Critical MeMe

Time spent watching films, even crappy ones, is time well-spent.

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Location: Missouri, United States
    These aren't comments on ALL of the movies through which I've cried, yawned, laughed, and rolled my eyes, but just about everything I've seen since early 2002 is here plus a few from earlier. Post dates reflect my screening & parenthetical dates are the year of US release (aka Oscar eligibility).
    Yeah, a movie review blog isn't very original. But originality is overrated. Just ask Michael Bay.


The Purge: Election Year (2016)

I haven’t seen the first two Purge movies and it didn’t seem to matter at all.

Senator is running for President on an “Abolish the Purge” platform as she lost her entire family to Purge night -- when everything’s legal including murder -- 18 years earlier. So, of course, the powers that be want her gone. This was a lot less horrifying than I expected and a bit more silly too. Though there was decent tension in a few scenes, mostly I just thought "meh."



Jackson (2016)

A sobering documentary concerning the rights of women in Mississippi as a whole and in Jackson in particular. They’ve got one clinic performing abortions left in the state and it’s constantly subjected to picketing and hostile legislation. We get to hear from both sides of the issue: doctors and staff at the clinic and those who run the Crisis Pregnancy Center in town. The CPC positions itself in lower income neighborhoods and does what it can to dissuade women from getting abortions and from using birth control.

We also watch as April Jackson, a 24-year old with 4 children and pregnant with her fifth, chooses to follow the CPC’s recommendations. By the end of the film she has five kids, two jobs, no man in her life, and twins on the way. I'm truly not sure whether she actually chose to keep her fifth child or if she was just suckered in by the "kindness" shown her while at the center. To be fair, the CPC did follow up with her by bringing a travel crib and food... but would she even need those things if she had access to reliable and free birth control?


Ginger & Rosa (2013)

Inseparable best friends are becoming young ladies in ‘60s London and facing the truth that they may be very different people.

Ginger is finding meaning in protesting the bomb while Rosa is much more interested in her sexuality. This is a believable, if bleak and emotionally draining, portrait of two women transitioning from childhood to womanhood.


Train to Busan (2016)

Busy father reluctantly agrees to accompany his daughter on a visit to her mother’s home by train.

...And it turns out to be a zombie movie, which means we’ve pretty much seen this before. Zombies chase humans. Some humans get bitten and become zombies and some don’t. If you’re into the genre, this is a pretty good entry with some exciting/inventive sequences. But it also felt like it went on way longer than it needed to.



Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Other than Peter finally meeting his dad (Kurt Russell, a pretty great choice), this was just more of the same. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it definitely means it's not a must-see. I did appreciate that both Zebulon and Yondu got believably redemptive storylines. But, honestly, I would've been pretty happy just watching Baby Groot's adorable face for a couple of hours.

You know what? It's fine.



Omar (2014)

Three Palestinian friends decide to run a resistance mission (one plans, one drives, one shoots an occupying Israeli officer). We follow Omar, the driver, as he’s caught, imprisoned, tortured, and then released on the condition that he deliver the shooter to them. Omar is still a loyal resister and only wants to get out to see his love Nadia and to warn his friends about what the Israelis know or at least of what they think they know.

There’s a lot going on in this movie and it threatens to devolve into a simple jealousy/revenge plot, but winds up being so much better than that. I was truly moved and surprised -- so much so that I actually did a little research online afterward to make sure that the meaning I'd derived was the meaning intended.



Suicide Squad (2016)

This is an epic mess of a movie.

Basically, a bunch of criminals are being taken out of prison to do the bidding of Amanda Waller who is… um… I’m not sure. Some lady with the power to make a task force, I guess? Drama is manufactured by withholding information from us and the Squad about who, exactly, they’re rescuing in their initial mission (spoiler: it’s Waller), but that’s just silly. Why not just tell us/them who they’re going for? They’re gonna do it regardless -- they don’t have a CHOICE.

I have lots of questions about the story (e.g. why let the squad dress themselves for combat instead of giving them -- you know -- protective gear) but I don’t really care about the answers. There were just too many characters I didn’t know and a convoluted plot that’s never really explained. It's almost shocking how incompetent this movie is. And Leto’s Joker is just the cherry made of shit on top of it all. Gah.



Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru (2016)

Tony Robbins has always struck me as a televangelist-type dude. When I happen upon him, I generally roll my eyes. He comes across as a magnetic dude spouting self-help platitudes. But Gary heard him interviewed on a podcast and found him to be interesting enough to want to watch this doc streaming on Netflix.

Having grown up in church, attending revivals and emotional weeks at Bible camp culminating in BIG DECISIONS, this felt extremely familiar to me. There’s a frenzy of anticipation and a readiness to ride the wave. Skepticism gets checked at the door and breakthroughs happen by the minute. It’s so expected that your life will change at one of these days-long seminars that one of the later sessions covered here is all about forcing a personal breakthrough if you’re one of the few who haven’t had one yet.

The problem with documenting something like this is that you can’t really know what it’s like to be in it. I wasn’t feeling the energy. I hadn’t ponied up the $5k attendance fee. I wasn’t baring my soul with strangers.  I could only be a voyeur. So, when Tony spoke, my reaction was, “well… maybe? But maybe not?” instead of “YES TONY. RIGHT AWAY TONY. YOU’VE CHANGED MY LIFE TONY.” All this movie did for me was change my perspective on the man Tony Robbins. I believe he’s sincere. I believe he has a gift for knowing what people need from him. But I also believe that for 99% of the people who attend this conference, the feelings fade and the decisions made while there fade right along with them. It’s like promising to stop masturbating on the last day of camp: yep -- definitely following through with that... for a few days.