Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2019.9
These are my notes to remember what I watched and kinda what I thought about it. I’ve recently transferred my reviews to IMDb and made the list of around 1400 ratings publicly available. I’ve included the individual ratings with my notes for each movie. These ratings are not absolutely comparable to each other—I rate the film on how well it suited me for the genre and my mood and. let’s be honest, level of intoxication. YMMV. Also, I make no attempt to avoid spoilers.
- Bill Burr: Paper Tiger (2019) — 8/10
Burr’s latest outing started out a little harsh—he spent a few minutes yelling at people who weren’t there, but he settled into his material really well and delivered a much better set than his previous special (Walk Your Way Out, where he spent an absolutely inordinate amount of time fat-shaming).
This one starts off the same way—seemingly almost deliberately—but then turns into a much more nuanced show, with well-developed and deeply thought-out and well-delivered jokes. His material is mostly about identity—surprisingly enough—about his black wife and her frustration with white culture (and she’s right), about #metoo, about the loss of due process, about his own battle with emotions and his upbringing.
The article Bill Burr’s New Stand-up Special Is So Much Better Than Its First 4 Minutes is a very solid review.
- Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019) — 7/10
- Zach Galifianakis stars in this feature film based on his interview show from YouTube. In it, he’s in a backwater local-news station and he gets a chance to take his oddball show to the big-time on Will Ferrel’s Funny Or Die network. All he has to do is bag 20 more interviews with celebrities within a month. So he hits the road with his crew and, mysteriously, continues to get big-ticket interviews, all the while disastrously screwing things up. He manages it (unsurprisingly) and (unsurprisingly) everything works out in the end. Galifianikis proves his chops and shows that he can expand his skit show to a full-length movie more adeptly than many others before him.
- Starred Up (2013) — 7/10
This is a British film about a young man Eric transferred from a juvenile detention facility to the same adult prison as his father. His father is lieutenant to the boss of the prison and tries to keep Eric from letting his rage issues ruin him. He does not succeed, as Eric is an absolute tornado of fury and stupidity.
He gets a temporary reprieve when he is recruited into therapy group. Unfortunately, Eric makes the mistake of taking to therapy and befriending the black youths in the group with him.
There is an attack on Eric, he’s saved by one of his new friends, cementing his life lesson that friends can be found everywhere, but his father isn’t too pleased about his fraternizing. His father, on the other hand, is not just lieutenant, but also lover, something that Eric can’t abide. Stupid fistfights ensue, Eric is put in solitary, the guards have it in for him and try to hang him. His father ends up saving him and they reconcile before they part ways to different prisons.
- Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (1992) — 9/10
This is a masterful documentary about the first 30 or 35 years of Noam Chomsky’s career. The full video is available on YouTube (linked below).
I’ve included some citations from the film below. When asked about what he’s trying to do for people, he says,“People should try to understand the world and act according to their decent impulses. And they should act to improve the world. And many people are going to be willing to do that. But they have to understand and, as far as I can see, I see that I’m simply helping people build a sort of intellectual self-defense.”
On the challenge involved in educating others and yourself, on the isolating nature of our society and the deliberate nature of it.“It means you have to develop an independent mind. And work on it. That’s extremely hard to do alone. The beauty of our system is that it isolates everybody. Each person is sitting alone, in front of the tube. It’s very hard to have ideas or thoughts under those circumstances. You can’t fight the world alone. Some people can, but it’s pretty rare. The way to do it is through organization. So courses of intellectual self-defense will have to be in the context of political and other organization.”
On how much work is required to be able to think lucidly about the world, to parse through the bullshit. On how tempting it is to just let the propagandistic miasma wash over you instead of fighting it.“The point is you have to work. And that’s why the propaganda system is so successful. Very few people are going to have the time, or the energy, or the commitment, to carry out the constant battle that’s required, to get outside of MacNeil/Lehrer, or Dan Rather, or somebody like that. The easy thing to do [is] come home from work, you’re tired, just had a busy day, you’re not gonna spend the evening carrying on a research project, so you turn on the tube, say it’s probably right, look at the headlines of the paper, then you watch sports or something. That’s basically how the system of indoctrination works. Sure the other stuff is there but you’re gonna have to work to find it.”
On how our civilization works, what that is costing our planet, and the choice that stands before us: either we stop doing what we’re doing or we accept the consequences.
“Modern industrial civilization has developed within a system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilization has been individual material gain. Accepted as legitimate, even praiseworthy, on the grounds that private vices yield public benefits in the classic formulation.
“Now it’s long been understood that a society that’s based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist with whatever suffering and injustice it entails, as long as it’s possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited, that the world is an infinite resource and that the world is an infinite garbage can.
“At this stage of history, either one of two things is possible. Either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community, guided by values of solidarity and sympathy and concern for others or, alternatively, there will be no destiny for anyone to control. As long as some specialized class is in a position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interest that it serves.”
- The Seven Five (2014) — 8/10
This is a documentary about an out-of-control police precinct in New York City—actually more an out-of-control cop who ropes in his partner into the most sordid, criminal shit you can imagine. The worst one was Michael Dowd. He and his partner basically started working for the drug dealer that they’re supposed to be stopping, Adam Diaz. He’s easily the funniest guy in the movie.“And on top of that, his sister, was in love with me. Beautiful girl. I was banging the shit out o’ her.”
Dowd’s partner was only a bit better—but he ended up turning state’s evidence on Dowd. It’s a decent story, well-told and well-put-together. The video is available on YouTube (linked below).
- Escape at Dannemora (2018) — 8/10
This is a seven-part—the last part is 90 minutes—reenactment of an actual breakout from the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York, near the Canadian border. We meet two of the three main characters in the sewing work area, prisoner David Sweat (Paul Dano) and sewing overseer Tilly Mitchell (Patricia Arquette). They are in a completely illicit relationship and not hiding it as well as they think.
In order to avoid getting caught for real, Sweat is transferred from his sewing post and replaced with Sweat’s best friend, the well-connected Richard Matt (Benicio del Toro). . Matt soon seduces Tilly, at first providing communication to Sweat for a heartbroken Tilly. Tilly is a hard woman, not especially bright, but shrewd. She’s mean, a facet that shows up the most in her scenes with her husband Lyle (Eric Lange), who’s a nice bovine, also mean in some ways, but mostly a decent guy who’s very ignorant/stupid.
There are other guards and other prisoners, none of whom are very clever and most of whom are mean and small-minded. They can be forgiven for this because their lives are ones of quiet desperation, constantly under duress, breathtakingly poor and woefully under-informed.
At one point, Matt discovers the prison behind the walls—an entrance to the steam tunnels between the walls and floors. He and Sweat start to dig their way through the walls behind their beds. They break through and start to explore at night. Sweat starts digging through one wall after another, until he hits the outer wall of the prison—seven feet thick. With a sigh, he starts digging.
Some time later, though, he discovers that the big steam pipe next to the last wall has been turned off for the summer. He starts chopping through the pipe while Matt schemes with and woos Tilly to hook her into the plan to pick them up after their escape.
Sooner than expected, it’s time to go. Sweat does a dry run out to the manhole cover across the street from the prison, but goes back to escape for real the next night with Matt. Tilly is in the hospital and doesn’t pick them up. Matt and Sweat head into the woods, northward to Canada. Matt is a terrible hiking companion; he’s slow and nearly constantly drunk after the first cabin, which had a good supply of booze.
It’s set up nicely: for the first 90% of the show, before the escape, we don’t know why Matt and Sweat are in prison, so we root for them to escape. It’s only after they’ve escaped that we learn of their crimes. Sweat’s is a murder, but he didn’t do it (ostensibly) whereas Matt very definitely is a cold-hearted murderer.
Matt is caught first, shot by police. Sweat survives on his own, making incredible time relative to previously, almost making it to the border, but getting hunted down and shot by a police officer. Tilly is prosecuted for her role in the escape and Sweat is convicted and sentenced to prison for the rest of his life.
The acting is excellent all-around and not at all insulting to upstate New York. That’s just the way it is, for the most part.
- National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) — 8/10
This is the classic movie about a severely underperforming frat house. It is one of the better vehicles for former SNL cast-members. It was directed by John Landis and mostly written by Harold Ramis. John Belushi is good as “Bluto” but Tim Matheson as “Otter” and Peter Riegert as “Boon”, two smooth-talking representatives of the frat house. Karen Allen was funny as Katy (Otter’s girlfriend) and Donald Sutherland as a toking professor and Kevin Bacon as a stuck-up student from a competing frat were also very good.
The plot is well-known: the frat must avoid Dean Wormer’s wrath in order to stay on campus, despite the best efforts of the other, richer and snobbier frat houses on campus, who do their level best to frame Delta house. Delta does almost nothing to save themselves, preferring to through one rager after another and to endanger their continued existence with sophomoric highjinks that are, admittedly, often hilarious (and totally worth it).
Their final attack—on the annual parade, with a specially designed vehicle called the “Deathmobile”, which emerges from beneath a giant float that looks like a cake and on which is written “Eat Me”. A classic; recommended.
- Deon Cole: Cole Hearted (2019) — 9/10
I really liked Deon’s last special and I think he’s found his groove even better in this one. He’s from Chicago, playing in Atlanta. He jokes about thanking Jesus at the right time and for the right reasons. He has good amount of material on relationships and spends some time praising women of all shapes and sizes, but especially “healthier” women.
- The Good Place S04 (2019) — 9/10
This season sees the five core characters punished by the judge (Maya Rudolph) for having broken some of the rules of the afterlife. She also finds the Bad Place guilty of illegal manipulations (obviously) and makes them face off in an effort to prove, once and for all, whether humanity is allowed to continue to exist.
So the judge sets up a competition: the five get to run the Good Place experiment again, but with four humans chosen by the Bad Place. If those humans show any signs of improvement at the end of the experiment (i.e. they’ve accumulated Good Points), then humanity is allowed to continue to struggle its way along; if not, then … not.
The Bad Place cheats, of course: they send a demon in the form of a human (Linda), they kidnap Janet and replace her with a Bad Janet, they make a copy of Michael and try to replace him, too. Also, Chidi is one of the candidates, but with his mind wiped, which is very painful for Eleanor. Also, one of the other candidates is Simone (a bit of a PITA), with whom Chidi is likely to fall in love. The other two candidates are the nearly irredeemable John (a former Internet gossip-columnist) and Brent (a former … rich, entitled, arrogant douchebag).
- Big Mouth S03 (2019) — 9/10
The third season exceeded the second one and possibly even the first. The two hormone monsters (Nick Kroll and Maya Rudolph) are relentlessly funny, as is Andrew Glouberman and his entire family (especially his dad, who’s voiced by Richard Kind). The writing is outstanding and draws and builds heavily on the characters we’ve come to know over the first two seasons. The arc was really steady and quite rewarding. Highly recommended.