What I am Watching: Kids and movies that actually came out this year!!!

Kids (1995)

When Kids originally premiered in 1995, it created quite a stir. It was called everything from exploitative to borderline child pornography. It was slapped with an NC-17 rating, and a bunch of my classmates ran around quoting bits of it without actually having seen it. I was one of those kids that didn’t see the movie, and I am glad that I only caught it for the first time now. It is a strong film, that requires a mature eye to understand and appreciate.

The story follows the day in the life of Telly – an adolescent boy in love with doing nothing and deflowering very young girls. One of the girls which he has had sex with, Jennie, finds out that she is HIV-Positive. Since he was her only sex partner, Jennie spends the day trying to find Telly.

He is a difficult boy to find, though, because after having already managed to have sex with one virgin, which is the film’s opening scene, he is on a mission to try to have sex with his second virgin of the day – a first for him.

Despite the nihilistic and even criminal outlook on life, Kids treats its characters with respect – even the vilest of the bunch. It’s filmed in a pseudo-documentary style which acts as a shield so as to not judge its characters or influence how we should think about them. Director Larry Clark is much more concerned with showcasing the emotional despair which can come from modern adolescence and turn it on its head by simply stepping away and letting its character’s breathe.

These kids have no time for angst – there are drugs to try, alcohol to consume, and people to fuck. They are in hyper-living mode as way to drive out the demons of the monotony of oncoming adulthood. Some kids will go through these phases and come out okay on the other side – others won’t. This film is not concerned with that – it simply wants to present us that moment in an individual’s life.

Larry Clark created a mini-masterpiece with this film. It is a slice of 1990s New York and of American teenage drive. These kids (like me) were probably the last generation without social media and internet. We had to discover the world in a much more tangible and scary way – which mean actually being out there to get kicked in the mouth.

Some of the things we saw weren’t pretty – some of them were marvelous. Kids brought me back to that time of uncertainty even if I wasn’t nearly as wild as these characters. This is an independent movie classic that should be watched by anyone who loves real non-filtered America cinema, and films that go full throttle with their attempt to say something about the world around them .

Get Out (2017)

There have been a million reviews of this movie, and mostly all positive, so there is nothing I want to add on that front because I agree with mostly all of them – Get Out is a cinema gem.

Director and Writer Jordan Peele managed to take a worn story and spin it on its head as a tale about racial tension and the anxieties faced by black Americans in society.

I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this movie – from the script to the camera work to the acting to the spectacular editing and set design. This is a film for today – which is brave in asserting its themes and message: racism in the modern age is veiled, it’s sneaky, and one won’t be perceive it unless it is being looked at through the eyes of those who experience it daily.

Daniel Kaluuya, who plays the film’s protagonist, Chris, are those eyes. The movie is a slow burn until Peele is sure that we see what Chris sees and shouts along with one of the other characters of the movie “Get Out!”

I highly recommend this movie and I hope the film academy remembers it next year.

Split (2017)

Let me get the cheesy joke out of the way – I am split on this one.

One the one hand, it was great to see M. Night Shyamalan back in action. He is a hometown Philly guy, and I feel that even when he misses the mark, he is nearly always trying to make his movie. He may have lost his way a bit in the last decade or so, but Split puts him right back in the driver’s seat to tell the stories that he wants to tell. The movie is freaky, well paced, and there’s even a nice little twist and nod to an earlier film of his at the end.

On the other hand, the protagonists of this movie irritated the hell out of me. There was chance after chance after chance for them to escape or harm their capturer – in his many iterations, but they didn’t. Even when the psychologist, who I thought was the smartest character in the movie, decided to step in, she wasn’t much help either. The rest fell into predictable horror movie motifs with blood and guts to spare.

This movie, like a lot Shyamalan’s work since the fabulous Sixth Sense, has B-Movie appeal with A-Movie elements in the acting and directing department. But these elements aren’t enough to really bring any real depth or layers to a paper thin plot that quickly goes from would-be psychological thriller to slasher film.

I wouldn’t say to run out and watch this film now, but I also wouldn’t say to never watch it. It’s a passable flick – and may pump Shyamalan fans up to a possible return to form. And if you are a fan of one of his early films, you will definitely get excited about the little coda at the end of the movie.

Logan (2017)

I wish I could say I enjoyed this movie – I really do. The truth is much harsher though. I thought Logan was pretty boring and introduced nothing exciting and new to either the superhero genre or the Wolverine’s character aside from some F-Bombs.

The story is set in the future, with an aged and dying Wolverine. He rides off with Professor Xavier (played by a very frail Patrick Stewart) to protect a young girl who, by way of some genetic engineering. may be Wolverine’s offspring.

The little girl, X-23, played by Dafne Keen, is the most entertaining part of the movie. She has blood in her eyes, and spirit in her voice (when she finally decides to talk). She ads the unknown element to the movie while both Jackman and Stewart go through the motions.

I am a big fan of the Wolverine character, and can even tolerate the solo movies, but this one tried to hard to be “adult” and “balsy” but it ended up cutting short the fun, excitement, and harshness which Wolverine should bring to the screen. He was a lame duck here, and the movie suffered for it.

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Nostalgia meets a few new songs and a lot of CGI. I loved this version of Beauty and the Beast as much as I enjoyed the original animated classic. The sets were beautiful, the story pretty much the same magical fun, and the music fabulous as ever. There was very little Disney could do wrong in trying to do a nearly shot by shot adaptation of their earlier classic, and they really did not take many risks to alter that outcome.

There are a few added pieces of background information – especially on Belle and Gaston’s characters – which make both feel a bit more rounded. There are also a few new songs that didn’t take away from the old ones, but felt right in place with the stand-bys.

This is a great movie for older and newer generations to enjoy. In a world of bombs, death, and hatred, Beauty and the Beast felt like a real refreshing bath of good vibes and fun.

Power Rangers (2017)

Continuing on the nostalgia vibe, Power Rangers was a movie I was really looking forward to seeing. My hope was that they would try to update it a bit so that it could be taken more seriously than the cheesy show I loved as a teen, while still keeping its tongue firmly in cheek. Well, it managed the serious part alright, but perhaps it went overboard.

These five kids spend the first hour and twenty-eight minutes of the movie in angst, doubt, and reaffirming each other that they are not losers. I felt like I was watching an episode of Party of Five meets Degrassi High – considering I may have probably watched an accumulated five minutes of both shows due to my general dislike for teen angst drama, I spent over an hour in excruciating discomfort.

When these five losers finally figured out how to Morph – after many failed attempts and doubts as to whether they should even morph – the fight scene was accompanied by some weird art-house music that didn’t match the level of excitement that these scenes should have conveyed.

Power Rangers should have been made with the same lively style of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot – which despite its imperfections, breezes by without taking any of itself seriously – instead we had this pseudo-emo movie for disillusioned millennials with a good dash of Zach Snyder DC gloominess.  Power Rangers were never about that – it was about kicking Rita’s butt in giant dinosaur Zords and half-baked kung-fu moves.

If you have kids, I guess it’s worth giving this movie a try. If you are just on a nostalgia trip, like me, you may want to skip it.

Sully (2016)

A late comer to my Oscar watch list, Sully was a straight forward film directed by a straight forward guy, Clint Eastwood. It tells the story of Capt. Chesley Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks), who successfully landed a passenger aircraft on the Hudson River in 2009.

I thought the film was great as it delivered on its promise to tell the untold story of what happened behind the scenes during the media madness that surrounded Captain Sullenberger in the weeks following the successful water landing.

There is nothing too flashy in this movie. There are no big emotional monologues. There is no over the top action (even during the excellently filmed Hudson River landing scene). It simply wants to tell a story in the clearest and quickest way possible. I highly recommend this movie.

That’s my short list for now. I am going to dip back into movie madness again soon. More horror movies and a few older ones I imagine. As always thanks for reading and tip me off to anything I should be seeing.

P. Ray

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5 Responses to What I am Watching: Kids and movies that actually came out this year!!!

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