Rating System & Definitions

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The Goal Is To Try To Review Everything Ever Made…

OVER 460 In Depth Movie & TV  REVIEWS !!!!

Flick Notes Rating System:

Awesome. Add it to your collection right now!!!

Excellent. You owe it to yourself to see it!

Good. See it if you get the chance.

Fair. Not good/not bad, no biggie if you pass.

Bad. Does have minimal value if you insist.

Horrible! Watch it only if you are a masochist!

 

C Fox reintroduces himself and talks about the future of Flick Notes podcasts and what you need to know about the thought(s) that goes into the way the reviews and categories on the site are done for you. The podcast lasts 30:58. Thanks for listening!!


The Founder (2016)

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The Founder (2016) on IMDb

Starring: Michael Keaton, Laura Dern, John Carroll Lynch, Nick Offerman, B.J. Novak, Linda Cardellini, Kate Kneeland. Drama/Based On True Events. Directed by John Lee Hancock. Synopsis: The story of how salesman Ray Kroc met the McDonald brothers and helped turn their innovative idea of low cost fast food into a multi billion dollar enterprise and an  American institution. 

 

I had been wanting to see this one for a while and finally got around to it. Glad I did because, just as I predicted, I liked it. Now, before you go assuming that this is not an entirely unbiased review simply because I told you I expected to like it, consider this: don’t most of us choose to watch flicks precisely because we anticipate that we’ll like them?  We do, don’t we? Sure we do. Unless, of course, we are hired guns whose job is to not like movies whom most everyone else does for the purpose of, as the youngsters say, “trolling” and/or to stretch the reins of logic and credulity-disguised with polysyllabic words in lieu of actual critique- to make some nebulous political point that the presupposed readership is predetermined to believe in the absence of objective fact and common sense.

But, I digress.

I knew I wanted to see The Founder when the trailers first dropped last year because 1) I’m a fan of Michael Keaton (Pacific Heights Robocop) and 2) I’m kind of a sucker for based on true events flicks. You put those two together, plus the fact that the story is about an American institution like McDonald’s, and how can you go wrong, right? Well, as you know from careful study and reading this blog faithfully (cough, cough), there are plenty of ways to go wrong in a movie, even with a winning formula.

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The Great Wall (2017)

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The Great Wall (2016)

 

 The Great Wall (2016) on IMDb

 

Starring: Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Pedro Pascal, Andy Lau, Willem DaFoe. Action/Fantasy. Directed by Yimou Zhang. Synopsis: Two European mercenaries are in the Far East in search of the new invention of gunpowder when they encounter and kill a strange lizard like beast. Afterwards, they approach the Great Wall of China and are first captured by the defending army and subsequently enlisted to help the defending army against an onslaught from a legion of meat ending beasts.

I know this one took a bath, at least at the U.S. box office, when considered with its budget and expectations. I had the pleasure of taking this one at the theater. The first thing I will say is that, visually, it is excellent, if not stunning in some parts. In addition to being the first thing that I would say about The Great Wall, it is also the best thing I can say.

Now, let’s tackle the elephant in the room right off the bat. There was a lot of chatter about this movie prior to its release. A lot of that chatter was in the critical form stemming from the very real issue of “whitewashing” in Hollywood movies. Briefly described, that is when a – usually – Caucasian actor is put in a role that is based on, from either  source material or historical perspective, an Asian or other nonwhite character. What makes that such an issue, from this view point, is the fact that we almost never see the reverse. (For some, even the thought of that is too much.)  As such, claims of artistic interpretation or box office appeal often fall, justifiably in my view, on deaf ears.

So,this is where you likely expect me to start ragging on this movie for the casting of Matt Damon (Contagion  The Informant!) as William, the medieval mercenary from the West who comes East to basically show all our native Asian characters how to defend themselves as well as feel good about this impressive wall they’ve somehow managed to build despite being, presumably, technologically inferior to their implicitly superior Western European counterparts, right? Well, no, I’m not going to do that. You know why?

No, it’s not because I’m a Damon fan. It’s because it doesn’t happen in this movie. If anything, the film clearly shows and/or implies the native Chinese to be ahead of the West: technologically as well as in terms of military tactics and nebulous social issues, such as the role of women in leadership.

Damon is the big-name actor and, yes, the story unfolds largely through the eyes of his character. But, make no mistake, he is not the one who drives this piece, nor is his performance the outstanding one here. That designation goes, without question, to Tian Jing (Kong: Skull Island), whose Commander Lin Mae is the vital protagonist.

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Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)

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Whatever Happened To Baby Jane

 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) on IMDb

Starring: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono, Anna Lee, Maidie Norman, Marjorie Bennett.  Drama/Horror. Directed by Robert Aldrich. Synopsis: Two sisters, one a former child vaudeville star and the other a paralyzed and beloved movie star live together in a Hollywood mansion as their lives deteriorate due to mental illness, a lifetime of jealousy and devastating truth only one of them knows.

Okay, here’s the deal. Have seen this classic many times but not in a long time. The success of the wonderful TV show about the feud between legends Davis and Crawford put the flick back into my mind and-frankly-I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t previously done a review. I watched it again recently and was shocked to realize that the version(s) I had seen over the years had been cut for commercial TV.

Now, don’t those of you from the “millennial” generation think that seeing a full cut of this movie means what it means when a current movie has a “director’s cut”. What I had missed previously was purely trimmed, I’m sure, for the purpose of run time. Still, its pretty cool to see something new when you watch a movie you’ve seen a half dozen times previously. And, you know what?

Whatever Happened To Baby Jane is even better than I remembered it.  When you fully understand who the lead actresses were; the relationship between them; and the time that this film was made it is nothing short of phenomenal.

The legendary conflict between Bette Davis (in my opinion, the greatest actress of the Golden Age of Hollywood) and Joan Crawford (in my opinion, the greatest female star from the Golden Age of Hollywood) is worthy of a book/movie/TV series (obviously) on its own. That’s been done and will be done much better than I ever could here, so let’s focus on the flick.

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Kong: Skull Island (2017)

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 Kong: Skull Island (2017) on IMDb

 

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, Tian Jing, Shea Whigam, Toby Kebbell. Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Drama. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts Synopsis: In the wake of the Vietnam war, a team of scientists is accompanied by a team of Army commandos on an investigative incursion to an island in the South Pacific that is thought to be uninhabited but, in fact, is home to beasts previously unknown to the civilized world.

Have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of the King Kong franchise. Now, don’t get me wrong, I doubt diminish its place among the all time classics, with the 1933 version being both a commercial and special effects marvel for its time, and the 1978 remake being an underappreciated gem in the minds of many.

Further, it would be foolish not to give King Kong himself props as one of the more enduring and iconic fictional characters in Western civilization; inhabiting that rare status where everybody, regardless of demographics, knows the character…even if they haven’t ever seen the movie, or read the book, etc. (Ex. Sherlock Holmes, Batman, etc.)

Having said all that, just haven’t ever been a big fan. Nothing personal against the big fella. So, I was somewhat surprised that when trailers for Kong: Skull Island hit the theaters and airwaves late last year and into this winter that I found myself kind of wanting to see this one. (Maybe its because I’m almost always up to see anything with Samuel L. Jackson, I don’t know) Anyway, decided to take this one in via the theater experience.

I’m glad I did.

Kong: Skull Island is a fun, fast paced, and action filled reboot of the King Kong story. In this installment, the opening scene treats us to two WW II fighter pilots-one American and one Japanese- who have shot each other down over a tropical island and, after respectively parachuting to land, they’re going to settle this thing with hand to hand combat, by God…then eponymous main character shows up.  We then jump cut to 1973, where a pair of investigative scientists Randa (John Goodman The Monuments Men Flight) and Brooks (Corey Hawkins Non-Stop)

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Kill That Bitch (2014)

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Kill That Bitch (2014)

 

 Kill That Bitch (2014) on IMDb

 

Starring: Jessica Cook, Bloodcountess Bathory, Haley Madison, Erin Ryan, Josh Eal, Brandon Salkil, Elysia Gipson. Horror. Directed by Dustin Mills. Synopsis: A group of women are being methodically stalked and brutally attacked by a strange man wearing a mask who, for some reason, seems to be out for revenge.

One of my favorite genres of movies, or perhaps its a “sub-genre” is the low budget, or B movie. Now, what qualifies as low budget can vary. In Hollywood terms, a film with a 5 million dollar budget starring Shia Lebeouf might qualify as “low budget”. That’s fine. What I’m talking about for the purposes of this review are the literally low budget flicks. The ones that come together with a feature length story & script, locations, props, FX, and at least commercial grade, if not professional, production values.  How someone manages to produce a movie for the low five figures or less is a wonder, and a testament to everyone involved in the movie, particularly the actors.

Kill That Bitch is such a production. Based on the (excellent and informative) director’s commentary on the DVD, it was made for less than $2000, which is a miracle. Because this movie is good. Well acted, well directed, and interesting with solid production values.

The story begins with closeup montages of young, nubile women waking up from their respective nude slumber(s). Now, right away, it would be easy to think to yourself “Low budget horror movie, this is going to be nothing but a skin fest.” Well, whether low dollar skin fests are a positive or a negative for you, trust me that the copious nudity in the first ten minutes-and continuing pretty steady throughout- has a story based point (which is why this one doesn’t get put in the exploitation/grindhouse category) . In fact, the whole first and second acts build smartly to what will probably be a surprising reveal for most viewers. But, the ending is legit…there were clues. Oh, so many clues.

The women seem to be connected but, early on in the movie, we’re not quite sure how. What we are sure about, however, is that they are being stalked and brutally murdered by a strange man wearing a long beaked mask.

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Falling To Pieces (2015)

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(No IMDB rating as of the time of this review)

 

Starring: Elisabeth Jamison, Abraham Alvarez, Alex Crespo, Clifton Dunn,  Dana Watkins, Dave Hanson, Polly Noonan. Short/Romance/Comedy Directed by Chris Connolly and Vivian Connolly. Synopsis: A woman is dealing with her feelings in the wake of her husband’s unexpected death upon learning that he was an organ donor. At the same time as she is finally ready to move out of their house, she receives information about the identities of the people who received the organs and, for better or worse, she meets with them.

When you really think about it, a short film that tells a story, has a definitive conflict and resolution as well as giving the protagonist an arc, should be an almost impossible task to pull off. Especially when dealing with a deep topic like the suffocating grief that comes with the loss of a loved one. Just think of all the full length feature movies that fail to do this. Its a big reason, in my opinion, why so much of the best that we see on television is episodic.

But, Falling To Pieces does it. At 18 minutes, including credits, it almost feels like a feature film. You know how when you watched a long movie that you absolutely loved, like Schindler’s List or Scarface or whatever, you  weren’t cognizant or bored or irritated by the approximately 3 hour run time? Well, this short kind of does that in reverse. I was thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot to get to with a heavy topic that, somehow, splices in some laughs with only about 15 minutes of actual run time.”

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Manchester By The Sea (2016)

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 Manchester by the Sea (2016) on IMDb

Starring: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, C.J. Wilson, Gretchen Mol, Matthew Broderick,  Stephen Henderson, Tate Donovan Kara Hayward, Anna Baryshnikov.Drama. Oscar Winner. Directed by Kenneth Lonergan. Synopsis: A widower still dealing with the aftermath of a family tragedy is surprised in the wake of his brother’s sudden death that he has been chosen as the guardian of his teen age nephew.

Had heard nothing but positive buzz about this flick for month, but didn’t actually get around to seeing it until weeks after the completion of awards season. So, I knew going in that it had a bunch of Oscar nominations and a win for Best Actor for Casey Affleck (Out Of The Furnace) . I resolved, as I always do when I’m watching a film that has garnered accolades, not to let it influence my opinion of it. I am usually successful. (Too strong willed to let someone else tell me that I should like something that I don’t, or vice versa.)

Well, this is one situation in which the positive buzz was justified, because this is an excellent movie. Well acted, well shot, well directed, well crafted and, as I’ve blogged many times before, when you have a good story, you have a chance, at least, of having a good movie.

As our story begins, we are introduced to Lee Chandler (Affleck) a somber handyman who doesn’t seem all that engaged with the world around him and isn’t above tying one on at night and instigating a bar fight. Lee gets some bad news that his brother has died suddenly of cardiac arrest and he has to leave his job in Quincy, Massachusetts to go up the road to his hometown of Manchester (the official name of the town is actually Manchester By The Sea) to make funeral arrangements.

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