Black Rock

Director: Katie Aselton
Writer: Mark Duplass, Katie Aselton
Staring: Katie Aselton, Lake Bell, Kate Bosworth
Release Date: May 17, 2013
Streaming: Amazon Prime

Didn’t expect much from Black Rock, but was still left a little disappointed. A run-of-the-mill stranded on an island movie with multiple short-cutted relationship tropes.

  • With Mark Duplass producing and writing, as well as Katie Aselton directing, writing and staring…this has to be a relationship and partnership developed through The League. Go watch The League instead.
  • Everything about this movie was predictable. Even the death of Sarah (Kate Bosworth) was obviously foreshadowed.
  • This is meant to be a female empowerment movie, but it misses the mark in terms of fitting that genre. It is not as subtle or profound as A Vigilante (2018), Wild (2014) or even Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).

STANKO RATING: D (1.5/5 Stars)


Crazy, Not Insane

Director: Alex Gibney
Writer: Alex Gibney
Release Date: November 18, 2020
Streaming: HBO MAX

Listen, I was in a mood when I began this week watching really twisted, murder, serial killer stuff. Crazy, Not Insane fit my mood and stands out as a really unique look at people that fascinate us.

  • This movie was smart in putting Ted Bundy at the end of Crazy, Not Insane. The name that people recognize most to help everyone remember the movie.
  • The behind-the-scenes footage and interviews shown are nuts. I haven’t seen anything like them before. The mind is whacked.
  • I really liked the way director Alex Gibney paced out this movie.

STANKO RATING: B (3.5/5 Stars)


The Hills Have Eyes

Director: Alexandre Aja
Writer: Wes Craven, Alexandre Aja, Grégory Levasseur
Staring: Ted Levine, Aaron Stanford, Dan Byrd
Release Date: March 10, 2006
Streaming: HBO MAX

The Hills Have Eyes is the first horror movie I ever saw in theaters. I went in 2006 when it came out, as not a fan horror movies at all, and stomached through it. Also to Mrs. Mirabito who took the trio of us to see this and sat in the theater during it…I really hope that it was made up for you.

  • I am so confused by there was so much Americana symbolism in this movie. When Doug (Aaron Stanford) goes all mutant-killer in the abandoned town, it is just unrelentingly patriotic for a reason I’m not sure of.
  • Having seen the original and comparing it to this, I actually don’t hate some of the additions they made to the story. The old nuclear town and and the mining shafts…not terrible.
  • The Hills Have Eyes is really hard to watch for one 15 minutes stretch. It is not terror, but rather immense dread. When the mutants attack that family for the first time in their trailers, it is incredibly tough to stomach. This is the type of movie you would NEVER EVER recommend to someone even if they are iffy on horror movies.
  • Hand on my heart, I rated The Hills Have Eyes the exact same base of my initial viewing.

STANKO RATING: B- (2.5/5 Stars)


I Used To Go Here

Director: Kris Rey
Writer: Kris Rey
Staring: GIllian Jacobs, Jemaine Clement, Josh Wiggins
Release Date: August 7, 2020
Streaming: HBO MAX

As someone who is still connected to their alma mater (literally working there), there was something about I Used To Go Here that really sticks to me bones. The idea of trying to make a mentor proud while still making mistakes and learning to live with them.

I really love Gillian Jacobs in this movie, and this role. A humble person not used to having someone paying them attention and giving praise. It is not the hardest part to play, that of Kate, but Jacobs has a levity that fits well in an light-hearted library type of movie.

  • I Used To Go Here surprises me by not playing out the college kids in their typical fashion. Credit to Kris Rey for writing the youngings with some depth and character. I also love Tall Brandon.
  • The sound of Jermaine Clement’s voice is hilarious. He somehow combines earnest with charisma with pitiful.
  • A part of I Used To Go Here that clicked was when Kate flipped to the back of her book and saw “fiancé” written out. Immediately the audience knows the stakes of her past love life, and how its etched into her life accomplishment.
  • Why is it that its English or theater teachers are the ones always embroiled in college romances?

STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)


The Iceman Tapes: Conversations With A Killer

Director: Arthur Ginsberg, Tom Spain
Staring: Richard Kuklinski
Release Date: 1992
Streaming: HBO MAX

I love serial killers. They are fascinating. Richard Kuklinski doesn’t fit the exact definition, but in all frankness, he is more terrifying than other killers I have seen in interviews and documentaries.

  • The stones on the interviewers for HBO to keep pushing the envelope with Kuklinski is crazy. Massive props. There must have been so much prep for the 17 hours of tense talk.
  • The chilling nature that which he describes how messy a chainsaw is, or how quickly the cyanide works, is freaky. He talks in the classic “BEULLER” Ferris Beuller Day Off type of monotone.
  • Sure, was the 1990s reenactments are cheesy and over the top, but they get the job done. They are simplistic, and its not the visuals you’ll remember. It’s the sound of Kuklinski’s voice.

STANKO RATING: A- (4.5/5 Stars)


Incarnate

Director: Brad Peyton
Writer: Ronnie Christensen
Staring: Aaron Eckhart, Carice van Houten, Catalina Sandino Moreno
Release Date: February 14, 2020
Streaming: Netflix

Just a really terrible movie. Incarnate is as tough a watch as Aaron Eckhart’s career trajectory.

  • For an 87 minute movie, Incarnate moves remarkably slow. Just a snails pace.
  • Catalina Sandino Moreno is gorgeous.
  • It was so hard to try and connect with the personal struggles of Dr. Ember (Aaron Eckhart); the possessed person who took his love and his passion for getting retribution for it.
  • The opening scene in Incarnate is the best scene of the movie. Also it’s the only scene in the movie that had a fun vibe.

STANKO RATING: D (1.0/5 Stars)


Insomnia

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Hilary Seitz, Nikolaj Frobenius, Erik Skjoldbjærg
Staring: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank
Release Date: May 24, 2002
Streaming: Rented Off Amazon

Really wish I liked this movie more than I did. It really is a great premise, but the movie doesn’t live up to its true potential. Aspects of it are visually stunning, but the plot intrigue dwindles down as the movie plays out.

  • The sequence in the fog is amazing. That has to be the Nolan magic because everything about that chase was fun and frantic. A unique visual space that was fulfilled.
  • Robin Williams as Walter Finch was the best acting part of the movie. Showing his acting chops and not just his comedy prowess.
  • This movie is part of my completing my Christopher Nolan encyclopedia. Want to see all of his movies, and now I only have The Following (1998).
  • It says something about the magic of Christopher Nolan’s ability that his eyes behind the camera can make a movie watchable and enjoyable even when it doesn’t reach its full potential.
  • Will Dormer (Al Pacino) got really really annoying by the end of this movie. Not sure if that was the intention, but that is my opinion on the matter.

STANKO RATING: C+ (3.0/5 Stars)


Se7en

Director: David Fincher
Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker
Staring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey
Release Date: September 22, 1995
Streaming: HBO MAX

What an amazing rewatch. Se7en is twisted, demented, and wonderfully crafted. The dinner scene between Somerset (Morgan Freeman), Mills (Brad Pitt) and Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow) is just as interesting as the murder scenes. David Fincher is so good at what he does.

  • I actually raised my letter grading on this one from my original viewing. Was a B+ grade my first time watching, and now it is an A-. Still 4.5 stars.
  • The ending, so diabolical.
  • I wish Kevin Spacey wasn’t a terrible person so that I could praise his yelling of “DETECTIVE.” It is interesting that in that scene, Mills and Somerset are in front of an American flag when they turn around. Also how the villian serial killer is John Doe…the man of no name. Also how they don’t explicitly say the city they are in…it is a fictional one. I THINK maybe that Fincher and writer Andrew Kevin Walker is trying to make a point there…
  • The one obvious point is how John Doe being a literal no-name is symbolic for how evil can be all-around us, and be unnamed, and still wreak havoc.

STANKO RATING: A- (4.5/5 Stars)


Summer of 84

Director: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoan-Karl Whissell
Writer: Matt Leslie, Stephen J. Smith
Staring: Graham Verchere, Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery, Rich Sommer
Release Date: August 10, 2018
Streaming: Rented Off Apple Movies

I am not sure if Summer of 84 was meant to come out during the heat of Stranger Things fervor, but it definitely did. One of the first scenes is the movie is of a gang of kids riding around a small neighborhood on their bikes. Wish the movie could have been something more than it was, but not bad overall.

  • I really liked the ending to Summer of 84. It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
  • The only portion of this movie when it really dragged was in the middle, when things got a little formulaic.
  • If you like Stranger Things, you will like Summer Of 84. I consider this movie on par with the worst season of Stranger Things, AKA season two.

STANKO RATING: B- (3.0/5 Stars)


The Murders At White House Farm

Series Directed By: Paul Whittington
Writers: Colin Caffell, Carol Ann Lee, Kris Mrksa, Giula Sandler
Staring: Freddie Fox, Alexa Davies, Mark Addy
Streaming: HBO MAX

This miniseries really took me by surprise. I went into The Murders At White House Farm thinking it’d be background noise, but by the time I got half-way through the six episode series, I was hooked into it.

  • Jeremy Bamber (Freddie Fox) is near Joffrey Baratheon levels of hared in terms of a character. Props to Bamber, the highlight performance of the show.
  • Just another Game Of Thrones connection; this is the first time I remember Mark Addy (playing the dutiful copper DS Stan Jones) in something since he was Robert Baratheon. He has been in plenty of TV shows but I am not an avid TV watcher.
  • The Murders At White House Farm resonates because its grounded in realism. The murdered family was wealthy, but not flamboyant. The few club scenes were subdued and didn’t revel in the splendor of money. This was most prominent in the griminess of the bathroom stall scene between Julie Mugford (Alexa Davies) and Sheila Caffell (Cressida Bonas).

Stanko Rating: A- (4.0/5 Stars)


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