who don’t follow me on Twitter. But better late than never, I suppose. I should have a new set for my first week in February ready soon. Like my old Penny Thoughts feature, these aren’t necessarily reviews as much as quick impressions in 140 characters or less. I’ve retained all hashtags, which sometimes refer to podcasts and other people and things related to each film. I’m also participating in Doug Benson’s 366 movies in 366 days challenge, which he does for one of his podcasts. You’ll notice the numbering system show up in the latter half of the month, so you will also be able to follow my progress in this challenge. I’ve definitely watched a film a day in a year before. I’ve reviewed a film a day before, but I’ve never really tracked it like this during a leap year. Again, it’s important to remember for the challenge that I forgot to post a bunch of the films I watched in the middle of the month.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Favorite Music of 2015

Music is my third passion, after my marriage and movies. It was cultivated through the years by many, but mostly by a few. For some years after college I abandoned it, but eventually it came back to me. It combined with my passion for movies to a degree that recently I’ve found myself including motion picture scores in with my favorite albums of each year. This year there were so many favorites of each, traditional albums and original motion picture soundtracks, that I decided to compile two favorite ten lists.

Even more so with music than with movies, it is impossible to hear everything that is released within a year’s time. This is why I avoid calling this a “top ten” list or a “best of” list. I could hardly claim these are the best of the lot. Not only is there too much material out there to make such a claim, but also each album and soundtrack score needs time to breathe. You need to spend time with them before you can claim to truly know them. I guess they’re like people that way. I think in the past that need to spend time with them has favored albums that were released earlier in the year. Those are the ones I got to spend the most time with. However, it seems this year I’ve bucked that trend and find more late-year albums on each list than I have in the past. This makes me feel I’ve done a better and fairer job of judging these albums than ever before.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Favorites of 2015

The time has come for yet another list from yet another fan of cinema. I do this every year and hope it does some of my readers good. By this time most people have already gotten their lists out. As such there is sometimes little new to be found in my contribution. Still, it was a rough year for the blog and most of these movies never got a review when I originally saw them. In fact, I believe this will be the first opinions of all but two of these films to be posted on my site at all.

As is usually the case, because of my limited resources being a blogger outside the Hollywood industry, I did not get to see all the movies I would’ve liked to consider for this list. Most notably missing are Todd Haynes’ “Carol” and Charlie Kaufman’s stop motion “Anomolisa”. I hope to see them before the Oscars are awarded in a little over a month.

That being said, I was able to see a greater amount of the contenders than normal this year despite the fact that I viewed far less movies than I usually do in a year. Thanks to a much greater availability of platforms than ever before, I was able to cull out most of the titles I felt I needed to see to compile this list and the result is that I found it very difficult to cut down my favorites, or even to put them in any sort of order. I’ve never had such a tight and interchangeable list of favorites before. I decided not to limit my list and have listed every four-star review I awarded this year. I have tried to place them in an order of very favorite to slightly less favorite. There are sections of this list that I could endlessly rearrange if I didn’t just force myself to post it. The margin of difference between the first film on the list and the last film is so narrow it hardly matters.

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie 1947-2016

When Morgan Freeman joked during the Golden Globes last night that a long applause from the audience meant that they thought he would die soon, it occurred to me what a monumental loss that will be to the entertainment world when it actually occurs. Hopefully, it won’t happen for many years. Then, I woke up this morning to discover that David Bowie has passed from this world.

For a good deal of time I only had my initial, guttural reaction to the news. “What?!” I couldn’t think anything else but unspeakable shock about it for much of the morning. I don’t think I was in shock so much because of the surprise of the news, although I didn’t really see it coming. Perhaps the release of his new album on Friday lulled me to sleep on the possibility of his demise, but it really had never even occurred to me that he might be sick at any time in the future, let alone now. Was his 18-month battle with cancer public knowledge? I don’t remember hearing anything about it. But I don’t think my inability to process this loss has anything to do with the unexpected nature of it.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Video Thoughts--The Hateful Eight

Here's my first attempt at a quick video review. I'm not happy with it. It's a second take. I need to work on my screen presence, but it'll come. So here's a very brief impression immediately following my screening of "The Hateful Eight". Full length written review to follow.

Friday, January 01, 2016

A New Year in the Well

It’s been two whole months since I posted here. I never finished my Horrorfest entries. I even missed reviewing one of the biggest movies of my lifetime. 2015 was a year many people found to be a difficult one. A Penny in the Well was no exception. Family commitments forced The Well to take the most diminished role in film criticism I’ve taken since the inception of this site. I’m hoping 2016 will provide more opportunities to both see and comment on movies, television, music and other pop culture phenomenon.

I have grander plans for The Well over the next year, but it remains to be seen whether I will actually be able to implement some of my ambitions. It’s unlikely I will be able to return to daily reviews, however I will be tweeting reviews for every movie I see through my twitter handle @ydnasllew. I also hope to provide instant reviews through Twitter or Vine videos for any film I see in the theater. This will at least provide some sort of opinion on current releases should I fail to find the time to write full length reviews on them.

As has always been the case with The Well, I intend to write a full-length review for any film I see in theaters. 2015 was the first time since 2005 that I failed in this task. I don’t intend for that to happen again. I will also collect all the written Twitter reviews I write for every film in The Well on a regular basis for those who do not wish to engage in Twitter. I will continue the Criterion Thoughts feature that I started last year exploring all the titles in the Criterion catalogue. Again, these “thoughts” will not be outright reviews so much as impressions inspired by these remarkable films.

I finally caught up with the world of podcasting last year and have embraced several film-based podcasts that I listen to regularly. Listening to these shows has made me wonder if podcasts might really be where the future of film criticism lies. So, one of my more ambitious ideas for this year would be to start a film podcast. I have an idea or two as to just what my unique turn on the film podcast format might be, but we’ll keep that under wraps until I actually have the capacity to produce such an endeavor.

Finally, there is a project I’ve been planning for the past two years and I just haven’t been able to get it going. I’m hoping to publish a collection of my best reviews. I’d also like to publish a collection of reviews I wrote before I began the site, but that’s for later. Anyway, this project would be something I could never finance on my own, so I’ll probably be looking into some sort of crowd funding option. I have a likely publisher; it’s just a matter of figuring out costs and getting the campaign going. Keep an eye out for details right here in The Well.

So, here’s to a more fruitful year in 2016. I can’t wait to see the movies and share my thoughts. Stay tuned for my 2015 Favorites lists and what promises to be a unique new year in entertainment.