Music Video of the Day: Move by Saint Motel (2016, dir by ????)

For today’s music video of the day, we have another video from one of my favorite groups, Saint Motel!

Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes on your local newscast?  Chaos, apparently.

The satirical subtext and retro feel of this video will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched the video for Saint Motel’s My Type.


The Philadelphia Film Critics Pick Get Out For The Best Of 2017!

Yesterday, the Philadelphia Film Critics announced their picks for the best of 2017!

The awards season is turning out to be a good for Get Out.

Best Picture: GET OUT
Best Director: Jordan Peele, for GET OUT
Best Actress: Sally Hawkins, for THE SHAPE OF WATER
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis for PHANTOM THREAD
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney for I, TONYA
Best Supporting Actor: Woody Harrelson, for THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Best Directorial Debut: Jordan Peele for GET OUT
Best Script: GET OUT
Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins for BLADE RUNNER 2049
Best Soundtrack/Score: COCO
Best Foreign Language Film: GRADUATION by Cristian Mungiu (Romania)
Best Documentary: JANE, directed by Brett Morgen
Best Breakthrough Performance: Brooklynn Prince, for THE FLORIDA PROJECT

4 Shots From 4 Films: The Thin Man, Bonnie and Clyde, The Notebook, Like Crazy

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

Love love love

4 Shots From 4 Films

 The Thin Man (1934, dir by W.S. Van Dyke)

The Thin Man (1934, dir by W.S. Van Dyke)

Bonnie and Clyde (1967, dir by Arthur Penn)

Bonnie and Clyde (1967, dir by Arthur Penn)

The Notebook (2004, dir by Nick Cassavetes)

The Notebook (2004, dir by Nick Cassavetes)

Like Crazy (2011, dir by Drake Doremus)

Like Crazy (2011, dir by Drake Doremus)

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #17: 13 Hours (dir by Michael Bay)

(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by Wednesday, November 30th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)


I recorded 13 Hours off of Epix on October 14th.

Before I say anything else about 13 Hours, I would like to be point out something that I haven’t seen mentioned in any of the other reviews of this film.  13 Hours is not just a recreation of the September 11th, 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.  (This attack led to death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Tyone Woods, Sean Smith, and Glenn Doherty, all of whom are portrayed in the film.)  13 Hours is also a very unexpected The Office reunion.  On The Office, John Krasinski played Jim Halpert while David Denman played Roy Anderson, the ex-fiance of Jim’s wife, Pam.  In 13 Hours, they both play members of the American security detail who spend 13 terrifying hours trying to protect the compound from a violent and heavily armed mob.

They’re both surprisingly well-cast.  As someone who absolutely loved The Office, I had my doubts as to whether or not I’d be able to believe John Krasinski — he of the iconic smirk and the adorable eye roll — as a battle-hardened, former Navy SEAL.  Jim Halpert with a gun!?  I wondered.  But Krasinski brings an unexpected gravity to his role, as does David Denman.  For that matter, the entire cast — and this is truly an ensemble film, even if it is dominated by Krasinski and James Badge Dale (in the role of Tyrone Woods) — does surprisingly well.  If I sound surprised, that’s because 13 Hours was directed by Michael Bay, a director who is not exactly known for his skill with actors.

It says something about how messed up 2016 has been that, for a few weeks in January, 13 Hours was the most controversial film in America.  When the film was first released, many commentators and critics were convinced that it was all part of a grand conspiracy to keep Hillary Clinton from being elected President.  Now, 11 months later, we can look back and — well, hmmm.  Hillary Clinton wasn’t elected President but that probably has nothing to do with 13 Hours.  If I remember correctly, 13 Hours didn’t exactly set the box office on fire.  It was pretty much forgotten by February.  Unless 13 Hours somehow convinced Hillary Clinton to not campaign in Wisconsin or Michigan, I imagine that it had little influence on the actual election.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor, for that matter, Barack Obama are ever mentioned in 13 Hours.  (Then again, the film also never tries to convince us that the attack was solely the result of a YouTube video, either.)  That’s not to say that there isn’t a political subtext to 13 Hours.  (It’s impossible to make a movie about Americans with guns in the Middle East without there being some sort of political subtext.)  However, that subtext has less to do with what happened during the attack and more about whether or not the U.S. should have even gotten involved in the Libyan Civil War in the first place.  If anything, 13 Hours seems to be suggesting that any sort of American military intervention in the Middle East is doomed to failure.

Make no mistake about it.  Thematically, 13 Hours is Michael Bay’s darkest film.  It starts with disturbing footage of the Libyan revolution and it ends with shots that linger over the ruins of the compound that several men were either killed or wounded attempting to defend.  Even those who manage to survive the 13-hour battle are left scarred, both physically and emotionally.  For perhaps the first time in a Bay film, no attempt is made to make war look heroic or inviting.  There’s none of the over the top sentimentality that typifies so many of Bay’s other films.  Instead, there’s just John Krasinski sobbing as he realizes that his friends are dead.

That said, Bay has to be Bay.  In some ways, 13 Hours is his most mature film to date but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t showcase a lot of Bay’s flaws as a filmmaker.  At 2 and a half hours, the film is at least 50 minutes too long and the scenes of Krasinski talking to his pregnant wife feel like they were lifted from an unpolished second draft of American Sniper and, as a result, they’re never as powerful as they were obviously meant to be.  As usual, Bay does better with the action sequences than with the human element.

In the end, 13 Hours is a frequently harrowing, if rather uneven, film.  If nothing else, it may be remembered for heralding the unlikely emergence of John Krasinski, action star.


Film Review: Welcome To The Rileys (dir. by Jake Scott)

Last weekend, I went down to one of my favorite movie theaters, the wonderful Plano Angelika, and I saw one of the best — if unheralded — independent films of 2010, Welcome To The Rileys.

Kristen Stewart plays Alison, a 16 year-old runaway who, as the movie opens, is working as a stripper and prostitute in New Orleans.  One day, while at work, she meets a middle-aged businessman named Doug Riley (James Gandolfini).  Doug is in New Orleans attending a convention and he reluctantly accepts Alison’s offer of a private dance.  As soon as they’re alone together, Alison immediately offers to have sex with Doug for money.  Doug turns her down, Alison angrily accuses him of being an undercover cop, and a flustered Doug leaves the club.  Later that night, Doug happens to run into Alison again and, looking to make amends with her, he gives her a ride back to her “home,” which turns out to be an apparently abandoned and condemned row house.  Doug ends up sleeping over at the house (though again, he refuses to have sex with Alison).  The next day, Doug offers to pay Alison a hundred dollars a day if he can stay in her house while he’s in New Orleans.  Alison, who is always on the look out for extra money, agrees.  After a rough start, Doug and Alison settle into a bizarre sort of domesticity with the paternalistic Doug teaching Alison how to make a bed and Alison calling on Doug when one of her clients refuses to pay her for her services.

What Alison doesn’t know is that Doug has a wife in Indiana.  Lois Riley (played by Melissa Leo) hasn’t stepped outside of their suburban home in years.  Ever since the tragic death of their 16 year-old daughter, Lois has cut herself off from the world and her husband (even to the extent of tolerating Doug’s affair with a local waitress).  However, when Doug calls her from New Orleans and announces that he won’t be coming home for a while, Lois forces herself to leave the house.  While Doug is busy trying to escape from reality, Lois is driving down to New Orleans to try to bring him back.

When Lois reaches New Orleans, Doug introduces her to Alison and, to his surprise, the two of them almost immediately start to bond.  Lois tells Alison about how their daughter and Alison responds by telling the story (which, the film hints, might not be true) of how her own mother also died in a car accident.  Soon, both Doug and Lois have — for all intents and purposes — adopted Lois as their own daughter.  However, what neither has considered is that Alison might not want to a part of the Riley family…

Welcome To The Rileys is ultimately a touching and low-key exploration of grief, guilt, and the struggle to accept the occasionally unpleasant realities of life.  It’s also a portrait of three lost souls struggling to connect with the existence around them.  Jake (son of Ridley) Scott’s direction is properly low-key and manages to be affecting without indulging in any of the obvious tricks that one might expect to see in a film like this.  However, what makes this film ultimately work is a strong trio of lead performances from Gandolfini, Leo, and Stewart.

Playing Doug (a character that both I and the film had mixed feelings about), James Gandolfini gives a performance that’s so good that I never once found myself tempted to make any “Soproano”-related asides under my breath.  Though his Southern accent comes and goes, Gandolfini brings the perfect combination of warmth, concern, self-pity, and stubbornness to his role and he makes Doug an understandable and sympathetic — if not always likable — character.  A part of me feels that the film’s screenplay is a bit too quick to let Doug off the hook for some of his actions but, as an actor, Gandolfini never makes the same mistake.

Playing Alison, Kristen Stewart proves that it’s time to forgive her for starring in Twilight.  Her performances in Into The Wild and The Runaways provided hints that she’s actually a very talented actress but her performance here proves it.  She not only captures Alison’s sadness but, even more importantly, she doesn’t shy away from the anger that feeds off that sadness.  She never sentimentalizes her performance, there’s no moment where she pauses to let the audience know that she’s a good girl at heart.  Instead, she dares us to reject her while revealing just enough of her inner pain to make it impossible for us to do so.

However, for me, the film really belongs to Melissa Leo.  Whether she’s struggling to figure out how to drive her husband’s car or primly introducing herself to Alison (who, at the time, is dressed for work), Leo is simply amazing.  When Lois first appeared in the film, I was worried because it felt as if the filmmakers were using her agorophobia to justify Doug’s adultery.  However, Melissa Leo subtly and surely starts to peel away the layers of Lois’ outward repression until, by the end of the movie, Lois is the most vibrant character in the film.  Just check out the scene where Lois responds to a flirtatious man in a truck stop with a combination of pride, amusement, and surprise and you’ll see what great acting is all about. 

When Lois finally ends up in New Orleans, she seems to bring a whole new life to the movie.  What previously seemed to simply be a meditation on loss and sadness is instead revealed to be a celebration of life and love.  For a film that originally seemed to be about an errant husband and an angry runaway, Welcome To The Rileys eventually turns out to be a tribute to one woman who turns out to be far stronger than anyone gave her credit for.

With all the current Oscar hype surrounding films like The Social Network and The Kids Are All Right, Welcome To The Rileys is the type of low-key, subtle movie that will probably be forgotten in the rush to jump on all the more obvious bandwagons.  That’s a shame because it’s one of the best films of 2010 and one that deserves to be seen over the years to come.