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Thursday
Mar092017

The Gathering (2016)

After watching The Gathering, you won't think of “Social Justice Warrior” as a pejorative phrase. Micki Dickoff’s rousing documentary short follows members of Witness to Innocence, an activist organization comprised entirely of exonerated death row inmates. And there are a lot of them. An argument-ending amount of people served decades behind bars based on faulty evidence, bogus testimony, and other matters of corruption inherent to or abetted by the American criminal justice system. The occasional soapboxing against crooked attorneys is a bit much, especially without some sort of “Not All Prosecutors” balance. But Dickoff’s decision to let the voiceless speak without interruption serves as cosmic reparations for these horribly betrayed, often lower-class men and women who now devote themselves to ending capital punishment. The Gathering's emotional testimonials flesh out ideas only hinted at by the talking heads in Ava DuVernay’s 13th. This is a call to action. Indeed, to war.

Wednesday
Mar082017

An Undeniable Voice (2016)

I’m greedy when it comes to really compelling stories. I want to know so much more about Holocaust survivor Sam Harris than Price Arana and Adam Rothlein’s fifteen-minute documentary short, An Undeniable Voice, can offer. Harris was only four when Nazis invaded his hometown of Demblin, Poland, and only slightly older than that when he and four other children were allowed into a concentration camp that doubled as a munitions factory (as opposed to being shot in the train yard). The film artfully intercuts between an on-stage interview with producer Sharon Stone and haunting, archival depictions of Harris’ childhood stories. Like the 1.5 million children murdered in World War II, An Undeniable Voice feels like it was taken from us far too soon. But the filmmakers pack each minute with a gratitude and vigilance that recalls the words of Neil Gaiman: “You get what everyone gets. You get a lifetime.”

Thursday
Mar022017

Logan (2017)

Like Marvel's decades-long comics saga, Fox's X-Men films have been booted, rebooted, wiped clean, and spun-off so often that just about each new movie amounts to a fresh start. Kudos to characters like Logan's Logan (Hugh Jackman), who gets to run anew from his haunted past and beat up mutants/mercenaries every three years or so. But this off-brand MCU has begun to resemble the mid-90s comics scene, which saw fans drooling over gimmicky crossovers, specially wrapped issues, and variant covers that masked a disheartening sterility of storytelling. Jackman's latest and last (yeah, right) outing finds his character once again rejecting society, bickering with Professor X (Patrick Stewart) about family, and protecting mutant kids from evil scientists. Despite an engaged cast, fun production design, and a glistening coat of Hard-R paint, James Mangold's wandering wannabe Western feels like a collection of issues we've already read, re-read, and traded for something new.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #199 to hear Ian and Keeping it Reel's David Fowlie get the knives out over Logan!

Wednesday
Mar012017

The Ring (2002)

In 2002, Gore Verbinski's American remake of The Japanese horror hit Ringu unnerved me. Today, it's easy to imagine current and future newcomers being less creeped out by the ghost girl emerging from a well than the archaic, analog technology that summons her--especially following a half-decade of J-horror imitators (some good, some garbage). Made on the cusp of a seismic shift in the way we communicate, think, and perceive the world, The Ring's reliance on haunted VHS tapes, landline phones, and physical data files plays like a holdover from the black-and-white era. This movie is soaked in blues and greens, presenting a dreary Washington State whose only sunshine emanates from the better-than-this Naomi Watts. She grounds the sillier elements of Ehren Kruger's screenplay (Brian Cox's surge protector necklace!) in a maternal concern that makes its mystery at least feel worthy of solving. In this minute way, The Ring is timeless.

 

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #198 to hear Ian unlock The Ring and A Cure for Wellness with A Movie Guy's Leo Brady!

Wednesday
Mar012017

Get Out (2017)

Get Out is practically superfluous if you’ve seen the theatrical trailer. Praised as a horror movie satire and biting social commentary, Jordan Peele's hypnosis-infused Stepford Wives knock-off stops short of actually digging in to its mixed-race-Meet the Parents premise. First-time filmmaker Peele has a knack for recreating elements he’s seen in a dozen other genre films, but his screenplay mutes the provocative voice he brought to his hit TV sketch series, Key & Peele. Though bolstered by an exceptional cast and the occasional bright spot of sinister weirdness (you'll never drink tea again), this mediocre genre flick has nothing new to say, and seems content with congratulating its audience for showing up to an allegedly edgy thriller. Just as trailers protect moviegoers from having to be surprised by anything, Get Out creates a cinematic safe space for multiplex-minded hipsters, eliminating any need for socio-political soul-searching once the lights come up.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #200 to hear Ian and Emmanuel Noisette of Eman's Movie Reviews dive into the sunken place!