Saturday, June 17, 2017

Drugstore Cowboy

Year 9, Day 168 - 6/17/17 - Movie #2,663

BEFORE: This one's been held on the bottom of the watchlist for a long while, paired with the film I'll watch tomorrow, but collectively they weren't really linked to anything else.  Then when I saw that Kurt Russell (who's in tomorrow's film, with Matt Dillon) was going to appear in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" I got excited, because it was a chance to rescue both films, but then "Drugstore Cowboy" seemed like the end of the chain, and for a while it was.

I found another way to link out of "Guardians 2", so it seemed like a shame to consign both films back to the "unlinkables" section - then along came "Vantage Point", so James Le Gros could carry over from that film to this one.  But then, even though I had the link out of this one to tomorrow's film, then THAT became the dead end.  Ah, but a way out then presented itself, so the chain is still going strong, it just takes careful research and a willingness to change the plan around every few weeks.

THE PLOT: A pharmacy-robbing dope fiend and his crew pop pills and evade the law.

AFTER: You see the problem this presented, right?  I mean, the low-profile indie cast here made it nearly impossible to schedule, at least if I wanted to stick by my own self-imposed rules.  Matt Dillon' just hasn't made that many films that have fallen into my possession, or at least ones that I'm interested in watching, neither has Kelly Lynch.  I mean that's fine, make the kind of films you want to make, they're in charge of their own careers after all, but why not take a part in a blockbuster once in a while, just to help a guy out?  I mean, who wants to see their names in a clickbait article about "Why Hollywood Won't Hire Matt Dillon Any More", I'm just sayin'.

I know this is an acclaimed indie film by acclaimed indie director Gus Van Sant, but I'm sorry, I just don't get it.  Watching people shoot up and get high just doesn't appeal to me, nor is it very cinematic.  People get stoned and become catatonic, and then basically inert, the process doesn't lend itself very well to movies, which are all about action and movement and, you know, talking.  (FUN FACT: movies with sound were once called "talkies", which is a horrible name, but calling them "movies" because they display movement isn't much better.  We shouldn't even call them "films" any more because everything's digital, so we really need to come up with a better name for movies.).

I'll make an exception for comedies, I suppose, like Cheech & Chong or Harold & Kumar films, but in general the only thing more boring to me than watching a movie about people taking drugs is a movie about people getting off of drugs.  Getting sober doesn't really make for a good cinematic story either.  Hey, welcome to the drudgery of reality, with no filter, which means going to work and earning a paycheck and attending meetings.  Yeah, I'll pass.  And "Drugstore Cowboy" gives me both boring non-ideal-for-movies things - taking drugs and then getting sober.

There is some action and excitement with the heists, even more so when they don't go as planned.  Robbing pharmacies makes sense if you're looking for drugs, I suppose.  I mean you can steal money if you're hoping to buy drugs, but why not just cut out the middleman?  And it made sense to steal drugs even before the pharmaceutical price hikes of the last few years.  But pharmacies have increased security since this film was made, as evidenced by the fact that I can't buy the best cold medicine without waiting for a store employee to unlock a cabinet.  Right, I'm a drug dealer, as you can probably tell by my constant sneezing, runny nose and hacking cough.

I wish I could say that things perk up when William S. Burroughs makes an appearance as a former priest and drug-user, but I never found him or his work interesting either, plus I'm still mad at him after watching "Naked Lunch" a few years back.  So this to me is a swing and a miss.  The only consolation is that I can now cross if off from that list of "1,001 Movies To See Before You Die". (My current total: 408 seen.)

Also starring Matt Dillon (last seen in "Girl Most Likely"), Kelly Lynch, Heather Graham (last seen in "Two Girls and a Guy"), James Remar (last seen in "The Warriors"), Max Perlich (last seen in "Maverick"), Grace Zabriskie (last seen in "The Judge"), William S. Burroughs.

RATING: 3 out of 10 superstitions

Friday, June 16, 2017

Vantage Point

Year 9, Day 167 - 6/16/17 - Movie #2,662

BEFORE: Forest Whitaker carries over again from "Ghost Dog", and I'm still kind of on topic.  Jason Bourne from last week was a spy/assassin, one could say, and "Nightcrawler" had a bit about gun-men shooting a family and some police.  After my detour for the "grief" trilogy ("Moonlight Mile", "Demolition", "Manchester By the Sea"), "Out of the Furnace" dealt with criminals shooting people, "The Crying Game" was about IRA terrorists and hit-men (among other things...) and "Ghost Dog" was about a mafia hit-man.  So I continue with this film about a Presidential assassination.

I'll pull out of this topic in a little over a week, but with so many shootings in the news this week, I sort of feel like maybe I'm right where I should be.

THE PLOT: The attempted assassination of the American President is told and re-told from several different perspectives.

AFTER: It's funny that last night's film name-checked "Rashomon", because this film takes that seen-from-different angles idea (I've never seen "Rashomon", but I know that's the hook...) and runs with it.  Generally speaking, in this 90-minute film we see the same 10 minutes (or so) of time, over and over, each time from a different person's point of view, and each time we gain a little bit more information about exactly what happened.

It's an interesting format, but since it's so repetitive it's easy to see why no other film has ever attempted this - plus there are a lot of balls to keep up in the air, so to speak, and if there's a downside, it's that each character's story needed to end on something of a cliffhanger, or at least someone felt that it did, and also each character's story had to add something of a twist to what had come before, and therefore what we learn as truth in one story may easily be proven wrong in a story that comes later.  Also, creating all these twists means that about 18 different improbable things had to be shown taking place, and maybe I can believe that 5 or 6 improbable things might happen in sequence, but this seems like maybe a bit too much.

In addition, all 6 people whose perspectives we see are on something of a collision course, most of them need to end up in the same place at the same time for the story to come together and resolve, and that's also a bit of a stretch.  I think by the sixth time the story unfolds, the singular P.O.V. format was abandoned in favor of more traditional omniscient, omnipresent camera-work, because really, how long can you keep a thing like this going, and shouldn't we think about wrapping up this story by now?  I mean, how many times can you see the President get shot, what kind of person would want to see that again and again - wait, don't answer that.  You never know who's listening...

Also starring Dennis Quaid (last seen in "Truth"), Matthew Fox (last seen in "Alex Cross"), Sigourney Weaver (last seen in "Chappie"), William Hurt (last seen in "Race"), Zoe Saldana (last seen in "Out of the Furnace"), Edgar Ramirez (last seen in "Joy"), Eduardo Noriega, Said Taghmaoui (last seen in "Wonder Woman"), James LeGros, Bruce McGill (last seen in "Matchstick Men"), Richard T. Jones (last seen in "Moonlight Mile"), Holt McCallany (last seen in "Blackhat"), Ayelet Zurer (last seen in "Man of Steel"), Dolores Heredia, Brian McGovern, Leonardo Nam.

RATING: 5 out of 10 metal detectors

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Year 9, Day 166 - 6/15/17 - Movie #2,661

BEFORE: And now I've hit this nice little pocket of films about hit-men and assassinations - more death and destruction for a while, but at least with this topic it seems to serve a purpose.  Forest Whitaker carries over again from "The Crying Game".

THE PLOT: An African-American mafia hit man who models himself after the samurai of old finds himself targeted for death by the mob.

AFTER: I haven't seen too many films by Jim Jarmusch, other than "Coffee and Cigarettes" and "Broken Flowers".  I think I watched "Down By Law" and "Stranger Than Paradise" back in college, but really, who didn't?  I think if you went to film school in the late 1980's, like I did, that was probably required.  I'd like to watch his film "Dead Man", with Johnny Depp, but it appeared in the cable listings a few weeks ago and then disappeared just as quickly, I think before it even aired.  Not sure what was going on there.

But I think mainly Jarmusch's films tend to come off as character studies, not intensely narrative stories, but not all oblique like David Lynch or Terry Gilliam stories, either.  I feel like I could have used more story in this one, if that makes sense, because instead it just kept telling me Ghost Dog's origin over and over, only slightly differently each time.  (I didn't realize that was a nod to "Rashomon", because I haven't watched much Japanese cinema.  I should probably put that on my eventual "to-do" list, but that list is already pretty packed.  Besides, I've avoided "Rashomon", "Ran" and "The Seven Samurai" up until now, why ruin a good thing?)

There's a fair amount of Eastern philosophy here, as Ghost Dog reads from the Hagakure, with advice for samurai warriors that covers everything from the nature of existence to recommending to warriors that they should live life as if they are already dead, which in itself seems a little contradictory.  But I guess if you consider yourself already dead, then you don't mind sacrificing yourself in battle, or for whatever cause you happen to be fighting for.  Besides, even when you decapitate a samurai, it says that they should still have enough energy left in their body to do one last thing.  Umm, yeah, OK, good luck with that.

Ghost Dog works for a man in the Mafia, someone who saved his life years ago, and has dedicated himself to serving this man as his master, much like the samurai of ancient Japan served theirs.  Over the years he has carried out a number of hits, which are "perfect" in that they can't be traced back to him, possibly because he'll only communicate with his master via carrier pigeon.  Possible NITPICK POINT: one of the Mafia guys here uses the term "passenger pigeon" instead of "carrier pigeon" or "homing pigeon", but passenger pigeons are not only extinct (as the character correctly pointed out) but were not used to send messages.  Their name was a corruption of the French word "passager", meaning "to pass by", referring to their migratory habits.  Passenger pigeons didn't carry passengers, or messages.  But carrier pigeons are European, so the correct term to use here was probably "homing pigeon".

His only other friends seem to be an ice cream vendor who only speaks French (this is something of an unnecessary complication, as it requires every bit of dialogue between them to be said twice - hey, I guess you gotta fill your movie however you can...) and a young girl who reads a lot of books.  Great, be sure to give her the book on the samurai lifestyle - I'm not sure if this was just an ill-advised reading recommendation or an attempt to set up a sequel 15 or 20 years later, when the girl grows up.

Either way, the pieces just didn't really come together for me with this one.  There's a fair amount of action, but half of that is just really old guys shooting guns, or attempting to.  And too many moody shots of Ghost Dog driving through the scummier parts of New Jersey at night, listening to rap music.

Also starring John Tormey (last seen in "Not Fade Away"), Cliff Gorman, Victor Argo (last seen in "Don't Say a Word"), Henry Silva, Richard Portnow (last seen in "Café Society"), Tricia Vessey, Frank Minucci (last seen in "Carlito's Way"), Isaach de Bankolé (last seen in "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"), Camille Winbush (last seen in "Dangerous Minds"), Frank Adonis, Gary Farmer, Gene Ruffini, with a cameo by The RZA.

RATING: 3 out of 10 classic cartoons

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Crying Game

Year 9, Day 165 - 6/14/17 - Movie #2,660

BEFORE: Just a little over one month to go until San Diego Comic-Con, when I'll shut down the blog for a week - right now my life is all about doing the paperwork for the convention, filling out forms, getting the temporary CA sales tax permit, starting to publicize our panel and screenings, and figuring out who gets which kind of badge. In fact, with all the different things we're doing there, I may end up with too many badges, which is a nice problem to have - it beats the alternative, anyway.  But there could be friends or family that contact my boss at the last minute to try and get in, so it's probably best to have them set aside for the moment.

Forest Whitaker carries over from "Out of the Furnace", as I said he would, to appear in the first half of this film, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year - I feel like maybe I'm the last person to watch this one, and that's what this blog is (supposed to be) about, after all, finding those "lost" classics that I never took the time to watch before, even if I'm familiar with the film by way of pop culture.

THE PLOT: A British soldier is kidnapped by IRA terrorists.  He befriends one of his captors, who is drawn into the soldier's world.

AFTER: Damn it, how do I write about this film without giving away any spoilers?  Then again, this film has been around for 25 years, so if you haven't seen it or heard about it by now, then you're even more behind the times than I am - please, if you haven't seen this one, stop reading NOW.  Go track it down and see if if you want, but I simply can't be responsible if you haven't gained the proper background information to process what I need to say tonight, either by viewing the film or by cultural osmosis.

OK, is everybody gone now who needs to leave the room?  We may need to discuss some adult topics here, so please put the kids to bed.  This film didn't do that well when it was first released, but then became something of a sleeper hit after an ad campaign asked people to not reveal the film's secret to their friends, and this of course made people intensely curious about what this secret could be, so then people went to see it in droves, perhaps not fully prepared to deal with all of the issues it raised.

Of course, now in 2017, 25 years later, the presence of a transgender character (there, I said it...) is less of a big deal.  The norms have had more chance to get used to the idea, and the societal issues that go along with it.  I can't say that trans people are universally accepted, because the cynical part of me knows that there are plenty of places in this world where they are not, but I also can acknowledge that legally and socially in the better places in the U.S., great strides have been made.  Heck, there was a transgender contestant on "Survivor" this past season, and while the circumstances regarding that person's outing were hardly ideal, for the most part it became something of a positive interaction in the end, for most of the people involved.

I'd argue that the character here is more accurately described as transvestite than transgender, but then I think that's putting too fine a point on it.  Splitting hairs, so to speak.  Most people just didn't know that much about the politics and acceptable language connected to this issue back then, many in fact still don't, and try to judge someone based on their anatomy rather than how they identify.  This is why they had those ridiculous bathroom gender laws down in North Carolina - but it turns out you can't legislate intolerance after all.  If a male wants to be treated as a female, or vice versa, we're not supposed to ask about whether they've had an operation or not, the polite thing to do is to treat them however they want to be treated, right?

Now, with relation to this issue as seen in this film, the question then becomes, is the film a one-trick pony?  Does it have anything to offer the viewer outside this issue, or is this basically the thing that's driving all of the other plot points and creative decisions?  I suppose this is a debatable point, because once the secret is revealed, it sort of affects everything else, how could it not?  The lead character tracks down the girlfriend of the soldier he held captive, based mostly on the stunning photo that the soldier kept on him.  He obviously feels indebted based on the soldier's last wishes, but evidently the plan goes out the window when he sees her.  (This is before he knows that she's the "girl with something extra"...)

You might look at the situation through a modern filter and wonder, "How could he not know?  Didn't he pay attention to the type of bar, the way she sings, the way she moves, etc."  Again, I counter with "But it was 1992."  It was a different world in many ways - obviously there were sex changes that took place back in the 1970's (and earlier, as seen in "The Danish Girl"), but I think they were less prevalent and also less accepted.  But anyway, let's take the situation as presented to us in this film, and try to move forward.  Let's assume that the character here, Dil, can pass as a woman (the jury's still out on that one, if you ask me...).

When Fergus is hiding out in London, after fleeing Ireland and hooking up with Dil, he gets tracked down by Jude, an associate and (female) member of the IRA.  Jude naturally assumes that Dil is a woman, and tells Fergus she's going to kill his woman if he doesn't help out with the next operation, the assassination of a British official.  Fergus's solution to hide Dil from Jude is to cut her hair and dress her like a man, an act which contains levels of irony that can only be found in Shakespeare's more complicated farces, or perhaps in "Victor/Victoria".

But I think the message that Dil gets from this, without knowing that her life is in danger, is that Fergus would prefer her to act and dress like a man - and she goes with it, to the extent that she can, but of course now we know this is disrepectful to trans people, forcing them to dress and act like their birth gender, rather than how they identify.  So this leads to a rather complicated situation, formed by confusion and dishonesty, then further complicated by honesty.  I won't say any more about how the situation gets resolved, because I may have spoiled too much already.  But it's worth checking out because it represented a turning point in storytelling.  After all, Shakespeare could only dress female characters (played by men at the time) in men's clothing, and vice versa, but Neil Jordan, the director of "The Crying Game" was able to take things a giant step forward.  In essence this is a female character, in a man's body, being forced to act and dress like a man for her own safety - and I'm fairly sure that at the time this came out, nobody had seen a story like that before.

NITPICK POINT: I still have no idea what "The Crying Game" is, what the title is referring to.  I know it's the name of the song, so maybe the lyrics of the song could give me an idea (Nope, no such luck...), but right now I fail to see how it ties in with the events in the film.  Furthermore, I don't think that the parable about the scorpion and the frog really ties in well, either, maybe I just don't get it.

Also starring Stephen Rea (last seen in "In Dreams"), Miranda Richardson (last seen in "Muppets Most Wanted"), Jaye Davidson (last seen in "Stargate"), Jim Broadbent (last seen in "Eddie the Eagle"), Ralph Brown (last seen in "Jackie"), Adrian Dunbar (last seen in "My Left Foot"), Tony Slattery, Birdy Sweeney, Joe Savino. 

RATING: 4 out of 10 carnival games

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Out of the Furnace

Year 9, Day 164 - 6/13/17 - Movie #2,659

BEFORE: Casey Affleck carries over from "Manchester By the Sea" and closes out his three films in about a week's time.  Yeah, they were all supposed to run together at one point but it made more sense to separate them a bit.  I've got to keep the chain flexible, to allow other films to be dropped in here and there, as long as linking is maintained then I feel good about it.

But the ending of three films with Casey Affleck is also the beginning of four films with Forest Whitaker, that's just the way things go.  Circle of life.

THE PLOT: When Rodney Baze mysteriously disappears and law enforcement doesn't follow through fast enough, his older brother Russell takes matters into his own hands to find justice.

AFTER: An Iraq veteran, steelworkers, drug dealers and underground bare-knuckle boxing.  There's a lot of pain and misery to go around tonight, I feel like I'm soaking in it.  (There are more specific things that this film happens to share with "Manchester By the Sea" but I'm withholding some to prevent spoilers.)  But it's part prison film, part crime drama, part boxing movie - and yet it's not really any of those things, what it is becomes rather hard to quantify, but like most of the other films in the past week, pretty much everyone is circling the drain, or standing on shifting sands, like quicksand.  Yeah, that's it, metaphorically we're all sinking into quicksand, and we don't take the proper steps to save ourselves, since we might not even know we're sinking until it's too late to prevent it.

This is set somewhere in Pennsylvania, Wiki tells me the steel mill setting is in North Braddock, and the prison scenes are set at Moundsville, which is in West Virginia.  The scenes with the psycho drug dealer and his gang are apparently set somewhere in Bergen County, NJ - there was a lawsuit after this film was released about the portrayal of a Native American tribe from Mahwah, NJ, and their environs in the Ramapo Mountains.  It seems the film used some character names that are close to the names of some real people who live there, and those people took offense.  A filmmaker today, before using any name in a film, needs to protect himself by finding someone with that name and signing a contract with that person to buy the right to use their name, it can be for a low amount like one dollar. I thought that this was standard Hollywood practice by now to prevent litigation.

I've got to find a way to pivot away from all these depressing movies - it's been nothing but misery, night after night, ever since "The Zero Theorem".  You could say that "Moonlight Mile" and "Demolition" ended on positive points, but that doesn't make up for how depressing most of those films were.  Unfortunately, there's more darkness ahead for the next two weeks - more hit-men, heists, at least two assassinations, two serial killers, an oil-rig disaster and a prominent bombing.  After that, I think I'll need to dive into some upbeat animated films for a change of pace.

Also starring Christian Bale (last seen in "The Big Short"), Woody Harrelson (last seen in "Triple 9"), Zoe Saldana (last seen in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"), Willem Dafoe (last seen in "John Wick"), Sam Shepard (last seen in "Midnight Special"), Forest Whitaker (last seen in "Rogue One"), Tom Bower (last seen in "Pollock"), Boyd Holbrook (last seen in "Logan"), Bingo O'Malley.

RATING: 4 out of 10 orange hunting vests

Monday, June 12, 2017

Manchester By the Sea

Year 9, Day 163 - 6/12/17 - Movie #2,658 - viewed on 6/8/17

BEFORE: I'm back from Massachusetts, and today's film just happens to be set there - but I really watched it last week, I just didn't review it right away.  This is because the original plan was to have this one follow "The Zero Theorem", with Lucas Hedges carrying over.  This was the simplest way to get back to the chain I had originally planned, after making a detour to watch "Wonder Woman".  But then I decided to follow the Matt Damon track out of "The Zero Theorem" because I saw the opportunity to squeeze in those three Jake Gyllenhaal movies, and still link back to here, with C.J. Wilson carrying over from "Demolition".

And originally THIS film was supposed to go after "Triple 9", with Casey Affleck carrying over.  But since my current chain was scheduled to end a few days before "Spider-Man: Homecoming", after dropping in these extra 4 films, it looks like I may hit it right on the nose.  But that's opening night - and I may not want to deal with the crowds, so if I can find three more films to shoehorn into the chain, I could put the Spider-Man film off until the following Monday, that would be super-sweet.

I'm hoping this marks the end of this little grief-based trilogy I seem to have fallen into.

THE PLOT: A depressed uncle is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy's father dies.

AFTER: This one starts out with the portrait of the lead character, Lee, as a handyman/janitor in the Boston area - so it's the drudgery of shoveling snow, unclogging toilets, fixing leaks, then doing it all again the next day.  But this janitor's life changes when his brother dies, and he's named to be the guardian of his nephew.

Or perhaps I should say the "gaah-dian", because the Boston accents are prominent here, and it feels like the screenwriter picked a lot of spoken words that would emphasize it, like "shaak" (shark) and "caad-bawd" (cardboard) or the "mawg" (morgue).  Plus the teen kids apparently still call each other "re-taah-ded" instead of "stupid", just like they did when I was a kid, even though that's not very PC.  (And if we really wanted to emphasize how stupid someone was, we'd call him "fekkin' re-taah-ded".  I guess some things never change...) 

Not too far into the film, we hit what I usually call Excessive Flashbackery - which was confusing at first because they just go right into it, and a character that just died is in the first flashback, so at first it seemed like he was alive again, or perhaps there was confusion over who died.   That's when I realized it's another one of these films that starts in the middle and flashes back to the beginning, because nobody knows how to tell a goddamn story in the proper ORDER any more, they'd rather just throw all the bits of the timeline at you and let you know that some assembly is required.

But I sort of have to allow it here, because the information in the flashbacks is important, it eventually gives us insight into the character of Lee and it explains why he doesn't feel he's cut out to be a parent, and why his marriage fell apart, and all that is really powerful stuff, once we've assembled it together, that is.  I just think directors are falling back on this trick way too often, like they've collectively got it into their heads that information is more dramatic if it's delivered via flashback, and compared or contrasted with a current scene in the framing sequences. But it's still a storytelling crutch...

Also starring Casey Affleck (last seen in "Triple 9"), Michelle Williams (last seen in "Shutter Island"), Lucas Hedges (last seen in "The Zero Theorem"), Kyle Chandler (last seen in "Carol"), Gretchen Mol (last seen in "True Story"), Matthew Broderick (last seen in "Trainwreck"), Tate Donovan (last seen in "Murder at 1600"), Kara Hayward (last seen in "Moonrise Kingdom"), Anna Baryshnikov, Heather Burns (last seen in "Two Weeks Notice"), Josh Hamilton, Tom Kemp (also carrying over from "Demolition"), Joe Stapleton.

RATING:  5 out of 10 baah fights

Sunday, June 11, 2017


Year 9, Day 162 - 6/11/17 - Movie #2,657

BEFORE: Day 3 in Massachusetts, and Day 3 of this year's Jake Gyllenhaal trilogy.

Yesterday I went to the local German picnic with my Mom and a friend, and then today I just went out for breakfast and dinner with my parents, then showed them the film "Black Mass" later in the evening.  My Dad followed the Whitey Bulger story closely while Whitey was on the lam, so even though the film had a lot of profanity in it - and that's not really their thing - I figured the movie might go over well with them.

I caught up on sleep this weekend, as there wasn't much else for me to do here in the mornings, so I'm hoping that even if I stay up and watch one more movie, it won't affect my ability to get up early tomorrow morning and catch a 6:30 train back to NYC.  I also spent an hour today on the phone with their cable TV's customer service in order to get their On Demand features working again - so I hung out with the parents, got their cable fixed, there's nothing for me to do but head back to work on Monday. 

THE PLOT: A successful investment banker struggles after losing his wife in a car crash.  With the help of a customer service rep and her young son, he starts to rebuild, beginning with the demolition of the life he once knew.

AFTER: For the second night in a row, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a man with a deceased wife, who then has an awkward relationship with her parents, and coincidence leads him into a new relationship.  But the similarities end there - oh, wait, also family secrets are revealed and dealt with, but that's really where the similarities end.  In "Moonlight Mile" his character essentially has to break up with her parents in order to move on with his life, and in this film, he's got to break a lot of other stuff.

Things start rolling when a vending machine won't properly dispense his candy, and this leads him to write a long, rambling letter to their customer service department.  (Why he doesn't move directly to destroying the vending machine with a sledgehammer, and cut out all the middle stuff is beyond me.)  The letters are so moving and emotional that the woman who runs the customer service department for the vending machine company contacts him, and they form a strange friendship based on their mutual dissatisfaction with life, or their mutual broken dreams, or something.

Meanwhile the man, Davis, takes his ex-father-in-law's advice literally, which was that the human heart is a thing that needs to be taken apart in order to be fixed - Davis expands this idea and starts taking apart appliances to find out how they work, only he's not so diligent about putting them back together.  The refrigerator, a lamp and a bathroom stall at work end up in pieces, leading his father-in-law, who's also his boss (OK, that was a plot point in last night's film too...) to think he's going crazy, and tells him to take time off to mourn and heal.

But instead he inserts himself further into the life of that customer-service rep, and hangs out with her while her boyfriend is out of town, and also engages in further destructive behavior with her 15-year-old son, like breaking up more and bigger things with sledgehammers and such.  Sure, there's no one way to mourn, but I have a feeling that some probably end up being better than others in the long run.  For all the destruction seen in the film, I'm glad it at least ended on a more positive note. 

Also starring Naomi Watts (last seen in "St. Vincent"), Chris Cooper (last seen in "Syriana"), Judah Lewis, C.J. Wilson (last seen in "The Intern"), Polly Draper (last seen in "The Pick-Up Artist"), Heather Lind, Malachy Cleary, Debra Monk (last seen in "This Is Where I Leave You"), Wass Stevens, Blaire Brooks, Tom Kemp (last seen in "Black Mass").

RATING: 5 out of 10 peanut m&m's

Moonlight Mile

Year 9, Day 161 - 6/10/17 - Movie #2,656

BEFORE: Day 2 in Massachusetts, and Day 2 with Jake Gyllenhaal, who carries over from "Nightcrawler" and I seem to have hit a thematic chain about mourning and grief. 

THE PLOT: As he copes with the death of his fiancee, a young man befriends her parents and must figure out what he wants out of life.

AFTER: This one's all about the awkwardness of dealing with family (or maybe it just seems like that because I'm dealing with my family right now...) or people who were almost family, or something like that.  Joe is a young man living temporarily with his fiancee's parents while and after her funeral takes place, and gradually we learn more about who she was and how she died, and what took place the week before she died.

Thankfully, this is done more artistically then through the lazy use of flashbacks.  See, there is a way to get information across about what has transpired before, without jumping around in time excessively.  We also gradually learn when this is taking place - at first it seems like it could be set in the present (2002, when this was released) but with references to Vietnam and certain songs on the jukebox being only a couple of years old, it turns out this is set in 1973.

This makes sense, with most people in the film using land-line phones and old-style jukeboxes, but if you set something in small-town America, you might still see some of those things, especially if people are resistant to change.  My parents still have a home phone, for example, and only use their (flip-style) cell phones when needed, but the younger generation uses the smart phones all the time, and tend to ditch home phone numbers. 

Joe has to deal with wedding invitations that were sent that need to be retrieved, and for that he gets help from the local postmaster, who seems to have no problem with allowing him to tamper with the mail to get those invitations back - which I believe is a federal offense.  But the postmaster is an attractive woman who has suffered a loss of their own, so you don't have to do much complicated math to figure out that they could help solve each other's problems.

She also works/co-owns the local bar, which is a complication because Joe's being roped into going into a commercial real estate partnership with his almost-father-in-law, and there's some kind of possible deal to land a big development deal in the town, but of course it just happens to involve the same block that this bar is on.  What a coincidence.   Can Joe find a way to free himself from the emotional weight of his late girlfriend and the pull imparted by her parents, in order to break out and start a new life somewhere else?

NITPICK POINT: It's a bit confusing to have prominent characters named "Joe" and "JoJo" in the same film, especially when JoJo goes by the shortened "Jo". And if these two characters have known each other for months, it's a bit strange that they would suddenly realize that their names are similar. 

Also starring Dustin Hoffman (last seen in "Ishtar"), Susan Sarandon (last seen in "Zoolander 2"), Holly Hunter (last seen in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"), Ellen Pompeo (last seen in "Catch Me If You Can"), Dabney Coleman (last seen in "Melvin and Howard"), Alexia Landeau (last seen in "Riding in Cars With Boys"), Richard Fancy (last seen in "Sunset"), Mary Ellen Trainor (last seen in "Anywhere But Here"), Allan Corduner (last seen in "Woman in Gold"), Richard T. Jones (last seen in "Hot Pursuit"), Lenny Clarke (last seen in "Ted 2"), Phil Reeves.

RATING: 4 out of 10 yellow suit jackets