City of Ember (2008)

DailyView: Day 269, Movie 375

City of Ember is one of the many young adult novels that was adapted into a movie, but never became a big hit despite a strong cast and interesting setting.

The human race built a city below ground when the world was ending and they set up a way to leave in 200 years when they hoped that the earth would be in a better situation. The secret was passed along to the mayors over the years until one of the mayors died unexpectedly.

Decades later, Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan) was discovering what her job was destined to be (although she apparently could easily switch it with another so it wasn’t that much of a destiny). She ended up being a messenger. Her friend Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway) wound up working in the pipes.

Lina discovered the box with the escape instructions and she started to try and figure out what had happened and her father tied into the history of the box.

I was shocked to see Bill Murray show up as the Mayor, and he is always great, but the character did not feel like a character that fit for Bill Murray. Toby Jones was there too as the Mayor’s henchman, which felt more concise of a role than the Mayor.

Tim Robbins was Loris Harrow, Doon’s father, but he was not given much to do in the story. He felt shoehorned into the plot and he was terribly underused.

The plot of the movie was dumb. The whole idea of the builders setting up this way to escape from the underground city centuries ago and expected it to still be fine and work. The worst part was how they got a message to the underground city afterwards. It was so ridiculous and improbable that it tainted the remainder of story.

Saoirse Ronan showed that she would be a top line actor with this early work. She was very solid for what she had to work with in City of Ember. She was certainly the highlight.

This was watchable. It would fall right into the category of other YA films with Divergent, The Host, Maze Runner, The Giver, Jumper etc. Nothing special, but nothing horrendous either.

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

DailyView: Day 268, Movie 374

This evening, I took a trip into the world of street art and found a documentary that was one of the oddest documentaries that you will ever see,

It started out with French immigrant in LA, store owner and amateur filmmaker Thierry Guetta, running around trying to record street artists and their work. He started with his cousin, who happened to be street artist Invader, and worked his way to the mysterious Banksy, who was the director of this documentary. Oh, it gets weirder.

Guetta followed Banksy around, in order to create a film about the street artist, a man who goes out of his way to hide his identity. When the final film was brought to Banksy, he was shocked at how unwatchable it was. Banksy realized that the footage of the street art was valuable and so he decide that he would make his own film, following Guetta. He then suggested to Guetta that he put together his own “little’ art show.

Guetta went wildly all out, creating a massive show, featuring his own brand of art that certainly was influenced by the art of Banksy.

Guetta was an unbelievable character that was about as eccentric as they come, and this includes a director shown in shadow to protect his identity. There has been some speculation that this entire documentary was staged and that Guetta was just created by Banksy.

The doc was funny, not only by the oddball lead character, but also with the lines of dialogue. It is visually attractive and has excellent pace. Some of the scenes were shockingly bizarre and hard to believe, which is why, I am sure, some think it is not real.

Worth the watch for sure.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

DailyView: Day 267, Movie 373

I was watching 10 Things I Hate About You on Disney + and I was about half way into it when I made a realization… this movie was basically William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. I have never actually read the play, but I have seen other adaptations over the years (especially Moonlighting’s Atomic Shakespeare) and I recognized the story.

I was unsure about this movie. I liked the beginning of it, but it felt like it was going to end in ways that I really did not. However, I think the film nailed the ending without damaging the female characters, which was something that I was worried about. Julia Stiles’s Kat Stratford and Larisa Oleynik’s Bianca Stratford came out looking strong and anything but weaklings.

Bianca cannot go out with anyone until her older sister Kat does. This is the rule placed on them by their overprotective father Walter (Larry Miller). New student Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has fallen for Bianca, and he sets a plan in motion to have rebel Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) to try and date Kat so Bianca could be free to date whom she wanted.

Of course, there are a lot of issues that mess the plan up, but when Patrick and Kat start to hit it off, you start to root for them as a couple.

There are funny moments, but the best aspects of 10 Things I Hate About You is the relationships between the characters. Are there ridiculous things that happen? Of course. But I have to say that I think that this is one of my favorite rom-coms around. Heath Ledger is great and charming. He and Julia Stiles had chemistry for miles. Joseph Gordon-Levitt may have gotten away with his role in the action without any real consequence. Larisa Oleynik showed so much more depth than it looked as if she was going to have.

I found this fun and was happy I got a chance to add it to the DailyView.

The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)

DailyView: Day 266, Movie 372

Paul Rudd is really a treasure.

He is the star of the 2016 film The Fundamentals of Caring which is just fabulous. Is it sentimental and pull on your heart strings? Absolutely. However, it is so charming and warm that it completely feels sincere and deserved.

Paul Rudd played Ben Benjamin, who was a retired writer trying to get over a personal tragedy. Ben applied for a job as a caretaker for a teen boy named Trevor (Craig Roberts), who was wheelchair bound because of Duchenne muscular dystrophy and was a handful of attitude.

Ben was able to throw attitude back at Trevor as well and is able to convince Trevor’s mom (Jennifer Ehle) to let him take Trevor on a road trip to the Deepest Pit. Along the way, they pick up Dot (Selena Gomez), a teenager on her way to Denver, and a pregnant woman name Peaches (Megan Ferguson) who was going back to her parents home after her husband was deployed back to Afghanistan.

Yes, there are contrived moments that you would expect in this type of movie. We’ve seen it before, but it is so good because of the chemistry with Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts, as well as Selena Gomez. The interactions with these characters, especially during the road trip are what makes this a special movie.

Paul Rudd is exceptional in this movie. He brings every ounce of charm and warmth that he has, as well as a serious dose of shenanigans. He is a major reason to watch this movie.

The film avoids the major trap doors that a movie like this could fall into and is just an enjoyable piece of entertainment.

The Sit Downers (1937)

DailyView: Day 265, Movie 371

So I decided to watch another short from the early days of movies tonight for a specific reason. I found the Three Stooges in a short called The Sit Downers from the year 1937. The reason I chose this was because of the year 1937. I had not seen a movie in that year for the DailyView yet. With that year now checked off, I have watched at least one movie from every year from 1929-2020. There are only four more years remaining (all in the 1920s) and I will have seen a film from 1915-2020. Those final four years are a goal for the final 100 days of this binge.

Anyway, this is the first time I used The Three Stooges in the DailyView. I have seen Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, Abbot & Costello, The Marx Brothers, but Larry, Moe and Curly had not made the cut. Until tonight that is.

This film was very funny, filled with Stooge-y humor, slapstick and plenty of “nyuck, nyucks”.

Larry, Moe and Curly wanted to get married to three sisters, but the sister’s father refused to give permission. So the Stooges staged a sit in protest in order to change the father’s mind. After weeks of sit downing, and plenty of support from fans across the country, the father gave in.

So they got married, but they discovered that the free house they thought was donated to them had to be constructed by them before the honeymoon. Weird premise, I know, but it was really funny. I think every slapstick crew has done the construction gags, but this one worked well. The Stooges had great comedic timing and made the unavoidable accidents very funny.

Some of this film is believed to have been inspired by Buster Keaton’s film, One Week, which was one of the DailyView films watched.

The Stooges worked well together and I laughed several times during the film. It was an easy watch and a fun time.

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

DailyView: Day 265, Movie 370

Officially 100 days remaining in the DailyView as of today!

I watched the new trailer last night for Marvel Studio’s next Disney + series, Moon Knight, debuting at the end of March. The actor starring as Moon Knight is the ever awesome Oscar Isaac. In honor of the great trailer, I found a film on the list featuring Mr. Isaac. That turned out to be Inside Llewyn Davis.

Ethan and Joel Coen wrote and directed this film about a down on his luck folk singer in 1961 named Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) as he struggled to try and find his way through the difficulties life threw at him.

And it seemed as if life was spending the entire movie throwing difficulties at poor, sad-sack Llewyn.

This was a fantastic film. It was extremely funny as everything seemed to be collapsing around his life. Oscar Isaac is amazing in the lead role, both in the acting and the singing areas. It is a complicated and deep role. Llewyn has so much go against him, but you still want to root for him, no matter how poorly he reacts to the situation.

There was also a brilliant performance, albeit a short one, by John Goodman. Goodman steals every scene he was in and provided some of the best laughs of the film. That character was such an original and exceptional part of the movie.

The film does not really have a plot, as it is more like a series of scenes involving Llewyn Davis strung together. I found a quote from Joel Coen on IMSB that said “the film doesn’t really have a plot. That concerned us at one point; that’s why we threw the cat in.”

I was thoroughly entertained by Inside Llewyn Davis and it only makes me even more excited for Oscar Isaac is the MCU.

Elephant (2003)

DailyView: Day 264, Movie 369

Here is one that was a tough watch.

Elephant was written and directed by Gus Van Sant. It tells the story of a group of kids at the fictional high school of Watt High School in the days before and up to a school shooting.

Based tentatively on the 1999 events at Columbine, Elephant followed several students, played by mostly unknown and non-professional actors, reliving several scenes from differing POVs. Much of the beginning of the film was slow and focused in on the characters, their typical lives of high school students. The over-the-top nature of some high school movies were kept at a minimum and set up the eventual slaughter carefully. If you did not know that this movie had the events in the third act, you might be wondering what movie you were watching.

Although I had not ever seen this movie and I was not aware of what the topic was, I had first heard about this on the Top 10 Show and, I think it was Matt Knost, who said that it was a good movie but it was one where he didn’t feel the need to revisit it because of the topic. I do not remember him mentioning the school shooting aspect, but that did put me on guard for this and, as a teacher myself, the signs were there if you knew what to be watching for. I assumed that this would wind up to be a school shooting film and when I saw the one shooter looking online at a gun website, I knew I was right.

There was controversy surrounding this movie a few years later as the shooters behind the 2005 assault on Red Lake supposedly had seen the film and was inspired by the third act. How accurate that is may be up for question, but it brought some controversy to Elephant.

It is difficult to classify this because the topic is one so close to home as a teacher, but still something that is important to see. The production of the film was well done and the actors did a great job, especially for the lack of experienced actors that were involved. It is definitely a rough watch, but I think it is a valuable experience.

The God Committee (2021)

I found the God Committee on Netflix this evening. It was a film released in July of the past year in limited release.

The God Committee is the story of a group of people at a hospital on a committee that make decisions on which patients receive transplants. Dr. Boxer (Kelsey Grammar) is retiring from the committee after years, being replaced by Dr. Jordan Taylor (Julia Stiles). They receive a heart, but the patient it was intended for died when prepping. The committee had one hour to make the decision on who would get the heart instead.

The film also shows the committee members seven years in the future, dealing with the consequences of their decision.

I have to say, I was confused by the scenes in the future. It took me quite awhile to figure that out. I was especially confused since Kelsey Grammar had differing amount of hair. So much that I thought to myself…is he wearing a piece?

Once I figured out the time frame, the film made more sense. I’m not sure the story that they were telling was intense enough to spread over seven years. The acting was solid. Janeane Garofalo was on the committee as well.

There were plenty of moral decisions that the committee had to consider before rendering their verdict. The dialogue was strong and the debates in the office were the best part of the film. The interactions with the committee was the standout.

In the end, the film is okay. It has some good acting and some good pieces. The future story is the weakest part.

3 stars

Hotel Transylvania 4: Transformania

I have not been a fan of this franchise. That is not going to change after Hotel Transylvania 4, either. I will say that I did not hate this movie., which might be the best thing I can say about it.

Even with Adam Sandler out as Drac (now voiced by Brian Hull, doing a Sandler imitation), I found little about the new animated feature debuting on Amazon Prime this weekend to be interesting or engaging. There were a few giggles in the humor, but there was not much for me. Like many animated films, I believe that younger kids would find this much more entertaining than anyone over, oh, I don’t know, ten.

Drac was preparing to announce that he is retiring and that he was going to hand over the hotel to Mavis (Selena Gomez), but the fact that Mavis’s husband Johnny (Andy Samberg) was a dweeb made Drac reconsider. He told Johnny a lie to cover his tracks and that lie led Johnny try and fix things by turning himself into a monster.

Then, somehow, Drac gets shot with the same ray and turned into a human as did all of the other characters. They then had to head out on a strange quest through the jungle to find a new crystal for the ray before Johnny turned into a raging, mindless beast forever.

So the plot is basically, Drac does something stupid. They have to go on an adventure. Drac learns lesson. Seems familiar.

However, a few voices are different this time. Noticeably, Frank is not voiced by Kevin James and instead is voiced by Brad Abrell. Of course, Sandler is gone too.

There are a bunch of top notch voice actors besides those I have already mentioned including Keegan-Michael Key, Steve Buscemi, Kathryn Hahn (always a joy), David Spade, Fran Drescher, Jim Gaffigan, and Molly Shannon.

The animation was fine, but there were a few spots where it almost felt unfinished. Then, the joke at the end of the film was bizarre and did not make much sense, unless there are plans to do an animated series and they are going to change up the animation style for it. Otherwise, I do not understand what the joke was about.

This was, at the very best, a middling movie. It was not something that I hated, and may not end up on a year end worst list, but I will never want to see it again. This is reportedly the final film in the franchise and that makes me happy.

2.3 stars

The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021)

Shakespeare has always been challenging. I remember reading Macbeth in college and enjoying it, but I have just a minor recollection of the content within it.

So when I heard about the new film adapting the play that would be shown on Apple TV +, I was intrigued. I was even more so when I heard that Denzel Washington was taking the role of Macbeth and that Frances McDormand playing one of the most manipulative and scheming characters in all of classic literature, Lady Macbeth.

The first aspect of the film that really stands out is the technical aspects. Shot in black and white, the settings and backgrounds are minimal. The limited background gives the movie a distinct theater feel, but still was designed to visually benefit each scene. Some individual shots are exquisitely lovely. I truly love the look of this movie.

It should go without saying, but Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand are brilliant in their lead roles. The dialogue is heavy and difficult, of course, but these are two of the best actors of this generation, especially when presented with two of the richest and deepest characters in literature.

Directed by Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth is the most recent adaptation of the Shakespearian tale of murder and madness and one of the best.

4 stars

Step Brothers (2008)

DailyView: Day 263, Movie 368

I have never been a huge fan of Will Farrell and because of that, I have never seen Step Brothers. Last year, I had never seen Elf for the same reason and, when I watched it, I loved it. So the hope was strong for another iconic Will Farrell movie being better than I thought it would be.

Hope was fleeting.

I hated this movie.

So much.

I couldn’t stand either of the lead characters, the humor was the lowest form of humor around, and I found this so stupid.

Some of the quieter moments was better, but they were few and far between. I did enjoy Richard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgen as the parents of the step brothers. Kathryn Hahn is always great.

I gave it a chance, but this is just not for me.

A Kind of Murder (2016)

DailyView: Day 262, Movie 367

A Kind of Murder is a 2016 psychological thriller with some noir tendencies with an interesting performance from Patrick Wilson. After that, there is not a whole lot remaining.

Patrick Wilson played architect Walter Stackhouse, who wrote stories on the side. He was fascinated by the idea of murder and he collected clipping of killing from the paper. When bookshop owner Marty Kimmel (Eddie Marsan) has his wife murdered and the police suspected him, Stackhouse was intrigued. He approached Kimmel to see what he could see.

When Stackhouse’s wife Clara (Jennifer Biel) wound up dead after several suicide attempts, the police were suspicious of Stackhouse, especially when he would lie about seemingly anything.

Detective Corby (Vincent Kartheiser) was convinced that Stackhouse was a copycat killer to Kimmel and that they both had killed their wives. He was determined to prove his theories true.

The film had a nice visual component to it. It looked great and the tone of the film was benefitted by the look of the film.

One of the issues was that the characters were not well developed, outside of Stackhouse (and that was mostly because of the performance of Wilson). There was a whole adultery angle involving Stackhouse and a singer named Ellie (Haley Bennett) which was of no consequence. We saw Clara had mental illness, but we did not go into any details on it or let it become a key component for the story. It was just a reason why Stackhouse was unhappy.

We knew almost nothing about Kimmel. He felt like a creepy little guy, but other than that surface level, we do not see anything from him. Detective Corby was nothing more than a stubborn cop who was sure he was right.

The film was not a terrible watch, but it was far from good. I did not hate watching it and there were some technical aspects of A Kind of Murder (dumb title too, by the way) that were positive. Overall though, this was not a standout.

1922 (2017)

DailyView: Day 261, Movie 366

This was a film that I found on Netflix and has been on my queue for a few weeks. It sounded intriguing and I had never heard about it back in 2017 which is strange since I was watching a ton of movies at the time. 1922 was an adaptation of a Stephen King novella featuring Thomas Jane, Molly Parker and Neal McDonough.

To prevent his wife Arlette (Molly Parker) from selling the land she had been given by her father and taking their son Henry (Dylan Schmid) away, farmer Wilfred James (Thomas Jane) conspired with his son to murder her. After they buried her in a well on the farm, strange things begin to happen. Is the land cursed?

1922 was an excellent film with some amazing tone. There is a grubby, down and dirty feel to the film that really worked well with the story that was being told. The use of the rats in the film was simply unnerving and kept me on edge. I would not define this as a horror movie, per se, but it has the tension and anxiousness that many top horror flicks do have.

There are plenty of great looking shots on this small farm, through the corn field and the cinematography was beautiful.

Thomas Jane is outstanding in the role of Wilfred James. He seems so unlikable at first, but Jane does such a strong job in his performance that you can’t help but feel for him as so many things start to go wrong for him.

This was a well done, but kind of uneasy film to watch. I enjoyed the tense storytelling and the characterizations of the different actors.

Scream (2022)

It is interesting that they just called this movie Scream, even though it is basically a sequel of the previous Scream franchise films. Very much like Halloween (2018), although that film removed all but the original film and Scream (2022) brings them all previous Scream films into a nice, cozy hug before slashing their throats.

That may be taking personification to a new level, but there is not a better way to describe how meta and violently bloody this film is. It is also going to be a difficult film to talk about without spoiling, so I will be as careful as I can. I’ll start with this… I enjoyed this quite a bit. It takes the DNA of several of the films and makes it into something relevant for the movie going public of the last several years.

Scream has always been very meta in on itself, with the arrival of the Stab franchise within the movies, which was, of course, based on a true story in the world of Woodsboro. This fifth film takes that age of meta to a new level.

A new Ghostface has appeared in Woodsboro and continued the horror movie phone calls and the violent knife attacks. After Tara (Jenna Ortega) was attacked by Ghostface, her sister Sam (Melissa Barretta) came back to Woodsboro to discover what happened. With these Ghostface murders happening again, it was just a matter of time before the OG Scream team of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gayle Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Dewey (David Arquette) would get involved.

Part of the awesomeness of Scream is the mystery of who has now donned the iconic mask of the Ghostface killer and, while this one was not perhaps the most original reveal ever, the reasons behind the killings were something that I found hit the right button for me.

The new character of Sam is badass and she dominates the scenes that she is in. Melissa Barretta brings a ferociousness to the role and she showed the toughness one would have to have in order to try to survive a Ghostface murder spree. There is a hook with the character of Sam that really was an effective use of history.

Of the old guard, David Arquette stood out dramatically. His character had the biggest arc of the originals and he brought it. I actually thought his performance elevated the film more than any of the others from previous Scream films.

The kills are pretty good and definitely vicious. There was a lot of blood, but the people of Woodsboro must be a hearty crew because several people took stab wounds and just kept on kicking. However, with all of the knife attacks in the area, you would think that there would be more gun owners in Woodsboro.

There were a few moments that felt as if the characters were not using their brains, but there was nothing that truly took me out of the narrative.

The film does an admirable job of establishing the new characters while blending them in with our old favorites. However, there were a few of the characters that was short changed, and, of course, that was bound to happen.

Overall, I was entertained with this movie. Its humor, bloody kills and tension was on par with the best of the Scream films. There were a few moments that dragged the film down some, but it is still a very good entry into the franchise, proving that Scream still has some juice left.

4 stars

Unaccustomed As We Are (1929)

DailyView: Day 260, Movie 365

With the new Scream out tonight, it was time to bring up another short from the past of cinema to fill the DailyView and today we find a Laurel and Hardy short on YouTube called Unaccustomed As We Are.

The set up was simple. Oliver Hardy brought Stan Laurel back to his apartment with the promise that his wife (Mae Busch) would cook Stan a wonderful steak dinner (with nuts). However, when they arrived, Mrs. Hardy was anything but cooperative, tired of Oliver pulling this surprise on her all the time.

Mrs. hardy left Oliver, so he decided that he would cook the dinner himself, leading to all sorts of hilarities.

They tossed in a misunderstanding with the neighbors as well to add to the slapstick fun.

This was Laurel & Hardy’s first “talkie” film and it used several techniques of the medium that would become staples. Across the hall, Mr. Kennedy (Edgar Kennedy) was getting smashed by his wife, Mrs. Kennedy (Thelma Todd) and all we heard was the crashing and the breaking of objects, something that they could not have done in the silent films that preceded it.

This was a simple short and it was entertaining. Their work would become stronger over the years, but this is solid for what it was.