All posts by manchicken

About manchicken

I'm the guy who can't say "no" to a good idea, a good friend, or a good film. I'm opinionated and fun-loving, and I really love being around important people in my life. I'm also technically-minded and am passionate about social justice. Don't forget any of this, it will be on the test.

Swiss Army Man: The Most Sincere and Profound Fart Joke of Our Time

It’s not often that we find a film which starts with a person who’s about to hang themselves on a deserted island. Less frequent still are those which follow it up with a fart joke montage. This is such a film.

We start with Hank (Paul Dano) stuck on an island, by himself. He looks to be in poor condition, suffering from exposure to the elements, dehydration, hunger, and depression. As he’s about to yield himself to the mercy of the rope he notices a person who washed up. After he slips and damn-near succeeds in his now-aborted suicide attempt (rope breaks, he survives, watch the trailer), he races to the person (Manny, played by Daniel Radcliffe) only to find out that he is dead. He attempts to resuscitate the person with no success.

Despite his unsuccessful resuscitation attempt, Hank finds Manny useful in a number of ways, most of which I couldn’t begin to do justice to here. I will say that the fart joke is a common theme throughout, they were really committed to that.

The acting in this film was amazing. Daniel Radcliffe pulls off “dead,” and in-so-doing really caused me to spend some time thinking about what a challenge actually playing dead would really be. His character, Manny has a lot of experiences which Radcliffe really does well.

Hank is played by Paul Dano, who I never really paid that much attention to in the past but now is on my list of actors I follow. While some of the plot points and character development for Hank were cliché – we get it, you’re a smart, lonely and shy person; get over yourself Hank! – the delivery was incredible. You don’t expect to find sexual tension in a film with a man stranded on a deserted island and his best buddy corpse, but here it is and it was pretty good.

While I want to say that Sarah (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a tired love interest, she really played an interesting part near the end where the motivation of her character is to be profoundly creeped out and disturbed. She did that well, just as she did in 10 Cloverfield Lane (which I still totally need to review, though I watched it and so should you).

This film had one weak point: the ending. Everything up until the ending was amazing: the acting, the plot (minus cliché shy loser character), the photography, the sound, the music – I’ll get to the music in a moment! – and even the incredible lighting effects they had in the aquatic scenes… and then they had to destroy it with a unsatisfying ending.

will not tell you the ending of this film, it’s worth watching to see the ending, and you won’t understand what I mean about how unsatisfying it is until you’ve seen the full epic. I will help you imagine it though.

Do you remember Big Fish? Do you remember the endearing scene at the end where all of the people who were in the father’s stories showed up to send him off? Well, it kinda seems like they tried to do that, except instead of fanciful characters from stories, it’s a smattering of awkward characters vaguely referenced from earlier in the film. While they’re going for an endearing finale, it falls flat and even has a smattering of child endangerment. It’s not great.

One thing that this film really excelled at was music. Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe themselves perform a lot of the music in the film, and it’s all quite well done. I know that many folks don’t always focus that much on the soundtrack, but you’ll miss out on this film if you do not. I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow to see if I can find this soundtrack on Spotify or iTunes.

All-in-all this is an excellent movie. They won Sundance, and they really just hit it out of the park. I really enjoyed this film, and the fact that this film could be poorly summarized to being a 97 minute fart joke adds to that enjoyment.

Update

I found the music on Spotify, I encourage you to check it out. It’s pretty sweet.

manchicken’s Movie Log: 2016-03-31

I saw Hello, My Name is Doris tonight, and boy was it interesting. I don’t know why I’d never thought of it before, but this film is ground-breaking in one key way: it has, as its leadHello, My Name is Doris character, an older single woman who exhibits symptoms of mental illness who isn’t weird, isn’t just sad because she couldn’t get a man. She has depth, she’s relatable, and you find yourself routing for her.

There were two key parts of the film that I found hit close to home. The first is that her feelings cause her to make some key poor choices. The second is that she was very real in how she got overwhelmed when you could see that everything that was important to her at that time came crumbling down and she’s being judged by selfish people who pretend to be supportive… but are not. Both of these things hit pretty close to home for me, and I really found it neat that the film showed how those play into the very strong sense of anxiety that accompanies people under tremendous social stress, and it warmed my heart that the film showed this as the obvious outcome of the stress rather than a person acting weird and out of a norm.

I think that there were some parts of the film which were a little too forced. The love story in the film was very heavy-handed, and that part was weird. It was easily overcome by the frequent comedy breaks, though.

It’s nice to see that Sally Field can still surprise the hell out of me. For the most part, I enjoyed this movie. It was a different way of enjoying a movie than usual – I found it more useful for framing life and its events than entertaining – but I really did find it enjoyable. My girlfriend laughed a bunch, too, and she’s a kinda picky about movie comedy. I think you may enjoy this film as well, and I hope that you also walk away thinking differently about mental health in film.

manchicken’s Movie Log: 2016-03-24

I saw Miles Ahead in an advanced screening. I had a number of impressions. My first impression is that if Don Cheadle doesn’t win all of the awards for his portrayal of Miles DavisMiles Ahead then that will be a sign that the Academy has truly internalized and embraced #OscarsSoRacist hashtag as a term of endearment.

Cheadle does an amazing job of playing a very complex character who has a strange mix of good guy and bad guy in him, a conflicted man who lived in a time where overt racism was acceptable in public and just being a Black man in the wrong place was a guaranteed beating and night in jail. His story comes in after Miles Davis has been chewed up and mined for all of his gold as a young man, and pieces of the movie show us how he got there and how he pushed past it.

This movie gets my highest compliment: I left the theater conflicted, impressed, and thinking about the movie.

I think you’ll like this movie.

manchicken’s Movie Log: 2016-03-20

Introduction

So, I haven’t had time to post regular reviews – live is complicated – but I’m still narcissistic enough to think you care which movies I’ve been watching. So, I’m going to use this Movie Log format to share with you all what I’ve been watching.

We will still be posting regular reviews (darkmovienight will, probably), but this will be a way for me to post stuff which is less involved, and more off-the-cuff. Think opinionated stream-of-consciousness style movie reviews.

A quick moment to point out that darkmovienight is the guy who makes almost all of the content on this site. Sure, I do the server-ey stuff, but there’d be no reason for the server if he wasn’t producing the content. Three cheers for darkmovienight!

Now, on to my movie log for the day…

What did I watch today?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)

Whiskey Tango FoxtrotI watched WTF (yes, that’s what this spells in the phonetic alphabet, I got the joke too!) today, and it was a hoot. I think Tina Fey did a great job of getting some laughs out of me while making several really good points:

  • War is hell
  • The Middle East is a highly unstable region
  • Highly competitive people are assholes
  • The U.S. Military, despite their best efforts and intentions, do not really have control over the situation that poor diplomacy and decades of proxy wars have created
  • The news media in the United States is more interested in “resources” (they mean money) than they are in keeping people informed

I dug this movie, I think you will as well.

Burn After Reading (2008)

Burn_After_ReadingSo, my girlfriend has been helping me to catch up on movies I’ve missed over the years, and today she recommended Burn After Reading. This is a Coen Brothers’ film, and like most of their work I had the same three thoughts:

  1. Wow, that was an amazing film, so funny and engaging
  2. Wow, that was a messed up film, what was wrong with the writers?!
  3. I’m confused… so, all of that happened for nothing?!

I really liked George Clooney’s character, it’s kinda funny how the CIA’s only common thread across all of the characters was that they were all banging each other.

This was a super fun flick, if you haven’t seen it yet, you should give it a try. Also, if my girlfriend ever gives you a movie recommendation, take it. She’s always right about these things.

See you all next time!

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The Revenant or A More Expensive Alternative to NatGeo

A word on historical accuracy

So, this film is based on a true story. The true story is wildly different from this one in the following ways:

  • The true story says nothing about a son or a Native American partner
  • The true story has a very different ending
  • The true story has a very different Native American subplot

These may seem unimportant, but I think that there’s enough that they should have skipped the whole “true story” thing. Perhaps – since the facts are short on this “true story” in the first place – they should have said it was based on an American Legend. Regardless, I don’t really care about historical accuracy.

Thoughts on the film

So, if you dislike Leonardo DiCaprio, this will be your favorite DiCaprio film. Leo spends most of the film mute, and in extreme pain. If you like Leo, then you will be disappointed that this is not his best performance.

The film starts with Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) working with and guiding a group of fur traders. In this company is John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), Capt. Andrew Henry (Domhall Gleeson), Bridger (Will Poulter), and many others. Eventually they end up wandering through the woods trying to escape a band of Natives known as Arikara who were not trying to be particularly friendly at all.

While they’re in the woods, Glass wonders off hunting and stumbles upon a grizzly bear and her cubs. He is brutally – and I mean brutally – mauled by this bear. Somehow he manages to kill the bear, but not before he has more holes in him than the sum of all prior characters played by Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s actually pretty well done, the whole scene, and I find it to be the most compelling scene in the whole film.

This is what a grizzly bear looks like:

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Zoo (click to see the article on grizzly bears)

Quick Note About the Cinematography

While I didn’t think that this film was a compelling story, nor did I love the acting, the cinematography was breathtaking. I wish I had watched this in IMAX because the cinematography was phenomenal. I walked away pining for NatGeo. The mountains, the rivers, OMFG the bear.

The Assets

I found the bear scene amazing. I had never really thought of what being mauled by a bear would look like, but I found this film’s take on it entirely believable. Did I mention that I liked the bear scene?

The Problems

I kinda felt like we watched two movies stuck together in an awkward hodgepodge. In one you’ve got a survival film where it’s man-against-wild, in the other you’ve got a film which is a movie about righteous vengeance. I don’t know why they had to mix that up like that, it seems like the whole child aspect was unnecessary given the historical account they claimed to be portraying and it really distracted from the survival aspect.

I found the Native American appropriation to be a bit weird as well. Nothing demonstrates how Native Americans lived well off of the land like a white man doing it while fondly remembering how Natives taught him to fight to survive. I found that part offensive to say the least.

The Recommendation

I loved the cinematography, and I thought that the final chase scene was actually fun to watch. Acting-wise, I thought that everybody except for Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter disappointed. Leo especially disappointed, and I have really been a big fan of his lately.

If you can see this film in IMAX, do it for the gorgeous camera work (cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki deserves all of the awards, this film is gorgeous). If you can’t see it in IMAX, see it in standard format but don’t pay full price. If you want to wait, I won’t judge you for waiting to see it until it shows up in a Redbox.

I don’t know how to rate this film quantitatively. Normally I’d say something like “four out of five bear claws.” Since this was really two movies squished together, I would say I give the chase sequence three out of five bear claws, and the survival piece gets three out of five bear turds.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay pt 2 or This Should Have Been One Film

The movie, just the movie, nothing but the movie

So, I’m a big fan of these movies for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is that I read the books and liked them. The other is that I like Jennifer Lawrence’s performance. Still another is that I love Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance. Finally, I’m a sucker for a dystopian revolutionary film… or series of films in this case. All of that said, this final book really should have just been one movie.

I get why they made them two (I paid to see both of them in theaters, you’ve made your point), but I really think that they harmed the story by adding this really unnatural break between all of the action scenes. In the books the action never stops, not at all. They end up getting pinned in the house a second time, they end up losing a lot more people than they do in the movies, and I feel like they over-simplified the difficult time Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) had returning home. It was really weird.

Warning: there be spoilers ahead

Thoughts on the series as a whole

As we look at the final installment of the series, I find myself thinking about how the movies did overall with the story. I think that they had some really interesting and telling changes in how the story was different on the screen from what it was on paper.

The Setting was obscured

In the book it was very clear that Panem was a the United States, rebuilt from the ruins of some catastrophic future event which resulted in some manner of totalitarian control. The author even hints at where each region might be with enough detail that people have even speculated on maps.

Map
My Favorite Map of Panem

The movies for some reason don’t even seem to mention that this is the case.

Katniss gets nasty scars in the book

In the final book, Katniss gets some nasty facial scars which never heal completely. I don’t know why they didn’t have that happen in the films as well, other than that we wouldn’t want to make the pretty female character less pretty (it would disturb our overly sensitive aesthetic sensibilities).

The books show a much more complicated interaction with Coin

In the books, President Coin was a lot less cut and dry. She was shown to be far more callous and calculating. In the books she was shown to be more power-hungry than I think she was in the books.

Overall thoughts on this movie

Overall I’m glad I saw this film. It wasn’t the best in the series (the second one is still my favorite, that’s when you learn what’s really going on), but it was good to see. I think they were mostly true to the book.

In closing

I think that darkmovieknight may have thoughts on this as well, but I really enjoyed the series. I’m glad this installment finally came out and that we got to see how they would finish things. I wish there had been more of the political intrigue in the movies that there was in the books, but it was still a lot of fun.

Hall of Shame Nominee: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS AND RANTING

Warning: R-Rated Review

On this blog we pride ourselves on trying to provide you with an experience which you could share with your grand mother, your co-worker, and even your super-religious busybody next-door neighbor who never returns your power tools when he borrows them. I mean, sure, they might not be into the same types of films as you are, but at least you could discuss the review with them without offending.

This review, however, contains accurate depictions of terrible scenes in a terrible film in a matter-of-fact way. I have done my best to keep it tame, but due to the nature of this film and how awful it was I cannot promise that you won’t have your Mormon neighbor telling to watch your language.

You have been warned.

Allow me to rant

On principal, I make it a point to always give a movie a fair shake. I have never left the theater in the middle of the movie before… until now. This movie was offensive in a special way. It wasn’t blatantly racist – though non-white people are nowhere to be found. It was particularly misogynistic, but not any more so than any other “boys coming of age” nonsense being produced these days. It wasn’t too gruesome or full of gore, and it didn’t offend my delicate sensibilities with naughty words.

No, this film offended my love of zombies and this will not stand!

In this film they have zombie deer (yes, the animal), zombie house cats, zombie old ladies which gum their victims on the ass after their dentures have been dislodged during the fight, and zombies singing “Hit Me Baby One More Time” (yes, the Britney Spears song). The final straw for me was actually when a zombie who was missing his lower mandible performed cunnilingus on a teenage girl before biting her genitals. The teenage girl even described the act as “eat me out” (though she said it to a different, significantly less walking-dead-type individual) prior to this bit.

I walked away from this movie with two thoughts: 1) the people who made this movie do not respect their audience, and 2) perhaps my teachers were right and reading a book might be a better use of my time.

No, I won’t review this movie

So, normally I would give you an intro like this in a lead-up to a movie review. To be honest, I don’t think it would be fair to you – my dear reader – for me to review a movie which I just confessed to walking out of. Additionally, I don’t think this movie really deserves a review. We’ve reviewed some awful movies on this blog before, but this one – at least to me – is likely the worst one we have ever mentioned.

If I were to review this movie…

If I were to review this movie, I don’t think it would go well. It would go something like “yeah, I saw every ‘twist’ coming a mile away,” or “the acting was so bad that I think they may have shot the scene reading teleprompters when the director had to run to the toilet after a particularly harrowing taco Tuesday.” I may also concede that I’ve finally seen a film with less artistic merit than Jackass, and with fewer plot holes than Sharknado.

If I were to describe the “plot” of this fiery train-wreck upon a dung heap I would probably say something like “two boys try to go to a party to get laid, but it was interrupted by a zombie apocalypse.” I didn’t watch the ending, but I’d actually be willing to put money on the chance that the character Ben (played by Tye Sheridan) won the heart of Kendall Grant (played by Halston Sage) after the grand conclusion where I’m guessing that Ben, Carter Grant (played by Logan Miller), and Augie (played by Joey Morgan) saved Kendall. I don’t know if that is how it went down or not because I walked out of the film silent and indignant. Hell, Augie probably got laid by the end as well, who knows? Not me. I don’t know because this film just was not worth my time to finish.

In closing

Movies are expensive. This is an expensive hobby (pronounced “habit”). I maintain that I don’t get to tell other people how to make their art, but this was just the worst.

This movie felt like a young child telling the same joke over and over again, explaining it after each attempt when I didn’t laugh as though I didn’t get the joke. I get the freaking joke… it’s just not funny.

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Toonsday Review: Big Hero 6

Too… much… text… quick… review

So, the quick review is that I love this film. It’s everything that a childhood hero film should be, and it shows us a good example of how revenge for hurt can be destructive and turn us into something we never wanted to be.

I love this film, my kids love this film, my girlfriend loves this film, you will also love this film. If you don’t love this film, just mention it in the comments section the purchase price for this review will be refunded to you.

Whos-it? (Cast)

  • Hiro Hamada – Ryan Potter
  • Tadashi Hamada – Daniel Henney
  • Baymax – Scott Adsit
  • Fred – T.J. Miller
  • Go Go – Jamie Chung
  • Wasabi – Damon Wayans Jr.
  • Honey Lemon – Genesis Rodriguez
  • Robert Callaghan – James Cromwell

What-it (Plot Summary)

Set in the city of San Fransokyo (yes, half San Franciso half Tokyo) Hiro Hamada is a kid genius – who graduated high school at 14 years old – who is throwing his talent away making fighting robots and hustling others out of money betting on his own fights. His older brother, Tadashi, is off at his “nerd school” doing research on his project to make a personal medical companion.

Tadashi convinces Hiro to try his hand at applying for the university, and then gets him to make a project which would allow him in. After a very successful demonstration and presentation, a seemingly-accidental fire breaks out. In the course of re-entering the building to rescue his mentor, Tadashi tragically dies leaving Hiro alone and paralyzed with grief.

He stumbles upon a nefarious plot involving his brother’s death, and seeks to deliver justice to the wrong-doer with the help of his brother’s college lab buddies, and the help of his brother’s science project. They all become what every kid has wanted to be: a super hero.

How’s-it (Voice Acting and Animation)

I really enjoyed the voice-acting in this film, as well as the animation. The detail in the animation is amazing. Hiro’s hair has so much detail you can make out strands of hair. When they show carbon-fiber mesh you can see individual bound fibers. Somehow, though, it still remains true-to-form for an animated feature: it’s more colorful than real life, it still feels more fantastical, and the features of faces and other things are glorious caricatures of their real life analogs.

Ryan Potter gives a voice acting performance that I hope will has opened some doors for him. It’s compelling, and it fits the character perfectly. Likewise, Daniel Henney made me believe that he was his animated character (though it’s not his time acting in a comic film). Scott Adsit does amazing in his role as the robotic voice of Baymax, and my kids all lose their marbles when he delivers the line “hairy baby.”

The city of San Fransokyo is amazing as well. The Golden Gate bridge has been merged with very stylized traditional Japanese architecture to make something neat and different. Also, this film’s animation succeeded where so many other animated films fail or seem to avoid: the action-packed dark room.

I won’t spoil any more of this for you, but it’s just great.

Done-it (Conclusion)

I really enjoy this film. I bought this on Disney Blu-Ray and I think my kids and I have watched it at least three times. I also remember going to watch this with my two oldest kids and my girlfriend as a group and it was a treat in theaters as well (IF YOU GET THE CHANCE TO SEE THIS ON THE BIG SCREEN, DO IT).

I really hope you enjoy this film as much as I did.

The Toonsday Review Segment

Every Tuesday I will endeavor to review an animated or comics-related feature film. This time it was Big Hero 6, next time I don’t know what I will pick (I’m spontaneous, what can I say?). If you have an animated film you would like me to review, please say so in the comments and I’ll be happy to add that to my list.

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“Black Mass” and My Thoughts on Johnny Depp

Enough of your fancy words, TL;DR

The long and short of this review can be summed up in four bullet points, if you don’t care to read my fancy keyboard typing.

  • Johnny Depp played his best role in decades
  • This movie probably isn’t historically accurate, nonetheless it’s a great movie anyway (except the exceedingly butt-hurt James Bulger)
  • Jack Sparrow was nowhere to be found!
  • You don’t get in trouble for punching people in the face, you get in trouble for punching people in the face while other people are watching

One final point you can take away, the name “John” appears a lot in both the cast and character names on this film. Like, more than usual.

The Cast

  • James “Whitey” Bulger – Johnny Depp
  • Kevin Weeks – Jesse Plemons
  • Steve Flemmi – Rory Cochrane
  • John Connolly – Joel Edgerton
  • John Martorano – W. Earl Brown
  • Marianne Connolly – Julianne Nicholson
  • John Morris – David Harbour
  • Billy Bulger – Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Lindsey Cyr – Dakota Johnson

A Note on Historical Accuracy

The aim of this film appears to be biographical. It looks like they’re trying to bring us a dramatization of the life, times, and crimes of James “Whitey” Bulger. While there is some seemingly-authoritative doubt about the authenticity of events as portrayed in this film, the position of this reviewer is that none of that matters. I am reviewing this film as it was brought to me.

I have not read the court transcripts or watched the news programs or actual documentaries on this gang or its crimes, nor do I intend to. I’m a guy who watches too many movies and then writes about them, I am not a historian. The people who made you this film are also likely not to be historians, but rather film makers. The actors were trying to entertain you, maybe inform you a little bit, but I doubt that they lost any sleep on the seeming discrepancies in the historical record either.

If you would like a more historically accurate version of the truth, you may find it here, but it may also be suspect with regard to the truth.

The Premise of the Film

Johnny Depp plays the character of James Bulger as he leads his group of between two and five henchmen on a series of crimes throughout Boston in the late 1970’s. They run rackets, they push dope, they kill people. Johnny Depp can be scary as hell. He portrays James Bulger as he goes through the very serious, profound, and tragic events which change a fun-loving but misguided mobster into a monster who lashes out at anybody who even indicates that they would be capable of betraying him.

James Bulger is not alone, of course. He makes a pact with a childhood friend, John Connolly – played brilliantly by Joel Edgerton – who is an FBI agent investigating organized crime in Boston. Agent Connolly grants James informant status, which gives him a significant amount of freedom to continue his crimes without scrutiny. Agent Connolly presents James Bulger as a misguided boy-scout (my hyperbolic words) who has been helpful in cleaning up Boston’s underworld while burying any investigation which starts going in the direction of Bulger.

My Thoughts on the Acting

So, as the website says, I watch too many movies. I’ve seen a lot of Johnny Depp films from Benny and Joon to Sweeny Todd (one of my favorites), and of course all of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. My biggest complaint of late has been that Johnny Depp has played the same character over and over again for the last decade with minor exceptions. While I think this guy is an amazing actor, I’ve been sad to see how he has been cast lately. I went into this film thrilled to see something different, and Johnny Depp delivered.

Surprisingly, I think the weakest actor in this film was another one of my favorites – and evidently everybody else’s as well – was Benedict Cumberbatch. I thought the role of Billy Bulger, despite being a lesser supporting role, could have been done better. I wasn’t buying the accent, I wasn’t buying the simultaneous concern and contempt, and I wasn’t buying the way that he was so close to his brother yet still so distant. Part of that is the script, and part of that was Benedict. I don’t get the feeling that he was really into this one.

Let’s talk about Jesse Plemons for a minute. This guy has a distinct look, but he also has incredible range (just look at the diversity in his filmography, no, seriously, click this link). He can play a mobster, an innocent kid, a drug runner, and a bunch more. Jesse Plemons played a very compelling Kevin Weeks, and I believed every bit of it.

Conclusion

This film was amazing. It’s a feather in the cap of all involved, evidence of continued greatness on the part of Johnny Depp, and it really shows that each and every person involved in this film knows how to spin a tale – based on real events – which has the ability to help an audience see that tragedy has an effect on people, that the good guys are sometimes crooked and stupid, and even that sometimes you are right to feel sympathy for the bad guy.