All Of The Flaws With The Last Jedi (Cross Talk EP 33)

It turns out that I love the new Star Wars movie.

I realize that this is not a popular opinion, and yeah I review movies regularly, and yeah that puts me into the camp of critic rather then enthusiast, but I really want you to hear me out on this one dear readers. Yes, the movie has been critically acclaimed for honouring the tradition of Star Wars films, but consider this point – as Chris says in this weeks episode of Cross Talk, “it’s a movie that is greater then the sum of it’s parts.”

By ripping apart the seams of the legacy we have, Rian Johnson has forced us to re-evaluate our love affair with nostalgia and the future-past aesthetic of a galaxy, far, far away. It looks like Star Wars, it sounds like Star Wars, but the humour is contemporary, and the story challenges the audience with new ideas about the Jedi, the Force, Luke Skywalker, and all of things that made this fiction so entertaining in the first place.

But I love this movie not because the movie was a good movie. To be perfectly honest, as a movie, it fails in so many different ways. Yes, it was entertaining at times, and it had some really interesting inclusions in it, but I also agree with Mike that it’s horribly flawed in it’s presentation, there are too many loose threads, and the upending of everything from Episode VII towards the end of Episode VIII will leave general audiences frustrated.

When I think about it, I’m not entirely sure how this trilogy is going to right all of the wrongs of the prequels.

And yet, I do love it. Despite all of it’s flaws, The Last Jedi is challenging all of the dogmatic ideas about The Force, and it presented a completely different version of Luke Skywalker then we were expecting. Plus, I think it redeems Episode I, II, and III. Not because they are better by comparison, but because Disney is doing a really interesting thing with it’s culling of the Star Wars canon (I’ll save that for another day).

In brief, this movie is very interesting. And if you don’t believe me, it’s time to look at all of the flaws with The Last Jedi. And this is episode thirty three of Cross Talk.

theories Summarized

You can’t expect a movie franchise universe to be perfect, because the challenge of a film director is to live somewhere between honouring what came before, and adding something new. Where art fails (movies, music, fashion , etc.) is when authors erase everything you know and love. That is when I can completely understand why fans would be disappointed, and with a movie like Star Wars, the fan base is so large that there will be strong opinions.

And as a true fan of these movies, I admit I treat them like a child, I love them no matter what they do, which is why I can still love it. Even when it does things I don’t agree with.

One final theory – you should totally like the video if you enjoyed it, leave a comment if you have some thoughts, and subscribe if you want to see more from us! Your support lets us know what we are doing right.

And come back tomorrow if you want to read my thoughts on the new 54.40 album.I.

Tim!

Fire Taming Business (Only The Brave review)

Tragedy and comedy are supposed to be the two major themes in theatre. This movies takes the former route, but somewhere inside of it’s themes, it finds an honest story that doesn’t suffer from ill-gotten sentiment.

 

Only The Brave (2017)

Cast: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly, Taylor Kitsch, Andie MacDowell
Director: Joseph Kosinski
released on blu-ray February 6, 2018
******** 8/10

IMDB: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Audience Score 92%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Joseph Kosinski is American television and film director who is known for his work with computer technology. His directorial debut came from the critically panned Disney sequel Tron: Legacy, which believe-it-or-not, I actually enjoyed. He also worked on the less intelligent copy-cat of Moon – Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise.

Thankfully for the majority of audiences, Kosinski brought it back to reality with his third film Only The Brave.

Taken from IMDB (credit: Kenneth Chisholm) and modified…

In 2007 Prescott, Arizona, Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) of the Prescott Fire Department is frustrated fighting forest fires when the Type 1 or “Hotshot” front line forest fire fighting crews from afar overrule his operational suggestions to his area’s sorrow. To change that, Marsh gets approval from the Mayor (Jeff Bridges) to attempt to organize an unprecedented certified municipal-based Hotshot crew for Prescott. To that end, Marsh needs new recruits, which includes the young wastrel, Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), to undergo the rigorous training and qualification testing for the most dangerous of fire fighting duty. Along the way, the new team meets the challenge and the hailed Granite Mountain Hotshots are born. In doing so, all the men, especially McDonough, are changed as new experience and maturity is achieved in fire-forged camaraderie. All this is put to the test in 2013 with the notorious Yarnell Hill Fire that will demand efforts and sacrifices no one can ignore.

A movie that demands respect and candor from it’s audience, but also stands up to the challenge of telling an authentic story, with useful subplots and lots of agressive action from Mother Nature. Never have I ever felt more responsible to prevent forest fires then after watching this film, and that’s no dig against Smokey The Bear, but Josh Brolin has a commanding and grizzled appearance that no one dares mess with.

I also really enjoyed the evolution of the team as they worked towards Hot Shots certification, and best exemplified by the friendship arc between MacKenzie (Taylor Kitsch) and Brendan McDonough.

Pros: We get to see the bureaucracy of firefighting, how it’s employees personal lives are impacted, and emotional canvas of interactions. The bonds these men forged in those mountains are brought to life with sensibility and determination.

Cons: While the structure of the film is excellent, and the ending is just perfect, it gets to be tedious in the middle, and the supporting cast gets lost in the wilderness.

Runtime: 2 hours 14 minutes

Points of Interest:

Miles Teller is starting to come into his own as an actor, and being surrounded by veterans Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly, and Josh Brolin, you can really see how he is a much more convincing dramatic actor then say, Shia LaBeouf. Where the movie falls down is from a lack of real risk-taking with it’s characterizations, which is ironic, given the source material. This is a minor concern though, because of the amazing treatment of these real life heroes and their hometown.

theories Summarized

With all that said and done, I think Only The Brave is a worthy addition to any collection that wants and/or needs more biographies and natural disasters in the mix. Without spoiling the ending, it’s a powerful film and not one I will soon forget. And that’s no theory.

Speaking of unforgettable movies… Have you seen the original Oldboy from Park Chan-wook? This movies is seriously messed up, but it has such an original story, and is part of Chan-wooks vengeance trilogy. I’ll let Chris and Mike go over the details, because, whether you’ve seen it before and need a reminder, or it’s on your list, I’m thinking this recommendation will finally sway you to give it shot.

Yeah, the premise of being trapped in a hotel for fifteen years seems odd, but just wait for the twist – the violence will help you along the way. Check it out! And remember… Like! Comment! Subscribe!

Tim!

The Cure For Toxic Masculinity In Movies (Cross Talk EP 32)

Let’s talk about toxic masculinity and how it is still a dominant force in our art, and in our lives dear readers.

Whether you choose to believe me or not, I know that even within the past twenty years, there has been a very minimal shift in how we deal with the masculine identity. Negative stereotypes abound, comedies fall into the same patterns of sexualizing women and simplifying men, and most dramas won’t touch certain topics, unless it means showing a complete breakdown of man out of touch with his inner strength.

It’s impossible for a man to be vulnerable, soft, passive and equal to a woman. At least, thats what the patriarchal model would expect us to believe.

It’s bad all around, because woman aren’t given equal footing, deal with a constant threat of rape, battery, and death, and to a much lesser extent men suffer from mental health issues, all stemming from millennia of oppression. And that’s an oversimplification. But we didn’t make this Cross Talk episode to do an after school special and wrap a nice bow on the issue – we wanted to open it up, and use specific films to identify how attitudes permeate, using film as case studies.

Which is why Chris, Mike, and I decided to do our part and talk about this issue, and how it has effected us personally. Full disclosure, we openly admit that we are imperfect, not experts, and guilty of ignorant behaviour. But by bringing up the issue of why toxic masculinity shows up in movies, and showing you specific instances of how it takes over, we’re hoping to become better advocates for obliterating objectification for women, for humanity and fostering a better sense of community.

Chasing Amy, (500) Days of Summer, Moonlight. These movies are prime examples of the dangers of continuing to assume gender roles, when more and more evidence that persistence (“it’s all in the chase”) is actually the worst. I sincerely hope you get riled up watching this episode, because I really want this generation to change our habits, and we need to stop glossing over major problems.

This is the thirty second episode of Cross Talk.

theories Summarized

In case you haven’t figured it out from that discussion, while I think the cure for toxic masculinity hasn’t been found yet, I’m confident that raising awareness about toxic behaviour is integral to solving the  global epidemic. We can’t progress in society if we aren’t challenging the status quo, and art is merely a tool to be used for the good or the bad. So let’s please promote good examples of masculine behaviour and make speak out against bad art.

One final theory – you should totally like the video if you enjoyed it, leave a comment if you have some thoughts, and subscribe if you want to see more from us! Your support let’s us know what we are doing right.

And tomorrow I’ll have an album review about sheep dogs.

Tim!

I Have No Words (The Killing of a Sacred Deer review)

… I have no words. That’s what I said after I watched this movie.

 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
released on blu-ray January 23, 2018
******** 8/10

IMDB: 7.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, Audience Score 64%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Yorgos Lanthimos is a Greek film and theater director, producer and screenwriter. I’ve written about a film of his before, but I want you to consider his background today. While Lanthimos may have made his first feature length film back in 2001, he was making experimental plays as far back as 1995, and that’s likely how this film came about.

Taken from Wikipedia and modified…

Steven Murphy, a skilled cardiothoracic surgeon, finishes an open heart surgery, and later goes to a diner where he meets a teenage boy named Martin. The precise nature of their relationship is unexplained. Afterward, Steven returns home to his wife, Anna, and their children, Kim and Bob. The next day, Steven reveals his connection to Martin, claiming he is a schoolmate of Kim’s, when Martin unexpectedly comes to speak with Steven at the hospital. Steven later privately tells Anna that Martin’s father died in a car accident ten years earlier, and that he has taken an interest in the boy to help him grieve. At Steven’s suggestion, Martin comes to the Murphy household for dinner; Kim seems particularly taken with him.

Martin returns the favor by inviting Steven to his mother’s home for dinner. After the meal, Steven attempts to leave, but Martin insists he stay and watch a movie with them. Martin leaves halfway through the film, and his mother makes a sexual advance on Steven, who quickly rebuffs her and goes home. Over the next few days, Martin’s demands on Steven’s time grow increasingly frequent and desperate, but Steven does not reply. One morning Bob awakens and finds he cannot feel his legs—he has become paralyzed. Steven and Anna rush him to the hospital, where a full neurological examination reveals that nothing is physically wrong. Though he briefly recovers, Bob remains unable to walk. While the elder Murphys tend to Bob, Kim meets with Martin for a date.

The next morning, Martin visits Bob in the hospital and demands that Steven speak to him in private. The two retreat to the cafeteria, where Martin reveals the truth: his father did not die immediately, as Steven told his wife, but during surgery that Steven himself performed after the crash. Steven failed to save Martin’s father, and the boy bluntly tells Steven that he blames the cardiologist for the death. He further explains that, to “balance” the act of destroying a family, Steven must kill one of the members of his own. Martin goes on to explain that he has placed a curse upon the Murphys that will gradually kill them through a series of stages unless Steven makes his choice and murders one of them; the paralysis is the first of these four stages. Steven attempts to dismiss these seemingly wild claims, but later finds that Bob is refusing food—this is the second stage of Martin’s curse. Kim later loses the use of her legs during a choir practice and also will not eat.

Kim receives a phone call from Martin at the hospital. During the conversation, Kim abruptly regains the use of her legs, only to lose mobility again when the connection is broken. This seems to convince Anna of Martin’s power, and she travels to his home to directly ask why she and her children must suffer for Steven’s mistakes. The unrepentant Martin cannot answer, simply remarking that “it’s the only thing I can think of that’s close to justice”. Anna, further suspecting that her formerly alcoholic husband may have imbibed on the day of the operation, speaks to Steven’s anesthesiologist, who reveals that Steven did in fact have a few drinks that morning, with Anna sexually gratifying him as payment for the information. At Anna’s insistence, the children are transported to their home, where they are continually fed though an NG tube. Anna and Steven fight over the situation, with Steven refusing to believe that anything supernatural is happening. That night, he kidnaps Martin and binds him to a chair in the basement, brutally beating him and demanding that he undo his hold on the children. Martin remains unflappable, warning Steven that time is running out.

Martin’s presence only exacerbates the tension in the household: Kim and Bob argue with each other over who their father will choose; Steven tries to gather information to make the decision; and Anna claims that killing one of the children is clearly the only option, as they can have another. Kim attempts to save herself by traveling to the basement to see Martin, demanding that he free her again so that they may run away together. Her strategy fails and she tries to escape herself by crawling through the neighborhood. Steven and Anna save her. The next morning, Anna releases Martin while Steven sleeps, pointing out that holding him captive was of no use. Later that day, Bob begins bleeding from the eyes—the final stage of the curse before death. Rather than choose, Steven binds Kim, Bob, and Anna to chairs in the living room, covers their heads, and pulls a black woolen mask over his own face. He next loads a rifle, spins uncontrollably, and fires. The first two shots miss, but the third pierces Bob’s heart and kills him.

Some time later, the family visits the same diner where Steven previously met with Martin. As they sit in silence, Martin enters and stares at them; he and the family briefly lock eyes and Kim begins eating before they stand and leave. Martin gazes after them as they walk through the door.

I’ll say this as objectively as I can, while this movie is incredibly fascinating to me, I don’t think it’s very accessible to the average film goer. Which is very sad, because I think it has a lot of interesting ideas about revenge. And for that reason alone, it’s difficult to give it a high rating. Because I think the director made conscious decisions to veil the meaning of the story, when they could have made it less beautiful and theatrical, and more cinematic.

With all that said, this movie absolutely effected me. It shifts from dark comedy, to a dense drama, weaving in elements of the myth of Iphigenia – a tale about the sacrifice of the titular princess by her father King Agemmnon after he unwittingly offended Artemis, and brought ruin upon his household.

It should be obvious that The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a tale of revenge, but the poetic choice to remove most present day vernacular in favour of emotional resonance turns this into an arthouse film. And as I mentioned, makes it immediately less accessible. But that never prevents the themes from coming through. Alicia Silverstone does an excellent cameo as Martin’s mother, and the superficial nature of the Murphy family dynamic is perfectly painful to watch.

But the best of all is Barry Keoghan as the increasingly terrifying and awkward Martin.

Pros: Lanthimos is fully capable of making his audience uncomfortable, looking at issues of guilt, compliance, and morality. No one is free of sin, but best of all, we never know if Martin is an angel of death or merely the messenger.

Cons: As I mentioned before, the film doesn’t address the scene of the crime in a direct way, nor does it identify the body immediately, but as the aftermath unfolds, we are asked to endure increasingly more shocking events, which all pale in comparison to what could have been a series of suggestions.

Runtime: 2 hours 1 minute

Points of Interest: The heart surgery scenes were of real people. A shot panning towards Bob when he starts to get sick, blurs an image of a deer behind his head, subtly foreshadowing the ending of the movie. Colin Farrell admitted to nausea after reading the first draft of the film.

All-in, the cinematography is beautiful and while it is reminiscent of 2015’s The Lobster, Lanthimos truly does have a handle on the hard emotions of life. I can almost guarantee your own reaction to this film will be different then mine, my fiancee refused to watch the ending of the film, getting all the way up until the final twenty minutes. Such is the nature of true art, it effects us.

theories Summarized

I think this movie is bizarre, disruptive and well planned. It’s likely not going to be for everyone, but if you want a gut punch and are prepared to feel unsettled, then I have a theory that The Killing of a Sacred Deer will leave you wondering deep things.

That said, Mike has a really cool solo Watch Culture video run prepared for you. What We Do In The Shadows is a film about a group of vampires that live together and are documented by a film crew. It’s a horror comedy, and in a completely different vein from any vampire movie you’ve ever seen. And I’m not sorry for the bad pun. Check it out! And remember… Like! Comment! Subscribe!

Tim!

I Won’t Stop, I’m Gonna Work Harder (Stronger review)

I will never claim to be an expert on sociology, politics or any of the major social sciences, but I’m acutely aware of their importance, and I hope that by providing reviews on films like Stronger, my voice can contribute towards a positive world view, curbing hate and reducing ignorance about these kinds of social issues.

The movie does a pretty damn good job too though.

 

Stronger (2017)

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson
Director: David Gordon Green
released on blu-ray December 19, 2017
********** 10/10

IMDB: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Audience Score 82%
The Guardian: ****/*****

David Gordon Green is an American filmmaker, best known for films like Joe, Prince Avalanche, George Washington, and All the Real Girls. He’s also done some pretty bad comedies – The Sitter, Your Highness, Pineapple Express. Thankfully, Stronger fits nicely into the biography drama camp, where Green can really shine and do his coming of age (enlightenment) thing well. That said, I just read that he is going to direct the next Halloween instalment with Danny McBride, so maybe he’s still figuring out his film identity.

He could take some notes from his characterization of Jeff Bauman…

Taken from Wikipedia and modified…

Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a well-intentioned but underachieving Boston native who works at the deli counter of a Costco and lives in a small two-bedroom apartment with his alcoholic mother, Patty (Miranda Richardson). One day at the local bar, Jeff runs into his ex-girlfriend Erin (Tatiana Maslany), who is attracted to his kindness and charm but finds herself constantly frustrated by his lack of commitment. After learning that Erin is running in the Boston Marathon to raise money for the hospital she works at, Jeff asks every patron in the bar to donate and then promises Erin he’ll wait at the finish line for her with a big sign.

The day of the Marathon, Jeff scrambles to make it to the finish line on time but reaches it just before Erin reaches the finish line. As she approaches a bomb goes off right where Jeff is standing. After being rushed to a hospital, both of Jeff’s legs are amputated above the knee. When he regains consciousness, Jeff tells his brother that he saw the bomber before the explosion. Patty calls the FBI, and Jeff is able to give them a description of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Local authorities capture Dzhokhar Tsarnaev days later, and Jeff is hailed as a hero.

Jeff struggles to adjust to his condition as well as his newfound fame. Patty books several interviews and constantly surrounds Jeff with news reporters during his rehab sessions which Erin, who has since rekindled with Jeff, objects. Jeff and his family are invited to the Stanley Cup Finals by the Boston Bruins who ask Jeff to wave the flag during the game’s opening ceremony. The crowd triggers traumatic flashbacks from Jeff, and he breaks down in the elevator. Erin comforts him and insists he talk to his family about the fragility of his mental state and the impact his newfound exposure is having on it. Later that night they make love for the first time since his injury.

Patty books Jeff an interview with Oprah Winfrey without telling him causing Erin to speak up and tell her that the constant media attention is intensifying Jeff’s PTSD. After an argument between Patty and Erin, Jeff finally admits that he does not want to do any more interviews. Patty, disheartened, tells him that she only wishes for the world to see how amazing her son is. She soon begins enabling Jeff’s worst tendencies including his laziness and affinity for drinking. He begins missing physical therapy appointments due to long nights of drinking usually with Patty equally as drunk. Erin, who has since moved in, finds Patty blacked out on the couch and Jeff in a bathtub unconscious and covered in vomit. The next day she snaps at Patty for her selfishness and negligence before calling Jeff out for his self-pity and refusal to stand up to his mother. She storms off leaving Jeff and Patty to drive home alone.

That night, Jeff blows off Erin to drink with his brothers at a bar. Two patrons at the bar begin asking Jeff questions about the bombing insinuating that the event was a government conspiracy to start a war in Iran and Jeff was paid to look like a victim. Insulted Jeff and his brothers initiate a bar fight with the patrons. Erin picks him up later that night and tells him she’s pregnant. Jeff begins to panic and tells her he isn’t ready to be a father causing Erin to scold him for constantly running away from his problems. She leaves him in the car without removing his wheelchair from the trunk, enters their apartment, and packs her things. Jeff crawls to the apartment door and has a PTSD flashback of the bombing in its entirety.

Jeff meets with Carlos, a man who cared for him in the immediate aftermath of the bombing saving his life. Carlos tells him about his son, a marine who died in Iraq. After attempting suicide Carlos was forced to attend his son’s funeral in a stretcher. His younger son, unable to cope with the death of his older brother and the constant state of pain his father was in, killed himself. Carlos confides that saving Jeff helped him make peace with the death of his sons and the blame he placed upon himself because of them. Jeff begins to understand that his will to live in the face of adversity is what both comforts and inspires people. He stops drinking and begins to take his rehab more seriously. He leaves Erin a voicemail apologizing for his behavior finally taking full responsibility for his immaturity and fear of commitment. A few days later he and Carlos throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game where he meets Pedro Martinez. Erin watches at home and smiles. After the game dozens of people come up to Jeff and tell him how and why he has so heavily impacted their lives.

He and Erin meet at a diner where he walks with his prosthetics for the first time without assistance. He tells Erin he loves her, to which she replies “Good.” He grabs her hand and smiles.

It really does an excellent job of using a real story to showcase a survivor’s journey towards acceptance of his new life, and luckily for us, it hides very little of Bauman’s personal life. He has regular flashbacks of the bombing, his eyes hiding ghosts and his arms curled up in pain. His emotional voice often comes through girlfriend Erin, until the very end anyway.

Pros: It’s a series of moments but it never feels like a made for TV mini series, and Tatiana Maslany does an amazing job as the female lead. I hope to see more of her in the future.

Cons: I wish there weren’t patriotic shots of flags and orchestral music that hit your heart strings at key moments. A little obvious for my taste.

Runtime: 1 hour 59 minutes

Points of Interest:

Featuring some solid character actors performances on top of all the emotional core, Stronger is a film about a life examined, dissected, and reassembled, not whole, but as a sum of its parts. And it’s incredibly satisfying to watch a story about tragedy, without glossing over the ugly parts and managing to avoid cliche of overcoming adversity. Jeff Bauman is no hero, he only plays one on tv.

I only wish I had seen it in theatres, because I would have recommended the shit out of it way earlier on then I am now. So many bio pics attempt the impossible, being dramatic without overexerting themselves, and this story about an amputee does it one better. He’s a slob, self-destructive, and not morally sound either, but Bauman is surrounded by so many people just as flawed as him, you can’t help but root for a change in his heart.

theories Summarized

Overall this is a film that works incredibly hard at avoiding all the well known cliches, and it’s a cinematic treat to watch. I highly recommend you give it a shot, and set aside any preconceived notions you might have about triumph films, bio pics or Jake Gyllenhaal. This is a seriously good movie. And that’s not a theory.

Speaking of visual treats, have you seen The Grand Budapest Hotel? No, well check out this Watch Culture video in that case. And even if you have seen it, Mike and I have some great reminders of why this needs another viewing. I personally consider it to be Wes Anderson’s best. But tell us what you think! Leave a comment, share the video, and don’t forget to subscribe, for more great reviews.

Tim!