Ken’s Movie Diary 2017 – Week 18

Weekly Update: I severely dislocated my knee, resulting in a long road of recovery ahead.  Still watching movies though. But the volume is sure to decrease, particularly of new releases.

Curious what else I’ve seen this year? -Click here to read the full list of movies viewed year to date-

147. PT109 (1963)

When released in theaters, president John F Kennedy was still in office, 5 months away from his assassination.  PT109 was the first dramatic feature made about a sitting president while the president was still in office. It tells the story of the young JFK when he served in the Navy during WWII as commander of a Patrol Boat in the Pacific Theater. Kennedy was decorated for heroism when the boat he was on was split in half by a Japanese destroyer, and he led many of his men to safety by swimming island to island. Cliff Robertson wisely avoids doing a JFK voice impersonation, instead focusing on building his character in other ways. The film is too long, spending too much time setting up the real survival story (perhaps to give the film more battle scenes?), but is ultimately a satisfying genre film. It’s notable for its focus on the Patrol Boat battle groups which may not have gotten the glory of mighty battleships and aircraft carriers, but carried out necessary tasks with equal risk to life and limb.

148. RockNRolla (2008)

Guy Ritchie’s return to form in the Crime-Comedy genre that made him famous. RockNRolla tells the stories of various London Underworld figures, including a big-time real estate conman, a Russian Mobster, a group of small time stick-up men, and a junkie Rock Star whose act of thievery controls their fates. Like Ritchie’s other crime films, RockNRolla is full of humor and sharp plot twists that guide its seemingly disconnected characters to a conclusion where the plots intersect ironically. While the formula is more obvious this time around, the strong character building ends satisfactorily.

149. Solitary (2016)

Red Onion State Prison is Virginia’s most secure facility, a supermax prison where people spend their incarceration in near-total segregation from human contact.  This HBO films documentary follows the everyday lives of several inmates and guards, exploring the facility’s culture and how prisoners stay sane (if they can) in such isolated conditions. An evenhanded film, Solitary makes it clear that these prisoners got here for a reason; that being their antisocial and uncontrollably violent criminal behaviors. The filmmaker makes clear the culture created by these supermax prisons may also be contributing to the inmate population’s dehumanization; treating them like caged animals.

150. Stuart Saves his Family (1995)

Stuart Smalley (Al Franken) is an unlicensed television therapist whose public access “Daily Affirmations” show serves really as more of Smalley’s own personal therapy than for his viewers. Smalley finds out his Aunt has just died, the same day that he loses his Public Access timeslot. He goes home to the funeral and the audience is shown how Stuart got so screwed up to begin with, as his entire extended family is a Psychiatrist’s dream/nightmare.  His brother/father are alcoholics, his sister an overeater, his mother a chronic enabler, and everyone blames Stuart rather than themselves for their problems.  Stuart sets out to find a way to help his family deal with their issues, and perhaps fix his own life in the process. While advertised as a comedy, and based on the Stuart Smalley comedy sketches Al Franken did for Saturday Night Live, this is far from a straight-ahead laughfest. The film has a tragicomic atmosphere that is far more common these days amongst independent filmmakers. It seems unsurprising that this film was not a success on its initial run, but given a modern context is actually quite compelling.

151. Unstoppable (2010)

Thanks to the stupidity of a couple of rail yard workers, a freight train carrying a volatile load of chemicals and fuel is send rolling down a main-line track at high speed and without an engineer. It is up to Chris Pine and Denzel Washington, two train drivers whose train happens to be on the same track, to intercept and stop the out of control engine. A mid 90s action film in style, Unstoppable is Speed minus the villain. With a lot of style and surprisingly well acted, the laughable premise nevertheless makes the film play like an unintentional satire of over the top action films.

About Oberst von Berauscht

Oberst Von Berauscht once retained the services of a Gypsy to imbue in him the ability to accurately describe the artistic qualities of a film up to seven decimal points. To maintain this unique skill, he must feast on the blood of a virgin every Harvest Moon, or failing that (and he usually does), he can also make a dog do that thing they do where they twist their heads slightly (you know, when they're confused about something) at least a few times a week. I've gotten way off track here... The point is, Oberst is one of the website's founders, so... yeah

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