2017 Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Buster’s Mal Heart (2017)

A mountain man known as "Buster" lives off the empty homes of the rich in-between calls to anyone who will listen about the end of the world.  He wasn't always this way, and the man once known as Jonah had a life he cared for.  Sarah Adina Smith wrote the screenplay for and directs Buster's Mal Heart, and stars Rami Malek, DJ Qualls, and Kate Lyn Sheil.

Jonah - also known as "Buster" (Rami Malek) - doesn't have a bad heart, no matter what the title of Sarah Adina Smith's follow-up to The Midnight Swim (tied for best of 2015) might suggest.  At least he wasn't born with a bad heart.  Going to work by night, spending what little time he can spare during the day with his wife Marty (Kate Lyn Sheil) and daughter Roxy (Sukha Belle Potter), Jonah is making the best of a system designed to keep him running in place the rest of his life.

Buster's Mal Heart is a story of heartbreak, one that tells a story of bone-deep oppression and how the lie of the American dream pushes its citizens too far.  I could speculate on just what Jonah is pushed to do, but that would be demeaning to the conditions I see him working in on a night-to-night basis.  Dirty dishes, oblivious bosses, coworkers able to take advantage of his work ethic, a mother-in-law more interested in her granddaughter learning English than spending any time on Spanish.  These are the microaggressions that fill Jonah's existence, feeling like he only has his wife and child to live for, and slowly looking at the cracks of the ceiling keeping him down in the hopes he'll provide a life for them someday.


Patreon Post: 13 Reasons Why the Netflix series “Tape 2, Side A”

I'm back to 13 Reasons Why with the weakest episode to date.  A full shift behind the scenes results in scattered focus and neglected characterization.  But at least Hannah's mother gets a chance to shine in the strongest moments of "Tape 2, Side A".

This podcast is only available for contributors to the Can't Stop the Movies Patreon.  You can reach the post by clicking the above image or this link.

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Ghost in the Shell (2017)

In the future, technology has advanced to the point where a human's consciousness can be transferred to an artificial shell.  Major Mira Killian, after suffering severe wounds in an attack, is transferred to a shell.  As she begins experiencing ghostly glitches, she begins to suspect all is not as it seems behind her existence.  Rupert Sanders directs Ghost in the Shell, with the screenplay written by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger, and stars Scarlett Johansson.

As an opening admission, and one of Ghost in the Shell's least weighty problems, I damn near fell asleep watching it.  I'm not proud of these moments as I pride myself on getting through some of the most grueling endurance tests cinema has to offer.  What hampers Ghost in the Shell the most is a lack of cinematic texture.  The production feels like someone half-remembering different aspects of Blade Runner, the original animated Ghost in the Shell, and that Scarlett Johansson is the go-to United States actress for flippy action scenes.

Shame director Rupert Sanders couldn't even get the flippy bits to have much of an impact.  There's an illuminating side-by-side comparison of the water fight Major Killian (Johansson) has toward the middle of both the live-action version and the original animated.  A standard complaint about modern action movies is that they have too many cuts and that's certainly the case here with about 27 for the live-action and 18 for the animated.  That's not an automatic negative though, and what makes the live-action version so unfulfilling is the monotony of the construction.  There's never a moment Killian's target isn't overwhelmed by the city and his momentary feeling of safety is undercut by the long-shot preparing our eyes for something to emerge from the water.


Patreon Post: Twin Peaks: The Return

Now that I've had time to digest what Twin Peaks: The Return succeeded and failed at, I sat down with part-time Can't Stop the Movies contributor Kyle Miner.  In our conversation, we discuss what makes Lynch effective, some of the spiritualism he borrows to varying affect, how television consumption practices have changed, whether Lynch "gets a pass" on how he treats women in his narratives, and what the long-term impact of Twin Peaks: The Return might be.

After some deliberation, I loved this conversation so much I didn't want to mark it private.  Please consider contributing a couple of dollars to this Patreon.

You can go to the podcast by clicking here or on the above image.

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It (2017)

It feeds, and a group of outcast children calling themselves the Losers Club may be the only people able stop it.  Andy Muschietti directs It, with the screenplay written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman, and stars an ensemble cast led by Bill Skarsgård and Sophia Lillis.

I closed my eyes.  Couldn't stop the tears, then I couldn't stop the shakes, and I felt my body freezing up.  I wasn't in control anymore.  I had to remind myself - I am here.  I am not what I am seeing onscreen, I am not bleeding, I am not being held down, I am not being attacked for being different, I am here with my wife and holding her hand trying to focus what bit I have control over to listen to her.  "Do you need to leave?"  I can't answer.  I'm desperately trying to ground myself.  I will not let it beat me this time.  It can't hurt me anymore.  It can't hurt me anymore.  It won't hurt me anymore.  I breathe, feel my feet on the ground, count the seats in front of me when I can open my eyes, and I am here.  Back in this theater.  Realizing now that I can't watch It so much as withstand watching my trauma laid bare in violent detail right on the screen.  I am dazed, but the fear has passed, and I am able to finish It knowing I'm not done with It and I can't imagine a time when It will be done with me.

There's a subsection of It's audience that may not be able to ground themselves when confronted with the brutally real violence of It.  I'm not talking about the scenes with Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård), those have visual metaphors to cushion the lingering pain of trauma, a space where I could visualize my pain without having to face it.  Those kids are able to visualize the metaphors Pennywise uses to attack them because they're on the cusp of adulthood.  The way forward lies through disease, bigoted violence, distorted perceptions of biological changes, and each kid - be it because of their weight, asthma, sex, skin color - have to deal with the pain now instead of gaining distance to transform their experience into art.  When It claws into me it's through blood, in broad daylight, as victims of violence struggle alone against bullies who get no greater thrill than seeing those they perceive as weak suffer.