Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Director: Stephen Herek
Writers: Chris Matheson, Ed Solomon
Staring: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin
Streaming: Apple Movies
Release Date: February 17, 1989

I will be the first to say that Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is INDEED excellent! This movie has soul; a swoopy, high school aged youthful bliss soul.

The premise and story of this movie is not important. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure thrives on the pure charisma of Keanu Reeves and his partner Alex Winter. Playing the pair of high school spelunkers, the pure “ignorance is bliss” confidence of the two makes me wish I was able to have that naivete.

  • I had no idea that George Carlin was in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. What a wonderful, comedic surprise.
  • The best of the historical figures that Ted (Keanu Reeves) and Bill (Alex Winter) pick up is either Freud or Beethoven.
  • I will be watching the next two movies in this series. I wonder if the third movie will lose the charm with better special effects.
  • The unintentionally funniest parts of this movie is how Ted and Bill just immerse themselves in the historical moments with no real regard for costumes or langue barriers. Just BOOM, plow through the wall.

STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)


Death Stroke: Knights & Dragons

Director: Sung Jin Ahn
Writers: J.M. DeMatteis
Staring: Michael Chiklin, Sasha Alexander, Asher Bishop
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: 2020

Going to be be honest, I do not remember a lot of Death Strokes: Knights & Dragons. Just a very much a background movie; fit the mold of what I enjoy shutting my brain off to.

  • The first half of this movie was better than the second.
  • Why do comic book stories always tend to have a random child story?
  • The ending battle was not as entertaining as the rest of the movie; the most contained fights were the better.

STANKO RATING: D (1.5/5 Stars)


The Dig

Director: Simone Stone
Writers: Moira Buffini, John Preston
Staring: Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, Lily James
Streaming: Netflix
Release Date: January 29, 2021

What a wonderful surprise to watch on a Saturday morning! The Dig popped up on my home page, and immediately my girlfriend and I looked at each other and said “let’s watch this.”

Based on a true story set in the late 1930s, the story centers around excavator Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) and his work for Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan). A landmark discovery results in madam Pretty’s land being the center of attention while the discovery of the land parallels with people discovering things about themselves.

  • This is the most “parents” movie of all time. It is quintessentially an adult drama that fits into a specific notch perfectly.
  • Carey Mulligan is relentlessly elegant; how she has not been in The Crown is beyond me. I remember her most from Drive (2011). She plays emotionally distressed and dying very well.
  • Ralph Fiennes is delightfully dull in The Dig. He fits the grumpy mold but a heart of gold character exceptionally well.
  • The final sequence with the kid and his mother is tear-jerking.
  • Director Simone Stone and cinematographer Mike Eley really love low landscape shots. I am a fan, but there are a TON of them in this movie.

Stanko Rating: B (3.5/5 Stars)


Following

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Christopher Nolan
Staring: Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, Lucy Russell
Streaming: Rental
Release Date: November 5, 1999 (UK)

In my quest to see every movie Christopher Nolan, I saved his first for last. A young desperate writer only known as The Young Man (Jeremy Theobald) is entranced by the charisma and law-breaking of Cobb (Alex Haw). From there the non-linear story evolves into a bleak story or lesson in trust.

Following is more than I expected, in particular in Nolan’s writing. As the years have gone on, Nolan’s movies grow longer and more drawn out. The themes overshadow everything, for better of for worse. In Following, the story is at center stage while the themes and motifs are are little clouds in the sky. It is simple and quick, literally because it is only 69 minutes long!

You still get plenty of Nolan and his obsession with time. Following is not told linearly, but you can draw a straight line through all the buttons of the plot.

  • Shocking revelation is that Alex Haw, who played Cobb, acted only once! In just this movie! He is now an architect in London!
  • The dialogue in Following reminded me most of his latest film Tenet (2020) and a little bit of Inception (2010). It is quick and personable; a lot more people just having conversations rather than dealing in deep proverbs.
  • This is the second time Nolan used the name Cobb. Alex Haw’s character in this film, and Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Inception. Would love to ask him if that was on purpose.
  • The ending of Following genuinely had me shocked. Could not have predicted how it ended up unfolding.

Stanko Rating: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)


John Wick

Director: Chad Stahelski, David Leitch
Writers: Derek Kolstad
Staring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen
Streaming: Rental
Release Date: October 24, 2014

I love John Wick. I really, really do.

I’ve lost track how many times I have seen this movie, but even now there are things I am noticing for the first time. For example, the morning after the funeral, there are two coffee mugs next to the coffee maker, and in every shot with Wick in it, directors Stahelski and Leitch frame it for two people.

I am not sure how John Wick: Chapter 4 is going to build upon what this franchise is, but I am beyond excited. Much like Wick himself, this franchise doesn’t miss.

  • Other small thing I noticed. After the final battle between Wick and Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), there is the shot of Wick walking away from the dock. The body that is behind him is not that of Nyqvsit; it is just a body-double that may have been there for framing, but just something I noticed.
  • I hope that a place like The Continental exists in real life. I’d love to just sit in the lobby and see all the happenings.
  • The speech Viggo gives to his son Iosef (Alfie Allen) is one of my most re-watched movie scenes of all-time on YouTube.
  • Reason I watched it again was because my girlfriend wanted to; she is a major fan of The Wire and I can’t wait for her to see what Lance Reddick does as Charon come John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
  • For transparency sake, I watched this later Saturday night after last week’s diary. Just had to include it now.

Stanko Rating: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)


Locked Down

Director: Doug Liman
Writers: Steven Knight
Staring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anne Hathaway
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: January 14, 2021

If this movie was a sports analogy: the idea of this movie is like a younger player in little league going up against an older kid in the same division. You are rooting for the batter, hoping for contact and hoping for anything at all.

Locked Down stars two strong leads in Chiwetel Ejiofor and Anne Hathaway. That’s three Academy Award nominations between them. And surprisingly, the best parts of this movie are when they are in a room together talking with one another. When Locked Down stretches into a heist movie and moves outside the house…that’s when it takes a bit of a downturn.

With all that being said, I enjoyed Locked Down more than I ever thought I would have. It is a perfect background noise movie that draws just enough attention but also doesn’t demand a ton. It is perfect for a short-loving attention span.

  • Was the first 2021 movie I saw this year! Wahoo a new year of movies!
  • This was the second straight Anne Hathaway movie I watched following Roald Dahl’s The Witches (2020).
  • I do love how on the IMDB credits, they gave a credit to the hedgehog and named the “actor” as sonic.
  • When David (Dulé Hill) and Maria (Jazmyn Simon) appear on the zoom or facetime, it is almost strong. The little romance and awkward tension between Maria and Linda (Anne Hathaway) is funny, and when she tells Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor)
  • Objectively, Locked Down is not super. But it is entertaining. It is a good glass of wine while playing board game movie.

Stanko Rating: B- (3.0/5 Stars)


Roald Dahl’s The Witches

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writers: Robert Zemeckis
Staring: Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: October 22, 2020

Before anyone asks, no I have not seen the 1990 version of The Witches. So I am not qualified to say if that version, or this 2020 version, is the better of the two.

Director and writer Robert Zemeckis strived for a creepy Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) bad-person vibe. To a certain extent, they succeeded. In the early portions of Roald Dahl’s The Witches there was success with it. However as the movie progresses and gets more CGI heavy and family friendly, the unique avenue of appeal fades.

Where Roald Dahl’s The Witches starts to falter is right after cauldron of witches remove their wigs, gloves and shoes. That shedding of their outer skin acts like the movie shedding its potential to be strong.

  • Anne Hathaway is having fun in this movie, that is without a doubt. She embraces the wonkiness, even if the movie is uneven with it.
  • The CGI in this movie was bad. The table through by the Grand High Witch is really tough to see, and a lot of the sequences with the “snakes” and mice are looking low-budget.
  • Had no idea that Chris Rock’s voice work was in this movie. Shocker when it started.
  • I think I have a dear of Roald Dahl stories, but mainly, mostly James And The Giant Peach. That movie terrified me.

Stanko Rating: C+ (2.5/5 Stars)


Spotlight

Director: Tom McCarthy
Writers: Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy
Staring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci
Streaming: Netflix
Release Date: November 20, 2015

There is something to a fascinating journalistic movie that makes my juices flow. Something about due diligence, relentless work ethic and the creativity in getting an objective done; all of that makes me grow goosebumps.

Spotlight achieves all those marks and also accomplishes the task of being relentlessly entertaining. It is so hard to make a coherent story about journalists asking questions propulsive, but all the credit to Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer for bringing this story to light.

Spotlight shines a light on the not only the tenaciousness involved with the reporting, but also the problems within the church and the character of the city of Boston.

  • The scene where “The Spotlight” crew find out that according to the math, six percent of all priests in Boston are pedophiles is amazing. The slow pan out of the quartet learning that the story is larger than them, swallowing them whole, is amazing filmmaking.
  • Michael Keaton not being among those nominated for an Oscar for this movie is NUTS. Watching it back, he is the best of multiple phenomenal performances in Spotlight.
  • The Mark Ruffalo “THEY KNEW!!!!” moment is iconic. It was him going for his Oscar.
  • This movie is one of the best about the city of Boston, and that is a blog for a different day.
  • Re-watching Spotlight this time around, I never realized how strong Stanley Tucci’s acting is. Everyone in this cast is remarkable.
  • Best individual framed shot is when Matt Carrol (Brian d’Arcy James) is on a classic Boston apartment wooden porch asking questions of a survivor and a church is looming over them from buildings behind.
  • After watching Spotlight, I immediately wanted to turn on All The President’s Men (1976).

Stanko Rating: A (5.0/5 Stars)


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