Brokeback Mountain

Director: Ang Lee
Writers: Annie Proulx, Larry McCurtry, Dianna Ossana
Staring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams
Streaming: Peacock
Release Date: January 13, 2006

Brokeback Mountain is one of the best romantic movies I have ever seen and its romantic partners have some of the best on screen chemistry I have seen in any movie. Brokeback Mountain one of the best movies I have ever watched. It is wrenchingly sad and real. The story is propulsive while draining and weary. Ang Lee paces the movie out like a perfect marathon runner and ensures to you that the views along the way make you want to stop and stare.

Heath Ledger, what a performance. Playing the part of Ennis Del Mar, he attacks the part with a ferocity that is grueling. It is like he is carrying all the weight of the world upon his shoulders while climbing up a mountain, and in those moments where he can go downhill and get momentum, it is a cannonball of emotion.

Jack Gyllenhaal’s growth as Jack Twist was in the shadows, but the confidence that the character builds up is matched by the frustration of him not getting his desires. He knows what he wants, he is confident in what he wants, but it just can’t happen. Everyone knows the line “I wish I knew how to quit you,” but in the context of the movie, it’s woeful depth is even more.

We can not forget that amazing supporting performance of Michelle Williams as Alma, the wife of Del Mar. Her acting after she sees Twist and Del Mar kiss is hard to watch, and that is the way it was meant to be. Her holding in the pain, shouldering a burden she can’t bring herself to talk about, just like her husband, is making me emotional now thinking about it.

Looking at the 2016 Academy Awards, I admit that I have not seen every movie nominated. However, of the categories where Brokeback Mountain was nominated, there are some winners I just can’t agree with. For example, I think Gyllenhaal deserved to win for Best Supporting Actor. He was better than George Clooney in Syriana (2005). I have not seen Capote (2015) so I can not speak to Philip Seymour Hoffman for Best Actor.

The one thing I know every movie person agrees on is that Crash (2005) should not have won Best Picture.

For the record, don’t watch this movie on public transit. I watched the ending of this movie on the train on the way to work and I was wiping away the tears from the eyes and trying not to appear like I was sobbing.

STANKO RATING: A+ (5.0/5 Stars)


Castlevania

Creators: Warren Ellis, Adi Shankar
Staring: Richard Armitage, James Callis, Alejandra Reynoso
Streaming: Netflix
Release Date: 2017-2021

I am a novice when it comes to the Castlevania video game series, but I am here to say that this four-season Netlfix show took me by delightful surprise. It is the first anime story I started and actually finished. Castlevania is a gritty, bloody, dark-humored tale of a monster hunter and the pains and tribulations of a depressing world.

The main plot of Castlevania always surrounds Dracula. The statue-esq figure of evil has his eyes set on humans it it is up to Trevor Belmont, the last survivor of the Belmont clan, a disgraced family known for hunting all kinds of monsters, to save the day.

The voice acting is very good throughout Castlevania, but major probs has to be given to Richard Armitage who voices Belmont. It is a voice that is dry, raspy and dripping with sarcasm at every turn. His voice is now intertwined with Castlevania and the Belmont character when I interreact with him again.

This show is not for everyone. There are grotesque monsters every episode and blood is more frequent than water. The violence is over the top, as is the style, and it works. If you want to experience a fresh twist on video game and see it end it one of the best video game adaptions ever, then check out Castlevania on Netflix.


Color Out Of Space

Director: Richard Stanley
Writers: H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Stanley, Scarlett Amaris
Staring: Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur
Streaming: Amazon Rental
Release Date: January 24, 2020

Color Out Of Space was a movie. It sure was. This rendition of the H.P. Lovecraft short story is a weird blend of artsy beauty and b-movie overacting. You have visual effects that are better than would be expected and the king of overacting…the one and only Mr. Cage.

The brief log line is “A secluded farm is struck by a strange meteorite which has apocalyptic consequences for the family living there and possibly the world.”

Speaking specifically from my own point of view, the events of the story don’t reach the cataclysmic events as IMDB describes, but the Gardner family sure does get screwed. The five-person family is put through the emotional and physical ringer. Their sanity is ravaged.

As a viewer of Color Out Of Space, your eyes will be tested by a kaleidoscope of colors and at one point you will ask if you are high as a kite. The alien being and the terror they presume to bring are not as dazzling or scary as the sweeping calmness of the pink cloud.

Looking at the reviews, I am in the minority in thinking that this movie was “fine.” It was enjoyable and surprising for what it was, but looking at this movie as a recommendable viewing experience…I’d be very picky and limited to put it out there. Color Out Of Space will put your mind in a weird space, that is without a doubt.

STANKO RATING: C+ (2.5/5 Stars)


The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

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Director: Michael Chaves
Writers: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, James Wan, Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes
Staring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ruairi O’Connor
Streaming: HBO Max
Release Date: June 4, 2021

We don’t need to pretend that this is a good movie right? Just because it is going to make a ton of money and be the most popular thing on the Internet doesn’t mean it is actually good. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is clearly the lesser of the three in terms of its direct storyline and characters.

The tagline for the movie is “The demonic case that shocked America.”, and it is a nice little pun because someone going in blind would have no idea that there was actually a legal aspect to the movie. Though to be fair, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It also forgets to highlight that fact.

This story from the Warren’s is supposedly world renowned because it was the first time in U.S. History that a murder suspect would claim demonic possession as a defense. The pitfall in this movie’s story is that it forgets about that aspect and its duel path finish (one of which contains the defendant in said trail) is lopsided heavily one side in terms of entertainment.

If it was for the acting talents of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga then The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It would be nothing more than a bit-rate horror movie. The scares in the movie are easy to see coming and nothing more than jittery. Director Michael Chaves really likes the “I am gonna rush at you from the dark” tactics.

The other major problem with The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is that it did not have a set place. This is a theory that I have: in order for a horror movie to ascent over the Mendoza line, it needs to have a definitive setting or environment. The Conjuring (2013) house is memorable and The Conjuring 2 (2016) England setting made it rise above average. There were so many setting changes in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It which takes away from the building dread.

I am man enough to know that I sometimes over analyze movies. I know myself well enough to know when I am stepping into the truly unbearable atmosphere of pompous “I am a critic” clouds. I say that and still am confident that The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is the most disappointing movie in The Conjuring universe.

STANKO RATING: C- (2.0/5 Stars)


Godzilla: City On The Edge Of Battle

Director: Hiroyuki Seshita, Kôbun Shizuno
Writers: Gen Urobuchi, Sadayuki Murai, Tetsuya Yamada
Staring: Mamoru Miyano, Takashiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa
Streaming: Netflix
Release Date: 2018

Christ on a stick this was a step down. Godzilla: City On The Edge Of Battle is a sequel to Godzilla: Planet Of The Monsters (2017), which I watched last week and didn’t hate. This is sequel took a turn to the weird…the very weird…and it did not work.

A city is controlled by AI and there is some metallic being that is connected to religion and inhabitants of earth must abide by the logical progression of being only useful and not emotional is just all a bit too meta for me.

Just focus on Godzilla! Focus on the monster!

What makes me even more nervous is that the trailer for Godzilla: The Planet Eater (2018) seems to even more a turn into craziness. I will finish because I enjoy completionism…not because I enjoy this series.

STANKO RATING: D (1.5/5 Stars)


Raiders Of The Lost Ark

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Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas, Philip Kaufman
Staring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman
Streaming: Paramount+
Release Date: June 12, 1981

In case you are not on social media at all, this past weekend was the 40th anniversary of Raiders Of The Lost Ark being released. Households and families across world rewatched this timeless adventure over the weekend and everyone has to be happier for it. 40 years after its release, Raiders Of The Lost Ark still holds up as one of the best adventure movies ever made.

This has to be at least the eighth time I have seen the movie, and I still pick up on something different each time. This time around, watching it with my girlfriend and youngest sister, I noticed how gorgeous some of the shots cinematographer Douglas Slocombe constructed with Spielberg. The distinct shot of Indy with only a light on his eyes when he is leaving the bar Marion (Karen Allen) owns at the start of the movie. Then the shots in the desert with Indy and Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) as they are dashing to get the ark before the Nazis.

Raiders Of The Lost Ark is so much fun that you skim over the shortcuts in the story and the sometimes massive suspension of disbelief needed. We don’t need to know how Indy gets from place to place, or survives underneath an ocean on a Nazi submarine. Details, details, details.

The fact they are making a fifth Indiana Jones movie is scary, but it is in the hands of James Mangold. That at least gives me some confidence that it’ll be well made and better than Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008).

The new movie, which is slated to come out in July of 2022, has Ford back in the lead role (at 73 years old??) alongside Mads Mikkelsen, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Boyd Holbrook, Shaunette Renée Wilson, and Thomas Kretschmann.

As for Raiders Of The Lost Ark, it holds the test of time no matter how many times you dive into its treasures.

STANKO RATING: A- (4.5/5 Stars)


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