Director: Frank E. Abney III
Writers: Frank E. Abney
Streaming: Netflix
Release Date: December 11, 2020

Well I didn’t expect to get all in my feels while doing sit-ups one night, but that is what happened. Canvas is a short film by Frank E. Abney that doesn’t contain any dialogue, but delivers a very heartfelt message none the less. Everyone has had to pick themselves back off their feet after a tough loss and Canvas paints a wonderful picture on how people’s support can help you do that.

  • I should make a promise to myself to watch more Oscar contending short films because (as by there definition) they aren’t a time sucker and the storytelling is original (at least from my limited experience).

Stanko Rating: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

The Florida Project

Director: Sean Baker
Writers: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch
Staring: Brooklyn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe
Streaming: Netflix
Release Date: November 10, 2017

The Florida Project is a hard movie to watch. And it is meant to be that way.

I am upset that it took me this long to watch The Florida Project, but I am grateful that I have. Sean Baker’s film shines a light on the life of the impoverished and the unseen/intangible consequences of poverty and lower-middle class. Putting the audience through this story via the eyes of a six year old adds to the heartbreak. Viewers know the consequences of the actions and attitudes of the adult characters in this movie, but to put those stamps on a young girl is heartbreaking.

Monee (Brooklyn Kimberly Prince) is a rambunctious and rude child. Her only reference point for polite behavior is Halley (Bria Vinaite), her belligerent, and irresponsible grandmother. Halley is only in charge of Monee because Halley’s daughter of 15 years old had Monee and was unable to take care of her.

This toxic relationship is the through-string for the entire movie, but the twine of their bond is knotted by the immaturity and desperation of Halley. The only moral compass in The Florida Project is Bobby, played by the Oscar nominated Willem Dafoe. With that being said, Bobby is not said and he has his own transgressions to work through.

Before just attacking the bullet points of my random thoughts, the main message is to watch The Florida Project and try not to feel something. It is impossible.

  • Will Dafoe is amazing as Bobby. He has the ragged summer tan and his look is quintessential apartment manager. The scene that stole me away and truly let to his Oscar Nomination is when he was escorting away pedophile away from the kids. It is important to the story because it shows how even an adult who is flawed can still protect those who need it and deserve it; it highlights how bay Halley is as a gaurdian.
  • Looking at Bria Vinaite’s IMDB, I was happy to see her receive some recognition from various critics communities for her efforts in The Florida Project. She is one of the most villainous movie characters I have seen in any recent movie.
  • Seriously shout out to Brooklyn Prince for giving a tour de force performance as such a young child actor. Her portrayal as Moonee is a blend of sad, happy, and depressing. There is the desire to discipline her, hug her, educate her and run away from her.

Stanko Rating: A- (4.5/5 Stars)

Hellboy Animated: Blood And Iron

Director: Victor Cook, Tad Stones
Writers: Mike Mignola, Tad Stones, Kevin Hopps
Staring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, John Hurt, Doug Jones
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: March 10, 2007

This is the second of the Hellboy animated movies I watched this week (first one is below for just alphabetical order sake). Hellboy: Blood And Iron learns from the mistake of its predecessor a bit, mostly in adds willingness to embrace the comedic tone that Hellboy can have. Also, Blood And Iron benefited from having a familiar setting: A Haunted House.

  • A simpler story makes Hellboy Animated: Blood And Iron more digestible.
  • I know that my grades on the animated comic book movies are lower on a curve that most other movies, and yet I still enjoy watching them immensely. These types of movies are just the perfect background noise and brain-numbing entertainment. Not every movie is good, but they are entertaining for what I enjoy.
  • Blood And Iron pays more homage to the relationship between Professor Broom (John Hurt) and Hellboy (Ron Perlman).
  • It is rather odd that the first thing I think about Ron Perlman is his portrayal of Hellboy. A role where he was covered in prosthetics and his voice is his most distinguishable aspect.

Stanko Rating: C (2.5/5 Stars)

Hellboy Animated: Sword Of Storms

Director: Tad Stones, Phil Weinstein
Writers: Mike Mignola, Tad Stones, Matt Wayne
Staring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug JOnes
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: October 28, 2006

Of the two animated Hellboy movies I watched this week, Hellboy: Sword Of Storms was the lesser of the two.

There is not much more to put here besides the fact I didn’t like it at all.

  • Hellboy: Sword Of Storms does not have the charm of the original Hellboy (2004) that Guillermo del Toro wrote and directed. It tried to capture its whit, but it just didn’t work.
  • This movie was the first of two animated movies to hold over the demon’s fans between the 2004 release and 2008 Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008).

Stanko Rating: F+ (1.0/5 Stars)

The Little Things

Director: John Lee Hancock
Writers: John Lee Hancock
Staring: Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: January 29, 2021

Oh, the potential. When the trailer for The Little Things hit my eyes, I thought we’d maybe have the next Se7en (1995). Denzel playing the gritty old cop (AKA Somerset), Rami Malek playing the young hot shot (AKA Mills), and the Jared Leto tapping into creepy serial killer (AKA John Doe).

The movie starts. The movie ends.

The Little Things happens, and that is all.

I mentioned the potential, and The Little Things seems to fail in hitting that potential. Something about the chemistry between Washington, Malek and Leto is not blending well. The scene in the interrogation room when Deke Deacon (Denzel Washington) and Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) are questioning Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) should be incredible stuff. It should hop off the page. It is not even a top five moment from this movie.

The ending is ambiguous and pins a lot on the idea of morality and ethics. Director and writer John Lee Hancock tries to knot those strings together with flashbacks to when Deacon was younger on a different case and how a mistake affected his character and career. It is hard to work in thematic and symbolic memories without it appearing cheesy or too blatantly obvious. The Little Things falls into that sink hole.

In terms of a crime drama, The Little Things may have trouble finding footing among fans of the crime/action drama because there is not a lot happening in this story. It is a lot of men talking in rooms. It is a lot of brooding and observing. The Little Things tries to emulate Se7en and the script seems right out of the mid-star Sylvester Stallone vibe, but not even the star power in the movie and the Hollywood desperate charisma of Denzel Washington can save The Little Things from being just adequate.

  • As crazy as it sounds, I do not HATE Jared Leto getting nominated for his efforts as Albert Sparma. Leto is by far the best part of The Little Things. He is playing a different type of movie; playing a loose cannon maniac who the audience can’t trust. Honestly, and I mean this…Leto is tapping a lot into “The Joker” vibes for Sparma.
  • I don’t know what Rami Malek was doing in this movie. He was trying to play a rude, over-confident and still willing to learn cop, but he comes off as so many other different things, I just don’t understand. By the end he is in a downward spin but I think reading this script he just did a dizzy bat spin and walked into every scene.
  • There are instances where Denzel gets to do his patented chuckle and smile. When Deacon enters the repair shop and is talking with the manager and they are trading verbal quips, you see a flash of the man who is a movie star.
  • How STUPID is the moment when the survivor of this killer’s attack sees Sparma. How dumb and stupid is this sequence. It was beyond predictable once the cop left her side.
  • Now this is a full spoiler so if anyone wants to see The Little Things and hasn’t yet, scroll down: Did Sparma do it? Is he the killer? I do not think he was the killer of those women. To quote homicide bureau and LA Country Sheriff Gil Carrillo for Netflix’s The Night Stalker: “He is a freak, but he is not your freak.”

STANKO RATING: C+ (2.5/5 Stars)

The Matrix

Director: The Wachowski Brothers
Writers: The Wachowski Brothers
Staring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: March 31, 1999

The Matrix came out in 1999, yet there are aspects of it that are timeless. This Wachowski Brothers feature is known world-wide, so dictating the plot is pointless. And let’s be honest here, the storyline is not what people come to this movie for.

What prompted me to re-watch The Matrix was a journey of self discovery. I wanted to know, from the last time I saw it, if different aspects of it grabbed me compared to my college-aged self.

I am here to tell you that the best part of The Matrix are still its action pieces. I would pay money alone to watch Neo and Trinity break into the Agents’ building and recue Morpheus. The sequence is still as captivating as it was when it first came out and when I first saw it. When Trinity flips over the soldier, takes his shotgun and shoots him in the back, I just loose myself.

  • I love how the first introduction to this visual style comes with Trinity at the helm. Imagine being in the theater, not knowing anything about The Matrix, and seeing an actress you don’t recognize just run up walls and drive across buildings while running away from these robotic men.
  • Here is my hot take. Keanu Reeves is the worst part of The Matrix. Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving steal the scenes they are in as the best performers.
  • I had NO IDEA that The Matrix won four Academy Awards: Best film Editing, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Visual Effects.
  • I think one can agree with Agent Smith that human kind is a virus.

STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

Murder On Middle Beach

Director: Madison Hamburg
Staring: Madison Hamburg
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: 2020

This HBO MAX miniseries is the best I have seen thus far on the company’s platform. The drama of an unsolved murder is unwoven by Madison Hamburg, but in a twist…the murder is of his own mother.

Taking place in a small Connecticut town, Madison takes the audience through untold secrets of his family and the deceptions once close confidants played on each other. While the murder is captivating on its own, the most magnetic part of Murder On Middle Beach is Madison’s family and his relationship with them. He has a pair of very opinionated aunts, and a father that pushes himself away from his own son with anything possible.

It is scary to discover new things about your family. Imagine doing so while trying to solve the murder of your mother.

  • Murder On Middle Beach is four episodes long and with each and every episode it gets better. It is a genuine example of a young filmmaker in Madison Hamburg getting better at crafting his true story. He is intertwining the right moments at the right times come episode four, and the story concludes you are rooting for him.
  • This mini-series made me thing of what type of pyramid scheme would suck me in.
  • My take is that the father is 100% involved. If you have seen Murder On Middle Beach, let me know what you think.

STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

Outside The Wire

Director: Mikael Håfström
Writers: Rob Yescombe, Rowan Athale
Staring: Anthony Mackie, Damson Idris, Enzo Cilenti
Streaming: Netlfix
Release Date: January 15, 2021

Outside The Wire was boring, dull and not worth watching. It seems like Netflix has the formula to create tolerable and even enjoyable romantic comedies. But when it comes to action movies…man it is truly hit or mostly major miss.

  • This did not make me any more excited for The Falcon And The Winter Soldier. I didn’t love Mackie in Marvel to begin with, and now seeing him try to lead something makes me more disheartened.
  • Why can’t all Netflix action movies be like Extraction (2020)? Or Den Of Thieves (2018) quality?

Stanko Rating: D- (1.0/5 Stars)

The Silencing

Director: Robin Pront
Writers: Micah Ranum
Staring: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Annabelle Wallis
Streaming: Amazon Prime
Release Date: January 18, 2020

The Silencing silenced most of my worries…until the ending. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, known for Game Of Thrones, is a reformed hunter who is dealing with some personal demons. His chance at self rehabilitation and closure comes when a vicious murderer of teenage girls starts hunting his prey in the middle of Rayburn’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) forest sanctuary.

Along with the the main story of catching the killer, there are some subplots that are…let’s just say not entirely necessary? Gustafson (Annebelle Wallis) is the new cop in town and her brother makes her job of being objective difficult. The entire sub-story is not engaging and makes things to complicated for its own good.

Let’s address this now.

I truly do not like it when a crime/murder movie ends with a random character being the killer. I don’t care if it makes sense in the story. When a story comes to a close with a sudden new character introduction going “Oh look at this fella”, it takes me out of the movie.

  • The Silencing was really a “B” movie for me till the final 20 minutes.
  • It was nice to see Zahn McClarnon on the screen. He plays Blackhawk in The Silencing and I had just seen him as Crow Daddy in Doctor Sleep (2019). He was also in Bone Tomahawk (2015) which is a massive mind-meld if you ever have your stomach twisted.
  • There is something to the setting of being isolated in the woods. I think it’s a personal preference that those movies stick with me more than others. The landscape is appealing and scary all at once.

Stanko Rating: C+ (2.5/5 Stars)

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