Movie Diary

a) I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore
I love Natalie Lynskey, but she's had an odd career. She debuted alongside Kate Winslet in Heavenly Creatures, but then her greatest success for the next 15 years or so was a recurring role in "Two And A Half Men," and it's just been in the last few years that she's seemed to find a real niche, although I'm not crazy about "Togetherness" and some of the indie dramedies she's done. The Netflix feature I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore is fantastic, though. It kind of operates in the vein of a darker The Big Lebowski, where a regular person, in this case Lynskey as a nursing assistant, is the victim of a petty crime, finds that law enforcement is no help, and decides to go off on a vigilante mission for justice. Elijah Wood plays her weird neighbor who has a rat tail and owns nunchucks and throwing stars who ends up tagging along as her muscle, it's really kind of ridiculous and smart and funny and takes a few ingenious turns but also kind of stays pretty grounded. It gets a little more dark and grisly by the end than I would've expected or necessarily wanted, but David Yow from The Jesus Lizard plays a pretty nasty villain, really the role he was born to play.

b) Rock Dog
I took my son to see this at the movie theater on opening weekend, and it really did abysmally by animated kid's movie standards at the box office, but we enjoyed it. Apparently it's based on a Chinese graphic novel called Tibetan Rock Dog and end up kind of getting pretty whitewashed and Americanized in the process of becoming a movie, much like Kubo And The Two Strings last year. But I enjoyed, it was kind of trippy to watch a kid's cartoon where the main voice cast was Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard, J.K. Simmons and Lewis Black, just in terms of those guys' careers and the things that made me a fan of theirs.

c) The Shallows
Movies where almost the entire running time is one actor going through some harrowing ordeal by themselves tend to be chances for big name actors to get Oscar nominations (Castaway127 HoursGravity, etc.). So I wonder if The Shallows sold itself short by casting an actress as undistinguished as Blake Lively in the lead role, but then I suppose it's already asking a lot to be position itself as a slightly classy, creative shark attack movie. Her performance was better than I expected, though, there were a few white knuckle moments in the movie that wouldn't have worked as well if she was giving a crappy SyFy original movie-quality performance.

d) Central Intelligence
Kevin Hart and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson are each in so many movies every year that there was a sense of inevitability about them co-headlining a project. But this came out really well, I can only take Hart in small doses and they both got to play to their comedic strengths while also playing against type a little bit.

e) Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
As a fan of The Lonely Island's albums and "SNL" shorts, I'd say this movie was a pretty successful attempt at building their songs into a ridiculous music industry satire. The sad thing is that even Conner4Real and his songs, as absurd as they are, aren't really that implausible as real pop chart fodder at this point in time, so the story kind of worked better than it had a right to. I don't know if this tops Hot Rod for me, but definitely a solid continuation of their work.

f) The Nice Guys
I was thrilled that Shane Black would be getting back into the neo noir vibe of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with a big budget and big stars after the success of Iron Man 3, but less thrilled that those big stars happened to be Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. They acquit themselves well, though, I enjoyed it, a good addition to the Black canon. Hopefully he gets to do more movies like this every few years in between all the franchises and adaptations on his plate.

g) The Jungle Book
John Favreau is, like Shane Black, a director whose trajectory was totally changed by doing an Iron Man movie or two. And it's still surreal to me to think that writing the Swingers screenplay 20 years ago set Favreau on this unlikely career path. I grew up on the original animated Jungle Book and this kinda hit the mark better than I expected in some ways but in other ways had a weird uncanny valley feeling. I'm very curious to see what the Andy Serkis Jungle Book will be like in 2018, although it certainly seems a little doomed coming out 2 years after another version as star studded as this one.

h) Our Brand Is Crisis
Apparently David Gordon Green has directed 5 features since his little run of James Franco and Jonah Hill comedies, but this is the only one I've even heard of, and it flopped pretty hard at the box office. I kind of class Our Brand Is Crisis in the specific little genre of movies like Wag The Dog and Charlie Wilson's War that make Americans interfering in international affairs seem like cheeky little capers but also kind of hint at the dark side of it. I like that Our Brand takes a dark turn at the end but they also kind of wrapped things up the redeem the protagonist maybe a little too neatly at the end.

i) The Winning Season
Kind of a boilerplate black comedy about a dysfunctional middle aged failure coaching a high school sports team, but I like Sam Rockwell, so I'm always trying to find the few films where he kind of makes good on his potential, and this had a few funny moments. 
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