Week 4 of 2019 (1/21 – 1/27)


Here’s this week’s selection of films:

1/21War Machine2017
1/22Stark Raving Mad2002
1/24A Serious Man2009
1/25Lazer Team 22017

January 21

Day 21 of the 2019 Movie Challenge and I watched 2017’s War Machine from Netflix. Definitely a political satire, it takes a comic look at the surge in Afghanistan in 2009, with Brad Pitt doing his best “George C. Scott as Patton” impression while playing a fictional Army general that is totally not supposed to be Gen. Stanley McChrystal. (Except that it is.)

I enjoyed most of the movie. It could have really gone into slapstick in how they portrayed things, but it didn’t. I felt they did a good job at getting across a particular message, whether the viewers agree with that stance or not. Ben Kingsley was fantastic as Hamid Karzai and whoever played President Obama* at one point in the film just nailed it! (The rest of the time, they used archival news footage.)

“War Machine” is exclusively on Netflix, which makes sense since it’s a Netflix Original film.

*UPDATE: I found out that the Barack Obama impersonator is a real guy who makes a living doing that by the name of Reggie Brown. He’s really, really good! Here’s his website.

January 22

‪Day 22 of the 2019 Movie Challenge!

You know, sometimes you really luck out by choosing a film at random from your streaming queue. And sometimes (*cough* Sorceress *cough*) you don’t. But today’s film land solidly in the middle of those two extremes.

2002’s Stark Raving Mad stars Seann William Scott as a thief, leading a team of misfits on a heist using a rave as cover. Now, I like a good heist movie, and the premise sounds solid, but the execution had some problems, mainly that it felt too long. The rave seemed to drag on and the movie’s 100-minute running time is about 20 minutes too long as a result. But there are some good spots, in particular the resolution of the plot was well done and there were some effortlessly good performances from Lou Diamond Phillips as the main villain and Kids in the Hall alum Dave Foley as an FBI agent who’s surprised by some of the folks attending the rave.

It’s a halfway decent film, but if you want a better and similar movie from the same period, check out 2003’s Foolproof starring Ryan Reynolds.

January 23

Day 23 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! Today’s movie was 2018’s Beirut starring Jon Hamm, Rosamund Pike, Shea Whigham and Dean Norris. Hamm plays a former diplomat who gets dragged into back into service to negotiate a hostage release.

This movie was great and is probably one that flew under a lot of people’s radars when it was released last year. (I sure missed it!) This one was written by Tony Gilroy, who I consider a modern master of this genre (the first 4 “Bourne” movies, “Proof of Life”, “Michael Clayton”, etc., etc.). There were some terrific performances from the entire cast; not only the stars I mentioned above, but also Mark Pellegrino and French actor Idir Chender.

If you like your political thrillers, this is a pretty good entry to the mix. It’s also a great companion piece to 2012’s Argo, so if you haven’t seen that either, make it a double feature!

January 24

Day 24 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! Today, I checked out a Coen Brothers movie, specifically 2009’s A Serious Man. A physics professor in Minnesota has a crisis of faith just before his son’s bar mitzvah as his life threatens to come apart at the seams.

I’d say this is probably one of their lesser-known films, because a) it didn’t star any of their regular stable of actors, and b) it was in the middle of a string of superb work by them (No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading and True Grit) and may have been eclipsed. I don’t even remember this movie getting a wide release in theaters. Michael Stuhlbarg (just before his breakthrough work in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) leads a cast largely made up of relative unknowns and does a terrific job playing a man slowly falling apart through no fault of his own.

If you’re a big Coen Brothers fan, you probably have seen this already. If you haven’t, you may want to check it out. The ending is a little weird and kind of unresolved, but that could be the bigger message of the movie, too.

January 25

Day 25 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! I said a couple of weeks ago that I would be watching this at some point… and that point was today! 2017’s Lazer Team 2 is a YouTube Red original movie, a sequel to the comedy from 2015. Our heroes end up having to go into space without their abilities to rescue one of their own.

All of the original stars from the first one came back and, with a few new added faces, made this sequel incredibly well-done. It certainly felt more coherent and straightforward than the original, not to mention just funnier all around. If you haven’t watched the original yet, these two go together well as a back-to-back double feature. (Galaxy Quest is a good example of this type of sci-fi comedy done ridiculously well.)

January 26

Day 26 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! A little shift into some darker action today with 2017’s Bushwick, starring Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Brittany Snow. When a mysterious army invades a Brooklyn neighborhood, an ex-Marine attempts to help a woman to reunite with her family and survive an invasion.

This is definitely a bit of a roller-coaster ride of a movie, because this movie really doesn’t stop from the word “go”. There are some actual cuts, mostly cleverly disguised so that the movie looks like just a few really long takes. The directors also heavily relied on Steadicams to provide a frenetic and very intimate feel to the film in some tight spaces. People tend to discount Bautista as an actor, but he really shows incredible depth in his performance that I’ve not seen in other wrestler-turned-movie-stars. It’s not a perfect movie, by any stretch, but the premise is interesting. Fair warning, though: you may want a similar movie with a slightly more chipper ending… like the original Red Dawn or something.

January 27

Day 27 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! Today’s movie was 2018’s Downsizing starring Matt Damon. (Insert Team America reference here.) When scientists find a way to shrink humans to five inches tall, a man and his wife, who are financially struggling, decide to get small and live large in a luxurious miniature community. And of course, that’s where things start to go wrong.

Alexander Payne does a great job with a very original story. I’ve also enjoyed some of his previous films like About Schmidt and Sideways, so if you liked those, I think you’ll dig this, even with the sci-fi premise. It leads into a larger conversation about the planet and climate change (yeah, it’s real!), but also takes some subtle digs at the state of income inequality as well.

I’d have to say that the best movie of this set this week was Downsizing, although Beirut was a close second. I think I get more of the emotional feel from it combined with laughs, although I also laughed at Lazer Team 2. But it was pretty much a good set overall this week, regardless.

We had a great performance at the Suwanee library yesterday! While I winced (always have, always will) at some of the mistakes we made, we had a full house and got the first show out of the way. I’m proud of how things turned out overall. And it should be an interesting challenge with the next show at a different branch. I was a little nervous about it mainly because I think I’ve been fighting off a potential illness this past week as well (it’s been cold), but I think I’m good for now. It’s supposed to snow/rain this coming week and it sounds like the city is going to shut down for safety in advance of the coming precipitation in various forms… ice is apparently a huge problem at this time of year. I guess we’ll see.

Now that the library shows for ARTC are underway, I can refocus to get some editing projects done that I have on my plate, as well as start auditioning for more VO work again. Yay!