This Is Not What I Expected (2017)

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I honestly can’t think of a more appropriate title for a movie than This Is Not What I Expected. It’s a Chinese film that showed up at my local theater recently and I went into it not really knowing what to expect at all. I had only seen a trailer for it but still wasn’t sure exactly what type of film it was going to be. So by the time it ended, it wasn’t what I expected, but that was a good thing.

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Another Year (2016)

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The documentary Another Year from filmmaker Shengze Zhu is about a year in the life of a poor Chinese migrant family. Migrant workers typically travel from their rural hometowns into the city for factory or construction jobs. This film takes place in the city of Wuhan, China, and we meet a family of six: a husband and wife, their three children, and the husband’s mother. This three-generation family lives in just a 200 square-foot apartment in the city, and the documentary attempts to provide a glimpse into their lives through 13 takes, one a month, over the course of a year. Each take is filmed in real-time, lasting anywhere from around seven to 20 minutes, and takes place during meal times.

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Yoyo (1965)

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I have to admit that lately I’ve had a major obsession with the Turner Classic Movie channel. It’s been a great resource in catching up with classic films, and I also stumble across some memorable gems every now and then. Some of these are titles I’ve never heard of before so I feel fortunate to have stumbled across them. The other day I sat down to watch a film titled Yoyo having never heard of it before. The film was written and directed by French filmmaker Pierre Étaix, who unfortunately never became well known outside of France due to the unfortunate distribution deals that prevented his films from being released stateside for a long time. But Étaix did have an influence on modern artists such as Woody Allen and Terry Gilliam. I also can’t help but wonder how much Yoyo influenced the 2011 film The Artist which immediately came to mind as I started watching this. Continue reading

Take Me (2017)

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I can’t remember the last time I viewed a good modern-day screwball comedy, which is why Take Me was so refreshing. It’s not a deep thinking type of film, rather it’s entertaining and funny and a gem worth watching. Take Me is the directorial debut for actor Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills) who also stars in the film alongside actress Taylor Schilling (Orange Is the New Black). I will admit I have a bit of bias toward Healy, because I got to meet him a while back and he’s a pretty cool guy to hang out with and I fully support his endeavors.

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The Little Hours (2017)

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When I first viewed the red band trailer for The Little Hours it was full of nuns speaking profanities, exploring their sexuality, and had an impressive cast of comedic actors (including Alison Brie, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, Nick Offerman, and John C. Reilly). So I immediately couldn’t wait to see it. The film is inspired by a couple of tales out of the 14th century book The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. I say “inspired” since I haven’t read The Decameron and I’m pretty sure it’s not laced with the numerous F-bombs that this movie has. All I can say is that this movie did not disappoint, and I felt my expectations were met. Now if you’re someone who’s easily offended by crude humor that takes place within the confines of a convent, then maybe this film isn’t for you.

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The Survivalist (2015)

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Stephen Fingleton’s The Survivalist takes place sometime in a future where society has collapsed. The film opens with a chart demonstrating how overpopulation combined with the depletion of fossil fuels have contributed to a world where food is scarce and every man is out for himself. The film’s story focuses on the titular character, whose name is never mentioned, we only know that he’s the survivalist. He has his own little plot of land in the woods, hidden out of the way the best it can, and here is where most of the film takes place.

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The House of the Devil (2009)

Samantha is a college student who desperately wants to move out of her college dorm (and away from her promiscuous and messy roommate) into a house off campus. Her new landlady has accepted her as a tenant and wants the first month’s rent in a few days, but Samantha is cash strapped. And now Samantha has set herself up to be in a situation where she will be making some bad decisions.

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The Greasy Strangler (2016)

This tender-hearted, father and son comedy…no wait, what am I talking about? What I mean to say is this truly tasteless, gross-out comedy is not for everyone. Seriously, this is a film where you’ll either laugh hysterically at the ridiculousness of it all, or have a complete opposite reaction of “what the hell is this crap and why does it exist”.

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Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)

The title Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080, Bruxelles is a mouthful. It’s a title that makes me think the filmmaker Chantal Ackerman walked into a building, pointed to a random apartment, and decided whoever resided behind that door is whose story would be told (this is most likely not the case, but that’s just the initial impression I get). But the title does indicate who the film is about and the domain she inhabits. It begins in the kitchen, within a stationary camera angle, where a woman is moving in and out of the frame. Because the camera doesn’t move, at first you only see this figure from the shoulders down. She could be anybody. She’s doing chores and preparing dinner when the doorbell rings. She opens the door to receive a gentleman caller, who she leads down the hall to the bedroom. Cut to a bit later where they exit the room, the gentleman gives her money and leaves, and the woman places the money in a china bowl on a table and replaces the lid over the bowl. She then proceeds with her routine, including bathing herself and getting dinner ready for when her son comes home from school. She walks around the apartment, turning the lights on and then off as she enters and exits a room.

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On the Bowery, 1956

Sometimes the best movie experiences are the ones that are the most unexpected. You go into a film, not having heard of it before or really know what it’s about, but does it ever make an impact. I was not familiar with the film On the Bowery before, and I almost didn’t attend a local screening. Thankfully I did, and this is a little film I would highly recommend.

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