By Bob Grimm
on Tue, Dec 13, 2016 at 9:06 AM
Be prepared to get your heart ripped out by Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams in this, one of the more emotionally powerful movie experiences of 2016.
Affleck plays Lee, uncle to Patrick (Lucas Hedges), who must return to his hometown and raise his nephew after his brother (Kyle Chandler) dies. Lee is a true mess, and we learn through flashbacks what got him to his messed up state. He’s battling some major past tragedy on top of his brother’s death, and there’s no telling how things will work out for him and Patrick. The flashbacks are brutal, revealing things that go beyond terrible, and it’s no wonder Lee is having coping issues.
Affleck has turned in good work before, but nothing like what he does in this film. He’s incredible. Williams turns in a blistering performance as Lee’s ex-wife, and a scene Affleck and Williams share together is guaranteed to knock you on your ass, and will probably earn them both Oscar nominations. Hedges is mighty good as the confused teen dealing with the loss of his dad and his somewhat strange uncle.
Kenneth Lonergan directs from his own screenplay, and he’s put together some kind of movie miracle. His last big film was You Can Count On Me sixteen years ago. He’s definitely one of the great cinema comeback stories of 2016.
Besides being so emotionally powerful that you might dehydrate from crying, this movie also has some big laughs in it. It is an instant classic.
By Bob Grimm
on Mon, Dec 12, 2016 at 11:00 AM
Amy Adams, on fire in 2016 even after you factor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, plays Susan Morrow, a bizarre art gallery owner stuck in a rut. Her bland but gorgeous husband (Armie Hammer—also having a good year) is ambivalent toward her, and she’s borderline broke and generally unhappy.
She gets a manuscript in the mail from ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal). He was a struggling writer when the two were together, but now he just might have the novel that could get his career going. Susan agrees to read the advance copy, and the story within freaks her out, to say the least.
The film’s screenplay, written by Ford and based on the novel by Austin Wright, then goes on an ultra-clever route. We see the story play out as Susan reads it and, as many of us often do, Susan casts the main character in the novel, Tony Hastings, as somebody she knows—her ex-husband.
So Gyllenhaal plays two roles in the film: Edward in flashbacks and Tony, husband of Laura (Isla Fisher) and father to India (Ellie Bamber), in her visualization of the novel. One of the great tricks of the movie is that it remains a mystery whether or not the events in the novel are based on events in the larger narrative, or just act as a symbolic representation of the cruelties Susan inflicted upon Edward when she left him.
Also, we never really know if Edward is somebody who simply wrote a chilling thriller and wants his ex-wife’s honest opinion, or if he’s sending her a “message.” Michael Shannon is excellent as a lawman living on borrowed time.
It’s an alternately scary, funny, thrilling movie that is expertly performed.
By Bob Grimm
on Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 9:24 AM
Written and directed by Greg Nichols, this film recounts the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a couple whose interracial marriage was ruled illegal by the state of Virginia in 1958, banning them from the state and sending their lives into constant turmoil. Put on probation with the threat of 25 years in prison if they were caught together in Virginia, they were forced to live a good portion of their married life in exile.
The movie covers their lives from the time they decide to get married due to Mildred’s pregnancy, through the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage unconstitutional in 1967. So that’s nine years that two people lived their lives in America as convicted criminals simply for being two consenting adults who married.
The law banning interracial marriage was abolished in many other states as a result of the ruling, and the Loving case was used as an argument in last year’s ruling to allow for same sex marriage.
Simply put, when it comes to the institution of marriage and what it stands for here in the states, you might not ever find a more historically important couple than Richard and Mildred Loving.
Joel Edgerton, who delivered a terrific performance in Midnight Special (also directed by Nichols and released this year) is a sure Oscar contender as Richard. His face is one of constant pain and confusion, as if always saying “Really, you have to be kidding me!” The moments when Richard gets to smile and laugh in the film are like drinking a pitcher of iced water while another is being poured over you on a 110-degree day. Ruth Negga, a relatively unknown actress, is equally wonderful as Mildred, a woman who must sneak the birth of her baby in Virginia under the stress of possible arrest. Like Edgerton, hers is a performance of quiet reserve, made all the more powerful by her expressive face.
By Bob Grimm
on Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 9:31 AM
Ever wondered what would happen to your kid if you raised her in the middle of nowhere with no friends and showed her how to perform surgery on decapitated cow heads?
Writer-director Nicolas Pesce has and, heck, he’s made a whole damned movie about it.
After a really strange guy (Will Brill) visits her farm home and a series of really bad things happen, Francisca (Kika Magalhaes) is left alone with nobody to talk to. Well, actually, she does have a pet, but we won’t go into that right now. Francisca has had very little social interaction over the years, other than with that pet, and she ventures out to see what the outside world is like. As it turns out, it would’ve been much better for a few people if she had chosen to just stay home and watch TV.
Shot in black and white and coupled with an effectively eerie score, this is old school horror. Like, early Wes Craven/Tobe Hooper kind of horror. Francisca turns out to be a memorable movie monster in this gothic fairytale, one that will leave you extra cautious about picking up those hitchhikers.
Pesce knows what scary is, and he certainly knows how to direct a scary picture. If you don’t like horror films already, I can pretty much guarantee you are going to violently hate this one. It’s nightmare fuel for sure. Pesce has certainly succeeded at what he has set out to do, and that’s to totally freak his audience out.
Available for rent on iTunes, Amazon.com and OnDemand during a limited theatrical release.
By Bob Grimm
on Mon, Dec 5, 2016 at 10:00 AM
Director Otto Bell’s documentary actually plays out like a cool, dramatic adventure film as a young girl aims to be the first eagle hunter in her family.
Aisholpan, a 13 year-old Mongolian girl living with her tribe, has always been fascinated with eagles, and wants to become a champion eagle hunter like her father and grandfather (They hunt using eagles to catch game, rather than actually hunting eagles). The film follows her through initial training, including the capturing of her own baby eagle on a treacherous cliff side (This kid isn’t messing around; she really wants this).
It’s fascinating watching the eagle acclimate to its new home; you feel a little sorry for it, but its captors feed it well and it certainly bonds with Aisholpan. It’s an amazing animal, and there’s a lot of joy in simply seeing food gong into its mouth. It’s also amazing to see its particular brand of voracious eating going on just inches from the young girl’s face. This kid has a lot of faith in the goodwill of her big bird.
Yes, that’s Rey herself, Daisy Ridley, chiming in with the occasional narration—her voice was made for this sort of thing. Parts of the doc feel a little staged, but its overwhelming charm cancels out the phony moments.
Aisholpan and her big bird do eventually make it to the eagle festival, with her being the only female participant. It ends with the girl and her eagle going on a winter hunt, and some pretty amazing battles with foxes.
I didn’t even know eagle hunting was a thing until I saw this. This is an entertaining nature documentary, and Aisholpan will put a smile on your face.
Somehow it's already December and 2016 is slipping through our fingers—not that anyone is going to miss this year, it's been rough. While I personally think you should spend your remaining movie watching hours for the year filling your brains with performances by Alan Rickman, Florence Henderson and Gene Wilder, I suppose you also have the option of watching some more current films.
Here's your weekly look at what's popular at Casa Video:
Have you always known you're a witch or wizard at heart? Well, shed your muggle-ness for an evening of holiday celebration and magic at your local Barnes and Noble for the Harry Potter Magical Holiday Ball.
Barnes and Noble locations across the country will hold a Yule-ball inspired dance party at all stores in the U.S. on Friday, Dec. 9 from 7-9 p.m. Muggles of all ages are welcome to join in on the holiday fun.
Whether you want to come in your best-dressed, as your favorite Potter character or in your Hogwarts uniform, there will be festive activities to celebrate all things Potter.
Because of the obvious popularity of this free event, Barnes and Noble said customers should call their local store ahead of time for capacity limits or special instructions.
By Bob Grimm
on Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 10:00 AM
Peter Yates returns to helm the next chapter in the Harry Potter universe, a prequel called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the title of a textbook Harry studied at Hogwarts.
The film takes place well before Harry’s time, as the world of wizardry comes to New York City in the 1920s. Unfortunately, Beasts struggles with some of the same problems the first, lackluster Harry Potter had. It’s a sometimes good-looking movie with a screenplay that never takes hold. It’s all over the place, with no real sense of purpose other than setting you up for future movies. It’s nothing but an overblown place-setter.
In place of Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry, we get Eddie Redmayne’s Newt, author of the infamous textbook and caretaker for a variety of “fantastic beasts.” The film opens with him coming to New York toting a suitcase with a variety of beasts bursting to get out. Some of them do, indeed, escape and wreak havoc. Most notably a little platypus-looking thing called Niffler.
There’s a fun moment when Newt opens his case, and drops into it like it contains a staircase. It reveals a vast home for the creatures inside, where he feeds them and plays. And that’s it, really.
The movie is a big setup for the occasional sequences involving Redmayne interacting with special effects. The creatures might look relatively cool, but none of them register as great characters that move the plot along. Dan Fogler is pretty good in a supporting role as somebody who befriends Newt, but that doesn’t keep this film from being a mediocre start to a new chapter in the Potter universe.