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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!

Monday
Feb272017

Kedi (2016)

Are cats an intermediary between God and human beings? In examining Istanbul's historically symbiotic relationship with feline kind, Ceyda Torun's Kedi makes a strong case that something weird and undeniably spiritual is happening in Turkey. A sort of Waking Life for cats, the movie floats from one part of the city to another, selectively dropping in on homes, ports, and cafés, where everyday people describe what the city's considerable stray population means to them. This is not a superfluous collection of YouTube kitten videos, narrated by smelly-housed shut-ins. It's a fascinating look at a cultural phenomenon that may seem alien to the permanently allergic and mysophobic West (even as a "cat person", I was spooked by the Birds-level amount of creatures lurking absolutely everywhere). Kedi contains a few too many establishing shots, making its slim eighty minutes feel longer. But the scenery is as grand as the stories are revealing.

Thursday
Feb232017

A Cure for Wellness (2017)

Despite the uneven results, I love that Gore Verbinski has parlayed mega-fame into crafting long, expensive, and decidedly niche studio movies. A nine-hour pirate saga? Sure. A Lone Ranger adaptation starring Johnny Depp as Tonto? Why not? How’s about a horror bouillabaisse of recent Scorsese films? Hold the phone. A Cure for Wellness stars Dane DeHaan as a corporate climber sent to retrieve his boss from an exclusive Swiss sanitarium. No surprise, the operation is a front for devious forces, and our smug protagonist finds himself trapped in an asylum quicker than you can say, “That’s a release form, you idiot!” DeHaan looks (and sounds) like Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s love child here, making it even easier to imagine Wellness as “The Wolf of Shutter Island”. Sadly, Verbinski’s pretty collection of half-measures and homage can’t decide if it’s a monster movie, a lifestyle commentary, or a skin-crawling incest picture.

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

Wednesday
Feb222017

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

In 1979, the late James Baldwin began writing a memoir of his friendship with Civil Rights icons Medgar Evers, Malcom X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. He put the manuscript aside after only thirty pages, and it remains unfinished—at least in book form. Raoul Peck’s riveting documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, brings these recollections to life in ways the author might never have imagined. While bold jazz plays over lush, high-def archival images and in-your-face title cards, Samuel L. Jackson narrates as Baldwin in a frail, almost resigned voice that seems to reprimand our still-broken society from beyond the grave. Peck expertly chronicles the African-American plight, but underplays his subject’s tenuous hope, nearly turning the film into an artfully rendered list of grievances. By the end, I Am Not Your Negro becomes an urgent and eloquent call to understanding, giving viewers authorship over the next chapter in Baldwin's story.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #197 for an in-depth discussion of I Am Not Your Negro, and two other Oscar-nominated documentaries, with Ian and HollywoodChicago.com's Patrick "The Über Critic" McDonald!