Movie of the Day and Performance of the Day : THE BEAST

Rabbit Days (2016)

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a film that is an experience, that you do not know from the first frame, where the last frame will bring us. Blockbusters are by necessity a predictable commodity. They have to some extent give the audience what it is expecting. It has to inherently be predictable, so it can appeal to the largest possible audience, and bring the highest possible return.

There is nothing wrong with that, I love blockbusters as much as the next person. But there is something to be said for a film that does not live with our expectations, or perhaps even our world. Especially when it is done superbly well, when it is clear from the first frame you are, wherever the road takes you, in the hands of a visionary, a master filmmaker.

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That is the case with the LeBoeuf Brothers’, Ryan & Cody, THE BEAST. But any script hinges on a central performance, and Clarence Gilyard’s unhinged performance is nothing short of jaw dropping. At once so unhinged, and so good, and the other actors as various forms of straight men to him, also do a great job. Add in the atmosphere, and you are left with a nightmare landscape of a film, that eschewing sense, is brilliant.

The ending perhaps feels truncated, but perhaps is also just right. Depends on your patience for the surreal and absurd. But for fans of the films of Lynch and Bunuel, you will feel in THE BEAST… rewarded.

Grade: I loved it. Your Mileage may Vary. 🙂

Another home-run of a discovery courtesy of AMAZON PRIME. And hopefully we can expect a DVD or BLuray version, complete with Directors/Actors commentary. Streaming is great, but as a film fan, I love to own the films I love… in a less ephemeral and transient format than streaming.

Read the following after you view the movie. No real spoilers, I just feel going into this movie completely unprepared is the right way to go, to get the most impact out of it….Ok you’ve watched the movie! Great! now you can read the rest. 🙂

First, I am glad they changed the name of the movie, as the original one was too on the noise, and would have worked against the air of mystery they were building. This movie for me, has nothing to do with that original title (until possibly the very end), which made the appearance of carrots all the more bonkers and inexplicable and intriguing. I was picturing, something un-picturable as the menace throughout. And that worked to the movie’s benefit. BEAST therefore working much better as a title.

And regarding the lead, I knew he seemed/sounded familiar,  something about his voice, and his manner, but it wasn’t until after the movie that I placed him. Clarence Gilyard Jr, starred for years on WALKER TEXAS RANGER. He is almost unrecognizable, but  what really comes across is how fantastic of an actor he is here, and while always great on WALKER, you do get the feeling he was definitely underused on that show. His performance in THE BEAST shows an actor who should have been acting on the big screen for decades, rather than underused in a procedural. Though what we fans lost, the educational system gained with Gilyard being a lauded professor. And he has been keeping his hand in on the theater circuit.

Case in point, it is great to hear that he and other WALKER costar Sheree J. Wilson recently reunited to do a theatrical run of DRIVING MISS DAISY (what? these young-uns?!).  More on that here: https://www.thespectrum.com/story/entertainment/2018/04/03/tinseltown-talks-walkers-sheree-j-wilson-clarence-gilyard-jr-together-again/482336002/

Clarence Gilyard Jr as James Trivette and Sheree J.

Looking forward to more from these directors, and these actors.

And finally for more on THE BEAST, check out this podcast : https://www.piecingpod.com/2018/10/22/special-episode-the-beast-ryan-cody-leboeuf-interview/

What’s Hot and What’s Not STREAMING/VOD Guide Week 11 – AMAZON PRIME Edition

WORTH FINISHING/PRETTY DARN GOOD:

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Both movies from the early 90s are of course very dated. Martial Arts had only broken into  the main-stream American conscience barely 15 years earlier. And American Martial Arts/Fight Choreography was still finding itself. And we were still in that very formulaic 80s urban crime/ Deathwish style of filming. All those caveats aside the movies remain incredibly entertaining, with a few pretty awesome sequences. Jeff Wincott and Cynthia Rothrock were prolific 80s action stars for a reason. And that reason is on display in these movies. Along with movies such as SILENT RAGE and PERFECT WEAPON and THE LAST DRAGON these films are fun and fine examples of American Cinematic Martial Arts in its early days.

 

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I consider Patrick McGoohan one of the best actors ever. And his SECRET AGENT MAN/ DANGER MAN one of the best TV shows. His fight choreography in that show, which predated the James Bond films, elevated fight choreography. The same way that the first season of ARROW raised the bar. Then the first season of DAREDEVIL raised it even higher. Patrick McGoohan, former soldier, former boxer, brings all that to his roles. And here, a much older McGoohan past throwing punches, is no less, cinematic gold.

Richard Burton in a horror movie? SOLD!

https://cdn.cinematerial.com/p/500x/quedcqtx/the-witch-who-came-from-the-sea-blu-ray-cover.jpgThe late 60s and early 70s was such an interesting time for film. Just as borders were being changed and challenged in our world and ourselves, they were also being expressed in our fiction. Particularly our films. There is a malleability and ephemeral-ness to much of the best films from this period. They are not any one genre, or any one thing. Are like our night-scapes, daringly un-solid, and always changing, depending on the viewer, and the viewed. This film will stay with you, long after you have seen it, until you are not sure it was ever a film, but rather maybe a dream, you forgot to dream.  The sight of breaking bone, and spurting blood, is everywhere in this film, and no where. A haunting film.

This one does not start well. Took me a couple attempts to finish it. Much like GOATSUCKER  that started awful, it just gets better and better, culminating in an impressive ending.

INTERESTING / JURY IS OUT

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NOT WORTH YOUR TIME / AVOID

Nightshot (2016)https://i1.wp.com/www.dreadcentral.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/mortalremainsnew.jpgStarts interestingly, but like most failed horror films, loses any concept of common sense by the third act. Is this something any rational person would do? If the answer is no, then do not put such stupid actions in your darn movie. I wanted the time I spent watching it, back. Avoid.

 

Streaming VOD Roku Fire TV Channel Watching Guide For Feb 2019 : HULU Edition!

HULU

 

1st Kudos to Hulu for, in an age where Streaming Services like Netflix are going price-hike crazy, actually offering a price reduction. Applause to HULU! This and Amazon Prime in my opinion are the best two Streaming services, in terms of both content, value, and ease of use/quality of the surfing experience.

Netflix lags FAR behind both channels, in my admittedly biassed opinion.

 

Okay onto the stuff you need to catch this month on Hulu (both old and new content):

https://cdn3-www.comingsoon.net/assets/uploads/gallery/legion-season-2/dxqfn3rxkaa06zq-jpg-large.jpgThe first season of LEGION was nothing short of game changing television. Writer/Producer Noah Hawtey with this and the 2nd season of FARGO proving himself one of the best writer/producers of this new Golden Age of Television. [To that list of best writer/producers of this new Golden Age, I would add creator Drew Goddard for DAREDEVIL Season 1 (Was not a fan of Seasons 2 and 3), and Cheo Hodari Coker’s brilliant and criminally underrated LUKE CAGE Season 1 and 2. While DAREDEVIL Season 1 is the better Action Show, LUKE CAGE is the better show, both writing and importance, for reasons way beyond, one person hitting another.]

I am looking forward to Noah Hawley’s feature film directorial debut LUCY IN THE SKY (slated for this year), but until then I will be enjoying the 2nd season of LEGION on Hulu.

 

 

John C. McGinley, Nate Mooney, Deborah Baker Jr., and Janet Varney in Stan Against Evil (2016)

The Boondocks (2005)

Into the Dark (2018)

INTO THE DARK? A hulu curated series of feature length Horror Movies?? Count me in!!!!!

Dwayne Johnson in The Titan Games (2019)

THE TITAN GAMES is definitely inspired by AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR, and while not as compelling as that show, this is still a very good mid season fill-in for AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR.

I had my doubts about ATLANTA, but the first season made me a believer. A modern day renaissance man, Donald Glover is a creator to watch. And season 2 is now on HULU. This show and WAYWARD PINES are two shows that get painted with the TWIN PEAKS brush, as a measure of their strangeness; but both shows are far better than TWIN PEAKS ever was.

David Kellman, Robert Shafran, and Eddy Galland in Three Identical Strangers (2018)

Ted Allen in Chopped (2007)

Cities of the Underworld (2007)

The Tesla Files (2018)

 

Aldis Hodge and Jurnee Smollett-Bell in Underground (2016)

 

The first episode of UNDERGROUND Blew me away! Fantastic use of anachronistic music, and camera movements to tell this tragic and triumphant tale of horror and holocaust. It is of course not easy viewing, but is rewarding and essential viewing. I did not like and do not rewatch the film ROOTS, but the film SANKOFA which covers the same story of the slave trade but does it with such heartbreaking beauty and incredible visuals, it becomes an undeniable work of art, rather than simply a dry recounting of facts, or a pity party. That is what UNDERGROUND also brings to this shameful part of American history. The struggle of those who fought against the accepted horror of their time.

In that way, how much more heroic are they… than we. I look forward to completing season 1 and 2 this month on HULU!

 

Rick and Morty (2013)

RICK AND MORTY- much to my surprise is animation genius. LOVE IT. Right up there with the VENTURE BROS. Looking forward to season 4 showing up on HULU.

Lakeith Stanfield in Sorry to Bother You (2018)

Called both the best and worst movie of 2018, depending on which reviewer you listen to, I’m really looking forward to watching SORRY TO BOTHER YOU sometime this month. And based on the track record of certain critics, I think this one is going to end up in my loved it pile.

The Sisters Brothers (2018)

Joseph Sikora, Omari Hardwick, Naturi Naughton, 50 Cent, Lela Loren, and Sinqua Walls in Power (2014)

I LOVE this series, POWER, and am way behind on it. So HULU this month will give me the chance to finish season3 and watch season 4.

Scott Grimes, Penny Johnson Jerald, Seth MacFarlane, Peter Macon, Adrianne Palicki, J. Lee, Mark Jackson, and Halston Sage in The Orville (2017)

I loved the first season of the ORVILLE. Season two started off great, but the second episode written by Wellesley Wild and directed by Kevin Hook, wow, that was a stinker.

It is some of the worst television I’ve seen since the 4th season of HELL ON WHEELS. Meaning really god awful, editor-less and rambling and self indulgent, please-fine-me-the-remote-fast-forward television. :). The odd thing is with just a less heavy handed delivery, no need for multiple hit us over the head holo-deck scenes, it could have been a good episode. the message was sound, the delivery unfortunately over indulged.

I will be very pleased not to see the name Wellesley Wild or Kevin Hook on any upcoming Orville episodes. 🙂 . Because other than that misstep, it has been a great and balanced show, not over doing the comedy and letting the drama shine thru when called for. And the visuals/ set and ship design and CGI, are just stellar.

It is the best STAR TREK on TV since the turn of the century. Wow. Let that sink in. 🙂

Castle Rock (2018)

Runaways (2017)

Kelsey Grammer, Russell Hornsby, and Rachelle Lefevre in Proven Innocent (2019)The premise of this show, addressing wrongful convictions, is I think very timely, and intriguing. Particularly in a witch-hunt/social media lynching America where people are found guilty and punished BEFORE trial, much less a verdict. In such an America where corporations the jury and the judges, rubber stamp social media verdicts, and special interests weaponize social media… a show about wrongful convictions… I’ll take a look.

Now the above are some of the top shows on or coming to HULU in February 2019, and reasons to give HULU a look this month.

So those of you who came just for the February 2019 STREAMING TV guide can leave now.

For those of you who want one of my inconveniently timed and inappropriately placed rants, 🙂 keep reading.

 

 

That last mention above, regarding the show PROVEN INNOCENT, made me ponder upon that subject.

One of the most idiotic postings I read recently, was this commenter piling on some guy accused of harassing a woman.

This guy was calling for the usual things the mob calls for, the accused to get fired, the accused to get stoned, etc. To which was pointed out that he knows neither the ‘claimed’ victim nor ‘claimed’ accuser,  that before taking sides and handing down his verdict, maybe this should go thru due process. Due process defined as If criminal… a court of law, if civil or corporate, a board of inquiry or a federal HR complaint.

When pointed out that there is a process for proving an actual crime or wrong doing, that perhaps has nothing to do with stirring up lynch-mob justice on Facebook or Twitter, and attacking someone who should be innocent till PROVEN guilty…. this guy’s response was….

 

“I TRUST WOMEN!!!!”

That was it.

Some woman he does not know, claims some horrendous deed was done to her, last week, 5 years ago, 20 years ago, and this guy takes it as gospel and attacks wherever she points.

You know where that also happened.

Salem Massachusetts in 1692 and 1693.

As well as the United States from the age of reconstruction through the 1960s, where many a body swayed from many a tree.

“ME TOO’, may be a great movement for healing wounds, and improving conditions.

However, it has no place deciding guilt or innocence.

Only facts should do that, not the baggage of the mob.

Here endeth the aside. 🙂

VOD Streaming Watch 19 Jan- Currently Watching : THE HIVE on Amazon Prime

 

Called a cross between EVIL DEAD and MEMENTO, Director David Yarovesky’s 2014 Debut film earns its comparisons. Not in terms of plot, plot-wise it has nothing to do with either MEMENTO or EVIL DEAD, but the tone and beats, and film-making conceits recalls those two films… in a good way. Indeed perhaps a more apt comparison would be INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS meets the BLOB, but whatever the surface comparison, this film is very much its own thing, and earns a welcome spot amidst those aforementioned influences. For the most part a likeable cast, a talented director and a smart monster/antagonist, this film is well worth your time. B/B+.

AVENGERS INFINITY WAR : THE LAST WORD Review

 

I have been off the movie radar for a bit.

I go in cycles like that.

Last movie I saw in the theater (twice) was the excellent BLACK PANTHER Directed by Ryan Coogler and produced by filmic juggernaut, Marvel Studios.

Today a few minutes ago I just got done watching AVENGERS INFINITY WAR courtesy of Amazon Prime, and streamed right in the comfort of my home.

It is definitely a movie that would have been great seen  on a huge full size theatrical system, but as I said timing and interest sometimes works out for me to hit the theater, sometimes it doesn’t.

The movie, AVENGERS INFINITY WAR finally seen ( I avoided trailers, special features, reviews etc) it is ten years of Marvel Studios, and ten years of world building codified and paid tribute to; it is not just a great movie, it is a great mythology. It is that first story told around the raging fire to keep back the night. It is everything you want a film to be.

To call it just a superhero film is perhaps to miss the point, and the enduring power and place these four color heroes have held first on the comic page, and now the cinematic stage.

They are our modern myths writ large, and this film by the capable Russo Brothers improves and transcends the source material, to tell tales both of massive victories and massive defeats, but always managing to ground it on a very personal level.

The movie made me laugh, it made me cheer, it made me tear up, and it made me silent. A whole gamut of emotional states in a mere couple of hours. The Russo Brother’s have helmed yet another masterpiece and this one being their best and most haunting yet. Raising the stakes but not losing the man on the ground perspective, that make these films so relateable.

Tales of Gods and Monsters yes, but hinged on wheels of faith and loss and sacrifice and love.

The wheels all of us, can understand and be moved by.

There are reasons to be concerned about a monotheistic Movie Landscape, with all studios gobbled up by the mouse. I do not feel Disney acquiring Marvel Studios was a good thing. I do not feel the Lucas properties being engulfed by them is a good thing. I do not feel the Fox acquisition is a good thing.

I think in the long term this monotheistic film landscape is a very bad thing for culture, and choice, and competition. I think in the long term there are anti-trust and anti-competition issues that will affect all of us; whether fans or not, of these films. But those are fights and concerns separate from the actual review of this one singular film.

This one singular film, celebrating the 10th year of Marvel Studios unprecedented dynasty is filmmaking done as well as it can be done, on a scale and scope that is nearly as mythic as the story itself. I loved it. Full Stop. It is right in the mix with my top 5, being in no particular order AVENGERS, BLACK PANTHER, WINTER SOLDIER, CIVIL WAR, and this one… INFINITY WAR.

Grade: A+. As a fan of METROPOLIS and GREED and SEARCHERS and LION IN WINTER, even though this movie is a ‘Super-hero’ movie and a Blockbuster, and is popular, it is every bit as great and serious and beautiful a film as those lauded classics. It is a new minted classic, and will stand the test of time.  From script, to direction, to special effects, to performances, especially performances, allowing the actors to act under those layers of makeup and costumes and CGI, the film is a rare achievement.

I look forward to the sequel. And I look forward to buying this film on DVD/Blu-Ray, and watching again, and enjoying the film commentary.

You can get your Blu-Ray here:

https://amzn.to/2obFhvS

 

 

Favorite Directorial Debuts of the 21st Century!

I recently did a post highlighting some of the best directorial debuts of the last century. A lot of classic greats such as Orson Welles  CITIZEN KANE, Branagh’s HENRY V, Ossie Davis’ COTTON COMES TO HARLEM (which for the time when it was made, 1970, was really revolutionary as far as staging chase scenes. It’s often over looked in great car chase films, however it is one of the first and best. And the movie as a whole is disarming, tinges of heart felt humor in it, but also a surprising bit of wrath, brutality and action).

This time around I wanted to cover some of the best directorial debuts of the still relatively new 21st century.

In our fragmented increasingly monotheistic film landscape, the importance of film that comes outside of the ever repressive Disney structure has never been more important (shame on you Disney for firing James Gunn. And shame on you Twitter for not deleting ten year old quotes when asked, and instead holding on to quotes and allowing them to be militarized and sold to neo-conservative/neo-nazi hatchet men with a desire to use social media, the stupidity of the masses, and the immorality and venality of corporations,  to destroy any and all opposition to their madness.)

So until Disney is broken up by Anti-Trust laws like it needs to be, we need alternatives to standard mass media. We need streaming and VOD, and that’s where the interesting films and filmmaker get a chance to have a life, and earn an income. We need a new generation of great and gusty filmmakers, and I am happy to say they are out there.

So without further ado, here are the best Feature film directorial debut of the 21st century:

Serenity

Serenity (2005)

15 | 119 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Director: Joss Whedon

Following (1998)

15 | 69 min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller Director: Christopher Nolan

Intruders PosterINTRUDERS (2015) –

Director:

Adam Schindler

 

The Evil Within PosterTHE EVIL WITHIN (2017) – It is NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET but instead of a slasher film, is a perverted episode of TWILIGHT ZONE. A little known movie but worth seeking out.  Like most of these films it can be seen if you are an Amazon Prime member.

Director:

Andrew Getty

The Monster Project (2017)

THE MONSTER PROJECT (2017)

Director:

Victor Mathieu

last_will_and_testament_of_rosalind_leigh_xlg
THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH (2012)

Director:

Rodrigo Gudiño  – To date the only feature film by Rodrigo Gudino, I love this film. However, It is one of the few director’s commentary I do not like, as his take on the movie runs contrary to the wonderfully unique atmosphere the film creates, and really talks you out of liking the movie, and his interpretation takes the magic, and wonderful horrific atmosphere. So a rare case of watch the movie, but avoid the special features and commentary. And I typically LOVE Commentaries.

Most Beautiful Island (2017)MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND-  Wow. I didn’t know at all where this movie was going. And that is how I suggest you go into it. Do not watch trailers or read anything else beyond this on it. I will say the opening pre-credit sequence…very masterfully done. Robert Bresson is arguably one of the greatest directors ever, and he mastered what is considered the empty frame, or the pregnant frame.  He created the camera opening on a vacant scene, and building expectation as you waited for that space to be filled. The opening of this movie has some of that Bressonian genius. But pushes it somewhere odd, depending who you are, and what you bring to the film, that opening scene may highlight how almost on an instinctual level their is a vouyeristic and somewhat predatory nature to how we look at people in groups, and what people we focus on. It is hard to explain, but you will arguably feel it in the motion and lack of motion of the camera in that opening sequence. And ends just as brilliantly and conflictedly.  A great film by star and first time director Ana Asensio.

JOHN WICK

A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT

CAPTAIN AMERICA WINTER SOLDIER

THE WITCH
SOUTHBOUND
STOMPING GROUND
CRAWL OR DIE
DEVOURED
CALL ME KING
A MESSAGE FROM THE KING
ABSENTIA
THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN
EUROPA REPORT
FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY
AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR
THE TALL MAN
BONE TOMAHAWK
PONTY POOL
UNDER THE SKIN
THE ARROYO
BOY WONDER
Honorable mentions: IT FOLLOWS unfortunately is the 2nd film of its Director, or it would be at the top of this list. I consider it (along with A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT) one of the greatest Horror films made since Carpenter’s 1980s output.

7 Reasons AMAZON PRIME Streaming is better than Netflix STREAMING!

  1. LARGER SELECTION OF FILMS, ESPECIALLY GENRE AND CLASSIC FILMS – Netflix has a rather paltry selection of films compared to Amazon. In addition Netflix is almost completely lacking in older films in any numbers. Want to see the best in Spaghetti Westerns, or Italian Giallos or Polischei films or Paul Naschy films or Shaw Brothers Hong Kong Films or Black New Wave Films or Bigfoot Films? You wont find that on Netflix, you have to go to Amazon for such a curated selection of films/options.

  2. BETTER SELECTION OF FILMS – This goes hand in hand with point 1. In addition to having a much larger selection, they have a better selection of films.

  3. AVAILABILITY OF RATINGS FOR ALL MOVIES AND TV SHOWS – I find Amazon’s ratings on their films not only spot on, but a great way to help me find a film I might otherwise not have tried or discovered.

  4. SUPER USEFUL ‘CUSTOMERS ALSO WATCHED’ FEATURE – This feature goes along with the ratings to help me find films I otherwise would not have discovered.

  5. EASY AVAILABILITY OF TRAILERS FOR MOST MOVIES, OLD AND NEW – Trailers for all movies, old and new, is a must, and is yet another reason Amazon is far more enjoyable to browse than Netflix.

  6. BETTER SELECTION OF SHORT FILMS

  7. MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK, IN ADDITION TO STREAMING YOU GET ALL THE OTHER BENEFITS OF AMAZON , INCLUDING DISCOUNTED PRICING AND FREE SHIPPING.

For all these reasons I have un-subscribed to Netflix, and am happily subscribed to Amazon and Hulu.

One caveat, I think I’ll subscribe to Netflix for one month just to see the 2nd season of LUKE CAGE. The first season was along with DAREDEVIL season 1 the best of the Netflix shows. And was easily the best written and most groundbreaking of the shows.

Those conversations, that the closed-minded called slow or unnecessary, were the very heart of the show, this understanding of a Harlem renaissance not yet deferred, and were conversations that I’ve heard and had. So to see a show embrace an other than anglo-saxon or yuppie story-telling perspective, to have stories that actually have some resonance and familiarity to a broader ethnic perspective, made LUKE CAGE 1 up there with LEGION season 1 and FARGO season 2 as truly innovative television.

Those of you who didn’t get Luke Cage, I would suggest watch season 1 again, it is one of the few shows that gets stronger, when re-watched. When watched for what it is, rather than what we assumed it would be.

Here is hoping SEASON 2 of LUKE CAGE lives up to season 1.