Movie Mondays ~ Monday, March 11, 2019

Movie Mondays ~ Monday, March 11, 2019

Despite having a lot of things going on right now in the Kuhn household, I managed to watch three films, one a four-hour and two-part documentary. So I guess that’s not too bad considering my lack of free time. Here are my thoughts on this week’s films viewed, one courtesy of HBO, another straight from the RedBox and the final film, in the comfort of a dark, popcorn-infused theater. As always, thanks for reading. ~ Chris K.

 

FILMS VIEWED WEEK OF 03/04/2019 – 03/10/2019

 

39. Leaving Neverland

Documentary, Music Biography (2019)
Michael Jackson, James Safechuck, Wade Robson

 

I know this film has been a hub of controversy. So many Michael Jackson fans are struggling with the subject matter. I will tell you from the start of this review that I grew up a huge Michael Jackson fan — as a small child, I would dance in the car to Jackson 5 tunes, Off the Wall was and still is one of my all-time favorite albums, and of course, I enjoyed many of his unforgettable hits in the 80s when he mounted on a nonstop chart-topping journey for over a decade. But… I also can separate art from the artist. I am going to be writing a blog on this subject some time soon, because this is a recurring topic — our inability to separate the work from the artist as a flawed human being. I know many fans of Michael Jackson are bashing the film for various reasons but as a documentary, it passes the test and does so impressively.  The way stories are told separately for the first half shows viewers the similarities between two distinct experiences where young accusers share their stories of being befriended, groomed and ultimately molested allegedly by Jackson. As the film moves into its second half and brings into the conversation other cases that begin to surface and see courtroom time, we hear details of very similar experiences from other accusers.

 

This is a difficult documentary to watch. I think what gives this documentary more depth than just a he said and he said, too expose is its commitment to feature the families as much as the accusers. A large part of the story is as much the way the families were groomed, too, and two mothers and other family members are interviewed along with the two accusers. So many of us have most likely judged these families over the years and speculated ‘how the heck could parents let this happen?’  But as you hear the families’ stories told, too, we hear in their experiences how easy it was to establish trust with a misunderstood and lonely pop star. And we learn how over time convenient booking of family hotel rooms a little further way from the pop star began to stretch the distance between child and parent as Jackson apparently gained greater control over the young boy’s life.

 

I think the film does a fantastic job at educating a lot of us about how a child and family can find themselves in such a precarious situation and what grooming can look like in order to win trust from both the victim and their family. It is four tough hours to watch but I believe it is worth watching. Now, whether or not we can or should listen to Michael Jackson music again (or R. Kelly, if you’re a fan), watch Bill Cosby Show reruns or Kevin Spacey films, well, that is a topic I will be addressing in another blog soon. My response might surprise you. Stay tuned.

 

Score: 88

 

 

40. Bad Times at the El Royale

Drama, Thriller (2018)
Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm

 

When I tell you that I didn’t know what to expect when I started watching this film, I mean truly — NO IDEA at all. I had only seen trailers, and it attracted me to what appeared to be a fast-paced, funny, cool action film. I can tell you that there are elements of humor at times, but it is primarily a mystery/thriller/crime drama with lots of action. The music is terrific, and the set is something else, really memorable. The general plot is travelers descend upon a unique motel positioned on the border between California and Nevada, with half of the rooms located in one state, and the other half of the motel in the other state. Each side’s decor is different and what happens on each side ends up being quite different, too. But what is most intriguing is what is happening inside each room assigned to our weary and curious travelers. Everyone has a unique story and each is on a personal mission. Learning what those are and seeing how they intertwine is the crux of the story. I was hooked from the start. And while I will admit that it may take a while for it to get moving, I would also suggest being patient with it to see where it takes you. When it does eventually get rolling, the sudden change in look, tone and pace reminded me of the quick film transition that FROM DUSK TIL DAWN makes when it goes from one kind of genre to another in the matter of one scene (and that is no way giving away any kind of plot similarities, trust me…no spoilers here).

 

I really enjoyed the actors in this film especially Bridges (who for me can do no wrong) and Tony winner Erivo who is refreshing on the screen. Johnson, Hamm and Hemsworth are all solid, too, in their memorable roles. I probably should have rated this higher but I think perhaps the long wait before it really got moving lost it some points but I do appreciate it for what it offered. It is not the best of Quentin Tarentino or Richard Rodriguez films, who hold the title of delivering cool at its finest. But writer and director Drew Goddard gets a gold star for a unique storytelling experience.

 

 

Score: 83

 

BadTimes

 

41. Captain Marvel

Action, Sci-Fi (2019)
Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Annette Bening

 

Anyone who knows me or reads my blogs (or has seen my often superhero-infused photos at my Instagram account) knows that I enjoy Marvel and D.C. superhero films generally. And this was another one that I enjoyed. But… I didn’t love it. As I explained to a friend who inquired about my take right after I watched it this weekend, I believe it has more to do with the character of Captain Marvel and its inability to hook me that was the innate problem with this one for me. Not Brie Larson, who is terrific and not to the direction and production, all impressive. The rest of the cast is phenomenal, too (Jackson, Law, Bening — you can’t get much better than that!) But unlike the film series for CAPTAIN AMERICA, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, and the AVENGERS, I never felt engaged, entertained or taken to the edge of my seat as I did with all three of those film series.  I would never use any of those words to describe my experience watching this film. In that sense, it reminds me of my reaction to the IRON MAN series. I’ve never connected with that character’s individual films either, though I have enjoyed him in the AVENGERS films.

 

As with all ‘origin’ superhero movies, we must go through the obligatory storytelling to share how Carol Danvers “became” Captain Marvel. For many of the films, this can be a tedious and boring process, and this one is interesting but I’d say a little confusing (speaking from the perspective of a non-comic book reader). Overall though, there is enough action, dazzling effects and production value and star power to keep one’s interest to the end, and I look forward to seeing how this character meshes with the rest of the Avengers in the forthcoming conclusion to that film series later this spring. Shout out though to the real star of the film, Goose, the Cat. And this is coming from a dog person. That little kitty wins the “Groot Scene Stealer Award” from me.

 

 

Score: 85

 

 

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  1. Thursday Thoughts: Art Versus Artist | Chris Kuhn Author - […] latest speculation that arrives courtesy of the new two-part documentary LEAVING NEVERLAND on HBO (which I reviewed earlier this …

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