Hello, dear TW readers! Most of our staff is spending the day eating leftover stuffing and mashed potatoes, so things will probably be a little slow on the blog today. You can entertain yourself until we're back with this list of Casa Video's most popular movies from last week (or, if you're really adventures, you could go rent the films themselves!)
By Bob Grimm
on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 11:00 AM
Director Denis Villeneuve has made one of the year’s best science fiction films.
Amy Adams stars as Dr. Louise Banks, a linguistics teacher crippled by visions of a daughter who died of a rare illness. She lives a life of seclusion, where the only thing she really does is teach her class and mope around her lakefront home. (Man, that must be one abnormally high paying teacher’s gig.)
During class, a bunch of phones go off, a student instructs her to turn on the TV, and, bam, that’s how she discovers the planet seems to be getting a visit from an alien force. Strange giant pods have parked themselves all over the planet, and nobody knows their intent. A solemn military man (Forest Whitaker) shows up in Louise’s office and informs her the world needs her. She has a sense of purpose again. It isn’t long before she’s inside an alien ship trying to talk to the “Heptapods,” large elephant looking aliens with seven legs. She’s joined by a science officer played by a surprisingly low-key Jeremy Renner.
The movie is drawing comparisons to Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s a very different type of film from that one. If you are looking for some sort of action pic, you will not find that here. This is a sci-fi movie that gives itself time to breathe, and while it does have a few action scenes, for the most part, it’s intellectual fare.
Next up for Villeneuve is Blade Runner 2049, a sequel to the Ridley Scott classic and another sci-fi effort. Based on his work with Arrival, I have to say that the Blade Runner sequel stands as one of my most anticipated movies.
By Bob Grimm
on Mon, Nov 21, 2016 at 10:00 AM
Writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig makes an impressive debut with this darkly funny take on the life of a modern day high school outcast.
Hailee Steinfeld gives her best performance since True Grit as Nadine, a highly intelligent teen going through an awkward stage when her best friend (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her brother (Blake Jenner). Nadine is a practitioner of brutal honesty, which basically gets her ostracized at school and in trouble with her family. The only one who really stops to listen is her teacher (a hilarious Woody Harrelson) who actually has no choice given his profession.
Craig’s screenplay is first rate, and her directing results in some great performances. Steinfeld is good enough here to be considered for her second Oscar nomination, while Jenner (who starred in this year’s Everybody Wants Some) is equally good.
This one is drawing comparison to the best of John Hughes, and I would call the movie a good companion piece to The Breakfast Club. It’s good to see Steinfeld getting a role she very much deserves, and exciting to see a new voice like Craig’s on the scene.
Kyra Sedgwick is also very good in a supporting role as Nadine’s mother, while Hayden Szeto does excellent work as a high school boy who hasn’t mastered the art of properly asking somebody out (His performance is all the more impressive because he’s over 30 playing 18).
This is one of the better family dramas of recent years, on top of being a solid, funny comedy.
Is anyone else in complete shock that it's already mid November? Maybe it was the election hubbub, or perhaps the workload that falls into our newsroom in the Fall, but both my internal clock and the temperature reading in my car have me feeling like it's actually late August. If you have time for a movie marathon this weekend, I envy you.
By Bob Grimm
on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 9:00 AM
Mel Gibson directs his first movie in a decade and—surprise—the sucker bleeds. It bleeds a lot.
As a director, Gibson stands alongside the likes of Sam Raimi, David Cronenberg and Peter Jackson as a master of body horror. Yes, I will go so far as to say his latest, Hacksaw Ridge, is an all out horror film in parts. His depiction of a World War II battle makes George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead look like Zootopia.
The movie tells the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a battlefield medic and the first of three conscientious objectors in U.S. warfare history to receive the Medal of Honor. The dude refused to pick up a gun, or any weapon for that matter, during his time served in Okinawa. That didn’t stop him from braving the battlefields with comrades, eventually saving the lives of 75 men during horrendously bloody battles.
Much of the film’s first half is devoted to Doss’s backstory, a troubled childhood with his alcoholic World War I veteran father (a good Hugo Weaving) and an eventual romance with future wife Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer). The early goings in the film are handled well, although they are a little schmaltzy at times. Gibson isn’t at his best when he’s handling the romance stuff.
When Doss goes to boot camp and faces off against commanding officers like Captain Glover (Sam Worthington) and Sgt. Howell (Vince Vaughn), the film starts to get very interesting. Due to his Seventh Day Adventist beliefs, Doss refuses to pick up a rifle, and this gets him into all sorts of jams on the training field and in the barracks. After a detour for a court-martial hearing, Doss and his infantry mates are deployed to Japan.
When the action switches to the scaling of the Maeda Escarpment a.k.a. Hacksaw Ridge, the movie becomes perhaps the most grueling war movie experience ever made.
By Bob Grimm
on Mon, Nov 14, 2016 at 10:00 AM
This minimalist horror film mixes elements of Cujo, Alien and Ghostbusters. I include Ghostbusters because the title monster looks a lot like a greasier version of the demon dog Rick Moranis transformed into in the comedy classic.
There’s nothing funny about how badly a road trip goes for Kathy (Zoe Kazan) and daughter Lizzy (Ella Balletine) when they have a blowout on a rainy night in the middle of nowhere.
Their car hits a wolf, a bloody wolf, and Lizzy makes the keen observation that something it was fighting must’ve driven it in front of their car and into harm’s way. She’s very right. There’s a monster in the woods, and it wants to not only eat them, but anybody that tries to help them.
Writer-director Bryan Bertino (The Strangers) has made a decent creature feature here, one that is as much a mother-daughter drama (there are plenty of flashbacks showing their troubled times) as it is a flick about a monster. Kazan is damn good here, and continues to be one of the more under-appreciated actresses in movies today (She must get some more higher profile roles). Balletine is every bit her match as a daughter who has much more common sense than her mother.
The movie clocks in at 91 minutes, but it feels long due to some stretches that are drawn out just a tad. Still, enough of the movie works to qualify it as yet another decent movie in a resurgent horror genre.
Available for rent on iTunes, On Demand and Amazon.com during a limited theatrical release.
What a week it's been. While it's true that I advocate for downtime every weekend, I think a lot of people could benefit from a little R&R this weekend. Go on a hike (it's finally cool enough!), grab some tacos and hit up Casa Video for some popcorn and a little escapist entertainment.
Here's your weekly list of last week's most popular rentals at Tucson favorite video store:
By Bob Grimm
on Tue, Nov 8, 2016 at 9:00 AM
This is easily the worst of the Robert Langdon series, a series that was already pretty terrible in that both The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons blew ass.
Ron Howard once again directs Tom Hanks as Langdon, and this series needed to be put down after the first installment.
When Langdon wakes up in a hospital room, with a bullet scratch on his head and loss of memory, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) is there to help out. Then, somebody starts toward Langdon’s hospital room guns blazing, and the so-called adventure begins.
Langdon is having hallucinations about something akin to Dante’s “Inferno” while trying to work his way through amnesia. He’s in Italy, and he doesn’t know why, but Sienna, for reasons unknown, is going to stay by his side until he works things out. Langdon must race against time (and solve puzzles!) in order to save the world.
The main “puzzle” Langdon has to solve this time is where a doomsday bomb containing a virus that will wipe out the majority of the earth’s population has been planted. If he doesn’t find the Make Everybody Sick bomb, it will be an apocalypse like no other. Gee, I wonder if he’ll find it? I wonder if the whole world will die in a Ron Howard movie?