The Founder (2016)

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The founders and dreamers and takers of risk
Are known for success
And their tirelessness
And refusal to heed the world’s stubborn “tsk, tsk.”

Yet no success came without stumbles and loss,
And when a dream bleeds,
It plants cynical seeds
Just waiting to sprout when the dreamer is boss.

When dreams do pay off and the struggle is won,
The dreamer may find,
As he glances behind,
Regret hanging over the great deeds he’s done.
___________________

MPAA rating:  PG-13 (for brief language, could otherwise be PG)

Based on its December release and strong central performance, The Founder was clearly aiming to be Oscar material, but even if that didn’t happen, it’s still a well-wrought peek into the history of an icon. McDonald’s is such a mainstay of American culture that it’s hard to imagine a time without those “Golden Arches” on every other corner, which is appropriately what Ray Kroc envisioned when he had the idea to revolutionize the food industry. Then again, did he revolutionize it or simply spread the change and reap the glory? The movie itself can’t quite decide on a definitive answer.

From the very beginning, it’s easy to sympathize with Kroc (Michael Keaton, in fine form), a washed-up milkshake machine salesman whose past attempts at scoring the next big thing have been nothing but fiascoes. After enduring the drawbacks of the drive-in (which I didn’t even know had such negatives back then), a visit to San Bernardino, California, introduces him to the very first McDonald’s, the immensely popular brainchild of Mac and Dick McDonald. It was strange watching Ray see fast-food conveniences that are commonplace today for the very first time, things like eating out of paper or receiving your order within minutes. It’s a reminder of just how game-changing the McDonald brothers’ idea was, and Ray recognizes its potential immediately and dives head first into his new goal of franchising the heck out of it.

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Because the title is The Founder and not The Founders, Ray’s eventual takeover of the company should come as no surprise. Yet, watching it with my VC, I was struck by how objectively the film presents Ray’s machinations and how differently my VC and I viewed his actions. We both empathized with Kroc’s early business failings and aspirations, especially when he convinces Dick and Mac to franchise and employs other down-and-out everymen like himself, giving them a chance that didn’t come as easily for him. It’s also hard to argue with his success, sprouting new McDonald’s locations throughout the Midwest, albeit with some bumps along the way.

Yet at some point, a line is crossed between admirable enterprise and predatory ambition, and it’s an ambiguous boundary that could be different for each viewer. I thought he was pushing a bit too far when he started going around Dick and Mac’s orders, frustrated at their constant negativity toward his big ideas. My VC, on the other hand, sympathized with Ray far longer and thought that the McDonalds were a little too naïve and standing in the way of expansion and profit, especially since they weren’t taking the risk Ray was. I can’t say she’s wrong since it comes down to how hard-hearted each of us thinks the world of business should be, though we both agree there’s still a point when Kroc’s cutthroat philosophy goes too far, even extending into his marriage and personal life. This dichotomy of runaway creative success and regrettable corporate backstabbing reminded me a lot of The Social Network, especially with its dubious but visionary real-life subject.

Image result for the founder filmDirected by The Blind Side’s John Lee Hancock, The Founder is an entertaining look at how a pioneering burger joint became an institution, made more unique by its moral ambivalence. Keaton excels as Kroc, with just the right amount of car salesman charisma to make him relatable and explain his marketing success, and the rest of the actors offer commendable support, especially Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch as Dick and Mac, respectively. It does make me wonder how the current McDonald’s Corporation felt about the film, since it doesn’t steer away from the ruthlessness of its self-proclaimed founder. The Founder is both a success story and a tale of loss, one that charted a new course for the restaurant industry and properly records what was lost along the way.

Best line: (Ray, quoting a motivational recording he listened to) “Nothing in this world can take the place of good old persistence. Talent won’t. Nothing’s more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius won’t. Unrecognized genius is practically a cliché. Education won’t. Why, the world is full of educated fools. Persistence and determination alone are all-powerful.”

 

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2017 S.G. Liput
505 Followers and Counting

 

My Top Twelve Underrated Movies

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After potentially ticking people off with my opinions on overrated movies, I thought I’d make it up to everyone by suggesting some perhaps unfamiliar films that deserve greater attention. I’m sure everyone out there has some obscure movies that they love and wish more people knew about. You know, the kind that you watch and then really want to talk about with others until you find out no one else has seen or even heard of it. Well, I’ve seen quite a few such films since starting this blog, and I want to give these criminally underseen films their due.

Just to clarify, these are not simply movies that got bad reviews. In fact, two of them have 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. With one exception, neither are these just movies that I like and others don’t; that kind of list would have to include Brother Bear, Spider-Man 3, and the Star Wars prequels. Rather, these are all movies that, for whatever reason, are not as widely known as they ought to be. You might also call it my Top Twelve Hidden Gems. To avoid listing my same old favorites, I’ve also chosen to exclude anything that’s in my Top 100 movies, so that leaves out the likes of Elizabethtown, Saints and Soldiers, and 84 Charing Cross Road. Their placement on that list already shows how I feel about them, but these other movies deserve mention too.

These aren’t even necessarily ranked by how much I like them, but by how much I think they deserve better recognition.  Thus, here are my Top Twelve Underrated Movies:

 

  1. Wrinkles (2011)

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This animated Spanish film was a pleasant surprise, tackling sensitive topics like aging and mental illness with a deft hand and compassionate attention to its characters. I’ve often mentioned that I enjoy mature animation that doesn’t wallow in mature subject matter, which is rare outside of anime, and Wrinkles fit that preference perfectly.

 

  1. Ink (2009)

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Someone get Jamin Winans a bigger budget. For a clearly low-budget production, there’s a lot going on in his cult film Ink: a battle between good and evil, dreams and nightmares; a long-nosed monster trying to steal a little girl’s soul; a distant father’s nearly broken relationship with his young daughter; and a strange and profound reflection on life, death, and regret. I’m still not quite sure what to make of this under-the-radar fantasy, but it’s definitely worth seeing, as evidenced by the 100% Rotten Tomatoes score. I’ll also mention Wynan’s next film, The Frame, which is also good but a bit too existential for me. Neither one is kid-friendly, due to language, but they’re a unique brand of filmmaking.

 

  1. Harrison Bergeron (1995)

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This Showtime movie from the ‘90s may not be well-known among dystopian cinema, but it should be. It stars Sean Astin as a young genius whose intellect is a source of shame in his egalitarian society where no one is allowed to be better than anyone else. At times, the extremes of this dystopia come off as laughably absurd, but it gets darker as it goes, with a hauntingly sad conclusion.

 

  1. Dominick and Eugene (1988)

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We’ve all heard of Rain Man, but what about the other movie that year about a pair of brothers, one of whom is mentally handicapped? While it has a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score, Dominick and Eugene suffers from the sad fact that no one remembers it. I only happened to catch it on an obscure movie channel. Though it’s already distinguished by outstanding performances from Ray Liotta and Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Hulce should have earned an Oscar nomination (not just a Golden Globe nod) for his performance as a mentally impaired garbageman helping his twin brother to work through medical school.

 

  1. Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011)

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Everyone seemed to love Your Name last year, but I knew of Makoto Shinkai’s talents before that, thanks to this gorgeously animated adventure (also known as Journey to Agartha) that is every bit as magical as a Studio Ghibli film and feels very much like a tribute to Miyazaki’s fantasies. Following a schoolgirl’s journey into the mystical underground realm of Agartha, accompanied by an obsessed member of a secret organization, it’s a subtly emotional story of learning to say goodbye, even when the grief threatens to destroy you and others. As marvelous as Your Name is, this one holds an even more special place in my heart.

 

  1. Counterpoint (1967)

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The obscure nature of this Charlton Heston war film may make you think it’s a dud, but not so. In fact, I’d say Counterpoint is among Heston’s best films, casting him as the head of a touring orchestra whose entire ensemble is captured by Nazis during the close of World War II. A cultured Nazi general (Maximilian Schell) confines them to a castle and insists they play a recital for him, and what is to follow is threateningly vague. It’s a great battle of wills and egos between Heston and Schell, highlighted by an excellent collection of classical music.

 

  1. Hidden (2015)

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I’m not even sure where I first heard of this horror gem, but I’m glad I discovered it. After an outbreak of some disease, a family hides in an underground bunker from whatever lurks above them. Alexander Skarsgard and Andrea Riseborough play two wonderful parents, trying to encourage their daughter (Emily Alyn Lind) and keep her spirits up in this frightening situation. The family dynamic helped me care about the characters and made the tense moments all the more potent.

 

  1. Waterworld (1995)

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Don’t let Waterworld’s reputation as a notorious bomb deter you. It’s actually a surprisingly entertaining actioner, one with quite a bit in common with Mad Max: Fury Road, just with water instead of desert. I’m not really sure why it’s earned such a bad reputation. The acting may be over-the-top at times but no more than Mad Max, and the expansive maritime setting is still impressive proof of the film’s ambition.

 

  1. Surrogates (2009)

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I seem to be more forgiving of sci-fi than the critics. Another piece of good science fiction that somehow suffered from bad reviews, Surrogates is about a warily plausible world where people only interact with the world through robotic lookalikes. Bruce Willis investigates a rare instance of murder and is reminded just how sheltered the people of this dystopia have become. Most critics said it squandered a great premise, but I think it succeeded as both cool action and thought-provoking fiction.

 

  1. Shuffle (2011)

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Another low-budget movie that transcends its limitations with a brilliantly original story, this time-travel flick from writer/director Kurt Kuenne doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page! T.J. Thyne plays a man who jumps to a different day of his life every time he falls asleep, which is often, and the threads of his life are gradually revealed with every leap in time. Some say it gets too sentimental by the end, but Shuffle didn’t disappoint me at all.

 

  1. King of Thorn (2010)

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I have never seen this anime on a single list anywhere. It’s mostly unknown even in anime circles, which is a crying shame. When a collection of people awaken from stasis after a worldwide epidemic of a virus that turns people to stone, they are thrust into a fight for their lives against monsters and reality-bending dangers. This thrilling and atmospheric blend of Aliens, Inception, and Lost has loads of unguessable twists and turns to elevate its survival-horror premise. It can be violent and confusing, but it’s also awesome and vastly underrated.

 

  1. Cloud Atlas (2012)

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I debated what should be #1, since any of these could have been ranked higher, but Cloud Atlas won the day. This is a movie that could have won Oscars, perhaps Best Score, Best Makeup, and maybe even Best Picture, if the Academy had been a bit more adventurous. Covering six distinct stories separated by centuries yet somehow linked by cosmic connections, Cloud Atlas is a wildly ambitious film with an incredible cast, all of whom play multiple, very different roles. It’s also a polarizing story, and I can easily see people walking away either mind-blown or just confused and exasperated. It’s long, strange in its shifts in tone, and full of New Age-y  nonsense, but there’s so much to appreciate and take in that it’s an amazing ride worth taking all the same.

 

 

And here are some other films that deserve more awareness. If you haven’t seen these movies, I highly recommend widening those horizons.

 

About Time – Fantastic time travel romance with Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams.

Bright Star – Quietly poetic biopic of John Keats.

Cannery Row – Fun and funny Steinbeck adaptation.

Flightplan – A tense Jodie Foster thriller about a mother whose daughter disappears on a plane.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir – Excellent supernatural romance with Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison.

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In Time – Brilliant dystopian premise of the time of one’s lifespan becoming currency.

In Your Eyes – Peculiar romance between two people who see through each other’s eyes.

Labyrinth of Lies – This German film about remembering Nazi war crimes should have been a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee.

Lunopolis – Conspiracy-filled found-footage sci-fi with a great twist.

The Man Who Never Was – Historical story of how a dead man helped win World War II.

Millennium Actress – Uniquely told anime of an actress seeking the unattainable.

The One I Love – A relationship movie with a Twilight Zone twist.

The Quick and the Dead (1987) – Engaging western with Sam Elliot at his mustached best.

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Rabbit Hole – Affecting tale of parental grief every bit as emotional as Ordinary People.

Regarding Henry – Harrison Ford’s most underrated performance as a mentally damaged husband.

Right at Your Door – Terrifyingly real and down-to-earth disaster movie.

Secondhand Lions – Anecdotal charmer with great support from Michael Caine and Robert Duvall.

Sophie Scholl – The Final Days – Well-acted German tribute to an anti-Nazi martyr.

Strings – Very unique fantasy told completely with marionettes.

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Time of Eve – Understated anime about androids discovering their humanity.

Tomorrowland – I actually found this Disney bomb to be a surprisingly fun ride.

The Way Back – Emotional journey of escapees from a Russian gulag, who walk all the way to India.

Woman in Gold – Strong performances from Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds in this tale of reclaiming art stolen by the Nazis.

 

Thanks for checking out these lists to celebrate my 500 follower milestone. Many more poems, reviews, and lists will come, and I hope to discover many more underrated movies in the future. Feel free to leave any suggestions below. I’m always on the lookout for more hidden gems!

 

My Top Twelve Overrated Movies

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We all have films that others love and we just…don’t. In fact, the whole world may love a film, critics laud it, bloggers sing its praises, Rotten Tomatoes pronounces it hot-off-the-vine Fresh, top film lists rank it among the best of its genre, and you just don’t see what all the hype is about. There’s no objective measurement of why certain films are overrated. It’s all a matter of opinion, and this list is mine.

I freely admit that “overrated” is a subjective term. I personally love movies that others may despise, like Forrest Gump, Titanic, La La Land, and Les Miserables, so don’t expect any of those on this list. Likewise, there are movies I don’t like, such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but I at least recognize why others love it. This list is for movies that I don’t quite understand why they’ve earned all the acclaim they’ve gotten. To be honest, I do like some of these films, and two are even on my Top 365 list (which I’ll note below), but all of these fill my definition of overrated, regardless of how popular or iconic they are. I won’t be pulling any punches, so feel free to agree or disagree and plug your own opinion too. Don’t hate me ‘cause I’m honest! 🙂

 

  1. North By Northwest (1959)

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I’ve never been that enamored with Alfred Hitchcock’s films, which range from great to boring, but how North By Northwest has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes is beyond me. It’s a decent Hitchcock thriller, fueled by coincidence and mistaken identity, but only a few scenes stand out among the twisty plot. Plus, the ending is laughable. One minute, the main couple is clinging to the face of Mount Rushmore, the next they’re celebrating on a train. What the heck? It’s the most jarring shift of tone I’ve ever seen, and no one else seems to point it out.

 

  1. Frozen (2013)

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I do enjoy Frozen for its return to the Disney princess formula, and it’s currently #201 on my Top 365 List, even if I’m not a fan of the villain or how everything is suddenly resolved by the realization of “love” or something. But why is it that four years later, there are still Frozen toothbrushes, Frozen backpacks, Frozen breakfast cereal, Frozen juice boxes, Frozen shampoo, Frozen this and Frozen that. You can’t walk into a grocery story without seeing Anna and Elsa on some kind of merchandise. Disney somehow made Frozen merch into a commercial empire and is milking it for all its worth. But why not Wreck-It Ralph or Big Hero 6?

 

  1. The French Connection (1971)

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This is one thriller that was just lacking. Gene Hackman’s character of Popeye Doyle had no personality or character development to speak of, making the whole hunt for drug traffickers an uninvolving affair punctuated by a few admittedly memorable and well-shot scenes. I never like it when a film’s ending leaves me saying “That’s it?”, which is exactly what happened with that open-ended final scene. It’s not a bad film, but why it landed on AFI’s top 100 twice, I’ll never understand.

 

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

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I can’t argue against Snow White’s significance in movie history as the first feature-length animated film and Disney’s first feature. Yet what was so revolutionary back then doesn’t necessarily hold up now. I remember the last time I saw this classic being annoyed by Snow White’s grating voice and the familiar fairy tale tropes that have been done better since. And again, AFI named it the greatest animated film ever? I love the dwarfs, but Snow White feels like a film that is more respected for being the first than for being the best.

 

  1. The Third Man (1949)

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I have read reviews of this film noir that praise the acting, the atmosphere, the cinematography, and [shudder] the score. The score? Who could possibly like the zither-heavy score to The Third Man? It’s one of the most annoying soundtracks I’ve heard and a total contrast to the mood the rest of the film tries to create. Seriously, it sounds like music that belongs in SpongeBob SquarePants, not a dark thriller. I honestly don’t remember the rest of the movie that well, but whenever I see the score named among great soundtracks, I can’t help but shake my head in frustration.

 

  1. The Dark Knight (2008)

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Don’t explode. It’s okay, I don’t hate The Dark Knight, but neither do I think it’s the best superhero movie ever. The whole trilogy is currently #178 on my List, but I much prefer The Dark Knight Rises to The Dark Knight. For one, as good as Heath Ledger is as the Joker, I’ve never been a fan of dark gritty superhero movies. But the worst part of The Dark Knight is the ending. I just don’t get it. Why does Batman have to take the blame for Harvey Dent? Because the people of Gotham couldn’t take it? Please, all it does is create a can of worms and distrust for the next film to open, and the decision is too rushed to really make sense. Good movie, weak ending.

 

  1. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

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Steven Spielberg has made some fantastic movies over the years, but this is not one of the better ones. True, it’s become an icon of alien abduction cinema, but it’s also among his least entertaining features. We’re treated to Richard Dreyfuss acting crazy and ruining his marriage for much of the film, and then it ends with a tone-based light show, because what could be more riveting than a tone-based light show? There’s no twist, no deep emotion, no meaningful explanation to it all; it’s just aliens, which is surprisingly boring in this case. I can’t help but wonder if the government eventually found out that the alien message was a cook book called To Serve Man.

 

  1. Shakespeare in Love (1997)

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This is another film that isn’t necessarily bad. It’s actually well-acted, well-written, and well-produced. But it is not the Best Picture of 1998! It still boggles my mind that Shakespeare in Love somehow beat Saving Private Ryan and Life Is Beautiful, plus Elizabeth and The Thin Red Line. It reeks of studio bribery or favoritism. The fact that it’s complete fiction also takes away any historical significance. Plus, though Judi Dench did well as Queen Elizabeth I, what about her short performance warranted Best Supporting Actress?

 

  1. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

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I hate to badmouth a Studio Ghibli film that is clearly a favorite of so many, but I really don’t see what the big deal is about My Neighbor Totoro. It’s a cute movie, but how can people call it Miyazaki’s best or one of the best films of 1988? Two annoying girls frolic with forest spirits; later, one thinks something bad happened but it didn’t. The end. Such a weak plot could be redeemed by Miyazaki’s proven movie magic, but I didn’t feel it. Totoro himself seems more intimidating than cuddly, especially when the only sound he makes is a big roar. Maybe I need to see it again, but I don’t get the hype.

 

  1. Blade Runner (1982)

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I just saw Blade Runner recently as one of my Blindspots, and I was pretty disappointed for a film that’s supposedly among the best sci-fi of all time. As with The French Connection, Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard has hardly any personality, and the characters that do are like weird caricatures, offset by a plodding pace. I know many have debated stuff like whether Deckard is a replicant, but when the film doesn’t bother to explore that kind of potential, why should I care? And talk about anticlimactic. Rutger Hauer chases him through a building like he’s going to kill him, then saves him, and dies after a short soliloquy. What? I know it’s had a huge influence on the cyberpunk genre, but for me, Blade Runner is all style over substance.

 

  1. Avatar (2009)

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James Cameron tried to revolutionize science fiction with Avatar, but he might have tried a more original story while he was at it. The visual effects are incredible, especially during the big battle at the end, but doesn’t all that just distract viewers from the fact that this is basically Pocahontas with blue aliens. Dances with Wolves with space marines. It’s the same old environmentalist story of the evil money-grubbing military men spoiling a native paradise and messing with nature’s perfection. I just hope Cameron has something better in mind for the sequels he’s been working on for years.

 

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

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Southerners have a word for things like 2001: artsy-fartsy. What the heck is this film about? Man’s evolutionary progress? The contrast between man and machine? That may be how people read it, but no, 2001 is about a black rock sending mankind to Jupiter so he can go on an LSD trip. It’s infuriating how praised and lauded this film is when I found it eminently boring and, by the end, incomprehensible. Again, ground-breaking visuals aren’t enough to cover up a stark lack of story, and the way many have discussed 2001’s deep symbolism and message just makes it seem even more pretentious and self-important. Some may say I just don’t get it, and they’re right, I don’t. There may be elements of great filmmaking, but this is by no means a great film.

 

 

Notice all the pictures of shock, anger, and sadness? Sorry if that’s you too right now. And here are some runners-up that I also find overrated.

 

5 Centimeters Per Second – Lovely animation, horribly depressing story.

An American in Paris – Weak plot that exists just for the famous overlong dance number.

Dr. Strangelove – For a classic comedy, it’s not really that funny.

Field of Dreams – The lack of explanation takes away from the fantasy appeal.

Ghost in the Shell – Style over substance, yet again.

The Godfather – Great film, yes, but hardly the best film ever made.

Interstellar – The visuals don’t quite make up for the obvious twist and slow pacing.

Juno – I liked the pro-life aspect but found Ellen Page’s misanthropic character hard to like.

Manchester By the Sea – Good acting but deeply depressing. How did this win Best Screenplay?

Midnight Special – Interesting premise, but a bit too slow-burn with little resolution.

Spirited Away – Sure, it looks amazing, but it’s also downright bizarre.

Urban Cowboy – How could anyone like this piece of trash? Worst movie ever!

 

Ah, glad I got that off my chest. Let the rebuttals begin! On Sunday, I’ll be going the other direction and posting my List of Underrated Movies. Stay tuned!

 

500 Follower Milestone!

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Huzzah! After 3½ years, Rhyme and Reason has finally reached the milestone of 500 followers! Plus three. That may not seem like much next to those superblogs with thousands of followers, but it’s a big deal to me!

 
I want to thank everyone who has followed, liked, and commented through the years, who have encouraged me to seek out undiscovered movies and stay creative. To celebrate, I’ll be posting two Top Twelve lists that are solely opinion-based, one list for the most overrated movies and one for the most underrated. I’ll be posting the former tomorrow and the latter Sunday. My views on the overrated list especially might not be popular, so I’m eager to see what the response will be.

 
Stay tuned!

 

Opinion Battles Round 15 Favourite Christopher Nolan Movie

Be sure to vote for your favorite Christopher Nolan film in Round 15 of Opinion Battles! From his diverse and popular filmography, I had to pick Inception, one of the great mindbenders of all time. Which do you like best?

Movie Reviews 101

Opinion Battles Round 15

Favourite Christopher Nolan Movie

Christopher Nolan has become one of the most popular and iconic directors of this century, he has given us the stunning trilogy with Dark Knight trilogy, he has tested our minds on multiple occasions. Now he is bought us a war epic in Dunkirk so what better choice of round that to look at this genius directors work, but what is your favourite?

If you want to join the next round of Opinion Battles we will be take on Favourite Musical Movie, to enter email your choice to moviereviews101@yahoo.co.ukby Saturday 6th August 2017.

Darren – Movie Reviews 101

Inception

For me Inception is his masterpiece, it tests our minds with the dream within a dream within a dream concept. The cast is amazing, DiCaprio, Page, Hardy, Gordon-Levitt, Watanabe, Murphy, Caine and Cotillard. I have seen this film well over 10…

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The Conjuring 2 (2016)

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The rooms where we sleep
Or attempt to count sheep
Were once home to others whose presence runs deep.
The bodies they wore
May not breathe anymore,
But tormented souls may demand an encore.

These lingerers, led
By the master of dread,
Can pester our peace and plant fears in our head.
May we not forget
He Who makes demons sweat
Is on our side, giving them reason to fret.
___________________

MPAA rating: R

Anyone who’s read my few horror reviews knows that I’m picky about the genre, with a low tolerance for gore and high admiration for developed characters, tension, and atmosphere. The Conjuring fit my tastes perfectly, with an exceptionally creepy story highlighted by strong performances and a positive religious message. The 2016 sequel, also directed by James Wan, may be more of the same, but that’s not a bad thing when it upholds what made the original great.

While the frightening opening involves the infamous Amityville house namedropped at the end of the first film, The Conjuring 2 focuses on the less-known (at least in America) Enfield Poltergeist. The Hodgsons, headed by single mother of four Peggy (Frances O’Connor), seem like a perfectly normal, if struggling, family, and there’s little unusual about their London home, again explored with one of those skillful tracking shots Wan employed to introduce the first film’s haunted house. Before long, though, eleven-year-old Janet (Madison Wolfe) becomes the central target of many otherworldly events, including instances of possession, and paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are asked by the Catholic Church to look into it, at their own peril.

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As with its predecessor, I suspect the R rating is for sheer intensity because the film relies on mood and suspense far more than violence. A child’s zoetrope about the Crooked Man becomes the haunted object of the week, taking the place of the first film’s music box, and even if it’s not clear who or what the Crooked Man is a manifestation of, he’s an effective boogeyman for a few scenes. A demonic nun is also an unnerving presence throughout, though I’m not a fan of that kind of blasphemous imagery, even if it is explained.

The haunting of the Hodgson home is full of dark tension and jump scares, all well-executed, but it’s not the encroaching evil that sets The Conjuring films apart. As with the first movie, the Warrens are the best thing about this series. In the midst of demonic terror, they are a testament to the conquering power of God and their mutual love, plus a spirit of joy epitomized in a musical scene that becomes an island of light amid the darkness. When Ed converses with an old man’s ghost who speaks through Janet, he refuses to be cowed and sends the ghost shrinking away by confidently extending a crucifix. From their separate conversations with Janet, the Warrens’ devotion to each other is unmistakable, and after the nail-biting finale, this horror movie almost changes genre to end on a rare feel-good romantic note, at Christmastime no less.

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With the Hodgsons as the sympathetic victims and the Warrens as the godly defenders, The Conjuring 2 again places its horror movie tropes into the context of spiritual warfare, and as strong as the demons seem, it’s still satisfying to see them banished to hell by the name of Jesus. It’s not surprising that the film takes rampant liberties with the actual story, but I liked how they incorporated some doubt about the authenticity of the haunting, since many skeptics claim that the girls faked the paranormal phenomena. The Conjuring 2 may seem like old hat to horror aficionados, but for me, it’s an example of a trend of spiritually and emotionally mindful horror that Hollywood should keep following.

Best line: (skeptic Anita Gregory) “Last year I was conned by a Welsh family pretending to be possessed by demons. And honestly, I don’t know what was worse: the demons or the people who prey on our willingness to believe in them.”   (Lorraine) “The demons… are worse.”

 

Rank: List-Worthy (joining the first film)

 

© 2017 S.G. Liput
501 Followers and Counting!

 

Moana (2016)

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Out on the ocean, with sea on all sides,
The wind as your engine, the stars as your guides,
You are your own island, though roaming between
The land you called home and another unseen.

To blaze the blue courses no human has plied,
You must navigate more than tempest and tide.
To know destination and where you’ll return,
Your place in the ocean of life you must learn.
__________________

MPAA rating: PG

Most would agree that 2016 was a strong year for Disney (and animation in general), releasing two movies in the same year and both nominated for Best Animated Feature: Zootopia, which I loved, and Moana, which I wish I loved more. I’ve waited to review Moana because I wanted to see it again to see if I liked it better than my initial viewing, and I did, but not nearly as much as everyone else. While others are ranking it among Disney’s best, I’ve got it tucked in the middle of the “I like it” section, and I’m not even completely sure why.

The common complaint is that Moana recycles plot elements and the stern authoritarian father figure from The Little Mermaid, also directed by Disney veterans Ron Clements and John Musker, but that didn’t bother me much. There’s plenty else to set it apart, including the obvious subversion that King Trident wanted to keep Ariel in the sea and away from things of the land, while Moana’s father (Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett in Star Wars: Episode II) tries to keep her on their island of Motonui and away from the sea. Literally chosen by the sentient ocean to return the fabled Heart of Te Fiti and stop a spreading darkness, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) sets out on her own (not unlike Mulan) to find the shapeshifting demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) and return the Heart.

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Before I get into my nitpicking, I must give credit where credit is due. The animation is a new CGI high for Disney, with special attention paid to the lush island greenery and the photorealistic water, and I don’t think any movie since Finding Nemo has contained this much stunningly animated water. It’s a technical marvel, and one more sign that Disney is handily keeping up with Pixar’s animation quality. The music is also well done, courtesy of Hamilton’s Lin Manuel-Miranda, score composer Mark Mancina, and South Pacific musician Opetaia Foa’i. I still think it’s not as memorable as past Disney soundtracks, yet most of the songs have gotten stuck in my head at some point.  My least favorite has to be the still lyrically clever “Shiny,” sung by the oddly accented crab monster Tamatoa (Jemaine Clement), but Moana’s “How Far I Go” and Maui’s “You’re Welcome” are soon-to-be-classic highlights, making me wish there were more musical numbers throughout.

I’m still trying to figure out why Moana didn’t hit me as it did so many others. I don’t think it’s the Pacific island pagan mythology, since Disney has explored other culture’s religions in the past, like the ancestors of Mulan and the spirits of Brother Bear. So what then? The best answer I can give is that I simply didn’t connect with the setting and, by extension, the story. I personally have no love for tropical islands (I used to live in Florida and moved to get away from that kind of climate), so that could be a factor, whereas I found it easy to enjoy Brother Bear since I love Alaska and its mountain scenery. Likewise, as strong as the main two characters were, I felt there was something lacking in the script, perhaps in the humor department. Moana’s repeated self-motivation got old after a while, and the reason for why the ocean chose her, a question that haunts her throughout, is somewhat glossed over in favor of stirring self-confidence. And why did the ocean, controlling itself like the water column from The Abyss, only help her at some points and not others?

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As with so many of my less-than-positive reviews, I don’t want to make it sound as if I didn’t like it. I did. Moana is a solid addition to the Disney canon, boasting colorful and beautifully rendered animation and outstanding voicework. It took some time, but I really enjoyed the dynamic between Moana and Maui and how it grew along their voyage, as well as his tattoo mini-Maui. There’s much to praise, particularly in how Disney has created an admirable dark-skinned heroine and independent role model for kids, much more successfully than in The Princess and the Frog. All I can say is that it’s not one of my favorites, and I understand if people disagree with my gripes. I love Brother Bear and don’t get why some people hate it. One of the many great things about Disney’s canon is how varied it is, and for every lukewarm entry, there’s one to absolutely love. Moana does continue Disney’s streak of winners, but I thought Zootopia was better and deserved its Best Animated Feature win. But that’s just me.

Best lines: (Moana) “Okay, first, I am not a princess. I’m the daughter of the chief.”
(Maui) “Same difference.”
(Moana) “No.”
(Maui) “If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess.”

and

(Moana, as Tamatoa tries to take her necklace) “Don’t! That’s my gramma’s!”
(Tamatoa, the crab monster, mocking) “’That’s my gramma’s!’ I ate my Gramma! And it took a week, ’cause she was absolutely humongous.”

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2017 S.G. Liput
499 Followers and Counting

 

Genre Grandeur – Shadow of a Doubt (1943) – Rhyme and Reason

Here’s my review of Shadow of a Doubt for MovieRob’s July Genre Grandeur for Film Noir. This mystery thriller is known as Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite of his own films, and I can see why.

For this month’s first review for Genre Grandeur – Film Noir Movies, here’s a review of Shadow of a Doubt (1943) by SG of Rhyme and Reason

Thanks again to Ghezal of Ghezal Plus Movies for choosing this month’s genre.

Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Gavin of Mini Media Reviews and he has chosen the genre of Revenge Movies.

Films in which a person or persons are wronged in some way and exact an, hopefully disproportionate, amount of revenge or retribution!

Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Aug by sending them to Gavinsrevenge@movierob.net

Try to think out of the box! Great choice Gavin!

Let’s see what SG thought of this movie:

_________________________________

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

How much do you really know

About your friends and family dear? Some hide sordid corners deep

For their facade’s veneered upkeep,

And warrant shock, surprise, and fear

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2017 Blindspot Pick #7: In Your Eyes (2014)

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Loneliness can be your lot
And leave you empty and distraught,
Even when alone you’re not
In daily life’s ordeal.
For life seems like an afterthought
When no one else knows how you feel.

But then the loneliness can fade,
No longer stressed, no more afraid,
When love more real cuts through charade,
And lonely souls are paired.
For newer joys are worth the trade
When feelings, thoughts, and love are shared.
_____________________

MPAA rating: Not Rated (could have been PG-13, but more R due to periodic profanity and some sensuality)

I chose In Your Eyes as one of my Blindspots because of the positive reviews I’d seen from some of my fellow bloggers, and my interest was further piqued by comparisons to last year’s anime hit Your Name. Whereas Your Name involves two strangers actually switching bodies, In Your Eyes features a telepathic (or more accurately, empathic) link between two random people on opposite sides of the country. Based on a decades-in-the-making screenplay by Joss Whedon and directed by Brin Hill, this supernatural romance certainly has its odd parts but incorporates a lot of what I love about the genre.

Image result for in your eyes michael stahl-david film

The two leads are played by Cloverfield’s Michael Stahl-David and Ruby Sparks’ Zoe Kazan, the former as a New Mexico parolee named Dylan and the latter as a New Hampshire trophy wife named Rebecca. Little do they know that they have shared a mental link since childhood, when one’s sledding accident somehow affected them both, but suddenly, it becomes strong enough to allow them to converse with each other and see what the other is seeing. I was a bit annoyed at first that there was no explanation or trigger to the sudden strengthening of their bond, aside from “Why not?” But then I recalled that Your Name didn’t have a very clear reason either, so it’s perhaps best to just roll with it since these cosmic movie connections are hard to clarify in reality.

Despite being separated for most of the film, Kazan and Stahl-David have engaging chemistry to spare. Their long-distance conversations feel natural to us since it’s as if they’re talking on the phone, but to everyone else, it looks like they’re talking to themselves or suffering bizarre outbursts that elicit worry and sideways glances from those nearby. (My VC actually thought it was stupid that they kept talking to each other out loud with no thought to how crazy they looked to others.) As with Taki and Mitsuha in Your Name, they learn a lot about each other, from past stresses to present foibles, through the rare opportunity of vicariously witnessing the other’s life. I especially liked how one tends to comment on what’s happening to the other, a voice in the head they have to try to ignore, like the hologram Al from Quantum Leap.

Image result for in your eyes zoe kazan film

Also worth noting are the direction and cinematography, which infuse many scenes with a luminous quality that enhances the enchantment of their unusual bond. The contrasting settings also heighten the distance between them, from Dylan’s orange desert to Rebecca’s blue-tinged snowscapes. The editing does well in visualizing their shared feelings, culminating in a bizarre but sensual bedroom scene. (Is there even a word for that? Long-distance intimacy?)

As much as I enjoyed both the romance and fantasy aspects, I must admit I didn’t love In Your Eyes quite as much as I’d hoped. It isn’t just the lack of explanation or the oddness of the very concept. The climax builds to a satisfying final scene, but all the events leading up to it are left open-ended, making me think there will be lots of unaddressed bumps on the road to a happy ending. Plus, as good as In Your Eyes is, I think Your Name did a similar story better, just as it did with The Lake House. Even so, In Your Eyes deserves a lot more attention than the few bloggers who have tried to promote it. For any fan of unorthodox romance or extramundane relationships, it’s definitely worth your time.

Best line: (Rebecca, realizing who she’s talking to the first time) “Wait, you’re real. You’re a real person!”   (Dylan) “Oh, that’s the sweetest thing anybody’s said to me all day.”

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2017 S.G. Liput
497 Followers and Counting

 

Top Twelve Less Obvious Christmas Movies: Christmas in July Blogathon 2017

Who better to celebrate Christmas in July with than Drew and his annual Christmas in July Blogathon? Avoiding the usual Christmas staples, I compiled a Top Twelve list of movies you may not associate with Christmas but do boast some holiday spirit if you know where to look. Be sure to check out the other Christmas posts from everyone else who joined the party!

Drew's Movie Reviews

Welcome to day 2 of this year’s Christmas in July Blogathon, everyone! Today, SG from Rhyme and Reason joins in the festivities. If you aren’t familiar with SG and his blog, he mixes two of his passions: poetry and film. It is a rather fun and unique idea and he brings that creativity to this blogathon. Instead of doing another ol’ movie review, he is listing off twelve of his favorite movies that might not seem like Christmas movies at first glance. Curious to see what they are? Well continue reading to find out!


In trying to think of something unique for this Christmas in July Blogathon, I tried to steer away from all the usual Christmas movies I could review. Instead, I’m focusing on the movies you may not associate with Christmas. In fact, some of these may not seem like Christmas movies at all, but it’s there if…

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