DVD Reviews Archives - Page 2 of 117 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
4Mar/190

Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018)

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How the hell did we end up with Trump? Michael Moore's latest documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9, tries to make sense of the conditions that allowed for his rise and neutered those looking to resist.

Michael Moore just had to start Fahrenheit 11/9 with that goddamn song. "Fight Song". The song performed by a cavalcade of celebrities for the 2016 Democratic National Convention in a spectacle that gave me severe pause that the Democrats had my interests in mind. That was when the idea of Donald Trump as President seemed a terrifying but distant possibility. Then the months rolled by, Hillary Clinton lost, and Trump began carrying out (at my time of writing) 2+ years of absurd and abhorrent policy.

If you want Fahrenheit 11/9 to make sense of these last two years, or function as a no-holds-barred assault on Trump, then you need to watch a different film. There's plenty of effective Trump bashing but Moore has something more affectively difficult in mind. Fahrenheit 11/9 is a snapshot of our mental and emotional condition reinforced by facts both about the Trump candidacy then Presidency along with the Democratic failures that led to his ascension. Those who have spent the last few years cogent and improving need not apply, this is a film for those who need to know someone with some power empathizes with pain.

Whether Moore is the appropriate ambassador for this communication is sometimes in question during Fahrenheit 11/9. In front of the camera, he's often the same uneven and impish provocateur as ever. An ineffective moment has him filming himself spraying water from Flint, Michigan (at least that's what's written on the tank) over then-Governor Rick Snyder's lawn. It plays too silly and considering Moore's criticism over wasting resources I couldn't help but think that someone of his means should at least have been able to decontaminate that water to provide for his fellow Flint townspeople. But that same impish quality fuels his fearlessness as he attempts a citizen's arrest of Snyder while filming a stammering aide to the office offer limp explanations to why Flint's crisis is well on its way to ending (as of my writing, again, it hasn't).

25Feb/190

Sorry to Bother You (2018)

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Cash needs cash. He's stuck in his uncle's garage, tired of not being able to get privacy with his girlfriend, and takes a job at a call center to make some sales. When he turns out to be better at this than even he thought he finds himself at the center of a growing union struggle and the company that seeks to exploit him. Boots Riley writes the screenplay for and directs Sorry to Bother You, which stars Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun, and Armie Hammer.

Sorry to Bother You's reputation preceded my eventual viewing. I read about how it's an unashamedly leftist stab at capitalism, hollow art, being beaten down by the increased exploitation of those without means, and call centers. While I'm passionate about all those subjects it's the call center bit that grabbed me. I worked at an insurance center for five years and one of the first things I experienced on the floor was a boyfriend calling in to find out if his girlfriend's policy would cover the damage he caused in a rage after killing her cat.

When Sorry to Bother You works, it's because writer/director Boots Riley understands how we end up in situations of ethical and emotional extremes that makes dealing with cat murderers the only option. He spares no one above the minimum wage, creating grotesque caricatures of ruthless management and floors of perpetual depression bathed in blue while each worker struggles to make the light of a sale shine for once. His is a world of shit jobs ruled over by shit humans while shit conditions consistently fail to improve because everyone's mired in shit.

18Feb/193

Halloween (2018)

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Laurie Strode's waited over forty years for the moment her brother, Michael, might come slashing his way back into her life. With Halloween again on the horizon she waits while her disbelieving daughter and sympathetic granddaughter struggle to understand what she's going through. They'll know soon enough. David Gordon Green directs Halloween, with the screenplay written by David Gordon Green, Jeff Fradley, and Danny McBride, and stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak.

David Gordon Green, the once consistently now sporadically poetic director who seemed the heir to Terrence Malick, is at first blush an odd choice to helm the latest Halloween. Dig a bit deeper into Green's career and you'll find Undertow, Green's oozing with Southern Gothic take on the fantastic classic The Night of the Hunter.  Green can do seemingly invincible monsters with murder on their minds and he can do it with aplomb. But that was before the stoner comedies, the inconsistent creative input of co-screenwriter Danny McBride, and before our culture continued its exodus away from sincerity.

So the quality of this Halloween is suitably volatile considering the series' tumultuous production history with Green's effort frustratingly close to something great. The biggest problem is that Green's Halloween is trying to fit the inconsistent tone of the series into a single film. Green's Halloween is trapped between the traumatized caricatures of Rob Zombie's films (and I write that with love, no one does caricature like Rob Zombie), the cracked out 4 through 6 installments, making a space for the surviving Laurie Strode of John Carpenter's original, and the bit-too-goofy self-awareness of Green's work with McBride.

11Feb/190

Roma (2018)

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As the tumult builds in Mexico City, Cleo works to keep her employers happy and needs fulfilled. Alfonso Cuarón wrote the screenplay for and directs Roma, which stars Yalitza Aparicio.

Over the course of two hours and some change, Roma drip-feeds us a steady intake of gorgeous poison. The patient cinematography, courtesy of director Alfonso Cuarón, pans repeatedly with an impassive eye as Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) navigates rooms with sturdy beams keeping each dweller in their own universe. She's little more than a pet to the family that employs her as each resident has motivations as separate and sturdy as the pillars that keep the home up. Across the rooftop there's another servant doing the same, and the camera pans more to reveal another, and another, and another. All trapped in the same cycle of servitude and pain.

This reads cynical but Cuarón's carer is peppered with cynicism. Roma, for all its beauty, takes place in a world no less apocalyptic than the one Cuarón created in Children of Men. There, at least, was a film that suffocated us in despair until a single cry from one baby is enough to stop a war that's been boiling under the surface. With Roma a baby is just another baby, not worth stopping the world over, and the machinations of privilege that keep Cleo from living a safe and happy life continue on after the credits have dropped. Here is reality with no savior within sight.

22Dec/180

Rocky and Bullwinkle (and Friends): Episode 2, Jet Fuel Formula parts 3 and 4

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Jet Fuel Formula Part 3

In which a (literally) unseen third player in the cake baking rocket fuel saga emerges to threaten our heroes with scrooching.

In its second full episode and third part of "Jet Fuel Formula", Rocky and Bullwinkle hits a low then high point with its ramshackle animation. The dialogue jumps straight to the action even when the figures are doing little as we hear our heroes talk but there is no mouth movement. It's distracting, even with the Narrator doing his best wrangle some wry fun out of the surroundings with amusing and accurate summations like, "Well Rocky and Bullwinkle really started something just by trying to make a cake." Rocky and Bullwinkle's long-term reputation includes it being seen as little more than a radio play with some images and the opening of part three reinforces the notion.

Then the limited animation gets two characters who will make great use of the volatile quality. Gidney and Cloyd are two little green moon men ("They must be Congressmen," Bullwinkle muses) with a shaky grasp on their ability to turn invisible. Their appearance is both a bit unsettling and hilarious as their furrowed expressions become visible before the rest of their bodies do with their figures moving in and out of view according to some floaty animated logic we're not privy to. It's a fun effect, letting the Rocky and Bullwinkle team lean into the cheap production creatively by introducing two characters that don't need to be consistently animated at all - give or take the bushy mustache and gun capable of "scrooching" (what that is still to come).

Gidney and Cloyd also lean into Rocky and Bullwinkle's amused annoyance with then-modern life, which still resembles the now-modern life (which as of this writing is December 2018). Their training involved listening to loud music, dodging traffic, and having to inhale smog. These days we could just go outside in a major metropolitan city to get the same experience as being locked in with airborne pollutants. It's not crushingly insightful stuff, but their annoyed and beleaguered expressions enduring the annoyances of post-industrial life are well felt.