Things I saw in October

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Don’t Breath (2016): Solid horror/thriller about a group of home invaders who invade the wrong home when they break into a blind man’s house, the only difference is this blind man is the type with a specific set of skills. If you’ve seen the trailer which gives away too much, you’ll know what to expect, however it does have an unexpected reveal you don’t see coming. Expertly directed with a small running time, this is a tight economic thriller that does exactly what it needs to do. (3 stars out of 4)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016) Tim Burton’s latest is a very convoluted story about a young boy who stumbles upon an alternate world where children with…shall we say special gifts live. They are hidden from the world and protected by Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). Evil forces led by a creepy looking Samuel L. Jackson want to kill the children and take their life force by eating their eyes. The story starts off promising, but it doesn’t have the sense of wonder and imagination that is seen in the best Burton films. Green is always great to see even though she is wasted here. Asa Butterfield plays the young hero but he is far too wooden to be compelling, and then the story becomes more confusing with too much expository dialogue. Still it’s better than “Alice in Wonderland” although that isn’t saying much. (1.5 stars out of 4)

13th (2016) Ava Duvernay’s new documentary which is streaming on Netflix is a bold and compelling look at the United States prison system and how it became a new form of slavery to the black community. “13th” is a reference to the 13th amendment to the constitution which abolished slavery after the Civil War. Duvernay documents the rising number of prisons and institutions which began incarcerating more and more African-Americans each decade. The stats are staggering, the film is even-handed as it hones in on practically each administration in America in the 20th century leaving no stone un- turned. Duvernay’s passion and anger is felt throughout. She made a mark for herself two years ago with the Martin Luther King film “Selma” but I think she has outdone herself here. She shows a fiery conviction that is reminiscent of a Spike Lee film, I look forward to her next film. (4 stars out of 4)

Searching for Sugar Man (2012) Wonderful documentary chronicling the mystery behind obscure singer songwriter Rodriguez, a musician who recorded two albums that went nowhere in North America but made him a political hero in South Africa during Apartheid. But suddenly Rodriguez dropped off the map with only legends surrounding his disappearance. The film serves as both a mystery as it follows some Rodriguez loving fans being detectives to find out what happened to him, and also a great music bio about this man who some people called the next Bob Dylan. Plus it puts Rodriguez’s music on display for a great soundtrack. The film was acclaimed when it was first released winning the Oscar for Best documentary and it was a modest hit as documentaries go, but if you haven’t seen it, seek it out especially if you are a music fan. (3.5 stars out of 4)

Side Effects (2013) Steven Sodebergh’s swan song to feature films (so far) is a very small but affecting thriller set inside the world of prescription drugs. Rooney Mara is a depressed housewife who is put on new medication by her new psychiatrist played by Jude Law. Things go awry from there and without spoiling anything, the plot turns to murder, double crosses, ruined careers, and a very surprising twist at the end, making this a very enjoyable old school thriller, it also slyly comments on what looks to be the overabundance of self-medication but it never gets preachy. Sodebergh has always been an interesting filmmaker making stylish choices and he makes a conscious effort never to look like he’s repeating himself. Also fun to see an all-star cast in such a smart film, Mara in particular is a stand-out as she usually is. (3.5 stars out of 4)

Mamma-Mia (2008) Oh what can I say? Do you love Abba? Do you love Meryl Streep singing Abba? Do you love the comic bravado of Christine Baranski? Have you ever wondered what Pierce Brosnan (The second best Bond after Connery) sounded like singing? Then you should see “Mamma Mia”. If none of those things interest you then why watch it? “Mamma Mia” was made for a particular set of people I think, it’s one of the fluffiest films I’ve ever seen, as in there aren’t really many stakes here despite having three men all of whom might be the father of Streep’s daughter Amanda Seyfried, all happening before her wedding. But hey who cares, it’s Abba, it’s Meryl Streep singing Abba! It’s Christine Baranski doing her thing that I love, you get Pierce Brosnan being Pierce Brosnan, also Colin Firth being Colin Firth, and Stellan Skargaard being…Stellan Skarsgaard in an Abba musical. Cheesy, fluffy, fun. (2.5 stars out of 4)

Luke Cage Season 1 (2016) The Marvel Netflix television universe started off very promising starting with season 1 of “Daredevil “and then took an even bolder approach with season 1 of “Jessica Jones”. But then season 2 of “Daredevil” started showing cracks focusing on too many antagonists and storylines. The same problem arises with “Luke Cage” which is half of a really good season. “Luke Cage” as seen in “Jessica Jones” is a bulletproof strong man, he has relocated to Harlem, and begins cleaning up the corrupt city streets. Things are going just fine until mid-way it changes focus and suddenly the down to Earth blaxploitation update this show started as becomes more comic booky. Although not as much of a disaster that “Daredevil” season 2 became, “Luke Cage” loses its tone and by the time you get to the season finale it feels less grounded and real. What saves it is the cast with everyone doing great in their respective roles. Still this started so promising and only came up meh. (2.5 stars out of 4)

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