Category Archives: Film Listings/Ratings

Uncle John (Steven Piet – 2015) B-

I love to slow cook a brisket on my smoker every few weeks or so. I wake at at 3:00 AM, get the meat on the smoker, make some coffee and start a semi-random possibly good possibly crappy movie. I call these brisket movies. Since I’m half awake half asleep I mostly expect these to be mediocre. Well, this brisket movie is pretty damn good. Uncle John is not a serial killer as I expected him to be. The film actually unfolds with very little exposition as we meet John and his nephew who lives in Chicago. We learn about the murder victim from John and his old buddies at the coffee shop. We go along while the nephew is falling for his new cute coworker. The romance might be a bit clunky but it is very sweet and stands in stark contrast to the turmoil of the little Wisconsin town where John is keeping secrets and trying to stay a step ahead of his murder victim’s unstable brother. When the two stories meet up we expect big emotional explosions, expositions but no, the director does a good job maintaining the tension and giving us just enough of a peak into the past and John’s motivation. We manage to stay with the story, care and look forward to what happens next.

Mr. Holmes (Bill Condon – 2015) A-

He’s 93, his brilliant mind is not what it used to be but the character of Holmes played here by Ian McKellen is as interesting to me as ever. In this film, Sherlock is a real person who reads the books Watson wrote (fictionalized) about him and even goes to a showing of one of the movies based on him. What really kept me interested is the wonderful performance by McKellen who plays old Holmes and very old Holmes as two distinct characters. It might not be a tightly wound mystery movie but it is a tender and well made film.

The Overnight (Patrick Brice – 2015) B+

A young couple move to L.A. with their son. They meet a cool hip couple, Kurt and Charlotte, with a kid the same age as theirs. They are invited for dinner and drinks at the L.A. couple’s awesome house. They have dinner, then drinks, then pot, and slowly things get…weird. This is a pretty good drama that keeps pushing the limits of its protagonists. How far would they go? What is plain old weird and uncomfortable as opposed to dangerous or creepy? Maybe Kurt and Charlotte are just lonely and need friends.

Trainwreck (Judd Apatow – 2015) B-

It’s mostly a good movie. We get lots of funny moments and a surprisingly good performance by LeBron James of all people. I do think it goes on for far too long (seems like a common problem with Apatow) and the final “show” just did very little for me. It is tough to create a character like Amy, unlikable, honest and funny and sustain it throughout a whole movie. So, big props go to Schumer for doing just that.

Victoria (Sebastian Schipper – 2015) B

This takes an A+ for effort and technical achievement and a C for character motivation, plot and common sense. To clarify this is a 2+ hour film, shot in Berlin and the whole movie is one shot/one take, there are no cuts and no edits. This is truly amazing. We follow Victoria and we stick with her. Everything we know and see is from her perspective throughout the films run time. She is from Madrid and living in Berlin. She meets a group of four guys after a night of partying and quickly strikes up a flirty friendship with them, specifically one of them called Sonne. For the first hour or so I was fascinated by this thing, with the performances and the conversation…and then…well then it turns into a heist film where people make ridiculously dumb decisions. Hey, Victoria, do you want to join us and be the getaway driver? Why yes. Hey Victoria, why not leave and go home now? Nope, I want to drive damn it. Well, this heist seems to have worked out, we should all quietly go home and hide. Right? Nope, let’s go party and leave our drunk buddy in the car right in front of the club for the cops to find. Victoria is an admirable piece of art work and I am glad it exists but as a whole it is the ultimate style over substance.

Zodiac (David Fincher – 2007) A

Several years after seeing this and liking it a lot the first time, I caught this again the other night and it is even better this time around. It’s a solid film about obsession and drive. It’s a well-known fact that the Zodiac was never caught. So this is not the focus of the movie. Instead it walks us through the years of the Zodiac investigation and the impact it had on those who worked on it, specifically a detective (Mark Ruffalo), a cartoonist/author (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a journalist (Robert Donwey Jr.) from the San Francisco Chronicle. The film perfectly captures that time and place. It is deftly directed and acted. We totally understand the obsession of these guys, especially the Gyllenhaal character who probably loses the most while tracking and -very likely- identifying who Zodiac was.

What We Do in The Shadows (Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi – 2014) A-

What would vampires living in  New Zealand do in the modern age? They share a flat and have chores. They need to eat but really need to maintain their apartment in a good shape (so who does those bloody dishes??!)  They go hunting at local clubs at night but have no sense of fashion , after all they cannot see themselves in the mirror. To make things worse they need to be invited to go anywhere so most of the clubs are off limits because of these pesky bouncers. They also have their squabbles with ex-lovers and other “creatures of the dark” namely the werewolves. These points and many others make up the very funny What we Do in The Shadows, a documentary style film in which a crew of filmmakers is granted access to the scary and hilarious world of those modern vampires. This is one funny quotable movie that is made for repeat viewings.