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jmunky [2018] TRAVEL


Paris, France * * * *


Paris, gay Paris. How I love this city. So much to see and do. Now, people say the French are rude, but when the waiter ignored me I found it refreshing. Much better than those attentive American ones. The urination in the streets did not cause me any issue; in fact I found it useful. The Eiffel Tower was a bit of a disappointment though, much smaller than I remember from Team America. French girls are super hot. The boys aren't too bad either, if that's your thing.




Reviews by Morg [2018] FILM


A Monster Calls [2016] * * *


This movie is definitely way more Spanish than it is British, but don't tell anyone (especially not the Brits).

The cinematography.

The narrative.

The animation.

M A G I C A L R E A L I S M .

Some moral ambiguity doesn't hurt either.

I recommend the people who love this film take about fifteen minutes out of their day to read "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

So a young artsy British boy named Conor is dealing with the notion that his mother may soon die of cancer. She's been sick for a while, and he loves her very much. Also, he would have to live with Grandma Sigourney, who won't shut up about something called a Nostromo? Every day, at 12:07am, a giant tree person (low-key an Ent) visits him to tell him a morally ambiguous story with a postmodern theme. After three tales have been told, the tree makes Conor tell him a story, a true one, about how he is afraid of losing his mother and thinks it's his own fault. Conor is then able to come to terms with this truth, and begin to work through his grief on a healthier level.

It's a great story, and I didn't expect the subject matter to go in such a familial direction. I think I would've enjoyed it more had it dealt a riskier hand and gotten a bit more philosophical than "It's not your fault" circa 1997 "Good Will Hunting". It's really hard to successfully hit that gut punch if the viewer is already numb. The animation is super well done, making everything fantastical and visually pleasing, especially during the three fables. All the acting is beautiful, particularly from the kid and Sigourney. Liam Neeson is still the most sonically pleasing voice actor around. Altogether, a very interesting, kinda sad, young adults film that somehow manages to take risks and play it safe at the same time.

If you want something that does children's magical realism better, watch Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are". The costumes, lore, and world building in that are beautiful and melancholic.

If you want something that does the topic of letting go of sick loved ones better, watch "Other People". However, I still can't rewatch "Other People". The final scene will ruin you.




Nickodemus [2018] FILM


Cloud Atlas [2012] * * * *


When I was in my late 20s I entered this sort of strange spiritual renaissance where I decided to become vegetarian and Buddhist. I would meditate for one to two hours everyday and generally isolate myself from the rest of modern day society. My family became increasingly concerned about my unusual mentality but what could they do? I was an adult.

About seven or eight months into my vision quest I saw an advertisement for the Wachowski siblings/Tom Tykwer movie, "Cloud Atlas". Being the ultra spiritually sensitive person I thought I was, I decided that this movie would define my beliefs and that I needed to see it at any cost. The last thing I probably needed at that time was a movie about reincarnation. It would warp the time and space of my fragile little Western mind.

I convinced two of my friends to go. We met at the Mall of America cinema sometime around Halloween of 2012. The place was packed and we arrived in the crowded theater about halfway through the opening scene. What transpired next could only be described as one of the longest and most confusing movies I had ever seen. I absolutely loved it.

Maybe it was the premise of the characters being reincarnated and my current spiritual state of mind, maybe it was the wide range of A and B list actors, or it could have been the variety and diversity of the stories themselves and the complexity of the characters within them. Reflecting on it now it was definitely the stories.

The film itself is broken up into six parts playing together scene by scene simultaneously. This deviates from the book (which I have also read) where the beginning half of each story is told until it reaches the sixth story which reads in its entirety, followed by the ending of the remaining stories. I am not sure why the person who wrote the screenplay decided to have the stories running at the same time, but it definitely adds to the chaos that is "Cloud Atlas".

The six stories are set in six separate time periods on the same timeline. The actors playing the characters reappear in each part as a different person thus showing, or at least attempting to show, how they evolve throughout the course of the movie. I am not enlightened master but I do know that the laws of Karma are confusing as hell. I give the writer of the book and the writer of the screenplay credit for attempting it, though I feel like at times they tried too hard to force their seemingly incomplete philosophy. It's like they tried really hard to explain something that most people generally aren't interested in. It's probably why the movie was such a massive flop.

The plots of the film are as follows: A black slave helps a dying lawyer recover from his illness traveling on a merchant ship from Hawaii to San Francisco, a young man becomes an understudy for a famous composer while running from his past, a 1970s reporter attempts to break a story that will expose a vast government conspiracy, an aging publisher finds his flash in the pan only to be admitted to a nursing home by his older brother, a genetically engineered restaurant worker is rescued by a revolutionary in an attempt to dismantle a dystopian society, and the struggle of a woman from an advanced culture helping a man and his family escape the savage hell-scape which is the post-apocalyptic Hawaiian islands. As you can see, the parts of the movie differ greatly from each other. There have been other movies that have attempted something similar, like the 2006 movie "The Fountain", but that did not even come close to the degree of complexity of "Cloud Atlas", only featuring three stories.

The cast includes big names like Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon, just to name a few. For the most part they each play key characters in almost every part of the film. The list of other actors is quite robust and they many also have multiple roles. There was some controversy during the filming because several white actors portray Korean characters in the story about the revolution set in Neo Seoul, however it wouldn't make sense with the plot gimmick for it to be any other way.

I don't really want this review to be a short story so I will just say the movie includes many intriguing plot points. It is well acted, has a beautiful film score and expert cinematography. It tries to say a lot of deep and profoundly meaningful things. Sometimes it succeeds and other times it fails miserably. I can see why a lot of big named actors signed on, simply because it had a HUGE budget and was something that hasn't really been done before. However, it didn't even come close to covering its costs. The studios were banking on the Wachowskis recreating "The Matrix" and it just didn't happen. It has more of a cult following than literal popularity. People in the United States just aren't into this type of subject matter and the plot is too confusing for most casual filmgoers. At almost three hours long most people would fall asleep. To me it is much more interesting than your average everyday movie though.

Shortly after I saw this film, I had a complete mental and spiritual breakdown. I never really saw it in the same way or with as much enthusiasm as I did when I first went to the movie theater at the mall. With that being said, it is, and will continue to be one of my favorite movies. It was a labor of love that never should have seen the light of day. It is as beautiful as it is oddly obscure and at times completely outlandish. Perhaps in a different time, in a different culture, on another planet, in a parallel universe, it would have been more well received. In my little version of the world it is good flick. For me I suppose that's all that matters.




Swartacus [2018] FILM


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri [2017] * * * * *


The best way I can describe this film is that the performances are a bunch of downed, mangled power lines tangling up in knots and electrocuting each other. The dialogue and acting blister the screen and attempt to make cheap cigarette burns on your soul.

Every performance is whip-smart, especially McDormand's Mildred Hayes... who takes you on an emotional roller coaster ride of disgust, anguish, beauty and vengeance. This is easily her best role since Fargo and she brings a world-weary gravitas to the proceedings.

Slithering in and out of her world are two sly devils who take the form of Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell...

Harrelson proves yet again why he is the most consistently engaging film actor of our generation, mixing his patented demonic mirth with a sympathetic and child-like innocence.

Rockwell's Dixon is a towering inferno of doofus who has just enough arrogant ignorance to him to make him dangerous. This would be his signature performance if not for his criminally under recognized performance in Moon.

Director/Writer McDonagh harnesses these three forces of nature and we ride the lightning to an ambiguous, yet strangely satisfying conclusion.




Reviews by Morg [2018] FILM


Isle of Dogs [2018] * * * * *


There's some kino in the kennel.

"Isle of Dogs" is not only going to be viewed as one of the best films of 2018; it's going to be honored as one of Wes Anderson's finest endeavors for the duration of his career.

Not a single shot is wasted throughout this film. What "Phantom Thread" did last year in regards to using the visuals in order to move the story, "Isle of Dogs" has accomplished in regards to creating a fully immersive aesthetic experience from opening to closing frames.

There are at least 15 different single portraits from the film that I'd be absolutely giddy to have on my wall. Some might say that "The Life Aquatic" is his most visually stunning film to date, but I'd argue that we have it right here. "The Life Aquatic" may be the most niche Andersonian aesthetic, but the one present in "Dogs" is just so organized and fluid that it feels like walking through a modern art museum without having to move around.

All of the voice acting is on point, with Cranston being the standout. I would have appreciated more Scarlett Johansson, but that's not too much of a drawback. There are three or four scenes throughout where they really hit on the trademark quiet melancholy and nostalgia that I bought my ticket for. There's also plenty of quirky humor to balance it out. The drum score is extra fun and this movie is basically fantastic from end to end.

The most common complaint I've seen is in regards to pacing. There are a lot of quiet moments where the journey is merely happening, and some have claimed it to be a bit boring in these parts. This movie isn't supposed to be inherently character driven. It's visual. You should be able to watch it on mute and understand the story. And I guarantee thousands of hours of work went into creating some of the shots that are "boring". The sushi scene is brilliant because, not only is the animation gorgeous, but it's true to life and extremely respectful of the craft thanks to its realism. The surgery scene is similar.

In regards to how this adds up against "Fantastic Mr. Fox", I think it's an injustice to even hold them together in the first place. "Mr. Fox" is a kid's film that adults can enjoy. "Isle of Dogs" is the inverse. It's thematically and aesthetically different, even down to the dialogue. "Mr. Fox" has a simple, folksy, down home, American charm to it. George Clooney steals some cider from a farmer and gets in trouble. "Isle of Dogs" is about dystopia and government corruption. Bryan Cranston navigates a holocaust in order to find his true identity. Stop comparing them just because they're both animated.

My own hot take: if you're upset about it or are making these comparisons, you came in with false expectations that were not met, and you're making excuses by calling it a lesser movie or by calling it racist. If you fall into that category, I think you're really just mad at yourself for not being able to appreciate what it is in reality: an aesthetic masterpiece encapsulating the wonder of a dog's relationship with his master. Either say it's not for you, or just forget about it, but Wes made no mistakes in regards to his own vision of producing a complete and coherent product.

"Isle of Dogs" is incredible. Wes Anderson did it again. Feel free to @ me. I fuck with this movie.




Curtis Loves Movies [2018] FILM


Truth or Dare [2018] * * *


I'm a story guy, first and foremost. Yes, I love movies but when it comes down to it, my screenname could just as easily have been Curtis Loves Stories.

As a story guy, I like to think that all movies begin with some writer who has a story in him/her that just has to get out. But the reality is that movies are made for all kinds of reasons, especially money.

Case in point: "Truth or Dare."

This movie began with a title. Period. Jason Blum offered the title to writer/director Jeff Wadlow, who then reverse engineered the movie based on the title (and genre) alone.

I learned this from a fascinating interview with Wadlow on Jeff Goldsmith's Q&A podcast. (Seriously, if you're a writer, go listen. Wadlow has some great stories about what goes into writing and making movies.) In fact, I had zero interest in seeing this movie until I heard the interview.

To Wadlow's credit, given that he began the process with nothing more than "Go make a horror movie called 'Truth or Dare'," I think he did a damn good job. I liked the characters, I liked the plotting and pacing, I liked the cinematography. Nothing that's going to win any awards, but so much better than I expect from gimmicky PG-13 horror movies.

And hipster horror fans be damned, I'll take an entertaining trifle like this that has a strong internal logic over an artsy love letter to John Carpenter that makes absolutely no sense. [cough] "It Follows" [cough]




Curtis Loves Movies [2018] FILM


Atomic Blonde [2017] *


How to make an Atomic Blonde:

1. Combine: 1 part The Spy Who Loved Me, 2 parts Mission: Impossible, 1 part Spy Game, 1 part John Wick, 1 part Children of Men.
2. Blend.
3. Serve over ice.

Warning: Consuming an Atomic Blonde will rob you of up to 2 hours of your life.

Note: I hit the fast forward button at 40 minutes in and stopped it only for the bad-ass stairwell fight/car chase scene, so I might have missed some ingredients.

P.S. If Quentin Tarantino tried to direct a James Bond movie, I bet it would look a lot like this. That's not a recommendation.




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