Mile 22

Iko-Uwais-from-Mile-22.jpgL&D were a blank slate settling into the new Mark Wahlberg vehicle, Mile 22, not realizing that the movie has been (appropriately) panned by many of our critic brethren.  Wahlberg sort of reprises his misanthropic, fast-talking Sergeant Dignam role from The Departed.  Only here he plays the on-the-ground savant leader of a special ops team of last resort, called on when diplomatic and militaristic solutions fail.   And, it’s pretty cool to see the moving technological parts of these ops, reminiscent of Enemy of the State from so many years ago.  This movie is not nearly as good, unfortunately, though I would guess that those responsible thought  it would be a home run worthy of at least one sequel. I guess we’ll see.

The plot centers on Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan and former UFC phenom Ronda Rousey (among others) tasked with transporting Iko Uwais to an airstrip 20-some miles away as a quid pro quo to stave off a large helping of cesium-enhanced terrorism.  If you don’t know about the horrors of cesium, Wahlberg will enlighten you along the way; he’s pretty knowledgeable.  By my estimate, this trek absorbs the last two-thirds of the movie and is effectively an extended action sequence through the streets of somewhere in Columbia or Georgia, I guess (though the plot was ostensibly set in Indonesia).

The movie does possess a couple of strengths.  The technology stuff is mostly well done and cool to look at and sort of overwhelming to keep track of, sort of like surveillance-state technology, I suppose.  As for the players, Wahlberg is a compelling character with his verbal rat-a-tat-tats and band-snapping intensity. Rousey is also pretty good and well cast.  But the action hero here is the asset, Iko Uwais, who is like a supercharged kung fu god, just beating the living hell out of everyone who gets in his way.  Even being handcuffed to a table can’t slow him down.  He is unbelievable.  He steals the show.   He wins the movie.

There are a couple of downers, as well.  The story line with Cohan is ridiculous, irritating filler, though she does have one great sequence where she is on the losing end of some WWF-type action from a much larger foe.   And John Malkovich shows up with a pretty cool new haircut, but otherwise it is pretty disappointing to see his talent wasted like this.

As for the action, there is certainly a lot to choose from.  Unfortunately, it’s often disorienting with those multi-camera blur sequences, and occasionally hyper violent (causing L&D to cringe laugh so loudly at one point that the small smattering of our movie-going brethren turned to see who was laughing at a man falling on his head in such a way that his neck and shoulder are perfectly parallel, ouch). It is violent even by today’s standards, though not too much in the way of gross-out gore. This is a movie not afraid to shoot you in the face.  L points out that this is another one of those first-person shooter movies, a la John Wick or, the gold standard, Hardcore Henry .  For our New Year’s Resolution, we will revisit the latter and provide a review.   What a breath of bloody phlegm that movie was.

But back to Mile 22 — the movie seemed longer than it was, and as it ended I credibly thought it might have another half hour.  My guess is that Wahlberg and the other producers thought going in that it had another hour and a half in the form of a sequel.   I have my doubts.  A better use of Wahlberg’s time might be an exploration of what that Sgt Dingham character is up to all these years later.  Or Ted 3.

So maybe at the $5 bar for this one.   Fortunately, I’ve been racking up these Fandango VIP points that effectively give me $3 for every movie I see, so we were in and out of this one, popcorn included, for just $2.   So let’s just say it soared over the $2 bar with the added bonus that we didn’t have to sit through an extra hour after the popcorn was gone.

Crazy Rich Asians (D)

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Crazy Rich Asians is a movie with an audacious nose.  Despite its roots as a boilerplate romantic comedy – outsider navigates partner’s family’s idiosyncrasies on the path to true love – this film undoubtedly has set the path for where movies on the big screen are headed.

The outsider and protagonist and principal focus of the movie is an Asian-American NYU economics professor (!), Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), who will accompany her ridiculously gorgeous boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), to a wedding in Singapore.  She will also meet his family for the first time.  Unbeknownst to Rachel, Nick is the golden child in the family of obscenely wealthy Chinese real estate moguls, though he has been passing himself off as your run-of-the-mill Cambridge-educated New York City financier type.   Ho hum.

So, after a stop in the first-class mile-high club, Rachel lands in Singapore and spends a jovial evening sampling the best that the food court has to offer, which is a lot.  The food scenes in this movie are outrageous.   In the morning, she heads over to see her college roommate, Goh Peik Lin (Awkwafina), who lives with her extravagantly wealthy, but not that wealthy, family in a gated estate.  It is here that Rachel learns that Nick hasn’t been forthright with her about his insane levels of wealth. Indeed, it seems that all of Asia (and, as we have seen, all real Asians) is in on the fortunes and trajectory of Nick Young and the Young family.  Awkwafina is the star of the show, for sure, and the time she, along with her family, are on the screen provides the best comedy the movie has to offer.  Her dad is Ken Jeong!  And, the stop-off at the Lin compound is sort of halfway house between Rachel’s real world and the complete fantasy world of obscene wealth and opulence that we step into on the run-up to the wedding.

Unfortunately, the owners and benefactors of all of this wealth are not beautiful people, but instead are highly territorial and not at all charitable to those outside of their sphere.  First and foremost, although Rachel is an NYU economics professor, an alpha position if there ever was one, her considerable achievements are seen as singularly American in nature, and not something to be either admired or valued by the Young family.   Despite her trappings of an upper income existence by being a highly paid professional in New York City, she is effectively a non-entity in the face of real wealth and privilege.  There are probably some ironies here of the economics professor coming to terms with real wealth that will pop into my head after I post this.  Plus, she’s an American.

Second, there are all sorts of matriarchal machinations going on here that I am sure I haven’t put together.  The movie features Nick’s mother and grandmother as the major power brokers, and I don’t even think Nick’s dad appears on screen (does he?). To put it another way, Ken Jeong is the only face of the male head of household portrayed, and his face looks a lot like a past-his-prime Elvis.  Third, Nick’s possibly wonderful sister has a husband who can’t seem to get his male mojo working as the non-primary breadwinner, although he seems to work out a lot.  And, of course, there is Rachel herself, whose mother took to America as the safety valve out of her own personal cultural entrapments.

On the man side, I don’t think we have a single admirable male character. Nick, I think, is left deliberately undeveloped, because the inevitabilities here (and what the final scene seems to suggest) is that there is just no way out of this particular box of luxury.  His destiny is that of a rich dickhead, a class which most-to-all of his male brethren have established their bona fides in the course of the film. Maybe this is why Dudley Moore’s Arthur spent his life in a bathtub drunk out of his skull? Or why Michael Corleone just gave in and stepped into his father’s shoes?

Well, anyway, there is a lot going on for a formulaic rom com – centuries of culture and history to untangle, after all.

And, yes, we laughed until we cried.

The movie features also some behavioral economics and non-cooperative game theory that I imagine is fleshed out a bit more in the book.  In the opening scene, Rachel wins a poker hand by bluffing as a way to explain the concept of “loss aversion” to her class, a phenomenon that people are harder hit by a loss of $10 than on an equivalent gain of $10.  I just read a piece on female poker players, and it turns out that female poker players don’t win a lot of hands by bluffing alpha males.  This was a minor nagging bother as things marched on, but it wasn’t until finishing up this post that I realized that when Rachel was not bluffing when she eventually went toe-to-toe with the movie’s alpha male, Nick’s mother (playing Mahjong, however, not poker.  Okay, the real showdown wasn’t about Mahjong, but, whatever).  So the movie gets the economics right after all!

I guess there is probably a metaphor about playing poker and counting up gains and losses along the way that would help us to explicate the movie better, but with the sensory overload of food and culture and trappings of wealth it is hard to keep everything straight.

A better title for the movie would probably have been Filthy Rich Asians, because I get the sense that there is nothing particularly crazy about how the wealthy – or any of us – close ranks to protect their own and keep the outsiders out.   Gates are a good start.  Armed guards don’t hurt.  And if that doesn’t work, there is the straight up nastiness.  Most of us don’t get past the gate, so the movie ostensibly puts us in the place of the rest of the world, on the outside looking into a world at this different plane, this alternate reality reserved for what is essentially modern royalty.

So, you can blanch at the naked celebration of wealth inequality, or you can sit back and enjoy the show for what it is.   I recommend the latter, though I must admit that the more I write about it, the less confident I am in that recommendation.

The Equalizer 2

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                                                                There are two types of pain in this world…

L&D were a little nervous heading into The Equalizer 2, having missed the first installment of the series.  OK, so that’s a joke we have leaned on before, but it was somewhat apt in this case, as it isn’t clear exactly who the Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) character is fashioned after.   It could be a James Bond / Jason Bourne type.  Or maybe a Charles Bronson / Bruce Willis vigilante justice warrior.  After some deliberation, I’ve settled on Jack Ryan, the brains and the brawn.  The film spends almost as much time with McCall studying and sleuthing as he does with him kicking ass and taking names, going out of its way to make McCall a cerebral character.  They even go so far as to show his ability to solve mysteries from a few thousand miles away through some sort of out-of-body, mental transcendence method.  It’s a neat trick.

But although McCall is sort of an amalgam of modern action heroes, what we get here is a movie about tying up loose ends, with McCall himself — ironically, perhaps — being the biggest loose end of all.   There are by my count four main plot lines that don’t quite converge, and getting to the finish mixes a bit of intrigue with a lot of syrupy absurdity to get to tie it all back together.  The main plot line involves McCall getting dragged out of his anonymous life of a Lyft driver and back in with the old gang within the deep state.  The gang includes the brilliant Melissa Leo and the super smoldery Pedro Pascal, both who are blessed with the ability to make you care even when there’s not much there.  We are also treated to a boilerplate father-figure story line focusing on Ashton Sanders.

Amdist the primary action hero drivers, there are some attempts to introduce some non-trivial meditations on social justice — including Denzel providing Sanders with a copy of Between the World and Me, a father-figure moment if there ever was one — but there are no serious attempts to elaborate or explore, so these angles ultimately turn out to be trivial.  If I’m not mistaken, the gang members who are exhorting the Ashton Sanders character to go on a murdering spree are listed as his “buddies” in the credits.   Did I read that correctly?

But all that said, the production values in this are exceptional and enjoyable.  The opening sequence with McCall driving around Boston as a Lyft driver kicked things off in style, and I would have been happy watching that for an hour.   The first hour or so set at least one plot line nicely, and the movie only began to unravel once the bad guy is revealed, culminating with the kill the bad guys in reverse order — from least relevant to most relevant.   Even so, you had to admire the production values as this went on.

A meh from L&D on this one, though we did enjoy cavorting about it afterwards (though we spent more time talking about the Bruce Willis Death Wish movie that about the Equalizer)The summer blockbusters seem to have hit a soft spot, so if you have a coupon or or out and about on bargain Tuesday, this is a good movie to munch some popcorn to.  But I am guessing this will be upstaged by the Thursday release of the latest Mission: Impossible incarnation.   I guess we will have to see.

Solo

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We were heading to the theater with reasonably modest expectations when were shocked to see at least a dozen cars in the drive-through line at the Taco Bell.  L&D readers probably know that we use the Taco Bell Index (TBI) to predict the quality of the movie we are about to see, and there was clearly a large number of people in east Appleton Jonesing for a chalupa prior to Solo.  What could this possibly mean?

Even with the high TBI, it was hard to get too excited for this one after the high of Deadpool 2 last week, and L&D entered a mostly full theater not knowing quite what to expect.

What we got was a very solid three-star type movie, with a reasonable story line, some good characters, a few deviations from the standard love-story fare, and special effects like you would not believe.    This “Star Wars story” is the origin story for Han Solo, of course, and so it touches base on how he springs Chewie (Chewie) from the clink, meets Lando (Donald Glover), and comes to own the Millennium Falcon. (Perhaps shockingly, they passed over the origin story for the iconic scar on the chin.)   Also included is Emelia Clarke as Han’s possible love interest and Woody Harrelson as his mentor of sorts.   Both are pretty convincing and are not given the wooden scripts we suffered through in some of the past episdodes.

This is a Star Wars movie, so we get Star Wars scenes: a couple of bar scenes with wacky characters and gambling, a pod-race type thing in the “great train robbery” scene, and undertones of various vanilla political statements, the standard recipe.   The story was pretty solid and the pacing done well enough to keep me awake (a higher bar than you’d probably think).   Also on the plus side, Woody is pretty good and Chewie is great.  And, I have to say that the movie did not wind down in the way I expected at all, which was great.  Indeed, at one point I spontaneously raised my arms in triumph in response to a plot twist that I didn’t see coming.  I was reminded of seeing Frozen because it sets up as formulaic, but then that isn’t quite where it goes.  So there are some very fresh aspects to the movie that I really liked.   Even the really objectionably stupid plot elements (e.g., the big monster with the gravity bong thing) were mostly used to set up the extraordinary special effects that set L’s head a spinning.

But, the big question is review land seems to be why did this movie need to be made?  Is it essential?   That seems rather pedantic given it’s Disney advancing its general Disney interests.  From our perspective, we got a pretty good story, some fun characters, spectacular special effects, and a giant bucket of popcorn.  And the crowd was pretty upbeat on the way out of the theater, even if the Taco Bell line was down to just one car by the time we passed on our way home.

Deadpool 2

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Deadpool 2 hit the theaters Thursdays, and L&D (with special guest, F) were totally prepared.   Unlike the MCU compendium buckshot mess that came out a few weeks ago, this one did not disappoint.   After a brief L&D&F discussion about how rare it was to see a quality movie trailer, we were treated to an R-rated (?) trailer for The Happytime Murders, featuring an extended puppet silly-string money shot — one of many indignities on display — that really set the stage for the evening’s entertainment.   Next up was the requisite Greg Marcus appearance, this time featuring him in a comedic role as an opera singer, possibly his best work yet as the affable opening act.  Did he do this just for DP2?

And on with the show.

Deadpool 2 is a seriously hilarious follow up to the original that co-topped the L&D list for 2016, for its action sequences targeting 15-year old boys and jokes targeting middle-aged men.  For instance, this is pretty much straight up a Terminator rip off, with Cable (Josh Brolin, who else?) playing Arnold and Deadpool playing the intermediary instead of that Kyle guy.  It also pays a fairly serious tribute to the James Bond films.  And Superman.  I was catching references to and fro throughout, which leads me to believe I missed a lot of stuff that you will find funny that I simply missed.  I ran into a college student who saw it and loved it and she didn’t know it was one big hat tip to Terminator.

How could you not know that?   Kids these days.

Overall, we are treated to the same cast of characters and follow pretty much the same formula. Can you follow up that brilliant opening sequence from the first one?   Yes, you can.   I wouldn’t exactly call it brilliant, but I laughed and then re-laughed as the gag went along.   All of our favorite characters from last time were back, and aside from T.J. Miller I think they were all as good or better than what we saw in the first movie.  The X-Men in training scene was outstanding, and the super gang sequence that you keep seeing in trailers is superbly ridiculous and fantastic.

This is so much better than Infinity War that I can’t even tell you.  That Infinity War has a 68 Metacritic score right now compared to only a 66 for DP2 is both disgraceful and instructive. Once again the theater was packed on opening night, but this time the crowd was raucous and festive and roared throughout the closing credit sequence, which really couldn’t have been any better.  The biggest disappointment of the evening is that it didn’t last longer, though the final shot was pretty much a perfect ending.  Maybe Marvel will do us all a favor and have Pool come in and save the next Avengers movie.

UPDATE:  Not everyone thinks the puppet finishing its business is all that funny.

A Quiet Place

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L&D braved the first major lightning storm of the year to sit through the ultra-creepy A Quiet Place.   The film is set in some post-apocalyptic world, with John Krasinski and family doing their farming and fishing and, um, reproducing in relative isolation and near-absolute quiet, steering clear of whatever is on the prowl outside.  I will admit to curling up in a ball a few times and jumping out of my seat once or twice, perhaps three times.   Maybe four.   The Marcus deluxe recliners were virtually perfect for squirming purposes.

The best part of this movie is its pacing and its ability to create suspense and tension.  This is the rare film that you say you should see in the theater because of the lack of sound — the silence was seriously unsettling and destabilizing.   I also liked that it took care of business and then some in under 90 minutes.  Well done.   (It also features the best illustration of the dangers of a grain silo since Witness).

The worst part is that the setting and resolution are so wildly implausible that L wouldn’t keep quiet about it on the way home.   But, even so, he agreed it was pretty scary — I’m pretty sure he closed his eyes and missed the climax!   We both agreed that that this movie was as advertised, and we even reminisced about the high-quality suspense and mystery created in 10 Cloverfield Lane, a movie we both liked, but I don’t think we reviewed.

So, if you like being scared without too much in the way of blood and gore, you should check this one out.

Avengers: Infinity War

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“Quiet leaving the theater, please”

L&D made our way out to join a packed theater for the Appleton Premier of the new Avengers movie Thursday night, and it was an overwhelming experience.  To our right was a mom and dad with their eight-year old kid.  The kid lost it near the end of the movie (does this movie end?) and the dad picked her up and carried her out, telling his wife that he’d see her back at home.

To our left was a young couple, possibly out on a date night, and at the conclusion of the end scene the young woman expressed her frustration thusly:

“I just can’t with this movie.”

Astonishingly, the movie is generally getting solid reviews, though many of the things posted at Metacritic as favorable didn’t seem terribly positive.  As you probably know, the movie represents a convergence of the near-infinite components of the the  Marvel universe, including The Avengers, Spiderman, the Black Panther, Dr. Strange, and the Guardians of the Galaxy characters.   The story arc is putatively a continuation of what was going on with these, and we get some good laughs and some decent action as the movie ramps up in its first hour.   The scene where Thor meets the Guardians crew is a highlight. The new Spiderman continues to impress and save scenes.  And Peter Dinklage as an oversized dwarf was a big plus.

After that, though, it just doesn’t stop.   As L again points out — why didn’t he write this review? — if *anything* can happen, there is no suspense.  After a few set up scenes we get 100 minutes of non-stop action, brilliant special effects, windows to other dimensions, mortals fighting gods, gods fighting mortals, dogs and cats living together, pandemonium.  The movie pretty much suffers from the same flaws as those epic X-Men movies that even TNT wont show, only at an even massiver scale.  Yes, I said massiver.  Understatement is not the issue here.

As the packed house filed out of the theater, L observed that the mood of the crowd was that of leaving a ballgame after a big loss.   If you have ever gone to a game where a frenzied crowd is expecting a W and the home team lays an egg instead, you probably know what I mean.   Probably right at the $6 bar, but we paid $10 to see it in 3-D.   I think we’re all looking forward to the next one, but not because we liked this one.

Anxiously awaiting Deadpool 2!

Book plug:  As part of our first quid pro quo, I would like to tell you about a book former Champaign Mayor Don Gerard calls “a minor masterpiece of modern fiction,” Cocaine Zombies, by Scott Lerner.   If you like cocaine or zombies or Urbana-Champaign, there is something for you in this book.   It is definitely on my summer reading list when I get around to updating it.

 

Death of Stalin

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L&D had to venture out of our comfort zone (and discount price zone!) to catch Death of Stalin on the other side of town.   The eponymous title is pretty much the story, Stalin dies and then the real class struggle begins to replace him.   The acting is remarkable, with Jeffrey Tambor as a serviceable Georgy Malenkov (the heir apparent) and Steve Buscemi as a great Khrushchev (the inevitable apparent).  But the star of the show is  Simon Russell Beale who is other-worldly in his role as the head of state security, Lavrentiy Beria, with a performance that is so convincing, so troubling, I was physically unsettled for most of the film.   Beale’s performance exceeds what we saw with Gary Oldman as Churchill, for sure.

The movie is ostensibly a black comedy, and there are many, many laugh out loud moments, but I felt guilty laughing because the truth was probably even more horrible than what we were seeing on the screen.  It is kind of funny that there are no real doctors left in Moscow because Stalin eliminated them in his many purges, but Stalin really did eliminate these folks. And Beria probably did line up a different little girl to rape every night. And half of the world really was in the charge of folks who wouldn’t think twice about killing you over some real or perceived or contrived transgression. Buscemi as Khrushchev emerging as the voice of reason is both a relief and horrifying all at once.

It’s fair to say that the movie is more than a sum of its acting, as the set pieces, costumes, and general tenor are all convincing and excellent, and contribute to the unease that certainly will fill any thinking person.

So, big, big ups from L&D, with the caveat that maybe it’s better not to think too hard about the fact versus fiction in this one, as the facts are probably even worse than what this movie shows and implies.

Phantom Thread

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“I smell the blood of an English mum”

 

We were about 45 minutes into this latest Paul Thomas Anderson piece when I realized I was completely transfixed by a movie about an uptight dressmaker who lived with his very measured sister and was making a lot of dresses for a young waitress.  Not exactly Thor for a plot line or for action.  I also realized I was pretty excited because I had no idea where this was headed.

The movie is set in 1950s London, and focuses a lot on gender roles and who gets what in a relationship.  The central tension is between the dressmaker, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), and his love interest / model / protege / partner, Alma (Vicki Krieps).  The other major player is is Woodcock’s sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), who is subtly managing the board to keep her brother on the straight and narrow.  In the deeper background is Woodcock’s mother, Woodcock is a mama’s boy, and the questions of matrimony and maternity are paramount throughout, even if the movie doesn’t ever come right out and say it.

So what do you need to know here?  First off, the movie is ostensibly about an insufferable male tyrant type, the type of guy who simply cannot start the day with a confrontation because he has no time for confrontations — if he has a bad breakfast, he may never recover.  The one who commends his own “gallantry” for eating asparagus that is not prepared the way he likes it.  Were you sent here to ruin his evening?

Second off, the movie is actually about the women around him. One set is predominantly populated with the Woodcock label’s army of skilled seamstresses, who spend their days watching Woodcock eye up his dresses, and then work their magic with the needles and thread.  This group is skilled but lacks agency.  Cyril lets them know when to come and she lets them know when they can go.

There is another group of women with various levels of authority based on either their wealth or their social status — indeed, the Woodcock empire is built on draping wealthy women with unimaginably beautiful clothing.  These women purchase Woodcock’s attention.

The third group is Woodcock’s love interests, including Alma, and there is some dissection of how a woman can move into a different social strata based either on her position or her money or on Woodcock’s interest.  There is some fluidity here between groups, and in the clumsiest exposition in the film, a competitor for Woodcock’s attentions dutifully (and annoyingly) attempts to undermine Alma’s claim on Woodcock’s affections.

And, finally, we have his sister, Cyril, who represents the meritocratic & perhaps nepotistic element.  It is Cyril who enables, encourages, Reynolds’ single-mindedness and surliness, and one suspects that without her machinations, Reynolds may well have gone the route of Bartleby the Scrivener. Cyril evaluates her brother’s potential companions like the second in command looking out for the alpha dog.  Indeed, when Cyril first encounters Alma, there is a prolonged scene where she sniffs her, up close like, and susses out why Alma smells the way she does, and then the Woodcock siblings literally take to sizing her up.  It is ridiculous and unsettling and evidently as normal as can be in the land of Woodcock.  I’m pretty sure I could make the case that she is playing the role of a protective mother, though I think there is something else going on here.  At any rate, Lesley Manville is both beautiful and marvelous in this role.

The bottom line is that you can take the movie at face value and you will find it beautiful and possibly that it has a lot to say about cut-throat competition in human interactions.  The dresses are certainly astonishing.  I’m no fashionista — I leave that to my colleague —  yet I enjoyed the sartorial splendor for the women and for the men. Krieps, Manville, and Day-Lewis are all phenomenal.  It is straight up quite the show.

But I would urge you to have an open mind about this being a comedy, because the movie is seriously hilarious.  After all, the main character’s name is Reynolds Woodcock, a name with tremendous comedic potential. If you don’t agree, I mean, what is wrong with you? Reynolds Woodcock?!?  That’s not an accident.  Consider this:  this is the same filmmaker that brought us Tom Cruise saying unspeakably filthy things, gave us Boogie Nights and all that entailed, and built an entire movie around Adam Sandler arbitraging coupons off of pudding cups.  We also have the sniffing scene, Daniel Day-Lewis ordering breakfast like he was expecting a table full of lumberjacks, Daniel Day-Lewis wearing purple pajamas and a tweed sport coat, and a running joke about how annoying  toast butterers can be. And then there is the wedding dress for the princess.  If you are watching this as a comedy, you are laughing at this dress.  Indeed, L&D laffed out loud throughout, and there was audible cackling from all corners the theater. Overall, I can pretty much guarantee that there are more laugh out loud moments in this than you will find in the film actually called Mr. Woodcock.

I encourage you to check it out because it is beautiful, awesome, hilarious, and may well be Daniel Day-Lewis’ last role.  As a P.T. Anderson junkie, this is way over the $5 bar for me.  L wasn’t completely sold on it, but I don’t think he had buyer’s remorse over his $5.  I can see his point and will admit that I was a bit disappointed in the final half hour and don’t think it was tied together as a masterpiece (like, say, There Will Be Blood), but it was certainly thought provoking — we had a good discussion about the differences between Wes Andersen and P. T. Anderson, the parallels to Mother! and The Beguiled (and here) and a bunch of other stuff.  I bet L would even put this over the $6 Thursday bar.

The Shape of Water (D)

L&D headed out for The Shape of Water Thursday night and boy are we glad that we did.   It’s Beauty and the Beast for the Cold War set, only with a lot more egg imagery and masturbation.    The protagonist is a solitaire, semi-beautiful mute woman, Elisa (Sally Hawkins), who lives in an apartment above the movie theater next to her neighbor (Richard Jenkins), an erstwhile commercial artist, closeted lonely guy, cat lover.  They watch a lot of movies and spend their time being lonely together.  Elisa takes the bus to her work at a top-secret government site, where she works on the cleaning staff alongside Zelda (Octavia Spencer),  who provides a running stream-of-consciousness one-way dialog throughout the day.  The site is supervised by Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), a candy-chomping shitheel who was responsible for transporting an amphibious creature up to Baltimore, and is now in charge of securing the creature for whatever it is the US military and/or its Soviet rivals are going to do with it.

That’s the basic setup, but the movie really isn’t about the story, it’s about a lot of other things.  It’s shot beautifully, with a really cool color scheme.   The acting is brilliant — it’s hard to imagine Hawkins, Spencer, Jenkins or Shannon being better cast or providing better performances.   It has some great writing and some memorable lines (“There is no profit in last week’s fish”).  It is laugh-out-loud funny in spots.   It is uncomfortable and disturbing in others.  It has scenes so excruciatingly painful that I had to cover my eyes, and scenes so beautiful that I forgot how ridiculous the whole thing was.  It reminds me of The Purple Rose of Cairo with its running homage to the great movies, and a main character who can’t help but find herself lost in them.

So, this should be on our top movies list for the year, but that ship has sailed.  I’m pretty sure it’s not for everybody, but for us it was over the $6 bar for sure.   I might even see if the misses wants to check it out.  I’m better looking than the leading man for a change.